Pixel Scroll 11/22/17 By Jove, Who Scrolled The Quartz Monkey Pixel Fudge?

(1) WORLDCON 76 HOTEL RESERVATIONS. Worldcon 76 emailed the passkey to members today and opened reservations today at 1 p.m. Pacific time.

The Marriott and the Hilton, the two hotels directly connected to the CC, and the least expensive of the official hotels, almost immediately became unavailable, presumably due to being booked up.

The Fairmont, the party hotel ($199/night), The Hyatt Place, Westin and The AC Hotel by Marriott remain available on the convention dates (Thursday-Monday) at this writing. However, when I added Wednesday to my request, only The Fairmont was available.

(2) NEW “NOTHING TO READ” UPDATE. North Carolina schoolteacher Becky Sasala (sister of John Joseph Adams) has received hundreds of donated books for her classroom library since her appeal was posted in September (item #2).

Updated classroom library. #englishteacher

A post shared by Becky Donovan Sasala (@becky_sasala) on

(3) NEW HUMBLE BOOK BUNDLE. The “Humble Book Bundle: Stellar Sci-Fi & Fantasy by Tachyon” is offered for a short time at the usual pay-what-you-want rates. Pay more, unlock more books.

$1+

  • Falling In Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson (World Fantasy Award Winner)
  • The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer
  • In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle
  • Invaders by Junot Diaz, Katherine Dunn, Jonathan Lethem, contributors
  • Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

$8+

  • The Very Best of Kate Elliott
  • The Very Best of Tad Williams
  • Beyond the Rift by Peter Watts
  • Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology by John Kessel, James Patrick Kelly, contributors
  • Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

$15+

  • Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow
  • Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror by Stephen King, Clive Barker, George R. R. Martin, contributors
  • Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Locus Award Winner)
  • Not So Much, Said the Cat by Michael Swanwick (Hugo Award Winner)
  • Hap and Leonard Ride Again by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, contributors
  • The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Hugo Award Winner)

$18+

  • Central Station by Lavie Tidhar (Campbell Award Winner)
  • Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress (Nebula Award Winner)
  • Led Astray: The Best of Kelly Armstrong
  • Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, contributors
  • The New Voices of Fantasy by Peter Beagle, Jacob Weisman, contributors

(4) SPEED SHOPPING. Pornokitch’s 2017 gifting guide begins with Becky Chambers’ suggestions:

Becky recommends:

If they need a laugh after this garbage fire of a year, then get them season one of The Good Place, because we’re all messy humans, we’re all caught up in stupid systems beyond our control, and we all could use some frozen yogurt.

If they’re still ride or die for Game of Thrones while simultaneously nursing a bitter resentment over how much better this show could do by its female characters, then get them the Skyrim Special Edition and let them live their own high fantasy adventure. It’s got all the time-sucking goodness of the original game, but the art’s gloriously remastered, the DLC’s unlocked, and the bugs are (mostly) fixed.

If they aren’t religious but love the winter holidays for symbolizing love and kindness in the face of the freezing dark, then give them The Bonobo and the Atheist by primatologist Frans de Waal. It’s a thought-provoking, perspective-altering, brain-calming book about compassion as natural instinct….

(5) PIXAR EXEC PLACED ON “SABBATICAL”. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Disney animation guru John Lasseter takes leave after sexual misconduct allegations” follows up The Hollywood Reporter piece about John Lasseter being sidelined on sexual harassment allegations by noting that Lasseter is “one of the most important figures in modern entertainment…in charge of hundreds of people, making discipline a more fraught affair.”

Citing a six-month “sabbatical,” Lasseter closed the letter to employees saying he looked forward to “working together again in the new year.”

It remains unclear whether Disney could extend the leave or make it permanent. The company released a short statement late Tuesday saying that it is “committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”

…The Hollywood Reporter piece cited one woman as saying Lasseter was prone to “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Another woman said that Lasseter’s statement Tuesday that centered on hugs minimized the alleged offenses. Many of the accusers were anonymous.

The story said that the writer-actor Rashida Jones had left “Toy Story 4” because of Lasseter’s behavior. But she and writing partner Will McCormack later issued a statement that “we did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances.  That is untrue.” They said instead that diversity concerns played a role. “There is so much talent at Pixar and we remain enormous fans of their films.  But it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice,” they wrote.

(6) BLABBING FOR DOLLARS. SyFy Wire says “J.J. Abrams is selling Star Wars spoilers for a good cause”.

When J.J. Abrams directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was his usual secretive self right up until the end. But something seems to have changed in the Star Wars/J.J. Abrams universe since he was tapped to direct Star Wars Episode IX. He’s now selling Star Wars spoilers to the highest bidder.

After Ron Howard’s masterful use of social media when it came to getting fans engaged with Solo: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy announced a shift in the company’s attitude toward sharing more information with the fans, and we even saw a verified Twitter handle pop up for Abrams (no tweets yet, but we remain hopeful), but J.J.’s appearance on HBO’s Night of Too Many Stars definitely qualifies as a new development.

To help raise money for autism, J.J. offered up the plot of Star Wars Episode IX to one lucky bidder. What happened next? Well, you’ll just have to watch….

(7) UNLIKELY PAIR. Yahoo! Entertainment writer Gwynne Watkins, in “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: 7 things we just learned”, summarized  the Entertainment Weekly issue devoted to the film, and says that a reunion between Luke and Leia is highly unlikely and General Leia’s successor is her childhood friend Admiral Holdo, played by Laura Dern.

One of the biggest questions for longtime Star Wars fans is whether estranged twins Luke and Leia will find one another in The Last Jedi, since Carrie Fisher died before shooting any scenes for Episode IX. (Lucasfilm has said they will not digitally recreate the character to conclude her storyline.) EW won’t say either way, but their coverage suggests that a reunion may have been planned for the third part of the trilogy, which is slated for 2019 and hasn’t begun production. Nevertheless, director Rian Johnson chose to pair Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia on one of EW‘s four covers. “It’s nice seeing them on the cover though. Even if all we have is that,” Johnson told the magazine.

(8) PROP WORTH MORE THAN MOVIE. After Bonham auctioned Robby the Robot for over $5.3M, Phil Nichols of Bradburymedia did a little checking —

According to Wikipedia (so it MUST be true!), the movie cost $1,968,000. It took in $2,765,000 at the box office. So Robby alone has earned nearly double what the film earned.

(9) TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES FOR FORTY THOUSAND BUCKS, Another sff treasure sold at yesterday’s auction was “A Harper Goff scrapbook pertaining to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, for $40,000 including premium.

“Forget Robby,” says Andrew Porter. “Click on images to see gorgeous preproduction paintings and behind-the-camera photos.”

Titled “A history in informal photography,” this is production designer Harper Goff’s personal scrapbook documenting every stage of the making of his masterpiece, Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is a mother lode of original artwork, rare photographs, and ephemera from the film, curated throughout with Goff’s handwritten captions. Goff’s original art in this lot includes an incredible series of 5 vividly-colored, action-packed sequential paintings of the submarine Nautilus’ attack on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

(10) PHOENIX EVENT CANCELLED. From Nerdvana we learn — “LepreCon 44 cancels 2018 Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Art Expo”.

The Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Art Expo, which was scheduled for March 16-18, 2018, in conjunction with and presented by LepreCon 44, is apparently canceled — but may be retooled.

…According to the group’s Facebook page and website, “LepreCon 44, in the form of the Phoenix Sci-Fi & Fantasy Art Expo, which was scheduled for March 2018 at the Unexpected Art Gallery, has been cancelled. LepreCon, Inc. is no longer associated with any event of that name.

(11) UNDER THE HAMMER. Dominic Winter Auctioneers will be handling the sale of The Library Of Richard Adams on  December 14. The catalog is now available in print and online.

Comprising 1500 books sold singly and in groups in a total of 134 lots, the antiquarian highlights include a Shakespeare Second Folio, 1632, a uniformly calf-bound set of the first editions of Jane Austen, a very rare first edition of John Milton’s Lycidas, 1638, and a two-volume first edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, 1755. Among the highlights of the children’s books are first editions of Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows and the four Winnie-the-Pooh books. Adams’s deep interest in the history of English literature, poetry, nineteenth-century fiction and country matters is also reflected throughout the collection, many of the highlights of which bear his bookplate.

(12) COCO. NPR’s Bob Mondello says: “In ‘Coco,’ Pixar Finds Joyous Life — In Death”

We get there alongside young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), who lives with his shoemaking family in a Mexican village. He’s a happy kid, except for one thing: His family has lived an entirely music-free existence for three generations. His grandmother (Renee Victor) has forbidden it all — no blowing into soda bottles, no listening to passing car radios and absolutely no mariachis.

Miguel knows why. Years ago, his musical great-great-grandfather grabbed his guitar and left, never to return. On Dia de Muertos — the Day of the Dead — when it’s said the deceased return to visit their families, no one so much as mentions great-great-granddad. Which means Miguel gets a bit of a shock when he strums a guitar in a cemetery on that day and finds himself and his street puppy Dante — get it? — transported to the land of the dead.

(13) TANZER REVIEWED. NPR’s Jason Sheehan approves of subtlety: “‘Creatures Of Will And Temper’ Is A Slow-Burn Slide Into Deviltry”

The biggest problem with most urban fantasy is that, by nature, it becomes alternate history. It’s Renaissance Italy, but with vampires. Or Victorian England, but everyone wears cool goggles and has an airship!

And there’s nothing wrong with that. There are stories out there that have done wonders with their skewed versions of our shared past. I’m just saying it’s rare for a writer to be able to do one (insert a fantasy element into a historical setting) without doing the other (letting the dragons eat the townsfolk, thereby giving rise to Bert the Dragonbasher, hero of West Crudwell, or whatever). And when someone pulls it off as well as Molly Tanzer in her new novel, Creatures of Will and Temper, it’s worth checking out just to see the restraint and careful worldbuilding gymnastics required.

Honestly, if that was the only thing Tanzer accomplished here, I’d be impressed. She has created a Victorian England which is, in all noticeable ways, exactly the Victorian England we know — the mother of our modern world, by turns smoky, smutty, gross and backward, then beautiful, wondrous and louche with the turn of a corner. And yet, embedded in it — woven so closely into the fabric of normalcy that almost no one can see it — Tanzer has given us … demons.

(14) DON’T SPARE THE ROD. John W. Campbell would have been thrilled to hear it: “U.K. Water Companies Sometimes Use Dowsing Rods To Find Pipes”.

Most of the major water companies in the United Kingdom use dowsing rods — a folk magic practice discredited by science — to find underwater pipes, according to an Oxford Ph.D. student and science video producer who accidentally discovered the practice is still in use.

Ten out of the U.K.’s 12 regional water and sewer utilities confirmed to Sally Le Page that they at least occasionally use dowsing rods, also known as divining rods or “witching sticks,” to locate underground water sources. Many of the companies later emphasized that dowsing is done by individuals, not as a company-wide policy, and that it does not cost any money.

Le Page began asking water companies about the practice after her parents told her that they saw a water technician holding “two bent tent pegs” to decide how much of the road needed to be closed off. Le Page was incredulous and started asking water companies if this was an actual practice they used.

(15) FREQUENT VISITOR. It’s been in and out of Europe multiple times: “Plague reached Europe by Stone Age”.

Plague was present in Europe during the late Stone Age, according to a study of ancient remains.

Writing in Current Biology journal, researchers suggest the deadly bacterium entered Europe with a mass migration of people from further east.

They screened more than 500 ancient skeletal samples and recovered the full genomes of plague bacteria from six individuals.

These six variously date to between Late Neolithic and Bronze Age times.

The plague-positive samples come from Russia, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia and Croatia.

“The two samples from Russia and Croatia are among the oldest plague-positive samples published. They are contemporary with [a] previously published sample from the Altai region [in Siberia],” co-author Alexander Herbig from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told BBC News.

The plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, was responsible for several major historic pandemics, including the infamous Black Death in the 14th Century, which is estimated to have killed between 30% and 60% of Europe’s population.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrinbuting editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

(1) OUR NEIGHBOR. It’s official —

A team of astronomers composed of P. Kervella (CNRS / U. de Chile / Paris Observatory / LESIA), F. Thévenin (Lagrande Laboratory, Côte d’Azur Observatory, France) and Christophe Lovis (Observatory of the University of Geneva, Switzerland) has demonstrated that Proxima, the nearest star to the Sun, is gravitationally bound to its neighbors Alpha Centauri A and B. The nearest stellar system to the Earth is therefore a triple star. Proxima is known to host the nearest exoplanet, a telluric planet orbiting in its habitable zone. This discovery implies that the four objects (Alpha Cen A, B, Proxima and Proxima b) share the same age of ~6 billion years.

 

Paul Gilster discusses the discovery at Centauri Dreams.

Now as to that orbit — 550,000 years for a single revolution — things get interesting. One reason it has been important to firm up Proxima’s orbit is that while a bound star would have affected the development of the entire system, the question has until now been unresolved. Was Proxima Centauri actually bound to Centauri A and B, or could it simply be passing by, associated with A and B only by happenstance?

(2) THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. YouTube’s Nostalgia Critic demands to know “Where’s the Fair Use”?

(3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. While it’s commonly expected at the conventions I’ve worked that volunteers will be members of the con, this is a new one on me – having to join a secondary group in order to volunteer. “Phoenix Comicon announces changes to volunteering; paid fan group membership required” reports An Engishman in San Diego.

Square Egg Entertainment, the organisation behind Phoenix Comicon, today announced a sizeable change to its practice of staffing – and pooling volunteers for – their three annual events:  Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween. Square Egg will no longer be staffing these shows with hired hands, instead now filling those roles from the organising committee and paid membership of the Blue Ribbon Army (which originally started out as a fan group for PHXCC, and has subsequently become a social club with 501(c)(7) status).

Members of the Army have to be at least 18 years old and – here’s the kicker for a number of fiscally-minded volunteers – they also do have to become fully paid-up members of the fan group, with membership prices to join starting at $20 per year and going up to $100 per year. That’s right: you effectively have to now pay to become a Phoenix Comicon volunteer.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Ribbon Army leadership isn’t being compensated

Are your board members paid?

All Blue Ribbon Army board members are unpaid volunteers. All financial information, as required by law for a 501(c)7 organization, will be posted.

(4) BOTTOM OF THE GALACTIC BARREL. Love this article title — “15 Star Wars Characters Who Are Worthless At Their Jobs” from ScreenRant.

  1. Storm Troopers – Just Bad At Their Jobs

They just had to be here, as they’re cinematic legends when it comes to utterly failing at your job. Imperial Stormtroopers, as we’re told, are precise. The Empire has access to vast resources, so you’d think its military force would be well up to scratch. Stormtroopers even get a pretty good showing the first time we see them, managing to take over Princess Leia’s ship with only a few casualties. And then almost every time after that we see them, they’re getting destroyed like they put their helmets on backwards and their armor is made of tinfoil….

(5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Three of the “10 Books Elon Musk – ‘Tesla Founder and Billionaire’ wants you to read” are SFF, beginning with –

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Back when Elon Musk was a moody teen growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, he went looking for the meaning of life in the work of grumpy philosophers. It didn’t help. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which taught him that the hardest part was to properly phrase the question but that once this was done the answer was easy. It changed his whole perspective.

(6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cracked brings all its scholarly powers to bear in “Snow White is a LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory”.  

Mortal man Beren and elf maiden Luthien Tinuviel (of the New Jersey Tinuviels) are forebears of the kings of Numenor and Gondor. Seeing as how the love story of Beren and Luthien echoes through the millennia in their great-great-many-times-great-grandchildren, it comes as no surprise that a similar fate awaits Aragorn and Arwen’s descendant, Snow White.

The family resemblance would only be uncannier if Steven Tyler cast her in inappropriately weird videos during her early teens.

At this point you may be thinking that we’re smoking too much of that pipe with Gandalf, but have you noticed Snow White’s rapport with the birds and beasts of the wild? The way they listen and respond to her?

Doesn’t this suggest a deep connection with nature, as someone with Elvish blood would have?

(7) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Plenty of genre flicks on Film School Rejects’ “The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017”.

…[Our] 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year….

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

Neil Miller: If we’re being honest?—?and we are at all times?—?Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.

(8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Paul Weimer has announced his candidacy for the Down Under Fan Fund.

(9) REMEMBERING RICHARD ADAMS. In 1843 Magazine, Miranda Johnson, an environment correspondent for The Economist, discusses her grandfather Richard Adams, including how Adams’s experiences fighting in Operation Market Garden in World War II informed the battles in Watership Down, how her family all became characters in her grandfather’s novels, and what happened when Adams had lunch with Groucho Marx.

He also never forgot friends he made during his service. One in particular, Paddy Kavanagh, stuck with him for his fearless defence of the Oosterbeek perimeter as part of Operation Market Garden during September 1944. Paddy gave his life so that my grandpa’s platoon could escape. So my grandfather brought him back in the character of Bigwig in “Watership Down”, who stands alone to defend a tunnel in the rabbits’ new warren. Originally in the story, Bigwig also died. But my mother and aunt protested so much that my grandpa changed the tale. “We said nobody must die,” my aunt recalls, “except for Hazel, because it seemed an important part given his old age.”

(10) HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL. ULTRAGOTHA found the story and JJ tracked down a photo —

Carrie Fisher doesn’t have a Star on the Walk of Fame, so fans appropriated a blank one and are leaving tributes. Including two cinnamon buns.

(11) WWCD 2017. Redbubble is selling merchandise with the WWCD art and giving the money to charity —

100% of the proceeds will be donated to bipolar disorder through the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: https://bbrfoundation.org/

what-would-carrie-do

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku
  • Born December 30, 1982 — Kristin Kreuk.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 30, 1865 – Rudyard Kipling

(15) PRINTS IN THE FORECOURT. Filmmaker Roger Corman, a former Worldcon GoH, has been immortalized in concrete at a slightly less well-known theater than you usually think of when it comes to this sort of thing —

Roger Corman may not be a household name, but among movie fans he’s a cult hero.

In October, a tribute was held at the Vista Theatre to celebrate his 62-year career.

The legendary filmmaker was immortalized October 12th in the cement of the Vista’s forecourt with a handprint ceremony, alongside those of Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid; James Bond girl Honor Blackman; special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Cassandra Peterson—also known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“I think it’s kind of fun that [my handprints] will be out there forever,” said Corman before burying his hands deep in a patch of cement on the edge of Sunset Drive.

(16) MARS. Charles E. Gannon was part of a Dragon Con panel reported in Space.com“Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly”

Like in the Old West, the goal would be for the colony to become self-sustaining, the panel said. Once a colony could support itself, it would no longer need to rely on materials from Earth to survive. When asked if an organization on Earth could realistically hope to control what was happening on Mars, Davis said, “If they’re still getting their caloric intake from someplace else, yup, you can.” [Poll: Where Should Humanity Build Its First Space Colony?]

Gannon named the biggest challenge facing a colony that aimed to grow independent from the people back home: the supply of volatiles, particularly oxygen and water. The first explorers would need to find a way for colonists to harvest those on the new world, Gannon said.

“If you have to ship those to the colony, it will be both economically and physically dependent and probably never be profitable or really safe,” Gannon said.

Even if an underground colony relied on rocks to shield itself from deadly radiation, it would still need enough water for similar shielding during vehicular missions, he said, making ice harvesting crucial to the colony’s survival.

“There are plenty of other [challenges],” he said. “But this is the minimum ante for long-term self-supportability.”

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. NPR tells us “Astronomers Seeking Planet 9 Hope To Soon Catch A Glimpse”.

On the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they’re looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Technically, a new planet hasn’t been discovered since Neptune was spotted in 1846. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was demoted to “dwarf planet” a decade ago. If a new planet is found, it will be the new Planet Nine.

(18) TRADING INSULTS. Huffington Post’s “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word”  by Laurie Gough, “Award-winning author of three memoirs…a journalist and travel writer”, begins —

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

The rest of the article carries on in the same condescending tone which so aggravated Larry Correia that he stormed back from a self-imposed internet vacation to write a reply, “Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing” for Monster Hunter Nation. (Gough’s article is quoted in italics. Correia’s replies are bold. Of course they are…)

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers.

Nope. The problem with self-publishing is that there are so many competitors that the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the herd. Sure, lots of them are crap (I can say the same thing for tradpub too), but if you find a way to market yourself and get your quality product in front of the right market, then you can make quite a bit of money.  

From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

From what I’ve seen, I’d say the same thing about the Huffington Post.

As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

As an actual editor who gets paid for this stuff, that sentence reads like garbage.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Only you just described exactly how most real working bands got their start. Add a couple of kids with a guitar and drums, set up in your buddy’s garage, and start jamming. Eventually you will get good enough that you can book some local gigs, and if people like you, they will give you money for your stuff.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.

Nobody gives a crap about “validation”. Validation don’t pay the bills.

(19) MEDIA FAVES. It’s Aliette de Bodard’s turn to bestow Smugglivus year-end cheer at The Book Smugglers.

In media, the most striking thing I watched this year is actually from last year: it was the masterful Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, a tour de force by Peter Capaldi that slowly starts making horrifying sense throughout its length (and that I actually paused and rewatched just to make sure it all hung together — it does and it’s even more impressive on a rewatch). I haven’t had time to consume things from this year: most of my watching has been old things, like Black  Orphan (I can’t believe it took me this long to find out about it, it’s so good, and Tatiana Maslany is just amazing playing all the clones), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, period mysteries featuring the awesome Phryne Fisher (and her amazing wardrobe).

(20) CATCHING UP WITH CAMESTROS. Doctor Who was on Camestros Felapton’s telly on Christmas — “Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special”.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

(21) CAMESTROS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. Then he dashed out to see the new Star Wars movie – “Review: Rogue One”.

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

(23) CAN’T END TOO SOON. By then the year 2016 was just about done – and Camestros designed the most suitable container for its farewell journey.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Michael J. Walsh, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]  

Richard Adams (1920-2016) Made Me Want To Write

watership-down

By Ursula Vernon: There’s an origin story for fandom that goes like this—“I was a precocious reader and I was tired of the kid books and one day I picked up X and that changed my life and I never looked back.” This isn’t true for everybody, but it’s a common enough origin that it’s nearly a cliché. There I was and I got bit by radioactive speculative fiction.

The value of X changes in this story from person to person. Heinlein juveniles and Asimov and Lord of the Rings are popular. But for a good number of us, that book was Watership Down.

Richard Adams, the author, passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve. He was 96.

“It was the book that made me want to write,” I said into the phone, wiping my eyes. I never cry on the phone and the fact that I was now doing so infuriated me enough that I stopped. “It was the book that made me write fan-fic for the first time.”

“Me too,” sighed the author on the other end of the line. “That was me, too.”

I was nine years old and I read this story about rabbits and at the end, the book couldn’t be over. It had mattered too much. I knew, as nine-year-olds do, that things that mattered that much weren’t allowed to just end. There had to be more, and if there wasn’t, I would make there be more. I had no idea what fan-fic was, I had no idea it was even a thing, I just sat in front of the Notepad program on my Amiga 500 and began to savagely hunt and peck because it was important.

Richard Adams was 52 when he wrote Watership Down. He’d been telling a story to his daughters in the car, and they asked him to write it down. He would say later that some of the characters in the story, notably Hazel and Bigwig, were based on soldiers he served with in World War II.

Mention Watership Down now, and there’s about a fifty percent chance the person you’re talking to will say “That movie scared the crap out of me!” The animated version is legendary now, perhaps because adults of the time assumed a cartoon about bunnies would be great viewing for children and did not realize how lovingly animated the blood pouring from General Woundwort’s jaws would be. (I watched the movie approximately eleven thousand times as a child, and clearly was not among the ranks of the traumatized, although my grandmother, who had to rent it for me, definitely was.)

Adams wrote several other books—Shardik, Maia, and The Plague Dogs, (which even George R.R. Martin described as a gut punch of a book, and which I could not finish because it was flaying my heart open) but Watership Down is what people remember. It was straightforward, almost brutally simple, and the characters felt like animals, not like little humans in fur coats. It was never cute.

Write a book with talking animals in it these days and you can expect to be compared to Richard Adams. (Trust me on this one.) Very very few of us measure up, of course. That’s okay. If we had to meet those standards, we wouldn’t get very far. As a children’s book author, I’ve often tried to explain to assemblies of kids that we didn’t used to have all these books with talking animals—we had Watership Down and we liked it.* (Also, it was uphill in the snow to the library. Both ways. And you had to kill wolves with your library card.) They gaze at me with the polite pity of children who have grown up surrounded by books with talking animals, knowing that I am from some unimaginably ancient era, before the internet or the discovery of fire.

I suspect that the vast majority of authors of those books were once like me—nine years old, maybe, with Hazel and Fiver and Bigwig and Blackberry newly etched on their hearts, determined that the story would not end here.

I live on Twitter these days, which is either a great personal failing or just the way of the world, and I watched it fill up with remembrances, from authors of bestsellers and authors of small niche works and readers of both, from comic creators and artists and fans. From all of us who, to this day, remember every word of Lapine, who know what El-ahrairah’s name means and why his ears glow like starlight.

The story will go on.

*Okay, we also had Bambi, and if you read the book by Felix Salten, the death of Bambi’s mother is possibly the least traumatic part of it. I choose not to mention this to third-graders.

Pixel Scroll 12/27/16 I Want To Read Books Till I’m Out Of My Mind

(1) THE MORE BEST THE MERRIER. Gregory N. Hullender explains, “Now that three of the four big ‘Best of’ SFF anthologies have released their tables of contents, Rocket Stack Rank has produced a combined list, ranked according to which stories were included in the most anthologies or otherwise recommended.

“As usual, the table includes information on how to find/borrow/buy copies of the stories, as well as story descriptions and links to reviews.

“When Neal Clarke publishes the table of contents for his anthology, we’ll update the table to incorporate it.”

(2) NASFiC ’17. If you’re thinking about buying a membership in NorthAmeriCon ‘17, to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, keep in mind that rates are going up on January 22.

(3) ICONIC MOVIE CASTING. Imagine Wil Wheaton as Ralphie in A Christmas Story. It could have happened.

So. For the five of you who don’t know, Peter Billingsley played Ralphie in A Christmas Story. We both auditioned for the role, and even went to final callbacks together. I wrote about it way back in 2001:

I think that A Christmas Story is the greatest Christmas movie ever made. Each year, I watch it, over and over, on TNN or TNT or TBS, or whatever T-channel does that marathon, and I never, ever, get tired of it. Every year, when I watch it, I am reminded of the time, when I was about 10 or so, that I auditioned for it. The auditions were held on a cold, rainy day in late spring, down in some casting office in Venice, I think. I saw the same kids that I always saw on auditions: Sean Astin, Keith Coogan, this kid named “Scooter” who had a weird mom, and Peter Billingsley, who was very well known at the time, because he was “Messy Marvin” in those Hershey’s commercials. I sort of knew Peter, because we’d been on so many auditions together, but I was always a little star struck when I saw him. (One time, I saw Gary Coleman on an audition…now, this was HUGE for all of us kids who were there, because we’re talking 1982 or 83…and he was Arnold freakin’ Jackson, man…wow). [tangent] Whenever I see Sean Astin, I sob at him that he got to be in Goonies, and I didn’t, and he always says, “Hey, man, you got Stand By Me. I’d trade all my movies for that.” I haven’t seen him since he did Lord of the Rings…but something is telling me that he wouldn’t be so keen to trade that.

(4) CARRIE FISHER R.I.P. The actress passed away today. One of the most interesting tributes is this collection — “15 of Carrie Fisher’s Best, Most Honest Feminist Quotes” from NYMag.com.

“Oh! This’ll impress you – I’m actually in the Abnormal Psychology textbook. Obviously my family is so proud. Keep in mind though, I’m a PEZ dispenser and I’m in the abnormal Psychology textbook. Who says you can’t have it all?”

(5) RUBIN OBIT. Vera Rubin, who confirmed the existence of dark matter, has died at the age of 88.

“It was Vera Rubin’s famous work in the 1970s that showed pretty much all spiral galaxies were spinning way too fast to be accounted for by the gravitational pull of the their ‘luminous’ matter (the stuff we see in a telescope). Rubin and others reasoned there had to be a giant sphere of invisible stuff surrounding the stars in these galaxies, tugging on them and speeding up their orbits around the galaxy’s center.”

(6) ADAMS OBIT. Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, died Christmas Eve at the age of 96.

The novel, first published in 1972, became one of the best selling children’s books of all time and was made into an animated film in 1978.

Adams did not begin writing until 1966 when he was 52 and working for the civil service. While on a car trip with his daughters, he began telling them a story about a group of young rabbits escaping from their doomed warren.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904 Peter Pan, the play, by James Barrie, opens in London.
  • December 27, 1947 — The first Howdy Doody show, under the title Puppet Playhouse, was telecast on NBC.
  • December 27, 1968 — Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — returned to Earth after orbiting the moon 10 times in a flight that helped open the way for moon-landing missions.

(8) LONG JOURNEY AUTHOR. The Book Smugglers continue their personal holiday season with a guest post from a popular author — “A Happy Smugglivus with Becky Chambers”. Chambers discusses the movie Arrival and the book Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal, among other things.

Smugglivus greetings from California! While most of my home state is badly in need of a drink, winter up here on the Redwood Coast means rain, and lots of it. It’s the sort of weather that lends itself well to hiding away with a good story or some old-fashioned book learnin’. Now, since most of my brainspace is used for writing sci-fi, I tend to reach for other stuff in my free time. I read a lot of non-fiction, I binge-watch with the best of them, and I love video games more than is reasonable. Happily, this year provided me with plenty to sustain me through these dark and soggy days.

2016 was also a gauntlet of suck in a great many ways, and I know I’m not the only one leaving it feeling ill at ease and overwhelmed. To that end, I’ve cherry-picked five of the best things I cozied up with in the past twelve months, things that filled me with curiosity and joy. In these times, we need those qualities more than ever. Whether you’re after some real-world science, mind-bending puzzles, or pure escapism, I’ve got you covered.

(9) SUBSTANTIAL CONVERSATION. Abigail Nussbaum reviews six books in “Recent Reading Roundup 42” at Asking the Wrong Questions (including The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee.).

Infomocracy by Malka Older – If nothing else, a reader turning the last page of Older’s debut novel has to tip their hat to her for her prescience.  Or perhaps a better way of putting it is that Older, while she was writing this book, had her finger on the pulse of issues and problems that have only recently come to dominate the conversation about how democracy in the 21st century functions, and of how it fails.  Set in a near-future, Infomocracy imagines a world in which the familiar geopolitical rules have been replaced by “micro-democracy”, with the world divided into “centenals”, each containing one hundred thousand residents who are free to vote for any government they wish, be it nationalistic, ideological, or corporate.  Different governments can thus have citizens all over the world, which can mean that neighboring streets can have different laws and government services.  Every ten years, the world holds an election, in which the governments try to win over new centenals in order to cement their power, and hopefully make a bid for the coveted “supermajority”. There are, obvious, some glaring problems with this system that Older never fully address–we don’t, for example, learn what the supermajority actually gives the government that holds it, and more importantly, it’s never made clear how this system supports itself economically.  But the focus of Infomocracy is less on these issues, and more on using its micro-democracy system to reflect on the problems of sustaining democracy in any form….

(10) WEST PACIFIC RIM. Reminds us of a Guillermo del Toro movie — “Giant Avatar-style robot takes first steps in South Korea”.

A giant South Korean-built manned robot that walks like a human but makes the ground shake under its weight has taken its first baby steps.

Designed by a veteran of science fiction blockbusters, the four-metre-tall (13-foot), 1.5 ton Method-2 towers over a room on the outskirts of Seoul.

“Our robot is the world’s first manned bipedal robot and is built to work in extreme hazardous areas where humans cannot go (unprotected),” said company chairman Yang Jin-Ho.

While its enormous size has grabbed media attention, the creators of Method-2 say the project’s core achievement is the technology they developed and enhanced along the way.

“Everything we have been learning so far on this robot can be applied to solve real-world problems,” said designer Vitaly Bulgarov on his Facebook page.

He has previously worked on film series such as Transformers, Robocop and Terminator.

 

(11) A MODEST PODCAST PROPOSAL. Dann has compiled “The Indispensable Podcast Listing” for his blog Liberty At All Costs. He admits —

It isn’t really a list of indispensable podcasts, but what’s life without a little hype.  Given the number of SFF and writing-related podcasts mentioned, I thought it might be of some modest interest to you.

And it was, thanks to Dann’s introductory notes about each one.

(12) YEAR-END MISSES. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is burning the winter solstice oil to make sure he doesn’t miss a single potential award-winner — of 1961. “[December 27, 1961] Double And Nothing (The Phantom Planet And Assignment: Outer Space)”.

Our effort at the Journey to curate every scrap of science fiction as it is released, in print and on film, leaves us little time for rest.  Even in the normally sleepy month of December (unless you’re battling Christmas shopping crowds, of course), this column’s staff is hard at work, either consuming or writing about said consumption….

The Phantom Planet is a typical first-slot filler movie.  Spaceships launched from the moon keep getting intercepted by a rogue asteroid.  Only one crewmember of the third flight survives, a beefcake of a man who shrinks to just six inches tall when exposed to the asteroid’s atmosphere.  What’s stunning is not the lack of science in this movie, but the assiduous determination to avoid any scientific accuracy in this movie.  However, I the sets are surprisingly nice…and familiar.  They look an awful lot like the sets from the short TV series Men in Space….

(13) THE YEAR 2016. Chuck Tingle captures what some people are feeling about the year gone by.

(14) NUTRITION NATURE’S WAY. Casse-Croute is a very short cartoon about brightly colored animals in the forest and all the shiny bugs they eat!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, Taral, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Sylvia Sotomayor.]