(1) BROOKLINE SHOOTING INCIDENT. SF writer Michael A. Burstein faced an unexpected emergency decision today.
When I ran for Library Trustee of the Public Library of Brookline back in 2004 for the first time, I never expected the day would come when I would be saying the following over the phone to the Library Director:
“As far as I know at the moment, this is an active shooter situation in the town of Brookline. You have my complete authority as chair of the Library Trustees to send staff home, shut down the libraries, or do whatever you think you need to do to keep patrons and stay safe. Just keep me posted and I’ll check in with the police again once we’re off the phone.”
He, Nomi and their children were safe but rattled. At the time, Brookline police were responding to reports of two local incidents in which people were shot and/or stabbed.
Police have not yet captured the assailants, however, later in the day they found their car in Boston.
Police in Brookline said they have located the car from today’s shooting but are still looking for the driver and another suspect after three young men were shot and stabbed multiple times this morning in related incidents in Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village
(2) SFWA MAY ACCEPT GAME WRITERS. Science Fiction Writers of America will soon vote whether to allow sales in writing S/F games to qualify writers for membership. SFWA Vice President M.C.A. Hogarth discussed the question at the SFWA Blog.
The Gaming Committee has drafted solid credentials for admitting professional writers of SF/F games–tabletop or computer or console or app–to our numbers. The Board has reviewed them, made modifications, and chosen a final draft. Now it’s up to our members to vote to include our writing peers in the gaming industry into our numbers. The question will be going out on the election ballot at the end of Februrary.
Games, no less than books, tell compelling stories in our genre. I hope you’ll join me in opening our doors to our professional colleagues in SF/F game writing.
(3) HURLEY SAYS FIGHT BACK. Kameron Hurley on “Traditional Publishing, Non-Compete Clauses & Rights Grabs”.
One of the big issues we’ve been dealing with the last 15 years or so as self-publishing has become more popular are the increasing rights grabs and non-compete clauses stuck into the boilerplate from big traditional publishers terrified to get cut out of the publishing equation. Worse, these clauses are becoming tougher and tougher to negotiate at all, let alone get them to go away. Worser (yes, worser) – many new writers don’t realize that these are shitty terms they should be arguing over instead of just rolling over and accepting like a Good Little Author. What I’ve seen a lot in my decade of publishing is new writers on the scene who don’t read their contracts and who rely on their agent’s judgement totally (and that’s when they even HAVE an agent! eeeee). They don’t have writer networks yet. They aren’t sure what’s normal and what’s not and they don’t want to rock the boat.
I am here to tell you to rock the boat.
(4) DRUM LESSONS. M. Harold Page finds “Writerly Lessons from Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum” at Black Gate.
Even so, this literary failure is still a heroic one. The book not only displays the craft of a veteran adventure writer, it is also an object lesson in career strategy.
As an author I benefited from reading this book. Let me tell you why…
First, this book can teach us some craft. It confirms the idea that research can be layered (link). There’s a lot you don’t need to know when writing a Historical story and a lot you can put in on the final draft.
Identify the people who are a physical threat to your character and find the conflicts that link then.
However, what makes The Walking Drum truly illuminating is that it is like sitting Louis L’Amour down with beer and getting him to brainstorm historical adventure plots until we can see how he does it.
L’Amour clearly focuses on conflicts leading to physical threats. I’m a great enthusiast for exploring story worlds through conflict (link). However, L’Amour reveals a shortcut: Identify the people who are a physical threat to your character and find the conflicts that link them. I suppose L’Amour would say:…
(5) FINDING YOUR VOICE. Elizabeth Bear on authorial voice, in “he’s got one trick to last a lifetime but that’s all a pony needs”.
You have a voice, as an artist and as a human being. That voice is part of who you are, and it’s comprised of your core beliefs, your internalizations, your hopes and dreams and influences and experiences. You can develop it. You can make it better. But until you find it–until you find that authentic voice, and accept it, and begin working on making it stronger and trusting it and letting it shine through–you will always sound artificial and affected. And there’s a reason we call it “finding your voice,” and not “creating your voice.” The voice is there. Whatever it is, you are stuck with it. So you might as well learn to like it, and work with it, and improve it.
(6) X-FILES. Steve Davidson has lots to say in “The X Files Return: Review & Commentary” at Amazing Stories. No excerpt. BEWARE SPOILERS.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY
- January 27, 1967 — Astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire aboard the Apollo 1 spacecraft during a launch simulation at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center
(8) MINSKY OBIT. Marvin Minsky (1927-2016), a leader in the field of artificial intelligence, as well as occasional sf author and convention participant, died January 24 reports SF Site.
He served as an advisor on the film 2001: a space odyssey and later collaborated with Harry Harrison on the novel The Turing Option.
The New York Times obituary noted:
Professor Minsky, in 1959, co-founded the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Project (later the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) with his colleague John McCarthy, who is credited with coining the term “artificial intelligence.”
Beyond its artificial intelligence charter, however, the lab would have a profound impact on the modern computing industry, helping to impassion a culture of computer and software design. It planted the seed for the idea that digital information should be shared freely, a notion that would shape the so-called open-source software movement, and it was a part of the original ARPAnet, the forerunner to the Internet.
(9) GRATEFUL. Mike Reynolds is one of the finalists who was not selected to be the teacher-astronaut aboard the Challenger.
The 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster this week has a deep meaning for college professor Mike Reynolds. At the time, he was a teacher at Fletcher High School and a finalist for the ill-fated Challenger mission.
Reynolds was picked out of thousands of educators nationwide, to fly in NASA’s teacher-in-space program, which was announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was teacher Christa McAullife who was ultimately chosen and perished during takeoff with the entire crew.
Reynolds witnessed the Challenger explosion from the Kennedy Space Center viewing area.
“It was so surreal. It took probably a minute, even for someone like myself who is familiar with launches, to really sink in what had happened,” Reynolds said….
Reynolds said the days and months that followed were the most painful in his life, but he made friends with families of the seven onboard, including Capt. Dick Scobee’s wife, June Rodgers Scobee, and Greg Jarvis’ parents. Reynolds said the horror the nation witnessed on that day deeply affected him.
“It’s really affected me, knowing that every day on this earth is a gift, so use that time wisely and stick to your mission and God’s given gifts, and that’s why I stayed in education,” he said.
(10) PLAQUE FOR PRATCHETT. The Beaconsfield town council knows Pratchett will eventually get one of those famous blue plaques. In the meantime, the city will honor Terry Pratchett with a commemorative plaque of its own.
Born in Beaconsfield and educated at John Hampden Grammar School in High Wycombe from 1959 to 1965, [Pratchett] went on to become a reporter at the Bucks Free Press in 1965 before making a name for himself as an author.
The town council hopes to install a plaque on the wall at Beaconsfield Library in Reynolds Road, where Sir Terry was a Saturday boy and returned to give talks.
Cllr Philip Bastiman, chair of the open spaces committee, said the council had been in touch with Sir Terry’s daughter Rhianna, who was “very supportive” of the idea of commemorating the author.
He said: “Because I believe he worked in the library and used the library a lot and he came back and actually gave talks at the library relatively recently, in their mind, it had a place in his affections.
“They feel it is wholly appropriate to have a commemorative plaque to Terry Pratchett at the library itself.”
Cllr Bastiman said they could have to wait “a number of years” for a blue plaque, which are commonly used to commemorate historical figures and places, so will remember him with their own plaque.
(11) COMMENTS DEFACE HARTWELL OBIT. The Register gave David G. Hartwell a nice obituary. Unfortunately, Puppification intruded at the third comment.
(12) WOMEN IN SF. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is working on an anthology, Women of Futures Past, that will be published by Baen. The project’s blog has a new entry by Toni Weisskopf.
[Kristine Kathryn Rusch] When it became clear to me that the sf field was losing its history, particularly the history of women in the field, I decided to do an anthology. And I immediately knew who would be the perfect publisher/editor: Toni Weisskopf of Baen. We’ve been the field for the same amount of time, and I knew, without checking, that all this talk about the fact that there are no women in sf had to bother her as much as it bothered me. We got together last February at a conference, and sure enough, I was right…
[Toni Weisskopf] …So I never experienced this mythical time of science fiction being an old boys club, with the Man oppressing women, keeping us down. What do these people imagine all the women in field before them did? I didn’t need Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg to remind me about the contributions of editor Bea Mahaffey at Other Worlds, or the obituaries to tell me about Alice Turner at Playboy; in my circles, they were both still remembered. Same with Kay Tarrant at Astounding/Analog and Cele Goldsmith at Amazing.
So one wonders who is really devaluing the work of women. Perhaps it is those who imply that the women who are successful in SF today need some sort of special consideration. Or is it simply that these people have not bothered studying the history of the field they are talking about? I finally begin to understand the purpose of those lists of names in epic poetry and the Bible: these people existed, they were there. It is my hope that Kris’s anthology will do something towards balancing the scales and prove a resource for anyone who loves great SF and cares about historical accuracy.
(13) SHORTCHANGED. Remembering that the sf genre had ANY women addresses a different question than the fairness issues that arise now that there are MANY women genre writers. Consider the next post about the horror genre…
Nina Allen asks “Where Are We Going? Some Reflections on British Horror, Present and Future” at Strange Horizons.
Somewhat conveniently for the purposes of this discussion, FantasyCon 2015 saw the launch of three “best of” horror anthologies: the latest (#26) in Stephen Jones’s redoubtable Best New Horror series, which has now been running for more than a quarter of a century, The 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories under the editorship of Mark Morris, and the twenty-fifth anniversary reissue of Best New Horror #3, from 1991. Looking down the table of contents of this last, I encountered many familiar, well-loved names—some sadly no longer with us, some very much still writing and contributing to the literature. I want to stress right from the off how important the Best New Horror series has been to me, both as a reader and as a writer. When I began developing a professional interest in horror fiction towards the end of the 1990s, BNH was where I first started to acquaint myself with the field: who was writing, what they were writing, how they related to one another. I would read each volume cover to cover when it first appeared, adding to my knowledge and developing my taste with each new outing.
When I look at the table of contents for BNH #3, I see the names of writers who first drew me into the genre (McGammon, Grant, Newman, Etchison), writers who deepened my understanding of what horror writing could do and cemented my allegiance (Campbell, Royle, Lane, Ligotti, Tem, Hand), as well as one more recent discovery, Käthe Koja, whose writing is everything that modern horror should aspire to be. A wonderful compendium indeed, and if I felt a little disappointed to see that of the twenty-nine stories listed, only four were by women, I reluctantly put it down to the times. While women have always written horror, the awareness of women writing horror was not then so advanced as it has become more recently. Any anthology that styled itself “Best New Horror” in 2015 would surely provide greater parity in representation.
How surprised was I then, when I turned to the table of contents for BNH #26 and discovered that of the nineteen stories listed, a mere three were by women writers.
Three must be somebody’s lucky number, and nineteen, come to that, because of the nineteen stories selected to appear in the 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories—and this from more than five hundred submissions received—only three of those were by women, also.
I honestly don’t see how this is a situation anyone can feel happy with. I’m not even going to get started on the representation of writers from minority ethnic backgrounds in these tables of contents, because it’s practically nil.
OK, those are the facts, the figures I’d brought with me for discussion on the panel. They speak for themselves, and what they say about the state of horror fiction in the UK in 2015 is that it’s very white, heavily male-dominated, and furthermore, that this situation hasn’t changed at all in the last quarter-century.
(14) MORE TO REMEMBER. The BBC has a little list of its own — 10 Women Who Changed Sci-Fi. The name that follows Mary Shelley is –
Ursula K Le Guin
Le Guin has been a significant player in the science fiction field since the 1960s and has nourished the sci-fi and fantasy genre with piercing visions of race, gender, ecology and politics. She has also been its heroic defender with a host of best-selling writers citing her as an inspiration.
(15) SHINDIG. The Hollywood Reporter details plans for the Star Trek 50th anniversary fan event in New York City.
This September, Star Trek marks its 50th anniversary by returning from the final frontier and landing in New York City for Star Trek: Mission New York, a three-day event based around a celebration of the beloved TV and movie franchise.
Taking place Sept. 2-4 at the Javits Center, Mission New York comes from New York Comic-Con organizers ReedPOP. Lance Festerman, global svp for the company, said in a statement that the new convention “will be a completely unique fan event unlike anything seen before, giving [fans] the chance to go beyond panels and autograph signings, and immerse themselves in the Star Trek universe.”
(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- Born January 27, 1832 – Lewis Carroll.
This first issue of the MOSF Journal of Science Fiction features four articles that explore science fiction through analysis of various themes, including—but by no means limited to—globalization, mythology, social commentary, and assemblage theory. Derrick King’s discussion of Paolo Bacigalupi’s critical dystopias explores utopian political possibilities that biogenetics could create, while Sami Khan’s analysis of Hindu gods in three Indian novels reveals how closely mythology and social commentary entwine with science fiction. Karma Waltonen examines how female science fiction writers have used loving the “other” as a means of challenging societal taboos about sex, and Amanda Rudd argues that Paul’s empire in Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) is an entirely new assemblage composed of rearranged elements from the previous ruler’s empire and the indigenous Fremen culture.
(18) TYSON IN RAP BATTLE. Neil deGrasse Tyson and rapper B.o.B. are getting their clicks battling over B.o.B.’s flat earth claims. NPR has the story.
So, a Twitter spat between astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and rapper B.o.B over the flat Earth theory has turned into a full-blown rap battle (and it’s way better than Drake vs. Meek Mill).
B.o.B, whom you might know from his hits “Airplanes,” “Nothin’ On You” and “Strange Clouds,” kicked things off Monday when he started tweeting about how he believes the Earth is flat. He also tweeted about why he believes NASA is hiding the truth about the edge of the world. And he shared several meaningless diagrams about the planet including one about flight routes….
In a short series of tweets, Tyson explained why the Earth was round. He tweeted:
“Earth’s curve indeed blocks 150 (not 170) ft of Manhattan. But most buildings in midtown are waaay taller than that.”
“Polaris is gone by 1.5 deg S. Latitude. You’ve never been south of Earth’s Equator, or if so, you’ve never looked up.”
“Flat Earth is a problem only when people in charge think that way. No law stops you from regressively basking in it.”…
Here’s another: “I see only good things on the horizon / That’s probably why the horizon is always rising / Indoctrinated in a cult called science / And graduated to a club full of liars.” You can read the full lyrics on Gawker.
That was Monday night.
Tuesday afternoon, Tyson dropped his own dis track, called “Flat To Fact,” written and rapped by his nephew, Stephen Tyson. He tweeted: “As an astrophysicist I don’t rap, but I know people who do. This one has my back.” Here’s a sample:
“Very important that I clear this up / You say that Neil’s vest is what he needs to loosen up? / The ignorance you’re spinning helps to keep people enslaved, I mean mentally.”
(19) MEANWHILE BACK AT HARRY POTTER FANDOM. Jen Juneau explains “Why we’re crushing hard on Fleur Delacour from ‘Harry Potter’”. That was news to me, so I paid close attention….
My absolute favorite Fleur moment isn’t in the movies, which is a travesty (and one of the 32843 reasons why everyone who enjoyed the movies even a little bit should go read the books, stat!). It’s at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Molly Weasley is tending to her son (and Fleur’s fiancé) Bill’s wounds. Molly starts lamenting over the fact that Bill will never be the same again, and that he was going to be married and everything, while Fleur is standing right there.
Fleur basically snaps and asks Molly if she thinks Bill won’t marry her now that he has been bitten by a werewolf. While Molly starts sputtering, Fleur is relentless, telling Molly that Bill’s scars are proof of his bravery and that she is good-looking enough for the both of them before snatching the ointment out of Molly’s hand and tending to his wounds herself. The scene ends with Molly offering Fleur her Aunt Muriel’s goblin-crafted tiara to wear on her and Bill’s wedding day, and the two cry and hug it out.
And though Fleur is not immune to using her beauty in the series to get ahead (but really, who hasn’t used a natural advantage to get ahead when they can?), there are two big lessons here: 1. Fleur is a certified badass who refuses to let looks define her or anyone around her, and 2. Read the books, y’all.
(20) THAT LOVABLE ROGUE VADER. Yahoo! Tech predicts Darth Vader’s role will be bigger on the inside than expected in Rogue One.
The next time we buy tickets for a Star Wars picture, we’ll be signing up for a movie that’s going to bring back the greatest villains in movie history. Darth Vader is returning to the Star Wars universe this December complete with original costume and voice and he’s going to have a bigger role than anticipated, a new report indicates.
Movie site JoBlo says it’s able to confirm that Darth Vader will indeed appear in the film, and his role will be bigger than just appearing in hologram messages. Even so, it’s not clear what Darth Vader’s role in the movie plot is. In fact, the actual plot of the picture is still secret.
What we know about the movie is that Rogue One tells the story of a group of daring rebels looking to steal the plans of the Death Star. The action in Rogue One takes place between Episode III and Episode IV.
(21) FORCEFUL CARTOONS. Nina Horvath posted examples of “Cartoons from the Dark Side: Star Wars Exhibition in Vienna” at Europa SF.
Tomorrow a new Star Wars exhibition will start and open its doors until March the 6th, 2016. It should not be confused with the Star Wars Identities exhibition that takes place in the same city at almost the same period of time, no, it is different: It shows funny cartoons inspired by the Star Wars universe. Like Darth Vader experiencing the result of his paternity test!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]