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).

Pixel Scroll 7/13/16 Scroll on the Water, Fire in the Sky

(1) YOUTUBER PAYOLA? ScienceFiction.com headlined that “The FTC Has Proven That Warner Brothers Has Paid YouTubers For Positive Reviews”.

In some not so awesome news, Warner Brothers was caught buying off YouTubers to give them positive reviews of their video games. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released details that the company was working with some of the most influential YouTubers out there to provide positive reviews of their games, film gameplay footage that worked around bugs and hype sales numbers that all ignored criticism of the titles they were being paid to look at. Oh, and they of course never disclosed that they were being paid to do this which is against the law. **

While this is currently limited to video games, one has to wonder if it may extend to films as well.

Most damning though is that Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, or PewDiePew as he is known to millions of ‘Let’s Play’viewers was involved as well. PewDiePew is the highest watched YouTube celebrity in gaming circles and had an undisclosed agreement to provide positive press for ‘Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor’ when it was released….

** According to Washington Post reporter Andrea Peterson, the notices that they were paid endorsers of the game appeared in fine print no one read. The FTC settlement says that paid endorsers have to reveal in non-fine print that that they have been paid by game manufacturers.

(2) PAUL AND STORM CONCERT AT MACII. The comedic musical duo Paul and Storm will perform in concert at MidAmeriCon II on Thursday.

MidAmeriCon II is delighted to announce that comedic musical duo Paul and Storm will be appearing at the convention. They will be live in concert at 12 Noon on Thursday, August 18, and interacting with members throughout the convention in the MidAmeriCon II Dealers’ Room.

Paul and Storm (Paul Sabourin and Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo) are known internationally and across the Internet for their original comedy music and vaudeville style shows (mostly with a nerdish bent). They also co-founded the geek variety show “w00tstock” (along with Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage) which has toured across America since 2009, and co-produce the annual JoCo Cruise (www.jococruise.com).

The duo’s original webseries musical, LearningTown, debuted on YouTube’s Geek & Sundry channel in January 2013. In the same year, their song “Another Irish Drinking Song” was featured in the movie Despicable Me 2, while their guitar was memorably smashed on stage by George R.R. Martin. Their fifth full-length CD, Ball Pit, came out in 2014, and was the central item of the duo’s successful Kickstarter campaign.

Paul and Storm have a long history of bringing well known personalities on stage during their shows – and with this being their first Worldcon appearance, they will have an exceptionally broad range of writers, editors, artists and other genre names to choose from. Members can look forward to a memorable and entertaining concert, full of “mature immaturity” (NPR).

More information on Paul and Storm can be found on their website at www.paulandstorm.com.

(3) CHARITY AT SDCC. NBC Los Angeles covers Comic-Con charitable events including the Heinlein Blood Drive:

The annual Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive returns to the mega pop culture convention for its 40th go-around. Billed as “the San Diego Blood Bank’s longest-running event,” the Comic-Con blood drive has collected “16,652 pints of blood” over its four-decade history.

Talk about superheroes. Want to give? Head for Grand Hall D at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Once you’ve given your pint, and you want to look for more ways to lend a hand, consider two off-site traditions that, while not affiliated officially with the convention, still keep ties to its cape-wearing themes and charitable heart.

The Heroes Brew Fest raises money each year for Warrior Foundation — Freedom Station. Yep, you can wear your costume, yep, you’ll drink nice beer, and yep, you’ll need to zoom through the clouds from the convention center, or at least catch a ride, to San Diego’s Waterfront Park on Saturday, July 23.

Earlier in the day the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Pawmicon returns, though don’t head for Rancho Santa Fe, the home of the center. The “Cosplay for a Cause” — think furry pumpkins in their “Star Wars” and superhero best — is happening at the Hazard Center in the late morning.

(4) BLOOD OF PATRIOTS. There was also a Blood Drive at LibertyCon – Lou Antonelli says that’s where he met Jason Cordova, one of many first encounters mentioned in his con report.

(5) AUTO CRASH. I found Brad Templeton’s “Understanding the huge gulf between the Tesla Autopilot and a real robocar, in light of the crash” to be very helpful.

It’s not surprising there is huge debate about the fatal Tesla autopilot crash revealed to us last week. The big surprise to me is actually that Tesla and MobilEye stock seem entirely unaffected. For many years, one of the most common refrains I would hear in discussions about robocars was, “This is all great, but the first fatality and it’s all over.” I never believed it would all be over, but I didn’t think there would barely be a blip.

There’s been lots of blips in the press and online, of course, but most of it has had some pretty wrong assumptions. Tesla’s autopilot is a distant cousin of a real robocar, and that would explain why the fatality is no big deal for the field, but the press shows that people don’t know that.

Tesla’s autopilot is really a fancy cruise control. It combines several key features from the ADAS (Advance Driver Assist) world, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and forward collision avoidance, among others. All these features have been in cars for years, and they are also combined in similar products in other cars, both commercial offerings and demonstrated prototypes….

(6) JOE HILL’S DAD. Boston.com reports, “Library of Congress to recognize Stephen King for his lifelong work”.

Stephen King—Maine native, horror author, and hater of Fenway’s “protective netting”—will get a new title this fall: Library of Congress honoree.

King is set to open the main stage of the 2016 Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., where the Library will recognize the author for his lifelong work promoting literacy, according to a release.

Since his first published novel, Carrie, in 1974, King has written more than 50 novels and hundreds of short stories, according to his website.

The festival takes place Saturday, September 24. Authors Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shonda Rhimes, Bob Woodward, Raina Telgemeier, and Salman Rushdie will also appear on the main stage.

(7) JUNO SHOOTS THE MOONS. IFLScience has the story behind Juno’s first image of Jupiter and its moons from orbit.

This image, taken on July 10, proves that the camera has survived the pass through Jupiter’s intense radiation, meaning it can start taking stunning high-resolution shots in the next few weeks. The camera (called JunoCam) itself has no scientific purpose, but will be used to engage the public with images of the gas giant. You can even vote online for what it takes pictures of.



(8) FUNNY PAGES. A popular fantasy work is referenced in the July 13 Wizard of Id comic strip.


  • Born July 13, 1940 — Patrick Stewart (age 76)
  • Born July 13, 1942  — Harrison Ford (age 74)

(10) LIVING UNOFFENDED. Maggie Hogarth, SFWA VP, was moved by Cat Rambo’s post yesterday (“SFWA Is Not a Gelatinous Cube”) to make a point about personal growth. The comments are very good, too.

I wanted to call out specifically her comment about having been pleased to recruit me specifically because I’m a conservative writer. When she suggests that we work well together because of our sometimes opposing perspectives, I think she’s entirely correct. It’s not that we talk politics specifically (though unfortunately, sometimes our jobs as officers require us to)… it’s that our beliefs give us oblique approaches to things, and consulting each other helps us find our own weaknesses and blind spots.

This is not a new thing for me. I have always worked in arenas that are overwhelmingly colonized by people of opposing political viewpoints (hello, Art, Academia). The knowledge that I would have to find a way to work with people who believed stuff I found strange, wrong-headed, or toxic is so old by now that I don’t even think about it. But it’s interesting to me that the people who are in the majority in any arena often seem to be offended at the thought that they should have to deal with people who disagree with them. At the university, I have brought up lots of professors short who were upset that I didn’t think they were right. One of them even asked me what I was doing there, which was… frankly bizarre. (Broadening my mind, maybe? By grappling with ideas I don’t necessarily agree with?)

Here then is my takeaway from living as a political minority in the workplace all my life: unless you’re in a group devoted specifically to a political cause you agree with, you cannot expect to be protected from people who don’t share your beliefs. Inevitably someone will tell me that this is an invitation to abuse and cruelty, as if there can be no disagreement without extremism. Reject this false dichotomy. People who don’t share your beliefs aren’t all heartless criminals who long to see you hurt. They just… don’t agree with you.

(11) TAKING THE TEST. Rambo and Hogarth have also publicized their vocabulary quiz results.

Rambo Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 4.37.22 PM

(12) SCALZI BREAKS THE SPELL. Don’t expect John Scalzi to be posting a quiz score.

No risk of my relitigating my SAT results. I can personally assure John you’ll never see me embarrassing myself by reporting results from an internet math quiz. I did just enough on the math side of the SAT to keep that from sandbagging what I did on the verbal side and get a California State Scholarship. (However, if someone knows a link to an online math quiz the rest of you might enjoy it….)

(13) TIMOTHY BREAKS THE QUIZ. Camestros Felapton published Timothy the Talking Cat’s score plus Timothy’s interpretation of all his test answers.

(14) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE THESAURUS. If there’s anyone who should score high on a vocabulary test it’s John C. Wright – and he did.

My score was 30500, also in the top 0.01% Albeit there was one word I did not know, and guessed.

I am going to the dictionary to look it up, and then I am going to use it three times correctly within the next 24 hours.

I was once told that is the way to accumulate a large and handsome vocabulary.

(15) COMICS HUGO. Nicholas Whyte has posted “My Hugo and #RetroHugos1941 votes: Best Graphic Story”.

It’s really striking that two years ago, it was impossible to find enough comics from 1938 to populate the Retro Hugo category – we gave a Special Committee Award to Superman instead – but this year there is a wealth of 1940 material to choose from. Having said that, there’s not in fact a lot of variety; with one exception, the 1941 Retro Hugo finalists are origin stories of costumed crime-fighters

(16) TASTE TEST. Joe Sherry continues his series at Nerds of a Feather, “Reading the Hugos: Novella”.

Today we continue with our Hugo Award coverage with a look at the Novella category. There are not many categories on this year’s ballot which lines up so well with my nomination ballot, but this is one of them. Of the five nominees, I nominated three of them: Binti, The Builders, and Slow Bullets. Naturally, I am happy that the three of them made the cut. If I had the power to add just one more story to this category, I would have loved to have seen Matt Wallace’s wonderful Envy of Angels make the list. That was a fantastic story and everyone should read it. Since people tend not to fully agree with my taste in fiction, let’s take a look at what is actually on the final ballot.

(17) FROM THERE WILL BE WAR. Lisa Goldstein reviews “Novelette: ‘What Price Humanity?’”, a Hugo-nominee, at inferior4+1.

And here we are at the third story from There Will Be War, “What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke.  It’s the best of the three, though unfortunately that’s pretty faint praise.  An infodump at the beginning tells us that aliens called Meme (Meme? Really?) are attacking from the outer Solar System, and that when the Meme’s reinforcements come, every decade or so, EarthFleet suffers catastrophic losses.  Captain Vango Markis wakes up in Virtual Reality, having suffered what he thinks is a bad hit, and meets other officers he’s served with, some of whom he remembers as having died.  They find flight simulators, and go on practice runs.

(18) LEVINE HIP-HOPS FOR ARABELLA OF MARS. Science fiction writer David D. Levine performs a hip-hop theme song, based on the opening number of “Hamilton,” for his Regency Interplanetary Airship Adventure novel “Arabella of Mars.”

…Every day she was learning posture and Latin
But every night she and her brother would batten
Down the hatches, hit the desert, going trackin’ and whackin’
Her brother backtrackin’, their Martian nanny was clackin’…

The rest of the lyrics are under “Show More” here. Arabella of Mars was released by Tor on July 12.

Arabella Ashby is a Patrick O’Brian girl in a Jane Austen world — born and raised on Mars, she was hauled back home by her mother, where she’s stifled by England’s gravity, climate, and attitudes toward women. When she learns that her evil cousin plans to kill her brother and inherit the family fortune, she joins the crew of an interplanetary clipper ship in order to beat him to Mars. But privateers, mutiny, and insurrection stand in her way. Will she arrive in time?


(19) FUTURE PLAY. On her Dive into Worldbuilding hangout, “Games”, Juliette Wade discussed games as a feature of worldbuilding.

Power struggle is one of the big things that games can symbolize. Chess has sometimes been used in science fiction as a form of communication between races. It can reflect or change a power dynamic.

Games are also powerful in folk tales, such as when you play a game with the devil, the fae, or Death.

Games can be critical as a symbolic representation of a larger conflict. If you can engage in single combat instead having whole armies clash, why not do it? If you can play a game and agree on the stakes, might you save many lives?

Games and the ways in which they are played reflect the world around them. If you are playing a game with plastic dice, it’s not the same as playing a game with pig knucklebones. Where do the knucklebones come from? Knucklebones, the word itself, makes the game of dice sound exotic and like it comes from a particular period. There are many games of chance or rune-reading. We noted that people have found real twenty-sided stone dice from the Roman period.



Four Pokémon have palindromic names: Girafarig, Eevee, Ho-oh and Alomomola.

(21) ROUNDUP. In a Washington Post article, Hayley Tsukuyama and Ben Guarino do a Pokemon Go roundup, including that Nintendo’s shares have risen by 38 percent in two days and how police in Riverton, Wyoming say that four men lured victims to a remote spot in the Wind River by promising an elusive Pokemon avatar.

On their screens, players of the viral mobile game “Pokémon Go” are seeing these creatures pop into existence alongside real-world physical objects. The mole-like Diglett peeks out of a toilet. A flaming demon Shetland called Ponyta gallops across the National Mall. A ostrich-like Doduo appears on top of the hold button of an office phone.

Capturing these little monsters isn’t just good for players. In just a few days since its July 6 launch, the game has become a national sensation, nearly overtaking Twitter in daily active users. It currently ranks as the most profitable game on Google and Apple’s app stores. On Monday, Nintendo’s stock jumped 25 percent. On Tuesday, it rose another 13 percent…..

Its makers also have made the game highly shareable. The delight of seeing a little monster pop up on the sidewalk in front of your home, or, in one case, on the bed of your wife while she’s in labor — has been social media gold for players.

The game is perhaps the first real success story of the use of augmented reality technology, which blends the digital and real world together. The combined effect is part bird-watching, part geocaching, part trophy-hunting, with a heavy dose of mid-1990s nostalgia.

(21) POKEMON SNARK. In a humor piece another Washington Post writer, Caitlin Dewey, says she told her fiance to stop playing Pokemon while he is wandering in the supermarket and driving.

This is all well and good, of course, but the hype glosses over something that gives me pause: With an app such as Pokémon Go, we’ve essentially gamified such basic pursuits as going outside, talking to strangers and visiting national monuments. These are activities we’ve long undertaken on their own merits. But everything must be digitally augmented now; no value is inherent.

The same could be said of the sorts of “engagement” trumpeted by the makers of Pokémon Go. If you’ve ventured to a local PokéStop, you know that — counter the pitch — most players aren’t making friends or appreciating the vista anew: They’re squinting into their screens, ignoring each other, hoping to sight that rare Pikachu.

(22) VIP BREW. Time to tap those kegs (or whatever they make it in) — “Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout 2016 Release”.


Drew Curtis, Fark.com Creator & Patent Troll Killer
Wil Wheaton, Actor & Web Celeb
Greg Koch, CEO & Co-founder, Stone Brewing

This barrel-aged palate-saver has been a favorite among our fans—and us—since its inception in 2013. Pecans, wheat, flaked rye and bourbon-soaked wood provide this whopping, complex superhero version of an imperial stout with a profound complexity that makes it ideal for cellaring—if you can wait that long. Now, we can’t say this beer bestows jedi powers, exactly, but your taste buds may just be fooled into believing as much….

A famed illustrator celebrated for her characters Vampirella, Power Girl, Silk Spectre and Harley Quinn and comics “Gatecrasher” and “Gargoyles,” Amanda Conner embraced the term “Stone’s bearded leader” for this year’s bottle art design. She transformed the three collaborators into unique renditions of “Star Wars” characters, with Koch playing the woolly role of everyone’s favorite wookiee.

At 13 percent alcohol by volume and with the highest concentration of midi-chlorians seen in a beer, the Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout may be enjoyed fresh, or cellared for several months or years to give way for the deliciously rich flavors to mature and develop more prevalent dark cocoa, coffee and nut notes.

The brew will be a centerpiece of the celebration at Hopcon 4.0 on July 20 in San Diego, where Paul and Storm will be among the many guests.

Our annual celebration of nth-degree beer geekery is back for a fourth round, and this time all 66,000 square feet are dedicated to the convergence of geek culture and beer culture. More retro arcade games, more casks and more bars add up to a release party large enough to match the formidable Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout.

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, Lisa Goldstein, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Red Wombat.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/16 Every Bark a Doorway

(1) ATTACKING CREATORS. Devin Faraci at Birth. Movies. Death. lit up the internet with the claim “Fandom Is Broken”.

… Last week the AV Club ran an excellent piece about the nature of modern fan entitlement, and I think it’s fairly even-handed. The piece covers both the reaction to an all-female Ghostbusters reboot but also the hashtag that trended trying to get Elsa a girlfriend in Frozen 2. The author of that piece, Jesse Hasenger, draws a line between the two fan campaigns, rightly saying that whether driven by hate (Ghostbusters) or a desire for inclusion (Frozen 2) both campaigns show the entitlement of modern fan culture. It’s all about demanding what you want out of the story, believing that the story should be tailored to your individual needs, not the expression of the creators….

The old fan entitlement has been soldered onto the ‘customer is always right’ mindset that seems to motivate the people who make Yelp so shitty. I’m spending a dollar here, which makes me the lord and master of all, is the reasoning (I don’t even want to speculate about whether or not modern fans spend their dollars on licensed, legal products – that’s an essay for another weary day). It’s what makes people act like assholes to servers, and somehow it’s become the way ever-growing segments of fans are behaving towards creators. It’s been interesting watching so many people bring up Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the Captain America fracas; one of part of it is that their Jewishness allows angry, petulant fans to throw down a social justice bomb but it also speaks to how modern fans see many modern creators. They’re nobody compared to the ones who invented this stuff. The modern creator is the server, and they should be going back into the kitchen and bringing back a Captain America cooked to their exact specifications, and without any sort of complications or surprises. This is what fans have always wanted, but the idea of being consumers – people who are offering money for services rendered – only reinforces the entitlement.

And so we have these three elements – one old as fandom itself, one rooted in technological advances and one impacted by the corporatization of storytelling – coming together in such a way to truly break fandom. I wish this was the part of the essay where I come to you with a hopeful pep talk about how we can all be better, but I just don’t see a positive solution. If anything, I see things getting worse – creators walling themselves off from fans while corporate masters happily throw vision and storytelling under the bus to appease the people who can get hashtags trending. “You can’t always get what you want” is a sentiment that belongs to another era when it comes to mass storytelling. I recently read Glen Weldon’s excellent The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture and the arc of fandom it sketches out is a profoundly disheartening one, with Batfans morphing from monkish annotators of the character’s fictional history into crusaders harrassing anyone on the internet who sees Batman differently than they do….

(2) THE RISING OF THE DOUGH. More details about the Sons of Anarchy cast payment problems at a Houston convention this past weekend from Official Ava Jade Cosplay: “Space City Comic (Con) – Thousands Swindled, Contracts Broken and Many Still Looking for Answers”:

The previously included statement about the rooms not being paid for has been retracted-  A representative from the staff contacted me and informed me that I was misinformed about the exact situation. There was a mishap regarding the hotel check in. The credit card for the room was for the reservations and not for incidentals. Upon checking in, some cast members had to pay cash for the incidentals, instead of putting their own credit card up, and risking being charged upon checking out.  The cast was NOT charged for their room.  I was informed during the interview, that there was a problem checking in the hotel due to the credit card not being accepted, it later was realized that we should clarify to what extent.   When Mr. Hunnam took his check to the bank to cash it, he found out that the check that was given to him was written from an account that had been CLOSED. This happened to the entire cast. Many of the actors went to the promoters office to demand payment, where the promoter ended up calling the cops because he was “being held hostage”. The cast was in no way held him hostage, but wanted answers and payment.  The panel schedule was completely jacked up, the cast was not given the correct times for photo ops and for panels. The Friday panel was canceled due to the AVI team refusing to allow anyone onstage until they were paid. They were promised payment upfront, instead they weren’t paid and pulled the plug on the event. The cast was all there, waiting to go on. It seems that the event promoter broke the contract not once, but TWICE.

Bleeding Cool wrote a story of its own based on the Official Ava Jade post with the dramatic headline, “Police Called On Cast Of Sons Of Anarchy After They Demanded Space City Comic Con Pay Up”. Houston police were helpful in protecting the convention staff from an irate customer —

Comments from volunteers included this, from Shelley Montrose,

This will be the last Saturday/Sunday that I volunteer at any Comic Convention. I was shouted at more in the 6 hours that I volunteered on Saturday than I was in the entire year last year. Friday was amazing and Saturday in my LAST 2 MINUTES there HPD had to intervene as a grown man came into my face and threatened to “choke me to death, rape me, and burn me like on YouTube.” I decided not to come to my scheduled 8 hour volunteer shift on Sunday. I thought my life was in danger. One of Charlie’s bodyguards ran over to help me before the guy got to me. Honestly, I thought the guy was gonna to hit me. After reading this article I think I understand what happened a little bit better. I can’t even explain how horrible it was the tell people who traveled all the way from England, China, Australia,etc., that the $800-$3000 that they spent on a prepaid ticket will not be honored at the desk at the majority of the sons of anarchy autograph sessions , and that they would have to go to the ATMs on the inside of the convention ( because all the ATMs on the outside of the entrances were broken ) in order to get money to pay cash for any autographs or photo ops they wanted with the celebrities.I personally ended up going to the ATM to help people pay for the prepaid tickets that they purchased for autographs with the celebrities. I won’t even go into how much that puts me back on my budget, including but not limited to my rent, utilities, and food.I was with Charlie Hunnam for almost four hours, and He pulled it together for all of his fans. Anyone that was there saw me standing beside Charlie Hunnam, I was taking pictures of them with him, knows that he was very giving to fans as well as professional. I feel like I did a good job of keeping the fans calm, entertained, and happy until they got to Charlie Hunnam .Ron Perlman was also professional as well. When I left he was still excepting those bogus tickets that people had pre-purchased.

(3) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Speaking of grand theft – Swedish astronomers theorize Planet 9 is a stolen exoplanet.

New research suggests the mysterious and controversial “Planet 9” isn’t an original member of our solar system. According to a new computer simulation developed by astronomers at Lund University in Sweden, the ninth planet is an exoplanet — stolen by the sun from its original host star.

“It is almost ironic that while astronomers often find exoplanets hundreds of light years away in other solar systems, there’s probably one hiding in our own backyard,” researcher Alexander Mustill said in a news release….


(4) EXCELLENCE IN FILKING. SF Site News reported that nominations have opened for the 2016 Pegasus Awards, given by the Ohio Valley Filk Festival.

pegasus logo

Any member of the worldwide filk community is eligible to win. Past Nominees have hailed from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, and Singapore as well as the United States.

The nomination and ballot procedure is similar to that of the Hugo, except that one does not need to be a paid member of the convention to nominate or vote. Anyone with an interest in Filking or Filk music can place a nomination and/or vote.

The results are tabulated, the winners determined, and the award is presented at the Pegasus Awards Banquet...

There are currently six Pegasus award categories, including two floating categories that are different each year.

Fans suggested nominees and songs through the Brainstorming Poll, and the results can be seen on these pages:

Ballots must be received by 12:01AM PDT, August 1, 2016, whether cast online or by mail.

(5) BEWARE GAME OF THRONES SPOILER. Here’s something George R.R. Martin revealed at Balticon 50:

According to Vanity Fair, Martin appeared at a convention in Baltimore called Balticon to read aloud to those in attendance a new chapter from his forthcoming book The Winds of Winter. During his time in front of the crowd, the author announced that Brienne of Tarth is the descendant of Ser Duncan the Tall.

For those who don’t know, Ser Duncan the Tall is one of Westeros’ most famous knights, making this connection with Brienne particularly noteworthy, especially when considering he’s one of Martin’s favorite characters.

(6) MORE SHOOTING. ScienceFiction.com says “’Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Gets Planned Reshoots After Disney’s Rumored Unhappiness”.

Many films that are destined for the big screen get re-shoots or planned production times after an initial cut of the film has been done where the crews can go back and shoot additional or replacement footage for certain scenes.  It’s a fairly common practice, although the re-shot and re-edited scenes are usually minimal in nature, comparative to the overall plot of the film.  Rumor has it, however, that the upcoming Star Wars spinoff, ‘Rogue One,’ has heavy reshoots planned by parent company Disney, who is unhappy with how the film has fared so far with test audiences.

There has only been one trailer released so far for the film, which was actually met with great enthusiasm from the fans.  However, a cool-looking trailer does not directly equate to a successful and well-received film — look no further than this very franchise’s ‘Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace’ for evidence of such.

(7) WHO BLABBED? Cora Buhlert shares Cap’s secret with us:

(8) SFWA YA JURORS. “Andre Norton Award Jury Announced” at the SFWA Blog.  

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announce the members of the jury for the 2016 Andre Norton Award. Throughout the coming year, the jury will be compiling its list of picks for the Norton Award. This year for the first time, SFWA will release a Norton Honor list of the top 15-20 books compiled from member votes and jury picks.

Chair Ellen Klages says, “Speculative fiction is a literature about exploration, possibilities, and dreams. The Andre Norton Award honors the best SF/F works written for the people who will create the future — children and young adults. What they read today will influence them — and the world — for decades to come.”

The jury members are: Ellen Klages (jury chair), E.C. Myers, Fran Wilde, Leah Bobet, and Jei D. Marcade. Read their bios at the linked post.

(9) SFWA SFWA. Cat Rambo notes anyone can watch the SFWA Chat Hour, 1st edition, on YouTube, “complete with annoying echo that we will fix next time.”

Come hear Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) officials and staff Cat Rambo, M.C.A. Hogarth, and Kate Baker talk about the recent Nebula conference weekend, current SFWA efforts, and what’s coming in 2016 in the first episode of the biweekly SFWA Chat Hour.



  • Born May 31, 1961 — Lea Thompson, known to the world for other things but to fans for Howard the Duck and Back to the Future.

(11) BUTLER CONFERENCE. UC San Diego will be the site of “Shaping Change: Remembering Octavia E. Butler Through Archives, Art, and Worldmaking”, a conference from June 3-5 that is open to the public.

Shaping change

50 years from now, how have we shaped change (through art, activism, and archives) in the world? What have we left behind that that we can draw from our presents and pasts? What lessons in Butler’s life and writing will help forestall what seems like the inevitable collapse of human civilization?

Organized by Shelley Streeby (UC San Diego) and Ayana Jamieson (founder, Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network), the event will feature talks from: Adrienne Maree Brown, Aimee Bahng, Alexis Lothian, M. Asli Dukan, Ayana Jamieson, Krista Franklin, Lisa Bolekaja, Melanie West, Moya Bailey, Nisi Shawl, Ola Ronke, Rasheedah Phillips, Shelley Streeby, Sophia Echavarria, Ted Chiang, and Walidah Imarisha.

(12) MEETING ABOUT MEDUSA. Steven Baxter and Alastair Reynolds will speak at Foyles Bookshop in Charing Cross Road (tickets required) on June 4.

Foyles talk

Join us for a conversation with two leading figures in science fiction, Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter, as they discuss their new collaboration The Medusa Chronicles. Inspired by the classic Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s short story ‘A Meeting with Medusa’, The Medusa Chronicles continues the story of Commander Howard Falcon over centuries of space-exploration. One of the most compelling novels of either author’s career, it combines moments of incredible action with an intricately-realised depiction of an expansive universe.

Stephen Baxter is the author of more than forty novels, including the Sunday Times bestselling Long Earth series, co-authored with Sir Terry Pratchett, and the acclaimed Time’s Eye trilogy, co-authored with Sir Arthur C. Clarke. He has won major awards in the UK, US, Germany, and Japan. Born in 1957 he has degrees from Cambridge and Southampton.

Alastair Reynolds was born in Barry, South Wales, in 1966. He studied at Newcastle and St Andrews universities, has a Ph.D. in astronomy and worked as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency before becoming a full-time writer. An award-winning as well as bestselling writer, with more than thirteen published novels to his name, Locus described him as ‘the most exciting space opera writer working today’.

Together, Reynolds and Baxter will talk about Clarke’s influence on their own writing, the themes that underpin his work, and how they were inspired to continue his story, as well as their bodies of work as a whole. This will be followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask their own questions and a book signing.

This event is in association with The Arthur C. Clarke Award and SFX.

(13) BYO LIFE ON MARS. SpaceReview.com sifts its favorite ideas from the many conferences about human expeditions to the red planet, in “A Year on Mars”.

How many humans on Mars conferences do we need in a year? That thought came to mind during the recent Humans to Mars (H2M) Summit in Washington, DC. There are a lot of them, especially in Washington. There were at least six humans-to-Mars related public events in Washington in 2015, not counting the NASA-sponsored human Mars landing site selection workshop in Houston. Now 2016 is shaping up the same way. Last Tuesday following the H2M conference, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning DC-based think-tank, held a talk “Beyond the Moon: What will it take to get astronauts on Mars?” The Mars Society was in Washington last August and will be back in September, and there will probably be at least one or two other Mars-related meetings or lectures that will happen later this year. And not everything is happening in Washington: the same week as the H2M conference there were a series of talks on Mars at the International Space Development Conference in Puerto Rico.

Some, but not all, of this attention to the humans to Mars subject is due to the success of the movie The Martian and the book that inspired it. But the subject is also culturally bigger than that: witness the attention that Mars One got last year, both positive and negative, and NASA pushing the theme hard as well (every time somebody uses the hashtag #JourneyToMars an angel gets its wings.) Human missions to Mars, or at least talking about humans on Mars, is all the rage these days, and H2M has made a pretty impressive effort at taking the lead.

H2M seems to have upped its game recently. Their website is slick, featuring computer animations and links to video recordings of most of the presentations at their conference, much of which was live-streamed….

(14) ATTENTION ANN LECKIE. “Tea in space” might be a highly scientific idea. Scientists say it could be used to create useful materials for astronauts visiting Mars.

Former Prime Minister William Gladstone said: ‘If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you.’

It may also one day help astronauts on Mars.

The humble cup of tea holds the key to new ‘wonder materials’, new research suggests.

The bacteria found in tea could lead to breakthroughs in water filtration and technology.

(15) THIS IS STRANGE. An sf novel hidden in Reddit posts? The BBC interviewed the anonymous author.

The plot ranges across the CIA, hallucinogenic drugs, humpback whales, Nazis and the death of Michael Jackson. But just as mysterious and intriguing is the way in which what is being dubbed ‘The Interface Series’ is emerging into the world.

If you watched the TV-series Lost, you’ll probably be familiar with that feeling of confused anticipation as you hope for several threads of narrative to tie together. Over the course of this month, a new kind of mystery, for a new kind of audience, has been unfolding on Reddit – the online bulletin board where people post articles and comments on threads about a bewildering range of subjects….

The posts appeared in threads about a bizarre range of seemingly unconnected topics including: a debate about whether pirates really did have parrots, the responses to somebody seeking advice about how to help a relative with a drugs problem and the comments under a video of a cat sliding down stairs.

But these weren’t just random nonsensical rants. There is a theme that ties them all together; ‘The Flesh Interfaces’ which seem to be “portals of some kind, made of thousands of dead bodies, which transport biological matter to some unknown place and returns it inside a fleshy sack, heavily dosed with LSD.”

(16) DAILY TRIVIA. George R.R. Martin, wrote 14 episodes of the Beauty and the Beast TV series, which ran from 1987-90.

(17) JOHNSON TRIBUTE VIDEO. See part one of the George Clayton Johnson Memorial held at the Egyptian on February 26.

[Thanks to Wendy Gale, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Arifel.]

Pixel Scroll 1/27/16 The Young and the Rec List

(1) BROOKLINE SHOOTING INCIDENT. SF writer Michael A. Burstein faced an unexpected emergency decision today.

When I ran for Library Trustee of the Public Library of Brookline back in 2004 for the first time, I never expected the day would come when I would be saying the following over the phone to the Library Director:

“As far as I know at the moment, this is an active shooter situation in the town of Brookline. You have my complete authority as chair of the Library Trustees to send staff home, shut down the libraries, or do whatever you think you need to do to keep patrons and stay safe. Just keep me posted and I’ll check in with the police again once we’re off the phone.”

He, Nomi and their children were safe but rattled. At the time, Brookline police were responding to reports of two local incidents in which people were shot and/or stabbed.

Police have not yet captured the assailants, however, later in the day they found their car in Boston.

Police in Brookline said they have located the car from today’s shooting but are still looking for the driver and another suspect after three young men were shot and stabbed multiple times this morning in related incidents in Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village

(2) SFWA MAY ACCEPT GAME WRITERS. Science Fiction Writers of America will soon vote whether to allow sales in writing S/F games to qualify writers for membership. SFWA Vice President M.C.A. Hogarth discussed the question at the SFWA Blog.

The Gaming Committee has drafted solid credentials for admitting professional writers of SF/F games–tabletop or computer or console or app–to our numbers. The Board has reviewed them, made modifications, and chosen a final draft. Now it’s up to our members to vote to include our writing peers in the gaming industry into our numbers. The question will be going out on the election ballot at the end of Februrary.

Games, no less than books, tell compelling stories in our genre. I hope you’ll join me in opening our doors to our professional colleagues in SF/F game writing.

(3) HURLEY SAYS FIGHT BACK. Kameron Hurley on “Traditional Publishing, Non-Compete Clauses & Rights Grabs”.

One of the big issues we’ve been dealing with the last 15 years or so as self-publishing has become more popular are the increasing rights grabs and non-compete clauses stuck into the boilerplate from big traditional publishers terrified to get cut out of the publishing equation. Worse, these clauses are becoming tougher and tougher to negotiate at all, let alone get them to go away. Worser (yes, worser) – many new writers don’t realize that these are shitty terms they should be arguing over instead of just rolling over and accepting like a Good Little Author. What I’ve seen a lot in my decade of publishing is new writers on the scene who don’t read their contracts and who rely on their agent’s judgement totally (and that’s when they even HAVE an agent! eeeee). They don’t have writer networks yet. They aren’t sure what’s normal and what’s not and they don’t want to rock the boat.

I am here to tell you to rock the boat.

(4) DRUM LESSONS. M. Harold Page finds “Writerly Lessons from Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum” at Black Gate.

Even so, this literary failure is still a heroic one. The book not only displays the craft of a veteran adventure writer, it is also an object lesson in career strategy.

As an author I benefited from reading this book. Let me tell you why…

First, this book can teach us some craft. It confirms the idea that research can be layered (link). There’s a lot you don’t need to know when writing a Historical story and a lot you can put in on the final draft.

Identify the people who are a physical threat to your character and find the conflicts that link then.

However, what makes The Walking Drum truly illuminating is that it is like sitting Louis L’Amour down with beer and getting him to brainstorm historical adventure plots until we can see how he does it.

L’Amour clearly focuses on conflicts leading to physical threats. I’m a great enthusiast for exploring story worlds through conflict (link). However, L’Amour reveals a shortcut: Identify the people who are a physical threat to your character and find the conflicts that link them. I suppose L’Amour would say:…

(5) FINDING YOUR VOICE. Elizabeth Bear on authorial voice, in “he’s got one trick to last a lifetime but that’s all a pony needs”.

You have a voice, as an artist and as a human being. That voice is part of who you are, and it’s comprised of your core beliefs, your internalizations, your hopes and dreams and influences and experiences. You can develop it. You can make it better. But until you find it–until you find that authentic voice, and accept it, and begin working on making it stronger and trusting it and letting it shine through–you will always sound artificial and affected.  And there’s a reason we call it “finding your voice,” and not “creating your voice.” The voice is there. Whatever it is, you are stuck with it. So you might as well learn to like it, and work with it, and improve it.

(6) X-FILES. Steve Davidson has lots to say in “The X Files Return: Review & Commentary” at Amazing Stories. No excerpt. BEWARE SPOILERS.


  • January 27, 1967 — Astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire aboard the Apollo 1 spacecraft during a launch simulation at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center

(8) MINSKY OBIT. Marvin Minsky (1927-2016), a leader in the field of artificial intelligence, as well as occasional sf author and convention participant, died January 24 reports SF Site.

He served as an advisor on the film 2001: a space odyssey and later collaborated with Harry Harrison on the novel The Turing Option.

The New York Times obituary noted:

Professor Minsky, in 1959, co-founded the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Project (later the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) with his colleague John McCarthy, who is credited with coining the term “artificial intelligence.”

Beyond its artificial intelligence charter, however, the lab would have a profound impact on the modern computing industry, helping to impassion a culture of computer and software design. It planted the seed for the idea that digital information should be shared freely, a notion that would shape the so-called open-source software movement, and it was a part of the original ARPAnet, the forerunner to the Internet.

(9) GRATEFUL. Mike Reynolds is one of the finalists who was not selected to be the teacher-astronaut aboard the Challenger.

The 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster this week has a deep meaning for college professor Mike Reynolds. At the time, he was a teacher at Fletcher High School and a finalist for the ill-fated Challenger mission.

Reynolds was picked out of thousands of educators nationwide, to fly in NASA’s teacher-in-space program, which was announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was teacher Christa McAullife who was ultimately chosen and perished during takeoff with the entire crew.

Reynolds witnessed the Challenger explosion from the Kennedy Space Center viewing area.

“It was so surreal. It took probably a minute, even for someone like myself who is familiar with launches, to really sink in what had happened,” Reynolds said….

Reynolds said the days and months that followed were the most painful in his life, but he made friends with families of the seven onboard, including Capt. Dick Scobee’s wife, June Rodgers Scobee, and Greg Jarvis’ parents. Reynolds said the horror the nation witnessed on that day deeply affected him.

“It’s really affected me, knowing that every day on this earth is a gift, so use that time wisely and stick to your mission and God’s given gifts, and that’s why I stayed in education,” he said.

(10) PLAQUE FOR PRATCHETT. The Beaconsfield town council knows Pratchett will eventually get one of those famous blue plaques. In the meantime, the city will honor Terry Pratchett with a commemorative plaque of its own.

Born in Beaconsfield and educated at John Hampden Grammar School in High Wycombe from 1959 to 1965, [Pratchett] went on to become a reporter at the Bucks Free Press in 1965 before making a name for himself as an author.

The town council hopes to install a plaque on the wall at Beaconsfield Library in Reynolds Road, where Sir Terry was a Saturday boy and returned to give talks.

Cllr Philip Bastiman, chair of the open spaces committee, said the council had been in touch with Sir Terry’s daughter Rhianna, who was “very supportive” of the idea of commemorating the author.

He said: “Because I believe he worked in the library and used the library a lot and he came back and actually gave talks at the library relatively recently, in their mind, it had a place in his affections.

“They feel it is wholly appropriate to have a commemorative plaque to Terry Pratchett at the library itself.”

Cllr Bastiman said they could have to wait “a number of years” for a blue plaque, which are commonly used to commemorate historical figures and places, so will remember him with their own plaque.

(11) COMMENTS DEFACE HARTWELL OBIT. The Register gave David G. Hartwell a nice obituary. Unfortunately, Puppification intruded at the third comment.

(12) WOMEN IN SF. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is working on an anthology, Women of Futures Past, that will be published by Baen. The project’s blog has a new entry by Toni Weisskopf.

[Kristine Kathryn Rusch] When it became clear to me that the sf field was losing its history, particularly the history of women in the field, I decided to do an anthology. And I immediately knew who would be the perfect publisher/editor: Toni Weisskopf of Baen. We’ve been the field for the same amount of time, and I knew, without checking, that all this talk about the fact that there are no women in sf had to bother her as much as it bothered me. We got together last February at a conference, and sure enough, I was right…

[Toni Weisskopf] …So I never experienced this mythical time of science fiction being an old boys club, with the Man oppressing women, keeping us down. What do these people imagine all the women in field before them did? I didn’t need Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg to remind me about the contributions of editor Bea Mahaffey at Other Worlds, or the obituaries to tell me about Alice Turner at Playboy; in my circles, they were both still remembered. Same with Kay Tarrant at Astounding/Analog and Cele Goldsmith at Amazing.

So one wonders who is really devaluing the work of women. Perhaps it is those who imply that the women who are successful in SF today need some sort of special consideration. Or is it simply that these people have not bothered studying the history of the field they are talking about? I finally begin to understand the purpose of those lists of names in epic poetry and the Bible: these people existed, they were there. It is my hope that Kris’s anthology will do something towards balancing the scales and prove a resource for anyone who loves great SF and cares about historical accuracy.

(13) SHORTCHANGED. Remembering that the sf genre had ANY women addresses a different question than the fairness issues that arise now that there are MANY women genre writers. Consider the next post about the horror genre…

Nina Allen asks “Where Are We Going? Some Reflections on British Horror, Present and Future” at Strange Horizons.

Somewhat conveniently for the purposes of this discussion, FantasyCon 2015 saw the launch of three “best of” horror anthologies: the latest (#26) in Stephen Jones’s redoubtable Best New Horror series, which has now been running for more than a quarter of a century, The 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories under the editorship of Mark Morris, and the twenty-fifth anniversary reissue of Best New Horror #3, from 1991. Looking down the table of contents of this last, I encountered many familiar, well-loved names—some sadly no longer with us, some very much still writing and contributing to the literature. I want to stress right from the off how important the Best New Horror series has been to me, both as a reader and as a writer. When I began developing a professional interest in horror fiction towards the end of the 1990s, BNH was where I first started to acquaint myself with the field: who was writing, what they were writing, how they related to one another. I would read each volume cover to cover when it first appeared, adding to my knowledge and developing my taste with each new outing.

When I look at the table of contents for BNH #3, I see the names of writers who first drew me into the genre (McGammon, Grant, Newman, Etchison), writers who deepened my understanding of what horror writing could do and cemented my allegiance (Campbell, Royle, Lane, Ligotti, Tem, Hand), as well as one more recent discovery, Käthe Koja, whose writing is everything that modern horror should aspire to be. A wonderful compendium indeed, and if I felt a little disappointed to see that of the twenty-nine stories listed, only four were by women, I reluctantly put it down to the times. While women have always written horror, the awareness of women writing horror was not then so advanced as it has become more recently. Any anthology that styled itself “Best New Horror” in 2015 would surely provide greater parity in representation.

How surprised was I then, when I turned to the table of contents for BNH #26 and discovered that of the nineteen stories listed, a mere three were by women writers.

Three must be somebody’s lucky number, and nineteen, come to that, because of the nineteen stories selected to appear in the 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories—and this from more than five hundred submissions received—only three of those were by women, also.

I honestly don’t see how this is a situation anyone can feel happy with. I’m not even going to get started on the representation of writers from minority ethnic backgrounds in these tables of contents, because it’s practically nil.

OK, those are the facts, the figures I’d brought with me for discussion on the panel. They speak for themselves, and what they say about the state of horror fiction in the UK in 2015 is that it’s very white, heavily male-dominated, and furthermore, that this situation hasn’t changed at all in the last quarter-century.

(14) MORE TO REMEMBER. The BBC has a little list of its own — 10 Women Who Changed Sci-Fi. The name that follows Mary Shelley is –

Ursula K Le Guin

Le Guin has been a significant player in the science fiction field since the 1960s and has nourished the sci-fi and fantasy genre with piercing visions of race, gender, ecology and politics. She has also been its heroic defender with a host of best-selling writers citing her as an inspiration.

(15) SHINDIG. The Hollywood Reporter details plans for the Star Trek 50th anniversary fan event in New York City.

This September, Star Trek marks its 50th anniversary by returning from the final frontier and landing in New York City for Star Trek: Mission New York, a three-day event based around a celebration of the beloved TV and movie franchise.

Taking place Sept. 2-4 at the Javits Center, Mission New York comes from New York Comic-Con organizers ReedPOP. Lance Festerman, global svp for the company, said in a statement that the new convention “will be a completely unique fan event unlike anything seen before, giving [fans] the chance to go beyond panels and autograph signings, and immerse themselves in the Star Trek universe.”


  • Born January 27, 1832 – Lewis Carroll.

(17) NEW JOURNAL. The Museum of Science Fiction has launched the MOSF Journal of Science Fiction. Journal editor Monica Louzon highlights the articles in the issue:

This first issue of the MOSF Journal of Science Fiction features four articles that explore science fiction through analysis of various themes, including—but by no means limited to—globalization, mythology, social commentary, and assemblage theory. Derrick King’s discussion of Paolo Bacigalupi’s critical dystopias explores utopian political possibilities that biogenetics could create, while Sami Khan’s analysis of Hindu gods in three Indian novels reveals how closely mythology and social commentary entwine with science fiction. Karma Waltonen examines how female science fiction writers have used loving the “other” as a means of challenging societal taboos about sex, and Amanda Rudd argues that Paul’s empire in Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) is an entirely new assemblage composed of rearranged elements from the previous ruler’s empire and the indigenous Fremen culture.

(18) TYSON IN RAP BATTLE. Neil deGrasse Tyson and rapper B.o.B. are getting their clicks battling over B.o.B.’s flat earth claims. NPR has the story.

So, a Twitter spat between astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and rapper B.o.B over the flat Earth theory has turned into a full-blown rap battle (and it’s way better than Drake vs. Meek Mill).

B.o.B, whom you might know from his hits “Airplanes,” “Nothin’ On You” and “Strange Clouds,” kicked things off Monday when he started tweeting about how he believes the Earth is flat. He also tweeted about why he believes NASA is hiding the truth about the edge of the world. And he shared several meaningless diagrams about the planet including one about flight routes….

In a short series of tweets, Tyson explained why the Earth was round. He tweeted:

“Earth’s curve indeed blocks 150 (not 170) ft of Manhattan. But most buildings in midtown are waaay taller than that.”

“Polaris is gone by 1.5 deg S. Latitude. You’ve never been south of Earth’s Equator, or if so, you’ve never looked up.”

“Flat Earth is a problem only when people in charge think that way. No law stops you from regressively basking in it.”…

Here’s another: “I see only good things on the horizon / That’s probably why the horizon is always rising / Indoctrinated in a cult called science / And graduated to a club full of liars.” You can read the full lyrics on Gawker.

That was Monday night.

Tuesday afternoon, Tyson dropped his own dis track, called “Flat To Fact,” written and rapped by his nephew, Stephen Tyson. He tweeted: “As an astrophysicist I don’t rap, but I know people who do. This one has my back.” Here’s a sample:

“Very important that I clear this up / You say that Neil’s vest is what he needs to loosen up? / The ignorance you’re spinning helps to keep people enslaved, I mean mentally.”

(19) MEANWHILE BACK AT HARRY POTTER FANDOM. Jen Juneau explains “Why we’re crushing hard on Fleur Delacour from ‘Harry Potter’”. That was news to me, so I paid close attention….

My absolute favorite Fleur moment isn’t in the movies, which is a travesty (and one of the 32843 reasons why everyone who enjoyed the movies even a little bit should go read the books, stat!). It’s at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Molly Weasley is tending to her son (and Fleur’s fiancé) Bill’s wounds. Molly starts lamenting over the fact that Bill will never be the same again, and that he was going to be married and everything, while Fleur is standing right there.

Fleur basically snaps and asks Molly if she thinks Bill won’t marry her now that he has been bitten by a werewolf. While Molly starts sputtering, Fleur is relentless, telling Molly that Bill’s scars are proof of his bravery and that she is good-looking enough for the both of them before snatching the ointment out of Molly’s hand and tending to his wounds herself. The scene ends with Molly offering Fleur her Aunt Muriel’s goblin-crafted tiara to wear on her and Bill’s wedding day, and the two cry and hug it out.

And though Fleur is not immune to using her beauty in the series to get ahead (but really, who hasn’t used a natural advantage to get ahead when they can?), there are two big lessons here: 1. Fleur is a certified badass who refuses to let looks define her or anyone around her, and 2. Read the books, y’all.

(20) THAT LOVABLE ROGUE VADER. Yahoo! Tech predicts Darth Vader’s role will be bigger on the inside than expected in Rogue One.

The next time we buy tickets for a Star Wars picture, we’ll be signing up for a movie that’s going to bring back the greatest villains in movie history. Darth Vader is returning to the Star Wars universe this December complete with original costume and voice and he’s going to have a bigger role than anticipated, a new report indicates.

Movie site JoBlo says it’s able to confirm that Darth Vader will indeed appear in the film, and his role will be bigger than just appearing in hologram messages. Even so, it’s not clear what Darth Vader’s role in the movie plot is. In fact, the actual plot of the picture is still secret.

What we know about the movie is that Rogue One tells the story of a group of daring rebels looking to steal the plans of the Death Star. The action in Rogue One takes place between Episode III and Episode IV.

(21) FORCEFUL CARTOONS. Nina Horvath posted examples of “Cartoons from the Dark Side: Star Wars Exhibition in Vienna” at Europa SF.

Tomorrow a new Star Wars exhibition will start and open its doors until March the 6th, 2016. It should not be confused with the Star Wars Identities exhibition that takes place in the same city at almost the same period of time, no, it is different: It shows funny cartoons inspired by the Star Wars universe. Like Darth Vader experiencing the result of his paternity test!


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Amazon Reinstates Space Marine Novel

Spots the Space Marine by M.C. Hogarth can be purchased at Amazon once again thanks to the intervention of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others. As reported here yesterday, Amazon had taken down the book after Games Workshop attempted to enforce its trademark on the term “space marine” – notwithstanding the term’s decades long history as  a staple of sf stories before Warhammer 40K ever came along.

Hogarth tried to resolve the dispute in a friendly way, but Games Workshop refused to withdraw its complaint. So she reached out for help, including to EFF (and thanks to the many folks, including Wil Wheaton, Popehat, and Cory Doctorow, who helped spread the word). We were able to intervene and, to Amazon’s credit, the company reviewed the claim and restored the book. Let’s hope Games Workshop will now have the good sense to realize the bullying has to stop. We’re pleased that Amazon did the right thing here, and that we were able to help.