Pixel Scroll 2/8/18 I’ve Got A Plan So Cunning You Could Put A Scroll On It And Call It A Pixel

(1) 4SJ. At the Classic Horror Film Board, the webmaster’s reminiscence about Forrest J Ackerman prompted a #MeToo response from Lucy Chase Williams, and since then “Forrest J Ackerman’s #MeToo Moment …” has generated 561 comments.

Speaking of “failures” (!), I guess this is the time to remind the boys here of #MeToo. I and other young women like me were subjected to a different kind of “Forry worship.” How differently would any of you have felt, when all you wanted was to talk about monsters with the “over eager editor” of your favorite monster magazine, if your Uncle Forry had forced wet kisses on you? If he had put his hands all over you, pinching your “naughty bottom” and squeezing your “boobies”? If he had enthusiastically related with a big grin how he wanted to strip off your clothes with everybody watching? And if, in the face of your total refusal of any of his attentions every single time you saw him in person, he never didn’t try again, and again, and again? And if for years, in between those times, he mailed you letters with pornographic photos, and original stories about how naughty you were, and how he wanted to hurt and abuse you, yet all the while make you weep and beg for more? And if he continued that behavior, despite written and verbal demands to cease, entirely unabashed for more than two decades? No, I can’t forget him either — or how he turned my childhood love of monsters into something adult and truly monstrous.

(2) STAUNCH PRIZE. Earl Grey Editing reports on an interesting new non-sff award:

Not strictly SFF or romance, but still within genre, The Staunch Prize has been created to honour crime thrillers where no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered. The shortlist will be announced in September and the winner will be announced on 25 November.

(3) STAR GORGE. Michael Cavna has a roundup of all the current Star Wars projects, with the news being that Disney is also planning a streaming Star Wars TV series for fans who just want more after Solo, Episode IX, the Rian Johnson trilogy, and the Benioff and Weiss trilogy: “A guide to every Star Wars movie and TV show that’s planned right now”.

  1. Potential spinoffs of other characters

Talk continues to swirl around Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Boba Fett getting their own films, according to such outlets as the Hollywood Reporter. At this point of galloping Disney expansion, who’s to say that each won’t one day get his own TV trilogy?

  1. The streaming TV series

Iger’s new announcement comes just several months after he first said a live-action Star Wars series would happen. Expect that TV menu to grow at a significant rate, as Disney gets set to launch its own entertainment streaming services by next year.

(4) MILSF KICKSTARTER. M. C. A. Hogarth says, “I stealth launched my newest Kickstarter yesterday to see if I could keep it from blowing past the goal, but it overfunded anyway. So I guess I’ll advertise it? laugh It’s fluffy first contact sf” — “Either Side of the Strand Print Edition”:

MilSF with an all female crew, in an “Old Star Trek” vein! Because we all love first contact stories, with octopuses.

Having already hit $1,241, when the original goal was $500, Hogarth is far into stretch goal territory —

So, some stretch goals! Just in case, even though this is only a week!

  • $750 – I do a bookmark, and everyone who gets a physical reward will receive it!
  • $1000 – the audiobook! This should open an audiobook reward level (details for that when/if it happens)
  • Over $1000 – I will wiggle a lot! And then tuck that money away to pay for the final Stardancer novel (currently in revision).

But Jaguar! You say. Why are your stretch goals so modest! Why don’t you do Alysha plushes! We would totally be on board with Alysha plushes! And Stardancer t-shirts!

Because, dear backers, I don’t want to fall down on this job for you, and that means humble goals. *bows*

I admit Alysha plushes would be adorbs though.

(5) NEW SFF PODCAST. MilSF Authors JR Handley and Chris Winder have unveiled they latest joint project; the Sci-Fi Shenanigans Podcast. JR and Chris are US veterans (US Army and USMC respectively) that focus on producing MilSF stories. They have released five episodes in the last 2 weeks:

(6) LEAVE THE WHISTLE UNBLOWN. Joe Sherry continues picking contenders in the “2018 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”. Although the criteria he gives below disregard the actual rules for the Best Fanzine category, most of his picks are eligible anyway – no harm, no foul.

This time we are looking at what are, for lack of a better term, the “nonfiction and institutional categories”: Best Related Work, Best Semiprozine, Best Fanzine and Best Fancast. Now, those who follow this blog know how cranky The G can get on the subject of certain categories and their bizarre eligibility guidelines–and we’ve got two of them today (Best Semiprozine and Best Fancast). Nevertheless, I will do my best to stay calm and stick to the rules, frustrating as they can be. I reserve the right, will, however, get a little snarky and passive-aggressive in the process.
There are, however, some sticky issues that made putting this list together a bit difficult. Knowing what does or does not constitute a “fanzine” in the era of blogs, for example–and given that we may already be on the downward slide of that era, it only promises to get more difficult as time passes. Nevertheless, we have tried to create clear and consistent guidelines for inclusion in this category. Thus, to qualify, a fanzine: (1) must be a fan venture (i.e. must not generate a significant amount of money, or pay professional rates for work); (2) must publish a lot of content in a given year; and (3) must publish “award worthy” content. We did not discount single-author blogs from consideration, but criterion #2 makes it difficult for most single-author blogs to  merit consideration. Consequently, while a couple made it, most did not–including some very good ones.

(7) SHADOW NOMINATIONS. The Australasian Horror Writers Association reminds that nominations are open for the Australian Shadow Awards until February 28. See eligibility and submission guidelines at the link.

The Australian Shadows Awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australasian within the calendar year. Works are judged on the overall effect of a work—the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance.

[Via Earl Grey Editing.]

(8) BARLOW OBIT. John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), died February 7. NPR paid tribute:“Cyber-Libertarian And Pioneer John Perry Barlow Dies At Age 70”.

A founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, John Perry Barlow, has died at the age of 70, according to a statement issued by the Foundation.

Barlow was a poet, essayist, Internet pioneer and prominent cyber-libertarian. He co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990 after realizing that the government was ill-equipped to understand what he called the “legal, technical, and metaphorical nature of datacrime.” He said believed that “everyone’s liberties would become at risk.”

Barlow described the founding of the EFF after receiving a visit from an FBI agent in April 1990 seeking to find out whether he was a member of “a dread band of info-terrorists.” Shortly thereafter, Barlow and Mitch Kapor, the creator of Lotus 1-2-3, organized a series of dinners with leaders of the computer industry for discussions that would lead to the creation of the EFF.

And the BBC remembers

In 1996, he wrote the widely quoted Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which asked governments of the world to stop meddling in the affairs of net-centred communities.

“You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather,” he wrote.

(9) POLCHINSKI OBIT. Multiverse theorist Joseph Polchinski died February 2 reports the New York Times.

Joseph Polchinski, one of the most creative physicists of his generation, whose work helped lay the mathematical foundation for the controversial proposition that our universe is only one in an almost endless assemblage that cosmologists call the “multiverse,” died on Friday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 63. He had been treated for brain cancer since late 2015.

Dr. Polchinski was a giant force in the development of string theory, the ambitious attempt to achieve a “theory of everything,” which envisions the fundamental particles of nature as tiny wriggling strings. The theory has brought forth ideas and calculations that have opened new fields of study and new visions of a universe that is weirder and richer than astronomers had dreamed.

…After months of treatment [for cancer], Dr. Polchinski put his energy into writing his memoir, which he posted on the internet.

“I have not achieved my early science-fiction goals, nor explained why there is something rather than nothing,” he wrote in an epilogue, “but I have had an impact on the most fundamental questions of science.”


  • February 8, 1958Teenage Monster premiered at your local drive-in.


  • Born February 8, 1828 – Jules Verne
  • Born February 8, 1908 — William Hartnell, the first Doctor Who.
  • Born February 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking
  • Born February 8, 1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal

(12) KOWAL CELEBRATES. As part of her celebration Kowal pointed to a free read short story, “The Worshipful Society of Glovers” that came out last year in Uncanny Magazine. And on her blog she told about how she developed that story:

To begin… When I was writing Without a Summer I was looking at historical guilds as models for the Coldmongers. In the process, I ran across the Worshipful Company of Glovers, which is a real livery company that has been in existence since 1349. Kinda awesome, right?


  • John King Tarpinian finds Yoda remains in character even in this mundane situation, in Off the Mark.

(14) RETRO COMICS. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club took a deep dive into the comic books that were published in 1942 and are eligible for the Retro-Hugos this summer. They suggest that in terms of Best Graphic Story “Some of the most exemplary works are little-remembered by the modern reader,” and encourage Hugo voters to consider a wide range of lesser-known works.

In 1942, the modern American comic book was still in its infancy. Sequential art published on pulp paper with gaudy CMYK illustrations was hitting the shelves at a furious pace, led by the success of best-selling books like Captain Marvel, The Spirit, and Archie. But for every Mort Meskin, Basil Wolverton or Jack Cole working in 1942, there were dozens more, often filling pages with inflexible five- and six-panel layouts, stilted dialogue, and rigidly posed figures….

Prior to 2018, the only time there was a Retro Hugo for Best Graphic Story was in 2016, when the Retro Hugos for 1941 were awarded. That ceremony saw Batman #1 take the trophy ahead of Captain Marvel and The Spirt, both of which are superior comic books. Joe Simon’s superb first 12 issues of Blue Bolt didn’t even make the final ballot.

Batman as a character may have had more popular appeal in the long-term, but those early stories are not as dynamic or innovative as The Spirit. Batman may have some science fiction elements today, but in 1940 Blue Bolt told better science fiction stories. Batman may be more popular today, but in 1940 Captain Marvel was the leading comic book character….

(15) STACKS OF FUN. The G takes “Altered Carbon, Episodes 1-3” for a test drive at Nerds of a Feather.

Netflix’s new science fiction show, Altered Carbon, is based on a novel of the same name by Richard K. Morgan. It’s basically a mashup of neo-cyberpunk, detective noir, milSF and techno thriller. Since I have particular interests in the first two parts of that equation, Altered Carbon looked to be right up my alley. So I decided to commit to 3 episodes, after which point I’d take stock. Three episodes in and I like it enough to continue. It’s not quite as good as I’d hoped, however.

Takeshi Kovacs is, or rather was, a kind of super soldier known as an envoy. Envoys were part of an insurrection against the hegemonic polity, the Protectorate. The insurrection failed and the envoys were “put in ice.” However, in the future your mind, memories and soul are stored on a “stack”–a kind of hard drive that is surgically inserted into your body. As long as the stack isn’t damaged, it can be taken out of a dead body and inserted into a new “sleeve” (i.e. a body). Religious types refuse to be re-sleeved, believing that it prevents the soul from ascending to heaven. Pretty much everyone else who can afford to do it, does.

(16) BUNDLE TIME. The latest Storybundle is The Black Narratives Bundle, curated by Terah Edun:

This month is groundbreaking for many reasons, it represents a clarion call to support and uphold cultural heritage, but more than that Black History Month is a time to celebrate accomplishments of the past and the future. From the moment I was asked to curate the Black Narratives bundle, I knew this one was going to be special. I didn’t want to just reach out to authors who were the pillars of the diverse speculative fiction community, but also the ingénues who were becoming stars in their own right.

(17) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM, CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Entertainment Weekly says “Firefly canon to expand with series of original books”.

It may sound like something out of science-fiction, but it’s true: More Firefly stories are on the way.

EW can exclusively report that Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products have teamed up to publish an original range of new fiction tying in to Joss Whedon’s beloved but short-lived TV series Firefly. The books will be official titles within the Firefly canon, with Whedon serving as consulting editor. The first book is due in the fall.

(18) DON’T YOU JUST TELESCOPE IT? At NPR, “How To Pack A Space Telescope” (text and time-lapse video).

As complicated as it as to launch and operate a telescope in space, it’s almost as complex to move a space telescope around here on Earth.

For the past 9 months or so, NASA has been testing the James Webb Space Telescope in a giant cryogenic chamber at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The $8.8 billion Webb telescope is the most powerful telescope NASA has ever built.

(19) SLICE OF LIFE. BBC tells about “Bodyhackers: Bold, inspiring and terrifying”.

Jesika Foxx has permanently purple eyeballs, and an elf-like ear. Her husband, Russ, has a pair of horns under his skin.

Stelarc, a 72-year-old Australian, has an ear on his arm. Soon he hopes to attach a small microphone to it so people can, via the internet, listen to whatever it hears.

Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow – yes, that’s his legal name – has the chip from his Sydney travel card implanted into his hand.

I met all these people during BodyHacking Con, in Austin, Texas.

Over the past three years, the event has become something of a pilgrimage for those involved in the biohacking scene – a broad spectrum of technologists, trans-humanists and performance artists. This year it also attracted the presence of the US military.

(20) FAUX COMPETITION. There should be a contest to caption this photo. My entry: “John Scalzi about to make one of his famous frozen garbage burritos.”

(21) SHARKE’S SECOND BITE. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller continues her self-introduction.

I find it difficult to talk about how I write critically because it is a thing I’ve learned mostly by doing. There was never a moment when I actively decided that I would become a literary critic. Rather, my critical practice came into being over a long period of time. Even now it is a work in progress. I always feel I could do better, and I’m forever trying to work out how.

What do I do? I read. And then I write about what I’ve read. It is as simple and as complicated as that. In ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, an exploration of meaning in Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’, Derrida focuses on the word ‘pharmakon’, paradoxical because it means both ‘remedy’ and ‘poison’. Plato sought to argue that speech was superior to writing because it required an act of memory, an act which was weakened by the use of writing. Derrida prompts us to ask whether writing is a remedy, in that it helps you remember things; or a poison in that it enables you to forget things? And I am going to argue that critical writing is both poison and remedy, depending on how you use it.

(22) VENOM. Marvel’s Venom teaser trailer:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, M.C.A. Hogarth, Dann, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat  Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Patreon Cancels Fee Changes, Will Find A Different Fix

Patreon’s Jack Conte has walked back the controversial new fee structure that was scheduled to go into effect later this month, with the implied promise the company will find a solution to its problems that doesn’t hurt creators.

Conte’s statement, “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change”, says in part —

Creators and Patrons,

We’ve heard you loud and clear. We’re not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week. We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.

I’ve spent hours and hours on the phone with creators, and so has the Patreon team. Your feedback has been crystal clear:

  • The new payments system disproportionately impacted $1 – $2 patrons. We have to build a better system for them.
  • Aggregation is highly-valued, and we underestimated that.
  • Fundamentally, creators should own the business decisions with their fans, not Patreon. We overstepped our bounds and injected ourselves into that relationship, against our core belief as a business.

We recognize that we need to be better at involving you more deeply and earlier in these kinds of decisions and product changes….

Although Patreon folded on their proposed fee changes, the damage to creators’ income has already been done. One author offered this analogy to describe the moral effect of today’s announcement:

Webcomic artist Zack Morrison voiced what must be a lingering concern for many creators:

Here are some reactions tweeted by people in the sff field:

  • Kameron Hurley

  • Catherynne Valente

  • Seanan McGuire

  • M.C.A. Hogarth

  • Kevin Sonney

  • Patrick Rothfuss

  • Aidan Moher

  • Fireside Fiction Company

[Thanks to Dann and Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/17 Don’t Know Much About Psycho-History, Don’t Know What A Slide Rule Is

(1) THESE ARE THEY. More core from James Davis Nicoll: “Twenty Core Alternate Histories Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Here are three – are they on your shelves?

  • Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes
  • On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

(2) THE WU CANDIDACY. Her Glamour interview is now online — “Brianna Wu Faced Down the Alt-Right and Now She’s Running for Congress”

Now the 40-year-old video game developer is launching herself into a different kind of firestorm: She’s running for Congress in Massachusetts’ Eighth District on a platform crafted, in part, from her experience facing off against white-supremacist groups, which, she notes, have been against not only women gamers but also public policies that benefit anyone not white, heterosexual, and male. Her goal is economic and political parity for women, LGBTQ Americans, people of color, and the working poor. “All these forces are tied together,” Wu told ­Glamour from her headquarters in Walpole, Massachusetts. “The system is not working for any of them.”

The idea that the system is broken has motivated thousands of women to launch political campaigns; eleven thousand have told She Should Run, a nonpartisan group that offers resources to women interested in seeking office, that they are actively planning to run for office. Founder and CEO Erin Loos Cutraro says this new crop of political talent is “sick of not having their voices and perspectives represented” and recognizes “the impact they can make at all levels of government.”

(3) TOP 40. Nicholas Whyte told Facebook readers:

According to scientific calculation, I am #37 in the list of the top 40 EU digital influencers as calculated by EurActiv, and revealed at a ceremony today.

It’s for what he writes about the EU and Brussels, rather than what the rest of us know him for — his work as the 2017 Hugo Administrator. Whyte’s only wish is that they’d gotten his photo right.

The full list of digital influencers is posted here. If you want to know how the list was compiled, the formula is here.

(4) ROMANTIC POTENTIAL. M.C.A. Hogarth’s Kickstarter for Thief of Songs, “Lush and lyrical high fantasy romances set in a world with four human sexes!”, hit 400% of its funding target in the first 24 hours.

I have loved romance novels all my life, and love has always threaded itself, like incense, into every fantasy and science fiction story I’ve written. But for the longest time I didn’t allow myself to consider writing a romance novel of my own. Until I did.

The result was Thief of Songs, a novel that ended up on the Tiptree Award’s Long list. Set in a secondary fantasy world with four human sexes (male, female, hermaphrodite, and neuter), it’s the story of an imperial composer and the music en inadvertently stole while touring the highlands conquered hundreds of years ago by ens birth country. Dancer’s kingdom is unfairly privileged: all the magic in the world runs into the bowl of its lowest point and collects there, and using that magic its armies annexed the entire continent. So you can imagine the issues that arise when one of those conquered sons comes to the capital… and finds himself in love, irrevocably and inexorably, with a foreigner, a hermaphrodite… and God help him, a musician of such genius he couldn’t help but adore en.

Those issues were not solvable in a single book. Last year I took them forward into a new book, Cantor for Pearls, where Amet–our highland man–continues to struggle with his ambivalence while navigating the wholly unfamiliar relationship to him possible between man and neuter. This is an unabashed asexual romance, with sea serpents. (This book also made the Tiptree Long List!)

With the funding in hand, Hogarth will soon go to press.

My goal is to have both these books ready this week! So that when the Kickstarter ends on November 1st, I’ll be shipping within a few days. I’ve also already set up the e-book download pages. One less thing to do when the project wraps up! I like turning things around quickly… you all are trusting me with your hard-earned money, and I like to honor that trust. 🙂

(5) BUTLER. Gabrielle Bellot delivers a triumphal retrospective profile in “Octavia Butler: The Brutalities of the Past Are All Around This” at Literary Hub.

As a preteen, Octavia Butler decided she’d had enough of second-rate science fiction. “Geez,” she said after watching Devil Girl from Mars, a 1954 B-movie. “I can write a better story than that.” Anybody could, really, she mused. “Somebody got paid for writing that awful story,” she concluded in high dudgeon. A year later, she was submitting stories to magazines.

They were “terrible pieces of fiction,” she admitted jocularly in a 1998 talk at MIT, but she had embarked on her journey to write something epochal, a story that could forever reshape a genre’s landscape. A dream architect, she wished to be, whose fabulous and frightening creations would remain after we woke up. One of those transformative stories appeared in her 1979 novel, Kindred, which strikingly reimagined the neo-slave narrative genre by making a 20th-century black woman (and, once, her white husband) slip back into 19th-century Maryland through unceremonious, frightening time-travel. (Though time travel is often associated with science fiction, thanks largely to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Butler instead describes Kindred as fantasy because its temporal traversing is never explained scientifically.) Kindred, a novel explicitly designed to make its readers uncomfortable, has a special, if controversial, resonance for America today: how we teach and talk about texts that contain depictions of bigotry and violence.

Butler was accustomed to the weight of others’ bigotries; she grew up with insecurities about her body, some of which stayed with her into adulthood. Her body was large—she was six feet tall by the time she was a teen—and her voice was deeper than that of the girls around her, its gentle rumbling tone and pitch varying from androgynous to masculine, and students teased her mercilessly. Some of them called her a boy, others a lesbian. Butler did not identify as gay, as she told Larry McCaffery and Jim McMenamin in 1998, but she ruminated about her sexuality and sense of gender, at times musing that she might indeed be what others called her and even going twice to a “Gay and Lesbian Services Center” to “talk about such things… at which point I realized, Nope, this ain’t it… I’m a hermit.” Already socially awkward and lonely, the schoolyard taunts and jeers pushed her into a cavernous isolation. An outsider, she retreated inward, carving out a deep inner space, a lamplit palace of the self.


The “Plan 9” in the title of Plan 9 from Outer Space refers to an alien scheme to create chaos by resurrecting the Earth’s dead as shambling ghouls.


  • October 19, 1952Fahrenheit 451 was first published.  Trivial trivia:  The paperback is the true first, as it came out a week before the hardback.

(8) HISTORIC FIGURES. The Women of NASA LEGO set goes on sale November 1. The collectible was produced after winning fan approval through the LEGO Ideas website.

Four trailblazing figures from NASA’s history are set to launch as new LEGO minifigures on Nov. 1. NASA astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, astronomer Nancy Grace Roman and computer scientist Margaret Hamilton are celebrated for their contributions to space exploration and astronomy in the new LEGO Ideas set, “Women of NASA.” Based on a fan-proposed and supported design, the set includes representations of the four female space pioneers, as well as three LEGO builds that recreate the spacecraft and settings where the women made their mark on space history. “Great for role playing space exploration missions,” LEGO said in a press release announcing the set on Wednesday (Oct. 18). “Explore the professions of some of the groundbreaking women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the LEGO Ideas Women of NASA set,” The 231-piece building toy is recommended for ages 10 and older. It will retail for $24.99.

(9) THE ENVIRONMENT. No, this isn’t The Onion.

(10) PULPHOUSE IS COMING. The Pulphouse Kickstarter has fully funded, and then some, bringing in $35,215.

(11) COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS. BBC film critic Mark Kermode discusses why it’s box office disappointed, and he doesn’t care.

(12) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. A place to live underground on the moon? “Huge cave found on moon, could house astronauts: Japan scientists”. (Does this sound familiar, and are you also wondering if the orbiter’s first name is “Adam”?)

Data taken from Japan’s SELENE lunar orbiter has confirmed the existence of the 31-mile-long and 328-foot-wide wide cavern that is believed to be lava tube created by volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago.

The major finding was published this week in U.S. science magazine Geophysical Research Letters.

“We’ve known about these locations that were thought to be lava tubes … but their existence has not been confirmed until now,” Junichi Haruyama, a researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, told AFP on Thursday.

The underground tunnel, located under an area called the Marius Hills, would help protect astronauts from huge swings in temperature and damaging radiation that they would be exposed to on the moon’s surface, he added.

“We haven’t actually seen the inside of the cave itself so there are high hopes that exploring it will offer more details,” Haruyama said.

(13) CITIES. Camestros Felapton brings us his “Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett”.

City of Miracles is a shining example of a brilliant use of the trilogy format to tell fantastical stories. The third book in a series that follows City of Stairs and City of Blades, Bennett again shifts point-of-view character, this time to Sigurd – the almost impossibly bad-ass fighting machine side-kick of spy/politician Shara Komayd (whose career is traced through all three books but who was the specific focus of the first).

Each of the novels has leaped forward several years in the post-fantastical history of the Saypuri Republic and the formerly magical and imperialistic Continent. In doing so Bennett gets to show a world that is undergoing its own version of industrialization and 19th-century European-colonial hegemony without using a cookie-cutter. The political divides are rich enough to feel real and complex and the bad is given at least equal prominence with the bad.

(14) REPEATED HAUNTINGS. The second annual “Ghost Stories at Keele Hall” will be held Monday, November 6, 7:30-9:30 p.m. in the atmospheric surroundings of the Senior Common Room, Keele University.

Join us for the second Ghost Stories at Keele Hall. This will feature unsettling readings from Robert Shearman (writer for Dr. Who, and author of Remember Why You Fear Me, the World Fantasy Award-winning Tiny Deaths, and the Shirley Jackson Award-, the British Fantasy Award-, and the Edge Hill Short Story Reader’s Prize-winning Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical), V.H. Leslie (author of World Fantasy Award-, and the British Fantasy Award-nominated Skein and Bone, and Bodies of Water), and D.P. Watt (author of Almost Insentient, Almost Divine, and The Phantasmagorical Imperative: and Other Fabrications). There will then be a panel discussion and audience Q&A. Free admission. For further details contact the Box Office.

(15) WHERE POKEMON DON’T GO. The Washington Post’s Peter Hermann reports that Curtis Combs, of Somerset, Kentucky, was arrested after he jumped over the White House fence in a Pikachu outfit because he wanted to post a video on YouTube and become famous.

But the man, identified as Curtis Combs, of Somerset, Ky., told arresting officers that the Secret Service closed in too quickly, interrupting his recording of a “pre-jump” ritual.

With police nearing, Combs told police he decided to try getting over the fence anyway, and he made it into a restricted area where he was caught and handcuffed….

The court document does not indicate a reason for the Pokémon costume. Combs reportedly told police that he had researched others who had attempted or successfully gotten onto White House grounds and knew the type of criminal sentences they received. He said he knew he would be arrested. A man in 2014 was caught on the White House lawn dressed in a Pikachu hat and carrying a Pokémon doll.

(16) ALT COMICS.  As might be expected, PJ Media planted a big smooch on Vox Day and his crowdfunded AltHero comics project in “Vox Day’s AltHero Comic Book Challenges SJW Marvel, DC Comics”, uncritically passing on every claim he’s ever made about himself.

“I was astonished, actually. I knew that people were angry about the way social justice warriors have destroyed traditional superheroes, but I didn’t realize just how eager they were for an alternative,” he said. “Of course, the way the SJWs on Twitter completely freaked out over Rebel and the existence of the project didn’t exactly hurt.”

Rebel has become the stand-out hero of the upcoming series and she seems to resonate the most with fans. She is beautifully drawn in the classic superhero style but seems to always be losing part of her costume.

… “The idea that there can be politics-free comics when everything from going to the ladies room to playing video games has been politicized is utterly absurd,” he quipped. “It would be like ignoring the existence of Nazis during World War II or of Soviets during the Cold War,” he argued. “The problem with Marvel and DC is not so much that they have injected politics into comics, but that they ruthlessly sacrifice the stories and even the traditional superheroes on the altar of their social justice agenda.”

Day is one of the godfathers of the much-maligned Alt-Right. But those who try to call him a white nationalist or supremacist fail miserably because he is only part white, claiming Native American and Mexican heritage and speaking out vocally against any form of racial supremacism.

(17) VALUES REVEALED. Earlier this month, LGBTQ Nation’s Jeff Taylor lit into the new comics line in “‘Alt-Right’ comic book meant to ‘trigger’ progressives is as awful as you’d expect”.

Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, said in a Periscope video that he “intended to challenge and eventually replace the SJW (short for “social justice warrior) converged comics of DC and Marvel.”

“They believe that comics is their turf, and SJWs have been moving forward, advancing for decades,” he added. “They have been methodically eradicating traditional values, they have been methodically eradicating Western civilization.”

He has said that “they know they are the true villains and the enemy in the cultural war.”

At time of writing, Beale’s fundraiser has raised over $66,000 dollars.

What, exactly, are these sacred values being erased from comic books that must be saved? Advertising smoking, pushing the concept of undocumented immigrants as dangerous criminals worthy of vigilante justice, and the promotion of the traitorous Confederate flag.

(18) TRAILER PARK. Marvel’s Punisher, official trailer #2:

[Thanks to IanP, James Bacon, John King Tarpinian, David K.M.Klaus, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

SFWA VP M.C.A. Hogarth Steps Down; Hartshorn Fills In

After three years of service as Vice President, M.C.A. Hogarth has stepped down. Director at Large Erin Hartshorn has agreed to fill in as interim Vice President until a formal election in May of 2018.

SFWA President Cat Rambo says, “I’m sorry to see Maggie go; her efforts have been vital in moving SFWA along in recent years, and I will deeply miss her input on the weekly calls. One of my maxims will remain, ‘What would Maggie say?’”

Among the projects Hogarth worked on during the past three years are: the Partnerships Program, which builds relationship between SFWA and organizations like Amazon, Patreon, Kickstarter, and Audible; the SFWA Guidebook, a work-in-progress designed to acquaint members with the wealth of services SFWA offers; the Self-Publishing Committee; the SFWA Star Project Initiative; and SFWA Ed, an educational initiative which will eventually benefit writers both within and outside of SFWA.

Erin Hartshorn’s Director at Large position will be filled by an interim Director appointed by the President and approved by the board; an announcement will be forthcoming. Rambo adds, “It’s been heartening to find so many people willing to step up and run for SFWA office recently; I hope to see this trend continue in the next election cycle.”

M. C. A. Hogarth: Peltedverse Creator, Artist, and SFWA VP

By Carl Slaughter: M.C.A. Hogarth is a prolific author. Most of her stories are in the Pelted universe.  She is also a fiction illustrator and illustrates her own stories. She also does coloring books and children’s books. She is a Kickstarter veteran and advises other authors on Kickstarting. Hogarth is VP of the SFWA.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  Why are most of your series in the same universe?

M.C.A. HOGARTH:  There’s a George Eliot quote that goes ‘How unspeakably the lengthening of memories in common endears our old friends!’ I love writing broadly and deeply in the same setting because it gives us—the readers, me—the opportunity to settle in, become more than tourists, develop a group memory. I now have multiple settings where my readers remember “historical” details, often before I do. We’re properly sunk in at that point, and that’s when you get community.

In the end, I guess I like people. You don’t come close to understanding a person without living with them for a while.

M. C. A. Hogarth

M. C. A. Hogarth

SLAUGHTER: Obviously, your fans like the Pelted universe. What’s the appeal?

HOGARTH:  When I was super-young, I was deeply attracted to Star Trek for its optimism, and I thought ‘I want to make a world that people would want to live in.’ And so… I did. I populated it with friendly animal races, because who doesn’t love talking cats and foxes and giant birds? And then added fascinating aliens, because who doesn’t long to explore the unknown and find it welcoming? I gave it a noble war, so people could have a chance to defend the true and good. I made that war complex, so people could find ways to redeem evil. I made the universe expansive so that its potentials felt limitless. I made it nuanced, so people could find their own struggles in it. I added dragons and elves, because come on. Dragons. Elves.

It’s unashamed space opera, and I think just about everyone can find a place they belong in it. And it’s been in continuous development for over twenty years, so it feels like a real place to a lot of readers.

The Peltedverse is a refuge, and everyone can be a hero, whatever heroism means for them. I think that’s why a lot of people enjoy it.

SLAUGHTER:  Which Pelted series is ideal for which type of reader?

HOGARTH:  I chose to go with the “Valdemar”-style development of the Peltedverse, because I always felt it was easier to jump into a setting with several complete stories than trying to catch up to Book 24 in a single series. So, yes, there are multiple threads, and some of them are dark and some of them are bright. The war stories are the harshest, and those start with the Princes’ Game books (Even the Wingless is Book 1). The gentlest are the slice-of-life pastoral “college campus” stories of xenotherapists Jahir and Vasiht’h, which start with Mindtouch. Somewhere in the middle, in the action-adventure slot, are the books of the Her Instruments series, which starts with permafree Earthrise. There’s also a sleeper series about one of Fleet’s military crews, the Stardancer, that I’m starting to develop now. That’s going to have a more classic Trek feel (“new adventure every week”).


SLAUGHTER: You describe your Kherishdar stories as “genteel and meditative,” “dense and contemplative,” “provocative,” and “controversial.”  What is it about these stories that justifies these descriptions?

HOGARTH:  With Kherishdar I wanted to tackle the idea of a caste-based system that worked. This is a society where everyone has a proper place, and no, you don’t step outside it. We’re conditioned to think of that as appalling. But what conditions would apply, I wondered, to make it not so? What if they were right? Could I write that universe?

This is not a minor question, since every form of collectivism is blood-and-bone-anathema to me, from a familial history perspective.

So I embarked on this experiment (via crowdfunding—my readers paid for all 50 pieces of flash fiction in my original plan) and discovered that, yes, yes I could imagine a world where this worked. And it was profoundly uncomfortable to contemplate that world unless you immersed yourself in it, and its mindset. This is part of the reason I started developing its language so fully, so that we could “speak” the language and see what it did to us. The two flash fiction chapbooks led to a full-length novel (Black Blossom) about the power of negative ideas and how cultures can fail to intersect productively.

It’s worked out well enough that I’m serializing a new novel via Patreon. It’s a pleasure to have so many of my Ai-Naidari fans back (and using my own vocabulary to comment on events as they unfold!).

SLAUGHTER:  Compared to your other fiction, the Kherishdar series seems much more message oriented than entertainment oriented.  Lots of sociology and philosophy.  Like a parable.  What are the lessons we humans can learn from these other species?

HOGARTH:  I’m not sure anything I write is intentionally message-oriented, honestly. At least, it doesn’t come from a place where I want to lecture. I like using fiction to explore ideas and thoughts that would otherwise trouble me, or intrigue me: it’s a safe place to do that, and I invite my readers to come see what happens. But the ‘what happens’ is always the paramount thing. Any thought experiment is bloodless without involving characters you care about and a story you want, breathlessly, to reach the end of, just to see what happens next. The stories I want to share from Kherishdar are about how your relationship with your society affects everything about you. Maybe in the process, we question what kind of relationship that is, and whether we are giving ourselves to it fully enough. But that’s really between the reader and the text. What concerns me most is how any of that plays out for the characters: for the high priest of Shame, the gentle calligrapher, their guardian keepers, and now the Public Servant who has been tasked with the unenviable project of understanding aliens—us.

SLAUGHTER:  What can we learn about identity and gender from the Stone Moon trilogy?

HOGARTH:  It always makes me smile when people ask what I intended to say with gender in my series about the Jokka. Because there are three sexes (female, male, and neuter), and because you have two opportunities during puberty to flip to a new sex—and this is not under your control—people assume that I wanted to talk about gender identity. But the strongest thread for me in this setting was less about identity and more about the relationship between biology and society. Because the breeding sexes are fragile and tend toward early death or (more often) early senility, the population has been in a slow decline for generations. The powerful struggle in the Stone Moon trilogy is what you do when the needs of individuals and the needs of the species conflict. How does society solve that problem?

I won’t say that I found The Answer, because I don’t think there is a single answer. But we spend three books asking questions and seeing how the possible answers fall out, and I think that’s a valuable exercise.

I think by now you can sense a repeating theme in my work, which is about the intersection of the individual and their community.

SLAUGHTER:  Is it fair to describe your Godkindred series as your most humorous and is it fair to say that you and the main character make a deliberate effort not to take the plot too seriously?

HOGARTH:  I don’t know that I’d call the Godkindred saga humorous? But it’s supposed to be a lighter read, and fun in places. It gets awfully serious in other places, though—this is a book that I thought would be ‘fluffy’ and within the first third of the first book took on the morality of genocide. Whatever it might have started as, it became another series of opportunities to struggle with big questions. Having a furry on the cover doesn’t change that.

There are some funny scenes, though. I seem to recall at least one bubblebath with a griffin, fox, and snow leopard girl. The publisher asked me to illustrate that one…

SLAUGHTER:  Does Godkindred have a message about religion or are you just using religion to provide readers with an opportunity to have some fun?

HOGARTH:  My books always have some mention of religion, whether it’s an important part of the plot or an animating force for some of the characters. The Godkin’s religion requires its members to breed toward divinity, by choosing mates of different animal species. The more species in your bloodlines, the more ‘diffuse’ your animal characteristics and the closer to that godhead you come.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t go over well with the territories the Godkin are busy annexing into their empire. Maybe there’s a message there, but I suspect everyone’s going to take away a different one based on what they go into the book thinking. Certainly the main character finds it far more complex an issue than she thought going into the events of the novel.

SLAUGHTER:  Twin Kingdoms series:  “Technically a high fantasy romance novel, but with significant world-building. The leads are two composers, a hermaphrodite and a man, and there is a poly component with a true neuter human. Pastoral, low-conflict, and sweet.”  That’s mouthful of descriptions.  Can you break it down for us?

HOGARTH:  Hah! I think that’s the best I managed, in terms of reducing it to its component parts. Expanding it, I’d say that I wanted to write a romance novel that would appeal to me. Which meant it had to have good world-building. It had to eschew artificial inflation of tension through plot devices that distract from the relationship. And it had to be beautiful. Since I’ve always liked multiple sexes, I thought I’d go with human ones this time. This gave me a bonus opportunity to write asexual romances, which are some of my favorite kind. Book 2 in this series, in fact, is a romance between a male and a neuter (Cantor for Pearls).

Honestly, I loved doing the world-building for this setting. It has a magical system that is inherently unfair and concentrates power in one geographic location. The bitterness between that population and the countries around them is part of the texture, and gives me the chance to once again explore cross-cultural issues. Book 1’s protagonist falls in love with a member of the imperialist nation that destroyed his country and his culture. That’s an issue he has to spend multiple books working on. It was gratifying to me to have people read Thief of Songs and try to tell me that I’d made it too easy, only to have them go on to Book 2 and come back to say, ‘Oh, I see. This is a recurring theme. That’s a lot more realistic.’

SLAUGHTER:  A Rosary of Stones and Thorns:  “Old school urban fantasy, from the beforetimes when narrators didn’t have to be snarky or sexy.”  Did I miss a transition?  When and how did this happen?

HOGARTH:  I’m not sure when it happened, but at one point urban fantasy was Charles de Lint and now it’s a subgenre of paranormal romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love paranormal romance! And I like urban fantasy too. But I rarely see myself in the narrators of those novels. I don’t like snark. I’m not into sarcasm, which is often used as a form of emotional assault. And while I don’t mind everything being about sex in one or two series, you do sometimes want there to be another focus. Just for contrast, you know?

Rosary was one of my first novels. It’s an unabashed redemption fantasy. It’s got (asexual but very romantic) angels. It’s got a crazy mythology only barely based on Christian and Gnostic legends. Christians often don’t want to read it because it takes liberties; non-Christians are often afraid to try it because it looks too Christian. My poor little book. It’s really about how love is our salvation. I like to think that’s a theme that resonates with everyone. The people who do give it a chance usually tell me they re-read it every holiday season.

SLAUGHTER:  If they don’t breathe fire, and I assume they don’t hoard gold either, nor demand sacrifices, how can the creatures in The Laundry Dragons be identified as dragons?  In this form, how are they distinguishable from other species?  How do they fit into the canon of dragon literature?  Or am I overthinking it?


HOGARTH:  It’s a kid’s book, Carl. You’re overthinking it. *grin*

SLAUGHTER:  How about some samples of the rhymes in The Laundry Dragons?

HOGARTH:  Here you go then:

They run the wash cycle
when they want to get clean
Hot water and bubbles
give them all a bright sheen!

Plus they like soaking,
and splashing and scrubbing:
there’s no laundry dragon
that dislikes washer hot tubbing.

I am not an amazing poet, mind. My decision to make children’s books had nothing to do with a feeling that I had any special talent in that regard. It was purely selfish: I wanted to read my daughter things, and I wasn’t find enough things I liked in the library/bookstore. So I did it myself (story of my life, here). By that measure, Laundry Dragons was a great success: not only did my daughter like it, but she proudly took it to school and handed it to her first grade teacher to read, and created singlehandedly an entire classroom full of Laundry Dragon fans. To this day, when I walk around her school, kids I can’t identify greet me and when I ask how on earth they know me, they say, ‘You’re so-and-so’s mom, the Famous Writer! I loved the Laundry Dragons!’

The second set of books I did, about Vinnie the Armadillo, also served this purpose (they gave me something to read to Daughter that we had a context for, in this case, books set in Florida with familiar flora and fauna). But by the time I wrote those, Daughter was old enough to watch and understand the process. I asked her what kind of plots would interest her, and what kind of messages she thought it would be important for kids to hear. I would print out drafts and read them to her and ask her opinion on each chapter. I’d show her the illustrations as I created them. She opined on the cover art (“You can’t put the unicorn on the cover, Mommy, or boys will never want to read it.”). I showed her how I uploaded it, and explained the process of approving the proof. Then I showed it to her on retail sites.

The insight this gave her into ‘Mommy’s job’ was immense. I still think of the Vinny the Armadillo books as collaborative works. We haven’t done anything similar since, but some part of me wonders if there won’t eventually be some Mommy/Daughter YA books because, once again, I don’t feel like there’s enough for us to read together.

SLAUGHTER:  Space marine sounds like an awfully generic term to me.  So explain the legal basis for the novel Spots the Space Marine getting pulled from Amazon and give us a thumbnail history of the resulting controversy.

HOGARTH:  There was no legal basis. It was a farce, based on an attempt by a foreign company to stretch its domestic and very narrow trademark to apply to properties it had no control over. Games Workshop had a trademark for space marine in the UK that applied to board games. It decided to see if it could convince Amazon that trademark should also apply to fiction in another country. Amazon didn’t want to take sides because they didn’t feel it was their business to make legal rulings, so they pulled the book.

You can read about it on Wikipedia. It was pretty disgusting. I’m grateful for the internet support that rallied around me, even if in my crusaders’ enthusiasm a lot of incorrect information was thrown around, including that I’m a single mom struggling to survive on my royalties. You can more properly imagine my husband comforting me while I cried at the injustice of it, and giving me the sage advice that helped me write the post that got the whole mess fixed.

It was miserable, though. I’m glad it’s over. And yes, you can buy the book on Amazon today.


SLAUGHTER:  Which speculative fiction Kickstarter campaigns have you been involved in and what lessons does From Spark to Finish have to offer?

HOGARTH:  Ah, Kickstarter. I’ve run 10 campaigns now, and all of them have succeeded. Four were for art. Six were for novels.

My strategy has always been to run short campaigns with modest goals that have a chance of overfunding, and then to sock away the profit to put into a new project. For a while I chained Kickstarters this way, seeding the new projects with the slush from the old. That was fun! And that experience is what led me to write the Kickstarter guide (From Spark to Finish: Running Your Kickstarter Campaign).

That book has checklists by the way. Checklists are mighty. Also cartoon jaguars, because cartoons.

SLAUGHTER:  Any speculative fiction Kickstarter campaigns in the near future?

HOGARTH:  Oh, certainly. Kickstarter is my favorite way to pay the cost of print and audiobook editions for my books, and I have several I’d like to put in that pipeline. I’m gratified to be living in a world with sites like Kickstarter and Patreon that allow us to work directly with our readers to make the things we both want happen. It’s empowering. It’s a great time to be a writer!

SLAUGHTER:  You do a lot of art.  Is it a hobby and/or to complement your fiction or do you also do it on a professional/commercial basis?

HOGARTH:  I think of myself as a storyteller, and art is just another medium to tell stories. I do consider myself a professional artist—I think I decided that the first time I sold an original painting for four digits—but I don’t do work-for-hire or commissions. Most of my work is either sold to buyers (the gallery/fine art model), or used for my own work. About half my books have my art for covers; some have interior art, as well. And I’m always drawing to explore the settings I’m making, or the characters, so there’s a lot of plot-based work as well. I’ve taken to putting some of those in the backmatter of novels, since readers have told me they enjoy seeing them.

I love writing, but I ‘think out loud’ with a pencil in my hand.

SLAUGHTER:  Any new novels/series in the work?

HOGARTH:  There are always new novels in the works. My production schedule is ‘3-4 novels a year, plus ancillary books’ where ancillary equals coloring books, or nonfiction, or kids’ books. I actually do make publishing schedules at the beginning of every year, and follow guidelines I set in place a while back; for example, ‘at least two installments in a current series or major setting’ is one of those guidelines.

Honestly, I like working. I feel a little weird in the head if I’m not writing, so 3-4 novels isn’t that hard for me. If it takes too much longer, my head starts feeling congested and I find myself walking into walls because I don’t have any cycles left to pay attention to my environment.

SLAUGHTER:  What does being SFWA VP involve?

HOGARTH:  Most volunteer work… you make of it what you put into it, I think. For me, the job involves supporting the president (because Cat Rambo is an awesome SFWA President) and finding ways to help our members make more money. Money gives you freedom: the freedom to write that story that might not make as much as your bestselling series; the freedom to walk away from bad contracts and bad business partners; the freedom to experiment; the freedom to work without fearing where your next meal is coming from.

We writers are at a point where so many bets are just off. We’re drowning in opportunities because the waves of change are so strong. It’s hard to know which way to paddle to get to shore. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and frankly exhausting, and I know this because I’ve been determinedly swimming in these waters for years now. I was serializing fiction for money in the early 2000s before ‘crowdfunding’ was a word, following in the footsteps of other internet pioneers who’d made it seem like there was a way to turn my presence online into an asset that would buy my family bread. Sometimes I was one of the first people to do something. Sometimes someone else’s footsteps showed there’d been someone there before me, and that trailblazer had left warnings about the dangers ahead. My gratitude for those trailblazers is immense, and whenever I can, I try to pay it forward.

More than anything, I want to help my peers find the shore, find the trail, find that point where their bliss and their paychecks coincide. For a lot of us, that’s not going to be a perfect fit, and there will be compromises. But they’ll be better compromises for having had the help.

This, then, is my focus as VP. Communicate the knowledge. Bring more of our peers into our space so they can share what they’ve learned. Find ways to make our authors more accessible to readers. Find ways to help them grow their businesses and their careers.

SLAUGHTER:  Any advice to aspiring speculative fiction writers?

HOGARTH:  Go out into some sunny park, alone, and give yourself some time to really understand what you want out of writing. What constitutes success to you? Is it being able to complete a story and have it out of your head? Is it being really good at crafting stories, and improving every time you write one? Is it money? How much money would be enough? Enough to buy coffee? A meal once a month? Pay one bill? Pay all your bills? Or is it awards? How many? Which ones? Do you want to be read widely, or would it be enough to be read by a small number of super-enthusiastic people? Do you want to be a name, or do you just want to quietly do your thing and not be bothered?

Many, many people will challenge your choices; sadly, even more will deride them. Your only armor against this is to be satisfied with those choices. Understanding your own motivations and goals will help you make the right decisions for your career.

Just think of yourself as one of your characters. That way, you’ll know how to write your happy ending.


MCAH@DeviantArt: A good place to go for highlights;

Art Archive@Stardancer.Org: Hogarth has over 3000 sketches and finished pieces here, with descriptions, searchable and browse-able.

MCAH@FurAffinity: I also have a FurAffinity account, for those who prefer it to DA, and use it in much the same way (almost entirely finished pieces).