Pixel Scroll 10/31/17 Here’s Harry Mudd In Your AI

(1) HALLOWEEN VIGIL. John King Tarpinian commemorated his annual Halloween visit to Ray Bradbury’s gravesite with this photo.

(2) THE MOST GHOSTS. Halloween is a good day to be publicizing books newly available for sale from Richard Dalby’s Library.

One of the largest collections of rare and antiquarian supernatural and ghost books. If you’re looking for something special, unique and rare we might just have the book for you.

Richard Dalby was an editor and literary researcher noted for his anthologies of ghost stories. He was also an avid book collector and scholar. He sadly died in April 2017.

Read more about Richard Dalby in this article written by Brian Showers of Swan River Press, “Remembering Richard Dalby”:

 I first met Richard in Brighton at the World Horror Convention on 27 March 2010. Thinking back now, we certainly must have corresponded before 2010 as conversation was immediately familiar and friendly. I don’t think I’d ever seen a photograph of Richard prior to meeting him in Brighton, so was struck by his boyish appearance. It conflicted with the fact that his publication history goes right the way back. Jesus, how old was this guy? Not that old at all as it turned out.

But Richard wasn’t just boyish in appearance; he had something of that youthful manner about him too. Maybe curiosity is a better word for it. He was inquisitive. After brief salutations and nice-to-finally-meet-yous, Richard immediately launched into questions. I’d been working on Stoker a lot in those days, and he wanted to know what I knew about “X” edition, or if I had ever been able to track down the exact publication date of “Y”. Of course I hadn’t. Sure, I know more than the average person does about Stoker, but Richard’s knowledge far exceeded mine and by no small amount. And yet he asked me questions anyway because that’s how Richard seemed to work. He probed, asked questions, compiled, collected, and collated. I think that’s one of the key qualities Richard possessed that made him such a good researcher, bibliographer, and anthologist.

(3) MIND MELD. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has assembled a “Mind Meld” for the holiday: “Mind Meld: Monster Mayhem—Vampires and Everything Else”. The question is:

What are your favorite books or stories featuring vampires or anything uncategorizable?

And the panelists are: Gareth L. Powell, Stina Leicht, Zachary Jernigan, Jason Sizemore, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jennifer Brozek, Christopher Golden, T. Frohock, Rachel Swirsky, Jason Arnopp, Dr Gillian Polack, Jeffrey Ford, Paul Cornell, Paul Jessup, Lara Elena Donnelly, Kristine Smith, Carrie Cuinn, Beth Cato, Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara, Jaym Gates, Gail Z. Martin, Tracy Fahey, Jaime Lee Moyer, and Tracy Townsend.

(4) LOUD OUT THERE.  Who says they can’t hear screaming in space? Mike Chua of MikeShouts says “NASA’s Playlist Of Sounds From Space Is Apt For Sci-Fi-themed Halloween Party”.

Are you going to have a sci-fi-themed Halloween party? Well, if so, you will want these spooky sounds recorded in space by NASA as your soundtrack. Like, seriously. Be warned though, these sounds are really, really spooky. The level of spookiness cannot be overstated. I have listened to all the tracks in the playlist and all I can say that they sound more paranormal than space-ish. Aptly entitled Spooky Sounds from Across the Space, the playlist on Soundcloud includes 22 tracks pulled from NASA’s archive of sounds recorded in outer space by the various probes and orbiters, and therefore do not expect sweet, varying mood, orchestrated music from Contact.

(5) COSTUME OF THE DAY. Never thought of that wordplay before —

(6) THE FIRST ONE IS FREE. YouTube Red is airing Lifeline, produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Seven Bucks Digital Studios and Studio 71.

The series stars Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights) and Sydney Park (The Walking Dead), and tells the story of a life insurance company that sends its agents into the future to prevent the accidental deaths of its clients.

 

(7) A VISIT TO THE REAL WORLD. Maggie Stiefvater: “I’ve decided to tell you guys a story about piracy”. Piracy not only costs sales, it kills series.

…There was another new phenomenon with Blue Lily, Lily Blue, too — one that started before it was published. Like many novels, it was available to early reviewers and booksellers in advanced form (ARCs: advanced reader copies). Traditionally these have been cheaply printed paperback versions of the book. Recently, e-ARCs have become common, available on locked sites from publishers.

BLLB’s e-arc escaped the site, made it to the internet, and began circulating busily among fans long before the book had even hit shelves. Piracy is a thing authors have been told to live with, it’s not hurting you, it’s like the mites in your pillow, and so I didn’t think too hard about it until I got that royalty statement with BLLB’s e-sales cut in half.

Strange, I thought. Particularly as it seemed on the internet and at my booming real-life book tours that interest in the Raven Cycle in general was growing, not shrinking. Meanwhile, floating about in the forums and on Tumblr as a creator, it was not difficult to see fans sharing the pdfs of the books back and forth. For awhile, I paid for a service that went through piracy sites and took down illegal pdfs, but it was pointless. There were too many. And as long as even one was left up, that was all that was needed for sharing.

I asked my publisher to make sure there were no e-ARCs available of book four, the Raven King, explaining that I felt piracy was a real issue with this series in a way it hadn’t been for any of my others. They replied with the old adage that piracy didn’t really do anything, but yes, they’d make sure there was no e-ARCs if that made me happy.

Then they told me that they were cutting the print run of The Raven King to less than half of the print run for Blue Lily, Lily Blue. No hard feelings, understand, they told me, it’s just that the sales for Blue Lily didn’t justify printing any more copies. The series was in decline, they were so proud of me, it had 19 starred reviews from pro journals and was the most starred YA series ever written, but that just didn’t equal sales. They still loved me.

This, my friends, is a real world consequence.

… The Ronan trilogy nearly didn’t exist because of piracy. And already I can see in the tags how Tumblr users are talking about how they intend to pirate book one of the new trilogy for any number of reasons, because I am terrible or because they would ‘rather die than pay for a book’. As an author, I can’t stop that. But pirating book one means that publishing cancels book two. This ain’t 2004 anymore. A pirated copy isn’t ‘good advertising’ or ‘great word of mouth’ or ‘not really a lost sale.’

It was preceded by this twitter thread:

And this post about why not every author can give away stuff for free:

Today on Twitter and Tumblr, I posted about piracy and the effect it had had on the publishing side of the Raven Cycle. Several readers lashed out at me and asked why I did not merely release an 11,000 word story for free if the publisher had decided not to release it — further, they noted, other “big name authors” released “loads” of free content and since I didn’t release “loads” of things for free, surely this meant I just was in it for the money.

…And I’m not going to speak to the giving away art for free business. The internet has discussed this a lot already, and the fact is that if you take away a paying-for-art model, you end up only getting art from people who can afford to work in their spare time or art that is supported by patrons — both models that we have seen before, both models that end up giving you art produced by and for a homogenous and upper class group. So moving on.

What I will speak to is the “loads” of free content business, because I haven’t addressed this before. I know there are authors who do release loads of free content. Stories of all lengths. Still other authors release loads of extra content available for a low cost, stories and novellas, etc. I can very much see how this is thrilling to readers. However, this will never be me, for four reasons:…

(8) NO OASIS IN 2018. The Orlando Area Science Fiction Society has announced they need more help to continue putting on the annual OASIS convention, and until they find it they’re skipping a year.

OASIS 29 revealed a need for restructuring our future conventions. As a result, we must regretfully announce that there will not be an OASIS convention in 2018.

We hope to present the next OASIS convention in 2019. We’ll provide the latest updates of our progress through Twitter, Facebook and the OASFiS web page.

However, that progress depends on you. Yes, you.

Each convention, we’ve asked people who love fandom to join OASFiS and help us build future conventions and events. In this critical time, we need you more than ever. It might be fun to watch fan activities from an audience seat, but it’s more fulfilling to make them happen and bring your own ideas to the world.

We want to bring greater events beyond the convention, involving all of Central Florida’s fan communities, but that requires the involvement of your minds, bodies and souls. Come to our monthly meetings – which we’re planning to move to a comfortable location in downtown Orlando, to be announced soon – and talk to us. As we’ve discovered, it’s good to have some friends. But it’s better to have more friends.

(9) JULIAN MAY. Here’s the Chicago Sun-Times’ obituary, published today: “Julian May, who weaved worlds in sci-fi, fantasy novels, dead at 86”

Julian May’s Christmas tree was bedecked with a flying-dinosaur ornament handcrafted by someone better known for writing “I, Robot” and other sci-fi classics — Isaac Asimov. Author Ray Bradbury used to bounce her son on his knee.

Before becoming a popular science-fiction writer herself, Ms. May grew up in a Cape Cod home in Elmwood Park, attended Trinity High School in River Forest and landed her first job at Burny Brothers bakery at 2445 N. Harlem.

Her books included two sprawling sci-fi sagas: the four “Saga of Pliocene Exile” novels and the six-book “Galactic Milieu” series. They incorporate aliens, barbarians, time travel, swordplay and paleontology, with elements of Carl Jung and Celtic and Norse mythology.

Ms. May, who wrote 19 science-fiction and fantasy novels and more than 250 young-adult nonfiction books, died of a heart attack Oct. 17 at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Wash. She was 86….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 31, 1926 – Harry Houdini died.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian encountered a question about Dracula’s sartorial splendor in today’s Shoe.

(12) MANUFACTURER’S RECALL. If you rushed to buy the new Penric novella on the first day, Lois McMaster Bujold says you need to check whether you received a corrupted edition.

I would advise Kindle customers to give up waiting on the “manage your content and devices” page and go straight to the chat solution, as explained.

… The problem should only apply to customers who bought on the first days, Friday Oct. 27 and most of Saturday Oct. 28.  (The corrected file went up Saturday afternoon/evening.)  Files sold from Sunday Oct. 30 onward should be updated and complete.  Do please pass the word, as I doubt all the first-day purchasers read my blog (although, happily, it seems many do.)

To see if you have a good copy (or not), do the “Limnos corrections cross-check”:

As discussed (at length) in the prior post, the file uploaded on Friday of “The Prisoner of Limnos” was corrupted due to a formatting glitch — 14 out of its 18 chapters were missing their final paragraphs. We caught up with the problem on Saturday afternoon, and a fresh and supposedly corrected file was uploaded at the three vendors.

Bujold concludes, “For all the aggravation, I do have to admit this beats binning a multi-thousand-copy bad paper print run.”

(13) WITCHES UNFAMILIAR. Jamie at Pornokitsch turns the pages of several recent comic books in “Hubble, bubble, toil and feminism: Witches in comics”.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also takes the form of a coming-of-age horror. While Harrow County has a positive message about female friendship, Chilling Adventures tells a much muddier story.

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Robert Hack, Chilling Adventures is part of the Archie Comics horror line and sends Sabrina back to a 1960s setting. Using this historical time period –  a decade of changing attitudes – helps polarise Sabrina’s position not only as a girl halfway between the worlds of the witches and regular humans, between girlhood and womanhood, but also between the old and new ways of thinking. The old hidebound rules of the witches represent the old way, the coven standing in for the stratified social systems of family and motherhood that constrained women for so long.

Sabrina’s time in the human world – a normal teenage girl in high school – shows all the new attitudes of the 1960s. There, Sabrina is dating a football player, studying In Cold Blood and trying to get the big role in the school adaptation of Bye Bye Birdie. She looks up to the new drama teacher, Ms. Porter who, unfortunately, turns out to be a long-thought-dead witch with a grudge against the Spellman family.  Ms. Porter (a.k.a. Madam Satan) is herself something of a dichotomy. In her mortal guise she is a sympathetic confidante, a no-nonsense woman with the tell-tale ‘Ms.’.  When we see her in her witchy moments, however, she’s driven by jealousy, lust and vanity, a trio of sins classically assigned to ‘witchy’ women. In Chilling Adventures, Sabrina’s attempts to move away from this outdated view of femininity that provides so much of the comic’s thematic tension and makes its witches so compelling.

(14) GOBLIN UP THE SHORT FICTION. Jason has devoured October’s short fiction and has recommendations on the tastiest treats in the “Summation of Online Fiction: October 2017” at Featured Futures.

September was the scary month with few great or even particularly good stories but October rebounded resoundingly with several remarkable tales (out of only thirty-four read of 157K words), and from relatively unusual venues. Flash Fiction Online produced an excellent Valloween issue combining Valentine relationships with Halloween darkness. Uncanny and Apex also had stories above the usual fare. While Nature produced no recs this month, it produced a double-honorable-mention and got into the Halloween spirit with both, one of which would have fit into the FFO issue and one of which was outright horror. Plus there was a trio of quite remarkable near-misses of fantasy from a trio of other sources, at least a couple of which also fit the season and one of which was a rare webzine novella. For those not in the Halloween mood, there were still a few good tales that weren’t so dark. Speaking of scary, though, Tor.com published only one story in September and posted only two original ones in October. Here’s hoping they get back on track.

(15) STRANGER CONOISSEUR. Camestros Felapton is on duty beside the TV, giving us “Review: Stranger Things 2 (spoilers avoided)”:

The hyper genre-aware Netlfix show is back with another nine hour marathon wearing the early 1980’s as a halloween costume. If you didn’t like the first series, fair enough – tastes very and I’ll discuss one of the biggest issues I have with the show below. If you did like the first series then you’ll like this one also. Essentially while the characters have grown and the plot advances, the core features of the show are the same. Personally, I was absolutely riveted.

…The strength of the show remains with a great cast with strong characters. Wynona Ryder as Joyce Byers gets to be less frantic for more of the show but still conveys an electric mix of nervous energy and fierce determination to protect her family against absolutely ANYTHING. Above all she is a wonderful antidote to the cliche of the disbelieving adult – as with the first series, she follows the internal logic of the crazy situation with a compassionate ruthlessness.

The younger cast remain brilliant and charming and plausible. The addition of Max, a skateboarding new kid from out of town, broadens the gender mix of the core gang. While among the adults, Sean Astin plays Wynona Ryder’s romantic interest as an adult nerd – which is a handy trait in a show where being a nerd is often a handy superpower….

(16) ANOTHER ENTRY IN THE LITTLE BLUE BOOK. Doctor Who News predicts there will be a close encounter of the fourth kind — specifically, “River Song to Meet Fourth Doctor”.

River Song as played by Alex Kingston, is to meet the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker, in a new set of audio adventures released by Big Finish. Series Four of The Diary of River Song, to be released in August 2018, will see the archaeologist encounter Doctor Number Four, in a set of new adventures alongside the longest serving Doctor. Meanwhile Series Three of the Diary of River Song will released in January 2018, and will feature the Fifth Doctor, as played by Peter Davison, battling against the most evil midwife in Doctor Who history, Madame Kovarian, played by Frances Barber.

(17) TAKE THREE AND CALL ME IN THE MORNING. BigThink takes the piss out of Pythagoras: “Scientists Discover the Purpose of a Mysterious 3700-Year-Old Babylonian Tablet” .

The tablet has 15 rows of numbers written in cuneiform over four columns. It uses a base 60 numeral system (called “sexagesimal”), which originated with ancient Sumerians. What was the tablet used for? The scientists think it might have been an invaluable aid in the construction of palaces, temples and canals. Before pocket calculators, trigonometric tables were used widely in a variety of fields. They let you use one known ratio of the sides of a right-angle triangle to figure out the other two unknown ratios.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Daniel Mansfield from the UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics, explained why the tablet held such mystery –

“Plimpton 322 has puzzled mathematicians for more than 70 years, since it was realised it contains a special pattern of numbers called Pythagorean triples. The huge mystery, until now, was its purpose – why the ancient scribes carried out the complex task of generating and sorting the numbers on the tablet,” said Mansfield. “Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles.”

He also called the tablet “a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius.” Mansfield said the mathematics on the tablet are advanced even for our modern trigonometry. Plimpton 322 also shows the Babylonians proved the famous Pythagorean theorem a thousand years before Greek mathematician Pythagoras was born.

Interestingly, not only is this the world’s oldest trigonometric table, it’s also “the only completely accurate” one because of its reliance on the potentially more precise base 60.

(18) JAUNTY ALOUETTE. The Traveler at Galactic Journey keeps watching the skies: “[October 31, 1962] Trick and Treat! (A Halloween candy wrap-up of the Space Race)”.

Typically, a Thor Agena B launch from Southern California means yet another Air Force “Discoverer” spy sat has gone up; such flights are now weekly occurrences.  But the flight that went up September 29 actually carried a civilian payload into polar orbit: Alouette 1, the first Canadian satellite.

Alouette is designed to study the ionosphere, that charged layer of the atmosphere hundreds of miles up.  But unlike the sounding rockets routinely sent into the zone, Alouette will survey (or “sound”) the ionosphere from above.  Canada is particularly interested in understanding how and when the sun disrupts the region, interrupting radio communications.  Our neighbor to the north is a big country, after all, and it is the Northern Hemisphere’s first line of defense against Soviet missiles and bombers.  Radio is, therefore, vital to both defense and civilian interests.

According to early data, it looks like the highest “F2” layer of the ionosphere is as reflective to radio waves from the top as the bottom.  Alouette has also, by beaming multiple frequencies down to Earth, helped scientists determine what radio wavelengths aren’t blocked by the ionosphere.

(19) A MUCH DIFFERENT BOY AND HIS DOG. From Deadline: “Amblin Entertainment Acquires Tom Hanks Sci-Fi Package ‘Bios’”.

Writers are Craig Luck and Ivor Powell. The story is about a robot on an a post-apocalyptic Earth who was programmed to protect his creator’s dog. Through that, the robot learns about love, friendship and the meaning of life. Producing will be ImageMovers Jack Rapke and Jackie Levine along with writer Powell. Bob Zemeckis, Luck and Sapochnik will be executive producer.

(20) NOW ON THE SHELVES. The Archie McPhee catalog acknowledges our debt to these unsung professionals with their new LIBRARIAN ACTION FIGURE!

What’s that in the sky? It’s our new super-powered Librarian Action Figure! We need heroes right now who can help us navigate information, point us to reliable sources and recommend books that help us grow in our understanding of our fellow humans. In other words, move over Captain America, it’s time for the librarians. Based on Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl, this action figure has a removable cape and a deep knowledge of how knowledge is organized. Celebrate an everyday hero!

[Thanks to Meredith, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Juan Sanmiguel, and Wendy Gale for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/20/17 The Fan In The High Pixel

(1) WELCH’S STAR WARS VINTAGES. Collect and swill ’em all!

The Force is strong with these ones! Welch’s new Star Wars™ themed Sparkling Red 100% Grape Juice is the perfect addition to your celebration, or to your collection. Find all 4 unique designs, including the limited edition!

(2) PULLMAN ON THE AIR. Starting next Monday, BBC Radio 4 is presenting a 10-part audio narration of Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, volume 1 of Pullman’s new The Book of Dust trilogy.

Episode 1 at 10:45 PM (GMT), Monday 10/23. As usual with BBC, the episodes will be available for online listening “shortly after broadcast”.

This is part of BBC’s Book At Bedtime series, which is more of an audiobook-on-radio than the dramatic adaptations they’ve done elsewhere on their schedule.

Accompanying the novel installments will be nonfiction essays by Pullman, “Dreaming of Spires”:

In these personal, entertaining and deeply thoughtful essays, Philip Pullman examines the art of storytelling.

Written over a period of 30 years, they reflect on a wide range of topics including the origins of his own stories, the practice of writing and the storytellers who have most inspired him.

(3) FORMERLY FORBIDDEN. Cat Rambo conducts an “Interview with Sherwood Smith on Omniscient Point of View in the Inda Series”.

Recently the question of omniscient POV has come up in several classes, so I started reading some examples of it. One of the best I hit was Sherwood Smith’s Inda series. I figured, why not go to Sherwood and ask some questions about how she pulled that off.

What drew you to using omniscient point of view for the Inda series? What sorts of stories work particularly well with that POV? Were there any models that you looked when working with it?

I had always written in omni. I’m a visual writer (with all its pluses and pitfalls), which means I see a movie in my head—not just dialogue but characters’ inner lives. Omni always seemed the easiest way to get that movie down.

But when I started selling, I was told to switch to limited third, which I had to learn.

Segue up a couple decades, I was desperate to escape the limitations of third, and omni was no longer (trigger doom music) Forbidden….

(4) BECKY CHAMBERS’ NEXT NOVEL. Hodderscape invites you to “Read the first extract from Becky Chamber’s Record of A Spaceborn Few

When we heard that Becky Chambers was writing a new book set in the world of the Wayfarers we were over the moon. When we read the blurb and heard that one of the main characters was an alien academic (squee!) we were way over the moon and somewhere near Jupiter. Then we read this extract and we shot into a whole other galaxy entirely.

Record of a Spaceborn Few arrives 26th July 2018 and is available to pre-order now.

(5) FILERS AND REFILERS. Librarians at an Auckland public library kept finding books that had gone missing from their shelves “reshelved” in nooks & crannies.  Turns out bookloving homeless people were responsible (because they didn’t want the books to be lent out before they got a chance to finish reading). The New Zealand Herald has the story: “The curious case of the missing books at Auckland Library”.

“A lot of the guys that come in are extremely well-read and have some quite eccentric and high-brow literary tastes … people are homeless for so many different reasons, and being intelligent and interested in literature doesn’t preclude that.”

According to Rivera, around 50 homeless people visit the library daily.

The story also has been taken up by The Guardian.

(6) FOR YOUR SJW CREDENTIAL. Cat bowls hand-painted by celebrities are being auctioned for the benefit of “Architects For Animals Giving Shelter”. They include the handiwork of William Shatner, Elvira, and Jeri Ryan.

(7) HOVERCRAFTER. IBM’s Science and Star Wars video series talks about how superconductors are the future of mass transportation – an installment featuring Kevin Roche, engineer scientist at IBM Research Almaden who coincidentally is also chair of next year’s Worldcon in San Jose.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Episode Five-Oh! Book ‘em, Danno! Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Bask in Basque beef stew as Eating the Fantastic turns 50 with guest Xia Jia”.

Here we we are, more than 20 months later, and those of you who’ve followed my journey have listened as I’ve shared at times full meals—at times a donut, during my two lightninground episodes—with more than 75 guests. And the feasting’s not over yet!

This time around, I’m inviting you to join me and my guest for lunch during Worldcon at Parrilla Española, the oldest Spanish restaurant in Helsinki.

And who is this episode’s guest?

Xia Jia, whose short stories have been published in Nature, Clarkesworld, Year’s Best SF, Science Fiction World, and many other venues. She’s won five Galaxy Awards for Chinese Science Fiction as well as six Nebula Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy in Chinese. But her science fiction skills have been visible on more than just the page, because she directed the 2007 science fiction film Parapax, in which she also acted, appearing as three different identities of the protagonist across parallel universes.

We discussed how reading science fiction gave her the courage to take risks; what it means when she says she writes not hard SF, nor soft SF, nor slipstream, nor cyberpunk, but “porridge sci-fi;” why Ray Bradbury matters so much to her; the challenges of writing in Chinese, writing in English, and translating from one language to the other; our mutual love for Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler; how The Three-Body Problem changed the perceptions of science fiction in China, why she has faith she’ll eventually get to Mars, and more.

(9) MAY OBIT. Julian May (1931-2017) died October 17.

John Hertz profiled her in “May the Force Be With Her” in 2015, after he accepted her First Fandom Hall of Fame Award on her behalf.

She has always spelled her name Julian, and although after marrying T.E. Dikty (1920-1991, elected posthumously in 2013) she sometimes declared copyright as Julian May Dikty, she continued to write under the name Julian May — among others, including, I’m told, Wolfgang Amadeus Futslogg, by which I dare not address her.

Her fanzine was Interim Newsletter, rendering her to some extent a surrogate for all of us. Her story “Dune Roller” was in the December 1951 issue of Campbell’s Astounding, with four interiors by herself (it was made into a 1972 film, credited to her as Judy Dikty). Eight months later she chaired Chicon II, at the age of twenty-one….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 20, 1932 — James Whale’s The Old Dark House opens in theaters.
  • October 20, 1943 Son of Dracula premieres.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • October 20, 1882 – Bela Lugosi

(12) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian believes in Frankensteinly speaking as practiced by The Argyle Sweater.

(13) SPEAK UP. Mary Robinette Kowal is boosting the signal.

(14) SOUND INVESTMENT.  Atlas Obscura takes us “Inside the World of a Halloween Sound-Effects Artist”.

…Jumping ahead to the late 1950s, vinyl records allowed people to bring albums of sound effects home. Novelty records by the likes of Spike Jones, featuring funny monster songs and spooky stories set to eerie effects, became popular. However, possibly the first record with a track of just spooky sounds seems to be a record released by Disney in 1964 called Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. The album features effects that are now Halloween staples: moaning ghosts, barking dogs, clattering chains, and screaming victims, interspersed with short, often comedic, vocal segments that established them. “Disney’s Haunted House album, which was rereleased in 1995, seems to have become a staple in the U.S.A. in particular,” Haggerwood says.

(15) ANOTHER WORLD. At Nerds of a Feather, The G kicks off a new series of posts: “WORLDBUILDING: A Big World and Beyond”.

Welcome to the first post in our Worldbuilding series, where our writers explore various elements of imagining place, people and culture. Today I’m going to discuss where inspiration for fantasy worlds comes from, and what I’d like to read more of in that regard. Obligatory disclaimer: this is an opinion piece. You may agree, if our tastes align or if the arguments put forth resonate with you; or you may disagree, if they do not. That’s healthy. There is ample space for all kinds of approaches to fantasy, and life would be boring if we all wanted to read the same things. -G

Second-world fantasy is not historical, but draws from human histories, cultures and mythologies. The most famous and influential fantasy author, J.R.R. Tolkien, drew heavily from Nordic and Celtic mythologies in constructing Middle Earth. Most fantasy published since The Lord of the Rings has been similarly Eurocentric, utilizing the tropes he established and/or popularized as well as other widely-known (European) sources: Arthurian Legends, the Brothers Grimm, Niebelungenlied and various medieval bestiaries. Many, like Tolkien, are also in a sense a retelling of Song of Roland, or Herodatus–wherein a “civilized” stand-in for the West is threatened by a horde from the geographic periphery.

(16) TASTER’S CHOICE. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Charles Payseur uploads his monthly short fiction reviews: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 09/2017”.

The stories very much run the gamut between joyous and crushing, but each one is beautiful in its own way, and each brings its unique flavor to this early autumn tasting experience. So settle in and raise a glass, and let’s get to it. Cheers!

Tasting Flight – September 2017

“Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics” by Jess Barber and Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)

Notes: Expertly balanced between darkness and light, the story tastes like a breath of fresh air after a lifetime of smog, warms and lifts and offers a hope of healing.

Pairs with: Amber Bock

Review: Amir and Mani grow up in a Beirut strained by climate change, by water-scarcity, by the fear of doing greater harm. Both characters, because of their world and because of the weight of history, know only too well the cost of possession, of privatization. Both enter into service to try and heal the planet and bring water and hope and life back to a world that is on the brink. At the same time, they find themselves drawn to one another, and yet mindful that how humans treat the world, and how they treat each other, is linked, and that treating people like possessions, just like treating the Earth like a possession, leads only to corruption, deprivation, and loss. The story, through the exploration of these characters lives and relationships, begins to build a picture of what it might take to make the world work better. It stresses that it’s not technology alone that will save us, because without a philosophy to match, the exploitation and consumption will continue to escalate, pushing past all obstacles and barriers and safeguards. I love how the story implies that humanity needs a different framework in order to respect humans and the environment, in order to put cooperation and compassion ahead of personal ambition or passion. And it is a beautiful story that touches on how love still works in this philosophy, not quite in the same way that we now expect but still in profound and powerful dimensions that allow Amir and Mani’s story to be one of hope and healing and triumph, even as it is often about longing and distance as well. It is an amazing piece, and one of my very favorite stories of the year, period.

(17) WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE. At Centauri Dreams, an interesting piece on whether robotics might make the traditional SF vision of asteroid mining practical — “Robotic Asteroid Mining: Bootstrapping the Solar System Economy”.

While the prospects for humans in space dimmed somewhat, a renewed flowering of developments in AI and robotics burst onto the scene with capabilities that astonished us each year.  On the endlessly orbiting ISS, while astronauts entertained us with tricks that we have seen since the dawn of spaceflight, autonomous robots improved by leaps and bounds.  Within a decade of a DARPA road challenge, driverless cars that could best most human drivers for safety appeared on the roads.  Dextrous robots replaced humans in factories in a wide variety of industries and threaten to dramatically displace human workers. DeepMind’s AlphaGo AI beat the world’s champion GO player with moves described as “beautiful” and well within the predicted time frames.  In space, robotic craft have visited every planet in the solar system and smart rovers are crawling over the face of Mars.  A private robot may soon be on the Moon.  In orbit, swarms of small satellites, packing more compute power than a 1990 vintage Cray supercomputer, are monitoring the Earth with imaging technologies that equal those of some large government satellites. On Earth we have seen the birth of additive manufacturing, AKA 3D printing, promising to put individual crafting of objects in the hands of everyone.

What this portends is an intelligent, machine-based economy in space.  Machines able to operate where humans cannot easily go, are ideally suited to operating there.  Increasingly lightweight and capable, and heedless of life support systems, robotic missions are much cheaper..  How long before the balance tips overwhelmingly in the machines’ favor? Operating autonomously, advanced machines might rapidly transform the solar system.

(18) FASHION VIOLATIONS. Kelly Woo’s Yahoo! piece, “Halloween horror: 19 terrible ‘sexy’ movie and TV costumes no one should ever wear”, is clickbait that warns that women who want to dress up as Sexy Freddy Kruger, Sexy Strawberry Shortcake, and Sexy Remote Control, don’t do it!

So-called sexy Halloween costumes have gotten out of control in the last few years, with manufacturers doing their best to crank out a “sexy” version of pretty much anything. Even characters that have no business being sexy are now tarted up — and it’s time for the madness to end. Click through to see 19 terrible “sexy” pop culture costumes that simply should not exist.

(19) KEEPS ON TICKING. Lisa Taylor is enthusiastic about The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones — review at The Speculative Herald.

I’ll cut straight to it: The Salt Line is one of my favorites for the year. The entire concept of killer ticks sounds like it could be campy or over the top. That is not at all the case. The ticks are described in such a realistic and terrifying way that it truly becomes plausible. Or at least feels plausible. The author is able to use enough facts grounded in science to create this terrifying epidemic. This book did remind me a bit of Joe Hill’s The Fireman in that way. It depicts a world that has been ravaged by some disease, where people’s ways of life are altered because of them. I suppose there are a number of books that could fit this, but the over all tone and presentation and just the quality of writing put me in mind of Hill. That is a huge compliment from me as Hill is one of my favorite, must read authors.

(20) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. Talk about “news to me” – I never heard there was another ending: “Frank Oz restores dark original ending of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ for Trump era”.

The first time Warner Bros. screened Little Shop of HorrorsFrank Oz’s 1986 film musical, test audiences ate it up like a bloodthirsty plant devouring a sadistic dentist. They rooted hard for Seymour (Rick Moranis), the nerdy 1960s shop assistant who makes a devil’s bargain with a man-eating plant to win the love of his co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene). Every scene met with laughter and applause — until the plant devoured Seymour and Audrey, and the audience went silent. After two previews and many livid comment cards, Oz and screenwriter Howard Ashman decided to scrap the original, 23-minute ending — in which the plant eats everyone and takes over the world — in favor of giving Seymour and Audrey their happily-ever-after. Oz has no regrets. “My job is to entertain,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment, and the new ending was “more satisfying to the audience.” However, film fans have long mourned the disappearance of the original ending, which included a heartbreaking reprise of Audrey’s ballad “Somewhere That’s Green” and a fantastic montage of the plant, named Audrey II, rampaging, Godzilla-style, across New York City.

This month, Little Shop of Horrors will be screened for the first time nationwide with its original, darker ending restored. Oz wonders if the film will have a new resonance in the Trump era, when America’s real-life monsters thrive on blood, greed, and the misguided good intentions of countless Seymours….

(21) THE KINDEST CUT OF ALL. Vanity Fair interviews the principals to find out “How The Princess Bride Built Film’s Most Beloved Sword Fight”.

For six months, Princess Bride star Mandy Patinkin had trained to become Inigo Montoya, the world’s greatest swordsman. His worthy opponent, the Man in Black/Westley—played by Cary Elwes—had four months of prep under his belt as well. Spirits were high as the actors performed their duel for director Rob Reiner on the Cliffs of Insanity set for the first time, in London in 1986.

Elwes and Patinkin finished, drawing applause from the film’s crew. Then, both drenched in sweat, they looked to Reiner, who voiced his own response: “That’s it?” It wasn’t exactly the reaction they had hoped for.

(22) THE PEN IS MIGHTIER. Marked down to $6,862.50! “Montegrappa Limited The Iron Throne Game Of Thrones Limited Edition Fountain Pen & Rollerball Set Matching Number”.

But if you can’t swing that, there’s always “Montegrappa Limited DC Comics Superhero Set Ballpoint” for  $3,920.00.

(23) SPACE JOCKEY. Jockey statues have mostly gone out of fashion – unless it’s one created by H.R. Giger. You’ve got less than a week to put in your bid at Nate Sanders Auctions: “H.R. Giger Hand-Painted Model of Space Jockey & the Derelict Spaceship From ”Alien” — Measures Over 3 Feet by 3 Feet, Personally Owned by 20th Century Fox Executive Peter Beale”. Minimum bid: $100,000.

The enormous Space Jockey and cavernous spaceship are quintessential Giger, renowned for human-machine melded beings called biomechanoids; the walls of the spaceship appear to be either vertebrae from a once living creature, or cogs in a vast industrial machine system, or perhaps both. Space Jockey is fused into his command station and wears either a mask, or has an elephantine trunk extending from his face. In the ”Alien” set — which was built based on this model — Space Jockey sits 26 feet tall, dwarfing the characters of Kane, Dallas and Lambert who find him dead, his rib cage blasted open, serving as foreshadowing to what awaits the crew later in the film. So pivotal was the scene — establishing the world of the Alien creature and serving as ground zero for the film’s mythology — that Ridley Scott insisted upon its construction, despite the enormous cost of building the life-size (or larger than life) set. Space Jockey so enthralled the audience of ”Alien”, that the character would even go on to serve as a critical and central story point in Scott’s ”Promethus”, the ”Alien” origin story released in 2012.

(24) HORROR MUST ADVERTISE. Adweek has the story behind a series of seasonal candy commercials: “The Makers of the ‘Bite Size Horror’ Ads Tell Us All About Their Wonderfully Spooky Creations”

Halloween advertising has been a treat this year, thanks to Fox and Mars candy brands, which teamed up for a wonderfully creepy series of two-minute “Bite Size Horror” films that have been airing on Fox TV networks.

The series has included four films— “Floor 9.5” for Skittles, “The Road” for M&Ms, “The Replacement” for Starburst, and “Live Bait” for Snickers. (The campaign was created by Fox Networks Group’s integrated agency All City. Tony Sella from All City is the executive producer of the campaign, and Arby Pedrossian from Fox Digital Studio is the producer.)

 

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, John King Tarpinian, Lenore Jean Jones, Michael Brian Bentley, JJ, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Soon Lee, and Mark Hepworth for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

May the Force Be With Her

By John Hertz: [Reprinted by permission from Scientifiction, the First Fandom newsletter.]

This year’s Worldcon was Sasquan (sasquatch + convention), the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, August 19-23, 2015, Spokane, Washington. President Coker telephoned inquiring if I would attend. Yes, I said, how can I help you? He asked me to accept on behalf of Julian May her election to the First Fandom Hall of Fame. She herself although living in the area could not attend. Certainly, I said; it will be an honor. It was and I did.

Julian May.

Julian May.

On Hugo Night after the photos and Go in peace I stayed in white tie for the round of parties and, as is customary, carried the plaque. Some folks didn’t know what First Fandom was, or the emblem, or Papa Gernsback’s word Scientifiction. I explained.

She has always spelled her name Julian, and although after marrying T.E. Dikty (1920-1991, elected posthumously in 2013) she sometimes declared copyright as Julian May Dikty, she continued to write under the name Julian May — among others, including, I’m told, Wolfgang Amadeus Futslogg, by which I dare not address her.

Her fanzine was Interim Newsletter, rendering her to some extent a surrogate for all of us. Her story “Dune Roller” was in the December 1951 issue of Campbell’s Astounding, with four interiors by herself (it was made into a 1972 film, credited to her as Judy Dikty). Eight months later she chaired Chicon II, at the age of twenty-one.

As it happened my hotel roommate at Sasquan was Tom Veal, chair of Chicon VI, her successor. Chicon II tried to call itself “TASFiC” (Tenth Annual Science Fiction Convention), and Chicon VI tried to call itself “Chicon 2000”, but that trick never works. Being a lawyer I could call Veal her mediate successor, but I won’t.

She had a career of writing short plain things that fed interest. Thousands of science encyclopedia articles for three publishers. Hundreds of books, many suitable for children and many illustrated with photos or drawings, about sports, science, celebrities including Quanah and Sitting Bull, and apartheid in South Africa.

The Triple Crown (1976) tells the stories, plenty dramatic, of all the winners through Secretariat, and you know who owned Count Fleet, don’t you?  Rockets (1967) ends “Someday it might be possible for almost anyone to leave the earth and visit another planet.” She (as Ian Thorne) did book treatments of e.g. It Came From Outer Space, the 1953 movie from a Ray Bradbury story, the 1982 book with nine photos including the cover credited to Forrest J Ackerman which I find people are still reading today.

By 1985 Dikty needed 66 pages for The Work of Julian May.

I saw her in the Masquerade at Westercon XXIX (1976), coruscating with gems, not in competition as I recall. Only later I learned she made it and put it on to help her understand who would wear such clothing. She was thinking of writing about them. Beethoven once wrote out a Mozart string quartet by hand to help him grasp what Mozart was doing.

Lucas’ Star Wars is in fact set in the past, long ago in a galaxy far away. May wrote science fiction set in the past, not one million years B.C. but six times further back, four novels starting with The Many-Colored Land (1981) which are only the beginning of a series of eight about a Galactic Milieu through Magnificat (1996) — and there is a Diamond Mask (1994), or half-mask. John Clute says the narrative is increasingly charged with metaphysical intonations, linked to a sustaining concern with the attractive theme of psychic evolution, but I don’t write like that.

I used to wonder what the trillium was until it occurred to me Black Trillium (1990) had three co-authors, May and Marion Zimmer Bradley (who likewise never spelled her name Marian) and Andre Norton (who never spelled her name Alice). May wrote two more, Bradley and Norton one each.

That could bring us to the Rampart Worlds, and the Boreal Moon (most recently Sorcerer’s Moon, 2006). But this, from the 1F point of view anyhow, is recent history.

I’m a hopeful man, and I hope for more. I know very few authors with whom it’s not wholly out of bounds to ask How’s your new book coming? If they feel like it they’ll tell. I’d not mind even a revision to include American Pharoah (another typo that stuck).

Just about none of this came out of my mouth when I accepted the award. I had written to ask her if there was anything she wished me to say. She answered “A simple ‘Thank you’ to the members of First Fandom will suffice.” So I said Thank you. She also told me she’d mount her plaque next to Dikty’s. People die. Art lives.

Chicon II. L-R: Unknown, Bob Bloch, Hugo Gernsback (at lectern), Julian May, T.E. Dikty, and Sprague de Camp.

Chicon II. L-R: Unknown, Bob Bloch, Hugo Gernsback (at lectern), Julian May, T.E. Dikty, and Sprague de Camp.

In a letter to First Fandom, Julian May recalled the 1952 Worldcon:

Local fans and pros who elected me to the con chairman job right after my “Dune Roller” novelette was published in Astounding got a signal surprise when I ran the con expertly.

The Tenth Convention was not only the best attended, it also included the big New York publishers of SF and fantasy taking booths for the first time, attracted most of the important professional authors and editors, had Hugo Gernsback as Guest of Honor, and sweet old Doc Smith as Moon Commissioner.

Other Awards Presented at the Hugo Ceremony

At Sasquan’s Hugo Ceremony on August 22, the winners of several other significant awards were announced.

Ben Yalow in 2013. Photo by Lawrence Person.

Big Heart Award: Sue Francis presented the Big Heart Award for 2015 to Ben Yalow. (David A. Kyle, in charge of the award, did not attend.) Ben has since expanded his acceptance remarks and posted them on Facebook:

I’m thrilled and overwhelmed by the honor shown me with this Big Heart. I join an extraordinary list of people, and I feel amazed to be included with that group. And I’m even more amazed by the outpouring of support from all the people who made it clear this weekend that they think the honor was deserved. But it’s not really just me receiving this. It’s all the people who welcomed me into fandom 45 years ago, and continued to do so. And the wonderful people who I’ve worked with through all these years, who have taught me so much, and given me the honor of their wisdom and support through all these years. This Big Heart isn’t just to me — it’s to all of you who helped me to give back to the community, and to the community from which I’ve received so much. My fellow staff of fannish activities have shaped me, and rewarded me with their support and guidance throughout the years — and I owe them far more than the mere thanks I can give in a post like this. And, to all of you, I hope to continue to be able to give back what I can in the future, knowing that I’ve received far more than I can ever return.

First Fandom Awards for 2015: Steve Francis was emcee, presiding over the First Fandom Awards segment at the outset of the Hugo ceremony.

Julian May.

Julian May.

First Fandom Hall of Fame Award: John Hertz kindly accepted the award on behalf of Julian May. May chaired the Tenth World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in 1952, and went on to a career writing sf, fantasy, horror and children’s fiction.

First Fandom Posthumous Hall of Fame

  • Margaret Brundage
  • Bruce Pelz
  • F. Orlin Tremaine

Sam Moskowitz Archive Award

  • David Aronovitz, “for excellence in collecting.”

Special Committee Award: The Sasquan committee presented a posthumous Special Committee Award to Jay Lake, which was accepted by his sister, Mary Elizabeth. She was accompanied onstage by Lake’s daughter, Bronwyn.

[Thanks to John L. Coker III for the story.]

Update: Added Special Committee Award.