Pixel Scroll 12/10/16 The Scroll’s My Destination

(1) WIRE TOWN. The UK’s Daily Mail ran a photo gallery, “A city balancing on The Wire: Eerie pictures capture the lonely beauty of Baltimore’s Street corners at night revealing another side to its crime-ravaged neighborhoods”, and contrary to what you might expect from a collection with that title, the first picture is of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society clubhouse.

(2) MY LUNGS REMEMBER SASQUAN. The Darwin Award candidates responsible for the wildfires during Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon, have been sentenced. “Vancouver men who started wildfire ordered to pay state $2.3 million” reports The Oregonian.

Three Vancouver men responsible for setting fire to 110 acres of forest in southwestern Washington have been ordered to pay the state more than $2.3 million in firefighting costs.

The Daily News reports Nathan Taylor was sentenced Monday and all three defendants were ordered to pay damages the state Department of Natural Resources.

Court documents say the fire started July 19, 2015 after Taylor, his brother Adrian Taylor and Michael Estrada Cardenas used propane tanks and soda cans for target practice near Woodland.

(3) ESCAPE FROM SAN QUENTIN. The Public Domain Review has “Astral Travels With Jack London”, a lengthy discussion of Jack London’s great 1914 sf novel The Star Rover. Jack London died in November 1916.

London’s sole foray into the realm of science fiction and fantasy is simultaneously a hard-bitten, minimalist monologue about life in solitary confinement and an exuberant tour of the universe. The book’s narrator, Darrell Standing, moves disarmingly from the agony of his confinement in a strait-jacket to his travel amidst the stars equipped with a glass wand that allows him to access an infinity of past lives, including a fourth-century hermit, a shipwrecked seal-hunter, a medieval swordsman, and a confidant of Pontius Pilate. It is a novel about sensory deprivation in a shared reality, and sensory overload in a private one.

This is a deeply eclectic book. It borrows liberally from the forebears of the fantasy genre: fairy stories, Norse legend, Greek myths. But it also manages to include feuding UC Berkeley scientists, “dope fiends,” Neolithic hunter-gatherers, kimchi, and a journalistic exposé of the modern prison system. The bizarre multiplicity is precisely the point. London’s narrative does many things, but it always seems to circle back to the question of how the worlds encompassed within a single consciousness can interfere with the shared reality of modern society. As we hurtle towards a near future of immersive virtual reality and unceasing digital connectedness, The Star Rover has much to tell us.

(4) NEIL GAIMAN IS THE PRIZE. A reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” by Neil Gaiman is a Worldbuilders Fundraising Reward.

The Worldbuilders charity passed its stretch goal of a million dollars, so I lit a whole bunch of candles, put on a coat once worn by a dead brother in the Stardust movie, and I read Edgar Allan Poe’s poem THE RAVEN by candlelight. You can donate to Worldbuilders at worldbuilders.org. And you should.

 

(5) NUMBER FIVE. The Traveler at Galactic Journey marvels at the recent development of radio astronomy in “[Dec. 10, 1961] By Jove! (Jupiter, the Fifth Planet)”.

In the last ten years or so, a brand new way of looking at Jupiter has been developed.  Light comes in a wide range of wavelengths, only a very small spectrum of which can be detected by the human eye.  Radio waves are actually a form of light, just with wavelengths much longer than we can see.  Not only can radio be used to communicate over long distances, but sensitive receivers can tell a lot about the universe.  It turns out all sorts of celestial objects emit radio waves.

Jupiter is one of those sources.  After this discovery, in 1955, astronomers began tracking the planet’s sporadic clicks and hisses.  It is a hard target because of all of the local interference, from the sun, our ionosphere, and man-made radio sources.  Still, scientists have managed to learn that Jupiter has an ionosphere, too, as well as a strong magnetic field with broad “Van Allen Belts.”  It also appears to be the only planet that broadcasts on the radio band.

Using radio, we will be able to learn much about King Jove long before the first spacecraft probes it (perhaps by 1970 or so).  It’s always good to remember that Space Age research can be done from home as well as in the black beyond.  While I am as guilty as the next fellow of focusing on satellite spectaculars, the bulk of astronomy is done with sounding rockets and ground-based telescopes – not to mention the inglorious drudgery of calculations and report-writing, universal to every science.

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #14. The fourteenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed coy of Impulse by Steven Gould.

Today’s auction comes from award-winning author and former SFWA president Steven Gould, who’s offering an autographed first edition hardcover copy of his novel IMPULSE, which is currently being developed for a pilot on YouTube Red.

About the Book:

Steven Gould returns to the world of his classic novel Jumper in Impulse.

Cent has a secret. She lives in isolation, with her parents, hiding from the people who took her father captive and tortured him to gain control over his ability to teleport, and from the government agencies who want to use his talent. Cent has seen the world, but only from the safety of her parents’ arms. She’s teleported more than anyone on Earth, except for her mother and father, but she’s never been able to do it herself. Her life has never been in danger.

Until the day when she went snowboarding without permission and triggered an avalanche. When the snow and ice thundered down on her, she suddenly found herself in her own bedroom. That was the first time.

(7) TOBLER’S PICKS. The Book Smugglers continue their year-end theme: “Smugglivus 2016: Books That Surprised Me (In a Good Way) by E. Catherine Tobler”. They published Tobler’s short story “The Indigo Mantis” earlier this year.

Bloodline, Claudia Gray

I did not expect to read another Star Wars novel in my lifetime; the expanded universe of books was never wholly my thing. I liked the Han Solo novels (A.C. Crispin) well enough, but could not get into the Thrawn books, or anything tackling Leia. And then, Bloodline showed up. Bloodline spends some time with Leia after Jedi and before The Force Awakens and let me say, I never realized how much I missed not seeing Leia be allowed to grieve over the loss of Alderran. Gray gives us that and much more, unpacking and exploring Leia’s marriage with Han Solo, and yes, her relationship to Darth Vader. Such a satisfying read.

(8) DEBRIS WHACKER. Finally somebody’s cleaning up space. From NPR, “Japan Sends Long Electric Whip Into Orbit, To Tame Space Junk”

A cable that’s as long as six football fields has been launched into orbit — and when it’s deployed, it’ll test an idea to knock out orbital debris. Japan’s space agency sent the electrodynamic tether into space along with supplies for the International Space Station.

Reels aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori 6 craft will deploy the 700-meter (2,296 feet) tether, essentially unspooling a clothesline in space that could help clean up the roughly 20,000 pieces of potentially hazardous space debris that are tracked by systems on Earth.

Those pieces of junk are dangerous enough on their own — but they can also generate thousands more smaller pieces of debris if they collide, creating even more risk to the space station and satellites orbiting the Earth.

With the official acronym of EDT (for electrodynamic tether), the Kounotori’s cable “is a promising candidate to deorbit the debris objects at low cost,” JAXA says.

(9) ONE THOUSAND AND ONE IRAQI DAYS. At NPR, Amal El-Mohtar reviews the Iraqi SF anthology: “’Iraq + 100’ Is Painful, But Don’t Look Away”.

Though a few of the stories — Alhaboby’s “Baghdad Syndrome,” Hassan’s “The Here and Now Prison,” and Ibrahim al-Marashi’s “Najufa” — are warm and hopeful, focused on love, family, and friendship, overall the collection hurts. Underlying these pieces are exhaustion, disgust, contempt, disillusionment, all of which Western readers of speculative fiction will no doubt find alienating; built into our narrative of fiction’s usefulness is a sense of healing, catharsis, nourishment that this collection resists. Thoughts of the future are rooted in the recent past and present, leeching poison from its earth, and what grows can’t be separated from that soil, as when Alhaboby writes “I knew that soon my vision would start to go the way the lights once did over Baghdad all those years ago … You see, if you’re a sufferer of Baghdad Syndrome, you know that nothing has ever driven us, or our ancestors, quite as much as the syndrome of loving Baghdad.”

(10) THE LONG WATCH. Former LASFS President, now thriving commercial actor, Ed Green appears in this spot beginning at :14 —

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 10, 2009 Avatar makes its world premiere.

(12) ALDRIN LEAVES NEW ZEALAND. He’s recovered from what ailed him at the South Pole — “Astronaut Buzz Aldrin heads home after stay in Christchurch hospital”.

Mr Aldrin’s manager, Christina Korp, tweeted a photo of him on the flight home, saying they hoped to return again.

“But next time for vacation and not evacuation,” she wrote.

Mr Aldrin began showing signs of altitude sickness, including low oxygen levels and congestion in his lungs, after reaching the South Pole.

“Once I was at sea level I began to feel much better,” he said last Sunday.

(13) ENGLISH EVOLVING BEFORE YOUR EYES. Thanks to everyone at work in the File 770 comment laboratory….

(14) HIGHEST BIDDER. Black Gate says the sale happened Friday on eBay — “Original Woodgrain Edition Dungeons and Dragons Box Set Sells For $22,100”.

(15) CHRISTMAS HORROR AND SHATNER – TOGETHER! Hampus Eckerman, inspired by a link in the last Pixel Scroll, decided to check online for more Christmas Horror movies. And he found the most horrific of al – one starring William Shatner(!)

In A Christmas Horror Story, Shatner is the DJ who sets the scene —

Interwoven stories that take place on Christmas Eve, as told by one festive radio host: A family brings home more than a Christmas tree, a student documentary becomes a living nightmare, a Christmas spirit terrorizes, Santa slays evil.

christmas-horror-story

(16) STAR TREK CHRISTMAS. Here’s how the franchise paid tribute to the Christmas season.

  • Captain Sisko & the DS9 Ensemble sing “Wonderful Deep Space Nine”

In the grand tradition of Star Trek captains singing holiday standards, for your consideration: “Wonderful Deep Space Nine” sung by Captain Sisko, Major Kira, Constable Odo, Lieutenant Commander Worf, Chief O’Brien, Congenial Barkeep Quark, Plain Simple Garak, and the rest of the Star Trek: DS9 ensemble. Special appearances by Morn, Martok, Moogie, and Vorta Iggy Pop.

 

  • Star Trek Voyager – Christmas 2008

The Voyager crew give their take on the 12 days of Christmas.

 

(17) ANIMAL MAGNETISM. The Jimmy Kimmel Show ran videos in which “Pets React to Star Wars Rogue One Trailer.”

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Eva Whitley, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Sasquan Financial Report

The latest update to the MidAmeriCon II Business Meeting Agenda includes the financial report from Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. (See pages 22-33.)

SUMMARY

Total Income $1,269,690.24
Total Expense ($1,089,320.76)
Net Surplus $180,369.48

The expenses include discretionary reimbursements for program participant memberships and committee meeting costs that collectively amount to slightly more than the declared surplus, which shows that Sasquan did very well.

Sasquan’s report also includes a summary of the amounts spent on each specific Guest of Honor, which I’ve never noticed in one of these reports before (although I’ve never gone looking for it either, so I don’t know whether this is a true first.)

The report also summarizes donations made from the surplus:

Post-Convention Distributions/Grants

Lucy Huntzinger, DUFF Donation $2,000.00
ASFA Donation $2,500.00
Bill Burns, Efanzines Donation $1,000.00
MACII, grant for NASA related costs $5,000.00
2 SMOFCon Scholarships $4,000.00
Worldcon History Organization $5,000.00
Con or Bust Donation $2,000.00
Int’l Costumers Guild Donation $5,000.00
TAFF $2,000.00
Space Agency Fan Fund $15,000.00
FANAC.org $1,000.00
Westercon 69 $5,000.00
Westercon 70 $5,000.00
Total $54,500.00

Record-Setting Number of Votes for 2016 Hugo Nominations

MidAmeriCon II reports over 4,000 nominating ballots were received for the 2016 Hugo Awards, nearly doubling the previous record of 2,122 ballots set last year by Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon held in Spokane, WA.

This is the eighth consecutive year the record has been broken. Prior to Sasquan, Loncon 3 (2014) received 1,923 ballots; LoneStarCon 3 (2013) 1,343; Chicon 7 (2012) 1,101; Renovation (2011) 1,006; Aussiecon 4 (2010) 864; Anticipation (2009) 799 — each a new high-water mark at the time.

MidAmeriCon II reports there were 12,715 eligible nominators, also a record. These consisted of the members of Sasquan, and all the members of MidAmeriCon II and Worldcon 75 who had joined by January 31.

The finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards, John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards will be announced on Tuesday, April 26 via MidAmeriCon II’s social media.

The finalists will be released category by category, beginning at Noon CDT (1 p.m. EDT, 10 a.m. PDT, 6 p.m. London, 7 p.m. Western Europe), through the convention’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MidAmeriCon2/) and Twitter feed @MidAmeriCon2

The announcement will begin with the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards then continue with the 2016 Hugo Awards and Campbell Award.

The full list of finalists will be made available on the MidAmeriCon II website directly after the completion of the live announcement, and will also be distributed as a press release to all MidAmeriCon II press contacts.

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Sasquan Masquerade Discs Ready

Syd Weinstein announces he has finished work on the Sasquan Masquerade recording. You can order it here, in either of the two common formats.

Sasquan Masquerade – Available in Blu-Ray or DVD version

The Masquerade disc contains all of the presentations, including the young fans, as well as the awards and the Tom Smith half time concert for over three hours of content. The presentations and the awards have been edited to add more views, stills, and complete credits for each costume.

The Blu-Ray version is NTSC 1080i High Definition as recorded on-site. The DVD version is a down convert to standard definition. Combo Packs include the DVD and the Blu-Ray copy.

He is also working on a Hugo Awards Ceremony DVD.

Information about pricing, shipping, and combo deals are available at his website.

MAC II Statement on Data Release for EPH Testing

The Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II committees responded to File 770’s query about the transfer of anonymized raw 2015 Hugo nominating ballot data for use in testing the proposed E Pluribus Hugo vote tallying method.

Linda Deneroff, Sasquan’s WSFS (World Science Fiction Society) Division Head, wrote:

Sasquan passed its nominating data to MidAmeriCon II for analysis in the EPH process. Neither Glenn [Glazer], John [Lorentz], Ruth [Lorentz] nor I were involved in the analysis.

Tammy Coxen. MidAmeriCon II WSFS Division Head, explained what was done with the data:

After EPH passed at Sasquan, the MidAmeriCon II Hugo Administration team publicly committed to testing the system so that real data about its efficacy could be made available to WSFS members before the business meeting where ratification would take place. As part of that testing, MidAmeriCon II was collaborating with two researchers (Bruce Schneier and Jameson Quinn) in evaluating the system. As previously announced, it was determined that the data was unable to be sufficiently anonymized for a general release, so the researchers were provided data under a non-disclosure agreement.

There was to have been a coordinated release of the research findings between MidAmeriCon II and the researchers, which would have made clear the circumstances under which the data had been shared. Planning was already underway regarding that release, but as noted, analysis is still occurring. Our intention is to jointly share the research findings when they are complete, which will be well in advance of the business meeting at MidAmeriCon II.

The previously announced concerns that Coxen refers to were discussed here in a September 2015 post, “Hitch in Sasquan Nominating Data Turnover”.

E Pluribus Hugo Tested With Anonymized 2015 Data

By Jameson Quinn: [Originally left as a comment.] So, Bruce Schneier and I are working on an academic paper about the E Pluribus Hugo (EPH) proposed voting system. We’ve been given a data set of anonymized votes from 2015. I don’t want to give all the results away but here are a few, now that people are actually voting for this year’s Hugos:

  • A typical category had around 300 ballots which voted for more puppies than non-puppies, and about half of those ballots were for puppies exclusively. There were few ballots which voted for half or fewer puppies (typically only a few dozen). The average number of works per ballot per category was around 3.
  • There were some weak correlations among non-puppies, but nothing that remotely rivals the puppies’ coherence. In particular, correlations were low enough that even if voting patterns remained basically dispersed, raising the average works per ballot per category from 3 to 4 (33% more votes total) would probably have been as powerful in terms of promoting diverse finalists (that is, not all puppies) as adding over 25% more voters. In other words: if you want things you vote for to be finalists, vote for more things — vote for all the things you think may be worthy.
  • EPH would have resulted in 10 more non-puppy finalists overall; at least 1 non-puppy in each category (before accounting for eligibility and withdrawals).
  • SDV(*) would have resulted in 13 more non-puppy finalists overall.
  • Most other proportional systems would probably have resulted in 13 or 14 more.
  • The above numbers are based on assuming the same ballot set; that is, that voters would not have reacted to the different voting system by strategizing. If strategizing is not used unless it is likely to be rational, that is a pretty safe assumption with EPH; less so with other proportional systems. Thus, other systems could in theory actually lead to fewer non-puppy nominees / less diversity than EPH.

Feel free to promote this to a front page post if you want. Disclaimer: EPH is not intended to shut the puppies out, but merely to help ensure that the diversity of the nominees better reflects the diversity of taste of the voters.

(*) Editor’s note: I believe SDV refers to Single Divisible Vote.

Update 02/08/2016: Added to end of second bullet missing phrase, supplied by author. Corrected footnote, based on author’s comment.

Pixel Scroll 12/11 Fresh Squeezed Pixel Juice

(1) COME OUT OF YOUR SHELL. The University of Maryland Libraries is hosting “Exam Wars: The Turtle Awakens” (U of M’s mascot is the terrapin.)

They’re having a Star Wars drawing contest, among other things.

Exam Wars Illustration Contest Students will send us a drawing of a Star Wars character, and will be entered into a drawing for their very own VIP Study Room, (modeled after the University of Dayton <http://www.programminglibrarian.org/blog/very-important-prize>  study room give-away). This room in McKeldin will be available to the winner during reading day and finals week.

(2) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! “Calista Flockhart Thought the Millennium Falcon Was an Airline”, or so she told Jimmy Kimmel.

In recent months, Harrison Ford has grudgingly acknowledged that he has a soft spot for Star Wars — but apparently, not enough to show the films to his wife Calista Flockhart. During a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live last night, Supergirl actress Flockhart admitted that she was completely in the dark about all things Han Solo until this year. In fact, when a producer on Star Wars: The Force Awakens called to inform her of Ford’s accident on the Millennium Falcon, she had no idea what the Millennium Falcon was.

“A producer called me and she said, ‘Hi Calista, I have some bad news. Harrison has been hurt. He had an accident: he was standing on a Millennium Falcon and the door fell,’” Flockhart told Kimmel. “And I thought that he was on some commercial airline, and the door fell off and he flew out of the airplane!”

Totally confounded, Flockhart called a friend. “I said, ‘What the hell is the Millennium Falcon? I have never heard of that airline!’” she recalled. (Never heard of that airline? It’s the airline that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs!)

(3) DAMMIT JIM! ”Dammit Jim!” beer got its name when New Republic Brewing Company had to rename of one its products.

Dammit jim sixpack

The New Republic Brewing Co received a cease and desist letter from a law firm representing Luxco. They demand that we stop using the brand name Bellows as it is in violation of their trademark.  They claim that you, the consumer will confuse their plastic bottle bourbon with our quality craft beer.

Jim Beam apparently has a ‘Bellows’ line of rail-liquor and put pressure on New Republic. Thus, I suppose the message behind the new name is, “Dammit Jim, I’m a beer not a bourbon!”

Chad B. Hill commented, “The closest Captain Kirk will ever get to a 6 pack!”

(4) BANDERSNATCH EXPLAINED. “Diana Pavlac Glyer Talks About New Book, Bandersnatch” at the Azusa Pacific University website.

What common misconception about creative writing does Bandersnatch hope to eliminate?

This is a good opportunity to explain how Bandersnatch got its title. In a written exchange with Lewis an interviewer asked, “What influence have you had on Tolkien?” He responded, “No one ver influenced Tolkien—you might as well try to influence a bandersnatch.” (A bandersnatch is a mythical animal with a fierce disposition created by author Lewis Carroll.) Many researchers argued that Tolkien and Lewis must, therefore, have worked independently. In the very same letter, however, Lewis goes on to explain that Tolkien either ignores suggestions all together, or completely redoes his work.

The idea of the solitary genius is extremely popular, especially in the United States. Many people imagine the creative process this way: Someone struck with inspiration, sits alone with a typewriter and completes an entire book in one sitting. This could not be more off base. The world’s most influential creators are those embedded in a web of collaboration. They communicate deeply with other people about their ideas, and immerse themselves in groups of influence. When we work among others, our own productivity flourishes. We need people not only to work with us, but to do small things like encourage us along the way.

(5) SECRET AGENT NARNIAN. Harry Lee Poe’s title is overdramatized, however, he seems to be literally correct in saying “C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent”, according to the information in his article for Christianity Today.

…[The] British did the next best thing they could do to help Denmark and the rest of Europe: They launched a surprise invasion of Iceland, which was part of the Kingdom of Denmark….

Though British control of Iceland was critical, Britain could not afford to deploy its troops to hold the island when greater battles loomed elsewhere, beginning with the struggle for North Africa. Holding Iceland depended upon the goodwill of the people of Iceland who never had asked to be invaded by the British. If Britain retained Icelandic goodwill, then Churchill could occupy the island with reserve troops rather than his best fighting forces.

This was the strategic situation in which C. S. Lewis was recruited. And his mission was simple: To help win the hearts of the Icelandic people.

The Work of a Literary Secret Agent

The Joint Broadcasting Committee recruited C. S. Lewis to record a message to the people of Iceland to be broadcast by radio within Iceland. Lewis made no record of his assignment, nor does he appear to have mentioned it to anyone. Without disclosing his involvement with military intelligence, however, Lewis did make an indiscreet disclosure to his friend Arthur Greeves in a letter dated May 25, 1941. Lewis remarked that three weeks earlier he had made a gramophone record which he heard played afterwards. He wrote that it had been a shock to hear his own voice for the first time. It did not sound at all the way his voice sounded to himself, and he realized that people who imitated him had actually gotten it right!

(6) MST3K CASHES IN. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Kickstarter raised $5,764,229 with 48,270 backers , and another $600,000 in add-ons, for a total of $6,364,229. MST3K claims $5,764,229 is a Kickstarter record, beating Veronica Mars to become the most funded media project ever.

We get 13 episodes, a holiday special, and a 14th episode. More importantly we have shown the industry that fans have real power, and in fact don’t need networks and studios to rule our viewing choices. Good work.

(7) SHAGGY. R. Graeme Cameron takes a deep dive into the November 1958 issue of LASFS’ fanzine Shangri-L’Affaires #39 in “The Clubhouse; Fanzine Reviews: ‘breaking people off at the ankles’”.

He begins by reciting the entire credits page (“If the following doesn’t convince you the clubzine SHAGGY was a group effort by a staggering array of now legendary fans in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, there’s no hope for you”), quotes a Halloween party review at length (Fritz Leiber attended in costume), and documents Bjo’s abilities to mesmerize male fans of the 1950s.

(8) COMPANIONSHIP. All I can say about TVGuide.com’s “The Most Fabulous Doctor Who Companions, Ranked” is any such list that doesn’t have Donna Noble at #1 will not be receiving my daughter’s seal of approval.

(9) SECRETS OF CERES. NASA reports “New Clues to Ceres’ Bright Spots and Origins”.

Ceres reveals some of its well-kept secrets in two new studies in the journal Nature, thanks to data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. They include highly anticipated insights about mysterious bright features found all over the dwarf planet’s surface.

In one study, scientists identify this bright material as a kind of salt. The second study suggests the detection of ammonia-rich clays, raising questions about how Ceres formed.

(10) LAST SASQUAN GOH RETURNS HOME. Sasquan GoH and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren had a longer flight than most. He returned to Earth earlier today (December 11).

Expedition 45 flight engineers Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) touched down at approximately 8:12 a.m. EST (7:12 p.m. Kazakhstan time) northeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. It was the first time a crew has landed after sunset and only the sixth nighttime Soyuz return from the space station.

 

Kjell Lindgren

Kjell Lindgren

(11) BE YOUR OWN ALIEN. See the cartoon at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal“Why has no one made this?!”

(12) Today In History

  • December 11, 1992:  The Muppet Christmas Carol premieres in theaters.

(13) Today’s Birthday Ghoul

  • Born December 11, 1922 – Vampira, aka Maila Nurmi.

(14) PUPPY SCHOLARSHIP. Doris V. Sutherland in “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Short Stories” quotes Gregory Benford’s complaint about fantasy taking over the Hugo Awards, and after a long introduction to the Sad Puppy controversy (excerpted here) assays the sf worth of the 2014 Hugo finalists compared to the stories on the slates.

The grave talk of a fight against a “toxic” and “hateful” ideology that controls the Hugos is a long way from the puckish humour of Correia’s early posts. At this point, what started out as a jokey bit of grandstanding has begun to resemble an online holy war against “SJW” hordes.

This element of moral imperative is the key distinction between the Sad Puppies campaign and earlier exercises in slate-voting, such as John Scalzi’s “Award Pimpage”. When a slate of potential nominees is taken as a simple suggestion, that is one thing; when it is taken as a call to arms against evil forces, that is quite another.

And the Winner Is… Well, Nobody

I am, of course, awfully late to the party, and by now I think just about anyone reading this will know the result of the two campaigns. The Sad and Rabid Puppies gathered enough support to sweep the nominees with a mixture of choices from the two slates. And yet, they also had enough detractors to keep almost all of those choices from winning – even if it meant voting “no award” to the tops of multiple categories.

Both sides took this as a victory. Many opponents of the Puppies congratulated themselves on keeping the slated works from winning, while supporters took the results as evidence that the Hugos were run by “SJWs” who barred any nominees with the wrong ideology.

Myself, I would have to agree with Liana Kerzner: “No one won. It was just a disruption in the Force like Palpatine ripped a big fart.”

(15) CONTENT WARNING. The Castalia House blog has posted the first two of a five-part series “Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End.” The series argues the sf community has a pedophilia problem. Whether you read it, you now know it exists – Part IPart II.

[Thanks to David Doering, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

Sasquan’s Donations

Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon, announced today that it has distributed some surplus funds from the convention.

KEY

Pass-On Funds

Worldcon-Related Donations

  • The Hugo Awards (MPC) Grant: MPC is the Mark Protection Committee, an adjunct of the World Science Fiction Society that registers and monitors usage of the Worldcon’s service marks.
  • Worldcon History Organization: The Worldcon Heritage Organization, incorporated in 2012 as a Colorado nonprofit, acquires, maintains, stores, and displays the Worldcon History Exhibits.

Other Donations

  • ASFA: The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists.
  • Con-or-Bust helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions.
  • DUFF: The Down Under Fan Fund, created to increase the face-to-face communication between science fiction fans in Australia and New Zealand, and North America.
  • Efanzines hosts fanzines online.
  • FANAC.org is “is devoted to the preservation and distribution of information about science fiction and science fiction fandom.” It hosts an extensive online archive of fanhistorical material.
  • International Costumers Guild: anaffiliation of amateur, hobbyist, and professional costumers dedicated to the promotion and education of costuming as an art form in all its aspects.”
  • Westercon 69: The 2016 Westercon in Portland, OR.
  • Westercon 70: The 2017 Westercon in Tempe, AZ.

Donation amounts were not stated in today’s announcement, although it is known that DUFF received $2,000as did TAFF.

Pixel Scroll 12/1 Beyond The Wails of Creeps

(1) BANGLESS. In the beginning…there was no beginning?

At Phys.org — “No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning”

The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.

The widely accepted age of the , as estimated by , is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or . Only after this point began to expand in a “Big Bang” did the universe officially begin.

(2) KNOWING YOURSELF. Tobias Buckell supplies fascinating ideas for learning about yourself and your writing in his answer to “How do I know when to trunk my story or novel?”

… I have several writer friends who are what I would call Tinkerers. They write via a method of creating something, then they continue to tinker it into perfection. It’s amazing to watch, and as a result they often have skills for rewriting that are hard to match.

Some, like me, are more Serial Iterators. They do better writing something new, incorporating the lessons of a previous work. They depend on a lifetime of practice and learning. They lean more toward abandoning a project that hasn’t worked to move on….

When I wrote 150 short stories at the start of my career, I abandoned over 100 of them to the trunk. I did this by knowing I was interested in iteration and not interested in trying to rescue them. I had an intuitive sense of how long it would take for me in hours, manpower, to try and rescue a story, versus how many it would take to make a new one. That came with practice, trusted readers opinions being compared to my own impressions of the writing, and editorial feedback. But I am very aware of the fact that I’m not a Tinkerer.

(3) CONNIE AT SASQUAN. She makes everything sound like a good time no matter what. Her nightmare of a hotel was an especially good source of anecdotes — “Connie Willis Sasquan (WorldCon 2015) Report”.

But instead of being taken to rescue on the Carpathia–or even the Hyatt–we were transported to a true shipwreck of a hotel.

It was brand-new and ultramodern, but upon closer examination, it was like those strange nightmare hotels in a “we’re already dead but don’t know it yet” movie. The blinds couldn’t be worked manually, and we couldn’t find any controls. There was no bathtub. The shower closely resembled the one in a high-school locker room, and there was no door between it and the toilet. (I am not making this up.) The clock had no controls for setting an alarm–a call to the front desk revealed that was intentional: “We prefer our clients to call us and request a wake-up call”–and when you turned the room lights off, the bright blue glow from the clock face enveloped the room in Cherenkhov radiation, and there was no way to unplug it. We tried putting a towel and then a pillow over it and ended up having to turn it face-down.

That wasn’t all. If you sat on the edge of the bed or lay too close to the edge, you slid off onto the floor, a phenomenon we got to test later on when we began giving tours of our room to disbelieving friends. “Don’t sit on the end of the bed,” we told them. “You’ll slide off,” and then watched them as they did.

(4) CONNIE PRESENTS THE HUGO. Her blog also posted the full text of “Connie Willis Hugo Presenter Speech 2015”.

… This one year they had these great Hugos, with sort of a modernist sculpture look, a big angled ring of Saturn thing with the rocket ship sticking up through it and marbles representing planets, and brass nuts and bolts and stuff.

They looked great, but they weren’t glued together very well, and by the time Samuel R. Delaney got off the stage, his Hugo was in both hands and his pockets and on the floor, and mine had lost several pieces altogether.

“Did you lose your marbles?” I whispered to Gardner backstage.

“No,” Gardner whispered back in that voice of his that can be heard in the back row, “My balls didn’t fall off, but my toilet seat broke!”

(5) TAFF. Sasquan has donated $2,000 to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund.

(6) LUNACON. Lunacon’s Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign has ended, 58 people contributed a total of $6,127. The funds will be put to good use to make Lunacon 2016 a success.

(7) BEYOND NaNo. Amanda S. Green, in “NaNo is over. What now?” at Mad Genius Club, helps writers who missed the target deal with their results, and shows how her own experiences have taught her to adjust.

That collective sigh of relief and groan of frustration you heard yesterday came from the hoards of authors who met — or didn’t — their NaNoWriMo goals. Now they are looking at those 50,000 words and wondering what to do with them. Should they put them aside for a bit and then come back to see if they are anywhere close to a book or if they more resemble a cabbage. Others are wondering why they couldn’t meet the deadline and wondering how they can ever be an author if they can’t successfully complete NaNo. Then there are those who know they finished their 50,000 words, that they have a book (of sorts) as a result but aren’t sure it is worth the work they will have to put in to bring it to publishable standards.

All of those reactions — and more — are why I don’t particularly like NaNo. I’ve done it. I’ve failed more often than I’ve successfully concluded it….

I’ll admit, as I already have, that I usually don’t meet my NaNo goals. That’s because I know I can do 50k in a month and don’t adjust the word count. That is when Real Life tends to kick me in the teeth. Whether it is illness, either of me or a family member, or death or something around the house deciding to go MIA, something always seems to happen. It did this year. The difference was that I still managed to not only meet my 50k goal but I exceeded it.

So what was different?…

(8) SF POETRY. Here’s something you don’t see every day – a review of an sf poetry collection. Diane Severson’s “Poetry Review – Much Slower Than Light, C. Clink” at Amazing Stories.

Much Slower Than Light, from Who’s that Coeur? Press is currently in its 7th edition (2014) and is probably quite different than the 2008 6th edition (I don’t have a copy from which to compare); there are 6 poems, as far as I can tell, which have been added since then and the 6th edition apparently had poems dating back to 1984. This is a retrospective collection; representing the best Carolyn Clink has offered us from 1996 through 2014 and is likely to morph again in a few years when Clink has more wonderful poems to call her best. There is an astonishing variety in form and subject and genre. There are only 22 poems in all, but all of them are gems.

(9) HARD SF. Greg Hullender and Rocket Stack Rank investigate the “Health of Hard Science Fiction in 2015 (Short Fiction)”.

Now that 2015 is almost over as far as the Hugos go, we decided to look over all the stories that we or anyone else recommended and see which qualified as hard SF. In particular, we wanted to investigate the following claims:

No one is writing good hard-SF stories anymore.

Hard SF has no variety and keeps reusing old ideas.

Only men write hard SF.

Most hard SF is published in Analog.

Hullender noted in e-mail, “Lots of people talk about the health of hard SF, but I haven’t seen anyone give any actual numbers for it.”

(10) YA SF. At the Guardian, Laxmi Harihan analyzes “Why the time is now for YA speculative fiction”.

I write fantastical, action-adventure. Thrillers, which are sometimes magic realist, and which sometimes borrow from Indian mythology. Oh! And my young heroes are often of Indian origin. So yeah! My brand of YA is not easily classifiable. Imagine my relief when I found I had a home in speculative YA. There are less rules here, so I don’t worry so much about breaking them.

So, then, I wanted to understand what YA speculative fiction really meant in today’s world.

Rysa Walker, author of the Chronos Files YA series told me, “Anything that couldn’t happen in real life is speculative fiction.”

Speculative fiction is, as I found, an umbrella term for fantasy, science fiction, horror, magic realism; everything that falls under “that which can’t really happen or hasn’t happened yet.”

(11) WENDIG AND SCALZI. Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi’s collected tweets form “Star Wars Episode 3.14159: The Awkward Holiday Get-Together” at Whatever.

In which two science fiction authors turn the greatest science fictional saga of all time into… another dysfunctional holiday family dinner.

(12) “Anne Charnock, author of Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind Discusses Taking Risks With Her Writing” at SF Signal.

I admit it. I’m a natural risk taker, though I’ve never been tempted by heli-skiing, free climbing or any other extreme sport. I’m talking about a different kind of risk taking. I’m a stay-at-home writer who taps away in a cosy lair, inventing daredevil strategies for writing projects. My new novel, Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind, is a case in point.

Readers of my first novel, A Calculated Life, were probably expecting me to stay comfortably within the category of science fiction for my second novel. Science fiction offers a huge canvas, one that’s proven irresistible to many mainstream writers. But for my latest novel, Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind, I wanted to crash through the centuries. The story spans over 600 years—from the Renaissance to the twenty-second century. It’s an equal mix of speculative, contemporary, and historical fiction.

(13) SUNBURST AWARD. A “Call for Submissions: The 2016 Sunburst Award” via the SFWA Blog.

The Sunburst Awards, an annual celebration of excellence in Canadian fantastic literature, announces that its 2016 call for submissions is now open.

The Sunburst Awards Society, launched in 2000, annually brings together a varying panel of distinguished jurors to select the best full length work of literature of the fantastic written by a Canadian in both Adult and Young Adult categories. 2016 is also the inaugural year for our short fiction award, for the best short fiction written by a Canadian.

Full submission requirements for all categories are found on the Sunburst Awards website at www.sunburstaward.org/submissions.

Interested publishers and authors are asked to submit entries as early as possible, to provide this year’s jurors sufficient time to read each work. The cut-off date for submissions is January 31, 2016; books and stories received after that date will not be considered.

(14) VANDERMEER WINNERS. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer announced the winners of their Fall Fiction Contest at The Masters Review. (Via SF Site News.)

Winner: “Linger Longer,” by Vincent Masterson

Second Place Story: “Pool People,” by Jen Neale

Third Place Story: “Animalizing,” by Marisela Navarro

Honorable Mentions:

The judges would like to acknowledge “The Lion and the Beauty Queen” by Brenda Peynado and “Linnet’s Gifts” by Zoe Gilbert as the fourth and fifth place stories.

The three winners will be published on their website, and receive $2000, $200, and $100 respectively.

(15) LE GUIN POETRY READINGS. Ursula K. Le Guin will be reading from Late in the Day: Poems 20-10-2014 in Portland, OR at Another Read Through Books on December 17, Powell’s City of Books on January 13, and Broadway Books on February 24.

Late in the Day poems Le Guin

As Le Guin herself states, “science explicates, poetry implicates.” Accordingly, this immersive, tender collection implicates us (in the best sense) in a subjectivity of everyday objects and occurrences. Deceptively simple in form, the poems stand as an invitation both to dive deep and to step outside of ourselves and our common narratives. As readers, we emerge refreshed, having peered underneath cultural constructs toward the necessarily mystical and elemental, no matter how late in the day.

These poems of the last five years are bookended with two short essays, “Deep in Admiration” and “Form, Free Verse, Free Form: Some Thoughts.”

(16) GERROLD DECIDES. From David Gerrold’s extensive analysis of a panel he participated on at Loscon 42 last weekend —

1) I am never going to be on a panel about diversity, feminism, or privilege, ever again. Not because these panels shouldn’t be held or because I don’t like being on them or because they aren’t useful. But because they reveal so much injustice that I come away seething and upset.

1A) I know that I am a beneficiary of privilege. I pass for straight white male. And to the extent that I am not paying attention to it, I am part of the problem.

1B) This is why, for my own sake, I have boiled it down to, “I do not have the right to be arrogant or judgmental. I do not have the right to be disrespectful of anyone. I must treat everyone with courtesy and respect.” Sometimes it’s easy — sometimes it takes a deliberate and conscious effort. (I have become very much aware when my judgments kick in — yes, it’s clever for me to say, “I’m allergic to stupidity, I break out in sarcasm.” But it’s also disrespectful. I know it. I’m working on it.)

(17) CANTINA COLLABORATION. Did you know J.J. Abrams wrote the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Cantina Band Music with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda? Abrams told the story on last night’s Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

There are also two other clips on the NBC site, “J.J. Abrams broke his back trying to rescue Harrison Ford,” and “J.J. Abrams was afraid to direct Star Wars.”

(18) BOOK LIBERATION. A commenter at Vox Popoli who says he’s sworn off Tor Books was probably surprised to read Vox Day’s response (scroll down to comments).

I myself will not be purchasing, reading, and therefore not voting for anything published by Tor

[VD] Who said anything about purchasing or reading? Never limit your tactical options.

His answer reminded me of the bestseller Steal This Book. Although in that case, it was the author, Abbie Hoffman, who gave his own book that title.

(19) VOX LOGO NEXT? In a different post, Vox added a stinger in his congratulations to a commenter who bragged about being the point of contact for the outfit that does Larry Correia’s logo-etched gun parts.

I’m actually his point of contact at JP, so I’m feeling proud of myself today.

[VD] Good on you. Now tell them that the Supreme Dark Lord wants HIS custom weaponry and it will outsell that of the International Lord of Hate any day.

And it should look far more evil and scary than that.

(20) Not This Day in History

(21) LUCAS EXPLAINS. In a long interview at the Washington Post, George Lucas offers his latest explanation why he re-edited Star War  to make Greedo shoot first.

He also went back to some scenes that had always bothered him, particularly in the 1977 film: When Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is threatened by Greedo, a bounty hunter working for the sluglike gangster Jabba the Hutt, Han reaches for his blaster and shoots Greedo by surprise underneath a cantina table.

In the new version, it is Greedo who shoots first, by a split second. Deeply offended fans saw it as sacrilege; Lucas will probably go to his grave defending it. When Han shot first, he says, it ran counter to “Star Wars’ ” principles.

“Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, ‘Should he be a cold-blooded killer?’ ” Lucas asks. “Because I was thinking mythologically — should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, ‘Yeah, he should be John Wayne.’ And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first] — you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.”

(22) YOU WERE WARNED. Anyway, back in 2012 Cracked.com warned us there are “4 Things ‘Star Wars’ Fans Need to Accept About George Lucas”.

#4. Because They’re His Damned Movies

An obvious point, but it needs to be stated clearly: Star Wars fans don’t own the Star Wars movies. We just like them. If they get changed and we don’t like them anymore, that’s perfectly cool, because we don’t have to like them anymore. That’s the deal. All sorts of creative works come in multiple editions, director’s cuts, abridged versions, expanded versions. Lucas appears to be far more into this tinkering than other filmmakers, but he’s hardly unique. Take Blade Runner: …

(22) DUELING SPACESHIPS. Millennium Falcon or Starship Enterprise? There is no question as to which space vehicle Neil deGrasse Tyson would choose.

[Thanks to Gregory N. Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Brian Z., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Josh Jasper.]