Pullman and the Grenfell Tower Fundraiser

Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, offered to let readers bid for a chance to name one of the characters in his next book to benefit the victims of the recent Grenfell Tower disaster. A teacher is bidding for the name of one of his students, a resident of the tower who did not survive the fire — “Teacher’s bid to name Philip Pullman character after Grenfell Tower pupil gets £16,000 backing”.

Authors and well-wishers raising money for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire are augmenting a bid by a teacher to name a character in His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman’s new book after one of his former pupils, who lost her life.

Nur Huda, 16, died in the fire along with her parents Abdul Aziz and Fouzia, and her siblings Yasin, 21, and Mehdi, 8.

The teacher’s £1500 bid has been augmented by others’ donations, both small and large (one for £5000).

Many in the publishing industry are joining the Authors for Grenfell Tower online auction, offering items to help raise money for British Red Cross’s relief fund for Grenfell Tower residents and neighbors.

In addition to Pullman, sff donors include:

[Thanks to Nigel for the story.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

house-of-dracula

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

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

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

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

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

Nancy Palmer reviewed it at her website.

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

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

And Bertie MacAvoy praises it, too:

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

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

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

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

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

Triumph of the nerds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/13/16 Carry On My Wayward Scroll

(1) NEXT STEP. Sigrid Ellis responds to the Orlando attack with a series of autobiographical notes in “The road to murder is paved with microaggressions”.

  1. I was horrified to hear the news out of Orlando. But I wasn’t surprised. I wish I found murders of LGBTQIA folk to be surprising. But I have been found guilty of being gay my entire life. I know how much, how casually, how thoughtlessly I am hated. Hated not because I am evil, but because I am merely the most horrible disgusting thing people can imagine.
  2. The shooter went to a place of refuge, of joy, of celebration. He went to a place where queers go when we are told we are too queer to be seen anywhere else. He went to the place where all the shoving and flaunting of queer would have been hidden away from him. He sought it out, this crusader vigilante, this one good man with a gun we hear so much about. He took his righteousness and hunted down the gay he hated and feared.
  3. So how do we go on. How do we live in a world that hates and fears us?

I cannot stop anyone from murdering anyone else. I don’t have that power. But I am … done. I am done with letting the jokes and remarks slide by. I cannot continue to passively agree that I am a punchline, a threat, a bogeyman, a cautionary tale. I just, … I am done.

I can’t stop the Orlando murders, or any other murders of queers.

But I am done being complicit.

(2) HELPING. Stephanie Burgis researched a list of links about ways to help Orlando victims, and community LGBTQ organizations.

This is not the post I wanted to write today. Today, I was planning to announce a fun new project up for pre-order. I was going to talk about other stuff, the normal, small incidents of life. But I’m still reeling. So I’ll post about all those things another day. Today, I just want to pass on the things I’ve seen that might help a bit:…

(3) DIAMOND TIME. Alastair Reynolds’ story “Diamond Dogs” will be on stage in Chicago this season.

An adaptation by Althos Low (the pen name for Steve Pickering and creatives from Shanghai Low Theatricals) of Alastair Reynolds sci-fi story “Diamond Dogs” will complete The House Theatre’s 2016-17 season.

The production, set in the future, follows characters caught in an alien tower and will be third in the company’s season, running Jan. 13-March 5. Artistic director Nathan Allen will direct.

(4) TIME TRAVELERS PAST. The Economist discusses“Time-travel from H.G. Wells to ‘Version Control’”.

MUCH of what is good in science fiction is not about the future. Rather, the genre uses the future as a canvas on which to imprint its real concerns—the present. Counterintuitively, perhaps, time travel stories are often those tales that are most anchored in the present. As Sean Redmond argues in “Liquid Metal: the Science Fiction Film Reader”, time travel “provides the necessary distancing effect that science fiction needs to be able to metaphorically address the most pressing issues and themes that concern people in the present”.

One of the earliest time-travel novels, H.G. Wells’s “The Time Machine”, can, for example, be read as reflecting contemporary anxieties about the effects of the industrial revolution on Britain’s rigid class system. The elfin “upper class” Eloi are seemingly content, but are in fact easy prey for the ape-like “working class” Morlocks. The fear that a strong but supposedly inferior working class, empowered by industrialisation, could come for them would have resonated with many of Wells’s Victorian readers.

Robert Heinlein’s time and dimension-hopping novels featuring Lazarus Long, who lives for over 2,000 years, are rooted in the author’s rejection of the social norms of his times. With their enthusiasm for nudism and free love, the novels, which must have seemed provocative in the 1950s and 60s, can now feel dated.

(5) REYNOLDS WOULD STAY. Alastair Reynolds tells “Why I’m for the UK remaining in the EU” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by balloon.

Many of the arguments for and against membership of the EU seem to revolve around economics, which seems to me to be an extremely narrow metric. Even if we are better off out of the EU, which we probably won’t be, so what? This is already a wealthy country, and leaving the EU won’t mend the widening inequality between the very rich and almost everyone else. More than that, though, look at what would be lost. Friendship, commonality, freedom of movement, a sense that national boundaries are (and should be) evaporating.

(6) THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD. SF Gate reveals the crime of the millennium — “The great city of San Francisco no longer has a center”.

A brass surveyor’s disk, recently installed on an Upper Market-area sidewalk to mark the precise geographic center of San Francisco, has been stolen.

On Wednesday, city surveyors and Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru visited the spot in the 700 block of Corbett Avenue to call attention to the disk and to the work of the surveyors who had established the spot as the precise center of town.

It wasn’t technically the center of town — that spot is under a bush on a nearby hillside — but it was close, and it was publicly accessible.

At the time, surveyor Michael McGee predicted that the small brass disk — attached to the concrete with heavy-duty glue — would suffer the fate of similar markers and be stolen by vandals.

“I’d give it about six weeks,” McGee said.

He was off by five weeks and six days.

On Thursday, an orange arrow and shakily written “Geographic Center of City” were still on the sidewalk. A circular patch marked the spot where the disk had been, briefly.

(7) YOU SHOULD WEAR A HELMET. “Could a satellite fall on your head?” BBC follows German scientists’ efforts to find out.

“There are a lot of satellites in orbit and they will come down sooner or later,” he says. “They’ll probably break up and the question for us is: what is the chance of an impact?”

In other words, could sections of dead satellites survive re-entry to hit something or, worse, someone?

The wind tunnel being deployed for Willems’ experiment resembles a giant deconstructed vacuum cleaner attached to a pressure cooker, arranged across a concrete floor. The gleaming machine is covered in a mass of pipes and wires. Capable of producing air currents of up to 11 times the speed of sound, the wind tunnel is used for testing the aerodynamics of supersonic and hypersonic aircraft designs.

(8) GENRE DINERS. Lawrence Schoen presents — Eating Authors: Naomi Novik, the June 13 edition of his Q&A series.

I’m preparing this week’s post from New Mexico, where I am ensconced at a writers’ retreat and working hard to up my craft (while also enjoying great company, fabulous meals, and some truly awesome leisurely walks through nature). But such things cannot stop the juggernaut that is the EATING AUTHORS blog! Which is about as much of a segue as you’re going to get this week by way of an introduction for my latest guest, Naomi Novik, who should already be known to you for her Temeraire series which blends fantasy and alternate history (or, as it’s more commonly described, the Napoleonic Wars with dragons!).

(9) SEND ONE BOOK. Throwing Chanclas pleads the case for a Nevada high school library looking for book donations. Cat Rambo says SFWAns are pitching in.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mines closed, then mills–nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries….

What we’re lacking is pretty much everything else.

We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science. We need series. We need film. We need comics. We need music. We need biographies of important people. Looking for Young Adult. Classics. We want zines! Contemporary. Poetry. Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life. Writers send us YOUR BOOK. We have many non-readers who we’d love to turn on to reading. We need a way to take this tiny area and bring it into the 21st century. We have a whole bunch of kids who don’t like to read because all they’ve ever been given is things that are either dull , dated, or dumbed down.

The students who are excelling are doing so because they have supportive parents at home and access to books and tablets elsewhere. But most students are without.

So here’s what I’m asking. Will you donate a book? A real book. Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, their truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?

I’m not asking for money. I’m asking for you to send a new book or film or cd to us to help us build a library we can be proud of. Just one book.

So who is with us?

Send us one book.

Greenville High School/Indian Valley Academy
Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia
117 Grand Street
Greenville, CA 95947

Thank you for your support.

If sending during the month of July (when school is closed) please send to

Library Project/Margaret Garcia
PO Box 585
Greenville, CA 95947

(10) SFWA. Today was the second SFWA Chat Hour. Streamed live and saved to video, you can listen to Operations Director Kate Baker, member Erin Hartshorn, Volunteer Coordinator Derek Künsken, President Cat Rambo, and Chief Financial Officer Bud Sparhawk talk about the organization’s new member experience, game writer criteria, the state of SFWA finances, volunteer opportunities, Worldcon plans, the 2017 Nebulas, awards for anthologies, what they’re reading, and more.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 13, 1943 — Malcolm McDowell

(12) TSF&HF. Leonard Pierce experiments with placing the emphasis on each different word in this six-word phrase, and ends up with a column called “Third Booth on the Left”.

“So, what do you guys sell?”

“Traditional science fiction and high fantasy.”

“Your average author isn’t 83 years old and nearly dead, then?”

Traditional science fiction and high fantasy.”

“Oh.  Okay.  But, I mean, you don’t just do space operas based on the technical education of someone who was an undergraduate when Eisenower was in the White House, right?”…

(13) TEH FUNNY. John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Reality Check cartoon by Dave Whamond.

(14) CHINA SF AWARD. “The Chinese Government is Setting Up Its Own Major Science Fiction Award” reports the Lifeboat Foundation.

This is pretty interesting: during the latest national congress of the China Association for Science and Technology, chairman Han Qide announced that the country would be setting up a program to promote science fiction and fantasy, including the creation of a new major award.

Throughout much of its genre’s history, China’s science fiction has had a legacy of usefulness, often promoted to educate readers in concepts relating to science and technology. This new award will be accompanied by an “international sci-fi festival” and other initiatives to promote the creation of new stories.

(15) HE BITES. A deliberately harmful robot named “First Law” has been built to hype discussion about the risks of AI.

A robot that can decide whether or not to inflict pain has been built by roboticist and artist Alexander Reben from the University of Berkeley, California.

The basic machine is capable of pricking a finger but is programmed not to do so every time it can.

Mr Reben has nicknamed it “The First Law” after a set of rules devised by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov.

He said he hoped it would further debate about Artificial Intelligence.

“The real concern about AI is that it gets out of control,” he said.

“[The tech giants] are saying it’s way out there, but let’s think about it now before it’s too late. I am proving that [harmful robots] can exist now. We absolutely have to confront it.”

(16) VERY LATE NEWS. Appropriate to the previous item, Bill Gates was named 2015 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award Winner – in January.

Story

January 3, 2016 — The Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award is annually bestowed upon a respected scientist or public figure who has warned of a future fraught with dangers and encouraged measures to prevent them.   The 2015 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award has been given to Bill Gates in recognition of his fight against infectious diseases, his warnings about artificial intelligence, and his funding of improvements in education since a smarter civilization is one that is more likely to survive and flourish.

About Lifeboat Foundation

The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.

(17) PLAY BALL. “Chewbacca Mom and some special ‘Star Wars’ friends threw the first pitch at the Rays game”, as major league baseball blogger Chris Landers told Cut4 readers.

Over 150 million Facebook views later, “Chewbacca Mom” was born. She sang with James Corden. She was offered a full scholarship to Southeastern University in Florida. She started charging $20 for an autograph. And finally, on Saturday, the cherry on top: Payne threw out the first pitch before the Rays’ 4-3 loss to the Astros.

But, befitting a woman who was brought happiness to so many, it wasn’t just any first pitch. It was a “Star Wars” first pitch — featuring the cantina song, another Wookiee, and of course, Taylor Motter at catcher wearing a Chewy mask.

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, Jim Henley, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 4/6/2016 I Saw A Scroll Drinking A Pina Colada At Trader Vic’s, His Pixel Was Perfect

(1) APPRECIATION. At Fantasy Café, Stephanie Burgis thanks the women who blazed the trail into the fantasy genre.

I wanted to write a very important thank you note to the women who first showed me the way into this field…

I imagine the extra emotional hurdles I would have had to jump, if those women hadn’t taken the risk before me of letting the world know their gender when they published their books.

So: thank you, Robin McKinley, Patricia McKillip, Emma Bull, and Judith Tarr. I loved your books then, I love them now, and I’m so grateful that you took that risk for me and every other fantasy-loving girl reader/writer out there.

Thank you.

(2) FEMINIST COMICS. Corrina Lawson at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog recommends “9 Feminist Comics Everyone Should Read”. Apparently this doesn’t literally mean feminist, but anyway —

It’s a good time to be a reader interested in feminist comics. When I say “feminist,” I don’t necessarily mean “a book in which a women fights the patriarchy.” I don’t even require the story to be written by a woman.

What I mean by “feminist comics” is that they offer stories that include three-dimensional female characters. That’s it. I know, it seems like a low bar, but it’s surprising how often it isn’t done. And yes, many of them that do it are written by women—but not all.

In compiling a list of feminist comics I think everyone should read, I looked beyond Marvel and DC Comics, because I wanted to spotlight work being done outside of the “Big Two,”  though I do love and applaud the work being done on Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, A-Force, Black CanaryBatwoman, and Gotham Academy. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list; rather, it’s a glimpse at a handful of the many comics out there with fascinating female characters. Please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments. (And to those wondering why Lumberjanes isn’t on this list, well, I sang the praises of that book in a previous article.)

First on the list is Monstress, story by Marjorie Liu, art/cover by Sana Takeda (for young adult readers)

(3) MORE CIVIL WARRIORS. SciFiNow breathlessly reveals “Captain America: Civil War adds two interesting last minute cast members”.

The first is the marvellous Jim Rash, best known to many as Dean Pelton from Community. The second is Alfre Woodard, who is particularly interesting seeing as she’s also set to appear in Netflix’s Luke Cage as Mariah Dillard. Does that mean Captain America: Civil War will become the first MCU film to cross over with Netflix’s series of Marvel shows?

Both Woodard and Rash’s involvement in Civil War seem to have been revealed by accident when both their names were included on a Disney list of cast members who will be attending the film’s upcoming premiere. Since the list was issued, sources have claimed that Woodard will play a small but pivotal part in Civil War as the mother of an American citizen who was killed during the Battle of Sokovia in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

(4) BRADBURY IN MUTTS. James H. Burns says, “One of my favrorite things in the world for many years now has been Patrick McDonnell’s comic strip, Mutts. McDonnell is simply one of the best, of our generation, and really, all time. You should like this installment!”

mutts, bee

 

(5) KINDLE SCOUT. Joan Marie Verba explains “How Kindle Scout Works” at the SFWA Blog.

Kindle Scout is a publishing option sponsored by Amazon.com. Writers can submit an unpublished manuscript of 50,000 words or more in the science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or romance genres. Kindle Scout then will put up a web page with the cover, summary, sample chapter, and author information. Potential readers then review the information, and if they have an Amazon.com account, they can nominate the work. At the end of 30 days, the Kindle Scout team reviews the statistics and the work. If they accept the work for publication, the author gets an advance against royalties and the work is published on Kindle Press….

One site I would highly recommend reading before, and especially during, one’s campaign is kboards—in particular, the “Kindle Scout Experiences, Anyone?” board. This board has authors who are in the midst of a Kindle Scout campaign as well as authors who have completed one (successfully or unsuccessfully). Some on that board assert that there are factors in addition to the number of nominations that Kindle Scout considers in order to make a selection, such as the author’s sales history and number of titles previously published.

(6) MOVIE SPACESHIPS. ScreenRant lists the “14 Most Iconic Ships To Ever Appear In Science Fiction Movies”. It’s true, I made noises while reading this article.

If you’re reading this list, chances are at some point in your life you’ve held a toy spaceship in your hands and steered it gracefully through the air, banking left and right, while making engine noises (“Kschchchch,” “Wrrrrrrreeeeeeeaaaar!”) and laser noises (“Pfew, pfew,” “Tschew!”). That’s because ships in sci-fi movies can be so crazy cool. That’s part of the fun of watching them: seeing which new designs special effects teams have come up with, or what old favorites have been updated.

Most of these ships are spacecraft, but sci-fi ships can also go underwater or even inside the human body. There are malicious, invading alien crafts and benevolent alien ships; massive vessels that hold thousands of people, and little one-seaters. But they’re all awesome in their own way.

Okay trufen – before you peek, guess whether #1 on the list is from Star Wars or Star Trek!

(7) BAEN NEWS. Baen Books will now offer MVMedia ebooks on the Baen Ebooks website. MVMedia is an Atlanta-based publisher known for a wide range of science fiction and fantasy, notably for its Sword and Soul genre anthologies. Sword and Soul is epic fantasy adventure set in a mythological Africa featuring a sword-wielding black hero.

MVMedia at Baen Ebooks launches with The Dark Universe Anthology edited by Milton J. Davis and Gene Peterson, and From Here to Timbuktu, written by Milton J. Davis.

The Dark Universe anthology is a multi-author space opera in the high sense. It portrays the origin story of the Cassad Empire, from its ambitious beginning as a refuge and new home for a persecuted people to its evolution to the first great human Galactic Empire. Authors include Milton Davis, Gene Peterson, Balogun Ojetade, Penelope Flynn, Ronald Jones, Malon Edwards, K. Ceres Wright and DaVaun Sanders….

(8) GUSTAFSSON OBIT. Ahrvid Engholm pays tribute to the late Lars Gufstafsson (1936-2016) at Europa SF.

Lars Gustafsson was just awarded the International Zbigniew Herbert Prize in Poland, and was supposed to collect it May 17th in Warsaw, his 80th birthday.

But death intervened.

Lars Gustafsson, author, poet, philosopher, etc, passed away April 3rd. He was 79.

Lars Gustafsson was a heavyweight in Swedish literature and culture. The biggest swedish morning paper, Dagens Nyheter, had seven (!) pages about Gustafsson’s death.

And he was a big fan of science fiction and fantastic literature! It began when he as a young boy steadily read the then sf pulp magazine Jules Verne Magasinet (1940-47). He even visited our local SF conventions occasionally.

(9) DRAGON AWARDS REACTIONS. Here are samples from the range of reactions to Dragon Con’s new SF awards.

(10) THE WINNER HAS YET TO ENTER THE RING. Lela E. Buis awards a technical knockout to the Dragon Awards simply for being announced, in “Upheaval in the awards system”.

Contrast this attendance figure with WorldCon that gives out the Hugo Awards. Wikipedia lists 4,644 attendees and 10,350 who bought memberships to vote the 2015 Hugo Awards, which was a record for numbers. With DragonCon moving into the awards game, I’m thinking the Hugo’s are officially undermined. The Puppy scandal has not only disrupted the voting system, but it seems to have led to an inspection of the Hugo process where works are winnowed through a narrow review and recommendation system and onto the ballot.

(11) DUKING IT OUT ABOUT PC. Matthew M. Foster and L. Jagi Lamplighter overflowed Facebook with their recent discussion of Political Correctness, each writing a supplemental blog post.

Foster’s post is, “They Took My Job!”

Political Correctness threatens people’s jobs.

OK. How? The example from that other thread is that researchers who disagree with climate change are afraid to speak up due to fear of losing their job. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good example for it brings up an obvious alternative—that is that researches who do not do a good job fear losing their job. Which they should. If 99 researchers do an experiment and get X, and 1 guy does it and gets Y, then the most likely reason is because 1 guy did it poorly. And that’s what we have in climate change research. But lets get past that and make this more general, to take out the notion that the employee is bad at his job while keeping in mind the nearly meaningless nature of the term “PC.”

So, how can someone lose their job due to political correctness?

  1. He could say something that is offensive to other employees or the boss thus damaging productivity.
  2. He could say things that are offensive to the general public
  3. He could say something that indicates his disagreement with the boss.

….Or they can just say whatever they want, and accept the consequences. Because that’s not political correctness. That’s life. I believe the phrase is, freedom isn’t free. Yelling “political correctness” doesn’t get you out of life. It doesn’t excuse you from consequences, and if you think it does, you are an idiot whose views of society would create the totalitarian state you claim to abhor—if you were consistent anyway.

Which all comes down to, no one is losing their job due to political correctness nor should they fear doing so. They are losing their jobs because they are rude and insulting, or because they are inconsiderate by disrupting the company, or because they are causing the company to lose sales, or because they are personally upsetting their boss, or because they won’t follow their boss’s lead, or because they are bad at their jobs. That’s how jobs work. Don’t want to lose your job? Don’t do those things. Political correctness has nothing to do with it.

L. Jagi Lamplighter wrote, “Political Correctness vs. The Search for Happiness”.

I am a strong supporter of the great dialogue that is civilization. Were it up to me, nothing would ever interfere with it.

Political correctness quenches this conversation. Here are some of the reasons I say that:

* It replaces discussion and debate with Puritan-style disapproval.

You don’t explain to someone why you disagree with them. You speak so as to shut them down as quickly as possible.

* It keeps people from sharing politically correct views in a way that might convince.

Because of this, if the person who favors the politically correct position has a good reason for their opinions, the other person will not know, because debate has been silenced.

*It keeps people from sharing any other view.

If the person who does not favor the politically correct position has a good reasons for supporting their position—the person favoring the politically correct reason will never hear it, because he shut down the debate before he had a chance to hear the reasons…..

(12) CARD HOLDS THUMBS DOWN. “Will this election doom America? ‘Ender’s Game’ author holds dim view in light of current politics” reports the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

America has no hope.

That could be the summation of an hour-long talk science fiction writer Orson Scott Card offered last week Wednesday at Ripon College.

Couching his comments in the concept that a good science-fiction writer must understand history, Card explained that history now suggests the United States is not at a crossroads, but already too far down the wrong path to seek a solution.

“There is no winning hand in this election. There is no vote you can now cast that will save us from potential disaster, and that’s never really been true in American history before. Sometimes we’ve elected the worst guy, nevertheless the worst guy was never as bad as the choices we have now,” said Card, who wrote the popular book “Ender’s Game,” and which he turned into a screenplay for a Hollywood movie. “So we can look at empires, we can look at them as I do as a science fiction writer, and try to find how they rise and fall, what rules apply …

“The problem is, we’re all making this situation up together, and we’re all stuck with whatever answers we come up with. And if history’s taught us one thing, it’s all empires fall, and they all fall at inconvenient times.”

(13) POTTER EVENT RESCHEDULED FOR GEEZERS. The City of Perth Library postponed its Harry Potter event, aimed at teens aged 12-18 and their parents, to accommodate adults who complained they felt left out.

Library staff attempted to explain that the event was curated by its Youth Services faculty and the events were specifically targeted at teens….

Despite this explanation, many fans lamented over the idea that they would miss out on their chance to learn about owls or take a “potions class” from local experts so the library decided to postpone the event indefinitely.

“We want to be able to provide a magical experience for all Library patrons,” they wrote on Facebook. “As such the Harry Potter event has been postponed and we are looking at how we can accommodate many more witches, wizards, muggles and their families.”

(14) RIDLEY RAPS. “Daisy Ridley Rapping Is the Greatest ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Bonus Feature Yet!” at YouTube.

(15) WHAT A WRITER NEEDS TO KNOW. Soon Lee’s instant classic started life as a humble comment before being enshrined in the canon of English literature a few minutes later.

The Writer

On a cool Autumn’s eve
At a Worldcon bound for nowhere
I met up with the writer
We were both too tired to sleep

So we took turns a-starin’
Out the window at the darkness
The boredom overtook us,
And she began to speak

She said, “Child, I’ve made a life
Out of writin’ people’s stories
Knowin’ what the plots were
By the way they held their tropes

So if you don’t mind me sayin’
I can see you’re out of ideas
For a taste of your Oolong
I’ll give you some advice”

So I handed her my China
And she drank down my last swallow
Then she bummed a cigarette
And asked me for a light

And the night got deathly quiet
And her face lost all expression
She said, “If you’re gonna play the game, child
You gotta learn to write it right

You’ve got to know when to show ’em
Know when to tell ’em
Know when to passive voice
And to gerund

You never check your wordcount
When you’re typin’ at the keyboard
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the writin’s done

Every writer knows
That the secret to good writin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep

‘Cause every book’s a winner
And every book’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to Fail
Better next

And when she finished speakin’
She turned back toward the window
Crushed out her cigarette
And faded off to sleep

And somewhere in the darkness
The writer she dreamt stories
But in her final words
I found advice that I could keep

You’ve got to know when to show ’em
Know when to tell ’em
Know when to passive voice
And to gerund

You never check your wordcount
When you’re typin’ at the keyboard
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the writin’s done

Repeat to fade

(Starring Badass Raadchai Ann Leckie as the writer. With apologies to Kenny Rogers)

[Thanks to Will R., JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 11/30 The Doom That Came to File770

(1) TOLKIEN AT THE PLATE. Pitchers’ faces turn almost gargoyle-like at the moment they deliver the baseball. Major league baseball blog Cut4  decided it would be amusing to match those expressions with melodramatic quotes from Lord of the Rings.

The pitch face. Completely uninhibited, wholly pure. Every pitcher has one. It takes a lot of effort to throw a pitch 90-plus mph, after all, and pitchers can’t exactly worry about what arrangement their features make while trying to hit their spots. And so, the pitch face is one of baseball’s most totally human elements.

Below, some of the best we saw this year. And to explain their greatness, we captioned them with quotes from the only movies as epic as these faces: The Lord of the Rings trilogy….

“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.”

pitcher

(2) SWEDISH SF ART. A fine gallery accompanies a brief interview with the artist in The Huffington Post’s, “Sci-Fi Painter Simon Stålenhag Turns The Everyday Into Dystopia”.

One artist working actively to infuse visions of the future into scenes from the present is Simon Stålenhag, whose narrative paintings have recently been collected into a book, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The paintings in Tales from the Loop show children and adolescents traipsing across gray plains, energetic in spite of their glum surroundings. Power lines and radio towers dot the skyline, alongside foreign machines, hefty and ominous.

That Stålenhag’s imagined robots stand beside clusters of desktop computers, scoreboards and hatchbacks makes their existence that much more believable. “Look what we’ve created,” he seems to suggest. “Imagine what else we can create.”

staylenhag art

(3) FERMI PARADOX REDUX. A long time ago there was a famous commercial for a hamburger chain that mainly consisted of an elderly woman interrupting a rival’s ad copy, shouting “Where’s the beef?” The Fermi Paradox has a similar effect on speculations about intelligent life in the universe – and Jim Henley’s new post puts a dent in a favorite corollary — “Fermi Conundrum Redux: The Singularity as Great Big Zero?”

Half the objections come from transhumanist types saying that “We’ll just send our robots” or “mind-uploading” or “frozen genetic material raised by AI nannies” or self-replicating Von Neumann machines etc. – the whole LessWrong kitbag of secular eschatons.

But it occurs to me that all that does is bring those notions into the orbit of the Fermi Conundrum, née Fermi Paradox*. The Conundrum, as we all know, runs, “Where is everybody?” That is, we should see evidence of intelligent life Out There or right here or, if you’re especially cynical, should have been wiped out by another civilization before we even evolved this far, just to be on the safe side. The answer, “Maybe there just aren’t any other intelligent civilizations,” almost has to count as the most probable answer to the conundrum at this point.

(4) NEWITZ BIDS GOODBYE. Today was Annalee Newitz’ last day at io9 and Gizmodo. Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders co-founded io9 in 2008. In “I’m Heading Out to the Black. Farewell, io9 and Gizmodo!” at io9, Newitz announced:

And this is where my path diverges from io9 and Gizmodo. This past year managing both sites taught me that I’m not actually interested in being a manager. I want to write. That’s why I got into the writing business, and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I’ve accepted a position as tech culture editor at Ars Technica, where I’m excited to be devoting all my time to writing about the cultural impact of technology and science.

Did I mention that change is scary? Actually, it’s terrifying. And amazing. And a fundamental, banal part of being trapped in linear time. Anyone who loves the future, or who looks forward to a tomorrow that’s different from today, has to accept the uncertainties of change. Your Utopian vision might lead you straight to the shithole. But sometimes, your one-year speculative experiment grows into a giant robot that saves humanity from giant monsters. You won’t know until you actually veer off the road you were on, and steal a little plutonium to fuel your dreams.

Newitz says Katie Drummond will carry on Gizmodo.

(5) NaNoWriMo PROGRESS. Misty Massey asks “Did You Win NaNo?”  at Magical Words,

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, a gloriously insane thirty-days of writing like your head is on fire and your booty is catching. I’ve participated for a whole lot of years now, although I never win, because this kind of writing is just not what I do. Despite having been told time and again that I should just write it all down and fix it later, I can’t. It needs to be as perfect and wonderful as I can manage the first time, so my writing style is Eeyore-slow.  But I still sign on for NaNo every year, just in case.  I managed about 9,000 words. Which, for me, is a stunning achievement.

(6) FAVES. Stephanie Burgis lists her “Favorite MG Novels of 2015”. And lo and behold, Ursula Vernon, you are Number Six…

  1. Castle Hangnail, by Ursula Vernon, is a wickedly funny fantasy novel with a fabulous heroine, and it turned me into a huge Ursula Vernon fan. You can read my full review here.

(7) JESSICA REVIEW. Jim Henley’s post “Jessica Jones (And Her Amazing Friends): A Netflix Original Series” sounds like he’s going to keep watching, if you ask me.

(8) BANGING ON. Larry Correia notifies his readers “JP Enterprises is now offering MHI [Monster Hunter International] and MCB logo AR-15 lower receivers” – a logo etching on a gun part.

I just had a fun thought. While certain other bestselling novelists are writing sanctimonious ignorant tweets bleating for more gun control, Larry Correia offers you custom rifles. 🙂

JP-MHI-1024x867

(9) THE RACK IS BACK. Lou Antonelli made sf and fantasy the dominant genres sold at the Dollar General store in Mount Pleasant, TX, as he explains in “Help the spin rack make a comeback!”

In talking about publishing original fiction [in a 2008 article by Antonelli], [Tom] Doherty mentioned that those paperback spin racks we used to see in stores and pharmacies were often a point of entry for people to the s-f and fantasy genres.

They used to be ubiquitous – those tall, vertical wire racks that you could spin around to see all four sides loaded up with mass market paperbacks. Doherty noted how the consolidation of book distribution had all but eliminated them. He said he hoped the fiction published by Tor.com would serve the same function as a point of entry for new readers in the digital age.

…Now, fast forward two and half years, to the summer of 2011. I was scheduled as a panelist at ArmadilloCon in Austin, and one of the panels was on “Secret History”. The Thursday before the convention I stopped at a local Dollar General in Mount Pleasant to pick up some groceries on the way home from work, and while standing in line, I caught sight of a spin rack.

Yes, Dollar General still believes in the spin rack. I walked over and saw that among the books was a copy of Steven Brust’s “The Paths of the Dead”. While I don’t read high fantasy, I bought the book because Brust was on the panel with me.

The following Sunday afternoon, as the panel on Secret History broke up, I stopped and pulled the book out. I told Steve “you know you are a best-selling author when you’re on the spin rack in the Dollar General in Mount Pleasant, Texas! That means your books are sold EVERYWHERE!”

(10) OUT WITH THE OLD. Jeff Duntemann’s photo of “Samples from the Box of No Return” is like a fannish time capsule.

I’m packing my office closet, and realized that The Box of No Return was overflowing. So in order to exercise my tesselation superpower on it, I had to upend it on my office floor and repack it from scratch.

I hadn’t done that in a very long time.

You may have a Box of No Return. It’s downstairs from the Midwestern Junk Drawer, hidden behind the Jar of Loose Change. It’s for stuff you know damned well you’ll never use again, but simply can’t bring yourself to throw away. A lot of it may be mementos. Some of it is just cool. Most of it could be dumped if you were a braver (and less sentimental) man than I….

There follows a descriptive paragraph of the treasures discovered. And things less that treasured.

I tossed a couple of things, like my SFWA membership badge. SFWA wanted to get rid of me for years for not publishing often enough; I saved them the trouble. Rot in irrelevancy, you dorks; I’m an indie now, and making significant money. Some promo buttons were for products I couldn’t even recall, and they went in the cause of making room. But most of it will go back in the (small) box, and it will all fit, with room to spare for artifacts not yet imagined, much less acquired.

(11) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born November 30, 1835 – Mark Twain

  • Born November 30, 1937 – Director Ridley Scott

(12) ONE STARS. Scalzi, Leckie, Rothfuss and others reading various one star reviews out loud.

(13) ABRAMS INTERVIEW. “J.J. Abrams Is Excited for Mothers and Daughters To See Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens director stopped by Good Morning America on Monday to talk about the upcoming release, and how he’s hoping it won’t just be a “boy’s thing.”

Star Wars was always a boy’s thing,” Abrams said. “I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well.”

In the interview, Abrams also confirmed that he at first refused the offer to direct the new Star Wars film, saying that it was a franchise he so revered that he “thought it would be better just to go the theater and see it like everyone else.” After talking to producer producer Kathy Kennedy, however, Abrams said the opportunity was “too delicious and too exciting to pass up.”

Video of the GMA interview is at the link.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg.]

Update 12/01/2015: Corrected the link to Jim Henley’s review of Jessica Jones.