Pixel Scroll 3/10/18 Great Scroll Title

(1) WIKIPEDIA. What an amazing coincidence (or not)! Amazing Stories is Wikipedia’s Featured Article today. I hope it gives Steve Davidson’s Kickstarter a boost.

(2) WISCON. The WisCon Member Assistance Fund is rising money through sales of t-shirts etc. with this design:

You’ve always been able to support the WMAF via our Donate page, during the Registration process, or by using our direct Paypal link.

But now you can take care of your own need for clothing and benefit the WMAF at the same time! Sam Haney Press has designed artwork based on an idea from Nicasio Andres Reed (inspired by Woodie Guthrie) and we’re making it available on t-shirts! (And on a tote bag, which you will probably need to…carry the multiple t-shirts you are going to want to buy.)

Buy shirts at this link.

(3) UNRECOGNIZED. Scott Bradfield explains why pop culture fame eludes Clark Ashton Smith in “The Bard of Auburn: Getting Weird in the Long Valley” for LA Review of Books.

WHEN IT COMES to being underrated, Clark Ashton Smith has long been a quadruple-threat. For more than a century, Smith has been unfairly disregarded as a poet, a short story writer, a painter, and even a sculptor; had he perhaps enjoyed just a little professional good fortune during his lifetime, he might have gone on to spend his twilight years being unfairly disregarded in numerous additional endeavors: prose poetry, novel writing, drama, screenwriting, you name it. Instead, he spent those last decades as a gardener and handy-man, never achieving the recognition of his friends and fellow Weird Tales contributors, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Almost unforgivably, no proper biography has yet been published about Smith — only a scattering of bibliographies and essays from small (but resolute) specialty presses.

In many ways, this ponderous, multi-generational neglect of Smith isn’t hard to understand. Unlike Howard (the stylish creator of Conan and Solomon Kane), Smith never wrote filmable series characters that could be played by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel….

(4) BOFFO B.O. Looper tells “Why Black Panther Blew Everyone Away At The Box Office.”

(5) AS SANDS THROUGH AN HOURGLASS. “Dune reboot will span two movies, take at least two years, says Denis Villeneuve” reports SyFy Wire.

We’ve known for a while that Denis Villeneuve is working on a reboot for Dune, Frank Herbert’s landmark sci-fi novel famously adapted for the big screen by David Lynch all the way back in 1984. But now we’re learning that Villeneuve has no plans to try to cram everything from the sprawling source material into just one movie.

Via The Playlist, Villeneuve recently told a crowd gathered for a Montreal film event that his adaptation of the 1965 novel “will probably take two years to make,” with a goal of making “two films; maybe more.” That bomb drop reaffirms Villeneuve’s long-haul commitment to what’s long been a passion project.

(6) WIKIMYSTERY. A scholarly paper posits the automatic generation of adventure games from open data such as Wikipedia articles, OpenStreetMap, and images from Wikimedia Commons: “Who Killed Albert Einstein? From Open Data to Murder Mystery Games”.

Every WikiMystery game revolves around the murder of a person with a Wikipedia article and populates the game with suspects who must be arrested by the player if guilty of the murder or absolved if innocent. Starting from only one person as the victim, an extensive generative pipeline finds suspects, their alibis, and paths connecting them from open data, transforms open data into cities, buildings, non-player characters, locks and keys and dialog options. The paper describes in detail each generative step, provides a specific playthrough of one WikiMystery where Albert Einstein is murdered, and evaluates the outcomes of games generated for the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

(7) CARTOON NETWORK. The Hollywood Reporter tells readers: “Cartoon Network Unveils Largest-Ever Slate of Content for 2018-19”.

Among the new shows is Diego Molano’s Victor and Valentino, a supernatural comedy about a pair of half-brothers who spend the summer with their grandmother in a mysterious town where Latin American folklore comes to life, and Owen Dennis’ Infinity Train, which has already developed a passionate following through the network’s Artist Program, about a girl who tries to find her way home from a train full of infinite worlds. Victor and Valentino is slated to release this year, while Infinity Train will reach viewers in 2019.

Other new Cartoon Network shows include buddy-comedy Apple & Onion, set in a world of anthropomorphic food; the surrealist animal adventure Summer Camp Island; and adventure comedy Craig of the Creek, which follows the expeditions of a group of best friends across a neighborhood creek.

And that’s not all!

(8) THE DORKEST HOUR. There’s something you don’t see every day — “Winston Churchill dancing like James Brown, played by Gary Oldman.”

(9) SHARKE WATCH. Shadow Clarke jury convenor Dr. Helen Marshall provides “A Means of Escape: A Round-Up of Our Posts So Far”.

As we eagerly await the end of the snows and the release of the submissions list, which will launch the first major phase of the Arthur C. Clarke jury’s deliberations, I thought it would be useful to pause for a moment and reflect upon the major threads introduced by our jury members so far. In assembling the jury, Maureen and I wanted to draw together reviewers from different backgrounds and with different ideas of what criticism might mean and what it ought to do. I’ve been delighted to see the range of approaches offered so far as well as the questions they open up. What follows then are my own impressions of some of the major threads that connect these approaches.

(10) SF ENCYCLOPEDIA CREATOR. Here’s the text of Peter Douglas Nicholls’ death notice that appeared in The Age of Melbourne on March 9.

Science fiction critic, encyclopedist, bon vivant, and pontificator. Died on 6th March 2018, aged 78, surrounded by family. Inspired adoration and exasperation in equal measure. Remembered with enormous love by his sister, Meg; children, Sophie, Saul, Tom, Jack, and Luke; grandchildren, Pia, Cassia and Uma; and his wife, Clare Coney.

My brain tells stories to itself
While I’m asleep. Last night
I smoked and talked, the dead replied
A party in my dreams.
What fun!

– Peter Nicholls


  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premiered
  • March 10, 1997 — The Warner Brothers (WB) television network airs the inaugural episode of Joss Whedon’s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(12) ELLISON. Damien Walters posted his 2013 interview with Harlan Ellison last October, and linked to it on Facebook today.

DW: You famously described sci-fi fandom as an “extended family of wimps, twinks, flakes and oddballs.” But don’t the geeks kind of run the world now?

HE: I am a steadfastly 20th-century guy. I’ve always been pathologically au courant. Even today I can tell you the length of Justin Bieber’s hair. But it has now reduced society to such a trivial, crippled form, that it is beyond my notice. I look at things like Twitter and Facebook, and “reality TV”?—?which is one of the great frauds of our time, an oxymoron like “giant shrimp”?—?and I look at it all, and I say, these people do not really know what the good life is. I look at the parched lives that so many people live, the desperation that underlies their every action, and I say, this has all been brought about by the electronic media. And I do not envy them. I do not wish to partake of it, and I am steadfastly in the 20th century. I do not own a handheld device. Mine is an old dial-up laptop computer, which I barely can use?—?barely. I still write on a manual typewriter. Not even an electronic typewriter, but a manual. My books keep coming out. I have over 100 books published now, and I’ve reached as close to posterity as a poor broken vessel such as I am entitled to reach.

(13) PETS WHO SLEEP NEAR WRITERS. Mark-kitteh made sure we didn’t miss “13 Of The Most Adorable Pets Owned By Famous Writers” at Buzzfeed.

  1. J.K. Rowling’s endearing West Highland terrier named Bronte:

(14) DO THE LOCOMOTION. A BBC video shows a “Rollerskating robot to the rescue” (video)

Researchers in Zurich are teaching a robot how to balance on wheels attached to its four legs.

The goal is to help it complete search and rescue missions and other tasks in less time.

(15) BOOM, JAMES BOOM. The volcano used in You Only Live Twice is throwing off ash, lava and rocks – but no rocket launch parts: “Mount Shinmoedake: Warning over Japan’s James Bond volcano”.

(16) PURPLE HAZE? When they’re done, they have an educated guess: “Alien atmospheres recreated on Earth”.

“Clouds and hazes determine the temperature and the chemistry of the atmosphere, and also how deep we can look into a planet’s atmosphere,” explained Dr Helling.

“Exoplanet clouds can be made of sparkling minerals, in addition to the photochemical hazes just produced in the lab.”

While clouds form from the continuous cycling of material, much like the hydrological cycle on Earth, the process of producing hazes is “more of a one way trip” according to Dr Hörst.

The solid particles then remain in the planet’s atmosphere, where they can scatter light and affect the surface temperature, or travel to the surface via precipitation.

(17) ROBOTS BEHAVING BADLY. CNN Money gives a video demonstration: “Watch this robot get attacked by ransomware”.

Ransomware is not only a threat on phones or computers. It’s coming for robots, too. Researchers at security firm IOActive successfully conducted a ransomware attack on a SoftBank Robotics robot

(18) MOVIE THEOLOGY. The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein finds Coco opens the way for a decreasingly religious America to discuss the idea of an afterlife for loved ones: “How the Oscar-winning ‘Coco’ and its fantastical afterlife forced us to talk about death”.

There is little solid data on the wide range of beliefs Americans have about post-death existence and how those views are changing. Much of what there is has to do with the words “heaven” and “hell” — amorphous for many. Seventy-two percent of Americans say they believe in heaven, and 58 percent in hell — numbers very slightly down since about a decade ago, according to the Pew Research Center.

People who work with the dying say these beliefs are fluid.

“Death opens you up,” said Aram Haroutunian, a longtime hospital and hospice chaplain in Denver. “And death is the great unknown. People are more open. And especially at the very end, they are very open.”

Haroutunian said he doesn’t think hammering out theology around the afterlife is a particularly common priority for the dying. However, he said, a common experience among hospice workers is hearing people who are dying start to speak of the deceased — long-dead family or friends — in the present tense, “like they’ve been talking with them.” Metaphors about travel are extremely common, he said: I’m getting on a train, taking a bus ride, packing my bags. “It’s uncanny,” he added.

(19) PRODIGY. Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal’s Prodigy, to be released March 13, is available for pre-order at iTunes.

Prodigy follows Dr. Fonda, a psychologist with a mysterious new patient. After being searched and issued warnings, he is taken to a cell where he finds Ellie, a young girl strapped in a straitjacket. Ellie immediately begins dissecting Fonda, revealing her genius-level intellect. Fonda holds fast, only faltering when Ellie claims to have killed her own mother. The team observing this interaction suggest Ellie is more dangerous than Fonda knows. She possesses “gifts” they wish to analyze — a process which will result in Ellie’s death. With the execution scheduled for the next day, Fonda must alter his strategy. He engages Ellie in a battle of wits, which results in Ellie’s telekinetic “gifts” revealing themselves. Objects hover, furniture topples, the foundation of the building quakes, but Fonda continues chipping away at Ellie’s tough facade. His methods begin to win over the experts, but he will need drastic results to prove the monster they see is actually a child worth saving.


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

Pixel Scroll 3/6/18 Ready Pixel One

(1) DISNEY’S CHRISTOPHER ROBIN. Disney has dropped the Christopher Robin official teaser trailer.

The Hundred Acre Wood is opening up to our world. Watch the brand-new teaser trailer for Disney’s Christopher Robin. Coming soon to theatres Disney’s “Christopher Robin” is directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder and a story by Perry based on characters created by A.A. Milne. The producers are Brigham Taylor and Kristin Burr with Renée Wolfe and Jeremy Johns serving as executive producers. The film stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin; Hayley Atwell as his wife Evelyn; Bronte Carmichael as his daughter Madeline; and Mark Gatiss as Keith Winslow, Robin’s boss. The film also features the voices of: Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh; Chris O’Dowd as Tigger; Brad Garrett as Eeyore; Toby Jones as Owl; Nick Mohammed as Piglet; Peter Capaldi as Rabbit; and Sophie Okonedo as Kanga.


(2) CTHULHU. But if Pooh is too sweet for your taste, Reddit’s “Ask Historians” takes a deep dive into question: “Where did HP Lovecraft come up with the idea of Cthulhu?”

…So the idea of Cthulhu was percolating in Lovecraft for some time; he borrowed portions of concepts from other writers – artificial mythology, sleeping gods and mountainous size from Dunsany; the alien origin and creepy cults from Theosophy (this is actually made more explicit in the text); the telepathic dream-sendings from Dunsany and de Mausauppant – the octopus/dragon mixture is a little hard to pin down, since Lovecraft never went into specifics about his influences on that in his letters, although he did provide a sketch of the idol. But tentacles were not unfamiliar in weird fiction in the period….

(3) PRO TIPS. Much to be learned from “8 Writing Tips from Jeff VanderMeer” at the Chicago Review of Books.

1—The amount of time you spend writing isn’t necessarily as important as the time spent thinking about what you are going to write.

I often feel it is easier to spoil a novel by beginning to write too soon than by beginning to write too late. Perhaps this is because I need to know certain things before I can even contemplate writing a novel.

For example, I need to know the main characters very well, the initial situation, and the ending (even if the ending changes by the time I write it). I also have to have some kind of ecstatic vision about a scene or character, some moment that transcends, and I have to have what I call charged images associated with the characters. These aren’t images that are symbolic in the Freudian sense (humbly, I submit that Freud just gets you to the same banal place, as a novelist, every time), but they are definitely more than just images. They have a kind of life to them, and exploring their meaning creates theme and subtext. For example, the biologist encountering the starfish in Annihilation or Rachel in Borne reaching out to pluck Borne from the fur of the giant bear. (Both of which also have their origin in transformed autobiographical moments, and thus an added layer of resonance.)

Once I know these things, it may still be six months to a year before I begin to write a novel. The process at that point is to just record every inspiration I have and relax into inhabiting the world of the novel. To not have a day go by when I’m not thinking about the characters, the world they inhabit, and the situations. If I lose the thread of a novel, it’s not because I take a week off from writing, but because I take a week off from living with the characters, in my head. But, hopefully, the novel takes on such a life that everything in the world around me becomes fodder for it, even transformed….

(4) FINDING THE GOOD STUFF. At Rocket Stack Rank: “New Features: Flag, Rate, Group, Highlight Stories”. Greg Hullender explains:

Our main goal is to be as useful as possible to readers looking for good stories and for fans trying to make nominations for awards, and a key part of that has always been the big tables of recommended stories. Almost from the beginning, people have asked us to give them more ways to navigate those tables, and we’ve finally put something together.

Fans wanting to use RSR to manage his/her Hugo longlist and short list can do that now by giving 5-stars to the shortlist and 4-stars to the longlist-only stories. These ratings are saved on your local device and can be backed up, copied, shared, etc.

Readers who only read stories that are free online can highlight all such stories—including the ones that appeared in print magazines but are also available online.

Readers who care about the recommendations of particular reviewers can highlight those.


The feature is new, and doubtless has some bugs in it. We’d welcome any and all feedback.

(5) DEVELOPING STORY. Jason Sanford, in a free post on his Patreon, published a “Response from Left Hand Publishers” to some issues he raised about their business practices.

This morning I received a response from Left Hand Publishers to my analysis of concerns related to their publishing house. The response is presented below in its entirety, along with additional information provided by the publisher in regards to issues I raised about their contract…

(6) PUSHBACK ACKNOWLEDGED. In “Washington National Cathedral’s hawk is named Millennium Falcon. How stupid are we?”, the Washington Post’s John Kelly investigates the red-tailed hawk Miillennium Falcon currently living at Washington National Cathedral.  He consults an expert at the Audubon Naturalist Society who says that both hawks and falcons are both part of the order Falconiformes and then comes up with other exciting names for the bird, including Hawk Solo and Jabba the Hawk.

That’s the name a majority of the voters picked: Millennium Falcon, even though the bird is not a falcon but a hawk. Hawks have feathered “fingers” at the ends of their wings, instead of the tapered points that falcon wings come to. Falcons such as the peregrine are rarer in our area.

This is what happens when you let the public vote. Sometimes, we can’t be trusted. Look at that research vessel in Britain, which, if the public had had its way, would have been christened Boaty McBoatface. (It became RRS Sir David Attenborough, with an underwater vehicle it carries bearing the BMcB moniker.)

I figured that ornithologists and other bird-lovers would surely share my sense of outrage. I mean, a hawk isn’t a falcon. With our skyscrapers, chemicals and habitat destruction, humans are killing millions of birds a year. Shouldn’t we at least be able to properly differentiate among the victims?

But Alison Pierce at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, Md., was more forgiving. “Hawk Solo would have been a more taxonomically-correct choice,” she wrote in an email. “But since hawks and falcons are both part of the order Falconiformes, we’re willing to give them a pass on Millennium Falcon. As the D.C. region’s consummate birdwatchers and lovers, we think it’s cool that so many area residents appreciate the beauty of the red-tailed hawk, which is one of our most common raptors.”

(7) NICHOLLS OBIT. Encyclopedia of SF creator Peter Nicholls died March 6, of cancer reports SF Site News. He won a Hugo Award in 1980 for its first edition, and shared Hugos won by its subsequent editions in 1994 and 2012. Nicholls also won SFRA’s Pilgrim Award (1980), and the Peter McNamara Award (2006), among other honors.

His SFE colleague John Clute said in “Peter Nicholls (1939-2018)”:

We announce with great regret the death on 6 March of Peter Nicholls (1939-2018), who conceived and edited the first edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979), who co-edited the second edition in 1993, and who served as Editor Emeritus of this third edition (2011-current) until today. His withdrawal from active editing was due solely to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease in 2000, after which he rarely left his native Australia; but he continued to speak to the rest of us, sometimes firmly, always with the deepest loyalty to the encyclopedia he had given birth to and nurtured.


Peter Nicholls. Photo (c) Andrew Porter.

(8) BAYLIS OBIT. Trevor Baylis, the inventor of the wind-up radio, has died.

Trevor Baylis believed that the key to success was to think unconventional thoughts.

It was this mindset that saw him develop his clockwork radio after hearing about the problems of educating African people about HIV and Aids.

It enabled those in remote areas without electricity, or access to batteries, to get the information that could save their lives.

But despite the success of this, and other inventions, Baylis never made a great deal of money from his many ideas.


  • Mike Kennedy saw Brewster Rockit get a good laugh out of a well-known sf trope.

(10) AN OLD FAMILIAR FACE. The Hollywood Reporter says some major movies are the focus of litigation over technology infringement: “New Copyright Theory Tested in Lawsuit Over Disney’s ‘Avengers,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy'”.

A VFX firm asserts its software program is an original literary work and that Hollywood studios are liable for vicarious and contributory infringement.

Rearden LLC, the VFX firm that claims ownership to a popular facial motion-capture technology used in Hollywood, is not giving up on hopes of winning a copyright lawsuit against Disney, Paramount and Fox. On Tuesday, the plaintiff brought an amended lawsuit that tests a new copyright theory over blockbuster films including Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Beauty and the Beast. Ultimately, the plaintiff remains insistent that these films deserve to be literally impounded and destroyed.

The background of the case is complicated, but what’s essential to know is that in a previous lawsuit, Rearden was able to convince a judge that its technology was stolen by Digital Domain 3.0 and a Chinese company. After the victory, Rearden went after the customers of the technology — the Hollywood studios using facial motion-capture software to do things like de-age Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys or transform actor Dan Stevens into Beast for Beauty and the Beast.

(11) LIPTAK. Andrew Liptak has been writing up a storm at The Verge (as always) and Filers will find plenty of interest in his recent posts.

There are a ton of podcasts out there, but finding the right one can be difficult. In our new column Pod Hunters, we cover what we’ve been listening to that we can’t stop thinking about.

A couple of years ago, Verge listener David Carlson wanted to help his wife. She had a new job with a long commute, and he wanted her to read some of his favorite articles at The Verge, like All Queens Must Die and Welcome to Uberville, so he recorded audio versions for her to listen to en route. He’s since moved on to a project of his own: The Hyacinth Disaster, a science fiction story told through the black box transmissions of a doomed asteroid mining ship in our solar system.

In his debut novel, author Tom Sweterlitsch constructed a fascinating mystery with Tomorrow and Tomorrow, set in a virtual version of Pittsburgh after a terrorist attack leveled the city. In The Gone World, he introduces an even more ambitious investigation: one that jumps back and forth in time, and which could decide the fate of humanity. It’s a complicated, dazzling novel that keeps the reader hooked until the last pages.

The Gone World opens with a 20th-century NCIS agent named Shannon Moss on a training mission in the distant future of 2199. She’s part of the Naval Space Command, which runs a covert space and time-traveling program that sends Navy personnel across the galaxy and across time. On her first mission, she discovers a horrifying scene: a version of herself crucified mid-air in a broken wasteland. She’s witnessed what her agency calls The Terminus, a mysterious phenomenon which signals an apocalypse that appears to be moving closer and closer to the present. After her training, she’s called to investigate a brutal murder in her present — 1997. The apparent culprit appears to be a Navy SEAL named Patrick Mursult, once part of the same time-travel program as Moss — until his starship, the Libra, was lost on a mission.

Star Trek: Discovery is the biggest change to the Star Trek franchise in years, adopting the same attitudes that the showrunners for Stargate and Battlestar used: putting an emphasis on agonizing decisions that challenge the characters in complicated ways. At New York Comic Con, Discovery executive producer Akiva Goldsman explained that the new version was putting an emphasis on its characters. “If Jim Kirk had to deal with Edith Keeler’s death in ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ as if it were real life, it would take a whole series or a season,” Goldsman said.

In the months since, I’ve found that the Kindle opens up more dedicated reading time. While before I’d only use the Kindle app on my phone to read snippets while I was bored (and usually without cellular service), I’m now using it to actually take time and sit and read. I can’t flip over to check e-mail or lose myself in Twitter. I can capture that 15 to 30 minutes at night or in the morning to read without turning on a light.

The results are promising. I strive to read about a book a week, and I’ve been setting aside time in the morning to sit down and read, before I plug into the world for the rest of the day. I haven’t abandoned my paper books — I’ve got more of them in my house than ever — but what the Kindle does is give me options.

(12) NEW WRINKLE. In the Washington Post, Sandie Angulo Chen interviews Storm Reid, who is happy to star in A Wrinkle in Time and proud to be “a kid of color” — “Storm Reid felt an instant bond with ‘Wrinkle in Time’ character”.

The ninth-grader first read Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 science-fiction classic when she was in the sixth grade. Storm says she felt an immediate connection with Meg, a brilliant but misunderstood middle-schooler who goes on an adventure across time and space.

“She’s such a peculiar character, and I wanted to know more about her. And I thought it was so amazing that she couldn’t realize how beautiful and smart and gracious she was, but everyone around her saw it,” the 14-year-old actress told KidsPost. “It took her a trip around the universe to notice that.”

Like Meg, Storm loves and excels in science and math. But she doesn’t think readers or viewers have to like those subjects to understand the character.

“I relate to Meg so much, and other teenagers and kids relate to her, because we are all trying to figure things out,” Storm explained. “We all might have things in our lives that are stopping us, but Meg shows all of us that we can overcome our challenges and we can live out our dreams.”

(13) MUSICAL TRADITION COMING TO AN END. The 86-year-old composer is finishing his run: “’Star Wars’ Composer John Williams May Stop After ‘Episode IX’: ‘That Will Be Quite Enough for Me’”.

There’s at least one member of the “Star Wars” galaxy who might not be saddling up for any further adventures after J.J. Abrams’ “Episode IX” wraps the Skywalker saga in 2019. NME reports (from a chat on California radio station KUSC) that longtime composer John Williams might be leaving the franchise after Abrams’ film arrives in 2019.

(14) NON-CENSUS. An opponent to the census claims to be elsetime to avoid being recorded: “New Zealand census campaigner takes to his TARDIS”.

An anti-census campaigner in New Zealand is hoping to avoid today’s compulsory national count by hiding in a TARDIS, it’s reported.

The self-styled Laird McGillicuddy, otherwise known as Graeme Cairns, says he is using the Doctor Who time-travelling space craft to boycott the five-yearly census by “travelling in time”, the New Zealand Herald reports.

Mr Cairns, who was once the leader of the satirical McGillicuddy Serious Party, has a history of unusual stunts to protest the census, which is compulsory for all New Zealanders.

He’s once claimed not to be in New Zealand by hovering above the city of Hamilton in a hot-air balloon, and on another occasion declared himself “temporarily dead”.

(15) WORDS TO LIVE BY. Jane Yolen features in The Big Idea at Whatever.

My two mottos are BIC and YIC:

Butt in chair. (Or for the finer minds—backside, behind, bottom).

Yes I Can. The answer I give if someone asks if I have time or inclination to write something for their blog, journal, magazine, anthology, publishing house. I can always say no after careful consideration. But an immediate no shuts the door for good.

Both BIC and YIC are variants of my late husband’s motto: Carpe Diem. Seize the day.

However, the word I hate most when a reviewer or introducer are talking about me is prolific. It carries on its old farmer’s back a whiff of a sniff. As if someone is looking own his or her rarified patrician nose and saying, “Well, of course she writes a lot. . .” That’s their dog whistle for inconsequential, not literary kind of stuff, things like kiddy books and verse, scifi and fantasy. Or as my father said when I was years past my fiftieth plus book, “When are you going to grow up and write something real?”

(16) BREAK THE INTERNET. Last week there was also a trailer for the new Wreck-It Ralph movie due in November.

“Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” leaves Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and thrilling world of the internet—which may or may not survive Ralph’s wrecking. Video game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) must risk it all by traveling to the world wide web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, Sugar Rush. In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet—the netizens—to help navigate their way, including a webite entrepreneur named Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site “BuzzzTube.” “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-Ralph 2” hits theaters on Nov. 21, 2018.


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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.


(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).


  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.


(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/6/16 Waggin’ Train

(1) WELL WISHING. James H. Burns, the frequent File 770 columnist, is in the hospital – keep him in mind.

Hey, folks: Quite unexpectedly, I’m in Mercy Hospital, in Rockville Center, at least through the weekend. Cards and visitors welcome! Room 245A.1000 N Village Ave.Rockville Center, NY.11570

(2) NEW BEST FANZINE FINALIST. Lady Business acknowledged its nomination in “Hugo Ballot Finalist Announcement, or More Ladies and Queers on Your Ballot”.

We at Lady Business are excited to announce that we have accepted a place on the final ballot for Best Fanzine in the 2016 Hugo Awards.

This is a strange year to be be a Hugo finalist. If you’ve been following the Hugo Awards, you know that the last couple of years have been controversial. We prefer not to dwell on the controversy here, but if you’re unfamiliar and would like a summary, Fanlore has a good overview. After the 2016 finalists were announced, one of the original five Fanzine finalists, Black Gate, withdrew from consideration. The Hugo administrators contacted us to let us know that we were next in the voting tally, and offered us the open slot. After some conflicted deliberation, we decided that we wanted to acknowledge the people who voted for us in the nomination phase, and we accepted a place on the final list….


(4) PARTY PLANNER. George R.R. Martin welcomes “The Replacements”. And contemplates their impact on the Alfies.

…((Though I am curious as to whether these two new finalists were indeed sixth. It seemed to take MAC a rather long time to announce the replacements after the withdrawal, something that could presumably be accomplished in minutes just by looking at the list and seeing who was next up — unless, perhaps, there were other withdrawals along the way? We’ll find out come August)).

Short Story and Fanzine were two categories where the Rabid Puppies had swept the field, top to bottom. Accordingly, they were also two categories that I had earmarked as being in need of Alfies. But the withdrawals and replacements broke the Rabid stranglehold, leaving me with a decision to make — do I still present Alfies in those categories, or no?

I am going to need to ponder that for a while.

(5) KNOCK-ON EFFECT. With SF Signal’s announcement fresh in mind. Adam Whitehead discusses “Blogging in the Age of Austerity” at The Wertzone.

…For bloggers who do have day jobs and families, it’s become clear that the lack of material reward for blogging means greater pressure to step away and spend that time instead with loved ones or doing other things. And that’s why it’s easy to see why the guys at SF Signal decided to step away. If I get one of the several jobs I’m currently going through the recruitment process for, the amount of blogging on the site will have to fall as I devote time to that instead.

Is there a way around this? Should there be? Kind of. For a lot of bloggers, blogging is a springboard into writing fiction and once they make that transition, the blogging is left behind. For me, I have no interest in writing fiction day in, day out. I may one day try my hand at writing a short story or a novel if a story demands to be told, but I’m never going to be a career fiction writer. I much prefer writing about the genre as a critic, but the paid market for that is much smaller. After over five months doing the rounds with my agent, A History of Epic Fantasy has failed to garner as much as the merest flicker of interest from a professional publisher, despite the people nominating it for awards (and in any year but this one, it might even have stood a chance of making the shortlist) and clamouring for the book version (look for an update on that soon). But even if that takes off, that’s just one project. Being an SFF critic isn’t much of a career path these days, especially with venues drying up (even the mighty SFX Magazine seems to be in financial trouble and may not last much longer)….

(6) WITHOUT MUMBLING. At Fantasy Literature Sam Bowring takes up the perpetual challenge — “Coming Up with Fantasy Names: A Somewhat Vague and Impractical Guide”.

One of the hardest aspects of writing a fantasy story, I find, is conjuring a bunch of made-up names that don’t sound like I spilled alphabet soup on a crossword puzzle. It’s important to get names right, of course. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has flung away a potential read in disgust because the blurb said something about a protagonist called ‘Nynmn’dryhl of the Xyl’turym’. Can I buy a vowel, please? I’m also guessing this is one reason why so few fantasy worlds include any equivalent of telephones, for everyone would be forever spelling their names over them.

That said, personal appreciation of fantasy names is about as subjective as it gets. One person’s ‘Nynmn’dryhl’ may be another’s ‘Bilbo Baggins’. It would be arrogant for me to sit here (I really must get a standing desk so I can sound more authoritative when I type) and tell you what does or does not make a good fantasy name, especially when I myself have created names I know for a fact that others find cringe-worthy. One of my good friends, for instance, never lets me forgot that I named a place ‘Whisperwood’. ‘Whisperwood,’ he will say, years later, out of the blue, shaking his head in dismay.

Thus instead I’ll merely tell you about general approaches I find to be useful. One such, which I imagine is a common starting point for many authors, is to simply diddle around with various syllables, rearranging them in different ways until striking upon a pleasing combination. I do not own the patent for this, and mind altering drugs are optional. Losara, Olakanzar, Lalenda, Elessa are all the results of such a ‘process’, as we shall kindly call it…

(7) SCIENCE TOO. The Traveler at Galactic Journey begins “[May 6, 1961] Dreams into Reality (First American in Space)” by connecting the dots.

I’ve been asked why it is that, as a reviewer of science fiction, I devote so much ink to the Space Race and other scientific non-fiction.  I find it interesting that fans of the first would not necessarily be interested in the second, and vice versa.

There are three reasons non-fiction figures so prominently in this column:

1) I like non-fiction;

2) All the science fiction mags have a non-fiction column;

3) Science fiction without science fact is without context.

(8) SENSE8. From SciFiNow, “Sense8 Season 2 sneak peek photos give a look at what’s to come”.

Sense8‘s co-creator Lana Wachowski shared a tonne of brand new Season 2 production stills on the show’s official Tumblr page recently (sense8.tumblr.com if you’re bored…), and they are absolutely delightful. They also look potentially spoilerific, so browse through the above gallery with caution.

(9) TRIBAL THEORY. Damien G. Walter takes up the topic “Have the Locus awards been hit with ‘myopic sexism’” at The Guardian.

Taken as a whole, the Locus awards were broadly representative of a sci-fi field that is continuing to grow in diversity: 18 female to 17 male writers, with many upcoming writers of colour among the voters’ top picks. Placed in that context, the way the YA category has turned out seems less like myopic sexism, and more indicative of the older demographic of readers who read Locus magazine and see the YA genre from their own preferences. When I caught up with Joe Abercrombie, nominated twice in the category for his Shattered Seas trilogy, he agreed.

“I think this has much more to do with adult SF&F readers voting for the authors they recognise, and tending to read YA that crosses over into SF&F territory.” Abercrombie’s popularity among adult readers has carried over to his YA books, which in America have been sold and marketed as adult fantasy; it’s that adult readership, who recognise Abercrombie as one of their tribe, whose votes count in the Locus award. “I’m pleased people voted for me,” he says, “but I don’t think it’s ever a good thing when someone’s on the same shortlist twice.”

(10) SF IN PORTUGAL. Luis Filipe Silva’s new entry on Portugal for the Science Fiction Encyclopedia chronicles the past century of sf/f there. The focus is on fiction, as one would expect, with this being the only comment about the interaction between literature and national politics:

Nevertheless, if utopia bewitches the faithful, it frightens the unbelievers. A decade of political and social turmoil, following the Regicide in 1908 that turned Portugal into an uneasy Republic, inspires some highly pamphletary Dystopian fiction: in A Cidade Vermelha [“The Red City”] (1923) by Luís Costa, the misguided Portuguese people welcome a full Republican/Communist government, only to see the country devolve into absolute chaos; it is not surprising that the people then cry for the return of the unjustly deposed monarch, who comes back from exile and sets things right again. Amid such strong ideological trends, any text that pictures an ideal future based solely on the workings of science and technology becomes a rarity: in the landmark vision of Lisboa no Ano 2000 [“Lisbon in the Year 2000”] (1906), Melo de Matos (years) turns Lisbon into a major world economic hub thanks to advances in Transportation and Communication made by Portuguese Scientists.

I was curious, after reading many posts by Sarah A. Hoyt.

(11) COMMONWEALTH SHORT STORY PRIZE. Locus Online reports a speculative story by Tina Makereti is one of five winners of the 2016 Pacific Regional Commonwealth Prize.

The 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judges have announced this year’s five regional winners, including the speculative story “Black Milk” by Tina Makereti (New Zealand) for the Pacific region.

…The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded to the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English, and short stories translated into English from other languages (stories may be submitted in their original language if not in English). Five winning writers from five different Commonwealth regions receive £2,500 (USD $3,835), and the overall winner receives £5,000 ($7,670)….

(12) BLAME HARRY. Fantasy causes brain damage, according to a school headmaster in the UK — “Nailsworth teacher claims Harry Potter books cause mental illness”.

A headmaster has urged pupils not to read Harry Potter – claiming the books cause mental illness.

Graeme Whiting also said other fantasy titles such as Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games and Terry Pratchett encourage ‘difficult behaviour’. He told parents to steer clear of JK Rowling’s ‘frightening’ books and they should read classics like Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and Shakespeare. Writing on his blog, Mr Whiting, head of the independent Acorn School in Nailsworth, Gloucester, thinks that people should have a ‘special licence’ to buy fantasy books. He wrote: “I want children to read literature that is conducive to their age and leave those mystical and frightening texts for when they can discern reality, and when they have first learned to love beauty….”

(13) AFTERMATH. Anne Heche and James Tupper have been cast as the leads in Syfy’s forthcoming post-apocalyptic series Aftermath. Deadline reports the former Men in Trees co-stars will reunite on screen  as a married couple who “have to contend with supernatural creatures as well as their own teenage children after a series of natural disasters finally sticks a fork in life as we know it.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

SF Encyclopedia’s Clute, Langford Interviewed

The double-domes behind the SF Encyclopedia, John Clute and Dave Langford, have been interviewed for Amazing Stories by John Dodds:

The Encyclopedia has helped bring an academic rigour to the study of science fiction—which is not to discount the valuable science fiction courses offered by some universities, and individual commentators. What is it about this genre in particular, as opposed to crime and horror fiction, for instance, that makes it so worthy of in-depth study?

[John Clute]: Might have been more clearly the case in 1979, when what we did was attempt to establish a “playing field” within which a very broad-church definition of sf might be discussed. Though we were clearly prescriptive in our language at points throughout the enterprise (in fact a good deal more prescriptive than academics back then, still haunted by the objectivity mantras of the New Criticism), we were absolutely not prescriptive in what we deemed to be “worthy” of inclusion. Anything that fit the definition was our subject.

[Thanks to Dave Langford for the link.]

The Age of Lucius Shepard

How old Lucius Shepard was when he died proved to be a controversial question here.

Shepard’s Wikipedia entry and the obit posted at the SFWA Blog listed 1947 as the year of his birth. However, I followed the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s lead and reported he was born in 1943.

Which is right?

The 1947 date was favored by Shepard. It appears in his official bio. He also did not demur when Jason S. Ridler posed a question in a Clarkesworld interview that stated the writer was 33 when he went to Clarion – assuming a 1947 birth date.

However, with Dave Langford’s help I was able to learn more about the SF Encyclopedia’s preference for 1943, based on Mike Ashley’s search of the public record.

  • The 1945 Florida census includes a Lucius Shepard, age 2, listed as born in Virginia. (Shepard’s official bio states he was born in Lynchburg, VA.)
  • The US Public Records Office lists Lucius T. Shepard as living in Seattle in 1993, with a birth year of 1943.
  • Finally, Shepard said he attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill — and a Lucius T. I. Shepard is listed as attending there in 1962 aged about 20.

So there’s persuasive support in official records for a 1943 birth date, in which case Shepard was 70 years old when he died.

Copyright 2014 by File 770 http://www.file770.com/

Saving Children from Ansible?

Dave Langford is incensed to discover his Ansible site, the SF Encyclopedia and many other websites of the science fiction field are being filtered by British internet service providers attempting to comply with UK legislation that created what is satirically referred to as the “Great Firewall of David Cameron.”

He provides full details in an SFE post “SF Encyclopedia – unsuitable for under-18s?” with screen captures from O2‘s “website status checker” page that can be used to research what is blocked by default by that particular ISP — accessible only if a subscriber opts-in using the Parental Controls.

SF Encyclopedia Gallery

The Science Fiction Encylopedia opened an online gallery on May 15 stocked with 1,837 book covers (and more to come.)

The contents are searchable by author, title keyword, illustrator and publisher. They can also be displayed as a slide show, or retrieved at random by clicking on  Lucky Dip.

Readers can participate in the upgrade and expansion of the gallery —

Some important Gallery pictures are smaller than we’d prefer. Ideally all portrait-format images should be 600 pixels wide, but those of the following first editions and of several others are only 350 pixels wide. We welcome larger scans of copies in good condition, and will of course give credit to anyone who can provide one – a new scan from your own or a willing friend’s collection, please, not online images which may be entangled in copyright issues.

Here is a wish list of items the editors have already identified for improvement:

Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange
Arthur C Clarke – Childhood’s End
Frank Herbert – Dune
A Merritt – The Face in the Abyss
James H Schmitz – The Witches of Karres

If you can help, please use the SFE email contact form.

[Via Ansible Links, courtesy of John King Tarpinian.]

SF Encyclopedia Releases Beta Text

The Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s online beta text went live October 10. Which means for the past 48 hours the field’s best-known figures have been reading the entries about themselves and using social media to vent every dissatisfaction, great or small.

Compared to the greats I’m easy to please. “SFE?File 770’s in it at all? – WHEEEE!”

However, Robert J. Sawyer is understandably disappointed. The SFE entry about him doesn’t seem to have been updated from the 1995 edition. Sawyer wrote in exasperation on Facebook that it doesn’t mention seven of his Hugo-nominated novels, not even Hugo winner Hominids, nor is there a word about Flashforward, which became a TV series.

How representative is Sawyer’s entry of the beta text? How many legacy entries from the second edition still need a major update? Perhaps SFE’s management will comment.

The initial complaints arise mainly from high expectations created by the publicity ahead of the release. SFE’s management chose to call this a beta text, which people reasonably took to mean “practically done.” SFE’s frank estimate that another million words will be written and added before the new edition is finished might have been sufficient warning if someone had clearly said how much of this work must be done on entries already posted. I think many people assumed that would be a million words of brand new articles and expected what has been posted to be finished work.  

The excellence of SFE’s authors and editors insures no one wants to settle for a wiki-style process, but everyone involved expects a lot of response. There is even a form:

If you have feedback of any kind on the SFE, the best way to get in touch is via the email contact form here. This has the advantage of being copied to several of the editors, so whoever’s best placed to answer can do so.

Nobody is being shut out, though a more collegial and explicitly stated willingness to use feedback when it is given would help soften the impression. The SFE blog entries on this point sound defensive – an honest expression of feelings, to be sure. A new tone would help.  

The early rash of complaints may also be blamed on a degree of neglect in “playing the players,” the field’s leading opinion-makers.

Shouldn’t someone have made a list of the sf/f personalities who are the most prominent and adept users of social media and made sure their entries, at least, were up-to-date? I doubt there is another pro who matches Robert J. Sawyer’s energy in publicizing his writing, travel and marketing online. Why risk alienating that guy?  

There won’t be that problem with John Scalzi, another internet giant — his career is summarized in a fully current, detailed entry. There’s also a featured entry about Charlie Brown which should please the Locus staff. Maybe Sawyer’s case was an oversight. No matter the cause, it’s a mistake that’s going to sting for awhile.

However, there’s no denying that the online Science Fiction Encyclopedia is great resource that will be increasingly used and relied upon by fans as it is perfected and expanded.