Pixel Scroll 4/27/17 The Pixel You Scroll, The Filer You Get

(1) MORE CORE. This time James Davis Nicoll lists “Twenty Core Military Speculative Fiction Books Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

Is there any overlap between your list and James’s?

(2) ENVELOPE PLEASE. Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off has a winner — The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. The results were based on scores given by the reviewers at 10 different blogs.

All in all The Grey Bastards is a runaway winner and I must commend it to your attention.

2nd placed Path of Flames by Phil Tucker was favourite with three blogs and I’ve read it and can see why!

3rd placed Paternus by Dyrk Ashton was favourite with one blog.

All of these books were someone’s choice for finalist and they all scored 7+ with two or more bloggers, so check them out. You never know what will hit a chord with you.

Huge thanks to all ten bloggers/teams for their very considerable efforts and to Katharine of Ventureadlaxre for stepping in to fill a gap. The bloggers are the stars of this show so be sure to keep checking them out now we’re done.

Our most generous scorer this year was Fantasy-Faction, taking the crown from Bibliotropic last year. The Elitist Book Reviews remain the harshest scorer, though they were slightly kinder this year.

(3) FILE 770 TODAY, PBS TOMORROW! Masterpiece Theatre is broadcasting King Charles III  on May 14 with Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles. (Martin Morse Wooster reviewed the stage play here last month.)

(4) WORLD MAKER. Larry Correia provides a very interesting and expansive answer to a fan favorite question in “Ask Correia 18: World Building”.

Always Be Asking

Since I usually start with a basic plot idea, the first thing I do is think about what does my world need to have/allow for me to write this? Some are pretty obvious. Monster Hunter is our world but supernatural stuff exists in secret. Others ideas require something more complicated. For Son of the Black Sword I needed to figure out a world with brutal caste systems, where the low born are basically property.

Take those must haves, and then ask yourself if that’s how things have to work here, what else would change? Always be asking yourself how are those required things going to affect other things?  This doesn’t just make your setting stronger, but it supplies you with tons of great new story ideas.

Besides creative questioning, his other subtopics are: The Rule of Cool, Using Cultural Analogs, Nuts and Bolts, You Need To Know Everything but the Reader Doesn’t, How Much is too Much? and Have Fun.

(5) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. That’s why Trump’s election wrecked an author’s plans — ‘Sci-Fi Writer William Gibson Reimagines the World After the 2016 Election”.

But last fall, Mr. Gibson’s predictive abilities failed him. Like so many others, he never imagined that Donald J. Trump would prevail in the 2016 election. On Nov. 9, he woke up feeling as if he were living in an alternate reality. “It was a really weird and powerful sensation,” he said.

Most people who were stunned by the outcome managed to shake off the surreal feeling. But being a science fiction writer, Mr. Gibson, 69, decided to explore it.

The result is “Agency,” Mr. Gibson’s next novel, which Berkley will publish in January. The story unfolds in two timelines: San Francisco in 2017, in an alternate time track where Hillary Clinton won the election and Mr. Trump’s political ambitions were thwarted, and London in the 22nd century, after decades of cataclysmic events have killed 80 percent of humanity. In the present-day San Francisco setting, a shadowy start-up hires a young woman named Verity to test a new product: a “cross-platform personal avatar” that was developed by the military as a form of artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, characters in the distant future are interfering with the events unfolding in 2017, through technological time travel that allows them to send digital communications to the past….

… “Every imaginary future ever written is about the time it was written in,” he said. “People talk about science fiction’s predictive possibilities, but that’s a byproduct. It’s all really about now.”

(6) REASONS TO BELIEVE. The Vulture interviews the evangelist of American Gods – the author: “The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman”.

Pony sushi?

Pony. Because Iceland, what it actually has a lot of, is ponies. And then I walk into the downtown tourist office, now closed, and they had a fantastic tabletop diorama basically showing the voyages of Leif Erikson. You start out in Iceland, you nip over to Greenland, you go down the coast in Newfoundland and have a little thing where you build your huts, and so forth. I looked at it and I thought, Y’know, I wonder if they brought their gods with them. And then I thought, I wonder if they left their gods behind when they came home. And it was like, all of a sudden, all of the things that I’d been thinking about, all of the things that had been circling my head about immigration, about America, about the House on the Rock, and this weird American thing where … In other places in the world, they might look at a fantastic cliff and go, “Ah, here we are in touch with the numinous! We will build a temple or we will build a shrine!” In America, you get a replica of the second-largest block of cheese in the world circa 1963. And people still go to visit it! As if it were a shrine! I wanted to put that in. And it was all there. I wrote an email to my agent and my editor saying, “This is the book,” and ending with, “The working title is going to be American Gods, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something better.”

(7) WHATEVER IT IS, IT’S EXPENSIVE. Carl Slaughter asks, “OK, one of you science geeks explain to me, what exactly is laser based energy transmission?” — “LaserMotive raises $1.5 million to boost innovations in laser power transmission”.

LaserMotive, a stealthy pioneer in laser-based power transmission that’s based in Kent, Wash., has raised more than $1.5 million in an equity offering.  LaserMotive focuses on laser applications for transmitting power. In 2009, the company won a $900,000 NASA prize in a competition for laser-powered robot climbers. In 2012, it kept a drone flying for 48 hours straight during a beamed-power demonstration for Lockheed Martin. And in 2013, it unveiled a commercial product to transmit electrical power over fiber-optic cables.

(8) LORD OF THE (SATURNIAN) RINGS. NPR and BBC on Cassini’s successful pass (“shields up!”) inside the rings:

“Cassini Spacecraft Re-Establishes Contact After ‘Dive’ Between Saturn And Its Rings”.

NASA said Cassini came within about 1,900 miles of Saturn’s cloud tops and about 200 miles from the innermost edge of Saturn’s rings. Project scientists believe ring particles in the gap are no bigger than smoke particles and were confident they would not pose a threat to the spacecraft.

“Cassini radio signal from Saturn picked up after dive”

The probe executed the daredevil manoeuvre on Wednesday – the first of 22 plunges planned over the next five months – while out of radio contact.

And the day before, a Google doodle showed Saturn “ready for its closeup”: “Cassini Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and its Rings!”

By plunging into this fascinating frontier, Cassini will help scientists learn more about the origins, mass, and age of Saturn’s rings, as well as the mysteries of the gas giant’s interior. And of course there will be breathtaking additions to Cassini’s already stunning photo gallery. Cassini recently revealed some secrets of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus — including conditions friendly to life!  Who knows what marvels this hardy explorer will uncover in the final chapter of its mission?

(9) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Two long-time sff editors and SFWAns have become editors of an Eastern Maryland publication — “Peter Heck and Jane Jewell Named Chestertown Spy Co-Managing Editors”.

The Community Newspaper Project, the parent nonprofit organization of the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, has announced the appointment of Peter Heck and Jane Jewell as co-managing editors of the Chestertown Spy, effective immediately.

While Peter has been best known locally for his many years as a reporter for the Kent County News, he has also written over 100 book reviews for such publications as the Kirkus Review and Newsday, as well as spending two years as editor at Berkley Publications. A native of Chestertown, with degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, Heck also has written ten novels, two of which were genre best sellers.  He is also an accomplished musician, playing guitar and banjo.

Jane, Peter’s wife, also comes to the Spy with a distinguished background in writing, editing, and photography. Since moving to Chestertown, Jane worked at Washington College in the computer department, then as the executive director of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She also has contributed photos to the Kent County News. Jane currently serves on the board of the National Music Festival and has been active as a coach with the Character Counts! program in the Kent County Public Schools.

(10) BIG DATA IS WATCHING. Tracking whether a driver was texting: “‘Textalyzer’ Aims To Curb Distracted Driving, But What About Privacy?”

If you’re one of the many who text, read email or view Facebook on your phone while driving, be warned: Police in your community may soon have a tool for catching you red-handed.

The new “textalyzer” technology is modeled after the Breathalyzer, and would determine if you had been using your phone illegally on the road.

Lawmakers in New York and a handful of other cities and states are considering allowing police to use the device to crack into phones because, they say, too many people get away with texting and driving and causing crashes.

(11) A FACE IN THE CROWD. Using face-recognition software at a soccer match: “Police to use facial recognition at Champions League final”.

Police in Wales plan to use facial recognition on fans during the Champions League final in Cardiff on 3 June, according to a government contract posted online.

Faces will be scanned at the Principality Stadium and Cardiff’s central railway station.

They can then be matched against 500,000 “custody images” stored by local police forces.

South Wales Police confirmed the pilot and said it was a “unique opportunity”.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment with the link: “It will be interesting to see how many false positives they fess up to and how many known troublemakers they miss; I have the impression that FR software is not ready for prime time.”

(12) ANOTHER COMMENT ON ODYSSEY CON. Bill Bodden also dropped off Odyssey Con programming, as he notes in “Timing Is Everything”.

Monica’s resignation as a guest went down on Monday. By the end of the week, all three Guests of Honor had withdrawn from the convention, and the harasser was no longer part of the convention committee. I myself tendered my withdrawal as attendee and panelist on Tuesday April 11, when it became clear that vocal members and friends of the Odyssey Con committee had taken it upon themselves, in a campaign of damage control, to try to spin the discussion to make Monica look bad. To my mind, Monica pulled out from an untenable situation, and while I’m deeply sorry it had to happen at all, I absolutely support her decision. I apologize in the unlikely event that anyone was coming to Odyssey Con specifically to see me.

Just the week before he’d gone 15 rounds with misogynistic trolls in “What the Hell Is Wrong With Gamers?”

Green Ronin Publishing recently put out an open call for female game designers for a specific project. I used to be one of the Ronin, and I was proud to see them doing something that everyone should have been doing years ago: forcing the issue to give women more of a chance to be game designers. Here’s the LINK so you can read it.

The outcry was immediate and vitriolic. I refuse to link to any of the trolls involved, but cries of discrimination against white men were on all the major gaming discussion boards, some gamers even suggesting that Green Ronin was destroying their company, alienating their fan base by committing such a heinous act against men….

Maybe those men who say they don’t behave that way really don’t, but I’ll bet they also don’t stand up — or even notice it — when other men do. Know how I know that? Because I had an experience over the last few years that proved to me how blind I was to this sort of thing. An individual was labeled harasser by a number of women, and I had a difficult time believing it was true because this person was a friend of mine in one of the circles with which I sometime engage, and I’d never seen him behaving that way. However, now being aware that it was an issue, the next time I saw him interacting with others, the harassment of women was clear, and obvious. It opened my eyes.

(13) FLYING FINISH. With the official Clarke Award shortlist coming out next week, the Shadow Clarke jury is pouring on the speed. Perhaps that explains their reluctance to break for a new paragraph?

Just over a third of the way through Christopher Priest’s The Gradual, the modernist composer, Alessandro Sussken, is told by Generalissima Flauuran, the dictator of the totalitarian Glaund Republic, that she wants him to compose a full orchestral piece celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Republic but ‘we do not want irony, subversion, subtlety, cryptic statements, cross references, allusions, knowing asides, quotations, hidden meanings.’ Instead, the stipulated requirements include a minimum of four movements, three major instrumental soloists, four operatic soloists, a mixed chorus of over three hundred voices, a sequence of peasant celebration, a triumphal march and ‘cannon effects in the climax’. It’s difficult not to see this – especially in the context of shadow Clarke discussions concerning the relationship between SF and the ambiguity of the modern condition – as a commentary on the ironies of being a writer torn between desiring the possibilities that the genre opens up for interrogating the limits of consensus reality while hating the conformist demand to meet certain expectations that it also embodies. It is as though Gollancz had said to Priest, ‘We’ll leave you alone to write your weird stories of alienation and separation, as long as you knock out a mass-market, three-act space opera with a world-weary hero, feisty heroine and cynical robot as the three main characters, and include alien sex, a heist sequence and a climactic space battle.’ Would Priest indignantly decline or take the money and run as Sussken does? The answer, based on the evidence of The Gradual, is not as obvious as one might think.

Time travel TV shows can be broadly divided into two categories based on whether they’re about conserving history or changing it. On the one hand, Legends of Tomorrow or Timeless are about characters from our present preserving the status quo of our past, no matter how many historical atrocities must be committed to make that happen. On the other hand, 12 Monkeys or Travelers are (generally better) shows about characters from our future attempting to change the status quo of their past: our present is the error they’re setting out to change. The first category is big on costumes and cliché historical settings. The second is usually about future dystopias that must be prevented by taking action in our present: depending on budget, we may see more or less of the future dystopia itself, which features its own set of clichés….

All historical fiction is alternate historical fiction, to a greater or lesser extent.

The setting is always other than it was; necessarily so, because we can only access the past through the imperfect lens of the present.   Our 21st century way of knowing the world may be intimately connected to the experiences of human beings one hundred, five hundred, even two thousand years ago, but it is also paradigmatically alien.  When we imagine, interpret and co-opt those experiences to tell stories we do so in the spirit of conjecture.  Which is not to say that historical fiction cannot strive for factual veracity, only that it can never be completely achieved. Speculation creeps in – in some cases more than others – and because of that historical fiction shares some essential qualities with science fiction: the will to imagine otherwise; the displacement of human experience in time; and the estrangement of the reader from the contemporary familiar.  The great historical fiction writers of the last century – Mary Renault, Dorothy Dunnett, Patrick O’Brian, Hilary Mantel – wrote (and write, in the last case, we hope and pray) with the ferocious enquiry that I also associate with great SF.  For which reason I have few qualms about the eligibility of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad – a book that harvests and reaps influences from both genres – for a science fiction award. I would have equally few about its eligibility for a historical fiction prize….

Before I get on with the review – feel free to skip ahead to the subheading at any point in what follows – I should note that my participation in this Clarke Award shadow jury has not progressed in the manner I anticipated. First an industry-standard biannual workplace restructuring took an unexpected detour into poorly-executed dystopian satire during March and, second, an unexpected family bereavement has wiped out the first half of April. I had anticipated being pretty much through reviewing my six titles by this stage and to be on the verge of subjecting unwitting readers to my own idiosyncratic analysis considering the wider issues of contemporary SF and the state of the novel today. However, as I still have four novels to write about, I have no choice but to try and weave any hot takes I might have gathered from the process in with the narrative analysis and close reading of the text in question. The time-honoured way of doing this for academics is to riff off the work of other academics and, therefore, I am going to consider a couple of points from fellow jurors.

(14) EMOTION PICTURES. In her latest column for Amazing Stories, Petréa Mitchell reviews installments of eight animé series: “Anime roundup 4/27/2017: The Strong Survive”.

The Eccentric Family 2 #2-3 – The magician Temmaya was a friend of the people who ate Yasabur?’s father, until he fell out of favor with Benten and/or her colleague Jur?jin. He’s also stolen something that belongs to the Nidaime. And to complicate things further, Benten’s back and doesn’t seem to be getting along with the Nidaime either. The old bit of tanuki wisdom about not getting involved in the affairs of tengu is sounding very wise about now; although none of them is strictly a tengu, three humans with serious magical powers having an argument looks bad enough for the supernatural society of Kyoto. Unfortunately, Yasabur? is already too entangled to extricate himself….

Everything about this show is still top-notch. Kyoto feels like a living, complicated city, practically a character itself among the complicated individuals populating it, from Temmaya to Yasabur?’s grandmother the venerated sage. This is going to be a real treat.

(15) STREET ARTISTS. It’s a paradox — “In Hollywood, superheroes and villains delight crowds – and sleep on the streets”. The Guardian tells why.

In a parking lot off Hollywood Boulevard, Christopher Dennis recently changed into a Superman outfit, complete with a muscle suit and calf-high red boots. He headed out through the crowds, a habit he was resuming after a forced absence.

“You look like you’ve come out of the movie screen, man!” said a parking attendant.

“Man, you’re back!” said a street vendor selling imitation flowers.

Many people who frequent the boulevard – not least the other superhero impersonators, who pose for tourists for tips – know the reason Dennis was gone. For about seven months he was homeless, and lived in a tent and under tarps in different places in the city.

Among the characters showboating in front of the Chinese Theater and parading in their regalia along the Walk of Fame, his situation is not unprecedented. There is a Darth Vader who has spent nights sleeping on the sidewalk with a costume in a backpack, and a Joker whose survival strategy sometimes involved trying to stay awake when it was dark out….

(16) E-TICKET RIDE. A little bonus for the tourists on Tuesday – not an imitator, but the real guy — “Johnny Depp Appears as Captain Jack Sparrow on Pirates of the Caribbean Ride in Disneyland”

It’s not the rum, Disneyland visitors — that was Johnny Depp in the flesh!

Riders on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, got a special surprise on Wednesday night: Depp transformed back into Captain Jack Sparrow and greeted those who visited the inspiration behind the film franchise.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 4/18/17 There Is A Scroll In Everything, That’s How The Pixel Gets In

(1) WISDOM. Chuck Wendig’s birthday gift to himself can also be shared with the universe — lucky us: “What I’ve Learned After 5 Years And 20 Books: 25 Lessons”. JJ’s favorite is #21. This is my pick —

  1. The Opposite Of ‘Kill Your Darlings’ Is ‘Know Which Hill To Die On’

Early on you learn to kill your darlings. Your work has these precious, preening peacocks who strut about for their own pomp and circumstance. These darlings are like chairs you can’t sit on, food you can’t eat — they’re just there to look pretty and take up space. So, you kill them. You learn to kill them. You get good at killing them. And then, one day, you realize maybe you got too good at it. Maybe you went too far. You started to think of everything as expendable, everything as negotiable. But it isn’t. It can’t be. I learned this writing Star Wars: yes, those books are not purely mine. They belong to the galaxy, not to me. Just the same? It’s my name on those books. If they fail, they fail on my watch. If there’s something in there you don’t like, it doesn’t matter if it’s something Mickey Mouse his-own-damn-self demanded I put in there: it lands on my doorstep. That’s when I saw the other side of the brutally execute your peacocks argument: some peacocks stay. Some peacocks are yours, and you put them there because that’s where you want them. Maybe they add something specific, maybe you’re just an asshole who demands that one lone peacock warbling and showing its stuff. But you own that. You have to see when there are battles to lose, and when there are wars to win. There are always hills to die on. It can’t be all of them. You want to die on every hill, then you’re dead for no reason and the book will suffer. But some things are yours and you have to know which ones to fight for, and why. You have to know why they matter and then you have to be prepared to burn the book to ash in order to let it stay.

(2) WRITE LIKE THE LIGHTNING. Too Like the Lightning author and Hugo nominee Ada Palmer is interviewed in the Chicago Maroon.

CM: Where’d your inspiration arise from, and what made you want to write a book with such an intersection of so many topics like philosophy, politics, science fiction?

AP: I mean, good science fiction is like that. Great science fiction is full of ideas, not just one, or two, or five ideas, but new ideas in every page. Also, I was inspired by reading pre-modern science fiction, which I do as a historian. We think of science fiction as a late 19th- and 20th-century genre, but Voltaire wrote a science fiction short story called “Micromegas,” in which aliens from another star and from Saturn come to the Earth. When they make first contact with people, the first thing they discuss is, “Is Plato or Descartes correct about how the soul and body connect to each other?” and “Is Thomas Aquinas’s discussion of Aristotle’s divisions of the parts of the soul true?” Voltaire’s society was obsessed with providence, so providence and the existence of God and the immaterial soul was what his people talked to aliens about, and it was as plausible to him as our science fiction works are to us.

So I wanted to write science fiction that used the amazingly sophisticated vocabulary of modern science fiction, all the great developments we’ve had in terms of thinking about AI and flying cars, but to ask questions like Voltaire would.

(3) GOT TO HAVE IT. A couple of other Hugo nominees woke up the internet.

Ditch Diggers has been nominated for a Hugo Award! You did it! Mur and Matt will go up against the likes of The Coode Street Podcast and Tea & Jeopardy in Helsinki for Best Fancast (even though we’re all professionals. Because there’s only one podcast category)! Thank you to all Ditch Diggers listeners who supported the show and don’t forget to vote for Mur and Matt for the Hugo itself!

(4) PROFESSIONALISM. Michi Trota reinforces the lessons of Odyssey Con in “Volunteers, Professionals, and Who Gets to Have Fun at Cons”.

…Being on the job at a con doesn’t have to ruin my fun–or anyone else’s for that matter–but you know what does? The dude with the grabby hands and eyes trained on my chest. The person who kills a conversation with their racist jokes. The gatekeeper who quizzes me on the X-Men then tries to play Gotcha! with a question about Legend of Zelda because obviously the brown Asian woman’s just playing at being a nerd. The asshole selling misogynistic art. A concom that selectively enforces their code of conduct and dismisses concerns I’ve expressed about my safety because “Stories about X’s behavior are just exaggerated.” Not only does that ruin any fun to be had, it also makes my job that much harder to do, potentially costs me opportunities as a creator, and makes me wonder how much of my investment that con is actually worth (Elise Matthesen had some excellent things to say about the real costs of harassment and who pays them).

This is where the argument that having things like rules, codes, and policies that attendees and organizers are expected to abide by also ruins everyone’s fun usually comes up. But it begs the question: just whose fun are we referring to here? Because let’s be real, con’s haven’t always been fun for everyone.

… The widespread adoption and implementation of anti-harassment policies and codes of conduct has made it a bit easier for people like me to be more involved in fandom. They don’t mean that I never run into problems, but it’s less likely those problems will outweigh the time and effort I invest in those cons. It’s because of my participation and attendance at cons as both a fan and a pro that I was able to meet people and find opportunities that helped me get to where I am now. Expectations of professionalism on the part of con organizers are not unreasonable simply because those organizers are volunteers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about professionals treating cons as a workplace (particularly if they’re guests who have been contracted by the con for their presence) and nothing preventing pros and fans from being friendly with each other. There’s nothing about running your con with a minimum of professional standards, practices, and behavior that excludes everyone also having fun.

If your fun is dependent using your status as a volunteer as an excuse to not act responsibly, if it requires victims to stay quiet about mistreatment: then it’s not really a fun time for “everyone” is it? It’s not the expectation of professionalism that’s killing the fun at cons, it’s the lack of it.

As Deb Geisler says, “Never, ever, ever should “but we’re just volunteers” be an excuse not to do the finest job of which we are capable.”

(5) STUMBLING BLOCK QUESTIONS. Alyssa Wong says it in her own way in “Why ‘I’m a feminist, but –‘ isn’t enough”.

ii.

Incidents of sexual harassment in the SFF field are distressingly numerous. And it’s nothing new; Isaac Asimov was so well known to grope women that in 1961 he was asked to deliver a “pseudo lecture” on “the positive power of posterior pinching” (read the correspondence between Earl Kemp, chairman of Chicon III, and Asimov here).

But this isn’t 1961. SFF is more global, diverse and inclusive than ever, and much richer for it. Writers who challenge and explore systematic injustice and oppression through their work are myriad; their work can be found in bookstores, presses, and online across genres, across the world.

And yet we keep asking:

are you sure she didn’t just have a vendetta?

how could it be sexual harassment if he didn’t touch her?

why do we need to be so politically correct?

Why? Because real people are affected. Because both macro- and microaggressions are harmful.Because everyone deserves to feel safe in professional settings, and for writers and industry professionals, that is what conventions are. Moreover, Wiscon is a feminist SFF convention. If safe feminist space exists in genre, Wiscon should definitely be part of it.

What concerns me is the number of women and men who continue to stand up for known abusers. In this sense, it seems that Jim Frenkel is not alone.

(6) CARPENTRY. Cat Rambo also says it is “Time to Fix the Missing Stair”, in a multifaceted post that includes this allusion to a Superversive SF post, and highlights from a relevant panel at last weekend’s Norwescon.

…[Re: Monica Valentinelli’s departure as OdysseyCon guest] One manifestation of that is a brief statement asking why she hates women, declaring that her example will make conventions reluctant to invite any women in the future. Let’s unpack that one a little because the underpinnings seem ill-constructed to me.

There are many kinds of humans in the world. That means there’re also many kinds of women. The logic of the above statement says two things: 1) that it is wrong for people speak out about conditions that are uncomfortable, unprofessional, or sometimes even dangerous and 2) that only people with the strength to survive a gauntlet that can include being groped onstage, being mocked publicly, having their work denigrated for no reason other than having been produced by a woman, and a multitude of other forms of harassment deserve careers and the rest are out of luck. Does that really need to be demanded for someone to have a career? Writers are notoriously unstable mentally as it is. Serial harassment is a professional matter.

This was underscored for me on a Norwescon (a con that does a great job with selecting programming and volunteers and understands the issues) panel that I moderated last Friday, Standing Up to the Mob, with panelists Minim Calibre, Arinn Dembo, Mickey Schulz, and Torrey Stenmark. The description was:

How do you support female creators who are being harassed online by the ravening hordes of the unenlightened? Tips for voicing your support in ways that mean something.

Here are Arinn Dembo’s excellent notes on the panel overall.

(7) THEY’RE GONE. Would you like to bet this writer’s stance was a factor in today’s decision to retire the Lovecraft nominee pins?

(8) THE ONE-PERSON SALES FORCE. A lot of things affect an indie author’s sales and it isn’t easy to keep all of them in mind, as Amanda S. Green explains in “It really is a business” at Mad Genius Club.

The next thing I looked at happened to be my product pages. Oh my, there is so much there we have to take into consideration and we don’t tend to. At least I don’t. Sure, I want to have the best possible cover to draw the reader’s eye. I want a snappy and interesting blurb to grab the reader and make them want to buy the book. But I don’t tend to check the product page on anything other than my laptop. I forget to look at it on my Kindle Fire or Mom’s iPad. I sure forget to look at it in my phone. Or, more accurately, I used to forget it. After the last few days, I won’t. What I learned is that the longer blurbs will work on a tablet or computer screen but, on a phone, they are a pain because you have to keep scrolling. Not good. Scrolling for a screen or two is one thing but for screen after screen after screen — nope. Not gonna happen. Fortunately, most of mine weren’t that bad and those that were happen to be on two titles I am going to withdraw because they were supposed to be short term promo titles initially.

(9) I’M A DOCTOR NOT A MILLIONAIRE. By the way, if you want to know how much the tricorder X Prize was worth, the Washington Post article says that Final Frontier Medical Devices, led by Dr. Basil Harris, won the $2.6 million first prize in this contest, with Dynamical Biomarkers Group got $1 million for second place.

(10) MAGAZINE LAUNCH. Anathema has published its first issue. The free, online tri-annual magazine publishes speculative fiction by queer people of color. The magazine was funded by a 2016 IndieGoGo campaign.

Exceptional art is a bruise: it leaves its mark on you. At its best it leaves us vulnerable and raw, transformed by the experience. At Anathema we’re interested in giving that exceptional work a home. Specifically the exceptional work of queer people of colour (POC). As practicing editors we’re keenly aware of the structural and institutional racism that makes it hard for the work of marginalized writers to find a home.

So Anathema: Spec from the Margins is a free, online tri-annual magazine publishing speculative fiction (SF/F/H, the weird, slipstream, surrealism, fabulism, and more) by queer people of colour on every range of the LGBTQIA spectrum.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 18, 1938 – Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1. (Cover-dated June, but published in April.)

(12) TAFF. SF Site News reports John Purcell has won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race. Voting details at the link.

(13) CARTOON OF THE DAY. Martin Morse Wooster recommends The Bigger Picture, a cartoon by Daisy Jacobs done in the style of a painting about two brothers feuding over their ailing mother. It was a 2015 Academy Award nominee

(14) DEVIL’S DICTIONARY. In McSweeney’s, Rajeev Balasubramanyam’s “A Short Description of Cultural Appropriation for Non-Believers” supplies a wryly amusing 10-point illustration of the term.

(15) WINTER IS HERE. Dave Truesdale, who had a lot to say about “special snowflakes” at last year’s Worldcon, has been using an F&SF forum discussion to call into account Liz Bourke’s Tor.com post “Thoughts on the 2017 Hugo Awards Ballot”.

….Going back to 1993, women received the majority of the 15 Hugo short fiction nominations that year. Hardly discrimination by the entire SF field. And that was just shy of 25 years ago!

But now it’s not yay!, look how far we’ve come in a positive celebration for a year in which women and poc dominate several major awards ballots, it’s neener neener we dominated an award ballot and “This year is a historic one for the Hugo Awards in more ways than one. In addition to the changes to the awards process, this is the first year in which the Best Novel nominees have been so completely devoid in white men.” [[Link added]]

Why the F bring up white men I ask for the umpteenth time. Why not white straight women too, then, who have been on the ballot plenty over the past 40 or 50 years and have taken up plenty of slots that could have gone to poc, especially in the past decade or so (pick your starting point).

Why just white men? An unconscious bias perhaps? A conscious prejudice? Give me a sound reason why not just “white” people, or “men” were noted in the article, but “white men.” There’s something else going on here. The article doesn’t have to come right out and be the instigation of a flame war in its use of inflammatory language and tone to reveal certain things about the writer or her view of the situation. That she’s more subtle in doing it doesn’t give her a pass.

He came back again and added:

In the stuff-you-always-think-of-later department:

CJW wrote: “She noted the lack of white men on the Best Novel list, because there were no white men on the Best Novel list.”

There were also no black, brown, yellow, or red men on the list either. So why single out white men I ask again for the 3rd or 4th time? Subconscious prejudice bubbling to the surface because that is her default–that pesky white color? What could possibly be the reason she forgot non-white men? I mean, there has to be a perfectly reasonable explanation for her discriminatory statement.

Although other commenters weren’t interested in engaging with Truesdale’s complaint, they couldn’t resist dropping in another coin to see him go off again.

SHamm ended a reply —

P.S.: Dave, I am not quite sure from your phrasing: are you under the impression that Milo Yiannopoulos is a “straight white male”?

P.P.S.: Dave, I believe Best Novel nominee Liu Cixin qualifies as a “yellow man,” in your parlance, although I am told that particular descriptor is no longer much in vogue.

P.P.S.: Dave, does it have to be a “straw MAN”? Asking as a man.

Truesdale answered:

SHamm, of course Milo is gay, but he doesn’t agree with the party line and so is reviled and efforts are made to silence him.

Liu Cixin is a yellow man in historical terminology, which makes the essayists use of “white men” even more telling. Person of color=OK. White men not OK.

Straw man is just a phrase we are all familiar with. No need to make anything out of it.

Why bring Puppies into this? No Sad Puppy I know of is afraid of women/people of color/LGBTQ writers dominating the awards. Certainly not me. I’ve said it a hundred times, the more the merrier. The problem for me arises when these same people heralding diversity for their own benefit try to silence diversity of thought from everyone else. And if you dare speak out you suffer the consequences–inside and outside the SF field, witness Milo and others lately who have suffered similar fates while trying to express differing views on university campuses (though maybe not with the violence attendant at Milo’s cancelled talk). It’s the darker underside agenda of those rallying behind good causes such as diversity that puts the lie to their true agenda. And it’s hurting SF. Again, writers aren’t taking the kinds of chances in speaking of social or political issues they used to, for fear of various forms of reprisal from those waving the banner of diversity. Their diversity only runs in one way, and its killing free speech and controversial thought experiments in our stories. That Puppy crap still being thrown out is ridiculous and an intellectual dodge. Besides, there was no SP this year as far as I know, but every time this discussion comes up someone thinks that tossing in SP or RP is the answer to everything, when it is an excuse to honestly address the issue.

(16) MAKES SENSE. The head of Netflix isn’t worried about Amazon and HBO because, he says, they aren’t the competition.

But today, on Netflix’s Q1 earnings call, [Netflix CEO Reed] Hastings got a little more expansive, in a bong-rip-in-a-dorm-room way, if that’s still a thing. (Is that still a thing?) Here’s the answer he gave to an Amazon competition question; we join this one mid-response, right after he finished praising Amazon and Jeff Bezos:

They’re doing great programming, and they’ll continue to do that, but I’m not sure it will affect us very much. Because the market is just so vast. You know, think about it, when you watch a show from Netflix and you get addicted to it, you stay up late at night. You really — we’re competing with sleep, on the margin. And so, it’s a very large pool of time. And a way to see that numerically is that we’re a competitor to HBO, and yet over 10 years we’ve grown to 50 million, and they’ve continued modestly growing. They haven’t shrunk. And so if you think about it as, we’re not really affecting them, the is why — and that’s because we’re like two drops of water in the ocean, of both time and spending for people. And so Amazon could do great work, and it would be very hard for it to directly affect us. It’s just — home entertainment is not a zero-sum game. And again, HBO’s success, despite our tremendous success, is a good way to illustrate that.

(17) AND NOW FOR MORE SCIENCE. This unauthenticated video may date before the Ice Age. Or before breakfast today.

(18) INKLINGS NEWS. Inklings Abroad is developing an international registry of known Inklings groups.

(19) DANCE WITH ME. Believe it — Guardians of the Galaxy has a La La Land moment!

(20) THINK TWICE BEFORE GETTING THAT EXTRA LARGE SODA. In its own way, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 threatens to have as many endings as Return of the King. As ScienceFiction.com says — “Just To Outshine The Rest Of Marvel’s Movies, ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2? Will Have 5 Post-Credit Scenes!”

Director James Gunn blew away expectations with his first foray into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and now he’s doing it again by adding five post-credit scenes at the end of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘! Originally it was being announced that he had four included from early press screenings and now Gunn himself took to clarify that it would be five. That’s one announcement he could make that would easily top his return to helm ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, ‘ but honestly, I think we were all hoping that was going to happen anyway.

This will set an all new record for the most post-credit scenes in a superhero movie, possibly of any genre.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo. and Kate Nepveu for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Schnookums Von Fancypants.]

Craft Brewers Genre News

By Martin Morse Wooster: Here is some news I unearthed while attending the Craft Brewers Conference.

I know fans will enjoy the many fine products of Canada’s Great Lakes Brewery in their Take Ten series.  This is the brewery that dares to produce Harry Porter, Harry Porter and the Bourbon Soaked Vanilla Bean, Robohop, and Octopus Wants to Fight IPA.  I bet they’d be sued if they produced beers with these names in the US (and with Harry Porter, they write, “Please don’t sue us”) but they’re Canadian, so presumably Hollywood doesn’t care.

I stopped by Geeks Who Drink, a nationwide pub trivia company.  Once I established my geek cred by telling them, “I once won a tossup round against Roger Craig” (which for Jeopardy! fans is the equivalent of saying, “I once hit a single off of Greg Maddux”) they told me everything, including that their annual Geek Bowl tournament was so geeky that they got Jim Parsons AND Wil Wheaton to pose questions.  If you visit their site you will find they are holding a national Star Wars trivia tournament on May 4.

Are you one with the force? Is the force one with you? Does your partner still hate you for insisting on answering “I know” every time they tell you that they love you? Then join us on May 4th, as Geeks Who Drink returns to a galaxy far, far away for our third iteration of Let the Wookiee Win: A Star Wars Quiz.

Listen up, because we’re going to kill a TON of Bothans to bring you this quiz. Our questions will cover the five, good theatrical Star Wars films and (pretty much) only those movies. That means you can expect a healthy dose of Episodes IV through VII and Rogue One and just a smattering of Extended Universe references to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Study like a thorough padawan; they may never say the names of those bounty hunters Vader sends after the Millennium Falcon, but we consider that fair game.

Pixel Scroll 4/15/17 The Late-Night, Double-Feature, Motion Pixel Scroll

(1) CALL THE MOUNTIES. Imagine that — when you walk around town costumed as an armed survivalist, some people just can’t help believing their lying eyes: “Cosplay goes bad for gamer in Grande Prairie”.

Grande Prairie RCMP draw firearms in response to man dressed as video game character

It was almost game over in Grande Prairie this week for a cosplay enthusiast.

Dressed as a character from Fallout, a popular post-apocalyptic video game series, the man walked down a street wearing a gas mask, helmet, armour and bullet belt.

He carried a flag that said “New California Republic” — one of the factions from the games.

A man dressed as a character from the Fallout video-game series walks down a street in Grande Prairie. (Kyle Martel/Facebook)

RCMP Cpl. Shawn Graham told CBC News that police received calls just before 5 p.m. Tuesday from citizens concerned the man was wearing what looked like a bomb on his back.

At least eight officers responded with their long guns drawn. Photos show them crouched behind vehicles and bushes

(2) HPL. Thanks to rcade, we know what a World Fantasy Award nominee pin looks like:

(3) NEW DIGS. LASFS sold its clubhouse and is vacating the premises. They haven’t bought a replacement property yet, so the club will be meeting temporarily at the Art Directors Guild in Studio City beginning May 4. More details at Meetup.

(4) A HAMMER FILM. We’ve seen ice cream made with liquid nitrogen; Nottingham University professor Martyn Poliakoff shows that same liquid gas can be used to make the new “indestructable” 5-pound note destructible.

In a clip uploaded to his Periodic Videos series on YouTube, the professor said:

“The Bank of England is issuing new bank notes starting with the five pound note, and they made them plastic and there have been all sorts of advertisements that you cannot break them.

“I felt immediately challenged, and I had the idea that if we froze it with liquid nitrogen, the strands of the polymer would be frozen rigid and you may be able to break it, hitting it with a hammer.”

 

(5) WHO BLABBED? CBR.com reports animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is on the way.

An animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ celebrated “Watchmen” is on the way, and it may arrive sooner than you’d think.

A recent survey by Warner Bros. “A-List Community” program, which regularly asks subscribers for their opinions on upcoming or recent film and television projects, has revealed the studio is bringing the graphic novel to animated form.

Reading the survey’s description of the project as “an upcoming made-for-video movie,” it’s apparent the film is already either in development, or in the final stages of production.

The survey further describes the film as “A faithful adaptation of the Watchmen graphic novel executed in an animation style that mirrors the source material.” Going by that description, it’s safe to assume Warner Bros. Animation has opted to take a similar approach to the comic as it did when bringing Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” and Moore and Brian Bolland’s “The Killing Joke” to life; both of those films homaged the respective artist’s style, making changes as needed to properly animate the story.

It’s interesting to note, though perhaps not surprising, that at no point in the survey are Moore or Gibbons mentioned. While Gibbons participated in the production and promotion of director Zack Snyder’s 2009 live-action “Watchmen” adaptation, Moore has made his disapproval of any “Watchmen” follow-up extremely clear. He was once quoted as saying he’d be “spitting venom all over” the Snyder-directed film, and has expressed on numerous occasions his preference that the original story be left to stand on its own.

ComicsBeat  sounded cranky when they relayed the story – “Someone broke NDA and revealed that an R-rated watchmen animated movie is coming”.

It’s a little surprising that news of this new adaptation of Watchmen has leaked to the general public so quickly as membership to Warner Bros. A-List Community program requires the signing of an non-disclosure agreement….

Then they proceeded to quote the NDA language at length, presumably to shame the rival news site. Bad, naughty news site!

(6) I LIKE CAKE. Lynn Hirschberg, in W magazine article “Gal Gadot Listened to Beyonce in Preparation for her Wonder Woman Debut”, profiles Gadot, who discusses how Beyonce provided inspiration, how she auditioned blindly for the part, and how despite being in a superhero movie she still likes to decorate cakes.

On the day we met, she was channeling her powers into decorating a cake. (Who would’ve guessed that the actress had such a way with fondant?) “I want to start with a blue cake,” Gadot said definitively, as we entered Duff’s CakeMix, in Los Angeles. She was wearing simple black pants, a navy sweater, and classic black Gucci loafers.

Although she was six-months pregnant with her second child, the baby bump was nearly undetectable. Gadot, who has a doelike quality, wasn’t wearing makeup and her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. “You couldn’t have invented a more perfect ­Wonder Woman than Gal,” Patty Jenkins, the film’s director, told me later.

(7) YOUR MOROSE ROBOT PAL. I think this is cool, although the name “Orpheus – The Saddest Music Machine” is a bit of anthropomorphizing I could do without. Having survived the effects of puppy sadness, do I really need robotic sadness?

We need companions in our lives. And it’s always helpful to have one who needs you in return. Orpheus, a robot-shaped DIY music box that plays music and lights up, is a bit sad and melancholic. But he looks cheerful, and he has a big heart. Orpheus will be a steadfast companion to any older child or adult. Though he needs some help being his best self, right out of the box.   Assemble Orpheus yourself or with your kids from the laser-cut wood pieces, and soon you will have your own hand-cranked music box with moving gears and lights, as well as arms and legs. His melody is called “Cycle of Happiness,” which you can play any time you need some inspiration, or when you feel Orpheus needs some attention. Orpheus is available in the U.S. through ThinkGeek before anyone else.

 

(8) THE WRITE CHOICE. Although it won’t be a pal, you could spend more than a hundred times more money on this geeky Chushev pen.

The “Complication” fountain pen pays homage to the Swiss watchmaking trade for all the innovations in precision mechanics it has achieved. Inspired by the craftsmanship of the Swiss masters, Chavdar Chushev, saw the miniature details in the watches as ideal specimens for abstract art compositions. From that moment, he spent the next three decades refining his technique and evolving his creative vision. The sophisticated design of the “Complication” is the result of countless artistic iterations and technological evolutions.

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian knows you’ll appreciate the sf reference in Frank and Ernest.

He also recommends the cinematic humor in Brevity.

On the other hand, Martin Morse Wooster is certain Tolkien fans will want to throw things at Stephen Pastis after reading today’s Pearls Before Swine.

(10) HANSEN OBIT. Actor Peter Hansen died April 9 at the age of 95. He was one of the stars of the 1951 science-fiction film When Worlds Collide, which won an Academy Award for special effects. He also appeared in an episode of TV’s Science Fiction Theatre.

However, his real claim to fame was years spent playing a character on the soap opera General Hospital, earning an Emmy in 1979 as Best Supporting Actor.

More details here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born April 15, 1990 – Emma Watson

(12) DOOMED AGAIN. LegalVision analyzes why an Australian court ordered the destruction of The One Ring – “This Apparently Precious Ring: Tolkien Estate Limited v Saltamacchia”.

The Infringement Issues

The Respondent hosts a website called “Australian Jewellery Sales”. Over the course of eight years, the Respondent sold approximately 1300 rings with the One Ring Inscription between $5 and $30 AUD each. He advertised the rings by referencing phrases such as: “The Lord of the Rings”; “The Hobbit”; and “Bilbo Baggins”.

The Respondent has about 50 remaining rings with the One Ring Inscription left. Right up until the date of the proceedings he continued to offer them for sale. The Respondent argued his rings did not accurately replicate the One Ring Inscription. It is important to note, here, that reproduction of copyright work does not need to be exact. The infringement must be a “substantial part”.

(13) WHAT’S COOKIN’? Enceladus also shows signs of life, although there’s still more hope for Europa:

Could there be life under the icy surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus?

Scientists have found a promising sign.

NASA announced on Thursday that its Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn has gathered new evidence that there’s a chemical reaction taking place under the moon’s icy surface that could provide conditions for life. They described their findings in the journal Science.

“This is the closest we’ve come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement.

However, the scientists think that because the moon is young, there may not have been time for life to emerge.

In 2015, researchers said that there was evidence of a warm ocean under the moon’s surface, as NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel reported.

This posed an exciting prospect — researchers wondered whether that warm ocean might be interacting with rock to create a form of chemical energy that could be used by some forms of life.

If true, it would be analogous to ancient organisms on Earth fueled by the energy in deep-sea ocean vents.

(14) IMPROVING RECOGNITION. AIs are biased, probably due to inadequate samples: “Artificial intelligence: How to avoid racist algorithms”.

The Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) was launched by Joy Buolamwini, a postgraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in November 2016.

She was trying to use facial recognition software for a project but it could not process her face – Ms Buolamwini has dark skin.

“I found that wearing a white mask, because I have very dark skin, made it easier for the system to work,” she says.

“It was the reduction of a face to a model that a computer could more easily read.”

It was not the first time she had encountered the problem.

Five years earlier, she had had to ask a lighter-skinned room-mate to help her.

“I had mixed feelings. I was frustrated because this was a problem I’d seen five years earlier was still persisting,” she said.

“And I was amused that the white mask worked so well.”

(15) IT’S CALLED ACTING. Variety’s Lawrence Yee, in “Meet Rose, The Biggest Little Part’ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, discusses how Grace Marie Tran, who plays Rose, appeared on a panel at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando and while she couldn’t say anything about the film, she did say she told her parents she was shooting “an indie movie in Canada” and bought some maple syrup to prove to her parents she was in another country.

(16) THAT THING THEY DO. George Saunders probes “What writers really do when they write”.

…An artist works outside the realm of strict logic. Simply knowing one’s intention and then executing it does not make good art. Artists know this. According to Donald Barthelme: “The writer is that person who, embarking upon her task, does not know what to do.” Gerald Stern put it this way: “If you start out to write a poem about two dogs fucking, and you write a poem about two dogs fucking – then you wrote a poem about two dogs fucking.” Einstein, always the smarty-pants, outdid them both: “No worthy problem is ever solved in the plane of its original conception.”

…I had written short stories by this method for the last 20 years, always assuming that an entirely new method (more planning, more overt intention, big messy charts, elaborate systems of numerology underlying the letters in the characters’ names, say) would be required for a novel. But, no. My novel proceeded by essentially the same principles as my stories always have: somehow get to the writing desk, read what you’ve got so far, watch that forehead needle, adjust accordingly. The whole thing was being done on a slightly larger frame, admittedly, but there was a moment when I finally realised that, if one is going to do something artistically intense at 55 years old, he is probably going to use the same skills he’s been obsessively honing all of those years; the trick might be to destabilise oneself enough that the skills come to the table fresh-eyed and a little confused. A bandleader used to working with three accordionists is granted a symphony orchestra; what he’s been developing all of those years, he may find, runs deeper than mere instrumentation – his take on melody and harmony should be transferable to this new group, and he might even find himself looking anew at himself, so to speak: reinvigorated by his own sudden strangeness in that new domain.

It was as if, over the years, I’d become adept at setting up tents and then a very large tent showed up: bigger frame, more fabric, same procedure….

(17) VISITING SPACE SOON. A European Shuttle?

While Tumino and his team have worked on IXV and then Space Rider, there have been other European concepts in the background. UK company Reaction Engines has a design for an unmanned spaceplane, Skylon, that will launch satellites and the German Aerospace Agency has a concept called SpaceLiner that carries people. But, neither will be in orbit before Space Rider or anytime soon.

Space Rider could be in orbit in 2020 or 2021, as design funding was approved by Esa’s 27 member states in December last year. The money will enable Esa to work with the Italian Aerospace Agency, Cira, which is managing the project, and Thales Alenia Space and Lockheed Martin to complete the spaceplane’s design in 2019.

Its first flights will not, however, leave the Earth’s atmosphere. A full-scale model will be dropped in 2019 – both by atmospheric balloon and helicopter to test how it lands.

(18) ANOTHER APRIL FOOLS CLASSIC. Mount Vernon’s newest website translation for visitors is in Klingonese. And it’s dialed-in to Klingon sensibilities, as this video tour of George Washington’s home shows.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/17 “Scrolls! They Were Inwented By A Little Old Lady From Pixelgrad!”

(1) GEMMELL LONGLIST VOTING DEADLINE. First round balloting on The Gemmell Awards longlist closes March 31. It is free and open to the public. Click here to cast your vote for the Ravenheart Award (best cover art), Morning Star Award (best debut novel) and the Legend Award (best fantasy novel). The shortlists for each award will be announced and voting opened on April 21.

Legend Award “Snaga”

(2) MAKING BOOK. The next Doctor Who will be….? Here’s where British gamblers are putting their money this week.

Today, DoctorWhoTV.co.uk has shared a story from Betway. This particular bookmakers reckons that Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge – who’s set to appear in the young Han Solo movie next year – is in with a shot.

“Phoebe Waller-Bridge is all the rage with the punters at the moment”, a spokesperson revealed. “Her odds of being the next Doctor Who have collapsed from 20/1 to 2/1 since Monday morning and we’re on red alert, keeping an eye out for any more telling bets.

“Kris Marshall remains solid at 2/1, but the sudden rush of support for Waller-Bridge suggests the race to become TV’s next Time Lord is swinging in her favour.”

(3) SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK LYRICIST. He’s on the road again. (Wait, that isn’t his song!) Songwriter Bob Dylan is doing two concerts in Stockholm, so long as he’s in the neighborhood… “Bob Dylan finally agrees to accept Nobel Prize for Literature”.

Bob Dylan will finally accept his Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm this weekend, the academy has announced.

The American singer was awarded the prize in October but failed to travel to pick up the award, or deliver the lecture that is required to receive the 8m kroner ($900,000;£727,000) prize.

The academy said it would meet Dylan, 75, in private in the Swedish capital, where he is giving two concerts.

He will not lecture in person but is expected to send a taped version.

If he does not deliver a lecture by June, he will have to forfeit the prize money.

(4) CHANGELINGS. Debbie Urbanski pushes the envelope of literary discussion with her post “In Which I Make Up a Categorization Called ‘Slow-paced Genre Realism”.

I had a great time this past month savoring Version Control by Dexter Palmer. It clocks in at a little over 18 hours as an audio book, but once I settled into the story, I found the slow pacing to be really wonderful. I wonder if we can create a sub-genre in science fiction or fantasy of slow-paced genre novels (or slow-paced genre realism?). Think a little Alice Munro or Karl Ove Knausgard transported into a genre setting. Into such a categorization, I’d throw some of my favorite books: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, as well as Molly Gloss’s Dazzle of the Day and Wild Life. Ah, and how about the beloved The Wall by Marlen Haushofer? My Real Children by Jo Walton? And then there is this one book I read 20 years ago, which I can not locate, no matter how many creative Google searches I do, about a regular California community and a regular woman, maybe a mother, who is just essentially living in an almost boring way–and then, in what’s maybe the last two chapters, there is a nuclear holocaust. But that is such a small part of the book, maybe even an afterthought…

I’ll stop my list now. But I do admire the authors who write this way. I think it takes some courage to straddle the line, not just in style but in plotting, between genre and realistic fiction as they do, as genre readers may find such fiction slow, and literary readers may wonder why there has to be aliens in the story….

Urbanski’s story with the intriguing title “On the Problem of Replacement Children: Prevention, Coping, and Other Practical Strategies” appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January/February 2017. Although you have to buy the issue to read it, the author interview about this story shows why that might be something you’d want to do —

Tell us a bit about “On the Problem of Replacement Children: Prevention, Coping, and Other Practical Strategies.”

I’ve been interested in the idea of speculative non-fiction these last few years: what if you took a certain emotional element of your life, put it in a speculative setting, and then wrote about it? So on the one hand, the emotions in this story capture my experience raising my son, who has autism, and my struggle to work through what I needed to work through, accept the child I actually have, and figure out how I can best be a parent to him. On the other hand, this is a fictional story about a world where children are snatched from under the lax eyes of their parents and replaced with a different child from another world….

(5) GHOST NOT INCLUDED. Who ya gonna call? The LA Times called the real estate agent — “Haunted Hollywood home of ‘Dracula’ legend Bela Lugosi for sale for $3 million”.

It’s been over 80 years since iconic cinema star Bela Lugosi slept in this stately Tudor in Beachwood Canyon, yet his reputation still haunts it. Whether it’s called Westshire Manor, Castle La Paloma, or simply the Bela Lugosi House, the remodeled mansion is now for sale for $3 million.

The hillside Los Angeles neighborhood where this mansion is perched is right under the world-famous “Hollywood” sign, and is in fact still known as “Hollywoodland,” which is what the sign said when it was first constructed.

Best known for playing Count Dracula, Lugosi moved around Los Angeles and was hard to pin down, but the best sources place him in this particular home between 1934 and 1937. Apparently he, his fourth wife, Lillian, and their large dogs, including Great Danes and a white German Shepherd, enjoyed hiking to what was the Hollywoodland sign at the time.

Lugosi wasn’t the only celebrity to inhabit the manor. Actress Kathy Bates lived there for several years. Considering her roles in “Misery” as well as “American Horror Story,” we thought Westshore Manor might have a scary actor vibe.

(6) WOTF LIVESTREAM. The Writers of the Future Awards ceremony will be livestreamed on Sunday, April 2 beginning at 6:30 p.m. (PDT).

Streaming will be live from writersofthefuture.com and Facebook.com/WritersandIllustratorsoftheFuture.

The event will open with a fire dance, featuring performers from EMCirque, a Hollywood and Las Vegas based Circus Entertainment Production Company. Concurrent with the dance, Rob Prior (creator of the poster art for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Larry Elmore will execute a live painting on stage.

Celebrity presenters will include Erika Christensen (co-star “The Case for Christ” releasing April 2017) and Marisol Nichols (Hermione Lodge in the CW’s “Riverdale”).

…As the top names in the science fiction and fantasy world, contest judges will be on hand to present the annual awards to this year’s writer and illustrator winners as well as the grand prize winner for each contest.

Writer judges who will be attending include: Kevin J. Anderson, Gregory Benford, Dave Farland, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Nancy Kress, Larry Niven, Jody Lynn, Nye, Nnedi Okorafor, Jerry Pournelle, Tim Powers, Mike Resnick and Robert J, Sawyer.

Illustrator judges will include: Ciruelo, Echo and Lazarus Chernik, Larry Elmore, Val Lakey Lindahn, Sergey Poyarkov and Rob Prior.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WARRIOR

  • Born March 29, 1968 – Lucy Lawless

(8) CROWNED WITH LAURELS. Alison Bechdel will be the next Vermont Cartoonist Laureate. If that name sounds familiar, then you’ve doubtless heard of the Bechdel Test named for her. The test — whether a work of fiction features at least two women or girls who talk to each other about something other than a man or boy – first appeared in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985.

Next Thursday, April 6, Edward Koren will pass the torch — er, laurels — to his successor, Alison Bechdel, as Vermont Cartoonist Laureate. In a ceremony at the Statehouse, the longtime Bolton resident, creator of the strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic will become the third cartoonist laureate in the only state to regularly appoint one. The initiative originated with the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, the professional school founded by James Sturm and Michelle Ollie 10 years ago. Bechdel succeeds New Yorker cartoonist and Brookfield resident Koren, who in turn succeeded Vermont’s very first cartoonist laureate, James Kochalka of Burlington.

“It seemed obvious she could have been the choice from the get-go — we’re lucky to have so many great cartoonists in the state,” says Sturm of selecting Bechdel. “Besides all her accolades and fame, she’s really a cartoonist’s cartoonist. Cartooning is just essential to who she is and how she makes sense of the world.”

(9) MORE SCALZI BOOK TOUR STALKERS. There is now a “Johan Kalsi” YouTube channel and a second stalker video for it to host.

Made out to “Ted” (Theodore Beale) a.k.a Vox Day, John Scalzi encounters another unidentified member of the Dread Ilk, this time in Dallas, TX

 

(10) CH-CHING! Meanwhile, Nick Mamatas has discovered Bookscan is part of the vast conspiracy, or is accurately reporting sales of The Collapsing Empire, (probably the latter.)

(11) PLUG-INS, Roll on cyberpunk: Elon Musk creates brain-electrode firm.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has launched Neuralink, a start-up which aims to develop technology that connects our brains to computers.

A report from the Wall Street Journal, later confirmed in a tweet by Mr Musk, said the company was in its very early stages and registered as a “medical research” firm.

The company will develop so-called “neural lace” technology which would implant tiny electrodes into the brain.

The technique could be used to improve memory or give humans added artificial intelligence. …

Specialists in the field envision a time when humans may be able to upload and download thoughts.

(12) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. While Musk’s scientists are coming up with next-generation advances, here’s what’s available today – and it’s pretty amazing. “Paralyzed Man Uses Thoughts To Control His Own Arm and Hand”.

First, surgeons implanted two electrode arrays in Kochevar’s brain. The electrodes detect signals coming from areas of his brain that once controlled his right hand and arm.

“We have an algorithm that sort of transforms those neural signals into the movements he intended to make,” says Robert Kirsch, a professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western.

But movement requires muscles. So doctors also implanted electrodes in muscles that control his arm and hand movements.

The final result was a system that could determine which movements Kochevar wanted to perform, then electrically stimulate the appropriate muscles in his arm.

(13) LEARNING CURVE. As part of getting enough English speakers in time for the Tokyo Olympics, Japan assigns Fawlty Towers and Red Dwarf as homework. Because you never know when it’s going to be necessary to tell someone they can’t drive a nail with a hamster.

Japan is struggling to make sure it has enough proficient English speakers when it hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.

And the classic BBC comedy series Fawlty Towers is being deployed by some teachers in an attempt to give Japanese students an example of spoken English – rather than focusing on written language and grammar.

Japan’s government and businesses want to use the Olympics to boost tourism and global trade and to present a positive image of Japan to the world.

So the government needs to ensure a supply of English speakers to be Olympic volunteers and work in the accommodation, tourism, and retail industries.

There is also a demand for professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to speak to visitors or competitors in English.

(14) BLOODSHED AND APPLE PIE. Two inseperable American traditions — Adrian Garro at Cut4.com says “Baseball is coming…and so are ‘Game of Thrones’ theme nights at MLB ballparks”.

This summer, fans of both baseball and GoT will have plenty to be excited about … because special Game of Thrones® theme nights are coming to ballparks around MLB — featuring commemorative collectibles, ticket packages, giveaways, special co-branded merchandise, social media events and a lot more.

MLB has staged promotions like this before — like, say, the trailer for “The Force Awakens” as reimagined by the Twins — but this will be on a whole other level.

HBO has yet to announce when Season 7 will get underway, but we do know it will be some time this summer. Currently, at least 19 teams are scheduled to participate, including the D-backs, Red Sox, Reds, White Sox, Astros, Dodgers, Royals, Marlins, Brewers, Twins, Athletics, Phillies, Pirates, Mariners, Giants, Cardinals, Rangers, Rays and Nationals.

Hold the door for more information coming soon about this partnership, which has to be the biggest news since Jon Snow coming back from … well, you know.

(15) OTHER MLB PROMOTIONS. Martin Morse Wooster also sent the link to Michael Clair’s article about this summer’s best Major League Baseball promotions because the author says the Noah-Syndergaard-as-Thor bobblehead is ranked as the number 1 giveaway by anybody this year.

In the original Marvel Comics, Thor inhabited Dr. Donald Blake’s body while on Earth. But that’s just a fictional story. In our actual universe, Thor inhabits Noah Syndergaard every fifth day. Thanks to the Mets and Marvel Comics, you can walk away with the depiction of this stunning transformation.

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

Stage Review: Back To Methuselah

By Martin Morse Wooster: Like most cities of its size, Washington has theatres for every taste.  You have your edgy theatres, your really edgy theatres, your commercial theaters for Broadway tours, and the Shakespeare Theatre.  We even have one theater, Signature, which specializes in musicals and got Disney development money for a theatrical version of Freaky Friday.

The Washington Stage Guild specializes in traditional, well-made plays with a British accent.[1]  They pride themselves on their performances of George Bernard Shaw, and in 2014 started to perform Shaw’s Back to Methuselah, Shaw’s only full-fledged attempt to write science fiction.  Shaw wrote the play between 1918-20 and it was first performed in 1921.

The play, unabridged, probably takes between six and seven hours to perform.  Here are some indications that Shaw didn’t really expect it to be performed much.  His earlier plays have very detailed stage directions, for example, and Back to Methuselah has very sketchy ones.

As far as the Stage Guild knows, there have only been four professional performances of the unabridged Back to Methuselah:  the British and American productions of the early 1920s, one done by Canada’s Shaw Festival in 1986, and the Stage Guild’s production.  The play is in five parts, and the Stage Guild performed parts one and two in 2014 and parts three and four in 2015.   There was an abridged version of the play done on Broadway in 1958 and the BBC did a five-part dramatization in 1952.

The Stage Guild’s current production is part five of the play, subtitled “As Far As Thought Can Reach” and set in the year 31,920.

Back to Methuselah begins with Adam and Eve and then leaps to contemporary Britain, where a process is discovered that can extend the human lifespan to 300 years.  In parts three and four, longevity becomes commonplace and the British Empire moves its capital to Baghdad.

Having now seen the whole thing, I can say there’s an additional reason the play is performed very rarely—it’s not very good.

Do you have a friend you really care about and who was once full of zest for life, but as he’s gotten older would much rather discuss his prostate or the miracle superfoods he’s seen on TV commercials then the books he’s read?  This is what happened to Shaw here.  He wrote the play when he was in his sixties, and he’s turned, ummm, crotchety.

In the future Shaw describes, people come from eggs and when the egg cracks, a 20-year-old hatches.  Adults then live for four more years, and Shaw thinks it hilarious that a ”four-year old” who’s actually 24 can love a much younger “two-year-old” who’s 22.  After they turn four, they then become “ancients” and live on for 700 more years.

There’s science in this play, but Shaw talking about science is like me expounding on the foundations of mathematics: it takes very little for Shaw to blither.  For example, at one point there are some robots created (well, “automata” since the term “robot” hadn’t been invented) with brains that run on “keyboards.”

In the middle of the play, a character dies, and is cremated in a “million-degree furnace.”  Why does the furnace heat up to a million degrees instead of the several thousand degrees it takes to burn a human body?  Shaw doesn’t say.

There’s some speculation on the nature of art, but the dialogue is quite wan.  The second part of Back to Methuselah, set in contemporary times, almost matches the crackling wit of Shaw at his best, but in this installment, since Shaw really can’t visualize what life would be like in 30,000 AD, he can’t write characters in the distant future that are fully developed.

Still, I give the Washington Stage Guild enormous credit for staging this play and for completing it. Shakespeare fans don’t just want to see Hamlet and Henry IV, but also King John and Titus Andronicus.  Shaw fans want to see his bad plays as well as his good ones.

The cast did the best they could with the material, but of the actors, I enjoyed the performances of Conrad Feininger and Laura Giannarelli the best.

One final point.  Having read Brian Stableford’s The New Atlantis last year, I know that what Shaw was writing was not sf, but the British variant, “scientific romance,” which died around 1960.  I suspect Back to Methuselah will be the only time I see a scientific romance performed on a stage.


[1] We used to have the American Century Theater, which specialized in well-made American plays.  They’ve now folded, but because of them I’ve actually seen The Seven Year Itch and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? performed on stage.

“King Charles III”: A Review

Poster for the London production in 2014.

By Martin Morse Wooster: Those of us who read Gregory Benford’s 1980 novel Timescape will recall that he foresaw a world in 1998 that largely didn’t happen.  Oxygen-sucking algae did not nearly destroy the Atlantic. The British didn’t randomly die from bangers made with dubious meat.  Prince Charles did not become king.

As an American, I don’t get a vote on whether or not the monarchy is a good idea.  But I like sf, and I watch more monarchy shows on public television than is probably good for me.  So when I saw that the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington was showing King Charles III, a play by Mike Bartlett that premiered in London in 2014, I knew I had to see it.  I was very glad that I did.

I was somewhat surprised a couple of days before I went to get an email in my box from Shakespeare Theatre director Michael Kahn about the play.  He quoted David Muse, the head of the Studio Theatre here and the play’s director.  He praised Bartlett for writing plays that dealt with climate change, Edward Snowden, and “the fluidity of sexuality.”  But in this paragraph Muse nailed why King Charles III is quite good:

“This is not a play that takes sides or tires to satirize the quaintness of the monarchy of the foibles of the royal family.  Far from being a fool, Charles is a protagonist with complexity that Bartlett invests with tragic stature.”

Having been warned about Bartlett’s other plays, I can attest the following things do not happen in King Charles III:

King Charles does not punch out any polar bears fleeing melting icebergs.

The king does not get busted for downloading data dumps to Wikileaks.

Charles does not tell tourists, “I’m the king, dagrabbit.  Get off my royal lawn!”

The Shakespeare Theatre published in their program this interview originally done for the American Conservatory Theatre by Simon Hodgson.  Bartlett explains in the interview how he tried to make his play like Shakespeare’s:  it “has five acts” (although of course it really only had two).  There are two plots, of which the minor story is comic.  Above all, all the royals speak in iambic pentameter,

The premise is that in the near future (around 2022) Charles finally becomes king.  But a prime minister proposes a bill imposing severe restrictions on the press.  Charles refuses to give his assent to the bill.  Will this decision doom the monarchy?

The comic subplot is very familiar to people who have seen Henry IV.  There’s no Falstaff, but Prince Harry goes clubbing and falls in with dubious people.  He plays with the paper crowns Burger King gives out and at one point consumes a late-night kebab on stage to soak up the booze.

Charles comes across as more like Richard II than any of Shakespeare’s other kings.  There’s also a ghost, and if you think about the history of the Windsors you’ll know whose ghost it is.

As Muse notes, it would be very easy to portray Charles as yesterday’s man, a hangover from the past that a modern country doesn’t need.  But this is a move Bartlett doesn’t make.  Charles is portrayed as someone trying to do the right thing and make the monarchy a force in improving British life.  As Bartlett portrays him, he is neither a ninny nor a fool but someone who is admirable in many ways.

As I’d expect from the Shakespeare Theatre, the cast, including Jeanne Paulsen as the Duchess of Cornwall, Christopher McLinden as Prince William, and Allison Jean White as the Duchess of Cambridge, were all quite good.  Robert Joy looks nothing like the real Prince Charles, but portrays Charles with tragic grandeur.

Special thanks to the Shakespeare Theatre gift shop for introducing me to Walkers’ Nonsuch Toffee, a delicious treat made with healthful ingredients like sugar, whole milk, and butter, no doubt provided by contented cows.  It enhanced my evening.

Pixel Scroll 2/27/17 That’s it! Scroll Over Man, Scroll Over!

(1) ACADEMY INVITES LE GUIN. Ursula K. LeGuin has been voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters reports SFGate. The 87-year-old Le Guin is one of 14 new core members of the Academy.

The arts academy, an honorary society with a core membership of 250 writers, artists, composers and architects, once shunned “genre” writers such as Le Guin. Even such giants as science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and crime novelist Elmore Leonard never got in.

Academy member Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, advocated for Le Guin.

“As a deviser of worlds, as a literary stylist, as a social critic and as a storyteller, Le Guin has no peer,” he wrote in his recommendation, shared with the AP, that she be admitted. “From the time of her first published work in the mid-1960s, she began to push against the confines of science fiction, bringing to bear an anthropologist’s acute eye for large social textures and mythic structures, a fierce egalitarianism and a remarkable gift of language, without ever renouncing the sense of wonder and the spirit of play inherent in her genre of origin.”

(2) 2017 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY COVER REVEAL. Hat tip to F.J. Bergmann.

(3) NEW FICTION WEBZINE. Science fiction and fantasy book imprint Strange Fictions Press will officially launch Strange Fictions SciFi & Fantasy Zine on February 28 with “This Chicken Outfit,” by Pushcart nominated author, A.L. Sirois. Siriois’ short stories have appeared in ThemaAmazing Stories, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He has also contributed comic art for DC, Marvel, and Charlton.

Strange Fictions will focus “on publishing speculative short fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry twice a week for genre fans worldwide.”  New stories, poems, and essays will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribers can sign up for email notifications whenever a new story is posted.

Strange Fictions SF&F Zine is open to submissions from both new and experienced genre writers, and details can be found at the website.

Authors of acquired pieces for Strange Fictions SF&F ‘Zine will receive a flat fee payment of $5 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 4,999 words and under and $10 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 5,000-10,000.

(4) ALOFT. Martin Morse Wooster recommends Miyazaki Dreams of Flying as “a lovely compilation of flying scenes from Miyazaki films, including an interview where the great animator expresses his love of airplanes.”

(5) DEFYING THE LAW…OF GRAVITY. In “Mars Needs Lawyers” on FiveThirtyEight, Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the many problems of international law that have to be solved in we’re ever going to have successful Mars missions.  For example:  if you have astronauts from five countries flying in a spacecraft that’s registered in Liberia, how do you figure out which country’s law applies?

For instance, a limited number of satellites can orbit the Earth simultaneously. Put up too many, and you end up with an expensive game of celestial bumper cars. But some countries — Russia and the United States, in particular — had a big head start on gobbling up those slots. What do you do if you’re Nigeria? Today, Gabrynowicz said, the international community has settled on a regulatory system that attempts to balance the needs of nations that can put an object into geostationary orbit first with the needs of those that aren’t there yet but could be later. And even this compromise is still extremely controversial.

The same basic disagreement behind them will apply to Mars, too. And it’s at issue right now in the U.S., as lawmakers try to figure out how best to implement the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act — a bill signed by President Obama in November 2015. That law states that U.S. companies can own and sell space resources — including minerals and water. But the details of what this means in practice haven’t been worked out yet, Gabrynowicz said. Legal experts say that those details will make the difference in terms of whether the law puts the U.S. in violation of the Outer Space Treaty.

This question of whether space should be an Old West-style gold rush or an equitably distributed public commons could have been settled decades ago, with the 1979 Moon Agreement (aka the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies), which would have established space as part of the “common heritage of mankind.” What this would have meant in practice is not totally clear. But at the time, opponents saw it as having the potential to ban all private enterprise and effectively turn the heavens into a United Nations dictatorship. It ended up being signed by a handful of countries, most of which have no space program. But it is international law, and if humans go to Mars, though, we’ll likely end up debating this issue again.

(6) GAME WRITING. Monica Valentinelli gives an “Overview of Game Production and the Role of Writers” at the SFWA Blog.

One of the things I enjoy doing as a game developer is hiring new writers. In almost every case, writers are shocked to learn how many levers and pulleys there are in game production. This tends to hold true regardless of what kind of game a writer is contributing to; in part, this has to do with the process of transitioning from a consumer’s mindset (e.g. fan, critic, reviewer) to that of a creator’s. Sometimes, however, the process is confusing because there are aspects physical development that writers aren’t always involved with. A good example of this is that developers often regard word processing documents with an eye for production when they redline and provide comments. What’s laid out vertically on a page in text isn’t how it will be rendered in the final product, and that has a huge impact on what the writers are hired to write, edit, and make changes on. Sometimes, the number of words that fit on a page or a screen can also shape a writer’s assignment, too.

Other, lesser-known aspects of production might include:

  • Canon or Setting Bible creation
  • Systems/rules documentation
  • Marketing copy and sell sheets
  • Outlining and project management
  • Mock-ups and proofs for manufacturing
  • Playtest or beta editions

(7) DISNEY’S DUDEFRÉRES. Another clip from the live-action Beauty and the Beast shows LeFou singing “My, what a guy, that Gaston!” With Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou.

(8) VOIR DIRE STRAITS. Shadow Clarke juror Jonathan McCalmont followed his introductory post with an entry on his ownblog, Ruthless Culture “Genre Origin Stories”.

A couple of things that occurred to me upon re-reading the piece:

Firstly, I think it does a pretty good job of capturing how I currently feel about the institutions of genre culture. To be blunt, I don’t think that genre fandom survived the culture wars of 2015 and I think genre culture has now entered a post-apocalyptic phase in which a few institutional citadels manage to keep the lights on while the rest of the field is little more than a blasted wasteland full of isolated, lonely people. One reason why I agreed to get involved with shadowing the Clarke Award is that I see the Shadow Clarke as an opportunity to build something new that re-introduces the idea that engaging with literary science fiction can be about more than denouncing your former friends and providing under-supported writers with free PR….

McCalmont’s post includes a high overview of the past 40 years of fanhistory. I was surprised to find many points of agreement, such as his takes about things that frustrated me at the time they were happening, or that I witnessed affecting my friends among the LA locals who founded anime fandom.

Regardless of whether they are conventional, idiosyncratic, or simply products of distracted parenting, our paths into science fiction cannot help but shape our understanding and expectations of the field. Unfortunately, where there is difference there is bound to be misunderstanding and where there is misunderstanding there must inevitably be conflict.

The problem is that while the walls of science fiction may be infinitely porous and allow for inspiration from different cultures and artistic forms, the cultural institutions surrounding science fiction have shown themselves to be remarkably inflexible when it comes to making allowances for other people’s genre origin stories.

The roots of the problem are as old as genre fandom itself. In fact, the very first Worldcon saw the members of one science fiction club deny entry to the membership of another on the grounds that the interlopers were socialists whose politicised understanding of speculative fiction posed an existential threat to the genre’s continued existence. A similar conflict erupted when the unexpected success of Star Wars turned a niche literary genre into a mass market phenomenon. Faced with the prospect of making allowances for legions of new fans with radically different ideas as to what constituted good science fiction, the institutions of genre fandom responded with sluggishness indistinguishable from hostility. Media fandom was born when traditional fandom refused to expand its horizons and the same thing happened again in the early 1990s when fans of anime decided that it was better to build their own institutions than to fight street-by-street for the right to be hidden away in the smallest and hottest rooms that science fiction conventions had to offer.

The institutions of genre culture may pride themselves on their inclusiveness and forward-thinking but this is largely a product of the excluded not sticking around long enough to give their own sides of the story. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have been offered the chance to get in on the ground floor when science-fictional ideas began to manifest themselves in different ways. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have chosen to protect the primacy of the familiar over the vibrancy of the new and the different….

Cultural commentators may choose to characterise 2015 as the year in which genre culture rejected the misogynistic white supremacy of the American right but the real message is far more nuanced. Though the institutions of genre culture have undoubtedly improved when it comes to reflecting the diversity not only of the field but also of society at large, this movement towards ethnic and sexual diversity has coincided with a broader movement of aesthetic conservatism as voices young and old find themselves corralled into a narrowing range of hyper-commercial forms.

I thought that was well said. Unfortunately, I also read the comments.

(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • February 24, 1909 – August Derleth
  • February 26, 1918 – Theodore Sturgeon

(10) THE STRAIGHT POOP. “Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype” advises WIRED.

The link between schizophrenia and cats goes back to the 1970s, when psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey learned that viruses from dogs might trigger multiple sclerosis—a neurological condition—in humans. “That got me thinking about which animals host which infectious agents,” he says. Soon, he learned that cats host the most successful infectious bacteria in the world: Toxoplasma gondii. Looking into previously published research, he found plenty of studies showing that schizophrenics often had higher levels of toxoplasma antibodies in their blood than people without the mental illness.

Then he started surveying schizophrenics about their life history, and found that many had indeed lived with cats. But what’s important isn’t just if, it’s when. See, Torrey’s theory isn’t merely that T. gondii causes mental illness, it’s that it somehow alters the development of a person’s brain during crucial periods of brain development—and probably only if that person is genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. It’s a complicated hypothesis, and even after four decades of study, Torrey says he’s still not totally convinced it’s fact. Hence, his continued research on the subject.

Still, every study he publishes—his most recent, dropped in July of 2015—attracts the media like nip. Same with refutations, like the one published this week. The authors analyzed a dataset of 5,000 UK children, looking for a correlation between cat ownership during critical ages of brain development and behavioral indicators of later psychosis (like dark thoughts) at the ages of 13 and 18. Their statistical analysis of the results showed no correlation. Most (but not all) news websites ran with some variation of “Relax, Cats Don’t Cause Schizophrenia.”

But that’s not what the study said.

(11) GUESS WHO. From 2015. David Tennant’s NTA Special Recognition – his reaction: “Actor Sees A Tribute Video On Screen. The Realizes It’s For Him And He Can’t Believe It”

(12) TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Carl Slaughter says, “This documentary convincingly demonstrates how the Batman movies/trilogies reflect the cultural era in which they were produced.”

  • 60s Batman  –  prosperity
  • 70s  –  disillusionment  –  no Batman movies
  • Batman  –  escapism
  • Batman Returns  –  anti rich
  • Batman Forever, Batman & Robin  –  safety
  • Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises  –  fear
  • Batman versus Superman  –  extremism

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

Pixel Scroll 2/2/17 If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

(1) LOOKING FOR SHADOWS. Leah Schnelbach’s “Groundhog Day Breaks the Rules of Every Genre” is a masterpiece about one of my favorite movies. (It first appeared on Tor.com in 2014.)

Groundhog Day succeeds as a film because of the way it plays with, subverts, and outright mocks the tropes of each of the genres it flirts with. While some people would call it a time travel movie, or a movie about small town America, or the most spiritual film of all time, or a rom-com, it is by breaking the rules of each of those types of films that it ultimately transcends genre entirely.

(2) SHARKNADO 5. Not sure why Syfy and studio The Asylum picked Groundhog Day to announce there will be a fifth Sharknado movie, unless it’s to wink at the fact they’re doing the same thing over and over again:

The original 2013 “Sharknado” introduced the concept of a shark-laden twister via one bearing down on Los Angeles. In “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” New York City was the target of the disaster, and in “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” a mega-sharknado made its way down the East Coast from Washington, D.C. to Florida. In the most recent installment, the very-close-to-copyright-infringement-titled “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens,” the shark-infested storms went national. The film ended with the Eiffel Tower ripping away from Paris and crashing down on Niagara Falls, setting the stage for the fifth edition of America’s answer to the sprawling sagas of the ancient world.

In “Sharknado 5,” with much of North America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado. Fin Shepard (Ziering) and his family must put a stop to this disaster before Earth is obliterated.

(3) TODAY’S SCROLL TITLE. On the other hand, Daniel Dern hopes you will add iterations of your own to his faux children’s book for Filers.

If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

whose text perhaps goes…

… he’ll <blatt> and leap.

If a Kzin <blatt>s and leaps,
he’ll rip you from gehenna to duodenum. [1]

If a Kzin rips you from gehenna to duodenum,
well, that’s the end of the story as far as you’re concerned,
unless you’ve got either an autodoc [2] nearby, or have Wolverine-class mutant healing factor.

[1] per Don Marquis, Archie & Mehitabel — Mehitabel on Marriage, IIRC.

[2] and health care insurance that will cover you 🙁

Probably if you put all that in, Filers will contribute a few dozen more verses.

(4) BOMBS AWAY. Before telling the “Five Things I Learned Writing Exo”, Fonda Lee confesses that Exo began life as a failed NanNoWriMo novel. (A guest post at Terrible Minds.)

This is how it went: I wrote 35,000 words by November 20th or so, and stalled out. It wasn’t working. At all. I read the manuscript from the beginning and hated all of it with the nauseous loathing that writers feel when looking at their own disgusting word messes. I had a shiny story idea in my head but it was emerging as dog vomit. So I quit. I failed NaNoWriMo hard.

I trashed everything I’d written and started again. I wrote a new draft over several months, and then rewrote 50% of that one. And did it again. After the book sold, I did another major revision with my editor. I was relieved and excited by how it was getter better and better, but part of me was also surprised and disheartened. I mean, Zeroboxer was picking up accolades and awards, and whoa, I got to go to the Nebula Awards as a finalist and dance on stage, so why the hell was it so hard to write another book?! This whole writing thing ought to be easier now, right?

Wrong. In talking (griping, whining, crying) to wiser authors, I learned there was wide agreement that the second book is often a complete bitch to write. A very loud voice in your head is telling you that because you’re now a Published Author, you should be writing better and faster, plus doing author promotion stuff with an effortless grin.

(5) REMEMBERING PAN. J. M. Barrie was one of several authors who put science-related observation into fantasies. The BBC tells you about it: “What Peter Pan teaches us about memory and consciousness”.

In this way, the stories appear to follow a tradition of great cross-pollination between the arts and the sciences – particularly in children’s literature. Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies was written, in part, as a response to Darwin’s theory of evolution, while Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were a playful exploration of mathematics and logic. Even some of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales were inspired by new scientific and technological developments – such as the invention of the home microscope.

(6) A LARGER-THAN-EXPECTED COLLISION. The Large Hadron Collider didn’t end the world, as some cranks feared, but it did end this creature: “World’s Most Destructive Stone Marten Goes On Display In The Netherlands”

On Nov. 20, 2016, the animal hopped over a fence at the $7 billion Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, touched a transformer and was electrocuted by 18,000 volts.

The marten died instantly. The collider, which accelerates particles to near the speed of light to study the fiery origins of the universe, lost power and shut down.

“There must have been a big flame,” said Kees Moeliker, the director of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam and the man behind its Dead Animal Tales exhibit, where the preserved marten is now displayed.

“It was scorched. When you’re not really careful with candles and your hair, like that,” he explained. “Every hair of this creature was kind of burned and the whiskers, they were burned to the bare minimum and especially the feet, the legs, they were cooked. They were darker, like roasted.”

“It really had a bad, bad encounter with this electricity.”

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Marten furs were once sufficiently tradable that Croatia’s currency, the kuna, takes its name from the Croatian word for the beast.“

(7) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll turns the panel loose on Roger Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”.

I selected 1963’s A Rose for Ecclesiastes for a few reasons. The least important is because I only recently read it myself (the story kept coming up in the context of a grand review project of mine and I got tired of admitting over and over again that I had not read it.). Another is its historical significance: this is one of the last SF stories written before space probes showed us what Mars was really like. The final reason is this story was nominated for a Hugo and I am hopeful that the virtues the readers saw a half century ago are still there.

Let’s find out!

(8) THE FOUNDER. Selected writings by Hugo Gernsback have been compiled in The Perversity of Things: Hugo Gernsback on Media, Tinkering, and Scientifiction, edited by Grant Wythoff. The book was published in November by the University of Minnesota Press.

In 1905, a young Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg founded an electrical supply shop in New York. This inventor, writer, and publisher Hugo Gernsback would later become famous for launching the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. But while science fiction’s annual Hugo Awards were named in his honor, there has been surprisingly little understanding of how the genre began among a community of tinkerers all drawn to Gernsback’s vision of comprehending the future of media through making. In The Perversity of Things, Grant Wythoff makes available texts by Hugo Gernsback that were foundational both for science fiction and the emergence of media studies.

…The Perversity of Things aims to reverse the widespread misunderstanding of Gernsback within the history of science fiction criticism. Through painstaking research and extensive annotations and commentary, Wythoff reintroduces us to Gernsback and the origins of science fiction.

Bruce Sterling gives the book a powerful endorsement:

Grant Wythoff’s splendid work of scholarship dispels the dank, historic mists of a literary subculture with starkly factual archival research. An amazing vista of electronic media struggle is revealed here, every bit as colorful and cranky as Hugo Gernsback’s pulp magazines—even the illustrations and footnotes are fascinating. I’m truly grateful for this work and will never think of American science fiction in the same way again.

(9) SARAH PRINCE. The family obituary for Sarah Prince, who died last month, appeared in the Plattsburgh (NY) Press-Republican.

Sarah Symonds Prince (born July 11, 1954) died unexpectedly of congestive heart failure in late January in her Keene Valley home. A long time resident and well-loved community member, she was active in the Keene Valley Congregational Church choir and hand bell choir, the town community garden program; she was a former member of the Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

Sarah was an avid photographer and a ceramic artist, and a freelance graphic designer. She was an influential member of the science fiction fan community and publisher (in the 1980s/90s) of her own fanzine. Sarah enjoyed going to interesting places whether around the corner or halfway around the world. She loved the many dogs and cats that were constant companions in her life.

Born in Salem, Mass., Sarah was the third child of David Chandler Prince Jr. and Augusta Alger Prince. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she graduated from Walnut Hills High School. Sarah’s love of Keene Valley, N.Y., follows family ties that date back four generations as regular summer visitors.

Sarah graduated from the Ohio State University with a BFA degree. She trained in print layout and typesetting and worked in typesetting, layout and graphic arts for several publications, including Adirondack Life from 1990-93, a job which brought her to live full-time in Keene Valley. A deep curiosity about technology and a sustainable world led Sarah to Clinton Community College to study computer technology and earn an Environmental Science AA degree in May 2016.

Sarah lived with disability from mental illness and substance abuse for many years. She worked to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by herself and others. She positively touched many who were also struggling.

Sarah is survived by her mother, Augusta Prince of Hanover, N.H.; four siblings, Timothy Prince, Catharine Roth, Charlotte Hitchcock, and Virginia Prince; seven nieces and nephews; and six grand nieces and nephews.

Donations in her memory can be made to North Country SPCA or the Keene Valley Library. Arrangements have been entrusted to Heald Funeral Home, 7521 Court Street, Plattsburgh, N.Y. To light a memorial candle or leave an online condolence please visit http://www.healdfuneralhomeinc.com

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 2, 1882 – James Joyce is born .

And that reminds John King Tarpinian of a story:

Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, published the novel herself in 1922, but it was banned in the United Kingdom and in the United States until 1933.  Every July Ray Bradbury and his family would vacation in France.  Ray would always visit Shakespeare and Company.  The bookshop would make sure they had a book that Ray wanted, such as first editions of Jules Verne.

(11) CREEPTASTIC. Dread Central reports “Zak Bagan’s Haunted Museum to feature ‘one of the most dangerous paranormal possessions in the world’” — Peggy the Doll.

Excited about visiting Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum when it opens? Of course you are! This latest story though… this latest addition to Zak’s house of madness? Well, it’s going to be up to you whether or not you take your chances and take a look.

Zak has just informed us exclusively that he’s now in possession of the infamous “Peggy the Doll,” which he obtained from its previous owner, Jayne Harris from England. Featured on an episode of his series “Deadly Possessions,” Peggy is not for the faint of heart. It’s said you can be affected by Peggy by just looking at her… in person or in photos. As a result “Deadly Possessions” aired the episode with a disclaimer for viewers: a first for both the show and the paranormal in general.

(12) BUNK. Jason Sanford muses about “An alternate history of alternative histories”:

Ironically, the last book my grandfather read was edited by Poul Anderson, one of our genre’s early authors of alternate histories. Anderson’s Time Patrol stories, where valiant time travelers ensure history stays on its “correct” timeline, are an integral and fun part of SF’s long tradition of time travel fiction focused on keeping history pure. He also wrote a famous series of alternate history fantasies called Operation Chaos, originally published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1950s. In these stories World War II was fought between completely different countries with magical creatures such as werewolves and witches.

Of course, Anderson’s stories of time travelers keeping the timeline pure and correct seem a little simplistic today, just as historical narratives today are far more complex than they were decades ago. I think this is partly because most historians now recognize how imprecisely history is recorded. History as it is written can even be called the original version of the alternate history genre, where the story we’re told deviates from what really happened.

After all, history is written by the victors, as the cliche states. Which means much of what happened in the past is left out or altered before history is recorded. And even the victors don’t name all the victors and don’t celebrate all their victories and deeds.

Theodore Sturgeon famously said that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” This applies equally to history as we know it — including the history of the alternate history genre.

(13) WHITE FLIGHT. Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, in “Whitey on Mars”, ask if Elon Musk’s Martian proposals are part of a dream by rich and powerful people to further isolate themselves from the masses. (The title references Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 “Whitey on the Moon.”)

Musk insists that humans in fact ‘need’ to go to Mars. The Mars mission, he argues, is the best way for humanity to become what he calls a ‘space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species’. This otherworldly venture, he says, is necessary to mitigate the ‘existential threat’ from artificial intelligence (AI) that might wipe out human life on Earth. Musk’s existential concerns, and his look to other worlds for solutions, are not unique among the elite of the technology world. Others have expressed what might best be understood as a quasi-philosophical paranoia that our Universe is really just a simulation inside a giant computer.

Musk himself has fallen under the sway of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, who put forward the simulation theory in 2003. Bostrom has also argued that addressing ‘existential risks’ such as AI should be a global priority. The idea that Google’s CEO Larry Page might create artificially intelligent robots that will destroy humanity reportedly keeps Musk up at night. ‘I’m really worried about this,’ Musk told his biographer. ‘He could produce something evil by accident.’

These subjects could provide some teachable moments in certain kinds of philosophy classes. They are, obviously, compelling plot devices for Hollywood movies. They do not, however, bear any relationship to the kinds of existential risks that humans face now, or have ever faced, at least so far in history. But Musk has no connection to ordinary people and ordinary lives. For his 30th birthday, Musk rented an English castle, where he and 20 guests played hide-and-seek until 6am the following day. Compare this situation with the stories recounted in Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted (2016), where an entire housing industry has arisen in the US to profit from the poverty of some families, who often move from home to home with little hope of ever catching up, let alone getting ahead.

(14) COMIC SECTION. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I think today’s Prickly City expresses the dreams of many Filers.”

(15) ANOTHER COUNTRY HEARD FROM. When the next Doctor Who is chosen, one party thinks someone besides a human deserves consideration: “New Doctor Who should be a Dalek, say Daleks”, at The Daily Mash.

The Skaro natives have petitioned the BBC for ‘better representation’ from a show which has historically ‘erased and demonised’ their proud race.

The Supreme Dalek said: “It’s not the 1960s anymore. These narratives about heroic Gallifreyans saving humanoids from extermination are outdated and offensive.

“My son is an eight-year-old New Paradigm Dalek and his eyestalk droops whenever he turns on his favourite show to see that yet again, the Daleks are the baddies.…

(16) WHEN ROBOTS LAY DOWN ON THE JOB. Fynbospress told Mad Genius Club readers about running into a wall while using Word:

Interesting quirk I learned recently on MS Word. Say you have a MilSF novel, and you haven’t added the last names, planets, etc. to the customized dictionary (So they all show as a spelling error). As you’re reading through, it pops up a window saying “there are too many spelling errors in this document to show.” And promptly cuts out the red spelling and blue grammar lines.

(17) INFERNO. JJ says, quite rightly, this photo of the West Kamokuna Skylight in Hawaii resembles sculpture of bodies being sucked into hell.

If lava has the right viscosity, it can travel across a landscape via channels. The lava either forms the channels itself or uses a preexisting one. Along the same vein, lava tubes are essentially channels that reside underground and also allow lava to move quickly. Tubes form one of two ways. A lava channel can form an arc above it that chills and crystallizes, or an insulated pahoehoe flow can have lava still running through it while outer layers freeze. Lava tubes, by their nature, are buried. However, skylights form when the lava tube collapses in a specific area and allow one to see the flow inside the tube. Tubes can collapse completely and become channels, drain out, or get blocked up.

(18) FROM BC TO DC. CinemaBlend thinks the critical success of the DC Extended Universe hinges on the forthcoming Wonder Woman movie.

While Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice struggled to please critics, most agreed that Gal Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman was one of its few shining lights. It’s hoped that the opportunity to explore the character even more, as well as take a peak at her origin story, will help to propel the DC Extended Universe forward, especially considering all of its recent troubles regarding both its releases and the films it has in development.

 

💛 💛 💛 #wonderwoman @WonderWomanFilm

A post shared by Gal Gadot (@gal_gadot) on

(19) I’M OUT. It may look like a chocolate chip thumbscrew, but it’s Dunking Buddy!

why_cookie_tray_medium

What if there was an easier, cleaner, more enjoyable way to enjoy dunking cookies in milk. Well the world is finally in luck, and based on the response so far, it couldn’t have come sooner! Two cookie dunking lovers, like so many others out there, took it upon themselves and created a cookie dunking device that does just that!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Moshe Feder, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

 

Pixel Scroll 1/8/17 There Is No Joy In Pixelville – Mighty Casey Has Scrolled Out

(1) MOORCOCK REMEMBERS CLARKE, In New Statesman Michael Moorcock writes a wide-ranging memoir of Arthur C. Clarke which the publication rather myopically captions “’Close to tears, he left at the intermission’: how Stanley Kubrick upset Arthur C Clarke” – although, of course, that is one of Moorcock’s anecdotes.

Based primarily on his short story “The Sentinel”, together with other published fact and fiction, the film was very much a joint effort, although Arthur was overly modest about his contribution. For his part, Kubrick seemed unable to come up with an ending that suited him. When I visited the set, the film was already about two years behind schedule and well over budget. I saw several alternative finale scenes constructed that were later abandoned. In one version, the monolith turned out to be some kind of alien spaceship. I also knew something that I don’t think Arthur ever did: Kubrick was at some point dissatisfied with the collaboration, approaching other writers (including J G Ballard and myself) to work on the film. He knew neither Ballard nor me personally. We refused for several reasons. I felt it would be disloyal to accept.

I guessed the problem was a difference in personality….

Without consulting or confronting his co-creator, Kubrick cut a huge amount of Arthur’s voice-over explanation during the final edit. This decision probably contributed significantly to the film’s success but Arthur was unprepared for it. When he addressed MGM executives at a dinner in his honour before the premiere, he spoke warmly of Kubrick, declaring that there had been no serious disagreements between them in all the years they had worked together, but he had yet to see the final cut.

My own guess at the time was that Kubrick wasn’t at ease with any proposed resolution but had nothing better to offer in place of his co-writer’s “Star Child” ending. We know now that the long final sequence, offered without explanation, was probably what helped turn the film into the success it became, but the rather unresponsive expressions on the faces of the MGM executives whom Arthur had addressed in his speech showed that they were by no means convinced they had a winner….

As it turned out, Arthur did not get to see the completed film until the US private premiere. He was shocked by the transformation. Almost every element of explanation had been removed. Reams of voice-over narration had been cut. Far from being a pseudo-documentary, the film was now elusive, ambiguous and thoroughly unclear.

Close to tears, he left at the intermission, having watched an 11-minute sequence in which an astronaut did nothing but jog around the centrifuge in a scene intended to show the boredom of space travel. This scene was considerably cut in the version put out on general release

(2) CONGRATULATIONS! Pat Cadigan marks her ”Two-year Chemo-versary”.

Last year at this time, I was so…moved by the fact that I was going to live that it was a few weeks before I could think straight enough to get any work done. I think I was more affected by the news that I was going to live than I was by the news that I had terminal cancer. Even now––I mean, I’m getting things done but every so often I still have a sudden moment of clarity, of being surprised by joy.

(3) AWARD PICKERS. Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton has named the members of HWA’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award Committee:

Ramsey Campbell

Erinn Kemper

Monica Kuebler

John Little (chair)

Joseph Nassise

The Committee will immediately begin discussions to determine 2016’s recipient(s).

(4) OLDER VISITS THE BAY AREA. Daniel Jose Older will do a reading and signing at the main San Francisco Public Library on January 24.

Author, Daniel Jose Older, will read from his second book, entitled Shadowshaper, about a young Afro-Latina girl named Sierra who discovers her family’s history of supernatural powers and her ability to interact with the spirit world.

(5) FINAL RESTING PLACE. I might not do it. You might not do it. All that matters is – WWCD? “Carrie Fisher’s ashes carried in Prozac-shaped urn”.

Carrie Fisher has been laid to rest alongside her mother Debbie Reynolds at a private service where her ashes were carried in an urn in the form of an outsize Prozac pill.

The US actress, best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, was frequently open about her experience of mental health issues.

“I felt it was where she would want to be,” her brother Todd Fisher said.

Following the joint funeral service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, Todd Fisher said the giant pill in the shape of the anti-depressant drug was chosen as the urn for his sister’s ashes because it was one of Carrie’s “favourite possessions”.

(6) IN TIMES TO COME. Entertainment Weekly writer Rachel DeSantis says these are the most anticipated movies of 2017:

Star Wars: Episode VIII, Blade Runner 2049, and Alien: Covenant topped Rotten Tomatoes’ survey of the most anticipated movies of the year.

Star Wars fans got an extra dose of the galaxy far, far away in 2016’s most anticipated movie, Rogue One, which has brought in more than $800 million at the worldwide box office following its Dec. 16 release. Episode VIII will serve as the follow-up to 2015’s smash hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That film will pick up where The Force Awakens left off and features Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, and the late Carrie Fisher, who completed filming before she died last month.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 8, 1958 — Teenage Monster, aka Meteor Monster, opens in theaters.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • January 8, 1935 – Elvis Presley
  • January 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking. A thought for the day: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. ” — Stephen Hawking

(9) HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU’VE MADE IT? W.E.B. Griffin gave a tagline to characters in his series The Corps: “The true test of another man’s intelligence is how much he agrees with you.”  When I read Brad R. Torgersen’s “What is ‘legitimate’ in the 21st century publishing environment?” I thought his answers were very intelligent…. Everyone would like Scalzi-size or even Milo-size book contracts, but that’s not a requirement of success.

My suggestion is to wholly ignore outside factors, and consider your specific situation alone. How much income — directly from prose writing — would it take to pay a single bill? How about several bills? The monthly rent, lease, or mortgage? Pay off the car loan? Wipe out college debt? Pay for a home remodel? Buy a new home entirely? These are scalable, individual goals which are within your individual grasp to quantify, and they don’t place you in competition with your peers. You are never keeping up with the Joneses, to use an old phrase. Your success is not determined by matching or “beating” anyone else in the business. It’s wholly dependent on how much progress you can make, and in what form, according to financial circumstances which are uniquely your own.

For example, I live in fly-over country. The cost of living, for my specific area of Utah, is rather modest. Especially compared to where I used to live in Seattle, Washington. It won’t take millions of dollars to pay off my home, or my auto loan, or to add a second floor onto my rambler, or to accomplish any other dozen things which I’d like to accomplish with my writing income. Better yet, these things can be accomplished without having to look at either Larry Correia to my northeast, or Brandon Sanderson to the south. I don’t have to “catch up” to feel like I am winning at the game of life. I am alone, on my own chess board, and I define my own conditions for victory. They can be reasonable. More importantly, they can be reachable. And I know for a fact that Larry, or Brandon, or any four dozen other successful Utah authors — we’ve got a lot of them out here — will understand completely. Because they’re all doing the same thing, too.

And so can you.

Once more, for emphasis: production, followed by readership, followed by income….

(10) SUCCESS BY ANYONE’S MEASURE. Adam Poots has a load of money he can to make the next edition of his game: “Board game raises over $10 million, becomes one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever”.

The crowdfunding campaign for Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 launched strong on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. It set Kickstarter records by raising its first million in only 19 minutes , faster than any project ever before on the popular crowdfunding platform.

Currently, with more than $10 million raised and a bit over a day left in the campaign, the game is thefifth most funded project ever to run on Kickstarter. The other top ten highest earning products include Pebble smartwatches, the “coolest cooler,” a deluxe travel jacket and a tiny desk toy called a Fidget Cube.

New York City-based game designer and founder of Kingdom Death Adam Poots is, unsurprisingly, excited. …

Just don’t plan on playing it very soon. “Poots expects to be able to deliver all elements of the game by December 2020.”

(11) TRIBUTE ANTHOLOGY. If, on the other hand, you don’t need to get paid for your writing…. Zoetic Press is seeking fiction and nonfiction submissions for an anthology memorializing dead cultural icons.

We invite writers to eulogize the fallen icons who have profoundly shaped your relationship to yourself and your place in the world. We are more interested pieces which memorialize public figures who have recently passed, but all in memoriams submitted will be given equal attention.

We regret that we cannot consider In Memoriam pieces for Dearly Beloved which are not about public figures. We cannot consider pieces about family members, pets, friends, or figures that are not public for Dearly Beloved– this anthology is a memorial for the artists and public personalities that shape each of us differently.

(12) WE’RE A LITTLE LATE. From October, Alison Flood of The Guardian reports: “Stephen King pens children’s picture book about train that comes alive”.

Charlie the Choo-Choo, written under the pseudonym Beryl Evans, steams out out of the pages of King’s Dark Tower fantasy series and into bookshops – with a warning for Thomas fans

“As he looked down at the cover, Jake found that he did not trust the smile on Charlie the Choo-Choo’s face. You look happy, but I think that’s just the mask you wear, he thought. I don’t think you’re happy at all. And I don’t think Charlie’s your real name, either.”

Now, King has written a real-life version of Charlie the Choo-Choo: out on 22 November from Simon & Schuster, under the pseudonym Beryl Evans, and illustrated by Ned Dameron.

(13) THE COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian notes that online comic Brevity has a very amusing Star Trek reference today.

Meanwhile, Martin Morse Wooster points out that the latest installment of Pearls Before Swine might be seen as complementary to John Scalzi’s 10-point advice post linked in yesterdays Scroll.

(14) ANIMAL CINEMATOGRAPHY. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna looks at how Illumination Entertainment’s fomula of talking animals and many, many jokes has proven highly profitable, leading to the green-lighting of Despicable Me 3, The Secret Life of Pets 2, and Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.

Before 2016, Illumination had scored a modest hit with 2011’s “Hop” and, a year later, did well with “Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.” But the studio had a single go-to franchise: 2010’s “Despicable Me” grossed $543 million globally — just about equal to Illumination’s total reported production budget to date — and spawned the monster hits “Despicable Me 2? in 2013 ($970.8 million worldwide) and 2015’s “Minions” ($1.159 billion). Add in the sales of all cute yellow Minion merchandising, and Illumination had one property it could bank on. (“Despicable Me 3? is set to land this June.)

But “Despicable Me” writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul then brought their deft skills with spinning family-friendly adventures to “The Secret Life of Pets,” which grossed more than $875 million worldwide last year — making it the highest-grossing non-Disney film in 2016 (no small feat).

(15) GRANDMASTER INTERVIEWS PAST MASTER. A rare interview with Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery) at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, conducted by James Gunn in 1970.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]