Pixel Scroll 6/10/17 The Scrollish Pixelman’s Union

(1) FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS. Share a grilled snook to die for with Elizabeth Hand in Episode 40 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Elizabeth Hand

We discussed why she probably won’t take LSD on her deathbed, what made her a fan of Marvel rather than DC when she was a kid, her unusual fee for writing term papers back in college, the true meaning of Man’s Search for Meaning, the unfortunate occupational hazard of book reviewing, who was the best science fiction writer of all time (and why), plus more.

(2) MAD PLASTIC DISEASE. Cedar Sanderson raises the spectre of hostile Nature in “Take two aspirin”:

Toni Weisskopf shared a photo on Facebook of a computer module absolutely infested with an ant nest, seething with eggs, and her comment was that she’d like to see more stories like that in science fiction. It’s an excellent point. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read ( and written) where the tech performs flawlessly. Which does happen. There are also stories where it doesn’t, but how many can you think of where the characters have to deal with an infestation? How would we prevent that, control it, and what kind of adaptations will we see?

I’d run across an article recently about bacteria which will break down plastics that were formerly thought invulnerable. Then there was another one speculating about why less plastic (by an order of magnitude) is found in the ocean than projected, and the discovery of novel bacteria on that plastic. The concern was focused on reducing pollution, but what happens when bacteria evolve to eat stuff we want to stay intact and functional? The stories about nanotech making gray goo aren’t that far off from what bacteria are already capable of — only fortunately they are not so fast to act.

(3) STINKS ON DRY ICE. Entertainment Weekly has the roundup: “‘The Mummy’ reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”.

Universal’s first foray into the depths of its Dark Universe probably would have benefitted from a brighter guiding light.

After spending over three decades dazzling audiences across large-scale action-adventures on the big screen, Tom Cruise’s latest genre spectacle, The Mummy, is set to unravel in theaters this Friday. Movie critics, however, got a peek under wraps this week, as movie reviews for the blockbuster project debuted online Wednesday morning. The consensus? According to a vast majority of them, perhaps this romp should’ve remained buried.

(4) 451 CASTING. Probably fortunate, then, that this bit of promotion came out before The Mummy opened: “HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 casting heats up as The Mummy’s Sofia Boutella boards”

If you were already fired up for HBO’s upcoming movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, then prepare to throw a couple more books on the barbie, cause this cast is starting to cook.

Just ahead of her titular turn in this weekend’s The Mummy, Sofia Boutella has signed on to join Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Creed, Fantastic Four) and Michael Shannon (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 99 Homes) as the core players in the film from writer/director Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes).

According to THR, Boutella will play the female lead Clarisse, “an informant caught between” Jordan’s Montag — a fireman whose job it is to burn books, but who ends up rebelling against such a scorching notion after meeting free-spirited Clarisse — and Shannon’s Fire Chief Beatty, Montag’s mentor.

(5) ROSARIUM OPENS ANTHOLOGY. Rosarium Publications invites submissions of science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works to Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan, and Troy L. Wiggins.

TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue will be a new anthology of water-themed speculative short stories that explore all kinds of water lore and deities, ancient and new as well as unimagined tales. We want stories with memorable, engaging characters, great and small, epic tales and quieter stories of personal and communal growth. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works are welcome. We are seeking original stories in English (2500 — 7000 words; pays 5-6 cents per word) from writers of all walks of life from this beautiful planet and will accept some select reprints (pays 2-3 cents per word). Deadline: November 1, 2017. Projected publication: November 2018, Rosarium Publishing, www.rosariumpublishing.com. Please send submissions as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file in standard mss formatting with your name, title, and word count to: TroubletheWaters2018@gmail.com

Complete submission guidelines can be found here.

(6) DYSTOPIAS. The Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy, in “Future Shocks”, reviews Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne and Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing” to see if our love of dystopias as something to do with the continued decline in urban life around the world.

The nightmare near-future city that a writer like Prayaag Akbar, by contrast, summons in his first novel, Leila (2017), rests on a distinctly South Asian set of fears. About a mother’s search for the daughter she was separated from, it is set in a frightening world where cities are segregated into zones of Purity, citizens sorted by their community, surnames, castes and religion.

This background came out of his discomfort with the way Indian cities have developed. “They are segmented, self-enclosing,€ he told me recently. “We practise a kind of blindness — you teach yourself not to see the tragedies that unfold in public spaces.”

These concerns — about cities splitting into walled enclaves, residents separated from each other’s lives by fears of pollution, contamination, or a striving after purity — find startling expression in Hao Jingfang’s Hugo award-winning “Folding Beijing”….

(7) BRADBURY. BookRiot’s Andy Browers is your guide to “A Friend In High And Low Places: Finding Ray Bradbury Where You May Not Expect Him”.

While I hate to ruin surprises, here are four places you might find yourself in his presence, sometimes peripherally, sometimes looking him right in the bespectacled eye.

Star Trek (aka “Star Track”, as my grandma called it)

Too obvious? Maybe. He and Gene Roddenberry, the fella who dreamed the franchise up, were pals who sat at the same midcentury science fiction table in the cafeteria. Bradbury famously loved all things space and rocket related, and it is fitting that he gets a couple of nods as the namesake of a Federation star ship. In the saucily-named episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Menage a Troi”, for instance, which ship is bestowed the great honor of relieving the pain of fandom everywhere by arriving to whisk away Wesley Crusher to Starfleet Academy? The U.S.S. Bradbury, the first of its class.

Wesley missed the space bus by saving the day in that episode, much to the chagrin of a large swath of viewers at home who were sick of having a kid on the Bridge. (Wil Wheaton, I was cheering for you. Please know that.) (Mostly because I kept hoping Wesley would scream TRAAAAIIIIIN in slow motion, which as far I know never happened.)

(8) ORPHAN BLACK. Carl Slaughter advises, “If you haven’t watched Tatiana Maslany portray as many as 14 cones in Orphan Black, you’re missing a treat.”

View Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery, “‘Orphan Black’ A to Z: Dive Into the Show’s DNA Before Its Final Season”.

(9) STREET MEMORIAL. Here’s Pat Evans’ photo of the mementos being left today on Adam West’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. West died on Friday from leukemia.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 10, 1692 — Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged at the Salem Witch trials.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CREATORS

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak.
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker

(12) FAMOUS BOOKSTORE HAS A BACKUP PLAN. The original Books of Wonder, inspiration for the bookstore owned by Meg Ryan’s character in the 1998 comedy You’ve Got Mail, is opening a second location as a contingency plan in case it can’t afford the coming rent hike — “Books of Wonder to Open Upper West Side Location”.

Books of Wonder, the renowned children’s bookstore on 18th Street in New York City, announced Thursday that it would open a second location, on West 84th Street, sometime this summer.

According to the store’s founder and owner, Peter Glassman, the 18th Street store’s lease will expire at the end of 2019. “Given the rise in retail rents along 18th Street, I am not optimistic about our ability to renew the lease,” he said. Though he said he planned to seek a new location in that area, the impending uncertainty was part of his decision to open another branch on the Upper West Side.

“I wanted to make sure we had another location open and well established before the current store’s lease expires, so if we have difficulty finding a new location and have to close for a few months we would have another location to serve our customers, not be out of business for any period of time, and not have to lay off my wonderful staff,” he said.

Andrew Porter adds,

When they opened, originally on Hudson Street in the lower Village, they were primarily an SF/fantasy-oriented store. They took out full-page ads in my Algol/Starship, then in SF Chronicle. The store regularly has readings and signings by SF/F YA and children’s authors, for example, with Sarah Beth Durst. It has also published numerous books by and about L. Frank Baum.

 

Peter Glassman. Photo by Andrew Porter:

Sarah Beth Durst and Bruce Coville at her signing in 2015. Photo by Andrew Porter.

(13) TOMBSTONE TERRITORY. This just in from the Australian National Convention.

(14) DEADPOOL’S NEXT RAMPAGE. Marvel pulls back the shroud, er, curtain.

If you’re Deadpool and you kill the entire Marvel Universe, why not eat some chimichangas…and then kill all over again? Proving there’s nothing like revenge, the superstar team of Cullen Bunn (X-Men Blue, Venomverse) and Dalibor Talajic (Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe, Redwolf) reunite to bring you Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again, and the Merc with the Mouth has never been more ready to return to that katana.

“This is not a sequel to the original story,” warns series writer Cullen Bunn. “This is an all new murderous rampage. The Marvel Universe has changed a great deal since the first series. So, of course, Deadpool had to up his game and change his tactics.”

 

(15) WONDER MOTHER. Marguerite Bowling, in a Daily Signal piece called “Wonder Woman Can Get the Job Done Pregnant, So Can You” says that Gal Gadot’s reshooting fight scenes while five months pregnant should be an inspiration to women. (The Daily Signal is a news website run by the Heritage Foundation.)

But here’s another fun fact that shows you can proudly be pro-mom and pro-career woman: Israeli actress Gal Gadot was five months pregnant with her second child when she did reshoot scenes for the movie that included a climactic battle scene.

To get around her then-visible baby bump, costumers cut an ample triangle on her iconic suit and replaced it with a bright green cloth that allowed the movie’s special effects team to change her figure post-production.

Given the prevailing negative news that shows women facing all sorts of career challenges by wanting to have a baby, it’s refreshing to see a successful woman embrace her pregnancy and still do an exceptional job.

(16) MIL-SF. Jeffrey C. Wells says “I Can’t Believe it’s not Baen: Rick Shelley’s Lieutenant Colonel” — and throws in a funny bingo card as a bonus.

If you didn’t figure it out from the title, or the cover, Lieutenant Colonel is Military Sci-Fi (Mil-SF for short), a genre devoted to chronicling how and why people are gonna shoot at each other in the future. And, also unsurprisingly, Lieutenant Colonel is the fifth book in Shelley’s “DMC” series, with each earlier book having sequential titles like Lieutenant, then Major, then Captain, and so on. Not exactly creative, but what can you do.

In any case, this series centers around a dude named Lon Nolan as he works his way up through the ranks in the Dirigent Mercenary Corps (from which we get the “DMC” acronym). Lon is your typical officer– professional, honorable, and — kind of boring. Dude makes Honor Harrington seem like Hamlet. Wait, no, that’s not a good analogy, ‘cause Harrington gets shit done. But I digress.

…Thankfully, Lieutenant Colonel doesn’t delve into super preachiness. Though it did inspire me to create MIL-SF BINGO! Just print this off next time you read about space-soldiers shooting space-lasers at space-commies, and check off the boxes as you go along!

(17) WIDER SPECTRUM. An Adweek story tells how “Equinox Extends LGBTQA from A to Z With a New Alphabet for Pride Month”.

It’s Pride Month! And every year, around this time, a certain kind of pundit hops on a soapbox to complain about how the term “LGBTQA” just keeps getting longer, and isn’t that just ludicrous?

Actually, it isn’t. In fact, it’s not nearly long enough. And a campaign from Wieden + Kennedy New York highlights why.

For Equinox and the LGBTQA Community Center, the agency has produced “The LGBTQAlphabet,” whose chill and choreographed film goes down the list of not six letters but 26. The goal is to show that a handful of labels isn’t remotely sufficient to encompass the complex identities of the world’s 7 billion people.

(18) SHARKES KEEP NIBBLING. Here are more recent reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury, and a guest post by the actual Clarke Award director.

This is the future we were promised. This is what all those science fiction novels from way back told us to expect: silver-finned rocket ships taking us out to the frontier towns of Mars and beyond; clanking metal robots wanting to be human; people transformed into something monstrous by whatever is out there.

And Tidhar, whose work has always displayed an over-fond preference for intertextual references to other science fictions, makes absolutely certain we recognise that these are other writers’ futures. The digital vampire is called a Shambleau, a pointed reference to the first of C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith adventures. There are repeated references to someone called Glimmung on Mars, which of course recalls Philip K. Dick’s children’s novel, Nick and the Glimmung, which is, of course, set on Mars. And the presiding spirit that dominates the whole novel is probably Cordwainer Smith, with the way space is repeatedly described as the “Up and Out”, as well as casual references to C’Mell and Mother Hitton. There are more, some less familiar than others; I’m pretty sure that there are references to Edward Whittemore’s little-known but brilliant Jerusalem Quartet scattered throughout this novel. Someday, I suspect, someone might produce a concordance for Central Station, teasing out all of the echoes of and references to other works of science fiction. It will be a thick volume.

Of course, no one has gone broke by playing to the geeky self-regard of the science fiction fan. In recent years, self-referential science fiction books, novels like Among Others by Jo Walton that deliberately draw attention to other science fiction works, have proved especially popular.

If not for my commitment to the Sharke process I wouldn’t have chosen to write about Occupy Me; it’s unlikely that I would have finished reading it at all. My immediate response was akin to a toddler presented with something green and fresh and healthy: stampy feet; scowly face; a protesting shriek of ‘I don’t like it!’. I bounced off the book hard and repeatedly, and continued to do so despite dosing myself with Gareth’s blazingly positive review and Nina and Paul’s balanced perspectives at the midway point. Whatever the book’s thematic qualities, whatever its madcap quirks — and often because of them — I couldn’t stomach it. I find it impossible to see or be fair to the better parts of the novel because I’m painfully fixated on the fundamental ways in which it fails for me. Under usual circumstances I would think it ill-advised to throw a hat into the critical ring when I have so little critical perspective to share but I will try to explain.

While the Clarke Award can never guarantee having every potentially eligible book submitted, we are able to offer a reasonably comprehensive ‘state of the nation’ snap shot via our lists, not only of the books themselves but also for deeper analysis into the numbers of submitting publishers, the demographic breakdowns of authors and similar should people want to take those numbers and run with them.

More immediately, after my first couple of spins in the director’s chair I was starting to learn all of the ongoing debates, criticisms and wishes that surrounded the award’s announcements every year.

The award was, in no particular order, overly predictable, willfully unpredictable as a tactic to generate PR controversy, trying too hard to be the Booker, ignoring the heartlands of SF, full of wrongheads (a lovely fannish term that one), and so on and so on — Business as usual for a book award in other words.

(19) DRINK IT OR ELSE. Atlas Obscura recalls a series of 1950s commercials for Wilkins Coffee that featured violent Muppets prototypes.

In the ads, Wilkins — who bears a striking resemblance to Kermit the Frog — tries to convince another proto-Muppet, Wontkins to drink Wilkins Coffee. Wontkins almost always refuses. In retaliation, Wilkins shoots him, stabs him, or otherwise inflicts physical harm upon him.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, JJ, John King Tarpinian and Lace for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr, with a little help from his friends.]

Pixel Scroll 3/2/17 Doing The Trilogy Backwards

(1) RECURSIVE NEWS. The Large Hadron Collider gets a pixel tracker.

Officials said the replacement of a key component inside the CMS experiment represented the first major upgrade to the LHC – the world’s biggest machine.

Engineers have been carefully installing the new “pixel tracker” in CMS in a complex and delicate procedure on Thursday 100m underground….

More than 1,200 “dipole” magnets steer the beam around a 27km-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss border. At certain points around the ring, the beams cross, allowing collisions to take place. Large experiments like CMS and Atlas then record the outcomes of these encounters, generating more than 10 million gigabytes of data every year.

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) pixel tracker is designed to disentangle and reconstruct the paths of particles emerging from the collision wreckage.

“It’s like substituting a 66 megapixel camera with a 124 megapixel camera,” Austin Ball, technical co-ordinator for the CMS experiment, told BBC News.

In simple terms, the pixel detector takes images of particles which are superimposed on top of one another, and then need to be separated.

(2) COLLECTING THE CURE. A bidder paid top dollar for a moldy piece of history.

The mold in question — which actually outpaced early expectations to be sold for a whopping $14,617, according to The Associated Press — is a capsule of the original Penicillium chrysogenum Alexander Fleming was working with when he discovered the antibiotic penicillin. Encased in a glass disc, inscribed with the words “the mould that first made Penicillin,” and signed by Fleming himself, the little sample comes from the collection of Fleming’s niece, Mary Anne Johnston.

(3) GOLD RUSS. James Davis Nicoll has the panelists reading “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ at Young People Read Old SFF.

With this story we enter the 1970s, the last decade in the Young People project . I knew which story I wanted to begin the decade with: Joanna Russ’ 1972 Nebula-winner “When It Changed”. Noted author and critic Russ’s story is a reply to such classics as Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, stories in which planets populated entirely by women are granted that most precious of treasures, a man and his unsolicited advice. Russ was not always entirely pleased by the status quo. Subtle hints of her displeasure can be detected in this classic first contact tale.

Of course, we live in a modern era of complete equality between the sexes. Who knows if this story can speak to younger people? Let’s find out!

Here’s one participant’s verdict –

….I’d still be willing to suggest that “When It Changed” is the most relevant of all the stories we’ve read so far in this project. I’m sure this is a very hard to believe statement, especially when you compare the story to some of the others we’ve read (i.e. dolphin-people and doomsday don’t-let-the-sun-set cultists), but I’m willing to say it and stand by it, for a few reasons….

(4) DEALING WITH IT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Musings: Writing with Chronic Health Problems” deals with something I’m sure many writers are doing after seeing people’s comments here.

It wasn’t until I got a Fitbit on a lark that exercise became do-not-miss for me. Why? Because I can hit my 10,000 steps even when I’m sick. I shuffle around the house like the walking dead, determined to hit that magic number, because I’m anal, and because finishing my steps every day before midnight is something I can control.

The knee injury got in the way. I made my doctor give me a schedule and benchmarks so that I wouldn’t start up again too soon, but also so that I would start as soon as I could. He thought I was nuts, but he did it. And I followed it, even though I didn’t want to. (I wanted to hobble around the house to hit that magic 10,000 steps.) Even with an injured knee, I got 3,000-4,000 steps per day (using crutches), because I really can’t sit down for very long.

It drives me crazy.

So why am I telling you all of this? This is a writing blog, right?

Because dozens of you have asked me, both privately and in comments, how I write with a chronic health condition.

There really is a trick to the writing while chronically ill. But the trick is personal, and it’s tailored to each individual person.

So, more personal stories—and then tips.

(5) MoPOP. Nominations for next year’s inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame are being taken from the public through April 16.

We’ve opened up our Hall of Fame nominations to the public so that you can choose the creations (e.g. a movie, video game, book, comic/graphic novel, superhero, etc.) and creators (e.g. director, actor, writer, animator, composer, etc.) that have most inspired you!

MoPOP also says the public will be able to vote for the selected finalists later this year, although it’s unclear what impact that vote will have. The website says —

Founded in 1996, the Hall of Fame was relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to its permanent home at MoPOP in 2004. Nominations are accepted from the public and the final inductees are chosen by a committee of industry experts.

A public was invited to vote was taken on last year’s nominees, too, but as it says above, selected experts chose the inductees.

(6) NEBULA NOMINEE. Brooke Bolander, who calls this “sputtering,” writes a pretty good thank-you: “Nebula Finalist Frenzy, or: IT HAPPENED AGAIN WTF BBQ”.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” my thousand-word rage bark published in Uncanny Magazine, is a finalist for the Best Short Story Nebula. Again, to everyone who put it on their ballot: holy shit, thank you so goddamned much. I was helping clean up after a family funeral when I got the call, so to say that I needed that good news is a grave and frankly insulting understatement to the gift you all handed me. I didn’t expect to get on the ballot last year. I figured it was probably the last time I’d be within six city blocks of a ballot for a long, long time, if ever. Is being a finalist again so soon intimidating? You’d better fuckin’ believe it, buster. Is trying to figure out how I am going to follow this up absolutely bowel-twistingly terrifying, the fear that I’ll never write anything else worthwhile once again lurking at the edges of my internal narrative like a shadow beneath a 1 AM streetlamp? DING DING DING.

(7) SURVIVOR. Pat Cadigan is deeply reflective in this installment of “Still Making Cancer My Bitch”.

…At the same time, however, it’s a little spooky to think that, had my cancer followed its standard course––had I not gotten so extremely lucky––I wouldn’t be here now. And the two friends I lost were supposed to be living their lives as usual. John Lennon once pointed out that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Truer words were never spoken.

A few days ago, I had started writing a post about survivor guilt. There have been a few posts I found very difficult and uncomfortable to write but this one was impossible. I have seldom written nonfiction; it’s really not my metier. I did write two nonfiction books in the late 1990s, one about the making of Lost In Space and another a year later about the making of The Mummy; they were assignments I lucked into and I think they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. But I digress.

Survivor guilt is one of those things easier felt than explained––easier done than said, if you will. You can’t write about it without sounding like you’re fishing for comfort: Please forgive me for still being alive. You know people are going to tell you that you have nothing to feel guilty about. Except for the few whom you secretly suspect don’t forgive you.

Personally, I’ve always thought of survivor guilt as something suffered by people who have been through terrible catastrophes––natural disasters, mass transit crashes, explosions, wars. These people have been through extreme trauma and injury themselves. So claiming I have survivor guilt sounds self-aggrandising. The truth is, I’ve never been in pain and thanks to my family and my ongoing support system of friends far and wide, I’ve never felt alone or like I had no one to talk to.

What I’m feeling is more like survivor embarrassment. It’s like this: you find out you’re terminal, and you make a big deal out of it, because what the hell, it is a big deal, to you anyway. Then, holy guacamole! Things take a completely unexpected swerve and it turns out you’re not as terminal as they thought. You’re not exactly well, not in remission, but you’re stable and you’re not leaving any time soon unless someone drops a house on you. (And even then, it would probably depend on the house.)

(8) BEAR NECESSITIES. Worldcon 75 has received a 5000 € grant from Art Promotion Centre Finland. If you read Finnish, you can find out the details in the organization’s press release.

(9) ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE. “Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago”. The Telegraph has the story.

Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago

It’s life, but not as we know it. The oldest fossil ever discovered on Earth shows that organisms were thriving 4.2 billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought.

The microscopic bacteria, which were smaller than the width of a human hair, were found in rock formations in Quebec, Canada, but would have lived in hot vents in the 140F (60C) oceans which covered the early planet.

The discovery is the strongest evidence yet that similar organisms could also have evolved on Mars, which at the time still had oceans and an atmosphere, and was being bombarded by comets which probably brought the building blocks of life to Earth.

….Space expert Dr Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University added: “The discovery is exciting since it demonstrates how quickly life can form if the conditions are right on a planet or moon.

“This makes it clear to me that as soon as we find conditions on an exoplanet that would favour life as we know it, the probability of finding some form of life on that planet is very high. However, we are not talking about little green aliens but about microorganisms.

(10) ABSTRACT THINKING. Click here for the table of contents of the March issue of Science Fiction Studies which brings us, among other headscratchers, Thomas Strychacz’ “The Political Economy of Potato Farming in Andy Weir’s The Martian” —

Abstract. This essay examines the diverse political-economic registers of Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011) in terms of its symbolic response to the material and ideological crises of the Great Recession. The 2008 financial collapse in the US led to millions losing their homes and posed a serious challenge to the legitimacy of mainstream economic principles. Published at the height of the crisis, and concerning itself with the monumental challenge of bringing just one person home, the novel writes contested economic discourses into cultural fable. On Mars, Mark Watney’s potato farming evokes the paradigmatic neoclassical economic figure of homo economicus, the self-interested, maximizing agent who constantly prioritizes competing choices in order to allocate scarce resources rationally. NASA’s Earth, conversely, is a fantastic world of “unlimited funding” where, overturning two centuries of (neo)classical economic principle, “every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out” (Weir 368-69). The novel’s confused attempts to reconcile homo economicus with a workable concept of the common good can be historicized. Other prominent documents of the recessionary era—the US government’s official Report on the Financial Crisis and Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration among them—manifest the same yearning to restore a vanishing sense of commonwealth.

(11) REVENGE OF THE SON OF THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE. Two more shortlists from Shadow Clarke jurors.

One of the things I wanted to do with my shortlist was to explore the idea of the Arthur C. Clarke Award as an institution that challenges the near-monopoly that genre publishing has over not only the field’s annual hype cycle but also over the construction of literary excellence. Traditionally, the Clarke Award has filled this role by smuggling a few choice mainstream titles over the ghetto walls but what if those disruptive tendencies were allowed to manifest themselves more fully? What if the Clarke Award came to represent genre publishing industry’s systematic failure to drive the genre forwards?

In order to come up with a deliberately counter-cultural shortlist, I made several passes through the submissions list in order to rule things out before making more positive choices about the things I wanted to read and write about:

…Second pass: Genre publishing has slowly developed a near-monopoly on the means through which individual works acquire a word-of-mouth buzz. This monopoly is partly a result of publishers and authors developing direct relationships with reviewers and partly a result of critics and reviewers losing influence in the age of Goodreads and Amazon reviews. With most of genre culture’s systems of recommendation skewed in favour of genre imprints and established genre authors, I chose to prioritise works that were either produced outside of conventional genre culture or which have been marginalised by genre publishing and forced towards smaller publishing venues….

…The task of compiling a shortlist is slightly different for the shadow Clarke juror, because there is more scope to set a personal agenda. What do I want my shortlist to be? This question came into sharp focus when I looked at the list of submissions, and realised that I wouldn’t want to shortlist any of the books that I’d already read.

So I have had to fall back on books that I would like to read. On that basis, I decided to orient my shortlist around the idea of discovery, focusing primarily on authors I hadn’t read much before, and taking note of a few strong recommendations from trusted sources….

Mark-kitteh sent the links along with these comments: “I did a spot of tallying up:

  • The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead 5
  • Central Station — Lavie Tidhar 4
  • A Field Guide to Reality?— Joanna Kavenna 4
  • The Many Selves of Katherine North?—?Emma Geen 3
  • The Power — Naomi Alderman 3
  • The Gradual?— Christopher Priest 3

“Which conveniently makes a potential shortlist of 6. It’s unlikely to be the final result, but the jurors seem to have more to agree on than to disagree.

“They are followed by another 7 chosen by two jurors, plus 10 singletons with a lone champion. Nick Hubble has the honour of being the only juror with at least one other agreeing with all his choices.”

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Monopoly Board Games produced after September 2008 come with $20,580 in play money. Standard editions produced before that came with $15,140.

(13) TODAY’S DAY

Today is Dr. Seuss Day, a full twenty-four hours to make a mess with the Cat in the Hat, dance around with the Fox in Sox, hear a Who with Horton, count the red and blue fish, help the Grinch see the error of his ways, and listen to Sam I Am’s friend complain about his dish of green eggs and ham, the ungrateful hairball!

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(15) EARLY BARR. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf has an eye for talent — “[March 1,1962] Hearts and Flowers (April 1962 Fantastic)”:

Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

Before we get to the mushy stuff, however, Judith Merril offers us a mysterious look at The Shrine of Temptation.  George Barr’s beautiful cover art appears to have inspired this ambiguous tale of good, evil, and strange rituals.  Barr’s work has appeared in a handful of fanzines for a few years, but I believe this is his first professional publication.  Based on the quality of this painting, I believe the young artist has a fine career ahead of him.

(16) IT’S MERVEILLEUX. At The New York Review of Science Fiction: “Brian Stableford: Madme De Villaneuve and the Origins of the Fantasy Novel”

The first concerted attempt to define and characterize a genre of fantasy fiction was made by Charles-Joseph Mayer between 1785 and 1789 when he published the 41 exemplary volumes of Le Cabinet des fées, ou Collection choisie des contes de fées et autres contes merveilleux [The Cabinet of the Fairies, or, Selected Collection of Fairy Tales and Other Marvelous Tales] in parallel with Charles Garnier’s Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques [Imaginary Voyages, Dreams, Visions, and Cabalistic Fiction]. The latter is now regarded as most significant for the volumes containing imaginary voyages that can be affiliated in retrospect to the nascent genre of roman scientifique [scientific fiction] but, as the full title illustrates, it contains a good deal of material that would nowadays be considered to belong to the fantasy genre, and some of the items, such as Madame Roumier-Robert’s “Les Ondins, conte moral” (1768; tr. as “The Water-Sprites”) would have been perfectly at home in Mayer’s collection. It was, however, Mayer’s assembly that identified the two principal strands of the genre of the merveilleux as the mock folktales that became fashionable in the literary salons of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in association with the court of Louis XIV and tales written in imitation of Antoine Galland’s collection of Les Mille-et-une nuits (1707–19), which claimed to be translations of Arabian folklore, although many of the inclusions are drastically rewritten from the original manuscripts or wholly invented by Galland.

(17) PULLMAN. In “Paradise regained: ‘His Dark Materials’ is even better than I remembered”, the Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy uses the forthcoming publication of The Book of Dust to discuss how she read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy ten years ago and how much she enjoyed these books. (The article is behind a paywall; the link is to a Google cache which can be read after taking a survey.)

The first in the trilogy is the most memorably dazzling, a classic quest story where the young Lyra travels to the north, befriending armoured bears and witch-queens. She has a daemon, Pantalaimon — most people in her world do, the daemon being an animal who is the external manifestation of a person’s inner spirit — and that is what I remembered most about the trilogy. When His Dark Materials came out, most of my friends abandoned their dignity and played games of Guess His Daemon? assigning slinking jackals or brown marmorated stink bug daemons to those they didn’t like.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. BoingBoing tells about the Norwegian news site that makes readers pass a test proving they read the post before commenting on it.

The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they’re allowed to post a comment. (For instance, in the digital surveillance story: “What does DGF stand for?”)

(19) THE CULTURE WARS.  Yes, it’s Buzzfeed – perhaps someday you’ll forgive me. “This Far-Right Tweet About ‘The Future That Liberals Want’ Backfired Into A Huge Meme”. A lot of tweets have been gathered in this post – here are three examples, the tweet that started everything, one of the pushback, and a third from the bizarre spinoffs.

(Buzzfeed says the photo was originally posted on @subwaycreatures, where it was used to “showcase the beauty of New York’s diversity.”)

Finally:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title inspiration credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]