Pixel Scroll 3/20/17 The Pixelated Empire. Filed, Scrolled And Godstalked Since The Fifth Era

(1) WHAT DID YOU NOMINATE? Arifel compiled the votes reported in “What Did You Nominate for the 2017 Hugos?” and posted the top-level results in comments:

If you want to see the complete tallies with everything that got even one mention, go to this Google drive document.

(2) SECOND STAGE FANSMEN. Rocket Stack Rank is hosting its own compilation of File 770 commenters’ votes in the short fiction categories, which has the advantage of linking to the works online, as well as to RSR’s reviews.

(3) ONE LUMP OR TWO? Congratulations are in order and everyone is invited to “Celebrate 10 Years of the Black Gate Blog!”

There was precisely one comment on that post, a pingback from something called “The Scrolls of Lankhmar.” 8,355 blog posts and 10 years later, the Black Gate blog is stronger than ever, with a staff of 45 volunteers, and two Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Award under our belt.

Just one thing surprises me – that they are counting Hugo nominations they turned down — withdrawing after the first (though too late to be removed from the ballot), and declining the second. They even got an Alfie for turning down the second.

I admit I was stumped to discover the Science Fiction Awards Database, maintained by Mark R. Kelly of Locus Online, also credits them with two nominations.

I think the final arbiter ought to be the Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II reports of Hugo voting statistics. Black Gate appears in the 2015 report with 489 votes received and the notation “withdrawn after deadline.” In the 2016 report Black Gate is not reported receiving any votes because it was not on the ballot, and in the section counting nominating votes, it is shown above the cutoff but with its name lined out.

So my personal opinion is – Black Gate has one Hugo nomination because it has only appeared on the final ballot one time.

That answer would also square with the way the Science Fiction Awards Database skips over 1996 in its list of File 770’s nominations. I withdrew because I was chair of the Worldcon that year, but the final report shows I still got enough votes to have been a finalist. Since File 770 wasn’t on the ballot, it should not be counted as a 1996 finalist, and isn’t.

(4) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. WIRED writes about “A Stunning Video of Mars That Took Three Months To Stitch Together – By Hand”.

If you should one day find yourself in a spacecraft circling Mars, don’t count on a good view. The Red Planet’s dusty atmosphere will probably obscure any window-seat vistas of its deep valleys and soaring mesas. “The best way to see the planet’s surface would be to take a digital image and enhance it on your computer,” says planetary geologist Alfred McEwen, principal investigator on NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. He would know: In the past 12 years, the powerful HiRISE camera has snapped 50,000 spectacular, high-resolution stereo images of the Martian terrain from the planet’s orbit, creating anaglyphs that anyone can view in 3D using special glasses. The highly detailed stereograms depict the planet’s surface in remarkable detail—but 3D glasses aren’t always handy, and still images can only convey so much about Mars’ varied topography.

 

(5) THE WEED OF CRIME. Two of quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl-worn jerseys were recovered from a credentialed member of the international media. A couple of weeks before, Brady had posted a parody suspects list on his Facebook page that includes Gollum and other genre characters.

(6) BEST-OF COMPILATION. At Bookscrolling, “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (A Year-End List Aggregation)”

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

There are thousands of year-end lists released every year and, like we do in our weekly Best Book articles, we wanted to see which books appear on them the most. We used 32 Science Fiction & Fantasy book lists and found 254 unique titles. The top 42 books, all appearing on 3 or more lists, are below with images, summaries, and links for learning more or purchasing. The remaining books, along with the articles we used, can be found at the bottom of the page.

(7) OUT OF STEAM. “Denver Based Steampunk Convention Anomaly Con Callls It Quits” – a former guest, Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn, is sorry to see it go.

After seven successful events, Denver, CO based steampunk convention Anomaly Con has called it quits. Organizer Kronda Siebert made a lengthy post to both the con’s official website and Facebook page explaining their reasoning. For the most part it sounds like losing ten of their twelve directors over the years (and not having replacements) was a large part of the decision,

(8) BRESLIN OBIT. Columnist Jimmy Breslin died March 19. While reading about him I followed a link to his 1963 piece “Digging JFK grave was his honor”. It was deeply moving and I thought you might like to see it, too.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

World Storytelling Day

Once upon a time, a long time ago (well, actually, back in 1991 in Sweden), a Storytelling Day was held. The ethos behind this event caught on around the globe, and now we celebrate World Storytelling Day on an international level. The aim of World Storytelling Day is to celebrate the art of oral storytelling, with as many people as possible around the world telling and listening to stories in their own languages on the same day. People taking part can link up with others around the globe who are also contributing – making it a truly international festival that creates new friends and promotes positive understanding of cultures around the world! So, go on, sit down with your friends and loved ones and join the United Nations of storytellers on this day of celebrating cultural folklore and the art of oral storytelling! Why not spin a yarn, and pass down your stories to the next generation?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY FOWL

  • Born March 20 Sesame Street’s Big Bird  

(11) COOKING CORNER. She deserves her own show on the Food Channel.

(12) THE PEOPLE’S CLARKE. More input from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

As readers of the finished work we, of course, don’t begin with a blank page. We start with the first chapter, a half-page that introduces its text in the broadest of strokes: “I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war,” says Priest’s narrator. “I became an inadvertent traveller in time.” In this short chapter, Priest effectively summarises the entire novel. But this only serves to emphasise that being provided with the scaffolding is not the same as being able to walk around the whole edifice. This reflects a key aspect of The Gradual the extent to which an extraordinary experience can be captured in a linear narrative.

If science fiction doesn’t make us look differently at our world, then science fiction doesn’t have a point.

Let me unpack that. Science fiction makes changes in the world, that is one of the key things that makes it science fiction. But that change must connect in some way with how we understand the here and now. An alien in a story makes it science fiction, yes, and the author may have taken great pains to specify the greenness of the skin or the exact length of the tentacles, but unless the intrusion of the alien reflects upon what it is to be human it is little more than wallpaper. When H.G. Wells wrote about Martians invading Surrey it wasn’t a novel about Martians, but about being human in the face of that invasion, about people used to being colonisers suddenly finding themselves colonised. The way the novel looks out into the world is why The War of the Worlds is still read today.

One of the ways in which genre reviewing differs from mainstream reviewing is that genre reviewers have traditionally been willing to go after books that get their facts wrong and fail to achieve verisimilitude. It is easy to understand why mainstream reviewing tends to frown on this type of approach as questioning an author’s use of style directs discussion back towards the book while questioning an author’s grasp of how space elevators are supposed to work only ever results in people slapping their slide-rules down on the table.

I mention this as while I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Joanna Kavenna’s fourth novel, my enjoyment of the book was hampered by my initial urge to disagree with every word of it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from throwing the book across the room was a growing suspicion that I did not so much disagree with A Field Guide to Reality as agree with it far too much.

The story begins in thirteenth-century Oxford where the great and the good of medieval philosophy dine on bread and discuss the nature of reality. Rather than portraying this fledgling academic community as a place of potential and great innovation, Kavenna presents it as dark, dank, and treacherous. Outside the colleges, monks get stabbed for the contents of their pockets. Inside the colleges, monks get burned for the contents of their heads.

(13) REGAL SWIMMER. BBC’s video of this 18th-century masterpiece is a public post on Facebook

The Silver Swan, made by James Cox in London in about 1773, is a life-size clockwork automaton that imitates the behaviour of a real swan. The mechanism is clockwork, of great quality. It plays music, moves its head, preens, and eats a fish.

The Wikipedia entry explains further:

The swan, which is life size, is a clockwork driven device that includes a music box. The swan sits in a “stream” that is made of glass rods and is surrounded by silver leaves. Small silver fish can be seen “swimming” in the stream.

When the clockwork is wound the music box plays and the glass rods rotate giving the illusion of flowing water. The swan turns its head from side to side and also preens itself. After a few moments the swan notices the swimming fish and bends down to catch and eat one. The swan’s head then returns to the upright position and the performance, which has lasted about 32 seconds, is over

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 3/8/17 And Then The Murders Began

(1) THE SMOOCH ASSUMPTION. The Washington Post knows sexy cavedellers sell, hence the headline “Neanderthal microbes reveal surprises about what they ate – and whom they kissed”.

If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then there is perhaps no better way to understand someone than by looking at his or her teeth. Especially if that person has been dead for more than 40,000 years.

This is the philosophy of Keith Dobney, a professor of human paleoecology at the University of Liverpool and a co-author of a new study that draws some remarkable conclusions about the lives of Neanderthals by peering beneath their dental enamel.

Teeth are the hardest parts of the human body, and are more likely than any other tissue to survive centuries of corrosion and decay. And dental calculus — that mineralized plaque you get admonished about at the dentist — is particularly good at preserving the bits of food, bacteria and other organic matter that swirl around inside our mouths.

… Weyrich pointed to one eyebrow-raising discovery from the new study: a near-complete genome sequence for a strain of Methanobrevibacter oralis, a simple, single-celled organism that is known to thrive in “pockets” between modern humans’ gums and our teeth (often with not-so-pleasant results).

Weyrich says this is the oldest microbial genome ever sequenced, and it suggests that humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit as early as 120,000 years ago. The find supports the growing consensus that prehistoric hanky-panky was not uncommon between Neanderthals and ancient humans. But it also suggests that these interactions were intimate, consensual affairs.

I may not be a paleoecologist or even a good kisser but I have produced a lot of spit in my time and I can think of some other ways one person’s spit might wind up in another person’s mouth. Like, what if a Neanderthal ate some meat off a bone then handed it to the next person to finish?

(2) YOUR TYRANNOSAURICAL DUNGEON MASTER. Speaking of bones that have been eaten clean (I love a great segue) — “Fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex starts D&D campaign on Twitter”.

That’s right, SUE the Tyrannosaurus, the oldest female apex predator ever unearthed and sold at auction, has begun leading her own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Using her surprisingly popular Twitter account, SUE is taking willing adventurers on an epic quest to free the land from brigands, evil mages and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

With a bright yellow 20-sided die, 58 “dagger-like teeth” and her 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide to… guide… her, SUE is weaving a tale of intrigue and treachery.

Here’s an example of a move:

(3) WHEN WORLDS DON’T COLLIDE. Just coming on my radar, though given for the first time last year, are the Planetary Awards. And if Declan Finn hadn’t mentioned them today I still wouldn’t have heard about them.

The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

Although any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” is eligible to nominate, I detected a strong puppy flavor to this year’s Planetary Awards shortlist (for 2016 works), which proved to be the case. The names of nominators include Jeffro Johnson, Jon  del Arroz, Brian Niemeier and The Injustice Gamer.

Short Stories / Novellas

  • “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Thune’s Vision
  • “Awakening” by Susan Kaye Quinn
  • “Edge” by Russell Newquist, found in Between the Wall and the Fire
  • “The Gift of the Ob-Men” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #1
  • “The Glass Flower” by George RR Martin, found in Volume 2 of Dreamsongs  [DISQUALIFIED]
  • “Images of the Goddess”by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #2
  • Paper Cut by Aeryn Rudel, found in Issue 1 of Red Sun Magazine
  • “Purytans” by Brad Torgersen, found in the July-August issue of Analog Magazine

Novels

  • Arkwright by Allen Steele
  • Babylon’s Ashes by James SA Corey
  • The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Hel’s Bet by Doug Sharp
  • The Invisible City by Brian K Lowe [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
  • Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright

The awards are administered by the “Planetary Defense Commander” whose real name is – surprise! – shrouded in secrecy.

Although the nominees were chosen by the book bloggers, any blogger, podcaster, or youtuber may vote for the winners.

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY ACTIVITY. Three new entries —

This is a color-coded table of all the jurors plotted against each other, with the color scheme giving how many books each juror had in common with the others. The blue diagonal set of boxes running from top left to lower right shows that every juror has 100% overlap with their own shortlist. Also, the table is symmetric about that line, i.e., you can look at either the rows or the columns to see how each juror overlapped with the others, as they contain the same information. So, for example, Nina had 3 books in common with Megan, none with Victoria, 1 with Nick, 2 with Maureen, etc.

And there’s two book reviews –

Matthew De Abaitua’s third novel The Destructives is the final part in a loose trilogy begun in 2008 with The Red Men and continued in 2015 with If Then. Although each of the three novels can happily be read in isolation from the others, the parallels and resonances between them – not to mention a few continuing characters – make for fascinating contemplation. Above all, it is the world shared by the three – De Abaitua’s vision of catastrophic digital meltdown in the year 2020, leaving the world’s ecosystems lethally compromised and the human species stripped of its agency – that makes these novels significant in terms of their science fiction.

Written in a tight first-person perspective with neither sub-plots nor inserts to break psychological continuity Whiteley’s novel begins by introducing us to a precocious young woman on the verge of adulthood. Born to an ambitious land-owner and educated to a standard then uncommon in farmers’ daughters, Shirley Fearne is a young woman with firm opinions and a confidence that allows her to express them quite openly. In the novel’s opening section, she often holds forth on subjects such as the importance of education, the backward opinions of fellow villagers, and the important role that women will play in helping to rebuild the country after the horrors of war.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 8, 1972  — Tales from the Crypt makes its screen debut.

(6) AUDIO BRADBURY. Phil Nichols’ site dedicated to Ray Bradbury includes a page listing radio shows based on Bradbury stories produced anytime from the 1940s til just ten years ago. Many are free downloads from Archive.org.

(7) ODE TO THE UNSUNG. Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica says “Fireside Fiction Company is science fictions best-kept secret”. Her praise even extends to an unsung hero who keeps their website working smoothly.

You may not have heard of Fireside Fiction Company, but it’s time you did. Packed with excellent free science fiction stories, the Patreon-supported publication has been going strong for five years. There are many reasons you need to start reading Fireside, not the least of which is its recent upgrade to GitHub Pages.

You could spend days immersed in Fireside’s back content. Editors Brian White and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry curate quality work from well-known writers and rising stars, including Chuck Wendig, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Daniel Abraham (one half of the Expanse writing team known as James S.E. Corey), Cassandra Khaw (whom you may know from Ars), Ken Liu, Daniel José Older, and more. But it’s not just White and Sjunneson-Henry’s good taste that has earned Fireside a sterling reputation among writers. Unlike many small publications, Fireside pays good rates for fiction. It spends almost all the money it gets from Patreon on its authors and artists.

Fireside Fiction Company also publishes a limited number of books and hosts special projects. One these projects was #BlackSpecFic, a special report on black voices in science fiction. #BlackSpecFic fits into Fireside’s overall commitment to inclusivity, publishing stories by people from a diversity of backgrounds and places.

Another way that Fireside is different from your average publication is its commitment to good code. Design and Technology Director Pablo Defendini, who helped launch Tor.com, has kept Fireside’s back-end as spiffy as what you see in front….

(8) WHIZZING THRU SPACE. Plans for a trip to Mars include scienceing the piss out of problems, too. “Why a German lab is growing tomatoes in urine”.

A fish tank brimming with urine is the first thing you see when you enter Jens Hauslage’s cramped office at the German space agency, DLR, near Cologne. It sits on a shelf by his desk, surrounded by the usual academic clutter of books, charts and scientific papers.

Rising from the centre of the tank are two transparent plastic cylindrical columns – around a metre in height. Spreading from the top of each tube is a bushy, healthy-looking tomato plant with green leaves, flowers and even a few bright red tomatoes.

(9) FROM HARRY POTTER TO HARRY THE KING? The BBC discusses a former Harry Potter star’s latest turn on the live stage in “After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is Daniel Radcliffe ready for Hamlet?” Or if not Hamlet, why not Henry V?

Daniel Radcliffe says he is really keen to be in a Shakespeare play – although he admits he’s no expert on the Bard.

The Harry Potter star has been praised for his latest role in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at London’s Old Vic.

Tom Stoppard’s comedy, first performed in 1966, centres around two minor characters from Hamlet.

The article quotes several critics’ opinions of Radcliffe’s performance, and one’s opinion of the audience — “The Daily Mail‘s Quentin Letts … noted, some Harry Potter fans who have bought tickets may struggle with the play as a whole.” About that Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, asked, “I wonder if he’s heard about growing up.”

(10) COMIC SECTION. And making for a smoother segue than the one that started this Scroll is an installment of Frank and Ernest, submitted by John King Tarpinian, which asks what if Shakespeare had been a baseball umpire?

(11) LISTEN. It’s a Vintage News story, which means it’s been floating around the internet for awhile, but never before have I encountered this bit of history — “Before Radar, they used these giant concrete ‘Sound Mirrors’ to detect incoming enemy aircraft”.

Dr. William Sansome Tucker developed early warning systems known as ‘acoustic mirrors’ around 1915, and up until 1935, Britain built a series of concrete acoustic mirrors around its coasts. The acoustic mirror was the forerunner of radar, and it was invented to help detect zeppelins and other enemy aircraft by the sound of their engines.

The British used these devices and with their help, they managed to detect many enemy raids. The acoustic mirrors could detect an incoming aircraft up to 15 miles away, which gave English artillery just enough time to prepare for the attack of the German bombers.

A number of these structures still exist.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day – Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/6/17 Holy Pixels, Scrollman!

(1) FAME AND FORTUNE. Mark Lawrence, who contends there is a close correlation between the number of Goodreads reviews a book has and sales, has created a series of graphs that illustrate the number of GR reviews received by various segments of top-selling fantasy books.

The level to which A Game of Thrones outsells the rest of the field is quite staggering, particularly when the publication date means this difference will *increase* significantly when converting figures to a sales estimate.

But when we widen the field of that fantasy lens still further to include urban fantasy, paranormal romance fantasy, YA fantasy, literary fantasy and fantasy written for children… even the mighty GRRM is dwarfed.

(2) BAD NEIGHBORS. In The Australian, James Bradley reviews Stephen Baxter’s Massacre of Mankind, where H.G. Wells’s Martians come again.

As before, the attack begins in England. This time the Martians arrive in greater numbers, establishing a beachhead and overwhelming Britain’s armed forces. But this is only the first phase. With England secured, a second wave arrives, attacking cities around the world with ruthless and terrifying efficiency.

At his best Baxter produces big-picture Clarkean science fiction of a very high order. And while he could never be accused of being a high stylist, novels such as his Xeelee sequence or his recent Flood/Ark and Proxima/Ultima duologies are exhilaratingly accomplished exercises in hard science fiction. The Massacre of Mankind is a more intimate creation, and perhaps because of that takes obvious pleasure not just in pastiching Wells’s style, but the science and technology of the original novel’s setting.

Baxter has huge fun imagining a solar system informed by the theories of the “discoverer” of the Martian canals, Percival Lowell, and others about planetary evolution.

The narrative structure of the original, in particular the extended prelude to the actual attack, lends it a gorgeous elegiac power. While the decision to reproduce that here makes The Massacre of Mankind overlong, the intertextuality is frequently surprisingly entertaining. This is most evident in flourishes such as the complaints of several characters about the inaccuracy of Walter’s original account (and the almost-cameos by the “man of the future”, Wells himself), but it has its serious side as well.

(3) REBOOT. Dean Wesley Smith says Pulphouse Fiction Magazine is coming back.

As you can see from the pictures, we are doing an Issue Zero again this time that will be limited and part of a Kickstarter later in the summer. First issue comes out in January 2018 and the magazine will be quarterly, with about 70,000 words of short fiction every issue. It will be the size and shape of Smith’s Monthly.

I will be mixing some of the stories from the old Pulphouse days along with brand new fiction. I figured most of those older stories have long been forgotten and they need a new life. For each story we will push the author information and be clear to the reader if the story is new or if a reprint, where the story was originally published.

The magazine will have an attitude, as did the first run. No genre limitations, but high quality writing and strangeness.

(3) THE BOOK IS CLOSED. I reported yesterday that three actors are leading the wagering as favorites to become the next Doctor Who. Now Den of Geek says one has become such a popular choice that one UK bookmaker has stopped taking bets on him.

Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who at the end of the year, and incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall is the man tasked with finding his replacement in the TARDIS.

As ever, it’s tough to put much stock in what bookies say on the matter. But, nonetheless, the latest story to emerge from Ladbrokes is an interesting one: they’ve stopped taking bets on Kris Marshall landing the gig.

The My Family, BT adverts and Death In Paradise star, who recently left his role in the latter, has become such a favourite with punters that Ladbrokes have decided to pull the plug and stop accepting bets.

“A surge of punters have backed Marshall so we’ve had no choice but to close the book,” Ladbrokes’ Alex Donohue told the – sigh – Daily Mail. (You really don’t have to click that link and show them any support.)

“If he does get the gig,” Donohue added, “the bookies will be exterminated first.”

…The bets-being-suspended-on-Kris-Marshall story in no way confirms that he, or anyone, has got the part.

(4) DATLOW BOUND FOR ANTIPODES. Every year Canberra-based SFF fans “get together to celebrate everything creepy, geeky and fantastical” at Conflux, and the lucky International Guest of Honour at Conflux 13 will be Ellen Datlow.

We have to keep pinching ourselves to make sure this is real, but (deep breath) Conflux 13 is bringing none other than Ellen Datlow to Australia!!!

Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over thirty-five years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short fiction for Tor.com. In addition, she has edited more than ninety science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year, Lovecraft’s Monsters, Fearful Symmetries, The Doll Collection, The Monstrous, Children of Lovecraft, Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror, and Black Feathers.  Forthcoming are, Hallows’ Eve (with Lisa Morton), and Mad Hatters and March Hares (stories inspired by Alice’s Adventures in in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There).

Conflux 13 will be held September 29-Ocober 2 in Canberra.

(5) FIGHT TO THE FINISH. Unbound Worlds brings back Cage Match. Mark-kitteh comments: “SF character cage matches. I think the Dune sandworm is a bit of a ringer though – how would they even get it in the cage?”

What the hell is Cage Match?

Great question. A long time ago, on an internet far, far away, there was a website called Suvudu, which had been founded by some editors at Del Rey as a place to nerd out about sci-fi and fantasy. In the barely remembered year 2010, those editors decided it’d be a real kick to pit their favorite SF/F characters against each other in a fight to the death, and it’d be even MORE of a kick if they brought in some authors to write short scenes illustrating how they thought those fights might play out. And on top of that, they invited users to come vote on the outcome of those fights.

And apparently you all liked it, because we’re still doing it seven years later.

(6) OSBORNE OBIT. TCM’s Robert Osborne is mourned by Steve Vertlieb:

Robert Osborne passed away this morning at age 84. He’d been in ill health for some time. Robert was the face of Turner Classic Movies since its inception, and was a wonderful fountain of enthusiasm, sincerity, and palpable adoration of classic cinema. Those of us who watched the cable movie channel these countless years came to look upon Robert as a friend, a tireless champion of the arts, and as the very definition of integrity. We all knew that he’d been ill, but were afraid to ask about his telling absence of late from the network. A true motion picture historian, Osborne’s warmth and passion for films and their creators will be sorely missed by movie lovers everywhere. Rest In Peace, Robert. Your own star shall shine ever brightly among a luminescent galaxy of stars.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • March 6, 1928 — William F. Nolan

(8) CREATED IN 7 DAYS. Skyboat Media wants to raise $7,000 via Kickstarter to create an 11-hour audiobook of Queers Destroy Science Fiction.

With your help, if we can fund in 7 days, Skyboat will be able to produce an 11 hour digital audiobook for you of the short story and flash fiction portions of Lightspeed Magazine‘s QUEERS DESTROY SCIENCE FICTION! It will be a glorious vocal celebration of inclusivity, diversity and all things science fiction-y!

KICKSTARTER’S ALL in 1: We are doing this for only one week. Our project is aligned with Kickstarter’s theme of 1s and 0s; this means we are offering only digital rewards.

The book was published by Hugo winning anthologist John Joseph Adams and guest edited by Seanan McGuire.

So far they have raised $1,263 of the $7,000 goal.

(9) CASTING CLASH. At ComicsBeat Heidi MacDonald tracks the issue — “Finn Jones leaves Twitter after trying to explain why a white Iron Fist isn’t problematic to an Asian person”.

Don’t get me wrong, Jones has a right to talk about his show, but when he explained to an Asian person, Geeks of Color’s Creative Director, Asyiqin Haron, how to feel about race…he got busted whitesplaining. Then, when the heat got too much for him, Jones just deleted his twitter account.

Pretty much the same thing happened when Tilda Swinton and Margaret Cho had a tense email exchange over the Ancient One

(10) FAUX-MEN COMICS. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie says “The Fake X-Men Comics From ‘Logan’ Are Incredible”.

When Logan director James Mangold asked Marvel comics if he could include X-Men comics in the final Hugh Jackman Wolverine installment, he was told he could as long as they weren’t any real comic books. To create the old-school style books for the movie then, Mangold reached out to Joe Quesada and Dan Panosian to create the pages of the books for the movie….

They’re all, frankly, fantastic, and really capture the feel of the X-Men books from the 1980s. I love the way they look just close enough while retaining a slightly off aesthetic letting you know this is another world. It just adds to the fabric of a world which just feels lived in.

There’s a gallery with the post.

(11) THE FLAW IN THE OINTMENT. It’s a hell of a lot more entertaining when somebody else is on the receiving end of these pleonasms. Jonathan McCalmont unleashes “Rabid Cuddlers” at Ruthless Culture.

…Unfortunately for the puppies, while it must have been comically easy to convince a bunch of teenaged nihilists to troll the Hugo awards, it was never going to be easy to convince basement-dwelling trolls to set aside their Japanese pornography long enough to read a bunch of over-written Catholic fantasy novels. The fact that Gamergaters turned up to harass liberals but didn’t stick around to spend money explains why prominent puppies have  downplayed their involvement, decreased their ambitions, and failed to step back from the movement in time and wound up being forced to repeatedly beg for financial support from their dwindling fanbase…

…The puppies’ experiences as nerd-fuhrers may well come to define their adult lives but their flirtations with moral entrepreneurship failed to secure them the kind of following that might provide access to the lucrative world of conservative cultural commentary. Even worse, their attempts to cultivate a right-wing alternative to the stuttering multiculturalism of mainstream genre spaces appears to have resulted in little more than a handful of underwhelming blogs supporting the work of a few self-publishing authors….

…The social and ideological instabilities of the puppy movement should come as no surprise once you realise the gulf that separates adolescent edge-lords  from a bunch of stupid old men who want fandom to go back to the way it was in 1953. What is surprising is the speed at which a movement whose ruthlessness once made international news has been reduced to bleating about politeness and passing out internet hugs. Liberal genre culture may be ponderous, self-serving, and morally confused but it was never quite that pathetic….

(12) ABOUT. Who doesn’t enjoy a flash of humor at the end of an author bio? Here’s the last line of Kendare Blake’s

She lives and writes in Kent, Washington, with her husband, their two cat sons (Tybalt and Tyrion Cattister) and their red Doberman dog son, Obi Dog Kenobi.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 3/2/17 Doing The Trilogy Backwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one participant’s verdict –

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

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

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

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

It drives me crazy.

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

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

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

So, more personal stories—and then tips.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

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

(13) TODAY’S DAY

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

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally:

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/17 That’s it! Scroll Over Man, Scroll Over!

(1) ACADEMY INVITES LE GUIN. Ursula K. LeGuin has been voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters reports SFGate. The 87-year-old Le Guin is one of 14 new core members of the Academy.

The arts academy, an honorary society with a core membership of 250 writers, artists, composers and architects, once shunned “genre” writers such as Le Guin. Even such giants as science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and crime novelist Elmore Leonard never got in.

Academy member Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, advocated for Le Guin.

“As a deviser of worlds, as a literary stylist, as a social critic and as a storyteller, Le Guin has no peer,” he wrote in his recommendation, shared with the AP, that she be admitted. “From the time of her first published work in the mid-1960s, she began to push against the confines of science fiction, bringing to bear an anthropologist’s acute eye for large social textures and mythic structures, a fierce egalitarianism and a remarkable gift of language, without ever renouncing the sense of wonder and the spirit of play inherent in her genre of origin.”

(2) 2017 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY COVER REVEAL. Hat tip to F.J. Bergmann.

(3) NEW FICTION WEBZINE. Science fiction and fantasy book imprint Strange Fictions Press will officially launch Strange Fictions SciFi & Fantasy Zine on February 28 with “This Chicken Outfit,” by Pushcart nominated author, A.L. Sirois. Siriois’ short stories have appeared in ThemaAmazing Stories, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He has also contributed comic art for DC, Marvel, and Charlton.

Strange Fictions will focus “on publishing speculative short fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry twice a week for genre fans worldwide.”  New stories, poems, and essays will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribers can sign up for email notifications whenever a new story is posted.

Strange Fictions SF&F Zine is open to submissions from both new and experienced genre writers, and details can be found at the website.

Authors of acquired pieces for Strange Fictions SF&F ‘Zine will receive a flat fee payment of $5 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 4,999 words and under and $10 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 5,000-10,000.

(4) ALOFT. Martin Morse Wooster recommends Miyazaki Dreams of Flying as “a lovely compilation of flying scenes from Miyazaki films, including an interview where the great animator expresses his love of airplanes.”

(5) DEFYING THE LAW…OF GRAVITY. In “Mars Needs Lawyers” on FiveThirtyEight, Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the many problems of international law that have to be solved in we’re ever going to have successful Mars missions.  For example:  if you have astronauts from five countries flying in a spacecraft that’s registered in Liberia, how do you figure out which country’s law applies?

For instance, a limited number of satellites can orbit the Earth simultaneously. Put up too many, and you end up with an expensive game of celestial bumper cars. But some countries — Russia and the United States, in particular — had a big head start on gobbling up those slots. What do you do if you’re Nigeria? Today, Gabrynowicz said, the international community has settled on a regulatory system that attempts to balance the needs of nations that can put an object into geostationary orbit first with the needs of those that aren’t there yet but could be later. And even this compromise is still extremely controversial.

The same basic disagreement behind them will apply to Mars, too. And it’s at issue right now in the U.S., as lawmakers try to figure out how best to implement the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act — a bill signed by President Obama in November 2015. That law states that U.S. companies can own and sell space resources — including minerals and water. But the details of what this means in practice haven’t been worked out yet, Gabrynowicz said. Legal experts say that those details will make the difference in terms of whether the law puts the U.S. in violation of the Outer Space Treaty.

This question of whether space should be an Old West-style gold rush or an equitably distributed public commons could have been settled decades ago, with the 1979 Moon Agreement (aka the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies), which would have established space as part of the “common heritage of mankind.” What this would have meant in practice is not totally clear. But at the time, opponents saw it as having the potential to ban all private enterprise and effectively turn the heavens into a United Nations dictatorship. It ended up being signed by a handful of countries, most of which have no space program. But it is international law, and if humans go to Mars, though, we’ll likely end up debating this issue again.

(6) GAME WRITING. Monica Valentinelli gives an “Overview of Game Production and the Role of Writers” at the SFWA Blog.

One of the things I enjoy doing as a game developer is hiring new writers. In almost every case, writers are shocked to learn how many levers and pulleys there are in game production. This tends to hold true regardless of what kind of game a writer is contributing to; in part, this has to do with the process of transitioning from a consumer’s mindset (e.g. fan, critic, reviewer) to that of a creator’s. Sometimes, however, the process is confusing because there are aspects physical development that writers aren’t always involved with. A good example of this is that developers often regard word processing documents with an eye for production when they redline and provide comments. What’s laid out vertically on a page in text isn’t how it will be rendered in the final product, and that has a huge impact on what the writers are hired to write, edit, and make changes on. Sometimes, the number of words that fit on a page or a screen can also shape a writer’s assignment, too.

Other, lesser-known aspects of production might include:

  • Canon or Setting Bible creation
  • Systems/rules documentation
  • Marketing copy and sell sheets
  • Outlining and project management
  • Mock-ups and proofs for manufacturing
  • Playtest or beta editions

(7) DISNEY’S DUDEFRÉRES. Another clip from the live-action Beauty and the Beast shows LeFou singing “My, what a guy, that Gaston!” With Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou.

(8) VOIR DIRE STRAITS. Shadow Clarke juror Jonathan McCalmont followed his introductory post with an entry on his ownblog, Ruthless Culture “Genre Origin Stories”.

A couple of things that occurred to me upon re-reading the piece:

Firstly, I think it does a pretty good job of capturing how I currently feel about the institutions of genre culture. To be blunt, I don’t think that genre fandom survived the culture wars of 2015 and I think genre culture has now entered a post-apocalyptic phase in which a few institutional citadels manage to keep the lights on while the rest of the field is little more than a blasted wasteland full of isolated, lonely people. One reason why I agreed to get involved with shadowing the Clarke Award is that I see the Shadow Clarke as an opportunity to build something new that re-introduces the idea that engaging with literary science fiction can be about more than denouncing your former friends and providing under-supported writers with free PR….

McCalmont’s post includes a high overview of the past 40 years of fanhistory. I was surprised to find many points of agreement, such as his takes about things that frustrated me at the time they were happening, or that I witnessed affecting my friends among the LA locals who founded anime fandom.

Regardless of whether they are conventional, idiosyncratic, or simply products of distracted parenting, our paths into science fiction cannot help but shape our understanding and expectations of the field. Unfortunately, where there is difference there is bound to be misunderstanding and where there is misunderstanding there must inevitably be conflict.

The problem is that while the walls of science fiction may be infinitely porous and allow for inspiration from different cultures and artistic forms, the cultural institutions surrounding science fiction have shown themselves to be remarkably inflexible when it comes to making allowances for other people’s genre origin stories.

The roots of the problem are as old as genre fandom itself. In fact, the very first Worldcon saw the members of one science fiction club deny entry to the membership of another on the grounds that the interlopers were socialists whose politicised understanding of speculative fiction posed an existential threat to the genre’s continued existence. A similar conflict erupted when the unexpected success of Star Wars turned a niche literary genre into a mass market phenomenon. Faced with the prospect of making allowances for legions of new fans with radically different ideas as to what constituted good science fiction, the institutions of genre fandom responded with sluggishness indistinguishable from hostility. Media fandom was born when traditional fandom refused to expand its horizons and the same thing happened again in the early 1990s when fans of anime decided that it was better to build their own institutions than to fight street-by-street for the right to be hidden away in the smallest and hottest rooms that science fiction conventions had to offer.

The institutions of genre culture may pride themselves on their inclusiveness and forward-thinking but this is largely a product of the excluded not sticking around long enough to give their own sides of the story. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have been offered the chance to get in on the ground floor when science-fictional ideas began to manifest themselves in different ways. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have chosen to protect the primacy of the familiar over the vibrancy of the new and the different….

Cultural commentators may choose to characterise 2015 as the year in which genre culture rejected the misogynistic white supremacy of the American right but the real message is far more nuanced. Though the institutions of genre culture have undoubtedly improved when it comes to reflecting the diversity not only of the field but also of society at large, this movement towards ethnic and sexual diversity has coincided with a broader movement of aesthetic conservatism as voices young and old find themselves corralled into a narrowing range of hyper-commercial forms.

I thought that was well said. Unfortunately, I also read the comments.

(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • February 24, 1909 – August Derleth
  • February 26, 1918 – Theodore Sturgeon

(10) THE STRAIGHT POOP. “Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype” advises WIRED.

The link between schizophrenia and cats goes back to the 1970s, when psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey learned that viruses from dogs might trigger multiple sclerosis—a neurological condition—in humans. “That got me thinking about which animals host which infectious agents,” he says. Soon, he learned that cats host the most successful infectious bacteria in the world: Toxoplasma gondii. Looking into previously published research, he found plenty of studies showing that schizophrenics often had higher levels of toxoplasma antibodies in their blood than people without the mental illness.

Then he started surveying schizophrenics about their life history, and found that many had indeed lived with cats. But what’s important isn’t just if, it’s when. See, Torrey’s theory isn’t merely that T. gondii causes mental illness, it’s that it somehow alters the development of a person’s brain during crucial periods of brain development—and probably only if that person is genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. It’s a complicated hypothesis, and even after four decades of study, Torrey says he’s still not totally convinced it’s fact. Hence, his continued research on the subject.

Still, every study he publishes—his most recent, dropped in July of 2015—attracts the media like nip. Same with refutations, like the one published this week. The authors analyzed a dataset of 5,000 UK children, looking for a correlation between cat ownership during critical ages of brain development and behavioral indicators of later psychosis (like dark thoughts) at the ages of 13 and 18. Their statistical analysis of the results showed no correlation. Most (but not all) news websites ran with some variation of “Relax, Cats Don’t Cause Schizophrenia.”

But that’s not what the study said.

(11) GUESS WHO. From 2015. David Tennant’s NTA Special Recognition – his reaction: “Actor Sees A Tribute Video On Screen. The Realizes It’s For Him And He Can’t Believe It”

(12) TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Carl Slaughter says, “This documentary convincingly demonstrates how the Batman movies/trilogies reflect the cultural era in which they were produced.”

  • 60s Batman  –  prosperity
  • 70s  –  disillusionment  –  no Batman movies
  • Batman  –  escapism
  • Batman Returns  –  anti rich
  • Batman Forever, Batman & Robin  –  safety
  • Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises  –  fear
  • Batman versus Superman  –  extremism

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/17 The Catcher In The Quadrotriticale

I’m winding up President’s Day Weekend by assigning a Scroll entry to each of our First Executives.

(1) GEORGE WASHINGTON. He’s the foundation, the one we’ve all heard of. Just like that breakthrough Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin, who has a story coming to the big screen – just not the one we were told to expect.

“Another Story by Chinese Sci-Fi Writer Liu Cixin to Hit Screens” reports China Film Insider.

Chinese sci-fi novelist Liu Cixin is set to have another of his stories hit the big screen even as his more famous novel The Three Body Problem continues to languish in development limbo.

Local media outlet Sina Entertainment reports that filming on an adaptation of the Hugo and Nebula-winning novelist’s short story The Wandering Earth will begin in March and is expected to hit screens either in summer 2018 or at the beginning of 2019.

In the short story, scientists build massive engines to propel the planet toward another star after they discover the sun is about to grow into a red giant.

…[Director Frank] Gwo told Sina Entertainment he’s already been working on the film for half a year and said the main roles had already been cast, but he declined to name names. The director hinted at the project in a new year’s day Weibo post featuring artwork for the film.

Liu’s other, more famous book, The Three Body Problem, was meant to hit screens in 2016 but has been hit by multiple delays and still has no definite release date. Liu, often referred to as China’s answer to Arthur C. Clarke, has sought to temper expectations about the film.

(2) JOHN ADAMS. Before he was President, Adams served as ambassador to England, the country that now blesses us with the BBC.

And the BBC likes Logan — and even admits that some SF is very good:

For genre purists, it can be disconcerting to see comic book movies classified as sci-fi. And though the X-Men franchise, being about genetic mutation, has maybe more of a claim to that designation than, say, Thor, the outsize arcs and simplistic good vs evil binaries of the superhero film do not often lend themselves to the thoughtful curiosity that is a hallmark of the best science fiction. It would be overstating it to say that Logan reaches sci-fi heights – there’s a standard-issue British Evil Scientist (played with pale-eyed zeal by Richard E Grant), a henchman with a Terminator arm (Boyd Holbrook, good value in a relatively small role) and an albino mutant (Stephen Merchant in a rare and surprisingly decent dramatic performance) whose photosensitivity is so extreme he’ll burst into flames in sunlight like Nosferatu. So, you know, this is not Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

(3) THOMAS JEFFERSON. An inventor like Jefferson didn’t wait for somebody else to solve the problem. Which is the spirit shown by computing pioneer Grace Hopper, as illustrated by “Grace Hopper’s compiler: Computing’s hidden hero”.

But what Grace called a “compiler” did involve a trade-off.

It made programming quicker, but the resulting programmes ran more slowly.

That is why Remington Rand were not interested.

Every customer had their own, bespoke requirements for their shiny new computing machine.

It made sense, the company thought, for its experts to program them as efficiently as they could.

Open source

Grace was not discouraged: she simply wrote the first compiler in her spare time.

And others loved how it helped them to think more clearly.

Kurt Beyer’s book, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, relates many tales of impressed users.

One of them was an engineer called Carl Hammer, who used the compiler to attack an equation his colleagues had struggled with for months.

Mr Hammer wrote 20 lines of code, and solved it in a day.

Like-minded programmers all over the US started sending Grace new chunks of code, and she added them to the library for the next release.

In effect, she was single-handedly pioneering open-source software.

(4) JAMES MADISON. Madison’s wife, Dolly, saved the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington when the British burned the city of Washington in 1812. Here’s a news item about a lesser artwork.

Last night’s episode of “The Simpsons” began with the traditional scene of the Simpsons rushing to the couch in the living room to take in some TV.  But the familiar painting of a sailboat, that’s been in the living room for decades, is gone.  Where is it?

Homer decides to investigate and leaves the set, giving him an opportunity to storm through other sets (including “South Park.”)  He finds the sailboat painting in the office of some geek, who gives it back after explaining that the painting was the most exciting addition to his collection “since I won a bid for a Ziploc of Jonathan Frakes’s beard trimmings.”

(5) JAMES MONROE.  Fair point.

(6) JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. The first descendant of a President to be elected to the office. So although they are not related, this seems the right place for a multiple Chus question.

(7) ANDREW JACKSON. He didn’t get much of a childhood – as a kid he was slashed by a British cavalryman in return for a defiant remark. No comic books for him, either.

In the February 19 Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Margaret Atwood about the second volume of her graphic novel series Angel Catbird.  Atwood explains that she doesn’t want readers to think she’s just a ‘nice literary old lady” sitting in her rocking chair, but someone who has always loved comics and who’s loved cats ever since she wasn’t allowed to have one as a child.

She is experiencing, she says, one of her “unlived lives.”

Atwood laughs at how this apparent career pivot might be perceived. She imagines that some fans would have her fulfill the stereotype of a “nice literary old lady,” resting in her rocking chair, “dignified and iconic.” But the “Angel Catbird” series, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, realizes the creative vision of an author who has little patience for resting on her laurels.

From her earliest years in the 1940s and ’50s, as her family traveled between Quebec and other Canadian points, Atwood not only passionately read newspaper and magazine comics, from “Batman” to “Blondie” to “Rip Kirby”; she also drew them herself.

“That’s what we did in Canada,” she says. “We were living in the woods.” Her older brother’s plotted-out drawings “were more about warfare,” she says, while her characters — including rabbit superheroes — “were playing around.”

(8) MARTIN VAN BUREN. Old Kinderhook was governor of New York. Even then, theater was a big deal. From Variety, “Magic Show Produced by Neil Patrick Harris and Directed by Frank Oz to Open Off Broadway”:

“In & Of Itself,” the Frank Oz-directed magic show that played L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse last year, will get an Off Broadway run this spring from a varied team of producers that includes Neil Patrick Harris.

The hybrid show, which fuses magic with storytelling, is created by Derek DelGaudio, the magician whose “Nothing to Hide” (seen in New York in 2013) was directed by Harris. Joining Harris and his Prediction Productions on the project are Werner Entertainment led by Tom Werner, the prolific TV producer (“Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show,” “Survivor’s Remorse”) who is also the chairman of the Boston Red Sox, as well as Gary Goddard Entertainment (Broadway’s “The Encounter”).

Oz, who’s directed movies including “In & Out” and “Little Shop of Horrors” and voiced characters from “Sesame Street” and “Star Wars,” stages “In & Of Itself” with an interdisciplinary creative team that encompasses conceptual artist Glenn Kaino, on board as artistic producer; composer Mark Mothersbaugh, the frontman of the band DEVO; and A.Bandit, DelGaudio and Kaino’s “performance-art collective” credited as production designer.

(9) WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON. Another general whose war record vaulted him into the Presidency, he died only a month into his term of office.

“San Diego native Greg Bear uses science fiction to explore military culture, war”

Q: What got you started on the “War Dogs” trilogy?

A: Since I was a Navy brat, I got to hang around with a lot of people who were Marines, Navy officers, pilots. A lot of them were in my family or extended family. I was fascinated by the whole culture, the attitudes, that kind of stuff. Plus I’m a big fan of history. I’ve read a lot about World War II. I taught a class about World War II from the Japanese theater perspective in the 1980s.

I started writing this while looking back at a lot of classic military science fiction like “Starship Troopers” and “The Forever War,” all these different approaches to wars in space. I’d already written the “Halo” trilogy, but that was set 100,000 years ago. What I wanted to do this time was take a look at how things had changed and what happened to the whole idea of the military with the no-draft, all-volunteer forces. I wanted to do a serious examination of the modern-day military and the military attitude that goes back centuries.

(10) JOHN TYLER. The first Vice President to succeed to the Presidency. And here’s a news item about the character who succeeded Peter Pan – “’Hook’ Prequel Film ‘Bangarang’ Reaches Kickstarter Goal”.

A Hook prequel film centering around Lost Boy Rufio will become a reality thanks to Kickstarter.

The campaign. started by Dante Basco who portrayed Rufio in Steven Spielberg‘s original 1991 film, has reached over $40,000 on Kickstarter from its original $30,000 goal.

… The story has been reverse engineered from what was set-up in Hook. We answer all the questions you’ve ever wondered — How and why is Rufio the leader of the Lost Boys? Where does ‘bangarang’ come from? And of course, how he gets the mohawk.”

(11) JAMES POLK. The President whose acquisitive policies were lauded as “Manifest Destiny.”

Is it your destiny to grab all the Nebula nominees you can read for free?

Every year I have trouble finding a hyperlinked list of all the free Hugo and Nebula reading, so this time I’m going to take the initiative and make one myself right away instead of waiting….

Nothing in the novel or novella categories is free yet.

(12) ZACHARY TAYLOR. Judging by James Michener’s portrait of him in the novel Texas, “Old Rough & Ready” as he was known was not famed for having natural, let alone artificial, intelligence.

WIRED reports:“The AI Threat Isn’t Skynet, It’s the End of the Middle Class”.

In February 1975, a group of geneticists gathered in a tiny town on the central coast of California to decide if their work would bring about the end of the world. These researchers were just beginning to explore the science of genetic engineering, manipulating DNA to create organisms that didn’t exist in nature, and they were unsure how these techniques would affect the health of the planet and its people. So, they descended on a coastal retreat called Asilomar, a name that became synonymous with the guidelines they laid down at this meeting—a strict ethical framework meant to ensure that biotechnology didn’t unleash the apocalypse.

Forty-two years on, another group of scientists gathered at Asilomar to consider a similar problem. But this time, the threat wasn’t biological. It was digital. In January, the world’s top artificial intelligence researchers walked down the same beachside paths as they discussed their rapidly accelerating field and the role it will play in the fate of humanity. It was a private conference—the enormity of the subject deserves some privacy—but in recent days, organizers released several videos from the conference talks, and some participants have been willing to discuss their experience, shedding some light on the way AI researchers view the threat of their own field.

The rise of driverless cars and trucks is just a start. It’s not just blue-collar jobs that AI endangers.

Yes, they discussed the possibility of a superintelligence that could somehow escape human control, and at the end of the month, the conference organizers unveiled a set of guidelines, signed by attendees and other AI luminaries, that aim to prevent this possible dystopia. But the researchers at Asilomar were also concerned with more immediate matters: the effect of AI on the economy.

(13) MILLARD FILLMORE. In American history. Millard Fillmore was credited for “the opening of Japan” by sending Commodore Perry there with an exhibition of trade goods and inventions. So we’ll just drop this news item here.

“McDonald’s release new ‘Yakki’ burger based on a popular Japanese meal” reports Rocket 24.

To make sure nobody misses the new burger announcement, McDonald’s has also unveiled a promotional event designed to stimulate all five senses, with the announcement of Yakki The Movie, which is being billed as “the world’s first-ever 4-D Hamburger Movie“. Screening on 21 February, the day before the burger’s official release, the five-minute movie can be viewed at Toho Cinemas at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills…

 

(14) FRANKLIN PIERCE. An item matched up with one of the most forgotten Presidents. Because nobody expects snark like this to be paid any attention, right?

(15) JAMES BUCHANAN. Every Sunday he went out and picked up a 10-gallon jug of whiskey from a distillery. I’m guessing his NASA would have looked a bit different than today’s –

Prohibition in space? The BBC chronicles why astronauts are banned from getting drunk in space. I dunno, it’s not as if there’s anything to run into up there.

While Nasa has long had strict rules on alcohol in space, the Russians appear to have been more relaxed in the past. Cosmonauts on board its Mir space station were allowed small amounts of cognac and vodka. There were apparently grumblings when they found out the ISS would be dry.

The odd tipple, however, does still find its way onto the ISS. In 2015, Japanese brewer Suntory — which has its own Global Innovation Center — shipped some of its award-winning whisky to the space station. It was part of an experiment aimed to monitor “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverages through the use of a microgravity environment”. In other words, the way booze ages in microgravity could be different, causing it to taste better, faster. And that’s something every distillery on Earth would want to learn more about.

(16) ABRAHAM LINCOLN. This President was a storyteller known for his endless fount of humorous anecdotes.

In the YouTube video “Pixar in a Box: Introduction to Storytelling,” produced for the Khan Academy, Monsters Inc.director Pete Docter discusses the Pixar approach to storytelling.

(17) ANDREW JOHNSON. Helping keep eastern Tennessee in the Union during the Civil War led Andrew Johnson to become Lincoln’s second-term running mate. He wasn’t pliant and the postwar Congress tried to oust him from office.

Inverse recommends “The 7 Sexiest Science Fiction Novels About Dystopias”:

George Orwell’s 1984 has ascended bestseller lists again. If its place on your high school syllabus makes it a turn off, this is a list of sexy dystopian novels…

  1. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is her most famous dystopia, and it, too, has garnered comparisons to the current American political climate. If you’ve missed it, it’s a must read, and it’s soon coming to television. However, if that’s the only Atwood title you know, you should also try The Heart Goes Last. It’s completely bonkers and off-the-wall. In between its commentary on income inequality and corporate corruption, it packs in sex robots, a torrid affair, ritualistic murder, a hint of bestiality, sex with inanimate objects, and Elvis impersonators. No one can walk away from this book with the notion that dystopia is just something you read in school and frown about.

(18) ULYSSES S. GRANT. This president’s book was published and made everyone involved a lot of money, beginning with the publisher, Samuel Clemens.

In contrast, Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, for which he was given a quarter-million dollar advance, has been canceled by the publisher.

Milo Yiannopoulos’ book Dangerous was canceled abruptly Monday after Republican conservatives released clips of videos-with-audio in which he seemed to condone sex between men and boys.

In a terse statement released Monday afternoon, the right-wing provocateur’s publisher said: “After careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have canceled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos.”

Minutes later, Yiannopoulos posted this on Facebook: “They canceled my book.”

Vox Day is defending Milo and he proposes that Castalia House publish Dangerous.

According to The Guardian, “It is the third book that Yiannopoulos has announced that has not eventuated, after he flagged forthcoming titles on the Gamergate controversy and Silicon Valley that never appeared.”

(19) RUTHERFORD B. HAYES. Roll your own here. I’ve no idea….

CinemaBlend’s “Guardians 2 Poster Features A Hilarious Baby Groot” leads us to —

(20) JAMES GARFIELD. This President might have survived an assassin’s bullet if his doctor hadn’t been secretive and incompetent.

CheatSheet refutes “5 Lies You’ve Been Told About Star Trek”.

  1. Star Trek fans are nerds

What do you think of when you picture a Star Trek fan? Most likely it a nerd in their parents’ basement who spends their free time dressing up as their favorite character and throwing the Vulcan salute at anyone who passes by. The concept of a “Trekkie” — a Star Trek fan that shies away from normalcy and social interaction — has long been part of our pop culture, but the stereotypes that have been perpetuated are both inaccurate and unfair.

Sure, fandom can be nerdy; but these days, it’s a lot more socially acceptable to embrace geekiness of all kinds. And Star Trek, like any other big entertainment franchise, has an impressively diverse fan base. NASA scientists, billionaire Richard Branson, and celebrities like Mila Kunis all count themselves as Trekkies. In other words, there’s no wrong way to be a Star Trek fan — and absolutely nothing wrong with being one, either.

(21) CHESTER A. ARTHUR. He is the answer to a trivia question – and so is this:

The phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” was first uttered on screen by Bert Lahr in the 1944 comedy “Meet the People.” Lahr is also the main influence for the voice of the cartoon lion Snagglepuss.

(22) GROVER CLEVELAND. This is from Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes.

It is said that when Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Stand By Me (1986) was in theaters, some audiences howled in visceral anguish when, at the very end of the film, the adult Gordie, now a writer, switches off the computer he is using to type without any visible evidence of having hit Save.

(23) BENJAMIN HARRISON. The grandson of William Henry Harrison. You could look it up, in a library.

Atlas Obscura recalls “Library Hand: the Fastidiously Neat penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs”.

 “The trouble in handwriting,” said Mr. James Whitney, of the Boston Public Library, “is that there is apt to be too much flourishing.”

Professor Louis Pollens of Dartmouth College agreed: “We want a handwriting that approaches as near to type as possible, that will do away with individual characteristics.”

A Mr. C. Alex Nelson, of the Astor Library in New York, then mentioned that “T.A. Edison, the inventor” had lately been experimenting with penmanship styles in order to find the most speedy and legible type of handwriting for telegraph operators. Edison, Nelson recalled, had ultimately selected “a slight back-hand, with regular round letters apart from each other, and not shaded.” With this style, Edison was able to write at a respectable 45 words per minute.

Hearing this, Dewey set out a catalog-minded mission for the group: “We ought to find out what is the most legible handwriting.”

This was the beginning of “library hand,” a penmanship style developed over the ensuing year or so for the purpose of keeping catalogs standardized and legible.

(24) GROVER CLEVELAND. The only President to serve non-consecutive terms of office, but never a superhero.

The actress who played Wonder Woman on TV is now Supergirl’s President. “Supergirl: Lynda Carter Returns in Kevin Smith’s Second Episode”.

Carter previously appeared on Supergirl as President Olivia Marsdin on ‘Welcome To Earth’. Carter’s appearance in the episode was a huge fan-pleaser, and even included a reference to Carter’s most famous role on a superhero TV show: as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince on the iconic ’70s Wonder Woman series. In the episode, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) complimented the President on her private plane… to which she replied that Supergirl should see her other jet – a reference to Wonder Woman’s invisible plane!

We’re thrilled to see Carter return to the series as President Marsdin, especially with Smith behind the wheel on this episode. We don’t know yet exactly what this episode will be about, but it is set to air in late March, and will presumably be involving both the President and a little of Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) backstory or involvement (based on the inclusion of Daxamite tech in the second image). We may even discover whether Marsdin’s reference to the jet was just an easter egg for comic book fans, or if she might actually be Wonder Woman in this universe!

(25) WILLIAM McKINLEY. David Klaus call this infographic the Okudagram table of elements. “ The table of elements in the Star Trek universe is a little…different from ours.”

(26) THEODORE ROOSEVELT. I prefer the Teddy bear.

“WTF? They’ve renamed the Tasmanian Devil as Theodore Tasmanian”

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. ill-tempered but much-loved Tasmanian Devil is being renamed as Theodore Tasmanian.

And he’s an Accountant!

In the upcoming Looney Tunes series Wabbit, airing on Boomerang from next month, the character will be working in an accounting department, repressing his true wild and crazy self.

(27) WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT. He was the first President to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to begin the baseball season.

The Washington Nationals have announced their promotions schedule, and will hold Star Wars Day on May 27. The first 25,000 fans will receive a “Chewbacca koozie,” which is a hairy thing for holding a soft drink. Martin Morse Wooster says he will gladly miss that opportunity in order to attend Balticon, which is the same weekend.

(28) WOODROW WILSON. He was the first President to travel to Europe while in office.

And Randy Byers is asking for votes for a candidate for another trans-Atlantic trip.

I’m one of Sarah Gulde‘s TAFF nominators, and because the voting deadline is coming right up, we are taking the unusual step of posting the PDF of the new issue of CHUNGA (#25) before we’ve mailed out the paper copies. If you haven’t made up your mind about who to vote for yet, please download the PDF of the new issue, read Sarah’s delightful article about the Nerd Camps she’s organizing in Portland and then read my endorsement in Tanglewood. Then download the ballot using the link on this page and vote! Instructions for how to vote online can be found on the ballot. Please pay close attention to the eligibility requirements, because not everybody can vote for TAFF. Good luck, Sarah!

Get your digital copy of Chunga at eFanzines.

(29) WARREN G. HARDING. Scoffers claimed this handsome President was elected by women just recently given the vote. He must have been a good-looking dinosaur. And that gives us a smooth (ha!) segue to….

JJ says “This guy saying ‘never mind Raquel’ and squeeing over the dinosaurs instead is hilarious.” Ryan Harvey, One Million Years B.C. on Blu-Ray—Because You Love Dinosaurs Too” at Black Gate.

I once read a customer review on Amazon for the One Million Years B.C. DVD that remarked at the end, “If you’re buying this, you’re buying it for Raquel.” I wonder if the reviewer nodded off during stretches of the film and somehow failed to notice that there are dinosaurs all over it? Dinosaurs created by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen!

I’m not casting aspersions on the appeal of Raquel Welch; she has a enough screen presence to fill in a rock quarry and was a massive part of the movie’s marketing and initial global success. She adds a tremendous amount to the film and helps hold up the human action between stop-motion sequences. Yes, she is stunningly gorgeous on screen to the point that she almost seems unreal. But Raquel Welch has never been as popular as dinosaurs. Sorry, there’s no contest.

Let’s be honest: if One Million Years B.C. had no stop-motion Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs, it would be remembered today for the famous Raquel Welch image and that’s it. People wouldn’t still be watching the film or buying new releases of it more than fifty years later. The film itself would be a side-note, something discussed in terms of Welch’s career and popular 1960s sex symbols, but not anything viewers today would sit down to enjoy in full. Harryhausen’s effects make One Million Years B.C. a perennial.

(30) CALVIN COOLIDGE. The original pinball games would have been familiar to Calvin. But nothing like this. From CBS Sunday Morning.

Anyone who’s ever played pinball knows it takes skill, and a little luck. Now the blast from the past is catching on with a new generation. Ben Tracy delivers his hands-on report.

 

(31) HERBERT HOOVER. Pluto was discovered during his Presidency. Surely that ought to count for something?

A BBC video investigates — How earth-like are “earth-like” exoplanets? “The Earth-like planets we have found may not be like Earth”.

There are more planets in our galaxy than there are stars, says science writer and astrophysicist Adam Becker. He explains what these “exoplanets” are like to BBC Earth’s Melissa Hogenboom and Michael Marshall, with help from the animators at Pomona Pictures.

Chip Hitchcock warns, “Dippy animation to an interview, but the speaker is clear and concise.”

(32) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. He inherited a country in bad economic shape, too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a thought experiment — “Mapping ‘The Hunger Games’: Using location quotients to find the Districts of Panem,”. Even if the process doesn’t result in a map of literal, contiguous regions, the process is enlightening.

“…Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America.” –The Hunger Games (Scholastic Press)

In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins never reveals the exact locations of the Districts of Panem. What if you could map them by using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)?

Fans of the popular The Hunger Games trilogy know that the stories are set in Panem, a futuristic area previously called North America, with a capital located somewhere in what was known as the Rockies. Panem is divided into districts, each of which has a primary industry. BLS employment data can help you solve the puzzle of where in North America those districts would be.

Keep reading to learn how to use BLS data to identify 12 districts of Panem. Because BLS data cover the United States, this article uses clues from U.S. locations rather than from North America as a whole.

District 1: Luxury goods

District 2: Rock quarrying

District 3: Electronic goods manufacturing

District 4: Fishing

District 5: Power generation

District 6: Transportation manufacturing

District 7: Lumber

District 8: Textiles

District 9: Grain

District 10: Livestock

District 11: Crops

District 12: Coal mining

(33) HARRY S.  TRUMAN. He dropped The Bomb.

“A Million People Live in Thee Underground Nuclear Bunkers” at National Geographic.

In the late ’60s and ‘70s, anticipating the devastation of a Cold War-nuclear fallout, Chairman Mao directed Chinese cities to construct apartments with bomb shelters capable of withstanding the blast of a nuclear bomb. In Beijing alone, roughly 10,000 bunkers were promptly constructed.

But when China opened its door to the broader world in the early ’80s, Beijing’s defense department seized the opportunity to lease the shelters to private landlords, eager to profit from converting the erstwhile fallout hideaways into tiny residential units.

(34) DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. Eisenhower’s memoir was titled Waging Peace.

Cat Rambo talks about communication under the influence of one of the masters: “Another Word: Peacetalk, Hate Speech” for Clarkesworld.

Here’s something that makes me sad—at a time when there’s so much contention and arguing about fandom, one of the most helpful books is out of print and unavailable electronically. One of the smartest, savviest voices I know was stilled a few years back. Suzette Haden Elgin, who understood how language works, wrote multiple SF works, but also a series on communication that has changed a number of lives, including my own: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and the other verbal self-defense books that followed it.

But one of her last books, Peacetalk 101 was a simple little story, with twelve maxims about how to communicate with other people….

Elgin’s book is a slim little thing, a series of incidents in the daily existence of a man named George who’s given up on life. He meets a homeless man. (I am aware that the trope of the magic disadvantaged is problematic. I will simply acknowledge it in passing and otherwise cut Elgin a little slack.) Over the course of a number of days, George learns how to communicate effectively in a way that changes his life and restores his hope. The maxims are simple, and I’m actually going to provide them out of order, because one speaks to the heart of this essay. It’s this:

Choose your communication goals. What do you want out of your part in the great conversation? I want to offer people interested in better communication a set of tools that I’ve found handy and to make people think before typing every once in a while—not so they silence or self-censor, but so they know what their communication goals are and have a reasonable chance of achieving them. Do you want to give information? Persuade the reader? Change their behavior? Help them? That will affect what you say and how you say it.

This is why the tone argument is—at least to my mind—both right and wrong. The truth of an argument is unconnected to the tone in which it’s delivered, and yeah, there are people in the world who will perceive something as hostile no matter what that tone is, but another fact of the matter is that tone affects reception and that’s part of the equation that you have to consider. I will defend to the death the right of someone to sing their truth however they want, to express things and experiences that may otherwise not get sung, but if you want that song to be an act of communication, to be composed of more than one voice, you must consider the key in which the other voices are singing and perhaps bring yours down an octave….

(35) JOHN F. KENNEDY. Soon after this date in history, the author of Profiles in Courage began a friendship with the astronaut and his wife.

  • February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

(36) LYNDON JOHNSON. As Vice-President, he was closely identified with the space program.

The real stories behind the “hidden figures” of the movie, and of others at that time in the BBC Magazine.

In 1943, two years after the US joined World War Two, Miriam Daniel Mann was 36 years old. She had three children, aged six, seven and eight – but she also had a Chemistry degree.

Job opportunities for married women were limited then, especially for those with children, and even more so for African-American women.

But as men went off to war, there was a skill shortage in vital industries. The president signed an executive order allowing black people to be employed in the defence sector for the first time, and Nasa’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), started looking for black women to work on mathematical calculations.

Through her husband, a college professor, Mann heard about the recruiters visiting black college campuses. She registered to take an exam, passed it, and became one of the first black women to work as a “human computer” at the NACA aeronautics research facility at Langley in Virginia.

(37) RICHARD NIXON. This President ran afoul of Judge Sirica in the Watergate case.

The Australian Horror Writers Association has announced the judges for its Australian Shadows Awards.

The awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australian or New Zealander for the calendar year of 2016. Works are judged on the overall effect – the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance – of a story. Previous winners have included Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns, Lee Battersby, Terry Dowling, Paul Haines, Brett McBean, Kirstyn McDermott, Bob Franklin, Kaaron Warren, Will Elliott, Deborah Biancotti, and Amanda Spedding.

Entries are open across seven categories including short fiction, long fiction (novellas), novels, collected works and edited works, The Rocky Wood Award for Non-fiction and Criticism – named after former HWA president and AHWA member Rocky Wood – and graphic novels/comics (for works written by an Australian or New Zealand writer).

2016 Judges

This year’s awards will be adjudicated by a panel of judges comprising of:

The Paul Haines Award For Long Fiction: William Cook, Brett McBean, Lee Pletzers

Edited Works: Dmetri Kakmi, Piper Medjia, Craig Hughes

Collected Works: Lee Murray, Michael Pryor, Tracie McBride

Short Fiction: David Hoenig, William Cook, Lucy A. Snyder, Silvia Brown

Comics/Graphic Novels: Gareth Macready, Lee Pletzers, Steve Herczeg

The Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism: Piper Mejia, Maree Kimberley, David Kernot

Novels: Chris Pulo, Lee Pletzers, Steven Casey, Robert N Stevenson

(38) GERALD FORD. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Apparently nobody in charge of programming thought about the effect of 24/7 Pokestops on the neighbors. ISTM that a curfew would have been easy to code….

“Pokemon Go away: Troublesome Sydney Pokestop shut down”

One of Australia’s best places to catch Pokemon has been deleted in the latest update to the augmented reality game.

Three Pokestops, the game’s real-world locations, attracted hundreds of players to a park in inner Sydney.

Nearby apartment residents endured traffic jams, piles of rubbish and noise until the early hours.

The creators of the game are working to remove some real-world locations that do not wish to be included in the mobile game.

(39) JIMMY CARTER. Has an American President ever written a work of fiction? You guessed it. Carter wrote The Hornet’s Nest (2004) set in the Revolutionary War.

Jasper Fforde is auctioning a Tuckerization in his upcoming novel on eBay.

Hello. Jasper Fforde here. I’m just putting the finishing touches to my latest novel, ‘Early Riser’, a thriller set in a world where humans have always hibernated, and the book centres around a Novice Winter Consul named John Worthing, who finds himself stranded in a lonely outpost known as Sector Twelve. The Winter is not a kind master, and before long he is embroiled in Nightwalkers, Villains, the mythical WinterVolk, sleepshy somniacs, other deputies each one more insane than the next, pharmaceutical companies and a viral dream. It’ll be out in either later 2017, or early 2018.

So why is this on eBay? Well, I have a character who could do with a name and likeness, and I thought I would offer the part up for sale in order to raise some money for two causes: Firstly, the friends of my kid’s primary school, which needs to make up the shortfall of the education authority’s current ‘leaning towards frugality’. Second, our local branch of the Sanctuary for Refugees, whose work can be found at http://hbtsr.org.uk/

So what do you get for your cash? The character is a personal assistant to Dr Hektor, the head of HiberTec, a pharmaceutical company that markets Morphenox, a key plot line in the book. You’re not a bad person, just doing their job – and very much a corporate person. You have one appearance.

(40) RONALD REAGAN. Would this President, the grandson of immigrants from County Tipperary, have enjoyed this variation on a theme? “McDonald’s Thinks it’s Time for a Sci-Fi Milkshake Straw!”

We all know McDonald’s classic St. Patrick’s Day beverage, in five flavors this year. Turns out, it has more in store for us then an expanded line of Shamrock Shakes! McDonald’s has hired aerospace and robotic engineers to redesign the regular straw to deliver the fifty-fifty ratio of flavors of its new Chocolate Shamrock Shake…

(41) GEORGE BUSH. Jerry Pournelle was among the sf writers predicting our “weapons’ of mass culture would democratize the Middle East. But of course, it could go the other way, too. “Jeddah: Scifi fans flock to first ever Comic Con expo” reports Al-Jazeera.

It is not every day that young Saudis wander down the street dressed as the Hulk or Doctor Doom.

But for three days over the weekend, some 20,000 Saudis decked out in costumes and face paint queued to get into the kingdom’s first-ever Comic Con, where robots, video games and giant anime figures filled a tent in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The global comics expo was held under the auspices of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, which has hosted a series of festivals, comedy shows and concerts this year.

Saudi Arabia is trying to boost its entertainment sector as part of an economic and social reform drive aimed at creating jobs and weaning the country off its dependence on oil….

The CNN report says the idea met with resistance.

Setting up the event took over a year, and a balance was struck to keep the spirit of the Comic Con while adhering to the country’s religious regulations.

Indecent symbols or logos that went against Islamic teachings were prohibited and attendees were not allowed to cross-dress.

Even then, there was uproar online against what was considered a Western phenomenon in the traditional Islamic kingdom.

A hashtag calling Comic Con a “devil worshipping” festival became popular on Twitter and some called for boycotting it.

(42) BILL CLINTON. “’A Wrinkle in Time’ Soars in Amazon Sales After Chelsea Clinton’s DNC Speech”.

When Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday night, she delivered a moving speech that painted her mother as big-hearted, patient and scholarly, driving home the fact that reading played a big role in the former first daughter’s upbringing.

“My earliest memory is my mom picking me up after I’d fallen down, giving me a big hug, and reading me Goodnight Moon,” Clinton said.

Later in her speech, she relayed another literary anecdote about talking to her mother incessantly for a week straight “about a book that had captured my imagination, A Wrinkle in Time.”

(43) GEORGE W. BUSH.

(44) BARACK OBAMA. Disney will adapt another of its animated hits — “James Earl Jones and Donald Glover to star in live-action ‘Lion King’ movie”.

The original classic about an animal kingdom in Africa starred Jones as Mufasa and Matthew Broderick as his son Simba. Jones will reprise his character in the re-make, while Glover will take over the Simba role.

(45) DONALD TRUMP. Can you imagine him buying a cheap pen? Never.

Choose your clan:  “Luxury company Montegrappa releases line of Game of Thrones-inspired pens”.

Montegrappa’s pens come in several varieties, including ones inspired by several of the Great Houses of Westeros: Stark, Baratheon, Lannister and Targaryen. The barrels and caps of each pen are made with colorful lacquered surfaces while the trim is made from palladium or yellow and rose 18k gold-plate. The cap ring has Game of Thrones engraved on it. The nibs of the fountain pens are stainless steel and are decorated with a sword. Each fountain pen is both cartridge and converter-fed and is available in several writing grades: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium and Broad.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Rambo, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Darren Garrison, Peer Sylvester, Camestros Felapton, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day (F7CEOTD for short) Daniel Dern.]

Leading Critics Form Clarke Award “Shadow” Jury

Nina Allan has announced a “shadow” jury will critique the Clarke Award this year, composed of Megan AM (“The AM stands for Anti-Matter”), Vajra Chandrasekera, David Hebblethwaite, Victoria Hoyle, Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and Jonathan McCalmont.

Allan explains in her introduction:

The idea is not to ‘challenge’ the official jury in any way, but to bring more to the party: more readers, more critics, more books, more discussion. And the beauty of a shadow jury is that everything can be out in the open. Over the following weeks and months, you’ll be able to read along with us, find out which books we love and which we’re not so wild about – and more to the point, why. I’d bet there isn’t a single Clarke-watcher out there who hasn’t at some point found themselves completely at a loss over some jury decision or other.

THROWING SHADE. Will fans feel a thrill of controversy because the group is taking the form of a jury, and reminding people about occasions when they were “completely at a loss” at a Clarke jury decision? (No one will soon forget Christopher Priest’s rant about the 2012 shortlist.) Will the prestigious critics on the shadow jury – some of them among the best-known working today – end up overshadowing the official jury? Is there any reason to mind if they do?

STATEMENTS AND MANIFESTOS. The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy, hosting the jury online, has launched its activities with lengthy justifications. And as an added resource, they have posted Paul Kincaid’s introduction to a 2006 essay collection about the award-winners.

ANNOUNCING THE SHADOW CLARKE 2017: a note from the Centre by Helen Marshall

The Arthur C. Clarke awards are different from the Hugos in that shortlist and eventual winner are determined solely by a juror, thus, in many respects, bypassing the contentious process of lobbying and promotion that has accompanied voted awards. And yet the award has been no less controversial. Paul Kincaid, in his introduction to The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology, writes that the original organisers at no point set out firm criteria for what was meant by “best”, by “science fiction”, or even by “novel” (12). In consequence, the earnest debates—of individual juries as well was the broader community of reviewers and critics—have both through their agreement and their opposition sketched out a fascinating survey of what science fiction might have meant in any given year.

After the Clarke award celebration in 2016, when Nina Allan first approached me about arranging a shadow jury of the Clarke Awards, I could see the value of the suggestion. Similar experiments have been illuminating in respect to mainstreams awards such as the prestigious Man Booker Prize, but no such experiment, to my knowledge, has been undertaken for a science fiction award. 2017 seems a particularly auspicious year to begin particularly because it is a time in which many in the community feel the need for an outlet for reasoned debate and discussion. Of course it isn’t our intention that the shadow jury will challenge the decision of the conventional jury; rather the value of the experiment comes, I think, in expanding the commentary. Questions about the state of the field and the underlying definitions of “best” and “science fiction” continue to be meaningful, particularly in an industry that is increasingly dominated by marketing categories and sales figures rather than criticism. What science fiction is and what it ought to be doing should continue to be debated if the field is going to evolve beyond the commercial pressures that inevitably influence the decision to publish.

ANNOUNCING THE SHADOW CLARKE 2017: an introduction and a manifesto by Nina Allan

It goes without saying that the overall health of a literary award is determined by the quality of the debate surrounding it. No matter how lucrative the prize or how glossy the promotion, no award can remain relevant or even survive unless people – readers, critics and fans alike – are actively talking about the books in contention. For readers, fans and critics to remain engaged, an award must aspire to foster an intellectual climate in which rigorous and impassioned debate is seen as an important and significant aspect of the award itself. Such a climate will by definition ensure that an award can not only survive, but flourish.

Inspired by the shadow juries that have worked wonders in enlivening the climate of debate around mainstream literary awards over the past few years, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to harness some of the considerable critical talent that exists within the SFF community in similarly enlivening the climate of debate and critical engagement around the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

The normal process by which shadow juries operate involves a panel of shadow jurors – usually drawn from those readers, critics and book bloggers who habitually follow the award – reading the official longlist of their chosen award when it is released, reviewing the books individually and then coming together as a jury to decide on a shadow shortlist: that is, the shortlist they would have chosen had they been the official jury. When the official shortlist for the prize is announced, the shadow jury would then critique that shortlist, before once again convening to vote on their shadow winner. In the case of the shadow juries for awards such as the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (now the Man Booker International) and the Baileys Prize, the shadow winner has normally been unveiled on the evening before the announcement of the official prize. One need only cast a casual glance around the literary blogosphere to see how the presence of shadow juries within the literary landscape has increased the feeling of excitement and personal involvement on the part of readers, armchair critics and students of literature.

Because the Arthur C. Clarke Award does not at present implement a longlist stage, the formula we have agreed upon is a little different, but will hopefully prove at least as effective in fostering debate, if not more so.

Our panel of shadow jurors will convene when the submissions list for the Arthur C. Clarke Award is made public. From the list of these submissions, each shadow juror will then select their own personal, preferred shortlist of six books – these could be books they have already read, books they are keen to read, or a mixture of the two. Having chosen their shortlist, each juror will commit to reading and reviewing their six books before eventually declaring the ‘winner’ they would have chosen, had their shortlist been the official one. We believe that by giving each shadow juror the opportunity to select and discuss what they believe was ‘best’ in ‘science fiction’ in 2016, the Shadow Clarke will be able to showcase a wider variety of books, writers and styles of science fiction, thus generating a sense of involvement and inclusion across the entire length and breadth of science fiction fandom. It goes without saying that we would encourage fans and readers beyond the shadow jury to read along with us, to posit their own guesses and above all to disagree with our choices! That is what critical engagement is all about.

INTRODUCTION from The Arthur C. Clarke Award: a critical anthology by Paul Kincaid

[[Paul Kincaid has been on over a dozen Clarke Award juries, many times serving as the chair. He co-edited The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology (2006) with Andrew Butler, another frequent juror and chair. This is an excerpt from his introduction.]]

…Since Clarke wanted to use the award to encourage British science fiction, our second topic for debate was whether the award should be limited to British writers. In the end we all felt that there were just too few British writers to make that sustainable, so we decided that the award would be for the best science fiction novel receiving its first British publication in the year.

…It is what was left to the jury that has made the Arthur C Clarke Award both idiosyncratic and controversial, often at the same time. At no point did we decide what was meant by ‘best’, by ‘science fiction’, or even by ‘novel’. Consequently, the jury meetings I’ve taken part in have featured some very lively debates on each of these topics – and no two juries have ever arrived at precisely the same definitions.

It is, however, the very nature of those debates, the fact that what is considered ‘best’ or ‘science fiction’ is going to be different every year, that has made the Arthur C Clarke Award such a lively and essential survey of the year in science fiction. As The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Peter Nicholls and founding judge John Clute is at pains to point out, the award was controversial from its very first year. When Margaret Atwood received the first Arthur C Clarke Award for The Handmaid’s Tale, it seemed that the Award was deliberately turning its back on the core of the genre (particularly given that the runner-up that year was Bob Shaw’s The Ragged Astronauts – not, as Edward James has suggested, Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand). In fact what I think that first jury was doing, after what I recall as very close debate, is something that has been a surprisingly recurrent practice of juries since then: they were not looking in towards the heart of the genre, but outwards from the genre. As Nicholas Ruddick points out, The Handmaid’s Tale has had such resonance, both within and outwith the genre, that it is hard to think why it might ever have been considered a controversial choice.

Of course, that was far from the only time that the Award has skirted controversy. If stimulating debate, not to say heated argument, is one way of raising awareness of science fiction, then we have to admit that the Award has been a rousing success since the start. Tempers have tended to fray most when the Award is imagined to be flirting with the mainstream. There was even jeering at the presentation of the Award to Marge Piercy for Body of Glass (again, I suspect, this was at least in part because the runner up was another popular genre favourite, Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson). But, as Maureen Kincaid Speller shows, you don’t need a rocket ship on the cover to raise exactly the problematic issues of who we are and what we might become which are supposedly central to everything we understand about science fiction.

… Of course the job of the Award is to raise awareness of science fiction, not just inside the genre but more generally, but that is not achieved by saying science fiction and the mainstream are the same. Rather, the Award points out how many interesting, exciting, challenging and innovative things there are to be done with genre materials, some of those things speak to the core of the genre and some bring a freshness and vitality to mainstream, and some do both….

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/17 We Have Always Been At Scroll With Arisia

Happy birthday CROP

(1) HAPPY NINTH BIRTHDAY FILE 770! January 15, 2008 is when I wrote my first post for File 770. That’s the day it all began, although you can find posts here with earlier dates imported from an old Blogspot site I never did much with, or are copies of posts written for Victor Gonzalez’s Trufen.net.

(2) INSTANT WINNER. Iphinome has scripted a line for the must-have confrontation scene in Star Wars IX:

Hello. My Name is Leia Organa. You killed my husband. Prepare to die.

(3) NAME ABOVE THE TITLE. Cameron gets first billing over sf in this series — “’James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction’ will debut on the cable network in 2018”.

AMC has ordered a new documentary series from James Cameron that will explore the evolution of sc-fi.

Tentatively titled James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, the six-episode series will delve into sci-fi’s origins as a small genre with a cult following to the blockbuster pop-culture phenonmenon it is today. The show is slated to debut in 2018.

In each hourlong episode, the Avatar director will introduce one of the “big questions” that humankind has contemplated throughout the ages, and reach back into sci-fi’s past to better understand how our favorite films, TV shows, books, and video games were born, and where the genre — and our species — might be going in the future. Cameron and his contemporaries, who have helped to fuel sci-fi’s spectacular growth over the last several decades, also debate the merit, meaning and impact of the films and novels that influenced them.

(4) THE SEQUEL. Unless Hugh Jackman consents to a Deadpool/Wolverine team-up, here’s what’s on the drawing board — “’Deadpool 2’ Writers Talk Return of Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Colossus, Dopinder, and Arrival of Cable”

First, scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick chatted with Collider, confirming that when Reynolds’ anti-hero returns, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the two X-Men who joined him on his mission of revenge in last year’s $783 million-grossing hit, will be on screen again as well. The extent of their participation remains unknown (“They’ll make at least an appearance,” says Wernick), but clearly, the makers of the upcoming sequel — including new director David Leitch (John Wick) — are interested in maintaining some continuity between their new effort and its predecessor.

For further proof, Wernick then went on to tell Nerdist that Deadpool will also once again pal around with Karan Soni’s Dopinder, the cab driver who bonded with — and heeded the advice of — the Marvel assassin in the original film. As the writer said, “I would say that the relationship between Dopinder and Deadpool was the most fun for me. I love that relationship and I love that character. And he’ll be in the sequel.”

(5) LUPIEN OBIT. SF Site News reports that Montreal fan Leslie Lupien (1921-2016) died on October 25.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 15, 1831 — Victor Hugo finishes writing Notre Dame de Paris, also known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 15, 1935 — Robert Silverberg

(8) DIVERGENT AUTHOR. There is a profile of Veronica Roth by M.B. Roberts in the January 15 Parade Magazine, as part of a regular feature on how celebrities spend their Sundays.  We learn that Roth wears pajamas most days unless she is going out to exercise, how her favorite breakfast is Kashi Oat Flakes and Blueberry Clusters,and even her favorite wine (Petilant-naturel).  The profile is tied to the publication of the first book of Roth’s new series, Carve the Mark, and is unusual because it’s the first profile of a novelist in this feature, which usually interviews actors or musicians.

(9) INSIDE BASEBALL. I wrote to the person who sent me yesterday’s item about Jonathan McCalmont refusing award nominations —

I’ll use this, though it will violate the unspoken I’ll-ignore-you-if-you-ignore-me truce I have enjoyed since we moved past the whole platforming fascists thing.

McCalmont making this kind of announcement is news, after all.

McCalmont may or may not have been responding in this tweet.

There are, after all, hundreds of sf blogs in America. However, our mutual friend Mondyboy is sure he could only be talking about mine —

— because peace would be too long….

(10) READING ASSISTANCE. Greg Hullender says Rocket Stack Rank’s information for the three short fiction Hugo categories is up, as is the info for the Campbell Award.

The professional artist page will be available on January 16.

The best editor (short form) page will be available on January 23.

Hullender adds, “We decided not to try to do Best Fan Artist this year because the field is just too vast to have any hope of doing it right.”

Help Making Short-Fiction Nominations

If you’re still looking for things to read

You can find information on this page for:

The stories in each of these lists are grouped by a “recommendation score” from six prolific short-fiction reviewers, and each entry includes links to reviews.

(11) TINGLE TIME. This weekend at Arisia Pablo Vazquez and Mark Oshiro were part of a panel about Chuck Tingle. Vazquez invited the good doctor to send a statement for them to read.

The text is posted on Pablo M.A. Vazquez’s blog: Dr. Chuck Tingle’s 2017 State of the Buck Address.

The following is Dr. Chuck Tingle’s (World’s Greatest Author) State of the Buck Address, delivered by yours truly on his behalf at Arisia 2017. Enjoy the wisdom and thanks to the eternal Dr. Chuck Tingle, constantly helping us find ourselves as bucks. It is unedited, presented in its original true buckaroo purity.

here is important statement: hello this is DR CHUCK TINGLE writing to you from billings thanks to online bud name of pablo and online bud name of mark! tonight is a good way son jon and clowy are watching a BIG TIME MOVE in the living room name of MATTS DAMON TAKES LAS VEGAS it is very loud and handsome matt just punched a scoundrel. i have had three chocolate milks jon thinks i have had 1. so that is my night how is yours buckaroos? …

(12) FIRST TRUMP. I’m guessing this isn’t going to be a hagiography: “Roger Corman Revs Up ‘Death Race 2050’; ‘We Have the First Picture to Portray Donald Trump as the President of the United States”.

Prior to Death Race 2050, the Death Race franchise was revived as a 2008 feature by Paul W.S. Anderson followed by a series of direct-to-DVD spin-offs. What were your contributions to those versions?

My work as a producer on those was almost zero. They gave me the script to the first one, and the others, and asked for my notes on the first one, but other than that I had no actual function. But I know Paul Anderson and I know what he was doing [with Death Race]. He was going for a straight action picture, which was what the first draft of Death Race 2000 was as well. When I read it, I thought there was something missing, and that’s when I came up with the idea of the drivers’ killing of the pedestrians, as a way to integrate the public with the violent sport that they love. But you couldn’t take that too seriously, so that’s when I introduced the element of comedy. When I called Universal about [their plans for] Death Race, I told them that [satire] was really essential to the original idea. So they asked me if I would like to make one. I went back to the original idea and here we are.

(13) EARLY ARRIVAL. Fandango shows some alternatives to the aliens who made the screen — “’Arrival’ Concept Art Reveals Much Creepier Aliens”.

The final movie features contact with an alien species (partially pictured above) that is awe inspiring and yet comforting, albeit in a strange, unsettling kind of way. They’re enormous, but they’re gentle. They’re clearly capable of great things, but they constantly act with restraint. Their very presence is a perfect balance between shock and curiosity. Had the aliens looked a little different, however, that balance may have been thrown off quite a bit. And now thanks to some early, unused concept art from Peter Konig, we can imagine what could have been, and appreciate what ended up happening all the more.

Perhaps the most impactful difference between Konig’s proposed designs and the final version is the presence of eyes. Director Denis Villenueve wisely opted to go for a design that didn’t have eyes as a focal point, which helps defuse a lot of potential baggage by blocking up those pesky windows to the soul.

(14) STILL SPEAKING OF ARRIVAL. In “Emergency Dialect” in Real Life Magazine, Paco Salas Perez explains why Arrival is based on a surprisingly deep understanding of linguistics.

Linguists and computer scientists use a rubric known as the Chomsky hierarchy, first put forward by Noam Chomsky in 1956, which seeks to describe the major classes of formal grammars — the rules that define the possible sentences of a language. There are four types, ranked by computational power, with Type 3 being the simplest and smallest family of grammars, and Type 0 the most powerful. Any programmer is aware that some higher-level languages are more powerful than lower-level ones, but that lower-level languages are often easier to use for certain dedicated tasks that require verbose solutions in more powerful languages. The same is true for communication systems produced by evolution. Gestural systems like those found among primates are simple and highly effective: they’re based on individual signals, each associated with broad meanings like “food” or “danger,” but with no regular relations between signs, which are instead produced in an unordered and unstructured, “stream of consciousness” manner, even by primates who have been taught to sign by humans. Human language, and only human language, exhibits properties from Types 1, 2, and 3.

Heptapod B doesn’t play by the rules we’re used to….

(15) THE B TEAM. Carl Slaughter confesses, “Spoof, parody, satire, I can never remember the difference.  Anyway, if you want to watch a spoof-parody-satire series of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, try Interns of Field’ from Screen Junkies.  If Shield is the B team to Avengers, Field is the B team to S.H.I.E.L.D. – ‘Interns, assemble!’” This video was first posted a year ago —

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Harold Osler, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/17 On A Cold And Gray Trisolarian Morning, A Baby Scroll Was Filed

(1) EYE EYE AYE. From r/Star Wars on Reddit: “Noticed this Mon Calamari who can’t find his monitor while re-watching Return of the Jedi” generated a vast set of amusing comments, half developing the joke, half creating headcanon to explain away the joke.

  • Fun fact: predators evolve to have eyes that are close together and face forward to improve depth perception and acuity in a narrow arc, whereas prey have eyes farther apart so that they have better peripheral coverage to spot threats. Apparently Mon Calamari are not natural predators, hence their keen ability to spot traps.
  • No the guy sitting just moved his desk to the right, you can see him snickering when the guy turn around and doesn’t see the monitor where it usually is.
  • He’s blind and on the wall is written in brail: “more to the right.” These ship are made like that; with brail instructions everywhere because if the percentage of mon-calamari individuals who devellop blindness in their late 30’s. Apparently this happens after they successfully mated the first time.
  • Simple: He has an eye on each side of his head. He can see the screen from that angle. He was actually looking at two things at once.

(2) INELIGIBILITY POST. Ruthless Culture’s Jonathan McCalmont, who thinks award eligibility posts are a bane, says: “Don’t Vote For Me”.

What this means in practice is that every year begins with an ungainly scramble for visibility as hundreds of aspiring authors try to get out their personal votes. These visibility campaigns may start on a bashful and self-deprecating note but the pitch soon rises, growing steadily more grasping and unpleasant until finally reaching the level of demented screaming in the run-up to the annual distribution of fish heads known as the Hugo Awards, at which point the voices collapse either into silence or disgruntled muttering before beginning afresh the following December.

The cycle begins in earnest with the opening of the Hugo nominations period but the year’s first tangible chunk of ego-boo is usually the shortlist for the awards handed out by the British Science Fiction Association. For reasons that doubtless made sense to someone at the time, the process for generating BSFA award shortlists has now changed meaning that people are now expected to nominate for a longlist as well as a shortlist. My piece on the history of the New Weird has made it onto the non-fiction longlist and while I am grateful to everyone who took the time to nominate my piece, I would be even more grateful if it progressed no further as I have decided to decline any and all future award nominations.

(3) A DEAD IDEA COMES BACK. Somebody thinks they’ve got a workable personal jetpack.

“Jetpacks will be part of future cities,” Peter Coker, vice-president of innovation at KuangChi Science, Martin Aircraft Company’s major Chinese shareholder.

“I see it as being the Uber of the sky.”

Martin Aircraft Company, based in New Zealand, already has a working prototype that can fly at 2,800ft (850m) at 45km/h (27mph) for 28 minutes.

And Mr Coker says commuters will be able to hail an unmanned jetpack via a smartphone app.

He admits there will be “regulatory hurdles” to overcome and, if the airways become packed with jetpacks, a need for “automatic collision avoidance”.

(4) WHO’S ON FIRST? If you want to know the firms controlled by the Big 5 Publishers, this searchable graph will show you.

(5) DUTTON OBIT. What a great bookstore he had. “Dave Dutton, the landmark L.A. bookstore owner, dies at 79”. The North Hollywood location – only a couple of miles from the old LASFS Clubhouse – was gloriously stuffed with interesting books.

But he would never stray far from Dutton’s Books, a Los Angeles landmark with its overflowing shelves, hard-to-find titles and customers wondrously thumbing through their options. A “cultural museum,” Dutton once called the bookstore.

Dutton died Friday at his home in Valley Village, roughly a decade after he and his wife packed up the last 50,000 books and closed up the North Hollywood shop for the final time. Dutton was 79 and suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

…When Dutton and his wife packed up the North Hollywood shop, loading the remaining books into a 30-foot truck, Dutton reflected on the virtues of being an old-school bookseller in a market dominated by the Internet.

“The book business used to be a place where idealists and dreamers of a better world who perhaps didn’t like business, didn’t admire the business tactics generally necessary to survive, could find a happy compromise.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 14, 1954 — Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio. (Honestly, no sff connection that I could think of. But a big blip on the pop culture screen.)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born January 14, 1943 — Astronaut Shannon Lucid

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 14, 1874 Thornton Burgess, author of Old Mother West Wind, whose array of anthropomorphics included a Peter Rabbit (intentionally using the same name as Beatrix Potter’s character). He wrote about animals and nature in his newspaper column, Bedtime Stories, and by the time he retired, had penned more than 170 books and 15,000 stories for the daily newspaper column.
  • Born January 14, 1924 – Guy Williams, who played Zorro and Professor John Robinson.

(9) ANOTHER VISIT TO THE SEVENTIES. Another tweet from 70s Sci-Fi Art.

(10) WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER GIBBONS? The name. BBC reports ”’Star Wars gibbon’ is new primate species”.

A gibbon living in the tropical forests of south west China is a new species of primate, scientists have concluded.

The animal has been studied for some time, but new research confirms it is different from all other gibbons.

It has been named the Skywalker hoolock gibbon – partly because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean “Heaven’s movement” but also because the scientists are fans of Star Wars.

The study is published in the American Journal of Primatology.

(11) TWIN TITANS. I don’t doubt the misleading innuendo “Power Couples” gets more clicks, though it detracts from homage intended by the publication.

The Jewish Women’s Archive’s “Power Couples” project showcases pairs of extraordinary Jewish women from many different disciplines, matching an early female trailblazer with a modern woman at the top of her game. This project highlights the lives and accomplishments of important pioneers in various fields and the next generation of leaders and innovators, demonstrating the impact of women in the arts, sciences, fashion, athletics, business, and activism….

Fantasy Authors: Jane Yolen and Rachel Swirsky

In 2010, a Jewish Review of Books article asserting that Jewish authors don’t write fantasy precipitated an Internet uproar. Commentators named hundreds of Jewish authors who write about magic, mythical creatures, quests, and adventures—two of whom are Jane Yolen and Rachel Swirsky. Yolen has written almost 300 fantasy and fairytale-inspired books, and was recently named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an award honoring lifetime achievement. Swirsky has written more than 70 short stories and has twice won the prestigious Nebula Award. Both women expand the definition of the fantasy genre and use their work to espouse themes of social justice….

Actress-Scientists: Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik

You probably wouldn’t expect that we could have multiple entries in a category for actress/scientist. After all, we tend to think of people as being either/or. If you’re a scientist or inventor, you must be mono-focused, introverted, anti-social. If you’re an actor or celebrity, stereotypes suggest that you’re gorgeous but flighty, lacking intelligence or substance. Despite our knowledge that most women are multi-talented multitaskers, we insist on fitting them into narrow categories, denying their complexity. Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik challenge us to rethink our limiting assumptions and to recognize the creative range of women’s abilities.

(12) PRESUMPTIVE GUILT. It’s not quite a “have you stopped beating your wife” gotcha — Disney did already use Fisher’s digital image in Rogue One. In The Guardian, “Disney deny negotiating with Carrie Fisher’s estate for rights to her digital image”.

Disney have denied they are negotiating with Carrie Fisher’s estate for the rights to use the actor’s digital image in future Star Wars film, according to industry sources.

The BBC’s Newsnight programme had reported that, “with what might be regarded as unseemly haste, Star Wars studio Disney had opened with the actor’s estate over her continued appearance in the franchise.”

But in a statement the Walt Disney Company said: “Disney is not in conversations with the estate of Carrie Fisher at this time and any reports to the contrary are false.”

Fisher’s likeness as the young Princess Leia in the original 1977 Star Wars was digitally rendered and appeared in the final frames of prequel Rogue One – along with Peter Cushing’s. As filming occurred prior to Fisher’s death, her permission was presumably obtained. However, reports have emerged of discussions between the makers of Episodes VIII and IX, as Leia had been expected to play a significant part in both films. Apart from the technical challenge, a number of ethical considerations emerged in the wake of Cushing’s “resurrection” in Rogue One, 22 years after his death.

The BBC’s use of the words “continuing appearance” suggested the film-makers were considering using Fisher’s digital image in future films, although there are also other ancillary uses, such as video games.

(13) WHERE LIGHTSPEED SEEMS SLOW. Ty Franck answers questions about the existence of the internet in The Expanse.

Q: Why call them ‘hand terminals?’

A: Because they are not phones. In the universe of The Expanse, we are living in the true internet of things. Nearly every object more complex than a hair brush is a smart or semi-smart device connected to the network around it. The hand terminal is barely a device, on its own. It has little or no memory or processing power. It is literally just a dumb terminal to give the user access to the network and to the various devices around them. It is a portable UI for operating other things. Which is why when the networks go down, the hand terminals become bricks. You can’t even play that game of angry birds classic you downloaded with your google store coupon.

(14) YOU CAN’T STOP IT, YOU CAN ONLY WATCH IT HAPPEN. Something for you to put on your calendar – “In 2022 we’ll be able to watch an 1,800-year old star collision”.

Before their collision the two stars were too dim to be seen without the aid of an extremely powerful telescope but astronomers expect the collision to increase the brightness of the pair ten thousand fold, making it one of the brightest stars in the heaven for a time. The explosion, known as a Red Nova, will then dissipate and the star will remain visible as a single bright, but duller, dot.

The prediction is based on a study of the two stars, which are orbiting each other in ever decreasing circles and appear to be on course for a collision. Assuming they are correct, it would be the first time such an event was predicted by scientists.

(15) BITE YE. The Santa Clarita Diet, for people with good taste… and people who taste good. Drew Barrymore teases a series coming to Netflix in February. There’s also a gag website: http://santaclaritadiet.com/

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Gregory N. Hullender, John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester, with an assist from Bonnie McDaniel.]

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.]