Pullman and the Grenfell Tower Fundraiser

Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, offered to let readers bid for a chance to name one of the characters in his next book to benefit the victims of the recent Grenfell Tower disaster. A teacher is bidding for the name of one of his students, a resident of the tower who did not survive the fire — “Teacher’s bid to name Philip Pullman character after Grenfell Tower pupil gets £16,000 backing”.

Authors and well-wishers raising money for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire are augmenting a bid by a teacher to name a character in His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman’s new book after one of his former pupils, who lost her life.

Nur Huda, 16, died in the fire along with her parents Abdul Aziz and Fouzia, and her siblings Yasin, 21, and Mehdi, 8.

The teacher’s £1500 bid has been augmented by others’ donations, both small and large (one for £5000).

Many in the publishing industry are joining the Authors for Grenfell Tower online auction, offering items to help raise money for British Red Cross’s relief fund for Grenfell Tower residents and neighbors.

In addition to Pullman, sff donors include:

[Thanks to Nigel for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/17 In The End, The Real Hugos Were The Friends We Made Along The Way

(1) WHO WILL BE WHO? Would you put money on it? Bookmakers say Tilda Swinton is a favorite to become the next Doctor Who.

Actress Tilda Swinton is the frontrunner to become Doctor Who’s next Time Lord, according to the latest bookmakers’ odds.

The Oscar-winning British star would take over the role from departing actor Peter Capaldi, who recently announced he is stepping down from the series this year after entering the Tardis in 2013.

Ladbrokes has said Swinton, 56, has been the focus of a “huge gamble” from punters, with her odds now at 7/2 after initially having entered the market at 10/1.

Other names in the running include Death In Paradise’s Kris Marshall at 4/1, Broadchurch’s Olivia Colman at 5/1 and Maxine Peake, best known for Dinnerladies and Shameless, at 8/1.

(2) REACTION. In the Scroll two days ago I excerpted Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff’s Book View Café column, “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 8: Who Reads Reviews, Anyway?”, which humorously displays her scars from a Locus review of her fiction by Mark R. Kelly.

Kelly read the column and replied –

Odd. I haven’t reviewed short fiction for Locus since 2001. And the general comments about Analog that she quotes was from one of my first columns, in 1988!

(3) SUCCESS. Tony C. Smith’s Kickstarter for Everyone: Worlds Without Walls has funded.

I’m so pleased for all the writers involved. This is now a great showcase for them. This is a time to open doors and knock down walls not build them up. This anthology is my little answer to highlighting and showcasing just what this beautiful world has to offer.

Smith celebrated reaching this milestone by announcing he has added to the book “an amazing story from top speculative writer Lavie Tidhar!”

(4) DOUBLY FANTASTIC PODCAST. Once upon a time, Scott Edelman’s guest on the Eating the Fantastic podcast edited the prozine Fantastic. He is the celebrated (and at times controversial) Barry N. Malzberg.

My guest loves Ben’s more than any other NYC deli, and who am I to turn down Barry N. Malzberg, who among other things, was winner of the first John W. Campbell Award for his novel Beyond Apollo, and both a Hugo and Nebula Award finalist for stories I published when I was the editor of Science Fiction Age magazine?

One unusual aspect to this episode is that it features as mere onlooker a writer deserving of his own episode someday—Paul Di Filippo, who felt compelled to come along and witness this recording. After all, the first of his more than 100 published stories was a Malzberg homage!

Barry and I discussed why being able to sell his first drafts was so important at the beginning of his writing career, how his debut short story collection came to be published under the pseudonym K. M. O’Donnell, what it was like to edit both Amazing and Fantastic magazines during the late ’60s, the identity of his greatest discovery during his years at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, what’s up with the long-promised movie version of Beyond Apollo, how Harry Harrison could have (but didn’t) shut down the filming of Soylent Green, and more.

(5) EYEWITNESS. Zen Cho, inspired by Likhain‘s “Letter to Apex Editors Re: The Intersectional SFF Roundtable,” has written about her experiences with Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew, in “Being an itemized list of disagreements”.

I am writing this for two sets of people. One set is the people who were targeted by RH/BS and friends or were otherwise made to feel that fandom was a hostile place because of her conduct and that of her friends and supporters.

The second set is the people of colour/non-white people who continue to interact with RH/BS. Those who participate in roundtables with her, include her stories in their anthologies, and boost her work and opinions as though she is a totally normal, OK person who has never indulged in public, worryingly detailed fantasies of violence against other human beings in her life.

To this second audience: you can talk to and work with anyone you want. We need to talk to people we disagree with, and hanging out with a person online doesn’t of itself mean you condone their behaviour. However, I want you to make sure you have thought carefully about what you are doing…

(6) WITH MANY OTHER WORDS. Adam Whitehead at The Wertzone lists the “Longest SFF Novels of All Time” in an epic post worthy of his topic. Note — after you get past #1 the titles should be more familiar.

  1. Varney the Vampire by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest 667,000 words • 1845-47 This long novel was serialised in “penny dreadfuls” of the mid-19th Century and chronicles the adventures of Sir Francis Varney, a vampire. This book’s genre credentials have been disputed (with the suggestion that Varney is actually a madman rather than a real vampire), but there seems to be a general acceptance that the book is a genuine work of the fantastic, and the longest SFF work ever published in one volume (which it was in 1847). The book was also influential on Bram Stoker’s later Dracula(1897) and introduced many of the tropes of vampire fiction, including the “sympathetic vampire” protagonist.

(7) BRADBURY FILM FEST AT IU. “Ray Bradbury: From Science to the Supernatural” will be the focus of a special four-day film series at IU Cinema on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus beginning March 24. The series, which includes lectures and panel discussions, was programmed by the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.

  • 7 p.m. March 24, “Bradbury TV and Shorts Program” — The series kicks off with a unique gathering of short subjects, including the 1962 Oscar-nominated “Icarus Montgolfier Wright,” scripted by Bradbury and George Clayton Johnson. This animated film showcases paintings by Joseph Mugnaini, the illustrator closely associated with Bradbury’s books. Other short items include Bradbury stories adapted for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Twilight Zone.”
  • 7 p.m. March 26, “It Came From Outer Space” — Bradbury fans and scholars will have the opportunity to view the 1953 feature film based on an original Bradbury concept and screen treatment. Paper optic glasses will allow the audience to watch the film in 3-D — a unique opportunity to see this classic Jack Arnold-directed film as it was originally intended.
  • 6:30 p.m. March 27, “A Sound of Different Drummers” and 9:30 p.m. March 27, “Fahrenheit 451” — This double bill showcases two adaptations of Bradbury’s classic novel “Fahrenheit 451.” The evening begins with “A Sound of Different Drummers,” an uncredited television adaptation of Bradbury’s novel for the 1957 season of “Playhouse 90,” followed by a screening of the well-known 1966 film adaptation by François Truffaut. The intermission will include a panel discussion of the fascinating history surrounding these two landmark productions. Separate tickets are required for each film.
  • 3 p.m. March 28, “Moby Dick” — On its final day, the series closes with two films that showcase the broad range of Bradbury’s own screenwriting talents. The first is John Huston’s 1956 production of the classic novel, which was an early success that secured Bradbury’s Hollywood reputation. A panel discussion will be held following this film and before the evening screening of “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
  • 6:30 p.m. March 28, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” — Directed by Jack Clayton, this is the result of a 30-year arc of creativity that transformed an original Bradbury short story into a script, a novel and finally a successful film production.

IU Cinema director Jon Vickers has worked closely with Bradbury Center director Jonathan Eller and the center’s senior advisor, Phil Nichols, to develop the program for the Bradbury film series.

“Every session has fascinating cultural connections,” said Eller, an IUPUI Chancellor’s Professor who is also the editor of Bradbury’s early collected stories and the author of two Bradbury biographies. “The Academy Award-nominated ‘Icarus Montgolfier Wright,’ a story of our quest to reach the moon, was screened in the Kennedy White House just as those dreams were beginning to move toward reality.”

(8) GETTING THERE. Con or Bust helps fans of color go to SFF cons. It is funded through donations and an online auction held annually. The group’s first newsletter includes a link to available memberships in upcoming cons, plus an account of how many donated memberships were used. For example —

Worldcon 75 donated 25 attending memberships and 25 hotel room nights, all of which have been claimed; three memberships donated by individuals have also been claimed.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born February 17, 1912 — Andre Norton

(10) LADY BUSINESS. The editors of Lady Business have provided their “2017 Hugo Nomination Recommendations”.

Another year, another Hugo nomination season! Once again, nominations for the Hugo Awards are open, to anyone who is currently a member of this year’s upcoming Worldcon in Helsinki, last year’s Worldcon in Kansas City, or next year’s Worldcon in San Jose, CA [“a.k.a., my neck of the woods. Come to San Jose! We’ll all hang out!! It’ll be great!!!” — KJ]. Nominations are open until mid-March (March 17th or 18th, depending on your time zone), so that’s plenty of time to read all those things you’ve been meaning to get to before nominations close… right?

Never fear, the editors of Lady Business are here to provide our suggestions as you decide what to prioritize on your TBR. Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list of everything that might be worthy of a Hugo nomination, nor is it meant to be. It’s just a selection of some of the things we loved in 2016, and a few reasons why we loved them, along with some books, stories, and shows we’re still hoping to check out ourselves. Each editor’s opinions are their own, although we suspect you’d find a fair amount of agreement if we had sat down to discuss our picks.

Here’s an excerpt —

Best Short Story

“43 Responses to ‘In Memory of Dr. Alexandra Nako'” by Barbara A. Barnett — You might guess from my selections in this category that I enjoy short stories that take advantage of unusual storytelling formats, and you’d be right. A fascinating and creepy story that gets the feel of an Internet comments section just right. [KJ]

“The Fifth Gable” by Kay Chronister — This is a beautifully written and haunting and somewhat disturbing (I love it) story about creation and having children and loss. I’m not sure what more I can say about it that won’t spoil the reading experience, aside from that the language and imagery is lovely and haunting. Definitely worth a read. [Ira]

“From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review” by Marie Brennan — This story, told in the form of letters to the editor in a scientific journal, is set in the Lady Trent series but also stands alone. Great on its own, and it also gives a good taste of my favorite currently active series. [KJ]

(11) BATMAN TRIBUTE. In “Batman from beginning to retirement and beyond,” says Carl Slaughter, “The brooding knight broods in front of friends, foes, partners, himself, and time.”

(12) LARRY CORREIA’S BOOK TOUR. Baen Books announced that Larry Correia will tour the U.S. between July 28-August 10th in support of his latest novel, Monster Hunter Siege.

Monster Hunter Siege is the sixth novel in the Monster Hunter series. When Monster Hunter International’s top hunter was given a tip about some hunters who had gone missing in action, he didn’t realize their rescue mission would snowball into the single biggest operation in MHI’s history. This exciting series is urban fantasy with muscle—and guns!

 

City Store Confirmed
Friday, July 28, 2017 Tampa/St. Petersburg Books at Park Place 6:00-7:00PM
Saturday, July 29, 2017 Tampa Bay Comic Con Tampa Bay Comic Con
Monday, July 31, 2017 New Orleans Garden District Books 6:00-7:30PM
Tuesday, August 01, 2017 San Antonio Twig 6:00-8:00PM
Wednesday, August 02, 2017 Austin Half Price Books 7:00-8:00PM
Thursday, August 03, 2017 Dallas Half Price Books 7:00-8:00PM
Friday, August 04, 2017 Minneapolis Uncle Hugo 5:00-7:00PM
Saturday, August 05, 2017 Seattle University Books 6:00-7:00PM
Monday, August 07, 2017 Portland Powell’s Pending
Tuesday, August 08, 2017 San Diego Mysterious Galaxy 7:30-8:30PM
Wednesday, August 09, 2017 Phoenix Poisoned Pen 7:00-8:00PM
Thursday, August 10, 2017 Salt Lake City-Layton Barnes & Noble 7:00-8:00PM

Upcoming appearances by other Baen authors are listed on the publisher’s official calendar.

(13) THE MIDNIGHT HOUR. If Star Wars toys are your thing, get ready for you and your roll of hundred-dollar bills to stay up late. “Disney plans midnight ‘Star Wars’ event to unveil ‘Last Jedi’ toys”.

Walt Disney Co and major retailers will release the galaxy’s newest “Star Wars” toys at a Sept. 1 midnight event ahead of the holiday debut of the next film in the saga, “The Last Jedi,” company executives told Reuters.

The marketing push called “Force Friday II” is a sequel to an event Disney used to build buzz for merchandise tied to the 2015 movie “The Force Awakens.”

(14)  HE SAID… Are the writers for Beavis and Butthead now working for New Scientist? “Far-off asteroid caught cohabiting with Uranus around the sun”. Or maybe it’s just me….

A rare Trojan asteroid of Uranus has been found, following the same orbit as the planet. Its existence implies there could be many more of these companion asteroids, and that they are more common than we thought.

A Trojan asteroid orbits the sun 60 degrees ahead of or behind a planet. Jupiter and Neptune have numerous Trojans, many of which have been in place for billions of years. These primordial rocks hold information about the solar system’s birth, and NASA has just announced plans to visit several of them in the 2020s and 2030s.

But Saturn and Uranus live in a rougher neighbourhood: the giant planets on either side of them yank Trojans away through their gravitational pull. So Saturn has no known Trojan, and Uranus had only one.

(15) RELEASE PRESS. And while we’re in that news neighborhood. “At ease, future astronauts: NASA solving ‘space poop’ problem”.

…But what if they’re stuck in a spacesuit for days on end? Not so easy.

NASA has taken steps to address the problem and recently announced the winner of the Space Poop Challenge, a competition organized by its NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), hosted by the HeroX crowdsourcing initiative.

The winner of the prize was Thatcher Cardon, a family physician, Air Force officer and flight surgeon, whose system “MACES Perineal Access & Toileting System (M-PATS),” who utilized his knowledge of keyhole surgery to develop his design.

The competition was aimed at finding a safe, medically sound solution from taking waste away from astronauts’ bodies if confined for a long period of time.

…More than 5,000 proposed solutions from a total of 19,000 registered competitors from over 150 teams from “every country and continent on Earth (including Antarctica) participated, according to a press release.

(16) HE ROCKS IN THE TREETOPS ALL THE DAY LONG. Who among the 4 main Robins is the best?  Batman, Ra’s al Ghul, Nightwing, Red Hood, and the Robins provide insight and opinion.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 5/3/16 The Seven Pixel Scrollution

(1) JEOPARDY! Funny how fandom has gone from being the contestants to being the answers…. On the May 3 episode of Jeopardy! one of the answers was —

In A Storm of Swords, he acknowledged “Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in it.”

The correct question would be “Who is George R.R. Martin?” But the clue is Phyllis Eisenstein.

Martin discussed this on a panel at Chicon 7 in 2012.

The dragons were one aspect that I did consider not including. Very early in the process, I was debating, should I do this just as like historical fiction about fake history, and have no actually overt magic or magical elements, but — my friend Phyllis Eisenstein, a wonderful fantasy writer who lives here in Chicago, I happened to be talking to her at very early stage in the process. Phyllis has written some great fantasies herself. She said, “Nah, you have to have dragons. It’s a fantasy, you know!” And I dedicated A Storm of Swords to Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in, and I think that was the right thing to do.

(2) TERMS OF UNDEARMENT. Kukuruyo’s image of Ms. Marvel has been pulled from DeviantArt. And on his own site, the Project Wonderful ads have been pulled on the page that displays the image. Did he violate the Terms Of Service?

(3) OFF THE CHARTS. The map found in illustrator Pauline Baynes’ copy of The Lord of the Rings has a new home reports The Guardian — “Tolkien annotated map of Middle-earth acquired by Bodleian library”.

Here be dragons – and wolves, bears, witches, camels, elephants, orcs, elves and hobbits.

A map of Middle-earth, which to generations of fans remains the greatest fantasy world ever created, heavily annotated by JRR Tolkien, has been acquired by the Bodleian library in Oxford to add to the largest collection in the world of material relating to his work, including the manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The annotations, in green ink and pencil, demonstrate how real his creation was in Tolkien’s mind: “Hobbiton is assumed to be approx at latitude of Oxford,” he wrote.

(4) CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN. BBC News has a story about a a member of the 501st climbing England’s highest mountain. A Star Wars fan who walked to the tops of Snowdon and Ben Nevis while dressed as a stormtrooper plans to tackle England’s tallest mountain.

Ashley Broomhall hopes to make the trek on Wednesday, the date of which – May the fourth- is often linked to the Star Wars phrase “May the force…”

He will wear his stormtrooper armour for the walk up 3,208ft (978m) Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

(5) AMAZONIAN TOSSER. Heather Rose Jones “tosses a little numbers-geekery” at the question of what it means for a book to have only really really good reviews on Amazon. (Spoiler: She says it means your book isn’t getting out enough.)

You know who has spent a very long time in the top 10 books sold in Historical Fantasy? Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Do you know how many one-star reviews Outlander has on Amazon? 749. Seven hundred and forty-fucking-nine one-star reviews (4% of the total). No book is universally beloved.

(6) CHINA BOUND. Martin L. Shoemaker posted his good news on Facebook:

Now that the contract has been signed, I am very honored to announce that “Today I Am Paul” will appear in Science Fiction World, the Chinese science fiction magazine, as part of their new series of Hugo/Nebula nominees.

(7) CROWDFUNDING AEROSPACE HISTORIAN. You can support Dr. Jim Busby by helping fund his travel to Spacefest VII.

Help Us Keep Our Aerospace Heritage Alive

From June 9 – 12 2016 Spacefest VII , a reunion of legendary NASA astronauts, engineers, famous space scientists, authors, astronomers, space artists, and fans produced by Novaspace, will be held in Tucson, AZ.

Dr. Jim Busby Aerospace Historian, educator and board member of Aerospace Legacy Foundation (ALF) in Downey, CA has been invited to be a guest lecturer and to do a memorabilia display. Unfortunately, ALF being a small non-profit organization cannot afford to send Dr. Busby, his wife and other members of the organization to Tucson. That is why we are turning to aerospace enthusiasts to help fund this trip. Dr. Jim Busby’s extensive knowledge of aerospace history has educated many over the years. In 1978 he helped create the world’s first Apollo lunar reenactments and worked at the California Science center for 19 years.

“I enjoy educating children and adults in our long fascination with space exploration,” Busby commented. “Inspiring children when I talk about Apollo lunar exploration is an experience beyond words.”

The GoFundMe has raised $645 of its $2,500 goal at this writing.

(7) JURY DUTY. Mary Anne Mohanraj announced on Facebook that jurors are needed to review grant applications for Speculative Literature Foundation.

JURORS NEEDED: The Speculative Literature Foundation is looking for ten volunteer jurors willing to read applications (a few pages each, including a writing sample) over the space of about a month for our Diverse Writers Grant and our Diverse Worlds Grant. The grant deadline is at the end of July, so you would need to have time available in August to read and discuss. In order to be considered, potential jurors should be writers, editors, teachers, or readers with broad knowledge of the genre, who are capable of judging literary quality in a work.

If interested, please send a brief note to our director, Mary Anne Mohanraj, mohanraj@uic.edu, with the subject line: JUROR. Include a few lines on what your qualifying background would be for serving as a juror. Thank you for your interest, and for your support of science fiction and fantasy!

More information about the Diverse Writers and Diverse Workds grants at the link.

(8) SOUND RETREAT. John C. Wright takes “A Polite Retreat from Combat”.

Mr. George R.R. Martin here (http://grrm.livejournal.com/485124.html) has taken the time out of his busy writing schedule to rebut my comment where I rebuked him for characterizing the Sad Puppies reading list of last year as ‘right-wing’ and ‘weak’, a statement published in the Guardian newspaper.

My reply, humbly enough, was that my work was unweak enough to have sold at least one example to him. He responds by chiding me for being insufficiently humble: as if making a sale to George R.R. Martin were not indeed a matter for pride.

He and I (or so I thought) had an agreement to smooth over our puppy-related sadness.

In the spirit of that agreement, I plead nolo contendere to his allegations, in the hope that if I say nothing but this in reply, he will return to his writing, and tell me and his other fans the final fate of Westeros.

The years fly like autumn leaves, and life too short for such fare. Winter is coming.

(9) RITUALLY UNCLEAN. Sami Sundell calls it “Overemphasizing the Taint”.

…I’ve also seen some more dire messages. For example, Steve Davidson listed nominations sans puppy taint. Matthew M. Foster had an even stricter stance and called the awards Vox Awards. And that’s what really hit my nerve….

So who cares if one of the nominees is Ann Leckie‘s Ancillary Mercy, the final part of the trilogy that started with Hugo winner Ancillary Justice – a book that has been much reviled by the Puppies. Mercy was on Sad Puppies recommendation lists so it’s tainted. Same apparently goes for Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

And Vox Day, apparently all by himself, decided Seveneves by Neal Stephenson is worthy of a Hugo nomination. You know, the multiple award winner Neal Stephenson? And a book that was pre-emptively put into mind blowing science fiction list of io9 in January 2015? Expectations were high, and I’ve seen plenty of reviews saying those expectations were met, and then some.

Same goes for Alastair Reynolds’ Slow Bullets and Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Penric’s Demon. McMaster Bujold has won or been nominated for Hugos more times than I have fingers. Is it really so hard to believe she would write yet another masterpiece?

…No. Saying Day made some OK choices is not surrender. That blog entry is surrender. It gives all the power to Vox Day, it ignores the quality of works, and it claims fans had no say in the nominations. That sounds awfully lot like the arguments we’ve heard from Puppies for several years….

(10) TROLLFIGHTING SPACE KITTEN. Spacefaring Kitten would deal with the ballot this way — “On Fighting Trolls and Going to Have to Ask Kevin Standlee”.

Rule changes are slow, however, so they don’t help in the current situation — where we indeed have a hostile takeover by trolls who have stated explicitly that their intention is to destroy the award. Among the Hugo finalists, there are works that include blatant hate-speech, fat-shaming, misogyny et cetera. Overall, it’s more horrible than last year, when the voters had to mostly just stomach bad writing (this year, the level of writing is probably much higher).

The works I’m referring to here are of course the short story “If You Were an Award, My Love” and the related works SJWs Always Lie, “The Story of Moira Greyland” and “Safe Space as Rape Room” (and maybe the work of the fan artist “Kukuruyo”). These are ugly works manufactured to harass individual members of the SFF community or groups of people that the Rabid Puppies contingency happens to love harassing (women, LGBTI community and so on).

So, what could be done about them? Unfortunately, not much.

After reading the WSFS constitution, I came up with only two things. If I was running the Worldcon (which I’m not, of course), I would:

  1. Not include them in the Hugo voter packet. (There are zero rules about the voter packet, so it would be completely possible for the Worldcon to exclude the works mentioned above.)
  2. Insert onto the online voting form a statement that says “Midamericon II condemns the hate-speech/whatever featured in Finalist X”.

(11) SUTHERLAND CONTINUES. Meanwhile, Doris V. Sutherland is still working on her category-by-category discussion of last year’s results in “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: What Could Have Been, Part 1” at Women Write About Comics.

So, let me restate that the works on these longlists are the works that received the highest number of votes during the Hugo nomination process without being on either the Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies slates. I have seen no evidence to justify suspicion of any conspiracy or wrongdoing on the part of George R. R. Martin or anyone else involved.

That said, I also have to question the claim made by certain Sad Puppies opponents that these longlists show us exactly what the Hugo ballot would been had the Sad Puppies campaign never existed. This interpretation ignores the fact that some of the Puppy picks could quite conceivably have made the final ballot even without the aid of the campaign. Nevertheless, a look at the longlist will at least give us a good idea of how the ballot would have looked without Puppy slating—and an idea is all we can have.

Best Short Story

“Jackalope Wives,” by Ursula Vernon

One of the 2014 nominees in this category was Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories are for Losers,” which riffed on the folkloric motif of the animal bride. Interestingly enough, one of the contenders for the 2015 award plays with the same theme—albeit with very different results.

Ursula Vernon constructs her pseudo-folkloric story from specifically American materials, lending it a folksy tall-tale feel. It takes place in a world where young men periodically go out and hunt for jackalopes—which, in Vernon’s conception, are more than just antlered bunnies. Once they remove their fur, they take on their true forms as beautiful, unearthly women. As per animal bride tradition, any prospective suitor must steal a jackalope’s fur before he can win her as a bride, and burn it to prevent her from changing back and escaping.

So far, so conventional. But while folktales of this type are often told from the point of view of the man, with the bride’s disappearance seen as a sad occurrence, Vernon sheds light on how rotten the scenario must be for the woman. The protagonist of “Jackalope Wives” learns the ugly truth behind the legend when he tries to burn a jackalope’s fur; her resulting screams of pain cause him to have second thoughts, inadvertently leaving the woman trapped halfway between human and animal. The manic pixie dream girl has had her wings cut off.

“Jackalope Wives” is true to its folkloric roots while simultaneously offering a contemporary spin on the age-old material. A deserving contender for Best Short Story.

Sutherland also drew a “salute” to GamerGate Life.

(12) AGAINST HATRED. Jon Tully at GeeksOut tells “How Hatred Is Hurting the Hugos”.

…This year, the Rabid puppies doubled their votes and succeeded in nominating 62 out of 80 stories that they backed. And are these stories that reflect where our culture is headed? Are they stories about inclusivity, empathy, and reflection?

No. They are stories such as “SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police” a story about “social justice warriors” (penned by Beale himself), “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris, (a direct spoof on the gay-affirming “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”),  “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness (published by Castalia House) and, my personal (sarcastic) favorite, Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle, which has all the literary merit the title suggests.

If the judges were willing to deny awards in five categories last year, what is it going to look like this year? Will any awards be given? Will authors begin to gravitate away from the Hugos towards the Nebula or the Locus Awards?

Will this be the death of an institution I love?

As Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And while these oft-repeated words can seem passé (and a little too gender-specific), there is, of course, a core of truth. The reason that we’re in this situation is because the various Puppies were able to rally enough hate to their side to be heard.

But the fact that sours my stomach is not that small-minded children were able to throw a tantrum and get their way, it’s that, by doing so, they’re hijacking the narrative of our era. Metaphorically speaking, the Rabid Puppies are wedging their intolerance into a time capsule that future generations will open, and societies not yet born will see and be ashamed of.

(13) WORD BALLOONS. At this link you will find what seems to be popularly regarded as “the best superhero story ever.” And at minimum it’s pretty funny: http://imgur.com/a/czaDD

(14) FLIGHT TO THE FINNISH. Zen Cho can’t resist temptation.

(15) FRED POHL IS HERE. The Traveler from Galactic Journey has the latest ancient prozine news: “[May 3, 1961] Passing the Torch (June 1961, Galaxy, 2nd Half)”.

Fred Pohl came on last year.  He was not officially billed as the editor, but it was common knowledge that he’d taken over the reigns.  Pohl is an agent and author, a fan from the way-back.  I understand his plan has been to raise author rates again and bring back quality.  While he waits for the great stories to come back, he leavens the magazines with old stories from the “slush pile” that happen not to be awful.  In this way, Galaxy showcases promising new authors while keeping the quality of the magazine consistent.

The June 1961 Galaxy is the first success story of this new strategy.

Last issue, I talked about how Galaxy was becoming a milquetoast mag, afraid to take risks or deviate far from mediocrity.  This month’s issue, the first that lists Pohl as the “Managing Editor,” is almost the second coming of old Galaxy — daring, innovative, and with one exception, excellent.

Take Cordwainer Smith’s Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons, in which an interplanetary ring of thieves tries to steal from the richest, and best defended planet, in the galaxy.  Smith has always been a master, slightly off-center in his style; his rich, literary writing is of the type more usually seen in Fantasy and Science FictionKittons is ultimately a mystery, the nature of the unique (in name and nature) “kittons” remaining unknown until the last.  A brutal, fascinating story, and an unique take on the future.  Five stars.

(16) DABBLING IN THE DEBACLE. Amanda S. Green asks “What do you want?” at Mad Genius Club.

…the Hugo debacle. Yes, debacle. There is no other way to describe it. Whether you support the idea that the Hugos are a fan award (which I do since you buy a membership to WorldCon in order to vote and anyone with the money can do so) or a “literary” award (which, to mean, would require it to be a juried award in some fashion), I think we all can — or at least should — agree that Hugo should not be exclusionary. If you can afford the money for the membership, you should be able to vote and your vote should have the same weight as the next person’s. Until the rules are changed, that is how it should be.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when I was looking through Facebook and came across a post from one of the puppy-kickers — and I am looking straight at you, Mr. Amazing Stories — saying that the committee should go in and look at all the ballots. Any ballot cast by a puppy should be thrown out. (And he even adds to his comment “screw privacy”, which had been one of the concerns last year’s committee had when they were asked to release the voting data.). But that’s not enough for him. He advocates never letting a “puppy” buy a membership to WorldCon again. There’s more but you can go look for yourself — assuming the post is still there. It is dated April 26th and was posted at 7:24 pm.

Needless to say, when I saw this, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Laughter because these sorts of comments show the hypocrisy of those who are “fighting the good fight” against those evil Sad and Rabid Puppies. We are called all sorts of names because, as they claim, we want to exclude message and “marginalized” people from the genre. Yet here one of their most vocal supporters is doing exactly what they claim we are doing. He is saying we should not be allowed into the same room with the Hugos. Note, he is not only saying that we shouldn’t be allowed to vote for their beloved award but tat we should not be allowed to attend WorldCon.

Sounds pretty exclusionary to me. How about you?

(17) HE’S EXCITED. More from Shamus Young about his Hugo nomination in a podcast on his site. The show notes say:

01:08 Shamus is up for a Hugo Award

Here I talk about the fact that I’ve been nominated for a Hugo, and I briefly mention the controversy the Hugos have been having for the past two years. I don’t want to talk about the controversy here. In fact, the no politics post was written specifically in anticipation of this discussion.

If you’re looking for more information: On WIRED there’s this post entitled Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards and the Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul, which seems to be the one everyone links when trying to bring people up to speed on this. However, like a lot of Wired articles this one feels like the author was paid by the word. It’s long on anecdotes, it takes forever to get to the point, it’s broad and hyperbolic, and for all the words it spends it never feels like it gets down to details.

I found this one much more useful: A Detailed Explanation by Matthew David Surridge, explaining why he declined his Hugo nomination last year. It is also long – I’m afraid you can’t really do the topic justice in a couple of paragraphs – but instead of spending its word count on stories, he just takes up one side and argues for it. In the process he kind of maps out a good deal of both sides[1].

I’m excited to be nominated for a Hugo. I’m excited that videogames are being recognized and encouraged in their pursuit of sci-fi stories. I’m dreading dealing with people who don’t respect my no politics rule and are just looking for an opportunity to unleash the anger they’re hauling around. I think accepting the nomination is the most diplomatic thing to do, and win or lose I’m grateful for everyone who thinks my work has merit.

(18) COUNTING TO ZERO. The Locus Awards navigated around the worst rocks and shoals of the puppy lists only to incur criticism about the composition of the YA Novel finalists.

(19) NEW POPULAR FICTION MFA. Emerson College in Boston is starting a new Masters of Fine Arts in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing in Fall 2016. It will be a fully online program designed for students who want to pursue a career as a writer of novels in the genres of fantasy, science-fiction, horror, mystery, thriller, or young adult.

The program will enroll a cohort of 12 students in order to provide individual attention and coaching. The two-year accredited MFA program will be housed in Emerson’s nationally known Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing.

The MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing is one of the first online writing programs to prepare students to write professional-level stories and novels in a variety of fictional genres and provides an opportunity for students to read deeply, think critically, and discuss popular fiction with peers. Students will have the experience of participating in creative workshops and literature courses that focus on the history of various popular genres. Additionally, hands-on publishing courses will teach students how to turn a completed manuscript into a polished, publishable work. Emerson’s publishing faculty will offer insights on the avenues available for students to publish their work, from finding and working with literary agents to self-publishing to reaching a wide readership through trade publishers.

For more information, visit the MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing web page or contact John Rodzvilla, graduate program director, at john_rodzilla@emerson.edu or 617-824-3717.

(20) PUPPY DISAMBIGUATION. Don’t miss the rollover in Trae’s cartoon “The inevitable outcome”.

(21) UNKNOWN TRAILER. The first trailer for Approaching the Unknown has been released, a movie starring Mark Strong and Luke Wilson.

(22) TOLKIEN TALK. Terri Windling will lecture about Tolkien in Oxford on May 26.

Pembroke Tolkien lecture

(23) PAYING BACKWARD. Rachel Swirsky has a plan for getting through these parlous times which she shares in “Making Lemons into Jokes: ‘If You Were a Butt, My Butt”.

In my family, humor has always been a way of putting crap into perspective. When life hands you lemons, make jokes. And then possibly lemonade, too. It is coming up on summer.

In that spirit, I’m trying a self-publishing experiment. And that experiment’s name is “If You Were a Butt, My Butt.”

If my Patreon reaches $100 by the end of the month, I will write and send “If You Were a Butt, My Butt” to everyone who subscribes. If things go well, I’ve got some stretch goals, too, like an audio version.

I will be donating the first month’s Patreon funds to Lyon-Martin health services. Lyon-Martin is one of the only providers that focuses on caring for the Quiltbag community, especially low-income lesbian, bisexual, and trans people. They provide services regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

pablo-1

[And that’s the end! Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James David Nicoll, Mark-kitteh, Dawn Sabados, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, Hampus Eckerman, Mike O’Donnell, Glenn Hauman, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Con or Bust Creates Its Own Nonprofit Corporation

Con or Bust, which “helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions,” is now being run by its own newly-created not-for-profit corporation in New York. (Search the NY database). And they are seeking items for their annual online auction, with bidding to take place from May 25 through June 5.

Con or Bust’s fundraising activities formerly were part of the Carl Brandon Society (CBS). However, it came to public attention last year that the Society had lost its federal tax-exempt status, meaning Con or Bust donations would not be deductible until certain steps were taken by CBS to regain that status, which have yet to be completed.

Kate Nepveu announced that Con or Bust, Inc. filed a certificate of incorporation with the state on April 6, 2016. Its inaugural Board of Directors is:

Con or Bust followed by submitting an application for federal tax-exempt status under 501(c)(3) on April 17. Once approved, the tax-exempt status will be retroactive to the date that Con or Bust, Inc., was created. (The IRS says they should expect to hear within 90 days.) As a small charity, Con or Bust, Inc., is exempt from registration with New York State, but Nepveu says they will also be submitting an application to confirm that exemption. All of their corporate documents can be read online at the updated About page.

Meanwhile, the Carl Brandon Society is filing the tax returns necessary for its re-application for tax exempt status. Nepveu says CBS looks forward to having that in place later this year.

Auction: Con or Bust is principally funded through its annual online auction, and they are looking for donations.

Anyone can offer something for auction, by filling out a form on the website – all you need is an email address. Pictures of the item(s) can be uploaded at the same time

Full details are at the main auction information page. Click here for the Submit an Auction form.

Due the auction starting later, the next period for fans of color to request monetary assistance will be May 27-June 6.

Pixel Scroll 12/5 Old Man Zombie Song: “I’m scared of living, and I’m tired of dying”

(1) CLICHE KILLER. Charlie Stross has left the story! Or at least heaved the book across the room. He’s posted a rant about “Science-fictional shibboteths” with examples of “what makes me yell when I kick the tires on an SF/F novel these days.”

…Disbelief can be shattered easily by authorial mistakes—one of the commonest is to have a protagonist positioned as a sympathetic viewpoint character for the reader behave in a manner that is not only unsympathetic but inconsistent with the protagonist’s parameters. But there are plenty of other ways to do it….

But then we get to more specific matters: specific shibboleths of the science fictional or fantastic literary toolbox that give my book-holding hand that impossible-to-ignore twitch reflex.

(Caveat: I am talking about books here. I basically don’t do TV or film because my attention span is shot, my eyeballs can’t scan fast enough to keep up with jerkycam or pull in enough light to resolve twilight scenes, and my hand/eye coordination is too crap for computer games.)

Asteroidal gravel banging against the hull of a spaceship. Alternatively: spaceships shelting from detection behi nd an asteroid, or dodging asteroids, or pretty much anything else involving asteroids that don’t look like this….

(2) SILVER BELLS. A Krampus parade in Austria. The video (a public Facebook post) is highly entertaining. Jim Rittenhouse nicknamed the marchers “the 324th Krampus Brigade” but it’s a genuine local custom. (Well, I’m not sure about the giant silver bells on their buttcheeks….)

What is this…? An Austrian tradition!

The Krampus is an old tradition. It has its origins before Catholicism reached the mountains in Austria and Bavaria. In the past, were the winter was cold and strong, before the Krampus a so called Perchte should punch the winter away with a rod. When Catholicism reached the described areas, the Perchte was transformed into the Krampus, just like other profane rites. So the Krampus got the bad part of the Nikolaus-Krampus team. With the  Krampus scaring the kids. The good kids are rewarded by the Nicklaus whereas the bad kids are punished by the Krampus.

The Parade called “Krampuslauf” serves to present the masks . Many hundreds or thousands of people look at this ” Krampuslauf ” in different locations in Austria.

(3) Today In History

(4) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • Born December 5, 1890: Fritz Lang
  • Born December 5, 1901: Walt Disney

(5) MYTHIC FIGURES. Seen in Paris a couple of weeks ago —

vader COMP

(6) SORCERER TO THE CROWN. The Independent profiles author Zen Cho.

Perhaps somewhat unwittingly, Zen Cho has become something of a poster-girl for the growing chorus of voices clamouring for more diversity in science fiction and fantasy literature.

It seems a given that a genre that deals with the different, the new, and the unfamiliar as a matter of course should quite naturally embrace diversity and progressiveness in both its practitioners and its characters.

But the recent debacle over the genre’s Hugo Awards – to cut a very long story very short, the awards nominations were flooded by a concerted campaign from a couple of fandom factions who think SF should really be the preserve of straight white males, and a spaceship should be a spaceship and not a metaphor for anything else – shows that there are still clearly-delineated battle lines over this….

Zen Cho’s response has been more measured, and delivered in really the best way an author can – she’s written a novel that simultaneously manages to tackle questions of race, gender, and social justice while being a thumping good read.

Sorcerer to the Crown is a Regency fantasy that posits an alternative-history England where magic is practised openly, but where political shenanigans within the source of the magic, the Fairy Court, are limiting England’s power … and just when it needs it most as the Government ramps up its war with the French.

(7) AN UNEXPECTED LANCELOT. Sherwood Smith covers the history, then reviews the mystery, in “Arthurian Cycle with a New Twist” at Book View Café.

But after a lifetime of sampling all these various versions, I’ve never really taken to this storyline. It’s a doom and disaster tale that turns on adultery. Not my cuppa.

I did have to teach Malory back in my teaching days, getting puzzled kids through fifteenth century English mainly by teasing out stories that could relate to their lives now, and then painting a picture of life then. We read it in spite of the story, kind of, because personality was pretty sparse: the characters are all pretty much one thing, especially the women.

But there’s one Arthurian story I really like a whole lot, and that’s this one, by Carol Anne Douglas, the first half of which is entitled Lancelot: Her Story. I’ve been reading drafts over a number of years, as she slowly reworked and layered the story into what it is now.

She’s studied those earlier versions, and it shows in the episodic nature of the narrative, the easily accessible prose, and of course the famous people and incidents. But she added a twist: Lancelot is a woman. And Arthur and his Knights don’t know it.

(8) TOP 10 WARS. From Future War Stories, “FWS: Top Ten Most Interesting Wars of Military Science Fiction” Many good picks, and plenty of fodder for discussion since my own list wouldn’t overlap that much. What about yours?

  1. The Cylon Wars from BSG

The Cylon Wars have been a founding event in both BSG series, and neither have been seen in any length until the 2012 web-only miniseries Blood & Chrome. In the 2004-2009 Reimagined Series, the rebellion of the intelligence machines, known as Cylons, was about fifty two years before the Cylon Holocaust (BCH), and lasted for 12 years. This war united the 12 Colonies of Kobol under the Articles of Colonization, and saw the construction of the Battlestars that we know and love. This conflict transformed the 12 Colonies and paved the way for its destruction decades later and the rise of our society here on Earth. But, we saw very little of the actually, despite the Caprica series.

In the original 1978 series, the Cylons were actually an reptilian alien race that used robotic soldiers to wages their wars after their own population was nearly exhausted to maintain their empire.

The Cylons of the original series waged an 1,000 year war with the 12 Colonies of Man, until finally achieving victory, and destroying the 12 Colonies of Man. Of course, both Cylons had help in destroying the 12 Colonies in the form of the Baltar characters. After the end of the SyFy Channel reimagined series in 2009, it was believed that a new series would be created around the Cylon War and William Adama’s experiences in the war, along with the series Caprica. Again, the Galactica would be front-and-center. This would have allowed us to see the war that had been floating around science fiction since the 1970’s. That promised series was not delivered in the form that we fans expected. BSG: Blood & Chrome was downgraded to an online miniseries of a 10 episodes. The show we thought we were going to get was just okay, and the Cylon Wars remains an unseen war. What is interesting about the Cylon War mentioned in both series, is that creators took two very different ideas on the war and the Cylons.

(9) VIRTUAL CHERNOBYL. Preview the virtual tour of Chernobyl now being assembled for an April online debut.

Take a virtual tour of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster zone – without leaving your sofa

The town of Prypiat is not a place which is likely to feature on many travel-lovers’ bucket lists.

Almost three decades ago, its 350,000 residents’ lives changed forever when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster turned their home into a terrifying radioactive danger zone.

Prypiat might not be the sort of destination you’d fancy visiting in real life, but soon you will have the chance to take an amazing virtual tour of this abandoned Soviet ghost city.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster next year, a Polish games developer called The Farm 51 is offering “anyone with access to virtual reality devices an unprecedented trip to the area without leaving the comfort of their homes”.

… “Virtual visitors will be free to explore and engage with places that have hitherto been off limits.”

The Farm 51 spent days filming the town’s eerie locations in unprecedented detail, digitising its spooky swimming pool, ferris wheel and bumper cars.

Anyone brave enough to take a virtual tour can do so starting from April 26 next year – the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

(10) GOOGLE BESTSELLERS. At The Digital Reader, “Google Play Reveals Its Best-Selling eBooks, Videos, and Games for 2015”. Depressingly, five of the 10 top books  are “Fifty Shades…” of something. But The Martian by Andy Weir and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs also sneaked in there.

After seeing Google’s list, I was better prepared to discover that science fiction is only the seventh among the top selling fiction categories at Smashwords — “2015 Smashwords Survey Reveals Insights to Help Authors Reach More Readers”.

[Last three of ten points.]

  1. Avoid $1.99.  For the fourth year in a row, $1.99 was a black hole in terms of overall earnings.  On a unit sales basis, although $1.99 books outperformed all books priced $5.00 and above, it dramatically underperformed on overall earnings, earning 73% less than the average of all other price points.  If you write full length fiction and you have books priced at $1.99, trying increasing the price to $2.99 or $3.99, and if your book performs as the aggregate does, you’ll probably sell more units.  Or if it’s short and $2.99+ is too high, try 99 cents instead because the data suggests you’ll earn more and reach about 65% more readers.  I’m not entirely certain why this is the case.  It’s not because our retailers pay lower levels for sub-$2.99 books.  They don’t.  Our retailers pay the same for $1.99 as they do for $9.99.  There’s something about the price point that readers don’t like.  Who knows, maybe readers see 99 cents as an enticing promotional price, $2.99 and up as a fair price, and $1.99 as the price for lesser quality books that couldn’t make the $2.99 grade.  Your theory is as good as mine.
  2. Bestselling authors and social media. Bestselling authors are more likely to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and more likely to have a blog.  Not a huge surprise, though it’s worth noting there are plenty of successful authors who have minimal presence on social media.
  3. Top 10 Fiction categories during the one year period: 1.  Romance.  2.  Erotica.  3.  YA and teen fiction.  4.  Fantasy.  5.  Mystery & detective.   6.  Gay and lesbian fiction.  7.  Science fiction.  8.  Historical.  9.  Thriller & suspense.   10.  Adventure.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Will R., John King Tarpinian, and Brian Z. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor  of the day Anna Nimmhaus .]