Pixel Scroll 5/17/17 Round Up The Usual Pixels

(1) THE REAL AMERICAN GODS. Mark-kitteh says, “This may be the perfect combo of SF and cats for us–”

(2) ANIMAL FILIBUSTER. The Washington Post’s John Kelly interviewed Ralph Nader, who has written a fantasy novel, Animal Envy, in which animals are given the power to speak via a software program and “are given a 100-hour special broadcast” to discuss all their issues — “In his odd new book, Ralph Nader talks to the animals –and they talk back”.

Ralph Nader –tireless windmill-tilter –is standing at the National Zoo recalling a conversation he once had with an editor at The Washington Post about what he felt was the paper’s less-than-adequate coverage of his presidential campaign.

“I remember saying, ‘There are times I say to myself, I wish I was a panda, given the coverage The Post gives to pandas,’” Nader said.

Well, Nader still isn’t a panda, but he is a kangaroo, a dolphin, an elephant, a crocodile, a squirrel, an owl, an Arctic tern, a German cockroach, a European corn borer, a radioactive Chernobyl beaver, and dozens of other mammals, reptiles, birds and insects.

They’re all characters he assumes in his new book, “Animal Envy: A Fable.”

He is also a cheetah: Safe at any speed…

(3) LUNCH OR HISTORICAL REENACTMENT? “Cynthia Felice and I break into the Watergate Hotel!” That’s what Scott Edelman says in his dramatic invitation to listen to Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

Grab lunch at the Watergate with my unindicted co-conspirator Cynthia Felice in Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

I visited the Watergate Hotel recently, and in case those of you familiar with the history of that infamous location might be thinking I went there to bring down a president with a Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein-style investigation, let me quickly add … no. Rather, I went there to investigate the food at the recently opened Kingbird restaurant, with a guest who surprised me with her sudden visit to Washington, D.C., and whom I somehow managed to convince that a meal with me would be oh, so much more fun than visiting the National Air and Space Museum.

Joining me within the walls of the Watergate Hotel was Cynthia Felice, who published her first short story, “Longshanks,” in 1976 in the pages of Galileo, a science fiction magazine published by the late, great Charlie Ryan, and her first novel, Godsfire, two years later. She is also the co-founder with Ed Bryant — about whom, alas, I must also say late and great — of the Colorado Springs Writer’s Workshop.

We discussed how Frank Herbert’s Dune made her say, “Hey, I can do that,” the virtues of owning a motel while being a writer, the marriage advice Kate Wilhelm gave her at Clarion, what Thomas M. Disch told her that fixed one of her short stories, why we all loved the late, great Ed Bryant, the extraordinary lengths David Hartwell went to as he edited her second novel, how her collaborations with Connie Willis began, and more.

(4) THOSE SIDEKICKS, THEY DO GET WEARY. ComicMix’s John Ostrander, in “Sidekicking Around”, delves into one of comics’ well-known formulas.

Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).

The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one — Jason Todd — who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.

(5) STEAMPUNK BIBLIOPHILE RETURNS. This week 2012 Hugo Finalist Selena Chambers released Calls For Submission, her new short fiction collection.

Selena Chambers’ debut collection guides readers out of space and time and through genre and mythos to explore the microcosmic horrors of identity, existence, and will in the face of the world’s adamant calls for submission. Victorian tourists take a virtual trip through their (and the Ottoman empire’s) ideal Orient; a teenage girl learns about independence and battle of the bands, all while caring for her mesmerized, dead mother; a failed Beat poet goes over the edge while exploring the long-abandoned Government Lethal Chambers.

Chambers was a Related Work co-Hugo Finalist in 2012 with Jeff VanderMeer for their collaboration on The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature.

(6) MORE YA AWARD WSFS WANK. Kevin Standlee says, “You’d Think I’d Remember These Things”. You need to read all four steps to follow his argument, but here’s a foretaste of what you’ll be getting into if your click the link….

  1. Item 1 means that that as it currently stands, the Worldcon 75 WSFS Business Meeting does not have the authority to name a YA Award. However, the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting could apply a name to the Award in a single vote because of that provision. (Of course, this is all moot if the base proposal fails to be ratified.)

  2. Should the 2017 Business Meeting decide to ratify that YA proposal without the provision, the 2017 Meeting could then move as a new amendment to insert a name into the Award, with the name being something that could be passed in 2017 and ratified in 2018, like any other WSFS Constitutional amendment. That means the YA Award would have no official name in 2018, but (assuming 2017 passes a naming amendment that is ratified in 2018), it could get an official name for 2019 and beyond.

(7) BREW FOR TWO. Sounds like anybody who makes it through the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting will probably need to stop over in Iceland on the way home to chill out — “Beer baths to open in North Iceland in June”.

Kaldi brewery in Ãrskogssandur, just north of Akureyri in North Iceland, will be opening beer baths and spa in the coming month.

“The construction of the baths is progressing and everything is according to plan,” says Agnes Anna Siguroardottir, CEO of Kaldi brewery.

There will be seven beer baths in total, all suitable for two people. All guests that have reached 20 years in age can relax in their beer baths with a beer in hand, as there will be a pump by each bath. 20 is legal drinking age in Iceland.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Film director Stanley Kubrick was a big admirer of Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk. (Source: IMDB)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 17, 1902 –The Antikythera mechanism is recovered. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the occasion.

(10) THE BIRD BLABS. The Vulture knows what might have been: “The Secret History of William Gibson’s Never-Filmed Aliens Sequel”

But there’s an alternate universe where the series’ propulsive momentum only increased –a reality in which the third Alien film featured advanced xenomorphs exploding in batches of half a dozen from people’s legs, stomachs, and mouths; where cold-warring rival space stations of communists and capitalists race to outdo one another with their genetic experiments on the aliens’ tissue; where a flock of the phallic horrors flies through the void of space, only to be beaten back by a gun-toting robot. Oh, and there’s a thing called the New Beast that emerges from and sheds a shrieking human’s body as it “rips her face apart in a single movement, the glistening claws coming away with skin, eyes, muscle, teeth, and splinters of bone.”

This is the alternate universe where legendary science-fiction writer William Gibson’s Alien III (that’s “III,” not “3”) screenplay was realized. It is, perhaps, a better world than ours….

You can find the screenplay in an antiquated .txt file online, and there have been occasional discussions of it on message boards and niche blogs, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t been appropriately acknowledged as the remarkable genre-fiction artifact that it is. Indeed, with studio backing and the right production team, one can imagine the finished film being on par with Alien and Aliens, and it certainly would have altered the course of the franchise’s history. With the arrival of Alien Covenant –a movie that, whatever its merits, largely retreads ideas from the series’ previous installments –it’s time to tell the story of how Gibson’s Alien III came to be, why it never crossed the finish line, and what made it special.

(11) KIDPROOFING. John King Tarpinian recommends, “Take the kids to see Alien this weekend, then put this cookie jar out. They will never “steal” a cookie again.” ThinkGeek’s Alien Ovomorph Egg Cookie Jar:

(12) CONDIGN REVENGE. Isn’t Aidan channeling me here?

(13) PUN TIME. Yes, I think this is funny, too.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY GOES INTO OVERTIME. Now they need to deal with the actual Clarke Award shortlist.

With both the Sharke Six and the official Clarke shortlist now out of the bag, I thought I’d like to reflect a little on some of the books I encountered that did not make the running, either through being ineligible (i.e US-published) or through not being submitted. I’ve found myself wanting to talk about them because even now at the end of Phase One of my Sharke reading and with a sizeable number of eligible submissions under my belt, these omissions still feel notable, with discussion around the Clarke Award seeming the poorer for their absence.

The Booker Prize has already had its debate about allowing American novels into the mix, with predictably divided responses. Whether or not the Clarke should open itself up to US submissions is a discussion that lies beyond the remit of this essay, though it does seem a shame that there have been and will continue to be books that stand central to any discussion of the year’s SF and yet under current Clarke rules must remain excluded from one of its most prestigious awards.

I still haven’t reviewed two of the books on my original shortlist. As it happens, we now know that neither of the books made it onto the Sharke Six, and neither made it onto the official Clarke Award shortlist, though I suspect for rather different reasons. So I thought I would take this opportunity to consider why they might not have been chosen.

I’ll start with Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

Superficially, this seems to be exactly the sort of novel that has often found its way onto the Clarke shortlist. It is an elegantly, at times beautifully written novel, as here when an astronaut moves from the spinning outer ring of a spaceship to the gravity-free core:

Of all the books that I personally shortlisted for this project The Power is the one that I find most challenging to judge and to write about. I chose it precisely because of this difficulty; I had read it before and felt decidedly mixed about it. I have loved some of Alderman’s earlier work — her debut Disobedience (2006) was one of the first books that I reviewed online — and have read her assiduously, with great pleasure. Yet this fourth novel, her breakthrough book, left me unsure and unsettled. While friends and critics turned out in numbers to praise its ingenuity and confidence, its bold engagement with the dynamics of power and gender, I hung back and sat on my immediate reaction. Which was: Yes, all those things, but… I couldn’t decisively put my finger on what the ‘but’ was; it was just there, throwing up a barrier between the book and me. At the same time, I couldn’t dismiss it; I was niggled. It stayed with me. So much so, that when it came time for creating my Clarke shortlist I knew The Power had to be on it. Whatever my personal reservations, it was clearly one of the more thought-provoking and eloquent of the submitted books. I felt I owed it a re-read, to test my first response.

Other commentators have already discussed the alternate history setting of Azanian Bridges (Paul Kincaid on this site and Gautam Bhatia at Strange Horizons, while Mark Bould also provides a useful list of other African alternate histories on his own website), and I don’t see any real point in recapitulating what they’ve already said so well.

Instead, I want to focus on the relationship between Martin van Deventer, the white psychologist, and Sibusiso Mchuna, the young black man whom he is attempting to treat. Sibusiso, a trainee teacher, has withdrawn into himself after witnessing the murder of his friend, Mandla, at an anti-government rally. At a loss to know what else to do for him, his father has agreed to his being admitted to the local mental asylum for treatment. We can only speculate as to why his father did this rather than taking Sibusiso home but for now consider it as only one among many markers of the fact that Sibusiso is metaphorically as well as literally a long way from home, living in a white world, among people who have no idea about him.

(15) WE INTERRUPT YOUR READING FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT. Now that Chuck Tingle’s professional porn has been linked from the Hugo Voter Packet, Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte feels the need to clarify his cameo appearance in the work — thus his LiveJournal post “Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, by Chuck Tingle”:

Second paragraph of third section:

“Hello, I’m Chuck,” I say, formally introducing myself.

I am quoted (well, paraphrased) in the crucial second section, in which author Chuck Tingle, miserable after the defeat of Space Raptor Butt Invasion in the 2016 Hugo Awards, receives notification from the 2017 Hugo Awards adminstrator that he has been nominated this year. Let’s just say for the record that the demands subsequently and consequently made of him as part of the Hugo process are not those actually required of Hugo finalists in real life.

(16) THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE. “This 10-year-old donated thousands of comic books to veterans”The Week has the story.

Carl Scheckel knows that not all heroes wear capes. In a show of support for American soldiers, the 10-year-old comic-book aficionado from New Jersey decided to collect and donate thousands of comic books to veterans in hospitals and servicemen deployed overseas. The mastermind of carlscomix.com, Scheckel gathered roughly 3,500 books for the nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, When he arrived to donate them in person, officers treated him to a surprise VIP tour of the base, where he got to try on military gear and explore the inside of a place. ‘It was the best day of my life!’ wrote Carl on his website.

(17) AN OPPORTUNITY ON MARS. It’s been there for over 13 years! “Mars rover reaches site that scientists still can’t explain”.

Opportunity, which is much, much smaller than its car-sized Curiosity cousin, was sent to Perseverance Valley in hopes of shedding some light on its origins. Scientists studying Mars know that the valley was carved by some dramatic force, but with a handful of possibilities including water, wind, and even muddy rocks, there’s still no clear answer. With the rover in place, researchers plan to use its observations to generate a detailed map which will be used to plan the vehicle’s driving route along the rim and eventually into the valley itself.

(18) ON THE WAY TO THE FINAL FRONTIER. I found out about LUNAR from BoingBoing:

Motion designer Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl created this gorgeous short film, titled LUNAR, from thousands of NASA photographs taken by astronauts.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/17 There’s A Pixel Scrolled Every Minute

star-trek-discovery

(1) STILL AT THE DOCK. Unless you subscribed to CBS All Access especially to see this show, it won’t be a crisis for you: “Star Trek Discovery delayed, no longer has a release date”.

Those looking forward to Star Trek Discovery’s promised streaming debut in May will have to wait even longer. According to the The Hollywood Reporter, the premiere has been pushed back right as production is due to start and CBS finishes casting and script rewrites.

“This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it’s best for the show,” a CBS rep said in a statement. “We’ve said from the beginning it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn’t beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows.”

“This is an ambitious series.”

The 13-episode Discovery was originally slated to premiere this month on CBS, but was pushed back to allow the producers to better “achieve a vision” fans of the franchise would appreciate. Since then, however, the series has been dogged by a slow casting process, as well as the departure of former showrunner Bryan Fuller.

(2) WHO IS #2? A few weeks ago Theodora Goss told her Facebook readers that she was one of two Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship recipients. I have now been able to learn the name of the second recipient from a contact at the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University Oregon.

Roxanne Samer is a postdoctoral scholar and teaching fellow in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She holds a PhD in critical studies from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. Samer coedited with William Whittington the book Gender, Sexuality, and Media: Audiences and Spectatorship, which is under contract with the University of Texas Press. She is also the editor of “Transgender Media,” a special issue of Spectator: The University of Southern California Journal of Film and Television Criticism 37.2 (Fall 2017). She will visit UO Libraries’ SCUA to do research toward fleshing out her dissertation, Receiving Feminisms: Media Cultures and Lesbian Potentiality in the 1970s, for publication as a book.

(3) POST-KINDERGARTEN GRADUATE STUDIES. Jason Sanford explains, “All I really need to know I learned from science fiction and fantasy stories”.

For example, from Arthur C. Clarke I learned that the ultimate destination of all humans is extinction. Even if some parts of humanity transcend reality, as in Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, humanity as a species is destined to eventually disappear from this universe.

From Isaac Asimov I learned that even if our ultimate fate is to disappear, humanity can have an amazing ride while we exist.

From Ursula K. Le Guin I learned that culture shock can be both a way to awaken you to new intellectual horizons and to kill you….

(4) BLURB SEASON. Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff continues filking her way through the components of published fiction with “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 6: There’s a Blurb on the Cover” at Book View Café.

Verse 6:
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.
There’s one story on the cover; inside the book’s another.
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.

Blurbage (as I like to call it) is the collection of stuff one finds on the covers of one’s novel. If you publish with a mainstream house as the Café staff does, you are not always—dare I say almost never—in control of what goes on the cover. Blurbage (as I an using the term) is composed of several parts: …

(5) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. Oliver Langmead tells his readers at Fantasy-Faction “Why I Don’t Like Dragons”.

As of recent years, I’ve found myself going through dragon fatigue. Much in the same way as zombies and vampires, it feels a little bit like we hit peak dragon a while ago (pun intended). This isn’t to say that dragons can’t be great. Sure they can. Just like zombies and vampires can be brilliant from time to time, when somebody finds a really refreshing angle on them, or when we’re talking about classic texts. Just that… in fantasy, the literature of the impossible, sometimes it can feel like writers are playing it a bit too safe.

(6) THE SOUND OF MUSING. Larry Correia has a great post about making choices that help stories succeed in more than one medium: “Ask Correia #17: Writing for the Ear, Tweaking Your Writing To Work Better in Audiobook Form” at Monster Hunter Nation.

Read your stuff out loud.

I don’t do this as much when I’m writing the first draft, but when I am editing, I will usually read everything aloud. Dialog that is unnatural, stilted, or weird is going to be obvious when you hear it, even if it looks okay when you see it.

If your family thinks you’ve gone insane, close the door or turn your radio up and get talking. Even if your writing isn’t going to get turned into an audiobook, this is still a valuable exercise to weed out stupid dialog or awkward descriptions. You don’t need to do voices, or be loud, just muttering it to yourself will usually reveal the awkward bits.

Keep in mind however, that in either format you do not want to write exactly like people talk. That’s because in real life most speakers use a lot of uhm… err… uh… pauses and brain farts.

If you write all those noises down that people make when they’re thinking of what to say, it becomes annoying for the reader. I try to use that stuff sparingly in fictional dialog, and when I do, I try to use it only when it is going to tell the reader something about that character. So if you’ve got somebody where it is important to convey their awkwardness, nervousness, or hesitancy, do it, but try not to overdo it. A realistic amount of ums and urrs will annoy readers and waste your listener’s time. Same with affections like ending every sentence with know what I’m saying? A little bit goes a long way. A good narrator is going to convey those character traits, and in written form you can convey that stuff through the story you tell around them.

Oh, and that one liner that sounded really super cool in your head? Reading it out loud will help you realize if it actually sucks.

(7) GAUTIER OBIT. His most notable role was a rock star, but he’s also known as a robot: “Dick Gautier, Who Played a Rock Star in ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ Is Dead” reports the New York Times.

Dick Gautier, a comic actor best known for his Tony-nominated performance as a vain rock ’n’ roll star in the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie” and his recurring role as a robot with a heart on the television show “Get Smart,” died on Friday in Arcadia, Calif. He was 85.

A spokesman, Harlan Boll, said the cause was pneumonia.

Mr. Gautier had the square-jawed good looks of a leading man. But he also had a wild sense of humor — he began his career as a stand-up comedian — and for more than 50 years he was primarily a scene-stealing supporting player on sitcoms.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 18, 1644 — John Winthrop documented the first known unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings in North America.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 18, 1882 — A. A. Milne

(10) WINNIE-THE-POOH DAY. And by a stunning coincidence, this is also Winnie-the-Pooh Day.

One of the cuddliest holidays around has to be Winnie the Pooh Day, celebrated on the birthday of author A A Milne. It’s one special anniversary fans just can’t bear to miss! Every year, the occasion is marked with events such as teddy bears’ picnics, featuring plenty of honey on the menu.

The only remaining question is whether someone will be along in a few minutes to tell us that the author is foisting off unwonted xtianity on the public, like the last time I posted something from the calendar.

(11) HERE’S MUD IN YOUR EYE. Observer says “NASA’S Rover Discovered Some Mud Cracks That Could Be Really, Really Important”.  But can they be that important? Did anyone threaten to move to another country when this made the news?

In recent weeks, scientists used NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges. All signs lead them to believe they’re mud cracks, which makes them the first to be confirmed on the Red Planet by the Curiosity mission.

“Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don’t look like fractures we’ve seen previously with Curiosity,” said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein in NASA’s announcement. “It looks like what you’d see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked.”

If this interpretation holds up, it would be evidence that the ancient era (three billion years ago) when these sediments were deposited included wet conditions, followed by drying. High resolution images have pointed to the existence of deltas, gullies and river valleys on Mars, which is why scientists view it as one of the places in our solar system most likely to be/have been home to alien life. (There are three others, according to NASA director of planetary science James Green).

(12) FAKE NEWS. This virtual award may not exist, but it was hotly contested: “The Shippy Awards 2016 Winners”

SHIPPY! Why yes, that is a drawing of a trophy that does not exist. IT IS THE MOST COVETED MADE UP TROPHY IN THE UNIVERSE.

AND NOW, LET US ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS OF THIS GLORIOUS DRAWING OF A TROPHY THAT DOES NOT EXIST!

Ultimate Ship Honors Best Ship of the Year

Feyre and Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas with 40.4% of the vote

Runners up: Kaz and Inej from Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, with 22.2% of the vote

This was by far the most highly voted category, but as you can see, one ship rather ran away with the competition.

Shippiest Book

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas with 37.7% of the vote

Runner up: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo with 37.2% of the vote

(Are you sensing a pattern/theme-ish thing? Get used to this pattern/theme-ish thing.)

And there are many more ship-themed categories.

(13) NOT A COINCIDENCE. Rich Horton shares his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, Short Fiction: Novellas” at Strange at Ecbatan.

One more note to begin with – though I participate with a lot of enjoyment in Hugo nomination and voting every year, I am philosophically convinced that there is no such thing as the “best” story – “best” piece of art, period….

The other obvious point to make is that the great bulk of these stories are those that I included in my yearly anthology. There are a few that didn’t make it, for reasons of length, contractual situation, balance, or even that I might have missed a story by the deadline for the book.

(14) PAGEVIEWS. Sarah A. Hoyt gives nine pieces of good advice about “How to Build a Web Presence” at Mad Genius Club.

6- Post EVERY DAY.  If, like me this last week, you have to go AWL, have guest posts.  You’ll still lose readers and some of them won’t come back, but it’s better than dead air.  (Trust me.)  I don’t know why post every day works, except through “be habit forming.”

7- Police your community.  I actually have had to ban very few people, but remember the “drunken uncle at the wedding.”  If a poster is just there to attack and is making other people uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to ban him.  He might not be doing anything wrong, but his right to express himself doesn’t trump your right to have your normal commenters enjoy themselves. Also, if the community gets in an unpleasant rut, nudge them.  My commenters once, while I was asleep, misunderstood something someone posted and attacked.  He got defensive and they ran him off the blog.  You don’t want that, particularly if it’s someone interesting.

People who say they’re not responsible for the tone of their comment sections are disingenuous or clueless.  You can police just enough, intervening to break up things just enough that you keep it from becoming a snake pit without neutering it.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 1/17/17 ‘Twas Pixel That Killed The Scroll

(1) ASK ME ANYTHING. SFWA President Cat Rambo visited with her fans at Reddit today — “Yup, It’s My Real Name: AMA with Cat Rambo”.

I think that, more than ever, it’s important for writers to be working together and sharing notes. I see a lot of scams out there, and also some increasingly shady activity on the part of some of the traditional publishers.

Perhaps at one time, a writer could live an existence where they produced a manuscript, handed it off, and got enough money to go write another. Increasingly, though, that’s not the case and writers have to spend at least a little time thinking about marketing themselves – even if they’re publishing traditionally. Publishing continues to change rapidly, and writers need to stay on top of that, because they’re the ones with the most at stake.

(2) BUSINESS WISDOM. Kristine Kathryn Rusch continues her advice to writers in the aftermath of the latest publishing fiasco — “Business Musings: All Romance Ebooks & Visions of the Future Part Two”.

But I’m not here to discuss the merits or lack thereof of Booktrope or ARe. I did that in other posts. What I need to discuss here is the future.

You see, these closures were right on time. And several other closures will follow in the next few years.

Some of the upcoming closures will be predictable. And others will catch us all by surprise.

Why am I saying this?

Because three different factors are coming into play in the next few years. These three factors intertwine, at least in the indie publishing industry, which will amplify the result.

You’ll need to bear with me. This will take some explaining.

One note on terminology. When I say indie publishing, I mean the non-traditional side of the publishing industry. Indie publishing encompasses the self-publishing revolution which started thanks to Amazon and the Kindle in 2008. (Amazon released the Kindle in November of 2007, just in time for holiday giving.) Some writers still self-publish, but many use services or have created their own publishing companies to publish outside of the mainstream infrastructure. Hence, indie as in independent. (What confuses all of this was that, back in the day, many small but traditional presses called themselves independent presses. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about publishing that could not have happened in 1985.)

So, what are these three intertwining factors that will impact us in the next few years?

They are:

  1. A gold rush
  2. An investment bubble
  3. A business cycle

(3) GHOST TOWN. Comic Excitement, whose antiharassment policy made news ahead of last weekend’s debut convention (“They Think It’s a Joke”), reportedly bombed. Trae Dorn covered it in Nerd and Tie — “Comic Excitement Convention’s Flop and the Hubris of Man”.

You’d probably be forgiven for not knowing that “Comic Excitement Convention” (yes, that’s the actual name) took place this last weekend in Los Angeles, CA. Despite their touted $10,000 cosplay contest prize, it doesn’t seem like a lot of effort was put into marketing the con.

Which is probably why hardly anyone showed up.

The first year convention occupied Kentia Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and although early promotional materials talked about expecting a massive turnout, at con observations estimate attendance to be under a thousand. The whole thing… well it seems to have been a mess….

(4) NO SH!T SHERLOCK. Naked Security says those rascally Russian hackers are suspected of another break-in — “BBC launches probe into leak of Russian-dubbed Sherlock finale”.

Damn you, Russia, we wish we knew how to quit you!

If you’re not hacking our politicians  and our politicial machinery, you’re leaking a Russian-language version of the recent season finale of the BBC’s hotly anticipated Sherlock a whole day earlier than it was supposed to air.

Maybe. Allegedly. At any rate, Russian state TV is definitely investigating the leak “in close contact with the BBC”, according to Russia Today (RT), Russia’s English-language broadcaster.

Russian Channel One is blaming hackers for the show’s last episode, dubbed in Russian, having been illegally uploaded for all to see and all Russians to decipher on Saturday.

(5) SIMPLY HORRIBLE. Cheatsheet argues these are “10 of the Worst Sci-Fi TV Shows of All Time”. But first on the list is Space:1999  — how can that be right?

In the past decade or so, science fiction on television has seen a dramatic uptick in both quantity and quality. Shows like Westworld are keeping critics engaged and audiences coming back for more week after week, but while a number of sci-fi shows over the years have developed significant cult followings, others have become notorious examples of just how bad the genre can be when it isn’t executed effectively. Here’s our look at some of the worst sci-fi shows to ever hit the small-screen. For the record, we’re focusing specifically on live-action series only. So any infamous animated shows won’t be appearing below….

  1. Logan’s Run (1977–1978)

Based on the popular sci-fi film of the same name, this television adaptation has remained largely forgotten. An attempt to cash in on the film’s success, the show — which starred Gregory Harrison as Logan 5 and Heather Menzies as Jessica 6 — lasted only 14 episodes before network executives called it quits.

(6) ROSARIUM MAKES A DEAL. Bill Campbell’s award-winning Indie house Rosarium Publishing will be publishing Taty Went West, the critically-acclaimed fantasy debut novel by South African born writer, artist, and musician Nikhil Singh.

The story is the first in a trilogy of what Singh describes as “Alice in a necrotic Wonderland” and follows Taty, a teenage girl who is forced to run away from home and escape to The Outzone, who discovers along the way that she has extrasensory powers. She finds herself kidnapped and dropped into a world filled with a motley cast of eccentric characters, including a feline voodoo surgeon, a robotic sex slave nun, detachable siamese twins and a sinister pleasure peddler who wishes to exploit her gifts.

Described by Lauren Beukes as “a hallucinogenic post-apocalyptic carnival ride,” Taty Went West is part satire, part science fiction and completely fantastic. Singh’s prose style of writing and elaborate descriptions are only enhanced by the gorgeous illustrations which head each chapter and are drawn by the author as well.

Nikhil Singh art

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born January 17, 1933 — Shari Lewis, actress and puppeteer, best known for Lamb Chop.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 17, 1931 — James Earl Jones, who became even more famous by voicing Darth Vader,

(9) COVER UP. Out of Print has a line of clothing featuring the art from classic sff/f book covers.

The-Outsider-and-Others-Mens-Book-T-Shirt_01_2048x2048clockwork-orange_Womens_Red_Book_T-Shirt_1_2048x2048

(10) FLAME OFF. CinemaBlend knows “How Lynda Carter Helped Supergirl With That Old School Wonder Woman Reference”.

The CW’s Supergirl has dropped nods to major superheroes of DC Comics history many times over its first two seasons so far, and it surpassed itself in a Season 2 episode that featured legendary actress Lynda Carter as President Olivia Marsdin. The episode managed to sneak in an unforgettable reference to Carter’s role as Diana Prince on Wonder Woman. I spoke with veteran TV director Rachel Talalay about her work directing Lynda Carter and star Melissa Benoist on Supergirl, and she told me this about what went into the Wonder Woman callbacks in the “Welcome to Earth” episode of Season 2:

They were written in the script, and they were absolutely embraced. We were allowed to push them, but they were definitely in the script. That was great because that gave us permission to just say ‘We know we’re doing Wonder Woman homages.’ So there was an absolutely magical moment when it was scripted that Melissa was to do the Wonder Woman twirl to put herself out when she was on fire. Lynda came and said, ‘I’ll show you how to do it.’ I have on my phone a video of Lynda Carter showing Melissa Benoist how.

(11) THIRD ROCK. Curiosity has found its third meteorite on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has spied a potential meteorite on Mars, which would be the third it has found since it landed in August 2012….

There’s a bit of a puzzle about these meteorites, though. On Earth, 95 percent of all meteorites are stony, and only 4.4 percent are iron. But so far on Mars, all eight meteorites seen (three by Curiosity and five by Opportunity) have been iron.

(12) RAPT ATTENTION. A subject near to our hearts: ”Striking photos of readers around the world”.

A new book brings together Steve McCurry’s photos of readers, spanning 30 countries. From a steelworks in Serbia to a classroom in Kashmir, they reveal the power of the printed word….

McCurry’s photos are made up of those moments, glimpses of people absorbed in the written word, many unaware they were being photographed. The Swiss poet, novelist and painter Hermann Hesse gave an insightful description of what can be an all-consuming experience in his 1920 essay On Reading Books. “At the hour when our imagination and our ability to associate are at their height, we really no longer read what is printed on the paper but swim in a stream of impulses and inspirations that reach us from what we are reading.”

(13) SAD POOKAS. I’ve been informed these aren’t the droids I’m looking for. I also just realized I love Big Brother.

(14) NEWS TO ME. There’s such a thing as a Game of Thrones edition of Monopoly.

Featuring custom Game of Thrones packaging, stunning game design, and large, hand-sculpted custom tokens, the MONOPOLY: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition Game will transport fans into a world of intrigue, valor, and betrayal. After all, when you play the MONOPOLY: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition Game you win, or you go bankrupt!

MONOPOLY: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition Game includes:

– Custom Game Board Featuring Westeros awaits your rule

– 6 oversized, hand sculpted tokens elegantly cast in zinc. Includes: Crown, Direwolf, Dragon Egg, The Iron Throne, Three-Eyed Raven and White Walker – Game of Thrones MONOPOLY money features the symbols of Westeros and Essos….

(15) BRADBURY PLAQUE. Mentioned in yesterday’s comments, here are photos of the plaque in UCLA’s Powell Library commemorating the spot where Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a rented typewriter. John King Tarpinian, who was instrumental in getting the school to put up the plaque, appears with Bradbury and Dennis Etchison in the second picture,

Plaque commemorating Ray Bradbury's use of Typing Room at UCLA's Powell Library to write Fahrenheit 451.

Plaque commemorating Ray Bradbury’s use of Typing Room at UCLA’s Powell Library to write Fahrenheit 451.

John King Tarpinian reading plaque to Ray Bradbury

John King Tarpinian reads the plaque to Ray Bradbury. Dennis Etchison is on the right.

(16) BELIEVE YOUR LYING EYES. L’Illusion de Joseph, on Vimeo, is a charming look at 19th-century “phenokistascopes” and the unusual images 19th century people found entertaining.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, David K.M.Klaus, BGrandrath, kathodus, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/16 Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll

(1) X-WING. Hollywood decorating the neighborhood for the premiere of Rogue One. Robert Kerr’s photo shows a prop now on display curbside near the theater.

photo-by-robert-kerr-resized_20161208_170203-01

Yahoo! Movies ran a series of photos taken while the fighter was being hauled into position.

Star Wars has definitely landed in Hollywood.

Preparations for Saturday’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere have already seen some big road closures on Hollywood Blvd. — and on Tuesday, an X-Wing was spotted in the area where the stars of the film will gather in a few days.

Pictures quickly spread on social media, as apparently keeping an X-Wing secret is even trickier than keeping plans for the Death Star under wraps.

The red-carpet premiere itself also prompted major road closures in Hollywood, with the X-Wing now clogging streets up further. Road closures will last until 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

(2) JAM ON MARS. Will Curiosity need Tommy John surgery? Seeker says “Curiosity’s Mars Drill Is Jammed”.

The Mars rover’s robotic arm-mounted drill appears to have malfunctioned and NASA has instructed the rover to hang tight while they find a solution.

Having your drill break down while you’re millions of miles from the nearest hardware store would be a bummer, but that is exactly what’s happened to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

The rover, which is currently located at the lower slopes of the 3.4-mile-high Mount Sharp (officially known as Aeolis Mons), was supposed to carry out a drilling operation on a geologically interesting location on Dec. 1 when mission controllers got word that Curiosity was unable to complete its commands. Early indications show that the rover detected a fault with the “drill feed” mechanism that lowers the drill piece to the rocky sample and aborted the operation.

(3) AT HOME. The Chicago Reader visited a  popular sf author in her new (since 2012) neighborhood — “Mary Robinette Kowal makes puppets and writes in a 1913 building in the Ukranian Village”.

A fire is roaring in the fireplace and sprays of bright red winterberry adorn a vase on the deco mantel. The scent of hot cider wafts through the air. What Victorian-era storybook scene have I stepped into on this chilly, gray day in late November? It’s the home of Hugo Award–winning author, audiobook narrator, and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, a spacious and stately 1913 apartment in Ukrainian Village that she shares with her winemaker husband, Robert, and their two cats.

 

(4) RETURN OF RUTLAND WEEKEND TV. The Guardian ran this feature in August — “Ex-Python Eric Idle and Brian Cox to take on The Entire Universe for the BBC”. But now the BBC broadcast date is nearing.

Written by Idle, the one-hour show will feature the return of Rutland Weekend Television, the haphazard station depicted in Idle’s sketch show of the same name during the 1970s.

Filmed in front of a live studio audience, The Entire Universe will feature an “explosion of comedy, music and dance” and will air on BBC2.

Davis plays The Big Bang and comedian Fielding is Einstein, while Game of Thrones actor Hannah Waddingham tackles time, and Robin Ince attempts to keep order.

Idle has written songs for the Christmas special, which will be choreographed by Arlene Phillips and combine “fascinating facts about the birth of the universe with larger-than-life comedy characters”.

Cox finds himself in a major musical at Rutland Weekend Television, after thinking he is booked to give a lecture.

The program will be broadcast in Britain on BBC2 on December 26.

(5) DO JAMES DAVIS NICOLL’S HOMEWORK. He’s lining up books to review in 2017, and feels there’s one writer demographic that requires more of his attention:

Don’t often tick the Other/Genderqueer/Non-Binary box in my site’s review gender fields. Can change that. What authors should I consider?

He emailed me the link asking, “Do the F770 people have suggestions?”

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #12. The twelfth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for the four-book Twixt series from Dawn Metcalf.

Today’s auction is for a signed set of all four TWIXT books. But wait – there’s more! Metcalf also has a pile of “own voices” and books she’s offered to donate to a local shelter and/or children’s hospital in your name. The higher the bidding, the more books she’ll donate!

  • $25: Two books
  • $35: Three books
  • $45: Four books
  • $60: Five books
  • $75: Six books

About Book One: INDELIBLE:

Some things are permanent. Indelible. And they cannot be changed back.

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room-right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world-a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep and a life that will never be the same. Now Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one-his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future … and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

Somewhere between reality and myth lies … THE TWIXT!

(7) TINGLE’S SATIRICAL NEWS SITE. Chuck Tingle harpoons the “alt-right” with his most feared weapon – laughter — at a new website, Buttbart. At the bottom of the home page are links for donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Billings Public Library Foundation

READER POLL: What is real?

We asked our readers if reality was a constantly shifting web of cosmic planes, blinking in and out of exhistence depending on our location in spacetime.

YES: %87

NO: %2

K’GULH-TUB KA: %11

(8) GLENN OBIT. Mercury astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn (1921-2016) died December 8 reports SF News Site.

Glenn was the last surviving member of the Mercury 7 astronauts and the first American to orbit the Earth, flying on the third Mercury mission on February 20, 1962 aboard Friendship 7. Following his flight and status as a national hero, Glenn was grounded by President Kennedy and eventually became a Senator from Ohio and ran unsuccessfully for President. The oldest of the Mercury astronauts, he flew a second time in 1998 about the space shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest man to fly in space.

CNN’s obituary recounted the highlights of his 1962 mission:

….Glenn recalled in a Life magazine article a strange phenomenon that occurred during the mission: “There, spread out as far as I could see were literally thousands of tiny luminous objects that glowed in the black sky like fireflies. I was riding slowly through them, and the sensation was like walking backwards through a pasture where someone had waved a wand and made all the fireflies stop right where they were and glow steadily.”

The flight also featured a glitch that contributed to Glenn’s reputation for being cool under fire.

Because of an indicator light showing that the Mercury capsule’s heat shield was partly detached, mission controllers decided to bring Glenn home early and told him not to jettison his aft retro rockets, which allowed him to maneuver the craft in space. Because the retropack was strapped to the heat shield, it was thought it would provide an extra measure of security.

It would later be learned that the heat shield wasn’t damaged, but the fiery re-entry was made more spectacular by the scorching retropack in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Glenn’s first words when he stepped aboard the deck of the USS Noa were, “Boy, that was a real fireball of a ride!”

…More than 20 years after their historic missions, the team was immortalized in the 1983 movie “The Right Stuff.” Glenn — portrayed by Ed Harris — didn’t care much for the film, saying, “I thought it was dramatic enough without Hollywood doing its number on it.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 8, 1953 – Kim Basinger, Batman’s Vicki Vale.
  • Born December 8, 1964 – Teri Hatcher, Lois and Clark’s Lois Lane.

(10) TA-POCKETA-POCKETA

  • Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber

(11) A GRAIL OF A TALE. A dinosaur tail was discovered trapped in amber in Myanmar.

The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur has been found entombed in amber, an unprecedented discovery that has blown away scientists.

Xing Lida, a Chinese paleontologist found the specimen, the size of a dried apricot, at an amber market in northern Myanmar near the Chinese border.

The remarkable piece was destined to end up as a curiosity or piece of jewelry, with Burmese traders believing a plant fragment was trapped inside.

“I realized that the content was a vertebrate, probably theropod, rather than any plant,” Xing told CNN.

“I was not sure that (the trader) really understood how important this specimen was, but he did not raise the price.”

(12) POP CULTURE COINCIDENCE. Reuters reports a “Space oddity as Dr David Bowie treats ‘starman’ Buzz Aldrin in New Zealand hospital”.

In what can only be described as a space oddity, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is being cared for in a New Zealand hospital by Dr David Bowie after being evacuated from the South Pole.

In a truly remarkable coincidence, Aldrin’s doctor shares the name of the late British singer whose greatest hits included songs such as “Starman” and others about space travel that could easily have been penned for the great American astronaut.

(13) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker on December 21 on Wednesday, December 21 at the KGB Bar in New York. Event starts at 7 p.m. Details at the linked post.

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year series, Years Best Weird Fiction, and The Mammoth Book of Best Erotica. Her first collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors received two Shirley Jackson Award nominations, for Best Collection, and for Best Novelette (for “Omphalos”). Her story “Furnace” received a 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Best Short Story. Her second collection, Furnace was published this year.

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the Nebula Award winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road” and the Sturgeon Award winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind.” Her fiction has appeared in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies and year’s bests. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife, dog, and a yard full of sentient vines.

(14) THE WORK THAT STORIES DO. Foz Meadows’ well-written piece “Unempathic Bipeds of Failure: The Relationship Between Stories and Politics” found a home at Black Gate:

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need stories to act as emotional dry-runs for caring about different types of people, because our empathy would already natively extend to everyone. But we don’t live in that world; because if we did, somewhat paradoxically, we’d have less urgent need of its empathy, as its unequivocal presence would make it much harder for us to discriminate in the first place.

Which is precisely why stories matter; why they’ve always mattered, and will continue to matter for as long as our species exists. Stories can teach us the empathy we otherwise lack, or whose development is railroaded by context, and yeah, it’s frustrating to think that another person can’t just look at you, accept what you are, and think, human, different to me in some respects but fundamentally as whole and as worthy of love, protection and basic rights as I am, but you’ve got to understand: we’re a bunch of bipedal mammals with delusions of morality, a concept we invented and which we perpetuate through culture and manners, faith and history and memory – which is to say, through stories, which change as we change (though we don’t always like to admit that part), and in that context, the value of the impossible – of SFF as a genre – is that it gives us those things in imaginary settings, takes us far enough out of the present that we can view them at a more objective remove than real life ever allows, and so get a better handle on them than our immediate biases might otherwise permit…

And so I think about the UKIP supporter who empathized with a fictional refugee [in Dragon Age 2] but voted to dehumanize real ones; about the millions of people who grew up on stories about the evils of Nazism, but now turn a blind eye to swastikas being graffitied in the wake of Trump’s election; of Puppies both Sad and Rabid who contend that the presence of politics in genre is a leftist conspiracy while blatantly pushing what even they call a political agenda; about fake news creators and the Ministry of Truth; about every f***ing dystopian novel whose evocation by name feels simultaneously on the nose and frighteningly apropos right now, because we shouldn’t have to cite The Handmaid’s Tale to explain why Mike Pence and Steve Bannon (to say nothing of Trump’s infamous comments) are collectively terrifying, and yet see above re: unempathic bipeds of failure, forever and always; and yet

(15) ORANGE CONE BY THE ROADSIDE. The discussion of Meadows’ main points, however, was drowned out by the reaction to several lines in her closing:

For the past few years, the Sad and Rabid Puppies – guided by an actual neo-Nazi – have campaigned against what they perceive as the recent politicization of SFF as a genre, as though it’s humanly possible to write a story involving people that doesn’t have a political dimension; as though “political narrative” means “I disagreed with the premise or content, which makes it Wrong” and not “a narrative which contains and was written by people.”

Vox Day reacted in a post titled “Please to remove the libel”:

I have written to John O’Neill, my former editor at Black Gate, asking him to remove this false, malicious, and materially damaging libel directed at me, and by extension, the Sad and Rabid Puppies. As I was a long-time contributor to Black Gate, Mr. O’Neill knows perfectly well that I am neither a neo-Nazi nor a National Socialist, I have never been a neo-Nazi or a National Socialist, I do not belong to, or subscribe to the tenets of, the German National Socialist Workers Party or any subsequent facsimile, and I do not appreciate the libelous attempts of Ms Meadows, to publicly and falsely assert that I am “an actual neo-Nazi”.

Vox Popoli commenters spent the day conspicuously scavenging the web for Meadows’ personal and financial details and lodging their finds as comments on Day’s post. Meadows Twitter stream also has been haunted by people unsuccessfuly trying to intimidate the author by sounding as if there could be ominous consequences.

Day made several updates to his post, one saying a resolution was in process.

UPDATE: As I expected, John was very reasonable about it and the matter is being resolved. Thanks for your support, everyone.

But in the hours since, Meadows’ text has remained unchanged nor has O’Neill added any comment.

(16) INVASION. In a New York Times article “California Today: Booksellers See a Threat in New Law”, the A.C.L.U. has an opinion.

A new law going into effect next month mandates that anyone selling a signed book for more than $5 must vouch for the autograph’s authenticity. That includes, among other things, identifying the previous owner.

“If you visit my bookstore to trade in that copy of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ you picked up at a book signing, I’ll need to take down your name and address and then provide it to whoever happens to buy the book from me,” said Scott Brown, who runs Eureka Books in Eureka.

The law was designed to protect consumers from the booming trade in fake collectibles. But it is written so loosely that some worry it might drag booksellers down.

“I can understand why booksellers are concerned,” said Michael Risher, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Northern California. “The law is an invasion into privacy and should be amended.”

The legislation began with an effort by State Representative Ling Ling Chang to broaden a 1992 law about sports memorabilia. She joined forces with Mark Hamill, the “Star Wars” actor who kept seeing signed posters that were fake. Booksellers say they didn’t realize they were vulnerable until after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure in September.

Ms. Chang, who was unavailable for comment, has published on her Facebook page a statement that both “the letter and spirit of the law” do not apply to booksellers. Her reasoning is that the law is aimed at “dealers,” who are mostly in the business of selling signed collectibles. Since booksellers sell all kinds of books, many of them unsigned, Ms. Chang argues that leaves them off the hook.

But some booksellers worry that is not true….

(17) RATS! New Zealand’s 2017 national sf convention has opened a writing competition.

In our short story competition, you have the opportunity to channel your inner rodent, or world build a mischief of rats… Write us a short story which, in honour of our Ghost of Honour, Orville, includes a reference to a rat.

The competition is held in association with SpecFicNZ, who are generously contributing prizes, and judged by Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire. Get scratching!

We’re also running a drabble competition – 100 words of fiction based around a word you invented. If you’re new to writing, this could be a great place to start.

Find out more at www.lexicon.cons.nz/comps.php. Other competitions will be announced shortly; artists, filkers, and cosplayers, stay tuned.

(18) DEAL US IN. Tor.com’s Natalie Zutter has good news for Cards Against Humanity fans: “Patrick Rothfuss and Cards Against Humanity Release Special Sci-Fi Pack”.

For $5, this pack of 30 cards “poking fun at the Sci-Fi genre” (in Rothfuss’ words) will let you throw down the geekiest cards in your next game of CAH. All proceeds from the first two weeks of sales will go to Worldbuilders, Rothfuss’ nonprofit. What’s more, Rothfuss says, they’ll double that donation before passing it along to Heifer International, the organization that Worldbuilders supports.

Here’s everyone who contributed to the cards!

  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Jim C. Hines
  • Myke Cole
  • Martha Wells
  • Catherynne M. Valente
  • Patrick Rothfuss

[Thanks to JJ, Xtifr, Bonnie McDaniel, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme. (Yes, Bonnie, I held over a few you suggested last year.)]

Pixel Scroll 11/24/16 And He Pixeled A Crooked Scroll

thanksgiving-meal-astro

(1) AS GOD IS MY WITNESS, I THOUGHT TURKEYS COULD FLY. The astronauts aboard the International Space Station tucked into another technically perfect holiday meal today. Motherboard explains — “Happy Space Thanksgiving: How the Food-Stuffed Holiday Went Orbital”.

Naturally, these hermetically packaged, shelf-stable Thanksgiving edibles lack much of the flavor and flair of the dishes that Earthbound feasters will be piling up on their plates. But these meal packs are still leaps and bounds beyond the humble dinners shared by the crew of Skylab over four decades ago, when manned spaceflight was still in its early years.

(2) SMALL BUSINESS MODELING. Kristine Kathryn Rusch explains why the election was not a Black Swan event, but was one the reasonably possible scenarios she considered in developing her current business plans — “Business Musings: Running A (Writing) Business In Uncertain Times”.

The first two items in her ten-point plan are —

To do modeling for the next year of your business, you need to be as clear-eyed as possible. You should research trends for your business for similar economic times, if you can.

Then you figure out as best you can what your future will be.

Here’s how you do it.

First, you figure out what the possible futures could be. By July, ours were pretty simple. Clinton victory—then what? Trump victory—then what? Markets react well—then what? Markets react poorly—then what? Civil unrest—then what? Governmental gridlock—then what? Governmental ease—then what? Possible impeachment (either candidate)—then what? And so on.

Second, figure out the impact those scenarios will have on your business. Dean and I were modeling for different businesses. Our retail businesses have a local component that our publishing and writing businesses do not have. Therefore, our models for the retail business were different than our models for publishing and writing.

Some scenarios will have no impact at all on what you’re doing. Others might have a huge impact. Be as clear-eyed and honest with yourself as possible as you set out these scenarios.

(3) ROCKS AND SHOALS. Jules Verne’s status as a hard science fiction writer received an unexpected boost from the latest research reported by New Scientist.

JULES VERNE’s idea of an ocean deep below the surface in Journey to the Centre of the Earth may not have been too far off. Earth’s mantle may contain many oceans’ worth of water – with the deepest 1000 kilometres down.

“If it wasn’t down there, we would all be submerged,” says Steve Jacobsen at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, whose team made the discovery. “This implies a bigger reservoir of water on the planet than previously thought.”

This water is much deeper than any seen before, at a third of the way to the edge of Earth’s core. Its presence was indicated by a diamond spat out 90 million years ago by a volcano near the São Luíz river in Juina, Brazil.

The diamond has an imperfection – a sealed-off inclusion – that contains minerals that became trapped during the diamond’s formation. When the researchers took a closer look at it with infrared microscopy, they saw unmistakable evidence of the presence of hydroxyl ions, which normally come from water. They were everywhere, says Jacobsen.

(4) CAST OF THE RINGS. Empire magazine came up with a cute gimmick: “The Lord of the Rings at 15: the Fellowship interview each other”.

One anniversary to rule them all… To celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, the latest issue of Empire gathered the nine members of the Fellowship, and asked each of them to pose nine questions to one another.

One does not simply walk into a Lord Of The Rings interview. So here, as a little Middle-earth aperitif, we can reveal one answer from each actor. For the full interviews, be sure to pick up a copy of the January issue of Empire, on sale from Thursday 24 November….

Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee)

Where do you keep the sword you were given when you completed Lord Of The Rings? Question set by Ian McKellen

The garage, or maybe a cupboard, or in storage with a ton of fan art. I cried heavily through my send-off. I remember being presented with my costume, including Sam’s backpack (pots, pans, sausages, elven rope, lembas bread, box of salt) and sword. But the most moving trophy was the wee dress [my daughter] Ali wore as she portrayed Elanor in the last moments of Return Of The King.

(5) ALIEN POSTER CHILD. By sharing this image, does CinemaBlend aim to upset turkey-filled tummies? “Alien: Covenant’s First Poster Is Simple And Absolutely Terrifying”.

Following the lukewarm response to Prometheus in 2012, the Alien franchise is aiming to win back hearts with the next entry in the series, Alien: Covenant. As an early Thanksgiving treat, 20th Century Fox just released the first poster for the blockbuster, and it’s making sure fans know that like previous installments, it will be a terrifying ordeal.

(6) UNCLE 4E TALK AT ALIEN CON. A panel discussion about the Ackermonster:

Alien Con marked the 100th birthday of Forrest J Ackerman — writer, literary agent, and professional Sci-Fi geek who not only founded Famous Monsters, but invented cosplay and encouraged the pursuits of monster fanatics everywhere! Hear Forry memories and learn about TALES FROM THE ACKER-MANSION, American Gothic Press’s massive tribute to the man who created the term “Sci-Fi”.  Guests on Panel: Kevin Burns, Joe Moe, William F Nolan, Jason V. Brock

Part I

Part II

(7) SOMEWHERE OVER THE WORMHOLE. Scifinow has it right – “Emerald City trailer is definitely not in Kansas anymore”.

(8) CHIZINE GROWS ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY. ChiZine Publications will expand Imaginarium, its Annual ‘Best-Of’ short story,  and poetry volume, to include more content in an anthology that will be released every two years.

The latest edition,  Imaginarium 5, will be released in Summer 2017 and encompass the best short stories and poetry from 2015 and 2016. It will include an introduction from bestselling Canadian author Andrew Pyper.

There will be a call for submissions for both short stories and poetry published in 2016 for Imaginarium 5 announced via Facebook and the CZP Website in December 2016.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

Fifty years ago Thursday, Lunar Orbiter II took a picture of a moon crater. When it was beamed back to Earth, the photo’s then-unique view made the moon real in a way it hadn’t been before — as an actual place, another world that might be a second home for humanity. Seeing the Copernicus crater close up mustered Space Age feelings of wonder. Such wonder is harder to provoke now, but the image reminds us: The moon still waits for us

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MONSTER KID

  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman

Learn more about him on the Ray Harryhausen Podcast.

November 24th 2016 marks the 100th birthday of sci-fi legend Forrest J Ackerman, founder of ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’ magazine. Forry was also one of Ray Harryhausen’s oldest friends, the two having met in the late 1930’s after discovering a shared interest in ‘King Kong’.

We caught up with former ‘Famous Monsters’ editor David Weiner to discuss the friendship between Ray, Forry and Ray Bradbury. We also heard a clip of the three legends in discussion, taken from an interview which can be found on the ‘Ray Harryhausen- the early years collection’ DVD.

And in the November issue of Aeromexico’s Aire magazine, Guillermo Del Toro tells how important Ackerman was to his artistic development. (You’ll need to click on the second image and zoom in to make the text readable.)

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(11) TODAY’S ROSWELL BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 24, 1977 — Colin Hanks
  • Born November 24, 1978 — Katherine Heigl

(12) NEWEST K9 IN THE CULTURE WARS. Sarah A. Hoyt, in yesterday’s Sad Puppies 5 announcement, said: “….One of the things the — for lack of a better term — other side has is bully pulpits…. BUT still, they have magazines that publish recommended lists, and interviews with authors, and turn the spotlight on work they think should be read. We have nothing like that.”

However, as someone pointed out, she had overlooked the brand new review site Puppy of the Month Book Club – where the motto is Hugo delenda est.

Jon Mollison and Nathan Housley explained what they’ll be covering:

So what makes a book a viable candidate for Puppy Of the Month?  Easy:

  • Any novel nominated by the Sad Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any novel nominated by the Rabid Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any work listed in Appendix N of Gary Gygax’s D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Any work published by Castalia House
  • Any work selected by a Contributor that isn’t shouted down by the rest of the contributors as an inappropriate selection

Their latest post is an interview with Schuyler Hernstrom, a fellow who knows on which side his bread is buttered:

Editor: Rabid or Sad?

SH: Ya know, this is corny but I am actually going to pull a quote from my own work to answer. It is a bit early in the career to pull a stunt like this but it is so apropos I can’t resist:

He took a knife from his belt and cut away the flag and a length of cloth from the sleeve and turned to Tyur. He tied the thing to the hunter’s thick arm. Tyur looked down in awe.

“But I am not of your blood…”

“All who fight tyranny are of my tribe.”

The young man grasped his host’s shoulders and the old man returned the gesture.

(13) REJECTS ZERO SUM GAMES. Kevin Standlee tells how he feels about the latest Sad Puppies announcement in “Perhaps we should be grateful”.

Why don’t these people who are so completely certain (or so they say) that the Hugo Awards are washed up, finished, dead, pushing up daisies, etc. concentrate on the awards that they so confidently insisted would overwhelm the entire field and be the One True Awards That Real Fans Give for Real Good Stuff So There Will Be No Need For Any Other Awards Ever Again? They seem pretty unhappy that the members of WSFS continue to hold their convention and present their awards just like they have been doing for many years, including arguing over the rules (which, for those who have been paying attention, was a running theme long before the Puppies showed up). “Sad” is a good description for people for whom, as far as I can tell, think that the amount of happiness is a finite quantity, so that the only way they can be happy is to make other people unhappy.

(14) WELLS STORY DISCOVERED. The Guardian brings word of an “Unseen HG Wells ghost story published for the first time”.

Here’s a gothic tale for a stormy night: a man called Meredith converts a room in his house into a cluttered and untidy study, and one day asks a visiting friend if he can see anything strange on the ceiling.

Don’t you see it?” he said. “
See what?”
“The – thing. The woman.”
I shook my head and looked at him.
“All right then,” he said abruptly. “Don’t see it!”

This is the beginning of a newly discovered HG Wells ghost story, called The Haunted Ceiling, a macabre tale found in an archive that Wells scholars say they have never seen before. It will be published for the first time this week, in the Strand magazine.

(15) TRUE GRIT. An unplanned furrow plowed when the Spirit rover suffered a broken wheel may have reaped a harvest of evidence for life on the Red Planet — “Scientists Think They Finally Found Evidence of Ancient Life on Mars”.

What the researchers found was that El Tatio produces silica deposits that appear nearly identical to those found by Spirit in Gusev Crater on Mars. The discovery of these deposits in similar environments on both planets suggests life because it implies they were formed by a similar process—specifically, microbial organisms.

“We went to El Tatio looking for comparisons with the features found by Spirit at Home Plate,” Ruff said in a statement. “Our results show that the conditions at El Tatio produce silica deposits with characteristics that are among the most Mars-like of any silica deposits on Earth.”

Exploration by the Spirit rover was discontinued in 2010 when the front wheel broke, causing the rover to get stuck and plow across the ground. This mishap is actually what caused the digging that uncovered the rich deposit of pure silica, and now the discovery of the silica deposits in Chile may be enough to send a rover back to that same site on Mars.

(16) ASK NOT FOR WHOM THE CHURRO TRUCK BELL TOLLS. You’ve got mail!

[Thanksgiving every day for John King Tarpinian and everyone else who contributes to this site, which today includes JJ, and Martin Morse Wooster. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor on Turkey Day, Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/4 “Nightrise, Nightfall,” from Astronomer On The Roof

(1) SAFETY LAST. I didn’t know it was this dangerous to work for J.J. Abrams. Or to be J.J. Abrams.

In his interview on the Howard Stern show, Abrams tells stories about (1) how a hydraulic door on the “Force Awakens” set slammed down on Harrison Ford’s ankle, (2) how Abrams broke his back trying to lift the door, and on an earlier occasion, (3) Leonard Nimoy broke his nose while working on the Star Trek reboot.

“He fell, he hit his nose… he had a gash on his nose,” J.J. revealed. “I thought, ‘holy crap, this is a disaster.’ I felt horrible. I wanted to kill myself at this point.

(2) GENERAL LEIA. Louis Virtel of Hitflix decrees: “Carrie Fisher just scorched ‘Good Morning America’ and you’re not worthy” .

The most intense and thrilling part of this universe is the real-life Carrie Fisher, whose self-possessed wooziness makes her one of pop culture’s most sublime entities. She was just on “Good Morning America” chatting about losing weight to play the part of General Leia. She brought her dog. She was electric. She was rad, weird as hell, and right. She awakened America.

I love everything about this interview, namely Carrie’s one-liner about resuming her role in the “Star Wars” universe. “I got in character and I’ve never gotten out again – and really, I’ve tried everything.”

(3) FORBIDDEN BOOM. That highly scientific party-pooper Adam Korenman (When the Stars Fade) pulls back the curtain on “Dramatizing Space Battles in Film and Fiction” at SF Signal.

[First of three points.]

Star Wars, like pretty much every space drama of the past 40 years, is more in the realm of fantasy than science-fiction. Though our understanding of arriving and surviving outside the atmosphere has grown tremendously, our representations of such acts in film and literature remains steadfastly in the realm of fiction. In my series The Gray Wars Saga, I am equally guilty of playing space battles more for the drama than the science. Why is it that every auteur from Heinlein to Abrams showcases a false image of the dark void above? Let’s take a look at the realities of space combat and see if we can find out.

1) Explosions are Pretty, Space-splosions are not.

In any space opera worth its salt, a massive ship is bound to explode. As an audience, we anticipate it the same way we expect anyone in a dark hat to be a bad guy. To paraphrase Anton Chekhov, if you show a spaceship in Act 1, you’d better be blowing it up by Act 3. But explosions, and fire in general require three elements to exist: Heat, Fuel, and Oxygen. You’ll notice I bolded the last word, as it is fairly important. Space is famously lacking in O2—to the point where people think you explode if you’re ever exposed to the vacuum (also not true, but Cracked already covered that, so let’s move on). Space explosions look more like the time you dropped your LEGOs on the kitchen floor than when you dumped a pack of Mentos into a 3 liter of Diet Coke. The rapid expansion of heat (literally the definition of an explosion) will rend your big ol’ ship into pieces, and those shards will head in every direction until acted upon by another force (thanks, Newton). No fireball, no awesome ring-shaped shockwave. Just scrap….

Real space may not be able to carry sound (no oxygen, so nothing to carry the vibrations) but a movie theater with a THX monster system can. If we’re going to allow musical cues in our cinematic experiences to pull our emotional strings, we can surely forgive a few foley artists getting creative with the sound design. It allows the truth of the drama to reach the audience on more levels. And if playing to one of our senses for the sake of drama makes the cut, then allow us science-fiction writers the joy of delivering fiery ends to our marvelous creations.

(4) BOSKONE GUESTS. At the Boskone Blog, “Mini-Interview: Robert J Sawyer and Cerece Rennie Murphy.

How would you describe your work to people who might be unfamiliar with you? [Robert J Sawyer:] I’m a hard-SF writer, heavily influenced by the best of Frederik Pohl (I consider his Gateway to be the finest novel our field has ever produced). I’m also liberal, even by Canadian standards, and a rationalist, a secularist, and a humanist (Humanism Canada gave me their first ever “Humanism in the Arts” award) — and my work embraces all those things. I mostly do near-future or present day stories, usually set on Earth, with a strong philosophical bent. My prose is pellucid (much more Arthur C. Clarke than Gene Wolfe) and my tone usually upbeat….

What is your favorite Star Wars memory, scene, or line? What is it that that memory, scene or line that continues to stick with you today? [Cerece Rennie Murphy:] (It could be a moment from within any of the films, a moment associated with the films, or something inspired by the films. – My favorite scenes from Star Wars are all the scenes between Luke Skywalker and Yoda from Empire Strikes Back. I remember watching theses scenes in the theatre when I was 7 years old. They literally changed my perception of God, my place in the world and my potential. I realized then, as I still believe now, that we’re all Jedi, we just don’t know it. Watching Luke’s fear and doubt keep him from fully accessing his own potential was powerful for me, even then. I don’t think you can sum up the human condition any better than that. “Luminous beings are we….not this crude matter,” I really believe that the healing of our entire world could begin with this statement.

(5) HELP ANN TOTUSEK. “I’ve started a GoFundMe to help with my family’s housing situation,” Ann Totusek told me. Her complete narrative about her situation is here.

As a short overview, Ann recommended Steven H Silver’s comment at Whatever.

Through a change in circumstances, Minneapolis fan Ann Totusek has found herself in a situation where she either needs to buy her house or find herself homeless. Ann is currently the caregiver for her mother, suffering dementia, and her teenage son, who suffers SPD. Ann, who helps run conventions throughout the upper Midwest in Iowa, Minneapolis, and Chicago, is running a GoFundMe to raise money for the down payment on their home.

Ann has run Green Room and Program Ops for me at several Windycons as well as the hospitality suite at the Nebula Award Weekend in Chicago in 2015 (and plans to again in 2016). Her hospitality has always been wonderful and now we have the opportunity to repay some of that hospitality by ensuring that Ann and her family can live and thrive.

In the first 11 hours, the appeal brought in $8,463 of its $150,000 goal, including a $2,000 boost from Ctein and another $5,000 anonymous donation.

(6) MARKETING TIP. Fynbospress makes a compelling argument for placing more of the “front matter” in the back of your self-published ebook, in “What’s the matter with front matter?” at Mad Genius Club.

Why? Well, a sample is 10% of your entire file, not 10 percent of your story. When you get a reader interested enough that they downloaded a sample, or are clicking “look inside” on a web page, you really don’t want them to scroll past all of that stuff only to find three paragraphs of story! You want a couple pages to hook them in, draw them deep, and make them immediately click “buy the book” so they can keep reading.

Some very savvy authors actually set up the amount of front matter and their story so the 10% cutoff falls directly after a cliffhanger. This is sneaky and wonderful, because you can immediately deliver the payoff with the rest of the book.

(7) Today In History

  • December 4, 1985:  Barry Levinson’s Young Sherlock Holmes makes its theatrical debut.
  • December 4, 2008: Forrest J Ackerman passes away.

(8) DOES SIZE MATTER?

Two Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers stand with three vehicles, providing a size comparison of three generations of Mars rovers. Front and center is the flight spare for the first Mars rover, Sojourner, which landed on Mars in 1997 as part of the Mars Pathfinder Project. On the left is a Mars Exploration Rover test vehicle, a working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004. On the right is a test rover for the Mars Science Laboratory, which landed Curiosity on Mars in 2012.

 

PIA15279_3rovers-stand_D2011_1215_D521 COMP

(9) THEATER HISTORY. Alex Ross’ profile “The Magnificent Memory of Norman Lloyd” at The New Yorker shows the 101-year-old actor still has the power to bring history to life.

Through the Group Theatre, Lloyd came in contact with the Stanislavsky method, and he applied it to his character in “Caesar.” In Act III of Shakespeare’s play, Cinna the Poet ventures out to attend Caesar’s funeral; a mob mistakes him for another Cinna, a member of the conspiracy, and drags him off. Welles had realized that the scene could stand in for contemporary Germany, where even non-Jews were persecuted for having Jewish-sounding names. Initially, Welles thought of the character as a Byronic figure, wearing a beret. But Lloyd wanted to pattern Cinna on someone he knew: the Greenwich Village poet Maxwell Bodenheim, who used to sit on the stoops around Washington Square, offering to write poems for twenty-five cents. Lloyd pictured Cinna as a bum in a suit, foolscap spilling out of his pockets. Welles said, “O.K., do it your way.”

(10) LOGGIA OBIT. The actor who played the President’s military advisor in Independence Day, and the toy company mogul who danced on the piano with Tom Hanks in Big, Robert Loggia, died December 4at the age of 85. He had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease for the past five years.

He was best known for his roles in the movie Scarface and in the TV series Mancuso FBI

During a long career he worked a lot, in the beginning often playing ethnic characters, usually Hispanic or Middle Eastern, and at the end frequently cast as a mobster.

His genre appearances in television included episodes of One Step Beyond (“The Hand,” 1959), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“Graveyard of Fear,” 1966), The Wild Wild West (“Suspicion,” 1967), Wonder Woman (“Wonder Woman vs Gargantua,” 1976), The Bionic Woman (“Jaime and the King,” 1977), The Six Million Dollar Man (1976), Tales of the Unexpected (1984), and The Outer Limits (2000).

(10) REDISCOVERED TALKIE. High Treason (1929), not only one of the earliest sound movies but an sf movie to boot, will be shown December 6 at the Anchorage International Film Festival. The sound version of the film was long thought lost until it was rediscovered in 2005 in a group of old films in Washington State. Kevin Tripp, a moving image archivist in Alaska, arranged transfer of the nitrate films to Library of Congress for salvage – having first completed a hazardous materials training program.

HT29-title1

The film was taken from a play by Noel Pemberton-Billing. He was an aviator, politician and inventor who founded the Supermarine aviation company, which would produce the Spitfire fighter plane in World War II.A declared pacifist, the playwright nonetheless advocated aerial bombing of civilian targets in wartime, two topics that weight heavily in the script.

Read an in-depth study of High Treason illustrated with many stills at And You Call Yourself A Scientist!

File 770 reader Steve Johnson says, “I will be in the Bear Tooth Theatre for the show on Sunday–my wife snapped up two reserved seats.”

(11) DESTROYED AGAIN. Funded as a stretch goal of Lightspeed’s “Queers Destroy Science Fiction!” Kickstarter campaign, a companion publication “Queers Destroy Fantasy!” is now available from Amazon.

…This month we’re presenting a special one-off issue of our otherwise discontinued sister-magazine, FANTASY, called Queers Destroy Fantasy!: an all-fantasy extravaganza entirely written—and edited!—by queer creators. Here’s what we’ve got lined up for you in this special issue: Original fantasy—edited by Christopher Barzak—by Catherynne M. Valente, Kai Ashante Wilson, Carlea Holl-Jensen, and Richard Bowes. Reprints—selected by Liz Gorinsky—by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Austin Bunn, Shweta Narayan, and Nicola Griffith. Nonfiction articles—edited by Matthew Cheney—by merritt kopas, Matthew Cheney, Keguro Macharia, Ekaterina Sedia, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Ellen Kushner. Plus an original cover illustration by Priscilla Kim and original interior illustrations by Goñi Montes, Odera Igbokwe, Sam Schechter, Elizabeth Leggett, and Vlada Monakhova.

(12) LOAFING AROUND. Will R. sent along the link to “Make This Awesome Dune-Inspired Sandworm Bread” with a skeptical comment: “I have to agree with the person I saw this via, who said ‘delicious-looking is not the description I would have used.’” Will had a valid point, and that is why I didn’t gank the picture to go with the excerpt.

Fans of the novel and movie Dune will appreciate this spice-filled sandworm bread recipe from geek baker extraordinaire Chris-Rachael Oseland….

The sandworm bread consists of a basic sweet bread with a spice filling and a sugar glaze. Yum. Blanched almonds are added to create the sandworm’s intimidating, toothsome maw. I can smell its melange breath from here!

(13) S.H.I.E.L.D. S.P.O.I.L.E.D. Those who know say that spoilers abound in this trailer for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD 3×10 “Maveth” (Winter Finale).

S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra go head-to-head in a battle that will change Coulson’s world forever.

 

[Thanks to Steve Johnson, John King Tarpinian, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Starship Century Symposium – Chris Lewicki

Chris Lewicki

Chris Lewicki

[This post is part of a series about the Starship Century Symposium held May 21-22, 2013.]

Chris Lewicki is President and Chief Engineer of Planetary Resources, leader of its day-to-day operations and responsible for the strategic development of the company’s mission and vision. He was intimately involved with NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers and the Phoenix Mars Lander, serving as Flight Director for the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and as Surface Mission Manager for Phoenix. Lewicki even has an asteroid named in his honor: 13609 Lewicki.

Earlier speakers at the Starship Century Symposium warned that humanity will need access to the resources of the entire Solar System to develop the technology and supply the large amounts of energy needed for an interstellar mission.

Chris Lewicki advised that the practical first step is commercializing space, prospecting and claiming the most valuable Near-Earth Asteroids.

Astronomers have discovered more than half-a-million new asteroids since 1997. Most asteroids are in the Main Belt.

There were 9,833 known Near-Earth Asteroids as of May 21. Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA) are generally defined as that population of asteroids which spends at least part of each orbit between 0.983 and 1.3 Astronomical Units from the Sun (1 Astronomical Unit is the Earth’s distance from the Sun).

Throughout the Solar System are over 1.5 million asteroids larger than one kilometer in diameter. Of these, 981 are Near-Earth Asteroids, and 17% of NEAs are energetically closer than the Moon. Several dozen asteroids could be reached with less energy than is required to put a television satellite into geostationary orbit.

Two NEAs have been visited by robotic spacecraft: 433 Eros by NASA’s NEAR mission, and 25143 Itokawa by Japan’s Hayabusa mission. NASA is currently working on the OSIRIS-REx mission to visit the carbonaceous asteroid 1999 RQ36 in 2019. (Asteroids are generally classified as C-type, carbonaceous, S-type, silicaceous,  or M-type, metallic.)

Asteroids contain platinum group metals — ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum (PGM). One in four manufactured goods requires PGM.

Some near-Earth asteroids contain PGM in much higher concentrations than the richest Earth mines. In space, a single platinum-rich 500 meter wide asteroid contains about 174 times the yearly world output of platinum, and 1.5 times the known world-reserves.

Asteroids also contain common metallic elements such as iron, nickel, and cobalt, sometimes in incredible quantities. In addition to water, other volatiles, such as nitrogen, CO, CO2, and methane, exist in quantities sufficient to warrant extraction and utilization.

Low cost commercial robotic spacecraft will explore asteroids and determine their position, composition, and accessibility of resources. Planetary Resources is creating robotic explorers to visit the best asteroid candidates, then access and process their resources during subsequent campaigns using a solar concentrator.

Water from asteroids can be both converted to and used directly as propellant, then shipped and stored at strategic locations set up as fuel depots. This fuel – supplied and sold to NASA or other in-space customers – will accelerate the pace of human spaceflight.

In Earth orbit, water from asteroids can also be converted and used to refuel satellites, increase the payload capacity of rockets by refueling their upper stages, reboost space stations, supply propellant needed to boost satellites from Low Earth Orbit to Geostationary Orbit, provide radiation shielding for spaceships, and provide fuel to space tugs that could clean up space debris.

The Starship Century anthology, Symposium edition, is currently available in paperback for $28 — click here.  

Arkyd series 200 Interceptor.

Arkyd series 200 Interceptor.

Planetfest in LA

There are 8 must-see things at Planetfest 2012, writes Steven Paul Leiva on the KCET website, not the least being a presentation by the CEO of the Planetary Society, William Sanford Nye – known by most of us as Bill Nye the Science Guy..

The Planetary Society is the world’s largest space advocacy group and their annual event, taking place August 4 and 5 in the Pasadena (CA) Convention Center, is likely to coincide with the arrival on Mars of the rover Curiosity (viewable online via JPL/NASA).

Saturday’s highlights are David Brin’s talk about the outburst of space exploration activity, a tribute to the late Sally Ride, and a panel on space art with Don Davis, Rick Sternbach, Aldo Spadoni, Jon Ramer, and Robert Kline.

On Sunday George Whitesides of Virgin Galactic and David Giger of SpaceX will comment on the future as shaped by commercial space companies, followed later by a Bradbury tribute, a presentation by space journalist Andrew Chaikin, and items by Planetary Society experts leading into coverage of Curiosity’s landing.

See the Planetfest 2012 website for ticket information.

Water Brothers on Mars by 2024?

People could land on Mars in the next 20 to 30 years provided scientists can find water on the red planet, the head of NASA’s surface exploration mission told reporters on September 15. I can’t even find water service at the head table when I’m on a panel at the Worldcon, so I have no idea why they expect to find it on Mars. Yet NASA is busy checking for it with two Mars Exploration Rovers. The rovers have looked everywhere within 3 miles of where they landed without finding any sign so far, rather reminiscent of the way fans were forced to search for Noreascon 4 registration. Perhaps they will eventually luck out. I did.

Astronauts need Martian water to drink, because they can’t haul along enough bottles of Dasani no matter how eager the Coca Cola company might be to paint its logo on the side of first manned spacecraft to Mars (though wouldn’t that make Delos Harriman proud?) More surprisingly, NASA says they’ll need the water to make the fuel needed for the return flight.

Martian life was an obsession of science fiction writers until unmanned probes revealed the hostile conditions of the planet’s surface. It still is, the scientific discoveries have simply changed the rules that inventors of new Martian civilizations must play by. Larry Niven wrote his own stories about underground Martians and their murderous ways, and how Protector-instigated genocide put an end to them. Other writers would crash those water-bearing comets and asteroids onto Mars to start life, like Bruce Sterling (“Cicada Queen”). Still others hope all the water you need is just under the surface, like Kim Stanley Robinson.

Whatever way the writers want to go, fans will always have a soft spot in our hearts for a good yarn about the planet Mars. After all, didn’t War of the Worlds and Marvin the Martian just finish 1-2 for the Best Dramatic Retro Hugo?