Canadian SFF Authors’ Quest to Help Homeless Man

For months Canadian fantasy author Caitlin Sweet and her husband, sf writer Peter Watts, had a homeless man living in the ravine behind their house in the east end of Toronto.

Last week Sweet shared their experience on Steve Paikin’s nightly TVO program, The Agenda, viewable on YouTube. (Air date: December 15.)

City living includes all kinds of unexpected encounters. But it doesn’t usually include having someone take up residence in your backyard. That is what happened to novelist Caitlin Sweet, giving her a glimpse into the world of those in this city who regularly navigate Ontario’s very complicated mental health and shelter system. The Agenda welcomes Sweet to learn more about her experience.

 

Sweet also wrote a long article for the TVO website — “What to do about Kevin: Demons, little fires, and the man who lived in my ravine”.

For months, he lived behind my house. He was friendly and well-educated. He loved his cat, Blueberry Panda. He shouted at demons and started fires. I wanted to make him get help—shelter, medication, support. But this is Ontario

We call 911 on a rainy night in October. Kevin’s in our yard again, though he promised us he wouldn’t be. He shouts that he’s alone with Blueberry Panda (his cat) on the surface of a giant sun, and nothing else exists in time or space and only he, almighty, can harness the power of this sun for the purposes of destruction.

The paramedics arrive after five minutes, and the first police car a couple of minutes after that. Others follow. Just like two weeks ago.

Six officers, all with flashlights, tromp along the narrow, overgrown path that leads to the back of the yard at our house in the east end of Toronto. Kevin’s hunkered down with his sodden sleeping bag over his head, rocking, looping, round and round.

“Kevin—let’s get you up,” one of the officers says. “Let’s get you somewhere dry.”

“No,” he snaps, briefly free of the loop. Then he resumes: “You are not speaking English. Blueberry Panda and I are in an unknown location because we are the only creatures in all of time and space. Blueberry Panda and I are in an unknown—”

“Kevin.”

No.”

He’s standing now. His wild, curly hair and beard look even wilder in the glow of the flashlights; his brown skin looks grey.

In the end he goes with the officers quietly.

…. At 3 a.m., long after Kevin leaves with the cops, the phone rings. It’s a frontline worker from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; she tells us Kevin has just been sent away in a taxi, having not been assessed or medicated. He was lucid again by the time someone at the ER had spoken to him. He answered their questions. He got in the cab. He’s supposed to end up at a shelter.

He’s back at our place six hours later, calling for Blueberry Panda.

…The first time Kevin was taken away, I thought everything was going to get better—I was convinced that professional and qualified people would be looking after him from then on. That was before I learned about Ontario’s rules for involuntary admission.

It works like this: Someone (typically a police officer) sees a person exhibiting signs of mental illness and decides they should be taken to hospital. At hospital, that person is examined and assessed. If various criteria are satisfied, the examining doctor can fill out a Form 1—that is, an application for psychiatric assessment—which allows the hospital to hold the person for up to 72 hours, without legal review.

…Back in September, Kevin started shouting in the middle of the night. He explained later that he could see the demons most clearly after dark. Shouting was how he banished them. So we’d lie in bed, listening to him shout the demons away.

One night, he sang instead: first Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” then Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” Another night, we looked out the window and saw flames: Kevin had made a fire. For a few moments the flames leapt high, toward the rain-soaked trees.

We didn’t call the police; we wanted to avoid involving law enforcement, if at all possible, as we’d read too many stories about Toronto cops and their sometimes violent interactions with mentally ill people. So who were we supposed to contact?

I sent our city councillor a long, wordy email that boiled down to: Help. We don’t want anything bad to happen to this man, but he’s mentally ill and now he’s making fires in our yard and he won’t go anywhere without his cat and please help. I got a response from a staffer a few minutes later: she said she’d refer the issue to someone from the city’s Streets to Homes program. She thanked Peter and me for being such caring people.

Five days later, I’d heard nothing more, so I emailed our councillor again, and again I received a quick reply: she’d follow up with the city. She’d keep me in the loop. Thanks again for all we were doing.

I didn’t hear from the councillor’s office again, and I never heard from the city….

Peter Watts also blogged about it – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”.

A few nights back I found myself standing out in the rain at 2 a.m., peering through the fence to see if the fire Kevin had lit was in danger of burning down our shed or setting the ravine alight. It wasn’t; but obviously the guy needs help. I just don’t know if the current system can give him any. In terms of mental health this place has gone to shit ever since the government decided to cut costs by classifying everyone as an outpatient. It’s a lesser-evil sort of thing.

Gateway guy has made no progress; Big Cop (Officer Baird, I learn later) approaches me and says, “I think we got off on the wrong foot. You don’t know me, you’re judging me by the uniform. I’m honestly trying to help this guy; you say you have a relationship with him? Maybe you could try talking to him?”

“Well, sure,” I say, suddenly feeling like kind of a dick.

We go back to Kevin’s tent— my tent, until I gave it to him on the condition that he stop screaming death threats in the middle of the night (or at least that he make it really clear that those death threats were not aimed at us). I remember he smiled when I said that, looked kind of rueful. Now that I think back, though, I realize he made no promises.

He’s originally from Trinidad. Speaks with this cool accent. Back in the nineties he earned a degree from the University of Toronto: dual major in chemistry and philosophy. How cool is that?

Now he huddles half-naked in the woods, and rages against monsters at three in the morning….

Sweet and Watts were actually able to get Kevin into the only shelter that allows pets, by incredible persistence. Sweet wrote on her blog —

November 1

There’s room at the inn. I’ve called every couple of hours, as the front desk person told me to weeks ago. And at last, at last, a bed at the Bethlehem United shelter for Kevin, and a place for Blueberry Panda with him.

I’m at work. Peter hurries to the ravine and tells Kevin. Peter rents a Zipcar and hurries to pick it up at a Canadian Tire sort of near our house. When he gets back, Kevin is starting little fires. There’s no Blueberry in the carrier. “She got upset,” Kevin says. “She ran away. I can’t go without her.”

Peter yells at him—articulately, I’m sure. He convinces Kevin to put his stuff in the trunk and himself in the front seat. Drives him to Bethlehem United, way north-west of our place. He tells me later that Kevin was conversational.

He drops Kevin off at the shelter. Promises to bring Blueberry Panda as soon as we can wrangle her (which will be hard; she gets skittish when Kevin’s not around). We don’t catch her that day or the morning of the next—but that’s OK, because Kevin comes back, of course, swearing he’s going to get her into that carrier this time; swearing he’s going back to the shelter. He’ll be gone before 4 p.m., he tells Peter, who tells me that he doesn’t believe him. But when Peter goes out onto the porch at 4, Kevin’s stuff is gone. The carrier’s gone. He calls the shelter; yes, Kevin showed up, carrier in hand.

We call for Blueberry one more time that night, as we put out kibble. Just in case.

November 3

I wake up at 5 because I think I hear him across the fence. “Did you hear that?” I whisper. “Yes,” says Peter. But in the morning there’s no sign that anyone’s been there.

If people wish to support the only pet-friendly shelter in Ontario, click the link — Bethlehem United Shelter.

Several years ago, Fred Victor and Street Health presented a photo-journal study at a national conference on homelessness in Toronto on the role pets play in the lives of people living on the street.  They called the study, Paws for Thought.  We found out how important it was for people to stay connected to their four-legged friends when everything else seemed to have been taken away from them.

So, when, Fred Victor got involved in opening a new shelter in northwest Toronto (Caledonia and Lawrence), everyone agreed that pets should be welcomed into the shelter with their owners.  It is the only pet-friendly shelter in Toronto.  By creating this unprecedented access, Fred Victor has kept close to its mandate of meeting the needs of people who would otherwise spend a night on the street.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/12/17 If You Don’t Scroll Your Files, You Can’t Have Any Pudding!

(1) THE DOCTOR’S OLD BOSS HAS MORE TO SAY. In Part III of the Radio Times interview we learn “What are Steven Moffat’s Desert Island Doctor Whos – and why did Matt Smith ‘punch his pillow in frustration’?”

Apart from the Doctor, which character have you most enjoyed writing for?
Maybe River Song. She’s quite close to the Doctor, so is that a cheat? Partly because we never wore her out; she wasn’t there all that often. And of course Alex Kingston is awesome and beautiful. Also, I bloody loved writing Missy, and I’m conceited enough to think I did good job. And Michelle Gomez was the only casting decision I took entirely on my own – I just insisted it had to be her – and I’m incredibly proud of the result.

What was your happiest moment or experience on the programme?
Oh, there were a lot of those. I suppose in terms of a single moment the day after the 50th and realising that it had actually worked. The ratings and reviews were through the roof. Everybody everywhere was happy. That was one of the rare moments where I actually thought I know what I’m doing. It lasted about four seconds.
But it’s also the friendships that you make. I remember reading a review when the Weeping Angels two-parter came out [in 2010] and it referred to Matt Smith’s “amazing new Doctor”.

He was a hit from the word go really, wasn’t he? Certainly was for me.
That may be how it seemed on the outside but on the inside we were more fraught. David had been the face of Doctor Who and when we announced Matt, people thought he was too young, too pretty, his chin is ridiculous. Matt went through a year of being hated, before the show went out. He still talks about it. He used to go to bed and punch his pillow in his frustration. He couldn’t believe in himself or that it was going to work. But then it did – everybody realised what we’d known for year, that he’s not just a young pretty actor, he’s an awesome actor. And, yes, that was instant

(2) ALL CREATURES GREAT AND WEIRD. Let Fantasy-Faction tell you about “The Ten Strangest Races in Fantasy Literature”.

To me one of the most wonderful things about reading fantasy is the chance to encounter strange and magical beings that couldn’t possibly exist in the real world. Ferocious and exotic warriors, wise immortals, fey creatures as beautiful as they are mysterious, people made from wood or stone, animals that walk and talk like humans, and humans who can fly or throw fire with a thought. These races that never were, offer us the chance to sample new perspectives on life, question the very things that make us human, or just imagine what it would be like to have the body of a giant or the ability to fry a person’s brain by looking at them funny.

But in a genre peopled by a suspiciously large quantities of elves and dwarves it can be hard to find truly original beings to liven up your fantasy reading. So I’ve gathered together ten of the strangest, most interesting and most thought-provoking races in fantasy literature for your amusement….

First example —

  1. Gallivespians – Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

The title and bearing of a haughty French aristocrat, the body of a wingless pixie and the poisoned spurs of a platypus; with these powers combined you get – the Gallivespians!

The name Gallivespian is actually a play on words. The ‘vesp’ part of it comes from the Latin word for wasp; so you could roughly translate the whole word to mean ‘gall-wasp people’. It’s an apt name considering their tendency to ride around on large dragonflies and their willingness to sting anyone who gets in their way….

(3) WILD GUESSWORK. Nerds of a Feather’s Joe Sherry and Dean E.S. Richard take what might be their very last chance to engage in “Rampant Last Jedi Speculation”. After all, the movie will be out in a couple of days.

Let’s speculate some more on Rey’s parents!

Joe: I’m still going to roll with my far fetched idea of Rey being the daughter of Mara Jade. To quote myself from the first time we had this conversation

Do it like this: She was one of Luke’s students in his New Jedi Academy school thing that he founded after Return of the Jedi. She, with another student (or not, I don’t care), had a daughter. Ben Solo turned, killed that particular class of students, and Luke hid Rey on Jakku rather than take her with him when he ran and hid.

Dean: Gawd, I love that so much. Mara Jade is the best of the old EU. My problem with that is that I doubt they go that deep, though. The closer we get, the more I lean towards her being Han and Leia’s daughter. There are a million signs that point to it, which have been covered ad nauseum at this point. It’s not the most creative, to be sure, but I prefer it to her being Luke’s kid.

Unless they bring in Mara Jade.

Joe: Force bless Mara Jade.

(4) FREE ANTHOLOGY. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, a book of stories and essays about the near future of space exploration, supported by a grant from NASA. It features stories by Madeline Ashby, Steven Barnes, Eileen Gunn, Ramez Naam, Carter Scholz, Karl Schroeder, and Vandana Singh, and an interview with Kim Stanley Robinson, plus essays by experts in space science, history, economics, and other areas. Edited by Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich, with guest editor Juliet Ulman.

The book is available for free in various digital formats, or folks can buy it at cost print-on-demand. The place to find all of that is http://csi.asu.edu/books/vvev.

Why should we go to space? To learn more about the universe and our place in it? To extract resources and conduct commerce? To demonstrate national primacy and technological prowess? To live and thrive in radically different kinds of human communities? Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities takes on the challenge of imagining new stories at the intersection of public and private—narratives that use the economic and social history of exploration, as well as current technical and scientific research, to inform scenarios for the future of the “new space” era.

Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities provides fresh insights into human activity in Low Earth Orbit, journeys to Mars, capturing and mining asteroids, and exploring strange and uncharted exoplanets. Its stories and essays imagine human expansion into space as a kind of domestication—not in the sense of taming nature but in the sense of creating a space for dwelling, a venue for human life and curiosity to unfurl in all their weirdness and complexity.

(5) FAST SERVICE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender already has a review up — “Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities, edited by Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich”.

Sort-of Optimistic

Although CSI says they want optimistic views of the future, only three of the stories envision a future that’s better than today’s world, and one is actually a dystopia.

Of the seven stories, we recommend one and recommend against one, which is exactly the distribution we expect to see, hence we called the anthology average overall.

(6) THE BITE FANTASTIC. If you haven’t read these yet, Camestros Felapton wastes no time persuading you to do so — “Review: River of Teeth – Taste of Marrow Sarah Gailey”.

This pair of novellas is much better to read as a single novel. The first introduces the premise of a 19th-century alternative version of America, where hippos are ranched and some live feral in the Mississipi river.

River of Teeth follows a plot where former Hippo rancher Winslow Houndstooth recruits a party of outlaw misfits to run a job for a federal agent. The job in question is blowing a dam to destroy an artificial lake that has become infested with bloodthirsty feral hippos.

(7) SOCIAL MEDIA CASUALTY. Storify is folding in May, which is awfully inconvenient for those like me who find it a helpful for documenting news in tweet form: “Storify End-of-Life”. Apparently there will be a successor online service:

What changes are being made to Storify.com?

Unfortunately, Storify will no longer be available after May 16, 2018.

Can I still create a new account?

As of December 12, 2017, no new Storify.com accounts can be created.

What should customers using Storify.com expect?

Existing Storify customers can continue to use all capabilities of the service until May 16, 2018, except for the ability to create new stories which will end on May 1, 2018. Be sure to export any content you would like to keep by May 16, 2018, using the export functionality in Storify.

What are my options if I want to continue to use Storify?

Storify.com will no longer be available after May 16, 2018. If you are interested in gaining access to Storify 2, a feature of Livefyre, you will be required to purchase a Livefyre license.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 12, 1972 — Orange soil discovered by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt during their second day of exploration on the lunar surface.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 12, 1893 – Edward G. Robinson, who ended up as Soylent Green.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy found what it would be like if the younger Jacob Marley could see and hear the Ghost of Christmas Past and the older Jacob Marley in Brewster Rockit.

(11) MOUNTAIN PEEK. Tor.com’s Alex Brown offers a list of “The Top Spec-Fic Comics of 2017” calculated to grow Mount TBR:

It’s that time of year when everyone writes up lists of the best of the best and the worst of the worst. And Pull List is no exception. We’ve had a pretty great year for new comics, especially in the indie realm. DC’s Rebirth is still chugging along while Marvel continues to shoot itself in the foot then blame everyone else but themselves. As always, there’s lots of meh stuff cluttering up the market, but finding good quality series is pretty easy as of late.

Don’t think of this roundup as a “best of” but rather a list of “really cool titles you should be reading.”

(12) DU-PAR’S BITES THE DUST. The Du-Par’s in Studio City will go away on January 1. Not only will its real-life customers feel the loss, so will readers who have dined there vicariously with Detective Harry Bosch (he’s in there all the time.)

Rumors began swirling regarding the shutter over the weekend and Eater was able to confirm the news after speaking with management at the property. The Du-Par’s team remains adamant that they will be back in Studio City at some point, with a whole new location, but so far they don’t have a line on exactly when or where that will take place. So for now, eager eaters hoping to enjoy the restaurant’s signature pancakes will have until the first of the new year. Reached for comment this morning, one worker said that the restaurant certainly wasn’t closing “for lack of customers or bad food,” but rather a stalled lease renegotiation.

(13) APEX MAGAZINE. Beginning with issue 104, Apex Magazine will be available in its standard eBook form and in POD-printed trade paperback format.

The trade paperback will contain all the content published in the eBook. A monthly recurring print subscription is available directly from Apex or via their Patreon page. These subscription issues will be mailed approximately two weeks after the release date of the eBook edition.

This link provides more detailed information about their various subscription options.

(14) SHORT FICTION. Charles Payseur reviews “Higher, My Gallows” by Alice Brook (20907 words): “Quick Sips – GigaNotoSaurus December 2017”.

December brings one of the longest stories to GigaNotoSaurus, a novella with an interesting mix of elements and its sight set on retribution, rot, and stubborn pride. The setting finds magic weaved into everyday life, though in strange ways, and sets up a situation where a woman running from her mistakes falls in with a group of police officers to help with magic-related mysteries. It’s a wonderful setup that evokes both noirish grit (there’s plenty of blood, grime, and spit) and some more modern sensibilities. It’s also a lot of damn fun, so let’s just jump right into the review!

(15) FINDING THE GEMS. Natalie Luhrs’ latest iteration of In Short, her short fiction review series, covers several stories including —

“Making Us Monsters” by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly

“Making Us Monsters” was written by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly and published in the most recent issue of Uncanny. It’s an epistolatory story about Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, in which Sassoon receives letters from Owen years after they were sent, years after Owen was killed in action. These aren’t any old letters, though, they’re both love letters and an examination of the kind of trauma experienced by soldiers in the Great War. This wasn’t an easy story to read—there’s a “doctor” who is more interested in brutalizing his patients than helping them and there is a lot of internalized self-hatred on the part of Sassoon and Owen. But I found it to be a worthwhile and engrossing read, nonetheless.

(16) CHIZINE POLICY. ChiZine’s guidelines for its submission window ending December 31 have been up since August, but an author sent me the link today.

ChiZine Publications is open again to submissions, until Dec. 31, 2017. BUT, PLEASE READ OUR NEW GUIDELINES, especially this bit: Given that CZP is an SF/F/H publisher, genres which have traditionally been dominated by straight white men, we have decided for this submission round that we will only be open to subs from people who identify as belonging to one (or more) of the following groups: Aboriginal Peoples, culturally diverse groups, people of colour, mixed race people, people who are Deaf or have disabilities, Canada’s official language minority communities, non-binary/LGBTQIA+, people who identify as women.

ChiZine has always been committed to cultural/gender diversity, but the last time we ran stats, despite asking for more diversity, 83% of the submissions we received… were still from men. (We could not tell people’s ethnicity or orientation from our stats, since we don’t ask for that information.) But we felt that it was time to take a more firm step toward helping address the imbalance. Please feel free to share.

http://chizinepub.com/czp-submissions/

[That link now returns a 404 message.]

One writer made critical comments at the time the guidelines were posted. Here is part of Bret Savory’s reply:

Edwin, we’ve been in business for 20 years, and this is the first time we’ve extended a specific invitation to the minorities named in our current submission guidelines. We’re just trying to give those folks a shot in a field dominated by straight white men—which we’ve been publishing alongside everyone else, as I said, for 20 years. You obviously don’t actually know about ChiZine as a company, but just saw these guidelines and decided to pounce on us to prop up your own narrative.

I’m a straight white male myself (to specify, this is Brett Savory, since these responses all come from our company account), and I approve this message. (Ha.) Our next submission window will be just like the ones from the past 20 years—open to everyone; we’re just trying to raise up some voices you don’t hear from as often as we could in this field. If that’s “racist,” “sexist,” and “bigoted” to do once every 20 years, then we’re guilty as charged.

(17) SCALZI ENTERS THE BOOTH. The results of John Scalzi’s photo session remind me of this description from Dave Langford’s The Leaky Establishment:

Roy Tappen’s lab security pass, “…with a photo labelled R TAPPEN, SSO, but in fact showing an unshaven homicidal maniac with a crippling hangover and at least one glass eye, photographed after forty-eight hours of strenuous axe-murdering.”

 

(18) GET READY. There’s a new book coming from Peter Watts next May: The Freeze Frame Revolution.

She believed in the mission with all her heart.

But that was sixty million years ago.

How do you stage a mutiny when you’re only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what best for you?

Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

(19) MARKET. Superversive Press is looking in the logical place for submissions to its Planetary Anthology – Uranus.

Theme: rebirth and new beginnings

Superversive Press is looking for contributions to the Uranus edition of the Planetary Anthology. Stories should be between 3,000 and 7,500 words. Stories should center on themes of rebirth and new beginnings in the broadest sense possible. Interpretations can range from rebirth of a character or a new beginning on a new world, to spiritual, philosophical, and theological ideas. These themes need not be specifically part of the plot, just part of the story.

(20) WE INTERRUPT THIS GENEALOGY. Here’s another shocking consequence of the studio merger —

(21) BRIGHT. Out today, Bright trailer #3 –

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 11/16/17 Pixel My Blue Suede Scrolls!

(1) SERFS ERRANT. Gizmodo covers “Amazon’s Last Mile”, about the people who actually bring you the stuff.

Near the very bottom of Amazon’s complicated machinery is a nearly invisible workforce over two years in the making tasked with getting those orders to your doorstep. It’s a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws. That program is called Amazon Flex, and it accomplishes Amazon’s “last-mile” deliveries—the final journey from a local facility to the customer.

While investigating the nature of the program, we spoke to 15 current or former independent drivers across nine states and two countries whose enrollment spanned between a few weeks and two years, as well as three individuals attached to local courier companies delivering for Amazon. Their identities have all been obscured for fear of retribution.

(2) PERITEXTUAL. Peter Watts, in “After Party”, tells about his experience at the “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” symposium about his fiction.

I knew it was bound to fail— but when people are flying in from Michigan and Chicago and fucking Australia to attend, what kind of a dick would I be if I said Nah, I can’t be bothered to take a twenty-minute subway ride…? So I gritted my teeth, and made the journey. Scheduled a haircut just an hour before, so at least I’d look a little less like Rick Sanchez.

And the lady cutting my hair told me about her parents, left homeless when Hurricane Maria crawled overtop Dominica and just sat there, sandblasting that island down to the bedrock, for four days. Told me that at least now she knew her family wasn’t dead (she’d had a month to wonder about that) but that cell and internet were still out so she still hadn’t had a chance to talk to them directly.

Coming out of that haircut, the number of people who might or might not show up in Room 100 of the Jackman Building suddenly seemed a lot less important than it had been. I showed up at “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” reality-checked, and significantly less self-absorbed. And you know what?

It was a pretty great time.

(3) MORE BOOK RECS. And in the wake of Andrew Weir releasing his list of six SF books, Elon Musk has listed eight books that he says made him who he is.  They include Lord of the Flies and the Foundation series: “Billionaire Elon Musk says he was ‘raised by books’ and credits his success to these 8”.

Up until Musk was 8, he lived with both of his parents Maye and Errol Musk in South Africa, Strauss reported. But he did not see them much and mostly lived under the watch of a housekeeper, who Musk said was mainly there to make sure he didn’t break anything.

“She wasn’t, like, watching me. I was off making explosives and reading books and building rockets and doing things that could have gotten me killed,” Musk told the magazine. “I’m shocked that I have all my fingers.”

(4) WHAT GOES UP. CNN profiles the symbolic first step as “Asgardia, the world’s first ‘space nation’, takes flight”.

On November 12, Asgardia cemented its presence in outer space by launching the Asgardia-1 satellite.

The “nanosat” — it is roughly the size of a loaf of bread — undertook a two-day journey from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the United States, to the International Space Station (ISS).

It contains 0.5 TB of data belonging to 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, such as family photographs, as well as digital representations of the space nation’s flag, coat of arms and constitution.

… The nanosat will then be detached from the NASA vehicle and begin its own orbital journey around the earth. Citizens’ data will remain in orbit for between five and 18 months, the typical lifespan of this type of satellite. It will then burn out and disappear.

For Ashurbeyli, the launch fulfills a pledge he made when establishing the “space nation” to take its citizens to space via their data.

“I promised there would be a launch,” he says. “We selected NASA as a reliable partner … because we have to meet the commitments that I made 13 months ago.”

Getting it off the ground

Within 40 hours of the project being announced in 2016, over 100,000 people had applied for citizenship on Asgardia’s website. After three weeks, Asgardia had 500,000 applicants.

Anyone over 18 years old, with an email address, regardless of gender, nationality, race, religion, and financial standing can apply for citizenship — including ex-convicts, provided they are clear of charges at the time of application.

… Going forward, the Asgardia team hopes to create habitable platforms in low-earth orbits — the first one located 100 to 200 miles (161 to 321 kilometers) from space, which is also where the ISS is located.

The first human flight to this location is projected to take place in eight years’ time.

(5) IT COMES IN THE MAIL, TOO. Craig Engler from Z Nation (currently in its 4th season on Syfy) has launched a crowdfunding appeal on the new Drip platform for The Last Days of Earth, a new kind of serialized SF novel that “blurs the line between fiction and reality.” It’s a story about the end of the world where readers receive mysterious objects and clues in the mail timed to coincide with the release of new story installments.

The Last Days of Earth is one of the hand-picked projects chosen by Kickstarter to launch its new Drip platform, which debuted yesterday. While Kickstarter is designed for one-time funding, Drip was created as a venue for ongoing funding such as recurring subscriptions. Kickstarter members can use their existing logins to seamlessly access Drip.

The Last Days of Earth started out as a TV pilot, but I realized the themes and concepts I wanted to explore would work better as a novel,” Engler said. “But not just any novel. To tell the story right, it needed to be a serialized online book that unfolded in ‘seasons’ like a TV show and included real-world objects that would show up in readers’ mailboxes.

“The mystery objects stem from a concept in narrative theory called paratext. The idea of paratext is that things outside the text of a book — the cover art, reviews, blurbs, etc. — influence how readers experience the book. I wanted to take that idea further and create a story where physical objects were integral to the experience.”

The Last Days of Earth starts when everyone on the planet learns the world will end in six months. It follows the lives of six characters, each uniquely impacted by the news, who will find their lives intertwined in unexpected ways. The main protagonist is Anna, a pregnant women who learns her due date is the day the world will end and is determined to find a way to save her unborn child.

(6) REALITY SHOW. Michael Damian Thomas had this response to the Dragon Awards category realignments:

(7) SECOND NATURE. Has this ever been seen in the wild?

(8) WHITEOUT. NPR’s Jason Sheehan rates the start of a new Richard Baker series: “The Troublesome Universe Of ‘Valiant Dust'”.

I’m giving Baker some credit here. The man has written a bunch of books. He’s a solid voice in the military sci-fi genre and served as a United States naval officer himself, giving an earned weight to his voice when it comes to describing the minutiae of naval matters. Valiant Dust is the foundation of a new series (called Breaker of Empires) which, presumably, will follow the characters introduced here through the universe he has built.

But that universe? It’s troublesome. Set centuries in the future (following the discovery of faster-than-light technology, a diaspora from earth as it falls to a barely mentioned global Caliphate, and the always convenient misplacing of several entire planets full of mono-ethnic peoples who then slip into a kind of futuristic techno-feudalism before being miraculously re-discovered hundreds of years later), Valiant Dust drops in at a point where the major “cosmopolitan” powers — the Euro-centric Aquilans, the Germanic Dremark Empire, and the Canadians, for some reason — have become a sort of First World commonwealth. In a peaceful state of détente, they are either nobly aiding the backwards human colonies recover from their isolation, or ruthlessly divvying up this galactic Third World as nouvelle colonial masters.

(9) CHATTING WITH CHATTERLY. A modern Eliza: “Tinder bot quotes Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Lady Chatterley’s presence on Tinder has come courtesy of Libby Heaney, who has created a profile for the character and programmed a bot to chat with real men, using only lines from the book.

She also created profiles for Clifford and Mellors.

After around 800 conversations with real romance-seekers, the exchanges are part of an artwork called Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot, which will be exhibited for the first time in the UK at the Lowry arts centre in Salford from Saturday.

(10) UP IN THE AIR. Weather geekery: “The Hurricane Season, As Shown By Salt, Smoke And Dust” (text and video)

Hurricane Harvey as a ball of swirling sea salt. Hurricane Irma scooping up the sands of the Sahara. Hurricane Ophelia, bizarrely, taking smoke from Portugal and pulling it up to the coast of Ireland.

A new visualization from NASA shows the hurricanes from 2017 season from a new perspective — that is, their impact on particles carried in the wind.

The video pulls from satellite imagery and computer models to track how aerosols are affected by hurricanes.

(11) THROWING THE FIRST STONE. Action teaching: “Castle Gardens Primary School ‘hit by meteorite'”.

A tarmac company provided and transported the “meteorite” and altered the school playground.

The PSNI also went to the school to respond to the “emergency”.

Mr Gray said that staging the strike would have a number of benefits for the pupils.

“It gives the children the chance to experience and imagine an event they’d otherwise only see on video clips or photographs,” he said.

“We deliberately timed it to be the first Monday after the first AQE transfer paper so that pupils could take their minds off the test for a few hours.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “This is a step up from the why-witnesses-are-unreliable demo (a staple of journalism schools) that I got in junior high.”

(12) SLICE OF LIFE. The BBC reports: “First gene-editing in human body attempt”.

Gene-editing has been attempted on cells inside a patient, in a world first by doctors in California.

Brian Madeux, 44 from Arizona, was given the experimental treatment to try to correct a defect in his DNA that causes Hunter’s syndrome.

Mr Madeux says he was prepared to take part in the trial as he is “in pain every second of the day”.

It is too soon to know whether or not the gene-editing has worked in Mr Madeux’s case.

(13) RAMPAGE. There’s a new trailer out for a giant animal movie with Dwayne Johnson that’s coming out in April.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/29/17 Please Remember To Scroll Your Pixels In The Form Of A Question

(1) THE ORIGINAL KTF REVIEWER. Humanities revisits “Edgar Allan Poe’s Hatchet Jobs”.

Poe churned out reams of puff-free reviews—the Library of America’s collection of his reviews and essays fills nearly 1,500 dense pages. Few outside of Poe scholarship circles bother reading them now, though; in a discipline that’s had its share of so-called takedown artists, Poe was an especially unlovable literary critic. He occasionally celebrated authors he admired, such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But, from 1835 until his death in 1849, the typical Poe book review sloshed with invective.

Tackling a collection of poems by William W. Lord in 1845, Poe opined that “the only remarkable things about Mr. Lord’s compositions are their remarkable conceit, ignorance, impudence, platitude, stupidity, and bombast.” He opened his review of Susan Rigby Morgan’s 1836 novel, The Swiss Heiress, by proclaiming that it “should be read by all who have nothing better to do.” The prose of Theodore S. Fay’s 1835 novel, Norman Leslie, was “unworthy of a school-boy.” A year later, Poe doomed Morris Mattson’s novel Paul Ulric by pushing Fay under the bus yet again, writing, “When we called Norman Leslie the silliest book in the world we had certainly never seen Paul Ulric.”

Attacking better-known writers – a tactic still in use today by several minor sff authors — was also typical of Poe.

The twist, though, is that as a critic Poe often treated ethics as disposably as we do coffee filters. That self-dealing rave review is just one example. Poe plagiarized multiple times early in his career (most notably in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and “Usher”), but still spent much of 1845 leveling plagiarism accusations against Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe delivered his attacks under his own name, but also anonymously, and through an imaginary interlocutor named “Outis.” But for all of Poe’s bluster, evidence of Longfellow’s thievery was thin, and the poet, wisely, didn’t respond. “Poe’s Longfellow war,” said publisher Charles Briggs, who’d hired Poe at the Broadway Journal, “is all on one side.”

(2) WHAT A REVIEWER IS FOR. New Yorker’s Nathan Heller revisits the American Heart controversy in “Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the “Problematic” Book Review”.

People make sense of art as individuals, and their experiences of the work differ individually, too. A reviewer speaks for somebody, even if he or she doesn’t speak for you.

To assume otherwise risks the worst kind of generalization. I went to high school in San Francisco at the height of the multiculturalism movement. My freshman curriculum did not include “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Great Gatsby,” or “Moby-Dick.” We read, instead, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “Bless Me, Ultima,” and other books showing the range of American fiction. I’m glad. (One can read “The Grapes of Wrath” anytime.) I remember finding Hurston’s novel brilliant and Anaya’s novel boring. I did not conclude, from these feelings, that African-American literature was interesting and Chicano literature was not. Why would I? The joy of books is the joy of people: they’re individuals, with a balance of virtues and flaws. We are free to find—and learn our way into—the ones that we enjoy the most, wherever they come from.

That specificity of response is what Vicky Smith seems to encourage by opening the full canon of new work to new readers. It’s also, though, the diversity that Kirkus has smothered by issuing a “correction”—the editor’s word—on the political emphasis of a published response. Although it’s easy these days to forget, a politics is a practice of problem-solving, case by case, not a unilateral set of color-coded rules. If certain inputs guarantee certain outputs, what’s in play isn’t politics but doctrine. Kirkus, admirably, is trying to be on the progressive side of a moment of transition in our reading. But its recent choices aren’t about progress, or about helping young people find their way through many voices. They’re about reducing books to concepts—and subjecting individuals who read them to the judgments of a crowd.

(3) AWARD REBOOT. Newly appointed award administrator Tehani Croft announced “Significant changes for the Norma K Hemming Award”.

The Norma K Hemming Award, under the auspices of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF), announces significant changes to the Award structure.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award, which has been running since 2010, has had a major overhaul this year, with new categories and a two year cycle.

The award is now open to short fiction and edited anthologies, alongside the previous eligible work of novellas, novels, collections, graphic novels and stage plays. It will also make allowances for serialised work. In addition, entry submissions may be digital or print for all submissions.

Two prizes will now be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations for the 2018 awards, covering all eligible work published in 2016 and 2017, will open in early November.

(4) THE HORROR. Chloe continues the Horror 101 series at Nerds of a Feather with “HORROR 101: The Uncanny”.

The uncanny to me is a crucial element of horror: not being able to pinpoint exactly what makes us scared. While the extreme can be terrifying (the xenomorph in Alien is a category crisis—its something we can’t classify/is not instantly knowable—but it’s not uncanny because we shouldn’t be able to know it/classify it as its something completely new to the human experience). However, even more terrifying is that which is just a little off: pod people who may look like your lover, but they smile in just a slightly different way. A man with fingers just a little too long. Women with hair in front of their faces so that their expressions are unknowable.

In technology, we refer to the “uncanny valley” (a term coined by Masohiro Mori in the 70’s) when dealing with robots and computer designed images of people. A robot who looks human-like but not realistically so (think Bender in Futurama) wouldn’t trigger the uncanny valley but a robot who looks extremely close to human, but has some tiny bit of offness, such as the more and more realistic robots we have currently, would fall into it and create a sense of slight fear, revulsion, or distrust. In the film Ex Machina (which on its surface is a film about a Turing test going very wrong, but in its heart is a take on the tropes of Gothic literature and the Bluebeard fairy tale), Alicia Vikander portrays Ava brilliantly by making the robotic elements include both Ava’s movements (more perfect than an average person’s) and speech (carefully clipped and enunciated)—this heightens the uncanny valley feeling while going against the entirely human looks of her face (which wouldn’t necessarily fall into the uncanny valley).

(5) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? Alastair Reynolds writes a whole post – “Gestation time” — around a term that also came up in a discussion of Zelazny here earlier this week.

In the previous post I mentioned that my new story “Night Passage” – just out in the Infinite Stars anthology – was one I was glad to see in print because it had taken about five years to finish. I thought that was approximately the case, but when I checked my hard drive I saw that I opened a file on that story at the end of November 2009, so the better part of eight years ago. That wasn’t an attempt at the story itself, but as per my usual working method, a set of notes toward a possible idea. I rarely start work on a story cold, but instead prefer to brainstorm a series of rambling, sometimes contradictory thoughts, out of which I hope something coherent may emerge. This process can take anything from a morning to several days or weeks, but I never start a story in the first fire of inspiration.

(6) INITIAL QUESTION. At Nerds of a Feather, The G interviews Shadow Clarke reviewer Megan AM – “FIRESIDE CHAT: Megan AM of Couch to Moon”.

MEGAN AM: …  My own personal goal was to demonstrate that good, interesting, literary SF does exist; that it can come from anyone, anywhere, and in any language; and that it can compete with the basic, Americanized, TV-style SF I keep encountering on shortlists. Unfortunately, the 2017 Clarke submissions list didn’t give me much to work with on that front–a lot of the choices were very formulaic, very bland, not to mention very British, white, and male– but I did manage to find some champions I’m grateful to have read: Joanna Kavenna, Martin MacInnes, Lavie Tidhar, Johanna Sinisalo. As for my experience as a contributor… I mean, eight people I have admired in this field–most of whom I had never interacted with before– read and talked books with me. It was the coolest thing ever. I’m curious what you thought of the whole thing. Watching you watch it from the outside was interesting: You seemed genuinely interested in bridging gaps between contentious parties, communicating good faith in all sides, and withholding judgment until it was all said and done. So, now that it is done, what do you think? …

THE G: …. I’d also extend these observations to criticism itself. So I try to have a thick skin anytime I press “publish.” Someone is bound to think my ideas are rubbish, and that’s fine. At the same time, authors and fans are often guilty of violating the text/person distinction–taking depersonalized comments on a text personally and lashing out at the person who made them. The effect is to police what critics, bloggers and other reviewers can say in public, and that’s bullshit. 

I could go on, but let’s get back to the Sharke project! Or rather, back to awards. One thing that’s come up a lot in discussions is the concept of “award worthiness,” i.e. that there is some objective-ish bar that works of fiction must live up to in order to be proper candidates. I’ve bandied this term about a few times, generally when talking about the Hugos. I have a very clear sense of what, for me, constitutes award worthiness in science fiction and fantasy–some combination of ideas, execution, emotional resonance and prose chops. Not always the same combination, but hitting all four to a significant degree, and hitting one or two out of the park….

MEGAN AM: ….This comes back to questioning the idea of an objective kind of “award worthiness.” You mention “comfort SF,” which is just as subjective, because I don’t find that kind of SF comforting at all. We’re living in a Trumpnado, where critical reading and thinking skills are devalued, fake news accusations are flying from all directions, nazism is being given a platform in centrist media, and yet progressive SF fans feel threatened by the idea that it might be necessary to sharpen up on difficult, rigorous, uncomfortable novels? I’m not sure it’s appropriate right now to award anything less than radical and complex. And even setting politics aside, the these ‘comfort food books’ are aesthetically old and crusty. Reading award-nominated novels from different decades really helps to put that into perspective: Not a lot has changed in the styling of SF and its “coding” of metaphors, so I’m confused by why we keep awarding the same styles and thoughts… seventy. years. later.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

Amazingly, Clemens photographed 117 of the 156 episodes of the series. His crisp black-and white photography is well featured in the Blu-ray format – so crisp that a freeze-frame sometimes reveals details that even the art directors didn’t want you to see. For instance, in the Donald Pleasence episode “Changing of the Guard” (the final episode of the third season), the diploma on the wall of Professor Ellis Fowler’s office should feature his name. It doesn’t. Thanks to George Clemens’ crystal-clear photography, we see that it belongs to another man.

  • October 29, 1998 – John Glenn returned to outer space.

(8) THINKING ABOUT MOOLAH.  Franklin Templeton Investments gives a rundown about AI “Science Fiction To Science Fact: The Rise Of The Machines”.

By Mat Gulley, CFA, Executive Vice President, Head of Alternatives and Co-Head IM Data Science, Fintech & Rapid Development; Ryan Biggs, CFA, Research Analyst

The rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) has generated a lot of excitement, but also some (perhaps justified) paranoia. Will computers replace-or even overtake-human beings? Mat Gulley, executive vice president and head of alternatives at Franklin Templeton Investments, and Ryan Biggs, research analyst at Franklin Equity Group, explore the ramifications of “the rise of the machines” in the realm of asset management. They say the full implications of the new machine age will likely take decades to fully play out, but will likely be staggering.

We have been anticipating their arrival for decades. As far back as 1958 the New York Times wrote a story about a machine developed at Cornell University called the Perceptron. The device was said to be “the embryo of an electronic computer … expected to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its own existence.” In 1958!? That would have been an astonishing achievement in a time even before the microwave oven graced our kitchen countertops.

For the past half century, humanity has been eagerly anticipating the age of artificial intelligence (AI); imagining it in Hollywood and reporting on its progress in the media. Perhaps at times our optimism has gotten ahead of itself. Not any longer. This time, the machines are not just coming-they are already here….

(9) SPEAKING UP. The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel looks at the career of the video game voice actor, who can spend four hours straight practicing ways of screaming death scenes and who went on an eight-month strike to get better working conditions and residuals: “In $25 billion video game industry, voice actors face broken vocal cords and low pay”.

Yet voice actors in this industry are not treated like actors in television and movies. This led voice actors to go on strike last year against 11 of the largest video game developers over bonus pay and safety issues such as vocal stress. The bitter labor dispute dragged on for 11 months, making it the longest strike in the history of Hollywood’s largest actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA. Burch was forced to give up a critically acclaimed role she loved. Gaming fans feared delays for their favorite titles before a tentative deal was reached late last month. A vote by the full union is going on now.

The lengthy strike highlighted how video games have emerged as the scene of a tense clash between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Voice actors want to be treated more like TV and film actors, who are viewed as central to the creative process. Tech firms often see the developers and engineers as the true stars of the show.

“They keep saying, ‘Games are different,’?” said J.B. Blanc, a well-known voice actor and director who has worked with Burch several times. “But that’s no longer true. Because games want to be movies, and movies want to be games. These are basically 100-hour-long movies.”

(10) EASY PICKINGS. Abbie Emmons has now taken her Twitter account private after absorbing a thorough and professional internet beating. The punishment began after she tweeted the opinion belittled by Foz Meadows in “Dear Abbie: An Open Letter”. Foz begins with the admission “I don’t know where your hometown is” but doesn’t let that keep her from making assumptions about it, or from working in “white” and “Christian” four times in her opening paragraph, and not in a positive way.

You’re quite right to say that you, personally, will not encounter every type of person in your small corner of the world. But “small” is the operative word, here: wherever your hometown might be, the fact that it’s the basis of your personal experience doesn’t make it even vaguely representative of the world – or even America – at large.

You claim that you “love everyone” regardless of their background, and I’m sure you believe that about yourself. Here’s the thing, though: when you say you wish people would stop being “correct” and “just write books that actually… reflected the kind of thing we encounter in real life,” you’re making a big assumption about who that “we” is. There might be very few black people in your hometown, but if one of them were to write a novel based on their memories of growing up there, you likely wouldn’t recognise certain parts of their experience, not because it was “incorrect,” but because different people lead different lives. And when you claim that certain narratives are forced and unrealistic, not because the writing is badly executed, but because they don’t resemble the things you’ve encountered, that’s not an example of you loving everyone: that’s you assuming that experiences outside your own are uncomfortable, inapplicable and wrong.

(11) EXOTIC NATTER. NextBigFuture declares “Teleportation and traversible wormholes are all real”. You wouldn’t doubt Han Solo would you?

Einstein-Rosen or “ER” bridges, are equivalent to entangled quantum particles, also known as Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen or “EPR” pairs. The quantum connection between wormholes prevents their collapse without involving exotic matter.

The quantum-teleportation format precludes using these traversable wormholes as time machines. Anything that goes through the wormhole has to wait for Alice’s message to travel to Bob in the outside universe before it can exit Bob’s black hole, so the wormhole doesn’t offer any superluminal boost that could be exploited for time travel.

Researchers are working towards lab tests of quantum teleportation to verify their theories…

(12) POT. KETTLE. BLACK. Camestros Felapton, in “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: The last essay on Chapter 6”, thinks the way to refute Vox Day’s characterization of alleged SJW organizational tactics is to show how Republicans have done the same thing to each other. True as that may be, the trouble is tit-for-tat casemaking isn’t entertaining – and usually, Camestros is very entertaining.

Organizational Tactics

These are the terrible things SJWs are supposed to do to organizations. Vox lists seven and he manages to set up a deeply insightful analysis of how an organization can be destroyed by political extremists. The only problem is that as an analysis it fit bests how the right have wrecked the Republican party. Again, I’ve changed the order to show the sequence of events better.

“The Code of Conduct: Modifying the organization’s rules and rendering them more nebulous in order to allow the prosecution or defense of any member, according to their perceived support for social justice.”

Lobbying organizations on the right like the NRA or “Americans for Tax Reform”  have systematically created an extension of the GOP’s actual rules and accountabilities for their politicians. For example the ATR has been pressurizing Republican candidates (at state and federal level) to sign the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”: …

(13) DEAR SIR OR MADAM. SyFy Wire tells about the exhibit where you can read J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter pitch to publishers.

Rowling’s original pitch opens with:

Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash — or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).

The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.

The synopsis goes on to discuss Hagrid’s arrival and his revelations about Harry’s forehead scar while also explaining that “Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall”.

(14) SPACE VAMPIRES AND THE FUTURE OF “I”. Peter Watts brings a whole new level to the term “self-effacing” – “The Bicentennial 21st-Century Symposium of All About Me”.

This feels a bit weird. Creepy, even.  If it makes any difference, I advised them not to go ahead with it.

A couple of weeks from now— Nov 10-11— the University of Toronto will be hosting an academic symposium about me. More precisely, about my writing.

You could even call it an international event. While U of T is providing the venue, the symposium itself is organized by Aussie Ben Eldridge, of the University of Sydney. At least two of the presenters are from the US (although one of them will be Skyping in, doubtless to avoid the mandatory cavity search that seems to be SOP at the border these days).

Friday is layperson-friendly: a round-table discussion of my oeuvre, or omelet, or however you say that; a reading (new stuff, yet to be published); an interview; a bit of Q&A.  The schedule only listed 15 minutes for drinks after that, but as Ben reminds me he is an Australian and would never make so rookie a mistake. That 15 minutes is only for warm-up drinking on campus, after which we retire to the Duke of York.

Saturday is the academic stuff….

(15) VISIBLE WOMAN. We probably have more cyborgs than Taylor Swift fans on this site — which still means some of you should be interested in this new recording: “Taylor Swift Turns Cyborg For New ‘Blade Runner’-Inspired Video to ‘…Ready For It?’ Watch”.

As fans of the Blade Runner universe mull over Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral cinematic study of what makes a human, Swift goes full replicant in the new futuristic music video, which dropped at midnight.

Taylor lit up the Internet earlier this week when she teased snippets from the sci-fi clip, in which she appears in a skin-tone thermoptic suit, giving the illusion of actually being her birthday suit. Who needs threads when you’re a machine, right?

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/5/16 And They Will Know Us By The Trail Of Pixels

(1) POSTER CHILD. Early this year Cat Rambo placed herself at the forefront of the movement encouraging writers to put up awards eligibility posts, and using the authority vested in her by the Science Fiction Writers of America now calls on everyone to do it.

Practicing what she preaches, Rambo has done a year-end recap of her publications:

The stories of my own I am pushing this year are “Left Behind” (short story), “Red in Tooth & Cog” (novelette), “Haunted” (novella co-written with Bud Sparhawk), and the fantasy collection Neither Here Nor There. SFWA members should be able to find copies of those on the member boards; I am happy to mail copies to people reading for awards whether or not you are a member. Drop me a line and let me know the preferred format. I am looking for reviewers interested in Neither Here Nor There and happy to send copies as needed.

The recap contains links to nearly 30 other F&SF writer awards eligibility posts.

(2) PW PRIDE. Rambo is also proud of Publishers Weekly’s starred review for her new short story collection Neither Here Nor There.

This double collection showcases Rambo’s versatility within the fantasy genre. In the “Neither Here” half, tales set in her existing worlds of Tabat (“How Dogs Came to the New Continent”) and Serendib (“The Subtler Art”) rub shoulders with new worlds of magic and mystery. “Nor There” displays her skill at seeing our world through different lenses, with locations including steampunk London (“Clockwork Fairies”) and urban fantasy Seattle (“The Wizards of West Seattle”)…

(3) SCREEN TIME. George R.R. Martin is getting busy recommending things for Hugos – including other people’s things.

For my part, I already know what two of my Hugo nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form will be. ARRIVAL, to start with. Terrific adaptation of a classic story by Ted Chiang. Brilliant performance from Amy Adams. (She is always great, I think, but this was her best role to date). A real science fiction story, not a western in space. Intelligent, thought-provoking, with some wonderfully alien aliens. And WESTWORLD, season one, from HBO. Of course, as with GAME OF THRONES, one can nominate individual episodes of this one in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form… but for me it makes more sense to nominate the entire season in Long Form. (GAME OF THRONES season one was nominated in this fashion

(4) HITS AT THE LIBRARY. Library Journal’s “Best Books 2016” picked these as the top five titles from the year’s SF and fantasy.

Borderline, by Mishell Baker
The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman
Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
Behind The Throne, by K.B. Wagers

(5) SURPASSING THE MASTER. No spoilers for the movie Arrival in the following excerpt, only for the story it’s based on. But it’s natural that the movie spoilers quickly follow in Peter Watts analysis of the adaptation: “Changing Our Minds: ‘Story of Your Life’ in Print and on Screen”.

What might come as a shock— and I hesitate to write this down, because it smacks of heresy— is that in terms of storytelling, Arrival actually surpasses its source material.

It’s not that it has a more epic scale, or more in the way of conventional dramatic conflict. Not just that, anyway. It’s true that Hollywood— inevitably— took what was almost a cozy fireside chat and ‘roided it up to fate-of-the-world epicness. In “Story of Your Life”, aliens of modest size set up a bunch of sitting rooms, play Charades with us for a while, and then leave. Their motives remain mysterious; the military, though omnipresent, remains in the background. The narrative serves mainly as a framework for Chiang to explore some nifty ideas about the way language and perception interact, about how the time-symmetric nature of fundamental physics might lead to a world-view— every bit as consistent as ours— that describes a teleological universe, with all the Billy Pilgrim time-tripping that implies. It’s fascinating and brow furrowing, but it doesn’t leave you on the edge of your seat. Going back and rereading it for this post, I had to hand it to screenwriter Eric Heisserer for seeing the cinematic potential buried there; if I was going to base a movie on a Ted Chiang story, this might be the last one I’d choose.

(6) CALL FOR PAPERS. GIFcon, Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations, is looking for papers and creative works. The deadline is December 19. The SFWA Blog gave their announcement a signal boost:

With a focus on intersections (academic and creative writing; film, art, and games) we aim for GIFCON’s inaugural event to be a crossroads at which these communities can meet and come into conversation.

Fantasy at the Crossroads: Intersections, Identities, and Liminality

29th – 30th March 2017

What is Fantasy? This is a question that the University of Glasgow’s MLitt in Fantasy has explored throughout its first year. While this may seem an unanswerable question, for many of us, fantasy is where reality and the impossible meet. Fantasy inspires a sprawling collection of worlds that stem from a myriad of identities, experiences, and influences. From traditional epics to genre-melding, fantasy branches out into every style imaginable. Cross-sections of genre and identity create cracks in traditional forms, opening in-between spaces from which bloom new ideas and stories.

Examples of intersections in fantasy can be found in:

– Julie Bertagna’s Exodus trilogy, which explores environmentalism within the context of fantasy and science fiction.

– Arianne “Tex” Thompson’s Children of the Drought series, which focuses on subversions of race and gender.

– China Miéville’s The City and the City, which fuses the detective novel with the fantastic.

– Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, which uses fairy tale inspirations to create a magical realist setting and narrative.

– Netflix’s Stranger Things, which melds horror with Dungeons and Dragons via a coming-of-age science fiction story.

– The Elder Scrolls video game series, which intersects narrative, music, and visual arts.

– Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars series, which combines science fiction and fantasy to explore unique, genre-melded world-building.

…Please submit a 300-word abstract, along with a 100-word biography (both in DOC or RTF format) to submissions.gifconference@gmail.com by Monday 19th December 2016.

(7) RIVENDELL AUDIO. Here is the schedule of December Readings from Rivendell program in the Twin Cities, MN.

readings-from-rivendell-december

(8) WETA DIGITAL END OF YEAR PARTY 2016. I’d love to be on the invitation list for this shindig —

The Weta Digital End of Year Party has always had the reputation of being the best party in town. As with previous years, no one knew where the party was being held, or what was involved, all we knew was we had to go to platform 9 at the Wellington train station. After boarding buses at the station, we were transported to the secret location. This is what went down after we arrived… The party was themed by the four elements of nature – Water, Fire, Air/Wind and Earth. As you can see in the video, the themed installations and performance art at the party location were fantastic, and an amazing time was had by all! A big thanks to Weta Digital for putting on such an incredible party!

 

(9) PUCK VS. CUPID. The Book Smugglers present Tansy Rayner Roberts’ review of the year’s favorites in “Smugglivus 2016: A Very TansyRR Smugglivus”. There’s a lot of entertaining writing in the post, not to mention revelations about the previously unsuspected (by me, anyway) subgenres of gay hockey comics and novels.

This has also been an important year for Check! Please, one of my favourite all time web comics. I a couple of scary, stressful months earlier in the year, and the Check! Please fandom pulled me through until I was ready to face the world again. Check! Please was already an adorable gay hockey comic about bros and sports and friendship and pies, but its creator Ngozi gave us so many gifts this year, starting in February with The Kiss which pretty much made the comics fandom lose their collected minds.

Their love is so canon, y’all!

We’ve also had several waves of updates throughout the year, following the ups and downs of our hero Bitty and his secret NHL boyfriend. Ngozi also launched a Kickstarter for the book publication of Year 2 which was crazy successful, showing how dramatically her work’s popularity has soared since Jack Zimmermann got a clue that he was a character in a sweet gay rom com, not a gritty hockey tragedy.

(10) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #9. The ninth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of Jenna Black’s Replica, and a matching handmade pendant to go with it.

Today’s auction is for an autographed copy of REPLICA and a handmade pendant to go with it (pictured below). You can see samples of Black’s other gorgeous pendants at her Etsy store.

About the Book:

Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake’s marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in the Corporate States. She lives a life of privilege even if she has to put up with paparazzi tracking her every move, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image—no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathaniel Hayes is the heir to the company that pioneered human replication: a technology that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Except he’s more interested in sneaking around the seedy underbelly of the state formerly known as New York than he is in learning to run his future company or courting his bride-to-be. She’s not exactly his type…not that he can tell anyone that.

But then Nate turns up dead, and Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory back-up, he doesn’t know what—or rather, who—killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

(11) NOT ASKING SANTA FOR THESE. This link leads to a page from Hunter’s Planet of the Apes Archive. Consider it an online museum of print advertising for Planet of the Apes merchandise.

(12) IN DOORSTOPS TO COME. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have sold another Big Book – “Announcing The Big Book of Classic Fantasy”.

As Ann and I announced on social media last week, we’re thrilled to have sold another behemoth of an anthology, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, to editor Tim O’Connell at Vintage Books!! Tentatively scheduled for publication in 2018 and covering roughly the period 1850 up to World War II. Thanks to our agent, Sally Harding, and the Cooke Agency. This will be our fourth huge anthology project, following this year’s The Big Book of Science Fiction, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and the World Fantasy Award-winning The Weird.

Will this anthology include not just your favorite classics from the English language, but also translations from all over the world? Yes. Will it include never-before-translated new stories? Yes. Will it include the best of the Decadents and the Surrealists in a fantastical vein? Oh yes, most certainly. We hope to widen our net on the translation side, focusing on areas of the world that have been underrepresented in prior anthologies.

(13) WILLIAMS OBIT. Van Williams, famed as television’s The Green Hornet, has died at the age of 82.

Variety reports he actually died on Nov. 28, but his passing only became publicly known on Sunday.

Born in 1934 in Forth Worth, Texas, Williams was working as a diving instructor in Hawaii when he was discovered in 1957 by producer Mike Todd, who persuaded him to move to Hollywood. He earned his big break two years later with a lead role on the ABC private detective drama “Bourbon Street.” He followed that with “Surfside 6,” starring opposite Troy Donahue.

However, it’s on the short-lived “Green Hornet” that Williams made a lasting mark as newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who fought crime as the masked Green Hornet alongside his partner Kato, so memorably played by Bruce Lee.

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 3, 1974 – The last new episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was broadcast on the BBC.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 5, 1901 – Walt Disney

disney-comic-lio161205

(16) A CAPRINE TRAGEDY. As discussed in comments on an earlier Scroll, the Gävle Yule Goat was burned down on its inauguration day, and replaced by a baby goat made of straw.

Only a week later, a vandal drove a car into the replica.

But in the early hours of Monday, those who were unable to sleep and instead found themselves watching the goat’s webcam feed (we’re told this is a thing) were able to see in real-time how someone raced towards the new goat in their car and brutally ran it over.

(17) SEND THE BILL TO LUCASFILMS. VentureBeat has been reliably informed coff that “The Death Star would cost $7.8 octillion a day to run”.

The British energy supplier Ovo has put some very well-spent hours into a comprehensive calculation of the operating costs of the Death Star, which will return to the spotlight in the December 16th movie Rogue One. They conclude that operating the planet-destroying starbase would cost 6.2 octillion British pounds, or $7.8 octillion, per day—that’s $7,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

To put that absurdly large number in perspective, $7.8 octillion is more than 100 trillion times the $70 trillion annual global economic activity of Earth, or 30 trillion times the roughly $200 trillion in wealth on our little blue planet.

(18) WHAT IF THEY’RE NOT LITTLE AND GREEN? NPR reports on NASA’s efforts to recognize life if they find it:

There’s a growing interest in so-called biosignatures — or substances that provide evidence of life — because NASA has upcoming missions that have real potential to search for them. Those include a visit to Europa in the 2020s and the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which could scan the atmospheres of planets around other stars.

The last thing NASA officials want is a repeat of the experience with the Viking missions back in the 1970s, when analysis of Martian soil chemistry produced what was initially interpreted as evidence of life — but then later deemed a false-positive.

“I remember the aftermath of that,” says James Kasting, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University, who was tasked with planning this week’s meeting. “NASA was criticized heavily for looking for life before they had investigated the planet and for not having thought that through carefully. They’re hoping to avoid that same experience.”

Finding life means first defining life, and NASA’s Green says the key features are that it must metabolize, reproduce and evolve.

(19) ESA WILL BUILD ROVER. The European Space Agency will build a Mars rover, even if the cost keeps going up.

Europe will push ahead with its plan to put a UK-assembled robotic rover on the surface of Mars in 2021.

Research ministers meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, have agreed to stump up the outstanding €436m euros needed to take the project through to completion.

The mission is late and is costing far more than originally envisaged, prompting fears that European Space Agency member states might abandon it.

But the ministers have emphatically reaffirmed their commitment to it

(20) AUTO INTELLIGENCE. Uber has bought an AI company to move toward self-driving car.

Ride-sharing service Uber has acquired a New York-based artificial intelligence start-up which it hopes can speed up its progress in creating self-driving cars.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, will see Uber gain 15 specialist researchers who will form a new division at the company known as Uber AI Labs.

(21) DISAPPEARING STAR. Did you enjoy the video of Chris Pratt’s magic, linked here the other day? Cards aren’t the only medium he does tricks in — “Chris Pratt keeps cropping Jennifer Lawrence out of Instagram selfies and it’s hilarious”.

The acting megastar duo are both starring in upcoming sci-fi romance Passengers, but throughout the film’s promo tour 37-year-old Pratt has been enjoying social media hijinks by cutting out 26-year-old Lawrence whenever the pair share a snap together….

 

(22) WINTER IS COMING. At Dangerous Minds, “Stunning images of pagan costumes worn at winter celebrations around the world”.

In a recent interview, French photographer Charles Fréger revealed that he has always been fascinated by European tribal traditions. This fascination inspired the well-known artist to travel all around Europe to capture images of people dressed in ritualistic costumes honoring the arrival of winter and other seasonal celebrations.

Fréger began his journey in Austria and to date has photographed stunning costumes and rituals from 21 countries around the world. According to Fréger there are many celebrations that mark the arrival of winter that take place in the Czech Republic and, say, Italy that are quite similar when it comes to the materials that are used to create the costumes. Such as the incorporation of animal pelts, branches from trees, horns and bells into the costumes. Though they may share similar appearances, the story behind each living piece of folklore varies from country and location. Here’s more from Fréger about why so many of these celebrations often involve a human masquerading as an animal:

It is not about being possessed by a spirit but it is about jumping voluntarily in the skin of an animal. You decide to become something else. You chose to become an animal, which is more exciting than being possessed by a demon.

(23) LOL. Larry Correia goes through the comments carefully answering everyone’s questions about when the electronic and audiobook versions of his latest novels will be available, when one fan decides to yank his chain:

Ben Smith: Will the leather bound book have a kindle version?

(24) MR. GREEN HAS ARRIVED. Let’s kick off the verse segment of today’s Scroll with a link to Theodora Goss’ “The Princess and the Frog” which begins….

I threw the ball into the water.
The frog came out and followed after,
bringing me the golden ball —
which I did not want at all, at all.

(25) SEASONED GREETING. Joe H. and Heather Rose Jones produced this collaboration in comments.

Lo, how a pixel scrolling,
From tender file hath sprung…
Of Glyer’s laptop coming
As SMOFs of old hath sung

(26) THEN ONE FOGGY CHRISTMAS EVE. In a piece called “Hamildoph (An American Christmas Story)” the group Eclipse 6 performs “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as if it was done by the cast of Hamilton.

I cannot fly if I cannot see, people!
I’m in dire need of assistance.
Brrr
Your Excellency, you wanted to see me?
Rudolph, come in—did you say “brrr”?
Yes, sir, ‘cause it’s freezing.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Hugo Slates Inspire Altered States

This roundup starts with a link to some Hugo data, followed by a long assortment of opinions, then a couple of smaller segments focused on ideas for changing the Hugo rules, and voting No Award.

Screenshot of Hugo nominating statistics

Peter Watts on Rifters

And they call it… Puppy Love… – April 5

The thing is, we’re encouraged to act this way. We’re expected to: by agents, by publicists, by publishers who can no longer be bothered promoting their own authors. I know of one case where an agent explicitly refused to represent an author simply because that author wasn’t pimping herself on Twitter. It’s now considered unprofessional to eschew constant tub-thumping. Nobody takes you seriously if you don’t stand out from the crowd— and the only way to do that, apparently, is by doing exactly what everybody else is doing, only louder. Which is how someone who markets herself as a Fearless Progressive Speaker of Truth to Power can beg off boycotting an event over a clear matter of principle by saying “Nah, I’ve got a book to hustle” with a completely straight face.

Pimpage comes first, ethics run a distant second, and the Sad Puppies are not the only gang to run under that flag.

In fact, if you squint a certain way you can almost see how the Sad Puppies’ campaign is actually more honorable than the relentless self-promotion that’s somehow come to be regarded as de rigeur in this business. Put their reactionary motives aside for the moment; at least the puppies were, for the most part, advocating for people other than themselves. All other things being equal, whose opinion generally comes seasoned with less conflict-of-interest: the foodie who raves about the little hole-in-the-wall she discovered last Friday, or the chef who praises his own bouillabaisse to the heavens?

Which is not to say, of course, that self-promotion doesn’t work. It obviously does. (I don’t know if anyone in the genre has won more awards than Rob Sawyer, and offhand I can’t think of a more relentless self-promoter.) Then again, no one’s really questioning the effectiveness of the strategy that’s riled up the current teapot. It’s the underlying ethics that seems to be at issue.

So, sure. If you’re an end-justifies-the-means sorta person, then by all means decry the block who stacked the deck and got-out-the-vote in pursuit of their antique right-wing agenda; praise the more progressive folks who try to get you to eschew straight cis white male writers for a year. But if the road matters to you as well as the destination, don’t lose sleep over the fact that the bad guys played a better game this time around.

Give a thought to the rules that promote such strategies in the first place.

Elizabeth Bear on throw another bear in the canoe

“i spent all day yesterday waiting at a red light” – April 5

Fandom happens because people take care of it, nurture it, and make it a fun place for people to be. Preferably, an inclusive place. If anything, we often err too far on the side of putting up with assholes, because we’re bad at excluding people. There are plenty of people in fandom who I think are jerks, idiots, pains in the ass, complete eye-rolling cramps, and/or moon men. Some of those people do valuable work for the community, even while I’m facepalming over their opinions. All of them got into it the same way I did–by being volunteered or (as is very common) voluntold. These people refer to themselves as SMoFs as a joke, you understand. Jobs often get done in haphazard ass-backward ways because they are done by anybody willing, and often on limited time, in the cracks of a busy life, and with little or no funding….

There’s a new custom circulating in my tribe, and I think it’s a good one, so I will be adopting it. I have not in the past and I will not in the future participate in any popular award voting slate, public or private. I will not vote for any story or person or institution that is nominated for a popular award after agreeing to be on such a slate. I believe that slate-voting is unethical and perverts the purpose of the awards–and disadvantages almost everyone, quite frankly–and I am personally invested in making sure my fandom does not decay into a series of cage matches. That is the ethical decision I am making for myself.

 

Dave Freer on Mad Genius Club

“Bring it on” – April 6

I was quite pissed off I’d told SP3 and RP that I didn’t want to be on the slate. EDITED FOR CLARITY: I put the fact that I felt there were better more deserving people to target (such as my co-writers Amanda and Cedar) up ON MAD GENIUS CLUB. I did not contact either SP or RP organizers. They in no way ignored my request. I was in no way at all shamed or upset by being on the list. Got it, jackasses? No you can’t use it to bully Brad Torgersen. I can’t force you to quote me, any more than I could force Brad to read that on MGC or act on it, but I sure as hell will rub your noses in this if you try.

I don’t take to bullying well. I’m usually pretty easy going, but a behemoth picking on little guys infuriates and disgusts me (which is what this is. Tor is still the biggest, most powerful traditional sf publishing house at present. They wield a great deal of power and influence. They can (and have in the past) destroy and make careers.) It rubs every hair on my very hairy head the wrong way, which gave me some bad hair days, poor me.

And then it got worse. We had some joker called Steve Davidson, whose total contribution to sf seems to have been purchasing the IP address for ‘Amazing Stories’ and then emptying his bowels onto it, issuing threats and ultimatum to authors that if they didn’t renounce SP3 they’d be vewwy vewwy sorry.

 

Damien Walter in the Guardian

“Are the Hugo nominees really the best sci-fi books of the year?” – April 6

By putting forward a slate of predominantly American nominees, the campaign organisers have been able to lever the votes of a minority of non-attending members to “hack” the voting process and dominate the award nominations. Remarkably, this is all within the rules of the Hugos, and the moral defence put forward by campaign organisers for what many people would consider cheating is their belief that block voting is common in the award-giving process.

The Hugos and Worldcon have always been – much like the baseball World Series – a world event in name only. Hugo winners have been overwhelmingly from the US, with almost no non-anglophone works even considered for the awards. But over the past decade or so, the Hugos and Worldcon have become much more diverse and interesting, with many more women, writers of colour and international voices among nominees and winners. It’s that diversity which has been lost in this orchestrated backlash.

Jim C. Hines

“10 Hugo Thoughts” – April 5

6. They’re just trying to expand the ballot and make it more inclusive/representative/diverse. I can see a little of that, if I squint. The puppies pushed to get a successful self-published author onto the ballot, for example. They talked about getting tie-in works nominated, but didn’t actually include any on their slate. They did give tie-in author Kevin J. Anderson his first Hugo nom for one of his original books. But if your campaign ends up putting the same author on the ballot in six different spots, then no, you weren’t looking very broadly for nominees. And far more of the comments and rhetoric seemed to be about sticking it to SJWs…

embrodski on Death Is Bad

“Sad Puppies Rebuttal”

Ahem. As everyone knows, there were problems with the Hugos. Many of us acknowledged this, and said it wasn’t that bad and it was being handled internally. His most relevant point is that he disagrees. [Larry Correia wrote] “there wasn’t a green room at any con in the country where you couldn’t find authors complaining about the sorry state of things. But nobody did anything. […] But still nobody did anything, and it got worse and worse. […] So I did something.”

Now, I’m in the camp of “It was a problem, but not a huge one.” But, to be honest, I can’t recall of anyone doing anything to fix it. Maybe something was happening? But not so that I noticed. It was mainly swept under the rug. Losing a slot or two per year to these forces didn’t feel like a big deal to me, certainly not something I would put a ton of personal effort into fixing, and I imagine most people felt the same way. Larry saw it as a bigger problem. And you know what? He did do something. And I respect the fuck out of that. It didn’t work out exactly how he’d like it to, but shit, when does anything? It’s not like there’s a playbook for this sort of thing, he’s flying by the seat of his pants, and that takes tons of guts. What the hell did any of us do? We all said in private “Man, Throne of the Crescent Moon was bad,” and some of us said it in public, but did a single person on our side publically raise the point that this should never have gotten a Hugo Nomination? Why *did* it take Larry and his crew to say that?

It sucks that we lose an entire year of Hugos to this Sad Puppies nonsense, but maybe it’ll help us be a bit more honest with ourselves in the future. Maybe we’ll feel freer to speak our minds without being worried about being called racist. That would be a good thing.

 

Arthur Chu on Salon

“Sci-fi’s right-wing backlash: Never doubt that a small group of deranged trolls can ruin anything (even the Hugo Awards)” – April 6

To vote on the Hugos you have to either know and care a ton about science fiction–or you have to be convinced that science fiction is part of the vast liberal conspiracy arrayed against you and make a disingenuous post calling you and your friends “Sad Puppies” over said liberal conspiracy. $40 is a lot of money to pay to express your opinions, even strongly held ones, about fiction you love–but it’s a cheap price to stick it to liberal pro-diversity elitists you hate….

We should have learned a long, long time ago that “Just let the public give their input” is a lazy, useless and above all dangerous way to make decisions. If you want democracy you have to put effort into designing a process that actually makes sure your voting population matches the relevant population and to keep the process from being captured by bad actors. If that’s too hard for you, then accept that democracy is too hard for you and find some other way to claim legitimacy for the decision you end up making.

But don’t just leave your process open to the public and unguarded, unless you want The Comments making your decisions for you. Best case scenario, you end up with egg on your face that can be easily wiped off, like a bridge named after Stephen Colbert.

Worst case scenario, your public platform becomes a mouthpiece for the worst people in the world, who won’t give it back until they’ve run it into the ground.

 

 Adam Roberts on Sibiliant Fricative

“2015 Hugos: Delenda Est Hugo” – April 6

Nick Mamatas has it right, I think: the action of the Puppies was a piece of efficiently executed political strategy, and the response needs to be political if we want it actually to bite. This means one of two things, I’d say: either to organise an anti-Puppies slate for next year, with all the labour and cat-herding that implies. I have some doubts as to the achievability of this, and many doubts as to its desirability: for it would remove the Hugos even further from the notion that works and individuals get nominated according to their merit. Personally I think the better strategy is otherwise, essentially a Delenda est Hugo approach. First, coordinate to ensure ‘No Award’ wins every category this year. Then move to relocate the community’s esteem elsewhere. The Puppies set out to destroy the Hugos. Let them. Napoleon thought he had won the battle of Borodino, but actually he lost it. Let the Puppies retreat through the winter wasteland of community hostility and indifference. The Puppies, after all, are not interested in winning Hugos per se; they are interested in the esteem associated with the Hugos. But that does not magically inhere in the rocket-shaped trophy. It’s the other way around. The trophy functions as an index of the esteem of the community as a whole. This year’s shortlist breaks the connection between the first of these things and the second. So it goes. It is the whole community that controls how it distributes its esteem, not any one pressure group; such esteem cannot be ‘gamed’ by the coordination of voting blocks. Once upon a time the Hugos were the genre’s Blue Riband award; functionally they have not been that for several years . But there are other awards which are, even as we speak, producing much better shortlists: Tiptree award and Kitschies, to name but two. Why not invest the esteem of the community as a whole in those

 

Larry Correia on Monster Hunter Nation

A letter to the SMOFs, moderates, and fence sitters from the author who started Sad Puppies – April 6

This blog post is directed at the newcomers, the fence sitters, the undecided, and the unlucky SMOFs who’ve been caught in the crossfire. There is no need to address my detractors, because they have already repeatedly demonstrated that they’ll just ignore what I actually say and do, and fabricate their own wild and crazy narrative about what I secretly meant to say.

This is going to be get long, but there are a lot of things being tossed around that I need to respond to.

For those of you just joining us, Sad Puppies 3 was a campaign to get talented, worthy, deserving authors who would normally never have a chance nominated for the supposedly prestigious Hugo awards.

I started this campaign a few years ago because I believed that the awards were politically biased, and dominated by a few insider cliques. Authors who didn’t belong to these groups or failed to appease them politically were shunned. When I said this in public, I was called a liar, and told that the Hugos represented all of fandom and that the awards were strictly about quality. I said that if authors with “unapproved” politics were to get nominations, the quality of the work would be irrelevant, and the insider cliques would do everything in their power to sabotage that person. Again, I was called a liar, so I set out to prove my point.

 

Addendum to Yesterday’s Letter – April 7

Yesterday the following media outlets ran articles about the Sad Puppies campaign, in which they either directly said or insinuated that it was run and populated by racist straight white males with the goal of keeping scifi white and male. (not true)

The Telegraph Entertainment Weekly Salon Huffington Post Slash Dot io9 The Guardian

It was almost like they were all reading off the same script.

Most of them said our slate was exclusively white, straight, and male (not true)

Most of them said that last year was a big win for diversity (I believe last years winners were all white and one Asian).

Most of them said our slate was exclusively right wing (not true, in fact the majority skew left, we have socialists, liberals, moderates, libertarians, conservatives, and question marks. To the best of my knowledge, I believe that last year’s “diverse” winners all espoused the same social justice politics).

But there is no bias in this perfectly functioning system. My side said that political narrative trumped reality in this business. Believe me yet?

Larry Correia in a comment

I went to 13 cons in 2014, from 500 to 150,000 people. I love cons. However, the only place I’d be likely to find more people who actively despise me and want me to die in a fire than WorldCon would be WisCon. Which is on my list of places to visit, right after Mordor and Hell.

So instead I usually go to GenCon, and this year I’m going to DragonCon.

 

Brad R. Torgersen

“A dispatch from Fort Living Room”

I ordinarily keep my family pictures private. I don’t share many of them on the internet. But in this instance, I think I’ll post one. That’s my wife Annie, my daughter Olivia, and me, back in 2008 — when we first moved into our (then) new house in Utah. As of the writing of these words, Annie and I have been married for over 21 years. We’re opposites in most ways. Personality opposites. Political opposites. And — apropos to this particular discussion — racial opposites. From the time we got married in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple in December of 1993, until now, it’s been an exercise in learning how to live together, cherish, and love one another, despite the differences. I’m proud of my wife. She’s not only smart, she’s got an enormous heart, I’ve never seen her judge people unfairly, and she’s never been afraid to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty. Of all the decisions I’ve ever made in my life, deciding to marry Annie was by far the best. She is my best friend. She is my lover. She is the mother of my child. She is, quite simply, the better part of everything that I hold dear and precious in this world.

Those of you who watch this space know that I’ve taken on a bit of a burden since January. It’s explicitly related to the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy literature, so I won’t bore anyone with all the long, nerdish details. Suffice to say, the Sad Puppies 3 project has brought me into the epicenter of a heated contest inside the field. It’s a very “inside baseball” affair. But today — thanks to the magic of the internet — it took on a much wider, much more personal dimension.

Because a blog “journalist” named Isabella Biedenharn — working beneath the banner of Entertainment Weekly — penned a short, error-laden article titled, “Hugo award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting.” The mistakes in the article could have been easily avoided if Isabella had done some research into the issue she was reporting on. Near as I can tell, Isabella was spoon-fed some links and a very rushed and sloppy narrative about Sad Puppies 3 being racist and woman-hating, and she posted all of this without stopping to consider whether or not anything she was disseminating into the wider world was true, and accurate.

 

Scott Edelman

“In which the Sad Puppies prove to be more powerful than L. Ron Hubbard” – April 6

For those who weren’t around in 1983 … a history lesson. Because, as I’ve said before, science fiction’s culture wars have been with us always.

The Sad Puppies, who have successfully campaigned their slate onto the ballot, hope they can break the Hugo Awards in order to rebuild them—a sentiment which has, I’m afraid, a bit too much of a “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” ring for my comfort. But note this isn’t the first time such a concept has been put forward.

“If you too are unhappy with the Hugo system, it’s time to do your bit,” wrote Charles Platt in his editorial to the March-May issue of The Patchin Review. He didn’t put a full slate forward back then, just a single novel, written by … well … you can see the name of the author in a box at the bottom of the front cover.

That’s right—L. Ron Hubbard, whose novel Battlefield Earth had been published in 1982.

Platt posited in his editorial—

If he won, would it bring about a reformation of the Hugo system, or even its abolition? There’s only one way to find out.

As Platt shared in the editorial reproduced below, he’d written Hubbard and the organization promoting the novel to let them know one needn’t attend Worldcon in order to make this happen, and that anyone willing to cough up $15.00 for a supporting membership could vote.

 

Rhiain on According To Hoyt

“Not Your Shield – Rhiain” – April 7

Yes, it is that simple. This non-white chica will be happy to rub that in your face for as long as it takes. Your multicultural diversity schtick bores me, is completely without reason, and is annoying the hell out of me with all the overemotional and oversentimental tripe thrown in. You call this a justification for the current status quo of the Hugos as recently as last year? The more you whine about your lack of privilege in this arena, the more other non-white people who refuse to be classified as such are going to start speaking up to make you look like an utter fool.

This is a class issue, a race issue, a gender issue.

This middle-class, Samoan female says this is only in your imagination, and only because you keep hammering on this point like there’s no tomorrow. You know what’s interesting about a hammer? It’s actually two tools in one – one to put the nail in, and one to take the nail out. You’re just pissed because other people are able to take that hammer away from you and use it to remove the nails you keep trying to put in. I’m a patient woman, and I’m willing to learn how to use tools for everything they’re intended for .

And I know some of you have a hard time with that concept. I don’t care. You’ve had plenty of time to figure it out. I’m real tired of your inability to understand these things.

Oh, I understand these things perfectly, but I refuse your attempts to maintain this as the overall narrative. No. You have not yet begun to see pushback on your lazy, self-absorbed whining.

Do you hear me, Tempest?

YOUR. NARRATIVE. IS. BROKEN.

And so help me God, people like me are going to break it into irrecoverable pieces.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I want to add something: I despise the hypocrisy on full display in this post. Here’s a non-white woman who grew up with more privilege than I did complaining about the lack of diversity in the Hugo Award nominations, and trying her best to persuade fellow scifi fans that promoting a more diverse platform in the name of equality should be done by excluding certain people because of their skin color and sex

 

John O’Neill on Black Gate

Black Gate Nominated for a Hugo Award in a Terrible Ballot

However, this isn’t a major accomplishment. As I demonstrated in my comment to Matthew above, it can be done by as few as 200-300 people. There are literally dozens of individuals (and companies) inside the industry who could mobilize that many people with relative ease (and a few, like George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, and Joss Whedon, who could easily mobilize thousands.)

But it has never been done before, because it’s been completely apparent to everyone that such an effort would damage the integrity of the Hugo awards. Worse, it would negate an entire year of Hugo Awards.

But John!, you say. Sure it’s been done before! Look at what Tor and DAW have done. Or that rascal John Scalzi!

Except, John Scalzi never did anything like this. He posted the entire Hugo ballot on his blog some time ago, and invited readers to make a case for their favorites. But he never advocated for a single writer, or slate of writers, as a block vote.

But John!, you say. The Puppies haven’t negated anything. They’ve just put the candidates they believe in on the ballot. They’ll win this year, they’ll sell lots of books, the industry will benefit, and all will be well.

No, it won’t. Because it’s highly likely that all three short fiction categories will go to “No Award” this year. That’s exactly how the Sad Puppy ballot was treated last year, and it’s a virtual certainly that it will happen again this year. Already the backlash is louder and more aggrieved than it was last year.

The Sad Puppies should have known this. Maybe they did know it, and they don’t care. Maybe they just want to wreck the awards. If that’s their plan, they’re doing a pretty good job.

John O’Neill in a comment —

I think what you’ve done sets a dangerous precedent that could spell the end of the awards if it’s not quashed immediately, and I feel strongly enough about that that I would be willing to burn a Hugo Award for Black Gate to send that message.

 

Charles Stross on Antipope

“The Biggest Little SF Publisher you never heard of pulls on the jackboots”

Vox Day writes:

It’s time for the church leaders and the heads of Christian families to start learning from #GamerGate, to start learning from Sad Puppies, and start leading. Start banding together and stop accommodating the secular world in any way. Don’t hire those who hate you. Don’t buy from those who wish to destroy you. Don’t work with those who denigrate your faith, your traditions, your morals, and your God. Don’t tolerate or respect what passes for their morals and values.

Over a period of years, he’s built an international coalition, finding common cause with the European neo-nazi fringe. Now they’ve attempted to turn the Hugo Awards into a battlefield in their (American) culture wars. But this clearly isn’t the end game they have in mind: it’s only a beginning. (The Hugos, by their very nature, are an award anyone can vote in for a small fee: it is interesting to speculate on how deep Vox Day’s pockets are.) But the real burning question is, “what will he attack next?”

 

 John Scalzi on Whatever

“Human Shields, Cabals and Poster Boys” – April 7

Also, let me suggest that when Brad Torgersen (or whomever) went off notifying people of their presence on the slate, he probably did not lead with “Hi, would you like to be part of a slate of nominees whose organizers whine darkly and incessantly about the nefarious conspiracies of the evil social justice warriors to infiltrate all levels of science fiction, and which will also implictly tie you and your work to at least one completely bigoted shitmagnet of a human being?” Rather more likely he played up the “we’re trying to get stuff on the ballot we think is cool that doesn’t usually get on it” angle and downplayed, you know, that other stuff.

And you might think, well, how can you miss that other stuff? The short answer to that is that, as difficult as it might seem, not everyone actually spends a lot of time following the Hugo and the controversies therein. It was, until very recently, kind of an insider sport. So it’s possible to have missed this stuff and/or not fully grasped the implications of it until after the awards came out. Not for me, clearly, and possibly not for you. But it is possible.

It’s difficult to miss them now, of course. But this increases my sympathy for these nominees. The whole reason the Puppies are so transparently covetous of the Hugos is that they are a big deal in a (relatively) small community. So imagine being part of this community, being told that you’ve gotten a Hugo nomination, and then finding out that there’s this metric load of toxicity around it, manufactured by the people who got you the ballot — or at least claim that they did.

 

Matthew Foster on Foster on Film

“The Hugos, Minor Disappointment, and the Sad Puppies” – April 5

As for gaming the Hugo awards, it is surprisingly easy. Like all popularity contests, it doesn’t take much to mess it all up. It only keeps a feeling of legitimacy as long as everyone is very polite and careful, because there’s no rule that says you can’t muck it up. The Hugo nominations come from the attendees of this year’s, last year’s, and next year’s WorldCon convention. That’s not a huge group (and figure many people haven’t bought their memberships to this year’s or next year’s yet). Actual number of ballots comes out not greatly over 2000, and if no one is playing games, the nominations are spread out over a huge number of different stories, books, etc. So, if you can get 200 people to vote along a party line, you’ll win. This is even easier since you don’t have to go to the convention, just sign up for a voting membership, pay $40, and you’re good to go.

Individuals have been making suggestions for nominations for years—as individuals. A writer or editor might suggest the stories they thought were worthy of an award. Individuals would suggest what they liked. Sad Puppies, though, was a political movement. It wasn’t an individual saying what he liked, but a group, bound together, to stop things from winning that didn’t share their politics. And while following the rules, is a dick thing to do. It is like those films that won Oscars after their distributers went over the normally expected promoting, and basically bought the statue. Talk to film fanatics, and those awards will always be tainted.

“Part 2: The Hugos, Minor Disappointment, and the Sad Puppies” – April 5

Sad Puppies leadership had changed. Correia turned it over to Brad Torgersen. Torgersen is a different kind of bird than Correia. He doesn’t burst into bouts of swearing, avoids blatantly racists statements, and his insult tend to avoid simply name-calling (though he did suddenly find the need to call me fat in a conversation that was irrelevant to my weight and that I wasn’t supposed to see, but I’ll just take that as his writer’s need to be descriptive, and I have put on a few pounds over the years). He’s still following the “leftist cliques are out to get us” troupe and he still names the same people Day did as opponents. But he has a lighter touch.

His line is that all the meaning in writing, all these themes and messages, are bad, and that science fiction needs to be fun tales of adventure. It needs to be about manly men (he actually uses that term) performing daring exciting deeds and things ending up happy in the end. That the leftists (social justice warriors) have been putting in all these messages into fiction (which is bad) and then getting those stories given awards (again, through secret insider trading). I tried to explain this view to a friend and she just stared at me. It is hard to imagine any artist objecting to theme. Pretty much every other artist I’ve ever met: filmmakers, painters, sculptors, and other writers, wanted to say something with their art. It’s kind of the point. Otherwise, what you’re making is equivalent to a rollercoaster. It can be fun, for a moment, but that’s about it.

 

Mary Robinette Kowal

“Please stop with the deaththreats and the hate mail” – April 7

I, too, am angry about how things went down with the Hugos, but am also realistic about the fact that much of the work — not all of it — but a lot of it is on there because people are legitimately excited about it. Yes, there are some things from Rabid Puppies that seem to be there purely for shock value.  But others? Sheila Gilbert does damn good work. Jim Butcher is a serious writer.

When I sit down to vote, I am, in fact, going to open every file and start reading it. As soon as it doesn’t work for me, I’m going to shut the document. Now, in two cases, I’ll admit, that means that the author’s name is as far as I’m going to read because I’m familiar with their work and know that it makes me angry. I am not going to vote for it, so why make myself angry for no reason?

Everyone else? Sure. Let’s see if that’s fiction that I might enjoy. I have voted for works before of authors who I have disagreed with politically. Shocking, but true.

 

Doctor Science at Obsidianwings

“Hugo ballot go BOOM” – April 6

  1. My Opinions, Which Are Mine:
  2. Elizabeth Bear, abi sutherland, many commenters at Making Light, and especially Cat (in a comment she cross-posted widely) have persuaded me that slates wreck the process of voting for awards. Slates are useful and often necessary when you’re voting for people who need to work with each other (= politics), but they’re destructive to the process of choosing excellence. Slates narrow the field radically, and let (or force) voters to make their choices other than from their own personal perspective, which is naturally idiosyncratic.

Mieneke van der Salm on A Fantastical Librarian

“2015 Hugo Awards Nomination Thoughts” – April 7

On the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast in the interview episode with Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson, Torgerson stated something to the effect that SJWs/the Hugo voting public thought his ‘side’ were having fun wrong. But to me that just smacked of hypocrisy as by his standards I’m having my fun wrong, since I enjoy works that include stuff I find important that clashes with his preferences. So I value diversity, equality, and yes, I’d call myself a feminist. That does not make me an SJW as the Puppies designate everyone who holds these values. And yes, looking at my nominating slate, my nominees reflect my preferences, but I didn’t pick them based on this. I picked them because I very much enjoyed reading them.

There’s lots of authors I love, who have never been nominated for a Hugo, who are very successful commercially, but will probably never be nominated, such as Mercedes Lackey, Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan, or Jacqueline Carey to name but a few. But there are also a large number of authors I love that fit the “SJW-message fic” the Sad Puppies decry who haven’t made the ballot either (thus far; I still remain hopeful for the future) so I can understand it is frustrating not seeing the things you love on the ballot, but I very much think what happened with the SP/RP slates isn’t the answer.

 

PROSPECTIVE RULES CHANGES

Mike Scott on Dr. Plokta

 “Hugo Puppies”

The problem with the puppy slates is not that they’ve got stuff on the ballot. They’re members of the Worldcon, and they’re entitled to have the stuff they nominated on the ballot, regardless of their decision processes in making their choices. The problem is that they have kept off the ballot some other stuff that most voters would probably prefer to vote for. So what we should be doing is preventing a slate from forcing stuff off the ballot, not from getting stuff on the ballot. The voters can then use their alternative vote preferences to take care of the slate, as happened last year when the slate failed to completely dominate any categories. It seems to me, therefore, that the solution is to have some rule for varying the size of the final list of nominees in each category based on the nominating patterns. Nothing on a slate would be banned or disqualified, but the slate wouldn’t be allowed to dominate any category. We already do this a bit — we increase the number of nominees if there’s a tie for fifth place, and we reduce the number if not enough nominees pass the 5% threshold. I would propose that for each category we take the total number of nominations received in that category, subtract the number of nominations received by the most popular nominee in the category (thus removing the effect of a slate, if there is one, on the numbers), and then the shortlist consists of everything that got at least 10% of the remaining number, but with a minimum of five per category and scrapping the existing 5% rule (which has already been causing problems).

 

Brad Templeton on Brad Ideas

“Hugo Awards suborned, what can or should be done” – April 5

Eliminating the supporting membership, or boosting it

Two contradictory suggestions. If only people who buy the much more expensive “attending” membership can nominate or vote, it becomes very difficult to convince people to just buy memberships to promote an agenda. On the other hand, it’s a matter of debate whether a lot of the SPs were outsiders who came in just to nominate their agenda. The alternate suggestion is to make it very cheap to nominate and vote, so lots more people do it, overwhelming the affect of slates. I seriously doubt that would work.

Variations could include allowing supporting memberships only for recent holders of attending memberships, or those who have not had a worldcon on their continent for several years (and thus could not attend.) One could even count actual attendance based on who picked up badges.

Allowing fewer nominations than slots

Today you can nominate 5 works for 5 positions, allowing a slate sweep. Making it so you get fewer nominations than there are slots makes it much harder to do a slate sweep, though you can still have a slate that pushes some number of non-slate works off the ballot. A sweep is still possible, but requires a group twice the size.

Note that this, or any other change the rules requires 2 years to enact, as all changes must be voted on at one convention, ratified at the next, and come into effect at the next after that.

It’s also been proposed to develop rules to greatly increase the number of slots (particularly if a slate is present) to make sure non-slate works are not pushed off. Unfortunately, a ballot of 10 or 15 entries is not workable, nobody has time to read them all.

Elimination Nomination

Well known cryptographer Ron Rivest has proposed a nomination system where ballots may nominate several entries, but as soon as one of those entries makes the ballot, the ballot is eliminated, and none of its other nominations will go in tallies. (In one variation the nominations may be given preferences, so that we understand the voter’s desire as to which candidate should get a nomination if it is to be only one of them.) This approach resists slates, and any other clustering of nominations, producing much greater diversity in the ballot — possibly to the extreme. (For example, if a large section of nominators strongly favour one particular subgenre, like hard SF, and send in only that, then once the most popular of their group choice gets a nomination, the rest have much reduced chances of getting one.)

Another proposal involves weighted nominations, where nominators can spread a fixed number of points over their nominees. This encourages ballots with just one nominee among those who care.

These systems resist slates, but introduce strategic factors into the nomination process. Generally, the Hugo awards seek a system where “strategy” is not productive. This is why the ranked single-transferable-vote system is used in the actual voting. In the prior system, there are few effective stratagems, except collusion, which is what SP introduced.

This proposal and much discussion can be found in an article by my fellow EFF board member Bruce Schneier on the Making Light blog.

 

 VOTING NO AWARD

NoAward.com

“How to Vote ‘No Award’ in the 2015 Hugo Awards So that Good Triumphs over Evil”

It is the belief of the creators of this web site that the perpetrators of this action have damaged those who would otherwise have been nominated by actual fans of the field, that they have damaged several people on their “slate” who apparently did not realized they were being so used, and that they have shown their disdain for fans and fandom through this process.

It is our intention to help people “reward” them as they so richly deserve. We also recommend that, since they clearly do not care about fans or fandom, convention runners do whatever possible to ensure that the actual perpetrators of this bit of ugliness never have to interact with fans at conventions again.

 

Dara Korra’ti on Crime and the Forces of Evil

“on buying some hugo awards and voting NO AWARD” – April 7

Some fans are considering counter-slates for future years. I cannot state strongly enough: This would be a disaster. And not just because it would insure the Puppies more slate victories. To reply with counter-slates would be to enter what in foreign affairs is called a Red Queen’s Race – a continuing escalation of resource expenditure to less and less effect resulting eventually in structural collapse. (See also: wars of terrorism, current case study: Syria. But I digress.)

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Remember, above, how I mentioned that Mission Earth: Volume 1 finished behind NO AWARD?

If NO AWARD wins, no Hugo in that category is awarded. This has happened before – not since 1976, I think, but it has happened.

NO AWARD short-circuits the Red Queen’s Race. It makes all slate efforts null and void, as long as fans collectively decide not to award any award in slate-controlled categories. It burns most of one year, to save the rest. Compared to the alternative of competing political slates that reduce the value and meaning of the award to absolutely nothing on any axis – other than spite – it’s a dramatically better option.

 

David Gerrold on Facebook

One of my pen names, registered with the Writers Guild of America, is “Noah Ward.”

I have used that pen name on two scripts, so it is an active pseudonym.

Should “no award” win any Hugos in August, I intend to take the trophies home myself.

And no, I am not campaigning.

Fund Launched to Bring
Peter Watts to Aussiecon 4

Cat Sparks is raising money to bring Canadian SF author Peter Watts to Aussiecon. Cat gives full details on Talking Squid:

To that end, with Peter’s permission, I’m conducting a raffle to raise money for his airfare and accommodation. First prize is tuckerisation in his next novel State of Grace. Peter says, “Make sure that all entrants realize that their namesakes will most likely come to a really painful and unpleasant end. And they may not be especially cuddly as characters before then…”

[Via Australian SF Bullsheet #100.]

Peter Watts Receives Suspended Sentence

On April 26 Canadian author Peter Watts was sentenced to a 60-day jail term suspended upon payment of court assessments — $68 state minimum costs, $60 victim rights, $1000 court costs and $500 fines, according to the St. Clair County Court database.

This past March 19 a jury found Watts guilty of violating Michigan state law Section 750.81d “Assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing, opposing person performing duty.”

Watts had gone into the morning prepared for the worst after seeing the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation. According to the Port Huron Times Herald:   

Information [in] his online court record shows the recommended sentence is 180 days in jail with credit for one day served and 60 days suspended upon payment of $1,600 in fines and costs. A jury found Watts guilty of refusing to comply with orders during a random inspection at the bridge. An officer testified at trial that Watts tried to choke him.

Watts posted his reaction over the weekend before heading for Port Huron for this morning’s hearing:

After receiving some very positive indications from the Prosecution earlier this week — she wasn’t going to push for jail time, she doubted the judge would hand any out, the guy writing the presentencing recommendations was “very mild” — I’ve just been hit with a presentencing report that recommends jail time. Four to six months of it….

Of course, in a rational system this would have ended the moment the Feds decided not to press charges. In this system, there’s now a significant chance that I go into Port Huron on the 26th and simply don’t come out again. I’ve therefore been running around for the past couple of days making arrangements for the paying of bills and the feeding of cats should I go dark.

Fortunately, he has avoided the worst case scenario and hopefully is on his way home.

Watts Case Footnote

Late last week I wrote that the news coverage of Peter Watts trial didn’t explain clearly why the prosecutor was requesting an enhanced sentence under the habitual offender statute. So I sent an e-mail to the contact person at the St. Clair County courts and received this answer:

Habitual offender relates to previous convictions. It is not clear from the court record whether this will apply in the Peter Watts case but it will be clarified by the time of sentencing. 

Peter Watts by now has addressed this on his blog, but at the time I sent in my question I never expected anyone in his situation to be so forthcoming.

Looking Down the Road

The Port Huron Times Herald story about Peter Watts’ conviction begins with the following lead:

Toronto author Peter Watts has been found guilty of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.

Watts calls this a mistake — saying he was not convicted of assault. Indeed, one of the jurors has written to tell Watts he felt obligated to vote for a conviction on grounds of resisting and obstruction, but says Watts was not guilty of assault.

I wondered if a look at the statute would reconcile both viewpoints. By that I mean — What if the newspaper reporter’s phrasing is legally correct, just less insightful than the juror’s explanation?

The St. Clair county court records and the Michigan code are all available online. Watts was charged under this section of Michigan law:

Section 750.81d: Assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing, opposing person performing duty; felony; penalty; other violations; consecutive terms; definitions.

(1) Except as provided in subsections (2), (3), and (4), an individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.

Section 750.81d(1) deals collectively with seven distinctly different actions, five of which are in the title of the statute. So a jury that found someone guilty of any one of these actions might be said to have convicted him of violating the law against “assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing or opposing” a person performing his or her duties.

But the reporter (or copyeditor) has taken a cafeteria approach, selecting just a few of the listed items. So it doesn’t read like a paraphrase of the statute — it reads like an assertion about the jury’s factual findings that led to Watts’ conviction. And since the jurors were willing to talk out of court the reporter had as much opportunity as the defendant to get the most insightful possible story. I don’t score the lead’s accuracy very highly.

On another topic… For the past two days I have searched for information about how frequently people convicted under this law avoid a prison sentence. I located the Michigan Department of Correction statistical report for 2008 (PDF file): it shows 42% of the people convicted under Section 750.81d just received probation, and another 8% received delayed or suspended sentences (or were dealt with under terms of a youth offender statute).

Everything ultimately comes down to the details in individual cases, of course.