ComicMix Gains Partial Victory in Dr. Seuss Lawsuit Over Literary Mash-Up

Last November, during a Kickstarter campaign to fund Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) filed suit for damages claiming the project infringed their copyright and trademark on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!

ComicMix LLC moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and the motion was partially granted on June 9. U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino dismissed the trademark infringement claims, but allowed the copyright claim to proceed, awaiting proof of any harm to the Dr. Seuss estate’s licensing opportunities. The estate has been given two weeks to amend its copyright infringement claims.

As ComicMix reports:

Judge Sammartino found that the book is “a highly transformative work that takes no more than necessary [from Dr. Seuss’s books] to accomplish its transformative purpose and will not impinge on the original market for Plaintiff’s underlying work” She emphasized that the case has broader significance: “…This case presents an important question regarding the emerging ‘mash-up’ culture where artists combine two independent works in a new and unique way. … Applying the fair use factors in the manner Plaintiff outlines would almost always preclude a finding of fair use under these circumstances. However, if fair use was not viable in a case such as this, an entire body of highly creative work would be effectively foreclosed.”

The court decision also explained why it rejected the motion to dismiss the copyright infringement claim.

In codifying the fair use doctrine, Congress set forth four non-exclusive factors for courts to consider in evaluating whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is fair:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

…As it stands in this case, factors one and four — which “…have ‘dominated the case law’ and are generally viewed as the most important factors[,] …currently stand in equipoise. Factor two weighs slightly in favor of Plaintiff [DSE], and factor three is neutral. And although it would appear that the purposes of copyright favor Defendants [ComicMix, et al], that determination is also a close and unsettled call. Ultimately, given the procedural posture of this motion and near-perfect balancing of the factors, the Court DENIES Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Specifically, without relevant evidence regarding factor four the Court concludes that Defendants’ fair use defense currently fails as a matter of law.

Doctor Seuss Enterprises has until June 23 to present evidence about the effect on the market for the work whose copyright is allegedly infringed.

Court Delivers Another Setback to Axanar

star_trek_axanar_u_s_s_korolev_wallpaper_2_by_stourangeau-d6thmbiU.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner on January 3 denied the motions for summary judgment by defendant Alec Peters of Axanar and plaintiffs CBS/Paramount, saying the issue of “subjective substantial similarity” needs to be decided by a jury. However, the judge ruled that the Axanar production company can’t claim fair use, and that there is an “objective substantial similarity” between the Axanar works and the studios’ copyrighted Star Trek works.

(Read the full decision here.)

Applying the law’s four-factor test, the court rejected Axanar’s claim that material it has drawn from the Star Trek universe is protected by the fair use doctrine. (Citations omitted.)

1. Purpose and Character of the Infringing Use

The first factor is “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.” 17 U.S.C. § 107(1). This factor asks “whether and to what extent the new work is transformative,” in other words, whether the new work “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message,” or merely “supplant[s] the original.”

Defendants intentionally use or reference many elements similar to those in the Star Trek Copyrighted Works to stay true to Star Trek canon down to excruciating details. Viewed as a whole, the Axanar Works do not have “a further purpose or different character, altering the [Star Trek Copyrighted Works] with new expression, meaning, or message.”

On the other hand, Defendants want the Axanar Works to supplant the Star Trek Copyrighted Works. Peters “was interested in creating alternative ways for fans to view Star Trek.” He wanted to create “a whole new way that fans can get the content they want, by funding it themselves.” The Axanar Works are not transformative.

But the inquiry does not end here. An integral part of the first factor is determining “whether [the infringing] use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.” 17 U.S.C. § 107(1)

…Here, it is undisputed that the Defendants did not pay Plaintiffs for a license.

It is undisputed that Peters hoped to derive non-monetary benefits, for example, other job opportunities, from the Axanar Works…. The Axanar Works are commercial.

Defendants argue that the Axanar Works are not commercial because they are, and will be, distributed for free. This argument is unpersuasive because, even though Defendants do not profit directly from distributing the works, “common experience suggests that [Defendants] stood to gain at least indirect commercial benefit from the [viewership] boost which [they] had reason to hope would (and in fact did) result from the” Axanar Works. The successful fundraising campaign leveraging the popularity of Prelude is an example of such indirect benefit.

Defendants also argue that the Axanar Works are transformative because they are mockumentaries – fictions presented in a documentary form – a form of parody according to Wikipedia. For the purposes of copyright law, however, parody must use some elements of a prior work to create a new work that criticizes the substance or style of the prior work.…

Here, the Court has difficulty discerning from the Axanar Works any criticism of the Star Trek Copyrighted Works. This is not surprising since Defendants set out to create films that stay faithful to the Star Trek canon and appeal to Star Trek fans.

Thus, the Court finds that the first factor weighs in favor of Plaintiffs.

2. Nature of Copyrighted Work

The second factor, “the nature of the copyrighted work,” also weighs in favor of Plaintiffs. …The creativity in these Works and their status as published works are not disputed. They are the type of works that are given broad copyright protections.

3. Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used

The third factor is “the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.” 17 U.S.C. § 107(3).

While it is difficult to quantify the amount of the portion used in relation to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works as a whole since “the portion” involves many recurring elements in the Star Trek universe and the Star Trek Copyrighted Works are numerous, it is fair to say that elements of the Star Trek Copyrighted Works pervade the Axanar Works. For example, every scene involving a Klingon or a Vulcan can conjure up Star Trek in the minds of fans. The same is true of Federation spaceships, Klingon battlecruisers, transporters, phasers, and so on. The elements from the Star Trek Copyrighted Works that Defendants use are qualitatively important because they give the Axanar Works the Star Trek feel and enable Defendants to stay true to the Star Trek canon. Thus, the third factor weighs in favor of Plaintiffs as well.

4. Effect of the Use upon the Potential Market

The fourth factor is “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” 17 U.S.C. § 107(4).

Here, the prequel depicted in the Axanar Works is the kind of potential derivatives Plaintiffs “would in general develop or license others to develop.” Id. Plaintiffs have already developed a 2003 novel and licensed a role-playing game based at least in part on Garth of Izar and the Battle of Axanar from one episode of The Original Series….

Defendants’ attempt to treat the Battle of Axanar as a private little war is unpersuasive.

Defendants further argue that there is no evidence that the Axanar Works have acted as market substitutes to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works. However, this lack of evidence is understandable given the nature of the existing Axanar Works. Prelude is intended as a promotional piece to the feature-length Axanar Motion Picture. Prelude in that sense cannot be a market substitute of Star Trek television series or motion pictures, just as a trailer does not substitute for a feature-length film. The Axanar Motion Picture has not yet been made or released and its script is not yet released. Hence it cannot have any market impact. On the other hand, Defendants have successfully raised over a million dollars from Star Trek fans at Defendants’ prompting of funding the Axanar projects instead of “dumping hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on . . . cable channels” on which the Star Trek Copyrighted Works are shown. Peters “was interested in creating alternative ways for fans to view Star Trek” – the way to Eden perhaps. He wanted to create “a whole new way that fans can get the content they want, by funding it themselves.” Defendants used “a fully-professional crew – many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself – [to] ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see.” Peters also sought to distribute the Axanar Works on Netflix.… Defendants promoted an August 2015 draft of the script “the best Star Trek movie script ever!” on their Facebook page. Under these facts, Defendants evidently intend for their work to effectively function as a market substitution to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works. There is little doubt that “unrestricted and widespread conduct of the sort engaged in by [Defendants] would result in a substantially adverse impact [of market substitution] for the [Star Trek Copyrighted Works].”

…Thus, the Court finds that the fourth factor also weighs in favor of Plaintiffs.

Alec Peters as Axanar's Garth of Izar .

Alec Peters as Axanar’s Garth of Izar .

Defendant Alec Peters has released an official response to the decision:

This morning, Judge Klausner made a ruling that the case will go to Jury Trial to determine if Axanar is “substantially similar” to the CBS copyrighted works. If it is, then the jury will have to find if the infringement is “willful” or “non-willful”, and Judge Klausner already stated that “Peters’ actions demonstrate a respect for Plaintiffs’ intellectual property that makes a finding of willfulness on summary judgement inappropriate.” If the jury does not find “substantial similarity” then the case will be dismissed.

Depending on the outcome of the trial, Axanar may choose to appeal the verdict to the Ninth Circuit, where Erin Ranahan is 5-0. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is also known to favor artist rights.

So the story of Axanar continues…

More Reading: Carlos Pedraza of Axamonitor ends his excellent post about the decision by identifying all the judge’s subtle Star Trek quotes and references.

ComicMix Moves For Dismissal of Seuss Lawsuit

oh-the-places-youll-boldly-go

File 770 reported in September a crowdsourced appeal for funds to publish Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman.

While the Kickstarter was in progress, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) objected, claiming that the project infringed their copyright on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! They filed suit for damages on November 10 in Dr. Seuss Enterprises vs. David Gerrold, et al.

Now ComicMix’s Haumann reports his attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the Dr. Seuss lawsuit on the grounds that Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! constitutes fair use of any elements of Dr. Seuss books protected by copyright or trademark law.

A GeekNation article by Michael Hinman summarizes the contacts between DSE and ComicMix prior to the lawsuit:

Even at the start of the campaign, ComicMix acknowledged there could be problems moving forward with the book project, telling potential donors “there may be some people who believe that this might be in violation of their intellectual property rights. And we may have to spend time and money proving it to people in black robes. And we may even lose that.”

Just before the crowdfunding campaign was completed, raising nearly $30,000, Dr. Seuss Enterprises made a copyright claim to Kickstarter, forcing the company to remove the campaign and freeze the funds. That prompted an angry letter from ComicMix attorney Booth just before Halloween.

In that letter, Booth demanded the Seuss people to reinstate the campaign, especially since Kansas City-based Andrews McMeel Publishing had agreed to publish the book, and rush it for a Christmas release.

“Also anticipating Christmas sales, one vendor ordered 5,000 copies of the book as long as printing and shipping are completed by Nov. 11, but ComicMix expects to lose that order because, thanks to your notice, Kickstarter is withholding all $29,575 that the campaign raised, so ComicMix cannot use that money to cover the printing costs as intended.”

ComicMix’s response to the suit and its motion to dismiss are analyzed by Janet Gershen-Siegel at Semantic Shenanigans (“Seuss v. Gerrold, et al – Getting the Ball Rolling”). Her post includes links to copies of all the defense’s filings.

The Memo of Points and Authorities filed with the court outlines the defense’s arguments for dismissal. Here are two excerpts illustrating their main justifications. The memo itself also contains highly-detailed narrative comparisons showing the differences between the original work and ComicMix’s takeoff.

Introduction: Oh, the Uses Seuss Sues!

Defendant ComicMix LLC (“ComicMix”) respectfully moves the Court for an order dismissing this matter for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), on the grounds that ComicMix’s allegedly infringing book constitutes fair use of any elements of Dr. Seuss books protected by copyright or trademark law.

This case presents a simple question: May an author’s estate use the courts to stymie publication of a book that makes critical, parodic use of the author’s books? On the facts alleged, the answer must be no. The Copyright Act, the Lanham Act and the First Amendment fully protect ComicMix’s right to comment and build on Dr. Seuss’ works. The law does not place his beloved books above parody, beyond critical commentary, or past the reach of cultural transformation and nominative use….

Copyright law limits the scope of DSE’s claims.

DSE alleges that Boldly infringes its copyrights to Go!’s title, “story arc,” and characters and illustrations from Go!, Horton Hears a Who, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (“Grinch”), The Lorax, and The Sneetches and Other Stories. Doc. 1 ¶ 26. Yet copyright covers few of those elements, and Boldly infringes none….

DSE declines to identify any such well-delineated character, leaving its allegation of character “misappropriation” wholly speculative. No character in Go! meets this standard. The one character to appear more than once (except perhaps some elephants, who do not reappear in Boldly) is the protagonist, a walking cipher. The boy has no name or dialogue and few distinguishing characteristics beyond his yellow knit-cap and onesie. This lightly sketched everyman lacks the “distinctive character traits” required to be protectable by copyright. Towle, 802 F.3d at 1020.  Further, Boldly does not copy any Dr. Seuss character or its traits. In the boy’s place is the Enterprise’s captain, wearing the uniform of Star Trek commanding officers (a gold shirt with an arrowhead insignia over the left breast, and black trousers) or a spacesuit, or on one page, a green tunic like Captain Kirk sometimes wore. His spiky, adult hairstyle is not covered by a child’s knit-cap. Boldly’s wholly distinct characters do not infringe on any protectable character trait of the original. Nor does Boldly infringe on Go!’s simple, episodic storyline. See RJN Ex. 6. In Go!, the boy decides to leave town. He joins a balloon race, taking the lead before getting stuck in a tree. He lands in a “Slump,” comes to a place with unmarked streets, and has a hard time deciding where to turn. In confusion, he races down the road to “The Waiting Place,” where “everyone is just waiting.” He escapes to watch a musical performance by a “Boom Band”, then to join a parade of banner-flying elephants, and then to play on a convoluted ball-field. His athletic skill makes him world-famous, but he is again left all alone to face more scary things. Copyright does not protect the general plot line of an adventurer persevering as he faces both emotional and physical highs and lows. “The copyright of a story covers what is new and novel in it.” Bradbury v. CBS, 287 F.2d 478, 485 (9th Cir. 1961). “General plot lines are not protected by copyright law.” Cavalier v. Random House, Inc., 297 F.3d 815, 823 (9th Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted). “Familiar stock scenes and themes that are staples of literature are not protected.” Id.

Any story element in Go! that is not too generic to warrant copyright protection is not copied in Boldly, which depicts no confusing streets, balloon races, Slump, Waiting Place, music, elephants, or parades. The Go! boy’s one idiosyncrasy, a talent for playing an unusual multi-player sport, also does not recur in Boldly. Instead, Boldly is filled with allusions to episodes of the original Star Trek series. Any similarities between the plot lines of Boldly and Go! are generic and unprotectable.

The judge has allowed the plaintiff until January 19 to file its opposition to the motion to dismiss. Thereafter, ComicMix will have three weeks to file any reply. And the judge set a hearing for March 16, 2017.

Pixel Scroll 9/29/16 “–We Also Stalk Gods”

(1) THERE’S A SKILL I’D LIKE TO HAVE. It sounds like something you’d see in a movie about dope dealers, says The Hollywood Reporter, but it’s behind the scenes at for-profit fan conventions — “Stars Getting Rich Off Fan Conventions: How to Take Home ‘Garbage Bags Full of $20s’”.

Fan conventions, where stars can take home hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for a few hours of time, once were the domain of has-beens and sci-fi novelties. But the business has become so lucrative — think $500,000 for Captain America‘s Chris Evans or The Walking Dead favorite Norman Reedus to appear — that current TV and film stars are popping up at events like Salt Lake City Comic-Con and Heroes and Villains Fan Fest. The demand has become so overwhelming that agencies including WME, CAA, UTA, ICM, APA, Paradigm and Gersh have in the past three years added “personal appearance” agents to sift through the hundreds of annual events, book talent and (of course) score their 10 percent commission….

Here’s how it works: Actors typically ask for a price guarantee — often paid up front — to show up, sign autographs, pose for photos and sometimes take part in a panel discussion or two. Most conventions charge an entry fee, collect $5 for every autograph and $10 per photo (with a photographer taking another $10). The stars — who receive luxury travel and accommodations — pocket the rest. Anything over the guarantee is icing on the cake….

According to multiple sources familiar with convention deals, the basic guarantee rate for genre stars is in the $5,000 to $10,000 range per appearance — with leads on such current TV series as The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, Netflix’s Marvel shows and The CW’s DC Comics fare commanding anywhere from $35,000 to $250,000 and up, depending on their popularity and the frequency with which they appear. At top conventions, it’s not uncommon for a star to earn anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 on top of their guarantee (more if they spend extra time signing)…..

As if the conventions weren’t already lucrative enough, many stars also are contacted independently by autograph dealers looking to arrange meet-ups outside of events and can score anywhere from $6,000 to $250,000 to sign a few hundred items that will wind up on eBay. That’s one reason why Hamill and other stars are especially sensitive about fakes and are backing a new California bill that would require autographed collectibles sold in the state to come with a certificate of authenticity (yet another extra charge at conventions)….

Three big companies dominate the paid-convention space: Wizard World, Informa and ReedPop (each with about 20-plus events set for 2017), all of which are publicly traded. But while conventions are rewarding for attendees and talent, the financial picture for those running them often is less rosy.

(2) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. From A.V. Club we learn that Timeless creators are being sued for allegedly stealing premise for their show”.

Now it’s NBC’s turn to deal with the litigious, as Deadline reports that the creators of Timeless are being sued for allegedly absconding with the idea for their show, not unlike how Goran Visnjic does with a time machine in said show. NBCUniversal and Sony have also been named as defendants.

The suit was filed by Onza Entertainment for breach of contract and copyright infringement. The Spanish company that claims its idea for a government-backed team of time-machine-thief hunters was pinched, if you will, by Timeless creators Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural and Revolution). The suit lays out Onza’s premise for the show, and how it “relates to the adventures of a three-person government team (consisting of one woman and two men) traveling through time to thwart undesired changes to past events.” Timeless does feature its own group of timeline monitors, similarly comprising one woman and two men, though they have more academic backgrounds. Abigail Spencer plays a history professor, Matt Lanter her muscle, with Malcolm Barrett rounding out the ensemble as an engineer.

(3) THE PRICE FOR MARS. In “Musk’s Mars moment: Audacity, madness, brilliance – or maybe all three” on Ars Technica, Eric Berger says that Elon Musk’s plan to put a million people on Mars is actually technically plausible provided Musk raises $30 billion, which he isn’t going to be able to do without substantial government help.

Elon Musk finally did it. Fourteen years after founding SpaceX, and nine months after promising to reveal details about his plans to colonize Mars, the tech mogul made good on that promise Tuesday afternoon in Guadalajara, Mexico. Over the course of a 90-minute speech Musk, always a dreamer, shared his biggest and most ambitious dream with the world—how to colonize Mars and make humanity a multiplanetary species.

And what mighty ambitions they are. The Interplanetary Transport System he unveiled could carry 100 people at a time to Mars. Contrast that to the Apollo program, which carried just two astronauts at a time to the surface of the nearby Moon, and only for brief sojourns. Moreover, Musk’s rocket that would lift all of those people and propellant into orbit would be nearly four times as powerful as the mighty Saturn V booster. Musk envisions a self-sustaining Mars colony with at least a million residents by the end of the century.

Beyond this, what really stood out about Musk’s speech on Tuesday was the naked baring of his soul. Considering his mannerisms, passion, and the utter seriousness of his convictions, it felt at times like the man’s entire life had led him to that particular stage. It took courage to make the speech, to propose the greatest space adventure of all time. His ideas, his architecture for getting it done—they’re all out there now for anyone to criticize, second guess, and doubt.

It is not everyday that one of the world’s notables, a true difference-maker, so completely eschews caution and reveals his deepest ambitions like Musk did with the Interplanetary Transport System. So let us look at those ambitions—the man laid bare, the space hardware he dreams of building—and then consider the feasibility of all this. Because what really matters is whether any of this fantastical stuff can actually happen.

 

(4) FREE EVERYTHING. In an article at Democracy, a liberal public policy journal, Joshua Holland reviews Manu Saadia’s Trekonomics, which explains what Star Trek has to say about economic principles, particularly automation and the idea that while we won’t have replicators we may be at an era where a lot of goods are costless — “Can We Live Long and Prosper?”

Saadia doesn’t believe we’re likely to achieve a future that looks like Star Trek. For one thing, hyperspace travel, he says, is incredibly costly, and will offer humanity little reward for the effort. So he doesn’t see us exploring strange new worlds, or seeking out new life and new civilizations in the next few hundred years.

Thus tethered to Earth, Trekonomics is ultimately an argument that economic growth and good governance can lead us to enjoy a standard of living that’s almost unimaginable today. At its heart is the concept of “post-scarcity economics”—a world where technology is an unalloyed good that meets all of our material needs. Competition for finite resources has been a constant since early humans started scratching out a living. It’s shaped not only our economic systems, but our cultures and societies in really fundamental ways. The core argument of Trekonomics is that technology will eventually allow us to produce goods and services in excess of what we need, and that freedom from want will, in turn, lead to a radically different social contract—and new norms of governance—that are difficult to imagine today. In a Trekonomics economy, those at the top would have no incentive to grab an ever-larger slice of the pie because the pie would be infinitely large.

(5) SUPPORT LEGISLATION TO PROTECT COPYRIGHT. Francis Hamit has made a video to generate support for proposed legislation to create a copyright small claims court, HR 5757 or The CASE Act of 2016.  He adds, “There are many ways to support passage of this important legislation.  One way is to buy and wear this t-shirt that you can get from Tfund by following this link.” — http://www.tfund.com/CASEAct

As Hamit explained in a post here:

Now a bill is before the House called the CASE Act (or Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement Act of 2016.)

It is not law yet, and it needs your support. Write and/or call your Congressional Representative and urge a favorable vote. It is not a perfect solution to the problem, but it’s pretty good.

The CASE Act establishes a Copyright Claims Board with three claims officers and a minimum of two full-time attorneys to examine small cases. Cases must be brought within three years of the infringement, and the plaintiff(s) must have a copyright registration certificate in hand. If the registration was within or before 90 days of publication, the maximum damages are $15,000. If not, then $7,500. No single case will generate statutory damages of more than $30,000. Or, you can roll the dice and go for the actual damages, which may be very hard to prove. You pay your own attorney’s fees. Hardly a bonanza in other words. You can still move the case to a Federal District Court, but my own experience tells me that copyright cases are considered a complicated horror show there.

This court will be centralized as an office at the Library of Congress. While you might make a personal appearance, the emphasis is in resolving claims by mail and/or telephone. You may be able to do this without an attorney, or certified law student, but it’s probably not a good idea.

 

(6) TWILIGHT ZONE TRIVIA. I learned all kinds of new things while reading “11 Timeless Facts About The Twilight Zone . The first is funny —

There were almost six dimensions.

While recording the opening to the pilot episode in 1959, Serling exclaimed there was a sixth dimension to explore. When a network executive overheard the introduction, he asked Serling what happened to the fifth dimension. Serling assumed there were already five dimensions, not four. Luckily, the mistake was corrected before the episode aired.

(7) X-15. Here’s a BBC article about the X-15 program and efforts to restore the B-52 that ferried the experimental craft to launch altitude – “The bomber that paves the way for the Moon missions”. (One of the cool things I got to do as a kid was attend a science-themed event on the aircraft carrier Kearsarge where X-15 pilot Scott Crossfield was on the program).

Joe Walker could be one of the greatest astronauts you have never heard of.

On 22 August 1963, Walker strapped into the cockpit of an X-15 experimental rocket plane for his final flight. He took off into the clear skies above Edwards Air Force base in sou thern California, his needle-shaped aircraft strapped beneath the starboard wing of a B-52 bomber.

At around 50,000ft, the X-15 dropped from the wing, Walker lit his engine and rocketed into the sky. When the plane ran out of fuel two minutes later, he was travelling at 5,600ft-per-second and the sky had turned from blue to black.

In another two minutes, Walker had reached 354,200 feet – 67 miles – above the Earth and beyond the air we breathe. He was no longer flying a plane but a spacecraft. 11 minutes and eight seconds after release, he was back on the ground – having glided at hypersonic speeds to a perfect landing on a dried-up lake bed

(8) IT IS GETTING TO LOOK LIKE HALLOWEEN AT DISNEYLAND. The Halloween Tree, inspired by a Ray Bradbury story, is back in season at Disneyland.

The four masks on the plaque are artwork done by Joseph Mugnaini. The oak tree is in front of the saloon in Frontierland.

dedication-min

disneylandhalloweentree-min

(9) COMIC BOOK TRICK OR TREAT. Comic publishers invite fans to the Halloween ComicFest on October 29.

Celebrating its fifth year, Halloween ComicFest is an annual event where participating comic book specialty shops across North America and beyond celebrate the Halloween season by giving away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their shops. The event takes place on Saturday, October 29th and is the perfect opportunity to introduce friends and family to the many reasons why comic shops are a great destination for Halloween themed comic books, products and merchandise. From zombies, vampires, monsters and aliens to costumes and more, comic shops have it all when it comes to Halloween fun!

Click here to see the offerings – and to download free sample pages.

(10) THE MIND BEHIND THE MASK. Popular Mechanics tries to argue “Why Westworld Matters” in an entertaining little article, however, my memory is rather different – I don’t think it had much influence because sf writers were already feverishly turning out warning stories of this type – anything from Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” to Bradbury’s “Downwind From Gettysburg.”

The Line Between Human and Android Keeps Shrinking

Crichton told American Cinematographer at the time of the film’s 1973 release that he was inspired by going to Disneyland and watching an animatronic Abraham Lincoln recite the Gettysburg Address. “It was the idea of playing with a situation in which the usual distinctions between person and machine—between a car and the driver of the car—become blurred, and then trying to see if there was something in the situation that would lead to other ways of looking at what’s human and what’s mechanical,” he said.

In Westworld, even the park’s administrators aren’t quite sure what their robots are capable of. Ominously, one overseer announces, “These are highly complicated pieces of equipment, almost as complicated as living organisms. … We don’t know exactly how they work.” It becomes clear that Brynner’s gunslinger has gone rogue at least in part because he’s tired of letting park patrons shoot him full of holes just to satisfy their he-man cravings. He’s not a piece of furniture. He’s become sentient, and he wants a say in what happens to him.

Everything from Blade Runner (based on the late-’60s Dick novel) to A.I. (based on the late-’60s short story from Brian Aldiss) has grappled with the ethical questions inherent in making computers that duplicate human characteristics. How will we be able to tell if it’s man or machine?

(11) ISLAMIC SF COLLECTION. Islamicates Volume I: Anthology of Science Fiction short stories inspired from Muslim Cultures is available as a free download in many electronic formats.

Better late than never I always say, the wait is over, I give you the Science Fiction short story anthology based on the first Islamicate Short Story contest. There are a total of 12 stories in the anthology and the first three stories are also the ones which won the best story awards. The anthology is titled Islamicates: Volume I Science Fiction Anthology of Short Stories inspired by Muslim Cultures. It is titled Volume I because we hope to continue this series in the future. It was eight years ago that the first anthology based on Science Fiction inspired by Islamic cultures was released. Not only has the Geek Muslim community increased in numbers considerably but interest in Islam and Muslim cultures has increased to a great extent in pop media in general. We hope that our readers will greatly enjoy the anthology. As always comments, suggestions, questions and feedback in general will be greatly appreciated.

(12) PYTHON-RELATED PROJECT. Matthew Davis recommended a video: “Reading about the recent death of the actor Terence Baylor (who appeared in assorted Monty Python-related projects) reminded me that he was in a Terry Gilliam-directed advert for Orangina which was only ever broadcast in France.”

(13) RIDLEY SCOTT ADS. Davis also pointed out some other advertising history.“While Ridley Scott’s 1984/Apple commercial is famous with film and sf fans I don’t think his very Blade-Runner-esque series of adverts for Barclays bank in 1986 are remembered at all.”

[Thanks to Matthew Davis, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/16 It’s Only Pixels I Recall; I Really Don’t Know Scrolls At All

(1) THE CORRELATION OF MARKET FORCES. John Z. Upjohn delivers another stinging social criticism on Alexandra Erin’s blog — “Sad Puppies Review Books: Caps For Sale”.

caps-for-sale-240x300

A head-based cap delivery service is so woefully inefficient that it is no surprise he does not sell a single cap all day. “Not even a red cap,” he laments, which suggests that he knows that red caps are best, even if he insists on wearing his ridiculous checked one. Yet they are the ones at the top of the stack, where no one can reach them. SJWs don’t believe in simple market forces like supply and demand. If he knows that red caps are the caps preferred by the majority, there’s no financial reason for him to stock anything else. It’s okay for people to like other caps, but they can’t just expect to be pandered to!

(2) THAT ROTTEN VELOUR. Esquire studies “Why Star Trek’s Uniforms Haven’t Changed Much in 50 Years”.

Remember, this was the Age of Aquarius, when bold hues reigned supreme and NBC was billing itself as the “full-color network.” You can also see nods to the costumes’ 1960s heritage in the boots’ go-go contour, especially their Cuban heels. The flared trousers even suggested the evolution of bell-bottoms.

Beyond the prevailing cultural mood, Roddenberry’s working kit entailed some heavy ergonomic thinking. “No matter how many times NASA described the outfit of the future,” he once quipped, “it always sounded like long underwear.”

“Gene’s idea was that a replicator would redo the clothes every day,” said Andrea Weaver, a Star Trek women’s costumer. “In his mind, the crew would go in and the clothes would materialize, molded to the body form.”

That form was all-important. “Roddenberry’s theory,” said Joseph D’Agosta, the casting director, “was that by the 23rd Century, diet would be down to a science and everyone would be thin.”

Unfortunately, 20th Century reality didn’t always match 23rd Century fitness. “We found ourselves having to stay away from longer shots wherever possible,” Roddenberry observed, “as the simple plain lines of our basic costume render most unflattering any extra poundage around the waist.”

(3) UNIQUE WORKSHOP. Whoever heard of a writer’s workshop that pays for you to attend? The deadline to apply for Taliesin Nexus’ Calliope Workshop for Fiction and Nonfiction Authors is August 8.

Calling the next great American author!  If that’s you, then this September 9-11 get ready to have us fly you out to New York City, put you up in a hotel, and spend an entire weekend developing your work at the Calliope Authors Workshop.  You will have the opportunity to get thorough notes on your in-progress work as well as career advice from successful novelists, nonfiction authors, publishers, and literary agents.

(4) A STEP IN TIME. After seeing all those movies and cartoons in which someone stands inside the giant dinosaur footprint, well, here’s one in which you really can — “Meter-wide dinosaur print, one of largest ever, found in Bolivia”.

A footprint measuring over a meter wide that was made by a meat-eating predator some 80 million years ago has been discovered in Bolivia, one of the largest of its kind ever found.

The print, which measures 1.2 meters (1.3 yards) across, probably belonged to the abelisaurus, a biped dinosaur that once roamed South America, said Argentine paleontologist Sebastian Apesteguia, who is studying the find.

(5) BRONYCON REPORT. Wesley Yiin of the Washington Post says “The grown men who love ‘My Little Pony’ aren’t who you think they are”. His article about Bronycon takes a sympathetic look at the fans.

More than half a decade into the Brony phenomenon, the grown men who love “My Little Pony” understand that the world remains curious about them. So they kicked off their recent BronyCon gathering in Baltimore with a crash course on dealing with the media, from which a couple of helpful pointers emerged:

  • Don’t use jargon like “OC” or even “original character.” Simply explain that the Pony-inspired name you go by in Brony circles is, for example, “Champ Romanhoof,” the persona claimed by Chaim Freedman, a 17-year-old Brony from New Jersey.
  • Do ask for their credentials. Certain publications of a conservative bent have been quick to smear Bronies. You’ll never be able to convince these kind of journalists that Bronyism is not a weird sex fetish, nor a sad childhood hang-up, but just another earnest, all-American fan community.
  • Do talk up the narratives you’d like reporters to work into their stories, such as the money Bronies raise for charity. “The media,” emphasizes Jake Hughes, the leader of this seminar, “is not the enemy.”

Hughes, who goes by “Jake the Army Guy” at conventions, is a communications specialist for the Army with a stuffed Pinkie Pie toy perched on his shoulder, which perfectly complements his denim biker vest. Like many people in this room, Hughes has gotten his fair share of flak for loving a kids’ cartoon inspired by a cheesy plastic toy marketed to little girls during the Reagan administration. (Once, he says, he was quoted in a story that complained of Bronies’ body odor.)

But no one’s in a defensive crouch here. BronyCon, which attracted more than 7,600 attendees this year, is the ultimate safe space: When you’re in a rainbow wonderland of fellow travelers wearing unicorn horns and technicolor manes, randomly hollering catchphrases like “Fun! Fun! Fun!” and singing fan-written songs with titles like “Mane Squeeze,” you can stop worrying about what’s normal and what’s weird or where you fit in.

(6) ANTICIPATING THE 1961 HUGOS. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus is bracing himself for disappointment, in “[July 27, 1961] Breaking A Winning Streak (August 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

Take a look at the back cover of this month’s Fantasy and Science Fiction.  There’s the usual array of highbrows with smug faces letting you know that they wouldn’t settle for a lesser sci-fi mag.  And next to them is the Hugo award that the magazine won last year at Pittsburgh’s WorldCon.  That’s the third Hugo in a row.

It may well be their last.

I used to love this little yellow magazine.  Sure, it’s the shortest of the Big Three (including Analog and Galaxy), but in the past, it boasted the highest quality stories.  I voted it best magazine for 1959 and 1960.

F&SF has seen a steady decline over the past year, however, and the last three issues have been particularly bad.  Take a look at what the August 1961 issue offers us….

(7) DEBUT REVIEWED. Paul Di Filippo reviews David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars at Locus Online.

This seems to be a “steam engine time” kind of period in publishing, when writers who have focused exclusively on short fiction for many years now step forth with their long-anticipated debut novels….

(8) LITIGATION. Slender Man is an online fiction creation. Two Wisconsin girls, age 12 at the time, allegedly attempted to kill their classmate to please this character. They have lost their appeal to be tried as juveniles rather than adults.

Anyone 10 or older charged with first-degree attempted homicide is automatically considered an adult under Wisconsin law. But defense attorneys have argued that the case belongs in juvenile court, saying the adolescents suffer from mental illness and won’t get the treatment they need in the adult prison system.

Experts testified that one of the girls has schizophrenia and an oppositional defiant disorder that requires long-term mental health treatment. The other girl has been diagnosed with a delusional disorder and a condition known as schizotypy, which a psychologist testified made her vulnerable to believing in Slender Man.

In a pair of rulings Wednesday, the 2nd District Appeals court affirmed a lower court’s determination that it was reasonable to try both girls as adults. Citing the ruling last year, the appeals court said if the girls were found guilty in the juvenile system they would be released at age 18 with no supervision or mental health treatment.

It also noted that the evidence showed the crime was not accidental or impulsive, but planned out and violent. Given the serious nature of the offense, it would not be appropriate for the trial to take place in juvenile court, the appeals court ruled…..

According to a criminal complaint, the girls plotted for months before they lured Payton Leutner into a park in Waukesha, about 20 miles west of Milwaukee, and attacked her with a knife.

Leutner suffered 19 stab wounds, including one that doctors say narrowly missed a major artery near her heart. After the attack in a wooded park, she crawled to a road and was found lying on a sidewalk by a passing bicyclist. Despite the attack, she staged what her family called a “miraculous” recovery and was back in school in September three months later.

The girls told investigators they hoped that killing her would please Slender Man, a demon-like character they had read about in online horror stories. The tales describe Slender Man as an unnaturally thin, faceless creature who preys on children.

(9) LIEBMANN OBIT. SF Site News reports filker Michael Liebmann died on July 26. Liebmann founded GAFilk in 1999. More information at the link.

(10) JACK DAVIS OBIT. Artist Jack Davis (1924-2016) died July 27 at the age of 91. I knew him from MAD Magazine, though he was even better known for his movie posters, advertising art, and work in mainstream magazines.

Mark Evanier wrote an excellent appreciation of Davis at News From Me.

One of America’s all-time great cartoonists has left us at the age of 91. Jack Davis made his initial fame in EC Comics like Tales from the Crypt and MAD but went on to become one of the most visible (and imitated) creators of advertising, movie posters and record album covers ever. His ability to make anything funnier when he drew it and his keen eye for caricatures could be seen darn near everywhere in this country for well more than half a century.

(11) ANOTHER BALLOT SHARED. H.P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday revealed his “2016 Hugo Awards Ballot”.

I didn’t wind up reading a lot of the nominees and blogged about even fewer, but I at least wanted to get my votes up.  To be honest, I’ve lost a certain amount of interest in the Hugos.  And despite the big, big nomination numbers, the Hugos don’t seem to be getting nearly as much attention this year in general. It will be interesting to see if that is reflected in the voting….

How could someone who voted Jeffro Johnson first in three Hugo categories ever weary of the fun?

(12) GRAPHIC DETAILS. Eric Franklin at Game Thyme not only shared part of his ballot, but his fascinating process for ranking the nominees in “Hugo Awards: Done Voting”.

I read as much as I could of the others. I looked at the art nominees.

And then I grabbed an excel spreadsheet and rated everything based on a +10 to -10 scale of “Good” and “Fun.” I plotted that on a graph, and figured out where my “No Award” point was – it’s equivalent to 0 Good, 0 Fun. Anything with a score worse than that scored below No Award.

I also weighted the spreadsheet in favor of Good.  So a Good 5, Fun 0 work will have a better score than a Good 0, Fun 5 work.

Remember that this is zero average. Mediocre scores for good and fun are the +2 / -2 range. 3-5 is good, 6+ is great.  -3 to -5 is bad. -6 and less is awful.

Then I fed it to a formula to determine the distance from 10,10, as if it were a triangle and I was calculating the hypotenuse. So low numbers were good, high numbers bad.

0, 0 in my spreadsheet, BTW, comes to a final score of  11.53, so anything above that level was out.

I’m going to discuss two categories, tell you how I voted, and discuss each nominee in that category. I’m going to discuss Best Novel and Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form.

And yes, I know. I crazy-overthought this.

(13) JOURNEY’S END. Kate Paulk reaches the John W. Campbell Award and the Retro-Hugos in the culmination of her series for Mad Genius Club, “Hugo Finalist Highlights – The Retros and the Campbell Award Finalists”.

Brian Niemeier – DAMN YOU BRIAN NIEMEIER! Okay. Now I’ve got that out of my system. I couldn’t stop reading Nethereal. The combination of fantasy styling over science fiction with an intricate layered plot and remarkably human characters sucked me in and refused to let go. Of note: Niemeier is the only finalist in his first year of Campbell eligibility.

(14) UK GAMING CON FOLDS. Conception is a role playing game convention on the south coast of England. Held every year since 2000 it has raised over £150,000 for charity. There won’t be another.

It is with great sadness and regret that we must announce that the CONCEPTION Committee have unanimously decided to call it day.

There will no longer be a CONCEPTION 2017.

We have decided that after 17 years of hosting events at Hoburne Naish that we would rather end it on the virtual miracle that was this years event and retain the wonderful memories of CONCEPTIONs Past.

This choice was not an easy one for us to make. We have invested a considerable amount of time and effort on something that proved extraordinarily hard for us to let go. We emerged from CONCEPTION 2016 with some doubts and concerns about the future but also a renewed vigour for the challenges set by the new management. We were still optimistic that we could weather this re-structuring and re-development at Hoburne Holidays and still reliably host a convention in 2017.

However, recently even more changes have been forced upon us by Hoburne Holidays which severely limit the quantity of accommodation to a point where we cannot with any great certainly be assured that we can host the event in the same manner as we have in the past without badly tarnishing the experience for all our attendees.

So, rather than be forced to accept the uncertainty of dealing with Hoburne Holidays in the future or struggling to hurriedly find and negotiate terms with an alternative economically/ergonomically viable venue we decided to permanently discontinue the event.

[Via Ansible Links.]

(15) WORLDCON PREVIEW. One artist shares how his work is getting to the con.

(16) THE BAD NEWS. Unfortunately, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller won’t be making it to MACII.

Steve and I are very sorry, indeed, to announce that we will NOT be attending the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, MidAmeriCon II, to be held in Kansas City, August 17-21.

A direct casualty of this is the signing we were to do at the Bradley Fair Barnes and Noble, in Wichita, Kansas, on August 14.

We apologize to everyone who thought they’d have a chance to meet us, or to renew our acquaintance.  And we especially apologize for the lateness of the hour.  Up until this past Saturday, we were certain that we’d be attending.

So, here’s what we’d like you to do — go to the con, and have a terrific time.  Raise a glass of whatever it is you’re having, and share the toast with friends:  “To Plan B!” which is our own most-used salute.  Drop us a note, if you can, and tell us about the con. We’d like that.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY RABBIT

  • July 27, 1940 — Bugs Bunny made his cartoon debut.

(18) GREEN HARVEST. This is the kind of hard-hitting journalism you’ve been looking for. Fox News headlined this story “Sexy cosplayers can make $200,000 a year at comic book conventions”.

Scores of attractive women made their way to Comic Con in San Diego, Calif. last week to don skimpy cosplay outfits to entertain the convention’s superhero fans. Many do it just for fun, but for some it’s a job that pays well into the six figures.

“In addition to a per diem and travel costs, popular professional cosplayers can make at least $5,000 to $10,000 a show,” comic book expert Christian Beranek told FOX411. “If you add in mail order sales, crowd funding contributions and YouTube ad revenue, the top talents are pulling in close to $200,000 a year.”

(19) SAME BAT-TIME. Amazon would be delighted to sell you The Ultimate Batman 75th Year Limited Edition Watch Set.

  • DC Comics super hero are depicted from four eras of comic book history in the square-shaped watches.
  • In addition, there are four incarnations of the Bat-Signal depicted in the round-shaped Swatch-like minimalist watches. The watches from left to right as presented in the box; watches 1 and 2 of the set features Batman with his fists clenched. This muscular, determined Caped Crusader has spent the Modern Age of Comics defending Gotham City from its most notorious villains.
  • Watches 3 and 4 displays Batman dramatically staring up at the Bat-Signal. By the Bronze Age of Comics, artists had encased the super hero’s spare black bat emblem with a yellow oval. The insignia became the crime fighter’s trademark. Watches 5 and 6 then shows Batman swooping into the frame with his cape flying behind him. The image, from the Silver Age of Comics, accentuates the super hero’s signature glowing white eyes and utility belt.
  • Lastly, watches 7 and 8, highlights Batman as first envisioned by creator Bob Kane during the Golden Age of Comics. The super hero’s black cape and cowl and gray suit formed his iconic visual identity.

the-ultimate-batman-75th-year-limited-edition-watch-set-bat3104-2

(20) KILLING JOKE IS DOA. At Forbes, Scott Mendelson passes judgment: “’Batman: The Killing Joke’ Review: The Controversial Comic Is Now A Terrible Movie”.

Final paragraph:

We may not have gotten the Killing Joke adaptation that we wanted, but we may well have gotten the one we deserved.

(21) BIG PLANS. George R.R. Martin tells how he will celebrate the third anniversary of his theater.

Hard to believe, but we are coming up on the third anniversary of the re-opening of the Jean Cocteau Cinema. Santa Fe’s hometown movie theatre, and first art house, had been dark for seven years when we turned on the lights again and opened the doors in August 2013. Needless to say, that calls for a celebration… a week-long celebration, in fact!!!

(22) DIRECTOR’S TOUR. Tim Burton takes us inside the peculiar world of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Dawn Incognito, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Gregory N. Hullender.]

Ryan Kopf Refiles Suit Against Nerd & Tie

Ryan Kopf

Ryan Kopf

It was only a matter of time. Conrunner Ryan Kopf, whose suit against blogger Trae Dorn was dismissed in Iowa for lack of jurisdiction, has refilled it in Illinois. Dorn announced the development at Nerd & Tie on July 5 and has posted a copy of the new lawsuit here.

Kopf is suing in response to a pair of Nerd & Tie articles published last summer. As File 770 explained in January:

In both suits, Kopf has denied the allegations made about him.

Kopf explained on his blog why he is pursuing the litigation in Illinois.

Aside from Iowa, there are three places that may be considered proper. Wisconsin and Indiana are places the defendants live. However I don’t do business in either state. That leaves Illinois, a place where they have done business. We’re now suing them in Illinois, a jurisdiction that should be proper and equally fair for everyone, as all the parties have done business in Illinois.

Why am I suing them?

Because you can’t just make stuff up online without repercussion. The things they’ve written, which, again, were usually untrue, turned away business from the conventions. If you go around telling people “Blank is a bad person,” often enough, they’re going to start taking your word. But that’s not fair to Blank.

It’s really really easy to make stuff up on the internet.

I own the moon.

Christopher Sturz, a Nerd & Tie co-creator and contributor (aka Pher Sturz) has also been named as a defendant in the suit. Dorn writes, “It should be noted that Pher was added to that suit solely because of posts made on his personal Facebook page in support of me.”

The lawsuit describes those remarks as follows:

On or about January 6, 2016, the Defendant Sturz posted on his Face book that the Plaintiff is “a rapist.” He also suggested that the Plaintiff should pay him in “ball lickings.”

Kopf is asking for $50,000 in actual damages to his business, and $50,000 in actual damages for the defamatory statements, plus punitive damages, costs, and a court order for the defendants to remove their statements from the internet.

Dorn was able to crowdfund his defense against the Iowa suit. He’s launched another GoFundMe campaign to defray the costs of the Illinois suit.

The appeal has raised $460 of its $6,000 goal as of this writing.

Pixel Scroll 5/2/16 Ancillary Mary Sue

(1) COSTUMES ON TRIAL. The Hollywood Reporter says “Supreme Court to Hear Fight Over Cheerleader Uniforms”, an issue that some argue can affect fans doing cosplay.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that is nominally about cheerleader uniforms, but could have some impact on Hollywood merchandising as well.

The eight black-robed justices will be reviewing an opinion handed down last August from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Varsity Brand to pursue copyright claims over similar cheerleader uniforms made by Star Athletica. The ruling held that the stripes, chevrons and color blocks incorporated into these uniforms were purely aesthetic.

…An amicus brief from Public Knowledge in this cheerleader costume case also spoke of the many people who cosplay at comic conventions.

“The multitude of contradictory separability tests that currently stand means that a costume replica may be non-infringing at a San Diego convention but infringing in New York,” stated that brief. “The situation is absurd, abstruse, and – owing to the historical lack of copyright protection for any article of clothing – functionally obfuscated from the people whom it stands to impact most.”

(2) TODAY IN FICTIONAL HISTORY

  • MAY 2 — ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF HOGWARTS. With the help of the Harry Potter Wikia we salute the Unidentified fallen fifty:

They moved Voldemort’s body and laid it in a chamber off the Hall, away from the bodies of Fred, Tonks, Lupin, Colin Creevey, and fifty others who died fighting him.

—Description of the post-Battle

The unidentified fallen fifty of the Battle of Hogwarts (d. 2 May, 1998) were the unknown people who were killed fighting Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters in the final conflict of the Second Wizarding War. They did not die in vain as their cause had been won after their deaths. At the end of the battle, all of the bodies were placed together in the Great Hall.

(3) FROM PKD TO PHD. Be the Professor of Future Crimes! University College of London is hiring. I am not making this up.

The nature of the crime and security problems we face has transformed in recent years and continues to change rapidly. Most obviously, the digital revolution has created new challenges in the form of cybercrime and other cybersecurity threats, while developments such as the Dark Web and the Internet of Things are exposing new problems. But the issue is wider than digital technologies: developments, for example, in nanotechnology, robotics and cybernetics are creating new opportunities that can be exploited for criminal and terrorist purposes. And nor do the new threats solely involve technological developments: social changes associated with population growth, changing migration patterns, and climate change all have the potential to drive crime and insecurity in as yet largely unforeseen ways.

(4) AWESOME. Jim C. Hines launches a new series of posts with SF/F Being Awesome: Books for Kids.

For close to 20 years, Balticon and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society have been raising money to provide books to kids — particularly kids who might not otherwise be able to afford them — and to school libraries as well.

I spoke with Kelly Pierce, who’s been coordinating the Bobby Gear Memorial Charity Auction at Balticon since about 2002. The auction raises the bulk of the money for Books for Kids each year….

Since it all began, Balticon and BSFS has probably raised around $50,000 to provide books to libraries and kids in need, with the bulk of that money comes from the annual auction….

For more information:

(5) DROPPING THE PILOT. io9’s new editor Rob Bricken previews the future in “io9’s Mission Isn’t Over”.

Hello, I’m Rob Bricken. Some of you may know me as the guy who writes the FAQs, or the guy who hates everything, or a deluded SJW, or perhaps the person who will shortly be turning io9 into a garbage fire. I would like to present myself as something else—the new editor of io9.

Yes, I have been given the monumental, terrifying task of taking over here, a job that I can promise you I did not have designs on. Like all of you, I would have been content with Charlie Jane Anders running io9 until the heat death of the universe. As I told her as she said goodbye, she is io9. Always was. Always will be.

But as Charlie Jane herself wrote, io9 has a mission

(6) FLASH FICTION. Cat Rambo answers the question “Why Write Flash Fiction?” on Medium. She defines flash fiction, then gives writers reasons to try it.

At any rate, writing flash fiction is both a useful and productive exercise for writers. Anything that makes us practice writing is surely a good thing, and sitting down to write a flash piece fulfills that. Beyond that, it’s very satisfying to rise from the desk knowing you’ve written something in its entirety, as opposed to the tiresome nature of a novel, which swallows hours and hours of writing while swelling as slowly as ice accreting on a glacier.

You can use flash to try out new techniques. One of the exercises I often use in class draws on a piece I heard Gra Linnaea read at World Fantasy Con, written all in future tense, which I read to the class before challenging them to write their own pieces in future tense. Another draws on Randy Henderson’s most excellent THE MOST EPICLY AWESOMEST STORY! EVER!!, which I use to challenge the class to think about bad writing vs. good.

Many new writers are hungry for publications, and writing flash is a good strategy for garnering some. Flash markets, by their nature, consume a lot of pieces, and where a market that publishes one story each month is buying only that one story, a flash market is buying a much larger number. One of my favorites is Daily Science Fiction, which mails me a story every weekday. Every Day Fiction, as another example, runs a flash piece each day. The shorter a piece is, the easier it is on an editor’s budget.

(Cat Rambo’s full-length short story “Left Behind” was published in the May issue of Clarkesworld, which you can read online, or you hear read to you by Kate Baker.)

(7) RHINO RUNNER. Jim Mowatt has written about his transcendent experience running the London Marathon run for Save The Rhino.

“That last mile is absolutely amazing” she said, “and when you turn to go down the Mall it’s the most incredible experience that you could imagine.” I did try to imagine it and reckoned it would be akin to some of the feelings that I have previously experienced when I have finished a particularly gruelling run. The actuality was was nothing like that. It was a massive emotional assault on a astounding scale.

I shuffled along the Embankment in a world of pain and then turned right at the Palace of Westminster. Then I ran along Birdcage Walk curving around toward the Mall and Buckingham Palace. All the while the noise grew louder and louder until it became completely unbearable. There was a kind of mass hysteria going on all around me. I’d got a shop to print Jim on the Save The Rhino tee shirt so people could shout out my name and, in a way, join in with my run. What felt like thousands of people were shouting my name. Faces were looming out of the crowd telling me that I was awesome or amazing or incredible. It was absolutely terrifying but quite exciting too. My mind couldn’t cope with this assault and tried to shut down to get me through. I went with it for a while but realised that this was a very special moment and I had to savour it. I forced myself to engage again. I could hear everyone shouting and screaming, all caught up in this amazing event. I zoned in and out as we progressed further down the Mall trying not to break down and cry with the massive waves of emotion rolling over and around me. At the final turn I saw the finish line and focussed in on that, lurching forward until I crossed the mat with arms held aloft….

(8) IT’S ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE. I have not previously reported the announcement made last November by BSFS and WSFA that the 2018 World Fantasy  Convention will be held in Baltimore. Nor does Google show that it has been picked up anywhere else. Let this be a placeholder ‘til more information comes out.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (bsfs.org) and Washington Science Fiction Association (wsfa.org) shall be hosting the 2018 World Fantasy Convention on November 1 – 4, 2018 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel (the location for next year’s 50th anniversary Balticon (balticon.org)). Many of us who were involved with the management of WFC 2014 are working on this exciting new project.

(9) AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A CAT. Ursula K. Le Guin serves as amanuensis for “My Life So Far, by Pard” at Book View Café.

In the first place there were Mother and Sister and me with a mother and an aunty human who had a lot of kittens. Some tom humans came around now and then and either paid no attention to anybody but the queens, or were dangerous to kittens, pretty much like real toms. Mother and Sister and I kept out of their way and had no worries except sometimes the younger kitten humans, who will pull your tail as soon as their eyes are open. And some of the bigger ones played too rough, or tried to hug. Hugging, even when well meant, is horrible.

Life was often quite exciting in the first place, and we were happy together. I am hardly ever sad, but sometimes when I am going to sleep I hear purring around me that is not mine, and it seems that Mother and Sister and I are all curled up like one warm cat. And then I am happier than usual.

The kibbles there were all of one species, but there were plenty of them, except when there weren’t any of them. When the bowl had been empty for a while and then the kibbles were turned loose in it, Sister and I did a lot of growling and shoving to see who could get more first, but it wasn’t serious, it just made hunting and killing the kibbles more exciting….

(10) GRRM’S ANSWER. George R.R. Martin cleans off some of the mud that’s been hurled his way in “A Response To John C. Wright”.

…All that being said, I do not know why Wright seems to believe that by purchasing and publishing one of his stories seven years ago, I am therefore somehow required to like everything that he writes subsequently, to the extent that I would feel it Hugo worthy.

It should be pointed out that “Guyal the Curator” was not itself nominated for a Hugo (there being no Puppies around in 2009 to push it). None of the stories from SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH were Hugo finalists, truth be told. Do I think some were worthy of that honor? Sure I do. I cannot pretend to be objective, I’m proud of the anthologies I edit and the stories I publish. Do I think that all the stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH (or ROGUES, or OLD MARS, or OLD VENUS, or LOWBALL, or any of my anthologies) are Hugo-worthy? Of course not. In a normal year, the Hugo finalists are supposed to represent the five best stories of the year in that word length. Was “Guyal the Curator” one of the five best short stories (actually, it might have been a novelette, after so long I do not recall the word length) of 2009? No. It was a good story, not a great story. The Hugo Awards demand greatness. It was an entertaining Vance tribute, but it was not a patch on real Vance, on “The Last Castle” or “The Dragon Masters” or “Guyal of Sfere.” And truth be told, it was not even one of the five best stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH. A good story, yes, I’ll say that again. But there were better in the book. (And how not? We had an amazing lineup of contributors).

Which brings us back to Puppygate, and last year’s Hugo ballot.

I read every word in every story in the anthologies I edit, as I’ve said. I did not read every word in every story on last year’s Hugo ballot, no (or on any Hugo ballot, for that matter). I start every story and give them a few pages. If they grab me, I keep reading. If they bore me or offend me, or fail to interest me for whatever reason, I put them aside. Mr. Wright seems convinced that I did not read his stories on last year’s ballot. He’s half-right: I did not read all of them. But I started all of them (there were five), finished some, set others aside. The same as I do with any story I read; no special treatment.

I did not find any of them Hugo-worthy. Not one of them was as good as “Guyal the Curator,” in my opinion. No doubt others liked them better.

(11) THE POWER OF FIVE. Does the title of John Scalzi’s post show that he’s tuned to our wavelength? That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it — “Two New Books in 2016 That Have Me In Them. Well, Three. Actually, Five”.

So, to recap:

  • The Books That Changed My Life — already out.
  • Mash Up — out June 7.
  • Black Tide Rising — also out June 7.
  • The Dispatcher — scheduled for this year in audio.
  • Secret SubPress Project — also scheduled for this year (I think!).

And the mass market paperback of The End of All Things, out May 31st.

(12) MORE THOUGHTS. Mark Ciocco at Kaedrin comments: “The 2016 Hugo Awards: Initial Thoughts”.

Fortunately, at least part of the Puppy success this year was driven by the inclusion of works from mainstream authors on the lists. The Rabids had folks like Neal Stephenson , Neil Gaiman, Alastair Reynolds , and Lois McMaster Bujold on their slate, which, well, these are all people who don’t need any help getting nominated. In addition to those names, the Sads even included the likes of Ann Leckie, John Scalzi, Nnedi Okorafor, Naomi Novik, and Cat Valente, most of whom don’t seem to exactly fit the puppy mold if they aren’t actively hostile towards each other. I am, of course, not the first to mention this, but it does seem to have the effect of softening the impact such that the scortched-earth No Award response feels less likely this year. There are some who are calling these mainstream choices “shields” and coming up with elaborate conspiracy theories about their inclusion, but who knows? I mean, yeah, I could dig through the muck and try to figure out what the Rabid intentions really are, but jeeze, who wants to get into their head? I like a lot of these authors and hell, I even nominated some of them (completely independent of recommendation lists or slates, imagine that!). Of course, this has been my approach all along, but others, even strident opposition, seem to be getting on board that train.

(13) FLASH ROMANCE. The BBC reports there has been a preemptive protest about casting the movie version of The Flash — “Superhero fans rally to keep The Flash’s love interest black”.

The announcement that DC Comics and Warner Bros are to put comic book character The Flash on the big screen in two forthcoming movies was good news for many. There is already a successful TV series based on the character, and fans were expecting more of the same.

But some were alarmed by the suggestion that one of the supporting characters might undergo a transformation for the cinema version. Although full details of the film’s cast are yet to be announced, one blog reported “industry rumours” that the race of one of the characters may be changed.

The report suggests that a white actress, Imogen Poots, could be cast as Iris West Allen – a part played in the successful TV version by black actress Candice Patton.

Although the rumour remains unconfirmed, some fans began accusing Warner Bros of “whitewashing”, using the hashtag “Keep Iris Black”. The phrase has now appeared more than 7,000 times.

(14) HALLOWEEN AUCTION. Mark V. Ledenbach’s auction of vintage Halloween stuff runs through May 8. He is also blogging about some of the items, such as a tin noisemaker that went for $117.

This tin litho noisemaker, made by an unknown manufacturer during the 1930s, is very cleverly designed. I have my suspicions that it was made by Bugle Toy of Providence, Rhode Island, but they were disciplined about marking their tin litho items and this tin item has no mark. It has their characteristic clever design. Take a close look at it to see the almost Art Deco integration of four orange cat faces bordered by two bats and two owls.

Tin as a genre has been ice cold for years now. This was an aggressive ending price. Does this presage an upward movement for tin litho items?

(15) IN THEIR OWN WORDS. From the May issue of Smithsonian magazine, “An Oral History of ‘Star Trek’”.

The trail-blazing sci-fi series debuted 50 years ago and has taken countless fans where none had gone before…

In the teleplay for the first pilot, “The Cage,” starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike, Roddenberry described the establishing shot in detail: “Obviously not a primitive ‘rocket ship’ but rather a true space vessel, suggesting unique arrangements and exciting capabilities. As CAMERA ZOOMS IN we first see tiny lettering ‘NCC 1701- U.S.S. ENTERPRISE.’”

Walter M. “Matt” Jefferies (production designer, “Star Trek”) I had collected a huge amount of design material from NASA and the defense industry which was used as an example of designs to avoid. We pinned all that material up on the wall and said, “That we will not do.” And also everything we could find on “Buck Rogers” and “Flash Gordon” and said, “That we will not do.” Through a process of elimination, we came to the final design of the Enterprise.

Gene Roddenberry I’d been an Army bomber pilot and fascinated by the Navy and particularly the story of the Enterprise, which at Midway really turned the tide in the whole war in our favor. I’d always been proud of that ship and wanted to use the name.

Roddenberry’s attention to detail even extended to the ship’s computer at a time when computers were punch card–operated behemoths that filled entire rooms. In a memo on July 24, 1964, to production designer Pato Guzman, Roddenberry suggested, “More and more I see the need for some sort of interesting electronic computing machine designed into the USS Enterprise, perhaps on the bridge itself. It will be an information device out of which the crew can quickly extract information on the registry of other space vessels, spaceflight plans for other ships, information on individuals and planets and civilizations.”

Gene Roddenberry The ship’s transporters—which let the crew “beam” from place to place—really came out of a production need. I realized with this huge spaceship, I would blow the whole budget of the show just in landing the thing on a planet. And secondly, it would take a long time to get into our stories, so the transporter idea was conceived so we could get our people down to the planet fast and easy, and get our story going by Page 2.

Howard A. Anderson (visual effects artist, “Star Trek”) For the transporter effect, we added another element: a glitter effect in the dematerialization and rematerialization. We used aluminum dust falling through a beam of high-intensity light.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/16 Hivers Against Humanity

(1) DRAGON HATCHERY. Naomi Novik is interviewed on NPR, “A Writer-Engineer’s Historical Fiction Hack: Add Dragons”.

Almost a decade after she first went online, she says she was working as a programmer for a computer game “and something about that whole process of building the structure of that game turned into a real kind of light-bulb moment for me as a writer.” At the time, her fan fiction at was inspired by swashbuckling adventure novels set in the Napoleonic era. But something started happening to her stories — they were getting longer and more complex.

“Then all of a sudden I sort of started to feel that I was constrained by the characters, as opposed to enjoying them,” she says. “And that remains for me to this day the line … where it’s like: OK, you’re not writing fan fiction anymore.”

She also had an idea she wanted to run with: “What could make the Napoleonic wars more exciting? Dragons!” And one dragon in particular: Temeraire. He’s central in her 9-book “Temeraire” series, which opens with the dragon becoming the responsibility of Will Laurence, a naval captain fighting for the British against Napoleon. Laurence is chivalrous with a keen sense of duty, but he embraces the 19th-century conventions that Novik paints in faithful detail — even some that are distasteful to 21st-century readers, like class hierarchies and the roles of women. Temeraire, on the other hand, is newly hatched; he provides a more critical, modern voice.

(2) SUIT & NERD & TIE. AnimeCon.org CEO Ryan Kopf sued Nerd & Tie blogger Trae Dorn in December, claiming Dorn had defamed him. Now Dorn has amended his suit to include Dorn’s podcast co-host Pher Sturz.

So many of you already know that in December AnimeCon.org CEO Ryan Kopf filed a lawsuit in the state of Iowa against me for articles I published here on Nerd & Tie about his organization. After I was served, I quickly went public — starting a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for my legal defense (because, y’know, lawyers are expensive).

Pher Sturz, who co-hosts the podcast with me (and came up with the name for it — which is where the name of this site comes from), was very vocal in his public support for me. Pher did this because he’s a good friend, and wasn’t really any more inflammatory (and in most cases significantly less so) than most other people sharing the link.

….To make this worse, Pher, frankly, doesn’t make a lot of money. And I know he won’t point this out himself, but he has a young daughter as well. Lawyers are really, really expensive and he needs to hire one fast. His original attempt to secure aid fell through, so now we’re reaching out to you — the Nerd & Tie readers.

Pher has launched a GoFundMe campaign (Titled ‘The Ryan Kopf is Suing Me Too! Fund‘) to try and get money together to hire someone, and I hope you’ll consider contributing. He’s asking for $3000 right now because (after fees) that’s effectively what he’ll need to get started.

(3) BITES THE DUST. SF Site News reports “Samhain Publishing Closing”.

Samhain Publishing has announced that they will be closing. According to Samhain, the main cause of their decision is changes with their terms with Amazon. They are planning a controlled shut down and will continue to pay royalties to their authors and will be returning rights on a schedule.

More here.

(4) OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE. Deborah J. Ross knows about “Rejection, Discouragement, and How a Few Loyal Readers Can Save an Author”.

Being discouraged is part and parcel of a working writer’s life. Negative reviews, ditto. Some of us are naturally more thick-skinned about them than others, and most of us develop coping strategies over the years. This is where networking with other writers can be very helpful.

…. Reviews, ah reviews, and in this category I include feedback from critique groups and beta readers. So much has already been said about the power of a caustic review or harsh feedback of a work in progress that I won’t belabor the point here. Suffice it to say that the natural human desire for praise (for our creative “children”) leaves us vulnerable to interpreting criticism of the work with condemnation of ourselves. Or, having torn off our emotional armor to write from the heart, we’ve also ripped off any defenses against sarcasm, etc. I’m among those who, having received scathing feedback, went home, and cried. I never considered giving up (although on more than one occasion, I contemplated getting even and thankfully resisted the temptation). But some writers have.

Negative feedback, if consistent and prolonged, can have a devastating effect on a writer’s self-confidence and ability to work. Support and encouragement from our fellow writers can be our greatest asset in setting aside the nasty things people have written about our stories. A hiatus from reading reviews is highly recommended.

(5) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Since Steve Davidson found a stash of mimeographed File 770’s on a freebie table at Boskone he’s been thinking how Ye Olden Times in fandom compare with Today. Steve distills those thoughts in “Ode to File 770 (and a note on our changing culture)”:

File 770 what kind of people cover wade gilbreath CROP

I then met Mike in person for the first (and last) time at Iguanacon in 1978.  Where I had the disappointing task of having to inform him that the only part of Contact:SF (which by then had gone semi-pro) that I could show him was a tear sheet of the cover.  (American Airlines lost every single copy I was shipping to the con, which ended up financially killing it.)  Mike had offered to spread the news within the pages of his own (eventual Hugo Award winning) zine (after having a look of course) and I had been looking forward to a rapid climb within the world of fanzine fandom.  A Hugo award was not that far away in my mind at the time.  (Still isn’t, but I’ve got a warped sense of time.)

(6) MAGAZINE KICKSTARTER. Three days left in Richard Thomas’ Kickstarter appeal to fund “Gamut Magazine: Neo-noir, speculative, literary fiction”. It’s raised $45,764 of its $52,000 goal to date.

Gamut will be a website (and eBook) with a wide range of voices—genre-bending stories utilizing the best of genre and literary fiction….

So I’m open to:

  • Fantasy
  • Science fiction
  • Horror
  • Neo-noir, crime, mystery, thrillers
  • Magical realism
  • Transgressive
  • Southern gothic
  • Literary fiction
  • Weird / bizarro
  • Poetry

Anything done with innovation, heart and emotion—that’s what I want. Everything I enjoy reading and writing typically leans toward the dark side, but I have been known to embrace lighter work, and humor, now and then.

(7) GOING VIRAL. Ernest Hogan’s High Aztech sounds intriguing. It’s available on Amazon.

AZTECH

High Aztech takes place in 21st century Mexico, Tenochtitlán, the metropolis formerly known as Mexico City, is the most exciting place on Earth. Stainless steel pyramids pierce the smoggy sky. Human sacrifice is coming back into fashion, especially on the new Aztechan TV channels, and everyone wants an artificial heart. Xolotl Zapata, celebrated poet, skeptic and journalist, starts receiving death threats from a cult he’s lampooned in a comic book. But soon he will have much worse problems and be running for his life. The government, the Mafia, street gangs, cults, terrorists, even garbage collectors will be after him. Why? He has been infected with a technological development that will changing human life as we know it Zapata is carrying a virus that can download religious beliefs into the human brain – a highly contagious virus that is converting everyone he meets, and everyone they meet, to the Aztec religion. This is Witnessing with a PUNCH! Since he’s a virulent carrier he infects a large part of the city all by himself, and the masses, filled with visions and portents, await the End of the World.

Decide how it sounds to you – Hogan’s reading of the first chapter can be heard on this video:

(8) HOMELESS GNOMES. NPR reports “Popular Gnomes Seek New Home”

Officials at Little Buffalo State Park in Pennsylvania decided that dozens of tiny gnome homes tucked in trees around the park were a nuisance. The gnome homes were too popular, so they were evicted.

….Steve Hoke, with permission from the park, crafted teeny-weeny doors on hollow logs and built pint-size cottages on mossy tree stumps to the delight of children in the area, not to mention the families who drove hours to see them. The idea was to get kids out of the house, away from the electronics and go for a walk, Mr. Hoke told the media. But with so many visitors, state officials declared the itsy-bitsy abodes a nuisance and ordered them banished. So earlier this week, Steve Hoke carted off his Lilliputian village in his garden wagon. The evictions have angered many, hundreds have signed petitions to bring back the magic, and it appears there has been a reprieve for the homeless elves. Two neighboring towns have offered to take in the gnomes and their homes.

Full story in the New York Times

gnomes3-blog427

Little Buffalo told Mr. Hoke he had until Monday to clear out the gnome houses. Four days ago, he went to the park with a wagon and collected the dwellings scattered along about two and a half miles of trails.

“It was very emotional,” he said.

As he was leaving, he encountered a man and his daughter. They told him the girl had just finished her final round of chemotherapy and that her father had asked her what she wanted to do.

She said she wanted to go see the gnome houses.

“If I wasn’t so cold and wet, I probably would have stood there and wept,” Mr. Hoke said.

“That’s the part that the people who made this decision don’t get to see,” he added. “It was a mystery for the kids. It was magical.”

(9) THE CUSTOMERS MUST BE CRAZY. Gods Of Egypt received the not-especially-coveted “I’ve seen worse” rating from this reviewer at Birth. Movies. Death.

The most surprising thing about Gods Of Egypt was that I didn’t outright hate it. I have already seen worse movies this year, and I may yet see something even more abominable in the near future. The conceptual insanity of the movie could be the one selling point to it all, but the truth is unless you haven’t played a modern action-adventure game in the past ten years or so, this overbearing maelstrom of CGI bombast is rote and played out. I felt neither disdain nor schadenfreude during it, only boredom and a slight headache afterwards. I can’t even recommend “hate watching” this or checking it out for the morbid curiosity, since instead of being mesmerized by cinematic atrocity, you’ll be constantly reminded of fonder experiences you’ve had with other games and movies.

(10) SOME SATURN AWARDS COVERAGE. Blastr had this comment

As usual, the Saturns are so expansive and inclusive that we have to wonder at some of the nominees — like financial drama 99 Homes

India media reacts: “Baahubali to compete with Hollywood biggies” at Wishesh.

It is really a proud moment for the Indian movie audience, to know that even Baahubali was part of the nominations of these awards, that too in five categories – Best Fantasy Film, Best Supporting Actress (Tamannaah), Best Music (Keeravani), Best Production Design (Sabu Cyril) and Best Costume Design (Rama Rajamouli and Prashanthi Tipirineni).

India’s proudest epic and blockbuster, Baahubali-The beginning will compete with the popular Hollywood big films like Jurrasic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Hateful Eight and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

On the other side, Baahubali – The conclusion, is currently in the shooting stage and aiming the next Sankranthi release. After that, the makers are even planning for Baahubali 3, which does not include Prabhas, Satya Raj and most of the key cast of Baahubali 1 and 2 parts, as declared earlier.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/16 The Depixellated Man

(1) X-OUT THE X-MEN FAN VIDEO PROJECT. Joel Furtado, an animator from Vancouver, Canada has cancelled his fan film X-men: Danger Room Protocols due to legal issues with Marvel, which prevented the first video in the series from being hosted on YouTube or Vimeo.

Now, there’s word of another fan production falling to legal issues: Joel Furtado’s X-Men: Danger Room Protocols.

Furtado has been working on the web series for a long while now, with eighteen episodes planned to showcase different pairs of 1990s-era X-Men characters in animated adventures against iconic villains in a Danger Room scenario. Furtado told io9 via email: “I’ve always loved X-men since I was a little kid. It was something I gravitated to, reading the comics at that time even before the animated series,” adding, “When Fox’s cartoon came out that was it, I was hooked. I’ve done a few personal projects over the years, but nothing of this scale or scope. I decided I wanted to take a year off and do this thing for myself, as well as the fans. I knew there were X-men fans out there, wanting more than what the official powers that be were giving them.”

The first episode featured Jean Grey and Wolverine against the Sentinels, but was quickly pulled from YouTube. Furtado released it on Vimeo, but the video was pulled from there as well.

Furtado gave a valedictory talk to his supporters in a new video.

(2) USING YOUR POWER. Kameron Hurley was at Confusion over the weekend, and was inspired to write a wisdom-filled post, “On Kindness and Conventions”.

I have argued with authors for years about the power imbalance between authors and fans. By the very fact that you’re an author, that you’ve had worked published, it puts you in a position of perceived power, even if you don’t feel powerful. And what you do with that power is important. But first you need to realize, and accept, that you have it and people have given it to you….

Most importantly, though, when I was out at parties, or in the bar, I opened up the conversation circle to people. This is probably the most important thing you can do at either of these events. There is nothing worse than hanging on outside the circle hoping to try and get someone to invite you in. Here are these people who’ve known each other for years, and you’ve been told to socialize at the bar because it’s so great to network! and all you’re doing is standing outside these circles of people with a drink, feeling stupid….

I have talked a lot of talk over the last decade. It’s my turn to pay it forward, and to help build the community I’d like to see, instead of just complaining about how shitty things are elsewhere.

Because there is no greater joy than seeing the reactions of people who’ve had their first amazing convention, and who tear up all the way home because in a single weekend they’ve found their people, they feel included, they felt like part of something bigger than themselves.

Be the change you want to see, right? I need to act like the author I always wished I would have encountered when I was twenty-one years old at my first convention. Every time I talk to some new person, especially those at their first convention, I imagine that I’m talking to somebody who is going to come up fighting through here just like me. I’m holding out the hand I didn’t get that first time. I’m opening up the circle.

(3) FANFIC. Mindy Klasky’s “F is for Fanfiction” at Book View Café is an overview of the topic for professional writers that raises good questions writers should consider about setting boundaries on the use of their work, however, it was this paragraph that generated all the comments – most disagreeing that one must outgrow fanfic.

Fan fiction might be a great way for an author to exercise writing skills, learning to recreate an established author’s tone and/or using known characters expected to act in specific ways. But if you intend to publish your work, you’ll need to move beyond fanfic. That “moving beyond” should include at least “filing off the serial numbers”, erasing the specific references to character names, locations, and other details.  Thus, Bella Swan from Twilight became Anastasia Steele, and Edward Cullen became Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey. The special world of sparkling vampires became the elite life of a billionaire.

(4) KING CONTEST SHORTLIST. The finalists have been announced in a short story competition to celebrate the publication of Stephen King’s collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. There were more than 800 entries.

A team of dedicated readers carefully selected stories worthy of putting forward to the long list.  20 stories were in serious contention and after due deliberation judges Claire Armitstead (Books Editor at the Guardian), Philippa Pride (Stephen King’s British editor) and Kate Lyall-Grant (our independent judge and Publisher at Severn House Publishers) unanimously chose six stand-out stories for the shortlist.

The judges were extremely impressed by the quality of the six stories which are now on their way to Stephen King.  The winner will be announced on or after 30 January. Watch this space…

Please join us in congratulating the talented authors on the shortlist:

‘The Spots’ by Paul Bassett Davies; ‘The Unpicking’ by Michael Button; ‘Wild Swimming’ by Elodie Harper;  ‘The Bear Trap’  by Neil Hudson; ‘La Mort De L’Amant’ by Stuart Johnstone; ‘Eau de Eric’ by Manuela Saragosa.

(5) THORNTON OBIT. SF Site News reports Kathy Thornton (1957-2016) died on January 16. She was one of the founding members of Con-Troll in Houston and worked on Texas NASFiCs and Worldcons. In 2005, she was the fan Guest of Honor at Apollocon.

Kathy Thornton and Derly Ramirez

(6) CAST IN THE HAT. As Nicole Hill warns, “We Sort the Cast of The Force Awakens into Their Hogwarts Houses” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog is MOSTLY SPOILERS. So no excerpt here. Fun article, though.

(7) LOVECRAFT. Submissions are being taken for the Dunhams Destroys Lovecraft anthology through February 6. What do they mean by the title?

Destroy it all.
Burn the tropes.
Smash the traditions.
The statues.
The awards.
The apologetics.
The so-called gatekeepers of Weird Fiction.
Mock the big fish in the small pond of Lovecraftian fiction.
Nothing is safe.
NO ONE IS SAFE.
Parody as a means to topple to regime.
Spoof the blowhards.
Take anything Lovecraftian and mock the hell out of it.

Payment is $25 and a contributor’s copy for 5-10K word stories. And they repeat, “We do NOT want traditional Lovecraftian fiction.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 25, 1920 – Jerry Maren, leader of The Lollipop Guild – last of the Munchkins.
Jerry Maren

Jerry Maren

(9) BROKEN NEWS. People asked Jim C. Hines what he thought about his name being mentioned in a Breitbart story based on a comment here. He told them in “Fact-Checking for Dummies. And Breitbart.”

This is what rates an article on Breitbart. “Hey, a commenter on the internet said that some unnamed person is talking to a couple of Toronto bookstores and showing them what some of the Sad/Rabid Puppies have said and asking them not to stock said puppies. Oh, and yeah, there’s no actual evidence of it having any effect.”

(10) SOMETHING IN COMMON. George R.R. Martin’s tribute to David Hartwell touched John C. Wright. He sent this note to Martin.

It grieves me that you and I should be at odds over unimportant political matters when science fiction as a genre, and the people in our lives, and much else besides are things we both have in common and outweigh any differences.

The shadow of our mutual loss of a friend sharply reminds me of what is important in life, and mutual ire is not one of those things.

You wrote not long ago of a desire for peace in the science fiction community; I second that sentiment and voice it also. Let there be peace between us.

(11) ELIGIBILITY POSTS. Cat Rambo favors Hugo eligibility posts.

I blogged about it as a result of Twitter conversation with Daniel Older and Shveta Ta; he’s posted his own and I urged people to post links to theirs in my post. Any help spreading the word is appreciated; too many people let themselves get silenced by fear of internet kerfuffles. I’m hoping that puppies feel free to post on there as well; too many people forget that as SFWA President I’m representing a range of writers, not a single crowd.

Rambo introduces the post on her personal blog with these sentiments:

Let us begin by acknowledging that this is a rancorous period, full of clashing agendas, bewildered onlookers, and all too many innocents caught in the crossfire (although it is not the first time we’ve seen these storms, nor will it be the last.). And that right now making an eligibility post particularly mentioning Hugo Award categories like Related Work is something that some of us are circling and wondering about.

And my answer is yes. Yes, you should. Why?

Check the post for her three arguments.

(12) RSR CAMPBELL LIST. Rocket Stack Rank has made a list of new writers whose stories were reviewed on their site who should be eligible for the 2016 John W. Campbell Award.

Here are 62 writers who are eligible for the 2016 Campbell Award. They were selected from the 565 stories reviewed by Rocket Stack Rank and eight other prolific reviewers in 2015. There are many more new writers out there, but their stories weren’t read by Rocket Stack Rank so they’re not included here.

(13) A LONGLIST OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather will be posting lists of recommendations drawn from its contributors. First up is the Hugo Award Longlist for fiction.

For the past couple years I’ve posted a draft Hugo ballot (2014, 2015). Last year’s slate voting controversy, however, made me rethink that practice. True, this blog has limited influence within fandom, and we’ve never tried to mobilize voters to further a cause or agenda either. But it still feels strange to call out slate-based voting campaigns while publishing something that looks, superficially at least, like a slate of our own. So instead of giving you my personal ballot, I asked the the thirteen nerds of a feather to contribute to a longlist of potential Hugo nominees.

The rules for inclusion were simple–just: (a) meet the eligibility criteria; and (b) be “award worthy” (i.e. good). Given the subjectivity of the latter, it should come as no surprise that the selections on our longlist reflect the spectrum of tastes, tendencies and predilections found among our group of writers. You’ll find selections ranging from the obscure and literary to the unabashedly popular and commercial, and from all corners and subdivisions of the genresphere

(14) UFO FILES. The Express has a photo-illustrated article, “Some of ‘world’s best ever UFO pictures’ go online with CIA former top secret files”.

The US intelligence agency, often accused by UFO conspiracy theorists of being involved in a major cover up to hide evidence of alien life from the public, has for some reason chosen to upload some of its formerly classified UFO case files to its website.

(15) RETROFUTURISM. Joshua Rothman comments on “The Nostalgic Science Fiction of ‘The X-Files’” in The New Yorker.

Scholars have a term for our fascination with the science fiction of the past: they call it “retrofuturism.” In the “Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction,” Elizabeth Guffey and Kate Lemay offer an elegant definition of the term: “Where futurism is sometimes called a ‘science’ bent on anticipating what will come,” they write, “retrofuturism is the remembering of that anticipation.” Retrofuturism tends to be both celebratory and regretful. On the one hand, the retrofuturist sensibility is drawn to old visions of the future because today’s have lost their appeal; on the other, it recognizes that those old visions had their downsides. Steampunk, for example, is attractive precisely because it rejects the disembodied corporatism of the digital world; still, the vision of the future in the film “Snowpiercer” is both refreshingly analogue and brutally Dickensian. (That’s not to say that retrofuturism is always ambivalent: “Star Wars” is, among other things, an upbeat retrofuturist response to the drug-addled sci-fi of the sixties and seventies.) “The X-Files” was a retrofuturist show. It celebrated the wide-eyed sense, prevalent in the forties, fifties, and sixties, that science was about to change everything. It also recalled the darkness of the Cold War, when individuals felt powerless against vast geopolitical forces, and science brought us to the edge of thermonuclear doom.

Because we live in a moment of reboots, remakes, and revivals, we seem to be surrounded by retrofuturism. Superhero movies, with their emphasis on mad-science mutation, have a retrofuturist appeal. So do the rebooted “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Mad Max.” Even “Interstellar,” in many ways a forward-looking film, also looked back to the sci-fi of the past. If you’re of a theoretical cast of mind, you might wonder what it means to be nostalgic for a retrofuturist show like “The X-Files.” Is it possible, “Inception”-style, to square retrofuturism? Can you look back ambivalently at the way people used to look back ambivalently at a vision of the future?

(16) TV SUCCESS WOULD X-OUT THIRD X-FILES MOVIE. A third X-Files movie has been scripted by Chris Carter – but if the ratings are good for the TV series, he’d prefer to focus on that.

“I actually wrote a third movie, just because I was interested in the idea of where that might go,” Carter told the audience. When Fox approached him about bringing The X-Files back to television, Carter considered repurposing the script for the series. “I let my wife read the third movie,” he shared, “and she said ‘I think not for television.'”

Any chance of a third X-Files film will depend on how strong (or poor) the ratings for the upcoming mini-series are. If the ratings are good, Carter seems more interested it sticking to TV. “I’m waiting for Fox to come back and ask for more,” said Carter. “Then we’ll talk about it.”

And early reports are that ratings for the new show were good.

The preview of the mini-series premiered on Sunday night following the NFC Championship game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers and received strong ratings.

Monday’s debut on the mini-series’ normal night will be the true test, along with the subsequently five episodes. Should that run be as strong as many suspect that it will be, a third film might yet by in the cards

(17) SATIRE NOSTALGIA. The WSJ’s Speakeasy blog remembers “When Mulder and Scully Went to Springfield: An Oral History of the ‘Simpsons’ – ‘X-Files’ Crossover”.

Mike Reiss: We had the most illegal shot in TV history. [The episode has] a line-up of aliens where Homer is supposed to pick out which alien is his. We had Alf, Marvin the Martian, Chewbacca — they were all copyrighted. In one five-second shot, we violated five people’s copyrights. But the only comment we ever got was, we had Alf in there. Alf said “Yo!” and I got a call from the real Alf, who said, “Next time you do me, let me do it.”

(18) REV. BOB CROWNED. Our own Rev. Bob was king for about as long as it takes to boil an egg at the Whoisthekingrightnow site. He’s still searchable as Robert in the Hall of Kings, where his three decrees have been immortalized.

King Bob the Horizontal.

  • The denizens of Sensible Castle do not judge. Unless you’re a jerk.
  • Get thee down. Be thou funky.
  • In case of emergency, the masks that drop from the ceiling will make everyone’s final moments MOST interesting. You’re welcome.

[Thanks to Brian Z., John King Tarpinian, Gregory N. Hullender, and Nick Mamatas for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Update 01/26/2016: Corrected Rev. Bob’s royal name to the right royal name, with the right decrees.

Ryan Kopf Sues Blogger Trae Dorn

Ryan Kopf

Ryan Kopf

Conrunner Ryan Kopf charged Nerd & Tie newsblogger Trae Dorn with defamation in a lawsuit filed December 14 in Iowa.

Kopf is the organizer of several Midwestern conventions – Anime-ZAP!, QC Anime-Zing!, AniMinnapolis, Anime Midwest, Meta Con and Con Alt Delete.

The suit responds to a pair of Nerd & Tie articles published last summer.

In the suit, Kopf denies what is alleged about him in the two stories.

Trae Dorn published statements on Nerd & Tie’s website on or about August 6, 2015, and September 8, 2015, which falsely represented that the Plaintiff had physically assaulted a vendor at a convention he was running, that his business had harassed another business, and that impinged on his integrity, moral character, and professional reputation.

Kopf is asking for actual and punitive damages, plus an injunction ordering Dorn to remove the defamatory posts and avoid posting future defamatory statements.

Kopf, on his own blog, elaborated his reasons for filing suit. His real complaint seems to be the amount of coverage he is receiving.

…a blogger… has written several articles about me calling me sketchy and a “villain.” He writes a new article after almost every convention I run.

No other non-famous person receives that level of attention.

And when he says “villain,” we’re not talking the villains of the trope where the villain turns out to be a good guy like Megamind, nor the villains of the slightly-realty-bending-mind of some writers at Cracked.com.

In these stories I don’t even get to be a super-villain.

I do not claim my conventions are perfect. We have had complaints and problems like any other conventions. We have dealt with things like complaints of shortages of free ramen in our ConSweet to complaints on social media about registration line that reached a peak of two hours long at our largest convention. But countless other conventions have had a few problems, often far worse.

From arrests to bankruptcy, none of which apply to me, none of these conventions have earned the same level of exhaustive coverage I have….

Trae Dorn of Nerd & Tie says he will fight the suit. He has started a GoFundMe appeal to defray the expenses.

Now, I don’t want to discuss details, but I still stand by what I wrote – as do Nick and Pher (who co-own Nerd & Tie with me). I have secured legal counsel, and intend to fight. But this isn’t going to be cheap for me….

Right now I’m asking for $3,000 which will cover my initial legal costs. I will probably end up needing more, but this is where we’re starting.

People have donated $1,285 in the first three days.

Dorn has posted a copy of the lawsuit here.