Pixel Scroll 7/25/17 J.J. Abrams Apologizes For Pixelwashing In File Trek: Into Scrollness

(1) NEW DAY JOB. Congratulations to Uncanny Magazine’s Lynne M. Thomas who has been appointed to head the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, one of the largest repositories for rare books and manuscripts in the United States: “University of Illinois alumnus to head Rare Book and Manuscript Library”

Exactly 20 years after starting work as a graduate assistant in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Lynne M. Thomas is returning as the new head of the library.

Thomas, who earned her master’s degree in library and information sciences at the University of Illinois in 1999, has been the curator of rare books and special collections at Northern Illinois University since 2004 and the head of distinctive collections there since 2014. She’ll begin her appointment at the library and assume the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Library Professorship on Sept. 1.

While working at Northern Illinois University, Thomas helped grow its holdings of the papers of contemporary sf authors.

(2) PUBLICATION OF BLACK SFF WRITERS. Fireside Magazine has issued “The 2016 #BlackSpecFic Report” (follow-up to its 2015 report):

We are considering the field both with and without the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” special issues of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Fantasy Magazine, since they constitute a project that is limited to one year. Without these issues, a sample of 24 professional SF/F/H magazines yielded 31 stories by Black authors out of 1,089 total stories — that’s 2.8% — while 2.9% of 2016’s published unique authors are Black. In 2015 we found figures of 1.9% and 2.4%, respectively. While there’s no way to determine yet if these small increases are evidence of gradual long-term improvement or just normal variation — two years is too short a trajectory for that — perhaps we can find a cautious degree of optimism…..

Effects of the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” Issues

In spite of comprising a tiny portion of the field’s story volume, the “PoC Destroy” issues collectively contained over 20% of 2016’s stories by Black authors. They alone raise the 2016 field-wide ratio by nearly a full percentage point, from 2.8% to 3.6%. Put another way: any improvements that took place from 2015 to 2016? The “PoC Destroy” issues are responsible for about half….

Where Do We Go From Here?

Again, we think there’s reason to have a degree of optimism. Some magazines made substantive changes to their editorial staffs and marketing strategies subsequent to the 2015 report, which was released late enough last year that any resulting improvements would impact only 2017 and beyond. It’s for this reason that this 2016 follow-up is not a comparative analysis but rather should serve as a baseline for comparison in future years.

Progress isn’t always linear; not all magazines have equal resources or lead times, which is why we want to hear from editors and publishers. What are your strategies for combating low publication rates of Black authors? Please answer our survey to let us know.

Black SF/F writers: we’d like to hear your comments and suggestions for how we can improve future reports. This also goes for data collection; we’re working purely from what’s publicly available on the Internet, and we don’t want to force people to publicly self-identify in order to be counted. If you suspect your stories are not included in this count and would like them to be, just want to double check, or have any other concerns — please let us know. Our email address is BlackSpecFicReport@gmail.com; correspondence will be kept confidential.

(3) CHIPPING IN. A Scroll last month talked about one man getting chipped; now it’s an entire company workforce: “Wisconsin company Three Square Market to microchip employees”.

Three Square Market is offering to implant the tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip into workers’ hands for free – and says everyone will soon be doing it.

The rice grain-sized $300 (£230) chip will allow them to open doors, log in to computers and even purchase food.

And so far, 50 employees have signed up for the chance to become half-human, half-walking credit card.

(4) GAME OF SIMPSONS. The Verge has learned “Matt Groening is making an animated medieval adult fantasy with Netflix” called Disenchantment.

Netflix announced today that Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, will be developing a medieval animated adult fantasy called Disenchantment. It’s scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix in 2018.

The series’s protagonist is a young, “hard-drinking” princess named Bean (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson), and her two male companions are a “feisty elf” named Elfo (Nat Faxon) and a demon named Luci (Eric Andre). While both The Simpsons and Futurama have dynamic, fleshed-out female characters, this is Groening’s first series with a clear female lead.

Rough Draft Studios, the studio that does the art for Futurama, will animate Disenchantment. From the few details Netflix is offering, it’s easy to imagine a sort of epic-fantasy version of Futurama, with the same acerbic, absurdist humor as Groening’s other shows. In the US, Netflix doesn’t have a series that fits this exact bill, though Archer may come closest. (Netflix also carries Futurama, so Disenchantment should fit in.)

(5) ROLL THE BONES. Tom Galloway sent this link with the comment, “Curiously, ‘Santa Fe, NM’ isn’t given as a location from which large bets would raise suspicions…” — “Growing Strong: Inside the Burgeoning ‘Game of Thrones’ Gambling Business”.

Increasingly, Thrones also lends itself to speculation in the financial sense of the word. As Thrones has ascended to its singular place in the splintered TV firmament, it’s not only come to be covered like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, but it’s started to support a similar secondary market of rumors and wagers. Thanks to the series’ big built-in audience, large (if shrinking) cast of characters, and uncertain endgame, Game of Thrones and gambling go together like lovestruck Lannister (or Targaryen) twins.

Some Thrones-related betting contests, like The Ringer’s Thrones Mortality Pool, are just for fun. But in recent years, a number of ostensible sportsbooks have gotten in on the action, with prominent sites such as Sportsbet, MyBookie.ag, and Pinnacle (which debuted its Thrones odds this year) trying to capture a piece of the (hot) pie. The best-known of these books is Bovada, an online gambling and casino-games site owned by a group based in Québec.

Bovada began publishing prop bets for Game of Thrones in 2015. Since the start, those bets have been the personal province of Pat Morrow, who’s been with Bovada for a decade and has served as the site’s head oddsmaker for the past four years. Technically, Morrow oversees all of the site’s wagers, but he’s much more likely to delegate work on the data-based bets that make up most of the site’s offerings. The Thrones odds come from his head alone, both because they require a personal touch and because no one else at Bovada is as qualified to apply it

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 25, 1969 – In theaters: The Valley of Gwangi, a schlockfest of cowboys vs. dinosaurs in Forbidden Valley

(7) SPACE STYLES. The Fashion Spot is telling everyone “Gucci’s Fall 2017 Campaign Is Out of This World!”

Alessandro Michele continues to raise the bar at Gucci while refusing to follow the rest of the fashion pack. His advertising campaigns for the iconic Italian fashion house are often extremely well-received by our hard-to-thrill forum members (despite a few controversies). The newly unveiled Fall 2017 campaign, captured by Glen Luchford, is on another planet — literally. Yes, Michele revisits his sci-fi concept, going all-out for the new mainline campaign — complete with dinosaurs, hovering spaceships, models channeling their inner alien and so much more.

(8) T AND SEE. Lisa Allison at Adventures In Poor Taste lists her faves: “SDCC 2017: Top 5 nerdy t-shirts”. John King Tarpinian says he’d have bought this shirt –

#2: Vampires Don’t Do Dishes

I was drawn to this one for a few reasons. It pairs a quote from What We Do in the Shadows starring Jemaine Clement with a sort of buck toothed, vampire. It’s fun, creepy and artistic. The Benday dots on the sides are a nice touch.

(9) BITER BIT. A Discovery magazine columnist showed several fee-for-publication medical journals seem to have nonexistent professional standards, in “Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting”.

A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it….

Four journals fell for the sting. The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ) I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.

So what did they publish? A travesty, which they should have rejected within about 5 minutes – or 2 minutes if the reviewer was familiar with Star Wars. Some highlights:

“Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity…”

“Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”

“Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism.”

“midichloria DNA (mtDNRey)” and “ReyTP”

And so on. I even put the legendary Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise monologue in the paper…

…This matters because scientific publishers are companies selling a product, and the product is peer review. True, they also publish papers (electronically in the case of these journals), but if you just wanted to publish something electronically, you could do that yourself for free. Preprint archives, blogs, your own website – it’s easy to get something on the internet. Peer review is what supposedly justifies the price of publishing.

[Via Ansible Links.]

(10) PASSING THE HELMET. And in other bogus Star Wars news, Darth Vader has started a GoFundMe: “Help Me Build a Death Star!”.

The Empire is under attack. We are in urgent need of funds to construct a Death Star to crush this rebel alliance!

It had raised zero of its $900 million goal when I last checked in.

(11) SUCKING UP DATA. Speaking of world domination – Eric Persing shared this link with the comment, “This is pretty much the beginning of how the robots take over humanity…right? The vacuum maps your home, sells your home layout to the highest bidder and before you know it, the toaster is trying to kill you.” — “Roombas have been mapping your homes for years, and that data’s about to be sold to the highest bidder”.

As Reuters reports, Roomba maker iRobot is bullish on the prospect of selling what it learns about your home to whoever might want it. “There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared,” iRobot boss Colin Angle told Reuters.

If that sounds more than a little creepy that’s because, well, it is, but companies pushing into the smart home market would most certainly be willing to pony up the dough for the data. Products like smart speakers, security monitors, high-tech thermostats, and many other gadgets could potentially benefit from knowledge of your home’s layout, but in order for iRobot to actually sell archives of the data, it would likely need to be anonymize — that is, scrubbed of any personally identifiable information and lumped in with countless others.

(12) NOT MY FAULT. Munchkin is concerned:

(13) PUPPY RADAR. Camestros Felapton has compiled a list of authors and works being promoted for the Dragon Awards in “Time for those Dragon Projections!”

  1. The titles listed are based on what I have found trawling the web looking for people who were, to some degree or other, promoting works to be nominated for a Dragon Award. I found a lot but who knows what I missed. I did find some stuff on Facebook but it and other places are hard to search inside of. Also, maybe some authors are promoting the Dragons like crazy in forums I cna’t access or on their email lists. Who knows? So large pinches of salt please.
  2. There is though a ‘status’ column and that is even a greater testament to hubris in data collection. The higher the status the more wallop I think the promotion of the work had – either in multiple places or by venues with known impact (e.g. the Rabid slate). “Low” though also includes stuff whose promotional impact I don’t know. Some are authors I don’t know but who may have some legion of highly devoted followers ever ready to throw their bodies and email addresses at an awards website. It is NOT any kind of assessment of the quality or even the popularity of the work – so if you an author and you see ‘very low’ next to your book, don’t be disheartened.
  3. So it is all a bit pointless then? No, no. Basically the more stuff on the list that appears as Dragon Awards finalists, the more the finalists were determined by overt public campaigning on blogs – and predominately from the Rabid and Scrappy corners. The less stuff on the list making it as finalists, then the less impact that kind of campaigning had on the Dragon Awards.

(14) THE SHARKES BITE. The Clarke Award will be announced this week. The Shadow Clarke jury dashes off one more review, then begins analyzing the Sharke experience and the future of the Clarke award.

An inspector investigates the case of a disappeared man but despite his occasional dreams of solving the case, he never uncovers the truth and only succeeds in stripping away layer after layer of appearance until nothing is left. Infinite Ground is a kind of metatext in which the ostensible missing person investigation in the plot simultaneously functions to interrogate fundamental aspects of being such as identity and even existence, as though the world itself is also text. By the end of MacInnes’s novel we are no longer sure if the man, the inspector and the society they come from are still in existence or, indeed, if they ever existed at all. Among the many facets of the text is a strain of the kind of hermeneutic deconstruction that marks out my natural enemies in any literature faculty. ‘At the heart of meaning there is no meaning’ is the refrain of this theme but it often seems to coexist very comfortably with institutional power structures and academic management hierarchies. MacInnes takes this to extreme levels of quantum indeterminacy and fractal microbiology that defy any kind of systematisation, however there is still a level of destruction wrecked on everyday life in texts like this which I find uncomfortable. I am reminded of reading Paul Auster’s different, but not entirely dissimilar New York Trilogy and turning afterwards to Dashiell Hammett for an equally relentless but more grounded interrogation of social existence. MacInnes, however, had me turning to Hammett within 30 pages…

So, what did we achieve here?

If nothing else – apart from a few good jokes floating around the web about who has read which Iain Banks novels – we have demonstrated why the actual Clarke Award juries don’t make their deliberations public. Nevertheless, I do think the level of discussion and analysis we have provided has been a positive feature even when this has provoked a certain amount of pushback. There hasn’t been a hidden agenda and the motivations and various criteria used by members of the shadow jury have become reasonably clear across the process. Anyone looking at the project from the outside is in a position to weigh up the assumptions and judgements made and to criticise these for deficiencies; and, of course, a number of people have done this. I have found it interesting to read the discussion on File770 and twitter as well as on the comment boxes on the Sharke posts themselves. Some of this seems fair and some seems unfair; but that is often the way of things.

As this year’s Clarke festivities wind inexorably towards their close, I thought it would be interesting to cast an eye over the landscape ahead of us. It does the heart good to have something to look forward to, after all, and what could be more fun than making a few early advance predictions about next year’s Clarke Award?

I’m not here to discuss the more obvious entries. We all know that Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie have new novels out this year and everybody will be talking about them as possible contenders soon enough. As the books I’m most interested in tend to be those that hover around the edges of genre, I thought I’d do better to focus upon novels published by mainstream imprints that might otherwise be overlooked by SFF commentators. With a little over half the year gone, there will inevitably be titles I’ve overlooked, authors I’ve not come across yet. This is just a tiny sample of what next year’s Clarke jury might have to look forward to.

And as a bonus, a review of the actual Clarke shortlist from Strange Horizons. Interestingly, the reviewer has a good go at linking the 6 nominees together thematically, even though the Sharkes were of the opinion that the shortlist lacked a coherent theme…

In theme, style, and content, the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist—Emma Newman’s After Atlas, Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me, Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station—is a diverse set. However, in different ways, each of these books speaks to [Jill] Lepore’s concern about “a fiction of helplessness and hopelessness.” Perhaps, as a function of the times we are in, these books do not heed Le Guin’s call to envision alternatives to how we live. The futures—and in one case, the past—that these books offer is either dystopic or close to dystopic, in utterly recognizable ways. Many of the pregnant battles of today—for democracy, for equality, for privacy, and against universal surveillance—have in these pages been lost for good, and there is no pretence that any individual, or group of individuals, has the power to transform the world. There is little in the way of grand narrative or vaulting ambition in terms of the stories that these novels set out to tell. Far greater—and in some cases, exclusive—focus is placed on human relationships, on more mundane struggles; it is as if Marx’s utopianism of overthrowing centralized power has been replaced by Foucault’s bleaker understanding of power’s ubiquity, and the dispiriting realization that the struggle is limited to daily, quotidian acts. Above all, there is—almost—a palpable mistrust of any radical re-imagination of the ways in which society might be organised.

(15) CARRIE VAUGHN. Lightspeed poses questions to the author in “Interview: Carrie Vaughn”.

You explored Enid’s world in your Hugo-nominated short story “Amaryllis,” which, contrary to most post-apocalyptic stories, has a positive ending. What made you want to explore the dark side of this world at novel length in Bannerless?

It’s a multifaceted culture with both good and bad to it, and Enid is in a unique position to see both. I went into the story assuming that a culture built up like this one is, with a huge amount of scrutiny to go along with the community building, is going to have some unintended consequences, such as the bullying of outsiders.

(16) CONNECTIONS. Matt Mitrovich reviews Nick Woods’ Azanian Bridges for Amazing Stories.

Azanian Bridges is a well-written novels that tackles a difficult period of South African history that, in the grand scheme of things, only recently ended. I read it shortly after I finished Underground Airlines and found myself comparing the two novels. Both deal with de jure racial inequality in two different countries continuing long after it ended in our timeline. To be honest, I felt Underground Airlines had a bigger impact on me since I am an American and have a better understanding of my own country’s past, but if you have any knowledge of South African history, there is enough about this world that Nick created for you to enjoy.

And yet the actual history plays a secondary role to the primary purpose of Azanian Bridges: that we can have peace if we can bridge the divide between peoples.

(17) COSPLAY AT COMIC-CON. ScienceFiction.com shares stunning photos in “SDCC 2017: Cosplay Gallery Part 1”.

(18) ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY EVICT THE SUPERNATURAL. Todd Allen continues The Mister Lewis Incidents  — a monthly short form satirical horror detective / urban fantasy series featuring the adventures of a “physics consultant” who consults on matters that defy the laws of physics. The fourth one is out commercially and the fifth one is in the hands of the crowdfunding folks.

The Gentrified Bodega Investigates the Secrets of a Shady Landlord

Wherever rents are rapidly rising, and especially where there’s rent control, there’s always a problem with landlords stepping outside the law to evict renters.  But what happens when there’s something in the building that isn’t human and isn’t ready to leave?

About The Gentrified Bodega

“The neighborhood was improving and people were dying to move in. Then their bodies were turning up in the back aisle of the bodega. The building wove a web of shady evictions, fake leases and unexplainable deaths. Can Mister Lewis discover the secret of the gentrified bodega or will the housing crisis be solved by mass attrition?”

The Gentrified Bodega is available on Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and Kobo or direct from the publisher.

(19) ALL WET. Aquaman Movie 2018 Teaser Trailer.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge,JJ, Todd Allen, Carl Slaughter, DMS, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 4/8/2017 Fly Me To The Moon And Let Me Pixel To The Stars

(1) SCENERY WILL BE CHEWED. Nerd & Tie says we can look forward to multiple Masters in Season 10 of Doctor Who: “John Simm Will Reprise His Role as The Master in ‘Doctor Who’ Series 10”.

In a turn of events I’m sure most of us didn’t expect, John Simm will be stepping back into the role of The Master this upcoming series of Doctor Who. Simm last played the character in 2010, during David Tennant’s final story as The Doctor.

Michelle Gomez took over the part a couple of series ago, and will also appear this series….

(2) CLARKE CENTER CLARION BENEFIT. On May 2, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will present an evening on the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy with George R. R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire,” adapted for television as Game of Thrones, the Wild Card series) in conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140, the Mars trilogy). Shelley Streeby, faculty director of the Clarion Workshop, will moderate.

All proceeds will support the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego, “the oldest and most highly regarded training ground for new science fiction and fantasy authors.”

Note – Martin will not be doing a signing.

(3) UNITED. In “A Personal Note”, Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories wishes his wife, Karen, a happy birthday, and talks about her medical struggles over the past year.

I can not express the degree of my admiration for this woman who has suffered more than most but who continues to fight, each and every day.  She (and I) get frustrated with the pace, we have our down days (the weather around here certainly doesn’t help)…but we still manage to have our laughs;  we still discuss world affairs, are involved with family matters….

(4) MISSED THIS ONE. This was an insurance company’s April Fool –

(5) AND THIS ONE. Fly SJW-Credential Airlines! Cheapflights posted this on April 1.

Book a flight and have a furry friend waiting for you when you board.

As part of our goal to make flight search super simple and provide travelers with the most options, Cheapflights is launching our new Catflights filters. With the rising popularity of cat cafes, cat bars and cat-friendly flights around the world, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a little kitten companionship while traveling.

And the benefits are pretty purrsuasive….

 

(6) WORSE THAN ALLIGATORS IN THE SEWERS. Where better to watch Them! than a place practically on top of where the giant ants entered the Los Angeles River? It will happen, at one of several special showings at Union Station.

Next up in the series, on May 12, is the 1954 Them! The campy flick about enormous man-eating ants is considered the first big hit in the “nuclear monster” sub-genre of Cold War-era science fiction. Several scenes were filmed at Union Station and others were shot along the banks of the L.A. River.

Sci-Fi at Union Station wraps up on June 9 with the most contemporary film in the slate, Her, from 2013. The film was selected for the series in part because of the vision it includes of what riding the Metro in L.A. might be like in the near future. Subway to the beach? Well, we’re pretty much there. Operating systems that we fall in love with might still be a little further off, though not if Elon Musk has anything to say about it.

Sci-Fi at Union Station takes place at 8:30pm on April 5, May 12 and June 9. Entry is free with seating on a first-come, first-serve basis. Films are shown indoors in the main ticketing hall.

(7) SF AT ANOTHER ICONIC THEATER. ‘Superman: The Movie’ is being shown at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Sunday, April 16th at 7:30pm as part of a double bill with 1951 ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’.

(8) ZIEGLER OBIT. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Jack Ziegler, the great New Yorker cartoonist who passed away on March 29 at the age of 74 – “How Jack Ziegler became ‘the godfather’ of the New Yorker’s modern wave of cartoonists”.

It was February 1974, and young Jack Ziegler had just sold his first drawing to the New Yorker. Yet in the months that followed, even as his cartoons continued to sell, he was having trouble actually getting published. The roadblock, it turned out, was a lone layout man who, having been at the magazine a half-century, saw himself as the bulwark against the institution’s would-be ruin.

“He didn’t like my work, apparently,” Ziegler once said of this one-man bottleneck — a makeup editor named Carmine Peppe who aimed to exercise control over which cartoons to hold. But what Peppe didn’t realize was that Ziegler represented a new wave of New Yorker cartoonists, and that this tide would not be denied.

“It turned out that Carmine thought that if they printed my stuff, it would be the end of the magazine and that it would just destroy The New Yorker as we know it. Which it did, apparently,” Ziegler said with a laugh in Richard Gehr’s 2014 book of profiles, “I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 8, 1961 — Stan Laurel received his honorary Oscar.

John King Tarpinian adds, “My all-time favorite short story of Ray Bradbury’s is ‘The Laurel & Hardy Love Affair’ which can be found in the anthology The Toynbee Convector.”

  • April 8, 1990  — Twin Peaks premieres.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • April 8, 1980 – Katee Sackhoff, best known for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the Sci Fi Channel’s television program Battlestar Galactica (2003–2009).

(11) GAME AMPLIFIES A POSITIVE TREND. Pokemon Go may be reducing Japanese suicides, at least in one location.

Most people who choose to take their own lives do so in a private place, often their own home, she says. Since the game came out there have been many media reports of crowds of gamers at Tojinbo, suggesting it may no longer hold the same appeal for those seeking isolation.

With media attention a major factor in drawing people to suicide hotspots, it is not impossible that different coverage of the area is also helping change its reputation.

Tell’s director also says the Tojinbo story comes at the same time as a very welcome decline in suicide across Japan, from about 33,000 a year at its peak a decade ago to about 21,000 now.

(12) ADDITIONS TO MOUNT TBR. Hot off the virtual press – Strange Horizons April 2017 issue.

(13) PATHFINDER. Lela E. Buis reviews Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee “Alien Stripper Bones From Behind By The T-Rex”. Unsurprisingly, there’s not much to say about porn.

(14) AUTHOR WRITES BOOK ON SMARTPHONE. A man from the Borders area of Scotland has written a 100,000-word novel over three years on his 90-minute daily train commute. Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows by Ninian Carter is a “genre-blurring” young adult SF novel.

(15) REALLY. Wasn’t that long ago people complained if anything looked like normalizing the current state of affairs.

(16) CLEAN SWEEPDOWN FORE AND AFT. Working to clean up space trash: the BBC reports on “The race to destroy space garbage”.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “I can remember only one story, by the lesser-known British writer Hugh Walters, that mentioned cleaning up space — and he talked about a tug that would bring down entire satellites in one piece. Nobody thought we’d pollute space, even when writers were starting to talk about pollution on Earth.”

(17) KEEPING WRITERS OFF THE STREETS. Atlas Obscura has heard “The Mall of America Is Looking for a Writer-in-Residence”.

The job: Spend five days “deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere” and write “on-the-fly impressions” of the place. The position is open to all sorts of writers (journalists, poets, musical comedy writers, etc.) of various levels of experience. The initial application involves writing a short pitch about “how you would approach this assignment.”

The compensation: The Mall will put the writer up in the on-site hotel, give them $400 for food and drink, and a “generous honorarium…

Apply here.

(18) LOST ITS CARBONATION. At The Verge, Kwame Opam says “Legion’s first season fizzled into a conventional superhero story”.

Right until the end, it’s a tight, quirky, well-acted, visually arresting series that’s unlike just about anything on television, including its superhero show kin.

So why am I left wanting?

By the end of its run, Legion reminded me a great deal of the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Even though Legion never becomes the water-cooler show Detective became, Hawley’s series is similarly ambitious, sprawling, atmospheric, and frustrating. It rewarded weekly viewing by changing the stakes, raising new questions, and dangling the possibility of a mind-bending mystery. But in its final act, that hoped-for mystery gets cast aside in favor of a smaller, more straightforward conclusion. In the end, Legion is auteur television at its strongest and weakest. It’s a well-told, even innovative story, but in spite of the gorgeous window dressing, it’s still deeply conventional.

[Thanks to rcade, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John King Tarpinian.]

Strange Horizons Announces New Editors-in-Chief

Strange Horizons is under new management: as of today, Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde become the magazine’s Editors-in-Chief, taking over from current editor Niall Harrison.

Crowley and Dollarhyde joined Strange Horizons in early 2016 as Associate Editors. Over the last year, they have curated several special issues, including features on the work of Nalo Hopkinson, utopia, and Spanish SF. They have also overseen the growth of Strange Horizons‘s broader publishing activities, including the recent launch of sister magazine Samovar.

Harrison has been Editor-in-Chief since early 2011, and involved with Strange Horizons since 2005. In his outgoing editorial “Moving On”, he described Crowley and Dollarhyde’s contribution over the last year as “invaluable”, noting that “it’s important for Strange Horizons, given the type of space it aspires to be, that it continues to look outwards and forwards. Kate, Jane, and the rest of the team understand that, and I’m excited to see where they take things.”

Jane Crowley said: “It’s a huge honour to be involved in a magazine like Strange Horizons, which has such ambitious plans and has hosted so many exciting new voices over the years. It’s hard to imagine the place without Niall but we’re excited to start this new chapter of the magazine’s history. I’ll try not to break anything.”

And Kate Dollarhyde said: “As a long-time reader of Strange Horizons, the past year I’ve spent working for the magazine as an Associate Editor has been a surreal and gratifying experience. I feel very lucky to have had Niall as a mentor and am sad to see him move on. But I also have great faith in the editorial team, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to help steer the great ship Strange Horizons into new seas.”

Harrison commented in his farewell, “We talk a lot about the fact that everyone who works on Strange Horizons is a volunteer, and there are probably as many reasons for volunteering as there are staff, but for me personally, it hasn‘t been a career move; I have no intention of attempting to make editing my livelihood. For me, working on Strange Horizons has been about being a part of a tradition, a community; about helping to build a thing, a space, that I think is of value.”

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. Since its founding, fiction and poetry published in Strange Horizons has been nominated for or won awards including the Hugo, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial, Rhysling, and James Tiptree Jr Awards.

[From the press release.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/17 On The Gripping Hand Of Darkness

(1) SPACE, THE INITIAL FRONTIER. In a profile published in the October 17 New Yorker, Julie Phillips reveals why Ursula Le Guin’s name has a space in it.

Her husband’s birth name was Charles LeGuin.  They were married in France, and “when they applied for a marriage license, a ‘triumphant bureaucrat’ told Charles his Breton name was ‘spelled wrong’ without a space, so when they married they both took the name Le Guin.”

(2) JUST MISSPELL MY NAME CORRECTLY. By a vote of the members, the Science Fiction Poetry Association has renamed itself the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. Although its name has changed, the organization will keep using the initials SFPA.

And nearly every time the poets talk about SFPA in the hearing of old-time fanzine fans you can depend on someone dropping a heavy hint that they’re at risk being mixed up with a pre-existing fan group that uses the same abbreviation. Today it was Andrew Porter chirping in a comment on the announcement —

Not to be confused with the Southern Fandom Press Association, which has been around for more than 40 years…

Unfortunately it’s Porter who is confused, as he seems to have forgotten the apa’s name is the Southern Fandom Press Alliance.

(3) SAMOVAR LAUNCHES. A new sff magazine, Samovar, launched today, featuring “the best of speculative fiction in translation including original stories, reprints, poetry, reviews and more material, as well as printing translations alongside the stories in their original language.” Samovar will be produced as a quarterly, special imprint of Strange Horizons.

“Stories tell us who we are, and let us see who other people are. We already have access to an enormous wealth of speculative fiction in English, but we want to know more” – The Samovar editorial team.

What wondrous fantastical tales are being conjured in Finnish? Who writes the best Nigerian space odysseys? Is Mongolia hiding an epic fantasy author waiting to be discovered? We want to know, and we aim to find out.

For Samovar, writers and translators are of equal importance, and we do our best to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals who pen both the original and the translated version of a story. We hope that in this way we can boost the profile of speculative fiction in translation so that everyone involved receives the recognition they deserve and so we can all continue to enjoy the strange, mind-bending and fantastical fiction of all cultures.

In issue one: two sisters create an imagined world where things that are lost can be found. A despot is forced to see the truth he’s tried to hide from. An academic finds poetry, science fiction and reality beginning to merge. And the Curiosity Rover turns its own sardonic gaze on Mars.

The Samovar editorial team is Laura Friis, Greg West and Sarah Dodd. Their advisory board includes Helen MarshallRachel Cordasco and Marian Via Rivera-Womack.

(4) TENSION, APPREHENSION, AND DISSENSION. The Atlantic’s Megan Garber asks: What’s the opposite of a “cliffhanger”?

Extended cliffhangers (cliffstayers? cliffhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaangers?) have animated some of the most narratively powerful works of television of recent years; they have helped to heighten the tension in shows like Breaking Bad (how low will Walt go?) and Serial (did he do it?) and Quantico (did she do it?) and True Detective (who did it?) and Lost (who are they? where are they?) and, in general, pretty much any sitcom that has ever featured, simmering just below its surface, some will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension.

What’s especially notable about the recent shows that are employing the device, though, is that they’re locating the tension in one (unanswered) question. They’re operating in direct opposition to the way traditional cliffhangers were primarily used: between installments, between episodes, between seasons, in the interstitial spaces that might otherwise find a story’s momentum stalling. Big Little Lies and Riverdale and This Is Us and all the rest are taking the specific narrative logic of “Who shot J.R.?” and flipping it: The tension here exists not necessarily to capture audience interest over a show’s hiatus (although, certainly, there’s a little of that, too), but much more to infuse the content of the show at large with a lurking mystery. Things simmer rather than boil. The cliffhanger is less about one shocking event with one central question, and more about a central mystery that insinuates itself over an entire season (and, sometimes, an entire series).

(5) SLOWER THAN LIGHT COMMUNICATION. This is how social media works: I never heard of Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality until somebody complained about it.

The appeal for a 2016 Hugo nomination was posted by the author in 2015.

First, the following request: I would like any readers who think that HPMOR deserves it sufficiently, and who are attending or supporting the 2015, 2016, or 2017 Worldcon, to next year, nominate Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality for Best Novel in the 2016 Hugos. Whether you then actually vote for HPMOR as Best Novel is something I won’t request outright, since I don’t know what other novels will be competing in 2016. After all the nominees are announced, look over what’s there and vote for what you think is best.

I don’t know how many votes he ended up getting but it wasn’t enough to rank among the top 15 works reported by MidAmeriCon II.

(6) FINALLY A GOOD WORD ABOUT THE MOVIES. Book View Café’s Diana Pharoah Francis was both nostalgic and thoughtful after hosting a Lord of the Rings marathon at home.

…Among the SF/F communities, it was this extraordinary vision come to life in a way we had never experienced before. It was not cheesy or all about the CGI. It was about strength, honor, choices, and hope. It was real characters in dreadful situations. The watching of heroes being made and broken beneath weights no one should have to bear. And Aragorn — a king in the making. A soul of strength and doubt and humility.

The movies were inspiring on a lot of fronts. I think it’s appropriate to watch it now in a world that is struggling so hard against itself. With so much fear, and worry and such dire enemies. Who are those enemies? Too many are ourselves. Our fears that turn us into monsters or traitors. Denethor, Gollum, Boromir, the Nazgul — absolute power corrupts. There are those who give up. Those who refuse to fight. Those who lose themselves.

The stories, the movies and the books, are a view into ourselves and what we can hope to be and what we may become — good and bad. It’s a reminder that it’s never a good time to quit in the battle against darkness — in whatever shape it takes….

(7) MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! ON YOUR SHELVES. James Davis Nicoll names “Twenty Core Space Operas Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

“Chosen entirely on the basis of merit,” says James, “with a side-order of not repeating titles that were on the first list.”

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO. I felt a disturbance in the force. Just not right away.

(9) FIVE PLUS TWO. John Scalzi offers “7 Tips for Writing a Bestselling Science Fiction Novel” at Female First. This is my favorite:

Make your universe two questions deep. By which I mean, make it so when someone asks you a question about why/how you created or portrayed the universe, character etc the way you did, you have a smart, cogent answer for it, consistent with the construction of the book. And then when they have a follow-up question, be able to answer that effectively, too. That will make 95% of your readers happy with your worldbuilding (the other 5% are SUPER nerds. Which is fine! For them, say “Oh, I’m glad you asked that. I’m totally going to address that in the sequel.” Try it! It works!).

Strangely enough, none of his seven tips is “Start a fuss with somebody in social media.”

(10) SECOND FIFTH. But as we just witnessed last week, that is part of the Castalia House playbook – which is evidently followed by Rule #2, “Stalk real bestselling writers on their book tours.”

Here’s a video of a jackass asking John Scalzi to sign Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie, and posing an insulting question about John’s Tor book deal. You’ll note the book in John’s hand has not been autographed by Vox Day. When is his book tour?

(11) HOT OFF THE PRESS. Liz Colter (writing as L. D. Colter) has a new book out this week – A Borrowed Hell.

Facing a sad, empty life, July always persevered by looking forward. An unhappy childhood, a litany of failed relationships, and even losing his job–none of it could stop him. But then the foreclosure notice arrives, and July is facing losing the one thing that keeps him grounded–his home.

With pain in his past and now in his future, July gives up and starts down the same road of self-destruction that the rest of his family had followed. It is only when he awakens in a hospital after a violent car accident that things change.

He starts to experience blackouts, which leave him in an alternate reality of empty desert and strange residents. It is a nightmarish world that somehow makes the real world seem that much better. Then he meets a woman that becomes a beacon of light, and his life starts to turn around.

But the blackouts continue, sending him to the alternate reality more often and for longer periods of time. Realizing that he may never escape, July asks the question he’d always been afraid to ask: How can he finally be free? The answer is one he’s not sure he can face.

I can’t resist a droll bio:

Due to a varied work background, Liz can boast a modest degree of knowledge about harnessing, hitching, and working draft horses, canoe expeditioning, and medicine. She’s also worked as a rollerskating waitress and knows more about concrete than you might suspect.

(12) HISTORY MINUS FDR. The LA Times says a bestselling author has a new trilogy on the way.

Charlaine Harris, whose Sookie Stackhouse books inspired the television series “True Blood,” will release the first book in a new trilogy next year.

Harris’ novel “Texoma” will be published in fall 2018 by Saga Press, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Simon & Schuster, the publisher announced in a news release.

“Texoma” will be a work of speculative fiction that takes place in “an alternate history of a broken America weakened by the Great Depression and the assassination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

(13) DAMP YANKEES. In New York Magazine’s author interview “Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140: To Save the City, We Had to Drown It”, Robinson discusses why the book is surprisingly optimistic, how his thoughts on the global economy influenced 2140, and how he came up with the time frame for the book.

…[T]here were two goals going on that forced me to choose the date 2140, and those two goals cut against each other. I needed to put it far enough out in the future that I could claim a little bit of physical probability to the height of the sea-level rise of 50 feet, which is quite extreme. A lot of models have it at 15 feet, though some do say 50 feet. So I did have to go out like a 120 years from now.

Cutting against that future scenario, I wanted to talk about the financial situation we’re in, this moment of late capitalism where we can’t afford the changes we need to make in order to survive because it isn’t cost effective. These economic measures need to be revised so that we pay ourselves to do the work to survive as a civilization facing climate change.

I wanted a finance novel that was heavily based on what lessons we learned — or did not learn — from the crash of 2008 and 2009. All science-fiction novels are about the future and about the present at the same time.

(14) WEBCAST. Another Spider-Man trailer will be out tomorrow – here’s a seven-second teaser for it.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Chris Gregory, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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!]