Pixel Scroll 11/23 Mister Scrollman, Bring Me A Screed

(1) Syfy offers a free viewing of the first episode of The Expanse  — Episode 1: Dulcinea. (Also available on the Syfy Now App, Hulu, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, Playstation, Xbox, and Facebook.)

(2) Variety says additional episodes have been ordered for Rachel Bloom’s series and CW’s iZombie.

Freshman comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has landed five more episodes, bringing its first season total to 18, while “iZombie” has received an additional six-episode order, giving the second season a total of 19.

Audience for the Bloom series is growing slowly.

While the positively-reviewed “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” hasn’t gained much ratings traction, it has posted its best numbers to date in recent weeks. Paired with sophomore critical breakout “Jane the Virgin,” the six episodes averaged a 0.34 rating in 18-49 and about 1 million total viewers in Nielsen’s “live plus-3” estimates.

(3) Misty Massey tells about a live slushpile reading in “Getting What You Ask For” at Magical Words.

Many, many times I hear writers complain how much they hate getting form rejections from editors, because such things do nothing to help them understand why the editor didn’t want to buy their story. Editors don’t understand, they cry, that writers can’t fix stories if they aren’t told what went wrong in the first place. Some writers say editors are lazy, others think they’re cruel. For whatever reason, it’s always the editor’s fault.

A couple of years ago, David Coe approached Faith Hunter and me to present a panel called Live Action Slush. (For those who don’t know, the writers submit the first pages of their novels anonymously. A designated reader reads each page aloud, and the three of us listen as if we were slush editors, raising our hands when we reach a place that would cause us to stop reading and move on to the next submission.  Once all three hands are up, the reading stops and we discuss what made us stop reading.) David had done such a panel at another con, to great acclaim, and wanted to bring it to ConCarolinas. We had two sessions, both standing room only. As far as we could tell, anyway. We were asked to present it at Congregate later that same summer, and since then we’ve offered it in various incarnations at any cons we attended.

Most of the time, the writers seemed happy to hear our suggestions, although once in a while we would run into a writer who just couldn’t handle the idea that their story wasn’t already perfect.  You see, the point of Live Action Slush is to give the writers exactly what they’ve been complaining they never receive – a specific, clear reason for the turndown. Sometimes the problem is that nothing is happening by the time we reach the end of the first page. Sometimes the writer spends the entire first page describing the characters without giving the reader the slightest idea what the book’s about. Characters might be hideous stereotypes, or flat and wooden.  There are tons of reasons, most of which are easily repaired once the writer knows what has happened. But there are some writers who really aren’t ready to hear what needs fixing. They’ve come to the workshop fully expecting that the panelists will declare their first page to be utter brilliance. Those are the writers who storm out of the room, instead of staying to listen to the critique of other writers under the same scrutiny. They go into the hallway and tell their friends how mean we were, how we don’t really know anything. Most important, they don’t make any changes.

(4) In an Absolute Write forum, Alessandra Kelley gives the context for a wisecrack James Frenkel made on a Windycon panel and asks “Is what I witnessed abusive behavior?”

There are a number of important questions that urgently need discussing if we are to have any sort of careful, agreeable, professional and accepting environment for our conventions.

Many people make thoughtless remarks or cruel witticisms or little jokes. Should people be more mindful of them?

Is it right to treat a category of people as inherently funny or insulting?

How much tolerance should there be for little jokes? At what point does laughing them away become aiding and abetting the marginalization of a segment of the community?

Should a person with a known history of abusive behavior be held to a higher standard than others? What about a person in a position of authority?

Should we not speak up when we see such behavior?

(5) Lucy Huntzinger reports that the Down Under Fan Fund will be receiving a $2,000 donation from Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. The DUFF co-administrator said, “Thank you for supporting face to face encounters between international fandoms!”

(6) Today In History

The first of a four-part pilot episode of the series aired on the BBC on this day in 1963. Titled “An Unearthly Child”, the story introduced the Doctor, the Tardis, and many other things that would become hallmarks of the program.

(7) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • Born November 23, 1887 — Boris Karloff, birthname William Henry Pratt, in Camberwell, London, England.
  • Born November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker

(8) Early suggestions coming in for the 2016 Worldcon program…

(9) The Kickstarter for The Dark North – Volume 1, a premium coffee table art book with new stories from Scandinavia’s best illustrators and concept artists, is just fully financed, but it’s still possible to contribute.

Artist: Lukas Thelin

Artist: Lukas Thelin

(10) “Being a Better Writer: Names”  by Max Florschutz at Unusual Things has four good ideas for dealing with a fundamental sf writing challenge.

So, naming things. This is, as you might guess, a requested topic. And to be honest, I think it’s one worth talking about.

See, naming things can actually be pretty tricky. When creating a world from scratch, or even just a redesigned/repurposed version of our own world, often one of the first things a lot of young writers do is assign their characters, places, and things very interesting names. It’s kind of a trope by this point, but if I had to guess my prediction would be that to the new writer, the goal is to excitedly show you how fantastical their world is. So they don’t have people with names like Joe or Samantha. They have people with names like Krul’Qa’pin or something like that.  And they live in the city of Byulnqualalaltipo! Aren’t those fantastic?

Well, in sense, sure. They’re also completely unpronounceable, for a start. And that is just the start.

See, there are a host of problems with names like this. The first being that they’re difficult for the reader to read, pronounce, and parse. They’re these very out there, fantastical names that are hard to make sense of, and the more of them a writer puts into his story, the harder it will be not only for the reader to keep interest, but to keep everything straight. Especially if the writer has gone and made a number of the names similar through conventions such as “I’ll stick apostrophe’s here and here and that’ll make a name.” And while it certainly might create names that look impressive, the truth is that a lot of “name creation techniques” that novice writers go for tend to create a whole host of problems like what we just discussed.

Okay, so this is writing that, if not bad, is certainly not good, clearly. But in order to avoid this trap, it’s worth understanding why it’s a trap in the first place. Why are writers doing this? What makes creating a multi-syllable name that defies typical English attractive?

(11) A dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, (which did not win the brackets, darn it) sold at auction for $1.56 million today.

The blue and white gingham dress, one of 10 thought to have been made for Garland in her role as Dorothy in the movie, was among the top items in the Bonham’s and Turner Classic Movies Hollywood memorabilia auction….

A year ago, the Cowardly Lion costume worn by actor Bert Lahr in the movie sold for almost $3.1 million at a Bonham’s auction.

(12) National Geographic reveals “An 80-Year-Old Prank Revealed, Hiding in the Periodic Table!”

You wouldn’t know it, because it’s hiding down there at the bottom of the periodic table of elements, but it’s a prank—something a five-year-old might do—and the guy who did it was one of the greatest chemists in America. It’s pure silliness, staring right at you, right where I’ve drawn my circle, at element 94.

(13) At Motherboard, “For the First Time Ever, Astronomers Have Observed the Birth of a Planet”:

The new research, published this week in Nature, provides hard evidence of a developing gas giant orbiting a young Sunlike star called LkCa 15, located 450 light years away in the constellation Taurus. What’s more, it appears as if at least two other giant bébés are also forming around the star, though only one was directly detected.

“No one has successfully and unambiguously detected a forming planet before,” said astronomer Kate Follette, a co-author on the study, in a statement. “There have always been alternate explanations, but in this case we’ve taken a direct picture, and it’s hard to dispute that.”

(14) Click at your own risk! From ScienceFiction.com “Thanks To A Leaked Children’s Book We Have Some HUGE ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Spoilers!”

(15) “Steven Moffat Reveals the Nightmare Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special We Could Have Had” on io9.

But while those meetings went on, more and more actors publicly denied that they would be a part of the special, prompting growing discontent from Doctor Who fans—who didn’t realize that behind-the-scenes problems with the script, and a ticking clock, meant that Moffat very nearly had to scrape together a story with whatever actors he could find. Case in point? In one form or another, there was a story outline for “The Day of the Doctor” that featured no Doctors at all… only Jenna Coleman as Clara.

(16) A project known as “Justice League Dark” is inching closer to a greenlight. Joblo lists the front-running candidates to direct:

Things are heating up for DARK UNIVERSE, as casting rumors have been swirling around the past week and now we have word on who the studio is eyeing to direct the supernatural superhero tale. We’re told that BIG BAD WOLVES directing duo Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, as well as EVIL DEAD remake director Fede Alvarez are the top contenders to take the gig right now. Both sets of filmmakers have a strong grasp of the dark and macabre genre and would easily fill the shoes of Guillermo Del Toro, who left the film after turning in his screenplay and toiling with the studio over casting and scheduling. However, Del Toro’s script is said to be excellent and one of the main reasons that the studio is pushing to get JLD underway with a shooting start in early 2016.

Yahoo! says Dark Universe is expected to put the spotlight on some of the lesser-known heroes and villains of the DC Comics universe whose adventures typically involve magic or supernatural elements of some sort.

Among the characters rumored to have a role in the film are occult detective John Constantine, who was featured in a short-lived television series of his own recently, and Swamp Thing, a multimedia sensation who was the subject of two live-action movies, a live-action television series, and an animated series to go along with his long-running comic book series and other projects. The film will also reportedly feature the villain Anton Arcane, the antihero demon Etrigan, and the sorceress Zatanna, as well as Madame Xanadu and the body-swapping spirit Deadman.

(17) Ice Age 5 short: Scrat In Space!

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

Soylent Green Is Puppies 5/11

aka Don’t ask for whom the puppy barks, it barks for thee.

Today’s roundup brings you K. Tempest Bradford, David Gerrold, Redneck Gaijin, Spacefaring Kitten, SL Huang, Brandon Kempner, Alexandra Erin, and Robert J. Bennett. (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day James H. Burns and John King Tarpinian.)

K. Tempest Bradford

Unintended Consequences – A Post About The Hugos – May 11

There’s a fun irony in the fallout from the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies Hugo thing.

There are now over 8,000 members of Sasquan (WorldCon). The con gained over 2,600 supporting memberships since March 31st of this year and about 350 attending memberships. I think it can be safely assumed that several of the 1,948 people who bought supporting memberships before March 31st were slate voters and GamerGators. Not a majority, perhaps, but a sizable chunk. And some of the post-March 31st folks might be puppy supporters. However, I’m fairly sure that an overwhelming majority of these new members are anti-slate or anti-puppy.

That’s thousands of people who don’t think that diversity is a dirty word, who don’t consider the larger number of women and authors of color on previous year’s ballots to be affirmative action or diversity for the sake of diversity or political correctness gone wrong.

That’s thousands of people eligible to nominate for next year’s Hugos, and with a big incentive to do so.

Uh oh. *giggle*

 

David Gerrold on Facebook – May 11

If we see 3000 or 4000 or even as many as 6000 (or more) Hugo votes and no sad-rabids win, then that will have to be seen as a very aggressive smackdown not only of the slate nominees, but also of the thinking behind the slates.

Seeing as how people on both sides are now saying, “Read the nominees, vote your conscience,” if such a smackdown occurs — even to the point of a couple “No Award” categories — then what?

(The day after the ceremony, it’s traditional for the committee to release the vote tallies. It will make for some very interesting reading and there will likely be a great deal of discussion and analysis.)

There are several possibilities:

1) The sad-rabids could acknowledge that people voted their consciences and the best works won. Because some of them have claimed they are for diversity and inclusion (insert eye-roll here) they might then pat themselves on the back for at least getting some of their candidates on the ballot and promise to come back next year.

2) Also possible, the sad-rabids could double down and claim that the voting was somehow unfair and that the secret cabal of leftist Social Justice Warriors had gamed the vote. (Insert another eye-roll here. Anyone who’s ever tried to organize fans knows that herding cats is easier. With cats, you only need an open can of tuna. With fans, you need pizza, beer, and a sneak preview of the next SF blockbuster, and the results still aren’t guaranteed.)

….If we have 3000 or more fans nominating for the 2016 awards, then it means that anyone trying to run a slate and game the nominations is going to have a much harder task.

So the unintended consequence of the sad-rabid exercise will have been to put more money in the Worldcon treasury and energize fandom to be more engaged in nominating and voting for Hugos. This is a good thing. (The analogy of white blood cells rushing in to fight an infected wound might be appropriate.)

 

Adult Onset Atheist

“Post Nuclear SNARL” – May 10

I personally don’t think the No Award option is nuclear enough. I would kinda like a refund on the purchase price of the books, and I would certainly like to prevent people in the future from being hoodwinked into purchasing any of these novellas by reading the endorsement implied by seeing “Nominated for a 2015 Hugo Award” on the cover. I would like these novellas to have never been nominated, and I believe that could be done. I almost would like for these novellas to have never been written, but I am afraid that is not possible.

Because Worldcon owns the Hugo trademark intellectual property they can manipulate it in order to maintain its value. They have done this incrementally in the past by adjusting the rule-set needed to be nominated for, or win, a Hugo. They can do it again by removing nominees that loose to “No Award” from the list. This would prevent unscrupulous publishers from realizing an increased prestige or profit as a result of stuffing the nominating ballot boxes.

I have no idea how to go about creating such a rule, or even proposing such a rule for that mater, but I do think it would be a good move. It may even be necessary, as the puppy thought police are not the only ones who might gain from a critically injured Hugo award process. The puppies are not the only ones who have the wherewithal to corrupt the nominating process for their own gain, and they are not even the ones who could do it best.

 

Redneck Gaijin on Redneck Gaijin’s Pitiful Little Life

“A post, in which I waste time and annoy Puppies” – May 11

It’s entirely possible to obey all the rules and still take an unfair advantage. It happens all the time in real life, which is why children of rich people get richer and children of poor people generally stay poor. It’s why black people in America are generally confined to slums and low-paying jobs and considered as criminals until proven otherwise.

Obeying the rules doesn’t mean you played fair. It might just mean you’re a very successful weasel.

“It’s your fault we won, because you didn’t bother to vote, because you didn’t organize your own slates, so nyah!”

Maybe so. As I said in my prior post, the Hugos themselves are not really important. I’ve never voted in the Hugos because I have better uses for my money, and also because I haven’t much interest in reading 90% of what gets nominated.

Neither I, nor anybody else, thought the Hugos were so important that it was necessary to devote the time and energy into campaigning for people to spend $40 or more simply to ram through a super-slate of politically acceptable works- until now.

Now that it’s happened, a lot of people are appalled- but the most appalling thing is that it was done with less than 20% of the vote.

Or, to put it another way, over 80% of voters casting Hugo nomination ballots did not vote for a single Sad/Rabid Puppy recommended work or creator.

So the 20% get to rule over the 80%, and in the minds of the Puppies, this is fair… because it’s them doing the ruling.

 

Spacefaring Kitten on Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens

“Preliminary Thoughts Before Embarking on an Expedition to Planet Wright” – May 11

I’ve decided to read — or try reading — everything on the Hugo ballot this year, and that means there’s more than one novel’s worth of fiction by Wright I have to slog through. There’s a human experiment aspect to all this, as well: it will be interesting to see a) if I can make it at all, b) if I can give a sensible account of the experience and c) if I can do a more-or-less balanced review of this stuff knowing what kind of a person has written it.

I don’t hold any delusions of being completely objective, of course, because there’s no such thing as complete objectivity outside mathematics. Acknowledging Wright’s beliefs probably affects my judgment of his fiction in some way. What the effect will be exactly, remains to be seen.

 

Reading SFF

“Review: On a Spiritual Plain by Lou Antonelli (2015 Hugo Nominated Short Story)” – May 11

On a Spiritual Plain by Lou Antonelli is the second story from this year’s Hugo Awards ballot that I have read. I did not have high expectations of this year’s short story ballot because all nominees were nominated because of their presence on the sad and/or rabid puppy slates. (I did not like a single one of last year’s sad puppy nominees.) Totaled, the first story I read, was not a great story, but at least it had some positive moments. In contrast, On a Spiritual Plain fits right in with last year’s sad puppy nominees.

The story’s protagonist is the chaplain of a small human outpost on an alien planet. This is a bit familiar. One of last year’s sad puppy Hugo nominees by Brad R. Torgerson also featured a chaplain of a small group of humans on an alien planet. Now, this year Brad Torgerson put together the Sad Puppies slate. I guess he has a thing for chaplains in the  military. Hm. I don’t have to understand this, do I?

 

Cirsova

“Post-mortem of A-to-Z challenge & Hugo Awards” – May 11

Based on some of the nominating numbers I’ve seen and taking into account a large section of the sci-fi blogosphere’s determination to nuke the Hugos from space, I have some worry for the smaller categories. From what I understand of how No Award works, if it gets a plurality in a category simply because of people who are voting a straight No Award ticket, it will knock out all of those works in minor categories voted on by folks who were actually approaching each category in earnest and trying to vote out of the five based on individual merit. Hopefully the number of jerkass ideologue who REALLY want to spend $40 just to vote a no award straight temper tantrum ticket and smash the trophies so that no one can have them constitutes such a small fraction of the Hugo voters that they won’t edge out even the most obscure categories.

 

SL Huang on Bad Menagerie

“Statistics of Gender on the Hugo Writing Nominees: Probabilities and Standard Deviations” – May 11

This will tell us whether a given gender distribution is within what we’d consider an expected year-by-year fluctuation from 50/50, or whether, assuming a 50/50 gender split, it would be…well, an extreme outlier.

 

Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon

“Hugo Award Nomination Ranges, 2006-2015, Part 3” – May 11

Even though the number of ballots are soaring, the % ranges are staying somewhat steady, although we do see year-to-year perturbation. The top nominees have been hovering between 15%-22.5%. Since 2009, every top nominee has managed at least 100 votes. The bottom nominee has been in that 7.5%-10% range, safely above the 5% minimum. Since 2009, those low nominees all managed at least 50 votes, which seems low (to me; you may disagree). Even in our most robust category, 50 readers liking your book can get you into the Hugo—and they don’t even have to like it the most. It could be their 5th favorite book on their ballot.

 

Alexandra Erin on Blue Author Is About To Write

“Sad Puppies Review Books: Corduroy” – May 11

corduroy-300x239

Reviewed by John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired)….

I take it back. This bear isn’t even a delta male. He’s a full-on gamma. His sad little quest ends in a pathetic anticlimax as the night security guard—a proper man—literally puts him back in his place, where he stays until the girl comes for him.

And then the little girl does come back and buys him, and sews a button on him anyway. The Feminazis talk about agency, but where’s his agency in all of this? He never found his button. He never got a chance to be a man. Instead he needed the girl to “fix” him, playing mind games on him all the while.

“I like you just the way you are,” the temptress coos, “but I’m sure you’d be more comfortable if you let me, oh, I don’t know… change everything about you.”

 

Hush Puppies  community created on Facebook – May 11

Hush Puppies is for fans of science fiction, fantasy & other geeky pursuits who do not want the drama generated by Sad or Rabid Puppies.