Pixel Scroll 7/27/2017 Your Pixeled Pal who’s Fun to Scroll With

(1) FILLING A KNEAD. A German company is working to make bread-baking in the ISS happen: “3, 2, 1 … Bake Off! The Mission To Make Bread In Space”.

Crumbs may seem harmless here on Earth, but they can be a hazard in microgravity — they could get in an astronaut’s eye, or get inhaled, causing someone to choke. Crumbs could even float into an electrical panel, burn up or cause a fire.

That’s part of the reason why it was a very big deal in 1965 when John Young pulled a corned beef sandwich out of his pocket as he was orbiting the earth with Gus Grissom.

“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked Young.

“I brought it with me,” Young said.

Young took a bite and then microgravity took over, spreading bread crumbs throughout the spacecraft.

Today, instead of bread, astronauts usually eat tortillas: They don’t crumble in the same way and they’re easy to hold with one hand as the astronaut floats about.

But for many Germans, tortillas just don’t cut it. So when a man named Sebastian Marcu heard that German Astronaut Alexander Gerst is returning to the International Space Station in 2018, that got him thinking: “Shouldn’t we do something to enable him to have fresh bread in space?”

(2) BLOWN UP. The inflatable ISS module is still going strong, and may lead to complete inflatable space stations: “After A Year In Space, The Air Hasn’t Gone Out Of NASA’s Inflated Module”.

The module is called BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and it has been attached to the International Space Station since April last year.

Expandable modules allow NASA to pack a large volume into a smaller space for launch. They’re not made of metal, but instead use tough materials like the Kevlar found in bulletproof vests.

The station crew used air pressure to unfold and expand the BEAM, but it’s wrong to think about BEAM as expanding like a balloon that could go “pop” if something punctured it.

NASA’s Jason Crusan says there is a better analogy: “It’s much like the tire of your car.”

Chip Hitchcock calls it, “Another example of science bypassing SF — it looks like we may never have the space-based construction workers featured by writers from Heinlein to Steele.”

(3) BECOMING MARTIANS. Click to see a video of a long-term simulation of life on Mars: “On a mission to Mars (with Hawaii stopover)”

Researchers living near the active Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa are six months into an eight-month mission which simulates what it’s like to live on Mars. We asked how “living on Mars” – in close quarters – has been so far.

(4) OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. Fantastic Trains: An anthology of Phantasmagorical Engines and Rail Riders is taking submissions until Midnight September 30, 2017.

Edited by Jerome Stueart and Neil Enock, the anthology focuses on speculative fiction stories of trains—fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, horror, slipstream, urban fantasy, apocalyptic, set in any time, any place—and will be released by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing in the spring of 2018.

Stories must be previously unpublished, in English, between 1,000-5,000 words.

Authors are invited to structurally play with some ‘locomotifs’ that will add interesting connections to these disparate and individual stories.

For more information, check out the call for submissions.

(5) CLARION. The 2018 Clarion Summer Workshop instructors for 2018  will be:

  • Week 1 – Daniel Abraham
  • Week 2 – Ken MacLeod
  • Week 3 – Yoon Ha Lee
  • Week 4 – Karen Lord
  • Week 5 – Karen Joy Fowler
  • Week 6 – Ellen Datlow

(6) PRESS GANG. Boskone 55 has announced that Harlan Ellison biographer Nate Segaloff as the NESFA Press Guest.

(7) SORRY GUV. I guess this just now came to the top of his To-Do list <rolleyes> — “Dick Van Dyke sorry for ‘atrocious cockney accent’ in Mary Poppins”.

Dick Van Dyke has apologised for the “most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema” more than half a century after his role in the 1964 Disney classic Mary Poppins.

The US actor played chimney-sweep Bert in the film, and has been the subject of much teasing from fans about his famously off-radar accent.

Van Dyke, 91, was chosen this week by Bafta to receive the Britannia award for excellence in television. Speaking afterwards, he said: “I appreciate this opportunity to apologise to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema.”

… Van Dyke recently announced that he would be doing “a little song and dance number” in the Mary Poppins sequel. He will play the part of Mr Dawes Jr, chairman of Fidelity Fiduciary bank, alongside Emily Blunt as the nanny extraordinaire in Mary Poppins Returns.

Van Dyke rose to prominence in films including Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as his 60s TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. His wide-spanning career has earned him five Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, the SAG lifetime achievement award and induction into the Television Hall of Fame.

But he has previously spoken about his turn as Bert, saying he would never be allowed to forget it. “People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down,” he said. “They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio.”

(8) DIRECTING TOLKIEN. Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski confirms that he has been hired to direct a Hollywood biopic on British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien: “Finnish director Karukoski attached to US Tolkien movie”

A biopic based on the coming-of-age of writer J.R.R. Tolkien is to be made by the same Hollywood studio as the recent War for the Planet of the Apes. It could also be Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s international debut.

(9) TED TALK. Howard Hendrix passed along the link to the TED talk he presented in April at UC Riverside, “since it’s sfnal, concerns Phil Dick (among other matters), and was presented by a science fiction wirter (me).” It was just posted by TED last week. “Saving Private Mind: Madness, Privacy, Consciousness | Howard Hendrix”

Society is not a prerequisite for the existence of privacy. Privacy is a prerequisite for the existence of society. Howard Hendrix’s TEDxUCR talk explores the philosophical, legal, neurological and evolutionary contexts for understanding the relationship between privacy and individual human consciousness — particularly through the lens of “madness” in the lives and works of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and Hendrix’s younger brother, Vincent John “Jay” Hendrix.

 

(10) THEY HAVE A WORD FOR IT. John Hawthorne helped create a resource on the topic of “amazing words that don’t exist in English.”

I recently reached out to over 150 language learning websites and facilities and asked them to give me some of their opinions on what are the most interesting foreign words that are not found in English. I took all my research and gave it to my colleague Adrian who made a list of 35 of the best words.

You can read all the takeaways from their research right here. These are three examples:

Antier/Anteayer (Spanish)

Can we all agree that saying, “The day before yesterday,” is a complete waste of words? So many words for such a simple concept. Those who speak Spanish have a much simpler version: “Antier”.

When did you last talk to your mom? Antier.

Desvelado (Spanish)

Insomnia. The tossing. The turning. The inability to fall asleep. That feeling of being sleep deprived is called “desvelado” in Spanish. It’s that feeling of exhaustion that comes after a terrible night’s sleep.

You need five cups of coffee. Why? Because desvelado.

Tuerto (Spanish)

What do you call a man with one eye who isn’t also a pirate? Tuerto. It seems like this word would have rather limited usage unless you work in a BB gun factory or something.

But you do have to admit, have a single word to describe someone with one eye is pretty fantastic.

(11) EARL GREY LISTENS. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, in “My Current Podcast Playlist”, provides an excellent survey of more than 15 sff, gaming and writing podcasts.

Not Now, I’m Reading: A new podcast just started by Chelsea of the Reading Outlaw and Kay Taylor Rae which focuses on reviewing genre books and media. As a keen reader of romance, I appreciate that their focus is a little wider than just SFF and the way they’re unapologetic about their passions.

Overinvested: Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Morgan Leigh Davies review movies, TV shows and comics. Most are genre, though not all. These ladies are savvy critics who really know their stuff and are also not afraid to love material they know is rubbish.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show: This Hugo-nominated podcast is headed up by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink with a large cast of co-hosts. They do multiple segments of varying kinds, including signal boosts, interviews and Torture Cinema (wherein a panel reviews a movie deemed to be awful by pop culture).

(12) SWARMING SHARKES. Are these the final transmission of the Shadow Clarke Jury? The Clarke Award winner, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, was announced today.

Awards, it seems to me, work in unusual ways in the science fiction community. They link to an existing community of fans, writers and publishers that has its own particular shape and weight. Fandom is changing. Having spent much of the twentieth century on the edges of literary culture, what was once marginal is now thoroughly mainstream. The success of major titles such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, promoted by cinematic adaptations, has broadened the pool of readers—but simultaneously brought pressures of its own, the pressure to sell and sell big, to build blockbuster brands.

Awards fit awkwardly into this changing space. Are they primarily markers of prestige? Are they handed out by fan communities to honor the successes of their own? Do they chart new trends? Whereas winning the Man Booker Prize can have huge ramifications for an author’s career—and their sales—this isn’t really the case for science fiction awards. Many writers and editors will tell you that even the Hugos in most cases don’t result in a substantial change in sales numbers. One case, oddly enough, where it did was Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem which won the 2015 award for best novel, a year that was mired down by the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slate-creation. In fact, it may well have been the high volume of conversation in online circles surrounding those Hugo awards that inadvertently contributed to the sales boost. Certainly, journalists could sense a story and so the firestorm may well have provoked media attention that simply wouldn’t either ways have focused on the Hugos.

And if awards themselves occupy an ill-defined space then the relationship between awards and criticism is even murkier. Sometimes critics participate in the process of choosing award winners but just as frequently that role falls to the fans themselves, through various membership and voting systems. Fans of a genre that has always had a popular element—almost by definition—and has for much of its existence been barred from prestige culture may well have a justified suspicion of criticism. And yet just as science fiction is going mainstream, it is also entering areas where it was previously barred: there are several degrees that include science fiction literature within the UK and the field itself has developed through prizes like the Clarke Awards and through institutions like the British Science Fiction Association.

What they thought should win —

As regards the Sharke winner, the race was between Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, and Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground. But whilst Infinite Ground enjoyed passionate support from two or three jurors in particular, and Central Station ran a close second for pretty much the entire jury, in the end it was The Underground Railroad that came through as the clear winner. ‘The Whitehead is a phenomenal book,’ Vajra said, summing up our discussions. ‘In my reading, the very core of science fiction is not novelty, but freedom: that is, emancipation. By this measure The Underground Railroad is as core as core science fiction can possibly be, and the extent to which this is contested is an indictment of the state of discourse in science fiction itself. I would like to see it win all the awards and be firmly planted in this soil so that a better science fiction could grow from here. It’s not Whitehead that needs it so much as the rest of us.’

What they predicted would win —

We all felt that whilst Ninefox Gambit is very much a traditional space opera, it also presents some interesting variations on that tried-and-tested formula by being more ambitious in terms of its concept, more inventive in its use of language, more diverse in relation to its character demographic. For all these reasons – together with the fact that we all, to varying degrees, found things in this novel to admire – we came eventually to the conclusion that Ninefox Gambit would be the title inside that envelope:

(13) THE BOOKER. The 2017 Man Book Prize longlist was announced yesterday. Mark-kitteh says, “I see several books of genre interest in the Booker. Underground Railroad, 4 3 2 1, and Exit West. (There may be more, I’m not familiar with them all).” You can add Lincoln in the Bardo, for sure.

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
  • The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

(14) TOOTHSOME. Once the Sharkes wrap up, people will have to depend on Syfy for their finnish entertainment: Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.

With much of America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado, Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop them.

 

(15) STARSHIP PRANKS. Fox showed this version of their trailer for The Orville  at Comic-Con.

THE ORVILLE is a one-hour science fiction series set 400 years in the future that follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory vessel. Its crew, both human and alien, faces the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the familiar, often humorous problems of regular people in a workplace…even though some of those people are from other planets, and the workplace is a faster-than-light spaceship. In the 25th century, Earth is part of the Planetary Union, a far-reaching, advanced and mostly peaceful civilization with a fleet of 3,000 ships.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (Hopefully I’ve used this only once…).]

Pixel Scroll 7/25/17 J.J. Abrams Apologizes For Pixelwashing In File Trek: Into Scrollness

(1) NEW DAY JOB. Congratulations to Uncanny Magazine’s Lynne M. Thomas who has been appointed to head the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, one of the largest repositories for rare books and manuscripts in the United States: “University of Illinois alumnus to head Rare Book and Manuscript Library”

Exactly 20 years after starting work as a graduate assistant in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Lynne M. Thomas is returning as the new head of the library.

Thomas, who earned her master’s degree in library and information sciences at the University of Illinois in 1999, has been the curator of rare books and special collections at Northern Illinois University since 2004 and the head of distinctive collections there since 2014. She’ll begin her appointment at the library and assume the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Library Professorship on Sept. 1.

While working at Northern Illinois University, Thomas helped grow its holdings of the papers of contemporary sf authors.

(2) PUBLICATION OF BLACK SFF WRITERS. Fireside Magazine has issued “The 2016 #BlackSpecFic Report” (follow-up to its 2015 report):

We are considering the field both with and without the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” special issues of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Fantasy Magazine, since they constitute a project that is limited to one year. Without these issues, a sample of 24 professional SF/F/H magazines yielded 31 stories by Black authors out of 1,089 total stories — that’s 2.8% — while 2.9% of 2016’s published unique authors are Black. In 2015 we found figures of 1.9% and 2.4%, respectively. While there’s no way to determine yet if these small increases are evidence of gradual long-term improvement or just normal variation — two years is too short a trajectory for that — perhaps we can find a cautious degree of optimism…..

Effects of the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” Issues

In spite of comprising a tiny portion of the field’s story volume, the “PoC Destroy” issues collectively contained over 20% of 2016’s stories by Black authors. They alone raise the 2016 field-wide ratio by nearly a full percentage point, from 2.8% to 3.6%. Put another way: any improvements that took place from 2015 to 2016? The “PoC Destroy” issues are responsible for about half….

Where Do We Go From Here?

Again, we think there’s reason to have a degree of optimism. Some magazines made substantive changes to their editorial staffs and marketing strategies subsequent to the 2015 report, which was released late enough last year that any resulting improvements would impact only 2017 and beyond. It’s for this reason that this 2016 follow-up is not a comparative analysis but rather should serve as a baseline for comparison in future years.

Progress isn’t always linear; not all magazines have equal resources or lead times, which is why we want to hear from editors and publishers. What are your strategies for combating low publication rates of Black authors? Please answer our survey to let us know.

Black SF/F writers: we’d like to hear your comments and suggestions for how we can improve future reports. This also goes for data collection; we’re working purely from what’s publicly available on the Internet, and we don’t want to force people to publicly self-identify in order to be counted. If you suspect your stories are not included in this count and would like them to be, just want to double check, or have any other concerns — please let us know. Our email address is BlackSpecFicReport@gmail.com; correspondence will be kept confidential.

(3) CHIPPING IN. A Scroll last month talked about one man getting chipped; now it’s an entire company workforce: “Wisconsin company Three Square Market to microchip employees”.

Three Square Market is offering to implant the tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip into workers’ hands for free – and says everyone will soon be doing it.

The rice grain-sized $300 (£230) chip will allow them to open doors, log in to computers and even purchase food.

And so far, 50 employees have signed up for the chance to become half-human, half-walking credit card.

(4) GAME OF SIMPSONS. The Verge has learned “Matt Groening is making an animated medieval adult fantasy with Netflix” called Disenchantment.

Netflix announced today that Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, will be developing a medieval animated adult fantasy called Disenchantment. It’s scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix in 2018.

The series’s protagonist is a young, “hard-drinking” princess named Bean (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson), and her two male companions are a “feisty elf” named Elfo (Nat Faxon) and a demon named Luci (Eric Andre). While both The Simpsons and Futurama have dynamic, fleshed-out female characters, this is Groening’s first series with a clear female lead.

Rough Draft Studios, the studio that does the art for Futurama, will animate Disenchantment. From the few details Netflix is offering, it’s easy to imagine a sort of epic-fantasy version of Futurama, with the same acerbic, absurdist humor as Groening’s other shows. In the US, Netflix doesn’t have a series that fits this exact bill, though Archer may come closest. (Netflix also carries Futurama, so Disenchantment should fit in.)

(5) ROLL THE BONES. Tom Galloway sent this link with the comment, “Curiously, ‘Santa Fe, NM’ isn’t given as a location from which large bets would raise suspicions…” — “Growing Strong: Inside the Burgeoning ‘Game of Thrones’ Gambling Business”.

Increasingly, Thrones also lends itself to speculation in the financial sense of the word. As Thrones has ascended to its singular place in the splintered TV firmament, it’s not only come to be covered like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, but it’s started to support a similar secondary market of rumors and wagers. Thanks to the series’ big built-in audience, large (if shrinking) cast of characters, and uncertain endgame, Game of Thrones and gambling go together like lovestruck Lannister (or Targaryen) twins.

Some Thrones-related betting contests, like The Ringer’s Thrones Mortality Pool, are just for fun. But in recent years, a number of ostensible sportsbooks have gotten in on the action, with prominent sites such as Sportsbet, MyBookie.ag, and Pinnacle (which debuted its Thrones odds this year) trying to capture a piece of the (hot) pie. The best-known of these books is Bovada, an online gambling and casino-games site owned by a group based in Québec.

Bovada began publishing prop bets for Game of Thrones in 2015. Since the start, those bets have been the personal province of Pat Morrow, who’s been with Bovada for a decade and has served as the site’s head oddsmaker for the past four years. Technically, Morrow oversees all of the site’s wagers, but he’s much more likely to delegate work on the data-based bets that make up most of the site’s offerings. The Thrones odds come from his head alone, both because they require a personal touch and because no one else at Bovada is as qualified to apply it

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 25, 1969 – In theaters: The Valley of Gwangi, a schlockfest of cowboys vs. dinosaurs in Forbidden Valley

(7) SPACE STYLES. The Fashion Spot is telling everyone “Gucci’s Fall 2017 Campaign Is Out of This World!”

Alessandro Michele continues to raise the bar at Gucci while refusing to follow the rest of the fashion pack. His advertising campaigns for the iconic Italian fashion house are often extremely well-received by our hard-to-thrill forum members (despite a few controversies). The newly unveiled Fall 2017 campaign, captured by Glen Luchford, is on another planet — literally. Yes, Michele revisits his sci-fi concept, going all-out for the new mainline campaign — complete with dinosaurs, hovering spaceships, models channeling their inner alien and so much more.

(8) T AND SEE. Lisa Allison at Adventures In Poor Taste lists her faves: “SDCC 2017: Top 5 nerdy t-shirts”. John King Tarpinian says he’d have bought this shirt –

#2: Vampires Don’t Do Dishes

I was drawn to this one for a few reasons. It pairs a quote from What We Do in the Shadows starring Jemaine Clement with a sort of buck toothed, vampire. It’s fun, creepy and artistic. The Benday dots on the sides are a nice touch.

(9) BITER BIT. A Discovery magazine columnist showed several fee-for-publication medical journals seem to have nonexistent professional standards, in “Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting”.

A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it….

Four journals fell for the sting. The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ) I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.

So what did they publish? A travesty, which they should have rejected within about 5 minutes – or 2 minutes if the reviewer was familiar with Star Wars. Some highlights:

“Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity…”

“Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”

“Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism.”

“midichloria DNA (mtDNRey)” and “ReyTP”

And so on. I even put the legendary Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise monologue in the paper…

…This matters because scientific publishers are companies selling a product, and the product is peer review. True, they also publish papers (electronically in the case of these journals), but if you just wanted to publish something electronically, you could do that yourself for free. Preprint archives, blogs, your own website – it’s easy to get something on the internet. Peer review is what supposedly justifies the price of publishing.

[Via Ansible Links.]

(10) PASSING THE HELMET. And in other bogus Star Wars news, Darth Vader has started a GoFundMe: “Help Me Build a Death Star!”.

The Empire is under attack. We are in urgent need of funds to construct a Death Star to crush this rebel alliance!

It had raised zero of its $900 million goal when I last checked in.

(11) SUCKING UP DATA. Speaking of world domination – Eric Persing shared this link with the comment, “This is pretty much the beginning of how the robots take over humanity…right? The vacuum maps your home, sells your home layout to the highest bidder and before you know it, the toaster is trying to kill you.” — “Roombas have been mapping your homes for years, and that data’s about to be sold to the highest bidder”.

As Reuters reports, Roomba maker iRobot is bullish on the prospect of selling what it learns about your home to whoever might want it. “There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared,” iRobot boss Colin Angle told Reuters.

If that sounds more than a little creepy that’s because, well, it is, but companies pushing into the smart home market would most certainly be willing to pony up the dough for the data. Products like smart speakers, security monitors, high-tech thermostats, and many other gadgets could potentially benefit from knowledge of your home’s layout, but in order for iRobot to actually sell archives of the data, it would likely need to be anonymize — that is, scrubbed of any personally identifiable information and lumped in with countless others.

(12) NOT MY FAULT. Munchkin is concerned:

(13) PUPPY RADAR. Camestros Felapton has compiled a list of authors and works being promoted for the Dragon Awards in “Time for those Dragon Projections!”

  1. The titles listed are based on what I have found trawling the web looking for people who were, to some degree or other, promoting works to be nominated for a Dragon Award. I found a lot but who knows what I missed. I did find some stuff on Facebook but it and other places are hard to search inside of. Also, maybe some authors are promoting the Dragons like crazy in forums I cna’t access or on their email lists. Who knows? So large pinches of salt please.
  2. There is though a ‘status’ column and that is even a greater testament to hubris in data collection. The higher the status the more wallop I think the promotion of the work had – either in multiple places or by venues with known impact (e.g. the Rabid slate). “Low” though also includes stuff whose promotional impact I don’t know. Some are authors I don’t know but who may have some legion of highly devoted followers ever ready to throw their bodies and email addresses at an awards website. It is NOT any kind of assessment of the quality or even the popularity of the work – so if you an author and you see ‘very low’ next to your book, don’t be disheartened.
  3. So it is all a bit pointless then? No, no. Basically the more stuff on the list that appears as Dragon Awards finalists, the more the finalists were determined by overt public campaigning on blogs – and predominately from the Rabid and Scrappy corners. The less stuff on the list making it as finalists, then the less impact that kind of campaigning had on the Dragon Awards.

(14) THE SHARKES BITE. The Clarke Award will be announced this week. The Shadow Clarke jury dashes off one more review, then begins analyzing the Sharke experience and the future of the Clarke award.

An inspector investigates the case of a disappeared man but despite his occasional dreams of solving the case, he never uncovers the truth and only succeeds in stripping away layer after layer of appearance until nothing is left. Infinite Ground is a kind of metatext in which the ostensible missing person investigation in the plot simultaneously functions to interrogate fundamental aspects of being such as identity and even existence, as though the world itself is also text. By the end of MacInnes’s novel we are no longer sure if the man, the inspector and the society they come from are still in existence or, indeed, if they ever existed at all. Among the many facets of the text is a strain of the kind of hermeneutic deconstruction that marks out my natural enemies in any literature faculty. ‘At the heart of meaning there is no meaning’ is the refrain of this theme but it often seems to coexist very comfortably with institutional power structures and academic management hierarchies. MacInnes takes this to extreme levels of quantum indeterminacy and fractal microbiology that defy any kind of systematisation, however there is still a level of destruction wrecked on everyday life in texts like this which I find uncomfortable. I am reminded of reading Paul Auster’s different, but not entirely dissimilar New York Trilogy and turning afterwards to Dashiell Hammett for an equally relentless but more grounded interrogation of social existence. MacInnes, however, had me turning to Hammett within 30 pages…

So, what did we achieve here?

If nothing else – apart from a few good jokes floating around the web about who has read which Iain Banks novels – we have demonstrated why the actual Clarke Award juries don’t make their deliberations public. Nevertheless, I do think the level of discussion and analysis we have provided has been a positive feature even when this has provoked a certain amount of pushback. There hasn’t been a hidden agenda and the motivations and various criteria used by members of the shadow jury have become reasonably clear across the process. Anyone looking at the project from the outside is in a position to weigh up the assumptions and judgements made and to criticise these for deficiencies; and, of course, a number of people have done this. I have found it interesting to read the discussion on File770 and twitter as well as on the comment boxes on the Sharke posts themselves. Some of this seems fair and some seems unfair; but that is often the way of things.

As this year’s Clarke festivities wind inexorably towards their close, I thought it would be interesting to cast an eye over the landscape ahead of us. It does the heart good to have something to look forward to, after all, and what could be more fun than making a few early advance predictions about next year’s Clarke Award?

I’m not here to discuss the more obvious entries. We all know that Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie have new novels out this year and everybody will be talking about them as possible contenders soon enough. As the books I’m most interested in tend to be those that hover around the edges of genre, I thought I’d do better to focus upon novels published by mainstream imprints that might otherwise be overlooked by SFF commentators. With a little over half the year gone, there will inevitably be titles I’ve overlooked, authors I’ve not come across yet. This is just a tiny sample of what next year’s Clarke jury might have to look forward to.

And as a bonus, a review of the actual Clarke shortlist from Strange Horizons. Interestingly, the reviewer has a good go at linking the 6 nominees together thematically, even though the Sharkes were of the opinion that the shortlist lacked a coherent theme…

In theme, style, and content, the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist—Emma Newman’s After Atlas, Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me, Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station—is a diverse set. However, in different ways, each of these books speaks to [Jill] Lepore’s concern about “a fiction of helplessness and hopelessness.” Perhaps, as a function of the times we are in, these books do not heed Le Guin’s call to envision alternatives to how we live. The futures—and in one case, the past—that these books offer is either dystopic or close to dystopic, in utterly recognizable ways. Many of the pregnant battles of today—for democracy, for equality, for privacy, and against universal surveillance—have in these pages been lost for good, and there is no pretence that any individual, or group of individuals, has the power to transform the world. There is little in the way of grand narrative or vaulting ambition in terms of the stories that these novels set out to tell. Far greater—and in some cases, exclusive—focus is placed on human relationships, on more mundane struggles; it is as if Marx’s utopianism of overthrowing centralized power has been replaced by Foucault’s bleaker understanding of power’s ubiquity, and the dispiriting realization that the struggle is limited to daily, quotidian acts. Above all, there is—almost—a palpable mistrust of any radical re-imagination of the ways in which society might be organised.

(15) CARRIE VAUGHN. Lightspeed poses questions to the author in “Interview: Carrie Vaughn”.

You explored Enid’s world in your Hugo-nominated short story “Amaryllis,” which, contrary to most post-apocalyptic stories, has a positive ending. What made you want to explore the dark side of this world at novel length in Bannerless?

It’s a multifaceted culture with both good and bad to it, and Enid is in a unique position to see both. I went into the story assuming that a culture built up like this one is, with a huge amount of scrutiny to go along with the community building, is going to have some unintended consequences, such as the bullying of outsiders.

(16) CONNECTIONS. Matt Mitrovich reviews Nick Woods’ Azanian Bridges for Amazing Stories.

Azanian Bridges is a well-written novels that tackles a difficult period of South African history that, in the grand scheme of things, only recently ended. I read it shortly after I finished Underground Airlines and found myself comparing the two novels. Both deal with de jure racial inequality in two different countries continuing long after it ended in our timeline. To be honest, I felt Underground Airlines had a bigger impact on me since I am an American and have a better understanding of my own country’s past, but if you have any knowledge of South African history, there is enough about this world that Nick created for you to enjoy.

And yet the actual history plays a secondary role to the primary purpose of Azanian Bridges: that we can have peace if we can bridge the divide between peoples.

(17) COSPLAY AT COMIC-CON. ScienceFiction.com shares stunning photos in “SDCC 2017: Cosplay Gallery Part 1”.

(18) ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY EVICT THE SUPERNATURAL. Todd Allen continues The Mister Lewis Incidents  — a monthly short form satirical horror detective / urban fantasy series featuring the adventures of a “physics consultant” who consults on matters that defy the laws of physics. The fourth one is out commercially and the fifth one is in the hands of the crowdfunding folks.

The Gentrified Bodega Investigates the Secrets of a Shady Landlord

Wherever rents are rapidly rising, and especially where there’s rent control, there’s always a problem with landlords stepping outside the law to evict renters.  But what happens when there’s something in the building that isn’t human and isn’t ready to leave?

About The Gentrified Bodega

“The neighborhood was improving and people were dying to move in. Then their bodies were turning up in the back aisle of the bodega. The building wove a web of shady evictions, fake leases and unexplainable deaths. Can Mister Lewis discover the secret of the gentrified bodega or will the housing crisis be solved by mass attrition?”

The Gentrified Bodega is available on Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and Kobo or direct from the publisher.

(19) ALL WET. Aquaman Movie 2018 Teaser Trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/19/17 By The Pixel Of Grayscroll!

(1) WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. Adam-Troy Castro links to his post “This Community We Love is Infested With Toxic Spoiled Brats” with this comment: “The object of a fandom you don’t care about is not a deadly infection to be wiped out on general principle. Fandoms can cross-pollinate. Interests can cross-pollinate.The things you ‘don’t give a shit about’ are not invaders you need to exterminate. Most to the point, you can get through your day without being a dick.”

Ed Sheeran, who is a fan of Game of Thrones, who got cast because he openly begged the producers to give him a bit part and had a nice little scene written for him, a scene that added texture to the story and even you hated it took up only three minutes of your life, has had to shut down his twitter feed because Game of Thrones fans have invaded in force, showering him with abuse because they are irate that the focus of another fandom has invaded theirs. They accuse him of ruining the show and stress that they don’t give a shit about his music, which sucks anyway.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

This community we love is infested with toxic, spoiled brats.

(2) CLARKE ALLEGATIONS. Jason Sanford and Paul Cornell are among those tweeting a link to Vice’s article “We Asked People What Childhood Moment Shaped Them the Most” which contains a first-hand account of abuse by an unnamed science fiction writer in Sri Lanka who they (logically) identify as Clarke.

The teller of the story, Peter Troyer, today is a performer with Tinder Tales in Toronto. His section of the Vice article begins —

Peter Troyer

I grew up in Sri Lanka. My dad was doing some work for the Canadian government. There were a lot of expat kids in my area and we had free reign of the neighbourhood. Our parents mostly let us do what we wanted, but we were told to stay away—never go near—a large property that bordered my house. When we asked why the reasons were always vague.

There were some rumors that someone very famous or maybe powerful lived there. We all got the sense that he was …a danger in some way. One day I was home sick from school. My grandfather was visiting from Canada and he was assigned to watch me. I remember that I was in pajamas. We were in the backyard and my grandfather was painting peacocks. Out of our hedges this man appeared and approached us. I instantly knew it was the man from the property. …

(3) TWO OR MORE. Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison include several “dream teams” among the authors of “Five SFF Books Written Collaboratively”, discussed at Tor.com.

The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.

(4) WHO KNEW? Apparently “ruining” Doctor Who is actually part of the show’s long and respected tradition. Steve J.  Wright explains in “Writ in Water, not Set in Stone: Doctor Who backstory”.

…Then William Hartnell became too infirm to continue with the series, and the big change happened, at the end of “The Tenth Planet”.  An exhausted First Doctor is found lying on the floor of the TARDIS, and when his companions flip him over onto his back (instead of sensibly leaving him in the recovery position), the TARDIS dematerialization SFX plays, and the Doctor’s face seems to brighten and glow… and the screen whites out, and instead of William Hartnell, there’s Patrick Troughton.

The regeneration is not really explained, at this point.  “It’s part of the TARDIS; without it, I couldn’t go on.”  The first Doctor’s ring with the blue stone no longer fits; is it some sort of prop that the Doctor no longer needs?  The Doctor initially appears confused and disoriented, but when he’s settled down, it’s apparent that this is not just a younger version, this is a whole different personality – more impish, more madcap, but also capable of great passion and commitment; the Second Doctor throws himself into situations with much more zeal and energy than the austere First.

He also becomes more obviously different.…

(5) CENTS AND SENSIBILITY. Don’t tell John C. Wright — “Author Jane Austen featured on new British 10-pound note”.

Two hundred years to the day after Jane Austen died, a new 10-pound note featuring an image of one of England’s most revered authors has been unveiled – right where she was buried.

At the unveiling Tuesday of the new “tenner” at Winchester Cathedral in southern England, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the new note celebrates the “universal appeal” of Austen’s work.

Austen, whose novels include “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility,” is considered one of the most perceptive chroniclers of English country life and mores in the Georgian era. Combining wit, romance and social commentary, her books have been adapted countless times for television and film.

The new note, which is due to go into circulation on Sept. 14, is printed on polymer, not paper.

(6) SHADOW CLARKE PROCEEDINGS. Mark-kitteh sent these links with a note, “The essay by Kincaid (the second one) asks some genuinely interesting questions about the purpose of awards and the meaning of ‘best’, although he does feel the need to end it with the now-traditional bashing of Becky Chambers.”

Of all the novels on my personal Shadow Clarke shortlist, Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground was the one I anticipated having most difficulty in writing about, partly because of its incredibly complex structure, but mostly because I wasn’t at all sure I actually had a critical language I could bring to bear on it in a way that might make sense to a reader. Back when I was compiling my personal shortlist of Shadow Clarke books, ploughing through the opening sections of each title on the submissions list, of all of the eighty-odd titles this was the one that felt ‘right’ to me. That is, this is the one that immediately held my attention, the one I would have sat down and read cover to cover right there and then if I had not had to send away for a copy.

I have been associated with science fiction awards ever since I was approached to administer the Hugo Awards for the 1987 Worldcon. In the years since then I have won and lost awards, I have administered them, judged them, handed them out, written about them, and even (in the case of the Clarke Award) helped to create them. Now, another first, I have taken part in a shadow jury. And the result of all that: I probably know less now about the purpose and function and value of awards than I ever did.

Well that’s not quite true. There are some awards, like the Tiptree which I helped to judge in 2009, that have a very specific remit: in the case of the Tiptree it is the exploration of issues of gender. I find it instructive that the Tiptree Award often identifies novels and stories that I, personally, consider to be among the best in the year; but choosing the best, as such, is not what the Tiptree Award is about.

For the vast majority of awards, however, that one word, “best”, explains all and explains nothing. “Best” is the prison cell that most awards have entered knowingly and from which they cannot escape.

In terms of a reading experience, the past six months has been unusual, to say the least. Between the publication of the Clarke submissions list in mid February, and the imminent announcement of the winner in late July, I have read and reviewed not only the titles on my personal shortlist and the official Clarke shortlist, but also as many of other Sharkes’ personal choices and interesting outliers as time has allowed. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed so much science fiction in a single stretch – a chastening experience in and of itself – and I have learned plenty along the way, not least how misguided some of my own initial choices turned out to be, how much we all – as readers, writers and critics – tend to fall back on untested assumptions. I have learned more than a little about the difficulties and compromises involved in serving on an award jury, how every argument provides a counter-argument, how every book selected will point to three that are lost, how it is impossible to arrive at a meaningful decision without reading or at least sampling every submission.

Most of all, I have been reminded of how multifarious and diverse is the art of criticism. When it comes to assessing works of literature, there is no universal standard for excellence, no unified ideological approach, no such thing as objectivity. We each come to the process heavily laden with baggage, some of which we cannot set aside because it is enshrined in who we are and where we come from, some of which we cling to out of habit. Part of our job as critics lies not so much in relinquishing our baggage but in acknowledging that it exists.

(7) THE EARLY NERD GETS THE WORM. Wil Wheaton is interviewed by Kevin Smith on a piece in IMDB called “How Wil Wheaton’s Star Trek Fandom Impacted The Next Generation”.  Wheaton, interviewed by Kevin Smith, talks about how he was a Star Trek nerd on the set of TNG and was ready to answer Trek questions on the set if cast members didn’t know what was going on.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.

 

(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.

 

(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/16/17 There’s A Scroll In The Bottom Of The Sea

(1) JACK KIRBY NAMED DISNEY LEGEND. The late Jack Kirby will be honored with the Disney Legend Award at this year’s D23 Expo in Anaheim.

JACK KIRBY first grabbed our attention in the spring of 1941 with Captain America, a character he created with Joe Simon. Kirby then followed this debut with a prolific output of comic books in the Western, Romance, and Monster genres–all a prelude to his defining work helping to create the foundations of the Marvel Universe. For the next decade, Kirby and co-creator Stan Lee would introduce a mind-boggling array of new characters and teams — including the Avengers, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Ant-Man, Wasp, Black Panther, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Inhumans. Kirby was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame’s 1987 inaugural class and continued creating comics throughout the ‘90s before passing away in 1994.

Other honorees of this year’s Legends Award are Carrie Fisher, Clyde “Gerry” Geronimi, Manuel Gonzales, Mark Hamill, Stan Lee, Garry Marshall, Julie Taymor, and Oprah Winfrey.

(2) BILL FINGER AWARD WINNERS. Jack Kirby, along with Bill Messner-Loebs, is also a winner of the 2017 Bill Finger Award presented by Comic-Con International.

Bill Messner-Loebs and Jack Kirby have been selected to receive the 2017 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. The selection, made by a blue-ribbon committee chaired by writer-historian Mark Evanier, was unanimous.

“As always, I asked on my blog for suggestions of worthy recipients,” Evanier explains. “Many were nominated and the committee chose Bill as the worthiest of those still alive and working, and Jack because although his artwork has always been justly hailed, his contribution as a writer has been too often minimized or overlooked. In fact, in the years we’ve been doing this award, Jack Kirby has received many more nominations than anyone else, but we held off honoring him until this year because it seemed appropriate to finally do it in the centennial of his birth, and because members of his family will be at Comic-Con to accept on his behalf.”

The Bill Finger Award was created in 2005 at the instigation of comic book legend Jerry Robinson. “The premise of this award is to recognize writers for a body of work that has not received its rightful reward and/or recognition,” Evanier explains. “Even though the late Bill Finger now finally receives credit for his role in the creation of Batman, he’s still the industry poster boy for writers not receiving proper reward or recognition.”

Kirby’s history was covered in the first item. Here’s the citation for the second winner.

Bill Messner-Loebs has been a cartoonist and writer since the 1970s. He has worked for DC, Marvel, Comico, Power Comics, Texas Comics, Vertigo, Boom!, Image, IDW, and the U.S. State Department (for which he produced a comic about the perils of land mines). He has written Superman, Flash, Aquaman, Mr. Monster, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate, Jonny Quest, Spider-Man, Thor, and the Batman newspaper strip. He wrote and drew Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistaire and Bliss Alley, and he co-created The Maxx and Epicurus the Sage. He has also delivered pizzas, done custom framing, been a library clerk, sold art supplies, and taught cartooning.

(3) TROLLS. Recent Facebook experiences led David Gerrold to post a thorough discussion of trolling.

There is no freedom of speech on Facebook — Facebook is a corporation, like a newspaper or a television station. They are not obligated to protect your rights. You waived specific rights when you agreed to the terms of service —

But those terms of service have to be a two-way street. They represent a contract between service provider and consumer. And there must be a responsibility on the part of the service provider to protect the consumers from the abusive behavior of those who violate the social contract of our nation.

The social contract, you say? I’ve heard people argue, “I never agreed to a social contract.”

Actually, you agreed to it when you accepted the responsibility of being a citizen — you agreed to abide not only by the laws of the nation, but by the underlying promise of this land, the promise of liberty and justice for all.

So, I do not regard trolls as simply an internet annoyance — I regard them as human failures — as individuals who have forgotten the promise on which this nation was founded. They are not much better than caged chimpanzees who are good at screeching at the bars and throwing feces at anyone who gets to close.

Because in the great grand scheme of things, every moment of our lives is a moment of choice. We can choose to dream of the stars, or we can choose to wallow in the mud. We can choose to create something of value for ourselves and our families and our friends — or we can choose to destroy the well-being of others.

(4) TOLKIEN BIOGRAPHER AIDS CROWDFUNDING EFFORT. John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War, has donated signed copies of his book to the fundraising campaign for Oxford University’s project to document the First World War.

I’ve donated five signed copies of Tolkien and the Great War to help raise money for this appeal. It’s only thanks to the personal letters and photographs preserved by various Great War veterans, by families and by museums that I was able to bring to life the experiences of Tolkien and his friends in the training camps and trenches of the war. If you can donate, please do. Whether you can or can’t, please share this announcement:–

Win over £1,000/$1,000 worth of Tolkien Books… and Help Oxford University Save Items from World War One

Oxford University is currently crowd-funding a project to run a mass-digitization initiative of publicly-held material from the First World War and as is well known the experiences J. R. R. Tolkien underwent in 1916 in the Battle of the Somme had a profound effect on him and his writing. To assist with our major crowd-funding appeal we have been generously supported by Tolkien scholars and publishers, allowing us to present a prize draw opportunity to win three major publications amounting to over £1,000. Our sincerest thanks go to John Garth, Wiley/Blackwells, and Routledge for their help.

To enter the prize draw go to: https://oxreach.hubbub.net/p/lestweforget/

If you sponsor us by pledging £1 or more (or equivalent) you will be entered into a draw to win one of five copies signed by John Garth of his ‘Tolkien and the Great War’ (pbk, HarperCollins, 2011 – RRP: £9.99; $12.00; ‚¬11.99).

If you sponsor us by pledging £5 or more (or equivalent) you will also be entered into a draw to win one of three copies of ‘A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien’ (hbk, Wiley/Blackwells, 2014) signed by the editor (RRP: £125; $140; ‚¬150).

Finally, if you sponsor us by pledging £10 or more (or equivalent) you will also be entered into a draw to a full set set of ‘J. R. R. Tolkien: Critical Assessments of Major Writers’ (4 volumes, hbk, Routledge, 2017) signed by the editor (RRP: £900; $1,180; ‚¬930)

In addition to these chances of winning, you will also be helping to save and preserve important objects from the First World War which are in danger of being lost on a daily basis.

Here’s the home site of the preservation project: ‘Lest we forget’ – a national initiative to save the memories of 1914-1918

We are raising £80,000 to train local communities across the UK to run digital collection days to record and save objects and stories of the generation who lived through World War One. Every item collected will then be published on November 11th 2018 through a free-to-use online database for schools, scholars, and the wider public.

But we cannot achieve this alone so please help by donating to support the training days, outreach activities, and the equipment we need.

saving the past for the future – world war one
2018 will mark the centennial anniversary of the end of World War One. Few families in Britain were unaffected by the conflict, and in thousands of attics across the country there are photographs, diaries, letters, and mementos that tell the story of a generation at war, of the loved ones who fought in the conflict, served on the home front, or lost fathers and mothers. Help us launch this national effort to digitally capture, safeguard, and share these important personal items and reminiscences from the men and women of 1914-1918. Help us support local digitisation events across village halls, community centres, schools, and libraries.

(5) THE FOUNDATION OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Josephine Livingstone reviews The Tale of Beren and Lúthien for New Republic in “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Love Story”.

And The Tale of Beren and Lúthien is more like a scholarly volume than a storybook. There are versions of the tale in verse, and versions in prose. There are versions where the villain is an enormous, evil cat, and versions where the villain is a wolf. Names change frequently. But instead of taking the “best text” route, where the editor chooses a single manuscript to bear witness to the lost story, Christopher Tolkien has offered up what remains and allowed the reader to choose. It’s a generous editorial act, and a fitting tribute in memoriam to his parents’ romance.

(6) MEDICAL UPDATE. Fanartist Steve Stiles sent this news about his diagnosis and treatment plans.

I just found out, via the lung specialist I saw the week before last, that I’m *NOT* having lung surgery at Sinai on the 20th, but rather a consultation re my “options” (would that be chemo vs. surgery? ), followed by *another* appointment to have a tube inserted down into my lung, which sounds like a whole bunch of fun. *THEN* I go in for surgery or whatever.

Looks like July is pretty well shot as far as having the two weekend cookouts with friends who we traditionally have over. It’s a drag, but considering the alternative….

(7) DALMAS OBIT. Author John Dalmas (1926-2017) has died reports Steve Fahnestalk:

With great sadness I learn that John Dalmas has died, either last night or early this morning; I understand he was in the hospital with pneumonia. Author of “The Yngling” and many other books, he was a good friend to MosCon and PESFA. You will be missed, Onkel !

Dalmas’ The Yngling, his first published sf, was serialized in Analog in 1969 and made especially memorable by Kelly Freas’ cover art.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Ray Bradbury and Ralph Waldo Emerson are descendents of Mary Perkins Bradbury, who was sentenced to be hanged in 1692 in the Salem Witch trials, but managed to escape before her execution could take place.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 16, 1954 Them! premiere in New York City.
  • June 16, 1978Jaws 2 swims into theaters.

(10) THAT THING YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU NEEDED. The Golden Snitch Harry Potter Fidget Spinners are selling like hotcakes. Who knows if there will be any left by the time you read this? (I’m kidding — they’re all over the internet.)

(11) AWESOMECON. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Over Awesome Con weekend, D.C. will prove its geek-to-wonk ratio”, previews Awesomecon, the Washington, D.C. comicon taking place this weekend. He talks about the celebrities who are coming, including Chris Hadfield, Edgar Wright, David Tennant, and Stan Lee, still hustling at 94. A sidebar has short items of some of the panels, including “CosLove Presents: #I Can Be A Hero, where cosplayers talk about the good deeds they do, like volunteering at hospitals. Finally, Manor Hill Brewing (which is at manorhillbrewing.com) has the official Awesomecon beer, Atomic Smash, which has a robot and an A-bomb!

So could King, who worked overseas with the agency’s counterterrorism unit after 9/11, ever see the Caped Crusader making it as a CIA agent?

“I can see Batman doing the job,” King says, but it is “harder to see him filling out the paperwork. And without good paperwork skills, you’ll never even make ­GS-12 in this town.”

This town, where sometimes the political wonk and comics geek are the same person.

(12) GIFT CULTURE VS. WAGE CULTURE. At Anime Feminist, Amelia Cook triggers a collision between fandom’s gift culture and those running megacons who expect on skilled people to work for free — “The Big Problem Behind Unpaid Interpreters: Why anime fans should value their skills”. [Hat tip to Petréa Mitchell.]

This week Anime Expo, the biggest anime convention in the English speaking world, put a call out for volunteer interpreters. Anime Expo is far from a new event, and had over 100,000 attendees last year. How did they fail to account for the cost of professional interpreters when budgeting? If they can’t afford to pay interpreters, what hope do any of the smaller cons have?

Let’s be real: they didn’t fail to account for it, and they can afford it. AX is a big enough event in the fandom calendar that they could have bumped ticket prices up by under a dollar each to bring in the necessary funds. If for some reason that wasn’t an option, they’re a big enough name that they could even have crowdfunded it. There’s no good reason not to pay every single interpreter for their work. There are, however, a couple of bad ones.

The most generous reading of their actions is that not a single person on the entire AX staff understands what interpreting involves. More likely is that they considered it an unnecessary cost, knowing they could get enthusiastic amateurs to work for free without putting a value on their time. Ours is a culture of scanlators and fansubbers working for the love of it, right? Why not give these lucky worker bees a chance to meet some cool people and see behind the scenes of a big event?

….When I first saw the tweet from AX, it made me viscerally angry. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to the point that I’ve written this post. What possible justification is there for this decision? What on earth made them think it would be acceptable? Were interpreters even discussed at the budgeting stage (and if not, why not)? Will they get their stable of unpaid amateur interpreters anyway, or will the outcry their tweet sparked make capable people steer clear? If they don’t get enough sufficiently capable volunteers, will they fork out for professionals or settle for people with a lower level of Japanese? What are their priorities in this situation? What were their priorities when they drew up this year’s budget?

(13) BATLIGHT. Here’s what it looked like when they flashed the Bat Signal on LA City Hall.

(14) SHARKES ON DUTY. The Shadow Clarke Jury’s latest reviews include coverage of two Hugo novel finalists (if you count that the Fifth Season one also covers the Obelisk Gate a bit.)

I wanted to begin this piece by noting that I put The Fifth Season at the top of my ballot for the Hugo last year — although this is somewhat undermined by the fact that I can no longer remember for sure if I actually voted. One time when I did actually vote was at the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon, where all that was required was posting a paper form into a ballot box in the dealers’ room. That year there was an all British shortlist suggesting perhaps that the domestic audience dominated the nomination process but also the then high international standing of British SFF. I voted for Iain M Banks’s The Algebraist, which was only on the ballot paper because Terry Pratchett had withdrawn Going Postal. The Hugo was won by Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which I had read, loved, and placed last on my ballot because it was fantasy. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the result because J. K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman had won recently and, in any case, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was probably the most substantial novel on that ballot. The only virtue I can now see in the decision I made at the time is that it served to reduce the difficulty of making a choice.

While an increasing number of writers have made strenuous and laudable efforts to confront the “boys’ own adventure’ stereotypes of core genre archetypes“ the most famous recent example being Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy — progressive experimentation and stylistic complexity in terms of the text itself is much, much rarer and receives scant notice. When Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit turned up on this year’s Clarke Award shortlist, of the three books I’d not read already it was definitely the one I was most excited about. My encounters with Lee’s short fiction had left me with an impression of complex ideas nestled within a prose that was dense and highly coloured and often abstruse — pluses for me on all three counts. Would Ninefox Gambit prove to be my space opera holy grail: a thrilling adventure in terms of prose as well as high-concept, widescreen FX? I was eager to find out.

It’s space opera, you know?

One of last year’s most famous, most advertised, most-clearly-recognized-as-science-fiction novels, on a shortlist almost entirely of famous, advertised novels–especially in relation to the rest of the 86-title submissions list–the inclusion of Ninefox Gambit on the Clarke shortlist was inevitable. Its reputation as a challenging narrative, its loyalty to standard genre form, and the requisite spaceship on the cover have established its place in the science fiction book award Goldilocks zone. If things go as they did last year and in 2014, it’s also a likely winner.

Although I’ve already made it clear this is not the kind of book I would normally value or enjoy, the placement of Ninefox Gambit on the Clarke shortlist is something I asked for last year, though not in such direct terms:

(15) NUMBER OF THE FOX. Elsewhere, Terence Blake responded to Jonathan McCalmont’s earlier review of Ninefox with some interesting points: “NINEFOX GAMBIT (2): power-fantasy or philo-fiction?”

I agree with everything that McCalmont says about the novel’s structural flaws, and in particular the problematic subordination of Yoon Ha Lee’s speculative inventivity and complexity to the fascistic, bellicose form of military science fiction. However, I don’t fully recognize the novel from McCalmont’s description.

1) The novel reads like both science fiction and fantasy, but there are many ways to blur or to undercut the distinction. In the case of NINEFOX GAMBIT I think that the “fantasy” aspect is only superficial. It is derived from the fact that the “hard” science underlying the story is not physics but mathematics. It has this structural feature in common with Neal Stephenson’s ANATHEM, which nonetheless is a very different sort of novel….

(16) FROM TOP TO, ER, BOTTOM. For your fund of general knowledge — “Every British swear word has been officially ranked in order of offensiveness”.

The UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, interviewed more than 200 people across the UK on how offensive they find a vast array of rude and offensive words and insults.

People were asked their opinion on 150 words in total. These included general swear words, words linked to race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, body parts and health conditions, religious insults and sexual references, as well as certain hand gestures.

(17) MARVEL LEGACY 1. Sounds like Marvel is about to push the “reset” button.

An Asgardian titan. A Wakandan warrior bred to be a king. The very first Sorcerer Supreme.

Since its inception, Marvel has been delivering groundbreaking heroes and explosive stories. Now, prepare to return to the dawn of time, as Marvel introduces you to the first Avengers from 1,000,000 BC — when iconic torch-bearers such as Odin, Iron Fist, Star Brand, Ghost Rider, Phoenix, Agamotto, and Black Panther come together for the startling origin of the Marvel Universe, in MARVEL LEGACY #1!

The acclaimed team of writer Jason Aaron (Mighty Thor) and artist Esad Ribic (Secret Wars) reunite for an all-new 50-page blockbuster one-shot that will take you through time to the current Marvel Universe, showing you how it’s truly “all connected.” A true homage to Marvel’s groundbreaking stories, MARVEL LEGACY brings your favorite characters together for exciting and epic new stories that will culminate in returning to original series numbering for long-running titles.

MARVEL LEGACY #1 isn’t simply a history lesson,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “Rather, it’s the starting gun to a bevy of mysteries and secrets and revelations that will reverberate across the Marvel Universe in the weeks and months to come! No character, no franchise will be untouched by the game-changing events that play out across its pages. Jason and Esad pulled out all the stops to fat-pack this colossal issue with as much intrigue, action, surprise, mystery, shock and adventure as possible!€

MARVEL LEGACY #1 will present all fans — new readers and current readers — the very best jumping on point in the history of comics,” says Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso. “What Jason and Esad have crafted is more grand and more gargantuan than anything we have ever seen before and introduces concepts and characters the Marvel Universe has never encountered. Fans are going to witness an all-new look at the Marvel Universe starting at one of the earliest moments in time carried all the way into present day. Not only will this be the catalyst for Marvel evolving and moving forward, but expect it to be the spark that will ignite the industry as a whole.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Stiles, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories, and a hat tip to Petréa Mitchell. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayne.]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/17 Scrolltime For Pixels

(1) RABID DRAGONS. Vox Day has posted his picks for “Dragon Awards 2017”. Castalia House and John C. Wright are well represented, along with other things he likes. But poor Declan Finn — he’s not on the list.

(2) BOOZY BARBARIANS. Fritz Hahn, in a Washington Post piece called “A ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar where you can drink Dothraquiris on the Iron Throne”, reviews the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar, which will be open throughout the summer and where you can drink The North Remembers from a horn as well as all the Ommegang Game of Thrones beers. But don’t take any broadswords there or the bouncers will confiscate them!

After pop-up bars dedicated to Christmas, “Stranger Things,” cherry blossoms and Super Mario, the Drink Company team is turning the former Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich spaces into five settings evoking George R.R. Martin’s novels. (Doors open June 21, just a few weeks before Season 7 premieres on HBO.) Immersive rooms include the House of Black and White (where you’ll find a Wall of Faces made of molds of employees and friends of the bar) and the Red Keep, where you can pose for a photo as House Bolton’s flayed man. There will be dragons and house banners, of course, though the real centerpiece will most likely be a full-size replica of the Iron Throne, which co-founder Derek Brown says “is going to be totally ridiculous.”

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER SET TO MUSIC. A theatrical concert based on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is coming to Chapel Hill, NC in November.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon is a celebration of all that’s progressive and uplifting in American music. Written by Toshi in collaboration with her mother — iconic singer, scholar and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon — this powerful theatrical concert brings together 200 years of African American song traditions to give life to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel, with revealing insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.

 

(4) SPECIAL NASFIC OBSERVATORY TRIP. NorthAmeriCon ‘17 members have a chance to join guest of honor Brother Guy Consolmagno, the “Pope’s Astronomer,” on a special tour of the Arecibo Observatory. Find out how at the link.

There are 25 spaces available for the VIP tour, which includes the visitor’s center as well as a 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour in small groups. Since we anticipate that demand for the VIP tour may exceed supply, we are creating a lottery to allocate these spaces. An additional 25 spaces will be available on the bus for the Visitor’s Center only.

The lottery will close at 10 pm ET on Monday, June 12. So as long as you request a spot by then you have an equal opportunity to be picked.

Also, the convention room rate for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino ends on June 12. Reserve your rooms at the this link.

(5) WHETHER OR NOT YOU WISH. “This is really a neat piece, about the universe where a fantasy princess became a warrior general,” notes JJ, quite rightly. Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable by Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin.

Spoilers ahead for the Wonder Woman film.

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987.

The princess bride in question was played by a twenty-year-old Robin Wright….

(6) HENRY HIGGINS ASKS. In “Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be Wonder Woman?” on National Review Online, editor Rich Lowry says that conservatives will find much to like in the new Wonder Woman movie. He also addresses the mighty controversy about whether the film is feminist because Gal Gadot has no armpit hair in the movie…

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB READING SERIES. On June 21, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Catherynne M. Valente & Sunny Moraine. The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, and a small army of tulips.

Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. They are also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies and their debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone is available from Undertow Publications. In addition to time spent authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometime college instructor. They unfortunately live just outside Washington, DC, in a creepy house with two cats and a very long-suffering husband.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.). Remember to donate to their Kickstarter. Readings are always free.

(8) THE FIELD OF MARS. Esquire explains “Why Wonder Woman Has the Most Powerful Opening Scene In Comic Movie History”.

The opening scene in Wonder Woman is a stunning statement: On the enchanted island, the Amazonian women prepare for the day the god of war Ares finds them and tries to wipe them out. To prepare for the god of war is to prepare for war. The camera swoops through the training ground, capturing the Amazonian warriors as they practice wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, archery, and horsemanship. They clash, fists to skin, on a lofted pedestal. They flip from their horses in slow motion, and they smash each other to the ground, all gleaming armor and sinewy muscle as they whirl through the air, braids whipping and breastplates glinting.

It’s a purely physical display of beauty and strength. In a brief minute of film, these women redefine what it means to be a fighter, setting the tone for the rest of the movie: This is going to be two hours of a woman who was raised by women charging straight into the bloody fray of war. You just don’t ever see this bodily type of combat training with women in a movie, and it is enough to make you giddy with anticipation of whatever graceful punishment the Amazonian women will dish out against a real enemy.

(9) BLUE MAN GROUP. I guess they are not playing around. “21st Century Fox’s FoxNext Acquires Mobile Game Studio Group Developing ‘Avatar’ Title”Variety has the story.

FoxNext, the recently formed gaming, virtual reality and theme parks division of 21st Century Fox, is sinking its teeth into the $40 billion mobile games market.

FoxNext has acquired mobile-game developer Aftershock, the entity spun off from Kabam after South Korean gaming company NetMarble acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio and other assets last December in a deal reportedly worth up to $800 million.

Aftershock — which has studios in L.A. and San Francisco — currently has three titles in development. The only one that’s been publicly announced is a massively multiplayer mobile strategy game for James Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise, in partnership with Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

(10) WHEN HE’S WRONG. ComicMix’s John Ostrander has a bone to pick with Bill Maher. (And it’s not the one I expected.)

Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion — Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.

His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.

Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.

Then on his most recent show, Maher was quite disdainful about superhero movies in general.

He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

(11) BEESE OBIT. Conrunner Bob Beese suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away on Friday, June 2. He is survived by his wife Pat “PJ” Beese. Both were past Marcon guests of honor.

Bob Beese worked on Chicon IV (1982) and other Chicago cons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 6, 1933 — The first drive-in movie theater of the United States opened in New Jersey.
  • June 6, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. I may have to run this again in two days — many sources, including the Wikipedia, say it was published on June 8. The correct date has probably been lost down the Memory Hole.

(13) NEW MIDDLE GRADE FICTION PRIZE. Joan Aiken’s estate and the A.M. Heath Literary Agency have announced the creation of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize.

A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, are launching a competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.

Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’€¯ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.

The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.

A shortlist of five will be announced on August 28, and the winner will be announced on September 14. [Via Locus Online and SF Site News. See guys, giving a hat tip doesn’t hurt at all!]

(14) SMALL BALTICON REPORT. Investigative fan journalist Martin Morse Wooster gives File 770 readers the benefit of his latest discovery:

I learned from the Balticon fan lounge that there was Mythbusters slash fiction. No one knew, though, whether in these stories Jamie and Adam did it before, after, or during the explosions (because as we all know, the four best words in Mythbusters are “Fire in the hole!”

I’ll probably have to forfeit one of my Hugos for reporting that.

(15) STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Mark Kaedrin takes a stylistic cue from his subject — “Hugo Awards: Too Like the Lightning”.

You will criticize me, reader, for writing this review of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in the style that the book itself notes is six hundred years removed from the events it describes (though only two hundred years removed for myself). But it is the style of the Enlightenment and this book tells the story of a world shaped by those ideals.

I must apologize, reader, for I am about to commit the sin of a plot summary, but I beg you to give me your trust for just a few paragraphs longer. There are two main threads to this novel. One concerns a young boy named Bridger who has the ability to make inanimate objects come to life. Being young and having a few wise adult supervisors, he practices these miracles mostly on toys. Such is the way they try to understand his powers while hiding from the authorities, who would surely attempt to exploit the young child ruthlessly.

(16) INNATE OR OUTATE. Shelf Awareness interviews John Kessel about “Sex (and Pianos) on the Moon.”

John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and the story collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction dealing with gender issues. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler. Kessel’s new novel, The Moon and the Other (reviewed below), recently published by Saga Press, is set on the moon in the 22nd century and tells two love stories, in two politically opposed lunar colonies–the patriarchal Persepolis and the matriarchal Society of Cousins.

What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?

When my daughter was little, I’d take her to daycare and watch her on the playground with other kids. There was a difference in the way that the girls and the boys played. The boys would run around, often doing solitary things. The girls would sit in a sandbox doing things together. So I began to wonder: To what degree is gendered behavior innate, and to what degree is it learned? I read up about primate behavior, including chimpanzees and bonobos, both related to human beings, but with different cultures. That started me wondering whether there are other ways society could be organized. I didn’t see myself as advocating anything, but I did consider how the world might be organized differently.

(17) THE SHARKES CONTINUING DELIBERATIONS. The Shadow Clarke Jury keeps its reviews coming.

Of the six novels on my personal shortlist, Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North is the one that disappointed me most when I came to read it. I originally picked it partly because there was a slight buzz about it online, and I am always curious about novels that provoke online chatter. I chose it too because I’d gained an impression, mostly erroneous as it turned out, that the main character would spend a considerable amount of her time as a fox (and indeed, the novel’s cover art rather implies that this will be the main thrust of the novel), and I’m oddly fascinated by the human preoccupation with vulpine transformations (also, I happen to like foxes a good deal). When I initially wrote about my choices, I invoked David Garnett’s odd little novel of transformation, Lady Into Fox, but having read Many Selves and reread Lady Into Fox, I can see now that I was wrong, except perhaps for one thing, which I’ll come to in due course. Instead, as I read on I found myself thinking more about T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Again, I’ll come back to that shortly.

Even before it was published, The Underground Railroad enjoyed a spectacular amount of pre-buzz. I came to it with a certain amount of apprehension — could any book possibly survive the weight of so much hype? — but expecting to admire it nonetheless. Colson Whitehead is a writer with a notable track record in literary innovation — he gave the zombie novel the full Franzen, after all — and has always been a better-than-solid craftsman. Yet in spite of judging it a perfectly decent book — it’s a thoroughly professional, smoothly executed, highly readable novel on an important subject — I found myself distinctly underwhelmed. Where The Underground Railroad is concerned and in spite of wishing I liked it better than I do, I remain in a condition of some bemusement: I simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.

It is hard to think of a work that does a better job of articulating the artistic tensions at work within contemporary literary science fiction than Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Set in the same universe as many of the shorter works that Lee has produced since first entering the field in 1999, his first novel speaks to what science fiction must become whilst paying excessive lip-service to what some would have it remain.

Some thoughts. If anyone has ever read my blog they will, I hope, see that most of the implicit criticism is aimed at myself, though obviously some of what follows touches on various discussions on the Shadow Clarke board.

Subjective taste and critical practise depend on so many factors, thus any reading will privilege certain aspects — close reading, theoretical base, genre knowledge, life experiences, political orientation. Once you remind yourself of that basic idea, it becomes almost impossible to defend the rhetoric and moralism that goes into a special pleading for this book or that. I like a bit of rhetoric and I like a bit of hyperbole — it’s fun. BUT my head would not have exploded if The Power had won this year now would it? It will be hard to stop but I probably should. Moreover, I CAN understand why Priest, Mieville, MacInnes, Kavenna or ANY novel didn’t make it on to the shortlist. The idea that there is some objective truth or taste out there that says differently now seems to me entirely bogus. Even amongst those with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the SF megatext there is no agreement or consensus about the books this year or any year.

There is legitimate concern that by labeling The Underground Railroad as science fiction, readers might dismiss the horrors presented in this geographically and chronologically distorted history, thus relegating it all to whimsical fiction. Yet the SFnal device is there for a reason, and Whitehead’s manipulations of time and space are critical to that purpose: as unnerving as The Handmaid’s Tale, as destabilizing as The Man in the High Castle, as cognitively demonstrative as Viriconium, and as psychologically resonant as The Dark Tower€”all works that utilize alt universe devices to bring sociopolitical and literary concerns into powerful, stark relief. Whitehead’s use of this device is complex and brilliant, although I was unable to grasp just how complex and brilliant it is until this project, which has forced me into the tedious and meaningless position of having to argue for its place in science fiction.

But here we are.

(18) PERN RECOVERED. Book Riot reports: “Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy Gets New Covers”.

Del Rey Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a publisher of quality science fiction and fantasy novels. Among those titles are the three books that make up Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy and the more than 20 novels that have come since. And now, they’re getting a new look.

After August 1, readers will be able to purchase the trilogy, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon, with shiny new covers.

Images of the covers appear at the post.

(19) SUNSTROKED. The BBC knows about “A planet ‘hotter than most stars'”.

Scientists have found a hellish world where the “surface” of the planet is over 4,000C – almost as hot as our Sun.

In part, that’s because KELT-9b’s host star is itself very hot, but also because this alien world resides so close to the furnace.

KELT-9b takes just two days to complete one orbit of the star.

Being so close means the planet cannot exist for very long – the gases in its atmosphere are being blasted with radiation and lost to space.

Researchers say it may look a little like a comet as it circles the star from pole to pole – another strange aspect of this discovery.

(20) STORYTELLING. It’s great to listen to authors reading — if they’re any good at it. Book View Cafe’s Madeleine E. Robins advises how to do it well in “Modulation: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

You’re telling a story. When you’re among friends telling the anecdote about that time in Marrakesh with the nun, the waffles, and the chicken, do you tell it in a monotone? Not so much. Reading in a monotone does not give your material dignity–it flattens it. So read as if you’re talking to your friends. On the other hand, unless you’re a really gifted actor, you don’t have to act it out. No, really.

And dialogue? Speak it as you hear it in your head, as if your characters were saying it. Use the emphases you hear them using. Pause when they do. (Maybe I’m overselling this, but when I write I hear the dialogue, so that’s how I read it. Your mileage may vary.)

(21) THE PHOTON OF YOUTH. Golden Oldies on Vimeo starts at a Fifties sock hop, then explains the horrible things that happen when the music stops!

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Alan Maurer, Mark-kitteh, Ellen Datlow, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall, who may not have realized what he was doing at the time.]

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.]