Pixel Scroll 12/18/17 Scrolls For Industry! Scrolls For The Undead!

(1) CADIGAN NEWS. Congratulations to Pat Cadigan who told her Facebook followers today:

I am now allowed to say that I am writing both the novelisation for the forthcoming movie Alita: Battle Angel as well as the prequel novel, Iron City.

And this is why I’m in Deadline Hell.

That is all.

(2) STAR PEACE CORPS. In  “Star Wars Without the Empire”, Camestros Felapton conducts an awesome thought experiment inspired by Paul Weimer’s tweet.

In post-war Germany, a version of Casablanca was produced, re-edited and with a new script for the dubbing, that had no Nazis in it. As you can imagine, given the role Nazis play in the plot, they had to do a lot of work.

I was wondering if you could do the same to Star Wars Episode 4 – remove the Empire…

Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: A New Hope

A spaceship has broken down. Princess Leia finds a robot on the ship and gives it something. The robot (R2D2) finds an escape pod with its friend (C3PO). They leave the ship. We don’t see the ship again. It probably had engine trouble or something. Maybe the robots have gone off to get some fuel from a service station.

The robots land in a desert. After an argument, they split up. Later they each get caught by tiny people.

Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker is unhappy being a farmer and living with his uncle. He’d rather be…doing something else I suppose.

(3) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. The Vintage Paperback Show returns to Glendale, CA on March 18.

(4) ROBOT ON PATROL. Tech Crunch reports “Security robots are being used to ward off San Francisco’s homeless population”:

Is it worse if a robot instead of a human is used to deter the homeless from setting up camp outside places of business?

One such bot cop recently took over the outside of the San Francisco SPCA, an animal advocacy and pet adoption clinic in the city’s Mission district, to deter homeless people from hanging out there — causing some people to get very upset.

The article quotes this tweet from Brianna Wu:

The SPCA deployed a robot from security startup Knightscope to deter crime and vandalism on their campus.

And, according to both the S.F. SPCA and Knightscope, crime dropped after deploying the bot.

However, the K9 unit was patrolling several areas around the shop, including the sidewalk where humans walk, drawing the ire of pedestrians and advocacy group Walk SF, which previously introduced a bill to ban food delivery robots throughout the city.

“We’re seeing more types of robots on sidewalks and want to see the city getting ahead of this,” said Cathy DeLuca, Walk SF policy and program director, who also mentioned S.F. district 7 supervisor Norman Yee would be introducing legislation around sidewalk use permits for robots in the beginning of 2018.

Last week the city ordered the S.F. SPCA to stop using these security robots altogether or face a fine of $1,000 per day for operating in a public right of way without a permit.

The S.F. SPCA says it has since removed the robot and is working through a permitting process. It has already seen “two acts of vandalism” since the robot’s removal.

(5) THE DIAGNOSIS. Ted Chiang says “The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism” in an article for Buzzfeed.

Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems harmless enough, but as the AI redesigns itself to be more effective, it might decide that the best way to maximize its output would be to destroy civilization and convert the entire surface of the Earth into strawberry fields. Thus, in its pursuit of a seemingly innocuous goal, an AI could bring about the extinction of humanity purely as an unintended side effect.

This scenario sounds absurd to most people, yet there are a surprising number of technologists who think it illustrates a real danger. Why? Perhaps it’s because they’re already accustomed to entities that operate this way: Silicon Valley tech companies.

(6) CHEERS AND BOOS. Fanac.org has posted a 36-minute video of Robert A. Heinlein’s guest of honor speech at the 1976 Worldcon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976, with Robert A. Heinlein as Guest of Honor. With a warm introduction by Bob Tucker, this sometimes uncomfortable speech touches on Heinlein’s belief in the inevitability of atomic war and his belief that mankind will go to the stars. There are comments on Russia and China, the role of men, and more than a few very bad jokes. You will hear applause and you can hear disapproving boos. If you are one of “Heinlein’s Children”, or simply a reader of classic SF, this video is a rare opportunity to hear that legendary figure.

(More background about the booing is here.)

(7) UNCANNY DINOSAUR ISSUE. The submission window opens in March – read the pitch and complete details here: “Uncanny Magazine Dinosaur Special Issue Guidelines”.

As you may know if you followed the Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter, Uncanny Magazine Issue 23 will be a Special Shared-Universe Dinosaur Issue! The planned solicited contributors are:

Do you want to join them? One of the stretch goals was adding two extra unsolicited stories to the issue! We will be open to submissions from March 1- March 15, 2018.

(8) CAPITOL TBR. Former congressman Steve Israel profiles members of Congress in the Washington Post about their favorite books of the year and found Rep. Ted Lieu of California enjoying the Nebula Awards anthology and Rep.Adam Schiff of California reading Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series — “A former congressman asked his old colleagues for book suggestions. Here’s their list.”

(9) TROLLING FOR CLICKS. At NBC News, Noah Berlatsky asks “Is Star Wars’ ‘The Last Jedi’ science fiction? It’s time to settle this age-old argument”. Will anybody take my bet that the argument will not be settled by his op-ed? Or maybe it will, by a kind of cinematic force majeure.

To figure out whether Star Wars is science fiction, you first need to figure out how to define the term — which is harder than you might think. Genres are notoriously difficult to pin down, which is why they spark so many arguments. Some country fans protested loudly when Beyoncé appeared at the Country Music Awards because she (supposedly) was not a country artist. Some critics similarly argued that Bob Dylan’s lyrics are not literature, though the Nobel committee disagreed.

Genre is a marker of quality and belonging, of seriousness and community. Science fiction in particular is often seen as more important or serious than fantasy, so it’s no wonder that there’s been some struggle over how to place the films. George Lucas himself declared that “Star Wars isn’t a science-fiction film, it’s a fantasy film and a space opera” in 2015. Others have also waded in over the years; Annalee Newitz included Star Wars in a list of 10 science-fiction works that are really fantasy at io9, while author Brian Clegg says Star Wars is only “low-grade science-fiction” — it’s not quite real science-fiction, so it’s not high quality.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 18, 1957 The Monolith Monsters premiered.
  • December 18, 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens in New York City.
  • December 18, 1985 — Terry Gilliam’s Brazil! was released.
  • December 18, 1996 — Wes Craven’s Scream hits theaters, and a Halloween mask was born.
  • December 18, 2009 – Director James Cameron’s Avatar premiered.
  • December 18, 2013Forbidden Planet (1956) is selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

(11) TODAY’S  BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock
  • Born December 18, 1941 – Jack Haldeman
  • Born December 18, 1946  — Steven Spielberg
  • Born December 18 — Steve Davidson

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy overheard Dilbert talking about a zombie apocalypse.

(13) I HAVE A LITTLE LIST. SyFy Wire’s Swapna Krishna names these as “The 10 best sci-fi and fantasy books of 2017”. People get upset if I say I haven’t heard of all the books on a “best” list, so let me say I have heard of many of these.

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS 2014. Everyone has their own way of celebrating the holidays. John King Tarpinian’s traditions include rewatching Thug Notes’ analysis of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

(15) THE BIG BUCKS. Speaking of stacks of cheddar — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes $450m on opening weekend”.

The movie dwarfed its nearest rival – the computer-animated comedy Ferdinand, which took $13m (£10m).

The total for The Last Jedi includes $220m (£165m) from box offices in the US and Canada, placing the film second in the all-time list for North America.

It trails behind the 2015 release Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opened with a record-breaking $248m (£185m).

(16) BREATHLESS TAKE. Chuck Wendig launches his review with a long stretch of onomatopoeia: “The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking”. And how often do you get a chance to use that word?

This will be less a review of The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) than it will be… my thoughts? An analysis? Me opening my head like a flip-top Pac-Men and seeing what globs of brain-goo I can grab and hastily smack into the screen?

Spoilers follow the noises, Wendig warns.

(17) WHAT’S BREWING IN SHORT FICTION. Nerds of a Feather’s Charles Payseur serves “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 11/2017”.

So please, take seat. The flavors on tap this month are perfect for those looking to unwind by the fire, to shed a tear for those who have not made it this far, and to reaffirm a commitment to pushing forward, into a future that is not mired by the same harms and dangers as the past. Each pint today comes with a special side of memories and a tendril of shadow creeping just out of view. The only remedy is to drink deep, and share the moment with those you care about, and look for ways to escape the familiar cycles of hate, loss, and fear—together….

Tasting Flight – November 2017

“An Unexpected Boon” by S.B. Divya (Apex)

Notes: Pouring a dark brown rimmed with gold, the first sip is deep, subtle and smoky like dreams burning, only to reveal newer, sweeter tones underneath, a future still bright despite loss and danger.

Pairs with: Honey Bock

Review: Kalyani is a young (probably autistic) girl who experiences the world quite differently from the rest of her family. It’s something that Aruni, her older brother, finds quite difficult to handle, especially when his parents have left him in charge while they are away. For Kalyani, though, it’s the rest of the world that doesn’t make as much sense, that overflows with threats and dangers…

(18) ON STAGE. It’s live! “The Twilight Zone returns to spook theatergoers”.

In 1959, a groundbreaking TV series began in the USA. The Twilight Zone came to be regarded as a classic of science fiction for the small screen. Now the Almeida Theatre in London is taking eight episodes to make a Twilight Zone for the stage.

(19) YA. A dystopia? Why, that’s just another day in a teenaged life: “Why Teens Find The End Of The World So Appealing”.

“The hallmark of moving from childhood to adulthood is that you start to recognize that things aren’t black and white,” says Ostenson “and there’s a whole bunch of ethical grey area out there.”

Which makes dystopian fiction perfect for the developing adolescent brain, says Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University.

“Their brains are very responsive to emotionally arousing stimuli,” he explains. During this time, there are so many new emotions and they are much stronger than those kids experienced when they were younger.

“When teenagers feel sad, what they often do it put themselves in situations where they feel even sadder,” Steinberg says. They listen to sad music — think emo! — they watch melodramatic TV shows. So dystopian novels fit right in, they have all that sadness plus big, emotional ideas: justice, fairness, loyalty and mortality.

This time in a kid’s life is often defined by acting out, but, Steinberg says, that’s a misguided interpretation of what’s happening. “It isn’t so much rebellion, but it is questioning.”

(20) BAD AIR. I remember breathing this stuff at the 2015 Worldcon: “California fires: Sentinel satellite tracks wildfire smoke plume”.

Europe’s new Sentinel-5P satellite has captured a dramatic image of the smoke billowing away from the devastating California wildfires.

It is a powerful demonstration of 5P’s ability to sense the atmosphere.

The plume is seen to sweep westwards out over the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles and then turn north towards the State of Oregon.

(21) JDA. Jon Del Arroz shares his vision of the controversies he’s engaged in this year with BayCon, Scalzi, Cat Rambo, Chuck Wendig, and some guy who scrolls pixels in “It’s Better To Be My Friend #JDAYourFriend”.

…Where they all screwed up, is that I’m a competent writer who works hard. I’m a competent businessman who markets hard. I don’t take my ball and go home and I’m not deterred from speaking the truth by some threats or someone’s bully pulpit.

And now I’ve got a platform. It’s one a lot of people read on a daily basis. It’s only going to grow bigger in 2018. I’m a well-respected journalist, I’m a multiple-award nominated author with an avid readership. I’m winning. Readers and audiences like winners. Yet not one of these people has come forward and said “you know what, Jon, I shouldn’t have attacked you, let’s be friends.”

(22) TO SMELL THE TRUTH. Hugo-winning editor Gordon Van Gelder had a famous father, Dr. Richard Van Gelder, who tried to stump the panelists on the episode of game show To Tell The Truth aired March 13, 1961. The chairman of the Department of Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, Van Gelder pere was specially touted as an expert on skunks. The real Van Gelder and two impostors appear at 17:00, and the truth is told right after the 23:00 mark.

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

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.