Pixel Scroll 5/22/16 Pixelpotamus vs. Scrolloceros

(1) PRECISION. In “Save the Allegory!” on Slate, Laura Miller calls on writers to actually define “allegory” correctly.  She quotes from C. S. Lewis’ The Allegory of Love at length and makes lots of superhero references.

What people usually mean when they call something an allegory today is that the fictional work in question can function as a metaphor for some real-world situation or event. This is a common arts journalist’s device: finding a political parallel to whatever you happen to be reviewing is a handy way to make it appear worth writing about in the first place. Calling that parallel an allegory serves to make the comparison more forceful. Fusion says that Batman v Superman is a “none-too-subtle allegory for the fight between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.” (It is not.) The Hollywood Reporter calls Zootopia an “accidental anti-Trump allegory”—this despite the fact that there is no literary form less accidental than allegory. The meaning of the word has drifted so far that even works that aren’t especially metaphorical get labeled as allegory: A film about artistic repression in Iran is a “clunky allegory” for … artistic repression in Iran.

Allegory or metaphor: The distinction might seem obscure and academic to many readers. Shouldn’t allegory be grateful to get any attention at all? Isn’t it just an archaic literary mode that nobody uses anymore? Yes and no. About the only people creating true allegories today are political cartoonists. But a culture never entirely discards its roots, and allegory, which first appeared in the waning years of the Roman Empire, is one of the foundations of Western literature. Maybe if we understood it better, we’d realize how much we owe to it.

(2) NEXT AT SFWA. While detailing her writing and travel plans for the summer, Cat Rambo also previews SFWA’s upcoming activities in “Catching My Breath and What’s Coming Up”. In her second year as the organization’s president, she will be putting some needed infrastructure in place.

In SFWA areas, I’m focusing on a new committee that I’ll be working with, the Membership Retention Committee, whose job will be to look at the new member experience for SFWA members as well as how to keep the organization useful for members. (If you’re interested in volunteering with that, feel free to drop me a line.) Other efforts include a) working with SFWA fundraising, b) a small musical endeavor that I just prodded someone about and which involves Tom Lehrer (yes, that Tom Lehrer), and c) helping out where I can with some of M.C.A. Hogarth’s amazing efforts, such as this mysterious thing here lurking under a tarp that I am not at liberty to discuss. *mouths the words “SFWA University” then is dragged away by the SFWA honey badgers while shouting something about a guidebook*

Three other important SFWA things:

  1. I’ll be watching the results of our decision to admit game writers with keen interest. I can tell you that the initial set is criteria is being voted on right now and I expect to see it announced soon.
  2. An effort is in the works that I think will prove a lovely tribute to longtime SFWA volunteer Bud Webster and which will, in the longtime SFWA tradition, provide a benefit for professional writers at every level of their careers.
  3. And we’ll (finally) be announcing some of the partnerships we’ve been making — you saw reps from Amazon, Audible, BookBub, Draft2Digital, Kickstarter, Kobo and Patreon at the Nebulas and those relationships are going to extend beyond the weekend and give our members special resources and relationships at all of those companies — and others, including one that I am super-stoked to have facilitated.

(3) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH. Neil deGrasse Tyson gives his view about how long you could survive on each planet in our solar system. It’s a 2015 video.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

(5) POSERS FOR TINGLE. Neigh, a thousand times neigh!

(6) EVERMORE. The Baltimore Sun quotes lots of people involved with the convention in “Balticon grew to 50 as sci-fi, fantasy grew more mainstream”. Several are Filers.

Even 50 Balticons later, Ray Ridenour remembers his introduction to the annual gathering of the Baltimore region’s science-fiction and fantasy aficionados.

Ridenour, then a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, recalls taking the elevator to the top floor of the city’s since-demolished Emerson Hotel. This was the first Balticon put together by the then-4-year-old Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and he had little idea what to expect.

“As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I heard something very noisy and stepped back in,” he recalls. “Two guys roared by in a wheelchair; one of them was singing loudly, the other was pushing loudly. They careened down the hotel aisle and then zoomed in another direction and disappeared.”

Ridenour asked someone walking by if they had any idea what was going on. “‘Oh, yeah,'” came the reply. “‘That was the president of the club.'”

Ridenour, now 68, a graphic artist and designer living in Hampden and a veteran of every Balticon since, knew he was in the right place. “So I said, ‘Well, these guys look like they know how to party.'”

…Baltimore natives Miller, 65, and Lee, 63, authors of a series of books set in the Liaden universe, were guests of honor at Balticon 37 in 2003. Veterans of Balticons dating to the mid-’70s — they met at Balticon 10 in 1976, when Lee won a short-story contest Miller had helped start — they have been married since 1980.

Balticon’s strength, Miller says, lies in its deep fan base. At a time when many fan gatherings have become massive affairs staged by professional organizations whose business is organizing conventions, with an emphasis on movie- and TV-star guests, Balticon is still organized and run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and skewed toward the written word.

“Balticon hasn’t lost touch with the fact that it’s a bunch of fans putting this together, for their own interests and the interests of their friends,” Miller says.

(7) DUNGEON N-COUNTER. Jo Lindsay Walton tweeted this sample of what goes on in the Sputnik Award’s Dungeons of Democracy.

(8) ARE GO. Michael Flett describes the 2015 revival in “Thunderbirds 1965” at GeekChocolate.

…Adhering strictly to the ethic of the late sixties, wires are visible, the motion and expressions of the puppets are limited but still capable of expressing great character, and while Tracy Island is extended by the use of archive footage of tropical islands there can no justifiable objection to this use of stock footage nor in the famous launch sequences or any repeated shots of flybys, as this was all part and parcel of the original productions.

What is undeniable is the loving recreations of puppets, props, sets and machines, from Lady Penelope’s wonderfully shiny pink Rolls Royce FAB1 to the Thunderbirds vehicles themselves, the characters themselves graced by the creations of costume designer Liz Comstock-Smith who has crafted an exquisite new wardrobe for Lady Penelope, much to the chagrin of her chauffeur Aloysius Parker who in addition to his other duties must act as porter.

“When one is visiting, one tries to look one’s best,” his employer drily responds as she arrives at Tracy Island in opening episode Introducing Thunderbirds, less of an audio adventure now granted a visual dimension than, as the name would suggest, a showcase of International Rescue’s secret base and the amazing vehicles used to perform their daring missions.

Adapted from the soundtrack of F.A.B., The Abominable Snowman offers more in the way of spectacle with big explosions from the opening moments as a fire rages at Meddings Uranium, named of course in honour of the late special effects designer Derek Meddings who worked on many Anderson shows and later progressed to several James Bond films….

(9) STOP FIGHTING THE LAST WAR. Jim Henley, in “Hugo McHugoface Has Sailed”, offers his own frame for the Hugo reform discussions.

…Various options – including some kind of jury component and restricting voting rights (e.g. to only attending members) – have raised the objection that “They change the fundamental character of the award.” That class of objections fails to recognize the core truth: the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed. Again, the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed.

The Hugo Awards have become an internet poll in the age of Boaty McBoatface, freeping and chan culture. Nobody set out to make them this, and ex ante it was reasonable to imagine that the supporting membership fee (currently $50) was enough of a gating function to keep LULZers and trolls from targeting the process for abuse. But experience shows that there are enough motivated bad actors willing to spend that much to tie up the bulk of the ballot with whatever works their whims inspire them to place there, motivated by any combination of venial and mortal sins.

There is no question of preserving the character of the Hugo Awards. That ship has sailed, and it is not named for David Attenborough. The question is how can the award process be restructured so that future nominees and award winners will be of a character consistent with the Hugo tradition for the ’70 years prior to the mid-’10s.

I suppose the other question is how long it will take Hugo fandom and WSFS members to admit this.

(10) VERBAL AUTOPSY. Toby Litt tells Guardian readers “What makes bad writing bad”.

…Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating misjudgment

While bad writers may read a great many diverse works of fiction, they are unable or unwilling to perceive the things these works do which their own writing fails to do. So the most dangerous kind of writers for bad writers to read are what I call excuse writers – writers of the sort who seem to grant permission to others to borrow or imitate their failings.

I’ll give you some examples: Jack Kerouac, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou. Bad writers bulwark themselves against a confrontation with their own badness by reference to other writers with whom they feel they share certain defence-worthy characteristics….

(11) DOWN UNDER FAN FUND. Julian Warner, Justin Ackroyd and Lucy Huntzinger officially announced that the winner of the 2016 race is Australian fan Clare McDonald-Sims. She was the only candidate. The administrators say voting numbers to follow. McDonald-Sims will attend MidAmeriCon II.

(12) IT’S STILL NEWS TO SOMEONE. Fanac.org now has James V. Taurasi’s classic fan newzine Fantasy Times online, published from 1941-1955.

Also, congratulations to Jack Weaver, Fanac.org’s Webmaster of 20 years, and the site’s software developer, who received a special award at FanHistoricon in Virginia last month.

weaverplaque

(13) TANK FOR THE MEMORIES. NPR covered yesterday’s transfer from the harbor to the museum – “A 66,000 Pound Space Shuttle Fuel Tank Is Parading Through The Streets Of LA”.

fuel tank

The last remaining space shuttle external propellant tank is moved across the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday. The ET-94 will be displayed with the retired space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

A massive space shuttle fuel tank is winding its way through the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, on a 16-mile trek heading to the California Science Center.

It’s set to be displayed with the space shuttle Endeavor. The tank, which was never used in a mission, is the “last flight-qualified space shuttle external tank in existence,” according to the science center…..

As The Associated Press reports, the giant tank started moving at midnight from Marina del Rey, where it “arrived by barge Wednesday.” It’s crawling along at about 5 mph, the wire service reports, and is expected to take 13 to 18 hours to reach the science center….

The tank was donated by NASA, and Science Center President Jeff Rudolph tells Danielle that he’s thrilled to acquire the tank.

“As soon as we got Endeavor, we said we got to see if there’s any way we can get that one remaining external tank,” he says. Danielle adds that the center is hoping to eventually add booster rockets to the display.

According to the center, that means it will be the “be the only place in the world that people will be able to see a complete shuttle stack — orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket booster — with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Brian Z., and Jim Henley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/16 Lucy In The Scroll With Pixels

Happy astronomy day

(1) HAPPY ASTRONOMY DAY. Tech Times recommends celebrating the day by perusing the photos on its favorite Instagram accounts.

Thanks to astronomy, we are now aware of the beauty, wonders and mysteries of space. International Astronomy Day, on May 14, marks the discoveries and achievements we’ve made in the field. You can get even closer to astronomy by visiting your local planetarium, checking out any special Astronomy Day events in your area or even by enjoying a quiet night in the peace of your own backyard gazing up at the stars. You can also find a lot of resources online about astronomy, as well as sites that feature some of the most beautiful and intimate photos taken of space. Instagram in particular hosts a variety of photos, some by astronauts who are in space right now and who wish to share the beauty of the stars with others. Here are the best Instagram accounts to check out this International Astronomy Day.

NASA

Probably the most obvious account to follow on Instagram is NASA, which posts photos on a regular basis of many of its discoveries and images related to new discoveries. There’s always something beautiful to see here, and you might just learn a little more about astronomy in the process.

(2) SFWA EXPANDS MEMBER ELIGIBILITY

(3) RACHEL SWIRSKY. Swirsky did a ”Silly Interview with Na’amen Tilahun, Aspiring Prince Impersonator” on Thursday.

Na’amen Tilahun has been around the science fiction scene for a long time — as a fan, a convention attendee, and a bookstore clerk. And now as a novelist! His debut novel, The Root, is coming out in June. I blurbed it:

“Na‘amen Tilahun‘s novel will make readers searching for variety in their SFF diets squeal with delight. The detailed world-building is strange and wondrous.”

And on Friday, she made a reading “Recommendation: Saving Slave Leia by Sandra MacDonald”.

Sandra McDonald is one of my favorite working short story writers. Her humor is often both warm *and* sly, her satires sharp but empathetic. She has some amazing funny and irreverant stories about drag queen astronauts and sexy robot cowboys, but one of her other favorite topics to lampoon is Hollywood.

“Searching for Slave Leia”–as you might expect–is one of the latter. Sandra McDonald hits a perfect point where humor and metafiction let her really dig into human emotion. Also, Star Wars.

Searching for Save Leia” by Sandra McDonald…

(4) BACK IN FASHION. John King Tarpinian splurged for some Turkish delight. As you Wikipedia readers know, Bob:

Turkish delight features as the addictive confection to which Edmund Pevensie succumbs in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C. S. Lewis. Sales of Turkish delight rose following the theatrical release of the 2005 film version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

(5) DARWYN COOKE. Almost Darwyn Cooke’s Blog announced that he passed away overnight.

We regret to inform you that Darwyn lost his battle with cancer early this morning at 1:30 AM ET. We read all of your messages of support to him throughout the day yesterday. He was filled with your love and surrounded by friends and family at his home in Florida.

Donations can be made to the Canadian Cancer Society and Hero Initiative.

Please continue to respect our privacy as we go through this very difficult time.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(7) BEAUTIFUL FREE BOOKS. Here’s someone who scored big at last night’s SFWA signing….

(8) STINKERS. Suvudu is so right about its “Eleven Cringeworthy Sci-Fi Series From the Eighties” I even cringed to read the synopses. You’ve been warned.

Automan: Police department IT geek Walter Nebicher (”Nebbish“, get it?) bonds with a powerful artificial intelligence that can create whatever he needs in his fight against crime. “Whatever” meaning cars, mostly. The AI manifests as a digital avatar known as “cursor”. It was a different time. This was created by the producers of TRON, by the way

(9) PIRATICAL PUPPY PLAY. The Orlando Fringe will host The Space Pirate Puppy Musical from May 18-30. The Tasty Monster Productions site does not answer whether it has anything to do with the Hugos.

The+Space+Pirate+Puppy+Musical!Earth has gone to the dogs, literally. After “the incident” humans have gone underground and into space leaving dogs to run the planet. But the Space Pirates have decided that they need to pave over Earth to put up a parking lot for their new nightclub on the moon. The Puppies have to join forces with their arch enemies the Ninja Kittens and along with the assistance of the Great Oracle, must seek the power of the greatest weapon they’ve never heard of. Epic adventures and battles ensue and along the way, we learn a deep, dark secret…or three. Will the Puppies turn tail and run? Will the Ninja Kittens, ooh string. Can the Earth be saved from certain construction?  Will it all end in discord or harmony?

Written by Heather Bagnall and directed by Luke Tudball, with original music and lyrics by multi award-winning New York composer Steve Schalchlin. Original artwork by Seamus Corbett.

Somebody *coff*Camestros**coff** ought to ask Timothy the Talking Cat.

(10) FUNERAL FOR OLD PUBLISHING. Brian Keene has a lot to say about “How the Mid-List Died” at Cemetary Dance Online.

The mid-list is gone. Borders is gone. But that doesn’t matter, because over the last twenty years, we’ve had a new thing come along—something called the Internet. With it came Amazon, and suddenly, mid-list writers didn’t have to play a rigged game anymore. Our books had a shelf life beyond that one to three month span. Readers could find us, discover us, and find our backlist. If your local chain bookstore didn’t have our latest, you could buy it online.

Which brings us back to the start of this column. The number one question I am most often asked is, “Why can’t I buy all of your books at Barnes and Noble?”

To understand why, you need to consider the changes that have taken place in publishing over the last twenty years, particularly those that took place after the demise of the mid-list and the closure of Borders. After those things occurred many mid-list, cult, or genre authors decided to take advantage of the advances in digital and print-on-demand publishing and do it for themselves. They cut out the publisher, cut out the chain stores, and marketed directly to the readers. For example, Bryan Smith, who was inarguably one of Dorchester’s most popular horror writers, began self-publishing via Kindle and CreateSpace and has since made more money from that than he ever did through traditional publishers. Other authors, such as myself, decided to diversify their publication routes. Since Dorchester’s fall, I’ve routinely divided my releases between self-publishing (via Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle), the small press (via publishers such as Deadite Press and Apex Book Company), and mainstream publishing (via big publishing conglomerates such as Macmillan). I do this because I don’t like having all my eggs in one basket. Your mileage may vary.

(11) WE ALL LIVE IN A GENRE SUBMARINE. Steve Davidson at Amazing Stories holds forth on “The Birth of a New (sub-?) Genre”.

I was on the hook for an editorial subject for today (it’s been a little tough concentrating these days given our personal circumstance), so I hopped on over to File 770 to peruse the daily Pixel Scroll. I can usually find something over there upsetting or bothersome enough to get the juices flowing.

No such luck, I thought, even AFTER reading the comments. (What’s up Mike? I can almost always pull an editorial subject out of the File, either from the entries, the commentary, visiting the linked posts/pages/sites or, at last resort, the comments on the linked to items for some Fourth Level Upset).

Even though File 770 fell down on the job, Steve got an editorial out of Timothy the Talking Cat’s new There Will Be Walrus collection, which has more than enough provocative material to get anyone steamed up.

(12) A BETTING FAN. The Traveler at Galactic Journey thinks he has my number as well, and it isn’t five. See “[May 14, 1961] Friendly Disputes (June 1961 Analog)”.

Now for the disputable ones.  Analog is the most conservative of the mags.  It’s generally Terran-centric, with Earthlings portrayed as the most cunning, successful beings in the galaxy (which is why, of course, most aliens look just like us).  While the serialized novels in Analog are often excellent, the accompanying short stories tend to be uninspiring.  The science fact columns are awful.  Editor John Campbell’s championing of psionics and reactionless engines (in real-life, not just fiction), crosses into the embarrassing.  All these factors make Analog the weakest of the Big Three magazines, consistently lagging in quality behind Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Of course, Mike disagrees.  He’s even wagered that Analog will take the Hugo award for Best Science Fiction Magazine this year.  I think he’s dreaming.  F&SF has won three years in a row, and barring some unexpected decline in quality, it will do so again.

I’ll take that bet, Mike Glyer!  Two beers to your one.

I’ll have to start investigating what the good beers are in 1961. Pabst Blue Ribbon was the sponsor of those Friday night fights I watched on TV with my father. Of course, in 1961 I am only 8 — perhaps I should be wagering a nonalcoholic beverage….

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(14) KAIJU REDO. According to CinemaBlend “Pacific Rim 2 Just Took A Major Step Forward, Get The Details”.

We’ve just learned that Pacific Rim 2 has taken a Kaiju-sized step forward by enlisting a new screenwriter to polish the script

According to a recent report from THR, it seems that Pacific Rim 2 has brought screenwriter Derek Connolly on board. It appears that he will work alongside current director Steven S. DeKnight – who helped shepherd the first season of Netflix’s hit series Daredevil – with regards to fine-tuning the story and bringing the sequel to life. The report also confirms that Guillermo del Toro remains firmly committed to the project, albeit in a producing role, rather than as the film’s director.

(15) FIREFLY HOMAGE. JJ recommends The Verse, a fan film from a couple years ago, but as we say here, it’s always news to somebody.

Written for fans and by fans who are inspired by the cult sci-fi series “Firefly”. An exciting new look at this beloved world featuring a new crew, a new ship and a heaping dose of misbehavin’!

 

(16) SUPER TROOPERS. JJ also made sure we didn’t miss “Boogie Storm make Simon’s dream come true!” — Britain’s Got Talent 2016.

(17) BONUS NEBULA COVERAGE. Beautiful photos from tonight’s banquet and awards ceremony.

Henry Lien leads the Eunuchs of the Forbidden City in “Radio SFWA.”

[Thanks to Will R., David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Christian Brunschen.]

Second Pixel Scroll 4/28/16 Scroll Up And File Right

Here’s a bonus Scroll, healthfully free of references to rocket-shaped awards. Well, except for that one.

(1) THE DOCTOR. Vulture provided an introduction for this clip of David Tennant and Stephen Colbert doing their own version of “Who’s on First”.

David Tennant is currently playing Richard II in a cycle of Shakespeare history plays at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and on Wednesday night, he stopped by Stephen Colbert’s show to tell him all about it. But before he could, he had to take part in a very silly “Who’s On First” spoof with late night’s most verbally gifted host, one that wrapped in Doctor Who, Doctor Strange, and Benedict Cumberbatch (who, coincidentally, is about to play Richard III on British TV).

 

(2) PETER DAVID.

(3) GIVE FORWARD. When Ed Dravecky III passed away at WhoFest last weekend, away from home, a crowdfunded appeal was launched on behalf of his partner Robyn Winans seeking financial assistance to help with the transport and funeral arrangements.The target was $2,000 – over $5,000 was raised.

(4) FREE PAOLO BACIGALUPI STORY. Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager for the Center for Science and the Imagination as Arizona State University, and Assistant Director, Future Tense, has something for you —

I just wanted to share this new (free) short story from Paolo Bacigalupi about artificial intelligence, pleasurebots, and the ethical and legal quandaries of human-machine interaction – I’m hoping you might consider sharing it with your community!

The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, where I work, commissioned and edited the story along with Slate.com’s Future Tense channel – it’s the first in Future Tense Fiction, a series of short stories about how technology and science will change our lives. The story is accompanied by a response essay from Ryan Calo, a robotics and law expert at the University of Washington.

(5) FULL FURY FIVE. The “Wasteland Weekend” video features people cosplaying entire cars in Mad Max-esque styles.

For Mike Orr, a.k.a. “Sweet Lips,” escapism comes in the form of Wasteland Weekend: an annual four-day post-apocalyptic festival held in the Southern California desert that attracts thousands of people from around the country. It’s basically a giant celebration of end-of-the-world culture, where, per Sweet Lips, “people can do whatever they want.” This includes everything from hand-to-hand combat to burlesque to bonfires that set the night sky ablaze.

But most of all, people come to Wasteland for the cars?—?DIY war machines that look as though they’ve rolled right out of Fury Road.

 

(6) TO THE PAIN. The New York Times explains why “Ramsay Bolton of ‘Game of Thrones’ Is the Most Hated Man on TV”.

Like many successful actors, Iwan Rheon, better known as the blithely malicious Ramsay Bolton on “Game of Thrones,” arguably the most hated man on television, admits he’s concerned about being narrowly defined by an indelible character. But ask a logical follow-up question — what else are you working on? — and the scale of his challenge becomes clear.

“I’m playing a young Hitler,” he replied, referring to the British television movie “Adolf the Artist.” Then realization took hold, and his face crumpled in mock despair: “Oh, I’m typecast already!”

(7) KEEP YOUR YAB BANG CHUT. A side-effect of the studio’s suit against the producers of Axanar is this story: “Paramount Pictures sued over copyright of Klingon language”. Notwithstanding the headline, what’s been filed is an amicus curae brief, which, as Chris Meadow explains, “Is a legal brief in which a party not directly involved in a case puts in a few words about issues that could nonetheless affect them depending on how the case is decided.”

A group called the Language Creation Society is suing Paramount Pictures in federal court over its copyright of the Klingon language from the television series Star Trek, arguing that it is a real language and therefore not subject to copyright.

The suit, filed by Marc Randazza and the Language Creation Society, argues that while Paramount Pictures created Klingon, the language has “taken on a life of its own.”

“A group called the Language Creation Society claims in U.S. federal court that Paramount Pictures lacks the ‘yab bang chut’ or ‘mind property law’ necessary to claim copyright over the Klingon language,” Randazza wrote in the brief’s description.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the issue had previously been brought up in a lawsuit between Paramount Pictures and CBS over a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film that made use of the language.

Ken White at Popehat did his own analysis of the question.

The legal point is a fascinating one: if a language is created in connection with a copyrighted work of fiction, can there be a copyright on other use of the language, even if it’s not to speak the lines from the copyrighted work?

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 28, 2007  — Ashes of actor James Doohan, who portrayed engineer “Scotty” on Star Trek, and of Apollo 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper soared into space aboard a rocket.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL.

(10) SINFUL STAR WARS. CinemaSins covers Everything Wrong With Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and reminds us: “Remember, no movie is without sin!”

(11) FUTURE DSC AWARDED. SF Site News learned ConCave to Host DeepSouthCon in 2018.

(12) WE NOW KNOW. In 2016, the planet Mars will appear brightest from May 18 to June 3. NASA has the scoop.

Mars Close Approach is May 30, 2016. That is the point in Mars’ orbit when it comes closest to Earth. Mars will be at a distance of 46.8 million miles (75.3 million kilometers). Mars reaches its highest point around midnight — about 35 degrees above the southern horizon, or one third of the distance between the horizon and overhead. Mars will be visible for much of the night.

There is a nice animation at the above site showing how Mars’ appearance embiggens during the approach…

(13) UNEXPECTED VACANCY IN HALL H. “Fox Movie Studio Pulls Out of Comic-Con Main Event Over Piracy Fears” at The Wrap.

20th Century Fox will not showcase its upcoming movie releases in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con this year.

The studio feels it cannot prevent the piracy of custom trailers and exclusive footage routinely screened for fans in attendance, an individual familiar with the decision told TheWrap.

A representative for Fox declined to comment. SDCC was not immediately available for comment….

(14) THE PLURAL OF NEMESIS. The Verge introduces Batman: The Killing Joke trailer.

The first full trailer for Batman: The Killing Joke, Warner Bros. Animation’s first R-rated Batman movie, is finally here. Based on the acclaimed and highly controversial graphic novel of the same name, the film will explore Batman’s relationship with the Joker, and drive home the fact that they represent perfect arch-nemeses for one another.

Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, released as a one-shot back in 1988, is considered by many fans as the greatest, and perhaps most terrifying, Joker story ever written….

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Glenn Hauman, JJ, Will R., Mark-kitteh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File770 contributing editor of the day Heather Rose Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/16 Pixel Like It’s 1999

(1) NEW DOCTOR WHO COMPANION. ScreenRant reports the “Doctor Who Season 10 Companion To Be Revealed This Weekend” – in the middle of the BBC One Match of the Day Live soccer broadcast.

[A] new companion has now been cast, the big reveal of exactly who that companion is, will be made this Saturday, April 23rd, on BBC1.

The announcement will be made during half-time of the soccer match between Everton and Manchester United, at approximately 6pm GMT. The news will be posted on all Doctor Who social media sites as it’s announced, enabling viewers across the world to all find out who has been cast at the same time.

 

(2) VIRTUOUS SIGNALING. Rob Boffard at Medium says “You can talk to the International Space Station right now. Here’s how to do it”.  Do you have what it takes?

Of all the things that shouldn’t be possible but are, talking to the International Space Station ranks right up there with Steph Curry’s basketball skills and the existence of Donald Trump.

Think about it. How weird is it that NASA can put a $150bn space station into orbit, which can then be contacted by anybody on Earth? Even you? It’s one of those things that gives you pause?—?the kind of thing you’re vaguely certain is against the law, somewhere.

It’s not something you’re going to be doing tonight?—?not unless you have the relevant equipment already to hand. It takes a little bit of work. But it’s entirely possible, even for those of us who aren’t geeks….

(3) BLOWN AWAY. James Bacon highly recommends The Great British Graphic Novel Comic art exhibition at the Cartoon Museum on the Forbidden Planet blog.

This is a phenomenal experience, it exceeded my expectations and I was blown away by the calibre of the artwork on display. The Cartoon Museum has amassed the finest examples of comic art, an incredible mix of exemplary work, providing a beautiful tapestry of the history and breadth of the greatest works from Britain for public consideration….

Soon I was looking at lovely pieces, starting with Hogarths ‘A Harlots Progress’ from 1732, ‘The Bottle’ from 1847 by George Cruikshank, ‘Ally Sopers; A Moral Lesson’ from 1873, Ronald Searle’s Capsulyssese from 1955, written by Richard Osborne. All giving one a real sense of history, showing that illustrated stories are nothing new in Britain.

Then as I rounded a corner I saw a grouping of Commando Comics placed next to a full colour cover of Charley’s War, and four pages of this seminal work of the First World War. Undoubtedly Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun’s masterpiece is indeed a crucial addition here, but I had a feeling of true appreciation of the comic form when I saw this colour cover and four original pages lined up. Juxtaposed with this was My Life in Pieces, The Falklands War by Will Kevans from 2014. Original art, cover and concept sketch made for a great grouping….

(4) CHABON AND HASBRO? Birth.Movies.Death almost cannot be believed this time — “Michael Chabon And Brian K. Vaughan To Make Hasbro Cinematic Universe Worth Taking Seriously”. Is there a way to get G.I. Joe taken seriously?

Last December, word came out that Hasbro was going to try their hand a making a cinematic universe based on their various toy properties, namely G.I. Joe, Micronauts, Visionaries, M.A.S.K. and ROM. I was a little flip about it.

But now Hasbro, lead by Akiva Goldsman, has assembled its writers room and it’s no laughing matter. The big stars of the list are The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’s Michael Chabon (who also worked on Spider-Man 2), Brian K. Vaughan, who you should know from comics like Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Saga, Runaways and a bunch of other impressive titles, and Nicole Perlman, co-writer of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel.

(5) SPACE MARINES. If you remember Space: Above and Beyond, you may be ready for the Space: Above and Beyond 20th Anniversary celebration on Saturday, August 6 at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel.

In 1996, Fox Studios produced the TV series: Space: Above And Beyond (aka S:AAB). The show had Drama, action, mystery and followed the lives of a diverse group of U.S. Marine Space Aviators while fighting against a powerful alien force on the ground, in the air and in outer space. It was part Top Gun, part James Cameron’s Aliens, and all exciting!

This short lived show (1995 to 1996), which fell victim to scheduling conflicts like Joss Whedon’s Firefly, is considered one of the best of Military Science Fiction series to air and is deserving of a convention of its own….

VIP tickets and Premium tickets are both on sale NOW at early-bird prices, and general admission tickets will go on sale starting May 1st.

(6) BEFORE THEY WERE BOTTLED. Syfy may order a pilot for David S. Goyer’s Superman prequel series Krypton.

The series, set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s titular home planet, would tell the story of the man of steel’s grandfather as he fights to restore the family honor of the House of El after it has been shamed.

The pilot will be produced by Warner Horizon Television. Goyer — who penned the screenplays for “Batman Begins,” “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — will write the pilot with Ian Goldberg. He will executive produce through his company Phantom Four with Damian Kindler, who will serve as showrunner. Colm McCarthy is set to direct the pilot.

(7) KIT WEST OBIT. British special effects artist Kit West (1936 – 17 April 2016), known for his work in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi, died April 17.

(8) BOND FILM EDITOR HAMILTON OBIT. From the BBC:

Guy Hamilton, who directed four James Bond films, has died aged 93.

Former 007 actor Sir Roger Moore tweeted that he was “incredibly, incredibly saddened to hear the wonderful director Guy Hamilton has gone to the great cutting room in the sky. 2016 is horrid”.

Hamilton directed Sir Roger in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun.

He also directed Sir Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever.

…Speaking about his style of directing he said he wanted value for money.

“In the making of Bond films we are some of the meanest toughest film makers. If we spend a million dollars it had better be up there on the screen.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of  Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, journeyed into space.

(10) CAN YOU SAY “CANONICALIZATION”? Will Frank discusses “The Duties of the Hugo Administrative Team” in a MidAmeriCon II blog post.

Once nominations close at the end of March, we go through the data and process it. There are a few steps to this, the biggest one being canonicalization. We review the data to make sure that votes for, for example, “The Three-Body Problem” and “The 3-Body Problem” and “Three Body Problem” and “ The There Body Problem ” —which would all appear separately in our database—are all set up to be recognized as nominations for the same book. And if you think that’s bad, imagine what it’s like when episodes of television get nominated in Best Dramatic Presentation, where there are series title, episode title, and season and episode number, and a thousand different ways to put those together…

Once that’s done, we have our preliminary finalists. That’s when we start reaching out to nominees, letting them know they’ve been nominated, and a bit about the awards. That can be surprisingly difficult if we don’t know people’s email addresses. Sometimes, they’re public…but fairly often they’re not. There’s a certain amount of Googling, guessing, or asking people with impressive Rolodexes just to figure out a valid email address sometimes.

(11) SELECTIVE QUOTE OF THE DAY. Kate Paulk says Sad Puppies have a future, in “Miscellany” at Mad Genius Club.

In other news, this of the Puppy-related kind, I’ve heard rumors from several sources (but nothing official, alas) that more than 4000 Hugo nomination ballots were cast. I’ve also heard there are some saying that Sad Puppies 4 is a nonentity, that it’s run out of steam, it’s dead, pining for the fjords, gone to a better place… (erm, sorry?). Well, no.

Sad Puppies 4 is waiting to hear who the nominees (*ahem*. The Hugo Site says they aren’t being called nominees any more. They’re ‘finalists’ from a shortlist. Whatever) are before congratulating them for their recognition, whoever they are, and starting the next round of campaigning to boost involvement in the Hugos process.

(12) CAT PITCHER. He’s mad as a wet you-know-what! “Timothy Under Attack by SJW Warrior Feminist Filers” at Camestros Felapton.

A certain “website” which I shall not name because I shall not provide it with anymore publicity because I am sure nobody but a tiny number of far left Bernie Sanders supporters in a gated community ever read, as they sip champagne frappucinos in their la-di-da literati bookclub but whose name rhymes with smileearnestbevinbeventy, has SELECTIVELY QUOTED ME in a truly monstrous way to suggest that I am nothing but a poo-poo head! The calumny! The outrage!

(13) A MULTIPLE-CHUS PANEL. This program idea was dropped in the MidAmeriCon II suggestion box….

(14) IN FACT IT’S COLD AS HELL. Science Alert reports “An abandoned probe just discovered something weird about the atmosphere of Venus”.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Venus Express probe spent eight years collecting information on Venus before plunging down to the surface and out of range back in November 2014. But now we finally have the last batch of data it transmitted back to Earth before going offline, and there are some big surprises in all those recordings.

Turns out, the polar atmosphere of Venus is a whole lot colder and a lot less dense than we previously thought, and these regions are dominated by strong atmospheric waves that have never been measured on Venus before.

Maddie Stone from Gizmodo reports that the Venus Express probe found polar areas of Venus to have an average temperature of -157 degrees Celsius, which is colder than any spot on Earth, and about 70 degrees lower than was previously thought.

This is rather surprising, considering Venus’s position as the hottest planet in the Solar System overall.

Not only is Venus much closer to the Sun than we are, it also has a thick, dense cloud layer that traps heat. However, Venus Express also found that the planet’s atmosphere was 22 to 40 percent less dense than expected at the polar regions.

(15) FAMOUS FURNITURE. Heritage Auctions now calls it “The Chair Heard ‘Round the World”.

The online and print publicity pieces for J. K. Rowling’s chair reached over 90 countries, plus all 50 states and all news aggregator sites. It saw total media coverage nationwide, with special interest in New York, Silicon Valley, and major cities in the Midwest, as well as the nation’s capital. The chair also garnered attention with 4,428 mainstream media hits, a number that is still rapidly growing. Print media circulated to 291.7+ million, while 15.6+ billion unique viewers visited websites carrying the article.

(16) THE TRUTH MAY NOT BE OUT THERE. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly Interview with Effie Seiberg, Liar”. (Effie needs an introduction Camestros Felapton’s cat.)

4) Wait, how do I know you aren’t sneakily telling the truth?

The answer to question 3 is a lie.

5) All right, I’ll let it go. Just know that I’m aware that at any point you could be LYING. So. You studied philosophy and logic. Do you use that in your fiction?

Absolutely! There’s a long tradition of slipping philosophy into speculative fiction, especially since they’re both about exploring ideas and taking them to their logical conclusions. Some of my favorites are Italo Calvino’s “All at One Point” and Asimov’s “The Last Question” for metaphysical cosmology, Ken Liu’s “Mono No Aware” for ethics, and Roald Dahl’s “William and Mary” for epistemology, and the movies Labyrinth and Monty Python’s Holy Grail for classic logic. Also the entire Discworld series for all the philosophy ever.

(17) FARE LADY. Ann Leckie wrote about her GoH stint at Japan’s Hal-Con, including a special souvenir —

I don’t tend to take a lot of pictures, unless I’m explicitly doing research on something and think I need pics for future reference, but I did take one or two of the view out my hotel window in Numazu:… And one of some lovely fish-shaped cakes a reader gave me as a gift:…

Okay, those aren’t really cakes. The two in the middle are pancakes with bean paste inside, and the top and bottom ones are a kind of wafer-cookie sandwich, also filled with bean paste. Still. Close enough….

And I learned from her post that when cooked a coelacanth, like every other exotic creature, reportedly “tastes like chicken.”

(18) RUN A LINE THROUGH IT. “SFWA Contracts Committee Alert” at the SFWA Blog.

The SFWA Contracts Committee believes there are serious problems for writers with the non-compete and option clauses in many science fiction and fantasy publishers’ contracts. The non-compete language in these contracts often overreaches and limits authors’ career options in unacceptable ways. Writers may choose to bring out a range of books from different publishers — science fiction from one publisher and fantasy from another publisher, for example — and may have to do so in order to earn anything like a living wage.  The problem becomes even worse for hybrid authors who self-publish works in parallel with their traditional publications. Several contracts that we have seen include overlapping restrictions that could keep the author from publishing another book for more than a year….

Our recommendations:

Any limitation on the author’s ability to write new works at any time is unacceptable and should be deleted.

“Competing work” should be defined in the contract as clearly and narrowly as possible, and preferably limited to a work in the same series (whether one is planned or not). The burden should be on the publisher to prove that another work published elsewhere by the author would reduce their sales.

(19) THRONES RETROSPECTIVE. BBC devoted a long post to Game of Thrones at 20: How the saga became a TV hit”.

Still, HBO wavered over whether to make a fantasy show that would be so drastically different from their trademark series, which tended toward the grittily realistic. And even after HBO tentatively signed on, Benioff and Weiss’s original pilot episode had to be completely reshot before the show finally debuted in 2011 – another six years after the producers had first acquired the rights from Martin. But there was hope from another perspective: the rise of prestige television had paralleled the rise of cult fandoms. The passionate online exchanges among fans of books like Martin’s made them desirable targets for marketing. Suddenly, HBO had proof that a Game of Thrones series would have an intensely engaged audience from the start, and the network’s marketers knew exactly how to reach those fans – right on those websites and message boards where they gathered to discuss the minutiae of the books. If the network got particularly lucky, those fans would become ambassadors to a wider audience.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link together with these comments, “They do mention the proper title at one point, although it seems a lost cause generally. OTOH, the night before my cruise got to Dubrovnik two weeks ago, the tour manager specifically called out A Song of Ice and Fire — so some people actually know the original collective.”

(20) HEAD OF THE CLASS. Entertainment Weekly explains what went down.

On Wednesday’s episode of The Late Late Show With James Corden, host James Corden and some high-wattage Game of Thrones cast members spoofed House of Black and White’s Hall of Faces (a prominent part of the show’s season 6 marketing campaign), with a segment imagining what an obnoxious disembodied head might do to the larger group.

The sketch featured recent guests Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Alfie Allen, and Iwan Rheon…

 

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rachel Swirsky, Will R., Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the Top Level Poster. On his head be it!]

Pixel Scroll 4/20/16 Through the Scrolling-Glass

(1) FARSCAPE ON BIG SCREEN. ComicBookMovie.com reports “Rockne O’Bannon Officially Confirms FASRSCAPE Movie”.

After years of rumours, Rockne O’Bannon has finally confirmed that a Farscape movie is actually happening. The show was cancelled back in 2003 and a mini-series titled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars was aired in 2004 to provide closure to the fans but it appears we shall be getting more Farscape in the near future. Confirmation comes from TV.com’s Ed Shrinker who had a friend that attended the Showrunners panel at Wondercon which O’Bannon was a part of.

(2) BEAGLE COMING TO BALTICON. Peter S. Beagle will be a Special Guest of Honor at Balticon 50, taking place over Memorial Day weekend in Baltimore, MD.

“It’s Peter’s birthday, but the fans are getting the gift,” says Beagle’s attorney, Kathleen Hunt.

(3) AXANAR IS DOCKED. In “’Star Trek: Axanar’ Fan Film Docked After Copyright Suit from CBS/Paramount”, Elizabeth Howell gives Space.com readers a status report on the lawsuit.

… According to Peters, Winston & Strawn subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. CBS and Paramount responded, he said, by amending portions of the complaint. The new complaint alleges that copyrights were violated in matters such as the pointy ears and “distinctive eyebrows” of Vulcan, the gold-shirt uniforms of Federation officers, and the Klingon language, according to documents posted by The Hollywood Reporter on March 13.

New motion to dismiss

In the meantime, the production of “Axanar” is on hold pending the result of the lawsuit. If the lawsuit is resolved in the film’s favor, Peters said, production will still be delayed, as it would take a couple of months to organize everything, including coordinating the actors’ schedules and resuming work on elements such as the costumes.

Winston & Strawn filed a new motion to dismiss on March 28. CBS and Paramount have yet to file a response in court.

“The motion provides examples as to how CBS and Paramount overreach in what they claim are elements protected under copyright, and fail to be specific as to exactly which copyrights have been infringed upon; and, in the case of the potential feature film Axanar, claims of alleged copyright infringement cannot be made against a film that doesn’t yet exist,” read part of an Axanar statement on the motion to dismiss.

(4) A THOUSAND WORDS IS WORTH A PICTURE OF A CAT. At Camestros Felapton’s blog, Timothy the Talking Cat has his claws out: “Ctrl-Alt-Delete – A Reviewing”.

[Timothy] No sarcasm. Don’t forget, this time I control the narrative. I can make you say anything. Say “I’m a poo-poo head”
[Camestros] I’m a poo-poo head.
[Timothy] OK say I’m a fish’s butt.
[Camestros] You are a fish’s butt.
[Timothy] Oops – forgot the speech marks. So back to the book – naturally you hated it?
[Camestros] You know I actually enjoyed quite a bit of it.

Despite what you might assume from this exchange, they spend most of their time reviewing books. But as today’s Top Level Poster I can quote whatever part I like.

(5) ICE FIVE. Theory: Game of Thrones is science fiction, not fantasy: “This Is the Most Insane and Compelling Theory for How the Wall in Game of Thrones Stands”. Esquire’s John Maher delves into the ideas advanced by vlogger Preston Jacobs.

Let’s go back to the Wall, a prime example in the case of Game of Thrones. Maybe there is some sort of magic keeping it up. “Or maybe,” Jacobs suggests, “there’s some sort of refrigeration unit.”

It seems farfetched, until you start digging deeper—and Jacobs, an auditor for the U.S. State Department by day, is an expert at doing just that. After re-reading the series a couple of years ago, he jumped right into reading the vast majority of Martin’s extant works, including every story that’s taken place in the author’s most frequently visited setting, a shared universe called the Thousand Worlds….

The Long Night itself seems to hint at the explanation for how this world—as Jacobs and other theorists do, let’s call it Planetos—became the way it was. A winter that lasts for a generation seems pretty hard to believe, even in a world with seasons as crazy as those on Planetos. In the first season of Game of Thrones, Tyrion discusses with Maester Aemon and Lord Commander Mormont the longest winter he’d ever lived through, and mentions it lasted three years. But as Jacobs points out, there is such a thing as a generation-long winter in the real world: a nuclear winter.

In the Thousand Worlds universe, humanity is at perpetual war with multiple hive-minded species—a form of life that pops up in A Song of Ice and Fire as well, and which Jacobs explores in detail in one of his theories. During this endless war, the hive-minded races typically destroy human worlds using nuclear weapons, wait a hundred years for the dust to settle, and then invade and enslave the survivors. And in the interim, something familiar happens, as it does on High Kavalaan, a planet in Martin’s first novel, Dying of the Light.

“I think the book that really made me think Westeros could be post-apocalyptic was Dying of the Light,” says Jacobs. “When he started writing about nuking people, with everybody hiding in mines and founding their own houses and holdfasts, it just occurred to me that the Long Night could be a nuclear winter.”

(6) HEINLEIN ON THE LINE. At the MidAmericCon II site, Toastmaster Pat Cadigan has blogged her fannish origin story.

Forty years ago, in the spring of 1976 in Lawrence, Kansas, the phone rang in the late afternoon, about an hour and a half before I had to go and teach a belly-dance class. When I picked up, a deep, warm-as-a-woolly-blanket man’s voice said, ‘Hello, Mrs. Cadigan. This is Robert Heinlein.’

And I freakin’ died.

Seriously; I died. This is my afterlife. Isn’t it great?

Okay, let me back up a little….

(7) HUGO TIME. It’s no coincidence that Hugo Administrator Dave McCarty and staff are doing a lot of work just about now:

First, on behalf of the Hugo administration staff and all the rest of the folks making preparations to run MidAmeriCon II, I want to thank all of the people who participated in our Hugo and Retro Hugo nomination processes. There were over 4,000 of you and that is a new record participation by quite a large margin.

There’s a large number of tasks we have to do to administer the Hugos. Identifying eligible nominators and voters, setting up servers and web pages to handle secure nominations and voting, answering hundreds of questions about the process for the members, making sure everyone’s nominations are counted appropriately even if they don’t use the same name for something they loved that all the other folks who loved it used or nominated it in the wrong category accidently, locating and contacting the potential finalists to get their acceptance and inform them of how the process works and what to expect, coordinating with convention events staff to run the awards ceremonies and pre-receptions, and numerous other tasks. The previous run on sentence would be staggeringly large if we tried to give a full accounting of everything the awards administration entails. It can be fun, it can be exhausting, and it can even sometimes be frustrating. When we do a good job, though, it’s very rewarding.

(8) HUGO LOVE FROM WORDPRESS. Kevin Standlee’s The Hugo Awards website came in for recognition today —

(9) NEIL GAIMAN. Gaiman on mourning Pratchett — “Good Omens, Cheap Seats, and the Memorial”.

I haven’t blogged for a long time, but right now I’m on a train, and it feels like a good time to catch up. This morning I was interviewed by Charlie Russell for his documentary on Terry Pratchett. (Charlie made the previous BBC Terry Pratchett documentaries, Living With Alzheimer’s, Choosing to Die, and Facing Extinction.) We did it in a Chinese restaurant in Gerrard Street, because Terry and I had first met in a Chinese restaurant, in February 1985. It was easy and pleasant, and then suddenly it wasn’t. I was talking about the last time I’d seen Terry, and what we said, and I found myself crying uncontrollably, unable to talk. And then I pulled it together, and we carried on….

The memorial the other night was beautiful. I wore my mourning frock coat that Kambriel made for me, and I went out that afternoon and bought a white shirt and a black tie. (Actually, I bought four shirts, which, given how often I wear white shirts, should take me easily to the end of my lifetime.)

I read the introduction to A Slip of the Keyboard, which I’d written for Terry while he was alive. I got sad at the end but that was fine. And I held it together just fine when Rob, Terry’s amazing right-hand man, presented me with a big black author’s hat Terry had left me. I couldn’t put it on, though. I wasn’t ready for that. (I tried it on later, in the dressing room. I looked, to my mind, like a rabbinical cowboy assassin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)…

(10) MORE LIKE INDIE FOR SMART PEOPLE. Sarah A. Hoyt, in “Going Indie For Dummies: You Lays Down Your Money” at Mad Genius Club, begins her survey of professional services available to indie authors with a warning –

I cannot emphasize enough that you should at all costs avoid paying money up front to have any of the necessary stuff done to your book.  Particularly if your indie ebook is a short story or a novella, it’s QUITE possible you’ll never see that money again….

Then she follows with a lot of practical experience. (And no, I am not picking this quote as a setup for predictable comments about Baen copyediting, but because writers in general suffer through this.)

b) Copy editing: even houses confuse this with “editing” and I’ll get a list of typos or repeated words from editors who are supposed to be doing high-grade structural.  It’s what most people think of as “editing.”

PLEASE make sure you get a copy editor who actually knows what he/she is doing.  Again it is too easy for a copy editor to screw with a book by making the wrong choices, and/or not getting what you’re trying to say.  (I recently had a copy edit that suggested changing “calloused hands” to “callous hands” — yes, her hands are cold and unfeeling.  What the actual F?)  so several steps:

1- look for a copy-editor with references and call/email those references where the copy-editor can’t hear/read and ask for the real skinny and how hard they are to work with.

2- ask them what manual of style they use.  If you get back “manual?” or “I just use sensible grammar” and this is a paid copy-editor it’s time to bail, ladies, gentlemen and fuzzy toys.  There are many ways of doing things including punctuation (unlike what your grammar teacher told you.)  I favor, for my own checking, Strunk and White which has a slightly British flavor.  Most publishing houses use Chicago Manual of Style.  Baen uses Words to Print (I think that’s the title.)  You want to make sure your books are consistent, so make sure your copyeditor uses a style you can live with.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

(12) TODAY’S OTHER HISTORY LESSON. Hmm. Good point.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 20, 1937 — George Takei, age 79 today.
  • Born April 20, 1964 – Andy Serkis

(14) IN BOOKS TO COME. “Andy Weir, Author of The Martian, Shares Details About His Next Novel” at The Smithsonian. Here’s a guy nobody will ever accuse of having SJW tendencies.

Your next book will have a woman as the central character. Given that “gender wars” in science fields is still a contentious topic, why did you decide to go with a lady lead? What kinds of challenges does your protagonist face, and does her gender play any role in those challenges?

I don’t take part in any political debates. So I’m certainly not trying to make a point by having a female lead. She’s just a character I came up with that I thought was cool, so she’s the lead.

The book is another scientifically accurate story. The main character is a low-level criminal in a city on the moon. Her challenges are a mix of technical/scientific problems, as well as juggling personal interactions—staying a step ahead of the local police, working with shady and dangerous people to do illegal things.

She doesn’t encounter any distinctly “female” challenges. There’s no love plot. And the story takes place in a future society where there is practically no sexism.

(15) NOT JUST TANG. The BBC discusses “Four ways NASA is teaching us how to live more sustainably”.

2. Clean water

In space, water is in short supply, so Nasa has developed an innovative way to filter waste water on the ISS using chemical and distillation processes. This lets it turn liquid from the air, sweat and even urine into drinkable H2O.

In fact, since 2008, more than 22,500 pounds of water have been recycled from urine alone on the ISS – something that would have cost more than $225m (£160m) to launch and deliver to the station from Earth.

“Most people are horrified when they see what we drink!” says Ms Coleman. “But the filtered water up there just tastes beautiful, it really is delicious.”

Nasa has since licensed the technology to companies on Earth, which have created portable filters for use in places where fresh drinking water is scarce.

Filters produced by US firm Water Security Corporation, for example, have been installed in villages across Mexico and Iraq, allowing residents to purify water from contaminated sources.

(16) RILEY INTERVIEWED. David Dubrow conducted an “Interview With David A Riley” after the author dropped off a Horror Writers of America award jury last week amidst controversy.

Why did you withdraw from the jury of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology?

Because, as I saw it, that was the best thing to do for the good of the HWA. There is nothing prestigious or glamorous about being a juror. It does involve a lot of unpaid, unseen, arduous work reading an enormous number of books by authors or publishers or, in the case of anthologies, editors, keen to have their books included amongst the finalists for the Stoker awards. Of course the juries cannot add more than a few books, but it does mean reading all those submitted, good, bad or indifferent. I know from when I was a juror for First Novels this can be a hell of a chore. Standing down, therefore, was easy – it saved me a lot of hard work, some of it far from enjoyable. I only put my name forward because the HWA sent out a last minute email appealing for volunteers from active members for this position. I thought I was helping the HWA by stepping forward, never realising the reaction stirred up by certain individuals, some of whom already had a personal grudge against the HWA and are not even members….

Are you still part of the UK National Front?

I resigned in 1983 and have not been involved since.

A lot of people have characterized you as a fascist. Would you say that’s a fair description of your politics?

No.  It’s an easy label to flash around, usually by those who are fascists themselves, particularly from the left. Fascists don’t believe in free speech and try to suppress it for their opponents. I have never in my life tried to do that. They are also prepared to use physical violence against their political opponents. I was never involved in anything like that. I would add that during the time I was involved in the party any member who associated with a neo-nazi group, either in Britain or overseas, faced expulsion. This, I can confirm, was enforced.

(17) EISNER AWARD MANGA. Brigid Alverson reviews six works in her post “This Year’s Eisner-Nominated Manga Shows What the Medium Can Do” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Nominees for the Eisner Awards, the top honors in the comics industry, were announced on April 19. This year’s nomnees in the manga category (technically, “Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia”) offer a range of different types of manga, from genre comedy to poignant literary works. As a former Eisner judge myself, I know how hard the choices are, and this year’s slate is exceptionally good. All these series are accessible to non-manga readers as well as longtime fans. Let’s dive in and take a look!

Assassination Classroom, by Yusei Matsui This was the surprise nominee, because it’s not exactly a highbrow series, though it is wickedly funny. The setup is totally over the top: a class of misfit high school students are assigned the job of killing their teacher, Koro-sensei, an octopus-shaped alien who has announced he will destroy the earth at the end of the school year. Armed with weapons that are harmless to humans but deadly to their teacher, they study his weaknesses and plot new attacks, and new assassins join the class as the series goes on. What makes it so fun (and so weird) is that Koro-sensei is actually a really good teacher, and he uses his superpowers to help his students as much as to evade their attacks. He’s quirky, overly fond of gossip, a bit self-indulgent, and he often finishes a face-off with an opponent by doing something silly like giving them a manicure. This is a series that shonen fans will particularly enjoy, as there are a lot of inside jokes about the conventions of the genre, but it’s also a fun action comedy for anyone willing to go all in on suspension of disbelief. There is a darker side to Koro-sensei, and occasionally he lets the jovial mask slip, adding a bit of edge. The judges nominated volumes 2-7 of this series for the award.

(18) STEM INTO STEAM. Wil Wheaton has posted “My speech to the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival”.

Which brings me to funding.

You’re never too young for science – getting children interested in the world around them, and asking them to try and figure out how things work is a fundamentally good idea. Curious children will naturally gravitate towards STEAM subjects. Let’s encourage that and make sure that a child who wants to explore that particular part of our world has everything she needs to get there, and keep learning about and making awesome things when she leaves. This is and will continue to be a challenge. Despite the clear and undeniable benefits of a comprehensive education, including science education, not only to individuals but to our entire society, we have allowed the funding of our schools to become part of the culture wars. This is as disgraceful as it is predictable. When so many of our poorly-named “leaders” deny scientific consensus on everything from climate change to vaccines, a scientifically literate and well-informed populace can be tremendously inconvenient to them and theiir corporate owners. Well … good. Let’s be inconvenient to them. Let’s educate and empower a generation who will be real leaders, and carry our nation into the future.

We all know that it’s possible to fund STEAM education. The money is there, it’s just being spent on other things. Making enough noise and applying enough sustained pressure to change this will not be easy. It will actually be quite hard. But when has America ever shied away from doing things that are hard? Everything worth doing is hard, and President Kennedy said as much when he challenged our nation to go to the moon. Right now, decades later, every single one of us has benefitted in some way from that commitment. Right now, a generation of future scientists can look to MARS and beyond, because nearly fifty years ago, we did whatever it took to go to the moon.

Why aren’t we doing that today? Because it’s hard?

 

(19) 2016 SPECULATIVE FICTION EDITORS. The Book Smugglers are already “Announcing the Editors of Speculative Fiction 2016 & Call for Submissions”.

In which we announce the editors for the 2016 edition of the award-winning collection Speculative Fiction

As you probably know by now, we are the new publishers of the ongoing editions of Speculative Fiction: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary – a collection that celebrates the best in online Science Fiction and Fantasy nonfiction. We are currently hard at work on the publication of SpecFic ’15 – edited by Foz Meadows and Mark Oshiro – and we feel it is time to move on to the next very important step for next year: announcing the two new editors for 2016.

Since its inception in 2012, the Speculative Fiction collection has been envisioned as an annual publication, curated by a new pair of editors each year. Each incumbent pair is also given the weighty task of selecting the next year’s editors.

Today, we are extremely proud to finally announce the editors of Speculative Fiction 2016: Liz Bourke and Mahvesh Murad!

Apparently items for the 2015 collection needed to be submitted to the editors? Well, I didn’t send in anything from File 770, so that’s that.

(20) CELEBRITY VERSIONS OF BB-8 AUCTIONED. Til April 24 you can bid on a variety of BB-8 droids that have been kitted up by celebrities. 100%* of the proceeds from this auction will be donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, on behalf of Force For Change.

The Londonist ran an article and a gallery of photos.

We enjoyed the recent Star Wars film. But, like many, we couldn’t help thinking that BB-8 would look far more fetching dressed up as the globus cruciger from the Crown Jewels, or else painted in the colours of the Union Flag, tarted up like a teapot, or made to look like one of the Beatles.

Our wishes are fulfilled at a new exhibition and charity fundraiser. The cutesy droid has enjoyed a makeover from dozens of artists and celebrities, with the best efforts on show at White Rainbow Gallery (47 Mortimer Street) until 21 April.

Contributing celebrities include Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Warwick Davis, Simon Pegg (responsible for the Beatles droid, above), Paddy McGuinnes, Jonathan Ross, Nicola Adams and the band Years and Years. Each has daubed the droid with a design celebrating an element of British culture, from Robin Hood to the Sex Pistols.

bb8 auction

(21) LOOK UP IN THE SKY. Alastair Reynolds is in awe by the end of a session of starwatching (“Pattern Recognition”) —

The light I caught had travelled 25,000 years to reach my telescope. If there’s ever a day when that sort of thing doesn’t send a shiver down my spine, please feel free to shoot me.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Steven H Silver, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

The Lunar Rover Prototype Auction PART II

rover2 COMP

When last seen in November 2015, this NASA prototype lunar rover had just gone unsold at an Alabama auction house because bidders did not meet the (unstated) reserve price.

Dawn Sabados, who wrote File 770’s post, now reports the rover is going to auction once again.

RR Auction, a Boston firm, will have the rover up for bid on April 21. The firm says its authenticity has been verified by former NASA engineer Otha H. Vaughan, Jr., “who worked on the team of famous German-American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun.” The minimum bid is $25,000, but that was the minimum last time, so who knows?

One-of-a-kind ‘Brown LSSM’—a mid-1960s moon buggy prototype driven by Wernher von Braun

Description                           Estimate: $125,000 – 150,000

An original mid-1960s lunar rover prototype, or Local Scientific Survey Module, developed for NASA by Brown Engineering and known as the ‘Brown LSSM.’ Development of the prototype took place in 1965–1966, and it was used for lunar rover mobility tests and to conduct human factors studies and mobility evaluations. This vehicle was actually driven by the great rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and he can be seen with it in photographs. Otha Vaughan, a member of von Braun’s team, has examined the vehicle and identified it as authentic. It had been disposed of and long ago ended up in the hands of by a scrap metal dealer, who preserved it in his scrapyard. The rediscovery of this ‘lost lunar rover’ was the subject of several news stories in late October 2015.

Accompanied by a letter of authenticity signed by Otha Vaughan and Johnny Worley of Worley Brothers Iron & Metal, in part: “This letter of authenticity is for the artifact known as ‘Brown LSSM,’ the Prototype Local Scientific Survey Module, also referenced in some historical literature as Lunar Scientific Survey Module. ‘Brown LSSM’ is a mobility test article developed by Brown Engineering…This LSSM prototype represents an important step in the design and engineering of the final rovers utilized during the Apollo Space Program. Otha H. Vaughan, Jr., of Huntsville, AL, who worked as aeronautical research engineer on the German-American rocket team headed by Wernher von Braun…positively and firmly identifies the pictured LSSM as the authentic Brown LSSM after carefully inspecting and measuring the artifact. Mr. Vaughn states that the team actually flew the prototype on NASA’s KC-135 Zero G aircraft ‘to get some idea of how she would bounce with rubber tires and things like that.’ Mr. Vaughan retired from NASA MSFC on January 1, 1999, after 45 years of ABMA and NASA civil service….

Mr. Vaughan also verifies that NASA frequently declared unneeded items as an excess and would sell them. This prototype did not go into space, was not considered actual needed flight hardware, and was missed being tagged by NASA or MSFC. Current owner, Johnny Worley, states that the person whom originally bought the LSSM from NASA, claimed he did so by an auction, and had it sitting in his backyard in Blountsville, AL for an unknown amount of time. It was there that an US Airforce historian spotted and identified the Brown LSSM in neighbor’s yard, took pictures, and reported it to NASA Office of Inspector General. NASA…did attempt to recover the artifact, as evidenced by papers caused to be released by the Freedom of Information Act.” Copies of these documents are included, in which the NASA OIG concludes, “Since the LRV is no longer available for recovery, this matter is closed in the files of this office. No further action will occur.”

Pixel Scroll 4/10/16 Filers, Scrollers, Pixelmen, Lend Me Your Ears; I Come To Bury Hugo, Not To Praise Him

(1) HARRY AND THE PIRATES. Your average author can only wish they got this level of service. Reuters has the story — “Defense Against the Dark Arts: UK spies guarded against Harry Potter leak”.

Usually concerned with top secret matters affecting national security, Britain’s eavesdropping spy agency GCHQ was also on the lookout for leaks of a yet-to-be-published Harry Potter book, its publisher has revealed.

Shortly before the publication of one of the volumes in J.K. Rowling’s seven-part wizarding saga, with millions of fans worldwide at a fever pitch of anticipation, publisher Nigel Newton received an unexpected phone call.

“I remember the British spy eavesdropping station GCHQ rang me up and said ‘we’ve detected an early copy of this book on the Internet’,” Newton told Australia’s ABC Radio in an interview last week that gained attention in Britain on Sunday.

“I got him to read a page to our editor and she said ‘no, that’s a fake’,” said Newton, founder and chief executive of Potter publishing house Bloomsbury, describing the spies as “good guys”.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “We do not comment on our defense against the dark arts.”

(2) MORE EAVESDROPPING. R. A. MacAvoy lets us listen in on her “Conversations with People Who Aren’t There”.

The reason I was convinced my imaginary conversations were universal to the human condition was simply my embarrassment knowing that, since I had constructed my verbal respondents, when we had a difference of opinion – a necessarily frequent happening – I always won the debate.  This, in itself, was so much a stacking of the deck, or loading of the dice of the disagreement, I would hate for anyone to know I was doing it.  It was so much like playing chess with one’s self and cheating.  And I assumed everyone else on the planet felt as I did about it, and so, from an attempt not to appear the scoundrel I was, I kept my mouth shut (for once) about the existence of this wild and crazy inner life.  I was certain any other person would do the same.  So I have continued, for approximately sixty years, to live this way, mumbling to myself or to the non-human creatures about me, or even the furniture. And thinking every other soul did also.

It was only perhaps a week ago I asked Ron whether he did not spend his hours as I did.  I expected him to answer “Of course,” or simply smile knowingly and shrug.  Instead he looked at me intently and said “No. Not so often.”

This was quite a surprise.  It was, in fact, a re-set of my expectations.  The human condition was not entirely as I had thought it was.  Not for all these years.

So I must re-evaluate my life of inner debate.  I have not just been rigging the game of internal conversation.  It seems I invented the game before I rigged it.  My ego-centricity is far more overwhelming than I thought.  I am not proud of myself.

Nonetheless, there have been some interesting conversations over the years.  If I must take the blame for doing the thing, I can at least describe how I have done it.

The most common repeated dialogue I have is with any film or television actor who pronounces words in a way I disagree with.  Of course I am arguing with the character, not the real actor, but as no one is there, it doesn’t matter.

(3) CAPCLAVE 2017. WSFA has announced that Ken Liu will be a Capclave GoH in 2017.

(4) LOVELY ROOM, SLIGHT DRAFT. Supposedly this happened — “Tim Peake Leaves TripAdvisor Review For The International Space Statuion’s New ‘Space Hotel’” — although neither Steven H Silver nor I have been able to find it on the actual TripAdvisor site.

Bigelow Aerospace is trialling a new “space hotel” this week, attaching their new inflatable hotel room to the side of the International Space Station to test the possibility of having a holiday resort in Earth’s orbit.

The inflatable “BEAM” module is made of a top secret material that may make holidaying in space a reality, but first it’s being tested aboard the ISS.

Not one to ignore a chance at giving his two cents to the people on terra firma, British astronaut Tim Peake has left a review for the “space hotel” on TripAdvisor.

(5) KEPLER IN TROUBLE? From NASA — “Mission Manager Update: Kepler Spacecraft in Emergency Mode”.

During a scheduled contact on Thursday, April 7, mission operations engineers discovered that the Kepler spacecraft was in Emergency Mode (EM). EM is the lowest operational mode and is fuel intensive. Recovering from EM is the team’s priority at this time.

The mission has declared a spacecraft emergency, which provides priority access to ground-based communications at the agency’s Deep Space Network.

Initial indications are that Kepler entered EM approximately 36 hours ago, before mission operations began the maneuver to orient the spacecraft to point toward the center of the Milky Way for the K2 mission’s microlensing observing campaign.

The spacecraft is nearly 75 million miles from Earth, making the communication slow. Even at the speed of light, it takes 13 minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back.

The last regular contact with the spacecraft was on April. 4.  The spacecraft was in good health and operating as expected.

(6) HOW MUCH IS THAT NOVEL IN THE WINDOW? Fynbospress has an intriguing post about indie book pricing at Mad Genius Club – “Know your reader demographics: Pricing”

2. The discount crowd ($0.99 – $5.99) Believe it or not, this is a different group from the Free Crowd. There’s plenty of overlap, but it’s a different crowd. Unlike the hardcore free-only, the 99 cent crowd will buy books cheap. If they’re long-term broke, they’re likely to use some of the tools to track your sales and only buy when the price drops. These are the people who keep all the used bookstores in business. At this price point, you’re competing with used paperbacks from McKay’s Powell’s, Amazon… you are NOT competing with new books from B&N or Book a Million.

How big is this market? I don’t know if there’s a way to tell – certainly it hasn’t been measured. But it’s been large enough to support thousands of used book stores across the US alone (much less the charity shops in the UK), and to propel low-pricing indie authors into millions sold.

You can develop fans here. If you stay in this price range, they’ll buy everything you put out the moment they discover it. (Not the same thing as the moment you release it, and that’s why a mailing list / social media presence / targeted advertising is a good thing.) You can also use this range to tempt people into impulse buying your works, in conjunction with targeted advertising.

(7) TO THE FINNISH. Today’s book review on NPR: “Frodo, Bilbo, Kullervo: Tolkien’s Finnish Adventure”.

In 1913, the 21-year-old Ronald Tolkien should have been studying for his exams. He was halfway through his Classics degree — the subject all the best students did at Oxford in those days. Getting admitted to Oxford on a scholarship was a great opportunity for young Ronald, an orphan who had always struggled to stay out of poverty. A Classics degree would have set him up for almost any career he chose. But he wasn’t studying. Instead, he was trying to teach himself Finnish.

Why would a brilliant student with so much at stake let himself go astray at such a crucial time? There were two reasons: love and the Kalevala.

Tolkien’s twin obsessions at the time were his future wife, Edith Bratt, and the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland.

(8) CLASSIC ZINE BIDS FAREWELL. Steven H Silver is retiring his fanzine Argentus, a three-time Hugo nominee.

I’ve decided that Argentus is no longer being published.  I had planned on doing an issue last year (and didn’t) and then wrapping it up this year, but with chairing three conventions in 11 months, Worldcon programming, surgery, and life in general, I don’t see it happening this year either.  If I do another fanzine, it will be a different creature.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 10, 1953: Feature length, full color, 3-D movie premiered in NYC:  House of Wax starring Vincent Price.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • April 10, 1929: One of the all-time greats, Max von Sydow, is born in Sweden.
  • Born April 10, 19?? — James H. Burns, prolific File 770 columnist.
  • Born April 10, 1953 — David Langford, Ansible editor.

(12) DISTILLED WRITING ADVICE. Lit Reactor has compiled “22 of the Best Single Sentences on Writing”. The most contrarian comes from G. K. Chesterton: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”

(13) FESTIVAL OF BOOKS. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books wrapped up on Sunday.

Mercedes Lackey was on hand.

Not sf, but I’m a fan!

A Sabaa Tahir quote —

(14) AWESOME ANIMATION. Official music video for Jane Bordeaux’s ‘Ma’agalim’. In a forgotten old penny arcade, a wooden doll is stuck in place and time.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, JJ, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 4/9/16 Little Old Lady Got Nominated Late Last Night

(1) HERE’S THE PLOT. Ursula Vernon cultivates history in her garden. Read “Sowing History: A Gardener’s Tale” at Tor.com.

When people think of gardeners, many of them tend to picture little old ladies in straw hats with bright green gloves, pottering among the roses.

When people think of gardeners who are also children’s book authors, they go straight to Beatrix Potter and assume that not only are these little old ladies in straw hats pottering among the roses, but they are also greeting the friendly woodland creatures by name—“Hello, Mister Robin! You’re looking very feathery today!” “Why, Missus Tiggywinkle, how have you been?” “Oh dear, that naughty little cottontail has been at my lettuces again!”

Well, I am a gardener and a children’s book author. I am also under forty, tattooed, and the owner of a mostly black wardrobe, and when I greet a happy woodland creature by name, there is an excellent chance that the sentence will end with “touch that and I will end you.”

(2) THE FIRST STAR WARS FANS. The Skywalking Through Neverland podcast discusses “The Early Days of Star Wars Fandom with Craig Miller”.

Our spe­cial guest Craig Miller was the Pub­li­cist and Direc­tor of Fan Rela­tions for Lucas­film dur­ing the hey-day of the 70’s and 80’s. Ever won­der how fans knew what was going on in fan­dom before social media? Whose job was it to tell the world about this new movie called Star Wars? Craig shares some awe­some stories.

 

episod116square Craig Miller

(3) KAMERON HURLEY. Asked where his inspiration came from, lyricist Sammy Cahn said “When the check arrives.” Kameron Hurley’s check has arrived, but she explains what else she needs besides, in “Kameron Hurley: Cultivating Inspiration on Deadline” at Locus Online.

Instead of spending all that time feeling guilty about what I wasn’t doing and scrolling through Twitter, I needed to release myself from the ‘‘I should be writing’’ mentality and let my brain start connect­ing things on its own. I found that the more I actively thought about plot problems, the less my brain wanted to fix them. It kept trying to avoid the problems I’d put to it. For instance, instead of fixing a plot problem on my current book, my brain recently offered up a solution to a subplot problem in the next book I’ll be working on. At some point I have to give in and let my brain make the connections it needs to make, without getting in its way. More and more, I have to let my brain go more than I’m used to, or it just retreads the same old story paths.

I would like to tell you that giving up everything to write is the only way to write. I enjoy spouting that whole ‘‘fall on your sword’’ advice time and time again. Giving up activities that waste your time while you should be writing is beneficial, but I can only burn hard like I have for so long before the flame gutters out. I don’t want to be that writer who just writes the same story over and over again.

(4) A LECKIE FANTASY. Rachel Swirsky’s April 8 Friday Fiction Recommendation is “Marsh Gods” by Ann Leckie.

I’m a fan of Ann’s fantasy universe in which gods must be careful to speak the truth, lest they lose their power. I hope we get longer work in it someday, or at least more. (Publishers: Hint, hint.)

Read “Marsh Gods” at Strange Horizons, or listen at PodCastle.

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There was a bit of drama during “Day 5 – Writers of the Future Volume 32 Workshop”.

First up was Liza Trombi from Locus Magazine, the foremost professional publication in science fiction and fantasy literature. She discussed Locus, and then moved on to the vagaries of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and going hybrid. Liza recommended trying traditional publishing before attempting self-publishing. She also mentioned that publishing your first novel is rare, and that the best thing you can do for your future writing career is to always be writing a new book.

Robert J. Sawyer was up after Liza. With fresh copies of Locus in the winner’s hands, Robert took the opportunity to point out that his latest book, while having been well reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and the Washington Post, was disliked by Locus. And while the book is doing extremely well, the reality is that someone will always dislike your work. He stressed that you should never write to please everyone because you never will. Your job, he says, is to identify what it is you do. You should know what your brand is as a writer, and write to please those people.

(6) WRITERS OF THE PRESENT. The bestselling authors are walking between the raindrops at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend.

Stan Lee kept dry.

Other ornaments to our genre were on hand.

No Scalzi food photo today, but it played an important part on the program.

He also found time to practice his starship hijacking skills, on a modest scale.

(7) BINDER FULL OF LETTERS. Doug Ellis shares a few more historic letters in his post “Otto Binder on H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard” at Black Gate.

In late December 1935, science fiction author Otto Binder moved from Chicago to NYC to represent Otis Adelbert Kline’s literary agency. Among the authors he represented for Kline’s agency was Robert E. Howard. Binder had been to NYC previously, in late June and early July 1935, with his friends Clifford Kornoelje (better known in SF circles as Jack Darrow) and Bill Dellenback.

As I’ve mentioned before, back in 2001 I bought a few boxes of correspondence from Darrow’s estate, including dozens of letters that Binder had written to Darrow over the course of many decades. In going through them last month, I pulled this one and thought I’d post it today.

Once in NYC, Otto quickly resumed his friendships with Mort Weisinger and Charles Hornig, and rapidly met more figures involved in the local science fiction community. Less than two weeks after he’d arrived, he was invited to a gathering at Frank Belknap Long’s place, which was held on Friday, January 3, 1936. Binder and Long were fellow Weird Tales authors, with Binder and his brother, Earl, having sold WT some stories under their Eando Binder penname.

Among the others at the party were Donald and Howard Wandrei, Kenneth Sterling and, most interestingly of all, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft impressed Binder greatly, as he relates in this letter to Darrow dated January 12, 1936. That would have been some gathering to attend!

(8) HAMPUS, IS THAT YOU? Not a toll-free call! CNN has the story: “The Swedish Number: Random Swedes are waiting to hear from you”.

Are you there, Sweden? It’s us, the world.

To mark the 250th anniversary of Sweden’s abolition of censorship, the Swedish Tourist Association has launched a phone number connecting global callers with random Swedes.

Think Chatroulette meets the United Nations.

Sweden’s new ambassadors don’t receive any training and their time is voluntary. They simply download the Swedish Number app, register their number, and signal their availability by switching themselves on or off.

As for the cost of ringing up, it’s charged as an international call so check with your provider before chatting with your new Swedish buddies late into the night.

There have been nearly 14,000 calls since the service launched on April 6, with nearly a third coming from the U.S. and a fifth from Turkey.

(9) GAME MAKER YIELDS. Crave reports “Baldur’s Gate Developer States They Will Change Trans Character and Remove GamerGate Joke”.

After an inexplicable amount of press was placed upon their team by angry gamers, Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear‘s developer Beamdog has stated that they will be altering the dialogue of transgender character Mizhena in a future update, along with removing a reference to GamerGate.

In the game, which is an expansion to the original Baldur’s Gate, there is a line of dialogue in which minor NPC Mizhena explains the origins of her name, revealing to the player that although being born a boy, she and her parents “came to understand [she] was truly a woman” later in life. This entire exchange, which is limited to four sentences, led to the game being bombarded with negative user reviews online, despite critical reviews of the game being positive. Another point of contention for its detractors was a line at the expense of GamerGate, in which popular character Minsc says “really, it’s all about ethics in heroic adventuring.”

(10) CARPENTER ON GALAKTIKA PAYMENT OFFER. Anna Grace Carpenter, who surfaced the story (“Galaktika Magazine: Theft on a Massive Scale”) expresses her views about Galaktika’s response in “Galaktika Magazine: By Way of Explanation”.

Let me pause for a moment and say that the offer of compensation is a step in the right direction. However, neither Mr. Burger or Mr. Németh have addressed the underlying issue.

This is a chronic and widespread issue of theft. It is not just the stories published in 2015 (of which there are many), but work that was published as far back as 2008….

This pattern is more than a lack of diligence or caution or speed on the part of the publishing staff at Galaktika. It is not an occasional oversight or misunderstanding of previous contracts. This is habitual theft.

Remember that the vast majority of these authors never submitted their work for consideration, there was no implication of giving their permission for the translation and publication of their stories in Galaktika. Rather, their work was copied from other, paying publications online without any attempt to contact the original publisher, editor or author, and then printed for profit in Galaktika. That is not a mistake, that is theft.

Cat Rambo, current president of SFWA, said she is still trying to obtain a copy of István Burger’s statement in English and there are still questions to be answered. (How soon can authors expect to receive payment? Will authors be able to request their work be pulled from Galaktika? Will Galaktika contact all those involved to arrange compensation or will they put the responsibility on the individual to contact them and make a claim?)

And the question remains, what will Mr. Burger and Mr. Németh do going forward?

(11) DRAGON AWARDS DISCUSSION CONTINUES.

Deby Fredericks on “The Dragon Awards” at Wyrmflight.

One of the distinctions I believe Dragon Con is trying to make, is that the existing prestigious awards are decided by a limited number of people — a jury, members of a particular convention or group — while the Dragon Awards will be nominated and voted by all fans. This sounds fair and noble, but I’m remembering that time when DC let fans vote on whether Robin should be killed by the Joker. They were aghast that fans wanted Robin dead. Was the outcome fair? Perhaps. But was it noble?

Already, some in the community responsible for the Hugo Awards Kerfluffle have been heard to gloat that now they will win because no bunch of snobs can vote them down. As you probably can tell, I’m a little tired of hearing privileged majorities play the dismartyrdom card. We’ll all find out in time.

I don’t necessarily agree that SF/media/everything needs another set of awards. However, I do believe Dragon Con is a large enough and inclusive enough organization to credibly present such an award. It will be interesting to see the outcome, and where it aligns or doesn’t align with the other awards.

Brian K. Lowe posted about “The Dragon Awards” at Graffiti on the Walls of Time.

“Another trophy,” you say, possibly enthusiastically, perhaps dismissively, maybe with a touch of boredom. Or maybe you say it with an appraising tone, as do we authors who think, “Hey, there’s another award I can aspire to (and probably never win)…” Regardless of your personal reaction, the awards are here and presumably they’re going to stick around a while. (America’s thirst for awards ceremonies is almost as impossible to slake as its thirst for reality shows, or sleazy political drama. If it ain’t a competition, we’re not interested.)

All of these reactions are quite understandable. What I don’t understand is those who believe that this development somehow spells trouble for the Hugo Awards given out every year by the aforementioned Worldcon.

Cirsova takes the whole thing rather less than completely seriously in “Genrefication and Dragon Awards”.

This isn’t a victory, unless your aim is creating genre ghettos.

In response, I propose an alternative.  If I ever get the reach to make such an endeavor feasible, I will give you the Brackett Awards:

  • Categories will include, but are not limited to, in Long and Short Form:
  • Best Space Princess/Classiest Dame
  • Most Dashing Swordsman/Gunman
  • Creepiest Monster/Alien
  • Most Exotic/Erotic Xeno-hominid
  • Best Explosion
  • Coolest Spaceship
  • Best Empire (domineering, crumbling or otherwise)

Will these categories end up punishing certain books under the SFF umbrella?  Probably, but not the most awesome ones.

Ian Mond says live and let live at Hysterical Hamster.

And a day or so ago Dragon Con launched its own genre awards.  To reflect the size of the con there’s about fifty billion categories ranging from best Apocalyptic fiction (my personal favourite) to Best episode in a continuing science fiction or fantasy series, TV or internet (take a deep breath).  I don’t begrudge any organisation, individual or entity organising and administering their own awards.  More power to them.  Personally though, I think I’ll give this one a miss.

Martin C. Wilsey’s sentiments about “The Dragon Awards” are shorter but not as sweet.

Well it was bound to happen. The Hugo Awards process corruption scandal has finally led to the inevitable conclusion. A new award that has fairness baked in. The Dragon Awards.

–Let’s hope that this award is all about quality of the fiction.

(12) RECAP. I don’t watch Sleepy Hollow so it’s hard to explain how I got sucked into reading this spoiler-filled recap of the final episode. This paragraph will give you the gist of what SciFi4Me felt about it:

Bloody Hell. I don’t know what they are thinking. And I don’t know how a show based on such a flimsy premise could jump the shark, but they did.

(13) DEAN KAMEN. The inventor of the Segway is the son of E.C. Comics’ Jack Kamen. Read about “Inventor Dean Kamen’s Big Ideas” in the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Kamen, 65, is known for coming up with the Segway (the two-wheeled electric vehicle), the iBot (a stair-climbing wheelchair) and a portable dialysis machine. He considers the First Robotics Competition, now in its 25th season, one of his best ideas yet…

In the competition, teams of students have six weeks to build a robot from scratch. The robots must then complete various tasks, working in teams. In this year’s challenge, they have to get through their opponents’ fortifications and take over territory in a space set up to look like a medieval battlefield with castles and towers. More than 400,000 students are competing this year, up from about 100 in 1992. “More and more, kids are starting to see that technology is cool. It’s not for nerds,” he says.

Mr. Kamen grew up a self-described nerd in New York’s Long Island, the son of a comic-book illustrator and a teacher. His engineering career started early; in high school, he earned more than $50,000 a year for designing and installing light and sound systems for musicians and museums.

Mr. Kamen, who is unmarried and doesn’t have children, spends most of his time working. “I get up in the morning, and I start working, then I keep working until I can’t work anymore, then I fall asleep,” he says. His idea of a vacation is going from one project to another when he’s stuck.

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 9, 1833: First tax-supported U.S. public library founded, Peterborough, New Hampshire
  • April 9, 1959: NASA introduced first seven astronauts to press.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 9, 1926 – Hugh Hefner.

(16) KEEPING THE HARD IN HADRON. Ladies and gentlemen, the LEGO Particle Accelerator! JK Brickworks says —

This is a working particle accelerator built using LEGO bricks. I call it the LBC (Large Brick Collider). It can accelerate a LEGO soccer ball to just over 12.5 kilometers per hour.

 

(17) A CASE OF PHYSLEXIA. As most of you already guessed, I picked the previous item’s headnote because it references a typo that made news this week.

The BBC get overexcited by the world’s largest atom smasher.

 

(18) ATARI FLASHBACK. RPF Pulse brings us “The Art of ATARI Book Preview Images”.

Co-written by Robert V. Conte and Tim Lapetino, The Art of Atari includes a comprehensive retrospective collecting game production and concept artwork, photos, marketing art, with insight from key people involved in Atari’s rich history, and behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!

Includes a special Foreword by New York Times bestseller Ernst Cline, author of Armada and Ready Player One, soon to be a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.

Atari is a touchstone for many people. Their games and game system exposed many to video games for the first time. Whether you’re a fan, collector, enthusiast, or new to the world of Atari, this book offers the most complete collection of Atari artwork ever produced!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/31/16 The One They Pixel, The One You’ll Scroll By

(1) IT’S BIG. At Entertainment Weekly, “Jeff VanderMeer explains what it’s like to edit The Big Book of Science Fiction”.

During one part of our research, we even had to contact the Czech ambassador to the Philippines for intel on particular authors; in another life this man had been the editor of a Czech science-fiction magazine that, before the Wall came down, paid Western writers in items like books of surreal erotic photography. He had become an expert, due to his travels, on fiction in many countries. From him we received a flurry of photocopies and advice that will likely inform future projects. It’s a small world, but also a big, complex one, too.

(2) ENOUGH PI? NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory answers the question “How Many Decimals of Pi Do We Really Need?”

We posed this question to the director and chief engineer for NASA’s Dawn mission, Marc Rayman. Here’s what he said:

Thank you for your question! This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a question like this. In fact, it was posed many years ago by a sixth-grade science and space enthusiast who was later fortunate enough to earn a doctorate in physics and become involved in space exploration. His name was Marc Rayman.

To start, let me answer your question directly. For JPL’s highest accuracy calculations, which are for interplanetary navigation, we use 3.141592653589793. Let’s look at this a little more closely to understand why we don’t use more decimal places. I think we can even see that there are no physically realistic calculations scientists ever perform for which it is necessary to include nearly as many decimal points as you present. Consider these examples:

  1. The most distant spacecraft from Earth is Voyager 1. It is about 12.5 billion miles away. Let’s say we have a circle with a radius of exactly that size (or 25 billion miles in diameter) and we want to calculate the circumference, which is pi times the radius times 2. Using pi rounded to the 15th decimal, as I gave above, that comes out to a little more than 78 billion miles. We don’t need to be concerned here with exactly what the value is (you can multiply it out if you like) but rather what the error in the value is by not using more digits of pi. In other words, by cutting pi off at the 15th decimal point, we would calculate a circumference for that circle that is very slightly off. It turns out that our calculated circumference of the 25 billion mile diameter circle would be wrong by 1.5 inches. Think about that. We have a circle more than 78 billion miles around, and our calculation of that distance would be off by perhaps less than the length of your little finger….

(3) WHICH GHOST WROTE THE MOST? “Houdini manuscript ‘Cancer of Superstition’ divides opinion over Lovecraft, Eddy ghostwriting”. The Chicago Tribune has the story.

…Potter & Potter lists Lovecraft as the ghostwriter, in part citing “An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia” by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, a 2001 anthology of Lovecraft’s work. The book says, however, Houdini approached Lovecraft and Lovecraft’s fellow Providence, R.I., author C.M. Eddy Jr. “jointly to ghostwrite a full-scale book on superstition.”

But how much of “The Cancer of Superstition” was the work of Lovecraft vs. Eddy is up for debate.

Douglas A. Anderson, co-founder of Wormwoodiana, a blog dedicated to researching and discussing the work of Lovecraft and his peers, said one needs to look at “The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces,” a 1966 Lovecraft anthology edited by August Derleth that published a detailed outline and the project’s first chapter. Derleth, who had exchanged letters with Eddy prior to the book’s publication, listed Lovecraft as the author of the outline but Eddy as the author of the chapter….

(4) CASSIDY IN GALLERY SHOW. Kyle Cassidy’s photos from Toni Carr’s Geek Knits book will be part of an art show opening April 1 at the Stanek Gallery in Philadelphia. The book, subtitled Over 30 Projects for Fantasy Fanatics, Science Fiction Fiends, and Knitting Nerds, has been mentioned here in the Scroll before. Cassidy is known in sf for his photographs of fans taken at the Montreal Worldcon in 2009.

EPSON MFP image

thread of art exhibit

(5) LOSE THE RECUSE. Kevin Standlee says Cheryl Morgan ”Talked Me Into It”.

I am quite obviously eligible for the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award for the stuff I write on this LJ plus a whole lot of writing elsewhere, possibly most notably on Mike Glyer’s File 770 news site. But as people were talking me up for a Hugo Award nomination, I was uneasy, given that I’m Chairman of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee and possibly the most visible member of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. While I’m not required to recuse myself from consideration, I thought it possible that it would be unseemly and that I’d be considered using undue influence. But Cheryl Morgan wrote yesterday about this subject, and I found her argument persuasive. So if you should in fact think that my writing is award-worthy, don’t think that you’re throwing your vote away to mention me.

(6) INFLUENCE VS PERFORMANCE. Or as Cheryl Morgan said it in “Kevin and the Hugos”

My view on this is that it is one thing to have a high position and get nominated for something else (in my case being on the staff of Clarkesworld). It is quite another to have a high position and get nominated for doing that job. In my case, if my WSFS job was getting me votes for my Clarkesworld work, that could be construed as unfair. (I think it is silly to suggest that it was, and the Business Meeting agreed, but that’s not relevant here.) In Kevin’s case the job and the work are the same thing. So yes, having the job makes him noticed, but he’s being nominated for doing the job. That seems entirely reasonable to me.

(7) YOUTUBE STARS. Here’s a trailer for Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, which will be “available on all major digital platforms” on June 7.

(8) COME CORRECT. Adam-Troy Castro says “No, You Have Not Been Nominated For a Hugo This Year”.

Attention to a certain self-published author: no, you have not been nominated for a Hugo this year. Now, I don’t know whether you’ve made an honest mistake, have fallen prey to wishful thinking, or are actively lying, but in any event, you are wrong; just because some folks have filled out the name of your magnum opus on the online Hugo nomination form, doesn’t mean you are “nominated;” certainly not before the nomination period closes, this Thursday.

(9) IT’S GREAT TO BE A GENIUS OF COURSE. Kate Paulk holds forth on “The Problem of Being Too Good” at Mad Genius Club.

One of the things I learned was that in pretty much any creative endeavor the really good ones don’t look like they’re making any effort. They’re so good they make it look easy. They make it feel easy, and they appear to effortlessly produce the effect they’re aiming for, be it a gem of a musical performance or a story that’s a perfect or near perfect example of its art – and it’s so apparently effortless and clear that those of lesser understanding can too easily fail to see the work the author or musician or artist has carefully concealed behind the appearance of easy. That is why seeing the writer sweat is annoying.

Of course, this leads to those of lesser understanding (many of whom think they’re the bees knees and – to paraphrase Douglas Adams – the every other assorted insectile erogenous zone in existence) thinking that a book (or performance or whatever) that looks effortless actually is effortless and therefore is easy. Simply put, they mistake sweat and visible exertion for skill.

What this reminds me of is my favorite Robert Moore Williams quote. Williams was a self-admitted hack sf writer. He was leery of losing sales by being too literary. He said, “You have to stink ’em up just right.”

(10) WHERE THE ROCKS ARE. An amazing map of prehistoric stone structures in the United Kingdom can be found at http://m.megalithic.co.uk/asb_mapsquare.php.

This map of Britain and Ireland, is divided into 100 kilometre squares. Locations of prehistoric stone circles and stone rows are indicated by the red dots. Click on a grid square to see that map sheet in greater detail. Many of the pages have images and links to information elsewhere on the web, making this a master index of Britain and Ireland’s Prehistoric sites.

(11) MEOW WOW.  “George R.R. Martin Spent $3.5 Million to Make This Sci-Fi Art Utopia a Reality” – at Vice.

Perhaps the only thing more disorienting than visiting the art collective Meow Wolf’s permanent art installation, the House of Eternal Return, is getting a Skype tour of the place, which is what I recently received. Labyrinthine and almost hallucinatory, the sprawling former bowling alley has been transformed to a freak-out art mecca, funded by $3.5 million from Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin and another $2.5 million from Kickstarter and other fundraising.

The 20,000-square-foot art space, the size of Gagosian’s Chelsea gallery, opened on Friday with a cavalcade of 5,500 visitors in the first three days, including Martin himself and Neil Gaiman. Described by 33-year-old CEO Vince Kadlubek as the “inside [of] a sci-fi novel,” the House of Eternal Return is many things: a psychedelic art space, a bar, an educational center, a ceramics studio, and an elaborate music venue (with a half school-bus upper deck), featuring a slew of dream-like elements such as black-light carpeting, a laser harp, pneumatic doors, and a 20-foot climbable lookout tower.

(12) COLE’S HEART. I was very impressed with Myke Cole’s contribution to “The Big Idea” feature at Whatever – but I didn’t want to pick an excerpt that would dilute the reading experience, so here is a comparatively bland quote…

When I did my Big Idea post for Gemini Cell, I straight up owned the PTSD allegory. Schweitzer’s undead status kept him permanently apart from the living. He was among them, but not of them, anymore. The resultant isolation was pretty much the same thing many returning veterans feel.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse Five, published.

(14) SUPER BOOKS. Random House Books for Young Readers announced the acquisition of four DC Comics YA novels, with bestselling young adult authors: Wonder Woman will be written by Leigh Bardugo, Batman will be written by Marie Lu, Superman will be written by Matt de la Peña, and Catwoman will be written by Sarah J. Maas.

Wonder Woman will release first at the end of August 2017.

(15) CURSES VERSUS. “Superman And The Damage Done” at Birth.Movies.Death.

There have been other Supermans since, and while none have, in my opinion, reached the heights of Christopher Reeve, all have imparted a similar sense of decency, humbleness and grace. From Brandon Routh to various animated incarnations, children growing up over the past 40 years have found new Supermans they could look to as inspirational models of how heroes act.

But what do the children of today have? Warner Bros, custodian of the Superman legacy, has handed the keys of the character over to Zack Snyder, a filmmaker who has shown he feels nothing but contempt for the character. In doing so they have opened the character to an ugly new interpretation, one that devalues the simple heroism of Superman and turns the decent, graceful character into a mean, nasty force of brutish strength.

Where Superman was originally intended as a hopeful view of strength wielded with responsibility, Snyder presents him as a view of strength as constant destructive force; where Christopher Reeve’s Superman would often float and flit away, Snyder’s version explodes like a rocket at all times, creating sonic booms above city centers in fits of pique, such as after his scene of moping on Lois Lane’s Washington DC hotel balcony. He is a constant weapon of destruction, often smashing concrete when he comes to earth. There are no soft landings for this Superman.

(16) CROWD PLEASER. “SciFi Author Alan Dean Foster Draws Largest Science Speaker Series Crowd in Prescott Campus History” reports the Embry-Riddle Newsroom.

Hundreds of students, staff and faculty filled the AC-1 lecture hall to capacity to hear internationally acclaimed science fiction author Alan Dean Foster talk about “Science in Science Fiction” as part of the College of Arts and Science Speaker Series last Friday.

Foster has written over 100 novels but is best known for authoring the novel versions of many science fiction films including “Star Wars”, the first three Alien films, “The Chronicles of Riddick”, “Star Trek”, “Terminator: Salvation”, and two Transformers films.

Foster believes science is the foundation of science fiction. If the work is not grounded in science then it’s not science fiction, it is fantasy or science fantasy.

“Science fiction sets you on other worlds where you have to create entire environments. Maybe it’s a world with seven different layers or an entirely frozen world. You have to look at a problem and say what’s the best solution here, even if it’s not been created yet,” said Foster. “That solution should still be reasonable. As an author of science fiction, and especially with novel adaptations from movies, I try to fix the science as best as I can. Sometimes they let me and sometimes they don’t.”

(17) BREAKING GAME SHOW NEWS. The March 31 episode of Jeopardy! had a Hugo Award-Winning Novels category – but I haven’t found out what the titles were yet.

(18) SAD NUMBERS. Brandon Kempner spends the last voting day “Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 4” at Chaos Horizon.

What we do know, though, is that last nomination season the Sad Puppies were able to drive between 100-200 votes to the Hugos in most categories, and the their numbers likely grew in the finally voting stage. I estimated 450. All those voters are eligible to nominate again; if you figured the Sad Puppies doubled from the nomination stage in 2015 to now, they’d be able to bring 200-400 votes to the table. Then again, their votes might be diffused over the longer list; some Sad Puppies might abandon the list completely; some Sad Puppies might become Rabid Puppies, and so forth into confusion.

When you do predictive modelling, almost nothing good comes from showing how the sausage is made. Most modelling hides behind the mathematics (statistical mathematics forces you to make all sorts of assumptions as well, they’re just buried in the formulas, such as “I assume the responses are distributed along a normal curve”) or black box the whole thing since people only care about the results. Black boxing is probably the smart move as it prevents criticism. Chaos Horizon doesn’t work that way.

So, I need some sort of decay curve of the 10 Sad Puppy recommendations to run through my model. What I decided to go with is treating the Sad Puppy list as a poll showing the relative popularity of the novels. That worked pretty well in predicting the Nebulas. Here’s that chart, listing how many votes each Sad Puppy received, as well as the relative % compared to the top vote getter.

(19) FROM TEARS TO CHEERS. Dave Hogg is basically a happy voter tonight.

(20) NOT AN APRIL FOOL? From the Official Gmail Blog: “Introducing Gmail Mic Drop”.

Friends and family have been testing Gmail Mic Drop for months, and the response so far has been awesome:

  • “Sending email is so much easier when you don’t have to worry about people responding!”
  • “Mic Drop is a huge improvement over Mute! I can finally let everyone know I’m just not interested.”
  • “My team solves problems so much faster with Mic Drop. In fact, we stopped talking to each other entirely!”

Gmail Mic Drop is launching first on the web, but mobile updates are on the way. So stay tuned, and stay saucy.

Will R. asks me, “Will you be introducing a similar feature? It would make the flounce a whole lot easier.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, A Wee Green Man, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Swanwick, Will R., Rich Lynch, and Reed Andrus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/16 The Game-Players of Bitin’

octarine

(1) IT’S TIME TO PLAY: NAME THAT ELEMENT. You might remember the petition to honor the late Terry Pratchett by giving element 117 the name Octarine — “the color of magic” from Pratchett’s fiction. An article at Nature Chemistry reviews the competing names up for consideration for element 117 — and others.

SB: Petitions like this provide a lot of insight into how people grieve the loss of public figures, but it’s hard, if not impossible, to associate Lemmy with the periodic table or even chemistry and physics. While Lemmy’s death is still fresh in people’s minds, one has to wonder if future generations of scientists would have any connection to him. The petitioners also reference the large mass and expected metallic properties to connect the element with heavy metal music, which is clever on one level, but Lemmy considered Motörhead hard rock not heavy metal. Besides, lemmium would not fall under any of the acceptable categories outlined by IUPAC for naming elements.

KD: You’re probably right, although the petitions have turned out to be a fun way to get people from all areas of life talking about the new elements. We’ve also seen ‘starduston’ and ‘bowium’, in honour of David Bowie. Another example is the one I set up, to name element 117 ‘octarine’, after the colour of magic in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Obviously I’m biased, but I still maintain that it would be rather appropriate for element 117, which will fall into the halogen group. Octarine is famously described as a sort of greenish-yellow purple, and these are, of course, all halogen colours. It even has the correct -ine ending for the group. According to the mythology of the books, it’s only visible to wizards, witches and cats, which also seems appropriate for an element that’s only been observed by a select few. The odds of IUPAC agreeing to this are probably a million to one but, as Pratchett himself wrote in several Discworld books, million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

SB: Once you described octarine, I can see how it fits into the halogen family. For an idea like this to gain traction though, someone on the research teams would need to be a fan of Discworld and advocate for it. So far, the mythological concepts used for element names have come from Greek, Roman and Norse sources. These classic mythologies tend to have more universal recognition. Is modern fiction the same as cultural traditions used to explain nature in the ancient world?

KD: Well, all stories have to start somewhere. IUPAC’s rules don’t put an age on the mythology rule, and indeed cobalt, named after the sprites that apocryphally lived underground where its ores were mined, might arguably be considered to be more recent. There are forty-one Discworld books, which have been translated into thirty-seven languages; I’m certain they’ll be remembered for many years to come. Likewise, the periodic table will probably be around for a while; any story we reference now will eventually be old…

(2) A VISIT TO THE SIXTIES. The keen-eyed Traveler at Galactic Journey argues that 55 years ago women were having an impact on the field greater than their numbers suggest.

1961. The year that an Irishman named Kennedy assumed the highest office in the land.  The year in which some 17 African nations celebrated their first birthday.  The air smells of cigarette smoke, heads are covered with hats, and men run politics, industry, and much of popular culture.

In a field (and world) dominated by men, it is easy to assume that science fiction is as closed to women as the local Elks Lodge.  Who are the stars of the genre?  Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Sheckley; these are household names.  But if there is anything I have discovered in my 11 years as an avid science fiction fan (following another 20 of casual interest), it is that there is a slew of excellent woman authors who have produced a body of high quality work.  In fact, per my notes, women write just one ninth of the science fiction stories published, but a full fourth of the best works.

(3) AND TODAY? This past year, according to William Shaw’s “The top 5 science fiction stories of 2015” in The Oxford Student, women wrote most of the best sf stories. (Three were published by Apex Magazine, and the other two by Uncanny Magazine.)

3. Pocosin by Ursula Vernon [http://www.apex-magazine.com/pocosin/]

The tone of story is best summarised by its central image of drinking whisky with Death. A contemplative tale about an old woman who takes in a dying swamp god, this is a slow, sad little number which nevertheless sparkles with the sense of wit and worldly wisdom that a story involving passive-aggressive banter with the devil really ought to have. Melancholy without being mawkish, funny without being daft, this is a gem of a story that highlights some important environmental concerns.

(4) WHAT MAKES A NOMINEE A NOMINEE. Brian Paone seems to be getting ahead of himself, but perhaps that’s an occupational hazard for the author of a time travel novel. See “Being nominated for a Hugo award is winning in itself”.

I found out this week that my time-travel romance novel, “Yours Truly, 2095” has been nominated by Hugo Award board member Christopher Broom for the most prestigious award a science fiction novel can receive: a Hugo Award. When I first started outlining the book, back in 2012, my goal was just to finish the book, without making it sound like a big pile of smoldering poo. I never expected 1) how happy I am with the finished product 2) then how many people have bought or read the book in the only 9 months its been out 3) then how many positive 4 & 5 star reviews its consistently receiving and finally 4) that I would ever be nominated for anything, never mind a Hugo!

When I told a friend, and fellow author Randy Blazak, his response was, “this will shoot you into the stratosphere.” I appreciate his enthusiasm for what this might do for my career, but honestly, I’m just on cloud nine that I was even nominated. I’m not even thinking of the future yet.

The award ceremony is in Kansas City during the weekend of August 17. For the first few seconds, I contemplated not going, since being at the ceremony is not a prerequisite, but it was my wife (who I always say might be my worst critic, but my number one supporter) told me, in not so many words, not going wasn’t an option.

So now I will be planning (airfare, hotel, etc) over the next few week to attend an award ceremony–not only any award ceremony, but the most prestigious award ceremony of the year–waiting with bated breath to hear my name and book title called out from the podium. And if it doesn’t win, it will not be a loss. It’s already been a greater win for me than I could ever have imaged 4 years ago when I started writing the book.

Sounds like he poured a bit too much of that timey-wimey stuff into his coffee… The nominations won’t be known til after the first round of voting closes March 31.

(5) SUPERHERO MOVIE MAKERS MAY BOYCOTT GEORGIA. Variety reports “Disney, Marvel to Boycott Georgia if Religious Liberty Bill Is Passed”

The Walt Disney Co. and Marvel Studios indicated opposition to a Georgia religious liberty bill pending before Gov. Nathan Deal, saying that they will take their business elsewhere “should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.”

With generous tax incentives, Georgia has become a production hub, with Marvel currently shooting “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” at Pinewood Studios outside Atlanta. “Captain America: Civil War” shot there last summer.

“Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” a Disney spokesman said on Wednesday.

(6) THE TITANOGRAPHY OF TOLKIEN. NASA has updated the Mountains of Titan Map.

This map of Saturn’s moon Titan identifies the locations of mountains that have been named by the International Astronomical Union. The map is an update to a previous version published in 2012 (see Mountains of Titan), and includes an additional mountain area (Moria Montes), along with several “colles” which are collections of hills.

By convention, mountains on Titan are named for mountains from Middle-earth, the fictional setting in fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Unfortunately for “Lord of the Rings” fans, Titan’s highest peak is not Doom Mons (see Radar View of Titan’s Tallest Mountains).

(7) DOG HOUSE RULES. Kate Paulk’s latest policy statement, in “Why The Internets No Can Has Nice Things” at Mad Genius Club.

Those who have asked to be removed are being asterisked instead to indicate that they asked to be taken off. My perspective is that this is a list of people’s recommendations. There is no need to ask for permission, any more than anyone needs to ask for permission to post a review or purchase the work. Frankly, I think asking to be taken off anyone’s list of award-worthy pieces is an insult to the people who genuinely believe the work is that good, so unless someone asking to be removed is prepared to institute a policy that requires prior approval before purchasing their work, reviewing it, and so forth, they stay on the list.

If someone wants their very own asterisk on the list, they need only ask me. I’m not that difficult to get hold of, and I am asterisking those who ask on the two list posts. I’ll asterisk someone who asks here, too. There may be a delay, since I do have a rather demanding full time job, but it will happen.

(8) NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE SUCCESSION. In the Playpen at Ferretbrain, Arthur B. asks:

How do you become the Sad Puppies organiser anyway? Divine right? Killing and eating the heart of your predecessor? Satanic pacts? Who gets to choose who drives the clown car?

(9) DOUBLE-THREAT. How It Should Have Ended not only corrects the illogical events in the The Force Awakens but does it with Lego characters.

(10) COVER LETTER. Karen Junker provided the text of the email she sent to We Are ALL SF members.

Dear We Are ALL SF patrons, I want to apologize to you personally for not getting in touch with you sooner regarding the cancellation of We Are ALL SF Con. Frankly, I have been very ill and I have not known what, exactly, to say.

The con was cancelled after I resigned from the convention board and without the knowledge or consent of the board. There was a lot of confusion and things became too difficult to save the situation. I was re-appointed back to the board and since my name was still on the legal docs, the bank, and the Paypal account, it fell to me to send refunds. I did so by selling a personal investment so that the funds would be covered. I got the refunds out, but was not able to do much more than that, and it has been so emotionally grueling for me to see a project that I had worked on for over a year and poured much of my own personal money into to be destroyed, out of what amounts to petty nonsense.

If you see any public statements about me, please disregard. They are patently untrue. I have a proven track record over the past 15 years in the literary and SFF community. Why someone would attack me or an organization I am attached to is beyond me. I have spent a large sum of my own money in the past few years, putting on writers’ events and workshops and conventions and conferences. We Are ALL SF was no different. I am heartbroken that this great con, which would have been so much fun, was destroyed. I hope to see you again at another thing, some day, somewhere. I wish you well in your work and in your life. Yours, Karen Junker, Chairman, We Are ALL SF Foundation

(11) GIVE THEM LIBERTY. As always, plenty of Baen authors will be attending Libertycon 29 (July 8-10) — Griffin Barber, Rick Boatwright, Walt Boyes, Robert Buettner, David B. Coe, Larry Correia, Kacey Ezell, Bill Fawcett, Charles Gannon, Sarah A. Hoyt, Les Johnson, Mike Massa, Jody Lynn Nye, Gray Rinehart (Master of Ceremonies), John Ringo, Tedd Roberts, Chris Smith, Brad Torgersen, David Weber, Toni Weisskopf, and Michael Z. Williamson.

(12) MISSED ONE. I could have included John Scalzi on the list of “Science Fiction Writers Who Were Never Drunk on Saint Patrick’s Day”. Here’s an excerpt from his post “Why I Don’t Drink or Use Drugs” at Whatever.

It’s true: I don’t drink alcohol except in very rare circumstances (like, half a glass of champagne at my wedding), I’ve never smoked cigarettes, I’ve never taken an illegal drug, and outside of Novocaine at the dentist’s office, I’m generally reluctant to take legal drugs either; my wife always expresses surprise if I go to the medicine cabinet for ibuprofen, for example.  So what’s the story there?

(13) MOST FUN SINCE ADAM. Tor.com collects their favorite tweets from #TheInternetNamesAnimals in “Boaty McBoatface Inspires An Epic Naming Battle on Twitter!”

(14) AN INDISPENSIBLE CULTURAL LANDMARK. The Ukulele Batman vs Bagpipe Superman – Theme Song Battle.

(15) IT WAS BARELY MADE TO START WITH. A remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space? Too late! It was released in the US as video-on-demand last month.

Now the long awaited remake of the classic film is here! In this edge-of-your-set, visually stunning, re-imagination of the original story, “Plan 9” is a spectacular sci-fi/horror adventure with jaw-dropping effects and zombies galore! It’s the film Ed Wood wished he made!

No matter what they say, I was not waiting for this.

And despite all that’s holy, a novelization also came out in February.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Janice Gelb, Mark-kitteh, Hampus Eckerman, Taral, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]