Pixel Scroll 10/10/17 Eric And The Dread Pixel Scroll

(0) TRAINING COMPLETED. Thanks to you who wished me a good trip to New Mexico for my mother’s 91st birthday celebration. I’d say your wishes were effective, not only because we had a fine reception and dinner, but because my Amtrak experience was far superior to that of the folks who left Los Angeles aboard the previous day’s Southwest Chief. The Santa Fe New Mexican has the story

Passengers and crew aboard a Chicago-bound Amtrak train spent the night stopped in Northern New Mexico hill country after the lead engine struck a boulder and partially derailed.

No serious injuries were reported, but the two engineers in the lead engine were taken to a hospital for evaluation, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Friday from Chicago.

The incident occurred Thursday evening on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in a rural area near Watrous about 105 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

…The train’s second engine and all the cars remained on the tracks and the train still had power, heating and toilet service while it remained at the derailment site, the Amtrak spokesman said.

Not to overstate things — I would have missed the excitement anyway, since my destination was one of the last stops before they hit the rock, however, it still felt like a narrow escape.

(1) RUH ROH! Last month Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared the long history behind “Why Amazing Stories Isn’t Back on NBC”. However, over the weekend the media reported “Steven Spielberg will revive ’80s NBC series ‘Amazing Stories’ for Apple”.

Apple is making a major statement on its television ambitions as it nears an acquisition of an original series from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The tech giant is close to a deal to buy a new version of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” the Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.

NBCUniversal, which co-owns the rights to the property, confirmed that an agreement is imminent. Apple declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.

A scripted series with the imprimatur of Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s most-heralded producer-directors thanks to “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and his company Amblin Television, will be a demonstration of the tech giant’s clout as it enters the television business…

More as the story develops.

(2) PUPPY LOVE. Yahoo! says get your Kleenex ready — “Carrie Fisher’s dog watching the new ‘Star Wars’ trailer will destroy you”.

Millions of Star Wars fans watched the new trailer for The Last Jedi on Monday night — including one very good boy.

A photo of Gary, Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog, was posted to his official Instagram account on Monday, and, guys, we’re warning you — it’s going to make you whimper….

(3) WHO ARE YOU? Jim C. Hines, in “A Plea to Conventions About Name Badges”, asks conventions to fix a problem that people have been complaining about the entire time I’m been in fandom.

I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read.

I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.

Jim provides illustrations of what works for him, and what doesn’t.

(4) A NEW YORK COMIC CON STATE OF MIND. The Washington Post’s Aaron Gregg, in “Marvel cancels comic book deal with Northrop Grumman after Twitter backlash”, says that Marvel cancelled a proposed partnership with Northrop Grumman (whose “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” superheroes were supposed to team up with The Avengers) after lots of fans objected, noting, among other things, that Tony Stark gave up his defense contracts.

Marvel teased the partnership Friday morning in a tweet that promised more details in a presentation the following day at the New York Comic-Con festival. A retro-style comic book cover temporarily posted on Marvel’s website featured a team of “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” super heroes fighting alongside Marvel’s popular Avengers superheroes. The cover was quickly scrubbed from the company’s website, but not before it went viral on Twitter.

Twitter users ridiculed Marvel, accusing it of partnering with “death merchants.” Some pointed out that the Marvel character Iron Man, alias Tony Stark, had been the billionaire CEO of a company that built advanced weaponry but had turned his back on the weapons business after seeing its effects. Angry fans called out specific Marvel executives, and at least one suggested publicly protesting the issue at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth.….

(5) SZECHUAN LETDOWN. Meanwhile, another corporation was breaking hearts in the culinary arena. Michael Cavna and Maura Judkis, in “McDonald’s botched its ‘Rick and Morty’ Szechuan sauce stunt, and fans are not happy”, report that McDonald’s has disappointed thousands of viewers of the Cartoon Network show Rick and Morty. After 45,000 people signed a Change.org petition inspired by the show calling on the company to bring back Szechuan Sauce (originally created to promote Mulan in 1998), McDonalds promised select locations would have the sauce, but only a few did.

One Washington Post reporter was among those “Rick and Morty” fans who went questing Saturday for the fabled sauce, driving to three Maryland locations — one of them listed as an official “participating” outlet — and none had received a Szechuan shipment. One restaurant tried to pawn off Sriracha sauce. Another tried to sell the tangy Signature sauce. And a third outlet’s shift manager came to the drive-thru window to apologize profusely — clearly this wasn’t her first “Rick and Morty”-related apology of the day.

(6) REMEMBER WHEN? The Atlantic bills this article as “Revisiting Star Trek’s Most Political Episode” – which is saying something about a series that often delivered messages.

“It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they’ve given up.” This was how Commanding Officer Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, described early 21st-century Americans in an episode from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When it aired in 1995, “Past Tense” spoke to contemporary concerns about homelessness by telling a story set in 2024—the near future for viewers, but the distant past for characters. In the two-part episode, Sisko and two of his companions from the U.S.S. Defiant find themselves stranded in San Francisco, where they’re reminded that the federal government had once set up a series of so-called “Sanctuary Districts” in a nationwide effort to seal off homeless Americans from the general population. Stuck in 2024, Sisko, who is black—along with his North African crewmate Dr. Julian Bashir and the fair-skinned operations officer Jadzia Dax—must contend with unfamiliar racism, classism, violence, and Americans’ apparent apathy toward human suffering.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Tiaan Jerjerrod was the project manager of the second Death Star, which was destroyed at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Supervising Jerjerrod was Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Darth Vader. (Source: Death Star II: A Project Management Case Study.)

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day, whose goal is to “… raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.” (Wikipedia)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 10, 1965 — The Red Baron first appeared in  Peanuts comic strip.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EXPLORER

  • Born October 10, 1861 — Fridjtof Nansen, whose arctic navigation inspired fellow Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. His ship, Fram, shares a museum with Kon Tiki and Ra.

(11) COMIC SECTION.

Martin Morse Wooster approves this “old school groaner” in today’s Frank and Ernest.

(12) SCI-FI SWINGS LIKE A PENDULUM DO. In “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Why some science fiction writers are tired of dystopias”, a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, several sff authors suggest that they are tired of the wave of grim visions of humanity’s future. Is it time to create more works around an optimistic future based on expanding technology and human understanding?

In “Blade Runner 2049,” which opens Friday, post eco-disaster Los Angeles has built a massive coastline wall to fend off rising ocean levels. Few of the overpopulated city’s human or android occupants have ever seen a tree or a real animal. The incessant rain is as dour as Harrison Ford’s facial expressions. Worst of all? One character bemoans the fact that there’s no more cheese in the world.

Recent dystopian blockbusters seem to be jostling in a grim race to be the first to reach the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” But some science-fiction writers are tired of the sorts of pessimistic futures depicted in movies and TV shows such as “The Hunger Games,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Mirror,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In response, influential authors Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, and Kim Stanley Robinson argue that futuristic fiction should, instead, offer an inspiring outlook about mankind’s ability to shape its destiny. But do the kinds of stories we tell ourselves have a cultural impact on shaping a better tomorrow?

“I want to nod at something that Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker about the dangers of drowning ourselves in dystopian stories,” says Christopher Robichaud, who teaches a class at Harvard Extension School on Utopia and Dystopia in fiction and philosophy. “The utility dystopian fiction used to serve was to bring problems to our attention and seek solutions. But the danger is that these stories can become a collective act of despair in response to current events.”

(13) SPACE TUTOR. In “Astronaut encourages kids to flip for STEM”, the Washington Post’s Marylou Tousignant says that the Air and Space Museum recently hosted a webcast with astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station where he had floating candy and showed kids an official NASA barf Bag.

If you could ask an astronaut orbiting in space any question, what would it be?

Students from several Washington-area schools got to do that recently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as part of its “STEM in 30” program.

Among other things, they wanted to know: Is it hard to move around up there? Can you watch TV? How do you know when it’s time for bed? What if you get sick?

(14) GRIM TIDINGS PODCAST SEEKS SUPPORT. The hosts of the Grim Tidings Podcast have invited fans to support them via Patreon.  Rob Matheny and Philip Overby focus on interviewing authors, editors, and agents working within the Grimdark sub-genre.  They have recorded over 100 episodes including luminaries from the field such as Joe Abercrombie, C.T. Phipps, Anna Smith Spark, Brian Stavely, Michael R. Fletcher, Sebastien De Castell, Laura M. Hughes, and Deborah A. Wolf.

(15) HAIR APPARENT. Is singing songs like this the real reason John Scalzi constantly needs to think up new names for his band?

(Just kidding – I laughed….)

(16) A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. Alex Acks finds more to criticize about fantasy maps in a post for Tor.com — “Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth”.

…So what is it about the mighty Anduin that makes me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise? There are four main factors, in ascending order based on how easily I’m able to mentally excuse each point.

It cuts across two mountain ranges.

There is one fact you really need to understand to grasp the basics of how rivers work. Ready? Water flows downhill. That’s it. That’s the secret. Water flows downhill, and as it flows it tends to erode sediment and transport it downstream, and over long enough periods of time, that gets us our classic V-shaped river valleys and a ton of other morphological features. Which is why, when a river is on a collision course with mountains—normally places where the elevation goes up—you have to stare at it for a minute.

This is the easiest oddity for me to find an excuse for—because it is actually something that happens in reality! For example, the Colorado River cuts pretty much perpendicularly through the entire Basin and Range Province of North America. And the reason this works is because the Colorado was here before all that extensional tectonic silliness happened and the basins started dropping down from the ranges—and that process of down-drop was slow enough, relative to the ability of the Colorado to cut its own channel, that the river didn’t get permanently trapped in one of the basins.

So if we make the assumption that the Anduin existed before the mountains—and assume that the mountains uplifted in a natural way, thank you—it’s very possible for it to have cut down fast enough to maintain its course despite uplift. (Keep this in mind, we’ll be coming back to it later…)

(17) KEEP ON SWIMMING. And over the weekend Camestros Felapton gave us “Even More Plot Elements of Fantasy Maps”.

Big Islands

In Earthsea islands are large and numerous, in Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, islands barely appear and are small. In both cases they are locations and destinations and themselves contain terrain.

In Tolkien’s wider work, Númenor is the most notable island – a version of Atlantis, which itself gives us a classic inspiration for islands in Western literature. Oceanic islands can be countries with their own terrain but cut off from surroundings. Le Guin depicts the islands of Earthsea more like medieval era city-states with a wider common culture but no central authority.

It is interesting to me that Tolkien, who draws on many aspects of Britain and Britishness in building Middle Earth, avoids the island quality of Britain. This despite a tendency to mythologize the insular quality of Britain in English propaganda-history both in high-culture (Shakespeare’s ‘sceptered isle’) and low-culture (‘fog in the channel, continent cut off’). George R.R. Martin’s Westeros does this by having it be an eratz England circa the War of the Roses (with Scotland being another place full of ice zombies). Westeros’s scale seems flexible but it’s primary plot role as an island is to be a container. Events are within Westeros (up to the Wall) or beyond (either over the wall or on another continent).

The point being – oceanic islands are treated as political units rather than as terrain.

(18) JUXTAPOSITION. The title of Max Florschutz’ latest post halted me in my tracks — “Being a Better Writer Delayed” — until I remembered “Being a Better Writer” is a recurring topic at his Unusual Things blog.

(19) HOLY BLEEP. Camestros Felapton subjected his precious bodily fluids to a famous corporation’s bizarre new offering, “Coca-cola with coffee”.

…There is also a weird slimy quality to it. It’s like drinking coke but a bit more unpleasant.

The coffee is “real” and from Brazil. If I was Brazil I might object to the free advertising.

(20) X-FILES SEASON 11 TRAILER. The truth etc. etc.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Christian Brunschen, Chip Hitchcock, Dann, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/17 Pixel Packing Mama, Lay Your Pixel Down

(1) YOUNG AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll will be doing a Phase II of Young People Read Old SFF and asks — What short works published before 1980 would File 770 readers recommend?

(2) POTTERPOLOGY DAY. Following her tradition of apologizing for killing off a character on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling tweeted today —

And as Katherine Trendacosta astutely observed at io9:

See? She knows she’s stirring shit up and she does it anyway.

For the uninitiated, Severus Snape is the third rail of Harry Potter fandom. One side has the completely valid argument that Snape was, despite happening to be on the same side as the heroes, horribly abusive to his students and, whatever Rowling’s intent, less “in love with” Lily Evans than a stalker with “nice guy” syndrome. The other side says that his very obvious flaws make him an interesting and nuanced character, and that, regardless of everything else, he died a hero. Plus, being played by Alan Rickman in the movies made Snape a lot more approachable than he is on the page.

(3) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. May 6 is Free Comic Book Day when participating comic book shops give away special sample comics free to anyone who comes into their shops. There are a lot of different issues involved – see the catalog.

(4) BEAGLE SUIT. Peter S. Beagle isn’t as broke as people are making him out to be says Snopes’ David Emery in “The Trials of ‘Last Unicorn’ Author Peter S. Beagle”.

Contrary to Internet rumor, the beloved science fiction and fantasy author Peter S. Beagle (perhaps best known for his classic 1968 novel The Last Unicorn) is neither destitute nor teetering on the brink of starvation.

A cry for immediate financial assistance went up shortly after the writer’s 78th birthday on 20 April 2017, in the form of tweets describing Beagle’s circumstances as “dire”:

Several posts repeated the claim that Beagle, who has been embroiled in a costly legal battle with his former manager since 2015, was having difficulty even meeting basic household expenses such as grocery bills. However, we spoke to Beagle’s lawyer, Kathleen A. Hunt of El Cerrito, California, who told us that her client’s money woes, albeit chronic, are not as acute as they have been portrayed:

It’s true that he doesn’t have lots of money, but it’s not true that his living situation is dire. Peter does need the help and support of his friends and fans, but it is not the case that he’s in danger of being on the street.

We also spoke with Beagle himself, who said he considers himself a lot better off than the average writer:

It’s always dicey, but anybody who makes a living as a writer learns to cope with lean times. Compared to so many other people, I’m fortunate.

The impromptu fund drive nevertheless resulted in a welcome infusion of cash, not to mention an outpouring of love and support from Beagle’s many online fans. “The response was pretty phenomenal,” Hunt said.

The writer’s ongoing money woes are due in part to court costs from a 2015 lawsuit he filed against Connor Cochran, owner of Conlan Press, who had managed the author’s creative and business affairs for fourteen years…

Cochran filed a counterclaim denying the allegations, and posted a series of statements on his web site alleging that Beagle was being unduly influenced by individuals close to him who seek personal gain from the suit…

At present, Beagle says he feels fine and endeavors to write every day (with varying levels of success, he admits), focused mainly on a novel he envisions as a semi-sequel to Two Hearts, which itself he describes as “kind of a sequel to The Last Unicorn.” He will appear at BayCon, the annual San Francisco Bay Area science fiction convention, in May.

The lawsuit is set to go to trial in January 2018.

(5) RHETORICAL VIOLENCE. In The Guardian, Jessa Crispin challenges a popular narrative: “The Handmaid’s Tale is just like Trump’s America? Not so fast”.

…If the television show based on the Margaret Atwood dystopia feels like propaganda, with its depiction of women raped, mutilated, and forced into shapeless cloaks and bonnets in the new American theocracy named Gilead, then it shouldn’t be a surprise viewers are responding to it as such.

There are dozens of thinkpieces claiming this show is all too real and relevant; Atwood herself called it “a documentary” of Trump’s America. Sarah Jones at The New Republic went so far as to compare Gilead to contemporary Texas and Indiana. Women are in peril. We must do something.

If this propaganda is not being used to sell us a war, we should be interested in what it is selling us instead. That so many women are willing to compare their own political situation living under a democratically elected president with no overwhelming religious ideology (or any other kind, for that matter, except for maybe the ideology of greed and chaos), with the characters’ position as sexual slaves and baby incubators for the ruling class, shows that it is always satisfying to position yourself as the oppressed bravely struggling against oppression.

The text and the thinkpieces make it clear who our enemies are: conservatives and Christians. (It shouldn’t be a surprise The New Republic piece was headlined “The Handmaid’s Tale is a Warning to Conservative Women.”)…

(6) IN JEOPARDY! Tom Galloway reports:

On Monday’s Jeopardy! episode, the defending champion Alan Lin (“a software engineer from Santa Barbara, CA”) was asked by Alex Trebek about his writing. Lin replied that he writes SF short stories, but hasn’t sold one yet. But last summer he went to this writing workshop…. Checking the Clarion site, he’s listed as an alumnus. He’s doing well; as of the end of Monday’s show, he’s a six-time winner at $123,600 and still going. But on Monday’s show, he was beaten to the buzzer by another player on the clue in the category The Book of Verbs of “‘The Cat Who ____ Through Walls’ by Robert A. Heinlein”

(Jeopardy! will be doing an uncommon midyear online tryout test at the end of the month (three nights, May 30, 31, June 1) for those others who want to tryout. See Jeopardy.com for details)

(7) SEVEN TIME STOKER LOSER. Scott Edelman has a story:

Saturday night, I was up for my seventh Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, and emcee Jeff Strand took that opportunity to root for me … if you can call it rooting. Here’s what he had to say during his opening comments. Note that since the livestreamed video was so dark Jeff wasn’t even visible, I replaced that video with a photograph of me after I donned a new button once the results were announced in my category.

 

(8) DICK OBIT. Anne Dick died April 28 after surviving with congestive heart failure for many years. The former wife of Philip K. Dick published a biography about him in 2010, The Search for Philip K. Dick.

Tandy Ford, Anne Dick’s daughter and Philip Dick’s step-daughter, told a member of Facebook’s Philip K. Dick group, “She was still working away on her computer the night before her passing. She was a force of nature and her loss leaves a great void.”

In a 2010 profile by the New York Times’ Scott Timberg Anne Dick said:

“I think he’s what you might call a psychomorph,” Ms. Dick said recently, sitting in the boxy, modernist home she once shared with him. “He was quite different with each person. He had this enormous gift of empathy, and he used it to woo and please and control. I’m not saying he wasn’t a very nice person too; he was. He just had a very dark shadow.”

…After the breakup of their marriage, Ms. Dick said she endured seeing herself reflected in several evil-wife characters in his later novels. Yet when he died in 1982, after a series of strokes, “everything changed,” she said.

“You see a person in the round,” she continued. “I started writing this after he died, because I was still so confused by what had happened.”

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. When screenwriter William Goldman first tried to get The Princess Bride made into a movie in the 1970s, he wanted the relatively unknown actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger to play the role of Fezzik. By the time the film was made in 1987, Schwarzenegger was a too big star. The part instead when to former wrestler Andre the Giant.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2, 1933 — Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier related an account of a local couple who claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The story of the “monster” (a moniker chosen by the Courier editor) became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a 20,000 pound sterling reward for capture of the beast.

(11) THEIR STEELY KNIVES. Mark Lawrence explains how his Stabby Award finally arrived after some difficulty, and treats fans to a photo gallery of all the daggers and double-headed axes his work has won:

And finally here they are with my growing collection of pointy literary awards, along with the books responsible. My quest to win the Fluffy Bunny award for Friendliest Fantasy continues in vain.

(12) VIVA MAX. I can’t stay away from “five things” posts any more than a dog can avoid noticing a squirrel. Today Max Florschutz blows the myths away in “Five Things Non-Writers Should Know About Writers and Writing”.

1) Writing is a Lot of Hard Work This is one of the most common misconceptions I hear about writing. That it’s not work. That’s it’t not hard. That it’s not a “real” vocation (Yes, I hear all of these all the time).

This just plain isn’t true. Writing is a dedicated effort that takes hundreds, thousands of hours worth of both practice, planning, and devotion. Unfortunately, most people don’t think of it as something that does, because after all, they can write. They do it all the time! Text messages, letters, Facebook posts … they write all the time. How hard could it be to write a story?

The truth is that it’s very hard to write a story. It requires a very different set of tools to writing a text message, copying down the minutes of a meeting, or writing someone a letter. These things are straightforward and simple because they’re personal. Writing a story, however, is very impersonal. It has to be written from a perspective outside the writer’s own, and convey it’s tale to a vast audience of varying talent, comprehension, and capability. Writers must figure out how to paint a picture in each and every reader’s mind—a challenge considering that all of them will be very different people, and yet the same words the author pens must in each case create the same vision.

(13) AMAZON AUTHOR. Amanda S. Green continues her Mad Genius Club series with a lesson in Amazon marketing — “It’s really a business, pt. 2”.

Today, let’s talk about the Amazon author page and one or two related topics.

First of all, if you have released anything on Amazon and haven’t set up your Amazon author page, do so now. Don’t finish reading this post. Hie thee off to Author Central. You will sign in with the same user name and password that you have set up for your KDP account. Once you have, the first page you encounter is a general information page. Review everything there because there is some interesting information, especially if you haven’t been publishing for long.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY FINISHES. Tomorrow the real Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist will be revealed. Today, the Shadow Clarke Jury issued its collective decision about who belongs on that list.

My final shortlistee is another popular novel among the Sharkes: the reality-bending investigation of light and perception, A Field Guide to Reality by Joanna Kavenna. While Jonathan approves of its class consciousness in the form of a cynical satire of academia, Maureen is intrigued by the alt-Oxford setting and intricate unfolding of universes, while Nina finds it good for “bust[ing] wide open” the science fiction envelope. The Sharke reviews, so far, have demonstrated just how malleable and diaphanous this novel is.

…Too often in the past, we agreed, Clarke shortlists had tended to feel weighted towards two or at the most three contenders that immediately looked stronger than the others, with the remainder simply making up the numbers. We wanted to avoid that scenario if we could, to present a genuine six-horse race.

And so the discussion proper was soon underway. The first two slots were filled very quickly – indeed, I think we all came to the meeting in the knowledge that Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station? were scoring high marks with just about every juror. Paul Kincaid called The Underground Railroad ‘essential’, and even went so far as to say he would judge this year’s Clarke Award on whether or not the official shortlist included it. Those who read the comments on the Sharke reviews here will know that I am not The Underground Railroad’s strongest advocate myself – and if the book makes it through to the official shortlist I will do my best to write in greater detail about why that is – but as I said to my fellow Sharkes I wasn’t about to step in front of a juggernaut. And as for Central Station, I was only too happy to see this very special book go through, especially since if the Clarke made any sense Tidhar would have been shortlisted twice already in previous years, for Osama and for A Man Lies Dreaming.

With two down and four to go, the question was then asked of each Sharke: of all the novels on your personal shortlist, are there any that you would say, absolutely, should be in the Sharke Six…

(15) THE GHOST BRIGADIER WHO WALKS. So why is the first thing that pops into my mind The Phantom comic strip? It’s not as if John goes around punching people in the jaw. (But if he ever did!)

(16) EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT’S GOIN’ DOWN. Galactic Journey gets another letter of comment from 1962 — “[May 02, 1962] A Good Lie (Letter Column #2)” – by a writer who wonders what the heck the U.S. is doing in Indochina.

Anyway, I thought of something I didn’t write about in my first letter to you.  (Thanks for sending some back issues of your publication.) I see that you are aware that there is something going on in Indochina that involves the US (March 31, 1961), but now, a year later, yes, it is clear that we as a nation are involved in war, but are just being sort of secretive about it.

(17) SOMETHING FOR MOTHERS’ DAY. Now on eBay, it can be yours for $28,000 – Bride of Frankenstein Movie Novel Signed by Elsa Lanchester & Forrest J Ackerman”.

First Edition. Signed and inscribed on the half-title by the film’s star, Elsa Lanchester, to Philip J. Riley, the editor of the book ‘The Bride of Frankenstein. Screenplay by William Hurlbut & John L. Balderston.  Introduction by Valerie Hobson. Foreword by Forrest J Ackerman’ which reprinted the film’s screenplay. Inscribed: “To Phil, From THE Bride of Frankenstein! Elsa Lanchester. With all my very best wishes.” Additionally signed and inscribed to Riley from Forrest J Ackerman on the front free endpaper: “Phil – Aunt Beeze is fine and here’s The Bride of Frankenstein. What else? Forry, at 59.” Ownership signature dated 1938 on the front pastedown…

(18) MIDNIGHT SEUSS. The Tennessean apprises locals of a chance to see “Dr. Seuss’ secret ‘Midnight Paintings’ at the Factory at Franklin”.

Presented by Ann Jackson Gallery (Roswell, Ga.), the exhibition on view May 5-7 charts the wider reaches of Geisel’s prolific artistic imagination, featuring nearly 100 limited edition reproductions of his work that have been largely unseen by the public. In addition to sketches, illustrations, and political cartoons he created during World War II, the major highlight of the exhibition are the selections from “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss,” a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures that Geisel created late at night for his personal enjoyment.

… The paintings and drawings, detached from a narrative, are more formally sophisticated and experimental.

Though they depict familiar Seussian settings populated by flamboyant characters and animals rendered in the same waggish visual vernacular as his storybook illustrations, they are more detailed, diversely colored, and at times more wondrous.

His sculptures, which comprise their own sub-collection of his secret art called, “Unorthodox Taxidermy,” are also remarkable. Using plaster, metal, and taxidermied animal parts, Geisel sculpted what look like the heads of his own outlandish animal creations — a “Goo-Goo-Eyed Tasmanian Wolghast” or “The Carbonic Walrus” — and mounted them on wood like hunting trophies.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Tom Galloway, Cat Eldridge, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/2/17 The Pixel Shines In The Darkness, And The Darkness Has Not Overcome It

(1) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. Today is National Science Fiction Day, the date chosen because it is Isaac Asimov’s birthday. Judging by the return on my Google search, it’s a day beloved by writers of calendar clickbait but it goes largely unnoticed by fans. Should we be doing something about it?

(2) YOU’LL GO BLIND. Self-publishing isn’t the problem – self-editing is. At least, the kind of self-editing that Diana Pharoah Francis discusses in “Writers Club: The Evils of Self Editing” at Book View Café.

I’m not saying that self-editing is bad. It’s not. It’s just we often do it while writing and that’s when it’s evil. Sometimes we do it when we aren’t aware and that’s when it’s really awful.

When I first started out writing, I wrote for me and me alone. I was trying to entertain myself and so I didn’t worry about whether this would be offensive or that would be sappy or if readers would hate my characters. None of that entered my mind because it was all about the fun of telling myself the story and getting lost in it.

Then I published. This was a dream come true. But that’s when the evil self-editor started sneaking in to my creative zone. I’d write something and then delete it because it was too something: too off-color, too disgusting, too violent, and so on. That limited me in ways that I stopped noticing. I internalized those limits and made them an unacknowledged part of my writing process. It’s like a house. You don’t pay attention to where walls are or light switches because they just exist and are necessary and you’re glad they’re there doing their job.

Only really, the self-editor at this point in the process is really a saboteur. It’s a swarm of termites eating away your writing in secret and you have no idea it’s even happening.

(3) BOUND FOR CHINA. Tomorrow Nancy Kress leaves for Beijing . “I will be teaching a week-long workshop with Sf writer Cixin Liu, SF WORLD editor Yao Haijun, and Professor Wu Yan.”

(4) CA$H CALL. Jim C. Hines is collecting data for his 2016 Writing Income Survey.

For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. It’s not something we talk about very much, and I think the more data we put out there, the more helpful it is to other writers.

The trouble is, I’m just one data point. Better than none, of course. But this year, I decided to try something a little different, and created a 2016 Novelist Income Survey.

The process and goals are similar to the First Novel Survey I did seven years ago. (The results of that one are a little outdated at this point…) I’ll be sharing the basic data like the median, mean, and range of author incomes, as well as looking at patterns and other correlations. No personal or identifying information will be shared in any way.

(5) THEY BLINDED ME WITH (PSEUDO)SCIENCE. A site called Book Scrolling (say, are we cousins?) compiled “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (Year-End List Aggregation)”.

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016? We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!”

It comes as no surprise that the results are blindingly arbitrary.

Even though it ranked first among sf books in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards, Pierce Brown’s Morningstar comes in #26 on this list.

And this is a list of books not just novels – the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Science Fiction is #24.

Joe Hill’s The Fireman is #4.

Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky is #1.

(6) EARLY SCRIPT DOCTORING. It’s a new month – which means I can read another five LA Times articles free, so I caught up on John Scalzi’s tribute to the late Carrie Fisher from December 27 —

Out on the Internet, along with the many heart-touching tributes to Carrie Fisher, photographs of her as Leia Organa, either as princess (the original trilogy) or general (from “The Force Awakens”) and with her beloved French bulldog Gary, there’s another picture, originally placed there by cinema documentarian Will McCrabb, showing a page of the script of “The Empire Strikes Back.” On the script are several edits, in red pen, condensing and improving the script. McCrabb said the hand that put the edits there was Carrie Fisher’s, noting on Twitter that Fisher herself confirmed it to him.

Is he correct? The edits might have been made by Irwin Kershner, “Empire’s” director, instead. At the time — 1979 — Fisher would have been 22 years old. Yet here she was, looking at a script written by Lawrence Kasdan, who would go on to several screenwriting Oscar nominations, and Leigh Brackett, Howard Hawks’ secret screenwriting weapon and one of the great science fiction writers of her time, and thinking “this needs some fixing.” And then getting out her pen and doing just that.

Whoever made the edits wasn’t wrong. At least some of the edits to the scene (in which Leia, Han and Chewbacca plot a course to visit Lando Calrissian) made it to the final cut of the film. Simpler, tighter, better — and with the rhythm of speech rather than exposition (science fiction, forever the genre of people explaining things to other people). Carrie Fisher played a galactic princess, but she had a working writer’s gift for understanding how people talk, and how language works. At 22.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 2, 1902 – Leopold Bloom takes a walk around Dublin.
  • January 2, 1902 — The first dramatization of The Wizard of Oz opens, in Chicago. Book and lyrics by Baum, music by Paul Tietjens, plot reworked to provided plenty of gags and cues for irrelevant songs (and to eliminate the Wicked Witch of the West). Described in detail in Ethan Mordden’s Anything Goes: A History of American Musical Theatre, it sounds worse than the way US cinema reworked The Dark is Rising, but it was suited the audiences of the time well enough to run on various stages for seven years.
  • January 2, 1905 — Elara, a Moon of Jupiter, discovered.
  • January 2, 2000 — Patrick O’Brian died this date. Alan Baumler notes, “He was born on Dec 12. but I forgot to send it to you) and while his Aubrey-Maturin series of sea stories is not Fantasy/SF, given that Novik’s Temeraire series is pretty explicitly O’Brian WITH DRAGONS and Weber’s Honor Harrington series is O’Brian IN SPACE I would think it was worth mentioning.” Absolutely – and besides one of the Nielsen Haydens (I wish I could find the exact quote) said the technology in Napoleonic warships was so complex they were like the starships of their time.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov. (Hey, wouldn’t it look bad if we forgot to list him on National Science Fiction Day?)
  • Born January 2, 1929 – Charles Beaumont, known for scripting Twilight Zone episodes.

(9) WHEN IS IT TIME TO BAIL? Max Florschutz helps new writers avoid the death spiral of investing time in unproductive writing projects by a self-evaluation process, partially quoted here:

What really sets a death spiral apart, however, from a fresh project that is still in its growing stages is the amount of time that has been sunk into it. For example, when looking at your current writing project, ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer yes to even one of them, you may want to consider the possibility that you are stuck in a death spiral.

—Has forward progress stopped in lieu of going back and editing/rewriting what you’ve already written before you’ve made it very far into the story?

—Have you since spent more time editing/rewriting that first bit of the story than you did originally writing it?

—Do you get started on writing new material for said story only to realize that you need to go back and edit/add in something and gone and done that instead? Has that been your experience the last few times you sat down to work on this story? Has it kept you from adding any new material in significant amounts (say, chapters)?…

(10) OCCASIONAL ACCURACY. NASA presents “The Science of Star Trek”, but finds it difficult to marry those two concepts.

The writers of the show are not scientists, so they do sometimes get science details wrong. For instance, there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Dr. Crusher and Mr. LaForge were forced to let all of the air escape from the part of the ship they were in, so that a fire would be extinguished. The doctor recommended holding one’s breath to maintain consciousness as long as possible in the vacuum, until the air was restored. But as underwater scuba divers know, the lungs would rupture and very likely kill anyone who held his breath during such a large decompression. The lungs can’t take that much pressure, so people can only survive in a vacuum if they don’t try to hold their breath.

I could name other similar mistakes. I’m a physicist, and many of my colleagues watch Star Trek. A few of them imagine some hypothetical, perfectly accurate science fiction TV series, and discredit Star Trek because of some list of science errors or impossible events in particular episodes. This is unfair. They will watch Shakespeare without a complaint, and his plays wouldn’t pass the same rigorous test. Accurate science is seldom exciting and spectacular enough to base a weekly adventure TV show upon. Generally Star Trek is pretty intelligently written and more faithful to science than any other science fiction series ever shown on television. Star Trek also attracts and excites generations of viewers about advanced science and engineering, and it’s almost the only show that depicts scientists and engineers positively, as role models. So let’s forgive the show for an occasional misconception in the service of an epic adventure.

(11) SUAVE AND DEBONAIR. The Daily Beast tells everyone, “Blame Horror-Film Legend Vincent Price for the Rise of Celebrity Lifestyle Brands”.

But while Martha Stewart famously (and accurately!) said in 2013 that “I think I started this whole category of lifestyle,” the concept that Stewart began selling with her first book, 1982’s Entertaining, is a little different from what celeb lifestyle brands are peddling. Stewart—who worked as a model and in the financial industry before becoming Our Lady of the Hospital Corner—became famous due to her lifestyle of perfect taste, immaculate table settings, and painfully severe pie crust prep. In contrast, celebrity lifestyle brands—like Paltrow’s Goop, which launched in 2008 and is widely considered the OG celeb lifestyle site—hinge on the more loaded idea that celebrities have great taste because they’re rich, and if you master that taste and pick up a few celeb-approved luxury items, you might get closer to the lifestyle of an Academy Award winner (without having to do all that pesky acting training).

Despite attracting the attention of many petty haters like myself, Goop is, of course, a resounding success—according to Fast Company, in 2015 the site had one million subscribers and got more than 3.75 million page views each month. But while everyone from Real Housewives to Gossip Girls have followed in Paltrow’s (presumably Louboutin-clad) footsteps in recent years, the roots of the celebrity lifestyle brand don’t lie solely with Stewart—rather, they began in the mid-20th century, with a cookbook.

The first celebrity cookbook was penned by horror film legend and acclaimed mustache expert Vincent Price (or, at the very least, its publisher, Dover, proclaimed it as such in a 2015 press release). Called A Treasury of Great Recipes, the book—which Price wrote with his wife, Mary—drew from their world travels, collecting recipes from high-end restaurants like New York City’s Four Seasons as well as ones that the Prices whipped up while entertaining at home. And the book didn’t just feature cooking instructions; it also included shots of the Prices at play, sipping soup proffered by a waiter in black-tie dress, or simply relaxing in their gorgeously appointed, copper pot-filled kitchen.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/21/16 Pon Far. Squa Tront.

(1) FOR LONG DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SHORT STORIES. Standback and Levana Taylor have launched the Short Story Squee & Snark website. It began as a Facebook group and all of the 50+ discussions from the existing group have been imported to the new site.

But it’s safe to assume the real action will be around the newest, most recent story selections. For our first few weeks, we’ve got story suggestions from Chinelo Onwualu, from Charles Payseur, and Abigail Nussbaum. Our first discussion begins tomorrow.

After that, we’ll be pressing on with selections from your humble hosts, Standback and Levana – and suggestions from you. You can follow us on RSS or on Twitter to join along.

(2) OCCASIONAL TIRADER. Julie Phillips profiles “The Fantastic Ursula Le Guin” ini The New Yorker.

To talk to Le Guin is to encounter alternatives. At her house, the writer is present, but so is Le Guin the mother of three, the faculty wife: the woman writing fantasy in tandem with her daily life. I asked her recently about a particularly violent story that she wrote in her early thirties, in two days, while organizing a fifth-birthday party for her elder daughter. “It’s funny how you can live on several planes, isn’t it?” she said. She resists attempts to separate her more mainstream work from her science fiction. She is a genre author who is also a literary author, not one or the other but indivisibly both.

Le Guin can be polemical, prone to what one close friend calls “tirades” on questions she feels strongly about. I once watched her participate in a panel discussion on gender and literature at WisCon, an annual gathering of feminist science-fiction writers, readers, and academics in Madison, Wisconsin. Scowling like a snapping turtle, she sat waiting for illogical remarks, which she then gently but firmly tore to bits. Yet a conversation with Le Guin is often full of comic asides, laughter, and—a particularly Le Guin trait—good-natured snorts. Humor seems to be her way of taking the edge off the polemic, as well as an introvert’s channel of communication. Behind even the lightest remarks, one is aware of a keen intelligence and a lifetime of thought, held back for the purposes of casual conversation.

(3) DEMON WITH A BRASS BAND. Omni’s Joshua Sky interviewed Jason Davis, editor of many Harlan Ellison collections, about the project to digitize and preserve all of Ellison’s writings, in “To Preserve A Demon”.

Writer/editor Jason Davis has a special ambition — to catalog, digitize, edit, correct, annotate and re-publish (or publish for the first time, in some cases) all of Harlan Ellison’s writings. Twenty-six four-foot-wide drawers of typescripts, over 100 feet of paper if stacked, the lifework of a man who is easily one of the most influential and cantankerous authors of the 20th century. Jason is spearheading the Harlan Ellison Books Preservation Project, a grand undertaking “To create definitive versions of all Harlan Ellison’s writings, fiction and non-fiction, to preserve in print for posterity.”…

JS: How did this project come about?

JD: I took over HarlanEllisonBooks.com in 2012. For the most part, I’ve been limited to publishing the previously uncollected, and un-reprinted stuff. His other works were with other publishers. I could do a new collection, like Harlan 101, which contains stories that you’ll find spread across many other Ellison collections. I can do that as a unique volume, and it did very well.

Certain economic factors were built into the original business model before I took over, and — as previously noted — the rights to most of the iconic collections are tied up elsewhere, so because of the need to sell X copies of a given book to make a return, I’ve concentrated on material that wasn’t available in any form elsewhere, with a few exceptions — like Harlan 101 or 8 in 80 by Ellison — where there was some unique aspect to the book that made it worth releasing.

For the Preservation Project, I’m working at the story/essay level, so I’m not stepping on anyone else’s toes. The entirety of Harlan’s work will be digitized and corrected to make sure it’s as the author intends it. In the future, if a publisher comes to him and says, “I want to put out a new edition of Shatterday in hardback,” it will be a simple matter of pushing a button, and a complete text of that collection goes off to the publisher in electronic form after the contract is signed. As it currently stands, that publisher would receive a large box of photocopied typescripts which would have to be scanned or typed into a computer for publication, which leads to inputting errors and a lot of back-and-forth between the publisher’s employees and Harlan’s office via phone, fax and e-mail. One of the goals of this project is to make republishing Harlan’s writings more appealing to publishers — who have their own economic pressures to deal with — by front-loading a lot of the editorial work.

To date the Kickstarter has raised $78,375 of the $100,000 goal.

(4) THE CALCULUS OF ONLINE BOOK SHOPPING. After Max Florschutz sells you the book, he’ll try to sell you on reviewing that book on Amazon.

Now, there’s some truth to why we think this way, after all. I’m not saying that those that pass over a book with only three reviews are being subconsciously manipulated. Rather that the reasoning for such is so valid and ingrained that we as consumers tend to let it subconsciously spill into all sorts of areas.

So, getting back to that review number, it turns out that it’s really important, because people recognize that a higher number of reviews is a good thing. It means a wider variety of readers purchased the product and then left their opinion. And if the book was poor, even with a few outliers that enjoyed it immensely and gave it high reviews, the average rating would reflect that. In this manner, a book that has five stars at ten reviews is, to many, less trustworthy and less likely to be a truly good read than a book that has three stars but three hundred reviews.

And this compounds. The higher the number of reviews, the greater the variety among those leaving them, and the greater chance that the average rating is, the way a prospective reader sees it, accurate. Which therefore increases the chance that they will then seriously consider purchasing the book.

(5) NO TWO SNOWFLAKES ARE ALIKE. Camestros Felapton reviews the reviewer: “MetaReview: Dave Truesdale Reviews Diabolical Plots #21”.

That the reviewer frames his review around a comment by the author—the “unjust violent death of Michael Brown”—and then gives the reader of Truesdale review a totally different narrative that is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty. Truesdale’s review fails on literary grounds (the shift of focus from a fictional story about emotional pain in the face of perceived injustice and violence to Truesdale’s evaluation of whether the author is justified in feeling angry about a real-world event), and from an error in judgment by Truesdale in attempting to justify a judicial killing, which not only reveal the weakness in the review itself, but which highlights how the reviewer’s own strong prejudice in the matter clouded his thinking, and obstructed his capacity to give a professional review.

(6) TREVOR OBIT. Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer Sir William Trevor (1928-2016) died November 20 reports The Bookseller. He won the O. Henry Prize four times and the Whitbread Award three times; he was also nominated for the Booker Prize five times.

The Internet Science Fiction Database lists his genre work as:

Novels

The Children of Dynmouth (1976)

Shortfiction

Miss Smith (1967)
The Only Story (1971)
The Love of a Good Woman (1972)
George and Alice and Isabel (1973)
Visions of Hell (1974)
Mrs. Acland’s Ghosts (1975)
The Death of Peggy Morrissey (1975)
Broken Homes (1977)
The Raising of Elvira Tremlett (1977)
Autumn Sunshine (1980)

(7) CLOWES OBIT. Jonathan Clowes, Doris Lessing’s agent, has died at the age of 86. The Bookseller published a tribute:

After founding Jonathan Clowes Ltd. in 1960, Clowes assembled a select and high-powered client list including international bestseller Len Deighton, novelist, poet and playwright Maureen Duffy, Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing, novelists Sir Kingsley Amis, Elizabeth Jane Howard and Brian Freemantle.

His clients also included television writers David Nobbs, Carla Lane and Dr David Bellamy.

Clowes took an unlikely path to become one of London’s most renowned and respected literary agents, having left grammar school aged 15 and worked in a number of different trades, from gardener to decorator, even going on to serve time in prison for his stance as a conscientious objector.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 21, 1942: “Tweety Bird” debuted

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born November 21, 1924 – Christopher Tolkien
  • Born November 21, 1944 – Harold Ramis

(10) BEASTLY CAPITALISM. ScienceFiction.com has a question: “Weekend Box Office (11/18-11/20): ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Did Fantastically… But Fantastically Enough?”

It’s no surprise that ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ topped the box office charts this weekend, with $75M in the US and $218.3M globally.  This film kicks off a series of five projected movies– with the first sequel already scheduled to arrive on November 16, 2018– all penned by J.K. Rowling, the creator of ‘Harry Potter’, but did studio Warner Brothers bite off more than they could chew?  That’s what some insiders are wondering, as this movie’s opening is below that of other franchise players like ‘Doctor Strange’ ($85M opening weekend) and WB’s own ‘Suicide Squad’ ($133.6M… and that was considered a disappointment).

(11) ATTENTION BAKER STREET REGULARS. Sherlock Season 4 is almost upon us. Reportedly, for the first time shows in the UK and the US will be broadcast on the same dates.

Sherlock will return in “The Six Thatchers” on January 1, 2017 on MASTERPIECE on PBS.

Coming in 2017, Sherlock will return with three brand-new episodes that promise laughter, tears, shocks, surprises and extraordinary adventures.

Season four begins with the mercurial Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), back once more on British soil as Doctor Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife Mary (Amanda Abbington) prepare for their biggest challenge yet: becoming parents.

(12) ANOTHER ITEM FOR THE WISH LIST. Dread Central is making a list and getting it wet.

Leave it to Mondo to tug on our nostalgic heartstrings just before Christmas. They’re releasing a vinyl version of the soundtrack to Joe Dante’s Gremlins, and the packaging literally changes when exposed to water and sunlight… just like the titular creatures.

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(13) THREE STOOGES AT THE ALEX. Glendale’s Alex Theatre hosts the 19th Annual The Three Stooges® Big Screen Event this Saturday at 2:00 & 8:00 p.m.. Order tix online here.

The LA Weekly has named The Affordable Curly Care Act: Poking Medicine in the Eye Since 1933 their “Pick of the Week.” What more can we say? How about, “Buy your tickets early to avoid the lines at the box office.”

A special surprise bonus will be shown in addition to this lineup of five classic Stooges shorts:

  • FROM NURSE TO WORSE (1940 – Jules White)
  • CASH & CARRY (1937 – Del Lord)
  • SOME MORE SAMOA (1941 – Del Lord)
  • SCRAMBLED BRAINS (1951 – Jules White)
  • ALL THE WORLD’S A STOOGE (1941 – Del Lord)

(14) WHAT TOOLS THESE MORTALS BE. Mark-kitteh writes: “A performance of The Tempest with a live motion-capture Ariel on stage? I’m sure some will say the Bard will be spinning in his grave, but I suspect he’d just be updating his list of stage directions to include ‘exeunt stage upwards’,” — The Tempest review: Real-time digital avatar brews storm in a teacup” at ArsTechnica.

(15) ANYTHING YOU CAN DO. ScreenRant knows “Everything Supergirl Can Do That Superman Can’t”.

Supergirl is more than a chip off the ol’ Krypton block. While her younger cousin gets all the credit for bench-pressing the earth and saving the universe, Supergirl’s individual strengths have been sorely undervalued….

  1. She Can Shapeshift

Superman is dead. This is the reality of the post-Crisis “pocket universe” where Lex Luthor was a good guy who bet the ranch on recreating his long lost love, Lana Lang. Lex’s advanced form of AI was called the “protoplasmic matrix,” or just “Matrix” for short. Indeed, Luthor’s weird science led to the recreation of his lady love, now called Matrix– an unholy hodgepodge containing the memory of Lana with the Kryptonian specs of Superman (whom he knew about thanks to his otherworldly technology).

In addition to being almost as strong as Kal-El, this new creation had the powers of invisibility, telekinesis, and shapeshifting, which she took full advantage of by morphing into Supergirl 2.0. In a battle against General Zod, Faora, and Quex-UI, Matrix/Supergirl held her own but ultimately had to call on the support of Superman to take down the triumvirate. Though the pair defeated the Krypton criminals, the pocket universe was basically destroyed, and the new shapeshifting Matrix was taken back to the mainline DC Universe where she became the first post-Crisis Supergirl.

(16) ANOTHER MILLION BRICKS IN THE WALL. How many LEGO bricks does it take to build these various science fictional structures?  This infographic from earlier in the year has the theoretical answers.

How Many Lego Would It Take To Build Sci-Fi Megastructures
How Many Lego Would It Take To Build Sci-Fi Megastructures Created By: Ebates

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 10/20/16 Pixeled In The Scroll By My Own Pixel

(1) PLAYING WITH REAL NUMBERS. Aaron tests the idea that EPH will not distort the results when there is no slate in a new post at Dreaming of Other Worlds. Find out what changed on the 2014 final Hugo ballot.

E Pluribus Hugo was passed largely in response to the results of the 2015 Hugo nomination process. I outlined the background leading up to this in my previous post about the 2016 E Pluribus Hugo Revised Hugo Finalists, and I’m not going to repeat myself here. Anyone who wants a summary of the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns, the responses from non-Puppy Hugo voters, and an outline of the mechanics of E Pluribus Hugo can go read about that there.

The E Pluribus Hugo system had several goals. One goal was to dampen the influence of bloc voting. A second goal was to create a system that presented a nominating voter with a means of voting that was substantially similar to the one that voter had under the old system. The third was to create a system that would return results that were as close to those that the old system did in a year in which there was no bloc voting. To test this third goal, the system was used on the 2014 Hugo ballots, which was a year in which there was a Sad Puppy campaign, but no slate in any meaningful sense, and therefore no real bloc voting….

(2) SUMMERTIME. Chapter 10 of T. Kingfisher’s Summer in Orcus has now been released.

When the witch Baba Yaga walks her house into the backyard, eleven-year-old Summer enters into a bargain for her heart’s desire. Her search will take her to the strange, surreal world of Orcus, where birds talk, women change their shape, and frogs sometimes grow on trees. But underneath the whimsy of Orcus lies a persistent darkness, and Summer finds herself hunted by the monstrous Houndbreaker, who serves the distant, mysterious Queen-in-Chains…

(3) RIDERS OF THE PURPLE PAGE. Max Florschutz enters the perpetual debate about “literary” vs. “genre” in “You Just Keep Pushing Me Away…” .

Granted, I could write a whole thing on how genre fiction can (and does) approach the tough questions, demands intelligent thought and reason, and present ideas (and when it comes down to it, most who disagree are either cherry picking their examples or of the mindset of “that doesn’t support the message and ideas I want,” which doesn’t help). I could talk about that, pull examples, etc. But I won’t. Not at this point.

No, instead, I’m going to tackle a different point. The idea that “literary” fiction is automatically intelligent and thought-provoking. Because this isn’t accurate. No, more accurate would be that it’s fiction that thinks it’s intelligent or thought provoking, written by someone who thinks they’re presenting something much more “intellectual” than it actually is. When it really isn’t … but they’re too “smart” to do the research to know otherwise.

… What’s sad about this is I could see myself enjoying more “literary” works.  The writing is more tell, sure, and more purple, but sometimes that’s pretty good purple. Sometimes there’s some neat ideas buried in there.

But my issue is that they are buried in there. It’s like “literary” writers can’t be bothered to do the most basic of research. And that pushes me away. Back towards genre fiction, where, despite not being the “intelligent” fiction choice, the science is real, the facts are usually real (or pretty close), and even when I’m reading about fantasy kingdom of some kind, said kingdom is actually laid out like a real government and civilization would be. As opposed to the “literary” version, which comes off feeling like Disney-mythology in comparison.

It just keeps pushing me away. Especially with all the battles over how “literary” fiction is the “superior” fiction, or the more intelligent, or the more meaningful, etc. I just can’t take a story seriously that can’t grasp basic parts of life, like how a car works. Or a TV. Or science.

(4) ANOTHER MIDDLE-EARTH TALE ON WAY TO PRESS. “JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth love story to be published next year” reports The Guardian.

JRR Tolkien’s legend of the mortal man Beren and the immortal elf Lúthien – a story that meant so much to the Lord of the Rings author that the characters’ names are engraved on the headstone shared by him and his wife – is to be published next year.

The Middle-earth tale tells of the love between the mortal man and the immortal elf. Lúthien’s father, an Elvish lord, is against their relationship, and so gives Beren an impossible task to fulfil before the two can be married, said HarperCollins, which will publish Beren and Lúthien next May. The pair then go on to rob “the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril”, or jewel.

(5) PULITZER EXPANDS ELIGIBILITY. Crain’s New York Business reports print and online magazines are now eligible for Pulitzer Prizes in all journalism categories.

The Pulitzer Prize Board announced Wednesday that entries of work done in 2016 will be accepted beginning in December for the 2017 prizes.

The board says it made its decision after two years of experimentation.

New entry guidelines are posted at Pulitzer.org.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY VAMPIRE

  • Born October 20, 1882 — Bela Lugosi.

lugosi-birthday-card

(7) HORROR READING.Ellen Datlow’s photos of the “Children of Lovecraft Reading October 16, 2016” are on Flickr.

Laird Barron, John Langan, A. C. Wise, Siobhan Carroll, Richard Kadrey, and David Nickle all read wonderfully at the Lovecraft Bar on Avenue B in NYC’s east village.

chidren-of-lovecraft-reading

(8) PLAYTIME. I got a kick from John Scalzi’s first line in one of his mallet-is-out warnings:

  1. Hey, two political posts in the same day! Can you tell I finished my book?

(9) TIME TO LEVEL UP YOUR ALIENS. Motherboard’s post “The Way We’ve Been Imagining Aliens Is All Wrong” sets us straight.

Why do we always picture aliens as distorted humans?

Science fiction has failed to creatively, or even accurately, imagine alien life, said British science writer Philip Ball in an article, “The Aeon Idea: Why our imagination for alien life is so impoverished.” Now Aeon, a digital ideas and culture magazine, just released a video called Stranger Aliens, adapted from Ball’s theory and narrated by Ball himself.

 

(10) DIVERSITY ON DISCOVERY. Otaku-kun at Haibane comments on the proposal: “A Muslim crew member on Star Trek: Discovery?”

I think including an explicit Muslim would be jarring since tehre is no other “real world” religion represented in Star Trek, at least for the Human society. It was Roddenberry’s world and he chose to eliminate religion from it. Adding a character who is explicitly Muslim complicates canon and introduces tension that undermines Star Trek’s appeal to all of humanity. Then you also need canon explanations for the status of Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. This mess is exactly why religion was introduced to DS9 using the alien Bajoran society rather than picking one from our own.

The solution is to recognize that Islamophobia is not an intellectual reaction to a religion’s precepts, but rooted in racial and ethnic fears. Having a stand-in on the crew for a “Muslim-y” ethnic type would be great because that way when someone sees a Muslim on the street, they should be able to counter their knee-jerk stereotype by relating that person to this crewmember. Therefore, the ethnic choice of the actor is relevant to maximize that stereotype-defeating analogy. Which ethnicity works best for this purpose?

(11) WHO’S THE GEEZER? selenay articulates the cross-generational stresses affecting fanfic writers in “Regarding all the AO3 bashing” (AO3 = Archive of Our Own).

Us olds remember the old days. The days when you had to label all slash–even when it was just hand-holding–as NC17 and plaster it with warnings. The days when only certain archives accepted slash at all, and you could get your FFN account or LJ suspended if someone objected to your boy kissing fics, so everything was locked down under f-lock or posted to the adult slash-friendly archives with a thousand warning pop-ups. The days when RPF was never to be spoken of because almost no archive accepted it. The days when we all danced around carefully because at any moment, our favourite fics could be deleted and never seen again if a site advertiser threatened to withdraw funding….

Current fandom has splintered and seems to have broken into generational buckets. The youngest part of fandom is on Tumblr and Snapchat. The older part of fandom is on Tumblr a bit, but not much, and many of us have stepped a long way back from it because we’re made so unwelcome. We’re still here on LJ, DW, Twitter, and Imzy, where the youngs aren’t so much. Due to those divides, there isn’t that interaction and mutual learning, so the younger fanfolk don’t know the history. They don’t know why AO3 exists and why we’re so passionate about not censoring it. They’ve never had to creep around on the edges of fandom because they were slashers, or RPF-ers, or wrote explicit fics after FFN banned them.

The divide is also contributing to the feeling that anyone over thirty shouldn’t be fannish anymore, and I suspect that’s part of the AO3 wankery. There aren’t many people from that very young end of the fandom involved with the OTW or AO3, so it feels like the olds run it. We created it, we fundraised for it, we continue to work on it and we’re old, by their standards. We should have shuffled off to our graveyards or our adult lives or something.

Except we haven’t, because when we were the fandom babies, there were all these fans older than us who were still active and we learned we’ll never be too old for fandom. With the divide getting so sharp between the youngest and everyone else, they’re not getting that part of the fannish experience, either. They can’t imagine being thirty (or forty, or fifty), never mind being that age and still being in fandom.

You’ve also got the problem that Tumblr-style activism is very different from what we were doing five or ten years ago. It’s all about protecting young eyes not just from the content, but from knowing the content is even there. About removing it so it doesn’t need to be thought of. For them, “don’t like, don’t read” isn’t enough. They don’t want anyone to read it or see it or write it.

(12) A VISIT TO ANTIQUITY. James Davis Nicoll has posted his latest Young People Read Old SF, assigning them “Snowball Effect” by Katherine MacLean.

Although she won a Nebula Award for The Missing Man, Katherine MacLean is hardly a household name these days. Her most productive period ran from the 1950s to the 1970s. That Nebula was won in 1971; other honours (such as being a professional guest of honor at the very first WisCon in 1977) are almost all of a similar vintage. She was admired for her ability to combine character with plot, character being an element of fiction many of her contemporaries seemed willing to do without.

In her heyday, MacLean was one of the few high-profile women working in the field. In the specific context of these reviews, she is remarkable in a different way: the first author selected who is still with us: born in 1925, she is but 91. Her birthday is January 22: join me in raising a glass to this grand figure of science fiction.

(13) LARPING FOR PEACE. In a piece on Vimeo called “Bjarke Pedersen:  Becoming the Story,”  Danish LARPer Bjarke Pedersen explains what “Nordic LARP” is and how in Scandinavia, LARPers work together to come up with stories they wouldn’t be able to create on their own.  Pedersen’s video was presented at the Future of Storytelling conference held in New York City two weeks ago.

As the Creative Director of Odyssé and one of the world’s experts on LARPing, Bjarke Pedersen has spent many years exploring the power of this collaborative form of storytelling. He’s observed that by getting a chance to engage with different characters, LARPers are also able to learn more about themselves. LARPing is also particularly powerful for the ways in which it relies on building trust among people. Many individuals are able to tell their own stories within a given framework, but it is the larger output of so many different stories being told at the same time that makes LARPing so unique and powerful.

 

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Aziz Poonawalla, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Josh Jasper.]

 

Pixel Scroll 7/26/16 I Am The Very Pixel Of A Modern Scrolling General

(1) WONDER WOMAN FOREVER. At the San Diego Comic-Con the Postal Service announced “Wonder Woman’s 75th Anniversary to be Celebrated on Forever Stamps”. The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony will take place October 7 at New York Comic-Con.

wonder woman stamps

This new issuance showcases four different stamp designs on a sheet of 20 stamps depicting Wonder Woman during four eras of comic book history:  Golden Age (1941–55), Silver Age (1956–72), Bronze Age (1973–86) and Modern Age (1987–present).

On the first row of stamps Wonder Woman of the Modern Age wields a hammer with a power and determination befitting her roots in the heroic world of Greek mythology.

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The Bronze Age Wonder Woman’s bold stance empowers the second row of stamps. With her fist held high and bulletproof bracelets gleaming, the Amazon princess leads the charge against injustice.

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The third row of stamps depicts Wonder Woman during the Silver Age. Although she possesses great strength and speed, the world’s favorite superheroine prefers compassion to the use of brute force. With her golden lasso of truth close at hand, she compels honesty from her foes.

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In the last row of stamps, Wonder Woman from the Golden Age bursts onto the scene as originally envisioned by creator William Moulton Marston.

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Art director Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, VA, designed the stamp pane.

(2) SIGNATURE TRAITS. Max Florschutz continues his “Being A Better Writer” series of posts with “Giving Characters a Leitmotif”.

….Now, to some of you long-time readers, this may sound somewhat familiar. After all, we’ve spoken before of ways to show a reader character through dialogue choice or body language. Here and now, however, I’m sort of pulling all of this together into a single, overarching idea: What leitmotif have you given your character? What element of their personality, attribute of their view of the world, are you going to weave into their parts (or perhaps point of view) in order to let the reader know exactly who they’re following even before you give them a name?

No joke. With strong enough characterization to a character’s perspective, it’s entirely possible to write a piece that, without ever mentioning a character’s name, is identifiable wholly as that character’s own. Through use of specific dialogue ticks, phrasing, complexity of language, or even things like catch phrases, general attitudes, or body language, you can inform a reader exactly who your character is.

Better yet, such an action will, if varied (we’ll talk about that in a moment) bring the character to life. Because let’s be honest here: We all have a “leitmotif.” Each of us has very recognizable traits that allow others to see who we are quite quickly(an old friend of mine once—no joke—identified me in the dark, only from my silhouette, on the explained logic of “no one else walks with that much casual swagger” … and come to think of it, that’s happened more than once).

Likewise, as you sit down to create—and then write—a character, what “leitmotifs” are you going to give them? What verbal cues, what methods of thought, or what reactions will they have. Will they be fight or flight? Will they be brusque to those they don’t know? Courteous? Do they think of themselves in first or second person when thinking?

Now, I know this all sounds like character design and development stuff—and it is! But what I’m bringing to the front here is not just the act of deciding all this stuff, but of picking the ones that you’ll weave into everything about the character….

(3) BOIL ‘TIL DONE. The New York Times invites you to “Meet Luca, the Ancestor of All Living Things”. At least, that’s the theory.

….Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old….

….Genes that do the same thing in a human and a mouse are generally related by common descent from an ancestral gene in the first mammal. So by comparing their sequence of DNA letters, genes can be arranged in evolutionary family trees, a property that enabled Dr. Martin and his colleagues to assign the six million genes to a much smaller number of gene families. Of these, only 355 met their criteria for having probably originated in Luca, the joint ancestor of bacteria and archaea.

Genes are adapted to an organism’s environment. So Dr. Martin hoped that by pinpointing the genes likely to have been present in Luca, he would also get a glimpse of where and how Luca lived. “I was flabbergasted at the result, I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

The 355 genes pointed quite precisely to an organism that lived in the conditions found in deep sea vents, the gassy, metal-laden, intensely hot plumes caused by seawater interacting with magma erupting through the ocean floor.

…Dr. Sutherland, working from basic principles of chemistry, has found that ultraviolet light from the sun is an essential energy source to get the right reactions underway, and therefore that land-based pools, not the ocean, are the most likely environment in which life began.

“We didn’t set out with a preferred scenario; we deduced the scenario from the chemistry,” he said, chiding Dr. Martin for not having done any chemical simulations to support the deep sea vent scenario.

Dr. Martin’s portrait of Luca “is all very interesting, but it has nothing to do with the actual origin of life,” Dr. Sutherland said.

(4) PRINCESS CHARMING. Roby and Kreider have turned to Kickstarter to get their next project out of the starting gate – Princess Charming: for a Few Princesses More.

Josh Roby has been writing professionally for more than a decade (and writing unprofessionally for a long time before that), and has worked as an editor for curriculum development and a number of early reader titles. Nowadays, most of Josh’s time is spent as a home maker and raising two darling children.

Anna Kreider is a writer, game designer, and illustrator who spends a lot of time blogging about depictions of women in pop culture. She is also attempting to raise a toddler, despite the toddler’s best efforts to the contrary.

Here’s what they’re doing —

Princess Charming

We started the Princess Charming book series to make children’s books that feature active, competent princess characters who do more than wait around to get rescued. We’ve already published six books across three different reading levels, but we’re far from done.

Publishing the first six books was a great experience, and we’re ready to bring out the second batch, starting with Princess Rowan Charming.

Only one thing slows down our Rowan — her friend, Prince Sundara, who insists on coming along. Something about Rowan having only one hand and that he has to protect her. But he only gets in the way! Somehow Rowan has to make the boy understand that he’s not cut out for adventuring… before he gets hurt.

And In the Wings…

If we fund all of Princess Rowan’s titles, we’ve got two more princesses lined up and ready to go: Princess Chandra and Princess Nayeli are both penciled in for three books, which we will unlock as stretch goals.

With a week to go, the appeal has raised $1,875 of its $3,000 goal.

(5) SEVEN DEAD GODS. Westercon 67 alumnus Valynne Maetani has hit it big. Publishers Weekly has the story – “Two YA Authors Tweet Mutual Interests into Six-Figure Deal”.

What began as a casual Twitter conversation between two long-time friends who for years talked about writing a book together – Valynne Maetani and Courtney Alameda – has become a hot property that recently was sold to HarperCollins in a two-book, six-figure deal after an auction earlier this year in which four major publishers participated. The final contract was signed in June.

Seven Dead Gods, the YA novel co-written by Maetani and Alameda, who have both been represented by John Cusick (now with Folio Literary Management/Folio Jr.) since 2012, is scheduled to publish in winter 2018. While Cusick described Seven Dead Gods as a combination of “An Ember in the Ashes and Daughter of Smoke and Bone meets Akira Kurosawa,” Alexandra Cooper, the HarperCollins editor who acquired it, used more cinematic terms: “Mean Girls meets Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

According to the two co-authors, it’s simply the inevitable culmination of their mutual passion for horror, anime, comic book culture, and Kurosawa’s classic Japanese epic movies. In Seven Dead Gods, which is set in modern-day Japan, 17-year-old Kira, who is the victim of bullying at her school, finds solace working in her grandfather’s Shinto shrine. After realizing that she can see and commune with demons, Kira – with her younger sister in tow – partners with seven “death gods,” or “Shinigami” in Japanese, to save Kyoto from destruction.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 26, 1969 — First Moon rock samples analyzed.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 –Aldous Huxley
  • Born July 26, 1928 — Stanley Kubrick

(8) MONUMENT TO A HUGO BALLOT. Lurkertype finished voting for the Hugos and Retro-Hugos and celebrated by using the Pulp-O-Mizer mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll to make this faux pulp cover.

(9) WILL JRRT FOLLOW GRRM ON HBO? That’s what iDigital Times would like to see: “’The Silmarillion’ TV Series: HBO Should Adapt ‘The Silmarillion’ After ‘Game of Thrones’”.

The Silmarillion would be an incredible successor to Game of Thrones on HBO, not least because the two would be so different. The Silmarillion is firmly set in the epic vein, in the realm of the mythic; Game of Thrones is a story of kings and princes, but has always been down to earth, even in its new epic fantasy phase. The battles in The Silmarillion are more elemental; these are wars between Elves and dragons, Balrogs, giant spiders and endless hordes of orcs, and sometimes the gods themselves intervene. But the story itself is incredibly interesting—it has the depth and complexity to carry a series, even one that’s more directly fantastical than Game of Thrones.

Could it happen? It’s not impossible. The Tolkien family still holds the film rights to The Silmarillion, and Christopher Tolkien has made it very clear that Peter Jackson isn’t getting those rights, not after the debacle of The Hobbit movies. But that doesn’t mean no one is getting them. HBO has shown itself a relatively careful steward of such properties, and it’s willing to invest in the money and talent to do such shows right.

(10) WHAT WILL DARTH SAY? After Tor Books announced its latest round of promotions, Elizabeth Bear voiced the joke that immediately came to some people’s minds —

(11) NEEDS A CLUE. Spacefaring Kitten is “No-Awarding Editors and Avengers”.

I don’t think that any of the novel editors does a bad job (ok, maybe one of them). This is strictly a protest vote against the insane category. How can anybody who is not an industry insider come to any conclusion about who is better than someone else in turning mediocre books into great ones? I have no clue.

So when you have no clue, why cast a vote that in principal can obstruct others who don’t feel that way from giving an award?

(12) ONE TRICK. Was there any question about this being the end times?

“Zombie Dog – The Barking Dead Messenger Pet”

zombie dog

(13) MASHUP. Brian Kesinger came up with a good one —

(14) PIONEER OF UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE. Sir Julius Vogel, for whom New Zealand’s national sf award is named, was remembered at a special memorial service in London at the beginning of the month, though not for reasons to do with his fantasy writing, which was never mentioned.

Vogel had a visionary imagination. He wrote about air cruisers, driven by engines much like jet engines, the inventor of which was a young Jewish woman, niece of the spymaster. He envisages large irrigation schemes in the South Island, electricity as the prime source of domestic light and heat, hydro-electricity as a major source of power.

In political developments, he foresaw a global federation of financial interests that maintained world peace, taxation as the great divisive issue threatening to break up the empire, and the resolution of the issue of Irish Home Rule.

There is no limit to Vogel’s seemingly far-fetched ideas.

The Southland Times, reviewing Vogel’s book, said: “In Anno Domini 2000, it is easy to detect the hand of a beginner. The plot, if plot it can be called, is not very ingenious, the dialogue is not very brilliant and the characterisation is decidedly poor. The whole story is moreover ridiculously improbable.”

What is interesting is that Vogel, who was reminded of his Jewish identity throughout his life, whom his political opponents described as the “wandering Jew”, whose newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, was referred to as “that despicable literary dish clout”, “the Jew’s Harp”, created a positive image of Jewishness in one of the leading characters of his work of fantasy.

(15) A HUMMER. I must have missed this one the first time it came around in 2006.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Dave Doering, JJ, and James Davis Nicoll for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 5/19/16 I Am Not In The Scroll Of Common Men

(1) DATA AND YAR AT TANAGRA. Seattle’s EMP Museum is opening Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds to the public on May 21. Tickets required.

Plus, be among the first to visit Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds and get an up-close look at more than 100 artifacts and props from the five Star Trek television series, spin-offs, and films, including set pieces from the original series like Captain Kirk’s command chair and the navigation console (on display for the first time to the public); Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and McCoy original series costumes; and the 6-foot U.S.S. Enterprise filming model from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Opening day is also when Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) and Brent Spiner (Data) will appear – additional charge for photos and autographs, naturally.

(2) OMAZE WINNER. SFWA’s Director of Operations Kate Baker learned during the Nebula conference that she was the Omaze winner, and will join Chris Pratt on the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 set.

Tired and sweaty after hours of work, I sat down to check my phone as we planned to grab something to eat. There in my Twitter feed was a message from a new follower; Omaze. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, they partner with a celebrity and charity, design a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a random donor, (and here is the most important part) — raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for deserving charities around the world….

I quickly followed them back and responded. That’s when I found out that I was a finalist for the grand prize and to satisfy their partners and sponsors, they wanted to do a short Skype interview that evening.

Unable to contain my excitement, I rushed around my room, curling my hair, refreshing make-up, doing cartwheels, moving furniture, opening blinds, you know — normal things.

As 6:00 CST hit, I took a deep breath and answered the call….. That’s when they sprung the surprise.

 

(3) CLARKE AHEAD. Award Director Tom Hunter has posted at Medium “14 ways I’m thinking about the future of the Arthur C. Clarke Award”.

8. Governance & succession planning

As mentioned in my section on charitable status, the Clarke Award is currently administered by just 3 volunteers. Could we do more if we had more people involved?

A fair few people have promoted themselves to me as viable candidates over the years, but while many have been keen to have a say in the running of the award (or just like telling me they could do a better job with it) right now one of the reasons the award has weathered its troubles so well has been because of our ability to move faster on key decisions than a continual vote by committee model would likely have allowed us.

Still, as I look to the future again, there are many potential advantages to be gained from our increasing our board membership, not least the fact that when I first took this role a decade ago I only planned to stay for 5 years.

I changed my mind back then because of the need to build a new financial resilience into the award to keep it going, but one day sooner or later I intend to step down after I’ve recruited my replacement.

Padawans wanted. Apply here.

(4) ANTIQUE ZINE. This APA-L cover by Bea Barrio glowed in the dark when it was originally made – in the 1970s. Wonder if it still does?

https://twitter.com/highly_nice/status/732782065591160833

(5) MASKED MEN. Comic Book Resources boosts the signal: “Dynamite Announces ‘The Lone Ranger Meets the Green Hornet: Champions of Justice”.

What is the connection between the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet? Dynamite Entertainment’s new “The Lone Ranger Meets the Green Hornet: Champions of Justice” series has the answer. CBR can exclusively reveal that writer Michael Uslan and artist Giovanni Timpano are reuniting for the new series, a crossover 80 years in the making.

According to an official series description,

The first chapter, entitled “Return With Us Now,” creates a world of carefully researched alternative history in 1936. Readers will learn whatever happened to The Lone Ranger and discover his familial link to the emergence of a man who is a modern day urban version of The Lone Ranger himself. What is the blood connection of The Green Hornet to The Lone Ranger? What is the link of Olympic runner Jesse Owens to The Green Hornet? What role does Bat Masterson play in The Lone Ranger’s New York adventure? What intense rift tears a family apart just when America desperately needs a great champion of justice? The shocking answers lie in the landmark new series ‘The Lone Ranger Meets the Green Hornet: Champions of Justice!’

(6) DEARLY BELOVED. Lit Brick has done a comic about “If you were a dinosaur, my love”.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 19, 1944 — Before Peter Mayhew was Chewy he was Minaton in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, his first role.

Peter Mayhew in character

(8) FLORSCHUTZ OUT. Max Florschutz explains why he pulled his book from a contest: Unusual Events Has Been Removed From SPFBO 2016”.

All right, guys, it’s official. I just heard back from Mark Lawrence, the head of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and now that the competition has begun, my book could not be moved to another reviewer, so instead, I’ve elected to withdraw my entry from the competition (for the reasons for doing so, see this post here). It’s sad that it had to be done, but I feel my reasons were sound.

Florschutz outlined reasons for asking for his book to be reassigned in a previous post, “When Did Ethnicity and Sex Become the Most Important Thing?”

Bear with me for a moment, and take a look at these few excerpts from a book review I read this morning, posted on a fantasy review blog (which you can find here, though I’m loathe to give them a link after perusing the site since it’s a little messed up). I’d been poking around the place since they are a participating member of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, a contest between 300 different self-published fantasy books, and Unusual Events is one of those titles. This site is the one that will be handling Unusual Events review.

I’m not sure how I feel about that now. In fact, I may request to have it passed to another site, since I’m pretty sure I can already see how its going to go. Because I’ve been reading their other reviews, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Let’s look at some quotes:

Otherbound is that last sort of book.

I’m fairly certain I discovered it on Tumblr, recommended by one of those blogs which include lists of books that are commendable for their diversity.

Okay, that’s … interesting. A little background on the title. I guess that’s important? Let’s see what happens if we go further.

… fantasy novels are written by and about (and quite possibly for) white men who like running around with swords saving the world.

Uh-oh. Okay. Sensing a theme here, but—

As I said, it’s an incredible story, and honestly, I’d probably have loved the book even if both of the leads were white and straight.

Wait, what?

So they’re saying that it’s also likely that they wouldn’t have liked the book had the main characters been, to use their own words “white and straight”? The book would be inferior simply because of the color of the main character’s skin or their sexual orientation?

….Now, to get back to something I said earlier, I’m considering contacting the SPFBO 2016 ringleaders and asking to have my book moved to another reviewer. And no, it’s not because my book is “… written by and about (and quite possibly for) white men who like running around with swords saving the world.” because it isn’t. But more because now I know that there’s a very high chance that that fact is what the reviewer is going to fixate on regardless. My sex, and my ethnic heritage, as well as that of the characters I wrote, is going to matter to her more than the rest of what’s inside the book’s pages. More than the stories those characters experience, the trials that they undergo.

(9) TEACHING WRITING. “’Between Utter Chaos and Total Brilliance.’ Daniel José Older Talks About Teaching Writing in the Prison System” – a set of Older’s tweets curated by Leah Schnelbach at Tor.com.

(10) PURSUED. David M. Perry profiles Older at Pacific Standard “Daniel José Older and Progressive Science Fiction After Gamergate”.

The Internet trolls picked a bad week to call Daniel José Older “irrelevant.” As we meet in the opulent lobby of the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago, his young-adult book Shadowshaper is sitting on a New York Times bestseller list. He’s in town because the book was been nominated for the Andre Norton Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America, which is holding its annual Nebula conference in Chicago. Best of all, he’s just signed a contract for two sequels. There’s also his well-reviewed adult fiction, the “Bone Street Rumba” series. By no standard of publishing is this person irrelevant.

So why the trolls? They’re coming after Older for the same reason that he’s succeeding as a writer?—?his urban fantasy novels actually look like urban America (including the ghosts) and he’s got no patience for the bros who want to keep their fantasy worlds white.

(11) DAMN BREAK. Kameron Hurley charts the history of hydraulic pressure in sf: “The Establishment Has Always Hated The New Kids”.

…Though there has been momentum building for some time, a backlash against the backlash, I’d say it wasn’t until about 2013 when publishing started to catch up. Ann Leckie wrote a space opera (a woman wrote a space opera! With women in it! AND PEOPLE BOUGHT IT SHOCKING I KNOW AS IF NO ONE HAD BOUGHT LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS OR ANYTHING BY CJ CHERRYH OR OCTAVIA BUTLER), and it swept the awards. We Need Diverse Books was able to organize the conversation about the overwhelming whiteness of publishing, bringing together disparate voices into one voice crying out for change in who writes, edits, and publishes books, while the first Muslim Ms. Marvel comic book (written by a Muslim, even!) broke sales records.

The water has been building up behind the damn for a long time, and it’s finally burst.

Watching the pushback to this new wave of writers finally breaking out from the margins to the mainstream has been especially amusing for me, as I spent my early 20’s doing a lot of old-school SF reading, including reading SFF history (I will always think of Justine Larbalestier as the author of The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction). I was, of course, especially interested in the history of feminist science fiction. Women have always written SFF, of course, but the New Wave of the 60’s and 70’s brought with it an influx of women writers of all races and men of color that was unprecedented in the field (if still small compared to the overall general population of said writers in America). This was the age of Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Sam Delany, and nutty young upstarts like Harlan Ellison. These writers brought a much needed and refreshing new perspective into the field. They raised the bar for what science fiction was. And so the writing got better. The politics and social mores being dissected got more interesting and varied, as one would expect when you introduce a great wave of writers into a field that was happy to award the same handful of folks year after year. They shook up the field. They changed science fiction forever. The established pros had to write their hearts out to catch up….

(12) KEN LIU’S OPINION OF HOGWARTS. Rachel Swirsky did a “Silly Interview with Ken Liu who HAS THE SCHEMATICS for a Time Turner!”

RS: Speaking of Harry Potter, if you could send your kids to Hogwarts, would you?

KL: I’d have to ask my kids. Personally, I’m not a big fan of sending them away to boarding school because I want to spend more time with them. Parents get so little time with their children as is… But if they really want to go and learn magic, I’ll support them. And I hope they work hard to challenge the rather authoritarian system at Hogwarts and engage in campus activism.

(13) THERE WILL BE WALRUS. Steve Davidson did a silly interview of his own — with Timothy the Talking Cat, at Amazing Stories.

ASM: What kind of cat are you (alley, purebred,,,?), or is that kind of inquiry offensive?  Do cats themselves make such distinctions?

TTTC: I’m glad you asked. Some people have claimed that I am a British Shorthair cat. However, my cousin had a DNA test and apparently my family are actually the rare French Chartreux breed. This is an important distinction and finally shows what liars those people are who have accused me of being a Francophobe, ‘anti-French’ and/or in some way prejudiced against France, the French and anything remotely Gallic. People need to understand that when I point out that France is a looming danger to all right thinking people in America and other countries as well, like maybe Scotland or Japan. I really can’t stress this enough – the French-Squirrel axis is real and it is plotting against us all. This why Britain needs to leave the European Union right now. I have zero tolerance for those who say we should wait for the referendum – that is just playing into their hands. But understand I am not anti-French as my DNA proves. Squirrels like to say ‘Timothy you are such a Francophobe’ as if that was a dialectical argument against my well thought out positions. They have no answer when I point out that I am MORE French than Charles DeGaulle. Squirrels just can’t think straight about these things. Notice that if you even try and type ‘Francophobe’ your computer will try to turn it into ‘Francophone’ – that is how deep the Franco-Squirrel conspiracy goes. Squirrel convergence happens at high levels in IT companies these days – that is how I lost my verification tick on Twitter.

I don’t talk to other cats these days. Frankly many of them are idiots….

(14) HENRY AND ERROL. The editors of Galactic Journey and File 770. Two handsome dudes – but ornery.

(15) CRITERIA. Dann collects his thoughts about “That Good Story” at Liberty At All Costs.

In a conversation I am having at File 770, I was asked to define what makes a science fiction/fantasy book “great” for me.  Rather than losing these radiant pearls of wisdom to the effluence of teh intertoobery, I thought I would cement them here in my personal record….

Stay Away From Check Boxes Whoo boy.  I can smell trouble burning at the other end of the wire already.

“Check box” fiction really undermines the quality of my reading experience.  What is “check box” fiction?  It is a story that includes elements indicating diversity in the cast of characters that has zero impact on the the story.

In a reverse of the above, I’d like to suggest N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season” as a good example of not doing “check box” fiction.  One cluster of protagonists included a character that is straight, one that is seemingly bi-sexual, and one that is decidedly homosexual.  They have a three-way.

And while the more patently descriptive passages of those events didn’t do much for me, the fact that their respective sexuality helped inform their motivations and moved the story forward made the effort in describing their sexuality worthwhile reading.  She also did a reasonable job at expressing how physical appearances differed based on regionalism.  [There were one or two other moments that could be considered “check box(es)”, but for the most part it wasn’t a factor in this book.]

IMHO, including a character that is “different” without having that difference impact the story is at the very least a waste of time that detracts from the story and at the very worst insultingly dismissive of the people that possess the same characters.

(16) IT AIN’T ME BABE. The Guardian got some clickbait from speculating about the identity of Chuck Tingle. Vox Day denies it’s him. Zoë Quinn doesn’t know who it is. The reporter, despite taking 2,000 words of interview notes, also is none the wiser.

Theories abound online: is Tingle Lemony Snicket? The South Park boys? Some sort of performance artist – perhaps the “Banksy of self-published dinosaur erotica” as someone once called him on Twitter? Last year, Jon Tingle – apparently the son of Chuck – appeared on a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread to share unsettling insights into his father: “Yes, my father is very real. He is an autistic savant, but also suffers from schizophrenia. To make it very clear, my father is one of the gentlest, sweetest people you could ever meet and is not at all dangerous, although he does have a history of SELF harm … I would not let him be the butt of some worldwide joke if I didn’t have faith that he was in on it in some way. Regardless, writing and self-publishing brings him a lot of joy.” If this is all a joke, it’s hard to know where it starts or where to laugh….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., JJ, and Tom Hunter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/16 There and Gernsback Again

(1) I WONDER WHAT THE KING IS DOING TONIGHT. Kameron Hurley observes that fame and fortune don’t go hand-in-hand: “Dancing for Dinner: Fame, Publishing, and Breakout Books”.

In my own life, I find I have to remind people often that I have a day job. I actually had a client email me after a conference call one time and ask, “Are you THE Kameron Hurley?” and I had to admit that I was. I had to have a conversation with my boss about online harassment, and how the release of my upcoming essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution, might create some pushback at my job, and how we should handle that should it happen. The whiplash you get in going to an event where people literally scream with happiness when you walk into a room and back to private life where you’re just another cog is really weird (to be truthful, I greatly enjoy my anonymity in Ohio, and don’t want it another way, but the dissonance is weird).

Yet this balancing act between public and private life, or public personae and private day job, is something that many thousands of other writers and artists struggle with every day. I was reading that Joe Abercrombie kept his day job for a lot longer than you might have thought (and even then, picked up freelancing jobs until a few years ago), and Gene Wolfe has had a day job his whole career. Most of us have to do this. It’s just… increasingly awkward to find that the fame part comes so much faster than the money part (if the money comes at all). There’s this strange assumption that by being an artist, you have traded away your private life in exchange for money. But what about those of us who never have the money to keep ourselves safe from the fame?

(2) HILL’S DARKSIDE. Coming in October from IDW, “Joe Hill’s Terrifying Scripts For Tales From The Darkside Collected”.

Originally planned as a reboot for the storied series, Hill’s scripts for these never-broadcast television episodes allow the New York Times bestselling author to stretch his creative muscles, his effortless mastery of the twisted subject matter injecting new terrors into this silver screen legend.

Joining Hill in resurrecting this classic is Charles Paul Wilson III, known to many Joe Hill fans as the artist responsible for the nightmare vision made real in their most recent collaboration…

“When I was offered a chance to reinvent Tales from the Darkside, I leapt,” said Hill. “This was a landmark show for my generation: our Twilight Zone, our Outer Limits. Right away, I wanted to do something that honored the spirit of the original Darkside… and at the same time I wanted to go bigger, to do something fresh, something with scope. In the end I wrote three scripts and sketched a vision for a whole Darkside universe. I envisioned a series of individual horror stories that would, ultimately, turn out to be connected by a single mythology. I really wanted to do something with the scale of Locke & Key. TV is tough and in the end we didn’t quite make it to the little screen. But it’s a delight and a thrill to share the scripts alongside Charles Paul Wilson’s beautifully sick illustrations. Here’s the show that could’ve been, now playing in your imagination.”

Tales From The Darkside was created by George A. Romero.

(3) MONSTER CENSUS. Max Florschutz, in “Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #3”, answers the question “Do I Need Fantastic Creatures in My Fantasy?”

No, actually.

All right, let me explain a bit more. Usually when we think of fantasy we think of fantastic creatures: Beings like dragons, unicorns, monstrous beasts, etc. Such creatures fill the realm of myth and legend the world over, and are a common sight in fantasy stories. But do you need one in your story?

Well, no. There are plenty of stories out there where the fantastic and the incredible happen without any sort of mythical, shocking, or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary beasts and creatures entering the narrative. A lot of stories are about human interaction, no beasts needed. You can still write a fantastic fantasy without any indication or even mention of fantastic beasts, and there are plenty of fantasy books that prove this as well. For example, take the success of GRRM’s Game of Thrones books. Granted, they pull in dragons and other fantastic beasts as the series moves on, but such elements only, if I recall correctly, appear right at the end of the first book—the rest of that introduction to the series draws more on the characters and the goings-on of a political kingdom to keep you reading (as well as lots of incest and other elements, which is why I only ever read that first book and didn’t care to move on).

My disinterest in the series aside, the first title in the series shows that your fantasy doesn’t need to have fantastical beasts in order to be gripping. You can write a fantastic amount of drama, magic, and excitement without ever needing a fantastical creature.

(4) STRAW WARS. Bence Pintér, editor-in-chief of the Hungaran SF portal Mandiner.sci-fi, recommends a funny video from Hungary. Public workers created Star Wars sculptures from bales of straw in Tiszaigar, a small village in the Great Hungarian Plain.

(5) PLANETARY SOCIETY. Robert Picardo’s Planetary Post, “A Visit to JPL.”

Welcome to the fourth installment of The Planetary Post, our monthly newsletter from Robert Picardo featuring the most notable space happenings. This month we head to JPL for a tour with two young friends.

 

(6) LONGLIST. Aaron Pound is gathering data for “The Hugo Longlist Project” at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

As I noted a few days ago, it does not appear that anyone is tracking the nominees on the Hugo longlist. There are plausible reasons for this, the most important of which is that it is entirely informal and unofficial. The Hugo administrators usually do not even bother to determine if a particular nominee is eligible in the category they have been nominated in unless it makes the list of finalists. This does not mean, however, that this data is not without value. Thus far, however, it has not been compiled into a coherent whole. This project is intended to fill in this gap by compiling all of the Hugo longlist data into a series of posts so it is all accessible in one location. Some notes:

  1. Though the Hugo statistical data that is released concerning the top fifteen nominees lists the total number of nominations each work received and ranks them accordingly, they are presented here in alphabetical order. Perusing the statistics, it is not uncommon for a work to receive the most nominations in the nominating round, but not win the Hugo award in the award selection round. This indicates to me that the raw number of nominations is not a worthwhile guide to whether one work is “better” than another in the eyes of the Hugo voters.

(7) NEBULA TRIP REPORT. Zak Zyz filled in readers about “My trip to the Nebulas, Installment 1: Cry Havoc and let slip the Blogs of War”.

I was sick as hell on Thursday but made a point to get out to see at least @MikeRUnderwood’s sales panel. Very valuable info, he first went into an explanation of a few retail-style presentation techniques useful for displaying books when working a booth at a con.

Two presentation points I plan to implement:

  1. Have bookstands, a tablecloth, and ideally a banner or a sign that complement your brand
  2. Have a stack of books underneath yours, so people know they aren’t taking your last copy.

Mike Underwood has a lot of sales and retail experience and it shows. He talked about a flowchart method to his sales pitch, favoring a soft-sell approach with a lot of emphasis on gauging the comfort and interest level of a prospective buyer. He talked about the importance of genre familiarity, knowing what’s popular for comparison not just to your own genre, but to build bridges to people who aren’t necessarily SFF readers (or even big readers at all) in larger conventions with a more diverse crowd. A final tip was offering people who were interested but not willing to commit to a sale a chance to join your email list.

This was a valuable panel that taught me a few things that will make it easier to sell books in person. He also fielded my question about selling books to independent stores, with some great advice about talking to book buyers. Just the information in this one panel was worth the price of admission to me.

I should also note Mike has an active Kickstarter going for Genrenauts.

(8) CAMERA ARTISTE. John Scalzi announced on Whatever that he posted an exquisite set of photos of the Nebula Awards banquet in this Flickr album.

(9) ZERO YOBS. Nigel battled Damien Walter on Twitter.

I don’t think Walter is actually wrong. Those looking for WSFS rules permitting an action should try the thought experiment of looking instead for rules that will prevent that action. The WSFS rules give great latitude to the committee in all matters that aren’t specifically addressed in the WSFS constitution. The necessary ingredient is for the corporate entity running the con to have the political will to act — I have no idea whether MACII has even discussed the idea. Also, it would cost money to refund memberships — don’t underestimate that issue.

(10) S.H.I.E.L.D. TRAVELS IN TIME. Comic Book Resources reports “ABC Bumps ‘Agents of SHIELD to New Timeslot”.

When “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” returns to ABC this fall, the show will air in a new timeslot: Tuesday nights at 10 pm EST. This pushes the show back an hour from its original 9 pm slot, which will now be filled by “Fresh Off the Boat” and “The Real O’Neals.”

The news follows the cancellation of “Agent Carter,” which aired during “S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” past two winter hiatuses, and ABC’s decision not to move forward with the Mockingbird-centric “Marvel’s Most Wanted” spinoff.

(11) INNOVATION. The Valley Forge in 2017 NASFiC bid has posted a new progress report on Facebook.

We’re pleased to announce the Valley Forge 2017 Mobie Fund!

Mobie Fund Mission: The Mobie Fund will provide monetary assistance to those fans who have difficulty attending NASFIC due to the financial burden of mobility scooter rental. We will seek donations from all who want to help make NASFiC accessible. Valley Forge 2017 will match donations to the fund, up to $500.

After the site selection vote at MidAmeriCon II, the 2016 WorldCon, we will accept donations in cash or through Paypal via our website. At the same time, those who wish to apply for financial assistance for mobility scooter rental can contact us through our website.

Please note: The Mobie Fund is first-come, first-serve. We will confirm that your spot is available, but it won’t be secured until we receive your registration for the con. Upon arrival at the hotel, you can pick up your pre-paid mobie at the mobie rental spot. If, at the end of the con, the Mobie Fund still has a balance, we will reimburse that money among the other mobie riders at the con.

(12) SUICIDE SPINOFF. According to Yahoo! Movies, “Margot Robbie Spearheads Proposed Harley Quinn Movie With More Female DC Comics Characters”.

Months ahead of the opening of Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. is already contemplating a spin-off for the DC Entertainment anti-heroine, Harley Quinn.

Margot Robbie, who stars as the villainess in Suicide Squad, is attached to reprise the character and would also produce the untitled spin-off, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

But in an interesting twist, the project is not a Quinn solo movie. Rather, it would focus on several of DC’s female heroes and villains.

Details are being closely guarded but names such as Batgirl and Birds of Prey have surfaced, although in what capacity, it’s not clear. Warner Bros. isn’t commenting.

There is also a scribe penning the script but those details, too, are being kept secret, although it is known that the writer is female.

(13) STANISLAW LEM HONORED. A Kraków Science Festival will be named after Stanislaw Lem says Radio Poland.

Late science-fiction writer, philosopher and futurologist, Stanislaw Lem, is the patron of the 16th edition of the Science Festival, which begins in Kraków, southern Poland, on Thursday.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Lem’s death. The slogan of this year’s festival is “Time and Space”. “Lem’s work strongly refers to the concept of time and space, which are also the domain of science,” the chairman of the festival’s organising committee, prof. Robert Stawarz, said.

(14) OLDIE BUT GOODIE. Just discovered this 2011 Robot Chicken video today: “Aliens Acid Blood.“

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bence Pintér, JJ and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Leslie C.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/16 Who Scrolls There?

(1) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Joe Hill will bring his comic series to the air — see “Locke & Key TV Show Happening with Original Creator Joe Hill” at MovieWeb.

IDW Entertainment (IDWE) announced today that the award-winning, fan-favorite property Locke & Key is being developed as a television series. Author/creator Joe Hill will be writing the pilot and serving as an executive producer. Locke & Key has garnered both awards and acclaim during its five-year run.

Following the titular Locke family as they encounter magic beyond belief and evils beyond redemption, Locke & Key quickly won over readers and has since become a staple in introducing new readers to the medium. With the series adapted in dozens of languages across the globe, and more than a million copies sold worldwide, Locke & Key is an obvious choice to make the transition to the screen. New York Times bestselling author, Joe Hill, has continually captivated readers through his gripping novels and award-winning comic series.

(2) DIG HERE. According to The Independent, a 15-year-old boy believes he has discovered a forgotten Mayan city using satellite photos and Mayan astronomy

William Gadoury, from Quebec, came up with the theory that the Maya civilization chose the location of its towns and cities according to its star constellations.

He found Mayan cities lined up exactly with stars in the civilization’s major constellations.

Studying the star map further, he discovered one city was missing from a constellation of three stars.

Using satellite images provided by the Canadian Space Agency and then mapped on to Google Earth, he discovered the city where the third star of the constellation suggested it would be….

(3) DISABILITY METAPHORS. The Our Words launch included reposting “Corinne Duyvis on Minding Your Metaphors”, which first appeared on SF Signal in 2014.

I’m a co-founder of the website Disability in Kidlit as well as an author who regularly writes disabled characters; both my recently published fantasy novel Otherbound and my upcoming sci-fi novel On the Edge of Gone feature disabled protagonists. On top of that, I’m disabled myself. It’s pretty safe to say I’m a huge fan of disability representation. Specifically, I’m a fan of accurate, respectful, and textual disability representation.

However, when writing science fiction and fantasy, it doesn’t just stop at featuring textually disabled characters. Many SFF stories contain disability metaphors. These span a wide range—from purposeful to unintentional, from obvious to subtle, and from well-done to inadvertently offensive.

(4) SWIRSKY ASKS. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly interview with Spencer Ellsworth whose bedpost notches are real people”.

…Every time I see Spencer, I always ask the same question. You see, several years ago when Ann Leckie was running Giganotosaurus, I sometimes did first-round reading for her. And while Ann and I have very similar taste, we don’t have identical taste. So once in a while we’d come up against a story that I was jazzed about, but that didn’t quite cross her threshold. So every time I see Spencer, I ask about that one story that got away…

(5) PKD COMES TO TV. io9 has the story: “Philip K. Dick Is Getting an Anthology Show, Courtesy of Bryan Cranston and Ronald D. Moore”.

“Ronald D. Moore, Bryan Cranston, and Philip K. Dick” are three names you probably never expected to see in the same sentence together. But that’s what’s happening as the longtime scifi producer and the acclaimed actor are teaming up to bring the legendary writer’s work to TV in a new anthology series for the UK.

Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick will be a 10-part miniseries written by Moore, who will executively produce alongside Michael Dinner (Justified, Masters of Sex) and Bryan Cranston, who will also star in the series itself. Each episode will be a standalone story that illustrates Dick’s “prophetic vision” and “[celebrates] the enduring appeal” of the writer’s past work. Isa Dick Hackett, whose past work includes The Adjustment Bureau and The Man in the High Castle and is Dick’s daughter, will also produce the show.

(6) WILLIAM SCHALLERT OBIT. His best known role was as the dad in The Patty Duke Show, but William Schallert appeared in dozens of series in a career that spanned eight decades (1947-2014). He passed away May 8.

Most fans would consider the peak of his sf career to be playing Nilz Baris, under secretary in charge of agricultural affairs for the United Federation of Planets, in Star Trek’s “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode.

Schallert on Star Trek

His genre work started with many bit parts, like the uncredited Gas Station Attendant in Mighty Joe Young (1949), and most of the time he was a supporting actor. IMDB shows he was in The Man From Planet X (1951), Space Patrol (1951-52), Invasion U.S.A. (1952), Gog (1954), Them! (1954), Tobor the Great (1954), Commando Cody, Sky Marshal of the Universe (1955), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Monolith Monsters (1957), Men into Space (1960), The Twilight Zone (1960), One Step Beyond (1959), The Wild, Wild West (1967-69), Land of the Giants (1969), Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), The Six Million Dollar Man (1974), The Bionic Woman (1976), Legends of the Superheroes (1979), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), The Twilight Zone (revived series) (1986), Quantum Leap (1989), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993), and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1994).

Schallert recorded this promo for MeTV in April 2014 when he was 91 years old.

Schallert featured in one of the Patty Duke Show themed PSA’s the Social Security Administration put online in 2010.

(7) SLATE THOUGHTS. Gary Denton of the Nightly Nerd News said as part of a long comment on Facebook:

I agree that slates violate the intention of the Hugo Awards that individuals should only nominate what they enjoyed and thought worthy of an award for best of the year. I also believe all elections eventually come to be dominated by parties and people have a right to oppose parties or support parties. Just don’t vote blindly folks, have an opinion on each item, don’t follow orders.

I believe that E Pluribus Hugo will only lessen the problem with slates, 20% of voters all following orders on how to vote even with votes on each ballots fractionalized will still allow disciplined Fascists treating this as a show of strength to dominate the ballot. Fascist is the correct term here, they are blindly following orders on what to vote for.

A digression, I dislike the editor nominations. Samples of what they actually did that year need to be included and that seems problematic. On all awards you need to have samples if not the whole thing to cast an informed vote, otherwise it is a popularity contest. If I can’t determine what they worked on last year and make a guess at how well they did they won’t get a vote from me. It is easier with short form editors. Wow, that magazine or anthology had a lot of amazing stories, that editor deserves an award…

(8) IT AIN’T ME. Max Florschutz processes a conflict some young writers have: “Being A Better Writer: Author Morals and Character Morals” at Unusual Things.

…Think about the last book that you read or movie that you watched that has a dangerous, unstable, or otherwise alarming character in it. Maybe they were a sleazy scumbag, or maybe a serial killer. A ruthless businessman, or an unscrupulous social worker. Basically, a character that was dangerous, alarming, or perhaps just unstable.

Now think about that character in relation to the author. And here’s where today’s topic comes into play. Do you think that because the author created a character like that, it means that they are, in some way, like that character?

The obvious—and correct—answer is no. I’ll say that again for emphasis, no, it does not. And this is where we run once more back into the question that plagues so many young writers: how can they write characters like that despite being nothing like them?

The trick is that for many this is not a question of being able to write good characters or filling their pages with creative prose. That’s not the consideration at all.

No, what a lot of these young writers are asking is how you deal with writing a character that’s not just different from themselves, but is different in a way that they find morally objectionable….

Yeah, some of you might be chuckling right now or even laughing and shaking your heads, but this is a real barrier that a lot of young writers run into. There’s a real question of where they stand on their own feet while writing characters that may hold different views than the, attitudes, or morals than them….

These characters are not you. They will swear. They will fight. They will make poor choices and good ones. As the author writing these characters, separate what they believe from what you believe because, unless you’re writing self-inserts (common enough), these characters are going to be as different from you as anyone else you meet in your life, and their emotions, thoughts, and other assorted things are theirs, not yours. That distinction is important. Your morals, ethics, and concepts, the stuff that makes you a person is not the same as theirs.

For instance, I am not a sociopath serial killer who stalks young couples. But one of my characters, Amacitia Varay, is. That doesn’t mean that I agree at all with her mentality, or the things that she says, or at all in any way what she does (all of which you can read about in the pages of Unusual Events). But I wrote the story … and it was her story, from her perspective and about her beliefs.

(9) MEET THE NEIGHBORS. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn has learned Anime Midwest (July 8-10) will be sharing space with a porn convention:

In a bizarre coincidence, this year Anime Midwest will end up sharing the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center [in Rosemont, IL] with the Exxxotica Expo, a touring convention for “Adult Entertainment.” Exxxotica bills itself as “the Largest Adult Event in the USA Dedicated to Love & Sex.”

While Anime Midwest’s management (I’m just guessing) probably wants to distance themselves from Exxxotica publicly, Exxxotica management has embraced the proximity between events. Apparently, anyone with an Anime Midwest badge is being offered discounted admission to the porn expo and is planning “adult anime” events including a cosplay contest and “sexy anime seminars.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

This is… probably terrible? Pretty sure this is terrible. Frankly, many anime convention attendees are under the age of 18, and the idea that these underage attendees are going to be in immediate proximity of this kind of event doesn’t really do anyone any good. There are a list of bad things happen from the merely uncomfortable to the dangerous that are racing through my head.

I want to be clear that this is patently not Anime Midwest’s fault. It’s not a big enough event to rent the entirety of the Stephens Convention Center (which also is the home to the much larger Anime Central), and they cannot control what the owners of the site do with the space they don’t have under contract. We’re not huge fans of AnimeCon.org around here (for both obvious and not so obvious reasons), but honest to god there is no way they could have seen this coming.

(10) HOGWARTS. Costume sketches from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

(11) WILLIS, WHITE, AND IAN MCDONALD. Visual Artists Ireland says Richard Howard will speak about The Secret History of Northern Irish Science Fiction at the Centre for Contemporary Art Derry~Londonderry on May 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Using the exhibition Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone (ending May 21st, info here) as a point of departure, this talk will sketch the history of a science fiction tradition in Northern Ireland. Beginning in the late nineteenth century with Robert Cromie, it will trace the development of this tradition in the region, a tradition solidified by Belfast natives Walt Willis and James White, who instigated the Irish Fandom science fiction group in the 1940s and produced the fanzines Slant and Hyphen. Willis and White were eventually joined by Bob Shaw, one of the most prolific science fiction authors the region has produced. Shaw and White’s own efforts in the genre from the mid-twentieth century to its end will also be discussed; short stories and novels that were received in the context of the international science fiction community, but that extrapolated from and estranged the material conditions of Northern Irish society. As the latest iteration of the tradition, there are many schisms within the genre that separates the work of Ian McDonald from those that came before him. The paper will nevertheless attempt to propose a unified theory of Northern Irish science fiction, if only to detect the remainders and contradictions that might answer the questions: to whom is Northern Irish science fiction a secret and why?

(12) IS CAPTAIN JACK COMING BACK? Den of Geek speculates whether Captain Jack will be appearing on Doctor Who.

After he brought back Alex Kingston’s River Song for last year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, it’s starting to look like Steven Moffat may repeat the trick this year by bringing back another long-time absentee from the supporting cast for a festive reprive.

John Barrowman has teased that he has work in Cardiff in the near future, which has led the internet to suggest that he could be appearing in the 2016 Doctor Who Christmas special. Or maybe even the spin-off series, Class.

For the record, all Barrowman said – while promoting his new book in a Welsh Waterstones – was that “I will be back in Cardiff in about a week and a half… but I’m not telling you what for!”

That’s enough to get a rumour started, since the Welsh capital is synonymous with the production of Doctor Who at this stage. Perhaps it’s a bit soon to get excited, but the idea of Captain Jack Harkness bantering with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is a tantalising proposition, isn’t it?

(13) LONDON ROBOT EXHIBIT NEXT YEAR. The London Science Museum’s 2017 show about robots in the Daily Mail is accompanied by a small photo gallery.

Throughout history, artists and scientists have sought to understand what it means to be human and create machines in our own image.

Soon, a new exhibition will explore our obsession to recreate ourselves, revealing the remarkable 500-year history of humanoid robots.

The forthcoming show at London’s Science Museum will include a collection of more than 100 robots from a 16th-century mechanical monk to robots from science fiction and modern-day research lab.

Set in five different periods and places, this exhibition will explore how robots and society have been shaped by religious belief, the industrial revolution, 20th century popular culture and dreams about the future.

As well as celebrating machines of the past, the exhibition will examine scientists’ quest to build ever more complex and human-like robots that are able to learn from their mistakes and express emotions.

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group said: ‘This exhibition explores the uniquely human obsession of recreating ourselves, not through paint or marble but in metal.

Seeing robots through the eyes of those who built or gazed in awe at them reveals much about humanity’s hopes, fears and dreams.’ …

The Science Museum has also launched a Kickstarter campaign that will pay to rebuild Eric, the UK’s first robot.

Originally built in 1928 by Captain Richards and AH Reffell, Eric was one of the world’s first robots and travelled the world to amaze curious crowds in the UK, US and Europe before disappearing.

If the full £35,000 ($50,596 is raised, the historic replica will become part of the museum’s permanent collection, as well as featuring in the Robots exhibition. It will also travel the world as part of the exhibition’s international tour, just like the original Eric did 90 years ago.

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