Survey of International Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans About The Hugo Awards and the Puppies Controversy

Mini Hugo rocket carried into space and photgraphed by astronaut Kjell Lindgren in 2015.

Mini Hugo rocket carried into space and photgraphed by astronaut Kjell Lindgren in 2015.

By Shaun Duke and Aaron Beveridge:

Introduction

In April 2015, conversations with several non-U.S. fans about the then-developing controversy surrounding the 2015 Hugo Awards motivated the work that follows. Though no digital archeology of that conversation remains, a passing remark that the Sad/Rabid Puppies controversy is a product of the American culture wars sparked the work that follows. Unfortunately, the Hugos remain subject to the whims of American politics, whatever they might be at a given time. This prompted the initial question as to whether or not many non-U.S. fans held this same view of the Hugo Awards. Shortly after that conversation, a survey was created to ask that very question.

The initial aim of the survey was to determine how non-U.S. fans discovered the Hugo Awards, whether they considered the awards an American affair, and what they thought of the Sad/Rabid Puppies controversy. We began the survey with two assumptions based on the conversations that inspired this survey: (1) that non-U.S. fans largely viewed the Hugos as an American award which often excluded non-U.S. works by default; and (2) that non-U.S. fans were largely unfavorable to the Sad/Rabid Puppies controversy. Additionally, we used the survey as an opportunity to learn more about how non-U.S. fans learned about and engaged with the Hugos.

The following sections provide some background information, our methodology, and details about the results of the survey. This project summarizes and investigates the perception of non-U.S. fans. Certainly, it by no means captures a fully-representative global opinion of the effects that American politics have on the Hugos, but we were able to gather enough international survey responses to feel that our results add to the ongoing conversation. As with any opinion survey, the responses are merely that:  the gathered opinions of the individuals that decided to respond to the survey.[1]

The Controversy

The Sad Puppies is a slate voting campaign begun in 2013 designed to counter the perceived dominance of left-leaning science fiction and fantasy literature — what conservatives in the movement initially called “message fiction.” As the movement progressed, the supporters and writers of these works of “message fiction,” particularly those most opposed to the Sad Puppies movement, were referred to as the snobbish literati and, more recently, “Social Justice Warriors” (borrowing a term more broadly associated with the Gamergate movement); detractors have accused the Sad Puppies of being racists and sexists (Wallace).  Members of both sides have argued that the other is, in effect, actively destroying the science fiction and fantasy community, either through regressive politics and selfishness or through oppressive political correctness.

While there are many motivations behind these campaigns and their detractors, the veracity of which is not the purview of this report, the act of slate voting to “hack” the Hugo Awards took the campaigns from the fringes of science fiction discourse to the forefront of the awards discussion. The greatest Puppies controversy emerged in 2015, in which a new group called the Rabid Puppies (a more reactionary slate voting group than their Sad Puppies counterparts), organized a larger following to effectively dominate the 2015 Hugo Awards nominee ballots.  The final ballot — after several nominees recused themselves from consideration — contained 59 nominees from Sad and Rabid Puppies out of 85 total nominee slots.  The campaigns were less successful when final votes were cast.  In the end, no Sad or Rabid Puppies selection won an award, with all categories containing only slate items resulting in no awards being given.

In 2016, the Rabid Puppies had a similar influence on the awards, with 64 of their 81 selections making the final ballot; however, unlike in 2015, the Rabid Puppies slate for the 2016 Hugo Awards ballot consisted of many works chosen to deliberately counter the “No Award” process by essentially forcing the “sf/f left” to either “No Award” works they otherwise would support OR compromise their anti-slate values in order to support those same works.  Voters responded to this latest variation of the Kobayashi Maru[2] by rejecting “Trojan Horse” options[3] and handing awards to an overwhelming number of women and people of color.

Though the Sad Puppies were active in 2016, the shift from a slate to a longer, categorized recommendation list that favored a more diverse group of works and creators has made their present efforts less controversial than in previous years.

Methodology

The survey was conducted between April 22nd, 2015 and July 5th, 2015 using Google Forms with a combination of long answer and yes/no questions.  To find participants, the survey was disseminated through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and, in rarer instances, email.  Participants were not asked for their names or identifying markers to protect their identities and to facilitate honest responses.

The original questions were as follows:

  1. What is your country of origin? (One-word Answer)
  2. How did you hear about the Hugo Awards? (Short Answer)
  3. Do you nominate/vote for the Hugo Awards? (Multiple Choice: Yes/No/Sometimes)
  4. Do you think the Hugo Award is primarily an American award? (Multiple Choice: Yes/No/Mostly)
  5. If you answered “yes” to the previous question, please explain your position here. (Long Answer)
  6. Do works nominated for the Hugo Awards reflect sf/f as you see it? (Long Answer)
  7. Do you think the makeup of the Hugo Awards voters reflects sf/f fandom as you see it? (Long Answer)
  8. Do you think others in your area share your opinion? Feel free to elaborate if necessary. (Long Answer)
  9. How do you view the current controversy regarding the Sad Puppies / Rabid Puppies and slate-based voting? Do SP/RP proponents (or opponents) represent fandom as you see it? (Long Answer)
  10. Do you feel drawn to certain Hugo categories more than others? If so, please explain. (Long Answer)
  11. Are there SF/F awards that you find more relevant? (Short Answer)
  12. Is there anything else you would like to add? Feel free to use this space for additional thoughts! (Short Answer)

We might have anticipated that the answers to some of these questions would prove redundant or repetitive.  In some cases, more participants answered one related question or another.  Inevitably, we chose to reduce the questions used for our data set; this removed redundancy and focused the survey on the original intent:  to understand how non-U.S. fans engage with the Hugo Awards and its current controversy.  In the end, we narrowed the questions down to the following categories, which will be explored in the following section:

  1. Participant Countries
  2. Are the Hugos an American Award?
  3. How did the participants her about the Hugos?
  4. Did the participant vote for the Hugos?
  5. What is the participant’s opinion about the Sad / Rabid Puppies and Slate Voting?

The next step involved coding the answers for category 5.  In order to do so, we applied the following rubric to the answers:

  • Undecided: the participant offers no opinion on the subject.
  • No Answer: self-explanatory
  • Agree: unequivocal agreement; the participant states “yes” with no reservations, offers absolute support of the Sad / Rabid Puppies side, and/or uses extreme language to describe the anti-Sad / Rabid Puppies or related groups.
  • Mostly Agree: nuanced agreement; the participant may sincerely agree with slates or the Sad / Rabid Puppies, but they offer concessions concerning the other side’s position or qualifications in their language.
  • Mostly Disagree: nuanced disagreement; the participant may sincerely disagree with slates or the Sad / Rabid Puppies, but they offer concessions concerning the other side’s position or qualifications in their language.
  • Disagree: unequivocal disagreement; the participant states “no” with no reservations, offers no statements of understanding concerning the opposite side, and/or uses extreme language to describe the Sad / Rabid Puppies.

We individually coded the entire dataset for category #5 and ranked each answer according to the above rubric, and then we compared our individual rankings to determine any areas of disagreement. Where disagreements existed, we chose the more conservative (less extreme) of the two options.

Once completed, we compiled all of the data into graphs and charts, which can be found in the following section.

Our method presented several limitations for the breadth and specificity of the data:

  1. The survey was conducted in English. As such, the majority of the participants came from countries in which English is regularly spoken — specifically, North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  Roughly 90.6% of our participants came from these regions and 9.4% came from other areas.  It is possible that the Hugo Awards have had minimal penetration into the non-English-speaking world due to its association with the United States and with English-language works — the success of The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin and “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang notwithstanding.
  2. Some of the questions on the survey resulted, as indicated above, in repeated answers or in participants simply pointing to another question to find their answer. As such, we chose to remove some questions from the final data set to limit redundancy and to provide focus.
  3. The survey resulted in responses from approximately 393 people and should not be viewed as anything but the opinions of 393 people. It is likely impossible to determine the size of the population of non-U.S. science fiction and fantasy fans in the world or to adequately conduct a study whose sample size could account for the variations of such a population.

Despite the limitations of our survey, the results offer some insight into the science fiction community outside of the United States.

Results

The following sections detail our findings for each of the five categories.

Category #1:  Participant Countries

countryTable [4]

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the participants came from countries with strong or dominant English-speaking populations, including Australia (15.7%), New Zealand (3.8%), Canada (14.2%), the United Kingdom (comprising England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)(29%), Ireland (2.3%), France (1.7%), and others.  Europe dominates with 56.5% of the responses originating from the continent.

Unfortunately, countries outside of Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand are noticeably sparse.  Though we did receive some responses from surprising places — Zambia (0.02%), Trinidad and Tobago (0.02%), and Malaysia (0.05%), for example — our survey regrettably missed the sizable science fiction and fantasy community in China, Japan, and South Korea, among other places.  This is almost certainly due to the language of our survey (English) and to our own failure to do more to reach into those communities.  In the future, we hope surveys like this will be translated for non-English audiences and that more will be done to reach out to fandoms outside of the English-speaking world.

The participant countries list also contains a nation that one would rightfully assume doesn’t belong:  the United States of America.  Our survey didn’t account for individuals from the United States who have since taken up residence elsewhere OR individuals from outside the United States who have taken residence within the states.  Though they accounted for only 1.2% of the responses, we chose to keep them in the survey as a reminder of avenues that we might explore in the future.

Category #2:  Are the Hugos an American Award?

amTable

We anticipated that the answers to this question would lean toward our own initial assumptions, in part because the conversations that led to the survey took a similar position. Unsurprisingly, then, the majority of participants either emphatically declared Yes (49.6%) or Mostly (31.8%), with a smaller percentage (17%) stating either that the awards are not an American award or that they shouldn’t be perceived that way.

Many of the respondents argued that the awards were a reflection of the most dominant group within the larger field; the United States was typically identified as dominant within the sf/f field at large for what should be obvious reasons (the size of its publishing industry and fandom and the global influence of U.S. culture).  Some respondents were quick to note that just because the awards are American in nature, either due to its history or the culture that influences it, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a reflection of American culture as a whole.  Indeed, many of the responses to our survey seemed to recognize the fractionality of American fandom in the basic sense of being loosely split across region, topic, age group, etc.

How respondents felt about the Hugo Awards “being American” varied between resigned to the current state of the awards and optimistic about a more international future.  Those who were more resigned tended to agree that the awards have favored American fiction due to history.  One respondent offered three reasons for this:

1) Locals make up a large proportion of each Worldcon. Most Worldcons are held in the US, therefore a large proportion of the Voting group is always American

2) Up until the 21st Century voting was mostly in person (yes, paper ballot was possible but the majority of ballots were not paper). e-voting mean that non-attendees can vote easily now. And as most Worldcons were in the US, pre-21st Century voters were therefore mostly American[5]

3) American fiction is known well in the rest of the world, but non-American literature is not known well in America. Therefore, the way the nomination system works, American works get on the ballot more often

[Mr. Glyer notes that statement 2) may confuse Site Selection voting with Hugo Awards voting. As far as we are aware, Hugo Awards voting has always involved mail-in ballots.]

The more optimistic side of this conversation noted that the greater influence of the Internet on engagement could potentially make the awards more inclusive, though such responses were occasionally tempered by the acknowledgement that the awards would probably always maintain an American focus for the exact reason listed in the first point above:  Worldcons are typically held in the United States.

For those who listed “Mostly” as their answer, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia were often listed as being secondary focuses for the Hugo Awards.  However, for a small minority of respondents, the notion that the awards might be international at all was met with either severe skepticism or outright rejection.

Category #3:  How did you hear about the Hugos?

hearTable2

For the most part, the answers were expected, with the majority of participants (63.3%) stating that they learned about the Hugos from traditional sources such as book covers, magazines, the Internet, conventions, marketing, blogs, and the news.  There is certainly overlap in the various categories, as some who answered “store” may have seen a Hugo Awards sticker on a book; however, we chose not to interpret words for the participants, opting instead to place such items as “store” and “university” in their own categories.

Category #4:  Have you voted for the Hugos?

voteTable

We were surprised to find that the majority of participants (47.3%) have never voted for the Hugos or consider themselves not to be voters because they rarely vote.  In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t have found this alarming given that only 6 (30%) of the Worldcons in the last 20 years have occurred outside of North America the U.S..  Of those 6, only 2 have been held in a country whose primary language is not English (Nippon, Japan in 2007 and Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 2009).  In total, only 18 (24.3%) of the 75 concluded or upcoming Worldcons have been or will be held outside the U.S.; 2017 will see Worldcon hosted in Finland for the first time (“The Long List”).

Combined with the responses to Category #2, it is clear that the perceptions of the Hugos as an American award influences the voting activity of the participants, with only 18.8% declaring that they are regular voters.  This is also supported by the fact that the majority of Worldcon attendees and supporters hail from the United States (see the chart below).  In the last four Worldcons, Americans were the overwhelmingly dominant demographic in three, each convention hosted in the United States; at LonCon3, whose membership naturally skewed towards the United Kingdom, Americans were the second largest demographic next to members from the host country (44.9%).  The data — and the history of the convention in the United States — reflect the notion that the location of a Worldcon heavily influences the degree to which non-U.S. fans participate, as to be expected given that the majority of non-U.S. survey participants see the Hugo Awards and Worldcons in general to be rooted in American fandom (as clearly shown in Category #2).  To our knowledge, however, no data is currently available for the voting demographics for every Hugo Award.

Convention U.S. Attending / Supporting Non-U.S. Attending / Supporting Source
ChiCon 7

Worldcon 70

2012

84.9% 15.1% (ChiCon 7 Progress Report #4)
LoneStarCon3

Worldcon 71

2013

88.7% 11.3% (LoneStarCon3 Progress Report #4)
LonCon3

Worldcon 72

2014

44.1% 55.9% (LonCon3 Membership Demographics)
Sasquan

Worldcon 73

2015

82.4% 17.6% (Sasquan Member Numbers)

 

Category #5:  What is your opinion of the Sad Puppies / Rabid Puppies and Slate Voting

pupTable

If 47.3% of participants do not vote in the Hugo Awards, it is not surprising that a sizable portion of them either had not decided what they thought about the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies controversy or had no opinion whatsoever (25.7%).  However, of those who had formed an opinion, almost all of them (72.3% in total and 97.3% of those who had an opinion) were neither favorable to the Sad Puppies nor the Rabid Puppies, with most vehemently disagreeing with the entire affair (38.7% of the total respondents and 52% of those who had an opinion).

Participants were not particularly shy about their opinions either.  Some of the most vocal detractors associated or compared the Sad or Rabid Puppies to neo-fascism, the Tea Party, Mens Rights Activists, and Gamergate.  These sorts of terms coincided with concerns about the damage the SP/RP event would have on the Hugo Awards and SF/F fandom in general.  For example, one respondent argued that

It has caused irreparable damage to the reputation and good names of the Hugo and of SFF fandom, which is almost entirely the fault of established fan-run management of the community. In less than a decade, the Hugo has gone from a calling card to Hollywood for SFF creators, to a flame war with white supremacists and Tea Party goons. You could see – from space, ironically – that this was going to happen and yet the mostly white and mostly American SFF fandom sat on its hands and hoped the problem would go away. Just as American fandom sat on its hands and hoped Marion Zimmer Bradley’s child abuse wasn’t real (her photo was still up at the London world con as a “professional SF writer). Yes, the puppies represent traditional SFF fandom just as Fox News playing in a MacDonald’s in Indiana represents the American midwest. Most people stopping by a MacDonald’s probabaly don’t agree with Bill O’Reilly but they do nothing to stop his toxic opinions from spreading in public space.

Part of this perspective was common among those who most vehemently opposed the SP/RP project:  namely, that the movement is both irrational and regressively conservative.  However, the above respondent is unusual in that they also place the blame partly on the feet of American SFF and fandom.

Most respondents, however, took the perspective, as the following respondent did, that SP/RP proponents viewed the world in “black and white” and “presumed themselves to be the ‘good guys’ and so [looked] around for enemies.”  Respondents in the two negative categories also cited “diversity” as a primary concern; quite a few held a similar position as the following:  “I think the Puppies represent an older demographic that’s threatened by the growing diversity of the genre — or, I should say, the growing visibility of diversity that has always been there.”  Diversity, of course, was a major issue in the conversation surrounding the events of 2015.

Not all respondents were entirely uncharitable to the SP/RP project.  Even those who largely viewed the movement as negative occasionally expressed an understanding of the movement’s intent or, more likely, an acknowledgement that the SP/RP proponents “[meant] to do a good thing by expanding the voter base [to] a slightly under-represented group (fans of military sf, Baen, Analog, etc.).”  However, these same respondents also rejected the methods used by the leaders of the SP/RP group (i.e., slate voting).  In a lot of cases, these slightly more favorable respondents differentiated between understanding or acknowledging the Sad Puppies and unambiguously rejecting the Rabid Puppies.

There were also a handful of respondents who took a positive view of the Sad Puppies in particular.  In almost all of these cases, the response specifically cited “ending political correctness” as the reason; for several respondents from the United Kingdom, the Jonathan Ross controversy in 2014 was the primary example of “political correctness” run amok.

Conclusions

The majority of non-U.S. participants agreed that the Hugo Awards are definitively an American award; they also overwhelmingly rejected the rhetoric and agenda of the Sad and Rabid Puppies, often emphatically so.

However, there are several unanswered questions which might be answered by a future survey.  First, we wonder how non-American fans living within the United States and American fans living outside of the United States view the ownership of the Hugo Awards and its controversies.  Second, we think a future survey should ask the participants who never voted or only occasionally voted what motivated their decisions to abstain entirely or participate only sporadically; this might help us better understand unseen divisions within international science fiction fandom. Finally, we think it crucial to reach out to communities that were not present in our survey.  In the map below, the black areas represent areas from which we received no responses:

country-map

 

As we suggested earlier in the essay — and as the map makes clear — we were unable to reach communities in these areas for a variety of reasons, including language and the limitations of our outreach methods. We hope to conduct a much more extensive survey in the next year in order to fill some of these gaps.

Special thanks goes to all those who helped create and disseminate the survey, including Ian Sales, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and many others.

Biographies

Shaun Duke is a PhD student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, Caribbean literature, and the rhetorics of fandom.  His non-fiction work has appeared in Science Fiction Film and Television, Extrapolation, The Journal on the Fantastic in the Arts, Like Clockwork (forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press in December 2016), and Strange Horizons.  Shaun also hosts the Hugo Award-nominated podcast, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, among others, and co-edited Speculative Fiction 2014: The Year’s Best Online Reviews, Essays, and Commentary (The Booksmugglers Publishing) with Renee Williams.  You can find out more about Shaun’s podcasts, writing, etc. at http://www.shaunduke.net/

Aaron Beveridge is a doctoral student in the University of Florida’s Department of English. His research intersects writing studies and data science paradigms — focusing on programming, data mining, and data-visualization as they motivate the ongoing expansion of research methods in rhetoric, writing, and the digital humanities. Grounded primarily in the study of networked writing and trend circulation, his research interests also include technical communication, the rhetoric of science, media ecology, and maker culture. Visit Aaron’s personal website: here.

Sources

ChiCon 7 Progress Report #4. Chicago: ChiCon 7, 2012. Print.

“LonCon3 Member Demographics.” Member Demographics. LonCon3, July 2014. Web. 29 June 2016. <http://www.loncon3.org/demographics.php>.

LoneStarCon 3 Progress Report #4. San Antonio: LoneStarCon 3, 2014. Print.

“The Long List of World Science Fiction Conventions (Worldcons).” The Long List of Worldcons. WSFS Long List Committee, n.d. Web. 29 June 2016. <http://www.smofinfo.com/LL/TheLongList.html>.

“Sasquan Member Numbers.” Sasquan — 2015 Worldcon. Sasquan, 30 June 2015. Web. 29 June 2016. <http://sasquan.org/member-numbers/>.

Wallace, Amy. “Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 23 Aug. 2015. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://www.wired.com/2015/08/won-science-fictions-hugo-awards-matters/>.

Footnotes

[1] This survey is an informal, non-academic survey.

[2] Technically, this situation is closer to a Cornelian Dilemma than the infamous Star Trek test of character.

[3] “Trojan Horse” votes refers to items places on the final ballot by voting campaigns that are designed to force competing camps of voters to choose between choosing what they love or maintaining their anti-slate principles to vote “No Award” a second time around. For the most part, voters seemed to reject this dilemma. One interpretation holds that voters voted on merit, an argument made in defense of the Hugo voting process on numerous occasions; it is also likely that some voters were able to identify deserving nominees in the list.

[4] The following countries had one respondent each and were not listed in the countries chart:  Austria, China, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, The Philippines, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Zambia.

[5] Mr. Glyer notes that this statement may confuse Site Selection voting with Hugo Awards voting. As far as we are aware, Hugo Awards voting has always involved mail-in ballots.

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

appreciate-a-dragon-day-e1421395592126-808x380

(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 1/11/17 Ask Not What Your Pixel Can Scroll For You; Ask What You Can Scroll For Your Pixel

(1) 21ST CENTURY AIRPORT SECURITY. The Atlantic gives you an overview of the preparations, including a pair of anti-terrorism officials on-staff, at an airport with twice the police force of Pasadena — “Inside LAX’s New Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Unit”.

Today’s threats, whether terrorist or merely criminal, are increasingly networked and dispersed; it only makes sense that an institution’s response to them must take a similar form. It might sound like science fiction, but, in 20 years’ time, it could very well be that LAX has a stronger international-intelligence game than many U.S. allies. LAX field agents could be embedded overseas, cultivating informants, sussing out impending threats. It will be an era of infrastructural intelligence, when airfields, bridges, ports, and tunnels have, in effect, their own internal versions of the CIA—and LAX will be there first.

…[Stacey] Peel currently works in central London, where she is head of the “strategic aviation security” team at engineering super-firm Arup. She explained that every airport can be thought of as a miniature version of the city that hosts it. An airport thus concentrates, in one vulnerable place, many of the very things a terrorist is most likely to target. “The economic impact, the media imagery, the public anxiety, the mass casualties, the cultural symbolism,” Peel pointed out. “The aviation industry ticks all of those boxes.” Attack LAX and you symbolically attack the entirety of L.A., not to mention the nerve center of Western entertainment. It’s an infrastructural voodoo doll…

(2) OVER THE AIR. Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing was a guest today of Georgia Public Radio program On Second Thought, speaking about “The Women Who Pioneered Sci-Fi”. You can listen to the segment at the link.

A problem with some fantasy fiction narratives is the misogynistic treatment of female characters. The sci-fi world may still be very much dominated by men behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been female trailblazers. A new book explores some of those unsung heroines. It’s called “Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction.” We talked with the author, Georgia Tech professor Lisa Yaszek. We also spoke with Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing, which focuses on bringing more diversity to science fiction.

(3) TINY DANCER. Two-time Nebula winner Catherine Asaro is profiled in the Washingtonian: “She’s a Harvard PhD and Author of 26 Novels. She’ll Also Get Your Kids to Like Math”.

Washington’s suburbs are rich with overachieving kids and anxious parents, ambitious college goals and lengthy extracurricular commitments—and of course, supplementary-education programs and afterschool tutors. You can sign your kid up for soccer instruction by a women’s Premier League coach or for Lego robotics taught by engineering grad students. But even in this hothouse environment, Catherine Asaro stands out.

If math were a sport, she’d be its Morgan Wootten. For more than a decade, the brightest STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) prodigies in the area have taken classes from her in cinder-block-lined community rooms or cluttered spaces in her home. Her students have qualified for the USA Mathematical Olympiad and, in 2014, placed first and second at the University of Maryland High School Math Contest. In 2015, her team was named top program in the country by the Perennial Math Tournament. An entire wall in her living room is filled with trophies from MathCounts competitions. Asaro’s students have earned scholarships to the University of Maryland and attend places such as Stanford and MIT….

Asaro looks more like my image of a science-fiction writer than a math tutor—lots of rhinestones on her jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt; flowy dark hair; and a purring, confident voice that recalls another of her gigs: singing with a jazz band. On a living-room wall hangs a photo of her father, Frank Asaro, a Berkeley nuclear chemist who discovered the iridium anomaly that led to the asteroid theory of dinosaur extinction. Naturally, he also played classical piano. Asaro says that, like her dad, she started out more interested in music than in science, deciding to become a ballet dancer after seeing Swan Lake.

(4) PANELISTS FOR HELSINKI. The Worldcon 75 online signup for people wanting to be on the program is working again. The form will close on March 30th and Worldcon 75 will get back to everybody during March/April.

(5) WESTON SCHOLARSHIP. Steve Cooper announced there is a new Pete Weston Memorial Scholarship available to help fund someone attending Conrunner in the UK.

We were all saddened to hear of the death of Pete Weston last week. In his memory an anonymous donor is offering a scholarship to Conrunner to celebrate Pete’s contribution to convention running.

The scholarship will cover two nights accommodation and membership of Conrunner. It is open to anyone to apply – but if this is your first Conrunner – you will be given priority in the selection.

Please message me if you are interested or email me at con-runner@virginmedia.com

(6) ERIC FLINT UPDATE. The doctor had an encouraging word for Eric Flint.

I have some further news. My cancer has been further diagnosed as large diffuse B-Cell lymphona. That’s the most common type of cancer among adults, mostly hits older folks around 70 (my age) — my doctor calls it “the old fart’s disease” — and is about as white bread as lymphonas come. It responds very well to chemo, too.

So, it looks as if my luck is still holding out (allowing for “I’ve got cancer” values of luck.)

(7) BEWARE! Camestros Felapton understandably set his blog on autopilot and left town just before the unveiling of his new serial:

In the interim, starting Thursday morning Australian time will be the TWENTY-TWO PART serialisation of the annotated version of the early example of British genre fiction BEWARE THE CAT!

Each post has an introductory chatty bit which contains my mangled understanding of Tudor history, reformation theology and cat psychology, followed by a hefty chunk of my edited-for-readability-and-spelling version of Beware the Cat.

To cram it all in there will actually be several posts per day – so the blog will actually be busier than when I’m actually running it.

beware the annotated cat

Indeed and verily, the first installment is now online.

I have written for your mastership’s pleasure one of the stories which Mr. Streamer told last Christmas – which you so would have heard reported by Mr Ferrers himself. Although I am unable to tell it as pleasantly as he could, I have nearly used both the order and words of him that spoke them. I doubt not that he and Mr. Willet shall in the reading think they hear Mr Streamer speak, and he himself shall doubt whether he speaks.

(8) REMEMBERING METROPOLIS. Den of Geek! writer Jim Knipfel discusses “Metropolis at 90: The Enduring Legacy of a Pop Modernist Dystopia”.

In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich shortly before his death in 1976, Fritz Lang said of Metropolis, “You cannot make a social-conscious picture in which you say that the intermediary between the hand and the brain is the heart. I mean, that’s a fairy tale – definitely. But I was very interested in machines. Anyway, I didn’t like the picture – thought it was silly and stupid – then, when I saw the astronauts: what else are they but part of a machine? It’s very hard to talk about pictures—should I say now that I like Metropolis because something I have seen in my imagination comes true, when I detested it after it was finished?”

(9) MAKING A POINT. Sarah A. Hoyt, in “Sad Puppies, Gate Keeping, And We DID Build this”,  says what happened yesterday was not gate keeping, it was brand protecting. Which it was. But there’s a lot of haystack to go through before you get to the needle.

Even before I got to that post, and later in the other post that made me almost berserk again (I don’t think I’ve done this twice in one day since my teens) a friend had commented on how he gave the wrong impression and he should stop it already.  Later on there were also posts on a bizarre theme, one of which (the comments) is what caused the second berserk attack.

The theme was like this: Sad Puppies said they were against gate keepers, but now they’re trying to be gatekeepers.

There are so many missteps in that statement it’s hard to unpack.  First of all, no, Sad Puppies wasn’t against gatekeepers.  Sad Puppies was against the secret maneuvering that went on behind the awards.  (BTW it was never really a secret. When I was coming in, my mentors told me it was all log rolling and I had to roll the logs.)  And which people denied until they stopped denying it, in favor of shrieking at us to get off their lawns, and making up horrible lies about us.  (Unless, of course, you believe I’m a Mormon male.)

Second, in what way were we trying to be gatekeepers when we told an unauthorized person to stop pretending he was leading SP 5?

We were as much gatekeepers as, say, Baen would be when it told you you couldn’t call your indie publisher Baen Books For Real.  It might or might not violate a trademark (fairly sure it would) but more than that it’s false advertising and it violates the right of people to what they have built.

(10) TIL WE HAVE FACEBOOK. Author S.M. Stirling is not a Twitter user.

With every passing day, I become more convinced I did the right thing by not opening a Twitter account. It’s the Promised Land of aggressive stupidity, and makes otherwise smart and civilized people aggressively stupid. The world would be a better place if it didn’t exist.

(11) THIS JUST IN. Ansible Links reports —

Ansible Editions offers a free Then sample download in a naked attempt to influence BSFA shortlist voting and Hugo nominations

Looks like an obvious attempt to influence the Best Related Works category. Or blatant. Possibly both.

(12) DID ANYONE READ THE DRAGON AWARD WINNER? Doris V. Sutherland, in “Brian Niemeier: The Man Who Would Be (Stephen) King”, disputed that Niemeier’s Souldancer was among the most popular horror novels of 2016, but agreed he’s been successful at branding his work.

The rise of Kindle direct publishing has opened doors for an array of new writers, but it has also confronted them with a big question: how, in lieu of backing from a professional publisher, does you promote a novel?

…Search the space opera category in Amazon’s Kindle department, and I suspect that you will find numerous other indie books that are of equal or superior quality to Niemeier’s novels. Many of those have vanished into obscurity; and this would likely have been the fate of Souldancer, had its author kept his opinions to himself. Instead, by latching onto the Puppy/Superversive movement, he has picked up a loyal following; not a large following, as we have established, but one that has still managed to build him a sturdy echo chamber.

I would rather not write any further posts about Niemeier, as I do not want this to turn into the Doris vs. Brian blog, but I do find all of this an interesting case study in regards to indie publishing. The Puppies have evolved from a campaign centred around bagging an award for a specific author (that is, Larry Correia) into a brand that has granted new authors a platform – Niemeier and Finn being amongst them.

(13) CHUCK. Try and think of any other person people might try to vote a Hugo simply because they promised to show up at the award ceremony.

(14) EVERY DAY IS HALLOWEEN. That’s the name of Lisa Morton’s newsletter – you can subscribe through her blog. Morton, HWA President, recently told her newsletter readers —

Ellen Datlow and I have now finished up the editing on Hallows’ Eve, the next official HWA anthology. I’m ridiculously happy with the range and quality of the stories we’ve assembled. Here’s hoping we’ll have a cover reveal soon!

The HWA blog has released a list of the contributors:

The sixteen authors included are: Kelley Armstrong, Pat Cadigan, Elise Forier Edie, Brian Evenson, Jeffrey Ford, Eric J. Guignard, Stephen Graham Jones, Kate Jonez, Paul Kane, John Langan, John R. Little, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, S. P. Miskowski, Garth Nix, and Joanna Parypinski.

(15) TIME TO REFUEL. Here is Fan-O-Rama: A Futurama Fan Film.

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Steven H Silver, edd, JJ, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Herding Puppies

his_masters_voice

Both the Sad and Rabid Puppies heard from leadership today.

Someone tried to run ahead of the Sad Puppy pack, compelling Amanda S. Green to swat him with a rolled-up internet – “Sad Puppies 5 and recommendation lists” at Mad Genius Club.

Anyway, this morning, the BP rising bit came in the form of a private message from a friend of mine. We are in a number of groups together on Faceplant. In one of those groups, someone had posted a notice with the header of “Sad Puppies 5 Suggestions.” Now, that got my eyes open real quick because the person posting it wasn’t Sarah [Hoyt] and, the last I heard – which was last night – Sarah was the one coordinating SP5. So, with coffee starting to brew, I figured I’d go see what I had missed overnight…

So, if you woke around 0630 CST to the sound of loud thumping, I apologize. That was me pounding my head against the wall. After reading the post my friend warned me about, I saw why. And I saw red. And I made the mistake of taking to Faceplant to write a response – still before coffee. I should have waited. Then I could have made a more detailed response, complete with link. As it was, it took a couple of posts and I’m still not sure I got my point across….

So, let’s be very clear. The New Year is here and with it comes the time when we need to start thinking about the books we read and whether we feel they are worthy of being nominated for any of the various awards being offered this year. Be it the Hugo, the Dragon, the Rita or whatever, it is something we need to keep in mind and, if we are so moved, we need to nominate them for the appropriate award(s).

It also means we are going to start seeing folks saying they are “making a little list”. Some will follow through with their lists and keep a running tally. Others will simply have a single post where you can add your comments. What they do is up to them – up to a point. However, when they start implying they are involved with something they aren’t, or when they seem to be stepping up and taking control of something they have not been involved in, then they have crossed the line.

To preempt further problems with overeager helpers before the new Sad Puppies 5 website goes up, Green has directed those interested to make their current recommendations in comments on a new post at the old site

Sad Puppies 5

In the near future, this site will be shut down and a new site for Sad Puppies 5 will go live. In the meantime, if you have any books, movies, etc., you think award-worthy, please list them in the comment section. Your recommendations will be migrated to the new site when it is ready.

As for Declan Finn’s “Sad Puppies 5 suggestions” at A Pius Geek, had he chosen any other headline the post would have been indistinguishable from the awards recommendations everyone else is writing this month in which their own books feature prominently.

However, Finn says he felt the need to add the following paragraph – not because of Amanda S. Green’s post, but in response to hearing privately from “770 morons.”

EDIT: FOR THE READING BEREFT — APPARENTLY, THE USUAL CROWD AT FILE 770 CAN’T READ — I MUST PUT IN AN EVEN BIGGER NOTE HERE. I’M NOT IN CHARGE OF SP5. THE FOLLOWING IS, IN PART, A GUIDE FOR MY RECOLLECTION, SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO WILL BE VOTING,  AND AN OPPORTUNITY FOR OTHER PEOPLE TO GUIDE MY VOTING. APPARENTLY, SOME PEOPLE ARE TOO STUPID TO HAVE FIGURED THIS OUT FROM THE BELOW. THAT IS ALL.

The Rabid Puppies also received marching orders today from Vox Day at Vox Popoli — “Rabid Puppies 2017”.

While I will certainly be making my 2017 recommendations soon – particularly for Best Series – I would NOT recommend anyone to register [for the Worldcon]. As the God-Emperor Ascendant [his nickname for Trump] demonstrated so masterfully, there is a time to press forward and there is a time to sit back and see how things play out. Now, obviously, those of us who are already registered can, and should, nominate, but there is no sense in wasting money that might be more effectively utilized elsewhere on Worldcon this year.

Let the SF-SJWs do their happy dances and celebrate the success of EPH, little realizing that in adopting it, they have done exactly what we intended in pursuit of our long term objective. Let’s face it, thinking through the logical consequences of their actions has never exactly been their strong suit. It’s bewildering that they genuinely appear to believe that we did not anticipate their changing the rules, even though I said right from the very start that they would have no choice but to do so if we were successful.

Even if Day’s readers refrain from joining Helsinki, those who were members of MidAmeriCon II or have joined the San Jose Worldcon (2018) by the end of this month are still eligible to nominate, so it is not unlikely the Rabid Puppies may exert their influence over the composition of this year’s final Hugo ballot. To what extent they can do so remains to be seen, depending on their own numbers and the impact of EPH rules changes in the first year of operation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

house-of-dracula

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

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

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

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

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

Nancy Palmer reviewed it at her website.

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

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

And Bertie MacAvoy praises it, too:

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

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

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

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

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

Triumph of the nerds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/24/16 And He Pixeled A Crooked Scroll

thanksgiving-meal-astro

(1) AS GOD IS MY WITNESS, I THOUGHT TURKEYS COULD FLY. The astronauts aboard the International Space Station tucked into another technically perfect holiday meal today. Motherboard explains — “Happy Space Thanksgiving: How the Food-Stuffed Holiday Went Orbital”.

Naturally, these hermetically packaged, shelf-stable Thanksgiving edibles lack much of the flavor and flair of the dishes that Earthbound feasters will be piling up on their plates. But these meal packs are still leaps and bounds beyond the humble dinners shared by the crew of Skylab over four decades ago, when manned spaceflight was still in its early years.

(2) SMALL BUSINESS MODELING. Kristine Kathryn Rusch explains why the election was not a Black Swan event, but was one the reasonably possible scenarios she considered in developing her current business plans — “Business Musings: Running A (Writing) Business In Uncertain Times”.

The first two items in her ten-point plan are —

To do modeling for the next year of your business, you need to be as clear-eyed as possible. You should research trends for your business for similar economic times, if you can.

Then you figure out as best you can what your future will be.

Here’s how you do it.

First, you figure out what the possible futures could be. By July, ours were pretty simple. Clinton victory—then what? Trump victory—then what? Markets react well—then what? Markets react poorly—then what? Civil unrest—then what? Governmental gridlock—then what? Governmental ease—then what? Possible impeachment (either candidate)—then what? And so on.

Second, figure out the impact those scenarios will have on your business. Dean and I were modeling for different businesses. Our retail businesses have a local component that our publishing and writing businesses do not have. Therefore, our models for the retail business were different than our models for publishing and writing.

Some scenarios will have no impact at all on what you’re doing. Others might have a huge impact. Be as clear-eyed and honest with yourself as possible as you set out these scenarios.

(3) ROCKS AND SHOALS. Jules Verne’s status as a hard science fiction writer received an unexpected boost from the latest research reported by New Scientist.

JULES VERNE’s idea of an ocean deep below the surface in Journey to the Centre of the Earth may not have been too far off. Earth’s mantle may contain many oceans’ worth of water – with the deepest 1000 kilometres down.

“If it wasn’t down there, we would all be submerged,” says Steve Jacobsen at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, whose team made the discovery. “This implies a bigger reservoir of water on the planet than previously thought.”

This water is much deeper than any seen before, at a third of the way to the edge of Earth’s core. Its presence was indicated by a diamond spat out 90 million years ago by a volcano near the São Luíz river in Juina, Brazil.

The diamond has an imperfection – a sealed-off inclusion – that contains minerals that became trapped during the diamond’s formation. When the researchers took a closer look at it with infrared microscopy, they saw unmistakable evidence of the presence of hydroxyl ions, which normally come from water. They were everywhere, says Jacobsen.

(4) CAST OF THE RINGS. Empire magazine came up with a cute gimmick: “The Lord of the Rings at 15: the Fellowship interview each other”.

One anniversary to rule them all… To celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, the latest issue of Empire gathered the nine members of the Fellowship, and asked each of them to pose nine questions to one another.

One does not simply walk into a Lord Of The Rings interview. So here, as a little Middle-earth aperitif, we can reveal one answer from each actor. For the full interviews, be sure to pick up a copy of the January issue of Empire, on sale from Thursday 24 November….

Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee)

Where do you keep the sword you were given when you completed Lord Of The Rings? Question set by Ian McKellen

The garage, or maybe a cupboard, or in storage with a ton of fan art. I cried heavily through my send-off. I remember being presented with my costume, including Sam’s backpack (pots, pans, sausages, elven rope, lembas bread, box of salt) and sword. But the most moving trophy was the wee dress [my daughter] Ali wore as she portrayed Elanor in the last moments of Return Of The King.

(5) ALIEN POSTER CHILD. By sharing this image, does CinemaBlend aim to upset turkey-filled tummies? “Alien: Covenant’s First Poster Is Simple And Absolutely Terrifying”.

Following the lukewarm response to Prometheus in 2012, the Alien franchise is aiming to win back hearts with the next entry in the series, Alien: Covenant. As an early Thanksgiving treat, 20th Century Fox just released the first poster for the blockbuster, and it’s making sure fans know that like previous installments, it will be a terrifying ordeal.

(6) UNCLE 4E TALK AT ALIEN CON. A panel discussion about the Ackermonster:

Alien Con marked the 100th birthday of Forrest J Ackerman — writer, literary agent, and professional Sci-Fi geek who not only founded Famous Monsters, but invented cosplay and encouraged the pursuits of monster fanatics everywhere! Hear Forry memories and learn about TALES FROM THE ACKER-MANSION, American Gothic Press’s massive tribute to the man who created the term “Sci-Fi”.  Guests on Panel: Kevin Burns, Joe Moe, William F Nolan, Jason V. Brock

Part I

Part II

(7) SOMEWHERE OVER THE WORMHOLE. Scifinow has it right – “Emerald City trailer is definitely not in Kansas anymore”.

(8) CHIZINE GROWS ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY. ChiZine Publications will expand Imaginarium, its Annual ‘Best-Of’ short story,  and poetry volume, to include more content in an anthology that will be released every two years.

The latest edition,  Imaginarium 5, will be released in Summer 2017 and encompass the best short stories and poetry from 2015 and 2016. It will include an introduction from bestselling Canadian author Andrew Pyper.

There will be a call for submissions for both short stories and poetry published in 2016 for Imaginarium 5 announced via Facebook and the CZP Website in December 2016.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

Fifty years ago Thursday, Lunar Orbiter II took a picture of a moon crater. When it was beamed back to Earth, the photo’s then-unique view made the moon real in a way it hadn’t been before — as an actual place, another world that might be a second home for humanity. Seeing the Copernicus crater close up mustered Space Age feelings of wonder. Such wonder is harder to provoke now, but the image reminds us: The moon still waits for us

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MONSTER KID

  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman

Learn more about him on the Ray Harryhausen Podcast.

November 24th 2016 marks the 100th birthday of sci-fi legend Forrest J Ackerman, founder of ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’ magazine. Forry was also one of Ray Harryhausen’s oldest friends, the two having met in the late 1930’s after discovering a shared interest in ‘King Kong’.

We caught up with former ‘Famous Monsters’ editor David Weiner to discuss the friendship between Ray, Forry and Ray Bradbury. We also heard a clip of the three legends in discussion, taken from an interview which can be found on the ‘Ray Harryhausen- the early years collection’ DVD.

And in the November issue of Aeromexico’s Aire magazine, Guillermo Del Toro tells how important Ackerman was to his artistic development. (You’ll need to click on the second image and zoom in to make the text readable.)

front

back

(11) TODAY’S ROSWELL BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 24, 1977 — Colin Hanks
  • Born November 24, 1978 — Katherine Heigl

(12) NEWEST K9 IN THE CULTURE WARS. Sarah A. Hoyt, in yesterday’s Sad Puppies 5 announcement, said: “….One of the things the — for lack of a better term — other side has is bully pulpits…. BUT still, they have magazines that publish recommended lists, and interviews with authors, and turn the spotlight on work they think should be read. We have nothing like that.”

However, as someone pointed out, she had overlooked the brand new review site Puppy of the Month Book Club – where the motto is Hugo delenda est.

Jon Mollison and Nathan Housley explained what they’ll be covering:

So what makes a book a viable candidate for Puppy Of the Month?  Easy:

  • Any novel nominated by the Sad Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any novel nominated by the Rabid Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any work listed in Appendix N of Gary Gygax’s D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Any work published by Castalia House
  • Any work selected by a Contributor that isn’t shouted down by the rest of the contributors as an inappropriate selection

Their latest post is an interview with Schuyler Hernstrom, a fellow who knows on which side his bread is buttered:

Editor: Rabid or Sad?

SH: Ya know, this is corny but I am actually going to pull a quote from my own work to answer. It is a bit early in the career to pull a stunt like this but it is so apropos I can’t resist:

He took a knife from his belt and cut away the flag and a length of cloth from the sleeve and turned to Tyur. He tied the thing to the hunter’s thick arm. Tyur looked down in awe.

“But I am not of your blood…”

“All who fight tyranny are of my tribe.”

The young man grasped his host’s shoulders and the old man returned the gesture.

(13) REJECTS ZERO SUM GAMES. Kevin Standlee tells how he feels about the latest Sad Puppies announcement in “Perhaps we should be grateful”.

Why don’t these people who are so completely certain (or so they say) that the Hugo Awards are washed up, finished, dead, pushing up daisies, etc. concentrate on the awards that they so confidently insisted would overwhelm the entire field and be the One True Awards That Real Fans Give for Real Good Stuff So There Will Be No Need For Any Other Awards Ever Again? They seem pretty unhappy that the members of WSFS continue to hold their convention and present their awards just like they have been doing for many years, including arguing over the rules (which, for those who have been paying attention, was a running theme long before the Puppies showed up). “Sad” is a good description for people for whom, as far as I can tell, think that the amount of happiness is a finite quantity, so that the only way they can be happy is to make other people unhappy.

(14) WELLS STORY DISCOVERED. The Guardian brings word of an “Unseen HG Wells ghost story published for the first time”.

Here’s a gothic tale for a stormy night: a man called Meredith converts a room in his house into a cluttered and untidy study, and one day asks a visiting friend if he can see anything strange on the ceiling.

Don’t you see it?” he said. “
See what?”
“The – thing. The woman.”
I shook my head and looked at him.
“All right then,” he said abruptly. “Don’t see it!”

This is the beginning of a newly discovered HG Wells ghost story, called The Haunted Ceiling, a macabre tale found in an archive that Wells scholars say they have never seen before. It will be published for the first time this week, in the Strand magazine.

(15) TRUE GRIT. An unplanned furrow plowed when the Spirit rover suffered a broken wheel may have reaped a harvest of evidence for life on the Red Planet — “Scientists Think They Finally Found Evidence of Ancient Life on Mars”.

What the researchers found was that El Tatio produces silica deposits that appear nearly identical to those found by Spirit in Gusev Crater on Mars. The discovery of these deposits in similar environments on both planets suggests life because it implies they were formed by a similar process—specifically, microbial organisms.

“We went to El Tatio looking for comparisons with the features found by Spirit at Home Plate,” Ruff said in a statement. “Our results show that the conditions at El Tatio produce silica deposits with characteristics that are among the most Mars-like of any silica deposits on Earth.”

Exploration by the Spirit rover was discontinued in 2010 when the front wheel broke, causing the rover to get stuck and plow across the ground. This mishap is actually what caused the digging that uncovered the rich deposit of pure silica, and now the discovery of the silica deposits in Chile may be enough to send a rover back to that same site on Mars.

(16) ASK NOT FOR WHOM THE CHURRO TRUCK BELL TOLLS. You’ve got mail!

[Thanksgiving every day for John King Tarpinian and everyone else who contributes to this site, which today includes JJ, and Martin Morse Wooster. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor on Turkey Day, Paul Weimer.]

Going To The Dogs Again

Here’s the advance word on Sad Puppies Five, from a post today on Mad Genius Club.

Sarah A. Hoyt could have had a Hugo if she wanted one —

Also, the Hugo was not an object, or I could have captured one of the “least voted” categories by enjoining my fans to buy supporting memberships and get me a Hugo.

But real fans aren’t interested in the Hugos.

Oh, the real fans didn’t give it much attention or credit (and by real fans I mean people who REALLY read SF/F preferentially, not people who are using SF/F for social signaling, much less those who came to SF/F in the spirit of missionaries bringing their gospel to our field and trying to make us wear pants, or be literary, or whatever the tight-lipped scolds are obsessing on right now.

Still, a disinterested professional (like Hoyt) looking over the field could see why something needed to be done:

The problem with what happened to the Hugos is that it was objectively bad for the field.  Because having a Hugo allowed books entry to places that rarely carry SF, like supermarkets.  And then people who aren’t into the field will pick one up, casually, and decide it’s atrocious and run screaming.

So, Sarah A. Hoyt will be leading Sad Puppies Five.

Just don’t expect her to join the Worldcon or actually vote on the Hugo Awards —

I am still not going to give them any money.

But Sarah, you’ll say, how can you lead Sad Puppies 5, when you’re not going to nominate and vote on the Hugos.

Well, as much as I hate to say this, the Hugos as the award Heinlein won, are dead.  There is nothing that can be done.  I’m not a necromancer.  In that sense the Sad Puppies won.  We proved the game is rigged, and we can walk away.

Only she can’t walk away. She believes these Sad Puppies campaigns are the only thing that makes anyone pay attention to writers on her end of the spectrum.

We’re still in the middle of a culture war.  And one of the things the — for lack of a better term — other side has is bully pulpits.  Now most of them are in the old paper media, and they’re not really read by fans of the field.  BUT still, they have magazines that publish recommended lists, and interviews with authors, and turn the spotlight on work they think should be read.

We have nothing like that.  Yeah, yeah, Otherwhere Gazette, which might or might not be revived some day (depending on health and a million other things) but even if it is, will have to climb up into …. people’s awareness.

And if we’re going to do that, we might as well tie it to the Sad Puppies effort, because hey, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

So what will the 2017 Sad Puppies campaign look like?

This year the Sad Puppies (5) will host a page, on which you can make recommendations, and which will, every month, give you a collated list of the 5 works with the most votes, in each subcategory (if we have that many, of course) and if/what awards they’re eligible for.  The list will also include mystery, where a lot of the indie are quite good and by and large unnoticed.

Before the nominating dates for major awards, I’ll put a notice on the page, and a list of the however many (5 or 10) most recommended books for your consideration.

Even though all this activity will be keyed to award deadlines, don’t think awards are important. Oh, no.

However, the awards are NOT the point anymore.  Frankly in the hyper-distributed world of indie publishing, they might never be the point again.

The point is to give science fiction and fantasy that escapes the bounds of what traditional publishers encourage — which is often not what the public at large will even read — and to promote the health and popularity of our genre.

That’s the real goal – to let slip the surly bonds of New York publishing. No matter how many times Hoyt talks about the Hugo Awards, don’t let yourself be distracted….

Pixel Scroll 11/22/16 Scrollhood’s End

(1) DOGGONE IT. Once upon a time Republicans obeyed the Eleventh Commandment – “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican” – and I thought that Sad Puppies followed the same philosophy until I read J. C. Carlton chastising Kate Paulk in “The Sad Puppies Should Have Done Better” at The Arts Mechanical.

What Happened To The Sad Puppies? In 2015 the Sad Puppies were a presence in SF and in culture in general.  In 2016 the Sad Puppies became almost a nonentity.  All through the year it was the Rabids that drove the show and that hurt both the Sad Puppies And possibly the future of Sf in the long term.

I think that the problem is that Kate Paulk, when she took over leadership didn’t understand what she was getting herself into. I think that she thought that if she had a more moderate approach that the kind of beating around that the Sad Puppies got in 2015 would be moderated.  I’m not sure what led her to believe that, but there was.

Then there was the launch of the Sad Puppies site, the nominations and then, nothing.  For months no reviews, no blog entries, nothing. It’s not as if she was off line either.  Yet for months she left the stage empty except for the Puppy Kickers and Vox.   I’m not sure why but it may be that she was hoping to avoid conflict.  Or she just got busy and could not give Sad Puppies the attention it deserved.  Yet there weren’t even any blog posts on either the Sad Puppies blog or the Mad Genius Club…..

Essentially as result of inactivity the Puppies left the field to Vox and “Raptor Butt invasion.”  Which was funny for a while, but after a while you realize that it’s puppy butt that’s being invaded.

Observant as Carlton is about some things, he’s completely in denial about others.

As far as this goes, the Hugos are dead, The Puppies didn’t kill them, they were dead when Larry started the Puppies. The Hugos were dead because nobody cared anymore.

The Puppies provoked a surge in support for the Hugos – the voter turnout for 2015 was 65% more than it was the previous year. The final statistics showed only a fraction supported Torgersen’s Sad Puppy or Vox Day’s Rabid Puppy slates.

(2) DEFENDING KATE. Amanda S. Green was incensed over Carlton’s post. She penned a scalding response – “Really?” – for Mad Genius Club. (But she follows a common MGC trope of refusing to use the name of the person being held in contempt, referring to Carlton throughout as OP.)

OP then spends time, after saying Kate didn’t give us reviews, etc., quoting others who take issue with her reviews of the Hugo nominees. Kate did more than most who were telling people who to vote for. She read everything in the Hugo packet and gave her honest opinions. But that obviously isn’t enough, especially since OP quotes notoriously anti-puppy sites to back his stance.

Essentially as result of inactivity the Puppies left the field to Vox and “Raptor Butt invasion.”  Which was funny for a while, but after a while you realize that it’s puppy butt that’s being invaded.

OMFG. I don’t know whether to beat my head against the wall or the OP’s. That statement is not that much removed from that of the other side telling SPs they had to denounce Vox or it proved we were all cut from the same cloth. One thing those of us closely involved with the Sad Puppy movement learned in 2015 is that there is nothing anyone can do to rein in Vox. We would have had Raptor Butt no matter what. Vox will do what he wants, when he wants and he doesn’t give a flying fuck who he bumps against in the process.

The problem is that if there any desire to keep the Hugo Awards as anything other than a pissing contest between the vilest people in SF, we Puppies failed miserably.  The Rapids dominated the noms and the Kickers “No Awarded” every thing in sight, again. Both sides followed by crowing victory, when in fact everybody lost.

See, here is the biggest problem with OP’s post. He thinks that Sad Puppies is about saving the Hugos. It isn’t. I’m not sure it ever was. It was about showing how the Awards have been manipulated and ruled over by a very small group of Fans, folks who don’t want the unwashed masses joining in their little club. The Hugos were effectively dead, at least to most fans, long before Larry started Sad Puppies. It is in its death throes now. Don’t believe it? Look at the rules changes that are being proposed and those that have been passed. Fans with a capital “F” want to to make sure they continue to control the awards. Most real fans aren’t going to pay the price of even an associate membership just to vote. Why should they when they can buy a number of books for the same price?

… Sad Puppies 1 – 3 beautifully pointed out, and proved, the pettiness in Fandom. Sad Puppies 4 continued what Brad started with Sad Puppies 3, the ourtreach to those fans who didn’t understand what was going on. Fans who had been drawn in by the outrageous rhetoric from the other side started looking closer at Sad Puppies when Brad and his family were attacked. They started listening closer when Kate engaged only when she was forced to. So explain how, when Kate reached out and made connections with people how had never before considered backing the Sad Puppies, she failed in her job?

There is more to this battle than whipping out your dick and proving it is bigger than the other guy’s. Kate understood that. We should be thanking her for taking on the job instead of condemning her because she didn’t do “the job” the way someone else wanted her to.

(3) PUPPY SEASON APPROACHING? And in a comment on the previous post, Amanda S. Green predicts we will hear very soon what’s coming next.

George, there will be an announcement about this year’s effort within the next 24 hours, or so I’ve been assured.

(4) I WONDER WHO THEY MEAN. For another example of an MGC columnist refusing to use someone’s name, last week Kate Paulk, in “The Good Kind of Othering”, never mentioned N.K. Jemisin by name but everyone in the comments section knew exactly who she was dissing.

In an attempt to stay well away from the toxic soup of political matters, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week doing Other Stuff. This, I promise you, is a Good Thing, because my snark-o-matic was maxed out and the uber-cynical button stuck in the ‘on’ position.

While I’m quite sure there are those who enjoyed the results, it’s tiring and kind of draining when it lasts long enough: I’m the kind of extreme introvert who needs plenty of down time to recover from bouts of mega-snark.

Which means that I really, really shouldn’t go near the rather sad rant of a certain award-winning author who managed to let slip that she knows she’s a token winner but still thinks that’s okay because those who disagree are ___ist.

(5) EVERYTHING BUT PUPPIES. Once upon a time there was Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip. The anthropomorphized animals in the strip inspired Walt Willis and Bob Shaw, assisted by Vince Clarke, Chuck Harris, and James White, to produce a 1952 fanzine called Fen Crittur Comical Books [PDF file] – which is now available online at Fanac.org.

The cast of Fen Critturs includes Pogo Hoffum, Harlan Owl “an organsing genius”, and Birdbury “a vile pro.”

(6) THEY MAKE A DESERT, AND CALL IT A MINISERIES. Frank Herbert’s Dune has been optioned for possible TV and film projects reports Variety.

Legendary Entertainment has acquired the rights from the Frank Herbert estate for his iconic novel “Dune,” granting the production entity the film and television motion picture rights to the work.

The agreement calls for the development and production of possible film and TV projects for a global audience. The projects would be produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent and Cale Boyter, with Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt and Kim Herbert serving as executive producers.

(7) HINES STARTS FUNDRAISER AUCTIONS. Today Jim C. Hines posted the first of a bunch of SF/F auctions he’s doing as a fundraiser. Going under the hammer are two autographed Star Wars novels from Chuck Wendig.

Welcome to the first of 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions.

Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464. Every tax-deductible donation helps them continue to provide support, advocacy, and education.

We begin the fundraiser with autographed copies of the Star Wars novels AFTERMATH (paperback) and AFTERMATH: LIFE DEBT (hardcover), by Chuck Wendig.

(8) AMAZON’S BEST SFF OF 2016. Now it’s Amazon’s turn to tell you its selections as the best science fiction and fantasy of 2016. Twenty titles, mostly familiar, but including a couple I don’t remember seeing anyone here discuss before.

(9) REFINING YOUR GOLDEN WORDS. Cat Rambo based this post on a day-long workshop she just taught at Clarion West: “For Writers: Re-visioning, Rewriting, and Other Forms of Fine-Tuning Your Fiction”.

Stage II of the Revision Process: You marked all over the printout, making changes and then incorporated them. Here I print out a fresh copy, because unfortunately my process is not particularly eco-conscious.

Now you’re looking at a finer level than the first pass. Stage I was coarse sandpaper; now you’re moving to a finer grade. This is the point where I look hard at paragraphing, splitting up overly long paragraphs, using single sentence paragraphs for an occasional punch, and making sure the first and last paragraph of every scene works, creating a transition that doesn’t allow the reader to escape the story.

I have an unfortunate propensity for scattering scene breaks through my work; this is the place where I remove a lot of them, because I know that every time one occurs, it bumps the reader out of the story and reminds them that they’re reading. I also remove a lot of unnecessary speech tags at this point. I make sure the speaker is identified every third or fourth speech act in two people dialogue so the reader never has to count back in order to figure out who is talking at any point.

I’m also looking at sentence length. Here is an exercise that may be useful: take a page of your prose and go through counting how many words are in each sentence. If they are all around the same length, it creates a sense of monotony. Split things up. Short sentences have punch; long sentences full of polysyllabic words create a languorous, dreamy feel that may be desirable to your narrative yet radically slows things down on the page. (Did you catch what I did there?)

(10) SPACE NEIGHBORS. If E.T. phones your home, Stephen Hawking’s advice is – don’t answer.

Hawking’s comments are motivated by a fear of what the aliens would do to us if they find us. In his mind, the aliens are the Spanish Conquistador Cortez and we are the Aztecs he made contact with in central America.

Tribal warfare, genocide and ethnic cleansing have been part of our history for thousands of years. Hawking’s fear is a fear of what we have done to ourselves.

Would advanced alien civilisations be as barbaric as we are? Are our genocidal tendencies at all representative of advanced alien civilisations? Maybe.

Hawking says he worries that any aliens “will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria”.

(11) PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM. A programming pioneer: “Margaret Hamilton, Apollo Software Engineer, Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom”.

The very first contract NASA issued for the Apollo program (in August 1961) was with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo spacecraft. Hamilton, a computer programmer, would wind up leading the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (now Draper Labs). Computer science, as we now know it, was just coming into existence at the time. Hamilton led the team that developed the building blocks of software engineering – a term that she coined herself. Her systems approach to the Apollo software development and insistence on rigorous testing was critical to the success of Apollo. As she noted, “There was no second chance. We all knew that.”

Her approach proved itself on July 20, 1969, when minutes before Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon, the software overrode a command to switch the flight computer’s priority system to a radar system. The override was announced by a “1202 alarm” which let everyone know that the guidance computer was shedding less important tasks (like rendezvous radar) to focus on steering the descent engine and providing landing information to the crew. Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon, rather than aborting the approach due to computer problems. In fact, the Apollo guidance software was so robust that no software bugs were found on any crewed Apollo missions, and it was adapted for use in Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and the first digital fly-by-wire systems in aircraft. Hamilton was honored by NASA in 2003, when she was presented a special award recognizing the value of her innovations in the Apollo software development. The award included the largest financial award that NASA had ever presented to any individual up to that point.

Today, Margaret Hamilton is being honored again – this time at the White House. President Obama has selected her as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The highest civilian award of the United States, it is awarded to those who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

(13) TOM HANKS GOES TO THE WHITE HOUSE…AGAIN. Actor Tom Hanks also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom today. The news reminded John King Tarpinian of a favorite anecdote:

Here is another cute story that is not specifically about Ray but at a Ray event.  As you know, if a library called Ray would come, even libraries that did not need financial help.  The last time, and I mean very last time, Ray was guest of honor for the Beverly Hills library he basically held court for the rich and famous.  Even the docents for the library were people of note.

A table was setup for Ray to chat with people and sign books, most of them personalized.  The library had pre-sold books or was given books by patrons who could not attend.  A docent would bring out half a dozen books at a time.  I’d take the books, open them to the signature page, then pass them to Ray for signing.

Ray’s caregiver was standing on the other side of Ray when the first batch of books were brought out.  He looks at the docent and says to him, “Have people ever told you that you look like a younger Tom Hanks?”  The response from the docent was, “Yes, I have been told that before.”  I have a big grin on my face as he looks over to me and gives an all knowing wink.  The docent was Colin Hanks.

This came to mind because Tom Hanks received the Medal of Freedom from the president today.

(14) MY FAVORITE HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Sith Gets Real: Lucasfilm Releases New ‘Rogue One’ Stills With Clear Look At Darth Vader” — from ScienceFictin.com.

(15) YADA YODA. Gamespot leads us to this clip from Stephen Colbert’s Late Night show — “Carrie Fisher Reveals More (Fake) Star Wars Secrets”:

There were a lot of pranks on set. One time we cut off Mark Hamill’s hand and they decided to keep it in the movie.

 

[Thanks to Bartimaeus, JJ, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13/16 A Simple Pixeltory Scrollipic

(1) FREE CLIMATE CHANGE SF ANTHOLOGY. Twelve stories from the Climate Fiction Short Story Contest are collected in Everything Change, a new fiction anthology from Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative (ICF). Kim Stanley Robinson wrote the foreword, and there is also an interview with Pablo Bacigalupi.

In the midst of Earth’s hottest year on record, the effects of climate change are more apparent than ever. But how do we come to grips with the consequences on the ground, for actual people in specific places? New York Times bestselling science fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi believes the answer lies in fiction: “Fiction has this superpower of creating empathy in people for alien experiences. You can live inside of the skin of a person who is utterly unlike you.”

The anthology includes the grand prize winner of the Climate Fiction Short Story Contest, “Sunshine State,” a quasi-utopian disaster story set in the Florida Everglades. The story’s authors, Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson of Oakland, CA, will receive a $1000 prize, and four other prizewinners will receive book bundles signed by Bacigalupi. The contest received 743 submissions from 67 different countries and from more than half of the states in the U.S.

The title Everything Change is drawn from a quote by Margaret Atwood, the first Imagination and Climate Futures lecturer in 2014.

The book is free to download, read, and share in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats at the Imagination and Climate Futures website, and at the Apple iBooks store and the Kobo store.

Table of Contents:

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Foreword
  • Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, and Joey Eschrich, Editors’ Introduction
  • Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson, “Sunshine State”
  • Kelly Cowley, “Shrinking Sinking Land”
  • Matthew S. Henry, “Victor and the Fish”
  • Ashley Bevilacqua Anglin, “Acqua Alta”
  • Daniel Thron, “The Grandchild Paradox”
  • Kathryn Blume, “Wonder of the World”
  • Stirling Davenport, “Masks”
  • Diana Rose Harper, “Thirteenth Year”
  • Henrietta Hartl, “LOSD and Fount”
  • Shauna O’Meara, “On Darwin Tides”
  • Lindsay Redifer, “Standing Still”
  • Yakos Spiliotopoulos, “Into the Storm”
  • Ed Finn, “Praying for Rain: An Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi”

(2) THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’. The New York Times reports on another history-making moment in the career of this musician: “Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature”.

Half a century ago, Bob Dylan shocked the music world by plugging in an electric guitar and alienating folk purists. For decades he continued to confound expectations, selling millions of records with dense, enigmatic songwriting.

Now, Mr. Dylan, the poet laureate of the rock era, has been rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature, an honor that elevates him into the company of T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett.

Mr. Dylan, 75, is the first musician to win the award, and his selection on Thursday is perhaps the most radical choice in a history stretching back to 1901. In choosing a popular musician for the literary world’s highest honor, the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, dramatically redefined the boundaries of literature, setting off a debate about whether song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels.

(3) CALIFORNIA COLLECTIBLES LAW UPDATE. The American Booksellers Association says: “California Collectibles Bill Clarification Expected”.

At press time, Bookselling This Week learned that California Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang plans to submit a letter to the state legislature stipulating that a new law covering the sales of collectibles does not apply to either general bookstores or author signing events. Chang was the sponsor of the bill. The law requires sellers of signed books and artwork to provide the buyer with a certificate of authenticity (COA) for any item sold for $5 or more.

“While ABA’s reading of the bill matched that of Assemblywoman Chang’s intent in drafting the law — that the law was meant specifically for the collectibles industry to stave off fraud — we are grateful for how responsive Assemblywoman Chang and her staff were to the concerns of booksellers,” said David Grogan, senior public policy analyst for ABA. “It also clearly shows how much of an impact booksellers can have when they voice their concerns to their legislators. We are happy that a clarification is expected to be entered into the record.”

The clarification comes as a direct response to a blog post and subsequent letters from independent bookstores in California. Concerned that some might assume the law applied to general bookstores, Eureka Books in Eureka, Book Passage in Corte Madera, and others opposed the new law, fearing that it would have a negative financial impact on their businesses.

(4) VENUS IF YOU WILL. Here’s a clickbait-worthy headline: “Why Obama may have picked the wrong planet”.  And as a bonus, the article quotes SF writer and NASA scientists Geoffrey Landis.

On Tuesday, Obama published an op-ed at CNN laying out his vision (once again) for visiting Mars.

“We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time,” he wrote.

The Obama administration has been pursuing a visit to Mars for years. But Obama may be overlooking an easier target, if the arguments of one NASA researcher (and numerous supporters) are to be believed. While Mars may seem to be an attractive destination, we should consider sending people to Venus instead, these people argue….

You see, Mars is a challenging destination. It’s far away, the gravity is a fraction of Earth’s — posing additional health hazards beyond the lack of atmospheric radiation shielding — and you have to be suited up just to breathe outside.

By contrast, Venus is a lot closer to Earth than Mars is. At their closest points, Venus is only 25 million miles away, compared with Mars’s 34 million miles. The shorter distance means you’d need less time and fuel to get there, reducing the cost. And although Venus’s surface temperature is hot enough to melt metal, and the crushing pressure will squish you like a bug, the upper atmosphere is actually rather habitable.

“At about 50 kilometers above the surface the atmosphere of Venus is the most earthlike environment (other than Earth itself) in the solar system,” wrote Geoffrey Landis, a NASA scientist, in a 2003 paper. Landis has spent much of his career dreaming up ways to make a human trip to Mars actually feasible, so he knows what he’s talking about.

At high altitude, Venusian temperatures are hot but not unbearable, and the barometric pressure drops to the equivalent of one Earth atmosphere. You’d have droplets of sulfuric acid to worry about, but only if your skin is directly exposed.

It helps that NASA has already taken steps to research a manned mission to Venus.

(5) RON MILLER ON SPACESHIPS. Smithsonian.com plugs artist Ron Miller’s new opus from Smithsonian Books in “How Artists, Mad Scientists and Speculative Fiction Writers Made Spaceflight Possible”.

The realization of human spaceflight has long stood as a testament to the power of human temerity, a triumph of will and intellect alike. Pioneers such as Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride have been immortalized in the annals of history. Their impact on terrestrial society is as indelible as the footprints left by the Apollo astronauts on the windless surface of the Moon.

Perhaps yet more wondrous than the Cold War-era achievement of extraterrestrial travel, however, is the long and meandering trail that we as a species blazed to arrive at that result. Such is the argument of author-illustrator Ron Miller, an inveterate spaceship junkie and one-time planetarium art director at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Miller’s just-published book, Spaceships: An Illustrated History of the Real and the Imagined from Smithsonian Books, is a paean to the exploratory yearning of humankind across the centuries. The profusely illustrated volume tracks technological watersheds with diligence, but its principal focus is those starry-eyed visionaries, the dreamers….

(6) TOO TANGLED FOR TINGLE? I was wondering what the chances were of Chuck Tingle setting up his own SadPuppies.com site when it’s Hugo season again. But Huge Domains already has that registered and is asking $1,895 for the rights.

Well then, what about SadPuppies5.com? Nope, that’s registered, too, by a proxy that contains a reference to the real Sad Puppies site, SadPuppies.org – have they been thinking ahead?

Of course, if Tingle wanted  to make a File 770 reference, he could always start up SadPuppiesSecond5th – and that would be fine by me.

(7) VULICH OBIT. Special effects make-up artist John Vulich died October 13. Dread Central recalls:

Vulich worked on some of the horror genre’s most classic films and TV shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, The Dark Half, Castle Freak, From Beyond, Ghoulies, Dolls, TerrorVision, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, The Lost Boys, Two Evil Eyes, “The X-Files,” “Angel,” and “Werewolf: The Series” and was one of the founders of Optic Nerve Studios.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 13, 1957 — Chris Carter, creator of “The X-Files.”

(9) FIFTH NEWS IS BEASTLY. We’re always on the lookout for news items featuring the number five. I may run only about 10% of them, but Tor.com broke through with “J.K. Rowling Confirms There Will Be Five Fantastic Beasts Films”.

At Warner Bros’ global fan event for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them today, the studio made a big announcement: There will be five Fantastic Beasts films total, instead of the trilogy, as originally thought.

(10) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. In “thoughts on the processing of words” at Text Patterns, a blog on The New Atlantis website, Baylor University English professor Alan Jacobs gives a long review of Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing, including the revelation that the first author to write a book on a word processor was not Gerrold, Pournelle, or Crichton, but historical novelist Gay Courter.

In any case, the who-was-first questions are not as interesting or as valuable as Kirschenbaum’s meticulous record of how various writers — Anne Rice, Stephen King, John Updike, David Foster Wallace — made, or did not quite make, the transition from handwritten or typewritten drafts to a full reliance on the personal computer as the site for literary writing. Wallace, for instance, always wrote in longhand and transcribed his drafts to the computer at some relatively late stage in the process. Also, when he had significantly altered a passage, he deleted earlier versions from his hard drive so he would not be tempted to revert to them.

(11) LACKING THAT CERTAIN SOMETHING. IGN’s’ video interview with the actor reveals “Why George Takei Doesn’t Like the New Star Trek Movies and the Old Animated Series”.

Mr. Sulu explains why he doesn’t like the Star Trek cartoon and reveals the magic ingredient he believes the new films are missing. The Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection Blu-ray Boxset is out now.

(12) WELLS MEETS SOLOMON. Richard Chwedyk’s “Teaching Stuff: Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic” at the SFWA Blog tells about a fascinating exercise:

Here’s an assignment I give my students:

They receive a copy of the first chapter of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

It is roughly 2,250 words.

I tell the students that Mr. Wells has just received a note from his editor. “Great stuff, Herbie, but you go on too long here. Cut this first chapter in half.”

How to make 2,250 words into 1,125 words?

Mr. Wells, alas, has passed on. Fortunately for us, so has the novel’s copyright.

…Ask students to do this to their own stories and their faces turn ashen. Their babies? By half? What madness is this?

So by practicing at first on Wells, they can see what the process entails before going on to apply the knife to their own deathless prose. The exercise not only requires careful editorial skills, but an equally careful reading of the text. What’s important in the telling? What’s icing on the cake?

(13) DEEP READING. Connie Willis, in an article for Unbound Worlds, discusses her new book Crosstalk“Connie Willis Wants You to Think Twice About Telepathy”.

What led me to write Crosstalk?  Oh, lots of things.  For one, like everybody else, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of telepathy and have often thought how nice it would be to be able to tell what other people were thinking, to know if they were lying and how they really felt about you.  For another, I live in Colorado, home of the infamous Bridey Murphy, who started the whole channeling-past-lives thing back in the fifties by claiming she’d had a previous life in nineteenth-century Ireland.  Which turned out not to be true and which left me with a healthy skepticism of all things paranormal, from psychics to Dr. Rhine’s ESP experiments.

(14) WHAT’S WRONG WITH THINKING OUT LOUD. She also did an interview with The Verge“Novelist Connie Willis explains why telepathy is a terrible superpower”.

You’ve said many of your stories are about working through arguments with yourself, and working through different aspects of the idea you obsess over. Are you working through an argument in Crosstalk?

Well, looking at the society we’re living in right now, we’re bombarded with information. We have all these new ways of communicating. We can talk face-to-face to somebody in Asia, you can have a best friend who lives across the world. But our relationships don’t seem to be improving radically as a result of all this extra communication.

We’re always looking to technology, thinking it can solve our human problems. Usually it does, but with big side effects we hadn’t counted on. It’s an argument I don’t know how to solve. I’m not suggesting we go be Luddites. But occasionally I’m on panels with all these really gung-ho tech people, and they’re like, “Oh this new development will solve all our problems.” And I think “Anything that solves all our problems will create a whole mess of new problems that would have never occurred to us.” We need to start thinking more in terms of cost-benefit analysis. Maybe that would be more productive.

But mostly with Crosstalk, I just wanted to have fun with the idea of whether communication is a good idea, generally. Not tech communication, communication between people. Most people would say, “We all need more communication in our relationships.” But really, most relationships benefit from all the things we don’t say, all the things we keep to ourselves.

(15) MEMORIES. In a Rue Morgue interview, the actress looks back: “35 years of pleasant screams: an interview with Cassandra Peterson, aka ELVIRA”.

When it comes to the horror genre, there are many icons in the business but none more so than a woman who created a character that has permeated pop culture; her name is Cassandra Peterson and her wonderful, wicked, and hilarious alter ego is Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark. For 35 years, the sexy, dark, and comedic valley girl/gothic goddess has appeared on television, film, pinball machines, comic book covers, record albums, and any other product you could imagine. She is one of the most beloved incarnations in history, and is still surging in popularity to this very day. Peterson herself is now in her mid-sixties but looks like she has discovered the fountain of youth, or made a deal with the devil, she is absolutely beautiful and timeless. Her comedic timing is unmatched, quick fire and quite daunting considering the jokes come straight from her mind like bullets, one of the funniest women alive, hands down. She is also one of the hardest working women in the business, an actress who became her own boss and made her own rules (and still does); truly an inspiration in regard to drive, conviction, and perseverance.

Rue Morgue spoke to Peterson about her 35th Anniversary and her new photo book, entitled ELVIRA MISTRESS OF THE DARK, which is a love letter to her fans, and a testament to her many years as a reigning queen in horror comedy….

(16) ACES AND BAIT. In addition to the news I missed while I was in the hospital, I also fell behind reading Adventures With Kuma. From August “Dodge City Bear”.

Bears wents to lots of places todays. Boys will writes abouts bigs holes in the grounds laters. Bears gots to plays a games in Dodges Citys withs a nices Doctors nameds Hollidays.

Bears saids, “Bears has fives fishes. Whats yous gots?”

 

Kuma Meets Doc Holliday

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Joseph Eschrich, Bartimaeus, Sean R. Kirk, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing edtor of the day Cath.]

Pixel Scroll 10/2/16 The Sorcerer’s Appertainment

(1) DISENCHANTED. Sharon Lee responded to the Best Series Hugo announcement in this “Sunday Morning Award Rant”.

There’s never been a Hugo for Best Series, which might strike some as odd, seeing as series is, and has always been, the backbone of science fiction and fantasy literature.  The thought, for many years, was that A Good Book Will Out, no matter if it was part of a series, or a standalone, and, indeed, many books which were parts of series have won the Novel Hugo (*).  In any case, the system kinda sorta worked most of the time, for most of the works involved.

Sort of like Ankh-Morpork under the Patrician’s rule, really.

However, the idea of a Series Hugo had been kicked around for a number of years, and the Collected Wisdom of the Business Meetings decided to go for it, despite the very real difficulties in administering — or even voting on — such an award.

What difficulties, you may ask?….

(2) ANIME CASHES IN. Makoto Shinkai’s latest movie is the highest-grossing film in Japan this year. The Guardian has the story.

Themes of body swapping, the search for love and a frantic quest to save a town from imminent destruction have combined to propel a Japanese animated film to box office gold, and prompted talk that the country has found its successor to the globally acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki.

Your Name, Makoto Shinkai’s fantasy about two teenagers drawn together by gender-swapping dreams, has been seen by more than 8 million people since its release in August, beating the hugely popular Godzilla Resurgence to become the highest-grossing film in Japan this year, and the ninth highest of all time.

It has earned more than 10bn yen (£77m) in box office receipts, an anime milestone previously achieved only by Miyazaki’s films.

(3) PUPPY CENSUS. Greg Hullender’s “Slate Voting Analysis Using EPH Data: 2014-2016” at Rocket Stack Rank confirmed that what I expected would happen actually did.

Look at Best Fanzine! Very few of the Rabid puppies were able to bring themselves to vote for File 770, even with Vox urging them on. I’m less clear on why almost half rejected “Penric’s Demon.”

rocketstack-slate-graphic

(4) HANDICAPPING TAKEI. When the animated Star Trek series premiered on a Saturday morning in the fall of 1973, the episode seen in the rest of the country was barred from being aired in Los Angeles because of local election politics.

Tom Bradley had been elected mayor of Los Angeles, the city’s first African-American mayor, on 29 May 1973. He’d been the City Councilman for its Tenth District prior to becoming mayor. The city had a special election held on 18 September 1973 to fill Bradley’s vacated position. Bradley had endorsed political consultant David Cunningham, Jr. to fill his seat. A few other men and women also campaigned for it. One of them was George Takei.

Nineteen years after the special election, Cunningham was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “If you don’t exercise political muscle by voting, you are not part of anything but a nondescript group.” Apparently he knew something about the use of political muscle. Complaints were raised during the 1973 campaign for the Tenth District seat—possibly by Cunningham, possibly by a nondescript group: there was no published list of named complainers found at this point in time—regarding Takei’s recognition level within the voting population being higher than for other candidates because of his portrayal of Sulu on ST: TOS.  As a result of the Federal Communication Commission’s equal-time rule regarding political candidates on television, reruns of the original series were not broadcast in Los Angeles until the special election had ended.

Which brings us, once again, to 8 September 1973. The Los Angeles NBC affiliate KNBC didn’t broadcast “Beyond the Farthest Star” on that date like every other network affiliate in America; instead, it broadcast the episode scheduled to follow it, “Yesteryear”, because Takei-as-Sulu had no dialogue, nor was his character a part of the plotline, which his above-mentioned political opponents were convinced would be a factor in the election. The following week, KNBC broadcast “Yesteryear” again. “Beyond the Farthest Star” wasn’t shown in Los Angeles for the first time until 22 December 1973.

suluanimated

(5) LOOK UP. Here are the prime viewing dates for the Orionid Meteor Shower – and what luck, you don’t need premium cable for this.

In 2016, the Orionid meteor shower will be visible from October 2 to November 7. The shower is expected to peak on the night of October 20 and early morning of October 21.

When Can I See the Orionids?

Orionids tend to be active every year in the month of October, usually peaking around October 20. At its peak, up to 20 meteors are visible every hour.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 2, 1950 — The “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz was published for the first time.
  • October 2, 1955 Alfred Hitchcock Presents made its television debut.
  • October 2, 1959 The Twilight Zone, with host Rod Serling, premiered on U.S. television.

(7) TELL IT TO GROUCHO. And three years after Twilight Zone launched, Rod Serling was enough of a celebrity to receive a spot on Groucho Marx’ show.

(8) NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON’S GAME. “Expand your universe with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s new video game” invites this Digital Trends article.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is entering the video game business. His new game, Neil deGrasse Tyson Presents: Space Odyssey, is an educational title developed to encourage players to explore space and science.

Although in early development, it’s being designed as a building game. Space Odyssey asks players to create their own galaxies. While there are elements of MineCraft and Civilization baked into the experience, Mark Murphy, co-creator and developer of the game from Whatnot Entertainment, said it’s something unique.

(9) AMAZING STORIES’ FICTION SCHEDULE. Starting October 5, Amazing Stories will begin posting the fiction comprising its Special Edition issue:

  • Jeremy Lichtman (“Bob the Hipster Knight”); October 5
  • Alex Shvartsman (“How Gaia and the Guardian Saved the World”); October 12
  • Vince Liberato (“Parental Guidance Recommended”); October 19
  • Stephen Power (“The Sounding Cataract”); October 26
  • Karen Skovmand (“The Mesmerist”); November 2
  • Trent Walters (“Awake the Snorting Citizens With the Bell”); November 9
  • James Gordon Harper (“A Clean Start”) ; November 16
  • Matt Downer (“The Size of the Fight”); November 22
  • Stuart Barton (“Lost Phoenixes”); November 23
  • Sean Monaghan (“Penny of Tharsis Montes”); November 24

We will be publishing two additional stories in addition to those Gernsback award winning stories:

  • Kermit Woodall (“We’re all Here in the Future”); November 30
  • David Gerrold (“The Great Milo”); December 7

The above will also be compiled into a special edition issue of the magazine and released in electronic and POD formats.

(10) KEEP ON CASTING. In “Fishing for Contracts”, Brad Torgersen tells Mad Genius Club readers the similarities between a writing career and sport fishing.

I think it’s much the same with the new world of indie publishing, too. In this case, you’re not selling to an editor, as much as you’re selling to the world at large. You’re still casting — each book or individual product is equivalent to throwing out a line. Whether or not your item(s) reel back the customers, is a calculated gamble. Having more item(s) on the market is much more likely to get you action, than having few, or one. More casting with more lures is upping your chances of getting strikes. If you happen to hit the right thing at the right time for the market, you may have the fish practically jumping out of the water at you. But you can’t have a moment like that, unless you can produce first. And production comes down to having a plan, sticking to that plan, and not letting the “skunked” days — when the fish aren’t biting — throw you off your game.

Also, don’t be fooled into thinking accouterment is a replacement for either craft, or effort. I have known some writers who devote far, far more time to attending writing workshops and using the latest software, or creating the perfect home office for themselves, than they do actually putting words down on the blank page. I think they mistake the trappings of the writerly life, for actual writing. An all-too-easy mindset to fall into, I know from experience! Believe me.

But then, all I have to do is look at my little, abused, green-plastic Flambeau box — with its attendant bargain-shopper no-name pole and reel — to be reminded of the fact that you don’t need a $2,000 laptop with the latest genius manuscript program, to haul in a lunker. My first award-winner for Analog was written on a hand-me-down POS computer from work — during nights I hunched at my daughter’s vinyl-padded play table in the unfinished basement. Because it was the only quiet spot I could find, when the family was fast asleep.

(11) NATHAN FILLION AT MOSCOW COMIC CON. This is news to me – a comic con in Russia.

Actor Nathan Fillion has been cracking us up since his role on the TV show Castle — and we couldn’t be more excited for him to keep us laughing in his new role on Modern Family as a weatherman named — wait for it — Rainer Shine.

But lately, his Instagram is where the jokes are at. Nathan is currently in Moscow attending Russia Comic Con 2016, and following along has been a feast of comedic delights. See for yourself:

I keep hearing about gremlins in Russia. Been here all day and haven't seen one gremlin.

A post shared by Nathan Fillion (@natefillion) on

(12) FRAUD AT BAT POLLS? Me TV ranked all 37 villains from the Sixties Batman TV series. I can’t believe The Riddler is Number One! I was always partial to Burgess Meredith squawking it up as The Penguin.

1. The Riddler

(No. 1)  Frank Gorshin

Gorshin appeared in nine episodes, far fewer than Meredith; however, he did earn an Emmy nomination for his work. As the only actor singled out for such an honor, he deserves a place at the top.

[Thanks to Dawn Incognito, Steve Davidson, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]