Pixel Scroll 7/14/17 In The Country Of The Pixelated, The First-Fifth Man Is God(stalk)

(1) GAME OF THRONES AND WORLDCON 75 MAKE NEWS. George R.R. Martin mentioned in his blog the other day (“Tick, Tick, Tick”) that Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are coming to Worldcon 75 in Helsinki for the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Chair Jukka Halme confirmed it and the story made it into Finland’s biggest newspaper (Helsingin Sanomat). You can get all the details there…if you read Finnish: “Game of Thrones -sarjan tekijät tulevat vierailulle Suomeen elokuuss”.

(2) TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. The July 2 New York Times Magazine has an article by Steven Johnson called “Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us)” about the search for extraterrestrial life and the debate about whether we should wait for aliens to contact us (the “SETI” approach) or actively send messages to outer space (a method known as “METI”).  Johnson interviews David Brin, who is fiercely opposed to actively broadcasting messages of our existence to other worlds:

Before Doug Vakoch had even filed the papers to form the METI nonprofit organization in July 2015, a dozen or so science-and-tech luminaries, including SpaceX’s Elon Musk, signed a statement categorically opposing the project, at least without extensive further discussion, on a planetary scale. ‘‘Intentionally signaling other civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy,’’ the statement argued, ‘‘raises concerns from all the people of Earth, about both the message and the consequences of contact. A worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion must occur before any message is sent.’’

One signatory to that statement was the astronomer and science-fiction author David Brin, who has been carrying on a spirited but collegial series of debates with Vakoch over the wisdom of his project. ‘‘I just don’t think anybody should give our children a fait accompli based on blithe assumptions and assertions that have been untested and not subjected to critical peer review,’’ he told me over a Skype call from his home office in Southern California. ‘‘If you are going to do something that is going to change some of the fundamental observable parameters of our solar system, then how about an environmental-impact statement?’’

(3) KAISER. JoAnn Kaiser reopened The Magic Door within a week of the death of her husband, Dwain, reports David Allen in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin “Pomona bookstore’s reopening binds community after owner’s death”.

But Saturday she was revived, buoyed by her family and friends. A 12th anniversary sale that had been set to end July 5 instead continues, with all merchandise 30 percent off. The sale pricing may continue indefinitely.

Her goal is not to keep the store long-term. For one thing, she’s 82. But she wasn’t going to let the tragedy mark the end of Magic Door.

“I could have locked the door. I’m not a door-locker,” JoAnn Kaiser told me firmly. “The plan is to get the books he loved to the people who want them, who need them. He didn’t want his books dumped. He wanted them to go to somebody.”

…The bookstore fit the Arts Colony like a glove. “It was just part of the ambience of downtown Pomona,” customer Bill Martinez told me outside after buying two books. (I recognized “The Best of S.J. Perelman” as one I had sold Dwain Kaiser a few weeks ago.)

“Everybody knew them,” Martinez said of the Kaisers. “They were part of the community, and one of the best parts.”

Mayor Tim Sandoval has visited to offer his condolences and at Monday’s City Council meeting asked for a moment of silence in Dwain Kaiser’s memory.

…Not every customer knew of Dwain Kaiser’s death. Monica Berrocal was saddened when I told her. She liked to bring her children there. Once JoAnn Kaiser gave her son a Thomas the Tank Engine book. “They were always so kind,” she said.

Hino, a Pomona High graduate, greeted customers warmly from Dwain Kaiser’s usual seat and thanked them for coming. A hospital executive, he confided that this was his first retail job. He’ll be there helping out as he can, as will his sister, Kim.

“It’s very different from what I normally do,” Hino told me cheerfully. “I’m enjoying it. It’s nice. And it’s good being back in Pomona.”

…“Pomona’s resilient. I think tonight shows the best of Pomona,” JoAnn Kaiser said.

The store has a lot of books, and there are more in storage that Dwain Kaiser, due to age and mobility issues, had not seen in years. JoAnn Kaiser, with help, hopes to dig them all out, put them on the shelves and get them homes before shutting the doors for good.

“He had a mad love affair with books,” she said of her husband of 32 years.

“The support will fade. I know that. But I’m doing what he would have wanted.”

(4) BEAU GESTE. Deadpool gracefully yielded his place on the box office record lists to Wonder Woman:

(5) FOLLOW THE MONEY. What does John Scalzi have in common with Milo Yiannapoulos? Probably not much, except this one thing – Bookscan doesn’t count all their sales. Scalzi explains in “How to Screw Up a Triumphant Bestselling Debut”.

Here’s the deal: Yiannopoulos has asserted his book’s opening week sales were on the order of 100,000 copies. Contrasting this, Nielsen Bookscan, the service which tracks physical book sales via many (but not all) booksellers, including Amazon, has his first week sales as 18,268 in the US (and — heh — 152 in the UK). As most of us probably know, 18,000 is less than 100,000.

Or is it? Because here’s the thing about Bookscan — it doesn’t in fact track all sales of a book. It doesn’t track eBook sales, for example, nor does it track audiobook sales. Nor does it track sales from some small independent booksellers, who might have not signed up to be Bookscan-reporting retailers. As a result, depending on how much you sell in other formats, and where you sell your books, Bookscan can massively underreport your total sales.

I know this because that’s what Bookscan does with me. A couple of years ago I tracked the sales of the hardcover era of Lock In (which is to say, all the sales reported while the physical book was only available in hardcover). For the time it was in hardcover, Bookscan reported 11,175 hardcover sales in the US. However, overall the book sold about 22,500 copies in hardcover and about 87,500 copies across all formats (hardcover, ebook, audio).

In all, Bookscan recorded roughly 12.7% of my total sales. Which is not a lot! If Yiannopoulos were seeing a similar sort of ratio, based on his physical copy sales, he could indeed have sold something on the order of 100,000 copies of his book in the first week. He might not be lying.

With all that said, on further examination, this is why I very strongly suspect that Yiannopoulos has not, in fact, sold, 100,000 copies of his book in the first week…

(6) WE GET LETTERS. CBR.com tells you about “15 Times Fans Changed Comic Book History”.

15. INVISIBLE WOMAN’S POWERS

Other comics had certainly had an element of fan interaction in them before Marvel Comics, but Stan Lee took things to a whole other level when he began the “Marvel Age of Comics” in the early 1960s. Lee made fan interaction a key element of the success of Marvel. In Fantastic Four #11, Lee and Jack Kirby even worked in actual letters to the series into the comic book, having the characters respond to frequently asked questions.

Infamously, though, that issue also included their attempts to defend the Invisible Girl from all the hate mail she got for being seemingly useless (their “defense” was hilariously conceived – “She inspires them! Like Lincoln’s mother!” but still). They got enough of those complaints that they decided to give her invisible force fields in Fantastic Four #22, eventually leading to her becoming the most powerful member of the team!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 14, 1999 Muppets From Space screened theatrically

(8) A KEY TO WRITING. Fantasy-Faction’s Aaron Miles gives tips: “On Character Development”.

An understanding of character development techniques can bring many benefits to your writing and help improve your work, so let’s start by establishing what it is. In essence character development is the change in nature of a character brought about by events in the narrative, it can be subtle or pronounced, and it may happen over a long period or reasonably quickly. The difficult part is actually showing it on the page, and just as importantly, showing it’s justified. For a character to change their whole nature for no apparent cause or just because the plot requires it is sloppy writing and obvious to the reader. While the methods and timeframe may very per character, a well-constructed piece of character development will follow a set formula.

Establishment

In order to show change an author must first establish an original nature to change from. When the author introduces the character they must detail their personality, opinions and mannerisms in order to make us view them as a believable and realistic person, particular focus should be given to any traits that might be relevant to later development.

For example, if you’re planning to have a cowardly character show a moment of bravery and save the day at the end of the novel, then you need at least a couple of scenes showing his cowardice in action. It could be crumbling in an argument with a shopkeeper, avoiding a hostile boss, or literally running away from a fight. Before the development even begins the author must cement a character’s nature quickly in the reader’s mind, this can be done with a variety of traditional characterisation methods and tricks and ideally is accomplished as quickly as possible. Without this establishment there is no baseline to measure development against and the change will lack meaning. Think about our introduction to Daenerys in A Game of Thrones as she is appraised and abused by her brother:

“You don’t want to wake the dragon do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic. “Do you?” he repeated.

“No,” Dany said meekly.

Without seeing the timid girl she was at the start of the story her later accomplishments and changes would be far less moving for the reader, but after Martin has shown us some early scenes of her life the reader gains a greater perspective to realise how pronounced her development is through several books.

(9) ECLIPSE VIEWING AND ECLIPSE CON. Hopkinsville, Kentucky is reputed to be the “point of greatest eclipse” for the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Just call them Eclipseville.

We’re already planning for your visit; our southern hospitality will make you and your group welcome, and your Solar Eclipse experience memorable.  So, whether you are a bona fide eclipse chaser, or just looking for the best place to experience Mother Nature’s rare eclipse show, we invite you to be with us in Hoptown.  Our community’s big enough to provide everything you’ll need and want for the 2017 Eclipse weekend experience… we’re planning a big Friday-Sunday Eclipse celebration before the sun disappears – for two minutes and forty seconds – at 1:24:41 pm CT on Monday, August 21, 2017.

And that’s where you’ll find Eclipse Con “raising awareness and funds for the Boys & Girls Club” with nationally recognized celebrities and vendors in the genres of cartoons, comics, anime, cosplay, sci-fi and superheroes

August 19-20, 2017

James E. Bruce Convention Center

Currently Confirmed Guests:

  • Samantha Newark, best known for her beloved voice-over work as the speaking voices of “Jem” and “Jerrica” on the wildly popular cartoon series Jem and the Holograms;
  • The Walking Dead’s Santiago Cirilo, who was also a member of the 101st Airborne Infantry and was stationed at Fort Campbell prior to his acting career;
  • and the award winning creator of sci-pulp series, VIC BOONE, Shawn Aldridge.

(10) IT’S DARK OUT. Mental Floss explains “How Eclipse Chasers Are Putting a Small Kentucky Town on the Map”.

Today, James McClean is an eclipse chaser. That’s not the name of some cute weekend hobby. It’s a lifestyle. For the past two decades, McClean, a professional photographer, has given up everything resembling a normal life. He has no permanent home base, opting instead to trot the globe, work odd jobs, and live on tight budgets to see solar eclipses.

Every. Single. One.

McClean has made a living as a cartographer and an aurora borealis tour guide. He’s lived on an island near Sitka, Alaska and taught photography. (When he needed Internet, he’d kayak an hour and a half to the nearest library.) He’s spent summers in Germany doing archaeology and winters in Sweden constructing, and living in, a hotel made of ice. He’s slept in bamboo huts on top of volcanic islands, backpacked through Egypt, and trudged the snows of Svalbard, Norway. One time, in Indonesia, he was invited to sip coffee in a sultan’s palace.

(11) BERNECKER OBIT. The Walking Dead suffered another loss today when stuntman John Bernecker,  seriously injured in a stunt (he reportedly missed the landing mattress while doing a 20-ft. fall), was declared brain-dead. There are many tweets with condolences from industry professionals included in the linked article.

(12) OUT, OUT DARNED SPOT. Nautilus interviews UC Berkeley’s Philip Marcus, a computational physicist and a professor in the mechanical engineering department, about “Why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Refuses to Die”. Turns out there’s quite a bit of work been done on this.

Why did it start on Jupiter and not somewhere else?

Here on Earth, if you fly over the ocean, you can almost certainly tell when there’s an island below you because there’s a cloud hanging on top—topographic features often pin clouds to themselves. But there’s no solid surface on Jupiter until you get down to a very small core. It’s basically a ball of fluid. You don’t have differential heating between continents and oceans. You don’t have winds interrupted by mountain ranges. You don’t have all that messy stuff, so it’s got a really well organized set of jet streams on it. Once you’ve got jet streams, vortices just form naturally. You’ve got winds going in opposite directions, shearing against one another. Think of a ball bearing between two oppositely moving walls. The walls make the ball bearing spin, and the oppositely moving jet streams on Jupiter make the air between them spin. Vortices between jet streams are resistant to anything smashing into them. If I create a vortex in a bathtub and I smash it, the vortex is generally gone. If I do a simulation of a big Red Spot on Jupiter sitting between zonal winds and I smack it, try and break it in two, it’ll come back together. So I think of jet streams as gardens in which you want to grow vortices.

(13) DO PANIC. Two Travelers from Galactic Journey praise a low-budget Roger Corman production. You know, somebody should make Roger a Worldcon guest of honor someday — “[July 14, 1962] Cause for Alarm (Panic in Year Zero – a surprise summer hit film!)”.

The latest example is a tiny-budgeted film by schlockhouse American Independent Pictures, Panic in Year Zero.  The Young Traveler and I saw Panic at opening night, July 5.  There was a big promotional event headlined by Frankie Avalon, and I understand the picture made back its budget in just the evening L.A. showings!  The film has already generated some positive buzz, and I suspect it’ll be the surprise hit of the summer.

Produced by the master of the independents, Roger Corman, Panic opens with a literal bang: a typical Angelino family out on a drive toward a camping vacation sees a bright flash as their home town of Los Angeles is wiped out by Soviet bombs.  It soon becomes clear that the attack is widespread and civilization is about to deteriorate.  Our viewpoint family must brave its way to safety, securing adequate supplies and a defensible shelter, before the walls of society collapse.

(14) FORK YOU. The January 30 New Yorker article by Raffi Khatchadourian, “The Movie with a Thousand Plotlines”, is about efforts in Hollywood to create films that have alternate endings that viewers can choose among. The article focuses on efforts by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who directed Swiss Army Man, to come up with films that fit this template.  The sf news is that both War Games and The Twilight Zone have had rights sold for interactive television series that are under development.

Treehouse is an intuitive program for a nonintuitive, nonlinear form of storytelling, and Bloch is adept at demonstrating it. In his office, he called up a series of video clips featuring the model Dree Hemingway sitting at a table. Below the clips, in a digital workspace resembling graph paper, he built a flowchart to map the forking narrative—how her story might divide into strands that branch outward, or loop backward, or converge. At first, the flowchart looked like a “Y” turned on its side: a story with just one node. “When you start, it is always ‘To be, or not to be,’ ” he said. The choice here was whether Hemingway would serve herself coffee or tea. Bloch dragged and dropped video clips into the flowchart, then placed buttons for tea and coffee into the frame, and set the amount of time the system would allow viewers to decide. In less than a minute, he was previewing a tiny film: over a soundtrack of music fit for a Philippe Starck lobby, Hemingway smiled and poured the beverage Bloch had selected. He then returned to the graph paper and added a blizzard of hypothetical options: “You can decide that here it will branch again, here it goes into a loop until it knows what to do, and here it becomes a switching node where five things can happen at the same time—and so on.”

As Bloch was getting his company off the ground, a small race was under way among like-minded startups looking for financial backing. In Switzerland, a company called CtrlMovie had developed technology similar to Interlude’s, and was seeking money for a feature-length thriller….

The article also discusses Mr. Payback, a 1995 interactive film about a cyborg – script by Bob Gale! – that was panned by Roger Ebert.

Early experiments in interactive film were likewise marred by shtick. In 1995, a company called Interfilm collaborated with Sony to produce “Mr. Payback,” based on a script by Bob Gale, who had worked on the “Back to the Future” trilogy. In the movie, a cyborg meted out punishment to baddies while the audience, voting with handheld controllers, chose the act of revenge. The film was released in forty-four theatres. Critics hated it. “The basic problem I had with the choices on the screen with ‘Mr. Payback’ is that they didn’t have one called ‘None of the above,’ ” Roger Ebert said, declaring the movie the worst of the year. “We don’t want to interact with a movie. We want it to act on us. That’s why we go, so we can lose ourselves in the experience.”

(16) IN MOLT. Joe Sherry has reached the artist categories on his Hugo ballot: “Watching the Hugos: Professional and Fan Artist” at Nerds of a Feather. Too bad it includes a slam against Steve Stiles, one of the greatest fan artists of all time.

(17) PINCH HITTER. Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin discovered something at the movies: “Star Trek IV Now Exists in the Same Universe As All Marvel Films Thanks to a Special Cameo”.

When nerds make movies, beautiful things can happen. In this case, the fact that MCU producer Kevin Feige happens to be a big fan of Star Trek IV led to a cameo that now places a character from The Voyage Home into Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I won’t spoiler her spoiler – you’ll have to click through.

(18) UNEXPECTED CASTING. The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch will voice Harley Quinn in the upcoming Bruce Timm animated film Batman And Harley.

CinemaBlend is all in favor:

As far as casting decisions go, Melissa Rauch is a fairly pitch perfect choice for the role of Harley Quinn. Not only does she have a high-pitched voice that’s very reminiscent of Arleen Sorkin and Tara Strong; she also has developed a reputation as an actress through her work in a show predicated on the passion and intensity of geek culture. Something tells us that all of those years on The Big Bang Theory have given her an understanding of how fans will respond to her performance, thus ensuring that she will deliver the best possible Harley Quinn.

 

(19) POETRY CORNER. Johnstick joined the throngs who have been raining limericks in the File 770 comments section.

As prophets of eld have foretold,
and pixels of all hues have scrolled,
Death takes the clever
and redshirts forever,
plus all those whose glister’s not gold!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Terhi for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/14/17 Will the Pixel Be Unbroken

As I was about to say yesterday, before I was interrupted…

(1) THE SOUND OF MONEY. Kristine Kathryn Rusch pointed her readers to bestselling writer Michael J. Sullivan’s a post on Reddit titled “Why Del Rey and I Will Be Parting Ways” and gave a complimentary analysis on the way Sullivan handled his audiobook rights.

Here, I want to applaud Michael and his wife Robin for their negotiating skills and for their attitude.

To summarize the highlights of the blog about Del Rey, for those of you who haven’t jumped over to read it, Michael and Robin learned from their first major contract with a traditional publisher to retain audio rights. Michael and Robin didn’t do so on that first big contract, and then the audio rights sold for $400,000, of which Michael and Robin saw only $200,000 (subsidiary rights in a standard publishing contract are split 50/50 with a publisher).

So — and here’s a nice bit of brilliance — Michael and Robin didn’t want to lose audio rights again. When the time to negotiate a new Del Rey contract came around, Michael and Robin had already sold audio rights to those books, taking those rights off the table entirely.

They thought through what they wanted, and rather than argue over the rights, or get the print publisher to bump an advance, or go through all of the little tricks that people on the other side of the table do when negotiating, Michael and Robin were proactive. They made sure they got what they wanted with audio first.

And there’s a lot more good information in Rusch’s post.

(2) THE FLUID PAST. Guy Gavriel Kay tweeted a link to this article, one in which he is cited and discussed. “‘Facts are not truth’: Hilary Mantel goes on the record about historical fiction”.

In Mantel’s view, the past is not something we passively consume, either, but that which we actively “create” in each act of remembrance. That’s not to say, of course, that Mantel is arguing that there are no historical “facts” or that the past didn’t happen. Rather, she reminds us that the evidence we use to give narrative shape to the past is “always partial” , and often “incomplete” . “Facts are not truth” , Mantel argues, but “the record of what’s left on the record.” It is up to the living to interpret, or, indeed, misinterpret, those accounts.

In this respect the writer of historical fiction is not working in direct opposition to the professional historian: both must think creatively about what remains, deploying — especially when faced with gaps and silences in the archive — “selection, elision, artful arrangement” , literary manoeuvres more closely associated with novelist Philippa Gregory than with [John] Guy the historian. However, exceptional examples from both fields should, claims Mantel, be “self-questioning” and always willing to undermine their own claims to authenticity.

(3) WEBCOMICS AT LOC. The Library of Congress now has a webcomics archive, collecting 39 strips including the multi-Hugo winning Girl Genius.

This collection focuses on comics created specifically for the web and supplements the Library of Congress’ extensive holdings in both comic books, graphic novels, and original comic art. Webcomics are an increasingly popular format utilized by contemporary creators in the field and often includes material by artists not available elsewhere. Webcomics selected for this collection include award-winning comics (Eisner Awards, Harvey Awards, Eagle Awards, and Shuster Awards) as well as webcomics that have significance in the field due to longevity, reputation, and subject matter. This collection includes work by artists and subjects not traditionally represented in mainstream comics, including women artists and characters, artists and characters of color, LGBTQ+ artists and characters, as well as subjects such as politics, health and human sexuality, and autobiography. The content of these websites is captured as it was originally produced and may include content that is not suitable for all ages.

(4) EARLY DAYS. Kalimac reminisces about “ Dark Carnival” bookstore.

But I remember Dark Carnival from its earliest days. It was the first sf specialty store in the Bay Area, long before Borderlands or Future Fantasy and even a bit before The Other Change of Hobbit or Fantasy Etc. (Of these, only Borderlands is still with us, and it had a scare not long ago.) I found it down on the south stretch of Telegraph, the first of its three locations, when I returned to UC in the fall of 1976. It was very small then, mostly a large semicircle of paperbacks, but there wasn’t a lot to stock in those days. Jack Rems, owner ever since, was usually there, as was his first clerk, a young woman named Lisa Goldstein, who’d occasionally mention she was working on a novel. It was published several years later and led her on the path to becoming the renowned fantasy author she is today, but then she was a bookstore clerk. D. and I would hang out down there and indulge in a lot of chatter with Jack and Lisa, but we’d also buy books.

(5) LA’S SHINING WEST TRIBUTE. NOTE: WE MISSED THIS ONE. On Thursday Los Angeles city officials will turn on the Bat-SIgnal.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will light the Bat-Signal over Los Angeles in a special ceremony honoring the late Adam West, who starred in the 60s Batman TV series as the Caped Crusader himself.

The ceremony will be conducted on Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. PST at Los Angeles City Hall. Garcetti will be joined by unnamed special guests for the tribute, along with Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck.

Once lit, the Bat-Signal will be projected on Los Angeles City Hall for an undisclosed period of time.

(6) TRACING BATMAN’S BAT BUCKS. In “How Does Batman make All His Money?” on looper.com, Chris Sims looks at the roots of the Wayne fortune, including how Bruce Wayne’s wealth began with Revolutionary War hero “Mad Anthony” Wayne and how Thomas Wayne’s marriage to Martha Kane united a financial empire with one based on chemicals.

All of this still leaves the question of where Batman gets his fortune in the world of Gotham City, but if you’ve read enough comics, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bruce Wayne’s infinite pile of money has an origin story just like everything else. The short version? The Waynes have always been rich.

As it turns out, they’re about as old as Old Money gets in America, with a merchant fortune that came over from Europe in colonial times, growing as Gotham City expanded to form the cornerstone of an industrial empire. In 2011’s Batman: Gates of Gotham, Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, and Trevor McCarthy put the spotlight on Alan Wayne, a turn-of-the-century ancestor for Batman who helped to shape the city itself by funding the design and construction of bridges, tunnels, and key buildings — including Wayne Tower.

(7) ALT REVIEWING. Jon Mollison reviewed Sarah A. Hoyt’s story “Freeman’s Stand” in Rocket’s Red Glare for the Castalia House blog. He has a particular view of immigrants, as reflected in this excerpt —

I didn’t recognize the tonally inconsistent version of America presented. Perhaps the good old USA had fallen so long ago that the Sons of Liberty had cobbled together an approximation through scraps of history and lost lore. If so, this was never presented, and so instead of enjoying the action, I found myself wondering where this weird America came from.

Normally, I’d be loathe to resort to the petty tactic of mentioning the “About The Author” section of a collection, but in this case it provides an important clue towards understanding why Freeman’s Stand feels like such an alien version of America. The very first thing mentioned in Hoyt’s bio is that she was born and raised in Portugal. That’s the lead-off. It’s important that you know Hoyt is Portuguese before all else. And it’s only now, after the story is concluded, that the pieces fall into place. This is a story of “Nation of Immigrants” America written by an author with a very different perspective of America than one held by a reader born and bred within her borders. That is the source of the disconnect, and I found myself wishing that I’d known from the outset that Molly’s story was that an American outsider fighting for an outsider’s vision of America. It would have resolved a number of discordant passages within the tale.

This prompted Greg Hullender to observe, “Although Sarah Hoyt imagines herself to be a fellow-traveler, given her involvement with the Sad Puppies, it’s pretty clear from this post on the Castalia House Blog that, as an immigrant from Portugal, she can never be a “real American.” Not in any sense the alt-right recognizes, anyway.”

(8) WALKING DEAD. Carl Slaughter would like to tell you about it:

The Walking Dead is a tale of sheriff Rick Grimes and his small band of survivors as they’re transformed from coddled complainers into battle tested, zombie murdering badasses. The zombie subgenre has a rich history of social commentary. Whether they be the slow walking, brain craving type or of the fast running, shrieking persuasion, the figure of the zombie has been a metaphor for all sorts of things that keep us up at night. Zombies have represented everything from mindless consumers under Capitalism in Dawn of the Dead, to fears about public health crisis in 28 Days Later, immigration in World War Z, or mega corporations in Resident Evil. And then there’s the fact that zombies originated in Haiti, where many argue it was a metaphor for slavery. Zombies are projections of our own societal fears. The Walking Dead isn’t quite any of these. Instead, The Walking Dead explores a multitude of issues, like politics, psychology, and our relationship to death. Also, the joys of cosplay. The Walking Dead is, above all else, a show about philosophical bounderies. And three in particular: (1) What constitutes life (2) What constitutes living (3) What constitutes being human.

For homework, Carl recommends The Philosophy of The Walking Dead — Wisecrack Edition.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Stephen Burridge, Tom Galloway, John King Tarpinian, Gregory N. Hullender, and Dann for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 4/20/17 How Many Books Must A Pixel Scroll Down Before You Can Call Him A Fan?

(1) WORD SCULPTOR. Steve Barnes tells about his day’s writing and shares a chunk of his draft (read it at the link).

Shhhhh. I’m working on the Niven/Pournelle/Barnes collaboration today, before switching over to the pilot script. My current style of working is laying out rough text and “wireframe” and then polishing with endless drafts, embracing hacking and slashing. First drafts are like dragging a block of marble up from the quarry. Subsequent drafts are chipping away everything that doesn’t resemble an elephant. Then finally…the polishing. I’m still chipping. If I write enough, eventually a crumb of something emotional and valid will peek through, and polishing it is like….hmmm…like striking a spark. Then carefully adding tender and fanning a flame, letting that flame spread through the rest of the book. It might be ugly at first, but it’s warm. Or better, HOT. I thought I’d share the first tiny fragment from the book, which I’ve referred to as “The Cthulhu War” but might actually be called “Starborn and Godsons”.

(2) A SONG OF FLOUR AND FIRE. Camestros Felapton’s cat writes GRRM a letter – “Dear Mister Martin from Timothy T Cat”.

Dear Mister Martin,

Or can I call you George or Are-Are? You may remember me from my previous letters what I wrote you – specifically my lengthy inquiry as to whether Sue Perkins was a Stark or a Lannister or what? Camestros has since explained that I have been habitually confusing the BBC’s  ‘Great British Bake Off” with HBO’s “Games of Thrones”. This revelation has certainly cleared up many a query I had about where the story was going. Although I am still puzzled by the distinction between baking powder and baking soda – don’t worry! I understand a great writer like yourself has to have his secrets, so I’ll wait to find that out in the final episode…

That out of the way, Timothy launches into his business proposition….

(3) CULINARY PLEONASM. More restaurant hate from Jay Rayner in The Guardian — “I am sick of half-hearted desserts. Bring me a proper pudding”.

Oh sure, restaurants appear to offer desserts. But where once it would have been a list of tarts and mille-feuille, of savarins and delices, of things requiring proper pastry work, now there are just unstable creamy things on a plate. It’s an endless parade of panna cottas and half-arsed mousses. The kitchen will throw on a bit of granola or a fragment of meringue to make it look like a dessert, but that doesn’t alter the fact. It’s not. It’s a squirt from an udder, set to a wobble courtesy of a boiled down cow’s foot. It’s a failure of ambition

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED PERSON? Young People Read Old SFF is back, and this time James Davis Nicoll has assigned the panel James Tiptree Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” Evidently James let them discover some things for themselves.

Lisa: …Once I figured out what was going on, I enjoyed the story – pieces of information were revealed throughout, and the story continued twisting and turning until I finally figured out what the story was about – a future world without men. We got to hear about worlds without men in When It Changed, A Rose for Ecclesiastes, to an extent, in the dolphin story (except the women were smart dolphins). As with A Rose for Ecclesiastes, this is a man-free story written by a man. Does the author’s gender change how the manless women carry on?

After finishing the story (which seemed to have a lot more contempt for men than most men would have), I googled “Does James Tiptree Hate Women?” The results of my google search provided me with the final twist I experienced in reading Houston, Houston. This twist was twisty enough that it made me laugh out loud at my computer in surprise. It turns out that James Tiptree is actually a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon – who is, in fact, female. Well of course she was.

(5) NAME THAT BOOK. Stump the Bookseller is a site for people who vaguely remember novels that appeared when they were kids. If you look at it you will see that most of the half-remembered books are YA sf and fantasy. Here’s their most recent request. Do you recognize it? Four people agreed on the answer in comments.

There was a book that I read in the early 1970s about a girl (A) whose family took in another girl (B), I can’t remember why. Girl B turned out to have powers that she used against Girl A. I remember two scenes. Girl A was going to the prom or a big dance with her boyfriend and was going to make her own dress. Girl B made Girl A buy a pattern and color for a dress that was unbecoming to Girl A. Also, Girl B made Girl A sick right before the dance so Girl B went with Girl A’s boyfriend. I don’t remember how Girl A got rid of Girl B, but the book ends with Girl A saying whenever she reads a story in the newspaper about a wife dying, or an accident with 3 people where the woman dies, that she wonders if it is Girl B is still out there up to her old tricks.

(6) BE FREE. Teacher and author Tracy Townsend writes a series of tweets about a little-considered benefit of free online fiction. It begins here:

(7) MOMENT OF TRUTH. In “10 Questions with Hugo Award Winner Laura J. Mixon” interviewer Ryan Schneider mostly asks about her writing, and her new book Glass Houses, but he does throw a couple of curveballs –

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Outside, dammit! sayeth the engineer. The writer in me shrugs; whatever—I’m in it for the fun and glory and adventure. Just be consistent with that punctuation stuff and use it to tell a great story, and I’m yours.

6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

Pro. I’ll fight you.

(8) BEEN HERE, DONE THAT. Here are four NASA astronauts who believed in alien visitation. Leroy Gordon Cooper was one of them.

But even before he underwent the life-changing experience of becoming the first man to sleep in space, he claimed to have seen UFOs flying over Germany in 1951.

The spaceman also said he saw flying saucers spying on a secret air base where experimental American aircraft were being tested.

“I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which are a little more technically advanced than we are on Earth,” he told the UN in 1984.

“We may first have to show them that we have learned how to resolve our problems by peaceful means rather than warfare, before we are accepted as fully qualified universal team members.

“Their acceptance will have tremendous possibilities of advancing our world in all areas.”

(9) KUMMING OBIT. Waldemar Kumming (1924-2017) died on April 5, age 92, according to Wolf von Witting. He was best known as the editor of Munich Roundup, a photo-filled zine about European fanac. He won a European SF Award for his services to fandom in 1984, and the Big Heart Award in 2005.

(10) MITCHELL OBIT. SF Site News reports Vicki Mitchell Gustafson, who wrote as V.E. Mitchell died on April 13, six days before her 67th birthday. Vicki was the widow of art historian Jon Gustafson, who died 12 years earlier, to the day. (Jon was a columnist for my old fanzine, Scientifriction.)

(11) IF YOU’RE LUCKY. Five days left to enter the Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway being run at Robert Kroese’s BadNovelist site.

The Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway is about showcasing authors who have been marginalized by the gatekeepers of the sci-fi publishing industry for the sin of not complying with progressive social justice dogma. From Sarah Hoyt, who was accused of racism and ”internalized misogyny” for her association with the Sad Puppies campaign to reform the Hugo Awards, to Nick Cole, who lost a publishing contract for daring to write a story about an artificially intelligent computer who is troubled by abortion, these authors have faced smear campaigns, boycotts and blacklisting for failing to toe the progressive line.

Just for entering, you’ll get:

Brother, Frank by Michael Bunker
The Red King by Nick Cole
Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt
The Yanthus Prime Job by Robert Kroese
The Darkness by W.J. Lundy
Nethereal by Brian Niemeier
Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson

Three lucky winners will also receive:

Wick by Michael Bunker
Ctrl+Alt+Revolt by Nick Cole
Darkship Revenge by Sarah A. Hoyt
Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese
The Shadows by W.J. Lundy
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Better to Beg Forgiveness by Michael Z. Williamson

Books will be provided as downloadable files, in both ebook and mobi (Kindle) formats.

(12) I, THE JURY. Aurealis Awards judge Elizabeth Fitzgerald tells what it was like.

The problem with my reckoning was that there was an embedded assumption that the award books would arrive at a regular pace. I really should have known better. The award opened for entries mid June and books trickled in until the first small rush arrived at the end of September. However, most of the entries arrived en masse in December.

To complicate matters, I suffered a bout of eye strain in November and continued to struggle with it through December. In the end, I recovered thanks to some eye drops and the inclusion of frequent breaks in my schedule. I made up for lost time by averaging a book a day throughout January and February. I didn’t watch any TV or do much of anything other than read. Now, you know I love reading, but two months and more of that started to get a bit much, even for me.

It improved my reading skills, though. I got faster. I found that 20 pages was usually long enough to judge the quality of the writing. I did a lot of skimming. And I got more comfortable with not finishing books. Prior to being a judge, I could count the number of books I’d DNFed on one hand.

I got to know my postman and the delivery guys very well. Books would show up randomly on my doorstep. It was like Christmas. And then, when it was actually Christmas, all the Aurealis books made a good disguise. My sweetheart busted me with the copy of Ninefox Gambit I’d ordered as his Christmas present. So, I told him it was another book for judging and let him take a look at it before putting it in the pile of judging books. I quietly snuck it out a couple of weeks later and wrapped it up.

(13) BOUTIQUE SERIES. Not that anybody uses the word “boutique” anymore. Recode tells why “Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ couldn’t be made into a TV show until TV changed”.

…The CEO of Starz, Chris Albrecht, previously oversaw the rise of prestige TV as CEO of HBO, including “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “The Wire.”

Shows like those proved that TV didn’t have to be made for the biggest audience possible.

“When you make something like ‘American Gods,’ you go, ‘This is not going to be to everybody’s taste,’” Gaiman said. “But you’re also not going to make it more to anybody’s taste by making it less like the thing that it is. You just kind of have to lean into it.”

Later entries in the prestige TV genre, like Netflix’s “House of Cards” and Amazon’s “Transparent,” changed how people watch TV, making it normal to binge an entire show in one sitting. Gaiman noted that cheapskates who don’t yet have Starz could wait until the end of the eight-episode season, sign up for a free trial and binge away.

(14) JORDAN TV. Variety reports Sony Pictures is at work on a Wheel of Time series.

The long-gestating “Wheel of Time” TV series adaptation is moving forward with Sony Pictures Television.

The series will be based on the high fantasy novels written by Robert Jordan, the pen name of James O. Rigney Jr. There are 14 novels in total, beginning with “The Eye of the World” in 1990 and concluding with “A Memory of Light,” which was finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007. They follow the quest to find the Dragon Reborn, who it is said will help unite forces to combat The Dark One.

Sony will produce along with Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures. Rafe Judkins is attached to write and executive produce. Judkins previously worked on shows such as ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove,” and the NBC series “Chuck.” Red Eagle partners Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon will executive produce along with Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber. Darren Lemke will also executive produce, with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal serving as consulting producer.

(15) SFF GEOGRAPHY. Here are “11 Famous Movie Locations You Can Actually Visit” from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and more.

3 / 11

The Martian

Another earthly landscape stands in for an alien one in this 2015 Matt Damon film. Wadi Rum, or “The Valley of the Moon,” in Jordan is a close match for the red planet. The region also makes a cameo in Red Planet, Last Days on Mars, Lawrence of Arabia and Prometheus.

(16) WHACKS MUSEUM. Medieval peasants had their own ways of discouraging zombies.

Where else to learn about medieval zombies than in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports‘ latest study, (and everyone’s favorite new beach read), “A multidisciplinary study of a burnt and mutilated assemblage of human remains from a deserted Mediaeval village in England.” What a title.

If the click-baity title wasn’t evidence enough, it’s a pretty macabre read, leavened with just the right touch of osteology, radiometric dating, and strontium isotope analyses. But the upshot is that some villagers in the 11th to 13th centuries who lived near modern-day Wharram Percy in northern Yorkshire were apparently scared of zombies. So they made sure the dead would stay dead with some extra handiwork, deliberately mutilating the bodies after death.

(17) DRAMATIC PRESENTATION. Apparently this episode of Fargo featured Gloria (Carrie Coon) picking up a rocket trophy to use as a weapon. Several people thought it was a Hugo. (The linked article describes the episode, however, it doesn’t mention the trophy.)

It’s not a Hugo or an International Fantasy Award. No Hugo ever had that shape, or was designed with that kind of gap between the fins and the base. It’s an interesting puzzle. These days you can order a lot of different 3-D rocket awards online, maybe it’s one of those.

(18) SPEAKING OF. A striptease during language lessons?

….A leading adult entertainment webcam platform, unveiled “Language Lessons,” the first adult language-learning service that combines beautiful cam models with the latest translation technologies to make learning a foreign language fun and sensual. Now, in addition to camming with their favorite model in a private chatroom, fans can engage in casual conversation with them, learning an assortment of languages including Spanish, French, Romanian and English.

Daniel Dern commented – “(Obviously) (to me, a grey/white hair), I immediately thought of this classic sf story (rot13’d here to give Filers a chance to see if they can guess)…”

“Naq Znqyl Grnpu,” ol Yyblq Ovttyr, We.

Diplomat John Quincy Adams said the best way to learn a foreign language was with the help of a mistress – though he made clear he had only availed himself of the second or third best ways.

(19) MORE MARVEL. The official trailer for “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger,” coming to Freeform in 2018.

[Thanks to Wolf von Witting, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JohanP, who’s probably in the wind by now.]

Pixel Scroll 2/11/17 When A Scroll Meets A File Like A Big Pizza Pie, That’s A Story!

(1) TRACKING DOWN THE GOH. Craig Miller, who was just in Mumbai speaking at an animation event, is now en route to a Star Wars convention in Norway. As he explained to his Facebook readers:

[It’s] actually more of a “The Empire Strikes Back” convention — in Finse, Norway next weekend. Finse is where we shot the exteriors for the Hoth ice planet scenes. And I’ve been asked to be a Guest of Honor. (The other guest is Bjorn Jacobsen, who was head of Fox Norway and was Production Manager for Norway on ESB.)

I’m really looking forward to the trip. (Not the least for the planned “trip to the glacier via dogsled”.) Among the amazing parts of it is that Andreas Frølich, the event organizer, has gotten NSB, the Norwegian railway, involved as a sponsor. We’ll be traveling from Oslo to Finse on Friday via a special train car, fully decorated in “Star Wars” regalia. Bjorn and I will be the ‘guests of honor’ of the train trip as well, answering questions and such. NSB even has a page on their official website about it.

The Norwegian readers among us will get the most benefit from the railroad’s webpage about the event, NSB tar deg til Hoth. (There’s also the con’s own webpage.)

Den 17. februar kl 12.00 kan du være med på en galaktisk opplevelse på toget fra Oslo til Bergen. Da kan du reise i en egen vogn som er satt av til foredrag med Hollywoods Craig Miller, sentral i arbeid med PR rundt de tidlige Star Wars®-filmene. I tillegg blir det Starwars®-meny om bord for de som ønsker det og møter med kjente skikkelser fra Star Wars®-universet. Alt dette frem til Finse, eller Hoth® som det heter i den verdenskjente filmen spilt inn på nettopp Finse i 1979, med skuespillere som Harrison Ford og Carrie Fisher.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

(2) PRATCHETT FANS PAY TRIBUTE. The Guardian reviews the Pratchett docudrama Back in Black:

A couple of minutes into Back in Black, there’s a shot of Terry Pratchett’s head, outlined in twinkling lights hovering over his own memorial service at the Barbican Centre in London. It looks like a satellite photograph of some new country. As Auden said of Edward Lear: “He became a land.” And here are its people.

One of the charms of this docudrama is that it largely eschews the usual talking heads in favour of Discworld fans. Even the famous faces that do appear – Neil Gaiman, Pratchett’s consigliere Rob Wilkins, the illustrator Paul Kidby – first entered Pratchett’s orbit as fans. Whether it was the life-changing offer he made to collaborate with the young Gaiman on Good Omens, or the blessing to Stephen Briggs’s attempts to map Ankh-Morpork, or simply Tipp-Exing over an old dedication in a secondhand copy of one of his books so he could “unsign” it for its new owner, Pratchett showered his fans with favours like a Highland clan chief. It’s a clan with its own code of honour: to “be a bit more Terry” is to be kinder, more tolerant.

(3) I’LL DIE WITH THIS HAMMER IN MY HAND. Carl Slaughter spotted another cool video: “So you thought only Thor could lift his hammer.  OK, so only the blonde haired, horn headed Norse god can tote it around on a permanent basis.  But at least 10 other comic book characters have wielded that legendary weapon.  OK, so it was always under special, temporary circumstances, and sometimes through loopholes.  But lift that mighty hammer they did.”

(4) AWESOME TASK. The creators tell NPR about “The Joy (And Fear) Of Making ‘Kindred’ Into A Graphic Novel”.

Not surprisingly, artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings felt especially daunted by the chance to adapt renowned speculative-fiction writer Octavia Butler’s beloved Kindred for a new graphic novel edition.

“It was like, this is awesome, we got this project, it’s, like, our dream project! Yayyy!,” Duffy said. But excitement quickly turned to panic. “I have to do what now?” he also said to himself.

“Octavia Butler is … one of the greatest American writers to live, period,” Jennings said. “She was literally a genius. The way that she would use metaphor and allegory and how she tackled some of the most horrific things about human existence through science fiction and fantasy? She was a master storyteller.” Butler, who died in 2006 at the age of 58, was the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur “Genius” grant and the recipient of several Hugo and Nebula awards.

(5) IMPORTANT STORIES. Tony C. Smith, a Hugo winner for the Starship Sofa podcast, has opened a Kickstarter appeal to fund an anthology, Everyone: Worlds Without Walls. So far, contributors have pledged $2,197 of the $3,746 goal.

The District of Wonders is a world where we know that diversity makes us richer. It’s a world where there are no walls, no barriers, no guns, no hatred. The District of Wonders is a world that values equality, and seeks to recognize and welcome people of all backgrounds, religions, races, cultures, and expressions of humanity. It’s a world that values truth. Everyone has a story in the District of Wonders – and every story is important. Everyone is important.So what I’m asking now is that you join me in standing against injustice and discrimination in the way that the District of Wonders does best – by sharing stories.

If successful, this Kickstarter will fund an e-book anthology of stories that offer a greater representation of ALL the people of this beautiful rich world

The District of Wonders will draw upon its incredible network of authors and actively seek new voices to bring you a scintillating showcase of what it means to value everyone. With talent and tales from diverse nations, cultures, races, and experiences, this anthology will explore and celebrate how we are greater together – and, conversely, the need to tear down walls of ignorance, prejudice, and injustice.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

February 11, 2009 – “This was the first time Ray saw the plaster cast of what became the 8-foot-tall bronze Father Electrico,” recalls John King Tarpinian, who was there. “To the right is his caregiver, Santiago.  The guy with the camera is John Sasser, who is still working on the documentary.  You can barely see the artist, Christopher Slatoff.  Chris is best known for his life-size religious statues.”

(7) LAST WEEK IN HISTORY A missed anniversary:

The Beatles didn’t appear live to sing “Hey Jude” and “Revolution.” They’d gotten disinterested in touring by 1968, so they made these new things called videos, and gave them to only one TV program in the United States. Not to The Ed Sullivan Show, which had helped launch Beatlemania and the British invasion four years before — but to the Smothers Brothers.

That same year, George Harrison of the Beatles showed up unannounced — not to sing, but to support Tom and Dick in their fight against the CBS censors. By then, the fights had become almost legendary. Tom confessed to Harrison that on American television, they didn’t always get the chance to say what they wanted to say, and Harrison advised, “Whether you can say it or not, keep trying to say it.”

(8) GOT THAT RIGHT. A picture worth a thousand words, from Goodreads.

(9) ILLINOIS FIGHTS BRAIN DRAIN. Not all legislators share your opinion that they have more pressing issues to work on — “Illinois lawmakers designate October ‘Zombie Preparedness Month’”.

Illinois lawmakers are encouraging the state to be undead-ready by passing a resolution declaring October to be “Zombie Preparedness Month.”

The state House voted Thursday to approve House Resolution 0030, which calls for October to be declared “Zombie Preparedness Month” as a bid to encourage the state’s residents to be prepared for more realistic natural disasters.

“If the citizens of Illinois are prepared for zombies, than they are prepared for any natural disaster; while a Zombie Apocalypse may never happen, the preparation for such an event is the same as for any natural disaster,” the resolution reads.

(10) OVERWROUGHT. The art is prime, but not nearly as purple as the prose.

OneAngryGamer declares “SJWs Are Furious E3 2017 Is Open To Real Gamers”.

…Typically, some SJWs were not pleased that real gamers would be able to finally bypass the uninformed, fascists gatekeepers known as game journalists, and see and experience the games and technology for themselves. No longer would gamers have to rely on misinformation, sociopolitical commentary and identity politics pervading the coverage of E3….

Other SJWs found it to be a mistake, a blasphemous call for the hydra of consumerism to emerge from the far corners of the interwebs; a stake to the heart of game journalism’s oligarchy; a raping of the gated clique that once controlled the foyer of information that lactated from the bulbous PR udders dangling from the publishers’ visceral bloat that drips begrudgingly through the sphincter of the media and out through the curdled lips of their blogs….

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

Pixel Scroll 10/25/16 Bears Discover File 770

clarke-center-arrivalcarouseli

(1) ARRIVAL PREMIERE BENEFIT FOR CLARION. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will host the San Diego premiere of the film Arrival, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. After the film, there will be a conversation and Q&A with Ted Chiang, whose novella “Story of Your Life” provided the basis of the screenplay.

All proceeds from the screening benefit the Clarion Foundation, which supports the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego. Click on the link to buy tickets.

Arrival is the the story of what happens when mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe. An elite team, led by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers-and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and, quite possibly, humanity.

Ted Chiang is a graduate and, later, instructor in the renowned Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, organized at UCSD by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Known for his exacting craftsmanship in writing profound and psychologically rich science fiction, Chiang this year alone has the honor of having a story (“The Great Silence”) in both the Best American Short Stories 2016 and Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, after it was originally written for a collaboration with the visual artists Allora & Calzadilla.

(2) NEW CLARKE CENTER PODCAST. Into the Impossible: A Clarke Center Podcast launches November 1.

clarke-podcast-logoInto the Impossible is a podcast of stories, ideas, and speculations from the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Early episodes will take listeners through exciting, ranging conversations with and between scientists, artists, writers, and thinkers of different stripes, on the nature of imagination and how, through speculative culture, we create our future. The first episode includes Freeman Dyson (physicist and writer), David Kaiser (physicist, MIT), Rae Armantrout (Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, UCSD professor emeritus), and Brian Keating (astrophysicist, UCSD).

Later episodes will feature actors like Herbert Siguenza (Culture Clash), futurists like Bruce Sterling (writer, design theorist, WIRED columnist), and science fiction authors like Vernor Vinge (novelist, mathematician, computer scientist), as well as looks into Clarke Center activities like Dr. Allyson Muotri’s lab growing Neanderthal brain neurons and the new Speculative Design major. We will also premiere an audio performance created in collaboration between artist Marina Abramovic and science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, created in workshop here at the Clarke Center with Adam Tinkle and local and student volunteers.

(3) LEARNING AND RELEARNING. Cat Rambo’s speech is now online — “Into the Abyss: Surrey International Writers Conference, Morning Keynote for October 23, 2016”.

I try to write, every day, 2000 words, because that’s what Stephen King does and I think he’s a pretty good role model. Note that I say try, because I don’t always hit it. But you must write. Every day you write is a victory.

Figure out your personal writing process and what works for you. And then do it, lots. I realized that my most productive time is the mornings. So if my mother calls in the mornings, she knows I will answer “Is this an emergency?” and if she says no, I will hang up. (I did warn her before implementing this policy.) Find the times and places you are productive and defend them from the world. You will have gotten a lot of writing advice here and the thing about writing advice is this. All of it is both right and wrong, because people’s process differs and moreover, it can and will differ over the course of time. Find what works for you and do it.

Be kind to yourself. We are delicate, complex machines both physically and mentally. Writers are so good at beating themselves up, at feeling guilty, at imagining terrible futures. You are the person with the most to gain from being kind to yourself; do it. Don’t punish yourself for not hitting a writing goal; reward yourself when you do.

(4) ZOMBIE PROM REVIEW. Martin Morse Wooster personally eyeballed the production and returned with a verdict:

I saw Zombie Prom on Friday, and I think Nelson Pressley’s review was unfair.  Unexpected Stage Company, which did the production, is a minor-league company.  I doubt any member of the cast was over 25 and no one was a member of Equity.  That being said, everyone hit their marks and remembered their lines and most of the cast had pretty good voices.  I thought the production was pleasant.

The title of the musical is misleading, because there’s only one zombie in the cast. (I guess they couldn’t call it One Zombie at a Prom.) It’s the 1950s, and we’re at Enrico Fermi High.  Jonny Warner gets jilted by his girlfriend and leaps into a vat of nuclear waste, which turns him into a zombie.  Will anyone accept him–including his former girlfriend?

I have never heard of Dean P. Rowe, who did the music, and John Dempsey, author of the book and lyrics, but they have talent and my guess is in five years we will hear a lot from them.  There are some mildly deep references to ’50s pop culture, including what I thought was a reference to The Milton Berle Show.  The two best performers were Dallas Milholland, who for some reason decided to play semi-villainous Principal Delilah Strict in a pseudo-British accent, and Will Hawkins, who played Jonny Warner with a great deal of gusto.

Their website is Unexpected Stage Company.

(5) LONG LISTENER ANTHOLOGY. David Steffen says there will be an audiobook of the Long List Anthology Volume 2 after all, using a modified table of contents.

I have been talking with Skyboat Media and we have decided to go ahead with the audiobook, with some alterations to the table of contents from the original stretch goal to get it to just the right length for the resources available.  So there will be an audiobook again this year, this time with 6 stories.

The table of contents is:

  • Our Lady of the Open Road by Sarah Pinsker
  • Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker
  • Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar
  • Pocosin by Ursula Vernon
  • Damage by David D. Levine
  • Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds by Rose Lemberg

The title will also be different to reflect the different table of contents from the book/ebook:

OUR LADY OF THE OPEN ROAD & OTHER STORIES FROM THE LONG LIST ANTHOLOGY, volume 2

(6) TEPPER OBIT. The SFWA Blog posted an obituary for Sheri S. Tepper.

Cat Rambo says, “If I had to name one series by her I adore more than any other of the many excellent choices, it’s the Marianne series, and I highly recommend them to the File 770 readers.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 25, 1892 — Leo G. Carroll in 1892  (played Topper, and Alexander Waverly in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.)
  • Born October 25, 1924 — Billy Barty. His sf/f resume includes the animated The Lord of the Rings (1978, rotoscope footage) Snow White (1987), Masters of the Universe (1987) and Lobster Man from Mars (1989).

(8) CHAT WITH THREE-BODY AUTHOR. An excellent interview at SF Crowsnest: “Cixin Liu: interviewed by Gareth D Jones”.

GDJ: My favourite character in the books is Da Shi, especially in the second volume, ‘The Dark Forest’. Do you have a favourite character out of the ones you wrote about?

CL: In terms of Da Shi, he’s one of the most liked characters amongst Europeans and American readers. I think it’s because he’s like a caricature of a Chinese person of Beijing police, real well-connected, good with people. But this kind of people are actually really common in China, so we all know someone like that. But for non-Chinese readers, he immediately captures the attention. In terms of favourite character, I don’t think I have a favourite character really because they’re just there to propel the story forward. So it’s where the story is taking them that affects them, so I don’t have a favourite.

(9) ET, PHONE US. “Either the stars are strange, or there are 234 aliens trying to contact us” says Phys.org news. Obviously, these guys haven’t read the Three-Body Trilogy.

What we’re talking about here is a new study from E.F. Borra and E. Trottier, two astronomers at Laval University in Canada. Their study, titled “Discovery of peculiar periodic spectral modulations in a small fraction of solar type stars” was just published at arXiv.org. ArXiv.org is a pre-print website, so the paper itself hasn’t been peer reviewed yet. But it is generating interest.

The two astronomers used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and analyzed the spectra of 2.5 million stars. Of all those stars, they found 234 stars that are producing a puzzling signal. That’s only a tiny percentage. And, they say, these signals “have exactly the shape of an ETI signal” that was predicted in a previous study by Borra.

Prediction is a key part of the scientific method. If you develop a theory, your theory looks better and better the more you can use it to correctly predict some future events based on it. Look how many times Einstein’s predictions based on Relativity have been proven correct.

The 234 stars in Borra and Trottier’s study aren’t random. They’re “overwhelmingly in the F2 to K1 spectral range” according to the abstract. That’s significant because this is a small range centred around the spectrum of our own Sun. And our own Sun is the only one we know of that has an intelligent species living near it. If ours does, maybe others do too?

(10) THE HULK V. THE THING. CinemaBlend reports Stan Lee’s definitive answer to America’s most asked question. (And no, it’s not “Does your chewing gum lose its flavor in the bedpost overnight?”)

It’s a question that has dogged comic book fans for decades: who would win in a fight between The Hulk and The Thing? Of course, there’s only one man who has the definitive answer to this quandary: Marvel icon Stan Lee himself. So when it was finally posed to the comic book legend, the world waited with bated breath to hear the answer, which, as it turns out, is The Hulk.

Stan Lee made this admission during his chat with The Tomorrow Show. But there were a few caveats to Stan Lee’s answer, who predicted that The Thing/Ben Grimm would definitely give The Hulk/Bruce Banner a run for his money, as he’s a little smarter than his counterpart. But that didn’t stop Stan Lee from picking The Hulk as the winner, as he explained:

“Oh, The Hulk would win. The Thing is faster and smarter, so he would probably find a way to turn it into a draw or save himself. He’d trap or trick the Hulk. But, in a fair fight, there’s no way the Hulk [would lose]. He’d win.”

(11) FIFTH OF INDIANA. ScreenRant says a fifth Indiana Jones movie will be out in 2019, starring Harrison Ford and directed by Steven Spielberg. But what about George Lucas? “Indiana Jones 5: George Lucas Is Not Involved With Story”.

In an interview with Collider, the screenwriter mentioned that Lucas does not have a hand in crafting the Indiana Jones 5 story, saying, “I haven’t had any contact with him.” Spielberg’s earlier claims that Lucas would be an executive producer could still be true, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Lucas is attached to an Indiana Jones film and isn’t helping design the narrative. It would appear that Lucas would rather enjoy his retirement than jump into the Hollywood machine again, which isn’t all that surprising considering his comments about Disney in the lead-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For many fans, this is a bittersweet revelation; like Star Wars, Lucas is an integral part of the Indiana Jones property, but he was responsible for some of the more unfavorable elements in Crystal Skull, such as his insistence aliens be in the film. Some viewers would prefer Lucas stay away.

(12) SFWA MARKET REPORT. SFWA President Cat Rambo says, “The latest market report went out a little late this month and I wanted to make sure people were aware of it. Dave Steffen is doing a terrific job assembling it.” Find it here: http://www.sfwa.org/2016/10/sfwa-market-report-october/.

(13) OPENINGS IN RAMBO/SWIRSKY CLASS. There are still slots open in “Re-Telling and Re-Taleing: Old Stories Into New”, the Cat Rambo/Rachel Swirsky live online class happening Saturday, October 29.

Authors constantly draw on the stories that have preceded them, particularly folklore, mythology, and fables. What are the best methods for approaching such material and what are the possible pitfall? How does one achieve originality when working with such familiar stories? Lecture, in-class exercise, and discussion will build your proficiency when working with such stories. Co-taught with Nebula-award winning writer Rachel Swirsky.

(14) ARCHEOTELEVISION. Echo Ishii has a new post about another antique sff TV show – “SF Obscure: Children of the Stones”.

Children of the Stones is a 1977 television drama for children produced by ITV network. I know of this show mainly because of the late Gareth Thomas. So, I decided to watch it because I had heard good things about it.

Astrophysicist Adam Brake and his son Matthew go to a village called Millbury which has a megalithic circle of stones in the middle of it. (It’s filmed on the prehistoric monument of Avebury) Things get strange as soon as they arrive. First of all, the housekeeper and neighbors all seem abnormally happy. Matthew has strange feelings of evil and is immediately hostile towards the new neighbor. His father chides him, but Matthew can’t help but feel something is wrong. We later learn that Matthew has some psychic abilities and this is why he reacts the way he does….

(15) DISSECTING THE FALL TV PREMIERES. Asking the Wrong Questions’ Abigail Nussbaum continues “Thoughts on the New TV Season, 2016 Edition, Part 2”.

Westworld – Easily the most-anticipated new series of the fall, the consensus that has already formed around HBO’s latest foray into genre is that it represents the channel’s attempts to grapple with its own reputation for prurient violence, particularly violence against women (see Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker, and Aaron Bady in The Los Angeles Review of Books).  You can see how that consensus has formed–Westworld builds on the 1973 movie to imagine a lush and impeccably-detailed theme park in which customers pay lavishly to indulge their every fantasy, which almost inevitably seem to involve murder, mayhem, and of course rape.  The metaphor for how HBO’s pretensions to highbrow entertainment ultimately rest on the sumptuously-filmed and -costumed violence of Game of Thrones, True Detective, and The Night Of pretty much writes itself.  For myself, I’d like to believe that there’s more to Westworld than this glib reading, first because I simply do not believe that anyone at HBO possesses this level of self-awareness–this is, after all, the channel whose executives were genuinely taken aback, in the year 2016, by the idea that their shows had become synonymous with violence against women–and second because it’s by far the least interesting avenue of story the show could take.

(16) WOMEN INVISIBLE AGAIN. Juliet McKenna takes to task “Andrew Marr’s Paperback Heroes – a masculine view of epic fantasy entrenching bias”.

Two things happened on Monday 24th October. News of Sheri S Tepper’s death spread – and a lot of people on social media wondered why isn’t her brilliant, innovative and challenging science fiction and fantasy writing better known?

Then the BBC broadcast the second episode of Andrew Marr’s series on popular fiction, looking at epic fantasy.

The programme featured discussion of the work of seven, perhaps eight, major writers – six men and one, perhaps two women if you include the very passing reference to J K Rowling .

Four male writers were interviewed and one woman. Please note that the woman was interviewed solely in the context of fantasy written for children.

If you total up all the writers included, adding in cover shots or single-sentence name checks, eleven men get a look-in, compared to six women. Of those women, three got no more than a name check and one got no more than a screenshot of a single book.

It was an interesting programme, if simplistic in its view, to my mind. There’s a lot of fantasy written nowadays that goes beyond the old Hero’s Journey template. There’s a great deal to the genre today that isn’t the male-dominated grimdarkery which this programme implied is currently the be-all and end-all of the genre….

(17) MASQUERADE VIDEOS. The International Costumers Guild has posted the final version of the “MidAmeriCon 1 masquerade Look Back”.

This episode features highlights from the MidAmeriCon 1 masquerade held in Kansas City, MO. Having discovered another version of this masquerade after the initial upload, we’ve replaced it with this one because the color is more vivid. There is also one additional costume entry that has been added to the video. Note: This video, while not the sharpest in detail, could still be considered slightly NSFW.

 

They have also just released a quick memorial to author and costumer Adrienne Martine-Barnes.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Nora and Bruce Mai, JJ, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/16 The Pixel With The Ticks Will Be The Scroll That Is Droll

(1) IS IT DEAD JIM? BBC reports “Fears grow for European Schiaparelli Mars lander”, which arrived on Mars today.

There are growing fears a European probe that attempted to land on Mars on Wednesday has been lost.

Tracking of the Schiaparelli robot’s radio signals was dropped less than a minute before it was expected to touch down on the Red Planet’s surface.

Satellites at Mars have attempted to shed light on the probe’s status, so far without success.

One American satellite even called out to Schiaparelli to try to get it to respond.

The fear will be that the robot has crashed and been destroyed. The European Space Agency, however, is a long way from formally calling that outcome.

(2) CHAMBERS RETURNS. Becky Chambers’ new novel launched this week. Thea James from Book Smugglers gives it thumbs up.

….A Closed and Common Orbit picks up right after the final events of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, with the once-Lovelace Artificial Intelligence, now reset and memory-less, finding a new life aboard a new body. Before, Lovelace had eyes everywhere and her task was to care for the health and wellbeing of the Wayfarer’s crew. Now, renamed Sidra, she finds herself in a new–and illegal–synthetic body, trying to cope with a limited, isolated, and physical existence that simply doesn’t seem enough.

(3) IT COMES IN PINTS? Emily Asher-Perrin undertakes a highly scientific thought experiment at Tor.com “How Much Beer Does it Take to Get a Hobbit Drunk?”

But how much can a hobbit actually drink?

There is a joke in the Lord of the Rings films that is not present in the books–while hanging around at The Prancing Pony, Merry comes back to the table with a great big tankard. and Pippin asks what he’s drinking:

“This, my friend, is a pint,” he says wickedly.

Pippin’s eyes widen. “It comes in pints?”

It makes sense that hobbits would veer toward smaller pours because they are smaller people–you wouldn’t give a five-year-old a pint glass of juice because they have smaller stomachs and the glass would be harder to manage in smaller hands. But even if the average hobbit goes from half-pint to half-pint, that doesn’t mean that their rates of consumption are low in the alcohol department.

(4) ALLUSION OR UNCITED SOURCE? At Electric Literature, Carmen Maria Machado, in “How to Suppress Women’s Criticism”, argues that Neil Gaiman’s jacket blurb for Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life essentially did a disservice to Joanna Russ.

It was only then that I saw the lead blurb at the top of the dust jacket. Written by Neil Gaiman, it reads in part:

“Not just a terrific biography, but a remarkable act of reclamation: if there was ever a great writer of the twentieth century who fell victim to ‘How to Dismiss Women’s Fiction,’ it was Shirley Jackson.”

…That might seem like a lot of pressure to put on a blurb, especially because blurbs are an unavoidable part of a professional writer’s life. But Russ is dead. Jackson is dead. And in the thoughtless, uncredited, mangled deployment of that phrase —even in praise— Gaiman broke the chain between the two of them; a prominent, living male artist inserted between Russ’ ideas and Jackson’s reality. It would have been such a little, correct thing to keep that link alive — a gesture whose implications would have far outweighed its size. And yet, like so many tiny, seemingly insignificant cultural gestures — whose collective weight can buoy, or suffocate — it is a symptom of a larger condition.

(5) LOST LIGHT. James Davis Nicoll sent this link with the note, “Female blogger silenced.” After six years in the fight, wundergeek’s (Anna Kreider) game industry blog Go Make Me a Sandwich (how not to sell games to women) is signing off.

While it is undeniable that my blog has resulted in positive change in some parts of the games industry and community, that change has come at tremendous personal cost. First and foremost, it’s cost me my reputation; because of this blog, I will always be “controversial”. Go Make Me a Sandwich started as a personal project, something that I started as a hobby because I wanted to write about something that was a growing area of interest for me. By the time it took off, the damage was done; my Google Rank has inextricably tied my name to feminism forever, and that can be dangerous. It’s certainly translated into a level of difficulty in my meatspace life that I never anticipated before starting this blog.

Writing this blog has also taken a tremendous toll on my mental health. The backlash that I’ve faced because of what I do here has been terrifying…..

There are also those who know about the abuse and choose to believe that the abusers aren’t the problem. The real problem is me: my feelings about my experiences of marginalization and harassment and how I express them. There are many in our community who think that it’s a bigger problem that I’m not nice about my feelings toward my abusers than it is that I’m being abused. So instead of holding the abusers accountable for their abuse, which is known and well-documented, they instead decide to publicly castigate me for committing the womanly sin of having feelings about a thing incorrectly…..

…. MY WHOLE GODDAMN LIFE I’ve been told that I was “too much”. Too loud. Too opinionated. Too brash. Too arrogant. Too abrasive. Too bossy. My whole life, people have been trying to shove me into a box that I just don’t fit in, no matter how hard I try – the box of proper womanhood. This blog was my place where I could be ME. Unapologetically. Loudly. Defiantly! And walking away from that feels like walking away from part of myself.

It feels like climbing into the box voluntarily.

It feels like capitulation. Like surrender.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be stronger.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 19, 1953 Fahrenheit 451 published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 19, 1945 – John Lithgow, of Buckaroo Banzai and Third Rock from the Sun.

(8) IT BITES. Washington Post critic Nelson Pressley says you can pass on the local production of Zombie Prom.

That shine is missing in “Zombie Prom,” another campy 1990s off-Broadway musical getting its area premiere. Boy meet girl, boy loses girl, boy despairs and jumps into a vat of nuclear waste. He returns as a zombie — but can he still go the prom?

This is strictly for hardcore musical devotees who want to see what Dana P. Rowe and John Dempsey wrote before their musicals “The Fix” and “The Witches of Eastwick.” The Unexpected Stage Company, last seen showcasing Deb Margolin in “8 Stops,” isn’t giving buffs a particularly good look. Virtually the only number inspiring a grin is the 1950s-style girl-group ballad “Jonny Don’t Go” (“ . . . to the nuclear plant” is the rest of the plea), sung with nice comic understatement by Julia Klavans as the doomed Jonny’s girlfriend, Toffee. The rock-and-roll quartet tucked up onto a platform in a back corner of the stage tries to capture the feel of the 1950s sock-hop score but can’t quite swing it. Neither can much of the rest of the indifferently designed, unevenly performed show.

(9) REFILL. John King Tarpinian found an even better image of the Logan’s Rum reference on The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episode.

logans-rum-2

(10) RURITANIA MISUNDERSTOOD. Since Ian Sales reads this blog, wouldn’t it be more efficient for him to engage the commenters here and clarify the misunderstanding?

And spare my tender feelings, please – the new LJ, indeed!

(11) BIRDS OF MANY FEATHERS. Publishers Weekly talked to Ursula K. Le Guin about her new collections that are releasing today: “Four Questions for…Ursula K. Le Guin”.

Your work is typically labeled “speculative fiction” or “science fiction” or “fantasy,” in spite of your protests. How do you think the typical demarcations of “mainstream,” “literary,” and “speculative” fiction have evolved since you began writing?

I’ve never protested when my science fiction and fantasy is called science fiction and fantasy—why should I, when that’s what it is? But a lot of it isn’t, and I do protest having all my work lumped into a genre that only some of it belongs to. I’ve written for decades in various genres including realism, SF, fantasy, kiddilit, and fable. I published poetry long before I sold a story, and am still publishing it. I’m no longer writing fiction. I don’t fit into any pigeonhole. I’m all kinds of birds. The walls between fictional genres that were constructed by critical prejudice and ignorance are going down fast, and I love to watch them go! [That being said], genre is a permanently useful idea when used rightly, to indicate actual difference in subject-matter, style, expectation. It’s sort of like dogs, isn’t it? Your basic dog is a mongrel. No one breed is “superior” to all others, and exclusive inbreeding results in monsters. But variety and adaptability are valuable traits in a species, and there are real differences between breeds. Long live the Chihuahua, the Elkhound, the Poodle, and the Mutt.

(12) RESEARCH. Sarah A. Hoyt shares her strategy for “Making it Real – How To do Targeted Research” at Mad Genius Club.

Anyway, this is my method: if I am asked — as I was recently — to write something set in say the time of the revolution, the first thing I do is buy one or two general interest books, preferably ones well thought of.  Then I buy a biography or ten written by people of the time.  And then I outline the book and decide what targeted research I’ll need.  Will they sit down at table?  Will there be a tavern scene?  All of those have books written about them.  I find those and read them for the specific scenes I need.  At this time, too, to “soak in” the feel of things I start watching documentaries about that time and place.  This gives a “texture” to the book it would otherwise lack.

Of course, my books change as I write them, so sometimes I’ll find I have to write a scene that wasn’t in the outline, like horse shoeing or perhaps riding between two specific scenes.  At that time, I will put notes all over the book that say “look up x” — most people use something to bracket those, that isn’t used in normal writing, so that we can do a final look see and make sure we got them all.  I use curly brackets — and also, my monitor gets “porcupined” with sticky notes with things like “try to find book or website or reenactor who knows about x.” and “I’m almost sure the description of horse shoeing in the blah blah novel is wrong,” but it’s all I could find “so, replace it when you figure out the right one.” …

(13) NUMBER ONE. Castalia House again has topped an Amazon sales category with its latest release – a book that apparently was acquired at a bargain price:

Mike Cernovich’s new book, MAGA MINDSET: Making YOU and America Great Again, is the #1 bestseller in Amazon’s Politics & Social Sciences>Leadership category. That’s not surprising, as his prevous book, Gorilla Mindset, self-published in 2015, was also a bestseller

What is surprising, however, is that languishing behind the Donald Trump-supporting author’s latest bestseller is Stronger Together, a book published only last month, written by Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine. The Clinton-Kaine book, signed by Simon & Schuster to $14 million advance, currently sits at 5th place in the category…..

The new Cernovich bestseller, signed to an advance that was, according to Day, “pretty close to $14 million less than Clinton and Kaine got,”….

(14) ANCILLARY CUISINE. Lunchtime at Ann Leckie’s table earlier this week.

(15) INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY. Are people still trying to find out?

[Thanks to Bartimaeus, James Davis Nicoll, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 10/6/16 Have Fun Storming The Pixels!

(1) MCCARTY REMEMBERS HARRISON. Dave McCarty pays tribute to his friend Howard Harrison, who passed away October 5, by retelling the experience of running the 1999 Capricon.

…I asked what if we weren’t actually throwing *Capricon*?  What if instead, we were holding the annual meeting of the International Order of Villains?  We treat the whole convention like it is some *other* event?  Tracy asked me why that would be and then I hit her with the nefarious money plan.  You see, if it’s a conference like that, when folks sign up, they would tell the convention organizers which kind of villain they were…be it henchmen, lackey, minion, mad scientist, Igor, etc.  We could badge each of those groups differently so you’d know who was who.  The kicker was that you could also choose to register as an Evil Overlord, but this would be a premium membership for which you would need to pay more money.  If you wanted to be an Evil Overlord, you had to pay.  We could work out getting them some tokens and souvenirs for it, but as long as we only spent a couple bucks on that, we were still helping the convention.  The idea excited me and it excited Tracy, so we shared it with a few other folks and it universally got folks excited and worked up….

From that point on we were in a world we’d never anticipated.  We got no small number of people to pay us extra money to be an Evil Overlord and boy howdy did that help us, but holy hell did it make for a convention that’s hard to forget.  See, quite a number of the Evil Overlords were going around the convention recruiting minions, henchmen, and lackeys to their cause.  Even more brilliantly, Howard Harrison was spending almost all of the time he wasn’t in the filk room going around and organizing the Union of Minions, Henchmen, and Lackeys Local 302.  When I asked him why, he told me (in his best Chicago Superfan imitation) “You see, I know that I am going to die in a fiery explosion, or be thrown into a volcano, or just act as fodder for my bosses escape.  I need to know what’s going to happen for my family!“.  These conversations and all the recruiting brought me to freaking tears.  Our whole convention was a LARP and almost everyone was playing and nobody was having a bad time or feeling pressured to participate.  Howard even invented the UMHL salute.  Take your right hand and make a tight thumbs-up, then flip it upside down (thumbs down).  Now, place  your knuckles against your temple in salute fashion.  There you go, union salute!  Howard then took his unionized brothers and sisters and started approaching the Evil Overlords to inquire about benefits and insurance and post-death family care to get his folks the best deal he could….

…At the time, I told him how brilliant he was…but over the years, his playfulness that weekend grew to mean a lot more to me and I don’t think I ever really got to tell him what that grew into for me.  I’m sad that I can’t do that with him now, but I *can* share this story with all of you so that you know what a special guy he was.

(2) MAGIC IN SNORE-TH AMERICA. If you bet against J.K. Rowling writing magical history that’s as dusty and dull as regular history is reputed to be – you lost. New at Pottermore, “The Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA)”.

The Magical Congress of the United States of America, known to American witches and wizards by the abbreviation MACUSA (commonly pronounced as: Mah – cooz – ah) was created in 1693, following the introduction of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. Wizards worldwide had reached a tipping point, suspecting that they could lead freer and happier lives if they built an underground community that offered its own support and had its own structures. This feeling was particularly strong in America, due to the recent Salem Witch Trials.

MACUSA was modeled on the Wizards’ Council of Great Britain, which predated the Ministry of Magic. Representatives from magical communities all over North America were elected to MACUSA to create laws that both policed and protected American wizardkind…

 

(3) SURVIVING HOSTILITY. Angelica Jade Bastién, in an article for New Republic, says “For Women of Color, the Price of Fandom Can Be Too High”.

I’m open to criticism and discussing my writing with those who respectfully don’t agree with my opinion, but in covering comic properties, I’ve dealt with everything from people accusing me of not reading comics as if I had no idea what I was talking about to being told I was race baiting by acknowledging certain issues in the film. The worst were the very pointed attacks calling me an “idiot” or a “bitch” and far worse epithets from people I blocked. I won’t even go into the Reddit threads about my article that I was once tauntingly sent screenshots of. It’s something I’ve grown almost numb to as a critic. But what was more interesting to me was the level of hurt coming from these men and their routine way of doubting my comic knowledge—a dynamic other female journalists get time and time again.

I’ve watched all of the Star Trek series more times than I can count, and I often whip out Klingon when I’m nervous.

I have been reading comics obsessively since I was about ten years old. I can probably quote from John Ostrander’s original Suicide Squad run in my sleep, I’ve watched all of the Star Trek series more times than I can count, and I often whip out Klingon when I’m nervous. But I’ve found that the love and knowledge I have on these subjects never seems to be good enough for the people who grow furious at a black woman writing about these properties. White male fans often don’t want to face how their beloved properties often have troubling racial and gender politics.  (Just peruse the comments on my review of X-Men: Apocalypse for RogerEbert.com: “The author feels like the X-Men series in general has failed its female characters—ignoring the fact that Mystique is elevated to a leadership and relevance level well above the source material.” Many didn’t want to face a critique coming from a woman, and a fan, who knows them better than they do.) You can only delete emails and block people on Twitter for so long until you feel burnt out. The reason why we don’t see more black women writing about these subjects with such visibility isn’t because we haven’t been interested in them, it’s that publications rarely give us the opportunity, and when we do write, we often find ourselves facing personal scrutiny that has little to do with the actual writing. At times, I’ve been left to wonder, why do I love these stories so much when they rarely care about people who look like me?

(4) HOLD ON TO THE LIGHT. At Magical Words, “100+ Sci-Fi & Fantasy Authors Blog About Suicide, Depression, PTSD—a #HoldOnToTheLight Update by Gail Z. Martin” includes links to the first 40 posts authors have written around the theme.

More than 100 authors are now part of the #HoldOnToTheLight conversation! Our authors span the globe, from the US to the UK to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Even more exciting is that as the campaign picks up traction and visibility, more authors want to join, meaning a growing, vibrant dialog about mental wellness and coping with mental illness.

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

(5) MUSEUM OF SF KICKSTARTER FOR A WOMEN IN SF ANTHOLOGY. The Museum of Science Fiction has opened a Kickstarter appeal to fund Catalysts, Explorers & Secret Keepers, a “take-home exhibit” featuring short science fiction works by and about the women of the genre.

This anthology will showcase how they—as readers, as writers, and as characters—have engaged with and influenced science fiction for more than a century….

The cover of Catalysts, Explorers, & Secret Keepers will feature original artwork by the Hugo winning artist Julie Dillon. Award-winning authors Eleanor Arnason, Catherine Asaro, N.K. Jemisin, Nancy Kress, Naomi Kritzer, Karen Lord, Seanan McGuire, Sarah Pinsker, Kiini IburaSalaam, Carrie Vaughn, Jane Yolen, and Sarah Zettel have already agreed to contribute work to the exhibit.

Upon reaching the minimum funding target, the Museum will open submissions until December 1, 2016. The public will be able to submit original work that fits the take-home exhibit’s theme. Authors of original fiction published in Catalysts, Explorers, & Secret Keepers will receive the SFWA-standard pro-rate ofUS $0.06 per word, while authors of solicited reprints will receive US $0.03 per word. All authors featured in this exhibit will be invited to discuss their work as presenters and panelists in 2017 at Escape Velocity, the Museum of Science Fiction’s annual celebration of all things science fiction.

The appeal has raised $6,068 of its $8,500 goal with 26 days to go.

(6) TOR.COM REOPENING FOR NOVELLAS. Tor.com publishing will take unsolicited novella submissions for three months beginning October 12.

Lee Harris and Carl Engle-Laird will be reading and evaluating original novellas submitted by hopeful authors to http://submissions.tor.com/tornovellas/. You can find full guidelines here, and we highly recommend you read the guidelines before submitting. We will be open for three months, beginning on October 12th around 9:00 AM EDT (UTC-4:00) and ending on January 12th around 9:00 AM EST (UTC-5:00). We may extend this period depending on how many submissions we receive over the course of the open period.

(7) TAKE US TO YOUR CHIEF. From CBC Radio, “Drew Hayden Taylor on why we need Indigenous science fiction”.

Science fiction is meant to take us to places we’ve never been — this is what writer Drew Hayden Taylor is aiming to do with his new collection of short stories, Take Us to Your Chief.

Taylor’s new book filters famous sci-fi tropes such as aliens, time travel and government spying through the lens and perspective of Indigenous people. For him, he is simply taking these familiar stories and putting “some hot sauce on them.”   …

“I pictured myself as a 12-year-old kid back on the reserve, reading science fiction or reading books and not seeing our experiences in this book,” he explains. “I was just taking certain touchstones that we were all familiar with and then using them to take them out of the reserve environment into the larger sci-fi environment, and giving it that sort of resonance.”

(8) POSTSCRIPT TO NATIONAL FINISH-YOUR-BOOK DAY. Camestros Felapton reports there was  third sf novel finished yesterday – Timothy the Talking Cat’s The Confusing Walrus. According to Camestros,

I’ve read his ‘manuscript’ and it says “Copy whatever John Scalzi has written but use find/replace on the words ‘space’, ‘galaxy’, ‘star’ and ‘planet’ with the word ‘walrus’”

confusingwalrus-min

(9) INTERVIEW WITHOUT A VAMPIRE. Masters of Horror held a get-acquainted session with Horror Writers of America President Lisa Morton.

Interview With Lisa Morton By David Kempf

When did you first become interested in writing?

I’ve been writing almost as long as I’ve been reading – my first poem was published when I was 5! – but I didn’t seriously consider making a living out of it until I saw The Exorcist at the age of 15. Seeing the astonishing impact that film had on audiences during its initial release made me realize I wanted to do that, too.

How did you make this a full time job?

Well, it’s not my full time job now. I tried that for a while, back when I was making a fair amount of money as a screenwriter, and it didn’t work for me at all. I know most writers dream of being able to leave their day job and pursue writing all the time, but for me it was too isolating. Plus, I really love being a bookseller.

How did you become President of the Horror Writers Association?

By attrition, sadly. I was serving as Vice President when the President, Rocky Wood, passed away. Before that I’d held a variety of positions within the organization. I do find it satisfying to work with other writers and promote a genre that I love….

(10) NEXT BLADE RUNNER. The Verge reports “The Blade Runner sequel is officially titled Blade Runner 2049”.

(11) BROOKS ON WILDER AND FRANKENSTEIN. Mel Brooks got emotional before a screening last night.

Mel Brooks introduced one of the funniest movies ever made, Young Frankenstein, on Wednesday night. But the director couldn’t hold back tears.

Brooks paid homage to Gene Wilder, the star and co-writer of his 1974 classic comedy, before showing Young Frankenstein on the 20th Century Fox lot.

The live event was beamed to theaters around the country and turned into a tribute to Wilder, who died Aug. 29 at age 83. An encore presentation with Brooks’ introduction will screen in theaters Oct. 18.

“I get just a little overcome,” said Brooks, 90, from the stage, dabbing his eyes as he discussed Wilder. “I’ve had a few great memories in my life. But, honestly, I think making Young Frankenstein is my best year.”

(12) SWEET SWILL. ‘Tis the season for Deadworld Zombie Soda! (Turn the sound down when you click on this site.) The sodas come in 12 flavors, with label art created by comic book artists based on the characters and events that take place in Deadworld comic book universe.

  • ORANGE  – Orange Roamer
  • CHERRY COLA – Goon Biters
  • BLACK CHERRY – Royal Rotter
  • CREAM SODA – Brain Sap
  • COTTON CANDY – Zeek Cocktail
  • VANILLA CREAM SODA – Geek Juice
  • GRAPE – Grisly Swill
  • VANILLA ROOT BEER – Slow Decay
  • STRAWBERRY – Rot Berry
  • ROOT BEER – Twilight Shuffler
  • GREEN APPLE – Morbid Mix
  • GINGER ALE – Graveyard Delight

Untitled

Deadworld is the award winning, long running cult hit comic book series published by Caliber Comics that first exploded on the comic scene in 1986. With over 1 million copies in print and over 100 comics & graphic novels released to date, Deadworld is not your typical “zombie comic book or story”.

A supernatural plague has been unleashed on the world. The dead return to walk the earth…but this is no standard zombie story.  The dead are just foot soldiers for those who have crossed the ‘Gateway’ from another dimension. There are leader zombies who are intelligent, sadistic, and in addition to having a hankering for flesh, enjoy the tortuous ordeals they put the surviving humans through.

(13) EERIE OUTFITTER. Tim Burton’s costume designer Colleen Atwood interviewed by NPR (with comments on Miss Peregrine’s…):

From Hannibal Lecter’s mask to Edward Scissorhands’, well, scissor hands, Oscar-winning costumer Colleen Atwood has pretty much designed it all.

Working steadily since the 1980s, she’s dressed characters from the past and the future — the Middle Ages for Into the Woods, the Civil War for Little Women all the way to Gattaca and the 2001 Planet of the Apes. Her latest movie, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, is her eleventh with Tim Burton. It travels back in time to Wales during World War II….

(14) SLOW DOWN, YOU MOVE TOO FAST. The BBC sums up interstellar travel:

Science fiction writers and moviemakers have shown us countless visions of humanity spread out across the Universe, so you might be forgiven for thinking that we’ve already got this in the bag. Unfortunately, we still have more than a few technical limitations to overcome – like the laws of physics as we understand them – before we can start colonising new worlds beyond our Solar System and galaxy.

That said, several privately funded or volunteer initiatives such as the Tau Zero Foundation, Project Icarus and Breakthrough Starshot have emerged in recent years, each hoping to bring us a little bit closer to reaching across the cosmos. The discovery in August of an Earth-sized planet orbiting our nearest star has also raised fresh hopes about visiting an alien world.

Interstellar spacecraft will be one of the topics discussed at BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit in Sydney in November. Is travelling to other galaxies possible? And if so, what kinds of spacecraft might we need to achieve it? Read on to get up to (warp) speed: …

(15) TREK BEYOND BLOOPERS. CinemaBlend has the story and the video — “Chris Pine Does His Best Shatner Impression In Hysterical Star Trek Beyond Gag Reel”.

As professional as the actors all are on the set of a Star Trek movie, the final cut of the film adds effects and music to the experience which help transport you to the fictional world. Without that, you’re just a guy standing on a set spouting Star Trek gibberish. This becomes all the more clear when an actor trips over their lines, and suddenly everybody remembers that they’re acting again. The best part, though, is when Chris Pine calls for “Full impulse, Mr. Suliu” and John Cho stops to say that he sounds like he’s doing a William Shatner impression. Pine does add a bit of a classic Shatner pause to the line, so it does sound a bit like him to us. As much as we love William Shatner, we hope this doesn’t become a habit.

(16) THAT’S APPERTAINMENT. IanP unleashed this instant classic in a comment on File 770 today.

With apologies to Paul Weller

A pixeled car and a screaming siren
A shuggoth trail and ripped up books
A walrus wailing and stray pup howling
The place of fifths and tea drinking

That’s appertainment, that’s appertainment

A file of scrolls and a rumble of boots
A wretched hive and a bracket ‘head cloth
Ink splattered walls and the award of a rocket
Time machine appears and spews out pizza

That’s appertainment, that’s appertainment.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/16 Just Hook The TBR Pile Directly To The Vein

(1) DUALING READERS. Rob Dircks delivered an unexpected bonus to those attending his reading at Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night – it’s titled “Today I Invented Time Travel”.

I was invited to read from my novel Where the Hell is Tesla? at the Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night, and decided to write a short story for the evening — when an unexpected visitor showed up…

Here’s a clip from the story:

And my phone found me the top five reasons to go back in time:

  1. Stop George Lucas from making the prequels to Star Wars.
  2. Bet on the 1969 Mets.
  3. Talk to that girl you had a secret crush on in elementary school.
  4. Kill Hitler.
  5. Meet Jesus.

 

(2) TEMPORAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. For writers determined to stick with real science there are a lot of details to work out, even when it’s only your imagination traveling to the future. R. A. MacAvoy, co-author of Albatross with Nancy Palmer, tells about those challenges.

This ingenious 25-year leap into the future turned from wiggle-room into a straight-jacket. It helped with the science, but not so much, as each of us kept coming up with new discoveries on the news that needed massive re-write. The Higg’s Boson companion (if it is what it seems to be). Gravitational waves.

And that was just the science!

Sweating, sweating, we began to consider all the other important changes in life which would go along with the advances in the sciences and which would touch the lives of the characters in the story even more than The Theory of Everything. In twenty-five years, we assumed, would people still be driving around in automobiles? Seemed likely – as this was not a Zombie Apocalypse novel. Petrol cars? Self-driving cars? Re-write. Rewrite.

Mobile phones. On the wrist, as part of one’s glasses? People still doggedly carrying things the size of card-decks in their pockets? Hey – at least a person in a self-driving car won’t be guilty of much as they babble or text into whatever form of phone they have as their cars zoom them to their destination. Or get lost in a daily traffic jam caused by the inevitable software problems.

And in a moment of O.C.D. we decided to eliminate all references to the daily habit of tea-time in the British Isles. It suddenly seemed too difficult to decide whether or not the increasingly technical lives we lead would have time for such an old custom. Eliminating all references to tea time was perhaps the silliest rewrite. But it explains, better than anything else, the straight-jacket effect of writing in the near-future.

This is only one aspect of the difficulty we found in writing twenty-five years into the future.

(3) TROPE CONSERVATION. Peter McLean on “Why We Shouldn’t Hunt The Trope To Extinction” at Black Gate.

The poor old trope had had a lot of bad press in recent years. A lot of people seem to want to deconstruct the little critter, or subvert it or discredit it. Basically people seem to want to hunt the trope to extinction, and I think that’s unfortunate.

Now I agree some members of the trope herd have got a bit long in the tooth and are probably due for culling. No one really needs to read another fantasy novel where a simple farmboy turns out to be the Chosen One / Long Lost Heir who is foretold by prophecy and destined to save the world, do they? No, so the “Farmboy” trope is probably due to meet the huntsman, and I think the “Damsel in Distress” has probably had her day too.

You very rarely if ever see these tropes in modern fantasy now, and that’s because everyone got sick of them. An overused trope can eventually outstay its welcome and evolve into a cliché, a completely different critter, and that’s when the huntsmen need to come after it. And that’s fine. The world moves on, as Stephen King would say.

But I don’t think we should tar the whole herd of tropes with the same brush just because some of them get old and go bad. Healthy tropes can be useful little critters. Tropes are what help to stop every novel being 1000 pages long.

(4) A SCALZI FIRST. “On The Wall,” John Scalzi’s first zombie story, co-written with Dave Klecha, appears in Black Tide Rising, the zombie apocalypse anthology edited by John Ringo and Gary Poole. The book is due in stores June 7, however, Baen Books has the eARC on sale right now For $15.

(5) ATTEND ZOMBIE TECH. Amazon is hosting a Zombie Apocalypse Workshop, where you can learn to apply Amazon Web Services technology to recover from the end of civilization. Bring your own laptop and shotgun.

Apocalypse Workshop: Building Serverless Microservices – Washington D.C.

Note: The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has recruited sufficient volunteers for our mission, and all registrants from now until March 10th will be placed on a recruit waitlist. Waitlisted recruits will be admitted if space permits on a first-come, first-serve basis so please arrive early.

Scenario: Zombies have taken over major metropolitan areas. The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has built a communications system to connect the remaining survivors.

Learn how AWS Lambda provides a platform for building event-driven microservices, all without the need to provision, manage, and scale servers. In this workshop, we will introduce the basics of building serverless microservices using AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon S3.

(6) CAN ALTERNATE HISTORY BECOME DATED? Fantasy Literature reviewer Marion Deeds, in 1632: The tale is dated but I love its exuberance”,  makes it hard to figure out why there are (by her count) 23 books in this popular series. (And she may not know about the 1632 conventions…)

Flint lets us know in the prologue of 1632 that there’s going to be no discussion of quantum physics, magical portals, of clicking our heels together and going home. The story is an exciting live-action role-playing game with a small force of Americans who completely outgun the competition. The competition are evil mercenaries, so we don’t have to feel sorry for them as they are chopped down like a summer lawn under the blades of a riding mower.

There are also a few other things that are not going to be problems for twentieth-century people dumped into the seventeenth century. Here’s a short list: no one’s going to struggle with a sense of psychic displacement or post-traumatic stress; no one’s going to pine for family or loved ones left behind; no one’s going to question the basic premise that they are stuck in the 1630s. No one is going to turn, irrationally, on another group; no one is going to scapegoat anyone; no one’s going to have a spiritual crisis.

A few more things no one in the new America is going to have to worry about: sufficient food, clean water, sanitation, electrical power, medicine, radios or even TV, except they do have to create their own programming. That’s because all that stuff came with them. They have their own coal vein, and Grantsville landed next to a river in Europe, so they have water and fuel for steam power. The area had its own power plant and three machine shops, several doctors and a jewelry store, so that as the various couples hook up, they can all get wedding-ring sets. It’s nice. Knowing they can’t maintain their current level of technology for too long, the Americans decide to “gear down,” and convert to steam power, settling at late-eighteenth/early nineteenth century tech. This is smart. All of this clears away survival-level problems so that Flint can get on with what’s important; those battles.

(7) RICHARD DAVALOS OBIT. Best known for roles in East of Eden and Cool Hand Luke, actor Richard Davalos died March 8 at the age of 85. He also was in genre films The Cabinet of Caligari (1962) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). And he was the grandfather of actress Alexa Davalos, who stars in Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle.

(8) MICHAEL WHITE OBIT. Rocky Horror and Monty Python producer Michael White died March 9.

His theatre production credits included the West End premieres of The Rocky Horror Show, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and A Chorus Line.

Born in Glasgow, White began his theatrical career in London’s West End producing plays such as Annie and The Rocky Horror Show.

He later went on to produce films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1978, and those which have achieved cult status such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is still regularly screened in cinemas.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1876 — Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first telephone message to his assistant in the next room: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” (It is not true that the second telephone message was, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can…?”)
  • March 10, 1997 — The CW premiered Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is an oral tradition that Buffy inspired the creation of the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short) Hugo category, and it did receive a couple of nominations before it went off the air.

(10) RABID PUPPIES. After a brief hiatus, Vox Day resumed announcing his slate with “Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novelette”.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novelette category.

  • “Flashpoint: Titan”, Kai Wai Cheah
  • “Folding Beijing”, Hao Jingfang
  • “What Price Humanity?”, David VanDyke
  • “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”, Chuck Tingle
  • “Obits”, Stephen King

We have been repeatedly informed that homophobia and the lack of diversity is a serious problem in science fiction, and speaking as the leader of Rabid Puppies, I could not agree more. The decades of discrimination against gay dinosaur love in space by the science fiction community stops now, and it stops here!

Let’s face it, there are just three words to describe the only event that might happen in 2016 that I can imagine would be more spectacularly awesome than “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” winning a Hugo Award this year, and those three words are “President-elect Donald Trump”.

(11) HUGO LOVE. Joe Sherry at Nerds of a Feather: “My Favorite Stories Don’t Get Nominated: A Hugo Love Story”.

I love the Hugo Awards because in becoming part of the WSFS I get to add one small voice to the multitude and help pick the nominees for the five best novels / stories / whatevers. In 2014, artist Joey Hi-Fi was one nominating vote from making the final ballot for Best Professional Artist and becoming an official Hugo Award Nominee….

Collectively, a bunch of people who love science fiction and fantasy come together and say that these, these novels and stories and artists and fans – this is the best of what I read and watched last year. These are some of the best of what the genre has produced.

Then, when the nominations come out and also after the awards are given, we can all sit back and think…what the hell is everyone else thinking? Why are they so wrong? That book is terrible and this book that I loved is so much better.

Of course my opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Of course this is true. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of people who are just like me except that their taste in great fiction isn’t quite the same disagreed. Or, maybe what I loved was their sixth favorite story and they can only nominate five. Or maybe they just never read it because holy crap there is a lot of stuff published every year. I read a LOT and I don’t even scratch the surface of what’s out there. What the Hugo Awards allows me to do is be part of a group where everyone looks at what they read and tries to figure out what the best of that is – and then collectively, the numbers come together and a ballot is produced.

I love the Hugo Awards even when everyone else obviously gets it wrong because at its heart, the Hugo Award nominees are selected by a group of fans who are passionate about science fiction and fantasy. It’s a group of fans who, ideally with no agenda beyond love of genre, point to something they love and say “this, this is awesome.”

(12) LOOSELY WRAPPED. Kate Paulk has a small update on what Puppies can expect at MidAmeriCon II at Mad Genius Club.

Planning for the Puppy Presence at Worldcon continues under wraps until we have things sufficiently stable to make an announcement. The goal there is to be at the convention, have fun (lots of fun), and meet friends face to face. If I can arrange it there will be a PuppyGate in honor of the Jeopardy question and visitors will have to cross the PuppyGate to enter the fun zone.

(13) TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THAT OTHER THING. Attorney-at-Work blogger Jared Correia finds an excuse to write about a favorite show – “The Truth Is in Here: Lawyer Lessons Buried in ‘The X-Files’”:

The point is that Duchovny did not again discover wide popularity until he made it back to TV, for his turn as debauched author Hank Moody, on Showtime’s “Californication.” Now “Californication” has wrapped, and he’s back on “The X-Files.” Accepting that Mulder was the best role that he’s had, and coming back around to it, feeling at home in it, is the best end for his story.

Sometimes, you can take the circuitous route back to where you belong — but, there’s something to be said for recognizing that you should never have left in the first place.

I don’t think Jared Correia is any relation to Larry, although the click-through ad over Jared’s column “The way attorneys get paid” is very Larry-esque.

(14) GREEN PLANET. CBBC answers the question “Could vegetables grow on Mars?”

The team wanted to find out what could we grown if humans try to live on Mars in the future.

Although they didn’t have real Martian soil, they used dirt supplied by Nasa, which was taken from a Hawaiian volcano that’s thought to be very similar….

But there’s still a long way to go – no one ate the experimental vegetables, because substances in the soil including arsenic and mercury might have made them poisonous.

Now the team are trying to find a way to grow vegetables that are safe to eat.

Wait a minute. So there would have been arsenic in Watney’s potatoes…?

(15) MAD SNACKS. An aeropress is a thing for making coffee. The 2016 Australian AeroPress Championship will be held March 17 —

Australian Aeropress poster COMP

On the night, Australia’s best brewers will be stirring, steeping and pressing coffee generously supplied by Condesa and roasted by the punks at PMC.

Inspired by the Thunderdome of Mad Max, there’ll be beers, industrial disco balls, heaps of food (unlike the Thunderdome), a DJ in full Mad Max dress (not conformed) and, no doubt, some crazy revellers (confirmed), but weirdly the original Mad Max, Mel Gibson, declined the offer to MC.

(16) PUPPY IN ORBIT. Galactic Journey’s time traveler has the latest (really late) space program news in “[Mar. 10, 1961] Dog and Puppy Show (Sputnik 9)”.

We are definitely not far away from a person in space.  The Soviets launched another of their five-ton spaceships into orbit.  We’re calling it Sputnik 9; who knows what they call it?  On board was just one dog this time, name of Chernushka, who was recovered successfully after an unknown number of orbits.  It is pretty clear that the vessel that carried Chernushka is the equivalent of our Mercury capsule, and once the Russians have gotten the bugs out of the ship, you can bet there will be a human at the controls.

This is not to say that the American program is standing still—one of our astronauts may go up on a suborbital jaunt as early as next month.  But the Atlas booster, the big one that can put a man in orbit, won’t be ready until the end of the year, at the earliest.

(17) A WRITER WHO WELDS. No, it’s not the Emergency Backup Hugo – it’s Nancy Jane Moore’s “Post-Apocalyptic Spaceship”, at Book View Café .

(18) THE ROCKET’S BLUE GLARE. The New York Times has a story on Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’ private space program — “Jeff Bezos Lifts Veil on His Rocket Company, Blue Origin”.

Blue Origin is part of a shift of the space business from NASA and aerospace behemoths like Lockheed Martin toward private industry, especially smaller entrepreneurial companies. Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, founded by another Internet entrepreneur, Elon Musk, has been the most visible and most successful of the new generation of rocket companies. Last Friday, it launched another satellite to orbit, but an attempt to land the booster on a floating platform again ended in an explosion.

Much more quietly, Blue Origin has also had big space dreams, but until now did not give outsiders a look at what it was doing.

For almost four hours, Mr. Bezos, who only occasionally talks to the press, led 11 reporters on a tour of the factory and answered a litany of questions over lunch. He talked garrulously, his speech punctured by loud laughs. “It’s my total pleasure. I hope you can sense that I like this,” he said.

He described an image on a wall in the company’s central area, which showed two tortoises holding an hourglass and gazing upward at a stylized image of the planets and cosmos. Below is Blue Origin’s motto: “Gradatim ferociter,” Latin for “step by step, ferociously” — no cutting of corners, but no dillydallying, either. “You can do the steps quickly, but you can’t skip any steps,” Mr. Bezos said.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Seth Gordon, Will R., and Tom Galloway for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 12/22 I Saw Mommy Reading Pixel Scroll

(1) IN SFWA TIMES TO COME. Cat Rambo in “What I’m Hoping For SFWA in 2016” tells about the organization’s accomplishments and shortfalls in 2015, and what the future holds. Here’s an excerpt from each category —

SFWA’s 2015 Accomplishments

We hammered out membership criteria that didn’t just include writers publishing independently or with small presses but made us the first organization to consider crowdfunded projects as a publication path. That’s led to an influx of new members and fresh energy that’s been delightful to be part of….

Some Bad Stuff

The lack of a plan behind the 50th Anniversary Anthology finally sank that project when our CFO and I realized that the books would have to sell for 84.50 each in order to break even….

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2016

M.C.A. Hogarth has been a terrific Vice President, proactive and self-guided. One of her projects is a guidebook for SFWA members that explains everything: how to join the discussion forums, how to nominate for the Nebulas, how to participate in the Featured Book Program on the website, who to mail with directory issues, etc. That will appear in 2016 and I think it will be a bit of a revelation to us all….

Rambo ends with Henry Lien’s anthem “Radio SFWA,” which I must say I am a huge fan of, whatever it may do for anybody else…. (The lyrics appear when you click “show more” at the song’s YouTube page.)

(2) RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens lands unprecedented award nomination” reports Polygon.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already shattered plenty of box office records, but the movie has also made history by reportedly earning an unprecedented nomination from the Broadcast Critics Association.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Association made the historic move to include the film as the eleventh contender for their Best Film award. The nomination list had come out eight days before The Force Awakens was released, effectively shutting the film out entirely. Usually, films must be submitted during a specific voting period and those that don’t meet the deadline aren’t considered at all.

(3) GOOD FOR A QUOTE. Academic Henry Jenkins, who appeared as a witness in The People Vs. George Lucas, explains “What We Talk About When We Talk about Star Wars” at Confessions of an Aca-Fan.

This blog post might be subtitled “The Pretentious Ass Strikes Back.” Here’s a story we tell in my family.

In 1977, Cynthia Ann Benson, an undergraduate at Georgia State University, has signed up for a class on film theory and criticism, with some nervousness about whether it will take the pleasure out of going to the movies. On the first day of class, the instructor — Jack Creech — is late, and a group of students are gathered outside the classroom. This guy — you know the one — another undergraduate student  is standing around making assertions about gender, race, and technology in the recently released Star Wars movie to anyone who will listen and to many who would probably rather not be listening. She goes off after class and writes a letter to her best friend describing “this pretentious ass pontificating about the social significance of Star Wars” as summing up everything that made her fearful of cinema studies.  It took me several years to overcome that unfortunate first impression and get her to go out on a date with me. We’ve now been married for almost 35 years.

So, it was some ironic glee that I accepted the invitation of the media relations folks at USC to be put on a list of experts who could talk to the media about Star Wars. I found myself doing some dozen or more interviews with reporters all over the world in the week leading up to the release of A Force Awakens, filling them in about the impact which the Star Wars franchise has had over the past few decades.

(4) HE’LL BE HERE ALL WEEK FOLKS. James H. Burns sent an email to ask: “Hey, Mike, do you know why I’ll be wearing a deerstalker cap on the 25th?”

The answer: “Because I’ll be Holmes, for Christmas.”

(5) I’M MELTING…MELTING….

(6) HIGH CASTLE TO CONTINUE. Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle has displaced Titus Welliver-starrer Bosch as its most-watched original according to The Hollywood Reporter.  The show’s pilot also has been streamed more times than any other pilot in Amazon history. The company announced a few days ago it has renewed the show for a second season.

(7) DID YOU PAY ATTENTION? Pit your wits against “Orbit’s Ultimate 2015 Science Fiction and Fantasy Quiz” at Playbuzz. Multiple choice questions, for example:

Fans visited the Discworld for the last time this year, with Terry Pratchett’s final book, The Shepherd’s Crown, released in August. If you were to visit Ankh Morpork, how would you recognise the city’s crest? It contains…

JJ says, “In my opinion, it’s way too heavy on media (Film, TV, comics) and Game of Thrones, but I’m sure a lot of Filers will do well on it.”

(8) BIG NAME ZOMBIE WRITERS. Jonathan Maberry and George Romero are joining forces to edit Rise of the Living Dead, an anthology of all-original stories set in the 48 hours surrounding Romero’s landmark film.

Rise of the Living Dead will be published by Griffin, and will include stories by Brad Thor, Brian Keene, Chuck Wendig, David Wellington, George Romero, Isaac Marion, Jay Bonansinga, Joe Lansdale, Joe McKinney, John Russo, Jonathan Maberry, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Mike Carey, Mira Grant (pen name of Seanan McGuire), Neal Shusterman & Brandon Shusterman, and Sandra Brown & Ryan Brown.

(9) LEWIS PART THREE. Matthew David Surridge unveiled “Wandering the Worlds of C.S. Lewis, Part III: Dymer” at Black Gate.

In 1922 C.S. Lewis recorded in his diary that he had “started a poem on ‘Dymer’ in rhyme royal.” His phrasing’s interesting: a work “on” Dymer, as though it were a well-known subject. “Dymer” was already a familiar story to him. He’d written it out in prose in 1917, one of his first mature prose works to use modern diction and avoid the archaisms of William Morris’ novels. Late in 1918 he wrote in a letter that he’d just completed a “short narrative, which is a verse version of our old friend Dymer, greatly reduced and altered to my new ideas. The main idea is that of development by self-destruction, both of individuals and species.” Nothing of this version seems to have survived in the 1922 poem, which was finished in 1925 and published in 1926 to mixed reviews.

(10) HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS. After viewing “Boston Dynamics’ Robo-Dogs Pulling a Sleigh is a Terrifying Glimpse of Christmas Future”, Will R. asked, “Do electric puppies dream of…wait…where was I?”

I love the possibility of a Christmas battle royal between the Robo-Dogs and the regiment of parading Krampuses – it would be the real life equivalent of that Doctor Who episode where the Daleks fought the Cybermen….

(11) PARTYARCHS. Because the MidAmeriCon II Exhibits team will be helping people throw parties in the Worldcon’s event space, rather than have them in hotel rooms, they are inviting people to an advance discussion —

Hi all you party throwers!

At MidAmeriCon II, we are going to have a different party setup and we have some questions to ask of you and answers to share with you.

Please subscribe to our party-discussion mailing list by sending an email to party-discuss-join@midamericon2.org with the subject line of SUBSCRIBE.

Even if you aren’t going to throw a party, we are interested in your insight and advice.

(12) BOND ON ICE. James H. Burns calls”Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?” from the sixth James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, “Perhaps the most unusual song in a James Bond film.” Nina Van Pallandt is the singer.

The song played behind this action scene:

(13) RECOMMENDATION SITE. Ken Marable’s 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season is working its way through every category week at a time. It just wrapped up the Best Fanzine recommendations.

Previously covered – Best Semiprozine, Best Fan Writer, Best Professional Artist, and Best Editor (Short Form). See the schedule at the site for when others will be covered.

(14) BOIL’EM, BAKE ‘EM, STICK ‘EM IN A STEW. Peru’s Centro Internacional de la Papa will learn how to grow “Potatoes on Mars”.

A team of world-class scientists will grow potatoes under Martian conditions in a bid to save millions of lives.

The experiment, led by the International Potato Center (CIP) and NASA, is a major step towards building a controlled dome on Mars capable of farming the invaluable crop in order to demonstrate that potatoes can be grown in the most inhospitable environments.

The goal is to raise awareness of the incredible resilience of potatoes, and fund further research and farming in devastated areas across the globe where malnutrition and poverty are rife and climbing….

By using soils almost identical to those found on Mars, sourced from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in Peru, the teams will replicate Martian atmospheric conditions in a laboratory and grow potatoes. The increased levels of carbon dioxide will benefit the crop, whose yield is two to four times that of a regular grain crop under normal Earth conditions. The Martian atmosphere is near 95 per cent carbon dioxide.

(15) FISHER. “Han Jimbo” (James H. Burns) says this interview with Carrie Fisher from earlier in the month is just delightful.

(16) CINEMATIC COAL LUMP. ‘Tis the season to remember what is generally regarded among the worst movies ever made.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians can be viewed free online. (As if you would pay to see it!)

(17) WAY OF THE HOBBIT. Ebook Friendly draws our attention to the “Following the Hobbit trail (infographic)”.

Quirk Books, an independent book publisher based in Philadelphia, has released a fantastic infographic that will let you study the timeline of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

The visual was prepared for Quirk Books by Michael Rogalski.

Following-the-Hobbit-trail-infographic

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Will R., James H. Burns, John King Tarpinian, JJ, and Gregory N. Hullender for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Pixel Scroll 12/7 Mr. Mxyzpixelstalk

(1) ROCK’N ROLL. From the Guardian: “Stonehenge may have been first erected in Wales, evidence suggests”.

It has long been known that the bluestones that form Stonehenge’s inner horseshoe came from the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire, around 140 miles from Salisbury Plain.

Now archaeologists have discovered a series of recesses in the rocky outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, to the north of those hills, that match Stonehenge’s bluestones in size and shape. They have also found similar stones that the prehistoric builders extracted but left behind, and “a loading bay” from where the huge stones could be dragged away.

Carbonised hazelnut shells and charcoal from the quarry workers’ campfires have been radiocarbon-dated to reveal when the stones would have been extracted.

Prof Mike Parker Pearson, director of the project and professor of British later prehistory at University College London (UCL), said the finds were “amazing”.

“We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC,” he said. “It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view. It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.”

Spoils of war? A demonstration of imperial hegemony, like the monuments that were moved to Constantinople?

(2) YEAR’S WORST SF? Vivenne Raper, in “[Review] The Hunger Tower by Pan Haitian”, concurs with Rocket Stack Rank that this might be the worst story published this year.

 #2 The Crack-Fic Trophy for Unintended Erotica

Some writers devote whole blogposts to describing characters. Other writers, however, don’t bother with all that… or correcting translation errors/missing words.

we must band together in this time calamity,*” the captain said. It comforted them all a little to look up at his ruggedly unyielding gray eyes, his muscular neck, his sturdy and well-defined chest.

I expected Fifty Shades of Cannibalism after the ‘ruggedly unyielding gray eyes’. Happily, that didn’t happen, but the author did attempt other descriptions, including this classic:

Vivienne warns that reading this story may lead you to think your own writing isn’t that bad…

(3) IS TREK DOOMED? M.J. Moore argues “Why Star Trek Won’t Make it to the 23rd Century” at SF Signal.

So what do viewers want if not honest to goodness space exploration?

Survival, plain and simple. For a long time now the market has been saturated with Will Smith battling aliens over the White House; the remnants of Earth being overrun by aliens; aliens posing as humans in order to infiltrate and destroy mankind; even young kids with super-minds seeking to destroy an alien race before it destroys us. The big fantasy-books-turned-movies share this focus with the likes of The Hunger Games and Divergent series’.

Consider the hot sci-fi TV shows right now: Killjoys, Extant, Dark Matter, Defiance, Falling Skies. These programs are not about finding peace or new discovery. These shows take an extremely close, dark look at the ‘what if everything went wrong?’ and the ‘how do we deal with life now?’ questions. Our collective fear of the unknown and drive to believe that we can survive against these odds leaves the sci-fi of the current era little room for innocent wonder. We’ve transitioned from an open, outreaching ideal into a people obsessed with self-preservation – and who can blame us? Look at what we’re dealing with today: global warming, terrorism, nation-wide hatred that spawns one blood bath after another.

(4) A PROFILE IN COURAGE. Kameron Hurley details “Why I Chose to Write Publicly About Anxiety”.

…We look at super star writers and we think it must all be easy for them (I certainly do), and that if it isn’t easy for us, that we’re doing something wrong (I always think I’m doing it wrong).

That’s why I wrote this column for Locus Magazine this month.

Note that – though I spoke about anxiety issues back in July – I waited quite a while to make a post about having to go on medication for it. I started meds in October, right before Empire Ascendant came out, but I still had one more book draft to complete before the end of the year, and I didn’t want to be open (beyond a few vague tweets) about this until I’d turned in that book (or a VERY rough draft of it). I’ve cautioned writers before in being too open about their physical or mental health when things are bad. I’ve heard from a lot of writers (including the late Jay Lake) about how people stopped offering them opportunities on the assumption that they were unable or would be unwilling to tackle them. I didn’t want people to count me out, but I had to wait until I knew I was already better before noting that, you know, back in July I was a fucking nut and yeah, no, it just kept getting worse. This summer was pretty bad. But I had so much work to do by year’s end that I didn’t want to share that with anyone. I’d also hazard a guess that I’d have missed out on some opportunities that came in later in the year if I’d have been too open about just how fucking crazy things were.

Your mileage may vary, but I’d heard of too many writers burned by this. I hedged my bets and wrote the Locus post back in October knowing it would go live in December after I was sane and functioning again….

(5) ACCESS PLEDGE. Ann Leckie’s new post “Access” announces:

I am signing on to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Convention Accessibility Pledge. I’m doing it in this blog post because I think it’s important as many people as possible are aware of this issue.

I’m not going to pull out of convention appearances that I’ve already committed to. (And as it happens, ConFusion and Vericon have both assured me they’re taking accessibility issues seriously, so kudos to them.) But going forward, I will only attend cons that meet the (let’s be honest, pretty minimal) criteria outlined in MRK’s post….

But having a con inside a dry, heated and/or cooled building with sufficient space for people to move around and stairs between floors is in fact an accommodation. We just don’t think of it as one, since we’re used to seeing that particular attention to our needs and comfort as normal and understandable and worth going to some effort to ensure. And yes, stairs are an accommodation. What, you can’t climb up that rope ladder to the next floor?

Claims that arranging in advance to have some ramps or lifts on standby is just too much trouble or expense are, frankly, claims that the needs and comfort of members who need them just don’t matter to you….

(6) Today In History

  • December 7, 1972 — Apollo 17 was launched on the last scheduled manned mission to the moon.

(7) Today’s Birthday Girl

  • Born December 7, 1915 – Leigh Brackett

Stephen Haffner and the Haffner Press celebrated Leigh Brackett’s 100th Birthday with a long autobiographical quote.

I sold my first story (in late 1939, to Astounding) largely because of two things. First, because this same grandfather had a sure and quiet faith in me, and showed it by financing me in my chance to write when I was quite old enough to make my own living. Second, because one Henry Kuttner, of whom you may have heard, chose to think my wobbling and misshapen efforts had some promise, and went out of his way to help me develop it.

 “I have been writing for a living ever since, mostly in science fiction, sometimes in detective stories, for three years and a bit in the Hollywood studios (Columbia, Republic and Warner’s), and a very brief excursion into radio. I like to write. There are times, I’ll admit, when I wish I had chosen the profession of ditch-digging instead. (In all honesty, I’ll have to qualify that last. Since moving to the country I have actually dug a ditch, and I believe that writing is easier.) But it’s a satisfying job and one that constantly expands and changes because you can never possibly learn everything about it. You ask what my philosophy of writing is—I don’t know that I have any. To tell a good story, to tell it as well and effectively as possible, and to try to grow a little wiser and a little deeper all the time—I suppose, put into words, that’s what I aim at. Whether or not I hit it is another matter entirely.

The Haffner Press will also be thrilled if you preorder its Leigh Brackett Centennial  collection.

Discovered by editor Stephen Haffner, Brackett’s unpublished story “They” leads off this tribute volume collecting the majority of Brackett’s nonfiction writings, supplemented with vintage interviews and commentaries/remembrances from such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Richard A. Lupoff, and more.

 

Leigh Brackett

Leigh Brackett

(8) EVEN MORE MST3K. The “Bring Back Mystery Science Theater 3000” Kickstarter has raised almost double the funds they set as the original goal, $2,000,000. They can already pay for six new episodes. Another three will be produced if they reach $4,400,000. With four days to go, 32,181 backers have pledged $3,89,247.

(9) James H. Burns has two spoiler questions about the new Hunger Games film (but they aren’t really spoilers, and he’s pretty sure the answer may be in the books):  How can seventy-five blocks possibly be so long?  (in most American cities, that would take, at most, 90 minutes to 2 hours to cross); and how can the Capitol’s government possibly not have heat imaging, or even more advanced technology, to spot the “intruders”?

(10) ZOMBIE STALKER. Fansided reports “Norman Reedus bitten by fan at Walker Stalker Con”.

Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead was reportedly bitten at Walker Stalker Convention in New York/New Jersey by a fan who is now banned from future WSC events.

Turns out that Norman Reedus has to watch out for biters even when he’s not on the set of AMC’s hit zombie survival drama The Walking Dead.

According to several reports, a female fan was standing in front of Spoil The Dead member Michael Bowman in the line for photo opportunities with Reedus and Michael Rooker at Walker Stalker Con NY/NJ around 2:50 pm when it was her turn to get a picture taken.

The woman approached the two actors and told Norman Reedus a story about how she likes to pretend that she’s married to him. After a moment, security ran in and restrained the woman, explaining that she was to be removed for biting the The Walking Dead star and saying “Um….ma’am. You just bit Norman Reedus.”

(11) IT AIN’T SF. LOL! ScienceFiction.com leads with a droll headline — “Defying All Expectations: ‘Star Wars’ Not Science-Fiction Claims ‘The Force Awakens’ Scribe”.

‘Star Wars’ writing veteran Lawrence Kasdan has made an interesting statement recently while speaking to Wired about ‘Star Wars.’ According to the long-time screenwriter, he believes that the epic space-opera is not actually part of the sci-fi genre, as for him, the franchise in many ways seems to stand outside of any genre. In his own words:

“Star Wars is its own genre. It’s not really science fiction. It’s really something on its own, fantasy and myth and science fiction and Flash Gordon and Akira Kurosawa all mixed up together. For that reason, like all genre it can hold a million different kinds of artists and stories… It can be anything you want it to be.”

(12) IMPROVING AS A WRITER. Max Florschutz’ advice for “Being a Better Writer: Always Keep Learning”.

See, there’s a mindset out there in the world today—one that’s certainly not limited to writers, mind—that stipulates that once we reach a certain “point,” usually vaguely defined by some milestone or outside individual, we can “stop learning.” There’s no need to go on. We’ve succeeded. We don’t need to learn anything anymore. We’ve conquered the need for education, and all we need to do now is continue in our craft….

But here’s the real truth behind it. You’re never going to hit that peak. Those people who think that there is a perfect moment where one can just “stop learning” because they know it all are of the same mindset as those individuals who think there is a limited amount of “good fiction” and that other authors need to stop writing so that someone else can have their attention (no, I’m not joking, there’s a whole movement of people with that mindset protesting against authors who are doing well and telling them to stop because they’re hogging the limited resource of readers) or that the publishers should be the only vetting source of books (and not, you know, the public).

(13) AMERICA’S WIZARD COLLEGE. “My crowdfunding campaign: College for wizards”, Abha Bhattari’s recent column “On Small Business” in the Washington Post, was devoted to how two people from Richmond raised nearly $300,000 to host “New World Magichola:  A College of Wizardry Larp” where people will spend four days and up to $920 in a workshop to create “an entire North American magical universe” in Richmond.

The Kickstarter page with lots of photos and videos is here.

Raised: $232,062 (as of Nov. 25) of a $35,000 goal. The campaign goes through Jan. 4.

What’s the pitch?

Get your wand ready. Wizardry school is just around the corner.

At New World Magischola, students will get the chance to take courses in a range of subjects including alchemy, magical theory and poisons.

They will receive a costume, robe and a magic textbook when they arrive and will be tasked with warding off  evil entities and saving civilization — all while in character.

Brown and her co-founder Benjamin Morrow, 38, came up with the idea for the live-action role play event after attending a similar workshop at a castle in Poland last year. They spent six months creating a fantasy world called Magimundi.

“We thought it was high time that North American had its own magical universe,” Brown said.

In order to become wizards in this magical universe, students must complete one of five majors (choices include Cursebreaking and Cryptozoology) that will be offered next summer. Students will live on campus at the University of Richmond for the duration of the four-day, three-night program.

“You’ll get access to an entire North American magical universe,” Brown and Morrow write on their Kickstarter page. “We’ve designed a world, history, economy, characters, plots, sets, costumes, and magical creatures for you to interact with as your character.”

(14) WHO CHRISTMAS. The BBC has released two trailers for the Doctor Who Christmas Special, “The Husbands of River Song.”

It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas Carols and Comedy Antlers. But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy. King Hydroflax (Greg Davies) is furious, and his giant Robot bodyguard is out-of-control and coming for them all! Will Nardole (Matt Lucas) survive? And when will River Song work out who the Doctor is?

 

[Thanks to Gregory N. Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, James H. Burns, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]