Pixel Scroll 2/10/17 Who Knows What Pixels Lurk In The Hearts Of Scrolls?

(1) GAIMAN ON PRATCHETT. The BBC says this is the first time it has featured Neil Gaiman’s complete tribute to Terry Pratchett from his memorial.

In April last year, friends, fans and colleagues of Sir Terry Pratchett gathered for a celebratory memorial service. The writer NEIL GAIMAN, Pratchett’s longtime friend and collaborator, read his funny and moving tribute, featured here in its entirety for the first time.

(2) HEAT CHECK. Jaym Gates is gauging interest in a speculative fiction anthology titled Nevertheless, She Persisted.

…Okay, so should I do an anthology of NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED, what female authors would be interested in contributing? What awesome female authors (especially POC and LGBTQ, ESPECIALLY immigrant and trans authors) should I be reaching out to?

And why only female authors?

Because this is a project about the struggles that women face from the moment their gender is announced, and the courage and tenacity that helps them rise above that deep and unending opposition.

It is a book about the experience of women, told in their voices. It is not a book about how others imagine it to be, but one deeply and personally influenced by their own fights and victories.

And sure, I’ll do an anthology as a stretch goal, titled I’M WITH HER. Men are welcome to submit to that one. But men are over-represented in the SF and political world as it is, and I want more women to be heard.

Yes, it’s fucking political. This project will be incredibly political. Intentionally. It will have middle fingers everywhere, between the lines and sometimes in them….

Gates has been editor/co-editor of spec fic anthologies Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place,  War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring ’20s, and Rigor Amortis.

(3) BUSIEK INTERVIEW. Filers may be interested to know that comics guru Kurt Busiek is interviewed in the latest edition of SciFiNow magazine (issue 129). Kurt talks about his love for all things Wonder Woman in the interview.

There appears to be no sign of the interview on the SciFiNow website, so anyone wishing to read Kurt’s words will have to head to the nearest newsstand and purchase a print edition or download the digital edition.

Kurt’s name appears on the bottom line of the cover.

(4) HAWKING COMICS. Never let them tell you comics aren’t educational.

Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds of this century.  Bluewater Productions is bringing you his life story in this unique comic book format.  Find out all about the man the myth and the legend!

This 2013 comic book is currently for sale on Comic Flea Market.

(5) AIDING LITERACY. Ann Totusek, chair of Minicon 52, has a request:

Minicon is partnering with Little Free Libraries this year. If your club/organization or any individuals in your club or organization are stewards of a Little Free Library, and you think the Library is particularly photogenic or relevant to SF/F, or just generally well done, we’d love to have pictures of it for a display at Minicon to showcase how fandom supports literacy! Picture files could be sent to me – chair@minicon52.mnstf.org, or hard copy photos could be sent to our snail mail address- Minicon 52 PO Box 8297 Lake Street Station Minneapolis, MN 55408-0297

If you know of a fannish club mailing list that this would be appropriate for an announcement to, please feel free to forward it.

(6) FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE. And now a word from 1962 – via The Traveler at Galactic Journey: “[Feb. 10, 1962] Here Is The News (March 1962 IF”.

If “no news is good news,” then this has been a very good week, indeed!  The Studebaker UAW strike ended on the 7th.  The Congo is no more restive than usual.  Laos seems to be holding a tenuous peace in its three-cornered civil war.  The coup is over in the Dominican Republic, the former government back in power.  John Glenn hasn’t gone up yet, but then, neither have any Russians.

And while this month’s IF science fiction magazine contains nothing of earth-shattering quality, there’s not a clunker in the mix – and quite a bit to enjoy!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 10, 1957 — Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters opens in theaters

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WOLFMAN

  • February 10, 1906 — Creighton Tull Chaney (stage name Lon Chaney, Jr.) is born in Oklahoma.

(9) POOHDUNIT. As noted in the Scroll the other day, the house A.A. Milne lived in (with Christopher Robin) while writing Winnie-the-Pooh is for sale for lots of pots of honey. Not noted in the article is that Milne wrote a Manor House mystery, his only work outside of the Pooh stories, based on living there – learn more at The Green Man Review:

The Red House Mystery, published shortly before he became world-famous as the creator of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh, is his only detective novel. In his tongue-in-cheek introduction, written after the Pooh craze had struck, he explains that “it is obvious now that a new detective story, written in the face of this steady terrestial demand for children’s books, would be in the worst of taste.”

For mystery enthusiasts, this is a pity…

(10) INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. Steven H Silver says you’ll get a better deal buying J.R.R. Tolkien’s old home, which also is on the market right now.

(11) AVOIDING A CRASH. Poor machines – humans always gumming up the works. On All Tech Considered at NPR – “Self-Driving Cars Could Ease Our Commutes, But That’ll Take A While”.

The promise of automated cars is that they could eliminate human-error accidents and potentially enable more efficient use of roadways. That sounds, at first blush, like self-driving cars could also mean traffic reduction and lower commute times.

But researchers aren’t so sure.

(12) NUTS WANTED. In “How do you stop astronauts going mad?”, the BBC has a look at early space program history,when the shrinks had some bizarre ideas about what would make a great astronaut.

“Impulsive, suicidal, sexually-aberrant thrill seeker.” What kind of person might that describe? A Big Brother contestant? A Base jumper? A cult leader? Guess again. It is how some US Air Force (USAF) psychiatrists, back in the early days of the space race, imagined the psychological profile of would-be astronauts. Unless they were crazy, wreckless, hedonists, the doctors reasoned, there was no way they were going to be let anyone strap them into a modified intercontinental ballistic missile and then fire them into orbit.

Of course, the men in white coats were wrong, and were guided more by their lack of knowledge about space and the tropes of science fiction than reason. Instead, the personality traits of cool-headedness under pressure, deep technical know-how and sheer physical and mental endurance – “the right stuff” of Tom Wolfe’s book – ultimately led Nasa to six successful Moon landings and an utterly ingenious escape for the crew on Apollo 13, the mission that very nearly took the lives of its three crew members.

(13) MOOD MUSIC. The BBC answers the question “Can this radio detect your mood and play songs to match?”

Take Solo, the “emotional radio”, for example. A wall-mounted device that resembles a large clock, it features a liquid crystal display at its centre. When you approach it, the pictogram face shows a neutral expression.

But it then takes a photo of your face, a rod or antenna on the side cranks into life, and the LCD display indicates that it’s thinking.

“When it’s doing this, it’s analysing different features of your face and deciding how happy, sad or angry you are,” explains Mike Shorter, senior creative technologist at the Liverpool-based design and innovation company, Uniform, Solo’s creator.

“It will then start to reflect your mood through music.”

(14) UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM. What should Hollywood learn from Deadpool?

(15) LAMPOON ON THE WAY. Inquisitr reveals a “’Star Wars’ Spoof In The Works – ‘Scary Movie’ Team Continues ‘Lazy Comedy’?”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens and other Lucasfilm movies move forward into the sci-fi genre, but what of the parody/spoof genre of film? The Scary Movie team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer will be moving forward as writers and directors of a new Star Wars spoof called Star Worlds Episode XXXIVE=MC2: The Force Awakens the Last Jedi Who Went Rogue, according to an exclusive from The Hollywood Reporter.

(16) SPIDERLY ASPIRATIONS. “Scarlett Johansson Says Black Widow Movie ‘A Case of Timing’”Comic Book Resources has the story.

Scarlett Johansson is ready to star in a “Black Widow” movie, but according to the actress, a standalone film might be a long time coming. Johansson recently sat down with Total Film Magazine to talk about the upcoming cyberpunk thriller “Ghost in the Shell,” but eventually ended up touching on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s notable lack of a “Black Widow” film. Marvel Studios currently has a slew of superhero movies planned as far out as mid-2019, but despite vocal fan support for the idea

[Thanks to Michael O’Donnell, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 2/1/17 We Had Scrolls, We Had Fun, We Had Pixels In The Sun

(1) TRUE GRIT. The director of Arrival has signed on make another adaptation of Dune.

Denis Villeneuve, best known for his directorial work on Arrival, Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, is set to tackle the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s celebrated sci-fi epic, Dune.

Villeneuve was first rumored to be in the running for the role in December, but it wasn’t until yesterday the confirmation was announced. Brian Herbert, son of Frank Herbert and a celebrated science-fiction author in his own right, made the announcement on Twitter.

(2) PETER WESTON EULOGY. This month, Ansible has an extra issue — #355-1/2 — with Tom Shippey’s funeral tribute to Peter Weston. Shippey illustrates Peter’s personality with anecdotes about his business.

What powered that success was not government assistance but reason number two, Peter’s complete lack of pretence. The success of Weston Body Hardware was not based on cunning marketing or managerial tricks, it was based on Peter’s 150-page catalogue of door locks, and unlike many managers Peter knew everything about his product. He took every picture in his catalogue himself, and in each one you could tell left-hand from right-hand.

He usually had a screwdriver in his pocket as well, for removing interesting locks from derelict vehicles, and he could tell a Hillman Minx lock from a Ford Capri blindfolded. I recall one occasion in Texas, 1988, when his attention was caught by a beautifully-refurbished sports car in a car-park. He stepped smartly over to it, looked down, shook his head and remarked (to himself, not the yuppie owner who was standing proudly by), ‘How very disappointing! An Austin-Healey 3000, and all they’ve found to put on the boot is a left-over lock from a Singer Vogue!’ It sounded absolutely apocalyptic.

(3) STICKY FINGERS. Bleeding Cool has the rundown on “The New York Comic Con Organiser Barred From Attending New York Comic Con” after he looted another dealer’s display.

Frank Patz, organiser of the neighbouring comic con, Eternalcon in Long Island, New York, attending NYCC as part of Michael Carbonaro‘s Vintage Movie Posters booth, was arrested by NYPD Special Forces on charges of grand larceny and possession of stolen goods….

It is common practice at shows for the trash at the end of the shows to be raided by some vendors to find things that other vendors have left behind. However Eaglemoss representatives told me they were still in the process of breaking down their space, and the items in question were still inside the booth, and not considered trash.

Most of the items were returned after the arrest, and the charges are pending dismissal if Patz keeps a clean record for the next six months.

…However NYCC and the Javitz Center do not seem to hold with the “innocent until proven guilty” thesis. And so while Frank Patz will have no marks on his official police record as a result of this, he and all the individuals named, have been barred from entering the Javits Center, and show organisers Reed POP have barred them for life from attending any of their events, including the New York Comic Con, C2E2, ECCC and more.

(4) NEW PRESCRIPTION. Alasdair Stuart contends “It’s Time for Doctor Who to Change Television History for the Better” at Tor.com.

A Doctor who isn’t a white man is not a destination, it’s the start of a conversation. If the character worked—and it would—that would be an unmistakable turning point in how POC and female characters are portrayed on screen. It would also empower a generation of writers and actors, crew and producers to make their own work, with their own voices—work that, in the wake of a successful Doctor Who run with a woman or a POC in the lead role, would almost certainly find itself in a far more open and welcoming production environment.

That conversation is long and complicated and years overdue. It’s one that has to include bringing more and more women and POC into the fold as scriptwriters and showrunners and directors. It’s also one that needs to be years long in order for the changes it would catalyse to take effect. Most of all, it’s simply one that needs to happen, and there is no better time than now, and no better place to start than with Doctor Who.

(5) YOUR INVITATION TO A CONSPIRACY. John Scalzi shows us the way to make lemonade after he discovers an author has fallen for Vox Day’s insinuations about his bestseller status. (I argued in 2014 that Vox’s gambit was dubious because it equally undermined Larry Correia, then his ally).

I was pointed this morning to a blog post by an author not previously of my acquaintance who was making a bit of noise about the UK cover of The Collapsing Empire; the June 2016 cover reveal of the UK cover featured the strapline “The New York Times Bestselling Series”…

A little further digging revealed that this author almost certainly got this idea from one of my usual suspects (i.e., the same poor wee racist lad whose adorable mancrush on me has gone unabated for a dozen years now), who trumpeted the strapline as evidence that Tor is planning to fake a position for me and TCE on the New York Times bestseller list. As apparently they have done with all my work, because as you know I don’t actually sell books; Tor and Tor UK and Audible and a couple dozen publishers across the planet give me lots of money strictly because I am the world’s best virtue signaller, and therefore worth propping up with byzantine schemes to fake my standing on bestseller lists, because who doesn’t like virtue.

…(P.S.: If you would actually like to see me get on the New York Times bestseller list with The Collapsing Empire — or in the UK, the Times bestseller list (that’s the Times in the UK, that is, these newspapers with the same names are confusing) — then be part of the vast conspiracy of people who pre-order the book, either from your local bookseller, or via your favorite online retailer. Sadly, my publishers don’t actually prop me up. I really do have to sell books for a living. Again: Sooooooooo unfair!)

(6) BALANCING THE BOOKS. Tolkien once was a customer of a shop now closed and auctioning off its business archives: “These boots were made for Tolkien: Ledgers from iconic Oxford shoe shop Duckers go under the hammer”.

Famous names feature in the ledgers of shoemakers Ducker & Son which are about to be offered for sale by Oxford auction house Mallams, writes Richard Lofthouse…

They range from little-known Oxford academics and wealthy undergraduates with a taste in bespoke footwear to local luminaries such Tolkien, Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh and publisher Sir Basil Blackwell (who insisted his shoes were always rubber-soled).

First World War flying ace Baron von Richthofen, European aristocratic families and several maharajahs also shopped at Duckers. More recent patrons have included Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent, comedian Rowan Atkinson, former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Formula One boss Eddie Jordan.

Tolkien’s first order at the start of Michaelmas term 1913 is for a pair of black rugby boots for 14s 6d, a pair of porpoise laces for 8d, and a pair of ordinary laces for 2d. He was then an undergraduate at Exeter College, just up the street from Duckers’. The year had been a landmark one for Tolkien: he had changed his course from the Classics to English literature and, on the turn of his 21st birthday, had proposed to his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt. Standing (above) in his pale jersey in the middle of the beefy athletes of Exeter College’s Rugby and Boat Clubs in 1914, Tolkien looks rather small; but he said that what he lacked in weight, he made up by extra ferocity.

A later page shows two orders by Tolkien in the 1950s, when he was Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and shoe prices had risen considerably: he bought three pairs for around £6 apiece. Fortunately his professorial income was supplemented by royalties from The Hobbit and, by the time of the last order, The Lord of the Rings, published in 1954–5.

(7) SNAKES, IT HAD TO BE SNAKES! I am told February 1 is Serpent Day. Not sure why that precedes Groundhog Day, but there you have it.

Serpents deserve a day dedicated to them; its presence is somehow necessary, what with all of the fables and stories abound with snake-inspired situations and wise or evil serpents, that have filled our culture for as long as any of our ancestors could remember.

(8) WHO FATIGUE. Are you tired of watching Doctor Who? I’m not, but if you are, CheatSheet offers four reasons that might explain why. (More likely, you’re tired of clickbait articles like this that drag you through multiple ad-saturated screens to see the complete post.)

  1. The Doctor got meaner

Fans familiar with the progression of the Doctor are familiar with the defining personality traits of each modern doctor. Christopher Eccelston was a stripped-down version of a previously flamboyant character, beginning a walk down a decidedly grimmer path for the Doctor’s personality. David Tennant after him was kind yet stern, with sharp features to match. He always carried with him a certain guilt over the burden of being the last of the Time Lords, leading into the reactively younger and more carefree Matt Smith iteration.

Finally, we were left with Peter Capaldi, the more mature and notably older version of the Doctor. It was more than a little jarring to go from the warm, goofy demeanor of Smith to the crotchety and sometimes mean-spirited Capaldi version. This in turn made it hard to adjust for fans, leading many to jump ship mere episodes in to the latest season.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Nerds of a Feather rounds out its Hugo recommendations with two more posts:

Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

Editor – Short Form, Editor – Long Form, Professional Artist, Fan Artist, Fan Writer.

(10) FURTHER THOUGHTS. Rich Horton ranges widely in his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts: Long Fiction (and some notes on Dramatic Presentation)”. And he compliments one of JJ’s posts, too.

Best Series

Considering this brand new category reminds me of one novel that I have just read, Impersonations, by Walter Jon Williams, a new pendant to his Praxis (or Dread Empire’s Fall) series. It’s a fun story, and I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think it’s Hugo-worthy by itself. I am strongly considering nominating the entire series for a Hugo, however.

And, indeed, that hints at one of my misgivings about the Hugo for Best Series. The most recent entry in a series may not be particularly representative of the series as a whole, nor as good as the rest of the series. The same comment, obviously, applies to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, represented in 2016 by the rather pedestrian Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. I would say personally that both Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and Williams’ Praxis book are worthy, over all, of a Best Series Hugo, but that the best time to award them that Hugo has passed. (Which, to be sure, is primarily a function of this being a brand new award.)

At any rate, I was wondering what the possible candidates for Best Series, eligible in 2016, might be, and I was delighted to find that JJ, over at File 770, had done the heavy lifting, producing this page with a good long list of potential eligible series: http://file770.com/?p=30940.

(11) TRUE LOVE. With Valentine’s Day on the calendar this month, Seattle’s MoPOP Museum has sent those on its email list a set of Fictional Flames: A Lovesick List of #MoPOPCULTURE Power Couples.

In honor of cupid’s return, here are our picks for the fictional couples who remind us why we love to fall in love.

Uhura + Spock : Star Trek – This futuristic couple showed the world how to love long and prosper.

Clark Kent + Lois Lane: Superman – The most unique story of journalistic love. Ever.

Hermione + Ron: Harry Potter – These longtime friends fell hard with no love potion required.

Buttercup + Westley: The Princess Bride – True love has never been more adventurous.

Elizabeth + Mr. Darcy: Pride and Prejudice – This enduring duo have been charming readers and viewers since 1813!

Kermit + Miss Piggy: The Muppets –  The most sensational, inspirational, celebrational muppet couple.

Gomez + Morticia: The Addams Family – “Till death do us part” takes on a whole new meaning.

Mitch + CamModern Family – These loving family men are the perfect suburban couple.

Rick + Ilsa: Casablanca – This bittersweet, war-torn romance will have you reaching for the tissues.

Willow + Tara: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The couple that slays together stays together.

Han + Leia: Star Wars – She loves him. He knows. (He loves her too.)

(12) TRIBBLES AT THE UNIVERSITY. “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode of Star Trek will be screened at UCLA in the Billy Wilder Theater on February 5 as part of the “Family Flicks Film Series.” Details about price and schedule are at the link,

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of a classic television episode from a landmark series! Watch as Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) deal with an infestation of cute, fuzzy tribbles aboard the Enterprise. Soothing to the crew and annoying to the Klingons, the furry nuisances nonetheless hold the key to a mystery on board. Trekkie suits and transporters optional!

(13) BRAND ‘EM. Rawle Nyanzi, in “Fear of a Pulp Planet”, calls it a “Pulp Revolution” —

Bloggers Jeffro Johnson — whose Appendix N book I spotlighted here — and Jon Mollison, both of whom I’m acquainted with online, have made much of the “Pulp Revolution,” a nascent literary movement intended to turn modern sci-fi and fantasy away from a perceived focus on deconstruction and embrace its heritage as a literature of the heroic and wondrous. It also seeks to bring the works of long ignored pulp authors back into the limelight.

I find “Pulp Revolution” a more appealing label than Sad Puppies, if anyone wants to know. (Like that’s going to happen….)

(14) RINGS. I still haven’t forgotten the first film in the series. This is the third.

First you watch it. Then you die. Rings hits theatres Friday!

A new chapter in the beloved RING horror franchise. A young woman becomes worried about her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before…

The film is being promoted by a pranks like this —

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Dave Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 1/3/17 Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling – Rawhide!

(1) SPACE FLOWING PAST THE PORTS LIKE WINE FROM A PITCHER. Here’s a video excerpt from the class “To Space Opera and Beyond with Ann Leckie”, part of the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, in which Leckie discusses the basics of space opera and the definition of it provided by Brian Aldiss.

(2) BEARS DISCOVER MCGUIRE. Reading Omni’s “Best Emerging Fantasy Authors of 2016”, James Davis Nicoll snorted at one of the selections:

They’ve discovered Guy Gavriel Kay! Who they think is an emerging author. But it is not their fault.

Sylvia Moreno-Garcia brought the problem to the attention Omni and was given the brushoff.

Moreno-Garcia persisted – since this is just pixels on the internet and not carved in granite, Omni could do something about it even now.

JJ adds about another of Omni’s choices, “Given her 8-year career, 25 novels and 4 collections, 9 Hugo finalists plus 2 wins, and a Tiptree finalist, I don’t think Seanan McGuire can be considered “emerging”, either.”

(3) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION YESTERDAY. Mayim Bialik celebrated #NationalScienceFictionDay on January 2 by showing her readers this historic tome –

Here’s me with the book that inspired GrokNation, Heinlein’s Sci Fi classic Stranger in a Strange Land! For more info on what “grok” means, check this out: http://groknation.com/faq/

 

mayim-bialik-nat-sf-day

(4) BIOLOGY LESSON. An educational graphic the young’uns can study.

(5) BEFORE PALPATINECARE. Motherboard’s Sarah Jeong asks “Did Inadequate Women’s Healthcare Destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?”

Padme Never Goes to a OB/GYN

Prenatal visits never happen in Episode III, not even offscreen. Despite Anakin’s spiraling paranoia about Padme’s health, doctors or hospitals are bizarrely never mentioned. And the evidence says that Padme never got an ultrasound.

When she confronts Anakin towards the end of the movie—shortly before giving birth—she refers to “our child,” rather than “our children.” It doesn’t make sense for her to be hiding the ball here, she’s making one last emotional appeal to the father of her children, to try to bring him back to the light side. Rather, Padme simply doesn’t know that she’s about to give birth to twins.

(6) DISSENTING VOICE. “Vera Rubin Didn’t Discover Dark Matter” avers Richard Panek at Scientific American.

Vera Rubin didn’t discover dark matter.

Rubin died last weekend, at the age of 88. Headlines have repeatedly identified her as having “discovered” dark matter or having “proved” the existence of dark matter. Even the Carnegie Institution’s press release announcing her death—she had worked as a staff astronomer at Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., for half a century before her recent retirement—said that she “confirmed the existence of dark matter.” Rubin would have said she did no such thing. I know, because she did say that, to me, on several occasions.

One could make the argument that the correct formulation of her achievement is that she discovered evidence for the existence of dark matter, and while Rubin likely would have acquiesced to that construction, she would have found it incomplete, perhaps even misleading. She would have said that while she discovered evidence for the existence of dark matter, you shouldn’t infer from that statement that dark matter actually exists.

The distinction wasn’t merely a matter of semantics. It was, to her, a matter of philosophy, of integrity—a matter of how science works.

(7) JPL ANNIVERSARY. Thanks to SciFi4me we know “Jet Propulsion Laboratory Celebrates 80 Years With Free 2017 Calendar”.

As part of their 80th anniversary, JPL has released a free 2017 calendar you can download, filled with photos from both JPL and NASA, and including anniversaries and events. They also have an interactive timeline of JPL’s biggest moments. You can access both of these, as well as more history of JPL, over on the JPL website. JPL has regular open houses, and I hope to attend one myself one day now that I’m in Los Angeles.

Download calendar (PDF 28 MB)

(8) GETTING THE WORD OUT. A Tom Gauld strip —

(9) NEW PODCAST. The Blastoff Podcast has been launched this week by Jud Meyers and Scott Tipton, creators of Blastoff Comics in North Hollywood.

In the premiere episode, Scott explains the difference between the golden and silver ages of comic books. Then, Jud muses on the child-like wonder of stepping inside a brick and mortar comic shop.

blastoff-podcast-825x383

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 3, 1924 – King Tut’s sarcophagus was uncovered.
  • January 3, 2004 — Spirit rover landed on Mars.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 3, 1892 – J. R. R. Tolkien

(12)ESCAPING THE SHADOW. Simon Tolkien, grandson of J.R.R., tells how WWI inspired Lord of the Rings (and his own very modest career).

My grandfather, JRR Tolkien, died when I was 14. He remains vivid to me but through child-like impressions – velvet waistcoats and pipe smoke; word games played on rainy afternoons in the lounge of a seaside hotel or standing on the windy beach down below, skipping flat black pebbles out across the grey waves; a box of matches that he had thrown up in the air to amuse me, rising and falling as if in slow motion through the branches of a horse chestnut tree.

These memories did nothing to illuminate who my grandfather was or how he thought beyond a sense of wise benevolence arching over me like that tree. Nothing except for his religion: I remember the emotion in his voice when he recited prayers with me in the evening – not just the Hail Mary and the Our Father but others too – and the embarrassment I felt at church on Sundays when he insisted on kneeling while everyone else stood, and loudly uttering responses in Latin when everyone else spoke in English.

(13) GOOD FAKES. Timothy Anderson’s online gallery includes a set of clever faux vintage Star Wars paperback covers. They start with The Purloined Plans, second row down, toward the right.

(14) SHUTTERED. Crawford Doyle Booksellers on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is closing. Andrew Porter remembers —

The store, at 1082 Madison Ave, New York (between 81st and 82nd), was a bookstore long before 21 years ago. I used to live above it, at 24 East 82nd Street, and when I was a teenager in the early 1960s, and delivered Womrath Library books to subscribers in the neighborhood.

Downstairs, reached by a staircase from the store, there was an antique toy store. At one time, they sold military miniatures, including soldier figures from Donald A. Wollheim’s collection. An occasional visitor, I was told, was a collector by the name of George R.R. Martin. Another small part of my history disappearing into oblivion…

(15) CLIPPING SERVICE. Some of you might like this assortment of topical clips more than Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green did.

Next up, we have yet another call to have a year of publishing nothing but women. Yep, you read that right. Kamila Shamshie has called for 2018 to be the year of publishing only women. Now, I know what you’re going to say. Look at the source of the article. It’s the Guardian. I know. I know. Another bastion of, well, drivel. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen such calls, or something similar. Have you forgotten the calls for readers to give up on reading books by men — or non-people of color or other so-called marginalized groups — for a year?

One of the best responses I’ve seen to the Shamshie article comes from Dacry Conroy. These three paragraphs completely dismantle Shamshie’s argument:

Yes! I thought. We do need to take example from the suffragettes, we do need to stop being so polite and seize our own power, raise our voices and… That’s when she lost me. Because what Shamsie suggested we raise our voices to say to the publishing industry was, essentially, “Please let us in. You’re being unfair. Just for one year without any boys in the way and see if the readers like us. It doesn’t have to be right away, 2018 is fine, but give us a go? Please?”

I don’t see the spirit of the independent presses of the 70s and 80s in that. What I see is a spirit of dependence on an industry that infantilizes writers, making them grateful for any morsel of approval and attention, convincing them that a publishing house is the only way to ‘real’ publication. This seems to be particularly so of literary writers (a group to which I do not pretend to belong) who appear to have been convinced that even though they are the keepers of the “artistic flame,” they would not have an audience at all without the festivals, the reviewers and the awards the publishing houses so carefully close to all but their own.

Surely the lesson from the independent presses of the 70s isn’t to plead for someone else to start a press and offer better opportunities, it’s to stand up, use the technology available and become our own publishers. Many of us are already doing that.

(16) THE YEAR IN RPG. Shannon Appelcline, respected RPG industry watcher, delivers a big gaming roundup in “Advanced Designers & Dragons #10: 2016: The Year in Review”.

The Continued Rise of Indies. For several years now, I’ve been talking about the rise of indie games, as several once-indie companies have become major players in the industry. In 2016 a few of them started collecting together other games, turning themselves into publishing houses that go beyond just the particular ideas of their owners.

Evil Hat* was the most notable, with their expansion occurring thanks to the success of the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game (2017?)*. They’ve hired a few people on as full-time employees, which is a luxury in today’s roleplaying industry, let alone the indie industry. Meanwhile, they’re printing and distributing a few successful Kickstarters: Blades in the Dark (2017?)* and Karthun: Lands of Conflict (2017?).

Burning Wheel strikes me as a smaller, more casual organization, but they similarly picked up the publishing and distribution of a few indie games: Dungeon World (2012) and Jared Sorsensen’s Parsely games (2009-2010). This also seems like a more casual partnership, mainly amounting to Burning Wheel HQ, Sage Kobold, and Memento Mori combining forces, like in the Gen Con Forge booth of days gone by, but between Burning Wheel (2002), Torchbearer (2013), and Dungeon World (2012), you have three of the most notable indie fantasy RPGs, all under one roof!

Last year also offered one more example of the indie movement growing and maturing: the blockbuster Apocalypse World (2010) got a second edition (2016).

The Inevitable Kickstarter Report. As in recent years, I’m going to end this review with a look at Kickstarter. And, I think the only description of Kickstarter this year is: wow. I mean, it’s been good for the industry for years, but in 2016 it notched up a higher level of success than ever before.

To start with, we suddenly had 26 pure RPG Kickstarters that raised more than $100,000 in 2016, after years of hovering below 20. Most notably, 7th Sea raised $1.3 million! That’s almost double the previous high, which was Deluxe Exalted 3e, which raised $684,755 in 2013. 7th Sea’s 11,483 backers also beat out the 10,103 backers for Evil Hat’s Fate Core from 2012-2013, a number that I thought might be unassailable.

(17) BEST NEW WRITERS. Rocket Stack Rank has put together a list of stories from Campbell-eligible authors. Greg Hullender explains:

As usual, the entry for each story has a spoiler-free blurb plus a link to a more detailed review. People who have already done their reading for the year and just need to be reminded of which story was which will probably find both of those useful. For people still looking for things to read, we’ve indicated which stories were recommended by us or any of the reviewers we track, and there are links to places to read stories for free (where possible) and otherwise there’s info on how to buy or borrow them.

The graph shows that Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies were the most friendly venues for new authors. Original anthologies are the least.

(18) GROOVY, MAN. @70sscifiart on Twitter shares retro sf covers and art.

(19) SUPERFINE. Melville House has a story about a very overdue library book.

Gillett came across the 1,000-page tome when, after her husband’s death, she was sorting through a collection of 6,000 books. Finding the HCS library stamp on the inside cover, she realized the extraordinary truth, and decided to return the book to the school along with a note reading: “I am sorry to inform you that one of your former pupils, Prof AE Boycott FRS, appears to have stolen the enclosed. I can’t imagine how the school has managed without it!”

Perhaps this book helped inspire the Professor’s future career. The little boy once obsessed with snails now has his own portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Based on the rate at Hereford library, the fine could have been charged at 17 pence a day, over 120 years, totalling around £7,446.

(20) ROTSLER AWARD EXHIBIT AT LOSCON. Courtesy of Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink we have a photo of the Rotsler Award Exhibit from Loscon 2016 featuring the art of Ditmar.

rotsler-loscon-exhibit-foto_no_exif-min

(21) SCAVENGERS. This is an animated short film about astronauts who were stranded on a planet a long time ago, long enough that they’ve learned a great deal about the planet’s biological organisms and the interactions between the native flora and fauna.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

(1) OUR NEIGHBOR. It’s official —

A team of astronomers composed of P. Kervella (CNRS / U. de Chile / Paris Observatory / LESIA), F. Thévenin (Lagrande Laboratory, Côte d’Azur Observatory, France) and Christophe Lovis (Observatory of the University of Geneva, Switzerland) has demonstrated that Proxima, the nearest star to the Sun, is gravitationally bound to its neighbors Alpha Centauri A and B. The nearest stellar system to the Earth is therefore a triple star. Proxima is known to host the nearest exoplanet, a telluric planet orbiting in its habitable zone. This discovery implies that the four objects (Alpha Cen A, B, Proxima and Proxima b) share the same age of ~6 billion years.

 

Paul Gilster discusses the discovery at Centauri Dreams.

Now as to that orbit — 550,000 years for a single revolution — things get interesting. One reason it has been important to firm up Proxima’s orbit is that while a bound star would have affected the development of the entire system, the question has until now been unresolved. Was Proxima Centauri actually bound to Centauri A and B, or could it simply be passing by, associated with A and B only by happenstance?

(2) THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. YouTube’s Nostalgia Critic demands to know “Where’s the Fair Use”?

(3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. While it’s commonly expected at the conventions I’ve worked that volunteers will be members of the con, this is a new one on me – having to join a secondary group in order to volunteer. “Phoenix Comicon announces changes to volunteering; paid fan group membership required” reports An Engishman in San Diego.

Square Egg Entertainment, the organisation behind Phoenix Comicon, today announced a sizeable change to its practice of staffing – and pooling volunteers for – their three annual events:  Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween. Square Egg will no longer be staffing these shows with hired hands, instead now filling those roles from the organising committee and paid membership of the Blue Ribbon Army (which originally started out as a fan group for PHXCC, and has subsequently become a social club with 501(c)(7) status).

Members of the Army have to be at least 18 years old and – here’s the kicker for a number of fiscally-minded volunteers – they also do have to become fully paid-up members of the fan group, with membership prices to join starting at $20 per year and going up to $100 per year. That’s right: you effectively have to now pay to become a Phoenix Comicon volunteer.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Ribbon Army leadership isn’t being compensated

Are your board members paid?

All Blue Ribbon Army board members are unpaid volunteers. All financial information, as required by law for a 501(c)7 organization, will be posted.

(4) BOTTOM OF THE GALACTIC BARREL. Love this article title — “15 Star Wars Characters Who Are Worthless At Their Jobs” from ScreenRant.

  1. Storm Troopers – Just Bad At Their Jobs

They just had to be here, as they’re cinematic legends when it comes to utterly failing at your job. Imperial Stormtroopers, as we’re told, are precise. The Empire has access to vast resources, so you’d think its military force would be well up to scratch. Stormtroopers even get a pretty good showing the first time we see them, managing to take over Princess Leia’s ship with only a few casualties. And then almost every time after that we see them, they’re getting destroyed like they put their helmets on backwards and their armor is made of tinfoil….

(5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Three of the “10 Books Elon Musk – ‘Tesla Founder and Billionaire’ wants you to read” are SFF, beginning with –

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Back when Elon Musk was a moody teen growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, he went looking for the meaning of life in the work of grumpy philosophers. It didn’t help. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which taught him that the hardest part was to properly phrase the question but that once this was done the answer was easy. It changed his whole perspective.

(6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cracked brings all its scholarly powers to bear in “Snow White is a LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory”.  

Mortal man Beren and elf maiden Luthien Tinuviel (of the New Jersey Tinuviels) are forebears of the kings of Numenor and Gondor. Seeing as how the love story of Beren and Luthien echoes through the millennia in their great-great-many-times-great-grandchildren, it comes as no surprise that a similar fate awaits Aragorn and Arwen’s descendant, Snow White.

The family resemblance would only be uncannier if Steven Tyler cast her in inappropriately weird videos during her early teens.

At this point you may be thinking that we’re smoking too much of that pipe with Gandalf, but have you noticed Snow White’s rapport with the birds and beasts of the wild? The way they listen and respond to her?

Doesn’t this suggest a deep connection with nature, as someone with Elvish blood would have?

(7) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Plenty of genre flicks on Film School Rejects’ “The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017”.

…[Our] 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year….

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

Neil Miller: If we’re being honest?—?and we are at all times?—?Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.

(8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Paul Weimer has announced his candidacy for the Down Under Fan Fund.

(9) REMEMBERING RICHARD ADAMS. In 1843 Magazine, Miranda Johnson, an environment correspondent for The Economist, discusses her grandfather Richard Adams, including how Adams’s experiences fighting in Operation Market Garden in World War II informed the battles in Watership Down, how her family all became characters in her grandfather’s novels, and what happened when Adams had lunch with Groucho Marx.

He also never forgot friends he made during his service. One in particular, Paddy Kavanagh, stuck with him for his fearless defence of the Oosterbeek perimeter as part of Operation Market Garden during September 1944. Paddy gave his life so that my grandpa’s platoon could escape. So my grandfather brought him back in the character of Bigwig in “Watership Down”, who stands alone to defend a tunnel in the rabbits’ new warren. Originally in the story, Bigwig also died. But my mother and aunt protested so much that my grandpa changed the tale. “We said nobody must die,” my aunt recalls, “except for Hazel, because it seemed an important part given his old age.”

(10) HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL. ULTRAGOTHA found the story and JJ tracked down a photo —

Carrie Fisher doesn’t have a Star on the Walk of Fame, so fans appropriated a blank one and are leaving tributes. Including two cinnamon buns.

(11) WWCD 2017. Redbubble is selling merchandise with the WWCD art and giving the money to charity —

100% of the proceeds will be donated to bipolar disorder through the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: https://bbrfoundation.org/

what-would-carrie-do

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku
  • Born December 30, 1982 — Kristin Kreuk.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 30, 1865 – Rudyard Kipling

(15) PRINTS IN THE FORECOURT. Filmmaker Roger Corman, a former Worldcon GoH, has been immortalized in concrete at a slightly less well-known theater than you usually think of when it comes to this sort of thing —

Roger Corman may not be a household name, but among movie fans he’s a cult hero.

In October, a tribute was held at the Vista Theatre to celebrate his 62-year career.

The legendary filmmaker was immortalized October 12th in the cement of the Vista’s forecourt with a handprint ceremony, alongside those of Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid; James Bond girl Honor Blackman; special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Cassandra Peterson—also known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“I think it’s kind of fun that [my handprints] will be out there forever,” said Corman before burying his hands deep in a patch of cement on the edge of Sunset Drive.

(16) MARS. Charles E. Gannon was part of a Dragon Con panel reported in Space.com“Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly”

Like in the Old West, the goal would be for the colony to become self-sustaining, the panel said. Once a colony could support itself, it would no longer need to rely on materials from Earth to survive. When asked if an organization on Earth could realistically hope to control what was happening on Mars, Davis said, “If they’re still getting their caloric intake from someplace else, yup, you can.” [Poll: Where Should Humanity Build Its First Space Colony?]

Gannon named the biggest challenge facing a colony that aimed to grow independent from the people back home: the supply of volatiles, particularly oxygen and water. The first explorers would need to find a way for colonists to harvest those on the new world, Gannon said.

“If you have to ship those to the colony, it will be both economically and physically dependent and probably never be profitable or really safe,” Gannon said.

Even if an underground colony relied on rocks to shield itself from deadly radiation, it would still need enough water for similar shielding during vehicular missions, he said, making ice harvesting crucial to the colony’s survival.

“There are plenty of other [challenges],” he said. “But this is the minimum ante for long-term self-supportability.”

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. NPR tells us “Astronomers Seeking Planet 9 Hope To Soon Catch A Glimpse”.

On the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they’re looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Technically, a new planet hasn’t been discovered since Neptune was spotted in 1846. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was demoted to “dwarf planet” a decade ago. If a new planet is found, it will be the new Planet Nine.

(18) TRADING INSULTS. Huffington Post’s “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word”  by Laurie Gough, “Award-winning author of three memoirs…a journalist and travel writer”, begins —

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

The rest of the article carries on in the same condescending tone which so aggravated Larry Correia that he stormed back from a self-imposed internet vacation to write a reply, “Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing” for Monster Hunter Nation. (Gough’s article is quoted in italics. Correia’s replies are bold. Of course they are…)

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers.

Nope. The problem with self-publishing is that there are so many competitors that the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the herd. Sure, lots of them are crap (I can say the same thing for tradpub too), but if you find a way to market yourself and get your quality product in front of the right market, then you can make quite a bit of money.  

From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

From what I’ve seen, I’d say the same thing about the Huffington Post.

As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

As an actual editor who gets paid for this stuff, that sentence reads like garbage.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Only you just described exactly how most real working bands got their start. Add a couple of kids with a guitar and drums, set up in your buddy’s garage, and start jamming. Eventually you will get good enough that you can book some local gigs, and if people like you, they will give you money for your stuff.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.

Nobody gives a crap about “validation”. Validation don’t pay the bills.

(19) MEDIA FAVES. It’s Aliette de Bodard’s turn to bestow Smugglivus year-end cheer at The Book Smugglers.

In media, the most striking thing I watched this year is actually from last year: it was the masterful Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, a tour de force by Peter Capaldi that slowly starts making horrifying sense throughout its length (and that I actually paused and rewatched just to make sure it all hung together — it does and it’s even more impressive on a rewatch). I haven’t had time to consume things from this year: most of my watching has been old things, like Black  Orphan (I can’t believe it took me this long to find out about it, it’s so good, and Tatiana Maslany is just amazing playing all the clones), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, period mysteries featuring the awesome Phryne Fisher (and her amazing wardrobe).

(20) CATCHING UP WITH CAMESTROS. Doctor Who was on Camestros Felapton’s telly on Christmas — “Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special”.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

(21) CAMESTROS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. Then he dashed out to see the new Star Wars movie – “Review: Rogue One”.

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

(23) CAN’T END TOO SOON. By then the year 2016 was just about done – and Camestros designed the most suitable container for its farewell journey.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Michael J. Walsh, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]  

Pixel Scroll 11/11/16 Some Say Scrolls, It Is A Pixel, That Leaves Your Eyes To Bleed

(1) RELIGHTING FIREFLY. CinemaBlend’s Nick Venable has been listening to actor Alan Tudyk, who says “Nathan Fillion Has an Awesome Idea for More Firefly”.

[Alan Tudyk] “I’m always hopeful that it’ll come back in some form or fashion. I think as long as you have Nathan Fillion – truly, if you have the captain – he can put the crew back together. Some new faces, some old faces, and get back in the air. I think Nathan pitched an idea once to me, and I think he actually got it from some fan fiction: Now, out in some shack on some forgotten moon somewhere, somebody comes and knocks on [Mal’s] door and says, ‘We need you.’ And he answers the call.”

I know that you guys might not have gotten goosebumps like I did when Alan Tudyk was saying it, but I’m sure everyone pictured that potential opening scene accordingly. It’s the perfect set-up for an action narrative, with the unpredictable hero getting picked out of reclusion to head back out for one last mission. One. Last. Mission. Not that anyone said this would have to be the final mission for Mal Reynolds, who may or may not still have his Captain status, since there should never be a last mission for him.

I’m picturing Nathan Fillion with a big giant beard, and he’s complaining about the “gorram WiFi never working” on his moon. There’s probably some kind of a booze still behind his shack. And something happened that was so foul that he vowed never to get back out into the cosmos again, for either fun or profit. But then maybe Jayne or Zoe is in trouble – take that, Jayne – and only Mal can be the one to bring him/her/them/all the gold back. Combine that with the masterfully wild shot that Joss Whedon never got to bring to Firefly, and it all starts to write itself, though that’s only helpful if the project can also order itself to series and air itself.

(2) KC DISCOVERS SUSHI. Scott Edelman of the Eating the Fantastic podcast invites you to “Take a break for sushi with Kathleen Ann Goonan” in Episode 22 of the series.

Kathleen Ann Goonan

Kathleen Ann Goonan

I may have given you the impression, based on the three previous episodes of Eating the Fantastic, that all I ate while I was in Kansas City for this year’s World Science Fiction Convention was BBQ. Not true! This episode’s guest requested sushi, which led us Bob Wasabi Kitchen, giving me some respite from the meat sweats.

And who’s the guest this time? Kathleen Ann Goonan, whose first novel, Queen City Jazz, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and who won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for In War Times. And, I should add, who wrote the story, “The Bride of Elvis,” which I had the honor of publishing twenty years ago (yikes!), back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine.

(3) LIFE OF TOLKIEN. The Verge reports “J.R.R. Tolkien biopic Middle Earth will add new depth to Lord of the Rings”.

Earlier this week, Deadline revealed that New Line Cinema would be revisiting the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien. Rather than adapting one of his many novels or stories, director James Strong will be helming a film about the author himself, which has the potential to give viewers an entirely new way of looking at the works that he’s most famous for.

Middle Earth is described as following Tolkien’s “early life and love affair with Edith Bratt,” as well as his service to the British Army during the First World War. The film, to be written by Angus Fletcher, is reportedly based on years of archival research on Tolkien’s life.

(4) VAUGHN OBIT. Actor Robert Vaughn (1932-2016) died November 11. His most famous role was Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which aired from 1964-1968, and reprised in a 1983 reunion movie for television. When reruns of the late-1950s series Men Into Space began airing recently, Rich Lynch spotted a young Robert Vaughn in his first sf genre role, the episode “Moon Cloud.”  He appeared in episodes of dozens of TV series over the decades, and in several movies, notably Bullitt and The Magnificent Seven.

The late James H. Burns wrote several File 770 posts about Vaughn, whom he had interviewed for print articles.

When I chatted with Robert Vaughn a few weeks ago, there was a fascinating surprise…

…Vaughn had just spent, for the first time, I believe, a great deal of time watching “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”!

When the U.N.C.L.E. marathon was on, a few months ago (was it on the DECADES cable channel?), Vaughn found himself checking in, within the coziness of his Connecticut home.

He had never really seen the episodes, and was now watching a number of the excellent first season shows.

Now, this isn’t unusual for any actor. In the 1960s, the schedule on television shoots could be overwhelming. (That’s been true, really, in any era of filmmaking.) Vaughn was also busy with his private education, and of course, civic pursuits….

 

We were at a tribute to Vaughn at the Players Club in Manhattan, and were chatting amiably afterwards:

Vaughn was I think I bit surprised and happy that there was someone to talk with who knew a bit about various aspects of his career… (Plus, I had just explained the ending of Bullitt  to him, something which had apparently eluded the both of us, for years!)

…In the early ’70s. Vaughn had signed to star in The Protectors, a syndicated, half-hour action adventure series about international detectives, from ITC and producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. The Andersons, of course, are well known to TV buffs and science fiction fans of a certain age for Supercar, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet — all marionette shows, and the live-action series UFO, and Space: 1999.

The Protectors was a big deal for Anderson, his first major (and, as it turned out, last) mainstream–non-fantasy–endeavor.

The Andersons invited Vaughn and his then business partner to their London home for dinner, for a celebratory meal.

Vaughn and his business manager/pal had drinks in the living room, and then Gerry and Sylvia led them into the formal dining room…

It was only this small group, but the huge table was set for MANY:

And seated at each gilded chair was one of the Andersons’ famous Supermarionation figures!

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 11, 1922 – Kurt Vonnegut

(6) VERTLIEB ON FILM HISTORY PANELS AT PHILCON. Steve Vertlieb wants you to know you can find him at Philcon 2016 in Philadelphia discussing Ray Harryhausen and Hammer Films.

The Convention of The Philadelphia Science Fiction Society at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on Saturday, November 19th, 2016, presents…

THE CLASSIC HAMMER FILMS: AN OVERVIEW

[Panelists: Steve Vertlieb (mod), Richard Stout, John Vaughan, Tony Finan, Mark Leeper, James Chambers]

Hammer Films released numerous productions from the 50’s through the 80’s. From Frankenstein and Dracula with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing to the astonishingly brilliant Quatermass films, these movies helped set up the future of Science Fiction media

Sat 5:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)

RAY HARRYHAUSEN: A LIFE

[Panelists: Steve Vertlieb (mod), Richard Stout]

An affectionate remembrance of a motion picture special effects pioneer, and a nearly fifty year admiration and friendship. Writer Steve Vertlieb recalls the Harryhausen legacy, and a profoundly moving personal relationship with a fantasy film legend

(7) SHATNER DRAMA. The Nate Sanders firm is auctioning a handwritten soliloquy “William Shatner Sincerely Wants to Know Why George Takei Doesn’t Like Him – ‘…Not so long after that very friendly time he began to say very mean things about me. – Why?’”

Fascinating account by William Shatner on his relationship with George Takei, where he seems to try to sincerely understand why Takei doesn’t like him, even perhaps using the account as a public question. Composed on Shatner’s personal stationery, autograph signed recollection reads in full, ”George Takei was living in a beautifully appointed apartment. I was there to interview him for a book I was writing. He was most gracious – kind, mannered even formal. He was the essence of an Asian gentleman. We talked memories of Star Trek, his very difficult childhood given that he and his family were put behind a wired fence – in effect a concentration camp. We were at war with Japan and American fears were such that the government put everybody with a Japanese background into those camps – what a terrible beginning of life. But George had overcome [by] working hard and with intelligence he had bettered himself – he had disciplined his body as a runner and he had done the same with his mind; he was running for office as well. His apartment showed all that discipline – it was ordered, it had character, it was immaculate and so was George. I had never really got to know him. He would come in every so often during the week while we were shooting Star Trek. I was busy learning lines and dealing with my life, so I really can’t remember a meaningful conversation – I’m sure that would be my fault – my lack of attention – Never the less when we all wrapped that last day of shooting it was all meaningfull [sic] – for all of us – Star Trek was cancelled. Until this moment in his apartment we had not spoken. Not so long after that very friendly time he began to say very mean things about me. – Why? / William Shatner”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(8) BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Also on the auction bloc: “William Shatner Defends His Decision Not To Attend His Friend Leonard Nimoy’s Funeral – ‘…we’ll mourn Leonard, say his name and then pledge your money….’”

Very interesting handwritten signed recollection by William Shatner on the death of his friend Leonard Nimoy, who served as Shatner’s best man at his 1997 wedding, but with whom he was no longer speaking to in 2015 when Nimoy died. Shatner famously did not attend Nimoy’s funeral, which he explains here: ”Leonard was very sick – he was in the hospital. His health was difficult – he was in fact dying – but nobody but his family knew – certainly I didn’t. A month or so prior to his going into the hospital, the American Red Cross asked me to do their largest fundraiser. It would be a huge event, thousands of potential donors, millions of dollars. I enthusiastically said yes. I was to leave on a Friday night for a Saturday performance when the news of Leonard’s death was delivered – the funeral was to be Sunday – what to do? My immediate thought given the blinding news of his death, my appearance or non appearance would not be noticed – also what about the people who had given good money with the expectation of seeing me – heartbroken dilemma – I chose to go the Red Cross and as I said to the people there – all is dust – your name, my name, Leonard’s name will soon be forgotten – but the good deeds you do tonight will be long remembered – I meant those emphatically. Helping others ever reverberates through time – we’ll mourn Leonard, say his name and then pledge your money. / William Shatner”. Single page composed on Shatner’s personal stationery measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(9) COMPARING HORNBLOWER AND KIRK. The Nate Sanders house also is auctioning this handwritten anecdote: “William Shatner Describes Captain Kirk: ‘…the gravity of each decision, the mastery of everybody on board…riding a stud horse bareback, loving the ladies – sound familiar?…’”

Fantastic handwritten signed recollection by William Shatner, reflecting on Captain Kirk, his famous alter ego from ”Star Trek”. Composed on Shatner’s personal stationery, he offers an unexpectedly frank and humorous account of Kirk: ”’Horatio Hornblower’ – Roddenberry said in answer to my question ‘who is he like’ – so I read Horatio Hornblower. Horatio is a captain of a British ship plowing the unknown oceans of America in the 1600’s – the loneliness of command, the gravity of each decision, the mastery of everybody on board – awesomeness of command. Yes, very good I got it- and that was the basis of the character of Kirk – I had just, the year before, shot a movie of Alexander the Great, this marvelous, historical character who was one of the great and noble characters of history – using a sword, riding a stud horse bareback, loving the ladies – sound familiar? And those tight costumes!! I had been lifting weights and put on some muscle, I was ready to play Capt. James Tiberius Kirk. Now all I had to do is remember ten pages of dialog – a lot of those words had no basis in English – Scientific goblygook that required head pounding memorization. Memorizing is difficult, some actors, like James Spader, have a photographic memory – they glance at a paper and it’s there forever – me? I have to go over and over and over – it’s a source of great tension – what’s the next word? The eternal actor’s question. / William Shatner”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(10) GENE FOUGHT FOR THE EARS. The fourth item of Shatner holography being auctioned by the Nate Sanders firm is — “William Shatner Reflects on Gene Roddenberry & the ‘Star Trek’ Pilot – ‘….there was some objection to Spock’s ears. ‘Too devilish’ somebody said – Gene fought for the ears….”

 Fantastic handwritten signed recollection by William Shatner on Gene Roddenberry and getting the ”Star Trek” pilot made, as well as his relationship with Roddenberry as the show progressed. Composed on Shatner’s personal stationery, in full: ”I met Gene Roddenberry over the phone – he had called me in New York to ask me to come see a pilot film he had just made for N.B.C. He was calling it Star Trek. I flew to Los Angeles and went to see this pilot film that N.B.C. didn’t want to buy. I thought it was terrific – I sat in Gene’s office and made a few suggestions – I thought the pilot was a little slow, a little ponderous. It could use some lightness, some humor – He looked at me from across the desk and after a silence said ‘Let’s do it’ – We shot the pilot film for the second time and we were rewarded by a sell. He told me later there was some objection to Spock’s ears. ‘Too devilish’ somebody said – Gene fought for the ears and like in a really good bullfight, he was awarded the ears. Gene was on the set in these early shows and we looked to him for guidance and counsel – which he freely gave. I would frequently go to the office and talk to him about the script, some item of dialogue, some thought that I might have – in these early years he was open – that slowly changed as time went on. / William Shatner”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(11) HEIRESSES OF RUSS. A.M. Dellamonica posts the “Heiresses of Russ 2015 ToC Announcement”.

I am so pleased to announce the finalized line-up for Heiresses of Russ 2016, from Lethe Press, edited by Steve Berman and myself. This is my editorial debut and it’s the sixth, I believe in the HoR series. As the Lethe Press site says, Heiresses of Russ reprints the prior year’s best lesbian-themed short works of the fantastical, the otherworldly, the strange and wondrous under one cover.

Here’s the line-up:

(12) SECOND FIFTH ELEMENT. Sciencefiction.com invites us to “Check Out The First Trailer For Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian’”

Although Luc Besson has only occasionally ventured into the realm of science fiction, with films like ‘Lucy‘ and of course ‘The Fifth Element’ to his credit, he has nonetheless made a substantial mark on the genre. And now he is poised to do so once again, with his upcoming film ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets‘.

Based on the long-running French comic ‘Valerian and Laureline’, created by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres (who collaborated with Besson, a longtime fan, on ‘The Fifth Element), the film follows Valerian and his partner/love interest Laureline, a pair of government operatives tasked with investigating Alpha, a vast, alien metropolis that may harbor a grave danger to human civilization….

 

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

Pixel Scroll 10/20/16 Pixeled In The Scroll By My Own Pixel

(1) PLAYING WITH REAL NUMBERS. Aaron tests the idea that EPH will not distort the results when there is no slate in a new post at Dreaming of Other Worlds. Find out what changed on the 2014 final Hugo ballot.

E Pluribus Hugo was passed largely in response to the results of the 2015 Hugo nomination process. I outlined the background leading up to this in my previous post about the 2016 E Pluribus Hugo Revised Hugo Finalists, and I’m not going to repeat myself here. Anyone who wants a summary of the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns, the responses from non-Puppy Hugo voters, and an outline of the mechanics of E Pluribus Hugo can go read about that there.

The E Pluribus Hugo system had several goals. One goal was to dampen the influence of bloc voting. A second goal was to create a system that presented a nominating voter with a means of voting that was substantially similar to the one that voter had under the old system. The third was to create a system that would return results that were as close to those that the old system did in a year in which there was no bloc voting. To test this third goal, the system was used on the 2014 Hugo ballots, which was a year in which there was a Sad Puppy campaign, but no slate in any meaningful sense, and therefore no real bloc voting….

(2) SUMMERTIME. Chapter 10 of T. Kingfisher’s Summer in Orcus has now been released.

When the witch Baba Yaga walks her house into the backyard, eleven-year-old Summer enters into a bargain for her heart’s desire. Her search will take her to the strange, surreal world of Orcus, where birds talk, women change their shape, and frogs sometimes grow on trees. But underneath the whimsy of Orcus lies a persistent darkness, and Summer finds herself hunted by the monstrous Houndbreaker, who serves the distant, mysterious Queen-in-Chains…

(3) RIDERS OF THE PURPLE PAGE. Max Florschutz enters the perpetual debate about “literary” vs. “genre” in “You Just Keep Pushing Me Away…” .

Granted, I could write a whole thing on how genre fiction can (and does) approach the tough questions, demands intelligent thought and reason, and present ideas (and when it comes down to it, most who disagree are either cherry picking their examples or of the mindset of “that doesn’t support the message and ideas I want,” which doesn’t help). I could talk about that, pull examples, etc. But I won’t. Not at this point.

No, instead, I’m going to tackle a different point. The idea that “literary” fiction is automatically intelligent and thought-provoking. Because this isn’t accurate. No, more accurate would be that it’s fiction that thinks it’s intelligent or thought provoking, written by someone who thinks they’re presenting something much more “intellectual” than it actually is. When it really isn’t … but they’re too “smart” to do the research to know otherwise.

… What’s sad about this is I could see myself enjoying more “literary” works.  The writing is more tell, sure, and more purple, but sometimes that’s pretty good purple. Sometimes there’s some neat ideas buried in there.

But my issue is that they are buried in there. It’s like “literary” writers can’t be bothered to do the most basic of research. And that pushes me away. Back towards genre fiction, where, despite not being the “intelligent” fiction choice, the science is real, the facts are usually real (or pretty close), and even when I’m reading about fantasy kingdom of some kind, said kingdom is actually laid out like a real government and civilization would be. As opposed to the “literary” version, which comes off feeling like Disney-mythology in comparison.

It just keeps pushing me away. Especially with all the battles over how “literary” fiction is the “superior” fiction, or the more intelligent, or the more meaningful, etc. I just can’t take a story seriously that can’t grasp basic parts of life, like how a car works. Or a TV. Or science.

(4) ANOTHER MIDDLE-EARTH TALE ON WAY TO PRESS. “JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth love story to be published next year” reports The Guardian.

JRR Tolkien’s legend of the mortal man Beren and the immortal elf Lúthien – a story that meant so much to the Lord of the Rings author that the characters’ names are engraved on the headstone shared by him and his wife – is to be published next year.

The Middle-earth tale tells of the love between the mortal man and the immortal elf. Lúthien’s father, an Elvish lord, is against their relationship, and so gives Beren an impossible task to fulfil before the two can be married, said HarperCollins, which will publish Beren and Lúthien next May. The pair then go on to rob “the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril”, or jewel.

(5) PULITZER EXPANDS ELIGIBILITY. Crain’s New York Business reports print and online magazines are now eligible for Pulitzer Prizes in all journalism categories.

The Pulitzer Prize Board announced Wednesday that entries of work done in 2016 will be accepted beginning in December for the 2017 prizes.

The board says it made its decision after two years of experimentation.

New entry guidelines are posted at Pulitzer.org.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY VAMPIRE

  • Born October 20, 1882 — Bela Lugosi.

lugosi-birthday-card

(7) HORROR READING.Ellen Datlow’s photos of the “Children of Lovecraft Reading October 16, 2016” are on Flickr.

Laird Barron, John Langan, A. C. Wise, Siobhan Carroll, Richard Kadrey, and David Nickle all read wonderfully at the Lovecraft Bar on Avenue B in NYC’s east village.

chidren-of-lovecraft-reading

(8) PLAYTIME. I got a kick from John Scalzi’s first line in one of his mallet-is-out warnings:

  1. Hey, two political posts in the same day! Can you tell I finished my book?

(9) TIME TO LEVEL UP YOUR ALIENS. Motherboard’s post “The Way We’ve Been Imagining Aliens Is All Wrong” sets us straight.

Why do we always picture aliens as distorted humans?

Science fiction has failed to creatively, or even accurately, imagine alien life, said British science writer Philip Ball in an article, “The Aeon Idea: Why our imagination for alien life is so impoverished.” Now Aeon, a digital ideas and culture magazine, just released a video called Stranger Aliens, adapted from Ball’s theory and narrated by Ball himself.

 

(10) DIVERSITY ON DISCOVERY. Otaku-kun at Haibane comments on the proposal: “A Muslim crew member on Star Trek: Discovery?”

I think including an explicit Muslim would be jarring since tehre is no other “real world” religion represented in Star Trek, at least for the Human society. It was Roddenberry’s world and he chose to eliminate religion from it. Adding a character who is explicitly Muslim complicates canon and introduces tension that undermines Star Trek’s appeal to all of humanity. Then you also need canon explanations for the status of Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. This mess is exactly why religion was introduced to DS9 using the alien Bajoran society rather than picking one from our own.

The solution is to recognize that Islamophobia is not an intellectual reaction to a religion’s precepts, but rooted in racial and ethnic fears. Having a stand-in on the crew for a “Muslim-y” ethnic type would be great because that way when someone sees a Muslim on the street, they should be able to counter their knee-jerk stereotype by relating that person to this crewmember. Therefore, the ethnic choice of the actor is relevant to maximize that stereotype-defeating analogy. Which ethnicity works best for this purpose?

(11) WHO’S THE GEEZER? selenay articulates the cross-generational stresses affecting fanfic writers in “Regarding all the AO3 bashing” (AO3 = Archive of Our Own).

Us olds remember the old days. The days when you had to label all slash–even when it was just hand-holding–as NC17 and plaster it with warnings. The days when only certain archives accepted slash at all, and you could get your FFN account or LJ suspended if someone objected to your boy kissing fics, so everything was locked down under f-lock or posted to the adult slash-friendly archives with a thousand warning pop-ups. The days when RPF was never to be spoken of because almost no archive accepted it. The days when we all danced around carefully because at any moment, our favourite fics could be deleted and never seen again if a site advertiser threatened to withdraw funding….

Current fandom has splintered and seems to have broken into generational buckets. The youngest part of fandom is on Tumblr and Snapchat. The older part of fandom is on Tumblr a bit, but not much, and many of us have stepped a long way back from it because we’re made so unwelcome. We’re still here on LJ, DW, Twitter, and Imzy, where the youngs aren’t so much. Due to those divides, there isn’t that interaction and mutual learning, so the younger fanfolk don’t know the history. They don’t know why AO3 exists and why we’re so passionate about not censoring it. They’ve never had to creep around on the edges of fandom because they were slashers, or RPF-ers, or wrote explicit fics after FFN banned them.

The divide is also contributing to the feeling that anyone over thirty shouldn’t be fannish anymore, and I suspect that’s part of the AO3 wankery. There aren’t many people from that very young end of the fandom involved with the OTW or AO3, so it feels like the olds run it. We created it, we fundraised for it, we continue to work on it and we’re old, by their standards. We should have shuffled off to our graveyards or our adult lives or something.

Except we haven’t, because when we were the fandom babies, there were all these fans older than us who were still active and we learned we’ll never be too old for fandom. With the divide getting so sharp between the youngest and everyone else, they’re not getting that part of the fannish experience, either. They can’t imagine being thirty (or forty, or fifty), never mind being that age and still being in fandom.

You’ve also got the problem that Tumblr-style activism is very different from what we were doing five or ten years ago. It’s all about protecting young eyes not just from the content, but from knowing the content is even there. About removing it so it doesn’t need to be thought of. For them, “don’t like, don’t read” isn’t enough. They don’t want anyone to read it or see it or write it.

(12) A VISIT TO ANTIQUITY. James Davis Nicoll has posted his latest Young People Read Old SF, assigning them “Snowball Effect” by Katherine MacLean.

Although she won a Nebula Award for The Missing Man, Katherine MacLean is hardly a household name these days. Her most productive period ran from the 1950s to the 1970s. That Nebula was won in 1971; other honours (such as being a professional guest of honor at the very first WisCon in 1977) are almost all of a similar vintage. She was admired for her ability to combine character with plot, character being an element of fiction many of her contemporaries seemed willing to do without.

In her heyday, MacLean was one of the few high-profile women working in the field. In the specific context of these reviews, she is remarkable in a different way: the first author selected who is still with us: born in 1925, she is but 91. Her birthday is January 22: join me in raising a glass to this grand figure of science fiction.

(13) LARPING FOR PEACE. In a piece on Vimeo called “Bjarke Pedersen:  Becoming the Story,”  Danish LARPer Bjarke Pedersen explains what “Nordic LARP” is and how in Scandinavia, LARPers work together to come up with stories they wouldn’t be able to create on their own.  Pedersen’s video was presented at the Future of Storytelling conference held in New York City two weeks ago.

As the Creative Director of Odyssé and one of the world’s experts on LARPing, Bjarke Pedersen has spent many years exploring the power of this collaborative form of storytelling. He’s observed that by getting a chance to engage with different characters, LARPers are also able to learn more about themselves. LARPing is also particularly powerful for the ways in which it relies on building trust among people. Many individuals are able to tell their own stories within a given framework, but it is the larger output of so many different stories being told at the same time that makes LARPing so unique and powerful.

 

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

 

Pixel Scroll 9/22/16 Little Old Lady Got Pixelated Late Last Night

(1) SHINY. What’s the latest at Young People Read Old SF? Curator James Davis Nicoll has assigned them Arthur C. Clarke’s “Superiority”.

I knew I would be offering my subjects a Clarke story at some point, not because he is an old favourite of mine, but because Clarke was name-checked in the Facebook post that inspired Young People Read Old SF.

nobody discovers a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein anymore, and directing newbies toward the work of those masters is a destructive thing, because the spark won’t happen.

But which Clarke? A White Hart anecdote? (No bar stories in this series … so far). A Meeting with Medusa? His creepy “A Walk in the Dark”? The puritanical “I Remember Babylon”? After considerable dithering, I selected 1951’s “Superiority,” because I thought pretty much everyone has had some worthy endeavour undermined by someone else’s desire to embrace a new shiny, whether it’s a committee member using email options they clearly have not mastered (1) or simply someone who discovers Windows 10 installing itself on their once useful computer. Or, in the case that inspired Clarke, the V2 rocket program that undermined the German war effort….

(2) THE QUESTION. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog couldn’t be more right — “The Biggest Question in Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Series or Standalone?” Aidan Moher and Corrina Lawson take opposite sides in the debate.

Aidan: Very interesting. I was definitely raised on series and trilogies as I first discovered science fiction and fantasy, and I totally agree that there’s something exciting and comforting for a young reader to know that there are more books just like the one she’s finished reading. As I’ve grown older, though, my tastes have changed quite a bit.

Honestly, I think that downfall you mention is a serious one for me. My time for reading is limited, even more so as I’ve grown older, established a career, and started a family, so I want to know that when I commit to a story, I’m guaranteed some measure of satisfaction by the time I finish it….

Corrina: It’s the time commitment for a stand-alone that gets to me. I have to take that extra time to get used to the style of the book. I’m more likely to enjoy something that is fast-paced in that case, like Chuck Wendig’s Invasive, which really reads more like a movie playing in my head….

(3) MACARTHUR FELLOWS. The 2016 MacArthur Fellows have been named, recipients of the “genius grants.”

The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more

Here are some of the fellows who are involved in the arts:

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, New York, New York
Playwright using a range of theatrical genres in subversive, often unsettling works that engage frankly with the ways in which race, class, and history are negotiated in both private and public.
Josh Kun, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
Cultural Historian exploring the ways in which the arts and popular culture are conduits to cross-cultural exchange and bringing diverse communities in Los Angeles together around heretofore unnoticed cultural commonalities.
Maggie Nelson, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
Writer rendering pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day experience in works of nonfiction marked by dynamic interplay between personal experience and critical theory.
Claudia Rankine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
Poet crafting critical texts for understanding American culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century in inventive, ever-evolving forms of poetic expression.
Lauren Redniss, Parsons, The New School for Design, New York, New York
Artist and Writer fusing artwork, written text, and design in a unique approach to visual nonfiction that enriches the ways in which stories can be conveyed, experienced, and understood.
Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker, New York, New York
Long-Form Journalist bringing to light the stories of people usually invisible to mainstream reporting and providing new and compelling perspectives on even well-covered social justice issues.
Gene Luen Yang, San Jose, California
Graphic Novelist bringing diverse people and cultures to children’s and young adult literature and confirming comics’ place as an important creative and imaginative force within literature, art, and education.

 

(4) GENRE REALITY. Ann Leckie takes a swing at defining “Real Science Fiction” by looking at a negative definition.

It is notoriously difficult to define “science fiction” but a common attempt to do so–to wall off stuff that isn’t “really” science fiction from the proper stuff–is to assert that a real science fiction story wouldn’t survive the removal of the science fictiony bits, where, I don’t know, I guess “fake” science fiction is just Westerns with spaceships instead of horses or somesuch….

And I can’t help noticing how often this particular criterion is used to delegitimize stories as “real” science fiction that by any other measure would more than qualify. It’s not just that the critic doesn’t really like this work, no, sadly the story is just not “really” science fiction, because if you take away the robots and the spaceships and the cloning and the black holes and the aliens and the interstellar civilizations and the fact that it’s set way in the future, well, it’s still a story about people wanting something and struggling to get it. Not really science fiction, see?

(5) SCHEINMAN OBIT. How “The Day the Earth Stood Still” became the impetus for the creation of assembly-line robots. From a New York Times obituary.

Victor Scheinman [1942-2016], who overcame his boyhood nightmares about a science-fiction movie humanoid to build the first successful electrically powered, computer-controlled industrial robot, died on Tuesday in Petrolia, Calif. He was 73.

His brother, Dr. Richard Scheinman, said the cause was complications of heart disease. He said he had been driving his brother to visit Dr. Scheinman’s home in Northern California when he apparently had a heart attack. He lived in Woodside, near Palo Alto, Calif.

Mr. Scheinman was part of Stanford University’s mechanical engineering department when, in 1969, he developed a programmable six-jointed robot that was named the Stanford Arm.

It was adapted by manufacturers to become the leading robot in assembling and spot-welding products, ranging from fuel pumps and windshield wipers for automobiles to inkjet cartridges for printers. Its ability to perform repeatable functions continuously equaled or surpassed that of human workers.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

Born September 22, 1982 — Billie Piper. Order your Rose Tyler action figure now!

billie-piper-rose-tyler-series-4-side

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • September 22 – Bilbo
  • September 22 — Frodo

(8) YOUR PATRONUS. “Now Pottermore Lets You Find Out Your Patronus (J.K. Rowling Got a Heron)”io9 has the story.

The latest feature on Pottermore, the ever-expanding home of Harry Potter content, is a quiz designed by J.K. Rowling to tell you what your Patronus is.

In case you’d forgotten, a Patronus is a spell conjured by a happy memory and the incantation “Expecto patronum!” The Patronus takes the form of a silvery animal that protects against the soul-crushing depression caused by exposure to Dementors.

The test on Pottermore, like all Pottermore quizzes, is multiple choice. Only instead of answering a question, two or three words pop up and you have a short time to click one instinctively. No thoughts needed or wanted.

(9) KEN LIU TRANSLATIONS. Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction from editor/translator Ken Liu will be released November 1, 2016. Here’s more information plus the Table of Contents.

Award-winning translator and author Ken Liu presents a collection of short speculative fiction from China.

Some stories have won awards; some have been included in various ‘Year’s Best’ anthologies; some have been well reviewed by critics and readers; and some are simply Ken’s personal favorites. Many of the authors collected here (with the obvious exception of Liu Cixin) belong to the younger generation of ‘rising stars’.

In addition, three essays at the end of the book explore Chinese science fiction. Liu Cixin’s essay, The Worst of All Possible Universes and The Best of All Possible Earths, gives a historical overview of SF in China and situates his own rise to prominence as the premier Chinese author within that context. Chen Qiufan’s The Torn Generation gives the view of a younger generation of authors trying to come to terms with the tumultuous transformations around them. Finally, Xia Jia, who holds the first Ph.D. issued for the study of Chinese SF, asks What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?.

Full table of contents:

  • Introduction: Chinese Science Fiction in Translation

Chen Qiufan

  • The Year of the Rat
  • The Fish of Lijiang
  • The Flower of Shazui

Xia Jia

  • A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight
  • Tongtong’s Summer
  • Night Journey of the Dragon-Horse (unpublished)

Ma Boyong

  • The City of Silence

Hao Jingfang

  • Invisible Planets
  • Folding Beijing

Tang Fei

  • Call Girl

Cheng Jingbo

  • Grave of the Fireflies

Liu Cixin

  • The Circle
  • Taking Care of God

Essays

  • The Worst of All Possible Universes and the Best of All Possible Earths: Three-Body and Chinese Science Fiction
  • The Torn Generation: Chinese Science Fiction in a Culture in Transition
  • What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?

(10) BANDERSNATCH. Diana Pavlac Glyer’s book about the Inklings, Bandersnatch, was released in January 2016. Here was one of the ads from last year encouraging people to pre-order….

gilligan-bandersnatch

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Darrah Chavey, Dawn Incognito, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stores. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Arthurs.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/16 Happy Birthday Star Trek

A modest Scroll, but mine own.

(1) WORLD FANTASY CON EVOLVES. Meg Turville-Heitz posted a statement about potential changes in World Fantasy Con on Facebook on August 26.

Apologies for the length of the following, but it is in response to a lengthy letter to the board from Andy Duncan and thus requires some length in return…..

Since we are in the process of agreeing on a new structure for the board, issues of board make up and authorities will be discussed as part of our larger conversation about what we will look like in the wake of David’s passing, and thus will be addressed when that is finalized.

We’ve heard, as well, a number of concerns that we as a board have been non-responsive. This is a product of time scales. We approve conventions two to three years out and thus requirements that we put in place in a given year required already seated conventions to react, which can appear like disorder, when it is not. In 2012, a series of incidents regarding harassment, beginning at other conventions, led us to add a harassment policy to our guidelines and a requirement that upcoming conventions draft one. The word, harassment, however, became a problem. Some of the jurisdictions require anything that can be called harassment be reported to the police for incidents that, in convention culture, wouldn’t be appropriate. We modified this to a requirement for a code of conduct and have been building upon the code of conduct language from DC in 2014. We’ve shared this language with upcoming committees as we work through what we want in place. We are limited, again, by local jurisdictions that could supersede our policy regarding something such as, for example, concealed weapons.

Additionally, concerns about the hotel setup in Saratoga Springs in 2015 (board members were participants on panels where the issues were evident, and were also highly dissatisfied with the hotel’s response to an inaccessible dining room) led the board to add the requirement for accessibility guidelines be provided by incoming conventions and as part of upcoming bids. Board members were working on drafting an acceptable guidance document when David died.

Our difficulty with that document comes from the fact that as a mobile convention, we are landing in places where other laws again supersede our guidelines. We have guidance that we will be looking at that suggests language and kinds of policies, but it must remain flexible.

Regarding Columbus’ program, we have looked at the guerilla site and agree that there are great ideas there. Some topics are not relevant to WFC (e.g. science fiction); others clarify topics we have and we plan to steal from it liberally. Darrell’s role in programming is far advanced, and the timing in the convention planning process does not allow for Columbus to seek a replacement. Ellen Datlow has worked with him to vet and build a better and more diverse program. Critical errors were a draft, unvetted program being published.That’s partly due to disrupted leadership as David had always assumed final authority on the program. We aren’t flush with volunteers who know how to program. If we were, some of these issues wouldn’t even need to be debated

And continues at great length.

(2) SNAIL MAIL SALUTES STAR TREK. Classic Trek went on the air 50 years ago today, and the US Postal Service has issued a sheet of stamps in commemoration.

On September 8, 1966, Star Trek premiered. Centered on the interstellar voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the prime-time television program’s mission was to boldly go where no man has gone before.With an intricate futuristic setting, multicultural cast, and story lines that touched on social issues, Star Trek pushed past the boundaries of popular science fiction and became a worldwide phenomenon. Each of the 20 self-adhesive Star Trek stamps showcases one of four digital illustrations inspired by elements of the classic TV show…

Star Trek

(3) PLANETARY POST.  Robert Picardo’s latest Planetary Post for the Planetary Society.

In this issue, I share my journey to San Diego Comic-Con, where I quiz Trekkies and NASA scientists with trivia to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. Engage:

 

(4) A TRIBE THAT FITS THE DESCRIPTION. Meir Soloveichik makes a Tolkien-endorsed case in “The Secret Jews of The Hobbit” for Commentary Magazine,

…The dwarves of Middle Earth, the central characters of one of the most beloved books of all time, are indeed based on the Jews. This was confirmed by Tolkien himself in a 1971 interview on the BBC: “The dwarves of course are quite obviously, [sic] couldn’t you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews?” he asked. “Their words are Semitic obviously, constructed to be Semitic.” Similarly, in a letter to his daughter, Tolkien reflected, “I do think of the ‘Dwarves’ like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue.” …

(5) NO CHILLS. The Guardian reports on a study that found “One third of parents avoid reading children scary stories”.

A psychologist has stressed the importance of scary children’s literature, after new research revealed that a third of parents would avoid reading their children a story containing a frightening character. A survey of 1,003 UK parents by online bookseller The Book People found that 33% would steer clear of books for their children containing frightening characters. Asked about the fictional creations they found scariest as children, a fifth of parents cited the Wicked Witch of the West from L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with the Child Catcher from Ian Fleming’s Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang in second place. Third was the Big Bad Wolf, in his grandmother-swallowing Little Red Riding Hood incarnation, fourth the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl’s The Witches, and fifth Cruella de Vil, from Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians…

(6) DROPPED IN THE PUNCHBOWL. Don’t let the birthday party stop you. Cheat Sheet fights another round in a timeless culture war: “’Star Wars’ vs. ‘Star Trek’: Why ‘Star Trek’ is Losing”

Star Wars versus Star Trek. The classic debate continues to rage on. But while Star Trek has gained popularity in recent years with both Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) achieving mainstream appeal and box office success, it’s still nothing compared to what The Force Awakens (2015) did this past December both at the box office and when it came to popular culture. In fact, to date the Star Wars series has made $2.8 billion with eight films compared to Star Trek’s $1.2 billion through 12 films. So why has Star Wars continued to be such a juggernaut in the cultural landscape compared to its sci-fi foe? Here are six reasons why Star Wars might be winning the long battle with Star Trek.

(7) MARTINSON OBIT. Leslie H. Martinson, a ubiquitous TV director who was active for decades, has died at the age of 101 reports the New York Times.

Just a partial list includes, from the 1950s, the live drama series “General Electric Theater” and “Chevron Theater,” the sitcom “Topper,” the drama “The Millionaire” and the westerns “The Roy Rogers Show” and “Tales of Wells Fargo.” In the ’60s, he directed episodes of “Surfside 6,” “Maverick,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “The Roaring Twenties,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “No Time for Sergeants,” “Run for Your Life,” “Batman,” “Mister Roberts,” “Mission: Impossible” and “The Green Hornet.” His output in the ’70s included “Ironside,” “Love, American Style,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Room 222,” “Mannix,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Wonder Woman” and “Dallas.” He wound up his television career in the ’80s with, among others, “Eight Is Enough,” “Quincy, M.E.,” “CHiPs,” “Fantasy Island” and “Diff’rent Strokes.”

 [Thanks to Andrew Porter and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26/16 I Am The Very Pixel Of A Modern Scrolling General

(1) WONDER WOMAN FOREVER. At the San Diego Comic-Con the Postal Service announced “Wonder Woman’s 75th Anniversary to be Celebrated on Forever Stamps”. The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony will take place October 7 at New York Comic-Con.

wonder woman stamps

This new issuance showcases four different stamp designs on a sheet of 20 stamps depicting Wonder Woman during four eras of comic book history:  Golden Age (1941–55), Silver Age (1956–72), Bronze Age (1973–86) and Modern Age (1987–present).

On the first row of stamps Wonder Woman of the Modern Age wields a hammer with a power and determination befitting her roots in the heroic world of Greek mythology.

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The Bronze Age Wonder Woman’s bold stance empowers the second row of stamps. With her fist held high and bulletproof bracelets gleaming, the Amazon princess leads the charge against injustice.

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The third row of stamps depicts Wonder Woman during the Silver Age. Although she possesses great strength and speed, the world’s favorite superheroine prefers compassion to the use of brute force. With her golden lasso of truth close at hand, she compels honesty from her foes.

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In the last row of stamps, Wonder Woman from the Golden Age bursts onto the scene as originally envisioned by creator William Moulton Marston.

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Art director Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, VA, designed the stamp pane.

(2) SIGNATURE TRAITS. Max Florschutz continues his “Being A Better Writer” series of posts with “Giving Characters a Leitmotif”.

….Now, to some of you long-time readers, this may sound somewhat familiar. After all, we’ve spoken before of ways to show a reader character through dialogue choice or body language. Here and now, however, I’m sort of pulling all of this together into a single, overarching idea: What leitmotif have you given your character? What element of their personality, attribute of their view of the world, are you going to weave into their parts (or perhaps point of view) in order to let the reader know exactly who they’re following even before you give them a name?

No joke. With strong enough characterization to a character’s perspective, it’s entirely possible to write a piece that, without ever mentioning a character’s name, is identifiable wholly as that character’s own. Through use of specific dialogue ticks, phrasing, complexity of language, or even things like catch phrases, general attitudes, or body language, you can inform a reader exactly who your character is.

Better yet, such an action will, if varied (we’ll talk about that in a moment) bring the character to life. Because let’s be honest here: We all have a “leitmotif.” Each of us has very recognizable traits that allow others to see who we are quite quickly(an old friend of mine once—no joke—identified me in the dark, only from my silhouette, on the explained logic of “no one else walks with that much casual swagger” … and come to think of it, that’s happened more than once).

Likewise, as you sit down to create—and then write—a character, what “leitmotifs” are you going to give them? What verbal cues, what methods of thought, or what reactions will they have. Will they be fight or flight? Will they be brusque to those they don’t know? Courteous? Do they think of themselves in first or second person when thinking?

Now, I know this all sounds like character design and development stuff—and it is! But what I’m bringing to the front here is not just the act of deciding all this stuff, but of picking the ones that you’ll weave into everything about the character….

(3) BOIL ‘TIL DONE. The New York Times invites you to “Meet Luca, the Ancestor of All Living Things”. At least, that’s the theory.

….Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old….

….Genes that do the same thing in a human and a mouse are generally related by common descent from an ancestral gene in the first mammal. So by comparing their sequence of DNA letters, genes can be arranged in evolutionary family trees, a property that enabled Dr. Martin and his colleagues to assign the six million genes to a much smaller number of gene families. Of these, only 355 met their criteria for having probably originated in Luca, the joint ancestor of bacteria and archaea.

Genes are adapted to an organism’s environment. So Dr. Martin hoped that by pinpointing the genes likely to have been present in Luca, he would also get a glimpse of where and how Luca lived. “I was flabbergasted at the result, I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

The 355 genes pointed quite precisely to an organism that lived in the conditions found in deep sea vents, the gassy, metal-laden, intensely hot plumes caused by seawater interacting with magma erupting through the ocean floor.

…Dr. Sutherland, working from basic principles of chemistry, has found that ultraviolet light from the sun is an essential energy source to get the right reactions underway, and therefore that land-based pools, not the ocean, are the most likely environment in which life began.

“We didn’t set out with a preferred scenario; we deduced the scenario from the chemistry,” he said, chiding Dr. Martin for not having done any chemical simulations to support the deep sea vent scenario.

Dr. Martin’s portrait of Luca “is all very interesting, but it has nothing to do with the actual origin of life,” Dr. Sutherland said.

(4) PRINCESS CHARMING. Roby and Kreider have turned to Kickstarter to get their next project out of the starting gate – Princess Charming: for a Few Princesses More.

Josh Roby has been writing professionally for more than a decade (and writing unprofessionally for a long time before that), and has worked as an editor for curriculum development and a number of early reader titles. Nowadays, most of Josh’s time is spent as a home maker and raising two darling children.

Anna Kreider is a writer, game designer, and illustrator who spends a lot of time blogging about depictions of women in pop culture. She is also attempting to raise a toddler, despite the toddler’s best efforts to the contrary.

Here’s what they’re doing —

Princess Charming

We started the Princess Charming book series to make children’s books that feature active, competent princess characters who do more than wait around to get rescued. We’ve already published six books across three different reading levels, but we’re far from done.

Publishing the first six books was a great experience, and we’re ready to bring out the second batch, starting with Princess Rowan Charming.

Only one thing slows down our Rowan — her friend, Prince Sundara, who insists on coming along. Something about Rowan having only one hand and that he has to protect her. But he only gets in the way! Somehow Rowan has to make the boy understand that he’s not cut out for adventuring… before he gets hurt.

And In the Wings…

If we fund all of Princess Rowan’s titles, we’ve got two more princesses lined up and ready to go: Princess Chandra and Princess Nayeli are both penciled in for three books, which we will unlock as stretch goals.

With a week to go, the appeal has raised $1,875 of its $3,000 goal.

(5) SEVEN DEAD GODS. Westercon 67 alumnus Valynne Maetani has hit it big. Publishers Weekly has the story – “Two YA Authors Tweet Mutual Interests into Six-Figure Deal”.

What began as a casual Twitter conversation between two long-time friends who for years talked about writing a book together – Valynne Maetani and Courtney Alameda – has become a hot property that recently was sold to HarperCollins in a two-book, six-figure deal after an auction earlier this year in which four major publishers participated. The final contract was signed in June.

Seven Dead Gods, the YA novel co-written by Maetani and Alameda, who have both been represented by John Cusick (now with Folio Literary Management/Folio Jr.) since 2012, is scheduled to publish in winter 2018. While Cusick described Seven Dead Gods as a combination of “An Ember in the Ashes and Daughter of Smoke and Bone meets Akira Kurosawa,” Alexandra Cooper, the HarperCollins editor who acquired it, used more cinematic terms: “Mean Girls meets Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

According to the two co-authors, it’s simply the inevitable culmination of their mutual passion for horror, anime, comic book culture, and Kurosawa’s classic Japanese epic movies. In Seven Dead Gods, which is set in modern-day Japan, 17-year-old Kira, who is the victim of bullying at her school, finds solace working in her grandfather’s Shinto shrine. After realizing that she can see and commune with demons, Kira – with her younger sister in tow – partners with seven “death gods,” or “Shinigami” in Japanese, to save Kyoto from destruction.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 26, 1969 — First Moon rock samples analyzed.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 –Aldous Huxley
  • Born July 26, 1928 — Stanley Kubrick

(8) MONUMENT TO A HUGO BALLOT. Lurkertype finished voting for the Hugos and Retro-Hugos and celebrated by using the Pulp-O-Mizer mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll to make this faux pulp cover.

(9) WILL JRRT FOLLOW GRRM ON HBO? That’s what iDigital Times would like to see: “’The Silmarillion’ TV Series: HBO Should Adapt ‘The Silmarillion’ After ‘Game of Thrones’”.

The Silmarillion would be an incredible successor to Game of Thrones on HBO, not least because the two would be so different. The Silmarillion is firmly set in the epic vein, in the realm of the mythic; Game of Thrones is a story of kings and princes, but has always been down to earth, even in its new epic fantasy phase. The battles in The Silmarillion are more elemental; these are wars between Elves and dragons, Balrogs, giant spiders and endless hordes of orcs, and sometimes the gods themselves intervene. But the story itself is incredibly interesting—it has the depth and complexity to carry a series, even one that’s more directly fantastical than Game of Thrones.

Could it happen? It’s not impossible. The Tolkien family still holds the film rights to The Silmarillion, and Christopher Tolkien has made it very clear that Peter Jackson isn’t getting those rights, not after the debacle of The Hobbit movies. But that doesn’t mean no one is getting them. HBO has shown itself a relatively careful steward of such properties, and it’s willing to invest in the money and talent to do such shows right.

(10) WHAT WILL DARTH SAY? After Tor Books announced its latest round of promotions, Elizabeth Bear voiced the joke that immediately came to some people’s minds —

(11) NEEDS A CLUE. Spacefaring Kitten is “No-Awarding Editors and Avengers”.

I don’t think that any of the novel editors does a bad job (ok, maybe one of them). This is strictly a protest vote against the insane category. How can anybody who is not an industry insider come to any conclusion about who is better than someone else in turning mediocre books into great ones? I have no clue.

So when you have no clue, why cast a vote that in principal can obstruct others who don’t feel that way from giving an award?

(12) ONE TRICK. Was there any question about this being the end times?

“Zombie Dog – The Barking Dead Messenger Pet”

zombie dog

(13) MASHUP. Brian Kesinger came up with a good one —

(14) PIONEER OF UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE. Sir Julius Vogel, for whom New Zealand’s national sf award is named, was remembered at a special memorial service in London at the beginning of the month, though not for reasons to do with his fantasy writing, which was never mentioned.

Vogel had a visionary imagination. He wrote about air cruisers, driven by engines much like jet engines, the inventor of which was a young Jewish woman, niece of the spymaster. He envisages large irrigation schemes in the South Island, electricity as the prime source of domestic light and heat, hydro-electricity as a major source of power.

In political developments, he foresaw a global federation of financial interests that maintained world peace, taxation as the great divisive issue threatening to break up the empire, and the resolution of the issue of Irish Home Rule.

There is no limit to Vogel’s seemingly far-fetched ideas.

The Southland Times, reviewing Vogel’s book, said: “In Anno Domini 2000, it is easy to detect the hand of a beginner. The plot, if plot it can be called, is not very ingenious, the dialogue is not very brilliant and the characterisation is decidedly poor. The whole story is moreover ridiculously improbable.”

What is interesting is that Vogel, who was reminded of his Jewish identity throughout his life, whom his political opponents described as the “wandering Jew”, whose newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, was referred to as “that despicable literary dish clout”, “the Jew’s Harp”, created a positive image of Jewishness in one of the leading characters of his work of fantasy.

(15) A HUMMER. I must have missed this one the first time it came around in 2006.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Dave Doering, JJ, and James Davis Nicoll for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/16 Dead Sea Pixel Scrolls

(1) EYEING EARTHSEA. Ursula K. Le Guin talks about working with Charles Vess, illustrator of The Big Book of Earthsea, in a post for Book View Café.

…So, this is how it’s been going:

Charles begins the conversation, emailing me occasonally with questions, remarks, while reading the books. I answer as usefully as I can. Also, we chat. I find out that he has sailed all around Scotland. He tells me about Neil Gunn’s novel The Silver Darlings, which I read with vast pleasure. I don’t know what I tell him, but slowly and at easy intervals a friendship is being established.

Suddenly Charles sends me a sketch of a dragon.

It is an excellent dragon. But it isn’t an Earthsea dragon.

Why?

Well . . . an Earthsea dragon wouldn’t have this, see? but it would have that . . . And the tail isn’t exactly right, and about those bristly things —

So I send Charles an email full of whines and niggles and what-if-you-trieds-such-and-suches. I realize how inadequate are my attempts to describe in words the fierce and beautiful being I see so clearly.

Brief pause.

The dragon reappears. Now it looks more like an Earthsea dragon….

(2) QUINN KICKSTARTER REACHES TARGET. Jameson Quinn’s YouCaring appeal today passed the $1,300 goal. I, for one, am glad to see that news.

(3) YA HORROR. “And Now for Something Completely Different: Adding Humor to Your Horror”: Amanda Bressler tells YA writers how, at the Horror Writers Association blog.

With the popularity of dark comedies, it should be no surprise that horror and humor can be a compelling mix. However, when it comes to young adult books, few succeed at the balance that keeps a funny horror book from losing its edge or appearing to try too hard. Here are a few humorous elements used in YA horror to enhance the story, characters, or setting without sacrificing their horror-ness.

(4) EARLY HINT OF ELVEN. Soon to be available in print again: “70-year-old Tolkien poem reveals early ‘Lord of the Rings’ character”.

A poem by J.R.R. Tolkien that’s been out of print since the year World War II ended will be published this fall for the first time in 70 years, the Guardian reports.

And even if you were around in 1945, you likely didn’t see the poem unless you were a dedicated reader of literary journal The Welsh Review. That’s where “The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun” (Breton for “lord and lady”) was published, based on a work Tolkien had started around 1930.

Why should modern readers care? The poem suggests an early version of elf queen Galadriel from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion.” The poem tells of a couple that cannot have children until visiting a witch known as the Corrigan, who grants them twins, but later demands a price be paid for her assistance.

(5) GOBBLE GOBBLE. New Scientist calls it “Einstein’s clock: The doomed black hole to set your watch by”.

OJ 287’s situation is a window into what must have happened in galaxies all over the universe. Galaxies grow by eating their own kind, and almost all of them come with a supermassive black hole at the centre.

Once two galaxies merge, their black holes – now forced to live in one new mega-galaxy – will either banish their rival with a gravitational kick that flings their opponent out of the galaxy, or eventually merge into an even bigger black hole.

In OJ 287, the smaller black hole is en route to becoming a snack for the larger one. The larger one is also growing from a surrounding disc of gas and dust, the material from which slowly swirls down the drain. Each time the smaller black hole completes an orbit, it comes crashing through this disc at supersonic speeds.

That violent impact blows bubbles of hot gas that expand, thin out, and then unleash a flood of ultraviolet radiation – releasing as much energy as 20,000 supernova explosions in the same spot. You could stand 36 light years away and tan faster than you would from the sun on Earth.

Even with all this thrashing, the smaller black hole has no chance of escape.  Energy leaches away from the binary orbit, bringing the pair closer together and making each cycle around the behemoth a little shorter than the last.

Although the outbursts may be impressive, the black holes’ orbital dance emits tens of thousands of times more energy as undulations in space time called gravitational waves.

Last year, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US offered a preview of the endgame of OJ 287 in miniature. Twice in 2015, LIGO heard gravitational waves from the final orbits of black-hole pairs in which each black hole was a few dozen times the size of the sun, and then the reverberations of the single one left behind.

(6) SFWA CHAT HOUR. In SFWA Chat Hour Episode 4: Special Pokémon Go Edition, SFWA board and staff members Kate Baker, Oz Drummond, M.C.A. Hogarth, Cat Rambo, and Bud Sparhawk as they discuss the latest doings and news of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) as well as F&SF news, recent reads, Readercon, Westercon, and more.

(7) FLASH FICTION. Cat Rambo says her “Gods and Magicians” is a free read “brought to you by my awesome Patreon backers, who get bonuses like versions of new books, peeks at story drafts, and sundry other offerings. If backing me’s not in your budget, you can still sign up for my newsletter and get news of posts, classes, and publications as they appear.”

This is a piece of flash fiction written last year – I just got around to going through the notebook it was in lately and transcribing the fictional bits. This didn’t take too much cleaning up. For context, think of the hills of southern California, and a writing retreat with no other human beings around, and thinking a great deal about fantasy and epic fantasy at the time.

(8) LIVE CLASSES. Rambo also reminds writers that July is the last month in 2016 that she’ll be offering her live classes (aside from one special one that’s still in the works). Get full details at her site.

I’ll start doing the live ones again in 2017, but I’m taking the rest of the year to focus on the on demand school (http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/on-demand-classes/), which will adding classes by Juliette Wade and Rachel Swirsky in the next couple of months.

(9) FREE CHICON 7 PROGRAM BOOKS. Steven H Silver announced: “I’m about to recycle several boxes of Chicon 7 Program Books.  If anyone is interested in adding a copy of the book to their collection, I’d be happy to send them one (for the cost of postage). People should get in touch with me at shsilver@sfsite.com, but I need to hear from them before the end of the month.”

(10) DETAILS, DETAILS. In 1939, sneak preview of The Wizard of Oz, producers debated about removing one of the songs because it seemed to slow things down. The song: “Over the Rainbow.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

However, according to writer/director James Cameron, most people at that time tried to convince him not to make the movie.

After all, they reasoned, any positive elements of the film would be attributed to “Alien” director Ridley Scott, and all the negative parts would be viewed as Cameron’s fault.

“I said, ‘Yeah, but I really want to do it. It’ll be cool,'” he said in an interview. “It was like this ridiculous, stupid thing. It wasn’t strategic at all, but I knew it would be cool.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 18, 1921 – John Glenn. Here’s a photo from 2012.

(13) GROUNDWORK FOR PREDICTION. Brandon Kempner is back on the job at Chaos Horizon, “Updating the 2016 Awards Meta List”.

A lot of other SFF nominations and awards have been handed out in the past few weeks. These are good indication of who will win the eventual Hugo—every award nomination raises visibility, and the awards that using votes are often good predictors of who will win the Hugo. Lastly, the full range of SFF awards gives us a better sense of what the “major” books of the year than the Hugo or Nebula alone. Since each award is idiosyncratic, a book that emerges across all 14 is doing something right.

Here’s the top of the list, and the full list is linked here. Total number of nominations is on the far left….

(14) VANCE FAN. Dave Freer tells what he admires about Jack Vance, and tries to emulate in his own writing, in “Out of Chocolate Error” for Mad Genius Club. Freer, while straightforward as ever about his worldview, makes an unexpected acknowledgement that another view could be embodied in a good story. Under these conditions —

There are at least four ‘meanings’ and stories that I’ve spotted in this particular book. I’m probably missing a few. Because I wanted to write like this myself, I’ve tried hard to pick up the techniques. I think the first key is that there must be a very strong and clear plot-line. You’re asking it to balance a lot of subtle and quite possibly overpowering elements. The second of course is that your characters cannot be mere PC-token stereotypes. Yes, of course you can have a black lesbian hero, or whatever (it actually doesn’t matter)– but if that stereotype is in the face of the reader rather than the character themselves, that becomes a compound, rather than the portmanteau. The third is that you cannot preach, or tell, your reader your ‘message’. Not ever. You can show it, you can let them derive it. If they fail to: well they still got a good story. And finally – if your audience leaves your book saying ‘that was about feminism… you, as a writer, are a failure, at least at writing entertainment or portmanteau books. There is a market for message, but like the market for sermons: it is small, and largely the converted. If they finish with a smile: you’ve done well. If they leave your book with a smile thinking: “yeah, true… I hadn’t thought of it like that. Look at (someone the reader knows). I could see them in that character (and the character happens to be a woman who is as capable as her male compatriots) then, my writer friend, you are a talent, and I wish I was more like you… Out of chocolate error…

(15) GOTCHA AGAIN. Chuck Tingle announces his retirement.

(16) HE’S NOT THE ONLY ONE. Rue Morgue reports Guillermo del Toro told Fantasia ’16 attendees that he’s retiring from producing and will stick to directing from now on.

(17) GRAPHIC STORY SLATE. Doris V. Sutherland discusses the impact of the slate on The Best Graphic Story Hugo nominees in “Comics and Controversy at the 2016 Hugo Awards” for Women Write About Comics.

After a reasonably strong set of graphic novels, the Best Graphic Story category starts to go downhill when we arrive at the webcomics. When Vox Day posted his provisional choices for the category, the list consisted entirely of online strips: Katie Tiedrich’s Awkward Zombie, Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrig Court, Kukuruyo’s Gamergate Life, Aaron Williams’ Full Frontal Nerdity, and Grey Carter and Cory Rydell’s Erin Dies Alone.

Comprising strip after strip of anti-SJW caricatures, Gamergate Life obviously fits Day’s ideology; I have also heard it suggested that he chose Erin Dies Alone as a dig at Alexandra Erin, who wrote a short e-book spoofing him. Beyond this, it is hard to discern the exact criteria behind his choices. One of the comics, Gunnerkrig Court, proved controversial within Day’s comments section: “Gunnerkrigg Court recently gave us not one, but two big, fat, awful, in-your-face gay/lesbian subplots (involving the main characters no less!) and so I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it anywhere these days,” wrote one poster.

The final Rabid Puppies slate—and, consequently, the final ballot—included only two of the above strips: Full Frontal Nerdity and Erin Dies Alone.

(18) DEEP SPACE PROBE. Will a “broken umbrella” speed space exploration?

…This sounds impressive until you remember that Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, is fitted with early ’70s scientific instruments, cameras and sensors and has been voyaging for almost 40 years.

Before mankind attempts to send another probe out towards interstellar space, engineers hope to figure out a way to get there a lot faster and, ideally, within their working lifetime.

There are several options on the table. Some favour solar sails – giant mirrored sheets pushed along by the force of photons from the Sun. Others – including Stephen Hawking – suggest flying these sails on tightly focused beams of photons generated by lasers fired from Earth or satellites in orbit.

Nasa engineer Bruce Wiegmann, however, is investigating the possibility of flying to the stars using a propulsion system that resembles a giant broken umbrella or wiry jellyfish. The concept is known as electric, or e-sail, propulsion and consists of a space probe positioned at the centre of a fan of metal wires….

(19) HORNBLOWERS. Did John Williams tell these kids to get off his lawn? Watch and find out.

This is what happened when 2 guys with horns made a spontaneous decision to set up and play the Star Wars theme in front of John Williams’ house on 7/11/2016!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, and Xtifr for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]