Pixel Scroll 6/20/17 Hugos And Dragons And Campbells Oh My!

(1) HAN SOLO DIRECTORS AXED. The untitled Star Wars Han Solo spinoff started principal photography on February 20 at London’s Pinewood Studios, but progress has come to an ass-grinding stop with the departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who cited “creative differences” for the split.

Variety’s article puts it a bit differently — “’Star Wars’ Han Solo Spinoff: Lord & Miller Fired After Clashing With Kathleen Kennedy”.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s reputation for writing irreverent, poppy films such as “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie” helped the white-hot writing and directing duo land one of the most coveted gigs in Hollywood — a chance to call the shots on a “Star Wars” film.

But their chance to put their stamp on a galaxy far, far away collapsed on Tuesday with the stunning announcement that the pair would be departing the still untitled Han Solo spin-off movie in the midst of production. Their exit comes after months of conflict with producer Kathleen Kennedy, others from her LucasFilm team, and co-writer and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan, and the two directors hired to infuse the “Star Wars” universe with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility.

Miller and Lord were stunned to find that they were not being granted freedom to run the production in the manner that they were accustomed to. They balked at Kennedy’s tight control on the set.

(2) SAY IT OUT LOUD. Madeleine E. Robins has some advice about dialect in “’Ow’s that, Guv’nor?: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

So maybe, even if you hear the words you’ve written with a perfect what-ever-it-is accent, you’ll want to think carefully before giving voice to their accents. This is a time when enlisting the assistance of a friend can be useful. Read aloud to them and ask them to tell tell you if it works. If your listener says you’re more [Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweep] than Sir Ben Kingsley, rethink.

But my dialogue is written in dialect! Okay, but you don’t have to read inflections that are not in the page. If you’ve got a character saying “I don’t know ‘ow!” you can soften the presumed “Oi” in I; if you aren’t good at the vowels, don’t hit ’em hard. And remember, it’s more important that your listeners follow the sense and meaning of the words than that they get a full theatrical performance.

(3) RED PLANET INTERIOR DECORATORS. Jeremy White in WIRED (“IKEA designers are living in a Mars simulator to get inspiration for future collections. Really”) says that IKEA sent an in-house design team to spend seven days at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, who then decided how to make a Mars mission “more homey” and then use that knowledge to aid in IKEA’s product development.

At its annual Democratic Design Day event in Älmhult, Sweden, IKEA has revealed its latest collaborations and products, with a focus on millennials and space travel. Yes, space travel.

To this end, IKEA has done something rather drastic. It’s banished a delegation of its in-house design team to live in a simulated Mars habitat at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, America, to learn what it’s like to live in the inhospitable and cramped environs of off-world settlements.

When the company learned that Nasa and students from Sweden’s Lund University School of Industrial Design were working on what would be needed for a three-year space mission to Mars, IKEA requested to join the project.

The home furnishings giant wants to tap in to what scientists and engineers learn from spaceflight to Mars, and apply these discoveries to products and methods for everyday life at home. Marcus Engman, head of design at IKEA, said the company wants to find out what could make space travel “homey” and to identify the boundaries and restraints needed to work in that environment, and then port that knowledge into IKEA’s own product development and “use space knowledge for a better everyday life on Earth”.

(4) TENTACLE TIME. Camestros Felapton reviews a science fictional-themed brew, complete with photos of its exotic label, in “Tuesday Beer: Galactopus @LittleBangBrew”.

…I know my readers would WANT me to drink a beer called “Galactopus”, which features a planet devouring octopus on the label.

The sacrifices I make for you all.

The label has some very clever copy. I wonder how many beer labels a person has to author to qualify for SFWA?

(5) RHETORICAL QUESTION. Having seen the Wonder Woman movie Daniel Dern wants to know, “Why no kangas on Paradise Island?”

(6) HOWARD. The duck’s cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy give his leading lady a new excuse to brag: “Lea Thompson Talks ‘Howard the Duck,’ Claims Her Crown as First Queen of Marvel”.

Lea Thompson couldn’t give a quack about what you think of Howard the Duck, the puntastic 1986 Marvel Comics-based action-comedy that ran afowl of movie critics and has lived in film infamy ever since. The George Lucas-produced movie has a fan base out there, and that’s good enough for her.

“People love that movie!” Thompson said of “HTD,” as she likes to call it, during a Facebook Live interview with Yahoo Movies (watch the full interview below). “They’re releasing it again in Blu-ray or something… They don’t just do that because they’re nice.” (The film was made available on Blu-ray for the first time last May.) “It’s a hilariously bizarre movie,” Thompson continued. “The only thing that I can say that I don’t like about it is that I thought it was a little long.”

The film, which featured the Back to the Future breakout as a Cleveland singer who helps the anthropomorphic duck acclimate to life on Earth, runs 110 minutes, which is still well short of the average runtime of today’s Marvel movies, including the two Guardians of the Galaxy films that have briefly resuscitated Mr. HTD

(7) FIVE STARS. Marion Deeds and Kat Hooper each take a cut at Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders at Fantastic Literature. Here’s Marion’s first paragraph:

Spoonbenders (2017) by Daryl Gregory, is multi-generational family saga. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a psychic adventure story and a weird conspiracy tale for lovers of shadowy CIA projects like MKULTRA. It’s a gangster story. There’s a heist. There is a long con, and a madcap comedy along the lines of classic Marx Brothers routines. There are a couple of romances, a direct-distribution scheme, a medallion, a cow and a puppy. If we’re talking genre, I don’t know what Spoonbenders is. I know I loved it. I know it was fun and made me laugh, I know it was scary at times and I know I closed the book feeling happy and sad. And I know it’s a five-star book.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian notes an amusing sf reference today in Bliss.

(9) SAD PUPPIES PROGRESS REPORT. Sarah A. Hoyt returned to tell Mad Genius Club readers what happened to Sad Puppies 5 in “About Those Lost Puppies”. After a lengthy recap of her version of history, she reaches the tentative present:

…Our intention was always to just create a page, in which those who register can post reading recommendations, not just of recent years, but of anything that struck their fancy.  There will be a place where you can say when the book was published and if it’s eligible for an award — and not just a science fiction award — and a link to the award page for people to follow, if so minded.  Yeah, we’ll include the Hugo, but probably with a note saying the award is in the process of self-destructing.

Thing is, I meant to have this up before nominations for the Dragon Award opened.  But on top of the comedy of errors above, our website provider either crashed or was hacked, so while trying to survive auto-immune and meeting more deliveries than UPS, I’ve been trying to get it up and running again.  (My author site is down also.)

So, that’s where we are.  We’ll put it up sometime in the next couple of months, and then Amanda and I will run it, and then Amanda will take over  Or Amanda, Kate and I will continue shepherding it.

When we said this before and pointed out that PARTICULARLY indie books need some place to mention them, we were linked to/lectured by someone one the rabid side, because apparently they already have a site, so we don’t need one of our own.

Tips hat to the right.  Thank you kindly.  But you guys are aware your aesthetics and goals aren’t ours, right?

You just turned Marxist aesthetics on their head, and are judging books by being anti-Marxist and how much they don’t support the neo Marxist idea of justice.  That’s cool and all.  To each his own.  And since, so far, your crazy isn’t being taught in schools, it’s slightly less annoying than the Marxist crazy.

It is still annoying, though, because you’re still judging literary value by whether it fits your (at least as crazy-cakes’ as the Marxists) narrative and your precepts….

(10) I ATE THE WHOLE THING. It’s been reliably reported that Whole Foods was not long for existence if Bezos or the like hadn’t bought them. “Amazon Eats Up Whole Foods as the New Masters of the Universe Plunder America” japes The Daily Beast’s Joel Kotkin.

Unlike our old moguls, the new Masters don’t promise greater prosperity but a world where most people are to be satiated by a state-provided basic income and occasional ‘gig’ work.

 

(11) PLAY BALL The Washington Post’s Scott Allen, in a piece called “Nationals will hide ‘dragon eggs’ ahead of ‘Game of Thrones’ Night”,  says the Washington Nationals have hidden 10 “dragon eggs” in the D.C. area, and if you find one fabulous prizes can be yours at the Nationals’ Game of Thrones night.

Nationals Park will look and feel a bit more like Westeros, the fictional continent from the popular HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, when the Nationals host the Reds on “Game of Thrones” Night on Friday.

Ahead of the event, the Nationals will hide 10 prize-filled “dragon eggs” in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. A Westeros-themed map posted on the team’s social channels and in The Washington Post Express on Tuesday morning will guide fans to the eggs, which contain a Nationals and “Game of Thrones” co-branded T-shirt, two tickets to Friday’s game and a fast-pass to pose for a photo on the 800-pound Iron Throne that will be located in the Right Field Plaza.

…The Racing Presidents will wear different-colored cloaks with faux fur designed by Ingrid Crepeau, the same woman behind the elaborate costumes that the Racing Presidents have worn on “Star Wars Day” since 2015. Teddy and George showed off their costumes at AwesomeCon in D.C. over the weekend. Screech will be dressed as his favorite “Game of Thrones” character, the three-eyed Raven.

 

(12) SEUSS MUSEUM. The Washington Post’s Andrea Sachs asks, “Will the Dr. Seuss museum be one of the places you’ll go?” Her article reports on the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts, where museumgoers can make small books or “a Lorax mustache on a wooden stick, look at his art, and see the rooms where he wrote and drew his books, including hats given him from fans of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

The ground floor brings to life several of his 40-plus children’s books. The front door opens up to “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” the first children’s book Seuss published. A statue of a police officer patrols a zany parade painted on the wall. Around the bend, step into McGrew’s Zoo, a riot of animals, most not found in the wild. A diagram shows some of the pretend creatures from “If I Ran the Zoo.” There is a preep, a proo, a nerkle and a nerd. Yes, a nerd — a word Seuss made up. Continue onward to make the acquaintance of Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax and the tower of turtles from — burp — “Yertle the Turtle.”

Here’s the direct link to “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum”.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss is a permanent, bilingual museum designed to introduce children and their families to the stories of Ted Geisel, promote joy in reading, and nurture specific literacy skills. The 3,200-square-foot first floor exhibition will provide opportunities to explore new sounds and vocabulary, play rhyming games, invent stories, and engage in activities that encourage teamwork and creative thinking.

The second floor will be filled with personal memorabilia belonging to Ted Geisel, including original oil paintings, a collection of zany hats and bowties, the original Geisel Grove sign which used to hang in Forest Park, and furniture from Ted’s sitting room and studio, including his drawing board, breakfast table, sofa, and armchair.

(13) NAZI RELICS. Matt Novak of Gizmodo covers the “Huge Collection of Nazi Artifacts Discovered Inside Secret Room in Argentina”.

Federal police in Argentina recently discovered a time capsule of evil, hidden inside a house near Buenos Aires. Roughly 75 Nazi artifacts, including everything from a large knife to Nazi medical devices to a photo negative of Adolph Hitler, were uncovered in a secret room. Police are investigating when and how the items entered the South American country….

One reason that authorities in Buenos Aires has some degree of certainty that they are originals is that some items from the collection are pictured in photographs with Nazi leaders. For example, one item in the collection is a magnifying glass. The same magnifying glass is seen in a photo negative from the collection showing Hitler himself. Investigators showed the photo to the Associated Press on the condition that the photo not be published.

“This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects,” said Bullrich.

 [Thanks to JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 4/18/16 It’s Better To Pixel Out, Than To Scroll Away

(1) WHILE YOU WERE WAITING. Ann Leckie must be wondering if any of us are paying attention.

Quite frequently someone at a reading will ask me if I’ll ever explain about that icon Breq is carrying. And the answer is, I already have.

(2) JUST SAY THANKS. Joe Vasicek has some intriguing “Thoughts on series and perma-free”.

For the last five years, the conventional wisdom among most indie writers has been to write short books in sequential series and make the first book permanently free. It’s a strategy that works, to a certain extent. It’s what got me from making pizza money on my book sales to making a humble living at this gig. However, I’m starting to question that wisdom….

….Also, when you have a book that’s permanently free, it tends to accumulate a lot of negative reviews. It’s strange, but some people seem to feel more entitled to XYZ when they get it for free, as opposed to paying for it. Or maybe these are the people who try to go through life without actually paying for anything? Who hoard everything, even the stuff that they hate, so long as they can get it for free? I don’t know.

Certainly, that’s not true of everyone who reads free books. But when you have a perma-free book, it tends to accumulate more of the barely-coherent “dis buk sux” kinds of reviews from people who probably weren’t in the target audience to begin with. And over time, that tends to weigh the book’s overall rating down, which unfortunately can be a turn-off for people who are in the book’s audience.

(3) TIPTREE AUCTION. Here’s an advance look at an item in the Tiptree Auction at WisCon.

On Saturday, May 28, fans of the Tiptree Award will have the opportunity to bid on a genuine blaster that was once the sidearm of Space Babe, a legendary feminist superhero. (Blaster is modeled here by a Space Babe impersonator). This rare item will be part of the annual Tiptree Award Auction, to be held at at WisCon in Madison Wisconsin….

 

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

(4) MANCUNICON. Starburst brings you Ed Fortune’s 2016 Eastercon report.

Event highlights included interviews with the Guest of Honour John W. Campbell Award-winning novelist Aliette de Bodard, Hugo Award-winning author Ian McDonald, British Fantasy Award-winning creator Sarah Pinborough, and noted astrophysicist David L. Clement. Each drew a huge crowd, and coloured the event in their own unique way. Notably, Clement spearheaded a science-heavy approach to many of the panel items, and many of the talks centred on science and Manchester’s iconic research centre, Jodrell Bank. The iconic building, which has inspired many works of science fiction throughout its history, was thoroughly explored in many talks and lectures.

(5) NUMBER FIVE. Nina Munteanu, at Amazing Stories, continues the series — “The Writer-Editor Relationship, Part 2: Five Things Writers Wish Editors Knew – and Followed”.

  1. Edit to preserve the writer’s voice through open and respectful dialogue

Losing your voice to the “hackings of an editor” is perhaps a beginner writer’s greatest fear. This makes sense, given that a novice writer’s voice is still in its infancy; it is tentative, evolving, and striving for an identity. While a professional editor is not likely to “hack,” the fear may remain well-founded.

A novice’s voice is often tangled and enmeshed in a chaos of poor narrative style, grammatical errors, and a general misunderstanding of the English language. Editors trying to improve a novice writer’s narrative flow without interfering with voice are faced with a challenge. Teasing out the nuances of creative intent amid the turbulent flow of awkward and obscure expression requires finesse—and consideration. Good editors recognize that every writer has a voice, no matter how weak or ill-formed, and that voice is the culmination of a writer’s culture, beliefs, and experiences. Editing to preserve a writer’s voice—particularly when it is weak and not fully formed—needs a “soft touch” that invites more back-and-forth than usual, uses more coaching-style language, and relies on good feedback….

(6) KELLY LINK. Marion Deeds picked the right day to post a review of a Kelly Link story from Get in Trouble at Fantasy Literature.

“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2016, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone, and she is neglected by her moonshiner father. While Fran is running a fever of 102 with the flu, her father informs her that he has to go “get right with God.” On his way out the door, he reminds her that one of the summer families is coming up early and she needs to get the house ready. However, that family isn’t the only group of summer people that Fran “does for,” and this is the point of Link’s exquisite, melancholy tale.

(7) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. While Doctor Who can travel to anyplace and nearly any point in time, he invariably ends up in London. The Traveler at Galactic Journey seems likewise constrained always to arrive at the same opinion of John W. Campbell, although his fellow fans voted Analog a Hugo for this year’s work — “[April 18, 1961] Starting on the wrong foot”.

Gideon Marcus, age 42, lord of Galactic Journey, surveyed the proud column that was his creation.  Three years in the making, it represented the very best that old Terra had to offer.  He knew, with complete unironic sincerity, that the sublimity of his articles did much to keep the lesser writers in check, lest they develop sufficient confidence to challenge Gideon’s primacy.  This man, this noble-visaged, pale-skinned man, possibly Earth’s finest writer, knew without a doubt that this was the way to begin all of his stories…

…if he wants to be published in Analog, anyway.

(8) ON MILITARY SF. SFFWorld interviews Christopher Nuttall.

Christopher Nuttall’s Their Darkest Hour has just been released as part of the Empire at War collection where four British Science Fiction authors have joined forces to show the world that British Military Science Fiction is a force to be reckoned with….

So what is different with British Military SF? Obviously in Their Darkest Hour you have the UK setting that probably will be more familiar to a Europeans than Americans, but do you also think there are other aspects where British authors are able to bring something different and unique to military SF? 

I think that’s a hard question to answer.

There is, if you will, a cultural difference between American MIL-SF (and military in general) and British MIL-SF.  Many American military characters (in, say, John Ringo’s work) are very forward, very blunt … I’d go so far as to say that most of them are thoroughly bombastic.  Think a Drill Instructor screaming in your face.  While a great many British characters are often calm, competent and basically just get the job done.  We’re not as outwardly enthusiastic as the Americans; we’re more gritty endurance, stiff upper lip and just keep going until we win.

To some extent, I think that comes from our differing experiences.  The Americans are staggeringly rich and, even as early as their civil war, had little trouble keeping their troops supplied.  Britain, particularly in the years after 1919, had very real problems making ends meet, let alone keeping the troops supplied.  We operate on a shoestring and know it.  The Falklands was our most successful war in years, yet it was a very close run thing.  We simply cannot afford to be as blatant as the Americans.

I think that is reflected in our SF too.  Independence Day was followed by Invasion: Earth, a six-episode TV series set in Britain.  Independence Day is blatant; the enemy is clearly visible, merely overwhelmingly powerful.  Invasion: Earth has an enemy who hides in the shadows, at least up until the final episode.  They both represent, too, a very different set of fears.

(9) OVER THE EDGE OF HISTORY. Jeff Somers considers “6 Historical Fiction Novels That Are Almost Fantasy” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Hild, by Nicola Griffith Set in the so-called “Dark Ages,” after Rome abandoned Britain but before the squabbling kingdoms and tribes were unified under one crown, Griffith’s novel tells the true story of the Christian saint Hild, who would become Saint Hilda of Whitby, patron saint of learning. In 7th century Britain, she is the 6-year old niece of King Edwin of Northumbria, and becomes his seer and mystic upon arrival at his court. The reality of otherworldly forces is taken for granted as real in this brutal, violent land, and Griffith plays with the concept expertly as Hild becomes increasingly masterful at sniffing out plots and advising her uncle in ways that often seem magical. Anyone who has been awed by a brilliant mind’s ability to perceive what most cannot will witness that superpower at work in Hild, one of the most complex and deeply-drawn characters to ever appear in a novel—historical, fantasy, or otherwise.

(10) AN OP-ED. David Dubrow, in “David A Riley and the HWA”, criticizes how Horror Writers of America handled the recent controversy. And he’s announced he’ll be publishing an interview with Riley about it.

At times it’s interesting to get under the hood of the writing business and see how the sausage is made, to mix cliched metaphors. This issue happens to concern horror writers, so it has particular meaning for me at this time.

In short, an English horror author named David A Riley was set to be on the jury for the anthology segment of the upcoming Bram Stoker Awards. As it turns out, Riley was once a member of a far-right, nationalist political party in the UK called the National Front. A Tumblr blog was created to curate some of Riley’s online commentary, titled David Andrew Riley Is a Fascist. Wikipedia’s entry on National Front can be found here.

When outraged members protested Riley’s appointment to the jury, Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton issued a tepid statement on Facebook that satisfied nobody. As is so often the case, the most arresting thing wasn’t the statement, but the ensuing discussion. Three distinct elements stood out and are worth examination….

Second, the thread has really big buts. The biggest but is, of course, “I believe in free speech, but…” A clever reader always ignores everything before the but in any statement containing a but. Anyone who puts his big but into the free speech discussion is not on the side of free speech, but is actually in favor of criminalizing speech he finds offensive (see what I did there?). As someone who worked at the bleeding edge of First (and Second) Amendment issues in publishing for over thirteen years, I find the big buts disturbing, but they’re there, and they stink like hell….

(11) THE FIRST RULE OF CHICXULUB. According to the BBC, this is “What really happened when the ‘dino killer’ asteroid struck”.

Where armies of trees once stretched skywards, seemingly escaping from the thickets of ferns and shrubs that clawed at their roots, only scorched trunks remain. Instead of the incessant hum of insect chatter blotting out the sound of ponderous giant dinosaurs, only the occasional flurry of wind pierces the silence. Darkness rules: the rich blues and greens, and occasional yellows and reds that danced in the Sun’s rays have all been wiped out.

This is Earth after a six-mile-wide asteroid smashed into it 66 million years ago.

“In the course of minutes to hours it went from this lush, vibrant world to just absolute silence and nothing,” says Daniel Durda, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado. “Especially in the thousands of square miles around the impact site, the slate was just wiped clean.”

Much like putting in all the edge pieces of a jigsaw, scientists have outlined the lasting impacts of the meteor strike. It claimed the lives of more than three-quarters of the animal and plant species on Earth. The most famous casualties were the dinosaurs – although in fact many of them survived in the form of birds….

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 18, 1976 — Melissa Joan Hart. She’s not a teenaged witch anymore.

(13) THE STARLOST. Created then disowned by Harlan Ellison, the 1970s series The Starlost can be seen here on YouTube. The link takes you to the entire series for Starlost (16 episodes plus the “sales pitch.”)

Complaining about how the show was dumbed down from the original concept, Ellison took his name off the credits and substituted his Writers Guild alias Cordwainer Bird.

(14) DUTCH TREATS. Wim Crusio reminisces about conversations with writers at the 1990 Worldcon, in “Writing science, writing fiction (I)”.

Synopsis: Whether writing a good novel or a killer scientific article, the process is much the same: What scientists can learn from science fiction authors…

Many years ago, back in 1990, I attended my first Science Fiction Worldcon, called “ConFiction“, in The Hague. An interesting feature that year was the “Dutch Treat”. One could sign up with a group of about 10 people and invite a science fiction writer for lunch and talk with them in that small circle. To me, these “treats” were the highlights of that particular meeting. I did as many of them as I could and have fond memories of speaking with John Brunner, Harry Harrison (a Guest of Honor, accompanied by his charming wife, Joan), Fred Pohl, Brian Aldiss, and Bob Shaw (I think that’s all of them, but I am writing this from memory, so I may have forgotten one). Of course, these conversations spanned many topics and I was not the only participant, but at some point or another I managed to pose the same question to each of them, namely: how do you write a story (be it a short story or a novel in multiple parts). Do you just start, do you write some parts first and only continue when you’re completely done with revising them, or something else entirely?

(15) REJECTION. Editor Sigrid Ellis’ post “On handling publishing rejection” tells things that can’t really be said in rejection letters. Some of them would be encouraging to writers!

Speaking from my work as a short fiction editor, I can 100% genuinely assure you — sometimes your story is fantastic, it’s just not what that venue needs at that time.

I hated writing those rejections. I knew that the writers would take them as a sign that the story wasn’t any good, no matter how much I tried to say “I swear to GOD it’s not you, it’s us! We just need something lighter/darker/fantasy/sf this month I SWEAR!!!”

Of course authors take that hard. Because — and here’s the secret — the generic blow-off letter is very similar to a genuine, personal rejection. That similarity is on PURPOSE. It permits everyone to save face. It allows everyone to walk away, dignity intact. But, then, if you get a personal rejection, you understandably might wonder if this is just the blow-off.

I know. It’s hard, and I know.

But here’s what I always wanted every author to do when they received a rejection, whether standard or personalized…..

(16) STRICTLY ROMANCE. The first romance-only bookstore starts in LA. (Strictly speaking, The Ripped Bodice is in Culver City.)

Romance novels are a billion dollar industry, vastly outselling science fiction, mystery and literary books.

And there’s only one rule for writing a romance – it has to have a happy ending.

Yet the romance genre has long been dismissed as smut or trashy by many in, and out, of the publishing world – a fact that mystifies sisters Bea and Leah Koch, who last month opened the US’s first exclusively romantic fiction bookstore.

Their shop in Los Angeles is called The Ripped Bodice, and the store’s motto is “smart girls read romance”.

(17) DEFINING X. They say it’s the intersection of politics and Marvel comics: “A People’s History of the Marvel Universe, Week 9: The Mutant Metaphor (Part I)” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

A lot of people have discussed the manifold ways in which the “mutant metaphor” is problematic, but what I’m going to argue in this issue is that a big part of the problem with the “mutant metaphor” is that it wasn’t clearly defined from the outset, in part because it wasn’t anywhere close to the dominant thread of X-Men comics.[i] While always an element of the original run, as much time was spent on fighting giant Kirby robots or stopping the likes of Count Nefaria from encasing Washington D.C in a giant crystal bubble. And this was always problematic, because in the shared Marvel Universe, you need to explain why it is that the X-Men are “feared and hated” and must hide beneath the façade of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester, whereas the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were treated as celebrities and could live openly on Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, respectively.

So what did the “mutant” metaphor mean initially?

One of the best ways to understand how the “mutant metaphor” was originally understood is to look at depictions of anti-mutant prejudice. In the early Lee and Kirby run, anti-mutant prejudice is described almost entirely as a mass phenomenon, a collective hysteria that takes hold of large groups of people. You can see this especially in the way that crowds of humans descend into violence in contexts that you wouldn’t normally expect them. Like sports events:…

(18) SKYWALKERED BACK. J. J. Abrams made a little mistake…. CinemaBlend has the story: “Star Wars: J.J. Abrams Backtracks Statement About Rey’s Parents”.

Earlier, J.J. Abrams sat down with Chris Rock at the Tribeca Film Festival to talk about the director’s work in television and film. During the Q&A segment, a young fan asked the identity of Rey’s parents and Abrams said “they aren’t in Episode VII.” This implies that just about every fan theory is wrong, but Entertainment Weekly caught up with Abrams after the show and he was able to clarify his statement:

What I meant was that she doesn’t discover them in Episode VII. Not that they may not already be in her world.

So, Rey’s parents could be somewhere in The Force Awakens as opposed to not being in it at all. That’s a pretty serious backtrack, but it opens the floor back up for fans to come up with theories on the heroine’s lineage. This potentially limits the amount of suspects, but most theories were already focused on Force Awakens characters. There are a few contenders that have risen above the rest, each with there own amount of logic and speculation.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 3/22/16 The Scrolls Are Alive With The Sound of Pixels

(1) MEDIA CON INFLATION. Rob Salkowitz at ICv2 says “As The 2016 Con Season Begins, Seams Are Starting To Show”.

Competition for big names is getting crazy. Every show wants the top names to draw fans, but the bidding war for A-list talent is starting to sound unsustainable. I’ve heard reliable reports that the appearance fees for the Wizard World Show in Philadelphia in June, which lists Chris Evans, Chris Helmsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie and the stars of Back to the Future, top $1 million in guaranteed money.

Well sure. Those are all the stars of what seems likely to be 2016’s biggest movie, all in one place.

But this is having a trickle-down effect. Because this is Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, the surviving original cast members and just about everyone associated with all versions of the show, are in unusually high demand. Competition to get these names on the marquee has reportedly led to cancelled contracts, bidding wars, waivers of exclusives, a shift from guaranteed revenues for autograph sales to straight appearance fees, and other cutthroat tactics.

Cons need to make that money back somewhere, and it’s coming from three places: fans, exhibitors and sponsors.

Costs are rising for attendees. Badges for 3- and 4-day events are starting to crack the $100 level, and that’s just the start. More and more events are not only adding VIP packages, which start around $195 and can go as high as $800-900, but are also requiring fans to pre-pay for celebrity photo ops and celebrity autographs in advance. SVCC even experimented with charging a $10 surcharge for admission to the Back to the Future Panel in its big room on Saturday afternoon, only to oversell the event and not have room for prepaid customers.

(2) PATHFINDER. Marion Deeds has an excellent report on FOGCon 2016 at Fantasy Literature.

Is 72 Letters Enough? In Search of the Perfect Language

I consider a panel “good” if I come away with new book titles to track down, or lots of ideas. By those two measurements, this panel was the best panel of the convention. Panelists included Ted Chiang, who took his inspiration from the Umberto Eco book In Search of the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe). The other panelists were Cathy Hindersinn and Steven Schwartz, with Michelle Cox moderating. There was another panelist but I don’t remember her name and it doesn’t appear in the program. Hindersinn studied linguistics before making a lateral move and becoming a computer programmer. Schwartz is part of the FOGCon committee and writes speculative fiction and epic poetry. He loves language and he loves to talk about language. Cox has an MA in Church History and theology and is a technical writer.

Chiang is scary-smart, articulate if a bit abstract at times, and serious, but he has a great wit, which was on display during the panel. This panel was held in the large room and, as near as I could tell, there was one empty chair. Several people were standing. The panelists were opinionated, and in some cases their passion outstripped their knowledge; the audience was the same way. It was brilliant.

Chiang used the Eco book as a jumping off point for a discussion and critique of the conceit of a “perfect” language; one that existed in the past, in humanity’s “golden age;” a language that all humans could speak and understand. There are two parts to that idea: universalism; the idea that there is one language every human on the planet can communicate in, (perhaps as a second language); and then a language that has the smallest possible divide between the signifier and the thing signified.

(3) STRANGE PUBLISHING TREND. The New Republic reports “The Mass-Market Edition of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Is Dead”.

We may never know what Lee’s will stipulates, but the estate’s first action in the wake of Lee’s death is both bold and somewhat baffling: The New Republic has obtained an email from Hachette Book Group, sent on Friday, March 4 to booksellers across the country, revealing that Lee’s estate will no longer allow publication of the mass-market paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird…..

That said, mass-market paperbacks have been on a precipitous decline lately, though TKAM’s success, particularly in the education market, makes it a notable exception. But many publishers are moving away from the format. Pressed for further comment, a HarperCollins spokesperson informed me that “Like many American classics, To Kill A Mockingbird’s primary paperback format will be the trade paperback edition.” That’s an important distinction: The general trend in publishing has been against the mass-market and toward more expensive (and durable) editions—many American classics, including The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath no longer have mass-market editions.

(4) THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Murray Leinster’s warning is just waiting for tech to catch up. A Logic Named Joe: The 1946 sci-fi short that nailed modern tech. 70 years later, Murray Leinster’s disaster scenario is the internet you know and love.”

The story goes on to tell how “Joe,” a rogue logic with a slight manufacturing defect, becomes self-aware and resolves to provide his owners and all other “logic” users with whatever information they require. Leinster says of Joe:

Joe ain’t vicious, you understand. He ain’t like one of those ambitious robots you read about that make up their minds the human race is inefficient and has got to be wiped out an’ replaced by thinkin’ machines. Joe’s just got ambition. If you were a machine you’d wanna work right, wouldn’t you? That’s Joe. He wants to work right. And he’s a logic, an’ logics can do a lotta things that ain’t been found out yet.

This, in turn, leads to logics around the city providing tips on everything from poisoning spouses to covering up drinking binges and robbing banks. Only when Joe is taken offline is that information hidden away from humanity and order restored.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 22, 1931 – William Shatner. The whole internet is barely big enough to contain everything there is to know about his show biz career. Google revealed to me that Shatner was on the old What’s My Line? game show in January 1965.

He was there to plug the premiere episode of his (then) new lawyer drama series For The People — which fortunately for all concerned failed in time for him to be cast in Star Trek.

(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAY BOY

trekkie-recipe-william-shatners-cappuccino-muffins_w654

(7) RECORD STRAIGHTENER. Larry Correia has been unfairly charged with abandoning the battlefield, as he explains in “The Guardian’s Village Idiot Declares Another Career Ruined”.

I wasn’t going to write anything about SP, but it has come to my attention that a new narrative has arisen amongst the mushy headed dope punditry of fandom, because they are always scrambling for something to get their collective panties in a bunch over. This time it is that Brad and I are cowards—and are probably misogynistic women haters too—because we abandoned poor female Kate to their mighty wrath.

Well, you’ll have to forgive Brad’s cowardice, because he has been deployed by the US Army to the Middle East for the last year, supporting missions against terrorists, but that’s nothing compared to the courage it takes to have a good fandom slapfight. (And really? Scared of what? There are only so many ways you guys can send out a press release alleging that somebody is a racist).

And you’ll have to forgive me too, because I thought I had made my point in 2014 that the system was biased, and I was done. Only Brad asked me to come back to help in 2015, so I did, and after the CHORFs proved my point for me far better than I ever could—wooden assholes and No Awarding the most deserving editor in the business—I said at the end of that I was done.

Why am I out? Mostly because it was a giant time suck, and I’ve got stuff to do. Unlike most of my detractors, I actually write books for a living. I wrote a novella worth of posts on SP in public, and another one worth of emails on the topic behind the scenes. Then there is the joy of spending an hour on the phone with reporters, so that they can quote one sentence from you, and then quote paragraphs from some dolt who knows jack about the topic but belongs to the right clique.

Honestly, in the time I spent on Sad Puppies, I probably could have gotten another book out the door. Plus in 2016 I’ve got my European research trip, I have a new business venture I’ve not talked about at all, I bought a big chunk of property, and mountain fortress compounds don’t build themselves. All that’s in addition to the three novels that are coming out this year, the short fiction collection I have to put together, and the MHI anthology I have to edit.

So I could either try to prove again the point that I’ve already proven, or I can get paid more. Hmmm…. Tough call.

(8) A PUPPY SURPRISE. Apparently Jeffro Johnson was the last person on Earth to realize this was the game plan from Day 1. “Comments on Sad Puppies IV and Rabid Puppies II” at Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog.

You know, I have to say… making the Puppies lists for Best Related Work was a real shock for me. That’s just not something that ever even occurred to me as being a possibility. Maybe it’s a bit ironic, but it’s actually humbling to have even a modest number of people think that well of me. I honestly don’t know what else to say, but “thank you.” So: thank you! 

(9) HONORED. Cheah Kai Wai (Benjamin Cheah) is also pleased to be included. See “Rabid Puppies Recommended”.

I am greatly honoured to accept such praise, and am deeply humbled by the fact that there are people who believe I am worthy of standing beside such luminaries as Stephen King and Andy Weir. Looking at the rest of the Rapid Puppies recommendations, I am fully confident that the recommendations will live up to the Rapid Puppies’ mission of making the Hugos great again.

Further, I am especially pleased by Vox Day’s inclusion of Space Raptor Butt Invasion. Science fiction is the literature of ideas, allowing radical concepts to be explored in great detail. This story is indubitably a masterwork that skilfully portrays interspecies non-heterosexual relations within a vividly-created science fictional universe, and would surely be a shoo-in for the Hugos among certain quarters.

(10) REMOVAL REQUEST. In revolutionary Boston the tea had to be thrown overboard. This time it jumped.

Emma Newman speaks “Regarding Tea and Jeopardy being included on a certain list”.

All I know is that I would like Tea and Jeopardy to be removed from this latest list. I don’t want something that Pete and I spend a hell of a lot of time and energy creating to be associated with anything like this. Our podcast has made it to the nominations shortlist two years in a row on its own merit and if we are lucky enough to be shortlisted for a third time, I want it to be because people listen to the show and are moved to nominate it. Nothing more.

Sadly, it seems that requests to be removed for the Sad Puppies 4 list are being ignored. Whilst part of me agrees that people can put whatever they like into a list on their own website, the part that values courtesy disagrees with the refusal to respect a creator’s requests to remove something from it. I’m sorry if this hurts the feelings of the people involved, but no matter what the intentions are this year, no matter the reasons why our podcast made it onto that list, I personally do not want my work to be associated with it.

(11) SECOND CUP. Peter Newman affirms the request in “Tea and Jeopardy, Hugo nominations and Sad Puppies”.

To be clear, I have never solicited the attention of this group, nor do I endorse it. I was not asked if Tea & Jeopardy could be included and I am told that requests to be taken off the list will be ignored. That said, I’d like Tea & Jeopardy to be taken off the Sad Puppies 4 list.

(12) SCHMIDT ASKS OUT. Bryan Thomas Schmidt tells Facebook readers he’s unhappy to find himself on the Rabid Puppies slate.

So apparently the abominable Vox Day put me on his Hugo list this year. First I heard if it. I have paid NO attention this year to lists, etc. I would demand removal but he clearly cares not what people think and states flat out he will not entertain removal requests. I “No Awarded” him last year and would again. I do not approve of this and see it as his attempt to do me further harm. Just going to ignore.

He’s also got an asterisk next to his name on the Sad Puppies 4 List now, too.

In fact, Schmidt says he would rather not be considered for the Hugo at all.

Although I am flattered when friends say they nominated me for the Hugo, please do not waste votes on me this year. I do not want to participate in this broken, biased process, at least until perhaps people of all creeds and levels can be fairly considered without politics ruling the day. I would decline a nomination if offered, though I highly suspect there will be no need. Instead, please consider MISSION: TOMORROW for the Locus Awards. Thanks.

(13) LIMITING DAMAGE. David D. Levine also got his short story “Damage” asterisked by asking to be removed from the Sad Puppies 4 List in a comment.

(14) SUPPORT FOR KATE PAULK. Amanda S. Green in “Cranky Writer is, well, cranky” said —

As for those who don’t want to be associated with SP4, I suggest you go back and look at what Kate has done throughout the year. The list is not something she pulled out of thin air. This is a list that is based solely on recommendations made by anyone who wanted to take part. By telling Kate you don’t want to be associated with the list, you are basically telling your readers — your fans and the people who buy your work — that you don’t value their support. You are letting fear of what a few in the industry might think of you override what should be important: keeping your fans happy. Unless, of course, you don’t give a flip what your fans think and you like slapping them in the face for daring to support your work and recommend it for what has been one of the most prestigious prizes in the industry.

(15) BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARDSHELL. Alexandra Erin brings back the field’s most insightful reviewer, John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired) – “Sad Puppies Review Books: Yertle the Turtle”.

The villain of the piece is a turtle named Mack who is so dissatisfied with his place in the world that rather than climbing the ladder and making something of himself, he instead blames society for such petty things as the pain in his back and his lack of food. Not content to merely complain, he uses his extraordinary power and privilege to impose his will upon all other turtles. Lacking the gumption and will to raise himself up, he instead only tears down, and will not be satisfied until all other turtles have been brought down to his level.

(16) DELVING. Alexandra Erin’s “Nineteen Puppy Four” contains her opinion of the Sad Puppy worldview and motivations.

Well, so much for the notion that this year’s litter of Sad Puppies were kinder, gentler, or even more moderate than last year’s. Over the past weekend, when the initial reactions to their new list were still more initial, Sarah Hoyt posted a response that was… well, we’ll say “typically hyperbolic”, but also quite telling.

A lot of it follows the “BUT MOM, I’m NOT Touching Him!” school of legalism that sprouts up whenever reactionaries try to argue with or by what they think is progressive logic, but as she goes on, she eventually compares Puppy critics to such nuanced things as German citizens whipped into a frenzy of anti-Semitism by the Nazi party, only “worse” because those who disagree with the Pups are doing it of our own free will. In the same piece, she refers to those who dissent from her party line as being slaves bound in chains.

(17) NOT THE DOG IN THE NIGHT. Paul Cornell can still hear them.

(18) AND NOW ABOUT SOME BOOKS. Book Smugglers Publishing thinks you will be interested in Superheroes in Space.

Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow has earned a Starred Review by Publishers Weekly, a super great review by Foz Meadows over at Hugo Award winner A Dribble of Ink and has sold TV rights. Broken is Book Smugglers Publishing’s first novel and the opening act in The Extrahuman Union Series….

Introducing readers to Susan Jane Bigelow’s sprawling series in which Extrahumans will fight wars, overthrow governments, fall in and out of love, have life-changing adventures and travel the stars in search of a home—and their promised freedom—Broken is out now and is available as a trade paperback and ebook (EPUB & MOBI) from all major retailers online. The print book contains the novel, two illustrations from Kirbi Fagan, and a sneak peek at Sky Ranger, the second book in the series (published this June). The ebook edition also contains a prequel short story, Crimson Cadet, as well as an essay from the author and a Q&A with the artist.

(19) ET TU PENTAWERE? Scanners do not live in vain when it comes to extracting secrets from the mummies of Pharoahs.

The New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramesses III was assassinated by multiple assailants — and given postmortem cosmetic surgery to improve his mummy’s appearance.

Those are some of the new tidbits on ancient Egyptian royalty detailed in a new book by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass and Cairo University radiologist Sahar Saleem, “Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies” (American University in Cairo Press, 2016).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Darren Garrison, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peace Is My Middle Name.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/16 Just Hook The TBR Pile Directly To The Vein

(1) DUALING READERS. Rob Dircks delivered an unexpected bonus to those attending his reading at Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night – it’s titled “Today I Invented Time Travel”.

I was invited to read from my novel Where the Hell is Tesla? at the Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night, and decided to write a short story for the evening — when an unexpected visitor showed up…

Here’s a clip from the story:

And my phone found me the top five reasons to go back in time:

  1. Stop George Lucas from making the prequels to Star Wars.
  2. Bet on the 1969 Mets.
  3. Talk to that girl you had a secret crush on in elementary school.
  4. Kill Hitler.
  5. Meet Jesus.

 

(2) TEMPORAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. For writers determined to stick with real science there are a lot of details to work out, even when it’s only your imagination traveling to the future. R. A. MacAvoy, co-author of Albatross with Nancy Palmer, tells about those challenges.

This ingenious 25-year leap into the future turned from wiggle-room into a straight-jacket. It helped with the science, but not so much, as each of us kept coming up with new discoveries on the news that needed massive re-write. The Higg’s Boson companion (if it is what it seems to be). Gravitational waves.

And that was just the science!

Sweating, sweating, we began to consider all the other important changes in life which would go along with the advances in the sciences and which would touch the lives of the characters in the story even more than The Theory of Everything. In twenty-five years, we assumed, would people still be driving around in automobiles? Seemed likely – as this was not a Zombie Apocalypse novel. Petrol cars? Self-driving cars? Re-write. Rewrite.

Mobile phones. On the wrist, as part of one’s glasses? People still doggedly carrying things the size of card-decks in their pockets? Hey – at least a person in a self-driving car won’t be guilty of much as they babble or text into whatever form of phone they have as their cars zoom them to their destination. Or get lost in a daily traffic jam caused by the inevitable software problems.

And in a moment of O.C.D. we decided to eliminate all references to the daily habit of tea-time in the British Isles. It suddenly seemed too difficult to decide whether or not the increasingly technical lives we lead would have time for such an old custom. Eliminating all references to tea time was perhaps the silliest rewrite. But it explains, better than anything else, the straight-jacket effect of writing in the near-future.

This is only one aspect of the difficulty we found in writing twenty-five years into the future.

(3) TROPE CONSERVATION. Peter McLean on “Why We Shouldn’t Hunt The Trope To Extinction” at Black Gate.

The poor old trope had had a lot of bad press in recent years. A lot of people seem to want to deconstruct the little critter, or subvert it or discredit it. Basically people seem to want to hunt the trope to extinction, and I think that’s unfortunate.

Now I agree some members of the trope herd have got a bit long in the tooth and are probably due for culling. No one really needs to read another fantasy novel where a simple farmboy turns out to be the Chosen One / Long Lost Heir who is foretold by prophecy and destined to save the world, do they? No, so the “Farmboy” trope is probably due to meet the huntsman, and I think the “Damsel in Distress” has probably had her day too.

You very rarely if ever see these tropes in modern fantasy now, and that’s because everyone got sick of them. An overused trope can eventually outstay its welcome and evolve into a cliché, a completely different critter, and that’s when the huntsmen need to come after it. And that’s fine. The world moves on, as Stephen King would say.

But I don’t think we should tar the whole herd of tropes with the same brush just because some of them get old and go bad. Healthy tropes can be useful little critters. Tropes are what help to stop every novel being 1000 pages long.

(4) A SCALZI FIRST. “On The Wall,” John Scalzi’s first zombie story, co-written with Dave Klecha, appears in Black Tide Rising, the zombie apocalypse anthology edited by John Ringo and Gary Poole. The book is due in stores June 7, however, Baen Books has the eARC on sale right now For $15.

(5) ATTEND ZOMBIE TECH. Amazon is hosting a Zombie Apocalypse Workshop, where you can learn to apply Amazon Web Services technology to recover from the end of civilization. Bring your own laptop and shotgun.

Apocalypse Workshop: Building Serverless Microservices – Washington D.C.

Note: The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has recruited sufficient volunteers for our mission, and all registrants from now until March 10th will be placed on a recruit waitlist. Waitlisted recruits will be admitted if space permits on a first-come, first-serve basis so please arrive early.

Scenario: Zombies have taken over major metropolitan areas. The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has built a communications system to connect the remaining survivors.

Learn how AWS Lambda provides a platform for building event-driven microservices, all without the need to provision, manage, and scale servers. In this workshop, we will introduce the basics of building serverless microservices using AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon S3.

(6) CAN ALTERNATE HISTORY BECOME DATED? Fantasy Literature reviewer Marion Deeds, in 1632: The tale is dated but I love its exuberance”,  makes it hard to figure out why there are (by her count) 23 books in this popular series. (And she may not know about the 1632 conventions…)

Flint lets us know in the prologue of 1632 that there’s going to be no discussion of quantum physics, magical portals, of clicking our heels together and going home. The story is an exciting live-action role-playing game with a small force of Americans who completely outgun the competition. The competition are evil mercenaries, so we don’t have to feel sorry for them as they are chopped down like a summer lawn under the blades of a riding mower.

There are also a few other things that are not going to be problems for twentieth-century people dumped into the seventeenth century. Here’s a short list: no one’s going to struggle with a sense of psychic displacement or post-traumatic stress; no one’s going to pine for family or loved ones left behind; no one’s going to question the basic premise that they are stuck in the 1630s. No one is going to turn, irrationally, on another group; no one is going to scapegoat anyone; no one’s going to have a spiritual crisis.

A few more things no one in the new America is going to have to worry about: sufficient food, clean water, sanitation, electrical power, medicine, radios or even TV, except they do have to create their own programming. That’s because all that stuff came with them. They have their own coal vein, and Grantsville landed next to a river in Europe, so they have water and fuel for steam power. The area had its own power plant and three machine shops, several doctors and a jewelry store, so that as the various couples hook up, they can all get wedding-ring sets. It’s nice. Knowing they can’t maintain their current level of technology for too long, the Americans decide to “gear down,” and convert to steam power, settling at late-eighteenth/early nineteenth century tech. This is smart. All of this clears away survival-level problems so that Flint can get on with what’s important; those battles.

(7) RICHARD DAVALOS OBIT. Best known for roles in East of Eden and Cool Hand Luke, actor Richard Davalos died March 8 at the age of 85. He also was in genre films The Cabinet of Caligari (1962) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). And he was the grandfather of actress Alexa Davalos, who stars in Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle.

(8) MICHAEL WHITE OBIT. Rocky Horror and Monty Python producer Michael White died March 9.

His theatre production credits included the West End premieres of The Rocky Horror Show, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and A Chorus Line.

Born in Glasgow, White began his theatrical career in London’s West End producing plays such as Annie and The Rocky Horror Show.

He later went on to produce films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1978, and those which have achieved cult status such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is still regularly screened in cinemas.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1876 — Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first telephone message to his assistant in the next room: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” (It is not true that the second telephone message was, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can…?”)
  • March 10, 1997 — The CW premiered Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is an oral tradition that Buffy inspired the creation of the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short) Hugo category, and it did receive a couple of nominations before it went off the air.

(10) RABID PUPPIES. After a brief hiatus, Vox Day resumed announcing his slate with “Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novelette”.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novelette category.

  • “Flashpoint: Titan”, Kai Wai Cheah
  • “Folding Beijing”, Hao Jingfang
  • “What Price Humanity?”, David VanDyke
  • “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”, Chuck Tingle
  • “Obits”, Stephen King

We have been repeatedly informed that homophobia and the lack of diversity is a serious problem in science fiction, and speaking as the leader of Rabid Puppies, I could not agree more. The decades of discrimination against gay dinosaur love in space by the science fiction community stops now, and it stops here!

Let’s face it, there are just three words to describe the only event that might happen in 2016 that I can imagine would be more spectacularly awesome than “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” winning a Hugo Award this year, and those three words are “President-elect Donald Trump”.

(11) HUGO LOVE. Joe Sherry at Nerds of a Feather: “My Favorite Stories Don’t Get Nominated: A Hugo Love Story”.

I love the Hugo Awards because in becoming part of the WSFS I get to add one small voice to the multitude and help pick the nominees for the five best novels / stories / whatevers. In 2014, artist Joey Hi-Fi was one nominating vote from making the final ballot for Best Professional Artist and becoming an official Hugo Award Nominee….

Collectively, a bunch of people who love science fiction and fantasy come together and say that these, these novels and stories and artists and fans – this is the best of what I read and watched last year. These are some of the best of what the genre has produced.

Then, when the nominations come out and also after the awards are given, we can all sit back and think…what the hell is everyone else thinking? Why are they so wrong? That book is terrible and this book that I loved is so much better.

Of course my opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Of course this is true. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of people who are just like me except that their taste in great fiction isn’t quite the same disagreed. Or, maybe what I loved was their sixth favorite story and they can only nominate five. Or maybe they just never read it because holy crap there is a lot of stuff published every year. I read a LOT and I don’t even scratch the surface of what’s out there. What the Hugo Awards allows me to do is be part of a group where everyone looks at what they read and tries to figure out what the best of that is – and then collectively, the numbers come together and a ballot is produced.

I love the Hugo Awards even when everyone else obviously gets it wrong because at its heart, the Hugo Award nominees are selected by a group of fans who are passionate about science fiction and fantasy. It’s a group of fans who, ideally with no agenda beyond love of genre, point to something they love and say “this, this is awesome.”

(12) LOOSELY WRAPPED. Kate Paulk has a small update on what Puppies can expect at MidAmeriCon II at Mad Genius Club.

Planning for the Puppy Presence at Worldcon continues under wraps until we have things sufficiently stable to make an announcement. The goal there is to be at the convention, have fun (lots of fun), and meet friends face to face. If I can arrange it there will be a PuppyGate in honor of the Jeopardy question and visitors will have to cross the PuppyGate to enter the fun zone.

(13) TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THAT OTHER THING. Attorney-at-Work blogger Jared Correia finds an excuse to write about a favorite show – “The Truth Is in Here: Lawyer Lessons Buried in ‘The X-Files’”:

The point is that Duchovny did not again discover wide popularity until he made it back to TV, for his turn as debauched author Hank Moody, on Showtime’s “Californication.” Now “Californication” has wrapped, and he’s back on “The X-Files.” Accepting that Mulder was the best role that he’s had, and coming back around to it, feeling at home in it, is the best end for his story.

Sometimes, you can take the circuitous route back to where you belong — but, there’s something to be said for recognizing that you should never have left in the first place.

I don’t think Jared Correia is any relation to Larry, although the click-through ad over Jared’s column “The way attorneys get paid” is very Larry-esque.

(14) GREEN PLANET. CBBC answers the question “Could vegetables grow on Mars?”

The team wanted to find out what could we grown if humans try to live on Mars in the future.

Although they didn’t have real Martian soil, they used dirt supplied by Nasa, which was taken from a Hawaiian volcano that’s thought to be very similar….

But there’s still a long way to go – no one ate the experimental vegetables, because substances in the soil including arsenic and mercury might have made them poisonous.

Now the team are trying to find a way to grow vegetables that are safe to eat.

Wait a minute. So there would have been arsenic in Watney’s potatoes…?

(15) MAD SNACKS. An aeropress is a thing for making coffee. The 2016 Australian AeroPress Championship will be held March 17 —

Australian Aeropress poster COMP

On the night, Australia’s best brewers will be stirring, steeping and pressing coffee generously supplied by Condesa and roasted by the punks at PMC.

Inspired by the Thunderdome of Mad Max, there’ll be beers, industrial disco balls, heaps of food (unlike the Thunderdome), a DJ in full Mad Max dress (not conformed) and, no doubt, some crazy revellers (confirmed), but weirdly the original Mad Max, Mel Gibson, declined the offer to MC.

(16) PUPPY IN ORBIT. Galactic Journey’s time traveler has the latest (really late) space program news in “[Mar. 10, 1961] Dog and Puppy Show (Sputnik 9)”.

We are definitely not far away from a person in space.  The Soviets launched another of their five-ton spaceships into orbit.  We’re calling it Sputnik 9; who knows what they call it?  On board was just one dog this time, name of Chernushka, who was recovered successfully after an unknown number of orbits.  It is pretty clear that the vessel that carried Chernushka is the equivalent of our Mercury capsule, and once the Russians have gotten the bugs out of the ship, you can bet there will be a human at the controls.

This is not to say that the American program is standing still—one of our astronauts may go up on a suborbital jaunt as early as next month.  But the Atlas booster, the big one that can put a man in orbit, won’t be ready until the end of the year, at the earliest.

(17) A WRITER WHO WELDS. No, it’s not the Emergency Backup Hugo – it’s Nancy Jane Moore’s “Post-Apocalyptic Spaceship”, at Book View Café .

(18) THE ROCKET’S BLUE GLARE. The New York Times has a story on Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’ private space program — “Jeff Bezos Lifts Veil on His Rocket Company, Blue Origin”.

Blue Origin is part of a shift of the space business from NASA and aerospace behemoths like Lockheed Martin toward private industry, especially smaller entrepreneurial companies. Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, founded by another Internet entrepreneur, Elon Musk, has been the most visible and most successful of the new generation of rocket companies. Last Friday, it launched another satellite to orbit, but an attempt to land the booster on a floating platform again ended in an explosion.

Much more quietly, Blue Origin has also had big space dreams, but until now did not give outsiders a look at what it was doing.

For almost four hours, Mr. Bezos, who only occasionally talks to the press, led 11 reporters on a tour of the factory and answered a litany of questions over lunch. He talked garrulously, his speech punctured by loud laughs. “It’s my total pleasure. I hope you can sense that I like this,” he said.

He described an image on a wall in the company’s central area, which showed two tortoises holding an hourglass and gazing upward at a stylized image of the planets and cosmos. Below is Blue Origin’s motto: “Gradatim ferociter,” Latin for “step by step, ferociously” — no cutting of corners, but no dillydallying, either. “You can do the steps quickly, but you can’t skip any steps,” Mr. Bezos said.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Seth Gordon, Will R., and Tom Galloway for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]