Pixel Scroll 8/22/17 One Pixel Makes You Larger, And One Pixel Makes You Scroll

(1) CHILDHOOD’S BEGINNING. When people finally stop sending letters, here’s the kind of thing we’ll be missing: “UK toys celebrated on Royal Mail stamps”.

The UK’s favourite toys from the past 100 years are being celebrated in a new set of stamps from the Royal Mail.

Characters in the set include the Sindy doll and Action Man, as well as brands like Spirograph, Stickle Bricks and Fuzzy Felt.

Meccano, the Merrythought bear, W Britain toy figures, Space Hopper and Hornby Dublo trains also feature.

The series of 10 stamps will be released on Tuesday at 7,000 post offices and to buy online.

Royal Mail spokesman Philip Parker said: “British toymakers enjoyed a reputation for quality and innovation.

“These nostalgic stamps celebrate 10 wonderful toys that have endured through the decades.”

 

(2) PARDON MY SHADOW. If someone had not added “photobomb” to the language, this would not be nearly so clickworthy: “The International Space Station just pulled off the photobomb of a lifetime” at Quartz.

Captured by NASA photographer Joel Kowsky while looking up from Banner, Wyoming, perfectly timed images show a tiny ISS passing in front of the sun.

(3) WABBIT TWACKS. Ricky L. Brown tells Amazing Stories readers about a bizarre crossover project in “Comic Review: Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1”.

Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 was written by Tom King (The Vision, The Sheriff of Babylon) with cover and interior art by Lee Weeks (Daredevil) while color was provided by Lovern Kindzierski (Marvel) and lettering by Deron Bennett (DC, Vault).

This unique crossover is part of a six issue DC Universe / Looney Tunes One-Shot collection. In addition to the Batman Fudd combo, the list of other comics includes: Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny Special #1 written by Sam Humphries with art by Tom Grummett and Scott Hanna (June 14, 2017); Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Special #1 written by Steve Orlando and Frank Barberi with art by Aaron Lopresti (June 14, 2017); Lobo/Road Runner Special #1 written by Bill Morrison with art by Kelley Jones (June 21, 2017); Wonder Woman/Tazmanian Devil Special #1 written by Tony Bedard with art by Barry Kitson (June 21, 2017); Jonah Hex/Yosemite Sam Special #1 written by Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Mark Texeira (June 28, 2017). Though these are billed as “one-shot” issues which are typical stand-alone stories, we can only hope/assume that DC Comics has left the window open for many more installments down the line seeing that they chose to include ”#1” in the title designations on their website. Just sayin’.

(4) POD PEOPLE. Fandompodden interviewed current and future Worldcon organizers for its first podcast in English. (They’re usually in Swedish.)

This is our very first English speaking podcast aiming new and old international fandom friends. We have three amazing interviews from the recent Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. Jukka Halme, supreme overlord of the finnish Worldcon. Dave Clark of the San Jose organisation and finaly Steve Cooper and Emmy England of Dublin 2019. Your host for the show is Håkan Wester and Patrick Edlund. Enjoy

(5) CATALANO REJOINS GEEKWIRE. You can now listen to the first episode of GeekWire’s new podcast interview/article series which Frank Catalano is hosting/reporting. It’s about pop culture, science fiction and the arts, and how one of those three topics intersects with tech. The first guest is Greg Bear, on the state of science fiction: “Science fiction has won the war: Best-selling author Greg Bear on the genre’s new ‘golden age’”.

“Nowadays, there’s so many private ventures that when I wrote the War Dogs series, I made the private ventures face forward, and called the Martian colonists Muskies, as a tribute to Elon’s dreams, if not to what the reality is going to be,” he said.

Seattle is a hotbed of science fiction thinking in all these corporations.

As a “hard” science fiction writer who does extensive research, Bear has dived into everything from nanotechnology (his 1983 novel Blood Music is credited by some as being its first use in science fiction) to planetary science. A current fascination, in part because it’s a key setting in the War Dogs trilogy, is Titan. “It’s got a hazy orange layer,” he explained. “It’s full of plastics, and waxes, and organic chemistry. Then, it turns out, it’s actually got a water ocean underneath.”

Access the podcast directly here. (parts of it will also air on KIRO-FM Seattle, as well as be available for streaming).

Some of the top films, TV shows and books today are what was once called “genre fiction,” like sci-fi and fantasy. So is it a golden age for the geeky arts? Or is this mainstream-ization of geek culture more ominous? We explore that question with renowned sci-fi author Gret Bear in the first episode of our special pop-culture podcast series, hosted by Frank Catalano.

Catalano says, “Upcoming episodes will include interviewing SFWA President Cat Rambo about the relevance of awards in science fiction and fantasy and the role of diversity, and curators at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) about the challenges in preserving science fiction and fantasy artifacts from film and TV that were never designed to last. More episodes to come after that, probably at the rate of one or two a month (as my day job allows).”

(6) FUNNY BOOK SALES FALL. Rod Lamberti reports “Comic Store In Your Future: The Secret Empire Sales Drop”.

It didn’t surprise me to read that July 2017 saw the first drop in overall comics sales of the year. A drop in sales did happen. This summer was weaker than last summer sales wise for us. Rebirth last year was a big seller. Our orders were lower than last year reflecting less demand for comics.

(7) MORE ON ALDISS. Christopher Priest writes a remembrance of Brian Aldiss on his blog that’s much more personal than the literary obit he wrote for The Guardian: “Here it began, here it ends”.

In fact, I was too hard up and too shy to go the SF convention, and did not meet Brian Aldiss in person until about 1965. Then, when he found out my name, he said, ‘I remember you — you wrote me that intelligent letter! Come and have a drink!’ It was the first moment of a friendship that was to last, with the usual ups and downs of any friendship between two difficult men, for more than half a century.

This is a photograph taken in June 1970, by Margaret, Brian Aldiss’s second wife. Brian had generously invited me down to their house in Oxfordshire to celebrate the publication of my first novel Indoctrinaire. Also there was Charles Monteith, who was not only my editor at the publishers Faber & Faber, he was Brian’s too. He had been responsible for buying and publishing all the early Aldiss books, including those short stories I had admired so much, and the fabulous bravura of Non-Stop.

(8) HENDRIX AND ALDISS. John Picacio posted this photo of Jimi Hendrix reading a Penguin sf collection edited by Brian Aldiss. Hendrix reading sf was actually a regular thing, as this 2010 Galley Cat article reminds: “Jimi Hendrix and His Science Fiction Bookshelf”.

Photograph by Petra Niemeier of Jimi Hendrix in 1967 reading Penguin Science Fiction

Most people don’t remember anymore, but rock legend Jimi Hendrix was a science fiction book junkie. We caught up with one the guitarist’s biographers to find out more about his science fiction bookshelf.

In the new book, Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius, authors Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber take a deeper look at the guitarist…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

Ray Bradbury’s 88th birthday cake

  • Born August 22, 1920 – Ray Bradbury
  • Born August 22, 1978 – Late-night talk show host James Cordon, who also was in some episodes of Doctor Who.

(10) BIRTHDAY GIFT APPEAL. Money is being raised to preserve books and other items donated to IUPUI by Ray Bradbury.

His collection of books, literary works, artifacts, correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and so much more is housed at IUPUI in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. The Center is led by Professor Jon Eller, a personal friend of Bradbury’s for over 23 years and noted scholar of the author’s works.

Without Bradbury, the world wouldn’t be the same. Preserving these assets will help ensure that generations of fans, scholars, authors, filmmakers, and historians are able to pay tribute to the October Man.

Help us preserve the books of the man who knew what society would be without them.

Your generous gift to this campaign will provide general support to the Center and assist in the preservation of the vast collection. DONATE NOW  and help us reach our $5000 goal.

(11) FAMILY TREE. And Bradbury’s family tree includes a Salem woman convicted as a witch. There’s some kind of lesson to be learned about the genetics of sf writers here – if I only knew what it was.

(12) SURVEY. Jess Nevins is conducting a survey about sexual harassment in the sf community.

(13) WHEDON REVEALED. The Wrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven, in “Joss Whedon’s Fan Site Shuts Down After Ex-Wife’s Explosive Essay”, says that Whedonesque.com is shutting down after Joss Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, posted an essay in The Wrap accusing Whedon of serial infdielity during 15 years of marriage.

(14) PLUS AND MINUS. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere struggles with his final verdict on “The Hike: A surreal and often humorous journey”.

As noted, The Hike is a fast-moving work, despite coming in at just under 400 pages. I read it in a single sitting of just a few hours. Magary keeps things moving apace, save for a few sections that carry on perhaps a little too long. His fluid prose carries the reader along smoothly and easily even if they won’t find themselves lingering over it for its lyricism or startling nature. The humor is another reason it goes down so easily, most of it coming from that crab, who is, well, kinda crabby. The crab is given a run for its comic money, though, by Fermona the giant, who runs a kind of Thunder Dome Buffet for herself. The book isn’t all lightness and humor, however. Magary’s portrait of Ben’s suburban family life is a bit thin, but does strike some emotional chords in scenes where Ben is with or thinking of his children.

(15) VAMPIRE HUNTER. Next year the Stephen Haffner press will bring out The Vampire Stories of Robert Bloch. Right now, Stephen is crowdsourcing help in tracking down the original artwork for his cover.

Robert Bloch (1917-1994) is one of the most fondly remembered and collected authors of crime, horror, fantasy, and science fiction of the 20th Century. Noted by many as the author of Psycho, Bloch wrote hundreds of short stories and over 30 novels. He was a member of the Lovecraft Circle and began his career by emulating H.P. Lovecraft’s brand of “cosmic horror.” He later specialized in crime and horror stories dealing with a more psychological approach.

While we have secured permission from the rights-handlers for Gahan Wilson‘s artwork for the cover image, we have been unable to locate the original “Parkbench Vampire” painting.

The image originally appeared on the cover of the humor digest, FOR LAUGHING OUT LOUD #33 (Dell Magazines, October, 1964) promising a “Hilarious Monster Issue!”.

As shown above and to the right, someone—somewhere—had access to the original artwork and placed a low-res image on the internet.

We have sent queries to several Gahan Wilson-collectors as well as many collectors of SF-art-in-general asking for the whereabouts of the original artwork, but nothing has surfaced yet.

So, if you, or someone you know, has a lead on where the original artwork resides, or can assist in supplying a high-resolution scan of the painting, please contact us ASAP at info@haffnerpress.com.

(16) BEWARE SPOILERS. Fantasy-Faction’s Zachary A. Matzo reviews The Silent Shield by Jeff Wheeler.

The Silent Shield, the fifth main book in Jeff Wheeler’s Kingfountain series, is proof positive that creative consistency makes for a good read. I feel like a bit of a broken record at this point, but Wheeler has once again crafted a short, engaging novel that manages to not only advance the overall narrative but succeeds in expanding the thematic scope of the series. The Silent Shield marks a new high point in a story that has been consistently excellent, and proves once again that one can craft a mature, emotionally resonant and accessible tale without relying upon the grim, the dark or the explicit.

(17) THE FIRST NUKE. Matt Mitrovich’s verdict is that the book is worth a read, in “Book Review: The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford” at Amazing Stories.

Do you ever feel like we are living in a timeline where people are actively trying to roll back the clock? For example, renewable energy technology is being ignored for coal, despite experts saying it is on its way out. We even have the president attacking Amazon as if online shopping is inferior to retail stores. Now people are apparently nostalgic for the constant threat of nuclear war, which makes The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford unfortunately relevant in this day and age.

The Berlin Project tells the story of Karl Cohen, an actual scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project and father-in-law to the author. In our timeline, he devised a way of using centrifuges to make weapons grade uranium for a nuclear bomb. Now in our timeline, this method was rejected in favor of a gaseous diffusion method which cost billions and delayed the project significantly while the engineering problems were worked out. Benford proposes, however, that Karl is more assertive and has a little luck early on by getting private investors on board who hope to use nuclear power for civilians in the future. Thus a nuclear bomb is built a year earlier in time for the Normandy invasion. As the title suggests, the target for America’s first nuclear strike is Berlin, but the city’s destruction doesn’t necessarily give the Allies the outcome they were hoping for….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kevin J. Maroney, Frank Catalano, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 5/23/17 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll, Scroll, Know What I Mean? Say No More

(1) ZENO’S MARTIAN THEOREM. You can’t get to Mars before you…“The first trip to Mars will come with the longest layover ever”

Nobody likes layovers, but the first astronauts heading to Mars will get to experience one of the longest such experiences of their lives. They’ll have to spend one year going around the moon, which will probably be a very annoying wait for the first people heading to the red planet. It’s not all bad news, however, as they won’t just wait for time to pass by. NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is carefully planned during the time.

NASA’s Greg Williams, revealed that the agency’s Phase 2 of its plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space reports..

Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, revealed that NASA wants to build a “deep-space gateway” around the moon that would serve as the testing ground for the first Mars missions.

(2) ZUBRIN’S MARTIAN KERFUFFLE. Joel Achenbach’s article for the Washington Post, “Mars Society founder blasts NASA for ‘worst plan yet’”, reports on a space exploration conference sponsored by The Atlantic in which Robert Zubrin said NASA’s plan to build a space station orbiting the moon is a giant waste of money because no one before this suggested Mars expeditions needed to have a midway stop before.

Until recently, NASA branded virtually everything it was doing as part of a “Journey to Mars,”and Mars remains the horizon goal. The destination was even mandated in a recent congressional authorization act for NASA that was signed by President Trump.

In the meantime, NASA has more modest plans — and these plans don’t please Zubrin, for one.

NASA wants to put a “spaceport”in orbit around the moon. It would be a habitat for astronauts on long-duration missions. You could call it a “space station”if you wanted, though it wouldn’t be nearly as big as the one that’s circling the Earth right now. NASA refers to it as the Deep Space Gateway and describes it as “a crew tended spaceport in lunar orbit.

…After the presentations, Zubrin gave The Post some additional thoughts on what he perceives as NASA’s failure to come up with a bold and coherent plan. He said that in the long history of NASA studies on the future of human spaceflight — and there is a long list of these lengthy reports — no one ever suggested that an orbital lunar outpost was a necessary part of an exploration program. Part of the problem, as he sees it, is the agency’s recent announcement that the first, uncrewed flight of the Space Launch System rocket will be delayed again, to 2019: “The tragedy of SLS is not that it is being delayed. The tragedy is that it doesn’t matter that it’s being delayed, because there’s nothing for it to launch anyway.”

(3) BACK IN ACTION. After an 8-year break, Elizabeth Moon relaunched her Vatta’s War series in April with Cold Welcome.

(4) EMERGENCY BACKUP. “Justice League director Zack Snyder steps down due to family tragedy”. Joss Whedon comes off the bench to finish the picture.

Zack Snyder, who has acted as DC Comics’ directorial visionary on a number of its most ambitious film projects, is stepping down from Justice League due to a family tragedy. The news, announced in an interview published today by The Hollywood Reporter, means Snyder will be handing the reins over to Avengers director and writer Joss Whedon, who will ferry the project through its remaining post-production stage before its November 17th release later this year.

‘Justice League’ is now in Joss Whedon’s hands

Snyder, whose daughter committed suicide in March at the age of 20, admits that he originally misjudged how the loss would affect his work. “In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was way through it,”Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter. “The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all consuming. And in the last two months I’ve come to the realization…I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”

(5) DANCING IN THE SAND. A ballet adaptation of Dune will be performed August 4-6 by the Vaught Contemporary Ballet at the Baltimore Theater Project (45 West Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201):

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is widely recognized as the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s exploration of politics, religion, sexism and ecology set against an interstellar backdrop allows the reader a reflection on the human condition in the modern era. Herbert’s Fremen of Arrakis provide a counterpoint to a culture consumed by avarice — the desire for melange.

Join us as we depict Herbert’s illustrative words through the art of ballet. Movement will be on full display in its varied definitions as we follow Paul Atreides in his rise to power as both royalty and the prophet of the Fremen.

Keep track of the event on Facebook.

(6) GO GO GO. I don’t pronounce it, I just report it. “Google’s AlphaGo AI defeats world Go number one Ke Jie”The Verge has the story.

Google’s AI AlphaGo has done it again: it’s defeated Ke Jie, the world’s number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. AlphaGo shot to prominence a little over a year ago after beating Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of artificial intelligence to date. And its defeat of Ke shows that it was only getting started.

“I think everyone recognizes that Ke Jie is the strongest human player,”9th-dan professional and commentator Michael Redmond said before the match. And despite defeat, Ke’s strategy suggested that the 19-year-old Chinese prodigy has actually learned from AlphaGo’s often unorthodox approach. “This is Master’s move,”said Redmond of one of Ke’s earliest plays, referring to the pseudonym that AlphaGo used for a recent series of online matches in which it racked up a 60-game winning streak.

(7) COMIC SECTION. A commenter seeing yesterday’s news item about someone in a T-rex costume scaring horses in Charleston aptly contrasted the episode with the comic “Menace” at Hyperbole and a Half.

(8) THE PHENOMENON. Carl Slaughter has an update about prolific YA author Bella Forrest:

 

When we last checked in on Bella Forrest, she had just launched her dystopian Gender Game series and was continuing her longrunning Shade of Vampire series. In June 2017, she will wrap her Gender Game series. In March 2017, she launched her magic academy Spellshadow Manor series. Shade of Vampire is at #45. With all 3 series, she cranks out a book per month. Meanwhile, the first Gender Game novel has received 1500 Amazon reviews, over 90% of them 4 and 5 star.

(9) PUSHME PULLYU. “Oh, your tractor beam is so itty bitty.” “Oh, your imagination is so itty bitty.” —“Physicists sketch plans for a matter-wave tractor beam”.

A team of physicists have outlined a means of making tractor beams to push and pull objects at a distance using “matter waves” those strange analogues of light waves that underlie quantum mechanics.

Tractor beams, staple tools of science fiction for remotely pulling in space shuttles and yanking away incoming space debris, have been edging into reality in recent years.

The first real-life tractor beams were made of photons. It is easy to imagine a stream of photons carrying a particle of matter along like a river picking up a leaf and carrying it downstream. What is astounding about tractor beams is that by skilfully manipulating the transfer of momentum from the beam, physicists do not have to rely only on pushing particles, but can make light pull particles of matter, like a tractor. Beams made of sound waves have also been demonstrated in the lab.

(10) LEST PAYDAY FAIL. At Tor.com, Jo Walton asks “Why is Genre Fiction Obsessed with Belisarius?”.

I once wrote jokingly here that there are only three plots, and they are Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Belisarius, because those are the ones everyone keeps on reusing.

There is a conference in Uppsala in Sweden the weekend before the Helsinki Worldcon called “Reception Histories of the Future“which is about the use of Byzantium in science fiction. The moment I heard of it, I immediately started thinking about our obsessive reuse of the story of Belisarius. (I’m going. Lots of other writers are going. If you’re heading to Helsinki, it’s on your way, and you should come too!)

It’s strange that science fiction and fantasy are obsessed with retelling the story of Belisarius, when the mainstream world isn’t particularly interested. Robert Graves wrote a historical novel about him in 1938, Count Belisarius, and there’s Gillian Bradshaw’s The Bearkeeper’s Daughter (1987), but not much else. Whereas in genre, we’ve had the story of Belisarius retold by Guy Gavriel Kay, David Drake (twice) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and used by L. Sprague de Camp, John M. Ford, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, and Isaac Asimov. So what is it about this bit of history that makes everyone from Asimov to Yarbro use it? And how is it that the only place you’re likely to have come across it is SF?…

(11) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie says a Chicago convention is pivoting to serve a different market and adopting a new name — “Kollision Con Calling it Quits, Organizers Launching GEM Expo Chicago Gaming Con in Its Place”.

After six conventions, Chicago based anime convention Kollision Con€˜s organizers have decided to call it quits. They made the announcement on the con’s official Facebook page late last week, citing venue issues and an overcrowded Anime con scene as their primary reasons for ending the show.

The organizers aren’t giving up on running conventions though, as in that same post they announced the GEM Expo Chicago, a gaming convention that will occupy the dates originally reserved for Kollision Con 2017.

(12) FLYING OFF THE SHELVES. Last year toy sales received a boost and the reason is clear — “Year-round ‘Star Wars’ toy sales boost entertainment merchandise revenue” reports the LA Times.

Year-round “Star Wars” hype is giving a boost to Hollywood’s merchandising business.

Licensed goods based on movies and other entertainment properties generated $118 billion in global retail sales last year, up 5% from 2015, according to a new report.

Toys, apparel and other wares tied to movies such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” helped propel the increase, the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Assn. said Monday.

The year benefited from two “Star Wars” installments as bookends: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was released in December 2015, and “Rogue One,” which came out a year later, said Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the association.

“In 2016, you had a full year of sales of ‘Star Wars’ merchandise,” Brochstein said. “Obviously that helped on the entertainment side.”

(13) DON’T STIFF THE STAFF. Are you a bad tipper? You’re a science fiction fan, of course you’re a bad tipper. Okay, maybe not you personally. But ever been out to dinner with a group of fans? It can be excruciating! Here’s one commentator’s advice about “How to Tip in All Situations”.

Tipping has been known to divide families, ruin relationships, and even start wars. Not really. But tipping is an issue that brings out all sorts of passionate opinions.

Who should you tip? How much should you tip? When is it appropriate to leave a bad tip? And is the whole idea of tipping flawed in the first place?

If you’ve ever asked those questions, then we’re here to provide a little clarity on the all-important subject of tipping etiquette.

When in doubt about whether or not to leave a tip, always err on the side of generosity. Remember, your tip says more about you than the person you’re leaving a tip for.

So let’s take a look at some of the people you should tip. Then we’ll give you a general idea of how much to tip them.

(14) FEELINGS OF INSECURITY. Yahoo! News lists major cyber attacks over the past 10 years.

A huge range of organisations and companies around the world have been affected by the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack, described by the EU’s law enforcement agency as “unprecedented”.

From “cyberwar” to “hacktivism”, here are some of the major cyberattacks over the past 10 years: …

…In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of the biggest cyberattack in US corporate history, linked to its North Korea satire “The Interview”.
The hackers — a group calling itself Guardians of Peace — released a trove of embarrassing emails, film scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records…

(15) STATE OF THE ART. Carrie Vaughn’s Amaryllis and Other Stories was named winner of the Colorado Book Award in the Genre Fiction category on May 21. [Via Locus Online.] (See, proper attribution can be done. It hardly hurts at all.)

 

(16) WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY. The latest explanation for bee colony collapse — “How beekeepers help deadly parasites thrive” in Cosmos.

Deadly mite infestations considered a leading cause of the continuing collapse of the global commercial honey-bee industry are being abetted by modern bee-keeping practices, new research suggests.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Entomology, points the finger at the practices of siting commercial hives too close to each other, and of thwarting the bees’ swarming behavior, for creating conditions ideal for the rapid growth and spread of the parasitic Varroa mite.

The mite (Varroa destructor) is a text-book example of zoonosis — a predatory or parasitic species that has “spilled over” from its traditional host into a new species which, not being adapted to it, suffers catastrophic consequences.

Varroa’s natural host in the Asian honey-bee (Apis cerana). Co-evolution has resulted in the two species being able to live in balance.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Kreiri, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 4/1/17 The Ones That Mike Rates As A 5 Get Used Twice

(1) APRIL FOOL. First in our cavalcade of April Fools stunts is George R.R. Martin’s announcement “WILD CARDS Comes to Broadway!!”

Perhaps most critically, Lin-Manuel and I are still looking for our Jetboy… or should be it be Jetgirl? No, we haven’t made that change yet, but it is under serious consideration… along with the notion of replacing the JB-1 with a jetpack… but why don’t we let you folks decide? Let us know: which Jet-person would you prefer to see on stage?

(2) APRIL NON-FOOL. Did Mary Robinette Kowal plan to confess she is Chuck Tingle today? She says she ran out of time to execute her planned joke, despite having cleared it with Tingle —

I even wrote to him to ask if it were okay for me to pretend to be him. (Because otherwise, I would be taking credit for someone else’s work, which is something only devilmen would do.) He said, “hello TRUE BUCKAROO name of mary, you make books real you make books kiss the sky! this is a good way for all who like to read and i am happy that you write with love. this funny prank (HAHAHAHAHA) is a WAY of love and that is okay”

So there you go. Groundwork laid. Time non-existent. I guess you could say that my plans were pounded in the butt by my own scheduling conflicts.

(3) APRIL PRIMARY FOOL. The Daily Buzz ran a story today about George Takei’s plan to establish residency and run against a pro-Trump congressman.

(4) WHATEVER THE OPPOSITE OF COMIC RELIEF IS. Lou Antonelli is yukking it up today, too, in “Strange Bedfellows”.

I am proud to announce that, as a result of a long period of reconciliation as well as a practical need on the part of a distinguished author, I am collaborating with David Gerrold on a Star Trek tie-in original novel, “The Tribbles of Texas”…

(5) A VOX ON ALL YOUR HOUSES. Meantime, the editor of Cirsova marked the day by declaring “I Disavow Everyone”.

Alt-Furry, the Pulp Revolution, Vox Day, the Sad Puppies, the Rabid Puppies, our readers and subscribers, all them. I disavow everyone.

2018 will feature both a special Elves issue and an Engineers Troubleshooting Spaceship Circuitry issue, so get writing!

Details forthcoming in a File770 exclusive.

(6) ROBOSCREED. Harking back to Camestros Felapton’s cover generator (linked by Whatever as its April Fools celebration), and someone’s suggestion there needs to be a complementary text generator, Steve Wright said in comments he suddenly remembered one already exists

Actually, now I think on, there’s always this thing of Langford’s which actually will write something approximating SF (or whatever else you plug into it)…

Amazingly, A.I.Q. can still be persuaded to work on my Win10 laptop, albeit with many, many security popups.

A sample of its output is included in his comment. He closed by saying —

Camestros? Have Timothy’s people call Langford’s people. I’m thinking at least six Dragon Awards for this one….

(7) THE PROCRAPSING EMPIRE. Meanwhile, E. Reagan Wright, another Scalzi detractor, has been trying to jump onto the gravy train with his 6,400-word lump The Prolapsing Empire: An On-Schedule Story. It’s on Amazon, but oops, I forgot to include a link.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 1, 1883 – Lon Chaney, Sr., “Man of a Thousand Faces”
  • Born April 1, 1978 — Fred & George Weasley, characters in the Harry Potter series.

(9) SHOULD BE AN APRIL FOOL BUT ISN’T. A publisher with far more inflated ideas about the value of its editions is Routledge, which is offering J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Stuart Lee for $1,485, which works out to be about a buck a page.

J.R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973) is widely regarded as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His popularity began with the publication in 1937 of The Hobbit, and was cemented by the appearance of The Lord of the Rings in the early 1950s. However, engagement with his work was until relatively recently sidelined by literary and other scholars. Consequently, many foundational analyses of his fiction, and his work as a medievalist, are dispersed in hard-to-find monographs and obscure journals (often produced by dedicated amateurs). In contrast, over the last decade or so, academic interest in Tolkien has risen dramatically. Indeed, interpretative and critical commentary is now being generated on a bewildering scale, in part aided by the continuing posthumous publication of his work (most recently, his Beowulf translation which appeared in 2014). The dizzying quantity—and variable quality—of this later criticism makes it difficult to discriminate the useful from the tendentious, superficial, and otiose.

(10) FOOD FOR THOUGHT. John King Tarpinian asks, “Can you even imagine how long the CarFax report is on the Batmobile?”

(11) COSMOLOGY AND THEOLOGY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in Episode 5 of its Into the Impossible podcast looks at “The Limits of Understanding.”

On this episode, we’re touching up against the outer limits of cosmology, and through that bringing up questions of limits on the imagination, the role of theology, and the end (and ends) of the universe. First, we’ll hear Paul Steinhardt on developing the inflationary model of the universe—and then casting that model aside in favor of the radically different cyclic model that replaces the Big Bang with a neverending series of Big Bounces. Then David Brin, science fiction author and futurist, shares his perspective on understanding religion, enabling discussion, and how nice it would be if we were all reborn in computronium as the universe collapses in on itself.

(12) A NEW COMPANION. Now the Good Doctor has a companion, Who, you ask? Aaron Pound tells all about it in his review of An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places, and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries by Donald E. Palumbo at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

Full review: An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places, and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries is, for the most part, a reference work. The bulk of its length is taken up with what amounts to an encyclopedia covering essentially every notable character, location, object, and event found in Isaac Asimov’s extended metaseries (and pretty much every non-notable character, location,, object, and event as well). Every entry gives a brief description of the subject, offering at least a sentence or two outlining who or what the entry is, and an explanation of how the subject fits into the larger body of Asimov’s work. These entries are informative, but like Asimov’s actual writing, have a tendency to be a little dry.

(13) BRING IN THE PANEL. Stephen King treated Guardian readers to a an interview of six fictional Trump voters to help understand how he became President: “Stephen King on Donald Trump: ‘How do such men rise? First as a joke’”.

…Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.

I decided to convene six Trump voters to discover how and why all this happened. Because I selected them from the scores of make-believe people always bouncing around in my head (sometimes their chatter is enough to drive me bugshit), I felt perfectly OK feeding them powerful truth serum before officially convening the round table. And because they are fictional – my creatures – they all agreed to this. They gulped the serum down in Snapple iced tea, and half an hour later we began.

(14) BATGIRL ORIGINS. Graeme McMillan, in a Hollywood Reporter article called “Where Should Joss Whedon’s ‘Batgirl’ Find Inspiration?”, looks at all the version of Batgirl that DC has used, beginning with the original appearance of Barbara Gordon in Detective Comics 359 (which the comics did after the TV show announced plans to add Batgirl) to her role as a hacker in the 1980s to today’s version as “Batgirl From Burnside,” as a graduate student living in Gotham City;s hipster suburb.

Barbara Gordon took on the role in 1967’s Detective Comics No. 359, in a story called “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!” The cover for the issue made a big deal of her debut; she ran toward the reader in the center of the page while excited cover lines read “Meet the new Batgirl! Is she heroine or villainess? What is her startling secret identity?” The reason for this push wasn’t just an attempt to introduce a comic book character — plans were already afoot to introduce this second Batgirl into the popular Adam West TV show in its third season. She was played by Yvonne Craig.

The new Batgirl was a hit, graduating into her own stories in the back of Detective Comics as well as appearances across the DC line, including Superman, Justice League of America and World’s Finest Comics. She’d form temporary teams with both Robin — “the Dynamite Duo!” — and Supergirl and enjoy a loyal fan following throughout her crime-fighting career until it was cut short in the mid-80s by the combination of the Joker and writer Alan Moore.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, rcade, Johan P., Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/17 Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Scroll

(1) WAX TREK. The Orange County Register’s Keith Sharon should get a Pulitzer Prize for the first line of his article “$80,000 later, why this trio gave up their ‘Star Trek’ wax figures, Enterprise replica”:

Mr. Spock’s head cooled in a wooden crate for 10 years before someone noticed something was wrong.

Equally good is the rest of the article — about the fate of the wax Star Trek crew since the defunct Movieland Wax Museum sold its exhibits in 2006.

Steve and Lori had 24 hours to decide whether they wanted to pay about $40,000 for Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Chekov and Scott. Or they could buy just one, or just a few.

They went to Don Jose’s restaurant and had margaritas over dinner. They knew other people wanted to buy the individuals in the crew. One guy wanted to put Spock in a bar. Another guy wanted to put Captain Kirk in his house. So they decided to buy them all, to keep the crew together. They made it their mission to save the crew of the Enterprise.

“Let’s protect them,” Steve told Lori.

“We took them home and put them in our dining room,” Lori said.

That’s when it got weird. Steve couldn’t stand the life-like eyes looking at him all the time.

“We put paper bags over their heads,” Steve said.

 

Steve Greenthal puts on the head of his Captain Kirk wax figure at the Fullerton Airport before donating them to the Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The figures were purchased when the Movieland Wax Museum went out of business. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

(2) NOT ENOUGH HAMMER. Ursula K. Le Guin reviews Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for The Guardian and finds it very well-written but wanting in some ways:

Gaiman plays down the extreme strangeness of some of the material and defuses its bleakness by a degree of self-satire. There is a good deal of humour in the stories, the kind most children like – seeing a braggart take a pratfall, watching the cunning little fellow outwit the big dumb bully. Gaiman handles this splendidly. Yet I wonder if he tries too hard to tame something intractably feral, to domesticate a troll.

… What finally left me feeling dissatisfied is, paradoxically, the pleasant, ingratiating way in which he tells it. These gods are not only mortal, they’re a bit banal. They talk a great deal, in a conversational tone that descends sometimes to smart-ass repartee. This chattiness will be familiar to an audience accustomed to animated film and graphic narrative, which have grown heavy with dialogue, and in which disrespect is generally treated as a virtue. But it trivialises, and I felt sometimes that this vigorous, robust, good-natured version of the mythos gives us everything but the very essence of it, the heart.

(3) FROM BUFFY TO BATGIRL. Joss Whedon is in talks to do a Batgirl movie says The Hollywood Reporter.

Whedon is in negotiations to write, direct and produce a Batgirl stand-alone movie for Warner Bros., adding another heroine to the studio’s DC cinematic universe.

Warner Bros. Pictures president Toby Emmerich will oversee the project, along with Jon Berg and Geoff Johns….

Batgirl will be the second female superhero stand-alone in Warner Bros. DCU (Wonder Woman will hit theaters on June 2). Whedon has long been credited as a pioneering voice for female-focused genre fare, having created the hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer two decades ago.

(4) DIETZ ESTATE SALE. Over 300 sf/f collectible books and other items from Frank Dietz’ are for sale on eBay. Dietz passed away in 2013.

He was chairman of the first 14 Lunacons, and was Fan Guest of Honor at the 2007 Lunacon. His activities as “Station Luna,” an effort to record the proceedings of many World SF Conventions, continued for many years. He recorded events at the 1951 Worldcon in New Orleans.

(5) WOTF IN TOWN. Ron Collins reports on Day 2 of the annual Writers of the Future Workshop.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Andrew Peery told me during a break after the opening session. He meant it in a good way. Peery, from North Carolina, is the 4th quarter first prize winner. The group had just walked through the Author Services Hall of Writers and been given a presentation of past judges throughout the contest’s history. People here have asked me how things have changed in the 18 years since my last visit. One thing that’s different is that the list of judges has gotten a little longer and a little more prominent. It’s very cool to think about.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the purpose of the workshop.

“Our goal in this workshop is to help you train yourself to be a professional writer,” Dave Farland said in his opening remarks. He and Tim [Powers] then covered several topics, focusing on things like how to develop writerly habits, how stories are structured, and how to create and use suspense. And that was just before lunch. Along the way the two of them did a little brotherly bickering about the speed with this things should be done. “If you’re here, we already know you’re good,” Dave said. “But now we want to help you think about producing that good work more quickly.” Tim, followed that up with: “My first drafts take forever and are never any good.” Then he explained why that was just fine by him. I’ve seen that before, but, yeah, it holds up on second viewing! It’s always great to see how creativity is different for two such high-caliber artists.

Other authors have written about Day 1 and Day 3.

(6) EGYPT IN SF. Tim Powers was recently interviewed by Rachel Connor and described his preparation.

Rachel: I was first introduced to your work when I read The Anubis Gates, a historical fiction with time-travel, Victorian corruption and ancient Egyptian folklore. Can you tell us a little about your approach to historical fiction? What is it about a certain period of time that intrigues you?

Tim: A novel for me generally starts with something I stumble across in recreational non-fiction reading. I’ll notice some peculiarity — like Edison working on a phone to talk to dead people with, or Albert Einstein going to a séance — and I’ll start to wonder if a story might not be built around what I’m reading.

If I come across another oddity or two — like Edison’s last breath being preserved in a test tube in a museum in Michigan, or Einstein turning out to have had a secret daughter who disappears from history in 1902 — I’ll decide that this isn’t recreational reading after all, but research for a book.

For The Anubis Gates, it was a note in one of Lord Byron’s letters. He said that several people had recognized him in London at a particular date in 1810, when at that time he was in fact in Turkey, very sick with a fever.

I wondered how he might have a doppelganger, and started reading all about Byron, and his doctor in Turkey, and London at the time, looking for clues

(7) EVERY JOT AND TITTLE. Tom Easton and Michael Burstein’s collaborative short story Sofer Pete” has been published in Nature

The visitors were crowded against one wall of bookcases, facing a large table on which was stretched a long piece of parchment. An inkwell filled with black ink sat off to the side. A hand holding a traditional goose-quill pen moved over the parchment, leaving rows of Hebrew characters behind it more quickly than a human hand ever could.

Because the hand did not belong to a human. The gleaming metal hand belonged to a humanoid robot seated on the other side of the table. Its name was Pete.

(8) THANKS DAD! Most people know Joe Hill’s father is Stephen King. Here’s what happened when young Joe turned to him for advice….

(9) “EVERY WINDOW’S A SEAT”. How much will people pay to be in space for a few minutes? “Jeff Bezos just revealed a mock-up of the spacecraft his rocket company will use to take tourists into space”.

Each launch will rocket a handful of wealthy tourists more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth on a roughly 11-minute trip.

Near the top of a high arc, the rocket will detach from the space capsule, which will fall toward the ground, granting passengers about four minutes of weightlessness and letting them take in an incredible view of the fringes of our planet’s outer atmosphere.

(10) GHOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST. The BBC says the animated Ghost in the Shell was good, but the live-action is better.

The Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell isn’t just one of the most acclaimed science-fiction cartoons ever made, it’s one of the most acclaimed science-fiction films, full stop. Conceptually and visually breathtaking, Mamoru Oshii’s cyberpunk detective flick bridged the gap between analogue blockbusters and digital ones, between Blade Runner and The Terminator, with their cyborgs and androids, and The Matrix and Avatar, with their body-swaps and virtual realities. The makers of The Matrix, in particular, were happy to acknowledge that they were following in Oshii’s future-noir footsteps.

The question is, then, is it worth bothering with a belated live-action version? Considering that the cartoon is now a cult classic, and that several other films have taken its innovations and run with them, can a mega-budget Hollywood remake have anything of its own to offer? The answer to both questions is a definite yes.

(11) RELAUNCH. First reuse of a SpaceX recoverable boosterNPR reports:

SpaceX launched a communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a rocket stage that has already been to space and back. SpaceX is betting that this kind of recycling will lower its costs and revolutionize space flight.

(12) NOT FIVE? At the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog, Corinna Lawson shares the four rules that tell her “How to Know When It’s Okay to Read a Series out of Order”.

  1. When the character arcs are resolved by book’s end

In Sins of Empire, there are three leads, and all set out on emotional journeys that are fully resolved by book’s end.

Meanwhile, ASoIaF readers are still waiting to see what happens via-à-vis Jamie Lannister’s redemption arc, whether the Khaleesi will ever seize her birthright, if Tyrion’s suffering will amount to anything, or if Jon Snow will ever stop flailing about and realize who and what he is.

In Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice, a young man who dreams of being a soldier finds more than he bargained for, and, at the end, his journey has a resolution, despite a fair dozen books that follow.

But Bishop’s Others, series, well, readers have been waiting for four books to see what happens with Simon and Meg, and though their patience is rewarded, it took four other books to get there.

(13) REVIEW HAIKU. Aaron Pound begins with a 17-syllable plot summary, then goes on to tell why he loved Kelly Sue DeConnick’s graphic story Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike.

Full review: I must confess that I obtained this book almost solely because it was written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and at this point I am pretty much willing to at least take a look at anything she writes. Pretty Deadly not only met the high expectations I have for work from DeConnick, it exceeded them. This is, quite bluntly, mythic storytelling that manages to be both epic in scale and simultaneously intensely personal. Told via a combination of tight and brilliant writing from DeConnick and stunningly beautiful and evocative artwork from Emma Rios, this story presents a violent and visceral enigma shrouded in mystery wrapped up in magic, gunfights, and swordplay.

(14) THREE SHALL BE THE NUMBER THOU SHALT COUNT. This is a public service announcement from N.K. Jemisin.

(15) KORSHAK COLLECTION. An exhibit from “The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature” will be on display April 10-May 16 at the Albin O Kuhn Library and Gallery on the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus. The collection, now owned by Stephen Korshak, was started by his father Erle Korshak, past Worldcon chair and founder of the imprint Shasta Publishers, and has its own impressive website.

Truly a vision of the fantastic, this exhibition is an amazing exploration of both illustrative art and the evolution of the visual landscape of science fiction and fantasy literature. Featuring work by both American and European artists and spanning more than a century, these vivid illustrations bring to life adventures, beings, and worlds conjured in novels such as Don Quixote, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Tarzan, and pulp magazines including Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Fantastic Adventures, and Wonder Stories. Accomplishing far more than simply guiding readers in their explorations of new and sometimes bizarre realms, the range and impact of these illustrations is far-reaching.

The exhibition will also include books, pulp magazines, and other items drawn from UMBC’s Rosenfeld Collection, revealing how the illustrations in the Korshak Collection were meant to appear when encountered as artifacts of material culture.

(16) BEYOND ORWELL. The 2084 Kickstarter has funded. The collection —

features 11 stories from leading science fiction writers who were all asked the same question – what will our world look like 67 years from now? The anthology features new and exclusive stories from:

Jeff Noon, Christopher Priest, James Smythe, Lavie Tidhar, Aliya Whiteley, David Hutchinson, Cassandra Khaw, Desirina Boskovich, Anne Charnock, Ian Hocking, and Oliver Langmead.

(17) BOOKS WERE SOLD. This is John Scalzi’s executive summary of The Collapsing Empire’s first week:

So, in sum: Top selling science fiction hardcover in the US, second-best-selling audio book in the US, my highest debut on the USA Today bestseller list, and a TV deal.

That’s a pretty good week, y’all.

Fuller details at the post.

(18) JURY CALL. The Shadow Clarke Jury continues to review its Clarke Award picks.

I put this novel on my shadow shortlist after reading the opening chapters on Amazon, because I was fascinated by the premise: the seemingly inexplicable overnight irruption of masses of full-grown trees into our familiar world. I said, when I explained my choices, that I was intrigued because it reminded me somewhat of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, in which the world is transformed, first by meteors, which cause mass blindness, and then by the apparently coordinated escape of the triffids, seizing the opportunities afforded by this new blindness. I was curious to see how much The Trees might be in conversation with Triffids more than half a century on.

De Abaitua wrote one of the most complex and difficult novels from 2015, If Then, and I still find myself wondering about it at random times. I was so taken by that strange novel about an algorithmic society in decay—a novel that feels so uneven on the surface, yet so complete in substance—I couldn’t articulate my thoughts well enough to write a decent review. Since then, The Destructives has been on my “most anticipateds” list. Placed on a Clarke award shortlist only once before, for The Red Men in 2008, de Abaitua was unaccountably left off the list for If Then in 2016. The Destructives is the latest piece in this abstract thematic series and, given its scope, it seems primed to make up for last year’s Clarke snub.

Any work of fiction is a formal exercise in the controlled release and withholding of information. What is withheld and for how long is a key element in how we read the work and even how we classify it. To give an obvious example, in a detective story in the classical mode it is essential that the identity of the killer is withheld until the last page, the structure of the novel is therefore dictated by the need to steadily release information that leads towards this conclusion without actually pre-empting it. How successful the novel is depends upon the skill with which this information is managed. If too much is given away so that readers can guess whodunnit too early, the work is adjudged a failure; similarly, if too little is revealed so that the denouement comes out of the blue, it is seen as a cheat and again the work fails.

In a recent article for the Guardian, ‘How to build a feminist utopia’, Naomi Alderman briefly sets out some pragmatic measures for helping pave the way to a world in which genitals, hormones and gender identification don’t matter because ‘everyone gets to be both vulnerable and tough, aggressive and nurturing, effortlessly confident and inclusively consensus-building, compassionate and dominant’. Among suggestions such as trying to establish equal parenting as the norm and teaching boys to be able to express their emotions, she also proposes teaching every girl self-defence at school from the age of five to sixteen. In effect, this is what happens in The Power when it becomes apparent that a generation of teenage girls across the world have developed the capacity to emit electric shocks. The only difference is that this doesn’t just allow the girls to defend themselves against male violence but instead enables them to become the aggressors.

(19) STATUARY GRIPE. Copied to Twitter, a grumpy letter to the editor from a “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” type about a proposed Terry Pratchett statue.

(20) TV IS COMING. HBO’s latest series promo, Game of Thrones Season 7: Long Walk.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/13 Another Fine Pixel You’ve Gotten Us Into

(1) Nicole Dieker at The Billfold says “Joss Whedon Made More Money With ‘Dr. Horrible’ Than ‘The Avengers,’ Unbelievably”.

Okay. Let’s compare two scenarios.

1) You decide to write, direct, and produce a 45-minute web musical. You fund the musical’s production out of your own pocket. It is free to watch online.

2) Marvel hires you to write and direct a summer blockbuster that becomes the third highest grossing film of all time.

Which one should make you more money? As Vulture reports, it’s not the one you think:

Joss Whedon shared an eye-opening fact during Saturday night’s reunion of the “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” team: He’s made more money from his independently financed 2008 Internet musical than he did from writing and directing Marvel’s first blockbuster “Avengers” movie.

(2) Nancy Kress, skillfully interviewed by Raymond Bolton

Many of your works delve into areas that require great technical expertise, for example genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Yet, as far as I can tell, before your writing exploded, you transitioned from being an educator to working in advertising. What do you read to develop the knowledge base required for your books?

I wish I had a scientific education! Had I known when I was young that I would turn into an SF writer, I would have chosen differently. Instead, I hold a Masters in English. To write about genetic engineering, I research on-line, attend lectures, and pester actual scientists with questions. My best friend is a doctor; she goes over my work to check that I have not said anything egregiously moronic.

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient for better or for worse. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal moments?

The first turning point for me came with the writing of the novella “Beggars in Spain,” which won both the Hugo and the Nebula and which would never have been written without a jolt from writer Bruce Sterling. At a critique workshop we both attended, he pointed out that my story was weak because the society I’d created had no believable economic underpinnings. He said this colorfully and at length. After licking my wounds for a few weeks, I thought, “Damn it, he’s right!” In the next thing I wrote, “Beggars in Spain,” I seriously tried to address economic issues: Who controls the resources? What finances are behind what ventures? Why? With what success? My story about people not needing to sleep, which I’d actually been trying to compose for years, finally came alive.

(3) He grew up to be the leading fantasy cover artist – here is some of his earliest work. Frank Frazetta’s Adventures of the Snowman reviewed by Steven Paul Leiva for New York Journal of Books.

Frazetta snowman

Frazetta is probably the most widely known—and revered—illustrator of science fiction and fantasy subjects, having gained much fame and a large following for his paperback book covers, putting the image into the imaginative worlds of Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and Conan the Barbarian, among others. Several generations of young minds looking for escape into fantastic realms of adventure where landscapes were often dark and danger-filled, men were perfect specimens of well-muscled heroes, and women were beyond beautiful as their “attributes” were beyond belief, will never regret having made the trip. But earlier in his career Frazetta worked in comics and comic books, even ghosting for Al Capp on his Lil’ Abner strip.

And at the age of 12 1/2, stuck in his bedroom on a snowy day, and inspired by a snowman in his backyard being battered by a winter wind, Frazetta created the Snow Man. This wasn’t a gentle character associated with winter wonderlands and Christmas, but rather a righteous fighter against the evil Axis, which America and its allies were fighting in the Second World War. A few years later, at the still young age of 15, Frazetta created at least two Snow Man comic stories, one of which was published in Tally-Ho Comics, and the other that makes up this current book.

(4) Larry Correia pulls back the curtain on another corner of the writing business in “Ask Correia #17: Velocity, Releases, Rankings, and Remainders”.

So if you turn over constantly, stores tend to like you, and will order more. The more shelf space they give you, the more new people are likely to see your stuff. Success breeds success.

Here is an example. A bookstore orders 3 copies of your first novel. If all of them sell in the first week, then the bookstore is probably going to reorder 3 more. Then when your second novel comes out, they’ll look at their prior sales, and instead of ordering 3, they’ll order 6. Do this for decades, and it is why new James Patterson or Dean Koontz novels are delivered to your local book stores on pallets.

But if those 3 copies of your first novel sat on the shelf for months before selling, then the store probably didn’t bother to restock when it finally does sell. They may or may not order 3 copies of your second, but either way they’re not super excited about you.

I’ve been inside about 300 book stores since I started my professional writing career in 2009. I can usually tell how well I’m doing at any particular store even before I talk to any of the employees, just by going by where my books are and seeing how much space they give me on their shelves. A couple of books means that I don’t do well at that store. Five or six books tells me I’m okay. Eight or ten tells me I’m kicking ass in that town. If the books are faced out, that means I’ve got somebody on staff who is a fan (and that is incredibly important).

(5) Steven Murphy commences a kind of nonlethal Death Match with “Them’s Fightin’ Words: Harry Potter V. Ender Wiggin” at ScienceFiction.com

The following is the first of a new series pitting the merits and abilities of similar characters against each other. We open with a disclosure of the personal bias of the author then outline some ground rules and end with an example of how a fight between the two might unfold.

Personal Bias: The popularity of JK Rowling’s series has cemented Harry Potter as the go-to magical youth. He is the modern personification of the fantasy genre. The perfect contrast to Potter would then be the boy who personifies science fiction, Ender Wiggin of Orson Scott Card’s novel ‘Ender’s Game‘. The two characters have a great deal in common–both are children with the fate of their kind resting on their shoulders. I prefer ‘Ender’s Game’ over any single Harry Potter book, but I can’t argue that the Potter series as a whole succeeds on a level that the Ender series of books does not.

Ground Rules: The Goblet of Fire follows Harry into a series of trials that place him in a mindset that parallels Ender’s nicely. For my purposes the version of Harry with the skills and experience gained from this book and those previous will be used. The Ender used will be the one post ‘Ender’s Game’ and before ‘Speaker for the Dead’. This will allow the two characters to be roughly the same age. Ender will not have the assistance of his friend and database intelligence, Jane. The surroundings will compliment Ender in that the arena is the Battle School’s gravity free training room complete with the immobile obstacles called “astroids” for cover. Ender will have a blaster and Harry will have his wand. They enter the arena at opposite gates, neither with a clear view of the opposing gate.

(6) Tom Knighton reviews Chuck Gannon’s Raising Caine:

Like the first in the series, this one starts out somewhat slow.  The action tends to be minimal and sporadic, but for good reason.  However, the writing is good enough that it will get you through to the moments where the action picks up.  Further, none of the other stuff is filler.  Almost all feels vital to the story (and I can’t think of anything that comes up that isn’t important later on).

When the story does pick up, it becomes something very special indeed.  That’s just Gannon’s gift, however.  The previous book, Trial by Fire contained more of the action I prefer just be necessity, and that book was definitely on my list of “special” books.

While I don’t think Raising Caine was quite up to that level, that’s not a slight on this book.  The only books I’ve read recently that were on that level included Seveneves and A Long Time Until Now.  Both of those are on my Hugo list, and Raising Caine is a contender for one of those slots as well.

(7) The Nerf Nuke fires 80 darts in all directions.

(8) Tom Galloway, past contestant and inveterate Jeopardy! watcher, saw this on the October 12 show —

Heh. Today’s Jeopardy! round was a themed board on Game of Thrones, with categories Winter Is Coming, A Song of “Ice” and “Fire”, You Know Nothing, The North Remembers, Always Pay Your Debts, and wrapping up with Game Of Thrones, of course the only category actually about the work (specifically the tv series).

(9) Sometimes there’s a reason this news is hard to find — “’Lizard men abducted me to the moon for sex,’ woman claims”.

A former U.S. air force radar operator was abducted to the moon by lizard men for nightly sex – and was also forced to stack boxes.

What our reptilian overlords want with these sinister boxes can only be guessed at.

Niara Terela Isley is just one of several witnesses quoted by Alien UFO Sightings in an expose of the U.S. military’s secret moon bases – where reptiles rule, and humans are passed around like sex toys.

(10) James Schardt delivers “A Response to Charles Gannon” at Otherwhere Gazette.

At one point, Mr. Gannon used the term “The Evil Other”. I’m not sure he has grasped the full significance of this label.

Would you talk to a Homophobic Neo-Nazi that tried to hijack a literary award?

How about a racist who married a minority wife and had a child with her to hide his racism? These have actually happened! We know, it was talked about in such serious publications as Salon, Entertainment Weekly, The Daily Beast, The Guardian, and Slate. They had to get their information somewhere. Someone sent this information to them and they should have done due diligence. Otherwise they might not have as much credibility as people thought.

Now, those two characters, above, don’t even sound plausible in comic books. But these are not just insults that have been thrown at the Puppies. This is what many of the Science Fiction Establishment actually BELIEVE. With these beliefs, almost any action becomes allowable. What tactic should be disallowed when fighting Evil? Are you going to let a prestigious award go to a Nazi? Someone might think it validated his ideas, then you have more Nazis. Would you pay for a hundred more people to vote to prevent that? Would you tone back your rhetoric for any reason? You certainly wouldn’t apologize for calling them Nazis. That’s what they are. Good grief, we’re talking about Fascists, here! It cost 60 million lives to defeat them last time! Vox Day is sadly mistaken. Social Justice Warriors don’t always lie. When you are fighting for Good, there is no reason to lie. Social Justice Warriors tell the truth as they see it.

Of course, the problem is, the Puppies are not Nazis. Even Theodore Beale, the infamous Vox Day, doesn’t quite reach that level (probably). In the face of this, the Puppies can’t back down. Not won’t, CAN’T! They know. They tried. This is the biggest problem with telling the Puppies to moderate their responses.

(11) Someone was not pleased to see the topic heat up again —

(12) John Scalzi did, however, enjoy explaining his now-famous Nerdcon somersault in the first comment on “My Thoughts on Nerdcon:Stories”.

(13) “A Harry Potter Where Hermione Doesn’t Do Anyone’s Homework For Them” by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast.

“Okay, write that down,” Hermione said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, “and then copy out this conclusion that I’ve written for you.”

“Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,” said Ron weakly, “and if I’m ever rude to you again –” He broke off suddenly. “This just says DO YOUR OWN GODDAMN WORK in fourteen languages.”

“Fifteen,” said Hermione. “One of them’s invisible.”

(14) Kimberly Potts’ “The Big Bang Theory Recap: What the Filk Is Happening” sets up the next video.

Thankfully, just as so many episodes of Will & Grace were Karen-and-Jack-ed away from the main characters, “The 2003 Approximation” is stolen, or rather saved, by Howard and Raj. In a far more entertaining half of the episode, we’re introduced to the joys of Filk. What, you may ask, is Filk? It’s a genre of music that puts a science-fiction/fantasy spin on folk, and yes, it is a real thing. It’s also the reason that, for at least the next week, many of us will be trying to get the chorus of “Hammer and Whip: The Untold Story of Thor vs. Indiana Jones” out of our heads.

 

(15) Jurassic World gets the Honest Trailer treatment.

Spoilers.

Also not very funny.

On second thought, was there some reason I included this link?

(16) Because it’s a good lead-in to Bryce Dallas Howard’s defense of her Jurassic World character’s shoe preferences?

Her insistence on wearing high-heels throughout the movie, including a memorable scene that sees her outrunning a T-Rex in stilettos, was dismissed as “lazy filmmaking” by Vulture and called “one tiny but maddening detail” that set up the film to “fail” by The Dissolve.

The actress herself disagrees. She explained to Yahoo why her character’s footwear choice is totally “logical” for the movie, seemingly putting the conversation to bed once and for all.

Watch our exclusive interview with Bryce Dallas Howard for the DVD and Blu-ray release of ‘Jurassic World’ on 19 October above.

“[Claire] is ill-equipped to be in the jungle. This person does not belong in the jungle,” reasons Bryce.

“And then when she ends up in the jungle it’s how does this person adapt to being in the jungle?”

“From a logical standpoint I don’t think she would take off her heels,” she adds.

“I don’t think she would choose to be barefoot. I don’t think she would run faster barefoot in the jungle with vines and stones.”

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

Exotic Fan Fundraiser

Steven H Silver, who accepted Joss Whedon’s Hugo for The Avengers last night, writes —

I raised $176 for the Fan Funds by letting people hold the Hugo I accepted as I wandered around the party floors.  I started this fundraiser in 2009 in Montreal when Aliette de Bodard and Christopher Kastensmidt asked if they could hold it and I jokingly asked for $5.  After they reached their wallets, I kept it up and raised over $200 that year to be divided between TAFF, DUFF and CUFF.  Figured I’d continue this year.

No Whedon, No Nothin’

Bad news for fans buying the British release of Marvel’s The Avengers on DVD/Blu-Ray. Variety reports the U.K. version lacks Joss Whedon’s director’s commentary and other significant extras. And there’s an alternate edit from the U.K. theatrical version.

A spokesperson for Disney U.K. Home Entertainment said Whedon’s commentary was finished too late for the U.K. manufacturing deadline, which came a month earlier than the U.S. pressing. The U.K. disc was released September 17, while the U.S. release isn’t until September 25.

The alternate edit involves the scene where Loki kills Agent Coulson – in the theatrical release Loki’s spear is seen protruding from the agent’s chest, but not in the UK disc version.

I was intrigued by the British Board of Film Classification’s Extended Classification Information for the disc:

The action sequences are similar to those in other recent films passed at ’12’ which feature the same superhero characters. Although there are some strong blows and impacts there is little detail in the violence, which is highly stylised. Furthermore, the involvement of fantastical superheroes means that there is no real danger of the combat resulting in serious injury or death. Much of the violence is directed at an army of aliens that have no human characteristics. The injuries sustained by the aliens are very unreal, with small blue splashes representing ‘blood’ when they are blasted by weapons. The BBFC’s Guidelines at ’12A’/’12’ state ‘Moderate violence is allowed but should not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood, but occasional gory moments may be permitted if justified by the context’.

So, definitely no spears sticking through people if you want the age “12” rating. When I was younger I’d have ended this with a snarky line about how things have changed since the days when Britons commissioned Edward Armitage to celebrate violent conflict in paintings. However, now that I have a 10-year-old daughter, if they cut all the cinematic violence I’m unwilling for her to see The Avengers would amount to nothing more than a nice 10-minute travelogue about New York.

[Via Diane Duane.]

Follow Alyson Abramowitz’ Campaign

Alyson Abramowitz, known within fandom as a conrunner and once-upon-a-time fanzine publisher, has also applied her skills to organizing the mundane world as an active member of the Democratic Party.

She enjoyed the best of both in 2004 as the National Chairperson for High Stakes, a Kerry/Edwards fundraising event that connected donors at local parties in a conference call with Joss Whedon.

Just now Alyson is running for one of the six seats on the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee from the 22nd Assembly District. You can follow her campaign on Facebook. Democratic voters will make their choices on June 8.

California’s Democratic Party is governed by the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC). Members serve two-year terms.

In 2000, Alyson was among the six who won seats on the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee from the 24th Assembly District. In a contested election she finished fifth in a field of nine candidates.

Alyson previously ran for the 22nd Assembly District in 2006 and in 2008, the second time being one of the six selected for the 22nd Assembly District in an uncontested election.

I first met Alyson at the 1974 Worldcon and when an acquaintance is the candidate it’s easier to take an interest in the wealth of political intelligence that can be discovered with Google.

Of course it was no surprise to learn from Huffington Post’s Fundrace 2008 that Alyson contributed to Kerry’s 2004 campaign. After all, she was a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, pledged to Kerry. (And she had been an alternate delegate to the 2000 convention.)

Today she’s a member of the Finance Committee of the California Democratic Party. And Alyson was Chair California Democratic Party Business and Professional Caucus during the 2009 campaign.

I’ll be back with the results on Election Day.

Slayage Conference Attracts Whedon Scholars

The fourth Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses will convene June 3-6 at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

SC4 is organized by the college in partnership with the Whedon Studies Association. When scholars study a prolific living artist there is barely room to list all the exciting developments that crop up between conferences, as one can tell from the introductory remarks in the conference program (PDF file):

The freshly?minted Whedon Studies Association welcomes you to the fourth biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses . At the first three—in Nashville (Middle Tennessee State University, 2004), Barnesville (Gordon College, 2006), and Arkadelphia (Henderson State University, 2008)—over 400 paper s on the works of Joss Whedon were presented. Last time we met, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog had not yet been webcast and Dollhouse had not yet aired (or been cancelled). So we have much to talk about, including fresh takes on Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Serenity.

The conference’s keynote speakers (and their topics) are Lorna Jowett (Sex and the Slayer), Dale Koontz (Faith and Choice in the Works of Joss Whedon), and Steve Halfyard (Music, Sound, and Silence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

[Thanks to Richard Gutkes for the story.]

Whedon’s Med Cred DOA

Dr. Grasshopper’s blog How to Kill Your Imaginary Friends isn’t on a crusade to restore the preeminence of hard science fiction, but anyone longing to see that happen should feel encouraged to see an sf-writing medical student chastising producers who disdain scientific accuracy in pursuit of gaudy effects.

The genre’s most popular tv producer was the target of the doctor’s recent post titled “Joss Whedon, I’m calling you out!”

I was watching the Dollhouse episode entitled “Hollow Men” (2×12) the other day. And there was this scene. You probably know the one I’m talking about. It involved lots of needles. It involved cerebrospinal fluid. And it involved absolutely indefensible pseudo-medical ridiculousness.

[Via David Klaus and SFWA.org]

Update 3/8/2010: Took a hint from Gary Farber and corrected the spelling of the name.