Pixel Scroll 12/7/16 While Pixels Watched Their Scrolls By Night

(1) DAMN THE SPOILERS, FULL SPEED AHEAD. Scott Timberg writes for Salon on “The art of ‘Archer’: ‘The arc of the character of Archer is really interesting’”. I’m told there are spoilers – but I rarely watch Archer so I read the profile anyway….

Oh, yeah, Archer’s favorite movie is what again?

He loves “Gator” and also “Smokey and the Bandit.” And there are references to “Deliverance” and “Hooper,” all of them.

I took this show originally as a kind of guilty pleasure for other retro straight guys who like single-malt scotch and ’50s Playboy and “Man Men.” But I’ve found gay men and left-leaning feminist women who love “Archer,” too.

It makes me wonder: Is this a show that heroizes Sterling Archer as the coolest cat ever or is it somehow a critique of toxic masculinity? Is he a sleek, Bond-like hero or a cross between a frat boy, a hedge fund asshole and a lacrosse bro?

I think it’s all of that. But I also think it’s up to each individual viewer; I would never tell anybody what to think about it. What I personally love about it is that it shows all sides of Archer, this character. On one hand, he definitely fits the image of the lacrosse bro. And then he has a moment where he says, “Pam, I think you’re my best friend.” There’s a real heart to this person.

He’s not a flat character at all. He definitely has blind spots, you know? And he definitely pretends to have blind spots. There’s a description of him as “willfully obtuse,” which I think is quite apt.

(2) PARALLAX VIEWS OF THE NEWS. “Cassini sends back intriguing pictures of Saturn from new ring-grazing orbit” says the Los Angeles Times.

Cassini’s cameras captured the latest images of the giant hexagon on Dec. 2 and 3, a few days after the spacecraft first began its new orbit on Nov. 30. Each side of that six-sided figure is about as wide as Earth. At the center, a giant storm swirls on the north pole. It’s a surprising structure, surrounded by Saturn’s smoother rings, and scientists have long wondered how it maintains its shape. (Saturn’s larger cousin, Jupiter, has no such shape at its northern pole.)

“Forget the Great Red Spot – Saturn has a hexagonal storm” reports the BBC. (Both articles have the same newly-released photos.)

The destructive ending being planned for Cassini is a result of the spacecraft having nearly exhausted its fuel.

But Nasa is also concerned about the small, yet important possibility that the probe will crash into one of Saturn’s moons at some point in the future.

Given that some of these bodies, such as Enceladus, are potential targets in the search for extra-terrestrial life, it has the potential to contaminate these bodies with terrestrial microbes borne on Cassini.

Starting from April, Cassini will begin its grand finale, in which it will make the first of 22 dives through the 2,400km gap between the planet and its innermost ring.

The spacecraft will make its final plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn on 15 September.

(3) FUND APPEAL. Katherine Kerr needs to rebuild her career so she can afford her husband’s care. More details on her Patreon site.

Yes, my author photo there looks a little grim. Here’s why. Six years ago, my much-loved husband developed early-onset Alzheimer’s dementia.  As you can probably guess, this turned our lives upside-down.  My writing career first faltered, then ground to a halt while I desperately tried to take care of him myself.  Didn’t work — we now have a full-time live-in caregiver while I try to get my writing back on track.  Our primary caregiver, VJ, is wonderful but he isn’t cheap, just worth every penny….

What I want to do is get my writing career back on track. I have a contract for a new book in the Deverry universe.  I also want to write more short fiction. In the meantime, however, those bills make it hard to concentrate.  I spend about $300 a week on food, basics, and utilities, plus even more on medical expenses. My current income falls short.  Any help I can get is very very welcome. And thank you all very much.

(4) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #11. The eleventh of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a flash fiction story from Stephanie Burgis, written specifically for the auction winner.

Today’s auction is for a brand new flash-fiction story written for you. That’s right, author Stephanie Burgis will write a story for the winner of the auction about any of the characters from her published novels – the winner gets to choose! You’ll let her know which character should be the protagonist, and Burgis will write it within a month of getting the commission. You can find all of her published works on her website.

Burgis reserves the right to share it with other readers later, but it will belong to the winner alone for the first month after she sends it to you.

(5) SWEDISH SF ARTIST LAUNCHES KICKSTARTER. There’s a new Kickstarter campaign for an RPG based on Simon Stålenhag’s art, Tales from the Loop: Roleplaying in the 80s that never was”.

In 1954, the Swedish government ordered the construction of the world’s largest particle accelerator. The facility was complete in 1969, located deep below the pastoral countryside of Mälaröarna. The local population called this marvel of technology The Loop.

Acclaimed scifi artist Simon Stålenhag’s paintings of Swedish 1980s suburbia, populated by fantastic machines and strange beasts, have spread like wildfire on the Internet. Stålenhag’s portrayal of a childhood against a backdrop of old Volvo cars and coveralls, combined with strange and mystical machines, creates a unique atmosphere that is both instantly recognizable and utterly alien.

Now, for the first time, YOU will get the chance to step into the amazing world of the Loop. With your help, we will be able to create a beautiful printed RPG book about the Tales from the Loop.

This game is our third international RPG, after the critically acclaimed Mutant: Year Zero and Coriolis – The Third Horizon. The lead writer is the seasoned Swedish game writer Nils Hintze, backed up by the entire Free League team who handle project management, editing, and graphic design.

(6) REPURPOSED HISTORY. The election of Donald Trump has made some people revise the history of the Puppy Wars of 2015 – can no one accurately remember what happened only last year? – to furnish a heroic example for the current resistance narrative. See — “Patrick S. Tomlinson Wants YOU To Fight The Power”.

Eventually, the intractable nature of the invaders became clear and a new strategy of opposition and containment emerged. To countermand the exploitation of the nomination rules slate voting represented, the equally devious, yet totally legitimate under the same rules, voting for “No Award” became the marching orders for the faithful.

And it worked. With a clear plan in place, our superior numbers and organizational skills kicked in and slapped the puppies’ poisoned pills out of five categories, doubling the number of times No Award had been given in the Hugo’s entire seventy-three-year history up to that point. I was sitting in the audience for the ceremony. It was electric.

And despite their whining in the aftermath about “burning down our own awards” the attack had been largely turned back. The very next year, puppy influence over the nominations had already begun to ebb, with fewer categories subject to full slating takeovers and fewer No Awards handed out as a result. More women and POC won major awards. And by next year, changes to the rules will see the threat recede even further in the future.

That is how in two short years we beat back the puppies, and that is the model we have to use now that the same sickness has metastasized onto our society, indeed all of Western Civilization. It’s easy to forget now, but the facts are the forces of fascism and intolerance are exactly like the hordes of GamerGate and the Puppies. They are loud, angry, aggressive, shameless, and without scruples.

But they are also a clear minority. As of this writing, more than two point three million more Americans had voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. More Americans voted for Democratic Senators. More Americans voted for Democratic Representatives in the House. It is only through exploitation of the rules in violation of the spirit of American democratic ideals that the forces of intolerance and bigotry maintain their majorities. This has been true for more than a decade. This makes them vulnerable to our superior numbers should we have the foresight and resolve to set aside our petty bickering and unify in an organized fashion and agree to a coherent plan of counterattack.

(7) POLISH FANZINE. For Eurocon this year the publishers of the Polish fanzine Smokopolitan produced an English-language edition, which includes two articles about fandom. You can download a .mobi or .pdf version here.

We proudly present our special English issue, created for Eurocon 2016 in Barcelona. Inside you will find short stories by, among others, Pawe? Majka, Andrzej Pilipiuk and Micha? Cholewa, as well as essays about many branches of speculative fiction in Poland

(8) GLENN IN HOSPITAL. Former astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn reportedly has been hospitalized for the past week.

Hank Wilson with Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs said Wednesday that the 95-year-old Glenn is at the James Cancer Hospital, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has cancer.

Wilson said he didn’t have other information about Glenn’s condition, illness or prognosis.

Glenn apologized for his poor eyesight this year at the renaming of Columbus’ airport after him. He said then he’d lost some of his eyesight because of macular degeneration and a small stroke. Glenn had a heart valve replacement in 2014.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 7, 1925 – Future five-time Olympic gold medalist and movie Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller set a world record in 150-yard free-style swimming.
  • December 7, 1945 House of Dracula shown for the first time. The film features four different actors in the role of Frankenstein’s Monster: Glenn Strange, Boris Karloff (via footage from The Bride of Frankenstein), Lon Chaney Jr. and his stunt double, Eddie Parker (via footage from The Ghost of Frankenstein).

house-of-dracula

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

(11) ANOTHER BEST OF THE YEAR LIST. The list of 44 books in “NPR’s Best SFF of 2016” has “Something to outrage (or at least annoy) almost everyone, I expect….,” promises Chip Hitchcock.

(12) AMAZING STORIES, THE MAGAZINE. Today Amazing Stories highlights “’The Great Milo’ by David Gerrold”, one of the stories by established pros included in its issue along with winning stories from its Gernsback Writing Contest. The tag from Gerrold’s story is —

Never piss off a man who buys ink by the barrel.

(13) COMING TO A TBR PILE NEAR YOU. Nancy Palmer and Bertie MacAvoy agree – they loved Craig Russell’s Fragment.

Nancy Palmer reviewed it at her website.

…I ended up reading the whole thing, compulsively. It’s a slender volume. The story, however, is a big one.

Sometimes what’s scary about a thriller is its plausibility. One of the things speculative fiction writers do best is tell the truth sideways.  And there’s a lot of truth here. Craig Russell’s near future ecological and political world are a little too easy to imagine as reality. It was a compelling, but uncomfortable read: I found myself reading faster as the story progressed, hoping there might be some way to avert disaster. Maybe something in the way of hope, that might be carried past the pages of the book and into the outer world. The hubris and political manipulation in Fragment: yes, there are real-world analogs. Seeing the potential outcome as spelled out in this novel? Dread inducing. But I couldn’t look away.

And Bertie MacAvoy praises it, too:

I just loved Craig Russell’s first novel, Black Bottle Man, and told him so, although I didn’t know the man at all.  It was an old-fashioned sort of novel, very much in control, and I found it fantastically well written.  May others have agreed, if you look at the number of awards it received for a debut novelist.  I awaited his second novel eagerly.

Not only  is it just as good, or better, but it is wildly unconventional, even for these most unconventional S.F. days, and it caught me so firmly I wasn’t even aware of the tricks he was playing on the reader until the book was 65% read. I love being tricked, when it is done well.  (Done poorly, however, of course, I just feel let down.)

It strides the border between intricate Science Fiction and an almost Kafka-esque style.  And doesn’t break the rules of either.  That is the ultimate trick.

So I advise all and sundry to read ‘fragment’.  You will be the better for it.  And, it’s quite a thrill-ride.

(14) CLIPPING SERVICE. “How The Internet Unleashed a Burst of Cartooning Creativity” is a piece on Medium.com that was originally published in The Economist in 2012 (so it’s not behind the Economist paywall).  Randall Munroe is prominently featured, but Kate Beaton and Zach Weiner are also interviewed. Also of interest is the section on Arab cartoonists who would be censored if they were restricted to newspapers but are freer to express themselves on the Net.

Triumph of the nerds

The decline of newspapers and the rise of the internet have broken that system. Newspapers no longer have the money to pay big bucks to cartoonists, and the web means anybody can get published. Cartoonists who want to make their name no longer send sketches to syndicates or approach newspapers: they simply set up websites and spread the word on Twitter and Facebook. Randall Munroe, the creator of “XKCD”, left a job at NASA to write his stick men strip, full of science and technology jokes (see above and below). Kate Beaton, a Canadian artist who draws “Hark, A Vagrant”, sketched her cartoons between shifts while working in a museum. Matthew Inman created his comic “The Oatmeal” by accident while trying to promote a dating website he built to escape his job as a computer coder.

The typical format for a web comic was established a decade or more ago, says Zach Weiner, the writer of “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”, or “SMBC” (below). It has not changed much since. Most cartoonists update on a regular basis?—?daily, or every other day?—?and run in sequence. “I think that’s purely because that’s what the old newspapers used to do,” says Mr Weiner. But whereas many newspaper comics tried to appeal to as many people as possible, often with lame, fairly universal jokes, online cartoonists are free to be experimental, in both content and form.

(15) SFFSFF. The annual Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF) at Seattle’s MoPOP has announced its program selections for the January 28, 2017 event. From Seattle Seahawks battling giant monsters through the city’s streets to a mind-altering cell phone app with unintended consequences, this year’s lineup of 23 films is presented in two packages with a 30-minute intermission between sessions and concludes with an awards ceremony. Ticket information and further details at the linked site.

(16) SCOUTING REPORT. This Inverse article – “11 Science Fiction Books That Will Define 2017” includes the official title and cover for book #3 in Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy.

Science fiction books have always looked toward the future through both creative speculation and adventurous escapism. After the 2016 Presidential Election, science fiction authors are poised to be more influential than ever before.

Luckily for readers, sci-fi authors are known to churn out their books like rabbits, creating a never-ending stream of great works. In 2017, we’ll see the continuation of several acclaimed book series, but will also have plenty of impressive standalone science fiction, too. Below is a list of eleven books that are slated for release in 2017 that will define science fiction in the upcoming year. Keep in mind these dates can be finicky, and that they can change at warp speed. But, otherwise, happy reading to your future self!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, John King Tarpinian, Dawn “No Middle Name” Incognito, J(“No Middle Initial”)J, Hampus Eckerman, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anthony.]

Pixel Scroll 10/1/16 Scrolls from The Times of Darkness

(1) GORGEOUS ART. After yesterday’s link to a website that posts a hideous sf book cover every day, it’s time to balance the score.

On Facebook, Mike Resnick shared the beautiful cover of the Chinese edition of Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge, a collection which uses his story as the title.

seven-views-of-olduvai-gorge-cover

(2) ABOUT WRITING. Bertie MacAvoy can’t say enough nice things about those folks — “The Major Importance of Minor Characters”

Just this morning I realized how very grateful I am to have what I had thought to be a minor character in a novel blossoming into something unexpected…..

(3) THE END IS NOT NEAR. Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time is scheduled to go off the air – eventually.

Horrible news: Cartoon Network just announced the impending series finale of Adventure Time, the sci-fi/fantasy post-apocalyptic musical fairy-tale rom-com coming-of-age sitcom epic starring Jake the Dog and Finn the Human.

Great news: Adventure Time won’t end until 2018.

In an official statement, Cartoon Network promised the final run of Adventure Time episodes will encompass ”142 half-hours of content,” which includes new episodes, miniseries, specials, and some mysterious “more.” (By comparison, the complete run of Game of Thrones so far only represents about 120 half-hours of content.)

(4) RIDDLE NOVEL. Departure. A time travel mystery thriller romance.  Out this month in paperback from A.G. Riddle, author of the Origin/Atlantis trilogy.  Described as Quantum Leap meets Bridget Jones’ Diary.

En route to London from New York, Flight 305 suddenly loses power and crash-lands in the English countryside, plunging a group of strangers into a mysterious adventure that will have repercussions for all of humankind.

Struggling to stay alive, the survivors soon realize that the world they’ve crashed in is very different from the one they left. But where are they? Why are they here? And how will they get back home?

Five passengers seem to hold clues about what’s really going on: writer Harper Lane, venture capitalist Nick Stone, German genetic researcher Sabrina Schröder, computer scientist Yul Tan, and Grayson Shaw, the son of a billionaire philanthropist.

As more facts about the crash emerge, it becomes clear that some in this group know more than they’re letting on—answers that will lead Harper and Nick to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy involving their own lives. As they begin to piece together the truth, they discover they have the power to change the future and the past—to save our world . . . or end it.

A wildly inventive and propulsive adventure full of hairpin twists, Departure is a thrilling tale that weaves together power, ambition, fate, memory, and love, from a bold and visionary talent.

(5) POP WARFARE. Stephen Dedman’s May the Armed Forces Be with You: The Relationship Between Science Ficttion and the United States Military is out from McFarland. Dedman is a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Western Australia and the author of five novels and more than 100 short stories.

Science fiction and the United States military often inhabit the same imaginative space. Weapons technology has taken inspiration from science fiction, from the bazooka and the atomic bomb to weaponized lasers and drones. Star-spangled superheroes sold war bonds in comic books sent to GIs during World War II, and adorned the noses of bombers. The same superheroes now appear in big-budget movies made with military assistance, fighting evil in today’s war zones.

A missile shield of laser satellites—dreamed up by writers and embraced by the high command—is partially credited with ending the Cold War. Sci-fi themes and imagery are used to sell weapons programs, military service and wars to the public. Some science fiction creators have willingly cooperated with the military; others have been conscripted. Some have used the genre as a forum for protest. This book examines the relationship between the U.S. military and science fiction through more than 80 years of novels, comics, films and television series, including Captain America, Starship Troopers, The Twilight Zone, Dr. Strangelove, Star Trek, Iron Man, Bill the Galactic Hero, The Forever War, Star Wars, Aliens, Ender’s Game, Space: Above and Beyond and Old Man’s War.

(6) EARWITNESS TO HISTORY. At ThePulp.Net you can listen to a recording of Ted White’s PulpFest guest of honor speech. Ted White, science-fiction author and editor of Amazing Stories from 1968 through 1978, discussed his career in writing and editing. His presentation was recorded on Saturday, July 23, at PulpFest 2016.

(7) MILESTONE ISSUE. Clarkesworld Magazine’s 10th Anniversary Issue is now online.

Congratulations to Neil Clarke and the staff!

(8) STUDYING THE IMPOSSIBLE. In “A Nonlinear History of Time Travel” by James Gleick in Nautilus, Gleick, in an excerpt from his forthcoming book Time Travel: A History, gives a look at time travel paradoxes, but also explains that Robert Heinlein’s classic story “All You Zombies—” was not only pioneering transgender sf, but very accurate physics.

For Einstein’s 70th birthday, in 1949, his friend presented him with a surprising calculation: that his field equations of general relativity allow for the possibility of “universes” in which time is cyclical—or, to put it more precisely, universes in which some world lines loop back upon themselves. These are “closed time-like lines,” or, as a physicist today would say, closed time-like curves (CTCs). These are circular highways lacking on ramps or off ramps. A time-like line is a set of points separated only by time: same place, different times. A closed time-like curve loops back upon itself and thus defies ordinary notions of cause and effect: Events are their own cause. (The universe itself—entire—would be rotating, something for which astronomers have found no evidence, and by Gödel’s calculations a CTC would have to be extremely large—billions of light-years—but people seldom mention these details.)

(9) WEIR CRITIQUES MUSK. Andy Weir on Elon Musk’s Mars plans. You could say Weir had already thought about this a little bit: The Martian’s Andy Weir talks to Ars about the science if Musk’s Mars vision”.

Musk’s rockets are methane-powered, and, as John Timmer discusses in detail, creating methane on Mars actually isn’t complicated. Take some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, mix it with hydrogen (which you can crack out of water molecules, which Mars has in surprising abundance), add energy, pressure, and a catalyst, and boom, you’ve got methane and water.

“It turns out that Mars is very cooperative when it comes to the Sabatier reaction,” said Weir in a long conversation earlier this week with Ars. “All you need to do it is carbon dioxide, water, and energy. And presumably you’re bringing some energy source with you if you’re going to colonize Mars—like either a reactor or just tons and tons of solar panels, though the correct answer is reactor.”

(10) THE PESSIMISTIC VIEW. Vox.com would prefer to dwell on “The top 7 ways a trip to Mars could kill you, illustrated”

6. You could get poisoned by the toxins in Mars’s soil

In the movie The Martian, a mighty sandstorm leaves astronaut Mark Watney stranded on Mars after high winds rip out an antenna and destroy most of his camp. That scene was a little exaggerated. Because Mars’s atmosphere is so thin, 60 mph winds don’t produce nearly as much force as they do on Earth.

But sand and dirt on Mars is definitely a problem. Mars periodically gets massive sandstorms that spread out across the planet and can last for days or weeks at a time. You don’t want to be outside in one. All those little particles flying around could conceivably tear a hole in your spacesuit. Or, more prosaically, they could clog door seals, mess up machinery, or even cover up solar panels, depriving astronauts of power for extended periods.

A related concern is the fact that Martian soil is toxic. It contains very high concentrations of perchlorates — salts that can do serious damage to the human thyroid gland. “If your backyard had as much perchlorate as Mars does, it’d be a Superfund site,” McKay says.

It’s okay to touch Martian dirt with your bare hands. But you really don’t want any to get into your drinking water or food when you tramp it into your habitat. You also don’t want to grow plants using Martian soil.

McKay also brought up another related risk: Right now we’re pretty sure there’s no life on Mars, no strange microorganisms lurking in the soil. But we’re not absolutely sure. So it might be a good idea to test out any proposed landing site in advance, in case there’s anything harmful lurking.

And that worry goes both ways: We’ll want to be careful about contaminating or killing any Martian life, too. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty forbids the “harmful contamination” of alien worlds with our earthly microbes.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 1, 1968: Night of the Living Dead has its first screening in Pittsburgh.
  • October 1, 1974: Dallas hosts the premiere of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

(12) AXANAR SUIT CONTINUES. CinemaBlend reports “The Star Trek Lawsuit Is Trying To Pull J.J. Abrams And Justin Lin In Deeper”.

Last December, the producers of a Star Trek fan film, Star Trek Axanar, were hit with a lawsuit from Paramount after they raised $1 million for funding from Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. Many fans were upset that the studio was citing copyright infringement after years of the fan films being released without any problems, and eventually, J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin, directors of the reboot movies, became involved, and Abrams implied that the lawsuit would go away. Well, it didn’t and now both men could find themselves pulled deeper into this legal mess.

For those who need a refresher, last May at the Star Trek Fan Event, J.J. Abrams told attendees that he and Justin Lin had spoken with paramount bigwigs and “pushed them to stop this lawsuit.” He then said there would be an announcement in the coming weeks of the lawsuit “going away,” but in June, it was confirmed that Paramount is still seeking to continue with it. Now THR has learned that Axanar Productions has brought forward a motion to compel discovery, and one of the things it demands is to learn what Paramount discussed with Abrams and Lin about the lawsuit and fan films in general.

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day snowcrash.]

 

Pixel Scroll 9/19/16 Scroll Like A Pixel Day

(1) OUT OF STEAM. Southern California will be without one of its Halloween traditions this year, and probably for the future. “Ghost Train Cancelled by Los Angeles Live Steamers Board of Directors”. The Griffith Park model steam railroad center will not be giving rides or decorating for Halloween. Jay Carsman, a members of LA Live Steamers, told the Theme Park Adventure blog the reasons.

“The LA Live Steamers Ghost Train’s popularity finally outgrew our volunteer club’s ability to manage it,” said Carsman. “Of course, there were other issues too. For 2015 [sic], we really did not plan to have a Ghost Train at all because of the water pipeline project underway on Zoo Drive. The pipe was huge and due to the tunnel boring and the collapse of part of the old pipe, a fairly long stretch of our railroad began to sink in the ground. Just a few weeks before Halloween 2015 [sic], the city’s contractor for the pipe project shored up the mess and injected cement into the ground to stop the sinking. We went ahead and did the Ghost Train but everything was very rushed and stressful. We managed to do it, but the small group of volunteers who really made it happen were exhausted.

“Compounding the problem for future Halloween Ghost Trains were some financial issues, the city advising that our Ghost Train had become a major safety issue for the park due to the crowds, traffic on Zoo Drive, and parking issues,” stated Carsman. Last, they said absolutely no more flames, torches, and exposed hazardous electrical wiring. Then there was the continuing problem of the scale-model railroad is just not designed for such concentrated heavy use. The trains are models, not amusement park machines and the track is a very small scaled-down version of real train track. Carrying ten or fifteen thousand people on the little railroad during a 10-day period is just brutal for such small machines….”

ghost-train-2015_8456

(2) MIDAMERICON II PHOTOS AT FANAC.ORG. They’ve started a photo album for MidAmericon 2 at Fanac.org. “So far there are 42 photos up, most of them courtesy of Frank Olynyk.”

Shots of the Guests of Honor and Toastmaster are here.

(3) AWARD PHOTO. This year Orbital Comics in London beat off fierce competition to win the Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. James Bacon who seems to collect opinions on good comic shops around the world took the photo and said; “First time at Orbital Comics since the win. The shop embodies an awful lot of what I consider to be just right in comic shops. Huge amount of small press, great events and a gallery, with a lovely attitude, and Karl and his team really deserve it.”

Spirit of Comics Retailer Award

Spirit of Comics Retailer Award

(4) FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T HEARD ENOUGH. Dave Truesdale appeared on the SuperversiveSF podcast today. He gives his version of the notorious MAC II panel beginning immediately after the intros.

“[The] theme of my opening remarks….was that science fiction is not for snowflakes, those people who are perpetually offended or microaggressed at every turn, these people are nothing but, they are intellectually shallow emotionally stunted thumb-sucking crybabies who are given validation by such organisations or platforms as the Incident Report Team at Worldcon, or places they can go such as safe rooms at WisCon or other safe places around the internet or social media. Science fiction is not the place for these people because SF is part of the arts and the arts should be always one of the most freeform places for expression and thought and instances of being provocative and controversial there should be. They have invaded science fiction to the point where we are not seeing the sort of fiction,, short fiction at least, any more that we used to, we are not seeing the provocative controversial stuff…”

A bit later he comments on the specifics of his expulsion

“…95% of the audience were probably somewhere along the snowflake spectrum and it was just anathema to them so they went crying to the IRT (the Incident Reporting Team) and a one-sided version of what happened got me expelled from the convention and I think it was a travesty that I never got to give my side and it was more or less just a kangaroo court and I think it was just abominable and set a very bad precedent for future Worldcons and just fandom at conventions in general”

(5) EXPULSIONS THROUGHOUT FANHISTORY. Alec Nevala-Lee, in “The Past Through Tomorrow”, discusses Dave Truesdale’s conduct at MidAmeriCon II, and ends by comparing it with the “Great Exclusion Act” at the first Worldcon.

Afterward, one of the other participants shook my hand, saying that he thought that I did a good job, and essentially apologized for taking over the discussion. “I don’t usually talk much,” he told me, “but when I’m on a panel like this, I just can’t stop myself.”

And this turned out to be a prophetic remark. The next day, the very same participant was expelled from the convention for hijacking another panel that he was moderating, using his position to indulge in a ten-minute speech on how political correctness was destroying science fiction and fantasy. I wasn’t there, but I later spoke to another member of that panel, who noted dryly that it was the first time she had ever found herself on the most controversial event of the weekend. Based on other accounts of the incident, the speaker—who, again, had been nothing but polite to me the day before—said that the fear of giving offense had made it hard for writers to write the same kinds of innovative, challenging stories that they had in the past. Inevitably, there are those who believe that his expulsion simply proved his point, and that he was cast out by the convention’s thought police for expressing an unpopular opinion. But that isn’t really what happened. As another blogger correctly observes, the participant wasn’t expelled for his words, but for his actions: he deliberately derailed a panel that he was supposed to moderate, recorded it without the consent of the other panelists, and planned the whole thing in advance, complete with props and a prepared statement. He came into the event with the intention of disrupting any real conversation, rather than facilitating it, and the result was an act of massive discourtesy. For a supposed champion of free speech, he didn’t seem very interested in encouraging it. As a result, he was clearly in violation of the convention’s code of conduct, and his removal was justified.

(6) BAD WOLF. Bertie MacAvoy had a science fictional encounter this weekend.

Seeing the Tardis is always unexpected:

This weekend I drove to the nearest town for some Thai take-out. As I passed down the aisle of cars I saw a dark blue van on the other side of the row. It had decals on the top of its windows. They read: POLICE CALL BOX. Carrying my tubs of soup and cardboard boxes of food, I crossed over. Each rear door had a magnetic sticker on it, such as are used by people to signify that theirs is a company car. These said SAINT JOHN’S AMBULANCE SERVICE and all the rest of the usual Tardis markings. On the rearmost window had been scrawled in white paint: BAD WOLF….

(7) INFLUENTIAL BOOKS. The Washington Posts’s Nora Krug, getting ready for the Library of Congress National Book Festival next weekend, asked writers “What book–or books–influenced you most?”  Here is Kelly Link’s response:

Kelly Link s books include “ Stranger Things Happen ” and “ Pretty Monsters .” Her latest collection, “ Get in Trouble: Stories ,” was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist:

The short-story collection “Not What You Expected,” by Joan Aiken, is one of the most magical of all the books I found at the Coral Gables public library during one of my many childhood moves. I checked it out on my library card over and over. In it were stories about dog ghosts, unusual harps, curses and phones that could connect you to the past. Aiken could put a whole world into a 10-page story, and she was funny as well as terrifying. She made the act of storytelling feel limitless, liberating, joyful.

(8) LOSE THESE TROPES. Fond as we are of the number five, consider “Marc Turner with Five Fantasy Tropes That Should Be Consigned To History” for The Speculative Herald.

…Having said that, here are five tropes that I’d be happy never to see again. (Please note, I’m not suggesting that any book that contains these tropes is “bad” or “unimaginative”; I’m simply saying that I would be less inclined to read it.)

  1. Prophecies

When I was a teen, it seemed every other fantasy book I read featured a prophecy. You know the sort of thing: “The Chosen One will claim the Sword of Light and defeat the Dark Lord”, or “Upon the death of three kings, the world will be plunged into Chaos”. Now maybe it’s just me, but if I foresaw the precise set of circumstances that would bring about the end of all things, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to share it with the world. You can guarantee that somewhere a Dark Lord is listening in and saying, “Well, that is interesting.”

And why is it that whoever makes these prophecies never sees clearly enough to be able to provide a complete picture? It’s never an entirely useful prophecy. There’s always room for misinterpretation so the author can throw in a twist at the end.

Plus, there’s so much scope for abuse. It’s a wonder the bad guys don’t have fun with prophecies more often. “Ah, yes, paradise on earth is just one step away. All you have to do is destroy that kingdom over there. What’s that you say? If you attack, you’ll leave your border with my Evil Empire undefended? Purely a coincidence, I assure you.” *Whistles innocently*

(9) GRAVELINE OBIT. Duane E. Graveline (1931-2016), a doctor who did pioneering research in space medicine, and was briefly a NASA astronaut, died September 5. According to the New York Times:

In 1965, Duane E. Graveline, a doctor who did pioneering research in space medicine, was awarded one of the most coveted jobs the government can bestow: astronaut. But he resigned less than two months later without ever being fitted for a spacesuit, let alone riding a rocket into space. His tenure is believed to be the shortest of anyone in the astronaut program, a NASA spokeswoman said.

Dr. Graveline cited “personal reasons” for his resignation. In fact, NASA officials later said, he had been forced out because his marriage was coming apart and the agency, worried about tarnishing its image at a time when divorce was stigmatized, wanted to avoid embarrassment.

Dr. Graveline, who married five more times and became a prolific author but whose later career as a doctor was marred by scandal, died on Sept. 5 at 85 in a hospital near his home in Merritt Island, Fla.

In later years, Dr. Graveline continued to consult with NASA and wrote 15 books, including memoirs, science fiction novels and works detailing his research into side effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which he blamed for his own medical decline.

Graveline also was a self-published science fiction author with numerous works available through his website.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 19, 1961 — On a return trip from Canada, while in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Betty and Barney Hill claimed to have been abducted for two hours by a UFO. After going public with their story, the two gained worldwide notoriety. The incident is the first fully documented case of an alleged alien abduction.
  • September 19, 2000 — The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel by Michael Chabon about the glory years of the American comic book, is published on this day in 2000. The book went on to win the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

(11) TODAY IN PIRACY. It’s “Talk Like  Pirate Day” and if you show up at Krispy Kreme and talk or dress like a pirate you can get a dozen free doughnuts.

Customers who do their best pirate voice get a free glazed donut. Dress like a pirate and you get a free dozen glazed donuts.

To qualify for the free dozen, customers must wear three pirate items like a bandana or eye patch.

If you’re not willing to go that far, but still want to get the free dozen, there is another option: Customers can digitally dress like a pirate through Krispy Kreme Snapchat pirate filter. Just be sure to show the photo to a team member

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 19, 1928 — Adam West
  • Born September 19, 1933  — David McCallum in 1933. His was in arguably the best Outer Limits episode, The Sixth Finger. And then, of course, he was in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

(13) READING WITHOUT TURNING A PAGE. M.I.T. uses radiation to read closed books reports Engadget.

There are some books that are simply too delicate to crack open — the last thing you want to do is destroy an ornate medieval Bible simply because you’re curious about its contents. If MIT has its way, though, you won’t have to stay away. Its scientists have crafted a computational imaging system that can read the individual pages of a book while it’s closed. Their technology scans a book using terahertz radiation, and relies on the tiny, 20-micrometer air gaps between pages to identify and scan those pages one by one. A letter interpretation algorithm (of the sort that can defeat captchas) helps make sense of any distorted or incomplete text.

(14) EMMY NOTES. Steven H Silver lists all the Emmy Award winners of genre interest at SF Site News. And he sent along this summary to File 770:

As I noted in my coverage of the Emmy Awards, with their nine wins earlier this week and their three wins last night, Game of Thrones now has the record for the most Emmy wins for a scripted prime time series with 38 (it took the record from Frasier, which has 37).  The record for most Emmys of any type seems to be Saturday Night Live, with 43 (including Kate McKinnon’s win this year).  It took GOT only six seasons to rack up that total, Frasier took 11, and SNL took 41 years.

(15) ALAN MOORE TALKS TO NPR ABOUT HIS NEW PROJECT. The writer of Watchmen is writing a book (without pictures) based on his hometown: “In ‘Jerusalem,’ Nothing You’ve Ever Lost Is Truly Gone”.

Recently, Moore said he’s stepping back from comics to focus on other projects — like his epic new novel, Jerusalem. It’s full of angels, devils, saints and sinners and visionaries, ghost children and wandering writers, all circling his home town of Northampton, England.

Moore still lives in Northampton, about an hour north of London. He rarely leaves, so I went there to meet him.

“This is holy ground for me,” he told me as we stood on a neglected grassy strip by a busy road. It doesn’t look like holy ground — nothing’s here now except a few trees, and a solitary house on the corner. But it wasn’t always this way.

“This is it,” Moore says, pointing to the grown-over remains of a little path behind the corner house. “This is the alley that used to run behind our terrace. This is where I was born.”

(16) OWN HARRY POTTER’S CUBBYHOLE. The house used to stand in for the Dursleys’ house in the Harry Potter films is on the market.

Until he went to Hogwarts, Harry was forced to live there with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and his cousin Dudley, and returned there every summer.

The house in Bracknell, Berkshire, rather than the fictive Little Whinging dreamt up by J. K. Rowling, but is otherwise as it appeared in the films.

On the market for £475,000, it has three bedrooms, enough for a married couple, their over-indulged son, and their over-indulged son’s second bedroom. Whether there is room for a child to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs is unclear.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Steven H Silver, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint and Cadbury Moose.]

 

Pixel Scroll 7/11/16 The Coal Equations

(1) OH, PUH-LEEZE. Hoping to prove his superiority to his critics, Simon Pegg resorts to the Quantum Defense as he justifies a gay Sulu, in “A Word About Canon”

The main thrust for those who aren’t keen on our LGBT Sulu, seems to come down to two things. Firstly, why Sulu? It’s a good point, I mean it could have been anybody: Kirk is a pansexual fun seeker; who knows why Bones got divorced? Nobody said Spock and Uhura were exclusive; Chekov is just permanently horny and let’s face it, there’s more to Scotty and Keenser than meets the eye. The fact is, we chose Sulu because of George, there was something sweet and poetic about it. Introducing a new gay character had its own set of problems, as I mentioned before, the sexuality of that character would have to be addressed immediately and pointedly and the new characters in Star Trek Beyond have enough on their plate, without stopping to give us the intimate details of their personal lives. We were concerned it might seem clumsy, tokenistic or worse, too little too late, raising and exasperated, “finally!” from those who’ve been waiting for representation for the last 50 years.

So why persist when George Takei wasn’t keen? The thinking behind embracing an existing character was that it felt as though it retroactively put right something that had long been wrong. By the time, we mentioned it to GT, the idea had taken shape, it felt good, interesting and worthy of thought and conversation. We were disappointed that George didn’t see it that way but, truth be told, Sulu Prime seemed to be missing a very important point. With galaxies of respect to the great man, this is not his Sulu. John Cho does not play a young George Takei, nor does he play the same character George Takei played in the original series. He is a different Sulu. This brings me to the second point of contention, Canon.

With the Kelvin timeline, we are not entirely beholden to existing canon, this is an alternate reality and, as such is full of new and alternate possibilities. “BUT WAIT!” I hear you brilliant and beautiful super Trekkies cry, “Canon tells us, Hikaru Sulu was born before the Kelvin incident, so how could his fundamental humanity be altered? Well, the explanation comes down to something very Star Treky; theoretical, quantum physics and the less than simple fact that time is not linear…..

Wouldn’t he have done better to skip that part and go right to his closing argument?

…I know in my heart, that Gene Roddenberry would be proud of us for keeping his ideals alive. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, this was his dream, that is our dream, it should be everybody’s.Ultimately, if we love Star Trek, we are all on the same page, we all want Gene’s idea of a tolerant inclusive, diplomatic and loving Universe to become a reality.

(2) BIG BOOK LANDS TOMORROW. Jeff and Ann VanderMeer’s Big Book of Science Fiction will be released July 12, 750,000 words and 1,216 pages.

(3) THE PACE OF FEAR. At the Horror Writers Association blog, Mac Childs begins his series “And the Clock Strikes Midnight: Time and Timing in Terror, Part I” with this advice —

Whether it’s the beeping of an alarm clock marking a night over too soon, a school buzzer announcing the start of a test period, or the chime of a grandfather clock in an old house declaring the start of the witching hour, there are lots of ways that time can provoke dread. So, when writers look no further than flashbacks and verb tenses, they miss out on timely tension opportunities.

With a little attention towards the timing of the horrors in your story—pacing as well as narratively—you can save yourself time in revisions, time better spent dreaming up new nightmares to implant in the fertile minds of your young readers.

First, you’ve got to figure out the best times for your horrors to strike. For this, you need to keep two axes (plural of axis, not axe) in mind: the external, physical timeline of pages experienced by the reader between scares, and the in-story time passage experienced by the characters. While it’s great when these two lines meet and overlap (e.g. during a tense scene when the protagonist experiences time in slow motion, with a reader savoring the moment), too much intersection becomes narratively unsustainable easily, or for some audiences unfeasible, because of the need to maintain the suspension of disbelief.

(4) IT COULD BE VERSE. Bertie MacAvoy discusses ”Poetry and Song”.

I don’t think that, prior to the wide use of the printing press, there was any distinction between poetry and song. It was only when a person could buy an edition of someone’s poems, and read them – not knowing at all how the writer had meant them to sound aloud – that a branch of poetry that consisted of interesting mind pictures could exist.

And that explains my preference over the poetry of Yeats to that of Eliot….

(5) ERRATA. Lee Gold sent me a link to Jack Bennett’s poem “Ben Ali the Egyptian” which appeared in 1893 in St. Nicholas Magazine, having just learned the authorship was misattributed to Randall Garrett in the collection Takeoff Too, which was assembled when his medical condition did not allow him to be consulted. I see the Internet Science Fiction Database already captured that information. Though as long as I had the link I took a look at the poem and now I understand its fannish appeal.

(6) DEFINING ACTIVISM. John Scalzi answers another writer’s question in “Activism, and Whether I Do It”.

My answer to her was no, I don’t really consider myself an activist. The reason I gave her was pretty straightforward: I’m too lazy. Which is to say that while I have my beliefs and principles and largely follow them (sometimes imperfectly), and will happily tell others what those beliefs and principles are, the sort of committed action that to me defines activism — and the continued proselytization for a belief that activism often requires, including the desire to inspire others to take moral action — is not something I usually undertake.

There are other reasons for this besides laziness, including work and the desire to have other interests in my life, but laziness really is a large part of it. Activism is work. I’m glad other people do it, and admire their effort. But it’s not something I put much effort in.

But you write here all the time on political and social topics! Yes I do. But this is not a blog for activism, it’s a blog for whatever I feel like writing — or, when I’m writing a book as I am now, what I have time for writing. The blog is like me; all over the place and a bit pixelated….

Good Lord, it’s contagious!

(7) GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA PEOPLES. National Geographic reports on the unique discovery of a Philistine cemetery at the site of ancient Ashkelon in Israel.

An unrivaled discovery on the southern coast of Israel may enable archaeologists to finally unravel the origins of one of the most notorious and enigmatic peoples of the Hebrew Bible: the Philistines.

The discovery of a large cemetery outside the walls of ancient Ashkelon, a major city of the Philistines between the 12th and 7th centuries B.C., is the first of its kind in the history of archaeological investigation in the region. (Read more about ancient Ashkelon.)

While more than a century of scholarship has identified the five major cities of the Philistines and artifacts distinctive to their culture, only a handful of burials have been tentatively identified.

Simply put, archaeologists have found plenty of pots, but very few people.

(8) LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR POLISH WRITER. Piotrek celebrates “Andrzej Sapkowski with World Fantasy Award” at Re-enchantment of the World.

Andrzej Sapkowski is a big guy in Polish fantasy. The big one. Was big long before The Witcher games. Well, some young people might disagree. There are some more popular authors now. But he is… GRRM of our fantasy? Terrible movie/tv series adaptation of Witcher being as good Game of Thrones as our tv is capable of delivering … At a first glance a bit of Tolkien in him as well, adapting folklore for his stories. But if you read it – definitely a post-tolkienite.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • July 11, 1913 – Cordwainer Smith

(10) OH YES JOHN RINGO. Ringo told his Facebook followers —

It got announced at closing ceremonies that I’m to be the LibertyCon guest of Honor for LibertyCon 30. (I was in a meeting at the time so couldn’t make it to closing) They are calling it XXX. I hope there is no connection implied.

Here is the link to LibertyCon.

(11) 2016 LIBERTYCON REPORT. Jeb Kinnison has a gallery of photos to go with his account of attending his first LibertyCon.

…One obvious difference at LibertyCon — it’s a Red Tribe con, meaning most attendees are in the liberty-loving, military-respecting, rural-BBQ-and gun-loving population typical of the US away from the coastal urban enclaves. Since I grew up with those people and understand them well, I’m not frightened by guns, blades, military uniforms, seared meat, or the occasional less-than-sensitive remark….

(12) EATING THE FANTASTIC, DONUT EDITION. Scott Edelman found it was easy to get more than a dozen authors at Readercon to participate in his podcast, with an assist from Dunkin’ Donuts.

I planted myself in the lobby (as captured in the photo below by Ellen Kushner), where I offered free donuts to the first 12 random passersby willing to give brief interviews about their favorite Readercon memories.

I had no idea who might wander over, but knew that something entertaining would surely come out of this sugary experiment. And it did! I ended up with 15 guests digging into those 12 donuts—the differential being because there were three who eschewed—in a “lightning round” 13th episode I’ve decided to call the Readercon Donut Spectacular. Surprise visitors included Greer Gilman, Maria Dahvana Headley, Rajan Khanna, plus a dozen more.

Guests—some of whom had attended nearly every Readercon, and some for whom this was their first—shared their peak Readercon moments, many of which revolved around Samuel R. Delany.

 

(13) BUSIEK PRAISED. At Black Gate, Nick Ozment pays tribute to Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Also Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner, and a tangent on Modernism”.

Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is one of my favorite superhero comics. It consistently delivers brilliant, funny, poignant, human stories in a colorful, wonderfully idiosyncratic comic-book world. It is Busiek’s magnum opus — like Bendis’s Powers, it towers above his other work for the big publishers using their branded characters. He brings the sensibilities he honed in the groundbreaking Marvel miniseries Marvels to his own universe and, beneath all the ZAP! BANG! POW!, weaves tales you will never forget.

What Marvels did that was so fresh in 1994 is it “lowered the camera” from the god-like supers knocking each other through buildings and focused in on the ordinary humans down here at street level, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, watching it happen. What impact did the existence of such powers have on their day-to-day lives?

(14) TOIL, TEARS, AND SWEAT NOT ON OFFER. “Finally, you can buy Richard Garriott’s blood” reports Ars Technica.

Richard Garriott selling vials of his blood for thousands of dollars is one of those stunts.

Yes, Lord British himself, the 55-year-old creator of the Ultima series and noted space tourist, is auctioning off samples of his actual blood to raise money for his new fantasy RPG, Shroud of the Avatar. The six reliquaries—which we’ll note again are full of Richard Garriott’s actual blood—are being marketed as limited-run art pieces, “made of bakelite, copper, nails, glass, and mirrored glass that can be hung on your wall.”

…Bidding for the vials starts at $5,000.

The items originally were offered on eBay, then were removed, speculates Ars Technica “ quite possibly because it’s a violation of eBay’s policy against selling human remains and body parts.”

The listings have been moved to Shroud of the Avatar‘s own Make a Difference store, where two reliquaries have already sold for $6,000 and $8,000 each, and another is still available for $11,000.

(15) ACCEPTING FOR. While researching the Geffen Award, I came across these humorous tweets from a 2015 accepter –

(16) MAGIC MAKEOVER. The Sun interviewed a family that’s redone its dining room Harry Potter-style. (I was charmed all to heck by the replica of Dobby, looking like a mummy that’s seen better days…)

Charlotte, 31, her husband Andrew, 39, and kids Eleni, three, Max, four and Kiri, six, are all massive fans of the magical movies.

After visiting Warner Bros. Studios: The Making of Harry Potter, the family decided to splash out on some renovations to their home.

It wasn’t a quick turnaround though – the family spent 18 months perfecting the room, which now boasts a sorting hat, props from the films, wooden panelling and a large table…..

“We have a lot of replica props and two original props from the films.

“We have one of the letters thrown through the fire place which we bought from a dealer, which cost us about £200.

“We also have a witch in a jar which was from Professor Lupin’s office in the third film. That cost £350.”

One of the most exciting items are the ‘moving pictures’ – which show the kids riding broomsticks and were cunningly created using an iPad.

In all, the Harry Potter dining room has cost the family a whopping £13,004.72.

(17) TOY DEPARTMENT. On sale soon, Game of Thrones stuffed direwolves:

With this year’s Comic-Con right around the corner, details are spilling out as to what goodies you’ll find down in San Diego this year. Factory Entertainment has just revealed some of their OMG products for this year’s line-up, and our favorite product is by far the collection of direvolves. ALL SIX OF THEM! FOR ALL SIX STARK CHILDREN!

The Stark direwolves come in three sets, priced depending on how many direwolves you’re getting for your dollar. The first set is $30, and includes Shaggydog, Summer, and Lady. Set two is $40 and now includes GHOST! The last set, and the best set, has all six dogs for a steal at $55. You’ll get Rickon’s Shaggydog, Bran’s Summer, Sansa’s Lady, and now also Arya’s Nymeria, Robb’s Grey Wind, and of course, Jon’s Ghost.

direwolves

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Cat Eldridge, and DMS for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.] 

Brighton WorldCon ‘87: A Slightly Delayed Report

Conspiracy 87 logoBy R. A. MacAvoy: I had thought to begin this trip report with the idea it was something lost in the mail.  Lost for many, many years.  That seemed clever at first, but I realized that my memories aren’t close to clear enough for me to get away with that.  Not even with people who know how muddled my memories can be.  So, instead, this is a trip report to a con that didn’t get written in 1987, but is being written now, in 2016.  In a way, that makes it easier.  I don’t really have to explain getting things muddled.  I can simply be glad I remember anything.

In early 1987 I was between books, and as always in that situation, I felt desperate to do something fannish to keep my hand in until the next idea came my way. And I was reading that the World Con, which was going to be held in Brighton, was having the usual difficulties getting funds together, so I reasoned I could solve their problems and mine with one very long journey, from the West Coast of California to the South Coast of England and back.  This was not really financially responsible, of course.  My income was, at the time dedicated toward building onto our excuse for a house, whilst Ron’s income kept us living in it day to day.  But still, I could take it off my taxes.  Business expenses, or some such.

I went alone, because Ron could not get time off to travel with me. It seems, then and now, the software industry doesn’t allow for holidays except at the most peculiar times, such as when we went to the arctic circle in mid-winter.  But that happened many years later.  To Brighton World Con I went alone.

And going that way isn’t particularly fannish. At the time, it seemed to me that fans travelled in close packs, crept into hotel rooms unnoticed and slept on the floor, hoping not to be noticed.  This might explain why SF conventions, even large ones, were not particularly desired events at hotels around the world.  That, plus the fact that SF fans have an abysmally low bar bill compared with most any other sort of convention, and hotels do depend upon the bar bill when hosting conventions.

So. I arrived alone at Brighton and was put into a room at the Radisson Hotel, which was far above my pay-grade, but also far away from the convention center.  I remember I thought about all the unused space in my room, and wondered if I ought to sneak some more fans of some sort into the hotel.  But I literally didn’t know anybody, and also, I wasn’t confident I could pull it off.

I walked down the road between the Radisson and the convention center, and across the way was the water and the famed Brighton Pier. At the time it was a mess.  There were signs warning of danger and unsafe surfaces.  The Channel itself reminded me very much of Lake Eerie, where I grew up.  As long as one can’t see the other side, any body of water seems to be an ocean.

The lines for registration were very long and registration is more than usually dreary when one shows up alone. When I finally got to registration there was a great deal of ka-tah over which sort of badge I should have.  I was certainly no sort of guest, but I wasn’t to be considered a proper sort of fan, either, as I had, at the time, published six or seven books in the field.  So I was shuffled around until I had some sort of badge with my name on it and something that described me as a writer, but as nothing special.  And that is the perfect description of what I was and what I intended to be at the con.  Nothing special.  No panels.  No responsibilities.  Free.

What does a lonely fan do at a convention, when presented with the leaflet describing the coming programming? I know what I did.  I looked immediately for the dealer’s room and the art show.  And the masquerade, of course. Panels were the last thing on my mind.

The dealers’ rooms were huge, and the art show was glorious. I can say today I’ve never seen the like of the art show at Conspiracy ’87.  I remember especially one man who created art out of skulls he found as roadkill.  These were mostly skulls of raptors, including owls, although I believe I saw a few fox skulls as well.  In the eye sockets of the cleaned skulls he inserted gems, beveled in silver or gold.  Sometimes, he also placed jewels in the foreheads.  They were stunning, and the price was astronomical.  To me, at least, astronomical.  I did set my eye on some of the plaster reproductions of such skulls, which were indistinguishable from the real thing, in my eye.  There was one of an owl’s skull . . . I wondered if I had the chutzpah to wear a jeweled owl’s skull around my neck, once back at the ranch. But more about that later.

The first convention assemblage was a large open forum. A sort of welcome to the convention, I suppose, with numerous speakers from the Brighton Fan Community.  They were all young men and all seemed to have the same message.  It was an angry message.  They said that Americans, (and they made no clear distinction between Yanks and Canadians, so I suppose we were all in that boat together,) had hijacked this British convention.  They were extremely irate.  I was flabbergasted, because the message I had received from my friends who worked at Locus and at The Other Change of Hobbit back in California, had been that we must rescue the convention, which was in danger of bankruptcy.  Since then I’ve learned that every convention is in danger of bankruptcy.  That is a convention’s normal state of existence.  But as I’d come so very many miles with the idea I was helping, I have to say my feelings were hurt.  The other repeated message told us from the podium of that one huge assembly was that Americans did not write proper SF, but instead stories of ‘Red Indians in Outer Space’.  That, like the owl’s skull, will be important to this story later.

Luckily, I don’t remember a single name of the angry young men who spoke from the podium that day. I don’t think any of them were writers.  Those names I would have remembered. I watched the audience carefully from my position standing near an exit door.  (That is my preferred position at all convention events.)  The people I could tell were American, mostly by their shoes, for at the time Americans wore a sort of brightly-colored trainer than was uncommon footwear to other people, seemed to shrink into their seats.  And I watched for the rest of the convention as the Americans went about their business, getting into and out of lifts, and dodging people in hallways, muttering the word ‘sorry’ almost as a mantra.  I have never seen a less confident lot of hijackers in my life.

I must repeat here that the angry young men of Brighton did not represent anything of Britain, or of England, but themselves. Because the cost of meals at the convention hall was so steep, I began to make a practice of darting out of the building to get my meals at near-by shops, where the locals were so warm and friendly, and so careful to guide a visitor into not buying more food than she could likely afford, that any idea I might have had of extending the distinct feeling of unwelcome beyond the doors of the convention center died aborning.  I also visited a florist and bought daisies, first to have someone to talk to and later to have silly things to give away.

As it turned out, it was not only the Americans who felt rejected by the welcoming speeches. There were Dutch, Swedish, Australian and Italian fans at the convention also.  We met at the bars and in lobby corners and had a fine convention of our own.  And it was there that I met my own Jugoslav translators, who had come with the specific idea of meeting me.  (I never knew I had Jugoslav translators.)  It was flattering and embarrassing to meet them, especially after I stood them up at a meeting we had scheduled the first day, which flew out of my head completely with the overwhelm of the con.  So I spent the next few days chasing them down hallways, constantly apologizing, and trying to explain that yes, I was that naturally disorganized and that I did appreciate them.  I really did.  Finally we all made up.  In years to come, when there was no longer a Jugoslavia, I used to wonder what had become of the two of them.  They were sparkling with enthusiasm and energy.  I know I gave them daisies.

Doris Lessing signs at 1987 Worldcon. Photo by Frank Olynyk.

Doris Lessing signs at 1987 Worldcon. Photo by Frank Olynyk.

During the convention I missed the opportunity to meet two people I would have liked to meet. The first was Doris Lessing.  I stood within three meters of her and said to myself go on. Step forward.  She can only look through you and give a blank smile.  She can’t hurt you.  But I couldn’t.  I was so very intimidated at the idea of being in the same room with Doris Lessing that I couldn’t move.  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  I have often been in the same room with her work.

The other person I didn’t meet was Dave Langford, who was one of the fan GOHs.  If I could have known the future I would have sought him out and said Langford, one day in the future we will be friends, and so I’d like to shake your hand now. But of course, I didn’t know and I didn’t shake his hand.  These days, I post or comment to him almost daily, and I suppose time travel is completely unnecessary to the process.

***

The second morning of the convention I had a most peculiar experience. Even for convention fandom, it was most peculiar.  I was under the awning of the convention center, waiting for the doors to open. (I am incurably early for everything.  That is, when I haven’t forgotten to show up at all.)  I put my backpack and convention bag down and sat with my back against one of the awning posts, waiting for the doors to open.  A minute or so later another fan appeared.  A young man.  Very young.  He stood there and looked down at me.  His eyes narrowed and he asked me where I had gotten that badge.

I thought he was inquiring about registration, but as I opened my mouth I saw he already had a badge. “Where did you get THAT badge?” he repeated, heatedly. “It’s not yours.  Everyone is going to know it’s not yours.”

I had no idea how to answer him. Should I show him my passport? My driver’s license? But then, why should I show this boy anything?  I pointed to the name.  R.A. MacAvoy.  “That’s me,” I said.  I looked at his badge, but I have no memory of what his name was.

With complete assurance, and with fists balled at his side, he told me “I know R.A. MacAvoy, and you’re not him!”

There were so many layers of misunderstanding in this I didn’t know how to address it. It did know to slide up the steel post I’d been leaning against, so I’d be on my feet.  I told him my name was Roberta A. MacAvoy.  I hate to say that to people, because the name ‘Roberta’ has always fit me as well as roller skates fit a pig.  But it was the clearest explanation I could give.

His voice rose to a shout. “It’s Robert A. MacAvoy.  What is he?  Your father?  Or did you make up this fraud from scratch?”

It occurred to me that the boy had conflated me with Robert A. Heinlein somehow. Perhaps he was young enough not to know the difference.  But his mental processes had ceased to matter at this moment, as he was approaching me square-shouldered and full of belligerence.  My mind raced.  I was I a foreign country and I did not know what my rights of self-defense were.  I was imagining ending up in jail for hurting this idiot.  I was also imagining my refusing to defend myself and ending up in hospital.

At that moment the big glass doors burst open and two men in convention center security uniforms came to stand between us – between me and the angry boy. One security man quietly asked me what was going on.  I replied to him that I had no idea what was going on, but that I was profoundly glad to see him.  The other security man tried to touch the young fan and was repeatedly brushed away.  A few seconds later I was in the convention hall.  It was almost time to open, after all, and I was very grateful.  The security man even carried my backpack and swag bag into the hall with him.  I might well have forgotten them and left them in the street.

To this day I have no idea why my identity was questioned by the young fan so strenuously. It’s a mystery.  Thank ghod it didn’t become a bloody mystery.

***

That’s about what I remember from Conspiracy ’87. The panels were like panels everywhere.  The running up and down the streets of Brighton was not my usual convention experience, as it took place outdoors.  The masquerade was astonishing. I bought the replica owl’s skull, with silver and garnets.  Between earthquakes and moving house, somehow I no longer have it.

But, if you remember, I began this by saying I had gone to Brighton between story ideas. I came home with a good one. At least I think it’s good.

I wrote a novel about red Indians in outer space. Because the First Nation people are no more red than any other group of humans, I had my protagonist genetically altered to be really red.  And I added in descendants of the people of the subcontinent of India, just to complicate things. It is the only real Space Opera I have ever written.  So I got my money’s worth out of the anger of the young men of Brighton.  In fact, the advance of that book paid for the roof of our house.

Pixel Scroll 4/10/16 Filers, Scrollers, Pixelmen, Lend Me Your Ears; I Come To Bury Hugo, Not To Praise Him

(1) HARRY AND THE PIRATES. Your average author can only wish they got this level of service. Reuters has the story — “Defense Against the Dark Arts: UK spies guarded against Harry Potter leak”.

Usually concerned with top secret matters affecting national security, Britain’s eavesdropping spy agency GCHQ was also on the lookout for leaks of a yet-to-be-published Harry Potter book, its publisher has revealed.

Shortly before the publication of one of the volumes in J.K. Rowling’s seven-part wizarding saga, with millions of fans worldwide at a fever pitch of anticipation, publisher Nigel Newton received an unexpected phone call.

“I remember the British spy eavesdropping station GCHQ rang me up and said ‘we’ve detected an early copy of this book on the Internet’,” Newton told Australia’s ABC Radio in an interview last week that gained attention in Britain on Sunday.

“I got him to read a page to our editor and she said ‘no, that’s a fake’,” said Newton, founder and chief executive of Potter publishing house Bloomsbury, describing the spies as “good guys”.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “We do not comment on our defense against the dark arts.”

(2) MORE EAVESDROPPING. R. A. MacAvoy lets us listen in on her “Conversations with People Who Aren’t There”.

The reason I was convinced my imaginary conversations were universal to the human condition was simply my embarrassment knowing that, since I had constructed my verbal respondents, when we had a difference of opinion – a necessarily frequent happening – I always won the debate.  This, in itself, was so much a stacking of the deck, or loading of the dice of the disagreement, I would hate for anyone to know I was doing it.  It was so much like playing chess with one’s self and cheating.  And I assumed everyone else on the planet felt as I did about it, and so, from an attempt not to appear the scoundrel I was, I kept my mouth shut (for once) about the existence of this wild and crazy inner life.  I was certain any other person would do the same.  So I have continued, for approximately sixty years, to live this way, mumbling to myself or to the non-human creatures about me, or even the furniture. And thinking every other soul did also.

It was only perhaps a week ago I asked Ron whether he did not spend his hours as I did.  I expected him to answer “Of course,” or simply smile knowingly and shrug.  Instead he looked at me intently and said “No. Not so often.”

This was quite a surprise.  It was, in fact, a re-set of my expectations.  The human condition was not entirely as I had thought it was.  Not for all these years.

So I must re-evaluate my life of inner debate.  I have not just been rigging the game of internal conversation.  It seems I invented the game before I rigged it.  My ego-centricity is far more overwhelming than I thought.  I am not proud of myself.

Nonetheless, there have been some interesting conversations over the years.  If I must take the blame for doing the thing, I can at least describe how I have done it.

The most common repeated dialogue I have is with any film or television actor who pronounces words in a way I disagree with.  Of course I am arguing with the character, not the real actor, but as no one is there, it doesn’t matter.

(3) CAPCLAVE 2017. WSFA has announced that Ken Liu will be a Capclave GoH in 2017.

(4) LOVELY ROOM, SLIGHT DRAFT. Supposedly this happened — “Tim Peake Leaves TripAdvisor Review For The International Space Statuion’s New ‘Space Hotel’” — although neither Steven H Silver nor I have been able to find it on the actual TripAdvisor site.

Bigelow Aerospace is trialling a new “space hotel” this week, attaching their new inflatable hotel room to the side of the International Space Station to test the possibility of having a holiday resort in Earth’s orbit.

The inflatable “BEAM” module is made of a top secret material that may make holidaying in space a reality, but first it’s being tested aboard the ISS.

Not one to ignore a chance at giving his two cents to the people on terra firma, British astronaut Tim Peake has left a review for the “space hotel” on TripAdvisor.

(5) KEPLER IN TROUBLE? From NASA — “Mission Manager Update: Kepler Spacecraft in Emergency Mode”.

During a scheduled contact on Thursday, April 7, mission operations engineers discovered that the Kepler spacecraft was in Emergency Mode (EM). EM is the lowest operational mode and is fuel intensive. Recovering from EM is the team’s priority at this time.

The mission has declared a spacecraft emergency, which provides priority access to ground-based communications at the agency’s Deep Space Network.

Initial indications are that Kepler entered EM approximately 36 hours ago, before mission operations began the maneuver to orient the spacecraft to point toward the center of the Milky Way for the K2 mission’s microlensing observing campaign.

The spacecraft is nearly 75 million miles from Earth, making the communication slow. Even at the speed of light, it takes 13 minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back.

The last regular contact with the spacecraft was on April. 4.  The spacecraft was in good health and operating as expected.

(6) HOW MUCH IS THAT NOVEL IN THE WINDOW? Fynbospress has an intriguing post about indie book pricing at Mad Genius Club – “Know your reader demographics: Pricing”

2. The discount crowd ($0.99 – $5.99) Believe it or not, this is a different group from the Free Crowd. There’s plenty of overlap, but it’s a different crowd. Unlike the hardcore free-only, the 99 cent crowd will buy books cheap. If they’re long-term broke, they’re likely to use some of the tools to track your sales and only buy when the price drops. These are the people who keep all the used bookstores in business. At this price point, you’re competing with used paperbacks from McKay’s Powell’s, Amazon… you are NOT competing with new books from B&N or Book a Million.

How big is this market? I don’t know if there’s a way to tell – certainly it hasn’t been measured. But it’s been large enough to support thousands of used book stores across the US alone (much less the charity shops in the UK), and to propel low-pricing indie authors into millions sold.

You can develop fans here. If you stay in this price range, they’ll buy everything you put out the moment they discover it. (Not the same thing as the moment you release it, and that’s why a mailing list / social media presence / targeted advertising is a good thing.) You can also use this range to tempt people into impulse buying your works, in conjunction with targeted advertising.

(7) TO THE FINNISH. Today’s book review on NPR: “Frodo, Bilbo, Kullervo: Tolkien’s Finnish Adventure”.

In 1913, the 21-year-old Ronald Tolkien should have been studying for his exams. He was halfway through his Classics degree — the subject all the best students did at Oxford in those days. Getting admitted to Oxford on a scholarship was a great opportunity for young Ronald, an orphan who had always struggled to stay out of poverty. A Classics degree would have set him up for almost any career he chose. But he wasn’t studying. Instead, he was trying to teach himself Finnish.

Why would a brilliant student with so much at stake let himself go astray at such a crucial time? There were two reasons: love and the Kalevala.

Tolkien’s twin obsessions at the time were his future wife, Edith Bratt, and the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland.

(8) CLASSIC ZINE BIDS FAREWELL. Steven H Silver is retiring his fanzine Argentus, a three-time Hugo nominee.

I’ve decided that Argentus is no longer being published.  I had planned on doing an issue last year (and didn’t) and then wrapping it up this year, but with chairing three conventions in 11 months, Worldcon programming, surgery, and life in general, I don’t see it happening this year either.  If I do another fanzine, it will be a different creature.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 10, 1953: Feature length, full color, 3-D movie premiered in NYC:  House of Wax starring Vincent Price.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • April 10, 1929: One of the all-time greats, Max von Sydow, is born in Sweden.
  • Born April 10, 19?? — James H. Burns, prolific File 770 columnist.
  • Born April 10, 1953 — David Langford, Ansible editor.

(12) DISTILLED WRITING ADVICE. Lit Reactor has compiled “22 of the Best Single Sentences on Writing”. The most contrarian comes from G. K. Chesterton: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”

(13) FESTIVAL OF BOOKS. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books wrapped up on Sunday.

Mercedes Lackey was on hand.

Not sf, but I’m a fan!

A Sabaa Tahir quote —

(14) AWESOME ANIMATION. Official music video for Jane Bordeaux’s ‘Ma’agalim’. In a forgotten old penny arcade, a wooden doll is stuck in place and time.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, JJ, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Albatross by MacAvoy and Palmer: A Lis Carey Review

ALBATROSS_RGB-200x300

Albatross by R.A. MacAvoy and Nancy Palmer.

Sanachie Press, ISBN 2940157997915, February 2016

By Lis Carey: Dr. Rob MacAuley is a brilliant physicist from the Outer Hebrides. He’s also on the run, convicted in absentia of terrorism and murder. It’s an absurd charge against a gentle and largely apolitical man, but it’s a symptom of a Britain grown ever more paranoid, that has split from the EU at a cost its leadership could have calculated but didn’t, and where the Scottish Parliament was dissolved eighteen months ago.

Rob is, through no fault of his own, a figurehead, or perhaps mascot would be a better word, of the Scottish Separatist movement.

Oh, and he has this odd thing he does, when startled or alarmed, that he calls “flinching,” and that someone else might call moving from one spot to another without crossing the intervening distance.

Thomas Heddiman, American, machine intelligence specialist, anti-human trafficking activist, and karate expert, has a whole different set of problems. He’s currently volunteering his services to the Edinburgh police for reasons not apparent to those he’s working with.

Their paths are about to cross in a most unexpected way, in a Britain growing increasingly dark.

Thomas is very close-mouthed about what his real purpose is. Rob is sending letters under false names to physicists all over the world, asking questions that he hopes will nudge them toward the same breakthrough he’s made. He doesn’t want to be the only one who has the ability to publish and share his Unity Theory, so that it at least can’t become a weapon for just one power.

This is an engaging and challenging book, with diverse and fascinating characters. The time is just about a quarter century in the future, and it’s a recognizable but different world.

Those who fondly remember Tea With the Black Dragon will find some themes in common, but they are very different books. If one insists on placing it in a genre category, it’s fantasy.

I should probably admit, in a spirit of full disclosure, that I feel that R.A. MacAvoy hasn’t written nearly enough. I’m not previously familiar with Nancy Palmer, but regardless of any other contribution she made, another MacAvoy novel is something to be grateful for.

Go read it; you won’t regret it.

I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pixel Scroll 3/17/16 The Weirdscroll of Puppygeddon

(1) SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS WHO WERE NEVER DRUNK ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY. Here are a few of the genre’s known teetotalers – doubtless there are others…

Asimov was a teetotaler in later life, mainly because in all of his experiences with drinking alcoholic beverages, just one or two drinks were sufficient to get him drunk. On the day he passed the oral examination for his Ph.D., he drank five Manhattans in celebration, and his friends had to carry him back to school and try to sober him up. His wife told him that he spent that entire night in bed giggling every once in a while and saying “Doctor Asimov”.

(2) OB IRISH. For a more substantial tribute to St. Patrick’s Day, we recommend James H. Burns’ tribute to Disney’s Darby O’Gill movie — “And A Moonbeam To Charm You”.

(3) FANHISTORY OF GREATER IRELAND. David Langford (coincidentally) chose St. Patrick’s Day to trumpet the forthcoming update of Rob Hansen’s history of UK fandom.

Wearing my Ansible Editions hat, I’ve been copyediting the final sections of Rob Hansen’s expanded (though not, as he says, extended), corrected and source-noted THEN: A HISTORY OF UK FANDOM 1930-1980. The final word count is around 211,000, about 20% more than the original. Our planned trade paperback is up to 410 pages, which will grow a bit more when the awaited 1970s fan mugshots go in (dread chore). To be published … Summer 2016?

(4) RECOMMENDED GREEN READING. At the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, “5 Fantasy Novels That Go Full Emerald Isle” not only gives you Ireland but the magic number 5!

Ireland isn’t just a country, it’s a repository of myth and legend that has been mined by genre writers for decades. Even today, Ireland seems to be bursting with magical energies that other countries couldn’t hope to match—I mean, who would imagine an epic fantasy set in the wilds of New Jersey? Naturally, that means that not only have some of the best works of fantasy ever written taken inspiration from Irish history, but several are explicitly in Ireland. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are a five fantasy novels exploring the Emerald Isle.

The Book of Kells, by R.A. MacAvoy As with all of MacAvoy’s novels, The Book of Kells is difficult to pin down. Time travel, ancient Ireland, Viking invasions, and a saint or goddess meddling in mortal affairs? You’ll find all of it here, as an accidental confluence of ancient music and the tracing of an ages-old pattern by a modern-day artist transports first a screaming young woman from the past into the artist’s bedroom, then the woman, the artist, and a companion back in time a thousand years, into a medieval Ireland grounded in historical fact—which doesn’t lessen the fantastical nature of the ensuing adventures. It might lack wizards and dragons, but that doesn’t make it any less fun, and part of that is down to exploring a raw, roiling Ireland of old, populated by characters who act intelligently, considering (one even nips back to the modern day in order to convert all his cash into material that would be valuable in the tenth century)…

(5) MOVIE MAKING TECHNOLOGY. Lucid Dreams of Time is a short from Disney’s Zurich research division (and yes, Disney has an alliance with the Gnomes of Zurich) which is a time travel story but also a way of showcasing new Disney technologies.

The film portrays a moment of transition, from life to afterlife, with the story being told from three different perspectives – a mother, her son, and the messenger who can alter time. Simona and her son Gabriel travel through three realms – a present moment, supernatural world and a lucid dream – to discover purpose after a series of events change their lives forever. Through an afterlife mirror, Simona views the last few minutes of life with her son. Later, as Gabriel falls asleep, Simona receives a small gift from the Messenger – to talk to her son for exactly one minute. As the sands of time quickly run out, she appears to Gabriel in his dream to deliver a message that he will never forget.

(6) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY.

(7) SILICON VALLEY COMIC CON. Steve Wozniak has brought a Comi Con to Silicon Valley reports smofnews. The Los Angeles Times previews his plans in “Silicon Valley Comic Con comes with an extra dose of tech”.

Kicking off Friday at the San Jose Convention Center, the inaugural Silicon Valley Comic Con will bring the internationally recognized comic, science fiction, fantasy and video gaming convention to the Bay Area.

Although the event will be smaller than the flagship San Diego Comic-Con, which last year drew nearly 170,000 attendees (the three-day Silicon Valley event is expected to draw 30,000 per day, with many attendees attending multiple days), Steve Wozniak, the event’s host and pioneer of the personal computer, said it would be for the same audience.

“It’s for people who are local who haven’t been able to get to the San Diego one,” said Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs. “It’ll be a full Comic Con in terms of the sorts and booths, presentations and celebrities that we have.”

The key difference? There will be more technology — the kind that “carries over into pop culture,” Wozniak said — and a greater focus on science fiction.

The convention will have a dedicated virtual reality zone where attendees will be able to play with the latest VR gadgets, and there will also be science-driven panels, such as one about whether artificial intelligence or “super babies” will be the greatest threat to humankind.

But Wozniak made clear that Silicon Valley Comic Con is “not just a tech conference.”

The event will also feature a “Back to the Future” cast reunion, a presentation by actor William Shatner, appearances by “Mythbusters” co-host Adam Savage and science fiction authors and artists.

“I wanted to be a part of Silicon Valley Comic Con because for me this show highlights what the Valley has meant to science, technology and innovation and encapsulates what ‘Back to the Future’ is about,” said Christopher Lloyd, one of the film’s stars.

(8) ERIN ON HUGOS. If you want to know what Alexandra Erin’s thinking about Hugo nominating season, check out Blue Author Is About To Write.

I haven’t been talking about the Sad and Rabid Puppies much this year because the Hugo Awards are going to happen every year and I don’t want that to be my life, but I understand they’re still at it, still spinning the same narratives, still spreading the same propaganda, still appealing to the biases and suspicions of the biased and the suspicious. I don’t know how much impact they’ll have.

For nominations, there are three possibilities: they’ll have another walk in the park, their machinations will be shut out entirely, or they’ll have some impact but not be able to seize as total control as they did last year. I think if everybody who was mobilized to get involved and vote on conscience and merits rather than politics stays involved, their ability to unduly influence the process will be nullified, but that depends on a big if.

My name has come up in a few circles as a possible nominee. By that I mean, I know that some people have nominated me, but that’s not the same as making it onto the ballot, even without any puppies piddling in the box. In truth, it is an honor just to be nominated, even if I don’t make the short list. It is an honor to have my name being mentioned in conjunction with some of the giants of the field…..

(9) THE EARLY RETURNS. Here are some reactions to the Sad Puppies 4 list, which was posted today.

The G at Nerds of a Feather

Given last year’s caustic battle over the Hugo Awards, as well as the generally caustic nature of U.S. politics in 2016, you might be forgiven for assuming that the 2016 Hugo Awards would be yet another battleground in the never-ending (and endlessly tiresome) culture wars. Only it isn’t looking that way, in part because the Sad Puppies have followed up last year’s politically partisan and highly divisive slate with a longlist of recommendations that…isn’t partisan or divisive at all.

Rachael Acks

Eric Franklin

Brian Niemeier

Cirsova

It may have been a mistake to post a recommended reading list with probably over a million words of content two weeks before nominations close.  Unless it was a clever trick to say “aha!  Sad Puppies was about the discussion, not the final list!” in which case, well played.  That means that those who came over from places like File770 to leave comments and votes are now Sad Puppies.

Without the synergy between Sads & Rabids this year, I think we’ll see less of a direct impact this time around, but I think that it gives a pretty good look at how the Hugo noms would’ve shaken out with or without the Puppies. Plus, it may give the statisticians out there a better look at just how much pull Vox has.  There was a lot of talk last year that there were actually only a handful of Sad Puppies and the 500 or so Vile Faceless Minions were the deciding factor.

And where the list was posted, Mad Genius Club commenters have been submitting a large number of copyedits and arithmetic corrections.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/16 Just Hook The TBR Pile Directly To The Vein

(1) DUALING READERS. Rob Dircks delivered an unexpected bonus to those attending his reading at Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night – it’s titled “Today I Invented Time Travel”.

I was invited to read from my novel Where the Hell is Tesla? at the Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night, and decided to write a short story for the evening — when an unexpected visitor showed up…

Here’s a clip from the story:

And my phone found me the top five reasons to go back in time:

  1. Stop George Lucas from making the prequels to Star Wars.
  2. Bet on the 1969 Mets.
  3. Talk to that girl you had a secret crush on in elementary school.
  4. Kill Hitler.
  5. Meet Jesus.

 

(2) TEMPORAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. For writers determined to stick with real science there are a lot of details to work out, even when it’s only your imagination traveling to the future. R. A. MacAvoy, co-author of Albatross with Nancy Palmer, tells about those challenges.

This ingenious 25-year leap into the future turned from wiggle-room into a straight-jacket. It helped with the science, but not so much, as each of us kept coming up with new discoveries on the news that needed massive re-write. The Higg’s Boson companion (if it is what it seems to be). Gravitational waves.

And that was just the science!

Sweating, sweating, we began to consider all the other important changes in life which would go along with the advances in the sciences and which would touch the lives of the characters in the story even more than The Theory of Everything. In twenty-five years, we assumed, would people still be driving around in automobiles? Seemed likely – as this was not a Zombie Apocalypse novel. Petrol cars? Self-driving cars? Re-write. Rewrite.

Mobile phones. On the wrist, as part of one’s glasses? People still doggedly carrying things the size of card-decks in their pockets? Hey – at least a person in a self-driving car won’t be guilty of much as they babble or text into whatever form of phone they have as their cars zoom them to their destination. Or get lost in a daily traffic jam caused by the inevitable software problems.

And in a moment of O.C.D. we decided to eliminate all references to the daily habit of tea-time in the British Isles. It suddenly seemed too difficult to decide whether or not the increasingly technical lives we lead would have time for such an old custom. Eliminating all references to tea time was perhaps the silliest rewrite. But it explains, better than anything else, the straight-jacket effect of writing in the near-future.

This is only one aspect of the difficulty we found in writing twenty-five years into the future.

(3) TROPE CONSERVATION. Peter McLean on “Why We Shouldn’t Hunt The Trope To Extinction” at Black Gate.

The poor old trope had had a lot of bad press in recent years. A lot of people seem to want to deconstruct the little critter, or subvert it or discredit it. Basically people seem to want to hunt the trope to extinction, and I think that’s unfortunate.

Now I agree some members of the trope herd have got a bit long in the tooth and are probably due for culling. No one really needs to read another fantasy novel where a simple farmboy turns out to be the Chosen One / Long Lost Heir who is foretold by prophecy and destined to save the world, do they? No, so the “Farmboy” trope is probably due to meet the huntsman, and I think the “Damsel in Distress” has probably had her day too.

You very rarely if ever see these tropes in modern fantasy now, and that’s because everyone got sick of them. An overused trope can eventually outstay its welcome and evolve into a cliché, a completely different critter, and that’s when the huntsmen need to come after it. And that’s fine. The world moves on, as Stephen King would say.

But I don’t think we should tar the whole herd of tropes with the same brush just because some of them get old and go bad. Healthy tropes can be useful little critters. Tropes are what help to stop every novel being 1000 pages long.

(4) A SCALZI FIRST. “On The Wall,” John Scalzi’s first zombie story, co-written with Dave Klecha, appears in Black Tide Rising, the zombie apocalypse anthology edited by John Ringo and Gary Poole. The book is due in stores June 7, however, Baen Books has the eARC on sale right now For $15.

(5) ATTEND ZOMBIE TECH. Amazon is hosting a Zombie Apocalypse Workshop, where you can learn to apply Amazon Web Services technology to recover from the end of civilization. Bring your own laptop and shotgun.

Apocalypse Workshop: Building Serverless Microservices – Washington D.C.

Note: The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has recruited sufficient volunteers for our mission, and all registrants from now until March 10th will be placed on a recruit waitlist. Waitlisted recruits will be admitted if space permits on a first-come, first-serve basis so please arrive early.

Scenario: Zombies have taken over major metropolitan areas. The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has built a communications system to connect the remaining survivors.

Learn how AWS Lambda provides a platform for building event-driven microservices, all without the need to provision, manage, and scale servers. In this workshop, we will introduce the basics of building serverless microservices using AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon S3.

(6) CAN ALTERNATE HISTORY BECOME DATED? Fantasy Literature reviewer Marion Deeds, in 1632: The tale is dated but I love its exuberance”,  makes it hard to figure out why there are (by her count) 23 books in this popular series. (And she may not know about the 1632 conventions…)

Flint lets us know in the prologue of 1632 that there’s going to be no discussion of quantum physics, magical portals, of clicking our heels together and going home. The story is an exciting live-action role-playing game with a small force of Americans who completely outgun the competition. The competition are evil mercenaries, so we don’t have to feel sorry for them as they are chopped down like a summer lawn under the blades of a riding mower.

There are also a few other things that are not going to be problems for twentieth-century people dumped into the seventeenth century. Here’s a short list: no one’s going to struggle with a sense of psychic displacement or post-traumatic stress; no one’s going to pine for family or loved ones left behind; no one’s going to question the basic premise that they are stuck in the 1630s. No one is going to turn, irrationally, on another group; no one is going to scapegoat anyone; no one’s going to have a spiritual crisis.

A few more things no one in the new America is going to have to worry about: sufficient food, clean water, sanitation, electrical power, medicine, radios or even TV, except they do have to create their own programming. That’s because all that stuff came with them. They have their own coal vein, and Grantsville landed next to a river in Europe, so they have water and fuel for steam power. The area had its own power plant and three machine shops, several doctors and a jewelry store, so that as the various couples hook up, they can all get wedding-ring sets. It’s nice. Knowing they can’t maintain their current level of technology for too long, the Americans decide to “gear down,” and convert to steam power, settling at late-eighteenth/early nineteenth century tech. This is smart. All of this clears away survival-level problems so that Flint can get on with what’s important; those battles.

(7) RICHARD DAVALOS OBIT. Best known for roles in East of Eden and Cool Hand Luke, actor Richard Davalos died March 8 at the age of 85. He also was in genre films The Cabinet of Caligari (1962) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). And he was the grandfather of actress Alexa Davalos, who stars in Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle.

(8) MICHAEL WHITE OBIT. Rocky Horror and Monty Python producer Michael White died March 9.

His theatre production credits included the West End premieres of The Rocky Horror Show, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and A Chorus Line.

Born in Glasgow, White began his theatrical career in London’s West End producing plays such as Annie and The Rocky Horror Show.

He later went on to produce films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1978, and those which have achieved cult status such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is still regularly screened in cinemas.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1876 — Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first telephone message to his assistant in the next room: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” (It is not true that the second telephone message was, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can…?”)
  • March 10, 1997 — The CW premiered Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is an oral tradition that Buffy inspired the creation of the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short) Hugo category, and it did receive a couple of nominations before it went off the air.

(10) RABID PUPPIES. After a brief hiatus, Vox Day resumed announcing his slate with “Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novelette”.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novelette category.

  • “Flashpoint: Titan”, Kai Wai Cheah
  • “Folding Beijing”, Hao Jingfang
  • “What Price Humanity?”, David VanDyke
  • “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”, Chuck Tingle
  • “Obits”, Stephen King

We have been repeatedly informed that homophobia and the lack of diversity is a serious problem in science fiction, and speaking as the leader of Rabid Puppies, I could not agree more. The decades of discrimination against gay dinosaur love in space by the science fiction community stops now, and it stops here!

Let’s face it, there are just three words to describe the only event that might happen in 2016 that I can imagine would be more spectacularly awesome than “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” winning a Hugo Award this year, and those three words are “President-elect Donald Trump”.

(11) HUGO LOVE. Joe Sherry at Nerds of a Feather: “My Favorite Stories Don’t Get Nominated: A Hugo Love Story”.

I love the Hugo Awards because in becoming part of the WSFS I get to add one small voice to the multitude and help pick the nominees for the five best novels / stories / whatevers. In 2014, artist Joey Hi-Fi was one nominating vote from making the final ballot for Best Professional Artist and becoming an official Hugo Award Nominee….

Collectively, a bunch of people who love science fiction and fantasy come together and say that these, these novels and stories and artists and fans – this is the best of what I read and watched last year. These are some of the best of what the genre has produced.

Then, when the nominations come out and also after the awards are given, we can all sit back and think…what the hell is everyone else thinking? Why are they so wrong? That book is terrible and this book that I loved is so much better.

Of course my opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Of course this is true. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of people who are just like me except that their taste in great fiction isn’t quite the same disagreed. Or, maybe what I loved was their sixth favorite story and they can only nominate five. Or maybe they just never read it because holy crap there is a lot of stuff published every year. I read a LOT and I don’t even scratch the surface of what’s out there. What the Hugo Awards allows me to do is be part of a group where everyone looks at what they read and tries to figure out what the best of that is – and then collectively, the numbers come together and a ballot is produced.

I love the Hugo Awards even when everyone else obviously gets it wrong because at its heart, the Hugo Award nominees are selected by a group of fans who are passionate about science fiction and fantasy. It’s a group of fans who, ideally with no agenda beyond love of genre, point to something they love and say “this, this is awesome.”

(12) LOOSELY WRAPPED. Kate Paulk has a small update on what Puppies can expect at MidAmeriCon II at Mad Genius Club.

Planning for the Puppy Presence at Worldcon continues under wraps until we have things sufficiently stable to make an announcement. The goal there is to be at the convention, have fun (lots of fun), and meet friends face to face. If I can arrange it there will be a PuppyGate in honor of the Jeopardy question and visitors will have to cross the PuppyGate to enter the fun zone.

(13) TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THAT OTHER THING. Attorney-at-Work blogger Jared Correia finds an excuse to write about a favorite show – “The Truth Is in Here: Lawyer Lessons Buried in ‘The X-Files’”:

The point is that Duchovny did not again discover wide popularity until he made it back to TV, for his turn as debauched author Hank Moody, on Showtime’s “Californication.” Now “Californication” has wrapped, and he’s back on “The X-Files.” Accepting that Mulder was the best role that he’s had, and coming back around to it, feeling at home in it, is the best end for his story.

Sometimes, you can take the circuitous route back to where you belong — but, there’s something to be said for recognizing that you should never have left in the first place.

I don’t think Jared Correia is any relation to Larry, although the click-through ad over Jared’s column “The way attorneys get paid” is very Larry-esque.

(14) GREEN PLANET. CBBC answers the question “Could vegetables grow on Mars?”

The team wanted to find out what could we grown if humans try to live on Mars in the future.

Although they didn’t have real Martian soil, they used dirt supplied by Nasa, which was taken from a Hawaiian volcano that’s thought to be very similar….

But there’s still a long way to go – no one ate the experimental vegetables, because substances in the soil including arsenic and mercury might have made them poisonous.

Now the team are trying to find a way to grow vegetables that are safe to eat.

Wait a minute. So there would have been arsenic in Watney’s potatoes…?

(15) MAD SNACKS. An aeropress is a thing for making coffee. The 2016 Australian AeroPress Championship will be held March 17 —

Australian Aeropress poster COMP

On the night, Australia’s best brewers will be stirring, steeping and pressing coffee generously supplied by Condesa and roasted by the punks at PMC.

Inspired by the Thunderdome of Mad Max, there’ll be beers, industrial disco balls, heaps of food (unlike the Thunderdome), a DJ in full Mad Max dress (not conformed) and, no doubt, some crazy revellers (confirmed), but weirdly the original Mad Max, Mel Gibson, declined the offer to MC.

(16) PUPPY IN ORBIT. Galactic Journey’s time traveler has the latest (really late) space program news in “[Mar. 10, 1961] Dog and Puppy Show (Sputnik 9)”.

We are definitely not far away from a person in space.  The Soviets launched another of their five-ton spaceships into orbit.  We’re calling it Sputnik 9; who knows what they call it?  On board was just one dog this time, name of Chernushka, who was recovered successfully after an unknown number of orbits.  It is pretty clear that the vessel that carried Chernushka is the equivalent of our Mercury capsule, and once the Russians have gotten the bugs out of the ship, you can bet there will be a human at the controls.

This is not to say that the American program is standing still—one of our astronauts may go up on a suborbital jaunt as early as next month.  But the Atlas booster, the big one that can put a man in orbit, won’t be ready until the end of the year, at the earliest.

(17) A WRITER WHO WELDS. No, it’s not the Emergency Backup Hugo – it’s Nancy Jane Moore’s “Post-Apocalyptic Spaceship”, at Book View Café .

(18) THE ROCKET’S BLUE GLARE. The New York Times has a story on Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’ private space program — “Jeff Bezos Lifts Veil on His Rocket Company, Blue Origin”.

Blue Origin is part of a shift of the space business from NASA and aerospace behemoths like Lockheed Martin toward private industry, especially smaller entrepreneurial companies. Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, founded by another Internet entrepreneur, Elon Musk, has been the most visible and most successful of the new generation of rocket companies. Last Friday, it launched another satellite to orbit, but an attempt to land the booster on a floating platform again ended in an explosion.

Much more quietly, Blue Origin has also had big space dreams, but until now did not give outsiders a look at what it was doing.

For almost four hours, Mr. Bezos, who only occasionally talks to the press, led 11 reporters on a tour of the factory and answered a litany of questions over lunch. He talked garrulously, his speech punctured by loud laughs. “It’s my total pleasure. I hope you can sense that I like this,” he said.

He described an image on a wall in the company’s central area, which showed two tortoises holding an hourglass and gazing upward at a stylized image of the planets and cosmos. Below is Blue Origin’s motto: “Gradatim ferociter,” Latin for “step by step, ferociously” — no cutting of corners, but no dillydallying, either. “You can do the steps quickly, but you can’t skip any steps,” Mr. Bezos said.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Seth Gordon, Will R., and Tom Galloway for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]