Robert J. Sawyer Wins 2017 Heinlein Award

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Christina Frost.

Canadian hard sf writer Robert J. Sawyer has won the 2017 Robert A. Heinlein Award, given annually to an author of outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space.

Sawyer’s most-recent book is Quantum Night, from Ace, his 23rd novel. Sawyer was an initial inductee into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

The Robert A. Heinlein Award is managed and sponsored by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. The award selection committee is chaired by Michael F. Flynn and is composed of science fiction writers..

The Robert A. Heinlein Award is a sterling silver medallion bearing Heinlein’s image as depicted by artist Arlin Robbins. A grant from the Heinlein Society funds half the costs associated with the award.

The list of past winners of the Robert A. Heinlein Award can be found here.

Pixel Scroll 1/31/17 Is It A Scroll? Is It A File? No, Its Super-Pixel!

(1) GENRE L.A. At last weekend’s 2017 Genre-LA Creative Writers Conference, dozens of professionals were on hand to share their experience and insight, among them Howard Hendrix, Gregory Benford and Robert J. Sawyer. Thanks to Greg for the photo —

HENDRICKS, GB, SAWYER

(2) LIFE GOALS. Steve Barnes also spoke at the conference, and posted afterwards about his mission as a writer.

Last weekend I spoke at the GENRE L.A. science fiction/fantasy writer’s workshop, and boy oh boy, do I wish you could have been there!   I did two panels, but more importantly connected with friends and students from across the country.  One panel was on “Editing secrets of the Pros.”

On this one, I was with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, my buddies and partners, and once again was overwhelmed with how blessed I’ve been to have these giants in my life.   The wisdom I’ve gleaned from them over the decades has made ALL the difference in my capacity to thrive in my chosen field…and I HAVE to thrive here, because it is about 50% of my planned outreach to change the world.

Grasp the importance of that: I don’t just write to make money. Or to express myself.   Or to have fun…although all those things are important.  I write to create ONE MILLION AWAKE, AWARE, ADULT HUMAN BEINGS on the planet.  That dream powers me through all obstacles.

(3) CUTTING IT CLOSE. You’ve got a little time left to submit your 31st Annual Asimov’s Readers’ Award Ballot. The online form must be completed by February 1,

From short stories and novellas to novelettes and poems – and even best covers! – let us know your Asimov’s favorites this year.  Winners join the pantheon of Asimov’s authors who represent the Who’s Who of science fiction writers over the past thirty years.

(4) MYSTERIOUS FIEND. Mac Childs argues the advantages of playing “Peekaboo with the Devil: Strategies for Hiding and Revealing Your Antagonist” on the Horror Writers Association blog.

Just like any relationship, the special bond between a horror protagonist and her antagonist benefits from a little bit of mystery. In this case, the hero is a proxy for your readers, and the mystery comes from your story’s scariest villain, be it a human serial killer or a demonic creature or the mad scientist who, when left unattended for a few minutes, will inevitably create a horrific zombie plague.

There are a host of reasons why keeping your baddie cards close to your chest can help your story’s tension and overall terror levels. Obviously, if your plot line is even remotely similar to a mystery, you don’t want to give away the killer in the first act. You can stoke the tension by keeping your villain shrouded.

(5) WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. George R.R. Martin wants to make sure people understand that Gardner Dozois is sole editor of a new anthology, however, they have plans to edit more books together in the future.

My friend Gardner Dozois, long-time anthologist and winner (many many times) of the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor, has a big new fantasy anthology coming out this fall. It’s called THE BOOK OF SWORDS, and it’s about… well… swords. Y’know. “Stick ’em with the pointy end.”

I have a story in the book. “The Sons of the Dragon” is the title.…

However, there is a lot that’s wrong out there as well. THE BOOK OF SWORDS is not my book. I didn’t write but a small part of it, and I didn’t edit it, nor even co-edit it. Gardner is one of my oldest friends and he and I have co-edited a number of anthologies together. We did OLD MARS and OLD VENUS together. We did SONGS OF LOVE & DEATH and DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS together. We did the huge award-winning cross-genre anthologies WARRIORS, DANGEROUS WOMEN, and ROGUES together. But we did not do THE BOOK OF SWORDS together….

Truth be told, I loved editing those anthologies with Gardner, and we want to do more together. We’re talked about MORE ROGUES and EVEN MORE DANGEROUS WOMEN, since those two books were hugely successful, and we have definite plans for OLD LUNA and, who knows, maybe eventually OLD MERCURY and OLD PLUTO and OLD URANUS. But we’re not doing any of that NOW. The anthologies, much as I loved them, were taking too much of my time, so I stepped back from them… until I finish THE WINDS OF WINTER, at least. Once that’s done, maybe I can sneak another one in…

(6) RECOMMENDATIONS. Editor Rich Horton shares his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts: Short Fiction: Short Story”.

Lots of stories listed there, and they are all good stuff. Noticeable is, of course, Rich Larson, who really had an excellent year. I think there’s a nice mix, too, af fantasy and SF, some funny stories, some quite dark, hard SF, far future SF, action, philosophy. I’m leaning towards the top five listed stories (though, really, as with the other categories, all these stories are worthy) for my nomination ballot.

(7) FUNDRAISER. I remember searching used bookstores to complete a run of these — Analog Science Fiction & Fact; The 25 Bedsheet Issues”. A Canadian collector is selling his for $300 to support a local convention. They are still up for grabs at this writing.

All proceeds from the sale of this complete set will go directly to benefit Keycon, Manitoba’s premier SF/Fantasy convention.

All 25 issues are in good+ and VG condition. No loose covers, torn, loose, or missing pages. Some minor shelf wear from long time storage, but less wear than may be expected for magazines of this age.. Each issue bagged. All proceeds from the sale of this complete set will go directly to benefit Keycon, Manitoba’s premier SF/Fantasy convention.

Analog bedsheet

(8) SUPER STARS. ScienceFiction.com says the actress we knew as Lois Lane will become a super-villain: “Teri Hatcher Returns To The Super-Verse With A Mystery Role On ‘Supergirl’”.

Teri Hatcher gained fame playing iconic comic book character Lois Lane on ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’, a romantic comedy spin on the comics that aired for four seasons on ABC television from 1993-97.  Now she is returning to the world of DC Comics with a recurring role in the back end of ‘Supergirl’ Season Two.  The role is a mystery, but is known to be the major villain and will span multiple episodes.

Hatcher played Lois opposite Dean Cain’s Clark Kent/Superman.  Cain, of course, has a recurring role on ‘Supergirl’ as Supergirl/Kara’s adopted father Jeremiah Danvers.  Fans can only cross their fingers in hopes that the two will have a ‘Lois & Clark’ reunion on ‘Supergirl’.

Hatcher previously made another guest appearance on a Super show, ‘Smallville’ on which she played Ella Lane, the mother of Erica Durance’s Lois.

(9) TRIVIAL FACT OF THE DAY. The shoes Neil Armstrong wore when he first walked on the moon — size 9-1/2 medium and worth $30,000 a pair — are still on the moon. They along with other material had to be jettisoned to compensate for the weight of the moon rocks the astronauts collected.

Even a pair of Air Jordans doesn’t cost that much!

(10) NOT DEAD, ONLY RESTING. The Spaceworks company wants to have a real-world stasis chamber ready by 2018.

A process traditionally used to treat cardiac arrest or traumatic brain injury is now showing promise as a possible method to enable long-term space travel through hibernation. Behind this effort is John A. Bradford, president of Spaceworks, and making this a reality is much closer than you might think.

Doctors refer to this strategy as something called “therapeutic hypothermia.” Essentially, the body is cooled slowly to a temperature between 32 and 34 degrees Celsius (normal body temperature is 37C). This will slow down both heart rate and blood pressure, giving doctors additional time to work on serious health issues.

The patient stays in stasis for about 2-4 days, although the technique has worked for as long as two weeks without any measurable harm. There’s evidence that even longer periods of stasis may be possible: a Japanese man once survived 24 days in a hypothermic state after a fall off a mountain ledge in Japan.

Bradford hopes through additional work to extend the safe period for stasis out to months, and says this technology and the equipment necessary can be automated easily and made space-ready.

Now, don’t assume that these stasis chambers will be like those you see in science fiction movies. While single person pods do work well, having enough of these would add a lot of additional weight to a spacecraft. Instead, Spaceworks is working on an open chamber capable of holding multiple crew members.

(11) CALL FOR PAPERS. The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) has invited papers for its affiliate session about “Popular Print Culture” at the 2017 South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) Convention, November 3-5, 2017, in Atlanta. Abstracts due by June 1. Contact details are at the link.

Potential topics include print culture, history of the book, authorship, publishing history, ephemera, illustration, publishers’ archives, production, circulation, and reception. Papers addressing this year’s convention theme, “High Art/Low Art Borders and Boundaries in Popular Culture,” are especially welcome. What connections can be made between print culture/book history and the diverse world of popular culture? How has print culture reflected popular taste from the early modern world to the present?

Possible topics include:

Genre fiction
Sensation fiction
Science fiction
Gothic Ghost stories
Historical fiction/fantasy
Pulp fiction
Detective fiction/thrillers
Adventure fiction
Westerns Popular magazines
Newspapers Romance novels (Mills & Boon, etc.)
Reprint libraries
Dime novels
Penny dreadfuls
Ephemera (postcards, pamphlets, broadsides, advertising, etc.)
The evolving study of middlebrow writing
The borderlands of popular print culture (historical, geographical, etc.)

…Proposers need not be members of SHARP to submit, but panelists must be members of both SAMLA and SHARP in order to present.

(12) BY HIS BOOTSTRAPS. Applications are being taken for the “Horatio Alger Fellowship for the Study of American Popular Culture” at Northern Illinois University through May 31.

The University Libraries, Northern Illinois University, invite applications for the Horatio Alger Fellowship for the Study of American Popular Culture. Funding is available to scholars who will be using materials from the Libraries’ major holdings in American popular culture. These holdings include the Albert Johannsen and Edward T. LeBlanc Collections of more than 50,000 dime novels, and the nation’s preeminent collections related to Horatio Alger, Jr., and Edward Stratemeyer. Eligible collections also include our comic book, science fiction and fantasy literature, and American Popular Literature Collections. Topics which could draw on the collections’ strengths might include the plight of urban children, image of the American West in popular literature, widespread use of pseudonyms, and stereotypical portrayals. Preference will be given to applicants who signify an interest in conducting research related to Horatio Alger, Jr.

The 2017 Fellowship award consists of a $2000 stipend.

The deadline for applications is May 31, 2017, with research taking place between July 1 and December 31, 2017.

(13) SCIENCE FICTION STUDIES. Four R.D. Mullen Fellowships are up for grabs. Applications are due April 3. Download a PDF with full details here.

Named for the founder of our journal, Richard “Dale” Mullen (1915-1998), the Mullen fellowships are awarded by Science Fiction Studies to support for archival research in science fiction. Starting with the 2017 competition, we have four categories of awards:

  1. Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

Amount: Up to $3000

  1. PhD Research Fellowship

Amount: Up to $1500 Number: 2 awards are available each year

  1. MA Thesis Research Fellowship

Amount: Up to $1000 Number: 2 awards are available each year

  1. Collaborative Undergraduate Research Award

Amount: Up to $250 Number: 2 awards are available each year

Application Process All projects must centrally investigate science fiction, of any nation, culture, medium or era. Applications may propose research in—but need not limit themselves to—specialized sf archives such as the Eaton Collection at UC Riverside, the Maison d’Ailleurs in Switzerland, the Judith Merril Collection in Toronto, or the SF Foundation Collection in Liverpool. Proposals for work in general archives with relevant sf holdings—authors’ papers, for example—are also welcome. For possible research locations, applicants may wish to consult the partial list of sf archives compiled in SFS 37.2 (July 2010): 161-90. This list is also available online.

(14) WIELDING A BRUSH. Larry Correia tells readers how to get started in one of his favorite hobbies, painting miniature figures, in a tutorial at Monster Hunter Nation.

Since I usually post my Work In Progress minis on Facebook I’ve been having a lot of people asking me questions. So this is going to be the big tutorial post for everything you need to know to get started with basic mini painting. And if you search, there are a lot of other tutorials out there, from painters way better than me, and then there are higher level tutorials that go into great depth just about particular techniques. Every little thing I talk about, somebody else has a big article about just that step.

SUPPLIES

Miniatures. This is easy. If you don’t have a cool Local Game Store (always support your LGS!) go to www.frpgames.com or www.miniaturesmarket.com and pick whatever you think looks fun. Warning. This is addictive and these little buggers can get expensive. Always check the clearance bin. Especially when you are learning, it is cheaper to learn on something that you snagged for 75% off. If you want something really cheap to learn and practice on, look up Reaper’s Bones. They are a soft plastic, but they paint up just fine.  (also Bones are made out of a material that doesn’t require priming, so when you are starting out you can skip that step and just get to base coating)…

(15) BLADE RUNNER HOMAGE. A team of filmmakers has been working for three years on their self-funded homage to Blade Runner and other Eighties sci-fi movies called “Slice of Life”. They’ve created enough material by now to produce a trailer.

“Slice Of Life” is an original short Science Fiction film set in the Blade Runner universe. The whole film is made the old school way like the legendary SciFi movies of the 80’s (Star Wars, Alien and already mentioned Blade Runner). Think miniatures, matte paintings, rear projections – You won’t find any CGI here!!! Slice Of Life is a love letter to the Science Fiction genre of the 80’s. The production is on for the last three years and it is completely self funded.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/16 Pixels? We Don’t Scroll No Stinking Pixels!

(1) ROBERT J. SAWYER SWEARS. In his year-end newsletter, Robert J. Sawyer reveals one of the perks of being added to the Order of Canada.

On Canada Day, July 1, 2016, I was named a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour bestowed by the Canadian government; I was honoured for “accomplishments as a science-fiction writer and mentor and for contributions as a futurist.” This makes me the first person ever to be admitted into the Order for work in the science-fiction field.

I will be presented with a medal by the Governor General of Canada early in the new year, and now am entitled to append the post-nominal initials C.M. to my name.

As a bonus, I’m now also empowered to officiate at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. I’ve been having the time of my life swearing in new citizens at the Mississauga office of the Canadian Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; I’ve sworn in about 500 new Canadians so far, from over 40 countries.

(2) LESSONS FROM URSULA. Nancy Jane Moore reports on The Tiptree Symposium at Book View Café.

“This is another lesson I take from Ursula: Sometimes if you don’t fit in the world, the world has to change.” — Karen Joy Fowler

Those words from Karen’s keynote speech at the ‘2016 Tiptree Symposium’ summed up my experience. The two-day event at the University of Oregon celebrating the work of Ursula K. Le Guin was a powerful antidote to the bombardment of horribles that continue to assault us after the election debacle. I came away feeling transformed.

For me, the most powerful item on the program was “Le Guin’s Fiction as an Inspiration for Activism,” a panel featuring adrienne maree brown (co-editor of Octavia’s Brood) and Grace Dillon (professor at Portland State University in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program), and moderated by Joan Haran (of the University of Oregon and Cardiff University in Wales).

(3) THE CALIFORNIA SPACE PROGRAM. Motherboard’s Jason Koebler concludes “California’s Hypothetical Plan to Start a Space Agency Is Legal and Feasible”.

In a scathing speech Wednesday in front of some of the most important climate scientists in the world, California Gov. Jerry Brown vowed to fight Donald Trump’s anti-environmental policies every step of the way. One audacious promise particularly stood out: Brown said that if Trump turns off NASA’s climate-monitoring satellites, the state “is going to launch its own damn satellites.”

Trump’s advisors have indeed said he will crack down on “politicized science,” and Trump campaign advisor Bob Walker noted that this would include NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, which operate several Earth-monitoring satellites. No one knows yet if Trump will actually have NASA turn off satellites that are much more expensive to make and launch than they are to operate, but for the sake of preparedness, I decided to look into whether or not California could actually keep Brown’s promise. I spoke to several space lawyers in an attempt to suss out how, logistically and legally, a California Space Agency would work.

(4) THE BUZZ. At The Hollywood Reporter “Rogue One: What the Critics Are Saying”.

Critics are divided, but mostly positive, about the appeals of Gareth Edwards’ ‘Star Wars’ spinoff.

If, as trailers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story put it, rebellions are based on hope, then it’s possibly true that the same can be said for anticipation for the next movie in the beloved science-fiction franchise. Now, however, the first reviews for Rogue One have hit the internet, giving fans their first chance to see whether or not that hope has been misplaced.

(5) YOUTH AGAINST AGE, At Young People Read Old SF, curator James Davis Nicoll turned his crew loose on Kate Wilhelm’s “Baby, You Were Great”.

Young People Read Old SFF has reached the 1960s. That means the fraction of stories by women is about to increase sharply [1], to reflect the increasing number of women in science fiction. And what better woman to herald that rising tide than the award winning Kate Wilhelm?

First published in the 1950s, Kate Wilhelm is a science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer. With her husband, Damon Knight, she established both the Clarion and the Milford Writer’s Workshop. Her award nominations and wins include the Nebula, the Hugo, the Apollo, and the Locus. In 2016, the Solstice Award, given to individuals who have had a significant impact on the science fiction or fantasy landscape, was renamed in her honour.

They hated it. And they give solid reasons. But when you consider background facts like the story originally was published in the second of Damon Knight’s avant-garde Orbit anthologies, a book that featured not one but two stories by Joanna Russ, that may only mean the author’s intended message reached them.

(6) THE HORROR. The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog posted a Best Horror Books of 2016 piece. And if I was a better person I would remember who to credit for mentioning that in comments.

This year was an interesting one for horror. Not only did genre fans see new books from established heavy hitters, they welcomed a grandmaster’s novel back into print after 52 years, encountered incredible debuts, rafts of new and disturbing short stories, and at least one satire that frightens just as easily as its source material. If there were room to list every horror book released this year, we could easily just do that. The competition was tough, and many late nights were spent pondering the list and debating where the line lays between horror and dark fantasy. Finally, final selection of contenders emerged from the chaos. Submitted for your approval, here are the 15 best horror books of 2016.

(7) MEYER OBIT.  Steven H Silver of SF Site News reports former Worldcon chair Kathleen Meyer died December 13.

Chicago area fan Kathleen Meyer (b.1948) died on December 13. Meyer was a long-time member of the ISFiC Board of Directors, serving as the organization’s Treasurer. She chaired Windycon XI and XII in 1984-5 and Windycon XV in 1988. In 1991, Meyer chaired Chicon V, that year’s Worldcon. She also worked on Capricon programming operations for several years

(8) THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKIN’. Gizmodo has a photo of the boots that left the last human footprints on the moon.

Today marks the end of Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan’s three days exploring Taurus-Littrow for Apollo 17. These extravehicular activity boots were specifically designed for Cernan. They fit over the boots integrated into the base spacesuit, adding an extra layer of protection against thermal extremes and sharp moon rocks. Manufactured by International Latex Corporation, the boots have a silicone sole with woven stainless steel uppers, and are equipped with additional layers of beta cloth and beta felt. They seal with velcro.

The boots have been a part of the human spaceflight collection at the National Air and Space Museum since 1974.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In 1954, Davy Crockett, a show that may be considered TV’s first miniseries, aired in five segments on the Disneyland program.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 15, 1974 Young Frankenstein debuted.
  • December 15, 1978: Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, premiered.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 15, 1945 – Steve Vertlieb

(12) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #17. The seventeenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles.

Today’s auction is for an autographed paperback copy of the book THE LOST PLANET, by Rachel Searles.

About the Book:

This is what the boy is told:

  • He woke up on planet Trucon, inside of a fence line he shouldn’t have been able to cross.
  • He has an annirad blaster would to the back of his head.
  • He has no memory.
  • He is now under the protection of a mysterious benefactor.
  • His name is Chase Garrety.

This is what Chase Garrety knows:

  • He has a message: “Guide the star.”
  • Time is running out.

(13) EXPAND YOUR TOOLSET. Cat Rambo has posted her schedule of live writing classes for the first quarter of 2017. There’s also a couple of opportunities still available in 2016.

There is still room in the two live classes left this year, both happening next weekend. The first on Saturday is Linguistics for Genre Writers with Juliette Wade, at the usual 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time. This class differs from pretty much every other one I’ve seen in that Wade doesn’t just cover linguistics and worldbuilding, but how to use the principles of linguistics to strengthen, deepen, and otherwise improve your prose. I heartily endorse it.

The second, which is also a really fun and informative class, is To Space Opera and Beyond with Ann Leckie. Technical difficulties hindered the first sessions but everything is smooth and running well now! In this class, Ann talks about space opera, its characteristics, how to handle them, and the process of writing not just a single novel but a series, while we provide writing exercises to take away and use to apply what Ann has told you. Ann is a lively and congenial teacher, funny without being snarky, and above all encouraging and inspiring. I’m really looking forward to the next class, which happens on Sunday, December 18, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time. There is still room in that and the Saturday, January 7 class at the same time.

I am offering the six session Writing F&SF Stories Workshop again, in three different sections:

Section 1: Tuesday afternoons 1-3 PM, January 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, and February 7 Section 2: Wednesday evenings 7-9 PM January 4, 18, 25, and February 1, 8, 15 Section 3: Sunday evenings 5-7 PM January 8, 15, 22, 29 and February 5, 12

I am offering the Advanced Story Writing Workshop on Tuesday evenings 5-7 PM starting January 3rd and going for six weeks. The Advanced Workshop focuses on workshopping stories each week along with lecture, discussion, and in-class writing exercises designed to help you continue to refine your skills and expand your toolset.

There’s also another dozen stand-alone classes listed at the post.

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? Scientists are hot on the undersea trail: “Nickel clue to ‘dinosaur killer’ asteroid”.

Scientists say they have a clue that may enable them to find traces of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs in the very crater it made on impact.

This pointer takes the form of a nickel signature in the rocks of the crater that is now buried under ocean sediments in the Gulf of Mexico.

An international team has just drilled into the 200km-wide depression.

It hopes the investigation can help explain why the event 66 million years ago was so catastrophic.

Seventy-five percent of all life, not just the dinosaurs, went extinct.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chi Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Kendall for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Judith Merril Selected For Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award

The late Judith Merril has been recognized with the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. The announcement was made at Readercon this weekend.

Robert J. Sawyer, one of the judges, confirmed the news in a comment on Facebook.

We did indeed select Judith Merril as the winner this year and the award is presented at Readercon. Judy was the unanimous choice of all four judges. The decision was reached September 1, 2015.

The current judges for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award are Sawyer, Elizabeth Hand, Barry Malzberg, and Mike Resnick.

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award was created in 2001 and goes each year to a science fiction or fantasy writer whose work displays unusual originality, embodies the spirit of Cordwainer Smith’s fiction, and deserves renewed attention or “Rediscovery.”

It may come as a surprise that the judges reached a unanimous selection in September, considering that Barry Malzberg subsequently wrote a column about Merril for Galaxy’s Edge, “There Is No Defense”, saying that before Merril moved to Canada in 1968, “She had been on an increasingly evident, now unapologetic campaign to destroy science fiction.”

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll and Gary Farber for the story.]

Sawyer Named to Order of Canada

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Michelle Pincus.

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Michelle Pincus.

Science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer is one of 113 new appointments to the Order of Canada announced today by Governor-General David Johnston. The Order of Canada, issued twice yearly, recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.

Sawyer told his Facebook readers he was “Absolutely thrilled” by the honor.

order of canadaMy citation reads: “Robert J. Sawyer, C.M., for his accomplishments as a science-fiction writer and mentor and for his contributions as a futurist.”

He is currently attending a conference in the Canary Islands, and said in another post: “Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is also here in Tenerife, just came over to congratulate me on being named a member of the Order of Canada!”

[Thanks to Steve Davidson for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/9/16 Little Old Lady Got Nominated Late Last Night

(1) HERE’S THE PLOT. Ursula Vernon cultivates history in her garden. Read “Sowing History: A Gardener’s Tale” at Tor.com.

When people think of gardeners, many of them tend to picture little old ladies in straw hats with bright green gloves, pottering among the roses.

When people think of gardeners who are also children’s book authors, they go straight to Beatrix Potter and assume that not only are these little old ladies in straw hats pottering among the roses, but they are also greeting the friendly woodland creatures by name—“Hello, Mister Robin! You’re looking very feathery today!” “Why, Missus Tiggywinkle, how have you been?” “Oh dear, that naughty little cottontail has been at my lettuces again!”

Well, I am a gardener and a children’s book author. I am also under forty, tattooed, and the owner of a mostly black wardrobe, and when I greet a happy woodland creature by name, there is an excellent chance that the sentence will end with “touch that and I will end you.”

(2) THE FIRST STAR WARS FANS. The Skywalking Through Neverland podcast discusses “The Early Days of Star Wars Fandom with Craig Miller”.

Our spe­cial guest Craig Miller was the Pub­li­cist and Direc­tor of Fan Rela­tions for Lucas­film dur­ing the hey-day of the 70’s and 80’s. Ever won­der how fans knew what was going on in fan­dom before social media? Whose job was it to tell the world about this new movie called Star Wars? Craig shares some awe­some stories.

 

episod116square Craig Miller

(3) KAMERON HURLEY. Asked where his inspiration came from, lyricist Sammy Cahn said “When the check arrives.” Kameron Hurley’s check has arrived, but she explains what else she needs besides, in “Kameron Hurley: Cultivating Inspiration on Deadline” at Locus Online.

Instead of spending all that time feeling guilty about what I wasn’t doing and scrolling through Twitter, I needed to release myself from the ‘‘I should be writing’’ mentality and let my brain start connect­ing things on its own. I found that the more I actively thought about plot problems, the less my brain wanted to fix them. It kept trying to avoid the problems I’d put to it. For instance, instead of fixing a plot problem on my current book, my brain recently offered up a solution to a subplot problem in the next book I’ll be working on. At some point I have to give in and let my brain make the connections it needs to make, without getting in its way. More and more, I have to let my brain go more than I’m used to, or it just retreads the same old story paths.

I would like to tell you that giving up everything to write is the only way to write. I enjoy spouting that whole ‘‘fall on your sword’’ advice time and time again. Giving up activities that waste your time while you should be writing is beneficial, but I can only burn hard like I have for so long before the flame gutters out. I don’t want to be that writer who just writes the same story over and over again.

(4) A LECKIE FANTASY. Rachel Swirsky’s April 8 Friday Fiction Recommendation is “Marsh Gods” by Ann Leckie.

I’m a fan of Ann’s fantasy universe in which gods must be careful to speak the truth, lest they lose their power. I hope we get longer work in it someday, or at least more. (Publishers: Hint, hint.)

Read “Marsh Gods” at Strange Horizons, or listen at PodCastle.

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There was a bit of drama during “Day 5 – Writers of the Future Volume 32 Workshop”.

First up was Liza Trombi from Locus Magazine, the foremost professional publication in science fiction and fantasy literature. She discussed Locus, and then moved on to the vagaries of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and going hybrid. Liza recommended trying traditional publishing before attempting self-publishing. She also mentioned that publishing your first novel is rare, and that the best thing you can do for your future writing career is to always be writing a new book.

Robert J. Sawyer was up after Liza. With fresh copies of Locus in the winner’s hands, Robert took the opportunity to point out that his latest book, while having been well reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and the Washington Post, was disliked by Locus. And while the book is doing extremely well, the reality is that someone will always dislike your work. He stressed that you should never write to please everyone because you never will. Your job, he says, is to identify what it is you do. You should know what your brand is as a writer, and write to please those people.

(6) WRITERS OF THE PRESENT. The bestselling authors are walking between the raindrops at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend.

Stan Lee kept dry.

Other ornaments to our genre were on hand.

No Scalzi food photo today, but it played an important part on the program.

He also found time to practice his starship hijacking skills, on a modest scale.

(7) BINDER FULL OF LETTERS. Doug Ellis shares a few more historic letters in his post “Otto Binder on H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard” at Black Gate.

In late December 1935, science fiction author Otto Binder moved from Chicago to NYC to represent Otis Adelbert Kline’s literary agency. Among the authors he represented for Kline’s agency was Robert E. Howard. Binder had been to NYC previously, in late June and early July 1935, with his friends Clifford Kornoelje (better known in SF circles as Jack Darrow) and Bill Dellenback.

As I’ve mentioned before, back in 2001 I bought a few boxes of correspondence from Darrow’s estate, including dozens of letters that Binder had written to Darrow over the course of many decades. In going through them last month, I pulled this one and thought I’d post it today.

Once in NYC, Otto quickly resumed his friendships with Mort Weisinger and Charles Hornig, and rapidly met more figures involved in the local science fiction community. Less than two weeks after he’d arrived, he was invited to a gathering at Frank Belknap Long’s place, which was held on Friday, January 3, 1936. Binder and Long were fellow Weird Tales authors, with Binder and his brother, Earl, having sold WT some stories under their Eando Binder penname.

Among the others at the party were Donald and Howard Wandrei, Kenneth Sterling and, most interestingly of all, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft impressed Binder greatly, as he relates in this letter to Darrow dated January 12, 1936. That would have been some gathering to attend!

(8) HAMPUS, IS THAT YOU? Not a toll-free call! CNN has the story: “The Swedish Number: Random Swedes are waiting to hear from you”.

Are you there, Sweden? It’s us, the world.

To mark the 250th anniversary of Sweden’s abolition of censorship, the Swedish Tourist Association has launched a phone number connecting global callers with random Swedes.

Think Chatroulette meets the United Nations.

Sweden’s new ambassadors don’t receive any training and their time is voluntary. They simply download the Swedish Number app, register their number, and signal their availability by switching themselves on or off.

As for the cost of ringing up, it’s charged as an international call so check with your provider before chatting with your new Swedish buddies late into the night.

There have been nearly 14,000 calls since the service launched on April 6, with nearly a third coming from the U.S. and a fifth from Turkey.

(9) GAME MAKER YIELDS. Crave reports “Baldur’s Gate Developer States They Will Change Trans Character and Remove GamerGate Joke”.

After an inexplicable amount of press was placed upon their team by angry gamers, Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear‘s developer Beamdog has stated that they will be altering the dialogue of transgender character Mizhena in a future update, along with removing a reference to GamerGate.

In the game, which is an expansion to the original Baldur’s Gate, there is a line of dialogue in which minor NPC Mizhena explains the origins of her name, revealing to the player that although being born a boy, she and her parents “came to understand [she] was truly a woman” later in life. This entire exchange, which is limited to four sentences, led to the game being bombarded with negative user reviews online, despite critical reviews of the game being positive. Another point of contention for its detractors was a line at the expense of GamerGate, in which popular character Minsc says “really, it’s all about ethics in heroic adventuring.”

(10) CARPENTER ON GALAKTIKA PAYMENT OFFER. Anna Grace Carpenter, who surfaced the story (“Galaktika Magazine: Theft on a Massive Scale”) expresses her views about Galaktika’s response in “Galaktika Magazine: By Way of Explanation”.

Let me pause for a moment and say that the offer of compensation is a step in the right direction. However, neither Mr. Burger or Mr. Németh have addressed the underlying issue.

This is a chronic and widespread issue of theft. It is not just the stories published in 2015 (of which there are many), but work that was published as far back as 2008….

This pattern is more than a lack of diligence or caution or speed on the part of the publishing staff at Galaktika. It is not an occasional oversight or misunderstanding of previous contracts. This is habitual theft.

Remember that the vast majority of these authors never submitted their work for consideration, there was no implication of giving their permission for the translation and publication of their stories in Galaktika. Rather, their work was copied from other, paying publications online without any attempt to contact the original publisher, editor or author, and then printed for profit in Galaktika. That is not a mistake, that is theft.

Cat Rambo, current president of SFWA, said she is still trying to obtain a copy of István Burger’s statement in English and there are still questions to be answered. (How soon can authors expect to receive payment? Will authors be able to request their work be pulled from Galaktika? Will Galaktika contact all those involved to arrange compensation or will they put the responsibility on the individual to contact them and make a claim?)

And the question remains, what will Mr. Burger and Mr. Németh do going forward?

(11) DRAGON AWARDS DISCUSSION CONTINUES.

Deby Fredericks on “The Dragon Awards” at Wyrmflight.

One of the distinctions I believe Dragon Con is trying to make, is that the existing prestigious awards are decided by a limited number of people — a jury, members of a particular convention or group — while the Dragon Awards will be nominated and voted by all fans. This sounds fair and noble, but I’m remembering that time when DC let fans vote on whether Robin should be killed by the Joker. They were aghast that fans wanted Robin dead. Was the outcome fair? Perhaps. But was it noble?

Already, some in the community responsible for the Hugo Awards Kerfluffle have been heard to gloat that now they will win because no bunch of snobs can vote them down. As you probably can tell, I’m a little tired of hearing privileged majorities play the dismartyrdom card. We’ll all find out in time.

I don’t necessarily agree that SF/media/everything needs another set of awards. However, I do believe Dragon Con is a large enough and inclusive enough organization to credibly present such an award. It will be interesting to see the outcome, and where it aligns or doesn’t align with the other awards.

Brian K. Lowe posted about “The Dragon Awards” at Graffiti on the Walls of Time.

“Another trophy,” you say, possibly enthusiastically, perhaps dismissively, maybe with a touch of boredom. Or maybe you say it with an appraising tone, as do we authors who think, “Hey, there’s another award I can aspire to (and probably never win)…” Regardless of your personal reaction, the awards are here and presumably they’re going to stick around a while. (America’s thirst for awards ceremonies is almost as impossible to slake as its thirst for reality shows, or sleazy political drama. If it ain’t a competition, we’re not interested.)

All of these reactions are quite understandable. What I don’t understand is those who believe that this development somehow spells trouble for the Hugo Awards given out every year by the aforementioned Worldcon.

Cirsova takes the whole thing rather less than completely seriously in “Genrefication and Dragon Awards”.

This isn’t a victory, unless your aim is creating genre ghettos.

In response, I propose an alternative.  If I ever get the reach to make such an endeavor feasible, I will give you the Brackett Awards:

  • Categories will include, but are not limited to, in Long and Short Form:
  • Best Space Princess/Classiest Dame
  • Most Dashing Swordsman/Gunman
  • Creepiest Monster/Alien
  • Most Exotic/Erotic Xeno-hominid
  • Best Explosion
  • Coolest Spaceship
  • Best Empire (domineering, crumbling or otherwise)

Will these categories end up punishing certain books under the SFF umbrella?  Probably, but not the most awesome ones.

Ian Mond says live and let live at Hysterical Hamster.

And a day or so ago Dragon Con launched its own genre awards.  To reflect the size of the con there’s about fifty billion categories ranging from best Apocalyptic fiction (my personal favourite) to Best episode in a continuing science fiction or fantasy series, TV or internet (take a deep breath).  I don’t begrudge any organisation, individual or entity organising and administering their own awards.  More power to them.  Personally though, I think I’ll give this one a miss.

Martin C. Wilsey’s sentiments about “The Dragon Awards” are shorter but not as sweet.

Well it was bound to happen. The Hugo Awards process corruption scandal has finally led to the inevitable conclusion. A new award that has fairness baked in. The Dragon Awards.

–Let’s hope that this award is all about quality of the fiction.

(12) RECAP. I don’t watch Sleepy Hollow so it’s hard to explain how I got sucked into reading this spoiler-filled recap of the final episode. This paragraph will give you the gist of what SciFi4Me felt about it:

Bloody Hell. I don’t know what they are thinking. And I don’t know how a show based on such a flimsy premise could jump the shark, but they did.

(13) DEAN KAMEN. The inventor of the Segway is the son of E.C. Comics’ Jack Kamen. Read about “Inventor Dean Kamen’s Big Ideas” in the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Kamen, 65, is known for coming up with the Segway (the two-wheeled electric vehicle), the iBot (a stair-climbing wheelchair) and a portable dialysis machine. He considers the First Robotics Competition, now in its 25th season, one of his best ideas yet…

In the competition, teams of students have six weeks to build a robot from scratch. The robots must then complete various tasks, working in teams. In this year’s challenge, they have to get through their opponents’ fortifications and take over territory in a space set up to look like a medieval battlefield with castles and towers. More than 400,000 students are competing this year, up from about 100 in 1992. “More and more, kids are starting to see that technology is cool. It’s not for nerds,” he says.

Mr. Kamen grew up a self-described nerd in New York’s Long Island, the son of a comic-book illustrator and a teacher. His engineering career started early; in high school, he earned more than $50,000 a year for designing and installing light and sound systems for musicians and museums.

Mr. Kamen, who is unmarried and doesn’t have children, spends most of his time working. “I get up in the morning, and I start working, then I keep working until I can’t work anymore, then I fall asleep,” he says. His idea of a vacation is going from one project to another when he’s stuck.

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 9, 1833: First tax-supported U.S. public library founded, Peterborough, New Hampshire
  • April 9, 1959: NASA introduced first seven astronauts to press.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 9, 1926 – Hugh Hefner.

(16) KEEPING THE HARD IN HADRON. Ladies and gentlemen, the LEGO Particle Accelerator! JK Brickworks says —

This is a working particle accelerator built using LEGO bricks. I call it the LBC (Large Brick Collider). It can accelerate a LEGO soccer ball to just over 12.5 kilometers per hour.

 

(17) A CASE OF PHYSLEXIA. As most of you already guessed, I picked the previous item’s headnote because it references a typo that made news this week.

The BBC get overexcited by the world’s largest atom smasher.

 

(18) ATARI FLASHBACK. RPF Pulse brings us “The Art of ATARI Book Preview Images”.

Co-written by Robert V. Conte and Tim Lapetino, The Art of Atari includes a comprehensive retrospective collecting game production and concept artwork, photos, marketing art, with insight from key people involved in Atari’s rich history, and behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!

Includes a special Foreword by New York Times bestseller Ernst Cline, author of Armada and Ready Player One, soon to be a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.

Atari is a touchstone for many people. Their games and game system exposed many to video games for the first time. Whether you’re a fan, collector, enthusiast, or new to the world of Atari, this book offers the most complete collection of Atari artwork ever produced!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ,and Soon Lee for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

2016 LA Vintage Paperback Show

2016 Vintage Paperback Show, panoramic view. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

2016 Vintage Paperback Show, panoramic view. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

The 37th Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show took place April 3 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium.

I finally made it!

It’s a great event. I really enjoyed it. Book dealers fill the exhibit hall, and at a row of tables next to the stage waves of writers and artists autograph their works for fans, free, throughout the day. Some of the people signing when I first arrived were Karen Anderson, Barbara Hambly, and Tim Kirk. Joe Lansdale and his daughter, Kasey, were at one of the dealers tables.

Kasey Lansdale and her father Joe Lansdale.

Kasey Lansdale and her father Joe Lansdale.

On the way in I met Tim and Serena Powers. Tim said he looks in on the File 770 blog, which was nice to hear. I had a long conversation with Marc Schirmeister, who I last saw at Sasquan.

I met artist Tony Gleeson for the first time – an artist often mentioned here in news stories — and he in turn introduced me to author Odie Hawkins.

Quite a few LASFS members were present — Matthew Tepper, Michelle Pincus, Karl Lembke – in addition to the member/authors who were signing. I hear Robert J. Sawyer visited the Loscon table later, after I had gone.

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Michelle Pincus.

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Michelle Pincus.

While touring the dealer tables I saw lots of classic old stuff — but got a giggle out of seeing a copy of Zotz! Among the precious wares in a glass case. That’s the book which became a (negative) legend and running joke in the LASFS Xmas Gift Exchange — even though it’s a hardcover, you couldn’t get credit for contributing ZOTZ! as a gift unless you included with it something else that was worth the minimum. One year I unwrapped a copy which came with a $5 bill…

The event staff were doing a really good job — seemed to have an eye open for everything, and treated people very nicely.

I can’t end without mentioning the Civic Auditorium’s rather odd parking structure. The property is built into a hillside. You enter the structure on the bottom level, as you would expect, however, to exit you have to drive all the way up to the roof — which puts you on a level with another driveway to the street.

Pixel Scroll 3/1/16 If You Like To Pixel, I Tell You I’m Your Scroll

(1) NO BUCKS, NO BUCK ROGERS. “Can you make a living writing short fiction?” is the question. Joe Vasicek’s in-depth answer, filled with back-of-the-envelope calculations, is as carefully assembled as any classic hard sf tale.

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that short stories are not like longer books. In my experience (and I am not a master of the short form by any stretch), short stories do not sell as well in ebook form as longer books. That’s been corroborated anecdotally by virtually every indie writer I’ve spoken with.

At the same time, they aren’t like longer form books in the traditional sense either. I have three deal breakers when it comes to traditional publishing: no non-compete clauses, no ambiguous rights reversion, and no payments based on net. Short story markets typically only buy first publication rights with a 6-12 month exclusivity period, and pay by the word. That means that there’s no reason (unless you want to self-publish immediately) not to sell your short stories to a traditional market first.

(2) PAT SAYS IT’S PERFECT. Patrick St-Denis, who reviews at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist,  just awarded a novel a rare (for him) 10/10 score.

People have often criticized me for being too demanding when I review a novel. They often complain about the fact that very few books ever get a score higher than my infamous 7.5/10. But the fact is that year in and year out, there are always a number of works ending up with an 8/10 or more.

When I announced on the Hotlist’s Facebook page last week that Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Avatar would get a 10/10, some people were shocked. I received a couple of messages asking me if it was the first book to get a perfect score from me. I knew there were a few, but I actually had to go through my reviews to find out exactly how many of them had wowed me to perfection. Interestingly enough, in the eleven years I’ve been reviewing books, Carey’s Kushiel’s Avatar will be the 11th novel to garner a perfect score. The 13th, if you throw the Mötley Crüe biography and GRRM’s The World of Ice and Fire into the mix.

(3) GOLDEN SOUNDS. Trisha Lynn on “Road to the Hugo Awards: Fight the Future for Best Fancast” at Geeking Out About….

What Works

There are many podcasts out there which are dedicated to reviewing books and movies from a critics’ perspective. However, I believe this is one of the first podcasts I’ve heard of which reviews the actual worlds in which the books or movies take place. Of all the episodes I’ve heard, there are very few instances in which I feel that either Dan or Paul or their guests know or care too much about the current science fiction/fantasy literary blogosphere’s opinions of the works, its creators, its production team, or the actors portraying the characters. They are just there to discuss the work and only the work. When they do bring in references to other works or the greater outside world, they do it either near the beginning or near the end so that the discussion of most of the episode is focused on just the world inside the movie or book. It’s both fan discussion and literary criticism in its purest form, where the only clues you have are the work itself, the world you currently inhabit, your personal experiences, and that’s it.

(4) A BRIDGE JOKE TOO FAR? The Guardian asks “Could Cthulhu trump the other Super Tuesday contenders?”

“Many humans are under the impression that the Cthulhu for America movement is a joke candidacy, like Vermin Supreme – a way for people disgusted by a political system that has long since perished to voice a vote for a greater evil to end the status quo and the world,” says [campaign manager] Eminence Waite, sighing in a way that makes you think she’s been asked this question many times before. “They have never been so wrong, yet so right. Cthulhu is no joke.”

(5) HOW MUCH IS YOUR HARRY WORTH? Old editions of Harry Potter books may be worth up to $55,000.

First up, hardcover first editions of the original Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone could fetch anywhere from $40,000 to $55,000. Only 500 were published, and 300 went to libraries, so if you have one, go ahead and treat yourself to a nice dinner. You can afford it.

This edition has a print line that reads “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1” and credits of “Joanne Rowling” rather than JK.

(6) BUD WEBSTER MEMORIAL. There will be a Memorial for Bud Webster on March 12, from noon til 5 p.m., at the Courtyard by Marriott Williamsburg, 470 Mclaws Cir, Williamsburg, VA 23185.

Hotel Rooms: $89.00 – Please ask for the Bud Webster Memorial Rate – Also mention Mary Horton or Butch Allen if there is some confusion while trying to book the room. We are not catering anything. Sodas and snacks are available at registration

(7) DON’T GET STUCK IN THE MIDDLE. Kameron Hurley (according to her blog, an “intellectual badass”), reveals how to “Finish your Sh*t: Secrets of an Evolving Writing Process”.

People often ask how I’m able to do all that work on top of having a day job, and the answer is, most days, I just don’t know. But one thing I have learned in the last three months is that I have a lot easier time completing a draft that has me stuck in the mucky middle if I just skip ahead and write the ending.

I tend to spend a lot of time on the openings of my novels and stories, and it shows. My latest short story for Patreon, “The Plague Givers,” is a good example of this. There’s a very polished beginning, as far as the prose goes, and then it veers off into simplier language for much of the middle, and returns a bit toward the end to the more polished language. I will most likely go back and polish out the other half of the story before finding a home for it elsewhere, but watching how I completed that story reminded me of how I’ve hacked my process the last few months to try and get work out the door just a little faster.

I’m a discovery writer, which means I like to be surprised by events that happen in a book just as a reader would be.

(8) LURKER QUEST ACHIEVED. In the February 8 Scroll (item 10) a lurker described a story and asked for help identifying it.

The answer is Kent Patterson’s “Barely Decent”, published in Analog in 1991. The literary estate holder was located with an assist from Kevin J Anderson, who had anthologized another Patterson story, and from Jerry Oltion. The rights holder has authorized a link to a free download of the PDF for the story.

(9) THE POWER OF LOVE. Barbara Barrett shows how mighty love is in the worlds of Robert E. Howard: “Discovering Robert E. Howard: ‘My Very Dear Beans, Cornbread and Onions’ (Valentine’s Day—Robert E. Howard Style)” at Black Gate. But this otherwise serious roundup begins with a leetle joke —

For those of you who searched for the right way to describe your feelings for that certain special someone on February 14, Robert E. Howard might have been be a good source. After all, he was a wizard with words. And he did have a novel approach when it came to romance. As Bob Howard explains to Novalyne Price Ellis in her book One Who Walked Alone:

[M]en made a terrible mistake when they called their best girls their rose or violet or names like that, because a man ought to call his girl something that was near his heart. What, he asked, was nearer a man’s heart than his stomach? Therefore he considered it to be an indication of his deep felt love and esteem to call me his cherished little bunch of onion tops, and judging from past experience, both of us had a highest regard for onions. (106)

(10) OSCARS. At the Academy Awards on Sunday night, sf favorites The Martian and Star Wars: The Force Awakens won nothing, but Mad Max: Fury Road, so often praised here in comments, won six Oscars (Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Make-up and Hair, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing), more than any other film.

Other sf/fantasy winners — Best Animated Feature Film: Inside Out and Best Visual Effects: Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington, and Sara Bennett for Ex Machina.

(11) FAST OUT OF THE GATE. R. S. Belcher, fresh from his GoH-ship at MystiCon, is ready to impart “Lessons Learned at a Writing Workshop”.

Lead strong, hook ’em, and keep ’em hooked: This advice given to several of the workshop participants made an amazing difference between draft one and draft two. The sooner you get the reader’s attention and begin to unwind the reason for your tale, the stronger the likelihood, your reader will keep reading to learn more. Novels can afford a little more leisurely pace…but only a little, and for short fiction, a strong, powerful hook is needed right out of the gate. You may only have a few sentences of an editor’s attention before they decide to keep reading or toss the Manuscript—make them count.

(12) MESSAGE FIRST. SFF World’s “Robert J. Sawyer Interview” offers this self-revelation.

What came first – the story or the characters?

Neither. I’m a thematically driven writer; I figure out what I want to say first and then devise a storyline and a cast of characters that will let me most effectively say it. For Quantum Night, the high-level concept is this: most human beings have no inner life, and the majority of those who do have no conscience. And the theme is: the most pernicious lie humanity has ever told itself is that you can’t change human nature. Once I had those tent poles in place, the rest was easy.

(13) A LITTLE LIST. David Brin asks, “Trumpopulists: what will be the priorities?” at Contrary Brin.

There is often a logic, beneath shrill jeremiads. For example, Ted Cruz has proclaimed that even one more liberal or moderate justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court might shift the reading of the Second Amendment (2A) — does it give private individuals an unlimited right to own guns, or reserve that right only to members of a militia?  (Go read the amendment and come back. In Heller v. D.C. the court went with Red America’s wishes by one vote, one interpretative vote. Moreover, let me shudder and add that Cruz is probably right about this one thing. The swing between those two interpretations is very likely to teeter for our lifetimes and more. But in railing about the near-term, he and his followers ignore the long term implication — …

that the Second Amendment, as currently worded, is by far the weakest in the entire Bill of Rights.  If this court or the next one does not reverse Heller, then it will inevitably happen when some huge national tragedy strikes. That’s called the “Ratchet Effect” (see The Transparent Society), and you are behooved to plan, during good times, for what you’ll do at some future crisis, when the public is scared.

If today’s political rightwing were rational, it would be working right now to gather consensus for a new Constitutional Amendment that might protect weapon rights far more firmly than the ambiguous and inherently frail Second. I have elsewhere described just such an amendment, which could actually pass! Because it offers some needed compromises to liberals and moderates – some positive-sum win-wins – while protecting a core of gun rights more firmly than 2A.

(14) JUDGING LOVECRAFT AND OTHERS. Frequent readers of Jim C. Hines will find his Uncanny Magazine essay “Men of Their Times” not only deals with its topic in a significant way, it also outlines the analytical process he applies to history.

…This argument comes up so quickly and reliably in these conversations that it might as well be a Pavlovian response. Any mention of the word “racism” in association with names like Tolkien or Burroughs or Campbell or Lovecraft is a bell whose chimes will trigger an immediate response of “But historical context!”

Context does matter. Unfortunately, as with so many arguments, it all tends to get oversimplified into a false binary. On one side are the self–righteous haters who get off on tearing down the giants of our field with zero consideration of the time and culture in which they lived. On the other are those who sweep any and all sins, no matter how egregious, under the rug of “Historical Context.”

….In an ideal world, I think most of us would like to believe humanity is growing wiser and more compassionate as a species. (Whether or not that’s true is a debate best left for another article.) If we assume that to be true, we have to expect a greater amount of ignorance and intolerance from the past. We also have to recognize that humanity is not homogenous, and every time period has a wide range of opinion and belief.

When we talk about historical context, we have to look both deeper and broader. Were Lovecraft’s views truly typical of the time, or was his bigotry extreme even for the early 20th century? Did those views change over time, or did he double–down on his prejudices?

Recognizing that someone was a product of their time is one piece of understanding their attitudes and prejudices. It’s not carte blanche to ignore them.

(15) STORIES OF WHAT-IF. At Carribean Beat, Philip Sander talks to Nalo Hopkinson, Tobias Buckell, Karen Lord, and R.S.A. Garcia.

Caribbean Beat: How do you define speculative fiction?

Nalo Hopkinson: I generally only use the term “speculative fiction” in academic circles. Science fiction and fantasy are literatures that challenge the complacency of our received wisdoms about power, culture, experience, language, existence, social systems, systems of knowledge, and frameworks of understanding. They make us reconsider whose stories deserve to be told, whose narratives shape the future and our beliefs, and who has the “right” to make and remake the world.

Is there a distinctively Caribbean kind of spec-fic?

A bunch of Caribbean SF/F [science fiction/fantasy] writers will be gathering to discuss this in March at the University of California, Riverside, as part of a year of programming I’m co-organising on alternative futurisms. I suspect one of the things we’ll end up talking about is Caribbean relationships to the experience of resistance — how it’s shaped our histories and imaginations, and so how it must shape our imaginative narratives. For instance, when I watch The Lord of the Rings, I wonder what the orcs do to rebel against their forced existence as beings created to be foot soldiers and cannon fodder.

We’ll probably also talk about the unique impact of place and space on the Caribbean psyche. I recently wrote a short story for Drowned Worlds, a fiction anthology on the theme of the effects of rising sea levels worldwide. For me, coming from island nations whose economies are often dependent on bringing tourists to our beaches, and which are the guardians of so much of the world’s precious biodiversity, it was particularly painful and personal to write a story about what will become of our lands. The resulting piece is angry and spooky, and combines science with duppy conqueror in ways that are uniquely Caribbean.

On the panel, we might also talk about language. The multiple consciousness that Caribbean history gives us is reflected in our code-switching, code-sliding, code-tripping dancehall-rapso-dubwise approach to signifying simultaneously on multiple levels. Science fiction reaches for that in its use of neologisms. Caribbean people, like so many hybridised peoples the world over, live it. We are wordsmiths par excellence.

(16) PUPPY COLLATION. Kate Paulk shut off comments at Sad Puppies IV and says “I’ll be going through them and collating the results over the next 2 weeks”. The Hugo nominating deadline is March 31.

(17) TALKING TO THE CUSTOMERS. The Video Shop presents “400 Fourth Wall Breaking Films Supercut”. (Most of you already know that when somebody on stage acknowledges the audience, that’s called breaking the fourth wall.) (Via io9.)

Since you’re reading this let me give you a bit of background and a couple of provisos.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of fourth wall breaking films. There are shitloads. Definitely more than 400. But 400 seemed a tidy number to end on. It’s not an academic study and there’s no rhyme or reason behind the grouping of the clips other than what seemed to work. So while yes, there are highbrow French new wave films in there I’ve also had to include The Silence of the Hams and Rocky and Bullwinkle. But then I kind of like that.

And because it’s mine I give more screen time to my favourite serial offenders, just because I can. Take a bow John Landis, Woody Allen and Mike Myers.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Rob Thornton for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mart.]

Pixel Scroll 2/23/16 The Lurker at the 5% Threshold

(1) THE PUPPET’S INSIDE STORY. Mary Robinette Kowal livestreamed “Ask a puppet about publishing” today. The answer to the old standby “Where do you get your ideas?” got perhaps the truest answer that has ever been given to this question.

(2) GREG KETTER MAKES NEWS. The legendary Minneapolis bookstore is featured in Twin Cities Geek — “From the Stands: DreamHaven Books Is Still Standing”.

Dreamhaven

A later memory I have of the store is hearing Neil Gaiman read his book The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish there upon the book’s rerelease in 2004. I remember maybe 35 or 40 people in the store, which can’t be correct—there must have been more than that to see Neil Gaiman—though I’m certain it was a number far smaller than you’d expect to see today, in the age of expanded cons, fandom, and the Internet social-media grapevine. Except for running into Gaiman a few weeks later at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival (and a few other places, actually—that was a weird summer), I wouldn’t see him again in the flesh until an MPR Wits show last year, crammed into the Fitzgerald Theater with over 1,000 other fans. That show was a little closer to what one would expect of a Gaiman sighting, where Neil is a smudge, his pale face and customary black clothes treating us to an impromptu and sparsely populated Mummenschanz show against the stage’s dark backdrop, not at all the mild, T-shirted man with the roiling mind, reading to us about the best deal you could get in a trade for your dad.

… Last April, DreamHaven returned to normal store hours with the help of Alice Bentley, a former business partner of Ketter’s. The two co-founded the Chicago bookstore The Stars Our Destination in 1998, which Bentley ran by herself from 1994 until 2004, when she closed the store, moved to Seattle, and got out of the book business. Says Ketter of Bentley, “She had been out of books for a while, and she really wanted to get back in. So, she moved to [Minneapolis] from Seattle and she’s partnering with me . . . She’s very knowledgeable; in the last 11 or 12 years since she left, things have changed a great deal [but] she’s been very happily relearning the book business.” The two now run the business as partners, with Ketter as the “go-to guy for questions” and Bentley employing her “love of spreadsheets” to keep the business on track.

(3) SPURNING PASSION. Andrew Porter recalls, “I wanted to reprint a Tolkien poem first published in the 1940s, and Tolkien refused me permission — and then he refused a whole bunch of other people including Ballantine Books, and it’s still not been ‘officially’ published. But some people got tired of waiting for “official” publication, and here it is, on the web: “The lay of Aotrou and Itroun” (1945).

A witch there was, who webs could weave
to snare the heart and wits to reave,
who span dark spells with spider-craft,
and as she span she softly laughed;
a drink she brewed of strength and dread
to bind the quick and stir the dead;
In a cave she housed where winging bats
their harbour sought, and owls and cats
from hunting came with mournful cries,
night-stalking near with needle-eyes.

(4) TELL ME IF YOU’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE. At MeTV, “7 reused props on television that will make you do a double-take”.

Neosaurus Disguise:

Lost in Space’s creator Irwin Allen liked to recycle props, but one of his most notable ones was reused by another iconic ’60s TV show. The neosaurus disguise first appeared in Lost in Space:

(5) NEW SAWYER NOVEL. Robert J. Sawyer’s 23rd novel Quantum Night will be released March 1 in hardcover, ebook (all formats), and as an audiobook from Audible.

Robert-J-Sawyer-novel-Quantum-Night

What if the person next to you was a psychopath? And that person over there? And your boss? Your spouse? That’s the chilling possibility brought forth in bestselling author Robert J. Sawyer‘s new novel Quantum Night. Psychopaths aren’t just murdering monsters: anyone devoid of empathy and conscience fits the bill, and Sawyer’s new science-fiction thriller suggests that there are as many as two billion psychopaths worldwide.

A far-out notion? Not at all. As Oxford Professor Kevin Dutton, the bestselling author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, says, “Sawyer has certainly done his homework about psychopaths and he understands well that, far from being just the occasional headline-grabbing serial killer, they’re everywhere.”

Sawyer says: “Reviewers often call me an optimistic writer — one of the few positive voices left in a science-fiction field that has grown increasingly dystopian. I like to view my optimism as a rational position rather than just naïveté, and so I felt it was necessary to devote a novel to confronting the question of evil head on: what causes it, why it flourishes, why there seems to be more and more of it — and what we can do about it. The theme is simple: the worst lie humanity has ever told itself is, ‘You can’t change human nature.’”

Click to read the opening chapters. Details of the Canadian and U.S. stops on Sawyer’s book tour can be found here.

(6) OSHIRO STORY CONTINUES. Here are links to new posts dealing with Mark Oshiro’s published harassment complaint.

The Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, Inc. (KaCSFFS) is the sponsor of ConQuesT, the oldest convention in the central states region. The KaCSFFS Board of Directors oversees ConQuesT, but the day-to-day operations of the convention are done by the volunteer chairs and convention committee, who change from year to year.

In light of recent issues we feel that more oversight of the convention committee as a whole is necessary by the KaCSFFS Board of Directors. This is being addressed by the current Board of Directors as we speak.

KaCSFFS is profoundly sorry that these issues arose, and the policies in place were not followed through to completion. We are taking steps to ensure that future complaints are addressed appropriately and in compliance with current policies and procedures in place.

Posted by Jan Gephardt

The KaCSFFS Board of Directors is: Margene Bahm, President, Earline “Cricket” Beebe, Treasurer, Kristina Hiner, Secretary, Jan Gephardt, Communications Officer, Keri O’Brien, ConQuesT Chairperson for 2016, and Diana Bailey, Registered Agent.

From SFF and romance convention attendees alike. To the point that I’ve applied some probably unfair stereotyping of my own, in deciding that media and writers’ conventions in Those Four States (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri) are probably off limits to me. If I won a lottery tomorrow and travel costs were not an issue…I probably wouldn’t change my decision.

I get told, rightfully so: ‘That’s unfair. We have lovely, diverse people at X convention or Y festival! By not attending, you are letting the bad people win!”

True. I know some good people in those places. I’d love to visit them. There is a large romance convention in Texas and an even bigger SFF gathering in Kansas City that I *should* attend for career reasons. (Except that the romance con has a dismal record respecting M/M romance authors, and I’m not sure I’m at the professional level to go to the SFF con yet.)

By not attending, I’m not validating some indefensible behavior from con committees who keep getting away with this shit, and use fans and sane staffers as their human shields. I’m not paying into the tax coffers of hotels, cities, and corrupt hypocritical legislatures who still seem to be stuck in Pre-Civil Rights America. By myself, I’m a nobody, and I only have power over what I personally spend and buy.

I was unlucky enough to get tapped for a self-pub panel at CONQuest (Kansas City 2013) that consisted of me and two gatekeepers who bloviated the entire time, talking over anything I had to say. Lawrence M. Schoen was the moderator who opened his introductory email to me with a declaration that nobody should self publish unless they’d already been vetted by the publishing industry. He also used the term “politically correct” which prompted the following response from me:

“Please do not use the term ‘politically correct’ in my presence. My colleagues and mentors include survivors of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Soviet GULag. Current American usage of this term trivializes these mass atrocities in the service of defending lazy-minded reflexive bigotry.”

In response, he doubled down on his insistence on right to say anything he liked.

On the panel, Silena Rosen was particularly notable for her crude, hostile manner as well as rant about how self-pub was shit, fanfic was public masturbation, yadda yadda yadda. Schoen wasn’t so much a moderator as a partner in the pile-on. I had quality assurance experience from multiple industry jobs, and a whole list of suggestions for editorial collectives and the like. They talked right over me as loudly as they could. None of that stuff even got said.

I felt the whole time as if I were fighting with both hands tied behind my back. I was there to give the audience new ideas and perspectives and to present myself with courtesy and professionalism; they were there to beat me up in public.

I don’t know anything about the Oshiro thing. Is that the one where the guy was the GoH at a con and didn’t get treated well? I’ve seen that in passing is all. I can only assume that if File 770 is upset over it, they’re either on the wrong side, or just plain stupid.

A bunch of comments from File 770 are reproduced in that same thread. Which is great, because it proves how many of Larry’s fans find this blog despite his refusing to allow pingbacks from my posts, and how they force the rest to read the material anyway.

(7) REASONS WHY DOING NOTHING IS WORSE. Jim C. Hines reviews the recent history of convention antiharassment policy enforcement in “The Importance of Having and ENFORCING Harassment Policies at Cons”

I get it. It’s one thing to write up policies on harassment and appropriate behavior for a convention. It’s another to find yourself in the midst of a mess where you have to enforce them.

Emotions are running high. The person accused of violating the policy isn’t a mustache-twirling villain, but someone who’s been attending your con for years. They’ve got a lot of friends at the con — possibly including you. If you enforce the consequences spelled out in your policies, someone’s going to be upset. Someone’s going to be angry. Someone’s going to feel hurt. It feels like a no-win situation.

And it is, in a way. There’s nothing you can do to make everyone happy. But we’ve seen again and again that there’s a clear losing strategy, and that is to do nothing. To try to ignore your harassment policy and hope the problem goes away on its own.

It won’t. As unpleasant as it is to be dealing with a report of harassment, doing nothing will make it worse. Here are just a few examples from recent years.

(8) THE F IN SF IS NOT FILLET. Seeing a comment on File 770 about all the fiction with “bone” in the title, Fred Coppersmith recommended:

(9) HENCEFORTH THEY WILL BE CALLED FUCHSIA HOLES. Gazing at black holes – “What does a black hole actually look like?” at Vox.

Impossibly dense, deep, and powerful, black holes reveal the limits of physics. Nothing can escape one, not even light.

But even though black holes excite the imagination like few other concepts in science, the truth is that no astronomer has actually seen one….

We do have indirect images of black holes, however

Some of the best indirect images of black holes come from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, where Edmonds works. “The friction and the high velocities of material forming out of a black hole naturally produces X-rays,” he says. And Chandra is a space telescope specially designed to see those X-rays.

For example, the Chandra observatory documented these X-ray “burps” emanating from the merger of two galaxies around 26 million light-years away. The astrophysicists suspect that these burps came from a massive black hole: …

Similarly, the fuchsia blobs on this image are regions of intense X-ray radiation, thought to be black holes that formed when two galaxies (the blue and pink rings) collided: …

Be sure to check out the fuzzy but fascinating video showing the proper motion of stars around an apparent black hole.

(10) YES THERE IS A DRAGON. Pete’s Dragon official teaser trailer.

(11) FARTHER BACK TO THE FUTURE. TechnoBuffalo declares “This fan-made Back to the Future prequel trailer is amazing”.

There’s never going to be a Back to the Future sequel or reboot—at least as long as director Robert Zemeckis is alive. With that in mind, what if there was a prequel? Didn’t think of that, did you? I sure didn’t, but after seeing the trailer above, I’d totally be on board.

If you’ve never seen BTTF (what’s wrong with you?), it begins with Doc Brown revealing to Marty that the only way to produce the 1.21 Gigawatts necessary to time travel is to use plutonium. The prequel would be a story about how Doc Brown gets hands on the plutonium, which he only mentions in passing in the original film.

The prequel trailer was brilliantly edited together by Tyler Hopkins, who used footage from various movies featuring Christopher Lloyd (the actor who played Dr. Emmett Brown).

 

(12) HE’S A MARVEL. “Stan Lee Makes a Cameo During Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 30th Anniversary Panel”. (Check out the photo at the post — Stan looks younger than Frank!)

In Los Angeles to celebrate the 30th Anniversary Edition of the book’s release, Miller sat down with IGN to talk about The Dark Knight Returns’ enduring legacy, what makes Batman relevant, and why he keeps coming back to the character. He then took the stage for a Q&A moderated by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, where he discussed his initial apprehension at reinventing such an established character, the impact he’s had on future creators, and who would win in a fight between Batman and Captain America.

The evening took an unexpected turn right out the gate as Miller’s panel was interrupted by an audience heckler. That heckler turned out to be none other than Marvel Comics legend/cameo king Stan Lee, who was on hand to celebrate pal Miller’s accomplishments. Lee of course demanded to know who would win in a showdown between publisher mainstays Batman and Captain America, to which Miller slyly responded “Robin.”

(13) THE ICON’S IMAGE. Abraham Riesman profiles the icon in “It’s Stan Lee’s Universe” at Vulture.

A comic-book Methuselah, Lee is also, to a great degree, the single most significant author of the pop-culture universe in which we all now live. This is a guy who, in a manic burst of imagination a half-century ago, helped bring into being The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, and the dozens of other Marvel titles he so famously and consequentially penned at Marvel Comics in his axial epoch of 1961 to 1972. That world-shaking run revolutionized entertainment and the then-dying superhero-comics industry by introducing flawed, multidimensional, and relatably human heroes — many of whom have enjoyed cultural staying power beyond anything in contemporary fiction, to rival the most enduring icons of the movies (an industry they’ve since proceeded to almost entirely remake in their own image). And in revitalizing the comics business, Lee also reinvented its language: His rhythmic, vernacular approach to dialogue transformed superhero storytelling from a litany of bland declarations to a sensational symphony of jittery word-jazz — a language that spoke directly and fluidly to comics readers, enfolding them in a common ecstatic idiom that became the bedrock of what we think of now as “fan culture.” Perhaps most important for today’s Hollywood, he crafted the concept of an intricate, interlinked “shared universe,” in which characters from individually important franchises interact with and affect one another to form an immersive fictional tapestry — a blueprint from which Marvel built its cinematic empire, driving nearly every other studio to feverishly do the same. And which enabled comics to ascend from something like cultural bankruptcy to the coarse-sacred status they enjoy now, as American kitsch myth.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Moshe Feder, Paul Weimer, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/16 One Scroll I Sing, A Simple Separate Pixel

(1) WHEN GRAVITY DOESN’T FAIL. NDTV headline: “Announcement Thursday On Albert Einstein’s Gravitational Waves”:

“My earlier rumor about LIGO has been confirmed by independent sources. Stay tuned! Gravitational waves may have been discovered!! Exciting,” said a message on Twitter from Arizona State University cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, who does not work with LIGO.

His words sparked a firestorm of speculation.

An announcement will be made Thursday at 10:30 am (1530 GMT) at the National Press Club in the US capital Washington.

The event brings “together scientists from Caltech, MIT and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration to update the scientific community on efforts to detect them,” a National Science Foundation statement read.

They will provide “a status report on the effort to detect gravitational waves — or ripples in the fabric of spacetime — using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO),” it said.

LIGO is a dual set of identical detectors built by scientists at MIT and Caltech to pick up “incredibly tiny vibrations from passing gravitational waves,” said the statement.

(2) CHINESE STAR WARS. “Red ‘Star Wars’: How China used pirate comic to promote science in 1980s”  at Japan Times.

Song Feideng

Song Feideng

A long time ago in a country far, far away, Chinese authorities managed to obtain a copy of America’s ultimate cultural weapon: a blockbuster movie with enough special effects to wow an entire planet.

Summoned to a small theater in the southern city of Guangzhou in 1980, artist Song Feideng was shown “Star Wars” and instructed to transform it into a traditional Chinese comic book, known as a “lianhuanhua,” to promote scientific achievement in China.

Song was one of the first people in China to see George Lucas’ magnum opus at a time when it was still banned — a marked contrast to the status of the series’ most recent installment in a market that Hollywood increasingly sees as crucial to success.

“The objective was to take the world’s advanced science and popularize it in China,” Song, who worked for a state-owned publisher at the time, said in an interview.

He replaced the movie’s X-wing spacecraft with Soviet rockets and jet fighters. In one illustration, Luke Skywalker wears a cosmonaut’s bulky spacesuit and rebel leaders are dressed in Western business suits. Darth Vader appears alongside a triceratops.

(3) AND YOU CAN READ IT IN ENGLISH. The whole comic has been translated by Nick Stember — Star Wars comic part 1-6.

Chinese_star_wars_comic_manhua_llianhuanhua6-1024x792

(4) GENIUS CLUSTER. “Alice Cooper on His Dinner With David Bowie and Ray Bradbury” at Rolling Stone.

After Cooper’s initial meeting with Bowie in the late Sixties, they later forged a friendship. Once, they even had dinner together with Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury. “It was really interesting, because these guys were in outer space somewhere,” he says. “They were talking about quantum physics, and I’m going, ‘So … what kind of car are you driving?'” Cooper laughs.

Does Cooper know how funny that question really was? Despite living in LA, Bradbury famously didn’t drive.

(5) NUMBERS THAT MATTER. What File 770 reader can resist a series titled “Five Books About”? Marc Turner’s contribution is “Five Books Where Dragons Are Put In Their Place” at Tor.com.

Dragons may be a trope of the epic fantasy genre, but they are a trope I suspect I will never tire of. My new book, Dragon Hunters, might just have one or two of the creatures lurking within its pages.

Whenever you encounter a dragon, it’s usually the apex predator of its world. But invincible? Certainly not. There’s a quote I recall from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline (paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton) that goes: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

His first choice is Smaug.

(6) WHERE SAWYER BEGAN. Robert J. Sawyer’s first SF publication was in The Village Voice in 1981.

I’d had an earlier fantasy publication (“The Contest,” in the 1980 edition of White Wall Review, the literary annual of my alma mater, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, edited by Ed Greenwood, who created the “Forgotten Realms” for Dungeons & Dragons), and I’d sold a science-fiction story to be produced as a a planetarium starshow), but that was my first science-fiction publication — and it came out exactly 35 years ago today.

That story appeared in the 14-20 January 1981 issued of The Village Voice: The Weekly Newspaper of New York, as a winner in a ten-week contest they were running called “Sci-Fi Scenes,” featured in the “Scenes” column by Howard Smith & Lin Harris.

The rules required a story of exactly 250 words — no more, no less (title words didn’t count, a fact I took full advantage of).

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 8, 1828 – Jules Verne.

(8) EVEN BAT DURSTON LOST? Charlie Jane Anders tells the story of “That Time When a Fake Science Fiction Author Won a Major Novel-Writing Prize” at io9.

Back in 1953, Galaxy Science Fiction and Simon & Schuster launched a huge contest to find a great new science fiction novel. The prize was $6,500 (a lot of money in those days). The winner? A brand new writer named Edson McCann. Except for one thing: Edson McCann did not exist.

It was a pretty disgraceful scam, everything considered.

(9) PUPPIES MARCH ON. Vox Day announced the next addition to his slate – “Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Editor (Long-form”).

  • Anne Sowards, Penguin
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt, independent
  • Mike Braff, Del Rey
  • Toni Weisskopf, Baen Books
  • Vox Day, Castalia House

(10) LURKER REQUEST. People are welcome to ask questions like this in a comment on the Scroll. I received this one as an e-mail query:

I was wondering if you recognized this summary, or would be willing to post it (a long shot, I know), to see if someone recognizes it and can give title or author.

Our main character is a women who is involved in a profession that shows a lot of skin; I don’t recall if it’s actress, dancer, sex worker, or what. One day she wakes up in a thick, gray, sack-dress with no recollection of how it could have gotten on her. She can’t take it off and, when she tries to bathe, it sheds material but doesn’t wash away. It turns out that a Moral Majority opponent of hers has figured out how to program nanobots to turn out this cloth, and has set it in a cloud around her. He and his congregation wear it as well, I think? I know that the climax of the story involves that as a plot-point, along with some clever reverse-engineering on what wavelengths the nano-cloth passes or reflects…

Sound familiar to anyone?

(11) HIS FIELD OF EXPERIENCE. Never let it be said that Neil deGrasse Tyson missed a chance to talk science.

(12) SPORTS JOKE. For those who are interested enough in US sports to get the joke, a parody of a series of NFL promos aired during yesterday’s Super Bowl broadcast.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Henley.]