Judith Merril Selected For Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award

The late Judith Merril has been recognized with the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. The announcement was made at Readercon this weekend.

Robert J. Sawyer, one of the judges, confirmed the news in a comment on Facebook.

We did indeed select Judith Merril as the winner this year and the award is presented at Readercon. Judy was the unanimous choice of all four judges. The decision was reached September 1, 2015.

The current judges for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award are Sawyer, Elizabeth Hand, Barry Malzberg, and Mike Resnick.

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award was created in 2001 and goes each year to a science fiction or fantasy writer whose work displays unusual originality, embodies the spirit of Cordwainer Smith’s fiction, and deserves renewed attention or “Rediscovery.”

It may come as a surprise that the judges reached a unanimous selection in September, considering that Barry Malzberg subsequently wrote a column about Merril for Galaxy’s Edge, “There Is No Defense”, saying that before Merril moved to Canada in 1968, “She had been on an increasingly evident, now unapologetic campaign to destroy science fiction.”

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll and Gary Farber for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/16 The Ancillary Swords of Lankhmar

(1) THIS IS THE END MY FRIEND. Melinda Snodgrass advises writers about “Sticking the Landing” at SFFWorld.

All of these various skills work in concert, but I think if a writer fails to deliver a satisfying ending — the ending that has been promised by the story then the entire project is likely to fail.  It doesn’t matter how good the ride or delightful the journey.  If the final scene is disappointing and leaves the reader/viewer/player feeling cheated they probably aren’t going to be recommending that book or film or game to their friends and family.

There are various ways to state this — “keeping your promise”, “sticking the landing”, “providing a sense of closure”.  Often people who dismiss this requirement do so by sniffing “that the readers/viewers/players just want a happy ending.”  That may be true, and it’s probably a topic for a different essay, but let me say that I think there is case to be made for the happy ending.  Too often critics seem to equate darkness with importance.

So how do you make an ending satisfying?  First, you have to lay in the ultimate solution and the tools to bring about that solution in the beginning of the book or film or game.  You can’t suddenly ring in a new player, or a new fact, a new magic power or super power for the protagonist to use at the end and expect to keep your fans.  They will rightly feel cheated, that you hid the football from them and didn’t play fair.  Worse is the conclusion that you didn’t really know what you were doing and just grabbed for some kind of resolution.  Often those kind of ending don’t seem organic and true to the world that was created, the rules of that world, and the problem as presented…

(2) BUY-IN. Sherwood Smith responds to the question “Reading: What makes YOU believe?” at Book View Café.

A lot of these readers are lured by what I call the seduction of competence: characters who have agency, especially with panache. Anyone who has dreamed of stepping forward and having the right idea, which everyone responds to, and leading the way to righting an egregious wrong instead of cowering back waiting for someone else to act (or, worse, stepping forward just to be shouted down scornfully, or totally ignored) probably looks for characters who either start out as heroes, or attain heroism through hard work.

So those are the easy ones: readers willingly invest in characters they can fall in love with, or identify with, or admire. And then there are the characters who fascinate for whatever reason, like the many who couldn’t get enough of Hannibal Lector. Some are drawn to characters who are monstrous, or ridiculous.

(3) VERSATILITY. Coach Paul Cornell visited Convergence today.

(4) THE INK NO LONGER STINKS. Technology has turned the corner, in the latest installment of M.D. Jackson’s series: “Why Was Early Comic Book Art so Crude (Part 4)”.

But there were two other factors that changed the nature of comic books. One was technological and the other was economical.

The technology of printing was changing with the adoption of flexography. Flexography is a high speed print process that uses fast-drying inks and can print on many types of absorbent and non-absorbent materials. The flexopress is cheaper because the inks are water based, which meant they dried quicker and were easier to clean up. The flexographic presses also are lighter and take up less room.

For years comics were printed on low-grade, absorbent papers that were not meant to last. Early comics were rare because the paper degraded so quickly. The distribution system also was designed to put comic books in as many places as they could find kids to buy them. Remember the spinner racks of comics in your local drug store? Comic books, then retailing for about 25 – 30 cents per title, were available everywhere, but they were not made to last.

In the 1980’s the comic book companies began printing certain titles on a better quality of paper, Baxter paper. It was smoother and whiter and the inks and colors looked much better than your regular comic book fare….

(5) CONVERGENT EVOLUTION. Jennifer Frazer, in “The Artful Amoeba” blog on Scientific American, rounds up the photographic evidence for “Butterflies in the Time of Dinosaurs, With Nary a Flower in Sight”.

Jurassic butterflies disappeared a full 45 million years before the first caterpillar decided to grow up and become a beautiful butterfly. Again

…Apparently, way back when Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, a group of insects called lacewings produced butterflies. Not the butterflies we see flitting around today from the Order Lepidoptera, but floating, flapping, nectar-sucking flibbertigibbits nonetheless, with wings adorned with eyespots, veins, and scales….

(6) THOSE DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. At Getty Images you can view footage of the Sinclair oil dinosaur exhibit from the 1933 World’s Fair.

PAN along Brontosaurus dinosaur over to a Triceratops confronting a Tyrannosaurus Rex and down to a duck-billed Hadrosaurid; all dinosaurs were part of the Sinclair Oil exhibit.

(7) FOR SOME VALUES OF HISTORY. Vox Day interrupted his Castalia House status report to endorse the assault on Judith Merril’s memory

Meanwhile, Barry Malzburg makes it clear that some women have always been bent on destroying science fiction.

— because, after all, the measure of a man’s intelligence is how closely he agrees with you, regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of Barry Malzberg before.

(8) QUITE RIGHT.

(9) GAME DEMO. Based on the work of Jeff VanderMeer.

(10) DEEP DIVE INTO BUSIEK/ROSS.

Osvaldo Oyala’s “Marvels and the Limited Imagination of Nostalgia”.

I had not read Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Marvels in quite some time, probably 15 years or more, and despite having a memory of quite liking it when I first read it in the 90s sometime, my suspicion was that it would not hold up to that memory. And, while I was right, it also was not so hagiographic that I could just dismiss it. On the surface it certainly seems that way—unapologetically nostalgic about Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age—but it is actually constructed with competing visions that grant it a bit—a little bit—more complexity, even if ultimately it fails as anything except a sharp reaction to the moment in mainstream comics from which it emerged.

After Phil Sheldon lets a young mutant girl his daughters were sheltering run off into the anti-mutant riotous streets (a reference to a story in 1953’s Weird Science #20) it is difficult to take any of his moral claims seriously (from Marvels #2).

Marvels is a look back at the emergence of Marvel Comics’ heroes through the eyes of “Everyman” photojournalist, Phil Sheldon, from the first appearance of characters like the Original Human Torch and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner in 1940, through the death of Gwen Stacey in the early 70s. Sheldon, as a kind of stand-in for the Marvel reader, displays complex and shifting attitudes towards the superheroes he calls “Marvels.” In each of the four issues we see his different perspectives on Marvel’s super-characters. From a deep fear of their raw power and capricious behavior that shifts to an appreciative awe of their demi-god stature as forces of nature in the first issue to a threatening cynicism that leads him to retire from his livelihood snapping pictures of their conflicts, adventures and social appearances in the last issue, when Gwen Stacey’s death becomes just another minor detail buried in a seeming endless cycle of superhero fisticuffs and collateral damage. In between, he participates in paranoid anti-mutant riots before abandoning his bigotry upon realizing mutants can be “our own children” (which made me roll my eyes so hard they still hurt), and later grows angry at the flaring bouts of negative public sentiment against heroes like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and Spider-Man, fuming at the lack of gratitude displayed for their having saved the city or the world over and over again. And in case we might forget Sheldon’s special insight into the world of superheroes, in the first issue he loses an eye, calling to the One-Eyed Man or Blind Seer trope. At every stage when everyone else seems to return to hating or being suspicious of the superhero figure, Sheldon sees through public fear and pettiness (despite sometimes feeling it himself) to an understanding of the world he occupies that evokes something akin to the awe of Moses before the burning bush. As he says in the first issue after the rubble from the epic confrontation between the original Human Torch and the Sub-mariner takes his eye (a re-telling of the events of Marvel Mystery Comics #8 and 9), “It isn’t going to be them that adapts to us. The world is different now.” In other words, he can see with his Odin-eye what the general public cannot or will not, everyday people exist in the superhuman world, not the other way around. As Geoff Klock posits in his seminal book of comic book literary criticism, How to Read Superhero Comic Books and Why, unlike the transformative comic book texts like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns that ask, “What would it be like if superheroes lived in our world? Marvels…ask[s], what would it feel like if we could live in theirs?” (77). And the answer is, kinda fucking scary.

This narrative vision constructed by Busiek, however, manifests in the near-photorealistic painting of Alex Ross which provides a Rockwellian patina of troubling idealism that passes for “realism.” ….

(11) LEWIS DRAMATIZED. The Most Reluctant Convert, a stage show about C.S. Lewis, will be in town July 10-23 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA.

Max McLean brings to life one of the most engaging personalities of our age and takes audiences on Lewis’ fascinating theatrical journey from atheism to Christianity. Adapted exclusively from Lewis’ writings, McLean inhabits Lewis from the death of his mother, his estranged relationship with his father and the experiences that led him from vigorous debunker to the most vibrant and influential Christian intellectual of the 20th Century. Experience a joyous evening of Lewis’ entertaining wit and fascinating insight. Cherish every minute of the extraordinary journey of C.S. Lewis as The Most Reluctant Convert.

Lewis’ experience is synopsized in a Director’s Note.

In 1950, C.S. Lewis received a letter from a young American writer expressing his struggle to believe Christianity because he thought it “too good to be true.” Lewis responded, “My own position at the threshold of Christianity was exactly the opposite of yours. You wish it were true; I strongly hoped it was not…Do you think people like Stalin, Hitler, Haldane, Stapledon (a corking good writer, by the way) would be pleased on waking up one morning to find that they were not their own masters…that there was nothing even in the deepest recesses of their thoughts about which they could say to Him, ‘Keep out! Private. This is my business’? Do you? Rats!… Their first reaction would be (as mine was) rage and terror.”

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

(13) GENTLEFEN, BE SORTED. Want to be enrolled in the North American wizards’ school? Potterverse will run you through the process.

“Ilvermony House: Thunderbird”

Named by Chadwick Boot after his favourite magical beast, the Thunderbird, a beast that can create storms as it flies. Thunderbird house is sometimes considered to represent the soul of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Thunderbird favours adventurers.

(14) LINEAGE UNLOCKED. A recent episode of Game of Thrones inspired Adam Whitehead to draw conclusions about Jon Snow — “When Theories Are Confirmed: Twenty Years of Speculation”.

BEWARE SPOILERS. OR AT LEAST SPECULATIVE ATTEMPTS AT SPOILERS.

However, its status as the biggest mystery in fantasy had already long been supplanted. In 1996 George R.R. Martin published the first novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones. A minor subplot revolves around the status of Eddard Stark’s bastard son, Jon Snow, born out of wedlock to Eddard and…well, someone. His wife, Catelyn, believes it was a Dornish noblewoman, Ashara Dayne of Starfall. Eddard himself has told King Robert Baratheon – incredibly reluctantly – that it was a serving girl named Wylla. In A Storm of Swords the young lord of Starfall, Edric Dayne, also confirms (to Arya Stark) that it was Wylla, who was his wetnurse.

(15) NONE DARE CALL IT SLASH. NPR found there is plenty of fan fiction online about the 2016 candidates, Bernie, Donald, and others now out of the running.

In another story, written in the style of a Western, Jeb Bush fights to protect a Florida school from a Sharknado.

“You think ‘it can happen anywhere,’ never realizing that it can happen anywhere.

A SHOT —

The shard of glass in Jeb’s hand shatters by the scrape of a bullet. Jeb drops the ground, rolls through the booze-soaked ground. He jumps up to a squat and whips out the old pistol and holds it to the bullet hole in the doorway. The engraved barrel shimmers: Gov. Jeb Bush.

Florida hasn’t been safe since the Sharknados started coming. When I was in my 40s, the kids used to tease about the swamp sharks. Gave me the heebie-jeebies over a plague of mutant sea creatures that roamed the Everglades.”

In the 2016 presidential cycle, where everything seems unpredictable, fiction allows voters to determine exactly what happens next – whether it’s set in the present day or some kind of alternate universe where sharks rain down in a natural disaster.

(16) WHEN TWO FANTASISTS MET. Walt Disney and Roald Dahl hung out together in 1942 – who knew?

More than a decade before Walt Disney welcomed guests into his land of fantasy and two decades before author Roald Dahl penned his excursion into The BFG’s cave and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, these two creative legends crossed paths in 1942 when The Walt Disney Studios optioned Dahl’s first book, The Gremlins, for an animated feature. With Disney’s The BFG coming to theaters on July 1, D23 takes a look at the connection between these two creative visionaries.

The Gremlins was fashioned from stories told by English airmen who attributed equipment failures and other mishaps to mischievous little saboteurs. From these tales, Dahl—then a Flight Lieutenant for the Royal Air Force—created a story and specific characters for his book.

(17) LACKING CHARACTERS. In an “Uninvent This” feature for The New Yorker, Ted Chiang contemplated “If Chinese Were Phonetic”.

So let’s imagine a world in which Chinese characters were never invented in the first place. Given such a void, the alphabet might have spread east from India in a way that it couldn’t in our history, but, to keep this from being an Indo-Eurocentric thought experiment, let’s suppose that the ancient Chinese invented their own phonetic system of writing, something like the modern Bopomofo, some thirty-two hundred years ago. What might the consequences be? Increased literacy is the most obvious one, and easier adoption of modern technologies is another. But allow me to speculate about one other possible effect.

One of the virtues claimed for Chinese characters is that they make it easy to read works written thousands of years ago. The ease of reading classical Chinese has been significantly overstated, but, to the extent that ancient texts remain understandable, I suspect it’s due to the fact that Chinese characters aren’t phonetic. Pronunciation changes over the centuries, and when you write with an alphabet spellings eventually adapt to follow suit. (Consider the differences between “Beowulf,” “The Canterbury Tales,” and “Hamlet.”) Classical Chinese remains readable precisely because the characters are immune to the vagaries of sound. So if ancient Chinese manuscripts had been written with phonetic symbols, they’d become harder to decipher over time.

Chinese culture is notorious for the value it places on tradition. It would be reductive to claim that this is entirely a result of the readability of classical Chinese, but I think it’s reasonable to propose that there is some influence. Imagine a world in which written English had changed so little that works of “Beowulf” ’s era remained continuously readable for the past twelve hundred years. I could easily believe that, in such a world, contemporary English culture would retain more Anglo-Saxon values than it does now. So it seems plausible that in this counterfactual history I’m positing, a world in which the intelligibility of Chinese texts erodes under the currents of phonological change, Chinese culture might not be so rooted in the past. Perhaps China would have evolved more throughout the millennia and exhibited less resistance to new ideas. Perhaps it would have been better equipped to deal with modernity in ways completely unrelated to an improved ability to use telegraphy or computers.

(18) STRONG LURE. At BookRiot, Derek Attig feels there’s no need to bait the hook when what you’re offering is as irresistible as “100 Must-Read Books about Libraries & Bookstores”.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing an introduction to this list. It’s a hundred books about libraries and bookstores! That should sell itself.

But sure. Fine. I’ll make the pitch.

Books are a crucial part of our lives (especially yours, since here you are being a great big nerd on Book Riot), but I think we don’t always pay enough attention to the institutions that get those books into our grubby, greedy little hands. Sure, we’ll bicker about Amazon sometimes or squee over a bookmobile, but how much time do we take to really explore and think about what libraries and bookstores really mean?

Not enough!

(19) SORRY ABOUT THAT. Godzilla and fellow monsters apologized at a Japanese press conference for acts of destruction. Why, yes, it’s another scheme to sell toys – how did you guess?

The world of gachapon vending machine capsule toys just got even weirder with a new lineup of figurines from top Japanese toy producer Bandai. Called the “Godzilla Toho Monsters Press Conference”, the series depicts Godzilla, along with three other kaiju monsters from the acclaimed movie production and distribution company Toho, all appearing at fictional press conferences, complete with microphone stand and name plaque. These types of formal apologies are commonly seen on television news reports around Japan, in cases where high-profile politicians and celebrities formally atone for scandals and wrongdoings, expressing remorse to the public with deep, heartfelt bows. Only this time, it’s a group of well-known movie monsters making amends for their actions.

Godzilla apologizes

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Paul Weimer, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jamie, for example, has this to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forum Fantastico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Lucas let go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

babylon-ad-poster

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/16 Stop, Drop, And Scroll

(1) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Ann Leckie’s train delivered her to Chicago on time for Nebula Weekend, unlike last year when she was delayed by a bacon-related catastrophe.

(2) FREE ALLEGED BOOK. Timothy the Talking Cat’s amanuensis Camestros Felapton reports:

Now available from Smashwords, until they decide it is too embarrassing even for them, There Will Be Walrus First Volume V.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/636378

There Will Be WALRUS final

Crafted from the finest pixels and using exquisite fonts and typographical metadata, There Will Be Walrus is the ground breaking anthology series from Cattimothy House – the world’s leading publisher of feline edited military science fiction anthologies.

The book comes with additional bonus content and includes features such as:

  • clauses
  • sentences
  • paragraphs
  • chapters

Spelling and punctuation are used throughout and in many cases radical new and exciting approaches have been taken. Copy-editing has been applied at industry standards as found in top flight Hugo nominated publishers such as Castalia House or Baen Books.

(3) ZINES ONLINE. The University of New Brunswick Library has posted complete scans of a number of classic old fanzines from their collection, Algol, Luna, Amra, Mimosa, four  issues of Tom Reamy’s Trumpet, the earliest issues of Locus, and others. Click here.

(4) BETTY OR VERONICA? CW has given series orders to Greg Berlanti’s live-action Archie Comics series Riverdale. Entertainment Weekly says it will look like this:

Set in present-day and based on the iconic Archie Comics characters, Riverdale is a surprising and subversive take on Archie (KJ Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Veronica (Camila Mendes), and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will write and executive-produce with Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Jon Goldwater. Cole Sprouse, Ashleigh Murray, Luke Perry, Madelaine Petsch, Marisol Nichols, and Mädchen Amick will also star.

(5) I COME NOT TO PRAISE THEM. ABC has axed The Muppets. Entertainment Weekly ran its obituary.

The comedy series lasted one 16-episode season on the network after launching to tremendous buzz last fall.

The beloved franchise was given a modern-day, adult-themed makeover by producers Bob Kushell (Anger Management) and Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory). The show also some criticism for trying to make the classic family characters more contemporary, including focusing on their love lives. Midway through the season run, falling ratings prompted ABC to make a major change behind the scenes, replacing showrunner Kushell with Kristin Newman (Galavant), who pledged to bring “joy” to the series. Yet the changes didn’t alter the show’s fate.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman has posted Episode 8 of his podcast Eating the Fantastic, in which he dines and dialogs with dual guests, Lynne Hansen, and Jeff Strand.

Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen

Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen

Lynne is a horror novelist turned filmmaker whose recent short, Chomp, received 21 nominations at a variety of film festivals, winning 7 times, including the Fright Meter Awards Best Short Horror Film of 2015, and Jeff Strand is not only the author of the wonderfully titled horror novels I Have a Bad Feeling About This and The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (and many others)—he’ll also be the emcee Saturday for the Stoker Awards banquet.

Next episode of Eating the Fantastic, which will go live in approximately two weeks, will feature Maria Alexander, whose debut novel, Mr. Wicker, won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel

(7) WOMEN FEATURED AT GENCON. Anna Kreider points out “GenCon’s Featured Presenters are 52% female, and that’s a huge deal”.

[Before I start – full disclosure, I am one of the Industry Insider Featured Presenters for this year’s GenCon. So I’m sure that there are those who will say that me writing this post is self-serving arrogance and/or egomania, but whatever.]

The GenCon Industry Insider Featured Presenters for 2016 have been announced, and holy shit is this year’s lineup amazing! Seriously, take a look:

That’s right, folks. There are 13 female IIFPs and only 12 men. This means there are MORE WOMEN THAN MEN, and that is a HUGE FUCKING DEAL, because that is a HUGE amount of change in a really short period of time. To prove it, let’s look at the numbers:

(8) MEDICAL UPDATE. It was announced on his blog that Darwyn Cooke is being treated for cancer.

It is with tremendous sadness that we announce Darwyn is now receiving palliative care following a bout with aggressive cancer. His brother Dennis and I, along with our families appreciate the outpouring of support we have received. We ask for privacy as we go through this very difficult time

(9) BLOG LAUNCH KEEPS UP MOMENTUM. Our Words’ rollout includes Sarah Chorn’s list of future plans

Anyway, things I envision for this website, so you know what to expect in the near future-ish:

1. I am continuing the guest posts. I love them. I think they are interesting, and I love getting diverse perspectives about many, many facets of disabilities in the genre.

2. I have a few interviews out. Yay! And I really want to keep interviews going.

3. I have a few giveaways in the works.

4. I have launched the book club, which I really, really want to take off.

5. I am currently working on doing a series of questions and answers. The idea behind this actually came from a few convention panels I was on, focusing on the topic of disabilities in the genre. After each panel, a host of authors would stand up and ask a ton of very good, very important questions about writing disabilities. So I figured maybe I can try to bring something like that to my website. I’m not exactly sure the format yet, but the idea is that I will get questions about writing disabilities from people who wish to ask said questions, and then I will send those questions to a few disabled genre authors to answer in a panel sort of format. That will take time to figure out, but it will happen eventually.

6. I have received a handful of books this week to review for this website, so start expecting book reviews.

7. I am trying to drum up a bunch of people willing to write about accessibility issues at conventions. There was some noise about this topic last year, but con season is upon us, and I’d like to get some people over here who are willing to write about it. We need to make some more noise about this. It is so important. 8. I am working on getting some people who are willing to write/do regular features over here.

(10) DAN WELLS. Our Words reposted “Dan Wells on Writing Mental Illness”, which originally appeared on SF Signal in 2015.

One in five people in America has a mental illness. One in twenty has a mental illness so serious it inhibits their ability to function. Look around the room you’re in: do you know who they are? Do you know how to help them? Maybe that one in five is you: do you know how to help yourself? The most depressing statistic of all is that no, none of us do. In 2015, Americans with mental illness are more likely to be in prison than in therapy. As a nation and as a culture we are absolutely terrible at recognizing, treating, and coping with mental illness. This needs to change.

(11) JAY LAKE. Our Words has also republished “Jay Lake on Writing With Cancer”, which the late author wrote for Bookworm Blues in 2012.

Cancer is not a disability in the usual sense of that term. It’s not even really a chronic disease, like lupus or MS. Rather, it’s an acute disease which can recur on an overlapping basis until one is cured or killed. Some cancers, such as indolent forms of prostate cancer or lymphoma, can be lived with until one dies of other causes. Other cancers such as pancreatic cancer can move like wildfire, with a patient lifespan measured in weeks or months from diagnosis to death.

My cancer falls somewhere in the mid range between the two. And though I wouldn’t think to claim it as a disability in either the social or legal senses of that term, it has a lot in common with disabilities.

Cancer has affected my writing in two basic ways. First, the disruptions of treatment. Second, the shifts in my own thoughts and inner life as I respond to the distorting presence of the disease in my life.

The treatments are brutal. Surgeries are rough, but they’re fairly time constrained. I’ve had four, a major resection of my sigmoid colon, a minor resection of my left lung, and two major resections of my liver. In each case, I spent three to six days in the hospital, followed by several weeks at home in a fairly serious recovery mode. I was back to writing within a month every time. These days, when I contemplate future surgery (far more likely than not, given the odds of recurrence for my cancer cohort), I budget a month of time lost and all it good.

(12) FIND YOUR OWN INKLINGS. Rachel Motte tells “Why C.S. Lewis Would Want You to Join a Writing Group” at Catholic Stand.

When J.R.R. Tolkien retired from his post at the University of Oxford in 1959, he intended to spend his new-found free time finishing The Silmarillion. Though this book is less well-known than his Lord of the Rings, Tolkien considered it his real work—the work he’d spent decades trying to get back to.

One can easily imagine the newly retired professor, still in his tweeds, bent over his desk, glad to at last avoid the professional obligations that had long kept him from the literary project he loved best. Instead, writes Inklings scholar Diana Pavlac Glyer, he found that the increased solitude hampered his ability to move forward with his favorite project. Glyer explains,

He quickly became overwhelmed by the task. He found himself easily distracted, and he spent his days writing letters or playing solitaire… Tolkien had become increasingly isolated, and as a result, he found himself unable to write. (Diana Pavlac Glyer, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, p. 117)

You probably think of writing as a solitary activity—and, to some extent, you are right. “Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world,” notes Annie Dillard in The Writing Life. “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.”

In the best of circumstances, however, that’s not where the story ends. Although we’re right to think of writing as partly a solitary activity, it’s also true that writers—like other artists—benefit from meeting regularly with other creative people.

(13) CRITICAL THEORY. “Russell Letson reviews Judith Merril” at Locus Online.

The Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism: Judith Merril’s Nonfiction, Judith Merril (Aqueduct Press 978-1-61976-093-6, $22.00, 348pp, tp) March 2016.

…Her critical work was more practical than theoretical, but nonetheless systematic and precise. She was a commentator who was also a practitioner, an analyst who was also a fan, with a broad-church sensibility that could not disentangle SF from the cultures that surrounded it.

In The Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism, editor Ritch Calvin has gathered and condensed thirteen years’ worth of material into a single vol­ume that includes the introductions and ‘‘sum­mation’’ essays from her long-running series of annual ‘‘Best SF’’ anthologies; book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; and a single long, reflective essay written for the Science Fiction Research Association’s journal Extrapolation. The chronological arrangement allows us to follow Merril as she explores the shape and extent of the modern fantastic, locates particular writers and works in that geography, and develops an aesthetic and historical-social framework for making judgments. (The full texts of all the items are available as an e-book, which is nearly twice as long as the print version. Omitted material consists mainly of individual story introductions from the annual anthologies.) …

(14) LAST YEAR, WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. Matt interviews Andrew J. McKiernan  at Smash Dragons.

The title story for your collection is a fascinating tale about survival amidst a strange and very disturbing apocalypse. I’m curious, how did this particular story come about? Where did you draw your inspiration from? 

Like pretty much every story I write, it starts with a title. That’s where I thought Last Year, When We Were Young came from. Just a title that popped into my head that I ran with and a story emerged from it. It is always my wife who points out the real life inspirations for my stories, when here I am thinking they’re just stories, fictions. In this case, my father-in-law had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour and the operation to remove it didn’t go too spectacularly for him. At the same time, my own father had a heart attack and I’d just entered my 40s and my eldest son had turned 18. So, the title story is me trying to deal with the fact that we all age, and that it happens so goddamn quickly. We get older, and yet a lot of the time we still feel like we’re kids and teenagers. The first 20 years of our life seem so long and so important and our mind dwells on those times. I’m 45 now, and yet a part of me still feels like I’m 18 and should be out there playing in a band and getting drunk and enjoying myself. Age creeps up on us so quickly. We’re adults before we know it. Mid-life crisis, I guess, the realisation that I had aged and that I really would die one day, and this story was my subconscious way of examining that.

(15) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. George Donnelly will be having a sale a week from today.

Today’s top libertarian fiction authors bring you 99-cent fiction books May 18-20 only. Some are even free. Read on your phone, tablet, browser or kindle

(16) PLANETARIUM PANEL FEATURES CLARKE FINALIST. Spaceships: Above and Beyond at the Royal Observatory Planetarium”, Greenwich, Thursday, May 26 (18.30-20.30). Click the link for full details and tickets. Here’s the line up:

  • Libby Jackson, Former ESA Flight Director now working for the UK Space Agency
  • Dr. Adam Baker, Senior Lecturer in Astronautics at Kingston University
  • Dr. Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich
  • James Smythe, Science Fiction author – shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2016
  • The panel discussion will be hosted by Tom Hunter, Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

(17) PANAMA GOLD. At The Toast, Mallory Ortberg has posted “Every Fan Fiction I Have Started Writing Once I Found out Emma Watson Was Named In The Panama Papers”.

“Mustn’t complain, though,” Harry said after an odd silence. “That’s what our taxes are for, after all.”

“We don’t pay taxes,” Hermione said. “Taxes are for Muggles.” She extinguished her cigarette in the last slice of cake.

“But you’re –” Harry started.

“I used to be a lot of things,” Hermione said decisively. “I have money now instead.”

Harry stopped at every bar on the way home, until he could no longer remember the look that had entered her eyes as she said it.

(18) PIXAR PRAISE. Kristian Williams’s YouTube video “Pixar–What Makes a Story Relatable” explains why Pixar films work — because at their core, they’re great stories.

(19) ADDRESSEE KNOWN. Not everybody Andrew Liptak outs was very far undercover to begin with: “Guess Who? 15 Sci-Fi Authors Who Used Pseudonyms—and Why” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

U.K. Le Guin, Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most famous living science fiction authors, but when she sold her story “Nine Lives” to Playboy, her editors asked her to change her name to U.K. Le Guin, fearing that a female author would make their readers “nervous.” Le Guin remembered it as the only time, “I met with anything I understood as sexual prejudice, prejudice against me as a woman writer.” She’s never used a pseudonym again, and “Nine Lives” appears under her own name in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters.

(20) THE NEBULA ON CHAOS HORIZON. Brandon Kempner calls his shot in “2016 Nebula Prediction”.

I’ve spun my creaky model around and around, and here is my prediction for the Nebulas Best Novel category, taking place this weekend:

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season: 22.5%
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Mercy:22%
Naomi Novik, Uprooted: 14.7%
Ken Liu, The Grace of Kings: 13.3%
Lawrence Schoen, Barsk: 10.7%
Charles Gannon, Trial by Fire: 9.5%
Fran Wilde, Updraft: 7.3%

Remember, Chaos Horizon is a grand (and perhaps failed!) experiment to see if we can predict the Nebulas and Hugos using publicly available data.

(21) A PICTURE AND A THOUSAND WORDS. Defenestration, for reasons that will become obvious, made sure we didn’t miss this Hugo humor.

Andrew Kaye (known in some circles as AK) is the creator of Ben & Winslow and other questionable comics, many of which can be found in his deviantART gallery and his Tumblr. He’s also the editor-in-chief of this magazine. Duh.

I realize a lot of the folks who read Ben & Winslow might not be familiar with the drama that’s surrounded the Hugos lately–you can find plenty of articles and blogs discussing it in more detail than I can spare here. Basically, unlike other major awards, the Hugos are chosen by science-fiction and fantasy fandom. Last year a subset of that fandom got angry with the growing diversity among the award nominees and the subject matter they wrote about (or in other words, the nominees weren’t all straight white men writing adventure stories). They took advantage of the Hugos’ fan-based voting  and hijacked the list of nominees with their own choices. The 2015 Hugo ballot was a shambles–many nominees dropped out, and most Hugo voters chose to vote for “No Award” rather than vote for what actually made it to the ballot.

Well, the same thing has happened this year. The same people are trying to control the award. Trying to destroy the award. And if they’re allowed to continue, they’ll succeed. Needless to say, a lot of people are upset about this. To someone unfamiliar with the award, the whole thing looks like a big joke.

http://www.defenestrationmag.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/04292016-Hugo-Boss.jpg

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Matthew Davis, and Tom Hunter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]