Pixel Scroll 5/22/17 Little Pixels Made Of Ticky Tacky All In A Row

(1) HOW POWERFUL IS SF? When their joint book tour brought them to San Francisco, Goodreads members had a chance to quiz this dynamic duo: “The Authors@Goodreads Interview with John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow”.

GR: Goodreads member Lissa says, “When I read the description of Walkaway, I was wondering ‘Will he have written the book we need to wake us up and get us to pay attention, or the book we need to prepare us for what he thinks might be coming?'”

DOCTOROW: I think…we overestimate the likelihood of things we can vividly imagine and spend a lot of time worrying about our kids getting snatched by strangers and not nearly enough time worried about them getting killed by food poisoning or car accidents. We have this giant war on terror but no war on listeria despite the fact that inadequate refrigeration kills a lot more Americans than terrorism does. It has to do with how vividly we can imagine those things…..

GR: Are the worlds you create the kind of worlds you want to live in?

SCALZI: No! I write terrible universes where horrible things are happening, I like where ‘m living now. Some years are better than others, but altogether ‘m OK with who I am and where I am in the world.

(2) NEED IT RIGHT AWAY. What’s the next thing collectors absolutely must have? Could it be — “Pint Size Heroes”! (They remind me a lot of the Pet Shop pets my daughter used to love, except completely different, of course.)

This series features characters from some of your favorite science fiction movies and television! Including Martian from Mars Attacks, Neo from The Matrix, Leeloo from The Fifth Element, Predator and many more! Collect them all this Summer!

(3) TIME ENOUGH FOR CHEESECAKE LOVE. Here’s what Neil Gaiman will do for half a million dollars — that isn’t even for him. Let Yahoo! News set the scene:

The Cheesecake Factory‘s menu is the In Search of Lost Time of the restaurant industry, in that it is far too long and probably includes a madeleine or two.

Neil Gaiman is a very famous author (American Gods, Stardust, Coraline) with a notably soothing British accent, who has nothing to do with the Cheesecake Factory but has been dared to read its convoluted bill of fare anyway.

How’d this happen?

It all began with writer/comedian Sara Benincasa, a self-professed cheesecake addict…

She has secured Gaiman’s agreement and has launched a fundraiser at Crowdwise. — “Neil Gaiman Will Do A Reading Of The Cheesecake Factory Menu If We Raise $500K For Refugees”.

Will the appeal be strong enough for the fund to meet its goal? Only $2,321 has been pledged as of this afternoon.

(4) IT NEEDED SAVING? In the opinion of the Chicago Tribune “Novelist Timothy Zahn is the man who saved ‘Star Wars,’ according to fans”. There’s no doubt they’ve been good for each other.

Timothy Zahn, who is 65 and bald and carries an ever-so-slight air of social anxiety, is nobody’s image of a superstar. And yet as he sat behind table No. 26 and waited for fans, he did not wait long. The doors to the convention hall at McCormick Place opened at 10 a.m., and by 10:10 a.m. the line of people to meet Zahn was the second-longest at C2E2, the massive Chicago comic book convention held each spring. Only Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and the Hulk, could boast longer lines. This was a few weeks ago, just as “Thrawn,” Zahn’s latest “Star Wars” novel, was debuting at No. 2 on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

(5) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Tyrannosaurus rex is still nature’s most-feared predator: “Woman In T-Rex Costume Charged With Scaring Horses”.

Growling at carriage horses while wearing a full-body Tyrannosaurus Rex suit is illegal, a South Carolina woman has learned.

As two horses pulled a carriage of tourists through Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday evening, the horses came face to face with an unfamiliar animal: a six-foot, orange dinosaur. The extinct beast, however, was actually a person in an inflatable T-Rex suit. And when the person allegedly growled at the carriage, the horses became startled, backing the carriage into a parked car, unseating the carriage driver, and running over his leg.

Though multiple onlookers captured photos and video of the incident, the agitator’s face was concealed inside the dinosaur suit, leaving police without a suspect until 26-year-old Nicole Wells turned herself into police Friday night. She was charged with disorderly conduct and wearing a mask or disguise.

Wearing a mask is illegal in South Carolina, and Charleston has particularly strict anti-mask ordinances. City residents over the age of 16 are prohibited from wearing masks in public places, even on Halloween. And after Wells allegedly spooked the carriage horses, locals placed a bounty on her T-Rex head.

(6) THIS WON’T BE DIRT CHEAP. A sack of gold dust wouldn’t bring as much as this NASA artifact is predicted to fetch at auction.

A small white pouch marked “Lunar Sample Return,” which Nancy Lee Carlson bought two years ago for $995, is expected to fetch as much as $4 million at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. That’s because it’s sprinkled with moon dust.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong filled the bag with rocks from the lunar Sea of Tranquility during his historic trip to the moon on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. He turned the bag over to a Houston lab, which emptied it of the rocks and then lost track of it. It eventually turned up on a U.S. Marshals auction website.

Enter Carlson, a Chicago-area attorney. She bought the pouch — along with some other items, in a kind of space-memento grab bag — for $995 and sent it off to NASA for testing. NASA claimed the bag belonged to the agency, and wouldn’t return it until after a long court battle. You’d think Carlson was asking for the moon.

The bag is expected to go for such a sky-high price because NASA doesn’t allow anyone to own any bit of the moon –except for the bag.

Sotheby’s senior specialist Cassandra Hatton called the auction of the “modest bag” her “Mona Lisa moment.”

(7) TAKE THE TEST. The Guardian will let you audition: “Ignore or delete: could you be a Facebook moderator?” Looks like I won’t be working for FB anytime soon — I only matched their decision 9 out of 16 times.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

History of Goth Day

The history of Goth Day stretches back in odd and meandering paths to history. Musically it can be traced back to 1967 when someone referred to the music of the Doors as “Gothic Rock.” This term was soon being bandied about, used to describe music like Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, and Siouxsie and the Banshee’s described as one of “Goth Rocks Architects”.

But why “Gothic”? It’s an odd term considering that it originally referred to the Visigoths whose claim to fame was sacking Rome. So how did Goths become Goths? Well, we can trace the term back a bit further to 1764, where Horace Walpole wrote a story called “The Castle of Otranto”, granted the subtitled “A Gothic Story” during its second printing. So what is Gothic in this context? It describes a “pleasing sort of horror”, and was seen to be a natural extension of Romantic literature. This, of course, implies a sort of romance with the darker side of life, something that can be said to describe the little blossoms of gloom described at the beginning.

Goth Day celebrates all these souls, and the part of them that celebrates the darkness within us all through music, art, and media.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

(10) HIGH FRONTIER CULTURE. The Washington Post’s Sarah L. Kaufman describes the Washington Ballet’s forthcoming, space-themed production — “For a Washington Ballet premiere: Dancers, spacesuits and Velcro. Lots of Velcro. “.

“Frontier” will have its world premiere May 25, with performances continuing through May 27 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. It tells the story of a group of ASCANS –the NASA acronym for astronaut candidates –and flight technicians preparing for a mission, and the stage effects include a rocket launch and travel to a distant planet.

Just 25 minutes long, the ballet is a big event for everyone involved, but especially for Stiefel, the retired American Ballet Theatre star who is unveiling his first major commission as a choreographer, and for Washington Ballet Artistic Director Julie Kent, who asked Stiefel, her friend and former dance partner, to tie his ballet to the Kennedy Center’s John F. Kennedy centennial celebration. That’s where the space theme came from, reflecting the former president’s expansion of the space program.

(11) SHADOW CLARKE. Another pair of reviews from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

The other day, when I was reviewing Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, I noted that it was one of two books I still had to write about from my initial list that hadn’t made either the Sharke Six or the official Clarke Award shortlist. I then proceeded to detail why I thought the Brooks-Dalton hadn’t made the lists (it’s not really very good science fiction).

This is the second, and the reasons The Gradual didn’t make either list are, well, I don’t know.

One of the most common accusations levelled at genre fiction is that it is… generic: a typical police procedural will see a detective with a troubled home life win out over bureaucratic incompetence to catch a killer, a standard romance will see two seemingly ill-matched individuals coming together across geographical and social divides to reach a perfect understanding, and we’ve all watched horror movies where we spend the first half of the film yelling at the characters not to go into the house. The reason we still enjoy such stories is often related to their very predictability — we find a formula that works for us, where each new iteration is a pleasure that is doubled in its anticipation, like slipping back into a comfortable pair of slippers.

I would suggest there is something folkloric in such archetypes, something of the mythical, and what genre’s detractors often fail to notice about archetypes is how flexible they are, how ripe for re-imagining and subversion…

(12) BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT. Last year’s Clarke Award winner begins a multi-part rundown of this year’s shortlisted works.

Because I didn’t get the chance to do a Clarkeslist post last year, for what I hope are excusable reasons, I was denied the opportunity to laud Chambers’ first outing, A Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet. This book was one of the ones I would have been happiest to lose to. It was also the subject of a mixed bag of reviews, which may be because it’s SF about, not the space beyond our atmosphere but the space between people (which €˜people’ very emphatically includes nonhuman sentience).

(13) DIVERSE AWARDS COMMENTARY. Cora Buhlert has “A few words on the 2016 Nebula Awards, the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the Shadow Clarkes”.

…In other awards news, the shortlist for the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been announced as well. It’s a pretty good shortlist, consisting of a Hugo and Nebula Award nominee (Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee), a Hugo nominee, sequel to one of last year’s Clarke Award nominees (A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers), this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction and the literary speculative fiction novel of the year (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead), a new novel by a former Clarke Award winner (Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan), a new work by an author nominated for multiple BSFA, British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards (Central Station by Lavie Tidhar) and a Locus Award nominated novel by an established and talented, but somewhat overlooked writer (After Atlas by Emma Newman). It’s also a nicely diverse shortlist, ranging from space opera and military SF via dystopian fiction to alternate history. The writer demographics are diverse as well — after the debacle of the all male, all white shortlist in 2013, in spite of a jury consisting of several women — and include three men and three women, two writers of colour, at least two LGBT writers and one international writer. At the Guardian, David Barnett also reports on the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist and praises its diversity

(14) NONREADERS DIGEST. At Lady Business, Ira and Anna try to help readers evaluate one of the nominees for the Best Series Hugo by presenting “The Vorkosigan Saga in 5 Books”.

Ira

Friends! One of my favourite things made of words ever is up for the Best Series Hugo this year! That is correct, The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold is a Hugo Finalist. And I am here with the lovely frequent Lady Business guest poster forestofglory (Anna), a fellow Vorkosigan fan, to present you with two ways to skim the highlights of this series in 5 books each.

Anna

Five books is kind of an arbitrary cutoff, but it’s a lot fewer than 17!

Ira

Isn’t that right!

Now, you may have seen that your Hugo packet includes Borders of Infinity as the sole representative of the Vorkosigan Saga. This is a collection of novellas/short stories with some interstitial material that constitutes its own (very) short story. If Baen, the publisher, had to pick ONE book, this is not a bad choice, as it gives several interesting adventures and tones from this series. However, Anna and I think it doesn’t really cover the breadth of the series, and we’re here to fix that.

This post is intended for two audiences: (1) People who have never encountered a Vorkosigan book in their life, or maybe have read one or two but don’t really know the full series, so we can suggest a subset of the series that is readable by the Hugo voting deadline; and (2) Fans of the series so they can come argue with us about our picks. BOTH ARE SO WELCOME….

(15) PALATE CLEANSER. Need a change of pace before diving back into the Hugo Voter Packet? Maybe Short Story Squee & Snark can help. “The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley is their latest discussion pick.

“The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley. Novelette. Published in Uncanny Jan/Feb 2017.

Suggested by Mark Hepworth:

I love “secret history” style stories, which this combines with a carefully crafted nest of narratives.

This one has reactions all over the map, which should make for some interesting discussion!

Charles Payseur echoes our recommendation: “This story is something of a Master’s course in nested narratives, unfolding like a puzzlebox that defies reality and is much larger on the inside than it appears.”

Tangent Online reviewer Herbert M. Shaw calls it “overlong and burdensome,” and “a rejected plot from the Doctor Who storyboards, featuring Edgar Allan Poe.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lovestreams by Sean Buckalew on Vimeo explains what happens when two people who have only “met” through IM messages step through a portal to “meet” in cyberspace.

[Thanks to Sam Long, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/17 Round Up The Usual Pixels

(1) THE REAL AMERICAN GODS. Mark-kitteh says, “This may be the perfect combo of SF and cats for us–”

(2) ANIMAL FILIBUSTER. The Washington Post’s John Kelly interviewed Ralph Nader, who has written a fantasy novel, Animal Envy, in which animals are given the power to speak via a software program and “are given a 100-hour special broadcast” to discuss all their issues — “In his odd new book, Ralph Nader talks to the animals –and they talk back”.

Ralph Nader –tireless windmill-tilter –is standing at the National Zoo recalling a conversation he once had with an editor at The Washington Post about what he felt was the paper’s less-than-adequate coverage of his presidential campaign.

“I remember saying, ‘There are times I say to myself, I wish I was a panda, given the coverage The Post gives to pandas,’” Nader said.

Well, Nader still isn’t a panda, but he is a kangaroo, a dolphin, an elephant, a crocodile, a squirrel, an owl, an Arctic tern, a German cockroach, a European corn borer, a radioactive Chernobyl beaver, and dozens of other mammals, reptiles, birds and insects.

They’re all characters he assumes in his new book, “Animal Envy: A Fable.”

He is also a cheetah: Safe at any speed…

(3) LUNCH OR HISTORICAL REENACTMENT? “Cynthia Felice and I break into the Watergate Hotel!” That’s what Scott Edelman says in his dramatic invitation to listen to Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

Grab lunch at the Watergate with my unindicted co-conspirator Cynthia Felice in Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

I visited the Watergate Hotel recently, and in case those of you familiar with the history of that infamous location might be thinking I went there to bring down a president with a Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein-style investigation, let me quickly add … no. Rather, I went there to investigate the food at the recently opened Kingbird restaurant, with a guest who surprised me with her sudden visit to Washington, D.C., and whom I somehow managed to convince that a meal with me would be oh, so much more fun than visiting the National Air and Space Museum.

Joining me within the walls of the Watergate Hotel was Cynthia Felice, who published her first short story, “Longshanks,” in 1976 in the pages of Galileo, a science fiction magazine published by the late, great Charlie Ryan, and her first novel, Godsfire, two years later. She is also the co-founder with Ed Bryant — about whom, alas, I must also say late and great — of the Colorado Springs Writer’s Workshop.

We discussed how Frank Herbert’s Dune made her say, “Hey, I can do that,” the virtues of owning a motel while being a writer, the marriage advice Kate Wilhelm gave her at Clarion, what Thomas M. Disch told her that fixed one of her short stories, why we all loved the late, great Ed Bryant, the extraordinary lengths David Hartwell went to as he edited her second novel, how her collaborations with Connie Willis began, and more.

(4) THOSE SIDEKICKS, THEY DO GET WEARY. ComicMix’s John Ostrander, in “Sidekicking Around”, delves into one of comics’ well-known formulas.

Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).

The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one — Jason Todd — who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.

(5) STEAMPUNK BIBLIOPHILE RETURNS. This week 2012 Hugo Finalist Selena Chambers released Calls For Submission, her new short fiction collection.

Selena Chambers’ debut collection guides readers out of space and time and through genre and mythos to explore the microcosmic horrors of identity, existence, and will in the face of the world’s adamant calls for submission. Victorian tourists take a virtual trip through their (and the Ottoman empire’s) ideal Orient; a teenage girl learns about independence and battle of the bands, all while caring for her mesmerized, dead mother; a failed Beat poet goes over the edge while exploring the long-abandoned Government Lethal Chambers.

Chambers was a Related Work co-Hugo Finalist in 2012 with Jeff VanderMeer for their collaboration on The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature.

(6) MORE YA AWARD WSFS WANK. Kevin Standlee says, “You’d Think I’d Remember These Things”. You need to read all four steps to follow his argument, but here’s a foretaste of what you’ll be getting into if your click the link….

  1. Item 1 means that that as it currently stands, the Worldcon 75 WSFS Business Meeting does not have the authority to name a YA Award. However, the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting could apply a name to the Award in a single vote because of that provision. (Of course, this is all moot if the base proposal fails to be ratified.)

  2. Should the 2017 Business Meeting decide to ratify that YA proposal without the provision, the 2017 Meeting could then move as a new amendment to insert a name into the Award, with the name being something that could be passed in 2017 and ratified in 2018, like any other WSFS Constitutional amendment. That means the YA Award would have no official name in 2018, but (assuming 2017 passes a naming amendment that is ratified in 2018), it could get an official name for 2019 and beyond.

(7) BREW FOR TWO. Sounds like anybody who makes it through the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting will probably need to stop over in Iceland on the way home to chill out — “Beer baths to open in North Iceland in June”.

Kaldi brewery in Ãrskogssandur, just north of Akureyri in North Iceland, will be opening beer baths and spa in the coming month.

“The construction of the baths is progressing and everything is according to plan,” says Agnes Anna Siguroardottir, CEO of Kaldi brewery.

There will be seven beer baths in total, all suitable for two people. All guests that have reached 20 years in age can relax in their beer baths with a beer in hand, as there will be a pump by each bath. 20 is legal drinking age in Iceland.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Film director Stanley Kubrick was a big admirer of Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk. (Source: IMDB)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 17, 1902 –The Antikythera mechanism is recovered. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the occasion.

(10) THE BIRD BLABS. The Vulture knows what might have been: “The Secret History of William Gibson’s Never-Filmed Aliens Sequel”

But there’s an alternate universe where the series’ propulsive momentum only increased –a reality in which the third Alien film featured advanced xenomorphs exploding in batches of half a dozen from people’s legs, stomachs, and mouths; where cold-warring rival space stations of communists and capitalists race to outdo one another with their genetic experiments on the aliens’ tissue; where a flock of the phallic horrors flies through the void of space, only to be beaten back by a gun-toting robot. Oh, and there’s a thing called the New Beast that emerges from and sheds a shrieking human’s body as it “rips her face apart in a single movement, the glistening claws coming away with skin, eyes, muscle, teeth, and splinters of bone.”

This is the alternate universe where legendary science-fiction writer William Gibson’s Alien III (that’s “III,” not “3”) screenplay was realized. It is, perhaps, a better world than ours….

You can find the screenplay in an antiquated .txt file online, and there have been occasional discussions of it on message boards and niche blogs, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t been appropriately acknowledged as the remarkable genre-fiction artifact that it is. Indeed, with studio backing and the right production team, one can imagine the finished film being on par with Alien and Aliens, and it certainly would have altered the course of the franchise’s history. With the arrival of Alien Covenant –a movie that, whatever its merits, largely retreads ideas from the series’ previous installments –it’s time to tell the story of how Gibson’s Alien III came to be, why it never crossed the finish line, and what made it special.

(11) KIDPROOFING. John King Tarpinian recommends, “Take the kids to see Alien this weekend, then put this cookie jar out. They will never “steal” a cookie again.” ThinkGeek’s Alien Ovomorph Egg Cookie Jar:

(12) CONDIGN REVENGE. Isn’t Aidan channeling me here?

(13) PUN TIME. Yes, I think this is funny, too.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY GOES INTO OVERTIME. Now they need to deal with the actual Clarke Award shortlist.

With both the Sharke Six and the official Clarke shortlist now out of the bag, I thought I’d like to reflect a little on some of the books I encountered that did not make the running, either through being ineligible (i.e US-published) or through not being submitted. I’ve found myself wanting to talk about them because even now at the end of Phase One of my Sharke reading and with a sizeable number of eligible submissions under my belt, these omissions still feel notable, with discussion around the Clarke Award seeming the poorer for their absence.

The Booker Prize has already had its debate about allowing American novels into the mix, with predictably divided responses. Whether or not the Clarke should open itself up to US submissions is a discussion that lies beyond the remit of this essay, though it does seem a shame that there have been and will continue to be books that stand central to any discussion of the year’s SF and yet under current Clarke rules must remain excluded from one of its most prestigious awards.

I still haven’t reviewed two of the books on my original shortlist. As it happens, we now know that neither of the books made it onto the Sharke Six, and neither made it onto the official Clarke Award shortlist, though I suspect for rather different reasons. So I thought I would take this opportunity to consider why they might not have been chosen.

I’ll start with Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

Superficially, this seems to be exactly the sort of novel that has often found its way onto the Clarke shortlist. It is an elegantly, at times beautifully written novel, as here when an astronaut moves from the spinning outer ring of a spaceship to the gravity-free core:

Of all the books that I personally shortlisted for this project The Power is the one that I find most challenging to judge and to write about. I chose it precisely because of this difficulty; I had read it before and felt decidedly mixed about it. I have loved some of Alderman’s earlier work — her debut Disobedience (2006) was one of the first books that I reviewed online — and have read her assiduously, with great pleasure. Yet this fourth novel, her breakthrough book, left me unsure and unsettled. While friends and critics turned out in numbers to praise its ingenuity and confidence, its bold engagement with the dynamics of power and gender, I hung back and sat on my immediate reaction. Which was: Yes, all those things, but… I couldn’t decisively put my finger on what the ‘but’ was; it was just there, throwing up a barrier between the book and me. At the same time, I couldn’t dismiss it; I was niggled. It stayed with me. So much so, that when it came time for creating my Clarke shortlist I knew The Power had to be on it. Whatever my personal reservations, it was clearly one of the more thought-provoking and eloquent of the submitted books. I felt I owed it a re-read, to test my first response.

Other commentators have already discussed the alternate history setting of Azanian Bridges (Paul Kincaid on this site and Gautam Bhatia at Strange Horizons, while Mark Bould also provides a useful list of other African alternate histories on his own website), and I don’t see any real point in recapitulating what they’ve already said so well.

Instead, I want to focus on the relationship between Martin van Deventer, the white psychologist, and Sibusiso Mchuna, the young black man whom he is attempting to treat. Sibusiso, a trainee teacher, has withdrawn into himself after witnessing the murder of his friend, Mandla, at an anti-government rally. At a loss to know what else to do for him, his father has agreed to his being admitted to the local mental asylum for treatment. We can only speculate as to why his father did this rather than taking Sibusiso home but for now consider it as only one among many markers of the fact that Sibusiso is metaphorically as well as literally a long way from home, living in a white world, among people who have no idea about him.

(15) WE INTERRUPT YOUR READING FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT. Now that Chuck Tingle’s professional porn has been linked from the Hugo Voter Packet, Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte feels the need to clarify his cameo appearance in the work — thus his LiveJournal post “Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, by Chuck Tingle”:

Second paragraph of third section:

“Hello, I’m Chuck,” I say, formally introducing myself.

I am quoted (well, paraphrased) in the crucial second section, in which author Chuck Tingle, miserable after the defeat of Space Raptor Butt Invasion in the 2016 Hugo Awards, receives notification from the 2017 Hugo Awards adminstrator that he has been nominated this year. Let’s just say for the record that the demands subsequently and consequently made of him as part of the Hugo process are not those actually required of Hugo finalists in real life.

(16) THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE. “This 10-year-old donated thousands of comic books to veterans”The Week has the story.

Carl Scheckel knows that not all heroes wear capes. In a show of support for American soldiers, the 10-year-old comic-book aficionado from New Jersey decided to collect and donate thousands of comic books to veterans in hospitals and servicemen deployed overseas. The mastermind of carlscomix.com, Scheckel gathered roughly 3,500 books for the nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, When he arrived to donate them in person, officers treated him to a surprise VIP tour of the base, where he got to try on military gear and explore the inside of a place. ‘It was the best day of my life!’ wrote Carl on his website.

(17) AN OPPORTUNITY ON MARS. It’s been there for over 13 years! “Mars rover reaches site that scientists still can’t explain”.

Opportunity, which is much, much smaller than its car-sized Curiosity cousin, was sent to Perseverance Valley in hopes of shedding some light on its origins. Scientists studying Mars know that the valley was carved by some dramatic force, but with a handful of possibilities including water, wind, and even muddy rocks, there’s still no clear answer. With the rover in place, researchers plan to use its observations to generate a detailed map which will be used to plan the vehicle’s driving route along the rim and eventually into the valley itself.

(18) ON THE WAY TO THE FINAL FRONTIER. I found out about LUNAR from BoingBoing:

Motion designer Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl created this gorgeous short film, titled LUNAR, from thousands of NASA photographs taken by astronauts.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/17 Let Us Sit Upon The Ground And Scroll Sad Pixels

(1) UNORTHODOX APPROACH. Beginning July 18, a weekly podcast will be hosted by Sixth & I in Washington DC — “Harry Potter and The Sacred Text”.

What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? What would we learn? How might they change us? Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a podcast the reads Harry Potter, the best-selling series of all time, as if it was a sacred text.

Just as Christians read the Bible, Jews the Torah, and Muslims read the Quran, Harvard chaplains Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile embark on a 199 ­episode journey (one chapter per week) to glean what wisdom and meaning J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels have in store.

The chaplains read the beloved series through the lens of instructive and inspirational text and extract lessons that can be applied to our own lives.

At the end of 199 weeks will something more emerge from these readings?

(2) JUSTICE IS BLIND. At Sharps & Flatirons, Peter Alexander says blind orchestral auditions have leveled the playing field — “Women in Classical Music: Some Good News, Some Bad News” .

First the good news: professional orchestras are filled with women today, a vast contrast to 40 or 50 years ago when orchestras were almost entirely male. This is now a viable career for the most talented women instrumentalists.

The bad news is that the picture is not nearly as rosy for women composers, who are not well represented on orchestral programs. And women conductors are no better off than composers.

The growing numbers of women in professional orchestras at every level can be traced to a single innovation that began around 1970: “blind auditions,” where competing candidates for open orchestral jobs play behind a screen. The selection committee does not know if it is hearing a man or a woman. The rapid change in the makeup of orchestras since 1970—casually visible and backed up by the numbers—is compelling evidence of the opposition women orchestral players faced before that innovation.

… In an article titled “Orchestrating Impartiality,” published in 2000 in The American Economic Review, researchers Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse concluded that “the screen increases—by 50 percent—the probability that a woman will be advanced from certain preliminary rounds and increases by severalfold the likelihood that a woman will be selected in the final round.” Their conclusion is backed up by 25 pages of charts, graphs and statistical studies.

(3) CON OR BUST AUCTION. The Con or Bust annual fundraising auction has begun and runs until May 7 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Con or Bust, Inc., is a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions.

The available items include a signed galley of Ann Leckie’s next novel Provenance (to be published in October.) When I last looked, bidding was already up to $120.

Here are a few examples of the wide variety of auction items –

The whole list of auction tags is here.

(4) EMOJI CODE. There are four summaries, and I didn’t understand even one. Your turn! “Can you guess the Doctor Who episodes told in emojis?”

Test your Doctor Who knowledge by deciphering these emoji plots and guessing the episode!

If you’re stuck, answers are at the bottom of the page…

(5) LOOK, UP IN THE SKY. Talk about timing! Carl Slaughter referenced Larry Page in the other day’s flying car roundup, and today the news is “Larry Page’s flying car will be available to buy before the end of the year”

The Kitty Hawk Flyer is an electric aircraft that, in its current version, looks a bit like a flying Jet Ski. Cimeron Morrissey, who test flew the aircraft, wrote in a review that the final version would look quite different from the prototype, which doesn’t look all that practical.

A New York Times profile of the Flyer describes it as “something Luke Skywalker would have built out of spare parts.” The vehicle weighs about 100 kilograms and, according to Morrissey, can travel up to 25 mph. She likened the Flyer to “a toy helicopter.”

(6) PETER S. BEAGLE. Initially Barry Deutsch was signal-boosting an appeal for funds — “Peter S Beagle, author of ‘The Last Unicorn,’ is in dire need! Here are three ways you can help.” However, Beagle’s fans immediately came through on the short-term goal, which still leaves two longer-term needs:

LONG-TERM:

Go to the Support Peter Beagle website and use the button there to contribute to a fund to help pay for Peter Beagle’s legal costs. You can leave a message for Peter in the paypal field; I am told he will receive and read all messages sent this way.

BUY THE HUMBLE BUNDLE!

Peter Beagle has curated a Humble Bumble of unicorn fiction, called “Save the Unicorns.” You can pay as little as $1 to get a ton of novels to read, and support Peter Beagle at the same time! Important: In “choose where your money goes,” pick 100% Tachyon Press. Peter Beagle will get royalties and such from Tachyon for these Humble Bumble sales.

To be kept up-to-date on Peter Beagle news, follow @RealPeterBeagle on Twitter.

(7) UNGRADED HATE MAIL. Margaret Atwood answers Patt Morrison’s questions in the LA Times.

I can imagine your fan mail. I can’t imagine your hate mail.

I’ve gotten lots of hate mail over the years. I’ll probably get more once the television series comes out. But I’m not advocating for one thing or the other. I’m saying that what kind of laws you pass — those laws will have certain kinds of results. So you should think carefully about whether you want to have those results or not.

If you’re going to ban birth control, if you’re going to ban information about reproduction, if you’re going to defund all of those things, there will be consequences. Do you want those consequences or not? Are you willing to pay for them or not?

Listen to the “Patt Morrison Asks” podcast and read the full interview at here.

(8) WHO’S THAT SHOUTING? Two writers here for the LA Festival of Books indulge in shenanigans. (Hm, just discovered my spellchecker has a different opinion of how shenanigans is spelled than I have – dang, it did it again!)

(9) CITIZEN SCIENCE. And they call the wind aurora whatever-it-is… Steve? “Aurora photographers find new night sky lights and call them Steve”

Relatively little else is known about the big purple light as yet but it appears it is not an aurora as it does not stem from the interaction of solar particles with the Earth’s magnetic field.

There are reports that the group called it Steve in homage to a 2006 children’s film, Over the Hedge, where the characters give the name to a creature they have not seen before.

Roger Haagmans of the ESA said: “It is amazing how a beautiful natural phenomenon, seen by observant citizens, can trigger scientists’ curiosity.

“It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn’t noticed it before. “It’s thanks to ground-based observations, satellites, today’s explosion of access to data and an army of citizen scientists joining forces to document it.”

(10) A CERTAIN GLOW ABOUT THEM. If you don’t already know this story, you should: “Dark Lives Of ‘The Radium Girls’ Left A Bright Legacy For Workers, Science”,an interview with the book’s author Kate Moore.

In the early days of the 20th century, the United States Radium Corporation had factories in New Jersey and Illinois, where they employed mostly women to paint watch and clock faces with their luminous radium paint. The paint got everywhere — hair, hands, clothes, and mouths.

They were called the shining girls, because they quite literally glowed in the dark. And they were dying.

Kate Moore’s new book The Radium Girls is about the young women who were poisoned by the radium paint — and the five who sued United States Radium in a case that led to labor safety standards and workers’ rights advances.

(11) WHILE YOU WERE OUT: One big step for…. “Astronaut Peggy Whitson breaks new space record”.

Peggy Whitson has broken the record for most days in space by a US astronaut.

Dr Whitson already holds records for the most spacewalks carried out by a woman astronaut and is the first woman to command the International Space Station (ISS) twice.

Now she’s beaten the record previously set by Jeff Williams, who had a total of 534 days in space.

President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka have called Dr Whitson to congratulate her.

(12) AN EYEFUL. Forbes has a gallery of “The Top Cosplayers From Silicon Valley Comic Con”.

This weekend the second Silicon Valley Comic Con took place, featuring robotics, virtual reality and a wax statue of Steve Wozniak. But everyone knows that Comic Con is really about one thing, and that’s the jaw dropping cosplay. From menacing Jokers to an adorable Hatsune Miku costume, enjoy this roundup of some of the most eye-catching costumes at the show…

 

My cape means business 😬😎

A post shared by Melanie Rafferty (@songbird3685) on

(13) DOC WEIR AWARD. British Eastercon members voted the 2017 Doc Weir Award to Serena Culfeather and John Wilson.

The Doc Weir Award was set up in 1963 in memory of fan Arthur Rose (Doc) Weir, who had died two years previously. Weir was a relative newcomer to fandom, he discovered it late in life – but in the short time of his involvement he was active in a number of fannish areas. In recognition of this, the Award is sometimes seen as the “Good Guy” Award; something for “The Unsung Heroes”.

(14) SCIENCE QUESTION. I thought you could only get hit by a meteorite? (Unless it’s being smacked by a wet echinoderm he’s worried about.)

(15) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 24, 1184 B.C. – Traditional date of the Fall of Troy, calculated by Eratosthenes.
  • April 24, 1990 – Hubble Space Telescope launched.

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SCHLOCK MEISTER

  • Born April 24, 1914 – Filmmaker William Castle

(17) CARTOON OF THE DAY. “Cat City” by Victoria Vincent on Vimeo explains what happens when a cat runs away from home to become a hairdresser and drinks too much!

(18) WILL WORK FOR CLICKS. Camestros Felapton renders another much-needed public service: “See how your favourite Games of Thrones Characters are related”. Go there to see the family trees.

(19) NOVELLA INITIATIVE. The Book Smugglers published the first 2017 entry in their Novella Initiative last week, Dianna Gunn’s novella Keeper of the Dawn.

In Keeper of the Dawn, the first novella from Book Smugglers Publishing, author Dianna Gunn introduces readers to strong-willed Lai. All her life she has dreamed of following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother and becoming a priestess in service to her beloved goddesses. But even after lifelong preparation, she fails trials and her next instinct is to run away.

Off in the north kingdom of Alanum, as she works to recalibrate her future, Lai becomes the bodyguard of a wealthy merchant, who is impressed by her strength and bravery. One night she hears stories about a mountain city where they worship the same goddesses she does. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple and do whatever it takes to join their sacred order. Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Keeper of the Dawn, rich with female empowerment, is a multi-layered LGBTQIA YA Fantasy story about fate, forgiving yourself, and the endurance of hope.

Gunn also wrote a post about her inspirations and influences.

In many ways Lai’s story also mirrors the story of my own career. I’ve dreamed about being an author since the age of eight, and as a child I stubbornly believed I would have my first novel published before my eighteenth birthday.

Well, my eighteenth birthday came and went some years ago, and only now is my first book coming out. But I have already been a working writer for six years, writing marketing materials for many different companies and non-profits. More importantly, my dream still came true—just a few years later than planned.

(20) CLARKE AWARD CONTENDERS. A couple of Shadow Clarke jurors take their turn discussing what have proven to be group favorites, while another visits less familiar ground.

Part of the way it reworks things is that it’s not about the Up and Out, but the ups and downs. The rigors of life are always present: people make decisions, those decisions impact life, and they rarely have anything to do with that giant monstrosity towering from the south that hurls people into outer space. The Central Station of Central Station is a mere landmark, an economic hub and cultural icon, but as Maureen K. Speller points out in her review, “…even in science fiction, that so-called literature of the future, nothing lasts forever. The symbolic tropes – space ships, robots, AIs – will all eventually be absorbed and become part of the scenery.” The Central Station of the future is the airport of today: not that big of a deal.

This is a difficult, intractable, Gordian knot of a novel, the kind you recommend to like-minded friends more out of curiosity to see what they’ll make of it than from any reasonable belief that they’ll enjoy the book. Whether this novel – formally and stylistically perfect though it is, a rare gem of a debut that hints at that rare beast, a writer who knows precisely where he’s going and what he wants – can be enjoyed on anything other than a purely intellectual level is a debatable point; whether it can be enjoyed as science fiction still more so.

The Underground Railroad is about as significant a novel as American literary culture is capable of producing in the first quarter of the 21st century.

If you care enough about books to be reading this kind of essay then chances are that you have either purchased or taken an interest in this novel. Far from being organic and spontaneous, your decision to purchase Colson Whitehead’s latest novel is the result of almost every facet of American literary culture coming into alignment and choosing to imbue a single work with as much cultural significance as those institutions can conceivably muster. Already a winner of many prestigious literary awards and a beneficiary of both the Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, Colson Whitehead has now seen his sixth novel celebrated not only by Pulitzer and National Book Award judges but also by the – arguably more influential and economically important – face of Oprah’s Book Club.

(21) DOCTOR TINGLE AI. Applied Digital Studies Project uses a twitter bot to form new titles based on novels by Dr. Chuck Tingle. Not surprisingly, there is a good deal of butt and pounding in these titles. Still, some of them are funny.

(22) MYTHIC FIGURE. Today Chuck Tingle is busy burnishing his legend.

(23) READERCON. Tracy Townsend announced she will be at Readercon in Quincy, MA from July 13-16.

Guests of Honor:

Naomi Novik & Nnedi Okorafor

Memorial Guest of Honor:

Tanith Lee

Although Readercon is modeled on “science fiction conventions,” there is no art show, no costumes, no gaming, and almost no media. Instead, Readercon features a near-total focus on the written word….

(24) MOVIE RESTORATION. The Verge says those who have heard of it should be pleased — “Andrei Tarkovsky’s sci-fi classic Stalker is getting an HD restoration”. And those like me, who haven’t, will be intrigued.

Cinephiles, rejoice! Criterion Collection will be adding a major science-fiction classic to its roster this summer: a restored version of Stalker, directed by Solaris filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

Based off the 1971 Russian science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Stalker was originally released in 1979. The film follows a man known as “the Stalker” as he leads an expedition into a mysterious, forbidden area known as “The Zone.” In the book, the mysterious Zone is the location of an alien visitation decades before the story, littered with fantastic pieces of technology and dangers; in the film, its origins are more obscure. But in both cases, reality there is distorted, and somewhere inside is a room that will grant visitors’ innermost desires. The journey to get there is physically and philosophically arduous, and it tests the trio of men traveling there.

(25) SUBTITLES IN I KNOW NOT WHAT LANGUAGE. The Justice League Official International Trailer dropped today.

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

 

(26) A VISIT TO MARVEL. SlashFilm leads readers on a “Marvel Studios Offices Tour: A Behind-the-Scenes Look”. (Photos at the site.)

The Marvel Studios offices are located on the second floor of the Frank G. Wells Building on the Walt Disney Studios lot. When you exit the elevators, you are greeted by a wall-to-wall mural featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy, and a big Marvel Studios logo.

Marvel Studios began in a tiny office in Santa Monica that they shared with a kite factory. After that, the company moved to an office above a Mercedes dealership in Beverly Hills. They were based out of Manhattan Beach Studios for a few years before Disney asked them to move onto the Burbank lot in 2014. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that Marvel fully decorated their offices….

(27) BOMBS AWAY. A new record for a domino toppling specialty was set in March.

A group of domino builders in Michigan created the world’s largest “circle bomb” using nearly 80,000 dominoes.

The Incredible Science Machine team broke the Guinness World Record for “Most dominoes toppled in a circle bomb/circle field” by creating a series of 76,017 dominoes that toppled from the center of a circle to its outer edge.

“The Incredible Science Machine Team is very passionate about domino art and sharing it with an audience to amaze and inspire them,” team leader Steve Price, 22, said.

A total of 18 builders from the United States, Canada, Germany and Austria spent 10 days constructing the domino formation at the Incredible Science Machine’s annual event in Westland, Mich.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/14/17 A Long Time Ago, When Pixels Scrolled The Earth, A Filer Was Climbing Mount Tsundoku

(1) SF IN CHINA. At Amazing Stories, Shaoyan Hu highlights the developing science fiction scene in China

Science fiction is a growing phenomenon in China: the various organizations are living evidence of that. It’s not just Star Wars or The Three-Body Problem now, but a substantial foundation quickly coming into shape. Although speculative fiction is still a small portion of the market, the large population in China suggests a considerable potential return for whoever ventures into this new area. As it happens, quite a few principal investors already have eyes on the genre, but this is perhaps a topic for another time. For now, suffice it to say that the unceasing efforts of all the people within the SF community have given the genre a positive outlook in China and a flourishing future is yet to come.

(2) FILLING THE MISS PIGGY BANK. The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund conservation of its Muppet collection reports the Seattle Times.

A museum is asking fans of Jim Henson’s Muppets to help pay for an exhibition featuring original puppets of beloved characters like Elmo, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.

The Museum of the Moving Image launched a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday seeking $40,000 to help preserve the puppets for posterity.

“Jim Henson’s work has meant so much to so many people, myself included,” actor Neil Patrick Harris says in a video on the Kickstarter page. “His humor and inventiveness have inspired people to find their own creative voices.”

The Queens museum owns hundreds of Henson puppets and other objects including costumes and props, all donated by Henson’s family in 2013. Henson died in 1990.

Museum staff members are working to conserve the items along with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which was founded by Henson in 1979 and carries on his work, and fine-arts conservators.

The Kickstarter campaign has already raised $66,416, far in excess of its goal, with 26 days remaining.

(3) JEDI CRITIC. USA Today’s Jesse Yomtov took a look at The Last Jedi teaser trailer and decided it was time to speak up: “Why the Jedi were actually the worst and really should ‘end’”.

At the end of the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (aka Episode VIII), Luke Skywalker brings up an important issue.

“I only know one truth,” he says. “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

That sounds ominous and bad, but Luke is 100% correct. It’s not even up for debate that a group like the Jedi would be the bad guys in any other movie.

The Jedi were nearly brought to extinction at the end of Episode III, and while yeah it was the result of Palpatine’s super-evil scheme, it only got to that point because of their own incompetence and self-destructiveness.

Here are some of the most off-putting things about the Jedi Order:

(contains information/spoilers from The Clone Wars animated show, which ended three years ago so that’s kind of on you)…

(4) FINAL WORD ON CARRIE FISHER’S FUTURE IN STAR WARS. VIII yes, IX nay. That’s the word from Kathleen Kennedy.

Carrie Fisher will not appear in Star Wars: Episode IX, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy said on Friday.

The announcement came during an interview with ABC News and was something of a bombshell, as Todd Fisher, the late actress’ brother, previously said his sister would be in the planned ninth installment of the blockbuster franchise. Kennedy said he was “confused.”

“Sadly, Carrie will not be in nine,” said Kennedy. “But we will see a lot of Carrie in eight.”

(5) FAMILY PORTRAIT. On the first day of the Star Wars Celebration happening in Florida, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford posed with Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s daughter.

(6) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Ken Liu was finally able to reveal he is at work on a Star Wars book.

So, the news is out: I’m writing a Star Wars book as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi project. Working with the team at Lucasfilm Publishing has been such a pleasure — they’re the best.

I can’t tell you much about the book yet, except that it’s called The Legends of Luke Skywalker, it’s going to go on sale on 10/31/2017, and it’s going to be awesome….

I think a writer’s job is to build a strong, welcoming house. Readers then move in and fill the rooms with their individual experience and understanding of the world. And only then, after they’ve settled in and begun to explore, do they discover its little nooks and crannies, its hidden passages and secret staircases, and following these, they find breathtaking vistas of other planets, rogues who prize friendship more than treasure, mystical sages full of wisdom, princesses leading grand armies, and farm boys dreaming of walking among the stars …

The Star Wars universe is grand and beautiful, and it is ever expanding. To be able to build a house in this universe after my fashion, to welcome fellow fans and readers into this house, and to see them get comfortable and discover its secrets … I don’t have the words for my joy.

(7) ZUCCHINIS VS. BEETS. On March 31, Margaret Atwood discussed 10 of her favorite speculative fiction novels at the website Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review. But as you might expect, she has a few things to say about defining the term first:

There is still some fuzziness around the terms “speculative fiction” and “science fiction.” Some say that “speculative fiction” includes such things as horror and reality-based dystopias and vampire stories, with “science fiction” being a subset. Others make a distinction between “science fiction” – hard and soft, but involving other planets and universes accessed by devices we do not currently have and cannot realistically expect to have – and “speculative fiction,” located on this earth and containing no devices that we cannot currently foresee. Let’s just say that there is a difference in nature between stories set in a universe far, far away – some call these “science fiction fantasy” — and those set on this planet, in a future we can plausibly describe, though not infallibly predict. (No predictions are infallible.) All fictions both entertain – otherwise nobody turns the pages – and also instruct – because stories will inevitably be given a moral interpretation by readers, language and people being what they are. But the far, far away galaxy kind – let us call them “zucchinis” – will inspire less immediate fear than the other kind – let us call them “beets.”

The list below is a list of “beets.”  There are many more, but these are some of the books I have read and enjoyed. They concern this earth and what is possible on it, given the knowledge available at the time of their writing. They are mostly dystopias – they describe a world we would rather not have. But some are utopias – they point to improvements.”

From the middle of her list –

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

A personal favourite. Written in the Future-English of a post-apocalyptic British teenager. The apocalypse has been atomic, as they once were. Young Riddley is on a quest, as his riddle-based first name and his ambulatory last one would suggest. A puppet show featuring Mister Clevver is his day job, insofar as he has one. Beware of Mister Clevver!

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY. The investigation begins at SFWA.

(9) TAKE-OUT. Episode 34 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast takes place in the middle of Brian Keene’s live-streamed fundraising telethon. At first, Keene couldn’t find time in his schedule —

But when it came time for Brian to record the 100th episode of The Horror Show as a live 24-hour-long telethon to raise funds for the Scares That Care charity, he had a brainstorm—that I invade his event with a meal of some sort, and record my own show as part of his livestream.

So that’s what I did—show up at a conference room of a Hunt Valley hotel with a ton of takeout from Andy Nelson’s Barbecue, which has repeatedly been voted best BBQ by Baltimore Magazine—bringing enough to feed Brian, his co-hosts, and some of the live studio audience you’ll hear in this episode, too.

Brian’s published more than 40 novels, including the best-selling The Rising, and he’s the winner of the 2014 World Horror Grand Master Award. He’s also written comics, including the adventures of the Doom Patrol.

We discussed why the ending to The Rising isn’t as bewildering as some seem to think it is, whether new horror writers should try to replicate his career path, how Marvel Comics creator Steve Gerber is responsible for him becoming a writer, the shady way Brian amassed the largest comics collection in the sixth grade, if he’s a Scully who changed into a Mulder as he got older or if he’s been a Mulder all along, and more…

(10) GETTING AROUND HELSINKI. Going to Worldcon 75? Then this info is for you:

The Helsinki Regional Transit Authority (Helsingin Seudun Liikenne) has announced that as of June 19, 2017, tickets will no longer be sold on Helsinki commuter trains, and therefore must be purchased in advance from one of the available outlets: ticket machines (map of ticket machine locations), the HSL mobile phone application, or HSL Travel Cards.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 14, 1912 – The Titanic strikes the iceberg.

(12) A NIGHTMARE TO REMEMBER. As a child, Steve Vertlieb was haunted by the image of the Titanic:

One hundred five years ago tonight, at 11:40 PM, RMS Titanic fulfilled its terrifying date with history as innumerable heroic souls perished beneath the icy waters of The Atlantic. This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own 71 years. As a little boy, during the early-to-mid-1950s, I was tormented night after night by nightmares of finding myself upon the deck of a huge ocean liner cruising the darkened waters of the Atlantic. After a time, I’d find myself walking along the brooding ocean floor, enveloped in crushing darkness, when I sensed a horrifying presence behind me. I’d turn slowly each night with fear and encroaching trepidation. As I gazed up into the watery sky, I’d find myself next to the enormous hull of a wrecked and decaying ship. I awoke screaming on each of these nights. I’d never heard of Titanic in my early years, but I was tormented by these crippling dreams, night after suffocating night, for years. To this day, the very sight and sound of the name “Titanic” sends me into cold sweats and an ominous sense of dread, and foreboding. I’ve come to believe that I may have been aboard the doomed ocean liner that awful night, and that I’d been reincarnated three decades later. I fear the ocean still. Suffice to say, it is a chilling remembrance that will forever haunt my dreams. May God rest Her immortal soul, and all those who perished that terrible night.

(13) HOPE FOR THE WORLD. It’s Good Friday, but this is not about that. Rather, James Artimus Owen draws our attention to another epochal breakthrough:

I’m…feeling some very, very strong emotions that I don’t know how to process. I think I knew, somehow, but didn’t realize until just now – Burger King really does have Froot Loops shakes. They exist. And thus give me hope for the whole world. #apexofcivilization

We confirmed this with Fox News. (How often do you get to say that with a straight face?) Froot Loops shakes debut at participating Burger King stores nationwide on April 17, but will only be around for a limited time.

So what, exactly, is in a cereal milkshake?

According to a spokeswoman for Burger King, the drink features “velvety Vanilla-flavored Soft Serve, Froot Loops Cereal pieces and sweet sauce.”

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SLAYER

  • Born April 14, 1977 – Sarah Michelle Gellar

(15) PUPPIES FOR PRESIDENT. Lou Antonelli ran a poll on his Facebook page asking people to vote for the sf writer they’d most like to see as President of the U.S.

In Antonelli’s case, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was looking for any great departure from the current tenant of the White House – and he certainly didn’t end up with one.

TRUMPETS!

DRUM ROLL!

THROAT CLEARING…

President… Larry Correia!

The clear winner with 18 votes.

It was very close for second place. John Ringo had nine votes and Tom Kratman had eight.

A strong fourth place showing goes to an author who would not be considered right-of-center by any definition, David Brin – which shows there is come diversity of political opinion among my Friends.

Dr. Jerry Pournelle received five votes, and Ursula LeGuin – also certainly not a right-winger – received four.

(16) TAD WILLIAMS. Patrick St-Denis of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist interviewed Tad Williams about his return to the universe of Osten Ard in The Witchwood Crown.

Stephen R. Donaldson once said that he waited for so long to write The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant because he wasn’t ready and needed to grow as an author before he felt comfortable tackling such a project. Would you say that, at least to a certain extent, this was one of the reasons why it took so long for you to finally decide to write the long-awaited sequel to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn?

Yes, but not necessarily in the same way as Donaldson’s talking about. I said for years that I wouldn’t write a sequel to anything or even re-visit a world unless I had a story first, a story that cried out to be written. And for years Osten Ard was in that category, although I had thought a bit about the Chronicle project. Then, when I sat down one time to list off for Deborah (my wife and business partner) all the reasons I had no more stories about Simon and Miriamele and Binabik and the rest, I realized that I had left most of the main characters still very much in the bloom of their youth, and that after decades of life and growing responsibility — which I had undergone myself since I wrote it — they must all look at the world very differently. That set me to thinking, and within one night the first rudiments of the story for The Last King of Osten Ard (the title for the whole series) had begun to take real shape. So every moment I was aging, and moving from one country to another, and becoming a parent, and so on, I was actually creating a plot for new Osten Ard books without realizing it.

(17) YOUR SHADOW CLARKE JURY AT WORK. Racing to finish ahead of the shortlist announcement, scant weeks away —

This is the first novel I’ve read from my shortlist that feels like it belongs on the actual Clarke shortlist. Written by a genre outsider, but built definitively upon a classic sci-fi concept, and clearly aware of decades of science fiction fandom and inside jokes, it ticks a few those well-established Clarke-preferred boxes. It’s also quite enjoyable for those same reasons.

It follows the Toula/Tolliver family over four generations of delusions of grandeur beginning with Ottokar Toula: family patriarch, pickle cultivator, and mad scientist of the pre-Atomic Age. His “discovery” of the Lost Time Accidents is overshadowed by the work of “the patent clerk” in Switzerland, dooming the Toula name to forgotten history. That is, until his son, Waldemar, seizes upon Ottokar’s ideas and uses Nazi-era concentration camps to carry out his secret, malevolent time experiments…

We awaken in a contemporary alternate Finland, a country whose path diverged from its realworld twin’s shortly after World War One. We discover that Finland is now a eusistocracy – all for the best in the best of all possible worlds – separated technologically and politically from the ‘hedonistic democracies’ of the rest of Europe and forging its own path to racial purity, social stability and material content. In this new Finland, a systematic program of eugenics has been implemented in order to reinstitute traditional gender roles and relieve the increasing psychological and social tension that has been the inevitable result of female emancipation:

Nowadays, when people talk about science fiction being socially relevant, they often gesture towards Dave Hutchinson’s on-going Fractured Europe series and how the early books seemed to pre-empt not only the break-up of the European Union but also the brutal militarisation of European borders. Though dystopias will always have a role to play in helping us to prepare for unwanted futures, there is also something to be said for books that make a positive case for what it is that we are about to lose. Hutchinson’s books may be about the ugly, regressive, and nationalistic future we are going to get but Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is about the beautiful, strange, and unapologetically multicultural future we need.

Science fiction is not and never has been about predicting the future. But it is about using satire, extrapolation, exaggeration, distortion and any other tools at its disposal to reflect and comment upon the present. Right now, Europe is in a parlous state. The enterprise of friendship and cooperation that began in the wake of the Second World War is under unprecedented threat from the emergence of just such nationalist movements that it was deliberately conceived to counter. There are currently populist movements whose avowed aims are directly counter to the European ideal active and prominent in the UK, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere. This is the world we live in. It is not the world we encounter in contemporary science fiction.

The Fractured Europe sequence may not be a perfect way of bringing this modern world into science fiction, but since it is the only way that anyone is currently attempting, it is de facto the best.

The last one is a roundup rather than a review:

…On which note, it seems only fair that I come clean regarding how I, personally, feel about my personal shortlist now that I’ve read it. Did the books I chose turn out to be as worthwhile, not to mention as Clarke-worthy, as I hoped they would be? The short answer, I suppose, would have to be partly, and no. Above a certain level, very few books are ever entirely a waste of reading time, and that certainly holds true here….

(18) BE YOUR OWN RORSCHACH. Who was that masked man? — “How what you wear can help you avoid surveillance”.

Imagine you’re living in a dystopian future. Surveillance cameras scan the streets to recognise and record the faces of passersby – but you’re wearing a HyperFace scarf. Amid a kinetic assortment of grid-like structures printed on the fabric, black squares suggest tiny eyes, noses and mouths. The cameras’ facial recognition algorithms are confused. Your identity is secure; your privacy, protected.

(19) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On April 19, Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Laura Anne Gilman & Seth Dickinson.

Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the best-selling Devil’s West novels (Silver on the Road and The Cold Eye) which NPR described as “a true American myth being found,” the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy, and the story collection Darkly Human. Her writing past encompasses a ten-book urban fantasy series, a quartet of cozy mysteries, three paranormal romances, and a middle-grade Arthurian adventure. A once and future New Yorker, she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Seth Dickinson

Seth Dickinson’s short stories have been published in in ClarkesworldStrange HorizonsLightspeed and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and elsewhere. He also contributed writing to video games, including Destiny: The Taken King. His first novel the epic fantasy The Traitor Baru Cormorant was published in 2015 and he’s working on a sequel.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017, 7pm at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

(20) CONCERN TROLL ON DUTY. Superversive SF’s “sciphi” (which I believe is editor Jason Rennie) is worried about the impact Monica Valentinelli’s decision to quit as Odyssey Con GoH will have on other women authors. Sure he is. — “Why doesn’t Monica Valentinelli want women as Guests of Honour?”

What I am wondering though is, has Monica considered the wider implications of this sort of diva behaviour? If you were organising a Con would you invite her as Guest of Honour? I wouldn’t given this is her idea of professional behaviour. More than that, this will likely cause any rational Con organiser, even if only unconsciously, to be less willing to invite any women as Guest of Honour. Who wants the headache of someone flaking at the last second because they have decided their feelings of “unsafeness” trump any consideration of professional behaviour or the enormous problems it will cause other people? Monica in her betrayal of the trust shown in her has made it harder for women everywhere. What if a guest you have invited and planned for decides to “Pull a Valentinelli” at the last second? I suppose it isn’t fair to generalise this to all female authors, as much as it would be more reasonable to generalise this to any sort of grievance peddling group instead.

The people I feel most sorry for are the Jagi Lamplighters, Sarah Hoyt’s and other female authors of the world who are actual professionals and would never engage in this sort of childish tantrum, but whose prospects are damaged by one ridiculous drama queen and idiots who are enabling her behaviour.

(21) SUPERVERSIVE SF’S RESPECT FOR WOMEN. Immediately preceding that post on the site is a reprint of one of their “more popular Superversive articles,” “The Bosom-Jiggle Factor”, which is indeed about what you were assuming. With illustrations. And the name of the author? Answer: L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright.

“The Needs of Drama vs. The Needs of Culture, as illustrated by the BJF Index:”…

The Needs of Drama—the qualities that make a story dramatic, eye-catching, intriguing. Sex, sizzle, bang, POW! Seduction! Explosions! LOTS OF CAPTIALS AND EXCAMATIONS!!!!!!

The Needs of Culture—the desire to use the story to teach lessons needed to participate in the culture, like an Asops Fable or a morality play. These stories include topics like: How to behave. How to treat friends. How to treat strangers. What is and is not moral. – the message of the work.

It is not my opinion that one of these forces is better than the other. Rather, I believe that there needs to be a harmonious marriage of the two of a work to be really great.

Too much drama leads to meaningless sex and bloodshed. Too much culture leads to boring message fiction….

(22) A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR. Because you don’t watch enough commercials already, click this link to watch Baby Groot and the GEICO gecko trying to sell you insurance.

(23) CIRQUE DU PIZZA. Hampus Eckerman is right – you shouldn’t miss this.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/17 We Were Somewhere Around Barstow When The Pixels Began To Take Hold

(1) YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GONNA GET. I appreciate the irony in the first line of Germain Lussier’s io9 post “The New Dune Movie Is Being Written By the Man Who Wrote Forrest Gump”:

But we don’t think that should worry you.

According to Lussier, Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for Forrest Gump, has been hired to adapt the Frank Herbert novel Dune for director Denis Villeneuve.

(2) NEW AFRICAN SF AWARD. Since the Hugo announcement date was only known a few days ahead of time, the African Speculative Future Society may not have known that April 4 was a less-than-optimum date to announce the inaugural 2017 Nommos shortlist.

The categories are:

The Ilube Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel by an African  – 1000 USD prize,

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novella by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Short Story by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Graphic Novel by Africans – 1000 USD to be shared.

The award website says —

We have welcoming and inclusive definition of who is an African that includes children of an African parent. Read more about eligibility here.

The award has been funded for four years, by Mr Tom Ilube.

“Science fiction is important because it looks ahead to African futures.  Fantasy and fiction based on traditional tales are important because they link us back to our forebears.  Both are important for African development.  I wanted to make sure that the explosion of African science fiction gets the recognition it deserves.”  Mr Tom Ilube.

The first award ceremony will be held at Aké Festival in Nigeria, November 2017. After that they hope to alternate the location of the awards ceremony between West and East Africa.

Here are links to the Short List and the rest of the nominees in all 4 categories:

(3) OLD OPERA HAS NEW ACTS. Cora Buhlert couldn’t find what she liked 20 years ago, but there’s enough good stuff now for her to be writing about “The Space Opera Resurgence”.

I didn’t like any of those books. But I was an SF fan and a space opera fan and this was all the space opera there was, with very few exceptions (mostly published by Baen Books, which are notoriously difficult to find in Europe). So I kept trying the highly regarded New Space Opera of the early 2000s, until I found myself standing in the local Thalia store, the latest offering of New British Space Opera subgenre in hand (it was this one – I remember the cover very clearly), when I suddenly dropped the book to the floor and exclaimed, “Why do I keep buying this shit? I don’t even like these books.” So I turned my back on New British Space Opera and on science fiction altogether (I did put the book back on the shelf first) and read other genres for a few years, until I came back in a roundabout way via urban fantasy and science fiction romance and found a whole universe of SFF books that weren’t on the radar of the official genre critics at all.

Now, some ten to fifteen years later, there is a lot more space opera on the shelves than back in the early 2000s. It’s also a lot more diverse the than just pale Banks clones. Nor is it just written by white, overwhelmingly British dudes – indeed, some of the best space opera of today is written by women and writers of colour. And even some of those authors whose novels almost put me off science fiction altogether some ten years ago are writing much more enjoyable works these days. …

(4) MAIL CALL. It’s not easy to get letters from the year 1962 unless you’re The Traveler. Galactic Journey today unveiled – “[April 5, 1962] Pen Pals (Letter Column #1)”. The first missive comes from University of Arizona student Vicki Lucas….

Of course, to pay the tuition and room & board, I also take in ironing, do tutoring, deliver newspapers, etc., and they helped me get a student loan. It’s been a real eye-opener to go to school here. Now I know what “scholarship” means. At the University of Arizona, from which I transferred last year, I did have some great learning experiences, but nothing as rich as this.

Not that I didn’t have some great experiences at UA, meeting an English Professor who is an avante-garde composer (Barney Childs), and since I worked in the Fine Arts College I went to most concerts & saw the harpsichord played for the first time (double keyboard!) & heard Barney’s music played. (I admit, I have a crush on him — see the enclosed photo.) And then I’ve been to San Francisco & seen jazz trumpeter Miles Davis & a lot of other stuff….

(5) CAMESTROS FELAPTON EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU. Thank goodness somebody can. In  “Hugo 2017: How to vote for best series” he looks at 8 different approaches to dealing with the vastness of the Hugo nominated series. Sure, 8 is also a lot — just be grateful he didn’t try to match the number of ways Cyrano described his nose.

The issue is that Best Series is not unlike Best Editor Long Form – the normal way of voting in the Hugo Awards doesn’t work (read the relevant stuff and vote). However, unlike Best Editor Long, best series at least has accessible information and works. The problem is that it is way too much volume of stuff to evaluate if you haven’t already been following the series in question. So here are some approaches to choose from.

(6) CHOP CHOP. Shouldn’t Wolverine co-creator Len Wein be getting a cut of this?

A medical clinic in the Philippines is using an unusual mascot to advertise its circumcision service: claw-bearing X-Men super hero Wolverine.

The advertisement for Dionisio M. Cornel Memorial Medical Center in Antipolo features an image of Hugh Jackman as the adamantium-clawed character he played in the X-Men and Wolverine films next to text promoting the clinic’s circumcision service.

 

Si Logan ang bahala sa'yo! Haha #1stLocation #Unit2 #langitlupa #kapamilya

A post shared by Pj Francisco 🍴😴🍻🎉✈🚢🚄🚗⛵👼☝😇 (@peeej05) on

(7) RED ALERT. At Nerd & Tie Trae Dorn wants to know “What the Heck is Even Happening With AnachroCon Right Now?”

The Atlanta, GA based convention AnachroCon might be more aptly named “AnarchoCon” these days. Earlier this week the convention’s Chair and legal counsel Sarah Avraham stepped down in what sounds like an extremely complicated situation.

In a public Facebook post Avraham detailed the reasons for her departure, and while you should really read that post in its entirety, I’ll do my best to summarize it. It starts when Avraham was approached by William and Cindy MacLeod in the spring of 2016 to take over the event in an attempt to rehabilitate the convention’s image and get it back on track financially.

Because man, this con needed help….

(8) ON HOLD. Nerd & Tie is also reporting that “One Month After Cancellation, Multiple Parties Still Waiting For Refunds From Lebanon MEGA Con:.

This last weekend would have been the second annual Lebanon MEGA Con, if the Missouri based convention hadn’t announced its cancellation just one month before. While organizer Will Peden did say that everyone owed money would be paid, some parties are waiting for those promises to be fulfilled.

(9) TODAY IN FUTURE HISTORY

  • April 5, 2063 — The day the Vulcans landed. According to Memory-Alpha:

First Contact Day was a holiday celebrated to honor both the warp 1 flight of the Phoenix and first open contact between Humans and Vulcans on April 5, 2063 in Bozeman, Montana

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch

I recognize Bob Tucker on the left. Who is the woman on the right? The photo is from a 1959 party in Chicago.

(11) DELIBERATIONS CONTINUE. The Shadow Clarke Jury carries on a discussion of the books they’d like to see considered for the Clarke award.

It does not seem surprising that reading Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K, in which an estranged son accompanies his tycoon father to the threshold of his journey into eternity, brought those memories of Cold Lazarus especially rushing back. Straddling the millennium, both [Dennis] Potter’s final teleplays and DeLillo’s sixteenth novel have a leached-out, end-times quality that puts human mortality centre stage and refuses to look away. That Potter’s scripts – almost a quarter-century old now and written while SF was still very much a pariah literature – leap naked into the science fictional abyss, while DeLillo’s novel appears to negate, to brush aside the very notion of science fiction altogether, seems just one further irony.

Imagine a table laden with all the food you can think of; things you like and things you don’t like; cuisines from all around the world; the fresh and the fast; three thousand calorie freak-shakes next to organic kale salads; dessert piled on top of nachos sitting on a bed of pears. The table is groaning, under the physical and the metaphorical weight of the feast.  It’s wonderful and disconcerting and a bit horrifying and deliciously tempting at the same time.  This is the gastronomic equivalent of Cathrynne M. Valente’s Radiance, a virtuoso outpouring of language, style, trope and intertext fit to overwhelm any appetite. It took close to a week for me to sit down and start this review after I finished the book; I needed that long to digest it.  If you like your novels spare or clean this one probably isn’t for you.

His claim directly addresses the central conceit of the novel that the networks and routes by which African-American slaves escaped to the free states and the North exists as an actual underground railroad with stations and steam locomotives on rails. However, his mistake lies in imagining that the workings of the railroad can be reduced to information as legible as a map and a timetable. Earlier in the novel, when Cora visits this particular ‘ghost tunnel’ for the first time with the railroad operative, Royal, she reflects that the necessary secret of the railroad is not a bad type of secret but rather an intimate part of the self that is central to personal identity: ‘It would die in the sharing.’ The enigma of the railroad, as Royal observes, is that ‘it goes everywhere, to places we know and those we don’t’. The challenge it presents is not to classify it as a system of knowledge but to figure out both how it connects the different selves who use it and where it might lead to.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish is easily the least traditionally science fictional of my shortlist selections: not only does it feature no rockets, but it’s set firmly in the past (and is more about pasts than futures) and it includes talking snakes and something very much like a dragon. In the sense that science fiction is defined by the presence or absence of received ideas and familiar imagery—that is, using the least science fictional definition of science fiction—it would not be considered science fiction.

(12) A LITTLE SMACK. Fusion says justice has been served – “Black Panther and Ms. Marvel Nominated for Hugo Awards Days After Marvel VP Blamed Them for Sales Slump”.

On Tuesday morning, the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards (the Oscars of sci-fi and fantasy writing) were announced by the World Science Fiction. Unsurprisingly, collected volumes of Marvel’s critically acclaimed Black Panther and Ms. Marvel series were both nominated for Best Graphic Story.

These nominations come just days after Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, went out of his way to blame Marvel’s lagging sales on comics—like Black Panther and Ms. Marvel—starring people of color and women. Suffice it to say that the optics of this whole thing don’t reflect well on the publisher, but the Hugo nominations send a telling message to Marvel about just how the public actually feels about its “diverse books.” 

(13) REACTION POST. Abigail Nussbaum catalogs all the emotions she’s feeling after seeing the 2017 Hugo shortlist, beginning with happiness about her Best Fan Writer nomination, and continuing down the spectrum til she reaches —

Frustration, because the puppies’ ongoing presence on the ballot, even under extremely reduced circumstances, means that it continues to be impossible to talk about the nominees as their own thing, rather than a reaction to an attempted fascist takeover.  There’s a lot to praise about this year’s ballot, including the continued shift towards a more diverse slate of nominees, but in the short fiction categories in particular, the Hugo has once again thrown up a fairly middle-of-the-road selection.  Most of these stories aren’t bad, but quite a few of them are meh, and it would be nice to once again be able to have a proper discussion of that.  Instead, we’re all still in bunker mode, still cheering the fact that publishable fiction was nominated for the genre’s most prestigious award, which increasingly seems like a low bar to clear.

(14) PUPPY ANTENNAE ACTIVATED. Cora Buhlert sets things in context and delivers a thorough set of first impressions about the Hugo ballot.

The best novel category looks excellent. We have the sequels to two previous Hugo winners in the category, Death’s End by Liu Cixin and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin respectively. We have the long awaited and critically acclaimed debut novels by two accomplished short fiction writers, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee respectively. We have a highly acclaimed debut novel with a very unique voice, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, as well as the sort of sequel to 2014’s highly acclaimed debut novel with a unique voice, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. A Closed and Common Orbit, Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit were also on my ballot, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining three. And those who worry that science fiction is about to die out and be swamped by fantasy, which will inevitably lead to the collapse of the West or something, will be pleased that four of the six nominees in this category are unabashedly science fiction. The Obelisk Gate is an edge case, while the only clear fantasy novel is All the Birds in the Sky and even that one has a mad scientist character. Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 3 writers of colour, at least 3 LGBT writers, 1 international writer in translation, 0 puppies.

(15) TUESDAY’S HUGO NEWS. H.P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday features a picture of a dog in his more Puppy-sympathetic coverage of the 2017 Hugo Awards finalists.

… I am very gratified to see Cixin Liu back where he belongs Death’s End a finalist for Best Novel.  I loved it, as you can probably tell by my overenthusiastic review.  I thought The Dark Forest was robbed, and I voted for The Three-Body Problem as the Best Novel two years ago.  I would have loved to have seen the entire series go up for an award, but oh well.  It perhaps says something about the incestual nature of the Hugo voting that the two books in the series edited by the popular Ken Liu were finalists, and the one that wasn’t didn’t even finish in the top 15 nominations….

The Rageaholic was a finalist last year, but I only saw my first few videos within the last month or so.   And for the most part, I have no interest in watching his videos on video games or movies or politics.  If only for the main reason I don’t watch many YouTube videos or listen to many podcasts.  I ain’t got time for that stuff.  But Razorfist has an encyclopedic knowledge of comics and Elric of Melnibone.  And he’s got a great shtick.  Usually in black-and-white, decked out in mirrored sunglasses and a leather jacket, long hair, wall covered in posters behind him.  Complete with some metal thrown-in to start and finish things off, and a rapid-fire, eloquent, profane delivery.

H.P. also identifies himself as a contributor to the Castalia House blog.

(16) HUGO BY OSMOSIS. The nominations have inspired J.D. Brink’s latest theory.

And John Picacio has been nominated for best professional artist.  I’m pretty darn sure (though not 100%, mind you) that he and I shared a day at Dragon’s Liar comics in San Antonio signing stuff on Free Comic Book Day a few years ago.  We sat right next to each other.

So by sheer proximity, I should be getting a Hugo award, if not this year, than next year

(17) IF I WERE A RICH MAN. Who knew I wouldn’t have to wait til I made a million dollars before seeing my name in Forbes? They published the Hugo nominees.

(18) MOST IMPORTANT CATEGORY. Jude Terror’s account of the nominations for Bleeding Cool is intentionally myopic: “Marvel And Image Split Hugo Awards Comics Category, Shut Out Other Publishers”.

Worldcon has released the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, the science fiction and fantasy awards named after Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback. We’re pretty sure that’s the book Spider-Man first appeared in. In true snooty comics website fashion, we’ll only talk about the things that relate to comic books and ignore everything else.

First, in the most important category, Best Graphic Story (that’s fancy-speak for comics), nominees included Marvel’s Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, and The Vision, two of the most successful and acclaimed books the likes of which Marvel “has heard” people don’t want anymore, and one written by a guy who “rode off into the sunset.” Monstress, Paper Girls, and Saga from Image took the other three slots, shutting out all other publishers. Shockingly, no prominent editors from the superhero comics community earned nominations in any of the editorial categories, though Sana Takeda, a familiar name to comics readers, did move the needle with a spot on Best Professional Artist list.

Dan Slott failed to secure a nomination in Best Fan Writer despite writing some of the most acclaimed Doctor Who fan fiction around in Silver Surfer, though Doctor Who’s Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, was nominated under the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “TV show.” Yes, we know we’re breaking out “only talk about comics” rule, but what could be more “comics website” than that?! Sir Robert Liefeld’s greatest creation, Deadpool, earned a nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “movie.”

(19) VIRTUAL VISON. “Astronomers just turned on a planet-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole”Vox has the story. (No, not that Vox.)

Every image you’ve seen of a black hole is an illustration. A giant “virtual” telescope may change that….

We’ve never seen a direct image of a black hole. But if an audacious experiment called the Event Horizon Telescope is successful, we’ll see one for the first time.

Why we’ve never seen an image of a black hole

The biggest problem with trying to detect a black hole is that even the supermassive ones in the center of galaxies are relatively tiny.

“The largest one in the sky [is] the black hole in the center of the Milky Way,” Dimitrios Psaltis, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, said in 2015. “And taking a picture of it would be equivalent to taking a picture of a DVD on the surface of the moon

(20) THAT REVOLUTIONARY NEW IDEA FOR SELLING BOOKS. The Verge has another Amazon bookstore on its radar screen – it will be the third in New York.

Amazon has confirmed plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore across from the Empire State Building, bringing its total number of announced but as-of-yet unopened stores in New York City up to three.

Publisher’s Weekly reports that a sign reading “Amazon Books Coming Soon” has gone up in the 34th Street storefront, adding that an Amazon rep said the store will open this summer. The store has also been added to the Amazon Books website. This would presumably make it Amazon’s second store in New York. A location in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center (just off of Central Park) was announced in January, with the intent to open this spring.

Another, in Hudson Yards, the still-under-construction $20 billion shopping and luxury residential complex on Manhattan’s far west side, was widely reported last summer — with plans to launch alongside the rest of the development’s new stores in 2018 or 2019.

(21) CUTTING EDGE. Here’s the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword final trailer. The film will be out May 12.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/25/17 Not Really Very Specific

(1) CASHING IN. Naked Security has discovered “Spock will unlock Kirk ransomware – after you beam up a bunch of Monero”.

Star Trek fans might remember an episode from the original series where our heroes were transported to a mirror universe where their counterparts served an evil version of the Federation. At the end of “Mirror Mirror“, it is the alternate universe’s Spock who begins to set things right.

One has to wonder if the creators of the recently discovered Kirk ransomware had that episode in mind. SophosLabs threat researcher Dorka Palotay told Naked Security that this new specimen appeared a few days ago….

Monero is the new (or old) latinum

Unlike the ransomware families SophosLabs has seen so far, this family uses Monero for ransom payment, which is a cryptocurrency similar to bitcoin. Monero has already been popular among cyber-criminals. You could say it’s the new latinum – the favored currency of the Ferengi. Or, you could say it’s the old one. (These temporal paradoxes give us a headache.)

(2) SPOOK FANAC. Naked Security also disclosed that the CIA named one of its hacking tools after a famous science fictional gadget – “Latest Wikileaks dump shows CIA targeting Apple earlier than others”.

Here’s a breakdown of the tools documented and their purpose:

Sonic Screwdriver: Fans of Doctor Who know that the Sonic Screwdriver is the Doctor’s trusty device for analysis and defense. In the CIA’s world, it’s a “mechanism for executing code on peripheral devices while a Mac laptop or desktop is booting,” allowing attackers to “boot its attack software even when a firmware password is enabled”. The CIA’s Sonic Screwdriver infector is stored on the modified firmware of an Apple Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter. The documentation for this was released internally at CIA headquarters November 29 2012….

(3) IRON FIST. While my Facebook friends have leveled plenty of criticism, Comicbook.com declares “Iron Fist Is The Second Biggest Marvel Netflix Premiere”.

Marvel’s Iron Fist may not have gone over well with critics, but fans can’t seem to get enough.

According to a report by Parrot Analytics, Marvel’s Iron Fist is the second-biggest debut for a Marvel series on Netflix so far, performing better than both Marvel’s Daredevil and Marvel’s Jessica Jones in the first week it was available to stream. Iron Fist falls just short of Marvel’s Luke Cage, which was Marvel’s best debut to date.

It should be noted that Parrot Analytics is a third party industry analyst and that these metrics are not endorsed by Netflix. Netflix does not share its viewership numbers publically.

(4) DO’S AND DON’TS. Here are the first two of “Ray Bradbury’s 12 Rules For Writers” at Tripwire.

  • Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. “Worth waiting for, huh?”
  • You may love ’em, but you can’t be ’em. Bear that in mind when you inevitably attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to imitate your favorite writers, just as he imitated H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle and L. Frank Baum.

(5) BY YOUR ROYAL LEAVES. Standback guested on Jonah Sutton-Morse’s Cabbages and Kings podcast. (I’m not trying to blow his cover, he sent the link indicating it should be a “scroll item for Standback.”)

This episode I am joined by Ziv Wities (@QuiteVague), host of the SFSqueeAndSnark short story discussion site, to discuss Jo Walton’s The Just City.  We covered our different reactions to the story, the elevation of Plato’s Republic to a holy text, and the problems of privilege and how it is portrayed in The Just City.  In addition, Brandon O’Brien returns for the second installment of Black Star Cruises, a review of Maurice Broaddus’ forthcoming novella Buffalo Soldier.

There’s a transcript of the podcast available at the site, too.

Z – So, this is the only book in my entire life that I have ever bought based on a book ad. There was a print ad for the Just City in Fantasy & Science Fiction and I saw it and I read it and I said that sounds really really really cool. I don’t think I’ve ever reacted that way to a print ad before.It’s just, it’s just a cool high-concept idea, and one of the things that really grabbed me about it was the idea that it’s not only a recreation of The Republic but specifically that it is done with the support of a goddess.  With Athene, Athene?

JSM – Yes

Z – With Athene supporting and bankrolling and magicing together the entire thing.

(6) DON’T BLAME WEIR. The Wrap reveals “More Hollywood Whitewashing: CBS Pilot Casts 2 White Actors in Lead Roles Written for Minorities”.

Andy Weir’s sci-fi drama “Mission Control” was written with a bilingual Latina and African-American man — now played by Poppy Montgomery and David Giuntoli…

According to an individual familiar with the project, producers initially did reach out to and offer the roles to non-white actors, but they passed. The production ultimately moved on as the script evolved, leading to the casting of Montgomery and Giuntoli. Montgomery’s character will no longer speak Spanish in the final version of the pilot.

The pilot, which the individual described as an “ensemble drama,” does feature nonwhite actors in other roles, including “Desperate Housewives” alum Ricardo Chavira as the director of the Johnson Space Center and Nigerian-born actress Wunmi Mosaku as Rayna, the mission’s public affairs officer….

(7) A NUMBER OF BUGS. Find the answer to “What Kind of Bug Eats Books” here. There are five main types, a number that suits the Scroll perfectly.

Bugs that eat books aren’t injurious to humans, but they can destroy your library. Book-eating insects inhabit books in their larval stage, eating collagen glues, cotton, leather, linen and paper. These insects can be difficult to spot because of their small sizes and hiding instincts. Use a magnifying glass to inspect volumes for intruders. There are five types of bugs that commonly infest books.

(8) SOMETIMES IT CAUSES ME TO TINGLE. Future Nobel laureate for literature Dr. Chuck Tingle weighs in on Castalia House’s latest antics at The Rabid Puppies.

in recent days man name of JOM SCALZI put out a big time book name of THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE. bad dogs blues said they could copy it and do better, so to keep bad dogs blues honest this is now website to show current sales rank between BAD DOGS BLUES fake book and JOM SCALZI real book. this is good way to determine wether or not being a devil is a WINNING WAY. please enjoy.

JOM RANK #235

BAD DOGS BLUES RANK #1671

(9) MAKING PROGRESS. Christine Valada gave this update about Len Wein’s health:

Len is doing better but still not on social media. It’s boring when he’s not actually working and he’s at war with the restrictions on his diet. What a surprise, right? The amputated toe is considered healed (yay), but the doctor needs to do some clean-up work on his second toe which had been delayed because of the neck surgery. He’s a captive patient in rehab, so that will get done on Monday evening.

(10) SAD TRIVIA. Today’s Livestream of the Debbie Reynolds/Carrie Fisher public memorial had over 63,000 views. Right now, the link is just showing a short slide-show of the pair at various ages.

Their celebration of life was in the same auditorium that Sammy Davis, Jr.’s was held.

The BBC had a few brief quotes from before and during the memorial.

Earlier Mr Fisher said the public was invited to the memorial “because that’s how my mother would want it”.

He added that she was “very connected to her fans and felt they were a part of her”.

James Blunt was friends with Carrie Fisher and recorded part of his debut album in her bathroom. His tribute song will be accompanied by a montage of photographs of the pair.

Todd Fisher called it a “beautiful song to Carrie”, adding that “it might rip your heart out”.

 

Princess Leia from Star Wars reel shown at SDCC 2015.

(11) NO CGI FOR FISHER. Gene Maddaus of Variety, in “Bob Iger Reveals ‘Star Wars’ Han Solo Spinoff Details, Talks Plans After ‘Episode IX’”, reports on a talk that the Disney CEO gave at USC.  Iger says that Carrie Fisher’s performance in Episode 8 is complete and does not have to be digitally enhanced and the forthcoming moving about young Han Solo will reveal how Chewbacca got his name.

At the conference, where he also confirmed that he’s “definitely” leaving in 2019, he said he has seen Episode 8, “The Last Jedi,” and addressed how the company is handling the death of Carrie Fisher, who appears extensively in the film.

“We are not changing ‘8’ to deal with her passing. Her performance remains as it was in ‘8,’” he said. “In ‘Rogue One’, we created digitally a few characters… We’re not doing that with Carrie.”

…Iger was otherwise tight-lipped about Episode 8, saying that he sometimes reviews dailies “in my laptop in bed under the covers” to keep the project secret from his own teenage boys.

(12) TODAY’S DAY

TOLKIEN READING DAY

The Tolkien Society started Tolkien Reading Day in 2003 after a journalist from New York enquired as to whether or not there was such an event. March 25 was selected because that is the date of the Downfall of Sauron.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 25, 1957 — United States Customs confiscated 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, printed in England, on grounds of obscenity.

(14) BY THE LITRE. “Discovery enables ‘mass produced blood’” – the BBC has the story. Chip Hitchcock says, “The kicker is that it’s so expensive it’s only useful for types so rare that they’re in very short supply — e.g. Heinlein’s AB-.”

(15) HOT PILOT. You can listen to the recording of Harrison Ford excusing his Han Solo moment at this link: “’I’m the schmuck that landed on the taxiway’”.

A recording has emerged of Harrison Ford explaining to air traffic control why he flew directly over a waiting passenger jet and landed on a taxiway at John Wayne Airport in southern California in February.

(16) CURRENT READING. Rosemary Benton visits a newsstand 55 years ago at Galactic Journey — “[March 25,1962] A Double Hit (A.Bertram Chandler’s The Rim of Space and John Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra)”.

I turned to Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra. I couldn’t help but feel as if I was reading a novella that pitted the characters of H. Beam Piper’s Paratime series against the American agents of The Time Traders. In almost exact contrast to the universe of Chandler’s piece, Brunner’s protagonists are agents of the Corps Galactica – a economic and security force powerhouse for Earth’s galaxy-wide territories. When a remote and technologically backward world called Planet 14 is penetrated by off-worlders looking to take advantage of the natural resources of the isolated human society, it is up to agents of the Corps to infiltrate the population without notice and take down the exploitative evil doers.

(17) FREE DELANY. You do not need to be a member of Facebook to read this unpublished novel excerpt by Samuel R. Delany:

Here’s the coda to a not yet published novel, whose manuscript ran more than 700 pages in 2006: Shoat Rumblin: His Sensations and Ideas.

Samuel Delany

(18) FURTHER DELIBERATIONS. Here are the newest reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury.

Tidhar’s novel is both subtle and quotidian, bolshie and wildly inventive.  In common with some of its characters, it is a cyborg patchwork; a novel about a bold future that has its feet firmly planted in the past.

The book started life as a series of short stories, reworked and ordered here within a narrative frame to form a novel.  It’s complex and wily, structured around three points in time: a present, a future and a far future. The author introduces themselves quietly in a first-person Prologue, a writer sitting down in a shebeen in Tel-Aviv – perhaps in our present, perhaps not – to tell a science fiction story.  They sip cheap beer while the rain falls outside and put pen to paper: ‘Once the world was young,’ they begin, ‘The Exodus ships had only begun to leave the solar system then…’ (2)  Our writer in the present addresses us as if were a knowing audience in a far distant future, ‘sojourners’ amongst the stars who tell ‘old stories across the aeons.’  These stories – of ‘our’ past but the author’s fictional future – make up the meat and substance of the book that follows.  It sounds like rather a baroque set-up and it’s barely gestured at but it is thematically fundamental.  Central Station is a book about how the future remembers, about the future’s past. It’s a historical novel as much as a science fiction novel.

Good Morning, Midnight is a bit of a shortlist risk, as shadow jury conversations have proved. Ranging in complaints about too much lyrical sciencing to complaints about too much overt preciousness, overall, the general jury criticism toward the book has been along the lines of “too much too much.” And yet, the novel has been blurbed as a blend of Station Eleven and Kim Stanley Robinson– two supreme yet entirely different approaches to SF, flawed in their own “too much” ways (the first, a well-written, but literary carpet bagging of superficial SF tropes, the other, an over-lingering on most things, including the sublimation of ice). With comparisons like these, Good Morning, Midnight might be just the kind of “too much too much” I, and other Clarke readers, would relish. Besides, it has stars on the cover, a spaceship in the story, and is free of the usual, predictable pew-pew hijinks that tends to come with spaceship stories, so, for those reasons, it seems like something worth discussing within the context of possible Clarke contenders.

If the blurring of the ‘human/animal’ distinction gives Geen’s book its substance, the thriller plot gives it its shape—and here the novel comes a little unstuck. With two plot strands unfolding over the length of the novel, the reader is geared up to expect two conclusions: first, the revelation of whatever it was that caused Kit to flee ShenCorp; and second, the final reckoning. ‘Uncanny Shift’ builds the intrigue, as Kit is invited (not compelled, no, not at all) to work on the development of a new income stream: consciousness tourism. She’s not sure about the ethics of this, as she tells one character:

When discussing Steph Swainston’s fiction within the context of the Clarke Award, it is never long before the question arises: but is it even science fiction? I have heard it said that Swainston’s debut, The Year of Our War, should not have been eligible for the Clarke Award by reason of it being a work of fantasy rather than SF. No doubt similar objections were voiced in respect of the volumes that followed. The old dragons versus spaceships dichotomy, in other words, complicated only by the fact that there are no dragons in Swainston’s Fourlands novels, and there is a strong argument to be made that the multi-generational, FTL space craft so beloved of much heartland science fiction is as much a fantasy as any mythical leviathan and possibly more so.

(19) POWER GRAB. Prosthetic limbs with built-in power cells could be self-charging.

A synthetic skin for prosthetics limbs that can generate its own energy from solar power has been developed by engineers from Glasgow University.

Researchers had already created an ‘electronic skin’ for prosthetic hands made with new super-material graphene.

The new skin was much more sensitive to touch but needed a power source to operate its sensors.

Previously this required a battery but the latest breakthrough has integrated photo-voltaic cells in to the skin.

(20) IN THE END, GOODNESS PREVAILS. NPR says Power Rangers is fun in the end: “In The Agreeably Schlocky ‘Power Rangers,’ ‘Transformers’ Meets ‘The Breakfast Club’”.

Power Rangers cost a little over $100 million to make and looks about half as expensive, unless catering services were provided by Eric Ripert. The five Power Rangers are appealing but bland, as if skimmed from a CW casting call, and Israelite stages the action sequences in a chaotic mass of swish-pans and rapid-fire edits, perhaps to hide the daytime special effects. And yet the film grows steadily more disarming as it approaches the grand finale, in part because it believes so earnestly in the unity necessary for good to defeat evil and in part because everyone appears to be having a ball.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Matthew Johnson, John King Tarpinian, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Meredith.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The man was a force.

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(9) TODAY IN BEER HISTORY

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

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

“Game over, Moon Pie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Breakout by Year, Percentages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/8/17 And Then The Murders Began

(1) THE SMOOCH ASSUMPTION. The Washington Post knows sexy cavedellers sell, hence the headline “Neanderthal microbes reveal surprises about what they ate – and whom they kissed”.

If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then there is perhaps no better way to understand someone than by looking at his or her teeth. Especially if that person has been dead for more than 40,000 years.

This is the philosophy of Keith Dobney, a professor of human paleoecology at the University of Liverpool and a co-author of a new study that draws some remarkable conclusions about the lives of Neanderthals by peering beneath their dental enamel.

Teeth are the hardest parts of the human body, and are more likely than any other tissue to survive centuries of corrosion and decay. And dental calculus — that mineralized plaque you get admonished about at the dentist — is particularly good at preserving the bits of food, bacteria and other organic matter that swirl around inside our mouths.

… Weyrich pointed to one eyebrow-raising discovery from the new study: a near-complete genome sequence for a strain of Methanobrevibacter oralis, a simple, single-celled organism that is known to thrive in “pockets” between modern humans’ gums and our teeth (often with not-so-pleasant results).

Weyrich says this is the oldest microbial genome ever sequenced, and it suggests that humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit as early as 120,000 years ago. The find supports the growing consensus that prehistoric hanky-panky was not uncommon between Neanderthals and ancient humans. But it also suggests that these interactions were intimate, consensual affairs.

I may not be a paleoecologist or even a good kisser but I have produced a lot of spit in my time and I can think of some other ways one person’s spit might wind up in another person’s mouth. Like, what if a Neanderthal ate some meat off a bone then handed it to the next person to finish?

(2) YOUR TYRANNOSAURICAL DUNGEON MASTER. Speaking of bones that have been eaten clean (I love a great segue) — “Fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex starts D&D campaign on Twitter”.

That’s right, SUE the Tyrannosaurus, the oldest female apex predator ever unearthed and sold at auction, has begun leading her own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Using her surprisingly popular Twitter account, SUE is taking willing adventurers on an epic quest to free the land from brigands, evil mages and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

With a bright yellow 20-sided die, 58 “dagger-like teeth” and her 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide to… guide… her, SUE is weaving a tale of intrigue and treachery.

Here’s an example of a move:

(3) WHEN WORLDS DON’T COLLIDE. Just coming on my radar, though given for the first time last year, are the Planetary Awards. And if Declan Finn hadn’t mentioned them today I still wouldn’t have heard about them.

The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

Although any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” is eligible to nominate, I detected a strong puppy flavor to this year’s Planetary Awards shortlist (for 2016 works), which proved to be the case. The names of nominators include Jeffro Johnson, Jon  del Arroz, Brian Niemeier and The Injustice Gamer.

Short Stories / Novellas

  • “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Thune’s Vision
  • “Awakening” by Susan Kaye Quinn
  • “Edge” by Russell Newquist, found in Between the Wall and the Fire
  • “The Gift of the Ob-Men” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #1
  • “The Glass Flower” by George RR Martin, found in Volume 2 of Dreamsongs  [DISQUALIFIED]
  • “Images of the Goddess”by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #2
  • Paper Cut by Aeryn Rudel, found in Issue 1 of Red Sun Magazine
  • “Purytans” by Brad Torgersen, found in the July-August issue of Analog Magazine

Novels

  • Arkwright by Allen Steele
  • Babylon’s Ashes by James SA Corey
  • The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Hel’s Bet by Doug Sharp
  • The Invisible City by Brian K Lowe [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
  • Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright

The awards are administered by the “Planetary Defense Commander” whose real name is – surprise! – shrouded in secrecy.

Although the nominees were chosen by the book bloggers, any blogger, podcaster, or youtuber may vote for the winners.

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY ACTIVITY. Three new entries —

This is a color-coded table of all the jurors plotted against each other, with the color scheme giving how many books each juror had in common with the others. The blue diagonal set of boxes running from top left to lower right shows that every juror has 100% overlap with their own shortlist. Also, the table is symmetric about that line, i.e., you can look at either the rows or the columns to see how each juror overlapped with the others, as they contain the same information. So, for example, Nina had 3 books in common with Megan, none with Victoria, 1 with Nick, 2 with Maureen, etc.

And there’s two book reviews –

Matthew De Abaitua’s third novel The Destructives is the final part in a loose trilogy begun in 2008 with The Red Men and continued in 2015 with If Then. Although each of the three novels can happily be read in isolation from the others, the parallels and resonances between them – not to mention a few continuing characters – make for fascinating contemplation. Above all, it is the world shared by the three – De Abaitua’s vision of catastrophic digital meltdown in the year 2020, leaving the world’s ecosystems lethally compromised and the human species stripped of its agency – that makes these novels significant in terms of their science fiction.

Written in a tight first-person perspective with neither sub-plots nor inserts to break psychological continuity Whiteley’s novel begins by introducing us to a precocious young woman on the verge of adulthood. Born to an ambitious land-owner and educated to a standard then uncommon in farmers’ daughters, Shirley Fearne is a young woman with firm opinions and a confidence that allows her to express them quite openly. In the novel’s opening section, she often holds forth on subjects such as the importance of education, the backward opinions of fellow villagers, and the important role that women will play in helping to rebuild the country after the horrors of war.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 8, 1972  — Tales from the Crypt makes its screen debut.

(6) AUDIO BRADBURY. Phil Nichols’ site dedicated to Ray Bradbury includes a page listing radio shows based on Bradbury stories produced anytime from the 1940s til just ten years ago. Many are free downloads from Archive.org.

(7) ODE TO THE UNSUNG. Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica says “Fireside Fiction Company is science fictions best-kept secret”. Her praise even extends to an unsung hero who keeps their website working smoothly.

You may not have heard of Fireside Fiction Company, but it’s time you did. Packed with excellent free science fiction stories, the Patreon-supported publication has been going strong for five years. There are many reasons you need to start reading Fireside, not the least of which is its recent upgrade to GitHub Pages.

You could spend days immersed in Fireside’s back content. Editors Brian White and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry curate quality work from well-known writers and rising stars, including Chuck Wendig, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Daniel Abraham (one half of the Expanse writing team known as James S.E. Corey), Cassandra Khaw (whom you may know from Ars), Ken Liu, Daniel José Older, and more. But it’s not just White and Sjunneson-Henry’s good taste that has earned Fireside a sterling reputation among writers. Unlike many small publications, Fireside pays good rates for fiction. It spends almost all the money it gets from Patreon on its authors and artists.

Fireside Fiction Company also publishes a limited number of books and hosts special projects. One these projects was #BlackSpecFic, a special report on black voices in science fiction. #BlackSpecFic fits into Fireside’s overall commitment to inclusivity, publishing stories by people from a diversity of backgrounds and places.

Another way that Fireside is different from your average publication is its commitment to good code. Design and Technology Director Pablo Defendini, who helped launch Tor.com, has kept Fireside’s back-end as spiffy as what you see in front….

(8) WHIZZING THRU SPACE. Plans for a trip to Mars include scienceing the piss out of problems, too. “Why a German lab is growing tomatoes in urine”.

A fish tank brimming with urine is the first thing you see when you enter Jens Hauslage’s cramped office at the German space agency, DLR, near Cologne. It sits on a shelf by his desk, surrounded by the usual academic clutter of books, charts and scientific papers.

Rising from the centre of the tank are two transparent plastic cylindrical columns – around a metre in height. Spreading from the top of each tube is a bushy, healthy-looking tomato plant with green leaves, flowers and even a few bright red tomatoes.

(9) FROM HARRY POTTER TO HARRY THE KING? The BBC discusses a former Harry Potter star’s latest turn on the live stage in “After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is Daniel Radcliffe ready for Hamlet?” Or if not Hamlet, why not Henry V?

Daniel Radcliffe says he is really keen to be in a Shakespeare play – although he admits he’s no expert on the Bard.

The Harry Potter star has been praised for his latest role in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at London’s Old Vic.

Tom Stoppard’s comedy, first performed in 1966, centres around two minor characters from Hamlet.

The article quotes several critics’ opinions of Radcliffe’s performance, and one’s opinion of the audience — “The Daily Mail‘s Quentin Letts … noted, some Harry Potter fans who have bought tickets may struggle with the play as a whole.” About that Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, asked, “I wonder if he’s heard about growing up.”

(10) COMIC SECTION. And making for a smoother segue than the one that started this Scroll is an installment of Frank and Ernest, submitted by John King Tarpinian, which asks what if Shakespeare had been a baseball umpire?

(11) LISTEN. It’s a Vintage News story, which means it’s been floating around the internet for awhile, but never before have I encountered this bit of history — “Before Radar, they used these giant concrete ‘Sound Mirrors’ to detect incoming enemy aircraft”.

Dr. William Sansome Tucker developed early warning systems known as ‘acoustic mirrors’ around 1915, and up until 1935, Britain built a series of concrete acoustic mirrors around its coasts. The acoustic mirror was the forerunner of radar, and it was invented to help detect zeppelins and other enemy aircraft by the sound of their engines.

The British used these devices and with their help, they managed to detect many enemy raids. The acoustic mirrors could detect an incoming aircraft up to 15 miles away, which gave English artillery just enough time to prepare for the attack of the German bombers.

A number of these structures still exist.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day – Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 2/21/17 Troll, Troll, Where’s My Scroll? Gone To The Pixel, Lol Lol Lol!

(1) SPIRIT QUEST. The Society of Illustrators in New York City will host a Will Eisner centennial exhibit from March 1-June 3.

  • An opening reception will be held at the Society of Illustrators on the evening of March 10, from 7:30 – 11:00pm. Suggested donation of $20 helps support our programming and exhibitions. Cash bar will be open until midnight.
  • On April 22, there will be a gallery talk led by curators Denis Kitchen and John Lind.
  • A panel discussion on Will Eisner is scheduled for May 9.

The lasting legacy that Will Eisner (1917–2005) has in sequential art cannot be overstated—he is known as the Champion of the Graphic Novel. His innovative storytelling, layouts, and art on his newspaper series The Spirit inspired a generation of cartoonists, and his turn toward an acclaimed run of graphic novels, beginning in 1978 with A Contract with God, helped pioneer the form. Among the honors bestowed upon Eisner are the Reuben Award, the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, the Yellow Kid Award, and multiple Harvey Awards and Eisner Awards—the latter of which were named in his honor.

This two-floor retrospective—the largest Eisner exhibition ever in the United States—curated by Denis Kitchen and John Lind, comprises over 150 pieces including original artwork from Smash Comics (1939), key sequences from his graphic novels including A Contract with God (1978), Life on Another Planet (1983), A Life Force (1988), To the Heart of the Storm (1991), and over 40 pages of originals from The Spirit (1940–1952) newspaper section.

SI is located at 128 East 63rd Street between Lexington and Park Avenue in New York City.

(2) DRAGON CON LOSING AWARD? SF Site News carried the Parsec Awards announcement that they are surveying fans about their receptivity to a virtual awards ceremony in place of the annual presentations at Dragon Con. The Parsec Awards “celebrate speculative fiction podcasting.” From the awards site —

This is not something we take lightly. Over the years the awards ceremony has been an opportunity for us to share laughs, music, triumph and tragedy as a community. You, who have supported us and each other, are the reason the awards exist and we would be remiss if we didn’t attempt to serve you in the best way possible.

We feel that a virtual awards ceremony may help us do that.

By dissociating the awards with Dragon*Con, we feel that more of our community will be able to participate. No longer will travel to Atlanta be a prerequisite for presenters, entertainers or recipients. Many of those who attended Dragon*Con even found their schedules did not allow their attendance at the awards. We also feel that we can have a better chance of securing judges’ time when we are not smack in the middle of Con season as we can now have some flexibility in scheduling the awards.

So far 73% of the respondents to the survey favor moving to a virtual awards ceremony.

(3) ONE STOP. Marco Zennaro has organized a cover gallery for the “2016 Nebula Award Nominees” plus a synopsis of each work and links where to buy or find them for free.

(4) PRAISE FOR RAMBO. Rich Horton comments on “Nebula Nominees”.

Three stories that showed up on my list of potential Hugo nominees. (“Red in Tooth and Cog” was on my Short Story list (my word count for it is 7000, making it technically a Short Story but eligible for nomination as a Novelette).) The other two are “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” and The Jewel and Her Lapidary. (Curious that in length those three stories are at the very bottom end of novelette, right in the middle, and at the very top end.) The remaining three stories are decent work that I didn’t have listed among my favorites of the year, but none of them strike me as poor stories. So, again, a pretty strong shortlist, with my personal inclinations favoring either Cat Rambo’s story or Jason Sanford’s story; with Fran Wilde’s a close third — a win for any of those would make me happy.

UPDATE: Apparently there is no deadband for Nebula nominations, and “Red in Tooth and Cog” has been declared too short for novelette. It would have been nominated as a Short Story, but Cat Rambo graciously declined the nomination.

This is a shame from my point of view — Rambo’s story is (to my taste) definitely one of the best couple of stories on either the short story or novelette list, and so the shortlist is diminished by its absence. (“The Orangery”, the replacement novelette, is a fine story, to be sure, but not as good as “Red in Tooth and Cog” (in my opinion).)

This also makes the overall shortlist even more Fantasy-heavy (vs. SF), which is of course totally allowed, but to my taste again a bit to be regretted. I do think the Nebulas recently are tending to lean a bit heavily to the Fantasy side.

(5) NOW READ THE STORY FREE. You can find “Red in Tooth and Cog” in its entirety online at at Cat Rambo’s website.

(6) GONE WITH THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. In a piece called “Warfighter: Toad Hall”, The Angry Staff Officer reimagines The Wind in the Willows as if it were a wargame for military strategists to analyze, complete with the use of animal intelligence or AMINT.

How Wind in the Willows can teach us about small unit actions in warfare.

That sound? Oh, that’s just the clunking of heads hitting desks, as people react to their beloved childhood book being brought under the scrutiny of the military microscope. But really, we’d be doing an injustice to that mighty asymmetric warfighter, the Badger, if we neglected to share his courageous story with an entirely new generation of military strategists. Wind in the Willows is not a military work by any means. But the Battle for Toad Hall bears noting, because Kenneth Grahame unwittingly factored in some key elements of small unit warfare.

(7) BELLE CHIMES IN. Emma Watson sings in this new Beauty and the Beast clip.

(8) SUCH A DEAL. Director Alfred Hitchcock paid $9,000 anonymously for the film rights to Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho.

(9) SAVAGELAND. The award-winning Savageland from Terror Films will be released online February 24.

Terror Films has locked in a U.S. release date for the multi-award winning film, Savageland. To celebrate the film’s February launch, a “Dead Alive” clip is available, now!

The film is centered on the night of June 2, 2011. On this date, the largest mass murder in American history occurs in the off-the-grid border town of Sangre de Cristo, Arizona, just a few miles north of Mexico. The entire population of fifty-seven disappears overnight and the next morning nothing is left but blood trails leading into the desert.

 

(10) LENGTHENING SHADOW. The final three Shadow Clarke jury members introduce themselves, followed by the first shortlist post.

In the world of translation lit-blogging, I also discovered the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (now Man Booker International Prize) shadow jury. The idea was that a group of bloggers would read the Prize longlist; write about and discuss the books; create their own shortlist; and choose their own winner. It sounded great fun, so I asked to join – and it was.

I’ve had such wonderful times as a shadow juror, it has become a highlight of my reading year. I’m delighted that Nina Allan has adapted the idea for the Clarke Award, and excited to be participating in the project. I look forward to new conversations about science fiction, new insights, thoughts and perspectives.

These days I would describe myself as a reader on the outer edge of the sf genre; a frequent dipper of toes but a dipper nonetheless. I say that in context. I read 100 fiction books last year, of which just under a quarter could be characterised as science fiction or fantasy.  That’s quite a significant proportion I suppose, and if asked I would identify sf as something I’m interested in.  But I know that in some parts of the reading universe that’s not a great deal, and that what I’ve read doesn’t qualify me as an expert in any shape or form. At the most basic level I think of my role in the shadow judging process in this way: I’m the kind of person who uses the Clarke Award as a litmus test of quality and a steer to sf books to look out for.  I’m looking for ways to supplement the limits of my expertise and this is one of them.  As a reader of predominantly ‘literary’ and historical fiction I’d like to think the Clarke shortlist is a shortcut to the most critically challenging, engaging and powerful fiction in the field in any given year.

Even as I grew to recognise science fiction as a specific branch of literature, I remained wholly ignorant, for a long time, of the culture surrounding it. I had no idea there was such a thing as SF fandom and, most likely because I knew no one else who read SF or even knew about it beyond the Doctor Who or Star Wars level, I rather think I cherished the idea that novels like The Time Machine and The Day of the Triffids had been written especially for me. How could it be otherwise, when these books contained everything I might hope to find in a story: mystery, adventure, that fabled sense of wonder and that secret silver seam of something else, something that tastes like fear but is closer to awe.

[Before I start, I would like to state for the record that for the purposes of the shadow jury I am pretending that The Gradual – written by my partner Christopher Priest – does not exist. As such I will not be considering it for inclusion in my personal shortlist, or talking about it in this post.] 

So here we are again – the submissions list for the 2017 Clarke Award has just been posted, and the speculation about the runners and riders can officially begin. I’ve been playing this game by myself for a number of years now, poring over the list, winnowing the wheat from the chaff, trying to arrive at a list of six books that I would consider my ‘ideal’ shortlist. It’s never easy. Out of the thirty to forty novels I would personally consider as genuine contenders – and for me that would be books that aren’t zombie/vampire/horror/fantasy novels with no science fictional sensibility or run-of-the-mill commercial SF – there are always around eight to ten I could pick quite happily, with the result that I usually end up feeling I’ve short-changed one book or another by not including it in my reckoning.

(11) MONSTER ARTIST. A Guardian interview: “Emil Ferris: ‘I didn’t want to be a woman – being a monster was the best solution’”.

There has never been a debut graphic novel quite like Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. The 55-year-old artist’s first published work, which came out last week, is a sweeping 60s-era murder mystery set in the cartoonist’s native Chicago. It’s composed of ballpoint pen drawings on wide-ruled notebook paper and is the first half of the story with the second volume out in October. Before she began work on Monsters, Ferris paid the bills with freelance work as an illustrator and a toy designer, making figurines for McDonald’s – she sculpted the Mulan line of Happy Meal prizes for one of the fast food behemoth’s subcontractors – and for Tokyo toymaker Tomy, for whom she worked making the Tea Bunnies line of dolls.

But in 2001, Ferris contracted West Nile virus. At the time a 40-year-old single mother, Ferris’s work was all freelance, she said – with the effects of west Nile hindering the use of three of her limbs, her work dried up, and she looked for another outlet, in part for her creative output, and in part to exercise a dominant hand damaged by the effects of the disease. She went back to school and produced My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, which draws on her own childhood and on the experiences of family and friends who survived the Holocaust. But when her book was finished the Chinese company shipping the copies from the printer in South Korea to the United States went bankrupt and the whole print run was held hostage at the Panama Canal by the shipping company’s creditors along with the rest of the cargo on the ship carrying it.

Now, it is finally here.

(12) LOADED SF. Joshua Sky tells Tor.com readers about “Collecting Philip K. Dick: Science Fiction’s Most Powerful Gateway Drug”.

Philip K. Dick has a way of taking the reader there. Each of his novels presents a whole new experience in of itself; a totally different world that is both new yet enticingly familiar. The reader, upon finishing the book, finds that they’re no longer the same person who started it. As I’ve said, his work is perception-altering.

By age 22, I landed my first job out of college at Marvel Entertainment—it was just as the crash of 2008 was happening, so I was relieved to find something full-time. In my department was a Japanese fellow, Teru, who also collected PKD’s work and we bonded over that, swapping books and chatting about our interpretations of his stuff. Teru suggested that I also read Alfred Bester and J.G. Ballard. Another friend and co-worker during this time was a Brooklynite named Eric. We’d met at Brooklyn College and would discuss Dick’s work and make up different word games–my personal favorite was coming up with bad titles for PKD novels (since Dick himself had some deeply strange titles for his books, such as The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, to cite just two examples.)

The more I read, the more I learned about PKD himself. Turns out, most of what he wrote was first draft material with just a bit of polishing. He’d probably laugh at how most of the universities have trained an entire generation of writers to be self conscious and to over-rewrite, probably one of the most detrimental things a writer can do.

(13) LIBERATED JEDI. FANAC.org has added to its YouTube channel the video of MidAmeriCon’s (1976) audience Q&A session with the producer and leading man from the yet-to-be-released movie Star Wars.

Right out of the gate, some fan questions Princess Leia’s costume choice, and asks haven’t they seen covers of Amazing?

Gary Kurtz answers, “And we’ve got to remember women’s liberation. At this time we can’t be, we aren’t sexually selling females or males in this film.”

You didn’t know that, did you?

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. Before the film was released, before Star Wars and George Lucas were household names, producer Gary Kurtz, star Mark Hamill and marketing director Charles Lippincott came to MidAmeriCon to promote Star Wars. This Q&A session is full of fascinating background information about the film, the filming and the attitudes of the Star Wars team. For example, listen to Kurtz talk about the massive $18M gate they would need to break even. This is brought to you by the FANAC Fan History Project, with video from the Video Archeology project (coordinated by Geri Sullivan, with technical work by David Dyer-Bennet).

 

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Darrah Chavey, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Leading Critics Form Clarke Award “Shadow” Jury

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

Allan explains in her introduction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]