(1) Why is Stieg Larsson’s fourth Millennium novel a news item for the scroll? Well, it is a book a lot of us will read, but that’s not the reason. Sweden’s Ahrvid Engholm supplies the connection in his coverage “From the Biggest Book Release of 2015: ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’” on Europa SF.
There were big news and no news at the Stockholm press conference (August 26th) for the fourth Millennium novel, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” by David Lagercrantz. Big news because of all the speculations and hysteria around this book, in the international bestseller (80+ million copies world-wide) series created and written by Stieg Larsson….
Stieg Larsson was one of Sweden’s top science-fiction fans throughout the 1970’s, as fanzine publisher (titles like Fijagh, SFären, Långfredagsnatt) board member and later chairman of the Scandinavian SF Association (where Yours Truly met him every week for several years), for which he and Eva Gabrielsson also edited the memberzine. He then turned to nonfannish journalism, covering neonazi and racist movements, and became quite well-known, writing books and appearing on TV talking about that field. When he died in a heart attack 2004, the first volumne in the Millennium saga was just about to be published. He never lived to see his huge success.
(2) The SFEditors (Ellen Datlow, Gardner Dozois, Paula Guran, Rich Horton, and Jonathan Strahan) are practically machine-gunning out short fiction recommendations.
The best core SF novella of 2015 is @AquilaRift’s Slow Bullets (Tachyon) about a failing starship far from home. Powerful and moving. – JS
— SFEditorsPicks (@SFEditorsPicks) September 13, 2015
“But where is Fahrenheit 451?” demands John King Tarpinian.
(4) Lock your doors!
This actually happened. https://t.co/aV2HNGLt3F
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) September 13, 2015
(5) Lee Hutchinson’s review of The Martian on Ars Technica focuses on whether it got the science right.
Fortunately, The Martian, is a good blind date. Screenwriter Drew Goddard has translated Andy Weir’s novel into a script that keeps almost all of the science and humor intact, and director Ridley Scott allows the vast emptiness of Mars to speak for itself, while keeping the gimmicks to a minimum.
And, of course, Matt Damon does wonders for the role of Mark Watney—the best botanist on the planet. The planet of Mars.
(6) Tom Knighton reviews Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves and concludes:
Absolutely amazing book. I now find myself eagerly awaiting the next book. I only wish Stephenson had a tip jar on his website. I’d easily kick him whatever his percentage should be, because he easily deserves it.
(7) The oft-interviewed Samuel R. Delany answers questions, this time in The Nation:
CD: What other writers were doing this kind of work in ways that resonated with you?
SD: The first white writer who wrote a black character I personally found believable—and I read lots and lots, both inside and outside science fiction—was Thomas M. Disch, in his 1968 New Wave novel Camp Concentration, first serialized in the British science-fiction magazine New Worlds, whose first installment appeared in its first tabloid-style issue. The presentation of Mordecai is one reason I think it’s such an important book in science fiction’s history. Yes, that book passed my own Turing test in a way that, for me, Faulkner’s black characters did not—as, indeed, many of his white characters failed to do for me as well, though I always found his language exacting, when it wasn’t exhausting. Tom told me later that he’d modeled Mordecai on a black classmate of his in the Midwest. But, boy, did I recognize him from my memories of myself and my black friends on the Harlem streets.
(8) Forry Ackerman wrote a fan letter to Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1931 — and got an answer. Read both on Letters of Note.
And somebody else 3-D printed a version that glows in the dark.
(10) Here’s a random connection. Batman creator Bob Kane is buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.
Cartoonist. Born in New York City, he was a comic book artist and writer, credited as the creator of the DC Comic’s superhero “Batman” character. He was a trainee animator when he entered the comic book field in 1936. Merging with DC Comics action series in 1938, editors were in a scramble for more heroes such as Superman. It was then when Kane who had influences from film actor action characters, conceived “Batman” as a superhero. Writer Bill Finger joined artist Kane and the “Batman” character debuted in DC’s Detective Comics series in May 1939, and was a breakout hit… (bio by: John “J-Cat” Griffith)
Who is Kane’s nearest neighbor? Stan Laurel.
Los Angeles County
USA Plot: Court of Liberty, Lot #1310 (behind Stan Laurel).
(11) Jonathan Kay reports how he was sheared at Fan Expo Canada.
On Sunday, I took two of my daughters to the 2015 instalment of Fan Expo Canada, billed as “the largest Comics, Sci-fi, Horror, Anime, and Gaming event in Canada.” More than 100,000 fans show up annually for the four-day exhibition, which now sprawls over both buildings of the massive Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Under one roof, I was able to meet a life-size My Little Pony, compete in a Catan tournament, playtest emerging console video games, commission custom panels from famous cartoonists, pose with life-size Futurama characters, buy a fully functional 3D-chess set, and generally revel in all the various subcultures that the rest of society stigmatizes as dorky and juvenile. My girls and I have been to Fan Expo Canada three years in a row, and we always have a good time….
In fact, the best way to describe Fan Expo’s celebrity protocol is as a sort of Chicago Mercantile Exchange for human beings. Instead of live cattle, lean hogs, skimmed milk powder, cash-settled butter, and softwood pulp, this big board (displayed above) lists prices for Billy Dee Williams, Gillian Anderson, Danny Trejo, Neve Campbell, Norman Reedus, Skeet Ulrich, Zach Galligan, and fifty other stars and quasi-stars. The precision of the numbers suggests a fine-tuned demand-driven adjustment process that any commodities trader would recognize. Williams (Lando Calrissian from Star Wars, but you knew that) was listed at $57. Anderson (X-Files): $91. Danny Trejo (Machete): $74. Neve Campbell (Scream): $97. Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead): $130. Skeet Ulrich (Jericho): $68. Zach Galligan (Gremlins): $63. Just my luck: Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s red-haired sidekick) was listed at $142—highest on the board. I wanted to bail out. But having made the mistake of getting dragged this far, turning back wasn’t going to be a good-dad move.
And it got worse. Fan Expo also sells “Team Ups”: Photo-ops that allow big spenders to pose with multiple cast members from the same show or movie. In the case of Potter fans, $260 gets you the “Weasley family”—featuring not only Grint, but the two actors who play his fictional twin brothers Fred (James Phelps) and George (Oliver Phelps). The twins alone could be had for a mere $102, but my daughters convinced me that the family plan offered “the best value.” A second print: another $10. Digital copy: That was extra, too. With frames and tax, I was in for well over $300….
“Fleeced,” “Rip-off,” “Sucker”—I’ve used some strong language here. But in fact, Fan Expo and the Weasleys were scrupulously honest. They promised me a photo for a printed price. And that’s exactly what they delivered. And it’s a great shot: Everyone’s beaming. We look like fast friends. Perfect for generating social media likes and green-envy emoticons.
(12) You probably haven’t read enough tortured reasoning about the Hugos and Sasquan lately and will be thrilled that a lawyer has been studying the possibilities of suing about the asterisks.
Hugo "Asterisk Awards": Legal Analysis Complete #SadPuppies
— Scott Malcomson (@RoyCalbeck) September 13, 2015
Asterisking the Hugo Nominations is therefore perfectly legal, UNLESS the presentation was unofficial… which WorldCon can deny at the drop of a formal filing. All three lawyers were convinced that the second WorldCon obtained legal representation, they’d be advised to throw their Hugo Committee Chair (and all of his emails to me) under the biggest bus they could find. While this would essentially invalidate the 2015 Hugos entirely, it was pointed out that the organization’s alternatives would be far more disastrous.
Because WorldCon had complete control of the venue and process, but did nothing to prevent (or even denounce) any illegal use of its trademarks therein. Failure to defend a trademark against known infringement endangers the trademark.
That’s entirely aside from the issue of fraud, which comes in under the heading of deliberate misrepresentation. WorldCon’s Hugo Chair isn’t saying that they are invalidating the Asterisks after the fact… instead, he’s saying the Asterisks were never legitimate to begin with. Yet at the actual event, they were publicly represented as THE official Nominee awards. Rather than treated as jokes, they were lionized by those on stage as representative of SF/F fandom as a whole.
The denial itself is an act of fraud, affecting all 2015 Hugo Voters, but in terms of public record the World Science Fiction Society has given every appearance of endorsing the Asterisk Awards as official. Were I to file action, they’d only need to respond with verification of their existing public position. That would invalidate any claim of damages I could make. Only if they formally back up their Hugo Chair do they risk anything.
As none of the lawyers I spoke to believe they’ll be that stupid, none want to accept the case at this point.
‘Tis clear as is the summer sun.
(13) Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best was published July 7. An anonymous contributor sent me this report on how the 2015 Hugo nominees fared.
But yesterday, I did compare the ballots to Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Table of Contents and Honorable mention list and came across something I find interesting…
Of all the nominees, both on the final ballot and those who dropped off the ballot, none of the stories made the table of contents and only two authors made the Honorable Mention list.
Given the positive comments about Annie Bellet and Kary English, it would be natural to think they might have made Gardner’s Honorable Mention list, but they didn’t.
The only Hugo nominated story to make Gardner’s honorable mention list was Michael Flynn’s “The Journeyman: In the Stone House,” which many of non-puppies complained was not a complete story since it is a part of a larger work.
The only other Hugo nominated author to make the list, amazingly enough for a non-Hugo related story, was John C. Wright, for “Idle Thoughts.”
(14) John Scalzi would do it this way – “My Almost Certainly Ill-Advised Proposed Award Voting Process”.
- How the vote works: There are three voting rounds: Nomination, long list, and finalist.
Nomination: Everyone votes for one and only one work (or person, if it’s that sort of category) in the category. The top ten or twelve vote-getters are sent to the long list stage (ties, etc are fine but the goal would be to get number of long list nominees as close to the ideal long list number as possible).
Long List: Everyone votes for up to three works on the long list, none of which can be the single work they originally nominated. That’s right! You have to choose something else in this stage, and hope enough other people like the work you originally nominated to include it among their own selections!
But what if people choose not to make selections in the stage in the hope that their lack of selection of other work will bump up the chances of their preferred work? Well, I would consider making a rule that says failure to participate in this round counts as a point against your original choice’s score in this round — which is to say if you don’t vote in this round, a point is deducted for your original choice’s score in this round (presuming it made the long list at all). You’re better off voting if you want your original selection to make it to the final round.
In this round, the top five or six vote-getters graduate to the final round. Hope your original choice made it!
Finalist: This vote is done “Australian Rules” style, where each voter ranks the works from first to last choice. “No Award” is an option in this round, so if you hated everything in the long list round, this is where you may register your disapproval. The winner is the one which collects the majority of votes, in either the first or subsequent balloting rounds.
(15) The Sci-Fi Air Show is an incredible bit of imaginative work.
What if instead of using sets, models and special effects, the producers of science fiction films and television shows constructed full sized flying spaceships? That is the premise of the Sci-Fi Air Show.
In a similar story arc to the Batmobile and the Aries 1B miniature from 2001: A Space Odyssey, these ships would have likely been sold off, traded, hidden away in basements and eventually rescued, restored and put on public display.
The images you see here on the site are photographs of practical miniature spaceships digitally blended with actual air show backgrounds. It is a fantasy air show that only exists on line, but appeals to many of us who, at one time, believed that these ships of fantasy really could fly.
(16) If somebody wanted to run real museum like that, they could begin by gathering up this abandoned wooden space shuttle.
While exploring an abandoned corner of the Zhukovsky airfield (Ramenskoye Airport) in Moscow two years ago, aviation photographer Aleksander Markin stumbled onto a forgotten relic of Russia’s Buran Space Program. This decaying wooden spacecraft was used as a wind tunnel model in the 1980s for the VKK Space Orbiter, the largest and most expensive Soviet space exploration program conceived as a response to the United States’ Space Shuttle. Despite its scientific purposes the wooden ship has the appearance of a fantastic children’s playground feature.
According to Urban Ghosts, this 1:3 scale replica was just one of 85 wind tunnel models used to test various aerodynamic properties of the orbiter. The testing would eventually reveal that NASA’s prototype for the Enterprise was ideal for spaceflight and the VKK Space Orbiter would take a similar design as a result.
(17) Huffington Post helped an astronaut take down a tabloid story in “The UFOs Didn’t Come In Peace! Astronaut Sets Record Straight on ET Nuclear War”.
Few people are surprised by the eye-popping headlines in The Mirror. But when the infamous British tabloid quoted astronaut Edgar Mitchell as saying that “UFOs came in peace” to “save America from nuclear war,” it shocked everybody — including Mitchell.
“I don’t know where The Mirror got the story,” Mitchell, 84, said in an email to The Huffington Post, accusing the paper of fabricating his quotes and denying that an interview for this story ever took place.
The sixth man to walk on the moon has been outspoken over the years in his belief that extraterrestrials have visited the Earth and the moon — and that the government is withholding vital information about UFOs. Still, Mitchell insists the Aug. 11 Mirror story has no basis in the truth and disavows the information in it.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Will R., Ed, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]