Pixel Scroll 9/19/17 These Are A Few Of My Favorite Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

(1) DARMOK AND JALAD AT THE TIKI BAR. ThinkGeek invites you to get your “Star Trek The Next Generation Geeki Tikis”.

La Forge, Picard, Worf, Cardassian, Borg, Ferengi

Allow us to raise a toast to your taste in housewares with these Star Trek The Next Generation Geeki Tikis. A set of six, these tiki mugs let you drink with Captain Picard, Geordi La Forge, Worf, a Cardassian, a Ferengi, and the Borg. Yes, all of the Borg since they’re a collective consciousness. Best not to play trivia against that one. These tiki mugs hold around 14 oz. each, and they’ll look great next to your Horga’hn fertility statue.

 

(2) BOOK DONATIONS REQUESTED. John Joseph Adams posts:

Got any books you’d like to donate to a good home? My sister’s looking for donations for her school’s library:

In “Nothing to Read”, teacher Becky Sasala explains the need.

I recently assigned my juniors to independently read a book every nine weeks. We took part of a class period and visited the media center to ensure that every student had access to a variety of books. I was absolutely floored by the emptiness of the building. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; the county that I work (and live) in is a poor rural county. The average wage in Hoke County is $18,421. Most households’ combined income is less than $50,000. Less than 15% of adult residents hold a degree beyond high school. I also discovered that the library has not had any money to purchase new books since 2009. 2009!

Books appropriate for high school students can be sent to the following address:

  • Hoke County High School
  • c/o Rebecca Sasala
  • 505 Bethel Rd.
  • Raeford, NC 28376

More information at the linked post. There’s also a related Amazon wish list.

(3) HEINLEIN UNBOUND. Farah Mendlesohn, a historian, critic and fan who is a Hugo, BSFA, and BFA winner, and WFA, Mythopoeic, and Locus Award finalist for her scholarly non-fiction works on science fiction and fantasy, is crowdfunding the publication (by Unbound) of her critical study of the writings of a giant of the SF genre.

Dear Friends,

As you all know, I had to withdraw my book on Heinlein from the original publisher due to length. As I explored other options it became clear that no academic publisher could take it without substantial cuts, and no one who read it, could suggest any. So I am utterly delighted to be able to say that Unbound, a crowdsourcing press, have agreed to take the book.

Robert A. Heinlein began publishing in the 1940s at the dawn of the Golden Age of science fiction and carried on writing until his death in 1988. His short stories contributed immensely to the development of science fiction’s structure and rhetoric, while his novels (for both the juvenile and adult markets) demonstrated that you could write hard SF with strong political argument. His vision of the future was sometimes radical, sometimes crosswise, and towards the end in retrenchment. He continues to influence many writers whether in emulation or reaction. Recent controversies in science fiction have involved fighting over Heinlein’s reputation and arguing about what his legacy is and to whom he belongs…

The key thesis of the book is a challenge to the idea of Heinlein as a libertarian and resituating him as a classical Liberal in the terms he understood; a man who prized the individual highly but understood the individual as at their best when enmeshed in the complex structure of a nurturing society.

Support levels start at £12 for the e-book, and higher levels include hardback copies, critiques of supporters’ non-fiction, workshops, and afternoon tea plus a tour of the personal library of Mendlesohn and SF critic Edward James.

(4) THE STORIES YOU WANT. Like everyone, Liz Bourke has her own specific set of interests, however, most readers have privately asked themselves the question in the title of her latest column, Sleeps With Monsters: Why Can’t More Books Pander To Me?” at Tor.com.

I’m a queer woman (bisexual, and to a degree genderqueer, if precision matters). Much of my reading experience, particularly with new-to-me authors, and even more so with male authors, involves bracing for things that are tiresome, wearying, and/or hurtful. Whether it’s active misogyny, background sexist assumptions, gratuitous sexual assault of women (which may or may not be used to motivate the character arc or development of male protagonists), Smurfettes, women without communities that include other women, transphobia, Buried Gays, or just the general sense that the world the author’s created has no room for people like me in it, there’s frequently a level of alienation that I need to overcome in order to be able to enjoy a new book—or film, or television show, or videogame, etc.—and constantly being braced for that alienation is exhausting.

And that’s even before we get to books that are outright badly done, alienating in ways that aren’t aimed at me (but fuck racism), or just aren’t to my tastes (a lot of comedy, most horror, certain themes that need to be really well done to work for me).

But I’m so used to experiencing this alienation, or to expecting it, that it’s a wrenching shock when I find books that just… welcome me in. That don’t place any barriers in my way. I don’t notice the amount of effort overcoming this alienation requires until I don’t have to make that effort—like not really knowing how much pain you were in until it stops.

(5) THE HOME STRETCH. Artist Gary Gianni’s Kickstarter to publish Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea, Gianni’s book with Mike Mignola, has gotten a great reception – in fact, they’ve just added their FOURTH stretch goal reward –

FOURTH STRETCH GOAL ANNOUNCED! Free all-new fully illustrated The Call of Cthulhu book by Gianni with 100 pencil drawings to all Kickstarter supporters who pledge $50 or more if we reach our Stretch Goal #4, 80K goal!

Gianni’s many credits include illustrating George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

(6) 21ST CENTURY AIR TRAVEL. The title promises “WorldCon 2017, aka The Best, Most Tedious Disaster Story Ever” and Anaea Lay delivers. And yet I read it all. Highly illogical!

When that broke up and it was time to head home, several of the people I’d been hanging out with very kindly and English-ly refused to go on to their hotel before making sure I could find where I was staying, despite my insistence that this was unnecessary.  The joke was on them, though, because I managed to have a fail-tastic adventure anyway.  You see, I knew the address of where I was staying, and I had the keys for getting in.  What I didn’t have was the apartment number.  In a building with eight floors.

(7) MARKETING TECHNIQUE. RedWombat explains a new piece to her agent:

(8) HE LOOKS BEFORE HE LEAPS. Arnie Fenner interviewed John Fleskes at Muddy Colors earlier this week. How many bungee-jumping publishers do you know?

People don’t normally equate daredevils with art books: how does doing death-defying stunts segue into becoming a publisher?

Well, the risk of doing a stunt and that of running a business is very similar, really. So, people have the tendency to call us “extreme” or “daredevils” but in reality each stunt is very calculated and planned far in advance. It’s not like we would just hook up a random bungee cord to anything and just jump off. I worked for a pair of brilliant engineers who would include us in the planning stages and I really learned to appreciate the analytical process of working for those who set up highly complicated stunts where peoples lives were on the line. By the time the actual stunt would happen, sure, if you went off script you could die, but there really wasn’t anything to seriously worry about. Oh, man, jumping out of a hot air balloon at 500 feet and falling 300 feet, now that is a feeling of absolute freedom to fly like that!

But, my real point is that it is a calculated risk when doing a stunt. Days, or weeks, or months of planning can go into what we did. It’s exactly the same with Flesk. Everything that I do is a risk. Instead of risking my life, I’m risking all of my finances, my company, and my livelihood.

The Call For Entries for Spectrum 25 will go out in a few weeks: can you share some of your perspective after having led the competition, judging, and annual for the past 4-going-on-5 years?

The greatest part of Spectrum, without a doubt, has been its community. It’s the people that make it worthwhile year after year. We’re all in it together, it’s here because of the generosity, the support and the downright goodwill of everyone involved. It’s so much bigger than me, it’s not about me whatsoever, but like I’ve mentioned before, it lets me play a role in doing for others. If I do things right, my name never comes to the front or is in the spotlight. I want it to be about the artists. That’s the part at the end of the day that satisfies me the most. That’s my drive. I prefer to work in the background as much as possible, only coming out when absolutely necessary and only when it is to serve others. This community, these artists, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of. That you and Cathy would tap me on the shoulder, that they would see something in me, I’m forever grateful. You’ve treated me like family. I’m truly blessed to know you both and be a part of Spectrum. You know, I’m still a bit shocked by where I am today? I never would have expected any of this.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Talk Like A Pirate Day

(10) TODAY IN ALLEGED HISTORY

September 19, 1961 – Betty and Barney Hill were abducted for two hours by a UFO.

(11) TODAY IN REGULAR OLD HISTORY

  • September 19, 2000 – Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel about the glory years of the American comic book, was published. It won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born September 19, 1979 — Hermione Jean Granger

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CAPED CRUSADER

  • Born September 19, 1928 – Adam West

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY U.N.C.L.E. AGENT

  • Born September 19, 1933 – David McCallum

(15) LIVING PROOF. Remember when the Worldcon’s new YA Award couldn’t be called the Tesseract out of courtesy to an existing Canadian anthology series? If you weren’t already acquainted with it, now’s your chance. Compostela (Tesseracts Twenty) edited by Spider Robinson and James Alan Gardner will be released in the U.S. on October 9. (It’s already available in Canada.)

Compostela (Tesseracts Twenty) is an anthology of hard and soft science fiction stories that best represent a futuristic view of the sciences and how humanity might be affected (for better or worse) by a reliance in all things technological.

The stories contained within the pages of Compostela are a reflection of the world we live in today; where science produces both wonders and horrors; and will leave us with a future that undoubtedly will contain both. Journeys to the stars may be exhilarating and mind-expanding, but they can also be dangerous or even tragic. SF has always reflected that wide range of possibilities.

Featuring works by these Canadian visionaries:

Alan Bao, John Bell, Chantal Boudreau, Leslie Brown, Tanya Bryan, J. R. Campbell, Eric Choi, David Clink, paulo da costa, Miki Dare, Robert Dawson, Linda DeMeulemeester, Steve Fahnestalk, Jacob Fletcher, Catherine Girczyc, R. Gregory, Mary-Jean Harris, Geoffrey Hart, Michaela Hiebert, Matthew Hughes, Guy Immega, Garnet Johnson-Koehn, Michael Johnstone, Cate McBride, Lisa Ann McLean, Rati Mehrotra, Derryl Murphy, Brent Nichols, Susan Pieters, Alexandra Renwick, Rhea Rose, Robert J. Sawyer, Thea van Diepen, Nancy SM Waldman.

(16) THE EIGHTIES WERE STRANGER. Adweek is enthusiastic: “Netflix Is Making Stranger Things Versions of Classic ’80s Movie Posters, and They’re Amazing”.

Netflix is pulling out all the stops on social media in the weeks leading up to Season 2. Last month, the show’s official Twitter account began giving fans more of what they want by launching a weekly recap of each episode of the first season under the hashtag #StrangerThursdays, and tying each episode to a classic ’80s film.

Even more impressive, the art team at the show has paid homage to each film’s original poster art while placing the Stranger Things cast members in its universe. The tweets also include copy referencing the movies that inspired them.

The post has all of them, but here’s one example.

A fan has been inspired to make another —

(17) UHHH. A comic linked from File 770 prompted Steve J. Wright to refer to his Lego-playing days as “Grotesque Sexual Deviancy”.

At least, we thought we were just having fun.  It turns out, though, that we were transgressing the boundaries of gender as laid down by God and marketing departments.  We should never have engaged in the heinous perversion of unsegregated Lego.  Our Lego should have been sorted into strong, potent, manly Lego (mine) and soft, gentle, feminine Lego (my sister’s), and the division should have been rigorously maintained.  All these years I thought we were just playing with Lego, and instead we were promoting an insidious non-binary genderqueer agenda that subverts all the established notions of masculinity and femininity, that causes confusion and actual harm to children who are too young to handle the idea of boys playing with girls’ Lego, that will probably pollute our precious bodily fluids and hasten the downfall of Western civilization.

thought we’d just got a sensible arrangement, so that if, say, my sister wanted to hold a state funeral for one of the Crater Critters, she could grab a bunch of black Legos and build a hearse without any arguments.  Now I know that we were, in fact, undermining the very foundations of all that is good and decent and true.

(18) FRESH OUTBREAK OF TROLLS. Gwynne Watkins of Yahoo! Movies, in “‘Star Wars’ fan petition seeking removal of J.J. Abrams from ‘Episode IX’ picks up steam”, writes that 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding that J.J. Abrams be removed as director of Episode IX because they feel that Disney promised a fresh director for every installment.

The petition at Change.org begins:

Star Wars fans abroad were upset with the result of J.J. Abrams’ directing of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Although not reflected in the box office sales, most fans agree that Abrams’ vision for Episode VII resulted in a rehash of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. There was virtually no creativity, and no risks taken. Such complacency cannot be the trajectory of this sequel trilogy. More specifically, the metric for success in a Star Wars movie cannot be box office sales. Lucasfilm and Disney *need* to listen to fan criticism. Star Wars fans deserve better. They demand better.

Almost 3,500 people have signed it so far.

(19) BONES. New books by the late Michael Crichton continue to appear. Fantasy Literature’s Ryan Skardal renders a verdict on one that came out this past May in Dragon Teeth: Palaeontologist wars”

Johnson is stranded in Deadwood with his bones, which everyone assumes is a cover for gold. Some readers may be pleased to learn that the Bone Wars between Cope and Marsh are drawn from history. Robert Louis Stevenson and Wyatt Earp also appear.

I did not find very much information on how finished Dragon Teeth was before publication, but, unlike Micro, there is no mention of another author who finished this work. It’s tempting to point out that this novel about fossils seems more skeletal than most of Crichton’s novels. The characters are flat, their interactions seem rushed, and every chapter is very short. There are moments of historical detail that are a bit more developed, such as when devout Christians express doubt about fossils and whether a perfect god could create something flawed — let alone something so flawed that it might go extinct. Even these details, however, feel like sketches.

(20) CON CEASES FOR SAFETY REASONS. The staff has put an end to an Ohio convention in the wake of the chair’s criminal conviction. Nerd & Tie has the story: “Anime Punch Disbands After Con Chair Michael Beuerlein Pleads Guilty to Sexual Battery”.

Columbus, OH based convention Anime Punch has been disbanded and will no longer hold any more events. The convention staff announced that they would be ceasing all future operations on in a statement on their official Facebook page on September 14…

The crime was prosecuted in Virginia, so probably was not committed at the convention.

(21) A SPECIALIZED NEED. Erika Satifka, in “Difference of Mind” at the SFWA Blog, points to a problem with most fictional treatments of mental illness.

According to the World Health Organization, one out of every four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. Considering this, it’s important that when characters with mental illness are featured in one’s writing, the subject is treated with sensitivity and accuracy. Novels that portray such disorders well can make a huge difference.

Em Kalberg, the protagonist of my debut novel Stay Crazy, has paranoid schizophrenia. As I researched the novel, I found that there were very few positive representations of people with schizophrenia, and not just in speculative fiction, but everywhere. The vast majority of the time, characters with psychotic disorders are monsters or killers….

Besides her own Stay Crazy, Satifka recommends fourteen other novels, novellas, and short story collections that prominently feature characters with mental illnesses or trauma.

(22) TIS THE SEASON. Time to be reminded about “The REAL Legend Behind the Halloween Tree at Disneyland”:

Learning about Disneyland’s storied history is as fun as spending a day getting your thrills on at all of the attractions. From true tragic stories inspiring haunting legends to secrets and facts only the biggest park fans know, there’s always something else to discover about the Happiest Place on Earth – the legend of the Halloween Tree included.

Now, fans are probably familiar with the tree. The oak is located in front of the Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland. Every Halloween since 2007, the tree is decorated in a special way with jack-o’-lanterns hanging from its branches – but have you ever wondered why? The story goes that author Ray Bradbury, famous for Fahrenheit 451 and countless other fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and horror works, loved Halloween – and had a long history with Disney. Bradbury was a huge proponent of the Walt Disney Company and made his support for it clear throughout the years.

(23) SETTING THEM STRAIGHT. Camestros Felapton has been dismantling “Vlad James’” attack on the science in an Ursula Le Guin novel The Lathe of Heaven.

James wrote:

Unfortunately, she was less self-aware than [Harry Harrison], and injected phenomenally idiotic, pseudo-scientific explanations in her stories constantly.

Also:

She also claims that it would take the atmosphere “several hundred years to get rid of the CO2”. While I understand Le Guin found math difficult, if humans completely stopped producing CO2, it would take 9-12 days for the atmosphere to rid itself of the amount presently there. Or, if you believe global warm…err “climate change” hysterics, it will take…several years. A few hundred years is baseless ignorance.

But young Felapton, in “Science and Le Guin Part 2”, shows —

The quote from Le Guin is genuine and from The Lathe of Heaven published in 1970. It is also scientifically correct (more or less) whereas the criticism is scientific nonsense – indeed it is error piled on error….

A thorough takedown follows.

(24) THE SMELL IS OUT THERE. This is pretty damn funny – Anime Conventions: An Honest Guide.

(25) A MAGICAL TIME. IMDB says Andy the Talking Hedgehog is up 778% in popularity this week. Articles like The Guardian’s are the reason.

When Reid tweeted the Andy the Talking Hedgehog poster on Friday, the internet went nuts. That was partly because the poster featured a hedgehog, two cats, Dean Cain, Tara Reid’s Twitter profile pic manipulated to look slightly more wholesome and an unattributed quote calling it “a magical good time”. But it was also because the IMDb plot summary for the film read “Tara Reid brings her Oscar award-winning prowess to this documentary about a hedgehog that Dean Cain farted on giving it the ability to talk. It’s a fun-loving family movie that will for sure make you say “WOWZA. That’s a stinky fart!”’ That summary, incidentally, was attributed to Scott Baio.

Obviously, like the rest of the world, I desperately wanted to know the story behind Andy the Talking Hedgehog. Although we can rule out the summary as nothing more than internet high jinks, it would appear that the film is real. Back in November actress Maria Wasikowski tweeted a photo from the Andy the Talking Hedgehog set, alongside Dean Cain and, one month later, Tara Reid Instagrammed a shot of her character, Fairy BFF.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, Arnie Fenner, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Karl-Johan Norén, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/17 Will No One Pixel Me This Troublesome Scroll?

(1) CLOSE THE GAP. David Dean Bottrell, Producer, Sci-Fest LA, is asking people to help support The Tomorrow Prize, due to be presented this weekend:

Although Sci-Fest LA has been temporarily side-lined our amazing short story competitions continue!! Unfortunately, a grant we were depending on, has fallen through at the last second, and the awards are this coming weekend! We need your help to make up a $500.00 gap IMMEDIATELY needed to award the prizes to our winners!

Donate at:  http://www.lightbringerproject.org/support/

You can make a donation via our new non-profit sponsor, LIGHTBRINGER PROJECT. Please add a note during the payment process for what the donation’s for — You can mention Sci-Fest, Tomorrow Prize or Roswell Award.

(2) INDIGENOUS VOICES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has posted an update about her efforts to fund and launch an Emerging Indigenous Voices Award. (This would not be an sff award, but was prompted by the Canadian literary controversy reported here last week.)

I’ve gathered $4355 in pledges from people who wish to make this a reality. I’ve also e-mailed Robin Parker, who has also obtained pledges for a similar drive. We could be talking about more than $7,000 if we pool those resources together.

I have sent an e-mail to folks at the UBC Longhouse asking for some guidance.

I feel that if an award does become a reality, it must be managed by an Indigenous organization. I aim merely to help funnel money to them.

It may take some time to sort things out. I am putting together documentation tracking who pledged, how much, etc.

In the meantime, you can fund or support local organizations which represent Indigenous people in your community.

We should not turn to Indigenous and marginalized groups only when bad stuff happens and there are ways to support them that don’t involve donations. Read and review Indigenous literature. Suggest Indigenous artists as guests of honor at conventions. If you have access to a platform, invite them to write op-eds, guest posts, etc….

(3) ESCHEW CHRONOLOGICAL SNOBBERY. L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright raised her voice in defense of Anne McCaffrey at Superversive SF — “When New Is (Not) Best–The Degradation of Grand Master Anne McCaffrey”.

People talk about strong female characters today. Sometimes they mean kickbutt fighters. But when the term first got started, it meant females who held their own, who acted and achieved and accomplished, female characters who were smart.

Lessa was all that. To me, she was the sole female character in SF who really had the qualities I wanted to have. I adored her.

Recently, I was in a store and I picked up a copy of Dragonflight, the original Pern book. I remember thinking, Huh, it probably wasn’t that good. I’ve just glamorized it. Let me see… After all, some of her later books were a bit fluffy. Maybe this early book was just fluff, too, and I had just not noticed. I started flipping through it.

I read an astonishing amount of it before I realized I was standing in a bookstore and embarrassedly put it down.

It was still that good.

(4) THEY KNOW WHEN YOU’RE AWAKE. An author tells about eavesdropping on fan sites in “The Big Idea: Megan Whalen Turner” at Whatever.

As a newbie author, I was self-Googling like mad and just before The King of Attolia was published. I found a livejournal site dedicated to my books. I lurked. I did tell them I was lurking, but I knew right from the start that having authors around is a great, wonderful, exciting thing—right up until they make it impossible to have an honest conversation about their books, so I was careful not too lurk too often. In return, I got to watch these smart, funny people pick through everything I’d written and I became more and more convinced that they didn’t need my input, anyway. Everything in my books that I hoped they’d see, they were pointing out to one another. Watching them, I decided I should probably probably keep my mouth shut and leave readers to figure things out for themselves. That’s why when they got around to sending me a community fan letter, I’m afraid that my answer to most of their questions was, “I’m not telling.” Over the years, it’s hardened into a pretty firm policy.

(5) SPACE OPERA WEEK. Tor.com has declared: It’s Space Opera Week on Tor.com!

Alan Brown has a handle on the history of the term: “Explore the Cosmos in 10 Classic Space Opera Universes”.

During the Golden Age of Science Fiction, there was a lot of concern about the amount of apparent dross being mixed in with the gold. The term “space opera” was originally coined to describe some of the more formulaic stories, a term used in the same derisive manner as “soap opera” or “horse opera.” But, like many other negative terms over the years, the term space opera has gradually taken on more positive qualities. Now, it is used to describe stories that deal with huge cosmic mysteries, grand adventure, the long sweep of history, and giant battles. If stories have a large scope and a boundless sense of wonder, along with setting adventure front and center, they now proudly wear the space opera name.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer discusses why she embarked on her Vorkosigan Saga reread series for Tor.com in Space Opera and the Underrated Importance of Ordinary, Everyday Life

The Vorkosigan series is space opera in the really classic style. There are big ships that fight each other with weapons so massive and powerful that they don’t even have to be explained. The most dramatic conflicts take place across huge distances, and involve moving people, ideas, and technology through wormholes that span the Galactic Nexus, and watching how that changes everything. So it’s also about incredibly ordinary things—falling in love, raising children, finding peace, facing death.

And Cheeseman-Meyer’s latest entry “Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Borders of Infinity covers a lot of ground, but I must applaud this comment in particular —

At this point, I suddenly realize how little time we really get to spend with the Dendarii Mercenaries, who have now appeared as a fighting force in only two of the seven books in the reread.

Liz Bourke, in “Sleeps With Monsters: Space Opera and the Politics of Domesticity”, reminds readers that relationships are the web that connect the infinite spaces of this subgenre.

Let’s look at three potential examples of this genre of… let’s call it domestic space opera? Or perhaps intimate space opera is a better term. I’m thinking here of C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series, now up to twenty volumes, which are (in large part) set on a planet shared by the (native) atevi and the (alien, incoming) humans, and which focus on the personal and political relationships of Bren Cameron, who is the link between these very different cultures; of Aliette de Bodard’s pair of novellas in her Xuya continuity, On A Red Station, Drifting and Citadel of Weeping Pearls, which each in their separate ways focus on politics, and relationships, and family, and family relationships; and Becky Chambers’ (slightly) more traditionally shaped The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, which each concentrate in their own ways on found families, built families, communities, and the importance of compassion, empathy, and respect for other people’s autonomy and choices in moving through the world.

But lest we forget the reason Tor.com exists, Renay Williams plugs the franchise in “A Plethora of Space Operas: Where to Start With the Work of John Scalzi”.

101: Beginner Scalzi

If you’re brand-new to Scalzi’s work, there a few possible starting places. If you want a comedic space opera adventure, you’ll want to start with Old Man’s War and its companion and sequel novels, The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. If you’re in the mood for straight up comedy SF, then Agent to the Stars is your entry point. And if you want some comedy but also kind of want to watch a political thriller in your underwear while eating snack food and don’t know what book could possibly meet all those qualifications at once, there’s The Android’s Dream, which is the funniest/darkest book about sheep I’ve ever read.

(6) AMEN CORNER. The celebration also includes a reminder from Judith Tarr: “From Dark to Dark: Yes, Women Have Always Written Space Opera”.

Every year or two, someone writes another article about a genre that women have just now entered, which used to be the province of male writers. Usually it’s some form of science fiction. Lately it’s been fantasy, especially epic fantasy (which strikes me with fierce irony, because I remember when fantasy was pink and squishy and comfy and for girls). And in keeping with this week’s theme, space opera gets its regular turn in the barrel.

Women have always written space opera.

Ever heard of Leigh Brackett? C.L. Moore? Andre Norton, surely?

So why doesn’t everyone remember them?

Because that second X chromosome carries magical powers of invisibility.

And having read that, who would you be looking to for an “Amen!” Would you believe, Jeffro Johnson at the Castalia House Blog? Not from any feminist impulse, but because it fits his own narrative about the Pulp Revolution — “The Truth About Women and Science Fiction”:

…Yes, the “Hard SF” revolution did turn the field into something of a boy’s club. The critical frame that emerged from it has unfairly excluded the work of a great many top tier creators that happened to be female. And much as it pains me to admit it, feminist critics do have a point when they complained about women being arbitrarily excluded.

However… when they treat the Campbellian Revolution as the de facto dawn of science fiction, they are perpetuating and reinforcing the real problem. If you want creators like Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore to get the sort of attention they deserve, you have to recover not only the true history of fantasy and science fiction. You have to revive and defend the sort of classical virtues that are the root cause of why they have been snubbed in the first place.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Sea Monkey Day

The history of sea monkeys starts, oddly enough, with ant farms. Milton Levine had popularized the idea of Ant-farm kits in 1956 and, presumably inspired by the success of his idea, Harold von Braunhut invented the aquatic equivalent with brine-shrimp. It was really ingenious looking back on it, and ultimately he had to work with a marine biologist to really bring it all together. With just a small packet of minerals and an aquarium you’d suddenly have a place rich with everything your brine-shrimp needed to survive. So why sea monkeys? Because who was going to buy brine-shrimp? It was all a good bit of marketing, though the name didn’t come about for nearly 5 years. They were originally called “instant life”, referencing their ‘just add water’ nature. But when the resemblance of their tails to monkeys tails was noted by fans, he changed it to ‘Sea-Monkeys’ and so it’s been ever since! The marketing was amazing too! 3.2 million pages of comic book advertising a year, and the money just flowed in the door. So what are Sea Monkeys exactly? They’re clever mad science really. Sea Monkeys don’t (or didn’t) exist in nature before they were created in a lab by hybridization. They’re known as Artemia NYOS (New York Ocean Science) and go through anhydrobiosis, or hibernation when they are dried out. Then, with the right mixture of water and nutrients they can spring right back into life! Amazing!

Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like Trisolarians!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(9) COMIC SECTION. Daniel Dern recommends today’s Candorville: “We already knew the creator’s a Star Trek geek, clearly he’s also a (DC) comic book fan…”

(10) DOCTOROW. This is the book Cory Doctorow was promoting at Vromans Bookstore when Tarpinian and I attended his joint appearance with John Scalzi a couple weeks ago. Carl Slaughter prepared a summary:

WALKAWAY
Cory Doctorow
Tor
April 25, 2017

Hubert was too old to be at that Communist party.

But after watching the breakdown of modern society, he really has no where left to be?except amongst the dregs of disaffected youth who party all night and heap scorn on the sheep they see on the morning commute. After falling in with Natalie, an ultra-rich heiress trying to escape the clutches of her repressive father, the two decide to give up fully on formal society?and walk away.

After all, now that anyone can design and print the basic necessities of life?food, clothing, shelter?from a computer, there seems to be little reason to toil within the system.

It’s still a dangerous world out there, the empty lands wrecked by climate change, dead cities hollowed out by industrial flight, shadows hiding predators animal and human alike. Still, when the initial pioneer walkaways flourish, more people join them. Then the walkaways discover the one thing the ultra-rich have never been able to buy: how to beat death. Now it’s war – a war that will turn the world upside down.

Fascinating, moving, and darkly humorous, Walkaway is a multi-generation SF thriller about the wrenching changes of the next hundred years…and the very human people who will live their consequences.

PRAISE FOR WALKAWAY

  • “Thrilling and unexpected….A truly visionary techno-thriller that not only depicts how we might live tomorrow, but asks why we don’t already.” Kirkus
  • “Doctorow has envisioned a fascinating world…This intriguing take on a future that might be right around the corner is bound to please.” ?Library Journal
  • “Memorable and engaging. …Ultimately suffused with hope.” ?Booklist
  • “The darker the hour, the better the moment for a rigorously-imagined utopian fiction. Walkaway is now the best contemporary example I know of, its utopia glimpsed after fascinatingly-extrapolated revolutionary struggle. A wonderful novel: everything we’ve come to expect from Cory Doctorow and more.”?William Gibson
  • “Cory Doctorow is one of our most important science fiction writers, because he’s also a public intellectual in the old style: he brings the news and explains it, making clearer the confusions of our wild current moment. His fiction is always the heart of his work, and this is his best book yet, describing vividly the revolutionary beginnings of a new way of being. In a world full of easy dystopias, he writes the hard utopia, and what do you know, his utopia is both more thought-provoking and more fun.”?Kim Stanley Robinson
  • “Is Doctorow’s fictional utopia bravely idealistic or bitterly ironic? The answer is in our own hands. A dystopian future is in no way inevitable; Walkaway reminds us that the world we choose to build is the one we’ll inhabit. Technology empowers both the powerful and the powerless, and if we want a world with more liberty and less control, we’re going to have to fight for it.”?Edward Snowden

(11) LITFEST PASADENA. In addition to the Roswell Award  and Tomorrow Award readings, this weekend’s LitFest Pasadena includes these items of genre interest:

Saturday

Famed afro-futurist writer Nalo Hopkinson (The Chaos) joins the Shades & Shadows Reading Series for an evening of dark fiction from noir mystery to sci-fi.

Sunday

Popular comic book and TV writer Brandon Easton (Agent Carter), joins fellow comic book writers to discuss “Manga Influences on American Culture.”

(12) SPEAKING PARTS. Pornokitsch shows why someone could argue “Middle Earth Has Fewer Women Than Space”.

This research is from April 2016. The folks at The Pudding analysed thousands of screenplays and did a word count of male and female dialogue.

Unsurprisingly: Hollywood skews heavily in favour of dudes talking.

Naturally, I looked for all the nerdiest films I could find. This was a lot of fun, although the results were… pretty bleak. …..

There follows a whole chart about genre films.

2001 is literally a film about two dudes floating in space, and it has a higher percentage of female dialogue than two of the Lord of the Rings films.

(13) IOU. Jon Del Arroz thinks I should be paying him when I put him in the news. Now there’s an innovative marketing mind at work.

(14) PANTHER UNPLUGGED. Ernie Estrella at Blastr demands — “So why did Marvel pull the plug on Black Panther & The Crew after just two issues?”

How long should a comic book aimed at reaching a more socially aware audience be given latitude before it’s canceled? According to Marvel Comics, just two. Marvel is canceling one of two monthly titles that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, Black Panther & The Crew. After two issues have underperformed in sales, the title has been abruptly put on notice. Marvel had seen enough and was not satisfied by the early numbers to stick with a title while it finds its audience. Coates told Verge that issue #6 will be the series’ finale, wrapping up the storyline that was introduced in the debut issue, which came out in this past March.

Coates co-writes the series with Yona Harvey, and together they crafted a story starring Black Panther, Storm, Misty Knight and Luke Cage investigating the murder of a civil rights activist who died while in police custody, Ezra Keith. Relevant to America’s current societal problems facing inherent racism, Coates and Harvey’s story also dives into the main four heroes and tries to look deeper at their varied experiences as black people in the Marvel Universe….

(15) NEW GRRM ADAPTATION. George R.R. Martin gives fans the background on developments they’ve been reading about in the Hollywood trade papers — “Here’s the Scoop on NIGHTFLYERS”.

In 1984 I sold the film and television rights to “Nightflyers” to a writer/ producer named Robert Jaffe and his father Herb….

This new NIGHTFLYERS television series — actually, it is just a pilot script at present, still several steps short of going on-air, but I am told that SyFy likes the script a lot — was developed based on the 1987 movie, and the television rights conveyed in that old 1984 contract. Robert Jaffe is one of the producers, I see, but the pilot script is by Jeff Buhler. I haven’t had the chance to meet him yet, but hope to do so in the near future.

Since I have an overall deal that makes me exclusive to HBO, I can’t provide any writing or producing series to NIGHTFLYERS should it go to series… but of course, I wish Jaffe and Buhler and their team the best of luck. “Nightflyers” was one of my best SF stories, I always felt, and I’d love to see it succeed as a TV series (fingers crossed that it looks as good as THE EXPANSE).

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar, with an assist from Camestros Felapton.]

Outrage Greets 2016 World Fantasy Con Program

Darrell Schweitzer released the program for the 2016 World Fantasy Convention and promptly came under a hail of criticism from writers.

Much of it was directed at a program title found to be offensive – “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories.” During the afternoon the item was renamed “Outrageous Aviation Stories, Flying Pulp Oddities.”

Other Twitter users complained that women are underrepresented in the overall count of writers mentioned by name in panel topics, as are fantasy works written less than 20 years ago.

Sarah Pinsker discussed her concerns in a series of tweets, now collected on Storify.

Here are some of the highlights of the conversation.

SARAH PINSKER

KEN LIU

https://twitter.com/kyliu99/status/760221655532732417

CARL ENGLE-LAIRD

LIZ BOURKE

HEATHER CLITHEROE

JAYM GATES

GREG VAN EEKHOUT

JOHN SCALZI

DAVE PROBERT

ANN LECKIE

DAVID MACK

DONGWON SONG

WESLEY CHU

KAMERON HURLEY

ANDREA PHILLIPS

And in the meantime Justin Landon has been tweeting suggested revisions to make the problematic items workable – or snarkier, depending on how they struck him….

JUSTIN LANDON

Pixel Scroll 4/20/16 Through the Scrolling-Glass

(1) FARSCAPE ON BIG SCREEN. ComicBookMovie.com reports “Rockne O’Bannon Officially Confirms FASRSCAPE Movie”.

After years of rumours, Rockne O’Bannon has finally confirmed that a Farscape movie is actually happening. The show was cancelled back in 2003 and a mini-series titled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars was aired in 2004 to provide closure to the fans but it appears we shall be getting more Farscape in the near future. Confirmation comes from TV.com’s Ed Shrinker who had a friend that attended the Showrunners panel at Wondercon which O’Bannon was a part of.

(2) BEAGLE COMING TO BALTICON. Peter S. Beagle will be a Special Guest of Honor at Balticon 50, taking place over Memorial Day weekend in Baltimore, MD.

“It’s Peter’s birthday, but the fans are getting the gift,” says Beagle’s attorney, Kathleen Hunt.

(3) AXANAR IS DOCKED. In “’Star Trek: Axanar’ Fan Film Docked After Copyright Suit from CBS/Paramount”, Elizabeth Howell gives Space.com readers a status report on the lawsuit.

… According to Peters, Winston & Strawn subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. CBS and Paramount responded, he said, by amending portions of the complaint. The new complaint alleges that copyrights were violated in matters such as the pointy ears and “distinctive eyebrows” of Vulcan, the gold-shirt uniforms of Federation officers, and the Klingon language, according to documents posted by The Hollywood Reporter on March 13.

New motion to dismiss

In the meantime, the production of “Axanar” is on hold pending the result of the lawsuit. If the lawsuit is resolved in the film’s favor, Peters said, production will still be delayed, as it would take a couple of months to organize everything, including coordinating the actors’ schedules and resuming work on elements such as the costumes.

Winston & Strawn filed a new motion to dismiss on March 28. CBS and Paramount have yet to file a response in court.

“The motion provides examples as to how CBS and Paramount overreach in what they claim are elements protected under copyright, and fail to be specific as to exactly which copyrights have been infringed upon; and, in the case of the potential feature film Axanar, claims of alleged copyright infringement cannot be made against a film that doesn’t yet exist,” read part of an Axanar statement on the motion to dismiss.

(4) A THOUSAND WORDS IS WORTH A PICTURE OF A CAT. At Camestros Felapton’s blog, Timothy the Talking Cat has his claws out: “Ctrl-Alt-Delete – A Reviewing”.

[Timothy] No sarcasm. Don’t forget, this time I control the narrative. I can make you say anything. Say “I’m a poo-poo head”
[Camestros] I’m a poo-poo head.
[Timothy] OK say I’m a fish’s butt.
[Camestros] You are a fish’s butt.
[Timothy] Oops – forgot the speech marks. So back to the book – naturally you hated it?
[Camestros] You know I actually enjoyed quite a bit of it.

Despite what you might assume from this exchange, they spend most of their time reviewing books. But as today’s Top Level Poster I can quote whatever part I like.

(5) ICE FIVE. Theory: Game of Thrones is science fiction, not fantasy: “This Is the Most Insane and Compelling Theory for How the Wall in Game of Thrones Stands”. Esquire’s John Maher delves into the ideas advanced by vlogger Preston Jacobs.

Let’s go back to the Wall, a prime example in the case of Game of Thrones. Maybe there is some sort of magic keeping it up. “Or maybe,” Jacobs suggests, “there’s some sort of refrigeration unit.”

It seems farfetched, until you start digging deeper—and Jacobs, an auditor for the U.S. State Department by day, is an expert at doing just that. After re-reading the series a couple of years ago, he jumped right into reading the vast majority of Martin’s extant works, including every story that’s taken place in the author’s most frequently visited setting, a shared universe called the Thousand Worlds….

The Long Night itself seems to hint at the explanation for how this world—as Jacobs and other theorists do, let’s call it Planetos—became the way it was. A winter that lasts for a generation seems pretty hard to believe, even in a world with seasons as crazy as those on Planetos. In the first season of Game of Thrones, Tyrion discusses with Maester Aemon and Lord Commander Mormont the longest winter he’d ever lived through, and mentions it lasted three years. But as Jacobs points out, there is such a thing as a generation-long winter in the real world: a nuclear winter.

In the Thousand Worlds universe, humanity is at perpetual war with multiple hive-minded species—a form of life that pops up in A Song of Ice and Fire as well, and which Jacobs explores in detail in one of his theories. During this endless war, the hive-minded races typically destroy human worlds using nuclear weapons, wait a hundred years for the dust to settle, and then invade and enslave the survivors. And in the interim, something familiar happens, as it does on High Kavalaan, a planet in Martin’s first novel, Dying of the Light.

“I think the book that really made me think Westeros could be post-apocalyptic was Dying of the Light,” says Jacobs. “When he started writing about nuking people, with everybody hiding in mines and founding their own houses and holdfasts, it just occurred to me that the Long Night could be a nuclear winter.”

(6) HEINLEIN ON THE LINE. At the MidAmericCon II site, Toastmaster Pat Cadigan has blogged her fannish origin story.

Forty years ago, in the spring of 1976 in Lawrence, Kansas, the phone rang in the late afternoon, about an hour and a half before I had to go and teach a belly-dance class. When I picked up, a deep, warm-as-a-woolly-blanket man’s voice said, ‘Hello, Mrs. Cadigan. This is Robert Heinlein.’

And I freakin’ died.

Seriously; I died. This is my afterlife. Isn’t it great?

Okay, let me back up a little….

(7) HUGO TIME. It’s no coincidence that Hugo Administrator Dave McCarty and staff are doing a lot of work just about now:

First, on behalf of the Hugo administration staff and all the rest of the folks making preparations to run MidAmeriCon II, I want to thank all of the people who participated in our Hugo and Retro Hugo nomination processes. There were over 4,000 of you and that is a new record participation by quite a large margin.

There’s a large number of tasks we have to do to administer the Hugos. Identifying eligible nominators and voters, setting up servers and web pages to handle secure nominations and voting, answering hundreds of questions about the process for the members, making sure everyone’s nominations are counted appropriately even if they don’t use the same name for something they loved that all the other folks who loved it used or nominated it in the wrong category accidently, locating and contacting the potential finalists to get their acceptance and inform them of how the process works and what to expect, coordinating with convention events staff to run the awards ceremonies and pre-receptions, and numerous other tasks. The previous run on sentence would be staggeringly large if we tried to give a full accounting of everything the awards administration entails. It can be fun, it can be exhausting, and it can even sometimes be frustrating. When we do a good job, though, it’s very rewarding.

(8) HUGO LOVE FROM WORDPRESS. Kevin Standlee’s The Hugo Awards website came in for recognition today —

(9) NEIL GAIMAN. Gaiman on mourning Pratchett — “Good Omens, Cheap Seats, and the Memorial”.

I haven’t blogged for a long time, but right now I’m on a train, and it feels like a good time to catch up. This morning I was interviewed by Charlie Russell for his documentary on Terry Pratchett. (Charlie made the previous BBC Terry Pratchett documentaries, Living With Alzheimer’s, Choosing to Die, and Facing Extinction.) We did it in a Chinese restaurant in Gerrard Street, because Terry and I had first met in a Chinese restaurant, in February 1985. It was easy and pleasant, and then suddenly it wasn’t. I was talking about the last time I’d seen Terry, and what we said, and I found myself crying uncontrollably, unable to talk. And then I pulled it together, and we carried on….

The memorial the other night was beautiful. I wore my mourning frock coat that Kambriel made for me, and I went out that afternoon and bought a white shirt and a black tie. (Actually, I bought four shirts, which, given how often I wear white shirts, should take me easily to the end of my lifetime.)

I read the introduction to A Slip of the Keyboard, which I’d written for Terry while he was alive. I got sad at the end but that was fine. And I held it together just fine when Rob, Terry’s amazing right-hand man, presented me with a big black author’s hat Terry had left me. I couldn’t put it on, though. I wasn’t ready for that. (I tried it on later, in the dressing room. I looked, to my mind, like a rabbinical cowboy assassin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)…

(10) MORE LIKE INDIE FOR SMART PEOPLE. Sarah A. Hoyt, in “Going Indie For Dummies: You Lays Down Your Money” at Mad Genius Club, begins her survey of professional services available to indie authors with a warning –

I cannot emphasize enough that you should at all costs avoid paying money up front to have any of the necessary stuff done to your book.  Particularly if your indie ebook is a short story or a novella, it’s QUITE possible you’ll never see that money again….

Then she follows with a lot of practical experience. (And no, I am not picking this quote as a setup for predictable comments about Baen copyediting, but because writers in general suffer through this.)

b) Copy editing: even houses confuse this with “editing” and I’ll get a list of typos or repeated words from editors who are supposed to be doing high-grade structural.  It’s what most people think of as “editing.”

PLEASE make sure you get a copy editor who actually knows what he/she is doing.  Again it is too easy for a copy editor to screw with a book by making the wrong choices, and/or not getting what you’re trying to say.  (I recently had a copy edit that suggested changing “calloused hands” to “callous hands” — yes, her hands are cold and unfeeling.  What the actual F?)  so several steps:

1- look for a copy-editor with references and call/email those references where the copy-editor can’t hear/read and ask for the real skinny and how hard they are to work with.

2- ask them what manual of style they use.  If you get back “manual?” or “I just use sensible grammar” and this is a paid copy-editor it’s time to bail, ladies, gentlemen and fuzzy toys.  There are many ways of doing things including punctuation (unlike what your grammar teacher told you.)  I favor, for my own checking, Strunk and White which has a slightly British flavor.  Most publishing houses use Chicago Manual of Style.  Baen uses Words to Print (I think that’s the title.)  You want to make sure your books are consistent, so make sure your copyeditor uses a style you can live with.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

(12) TODAY’S OTHER HISTORY LESSON. Hmm. Good point.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 20, 1937 — George Takei, age 79 today.
  • Born April 20, 1964 – Andy Serkis

(14) IN BOOKS TO COME. “Andy Weir, Author of The Martian, Shares Details About His Next Novel” at The Smithsonian. Here’s a guy nobody will ever accuse of having SJW tendencies.

Your next book will have a woman as the central character. Given that “gender wars” in science fields is still a contentious topic, why did you decide to go with a lady lead? What kinds of challenges does your protagonist face, and does her gender play any role in those challenges?

I don’t take part in any political debates. So I’m certainly not trying to make a point by having a female lead. She’s just a character I came up with that I thought was cool, so she’s the lead.

The book is another scientifically accurate story. The main character is a low-level criminal in a city on the moon. Her challenges are a mix of technical/scientific problems, as well as juggling personal interactions—staying a step ahead of the local police, working with shady and dangerous people to do illegal things.

She doesn’t encounter any distinctly “female” challenges. There’s no love plot. And the story takes place in a future society where there is practically no sexism.

(15) NOT JUST TANG. The BBC discusses “Four ways NASA is teaching us how to live more sustainably”.

2. Clean water

In space, water is in short supply, so Nasa has developed an innovative way to filter waste water on the ISS using chemical and distillation processes. This lets it turn liquid from the air, sweat and even urine into drinkable H2O.

In fact, since 2008, more than 22,500 pounds of water have been recycled from urine alone on the ISS – something that would have cost more than $225m (£160m) to launch and deliver to the station from Earth.

“Most people are horrified when they see what we drink!” says Ms Coleman. “But the filtered water up there just tastes beautiful, it really is delicious.”

Nasa has since licensed the technology to companies on Earth, which have created portable filters for use in places where fresh drinking water is scarce.

Filters produced by US firm Water Security Corporation, for example, have been installed in villages across Mexico and Iraq, allowing residents to purify water from contaminated sources.

(16) RILEY INTERVIEWED. David Dubrow conducted an “Interview With David A Riley” after the author dropped off a Horror Writers of America award jury last week amidst controversy.

Why did you withdraw from the jury of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology?

Because, as I saw it, that was the best thing to do for the good of the HWA. There is nothing prestigious or glamorous about being a juror. It does involve a lot of unpaid, unseen, arduous work reading an enormous number of books by authors or publishers or, in the case of anthologies, editors, keen to have their books included amongst the finalists for the Stoker awards. Of course the juries cannot add more than a few books, but it does mean reading all those submitted, good, bad or indifferent. I know from when I was a juror for First Novels this can be a hell of a chore. Standing down, therefore, was easy – it saved me a lot of hard work, some of it far from enjoyable. I only put my name forward because the HWA sent out a last minute email appealing for volunteers from active members for this position. I thought I was helping the HWA by stepping forward, never realising the reaction stirred up by certain individuals, some of whom already had a personal grudge against the HWA and are not even members….

Are you still part of the UK National Front?

I resigned in 1983 and have not been involved since.

A lot of people have characterized you as a fascist. Would you say that’s a fair description of your politics?

No.  It’s an easy label to flash around, usually by those who are fascists themselves, particularly from the left. Fascists don’t believe in free speech and try to suppress it for their opponents. I have never in my life tried to do that. They are also prepared to use physical violence against their political opponents. I was never involved in anything like that. I would add that during the time I was involved in the party any member who associated with a neo-nazi group, either in Britain or overseas, faced expulsion. This, I can confirm, was enforced.

(17) EISNER AWARD MANGA. Brigid Alverson reviews six works in her post “This Year’s Eisner-Nominated Manga Shows What the Medium Can Do” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Nominees for the Eisner Awards, the top honors in the comics industry, were announced on April 19. This year’s nomnees in the manga category (technically, “Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia”) offer a range of different types of manga, from genre comedy to poignant literary works. As a former Eisner judge myself, I know how hard the choices are, and this year’s slate is exceptionally good. All these series are accessible to non-manga readers as well as longtime fans. Let’s dive in and take a look!

Assassination Classroom, by Yusei Matsui This was the surprise nominee, because it’s not exactly a highbrow series, though it is wickedly funny. The setup is totally over the top: a class of misfit high school students are assigned the job of killing their teacher, Koro-sensei, an octopus-shaped alien who has announced he will destroy the earth at the end of the school year. Armed with weapons that are harmless to humans but deadly to their teacher, they study his weaknesses and plot new attacks, and new assassins join the class as the series goes on. What makes it so fun (and so weird) is that Koro-sensei is actually a really good teacher, and he uses his superpowers to help his students as much as to evade their attacks. He’s quirky, overly fond of gossip, a bit self-indulgent, and he often finishes a face-off with an opponent by doing something silly like giving them a manicure. This is a series that shonen fans will particularly enjoy, as there are a lot of inside jokes about the conventions of the genre, but it’s also a fun action comedy for anyone willing to go all in on suspension of disbelief. There is a darker side to Koro-sensei, and occasionally he lets the jovial mask slip, adding a bit of edge. The judges nominated volumes 2-7 of this series for the award.

(18) STEM INTO STEAM. Wil Wheaton has posted “My speech to the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival”.

Which brings me to funding.

You’re never too young for science – getting children interested in the world around them, and asking them to try and figure out how things work is a fundamentally good idea. Curious children will naturally gravitate towards STEAM subjects. Let’s encourage that and make sure that a child who wants to explore that particular part of our world has everything she needs to get there, and keep learning about and making awesome things when she leaves. This is and will continue to be a challenge. Despite the clear and undeniable benefits of a comprehensive education, including science education, not only to individuals but to our entire society, we have allowed the funding of our schools to become part of the culture wars. This is as disgraceful as it is predictable. When so many of our poorly-named “leaders” deny scientific consensus on everything from climate change to vaccines, a scientifically literate and well-informed populace can be tremendously inconvenient to them and theiir corporate owners. Well … good. Let’s be inconvenient to them. Let’s educate and empower a generation who will be real leaders, and carry our nation into the future.

We all know that it’s possible to fund STEAM education. The money is there, it’s just being spent on other things. Making enough noise and applying enough sustained pressure to change this will not be easy. It will actually be quite hard. But when has America ever shied away from doing things that are hard? Everything worth doing is hard, and President Kennedy said as much when he challenged our nation to go to the moon. Right now, decades later, every single one of us has benefitted in some way from that commitment. Right now, a generation of future scientists can look to MARS and beyond, because nearly fifty years ago, we did whatever it took to go to the moon.

Why aren’t we doing that today? Because it’s hard?

 

(19) 2016 SPECULATIVE FICTION EDITORS. The Book Smugglers are already “Announcing the Editors of Speculative Fiction 2016 & Call for Submissions”.

In which we announce the editors for the 2016 edition of the award-winning collection Speculative Fiction

As you probably know by now, we are the new publishers of the ongoing editions of Speculative Fiction: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary – a collection that celebrates the best in online Science Fiction and Fantasy nonfiction. We are currently hard at work on the publication of SpecFic ’15 – edited by Foz Meadows and Mark Oshiro – and we feel it is time to move on to the next very important step for next year: announcing the two new editors for 2016.

Since its inception in 2012, the Speculative Fiction collection has been envisioned as an annual publication, curated by a new pair of editors each year. Each incumbent pair is also given the weighty task of selecting the next year’s editors.

Today, we are extremely proud to finally announce the editors of Speculative Fiction 2016: Liz Bourke and Mahvesh Murad!

Apparently items for the 2015 collection needed to be submitted to the editors? Well, I didn’t send in anything from File 770, so that’s that.

(20) CELEBRITY VERSIONS OF BB-8 AUCTIONED. Til April 24 you can bid on a variety of BB-8 droids that have been kitted up by celebrities. 100%* of the proceeds from this auction will be donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, on behalf of Force For Change.

The Londonist ran an article and a gallery of photos.

We enjoyed the recent Star Wars film. But, like many, we couldn’t help thinking that BB-8 would look far more fetching dressed up as the globus cruciger from the Crown Jewels, or else painted in the colours of the Union Flag, tarted up like a teapot, or made to look like one of the Beatles.

Our wishes are fulfilled at a new exhibition and charity fundraiser. The cutesy droid has enjoyed a makeover from dozens of artists and celebrities, with the best efforts on show at White Rainbow Gallery (47 Mortimer Street) until 21 April.

Contributing celebrities include Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Warwick Davis, Simon Pegg (responsible for the Beatles droid, above), Paddy McGuinnes, Jonathan Ross, Nicola Adams and the band Years and Years. Each has daubed the droid with a design celebrating an element of British culture, from Robin Hood to the Sex Pistols.

bb8 auction

(21) LOOK UP IN THE SKY. Alastair Reynolds is in awe by the end of a session of starwatching (“Pattern Recognition”) —

The light I caught had travelled 25,000 years to reach my telescope. If there’s ever a day when that sort of thing doesn’t send a shiver down my spine, please feel free to shoot me.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Steven H Silver, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 12/3 The God Stalk De-Steams The Gnocchi

(1) SPELLING BEE. Blake Hennon has the answers in “Is it Wookie or Wookiee? The Times’ definitive ‘Star Wars’ style guide” at the Los Angeles Times.

When most people think of “Star Wars” style, Princess Leia’s side-buns hairdo and white robe or Darth Vader’s fearsome black helmet and cape probably come to mind. For copy editors, it’s more likely how to punctuate a jumble of words such as Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope or whether to spell Chewbacca’s species as Wookie or Wookiee.

With the venerable space opera about to start bringing new stories to the big screen at the planned rate of one per year — and the upcoming fleet’s worth of Times stories that will cover all the developments and details of the on- and off-screen “Star Wars” saga — The Times’ copy desk decided it would help in editing to have an organized guide to facts, names and terms that might appear in our coverage.

I volunteered to put it together, and relied on the films; Lucasfilm’s publicly available databank; the Academy Awards’ database; images of officially licensed products; and Times precedence, stories, style rules and tendencies (which sometimes override other groups’ preferences). To answer the questions above: “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”; Wookiee.

(2) MORE STYLE. In the same spirit, but by a different creator as far as I can tell —

(3) FAN SERVICE. Mark Hamill goes undercover as a stormtrooper (one word) on Hollywood Blvd. to raise awareness for the Omaze charity that’s giving away a chance to win two tickets to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere in exchange for a $10 donation. The contest ends in less than two days.

(4) FROM HEADCANON TO THE SCREEN. “7 fan theories so good they actually came true” at RadioTimes.

  1. The Doctor’s Tardis is supposed to have 6 pilots

Considering he’s a centuries-old genius and Time Lord, the Doctor always did seem to have a bit of trouble piloting his Tardis – but fans had a solution for why that could be (apart from it being an obsolete Type 40, of course).

Given the time machine’s central console was hexagonal (and all the controls therefore couldn’t be reached at any one time), could it be that the Tardis was intended for not one, but six pilots?

This fun idea circled around for a while and made some appearance Doctor Who spin-off media before it was finally embraced by the main series in 2008, with David Tennant’s Doctor enlisting all his friends to help pilot the time machine in series 4 finale Journey’s End.

(5) THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT. “It’s what’s on Mark Watney’s smartphone,” says Will R.

Through a new service (“IFTTT Blog – Houston, we have liftoff”) you can get things like a notification when the season changes on Mars.

(6) BE YOUR OWN ANT FARM. Becky Chambers remembers playing an ancient PC game: “Extended Memory: SimAnt”.

Despite the complexities, my task was clear: recruit as many followers as I could, then march into enemy territory. “Oh my god,” a distant voice in my head said. “This is a Zerg rush…with ants.” I do not know what this voice meant. As an ant, I am ignorant of such things.

(7) SUBCONTINENTAL COMICS. Henry Jenkins “In Search of Indian Comics (Part Three): I Mean, Really, Where Are They?”

So, here’s the bottom line: India has a new generation of gifted graphic storytellers, who are doing comics that speak in direct and powerful ways to the country’s politics, comics that experiment with new visual languages for comics, often drawn from the country’s rich and diverse folk traditions. These artists are slowly but surely producing work that people should be paying attention to. But, you can’t really find them in Indian bookstores when you go looking and they are not making their way into comics specialty shops in the United States. If you want to find India comics, you have to look online.

(8) KEG BUST. Andrew Porter says, “This almost (not really) makes up for HPL’s bust no longer being the World Fantasy Award….”  Lovecraft Reanimator Helles Lager from Narragansett Beer.

The History: HP Lovecraft’s ‘Herbert West—Reanimator’ and the 1985 film adaptation, Re-Animator, are horror fan favorites. In the story, Dr. West and his accomplice experiments with human reanimation by injecting fresh corpses with a serum meant to bring the dead back to life. We wanted to create a serum to resurrect one of our own; our beloved Bock beer.

 

Reanimator beer

(9) TOR PICKS 2015 BEST. “Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2015” picked by Jared Shurin, Alyx Dellamonica, Liz Bourke, Nial Alexander, Mavesh Murad, Amal El-Mohtar, Alex Brown, Caitlyn Paxson, Stefan Raets, Theresa DeLucci, and The G. (Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is prominently mentioned by several contributors.)

Liz Bourke

…I know what my two absolute favourites of the year are, though. Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory (Tor) and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy (Orbit) tie for first place in my heart. One is an adventure story in a steampunk-influenced city on the American Pacific coast in the late 19th-century, whose eponymous protagonist finds herself running headfirst into all kinds of peril—including international espionage plots—while falling in love with another young woman. The other is the capstone of a fantastic trilogy about power and personhood, and what you do with what’s done to you: it brings all its threads together, and ties them up in a conclusion that’s as perfect as it is unexpected. If you’re only going to read two novels published this year, my recommend is read them.

(10) T-SHIRT TNG. Have you been there, done that? Now own the t-shirt!

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra

(11) HOLD MORE MEETINGS. At Open Culture,“Read the CIA’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual: A Timeless, Kafkaesque Guide to Subverting Any Organization with ‘Purposeful Stupidity’ (1944)”

Will R. demurs, “I have no comment on whether this applies to anything currently under discussion in the world of science fiction.”

(12) OBITUARY. SF Site News reports artist Jon Arfstrom died on December 2. Arfstrom is believed to have been the last of the classic Weird Tales cover artists to be alive.

(13) GEEK PARENT MUCH? The MarySue has you covered with “Baby’s First Con: A Geek Parent Survival Guide”

Lesson 3: Prepare Line Distractions

Lines and waiting are a fact of life with cons. This is easy when you’re child-free and have access to your phone/book/daydreams/whatever. But with a baby, wait times are an event in themselves. Most parents—and hopefully that includes you—have some tricks that can be parsed out over time to try and keep the baby occupied. A good idea is to prep for the con like you would for a long road trip: have new toys/books to spring forward, and use whatever tricks you have up your sleeve. For example, our daughter is fantastic when getting hand-fed small snacks (Cheerio’s, Yums, etc.). We made sure we had an inventory of these and used them as our first go-to when she started to get impatient, albeit at about half the speed we’d normally feed them. We also got lucky in that our baby recognized some of the characters we’ve introduced her to thanks to the cosplayers, so we could point out Batman and catch her interest for a few minutes.

(14) DON’T TELL BRAD TORGERSEN. Cracked.com lists “6 Depressing Realities Of Writing Young Adult Fiction”. First up: Oh noes! You can’t tell a YA book by its cover!

#6. Covers And Titles Are Often Shameless Lies

There’s an old saying about judging a book by its cover; we’re not sure how it goes, but it doesn’t matter because titles and covers both appear to be generated completely at random. At least, in the world of Young Adult novels. Jack named his latest book The Librarian. At the publishers’ request, it became Double Agent. A little editing later, and the title was Escape From Besmar. A little more, and that was subbed out in favor of the catchier Springheel. At one point, the title was Black Sheep. Then Three Bags Full. Then Three Bombs Full. Then, at last, they settled on a title that pleased everyone: Switchblade.

The book is currently available under the title The Cut Out….

(15) XENA. Lucy Lawless on the “Xena” revival, her new show and seizing life with both hands at Women in the World.

But with the apparent revival of Xena in the wings, fans and media want to know, will she return as the legendary character she brought to life two decades ago?

…So the question of Lucy Lawless’s age, 47, is central to the Xena reboot, raising obvious retorts: Harrison Ford, 73, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 68, and Bruce Campbell, 57, are all reprising action hero roles they played in their youth without any criticism or complaints being raised about their age.

Lawless won’t go on a rant about it. She shrugs it off, half kidding: “They’ll give the Xena role to a 27-year-old.’’

It’s been 20 years since Xena: Warrior Princess was launched and became the top-rated syndicated TV program in the United States and a highly popular franchise across 108 countries. The character of Xena emerges from a dark past to defend the oppressed, fighting gods, warlords and kings, and living outside the conventional definitions of masculine and feminine. The series ended after six years, in 2001, with the brutal death of Xena, her head cut off, her body turned to ashes. Outraged fans have since cried out for a resurrection and, obliging, NBC plans to reboot Xena and has tapped Rob Tapert to re-develop it.

Problem is, Lawless knows nothing about it. She was blindsided when the news about a Xena revival leaked. A woman with The Hollywood Reporter asked her about the reboot plans, but Lawless denied it. “I thought she was misinformed,’’ she says now. “It was I who was misinformed.’’

(16) GoT TEASER? The Game of Thrones Season 6 teaser. I can confidently say I didn’t understand it. But io9 seems to. Maybe you will, also.

(17) CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME. Cards Against Humanity went offline on Black Friday and offered customers the ability to buy nothing for $5. They got nearly $72.000… most of which they spent on themselves!

11,248 people gave us $5, and 1,199 people gave us more than $5 by filling out the form more than once. One enthusiastic fan gave us $100. In the end, we made a windfall profit of $71,145.

Cards Against Humanity is known for our charitable fundraising – since 2012 we’ve raised nearly $4 million for organizations we love like Worldbuilders, the Sunlight Foundation, the EFF, DonorsChoose.org, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Chicago Design Museum. We even started a $500,000 full-ride scholarship for women getting degrees in science.

There’s been a lot of speculation about how we would spend the money from Black Friday, and we’re happy to announce that this time, we kept it all. Here’s what we bought….

(18) ROLLING STONE. Star Wars fatigue is probably setting in already, but Rolling Stone has good interviews with several major cast members (plus a few spoilers, of course) in “’Star Wars’ Strikes Back: Behind the Scenes of the Biggest Movie of the Year”.

“The world is so horrible,” says Mark Hamill, Luke’s closest earthly representative, sitting in the shadow of swaying trees in his rather pleasant Malibu yard. At 64, Hamill is older than Alec Guinness was in the first Star Wars, and is in the process of regrowing a distinctly Obi-Wan-ish beard. “Between the Middle East and gun violence and global warming and racism, it’s just horrible. And people need this. It’s therapeutic.”

The “this” in question is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, out on December 18th and directed by geek hero J.J. Abrams, fresh from rebooting the Star Trek franchise.

(19) ANCIENT SPECIAL. And if you weren’t fatigued before, well, just watch the elusive Star Wars Christmas Special from that bygone era….

(20) MUSICAL INTERLUDE. I remember hearing the song on Doctor Demento but the video is news to me: The Firm – “Star Trekkin'”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Hampus Eckerman, Will R., Mark-kitteh, James H. Burns, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]