Pixel Scroll 7/26/17 Fifth File At Scrollory Towers

(1) CAPTAIN’S LOG. Actor John Barrowman had his appendix out the other day.

(2) MARCH. After a Saturday panel about the March comics, fans followed the history-making co-author in a re-enactment: io9 has the story — “Rep. John Lewis Leads March for Civil Rights Through Comic-Con”.

Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) was at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday discussing his award-winning graphic novel, March, which resulted in a real march for civil rights awareness.

After Lewis’ panel ended, he led a group of over 1,000 people through the San Diego Convention Center, with some shouting “No justice, no peace” as they marched past cosplayers and attendees. According to the Associated Press, Lewis made sure to stop and shake hands with people who recognized him as he passed.

(3) HELSINKI DINING TIPS. Worldcon 75 has posted its Restaurant Guide [PDF file].

Helsinki is currently undergoing a “fun dining” wave. It seems not a day goes by without a new street food restaurant being opened on one corner or another, from Mexican burrito shops to a boom of high-quality burger joints. At the same time, many Helsinki restaurateurs are opening casual fine dining restaurants, where the food is top-notch but the atmosphere is laid-back. Helsinki also has many restaurants with long histories and traditions…

(4) 2017 NASFiC REPORT. Evelyn Leeper’s NorthAmeriCon ’17 / NASFIC 2017 con report is online at Fanac.org.

This is a convention report for NorthAmeriCon ’17 (NASFIC 2017, and henceforth referred to as just NASFIC), held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 6-9, 2017, with a little bit of sightseeing thrown in (because a separate report would not be worthwhile).

It is with some trepidation I start this report. We had never attended a NASFIC before. For a long time we always went to Worldcon, and for the recent years where we skipped the overseas Worldcon, the NASFIC seemed like a misguided attempt to be a substitute. But a NASFIC in Puerto Rico was very appealing for a couple of reasons: I am half Puerto Rican, and we could take a tour of the Arecibo Telescope. And of course, I figured it was a chance to connect with authors and old friends and all that….

(5) THE GOOD, THE WEIRD, AND THE SCROLLY: Over at Featured Futures, Jason comments on the month in webzine fiction with a list of links to remarkable tales — “Summation of Online Fiction: July 2017”.

Aside from a two-part novella from Beneath Ceaseless Skies (which was just a flash away from counting as a novel), July was a relatively light month in the webzine world. The number of noteworthy stories is also light, but Clarkesworld continued its resurgence with a July issue that was probably even better overall than the June (though each had a standout story), Ellen Datlow picked another for Tor.com, and some other zines also contributed particularly good work.

(6) HITTING THE TARGET. Having seen some make the wrong choice, Sarah A. Hoyt advises indie authors to find “The Right Slot” – to be sure they’re marketing their work in its proper genre. In her latest column for Mad Genius Club she takes a cut at defining several genres, beginning with fantasy.

The SUBJECT determines genre.  A non exhaustive list of genres and subgenres and subjects (this is off the top of my head and I’ll miss some.  If you guys want an exhaustive list it will take a long time.)

Fantasy – Anything that is technically impossible in our reality, by our physical rules, including but not limited to supernatural beings, all the creatures of Tolkien, etc.  Often draws on the myths and legends of mankind.

Has subgenres: High Fantasy – Tolkien-like.  Also often known as heroic fantasy.

Alternate history – usually where magic works, but still related to our world.

Urban fantasy, which might of might not be a subgenre of alternate history.  It’s not just “fantasy in a city.”  Although both F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack and Larry Correia’s monster hunters are technically urban fantasy, as is my Shifter series, it would be more honest to call it “contemporary fantasy.”

Urban fantasy has a structure added to the theme and location, and that often involves a young woman with powers, a love interest on the dark side, etc.  Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Paranormal Romance – Like Urban Fantasy but way more in the romance and sex side.  In fact, it’s more a subgenre of romance, really.

(7) SF WORTH WAITING FOR. T.W. O’Brien declares “The Future Library Is a Vote of Confidence Humanity Will Make It to 2114” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

The work of Scottish artist Katie Paterson is nothing as mundane as oil on canvas or carved marble. Her works includes  Timepieces—nine clocks showing the time on the planets of our solar system, plus the Earth’s moon (Pluto still loses out); Fossil Necklace—170 beads carved from fossils, each representing a major event in the 3 billion year history of life on Earth; and Campo del Cielo, Field of Sky—a 4.5 billion year old meteorite, melted then recast into a replica of its original form, and finally returned to space by the European Space Agency.

In May 2014, Paterson planted 1000 Norwegian spruce trees in a forest north of Oslo, Norway. The plan is to harvest them in 2114 for paper to print a limited edition anthology of books. Each year, starting in 2014, an author was to be invited to write a book for Paterson’s project, Future Library; he or she will have one year to complete the work, which then won’t be read  until well after the turn of the next century. 

The completed manuscripts will be kept in a specially designed room on the fifth floor of the New Deichmanske Library in Oslo. The authors’ names and the book titles will be on display, but the manuscripts themselves will be unread until the anthology is published in 2114.

(8) THE ELVISH SPECTRUM.

Key: First row vertical: Hugo Weaving, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett from The Hobbit as Elrond, Thranduil, and Galadriel. Second row vertical: Marvel: Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger), Ronan the Accuser (Guardians of the Galaxy), Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)

(9) JORDIN KARE. Paul Gilster mourns the astrophysicist and filker in two excellent posts at Centauri Dreams, “Remembering Jordin Kare (1956-2017)”, and “SailBeam: A Conversation with Jordin Kare”.

Looking around on the Net for background information about Jordin Kare, who died last week at age 60 (see yesterday’s post), I realized how little is available on his SailBeam concept, described yesterday. SailBeam accelerates myriads of micro-sails and turns them into a plasma when they reach a departing starship, giving it the propulsion to reach one-tenth of lightspeed. Think of it as a cross between the ‘pellet propulsion’ ideas of Cliff Singer and the MagOrion concept explored by Dana Andrews.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick

(11) A LIST TOP DC MOVIES. Io9 gives you “All 28 DC Animated Original Movies, Ranked”. Why isn’t the new Wonder Woman movie #1? Because, like the title says, this is a list of their animated movies. Cancel the heart attacks…

This list contains the 28 DC Animated Original movies released so far, ranked from worst to best on the quality of their story, characters, and adaptation of the source material….

(12) STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST. Wil Wheaton heartily endorses

Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon, is essential reading for all artists.

It’s a quick read that you can finish in one sitting, but the ideas and advice it contains will stay with you long after you’ve put it down. Some of Austin’s suggestions will validate what you’re already doing, some will challenge you to fundamentally change a creative practice, others will inspire you to grab a notebook and get to work immediately.

Because it’s such a small and accessible book, you’ll want to go back to it from time to time. Just like Stephen King’s On Writing, as you change and grow as an artist, it reveals new ideas and inspirations to you that you may have missed on a previous read.

This is a fantastic addition to your library, and a wonderful gift for any creative person in your life.

(13) WIELD THE POWER. I can’t possibly resist reading an item headlined “Wow, the Iron Throne Makes an Excellent Phone Charger!” – at Tor.com.

YouTube crafters Natural Nerd have a new video up showing viewers how to make their own custom Iron Throne phone charger. It’s marvelously simple, and could make for a good starter project if you’re interested in exploring nerd crafts. Basically, make a throne out of blocks of wood, glue on a ton of cocktail swords, coat in metallic paint, and thread in the charger cord, and you’re there!

(14) SUPERMAN WITH A ‘STACHE. Henry Cavill’s upper lip is a story: “Justice League’s telling reshoots involve Joss Whedon, more banter, absolutely no mustaches”.

Superman can do anything, it seems, but have a mustache. Or to be more accurate, it’s Henry Cavill’s mustache that’s reportedly causing some problems for Warner Bros.’ upcoming Justice League movie, which is due to be released on November 17 but is nonetheless currently undergoing extensive reshoots (which are generally filmed to fix or replace scenes that aren’t working). After initial filming on Justice League was complete, it seems that Cavill reasonably assumed he was done playing the smooth-jawed Man of Steel for a minute and grew out his facial hair for a part in the next Mission: Impossible movie. According to a new Variety report, however, Justice League is being retooled so much — with an assist from The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, no less, now that director Zack Snyder has stepped away from the project to cope with his daughter’s recent death — that Warner Bros. has agreed to just digitally remove Cavill’s mustache from any reshot Justice League scenes rather than lose any more time.

But Jon Bogdanove thinks it would make a great addition.

(15) MARVEL VALUE STAMPS. The publisher is bringing them back:

Who saved them? Who clipped them? Who collected them? This fall, the Marvel Universe returns to an untapped corner of its expansive history for MARVEL LEGACY with the return of the Marvel Value Stamps. Just as Marvel Legacy is bridging the past and the future of Marvel’s iconic universe, this nostalgia-based program is designed to excite new readers. Comic fans may remember these fondly, while new fans and the uninitiated will be able to enjoy them without destroying their prized possessions!

Inspired by the classic 1970’s program where different stamps could be clipped from the letters page of Marvel books, fans will be able to collect stamps featuring all their favorite Marvel characters. These stamps will be on inserts within the regular cover editions for all first issue Marvel Legacy titles, beginning with titles debuting in October. And a proper homage to these collectible stamps wouldn’t be complete without a collectible stamp album – to be revealed!

(16) THE OLDS. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf leads into her review of the latest (August 1962) issue of Fantastic with a survey of the news — “[July 26, 1962] The Long and Short of It (August 1962 Fantastic)”.

…AT&T launched Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite (which we’ll be covering in the next article!)

The world of literature suffered a major loss with the death of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner.

In Los Angeles, young artist Andy Warhol exhibited a work consisting of thirty-two paintings of cans of Campbell’s Soup….

(17) GAZE INTO THE FUTURE. And don’t forget to sign up for Galactic Journey Tele-Conference #2, happening Saturday, July 29, where they’ll present their predictions for the 1962 Hugo Science Fiction Awards.

(18) THE PLAY’S THE THING. A local community theater in Urbana, IL is staging Jordan Harrison’s 2014 play Marjorie Prime, recently produced as a movie. It runs July 27-August 12. An interview with the director is here. Get tickets here.

Marjorie Prime, written by Jordan Harrison and directed for the Station by Mathew Green, is a near-future play where technology has gone just a little farther than today. In the show, Tess is caring for her elderly mother, and Tess’ husband Jon advocates for the use of an artificial intelligence companion called a “Prime”. Primes are designed to help a particular person, in this case Marjorie, record and retain their memories, often taking the form of someone close to the subject.

(19) LIFE UNPLUGGED. Gareth D. Jones discusses “The Real Town Murders by Adam Roberts (book review)” at SF Crowsnest.

….One of the consequences of Alma’s divorce from the on-line Real Town is that she can no longer check references and definitions and she quickly realises that everyone’s speech is littered with literary and historical references. This makes an interesting game for the reader, too, attempting to parse and divine all of the little jokes and quotes that Adam Roberts has thrown in along the way. To add to the interest, characters who spend much of their time on-line find real-life speech difficult so that several conversations consist of stammering and stuttering and the breaking of words into individual syllables replaced with homophonous single-syllable words. It’s quite fun to follow the convoluted and sometimes rambling speech.

The basic plot of the book follows Alma’s investigations into the miraculously-appearing dead body, with a secondary investigation into a mysteriously skinny man…..

(20) A BOY CALLED PERCY. At Black Gate, Derek Kunsken tells when he learned the true theme of a famous YA series: “Crappy Parents All Around: A Look At Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson Series”

…Eventually, I recommended it to a friend for his kids, who were complaining about their road-tripping. When my friend got back, he thanked me for the rec and said “It’s all about shitty parents.”

For some reason, I hadn’t clued into this as the theme. Perhaps I’d taken it as straight-on adventure. Maybe I hadn’t considered how lucky I am to have the parents and extended family I did. Then it occurred to me what a giant strategic advantage it was to Riordan to have linked crappy parents to the Greek myths.

Percy is of course pretty miffed at times about having Poseidon essentially be a dead-beat dad whom he doesn’t meet until he’s twelve and who really doesn’t meaningfully interact with him even after that. He has a crappy step-dad to boot, but he’s not the only one with parental issues….

(21) IN VINO. Martin Morse Wooster has sent File 770 lots of beer label stories. Now he tries to even the score by reporting that Australian wine lovers can enjoy Some Young Punks‘ vintage “Monsters Monsters Attack!”

A full 750ml of Monster Mayhem bottled up for far too long breaks and takes over the unsuspecting city. Trixie and Tessa’s middle names are danger and adventure but is the maelstrom released by the raging beast too fierce to be calmed by their charms? Will they arrive in time or will a deadly rage be realised.

Variety / Vintage     2015 Clare Valley Riesling

Vineyards     We sourced fruit from two sites in the Clare Valley; Mocundunda and Milburn. All the fruit was whole bunch pressed before fermentation in a mixture of stainless and neutral oak by a mixture of cultured and indigenous yeast. Post ferment the wine is merely stabbed and filtered prior to bottling.

(22) ONCE TOO OFTEN. Adam-Troy Castro files a grievance: “’What if I Told You’ There Was Another Way to Impart Exposition?”

Thing that I am getting awfully sick of, in dramatic presentations of sf/fantasy works.

Honestly, if I ever see this again, it will be too soon.

The exposition-sentence that begins with, “What if I told you–”

Usually followed by something that sounds batshit insane to the person who’s been living a normal life until that moment.

I first became aware of this with Laurence Fishburne in THE MATRIX, but it has become the go-to form, and I just saw it with the trailer for the new TV series, THE INHUMANS. I think but cannot be sure that it was in DOCTOR STRANGE too. But it’s certainly all over the place….

(23) YOU COULD ALWAYS TRY THE AUTOGRAPH LINE. Here are the places George R.R. Martin will not be signing at Worldcon 75:

For those of you who want books signed, please, bring them to one of my two listed autograph sessions. I will NOT be signing before or after panels, at parties, during lunch or breakfast or dinner, at the urinal, in the elevator, on the street, in the hall. ONLY at the autograph table. If the lines are as long as they usually are, I’ll only be signing one book per person.

You can also find his programming schedule at the link.

(24) LAUGH WARS. Martin Morse Wooster says Star Wars Supercuts:  Parodies of The Trench Run is “a really funny four-minute mashup from IMDB of lots of parodies of the Death Star Trench Run. I particularly liked the Family Guy bit where Red Leader is followed by Redd Foxx, Red Buttons, and Big Red chewing gum…”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jason, Evelyn Leeper, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jim Meadows, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 6/26/17 Tyme Scrollfari, Inc. Scrollfaris Tu Any Pixel En The Fyle

(1) OFF THE TOP OF HER HEAD. In “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Celebrating Rainbow Hair”, Cat Rambo delves into the history and symbolism of the hairstyle.

A common adjective in many of the more conservative, alt-right, and other theater-of-outrage rants I’ve seen in the past couple of years is “rainbow-haired,” never in a positive sense. It’s usually paired with some form of “social justice warrior,” and often accompanied by an emotional catch-phrase or verbiage like “feels” or “drinking the tears.” There’s a lot of interesting stuff built into that particular fixation. So let’s dig around to find what’s contained in the phrase and its use in this pejorative sense….

Rainbow hair is grounded in a counter-cultural movement. It celebrates individuality and a certain DIY spirit (there is no shame in going to the salon for it, but I find it much more fun to do my own). It celebrates one’s appearance, draws the eye rather than shrinking away from it. It is something beautiful that those who don’t fit inside normal standards of beauty can have. It is playful, joyful, delightful at times.

Very recently it has spread like wildfire, and many of the people adopting it are millennials. This gives the anti-rainbow hair sentiment a double-whammy, providing an “oh these kids nowadays” moment while slamming anyone older for acting overly young. (Which implies that’s a bad thing, which isn’t a notion I agree with).

Here’s something that I think often makes conservative minds bristle: it confuses gender norms. In traditional thinking, men aren’t supposed to care about or celebrate their appearance in the way women are. But rainbow hair appears all over the gender spectrum. Pull in the strand of meaning associated with gay pride, and the objectionability quotient increases.

There’s a reason alt-right and other manifestations of conservative trollish rhetoric so often focuses on appearance, on fat-shaming or fuckability or even how a new Ken-doll wears their hair. It’s a reversion to the schoolyard insult, the way insecure children will be cruel to others in order to try to build their internal self-worth, a behavior many, but sadly not all, outgrow. Worthy of an essay in itself is the fact that it’s also behavior advantageous to advertisers: anxious consumers who want to fit in are willing to spend money in the effort.

(2) TURNOVER AT MAD. ComicsBeat knows the name of the next bullgoose loony: “Dept. of Funny Business: Bill Morrison is named new Executive Editor of Mad Magazine” .

Ending a suspenseful watch that lasted a few months, the white smoke has finally risen from DC Entertainment, signaling the election of a new pope of humor: Bill Morrison will be the new executive editor of Mad Magazine when it moves westward later this year.

…Well, every irreplaceable person seems irreplaceable until you find someone who will do the job differently but as well, and so it is with Morrison, an animation and comic veteran who has worked with the Bongo Comics line of Simpson Comics and many other hilarious things for years. He’s a great cartoonist himself and knows the score up and down and inside out.

(3) DORTMUND DOCKET. Detailed panel notes are the highlight of Tomas Cronholm’s report about “U-Con, Eurocon 2017”.

This was a fairly small Eurocon, with 375 attending members. The venue was some kind of school, with a big hall suitable for the main programme and some smaller rooms, a bar and a dealers’ area. Perfect for the size of the convention. Here are some reports from the programme items

(4) SPACE RELIC CONSERVATION. The Apollo XI spacecraft goes on the road: “Moonwalkers’ Apollo 11 Capsule Gets Needed Primping For Its Star Turn On Earth”

Until recently, the capsule sat in the main lobby of the National Air and Space Museum, where it had been since the museum opened in 1976. Conservator Lisa Young says that occasionally workers would open up its Plexiglas case to look it over or put in new lighting.

“But it never really went under a full examination or investigative analysis as to all of the certain materials on there, how stable they are,” says Young, who is working on the spacecraft now in a restoration hangar at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

“Our big job as conservators right now is to figure out, if we are going to put it back on display permanently, what could be happening to it in 50 years,” says Young, who wants to prevent future deterioration.

(5) SKYFULL. SpaceX non-fiction double feature: “SpaceX completes launch and landing double bill”

Late on Friday, [SpaceX] used one of its refurbished Falcon 9 vehicles to put up a Bulgarian satellite from Florida.

Then on Sunday, SpaceX lofted another 10 spacecraft for telecommunications company Iridium. This time, the rocket flew out of California.

Both missions saw the Falcon first-stages come back to Earth under control to drone ships that had been positioned out on the ocean.

(6) AUTHORIAL PALETTE. There’s an overview of Ben Blatt’s research in this PRI article: “A journalist uses statistics to uncover authors’ ‘cinnamon words'”.

In the book, Blatt refers to these patterns as an author’s “stylistic fingerprint.” In one line of inquiry, he dusts for prints by calculating famous authors’ favorite words — the terms they use “at an extreme ratio” compared to other writers. He calls them “cinnamon words,” after an anecdote about the novelist Ray Bradbury.

“The motivation for looking at this was, I had read this book that just asked authors their favorite words, and Ray Bradbury said, ‘My favorite word is cinnamon because it reminds me of my grandmother’s pantry,’” Blatt says.

Sure enough, Bradbury’s fans can find the word cinnamon sprinkled throughout his writing, from descriptions of dusty roads and red-brown hills to the dark Egyptian tomb that “breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon and powdered camel dung.”

“So, he’s using it all the time,” Blatt says. “And building on that, I wanted to look at hundreds of other authors to see, were there other similar words that were jumping out of a writer’s inner voice.”

(7) FLUXBUN WARNING. The new PhotonFlux bar in Wellington, New Zealand will celebrate World UFO Day on July 2.

Years in the making Anton and Nina imaged what the future would be like. Will it be a post-apocalyptic survival or, a future where everybody wears the same thing and live in peace with robots in a bubble city.

Either way we want to take photos of it, gather evidence and travel there.

Photonflux is the place where possible future will be planned, discussed and changed.

The headquarters offers the revolutionary fluxbun, a fried dough filled with various flavours in a casual setting. For World UFO Day your filling will be in the hands of our creative chef.

However if you do not wish to be pleasantly surprised you can pick from our menu.

Chris Barlow gave it a thumbs up review on Google Plus.

One of a kind, a sci-fi themed bar in Wellington! Like stepping into another dimension – as you enter you’re immediately surrounded by eye-popping visuals straight out of the film set. Delicious “Flux buns” are teleported care of the in-house “galactic food truck”, complemented by an eclectic range of tap beer. A must see in Wellington.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once hosted a reception for time travelers — but only advertised the event after it had ended. [Source: Huffington Post.]

(9) TODAY’S ANNIVERSARY BOOK

(10) LATE ADOPTER. In honor of the anniversary, John Scalzi tells how he found his way to Platform 9-3/4: “Harry Potter and the Initially Dismissive But Ultimately Appreciative Fan”.

But as it turns out neither Harry Potter nor J.K. Rowling were done with me. First, of course, it turned out that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (and Rowling) weren’t Tears for Fears; they were the Beatles. And like the Beatles they weren’t just popular. They materially changed common culture — for a start, because they also changed the industry that they came out of, and the work of everyone in their field, who either responded to them or were influenced by them. Now, one may, like me, decide a phenomenon like that isn’t for you, but when literally(!) the world is changing to deal with and make room for that phenomenon, you still have to acknowledge that it’s there and work with it, or at least around it. Particularly when and if, like me, it comes out of the fields (in this case publishing and writing) you hope to be in, and in my case were eventually part of.

Second, I found another way in to Rowling’s wizarding world: through the movies, which were for me in a way that I, from that snippet of the second book, assumed the books were not. In retrospect this is not at all surprising — I was a professional film critic for several years, and I’ve written two books on film, and, as anyone who has ever read my novels can tell you, the storytelling structure of film is a huge influence on my storytelling in prose. My professional and creative interest in film helped that version of Harry Potter’s story speak to me.

(11) CIRCULAR REASONING SQUAD. In a post densely filled with animated GIFs, Sarah A. Hoyt responds to her critics on the right and what they had to say about her recent Sad Puppies-themed post for Mad Genius Club.

I did not feel guilty about a) not turning over Sad Puppies to someone else. Sad Puppies was Larry’s, then Brad’s, then Kate’s, and is now mine and next year will be mostly Amanda’s. We were in it from the beginning, and we have decided long ago that it would stay within the cabal, because none of us — all of us public figures to a degree or another — can afford to have something associated with our name taken down a crazy road without us having control over it. b) Not putting up a list for the Hugos — I was never going to put up a list. And I feel queasy about encouraging people to vote for an award that has been so thoroughly tainted. c) Not putting up a list for the Dragon. The Dragon is bigger than any of us. Some small names got in last year, but they were just because it was the first time. Right now I’m not big enough for the dragons, and I doubt any who covet it are either. d) I thought it was time to get out from between the fight of the Volksdeutshe expatriate and the guardians of chorfdom…

And she addresses specific criticisms about her latest Mad Genius Club post by saying she doesn’t understand why they’re down on her.

So, imagine my surprise when my post immediately attracted two commenters yelling at me for… well… actually I have no idea because most of it makes no sense. You guys can see the comments yourselves. There’s something about me looking down on people who don’t use the right oyster fork. You guys know my background and my question on this is… there’s a FORK? FOR OYSTERS? Why?

The other one apparently had something about me slandering other puppy-descended movements, which frankly… was news to me. First slander doesn’t mean what they think it means. Second, I’m fairly sure to slander them I’d have to mention them, and I don’t recall I have, except for Superversive, for whose anthology, Forbidden thoughts I wrote a short story. (It was as a press of that name needs to make it a rather more on-the-nose anthology than I’d have made it, but the point is I wasn’t the editor, the stories weren’t mine to choose, and it would be a funny world if my aesthetics were the only ones that counted, right? So, saying they have different tastes from me doesn’t count as a slander, right? particularly when I still wrote for them. Either that or I don’t know what slander means. Maybe I slandered them BY writing for them? I’m SOOOOOOO confused.)

(12) UNFRIENDLY FIRE. In addition to the comments there, Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club post about Sad Puppies also attracted some large bore artillery fire from Russell Newquist, “This Is What A Complete Leadership Failure Looks Like”, for the inactivity of SP5 in general, and her chastising Declan Finn for trying to jumpstart it last January.

Sarah Hoyt’s leadership of the Sad Puppies V campaign is a classic case study in leadership failure. If you ever want the absolute pitch perfect example of what not to do in a leadership position, look no further. This tale has everything: incompetence, insanity, bullying, harassment, technical difficulties, lack of vision, and just plain bitchiness. If I tried to create an example of bad leadership from scratch, I couldn’t make one this complete. If she were trying to destroy the Sad Puppies campaign and help the other side, she couldn’t have done a better job of it.

This, my friends, is a tail of abject, utter fail.

Sad Puppies V (SPV from here out) failed in literally every conceivable way, so this may take a bit. Bear with me….

(13) POLITICAL AUTOPSY. I spotted the Hoyt and Newquist links above in Camestros Felapton’s post “Sad Popcorn” where he tries to make sense of it all. If that’s possible.

(14) D&D HISTORY. Cecilia D’Anastasio tells Kotaku readers “Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women”, though her very first illustration seems strangely out of synch with the rest of her case:

Almost every copy of the first Dungeons & Dragons adventure written by a woman is buried in a landfill in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Those copies, published in 1980, were the masterwork of a game designer named Jean Wells, who worked for D&D’s first publisher, TSR. Wells designed Palace of the Silver Princess to her tastes, and with no regard for TSR’s mandate to make the game more kid-friendly. At one point in the module, players encounter a beautiful young woman hanging from the ceiling, naked, by her own hair. “Nine ugly men can be seen poking their swords lightly into her flesh, all the while taunting her in an unknown language,” the module reads. In-game, this scene turns out to be a simple magical illusion—but the accompanying illustration included in the module that TSR shipped to hobby shops nationally was not.

“A little bit of bondage here, a little torture there, worked its way into the Palace of the Silver Princess module,” Stephen Sullivan, a close friend of Wells and the adventure’s editor, told me. After it was properly reviewed—post-production—TSR’s executives went ballistic. Seventy-two hours after Palace of the Silver Princess was released, it was retracted.

“It was what Jean wanted it to be,” Sullivan said of the module. (Wells passed away in 2012.) “It was her baby. And for another place and another time, it probably would have been just perfect,” Sullivan said. Those retracted modules, now dubbed the “orange versions,” are buried somewhere under Lake Geneva’s flat, Midwestern landscape. It was soon rewritten by D&D designer Tom Moldvay and redistributed with Wells’ name relegated to the second credit.

(15) TOP NOVELS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has been burning the midnight oil: here’s their discussion of two more nominees.

Second-Book Syndrome

Perhaps the book suffers from being the second in a trilogy. As such, it can’t have the originality and vigor of a first book and also can’t have as epic a conclusion as a third book.

Jemisin’s strength as a writer and deft social commentary make this a worthwhile read. Questions of race, class and gender are explored thoughtfully and with nuance. The characters speak with their own voices, and grow.

Alabaster’s slow decline as he tries to pass along knowledge to Essun, and Essun’s growing control of her magic could have been nothing more than a Hero’s Journey ™ like that of Obi-Wan and Luke. But Jemisin’s more nuanced character building elevates this relationship to something more touching and poignant.  Again, she raises the readers’ expectations as they progress through the book.

 The End Is Nigh Again

One of the recurring themes in “big” science fiction is the impending end of the world. In Death’s End, the end of the world is nigh on no fewer than six occasions, only to be averted suddenly through deux et machina each time.  The frequency of these calamities within the book, and how precipitously they are forgotten devalues them, and left our book group struggling to care.

The character of Cheng Xin is one of the weakest parts of the book, as none of us were really able to understand her motivations or her personality. She’s faced with conflict after conflict throughout the book, and presented with a wide variety of moral dilemmas, but through it all she remains a cypher.

In the previous two books the author wrote from several points of view other than the main character.

Death’s End focuses almost solely on Cheng Xin, with just a brief portion from Tianming’s perspective. This leaves other interesting characters — like Luo Ji and Wade — on the sidelines. The omission of their perspectives is a missed opportunity that points to the lack of depth in the book.

(16) HUGO QUIP. No reviews in this post this post by Camestros Felapton, but there’s a lively bon mot:

Best Series – the category that somehow manages to combine elements of both the protestant work ethic and Catholic guilt in one package.

(17) DARK TOWER. A new featurette from The Dark Tower – The Legacy of the Gunslinger.

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Greg Hullender, Nigel, Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/20/17 Hugos And Dragons And Campbells Oh My!

(1) HAN SOLO DIRECTORS AXED. The untitled Star Wars Han Solo spinoff started principal photography on February 20 at London’s Pinewood Studios, but progress has come to an ass-grinding stop with the departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who cited “creative differences” for the split.

Variety’s article puts it a bit differently — “’Star Wars’ Han Solo Spinoff: Lord & Miller Fired After Clashing With Kathleen Kennedy”.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s reputation for writing irreverent, poppy films such as “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie” helped the white-hot writing and directing duo land one of the most coveted gigs in Hollywood — a chance to call the shots on a “Star Wars” film.

But their chance to put their stamp on a galaxy far, far away collapsed on Tuesday with the stunning announcement that the pair would be departing the still untitled Han Solo spin-off movie in the midst of production. Their exit comes after months of conflict with producer Kathleen Kennedy, others from her LucasFilm team, and co-writer and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan, and the two directors hired to infuse the “Star Wars” universe with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility.

Miller and Lord were stunned to find that they were not being granted freedom to run the production in the manner that they were accustomed to. They balked at Kennedy’s tight control on the set.

(2) SAY IT OUT LOUD. Madeleine E. Robins has some advice about dialect in “’Ow’s that, Guv’nor?: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

So maybe, even if you hear the words you’ve written with a perfect what-ever-it-is accent, you’ll want to think carefully before giving voice to their accents. This is a time when enlisting the assistance of a friend can be useful. Read aloud to them and ask them to tell tell you if it works. If your listener says you’re more [Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweep] than Sir Ben Kingsley, rethink.

But my dialogue is written in dialect! Okay, but you don’t have to read inflections that are not in the page. If you’ve got a character saying “I don’t know ‘ow!” you can soften the presumed “Oi” in I; if you aren’t good at the vowels, don’t hit ’em hard. And remember, it’s more important that your listeners follow the sense and meaning of the words than that they get a full theatrical performance.

(3) RED PLANET INTERIOR DECORATORS. Jeremy White in WIRED (“IKEA designers are living in a Mars simulator to get inspiration for future collections. Really”) says that IKEA sent an in-house design team to spend seven days at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, who then decided how to make a Mars mission “more homey” and then use that knowledge to aid in IKEA’s product development.

At its annual Democratic Design Day event in Älmhult, Sweden, IKEA has revealed its latest collaborations and products, with a focus on millennials and space travel. Yes, space travel.

To this end, IKEA has done something rather drastic. It’s banished a delegation of its in-house design team to live in a simulated Mars habitat at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, America, to learn what it’s like to live in the inhospitable and cramped environs of off-world settlements.

When the company learned that Nasa and students from Sweden’s Lund University School of Industrial Design were working on what would be needed for a three-year space mission to Mars, IKEA requested to join the project.

The home furnishings giant wants to tap in to what scientists and engineers learn from spaceflight to Mars, and apply these discoveries to products and methods for everyday life at home. Marcus Engman, head of design at IKEA, said the company wants to find out what could make space travel “homey” and to identify the boundaries and restraints needed to work in that environment, and then port that knowledge into IKEA’s own product development and “use space knowledge for a better everyday life on Earth”.

(4) TENTACLE TIME. Camestros Felapton reviews a science fictional-themed brew, complete with photos of its exotic label, in “Tuesday Beer: Galactopus @LittleBangBrew”.

…I know my readers would WANT me to drink a beer called “Galactopus”, which features a planet devouring octopus on the label.

The sacrifices I make for you all.

The label has some very clever copy. I wonder how many beer labels a person has to author to qualify for SFWA?

(5) RHETORICAL QUESTION. Having seen the Wonder Woman movie Daniel Dern wants to know, “Why no kangas on Paradise Island?”

(6) HOWARD. The duck’s cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy give his leading lady a new excuse to brag: “Lea Thompson Talks ‘Howard the Duck,’ Claims Her Crown as First Queen of Marvel”.

Lea Thompson couldn’t give a quack about what you think of Howard the Duck, the puntastic 1986 Marvel Comics-based action-comedy that ran afowl of movie critics and has lived in film infamy ever since. The George Lucas-produced movie has a fan base out there, and that’s good enough for her.

“People love that movie!” Thompson said of “HTD,” as she likes to call it, during a Facebook Live interview with Yahoo Movies (watch the full interview below). “They’re releasing it again in Blu-ray or something… They don’t just do that because they’re nice.” (The film was made available on Blu-ray for the first time last May.) “It’s a hilariously bizarre movie,” Thompson continued. “The only thing that I can say that I don’t like about it is that I thought it was a little long.”

The film, which featured the Back to the Future breakout as a Cleveland singer who helps the anthropomorphic duck acclimate to life on Earth, runs 110 minutes, which is still well short of the average runtime of today’s Marvel movies, including the two Guardians of the Galaxy films that have briefly resuscitated Mr. HTD

(7) FIVE STARS. Marion Deeds and Kat Hooper each take a cut at Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders at Fantastic Literature. Here’s Marion’s first paragraph:

Spoonbenders (2017) by Daryl Gregory, is multi-generational family saga. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a psychic adventure story and a weird conspiracy tale for lovers of shadowy CIA projects like MKULTRA. It’s a gangster story. There’s a heist. There is a long con, and a madcap comedy along the lines of classic Marx Brothers routines. There are a couple of romances, a direct-distribution scheme, a medallion, a cow and a puppy. If we’re talking genre, I don’t know what Spoonbenders is. I know I loved it. I know it was fun and made me laugh, I know it was scary at times and I know I closed the book feeling happy and sad. And I know it’s a five-star book.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian notes an amusing sf reference today in Bliss.

(9) SAD PUPPIES PROGRESS REPORT. Sarah A. Hoyt returned to tell Mad Genius Club readers what happened to Sad Puppies 5 in “About Those Lost Puppies”. After a lengthy recap of her version of history, she reaches the tentative present:

…Our intention was always to just create a page, in which those who register can post reading recommendations, not just of recent years, but of anything that struck their fancy.  There will be a place where you can say when the book was published and if it’s eligible for an award — and not just a science fiction award — and a link to the award page for people to follow, if so minded.  Yeah, we’ll include the Hugo, but probably with a note saying the award is in the process of self-destructing.

Thing is, I meant to have this up before nominations for the Dragon Award opened.  But on top of the comedy of errors above, our website provider either crashed or was hacked, so while trying to survive auto-immune and meeting more deliveries than UPS, I’ve been trying to get it up and running again.  (My author site is down also.)

So, that’s where we are.  We’ll put it up sometime in the next couple of months, and then Amanda and I will run it, and then Amanda will take over  Or Amanda, Kate and I will continue shepherding it.

When we said this before and pointed out that PARTICULARLY indie books need some place to mention them, we were linked to/lectured by someone one the rabid side, because apparently they already have a site, so we don’t need one of our own.

Tips hat to the right.  Thank you kindly.  But you guys are aware your aesthetics and goals aren’t ours, right?

You just turned Marxist aesthetics on their head, and are judging books by being anti-Marxist and how much they don’t support the neo Marxist idea of justice.  That’s cool and all.  To each his own.  And since, so far, your crazy isn’t being taught in schools, it’s slightly less annoying than the Marxist crazy.

It is still annoying, though, because you’re still judging literary value by whether it fits your (at least as crazy-cakes’ as the Marxists) narrative and your precepts….

(10) I ATE THE WHOLE THING. It’s been reliably reported that Whole Foods was not long for existence if Bezos or the like hadn’t bought them. “Amazon Eats Up Whole Foods as the New Masters of the Universe Plunder America” japes The Daily Beast’s Joel Kotkin.

Unlike our old moguls, the new Masters don’t promise greater prosperity but a world where most people are to be satiated by a state-provided basic income and occasional ‘gig’ work.

 

(11) PLAY BALL The Washington Post’s Scott Allen, in a piece called “Nationals will hide ‘dragon eggs’ ahead of ‘Game of Thrones’ Night”,  says the Washington Nationals have hidden 10 “dragon eggs” in the D.C. area, and if you find one fabulous prizes can be yours at the Nationals’ Game of Thrones night.

Nationals Park will look and feel a bit more like Westeros, the fictional continent from the popular HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, when the Nationals host the Reds on “Game of Thrones” Night on Friday.

Ahead of the event, the Nationals will hide 10 prize-filled “dragon eggs” in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. A Westeros-themed map posted on the team’s social channels and in The Washington Post Express on Tuesday morning will guide fans to the eggs, which contain a Nationals and “Game of Thrones” co-branded T-shirt, two tickets to Friday’s game and a fast-pass to pose for a photo on the 800-pound Iron Throne that will be located in the Right Field Plaza.

…The Racing Presidents will wear different-colored cloaks with faux fur designed by Ingrid Crepeau, the same woman behind the elaborate costumes that the Racing Presidents have worn on “Star Wars Day” since 2015. Teddy and George showed off their costumes at AwesomeCon in D.C. over the weekend. Screech will be dressed as his favorite “Game of Thrones” character, the three-eyed Raven.

 

(12) SEUSS MUSEUM. The Washington Post’s Andrea Sachs asks, “Will the Dr. Seuss museum be one of the places you’ll go?” Her article reports on the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts, where museumgoers can make small books or “a Lorax mustache on a wooden stick, look at his art, and see the rooms where he wrote and drew his books, including hats given him from fans of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

The ground floor brings to life several of his 40-plus children’s books. The front door opens up to “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” the first children’s book Seuss published. A statue of a police officer patrols a zany parade painted on the wall. Around the bend, step into McGrew’s Zoo, a riot of animals, most not found in the wild. A diagram shows some of the pretend creatures from “If I Ran the Zoo.” There is a preep, a proo, a nerkle and a nerd. Yes, a nerd — a word Seuss made up. Continue onward to make the acquaintance of Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax and the tower of turtles from — burp — “Yertle the Turtle.”

Here’s the direct link to “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum”.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss is a permanent, bilingual museum designed to introduce children and their families to the stories of Ted Geisel, promote joy in reading, and nurture specific literacy skills. The 3,200-square-foot first floor exhibition will provide opportunities to explore new sounds and vocabulary, play rhyming games, invent stories, and engage in activities that encourage teamwork and creative thinking.

The second floor will be filled with personal memorabilia belonging to Ted Geisel, including original oil paintings, a collection of zany hats and bowties, the original Geisel Grove sign which used to hang in Forest Park, and furniture from Ted’s sitting room and studio, including his drawing board, breakfast table, sofa, and armchair.

(13) NAZI RELICS. Matt Novak of Gizmodo covers the “Huge Collection of Nazi Artifacts Discovered Inside Secret Room in Argentina”.

Federal police in Argentina recently discovered a time capsule of evil, hidden inside a house near Buenos Aires. Roughly 75 Nazi artifacts, including everything from a large knife to Nazi medical devices to a photo negative of Adolph Hitler, were uncovered in a secret room. Police are investigating when and how the items entered the South American country….

One reason that authorities in Buenos Aires has some degree of certainty that they are originals is that some items from the collection are pictured in photographs with Nazi leaders. For example, one item in the collection is a magnifying glass. The same magnifying glass is seen in a photo negative from the collection showing Hitler himself. Investigators showed the photo to the Associated Press on the condition that the photo not be published.

“This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects,” said Bullrich.

 [Thanks to JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 6/14/17 Will the Pixel Be Unbroken

As I was about to say yesterday, before I was interrupted…

(1) THE SOUND OF MONEY. Kristine Kathryn Rusch pointed her readers to bestselling writer Michael J. Sullivan’s a post on Reddit titled “Why Del Rey and I Will Be Parting Ways” and gave a complimentary analysis on the way Sullivan handled his audiobook rights.

Here, I want to applaud Michael and his wife Robin for their negotiating skills and for their attitude.

To summarize the highlights of the blog about Del Rey, for those of you who haven’t jumped over to read it, Michael and Robin learned from their first major contract with a traditional publisher to retain audio rights. Michael and Robin didn’t do so on that first big contract, and then the audio rights sold for $400,000, of which Michael and Robin saw only $200,000 (subsidiary rights in a standard publishing contract are split 50/50 with a publisher).

So — and here’s a nice bit of brilliance — Michael and Robin didn’t want to lose audio rights again. When the time to negotiate a new Del Rey contract came around, Michael and Robin had already sold audio rights to those books, taking those rights off the table entirely.

They thought through what they wanted, and rather than argue over the rights, or get the print publisher to bump an advance, or go through all of the little tricks that people on the other side of the table do when negotiating, Michael and Robin were proactive. They made sure they got what they wanted with audio first.

And there’s a lot more good information in Rusch’s post.

(2) THE FLUID PAST. Guy Gavriel Kay tweeted a link to this article, one in which he is cited and discussed. “‘Facts are not truth’: Hilary Mantel goes on the record about historical fiction”.

In Mantel’s view, the past is not something we passively consume, either, but that which we actively “create” in each act of remembrance. That’s not to say, of course, that Mantel is arguing that there are no historical “facts” or that the past didn’t happen. Rather, she reminds us that the evidence we use to give narrative shape to the past is “always partial” , and often “incomplete” . “Facts are not truth” , Mantel argues, but “the record of what’s left on the record.” It is up to the living to interpret, or, indeed, misinterpret, those accounts.

In this respect the writer of historical fiction is not working in direct opposition to the professional historian: both must think creatively about what remains, deploying — especially when faced with gaps and silences in the archive — “selection, elision, artful arrangement” , literary manoeuvres more closely associated with novelist Philippa Gregory than with [John] Guy the historian. However, exceptional examples from both fields should, claims Mantel, be “self-questioning” and always willing to undermine their own claims to authenticity.

(3) WEBCOMICS AT LOC. The Library of Congress now has a webcomics archive, collecting 39 strips including the multi-Hugo winning Girl Genius.

This collection focuses on comics created specifically for the web and supplements the Library of Congress’ extensive holdings in both comic books, graphic novels, and original comic art. Webcomics are an increasingly popular format utilized by contemporary creators in the field and often includes material by artists not available elsewhere. Webcomics selected for this collection include award-winning comics (Eisner Awards, Harvey Awards, Eagle Awards, and Shuster Awards) as well as webcomics that have significance in the field due to longevity, reputation, and subject matter. This collection includes work by artists and subjects not traditionally represented in mainstream comics, including women artists and characters, artists and characters of color, LGBTQ+ artists and characters, as well as subjects such as politics, health and human sexuality, and autobiography. The content of these websites is captured as it was originally produced and may include content that is not suitable for all ages.

(4) EARLY DAYS. Kalimac reminisces about “ Dark Carnival” bookstore.

But I remember Dark Carnival from its earliest days. It was the first sf specialty store in the Bay Area, long before Borderlands or Future Fantasy and even a bit before The Other Change of Hobbit or Fantasy Etc. (Of these, only Borderlands is still with us, and it had a scare not long ago.) I found it down on the south stretch of Telegraph, the first of its three locations, when I returned to UC in the fall of 1976. It was very small then, mostly a large semicircle of paperbacks, but there wasn’t a lot to stock in those days. Jack Rems, owner ever since, was usually there, as was his first clerk, a young woman named Lisa Goldstein, who’d occasionally mention she was working on a novel. It was published several years later and led her on the path to becoming the renowned fantasy author she is today, but then she was a bookstore clerk. D. and I would hang out down there and indulge in a lot of chatter with Jack and Lisa, but we’d also buy books.

(5) LA’S SHINING WEST TRIBUTE. NOTE: WE MISSED THIS ONE. On Thursday Los Angeles city officials will turn on the Bat-SIgnal.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will light the Bat-Signal over Los Angeles in a special ceremony honoring the late Adam West, who starred in the 60s Batman TV series as the Caped Crusader himself.

The ceremony will be conducted on Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. PST at Los Angeles City Hall. Garcetti will be joined by unnamed special guests for the tribute, along with Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck.

Once lit, the Bat-Signal will be projected on Los Angeles City Hall for an undisclosed period of time.

(6) TRACING BATMAN’S BAT BUCKS. In “How Does Batman make All His Money?” on looper.com, Chris Sims looks at the roots of the Wayne fortune, including how Bruce Wayne’s wealth began with Revolutionary War hero “Mad Anthony” Wayne and how Thomas Wayne’s marriage to Martha Kane united a financial empire with one based on chemicals.

All of this still leaves the question of where Batman gets his fortune in the world of Gotham City, but if you’ve read enough comics, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bruce Wayne’s infinite pile of money has an origin story just like everything else. The short version? The Waynes have always been rich.

As it turns out, they’re about as old as Old Money gets in America, with a merchant fortune that came over from Europe in colonial times, growing as Gotham City expanded to form the cornerstone of an industrial empire. In 2011’s Batman: Gates of Gotham, Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, and Trevor McCarthy put the spotlight on Alan Wayne, a turn-of-the-century ancestor for Batman who helped to shape the city itself by funding the design and construction of bridges, tunnels, and key buildings — including Wayne Tower.

(7) ALT REVIEWING. Jon Mollison reviewed Sarah A. Hoyt’s story “Freeman’s Stand” in Rocket’s Red Glare for the Castalia House blog. He has a particular view of immigrants, as reflected in this excerpt —

I didn’t recognize the tonally inconsistent version of America presented. Perhaps the good old USA had fallen so long ago that the Sons of Liberty had cobbled together an approximation through scraps of history and lost lore. If so, this was never presented, and so instead of enjoying the action, I found myself wondering where this weird America came from.

Normally, I’d be loathe to resort to the petty tactic of mentioning the “About The Author” section of a collection, but in this case it provides an important clue towards understanding why Freeman’s Stand feels like such an alien version of America. The very first thing mentioned in Hoyt’s bio is that she was born and raised in Portugal. That’s the lead-off. It’s important that you know Hoyt is Portuguese before all else. And it’s only now, after the story is concluded, that the pieces fall into place. This is a story of “Nation of Immigrants” America written by an author with a very different perspective of America than one held by a reader born and bred within her borders. That is the source of the disconnect, and I found myself wishing that I’d known from the outset that Molly’s story was that an American outsider fighting for an outsider’s vision of America. It would have resolved a number of discordant passages within the tale.

This prompted Greg Hullender to observe, “Although Sarah Hoyt imagines herself to be a fellow-traveler, given her involvement with the Sad Puppies, it’s pretty clear from this post on the Castalia House Blog that, as an immigrant from Portugal, she can never be a “real American.” Not in any sense the alt-right recognizes, anyway.”

(8) WALKING DEAD. Carl Slaughter would like to tell you about it:

The Walking Dead is a tale of sheriff Rick Grimes and his small band of survivors as they’re transformed from coddled complainers into battle tested, zombie murdering badasses. The zombie subgenre has a rich history of social commentary. Whether they be the slow walking, brain craving type or of the fast running, shrieking persuasion, the figure of the zombie has been a metaphor for all sorts of things that keep us up at night. Zombies have represented everything from mindless consumers under Capitalism in Dawn of the Dead, to fears about public health crisis in 28 Days Later, immigration in World War Z, or mega corporations in Resident Evil. And then there’s the fact that zombies originated in Haiti, where many argue it was a metaphor for slavery. Zombies are projections of our own societal fears. The Walking Dead isn’t quite any of these. Instead, The Walking Dead explores a multitude of issues, like politics, psychology, and our relationship to death. Also, the joys of cosplay. The Walking Dead is, above all else, a show about philosophical bounderies. And three in particular: (1) What constitutes life (2) What constitutes living (3) What constitutes being human.

For homework, Carl recommends The Philosophy of The Walking Dead — Wisecrack Edition.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Stephen Burridge, Tom Galloway, John King Tarpinian, Gregory N. Hullender, and Dann for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/17 Hark! What File Through Yonder Pixel Scrolls?

(1) ODYSSEY CON LOSES SECOND GOH. Honoring the reasons for the withdrawal of Monica Valentinelli, another Odyssey Con GoH has dropped out — Tad Williams made this announcement on Facebook:

I am sad to announce that I won’t be appearing at the upcoming Odysseycon. I feel a debt of conscience to guests of this con and to others whose complaints of harassment (and worse) at gatherings in our field have gone unheard and unresolved.

At the same time it seems to me and Deb that the issues are complicated and a lot of people must be having a very miserable time right now. We don’t want to contribute to the heat, and hope that things can be improved for everyone in the future. Odysseycon have been straightforward in their dealings with us, and gracious when we withdrew. I wish to extend my apologies to any members of the convention who will be disappointed by my not attending.

(2) TOOLMAKING. And today, Monica Valentinelli is looking for knowledge to make cons safer.

How can we…

  • …teach people not to harass?
  • …teach allies what to watch out for?
  • …foster healthy and safe communication about harassment?
  • …teach people how best to enforce harassment policies?
  • …address safety concerns that are not part of an official claim?
  • …share experiences between conventions so each con doesn’t live in a silo?
  • …implement better documentation policies so materials aren’t lost?
  • …help allies understand how to support victims?
  • …help victims have the confidence to come forward?
  • …guarantee that personal e-mails will not be posted publicly?
  • …help victims/allies mitigate the losses that come from making hard decisions?
  • …teach con goers how we take their safety seriously?
  • …teach con goers what to do next if something should happen?
  • …address what proper resolutions are and how they should be implemented?
  • …leverage our social communities better to review our convention attendance?
  • …help con runners decide how to implement training for their staff?
  • …help con runners understand how important it is to have the right people on staff to handle this?

I am 100% certain there are other questions I am missing, as I am speaking through the lens of my experiences. Regardless, I feel that the first step is to ask questions like these before they can be answered. Then, we need to have those hard discussions to take additional steps.

(3) TALKIN’ ABOUT M-MY REGENERATION. Beware, this will make your head spin — a video of every Doctor Who regeneration at Yahoo! TV. (The only bad part is you have to watch at least 30 seconds of a commercial before the video begins.)

(4) CARRIE FISHER. Is there anybody who hasn’t seen the Star Wars tribute to Carrie Fisher yet? Or who doesn’t want to watch it a couple more times?

(5) ROLLING IN THE GREEN. You might have said that’s a lot of lettuce to ask for a 50 pence coin, but the Royal Mint’s offering of a Peter Rabbit 2017 UK 50p BU Coin for £10 has sold out.

The Mint also put out a set of coins in 2016 to celebrate Potters’ 150th anniversary –

Features four coins depicting some of her best-loved characters: Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Squirrel Nutkin

(6) PKD FILM FEST. The fifth annual Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival takes place May 25-30 in New York City.

The program showcases over 100 films, premieres, panels, virtual reality demonstrations and celebratory gatherings as the festival continues its salute to the master of science fiction, Philip K. Dick.

Highlights include the world premieres of Maryanne Bilham-Knight’s A Life Gone Wild (2016) and Jean-Philippe Lopez’s III (2016), North American premiere of Adam Stern’s FTL (2017), USA premieres of Caroline Cory’s Gods Among Us: The Science of Contact (2016), Rasmus Tirzitis’s Vilsen (2016) and Ove Valeskog’s Huldra: Lady of the Forest (2016), east coast premieres of Niall Doran/Justin Smith’s Sixteen Legs (2016) and Renchao Wang’s The End of the Lonely Island (2016) and NYC premiere of Bruce Wemple’s The Tomorrow Paradox (2016).

The festival will also launch PKD Talks: Conversations with Luminaries, Visionaries and Mavericks, a new panel series discussing scientific, inspirational and world changing themes with industry professionals including author and physicist Dr. Ronald Mallett, acclaimed directors Maryanne Bilham-Knight and Caroline Cory, web host Joe Cerletti, astrophysicist Rudy Schild, computer scientist Jacques Vallee and more distinguished guests.

Check out the full schedule here.

(7) ATWOOD STORY ON TV. The Verge has seen the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and gives the show an enthusiastic endorsement.

But The Handmaid’s Tale is more than a political jab. In the first three episodes provided to reviewers, it’s a dystopia that manages to stand out in a television landscape already full of apocalypses and oppressive imaginary societies. It’s a colorful TV series about a woman negotiating domestic drama, and judging from its initial installments — all three of which will be released simultaneously on April 26th — it might be one of the darkest shows on television this year.

(8) THE EVENING NEWS. Problems with a furry convention have made it onto TV. That’s not surprising anymore, is it? But this is still a story that makes a fan’s hair (or fur) stand on end — “Amid allegations of unpaid taxes, neo-Nazism, and sex offender, Denver furry convention canceled”.

Head of company that operates RMFC exposed

But the letter was not signed by an attorney, nor did it contain language or punctuation consistent with those typically used by lawyers. But it did contain a red thumb print, sometimes associated with a movement the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as extremists.

And Kendal Emery, the man who signed the letter and the self-identified “Chief Executive Contract Law Officer” for Midwest Anthropomorphic Arts Corporation, is a convicted sex offender.

The Arvada man pleaded no contest to three counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor in 1993 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, near his native Carlsbad. New Mexico court records show he served at least probation and underwent out-patient counseling as part of his sentence.

But that isn’t the end of Emery’s issues: though he registered Mid America Anthropomorphic and Art Corporation in Colorado in 2005 at an Aurora address and also with the IRS, the IRS revoked the company’s status in May 2011 and has not reinstated it

(9) WHAT MAKES A WRITER REAL. Sarah A. Hoyt’s inspirational column “You’re real” ends:

A contract won’t make you real.  Writing more will make you real.  Indie and traditional both thrive on content.  The more you write the more you’ll make.  And in indie, this is all in your hands.  You don’t need anyone to give you permission.

Go write and publish.  Stop obsessing about being real.  I say you’re real, and in proof thereof, I’ve made the following certificate, which you can download, fill in and print at your convenience.

STOP GIVING AWAY part of you income for nothing, particularly to small presses of dubious value.  Write.  Publish.  Repeat.  Become a professional.

(10) EUROCON NEWS. The first announcement with details of 2017 ESFS Business Meeting has been made available on the European SF Society website.

The ESFS General Meeting for 2017 will take place at U-Con, the Dortmund (Germany) Eurocon, on June 16-18.

(11) TODAY’S DAY

Scrabble Day

By far the best way to celebrate Scrabble Day is with Oxyphenbutazone. That’s right, Oxyphenbutazone is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug – you already knew that – but it’s also the word that, in a single play, can give the highest possible score on a Scrabble board. The chances of it ever coming up are similar to the chances of winning this week’s lottery, as you’d need to join all seven of your tiles with eight already on the board across three triple word scores. Still, it’d be worth waiting for, scoring 1,778 points. You’d almost certainly win the game with that.

(12) TODAY IN ALTERNATE HISTORY

April 13, 1967 — In another reality, 50 years ago today would have been the end of Star Trek. The final new first-season episode, “Operation — Annihilate!,” aired April 13, 1967. Only an unprecedented letter-writing campaign, spearheaded by Bjo Trimble and other science-fiction writers and fans, got the show renewed for a second season.

(13) TODAY IN REGULAR OLD HISTORY

April 13, 1970 — …disaster strikes 200,000 miles from Earth when oxygen tank No. 2 blows up on Apollo 13, the third manned lunar landing mission. Astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise had left Earth two days before for the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon but were forced to turn their attention to simply making it home alive.

(14) MATH OF KHAN. Why, this is heresy! Space.com says “Redshirts Aren’t Likeliest to Die – and Other ‘Star Trek’ Math Lessons”.

Grime first focused on an age-old assertion: that crewmembers wearing red shirts in the original “Star Trek” series, which denote working in engineering or security, are far more likely to be killed off than any other shirt color.

That claim, in fact, is false — more “redshirts” died on-screen than any other crew type (10 gold-shirted, which are command personnel; eight blue-shirted, who are scientists; and 25 red-shirted, Grime said), but that calculation fails to take into account that there are far more redshirts on the ship to start with than any other crew type.

In other words, we’re looking at the probability that you are a redshirt if you die (58 percent) — what we want to know is the probability that you die if you’re a redshirt, Grime said.

Grime used the “Star Trek” technical manual to find out how many of each crew type there were, which painted a different picture: out of 239 redshirts, 25 died, which is 10 percent. Out of 55 goldshirts, 10 died, which is 18 percent! So you are more likely to die as a goldshirt, Grime said.

Oh, so it’s actually true – this is just a lawyerly exercise in lying with statistics.

(15) FAN MAIL. Alastair Reynolds praised Erin Horakova’s Strange Horizons article article about Captain Kirk:

If you have a little time on your hands I commend this excellent Strange Horizons article by Erin Horakova on our changing (and inaccurate) perception of the character of Captain Kirk…

Regardless of the quality of the individual episodes, though, I quickly found myself wondering when this legendary bad Shatner was going to turn up, because all I was seeing – right from the outset – was an efficient and convincing portrayal of a man in a complex, demanding position of authority. Shatner isn’t just much better at playing Kirk than the popular myth would have it, but the character itself is also much more plausibly drawn than the supposed brash womaniser of the insidious meme.

Erin Horakova dismantles this false Kirk in expert fashion, while lobbing a few well-earned potshots at the reboot films.

(16) THE NEW NUMBER SIX. John  Scalzi continues Reader Request Week with “#6: Reading as Performance”.

  1. Recognize it is a performance. Which is to say that you can’t just go in front of a room, mumble your way through fifteen minutes of text, answer a couple of questions and go home (I mean, you can, but it won’t turn out the way you want it to). You actually have to be up and on, from the moment you get to the event until the moment you’re done. Which is draining, but can also be fun. When you read, don’t just read the text, act it. When you’re answering questions, don’t answer quickly, answer completely. When you’re signing, work to make it so the person you’re signing for feels like that those 30 seconds with you is a pretty good 30 seconds of their life. Know all this going in, and prepare.

(17) WAITRESSING FOR GODOT. Ann Leckie was prompted by Scalzi’s post to add her own thoughts – “On Performance and Sincerity”.

Now as it happens, I have a tiny bit of theater experience, along with that music degree, so I’m actually pretty comfortable onstage. But you know what else I think has helped me–years of waiting tables. I am a serious introvert, but working at waiting tables gave me practice interacting with lots of strangers for hours at a time, keeping my demeanor pleasant and mostly cheerful. It’s practice that has stood me in good stead for a lot of my non-writing-related life, actually. In a lot of ways waiting tables can be a really miserable job, but that aspect of it, learning how to be “on” very pleasantly and confidently, has been super valuable to me.

(18) WHAT GOES UP… Just don’t ask for an explanation: “Mysterious X37-B ‘space plane’ stays in orbit for 677 days – and no one knows why”.

A mysterious robotic ‘space plane’ has now been in orbit for a record 677 days – and America is remaining silent about what it’s doing up there.

The robotic Boeing X-37B craft – also known as Orbital Test Vehicle 4 – conducts long missions in orbit, carrying a classified payload.

Observers have speculated that the Space Shuttle-esque vehicle might be designed to destroy satellites – or work as a ‘movable’ satellite itself.

(19) LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Evidently, Scotland’s witch prosecution records leave something to be desired. Atlas Obscura has the story — “Maggie Wall’s Memorial”.

A mysterious monument where a woman who records say never existed was burnt alive for being a witch.

…Outside of a small village of Dunning, nestled in the former parklands of Duncrub Castle, lies a monument. It’s a collection of stones about 20 feet high, topped with a cross and decorated with gifts left by visitors—pennies, feathers, shells, fluffy stuffed animals, and tiny tea candles. The stones bear the words in stark white lettering: “Maggie Wall burnt here 1657 as a witch.”

Scotland was home to nearly 3,800 people accused of witchcraft between 1500s and 1700s, the vast majority of whom were women. In the end, about 1,500 were murdered as a result of witch hunt inquisitions. However, mysteriously, there is no record of a woman named Maggie Wall being tried as a witch. What’s more, there’s no record of the monument itself until 1866, though a forest surrounding the monument called Maggie Walls Wood was documented as of 1829.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, and David Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contirbuting editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/17 There’s A Pixel Scrolled Every Minute

star-trek-discovery

(1) STILL AT THE DOCK. Unless you subscribed to CBS All Access especially to see this show, it won’t be a crisis for you: “Star Trek Discovery delayed, no longer has a release date”.

Those looking forward to Star Trek Discovery’s promised streaming debut in May will have to wait even longer. According to the The Hollywood Reporter, the premiere has been pushed back right as production is due to start and CBS finishes casting and script rewrites.

“This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it’s best for the show,” a CBS rep said in a statement. “We’ve said from the beginning it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn’t beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows.”

“This is an ambitious series.”

The 13-episode Discovery was originally slated to premiere this month on CBS, but was pushed back to allow the producers to better “achieve a vision” fans of the franchise would appreciate. Since then, however, the series has been dogged by a slow casting process, as well as the departure of former showrunner Bryan Fuller.

(2) WHO IS #2? A few weeks ago Theodora Goss told her Facebook readers that she was one of two Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship recipients. I have now been able to learn the name of the second recipient from a contact at the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University Oregon.

Roxanne Samer is a postdoctoral scholar and teaching fellow in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She holds a PhD in critical studies from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. Samer coedited with William Whittington the book Gender, Sexuality, and Media: Audiences and Spectatorship, which is under contract with the University of Texas Press. She is also the editor of “Transgender Media,” a special issue of Spectator: The University of Southern California Journal of Film and Television Criticism 37.2 (Fall 2017). She will visit UO Libraries’ SCUA to do research toward fleshing out her dissertation, Receiving Feminisms: Media Cultures and Lesbian Potentiality in the 1970s, for publication as a book.

(3) POST-KINDERGARTEN GRADUATE STUDIES. Jason Sanford explains, “All I really need to know I learned from science fiction and fantasy stories”.

For example, from Arthur C. Clarke I learned that the ultimate destination of all humans is extinction. Even if some parts of humanity transcend reality, as in Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, humanity as a species is destined to eventually disappear from this universe.

From Isaac Asimov I learned that even if our ultimate fate is to disappear, humanity can have an amazing ride while we exist.

From Ursula K. Le Guin I learned that culture shock can be both a way to awaken you to new intellectual horizons and to kill you….

(4) BLURB SEASON. Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff continues filking her way through the components of published fiction with “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 6: There’s a Blurb on the Cover” at Book View Café.

Verse 6:
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.
There’s one story on the cover; inside the book’s another.
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.

Blurbage (as I like to call it) is the collection of stuff one finds on the covers of one’s novel. If you publish with a mainstream house as the Café staff does, you are not always—dare I say almost never—in control of what goes on the cover. Blurbage (as I an using the term) is composed of several parts: …

(5) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. Oliver Langmead tells his readers at Fantasy-Faction “Why I Don’t Like Dragons”.

As of recent years, I’ve found myself going through dragon fatigue. Much in the same way as zombies and vampires, it feels a little bit like we hit peak dragon a while ago (pun intended). This isn’t to say that dragons can’t be great. Sure they can. Just like zombies and vampires can be brilliant from time to time, when somebody finds a really refreshing angle on them, or when we’re talking about classic texts. Just that… in fantasy, the literature of the impossible, sometimes it can feel like writers are playing it a bit too safe.

(6) THE SOUND OF MUSING. Larry Correia has a great post about making choices that help stories succeed in more than one medium: “Ask Correia #17: Writing for the Ear, Tweaking Your Writing To Work Better in Audiobook Form” at Monster Hunter Nation.

Read your stuff out loud.

I don’t do this as much when I’m writing the first draft, but when I am editing, I will usually read everything aloud. Dialog that is unnatural, stilted, or weird is going to be obvious when you hear it, even if it looks okay when you see it.

If your family thinks you’ve gone insane, close the door or turn your radio up and get talking. Even if your writing isn’t going to get turned into an audiobook, this is still a valuable exercise to weed out stupid dialog or awkward descriptions. You don’t need to do voices, or be loud, just muttering it to yourself will usually reveal the awkward bits.

Keep in mind however, that in either format you do not want to write exactly like people talk. That’s because in real life most speakers use a lot of uhm… err… uh… pauses and brain farts.

If you write all those noises down that people make when they’re thinking of what to say, it becomes annoying for the reader. I try to use that stuff sparingly in fictional dialog, and when I do, I try to use it only when it is going to tell the reader something about that character. So if you’ve got somebody where it is important to convey their awkwardness, nervousness, or hesitancy, do it, but try not to overdo it. A realistic amount of ums and urrs will annoy readers and waste your listener’s time. Same with affections like ending every sentence with know what I’m saying? A little bit goes a long way. A good narrator is going to convey those character traits, and in written form you can convey that stuff through the story you tell around them.

Oh, and that one liner that sounded really super cool in your head? Reading it out loud will help you realize if it actually sucks.

(7) GAUTIER OBIT. His most notable role was a rock star, but he’s also known as a robot: “Dick Gautier, Who Played a Rock Star in ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ Is Dead” reports the New York Times.

Dick Gautier, a comic actor best known for his Tony-nominated performance as a vain rock ’n’ roll star in the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie” and his recurring role as a robot with a heart on the television show “Get Smart,” died on Friday in Arcadia, Calif. He was 85.

A spokesman, Harlan Boll, said the cause was pneumonia.

Mr. Gautier had the square-jawed good looks of a leading man. But he also had a wild sense of humor — he began his career as a stand-up comedian — and for more than 50 years he was primarily a scene-stealing supporting player on sitcoms.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 18, 1644 — John Winthrop documented the first known unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings in North America.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 18, 1882 — A. A. Milne

(10) WINNIE-THE-POOH DAY. And by a stunning coincidence, this is also Winnie-the-Pooh Day.

One of the cuddliest holidays around has to be Winnie the Pooh Day, celebrated on the birthday of author A A Milne. It’s one special anniversary fans just can’t bear to miss! Every year, the occasion is marked with events such as teddy bears’ picnics, featuring plenty of honey on the menu.

The only remaining question is whether someone will be along in a few minutes to tell us that the author is foisting off unwonted xtianity on the public, like the last time I posted something from the calendar.

(11) HERE’S MUD IN YOUR EYE. Observer says “NASA’S Rover Discovered Some Mud Cracks That Could Be Really, Really Important”.  But can they be that important? Did anyone threaten to move to another country when this made the news?

In recent weeks, scientists used NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges. All signs lead them to believe they’re mud cracks, which makes them the first to be confirmed on the Red Planet by the Curiosity mission.

“Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don’t look like fractures we’ve seen previously with Curiosity,” said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein in NASA’s announcement. “It looks like what you’d see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked.”

If this interpretation holds up, it would be evidence that the ancient era (three billion years ago) when these sediments were deposited included wet conditions, followed by drying. High resolution images have pointed to the existence of deltas, gullies and river valleys on Mars, which is why scientists view it as one of the places in our solar system most likely to be/have been home to alien life. (There are three others, according to NASA director of planetary science James Green).

(12) FAKE NEWS. This virtual award may not exist, but it was hotly contested: “The Shippy Awards 2016 Winners”

SHIPPY! Why yes, that is a drawing of a trophy that does not exist. IT IS THE MOST COVETED MADE UP TROPHY IN THE UNIVERSE.

AND NOW, LET US ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS OF THIS GLORIOUS DRAWING OF A TROPHY THAT DOES NOT EXIST!

Ultimate Ship Honors Best Ship of the Year

Feyre and Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas with 40.4% of the vote

Runners up: Kaz and Inej from Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, with 22.2% of the vote

This was by far the most highly voted category, but as you can see, one ship rather ran away with the competition.

Shippiest Book

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas with 37.7% of the vote

Runner up: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo with 37.2% of the vote

(Are you sensing a pattern/theme-ish thing? Get used to this pattern/theme-ish thing.)

And there are many more ship-themed categories.

(13) NOT A COINCIDENCE. Rich Horton shares his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, Short Fiction: Novellas” at Strange at Ecbatan.

One more note to begin with – though I participate with a lot of enjoyment in Hugo nomination and voting every year, I am philosophically convinced that there is no such thing as the “best” story – “best” piece of art, period….

The other obvious point to make is that the great bulk of these stories are those that I included in my yearly anthology. There are a few that didn’t make it, for reasons of length, contractual situation, balance, or even that I might have missed a story by the deadline for the book.

(14) PAGEVIEWS. Sarah A. Hoyt gives nine pieces of good advice about “How to Build a Web Presence” at Mad Genius Club.

6- Post EVERY DAY.  If, like me this last week, you have to go AWL, have guest posts.  You’ll still lose readers and some of them won’t come back, but it’s better than dead air.  (Trust me.)  I don’t know why post every day works, except through “be habit forming.”

7- Police your community.  I actually have had to ban very few people, but remember the “drunken uncle at the wedding.”  If a poster is just there to attack and is making other people uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to ban him.  He might not be doing anything wrong, but his right to express himself doesn’t trump your right to have your normal commenters enjoy themselves. Also, if the community gets in an unpleasant rut, nudge them.  My commenters once, while I was asleep, misunderstood something someone posted and attacked.  He got defensive and they ran him off the blog.  You don’t want that, particularly if it’s someone interesting.

People who say they’re not responsible for the tone of their comment sections are disingenuous or clueless.  You can police just enough, intervening to break up things just enough that you keep it from becoming a snake pit without neutering it.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

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!

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(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 12/21/16 Ancillary of Green Gables

(1) MARS’ VIRGIN FIELD EPIDEMIC. Nautilus writer Christopher McKay, in a piece called “Make Mars Great Again”, says that Mars has life because of microbes sent aboard non-sterile Mars probes, and if the planet gets warmer in a century these microbes can be used for terraforming.

Mars is currently inhabited by an estimated 1 million microbes. They coat the surfaces and crowd the innards of our robotic landers and rovers, which international policy requires to be cleaned, but not fully sterilized. The bugs are dormant, but viable. If Mars warmed up and water began to flow again, these microorganisms would revive and reproduce. And it is within our power to make that happen.

The concept of terraforming—making a barren world suitable for widespread life—is well developed in science fiction. The term was first used in a science-fiction story published in 1942. It implies the creation of a copy of Earth, which need not be the goal, but the word caught on. (It is definitely more euphonious than the suggested alternatives of “ecopoiesis” or “planetary ecosynthesis.”) In the ’90s the award-winning science-fiction trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars centered on the science and ethics of terraforming. But terraforming is no longer just science fiction.

(2) DIFFERENT CURRENCIES. Sarah A. Hoyt raises compelling points in “Some Hard Thinking About Our Business”. Why doesn’t everybody go indie? And how much money is it costing them to go with traditional publishers?

So I am continuously puzzled watching indie authors who are doing better by an order of magnitude than any traditional writer I know succumbing to the lure of a traditional contract.  I’m not disapproving, mind you — who the hell am I to be disapproving of other people’s business decisions? If I had my time again, I doubt I’d have made most of the ones I made.  I’d still want to write for Baen, but that’s about it — I’m just jaw-dropped shocked.  Because they’ll be giving up 90% of their income or so.  But perhaps they want the respectability.  And perhaps they think it will give them further reach.

Is the reach thing true?  For now.  For a time. More on this later.

Is the respectability that important?  Sure, if you want to have some sort of job as a “real writer” such places are starting to choose indies, but not really.  Some conferences too (though we’re not absolutely sure, in this new era how much attendance of conventions contribute to sales, with the remarkable exception of hard copy books [more on that later.]) expect you to flash your “real writer” credentials in the form of  contract.  I even understand it from the social point of view, where when you’re at a party and people ask what you do, the question after you answer “writer” is “so have anything published?” (Or maybe that’s just to me, because of the accent.)  Mind you, you can answer “Sure” and  list your books and not say “indie” but I also know that when I say “Sure, x books with Berkley, x with Bantam and x with Baen” people’s attitude changes completely.  And I can see that when people suspect you’re indie they say “So you published yourself” and dismiss it.  I know that’s a stupid reason to give up 90% of your income, but humans are social animals and I can see “not being embarrassed at parties” making a difference.  I can even see the velveteen writer thing, wanting to be a “real” writer in your own eyes, the way you envisioned it.

(3) LONG RELIEF. At MLB blog Cut4, “Superfan Sean Doolittle reviews ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”‘. Doolittle is a pitcher for the Oakland A’s.

Big Star Wars fan Sean Doolittle was kind enough to take some time away from his rigorous offseason sock-throwing regimen to write a film review of Rogue One … yes, really! Enjoy it all below, and don’t worry — there are no major spoilers, as Sean knows what he’s doing. 

What really separates this movie from any other episode in the Star Wars franchise, though, is how dark and harsh it is. Rogue One is as much a war drama, with real, raw emotion, as it is a sci-fi adventure movie. This movie drops you into the middle of a brutal galactic civil war, one that’s taken everything from these characters and turned them into soldiers willing to fight for the Rebellion.

(4) NOT THE REASONS FOR THE SEASON. I thought Tor.com had a great discussion-generating post idea in “The Non-Holiday Movies We Always End Up Watching Over the Holidays” but they had more misses than hits as far as my tastes are concerned. (Anyone else watched Rocky II this month? I did.)

And it’s a discussion you can have on more than one level. I decided to watch Tracy and Hepburn in Desk Set the other night I’d long since forgotten that most of the climactic events happen at the office Christmas party. So can I count it as “non-holiday” or not?

(5) GHIBLI AND GRAVY. The YouTube video “Studio Ghibli in Real Life” is a charming YouTube video in which Studio Ghibli characters are placed into real-life Japanese settings.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California. It was the first animated feature-length film with sound and color.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 21, 1937 – Jane Fonda

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 21, 1957 — Tsutomu Kitagawa, a Japanese actor and stuntman best known for playing Godzilla in the Millennium (or Shinsei) series. He also played the costumed actor for the Blue (and occasionally, Black) Ranger in many of Toei Company’s Super Sentai Series in the 1980s, better known in the US as Power Rangers.

(9) BRAIN CANDY. John Scalzi did not write an incisive political commentary today.

Me: I want to write a long piece on politics today!

Brain: Sorry, man. Not up for it. Too much thinking involved.

Me: But I have important things to say!

Brain: You should have thought about it before you decided to fuel me exclusively on Christmas cookies for three days straight….

(10) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #22. The twenty-second of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a set of autographed books from Pamela Dean.

Today’s auction is for a set of books from Pamela Dean, including signed hardcover first editions of THE DUBIOUS HILLS and JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY, along with a signed mass-market paperback set of the reissue of the SECRET COUNTRY trilogy. That’s a total of five autographed books for you to enjoy!

About THE DUBIOUS HILLS: Centuries after a group of warring wizards eliminate war from the Dubious Hills, the Hills are a place where knowledge and ability are parcelled out in strange ways. Only the group known as the Akoumi understand death, only the Gnosi know how to teach, and only the Physici can know pain. Dean weaves a strange and compelling examination of knowledge, responsiblity and death.

About JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY: Three sisters live comfortably with their parents: Juniper, 16, who likes cooking and computer chats; Gentian, 13, who likes plays and astronomy; Rosemary, 11, who likes Girl Scouts. Enter Dominic, handsome as the night, quoting poetry, telling riddles, and asking help for a complex and fascinating science project. Gentian isn’t interested at first–she has her own life. But gradually her life, and her time, belong more and more to Dominic and his project, and her father begins to fear that the lad may be more than a charmer…

About THE SECRET COUNTRY: Each vacation for the past nine years, cousins Patrick, Ruth, Ellen, Ted, and Laura have played a game they call the “Secret”—and invented, scripted world full of witches, unicorns, a magic ring, court intrigue, and the Dragon King. In the Secret, they can imagine anything into reality, and shape destiny. Then the unbelievable happens: by trick or by chance, they actually find themselves in the Secret Country, their made-up identities now real. The five have arrived at the start of their games, with the Country on the edge of war. What was once exciting and wonderful now looms threateningly before them, and no one is sure how to stop it… or if they will ever get back home.

(11) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MENTIONING RACE. Foz Meadows engages a recent controversy involving YA commentators — “YA, Race & Assimilation: A Response”.

Which is why, returning to the matter of QOP and Whitney Atkinson, pro-diversity advocates are so often forced to contend with people who think that “separating races” and like identifiers – talking specifically about white people or disabled people or queer people, instead of just people – is equivalent to racism and bigotry. Whether they recognise it or not, they’re coming from a perspective that values diverse perspectives for what they bring to the melting pot – for how they help improve the dominant culture via successful assimilation – but not in their own right, as distinct and special and non-homogenised. In that context, race isn’t something you talk about unless you’re being racist: it’s rude to point out people’s differences, because those differences shouldn’t matter to their personhood. The problem with this perspective is that it doesn’t allow for the celebration of difference: instead, it codes “difference” as inequality, because deep down, the logic of cultural assimilation is predicated on the idea of Western cultural superiority. A failure or refusal to assimilate is therefore tantamount to a declaration of inequality: I’m not the same as you is understood as I don’t want to be as good as you, and if someone doesn’t want to be the best they can be (this logic does) then either they’re stupid, or they don’t deserve the offer of equality they’ve been so generously extended in the first place.

Talking about race isn’t the same as racism. Asking for more diversity in YA and SFF isn’t the same as saying personhood matters less than the jargon of identity, but is rather an acknowledgement of the fact that, for many people, personhood is materially informed by their experience of identity, both in terms of self-perception and in how they’re treated by others at the individual, familial and collective levels. And thanks to various studies into the social impact of colour-blindness as an ideology, we already know that claiming not to see doesn’t undo the problem of racism; it just means adherents fail to understand what racism actually is and what it looks like, even – or perhaps especially – when they’re the ones perpetuating it.

(12) APOLLO 11 ON YOUTUBE. Ars Technica helps relive history – “Heinlein and Clarke discuss the Moon landings as they happen”.

Thanks to documentaries and YouTube, the younger set can experience some of the flavor of the late 1960s today, as well as what the Moon landing meant at the time to America and the world. The zeitgeist of hope and possibility might perhaps best be captured in a CBS News discussion on July 20, 1969—Apollo 11 landing day. Hosted by the inimitable Walter Cronkite, the great newsman interviewed science fiction authors Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein about the implications of NASA’s achievement. The program featured a discussion just after the landing, with a second segment following the first moonwalk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

“Time just stopped for me, I think it stopped for everybody,” a 51-year-old Clarke said, describing how it felt to watch the lunar module touch down. “My heart stopped. My breathing stopped.”

(13) CURSUS HONORUM. James Langdell raises a good question:

How do you become a Ghost Of Christmas Past? Do you work your way up after starting out as Ghost Of National Pickle Day Past?

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS LAUGHS. Curator John King Tarpinian delved into the archives for these Stan Freberg Christmas parodies —

  • Green Christmas

  • Christmas Dragnet (1953) / Yulenet (1954)

  • The Night Before Christmas (1955)

[Thanks to Rich Lynch, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]