Pixel Scroll 4/20/17 How Many Books Must A Pixel Scroll Down Before You Can Call Him A Fan?

(1) WORD SCULPTOR. Steve Barnes tells about his day’s writing and shares a chunk of his draft (read it at the link).

Shhhhh. I’m working on the Niven/Pournelle/Barnes collaboration today, before switching over to the pilot script. My current style of working is laying out rough text and “wireframe” and then polishing with endless drafts, embracing hacking and slashing. First drafts are like dragging a block of marble up from the quarry. Subsequent drafts are chipping away everything that doesn’t resemble an elephant. Then finally…the polishing. I’m still chipping. If I write enough, eventually a crumb of something emotional and valid will peek through, and polishing it is like….hmmm…like striking a spark. Then carefully adding tender and fanning a flame, letting that flame spread through the rest of the book. It might be ugly at first, but it’s warm. Or better, HOT. I thought I’d share the first tiny fragment from the book, which I’ve referred to as “The Cthulhu War” but might actually be called “Starborn and Godsons”.

(2) A SONG OF FLOUR AND FIRE. Camestros Felapton’s cat writes GRRM a letter – “Dear Mister Martin from Timothy T Cat”.

Dear Mister Martin,

Or can I call you George or Are-Are? You may remember me from my previous letters what I wrote you – specifically my lengthy inquiry as to whether Sue Perkins was a Stark or a Lannister or what? Camestros has since explained that I have been habitually confusing the BBC’s  ‘Great British Bake Off” with HBO’s “Games of Thrones”. This revelation has certainly cleared up many a query I had about where the story was going. Although I am still puzzled by the distinction between baking powder and baking soda – don’t worry! I understand a great writer like yourself has to have his secrets, so I’ll wait to find that out in the final episode…

That out of the way, Timothy launches into his business proposition….

(3) CULINARY PLEONASM. More restaurant hate from Jay Rayner in The Guardian — “I am sick of half-hearted desserts. Bring me a proper pudding”.

Oh sure, restaurants appear to offer desserts. But where once it would have been a list of tarts and mille-feuille, of savarins and delices, of things requiring proper pastry work, now there are just unstable creamy things on a plate. It’s an endless parade of panna cottas and half-arsed mousses. The kitchen will throw on a bit of granola or a fragment of meringue to make it look like a dessert, but that doesn’t alter the fact. It’s not. It’s a squirt from an udder, set to a wobble courtesy of a boiled down cow’s foot. It’s a failure of ambition

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED PERSON? Young People Read Old SFF is back, and this time James Davis Nicoll has assigned the panel James Tiptree Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” Evidently James let them discover some things for themselves.

Lisa: …Once I figured out what was going on, I enjoyed the story – pieces of information were revealed throughout, and the story continued twisting and turning until I finally figured out what the story was about – a future world without men. We got to hear about worlds without men in When It Changed, A Rose for Ecclesiastes, to an extent, in the dolphin story (except the women were smart dolphins). As with A Rose for Ecclesiastes, this is a man-free story written by a man. Does the author’s gender change how the manless women carry on?

After finishing the story (which seemed to have a lot more contempt for men than most men would have), I googled “Does James Tiptree Hate Women?” The results of my google search provided me with the final twist I experienced in reading Houston, Houston. This twist was twisty enough that it made me laugh out loud at my computer in surprise. It turns out that James Tiptree is actually a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon – who is, in fact, female. Well of course she was.

(5) NAME THAT BOOK. Stump the Bookseller is a site for people who vaguely remember novels that appeared when they were kids. If you look at it you will see that most of the half-remembered books are YA sf and fantasy. Here’s their most recent request. Do you recognize it? Four people agreed on the answer in comments.

There was a book that I read in the early 1970s about a girl (A) whose family took in another girl (B), I can’t remember why. Girl B turned out to have powers that she used against Girl A. I remember two scenes. Girl A was going to the prom or a big dance with her boyfriend and was going to make her own dress. Girl B made Girl A buy a pattern and color for a dress that was unbecoming to Girl A. Also, Girl B made Girl A sick right before the dance so Girl B went with Girl A’s boyfriend. I don’t remember how Girl A got rid of Girl B, but the book ends with Girl A saying whenever she reads a story in the newspaper about a wife dying, or an accident with 3 people where the woman dies, that she wonders if it is Girl B is still out there up to her old tricks.

(6) BE FREE. Teacher and author Tracy Townsend writes a series of tweets about a little-considered benefit of free online fiction. It begins here:

(7) MOMENT OF TRUTH. In “10 Questions with Hugo Award Winner Laura J. Mixon” interviewer Ryan Schneider mostly asks about her writing, and her new book Glass Houses, but he does throw a couple of curveballs –

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Outside, dammit! sayeth the engineer. The writer in me shrugs; whatever—I’m in it for the fun and glory and adventure. Just be consistent with that punctuation stuff and use it to tell a great story, and I’m yours.

6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

Pro. I’ll fight you.

(8) BEEN HERE, DONE THAT. Here are four NASA astronauts who believed in alien visitation. Leroy Gordon Cooper was one of them.

But even before he underwent the life-changing experience of becoming the first man to sleep in space, he claimed to have seen UFOs flying over Germany in 1951.

The spaceman also said he saw flying saucers spying on a secret air base where experimental American aircraft were being tested.

“I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which are a little more technically advanced than we are on Earth,” he told the UN in 1984.

“We may first have to show them that we have learned how to resolve our problems by peaceful means rather than warfare, before we are accepted as fully qualified universal team members.

“Their acceptance will have tremendous possibilities of advancing our world in all areas.”

(9) KUMMING OBIT. Waldemar Kumming (1924-2017) died on April 5, age 92, according to Wolf von Witting. He was best known as the editor of Munich Roundup, a photo-filled zine about European fanac. He won a European SF Award for his services to fandom in 1984, and the Big Heart Award in 2005.

(10) MITCHELL OBIT. SF Site News reports Vicki Mitchell Gustafson, who wrote as V.E. Mitchell died on April 13, six days before her 67th birthday. Vicki was the widow of art historian Jon Gustafson, who died 12 years earlier, to the day. (Jon was a columnist for my old fanzine, Scientifriction.)

(11) IF YOU’RE LUCKY. Five days left to enter the Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway being run at Robert Kroese’s BadNovelist site.

The Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway is about showcasing authors who have been marginalized by the gatekeepers of the sci-fi publishing industry for the sin of not complying with progressive social justice dogma. From Sarah Hoyt, who was accused of racism and ”internalized misogyny” for her association with the Sad Puppies campaign to reform the Hugo Awards, to Nick Cole, who lost a publishing contract for daring to write a story about an artificially intelligent computer who is troubled by abortion, these authors have faced smear campaigns, boycotts and blacklisting for failing to toe the progressive line.

Just for entering, you’ll get:

Brother, Frank by Michael Bunker
The Red King by Nick Cole
Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt
The Yanthus Prime Job by Robert Kroese
The Darkness by W.J. Lundy
Nethereal by Brian Niemeier
Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson

Three lucky winners will also receive:

Wick by Michael Bunker
Ctrl+Alt+Revolt by Nick Cole
Darkship Revenge by Sarah A. Hoyt
Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese
The Shadows by W.J. Lundy
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Better to Beg Forgiveness by Michael Z. Williamson

Books will be provided as downloadable files, in both ebook and mobi (Kindle) formats.

(12) I, THE JURY. Aurealis Awards judge Elizabeth Fitzgerald tells what it was like.

The problem with my reckoning was that there was an embedded assumption that the award books would arrive at a regular pace. I really should have known better. The award opened for entries mid June and books trickled in until the first small rush arrived at the end of September. However, most of the entries arrived en masse in December.

To complicate matters, I suffered a bout of eye strain in November and continued to struggle with it through December. In the end, I recovered thanks to some eye drops and the inclusion of frequent breaks in my schedule. I made up for lost time by averaging a book a day throughout January and February. I didn’t watch any TV or do much of anything other than read. Now, you know I love reading, but two months and more of that started to get a bit much, even for me.

It improved my reading skills, though. I got faster. I found that 20 pages was usually long enough to judge the quality of the writing. I did a lot of skimming. And I got more comfortable with not finishing books. Prior to being a judge, I could count the number of books I’d DNFed on one hand.

I got to know my postman and the delivery guys very well. Books would show up randomly on my doorstep. It was like Christmas. And then, when it was actually Christmas, all the Aurealis books made a good disguise. My sweetheart busted me with the copy of Ninefox Gambit I’d ordered as his Christmas present. So, I told him it was another book for judging and let him take a look at it before putting it in the pile of judging books. I quietly snuck it out a couple of weeks later and wrapped it up.

(13) BOUTIQUE SERIES. Not that anybody uses the word “boutique” anymore. Recode tells why “Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ couldn’t be made into a TV show until TV changed”.

…The CEO of Starz, Chris Albrecht, previously oversaw the rise of prestige TV as CEO of HBO, including “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “The Wire.”

Shows like those proved that TV didn’t have to be made for the biggest audience possible.

“When you make something like ‘American Gods,’ you go, ‘This is not going to be to everybody’s taste,’” Gaiman said. “But you’re also not going to make it more to anybody’s taste by making it less like the thing that it is. You just kind of have to lean into it.”

Later entries in the prestige TV genre, like Netflix’s “House of Cards” and Amazon’s “Transparent,” changed how people watch TV, making it normal to binge an entire show in one sitting. Gaiman noted that cheapskates who don’t yet have Starz could wait until the end of the eight-episode season, sign up for a free trial and binge away.

(14) JORDAN TV. Variety reports Sony Pictures is at work on a Wheel of Time series.

The long-gestating “Wheel of Time” TV series adaptation is moving forward with Sony Pictures Television.

The series will be based on the high fantasy novels written by Robert Jordan, the pen name of James O. Rigney Jr. There are 14 novels in total, beginning with “The Eye of the World” in 1990 and concluding with “A Memory of Light,” which was finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007. They follow the quest to find the Dragon Reborn, who it is said will help unite forces to combat The Dark One.

Sony will produce along with Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures. Rafe Judkins is attached to write and executive produce. Judkins previously worked on shows such as ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove,” and the NBC series “Chuck.” Red Eagle partners Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon will executive produce along with Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber. Darren Lemke will also executive produce, with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal serving as consulting producer.

(15) SFF GEOGRAPHY. Here are “11 Famous Movie Locations You Can Actually Visit” from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and more.

3 / 11

The Martian

Another earthly landscape stands in for an alien one in this 2015 Matt Damon film. Wadi Rum, or “The Valley of the Moon,” in Jordan is a close match for the red planet. The region also makes a cameo in Red Planet, Last Days on Mars, Lawrence of Arabia and Prometheus.

(16) WHACKS MUSEUM. Medieval peasants had their own ways of discouraging zombies.

Where else to learn about medieval zombies than in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports‘ latest study, (and everyone’s favorite new beach read), “A multidisciplinary study of a burnt and mutilated assemblage of human remains from a deserted Mediaeval village in England.” What a title.

If the click-baity title wasn’t evidence enough, it’s a pretty macabre read, leavened with just the right touch of osteology, radiometric dating, and strontium isotope analyses. But the upshot is that some villagers in the 11th to 13th centuries who lived near modern-day Wharram Percy in northern Yorkshire were apparently scared of zombies. So they made sure the dead would stay dead with some extra handiwork, deliberately mutilating the bodies after death.

(17) DRAMATIC PRESENTATION. Apparently this episode of Fargo featured Gloria (Carrie Coon) picking up a rocket trophy to use as a weapon. Several people thought it was a Hugo. (The linked article describes the episode, however, it doesn’t mention the trophy.)

It’s not a Hugo or an International Fantasy Award. No Hugo ever had that shape, or was designed with that kind of gap between the fins and the base. It’s an interesting puzzle. These days you can order a lot of different 3-D rocket awards online, maybe it’s one of those.

(18) SPEAKING OF. A striptease during language lessons?

….A leading adult entertainment webcam platform, unveiled “Language Lessons,” the first adult language-learning service that combines beautiful cam models with the latest translation technologies to make learning a foreign language fun and sensual. Now, in addition to camming with their favorite model in a private chatroom, fans can engage in casual conversation with them, learning an assortment of languages including Spanish, French, Romanian and English.

Daniel Dern commented – “(Obviously) (to me, a grey/white hair), I immediately thought of this classic sf story (rot13’d here to give Filers a chance to see if they can guess)…”

“Naq Znqyl Grnpu,” ol Yyblq Ovttyr, We.

Diplomat John Quincy Adams said the best way to learn a foreign language was with the help of a mistress – though he made clear he had only availed himself of the second or third best ways.

(19) MORE MARVEL. The official trailer for “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger,” coming to Freeform in 2018.

[Thanks to Wolf von Witting, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JohanP, who’s probably in the wind by now.]

NYRSF Readings Celebrate 50 Years of Star Trek

Keith DeCandido in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi..

Keith DeCandido in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi..

By Mark Blackman: On the evening of Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 (or Star Date [-27] 04610.00), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series boldly commemorated the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek on NBC-tv with a stellar crew of writers reading from their or others’ Trek-related works and performing a comedic skit about Trek Fandom.  (Fittingly, the day was as hot as Vulcan.)  The event, opening the Reading Series’ 26th season, and held at its current venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, located in the Alpha Quadrant near the Romulan Neutral Zone and the Barclays Center, was guest-curated by Keith R.A. DeCandido, the author of 16 Trek novels (several of them best-sellers), 13 novellas, seven short stories, six comic books, and the coffee-table book The Klingon Art of War, as well as articles, reviews and overviews on Star Trek.

The voyage began with a welcome from producer/executive curator Jim Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, and giving a rundown of upcoming readings:  On Sept. 27th (the last Tuesday of the month), readers will be N.K. Jemisin (“the award-winning N.K. Jemisin,” he beamed) and Kai Ashanti Wilson.  Nov. 1st – all Souls Day, the day after Hallowe’en – will debut the Margot Adler Memorial NYRSF Readings Series, with Terence Taylor its first guest curator.  (Margot was the original host of Hour of the Wolf; the Series’ topics might range from vampires – in her later years, she became addicted to the genre, reading 325 vampire novels, and, in fact, once guest-curated a NYRSF Reading spotlighting the creatures of the night – to Faerie to Wicca and psychology.)  One of the readers on Tuesday, Nov. 15th will be Kij Johnson.  Also reading in November will be Matthew Kressel, Alyssa Wong and Madeline Ashby.  December will, as traditional, feature a Family Night, with readings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.

Continuing, Freund plugged a variety of CDs from Skyboat Media for sale, including a 13-volume set of his interviews over the years, and, marking Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Harlan Ellison’s full-cast original teleplay of “The City on the Edge of Forever” (which is not what aired on tv).  He also noted that, as it happens, Gordon Van Gelder, the first curator of the NYRSF Readings Series, was born on the very date that Star Trek broadcast its premiere episode, “The Man Trap” (aka “The Salt Monster”).

(Curiously, there was, I observed, what might be called a generation gap, with some in the audience – and even of the readers – having never seen the show in its original run and had watched it only in its syndication on local stations, demonstrating Trek’s enduring appeal.  The other generation gap – between the classic and the subsequent series – never really arose.)

In due course, Freund turned the podium over to guest host Keith DeCandido, who described himself as “a Star Trek fan since birth, having grown up watching the show in reruns on Channel 11.”  (Coincidentally, he remarked, it was also the 47th anniversary of the premiere of the underrated animated series.)  Star Trek, he extolled, gave us “a wonderful future,” where Earth – where humanity – had come together and was working together in space.  It was the era of the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War, and here were an African-American, an Asian and a Russian (not to mention an alien) as part of the crew.

Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes

That diversity was an apt introduction to his pre-recorded interview with Steven Barnes. Barnes is a New York Times bestselling author who has written comic books, animation, newspaper copy, magazine articles, television scripts – from Stargate SG-1, The Outer Limits and Andromeda to Baywatch (that’s a fantasy, right?) – and three million words of published fiction (including the novelization of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Far Beyond the Stars,” the alternate history Lion’s Blood, and collaborations with Niven and Pournelle), and has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Cable Ace awards, and received the Endeavor and the NAACP Image Awards.  Regrettably, the recording was badly glitched (Keith probably forgot to open hailing frequencies before Skyping), and DeCandido was obliged (with profuse apologies to us and to Barnes) summarize his talk about writing and about race on ’60s tv.  Barnes respected the intent of “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” (Frank Gorshin and Lou Antonio in split black/whiteface), what they were trying to do, though it looks ridiculous now.  (Isn’t that a satisfying sign of progress since?)  He also discussed the importance of black characters equal with and alongside whites on Trek, Mission: Impossible and I Spy, and of having Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) as a nonwhite lead on a genre show.

David Mack in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi.

David Mack in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi.

There being fewer technical glitches in a live reading, DeCandido introduced the first reader, David Mack, a New York Times bestselling author of roughly 30 sf, fantasy and adventure novels, including the Star Trek Destiny and Cold Equations trilogies, and the forthcoming Star Trek: Legacies, Book II: Best Defense, part of a new trilogy celebrating the franchise’s 50th anniversary.  Mack’s offering departed from The Original Series as it was set in the Next Generation era several years after Nemesis.  The Enterprise follows clues to a planet where someone has been cranking out copies of Lore – Dr. Noonian Soong, they learn, who has uploaded his consciousness into an android body.  Soong is soon laboring to resurrect Data (B-4 may have Data’s memories, but not his “soul” or his emotion chip), even at the cost of his own existence.  (Mack did a delightful Worf, by the way.)

Emily Asher-Perrin

Emily Asher-Perrin

Next up was Emily Asher-Perrin, who described herself as a kid as “a great big geek who preferred to talk about robots and aliens and lightsabers and magic,” and who works on the internet, notably on Tor.com, “talk[ing] and get[ting] excited about all the science fiction and fantasy that she loves most.”  She read a couple of scenes from Jean Lorrah’s The Vulcan Academy Murders; in the first, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are on Vulcan, and have joined Sarek and Amanda’s healer for dinner at an Italian restaurant (meatless, of course – vegan Vulcans, you know); and in the second, they are at a funeral (spoiler:  no, not Amanda’s), where they encounter T’Pau, the Vulcan matriarch from “Amok Time.”

During the intermission, people grabbed a bite (happily, the Commons Café did not offer gakh) and a raffle was held for a flash drive that might be called a mix tape, including miscellany like Shatner’s rendering of “Rocket Man” and bridge sound effects, and for two tickets to an astronomy lecture at the Intrepid on Saturday the 10th.

The second half of the program opened with a comedic skit by another New York Times bestselling Trek novelist, Dayton Ward (who was not present).  Set in a movie theater “somewhere in the U.S.” on June 9, 1989 where Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is about to begin, a group of Trek fans (the word “Trekkie” was never, never uttered all evening), played by Keith, David, Emily and Jim (typecasting) schmooze about – and one persistently pans – the year’s sf movies, and Batman.  (Some ironic humor was derived from what we know about subsequent films.)  Plus ça change …

Finally, DeCandido, drawing from his “Federation version of The West Wing,” delivered the Federation President’s commencement address to Starfleet Academy in the wake of the events of Nemesis.

The crowd of about 40 included Melissa C. Beckman, Catelynn Cunningham, Melissa Ennin (the landlady), Nora (NK) Jemisin, Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Nora Larker, Mark W. Richards, Wrenn Simms, Ian Randal Strock, and Bill Wagner.  As customary at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and copies of Trek books and stories by DeCandido and Mack were available for sale and autographs.  As the evening concluded, various audience members hung around or adjourned to the Café.

Balticon 50 Opening Ceremonies

Last night’s opening ceremonies for Balticon 50, photographed by Sean Kirk. Pictured are the past and present Guests Of Honors in attendance for the convention’s 50th anniversary.

From left to right: George R. R. Martin, Jo Walton, Joe Halderman, Jody Lynn Nye, Charles Stross, Connie Willis, Larry Niven, Peter S. Beagle, Steve Barnes, Steve Miller, Sharon Lee, Kaja Foglio, Phil Foglio, Harry Turtledove, Allen Steele, Donald Kingsbury, and Nancy Springer.

Pixel Scroll 3/15/16 At The Age of 37, She Realized She’d Never Scroll Through Paris With The Warm Pixels In Her Hair

(1) THE MAN WHO WOULD BE WHO. An actor who’s already accumulated a lot of experience traveling in time one day in front of the next has his eye on the prize. Metro News says “Brian Blessed wants to be the next Doctor Who after Peter Capaldi”

The actor, who is fast approaching the ripe old age of 80, has been speaking to Calibre magazine about his desire to be the next Time Lord after Peter Capaldi; he said:

‘I would love to play the Doctor, absolutely!’

Doctor Who fans may remember Blessed as King Ycarnos in 1986’s The Trial Of A Time Lord, where his character went on to marry the Sixth Doctor’s companion, Peri.

If Blessed were to become the next Doctor, he would be the oldest actor to do so, with some twenty years on current TARDIS pilot Capaldi.

(2) BEANS IN SPACE. Whereas the poster for the Australian competition referenced Mad Max: Fury Road, the “2016 Hungarian Aeropress Championship” post goes with a Star Wars icon.

Hungarian aeropress championship COMP

Fast circulating rumours, perhaps with the assistance of a HyperDrive, are suggesting the coffee has been sourced by coffee’s home planet of Alderaan. Unfortunately these rumours have been denied by Ewoks on the forrest moon of Endor who have hand-picked all the rainforest alliance coffee. The variety of the coffee is mostly heirloom, sometimes also know as Degu(bah) and is famous for having very high midi-chorian levels, but low caffeine.  The coffee was fermented and de-pulped in the now re-purposed garbage disposal units on the detention level of the Death Star. That’s enough lame Star Wars references for now i think…

(3) HPL ON THE AUCTION BLOCK. FineBooks & Collections reports “Found: Lovecraft-Houdini Manuscript”.

Whispered about by hopeful collectors and scholars for decades, the manuscript of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Cancer of Superstition, commisssioned and co-written by magician Harry Houdini, has finally come to light. It was rather incredibly “discovered by a private collector among the records of a now-defunct magic shop,” according to Chicago’s Potter & Potter Auctions, which will auction the 31-page typewritten story on April 9.

A brief description of the manuscript is provided in the Potter & Potter auction catalog available for download here [PDF file]. The bidding will open at lucky $13,000….

(4) OCTAVIA BUTLER. From Southern California Public Radio, “The life and legacy of Octavia Butler – and 5 stories you should read”.

It’s been a decade since science fiction writer Octavia Butler passed away.

The California native fell in love with storytelling as a kid at the Pasadena Library, and later grew up to be the only sci-fi writer to receive a MacArthur Genius Fellowship. She was also the first African American woman in the genre to achieve international fame.

According to her friend and fellow writer Steven Barnes, Butler anticipated the challenges of presenting black characters in her stories.

“In her early novels, they would put green people or aliens on the covers of her books,” Barnes said.

“Or blond, white women,” added Tananarive Due, also a friend of Butler’s.

As a teacher and another African American female author, Due knows firsthand how influential Butler’s work is.

“I wish I had discovered Octavia’s work when I was a learning writer,” Due said. “When I wrote my first novel, I had no idea whether or not there would be an audience for speculative fiction — speculative fiction being science fiction, fantasy or horror novel — with black characters, you know, not necessarily intended for black readers.”

(5) JONESING. Everyone who’s still alive in 2019 can see if the iconic star of the Indiana Jones movies can claim the same. The Walt Disney Company announces, “Spielberg and Ford Reunite as Indiana Jones Returns to Theaters July 19, 2019”.

Indiana Jones will return to the big screen on July 19, 2019, for a fifth epic adventure in the blockbuster series. Steven Spielberg, who directed all four previous films, will helm the as-yet-untitled project with star Harrison Ford reprising his iconic role. Franchise veterans Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will produce.

“Indiana Jones is one of the greatest heroes in cinematic history, and we can’t wait to bring him back to the screen in 2019,” said Alan Horn, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios. “It’s rare to have such a perfect combination of director, producers, actor and role, and we couldn’t be more excited to embark on this adventure with Harrison and Steven.”

(6) GAVEL RAPPER. Kevin Standlee says a Business Meeting chair has “No Magic Bullets”. Nor any other kind, to be sure.

A couple of days ago, I got into a conversation on billroper‘s LJ about the “Heckler’s Veto” and that led to me thinking about something that had worried me about running the WSFS Business Meeting. After all, the entire meeting process, and parliamentary procedure itself, assumes that the people gathering actually are willing to play by the rules. If a significant number of the people showing up won’t play by the rules, the meeting will dissolve. It would be like a bunch of football players deciding during a match that they don’t like the rule book and that they can ignore the officials and do anything they want. There’s not a lot the officials can do in that case, other than leave.

I did give a lot of thought to this approaching the 2015 WSFS Business Meeting, what with doomsday scenarios of thousands of people overrunning the meeting and refusing to obey any rules and shouting down anything they didn’t like and generally causing chaos. I concluded that a meeting whose members refuse to follow their own rules is not a meeting, but a mob, and I’m not chairing a mob. Had such a thing happened, I would have ordered the meeting adjourned “at the call of the chair” and turned to the convention for help. The convention would then in turn have had to ask the convention security to clear the area, and potentially even call the police if non-members (including any people who had their memberships revoked) refused to leave on their own accord.

(7) TO HAL WITH IT. 2001 A Space Odyssey: A Look Behind the Future is a 1960s promotional film. The 10-minute color documentary includes production of props, revolving spaceship set, etc.

(8) CURRENT EVENTS. A much more recent sf film will also be the subject of a documentary: Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey.  It will be a bonus on the movie’s Blu-Ray disc, to be released April 5.

(9) GROWING UP AI. At The Way Finder, Hugh C. Howey says he has observed “The Birth of Artificial Intelligence”.

…This was not the week, however, that AI was born. This was the week that I realized that AI was born quite some time ago…..

It’s in the early years of human development where I think we can see the current state of AI being somewhere post-birth and yet pre-awareness. But the development of strong AI will have incredible advantages over the human acquisition of general intelligence. This arise from the modular nature of intelligence.

Our brains are not one big thinking engine; they are collections of hundreds of individual engines, each of which develop at different rates. What’s amazing about AI is that the learning does not need to be done twice for every module. When we build a chess-playing module, and a Go-playing module, and a Jeopardy-playing module, all of these can be “plugged in” to our general AI. Our baby girl is growing every day, and thousands of people are pouring billions of dollars of research into her education. We, the general public, are contributing with petabytes of data. It is already happening, and we won’t even recognize when our first daughter graduates into strong AI. Every day will be — as parents know — one small miracle added to the last, a succession of amazing little first steps that result in them going off to college and being their own person.

Each headline you read is us — as collective parents — gasping to our spouse at what our baby girl just did for the first time.

Google has already taught our daughter to drive a car. Amazon is doing amazing things with their Alexa device, creating the beginnings of the virtual assistant seen in Her. IBM is building the best medical mind the field has ever known. In the last five years, AI has taken strides that even the optimistic find startling. The next five years will see similar advances. And this progress will only accelerate, because we’re operating in the realm of Moore’s Law. We are building the tools that help us build faster tools, which help us build faster tools.

(10) IRENE LARSEN OBIT. Magic Castle co-founder Irene Larsen died February 25 reports Variety.

Irene Larsen, co-founder of the Academy of Magical Arts and the private clubhouse the Magic Castle, died unexpectedly on Thursday morning at her Los Angeles home. She was 79.

After she assisted her late husband William “Bill” Larsen Jr. in his various magic acts for years, the two launched the Magic Castle together in 1963. Larsen’s dedication to the role of ambassador of magic helped elevate the AMA to an internationally renowned and respected organization within the art’s community.

(11) WRITING WHILE WAITING FOR THE EMERGENCY. Amanda S. Green’s “Putting things into perspective” at Mad Genius Club demonstrates how a professional writer honors her real-life priorities — a friend’s health and her writing commitments .

…One of my oldest and dearest friends is facing a challenge the vast majority of us will only ever read about. She is going to need me with her as she faces this challenge. Even if she hadn’t asked, I would be there for her. Why? Because she has always been there for me and mine.

That’s what friends and family do. You rally around those you care about.

But, when you do, work is impacted.

I know that the next few weeks and months will see us waiting for the shoe to drop. In some ways, it will be like those last weeks of pregnancy. A bag will be packed, the gas tank filled and we will all be waiting for the phone to ring to tell us it is time to leave. No, not a bug-out, at least not in a Ringo-esque sort of way. This is the call to get to the hospital within a certain amount of time. The clock is ticking and it is very loud….

It has also meant changing what I have with me at any time. I’ve always had my phone and a small notepad squirreled away in my purse in case I needed to make a note about something. Smart phones are great for being able to use for dictation and look up things, etc. Now, however, the small purse — my preference — has been traded for a larger one. The smartphone and pad have been joined by my Surface Pro 3, stylus and charger. Why? Because the SP3 gives me everything my laptop does but at a fraction of the weight. The screen, while small, is still larger than my Android tablet and the keyboard is much better than the virtual keyboard on the Android. Add in the thumb drive with all my working files and I have my office on the go….

The result has been that I can and have been getting the job done despite the worry that is constantly there right now. I am working hard to not only meet the schedule I set for myself at the beginning of the year but to get ahead. I want that cushion for the day when we get the call telling us it is time to meet my friends at the hospital. I want to be able to be there for them and not worry about falling behind on “work”. I need to know that I am keeping with my schedule so the money can and will keep coming in. I need to know that, no matter what the time of day or day of the week, I am able to continue working without worry about where I happen to be….

(12) COMIC-CON HQ TO LAUNCH. San Diego’s Comic-Con International will brand a video-on-demand service.

The Hollywood Reporter: “Lionsgate, Comic-Con Set Launch Date for Streaming Service”

Lionsgate and Comic-Con International will launch Comic-Con HQ, their newly-named fanboy streamer, on May 7, ahead of an official launch in June. The subscription video-on-demand service will have a soft launch in May, with an official bow to follow in June in the lead up to Comic-Con International: San Diego in July.

Deadline: “Lionsgate & Comic-Con’s SVOD Channel Comic-Con HQ Sets Launch Date”

The ad-free streaming service will feature “an evolving slate of programming including original scripted and unscripted series, recurring daily and weekly entertainment commentary, plus unique access to a growing library of live and archival programming from their world-class events, a highly-curated selection of film and TV genre titles, and behind-the-scenes access and bonus features from genre titles that defy and define pop culture,” per the announcement.

Variety: “Lionsgate to Launch Comic-Con Channel in May”

Monday’s announcement disclosed that gaming personality Adam Sessler, former host of G4’s X-Play, will executive produce programs on comics, science and gaming, along with hosting his own interview series. Other formats being developed include a general pop culture news show, a late-night talk show, a weekly movie talk in partnership with Complex’s Collider and an all-female panel on pop culture from women’s perspectives.

(13) ONCE AROUND THE BLOCK. Mr. Sci-Fi has something to say about the Paramount/CBS suit against the maker of Axanar.

Sci-Fi Writer-Producer Marc Zicree discusses Paramount’s lawsuit against Star Trek Axanar and puts it in context with the long history of science fiction fan fiction and fan films — and suggests several possible win-win strategies for a successful outcome.

 

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

Need Less Bow, More Wow 8/30

(1) From the SuperversiveSF livestream, Kate Paulk’s statement on SP4 at 1:05:42 (transcription provided by Mark):

For starters the word slate is not going to appear anywhere. For second [Cross talk] I am not doing a slate, I am doing a list of the most popular works in all of the various categories as submitted by people who read on any of the various blogs that will have me. And I’m going to post ultimately the top ten of each, with links to the full list of everything that everybody wanted to see nominated, and I’m going to be saying “hey if you really want to see your favorite authors nominated your best bet is to pick something of theirs from the most popular in the list as opposed to the least popular”. That is going to be what it is. I don’t care who ends up on that list. I don’t care if David Gerrold ends up being the top of the list somewhere. That’s not the point, the point is that I want to see the voting numbers both for nomination and for actual voting go up above 5,000 up above 10,000, because the more people who are involved and who are voting the harder it is for any faction including puppies to manipulate the results.

(2) John C. Wright – “Neither Do They Grok Nicknames”

How is it that these mackerels have gained hegemony over our cultural institutions, down to and including such trivial corners of life as the Hugo Awards?

These are the same people who did not comprehend that obscure nuance of the English language known as a “nickname” was when used in my Hugo-nominated story One Bright Star to Guide Them. Instead it was generally agreed by the consensus that I had forgotten the name of my own character, on the grounds that she was a woman, and therefore hated by the author. I wish I were kidding. These people are deranged. It is not due to a physical damage to the brain, but to spiritual. Pride and ire darken the intellect.

(3) MRMADWRITER – “Merit’ vs ‘Politics’ in Fiction”

How is it that we live in a time where gender is the dominating topic, and the white male is pushed into a grave and buried in it. I thought equality stood for, if anything the treatment of all ethnic groups respectfully. True equality would be difficult to achieve in regards to the world that we live in today, hence the fact that how well you do in life, is purely based on merit and your determination to succeed. There a plenty of stories where people at the bottom of the barrel have risen to the top. It’s a matter of thinking outside the box and sometimes taking risks. But the Sad Puppies campaign is evidence that free expression, and the position of writer is now under intense scrutiny. If you don’t fit the narrative of the other side, your work is not even worth their time.

(4) Mark Ciocco on Kaedrin Weblog – “Hugo Awards: The Results”

So the Puppies did not do so well in the final voting. I was basically expecting this, though perhaps not to this flagrant extent (the 2500 Absolute No Awarders number is pretty eye opening). More evidence for my Action and Reaction theory, and I stand by most of what I said there. One thing I hope I’m wrong about is “No Award” being the worst possible outcome. It’s always been clear to me that the current Puppy approach does not work (assuming you’re actually trying to get your nominees an award and not, say, burn the whole thing down). My recommendation for Kate Paulk: Please, for the love of God, do not put together a slate. Focus your efforts on garnering participation and emphasize individuality. If you’re dead set on listing out nominees, go for a long reading list as opposed to a blatant slate. Brad Torgersen called for nominees early this year, and the grand majority of them didn’t make his slate (and some things appeared on the slate that weren’t discussed? I think? I don’t really feel like digging through that.) Perhaps coordinate that effort and be inclusive when you list out eligible nominees. We’re all fans, let’s write this year off and try not alienating everyone next year (that goes for everyone, not just the Puppies). Forbearance is a good thing.

The notion that voting on the current year gives you the ability to nominate next year is a brilliant one that might actually keep me participating. That being said, if there’s anything like this year’s clusterfuck brewing, I’m out. I can forgive this year because I think even the Puppies were surprised at how successful their slate approach was. I can understand the Noah Ward voters too. But if the same thing happens next year… I don’t know, why bother?

(5) Cathy Young on Real Clear Politics – “Mutiny at the Hugo Awards”

It’s also telling that Mixon bent over backwards to stress that she supports the righteous anger of the “oppressed” and that most of Requires Hate’s victims were themselves female, gay, transgendered, and/or nonwhite. When a commenter argued that treating members of “dominant” groups as acceptable targets was precisely the mindset that enabled Requires Hate, Mixon insisted that “a case can be made for marginalized people’s right to punch up.”

Despite all these disclaimers, Mixon’s exposé was too politically incorrect for some. Writer and blogger Deidre Saoirse Moen, who drafted the “Puppy-Free Hugo Awards Voting Guide,” also opposed the award to Mixon, at least partly because “it just feels like a white woman elder putting the younger woman of color in her ‘place.’” That Mixon ultimately got the award could be seen as repudiating the extremes of left-wing cultural politics. But in a way, it also affirms that criticism of such extremes is allowed only from within the true faith and from within the establishment (Mixon happens to be married to current SWFA president Steven Gould).

In this stifling atmosphere of “progressive” authoritarianism, the Sad Puppies’ mutiny makes sense.

Those who revile the Puppies as bigots if not outright fascists point to the pseudonymous Vox Day, a.k.a. Theodore Beale, the leader of his own “Rabid Puppies” faction whose Hugos slate largely overlapped with Sad Puppies. A writer and indie publisher kicked out of the SWFA a few years ago, Beale is also a prolific blogger who urges a radical Christian takeover of America and espouses views that actually can be called racist and misogynist with no exaggeration. (Among other things, he maintains that blacks are inherently more violent and less civilized than whites, that female suffrage is bad because women will “vote for whomever they would rather f***”, and that curtailing female education is rational because “a society that sends its women to college stops breeding”).

It’s hard to tell to what extent Vox Day’s public persona is performance art played for shock. In any case, this year’s Sad Puppy leaders, Correia and Brad Torgensen, repeatedly stated that they do not share Vox Day’s views and regard him as an unpleasant tactical ally, the Stalin to their Roosevelt and Churchill. (Hoyt, in turn, has written that she find his views “repulsive.”) They didn’t quite disavow him; but Torgensen has told Wired magazine that even if they had, their detractors would have found some other reason to demonize the Puppies.

Given the tenor and frequent sloppiness of anti-Puppy critiques, Torgensen is almost certainly right. Thus, in a Chicago Tribune piece on the Hugos controversy, Roosevelt University professor Gary Wolfe mentions Vox Day and his inflammatory views—then adds that “others” in the Puppies’ ranks “have even argued against women’s right to vote.” But Vox Day is the only one who has done that. Far more typical of the Puppies’ views is Best Fan Writer nominee Sanderson, who considers herself a pro-equality, anti-misandry feminist—and who nonetheless got skewered as an “anti-feminist” for (among other things) defending astrophysicist Matt Taylor’s public appearance in a shirt with scantily clad women on it.

As for Vox Day, the Puppies say that the progressive guardians of the fandom and WorldCon voters played right into his hands by “no-awarding” the categories with only Puppy nominees. Vox had planned to instruct his followers to vote “no award” on everything, in the explicit hope that a large number of “no awards” would help him “burn down” the Hugos.

(6) Louis Antonelli on Facebook

OK, it’s been a week since the Hugo nuking and Sasquan convention ended. I’ve gotten a lot off my chest and aired a lot of grievances. Seven days. I’m actually feeling played out. At this point, I think I’ve made all the points I’ve needed to make, done all the good I could. I’m feeling like it’s time to turn the corner, close the chapter on this fiasco and move forward.

A little Facebook poll – what do y’all think? Give me a “Like” or thumbs up if you’d to see a change in focus. That’s not to say I’ll always be a sweety pie – but let’s face it, both sides have had a lot to say and think this past week. I’d like to know what you think – is it time to move on?

(7) Steven Barnes on Facebook

On SJWs, racism, and the attempted control of language

There is a story that the Buddha was lecturing, and a man mocked him, insulting everything he said.  Finally, the Buddha paused.  “Excuse me, my friend,” he said.  “If I offered you a present, and you declined to accept it, to whom then does the present belong?”

“To you” the man said smugly.

“Precisely. And if you offer me insult, and I decline to accept it, to whom then does the abuse belong?”

And the man was speechless.

####

I don’t respect shifting language for political purposes.  It feels like Orwell’s  “Newthink” to me.  Very close to what NLP refers to as “slight of mouth” patterns.    Here’s a pair of examples, one from the Right, one from the Left.

  1. Social Justice Warrior.  Look at those words, and the only thing it could mean denotatively is someone willing to fight, and die, and change the world to achieve an idea of equality and justice.  Literally, I can think of nothing I’d be more honored to be considered, and nothing that more accurately describes the human beings I respect most in all the world. The attempt to demonize it is nothing more than a linguistic mind control.
  2. Racism.    The primary definition of this term is, simply, the differential attribution of worth or capacity based upon race or ethnicity.  Nice, neutral definition–anyone can have that, (probably most of us have a little of it)  it is global and pervasive and would seem to arise from tribalism and the tendency of children to think their mommy is prettier, their daddy stronger.   But over the last twenty years, academics have shifted that to be “perception of differential capacity based upon race or ethnicity PLUS the power to enforce your decisions and leverage your attitudes”.   That’s another interesting “slight of mouth” pattern, because it leads to the attitude that disadvantaged groups “cannot be racist.”   Since all of our cultural vitriol is directed at this term, it is an interesting “escape hatch”: WE can say whatever we want, YOU have to shut the @#$$ up.

I don’t buy either of these.  I’ve been attacked by both sides for disagreeing with them, and that’s fine by me.   So I state clearly, for the record: I think the term “Social Justice Warrior”, denotatively, is one of the finest things a human being can be. Want to use a different, connotative definition?  You are welcome to do so, and in so doing, allow us to examine your values, politics and thought patterns.

I think “racism” is a perception, a judgement about human beings, separate from whether that perception is correct, and separate from the actions you take once you’ve come to that conclusion.   I disagree that there are major differences between whites and blacks (for instance) morally or mentally, and believe that in almost all cases those who believe there are are being self-serving.  That immeasurable human evil has flowed from those beliefs.  The great Octavia Butler believed that the most dangerous quality of human beings is

  1. our hierarchical thinking.
  2. Our tendency to place ourselves higher on that hierarchy than others.

Further,  almost everyone changes that definition so that THEY “aren’t racist.”   THEY don’t burn crosses on lawns, use “The N-word.”   They have black friends, or have dated/married a woman of the group in question.  CAN’T be racists.  Can’t possibly have an attitude about the AVERAGE member of the other group, or any sense that whites would have survived slavery and its aftermath with greater ease.

And on the other side, why,  they can believe blacks are mentally, morally or athletically superior genetically…but they aren’t racist because they are members of a group with lesser power.

O.K.  That’s all fine.   If that’s the way you make sense of the world, and it works for you, I’m happy. Let me know how that works out.    I’ll probably never accept either position, and if that bothers you, you may call me whatever you want, or think whatever you wish.

But come Christmas morning, that box will be under YOUR tree, not mine.     Have fun.

(8) James Worrad – Sad Puppies, Post-Hugo Blues & Loose Genitalia…

“And what’s even sadder is this pathetic collection of power-hungry little Hitlers have destroyed what was once a genuinely respected award. “

Such is the outlook Kate Paulk, author, blogger and leader-apparent of Sad Puppies 2016 (Buckle yourselves in, folks!). A baroque example, admittedly, but at heart fairly typical of the SP campaign’s disconnect from the reality on the ground. To Paulk, if you didn’t use your vote like the SP’s told you then you were in lockstep with the shadowy cabal of mean, hissy-fitting SJWs/Communists/Decepticons. No excuses.

The idea most Hugo voters were motivated not by politics but by a wish to stick it to a bunch of pompous gits intent on ruining a much-loved event is not even laughable to Paulk. It’s more like she cannot even register the fact. To vote unpuppish was to be a… I dunno… a Stalin clone in a test tube or something. You were willing to burn the ground and salt your loins rather than let anyone else have it.

Any glance at 2015’s winners dispels this garish canard. How, for instance, would a mass ‘SJW hissy fit’ explain that win in the fan writer category, Laura Mixon’s takedown of a troll who hid their psychopathology behind a mass of faux social justice rhetoric?  Surely a lockstep leftie march would have crushed that eventuality before it began? Instead the ‘Mixon Report’ won with votes to spare.

And why? Because fandom’s wide and battered middle finally woke up and drew a line in the sand. Against the worst excesses of leftwing hypocrisy on one hand and the most thuggish excesses of right-wing stupidity on the other. Simples.

[Thanks to Mark and John King Tarpinian for some of these links.]

John Hertz: Loscon XXXVI Report
November 27-29, 2009

By John Hertz, from Vanamonde 863-865: About 1,100 attended Loscon XXXVI, our local convention, currently at the L.A. Int’l Airport Marriott Hotel; Author Guests of Honor Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due, Artist GoH Tim Rickard, Fan GoH Christian McGuire; Art Show sales $6,800 by 47 artists.

In the Art Show, building the Rotsler Award exhibit of the 2009 winner Dan Steffan, I had the help of Jan Bender & Gary Echternacht, Robert Jansen, and Wolfcat. I found Rickard finishing his exhibit and brought him over. Drawing Brewster Rockit since 2004 he knew not our community. “That’s professional,” he said; “you mean this guy is an amateur?” Chris Garcia’s Fanzine Lounge was full of fanzines, fanart displays, and fanziners; España Sheriff and Leigh Ann Hildebrand hosted the Fanzine Lounge by Night on the party floor. I finally brought something Hildebrand would drink.

On Friday afternoon I moderated “Women in S-F,” D.M. Atkins, Due, Shauna Roberts, Sharan Volin. Roberts said publishers think boys won’t read about girls but girls will read about boys. Atkins said her 13-year-old son was very particular. Due said she had a 17-year-old protagonist who was indecisive, like other 17-year-olds. Volin said some games let one pick a female or a male character. A woman in the audience said she missed femmes fatales. Then a book talk on The Man in the High Castle. Bruce Briant in the audience said “Where’s the science?”; in ch. 7 Betty & Paul Kasoura take up that very point. We noted the wealth of falsities: even Mr. Tagomi has an empty briefcase.

After Regency Dancing, I took Sheriff who was off duty awhile to the party Paul Turner threw in memory of Bill Rotsler, though we missed Jerry Pournelle and Tim Powers. Then Keith Kato’s chili. Then the Seattle for Westercon LXV bid party. Two a.m. in Operations, Chinese-style Mah Jongg going strong. Someone said “I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye to you, I was talking to the police.”

Saturday morning at 10, to moderate “Blurring the Lines,” Atkins, Laura Frankos, Val Ontell. Atkins said different genres have different expectations. I noted how Frankos’ husband de-Anglicized his name to Turteltaub for a different book. Computers, she said, look at an author’s name, and order according to how many the last book over that name sold. Ontell noted how the 2001 book Seabiscuit drew interest outside the horse genre.

Toni Weisskopf took my tour of the Art Show. I was glad to see a set of woodwork spaceships by Johnna Klukas. One, dark as the void, gleamed with stars. Guessing right I used my magic tour-leader power to open the ships: they were boxes. “For the rest of you,” I said, “try this only at home.” Then a talk on From the Earth to the Moon. We liked the pace and wit. It detailed conceiving the project, building, and firing, then ended. I loved Michel Ardan’s superb four words “I won’t come back.”

At 2:30 to moderate “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of My Book,” Laura Brodian, Amy Casil. Brodian, widow of Kelly Freas, said he read all he illustrated, often several times; yet authors might not grasp illustration, and he used to crack “I prefer my authors dead.” Casil with a lapsize computer showed 200 color images of book and magazine covers suitable to the topic. Then Lisa & Harold Harrigan’s 32nd-anniversary party, where pleasant signs explained 32 = 24 + 42 and 11 + 22 + 33. Then España Sheriff’s Art Show tour. Then shopping with co-hosts Becky Thomson and Tom Veal for the Prime Time Party at which, every Loscon from 1 a.m. Sunday till dawn, we try for good food, drink, talk.

Ten a.m. Sunday, to moderate “World Domination,” Brad Lyau, V.J. Waks, she saying everyone had an internal ape that made us dominate, he full of overseas experiences which, like Lao Tzu, said maybe not. Then a talk on Brain Wave. We praised its poetry, in both the small sense of its choice of words, and the large sense of its choice of incident. We discussed whether its vignettes, which carried breadth, left loose ends. This was a book of pain and hope. Then cleaning, the Dead Dog party and another in the Fanzine Lounge by Night, and eventually home.