Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.

 

(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.

 

(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/9/17 A Simple Scrollable Pixel, Or How I Was Mike Glyered Into Filing

(1) OPENING ROUND. Fantasy-Faction, in “The SPFBO: Introducing Round One!”, tells how they’re getting ready to participate in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.

As you know, 300 competing titles have now been split into batches of 30 and assigned to one of the ten participating blogs. Here’s the tough part: we can’t keep them all. It’s a bit like being asked to foster a small herd of kittens, then being told you’re only allowed to adopt one of them. We try hard not to become too attached, but it proved very difficult last year and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the same were true again this time.

(2) SPACEBALLS. Profiles in History will be auctioning “Rick Moranis hero ‘Dark Helmet’ helmet from Spaceballs.” At the end of the month reports Invaluable.

Rick Moranis hero “Dark Helmet” helmet from Spaceballs. (MGM, 1987) This articulating oversized signature helmet was worn by Moranis as Dark Helmet throughout the Mel Brooks classic Sci-Fi spoof. Consisting of 20 in. round by 14 in. tall cartoonish “Darth Vader” -stylized helmet constructed of heavy vacuum formed plastic component shell affixed to internal construction worker’s hard-hat liner to fit the actor. With screw-hinged movable faceplate section featuring vents, metalized shower drain mouth piece and triangular embedded tinted see-through lenses. Exhibiting only minor production wear and age. In vintage very good to fine condition. $8,000 – $12,000

(3) M. BANKS. Sam Reader at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog honors the late author — “With The Algebraist, Iain M. Banks Perfected His Space Opera”.

The Scottish author Iain Banks famously led a double life in publishing. Some of his books — the ones published under the name Iain Banks — were sold to readers as “literature,” and shelved as such in bookstores. The rest — the ones that applied his talent for creating boldly unlikeable characters and enormously complex plots to the tropes and trappings of science fiction — were published under the name “Iain M. Banks,” that middle initial serving as a beacon to genre readers across the world, telling them: this one. This is the Banks you’re looking for.

The Algebraist is peak Iain M. Banks. It’s also the only book he ever wrote to be nominated for the Hugo Award, a fact that seems almost unbelievable in retrospect.

The late, great SF pioneer, who died on this day in 2013, spent most of his life experimenting with space opera …

(4) ANY SUFFICIENTLY ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY. Yesterday, you didn’t care about this. But today you will passionately brawl about it. Natalie Zutter asks “Is Time Travel Science Fiction or Fantasy?” at Tor.com.

Even though you would expect time travel to require hard rules, it seems to most often appear in both science fiction and fantasy stories that require a certain amount of handwaving on the details. We’re given some sense of how the TARDIS operates — the chameleon circuit, and the sometimes-isometric, sometimes-telepathic controls — but it’s best just to jump in and hang on. Similarly, there’s no clear explanation for the time travel in Kindred or Outlander aside from supernatural forces working outside of our understanding or control, forces that cause certain events to occur as part of some larger cosmic plan.

(5) NEVERMORE. Maybe there’s a more subtle reason Noah’s raven didn’t come back? The Verge reports “If you wrong a raven, it will remember”.

These nine ravens were raised in captivity, growing to become familiar with the researchers. Then came the test.

The ravens were put in a cage along with two trainers on each one. The first trainer gave the raven a piece of bread. The raven then carried the bread to the other trainer on the other side, and exchanged it for cheese.

The second time, the raven was soundly rejected. Instead of getting the cheese, it had to watch as the trainer just ate the cheese in front of it.

Two days later, the researcher rounded up up seven of the birds and presented them with three trainers: the fair one who gave them the bread, the unfair one who ate food in front of them, and a neutral one. Six out of seven birds chose the fair one. One chose the neutral one. Nobody wanted to play with the mean one.

(6) I FORGOT. The City, Awake by Duncan Barlow was released in March by Stalking Horse Press.

Barlow’s metaphysical noir The City, Awake is a novel of chemically induced amnesia, doppelgangers, fanatics, and killers. Saul, a man without a history, awakes in a hotel room with a note in his pocket. Hunting for answers, he must survive rival assassins, a millionaire with an axe to grind, a shape-shifting femme fatal, a silent hit man, and a psychotic who is only looking for an exit. Barlow evokes a vast mid-century modernist cityscape in prose that is by turns hard-boiled, then unexpectedly psychedelic and delicate. With temporal and spatial distortions reminiscent of A. E. van Vogt’s The World of Null-A, the novel that inspired Godard’s Alphaville, this is a vivid investigation of identity, scientific speculation, and Biblical Apocrypha. The City, Awake is a mirror maze of dark streets and darker secrets.

(7) FEAR OF THE ARTS. Omni’s Joshua Sky asks the questions in “Where X Marks the Spot: An Interview with Steve Barnes”.

Walk me through it. I’ve read about you, but I haven’t been able to find much on your childhood. Can you give me a recap of your youth?

Steve Barnes: Born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles. I was interested in science fiction, fantasy, films and stories from a very early age. My mother and sister raised me; there wasn’t a father in the home. So I was always very interested in macho adventure.

First book that I can remember clearly reading was called Space Cat. I was in second grade, before then, I loved monster movies and stuff like that. It’s always been apart of my life. The first real sci-fi novel I’ve ever read was probably Robert Heinlein’s, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, in the fifth grade.

When did you start making attempts at writing?

The first story I remember ever writing, was in like, third grade. It was called, The Yeti. It was about an abominable snowman in a Canadian lumber camp. After that, I wrote a lot of sci-fi action adventure, space ship monster stuff. I was doing that from third to fourth grade, up through college.

(8) NOTED FUTURIST. Joshua Sky also did an “Interview with Trina Phillips, Chief Futurist at SciFutures” for Omni.

Describe what SciFutures is. I’ve read about it, I know about it, but I’d like to hear it from you.

TRINA: We do a range of things, but our main idea is that a lot of companies don’t do well with changing their ways and staying up to date with new and near future technology. This isn’t just using new systems. We’re talking about thinking forward. Some of these companies have been around for over a hundred years; being forward thinking and moving fast are not their specialty. The idea behind it is that not only do you use science fiction ideas to help propel them into the future, but we use storytelling to help them understand it, to help them comprehend this new information better. Because someone can sit there and say, I’m doing projections, and with all the graphs and charts and this and that. And we don’t do that. We go further out than those are realistic for, you know, guessing at. We’re not going to tell you what you should do next year; we’re going to tell you what you should be looking to do in five to ten years, or more — if you prefer the long view.

But it’s all theoretical in a sense, because it’s from a science fictional standpoint, right?

TRINA: Yes, except it is based on the tech that’s available now, and we have a really good handle on modern technology. Half of our staff consists of tech people — a little more than half, actually. So we have a real grounding in where the tech is, where it’s going. We know what’s feasible, and we base our suggestions on that information. But that doesn’t mean we’re not inventing things that don’t quite exist yet. In fact, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

(9) NO FUTURIST. Meantime, John Scalzi was shocked to discover that his go-to soda, Coke Zero, is on its way out: “Is This the End of Our Hero, Coke Zero?!??!!??!?”

It’s that “no sugar” part that’s apparently important, because these days, or so the news reports suggest to me, sugar is in bad odor as being the worst possible thing you can put in your body short of heroin, a proposition I’m not convinced of, but then I’m kind of a sugar fiend, so I may be biased. By calling the new product Coke No Sugar, Coke is making it clear there’s, uh, no sugar in it. So, good for hyper-literal branding, I guess. I think “Coke No Sugar” is kind of terrible as a brand name, and suspect that if consumers didn’t know Coke Zero had, you know, zero sugar in it, the problem was marketing, and not the branding per se. Mind you, if memory serves, the whole point of Coke Zero marketing in the early days was to hide from dudes with fragile masculinity the fact that they were drinking a diet beverage, which is why the word “diet” was never put anywhere near the product dress. So again, I’m not sure consumers are 100% to blame here if they didn’t catch on about the zero sugar thing.

(10) MORE ON BOOKEXPO. Shelf Awareness insists the cup is half-full: “BookCon Draws 20,000; Trade Attendance Up at BookExpo”.

BookExpo drew 7,425 non-exhibiting attendees–primarily booksellers, librarians, retailers and media members — while BookCon brought in 20,000 readers, up 2,000 from two years ago, when the consumer event was last held in New York, ReedPOP announced this week. According to Brien McDonald, event director for BookExpo and BookCon, trade attendance was significantly up this year compared to last year’s show in Chicago, Ill., and in particular, attendance at the show’s author talks and educations sessions was “exceptionally high.” McDonald also noted that for 2017, ReedPOP implemented a review process for all non-buying categories of trade attendees, including self-published authors, bloggers and consultants, in an effort to curate more “high-quality attendance.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 9, 1965 — Ursula Andress stars with Cushing and Lee in Hammer Films’ She
  • June 9, 1978 — Walt Disney’s seminal science fiction classic *coff*  The Cat From Outer Space premieres.
  • June 9, 1989 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was first seen in theaters.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born June 9, 1925 — Keith Laumer
  • Born June 9, 1930 — Lin Carter
  • Born June 9, 1943 — Joe Haldeman

(13) ON THEIR WAY OUT. If you’re trying to make sense of the British elections, actively avoid Camestros Felapton’s “Exit Poll”. But if you need a laugh, click away.

(14) INCONSISTENCY. J.K Rowling calls out a problem I’ve often observed — critics of misogyny who decide to give themselves a pass whenever they have an opportunity write an insult about a politically conservative woman. If someone values human respect, that should control their choices all the time.

(15) ZOMBIES TO THE RESCUE. In the May 25 Financial Times Charles Clover and Sherry Fei Ju note that China, which has long banned any film with ghosts or the supernatural (such as the Ghostbusters remake or the acclaimed South Korean film Train to Busan) has relented and allowed the latest Resident Evil film and Logan to be shown in China, possibly as a way to stimulate slumping box office sales. (“China unleashes zombie films to boost the box office” , behind a paywall.)

(16) GHOSTING CONS. Kara Dennison says “Let’s Talk About Lobbyconning”.

I was very confused by a comment left on Facebook concerning a convention I work for. A potential attendee asked if the con would be “open” or “closed.” No one really had any idea what this meant, until it was clarified: do you have to buy a badge to enter the convention space at all, or can you chill in the hotel lobby without buying a badge? The practice is known as “lobbyconning,” and I had never heard of it until within the last year or so. Essentially, rather than buying a membership to a convention, the lobbyconner just hangs out in the non-convention spaces of the hotel, seeing friends, showing off their cosplay, using Street Pass, etc. They see it as harmless and a way to save money. Now, quickly up front. I have sped by hotels where a convention is going on to say hi to a friend. Like. If the con is in the area. Usually if I want to see a friend at a nearby convention I’m not attending, we go get lunch or something, or if I go to the hotel we’ll meet for a drink in the bar or I go to their room. But if I’m going to see the friend, we generally leave the convention space. If I’m going to the convention to see the friend, I buy a day pass. Why? Because I am using the convention as a way to pass time with my friend, because it means they can still enjoy all parts of the con without having to abandon me for panels, and because dammit, supporting a con.

(17) A MATCH MADE IN HECK. A newsflash from Cattimothy House — “Jon Del Arroz hires Timothy the Talking Cat as his Publicist”.

Prominent local author, Jon Del Arroz entered into extensive negotiations with Cattimothy House yesterday to massively boost his profile by recruiting the services of Timothy the Talking Cat. Timothy, who is notable for his work with John C Wright, Declan Finn, Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, is one of the leading editors of modern science fiction and is at the forefront of what he calls “the Pulp Revolution” (Timothy’s Jarvis Cocker cover band).

Timothy is alread taking proactive steps to boost Mr Del Arroz’s profile including new cover design concepts …

Naturally (or perhaps unnaturally), Jon was thrilled to realize “The File 770 Crowd Loves Me, Quite Literally”.

Today, Camestros Felapton upped the game of having a crush on me by making a full on book cover based on For Steam And Country — which is releasing next Thursday. This looks like a pretty time consuming effort, maybe even more so than the File 770 commenter who purchased and distributed convention ribbons for a full weekend homaging me …

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Jon Del Arroz, Peer Sylvester, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 4/6/17 Dr. Pixuel Johnson’s Right About Scrollson Johnson Being Right!

(1) WERE THEY UNDER ATTACK? Chuck Wendig launches “The Great Ewok Defense of 2017”. Make sure you never find yourself standing between Chuck’s Ewoks and a stormtrooper…

(2) DRAGONS FROM OUT OF TOWN. Aliette de Bodard tells about “My Favourite Dragons and How I Designed Mine” at The Book Smugglers.

It will probably not be a surprise that I love dragons — a lot of fantasy and SF readers also do! There’s something intrinsically fascinating, for me, about flying, graceful reptiles with magical powers.

You’ll notice I don’t say “reptiles that breathe fire”, and the main reason for that is that the first dragons I encountered weren’t the Western ones that needed to be killed by the likes of Saint George, but the r?ng, the Vietnamese dragons, who tend to live underwater, have deers’ antlers and a long serpentine body but generally no wings, and who are generally benevolent entities who dispense rain (or catastrophic floods if angered).

(3) REACHING FOR THE SHELF. Nicholas Whyte created a quick introduction to the Hugo Awards, which he administers for Worldcon 75.

(4) A SINGULAR SENSATION. I wasn’t able to help Jason Kehe when he asked me about Chuck Tingle – you know as much as I do — while Vox Day said on his blog he simply refused to answer questions from the media. But Tingle himself was happy to offer a quote for WIRED.com’s article “The Hidden, Wildly NSFW Scandal of the Hugo Nominations”.

Hiscock’s nomination is the work of the Rabid Puppies, a community of reactionary sci-fi/fantasy writers and fans who in 2015 sought to derail the Hugos’ big-tent evolution by stuffing the notoriously gameable ballot box with what they saw as criminally overlooked white male nominees. After the Rabid Puppies found huge success—they placed more than 50 recommendations—predecessors the Sad Puppies smuggled in a 2016 Best Short Story nominee they hoped would really tank the proceedings: Space Raptor Butt Invasion, an erotic gay sci-fi tale self-published by an unknown named Chuck Tingle.

Incredibly, though, the plan backfired. Tingle turned out to be a ridiculously lovable, possibly insane ally—or at least a very shrewd performance artist—who used his new platform to speak out against exclusion and bigotry in all their forms. In the intervening year-plus, he’s emerged as something of a cult icon, pumping out ebook after skewering ebook of wildly NSFW prose. His latest, Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, refers to the recognition he got this year, on his own, in the Best Fan Writer category.

Here’s what the man of the hour had to say:

Chuck Tingle: hello buckaroo name of JASON thank you for writing and thank you for congrats on this way! i believe this author is put on the nominees by THE BAD DOGS BLUES as a way to prank the hugos like when they thought author name of chuck was some goof they could push around (no way buddy not this buckaroo). so it seems to be same idea as last year dont know much about it. thing is you cant just nominate some reverse twin of chuck there is only one chuck on this timeline and he is nominated as BEST FAN WRITER all by his own! this is a good way i am so proud! so long story short i hope this new author is not a reverse twin of the void but who knows i have not seen the end of this timeline branch yet.

(5) TOUGHEST CHALLENGE. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog , Ross Johnson contends “The Best Series Hugo Is the Hardest Decision on the Ballot”.

A Best Series award makes perfect sense: when a book is part of a larger story, no matter how mind-blowing, it can be tough to judge it on its own merits—so why not take a look at series as a whole? After all, we all know SFF loves its trilogies (and its 10- to 14-book epic sagas). This is a great way to recognize a body of work, especially when the nth book of an excellent series generally has little chance of being nominated (let alone winning), but is still worthy of recognition. No one was quite sure how the nominations would shake out (could the entire Star Wars Extended Universe be considered as a singular series?), but there’s no arguing that the books on this inaugural ballot don’t seem to be entirely in the spirit of the award. There’s a wide-range of serious talent on the list, venerable classics alongside burgeoning favorites, all displaying the kind of character- and worldbuilding that can only be accomplished across multiple books.

(6) GOING TO THE WORLDCON. The Shimmer Program announced that the winners of the Worldcon 75 Attending Funding for Chinese fans offered by Storycom are Yang Sumin and Zhang Jialin (Colin). Each will get RMB 10,000 for use in attending and staffing the con. They are expected to gain experience in the Worldcon organizational work and help with future Chinese bids.

Jukka Halme, Chair of Worldcon 75 and Xia Jia, Chinese science fiction writer, selected the winners from five finalists.

There are photos and introductions to the two winners at the link.

(7) ISLAND NEWS Download Progress Report #1 for NorthAmeriCon’17, to be held in San Juan, PR from July 6-9. Lots of areas where they’re looking for staff and volunteers.

(8) FIRST CLUB. Joshua Sky sold this article to Mayim Bialik of Big Bang Theory for her site, Grok Nation. It’s about the origins of science fiction fandom: “The Scienceers: Where Science Fiction Clubs Began”.

All my life I’ve been a fan of science fiction, but I never knew much about the history of the field, nor did the majority of die-hard fans that I encountered. How could we – who could instantly recall every detail from our favorite comic books and every line of dialogue from Star Wars or Back to the Future – love something so much and know so little about its origins?

Last year, I found the answer when I was given a handful of wonderful out-of-print books chronicling the rich history of science fiction and fandom, including The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl, The Futurians by Damon Knight and The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz. In their pages, I learned about the fascinating beginnings of fandom, which was mired in political warfare between overzealous teenagers, where clubs would form and disintegrate overnight. What I found most interesting, was an account of the first science fiction club ever established, called The Scienceers. It was founded in New York, on December 11th, 1929. Nearly 90 years ago. The first president of the club was a young African-American man named Warren Fitzgerald, and the first club meetings were held in his home….

File 770 took a look at that topic in 2014 from a different angle — “Early Science Fiction Clubs: Your Mileage May Vary” and “The Planet: One Last Landing” – and The Scienceers won the verdict of “first club” then, too.

(9) ALLIANCE FINALISTS. Realm Makers has announced the shortlist for the 2017 Alliance Award, the site’s new Readers Choice award for speculative fiction novel by a Christian author.

 

A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold Anne Elisabeth Stengl
A Time To Rise Nadine Brandes
‘sccelerant Ronie Kendig
Bellanok Ralene  Burke
Black Tiger Sara Baysinger
Darkened Hope J. L. Mbewe
Defy Tricia Mingerink
Domino Kia Heavey
King’s Folly Jill Williamson
New Name A.C. Williams
Rebirth Amy Brock McNew
Saint Death Mike Duran
Samara’s Peril Jaye L. Knight
Scarlet Moon S.D. Grimm
Siren’s Song Mary Weber
Songkeeper Gillian Bronte Adams
Star Realms: Rescue Run Jon Del Arroz
Tainted Morgan Busse
The Shattered Vigil Patrick W. Carr
Unblemished Sara Ella

(10) HEALTH SETBACK. Eric Flint told about his latest medical problems in a public Facebook post.

Well, there’s been a glitch in my serene and inexorable progress toward eradicating my cancer. I developed an abscess at the site where the pancreas drain came out of my abdomen from the splenectomy. (Nasty damn thing! Painful as hell, too.) So I had to go back into the hospital for five days while the doctors drained it and pumped me full of antibiotics. I’m now on a home IV antibiotic regimen.

In the meantime, my oncologists suspended the chemotherapy regimen until the 20th. Chemo depresses the immune system so you really don’t want to pile it on top of an active infection. (That’s probably why I developed the abscess in the first place, in fact.) I’d just finished the third cycle, so what’s essentially happening is that we’re suspending one cycle and will resume the fourth cycle right when the fifth one would have originally started…

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 6, 1968 — Stanley’s Kubrick’s science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey makes its debut in movie theaters.

Trivial Trivia:  In Kubrick’s next movie, Clockwork Orange, there is a scene in the record store where the LP for 2001 is displayed.

(12) RICKLES OBIT. Famous comedian Don Rickles (1926-2017) passed away today at the age of 90. His genre work included The Twilight Zone, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” (1961), X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, both The Addams Family and The Munsters, The Wild, Wild, West, I Dream of Jeannie, and Tales from the Crypt. Late in life he voiced Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story film series.

(13) DO YOU HAVE THESE? James Davis Nicoll is back with “Twenty Core Epic Fantasies Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”

As with the two previous core lists, here are twenty epic fantasies chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should consider.

I agree that was wise to say, since he omits the first three authors whose names I’d expect to see on such a list. On the other hand, if not for Nicoll’s list I would have remained unaware that Kara Dalkey (someone I knew at LASFS 40 years ago) has written a well-regarded fantasy.

(14) WHITEWASHING. Steven Barnes shares “Ten Thoughts on Whitewashing”. Here are the first five.

The whitewashing controversy is pretty simple at its core:

  1. if a character’s race is changed toward yours, you will tend to be sanguine with it. If it is changed away from yours, you will tend to object. If you have control of the property, you will choose changes toward you, on average.
  2. To this end, if you are group X, you will put X’s into makeup to resemble Y’s so you can control the image systems and keep the money circulating in your own communities. When that stops working, you’ll change the back-stories. It all achieves the same result, and other X’s will support any change you make.
  3. The changers will not be honest about the fact that they simply preferred the change. They will blame the audience, the lack of actors, the material, another country. Anything but themselves.
  4. The audience prefers it too, but also will not take responsibility. It is the creators, the material, other people. Never them.
  5. As this is what is really going on, and everybody does it, you can remove this entire issue from the table and ask instead: what kind of world do we want? I can answer this for myself: I want a world where art reflects the world as it is. Not “politically correct” but “demographically correct” which, we can see, translates into “economically correct.” But #1 continues to dominate far too often, corrupting the creative process (thank God!) and creating under-performing movies and television and outright bombs.

(15) TOR LOVE. The xkcd cartoon “Security Advice” became the most-clicked link from File 770 yesterday after Darren Garrison commented, “Well, it looks like Randal Monroe is part of the Tor cabal.” Read it and you’ll understand why.

(16) ALL ABOARD. Jump on Matt Lambros’  “Los Angeles Lost Theatre Tour”.

On Saturday July 1, I’ll be co-leading tours through seven of Los Angeles’s Lost Theatres as part of the Afterglow event at the Theatre Historical Society of America’s 2017 Conclave.

Starting at 10AM, we’ll be going to The Variety Arts, the Leimert/Vision, the Rialto, the Raymond, the Uptown and the Westlake. Photography is allowed, and I’ll be conducting short demonstrations and answering any questions you may have about architectural photography.

(17) BATGIRL. “Hope Larson discusses and signs Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside (Rebirth)” at Vroman’s in Pasadena on April 12.

Spinning out of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH comes the newest adventures of Batgirl in BATGIRL VOL. 1: BEYOND BURNSIDENew York Times best-selling creators Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time) takes one of Gotham’s greatest heroes on a whirlwind world tour in BATGIRL VOL. 1: BEYOND BURNSIDE. Barbara Gordon’s heart belongs to Burnside, the ultra-hip Gotham City neighborhood. But some threats are bigger than Burnside. And when those threats come calling, Batgirl will answer!  When Babs plans a trip to train with the greatest fighters in the Far East, she has no idea her vigilante life will follow her. Lethal warriors are out to take her down, each bearing the mysterious mark of “The Student.” And where there are Students, there must also be…a Teacher. As part of the epic Rebirth launch, Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside is a perfect jumping-on point to start reading about Batgirl and her action-packed, crime-fighting adventures!  (DC Comics)

(18) BESTER TV EPISODE. “Mr. Lucifer,” story and teleplay by Alfred Bester, can be seen on YouTube. Broadcast in glorious b&w in four parts on ALCOA Premiere Theater, starring Fred Astaire and Elizabeth Montgomery, on November 1, 1962.

In addition to “Mr. Lucifer,” Astaire played several other characters. Music by a much younger John “Johnny” Williams.

Links to parts 2-4 listed on upper right side of page.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Darren Garrison, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day m.c. simon milligan.]

Pixel Scroll 2/21/17 Troll, Troll, Where’s My Scroll? Gone To The Pixel, Lol Lol Lol!

(1) SPIRIT QUEST. The Society of Illustrators in New York City will host a Will Eisner centennial exhibit from March 1-June 3.

  • An opening reception will be held at the Society of Illustrators on the evening of March 10, from 7:30 – 11:00pm. Suggested donation of $20 helps support our programming and exhibitions. Cash bar will be open until midnight.
  • On April 22, there will be a gallery talk led by curators Denis Kitchen and John Lind.
  • A panel discussion on Will Eisner is scheduled for May 9.

The lasting legacy that Will Eisner (1917–2005) has in sequential art cannot be overstated—he is known as the Champion of the Graphic Novel. His innovative storytelling, layouts, and art on his newspaper series The Spirit inspired a generation of cartoonists, and his turn toward an acclaimed run of graphic novels, beginning in 1978 with A Contract with God, helped pioneer the form. Among the honors bestowed upon Eisner are the Reuben Award, the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, the Yellow Kid Award, and multiple Harvey Awards and Eisner Awards—the latter of which were named in his honor.

This two-floor retrospective—the largest Eisner exhibition ever in the United States—curated by Denis Kitchen and John Lind, comprises over 150 pieces including original artwork from Smash Comics (1939), key sequences from his graphic novels including A Contract with God (1978), Life on Another Planet (1983), A Life Force (1988), To the Heart of the Storm (1991), and over 40 pages of originals from The Spirit (1940–1952) newspaper section.

SI is located at 128 East 63rd Street between Lexington and Park Avenue in New York City.

(2) DRAGON CON LOSING AWARD? SF Site News carried the Parsec Awards announcement that they are surveying fans about their receptivity to a virtual awards ceremony in place of the annual presentations at Dragon Con. The Parsec Awards “celebrate speculative fiction podcasting.” From the awards site —

This is not something we take lightly. Over the years the awards ceremony has been an opportunity for us to share laughs, music, triumph and tragedy as a community. You, who have supported us and each other, are the reason the awards exist and we would be remiss if we didn’t attempt to serve you in the best way possible.

We feel that a virtual awards ceremony may help us do that.

By dissociating the awards with Dragon*Con, we feel that more of our community will be able to participate. No longer will travel to Atlanta be a prerequisite for presenters, entertainers or recipients. Many of those who attended Dragon*Con even found their schedules did not allow their attendance at the awards. We also feel that we can have a better chance of securing judges’ time when we are not smack in the middle of Con season as we can now have some flexibility in scheduling the awards.

So far 73% of the respondents to the survey favor moving to a virtual awards ceremony.

(3) ONE STOP. Marco Zennaro has organized a cover gallery for the “2016 Nebula Award Nominees” plus a synopsis of each work and links where to buy or find them for free.

(4) PRAISE FOR RAMBO. Rich Horton comments on “Nebula Nominees”.

Three stories that showed up on my list of potential Hugo nominees. (“Red in Tooth and Cog” was on my Short Story list (my word count for it is 7000, making it technically a Short Story but eligible for nomination as a Novelette).) The other two are “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” and The Jewel and Her Lapidary. (Curious that in length those three stories are at the very bottom end of novelette, right in the middle, and at the very top end.) The remaining three stories are decent work that I didn’t have listed among my favorites of the year, but none of them strike me as poor stories. So, again, a pretty strong shortlist, with my personal inclinations favoring either Cat Rambo’s story or Jason Sanford’s story; with Fran Wilde’s a close third — a win for any of those would make me happy.

UPDATE: Apparently there is no deadband for Nebula nominations, and “Red in Tooth and Cog” has been declared too short for novelette. It would have been nominated as a Short Story, but Cat Rambo graciously declined the nomination.

This is a shame from my point of view — Rambo’s story is (to my taste) definitely one of the best couple of stories on either the short story or novelette list, and so the shortlist is diminished by its absence. (“The Orangery”, the replacement novelette, is a fine story, to be sure, but not as good as “Red in Tooth and Cog” (in my opinion).)

This also makes the overall shortlist even more Fantasy-heavy (vs. SF), which is of course totally allowed, but to my taste again a bit to be regretted. I do think the Nebulas recently are tending to lean a bit heavily to the Fantasy side.

(5) NOW READ THE STORY FREE. You can find “Red in Tooth and Cog” in its entirety online at at Cat Rambo’s website.

(6) GONE WITH THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. In a piece called “Warfighter: Toad Hall”, The Angry Staff Officer reimagines The Wind in the Willows as if it were a wargame for military strategists to analyze, complete with the use of animal intelligence or AMINT.

How Wind in the Willows can teach us about small unit actions in warfare.

That sound? Oh, that’s just the clunking of heads hitting desks, as people react to their beloved childhood book being brought under the scrutiny of the military microscope. But really, we’d be doing an injustice to that mighty asymmetric warfighter, the Badger, if we neglected to share his courageous story with an entirely new generation of military strategists. Wind in the Willows is not a military work by any means. But the Battle for Toad Hall bears noting, because Kenneth Grahame unwittingly factored in some key elements of small unit warfare.

(7) BELLE CHIMES IN. Emma Watson sings in this new Beauty and the Beast clip.

(8) SUCH A DEAL. Director Alfred Hitchcock paid $9,000 anonymously for the film rights to Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho.

(9) SAVAGELAND. The award-winning Savageland from Terror Films will be released online February 24.

Terror Films has locked in a U.S. release date for the multi-award winning film, Savageland. To celebrate the film’s February launch, a “Dead Alive” clip is available, now!

The film is centered on the night of June 2, 2011. On this date, the largest mass murder in American history occurs in the off-the-grid border town of Sangre de Cristo, Arizona, just a few miles north of Mexico. The entire population of fifty-seven disappears overnight and the next morning nothing is left but blood trails leading into the desert.

 

(10) LENGTHENING SHADOW. The final three Shadow Clarke jury members introduce themselves, followed by the first shortlist post.

In the world of translation lit-blogging, I also discovered the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (now Man Booker International Prize) shadow jury. The idea was that a group of bloggers would read the Prize longlist; write about and discuss the books; create their own shortlist; and choose their own winner. It sounded great fun, so I asked to join – and it was.

I’ve had such wonderful times as a shadow juror, it has become a highlight of my reading year. I’m delighted that Nina Allan has adapted the idea for the Clarke Award, and excited to be participating in the project. I look forward to new conversations about science fiction, new insights, thoughts and perspectives.

These days I would describe myself as a reader on the outer edge of the sf genre; a frequent dipper of toes but a dipper nonetheless. I say that in context. I read 100 fiction books last year, of which just under a quarter could be characterised as science fiction or fantasy.  That’s quite a significant proportion I suppose, and if asked I would identify sf as something I’m interested in.  But I know that in some parts of the reading universe that’s not a great deal, and that what I’ve read doesn’t qualify me as an expert in any shape or form. At the most basic level I think of my role in the shadow judging process in this way: I’m the kind of person who uses the Clarke Award as a litmus test of quality and a steer to sf books to look out for.  I’m looking for ways to supplement the limits of my expertise and this is one of them.  As a reader of predominantly ‘literary’ and historical fiction I’d like to think the Clarke shortlist is a shortcut to the most critically challenging, engaging and powerful fiction in the field in any given year.

Even as I grew to recognise science fiction as a specific branch of literature, I remained wholly ignorant, for a long time, of the culture surrounding it. I had no idea there was such a thing as SF fandom and, most likely because I knew no one else who read SF or even knew about it beyond the Doctor Who or Star Wars level, I rather think I cherished the idea that novels like The Time Machine and The Day of the Triffids had been written especially for me. How could it be otherwise, when these books contained everything I might hope to find in a story: mystery, adventure, that fabled sense of wonder and that secret silver seam of something else, something that tastes like fear but is closer to awe.

[Before I start, I would like to state for the record that for the purposes of the shadow jury I am pretending that The Gradual – written by my partner Christopher Priest – does not exist. As such I will not be considering it for inclusion in my personal shortlist, or talking about it in this post.] 

So here we are again – the submissions list for the 2017 Clarke Award has just been posted, and the speculation about the runners and riders can officially begin. I’ve been playing this game by myself for a number of years now, poring over the list, winnowing the wheat from the chaff, trying to arrive at a list of six books that I would consider my ‘ideal’ shortlist. It’s never easy. Out of the thirty to forty novels I would personally consider as genuine contenders – and for me that would be books that aren’t zombie/vampire/horror/fantasy novels with no science fictional sensibility or run-of-the-mill commercial SF – there are always around eight to ten I could pick quite happily, with the result that I usually end up feeling I’ve short-changed one book or another by not including it in my reckoning.

(11) MONSTER ARTIST. A Guardian interview: “Emil Ferris: ‘I didn’t want to be a woman – being a monster was the best solution’”.

There has never been a debut graphic novel quite like Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. The 55-year-old artist’s first published work, which came out last week, is a sweeping 60s-era murder mystery set in the cartoonist’s native Chicago. It’s composed of ballpoint pen drawings on wide-ruled notebook paper and is the first half of the story with the second volume out in October. Before she began work on Monsters, Ferris paid the bills with freelance work as an illustrator and a toy designer, making figurines for McDonald’s – she sculpted the Mulan line of Happy Meal prizes for one of the fast food behemoth’s subcontractors – and for Tokyo toymaker Tomy, for whom she worked making the Tea Bunnies line of dolls.

But in 2001, Ferris contracted West Nile virus. At the time a 40-year-old single mother, Ferris’s work was all freelance, she said – with the effects of west Nile hindering the use of three of her limbs, her work dried up, and she looked for another outlet, in part for her creative output, and in part to exercise a dominant hand damaged by the effects of the disease. She went back to school and produced My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, which draws on her own childhood and on the experiences of family and friends who survived the Holocaust. But when her book was finished the Chinese company shipping the copies from the printer in South Korea to the United States went bankrupt and the whole print run was held hostage at the Panama Canal by the shipping company’s creditors along with the rest of the cargo on the ship carrying it.

Now, it is finally here.

(12) LOADED SF. Joshua Sky tells Tor.com readers about “Collecting Philip K. Dick: Science Fiction’s Most Powerful Gateway Drug”.

Philip K. Dick has a way of taking the reader there. Each of his novels presents a whole new experience in of itself; a totally different world that is both new yet enticingly familiar. The reader, upon finishing the book, finds that they’re no longer the same person who started it. As I’ve said, his work is perception-altering.

By age 22, I landed my first job out of college at Marvel Entertainment—it was just as the crash of 2008 was happening, so I was relieved to find something full-time. In my department was a Japanese fellow, Teru, who also collected PKD’s work and we bonded over that, swapping books and chatting about our interpretations of his stuff. Teru suggested that I also read Alfred Bester and J.G. Ballard. Another friend and co-worker during this time was a Brooklynite named Eric. We’d met at Brooklyn College and would discuss Dick’s work and make up different word games–my personal favorite was coming up with bad titles for PKD novels (since Dick himself had some deeply strange titles for his books, such as The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, to cite just two examples.)

The more I read, the more I learned about PKD himself. Turns out, most of what he wrote was first draft material with just a bit of polishing. He’d probably laugh at how most of the universities have trained an entire generation of writers to be self conscious and to over-rewrite, probably one of the most detrimental things a writer can do.

(13) LIBERATED JEDI. FANAC.org has added to its YouTube channel the video of MidAmeriCon’s (1976) audience Q&A session with the producer and leading man from the yet-to-be-released movie Star Wars.

Right out of the gate, some fan questions Princess Leia’s costume choice, and asks haven’t they seen covers of Amazing?

Gary Kurtz answers, “And we’ve got to remember women’s liberation. At this time we can’t be, we aren’t sexually selling females or males in this film.”

You didn’t know that, did you?

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. Before the film was released, before Star Wars and George Lucas were household names, producer Gary Kurtz, star Mark Hamill and marketing director Charles Lippincott came to MidAmeriCon to promote Star Wars. This Q&A session is full of fascinating background information about the film, the filming and the attitudes of the Star Wars team. For example, listen to Kurtz talk about the massive $18M gate they would need to break even. This is brought to you by the FANAC Fan History Project, with video from the Video Archeology project (coordinated by Geri Sullivan, with technical work by David Dyer-Bennet).

 

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Darrah Chavey, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 1/13/17 Pixelcrantz And Guildenscroll Are Dead

(1) WHEN IRISH EYES ARE SMILING. Graeme Cameron has a great installment of “The Clubhouse” about the legendary Walt Willis at Amazing Stories.

In 1952 Walt was the recipient of the first Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) which paid his way to attend the Chicon II Worldcon in Chicago that year. To give you an idea of his inventiveness, he immediately wrote WILLIS DISCOVERS AMERICA (OR WHY MAGELLAN SAILED COMPLETELY AROUND IT), a report on his TAFF trip, BEFORE he made the trip. He crammed into its pages his impressions of America derived from all the American fanzines and correspondence he’d read to date.

“A Roscoeite!” exclaims the Chief Immigration Officer in horror. “By Ghu, this is a purple-letter day for us. We’ll show you how we treat vile infidels here. Men! Seize Ellis and transport him to Willis Island. His confederate too.”

“The South shall rise!” shouts Shelby defiantly as the Ghuist hordes close in on him. “Yeast is Yeast and …”

…Next, Willis and Shelby concoct a fiendish plan. They overpower a guard and a nurse, intending to put on their uniforms and walk out the door….

Willis and Shelby prepare to escape, but the unexpected happens.

“Now,” says Willis, “All we have to do is walk quietly out.”

He unlocks the door with the guard’s keys and is opening it slowly and noiselessly when there is the sound of rushing feet in the corridor and several men in prison guard uniform burst into the cell. Before Vick and Willis can utter a word they are gagged and bound by six of the strangers while the rest carry out the unconscious guard and nurse. The leader pauses dramatically on the threshold. “If anyone asks you who rescued Willis and Vick,” he says proudly, “tell them it was Harlan Ellison and the Cleveland Science Fantasy League. That’ll show Ken Beale. It’s not every fan group who would have thought of overpowering some of the guards and taking their uniforms.”

But every fan group does. Six in all, in fact, in sequence. Each offering Willis an opportunity to poke fun at them. Needless to say, no one escapes.

(2) GETTING AN AGENT FOR TV WRITING. Joshua Sky taps into his experience when offering his “Advice on Landing a Genre TV Lit Agent” at the SFWA Blog.

The first thing a writer will need are two killer television scripts, in the same format and in their target genre. This may sound obvious, but is nevertheless true. The hardest part isn’t just writing your script, it’s getting someone to read it, which is why it has to be excellent because second chances with a script reader are rare. The reason the writer will need at least two samples is because the agent wants proof that the scribe can do it more than once.

The writer will need to be very specific about exactly what kind of scribe they are gunning to be. A Hollywood agent won’t want someone who is open to any genre. For example: someone who blithely says that they’ll write anything, or enjoys both comedy and drama. So be precise. For our intents and purposes, we are targeting the science fiction / genre market. The samples that got me my second TV agent were two science fiction pilots. I pitched myself as the kind of writer who understood high-concept genre fare and yearned to write one-hour dramas. Shows like Man in the High Castle, Westworld and The Expanse.

After you have the requisite samples, and only then, you can begin submitting and querying agents. But to be honest, referrals work best. In my ten years in the industry, I have never met any writers who have been able to obtain a reputable TV agent via email query. I’ve heard tales of that happening, but they are very rare, like people who sell scripts that don’t live in LA, it’s more the exception than the rule.

(3) TWO OCTAVIA BUTLER ARTICLES. Salon interviews Junot Diaz — “Remembering Octavia Butler: ‘This country views people like Butler and like Oscar as aliens and treats people like us like we’re from another planet”.

But the readers and writers who admire Butler and dig her work are everywhere. One of them is Junot Díaz, author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and “This Is How You Lose Her” and a lifelong science-fiction fan. Díaz, who teaches at MIT and lives outside Boston, corresponded with Salon about Butler and her work.

Let’s start with her achievement as a writer. How “significant” substantial. original, inventive, etc. was Octavia Butler?

Butler is a foundational figure and in my option one of the most significant literary artist of the 20th century. One cannot exaggerate the impact she has had across canons — as creators, readers, critics, we’re still wrestling with her extraordinary work. I teach her every single year without fail. To me she is that important.

Sheila Liming tells about “My Neighbor Octavia” at Public Books.

For years, I knew Octavia E. Butler, the famed African American science fiction and fantasy writer, by her first name only. That was the way she introduced herself when I first met her back in the fall of 1999. Butler had just purchased the house across the street from my parents’ and joined the ranks of our rather conventional suburban community in Lake Forest Park, WA, located just north of Seattle. A spate of rumors had attended her arrival on the block: “Octavia” wrote novels (about aliens!); “Octavia” had one of those “genius” grants; “Octavia” lived alone and was a reclusive artist type.

Andrew Porter sent these links together with this never-before-published photo of Butler.

Octavia Butler. Photo by and © Andrew I. Porter; all rights reserved.

Octavia Butler. Photo by and © Andrew I. Porter; all rights reserved.

(4) BECOMING A WINNER. 2016 Tiptree fellowship winner likhain’s application statement has been posted online. (likhain appears to be the desired name, but they have also used M. Sereno, Mia S., or Mia Sereno, per this post by Rose Lemberg).

I want to share with you the personal statement I submitted as part of my application, answering the question of how I work with speculative narrative to expand or explore our understanding of gender. I wrote this at the eleventh hour before submissions for the Fellowship application closed; I was quite sure I wouldn’t get the fellowship anyway, but I felt I had to speak, to say why I was doing my work — even if it came out broken and incoherent and raw.

I’m glad the selection committee saw something in my words that resonated. I’m glad they felt my work deserved supporting — that there is something in it that bears developing, some form of brightness to be seen. I’m so honored to be a Tiptree Fellow.

How do I work with speculative narrative to expand or explore our understanding of gender?

Through my art, I explore the weight of my heritage as a queer Filipina, heir to a history of struggle and revolution, colonization and war; descendant of women who spoke and fought, built and taught, and were as unflinching in their pursuit of their goals as they were wholehearted in their love. My understanding of being a woman is different from the dominant narratives I see in the white West: from childhood, we were always the brave ones, the bright ones, the ones who gave the impossible because we were strong enough to shoulder unbearable cost, the ones who did what was needful when it was too difficult for men, the ones who stood as the last line of defense against annihilation and the dark.

(5) A NEW RECORD. Foz Meadows posted a screencap on Tumblr with this endorsement:

Dear internets, please enjoy the single most batshit ridiculous comment ever left on my blog.

It was left on her blog post “Westworld: (De)Humanising the Other”, but it was inspired by a slam against her and Steve Davidson by Vox Day.

(6) STAR WARRIOR. An actor who has had many memorable roles since becoming famous on Cheers adds his iconic mug to a new franchise — “Woody Harrelson officially joins young Han Solo film”.

Harrelson will join Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke, who also has an unspecified role, as well as Atlanta star Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian.

Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) has the lead part of the galactic smuggler, and he was recently photographed by a fan having lunch with Harrison Ford. We have yet to learn what words of wisdom the original Han Solo had for the new guy, although the bearded Ehrenreich appeared to have Ford beat in the “scruffy nerf-herder” department.

(7) BLATTY OBIT. William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, has died at the age of 89. The New York Times obituary says —

“The Exorcist,” the story of a 12-year-old girl possessed by the Devil, was published in 1971 and sold more than 13 million copies. The 1973 movie version, starring Linda Blair and directed by William Friedkin, was a runaway hit, breaking box-office records at many theaters and becoming the Warner Bros. studio’s highest-grossing film to date. It earned Mr. Blatty, who wrote the screenplay, an Academy Award. (It was also the first horror movie nominated for the best-picture Oscar.)

“The Exorcist” marked a radical shift in Mr. Blatty’s career, which was already well established in another genre: He was one of Hollywood’s leading comedy writers.

Mr. Blatty collaborated with the director Blake Edwards on the screenplays for four films, beginning in 1964 with “A Shot in the Dark,” the second movie (after “The Pink Panther”) starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau and, in some critics’ view, the best. His other Edwards films were the comedy “What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?” (1966); the musical comedy-drama “Darling Lili” (1970); and “Gunn” (1967), based on the television detective series “Peter Gunn.” He also wrote the scripts for comedies starring Danny Kaye, Warren Beatty and Zero Mostel.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 13, 1930 — Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 — The Wham-O Company developed the first Frisbee.
  • January 13, 1972 A Clockwork Orange has its first showing in the UK.

(9) A FORETASTE OF HORROR. American Horror Story will return for a seventh season and has been renewed for two more beyond that.

The first details about the seventh edition of American Horror Story are being revealed.

The next edition of the hit horror anthology is adding two very familiar names: Emmy-winning actress Sarah Paulson and her fellow AHS franchise veteran Evan Peters are both on board, executive producer Ryan Murphy told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Pasadena, California after a panel for the upcoming limited series Feud.

The next cycle will also be set in modern times, he said.

The revelations came after Murphy was asked if the upcoming season will keep its subject matter a mystery — like FX did with last year’s Roanoke.

(10) BIZARRE COLLECTABLES. Having a bunch of these around the house, sure, that will cheer you right up (rolls eyes) – Dangerous Minds tells about collectable Hieronymus Bosch figurines.

I’m not a big knickknack person. I like to keep my home sparse in the “tiny objects” departament. But I must admit I really do dig these Hieronymus Bosch figurines. They’re kinda cool-looking in their own obviously weird way. I especially like the ones from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.

They’re also not too expensive. The figurines start at around $45, depending on quality, size and detail. I’ve posted a range of different figurines and where to purchase below each image if you’re interested.

tree-man-hybrid-creature-statue-adaptation-by-hieronymus-bosch-5h-jb01-1_1024x1024_465_623_int

(11) RICHARD MATHESON FLASHBACK. From Time Magazine’s 2013 obituary:

Fear lives forever. If as kids we are scared witless by some moment in a story, movie or TV show, it goes into a bank of memories we can tap and withdraw, with a shudder or a smile, for the rest of our lives. In popular culture of the past 60 years, few writers deposited more images of dread in the cultural consciousness than Richard Matheson, who died Sunday June 23 at his Calabasas, Cal., home at the age of 87. Here are a few of the images he implanted:

A man notices he is losing wright — no, he’s getting smaller (The Incredible Shrinking Man). An airline passenger sees a gremlin cavorting maliciously on an airplane wing (“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” on The Twilight Zone). A driver on a lonesome highway is menaced by a killer truck (“Duel,” made into a 1971 TV movie by Steven Spielberg). A child disappears into the fourth dimension, her cries still audible to her father (“Little Girl Lost,” The Twilight Zone). A plague of vampires roams the Earth (the novel I Am Legend). A man discovers he has psychic powers that make him hear the thoughts of his neighbors, and of the restless dead (A Stir of Echoes). A young couple is visited by a stranger who tells them they’ll be rich if they just push a button that will instantly kill someone they don’t know (“Button, Button,” The Twilight Zone). A woman buys a Zuni fetish doll as a joke gift, then is attacked and assaulted when the doll comes to life (“Prey,” later a segment in the TV movie Trilogy of Terror).

(12) WATCH THE SYMPOSIUM. Tiptree Winner Eugene Fischer links to eight 2016 Tiptree Symposium videos.

In December I traveled to Eugene, Oregon to attend the 2016 Tiptree Symposium, a two-day academic conference on the work of Ursula K. Le Guin. I got to see some old friends, made some new ones, briefly met Le Guin herself, and heard many thoughtful panels and lectures. If that sounds like something you’re sad to have missed, you’re in luck: the University of Oregon has put videos of the presentations online.

I’m planning to rewatch several of these, starting with the incredible panel Alexis Lothian put together on “Speculative Gender and The Left Hand of Darkness,” featuring Aren Aizura, micha cárdenas, and Tuesday Smillie presenting three trans perspectives on the novel. I took five pages of notes on this panel alone, and came away feeling I hadn’t been able to jot down everything I wanted to think more about.

(13) HARD TRUTHS. Selections from Chuck Tingle’s visit to “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit.

  • well the timelines get HARDER as they go deeper and deeper into the tingleverse and techincally the hardest timeline is THE TINGULARITY i have never gone that far down as I am worried I would not make it back. the farthest i have visited is the timeline where all language is the word butt and there channing tatum makes up most of reality
  • well it is easy to see that love is real when you think about the way the sun shines or the way CHANNING TATUM looks handsome with his new haircut. so you can think on these things and consider that there are other timelines where channing tatum does not exhist or even one where he is a large frog. but it is also important to remember that IT IS OKAY TO BE SAD and IT IS OKAY TO BE WORRIED this is a normal part of being a buckaroo, then we consider this am move forward togeather as courageous bucks
  • when i sit down to write a tingler I think about the basic way of the story (this is through meditation on the deck) and then I think WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO MAKE THIS PROVE LOVE. sometimes a story is good and fun or maybe spooky but it does not prove love and this is the most important part. so i think the key as a true buckaroo is to think HOW CAN THIS MAKE ME PROVE LOVE? how can this make a reader feel hot-to-trot after like they want to prance and maybe kiss a handsome plane or a handsome meatball or even maybe a handsome concept of playoff odds

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/16 Scroll Measured By Weight. Pixels May Settle In Packing

(1) PROMETHEUS AWARDS RECOMMENDATIONS. Members of the Libertarian Futurist Society can formally nominate a work for any category of the Prometheus Awards.

Here are the works nominated so far in 2016 for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel:

2016 Prometheus Award Best Novel nominations
(Nominations as of Dec. 17, 2016. Nominations deadline: Feb. 15, 2017)

  • Morning Star: Book III of The Red Rising Trilogy, by Pierce Brown (Del Rey, Feb., 2016)
  • Speculator, by Doug Casey and John Hunt (HighGround Books, Sept. 2016)
  • Dark Age, by Felix Hartmann (Hartmann Publishing, June 2016)
  • Kill Process, by William Hertling (Liquididea Press, June 2016)
  • Through Fire, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books, August 2016)
  • The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit, 2016)
  • Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (TOR Books, 2016)
  • Written in Fire, (Book 3 of The Brilliance trilogy) by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer, Jan. 2016)
  • The Core of the Sun, by Johanna Sinisalo and Lola Rogers (Grove Press/Black Cat, January 2016)
  • Blade of p’Na, by L. Neil Smith (Phoenix Pick, October 2016)
  • Arkwright, by Allen Steele (TOR Books, March 2016)
  • On to the Asteroid, by Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson (Baen Books, August 2016)
  • Necessity, by Jo Walton (TOR Books, July 2016)

(2) THEATRICAL ALIENS. Alastair Reynolds’ story is being brought to the stage using puppets designed by Mary Robinette Kowal — “The House Theater of Chicago to Stage World Premiere of Sci-Fi Thriller DIAMOND DOGS”.

The House Theatre of Chicago presents their initial production in 2017, Diamond Dogs, adapted from Alastair Reynolds’ science fiction adventure by Althos Low and directed by Artistic Director Nathan Allen, playing at the Chopin Upstairs Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., January 13 – March 5. Diamond Dogs is also a participant in the 2017 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, January 19 – 29. Preview performances are January 13 – 20. Opening/press night is Sunday, Jan. 22.

Diamond Dogs follows a 26th century team of humans and transhumans as they investigate a mysterious alien tower, bent on brutally punishing all intruders. Uncovering clues and solving puzzles, each crusader will make dangerous, eye-popping sacrifices to get to the mysteries atop the spire. Blood will spill. This thriller is one of 16 stories set in novelist Reynolds’s expansive Revelation Space Universe. Artistic Director Nathan Allen teams up with The House’s most inventive designers and guest artists to bring this unique universe to life. Body modification is the norm in the future, and award-winning puppet designer Mary Robinette Kowal, who is also an award-winning sci-fi author, articulates and re-shapes the actors’ human forms into powerful mechanized players battling for their lives. Reynolds is one of a new generation of hard science-fiction authors, a craft he began during his decade-long career as an astrophysicist with the European Space Agency. Diamond Dogs is a pure example of the “Deadly Maze Story,” a staple of Science Fiction since H. P. Lovecraft. This world premiere production at The House Theatre of Chicago marks the first of Reynolds’ works to be adapted for another medium.

(3) RESNICK ON WRITING. Joshua Sky interviews Mike Resnick for Omni.

JS: What other elements are important in a new writer? Is it attitude, is it talent? What’s your take on that?

MR: First, you’ve got to be a smooth enough writer so that it’s not an effort for the editor, or the reader to get to the bottom of each page. That’s essential. You’ve got to know how to push a noun up against a verb with some grace. And of course you should have a knowledge of the field, because while there’s still a million ideas we haven’t touched, there’s probably half a million ideas that have already seen print. And unless you have a totally new take on it you’re not going to sell it. There used to be a rejection slip from Amazing Stories, back when Ted White was editing it, where there’d be a number of boxes he could check to explain why he’d rejected it. The box he checked most was, “Heinlein did it better – and earlier.”

I would love to have a rejection slip like that, but all Galaxy’s Edge’s rejections are personal. But yeah, you’ve got to know the field if you want to write in it. Which makes sense. I mean, shouldn’t you care enough about the field in which you want to make all or part of your living so that you’ve been reading it and know about it, and know what has been done to death and what hasn’t?

(4) ANSWERS WANTED James Davis Nicoll wants to tap into File 770 readers’ collective wisdom about project management tools useful for conrunners.

A local theatrical organization has ongoing communications challenges. The current means of communication (email, facebook, facebook messages) all seem to lend themselves to communications breakdowns [1]. I recall that Basecamp worked pretty well for the Tiptrees but Hipchat, Slack and Telegram have also been suggested as well. I know a bunch of you run cons. Would you recommend any of these tools?

[1] Facebook lends itself to amnesia but even in email it can be hard to find the specific email you want, particularly if you’ve forgotten it exists. Or never knew.

(5) BILL WARREN REMEMBERED. Scott Shaw! told Facebook readers that Svengoolie paid tribute to the late Bill Warren on this week’s program.

Tonight on Me-TV, during his presentation of Hammer’s 1960 classic THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, Svengoolie (AKA Rich Koz) made a VERY nice mention of Bill Warren‘s passing. He showed the photo of Bill with Robby the Robot and Kerry Gammill‘s cover for the new edition of Bill’s KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES! Sven mentioned Bill’s work with Forry Ackerman and his insanely voluminous knowledge about the films we all love. He even mentioned Beverly Warren! It made me very proud to see such a wonderful acknowlegement of the sweet, funny guy we all miss.

I wasn’t aware that Sven’s tribute to Bill was gonna be tonight, but surely some of you out there recorded tonight’s episode of SVENGOOLIE

(6) GABOR OBIT. Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016) died December 18. Her Internet Movie Database bio says —

Undoubtedly the woman who had come to epitomize what we recognize today as “celebrity”, Zsa Zsa Gabor, is better known for her many marriages, personal appearances, her “dahlink” catchphrase, her actions, life gossip, and quotations on men, rather than her film career.

Her biggest genre credit was the movie Queen of Outer Space. She also appeared in Nightmare on Elm Street 3, and episodes of Night Gallery (segment “The Painted Mirror”), Batman, and Supertrain.

queen-of-outer-space

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 18, 1839 — John William Draper took the first photo of the Moon. (“Say ‘Cheese!’”)
  • December 18, 1968Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens in New York

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born December 18, 1913 – Alfred Bester
  • Born December 18, 1946 — Steven Spielberg (Amazing Stories) and
  • Born December 18, 1958 — Steve Davidson (Amazing Stories)

(9) OUR REPLACEMENTS. Kate Macdonald looks back at early cyborgs in her “Review of ‘No Woman Born’ (1944) by C.L. Moore and ‘Lady in the Tower’ (1959) by Anne McCaffrey” at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

I teach sf to university students, and knew from the critical literature about gender in sf that sometime in the 1940s a writer called C. L. Moore published a landmark story about the first female cyborg. I tracked down a copy of ‘No Woman Born’ this year, and was deeply impressed. This story is a glowing beacon of fine writing and an impressive acceleration of how the cyborg operates in fiction. No longer a destructive masculine, war-making automaton from the post-WW1 years, this cyborg is a dancer and singer whose new flexibility and vocal range enhance her art, and successfully disguise her strength of purpose by using her femininity to cloak her developing ambitions. Deirdre is a person who is now a cyborg, and her humanity is totally present throughout this novella, despite her gleaming gold body, and her inhuman speed and agility.

The story could just as well be a three-act play. It’s set in Deirdre’s apartment where Harris, her former manager, comes to visit her for the first time after her rehabilitation following a disastrous fire, then when he and her besotted surgeon Maltzer watch her first public performance on TV in her new body, and finally when Harris witnesses Maltzer’s threat to prevent any more cyborgs being made, and Deirdre’s command. ‘No Woman Born’ is not just a story of one person, it’s an opening up of possibilities: cyborgs are stronger and faster, so what will that mean for women, as well as for men? What will that mean for the humans left behind? Can relations between a man and a woman be the same now that the woman is made of metal? How will a woman feel about her body, when no-one is there to admire it? And does this matter? By creating a female cyborg whose primary attributes, in the eyes of the men who managed and created her, are her grace and beauty, Moore shows us that when a cyborg claims autonomy, she becomes nobody’s creature, and can decide how she will live her extended, augmented life. It is a tremendous, game-changing story for feminism in sf, and for how we need to learn to think about being post-human. It’s also beautifully written, with unforgettable images of Deirdre learning to see, to stand, move and dance humanly again, in her glittering robe of metal mesh, and her golden, visored face.

(10) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY MUSIC. If you are looking for a Christmas present for your favorite dark ambient fan, the Cryo Chamber label has been releasing massive collaborations named after Lovecraftian gods. The latest one is named Nyarllathotep. The albums are available in CD and digital formats.

A 190 minute dark soundscape album recorded by 25 ambient artists to pay tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. Field recordings from the deepest dark corners of 4 continents. Dusty tapes out of forgotten archives. Strings through crackling amplifiers and distorted drone combine into a sea of pitch black. Nyarlathotep is a manipulative being in the Lovecraftian Mythos. Unlike Cthulhu, or Azathoth, he delights in cruelty and deception. Causing madness is more important than destruction to him.

Smell the burning embers as you kneel outside the sunken temple before Nyarlathotep. Feel the raspy touch of the faceless pharaoh as he leads you to the ancient Pyramid. Hear his inhuman summoning call to gods beyond reality.

(11) AFROFUTURISM. The New York Times highlighted Afrofuturism in their Year in Style 2016 section. In the article, Ytasha L. Womack, author of the 2013 Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, speaks almost in counterpoint to the Puppies:

“When…in the imaginary future… people can’t fathom a person of non-Euro descent a hundred years into the future, a cosmic foot has to be put down.”

…Afrofuturism’s resurgence could not be more timely, arriving as it does in a climate perceived as indifferent, if not downright inimical, to racial and ethnic minorities. In her book, Ms. Womack recalls a time when black or brown sci-fi characters were all but invisible in the culture at large. As a girl, she would fantasize that she was Princess Leia of “Star Wars.”

“While it was fun to be the chick from outer space in my imagination,” Ms. Womack writes, “the quest to see myself or browner people in this space age, galactic epic was important to me.” It was in the absence of minorities from pop lore, she goes on, “that seeds were planted in the imaginations of countless black kids who yearned to see themselves in warp-speed spaceship too.”

Count among them Tim Fielder, a New York graphic artist and animator whose sci-fi illustrations, produced over a 30-year span, drew visitors last spring to “Black Metropolis,” at the Gallatin Galleries at New York University. Mr. Fielder’s pioneering cartoon narratives — notably those of “Matty’s Rocket,” his spirited black female cosmonaut, who will lift off next year in graphic novel form — are particularly relevant now, he maintained: “They let young artists know that they’re not on dangerous turf, that someone has gone there before them.”

(12) BEFORE YOUR EYES. NPR combines story and video in its report “Google assembles decades of satellite photos to show changes on Earth”.

Google Earth’s time lapse videos of earth’s landscape could make you think about the great baseball player Yogi Berra.

“I thought about one of the quotes attributed to Yogi Berra,” says Marc Levy, a political scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who specializes in issues of global health and development. “He said, ‘You can observe a lot just by watching.'”

To show just how much the Earth’s landscape has changed over the past three decades, Google sifted through 5 million satellite images containing three quadrillion pixels. The result is a series of high-resolution, zoomable time-lapse videos that capture, in unprecedented detail, the human impact on this planet.

 

(13) SCIENCE HISTORY. Genevieve Valentine reviews “’Hidden Figures,’’The Glass Universe,’ And Why Science Needs History” for NPR.

But history tends to get simplified; a map becomes a single road leading from point to point. It’s not surprising that some scientists who contributed invaluably to the field have been kept out of the dominant narrative because they were women, and they were considered anomalies of their time. (That those times practically overlap — meaning a steady line of crucial work being done by women — is one of those scientific patterns that tend to get forgotten.)

But in the last days of the 19th century and the early days of the 20th, Henrietta Swan Leavitt — one of the many woman “computers” at the Harvard Observatory — used the measurements of variable stars to determine fixed distances across space. And fifty years later, Katherine Johnson — a black woman working at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia when the state was still deeply segregated — would map John Glenn’s space flight, and America’s trip to the moon.

(14) RADIO ART. A few months ago we reported the drawing competition BBC Radio 4 was having  to draw episode art for their re-broadcast of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust radio adaptation. The program is airing this month – there will be a repeat Christmas weekend. Schedule here: Stardust – Next on – BBC Radio 4.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian,  Bruce Arthurs, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Steve Davidson, and Rob Thornton for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 11/21/16 Pon Far. Squa Tront.

(1) FOR LONG DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SHORT STORIES. Standback and Levana Taylor have launched the Short Story Squee & Snark website. It began as a Facebook group and all of the 50+ discussions from the existing group have been imported to the new site.

But it’s safe to assume the real action will be around the newest, most recent story selections. For our first few weeks, we’ve got story suggestions from Chinelo Onwualu, from Charles Payseur, and Abigail Nussbaum. Our first discussion begins tomorrow.

After that, we’ll be pressing on with selections from your humble hosts, Standback and Levana – and suggestions from you. You can follow us on RSS or on Twitter to join along.

(2) OCCASIONAL TIRADER. Julie Phillips profiles “The Fantastic Ursula Le Guin” ini The New Yorker.

To talk to Le Guin is to encounter alternatives. At her house, the writer is present, but so is Le Guin the mother of three, the faculty wife: the woman writing fantasy in tandem with her daily life. I asked her recently about a particularly violent story that she wrote in her early thirties, in two days, while organizing a fifth-birthday party for her elder daughter. “It’s funny how you can live on several planes, isn’t it?” she said. She resists attempts to separate her more mainstream work from her science fiction. She is a genre author who is also a literary author, not one or the other but indivisibly both.

Le Guin can be polemical, prone to what one close friend calls “tirades” on questions she feels strongly about. I once watched her participate in a panel discussion on gender and literature at WisCon, an annual gathering of feminist science-fiction writers, readers, and academics in Madison, Wisconsin. Scowling like a snapping turtle, she sat waiting for illogical remarks, which she then gently but firmly tore to bits. Yet a conversation with Le Guin is often full of comic asides, laughter, and—a particularly Le Guin trait—good-natured snorts. Humor seems to be her way of taking the edge off the polemic, as well as an introvert’s channel of communication. Behind even the lightest remarks, one is aware of a keen intelligence and a lifetime of thought, held back for the purposes of casual conversation.

(3) DEMON WITH A BRASS BAND. Omni’s Joshua Sky interviewed Jason Davis, editor of many Harlan Ellison collections, about the project to digitize and preserve all of Ellison’s writings, in “To Preserve A Demon”.

Writer/editor Jason Davis has a special ambition — to catalog, digitize, edit, correct, annotate and re-publish (or publish for the first time, in some cases) all of Harlan Ellison’s writings. Twenty-six four-foot-wide drawers of typescripts, over 100 feet of paper if stacked, the lifework of a man who is easily one of the most influential and cantankerous authors of the 20th century. Jason is spearheading the Harlan Ellison Books Preservation Project, a grand undertaking “To create definitive versions of all Harlan Ellison’s writings, fiction and non-fiction, to preserve in print for posterity.”…

JS: How did this project come about?

JD: I took over HarlanEllisonBooks.com in 2012. For the most part, I’ve been limited to publishing the previously uncollected, and un-reprinted stuff. His other works were with other publishers. I could do a new collection, like Harlan 101, which contains stories that you’ll find spread across many other Ellison collections. I can do that as a unique volume, and it did very well.

Certain economic factors were built into the original business model before I took over, and — as previously noted — the rights to most of the iconic collections are tied up elsewhere, so because of the need to sell X copies of a given book to make a return, I’ve concentrated on material that wasn’t available in any form elsewhere, with a few exceptions — like Harlan 101 or 8 in 80 by Ellison — where there was some unique aspect to the book that made it worth releasing.

For the Preservation Project, I’m working at the story/essay level, so I’m not stepping on anyone else’s toes. The entirety of Harlan’s work will be digitized and corrected to make sure it’s as the author intends it. In the future, if a publisher comes to him and says, “I want to put out a new edition of Shatterday in hardback,” it will be a simple matter of pushing a button, and a complete text of that collection goes off to the publisher in electronic form after the contract is signed. As it currently stands, that publisher would receive a large box of photocopied typescripts which would have to be scanned or typed into a computer for publication, which leads to inputting errors and a lot of back-and-forth between the publisher’s employees and Harlan’s office via phone, fax and e-mail. One of the goals of this project is to make republishing Harlan’s writings more appealing to publishers — who have their own economic pressures to deal with — by front-loading a lot of the editorial work.

To date the Kickstarter has raised $78,375 of the $100,000 goal.

(4) THE CALCULUS OF ONLINE BOOK SHOPPING. After Max Florschutz sells you the book, he’ll try to sell you on reviewing that book on Amazon.

Now, there’s some truth to why we think this way, after all. I’m not saying that those that pass over a book with only three reviews are being subconsciously manipulated. Rather that the reasoning for such is so valid and ingrained that we as consumers tend to let it subconsciously spill into all sorts of areas.

So, getting back to that review number, it turns out that it’s really important, because people recognize that a higher number of reviews is a good thing. It means a wider variety of readers purchased the product and then left their opinion. And if the book was poor, even with a few outliers that enjoyed it immensely and gave it high reviews, the average rating would reflect that. In this manner, a book that has five stars at ten reviews is, to many, less trustworthy and less likely to be a truly good read than a book that has three stars but three hundred reviews.

And this compounds. The higher the number of reviews, the greater the variety among those leaving them, and the greater chance that the average rating is, the way a prospective reader sees it, accurate. Which therefore increases the chance that they will then seriously consider purchasing the book.

(5) NO TWO SNOWFLAKES ARE ALIKE. Camestros Felapton reviews the reviewer: “MetaReview: Dave Truesdale Reviews Diabolical Plots #21”.

That the reviewer frames his review around a comment by the author—the “unjust violent death of Michael Brown”—and then gives the reader of Truesdale review a totally different narrative that is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty. Truesdale’s review fails on literary grounds (the shift of focus from a fictional story about emotional pain in the face of perceived injustice and violence to Truesdale’s evaluation of whether the author is justified in feeling angry about a real-world event), and from an error in judgment by Truesdale in attempting to justify a judicial killing, which not only reveal the weakness in the review itself, but which highlights how the reviewer’s own strong prejudice in the matter clouded his thinking, and obstructed his capacity to give a professional review.

(6) TREVOR OBIT. Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer Sir William Trevor (1928-2016) died November 20 reports The Bookseller. He won the O. Henry Prize four times and the Whitbread Award three times; he was also nominated for the Booker Prize five times.

The Internet Science Fiction Database lists his genre work as:

Novels

The Children of Dynmouth (1976)

Shortfiction

Miss Smith (1967)
The Only Story (1971)
The Love of a Good Woman (1972)
George and Alice and Isabel (1973)
Visions of Hell (1974)
Mrs. Acland’s Ghosts (1975)
The Death of Peggy Morrissey (1975)
Broken Homes (1977)
The Raising of Elvira Tremlett (1977)
Autumn Sunshine (1980)

(7) CLOWES OBIT. Jonathan Clowes, Doris Lessing’s agent, has died at the age of 86. The Bookseller published a tribute:

After founding Jonathan Clowes Ltd. in 1960, Clowes assembled a select and high-powered client list including international bestseller Len Deighton, novelist, poet and playwright Maureen Duffy, Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing, novelists Sir Kingsley Amis, Elizabeth Jane Howard and Brian Freemantle.

His clients also included television writers David Nobbs, Carla Lane and Dr David Bellamy.

Clowes took an unlikely path to become one of London’s most renowned and respected literary agents, having left grammar school aged 15 and worked in a number of different trades, from gardener to decorator, even going on to serve time in prison for his stance as a conscientious objector.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 21, 1942: “Tweety Bird” debuted

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born November 21, 1924 – Christopher Tolkien
  • Born November 21, 1944 – Harold Ramis

(10) BEASTLY CAPITALISM. ScienceFiction.com has a question: “Weekend Box Office (11/18-11/20): ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Did Fantastically… But Fantastically Enough?”

It’s no surprise that ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ topped the box office charts this weekend, with $75M in the US and $218.3M globally.  This film kicks off a series of five projected movies– with the first sequel already scheduled to arrive on November 16, 2018– all penned by J.K. Rowling, the creator of ‘Harry Potter’, but did studio Warner Brothers bite off more than they could chew?  That’s what some insiders are wondering, as this movie’s opening is below that of other franchise players like ‘Doctor Strange’ ($85M opening weekend) and WB’s own ‘Suicide Squad’ ($133.6M… and that was considered a disappointment).

(11) ATTENTION BAKER STREET REGULARS. Sherlock Season 4 is almost upon us. Reportedly, for the first time shows in the UK and the US will be broadcast on the same dates.

Sherlock will return in “The Six Thatchers” on January 1, 2017 on MASTERPIECE on PBS.

Coming in 2017, Sherlock will return with three brand-new episodes that promise laughter, tears, shocks, surprises and extraordinary adventures.

Season four begins with the mercurial Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), back once more on British soil as Doctor Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife Mary (Amanda Abbington) prepare for their biggest challenge yet: becoming parents.

(12) ANOTHER ITEM FOR THE WISH LIST. Dread Central is making a list and getting it wet.

Leave it to Mondo to tug on our nostalgic heartstrings just before Christmas. They’re releasing a vinyl version of the soundtrack to Joe Dante’s Gremlins, and the packaging literally changes when exposed to water and sunlight… just like the titular creatures.

gremlins_front%20cover_uv%20lightgremlins_sleeve%201gizmo_dry

(13) THREE STOOGES AT THE ALEX. Glendale’s Alex Theatre hosts the 19th Annual The Three Stooges® Big Screen Event this Saturday at 2:00 & 8:00 p.m.. Order tix online here.

The LA Weekly has named The Affordable Curly Care Act: Poking Medicine in the Eye Since 1933 their “Pick of the Week.” What more can we say? How about, “Buy your tickets early to avoid the lines at the box office.”

A special surprise bonus will be shown in addition to this lineup of five classic Stooges shorts:

  • FROM NURSE TO WORSE (1940 – Jules White)
  • CASH & CARRY (1937 – Del Lord)
  • SOME MORE SAMOA (1941 – Del Lord)
  • SCRAMBLED BRAINS (1951 – Jules White)
  • ALL THE WORLD’S A STOOGE (1941 – Del Lord)

(14) WHAT TOOLS THESE MORTALS BE. Mark-kitteh writes: “A performance of The Tempest with a live motion-capture Ariel on stage? I’m sure some will say the Bard will be spinning in his grave, but I suspect he’d just be updating his list of stage directions to include ‘exeunt stage upwards’,” — The Tempest review: Real-time digital avatar brews storm in a teacup” at ArsTechnica.

(15) ANYTHING YOU CAN DO. ScreenRant knows “Everything Supergirl Can Do That Superman Can’t”.

Supergirl is more than a chip off the ol’ Krypton block. While her younger cousin gets all the credit for bench-pressing the earth and saving the universe, Supergirl’s individual strengths have been sorely undervalued….

  1. She Can Shapeshift

Superman is dead. This is the reality of the post-Crisis “pocket universe” where Lex Luthor was a good guy who bet the ranch on recreating his long lost love, Lana Lang. Lex’s advanced form of AI was called the “protoplasmic matrix,” or just “Matrix” for short. Indeed, Luthor’s weird science led to the recreation of his lady love, now called Matrix– an unholy hodgepodge containing the memory of Lana with the Kryptonian specs of Superman (whom he knew about thanks to his otherworldly technology).

In addition to being almost as strong as Kal-El, this new creation had the powers of invisibility, telekinesis, and shapeshifting, which she took full advantage of by morphing into Supergirl 2.0. In a battle against General Zod, Faora, and Quex-UI, Matrix/Supergirl held her own but ultimately had to call on the support of Superman to take down the triumvirate. Though the pair defeated the Krypton criminals, the pocket universe was basically destroyed, and the new shapeshifting Matrix was taken back to the mainline DC Universe where she became the first post-Crisis Supergirl.

(16) ANOTHER MILLION BRICKS IN THE WALL. How many LEGO bricks does it take to build these various science fictional structures?  This infographic from earlier in the year has the theoretical answers.

How Many Lego Would It Take To Build Sci-Fi Megastructures
How Many Lego Would It Take To Build Sci-Fi Megastructures Created By: Ebates

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 10/27/16 Take a Pixel, Maria, Scroll It Up My Screen

(1) HARASSMENT CLAIMS ANOTHER CREATOR. Comics Beat’s Heidi MacDonald reports another woman comics creator abandoned Twitter because of abuse — “Bestselling author Chelsea Cain driven off Twitter by harassment from comcs ‘fans’”.

Mockingbird writer Chelsea Cain, the bestselling author of Heartsick and other thrillers, deleted her Twitter account today after receiving abusive tweets yesterday….

In a now vanished series of tweets (one screencapped above)  Cain noted that she was getting harassing tweets, presumably over the above Mockingbird cover and her work there in general. It’s possible that she was targeted from 4chan or Reddit as well. After saying she was considering pulling the plug…she did just that.

This ignited a firestorm of support on Twitter as well….

And a #standwithchelseacain hashtag was trending for quite a while and is still gaining steam. I doubt this is going to calm down any time soon.

I guess everyone feels a little burnt on social media at the mo, but the harassment problem isn’t a woman’s problem, it’s a MAN’S problem. The good men of comics and everywhere need to make it clear they do not support or tolerate hate, abuse and misogyny. This isn’t a borderline case. It’s clear, indisputable harassment. And that should not be part of the “comics conversation.”

The abuse against women in comics is equally clear and indisputable, and the abuse against women of color is even worse. And so on down the line. It’s toxic and inexcusable.

(2) TAKE THE LONGER WAY. Scifinow has an interview with Becky Chambers.

[CHAMBERS] So when they asked me, “What would you like to do next?” I was like, “Well, I don’t have anything for this crew, but Pepper and Lovelace, those two are, they’ve got stuff that I’d like to explore.” So that was just the thread I picked up and went with.

They’re such a great pairing! So they were the starting point?

Yeah, it really did happen by accident. That was one of the last things that I figured out in The Long Way. A lot of the stuff that happened in the book I’d scribbled down and imagined well before I actually sat down and wrote the thing, but I was a long way through the first draft before I knew where Lovelace was going to go after the first book. Somehow Pepper just sort of naturally took that spot.

It was one of those wonderful moments where something happens when you’re writing that you didn’t intend and it’s just like, “Oh, that actually works really well!” I started thinking about how these two women have vastly different backgrounds and life experiences but they actually have quite a bit in common, and it was fun playing with that. It was fun finding the similarities between two characters who, at first blush, don’t look like they could have anything similar at all and yet are walking such similar paths.

(3) THE SCIENCE IN SCIENCE FICTION. Joshua Sky interviewed Larry Niven for Omni.

JS: One of your goals as a writer is to continuously publish science fiction that is at the cutting edge of science. Is that still the case?

NIVEN: Yes, Fred (editor of If and Galaxy magazines at the time) gave me that goal, because I was already doing it, without quite making it a goal. He in fact suggested me writing stories and he finding scientists to write articles alongside the stories on the same subject, and we never got that far. I think he must’ve found that to be too much work.

JS: Is your process that you check the news, read the latest discoveries in science, and then write a story based on your findings?

NIVEN: That was my goal. In fact, I never really managed it.

JS: Is it difficult to keep track of the latest developments in science?

NIVEN: That’s easy. That’s a hobby. Doing your research for fun, and hoping it generates stories. Sometimes it does.

(4) WHAT I REALLY MEANT TO SAY. Here’s a Los Angeles Times article that will refresh your memory about the new California law requiring autographed memorabilia come with a certificate of authenticity —  “The high cost of an autograph”.

The bill’s author, Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, faced with a firestorm of protest from booksellers, issued this letter that argues her legal language should not be interpreted in the draconian way people assume.

assemblywoman-letter-p-1

assemblywoman-letter-p-2

(5) VANISHING CULT. The LA Times’ Josh Rottenberg asks, “In an age of comic-book blockbusters and viral sensations, whatever happened to the cult movie?”

Those old video stores have virtually all disappeared now, of course, along with many of the independent movie theaters that, in decades past, drew steady crowds to such “midnight movies” – all of it swept away in the transition to a fully digital, on-demand world. And the cult movies themselves? It seems they’re in danger of going extinct as well.

In today’s fragmented, ever-churning pop culture ecosystem, the long tail of home video that once gave oddball movies a shot at a glorious cult afterlife has shortened to the point of vanishing. With even big-budget commercial films often struggling to break through the endless clutter of content, the challenge for smaller, quirkier fare is that much harder.

Even when a particular offbeat film – say, “The Babadook” or “It Follows” – manages to catch a viral wave, it is almost instantly overcome by the next fresh piece of “must-watch” entertainment that demands your already overtaxed attention. Instead of a long tail, we now have a collective case of incurable cultural ADHD.

(6) WRITER’S NOTEBOOK. In his latest post at This Way To Texas, Lou Antonelli shares an idea for a story – “The Revenge of the Internet” — inspired by this premise:

OK, the big problem with social media – which I think everyone recognizes – is that it allows you to attack or insult people with impunity. it unleashes our worst nature. We can get away with saying things to people we would never say to their face, or even on the phone, and we can do it across great distances….

(7) GENDER COUNTING. Juliet McKenna says this is what the numbers say about “Gender in Genre and the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016”.

When the only thing that counts is what readers make of the writing, the story really is all that matters.

The second thing I’m seeing here? Out of three hundred SPFBO [Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off] submissions this year, the field was 49% male, 33% female and 18 unknown as they were using initials. Can we assume those initials all belong to women? I’d say that’s a risky assumption – and even if that were the case, that still means only a third of the books were written by women prepared to raise a hand to be identified as such. What does that tell us?

Once again, it confirms something I’ve seen time and again since I started writing about inequalities in visibility in SF&F. Something I’ve had confirmed as an endemic problem in fields such as medicine, science, computing, literary criticism, history and the law. Women are still culturally conditioned to put themselves forward much less and to hold their own work to a far higher standard before offering it for publication. It’s a problem that frustrates and infuriates editors, from those working on academic journals, through fiction anthologies in all genres, to the commissioning editors in publishing houses. With the best will in the world, the best initiatives to improve diversity and representation can only work if those who’ve been historically excluded now step forward.

(8) BEFORE THERE WAS DYSTOPIA. In his article “We should remember HG Wells for his social predictions, not just his scientific ones” at The Conversation, Victorian fiction professor Simon John James notes that it’s H.G. Wells’s sesquicentennial, and gives back ground on Wells’s political achievements, including how Wells’s ideas inspired the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

Today, given the role that national identity continues to play in human beings’ efforts for greater self-determination, the prospect of Wells’s world state seems even less likely. One surprising legacy remains, however, from Wells’s forecasts of a better future for humankind. Letters from Wells to The Times led to the Sankey Committee for Human Rights and Wells’s 1940 Penguin Special The Rights of Man; Or What Are We Fighting For? (recently reissued with a preface by novelist Ali Smith). Wells argued that the only meaningful outcome for the war would be the declaration of an agreed set of universal human rights and an international court to enforce them.

Wells’s aspiration was the guaranteeing of the right to life, education, work, trade and property for every man and woman on Earth. (Surprisingly, given his earlier flirtation with positive eugenics, Wells also insisted on “freedom from any sort of mutilation or sterilisation” and from torture.) The influence of Wells’s work is clear in the United Nations 1948 Declaration of Universal Human Rights. These rights now have legal force if not universal existence: so are perhaps Wells’s most significant prophetic aim.

(9) JABBA’S JAZZ BAND ON THE TITANIC. I was amused by a sportswriter’s use of a Star Wars metaphor here. (There’s no reason to go read the whole article unless you want to know why a pro basketball team – the Philadelpha 76ers – has been tanking for years.)

Maduabum is not at the center of this story, but as a part of The Process he is known to the community of people who believe in it, roughly in the same way that the name of the lead singer in the band playing on Jabba the Hutt’s barge is known to your harder core Star Wars weirdos. Maduabum is a component part of a bigger story, in other words, and a peripheral cast member in that story’s expanded universe.

It’s a story that, as so often happens with things like this, is now being told by people with significantly more emotional investment in it than the original credited author. The person who came up with all this was, however idiosyncratically, trying to tell a compelling story successfully through to its conclusion, which is a complicated but prosaic thing. That story didn’t really come to life, and so cannot really have been said to work in any meaningful way, until it changed hands, as generally happens to stories that work the best. The story becomes the shared property of people who really care about it, who have more invested in it, for one, but also pursue it with both a more robust and a more authentic imagination than the story’s creator brought to it. The Process is no longer in Hinkie’s hands. It belongs, now, to the community of believers that keep it alive, and who care about it for reasons that go well beyond the stated goal of building a winning basketball team or attending some cramped and beery victory parade down Broad Street. ChuChu Maduabum is a peripheral part of that story, but he’s part of it. He’s Sy Snootles, yes, but he’s also a real guy. The Philadelphia 76ers owned his rights for six months, and then they traded them.

(10) DON’T SKIP OVER THIS. Steven Lovely picked “The 30 Best Science Fiction Books in the Universe” for Early Bird Books. You may think it’s only been ten minutes since you saw a list of sf/f greats, but this one includes a bunch of present day greats, too, like Ancillary Justice and Three-Body Problem.

(11) ORIGINAL TOURIST TERROR TOWER. In the October 27 Washington Post, John Kelly interviews Itsi Atkins, who probably invented the haunted house attraction in St. Mary’s County in 1971.  Atkins talks about how he came up with the idea and how much he enjoyed scaring people at “Blood Manor” in the 1970s: “He dreamed of screams: Meet the man behind the modern haunted house”.

With Halloween bearing down on us like an ax-wielding maniac, now’s a good time to remember Edwin “Itsi” Atkins, pioneer of fright.

“In all my research, I can’t find anybody who has a live-action haunted house before 1971,” Itsi told me when I rang him up in Georgia, where he lives now. Yes, people had “yard haunts” — elaborate decorations in their front yards — and Disneyland had its Haunted Mansion. But that was an amusement-park ride, which took safely seat-belted riders through a gently scary attraction.

What Itsi claims to have invented is the interactive experience of walking through a haunted house while being assaulted by scary actors amid frightful tableaux.

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