Pixel Scroll 8/24/17 Is The Grisly Pixel Scrolling?

(1) THE GREAT UNREAD. James Davis Nicoll fesses up – now you can, too: “Twenty Core Speculative Fiction Works It May Surprise You To Learn I Have Not Yet Read Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Who knew there were 20 sff books altogether than he hadn’t read, much less ones not by Castalia House authors? Here are a few examples:

  • Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta by Doris Lessing
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • England Swings SF edited by Judith Merril

(2) MOVING DAY. Meanwhile, at another of his platforms, James Davis Nicoll has gone silent while he works on moving that website.

Why was my site down? Because it turns out the soft-on-Nazis fuckwits running DreamHost thought it would be a good idea to host the Daily Stormer. My site will be moving. Until it has been moved, I won’t be updating it; I will go back to posting reviews on DW.

(3) GENRE TENSIONS. Here’s what Teleread’s Paul St. John Mackintosh deemed to be the takeaway from an all-star panel at Helsinki: “Worldcon 75: Horror and the World Fantasy Award”.

[Stephen] Jones pointed to the origins of the WFA Awards and their parent convention, the World Fantasy Convention, during the horror boom of the mid-1970s. The first WFC, held in Providence, RI in 1975, had as its theme “The Lovecraft Circle,” and that Lovecraftian association has persisted ever since, despite the name on the billboard. Jones attributed the perceived bias towards horror at fantasy and other conventions to the view that “the horror guys the people who go to all the fun conventions.” [Ellen] Datlow, conversely, reported that “from the horror people’s point of view, in the past ten years, they always feel there’s a bias towards fantasy.” Her analysis of actual awards and nominations showed no bias either way, and she saw this as “all perception,” depending on which end of the imaginative literature spectrum it’s seen from. [John] Clute described the situation as “pretty deeply confusing altogether,” given that the WFC externally was intended as a fantasy convention, and the final result has become “terminologically inexact,” though Jones pointed out that “the community itself has changed and mutated, as has the genre.”

(4) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Simon Owens reveals “What’s behind the meteoric rise of science fiction podcasts?” – and these are just the drama podcasts, never mind all the nonfiction ones…

According to Valenti, a serialized fiction podcast is an inexpensive way for aspiring filmmakers to gain recognition in the industry. “The reason you’re seeing all these shows crop up is because it’s so much less expensive to experiment and prove yourself as a storyteller in this medium, more than any other,” he said. It used to be that Hollywood directors got their foot in the door with short, independent films, but even those kinds of projects require significant resources. “With podcasts, you don’t have to spend any money on locations,” he explained. “You don’t have to spend any money on cameras, hardware, or hiring a cinematographer. And even if you have the footage, and you had a decent camera, which you probably had to rent because they cost thousands of dollars a day, you’re getting someone to color grade everything after it’s over.” Podcasts rarely require anything more than decent mics, actors, and audio mixing technology. And speaking of actors, your average voiceover performer costs much less to hire than a SAG member.

(5) INKY AWARDS. The shortlists for the 2017 Inky Awards were announced August 15 – the Gold Inky for Australia titles, and the Silver Inky for international titles. The award recognises achievement in young adult literature, with nominees and winners selected by voters under the age of 20. Some of these titles are of genre interest. Voting is currently open for the winners. [H/T Earl Grey Editing Services.]

(6) MORE WORLDCON WRITEUPS. The conreports keep on coming.

Kelly Robson: “What it’s like to lose a Hugo Award”

The Campbell was the second-to-last award, and sure, I was disappointed not to win, but not horribly. On a scale of one to ten, it was about a three at the time and now is zero. I’m very happy for Ada. She deserves every success.

However, I did feel foolish for thinking I could win, which was painful but mostly dispersed by morning. Being a finalist is wonderful. Winning would have been amazing, but it does come with a certain amount of pressure. So maybe — just maybe — being a finalist is the best of both worlds. And that lovely pin in the first picture is mine forever.

Ian Sales: “Kiitos, Helsinki”

My second panel of the con was at noon on the Saturday, Mighty space fleets of war. When I’d registered at the con, I’d discovered I was moderating the panel, which I hadn’t known. I checked back over the emails I’d been sent by the con’s programming team. Oops. I was the moderator. The other two panellists were Jack Campbell and Chris Gerrib. As we took our seats on the stage, Mary Robinette Kowal was gathering her stuff from the previous panel. I jokingly asked if she wanted to join our panel. And then asked if she’d moderate it. She said she was happy to moderate if we wanted her to, but we decided to muddle through ourselves. The panel went quite well, I thought. We got a bit of disagreement going – well, me versus the other two, both of whom admitted to having been USN in the past. I got a wave of applause for a crack about Brexit, and we managed to stay on topic – realistic space combat – for the entire time. I’d prepared a bunch of notes, but by fifteen minutes in, I’d used up all my points. In future, I’ll take in paper and pencil so I can jot stuff down as other members of the panel speak.

Marzie: “The Long Overdue WorldCon Recap!”

This was the first WorldCon I’ve attended and while I had voted in previous Hugo Awards, and attended other Cons (for instance NYCC) I was kind of taken aback by how non-commercial WorldCon is. A case is point is that there are no publishers hawking books at WorldCon, which, on the one hand is great because you don’t get tempted to buy a bunch of stuff and spend a fortune shipping it home and on the other hand is bad because if you’ve travelled a long way with a carry-on only bag, you’re probably packing clothes, not books for your favorite author to sign. Some authors take it all in stride, bringing their own small promotional items they can sign (Fran Wilde, Carrie Vaughn) or will happily sign anything that you set in front of them (Max Gladstone kindly signed a WorldCon postcard for my friend and fellow blogger Alex, who couldn’t come to WorldCon because of Fiscal Realities of New Home vs. Sincere Desire. So other than some interesting panels (climate change in science fiction and fantasy, readings by Amal El-Mohtar and Annalee Newitz, while I can say that pigeonholing fantasy genres is not for me!) the author signings and beloved kaffeeklatsches, the latter limited to ten people, are the definitely the most exciting thing about WorldCon.

Ian Moore: “Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 1: estrangement, We3, crowds”

Tomi Huttunen introduced the concept of Estrangement, which derives from Russian art theorist Viktor Shklovsky who discussed the topic (Ostrananie) in an article in 1917. Huttunen and others on the academic track offered varying definitions of the concept, noting that different people in the past had come at this in a different way. For all that he was someone primarily associated with the avant-garde, Shklovsky’s own definition appeared to imply that all art involved a process of estrangement because of the difference between an actual thing and its artistic representation. Brecht later attempted his own definition, which appeared to be more about uncanny valley or the German concept of the unheimlich, which I found interesting as for all his ground-breaking approach to theatre Brecht had not particularly involved himself in work that strayed into non-realistic territory.

“Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 2: Saunas, Robert Silverberg & Tanith Lee #Worldcon75”

On Thursday I did not quite get up in time to make it from where I was staying to the convention centre in time for the presentation on Tove Jansson’s illustrations for The Hobbit (which apparently appear only in Scandinavian editions of the book for Tolkien-estate reasons). I did make it to a panel on Bland Protagonists. One of the panelists was Robert Silverberg, a star of Worldcon and a living link to the heroic age of Science Fiction. He is a great raconteur and such an entertaining panelist that I wonder whether people do not want to appear on panels with him for fear of being overshadowed.

“Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 3: Moomins, Clipping #Worldcon75”

After the Tanith Lee discussion there were a lot of potentially interesting things happening but we felt that we had to go to a session on the Moomins (entitled Moomins!). As you know, these are character that appeared in books written and illustrated by Tove Jansson of Finland. They started life in books and then progressed to comics and subsequently to a succession of animated TV series. If you’ve never heard of them, the Moomins are vaguely hippopotamus shaped creatures that live in a house in Moominvalley and have a variety of strange friends and adopted family members. Moomin stories are pretty cute but also deal with subjects a bit darker and more existential than is normally expected in children’s books.

(7) ROBOCRIMEVICTIM. It is a lawless country out there: “Popular Robots are Dangerously Easy to Hack, Cybersecurity Firm Says”.

The Seattle-based cybersecurity firm found major security flaws in industrial models sold by Universal Robots, a division of U.S. technology company Teradyne Inc. It also cited issues with consumer robots Pepper and NAO, which are manufactured by Japan’s Softbank Group Corp., and the Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 made by China-based UBTech Robotics.

These vulnerabilities could allow the robots to be turned into surveillance devices, surreptitiously spying on their owners, or let them to be hijacked and used to physically harm people or damage property, the researchers wrote in a report released Tuesday.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Pluto Demoted Day

Many of us are fascinated by outer space and its many mysteries. Our own solar system went through a change in classification on 2006, when Pluto was demoted from a planet to a dwarf planet. Pluto Demoted Day now takes place every year to mark that very occasion. While sad for fans of the former ninth planet of the solar system, Pluto Demoted Day is an important day for our scientific history and is important to remember.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 24, 1966 Fantastic Voyage premiered theatrically on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 24, 1951 – Orson Scott Card

(11) COMIC SECTION. Finnish comic  Fingerpori has a joke about the George R.R. Martin signing at W75. Tehri says it translates something like this (with the third frame being a sight gag):

First panel: (The guy’s name is Heimo Vesa) “What’s going on?”

“George R.R. Martin’s signing queue.”

Middle panel: “Well, I must experience this”.

(As in once in a lifetime thing.)

And Mike Kennedy says today’s Dilbert Classic confirms that publishers exist in order to stomp on potential author’s dreams.

(12) SHE HAS A LITTLE LIST. Kayleigh Donaldson asks “Did This Book Buy Its Way Onto The New York Times Bestseller List?” at Pajiba.

Nowadays, you can make the bestseller list with about 5,000 sales. That’s not the heights of publishing’s heyday but it’s still harder to get than you’d think. Some publishers spend thousands of dollars on advertising and blogger outreach to get that number. Everyone’s looking for the next big thing and that costs a lot of cash. For the past 25 weeks, that big book in the YA world has been The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a searing politically charged drama about a young black girl who sees a police officer kill her friend, and the fallout it causes in her community. Through publisher buzz and exceedingly strong word of mouth, the novel has stormed to the forefront of the YA world and found thousands of fans, with a film on the way. Knocking that from the top of the NYT YA list would be a major deal, and this week it’s going to happen. But something’s not right.

Handbook For Mortals by Lani Sarem is the debut novel from the publishing arm of website GeekNation. The site announced this news only last week, through a press release that can be read on places like The Hollywood Reporter, not a site known for extensive YA coverage. Sarem has an IMDb page with some very minor acting roles, several of which are uncredited, but details on the book are scanter to find. Googling it leads to several other books with the same title, but most of the coverage for it is press release based. There’s little real excitement or details on it coming from the YA blogging world, which is a mighty community who are not quiet about the things they’re passionate about (believe me, first hand experience here).

YA writer and publisher Phil Stamper raised the alarm bells on this novel’s sudden success through a series of tweets, noting GeekNation’s own low traffic, the inability to even buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and its out-of-nowhere relevance…

(13) AMAZONIAN BOGOSITY. While reporters are dissecting the bestseller list, Camestros Felapton turns his attention to Amazon and the subject of “Spotting Fakery?”

One thing new to me from those articles was this site: http://fakespot.com/about It claims to be a site that will analyse reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp and then rate the reviews in terms of how “fake” they seem to be. The mechanism looks at reviewers and review content and looks for relations with other reviews, and also rates reviewers who only ever give positive reviews lower. Now, I don’t know if their methods are sound or reliable, so take the rest of this with a pinch of salt for the time being.

Time to plug some things into their machine but what! Steve J No-Relation Wright has very bravely volunteered to start reading Vox Day’s epic fantasy book because it was available for $0 ( https://stevejwright.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/a-throne-of-bones-by-vox-day-preamble-on-managing-expectations/ ) and so why not see what Fakespot has to say about “Throne of Bones” http://fakespot.com/product/a-throne-of-bones-arts-of-dark-and-light

(14) WORLD DOESN’T END, FILM AT ELEVEN. Kristine Kathryn Rusch got a column out of the eclipse – “Eclipse Expectations”.

The idea for the post? Much of what occurred around the eclipse in my small town happens in publishing all the time. Let me lay out my thinking.

First, what happened in Lincoln City this weekend:

Damn near nothing. Yeah, I was surprised. Yeah, we all were surprised.

Because for the past 18 months, all we heard about the eclipse was what a mini-disaster it would be for our small town. We expected 100,000 visitors minimum. Hotel rooms were booked more than a year in advance—all of them. Which, the planners told us, meant that we would have at least that many people camping roadside as well.

The airlines had to add extra flights into Portland (the nearest major airport). One million additional people were flooding into Oregon for the five days around the eclipse. Rental cars were booked months in advance. (One woman found an available car for Thursday only and the rental car company had slapped a one-day rate on the car of $850. Yeah, no.)

The state, local, and regional governments were planning for disaster. We were warned that electricity might go down, especially if the temperature in the valley (away from us, but near the big power grids) soared over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius). Our internet connection would probably go down, they said. (Great, we said. Our business is on the internet. Phooey!) Our cell phones would definitely go down.

The state called out the National Guard, expecting all the trouble you get when you cram too many people in a small space. The hospitals staffed up. We were told that traffic would be in gridlock for four days, so plan travel accordingly. Dean and I own three retail stores in the area, so we spent weeks discussing scheduling—who could walk to work, who couldn’t, who might stay overnight if need be. Right now, as I write this, Dean is working our new bookstore, because the bookstore employees live 6 miles away, and couldn’t walk if there was gridlock. The schedule was set in stone; no gridlock, but Dean was scheduled, not the usual employee, so Dean is guarding the fort (so to speak).

(15) MAKING BOOKINGS. Website Focus on Travel News has made note of the Dublin win: “Dublin to host the 77th Annual World Science Fiction Convention”.

The successful Dublin bid was led by James Bacon, with support and guidance from the bid committee, Fáilte Ireland, Dublin Convention Bureau (DCB) and The CCD. Dublin was confirmed as the 2019 location by site selection voters at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki where 1,227 votes were received, of which Dublin won 1,160 votes.

“It’s fantastic that we had such a large turnout, indicating strong support for the bid,” said James Bacon, Dublin 2019 chair. “Voting is a vital part of the process so twelve hundred votes is a great endorsement and I’m very pleased it’s a new record for an uncontested bid. Given New Orleans and Nice have declared for 2023 and Perth and Seattle for 2025, that we remained unopposed is indicative of the enthusiasm, strategic determination and commitment from all involved with the bid. It’s absolutely magnificent to be able to say we are bringing the Worldcon to Ireland and we cannot wait now for 2019.”

(16) HELP IS COMING. Drones at serious work: “Tanzania Gears Up To Become A Nation Of Medical Drones”

Entries like these popped up as Keller Rinaudo browsed a database of health emergencies during a 2014 visit to Tanzania. It was “a lightbulb moment,” says the CEO and co-founder of the California drone startup Zipline.

Rinaudo was visiting a scientist at Ifakara Health Institute who had created the database to track nationwide medical emergencies. Using cellphones, health workers would send a text message whenever a patient needed blood or other critical supplies. Trouble is, while the system collected real-time information about dying patients, the east African country’s rough terrain and poor supply chain often kept them from getting timely help. “We were essentially looking at a database of death,” Rinaudo says.

That Tanzania trip motivated his company to spend the next three years building what they envisioned as “the other half of that system — where you know a patient is having a medical emergency and can immediately send the product needed to save that person’s life,” Rinaudo says.

(17) ROBOPRIEST. St Aquin? Not yet: “Robot priest: the future of funerals?” BBC video at the link.

Developers in Japan are offering a robot “priest” to conduct Buddhist funeral rites complete with chanted sutras and drum tapping – all at a fraction of the cost of a human.

It is the latest use of Softbank’s humanoid robot Pepper.

(18) UNDERSEA DRIVING. Call these “tunnel pipe-dreams”: “The Channel tunnel that was never built”.

The Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France holds the record for the longest undersea tunnel in the world – 50km (31 miles) long. More than 20 years after its opening, it carries more than 10 million passengers a year – and more than 1.6 million lorries – via its rail-based shuttle service.

What many people don’t know, however, is that when owner Eurotunnel won the contract to build its undersea connection, the firm was obliged to come up with plans for a second Channel Tunnel… by the year 2000. Although those plans were published the same year, the tunnel still has not gone ahead.

The second ‘Chunnel’ isn’t the only underwater tunnel to remain a possibility. For centuries, there have been discussions about other potential tunnelling projects around the British Isles, too. These include a link between the island of Orkney and the Scottish mainland, a tunnel between the Republic of Ireland and Wales and one between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

[Thanks to JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, lauowolf, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, and Robot Archie for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Nominee Withdraws From 2014 World Fantasy Awards

FLTSMFNTST2013Flotsam Fantastique: The Souvenir Book of World Fantasy Convention 2013 edited by Stephen Jones was selected for the 2014 World Fantasy Award shortlist in the Anthology category – a classification Jones and the book’s co-creators object to so strongly they have withdrawn the title from consideration.

Despite our submission to the members of the World Fantasy Awards Board that Flotsam Fantastique: The Souvenir Book of World Fantasy Convention 2013 is not, in fact, an anthology, nor even a professional publication, they have chosen to reject our entreaty to move the title from “Anthology” into the “Special Award—Non-Professional” category, where nominations for the previous two souvenir books we produced were placed.

Amanda Foubister, Stephen Jones, and Michael Marshal Smith also say they have been unsuccessful in getting all three of their names properly credited on the nomination.

Therefore they have issued a press release taking their work out of contention for the award.

Given the Board’s intransigent attitude over both these concerns, we are unfortunately left with no choice but to withdraw the title from consideration. As much as we regret this action—we are inordinately proud of the book and all the work that went into it—we feel that there is no other course of action left open to us, given the Board’s refusal to modify its decisions in either of these matters.

HWA Lifetime Achievement Award Winners

Stephen Jones and R. L. Stine will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Horror Writers Association on May 10th as part of the Bram Stoker Awards Banquet at the World Horror Convention 2014 in Portland, Oregon.

Stephen Jones’ 125+ published books have been translated throughout the world. His work in the horror field has been widely recognized — he was guest of honor at the 2002 World Fantasy Con and the 2004 World Horror Con.

R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series has sold over 300 million copies in the U.S. and been published in 32 languages. His other popular children’s book series include Fear Street, Mostly Ghostly, The Nightmare Room, and Rotten School. His anthology TV horror series, R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, recently won an Emmy Award as Best Children’s Show.

HWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award is given “in acknowledgment of superior achievement not just in a single work but over an entire career.”

Winners must have exhibited a profound, positive impact on the fields of horror and dark fantasy, and be at least sixty years of age or have been published for a minimum of thirty-five years.

Past Lifetime Achievement Award winners include Stephen King, Anne Rice, Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Ramsey Campbell and Peter Straub. Recipients are chosen by a committee.

Basil Copper (1924-2013)

British author Basil Copper, 89, died in hospital on April 3. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for several years.

basilcopper-psCopper was perhaps  best known for his series of Solar Pons stories continuing a character August Derleth created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes.

Copper’s most popular macabre tales include: “The Academy of Pain”, “Amber Print”, “The Recompensing of Albano Pizar,” “The Candle in the Skull,” “Better Dead,” “Beyond the Reef,” “Bright Blades Gleaming” and “Ill Met by Daylight.”

Stephen Jones’s biography of the author, Basil Copper: A Life in Books, won the 2009 British Fantasy Award.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Top Newsmakers of 2011

Mainstream news websites usually do this kind of retrospective at the end of each year. Few fan newswriters do, but seeing Michael Hinman at Airlock Alpha have so much fun with his edition I decided to give it a whirl. It’s not a ha-ha kind of fun, for some items are rather sad, it’s the challenge and exercise of fannish creativity that makes such projects fun. 

So I now present File 770‘s choice of the 10 most significant sf & f newsmakers of 2011: 

Ten
Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury seeing Rachel Bloom’s video for the first time.

Rachel Bloom’s “F*** Me, Ray Bradbury” music video received a Hugo nomination but lost to a Doctor Who episode. John King Tarpinian complained so vehemently (in private e-mails) that I ran a case study of the runoff vote for him. There was little suspense involved — as Who episodes were eliminated their votes were redistributed to the remaining Who episodes until one prevailed. (V*** for Me, Ray Bradbury!, Inside the 2011 Hugo Voting Statistics, Rachel Bloom at Renovation).

Bradbury made a more orthodox impact on the internet when, for the first time, his novel Fahrenheit 451 could be purchased in electronic format (Harder To Burn This Way).

This past year Bradbury fans had a chance to rent his old Palm Springs home (Rent Bradbury’s Old Palm Springs Retreat), drink a cocktail named after his book Fahrenheit 451 (Heat Ray) or listen to online reruns of his radio plays (CART Broadcasts “The October Country”).

This beloved writer quietly marked his 91st birthday in August (Ray Bradbury Turns 91).

Nine
Mike Glicksohn

Mike Glicksohn accepts Susan Wood’s Hugo, which she won posthumously in 1981. Photo by Andrew Porter.

The loss of Mike Glicksohn, a pillar of his generation, forced many of my contemporaries into the unpleasant realization that a network of friends and acquaintances we have been expanding all our lives has begun to contract.

An iconic figure at conventions with his flowing beard and Australian bush hat, Glicksohn passed away on March 18 after suffering a stroke. This came at the end of a years-long struggle with cancer. He was 64. (Mike Glicksohn (1946-2011), Service for Mike Glicksohn, Murray Moore: Glicksohn Memorial Report, Andrew Porter: Mike Glicksohn Photo Gallery, Taral Wayne: After the Piper Played).

Eight
Stephen Jones and the British Fantasy Awards

Sam Stone, who returned a British Fantasy Award.

Renowned horror editor Stephen Jones went home from the British Fantasy Awards ceremony at Fantasycon and wrote “Putting the ‘Con’ Into Fantasycon,” accusing awards administrator David Howe with a conflict of interest because he is a partner in Telos, the publisher of two BFA-winning stories and winner of Best Small Press, and also is the domestic partner of Sam Stone, winner of two fiction BFA’s. The ensuing controversy led Howe to resign as chair of the British Fantasy Society and Stone to announce she was returning one of her BFA’s. Novelist Graham Joyce succeeded as acting chair of the BFS. (Along Came Jones, Stone’s Beau Geste, Howe Quits as Chair of BFS, Re: Joyce).

Seven
Ed Kramer

 

Dragon*Con founder Ed Kramer, who for the past decade has delayed trial on child molestation charges in Georgia by arguing he is too ill to participate in his own defense, was arrested in Connecticut after authorities were tipped that he was staying in a motel room with a 14-year-old boy. He was charged by Milford Police with misdemeanor reckless endangerment of a child and is currently fighting extradition to Georgia. The Gwinett County District Attorney contrasted Kramer’s last appearance in a Georgia court, leaning heavily on a cane and breathing oxygen through a mask, with the description given by three witnesses in Connecticut who say they saw him hiking on trails, not using a cane or his breathing apparatus. (Kramer Arrested in Connecticut, Kramer Pretrial Hearing Today, Kramer Freed on Bond in Connecticut, DragonCon founder Ed Kramer on a $250K bond, Kramer Extradition Hearing Delayed, Kramer Fights Extradition, Kramer in Jail Awaiting Extradition Hearing).

Six
Borders Books

Fans watched Borders Books go into its death throes with a morbid fascination, reluctant to part company with a place that had been so important to their reading experiences over the years, yet certain paper booksellers were being shouldered aside by electronic book distributors. (Is Borders Circling the Drain?, Free Associating About Borders, Borders Files for Bankruptcy, Borders Writing the Next Chapter — Eleven, Vendor Writes Off Borders Bad Debt, Today Is Borders Last Day).

Five
Shaun Tan

Aussiecon Four Artist GoH Shaun Tan won the Oscar in the Best Short Film (Animation) category for The Lost Thing, based on his book. (Shaun Tan Wins Oscar). He is the first former Worldcon GoH to win the award in competition. Roger Corman received an Academy Honorary Award from AMPAS in 2009, which is the same Oscar statuette.

He also won the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s and young adult literature (Shaun Tan Wins Children’s Lit Award).  Melbourne-based Tan has illustrated more than 20 books, including The Rabbits (1998), The Lost Thing (2000), The Red Tree (2001), The Arrival (2006) and Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008).

Four
Harlan Ellison

If Harlan Ellison is there, it’s news. If he’s absent, it’s news. His sayings are news. So are his silences.  

The absences have been especially worrying to Ellison-watchers. Harlan declared his final con appearance of 2010 as his last. And despite being slated to receive the 2011 J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction in person he was unable to attend due to poor health (Ellison To Miss Eaton Conference). He likewise missed his induction to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (Ellison Added to SF Hall of Fame, Ellison’s Health Overshadows Hall of Fame Induction).  

But after making only one public appearance in the past four years Harlan sold out LA’s Silent Movie Theater for a talk on November 15, also seen online by 2000 viewers. (Tarpinian: Harlan’s Back!)

Otherwise there was an incessant drumbeat of Ellison news throughout the year. He sold his typewriter (Jamie Ford Buys Ellison’s First Typewriter), was listed as one of SF’s Tough Interviews, and was allegedly referenced in the movie Paul (Ellison Reference in Paul? — though File 770 readers who saw it unanimously deny the claim). Burt Pretlusky wrote a memoir about authoring an episode of Jack Webb’s strident cop show Dragnet, saying that immediately after it aired Harlan Ellison called, snarled “I never knew you were a fascist!” and hung up (Harlan Ellison’s Hang-Up).

The evil done to Harlan Ellison’s television scripts by cigar-chomping producers has long been part of his (and Cordwainer Bird’s) legend. So it was news that the master’s own versions of these scripts would be published (In the Original Babylonian), the prose as it came directly from his Olympia manual typewriter.

Of greatest interest was Ellison’s latest copyright infringement suit alleging that In Time was based on Ellison’s 1965 short story “’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” (“Repent, Timberlake!” Said the Lawyerman). Just when it looked as if Harlan would extend his legal winning streak (Ellison Registers T.K.O.) the announcement was denied by the defendant’s lawyer (Niccol’s Attorney Answers the Bell) and we were suddenly left pointing fingers at the source of the bogus report (Internet Journalism at Its Most).

Three
George R. R. Martin

George R.R. Martin has long been the kind of writer who connects with fans on a deeper level. As a result we’re not just fans of his stories but of his career. We cheer his mass media successes and mourn his defeats, the TV shows launched and canceled over the years, the best sellers, that kind of thing. (It’s Time, George) This year has been an uninterrupted triumphal march. He was named to the Time 100 (George R.R. Martin Makes TIME 100) and declared USA Today’s author of the year.

His merely finishing the manuscript of his latest novel A Dance With Dragons was big news (Alert the Media). When actually published, stores sold vast numbers of the novel (New GRRM Book Flying Off Shelves, GRRM a Kindle Millionaire). All things Martin turned to gold – Syfy and Universal Pictures acquired the film rights to the unrelated anthology series Wild Cards (Wild Cards Movie in the Works).

Two
Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett’s views about euthanasia have received constant attention from the mundane media while going unremarked here. However, he was so often in the news for his writing and other professional activities that Pratchett’s doings continued to be of utmost significance to genre reporters.

His writing for teens earned him the Margaret A. Edwards Award (Pratchett Wins 2011 Edwards Award). He even launched an award named for himself — the  Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize. (Pratchett Award Shortlist Announced, Pratchett Picks Prize Winners).  

Sir Terry also came to the U.S. to promote his latest Discworld novel, Snuff, and made a surprise visit at Capclave (Pratchett Coming to America, Pratchett at Capclave).

One
Chris Garcia and James Bacon

Chris Garcia’ & James Bacon’s The Drink Tank was the first real fanzine to win the Hugo in three years. The video of Chris’s super-emotional reaction went viral, getting over 43,000 views. His hometown San Jose paper also paid tribute (Media Covers Garcia’s Hugo Win).

That would have been enough newsmaking for anyone else in an average year, but Chris and James were also on the verge of putting out The Drink Tank #300.The issue appeared in November: 320 contributions filling 272 pages.

The dynamic duo has inspired some individual news items, too, like Why Chris Has the Coolest Job, about his interview in Obsolete Gamer, and alerts about James Bacon’s items on Forbidden Planet like China Miéville on Comics.

Update 01/01/2012: Lowered the “c” in Aussiecon 4 to half-mast.

Along Came Jones

Renowned horror editor Stephen Jones went home from the British Fantasy Awards ceremony at Fantasycon and immediately wrote “Putting the ‘Con’ Into Fantasycon”, casting a pall of suspicion over the results.

He began with the nominating process:

I guess the “fix” was in months ago. The preliminary ballot was posted on the Society’s website before most of the membership had any idea that they actually could start nominating, and it was arbitrarily decreed by the present Committee—without any discussion with the membership—that for the first time ever only electronic ballots would be accepted and that any postal votes would be ignored.

Jones implies the deadline for British Fantasy Society members to nominate (February 14, according to the BFS website) was so early it restricted participation. Certainly the history of another award, the Hugos, shows an early deadline curtails voting — when there was a March 1 deadline in 2008, only 483 nominations came in, compared to hundreds more at the next several Worldcons.

On the other hand, Jones’ implication that eliminating paper ballots disenfranchises people isn’t supported by the Worldcon’s experience. In 2011, with both electronic and paper voting available, Hugo voters showed an overwhelming preference for electronic voting and cast only a trivial number of paper ballots.

Jones devoted his most savage comments to a pattern he observed among the BFA winners, implying several involved a conflict of interest between British Fantasy Society Chairman David Howe and Telos, a small press imprint in which Howe is a partner. Telos won the Best Small Press Award and published two of the award-winning stories. Jones also noted that Howe’s domestic partner, Sam Stone, won in yet another category.

Here are Jones’ key phrases along that line:

Early on, current BFS Chairman David Howe made it clear that he would take the awards ceremony away from the convention and run it himself (not all that surprising since the awards are actually presented by the Society, although they are voted on by members of both the BFS and FantasyCon)….

Simon Clark had already gone when it was announced that he had won it for Humpty’s Bones from small press imprint Telos (remember that name, it will be cropping up again soon)….

By now it was obvious that the awards were not being presented in their normal—or published—order. I’m sure that those conspiracy theorists amongst the audience must have wondered if this was to prevent a pattern from emerging . . . .

The Best Short Story award went to Sam Stone. She cried a lot, thanked her partner—David Howe—and told us what a surprise it was to win. Presumably, David had not told her over the washing-up, nor had she sneaked a peek at the plaques he had brought down to stick on the award statuettes.

But just when Jones hooked his readers with these hints of scandal he changed course and began blasting the bad taste of BFA voters, in the process undercutting his credibility. For the only reason to blame the voters is if they actually chose the winners, by the ordinary democratic process, which is contrary to the impression Jones had labored to create:

Of course, the members of the BFS and FantasyCon are absolutely entitled to vote for whomsoever they want to. Although I suspect it helps if, say, you restrict the voting process and possibly urge all your friends to vote for you and each other. That’s what happened to the HWA Bram Stoker Awards until they became such a laughing stock in the field that the nomination process has had to undergo a major overhaul.

To put it bluntly, this year’s results made a mockery of the British Fantasy Award and everything it has always stood for. Even if you ignore the embarrassing ceremony and clichéd platitudes, few of these awards actually reflected genuine quality or what is happening in mainstream genre publishing today.

Maybe that also reflects the tastes of the BFS membership? Perhaps the majority do not read outside the small press anymore? Maybe they no longer have good taste or any critical acumen?

In the end, readers must ask themselves whether Jones has proven anything besides his own dissatisfaction with some of the BFA winners.