Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #7

By Chris M. Barkley:

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part Two

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Arrival (Paramount Pictures/Sony Pictures, 116 minutes) Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on the novella “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, Produced by Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde.

Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tzi Ma.

I have no doubt that some of the nominees on the BDP Long Form ballot that will probably be slam dunks:  Star Wars: Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond  and (fingers crossed) Stranger Things. I will not be nominating any of the aforementioned films because I know they have their fans and they’ll get plenty of support.

However, I will be nominating one movie I want to be on the final ballot, one that towers above all the rest: Arrival.

Arrival has the top spot on my ballot this year and in my heart as well. Based on the Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella by Ted Chiang, it is expertly brought to life on the screen by screenwriter Eric Heisserer, director Denis Villeneuve and actors Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. It was honored by the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards with multiple nominations (and winning an Oscar for Sound Editing), it also serves as a brilliant textbook example of a successful adaptation from page to cinema.

The story of linguist Louise Banks (Adams) and her encounters with the mysterious aliens whose motives she’s trying to understand is not only intriguing, it’s also moving and full of love and empathy as well. As good as the other nominees in this category are, none of them can even approach Arrival, which will be considered a classic film in EVERY sense of the word in coming decades.

Extra: Here a link to an Entertainment Weekly feature on how Denis Villeneuve and Eric Heisserer worked on the screenplay.

Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form

The Expanse – Season One (Penguin in a Parka, Approx 440 minutes, ten episodes), based on The Expanse novels by James S. A. Corey.  Written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby, Robin Veith, Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck, Jason Ning, Naren Shankar and Dan Nowak. Produced by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Lynn Raynor, Ben Cook and Dan Novak.

Starring Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Paulo Costanzo, Florence Faivre, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Frankie Adams

The Expanse is based on series of novels by James S. A. Corey, the pseudonym of two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who also produce the show as well.

Spanning for a crowded Earth and Moon, Mars, the asteroid belt and beyond, this sprawling and exciting space opera is the best sf show produced for television since the heydays of Firefly and Babylon 5. Two hundred years in the future, several fractions of humanity are struggling for control and political power in the solar system. Little do any of them know that a much larger game is being played and that humanity’s survival is hanging in the balance.

The Expanse (and other excellent shows of this length, like HBO’s Westworld) are practically advertising for a change in the WSFS rules to establish a Best Dramatic Series award. Just Sayin’, folks…

NPR’s Cosmos and Culture called The Expanse the “Best Science Fiction Show in a Decade”.

Best Related Work

William Schafer, Publisher – Subterranean Press, Burton, Michigan 48519

One of the things that I have been meaning to do over the past few years is to nominate William Schafer for a Hugo Award.

I should have done it while Subterranean Press Magazine was still being published on a regular basis. (It published its final issue in the summer of 2014). Since he cannot be nominated as an editor, I will do so in the Best Related Work category.

William Schafer does not merely reprint classics and contemporary books, he masterfully commissions and creates magnificent works of art which immediately become THE treasured collector’s item of anyone’s book collection.

I should know since I own several of his books, including the ultimate edition of Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories, The Jack Vance Treasury edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan and Project Moonbase and Others, a collection of Robert Heinlein’s teleplays based on his own works.

Here is a list of the books published by Subterranean Press in 2016, which can be viewed on the SubPress website: http://subterraneanpress.com/

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  • Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds by Alastair Reynolds
  • Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
  • DJSTURBIA by David J Schow
  • Down and Out in Purgatory by Tim Powers
  • Downfall of the Gods by K. J. Parker
  • Early Days: More Tales from the Pulp Era by Robert Silverberg
  • Eternity’s Wheel by by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves
  • Freedom of the Mask by Robert McCammon
  • Half a War by Joe Abercrombie
  • Hell’s Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale
  • Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  • Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers
  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
  • The Authentic William James by Stephen Gallagher
  • The Case of the Bleeding Wall by Joe R. Lansdale and Kasey Lansdale
  • The Days of Tao by Wesley Chu
  • The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred by Greg Egan
  • The Further Adventures of Langdon St. Ives by James P Blaylock
  • The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne
  • The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons
  • This Census-Taker by China Mieville
  • This Year’s Class Picture by Dan Simmons
  • White Night by Jim Butcher

Convincing, yes?

Best Related Work

The Fifty Year Mission: The First Twenty Five Years (June 2016) and The Next Twenty Five Years (August 2016) by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, Thomas Dunn Books and St. Martin’s Press.

Many histories have been written about Star Trek, one of the most phenomenal, influential and culturally significant television shows of the 20th century. What makes Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’ oral history of Star Trek so significant is that for the first time, nearly ALL of the participants get to tell the inside story of how the series and movies were made from their point of view.

It is breathtaking to read directly from the creators, producers, actors, writers, artists and fans on what happened and how it happened. And none of the participants, deceased or otherwise, spare any detail on the triumphs, mistakes, tragedies and screw ups that made Star Trek what it is today.

It would be a marvelous to reward Mr. Altman and Gross with a Hugo nomination for collecting these anecdotes, memories and interviews over the past thirty years to bring us the inside dope on one of our favorite indulgences…

Excerpts:

Leonard Nimoy (actor, “Mr. Spock”) I went in to see Gene at Desilu Studios and he told me that he was preparing a pilot for a science fiction series to be called “Star Trek,” that he had in mind for me to play an alien character. I figured all I had to do was keep my mouth shut and I might end up with a good job here. Gene told me that he was determined to have at least one extraterrestrial prominent on his starship. He’d like to have more, but making human actors into other life-forms was too expensive for television in those days. Pointed ears, skin color, plus some changes in eyebrows and hair style were all he felt he could afford, but he was certain that his Mr. Spock idea, properly handled and properly acted, could establish that we were in the 23rd century and that interplanetary travel was an established fact.

William Shatner Captain Kirk and I melded. It may have been only out of the technical necessity; the thrust of doing a television show every week is such that you can’t hide behind too many disguises. You’re so tired that you can’t stop to try other interpretations of a line, you can only hope that this take is good, because you’ve got five more pages to shoot. You have to rely on the hope that what you’re doing as yourself will be acceptable. Captain Kirk is me. I don’t know about the other way around.

David Gerrold (writer, “The Trouble With Tribbles”) The problems with Shatner and Nimoy really began during the first season when Saturday Review did this article about “Trek” which stated that Spock was much more interesting than Kirk, and that Spock should be captain. Well, nobody was near Shatner for days. He was furious. All of a sudden, the writers are writing all this great stuff for Spock, and Spock, who’s supposed to be a subordinate character, suddenly starts becoming the equal of Kirk.

PHILIP KAUFMAN (Writer-Director: Planet of the Titans) I still remember the night when it was getting very close. I was then writing and I stayed up all night, but I knew I had a great story. I remember how shaky I was trying to stand up from my writing table and I called Rose, my wife, and I said “I’ve got it, I really know this story,” and right then the phone rang. It was Jerry Isenberg saying the project’s been cancelled. And I said, “What do you mean?” and he said, “They said there’s no future in science fiction,” which is the greatest line: there is no future in science fiction.

Excerpted from The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years © Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, 2016

Best Novella

Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling, November 2016, Tachyon Press.

I am ashamed to admit that even though I work in a bookstore, my knowledge of the yearly offerings of short fiction is woefully inadequate. Annually, I depend on recommendation sites, word of mouth and the actual nomination lists to catch up.

BUT, this year, I have at least one recommendation: Bruce Sterling’s darkly comic novella, Pirate Utopia.

Set in a small Italian town of Fiume off the Adriatic coast after the First World War, a disparate group of artists, veterans, scientists, criminals and various political fanatics have come together to form the Free State of Carnaro which has dedicated itself to explore and exploit every form of libertine and social excess in every shape and form.

Based on a true story of a similar city that actually existed between 1920 and 1924, Sterling takes a small piece of obscure history and turned it into a brilliantly funny and by turns, grotesque piece of alternative-diesel punk history.

Among the cast of characters who are part of the action are Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor of radio), Benito Mussolini (as a newspaper editor!), Harry Houdini and H.P. Lovecraft (as American spies?), and Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels (as innocent bystanders?).  The crazy quilt of a plot is just barely on the sane side of satire and is always twisting and turning in unexpected directions. Bruce Sterling deserves a lot of credit for turning many of the tropes of the genre of its head to make the story work.

Finally, a word about the artwork; all of the marvelous and madcap illustrations in Pirate Utopia are the work of John Coulthart, who also wrote an entertaining essay about how his work in the book  was influenced by Futurist artists of the period.

There a LOT packed into this little volume and it is quite a triumph for Bruce Sterling and Tachyon Press.

Pixel Scroll 2/15/17 Do These Protocol Breeches Make My Throne Look Fat?

(1) RETURN OF INCOME. Jim C. Hines has posted the first results from his annual survey of novelist income.

Gross Income

Let’s start by looking at how much our authors made in 2016 before taxes or expenses. The total ranged from a few dollars to almost five million. Eight novelists made more than a million dollars (before taxes) in 2016.

  • I admit, I was a little surprised by this, and wondered if maybe people were exaggerating or hit an extra zero. Fortunately, the survey also asked for an identifier (name or other) and an email address for anyone who wanted to be informed of the survey results. Looking at who was reporting these numbers, I believe they’re accurate.

Average Income: $114,124

Median Income: $17,000

(I think the median is more useful than the average, here. The average is pulled up significantly by those very successful outliers.)

Much more data, sliced and diced various ways, at the post.

(2) NEW AWARD FOR PAKISTANI SF. The inaugural Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction will be given this year. The new short story award, intended to “promote science fiction and related genres of writing in Pakistan,” is named for Dr. Albus Salam, one of the pioneers of science in Pakistan.

The website’s administrator says some Pakistanis may see pirated copies of sf movies, when it comes to written sf there’s little awareness

I don’t know if science fiction as a genre even exist for Pakistani readers. When you go to book stores, you don’t find any books other than religous ones or text books needed for school curriculum. How can an average reader than get exposure to different genres of writing and specially fiction?

Eligible for the award are original, previously unpublished English-language stories of 10,000 words or less by persons residing in Pakistan, or of Pakistani birth/descent. (The complete guidelines are here.) Entries must be received by July 31.

The winner will receive a cash prize of Rs 50,000, a review by an established literary agent, a review from a professional editor, with the potential for publication by Tor.com.

The award judges for 2017 are sf writers and critics: Jeff VanderMeer, Usman Malik, and Mahvesh Murad.

(3) I LOST ON… Jeopardy! devoted a category to “Sci-Fi Books” on February 14. I only knew the $1,000 question – you’re bound to do better. (The correct reply will display if you scroll over the dollar amount.)

I didn’t get this one despite having read the damn book!

Thomas in this James Dashner sci-fi book awakens being “jerked upward like an old lift in a mine shaft”

(4) NANOWRIMO’S POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS. Tom Knighton, in an article for PJ Media headlined “Supposedly Nonpolitical Writers Group Goes Hard Left”, criticizes a message he received from NaNoWriMo .

Unfortunately, the minds behind NaNoWriMo don’t seem to appreciate what that word “apolitical” really means. How do I know?  Because of this email the Internet-based creative writing project sent to its mailing list late last week.

Dear [Name],

As a creative writing nonprofit, we’re not a political organization. We don’t endorse candidates or support any particular party. In an ideal world, we would focus only on empowering people to write.

Yet we find ourselves in a time where people’s ability to tell their stories—and even to safely exist—is at stake….

So while we are not a political organization, we feel moved to take action.

In response to the executive order, as well as any future government efforts that threaten people’s basic freedoms, we will:

Celebrate creativity over apathy, diversity over fear, and productivity over despair.

Welcome all stories and continue to make NaNoWriMo a safe space for all writers.

Advocate for the transformative power of storytelling to connect people and build a better world.

If you have concrete ideas for how we can work toward these goals (or if you have feedback about anything in this message), please share your thoughts.

That wasn’t all. Oh, no, not by any means.  They also took issue with President Trump’s desire to end the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

There are a few things about NaNoWriMo that one must consider before truly understanding the context of the above email.  First, there are no prizes for NaNoWriMo.  “Winners” are basically all who complete a book, and the prize is…well, you wrote a book.  Not insignificant considering how few people who talk about books ever finish one, but that’s about it.

Further, since it is basically an internet writers group/contest, President Trump’s executive order will have precisely zero impact on it.  None.

In short, there’s absolutely no reason for Grant Faulkner to put his name on an email about a piece of political hay that impacts his operation in no way, shape, or form.

The email is more about virtue signaling, a way to tell progressives that NaNoWriMo is with them — and screw the right-leaning members of the email list!  Of course, it’s also possible they couldn’t imagine that anyone on their list actually leans right politically.

(5) THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION. The Shimmer Program has posted Sanfeng’s “Science Fiction in China: 2016 in Review”. I found it an interesting contrast with U.S. society – people generally were happy to hear about President Obama’s tastes as an sf fan, but what if he had announced a plan to co-opt science fiction to further his policies?

SF as National Agenda

Historically, the trajectory of Chinese SF was heavily influenced by top-down political forces at times. Recently it begins to receive continuous and influential support from the governments at all levels. On the one hand, following the tradition of focusing on ‘science’ in science fiction, the government re-emphasizes SF as a useful instrument for popularizing science and improving citizen’s scientific literacy. On the other hand, due to the high popularity and penetration rate of SF media, it is conceivable that the so-called ‘SF industry’ is often adopted in governmental agenda for creative and cultural industry development.

In a central government’s paper regarding promoting citizens’ science literacy issued by State Council in February 2016, it is explicitly stipulated that the government shall support science fiction writing as part of popular science writing. More details were revealed in a later talk given by Han Qide, president of China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), announcing that CAST will set up a national award for SF and host international SF festivals. The story reached the climax when Vice Chairman Li Yuanchao attended 2016 National SF Convention held in September 2016 and gave a speech at the opening ceremony warmly encouraging SF writing.

The post also tells about the 30th anniversary Galaxy Awards, and the inaugural winners of a new set of Chinese sf awards.

At its 30th anniversary, Galaxy Awards were presented on the evening of September 8th. Best Novel was awarded to Dooms Year by He Xi. Three days later, the ceremony of 7th Chinese Nebula Awards was held in National Library of China. The top award Best Novel was awarded to Jiang Bo for Chasing the Shadows and the Lights, which is the final installment of his epic Heart of Galaxy trilogy.

A couple of new SF awards are noteworthy. First ‘Droplet Awards’, named after a powerful and terrifying alien weapon in TBP, were organized by Tecent to call for submission of SF screenplays, comics and short videos. Best Screenplay was awarded to Day after Day by Feng Zhigang and Best Comics to The Innocent City by Yuzhou Muchang. Besides, First ‘Nebula Awards for Chinese SF Films’ were presented at a ceremony held in Chengdu in August 2016. Best SF Movie was given to a 2008 children SF movie CJ7 directed by Stephen Chow. Best SF Short Film was awarded to Waterdrop, a highly praised fan film of TBP, directed and produced by Wang Ren.

The Shimmer Program has also compiled a list of works from China eligible for 2017 Hugo nominations.

(7) TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, SET A SPELL. Co-Geeking’s Erik Jensen is an American married to a Finn (Eppu) and living in the U.S. He has written a column of advice to fans going to the Worldcon this summer: “How to Helsinki: Concerning Finns”. There are quite a few do’s and don’ts, for example —

DO give people space – Finns expect a lot of it and they will give you a lot of it in return. If you’re talking to a Finn and they back away, don’t chase them. They’re probably not trying to get away from you, they’re just resetting comfortable boundaries. (See previous points.)

DO take your shoes off if you visit a private residence – so you don’t track in dirt that your host then has to clean up. Most Finnish homes have places for taking off and putting on shoes right by the front door….

…DON’T suggest getting together unless you want to make concrete plans – “We should do lunch some time” is just a casual pleasantry in the US. It’s an expression of general good will with no commitment attached. In Finland it is a commitment to future plans and Finns will expect you to follow through.

DON’T make small talk – if you’re in conversation with a Finn and feel like there’s an awkward silence, don’t try to fill it. For most Finns, silence is not awkward at all, but comfortable. The conversation will start again when someone has something to say.

And Eppu has put together an index to cultural resources published by Worldcon 75.

  • “Finland: A Very Short Guide For Your First Trip” (Facebook)
  • “Finland: An Assortment of Notes and Information” (in Progress Report 1)
  • “Finnish Fandom: Some Unique Characteristics” (in Progress Report 1)
  • “Finnish Foods and Where to Find Them” (in Progress Report 3)
  • “Hotels: Understanding the Differences between Countries” (in Progress Report 3)
  • “Non-Fandom Things to Do in Helsinki, If You Have the Time” (in Progress Report 2)
  • “Älä hätäile! Don’t Panic! A Short Guide for Pronouncing Finnish” (in Progress Report 2)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 15, 1903  — The first Teddy bear goes on sale.

Toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom’s stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution

  • February 15, 1950 — Walt Disney’s animated feature Cinderella opens in theaters across the United States.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 15, 1950 — Matt Groening, cartoonist; creator of The Simpsons.

(10) FORD’S IN HIS FLIVVER. Stephen Baxter has an op-ed in the February 11 Financial Times, “Dude, where’s my flying car?” He looks at flying cars, based on Uber’s announcement that they are launching a flying car development project.  Examining the way flying cars are portrayed in movies from Metropolis through Back To the Future and Thunderbirds Are Go, he concludes that it’s more likely that monorails and electric cabs will be the future’s preferred form of transportation and “flying cars will remain a plaything of the super-rich–and a dream (perhaps in virtual reality) for the rest of us.”

Note – you will probably hit a paywall using the direct link. I was able to access and read the article through a Google search.

(11) LITTLE BUNDLES OF JOY. And maybe not all that little, when you pop for the maximum sized bundle.

Both are limited-time offers.

(12) NEW BIMBO VERSE. Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff continues her Book View Café series with “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 8: Who Reads Reviews, Anyway?” and a story of the Analog Mafia.

They reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

They reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

The way Mark Kelly synopsized it,

I barely recognized it,

but they reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

True story. In fact, it happened repeatedly with my Analog stories….

(13) ETHICS BEYOND THE STRATOSPHERE. At Dreaming About Other Worlds, Aaron has reviewed Nobody Owns the Moon: The Ethics of Space Exploitation by Tony Milligan.

In Nobody Owns the Moon, Milligan begins his inquiry from the ground up, so to speak, starting with the fundamental question of whether space exploration itself can be ethically justified at all, specifically focusing on whether manned space exploration is justifiable. By starting at such a fundamental level, Milligan indicates that he is going to tackle the questions at hand without presuming that anything is justified. Instead, Milligan works through each issue with as few preconceptions as possible, examining both the arguments for and against the proposition being examined. This can seem frustratingly indecisive at times, because with most questions there is no clear cut answer one way or the other, because there are pros and cons to every position. The end result is that for most such questions, the answer lies in choosing which is the best of a flawed collection of alternatives, not in choosing the one that is clearly correct.

Milligan is also concerned with only dealing with questions that result from actions that are within the realm of possibility. To this end, he spends a fair amount of time examining the question of whether terraforming a planet to be more Earth-like is possible before he gets into the question of whether it is ethical. As he points out, examining a question that could never possibly come to pass is simply idle speculation. To a certain extent, almost all of the questions Milligan addresses in the book are somewhat hypothetical – no one is currently actually mining asteroids or terraforming Mars, but as he outlines in the book, they are all within the realm of reasonable possibility, and thus it is worthwhile to consider their the ethical implications.

(14) FIXING THE SCIENCE IN SCIENCE FICTION. Joe Stech, of Compelling SF, asks you to help him decide which of his guidelines to work on first.

Every so often I receive engaging story submissions that have wonderful writing and great human elements, but contain clearly implausible science. This can pull readers out of the story and potentially mar an otherwise excellent work.

I’ve been thinking about working with scientists to create a series of writer’s guides to help with this pain point, and I was hoping you could help me out by letting me know which subjects you’d find most useful in such a series. The idea is that we’d provide a general overview of the topic and then give some specific tips regarding common misconceptions that we’ve seen. If you have a moment please let me know what you think via the following survey:

A Survey About Science Fiction Writer’s Guides

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfoME88hE2nuDpuX9JZKsl9GSL-8lRYbBux2phjdwsSDtxMVg/viewform?c=0&w=1

Feel free to share the survey link with others that might have an interest.

(15) CHURCHILL’S LOST ESSAY ABOUT ALIENS. An unpublished essay by Winston Churchill about the possibility of life on other worlds is the subject of an article by Mario Livio in the latest issue of Nature. According to the BBC:

The document was uncovered in the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, by the institution’s new director Timothy Riley….

Churchill was a prolific writer: in the 1920s and 30s, he penned popular science essays on topics as diverse as evolution and fusion power. Mr Riley, director of the Churchill Museum, believes the essay on alien life was written at the former prime minister’s home in Chartwell in 1939, before World War II broke out.

It may have been informed by conversations with the wartime leader’s friend, Lindemann, who was a physicist, and might have been intended for publication in the News of the World newspaper.

It was also written soon after the 1938 US radio broadcast by Orson Welles dramatising The War of the Worlds by HG Wells. The radio programme sparked a panic when it was mistaken by some listeners for a real news report about the invasion of Earth by Martians.

Dr Livio told BBC News that there were no firm plans to publish the article because of issues surrounding the copyright. However, he said the Churchill Museum was working to resolve these.

(16) SAME BAT CHANNEL, NOT SAME BAT. Carl Slaughter sent a link to “The Evolution of Batman in Television and Film, 1943 – 2016.”

(17) THE GOOD STUFF. Aliette de Bodard has put up her awards eligibility and recommendations post.

I feel like I should start with the usual call to action/disclaimer: if you’re eligible to vote for any of the awards (Nebulas/Hugos/etc.), then please do so, even if you felt you haven’t read enough. It’s a big field and few people can claim to have read everything that came out last year–and generally the people who recuse themselves from voting tend to be marginalised folks, which skews ballots. So please please vote?

Here is an excerpt from her recommendations.

Novelettes

I enjoyed Fran Wilde’s JEWEL AND HER LAPIDARY: set in a universe where gems hold magic but can drive people mad, JEWEL concerns itself with the fall of that kingdom, and the desperate straits in which it leaves its princess and her companion. This is a heart wrenching tale of power, friendship, and two women’s struggle to survive.

Marjorie Liu’s “The Briar and the Rose” (which I suspect is a novelette, from Navah Wolfe’s and Dominik Parisien’s The Starlit Wood) is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty with a twist: a swordswoman falls in love with Rose–but Rose is only herself one day of the week, when the witch who occupies her body has to rest… I loved the characters and their relationship, and the quest undertaken by the swordswoman to free Rose.

Alyssa Wong’s “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay”: a weird Western with a lovely friendship at its core, a tale of the desert, magic, belonging, and the weight of the dead. Definitely sticks in the mind.

Christopher Kastensmidt’s Elephant and Macaw Banner is sword and muskets set in colonial Brazil, following the adventures of Gerard van Oost and Oludara in a land filled with strange creatures. It’s a series of linked novelettes (with gorgeous cover art), and it’s great fun. Two volumes came out last year: A Torrential Complication and A Tumultuous Convergence.

(18) SIRI. In “The Voice (Siri)–a 48 hr film” on Vimeo, Yonatan Tal imagines what Siri would do if confronted with too many inane questions, including knock-knock jokes and “Where can I get some drugs?”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Steven H Silver, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Joe H., Peter J, John M. Cowan, John King Tarpinian, Aaron, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dawn Incognito.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/16 If You Pixel Us, Do We Not Recommend? If You Scroll Us, Do We Not Read?

(1) NO MCKELLEN AUTOBIO AFTER ALL. In The Hollywood Reporter, “Ian McKellen Explains Why he Returned $1.4M Memoir Advance”.

“It was a bit painful — I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.”

The world isn’t going to get to read Sir Ian McKellen’s autobiography.

Last year it emerged that the celebrated and Oscar-nominated thespian would be penning his own memoir in a deal with publishers Hodder & Stoughton reported to be worth £1 million ($1.4 million). But earlier this month the 76-year-old stage and screen icon revealed that he’d pulled the plug on the contract.

(2) OVERFLOWING WITH VERSE. Poems that Make Grown Women Cry edited by Anthony and Ben Holden gets a plug at Book View Café . One of the contributors, Ursula K. Le Guin, explains her choice of a poem in the collection:

I chose Robinson Jeffers’ “Hurt Hawks” because it always makes me cry. I’ve never yet got through the last lines without choking up. Jeffers is an uneven poet, and this is an uneven pair of poems, intemperate and unreasonable. Jeffers casts off humanity too easily. But he was himself a kind of maimed, hurt hawk, and his identification with the birds is true compassion. He builds pain unendurably so that we can know release.

(3) KUZNIA MOVES UP. ”Job Moves” at Publishers Weekly reports “Yanni Kuznia, previously director of production, is being promoted to managing editor and COO at Subterranean Press.” SF Signal did an interview with Kuznia last year when she was still Director of Production.

AJ:  Subterranean Press has a pretty small staff, so everyone wears multiple hats. Can you tell us a little about what you do at Subterranean? What is a typical work week like for you?

YK: As Director of Production, it’s my job to keep titles moving through the production machine. I need to make sure every book is proofed, art is commissioned, signature sheets are designed and signed, ARCs are ordered and sent out, authors receive and return page proofs, and that everything is reviewed one last time before we go to press. Of course, I have help doing all of this. I have two wonderful people, Geralyn Lance and Kyle Brandon, who work under me in Production, overseeing the day-to-day of several titles each. We talk continuously throughout the process to make sure every milestone is hit on time.

(4) FAITH. Deborah J. Ross at Book View Café finds three ways out for writers forced to deal with their “Original Vision vs. Compromising With the Market”. Number two is – go indie.

If you believe in your work, how can you be sure but this is not infatuation with your own words but that your work truly is of high quality? Every writer I know goes through spasms of self-doubt. Writing requires a bizarre combination of megalomania and crushing self-doubt. We need the confidence to follow our flights of fancy, and at the same time, we need to regard our creations with a critical eye. Trusted readers, including workshops like Clarion and Clarion West, critique groups, fearless peers, and freelance editors can give us invaluable feedback on whether our work really is as good as we think it might be. Of course, they can be wrong. It may be that what we are trying to do falls so far outside conventional parameters that only we can judge its value. It may also be that we see on the page not what is actually there but what we imagined and hoped.

Assuming that we are writing from our hearts and that the product of our creative labors is indeed extraordinary, what are we to do when faced with closed doors and regretful rejection letters? As discouraging as this situation seems, we do have choices. We writers are no longer solely dependent upon traditional publishers. We live in an era where writers can become publishers, and can produce excellent quality books, both in digital form and Print On Demand.

However, not all of us are cut out to format, publish, and market our work. All of these activities require time in which to acquire skills and time to actually perform them. That’s time we have lost for writing. While becoming your own publisher is a valid choice, it is not right for everyone. Some of us would much rather write in the next book.

(5) YURI’S NIGHT WORLD SPACE PARTY IN SAN DIEGO. Down in San Diego on April 9, Yuri’s Night celebrations will include a movie will include an sf movie showing. They’ll show Contact free at 7:00 p.m. in Studio 106 (San Diego Reader Building, 2323 Broadway, 92102).

Astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway has long been interested in contact to faraway lands, a love fostered in her childhood by her father, Ted Arroway, who passed away when she was nine years old leaving her then orphaned. Her current work in monitoring for extraterrestrial life is based on that love and is in part an homage to her father. Ever since funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was pulled on her work, which is referred to some, including her NSF superior David Drumlin, as more science fiction than science, Ellie, with a few of her rogue scientist colleagues, have looked for funding from where ever they could get it to continue their work. When Ellie and her colleagues hear chatter originating from the vicinity of the star Vega, Ellie feels vindicated. But that vindication is short lived when others, including politicians, the military, religious leaders and other scientists such as Drumlin, try to take over her work.

Although it is free, please RSVP as seating is limited.

(6) GUESS WHO? The website for Innominate (“The Con with no name!”) is up.

Innominate is the 2017 Eastercon, the British National Science Fiction Convention. Eastercon’s have been held over the Easter weekend every year since 1955 and is a regular gathering place for science fiction fans from around the UK and elsewhere to celebrate the genre in all of its formats.

Eastercons stand in a long tradition which we intend to celebrate, while aiming to bring in new elements too. The convention will cover books, film, television, art and costume and the programme will include talks, discussions, exhibits, workshops and other entertainment.

(7) FIREFLY LESSONS. Tom Knighton points out what businesses can learn from his favorite TV series in “Loyalty, Firefly, and Captain Mal”.

From a management perspective, Mal may be an ideal leader to emulate.  Oh sure, there are others out there.  Real life examples exist.  I’ve been blessed to work with someone like that myself, but not everyone is exposed to that.  However, anyone can pop in a DVD and watch Mal and learn.

So why is Mal so ideal?

First, he is a hands-on leader.  In the pilot episode, Mal and Jayne are moving crates of their ill-gotten gains, stashing them where prying eyes won’t see.  He doesn’t relegate the task to anyone else, but instead works just as hard as his crew does.  When they don’t eat, he doesn’t eat.  When they work, he works.

This firmly establishes his belief that he’s not better than anyone, despite being captain.  Yes, he issues orders, but because he’s shown that he’ll do anything he asks others to do, his orders are followed.

Second, his top-down loyalty.  Mal doesn’t have to like a member of his crew to be loyal.  He doesn’t care for Simon, not in the least.  It’s obvious to everyone, especially Simon. However, he refused to leave a member of his crew behind, regardless of his personal feelings about the man.

(8) OTTO BINDER BIO. Bill Schelly’s Otto Binder, The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is coming back into print June 7 from North Atlantic Books (paperback, 320 pages, $19.95.) It has 28 new images, of which 14 are new photographs.

Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary chronicles the career of Otto Binder, from pulp magazine author to writer of Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and Superman comics. As the originator of the first sentient robot in literature (“I, Robot,” published in Amazing Stories in 1939 and predating Isaac Asimov’s collection of the same name), Binder’s effect on science fiction was profound. Within the world of comic books, he created or co-created much of the Superman universe, including Smallville; Krypto, Superboy’s dog; Supergirl; and the villain Braniac. Binder is also credited with writing many of the first “Bizarro” storylines for DC Comics, as well as for being the main writer for the Captain Marvel comics. In later years, Binder expanded from comic books into pure science writing, publishing dozens of books and articles on the subject of satellites and space travel as well as UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Comic book historian Bill Schelly tells the tale of Otto Binder through comic panels, personal letters, and interviews with Binder’s own family and friends. Schelly weaves together Binder’s professional successes and personal tragedies, including the death of Binder’s only daughter and his wife’s struggle with mental illness. A touching and human story, Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is a biography that is both meticulously researched and beautifully told, keeping alive Binder’s spirit of scientific curiosity and whimsy.

(9) PENNED BY C. S. LEWIS. There are a couple dozen entries on Brenton Dickieson’s list of “Photographic Plates of C.S. Lewis’ Manuscripts and Letters”, and several illustrate the post.

A reader suggested I add to my collection of previously unpublished C.S. Lewis manuscripts (“The Lost-But-Found Works of C.S. Lewis“) by providing a list of manuscripts that show up in photographic plates in books and journals. I know that most of these are published by now, but this list is valuable for people who want to get to know C.S. Lewis’ handwriting.

(10) RACHEL SWIRSKY INTERVIEWS FRAN WILDE. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly Interview with Fran Wilde, expert on man-made wings”.

3. Have you ever done skydiving or hang gliding or anything similar?

I haven’t! I’m a sailor. I have relatives who hang-glide, and I spent a lot of my childhood watching storms roll in on the cliffs of the Chesapeake Bay (it gets really windy), but in order to do the research for UPDRAFT, I wanted to feel the physics of being in a wind tunnel, and I wanted to make sure I was writing a flying book, not a sailing book turned sideways. So I went indoor skydiving, which was a hoot. And very spinny.

The wings in the book aren’t hang-gliding wings, they’re more like a cross between furlable wings and wing-suit wings, so I also watched a lot of wingsuit fliers on long-flights and also doing particularly dangerous things like flying through canyons. I researched about 2,000 years of man-made wings in history, and talked a lot with engineers who understand the physics of foils – aka: wings.

(11) YA REVIEWS YA. My favorite YA reader, Sierra Glyer, added a review of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas to her blog.

…It is about a 18 year old assassin named Celaena Sardothien. She is the most feared assassin on the continent but one day she gets caught. After she gets caught she is sent to a slave camp and this is where the book starts….

(12) WEIST ESTATE AUCTION. The catalog for this year’s Jerry Weist estate auction (to be held at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention April 22-24, 2016) is now available. Over 4,000 pulps, dime novels, men’s adventure magazines and other magazines. Here’s a link to the catalog  (19 pages).

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 5, 1908 – Bette Davis

Bette David fountain

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 5, 1916 — Gregory Peck. Among his many roles: Ahab in John Huston’s Moby Dick, scripted by Ray Bradbury.

Gregory Peck Moby Dick

  • Born April 5, 1933 — Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler on Batman and the bigoted half-whiteface, half-blackface alien Bele on an episode of Star Trek.

(15) THREE-BODY. Ethan Mills tackles the “Wobbly Relations of Past, Present, and Future: The Three-Body problem by Liu Cixin (Translated by Ken Liu) at Examined Worlds.

The Philosophy Report: Is Nature Uniform?  What to Expect from ETs?

Philosophy is mentioned several times, including the Chinese philosopher, Mozi, and the German philosopher, Leibniz, who are both characters in the game.  Aside from such small connections, two major issues are the uniformity of nature and the reaction to extraterrestrial intelligence.

In philosophy of science (and regular life for that matter) we all rely on what some philosophers have called the principle of the uniformity of nature.  This is usually discussed in (constant) conjunction with David Hume’s problem of induction.  Could we live as successfully in the world as we do, could we do science, if the laws of nature were not in some sense uniform across time and space?  If the laws of nature varied over time or between countries or planets, could we really get around?  Could we do science?  Or — closer to Hume’s point — whether this principle is really true or not, should we believe it?  Could we stop believing it even if it turned out to be unjustified?

But what if we had lived on a planet where as far as we could tell the laws of nature do sometimes change, where things are never the same over time, could we have evolved as we did and could we have developed science?  Those are some of the intriguing questions raised in The Three-Body Problem.

(16) HEARING MCCARTHY. TC McCarthy is not alone in his opinion:

(17) GETTING THE CAMEL’S NOSE UNDER THE TENT. A list of “11 sci-fi and fantasy books for people who don’t like sci-fi and fantasy” at Minnesota Public Radio News.

Sci-fi picks for people who don’t like sci-fi

So, you think you don’t like sci-fi. What turned you off?

Long descriptions of space ships and their alternative fuels? Too many alien names to keep straight? Just not into “nerd” stuff? Send your stereotypes packing to Planet Zurlong for a minute, and try one of these books that may offer you a new perspective on the genre.

For the record, most of these fall into the category of “soft” science fiction. “Hard” science fiction revels in technical details, whereas soft is not as focused on the specificity of its futuristic elements. Consider this a “soft landing” on your genre dive.

(But yes, sometimes descriptions of space ships can be fascinating.)

1) “The Wool Omnibus” by Hugh Howey

When Howey’s work first caught critics’ eyes in 2012, it was dubbed the “sci-fi version of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.'” That comparison is purely about how the book was published, not about the quantity of whips or handcuffs in it. Like “Shades,” it took off as a self-published Internet phenomenon.

Howey posted the first 60 pages of “The Wool Omnibus” online as a standalone short story in 2011, but within a year, that turned into a 500-plus page project that topped bestseller lists. The books take place in the Silo, a post-apocalyptic city built more than a hundred stories underground.

(18) DANIEL RADCLIFFE RETURNS. Swiss Army Man will be in theaters June 17.

There are 7 billion people on the planet. You might be lucky enough to bump into the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

 

(19) BFG OFFICIAL UK TRAILER 2.

From Director Steven Spielberg, “The BFG” is the exciting tale of a young London girl and the mysterious Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl, “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) was published in 1982 and has been enchanting readers of all ages ever since.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor ULTRAGOTHA.]

Scalzi Book Bundle Raises Money For Nonprofit Group

Subterranean Press is offering a Scalzi Super Bundle ebook of a dozen works, which includes a previously unpublished story related to Redshirts, and “Lock In, Lost Chapters,” both available nowhere else. The complete contents of the collection are —

  • To Sue the World (an original, very short Redshirts story)
  • Muse of Fire
  • Mallet of Loving Correction
  • Lock In, Lost Chapters
  • How I Proposed To My Wife: An Alien Sex Story
  • An Election
  • Judge Sn Goes Golfing
  • Questions for a Soldier
  • The Sagan Diary
  • The Tale of the Wicked
  • The God Engines
  • You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop

The ebook sells for $8.99, with all the proceeds going to a local fencing non-profit supported by Subterranean.

Tim Powers Unlocks The Anubis Gates

Nobodys_Home_by_Tim_Powers_200_323Nobody’s Home by Tim Powers returns to the 19th century London warrens of The Anubis Gates and features one of the novel’s characters. His new 80-page story has just been sent to the printer by Subterranean Press and is expected to ship around year-end.

This is the first time Powers has revisited the world of his time travel novel, a book whose sustained popularity inspired a stage production at this year’s Worldcon.

Tracking the murderer of her fiancee through 19th century London’s darkest warrens, Jacky Snapp has disguised herself as a boy—but the disguise fails when, trying to save a girl from the ghost of her jealous husband, Jacky finds that she has made herself visible to the ghosts that cluster around the Thames–

—And one of them is the ghost of her fiancee, who was poisoned and physically transformed by his murderer but unwittingly shot dead by Jacky herself.
 
Jacky and the girl she rescued, united in the need to banish their pursuing ghosts, learn that their only hope is to flee upriver to the barge known as Nobody’s Home—where the exorcist whose name is Nobody charges an intolerable price.

There’s a lengthy excerpt on the publisher’s website that shows Powers’ gift for fantastic and forbidding prose:

Midnight was long past, and the London streets were quiet except for the occasional rattle of a carriage and horses, or a distant bell from out on the river. Jacky had spent the evening tracking down a beggar who was rumored to have fur growing all over him like an ape, but when she had cornered the man in the basement of an old pub off Fleet Street, her hand tense on the flintlock pistol under her coat, he had turned out to be only a very hairy old fellow with a prodigious beard—not the half-legendary man she had devoted her life to finding and killing.

J. K. Potter has copiously illustrated the book, which is printed in two colors throughout.

Nobodys_Home_by_Tim_Powers_Interior_One

Subterranean Issues Ellison Chapbook

Lil_Harlan_and_his_Sidekick_Carl_the_Comet_in_Danger_Land_200_309Subterranean Press is taking pre-orders for Harlan Ellison’s new 24-page chapbook Li’l Harlan and his Sidekick Carl the Comet in Dangerland.

The Edgeworks Abbey production is illustrated by the inimitable Gahan Wilson and sells for $15.

Says Harlan —

It is one of my very best almost-unbelievable anecdotes of me, Li’l Harlan, with the iconic, famous, magnificent Carl Sagan of COSMOS, in the early ’80s.

Then Harlan adds this message to his fans —

And, if it’s not presuming too much on you, would you mind tweetfartingfacewhatever this advisement to your thousands of slavering followers, each of you…on any and all mediums you infest? I only LOVE this little gem, and the late Carl Sagan thanks you, too.

I’m happy to do this little favor although if any of you are actually slavering please reach for a napkin.

Ornament To The Profession

NOS4A2_by_Joe_Hill_Slipcase_IllustrationSubterranean Press has produced a Limited Edition slipcase for Joe Hill’s NOS4A2. It features a Gabriel Rodriguez illustration foil stamped on the outside.

Gabe Rodriguez asked what we’d like for the image.

 “Charlie Manx,” I said.

“A Christmas Tree,” was Joe Hill’s just as quick reply.

So what they got was a design for a Christmas ornament “that would proudly hang on any tree in Christmasland, Charlie’s seriously skewed home base.”

Just how long would it take a tree to wither once that was hung on one of its branches?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Scalzi Supersizes “Big Idea”

“Big Idea,” a regular feature on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog, has proven so successful that it’s getting a whole new platform of its own, reported GalleyCat on February 11.

BigIdeaAuthors.com will debut April 20, 2009. A preview tells visitors that in these “Big Idea” pieces,

…authors explain in a short essay a major or motivating idea for their latest works.

BigIdeaAuthors.com will use that idea as the cornerstone of an online literary site designed to inform readers about new books, entertain them through author essays, appearances and interviews, and motivate them to buy new books and discuss them with friends and acquaintances.

Of course, the best place to get news about Scalzi is from Scalzi. GalleyCat also interviewed him about the project:

Scalzi was quick to note the decline of book coverage in the mainstream media in recent years. “As an author, that concerns me,” he acknowledged. “As a person who wants to tell people about books, it concerns me… [Newspapers] are cutting back on the things that their readers actually want to see, and it’s stupid.”

The new site’s leadership team is Publisher William Schafer, of Subterranean Press, Executive Editor John Scalzi, and Editor Yanni Kuznia, Director of Production at Subterranean Press.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]