Pixel Scroll 3/4/17 A Pixel That Scrolls For A Day, Replaced Next Morrow

(1) THE WEED OF CRIME. The Washington Post has an article by Rachel Weiner about Amil Chaudry being sentenced to nine years for identity theft, visa fraud, and money laundering.  Prosecutors said that Chaudry was part of a ring that charged $25 million on phony credit cards, and when banks challenged the charges used phony passports to back the claims.

“The scheme was uncovered in part because an FBI agent recognized actress Laura Vandevoort in one of these passports,” Weiner reports.  “The image was taken from a scene from the television show ‘V’ involving visas, authorities said.”

Vandevoort also played Supergirl in “Smallville” and Indigo in “Supergirl.”

(2) AN EVEN LISTIER LIST. Von Dimpleheimer has updated his ebook compilation of people’s lists of 2017 award recommendations. The latest version adds the File 770, Shadow Clarke, and SFWA recommendations and the finalists of the Asimov’s Readers’, Crawford, and Phillip K. Dick awards. JJ has approved his handling of the File 770 entry. The ebook is available as a free download.

(3) LEARN ABOUT AFRICAN SFF.  Geoff Ryman’s “100 African Writers of SFF” series continues at Strange Horizons.

Jennifer Nansubaga Makumbi

(An earlier version of this chapter was published at Tor.com in November 2016.) In Part Two of 100 African Writers of SFF, you’ll meet: a crime writer whose grandfather was a king—one who made a Western artist a priestess in the Ogun religion. A white South African anti-apartheid activist whose sister was tried under the security laws—and introduced him to the work of Joanna Russ. A Rastafarian from Zimbabwe whose experience of life under Mugabe has made him a free-market neoliberal. A South African rap/ jazz-rock star, illustrator, and author who models his look on the Wicked Witch of the West.

In Part Three of 100 African Writers of SFF, you’ll meet the editors of Cape Town: the people who make things happen. They include Constance Myerberg/Jenna Dann, co-founder of Jungle Jim; Kerstin Hall, founder of Luminous Worlds; Nerine Dorman, writer and editor of the anthology Terra Incognita; Ntone Edjabe, founder and editor of Chimurenga; and Rachel Zadok, a force behind Short Story Day Africa.

(4) BAD GUYS WHO WEREN’T VERY GOOD. Factory seconds from the comic book industry — The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains explores ill-thought comic book bad guys”.

Sometimes even comic greats can have terrible ideas — and in a fascinating new book, The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History, author Jon Morris explores the history of ill-thought and sometimes laughable antagonists you’ve probably never heard of. Below, check out a few highlights, complete with captions Morris has written for EW exclusively, to get a sneak peek before The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains hits shelves on March 28.

For example:

MIRROR MAN Created by: Mike Sekowsky and an uncredited writer Enemy of: Captain Flash Debuted in: Captain Flash #1 (Sterling Comics, November 1954)

© 1954 by Sterling Comics

The courageous Captain Flash fought a surprising number of menaces in his abbreviated career, but none quite as deadly, implacable and likely to jump out of a medicine cabinet as Mirror Man. A silicon-starved, glassy nogoodnik from a malevolent dimension, Mirror Man comes to Earth to destroy its finest scientific minds. Why? It’s never explained, but at least it gives Captain Flash something to do while running out the clock on his short-lived series. Boasting the ability to disappear into any reflective surface, and to appear from any other, Mirror Man is one of the first alien menaces to make his initial salvo against Earth from the convenience of a men’s restroom.

(5) A FINE POINTILLIST. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Bob Mankoff, who is ending his tenure as the New Yorker’s cartoon editor in April.  Mankoff discusses how he created the Cartoon Bank to provide another income source for cartoonists and how he imagines his late mother being asked about his job and told, ‘They paid you for that?”

Since he became editor, “the biggest change was that cartoons, even of the very benign variety that appear in the New Yorker, now have great power to offend — at least among the easily offended, a class whose numbers grow even as I write,” Mankoff says. “Now, even Canadians take offense at being stereotyped as polite.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 4, 1952 — Ernest Hemingway completes his short novel The Old Man and the Sea. He wrote his publisher the same day, saying he had finished the book and that it was the best writing he had ever done. The critics agreed: The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and became one of his bestselling works.
  • March 4, 2017  — People read the above and demand to know why Mike is posting this item about a non-genre work.

(7) GONE BATS. Given enough time, critics will talk themselves into redeeming the irredeemable — “Why this ridiculous 1966 Batman movie is the most important Batman movie ever” by Greg Cwik in The Week.

You may look back affectionately on Batman’s innocently zany antics of the 1950s and early ’60s. But Batman was almost ruined by those robots and radioactive big bugs and kitschy toys and gimmicks and the definitely not-gay Bat-Family of Bat-Hound, Bat-Girl, Batwoman, Bat-Mite, and Mogo the Bat-Ape. Sales sunk. In fact, “they were planning to kill Batman off altogether” in 1964, said co-creator Bob Kane.

But then editor Julius Schwartz took over, and tried to save the comic by eradicating the Bat-Family. He was aided by artist Carmine Infantino, who redesigned Batman to be “more realistic.” Sales went up. But ironically, it was another gimmick-laden endeavor that truly rescued the Dynamic Duo: the Adam West-starring camp comedy Batman, which premiered in 1966, the year Kane retired.

Batman fans, particularly Frank Miller acolytes, like to say West’s show and movie “ruined” Batman. Actually, the parodic depiction made Batman a cultural icon after a decade of mail-in toys and cynical strategies. It presented a starkly different kind of Batman, at once refuting Wertham’s provocations while slyly embracing them through its ostensible innocence.

A genuine fad, the show and movie came and went in 26 months. But its influence altered the legacy of the Caped Crusader. The movie, which came out July 30, 1966, was the first official Batman movie since the serials of the 1940s. A generation of television viewers and moviegoers, unfamiliar with Kane and Bill Finger’s brooding detective (Batman killed people — by noose, by gun, by defenestration) now knew Batman only as a campy crusader with painted-on eyebrows and a syncopated delivery that sounds, to modern ears, like a lascivious cross between William Shatner and Jeff Goldblum. The juxtaposition between Walter Cronkite’s 1968 Vietnam expose on the dinnertime news and Burt Ward yawping, “Holy Diversionary Tactics!” must have been dizzying.

(8) BEAU OF THE BALL. Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard will appear in Game of Thrones.

According to Ken Davidoff at the New York Post, Syndergaard filmed his cameo in Spain in November when he had some free time after the Mets were eliminated from the postseason in the NL Wild Card Game.

“They just know that I’m a fan and they invited me to do that,” Syndergaard told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “I couldn’t say no.”

(9) NERDS IN HELL. Nerds of a Feather is launching an ambitious series on dystopianism in SF/F that will continue for the next two months.

This series, conceived of as a sequel to Cyberpunk Revisited, seeks to explore questions of what dystopianism is and what purpose(s) it serves. What are the tropes and conventions of modern dystopian fiction? How have dystopian visions evolved over time, both in terms of approach and theme? And what do dystopian visions about the points in time and space in which they are written?

Equally, we will ask questions about why we like to read about dystopias. Is it possible that we even find them comforting, and if so, why?

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, we will consider dystopianisms’s complex relationship to its forebear, utopianism. We will explore works where dystopianism serves to negatively define utopia, as well as those where dystopia and utopia are presented side-by-side. Just how essential or intrinsic is the concept of utopia to that of dystopia?

We will explore these and other questions through a series of essays and dossier-style reviews, including of works not commonly associated with dystopianism, but which present dystopian themes. Our dossiers will have the following subheadings:

Filetype: whether the work under review is a book, film, game, etc.

File Under: whether the work presents a statist, stateless, fantasy or hybrid-form dystopia.

Executive Summary: summary of the plot.

Dystopian Visions: discussion of dystopian themes/content present in the work.

Utopian Undercurrents: whether and to what degree the work’s dystopianism underlies a utopian understanding of politics, society, etc.

Level of Hell: a quantitative rating of how terrible the presented dystopia is, from first to ninth—with an explanation of the rating.

Legacy: the importance of the work in question within its field.

In Retrospect: an editorial commentary on how good/not good the work is, from the vantage point of 2017.

Interspersed with these dossier reviews, we and a selection of guest writers will explore how to contextualize dystopia and dystopianism within literature and other media, as well as the moments in time and space when it has surged forward into popular consciousness.

(10) ACTING WITHOUT THE ACTOR. What if Leonard Nimoy’s Spock could be digitally resurrected for appearances in future productions of the Star Trek franchise? Here’s what Adam Nimoy has to say about it at CinemaBlend.

Adam Nimoy, who directed the 2016 documentary For The Love Of Spock that focused on his father, made this admission to Trek Movie.com, insisting that he wouldn’t have a problem with seeing his dad up on screen again as Spock. He also admitted that he was blown away by what Rogue One had achieved with Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher. Adam Nimoy remarked,

Yeah I think it’s an interesting idea. I loved what they did in Rogue One. I thought it was pretty clever, and I was blown away by it, frankly. All of the stuff that Peter Cushing was doing was mind-boggling to me. I’m a sucker for that stuff. I think it should certainly be explored, but I’m not the final arbiter as to whether it’s going to happen, but I think it’s a great idea, personally.

There’s every chance that an opportunity to resurrect Leonard Nimoy, who died back in 2015, as Spock could present itself in the near future. As the question was being posed to Adam Nimoy, the interviewer explained that Star Trek: Discovery will take place a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series, during which time Spock served under Captain Pike on the Enterprise.

(11) THINKIN’ UP SH*T. This reminds me of Bruce Willis’ line in Armageddon about what he assumed NASA spent its time doing. ASU’s workshop where “AI Scientists Gather to Plot Doomsday Scenarios (and Solutions)” is covered by Bloomberg Technology.

Artificial intelligence boosters predict a brave new world of flying cars and cancer cures. Detractors worry about a future where humans are enslaved to an evil race of robot overlords. Veteran AI scientist Eric Horvitz and Doomsday Clock guru Lawrence Krauss, seeking a middle ground, gathered a group of experts in the Arizona desert to discuss the worst that could possibly happen — and how to stop it.

Their workshop took place last weekend at Arizona State University with funding from Tesla Inc. co-founder Elon Musk and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn. Officially dubbed “Envisioning and Addressing Adverse AI Outcomes,” it was a kind of AI doomsday games that organized some 40 scientists, cyber-security experts and policy wonks into groups of attackers — the red team — and defenders — blue team — playing out AI-gone-very-wrong scenarios, ranging from stock-market manipulation to global warfare.

Horvitz is optimistic — a good thing because machine intelligence is his life’s work — but some other, more dystopian-minded backers of the project seemed to find his outlook too positive when plans for this event started about two years ago, said Krauss, a theoretical physicist who directs ASU’s Origins Project, the program running the workshop. Yet Horvitz said that for these technologies to move forward successfully and to earn broad public confidence, all concerns must be fully aired and addressed.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Von Dimpleheimer, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Strange Horizons Launches 100 African Writers of SFF Interview Series


Strange Horizons this week publishes the first installment of a new interview series, 100 African Writers of SFF. The series will run through 2017 and 2018, exploring the recent explosion of speculative fiction across the African continent.

Written by the award-winning writer and academic, Geoff Ryman, the project is the result of extensive research and travel to almost a dozen African countries so far, including Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda.

The series will feature interviews with writers such as the Commonwealth Fiction Prize-shortlisted author and filmmaker Dilman Dila; futurist and editor Ayodele Arigbabu; Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, whose novel Kintu won the Kwani Manuscript Prize, and will be published in the U.S. this May; and many more.

As Ryman notes: “There must be a reason why almost the only prose fiction I’m reading comes out of Africa … If a sharp break with traditional culture is one of the things that inspires fantasy and SF writing then Africa might be an epitome of the modern experience of moving through change.”

Tracing both the established tradition of African SFF writing, and providing a window into a thriving and diverse contemporary literary scene (as evidenced by such projects as the Jalada Collective’s 2015 AfroFutures issue, Omenana magazine, and the African Speculative Fiction Society), 100 African Writers of SFF aims to provide a bridge between the featured writers and a broader SF and literary readership.

This week, Strange Horizons will be publishing the first three chapters of 100 African Writers of SFF, covering Nairobi (February 27), diaspora writers in the UK (March 1), and Cape Town (March 3). Further chapters will be published approximately every 2 months.

100 African Writers of SFF is supported and made possible by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust. Parts One and Two were previously published by Tor.com in 2016.

Strange Horizons is a not-for-profit, volunteer-staffed magazine of and about speculative fiction, founded in 2000 with the aim of highlighting new voices and perspectives in speculative fiction and related nonfiction.

Geoff Ryman is Senior Lecturer in School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester. He is a writer of short stories and novels, and science fiction and literary fiction. His work has won numerous awards including the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award (twice), the James W. Tiptree Memorial Award, the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award (twice), and the Canadian Sunburst Award (twice). In 2012 he won a Nebula Award for his Nigeria-set novelette “What We Found.”

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 1/30/17 There Are Studies Underway To Fluoridate Pixels. Children’s Pixels!

(1) CAPALDI MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Not unexpectedly, the Twelfth Doctor is leaving Doctor Who as new showrunner Chris Chibnall gets ready to take the reins.

“Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi has announced he’ll step down from the role at the end of the year.

Capaldi has starred in the long-running sci-fi series as the titular Twelfth Doctor since 2013, following the departure of Matt Smith.

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead,” Capaldi said in a statement. “I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

Capaldi will conclude his time as the Doctor with the 2017 Christmas special.

The actor’s departure will correspond with the exit of executive producer Steven Moffat, who previously announced his intention to leave his post.

(2) BURN OF THE DAY. J. K. Rowling knows how to deal with fantastical creatures, like frogs that tweet.

(3) DECOLONIZING SF. Strange Horizons has posted an Indigenous SF special issue.

It’s our second special of the month, and showcases fiction, poetry, and non-fiction by native and indigenous writers.

We have Drew Hayden Taylor’s story “Take Us To Your Chief” (from his collection of the same name); we have three poems apiece by poets Halee Kirkwood and Tanaya Winder; we have a round-table moderated by Rebecca Roanhorse; and of course reviews, including a double-feature look at Moana.

(4) THE HARP THAT ONCE OR TWICE. R. Graeme Cameron wrote a superlative column based on Walt Willis’ 1952 U.S. Trip report for Amazing Stories that combines his analysis with the old master’s storytelling.

Walt actually had a good time aboard ship. When asked what he did for a living he said he was a pulp fiction author going to America to pick up his earnings. The “Greenwich Village” pseudo-intellectuals on board coming back from bumming around Europe stood in awe of this creative type who actually earned money. Late in the voyage he was asked if anyone was meeting him in New York and he replied (more or less honestly) “Just a few fans.” This only increased his reputation. Sometimes fannish ploys work very well on Mundanes.

QUOTE

At last we docked, and hordes of officials swarmed on board … I had a whole stack of documents in an old Galaxy envelope and every time I came to an official I would shuffle them and deal him a hand. If I’d won I’d be allowed to go on to the next table, like a bridge tournament. I’d had some practice in this game already and at last I won the first prize, a clear view of the gangway. I found to my shocked surprise that suddenly there was absolutely nothing to stop me walking ashore. I promptly walked ashore.

Someone in a blue suit came up and shook my hand … It was Dave Kyle … Joe Gibson came along in a few seconds. After a few minutes chat the two revealed conspiratorially that Will Sykora and his henchman Calvin Thomas Beck were lurking outside to meet me. They suggested a cloak and dagger scheme by which they would go out and wait for me a couple of hundred yards outside the shed, while I strolled out by myself past Sykora and Beck, who wouldn’t recognise me.

I was thrilled. Nobody could have arranged a more fannish welcome. Not two minutes in the country and already I was up to my neck in New York fan feuds. However I temporized; I had nothing personally against Sykora … I had never been able to sort out New York fandom anyway … and I rather wanted to meet such a legendary figure. Besides, I knew Shelby had in his innocence asked Beck to meet me …

Outside, in the fresh clean smog of Hoboken … I had my first hamburger, closely followed by my second. As far as I was concerned, the food problem in America was now solved …

END QUOTE

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. There are a bunch of sites whose Hugo picks I’m interested in hearing, and Nerds of a Feather is high on that list — “2017 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”.

Given the vast number of Hugo categories, we’ve also made the decision to split the longlist up into multiple posts. Today we look at the fiction categories (Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story). For fiction that is available free of charge, we’ve embedded a direct link to the story. For novels and works of short fiction that are not available for free, the embedded link redirects to a review.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 30, 1933The Lone Ranger made its radio debut.

(7) GAME WRITING. “Guest Post: On Representation in RPGs, from Monica Valentinelli” on Jim C. Hines’ blog.

Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!

Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.

(8) MOVIN’ ON. I had forgotten that James Cameron did Aliens, but that explains why someone asked his opinion about Ridley Scott’s upcoming trilogy that begins with Alien: Covenant “James Cameron On The ‘Alien’ Franchise: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Worked Out Terribly Well. I Think We’ve Moved On’” at ScienceFiction.com.

“The franchise has kind of wandered all over the map. Ridley [Scott] did the first film, and he inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and science-fiction fans with that one movie and there have been so many films that stylistically have derived from it, including my own Aliens, which was the legitimate sequel and, I think, the proper heir to his film. I sort of did it as a fanboy. I wanted to honor his film, but also say what I needed to say. After that, I don’t take any responsibility.

I don’t think it’s worked out terribly well. I think we’ve moved on beyond it. It’s like, okay, we’ve got it, we’ve got the whole Freudian biomechanoid meme. I’ve seen it in 100 horror films since. I think both of those films stand at a certain point in time, as a reference point. But is there any validity to doing another one now? I don’t know. Maybe. Let’s see, jury’s out. Let’s see what Ridley comes up with. Let me just add to that — and don’t cut this part off, please — I will stand in line for any Ridley Scott movie, even a not-so-great one, because he is such an artist, he’s such a filmmaker. I always learn from him.

(9) CASSINI ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Dr. Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was recently interviewed by Starship Sofa, appeared on Cassini’s Ring-Grazing Orbits Facebook Live today. You can view the half-hour video recording at the link.

NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn Project Scientist Linda Spilker and mission planner Molly Bittner are taking questions about these exciting orbits, the closest look ever at Saturn’s moons and ring particles — what we’ve learned so far and what we can expect to see as they continue.

(10) OPEN THE PILL BAY DOORS HAL. In our future, robots as care companions: “Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics” at the BBC.

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

(11) A BLACK AND WHITE ANSWER. Opus would be proud: penguins used as models for better software: “Hungry penguins keep car code safe”.

The communal, co-ordinated action helps the penguins get the most out of a hunting expedition. Groups of birds are regularly reconfigured to match the shoals of fish and squid they find. It helps the colony as a whole optimise the amount of energy they have to expend to catch food.

“This solution has generic elements which can be abstracted and be used to solve other problems,” he said, “such as determining the integrity of software components needed to reach the high safety requirements of a modern car.”

Integrity in this sense means ensuring the software does what is intended, handles data well, and does not introduce errors or crash.

By mimicking penguin behaviour in a testing system which seeks the safest ways to arrange code instead of shoals of fish, it becomes possible to slowly zero in on the best way for that software to be structured.

(12) THE RIVALS OF 1984. The BBC has hard data on dystopia sales surge.

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

Sales: As of Friday, the eighth best-selling book on Amazon. It was out of print in the UK but publishers Penguin launched a new edition following the inauguration – promoting it as the book that predicted Trump – and has so far ordered three print runs, totalling 11,000 copies, a spokeswoman said.

Plot: A charismatic demagogue, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, runs for president on a promise to restore American greatness, dragging the country into fascism.

The Trump factor: Sales of this relatively obscure 1935 satirical novel took off when critics began claiming it was essentially the Donald Trump story. Sally Parry, of the Sinclair Lewis Society, claims there are parallels with Trump in the way that Windrip targets his message at disaffected white working class males – The League of Forgotten Men in the book – sweeping to victory on a wave of anti-immigrant, nationalistic sentiment.

But she adds: “Some of his satire is not necessarily towards Buzz Windrip, the fascist character, but towards the lazy intellectuals, the lazy liberals who say ‘well, things will go along’ and the constant refrain of ‘it can’t happen here’, this is America, we are exceptional.”

(13) MAKING LEMONADE. Someone has a plan for putting a contaminated area to use: “How solar may save Ukraine’s nuclear wasteland”.

Earlier this year Ostap Semerak, the minister for ecology and natural resources in Ukraine, announced plans to build a large-scale solar farm in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone. “The first phase will install solar panels with a total capacity of one gigawatt,” says a ministry spokesperson. “In the future [there] are plans for capacity increase.”

A large field of 25 acres, filled with solar panels, generates approximately 5MW. To put this into perspective, the football pitch at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground is 1.75 acres and would only generate 0.35MW. So, for a solar farm to generate a gigawatt of power, it will need an area of 5,000 acres, which is nearly eight square miles. There is, fortunately, a lot of available land in the Exclusion Zone.

(14) BRUCE WAYNE’S ROOMMATE. Lego Batman explains why his movie is awesome.

Lego Batman hypes up his own upcoming Lego Batman Movie in a new behind-the-bricks featurette that breaks the fourth wall.

“Obviously after I made The Lego Movie, a monster hit $468 million worldwide, not that I’m counting of course, it seemed clear to everyone that the world needed more of me,” Will Arnett says as Lego Batman in the clip released Thursday.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve “Dr. Strangelove” Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 1/24/17 You Gotta Ask Yourself One Question: “Do I Feel Ticky?”

(1) SURE AS SHOOTIN’. Days of the Year says this is “Talk Like a Grizzled Old Prospector Day”.

“Well hooooooo-wee! Ah reckon we’ve found ourselves some bona fide golden nuggets right here in this ol’ mound o’ grit! Yessiree, Momma’s gonna be marty proud when she discov’rs we can afford fresh beans ‘n’ biscuits for the winnertarm, an’ there’s gonna be three more weeks uvvit if mah old aching knee is t’be rckoned with.”

Yes. Well, anyway. Today is Talk Like a Grizzled Old Prospector Day, which can be a lot of fun, unless of course you already are a grizzled old prospector, in which case just carry on as normal. For the rest of us it’s an opportunity to use terms like “consarn it” when we spill our coffee at work, and “Who-Hit-John” when referring to whiskey (although unless you work in a bar or a liquor store, you should probably leave the latter until you get home).

Now go on, get out there and call somebody a varmint!

Here’s your training video, featuring prospector Gabby Johnson from Blazing Saddles:

(2) THE MAGIC GOES AWAY. Kameron Hurley tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth in “Let’s Talk About Writing and Disappointment”.

There was a huge amount of buzz around the release of The Geek Feminist Revolution last year. More buzz than I’d seen for any book I’d ever written. People were telling me on Twitter that they’d bought three or four copies and were making all their friends read it. I heard from booksellers that the books were flying off the shelves. We went into a second printing almost immediately. I did a book signing in Chicago that sold a bunch of books. The reader response at BEA was surreal. It was magical.

This, I thought, is what it must feel like to have a book that’s about to hit it big. This was it. This was going to be the big one. It was going to take off. I gnawed on my nails and watched as big magazines picked up articles from it and it got reviewed favorably in The New York Times, and I waited for first week sales numbers.

I expected to see at least twice the number of first week sales for this book as I had for any previous book. The buzz alone was two or three times what I was used to. This had to be it….

But when the numbers came in, they weren’t twice what I usually did in week one. They were about the same as the first week numbers for The Mirror Empire.  And… that was…. fine. I mean, it would keep me getting book contracts.

But… it wasn’t a breakout. It was a good book, but It wasn’t a book that would change my life, financially.

Reader, I cried….

(3) THE HORIZON EVENT. Strange Horizons has announced the results of its 2016 Readers Poll.

Fiction

Poetry

Articles

Reviewers

Columns

Art

(4) O, CAPTAINS MY CAPTAINS. Whoopi Goldberg hosted a Star Trek Captains Summit with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes in 2009. Now the feature is part of the Blu-Ray Movie Box Set. Among the revelations from the discussion:

  • William Shatner confesses he’s never watched an episode of Next Generation.
  • Patrick Stewart admits he was a pain in the *** to his castmates during the first season.
  • Whoopi Goldberg reveals she has never been invited to a convention.
  • Jonathan Frakes attended an informal “Paramount university” for 2 years to earn his stripes as a director.
  • A fan asked Leonard Nimoy to take a picture of him with Tom Hanks.

(5) MORE LARRY SMITH APPRECIATIONS. Among those grieving the passing of bookseller Larry Smith are John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow. His support for the founding of Capclave has also been acknowledged:

You may not know what Larry did to promote Capclave, which was the revival of Disclave (after a three-year hiatus with no Washington D.C. SF convention). Larry promised to show up every year so that there would be a good Dealer’s Room at Capclave. And he did, even though it was a tiny convention compared to many of the others he would set up at.

(6) URBAN SPACEMAN. Jeff Foust reviews Richard Garriott’s autobiography Explore/Create: My Life in Pursuit of New Frontiers, Hidden Worlds, and the Creative Spark at The Space Review.

Growing up in Houston, he thought it was obvious that one day he would go into space himself. But he was told at age 13 his eyesight was too poor to qualify as a NASA astronaut. His dreams of spaceflight put on the back burner—but not forgotten—he soon rose to prominence as an early computer game developer, best known for the Ultima series. Much of the book delves into the accomplishments and challenges he faced in that career.

Garriott returns to the topic of space later in the book. While best known for flying on a Soyuz to the International Space Station in 2008, he had been trying to find a non-NASA way into space for two decades. In the book, he describes how he and his father established a company called Extended Flights for Research and Development, or EFFORT, around 1987 to develop a pallet for the shuttle’s cargo bay that would allow the shuttle to remain in orbit for more than a month. NASA was not interested. He was an early investor in Spacehab, the company that developed pressured modules for the shuttle with visions, ultimately unrealized, of some day carrying people commercially.

Garriott was also an early investor in space tourism company Space Adventures, and funded out of his own pocket a $300,000 study by the Russian space agency Roscosmos to determine if it was feasible for private citizens to fly on Soyuz spacecraft. When the answer came back in the affirmative, “I immediately booked my flight,” he wrote. However, the dot-com crash wiped out much of his net worth, including the money he planned to use for the flight. Dennis Tito instead got to fly in the seat Garriott planned to buy.

Garriott rebuilt his wealth and got another opportunity to fly in 2008….

(7) NEXT. Sam Adams reviews The Discovery for the BBC — “What would happen if we knew the afterlife was real?”

The Discovery, which, like McDowell’s debut, The One I Love, he co-wrote with Justin Lader, opens with a jarring but gimmicky prologue. Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford), the scientist who has provided proof that there is some form of life after death, is in the midst of defending his findings to a TV interviewer (a far-too-brief appearance by Mary Steenburgen), when a member of her crew interrupts to blow his brains out on the air. But in contrast with last year’s twin Sundance entries about the on-camera suicide of Florida newscaster Christine Chubbuck, his action isn’t a protest so much as an invitation: if there’s another world, it can’t be worse than this one, so why not get there as soon as you can?…

The question of whether an afterlife exists is as much epistemological as metaphysical: if not necessarily all, at least a significant percentage of the world’s religious faithful have long had all the proof they need. Thomas Harbor’s discovery would seem to overwhelmingly settle the question, but as his son argues, “Proof shouldn’t be overwhelming; it should be definitive.” (The extent to which that statement sounds either profound or sophomoric is a good indication of how much you’ll get out of The Discovery.)

(8) SKY HIGH DEFINITION. Praise for photos from a new weather satellite orbited in December — “’Like High-Definition From The Heavens’; NOAA Releases New Images Of Earth”.

The satellite, known as GOES-16, is in geostationary orbit, meaning its location does not move relative to the ground below it. It is 22,300 miles above Earth. Its imaging device measures 16 different “spectral bands,” including two that are visible to the human eye and 14 that we experience as heat.

It is significantly more advanced than the current GOES satellite, which measures only five spectral bands.

(9) A TV SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS. NPR says the TV series gets the books better than the movie did: “’A Series of Unfortunate Events’ Is All About Olaf”.

It’s the Netflix series that comes closest to achieving that tone, for two reasons.

One, it foregrounds Lemony Snicket. Jude Law played him in the movie, but chiefly in voice-over. The Netflix series turns him into a kind of omnipresent, lachrymose host played with deadpan, note-perfect solemnity by Patrick Warburton.

In the series, Snicket is constantly stepping into the shot to impart some new nugget of depressing information, or express concern at something that has just happened, will soon happen, or is happening. He’s like Rod Serling at the beginning of The Twilight Zone, if an episode ever featured Neil Patrick Harris in drag.

Snicket’s physical presence turns out to be important. In the movie, Law’s voice-over did much of the same work, or tried to, but having Snicket literally step into the proceedings to warn us about what we’re about to see next feels exactly like those moments in the books when Snicket’s narrator would admonish us for reading him.

But the big reason it all works? Neil Patrick Harris’ evil Count Olaf.

(10) BONUS ROUND. The author of the Lemony Snicket books, Daniel Handler, appeared on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me over the weekend. NPR has posted a transcript of the show.

HANDLER: I have one son, yes.

SAGAL: And how old is he?

HANDLER: He’s 13.

SAGAL: Right. And did he read the “Series Of Unfortunate Events?”

HANDLER: He’s actually reading them now. He was quite reluctant to read them for a long time. And for many years, about every six months, he would say to me, what are these books about again? And I would say, they’re about three children whose parents are killed in a terrible fire and then they’re forced to live with a monstrous villain. And he and I would, you know, have that sad look that passes between children and their parents a lot about the inheritance of a confusing and brutal world. And then he would go read something else.

(11) FOR INCURABLE CUMBERBATCH FANS. Have a Benedict Cumberbatch addiction? Check out this 2008 BBC science fiction miniseries, The Last Enemy, available on YouTube. Cumberbatch was nominated for a Satellite Award for his role as a lead character.  The story combines pandemic and big brother technology premises.

(12) NOW WITH MORE BABY GROOT. New proof that science fiction movie trailers are much more fun with Japanese-language titles – Guardians of the Galaxy international trailer #2 (followed in this video by the original English-only traler):

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 10/9/16 I’ve Come To Chew Pixels And Kick Scrolls. And I’m All Out of Pixels.

Ursula Le Guin. Photo by Eileen Gunn.

Ursula Le Guin. Photo by Eileen Gunn.

(1) AT THE BORDER. Zoë Carpenter argues “Ursula Le Guin Has Stopped Writing Fiction – But We Need Her More Than Ever” in a profile of the author for The Nation.

…Always a writer from “the margins,” Le Guin is now writing from life’s edge. “It’s very hard to write about being old. We don’t have the vocabulary. It’s the way a lot of women felt when they realized they had to write about being women and didn’t have the vocabulary,” she told me. We were in her living room, with its comfortable chairs and the window looking north past an old redwood tree to Mount St. Helens. Pard, her green-eyed cat, stretched on a scarlet carpet nearby. Le Guin feels a duty “to try to report from the frontier,” but it’s very difficult, and mysterious. “You are definitely approaching the borderland. Borderlands are weird places.”

Poetry fits this particular edge best, and so, at the end of her career, Le Guin is returning to the form that began it: “bones words / pot-shards / all go back,” she writes in “Earthenware,” from her collection Late in the Day, released in December 2015. She lingers on spoons, a pestle, and other homely objects; returns to the landscapes that have “soaked into me,” as she described it; and examines her own precarious position. If there are stories she hasn’t had time to tell, she keeps them to herself. From “The Games”: “I’m not sorry, now all’s said and done / to lie here by myself with nowhere to run, / in quiet, in this immense dark place.” While we were talking, a clock began to strike. The timepiece, a gift from Charles, is beautiful and old. Le Guin listened, counting the chimes. It rang out precisely. “Bless her old heart,” she said, and blew the clock a kiss.

(2) GENRE MAP. 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction by Sumiko Paulson. It consists of an alphabetical listing of the women with biographies, photos, and web addresses, as well as interviews with nine of these women. The material in this book was originally published on www.SumikoSaulson.com.

(3) FAN HISTORY. Carl Slaughter says — look for it in 2017.

“An Informal History of the Hugos, 1953-2000”

by Jo Walton

Tor

The Hugo Awards, named after pioneer science-fiction publisher Hugo Gernsback, and voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Society, have been given out since 1953. They are widely considered the most prestigious award in science fiction.

Between 2010 and 2013, Jo Walton wrote a series of posts for Tor.com, surveying the Hugo finalists and winners from the award’s inception up to the year 2000. Her contention was that each year’s full set of finalists generally tells a meaningful story about the state of science fiction at that time.

Walton’s cheerfully opinionated and vastly well-informed posts provoked valuable conversation among the field’s historians. Now these posts, lightly revised, have been gathered into this book, along with a small selection of the comments posted by SF luminaries such as Rich Horton, Gardner Dozois, and the late David G. Hartwell.

Engaged, passionate, and consistently entertaining, this is a book for the many who enjoyed Walton’s previous collection of writing from Tor.com, the Locus Award-winning What Makes This Book So Great.

(4) NYCC COSTUME PHOTOS. The Gothamist has more than a hundred photos of people in costume at the New York Comic Con on Saturday.

(5) IMAGINATION PLEASE. Dr. Mauser decided it’s his turn to voice these worn canards, in ”Papers Please”.

The Publishing elite and the other SJW’s in the writing and fandom industries are insisting that the ethnicity of a writer is important. That white writers are writing too many white characters, and should include more diversity in the characters in their stories, while at the same time accusing them of cultural appropriation if they do, as well as somehow stealing opportunities for non-white authors in the process. They are unable to see the contradiction between these two demands, as they only have the attention span to focus on one at a time – the memory of one is forgotten by the time they switch to the other – whichever one they need to employ against the target-du-jour.

They seem to think that minority readers can’t possibly enjoy a story unless it has a main character who “looks like them,” and they blame this for declining readership in a demographic that has never had a particularly high reading rate historically (instead of blaming, say, inferior schools and cultural influences against reading).

Clearly this MUST be true, because lord knows, not being a female, tawny-furred, Hani completely prevented me from enjoying all of the Chanur books I could get my hands on….

(6) FROM THE SCREEN TO THE STAGE. Steve Vertlieb considers Crown City Theater’s production of a venerable horror classic in “Nosferatu: A New Chord For ‘A Symphony of Horror’”.

Every generation has its incarnation of the vampire mythos – DARK SHADOWS, TWILIGHT, TRUE BLOOD and more. But it all cinematically began with F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent movie masterpiece NOSFERATU. Now, ninety-four years after its inception, North Hollywood’s Crown City Theater Company has unleashed an astonishing live stage presentation entitled NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY IN TERROR. Film historian Steve Vertlieb takes us aboard a dark yet wonderful cinematic time machine, delving into the creation of Murnau’s seminal horror film, examining it’s influence on generations (from Lugosi and Lee, to SALEM’S LOT, HARRY POTTER and more), then reviews the startling new stage presentation. Happy Halloween!

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 9, 1964 – Guillermo Del Toro.

(8) HELL NO. ScreenRant received the bad news in person: “Ron Perlman Says Hellboy 3 Is Shelves Indefinitely”

Screen Rant sat down with Perlman at a roundtable interview for his latest collaboration with Del Toro, Trollhunters, which will hit Netflix in December. We took the opportunity to ask the genre icon if his recent reunion with the esteemed auteur meant the adored duo were any closer to making Hellboy 3 a reality. But unfortunately, instead of an update, Perlman admitted, “We don’t talk about that anymore.”

Pressed for why, Perlman said, “Because he’s busy, and I’m busy. Maybe one day he’s going to call and say, ‘Hey, let’s do it.’ But for right now? We’re happy discovering new worlds to conquer.”

(9) DC REVISITS 60s VERSIONS OF CHARACTERS. From CinemaBlend. Fifty years was not too long to wait, was it?

DC Comics has officially announced that Adam West‘s Batman and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman will meet one another in an upcoming issue of Batman ’66. Although the above tweet does not provide any real insight into the narrative ramifications of the interaction between the two characters, the artworks shows Wonder Woman deflecting gunshots with her Bracelets of Submission while Batman takes cover behind a shield. It’s camp at its finest, but these two characters are clearly going to get into some serious trouble. Readers will just have to find out for themselves when the issue hits shelves in January.

(10) IS THIS LEAP YEAR OR JUMP YEAR? Don’t tell him I agreed with him…

(11) TAKE A DEEP BREATH. GeoScienceWorld has a line on “Sulfur-oxidizing bacteria prior to the Great Oxidation Event from the 2.52 Ga Gamohaan Formation of South Africa”.

Morphologically these fossils are similar to Proterozoic and Phanerozoic acritarchs and to certain Archean fossils interpreted as possible cyanobacteria. However, their exceptionally large size, simple cell wall microstructure, and paleoecological setting, as well as multiple sulfur isotope systematics of pyrite within the unit, suggest that the Gamohaan Formation fossils were sulfur-oxidizing bacteria similar to those of the modern genus Thiomargarita, organisms that live in anoxic and sulfidic deepwater settings. These are the oldest reported fossil sulfur bacteria and reveal a diversity of life and ecosystems, previously only interpreted from geochemical proxies, just prior to the Great Oxidation Event, a time of major atmospheric evolution.

(12) PONY UP. There are 8 days left in the Strange Horizons 2016 Fund Drive. Help keep them going for another year. Maybe 2017 will be the year they include James Davis Nicoll in their report on diversity in reviewing!

Our annual fund drive is underway! We’re aiming to raise $15,000 to fund Strange Horizons in 2017, and a bit more than that for some special projects. You can make a one-time donation via PayPal or NetworkForGood, or support on an ongoing basis via Patreon—all donors are entered into our prize draw, and various other rewards are also available (and in the US your donations are tax-deductible). As an additional thank-you to donors, as we raise money we’re publishing extra material from our fund drive special issue. We’ve just published new poems by Margaret Wack and Karin Lowachee, and when we reach $9,000, we’ll publish a round-table on Manjula Padmanabhan’s SF novels!

Special Patreon goal! In addition to the main fund drive special, if our Patreon reaches 300 supporters, as a preview of Samovar, we will publish Lawrence Schimel’s translation of “Terpsichore”, a story by Argentinian writer Teresa P. Mira de Echeverría. Read a bit more about it here.

(13) SHE HAS A LITTLE LIST. Ann Leckie does for Twitter what Standback did for the FIle 770 comment section earlier today.

(14) A DIFFERENT TURING TEST. The BBC has the first verified music played by a computer.

The earliest known recording of music produced by a computer – a machine operated by Alan Turing, no less – has finally been made to sound exactly as it did 65 years ago.

It’s hardly chart-topping material. The performance is halting and the tone reedy.

It starts with a few bars of the national anthem, then a burst of Baa Baa Black Sheep, followed by a truncated rendition of Glenn Miller’s swing hit In The Mood. (“The machine’s obviously not in the mood,” an engineer can be heard remarking when it stops mid-way.)

Chip Hitchcock comments, “As a musician, the first question I had on hearing this was whether the clear attack (sounding a bit like a glottal stop) at the start of each note was deliberate or an artifact of the equipment; I’m used to unprocessed electronic music not having even that bit of flavor.”

(15) THE DRAMATURGES OF MARS. Did you know Orson Welles met H.G. Wells? This is a recording of their appearance together.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, David K.M. Klaus, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpininian for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 10/5/16 That’s Appertainment!

(1) BEST SERIES HUGO FLAW? Sami Sundell is dissatisfied with the 2017 Hugo test category, judging by his title: “Best Series is a popularity contest”.

Last year, Eric Flint wrote about the discrepancy between popularity in bookstores and winning (Hugo) awards. I then pointed out, that the big time bookstore magnets tend to write series. So, on the face of it, adding a new category could bring the awards closer to general populace…..

Re-eligibility of a nominee

The actual series proposal suggests a non-winning nominee for Best Series could become re-eligible after at least two additional tomes and 240 000 words. If the series is long enough and the writer prolific enough, you might see the same series popping up every few years, adding at least quarter of a million words to the reading effort every time.

You see, that’s another thing about the popular series: they hook their readers. Even if the quality wanes, it’s hard to let go of a series you’ve started – and some of those series have gone on for 40 years.

There’s nothing wrong with the same author and series being nominated multiple times; that happens regularly with other categories. In this case, however, it’s not just the latest installation that should be considered. It’s the whole body of work, which may span multiple authors, media, and decades.

More than any other written fiction category, Best Series has makings of a popularity contest in it: people will vote for whatever they are familiar with and attached to. That’s fine for selecting what to read next, but it shouldn’t be grounds for a Hugo.

(2) AUDIBLE INKLINGS. Oxford fellow Michael Ward (Planet Narnia) narrates Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings in the Audible Audio Edition, released September 26.

Bandersnatch cover

(3) MYTH BUSTED OR INTACT? Aaron Pound looks at the “2007 Hugo Longlist” and commences to bust what he feels is a Hugo voting “myth.”

Whenever a Worldcon is held outside of the United States, people suggest that genre fiction works produced by local authors and editors are going to receive a boost in the Hugo nomination process and subsequent voting. Nippon 2007, the Worldcon held in 2007, was located in Yokohama, and given that Japan has an active science fiction and fantasy scene, one would think that the ballot would have been filled with Japanese books, stories, movies, and television shows. At the very least, one would think the Hugo longlist would be filled with such works. With the exception of Yoshitaka Amano’s appearance on the Best Professional Artist category, the 2007 Hugo longlist appears to be entirely devoid of any influence from Japanese voters.

Based upon the evidence of the statistics from 2007, it seems that the “bump” for local writers and artists is negligible at best….

This question really requires a more nuanced investigation of ALL Worldcons held outside North America, not just the one in Japan (inexplicable as the result was).

Looking at the final ballots from UK and Australian Worldcons, you can see a number of nominees (especially in the fan categories) who don’t get that support when the con is in North America.

However, the membership of most Worldcons is predominantly US fans, which gives things a certain consistency, wanted or not.

(4) KNOW YOUR GENRE. Sarah A. Hoyt explains the traits of a long list of genres and subgenres in a breezy column for Mad Genius Club.

If I had a dime for every time someone approaches me and says “My erotica/romance/science fiction/fantasy isn’t selling and I can’t tell why.”  And/or “I keep getting these really weird comments, like they’re angry at me for not being what I say it is.” I’d be buying a castle somewhere in England, as we speak.

And almost everytime I look into the matter, my answer is something like “But that’s not an erotica/romance/science fiction/fantasy.”

I will say right here that most of the time the problem is that people don’t read the genres they’re identifying their books as.  They just heard of them, and think that must be what they are.  This also explains all the people who assure me I write romance (rolls eyes) and that’s why they won’t read Darkship Thieves, or Witchfinder, or…

Because there is a romance in the book, somewhere, and they think that’s what the romance genre is.

It’s time to get this figured out, okay?…

(5) LUKE CAGE’S SHORTCOMINGS. Abigail Nussbaum finds a new Marvel superhero series wanting — “Tales of the City: Thoughts on Luke Cage” .

“For black lives to matter, black history has to matter.”  A character says this shortly into the first episode of Luke Cage, Netflix’s third MCU series, and the fourth season of television it has produced in collaboration with Marvel as it ramps up for its Defenders mega- event.  It’s easy to read this line as a thesis statement on the nature of the show we’re about to watch, but it’s not until some way into Luke Cage‘s first season that we realize the full import of what creator Cheo Hodari Coker is saying with it, and how challenging its implications will end up being.  As has been widely reported and discussed, Luke Cage is the first black MCU headliner–not just on TV or on Netflix, but at all.  And, unlike the forthcoming Black Panther, whose story is set in a fictional African superpower, Luke Cage is explicitly a story about African-Americans in the more-or-less real world, at a moment when the problems and indignities suffered by that community are at the forefront of public discussion.  It is, therefore, a show that comes loaded with tremendous expectations, not just of introducing a compelling character and telling a good superhero story, but of addressing increasingly fraught issues of race, in both the real world and the superhero genre.  It’s perhaps unsurprising that Luke Cage falls short of these expectations, but what is surprising is how often it doesn’t even seem to be trying to reach them.  Or, perhaps, not surprising at all–as the first episode spells out, Luke Cage is less interested in black lives than it is in black stories.

(6) FINAL INSTALLMENT. Renay from Lady Business has produced her last column for Strange Horizons:

When I started this column back in 2013, I didn’t know a lot of things. I didn’t know a lot about the depth and breadth of the science fiction and fantasy community. I didn’t know what it felt like to have a wider audience. I didn’t know yet how many people would be kind to me and also didn’t know (thankfully, because I might have run the other way) that people would be cruel. I hadn’t done any of the things that would change my perspective as a fan: write a fan column, be paid for writing, be included in a fan anthology, edit a fan anthology, become a Barnes & Noble reviewer, start a podcast with another big name fan, be a Hugo nominee, or go to Worldcon. But I’ve done all those things now and here’s what I’ve learned….

(7) CHARACTER (ACTING) COUNTS. Edward L. Green’s website for his acting career is now online.

(8) SUPPORTING HOMER HICKAM. San Diego fan Gerry Williams is encouraging a boycott of the musical October Sky at the Old Globe Theaters in his hometown. He explains:

ROCKET BOYS author Homer Hickam is in a very serious dispute and lawsuit with the corporate establishment at Universal Studios and with The Old Globe Theaters. He has tried to have his name removed from the Old Globe’s production (to no avail) for their Rocket Boy’s version of his story. You can read about all the problems on his blog here: http://homerhickamblog.blogspot.com/2016/09/my-struggle.html Personally I’m urging our local Southern California space community to stand with Homer Hickam and BOYCOTT The Old Globe’s production.

Hickam’s many frustrations about the rights struggle include the effect it’s having on the musical adaptation he himself has written Rocket Boys, the Musical.

Meantime, if you’re curious about the version being produced at the Old Globe —

October Sky

Book by Brian Hill and Aaron Thielen Music and Lyrics by Michael Mahler Directed by Rachel Rockwell Inspired by the Universal Pictures film and Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam,  Jr.

“A sumptuous production of an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser. October Sky feels good all over!” —Talkin’ Broadway

The beloved film is now a triumphant new American musical that will send your heart soaring and inspire your whole family to reach for the stars! In the small town of Coalwood, West Virginia, every young man’s future is in the coal mines, but after the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the world’s race to space inspires local highschooler Homer Hickam to dream of a different life. Against the wishes of his practical-minded father, he sets out on an unlikely quest to build his own rockets and light up the night sky. October Sky is an uplifting musical portrait of small-town Americana packed with youthful exuberance, and a sweeping, unforgettable new score.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

October 5, 1969  — Monty Python’s Flying Circus first appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s BBC-1

(10) TERRY JONES RECEIVES BAFTA CYMRU AWARD. The Guardian has video of this touching acceptance:

Monty Python star Terry Jones collects his award for outstanding contribution to television and film at the Bafta Cymru awards on Sunday. Jones announced last month he has a severe type of dementia which affects his speech. He was accompanied on stage by his son Bill who told the audience it was a “great honour”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 5 – Paul Weimer
  • Born October 5, 1958 — Neil DeGrasse Tyson

(12) WAYWARD FACULTY ADDITIONS. Who they are and what they’ll teach – the new faculty joining Cat Rambo’s Academy.

Now the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers (classes.catrambo.com) adds three new teachers to its roster: Ann Leckie, Rachel Swirsky, and Juliette Wade. Each presents both a live version of the class, limited to eight students and taught via Google Hangouts, as well as an on-demand version.

Swirsky’s class, Old Stories Into New (http://catrambo.teachable.com/p/old-stories-into-new/), discusses existing forms and how genre writers draw on the stories that have preceded them–particularly folklore, mythology, and fables, but also beloved literature and media. The class presents the best methods for approaching such material while warning students of the possible pitfalls.  Readings, written lectures, and writing exercises from Hugo and Nebula award winning writer Rachel Swirsky teach the student how to keep work original and interesting when playing with familiar stories.  A live version will be offered on October 29, 2016; the on-demand version is available here.

Wade’s class, The Power of Words (http://catrambo.teachable.com/courses/the-power-of-words-linguistics-for-speculative-fiction-writers), focuses on the study of linguistics and its relevance to genre writing. Wade shows how linguistics differs from the study of foreign languages, and gives a survey of eight different subfields of linguistics. The class examines principles of language at levels of complexity from the most basic articulation of speech sounds to the way that language is used to participate in public forms of discourse. Wade looks at how each subfield can be used to enhance a writer’s portrayal of characters and societies in a fictional world. Then she takes the discussion to the level of text to consider how principles of linguistics can hone point of view and narrative language in storytelling. A live version will be offered on December 17, 2016.

Leckie’s class, To Space Opera and Beyond, will centers on space opera: its roots as well as its current manifestations as well as how to write it.  Topics covered include creating and tracking multiple worlds, characters, and plots,  interlocking and interweaving plots, writing storylines stretching across multiple books, and developing engaging and distinct politics, languages, and other cultural institutions. Both live sessions of the class are sold out. The on-demand version will be available in November.

Live classes are co-taught with Cat Rambo; registration details can be found at: http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/upcoming-online-classes/.

(13) THIS WASN’T A TEST WHERE I WANTED TO SCORE WELL. “10 Habits of extremely boring people”. Send help — it’s alarming how many of these I checked off…

(14) BUCKAROO BANZAI CAN’T GET ACROSS THE AMAZON. Joseph T. Major in concerned. He looked at this article and said, “It looks like the World Crime League is making a score.” — “Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series”.

Buckaroo Banzai may be in trouble and this time it is not from the machinations of evil Lectroids from Planet Ten or the World Crime League, but from something far more vexing – rights issues.

In an interview, W. D. Richter, director of the 1984 cult classic The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eight Dimension, revealed that it is possible that the rights to the actual character of Buckaroo Banzai actually lie with screen writer Earl Mac Rauch. And that could impact the television version of the film that writer/director Kevin Smith is currently developing with MGM for Amazon Studios.

(15) WHERE DID YOU GET MY NUMBER? I don’t make a lot of phone calls, but when I do the person on the other end seems more surprised to be getting a call than that it’s from me, and that may be part of  trend – Slate explains: “The Death of the Telephone Call, 1876-2007”.

The phone call died, according to Nielsen, in the autumn of 2007. During the final three months of that year the average monthly number of texts sent on mobile phones (218) exceeded, for the first time in recorded history, the average monthly number of phone calls (213). A frontier had been crossed. The primary purpose of most people’s primary telephones was no longer to engage in audible speech….

Calling somebody on the phone used to be a perfectly ordinary thing to do. You called people you knew well, not so well, or not at all, and never gave it a second thought. But after the Great Texting Shift of 2007, a phone call became a claim of intimacy. Today if I want to phone someone just to chat, I first have to consider whether the call will be viewed as intrusive. My method is to ask myself, “Have I ever seen this person in the nude?” The sighting doesn’t have to be (indeed, seldom is) recent. Nor is it necessary that I remember it. I need only deduce that, sometime or other, I must have seen this person naked. That clears phone calls to a wife or girlfriend, to children, to parents, to siblings, to old flames, to former roommates from college, and very few others.

(16) TREKKIE STONELORE. UPI tells us Redditor Haoleopteryx posted a photo of the business cards he had specially printed to deal with constant jokes about the name of the profession.”

I’m a volcanologist and I really don’t know how it took me so long to actually get around to making these

 

View post on imgur.com

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day — Heather Rose Jones because I noticed her post it, and Kip W. because he actually suggested it first eight hours earlier. The bar is open — everybody appertain your favorite beverage!]

Pixel Scroll 9/21/16 “Repent, Pixels”, Said The Box-Tick Man

(1) STATHOPOULOS WINS MAJOR ART PRIZE. Although the critics gave their prize to Louise Herman’s portrait of Barry Humphries, the people have voted the 2016 Archibald Prize People’s Choice award  to a fine artist with fannish roots.

ault-and-stathopoulos

In Nick Stathopoulos’s commanding portrait which won the 2016 Archibald Prize People’s Choice award on Wednesday, its sitter, Deng Adut, sees himself exposed and vulnerable.

A monster, thought the former Sudanese refugee and lawyer when he first saw the finished portrait….

Of the eight artists who approached him, Adut selected Stathopoulos, who grew up not far from where Adut practices as a lawyer, to paint his portrait for this year’s Archibald Prize.

It took three sittings, one of nearly six hours, and four-and-a-half months – the longest time Stathopoulos has taken for an Archibald entry – for the artist to be satisfied he had captured the essence and likeness of his subject.

The portrait, titled Deng, is Stathopoulos’ first public choice winner and his fifth entry to be selected as an Archibald finalist. A “clear winner” among the pool, it comes with a $3,500 cash prize.

The Guardian calls it “vindication”:

The win is something of a vindication for Stathopoulos. In 2014, the artist was “astonished and disappointed” when his portrait of the author Robert Hoge, titled Ugly, did not make the finals of the Archibald or the Doug Moran prizes; it went on to win the people’s choice at Salon des Refuses, which features work that did not make the Archibald’s finalists exhibition.

…The Art Gallery of New South Wales director, Michael Brand, said: “This vote of appreciation by visitors to the Archibald recognises both the meticulous skill of artist Nick Stathopoulos and the wonderful contribution Deng Adut has made – and is making – to Australian life.”

The Archibald exhibition is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until 9 October.

(2) THE TRIMBLES: The title of GQ’s article – “This Is How Star Trek Invented Fandom” – is bound to rub some who remember earlier fanhistory the wrong way, but the article itself has accurate information about the start of Star Trek fandom. Especially the part that comes from two impeccable sources:

“We’re pretty sure that the Trek community you see today would not have existed but for us,” Bjo Trimble says. “Not bragging.” Special guests at Star Trek Las Vegas (and a host of other 50th anniversary events), Bjo (pronounced “Bee-joe”) and her husband John are Star Trek’s ur-fans, the determined couple who saved the franchise.

They’re both in their eighties now: John wears red cap with a blue Vulcan salute on the front, Bjo has a streak of brilliant pink hair floating in her cloud of white. She’s the more loquacious of the two, but, she insists, “the whole Save Star Trek campaign was John’s fault.” They had heard the show was being cancelled in 1968, after its second season, during a visit to the studio lot. At John’s suggestion, the two launched a letter-writing campaign—all mimeographs and postal mail. It was the first ever to save a TV show, and the first time any fan community had flexed its collective muscle.

“NBC came on, in primetime, and made a voice-over announcement that Star Trek was not canceled, so please stop writing letters,” Bjo adds with pride.

TOS’s third and final season premiered with “Spock’s Brain,” commonly held to be one of the worst episodes of all time. (“We’re responsible for there being a third season,” John admits, “we’re not responsible for the third season.”) But by the run’s end, with a grand total of 79 episodes—barely making the minimum threshold—Star Trek could enter syndication. It had earned a second life.

(3) KINSELLA OBIT. Canadian author W. P. Kinsella (1935-2016) died September 16. Much of his fiction was devoted to depicting First Nations people of Canada, or baseball – and he is particularly well known as the author of Shoeless Joe, which was made into one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams.

Kinsella’s first published book, Dance Me Outside (1977), was a collection of short stories narrated by a young Cree, Silas Ermineskin, who describes life on a First Nations reserve in Kinsella’s native Alberta. A later collection of similar stories, The Fencepost Chronicles, earned Kinsella the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Kinsella was criticized for engaging in “cultural appropriation” by writing from the point of view of Native people, while he rejected the criticism on the grounds that a writer has the license to create anything he chooses.

These stories use the ineptness of the white bureaucrats on reservations as background, and Kinsella defended them, saying, “It’s the oppressed and the oppressor that I write about. The way that oppressed people survive is by making fun of the people who oppress them. That is essentially what my Indian stories are all about.”

Kinsella wrote nearly 40 short stories and three novels involving baseball. Shoeless Joe (1982) was his first novel, and the second, Iowa Baseball Confederacy (1986), was written as an epic spiritual conflict in the form of a game between a minor league team and the 1908 World’s Champion Chicago Cubs which threatened to go on to the ending of the world.

(4) BESIDES THE FICTION. Abigail Nussbaum says don’t overlook another reason to respond to Strange Horizons’ fund drive:

But beyond my relationship with it as a writer, what makes Strange Horizons special and important to me is the material it’s put before me as a reader.  A lot of the testimonials you’re going to see around the internet in the next few weeks are going to talk about Strange Horizons‘s fiction department, which has and continues to give platforms to new writers, many of whom have gone on to great things.  That’s worth recognizing and celebrating, but to me Strange Horizons will always be special as one of the finest, most interesting, most fearless sources for criticism and reviews.  There is, quite simply, no other online source of genre reviews that covers the breadth of material that Strange Horizons does, with the depth of engagement and the multiplicity of perspectives that it offers.  The editorial team that took over from me in 2015, under the leadership of Maureen Kincaid Speller, has excelled at finding new voices, such as Samira Nadkarni, Vajra Chandrasekera, and Keguro Macharia, to offer their vital points of view, while maintaining the presence of reviewers like Nina Allan and Erin Horáková, whose writing is essential to anyone interested in the state of our field.

(5) ASPIRING TO GREATNESS. Kameron Hurley identifies another of her writing problems in “The Madhatter Teaparty: Rescuing Your Characters from Endless Cups of Tea”. I have wondered if she didn’t struggle, would she still have such a rich source of examples to use in teaching about the writing profession? (She probably would!)

Plot kicks my ass. It kicks my ass up one end of a story and down another, because honestly, all my characters want to do is snark at each other over tea. Or whisky. Or coffee. Or bug juice. Whatever. Any excuse for them to sit around flinging zingers at each other and discussing what they are going to do next works for me.

This over reliance on tea-and-conversation scenes is a hallmark of discovery or gardener writers like me. When we get stuck on what happens next, we just sit the characters down for a chat and let them figure it out. Needless to say, this is a time consuming bit of lazy writing, because while it may get us where we’re going eventually, we can spend literally thousands upon thousands of words over the course of a novel having the characters explain the plot to each other, and then we have to go back and remove all those scenes or make them more interesting in their final form (I spent a lot of time in Empire Ascendant in particular going back and making talking scenes more interesting. For real: in the first draft, the first 150 pages of that book was just people talking)….

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 21, 1897 — The New York Sun’s Frank Church replied, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
  • September 21, 1937 — J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit.

(7) COMICS MAKING. NPR tells about “A Comics Convention For The Unconventional: The Small Press Expo”.

In theory, SPX seems a lot like many of the other comic-cons that have been popping up across the country over the last few years. There’s the vast exhibit floor, there’s a packed schedule of panels and spotlights featuring interviews of, and discussions between, various comics creators. People mill about, lugging bags loaded down with stuff they’ve bought, or find an empty patch of carpeted hallway on which to plop themselves and rest while perusing their purchases.

If you close your eyes, its sounds a lot like any other con: the low, steady murmur of voices punctuated by the occasional exclamation of delight or surprise from someone who’s stumbling across an old friend — or a new passion.

But the moment you open your eyes, you’re reminded that SPX isn’t like most other cons.

It’s smaller, for one thing — the big shows in San Diego and New York attract upwards of 130,000 people, and SPX’s attendance is closer to 3,000. It fills the huge ballroom at a hotel in North Bethesda, Maryland, but unlike other comic-cons, where companies build massive booths that tower over you with video screens, loudly hawking all manner of comics-adjacent stuff like toys, games, statues and t-shirts, everything at SPX is at eye-level.

(8) CAN THOSE EDITORS. A piece on wired.com by Susanne Althoff called “Algorithims Could Save Book Publlshing – But Ruin Novels”  looks at ways publishers are using data to determine which books they buy, including a summary of The Bestseller Code.

The result of their work—detailed in The Bestseller Code, out this month—is an algorithm built to predict, with 80 percent accuracy, which novels will become mega-bestsellers. What does it like? Young, strong heroines who are also misfits (the type found in The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). No sex, just “human closeness.” Frequent use of the verb “need.” Lots of contractions. Not a lot of exclamation marks. Dogs, yes; cats, meh. In all, the “bestseller-ometer” has identified 2,799 features strongly associated with bestsellers.

Later, Althoff discusses a company called Inkitt which invites everyone to submit their novels for everyone to read, and offers to act as agent for the books that are the best-performing. Inkitt sold YA novel Bright Star by Erin Swan to Tor, which will publish it next year.

The ability to know who reads what and how fast is also driving Berlin-based startup Inkitt. Founded by Ali Albazaz, who started coding at age 10, the English-language website invites writers to post their novels for all to see. Inkitt’s algorithms examine reading patterns and engagement levels. For the best performers, Inkitt offers to act as literary agent, pitching the works to traditional publishers and keeping the standard 15 percent commission if a deal results. The site went public in January 2015 and now has 80,000 stories and more than half a million readers around the world.

(9) KAREN GILLAN IN JUMANJI REBOOT. The Hollywood Reporter has “9 Theories as to Why ‘Jumanji’ Has Actress Karen Gillan So Scantily Clad”.

The first image of the upcoming Jumanji cast was released Tuesday, and one notable cast member looked like she got lost on the way to a Lara Croft Halloween party and ended up in the jungle instead.

Karen Gillan plays Ruby Roundhouse alongside Dwayne Johnson as Smolder Bravestone, Kevin Hart as Moose Finbar, and Jack Black as Shelly Oberon. Johnson promises there’s a plot-driven reason for Ruby’s seemingly sexist and totally nonsensical costume in the reboot.

“Her jungle wardrobe will make sense when you know the plot,” Johnson said. “Trust me.”

(Some fans are guessing that Gillan’s character is a trope. The original Jumanji from 1995 featured purposefully stereotypical characters who were part of the game — so perhaps that’s the plot device Johnson is referencing.)

(10) VOTE FOR FEMINIST AND QUEER COMICS AWARD. Autostraddle is holding is third annual comic award contest, for both excellence in the art form, and excellence in representation: “It’s Time to Vote in the 3rd Annual Autostraddle Comic And Sequential  Art Awards”.

This month is the three year anniversary of this column, which seeks to highlight and celebrate comics by, for and about queer women. So, that means that it’s once again time for the Autostraddle Comic and Sequential Art Awards, the only comic award that focuses on feminist themes and queer women’s representation in comics. Starting last year, these awards are voted on by you, the fans and readers of these comics and these books, and we’re doing that again this year, but now there are even more categories for you to vote in! This way, even more comics and creators get the recognition they so rightfully deserve.

(11) LANSBURY HELPS CELEBRATE BEAUTY & THE BEAST’S 25th. She can still carry a tune at the age of 90 – click through to watch as “Angela Lansbury sings ‘Beauty and the Beast’ theme in honor of anniversary”.

Twenty five years later, Angela Lansbury is ever just the same enchanting actress for Beauty and the Beast fans.

The actress, 90, reprised her role as Mrs. Potts during a special screening for the 25th anniversary of the animated classic. Lansbury, accompanied by composer Alan Menken, sang the title song, “Beauty and the Beast,” during the celebration in New York on Sunday. At the end, she even spoke her line to her character’s son: “Run along and get in the cupboard, Chip!” much to the delight of the crowd.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rose Embolism, Martin Morse Wooster, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]

Pixel Scroll 9/10/16 Scroll Long And Pixel

(1) NEW ZEPPELINS FOR OLD. After striking a gusher of controversy with its initial program plans, World Fantasy Con made a large number of changes. Jason Sanford reviewed the new offerings in “World Fantasy tries again with programming”, then concluded:

I wish WFC had started totally from scratch with this year’s program, which they obviously didn’t do. But overall these changes are positive. It appears some of these changes were taken from Guerilla WFC, which put forward a truly innovative WFC program, which is a good sign. I’m also sure Ellen Datlow had a positive effect on the changes, as did everyone in the genre who justifiably ripped apart the previous program.

Update: The new program is now on the official WFC 2016 website. Go there to see the schedule.

(2) THEN, THE BOOK. I have spent many hours poring over Rob Hansen’s British fanhistory in zine and website versions, whether researching a blog post, or simply for the pleasure of learning the stories out of early fandom. Now that material has been polished further and given book publication by Dave Langford’s Ansible Editions. You’ll find a lot of information about the project here.then-cover

THEN was published in September 2016 with a list price of $22.50 (trade paperback) or $36.50 (hardback, discounted by 10% until November 2016). There is also an ebook edition.

Rob Hansen is acknowledged in Brian Aldiss’s autobiography The Twinkling of an Eye as “the historian of fanzines”. Then is Rob’s ground-breaking history of British science fiction fandom from its first stirrings in the early 1930s to 1980 and a little beyond. Originally published in four fanzine-format volumes from 1988 to 1993, this first book edition of Then is now greatly revised, corrected and expanded by more than 20% to give a massive trade paperback – and a simultaneously published hardback – running to 454 pages and nearly 228,000 words. Besides the results of much new research, Then includes over 300 photos of contemporary fans of all eras, dozens of scans of representative fanzine covers selected from each decade, detailed source notes and a full index (not to mention a separate photo index).

This first book edition of Then also has an appreciative introduction by Peter Weston, who writes: “without Rob we would know almost nothing about British fanhistory, whereas thanks to him we know just about everything … It’s a truly amazing thing, and something of a minor miracle that it ever came to be written.” It’s an epic piece of work. What’s more, it’s alive in the current conversation, and consulted by people who care about fanhistory.

(3) WHEN THE SHOW WENT ON. Ars Technica tells “How an over-ambitious Star Trek convention became ‘The Con of Wrath’”.

In 1982, nearly the entire TOS cast gathered for a disastrous four-hour variety show….

Rose also recalled that Koenig essentially acted as the show’s de facto director, given that no one else could seem to be bothered to do it. “None of us had a script, any idea what we were doing for the most part, but we knew that Walter had written some kind of play,” he said. “It was literally that Friday night, Walter comes over to me and he says ‘you’re the main guy, here’s what we’re going to be doing.’ He wrote it out what we’re going to do, cue this cue that. I had no warning whatsoever.”

Koenig ended up simply writing out the lighting and sound cues on a piece of paper and handing it to Rose. “‘We need a house announcer,’ and he writes out on paper and handed it to me!” Rose recalled….

“The amazing thing is that none of the actors walked, they did the entire weekend as it was planned,” Nemecek told us. To this day, he continues to view the whole thing as a modern marvel. After all, he believes that if such a fiasco unfolded today, it would reverberate across the Internet and likely damage the careers of everyone involved. “It really is the most glorious failure. All the actors, the fans, the dealers, and the organizers did something to make this happen.”

 

(4) WORLDCON 76. After San Jose won the rights to host the 2018 Worldcon, they issued Progress Report Zero. In case you haven’t already seen it, you can download it here.

Is San Jose really going with Worldcon 76 as its name? That’s what’s on the PR and its website. I’d be concerned that’s it’s too easily confused with Worldcon 75, the name used by Helsinki.

San Jose also announced Guests of Honor Spider Robinson, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Pierre and Sandy Pettinger, and two Ghosts of Honor, Edgar Pangborn and Bob Wilkins.

(5) ONE VIEWER’S RECAP OF RECENT HISTORY. Nathaniel Givens overviews “Science Fiction Awards in an Age of Dragons” at The Loose Cannon.

…one of the problems with this many categories is that there’s no feasible way anyone could read all the nominated works and make an informed vote in every category. This has profound implications.

Traditionally, Worldcon attendees receive electronic copies of the nominated works and have a couple of months to read through them before voting closes. There’s a lot of material (5 novels, 5 novellas, 5 novelettes, and 5 short stories just from the core literary categories), but it’s not an unmanageable amount. It should be fairly routine, then, for a Hugo voter to end up reading works they haven’t read before and maybe even voting for one of those works. In short, the Hugos are designed as deliberative process in which a small cadre of dedicated fans try to come to a consensus about which works deserve recognition. At its worst, this means that the group is susceptible to being hijacked and/or manipulated by cliques and fads (political or otherwise). At its best, it means that we’re talking about a process that at least makes a meaningful attempt to transcend momentary popularity.

The Dragon Awards make no such pretense. There will never be packets of all the novels.15 Even if there were, there wouldn’t be time for people to wade through dozens of novels before voting. Deliberation and consensus are off the table.

(5) TRANSOM TO REOPEN. Strange Horizons has added a new fiction editor and will be re-opening fiction submissions.

We are therefore delighted to announce that Vajra Chandrasekera is joining us as a Fiction Editor, working with Lila Garrott, Catherine Krahe, and An Owomoyela.

If you’ve been reading Strange Horizons recently, there’s a good chance that you recognise Vajra’s name and if you do, I suspect you’re as excited as I am about him joining the magazine’s staff. As a book club participant, occasional reviewer and regular columnist, he has contributed some of the most insightful critical thinking we’ve had the pleasure of publishing in the last year. And as an author—with July’s “Sweet Marrow”, and this week’s “Applied Cenotaphics in the Long, Long Longitudes”—he’s contributed two wonderfully elegant and thought-provoking stories. Put another way, by far the biggest downside of him joining the magazine is that we won’t be publishing very much by him for the foreseeable future!

In organisational terms, this should mean that we will be able to re-open to fiction submissions in the near-ish future—although authors, we’ll still need you to bear with us for a few more weeks.

(6) A VERSE OUT OF TIME. Tom Becker shared this masterpiece in a comment.

This is just to say
I have taken
the time machine
I wanted to eat the plums
that were in the icebox
But I didn’t want you to find out

I took them
back a few minutes
then there were
twice as many
That was fun
so I did it again
Forward and back
Four times as many
Eight times
Sixteen times

If you were wondering
why your time machine
is full of plums
that is why
Please have some
for breakfast
I ate as many as I could
You can put the pits
in the pizza boxes

You should know
I saw a shoggoth
Perhaps it was attracted
by the time machine
If so please forgive me
The elder gods
so strange
and so cold

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes  to File 770 contributing editor of the day snowcrash.]

The Lemonade Award

Nalo Hopkinson announced at WisCon 40 she is creating the Lemonade Award for kindness and positive change in science fiction.

Strange Horizons has more about her plans:

There are many people who do good in this field, who perform small and large actions of kindness and welcome every day. I’d like to encourage more of that.

I’m starting an award, an annual kindness award to recognize five people and groups who in the previous year have done something that makes positive change in science fiction community. It might take the form of printed certificates, awarded and announced with little pomp or ceremony; perhaps via a press release. There need not be a monetary award, but it’d be nice to give the recipients a tangible token of recognition. Should enough people commit to donating a few dollars every year, such that there is an annual pot of $2,000, that would be enough for five monetary awards of $300 each, with $500 left over for administration. $3,000 per year would be enough for each recipient to receive in addition a physical award.

Sherryl Vint, of the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Programme at the University of California Riverside, will manage the nomination/adjudication process. Hopkinson will do fundraising.

Follow the Lemonade Award on Twitter.

Cash donations can be sent via the Speculative Literature Foundation, following Hopkinson’s instructions:

(a) Email a note to lemonadeaward@gmail.com, informing us how much you’re donating. Don’t skip this step. It’s the only way the Spec Lit Foundation will know that the donation is for us, not them.

(b) You can donate via cheque (make it out to SLF) or PayPal (preferred). Donation information is on this page: http://speculativeliterature.org/donation-info/

Offers of help can be emailed to lemonadeaward@gmail.com.

[Thanks to Gregory N. Hullender for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/16 A Transatlantic Tunnel In The Sky, Hurrah!

(1) CONVERSATION. At Tor.com, Natalie Zutter tells about the appearance of N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and Ibi Zoboi at the Brooklyn Museum’s Target First Saturday, in “Masquerade, Initiation, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy: N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor in Conversation”.

…Okorafor’s initiation was her experience with paralysis as a teenage athlete, a difficult period during which she had to relearn how to walk but during which she also turned to writing as a way to cope. Her first story was about a flying woman, “because when you can fly, you don’t have to walk.” She explained, “I know that that experience was my initiation into becoming a writer. When I look back, when it was happening, I didn’t know. I just knew that I was learning how to cope and going deep like that, being so distraught that the only way I [could] stay sane was to go into myself, was how I discovered that thing, that storytelling. From that point on, there is this mystical aspect to storytelling; I’ve had several times where I’m writing stories and I just go somewhere, and something is there. An hour will go by and I’ll look at what I’ve written and it will be new to me and I’m like, ‘Who wrote that?’ […] That actually is very scary to me, but over the years I’ve come to deal with that fear and be comfortable with it and expect it, and know to just sit back and let it happen.”

While Okorafor turned into herself, Jemisin’s initiation was the inverse—she went outward through countless adventures as a child and extensive traveling as an adult. Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, the kind of child who would make little books out of construction paper tied together with yarn, she would visit her father up in New York City (specifically, pre-hipster Williamsburg). “This was my wonderland,” she said, remembering how her father would give her a handful of money and mark a spot on the map, then send her out to traverse the subway system and find her way to her destination. “This was the place I came to become my true self,” she said, “where I shed the masks that I had to wear in Alabama in order to be safe, in order to fit in, to be accepted. I came here, and I could be my little nerdy self and be where I needed to be.” Those childhood adventures prepared her for adulthood as an author navigating the publishing industry: “I’ve always been the little black face, the little ink spot on the page. It did not feel to me like having to go into that space and ask for acceptance or fight to be understood. It felt like ‘You need to reshape yourselves. I am here, this is the industry that you claim to be, you need to be what you claim to be.’ And the industry has been changing in that way, in the last few years. I don’t think it’s me; it’s a lot of people. But the fact that I felt that has been built from that early-adapter stuff I had to do.” …

(2) DISCUSSING DISABILITIES. Today saw the launch of Our Words: Discussing Disabilities in Science Fiction.

The purpose of Our Words is to focus on disabilities in speculative fiction, and give the disabled a place to talk freely and openly about our experiences in the genre. Furthermore, I hope to educate genre fans, authors, publishers, and whoever else about disabilities in the genre, in a comprehensive, well-rounded sort of way. This website will eventually expand to do interviews, discuss and review books, have personal essays, highlight issues in the genre, at conventions, and so more.

Our Words is a website run by a disabled genre fan, for disabled genre fans. This is a place for us to all have a voice. A place for us to use our words, and be heard.

(3) HARRY DRESDEN CARD GAME. Jim Butcher’s Dresden-verse has spawned a cooperative card game that is in the midst of being lavishly funded by fans on Kickstarter. Asked for $48,000, supporters have pledged over $379,000 so far, with nine days to go.

Backers will be rewarded with many extras, including the first chapter of Peace Talks (mid May 2016). More details at: The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game. (Here’s a video that explains how the game is played.)

(4) OWN A BRICK FROM BRADBURY’S HOME. Con or Bust is gathering items for its 2016 fundraising auction. John King Tarpinian has donated a brick from Ray Bradbury’s home, which was demolished in January 2015.

Bidding opens on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern. It will close on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m.

(5) CAREER LAUNCH. Tina Jens at Black Gate mentions the magic number in “Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Going to the Nebulas”.

I require the students in the more advanced course, the Fantasy Writing Workshop, to complete at least one story and submit it to a semi-pro or pro market. But the course aimed at writing majors and non-writing majors alike, Exploring Fantasy Genre Writing, has more than half the students ready to submit a poem or short story for publication, as well. There’s always a few, each semester, but more this semester, I think….

As part of the last week of classes, for both my courses, I’m having a representative from our department’s Publishing Lab (run by students, for students, to help them submit their poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction) come in. They help read proposed cover letters, find markets, and provide emotional support. The drill is this, with their laptops open and everyone tapped in to the school wi-fi, when a student author says they’re ready to submit, their finger hovering over the send button, the group does a mission-control countdown from five.

Five, four, three, two, one, SEND! When the button is pushed, we ring a bell and give them a cookie. An actual bell, and an actual cookie. We’ve found both help.….

(6) CARL BRANDON AWARD. Nominations are open for the 2014 and 2015 Carl Brandon Awards.

Two awards are given each year:

The Carl Brandon Parallax Award is given to works of speculative fiction created by a self-identified person of color. This Award includes a $1000 cash prize.

The Carl Brandon Kindred Award is given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group. This Award includes a $1000 cash prize.

Nominations open through July 16, 2016

(7) KEN MACLEOD. The Herald of Scotland profiled “Science fiction writer Ken MacLeod on his Free Presbyterian childhood, his time as a Communist Party member and the future of humanity”.

“I got disillusioned with my early Trotskyism and joined the Communist Party at exactly the wrong time in the mid-1980s.” You join us as Ken MacLeod, a man once described as “the greatest living Trotskyist libertarian cyberpunk science-fiction humourist,” is recalling his political history. “I think I left in 90 or 91,” he continues, “a few months before it dissolved itself.

“The CP at that time was certainly a very interesting place to be because they were having their terminal crisis as it were. So it was certainly intellectually stimulating.”

He stops and sips his coffee, looks out through the window of the South Queensferry café where we are sitting at the looming Forth rail bridge. For a moment Scotland’s industrial past and service sector present are invisibly united in the eyesight of one of the country’s most entertaining, politically engaged futurists.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

…My wife, Emily, has joined me to help out with the freelancing. So the business has grown. We haven’t killed each other yet being home all the time.

I almost died just a few years into freelancing. Found out I had a heart defect. Spent years recovering and learning how to manage a whole new life.

Had twins. Still trying to figure out this dad thing. Very much a learn as you go.

I have published 9 novels in that 10 years, 2 under a pseudonym. There are two more written as of yet unsold as well. I’ve also done 4 collections, 5 novellas, and sold 36 short stories….

(9) COSPLAY ORIGINS. Jennifer Culp invites everyone to “Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay” in her article for Racked.

Myrtle Rebecca “Morojo” Douglas Smith Gray Nolan was a Gemini, born in June 1904. She was an atheist, an active member of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, and a proponent of the 19th-century constructed auxiliary language Esperanto, meant to foster communication and understanding between people of all cultures. (Obviously, she was a big nerd.)

Between the years of 1938 and 1958, she edited three separate long-running sci-fi fanzines (“editing” including all of the typing, mimeo, and physical work required to manufacture the zines, naturally) and wrote editorials for several major early sci-fi “pro”-mags in the early ‘40s. Basically she was the mid-20th century equivalent of a prolific, influential blogger. She married three times, had one son, and shared a decade-long romantic and creative relationship with fellow fan Forrest J Ackerman, with whose help she sparked off a phenomenon that would develop into costume-loving fan culture we know today. In the decades following her death, her memory has largely been resigned to footnotes designating her a mere “girlfriend,” and that’s a damn shame, because both with and without Ackerman Morojo was a badass….

Following her death in 1964 at the age of 60, Morojo found herself in an unenviable posthumous predicament: the most detailed and accessible record of her life and work exists in the form of eulogies written by two of her ex-boyfriends. (Hold up, just take a second here: can you freakin’ IMAGINE what a hell that could be???) Amazingly, her old flames Elmer Perdue and, of course, Forrie, seem to have done pretty damn right by her memory, publishing (of course!) a fanzine in her honor.

Ackerman comes across as — frankly — a self-absorbed ass in his brief essay “I Remember Morojo,” openly acknowledging his surprise at being asked to contribute. He had barely spoken to the woman since he “got mad at her about half my life ago,” as he puts it. But in spite of the teeth-grindingly irritating paragraph he spends speculating about her position in his own imaginary hierarchy of female sci-fi fandom and the insulting description of 17 years of dedicated work on Guteto as “her own little” zine, Forrie gives Morojo what he surely perceived as the ultimate in (awkward nerd) respect, meticulously listing all of the fannish achievements he could recall to ascribe to her. It is through Ackerman’s remembrance that we know that Morojo was responsible for the world’s first fan costumes, which he specifically notes that she “designed and executed.”

You can download a scanned copy of Ackerman’s I Remember Morojo at eFanzines. Here’s FJA’s quote about her leading role in early costuming —

“She designed & executed my famous ‘futuristicostume’ – and her own – worn at the First World Science-Fiction Convention, the Nycon of 1939. In 1940 at the first Chicon she and I put on a skit based on some dialog from THINGS TO COME, and won some kind of prize. In 1941 at the Denvention she wore a Merrittesque AKKA-mask (frog face) devised by the then young & as yet unknown master filmonster model maker & animator, Ray Harryhausen. In 1949 at the Pacficon in LA, I understand she created a sensation as A. Merritt’s Snake Mother…”

Although Ackerman surpassed all others at drawing fannish attention to himself, as you can see he gave the credit in this case to Morojo. Nor was he the one who gave himself the title the inventor of cosplay. That was masquerade fans of an earlier era who named Ackerman the father of costuming, a move that may have been designed to catch some of his reflected glory for costumers, who at times have felt pushed to the margins by conrunners and fanzine fans. Just the same, Morojo – the actual creator of the costumes – was never treated as the primary historical figure before now.

(10) BRITISH MILIARY SF. SFFWorld has an “Interview with Tim C. Taylor author of The Human Legion series”.

The first book in the series, Marine Cadet has been released as part of the Empire at War collection. How has it been to join forces with fellow British authors and promote British military SF like this?

It’s been wonderful to meet a few fellow military SF authors in the flesh at the recent British convention called Eastercon, because writing can at times be a lonely profession. To begin with, I had a lot of doubts. Can really do this? I had the idea of putting together a box set of military SF books, and hit upon British military SF as a theme, but I was treading new ground. American readers might find this strange, but to the best of my knowledge there has never been such a thing as a ‘British military SF scene’. I mean, the Warhammer 40K novels have been enormously successful, and one of the most successful of all British science fiction authors of recent years is Karen Traviss with her four Halo military SF novels that were all New York Times bestsellers. So it’s not a new thing for British authors to write military SF, but Warhammer 40K and its Black Library publishing arm seems to sit in a splendid and psychotic isolation, and Karen Traviss seems to be largely ignored by much of British fandom, as if writing the tie-in novels where she has seen greatest success so far means that she is not a ‘proper’ writer.

To be honest, I haven’t previously placed a lot of interest in where an author was based, but when I looked at the bios of the new wave of military SF authors I had read in recent years, I was astonished to find how many were British.

So when I started inviting authors (and an artist for the cover and interior illustrations) and saying, “Let’s do something together and call it British military SF”, I don’t think anyone had ever used that term before. Now that I’m more attuned to where people are based, I realize there are many more British authors I could have invited.

By the way, I want to point out that although I kicked off ‘The Empire at War’ project, it was far from just myself doing the work, and it is a good feeling to create something as a group that we can all be proud of.

(11) DAMN RIGHT. Here’s the wisdom Sigrid Ellis serves between two slices of Hamilton and Burr:

…I so often feel this way about Wiscon. It feel like the big things, the stuff everyone talks about later, are always taking place somewhere I am not. In some other panel, some other party, some other room. Never the room I am in.

But I gave this some serious thought and realized that I’ve actually been IN “the room” while “it” is happening at some points in the past. At Wiscon, or other events. I’ve been there. I’ve been, from time to time, the insider. It just never felt that way at the time.

And that made me think how utterly stupid I am being. I mean, way to proactively ruin a great convention, being upset about whether or not the “important” things are happening where I can see them. It’s my convention experience, dammit! I can and will enjoy it for my friends, the conversations I have, the sleep I’ll get, the people I’ll meet, the dinners I’ll have! …

(12) THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL CAT. Ursula K. Le Guin continues “Annals of Pard: My Life So Far, by Pard, Part II” at Book View Café.

I cried very loudly in the roaring moving room-thing on the way here, because I thought the awfulness and strangeness was all happening over again forever. I still always think that when they put me in box that smells of fear and the roaring moving room-thing. But except for that I have hardly cried at all since coming here.

The aunty human went away and left me with the old queen and an old tom. I was distrustful of him at first, but my fears were groundless. When he sits down he has an excellent thing, a lap. Other humans have them, but his is mine. It is full of quietness and fondness. The old queen sometimes pats hers and says prrt? and I know perfectly well what she means; but I only use one lap, his. What I like to use about her is the place behind her knees on the bed, and the top of her head, which having a kind of fur reminds me a little of my Mother, so sometimes I get on the pillow with it and knead it. This works best when she is asleep.

(13) FREE COMICS. James Bacon tells about spending Free Comic Book Day with the creators signing at Forbidden Planet, in  “Fiends of the Eastern Front: Fodder by Hannah Berry and Dani at FCBD in Orbital”.

It is rare that so many cool things could align so nicely.

A free copy of 2000 AD is pretty much a boon, but finding that it contains a ‘Fiends of the Eastern Front’ story was really rather exciting. Entitled ‘Fodder’ the artwork is by Dani and is really quite lovely, but apart from it being on the paper pages, the originals are concurrently on display as part of Orbital comics Danistrips ‘Stay Cool’ exhibition on now until the 31st of May.

This allows fans to get a closer look at the original work, which is always a pleasure to behold.

Added to this, Dani the artist, and the writer, Hannah Berry were doing a signing with Peter Milligan, Matt Smith, Clint Langley and Alec Worley in the same location, to celebrate Free Comic Book Day.

(14) CENSUS OF SF REVIEWERS. Strange Horizons has posted “The 2015 SF Count”.

Welcome to the sixth Strange Horizons “SF count” of representation in SF reviewing. The goal of the count is straightforward: for the last calendar year, for a range of SF review venues, to calculate the gender and race balance of books reviewed, and of reviewers….

A number of limitations should be taken into account when interpreting these data. For gender, the limitations include limited accounting for pseudonyms and, more generally, a reliance on public presentation of gender. The count divides individuals into “men” or “women and non-binary.” However, reliable information about gender identity for the vast majority of people counted is not accessible through our methodology, which means it is probable that some individuals have been misrepresented. We will continue to review our methodology each year, and welcome suggestions. (For instance, we are considering changing our terminology to “women and genderqueer,” based on feedback from genderqueer individuals and the inclusion of that term in the Merriam-Webster dictionary this year.)

For race, our categories were “white” and “person of color.” These are crude, and such a binary division is arguably only valid here (as opposed to more specific categorisation) because the total number of POC is so low. Since race is difficult to determine reliably using only names and Google, it is probable that here, too, some authors, editors, or reviewers have been incorrectly allocated. We nevertheless believe that the count is worth publishing because the number of incorrect allocations is likely to be small compared to the overall number of individuals counted….

(15) GRRM IN GE. This month’s Galaxy’s Edge features short fiction by, and an interview with, George R.R. Martin.

(16) JOE ABERCROMBIE. A week before he placed two novels as finalists in the Locus Awards, Joe Abercrombie participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session.

Hi Joe, can you tell us about your day to day writing process? How much do you outline scenes and how many words do you tend to write a day? Are there any tricks that help you get into it? – Actevious

It depends a lot what stage of the process you’re at, so the workflow is very different depending on whether you’re planning something, drafting something, or revising and editing. There’s always a fair bit of work to do that’s not actually writing – emails, interviews, dealing with the business side. When I’m drafting new stuff I try to make sure I actually write, uninterrupted, for 3 hours each day. That doesn’t sound like much but you can cover a lot of ground if you’re focused. 1,200 words in a day I consider acceptable. 2,000 would be good. 3 or 4,000 would be a great day. But then when you’re revising you might measure progress by how many words you cut. If there’s a trick I’m aware of, it’s just to make sure you put in the time even when you’re not feeling inspired. Sometimes you feel like you’re writing real junk, but just get it down, when you come back maybe you cut a lot of it, but there’ll still be stuff that’s worthwhile in there.

A theme I notice you write quite a lot about is war, vengence and the endless circle of misery and horror they create. How did you come to write about this? – TheOtherWhitman

Well war is certainly a fundamental of epic fantasy – Lord of the Rings is all about a war, likewise the Belgariad, Dragonlance, Wheel of Time, etc., etc. I guess I felt the fantasy I read as a kid had come to show the shiny and heroic side of warfare a bit too much, and the dark actions and dark characters were somewhat overlooked. Not a lot of trauma or PTSD. I wanted to look at the other side of it.

(17) GLADIATOR JOINS MUMMY. CinemaBlend reports Russell Crowe has joined the cast of The Mummy.

It seems like everyday a new reboot or long awaited sequel gets announced. We’ve seen streaming services like Netflix bring back previously cancelled series, and even movies like Independence Day get their sequel after 20 years. One of the most recent of these sequels is the upcoming Mummy reboot, starring Tom Cruise. Now it appears that the film has booked another huge star for its already impressive cast. Collider recently sat down with actor Russell Crowe, where they asked him to confirm or deny the rumors of his involvement in the sequel. He had to say the following:

Yeah, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna play Dr. Henry Jekyll, Fellow of the Royal Society. It’s very interesting, what they’re gonna do with that stuff. I’ve had a couple of chats about it with the director (Alex Kurtzman).

There you go, ladies and gents. Russell Crowe will officially be freaking us all out in The Mummy.

(18) KIP THORNE IN SOCAL. The OC Breeze announced “Astrophysicist Kip Thorne to give free talk on intersection of arts and science” at Chapman College on May 12.

Noted astrophysicist Kip Thorne, Ph.D. knows a lot about the weird phenomena of time and space: black holes, wormholes, time travel and more. As one of the world’s leading experts on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Dr. Thorne has collaborated with many of the top names in science, including Stephen Hawking, and served as science advisor and executive producer on the recent blockbuster movie “Interstellar.” His multi-faceted interests in art, science and the universe know no bounds – and it is precisely this intersection of big ideas that Dr. Thorne will discuss in a free talk at Chapman University on Thursday, May 12, 7:30 p.m. in Musco Center for the Arts.

Admission is free and open to the public, but a ticket is required for entry and can be obtained online at www.muscocenter.org or by calling 844-OC-MUSCO (844-626-8726).

(19) CHEAP SEATS. They aren’t that cheap. Neil Gaiman and Audrey Niffenegger will join forces at a London event on May 31. Break your piggy bank.

Author Neil Gaiman will do a rare public event in London to celebrate his new non-fiction collection, “The View from the Cheap Seats” (Headline), together with Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife (Vintage).

The event, run in association with Headline Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, Waterstones and video streaming agency Streaming Tank, will take place at The Union Chapel, Islington, on Tuesday, 31st May. The two US-based writers will discuss Gaiman’s latest work, with “a couple of surprises” also in store, according to publishers.

Tickets are £20 each, and include a free signed copy of The View from the Cheap Seats for every ticket-holder. The books will be distributed on the night by Waterstones, which will have a pop-up bookshop in place on the evening.

The event will be live-streamed across the globe by Streaming Tank, via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, so anyone unable to attend can also enjoy the “one-off” event.

Gaiman and Niffenegger will be answering audience questions, both from within the chapel and viewers at home or in bookshops tuning in. Questions can be submitted via Twitter ahead of the event too using the hashtag #CheapSeats.

[Thanks to robinareid, Xtifr, Andrew Porter, Will R., James David Nicoll, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]