Pixel Scroll 5/31/18 The Pixel That Parsed The Hornets Nest

(1) ANOTHER CAT AND SFF STORY TO LOVE. Huge news for Cat Valente:

Deadline has the story: “Universal Options ‘Space Opera’ For Marc Platt & Colin Trevorrow To Produce”.

Universal Pictures has optioned Catherynne M. Valente’s  science fiction novel Space Opera, which Marc Platt will produce for his Universal-based Marc Platt Productions with Adam Siegel, along with Colin Trevorrow producing.

(2) BOOK SALES STATS. Data Guy has posted the slides from the “2018 SFWA Nebula Conference Presentation” at Author Earnings.

(3) KNOW YOUR BEARDS. Camestros Felapton challenges you in the “Puzzle Corner: Help Timothy Spot the Author”.

Poor Timothy is still having problems with human faces. I don’t know what fraction of science-fiction authors have beards but I’d guess 30%? Sometimes feels like more!

Can you match the beard-style (numbered) to the author (lettered) so Tim can tell which is which?

(4) BREAKING IN. Congratulations, Buzz Dixon! He told Facebook readers —

I finally cracked Analog after 50 years of trying!

(Not that Buzz hasn’t enjoyed a highly successful writing career in the meantime.)

The Astounding/Analog Companion has posted “A Q&A with Buzz Dixon”:

Analog Editor: What is the story behind “While You Sleep, Computer Mice Earn Their Keep”?

Buzz Dixon: Often I’ll hear an idiom or phrase and think to myself, “What does that mean literally?” In this case, the phrase was “computer mouse,” and I asked myself how mice could actually interact with a computer. Immediately the old fairy tale of “The Cobbler and the Elves” popped into mind.

AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?

BD: If the Computer Mice represent the force of order, then the wild female rat represents the force of chaos. I remember reading Robert Chilson’s “Ecological Niche” in the December 1970 issue of Analog when I was in high school and was struck with his portrayal of wildlife finding a way to be both wild and alive even in the middle of an extremely complex technology. Once I had my opposing points of view, the actual writing went very quickly.

(5) CAT RAMBO. On Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog, “My Favorite Bit: Cat Rambo talks about HEARTS OF TABAT”.

One of my favorite pieces of the most recent fantasy novel, Hearts of Tabat, didn’t actually get into the final version, which was a set of chapter headers defining which Trade God each chapter belonged to. The Trade Gods of the city of Tabat embody various economic forces of one size or another, ranging from the large Anbo and Enba (Supply & Demand) to the more particular, like Zampri, who oversees Advertising, or Uhkephelmi, God of Small Mistakes.

(6) FORENSICS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch teases apart a major news story about embezzlement at a literary agency in “Business Musings: An Agent Nightmare Revealed”.

…To the greatest extent possible.

In other words, my friends, Donadio & Olson does not have the financial resources to make up for a theft of $3.4 million, let alone any more potential losses that the forensic accountant might turn up.

The complaint alleges that Webb stole money as far back as 2011. However, according to Law360, he worked for the company since 1999. Did he start this behavior then? Or after Candida Donadio died? (Which seems likely. Agencies go off the rails when their founders leave or die.)

It’s pretty easy to steal from writers’ estates. I worked with a number of them on some projects in 2015 and 2016, and with one exception, the agencies or the organizations in charge of the estates didn’t give a crap about resale, about payment, about anything. Most of them weren’t even familiar with the story I wanted to reprint, and only one of them had an author’s preferred version that they sent to me. (I asked.)

I probably could have reprinted those stories and never paid any of the estates. I probably would not have been caught in most cases. And that’s rather minor theft.

Now, imagine what’s going on with estates like [Mario] Puzo’s, which includes all of the monies still coming in from the movies, from licensing, from the books (which are still in print). These are multimillion dollar ventures, handled every year by Donadio & Olson, with no one overseeing the day to day running of the finances.

Oh, my. The money was simply there for the taking.

The thing is, Donadio & Olson is a “reputable” agency. The New York Post used the word “prestigious” in describing the agency. Donadio & Olson was, until last week, a gold-standard agency, one that most young writers might have aspired to have as representatives….

Then she shares some firsthand experiences.

Sadly, I am not surprised by any of this. As I have blogged about before, literary agencies are not regulated. Prestigious agencies embezzle. I’ve personally had one of the biggest boutique agencies in the world embezzle from me. (And I suspect they still are, although I can’t prove it. But there are licensed properties—tie-ins—that I wrote whose royalty statements I cannot get my hands on because no one at the licensor will cooperate with me. The books have been in print for 25-30 years and I have never seen a dime in royalties. Ever.) I’ve also had one of the biggest fraudsters in the industry steal from me. I speak from hard-earned life lessons here.

(7) AUREALIS AWARDS TAKING ENTRIES. The Aurealis Awards, “Australia’s premier awards for speculative fiction,” is taking entries until December 7.

The awards  are for works created by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and published for the first time in 2018.

Full guidelines and a FAQ can be found on the Aurealis Awards website.

We strongly encourage publishers and authors to enter all works published in the first half of the year by August 2018, then subsequent publications as they are released; our judges appreciate having time to consider each entry carefully.

The same group is also running the Sara Douglass Book Series Award for series ending between 2015-2017, this year. Entries for this special award close on August 31, 2018. More information is available at the link.

Finalists of all award categories will be announced early in 2019 and winners announced at a ceremony to take place in Melbourne in the first half of the year. For more information contact the judging coordinator Tehani Croft at aajudges@gmail.com

(8) ASTRONAUT OBIT. Donald H. Peterson passed away May 27 reports the Washington Post: “Donald Peterson Sr., who spacewalked from the shuttle Challenger, dies at 84”.

Mr. Peterson’s avid consumption of science fiction in his childhood drove his interest in aviation and space.”

In 1983 he told a reporter:

‘Back when I was a kid, there was no space program,’ Peterson said in an interview. ‘In fact, I was old enough to know about airplanes before there were jet airplanes.

‘My earliest interest came from science fiction. I read a lot of things as a kid, but I read some science fiction and got interested. As I got older, I started reading real things

A trading card featuring Peterson:

(9) IN A SOCIAL MEDIA FAR, FAR AWAY. (Found with the help of Nicholas Whyte.)

(10) COMICS TO BE PRESERVED. Michael Cavna, the Washington Post’s “Comic Riffs” columnist, says that the Library of Congress has acquired most of Steven Geppi’s comics collection, including most of the contents of the Baltimore-based Geppi Entertainment Museum, which will close after this weekend: “Library of Congress acquires its largest donation of comic books ever”.

The impressive acquisition, which is set to be announced Wednesday, comes courtesy of Baltimore-based collector and entrepreneur Stephen A. Geppi, who is donating more than 3,000 items from his holdings, many spanning the eight-decade history of the American comic-book industry. His Mickey Mouse storyboards are from the Jazz Age animated short “Plane Crazy,” which was inspired by Charles Lindbergh. Other items include printing blocks from Richard Outcault’s fin-de-siecle comic-strip character the Yellow Kid, Beatles memorabilia and a No. 2 Brownie camera model F from Eastman Kodak, the library says.

The donation — which the library says it is valuing “in the millions” — was born out of months of conversations between Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, a champion of giving the public new ways to view the library’s scope, and Geppi, who opened Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore in 2006.

(11) BUTLER AT HOME. From Pasadena Weekly — “Octavia Butler’s Pasadena connections informed her stellar science-fiction writing career”.

The Crown City played a major part in her development, both for its major role in the space race via Caltech, JPL and the Carnegie Observatories, and because of the fact it was racially integrated long before much of the nation. Her archives are collected at the Huntington Library in San Marino, having formed the basis of a popular exhibition in 2017 and remaining one of the hottest collections for researchers there.

“Pasadena was a major inspiration, and part of that has to do with JPL being in her backyard, right over the hill and being so close to the space race and growing up with that had to have piqued her interest,” says Theresa Russell, assistant curator of literary collections at the library. “I think Butler felt it was a very diverse place. She talks about her novels not just being filled with black people, but people of all colors. There were white, black, Asian students at Caltech, and it seemed natural to her that the future would be the world she was seeing, filled with diversity.”

Russell also notes that the Pasadena area or a version of it appears in some of Butler’s works. Her novel “Kindred” offers a particularly strong example, as it focused on a writer living in Altadena amid an early career as a writer, and the novel “Mind of My Mind” features a city called Forsyth that was modeled after Pasadena. Yet Russell notes that the dystopian novel “Parable of the Sower” has the most intriguing connections of all to the City of Roses.

(12) STORIES THAT ADMIT THEY ARE ABOUT POLITICS. The Kickstarter for Cat Rambo’s “IF THIS GOES ON – Political SF Anthology” has raised $3,736 of $10,000 at this writing, with 28 days to go.

Looking at the state of the world today, we are clearly at a nexus of inflection points. Global relations and power structures are changing more rapidly than they have since the cold war. The divide between the haves and have nots is broadening and we are at the start of a new gilded age of robber barons and crippling poverty. Racial, social, and class relations are stretched to a point of breaking. Global climate change threatens to remake our planet.

The choices we make today; the policies of our governments and the values that we, as people, embrace are going to shape our world for decades to come. Or break it.

IF THIS GOES ON asks a very straightforward question – what happens if things continue to be like this and what happens next?

We asked thirty writers to put their minds to it and show us what the future may hold a generation or more from today. To show us the promise of a better world if we embrace our better angels or the cost of our failures if we give in to the demons of divisiveness, if we allow politicians and pundits to redefine truth, and if we continue to ignore the warnings all around us.

Truth matters, stories matter.

The full Table of Contents, organized alphabetically by the author’s last name is:

  • Cyd Athens – Welcome to Gray
  • Steven Barnes – The Dayveil Gambit
  • Rachel Chimits – Dead Wings
  • Paul Crenshaw – Bulletproof Tattoos
  • Beth Dawkins – Tasting Bleach and Decay in the City of Dust
  • Andy Duncan – Mr. Percy’s Shortcut
  • Chris Kluwe – The Machine
  • Kitty-Lydia Dye – Three Data Units
  • Scott Edelman – The Stranded Time Traveler Embraces the Inevitable
  • Judy Helfrich – A Pocketful of Dolphins
  • Langley Hyde – Call and Answer
  • Gregory Jeffers – All the Good Dogs Have Been Eaten
  • Jamie Lackey – Fine
  • Jack Lothian – Good Pupils
  • Nick Mamatas – Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness
  • Lynette Mejía – A Gardener’s Guide to the Apocalypse
  • Aimee Ogden – Twelve Histories Scrawled in the Sky
  • Sarah Pinsker – That Our Flag Was Still There
  • Conor Powers-Smith – The Sinking Tide
  • Zandra Renwick – Making Happy
  • Kathy Schilbach – Counting the Days
  • Nisi Shawl – King Harvest Will Surely Come
  • Priya Sridhar – Mustard Seeds and the Elephants Foot
  • Marie L Vibbert – Free Wi-Fi
  • Calie Voorhis – The Editor’s Eyes
  • Tiffany E. Wilson – One Shot
  • James Wood – Discobolos
  • Sylvia Spruck Wrigley – Choose Your Own Adventure
  • E. Lily Yu – Green Glass: A Love Story
  • Hal Y. Zhang – But for Grace

Cover art by Bernard Lee. Design by Michael Altmann.

(13) BUY PROP FOR NEVER-MADE TREK MOVIE. Motherboard says this model for the starship Enterprise is going on the auction block with a starting bid of $40,000.

A rare, redesigned version of the starship Enterprise NCC-1701 will go on auction in L.A. (and online) Thursday, with bidding starting at $40,000. The model was designed by Ralph McQuarrie and Ken Adam in 1976 for the ill-fated film Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, which was the first plan for a motion picture after the original series was cancelled. But after months of writing and rewriting the script, it was ultimately shelved, and the redesigned Enterprise was shelved with it. Shortly after, Paramount began working with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry on what would eventually become Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The model would have changed the iconic look of NCC-1701. The model did appear briefly (though not as the Enterprise) in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds.” It was in the Starfleet armada which was destroyed by the Borg in the Battle of Wolf 359.

(14) HOT TIP: PLASTICS. NASA now has a combination plastic recycler and 3-D printer to test on the International Space Station. The Tethers Unlimited, Inc. device is about the size of a mini-fridge and was built as part of the Small Business Innovation Research program. It was certification tested at the Tethers Unlimited lab in Bothell WA and at Huntsville AL’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The plan is to deliver it to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon supply run later this year.

Quoting the GeekWire article: “Tethers Unlimited delivers 3-D printer and recycler combo to NASA for space station”.

The Refabricator uses a process called “Positrusion” for recycling plastic parts into fresh filament for 3-D printing.

“Traditional plastics recycling and 3-D printer filament manufacturing techniques involve grinding and extrusion steps that could pose safety concerns on the ISS and often require a lot of adjustment to keep them running reliably,” [Tethers Unlimited CEO Rob] Hoyt explained.

“To create a recycling system that is safe and doesn’t demand a lot of astronaut time, we developed a new method for recycling plastic parts into 3-D printer filament, and integrated it together with a 3-D printer to create a highly automated recycling-and-manufacturing system,” he said.

(15) WATER WATER EVERYWHERE. BBC reports “Two different forms of water isolated for first time”. Not polywater (a hoax) let alone ice-nine (though both have been topics of sf stories), but physics-level differences leading to different chemical behavior.

Scientists have isolated the two different forms of water molecule for the first time.

Water molecules were known to exist as two distinct “isomers”, or types, based on their slightly different properties at the atomic level.

By separating out the two isomers, researchers were able to show that they behave differently in the way that they undergo chemical reactions.

The work appears in Nature Communications.

(16) EARLY INFLUENCES. At Postscripts to Darkness “PSTD Author Interview: Mike Allen”.

Whether they are historical or contemporary, who are some of the writers whose work has been most influential on, or important to, your own, and what have you taken from their writing?

I think it all boils down to Poe and Tolkien, the first is probably kind of obvious, the second I imagine less so for any readers out there that might know me only through my creative work.

Those two writers set me on the path. A well-meaning third grade teacher read “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” to our class for Halloween, and while the other kids just giggled it away I was traumatized, with night terrors that lasted for years. Yet instead of staying away from all things horror, I became consumed with morbid curiosity, constantly coming back to this type of story-telling that held so much power over me, leading me to devour stuff by H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Peter Straub and Clive Barker.

With Barker, my favorite writer when I was in my teens, I experienced a paradigm change. I became a gleeful participant in the land of imaginary horrors, rather than a frightened victim. I ended up consuming so much horror that I essentially inoculated myself from the night terrors.

I would bet the idea that I’m best known for horror stories would be a big shock to 10-year-old me. Around 4thgrade or so my dad made me read The Lord of the Rings, because he thought it was the greatest novel ever written and because he was sure I would like it. On that second part, absolutely, he was right. Maybe the first one, too? But anyway, I developed this hunger for all things Tolkien. We lived at the time in Wise, Virginia, a coal town high in the Appalachians. There was no bookstore. There were a couple of other kids who liked fantasy, but didn’t share my obsessive need for it, or at least not my precise interests — as I recall, one buddy was a huge Larry Niven fan.

(17) FELINES AND FANTASY. Can you believe it? Long before the idea was codified by File 770, authors independently recognized the association of cats and SFF. For example, see these Martha Wells LiveJournal posts.

(18) SFWA EMERGENCY FUND. Hey, I didn’t know that.

(19) SILVERBERG ADAPTED AS OPERA. This is from an interview with composer Emily Howard by Richard Fairman in the May 26 Financial Times (behind a paywall).

Howard, 39, tells how she was working with her librettist, Selena Dmitrijevic, on a story about a person being shunned by society.  A draft scenario, in which that character was arrested and sentenced to being ‘invisible,’ was already well advanced when they discovered it came from a short story that Dmitrijevic had on her shelf at home, Robert Silverberg’s ”To See The Invisible Man.’

There is a strong flavour of Kafka, or perhaps Margaret Atwood.  ‘In our opera you never know exactly what the Invisible’s crime was,’ says Howard.  ‘We assume we are dealing with some authoritarian regime, where society is forced to operate within very narrow parameters of human behaviour.  It is a wonderfully constructed story, because it opens with the Invisible’s crime of coldness, and then(when the Invisible is apprehended for trying to help another Invisible in distress) closes with the crime of warmth.’

Note that Silverberg’s ‘Invisible Man’ has become the gender-neural ‘Invisible.’  It is one of Howard’s most eye-catching ideas that the role of this person is to be sung by two singers:  a soporano and a bass.  When the Invisible is alone, they will sing it together, but out in society, where he/she is unable to be themselves, only one voice will be heard.

To See The Invisible is going to be performed at the Aldeburgh Festival  from June 8-11.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bill, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Tehani Croft, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

108 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/31/18 The Pixel That Parsed The Hornets Nest

  1. @Kendall: I don’t know whether B&N carries Amazon imprint paper editions in their stores, but at least some of them are available online. They tend to be more expensive than getting them direct from Amazon. I believe the Amazon imprint ebooks are only available in Kindle editions.

  2. @MattY

    And trying to find those gems can be a real pain in the butt.

    I agree. There’s a fair amount of work that can go into finding a gem. I lean on Goodreads quite a bit. The four and one-star reviews can be informative. Also, the premise of the book has to lean into my wheelhouse.

    Or maybe I’m just lucky?

    @rob_matic

    I’m not sure it’s an elitist thing either, as the big five are quite happy to publish mediocre commercial fantasy.

    I tried to couch my comments at least partially as a matter of “taste” rather than politics. When sparkly vampires were all the rage, we got more books with sparkly vampires. The same goes for magic schools and dystopian YA.

    I don’t think it is a huge reach to suggest that “tastes” at larger publishers currently lean away from MilSF without suggesting that those editors are all attending “Che Guevara SFF Destroys the World” meetings.

    @Lee

    Jake Bible, author of The Flipside, posts a screenshot of an Amazon review. The review is titled “Very Politically Correct” and goes on to say, “More of the social justice warrior nonsense corrupting science fiction today. On the plus side, it had fewer spelling errors than some of the free books on Amazon.”

    The author’s commentary: “I’ve arrived! My first racist review! Why is he a racist? Because there are no politics in this novel, but the main characters are all people of color. ‘Murica!”

    I dove a bit too deeply in that reviewer’s perspectives. Almost all of their reviews were highly negative.

    In this case, Mr. Bible managed to sell at least one more copy of his book due to that negative review.

    That being said, it isn’t impossible for an author to unconsciously include story elements that might align with a stereotypical perspective.

    @rochrist

    Not a lot of this stuff is headed for the Clarke shortlist.

    Is that because there isn’t anything worthwhile published via indie or because the people that decide what works are considered spend more time focused on trad-pub works? It’s kind of a vicious cycle. If the average reader considers indie can’t be any good because it doesn’t win awards and the folks driving awards don’t include indie works in their survey of the genre, then how are indie authors supposed to win awards?

    ——-

    Perhaps I might not have said this properly before. Traditional publishers suffer from a capacity limit. They employ a certain size staff that can only produce so many books a year. Writers whose work aligns well with the taste perspective of that staff will get published at a higher rate. Writers whose work does not align well will have a harder time getting published.

    Indie (and small press) publishing gives writers the ability to go around the limitations of the traditional publishers and reach readers that want to read their books. That should be considered a “good thing”TM, IMHO.

    Regards,
    Dann
    History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is. – Thomas Jefferson

  3. @Dann: “Indie (and small press) publishing gives writers the ability to go around the limitations of the traditional publishers and reach readers that want to read their books. That should be considered a “good thing”TM, IMHO.”

    You seriously understate the problem of discoverability here, and that’s an area where tradpub has a huge advantage over selfpub. Would you rather take home 70% of ten sales or 10% of a thousand?

  4. Is that because there isn’t anything worthwhile published via indie or because the people that decide what works are considered spend more time focused on trad-pub works? It’s kind of a vicious cycle. If the average reader considers indie can’t be any good because it doesn’t win awards and the folks driving awards don’t include indie works in their survey of the genre, then how are indie authors supposed to win awards?

    Much more the former than the later. It isn’t that there isn’t ANYTHING worthwhile that’s indie, but if you have one percent of tradpub that might make it, then it will be one thousandth of one percent of indie that might make it. ANd believe me, I read way more of this stuff than I should so it isn’t unfamiliarity bias. As I’ve said before, there are a few really good things. Almost none of them wouldn’t have been improved by going through the tradpub process, and those are pretty much all from people who are seasoned pros doing indie things on the side, aka Bujold.

    As for the milSF. Traditional publishers couldn’t possibly accommodate the tidal wave of mediocre millSF that’s exploded onto Amazon even if they wanted to. There are more books released in a week than all the traditional publishers would do in a year.

  5. @Dann: “Che Guevara SFF Destroys the World” – LOL, maybe we need a “Che Guevara Destroys Science Fiction” anthology! 😉

  6. @Dann: Thirty years ago. we would have been considered MilSF fans. And I say this with all love for what the genre once was: indie military science fiction is the gunporn equivalent of the indie romance novel: cheap, quickly read, tossed aside for the next almost-identical book. James Axler is probably about as close to that as traditional publishing is going to go.

    There’s a place for these novels in the reader ecosystem. A lot of people want that sort of sameness in their reading. A lot of the same people don’t care if an editor has corrected the more egregious problems. I think Baen is trying to position themselves to serve this market. It’s one big reason why I buy very little from Baen these days despite having an awful lot of their logos on the shelves beside me right now.

  7. @Dann: “Che Guevara SFF Destroys the World” – LOL, maybe we need a “Che Guevara Destroys Science Fiction” anthology! ?

    I would read that.

  8. @Cora & Kendall

    I would read that.

    A volume celebrating a mass murderer that conducted kangaroo courts, targeted blacks and gays for murder, and helped enforce poverty on everyone else isn’t of much interest to me.

    @Rail

    There’s a place for these novels in the reader ecosystem. A lot of people want that sort of sameness in their reading. A lot of the same people don’t care if an editor has corrected the more egregious problems.

    I agree. Indie is one good way of fulfilling the desires of those readers. If indie didn’t exist, then those readers wouldn’t have something that they enjoyed reading.

    FWIW, I recognize that indie books can (and frequently do) have some serious issues. I also happen to think that they are a reasonable path to becoming a successful author. While most successful athletes get to the NFL and NBA via a college career, there are a few that get there via a different route.

    Following SPFBO significantly improves the quality of my indie reading experience.

    @rochrist

    Much more the former than the later. It isn’t that there isn’t ANYTHING worthwhile that’s indie, but if you have one percent of tradpub that might make it, then it will be one thousandth of one percent of indie that might make it.

    I understand your point even though I think 0.001% might be a slight overstatement.

    WRT to MilSF, a small fraction of a percentage of the indie novels published is still a non-trivial number of good (not necessarily great, but good) books that would never exist if those authors had to wait for traditional publishers to “discover” them.

    Regards,
    Dann
    TANSTAAFL/TINSTAAFL/TNSTAAFL – Truth no matter how you slice it.

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