Pixel Scroll 1/11/17 Ask Not What Your Pixel Can Scroll For You; Ask What You Can Scroll For Your Pixel

(1) 21ST CENTURY AIRPORT SECURITY. The Atlantic gives you an overview of the preparations, including a pair of anti-terrorism officials on-staff, at an airport with twice the police force of Pasadena — “Inside LAX’s New Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Unit”.

Today’s threats, whether terrorist or merely criminal, are increasingly networked and dispersed; it only makes sense that an institution’s response to them must take a similar form. It might sound like science fiction, but, in 20 years’ time, it could very well be that LAX has a stronger international-intelligence game than many U.S. allies. LAX field agents could be embedded overseas, cultivating informants, sussing out impending threats. It will be an era of infrastructural intelligence, when airfields, bridges, ports, and tunnels have, in effect, their own internal versions of the CIA—and LAX will be there first.

…[Stacey] Peel currently works in central London, where she is head of the “strategic aviation security” team at engineering super-firm Arup. She explained that every airport can be thought of as a miniature version of the city that hosts it. An airport thus concentrates, in one vulnerable place, many of the very things a terrorist is most likely to target. “The economic impact, the media imagery, the public anxiety, the mass casualties, the cultural symbolism,” Peel pointed out. “The aviation industry ticks all of those boxes.” Attack LAX and you symbolically attack the entirety of L.A., not to mention the nerve center of Western entertainment. It’s an infrastructural voodoo doll…

(2) OVER THE AIR. Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing was a guest today of Georgia Public Radio program On Second Thought, speaking about “The Women Who Pioneered Sci-Fi”. You can listen to the segment at the link.

A problem with some fantasy fiction narratives is the misogynistic treatment of female characters. The sci-fi world may still be very much dominated by men behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been female trailblazers. A new book explores some of those unsung heroines. It’s called “Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction.” We talked with the author, Georgia Tech professor Lisa Yaszek. We also spoke with Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing, which focuses on bringing more diversity to science fiction.

(3) TINY DANCER. Two-time Nebula winner Catherine Asaro is profiled in the Washingtonian: “She’s a Harvard PhD and Author of 26 Novels. She’ll Also Get Your Kids to Like Math”.

Washington’s suburbs are rich with overachieving kids and anxious parents, ambitious college goals and lengthy extracurricular commitments—and of course, supplementary-education programs and afterschool tutors. You can sign your kid up for soccer instruction by a women’s Premier League coach or for Lego robotics taught by engineering grad students. But even in this hothouse environment, Catherine Asaro stands out.

If math were a sport, she’d be its Morgan Wootten. For more than a decade, the brightest STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) prodigies in the area have taken classes from her in cinder-block-lined community rooms or cluttered spaces in her home. Her students have qualified for the USA Mathematical Olympiad and, in 2014, placed first and second at the University of Maryland High School Math Contest. In 2015, her team was named top program in the country by the Perennial Math Tournament. An entire wall in her living room is filled with trophies from MathCounts competitions. Asaro’s students have earned scholarships to the University of Maryland and attend places such as Stanford and MIT….

Asaro looks more like my image of a science-fiction writer than a math tutor—lots of rhinestones on her jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt; flowy dark hair; and a purring, confident voice that recalls another of her gigs: singing with a jazz band. On a living-room wall hangs a photo of her father, Frank Asaro, a Berkeley nuclear chemist who discovered the iridium anomaly that led to the asteroid theory of dinosaur extinction. Naturally, he also played classical piano. Asaro says that, like her dad, she started out more interested in music than in science, deciding to become a ballet dancer after seeing Swan Lake.

(4) PANELISTS FOR HELSINKI. The Worldcon 75 online signup for people wanting to be on the program is working again. The form will close on March 30th and Worldcon 75 will get back to everybody during March/April.

(5) WESTON SCHOLARSHIP. Steve Cooper announced there is a new Pete Weston Memorial Scholarship available to help fund someone attending Conrunner in the UK.

We were all saddened to hear of the death of Pete Weston last week. In his memory an anonymous donor is offering a scholarship to Conrunner to celebrate Pete’s contribution to convention running.

The scholarship will cover two nights accommodation and membership of Conrunner. It is open to anyone to apply – but if this is your first Conrunner – you will be given priority in the selection.

Please message me if you are interested or email me at con-runner@virginmedia.com

(6) ERIC FLINT UPDATE. The doctor had an encouraging word for Eric Flint.

I have some further news. My cancer has been further diagnosed as large diffuse B-Cell lymphona. That’s the most common type of cancer among adults, mostly hits older folks around 70 (my age) — my doctor calls it “the old fart’s disease” — and is about as white bread as lymphonas come. It responds very well to chemo, too.

So, it looks as if my luck is still holding out (allowing for “I’ve got cancer” values of luck.)

(7) BEWARE! Camestros Felapton understandably set his blog on autopilot and left town just before the unveiling of his new serial:

In the interim, starting Thursday morning Australian time will be the TWENTY-TWO PART serialisation of the annotated version of the early example of British genre fiction BEWARE THE CAT!

Each post has an introductory chatty bit which contains my mangled understanding of Tudor history, reformation theology and cat psychology, followed by a hefty chunk of my edited-for-readability-and-spelling version of Beware the Cat.

To cram it all in there will actually be several posts per day – so the blog will actually be busier than when I’m actually running it.

beware the annotated cat

Indeed and verily, the first installment is now online.

I have written for your mastership’s pleasure one of the stories which Mr. Streamer told last Christmas – which you so would have heard reported by Mr Ferrers himself. Although I am unable to tell it as pleasantly as he could, I have nearly used both the order and words of him that spoke them. I doubt not that he and Mr. Willet shall in the reading think they hear Mr Streamer speak, and he himself shall doubt whether he speaks.

(8) REMEMBERING METROPOLIS. Den of Geek! writer Jim Knipfel discusses “Metropolis at 90: The Enduring Legacy of a Pop Modernist Dystopia”.

In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich shortly before his death in 1976, Fritz Lang said of Metropolis, “You cannot make a social-conscious picture in which you say that the intermediary between the hand and the brain is the heart. I mean, that’s a fairy tale – definitely. But I was very interested in machines. Anyway, I didn’t like the picture – thought it was silly and stupid – then, when I saw the astronauts: what else are they but part of a machine? It’s very hard to talk about pictures—should I say now that I like Metropolis because something I have seen in my imagination comes true, when I detested it after it was finished?”

(9) MAKING A POINT. Sarah A. Hoyt, in “Sad Puppies, Gate Keeping, And We DID Build this”,  says what happened yesterday was not gate keeping, it was brand protecting. Which it was. But there’s a lot of haystack to go through before you get to the needle.

Even before I got to that post, and later in the other post that made me almost berserk again (I don’t think I’ve done this twice in one day since my teens) a friend had commented on how he gave the wrong impression and he should stop it already.  Later on there were also posts on a bizarre theme, one of which (the comments) is what caused the second berserk attack.

The theme was like this: Sad Puppies said they were against gate keepers, but now they’re trying to be gatekeepers.

There are so many missteps in that statement it’s hard to unpack.  First of all, no, Sad Puppies wasn’t against gatekeepers.  Sad Puppies was against the secret maneuvering that went on behind the awards.  (BTW it was never really a secret. When I was coming in, my mentors told me it was all log rolling and I had to roll the logs.)  And which people denied until they stopped denying it, in favor of shrieking at us to get off their lawns, and making up horrible lies about us.  (Unless, of course, you believe I’m a Mormon male.)

Second, in what way were we trying to be gatekeepers when we told an unauthorized person to stop pretending he was leading SP 5?

We were as much gatekeepers as, say, Baen would be when it told you you couldn’t call your indie publisher Baen Books For Real.  It might or might not violate a trademark (fairly sure it would) but more than that it’s false advertising and it violates the right of people to what they have built.

(10) TIL WE HAVE FACEBOOK. Author S.M. Stirling is not a Twitter user.

With every passing day, I become more convinced I did the right thing by not opening a Twitter account. It’s the Promised Land of aggressive stupidity, and makes otherwise smart and civilized people aggressively stupid. The world would be a better place if it didn’t exist.

(11) THIS JUST IN. Ansible Links reports —

Ansible Editions offers a free Then sample download in a naked attempt to influence BSFA shortlist voting and Hugo nominations

Looks like an obvious attempt to influence the Best Related Works category. Or blatant. Possibly both.

(12) DID ANYONE READ THE DRAGON AWARD WINNER? Doris V. Sutherland, in “Brian Niemeier: The Man Who Would Be (Stephen) King”, disputed that Niemeier’s Souldancer was among the most popular horror novels of 2016, but agreed he’s been successful at branding his work.

The rise of Kindle direct publishing has opened doors for an array of new writers, but it has also confronted them with a big question: how, in lieu of backing from a professional publisher, does you promote a novel?

…Search the space opera category in Amazon’s Kindle department, and I suspect that you will find numerous other indie books that are of equal or superior quality to Niemeier’s novels. Many of those have vanished into obscurity; and this would likely have been the fate of Souldancer, had its author kept his opinions to himself. Instead, by latching onto the Puppy/Superversive movement, he has picked up a loyal following; not a large following, as we have established, but one that has still managed to build him a sturdy echo chamber.

I would rather not write any further posts about Niemeier, as I do not want this to turn into the Doris vs. Brian blog, but I do find all of this an interesting case study in regards to indie publishing. The Puppies have evolved from a campaign centred around bagging an award for a specific author (that is, Larry Correia) into a brand that has granted new authors a platform – Niemeier and Finn being amongst them.

(13) CHUCK. Try and think of any other person people might try to vote a Hugo simply because they promised to show up at the award ceremony.

(14) EVERY DAY IS HALLOWEEN. That’s the name of Lisa Morton’s newsletter – you can subscribe through her blog. Morton, HWA President, recently told her newsletter readers —

Ellen Datlow and I have now finished up the editing on Hallows’ Eve, the next official HWA anthology. I’m ridiculously happy with the range and quality of the stories we’ve assembled. Here’s hoping we’ll have a cover reveal soon!

The HWA blog has released a list of the contributors:

The sixteen authors included are: Kelley Armstrong, Pat Cadigan, Elise Forier Edie, Brian Evenson, Jeffrey Ford, Eric J. Guignard, Stephen Graham Jones, Kate Jonez, Paul Kane, John Langan, John R. Little, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, S. P. Miskowski, Garth Nix, and Joanna Parypinski.

(15) TIME TO REFUEL. Here is Fan-O-Rama: A Futurama Fan Film.

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Steven H Silver, edd, JJ, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Conrunner Slated for 2017

The fourth Conrunner, the UK/EU based con for convention organizers, will be held February 3-5, 2017 at the Park Inn Hotel in Nottingham.

The committee for Conrunner 4 is —

  • Alice Lawson – Co-Chair & Facilities
  • Steve Cooper – Co-Chair & Registration
  • Claire Brialey – Programme
  • Mark Plummer – Programme
  • John Harvey – Website

The first Conrunner was held in 2008, and the most recent in 2011, in conjunction with Smofcon 29 in Amsterdam.

Loncon 3’s Hugo MC Withdraws

I live in the Pacific time zone so I slept through most of his reign, but British TV celebrity Jonathan Ross was Loncon 3’s Hugo Awards Master of Ceremonies for about 7 hours today.

He’s not anymore.

After he was publicly announced one of Loncon 3’s division heads resigned, the internet caught on fire, and Ross abruptly withdrew as host.

Just another day in the Hugo/smof/gender/SFWA continuum.

One of the UK’s biggest names, Ross has 3.6 million Twitter followers and until 2010 was the highest paid television personality in Britain, raking in £6 million per year.

He also has a long record of controversy for his on-air shots at women, including Heather Mills and Gwyneth Paltrow. His phone prank on actor Andrew Sachs, featuring tasteless comments about Sachs’ grand-daughter, led to a 12-week suspension by the BBC.

Ross’ connection to the sf genre? He’s been a comics writer and video game developer. Loncon 3’s press release called him “a champion of science fiction and fantasy in all its forms throughout his career, and is one of the genre’s most vocal enthusiasts.” Ross is married to Hugo winner Jane Goldman, co-author of the screenplay for 2008 Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) award recipient Stardust.

How Loncon 3 co-chairs Steve Cooper and Alice Lawson linked up with Ross wasn’t explained in the press release. Nearly all past Worldcon toastmasters and Hugo MCs have been drawn from the ranks of pro writers with a history of attending Worldcons. On the other hand, Seth MacFarlane and David Letterman have never offered to MC an American Worldcon — fans on this side of the Atlantic might prove just as susceptible to shiny things.

Loncon 3 Exhibits Division head Farah Mendlesohn wrote on her LiveJournal  (in a post since taken private) that she spent all week arguing with co-chairs Steven Cooper and Alice Lawson against Ross’ selection because of his “public abuse of women.” The chairs made it clear this was not something for the committee to decide. Therefore on February 28 she resigned as division head so she could continue to criticize the decision. (For complex reasons she still intends to work as Project Manager for the Exhibit Hall.)

In her resignation, Mendlesohn pointed to Loncon 3’s own anti-harassment policy, saying “It is my firm belief that a person who has publicly harassed, humiliated and expressed prejudice to a wide range of groups in public and live media spaces, including award shows, is not a fit person to take the role of host of the Hugo Awards.”

I’m disappointed that the chairs apparently tried to marginalize instead of acting on Mendlesohn’s criticism. I happen to agree with her. Even a Worldcon chair hypnotized by the idea of putting a shiny international celebrity onstage to host the Hugo ceremony ought to have enough of a survival instinct to understand that when anyone as respected as Mendlesohn says you’re about to step on a landmine – that the division in the sf community will cost a lot more than whatever benefit there is in the celebrity MC.

Seanan McGuire responded to Ross’ selection by loosing a volley of enraged tweets (promptly Storified by that master of disaster, Jim C. Hines) — disbelieving her offer to MC had been turned down in favor of an outsider with his history, and riding an emotional roller-coaster because she could easily visualize Ross cracking fat jokes if she went up to accept another Hugo.

Unlike McGuire I’m at no risk of winning in 2014, but I’d be sensitive to that idea myself.

Charles Stross’ less personalized reason for rejecting Jonathan Ross was that – however he acquired it — Ross has a lot of baggage and would attract the wrong kind of coverage to the Worldcon.

The problem I see is that while fandom is in the process of cleaning house, inviting him — or anyone with a controversial media profile — to be Hugo toastmaster is like rolling out a welcome mat at the Worldcon front door that says “muck-rakers welcome”. There’s a lot of muck to be raked, even before we get into Daily Mail photographers stalking cosplayers: just look at the recent SFWA fracas (plural), the Jim Frenkel/harassment scandal at Tor, and so on.

Worldcon should be safe space for fans, and inviting a high profile media personality who has been targeted by the tabloids is going to cause collateral damage, even if nothing happens, simply by making many fans feel less safe.

So the position of 2014 Hugo Ceremony MC is vacant for the time being. Before Ross withdrew I considered there to be one silver lining in his selection – it meant I wouldn’t have to watch Paul Cornell again. Now that Loncon 3 needs a replacement we may be in for another round of Russian Roulette where he’s concerned.

[Loncon 3’s original press release follows the jump.]

Continue reading