Pixel Scroll 5/18/17 For I Am A Bear Of Very Little Files, And Long Scrolls Bother Me

(1) NO NEED TO SAY MORE. Michael Swanwick recounts what he labels the shortest and most succinct discussion about the horror genre in the history of the speculative fiction community:

MICHAEL SWANWICK: “I don’t like horror because it scares me.”

ELLEN DATLOW: “That’s why I love it.”

(2) A FINE ROMANCE. Welcome to 21st-century dating. “This Man Is Suing His Date For Texting During ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy'”.

Texting during a movie is rude.

Brandon Vezmar from Texas is taking a stance on the issue by suing his Bumble date after she used her phone during a movie. The Austin American-Statesman reported that Vezmar filed a small court claim for $17.31, the price of a 3D showing of “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”

“It was kind of a first date from hell,” he told the local newspaper.

The 36-year-old said that his date was on her phone “at least 10-20 times in 15 minutes to read and send text messages.” According to Vezmar, he told her she should text outside, so she left and took the car in which they both arrived.

Ouch.

Vezmar claimed he tried to text and call his date before taking the matter to court. He tweeted a screenshot once his date sent a statement to KVUE anonymously to say that, while she felt bad that his feelings were hurt, she chose to leave because he made her feel unsafe.

“His behavior made me extremely uncomfortable, and I felt I needed to remove myself from the situation for my own safety,” the statement read. “He has escalated the situation far past what any mentally healthy person would.”

Director James Gunn, who might have stayed safely out of this, unfortunately decided to show his ass, as if texting in the theater was the entire issue.

(3) TRAILER PARK. Aziz H. Poonawalla goes into deep analysis about the Star Trek: Discovery trailer.

But really, hairless Klingons? With a H.R. Geiger armor aesthetic?

It’s not like we haven’t seen the 60’s aesthetic embraced by modern television. Deep Space Nine went there and did it brilliantly — they arguably made the TOS USS Enterprise look even more gorgeous than any of her successors, and they didn’t change anything about her at all — just lighting and texture. Enterprise itself managed to authentically portray a pre-Kirk technology chic that had a more industrial feel, which was utterly believable as the ancestor to the softened look of the Kirk era. I do not accept that the Kelvinization of the Prime timeline was necessary to modernize the production. After all, the aesthetic of The Expanse and Dark Matter is thoroughly modern but doesn’t have the same Kelvin fascination with chrome and glass. Not that I want any Trek to go the grunge-fi look, but I do at least want Trek to honor it’s own identity. This feels like a rejection — purely a Han shot first decision.

(4) MESSAGE TO THE PAST. If the term “calendrical rot” hadn’t been invented for a different purpose, and we had a way to send it into the past, it would find the perfect Petri dish in this incredibly technical discussion of alternate timelines in Star Trek held on Reddit in 2015.

(5) SASQUATCH APPROPRIATED. In the Walrus, Robert Jago introduces his op-ed about Canada’s latest cultural appropriation controversy with an sff illustration: “On Cultural Appropriation, Canadians Are Hypocrites”.

Harry and the Hendersons is a 1987 fantasy movie about a Seattle family’s encounter with a friendly bigfoot (Harry) and their efforts to protect him from harm before releasing him in the mountains of the Pacific northwest. It’s a forgettable film, but it has undoubtedly been seen and heard in more Indigenous homes than has the story of Sasq’ets–the original sasquatch.

Sasq’ets, whose name was one of the few Halkomelem words to make their way into English, was one of a host of other legendary “wild people” living in the forests on the Pacific coast. For hundreds of generations, Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw children were raised on the stories of the wild people and taught to listen for their characteristic hu-hu-hu calls. Sasq’ets, along with Dzunuka, were said to capture wayward children, take them away from their families, and eat them. With their supernatural healing powers, the wild ones were thought to be invincible; only once was a wild person taken by angry villagers and burned alive. But to the mortals’ horror, the ashes began buzzing in a tiny chorus of little hu-hu-hu’s, and each particle sought out human flesh. This was the origin myth of mosquitos.

Sasq’ets taught our children to stay out of the forests at night. It connected us to our part of the world, in the same way that Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood connected Europeans to their ancient forests–and possibly for the same purposes. Our stories are works of genius and beauty, and vital to our relationship with the land. By no means do I want to restrict our legends to Indigenous people. I want you to know about Sasq’ets, and the psychedelically odd stories of the spirit of the South Winds, and all of the legends of our country.

But when the story is taken from us and told by outsiders without our involvement, its identity can be lost, and Sasq’ets becomes Bigfoot. The cultural dominance of non-Natives means that a B-movie like Harry and the Hendersons can have more influence over Salish children than the legend that inspired it.

(6) WESTLAKE’S BOND. Daniel Dern says be on the lookout for copies of Donald Westlake’s James Bond novel(ization) released last fall. “I’ve already just put a reserve-request in to my library.”

Forever And A Death

In the mid-1990s, prolific mystery and crime thriller author Donald E. Westlake submitted two treatments for the 18th Bond film (which would ultimately become ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’)….Never one to waste a good story, Westlake turned his treatments into a novel.

Dern adds:

Fewer Filers than normally expected might be familiar with Westlake, since he wrote near-zero scifi, by choice. OTOH, he wrote lots of great mystery/thriller/crime and other novels and stories, ranging from humorous, e.g. his John Dortmunder stories, and his tabloid-reporter ones, to serious, notably the ones written as Richard Stark.

See the Donald Westlake site.

My favorite Westlake book: Up Your Banners

(7) MACE WINDU GETS HIS OWN BOOK. The Jedi have always been the galaxy’s peacekeepers — but with the Clone Wars on the horizon, all that is about to change.

This August, writer Matt Owens (Elektra) will team with artist Denys Cowan (Nighthawk, Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers) to unveil the exciting story of one of the Jedi’s greatest warriors in STAR WARS: JEDI OF THE REPUBLIC — MACE WINDU #1!

One of the most accomplished and storied members of the Jedi High Council, his wisdom and combat prowess are legendary. Now, in this new story, readers will get to see Mace Windu lead his Jedi into battle, and face the ultimate test of leadership!

(8) PETER OLSON OBIT. SF Site News reports that Boston area fan Peter Olson (1949-2017) died April 28. He was active in NESFA and participated in the Ig Nobel Awards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born May 18 — R. Laurraine Tutihasi
  • Born May 18 — Diane Duane

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 18, 1897 — Frank Capra

(11) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian says Ziggy has a point.

(12) WHIP OUT YOUR ROLL OF HUNDREDS. Nicole Pelletier on Good Morning America has a piece called “Classic Disney animation art featuring Snow White, Pinocchio headed to auction” about how a tranche of Disney cels from the 1940s is headed for auction in an event sponsored by Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies.

Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will present the movie memorabilia auction, “An Important Animation Art Collection, The Property of a Gentleman” in New York City on June 5.

The sale will feature more than 290 original Disney animation drawings, storyboards, posters, concept art and celluloids, according to Bonhams’ press release.

(13) WARNING LABEL. While I was browsing Bertie MacAvoy’s Amazon page, I especially enjoyed this self-introduction:

Robert A.MacAvoy

If you are young to the S.F. field and don’t know who I am, I will prep you by warning that I often kill off my heroes, sometimes at the most unexpected times. But never in a depressing manner. I’ve never wanted to depress my readers. My outlook is essentially comic.

(14) DRYING OFF. This may be the first good news I’ve ever heard about a convention associated with the Ozarks. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn reports how some fans are overcoming a natural disaster: “West Plains, MO Based Oz-Con Plans Game Day Event to Make Up For Canceled Day of Con”.

I think any reasonable person would forgive the con, considering this was an extreme, unpredictable situation where homes and lives were literally lost. What’s the Sunday of a con compared to that? To the extreme credit of the Oz-Con organizers though, they still want to try to make it right.

Yesterday Oz-Con organizers announced an event they’re calling “Flood Con.” It’s a free game day the con is hosting from 9:00am until 10:00pm on June 17th at the Missouri State University-West Plains Student Rec Center. Admission is free, but they’ll also be accepting cash donations and canned food items to help with ongoing flood relief in the area. There will be video games, tabletop games, and fellow geeks to have a grand old time with.

Admittedly, I haven’t heard much about sff in the Ozarks — just that famous story about the time Larry Niven arrived expecting to be GoH of Ozarkon only to find out the con had been cancelled. (Fans involve swear they tried to get a message to him, but in those pre-internet days it failed to reach him on the road.)

(15) FAME IN PIXELS. Who needs a monument when you can be an answer on Jeopardy!

(16) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY TO TV. Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros Television are teaming on Lovecraft Country, a one-hour drama that has been given a straight-to-series order by HBO.

There is connective tissue to Peele’s breakout genre feature Get Out, which brought a Black Lives Matter theme to the horror genre. Lovecraft Country, the 2016 novel from Matt Ruff, focuses on 25-year-old Atticus Black. After his father goes missing, Black joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America to find him. This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the malevolent spirits that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback. The goal is an anthological horror series that reclaims genre storytelling from the African-American perspective.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, JJ, Dawn Incognito, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Hot Serial:  NYRSF Readings Series Presents an Evening with Serial Box Authors

L to R: Joel Derfner, Michael Swanwick, Max Gladstone, Matthew Cody, Lindsay Smith, Ellen Kushner, Amy Goldschlager.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the spring evening of Tuesday, May 2, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, in a special event, showcased Serial Box, a publisher of serialized fiction in text and audio delivered in weekly episodes; it currently runs five ongoing series. In this innovative – or perhaps retrograde – publishing platform, as with television, the serials are collaboratively written by author teams. Representing four of the serials, and reading from their projects, were authors Michael Swanwick, Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Matthew Cody, and Joel Derfner. (Ellen Kushner participated in the events, though did not read.) The stories were as diverse as the “writers rooms,” touching upon Urban Fantasy, Mannerpunk, Magical Espionage, and Young Adult Science Fiction.

Welcoming the audience to the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons in transit-accessible Brooklyn, executive curator Jim Freund, host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, shared the sad news of the death of Ama Patterson, who had been an integral part of Andrea Hairston’s performance at the Series. He thanked members of his own team, hinted at a possible special event later in the month, and announced that the 26th Season would likely close on Tuesday, June 6 with readings by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly. He then turned the stage over to the evening’s guest host/guest curator (and curator emerita) Amy Goldschlager.

Amy Goldschlager, an editor, proofreader and book/audiobook reviewer, related that serialized fiction began in the 19th century (notably with Dickens), and shared worlds with Thieves World and Wild Cards; Serial Box, she saw as “a wonderful confluence of it all.” With that, she introduced the first reader of the night, Joel Derfner, representing the Mannerpunk Tremontaine.

Joel Derfner

Joel Derfner is the author of Gay Haiku, Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Ended Up Happening Instead, and Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family. (Indeed, he does live, “alas, in Brooklyn, along with his husband and their small, fluffy dog.” He never did explain that “alas,” however.) His selection, from the prequel to – set 15 years before – Swordspoint, and preceding the writing of On the Causes of Nature (which figures in that novel), was characterized by Goldschlager as a “delightfully snarky bit of foreshadowing,” and contained many double entendres – intentional and not – about sausages. (His sex scenes, he said, were too long.)

Lindsay Smith

Next to read was Lindsay Smith, who offered a scene from the “urban fantasy Cold War thriller” (Goldschlager) The Witch Who Came in From the Cold. There are, Smith explained, two factions of witches, the Fire and the Ice (so “the Cold” is not just the Cold War), fighting a war (here in 1970s Prague) alongside the one with American, British and Soviet spies.

Matthew Cody

Like Smith, Matthew Cody is a YA author; his published works include the award-winning Powerless and the Supers of Noble’s Green series, the Robin Hood re-imagining Will in Scarlet, and his current series The Secrets of the Pied Piper. His Serial Box series, ReMade, is about resurrected teens who are kidnapped and sent to the future; the action takes place in the future and in flashbacks (the present), and the scene that he chose was one of the latter. The boy, Holden (yes, named after you-know-who), who played a fairy (the only boy one) with no lines in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, nervously offers a ride to the cast party to its star (Titania), which does not end as he might have hoped.

During the intermission, a raffle drawing was held for donors in the audience, and two won a season of the Serial Box serial of their choice.

Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone, co-creator of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold and creator of Bookburners, describes himself as having “been thrown from a horse in Mongolia, drunk almond milk with monks on Wudang Shan, and wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat.” He is also the author of the Craft Sequence of books about undead gods and skeletal law wizards­, Full Fathom Five, Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Last First Snow., and the forthcoming Ruin of Angels (which doesn’t have a number in the title!). Bookburners is, he explained, a “supernatural procedural” about secret agents from the Vatican who pursue demons and black magic. For his reading, he offered the audience a choice between the first season and a preview of the third, which is launching in June, and the latter won out (the vote was not “rigged”). (What happened in Belfast?)

Back on stage, Goldschlager said that she and Freund had asserted that there can’t be a NYRSF Readings season without a reading by Michael Swanwick, and he writes for Serial Box. Swanwick has written nine novels – the latest of which is Chasing the Phoenix – 150 short stories, and countless flash fictions, and has received the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy and Hugo Awards. He returned us to The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, prefacing his reading by noting that, as if there aren’t already too many characters in it, he had brought in two more, the Russian general Bitovsky and the Norwegian Magnus. (They must be spies – they’re meeting in “a spy bar.”)

There was a recess as the stage was reset with all of the readers – joined by Kushner – for an interview by Goldschlager. She opened by asking about the process of collaboration, which Gladstone called “a Frankenstein process.” There are a lot of story breakdowns. (As on tv, the editor/publisher equivalent is a “showrunner.”) Smith said that Witch is “more puzzle-piecey,” with people gravitating toward their own characters. Derfner disagreed, and jokingly called her a liar. There are a lot of personal meetings over Tremontaine. Gladstone noted his writers retreats. What struck him, said Swanwick, was how many times a story goes through the editorial process, somewhere between six and 123 (he cited a debate over whether it’s duct tape or duck tape – as in a film or tv show, there has to be consistency, or continuity). There is a “house voice.” Derfner said that he liked “having structure, and not having to make things up.” In Season 1, he said, he had trouble getting Diane’s (the Duchess Tremontaine) voice right and asked Kushner to revise him. She said that she was doing Joel doing herself; the process was “metaphysical” (I offered the word). They had to invent a new way of doing a narrative.

Cody said with his background in theater (he holds a Master’s Degree in Theater, with a focus on Shakespeare), he enjoyed the collaborative process. People would fight for their idea, but only up to a point. Alluding to ReMade, Goldschlager noted that we figure things out (that they’re in the future) before the characters do, and wondered about how “genre-savvy” the readers are, particularly in YA. Whatever the genre, replied Cody, soap opera is the “underpinning” of YA. Finally, she asked Gladstone if The Witch Who Came in From the Cold and Bookburners take place in the same universe. “Stay tuned,” he intoned, providing a perfect conclusion to the interviews.

In the Q&A that followed, an audience member asked how they select people to be “in their zone.” Gladstone looks for writers “who are going to jump on and run with it” and had a “willingness to speak the same language.” Kushner said that she had it easier, had the advantage of everyone being a Swordspoint fan, knowing and loving the Riverside books, and knowing that they can “play well with others.” The writers, she continued, “have to be flexible, open to their ideas being changed.” There are gay men in the story, and so she has “an actual gay man” writing episodes. His theatrical background also helps. (Derfner has, as his biography states, composed the score to musicals that “have played in New York, London, and various cities in between [going counterclockwise].”) Her Tremontaine team, she observed, was “queer or writers of color, or both.”

The next questioner asked if the long form was easier to play with than a shorter form. Gladstone said that it made it easier to “compartmentalize.” Smith said that they have to create an “atmosphere;” she can tell which writer wrote which episode, yet the story unifies and flows. The final questioner asked about how much work goes into the “Series Bible” (again, a tv term). Cody said that it gave “everyone a level playing field,” but, as Gladstone agreed, it changed quickly and almost immediately as everyone gave input.

The customary Jenna Felice Freebie Table returned and there were copies of Tremontaine offered for sale. The audience, which approached 70, included Melissa C. Beckman (the Readings’ “official photographer”), Richard Bowes, Rob Cameron, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (the House Manager and a Nebula Award nominee), John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Marianne Porter, James Ryan, Terence Taylor (Tech Director), Paul Witcover, and Serial Box co-founders Molly Barton and Julian Yap. Throughout the course of the evening and afterward, members of the audience availed themselves of the Café’s fare.

Michael Swanwick On His (Many) Short Story Collections

By Carl Slaughter: In exclusive for File 770, to celebrate the publication of Not So Much, Said the Cat, which came out this summer, Michael Swanwick gives us the inside story on his collections.

(The Dog Said Bow WowHello, Said the StickNot So Much, Said the Cat.  Anyone else see a pattern?)

GRAVITY’S ANGELS
Sauk City: Arkham House, 1991

swanwick-gravitys-angels

Thirteen stories:

  • A Midwinter’s Tale
  • The Feast of Saint Janis
  • The Blind Minotaur
  • The Transmigration of Philip K.
  • Covenant of Souls
  • The Dragon Line
  • Mummer Kiss
  • Trojan Horse
  • Snow Angels
  • The Man Who Met Picasso
  • Foresight
  • Ginungagap
  • The Edge of the World

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Five of these stories were Nebula Nominees. One was a World Fantasy Award Nominee. One won the Asimov’s Readers Award. And one won the Theodore Sturgeon Award and was nominated for the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

This was my first collection. Jim Turner, the editor at Arkham House at that time, called me up out of the blue one day, wanting to assemble a collection. I’d been publishing stories for a decade by then and we both agreed on which were the best, so the editing was easy. Jim was one of my favorite people. He’d begin a phone conversation by saying, “Listen, Swanwick, I don’t have time for any of your nonsense. I just need a question answered and that’s the end of it.”

“Hello, Jim. It’s good to hear from you,” I’d say. And with a harmless bit of gossip here and a comment about a hot new story there, I could keep him on the phone for hours. There aren’t many people I’d want to keep on the phone for hours, but he was right at the top of the list.

Jim’s original idea for the cover was to use Picasso’s Guernica as a wrap-around. But when he looked into it, the proportions were wrong. “I’d have to crop it to make it work,” he told me over the phone, “and you can’t cut up a great work of art!”

I will be grateful to my dying day that I resisted the urge to say, “Oh, go ahead, Jim.”

A GEOGRAPHY OF UNKNOWN LANDS
Lemoyne, PA: Tigereyes Press, 1997

swanwick-geography

Six stories:

  • Introduction: The Wireless Folly
  • Mother Grasshopper
  • North of Diddy-Wah-Diddy
  • The Edge of the World
  • Radio Waves
  • The Changeling’s Tale

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Five of these stories hadn’t been collected before. Of those, two were nominated for the World fantasy Award. One of these won and was also nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Award. “The Wireless Folly,” which imagined the science fiction/fantasy/horror genre as a rambling building, constantly being added to, was written as an introduction to the volume. “Mother Grasshopper” also appeared for the first time in this volume.

One day, out of nowhere, my friend Chris Logan Edwards said he wanted to do a slim collection of my work. Slim, he said, to keep the price down so that people could buy it on impulse. I looked at my uncollected work and realized that the very best of it all happened on strange locales – a planet-sized grasshopper, a train passing through the borderlands of Hell, a tavern on an overbuilt medieval bridge, and my own neighborhood as seen from the afterlife. So I added the previously collected “The Edge of the World,” to bring it to length, and had a collection whose stories chimed nicely. One critic said that they were all about death, and that’s possible too.

Chris put together a beautiful volume with a particularly evocative cover by Lee Moyer. It was Tigereyes Press’s first publication and not only was it nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection, but it earned Chris a place on the World Fantasy Award ballot for Special Award, Non-Professional, as well. Not bad for his first book.

PUCK ALESHIRE’S ABECEDARY
Pleasantville, NY: Dragon Press, 2000

swanwick-puck

Twenty-seven stories:

  • A is for Albany (to) Z is for Zothique, (plus) 120 is for Issues

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Sometime in my first two decades as a published writer, I acquired a facility for writing flash fiction. I wrote a series of twenty-seven stories, one for each letter of the alphabet, plus one marking the magazine’s tenth anniversary, and sold them to The New York Review of Science Fiction for, as I recall, five dollars a pop. The money was nothing, but I’d written them for fun, so that didn’t matter.

David Hartwell, editor and founder of NYRSF, suggested that his Dragon Press collect the stories as a chapbook. The editing and illustration was done by Kathryn Cramer. This was an old school publication – sturdy, handsome, and economical – as suited David and Kathryn’s fannish streaks.

I don’t have any anecdotes about this one, but it made me happy and that will have to suffice.

MOON DOGS
Ann A. Broomhead and Timothy P. Szczesuil, eds., Framingham, MA: NESFA Press, 2000.

swanwick-moon-dogs

Eight stories and seven articles:

  • Moon Dogs HN NN
  • The Death of the Magus: Two Myths (article)
  • Mickelrede by Michael Swanwick and Avram Davidson
  • Vergil Magus: King Without Country by Michael Swanwick and Avram Davidson
  • Jane Swanwick and the Search for Identity (article)
  • The Hagiography of Saint Dozois (article)
  • Ancestral Voices by Michael Swanwick and Gardner Dozois
  • The City of God by Michael Swanwick and Gardner Dozois
  • The Dead
  • They Fell Like Wheat (article)
  • A User’s Guide to the Postmoderns (article)
  • Ships by Michael Swanwick and Jack Dann
  • In the Tradition… (article)
  • Growing Up in the Future (article)
  • Griffin’s Egg

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Two stories were nominated for the Nebula Award and three, including “Moon Dogs” (which was one of two stories original to this collection) were nominated for the Hugo. The introduction was by Gardner Dozois.

The New England Science Fiction Society has a pleasant tradition of creating a book, usually a collection, each year for the guest of honor at Boskone, Boston’s venerable science fiction convention. This presented a problem for me because I’d already contracted for what was by now my traditional collection-per-decade. Editors Ann Broomhead and Tim Szczesuil convinced me that by including non-fiction and some of the best of the collaborative fiction I’d written over the years, we could assemble a worthwhile book.

While there are some upbeat works in the collection (my posthumous collaboration – “Over my dead body,” I can hear his spirit growl – with Avram Davidson, “Vergil Magus: King Without Country,” is a hoot), the mood of the fiction is, overall, darker than usual for me. I have no idea why I didn’t include “Dogfight,” my collaboration with William Gibson, unless it’s that I didn’t want to look like I was trying to ride on his coattails.

During the convention, I was hobbling around on a cane, the result of a fall down the stairs and a broken toe, waving the book about and telling everybody that it was only one of three collections I had out that year.

“You know,” Marianne Porter, my wife, said, “you’ve got the makings of good murder mystery here.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Tomorrow morning, when you’re found beaten to death with your own cane and the detective asks who at the convention would have a motive for killing you, every writer here is going to raise a hand.”

Rick Berry, the artist guest of honor, created a beautiful illustration for the cover.

TALES OF OLD EARTH
San Francisco: Frog Ltd., 2000, 2002

swanwick-tales-of-old-earth

Nineteen stories:

  • The Very Pulse of the Machine
  • The Dead
  • Scherzo with Tyrannosaur
  • Ancient Engines
  • North of Diddy-Wah-Diddy
  • The Mask
  • Mother Grasshopper
  • Riding the Giganotosaur
  • Wild Minds
  • The Raggle Taggle Gypsy-o
  • Microcosmic Dog
  • In Concert
  • Radiant Doors
  • Ice Age
  • Walking Out
  • The Changeling’s Tale
  • Midnight Express
  • The Wisdom of Old Earth
  • Radio Waves

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Of these nineteen stories, fifteen were never collected before. The previously uncollected stories garnered three Nebula nominations, three Hugo nominations, two Sturgeon Award nominations, a World Fantasy Award nomination, an Asimov’s Reader’s Award, and two Hugo Awards. The introduction was by Bruce Sterling.

This collection was a collaboration between Frog, Ltd., an imprint of North Atlantic Books, and Tachyon Publications. It was my second major collection, gathering together all my best stories of the prior decade.

This book began my professional association with Jacob Weisman, who quickly became a good friend. Such good friends that, some years later, Marianne and I flew to San Francisco to attend Jacob’s wedding to his wife Rina. So now we have two good friends (at least) at Tachyon.

CIGAR-BOX FAUST
San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2003.

swanwick-cigar-box

Ten stories (or more, depending on how you count them):

  • Cigar-Box Faust
  • Writing in My Sleep
  • An Abecedary of the Imagination
  • Eight Takes on Kindred Themes
  • Picasso Deconstructed: Eleven Still-Lifes
  • Brief Essays
  • Archaic Planets
  • The Mask
  • Letters to the Editor
  • The Madness of Gordon Van Gelder

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Cigar-Box Faust gathers together pretty much all my flash fiction written to that point, save for the 26 short-shorts in Puck Aleshire’s Abecedary. The title piece was a short drama written in one day for a cigar-box theater and a cast made up of a cigar cutter, a box of matches and, in the title role, the cigar itself.

Marianne came home from work that day and asked, “What’s new?” I sat her down at the kitchen table, placed the cigar box between us, and said, “Watch.

MICHAEL SWANWICK’S FIELD GUIDE TO THE MESOZOIC MEGAFAUNA
San Francisco, Tachyon Publications, 2004.

swanwick-field-guide

Fourteen (or eighteen, depending on how you count them) stories:

  • flash fiction
  • The Thief of Time
  • A Matter of Size
  • Three Conversations
  • How the West Was Won II
  • The Scientific Method
  • Dueling Mosasaurs
  • Pocket Brontosaurs
  • Herbivores
  • Parallels
  • Wusses
  • Dinosaur Music
  • The Bird-Fishers
  • Proving Dr. Tom’s Hypothesis
  • Five British Dinosaurs
  • Iguanodon anglicus
  • Yaverlandia bitholus
  • Altispinax dunkeri
  • Megalosaurus bucklandii
  • Craterosaurus pottonensis

MICHAEL SWANWICK: “I don’t think you understand how many genera of dinosaurs there are,” I replied when my editor at HarperCollins suggested that as a promotional device, I should write a brief story for every genus. But I was happy to write a goodly number, which were serialized on the Web to draw attention to my paleontology novel, Bones of the Earth.

Jacob Weisman, God bless him, liked the series, added “Five British Dinosaurs,” which had appeared in Interzone, and published them all in chapbook form with lovely illustrations by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

I had great fun including some of my pals in the paleontologist community in the fictions. Ralph Chapman got to see his Pachycephalosaurus theories tested in the wild. Bob Walters was stranded in the Campanian Age when a hadrosaur crushed his time machine. Tom Holtz got eaten by a tyrannosaur. And Tess Kissinger went for a midnight ride with Ray Harryhausen in a pair of robot theropods.

Never let it be said that I don’t know how to show my friends a good time.

THE PERIODIC TABLE OF SCIENCE FICTION
PS Publishing, 2005

swanwick-periodic

One hundred eighteen stories:

  • Hydrogen: The Hindenburg (to) Ununoctium: Now You See It Now You
  • Flash fiction, one story for every element in the Periodic Table. Introduction by Theodore Gray.

MICHAEL SWANWICK: For a couple of years in the early part of this century, I was publishing, in addition to my usual fiction, two stories a week online. For Eileen Gunn’s ezine The Infinite Matrix, I produced a series of stories, The Sleep of Reason, based on Goya’s Los Caprichos etchings. That was 80 stories for Eileen and 118 for Ellen. Writers used to turn pale and hold up crucifixes when I entered the room.

Peter Crowther, the founder of PS Publishing, liked my series based on the elements and reprinted it in a beautiful book which very quickly went out of print.

The Sleep of Reason hasn’t appeared in book form yet. If anybody is interested, I can think of the perfect illustrator for it – and his work is all in the public domain.

THE DOG SAID BOW-WOW
Tachyon Publications, 2007

swanwick-dog-said

Sixteen stories:

  • ‘Hello,’ Said the Stick
  • A Great Day for Brontosaurs
  • A Small Room in Koboldtown
  • An Episode of Stardust
  • Dirty Little War
  • Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play
  • Legions of Time
  • Slow Life
  • The Bordello in Faerie
  • The Dog Said Bow-Wow
  • The Last Geek
  • The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport
  • The Skysailor’s Tale
  • Tin Marsh
  • Triceratops Summer
  • Urdumheim

MICHAEL SWANWICK: One story was nominated for the Nebula Award and four for the Hugo Award. Of those four, three won. Introduction by Terry Bisson.

My third decade collection arrived three years early. It was named after “The Dog Said Bow-Wow,” the first Darger & Surplus story and easily one of the most popular stories I ever wrote. At the time the collection came out, there were only three stories in the series, all of which were included. Someday there will be a full collection’s worth. But that day, alas, is not here yet.

THE BEST OF MICHAEL SWANWICK
(Subterranean Press), 2008

swanwick-best-of

  • The Feast of St. Janis
  • Ginungagap
  • Trojan Horse
  • A Midwinter’s Tale
  • The Edge of the World
  • Griffin’s Egg
  • The Changeling’s Tale
  • North of Diddy-Wah-Diddy
  • Radio Waves
  • The Dead
  • Mother Grasshopper
  • Radiant Doors
  • The Very Pulse of the Machine
  • Scherzo with Tyrannosaur
  • The Raggle Taggle Gypsy-O
  • The Dog Said Bow-Wow
  • Slow Life
  • Legions in Time
  • Triceratops Summer
  • From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled…

MICHAEL SWANWICK: Subterranean Press likes to put out career-summing “best of” volumes dedicated to people like Joe Haldeman, Lucius Shepard, Nancy Kress, Larry Niven… Pretty heady company to be numbered among. So when Bill Schafer asked me to join them, what else could I do but blush and nod?

This collection was not only beautifully made but large – so much so that it was a bit of a relief to discover that I didn’t have to include any of my weaker stories to fill it up.

Bill asked if I had any ideas for the cover artist should be and I immediately suggested Lee Moyer, who had done such a bright and witty job on A Geography of Imaginary Lands. When I saw the cover (which includes a half-hidden portrait of my hirsute self), I was glad I did.

I look forward to the day when I have enough new fiction to assemble The Second Best of Michael Swanwick.

Swanwick Sets the Frame for His Mongolian Wizard Series

Michael Swanwick in 2009. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Michael Swanwick in 2009. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

By Carl Slaughter: In an exclusive for File 770, Michael Swanwick provides plot details and author comments for his “Mongolian Wizard” series.  Tor has published 7 stories in the series and Swanwick plans 14 more.

Swanwick is on the verge of wrapping up his “Darger and Surplus” series.  He also has an anthology, Not So Much, Said the Cat, out in August.

First Story: “The Mongolian Wizard” by Michael Swanwick (Tor.com, 2012)

“Junior Lieutenant Franz-Karl Ritter is an officer in the Werewolf Corps, a variant of the K9 Corps, except that the men have wolves with which they share a mind link. Ritter is responsible for security at a conference of European wizards in Schloss Greiffenhorst on a snowy mountaintop in the Riphean Mountains. On the third day of the conclave, Sir Toby Willoughby-Quirke barrels into Ritter, knocking him flat, then politely introduces himself. Sir Toby soon sets up a military demonstration using a platoon of two-inch high toy soldiers, who march in formation and display their shooting abilities, then disappear into the walls of the castle, ostensibly to hunt down rats and mice. But the miniature soldiers aren’t what they seem to be, and neither is the boisterous Sir Toby.” –  Tadiana at GoodReads

Swanwick Comments: You should at least skim this story, because so many of the series’ ground rules are contained within it.

Second Story: “The Fire Gown” (Tor.com 2012)

The Mongolian Wizard has invaded Poland. Ritter and Sir Toby are called to Buckingham Palace to investigate the spontaneous combustion of Queen Titania when she donned a gown woven from salamander’s hair – an act meant to incapacitate King Oberon at the onset of war. Ritter meets the dressmaker’s daughter, the (his words) Jewess Shulamith Rosenberg. Together, they discover that her father has been murdered, and that the saboteur has left behind a box containing thousands of of plague fleas. Ritter deliberately ignites a bolt of salamander cloth to destroy them, expecting to die. He survives, thanks in part to actions by his new wolf, Freki. Shulamith, however, dies. When he has recovered enough to return to his empty apartment, he brings with him a crayon portrait of her, hangs it on the wall, and bursts into tears.

Swanwick Comments: Ritter, though he does not realize it, is a proto-Nazi who has had the good fortune not to fall under evil influences. His idealization of Ms Rosenberg is the first suggestion that he may grow out of his limitations and also a clue that he is unknowingly seeking love. The entire series chronicles his struggle to not lose his soul.

Third Story: “The Day of the Kraken” (Tor.com 2012)

Set during the Phony War. Mudlarks – children who scrounge in the tidal mud for scrap metal – witnessed and reported a chest deliberately sunk in the Thames. It contained kraken eggs which, when hatched, would render the port unusable. Though this was recovered, the saboteurs kidnapped five children, all girls, and the locales of these crimes form an inverted pentagram, suggesting they mean to perform human sacrifice. (Though magic works in this series, demonism does not.) Evidence had been left behind suggesting that the crimes were committed by Catholics – the saboteurs’ intent, obviously, is to cause religious strife.

Ritter and Freki tracked the saboteurs to an unused priory, but were captured. Held captive with the little girls, Ritter calmed them down by telling stories about Freki and getting them to pretend they too were wolves. Then, though it was strictly illegal, he entered the children’s minds and “launched his small wolves,snarling and biting straight at the throats of the three startled saboteurs.”

Understandably, the girls’ parents are outraged at how they were rescued, and Sir Toby scolds Ritter. Ritter “accidentally,” leaves some pasties where mudlarks will steal them.

Swanwick Comments: There is usually banter between Ritter and Sir Toby, who finds his stuffiness humorous. From this story, for example:

“I have an excellent sense of humor,” Ritter said indignantly.

“Have you really? I must remember to have you tell a joke someday in order to test this hypothesis.”

However, Sir Toby also feels that Ritter is insufficiently ruthless, and is constantly trying to mold him into a man without conscience. He is simultaneously a humanizing and a dehumanizing influence on Ritter.

Fourth Story: “House of Dreams” (Tor.com, 2013)

Two vagrants travel across Germany in bleakest winter. One asks questions which the second evades. Until finally Ritter puts together inconsistencies in the situation and forcibly awakens himself from a dream. He has been captured and is undergoing dream therapy by two of the Mongolian Wizard’s alienists. Through induced illusions, bit by bit, they gain information from him. But so far not the two things they desire most: The purpose of his mission and the identity of his traveling companion. So, unexpectedly, they release Ritter. He walks for hour after hour until finally, on the edge of exhaustion, he arrives at the farmhouse where he was being held captive. He has been shown that there is no hope. Later, he is given a vision of himself, back in London, killing Sir Toby, and realizes this is their ultimate intent.

He has only one advantage: Freki is still out in the cold, and they think him a man and not a wolf. Ritter calls Freki to him and takes advantage of the distraction to kill his tormentors.

Then he continues on to his meeting-place where, after a long wait in an open place as described in the play, his contact appears. Extending his hand, Ritter says, “The wizard Godot, I presume?”

Swanwick Comments: Commonly, a new psychic power is introduced in each story. This story is so far unique in not introducing a new magical creature.

This has been the most popular story of the series, I believe.

Fifth Story: “The Night of the Salamander” (Tor.com, 2015)

The Mongolian Wizard has invaded France. Fighting is fierce. On the eve of a battle, Ritter is at an aristocratic party when he is summoned by Sir Toby to the headquarters of Marechal de Camp Martel, who has been murdered and whose power is to instill absolute loyalty upon his troops and everyone he encounters. On impulse, he brings with him Lady Angelique de la Fontaine, a psychic surgeon with whom he had been flirting.

Working together, Ritter and Lady Angelique discover that, while indispensable to the French army, the Marechal was a loathsome human being, hated by the only three suspects: his valet, his aide, and his underage mistress. The murder, they find, was committed by his abused mistress who turned upon him. But before the others are released Ritter reveals that the valet is a creature of the Mongolian Wizard who will, if released, spread the news that the irresistible Marchal is dead. The aide is allowed to kill him and the battle the next morning will be fought by soldiers under the illusion that they are still led by a man who never loses.

Swanwick Comments: Many of the names in this series refer to classical fantasy. For example, de la Fontaine was the great French fantasist. In “The Phantom of the Maze,” Alice Hargreaves was the married name of Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

Freki is always an indispensable part of Ritter’s investigations, usually due to his superior range of senses, particularly smell, but occasionally as muscle. So there are in each story three indispensable characters: Ritter, Sir Toby, and Freki. Sir Toby’s part is usually small but always important.

Sixth Story: “The Pyramid of Krakow” (Tor.com, 2015)

A blind Swiss commercial traveler in chemicals comes to Krakow, accompanied by his seeing-eye wolf. Ritter, of course. He is shown the first pyramid of Krakow (more are to be built), atop which human sacrifices are made in great number in order to traumatize witnessing devotees into their potential powers. This is the source of the Mongolian Wizard’s seemingly endless supply of magicians. Ritter is identified as a spy but Kaska, a secretary, turns out to be a Polish freedom fighter. He sets fire to the Royal Palace and throws a young fool (exactly like his younger self but on the wrong side) to the enemy. Ultimately, he is saved from a witch-finder when Kaska feeds the man to the gargoyles.

When Sir Toby gets Ritter’s report, he receives it as moral permission to take actions he had previously considered too immoral to dangerous. The story ends on this unhappy premonition.

Swanwick Comments: Here I introduce the Holocaust into the mix. Ritter has been increasingly reluctant to play Sir Toby’s game. Now he sees here is no morally acceptable alternative. Yet he is aware of the evil he is agreeing to.

Though there is no romantic element to this story, Kaska will reappear. She and Angelique are to become Ritter’s two great loves. At least one of them will not survive the war.

The war begins as a conventional Napoleonic-era war and will conclude as something very like World War II.

Seventh Story: “The Phantom in the Maze” (Tor.com, 2015)

This is set in Bletchley Park, though the name never appears in the story. Young women work at scrying the future, drawing detailed diagrams of future weapons technology to be employed in the war. One of these women has been murdered at midnight at the center of the hedge maze on the day of her arrival. Since she knew no one there, Ritter is sent to discover if it is the work of saboteurs.

The murder turns out to be a crime of passion. The victim, Alice Hargreaves, arrived knowing she would have a passionate affair with the Director, a serial philanderer. She was killed by the Director’s current lover, who foresaw this affair. However, in the course of investigation strange things happen. A bird appears and disappears inside a closed room. Ritter has a discussion with the murdered woman. In a confrontation with the Director, the man is killed and then restored to life. The intensive alterations to the time frame have destabilized reality locally. It is entirely possible that over the long run it will destabilize reality throughout Europe.

Ritter promises to have the institute closed down. But the Director has foreseen this and produces a letter from Sir Toby saying it will not be. As Ritter leaves, a woman rides up on a horse:

“Hello,” she said. “My name is Alice Hargreaves.”

“I know who you are,” Ritter replied, “and I am afraid that there is nothing here for you.”

Swanwick Comments: This concludes the first third of the series (there should be 21 stories in all) and finishes establishing the ground rules. From this point on, the conflict will be a war pitting technology against magic.

Pixel Scroll 2/4/16 “Who Nominated J.R.?”

John Hodgman

John Hodgman

(1) HODGMAN TO PRESENT NEBULAS. SFWA has picked comedian John Hodgman to emcee the 50th Annual Nebula Awards in Chicago at the SFWA Nebula Conference on May 14.

John Hodgman is the longtime Resident Expert on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the host of the popular Judge John Hodgman Podcast. He has also appeared on Conan, The Late Late Show, @midnight, and This American Life. The Village Voice named his show Ragnarok one of the top ten stand up specials of 2013. In 2015, he toured his new show Vacationland. He has performed comedy for the President of the United States and George R.R. Martin, and discussed love and alien abduction at the TED conference.

In addition to the Nebula Awards, SFWA will present the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

(2) BYE BYE BABBAGE. Chris Garcia is mourning the withdrawal of the Babbage machine from exhibit from the Computer History Museum.

Babbage Difference Engine No 2

Babbage Difference Engine No 2

After eight years at the Computer History Museum (CHM), the Babbage Difference Engine No. 2 is bidding farewell and returning to its owner.

The Difference Engine No. 2 has had a wonderful home at the Museum. Our Babbage demonstrations have amazed more than 500,000 visitors, providing them with the unprecedented opportunity to see and hear the mechanical engine working—a stunning display of Victorian mechanics.

People will have to content themselves with CHM’s online Babbage exhibit.

Dave Doering said:

I figure they knew the price would one day come due for the chance to host it there for eight years. I mean, everyone today knows about “excess Babbage fees.”

(3) ASTEROID BELT AND SUSPENDERS. The government of Luxembourg announced it will be investing in the as-yet-unrealized industry of asteroid mining in “Luxembourg Hopes To Rocket To Front of Asteroid-Mining Space Race”. An NPR article says there are both technical and legal hurdles to overcome.

First, of course, there are technical challenges involved in finding promising targets, sending unmanned spacecraft to mine them and returning those resources safely to Earth.

Humans have yet to successfully collect even a proof-of-concept asteroid sample. …

The second issue is a legal one. Asteroids are governed by the Outer Space Treaty, nearly 50 years old now, which says space and space objects don’t belong to any individual nation. What that means for mining activities has never been tested in international courts because, well, nobody’s managed to mine an asteroid yet.

But there’s a fair amount of uncertainty, as Joanne Gabrynowicz, a director at the International Institute of Space Law, told NPR’s Here & Now last February.

“Anybody who wants to go to an asteroid now and extract a resource is facing a large legal open question,” she said.

The U.S. passed a law near the end of last year, the Space Act of 2015, which says American companies are permitted to harvest resources from outer space. The law asserts that extracting minerals from an extraterrestrial object isn’t a declaration of sovereignty. But it’s not clear what happens if another country passes a contradictory law, or if treaties are arranged that cover extraction of minerals from space.

Luxembourg hopes to address this issue, too, with a formal legal framework of its own — possibly constructed with international input — to ensure that those who harvest minerals can be confident that they’ll own what they bring home.

(4) WRITERS WHO THINK UP STUFF. Steven H Silver points out, “Of the authors listed in 8 Things Invented By Famous Writers at Mental Floss, Heinlein, Wolfe, Clarke, Atwood, Carroll, Dahl, and arguably Twain are SF authors.”

  1. THE PRINGLES CHIP MACHINE // GENE WOLFE

Prior to beginning his contributions to the science fiction genre with The Fifth Head of Cerberus in 1972, Wolfe was a mechanical engineering major who accepted a job with Procter & Gamble. During his employment, Wolfe devised a way for the unique, shingle-shaped Pringles chips to be fried and then dumped into their cylindrical packaging. (Despite his resemblance to Mr. Pringle, there is no evidence the chip mascot was based on him.)

(5) POLAR BOREALIS PREMIERES. The first issue of R. Graeme Cameron’s semipro fiction magazine Polar Borealis has been posted. Get a free copy here. Cameron explains how the magazine works:

Polar Borealis is aimed at beginning Canadian writers eager to make their first sale, with some pros to provide role models.

In Issue #1:

  • Art by Jean-Pierre Normand, Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, and Taral Wayne.
  • Poems by Rissa Johnson, Eileen Kernaghan, and Rhea Rose.
  • Stories by Christel Bodenbender, R. Graeme Cameron, Steve Fahnestalk, Karl Johanson, Rissa Johnson, Kelly Ng, Craig Russell, Robert J. Sawyer, T.G. Shepherd, Casey June Wolf, and Flora Jo Zenthoefer.

(6) A RATHER LARGE SCIENCE FAIR. The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, to be held March 16-19 in Birmingham, “is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK.”

Held at the NEC, Birmingham 16-19 March 2016, The Big Bang Fair is an award-winning combination of exciting theatre shows, interactive workshops and exhibits, as well careers information from STEM professionals.

We aim to show young people (primarily aged 7-19) the exciting and rewarding opportunities out there for them with the right experience and qualifications, by bringing classroom learning to life.

Having grown from 6,500 visitors in its first year (2009) to nearly 70,000 in 2015, The Big Bang Fair is made possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of over 200 organisations

(7) JUST NEEDS A LITTLE SMACK. Michael Swanwick, in the gracious way people do on the internet, expressed his bad opinion of the movie I, Robot (2004) in these terms:

Just watched I, ROBOT. I want to punch everybody involved in the face. Very, very hard. Dr. Asimov would approve.

[Okay, to spare people’s feelings, I want to punch THOSE RESPONSIBLE in the face. Still hated the movie.]

This ticked off Jeff Vintar, who wrote the original spec script and shared credit for the screenplay. Vintar posted a 1,200 word comment telling how his original script got turned into an “adaptation” and how these links of Hollywood sausage got made.

Having been one of the film’s biggest critics, I have watched over the years — to my surprise — as many people find quite a bit of Asimov still in it. I’m always glad when I read a critical analysis on-line or a university paper that makes the case that it is more Asimov than its reputation would suggest, or when I get contacted by a real roboticist who tells me they were inspired by the movie and went on to a career in robotics. And then of course there are the kids, who love it to death…

But I never go around defending the film or talking about it, because although I still believe my original script would have made a phenomenal ‘I, Robot’ film, there is no point. That any film gets made at all seems at times like a miracle.

But your stupid, yes stupid, ‘punch in the face’ post compelled me to write. I love Asimov as much as you do, probably more, because of all the time I spent living and breathing it. I also wrote an adaptation of Foundation that I spent years and years fighting for.

So, you want to punch me in the face? My friend, I would have already knocked you senseless before you cocked back your arm. I have been in this fight for more than twenty years. You’re a babe in the woods when it comes to knowing anything about Hollywood compared to me, and what it’s like fighting for a project you love for ten years, some for twenty years and counting.

Yet this exchange did not end the way most of these Facebook contretemps do.

Michael Swanwick answered:

I feel bad for you. That must have been an awful experience. But I spoke as a typical viewer, not as a writer. The movie was like the parson’s egg — parts of it were excellent, but the whole thing was plopped down on the plate. For my own part, I’d love to have the Hollywood money, but have no desire at all to write screenplays. I’ve heard stories like yours before.

Then Vintar wrote another long reply, which said in part:

Other writers are not our enemies. We are not fighting each other, not competing with each other, although that is a powerful illusion. As always the only enemy is weakness within ourselves, and I suppose entropy, the laws of chance, and groupthink. Ha, there are others! But I stopped throwing punches a long time ago. (Believe me, I used to.) You guys are great, thanks Michael….

And the love fest began.

(8) OGDEN OBIT. Jon P. Ogden (1944-2016), devoted Heinlein fan and member of the Heinlein Society, died January 27, Craig Davis and David Lubkin reported on Facebook. [Via SF Site News.]

(9) ALASKEY OBIT. Voice actor Joe Alaskey, who took over performing Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck after actor Mel Blanc died in 1989, himself passed away February 3. CNN reports the 63-year-old actor had been battling cancer.

Mark Evanier’s tribute to Alaskey on News From Me also tells about one of his vocal triumphs outside the realm of animation —

When [Jackie] Gleason’s voice needed to be replicated to fix the audio on the “lost” Honeymooners episodes, Joe was the man.

A few years after that, Joe was called upon to redub an old Honeymooners clip for a TV commercial. When he got the call, Joe assured the ad agency that if they needed him, he could also match the voice of Art Carney as Ed Norton. He was told they already had someone to do that — someone who did it better. Joe was miffed until he arrived at the recording session and discovered that the actor they felt could do a better job as Art Carney…was Art Carney. Joe later said that playing Kramden to Carney’s Norton was the greatest thrill of his life, especially after Carney asked him for some pointers on how to sound more like Ed.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

cranky-snickers_0

  • February 4, 1930 – The Snickers bar hits the market.
  • February 4, 1938 — Disney releases Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (Did Disney miss a product placement opportunity by naming a dwarf Grumpy instead of Cranky?)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CLUB

  • February 4, 1976 – Sfera, the oldest SF society in former Yugoslavia, was founded.

[Via Google Translate] On this day in 1976, a group of young (and less young) enthusiasts launched as part of the astronautical and rocket club Zagreb “Section for science fiction”…

(12) TODAY’S BITHDAY BOY

(13) WEIRD AL CAST. “Weird Al” Yankovic will voice the title character in Milo Murphy’s Law, Disney XD’s animated comedy series, reports Variety.

The satirical songwriter will provide the voice of the titular character Milo Murphy, the optimistic distant grandson of the famed Murphy’s Law namesake. In addition to voicing the main character, Yankovic will sing the show’s opening theme song and perform other songs throughout the duration of the series….

“Milo Murphy’s Law” will follow the adventures of Milo and his best friends Melissa and Zack as they attempt to embrace life’s catastrophes with positive attitudes and enthusiasm.

(14) RABID PUPPIES. Vox Day posted four picks for the Best Fancast category today.

(15) SAD PUPPIES. Damien G. Walter japed:

(16) PUPPY COMPARISON. Doris V. Sutherland posted “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Novellas”, the third installment, the purpose of which she explains in the introduction —

In this series on the Sad Puppies controversy, I have been comparing the works picked for the 2015 Sad and Rabid Puppies slates with the stories that were nominated for the Hugo in 2014. Were the previous nominees truly overwhelmed with preachy “message fiction”? What kinds of stories had the Sad Puppies chosen to promote in response?

Having taken a look at the Best Short Story and Best Novelette categories, I shall now cover the Hugo Awards’ final short fiction category: Best Novella, the section for stories of between 17,500 and 40,000 words in length. Let us see how the two sets of stories compare…

At the end of her interesting commentary, she concludes:

…Let us take a look through some of the previously-discussed categories. Aside from Vox Day’s story, only one of the 2014 Best Novelette nominees can be read as “message fiction”: Aliette de Bodard’s “The Waiting Stars,” which has an anti-colonial theme. I have also heard the accusation of propaganda directed at John Chu’s “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, a story about a gay couple. But once again, I see nothing clumsy or poorly-handled about de Bodard’s exploration of colonialism or Chu’s portrayal of a same-sex couple. So far, the accusation of preachiness appears to be based largely Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, which has the straightforward message that hate begets hate.

None of these stories push a specific message as strongly or as directly as John C. Wright’s One Bright Star to Guide Them. This raises an obvious question: exactly which group is rewarding message fiction here…?

[Thanks to Gary Farber, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Brian Z., Steven H Silver, Jumana Aumir, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Dave Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 1/20/16 Splendiferous Bastion of Finely-Tuned Nuance

(1) BIG PLANET. New evidence suggests a ninth planet is lurking at the edge of the solar system.

Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that they have found new evidence of a giant icy planet lurking in the darkness of our solar system far beyond the orbit of Pluto. They are calling it “Planet Nine.”

Their paper, published in the Astronomical Journal, describes the planet as about five to 10 times as massive as the Earth. But the authors, astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, have not observed the planet directly.

Instead, they have inferred its existence from the motion of recently discovered dwarf planets and other small objects in the outer solar system. Those smaller bodies have orbits that appear to be influenced by the gravity of a hidden planet – a “massive perturber.” The astronomers suggest it might have been flung into deep space long ago by the gravitational force of Jupiter or Saturn.

Accompanying the Post article is a short video with the delightfully hideous title “Planet Nine from outer space.”

(2) IN WORDS OF MORE THAN ONE SYLLABLE. Read the paper here.

3. ANALYTICAL THEORY

Generally speaking, coherent dynamical structures in particle disks can either be sustained by self-gravity (Tremaine 1998; Touma et al. 2009) or by gravitational shepherding facilitated by an extrinsic perturber (Goldreich & Tremaine 1982; Chiang et al. 2009). As already argued above, the current mass of the Kuiper Belt is likely insufficient for self-gravity to play an appreciable role in its dynamical evolution. This leaves the latter option as the more feasible alternative. Consequently, here we hypothesize that the observed structure of the Kuiper Belt is maintained by a gravitationally bound perturber in the solar system.

(3) WORLDCON LODGING. MidAmeriCon II hotel reservations open January 25.

(4) FAKING IT. According to The Digital Reader, the “Number One Book Brits Pretend to Have Read is 1984, But for Americans, It’s Pride and Prejudice”.

A recent survey of 2,000 Brits has revealed that 62% of respondents had pretended to have read  one book or another in order to appear smart. The top ten books that people pretend to have read are an impressive list of books, with Orwell’s 1984 and War and Peace taking the top 2 spots.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is sixth.

(5) HARLAN SAVES. Elon Musk described the influence of Harlan Ellison on his thinking during this interview. The reference comes at about 13:20 into the video.

It’s possible that Harlan will save the human race. Elon has funded research on A. I.’s with the idea that when they emerge that they will be friendly to us humans. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” frightened Elon enough to get him to fund the research therefore, if that research helps avoid an unfriendly A. I., then Harlan saved all of us

In the second part of this interview, Elon Musk talks about Artificial Intelligence and the deep concerns its causing him. But first he talks about Tesla building an affordable car, Apple’ rumoured electric vehicle and the future of autonomous driving.

 

(6) REMEMBERING HARTWELL. Dozens of deeply moving and historically fascinating tributes to David G. Hartwell are appearing at this hour. Representative is Michael Swanwick’s memorial:

I was in Chicago a couple of years ago for Gene Wolfe’s induction into the literary hall of fame there when the phone rang and David Hartwell said, “I’m sitting in Fred Pohl’s kitchen with him, going through J. K. Klein’s photos, looking for pictures of old time writers. Do you want to join us?” You bet I did. I think back to that brief call and I can hear him grinning. The joy in his voice was infectious. That was the key to David G. Hartwell: he loved science fiction, he loved work, he loved making worthwhile things happen….

(7) SARTORIAL SPLENDOR. Here’s the David G. Hartwell Necktie Exhibit that celebrates his garish neckties.

(8) VIEW TIPTREE SYMPOSIUM. The first in a series of videos from December’s James Tiptree, Jr. Symposium at the University of Oregon is now online.

It shows Professor, Carol Stabile convening the symposium, welcome remarks by UO Dean of Libraries, Adriene Lim and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Doug Blandy, and the keynote talk by Tiptree biographer Julie Phillips, followed by Q&A.

(9) LIVED EXPERIENCE. Sarah A. Hoyt pays it forward in a column of mentoring for indie and other fledgling writers. In a few places I was nodding my head, especially section 3.

However, with the proliferation of indie, I’m seeing a lot more kid writers running around the net (and conferences) with their metaphorical pants around their metaphorical ankles and fingerpainting the walls in shades of brown.

I would hate for that to happen to one of mine, even if just one who follows my lessons here or over at PJM and as such, I’d like to at least ward off some of the worst behavior….

3- Speaking of marking you as a newbie:

Just a few years ago, I realized either a lot of people were naming their kids Author, Writer or Novelist, or the newbies in my field had got off their collective rocker.

This used to be advice given to us before social media: don’t put writer on your card.  If you’re doing it right, they’ll remember that.

I guess it’s more needful than ever for people’s egos to affirm their real writerness (totally a word) now that there are no gatekeepers.

Look, the way to affirm you’re a writer is to write, and to take it seriously.  Putting “writer” or novelist, or author on your card, your facebook page or your blog isn’t going to make you any more “real” than you are.

But Sarah, you’ll say, how will people know it’s me, and not another Jane Smith?

Well, if they’re looking for you, they’ll know.They’ll know because of your friends, your place of origin, the stuff you post.  Fans are amazing that way.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • January 20, 1920 – DeForest Kelley.
  • January 20, 1930 — Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon.

(11) SHOW HIM THE MONEY. Stephen Harper Piziks on Book View Café doesn’t work for free anymore.

“We just don’t have the money to pay you,” say the moochers.  “We’re barely making our other expenses as it is.  Even our president is a volunteer!”

Then maybe you should charge more for admission.  Or get some sponsors.  Or just realize that you can’t have speakers at such a low-budget event.

“But you’ll get exposure,” goes more whining.

Tell you what.  You talk to the grocery store, the electric company, and the mortgage people and get them to accept exposure instead of cash, and I’ll speak for exposure.

I once showed up at a local convention where I’d been scheduled to speak on five panels (that’s five hours of public speaking) and was informed that I owed =them= $30 to cover my admission.  It was only when I turned to walk out that they grudgingly allowed me free entry.  Later, the con chair denigrated me by name on Twitter.  I thanked him for the exposure.

And that brings me to final reason I charge.  No one, including event organizers, values something they get for free.  You get what you pay for, and an author who speaks for nothing is worth nothing.  Certainly they’re treated that way.  At festivals and conventions where I spoke for free, I’ve been ignored, pushed around, insulted, and denigrated.  This has never happened at places that paid me.

(12) THE SECRET OF TIMING. Vox Day, while reporting this morning that David G. Hartwell was not expected to recover, identified him as part of this history:

Hartwell was John C. Wright’s editor at Tor Books; he was also friendlier to the Puppies than any of the SF-SJWs are likely to believe. I had the privilege of speaking with him when he called me last year after the Rabid Puppies overturned the SF applecart; he was the previously unnamed individual who explained the unusual structure of Tor Books to me, using the analogy of a medieval realm with separate and independent duchies. He wanted to avoid cultural war in science fiction even though he clearly understood that it appeared to be unavoidable; it was out of respect for him that I initially tried to make a distinction between Tor Books and the Making Light SJWs before Irene Gallo and Tom Doherty rendered that moot.

(13) IT’S A THEORY. Scholars told the BBC why they believe some fairy tales originated thousands of years ago.

Using techniques normally employed by biologists, academics studied links between stories from around the world and found some had prehistoric roots.

They found some tales were older than the earliest literary records, with one dating back to the Bronze Age.

The stories had been thought to date back to the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Durham University anthropologist Dr Jamie Tehrani, said Jack and the Beanstalk was rooted in a group of stories classified as The Boy Who Stole Ogre’s Treasure, and could be traced back to when Eastern and Western Indo-European languages split more than 5,000 years ago.

Analysis showed Beauty And The Beast and Rumpelstiltskin to be about 4,000 years old.

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

NYRSF Readings Series Opens 25th Season with Swanwick and Khanna

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 8 (a record-breaking scorcher in New York, and, per the Swanwicks, it was also “hot as Hell in Philadelphia”), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series opened its 25th or silver anniversary season – an impressive landmark – with two sterling readers, Michael Swanwick and Rajan Khanna.

The Series has nicely settled into its new venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, less than a parsec from the Barclays Center in that renowned borough.  (The reading space is, incidentally, two floors below WBAI-FM.)  In his introductory welcome, executive curator Jim Freund, host of that self-same WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy (which broadcasts and streams every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 a.m.), shared his excitement over the Commons’ facilities, including three robotic cameras (with an eye to sparing us from embarrassment, he warned the audience about the cameras that were streaming the event live via Livestream and archiving it for a period of time [see http://livestream.com/accounts/12973202/events/4332267/videos/98611309], and lauded the professional skills of Terence Taylor, sf/fantasy writer and video producer.  (Will video kill the radio star?)

In continuing remarks, Freund noted that the date (September 8) was the birthday of Gordon Van Gelder, who began the Reading Series (and was born on the day that Star Trek premiered). Freund also announced a Kickstarter campaign (the Series’ first) to begin in December (so the money may be dispersed in January, plus it’s convenient for holiday gifts). The downside of the new venue is increased costs (such as space rental), and most every event is run at a loss.  (Admission remains free, with a suggested donation of $7.)  He announced as well the next reading, on 6 October, which will feature Brooke Bolander and Matthew Kressel; Amy Goldschlager will guest-host.

In related news, Freund shared that his September 10th Hour of the Wolf would be expanded to 5 a.m. and feature Ken Liu, with possibly a rebroadcast of an earlier show with him, and that his September 17 show would feature Ellen Datlow. And speaking of whom, on Wednesday, September 16, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB [Bar] Reading Series, hosted by Datlow and Kressel, will present Tom Monteleone and Lawrence C. Connolly.)  Eventually, he introduced the evening’s first reader.

Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna is an author, blogger, reviewer and narrator.  The selection from which he read was taken from his second novel, Rising Tide (due out in October), a sequel to his first, Falling Sky.  For the benefit of those who hadn’t read it, he offered a chapter with flashbacks.  The story is set in a post-apocalyptic near-future where a global pandemic, the Bug, has regressed numbers of people to a violent, animalistic (and, of course, hungry) state; they are called Ferals and their fluids are highly contagious.  Salvage is the order of the day, and the protagonist joins other independent airship operators on a raid on a police facility’s weapons store.  (Wow, airships and sort-of-zombies!)  His airship is called the Cherub, which he reminds them is a sword-wielding winged guardian, but which the others think of as a “fat baby.”  One guess what they run into.  Khanna’s voice is, as we heard, well-suited for narrating, and he held the audience rapt.

During the intermission, as traditional, a raffle was held for donors; the prizes were an advance copy of Rising Tide, the manuscript from which Swanwick would be reading, and a copy of After, a young adult anthology on the themes of apocalypse and dystopia, co-edited by Ellen Datlow. (Richard Bowes, also present, noted that he had a story in it.)  Afterward, Freund introduced the second and final reader, Michael Swanwick.

Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick’s body of work includes Stations of the Tide, In the Drift, Vacuum Flowers, Griffin’s Egg, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, The Dragons of Babel, and Jack Faust, and the short fiction “The Edge of the World,” “Radio Waves,” “The Very Pulse of the Machine,” and “Scherzo with Tyrannosaur,” and he has been honored with the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial, and World Fantasy Awards.

His reading was chosen from his latest novel, Chasing the Phoenix (just out from Tor Books), continues the adventures of post-Utopian con men and scoundrels Darger and Surplus (a genetically-modified dog – so he’s a con dog?) – last seen in Dancing with Bears – in which they conquer China, accidentally.  In the selection that he read, which had the audience laughing out loud, the devious duo flatter the Hidden King’s dreams of becoming Emperor, then make a deal with his rival monarch.

As customary, refreshments included crackers and cheese, and there were books offered on the Jenna Felice Freebie Table.  The audience approached 60.  (The East River is no longer a barrier.)  Among those present were Beth Anderson-Harold, Melissa C. Beckman, Brooke Bolander, Richard Bowes, Ellen Datlow, Kris Dikeman, Amy Goldschlager, Rusty Harold, Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Marianne Porter, James Ryan, Max Schmid and Terence Taylor. (Stephen Colbert was otherwise occupied.) At the end of the evening, instead of the long-established practice of going out with the writers after the reading, the gathering was on-site at the Café itself.  (The Commons offers coffees, teas, beers and wine by the glass, as well as sandwiches, salads and pastries.)

Swanwick and Khanna at NYRSF Readings on Sept. 8

The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings begins its 25th season on September 8 with presentations by Rajan Khanna and Michael Swanwick.

Rajan Khanna’s first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, was released in October 2014. A sequel, Rising Tide, is due out in October 2015. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared at Tor.com and LitReactor.com, and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Lightspeed Magazine.

Michael Swanwick has received the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards for his work Stations of the Tide, which was also honored with the Nebula Award and was also nominated for the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. “The Edge of the World,” was awarded the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1989, and nominated for both the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. “Radio Waves” received the World Fantasy Award in 1996. “The Very Pulse of the Machine” received the Hugo Award in 1999, as did “Scherzo with Tyrannosaur” in 2000. His latest novel, Chasing the Phoenix, is just out from Tor Books.

The NYRSF Readings are held at the Brooklyn The Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue (directions & links below).

The events can be viewed on Livestream, and remain archived for a period of time. (Go to Livestream.com and search for NYRSF.)

Admission is free but with a suggested donation $7.

The full press release follows the jump.  Continue reading

Swanwick Resigns From Science Fiction. Not.

Michael Swanwick told Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow on April 22:

In my adopted hometown of Philadelphia there’s a move afoot to put up a plaque where Isaac Asimov lived while he was working (and writing seminal Foundation and Robot stories) at the Naval Yard during WWII. Asimov hated Philadelphia while he lived here but came back for the conventions year after year. He gave back. Now it’s time to Philadelphia to give back to him. The Change.com petition seems to have stalled at 364, 136 short of its goal. This despite the fact that you don’t have to be a citizen of Pennsylvania to sign it. I don’t want to be a part of a genre that can’t give Isaac five hundred signatures.

Swanwick’s plea must have worked. He was looking for 500 signers. The petition hit 3,000 signatures on April 25. Today it’s up to 3,223 on the way to a target of 5,000.

The mightiness of the internet has been verified once again with much pressing of the enter key.

Yet there’s still no plaque on Asimov’s old apartment building.

There never will be until somebody springs to have one made. The Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program isn’t going to pay for it even if they accept the application —

It is important that you consider the availability of funds in making this nomination. For your information, city-type markers cost approximately $1,400; roadside markers cost approximately $1,875. Final figures may vary slightly, and there are usually other costs incurred with the installation of markers and dedication ceremony.

Think Asimov needs plaque on his old apartment house? Buy one and go ask the landlord’s permission to glue it to the building. Come back and declare victory on the internet when it means something.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Reasons to Visit PSFS

Those interested in the history of the SF field who can make it to the next two meetings of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society will be in for a treat.

March 9: SF author Michael Swanwick will interview Billee Jenkins Stallings, daughter of Will Jenkins, best known as Murray Leinster, the original “Dean of Science Fiction”. Leinster/Jenkins invented the alternate world story and the first contact story. Stallings and her sister, Jo-An Evans, have written a memoir about their father titled, Murray Leinster: The Life and Work ( McFarland, 2011).

April 13: On this Friday, fans who defy superstition will be lucky enough to hear from critic Michael Dirda.

These are General Meetings, open to the public. See the club website for location, starting time and other information.