Pixel Scroll 3/15/17 I’m Scrolling On My Knees Looking For The Answer

(1) NO FLY ZONE. John Brunner in The Shockwave Rider said that ‘The future arrives too soon and in the wrong order.’ And here’s proof of that — “French hoverboard inventor banned from flying in France”.

The man who invented the Flyboard Air has been barred from flying his jet-powered hoverboard in France, sparking a debate over the country’s policies on innovation. In a Facebook post on March 10th, Franky Zapata, founder of the company that bears his name, said there is a “strong probability that the Flyboard Air will never fly again in France,” after officials from the French air gendarmerie told him he would be placed under criminal investigation if he continued to pilot the craft. Zapata added that he will now be “obliged to leave France” in order to continue his work.

“That is how innovators are treated in our country,” Zapata wrote in a French-language post. “I leave you [to] imagine my disgust after having produced more than 10,000 ‘made in France’ Flyboards.”

(2) DO YOU DIG IT? A road that is too close to Stonehenge will probably be buried, but there are many issues with the proposed tunnel.

It’s one of the world’s most famous ancient monuments: an instantly recognisable icon from a forgotten world, a place for quiet wonder and contemplation.

And yet for many people, the first and perhaps only glimpse they get of Stonehenge is from a traffic jam on the A303, one of the main routes between London and southwest England.

This could be about to change. A bold £1.4bn plan proposes ripping up much of the existing road and replacing it with a new route that includes a 2.9km (1.8 miles), deep-bored tunnel just a few hundred metres south of Stonehenge….

A far bigger priority is ensuring that the context of the wider landscape is preserved, such as that the sightlines between the area’s various monuments and barrows – thought to have been deliberately designed by the Neolithic engineers of ancient Britain – are left intact.

For instance, a key area of concern with the current proposal, and something that McMahon and others hope to be able to persuade Highways England to address, is the positioning of the western entrance. “It’s too close to one of the major funerary monuments in the landscape called the Normanton down barrow cemetery,” says McMahon, “and the road coming out also sits for part of its route on the same astronomical alignment as the midwinter setting Sun.”

(3) GRAMMAR’S SLAMMERS. Walter Jon Williams declares “Victory for the Oxford Comma”:

I stand proudly with the Oxford comma, as it stands for reason, clarity, and mitigates against incertitude.  (Try reading that sentence without the Oxford comma and see where it gets you.)

I am pleased to know that the US Court of Appeals agrees with me, insofar as they ruled that a missing Oxford comma was the deciding factor in the case of Kevin O’Connor v. the Oakhurst Dairy….

(4) 10-SIDED DICE YES, BLACK HELICOPTERS NO. An Ars Technica writer at SXSW found “The CIA uses board games to train officers – and I got to play them”.

Clopper recalls one day in 2008 when his “boss’s boss” called him into a meeting and asked him to develop new internal training exercises. Normally, these exercises test whether recent lessons and seminars have been absorbed by officers, and they usually involve “teams, flip charts, and briefings,” Clopper says. “Incredibly boring.” But Clopper had now been at the CIA long enough to reshape its exercises, his boss said, and he got excited: “I’m a gamer. I enjoy games, video games, tabletop games. Could we bring games into learning?”

He used SXSW to present three board games made for his training exercises over the span of a four-year period, one of which is still in development. The first is the one we got the most hands-on time with during SXSW: Collection. If that dry-as-a-desert name isn’t a good indicator, rest assured—this is not a game meant for retail or for the highest ratings at BoardGameGeek.

Collection compares favorably to the popular cooperative game Pandemic. In Clopper’s game, a group of players must work together to resolve three major crises across the globe. The object is for players, who each represent different types of CIA officers, to collect enough relevant intel to resolve all three crises. If any one of the three impending disasters boils over (as represented by three increasing “fire” meters), the team loses. Every game must have at least three players to fill the roles of “political analyst,” “military analyst,” and “economic analyst.” Those three are only able to collect intel in their specific fields, while additional players (up to seven on a team) have their own specialties.

The difficulty comes from the low number of actions each player can do per turn, along with how quickly the fire meter ratchets up.

(5) WIZARDRY. Bradbury biographer Sam Weller tells why you should “Pay Close Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain: 8 Things I Learned About Writing from Ray Bradbury”.

In 12 years, as one might imagine, I observed many of Bradbury’s creative secrets. I peered behind the Oz-ian curtain, as it were, and paid close attention. Bradbury was a master storyteller and visionary artist who created across an unprecedented nine decades. Fahrenheit 451. The Martian Chronicles. Dandelion Wine. Something Wicked This Way Comes. Massive collections of poetry. Massive collections of essays. Hundreds of short stories across every conceivable genre. He owned and operated his own theatre company. He wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. On a whim, he scripted an animated short film that was later nominated for an Oscar. He earned an Emmy for an animated television adaptation of his own YA novel, The Halloween Tree. Bradbury developed architectural concepts for shopping malls, the 1964 World’s Fair and EPCOT. There is a crater on the moon named, by NASA, for Ray Bradbury’s book 1957 novel-in-stories, Dandelion Wine.

The man was a force.

Not surprising then, that much of my own creative ethos is culled from what I learned working alongside Ray Bradbury….

(6) HARRIS OBIT. Jack Harris, producer of the original horror film The Blob (1958) died March 14 at the age of 98. He was also a producer or executive producer of Paradisio (1962), Beware! The Blob (1972), Schlock (1973) and other genre films.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • The Ides of March – Julius Caesar finds out what happens when you keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

(9) TODAY IN BEER HISTORY

  • March 15, 1937 – H.P. Lovecraft joins the choir invisible.

(10) FRANCHISE CROSSOVER. CBS gets its clicks on Route 66 with “19 Star Trek References on The Big Bang Theory”. First is —

“Game over, Moon Pie.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Wil Wheaton is a regular guest star on The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon’s arch nemesis makes his first appearance in “The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary” (Episode 5, Season 3), where he tricks Sheldon into throwing a Mystic Warlords of Ka’a card tournament.

(11) APOCALYPSE IN REVERSE GEAR. The Guardian interrupted the memorial service for paper books with this flash – “Ebook sales continue to fall as younger generations driver appetite for print”.

Readers committed to physical books can give a sigh of relief, as new figures reveal that ebook sales are falling while sales of paper books are growing – and the shift is being driven by younger generations.

More than 360m books were sold in 2016 – a 2% jump in a year that saw UK consumers spend an extra 6%, or £100m, on books in print and ebook formats, according to findings by the industry research group Nielsen in its annual books and consumer survey. The data also revealed good news for bricks-and-mortar bookshops, with a 4% rise in purchases across the UK.

While sales through shops increased 7% in 2016, ebook sales declined by 4%. It is the second year in a row that ebook sales have fallen, and only the second time that annual ebook sales have done so since industry bodies began monitoring sales a decade ago.

(12) PERIODICAL PERFORMANCE. The March ratings are up at Rocket Stack Rank. Sarah Pinsker, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, and Michael Flynn have the top-ranked stories.

(13) EQUALS? Natalie Luhrs does her annual slice-and-dice of the Locus Recommended Reading List to show how many listed works are by people of various genders and races.

I wrote yesterday that one problem with pure counting exercises is that they don’t tap into the experience or emotion of the subjects. Today in Luhrs’ report I ran into a further  question – if the goal is diversity, and an analyst is considering numbers in isolation, what number equals winning? This came to mind when I read this passage in her section on race. Luhrs found that works by people of color on the list increased from 15.61% to 26.47% in one year. She commented —

Race Breakout by Year, Percentages

Nearly three quarters of the works are still by white people. Representation of POC has jumped by over 10% and that is a really good thing, but I believe there is still room for improvement.

Does Luhrs have a target number in mind that Locus has yet to reach, or is she failing to put in perspective what seems to be a radical effort to get diverse works listed?

(14) GROWTH IN AFRICAN SFF. This isn’t the first time someone has asked “Why Is science fiction so white?” The news is that the question was posed today by a journalist in Zimbabwe, Mako Muzenda.

The presence of these spaces – websites, magazines and publications – goes a long way in introducing readers to different writers, and getting aspiring authors the visibility they need. Ivor Hartmann has been involved in speculative fiction since 2007, with the release of his first book Earth Rise. After going from publisher to publisher, looking for someone to put his book on the market, Hartmann (a Zimbabwean) was finally able to get his story out with Something Wicked, which at the time was the only science-fiction magazine for the whole of Africa.

“While I did publish it with them (Something Wicked), I was distressed at the lack of publishing venues for speculative fiction in Africa. So rather than moan about it I started up an online weekly magazine,” explains Hartmann. His decision led to the creation of StoryTime, which ran for five years until Hartmann switched to solely publishing anthologies. With enough experience in the industry behind him, Hartmann decided to take the plunge and address the inadequacies in African science fiction head-on with AfroSF, the first Pan-African science fiction anthology.

“Of course, now there are loads of African online magazines but back then it was all new territory for writers and readers. No longer were we held back by the excruciating logistics and heavy capital needed to run a print magazine.”

What had started off as a fringe movement is growing into a vibrant community of people dedicated to letting Africa’s voice be heard in speculative fiction….

(15) IN THE JURY ROOM. The Shadow Clarke Jury has produced three more thoughtful reviews.

The Underground Railroad is, perhaps, the best novel of 2016.

I qualify that statement only because I have not read every novel published in 2016. Nobody has. But I have seen nothing to suggest that I am wrong in this assessment. And I am not alone in this view; the novel has, after all, won America’s National Book Award.

I consider it the best, in part, because it is a novel that speaks to the moment the way that few other books do. It captures the screams of Ferguson, the anger of Black Lives Matter, the despair in the face of the renewed racism that celebrated the last American election. It is a book that places the experience of being black in America today on a trajectory that puts it closer to slavery than we ever like to think. And it does all of this with intelligence, with beauty, with subtlety, with wit and with invention. It uses the tools of the novel the way those tools are meant to be used, but so seldom are.

It is a book that held me with its first sentence, and continued to hold me, with horror and delight, through to its last sentence.

It is a good novel, perhaps the best novel; but does that mean it is the best science fiction novel?

What is Kavenna’s book actually about, though? This question is harder to answer than it first appears, no doubt intentionally so. As suggested above, the outline appears simple: Eliade Jencks, having failed to enter Oxford as a student, takes a job waiting tables in the cafe of the Tradescantian Ark Musuem and continues to conduct her researches in the evenings and weekends. While working at the cafe she makes the acquaintance of a Professor Solete, an eminent don whose magnum opus is the eponymous Field Guide to Reality, a theory of everything that will finally bring together his lifelong researches into the nature of life, death and the origins of the universe. Unfortunately, Professor Solete dies before the book can be published, and when his acolytes enter his rooms in search of the manuscript they find only a locked box, labelled ‘For Eliade’.

I start with Achimwene because he reminds us that one of the central themes of Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is the telling of stories, and science-fiction stories in particular. Indeed, the narrative itself is an embodiment of a pivotal moment in sf storytelling: the move from short story to novel. The earliest sf novels weren’t novels as such; they were formed from several closely connected short stories, sometimes reworked to strengthen those connections, and were known as ‘fix-ups’. Central Station is a fix-up par excellence, bringing together Tidhar’s various Central Station stories, some of them substantially reworked, with a couple of new stories added to the mix, and a Prologue that introduces the novel as an act of storytelling, while itself participating in the act of storytelling not once but twice.

(16) A (SUIT)CASE OF CONSCIENCE. Is this “the perfect Tyrion Lannister cosplay” as Reddit  says, or in incredibly bad taste? YOU decide!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Merrick Lex, Andrew Porter, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 2/14/17 Whoops! Forgot To Pull The Handle!

(1) CLARKE AWARD-ELIGIBLE BOOKS. The director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award has released the complete submissions list of eligible books received.

…I need to be clear, this is not a long list. Rather this is a list of every eligible title officially submitted to us by its publisher or creator for consideration for this year’s award.

…Ten or so years ago, when I first started doing this, it had become apparent that some of the ‘why the heck has that been shortlisted?’ reaction we tended to enjoy on releasing a new shortlist stemmed from the fact that many of the books put forward to our judges might not have been part of the general SF books conversation.

As such, their sudden arrival on a science fiction award list might have taken even some of the keenest award watchers somewhat by surprise, and we all know how much critics love having someone else discover something first…

Solution: put the full submissions list out there in advance of any official shortlist announcement so its there for everyone to see and discuss and even attempt some amateur prognostication on what the actual, official, top six list would look like….

This year we received 86 books from 39 publishing imprints and independent creators.

This is down somewhat from last year’s total of books, where we received 113 titles, and is the first drop below the 100 mark for several years….

(2) SHADOW CLARKE. Members of the Clarke Shadow Jury have begun posting at the official site.

Until relatively recently, the only SFF awards I knew were those mentioned on book covers: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Clarke. The first Clarke winner I ever read was probably either The Handmaid’s Tale or Take Back Plenty, but those were older editions that didn’t mention it on the covers, so at that time I didn’t know. So the first time I realized there was such a thing as a Clarke Award was when I saw it on the cover of Paul McAuley’s Fairyland, the 1996 mass market paperback with the big blue face on the cover, with “Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award” on its forehead.

It’s almost funny that I hadn’t heard of the award by that time, given that Clarke was a local celebrity. If there were ever any local announcements of the original 1987 grant or of any of the subsequent winners, I missed it. I don’t think there were any, though. Things were a lot more disconnected in those days, and the award was firmly rooted somewhere else. And anyway, Clarke lived in a different version of Colombo than I did. A few years before I was born (and not long after Elizabeth II finally stopped being our head of state, nearly a quarter-century after independence from the Empire) the Sri Lankan government brought into law an entire new immigration status, the non-citizen Resident Guest, to accommodate Clarke personally. Apparently even as late as 1982 this was still being called “the Arthur Clarke Law,” which we might call that a fourth law on top of the better-known three already named for him (and the only one which is actual law.)

I have written about the Clarke Award in Foundation and I was also part of the panel which discussed ’30 Years of the Arthur C. Clarke Award’ at the 2016 Eastercon (an edited transcript of which is due to appear in Vector this year). I see participation in this shadow jury as offering the possibility of connecting such kinds of critical activity with my typical informal  approach to the Clarke of inaccurately predicting the shortlist, reading it, arguing about it, guessing the winner and attending the ceremony to find out how wrong I was. All in all, this is an unmissable opportunity to expose simultaneously the idiosyncrasies of my personal taste and the foundations of my critical thought.

And Maureen Kincaid Speller comments on her own blog in “Shagreen, or chagrin: the shadows begin to gather”.

…I’ve been a Clarke judge myself and it is no picnic. I’m sure a lot of people imagine it’s all ‘wow, free books’, but a look at the submissions list will tell you that the jewels are accompanied by a lot of dross – and yes, let’s be blunt about this, dross. This is not unique to the Clarke Award, by any means. I’ve been a Tiptree judge, and witnessed a Campbell Award judge at work; it goes with the territory. But while it’s worth being mindful of the fact that one woman’s dross is another man’s treasure, some dross is just dross …

If there is a problem, with the Clarke and other juried awards, it’s that … actually, there are two problems. One is that the jury’s deliberation is private, and indeed it should be, but as a result we have no access to the debate and can never know what prompted them to make certain decisions. There is probably horse-trading some years, and publishers are not always willing to have their titles submitted if they’re trying to market a book a certain way that is emphatically not science fiction. We don’t know, we can only guess, and it makes things difficult when a book doesn’t appear on a shortlist, and we ask ‘why didn’t they put that on?’ not knowing that the publisher couldn’t or wouldn’t submit. Judges can ask for books but that doesn’t mean they’ll arrive.

But the other problem is that when the shortlists roll out, ‘what were they thinking?’ is a quick and easy response, because it’s really hard to come up with anything else, in the absence of prior debate. And too often this becomes a veiled attack on the competence of the judges, which is not fair on them. They were asked to judge and they did their best in the circumstances. The one thing I will say is that it has seemed to me in recent years that the organisations who nominate judges have tended not to nominate practising critics, which means that one particular approach to sf has been neglected. And that may look like special pleading, but critics have their place in the ecosystem too, alongside the readers….

(3) APEX APOLOGY. Apex Magazine editor Jason Sizemore has revised his “Intersectional SFF – Response” piece from the version excerpted in yesterday’s Scroll.  The main part now reads –

Editor’s note: In my rush to take down the “Intersectional SFF Round Table” and to immediately assure our readers that they were being heard, I shared a hastily-written non-apology that was defensive when I didn’t meant it to be, and shut down the very conversation I wanted to have. I am sorry for that. My revised explanation of the decision to remove the round table is below. – Jason Sizemore

Dear Readers,

On Friday, we posted an “Intersectional SFF Round Table” in support of the Problem Daughters campaign and anthology. Though the post was put together by the Problem Daughters staff without input from us, we made the editorial decision to share the post exactly as it was delivered, without considering the implications of who was (and who wasn’t) included in that discussion. Almost immediately, we were made aware of multiple issues with that post, and removed it.

It was our hope that the original post would help bring awareness to the Problem Daughters project, and spark a discussion about intersectional SFF with our readers. Frankly, by virtue of their lived experiences, the authors and editors working on that anthology have a greater wisdom on what is and is not intersectionality than I will ever possess, and I appreciated their contribution.

However, that doesn’t absolve our editorial team of the responsibility of vetting the content that appears on Apex Magazine, and no conversation like this should be presented as a complete picture of intersectionality or even SFF in general. Going forward, we will make a greater effort to listen to the voices of our community, to learn, and include….

(4) YOUTUBE STAR EMBARASSES THE FRANCHISE. Disney’s Maker Studios and YouTube have axed some of their projects with superstar PewDiePie after he posted an anti-Semitic video reports CBS News.

The content creator, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, posted a now-deleted video on Jan. 11 that showed him laughing while two men held up a sign that said “death to all Jews.” Kjellberg hired the two men on Fiverr, a site where users can hire people to complete tasks for $5.

It’s not the first time the YouTube star posted a video with anti-Semitic remarks. Since August 2016, he had posted nine videos with anti-Semitic jokes or iconography, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Kjellberg has a record-breaking 53 million subscribers on YouTube, and makes millions off of his videos. Last year, he was YouTube’s highest paid star, raking in $15 million in 2016, reports Forbes.

Though Kjellberg’s signature style has been to shock fans with silly and sometimes crude humor, Disney’s Maker Studios, the division who partnered with the creator, says his latest stunts are unacceptable.

Wired specifies the affected projects:

YouTube’s response was tepid at first: It reportedly pulled ads from only one of the videos in question. But this morning the company said it was cancelling the second season of PewDiePie’s show and dropping ads from all of the offending videos, as well as pulling PewDiePie’s channel from a premium advertising program called Google Preferred.

(5) DISCOVERY ADDS BRASS. Star Trek: Discovery has cast three new Starfleet membersSciFiNow.uk has the story.

Joining Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Georgious aboard the starship Shenzhou are Terry Serpico, Maulik Pancholy and Sam Vartholomeos. In an update on the official CBS page, the network also revealed details about the characters the three actors will be playing.

Serpico, who is best known for his role in Army Wives, is set to play Admiral Anderson, a high-ranking official of Star Fleet. Pancholy, who recurred as Jonathan in 30 Rock and Sanjay in Weeds, is Dr Nambue, the Shenzhou’s Chief Medical Officer. Vartholomeos will play Ensign Connor, a Junior Officer in Starfleet Academy who was assigned to serve on the Shenzhou.

Joining Michelle Yeoh and the new additions on the Star Trek: Discovery are Sonequa Martin-Green as Lieutenant Commander Rainsford, James Frain as Sarek, Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Stamets, Chris Obi as T’Kuvma, Shazad Latif as Kol and Mary Chieffo as L’Rell.

Star Trek: Discovery will be a semi-prequel to The Original Series, set ten years before the start of James T Kirk’s five-year mission.

(6) SPEAKING OF TRUNK MANUSCRIPTS. Heritage Auctions is offering a Stagecoach Trunk once owned by Samuel L. Clemens. To own it will cost you at least $25,000 plus a hefty buyer’s fee, but you can read about it for free.

[Mark Twain]. Stagecoach Trunk once owned by Samuel L. Clemens. St. Louis, Missouri: J. Barwick Trunk Manufacturer, circa 1865. Dome-top, single compartment stagecoach trunk, likely purchased by Clemens in 1867 while he was in St. Louis, with “Property of / Samuel L. Clemens” painted in black on the outside of the lid. Approximately 9500 cubic inches, measuring roughly 18 x 18 x 30 inches. Original leather covering, geometric patterns tooled in black, with six wooden slats and two center-bands and matching binding, four edge clamps, lock, hinges, handle caps; interior lined with patterned paper, original tray fitting, later woven strap affixed to right side of interior to prevent further over-opening. General wear, as expected, lacking original handles, latches and interior tray; large portion of paper lining removed from interior of lid, dampstain to the bottom interior. An astounding artifact from arguably the most important author in American literature.

This trunk served Twain during the sweet spot of his career, those prolific years from when he published his first major work, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches in the same year that this trunk was acquired, and right through Tom Sawyer in 1876 and Huckleberry Finn in 1885. One can’t help but think that such important manuscripts were likely housed in this trunk during his travels.

Though remembered today primarily for his literary efforts and association with the Mississippi River, some of the best-loved books of Twain’s career were his travel writings, including his first two book-length works, The Innocents Abroad, about his journey on the steamship Quaker City to Europe and the Holy Land, published in 1869, and his 1872 follow up, Roughing It, about his adventures in the American West. Alan Gribben inspected a similar trunk owned by Twain, also with the paper scraped away from the interior of the lid, and argued that he opened it to its fullest position and used it as a provisional writing desk, writing notes on the wood (“Mark Twain’s Travel Trunk: An Impromptu Notebook” with Gretchen Sharlow, published in Mark Twain Journal). Conceivably, this trunk similarly functioned as a desk, potentially during the composition of his early travel works. It appears the interior paper lining was deliberately removed at an early date with roughly ninety-degree angles and is approximately the size of notebook paper (before further wear extended the right edge).

(7) FOREIGN EXCHANGE. Deadbeat roommate Thor is back. In fact, you get a whole suite of scenes with — “Rogers & Barnes. Stark & Rhodes. Thor & Darryl.” – when you plunk down real money (not Asgardian buttons) for Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange on Digital HD. A bargain at twice the Asgardian price!

(8) HOLMES OBIT. Midlands (UK) artist and bookseller Dave Holmes died February 13. Many knew him from his days working at Andromeda, Birmingham’s main SF bookstore, or at The Magic Labyrinth in Leicester.

He is one of the people David Gemmell’s Last Sword of Power (1988) is dedicated to, and at least two writers, Mark Morris and Ian Edginton, credit Holmes’ influence on their careers.

He was a character, which had its good and bad sides. As Edginton says:

He lived life on his own terms and never apologised for it. He hurt people in his life but I can’t sit in judgement. I have done questionable things in my time, things I regret and would do over again differently if I could. None of us are angels. I’m not perfect and I don’t expect my friends to be either.

Incidentally, Holmes was the fellow Iain Banks asked to hold his glass before Banks set out – as legend tells it — to climb the exterior of the Metropole Hotel during the 1987 Worldcon. (As legend tells it is not necessarily what happened, although Banks was pleased to repeat the tale as the introduction to an autobiographical account of his real urban climbing exploits.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 14, 278 — Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed. Allegedly.
  • February 14, 1940 — Clayton “Bud” Collyer first portrayed the Man of Steel in this second episode of the Adventures of Superman radio series, broadcast on February 14, 1940. The episode (“Clark Kent, Reporter”) was the first of a serial involving a villain known as “The Wolf.”

(10) DAYS OF THE DAY. Being sf/f fans, you can easily kill these two birds with one stone —

  • International Book Giving Day

Devoted to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children and providing access to books for children in need, Book Giving Day calls on volunteers to share their favorite book with a young reader. Although the holiday originated in the UK, book lovers around the world now join in the celebrations every year.

  • Extraterrestrial Culture Day

An officially acknowledged day in New Mexico (Roswell), Extraterrestrial Culture Day celebrates extraterrestrial cultures, and our past, present and future relationships with extraterrestrial visitors.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born February 14, 1859 — George W. G. Ferris, Jr. (inventor of the ferris wheel).
  • Born February 14, 1919 – Dave Kyle
  • Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg

(12) TEA. Ann Leckie recommends a technological solution to a writerly dilemma in “On Tea”.

So! The first, most common pitfall in making tea: You heat the water, throw the bag (or the infuser full of leaves) into the cup, pour the water, set it on the desk beside you and…promptly forget about it as you dive into your work. Hours later you remember that tea, now cold– and bitter enough to strip paint.

Friends, there is a simple solution to this, provided you remember to implement it: a timer. This could be a voice assistant on your computer or your phone, an app made purposely for timing the steeping of tea, or a dollar store kitchen timer shaped like a strawberry. Really, it doesn’t matter, but this is a tea-hack that can cost very little and vastly improve your tea-drinking experiences.

(13) SOUND AND FURY. NPR Music interviews Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi about writing music for the screen.

So you have these early conversations, you come up with a general feel for the score, and then you start fine-tuning as you see the images and get to know the characters. Is that what you’re saying?

Correct. In the case of Game Of Thrones, before I started writing I sat down with [David Beinoff and D.B. Weiss]. We talked about the tone of the show, and I just listened to what their vision was. … They’ll say, “We really like this instrument, do you think you can make this work? We like the violin, we don’t like this.” All that information helps me, and then I go in and actually turn that into music and go from there.

What’s an example of something they might have said as you were collaborating?

One thing we always laughed about was that they said, “We don’t want any flutes.”

(14) ON THE AIR. A substitute for jetpacks? Passenger drones in Dubai.

A drone that can carry people will begin “regular operations” in Dubai from July, the head of the city’s Roads and Transportation Agency has announced at the World Government Summit.

The Chinese model eHang 184 has already had test flights, said Matt al-Tayer.

The drone can carry one passenger weighing up to 100 kg (220 pounds) and has a 30 minute flight time.

The passenger uses a touch screen to select a destination. There are no other controls inside the craft.

It is “auto-piloted” by a command centre, according to a video released by the government agency.

(15) IN THE BEGINNING. Andrew Porter draws our attention to his favorite scene in Gentlemen Broncos, the only part he likes —

Just saw the opening credits for this forgettable 2009 film on HBO. The opening credits are done as covers of SF paperbacks, using actual artwork from numerous SF magazine and paperback covers, including a lot of works by Kelly Freas.

Click through to watch a video of the credits, and read the interview with director Jared Hess.

Tell us about your initial ideas for this sequence.

JH: We had the idea when we wrote the screenplay that we wanted the opening credits sequence to be a bunch of science fiction book covers where the credits were embedded in place of the book titles. While we were shooting the film, my production designer, Richard Wright, and people on the production side were going through existing artwork to see what was available. The idea was to scan and tweak them and then print up new book covers and shoot them at the end of production.

We were first looking for stuff that looked right and helped set the tone but we quickly learned that it was going to be difficult to clear the rights since a lot were part of family estates. Luckily the artwork that I liked the most was from a guy named Kelly Freas and they were able to contact his wife — he had passed away — so most of the artwork in the title sequence is stuff he had drawn for different science fiction journals as well as books. What was weird was that a couple of the characters he’d drawn looked liked the people in our film, like Jemaine’s book. The one we have for Sam Rockwell (a piece by David Lee Anderson) also bears a striking resemblance. It was kind of uncanny.

(16) FREDDY’S FEELING BETTER. The Hollywood Reporter says Robert Englund is returning as his iconic horror movie character Freddy Krueger one final time for a documentary “focused on the special effects makeup that crafted his dream-invading youth murderer in the Nightmare on Elm Street series.”

Nightmares in the Makeup Chair will highlight the importance of practical makeup — with the help of special makeup effects artist Robert Kurtzman — in addition to Englund paying tribute to late director Wes Craven and sharing some stories from his time working on the slasher films.

(17) THE UNREDISCOVERED COUNTRY. Breaking news – London After Midnight is still lost! (You can always count on File 770 for these dramatic updates…)

Earlier today Dread Central reported rumors that a print of the long-lost 1927 movie had been discovered.  People got excited for a couple of hours. Why? John Squires explains in his post at Bloody Disgusting:

A few years before directing Dracula and Freaks, Tod Browning made a silent horror film titled London After Midnight. Starring Lon Chaney as “The Hypnotist,” the 65-minute film was distributed by MGM in December of 1927; though audiences saw it upon release, it’s likely that everyone who did is no longer with us. Sadly, the last known copy was destroyed in the infamous MGM vault fire of 1967, which tragically resulted in the loss of many silent and early sound films.

But then Dread Central had to quash its own report —

UPDATE 2: 3:40 PM PT – More info from Carey:

A film archive in The Canary Islands received what look to be nitrate frames from London After Midnight around 1995. They got these from a private collector.

In 2012, the archive opened a Flickr account and posted this image among others it was posted for about five years and nobody seemed to notice it until last month.

Then this image was posted shortly thereafter…”

These were both posted on the Facebook page Universal Monsters & More. I’ve contacted them and they have said they have more stills and that they will share them with us.

The school of thought seems to be that these were cut out of trailers for London After Midnight by a projectionist in the Canary Islands. But nobody is sure.

For now at least, it seems that LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT remains lost….

The hunt continues.

(18) GREEN SCREEN. Avengers: Infinity War has started production.

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

Leading Critics Form Clarke Award “Shadow” Jury

Nina Allan has announced a “shadow” jury will critique the Clarke Award this year, composed of Megan AM (“The AM stands for Anti-Matter”), Vajra Chandrasekera, David Hebblethwaite, Victoria Hoyle, Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and Jonathan McCalmont.

Allan explains in her introduction:

The idea is not to ‘challenge’ the official jury in any way, but to bring more to the party: more readers, more critics, more books, more discussion. And the beauty of a shadow jury is that everything can be out in the open. Over the following weeks and months, you’ll be able to read along with us, find out which books we love and which we’re not so wild about – and more to the point, why. I’d bet there isn’t a single Clarke-watcher out there who hasn’t at some point found themselves completely at a loss over some jury decision or other.

THROWING SHADE. Will fans feel a thrill of controversy because the group is taking the form of a jury, and reminding people about occasions when they were “completely at a loss” at a Clarke jury decision? (No one will soon forget Christopher Priest’s rant about the 2012 shortlist.) Will the prestigious critics on the shadow jury – some of them among the best-known working today – end up overshadowing the official jury? Is there any reason to mind if they do?

STATEMENTS AND MANIFESTOS. The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy, hosting the jury online, has launched its activities with lengthy justifications. And as an added resource, they have posted Paul Kincaid’s introduction to a 2006 essay collection about the award-winners.

ANNOUNCING THE SHADOW CLARKE 2017: a note from the Centre by Helen Marshall

The Arthur C. Clarke awards are different from the Hugos in that shortlist and eventual winner are determined solely by a juror, thus, in many respects, bypassing the contentious process of lobbying and promotion that has accompanied voted awards. And yet the award has been no less controversial. Paul Kincaid, in his introduction to The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology, writes that the original organisers at no point set out firm criteria for what was meant by “best”, by “science fiction”, or even by “novel” (12). In consequence, the earnest debates—of individual juries as well was the broader community of reviewers and critics—have both through their agreement and their opposition sketched out a fascinating survey of what science fiction might have meant in any given year.

After the Clarke award celebration in 2016, when Nina Allan first approached me about arranging a shadow jury of the Clarke Awards, I could see the value of the suggestion. Similar experiments have been illuminating in respect to mainstreams awards such as the prestigious Man Booker Prize, but no such experiment, to my knowledge, has been undertaken for a science fiction award. 2017 seems a particularly auspicious year to begin particularly because it is a time in which many in the community feel the need for an outlet for reasoned debate and discussion. Of course it isn’t our intention that the shadow jury will challenge the decision of the conventional jury; rather the value of the experiment comes, I think, in expanding the commentary. Questions about the state of the field and the underlying definitions of “best” and “science fiction” continue to be meaningful, particularly in an industry that is increasingly dominated by marketing categories and sales figures rather than criticism. What science fiction is and what it ought to be doing should continue to be debated if the field is going to evolve beyond the commercial pressures that inevitably influence the decision to publish.

ANNOUNCING THE SHADOW CLARKE 2017: an introduction and a manifesto by Nina Allan

It goes without saying that the overall health of a literary award is determined by the quality of the debate surrounding it. No matter how lucrative the prize or how glossy the promotion, no award can remain relevant or even survive unless people – readers, critics and fans alike – are actively talking about the books in contention. For readers, fans and critics to remain engaged, an award must aspire to foster an intellectual climate in which rigorous and impassioned debate is seen as an important and significant aspect of the award itself. Such a climate will by definition ensure that an award can not only survive, but flourish.

Inspired by the shadow juries that have worked wonders in enlivening the climate of debate around mainstream literary awards over the past few years, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to harness some of the considerable critical talent that exists within the SFF community in similarly enlivening the climate of debate and critical engagement around the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

The normal process by which shadow juries operate involves a panel of shadow jurors – usually drawn from those readers, critics and book bloggers who habitually follow the award – reading the official longlist of their chosen award when it is released, reviewing the books individually and then coming together as a jury to decide on a shadow shortlist: that is, the shortlist they would have chosen had they been the official jury. When the official shortlist for the prize is announced, the shadow jury would then critique that shortlist, before once again convening to vote on their shadow winner. In the case of the shadow juries for awards such as the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (now the Man Booker International) and the Baileys Prize, the shadow winner has normally been unveiled on the evening before the announcement of the official prize. One need only cast a casual glance around the literary blogosphere to see how the presence of shadow juries within the literary landscape has increased the feeling of excitement and personal involvement on the part of readers, armchair critics and students of literature.

Because the Arthur C. Clarke Award does not at present implement a longlist stage, the formula we have agreed upon is a little different, but will hopefully prove at least as effective in fostering debate, if not more so.

Our panel of shadow jurors will convene when the submissions list for the Arthur C. Clarke Award is made public. From the list of these submissions, each shadow juror will then select their own personal, preferred shortlist of six books – these could be books they have already read, books they are keen to read, or a mixture of the two. Having chosen their shortlist, each juror will commit to reading and reviewing their six books before eventually declaring the ‘winner’ they would have chosen, had their shortlist been the official one. We believe that by giving each shadow juror the opportunity to select and discuss what they believe was ‘best’ in ‘science fiction’ in 2016, the Shadow Clarke will be able to showcase a wider variety of books, writers and styles of science fiction, thus generating a sense of involvement and inclusion across the entire length and breadth of science fiction fandom. It goes without saying that we would encourage fans and readers beyond the shadow jury to read along with us, to posit their own guesses and above all to disagree with our choices! That is what critical engagement is all about.

INTRODUCTION from The Arthur C. Clarke Award: a critical anthology by Paul Kincaid

[[Paul Kincaid has been on over a dozen Clarke Award juries, many times serving as the chair. He co-edited The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology (2006) with Andrew Butler, another frequent juror and chair. This is an excerpt from his introduction.]]

…Since Clarke wanted to use the award to encourage British science fiction, our second topic for debate was whether the award should be limited to British writers. In the end we all felt that there were just too few British writers to make that sustainable, so we decided that the award would be for the best science fiction novel receiving its first British publication in the year.

…It is what was left to the jury that has made the Arthur C Clarke Award both idiosyncratic and controversial, often at the same time. At no point did we decide what was meant by ‘best’, by ‘science fiction’, or even by ‘novel’. Consequently, the jury meetings I’ve taken part in have featured some very lively debates on each of these topics – and no two juries have ever arrived at precisely the same definitions.

It is, however, the very nature of those debates, the fact that what is considered ‘best’ or ‘science fiction’ is going to be different every year, that has made the Arthur C Clarke Award such a lively and essential survey of the year in science fiction. As The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Peter Nicholls and founding judge John Clute is at pains to point out, the award was controversial from its very first year. When Margaret Atwood received the first Arthur C Clarke Award for The Handmaid’s Tale, it seemed that the Award was deliberately turning its back on the core of the genre (particularly given that the runner-up that year was Bob Shaw’s The Ragged Astronauts – not, as Edward James has suggested, Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand). In fact what I think that first jury was doing, after what I recall as very close debate, is something that has been a surprisingly recurrent practice of juries since then: they were not looking in towards the heart of the genre, but outwards from the genre. As Nicholas Ruddick points out, The Handmaid’s Tale has had such resonance, both within and outwith the genre, that it is hard to think why it might ever have been considered a controversial choice.

Of course, that was far from the only time that the Award has skirted controversy. If stimulating debate, not to say heated argument, is one way of raising awareness of science fiction, then we have to admit that the Award has been a rousing success since the start. Tempers have tended to fray most when the Award is imagined to be flirting with the mainstream. There was even jeering at the presentation of the Award to Marge Piercy for Body of Glass (again, I suspect, this was at least in part because the runner up was another popular genre favourite, Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson). But, as Maureen Kincaid Speller shows, you don’t need a rocket ship on the cover to raise exactly the problematic issues of who we are and what we might become which are supposedly central to everything we understand about science fiction.

… Of course the job of the Award is to raise awareness of science fiction, not just inside the genre but more generally, but that is not achieved by saying science fiction and the mainstream are the same. Rather, the Award points out how many interesting, exciting, challenging and innovative things there are to be done with genre materials, some of those things speak to the core of the genre and some bring a freshness and vitality to mainstream, and some do both….

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]