A Proposal to Re-Name the Young Adult Book Award at Worldcon 76

By Chris M. Barkley

“When the mind is free, magic happens.”
— Young Adult author C.G. Rousing

“Harry Potter” blew the roof off of children’s literature. But that doesn’t mean the work is done — for YA authors, it just means more scope for the imagination.”
Huffington Post reporter Claire Fallon, June 2017

Reading is one of the great pleasures in life. For a time in our modern age, it is seems as though young grade and high school kids had abandoned reading books.

Then, in 1997, along came J.K. Rowling and her creation, the world of Harry Potter. And now, after twenty-one years, it’s hard to imagine what might have happened to entire generation of young readers if Bloomsbury and Scholastic Books hadn’t taken a chance on the saga of a young wizard and his friends and deadly enemies.

The Harry Potter novels, which continue to sell, provided a mighty tide that raised the fortunes of a great many writers; new authors such as Suzanne Collins, Garth Nix, Veronica Roth, Rick Riordan and Tamora Pierce, led story hungry children to the older works of seasoned professionals like Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Madeline L’Engle, Ursula K. Le Guin and Robert A. Heinlein.

In 2006, The Science Fiction and Fantasy writers of America created the Andre Norton Award, which is given to the author of the best young adult or middle grade science fiction or fantasy work published in the United States in the preceding year.

Five years later, a serious effort was started to establish a Hugo Award for young adult books. The World Science Fiction Convention Business Meeting, which governs the WSFS Constitution that administers the Hugo Awards, several committees over several years, determined that the proposed award would better be served as a separate category, to be on par with the other non-Hugo category, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

The amendment to add the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book to the WSFS Constitution was first ratified last summer at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland by the members of the Business Meeting and must be ratified a second time at this year’s Worldcon in San Jose, California to begin it’s official trial run as a category.

This year’s Worldcon Convention Committee (headed by Kevin Roche) has graciously accepted to administer the Young Adult Book award in addition to the new Best Series and Campbell Awards.

The nomination period for the Hugos, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer opened February 5.

We, the undersigned, wish to congratulate the various YA Committee for reaching a consensus with their diligent work in crafting the parameters of the YA Award for the World Science Fiction Convention. However, we also think that the name of this new award should have a name which not only should be universally recognizable, but have an equivalent weight to the name of John W. Campbell, Jr.

We, the undersigned, will respectfully submit a new name for the Young Adult Book Award at the Preliminary Session of the Worldcon 76 Business Meeting on August 17, 2018 as a strike though substitution for the name ‘Lodestar’, under the rules governing the WSFS Business Meeting.

We will also embargo the name until the start of the Preliminary Session.

There is very good reason why the name will not be revealed at this time and that explanation will also be given at that time.

While we also understand that while this motion may cause a great deal of consternation, we also feel that this would be an excellent opportunity to generate a great deal of interest about the Worldcon and bring MORE attention to this new award to potential nominators, readers of all ages, booksellers and the public at large.

The proposed name will forever be known and honored in perpetuity with the Hugo Awards, the John W. Campbell Award, and the World Science Fiction Convention.

Proposed by Worldcon 76 Attending Members:
Juli Marr
Robert J. Sawyer
Steven H. Silver
Chris M. Barkley

Update 03/07/2018: Removed Melinda Snodgrass and Juliette Wade as signers. Also removed Vincent Docherty, who said in a comment his name was included in error, he never was a signer. // Subsequently, Shawna McCarthy and Pablo Vasquez have asked to have their names removed.

Pixel Scroll 12/18/17 Scrolls For Industry! Scrolls For The Undead!

(1) CADIGAN NEWS. Congratulations to Pat Cadigan who told her Facebook followers today:

I am now allowed to say that I am writing both the novelisation for the forthcoming movie Alita: Battle Angel as well as the prequel novel, Iron City.

And this is why I’m in Deadline Hell.

That is all.

(2) STAR PEACE CORPS. In  “Star Wars Without the Empire”, Camestros Felapton conducts an awesome thought experiment inspired by Paul Weimer’s tweet.

In post-war Germany, a version of Casablanca was produced, re-edited and with a new script for the dubbing, that had no Nazis in it. As you can imagine, given the role Nazis play in the plot, they had to do a lot of work.

I was wondering if you could do the same to Star Wars Episode 4 – remove the Empire…

Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: A New Hope

A spaceship has broken down. Princess Leia finds a robot on the ship and gives it something. The robot (R2D2) finds an escape pod with its friend (C3PO). They leave the ship. We don’t see the ship again. It probably had engine trouble or something. Maybe the robots have gone off to get some fuel from a service station.

The robots land in a desert. After an argument, they split up. Later they each get caught by tiny people.

Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker is unhappy being a farmer and living with his uncle. He’d rather be…doing something else I suppose.

(3) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. The Vintage Paperback Show returns to Glendale, CA on March 18.

(4) ROBOT ON PATROL. Tech Crunch reports “Security robots are being used to ward off San Francisco’s homeless population”:

Is it worse if a robot instead of a human is used to deter the homeless from setting up camp outside places of business?

One such bot cop recently took over the outside of the San Francisco SPCA, an animal advocacy and pet adoption clinic in the city’s Mission district, to deter homeless people from hanging out there — causing some people to get very upset.

The article quotes this tweet from Brianna Wu:

The SPCA deployed a robot from security startup Knightscope to deter crime and vandalism on their campus.

And, according to both the S.F. SPCA and Knightscope, crime dropped after deploying the bot.

However, the K9 unit was patrolling several areas around the shop, including the sidewalk where humans walk, drawing the ire of pedestrians and advocacy group Walk SF, which previously introduced a bill to ban food delivery robots throughout the city.

“We’re seeing more types of robots on sidewalks and want to see the city getting ahead of this,” said Cathy DeLuca, Walk SF policy and program director, who also mentioned S.F. district 7 supervisor Norman Yee would be introducing legislation around sidewalk use permits for robots in the beginning of 2018.

Last week the city ordered the S.F. SPCA to stop using these security robots altogether or face a fine of $1,000 per day for operating in a public right of way without a permit.

The S.F. SPCA says it has since removed the robot and is working through a permitting process. It has already seen “two acts of vandalism” since the robot’s removal.

(5) THE DIAGNOSIS. Ted Chiang says “The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism” in an article for Buzzfeed.

Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems harmless enough, but as the AI redesigns itself to be more effective, it might decide that the best way to maximize its output would be to destroy civilization and convert the entire surface of the Earth into strawberry fields. Thus, in its pursuit of a seemingly innocuous goal, an AI could bring about the extinction of humanity purely as an unintended side effect.

This scenario sounds absurd to most people, yet there are a surprising number of technologists who think it illustrates a real danger. Why? Perhaps it’s because they’re already accustomed to entities that operate this way: Silicon Valley tech companies.

(6) CHEERS AND BOOS. Fanac.org has posted a 36-minute video of Robert A. Heinlein’s guest of honor speech at the 1976 Worldcon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976, with Robert A. Heinlein as Guest of Honor. With a warm introduction by Bob Tucker, this sometimes uncomfortable speech touches on Heinlein’s belief in the inevitability of atomic war and his belief that mankind will go to the stars. There are comments on Russia and China, the role of men, and more than a few very bad jokes. You will hear applause and you can hear disapproving boos. If you are one of “Heinlein’s Children”, or simply a reader of classic SF, this video is a rare opportunity to hear that legendary figure.

(More background about the booing is here.)

(7) UNCANNY DINOSAUR ISSUE. The submission window opens in March – read the pitch and complete details here: “Uncanny Magazine Dinosaur Special Issue Guidelines”.

As you may know if you followed the Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter, Uncanny Magazine Issue 23 will be a Special Shared-Universe Dinosaur Issue! The planned solicited contributors are:

Do you want to join them? One of the stretch goals was adding two extra unsolicited stories to the issue! We will be open to submissions from March 1- March 15, 2018.

(8) CAPITOL TBR. Former congressman Steve Israel profiles members of Congress in the Washington Post about their favorite books of the year and found Rep. Ted Lieu of California enjoying the Nebula Awards anthology and Rep.Adam Schiff of California reading Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series — “A former congressman asked his old colleagues for book suggestions. Here’s their list.”

(9) TROLLING FOR CLICKS. At NBC News, Noah Berlatsky asks “Is Star Wars’ ‘The Last Jedi’ science fiction? It’s time to settle this age-old argument”. Will anybody take my bet that the argument will not be settled by his op-ed? Or maybe it will, by a kind of cinematic force majeure.

To figure out whether Star Wars is science fiction, you first need to figure out how to define the term — which is harder than you might think. Genres are notoriously difficult to pin down, which is why they spark so many arguments. Some country fans protested loudly when Beyoncé appeared at the Country Music Awards because she (supposedly) was not a country artist. Some critics similarly argued that Bob Dylan’s lyrics are not literature, though the Nobel committee disagreed.

Genre is a marker of quality and belonging, of seriousness and community. Science fiction in particular is often seen as more important or serious than fantasy, so it’s no wonder that there’s been some struggle over how to place the films. George Lucas himself declared that “Star Wars isn’t a science-fiction film, it’s a fantasy film and a space opera” in 2015. Others have also waded in over the years; Annalee Newitz included Star Wars in a list of 10 science-fiction works that are really fantasy at io9, while author Brian Clegg says Star Wars is only “low-grade science-fiction” — it’s not quite real science-fiction, so it’s not high quality.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 18, 1957 The Monolith Monsters premiered.
  • December 18, 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens in New York City.
  • December 18, 1985 — Terry Gilliam’s Brazil! was released.
  • December 18, 1996 — Wes Craven’s Scream hits theaters, and a Halloween mask was born.
  • December 18, 2009 – Director James Cameron’s Avatar premiered.
  • December 18, 2013Forbidden Planet (1956) is selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

(11) TODAY’S  BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock
  • Born December 18, 1941 – Jack Haldeman
  • Born December 18, 1946  — Steven Spielberg
  • Born December 18 — Steve Davidson

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy overheard Dilbert talking about a zombie apocalypse.

(13) I HAVE A LITTLE LIST. SyFy Wire’s Swapna Krishna names these as “The 10 best sci-fi and fantasy books of 2017”. People get upset if I say I haven’t heard of all the books on a “best” list, so let me say I have heard of many of these.

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS 2014. Everyone has their own way of celebrating the holidays. John King Tarpinian’s traditions include rewatching Thug Notes’ analysis of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

(15) THE BIG BUCKS. Speaking of stacks of cheddar — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes $450m on opening weekend”.

The movie dwarfed its nearest rival – the computer-animated comedy Ferdinand, which took $13m (£10m).

The total for The Last Jedi includes $220m (£165m) from box offices in the US and Canada, placing the film second in the all-time list for North America.

It trails behind the 2015 release Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opened with a record-breaking $248m (£185m).

(16) BREATHLESS TAKE. Chuck Wendig launches his review with a long stretch of onomatopoeia: “The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking”. And how often do you get a chance to use that word?

This will be less a review of The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) than it will be… my thoughts? An analysis? Me opening my head like a flip-top Pac-Men and seeing what globs of brain-goo I can grab and hastily smack into the screen?

Spoilers follow the noises, Wendig warns.

(17) WHAT’S BREWING IN SHORT FICTION. Nerds of a Feather’s Charles Payseur serves “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 11/2017”.

So please, take seat. The flavors on tap this month are perfect for those looking to unwind by the fire, to shed a tear for those who have not made it this far, and to reaffirm a commitment to pushing forward, into a future that is not mired by the same harms and dangers as the past. Each pint today comes with a special side of memories and a tendril of shadow creeping just out of view. The only remedy is to drink deep, and share the moment with those you care about, and look for ways to escape the familiar cycles of hate, loss, and fear—together….

Tasting Flight – November 2017

“An Unexpected Boon” by S.B. Divya (Apex)

Notes: Pouring a dark brown rimmed with gold, the first sip is deep, subtle and smoky like dreams burning, only to reveal newer, sweeter tones underneath, a future still bright despite loss and danger.

Pairs with: Honey Bock

Review: Kalyani is a young (probably autistic) girl who experiences the world quite differently from the rest of her family. It’s something that Aruni, her older brother, finds quite difficult to handle, especially when his parents have left him in charge while they are away. For Kalyani, though, it’s the rest of the world that doesn’t make as much sense, that overflows with threats and dangers…

(18) ON STAGE. It’s live! “The Twilight Zone returns to spook theatergoers”.

In 1959, a groundbreaking TV series began in the USA. The Twilight Zone came to be regarded as a classic of science fiction for the small screen. Now the Almeida Theatre in London is taking eight episodes to make a Twilight Zone for the stage.

(19) YA. A dystopia? Why, that’s just another day in a teenaged life: “Why Teens Find The End Of The World So Appealing”.

“The hallmark of moving from childhood to adulthood is that you start to recognize that things aren’t black and white,” says Ostenson “and there’s a whole bunch of ethical grey area out there.”

Which makes dystopian fiction perfect for the developing adolescent brain, says Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University.

“Their brains are very responsive to emotionally arousing stimuli,” he explains. During this time, there are so many new emotions and they are much stronger than those kids experienced when they were younger.

“When teenagers feel sad, what they often do it put themselves in situations where they feel even sadder,” Steinberg says. They listen to sad music — think emo! — they watch melodramatic TV shows. So dystopian novels fit right in, they have all that sadness plus big, emotional ideas: justice, fairness, loyalty and mortality.

This time in a kid’s life is often defined by acting out, but, Steinberg says, that’s a misguided interpretation of what’s happening. “It isn’t so much rebellion, but it is questioning.”

(20) BAD AIR. I remember breathing this stuff at the 2015 Worldcon: “California fires: Sentinel satellite tracks wildfire smoke plume”.

Europe’s new Sentinel-5P satellite has captured a dramatic image of the smoke billowing away from the devastating California wildfires.

It is a powerful demonstration of 5P’s ability to sense the atmosphere.

The plume is seen to sweep westwards out over the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles and then turn north towards the State of Oregon.

(21) JDA. Jon Del Arroz shares his vision of the controversies he’s engaged in this year with BayCon, Scalzi, Cat Rambo, Chuck Wendig, and some guy who scrolls pixels in “It’s Better To Be My Friend #JDAYourFriend”.

…Where they all screwed up, is that I’m a competent writer who works hard. I’m a competent businessman who markets hard. I don’t take my ball and go home and I’m not deterred from speaking the truth by some threats or someone’s bully pulpit.

And now I’ve got a platform. It’s one a lot of people read on a daily basis. It’s only going to grow bigger in 2018. I’m a well-respected journalist, I’m a multiple-award nominated author with an avid readership. I’m winning. Readers and audiences like winners. Yet not one of these people has come forward and said “you know what, Jon, I shouldn’t have attacked you, let’s be friends.”

(22) TO SMELL THE TRUTH. Hugo-winning editor Gordon Van Gelder had a famous father, Dr. Richard Van Gelder, who tried to stump the panelists on the episode of game show To Tell The Truth aired March 13, 1961. The chairman of the Department of Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, Van Gelder pere was specially touted as an expert on skunks. The real Van Gelder and two impostors appear at 17:00, and the truth is told right after the 23:00 mark.

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

YA Award Passes

The proposed YA Award (unnamed) passed 65-27 at the Worldcon 75 business meeting on August 11.

A motion to name the YA Award the “Lodestar” also passed, subject to ratification next year.

However, there was also a ruling that the name cannot be retroactive. So for the first year it will run as simply the YA Award.

Coverage of the business meeting debates can be found on Alex Acks’ blog, and a concise summary of today’s progress through the agenda has been reported by Kevin Standlee.

Worldcon’s YA Award Study Committee Releases Report

Next month in Helsinki the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting will vote on whether to ratify an award to honor the best Young Adult book of the year. The motion gained initial passage in 2016. A second favorable vote will make it an official part of the convention’s annual activities.

In advance of the business meeting, the YA Award Committee has published its report on the Worldcon 75 website: http://www.worldcon.fi/files/YA_Award_Full_Report.pdf

The proposal was passed in 2016 without choosing a name for the award. After canvassing the public and discussing ideas internally, the committee is recommending that it be called the Lodestar Award.

From lode (“journey, course, guide”) + star; a Lodestar is a star that guides or leads, especially in navigation, where it is the sole reliable source of light—the star that leads those in uncharted waters to safety. The guiding star frequently appears in speculative fiction and is tied to the notion of the hero’s quest. While it evokes stargazers and adventurers, it also calls to mind distant galaxies and travel through space. It therefore applies to both Fantasy and Science Fiction, is international in scope, and has symbolism that is cross-generational.

The Business Meeting will have to decide if approving an award name is permissible this year, or requires its own motion and ratifying vote. If the award is ratified without a nickname being approved, it is expected to begin life as simply the “YA Award” given by the Worldcon. The YA Award is not a Hugo, but would be voted on by Worldcon members at the same time that they vote on the Hugos and Campbell Award.

Among those who participated in the public survey, 52% wanted the YA Award named for a person, but 48% did not. The report says the committee also found this question “tricky and contentious” and a section is devoted to outlining the arguments for and against:

Arguments for Using Personal Names

– A person’s name recalls the history of SFF literature

– The Hugo/Campbell Awards are themselves named after editors

– Celebrates professionals who influenced current Worldcon readers/writers

– 52% of the respondents said they would prefer the award to be named after a person when asked to choose a category of naming type

– Avoiding author names in order to prevent offensiveness can border on discrimination or erasure

Arguments against Using Personal Names

– 48% voted that the award should be called something other than a person’s name

– Award should celebrate SFF worlds and ideas, not individual people

– Award designation shouldn’t be about “us” and what we liked, but instead about current and future teens

– Better to have more universal name that can have meaning for each generation, rather than one that may become outdated and meaningless to later readers

– Worldcon is an international community, but individual authors are inherently associated with specific nations and languages

– Not the award’s job to “educate” the youth by naming the award after one particular author

– Teens’ changing social expectations make the work of several of the suggested authors objectionable

– Because early SFF YA was a didactic genre, most writers had agendas that will be unacceptable to people today

– Naming an award after a person expresses approval for all the author’s books, including any that are unfitting

– Ties the award too closely to the life of the named person, so that their baggage carries over to the award

– Many people on public forums said emphatically that they were opposed to a personname

– Attempts to name award after person will lead to very heated and contentious debates, which will hurt the award

The committee decided not to recommend anyone’s personal name. They surveyed the public about six abstract names: Anansi, Lodestar, Ouroboros, Spellcaster, Tesseract, and Worldcon.

“Tesseract” received the most favorable response of six prospective award names in the public survey, however, feedback comments revealed that Tesseract is the name of a Canadian speculative-fiction publishing house (Tesseract Books), as well as a long time anthology begun in 1985 and edited by Judith Merril (the Tesseract Anthology has had 20 volumes).

After acquiring the Shortlist Voting Survey results, the Chairs reached out to EDGE/Tesseract Books. The publisher asked that we not use the name. Therefore, given the term’s established use by SFF colleagues and Canadian fandom, as well as the explicit request of Tesseract Books, the committee agreed that the name Tesseract should not be used.

That is why the committee has recommended the award be given the second most popular name in the survey, Lodestar.

The report includes many tables of data extracted from the survey and stratified according to age, Worldcon participation, and a Likert-scale response to the six names.

The report also says the committee declined a publisher’s offer to sponsor the award if it would be named after a particular author.

Angus Killick from Macmillan Children’s Publishing contacted WSFS to suggest the name L’Engle for the award. He manages the division’s marketing. Killick explained that they and the L’Engle family were interested in any way of honoring L’Engle, given that 2018 is the release of the Wrinkle in Time movie and it is the 100th anniversary of L’Engle’s birth.

The members of the study committee are: Anna Blumstein (chair); Helen Gbala and Katie Rask (Co-chairs); Warren Buff, Tim Illingworth, Joshua Kronengold, Laura Lamont, Julia Mccracken, Farah Mendlesohn, David Peterson, Christine Rake, Marguerite Smith, Adam Tesh, Clark Wierda, Lewis Wolkoff (Committee Members); Leigh Bardugo, Kate Elliott, Daniel José Older (YA Author Members); and Kevin Standlee (WSFS Parliamentary Advisor).

Especially when considering the prior history of WSFS committees assigned to work on the issue, this committee deserves congratulations for its hard work and transparency, and its valiant effort to navigate the rocks and shoals of existing brands and the divided opinions in social media.

Pixel Scroll 5/17/17 Round Up The Usual Pixels

(1) THE REAL AMERICAN GODS. Mark-kitteh says, “This may be the perfect combo of SF and cats for us–”

(2) ANIMAL FILIBUSTER. The Washington Post’s John Kelly interviewed Ralph Nader, who has written a fantasy novel, Animal Envy, in which animals are given the power to speak via a software program and “are given a 100-hour special broadcast” to discuss all their issues — “In his odd new book, Ralph Nader talks to the animals –and they talk back”.

Ralph Nader –tireless windmill-tilter –is standing at the National Zoo recalling a conversation he once had with an editor at The Washington Post about what he felt was the paper’s less-than-adequate coverage of his presidential campaign.

“I remember saying, ‘There are times I say to myself, I wish I was a panda, given the coverage The Post gives to pandas,’” Nader said.

Well, Nader still isn’t a panda, but he is a kangaroo, a dolphin, an elephant, a crocodile, a squirrel, an owl, an Arctic tern, a German cockroach, a European corn borer, a radioactive Chernobyl beaver, and dozens of other mammals, reptiles, birds and insects.

They’re all characters he assumes in his new book, “Animal Envy: A Fable.”

He is also a cheetah: Safe at any speed…

(3) LUNCH OR HISTORICAL REENACTMENT? “Cynthia Felice and I break into the Watergate Hotel!” That’s what Scott Edelman says in his dramatic invitation to listen to Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

Grab lunch at the Watergate with my unindicted co-conspirator Cynthia Felice in Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

I visited the Watergate Hotel recently, and in case those of you familiar with the history of that infamous location might be thinking I went there to bring down a president with a Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein-style investigation, let me quickly add … no. Rather, I went there to investigate the food at the recently opened Kingbird restaurant, with a guest who surprised me with her sudden visit to Washington, D.C., and whom I somehow managed to convince that a meal with me would be oh, so much more fun than visiting the National Air and Space Museum.

Joining me within the walls of the Watergate Hotel was Cynthia Felice, who published her first short story, “Longshanks,” in 1976 in the pages of Galileo, a science fiction magazine published by the late, great Charlie Ryan, and her first novel, Godsfire, two years later. She is also the co-founder with Ed Bryant — about whom, alas, I must also say late and great — of the Colorado Springs Writer’s Workshop.

We discussed how Frank Herbert’s Dune made her say, “Hey, I can do that,” the virtues of owning a motel while being a writer, the marriage advice Kate Wilhelm gave her at Clarion, what Thomas M. Disch told her that fixed one of her short stories, why we all loved the late, great Ed Bryant, the extraordinary lengths David Hartwell went to as he edited her second novel, how her collaborations with Connie Willis began, and more.

(4) THOSE SIDEKICKS, THEY DO GET WEARY. ComicMix’s John Ostrander, in “Sidekicking Around”, delves into one of comics’ well-known formulas.

Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).

The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one — Jason Todd — who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.

(5) STEAMPUNK BIBLIOPHILE RETURNS. This week 2012 Hugo Finalist Selena Chambers released Calls For Submission, her new short fiction collection.

Selena Chambers’ debut collection guides readers out of space and time and through genre and mythos to explore the microcosmic horrors of identity, existence, and will in the face of the world’s adamant calls for submission. Victorian tourists take a virtual trip through their (and the Ottoman empire’s) ideal Orient; a teenage girl learns about independence and battle of the bands, all while caring for her mesmerized, dead mother; a failed Beat poet goes over the edge while exploring the long-abandoned Government Lethal Chambers.

Chambers was a Related Work co-Hugo Finalist in 2012 with Jeff VanderMeer for their collaboration on The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature.

(6) MORE YA AWARD WSFS WANK. Kevin Standlee says, “You’d Think I’d Remember These Things”. You need to read all four steps to follow his argument, but here’s a foretaste of what you’ll be getting into if your click the link….

  1. Item 1 means that that as it currently stands, the Worldcon 75 WSFS Business Meeting does not have the authority to name a YA Award. However, the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting could apply a name to the Award in a single vote because of that provision. (Of course, this is all moot if the base proposal fails to be ratified.)

  2. Should the 2017 Business Meeting decide to ratify that YA proposal without the provision, the 2017 Meeting could then move as a new amendment to insert a name into the Award, with the name being something that could be passed in 2017 and ratified in 2018, like any other WSFS Constitutional amendment. That means the YA Award would have no official name in 2018, but (assuming 2017 passes a naming amendment that is ratified in 2018), it could get an official name for 2019 and beyond.

(7) BREW FOR TWO. Sounds like anybody who makes it through the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting will probably need to stop over in Iceland on the way home to chill out — “Beer baths to open in North Iceland in June”.

Kaldi brewery in Ãrskogssandur, just north of Akureyri in North Iceland, will be opening beer baths and spa in the coming month.

“The construction of the baths is progressing and everything is according to plan,” says Agnes Anna Siguroardottir, CEO of Kaldi brewery.

There will be seven beer baths in total, all suitable for two people. All guests that have reached 20 years in age can relax in their beer baths with a beer in hand, as there will be a pump by each bath. 20 is legal drinking age in Iceland.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Film director Stanley Kubrick was a big admirer of Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk. (Source: IMDB)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 17, 1902 –The Antikythera mechanism is recovered. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the occasion.

(10) THE BIRD BLABS. The Vulture knows what might have been: “The Secret History of William Gibson’s Never-Filmed Aliens Sequel”

But there’s an alternate universe where the series’ propulsive momentum only increased –a reality in which the third Alien film featured advanced xenomorphs exploding in batches of half a dozen from people’s legs, stomachs, and mouths; where cold-warring rival space stations of communists and capitalists race to outdo one another with their genetic experiments on the aliens’ tissue; where a flock of the phallic horrors flies through the void of space, only to be beaten back by a gun-toting robot. Oh, and there’s a thing called the New Beast that emerges from and sheds a shrieking human’s body as it “rips her face apart in a single movement, the glistening claws coming away with skin, eyes, muscle, teeth, and splinters of bone.”

This is the alternate universe where legendary science-fiction writer William Gibson’s Alien III (that’s “III,” not “3”) screenplay was realized. It is, perhaps, a better world than ours….

You can find the screenplay in an antiquated .txt file online, and there have been occasional discussions of it on message boards and niche blogs, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t been appropriately acknowledged as the remarkable genre-fiction artifact that it is. Indeed, with studio backing and the right production team, one can imagine the finished film being on par with Alien and Aliens, and it certainly would have altered the course of the franchise’s history. With the arrival of Alien Covenant –a movie that, whatever its merits, largely retreads ideas from the series’ previous installments –it’s time to tell the story of how Gibson’s Alien III came to be, why it never crossed the finish line, and what made it special.

(11) KIDPROOFING. John King Tarpinian recommends, “Take the kids to see Alien this weekend, then put this cookie jar out. They will never “steal” a cookie again.” ThinkGeek’s Alien Ovomorph Egg Cookie Jar:

(12) CONDIGN REVENGE. Isn’t Aidan channeling me here?

(13) PUN TIME. Yes, I think this is funny, too.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY GOES INTO OVERTIME. Now they need to deal with the actual Clarke Award shortlist.

With both the Sharke Six and the official Clarke shortlist now out of the bag, I thought I’d like to reflect a little on some of the books I encountered that did not make the running, either through being ineligible (i.e US-published) or through not being submitted. I’ve found myself wanting to talk about them because even now at the end of Phase One of my Sharke reading and with a sizeable number of eligible submissions under my belt, these omissions still feel notable, with discussion around the Clarke Award seeming the poorer for their absence.

The Booker Prize has already had its debate about allowing American novels into the mix, with predictably divided responses. Whether or not the Clarke should open itself up to US submissions is a discussion that lies beyond the remit of this essay, though it does seem a shame that there have been and will continue to be books that stand central to any discussion of the year’s SF and yet under current Clarke rules must remain excluded from one of its most prestigious awards.

I still haven’t reviewed two of the books on my original shortlist. As it happens, we now know that neither of the books made it onto the Sharke Six, and neither made it onto the official Clarke Award shortlist, though I suspect for rather different reasons. So I thought I would take this opportunity to consider why they might not have been chosen.

I’ll start with Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

Superficially, this seems to be exactly the sort of novel that has often found its way onto the Clarke shortlist. It is an elegantly, at times beautifully written novel, as here when an astronaut moves from the spinning outer ring of a spaceship to the gravity-free core:

Of all the books that I personally shortlisted for this project The Power is the one that I find most challenging to judge and to write about. I chose it precisely because of this difficulty; I had read it before and felt decidedly mixed about it. I have loved some of Alderman’s earlier work — her debut Disobedience (2006) was one of the first books that I reviewed online — and have read her assiduously, with great pleasure. Yet this fourth novel, her breakthrough book, left me unsure and unsettled. While friends and critics turned out in numbers to praise its ingenuity and confidence, its bold engagement with the dynamics of power and gender, I hung back and sat on my immediate reaction. Which was: Yes, all those things, but… I couldn’t decisively put my finger on what the ‘but’ was; it was just there, throwing up a barrier between the book and me. At the same time, I couldn’t dismiss it; I was niggled. It stayed with me. So much so, that when it came time for creating my Clarke shortlist I knew The Power had to be on it. Whatever my personal reservations, it was clearly one of the more thought-provoking and eloquent of the submitted books. I felt I owed it a re-read, to test my first response.

Other commentators have already discussed the alternate history setting of Azanian Bridges (Paul Kincaid on this site and Gautam Bhatia at Strange Horizons, while Mark Bould also provides a useful list of other African alternate histories on his own website), and I don’t see any real point in recapitulating what they’ve already said so well.

Instead, I want to focus on the relationship between Martin van Deventer, the white psychologist, and Sibusiso Mchuna, the young black man whom he is attempting to treat. Sibusiso, a trainee teacher, has withdrawn into himself after witnessing the murder of his friend, Mandla, at an anti-government rally. At a loss to know what else to do for him, his father has agreed to his being admitted to the local mental asylum for treatment. We can only speculate as to why his father did this rather than taking Sibusiso home but for now consider it as only one among many markers of the fact that Sibusiso is metaphorically as well as literally a long way from home, living in a white world, among people who have no idea about him.

(15) WE INTERRUPT YOUR READING FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT. Now that Chuck Tingle’s professional porn has been linked from the Hugo Voter Packet, Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte feels the need to clarify his cameo appearance in the work — thus his LiveJournal post “Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, by Chuck Tingle”:

Second paragraph of third section:

“Hello, I’m Chuck,” I say, formally introducing myself.

I am quoted (well, paraphrased) in the crucial second section, in which author Chuck Tingle, miserable after the defeat of Space Raptor Butt Invasion in the 2016 Hugo Awards, receives notification from the 2017 Hugo Awards adminstrator that he has been nominated this year. Let’s just say for the record that the demands subsequently and consequently made of him as part of the Hugo process are not those actually required of Hugo finalists in real life.

(16) THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE. “This 10-year-old donated thousands of comic books to veterans”The Week has the story.

Carl Scheckel knows that not all heroes wear capes. In a show of support for American soldiers, the 10-year-old comic-book aficionado from New Jersey decided to collect and donate thousands of comic books to veterans in hospitals and servicemen deployed overseas. The mastermind of carlscomix.com, Scheckel gathered roughly 3,500 books for the nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, When he arrived to donate them in person, officers treated him to a surprise VIP tour of the base, where he got to try on military gear and explore the inside of a place. ‘It was the best day of my life!’ wrote Carl on his website.

(17) AN OPPORTUNITY ON MARS. It’s been there for over 13 years! “Mars rover reaches site that scientists still can’t explain”.

Opportunity, which is much, much smaller than its car-sized Curiosity cousin, was sent to Perseverance Valley in hopes of shedding some light on its origins. Scientists studying Mars know that the valley was carved by some dramatic force, but with a handful of possibilities including water, wind, and even muddy rocks, there’s still no clear answer. With the rover in place, researchers plan to use its observations to generate a detailed map which will be used to plan the vehicle’s driving route along the rim and eventually into the valley itself.

(18) ON THE WAY TO THE FINAL FRONTIER. I found out about LUNAR from BoingBoing:

Motion designer Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl created this gorgeous short film, titled LUNAR, from thousands of NASA photographs taken by astronauts.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 4/29/17 Let Us Now Pixel Famous Scrolls

(1) YA AWARD NAME. Annalee Flower Horne makes a preemptive strike.

Is this just gratuitous Heinlein hatred? Dude hatred? Have I missed a news item? Or maybe I haven’t. Kevin Standlee recently wrote that if the YA Award passes the Helsinki Business meeting, then the Business Meeting can take up the issue of what its name should be.

There was a nonbinding survey  asking fans’ preferences among six names (Anansi, Lodestar, Ouroboros, Spellcaster, Tesseract, and Worldcon), but that places no limits on the Business Meeting.

(2) A REAL VIKING. Hampus Eckerman recommends, “For those Filers that will combine their visit to WorldCon with a visit to Sweden, a new Viking Museum, called Viking Life, opened this weekend. Some comments about being the only real place to see Vikings in Stockholm has already sparked a fight with the Historical Museum. The Historical Museum retorted that they had largest Viking exhibition in the world and that all authentic artifacts displayed at the Viking Museum had, in fact, been borrowed from the Historical Museum.

“But the thing that put Swedish twitter on fire was not this spat. It was the pictures of the Swedish king at the inauguration. Please enjoy a real Viking King.”

(3) HE’S THIRSTY. OK, Steve Drew is sold on going to the Worldcon.

(4) VON BRAUN’S HUGO. Bill Mullins visited a space shrine:

I was at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center today for my son’s graduation from Space Camp. After the ceremonies, we toured the museum and saw Wernher von Braun’s retro-Hugo (1954, from Boston’s Noreascon 4 in 2004) in the Best Related Work category, for his book Conquest of the Moon, co-written with Fred Whipple and Willy Ley. His office at Marshall Space Flight Center has been recreated there as a permanent exhibit, and his award is sitting on his desk.

Patrick Molloy also wrote about it here in 2012.

(5) CONTROVERSIAL EDITS. Natalie Luhrs articulates how “Failures of Empathy” are an sff community issue.

Recently, Seanan McGuire (1, 2, 3) and J.Y. Yang (thread) have talked on Twitter about copyeditors making changes which fundamentally alter the story, and not for the better. The change in question: redacting the use of the singular they—used by nonbinary characters—to whichever binary gender the copyeditor felt like substituting. This is an act of erasure and, as Yang points out in the linked thread, an act of violence.

Many nonbinary people use the singular they as their pronoun—while this is a relatively new usage, it is not incorrect (copyeditors of the world, take note). I have seen it become more widely used over the last few years and at this point anyone griping about it is basically using it as an opportunity to be a prescriptivist jerk.

…We have an empathy problem in the SFF community. These failures are more obvious when a convention dismisses the safety concerns of their female Guest of Honor in favor of their friend the serial harasser, but you can also see it at a smaller scale: World Fantasy’s initial decision to retain the H.P. Lovecraft pin and Brian McClellan suddenly deciding to tweet about how unprofessional it is to talk about your bad copyedit is when a person of color is the one talking. It’s an entire spectrum of failure, this lack of empathy.

(6) COMPANIONABLE ALIEN. ScreenCrush catches up with “Karen Gillan on ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,’ ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ and Nebula’s Near-Death Experience in ‘Guardians 1’”.

I think it’s fair to say that when the first Guardians came out, these were the most obscure characters to get their own Marvel movie. Now, of course, the first movie is beloved and everyone knows the characters. Did that change anything about how you guys went about making the sequel? Was there new pressure that wasn’t there before?

That was quite an interesting thing for me as well, because I was wondering if anyone was going to be feeling the pressure; like second album syndrome or something. Maybe they did and they didn’t really show it, but I didn’t because I didn’t feel I had the responsibility of the film on my shoulders. I just got to come in and play this fun character.

(7) ANCESTRY. I can’t believe a spellchecker did this – but how else would you get that typo?

(8) COMICS EVERYONE BOUGHT. You can infer these are not all that rare, right? Yahoo! News lists “The top 10 best selling comic books of all time”.

#10. The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #583 – 530,000 copies sold

This comic, featuring Spidey’s encounter with then President Barack Obama, became a must-have collectible after being highlighted on news programs around the country.

#9. The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #1 – 533, 000 copies sold

After a yearlong storyline that involved Doctor Octopus posing as Spider-Man, fans were more than happy to celebrate this back-to-basics approach to the friendly neighborhood wall crawler.

(9) FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE. Here’s the moos – The Boozy Cow, a restaurant chain with a charitable foundation and donates all its profits to charity, has opened a fourth location in Scotland: “Charity restaurant chain opens fourth Scottish eatery”.

The Boozy Cow chain – launched by philanthropist Garreth Wood two years ago – already has premises in Aberdeen, Stirling and Edinburgh, has now opened a venue in Dundee.

Mr Wood also revealed that a further five charities will receive a share of the profits from The Boozy Cow chain – Hot Chocolate Trust, Mid-Lin Day Care, Dundee Woman’s Aid, Art Angel and Help for Kids.

This brings the number of good causes currently supported by the company to 18.

Last month, the organisation announced it was giving away £210,000 to charities including CHAS, The Archie Foundation and the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative in Edinburgh, with almost half a million pounds given away since the company opened its first venue in Aberdeen in 2014.

(10) DAVIS OBIT. SF Site News reports the death of Grania Davis (1943-2017) on April 28.

Author Grania Davis (b.1943) died on April 28. Davis was married to Avram Davidson for 3 years and served as his primary editor after his death. She co-authored several works with Davidson as well as writing works on her own.

(11) DEPARTMENT OF ANTIQUE COMPAINTS. Nevertheless, back in 1962, The Traveler tells Galactic Journey readers he is giving a vote of no confidence in new F&SF editor Davidson’s handiwork: “[Apr. 28, 1962] Changing of the Guard (May 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

I never thought the time would come that reading The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction would be the most dreaded portion of my duties…and yet, here we are.  Two issues into new Editor Avram Davidson’s tenure, it appears that the mag’s transformation from a great bastion of literary (if slightly stuffy) scientifiction is nearly complete.  The title of the digest might well be The Magazine of Droll Trifles (with wry parenthetical asides).

One or two of these in an issue, if well done, can be fine.  But when 70% of the content is story after story with no science and, at best, stream-of-consciousness whimsy, it’s a slog.  And while one could argue that last issue’s line-up comprised works picked by the prior editor, it’s clear that this month’s selections were mostly Davidson’s.

Moreover, Robert Mills (the outgone “Kindly Editor”) used to write excellent prefaces to his works, the only ones I would regularly read amongst all the digests.  Davidson’s are rambling and purple, though I do appreciate the biographical details on Burger and Aandahl this ish.

(11a) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 29, 1923 — Irvin Kirschner, filmmaker, director of The Empire Strikes Back.

(11b) TODAY’S DAY

International Astronomy Day

Astronomy allows us to see the history of the universe with our own eyes. The stars that twinkle as you look out on a dark, clear night may not exist right now. They existed at whatever point in history they emitted that light, which has taken millions of years to reach Earth.

(12) LATE EASTER EGG STANDING. Hey, I’d already forgotten there was one — “Explaining the mid-credits scene in Suicide Squad”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Suicide Squad’s mid-credits scene features a meeting between Amanda Waller and billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. The conversation starts off simply enough: Waller needs help when it comes to keeping everything that happened in Midway City (and her involvement) on the down low. In order to protect herself from Enchantress’ wrath and keep her reputation in the green, Waller makes a deal with Wayne to maintain damage control surrounding the movie’s events. Of course, she has to bring something to the table to make the deal happen…

(13) EXPANSIVE. Aaron Pound reviews Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

Full review: The first book in the Expanse series, Leviathan Wakes is a kind of hard-ish medium future science fiction almost Space Opera story that feels a little bit like Firefly and a little bit like a Dashiell Hammett novel. The book is full of adventure, intrigue, and excitement, but it is the kind of industrial, oil-covered adventure, intrigue, and excitement that results in broken bones, bullet holes, and dead characters. Alongside the truckers and detectives in space in the book is just enough alien weirdness to shake things up and add a bit of inhuman horror to the impersonal dangers of living in a hostile environment that will probably kill you if you make a mistake.

(14) NEWS TO SOMEBODY. Vox (the website, not the Rabid Puppy) said in its February review,, “Forget ‘white saviors’: The Great Wall is really about fighting giant lizard monsters”.

A few things you should know about The Great Wall: It’s simultaneously 400 percent more movie than most and 10 percent as much movie as most — huge, bombastic, colorful, explosive, and containing almost no story at all. It’s roughly equivalent to watching the assault-on-Mordor bits of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for 103 minutes. It was filmed in 3D, and I ducked a few times while watching. It also made me seasick, but that’s my own damn fault for sitting too close to the screen.

(15) THE LONG VIEW. AI viewed with alarm: “Viewpoint: Is inequality about to get unimaginably worse?”. Chip Hitchcock snarks, “He probably wouldn’t have been paid if he’d just posted a link to ‘With Folded Hands’…”

Inequality goes back at least 30,000 years.

Hunter-gatherers were more equal than subsequent societies.

They had very little property, and property is a pre-requisite for long-term inequality.

But even they had hierarchies.

In the 19th and 20th Centuries, however, something changed.

Equality became a dominant value in human culture, almost all over the world. Why?

It was partly down to the rise of new ideologies such as humanism, liberalism and socialism.

(16) AND THE THIRD LITTLE MARTIAN PIG… There may be no straw or timber, but — “Scientists just discovered something awesome about the soil on Mars”.

The research, which was published in Scientific Reports, reveals that the soil on Mars is particularly well-suited to brick making. In fact, the dirt is so easily formed into bricks that building a rigid structure out of it wouldn’t require any special substance or even heat to bake them, and it’s all thanks to the same material that gives the Mars surface its reddish hue.

At first, engineers at the university were trying to figure out exactly how much additional polymer would be needed for the Mars soil to be shaped into bricks. As they gradually reduced the amount of additive used with their soil simulant they eventually realized that they didn’t need any at all. The team was able to successfully compact iron-oxide-rich Mars dirt with a flexible container which was then pressurized. The result was small, firm blobs of soil which were stable enough to be cut into brick-like shapes.

(17) SHINY. The New York Times tells where to buy “A Solid Gold Darth Vader for the Sith Who Has Everything”.

For less than the cost of a trip to Tatooine, one lucky Star Wars fan will soon be able to own a solid gold Darth Vader mask — perfect for bartering, though perhaps not so good for heavy breathing.

On Tuesday, the Japanese jeweler Ginza Tanaka unveiled the imposing headgear and announced that it would go on sale at the company’s flagship store in Tokyo on May the fourth (do we need to spell this out for you?) to celebrate Star Wars’ 40th Anniversary.

The price? A mere 154 million Japanese yen, or about $1.4 million. Tax included!

(18) ON ICE. This is the lede of an article by Helen Brown in the April 22 Financial Times (behind a paywall.)

A survey recently found that the most popular song among prison inmates in the UK was ‘Let it Go,’ the big number from Disney’s 2013 blockbuster Frozen.

Despite the incongruity of old lags carrolling along to a song more easily associated with preschoolers dressed as animated princesses, anyone alive to the emotional truths of the film would not be surprised to find it resonating with prisoners struggling to own the guilt of the past and move on…..

(19) AI SCRIPTWRITER RETURNS. “It’s No Game–A Sci-Fi Short Film Starring David Hasselhoff” is a commentary on the forthcoming writer’s strike, featuring David hasselhoff as an android, that explains what happens when writers are replaced by the Golden-Age-Ophile and the Sorkinator.

 [Thanks to Dawn Incognito, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill Mullins, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to Fie 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Update: Corrected item one to the name Annalee Flower Horne. (Not Newitz, as I mistakenly wrote to begin with.) Apologies to all concerned.

Take Online Survey of Shortlisted YA Award Titles

The Worldcon’s YA Award Committee asked fans last year to suggest a name for the prospective award, which received its first passage at MidAmeriCon II and is up for ratification at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

The committee received 1,138 responses, giving them 460 unique names to winnow.

Some names have been eliminated because they are already attached to other awards: The Stargazer, the Codex, the Nautilus, the Silver Tree, the Beacon, the Portal, the Unicorn, and the names of authors like Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Jane Yolen, and Anne McCaffrey.

Other names have been ruled out to avoid copyright and trademark issues: Golden Snitch, Earthsea, Bilbo Baggins, etc.

And the committee enjoyed but also won’t be using any of the funny suggestions — the Read It and Reap Award, the Rodent of Unusual Size Award, and the Chesterfield Sofa.

They have settled on a six name shortlist and are asking everyone for their opinion in “The <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book Shortlist Survey”.  The names are —

  • Anansi
  • Lodestar
  • Ouroboros
  • Spellcaster
  • Tesseract
  • Worldcon

The survey will be open until March 15, 2017.

In addition to the survey, the committee is listening to feedback from groups of experts on cultural sensitivity and trademarks, and will also incorporate advice from a panel of three Young Adult authors.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #4 

I YA

The Young Adult (Hugo) Award: A Minority Report

By Chris M. Barkley: Author’s Note: Of all the columns I have written so far, the following was the hardest and took the longest period to write. From my own, subjective viewpoint, I may be too close to the trees to actually perceive the forest. Nonetheless, I promised Mike Glyer a column about the Young Adult Award. Since I initially proposed it in 2010, I feel a certain sense of responsibility, to all those who are fervent supporters of this idea and to the committee members who have slaved over its composition and torturous course through numerous Worldcon Business Meeting over the past few years.

I spoke at the 2016 Business Meeting at MidAmeriCon II and my remarks are included in a video link provided with this article. While I do not renounce my support of the YA amendment in its current form, this column also serves as a minority report that I feel I should have presented to the Business Meeting.

While recounting the events that have led us to the current status of the YA Award, I felt compelled to point out some deficiencies of the process and some of the critical decisions that have been made over this period of time. By doing so, I do not mean to denigrate the efforts of the members of the YA committees, past or present and I apologize in advance if this report is perceived in that matter.)


On the morning of Saturday, August 20, my fellow activist Dan Berger and I were seated in Room 2104AB of the Kansas City Convention Center for the third session of the World Science Fiction Convention Business Meeting. As the morning progressed, we watched a seemingly endless parade of observations, objections and motions to various agenda items.

At one indeterminable point, Dan exclaimed, “Is this EVER going the end?”

I casually turned to Dan and said, “This is how the sausage is made.” I was not new to the process; since the year 2000, I have attended many Business Meetings. Way, way too many, I sometimes think to myself.

As the meeting marched onwards to a vote on the Young Adult Award amendment to the Constitution of the World Science Fiction society, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, this issue was finally being dealt with on the floor with an up or down vote. On the other hand, I felt that the committee’s recommendations fell far short of what I had in mind. Still, better to compromise for a half a loaf of something than no bread at all.

As we waited, I glanced down at the notes of my statement that I had hastily scribbled down on a scrap of paper that morning. I was not stranger to speaking in public, having been a radio talk show host and a retail bookseller. Still, I felt unduly nervous. I have maintained some particularly strong feelings about establishing this award over the years and here it was, probably the final opportunity to forcefully speak in its favor.

Finally, debate began on the amendment. I arose, was recognized by the chair and I slowly made my way to the podium to face my peers…

I first became aware of the Science Fiction Achievement Awards as a fifteen year old in high school with my discovery of the book club edition of The Hugo Winners Volumes One and Two, edited by Isaac Asimov.

The stories, which ranged from rousing tales of adventure (Murray Leinster’s “Exploration Team”), tragedy (“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes), elegant fantasy (Jack Vance’s “The Dragon Masters” and “The Last Castle”) to head spinning metaphors (“’Repent Harlequin!’, said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison and Samuel R. Delany’s “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones”).

Needless to say, I was hooked for life.

In his various introductions to the stories, Asimov continually alluded to “conventions” where the awards were voted on and given out. The trouble was that he said nothing about how these things happened. I was blissfully unaware until my best friend and I stumbled upon a local convention in Cincinnati, Midwestcon, in the summer of 1976.

In those forty years, I have attended several hundred local and regional conventions and twenty-eight Worldcons.

After a near death experience in 1996, I began to be more active as a fan writer and activist. This in turn, led to a more direct involvement with the Hugo Awards.

Since 1999, I have proposed changes to the Best Dramatic Presentation Award and Best Editor categories, the establishment of the Best Graphic Story award and was one of the many co-sponsors of the Best Fancast award.

As a young reader, I cherished the authors and works that made me the reader I am today. The resurgence of YA and children’s books since the advent of the works J.K. Rowling and other breakout YA authors in the late 1990’s have made an enormous impact on the reading habits of children, teenagers and a great many adult readers of this generation, especially for those who love fantasy and sf.

Although gene oriented YA has been stereotypically been tagged as tales of young people struggling against dystopias, I think that there has been a wealth of stories being published about how young women and men struggle with their feelings about themselves, their friendships, parents, authority figures, magic and technology.

Starting in 2011, I decided to ask and poll fans privately about the possibility of a YA Award. The responses I received were numerous and enthusiastic enough that I established a Facebook page to spearhead the effort.

I pleaded with Chicon 7 convention committee to try it out as a special category award (which is legal under the World Science Fiction Constitution), but was eventually turned down because they deemed a test the Fancast Hugo, which had just passed through on its first ratification at Renovation the year before, was a more pressing concern.

In addition, I also privately petitioned the San Antonio, London and Sasquan Worldcon committees for a special award, but they all chose not to do so. While I was disappointed with their reactions, I said nothing since nothing because there was nothing to been gained by complaining publicly about the situation.

In the meantime, the amendment remained in various committees for four years.  I participated in deliberations of the first committee but not on the subsequent panels.

In retrospect, I bear much of the blame for the current state of affairs; my lack of participation in these committees amounts to a failure of leadership on my part. Even though I remained the lead administrator of the YA Hugo Facebook page, this was the extent of my participation in the process. This, in part, was due to some personal problems I was undergoing at the time and ineptitude, for which I alone take responsibility for.

The YA committee report is on the following link, on pages 48 (as C.3.2) and 130-133 (Appendix 2):

http://www.wsfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2016-WSFS-Minutes-Final.pdf

The Young Adult amendment that was passed at MidAmeriCon II reads as follows:

Short Title: Young Adult Award

Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution for the purpose of establishing an award for Young Adult literature by striking out and >adding words as follows:

  1. Insert words in existing sections 3.7.3 and 3.10.2 as follows:

3.7.3:

Nominations shall be solicited only for the Hugo Awards, And the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book.

3.10.2:

Final Award ballots shall list only the Hugo Awards, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book.

  1. Insert the following section before existing Section 3.4.:

3.X: <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book.

The <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book is given for a book published for young adult readers in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year, with such exceptions as are listed in Section 3.4.

Provided that filling the < blank> in this amendment to name the award shall not be considered a greater change in the scope of the amendment.

Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the 2021 Business Meeting, Section 3.X shall be repealed and the modifications to 3.7.3 and 3.10.2  reversed; and Provided further that the question of re-ratification shall automatically be placed on the agenda of the 2021 Business Meeting.

The following is a summary of the committee report that was distributed at the Business Meeting:

Members of the YA Award Committee

Commentary: The YA award Committee is proposing a new WSFS award for Young Adult fiction that, like the Campbell Award, would not be a Hugo but would be administered by the WSFS. There have been many attempts going back to the 1990s to create a YA Hugo award, but none of these were successful. The previous year’s YA Hugo Committee (2014-2015) determined that a Hugo was not feasible, while this year’s Committee determined that an award in the mold of the Campbell has merits.

For details of the Committee’s findings, please see the Report submitted to the Business Meeting. In brief, no sponsor is required for an award, which would be a WSFS-sponsored award. Like the Hugo and Campbell, it would be added to the Constitution. The award would be paid for and administered by each Worldcon and presented during the Hugo Ceremony.

This proposal represents the closest we could come to a consensus in the time allotted. Although there are areas where the members of the Committee do not perfectly agree, we feel this proposal reflects our general feeling that a YA award at Worldcon is viable. We recommend its passage and the creation of a separate committee to move forward with consideration of a name for this new award and the physical template for it

In turn, I offer my counterpoints to both summaries:

The report mentions the previous committee reported that a YA Hugo category was “not feasible”.  (That report can be read here: http://dothraki.com/yareport_sasquan.pdf). I will beg to differ on this point. The main point in the report states that, “Under the existing methodology of the Hugo Awards, however, a separate category for YA fiction is not practical. That is, the Hugo fiction categories are defined by word count, not by age categories. We suggest instead the creation of a Campbell-like award, since the Campbell addresses authors and thereby functions outside the Hugo methodology.”

I find the logic of the argument baffling. After all, the Locus Award and the Edgar Awards offer a Young Adult categories and seeming have no problems either garnering viable nominations or administering the awards annually. The same could be said of the Andre Norton Award presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (even though they chose to go the “Campbell-like” route with their award).

Why is the Hugo Award perceived differently? Because of the awards are governed by a word count, specifically, that the Novel category in the WSFS Constitution states that a novel must exceed 40,000 words in length. I maintain that a great many YA novels published today easily exceed that limit and that any nominees that fall below that could fall into any of the other fiction categories. This, in other words, is a non-issue.

There was a great deal of consternation during the committee deliberations over the definition of a young adult book, to quote the report:

A Campbell-like award solves a lot of the problems that have come up in past business meetings. A Campbell-like award based on age-group solves the issue of defining what YA is and how the award would be categorized if it were a Hugo. A very strong definition of YA is not a good idea because trends change, and each year’s Worldcon should be allowed to define what they think is YA.

This is the definition of the YA category used by the Mystery Writers of America:

Best Young Adult Mystery: Hardbound or Paperback books, Grades 8 – 12. Ages 13 -18.

That’s it.

Well, it is my opinion that a “Campbell-like” award cannot be equated to an actual Hugo Award. It may be mitigated or regarded as a supplemental award, as the Andre Norton Award, but not as an equal in stature. The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is regarded as a prestigious award due to it being named after an influential editor of modern science fiction, it’s longevity and, of course, the annual presentation of the tiara.

The perception that a YA award should be seated at a separate table from the Hugos unsettles me on a personal level. I have always loved YA novels through my youth through today as a professional bookseller. To me, the act of placing YA books in a separate category from the rest of the other categories seems to imply that it is a lesser for of literature, seated, as it were, at the kids table during a Thanksgiving feast.

While a number of authors polled stated that they would support a separate award, I am quite certain a majority of them would prefer having a Hugo Award instead.

Also, I would stipulate that each year’s Worldcon should NOT determine what YA is, the readers and nominators have that honor. The readers who are interested in nominating a YA book for a Hugo Awards already knows what a YA novel is and certainly does not need any prompting from any one in fandom.

As for “trends changing” in sf and fantasy, I should certainly hope this is the case! Imaginative literature should chronicle the changes in culture, society, styles and explorations into the inner nature of human beings (or aliens and demons, for that matter) are the bread and butter of any sort literature that grows and endures. Literature that tends to skirt or avoid these vital issues usually wind up being disregarded, ridiculed or worse, ignored and rejected by readers.

To be sure, this is not the first time I have witnessed Worldcon committees and Business Meeting regulars indulging over in over thinking proposed changes to the Constitution AND underestimating the intelligence of the nominating readers and fans. I recall similar arguments that were made during the deliberations of the Best Dramatic Presentation, Editing and Graphic Story categories; in each set of debates, there was a considerable amount of hand wringing over whether people could be bothered to look up the running times of television shows and movies, finding out who edited a novel or whether certain comics or graphic stories should even be considered sf or fantasy.

In every instance, each of these and countless small worries and dire scenarios turned out to be entirely unfounded. And, even with the exception of the Puppy slated nominations, the nominators and voters of the Hugo Awards have consistently come through with interesting and outstanding selections for the final ballot.

I submitted a request to Worldcon 75’s committee to consider a YA category and for a while, I was actually hopeful that they might grant my request. On September 30, I was rather surprised by the announcement of their decision to present a Best Series Award next year.

My frustration was further compounded by a presumptive ruling by the next Chair of the Business Meeting, Kevin Standlee, who stated on his LiveJournal page in November that any changes to the current incomplete amendment would be considered by him as a “greater change” and thereby would need yet another year of passage through the BM.

I happen to believe that Mr. Standlee is correct in his ruling BUT, this costly delay means that the soonest a YA award might be given could be another two years away. Thus, I felt the need to make my feelings known about what has gone before

So, I strode slowly to the podium. Here’s what I said at the MidAmericon II Business Meeting, at the 4:30 mark of the link:

And I meant what I said; we cannot afford to make this a contest about egos, personal interests, political agendas, but what is in the best interests of the Hugo Awards AND the readers who vote.

Although it is highly unlikely to occur, I would not be terribly upset if the members of Worldcon 75 Business Meeting reject the current amendment and substitute a lesser change, which I offer for consideration this amendment (which was originally written in 2014, when I anticipated that I would be attending the Loncon Business Meeting, but did not due to personal obligations):

Best Young Adult Hugo Award

a) A book length young adult science fiction or fantasy book published in the previous calendar year. A book nominated in this category may not be eligible for any other fiction category.

b)Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the Business Meeting three years after this amendment has been ratified it shall be immediately repealed and,

Provided that the question of re-ratification shall be automatically be placed on the agenda of the Business Meeting three years afterward with any constitutional amendments awaiting ratification.

Please note that this amendment would not require naming, it would seamlessly fit into the regular Hugo Award administrative team and it would not require an original award design, all problems which the current committee has yet to come to a consensus on of this date. The designation of “book” easily dodges any dilemma of a word count for the Hugo Administrator, but as I mentioned earlier, most nominees will easily exceed the Novel category limit.

While I personally object to the establishment of a non-Hugo category for YA novels, my first preference has always been to establish it as a Hugo category. But since I was absent from the majority of the deliberations, I chose to go agree with the compromise.

Should the members of the Business meeting of Worldcon 75 decide to keep the current framework, I strongly suggest that the only way to establish this separate award with any chance of creating and maintaining a lasting and prestigious aura is to definitely name it after a undisputed champion of young adult literature: Ursula K Le Guin, Jane Yolen, Tamora Pierce, Madeline L’Engle, Anne McCaffrey or Octavia Butler easily come to mind. And I wouldn’t worry about a nickname for the new award; the fans will probably take care of that on their own and in the age of social media, it probably won’t take very long for something to stick.

Right now there are several websites and set up to take suggestions on what the awards should be named.

Among those is the Worldcon YA page:

(https://www.facebook.com/worldconya/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE)

The Worldcon YA committee page:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdPJlnD7hXaVI7Q5vntFW3OpEp2PqF6QhqGu2VmP71JR3Fn9Q/viewform

The YA Hugo Proposal Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/YA-Hugo-Proposal-187492394596256/

And yes, while I recognize that there may be some strong objections to naming (or nicknaming) an award after a living person, I would like to point out that it is not without precedent.  The Science Fiction Achievement Award was eventually nicknamed the Hugo Award WHILE the namesake, Hugo Gernsback was very much alive.

As the primary instigator of many of the category changes over the past sixteen years, I have never sought credit or favor for my fan activities.  My interest has always been, and always will be, purely altruistic.  Normally, I am not the sort of person who likes to draw attention to my fannish activities but I love the idea of establishing a YA award so much that I wanted my vociferous objections about how it has been treated to be formally recorded for the public record. I am drawing attention to this minority report now express my deep frustration at the stumbling attempts to establish a Young Adult Book Award, as a separate award category or otherwise.

My goals as a fan activist has been to assure that the Hugo Awards remain fair, engaging, diverse, thought-provoking and most importantly, relevant to the times and to the people who nominate and vote for them every year.

It is my fervent hope is that this minority report will spur the passage of a Young Adult Award forward, to Helsinki’s Worldcon 75 and beyond.

Pixel Scroll 5/4/16 (Take Another) Piece Of My Artificial Heart

May the 4th be with you

(1) BREAKING THINGS. Wired studies the physics behind the destruction of a Super Star Destroyer in Star Wars.

The Mass of the Death Star

The real question remains—why is it moving so fast? There are three possible answers:

After rebels destroyed the bridge, the Super Star Destroyer veered out of control and used its thrusters to drive into the Death Star.

The Destroyer used its engines in some way to stay above the Death Star. The attack eliminated this ability, and the ship fell into the Death Star due to the gravitational interaction between the two objects.

The impact was the result of the engines and gravity.

For the purpose of this analysis, I am going to assume the collision was due only to the gravitational interaction. If that’s the case, I can use this to estimate the mass of the Death Star.

(2) ANATOMY OF A REWRITE. Mark Hamill confirmed the story: “It’s official: ‘The Force Awakens’ almost started with Luke’s severed hand”.

“I can tell you now, the original opening shot of [Episode] VII, the first thing that came into frame was a hand and a lightsaber, a severed hand,” Hamill reveals in a video Q&A with The Sun timed to May the 4th. “It enters the atmosphere [of the desert planet Jakku] and the hand burns away.”

The lightsaber landed in the sand, and an alien hand picked it up. Hamill says he doesn’t know if that alien was Maz Kanata, the castle owner who has the lightsaber in a trunk in the movie.

Then “the movie proceeds as you see it” — presumably meaning we’d cut from the alien hand to a Star Destroyer above Jakku as Stormtroopers depart in shuttles, then Max Von Sydow handing the all-important map with Luke’s whereabouts to Oscar Isaac.

(3) FOURTH WITH. Digg has a compilation of Star Wars related fan art.

The “Star Wars” fanbase has always been fantastically passionate and creative, so in honor of their greatest holiday, here’s a bunch of different kinds of fan art to represent every corner of the “Star Wars” universe.

(4) FASHION STATEMENT. Michael A. Burstein had a big day, and shared a photo with his Facebook readers.

Today, I was sworn in for my fifth term as a Brookline Library Trustee. In honor of Star Wars Day, I wore my Han Solo vest.

(5) EQUAL TIME. That other famous franchise is making news of its own. Canada Post will issue a set of Star Trek themed stamps to commemorate the show’s 50th anniversary. Linn’s Stamp News ran an article about the stamp for Scotty.

The three previous Canada Post Star Trek designs have pictured William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk on a commemorative stamp similar to the Scotty design, the Starship Enterprise on a coil stamp, and Leonard Nimoy as Spock, also in commemorative format. Full details of the set, and the planned issue date, have not been officially revealed by Canada Post, though information released with the “Scotty” stamp design added, “More stamps are to be revealed soon.”

And Canada Post has release several short videos previewing the series.

(6) YOU DID IT. Donors stepped up to support Rosarium Publishing’s Indiegogo appeal and Rick Riordan dropped $10,000 of matching funds in the pot. The appeal has now topped $40,000 in donations.

(7) J.K. ROWLING’S ANNUAL APOLOGY. On May 2, the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling followed her tradition.

(8) FIRST FAN. Inverse knows this is the perfect day to dip into Craig Miller’s font of Star Wars anecdotes: “George Lucas’s Original Plans for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ and Boba Fett Revealed”.

Craig Miller, Lucasfilm’s first fan relations officer, reveals the original plan for ‘Return of the Jedi.’

…“At first there was one film, and then George originally announced that it was one of 12, and there were going to be 12, and then that changed to, oh there was never 12, there was only 9, and he was going to make 9,” Miller said. “And then during all of it, George kind of lost interest in continuing it… While we were working on The Empire Strikes Back, George decided he was going to complete the first film trilogy and that would be it.

“And I remember sitting in a mixing room with George, working on Empire, and he told me he was just going to make the third movie, which didn’t have a title at that point, and then stop,” Miller continued. “He was going to retire from making big movies and make experimental movies. And that’s why the whole plot of the third movie, what became Return of the Jedi, completely changed.”

Lucas’s 15-year retirement from Star Wars didn’t do much to derail the enthusiasm amongst hardcore fans, who showed early on that they were very, very dedicated to the Galaxy far, far away. Miller remembers one of his better publicity coups, setting up an 800 number (1-800-521-1980, the film’s release date) that allowed fans to call in before Empire and hear little clues about the upcoming sequel, as recited by Luke, Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO and Darth Vader.

“There was no advertising; we talked about it at conventions, and Starlog ran a two paragraph announcement of it,” Miller recalled. “And with just that, we completely swamped the 800 system.”

AT&T forced Lucasfilm to buy more phone lines, cease their advertising (easy, since they weren’t doing any), and apologize to the public and other 800-number users. “That was great because now it was being carried all over the world that we were apologizing that Star Wars fans were so enthusiastic about seeing Empire that they swamped AT&T,” Miller said, laughing.

(9) MAKING THE SCENE. Cat Rambo shares some material from a class, that takes apart what having a scene gives you for purposes of making it into a story: “More From Moving from Idea to Draft”

What it is:

A scene is usually a moment in time that has come to you. It usually has strong visual elements, and something is usually happening, such as a battle, or has just happened in it (a battlefield after the fighting is done). It is probably something that would appear at a significant moment of a story and not be peripheral to it.

What it gives you:

  • Everything but the plot. But actually, that’s not true. What is the main source of tension in the scene, what is the conflict that is driving things? That is probably a version of the overall plot.
  • A scene gives you a strong slice of the world and all that is implicit in that, including history and culture.
  • If characters are included in your scene, they are usually doing or have just done something more purposeful than just milling about. You have some sense of their occupation, their economic circumstances, and often some nuances of their relationship.

(10) NED BROOKS. Part of the late Ned Brooks’ fanzine collection is on display at the University of Georgia, where his family donated it.

The university library’s blog has posted “To Infinity and Beyond! Selections from the Ned Brooks Fanzine Collection”.

A look at a fun collection examining all facets of science fiction fandom. Included are representative fanzine titles from the 17,000+ issues to be found in the Brooks zine collection. They represent a variety of times (including the zine some hold to be the earliest Science Fiction zine in the U.S., Planet #1, from July of 1930), a myriad of international locales, and a broad spectrum of specialized Fandom communities and their interests. Mementos from Brooks’ 38-year career with NASA’s Langley Research Center, along with a vintage typewriter and early reproduction equipment.

The exhibit, in the Rotunda of the Russell Special Collections Libraries, will be up through July.

(11) COOL SPACE PICTURES. Digg has “The Best Space Photos from April”.

Every day satellites are zooming through space, snapping incredible pictures of Earth, the solar system and outer space. Here are the highlights from April.

(12) YA AND AWARDS. Joe Sherry makes raises a point about YA in his post about “2016 Locus Award Finalists” at Adventures in Reading.

This is likely worth a longer discussion, but this year’s Locus Awards are pretty close to what the Hugo Awards should have looked like in the absence of the Rabid Puppy participants voting a slate in apparent lockstep….

Now, there are things we can argue with because it isn’t an awards list or a list of books at all if there isn’t something to argue with. For example, the YA category features five books written by men even though a huuuuuuge number of YA novels are written by women. Further, Navah Wolfe points out that the nominees in this category are, across the board, writers best known for adult science fiction and fantasy.

In terms of the Locus Awards, I think this is a bug rather than a feature. Locus (and it’s readers who voted / nominated), as a whole, is far more plugged into the adult SFF scene. Their nominees for Young Adult Book very strongly reflects this.

This isn’t to say that these finalists are bad, because they very much are not, but they are also not reflective of the YA field.

A committee has been looking at a proposed YA Hugo category for a couple of years. The Hugo voter demographic is probably similar to that of Locus voters. So if we make two assumptions – that the category had existed this year and was not affected by a slate – wouldn’t the shortlist have looked pretty much like the Locus Award YA novel category? And how does that affect people’s interest in having a YA Hugo category?

(13) DEFECTION FROM THE RANKS.

(14) ANOTHER SHOCK. Because that’s what popularly voted awards do?

(15) USE OF WEAPONS. Paul Weimer curated the latest SF Signal Mind Meld reading pleasure today, in which people talk about their favorite SF/F weapons.

(16) TODAY IN HISTORY. Norm Hollyn remembered on Facebook:

May 4 is the 19th anniversary of the death of Lou Stathis, one of my closest friends and major influences (I first heard the Mothers thanks to him). Hopefully you’re happily playing the kazoo wherever you are.

(17) HAY THERE. Signal boosting author Judith Tarr’s appeal to help feed her horses.

Right now I do not know how I’m going to feed the horses for the rest of the month. I have managed to scrape out enough to pay for the last load of hay (if that late check finally gets here), but once it’s eaten, which it will be in about ten days, I don’t know what I’m going to do. The farm will be gone by midsummer unless I find a steady source of sufficient income. I’ve been hustling like a hustling thing but so far with minimal results.

The market does not want either me or the horses. The horses are all old and therefore retired and unsalable, or else would require thousands of dollars’ worth of training and show fees to have any sale value. No one can take them. The market is saturated with unwanted horses and the rescues are overloaded. I am over 60, hearing impaired (ergo, unable to use the phone), and with chronic fatigue syndrome which makes office or minimum-wage work difficult to impossible. And minimum wage would not support the animals, let alone me. All my income streams from backlist books, editing, writing, etc. have shrunk to a trickle or dried up. No one has booked a Camp in over a year.

I have had a few small things come through, but as with everything else, they’ve fallen short or failed to produce. I continue to push, and with the fiction writing regaining its old fluidity, I may manage to make something happen there. I’ve been urged to try an Indiegogo for a short novel, and I am closing in on that. (Indiegogo, unlike Kickstarter, offers an option that pays even if the goal is not met. The goal would be enough to cover mortgage, horses, and utilities for a month.) Since for the first time in my life I’m able to write more than one project at a time, that means I can continue to meet my obligation to backers of last November’s Kickstarter for a science-fiction novel, and also write the novella (and short stories, too).

A friend suggested that I offer sponsorships for the horses. I feel weird about that, but they need to eat. What I would give in return is a little writeup about the horse being sponsored, with a digital album of pictures and a monthly update. And short fiction as it happens, if you are a reader with an interest….

Details and specific support levels at the site.

(18) MEMORY OF THINGS PAST. Katster once was “Dreaming of Rockets”

Of course things got derailed.  My cunning plan to eventually raise myself to a point where I’d get notice from the nominating body of Worldcon crashed hard with two factors — the rise of blogs and fancasts as well as the related fact that pros were getting nominated in the fan awards and, more importantly, my own demons.

I’d end up semi-GAFIAting (the acronym means Getting Away From It All, and covered anybody who’s dropped out of science fiction) and not being very enamored of fandom in general.  The break point came in 2013, with a completely different award.  Fanzine fandom recognizes its own in an award called the Fan Achievement Awards (FAAns) and I’d hoped a particular issue of my fanzine Rhyme and Paradox I’d poured my heart into might have a chance at Best Issue.  A friend of mine said he was nominating it, and I hesitantly nominated it myself, hoping in some way that it would end up on the shortlist.  It didn’t, and the award was won by somebody that was well known in fandom for a typical issue of his (once a year) fanzine.

The blow really came when I got ahold of the longlist and found how many votes my ‘zine had gotten.  It had gotten two, one from my friend and one from me.  It stung like hell.  Here I had poured my heart out writing that zine (I still think it’s some of my best writing ever) and it had sailed quietly in the night.  I know, it’s just an award, and all these things are popularity contests, but even now, I feel the hurt in that moment.

I wonder if it’s the same hurt that has fueled the slates.  The influence of failing to get an award did somewhat lead Larry Correia to start making slates.  As I’ve said before, the Hugos were vulnerable to this kind of attack, but it was explained to me pretty early in fandom that making slates was anathema in fandom, a policy only practiced by Scientologists.  Everybody knows where the rest of this story goes.

(19) ANTI. “’Ghostbusters’ Is the Most Disliked Movie Trailer in YouTube History” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Not only does it have the most dislikes for a trailer on the social platform, but it also makes the top 25 most disliked videos overall.

Things are not boding well for director Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters based on the film’s first official trailer on YouTube.

Released March 3, the trailer, viewed 29.2 million times and counting, is the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history, according to “MyTop100Videos” channel’s “Most Disliked Videos” list that was last updated April 16. (Justin Bieber comes in at No. 1 with 5.99 million dislikes for “Baby.”)

Coming in at No. 23, the reboot — starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth — has more than double the number of dislikes as likes (208,606)….

Although there has been controversy over the trailer, with many YouTube comments centered around the all-female cast, the video has been generating mostly positive reviews on Facebook with 1,186,569 positive reactions (like, love, haha and wow) and 32,589 negative reactions (sad, angry). The reactions add up to 97.3 percent positive sentiments on Facebook overall.

(20) BREAK THE PIGGY BANK. Coming August 16 in Blu-Ray/DVD — “The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension [Collector’s Edition]”. (Doesn’t it feel like you’ve been reading the word “buckaroo” a lot this week?)

Expect the unexpected… he does.

Neurosurgeon. Physicist. Rock Star. Hero. Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller, Robocop) is a true 80s renaissance man. With the help of his uniquely qualified team, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, Buckaroo is ready to save the world on a moment’s notice. But after his successful test of the Oscillation Overthruster – a device that allows him to travel through solid matter – he unleashes the threat of “evil, pure and simple from the 8th Dimension”… the alien Red Lectroids.

Led by the deranged dictator Lord John Whorfin (John Lithgow), the Lectroids steal the Overthruster with the intent of using it to return to their home of Planet 10 “real soon!” But no matter where you go, there Buckaroo Banzai is… ready to battle an interdimensional menace that could spell doom for the human race.

How can Buckaroo stop the Lectroids’ fiendish plots? Who is the mysterious Penny Priddy? Why is there a watermelon there? For the answers to these and other questions, you have to watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, monkey boy!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, James Davis Nicoll, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/31/16 The One They Pixel, The One You’ll Scroll By

(1) IT’S BIG. At Entertainment Weekly, “Jeff VanderMeer explains what it’s like to edit The Big Book of Science Fiction”.

During one part of our research, we even had to contact the Czech ambassador to the Philippines for intel on particular authors; in another life this man had been the editor of a Czech science-fiction magazine that, before the Wall came down, paid Western writers in items like books of surreal erotic photography. He had become an expert, due to his travels, on fiction in many countries. From him we received a flurry of photocopies and advice that will likely inform future projects. It’s a small world, but also a big, complex one, too.

(2) ENOUGH PI? NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory answers the question “How Many Decimals of Pi Do We Really Need?”

We posed this question to the director and chief engineer for NASA’s Dawn mission, Marc Rayman. Here’s what he said:

Thank you for your question! This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a question like this. In fact, it was posed many years ago by a sixth-grade science and space enthusiast who was later fortunate enough to earn a doctorate in physics and become involved in space exploration. His name was Marc Rayman.

To start, let me answer your question directly. For JPL’s highest accuracy calculations, which are for interplanetary navigation, we use 3.141592653589793. Let’s look at this a little more closely to understand why we don’t use more decimal places. I think we can even see that there are no physically realistic calculations scientists ever perform for which it is necessary to include nearly as many decimal points as you present. Consider these examples:

  1. The most distant spacecraft from Earth is Voyager 1. It is about 12.5 billion miles away. Let’s say we have a circle with a radius of exactly that size (or 25 billion miles in diameter) and we want to calculate the circumference, which is pi times the radius times 2. Using pi rounded to the 15th decimal, as I gave above, that comes out to a little more than 78 billion miles. We don’t need to be concerned here with exactly what the value is (you can multiply it out if you like) but rather what the error in the value is by not using more digits of pi. In other words, by cutting pi off at the 15th decimal point, we would calculate a circumference for that circle that is very slightly off. It turns out that our calculated circumference of the 25 billion mile diameter circle would be wrong by 1.5 inches. Think about that. We have a circle more than 78 billion miles around, and our calculation of that distance would be off by perhaps less than the length of your little finger….

(3) WHICH GHOST WROTE THE MOST? “Houdini manuscript ‘Cancer of Superstition’ divides opinion over Lovecraft, Eddy ghostwriting”. The Chicago Tribune has the story.

…Potter & Potter lists Lovecraft as the ghostwriter, in part citing “An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia” by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, a 2001 anthology of Lovecraft’s work. The book says, however, Houdini approached Lovecraft and Lovecraft’s fellow Providence, R.I., author C.M. Eddy Jr. “jointly to ghostwrite a full-scale book on superstition.”

But how much of “The Cancer of Superstition” was the work of Lovecraft vs. Eddy is up for debate.

Douglas A. Anderson, co-founder of Wormwoodiana, a blog dedicated to researching and discussing the work of Lovecraft and his peers, said one needs to look at “The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces,” a 1966 Lovecraft anthology edited by August Derleth that published a detailed outline and the project’s first chapter. Derleth, who had exchanged letters with Eddy prior to the book’s publication, listed Lovecraft as the author of the outline but Eddy as the author of the chapter….

(4) CASSIDY IN GALLERY SHOW. Kyle Cassidy’s photos from Toni Carr’s Geek Knits book will be part of an art show opening April 1 at the Stanek Gallery in Philadelphia. The book, subtitled Over 30 Projects for Fantasy Fanatics, Science Fiction Fiends, and Knitting Nerds, has been mentioned here in the Scroll before. Cassidy is known in sf for his photographs of fans taken at the Montreal Worldcon in 2009.

EPSON MFP image

thread of art exhibit

(5) LOSE THE RECUSE. Kevin Standlee says Cheryl Morgan ”Talked Me Into It”.

I am quite obviously eligible for the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award for the stuff I write on this LJ plus a whole lot of writing elsewhere, possibly most notably on Mike Glyer’s File 770 news site. But as people were talking me up for a Hugo Award nomination, I was uneasy, given that I’m Chairman of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee and possibly the most visible member of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. While I’m not required to recuse myself from consideration, I thought it possible that it would be unseemly and that I’d be considered using undue influence. But Cheryl Morgan wrote yesterday about this subject, and I found her argument persuasive. So if you should in fact think that my writing is award-worthy, don’t think that you’re throwing your vote away to mention me.

(6) INFLUENCE VS PERFORMANCE. Or as Cheryl Morgan said it in “Kevin and the Hugos”

My view on this is that it is one thing to have a high position and get nominated for something else (in my case being on the staff of Clarkesworld). It is quite another to have a high position and get nominated for doing that job. In my case, if my WSFS job was getting me votes for my Clarkesworld work, that could be construed as unfair. (I think it is silly to suggest that it was, and the Business Meeting agreed, but that’s not relevant here.) In Kevin’s case the job and the work are the same thing. So yes, having the job makes him noticed, but he’s being nominated for doing the job. That seems entirely reasonable to me.

(7) YOUTUBE STARS. Here’s a trailer for Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, which will be “available on all major digital platforms” on June 7.

(8) COME CORRECT. Adam-Troy Castro says “No, You Have Not Been Nominated For a Hugo This Year”.

Attention to a certain self-published author: no, you have not been nominated for a Hugo this year. Now, I don’t know whether you’ve made an honest mistake, have fallen prey to wishful thinking, or are actively lying, but in any event, you are wrong; just because some folks have filled out the name of your magnum opus on the online Hugo nomination form, doesn’t mean you are “nominated;” certainly not before the nomination period closes, this Thursday.

(9) IT’S GREAT TO BE A GENIUS OF COURSE. Kate Paulk holds forth on “The Problem of Being Too Good” at Mad Genius Club.

One of the things I learned was that in pretty much any creative endeavor the really good ones don’t look like they’re making any effort. They’re so good they make it look easy. They make it feel easy, and they appear to effortlessly produce the effect they’re aiming for, be it a gem of a musical performance or a story that’s a perfect or near perfect example of its art – and it’s so apparently effortless and clear that those of lesser understanding can too easily fail to see the work the author or musician or artist has carefully concealed behind the appearance of easy. That is why seeing the writer sweat is annoying.

Of course, this leads to those of lesser understanding (many of whom think they’re the bees knees and – to paraphrase Douglas Adams – the every other assorted insectile erogenous zone in existence) thinking that a book (or performance or whatever) that looks effortless actually is effortless and therefore is easy. Simply put, they mistake sweat and visible exertion for skill.

What this reminds me of is my favorite Robert Moore Williams quote. Williams was a self-admitted hack sf writer. He was leery of losing sales by being too literary. He said, “You have to stink ’em up just right.”

(10) WHERE THE ROCKS ARE. An amazing map of prehistoric stone structures in the United Kingdom can be found at http://m.megalithic.co.uk/asb_mapsquare.php.

This map of Britain and Ireland, is divided into 100 kilometre squares. Locations of prehistoric stone circles and stone rows are indicated by the red dots. Click on a grid square to see that map sheet in greater detail. Many of the pages have images and links to information elsewhere on the web, making this a master index of Britain and Ireland’s Prehistoric sites.

(11) MEOW WOW.  “George R.R. Martin Spent $3.5 Million to Make This Sci-Fi Art Utopia a Reality” – at Vice.

Perhaps the only thing more disorienting than visiting the art collective Meow Wolf’s permanent art installation, the House of Eternal Return, is getting a Skype tour of the place, which is what I recently received. Labyrinthine and almost hallucinatory, the sprawling former bowling alley has been transformed to a freak-out art mecca, funded by $3.5 million from Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin and another $2.5 million from Kickstarter and other fundraising.

The 20,000-square-foot art space, the size of Gagosian’s Chelsea gallery, opened on Friday with a cavalcade of 5,500 visitors in the first three days, including Martin himself and Neil Gaiman. Described by 33-year-old CEO Vince Kadlubek as the “inside [of] a sci-fi novel,” the House of Eternal Return is many things: a psychedelic art space, a bar, an educational center, a ceramics studio, and an elaborate music venue (with a half school-bus upper deck), featuring a slew of dream-like elements such as black-light carpeting, a laser harp, pneumatic doors, and a 20-foot climbable lookout tower.

(12) COLE’S HEART. I was very impressed with Myke Cole’s contribution to “The Big Idea” feature at Whatever – but I didn’t want to pick an excerpt that would dilute the reading experience, so here is a comparatively bland quote…

When I did my Big Idea post for Gemini Cell, I straight up owned the PTSD allegory. Schweitzer’s undead status kept him permanently apart from the living. He was among them, but not of them, anymore. The resultant isolation was pretty much the same thing many returning veterans feel.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse Five, published.

(14) SUPER BOOKS. Random House Books for Young Readers announced the acquisition of four DC Comics YA novels, with bestselling young adult authors: Wonder Woman will be written by Leigh Bardugo, Batman will be written by Marie Lu, Superman will be written by Matt de la Peña, and Catwoman will be written by Sarah J. Maas.

Wonder Woman will release first at the end of August 2017.

(15) CURSES VERSUS. “Superman And The Damage Done” at Birth.Movies.Death.

There have been other Supermans since, and while none have, in my opinion, reached the heights of Christopher Reeve, all have imparted a similar sense of decency, humbleness and grace. From Brandon Routh to various animated incarnations, children growing up over the past 40 years have found new Supermans they could look to as inspirational models of how heroes act.

But what do the children of today have? Warner Bros, custodian of the Superman legacy, has handed the keys of the character over to Zack Snyder, a filmmaker who has shown he feels nothing but contempt for the character. In doing so they have opened the character to an ugly new interpretation, one that devalues the simple heroism of Superman and turns the decent, graceful character into a mean, nasty force of brutish strength.

Where Superman was originally intended as a hopeful view of strength wielded with responsibility, Snyder presents him as a view of strength as constant destructive force; where Christopher Reeve’s Superman would often float and flit away, Snyder’s version explodes like a rocket at all times, creating sonic booms above city centers in fits of pique, such as after his scene of moping on Lois Lane’s Washington DC hotel balcony. He is a constant weapon of destruction, often smashing concrete when he comes to earth. There are no soft landings for this Superman.

(16) CROWD PLEASER. “SciFi Author Alan Dean Foster Draws Largest Science Speaker Series Crowd in Prescott Campus History” reports the Embry-Riddle Newsroom.

Hundreds of students, staff and faculty filled the AC-1 lecture hall to capacity to hear internationally acclaimed science fiction author Alan Dean Foster talk about “Science in Science Fiction” as part of the College of Arts and Science Speaker Series last Friday.

Foster has written over 100 novels but is best known for authoring the novel versions of many science fiction films including “Star Wars”, the first three Alien films, “The Chronicles of Riddick”, “Star Trek”, “Terminator: Salvation”, and two Transformers films.

Foster believes science is the foundation of science fiction. If the work is not grounded in science then it’s not science fiction, it is fantasy or science fantasy.

“Science fiction sets you on other worlds where you have to create entire environments. Maybe it’s a world with seven different layers or an entirely frozen world. You have to look at a problem and say what’s the best solution here, even if it’s not been created yet,” said Foster. “That solution should still be reasonable. As an author of science fiction, and especially with novel adaptations from movies, I try to fix the science as best as I can. Sometimes they let me and sometimes they don’t.”

(17) BREAKING GAME SHOW NEWS. The March 31 episode of Jeopardy! had a Hugo Award-Winning Novels category – but I haven’t found out what the titles were yet.

(18) SAD NUMBERS. Brandon Kempner spends the last voting day “Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 4” at Chaos Horizon.

What we do know, though, is that last nomination season the Sad Puppies were able to drive between 100-200 votes to the Hugos in most categories, and the their numbers likely grew in the finally voting stage. I estimated 450. All those voters are eligible to nominate again; if you figured the Sad Puppies doubled from the nomination stage in 2015 to now, they’d be able to bring 200-400 votes to the table. Then again, their votes might be diffused over the longer list; some Sad Puppies might abandon the list completely; some Sad Puppies might become Rabid Puppies, and so forth into confusion.

When you do predictive modelling, almost nothing good comes from showing how the sausage is made. Most modelling hides behind the mathematics (statistical mathematics forces you to make all sorts of assumptions as well, they’re just buried in the formulas, such as “I assume the responses are distributed along a normal curve”) or black box the whole thing since people only care about the results. Black boxing is probably the smart move as it prevents criticism. Chaos Horizon doesn’t work that way.

So, I need some sort of decay curve of the 10 Sad Puppy recommendations to run through my model. What I decided to go with is treating the Sad Puppy list as a poll showing the relative popularity of the novels. That worked pretty well in predicting the Nebulas. Here’s that chart, listing how many votes each Sad Puppy received, as well as the relative % compared to the top vote getter.

(19) FROM TEARS TO CHEERS. Dave Hogg is basically a happy voter tonight.

(20) NOT AN APRIL FOOL? From the Official Gmail Blog: “Introducing Gmail Mic Drop”.

Friends and family have been testing Gmail Mic Drop for months, and the response so far has been awesome:

  • “Sending email is so much easier when you don’t have to worry about people responding!”
  • “Mic Drop is a huge improvement over Mute! I can finally let everyone know I’m just not interested.”
  • “My team solves problems so much faster with Mic Drop. In fact, we stopped talking to each other entirely!”

Gmail Mic Drop is launching first on the web, but mobile updates are on the way. So stay tuned, and stay saucy.

Will R. asks me, “Will you be introducing a similar feature? It would make the flounce a whole lot easier.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, A Wee Green Man, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Swanwick, Will R., Rich Lynch, and Reed Andrus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]