Pixel Scroll 5/29/16 Hell Is Other Pixels

(1) HE SIGNS AND WONDERS. From the Baltimore Sun: “’Game of Thrones’ author draws faithful crowd at Balticon 50”

The wildly popular HBO series has gone beyond the plot lines of Martin’s books, though more are in the works. In an afternoon interview with Mark Van Name, Martin said he never anticipated that the unfinished book series would end up as enormous as it has become. When he sold it in 1994 with 100 pages written, he pitched it as a trilogy. That quickly became a “four-book trilogy,” he said, then a five-, six- and seven-book series. The sixth and seventh books have not yet been published.

“It hit 800 pages and I wasn’t close to the end,” he said of writing the first book, “Game of Thrones,” the show’s namesake, which was part of a larger series, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Then “Thrones” became “1,400 pages and there was no end in sight. At that point I kind of stopped and said, ‘This isn’t going to work.'”

Though Martin didn’t speak in detail about the books, he said the Vietnam War was part of what shaped his writing and the complexity of his characters.

“We have the capacity for great heroism. We have the capacity for great selfishness and cowardice, many horrible acts. And sometimes at the same time. The same people can do something heroic on Tuesday and something horrible on Wednesday,” he said. “Heroes commit atrocities. People who commit atrocities can be capable later of heroism. It’s the human condition, and I wanted to reflect all that in my work.”

Martin Morse Wooster emailed the story along with his own observations:

…Nearly all of the piece is about listening to George R.R. Martin or standing in line to get your Martin books and other stuff signed.  This morning I was standing in line for the elevator and heard that they were admitting the 1,070th person to the autograph line.

(2) TIPTREE AUCTION AT WISCON. I’d like to hear the rest of this story…

And I’d like to hear this, too.

(3) CAPTAIN AMERICA SPOILER WARNING. (In case there’s anybody who doesn’t already know it…)

Ed Green snarked in a Facebook comment:

I rather like the bonus factoid that they released this in time to help celebrate Memorial Day. Because nothing says ‘Thank you for your sacrifice!” like turning a WWII legend into a Nazi.

You rotten bastards.

Jessica Pluumer also criticized the choice in her post “On Steve Rogers #1, Antisemitism, and Publicity Stunts” at Panels.

You probably already knew that, but I’d invite you to think about it for a minute. In early 1941, a significant percentage of the American population was still staunchly isolationist. Yet more Americans were pro-Axis. The Nazi Party was not the unquestionably evil cartoon villains we’re familiar with today; coming out in strong opposition to them was not a given. It was a risky choice.

And Simon and Kirby—born Hymie Simon and Jacob Kurtzberg—were not making it lightly. Like most of the biggest names in the Golden Age of comics, they were Jewish. They had family and friends back in Europe who were losing their homes, their freedom, and eventually their lives to the Holocaust. The creation of Captain America was deeply personal and deeply political.

Ever since, Steve Rogers has stood in opposition to tyranny, prejudice, and genocide. While other characters have their backstories rolled up behind them as the decades march on to keep them young and relevant, Cap is never removed from his original context. He can’t be. To do so would empty the character of all meaning.

But yesterday, that’s what Marvel did.

Look, this isn’t my first rodeo. I know how comics work. He’s a Skrull, or a triple agent, or these are implanted memories, or it’s a time travel switcheroo, or, or, or. There’s a thousand ways Marvel can undo this reveal—and they will, of course, because they’re not about to just throw away a multi-billion dollar piece of IP. Steve Rogers is not going to stay Hydra any more than Superman stayed dead.

But Nazis (yes, yes, I know 616 Hydra doesn’t have the same 1:1 relationship with Nazism that MCU Hydra does) are not a wacky pretend bad guy, something I think geek media and pop culture too often forgets.

(4) BOUND FOR BLETCHLEY. The Guardian reports a discovery made by museum workers — “Device used in Nazi code machine found for sale on eBay”.

It was just such a coincidence that led to the museum getting its hands on their Lorenz teleprinter, after they spotted it for sale. “I think it was described as a telegram machine, but we recognised it as a Lorenz teleprinter,” Whetter said.

They rang the seller and drove to down to Essex to take a look for themselves. “The person took us down the garden to the shed and in the shed was the Lorenz teleprinter in its original carrying case,” Whetter said. They snapped it up for £9.50.

But the true value of their purchase was yet to become clear. It was only after cleaning the machine at Bletchley Park, where the museum is based, that they found it was a genuine military issue teleprinter, complete with swastika detailing and even a special key for the runic Waffen-SS insignia.

Is it a suspicious coincidence that this story came out the same month as Steve Rogers #1? You decide!

(5) WISCON CON SUITE. Tempting as it is, if I left now I still wouldn’t get there in time.

(6) FAREWELL FROM THE MASSES. The G has something to say “About that Castle finale…” at Nerds of a Feather.

I finally got around to watching the series finale of Castle last night, and feel the need to vent a bit.

First, let me admit that I’ve watched a lot of Castle over the years. But I didn’t watch it out of any conviction that it’s good. It wasn’t. Rather, I watched it because it was simple fun. At its best, the show took a familiar formula (the police procedural), approached it with an appealing balance of drama and comedy and then let its charismatic leads (Nathan Fillion and Stana Kati?) carry the show. All in all, that made for an enjoyable, if somewhat forgettable, hour long diversion.

Sure there was the ongoing story about an increasingly convoluted and opaque conspiracy, as well as the love story between Castle and Beckett, but at its heart Castle was an episodic show. And now that it’s gone, I realize how few watchable episodic dramas are left on TV.

Which brings me to the finale…

As soon as it was over, my wife turned to me and said “Poochie died on the way back to his home planet.”

With a hook like that, how could I not read the rest, which is an explanation of the reference?

(7) DESPITE POPULAR DEMAND. There will be a movie based on the Tetris video game, in which massive blocks descend from the sky. Don’t be underneath when they fly by… oh, wait, that’s a different punchline.

Larry Kasanoff, producer of films based on the Mortal Kombat video games and Bruno Wu, CEO of China’s Sun Seven Stars Media Group announced that their new company Threshold Global Studios is set to produce the film Tetris The Movie.

 

(8) RECOMMENDATION: REREAD THE BOOK. Gary Westfahl’s analysis, “Alice the Great and Powerful: A Review of Alice Through the Looking Glass”, is posted at Locus Online.

The visual effects are regularly creative and engaging, and there are lines here and there that might make you laugh, but overall, anyone looking for 153 minutes of entertainment on this Memorial Day weekend would be best advised to read, or reread, Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) instead of watching this film, which borrows its title but none of its unique wit and charm. The work that it most recalls, as my title suggests, is the film Oz the Great and Powerful (2013 – review here), another thumb-fisted effort to “improve” upon a classic children’s book by adding new characters, new back stories for old characters, and an action-packed, melodramatic story line….

(9) MEANWHILE, BACK AT WISCON. Yes, indeed.

(10) CARBONARA COPY. Kurt Busiek commented yesterday about cooking a meal for his future wife using a recipe in a comic book. I thought it might be a pleasant surprise if I could find that American Flagg spaghetti fritatta recipe online. It was there, but I found more than I bargained for in Cleo Coyle’s post at Mystery Lovers Kitchen.

When I first met my husband, he whipped up a fantastic spaghetti carbonara that has since become part of our menu. Because he’s part Italian, and because both his mother and father taught him how to cook, I assumed his recipe came from one of them. Not so. Marc informed me that he found the recipe in a 1980’s comic book.

The comic was Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!, launched in 1983. Fans of this series include Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon, who hailed Flagg as a precursor to the cyberpunk genre of science fiction.

Flagg is not for everyone. It presents a hard-boiled look at life in 2031—after nuclear war and an economic collapse leave things a tad chaotic in the USA. How bad do things get in Chaykin’s 2031? One example: The broken down piano player who inhabits the local lounge is Princess Diana’s oldest son.

As for today’s recipe, spaghetti carbonara happens to be the favorite dish of Rubin Flagg, the comic book’s hero. The recipe was published in the same issue that Rubin cooked it up. (Recipes included in fiction! Is that a good idea or what?)

Coyle says she’s married to somebody named Marc, so presumably this isn’t Kurt’s wife telling her side of the same anecdote. (I’m also sure Kurt knows his fritatta from his carbonara.) Just the same, it’s starting to sound like that American Flagg recipe is quite the love potion!

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White author of The Once and Future King.

(12) SUITS. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, takes you along —

While in London pitching series, Mr. Sci-Fi got a tour of the Propstore’s exclusive amazing collection of spacesuits from such films as Alien, Armageddon and Star Trek – The Motion Picture — plus he shows rare concept designs of Space Command’s spacesuit by Iain McCaig (designer of Darth Maul, Queen Amidala and The Force Awaken’s Rey). Not to be missed!

 

(13) WOLFE TALK. Spacefaring Kitten interviewed Marc Aramini who wrote Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 (Castalia House).

Is there a “right” answer to questions like “what has really happened between the protagonist and Suzanne Delage in ‘Suzanne Delage’” or “which one is the changeling in ‘The Changeling’”?

I’m asking this because I kind of enjoyed the ambiguous atmosphere and the weight of the unexplained in those stories, and while I was reading them I didn’t necessarily feel that there should be one comprehensive solution to be unearthed.

Yes, but you don’t have to get there to enjoy the story. I honestly believe there is a “right” answer from the author’s point of view, but that there are other authors who do not have this kind of rigid, disciplined mindset and write from a place of the subconscious or unconscious. I really do not feel that this is the case with Wolfe, and I have written about 700,000 words so far between the two volumes which argue that his mysteries have universal solutions. I think one of his tasks is using the tool-box of post-modern subjectivity and uncertainty to imply that there is still a universal structure behind the act of creation.

(14) HARDY. David Hardy has created a video tour of his famous astronomical art —

Voyage to the Outer Planets

To follow up my 50s compilation, ‘How Britain Conquered Space in the Fifties’, here is a video made from art of the outer Solar System which I produced 50 years later , for comparison. I like to think I have progressed a little! This is partly a short excerpt from my DVD ‘Space Music’ (available at www.astroart.org), which in turn was edited from German TV’s ‘Space Night’, shown in the early morning from 1994 (google it). They showed two programmes of my art, but for the DVD I added digital images from my 2004 book with Sir Patrick Moore, ‘Futures: 50 Years in Space’.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Spacefaring Kitten, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hal Winslow’s Old Buddy.]

Pixel Scroll 5/21/16 Pixel Shop of Scrollers

(1) TREKKIN’ WITH FILLION? Here’s some clickbait for you – “Rumor Mill: Nathan Fillion New Star Trek Captain?” asks SciFi Obsession.

Many noticed how much weight Nathan lost for the final season of Castle. Now that it’s 8 year run is over, could he be sitting in the center seat for the new 50th Anniversary Trek series on CBS All Access?

(2) CAPT. JACK VAGUEBOOKS. And here’s a second helping of clickbait – Den of Geek quoted John Barrowman’s comments about coming back to Doctor Who.

Adding fuel to the fire that he could return to the live-action Doctor Who universe in the near future, John Barrowman has now instructed fans to “keep watching.”

Asked on The One Show whether he’d be returning to either Doctor Who or Torchwood, the Captain Jack Harkness actor said, “I’d love to, keep watching. Keep watching. I’d love to! I don’t know!”

“It’s not up to me,” he added, “but keep watching!”

(3) DOZOIS REVIEWS SHORT FICTION. Locus Online has posted an excerpt from the magazine edition, “Gardner Dozois reviews Short Fiction April 2016”, covering Clarkesworld 1/16, 2/16, Asimov’s 2/16, and Interzone 1-2/16. With the link, Greg Hullender passed along his theory that Dozois is Lois Tilton’s replacement.

(4) WHAT’S OPERA? Andrew Liptak recommends “15 Space Opera Books for Firefly Fans” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

We don’t need to tell you that Firefly has transformed from failed TV series to cultural phenomenon in the years since its 2003 cancellation after an inauspicious 12-episode run on Fox. Joss Whedon’s Western-styled space opera might be missed, but in the years since, its fans have found ways to cope with its absence, turning to other TV shows, writing fan fiction—or searching out books that scratch their Big Damn Heroes itch. We always find ourselves reaching for a solid space opera novel during the summer months, so we’re offering up 15 space opera books for Firefly fans, each embodying one or more of the qualities that made that show so great.

(5) CHECK REJECTS. SJPA, the organization behind Anime Expo, has partially retracted its recently announced Youth Protection policy. Anime News Network has the story — “Background Checks Not Mandatory for Anime Expo, Except for Its Employees, Volunteers”.

The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), the California-based non-profit organization behind Anime Expo, announced on Friday that the criminal background check requirement it introduced as part of its Youth Protection Program are now only mandatory for its own employees and volunteers. Background checks are optional but strongly encouraged for Artist Alley participants, exhibitors, press, Guests of Honor, performers and vendors.

SPJA is partnering with the Nonprofit Risk Management Center to launch the Youth Protection Program to protect young attendees at Anime Expo. The Nonprofit Risk Management Center began streaming an introduction video for the program on Tuesday. The organization also began streaming a video on April 29 that explains the responsibilities of being a partner to the Youth Protection Program.

SPJA noted the other elements of the program that will remain in place:

We are creating SafeSpace kiosks and other means for youth to report and receive immediate help. Significantly increased private security and LA Police officers will be present onsite. To protect minors from exposure to adult content, spatial separation and ID checks will be enforced at AX. Exhibitors will be required to keep adult materials behind closed pipe and drape, and to conduct ID checks at entrances to adult areas. Similarly, adult programming will be physically separated from other programming spaces and IDs will be required for access.

The policy originally required all employees, volunteers, panelists, performers, guests, members of a guest’s or performer’s entourage, and Artist Alley participants to consent to a background check, as well as completing certain online youth protection training courses. Exhibitors, press, and vendors were also required to affirm that all representatives complete a background check. Some exhibitors had already signed to agree with this previous policy and submitted information to comply.

2016 WISB Awards(6) WISB AWARDS. Shaun Duke of The World in the Satin Bag has distributed the 2016 WISB Awards – including some for File 770!

The fiction section is led off by Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s novel Signal To Noise. The Best Non-Fiction Work was Eric Flint’s “A Response to Brad Torgersen.”

Now that awards season is in full swing, it’s time to release the winners of the 2016 WISB Awards.  As with every year of the award, the winners are selected from my reading and viewing experiences throughout 2015 and during my annual Hugo Awards reading binge.  As such, the long list included works published decades ago.

Unlike previous years, the 2016 WISB Awards included a long list, which you should check out to see all the great stuff I enjoyed.  You might also check out the 2016 Hugo Awards Reading/Watching List, which includes works from my original list and works suggested by readers.

As with every year of the awards, these selections are based entirely on my own tastes, which are imperfect, narrow, and weird….

(7) ALPHA GAME. The Traveler at Galactic Journey found a classic in “this month’s” F&SF — “[May 21, 1961] Pineapple Upside-Down Month (June 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction).

Cordwainer Smith’s Alpha Ralpha Boulevard is one of the best stories I’ve read in a long time.  Most tales of the future are either frustratingly conventional or completely opaque.  Not so in Boulevard, which features a world dominated by “Instrumentality”, an omniscient computer dedicated to the happiness of humanity.  16,000 years from now, after a placid, highly regulated existence, people are, at last, offered the luxury of uncertainty (or at least the illusion thereof).

(8) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. I guess readers are supposed to be shocked and dismayed that if you leave a flag outside in the sun for 50 years it isn’t going to stay looking brand new.

On the other hand, nobody has any photos showing “The American flags on the Moon have all turned white”.

(9) OPPOSED BY MARS. But this story you can see with your own eyes. NPR tells you how easy it will be to view Mars this weekend.

Sometimes astronomy can be challenging, but spotting Mars this weekend should be a breeze.

Step 1: Head outside right after sunset and look toward the southeastern sky.

Step 2: Find the full moon. (So far, so good, right?)

Step 3: Look up and to the right, and find what looks like a bright red star.

That’s Mars, our planetary neighbor — getting up close and personal.

This weekend is the “Mars opposition,” when the planet shines most brightly; at the end of the month, in a related event, we’ll have the “Mars close approach,” when there’s the shortest distance between the two planets.

(10) YOUR ROBOTIC FUTURE. Robin Hanson’s The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth will be released by Oxford University Press on June 1.

Age of Em cover

Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or ems. Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.

Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: an army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. In this new economic era, the world economy may double in size every few weeks.

Some say we can’t know the future, especially following such a disruptive new technology, but Professor Robin Hanson sets out to prove them wrong. Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, he uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems.

The book, set 100-150 years in the future, is “speculative nonfiction” by an economist. The publicity blurbs come from David Brin, Vernor Vinge, Gregory Benford, and Hannu Rajshiemi, among others.

The website includes a TEDx talk Hanson did which got 2.2 million hits.

(11) GOOD, IF YOU LIKE ADS. “Goodreads has found a new way to get money from authors while annoying their use base,” says Dawn Sabados. “Opt out of ads features are just so wonderful.”

“Goodreads Deals: A New Way to Promote Your Ebooks to Millions of Goodreads Members (U.S. Market)”

With the launch of Goodreads Deals in the U.S., we’re now offering authors and publishers a new way to amplify ebook price promotions to our millions of members. The Goodreads Deals program comes with built-in personalization options based on members’ Want to Read shelves, the authors they follow, and the genres they prefer—all designed to help your deals reach the readers with the highest interest in buying your books. Goodreads Deals is unique because we’ll enable you to reach existing fans and introduce your ebooks to new readers:

  • Existing Fans: Every second, our members add 6 books to their Want to Read shelves—that’s 15 million books per month that have captured the interest of readers. With Goodreads Deals, you can now tap into that interest. We’ll email members when a book on their Want to Read shelf has a price promotion. We’ll also email any members who follow the author on Goodreads.

(12) IT IS SO. Writer and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan Emily Spahn, after learning that MLP is up for a Hugo because of the Rabid Puppies slate, wrote “I Have a Pony in this Race” to tell Hugo voters why the show (and that particular episode) are good sci-fi worthy of serious consideration rather than being just a troll nomination:

You know, it’s kind of appropriate that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was nominated for a Hugo in order to troll people. Our entire fandom was built on some trolling.

Way back in 2011, some guys on 4Chan started posting My Little Pony pictures and memes from the then-new series, Friendship is Magic. Other people complained, and being 4Chan, they responded by flooding the site with pictures of ponies.

But somewhere in there a strange thing happened. People checked out the show, whether because they thought the characters were cute or because they thought it would be dumb and wanted to mock it, and they liked it. Not ironically, and not because it was subversive or slipped adult humor in under the radar. They just really liked the simple stories about Twilight Sparkle and her pony friends. And Bronies were born.

Three weeks earlier a post written by Horizon, “MLP’s Hugo Award nomination: Into the culture wars”, provided historical context and  got picked up by Equestria Daily, MLP fandom’s biggest website.

It is ambiguous whether the nomination was serious and ideological (the episode in question is about Starlight Glimmer’s “equality cult”, making it a potential political statement), or whether it was a “joke” nomination in the same vein as short-story finalist Space Raptor Butt Invasion, but in either case it was pretty transparently proposed as a slap in the face to Hugo voters.

If you don’t give a crap about SFF or American culture wars, that should be all the context you need to understand what has other people upset, and help you avoid falling into the drama if you stumble into someone slamming MLP.

(13) SCHOOL’S IN! SF Crowsnest points to this Eighties-style trailer for the new X-Men movie. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is now open for enrollment… (X-Men: Apocalypse in theaters May 27.)

[Thanks to Dawn Sabados, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Petrea Mitchell, Paul Weimer, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

All Bradbury

(1) Bradbury is the centerpiece of another Big Read in Kansas City. Biographer Sam Weller helps launch the event in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ forever: a literary classic’s uncanny cultural longevity.

In 1953, a little-known 33-year-old writer named Ray Bradbury wrote his first novel.

Sixty-two years later, “Fahrenheit 451” is a bona fide international classic.

The masterwork about a dystopian society where books are contraband is a staple of school curricula. It has been translated into more than 30 languages around the world and is, today, one of the most selected titles in community reading programs across the nation (along with Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”).

The Kansas City area this week joins the list of community celebrants. The Mid-Continent Public Library system has kicked off a series of events surrounding the book in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read” initiative. Having worked closely with Ray Bradbury for over a decade as his authorized biographer, I am thrilled to participate.

“Fahrenheit 451” is one of those rare books that transcend time and generations. But why? Why does this short 50,000-word novel continue to have such cultural relevance?

Even Ray Bradbury was somewhat vexed by the waxing success of his novel over the decades.

“I was just writing an adventure novel,” he told me on multiple occasions. Bradbury described his book as “a fugitive chase disguised as literature,” in reference to the plotline of a fireman who burns books for a living and one-day decides to take one home to see what all the fuss is about. When Guy Montag discovers the magic, wonder, philosophy and poetry inside books, he leaves his life as a book burner behind and becomes a bibliophilic fugitive in a society where books are illegal.

(2) Adrienne Martini reviews Blythe Woolston’s MARTians at Locus Online.

Like Bradbury, whose work Woolston honors both in the title and as a running theme, this au­thor has a knack for finding just the right details to flesh-out a world without bogging down the action in reams of description. Take, for example, this nugget: ‘‘I won’t have a vote to sell until my eighteenth birthday, and that’s 619 days away.’’ Not only do you learn Zoë’s age but you also learn reams about the world that surrounds her. MARTians is a marvel of linguistic economy.

(3) Bidding is open and lively for the strongest rare book auction Heritage has offered to date, Auction #6155.

Many excellent copies of Bradbury works with personal inscriptions to Bob O’Malley are also present here, such as Dark Carnival (Lot 45014), Fahrenheit 451 (Lot 45016; minimum $1250), The Martian Chronicles (Lot 45021; minimum $1250) and The October Country (Lot 45024; minimum bid $500).

(4) Brigadier Mick Ryan on “Why Reading Science Fiction is Good For Military Officers” at Grounded Curiosity.

And it informs us about bad potential futures.  Reading science fiction allows one to think about a range of bad potential futures.  The dystopian future genre, particularly for younger readers, has been popular of late.  But this is not new.  Whether it is King’s The Stand, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Matteson’s I am Legend, or Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, science fiction has always dealt with futures where society breaks down or must deal with a far more pessimistic view of the future.  Some even deal with the end of the world, with a recent example being Stephenson’s Seven Eve’s.  It is good that military officers should read such descriptions of alternate futures; it is the first step in us ensuring that they do not come to pass.

Pixel Scroll 2/1/16 By the Pixels of Babylon, I Scrolled, For I Remembered Filing

(1) PRELIMINARY PUPPIES. Vox Day issued his first “preliminary recommendations” today: “Rabid Puppies 2016: Best New Writer” (Preliminary, since he may change them based on feedback about eligibility, or for other reasons.)

To kick things off, we’ll begin with the Campbell Award: Best New Writer category:

  • Pierce Brown
  • Cheah Kai Wai
  • Sebastien de Castell
  • Marc Miller
  • Andy Weir

There was a noteworthy exchange in the comments.

[Phil Sandifer] Just for the record, Vox, the only reason Andy Weir wasn’t on the ballot last year was the Puppies. Without you, the Campbell nominees last year would have been Chu, Weir, Alyssa Wong, Carmen Maria Marchado, and Django Wexler.

[VD] Oh, Phil, you’re always so careless. That is not the only reason. It is a reason. Had you SJWs favored Weir over Chu, he would have also been on the ballot.

In any event, since you all are such champions of Weir, I’m glad we will all be able to join forces and get him nominated.

(2) GRRM REQUESTS. After announcing that the Locus Recommended Reading List is online, George R.R. Martin explicitly said

Just for the record, before the issue is raised, let me state loudly and definitively that I do not want any of my work to be part of anyone’s slate, this year or any year. But I do feel, as I have said before, that a recommended reading list and a slate are two entirely different animals.

— an announcement whose timing may be more relevant today than it would have been yesterday.

(3) LOCUS SURVEY. You can now take the Locus Poll and Survey at Locus Online. Anyone can vote; Locus subscriber votes count double. Voting closes April 15.

Here is the online version of the 46th annual Locus Awards ballot, covering works that appeared in 2015.

In each category, you may vote for up to five works or nominees, ranking them 1 (first place) through 5 (fifth).

As always, we have seeded the ballot with options based on our 2015 Recommended Reading List [this link will open a new window], mainly because this greatly facilitates tallying of results. However, again as always, you are welcome to use the write-in boxes to vote for other titles and nominees in any category. If you do, please try to supply author, title, and place of publication, in a format like the options listed, where appropriate.

Do not vote for more than one item in a category at the same rank (e.g. two selections ranked 1st); if you do, we will disregard your votes in that category.

File 770 is seeded in the Best Magazine or Fanzine category and would cherish your fifth place votes. Or twenty-fifth, for that matter – the competition is formidable.

(4) IT IS THE END MY FRIEND. And perhaps this is the right place to admire John Scalzi’s Whatever post title: “The End of All Things on the 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List”.

(5) STATISTICS. Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizon began the month of February by “Checking Back in with the SFWA Recommended Reading List”. He prepared a change table and interpreted the rising fortunes of various novels, beginning with the greatest uptick —

What does this tell us? That Lawrence M. Schoen’s Barsk has emerged as a major Nebula contender, despite being lightly read (as of January 30th, this only has 93 ratings on Goodreads, 31 on Amazon, much much lower than other Nebula/Hugo contenders). That’s due in part to Schoen’s late publication date: the novel came out on December 29, 2015. That’s a tough time to come out, as you get lost in the post-Christmas malaise. A Nebula nomination would drive a lot of attention to this book. Schoen now seems like a very good bet for the Nebula, particularly when we factor in that he received Nebula nominations in the Best Novella category in 2013, 2014, and 2015. There’s clearly a subset of Nebula voters that really like Schoen’s work; a Best Novel nomination might be a spark that gets him more read by the rest of us.

(6) CONGRATULATIONS SCOTT EDELMAN. He did it! Scott Edelman celebrates a special sale in “Never give up, never surrender: My 44-year question to sell a short story to Analog”.

I’ve lost track of how many submissions I made to Analog during the intervening years, first to Ben Bova, then Stan Schmidt (for more than three decades!), and now Trevor Quachri. Were there 25 short stories? Fifty? It’s probably been more than that, but I don’t know for sure. And it doesn’t really matter.

What matters is—in the face of rejection, I kept writing.

What matters is—in the face of rejection, I kept submitting.

What matters is—I never took it personally. I knew that I wasn’t the one being rejected—it was only the words on the page that weren’t the right match.

(7) WILL EISNER AUCTION. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is auctioning books from Will Eisner’s personal collection.

Will Eisner wasn’t just the godfather of comics, a creative force who changed the face of modern comics — he was also a staunch advocate for the freedom of expression. In celebration of Eisner’s indomitable talent and advocacy, CBLDF is delighted to offer up for auction books from Eisner’s own personal collection!

All books in this collection come from the late, great Will Eisner’s personal library. The books from this collection are bookplated with Eisner’s own personalized bookplate, featuring his most famous creation, The Spirit. Most of the books in this collection are signed and personalized to the master himself by creators whom Eisner inspired over his illustrious 70-year career

The items are on eBay. The CBLDF’s post has all the links to the various lots.

(8) FAN ART AT RSR. I see that with help from eFanzines’ Bill Burns, Rocket Stack Rank terrifically upgraded its “2016 Fan Artists” content. Gregory N. Hullender explains.

With the help of Bill Burns, we’ve updated the Best Fan Artist page at RSR to include cover art from eFanzines (plus a few that Bill scanned by hand). This doubled the number of artists and tripled the number of images, making it comparable to the Pro Artist page.

(9) INCONCEIVABLE. Japan’s huge convention Comic Market, aka Comiket, which draws half a million fans (in aggregate over three days) expects to be bumped from its facilities in 2020. What could bump an event that big? The Olympics. Anime News Network reports —

Tokyo Big Sight, the convention center where Comiket is usually held, announced earlier that it would not be able to hold the convention between April 2019 and October 2020. Event spaces have been closing throughout the Tokyo area for the past decade. Tokyo Big Sight has also announced that industry booths at this summer’s Comiket would close after two days (instead of the usual three) to accommodate construction work to expand the building for the upcoming Olympics.

(10) TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF THE CANON. We might call this a contrarian view.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 1, 2003 – Space shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • February 1, 1954 – Bill Mumy, soon to be seen in Space Command.

(13) WOODEN STARSHIP. A Washington Post article about the renovation of the original Starship Enterprise model reveals it was mostly made from big pieces of wood. When ready, the Enterprise will be displayed in a slightly more prestigious spot .

Collum said the model had long hung in the gift shop of the Air and Space Museum on the Mall. Now it is headed for the renovated Milestones of Flight Hall there.

“The historical relevance of the TV show, and this model, has grown,” he said. “So it’s now being brought up into the limelight, and it’s going to be in the same gallery as the ‘Spirit of St. Louis’ [and] the Apollo 11 command module.”

(14) HOW GAMES INSPIRE ENGAGING FICTION. N. K. Jemisin in “Gaming as connection: Thank you, stranger” talks about the aspect of game play that challenges her as a writer. (Beware spoilers about the game Journey.)

I see a lot of discussion about whether games are art. For me, there’s no point in discussing the matter, because this isn’t the first time I’ve had such a powerful emotional experience while gaming. That’s why I’m still a gamer, and will probably keep playing ’til I die. This is what art does: it moves you. Maybe it makes you angry, okay. Maybe it makes you laugh. Not all of it is good, but so what? There’s a lot of incredibly shitty art everywhere in the world. But the good art? That’s the stuff that has power, because you give it power. The stuff that lingers with you, days or years later, and changes you in small unexpected ways. The stuff that keeps you thinking. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to recreate that game experience with my fiction.

(15) SF IN CHINA. Shaoyan Hu discusses“The Changing Horizon: A Brief Summary of Chinese SF in Year 2015”  at Amazing Stories. Quite an impressive roundup.

Fandoms

There were more than 70 college SF clubs in China in year 2015. Compared to 120 clubs in 2012, the number was reduced. However, two independent fandoms, Future Affairs Administration in Beijing and SF AppleCore in Shanghai, were still very active.

SF AppleCore is the most important fandom in Eastern China. Last year, in addition to orchestrating the annual Shanghai Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival, SF AppleCore continued to operate on a regular base to bring about the public SF events such as AppleCore Party (speeches and gatherings of fans) and AppleCore Reading Group.

Future Affairs Administration was the backbone behind the 2016 Worldcon bid for Beijing. Although the bid was not successful, they organized the Chinese Nebula Award ceremony in 2014. Last year, this fandom was consolidated into a media platform for SF and technology related information, although the function for fan events still remained.

(16) WORLDS OF LE GUIN. The Kickstarter fundraising appeal for Arwen Curry’s documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin has begun. So far, 514 backers have pledged $39,699 of the $80,000 goal. The SFWA Blog endorsed it today:

Viewers will accompany Le Guin on an intimate journey of self-discovery as she comes into her own as a major feminist author, inspiring generations of women and other marginalized writers along the way. To tell this story, the film reaches into the past as well as the future – to a childhood steeped in the myths and stories of disappeared Native peoples she heard as the daughter of prominent 19th century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber.

Le Guin’s story allows audiences to reflect on science fiction’s unique role in American culture, as a conduit for our utopian dreams, apocalyptic fears, and tempestuous romance with technology. Le Guin, by elevating science fiction from mind candy to serious speculation, has given permission to younger mainstream writers like Michael Chabon, Zadie Smith, and Jonathan Lethem to explore fantastic elements in their work.

(17) CGI OVERDOSE? At Yahoo! News, “These ‘Star Wars’ Blooper Reels Show Exactly Why the Prequels Failed”.

The blooper reels for the Star Wars prequel films have been available for a while, but there’s a noticeable trend with all of them. Nearly every blooper — genuinely funny or otherwise — is filmed within a green screen backdrop.

 

[Thanks to Janice Gelb, JJ, Petrea Mitchell, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Gregory N. Hullender.]

2016 Locus Recommended Reading List Published

The 2016 Locus Recommended Reading List from the magazine’s February issue has been posted at Locus Online.

The list is a consensus by Locus editors and reviewers, and others: Liza Groen Trombi, Gary K. Wolfe, Jonathan Strahan, Faren Miller, Russell Letson, Graham Sleight, Adrienne Martini, Carolyn Cushman, Tim Pratt, Karen Burnham, Gardner Dozois, Rich Horton, Cheryl Morgan, Paul Kincaid, Ysabeau Wilce, Liz Bourke, Colleen Mondor, and James Bradley.

Short fiction selections are assembled from material from Laird Barron, K. Tempest Bradford, Karen Burnham, Neil Clarke, Ellen Datlow, Gardner Dozois, Paula Guran, Rich Horton, Brit Mandelo, Faren Miller, Nisi Shawl, Jonathan Strahan, Lois Tilton, and Gary K. Wolfe.

On the list are —

  • 28 SF novels, 22 fantasy novels, 19 YA books, 13 first novels;
  • 27 collections, 12 original anthologies, 11 reprint anthologies;
  • 7 nonfiction books, 18 art books;
  • 18 novellas
  • 32 novelettes
  • 66 short stories

Three self-published works made the list: two art books, and Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Baen Books broke into the Locus Recommended list this year with John Joseph Adams’ original anthology Operation Arcana, ending a drought going back years (the publisher had no books on Locus’ 2014 or 2013 lists.)

Those sifting the omens to learn whether Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen will be Hugo-eligible in the year determined by its available-for-purchase 2015 e-ARC or its February 2016 publication date can ponder what it means that the book does not appear on the Locus list.

Lois Tilton Leaves Locus Online

Lois Tilton will no longer be reviewing for Locus Online she told readers of SFF.Net Webnews today.

I wish to announce that, after 205 columns, I’ve resigned as reviewer of short fiction for Locus Online. Without consulting or informing me, they had begun deleting material they considered negative from my reviews. To me, this is censorship and completely unacceptable. If a publication includes stories of no merit or interest, this is something a review should mention.

I had also begun to have misgivings about participating in the selection of the Locus Recommended Reading List, because of the possibility of conflict of interest.

So publishers with material for review will have to find another venue. Don’t send it to me.

Since it’s actually not likely that too many publishers will be reading here, passing on this announcement to relevant outlets would be helpful.

Before joining Locus Online, Tilton reviewed short fiction for the Internet Review of Science Fiction. She said in a 2012 interview:

In my first column at IROSF, I wrote as my manifesto: “I consider that my mandate is to the readers, not the authors or editors of the stories I review. I have no one else to please and no one else’s opinion concerns me, save that of the editors of IROSF.” This still holds true, mutatis mutandis, with Locus. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t keep doing reviews. When I reached the age of curmudgeonhood I decided that the rest of life is too short to let other people tell me what I can and can’t say.

Pixel Scroll 12/13 Twenty Thousand Links Under the Sea

(1) MOVIE MEME. Mari Ness’ contribution brought the #ExplainAFilmPlotBadly meme to my attention…

Some others –

(2) THINGS TO DO. Mary Robinette Kowal, who uses Habitica as a productivity tool, invites others get the benefit by participating in her guild, “Ink Slingers”

For science-fiction and fantasy writers and editors who are actively working in the field and trying to improve craft. But who also need peer pressure to be productive.

We have some challenges with habits and dailies that you might find helpful.

The way Habitica works is that you break the things you ought to be doing into three types of things.

  1. Habits: which are things you ought to do, but not necessarily on a regular basis. Like “3 minute stretch break.”
  2. Dailies: which you do regularly. Like “Write three sentences.”
  3. To-Dos: which are one time things. Like “Complete revisions for episode 2.”

To use it, you need to create a Habitica account first, then join Ink Slingers.

(3) WENDIG. Locus Online has an excerpt of its interview with Chuck Wendig.

“We’re either moving toward evolution or the ruination of humanity. There’s an angel and a devil. Both of those are manifest in every single technical jump we make. Which one of these do we bet on? Are we going to destroy ourselves with technology, with a nuclear bomb? Or are we going to get nuclear energy? Even a knife can be used to feed my family, or to kill you and take your food. Even the simplest, tiniest technology has a massive polarizing effect on humanity.”

(4) MAXAM PASSES AWAY. SF Site News reports Bay Area fan Felice Maxam died December 1. Maxam, then Felice Rolfe, participated in the Society for Creative Anachronism from the beginning. She was present at its first Tournament in 1966. She also belonged to the Peninsula SF Association in those days. Co-editor of Niekas with Ed Meskys, she was nominated for two Hugo Awards, and won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1967.

(5) FUTURE OF EASTERCON. Caroline Mullan is publicizing the Future of Eastercon questionnaire one more time. By Novacon, 207 responses had come in. Another 40 have been submitted since. “We’re mailing round to see if there is anyone else out there who would still like to fill it in before we have another go over the responses,” she says.

The Eastercon Options website has been busy over the last month — here are some of the most interesting posts.

Questionnaire Press Release

A questionnaire was open on the website during October 2015. We had 207 responses, about half from people who do not usually attend Eastercon bidding sessions…. https://eastercon.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/novacon-presentation.pdf

What are the issues?

At the Novacon presentation, someone in the audience asked for a general restatement of what problems we’re trying to solve here. We have a number of problems, some more significant than others, some are not problems at the moment but may well become so. It’s fairly obvious from the results of the questionnaire, that we also have a whole bunch of problems that we didn’t really consider to be problems at all, until we started asking questions….

Communication

Fans are often bad about communication. We tend to be rubbish about talking to other people, and even worse about understanding them when they talk back. That’s a bit strange for a subculture that is largely based around forms of communication, from letters to fanzines to films to blogs to conversations and panels at conventions. Historically though, the record of fans communicating, misunderstanding each other, followed by “all Fandom plunged into war” is pretty consistent. So it’s no surprise that here we are in 2015 and the results from our questionnaire show that we’re still doing a lousy job. I’d like to understand why, though the folly of doing this through the act of communicating via yet another written medium has not escaped me….

(6) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke

Fans help Dick Van Dyke kick-off his birthday weekend celebration with a flash mob at The Grove in Los Angeles on December 12, 2015.

(7) SITH STATUARY. The BBC profile “The Man Who Turned Lenin Into Darth Vader” tells about Ukranian sculptor Alexander Milov, who got the Odessa city council to allow him to turn a Lenin statue they were threatening to melt down into a Darth Vader statue. It even has free Wi-Fi!

To create his new sculpture, Milov strengthened the original structure and added a helmet and cape made out of titanium alloy – he also inserted a Wi-Fi router in Vader’s head. Despite the statue’s apparent glibness, it serves as a reminder that we can’t control which memories last and which don’t. “I wanted to make a symbol of American pop culture which appears to be more durable than the Soviet ideal.”

(8) COOKING FOR WHO. Chris-Rachael Oseland, author of Dining with the Doctor (recipes inspired by Doctor Who), is interviewed by Salon in “Geek food for the geek soul: ‘As society gets increasingly secular, we need to fill the social void’”.

Oseland will bring out a second edition of her Dr. Who book next year, as well as “Geek Breads,” which includes the “Dune” recipe. If you’ve seen the image of a “Dune” sandworm made of bread that went viral last week, that’s her work….

So it came out of your interest in history, more than fiction or something?

Yes – and I think that’s reflected in most of my cookbooks. “An Unexpected Cookbook,” my hobbit one, is a straight-up history cookbook: It’s all recipes from Tolkien’s childhood in the 1890s.

I’m doing the same thing with my Dr. Who cookbook – anytime where they go back in history, it’s an excuse for me to tuck in a few historical facts… I feel this obligation to make sure I’m historically accurate with these things.

(9) SENSE OF HISTORY. Adam-Troy Castro read Castalia House’s first two blog posts about pedophilia in sf and he challenges the relevance of its entry about David Asimov.

(10) SOUND FOOTING. Star Wars socks from Stance.

Starwars-bg-top-hero-sm

(11) OUT OF THE BOX. This Saturday Night Live faux commercial spoofs toy collecting nerds.

(12) RUCKER RECOMMENDS. Rudy Rucker’s book picks for 2015 ends with four books from this year (the others date earlier). His enthusiasm is contagious, so brace your TBR pile for incoming….!

(10) Paul Di Filippo, A Palazzo in Space. 2015. Paul Di Filippo writes SF stories, a lot of them, and he’s had a zillion collections come out. I collaborate with him on stories sometimes, so I’m very sensitive to the pleasures of his style. He has this jovial voice and an extreme love of words, with a real knack for SF neologisms. Like one of his stories communication devices is said to be “uebertoothed.” And there’s a gang of reality hackers called Los Braceros Ultimos. In one of his stories, “Pocketful of Faces,” he gets into an insane riff about people switching their faces, storylet after storylet, topping himself over and over—its’ like watching some mad juggler. And in the denouement, someone is wearing a fake face on top of a fake face on top of their real face, and who even knows why, but it just has to happen. And the doubly buried faces is like a pale grubworm inside a rotten log. Great stuff. Write on, celestial scribe!

(11) ONE LORD A-LEAPING. Legend of Tarzan official teaser trailer.

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

April Fails Day

Mark R. Kelly notified his Facebook readers around noon today, “Locus Online’s traditional April 1st spoofs, this year by Hal Graftswey, Paoli du Flippi, and L. Ron Creepweans, are now posted.” Those who waited too long missed out — within three hours Kelly yanked the items in response to what he termed a “kerfuffle” and posted this apology:

We would like to offer our apology for the offensive April Fool’s post that was published on the site today. The April Fool’s pieces were not seen by the Locus HQ staff before being posted — it was an ugly moment this morning when we saw the post already online, and we immediately took steps to remove it. Of course, being after the fact, it was too late, and the offense had already happened.

We did not find the post funny at all, and it does not reflect in any way the opinions of the magazine staff. We apologize for it appearing under our auspices.

The offending article was “WisCon Makes Burqas Mandatory for All Attendees” by L. Ron Creepweans. The Creepweans pseudonym is also part of the Locus April 1st tradition but after Kelly deleted the piece Lawrence Person revealed himself as the author.  

Person also posted an archival copy on his BattleSwarm blog. It begins:

Today the SF3 ruling committee for the Madison, Wisconsin-based feminist SF convention WisCon announced that starting this year, all attendees would be required to wear burqas.

Person has been contributing April 1st gags to Locus Online since 2002. He explained why he selected WisCon as the target of this year’s satire:

For those tuning in for the first time, this was a direct jab (in humorous form) at WisCon’s previous decision to yank their Guest-of-Honor invitation to Elizabeth Moon for daring to voice (in the mildest possible form) politically incorrect thoughts about certain aspects of modern Islam.

Meanwhile, commenters at Locus Online responded to its apology by continuing to berate the staff and demanding assurances against future offenses. Mark R. Kelly was provoked into ending the April Fool’s tradition:

I always thought that SF/F readers were more tolerant, less apt to take offense, than other folks; but apparently not. (Death threats!). So, no more April 1st spoofs ever.

Out of the Amazon

Locus Online was one of the casualties when Amazon cut ties to its California affiliates to avoid having to comply with changes in the state’s sales tax collection laws.

Mark R. Kelly explains the conflict on his blog. He also satisfies fans’ curiosity about how much it’s worth for a big portal like Locus Online to be an affiliate:

These commissions are typically $200-300 a month. Nothing like living wages, but enough to cover my personal book expenses, in most months.

Kelly ends by musing about ways to get back on the gravy train.

One solution would be to move to a new state. Or rehost the website’s affiliation in some other state, somehow. Hmm.

Is there such a thing as a Swiss internet account?

Light 10 Candles for Locus Index to SF Awards

Here’s an awfully good question. Mark R. Kelly of Locus Online wonders why there isn’t any link from the Hugo Awards or Nebula Awards site to his database The Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards (which just celebrated its tenth birthday).

…I can’t help but noticing that the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards is seldom linked from other sites. It doesn’t seem to have much of a profile, or presence. I visit both the Hugo Awards site and the Nebula Awards site, for example, and notice, most obviously, that neither site has indexes to nominees; there is no way I can look up Connie Willis, or Neil Gaiman, and find out how many nominations or wins they have for those respective awards. You would have to search through the annual listings and tabulate them manually. Whereas the Locus Index to etc. has had such nominee indexes for a decade now. One might think proprietors of those other sites might have noticed. Apparently not. (Yet they do link to a couple other SF awards sites, which similarly lack indexing.)

Certainly I owe a great big thank you to Kelly for his work. I frequently refer to the Locus Index to SF Awards when writing for this blog. It would make enormous sense for the fans behind the official Hugo Awards site to add a note advising everyone that this goldmine of information is available.

Kelly also asked readers whether the title of the database makes it seem likely to be just an index to the Locus Awards, thinking that might be a reason for its low profile. I’d say don’t blame the “brand name” if this excellent tool isn’t used as often as it deserves. Instead, ask “How often do bloggers actually bother researching the stuff they write about science fiction awards?”