Pixel Scroll 4/13/19 No Matter Where You Scroll, There You Are

(1) SCHOEN LEAVES SFWA BOARD. Earlier this week Lawrence M. Schoen announced he was “Resigning from the SFWA Board of Directors”:

Effective as of 10am today, April 10th, 2019, I am resigning my position as a member of the SFWA Board of Directors.

We live in a world where appearance often carries more weight than intention. Recent controversies, and my perceived involvement in them, have increasingly made it difficult for me to effectively perform the responsibilities for which I’d been elected. Accordingly, it makes sense for me to step aside and allow someone else to continue the work.

Today’s decision notwithstanding, I remain committed to the ideals and goals of SFWA, perhaps best expressed by the statement the Board composed at last year’s Nebula Conference: “We are genre writers fostering a diverse professional community committed to inclusion, empowerment, and outreach.”

It has been my privilege to be of service to this organization and our community. I encourage you all to pay it forward.

Schoen’s statement does not specify what “recent controversies” he is perceived to be involved in. They may relate to Jonathan Brazee’s 20Booksto50K Nebula recommendation list. Schoen’s novelette “The Rule of Three” is one of the stories on the list that made the Nebula ballot. Brazee responded to criticism by apologizing for the list.

(2) NICHOLS ON SPACE COMMAND. Marc Zicree told fans, “Today’s shoot with Nichelle Nichols went great! Here’s a behind the scenes clip, with more to come.”

To help with the GoFundMe to pay for their efforts, click on “Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols Space Command Scene!”. At this writing they’ve raised $2,310 of their $15,000 goal.

(3) LUCAS’ FINGERPRINTS. IGN explains “How George Lucas Helped Finish Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”.

The new teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker features quite the surprise: as the trailer comes to a close, the screen cuts to black and our ears are filled with the cackling of Emperor Palpatine. It’s a laugh cold enough to send shivers down your spine and a character inclusion crazy enough to make your head spin. He met his electrifying end in Return of the Jedi, after all. IGN talked to director and co-writer JJ Abrams at Star Wars Celebration Chicago about how the iconic villain came to be a part of the film, and his answer included a meeting with the Maker himself, George Lucas.

“This movie had a very, very specific challenge, which was to take eight films and give an ending to three trilogies, and so we had to look at, what is the bigger story? We had conversations amongst ourselves, we met with George Lucas before writing the script,” Abrams revealed. “These were things that were in real, not debate, but looking at the vastness of the story and trying to figure out, what is the way to conclude this? But it has to work on its own as a movie, it has to be its own thing, it has to be surprising and funny and you have to understand it.”

(4) COPING. Sarah Hughes, TV critic at The Guardian, tells how Game of Thrones helped her cope with her cancer diagnosis. “Game of Thrones, cancer and me…”

…Best of all, while I might not find out how Martin himself intends to finish his series (there are still two long-awaited books to come), I will almost certainly see the TV series of Game of Thrones return for its brutal, no doubt bloody and hopefully rewarding conclusion this month. As for Tottenham Hotspur winning the league in my lifetime, that remains too great a step for even the most benign of gods to arrange.

(5) CLFA VOTING BEGINS. At the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance “The 2019 Book of the Year ballot is now open!”

Ready to cast your vote for CLFA Book of the Year 2019?  Go here to support your favorite!

(6) YAKFALL. We only thought we’d figured out the subject for Ursula Vernon’s next Hugo acceptance speech. Hilarious thread starts here.

Another great thread about their Tibetan explorations begins here.

(7) THE ESSENTIALS. Can a fannish kitchen be complete without a set of “Star Trek Klingon Alphabet Fridge Magnets”? ThinkGeek takes the “No” side of the debate.

  • A fun way to teach anyone the basics of pIqaD (the Klingon alphabet)
  • For use on magnetic surfaces, like your fridge or your ship’s hull

…This set contains the entire alphabet, with multiples for the more frequently used, plus a few apostrophes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1937 Terry Carr. Lifelong fan and long after he turn pro, he continued to be active in fandom, hence was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. He worked as an Editor, first at Ace where he edited The Left Hand of Darkness. After a fallout with Wollheim, he went freelance where he developed Universe and Best Science Fiction of the Year, the latter on a remarkable four publishers. He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo thirteen times and won twice. He wrote three novels, one with Ted White, and three collections of his stories in print. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 13, 1943 Bill Pronzini, 76. Mystery writer whose Nameless Detective has one genre adventure in A Killing in Xanadu. Genre anthologist, often with Barry N Malzberg, were many and wide ranging, covering such things as Bug-Eyed Monsters (with Malzberg), Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural (with Greenberg and Malzberg) and Arbor House Necropolis. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote “The Pillars of Salt Affair”, a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novella that ran in the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine.
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 68. The Fifth Doctor and one that I never came to be fond of. Just seemed too lightweight for the role. I thought he put more gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 65. His notable genre TV work includes executive producing, producing or writing, or both, for Strange Luck, Seven DaysOuter Limits, Eerie, Indiana, and The Twilight Zone. He was also story editor for the Max Headroom series which I loved.
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. Editor, writer and anthologist. He was founding editor of Warner Books’ Questar Science Fiction, and later served as managing fiction editor at TSR. He co-wrote the autobiography of Julius Schwartz. Strangely enough, I’ve actually read one of his anthologies, A Yuletide Universe, as I remember it from the cover art. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 69. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and Redcap). He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno followed quickly Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and  Angel  De La Guardia in Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by a hard SF role as Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly.  No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1962 Stephen Holland, 57. I’m a deep admirer of those who document our genre and this gentleman is no exception. In handful of works, he’s created an invaluable resource for those interested in SF published in paperback. British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines, 1949-1956: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide and The Mushroom Jungle: A History of Postwar Paperback Publishing certainly look to be essential reading, and his Fantasy Fanzine Index: Volume 1 also sounds useful.

(9) WHAT A TANGLED WEB THEY WEAVE. Rebecca F. Kuang’s thread about the Game of Thrones tapestry starts here.

Through July 28 the public can “see Game of Thrones® immortalised in a giant, 77-metre long Bayeux style tapestry at the Ulster Museum.”

(10) THRONE CHOW. Delish says that in the UK, “TGI Friday’s Is Celebrating The Game Of Thrones Premiere With A Menu Inspired By The Series”.

In honor of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones—which premieres in just three days, people!!!—TGI Friday’s has released a limited-edition menu inspired by the series. However, vegetarians and vegans may want to steer clear of the “Dragon Slayer Feast.” It’s definitely a meat-heavy selection….

You can also order up Dragon Fire Hot Wings and the Bucket of Beast Bones, which is a combo of ribs and Friday’s famed glazed wings. However, as far as we know, the GOT special is currently a U.K. exclusive. The meat-filled feast will kick off April 10.

(11) ALTERNATE ASTRONAUTS. Camestros Felapton continues working his way through the finalists: “Hugo Novels: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal”.

The Calculating Stars has a more grounded aesthetic than it’s predecessor, and aims to present a plausible alternative history where the space program is accelerated and is also a more international collaboration. In the centre of this effort is Dr Elma York who desperately wants to go into space but who must also navigate through the complexities of 1950s America.

It’s an engaging fictional autobiography of a remarkable person — the kind of multi-talented character that you find in accounts of America’s space program. Drive, talent, brains and luck conspire to put Elma in a spotlight but the attention that comes with it reveals Elma’s greatest weakness: social anxiety in crowds when she is the focus of attention. Ironically the press characterising her preemptively as ‘The Lady Astronaut’ complicates her attempts to actually become an astronaut.

(12) CREDIT WHERE DUE. Misty S. Boyer’s long Facebook post provides further detail about who contributed to the newsmaking black hole photo.   

…The photo that everyone is looking at, the world famous black hole photo? It’s actually a composite photo. It was generated by an algorithm credited to Mareki Honma. Honma’s algorithm, based on MRI technology, is used to “stitch together” photos and fill in the missing pixels by analyzing the surrounding pixels.

But where did the photos come from that are composited into this photo?

The photos making up the composite were generated by 4 separate teams, led by Katie Bouman, Andrew Chael, Kazu Akiyama, Michael Johnson, and Jose L Gomez. Each team was given a copy of the black hole data and isolated from each other. Between the four of them, they used two techniques – an older, traditional one called CLEAN, and a newer one called RML – to generate an image.

The purpose of this division and isolation of teams was deliberately done to test the accuracy of the black hole data they were all using. If four isolated teams using different algorithms all got similar results, that would indicate that the data itself was accurate….

(13) POST MORTEM. What happened? “Beresheet spacecraft: ‘Technical glitch’ led to Moon crash”.

Preliminary data from the Beresheet spacecraft suggests a technical glitch in one of its components caused the lander to crash on the Moon.

The malfunction triggered a chain of events that eventually caused its main engine to switch off.

Despite a restart, this meant that the spacecraft was unable to slow down during the final stages of its descent.

(14) BIG STICK. “Internet Archive denies hosting ‘terrorist’ content”.

The Internet Archive has been hit with 550 “false” demands to remove “terrorist propaganda” from its servers in less than a week.

The demands came via the Europol net monitoring unit and gave the site only one hour to comply.

The Internet Archive said the demands wrongly accused it of hosting terror-related material.

The website said the requests set a poor precedent ahead of new European rules governing removal of content.

If the Archive does not comply with the notices, it risks its site getting added to lists which ISPs are required to block.

(15) BULL MARKET. Science reports “Beliefs in aliens, Atlantis are on the rise”. (Full text restricted to subscribers.)

Beliefs in “pseudoarchaeology”—ancient aliens, Atlantis, and other myths—are on the rise. In 2018 41% of Americans believed that aliens visited Earth in the ancient past, and 57% believed that Atlantis or other advanced ancient civilizations existed. These outlandish beliefs have been circulating for decades, and archaeologists are now mobilizing to counter them. They are taking to Twitter, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and newspapers to debunk false claims and explain real archaeological methods, and they plan to compare notes this week during a symposium at the Society for American Archaeology meeting. 

(16) IT’S ALL JUST FUN AND GAMES UNTIL… Never forget that Quidditch is a field sport: “For Some Quidditch Players, The Magic Wears Off As Injury Risks Grow Clearer”.

It happened in a split second, and Vanessa Barker doesn’t remember any of it. She doesn’t remember dropping to the field, nor does she remember how she got hit.

When she came to, she was sitting on the sidelines with an EMT, being evaluated for what turned out to be her first concussion. Over the next two years, she’d suffer another two more while out on the field — hardly what she expected when she decided to start playing quidditch.

…”If I ever have any others, I’ll have to stop playing,” she said.

(17) PLAYING A TATTOO. For the next four weeks you can listen online to BBC4’s production of “Ray Bradbury – The Illustrated Man”, dramatized by Brian Sibley.

A young traveller encounters a vagrant on the road, who claims that his tattoos come to life after dark and tell the future. Starring Iain Glen and Elaine Claxton.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Black Hole:  Based on Stephen Hawking’s Reith Lecture” on YouTube is an animation done for BBC Radio4 of an excerpt of a Stephen hawking lecture where Hawking says it’s not hopeless if you fall into a black hole.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day cmm.]

Jonathan Brazee, SFWA Make Statements on Nebula Awards Issues

[Editor’s Introduction: Jonathan Brazee, who authored the 20Booksto50K Recommended Reading List which succeeded in gaining Nebula Awards nominations for several works, made the following statement in the File 770 comments section and asked for help in making it more visible:]  

STATEMENT BY JONATHAN BRAZEE

I am Jonathan Brazee, and I worded the post that contained the 20Booksto50K Recommended Reading List. I am a writer as well as a retired Marine colonel. I mention that because I hold honor to be of vital importance, and I would not knowingly or purposely do something untoward or unethical.

For background, the intention for the list was for visibility. I knew any indie title needed nominations from the membership at large to make the ballot. I wanted to have a diverse ballot with indie representation, but not to nominate or vote for something just because it was indie-written or by a member of the group. All I wanted was for the works on the list to be considered and judged on their own merits.

In addition, the list was there to excite other group members about the Nebulas and SFWA itself, to show that striving for quality might be recognized.

HOWEVER . . .

I screwed up, and I take full responsibility for that.

I am writing this both as an apology, because regardless of my intention, my actions have hurt people and organizations that I care about. But I also write this so that other people can understand the nuances of where my mistakes lay. There isn’t anything wrong with reading lists, but mine made mistakes.

First: this specific post was not approved by anyone on the SFWA staff. The list grew out of a request for indie titles for consideration. I approached a SFWA staff member and discussed posting an indie reading list in the group. I was told it would be OK, but to steer clear of doing things that could be taken as encouraging a specific vote. And I think my first rendition of the list did that. Where I blew it was in the last rendition, where I took it further than the initial discussion and posts. No one on the SFWA staff vetted the specific post. No one said I could list the titles as I did. No one said I could write what I did about the Norton. That was my fault.

Second, I should not have listed the titles in the order I did or included asterisks. It was an attempt to encourage the 20Booksto50k membership at large, not for the small number of 20Books SFWA members who had or were going to nominate. It was stupid of me, and by doing that, I broke a rule that things behind the SFWA forum wall remain there. Although it was not the intention, I can understand the perception that this was a way to ask people to nominate a certain manner.

Third, I became too enthusiastic about a Norton candidate. Last year, two slots were left empty because only four had the minimum ten nominations. I wanted a full ballot, and when we had a book on the recommended reading list, I became too specific, writing that if ten people read the book, liked it enough to nominate it, and then did their nominations before the close, then it probably would get on the ballot.

My intent was to be enthusiastic about indies and get visibility on their work, not just for members of 20Booksto50k. There should have been indie titles by writers not in the group on the list.

I am supposed to be a writer, someone who understands the power of words. And I consider myself a smart individual. But the execution of my post, no matter the intent, was poor. When I write something that leaves the impression other than I intended, then that is on me.

I love SFWA. I love 20Booksto50K. I love award season and reading for them. Joining SFWA has been a dream of mine since 1975, and 20Booksto50k had helped me, and countless others, become better at the business side of writing. I would never purposely do anything to harm either of them. I have worked hard to help SFWA in every way I can, and I have tried to help others not just within 20Books, but to all writers. I hope I can still be a positive force for both groups, but if I’ve wrecked that, then I accept the consequences of my mistakes.

So, where does that leave us?

First, none of the other nominees asked me to put their title on the list. I would ask that you don’t hold it against them.

Second, 20Booksto50k was not directly involved with it. In this case, the group was a platform, nothing else.

Third, while the concept for an indie recommendation list was discussed with a staff member, the end post was not vetted. I wish it had been, as it never would have been posted as is.

Fourth, while I had what I consider the best of intentions, my unfortunate wording has cast a pall over the awards and caused ill feelings, something that has kept me awake at nights since this broke. I can’t turn back the clock, and I have nothing in my power to change what happened. But what I can do is to offer that my own nomination be removed from consideration for the award.

If there is one thing I hope to convey is that nothing was done with ill intention. Naivete, yes, sloppiness yes, but no ill intention.

Please don’t let my mistakes reflect badly on SFWA, the Nebula Awards, 20Booksto50k or on any of the other nominees.


SFWA BOARD STATEMENT

[Editor’s introduction: Today the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Board responded to the current controversy with a “SFWA Board Statement Regarding the 2018 Nebula Ballot” on the SFWA Blog.]

In light of recent events regarding the 2018 SFWA Nebula Nominations short list, the SFWA Board is aware of the ongoing issues. We will continue discussion on ways to improve our processes so that something of this nature does not happen again. With that said, we would like to make it clear that the organization frowns on any attempt to manipulate our Nebula Awards nomination and final ballot processes which includes logrolling and slate campaigns. In our ongoing dialogue, the SFWA Board will be working in concert with the Nebula Awards Commissioner and the Nebula Rules Committee to strengthen existing rules and guidelines to safeguard the integrity of the awards. We also do not condone abusive behavior in response to the stress of this situation.

In 2013, and as part of a larger effort to recognize just how much the publishing landscape continues to evolve, SFWA began admitting independent and small press writers to our organization. Since then, we’ve welcomed hundreds of new independent, traditional, and hybrid authors. The volunteers currently serving on the board proudly reflect this addition as well, with all nine elected positions representing each of those demographics. Our commitment continues to be towards the support of writers everywhere, members and non-members alike, embracing all of what the field has to offer regardless of the way creative, genre works are published.

Our SFWA Nebula Conference and awards have also evolved from the first ceremony over fifty years ago in 1966 to our most recent addition of a game writing award which debuted this year.  We also understand that with growth such as this, sometimes comes the pain of finding our way forward. The recent controversy is no exception, and we fully understand just how frustrating something like this can be. Our goal with the Nebula Awards is to foster an environment which celebrates the exceptional work we all do. To spread that outward to the community and emphasize just how important the words we create continue to be. We gather at our SFWA Nebula Conference to network among our peers, hone our craft, and learn from one another, all while building up to a ceremony that hopes to recognize the work poured into each of those experiences. 

With all of that said, the SFWA Board and staff regrets the shadow that has gathered over what we’ve all worked so hard to build. Not just a ceremony, nor just a conference, but a community, and the sometimes complicated relationships within. We sympathize with the invocation of painful echoes for many of us and the damage that sometimes comes as a result of what some may view as the best of intentions.  Taking what we’ve learned from something like this, our largest concern will be focused on the careful repair of the rifts that have opened and how we can avoid something like this in the future. 

Above all else, we hope we can move forward with our ongoing vision to make this organization into everything it can be. With that, we need your help. We ask that you continue to create and participate in SFWA events, programs, and services. We ask that you continue to reach out and let us know where we can improve.

And finally, when it comes to every Nebula Awards ballot, we ask that you judge each of the works with care and consideration. The work that stays with you, that moves you, that work that you love the most should earn your vote.  It is our hope that you will join us on this very first step, showing just how strong we all can be when we work together. 

-The SFWA Board

Annie Bellet Criticizes 20Booksto50K Slate and Members of the Group Respond

Annie Bellet says she was livid when she read about “The Nebulas & 20booksto50, not-a-nudge-nudge-slate” on Camestros Felapton.

She’s brought to bear on this 2019 Nebulas slate her experience with the Sad/Rabid Puppies Hugo slates of 2015, when she took her Hugo-nominated story out of contention (see “Two Hugo Nominees Withdraw Their Stories” from April 2015). Twitter thread starts here.

She also showed the characteristics that distinguished this slate from a mere recommendation list.

Marko Kloos was the other 2015 Hugo nominee named in the story linked above, and he added his support today:

Marshall Ryan Maresca commented on the differences between authors asking for consideration and a slate.

People involved with 20Booksto50K, the creator of the slate, and the author of one of the listed works, have also weighed in.

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, co-author with R.R. Virdi of “Messenger,” a work on the list that is now a Nebula finalist, had this to say:

The disproportionate influence of a slate may also be due to the small numbers of nominations needed to make the Nebula ballot, according to this exchange:

Whether something is a recommendation list or a slate is a question:

Bellet said this about recognizing the difference between slates and recommendations:

Incidentally, there is support for Wijeratne’s nominated story.

Michael Cooper responded on Facebook by essentially arguing no one can show anybody was influenced by the list:

Recently the Nebula Award finalists were announced, and there’s been some flak because of the number of independent authors on the ballot.

Honestly, so far as I’m concerned, I don’t think there are enough.

I think that the ratio of indies to trad pubs on the ballot is backwards from what it should be. Why do I think this? Well…sales. Indies sell more books than traditionally published authors by a wide margin. Granted, this is as a whole and there are individual trad pub authors who do very well, but if you look at the top SF authors on Amazon, the list is dominated by indies.

…If you’re a SF reader, then you probably know this statement: Correlation does not equal causation. Just because a list of books to vote for was posted in the 20Books FB group, does not meant that that list got the indies who are on the ballot up there. It’s not a smoking gun.

To say that the indie authors in SWFA (the organization that produces the Nebula awards) voted as a bloc because of that list is to call into question the character of all those people and to say that they did not evaluate the books they voted for.

That sort of statement is: irrational, a baseless accusation, and irresponsible. Now, I know that a lot of people didn’t come out and *say* that members of the 20books FB group voted as a bloc, but they implied it. For the sake of intellectual honesty, they should make it clear that they did not imply such a thing, and that to the best of their knowledge, every SFWA member that nominated a book or story, did so after careful consideration and review.

Because they have no evidence to the contrary (that they’ve presented, at least).

Lastly, to say that because a person is a member of an FB group means that they adhere to all the core tenets of that group is frankly stupid and lazy thinking. To then denigrate them because you don’t like an aspect of a group in which they are members is the sort of thinking that belies a lack of clear logic and reasoning.

Craig Martelle, who runs the 20Booksto50K Facebook group, added a comment on Cooper’s post:

It’s hard not take negative comments about 20Booksto50k® personally since I run that group, but taking a step back, we did nothing untoward. Indies read indies. We support each other by reading and buying each other’s stuff, often promoting it as well with our own hard-acquired email lists. The ignorance is appalling about what we do. I think ethically making money isn’t dirty and that’s part of the allusions. People contact me if they find a typo in one of my books – I fix them and reupload. The books with the most typos are my trad pub books. Trad does not necessarily equal higher quality. I think my latest books are as high in the quality department as any trad book out there. But I digress – this isn’t about me. It’s about a system that promotes ebooks that cost more than a hardback. It’s about the old guard who are slowly changing yet having a hard time giving ground. It’s about the industry of middle men who stand to lose their jobs from the indie revolution. Of course they don’t want to change. I can’t begrudge them a long career that ends on a whimper. But adapt and overcome. That’s what has made indies a force to be reckoned with. I demonstrate that with The Expanding Universe anthologies, now a two-time Nebula finalist publication. I support indies taking charge of their own careers through 20Books. I support all authors taking responsibility for their career decisions. I don’t support those who need to denigrate others. It won’t make them feel better and it definitely won’t stop the indie train. That baby is already well down the tracks and picking up speed.

Martelle also waved the threat of a SLAPP suit against offenders:

We simply asked people to read our stuff with their limited time because full-time indie authors are busy as hell. I’m watching the blogs and stuff. If anyone crosses the line into libel, I’ll drop a C&D on them and then follow with a lawsuit. As they say, put your money where your mouth is. I’m willing to because I know for a fact that we didn’t do a slate. Let’s see how the keyboard warriors respond to real world consequences.

Jonathan Brazee continues to claim SFWA itself okayed the list:

I didn’t respond to any of the blogs or Reddit, but just as an aside, the indie FB list was cleared with the SFWA staff before it was ever posted.

I have asked Brazee for the name of the person he spoke to. Who knows what really happened anyway? If somebody asked me “How about if I put up a reading list” I wouldn’t think anything of it, unless I knew that person was the representative of a large group, and was going to preface his list with an encouragement for the group to nominate those works for the Nebula Award.

J A Sutherland has added perspective in this Twitter thread:

Pixel Scroll 2/21/19 I Said I Didn’t Get Nothin’, I Had To Pay Fifty Dollars And Scroll Up The Pixels

(1) BAD BUSINESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sees disaster in store for those who will do anything to make their Amazon hamster wheel turn faster: “Business Musings: Ghostwriting, Plagiarism, and The Latest Scandal”.

… They will be dealing with this for months, maybe years. And I sure wish them the best.

That’s bad enough, but what this mess has revealed is that ugly underbelly of indie that I noticed a while ago, and decided to run away from.

This ghostwriting thing? It’s a disaster waiting to happen. For everyone. I expected the problems to be contractual with the writers who hired the ghostwriters, particularly the dumbfucks who don’t have a contract or any kind of written agreement with their ghostwriters.

I did not expect plagiarism although, given the contracts I’ve seen from traditional publishers, I should have.

I mean, what’s to stop the ghostwriters from plagiarizing? It’s not their name on the manuscript. And I know some of the writers who are hiring ghostwriters. Those writers aren’t vetting the books. They’re not doing the kind of due diligence that college professors and high school teachers do to see if the writing is plagiarized. (There are programs that search for similar wording all over the internet.)

The writers are not overseeing the projects at all, and are doing it for all the wrong reasons. These writers want more product out, to goose Amazon algorithms, not to get the best stories possible to their readers. …

(2) 20BOOKSTO50K AND THE NEBULAS. Cora Buhlert covers a range of topics in “Some Thoughts on the 2018 Nebula Award Finalists”, such as the professional connections of some newer nominees.

…Which brings us to the other notable trend on this year’s Nebula shortlist, namely the surprising amount of indie writers nominated. There are six indie writers and five indie books/stories nominated for Nebula Awards this year, which is a lot more than we’ve seen before. Now the SFWA opened membership to self-published writers a few years ago, so it was only to be expected that we would start to see more indie books on the Nebula shortlist (disclaimer: I’m not an SFWA member).

I also guess another disclaimer is in order: I don’t hate indie authors. I’m one myself, for heaven’t sake. I also promote a lot of indie books, both on this blog and over at the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I included Jonathan P. Brazee’s nominated novella Fire Ant in one of my new release round-ups last year – at any rate, the title rings a bell.

Because what’s really notable is how different the five indie finalists are from the rest of the finalists. For starters, the indie finalists are all space opera with strong military leanings or outright military science fiction. Again, this isn’t too surprising, since a whole lot of indie SFF writers, including the massively successful ones who are most likely to be SFWA members (there is a minimum income threshold for SFWA eligibility), write space opera and military SF.

Furthermore, most (five of six – I’m not sure about Rhett C. Bruno) of the indie Nebula finalists are affiliated with the 20Booksto50K group founded by Michael Anderle. For those who don’t know, 20Booksto50K started out as a Facebook group for business minded indie writers (the name implies that 20 books should bring you an income of 50000 USD), but by now they are also holding regular writers’ conferences. 20Booksto50K is a huge group – I think they have twenty thousand members or something – and because of their business focus, a lot of financially successful indie writers, i.e. the ones also most likely to join SFWA, are members….

Camestros Felapton shares screenshots and asks more questions in “The Nebulas & 20booksto50, not-a-nudge-nudge-slate”.

Cora notes the presence of several nominees associated with the 20booksto50 group. I discussed this group last year after they received several finalist positions in the Dragon Awards. The group is centered on helping indie writers write and promote their books and notable figures in the group are Craig Martelle, Michael Anderle and Jonathan Brazee.

So was there a 20bboksto50 slate? Well, they have a closed Facebook group but it’s not a particularly mysterious group or highly exclusive and I don’t thing it is a secret (but perhaps not well known) that they’ve had a recommended reading list for the Nebulas for a few years.

Here’s a screenshot of the start of the relevant post this year (I’ll post the text further on)….

(3) BALLANTINE TRIBUTE. TheSmithsonian Magazine says   “Sci-Fi Lovers Owe a Debt of Gratitude to Betty Ballantine”. Subheading: “‘Introverted and quiet’ Betty, who ran the editorial side of the Ballantine publishing companies, deserves her due for changing the industry.”

The next time you pick up a science fiction novel, you should take a moment to thank Betty Ballantine for helping bring the genre into the mainstream.

Ballantine and her husband, Ian, were two halves of a pioneering team that revolutionized the publishing industry in the 20th century. The couple was inseparable, says Beth Meacham, executive editor at science fiction and fantasy publishing company Tor Books, but it’s the “boisterous and charismatic” Ian, who ran the promotional and sales side of their publishing companies, who frequently is given the majority credit for their success. The “introverted and quiet” Betty, who ran the editorial side of the business, also deserves her due for changing the industry.

Meacham calls Betty, who died at her home in Bearsville, New York, at the age of 99 earlier this month, a “quiet magician, working behind the scenes with the writers.”

(4) CON CRISIS SOLVED. LibertyCon sold all its memberships, like they do, and everything was great. Then suddenly they had to find a new venue.

On Wednesday, 20 Feb 2019, at 2pm we received a call that no convention wants to get. Due to delays in their construction schedule, we will not be able to hold LibertyCon at the Read House this year on May 31 – June 2, 2019. After some very late night and early morning discussions and negotiations, we are relieved to say that we have a new home for the next several years, but with so many conventions using Chattanooga as a destination, we could not get the same weekend.

LibertyCon will now be held at the Marriott and the Chattanooga Convention Center on June 28 – 30, 2019.

(5) COSTUME DESIGNERS GUILD AWARDS. Genre took home some of the honors — Variety: “‘Black Panther,’ ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ ‘Westworld’ Among Costume Designers Guild Winners”.

“Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24.

[…] In the television categories, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” took the contemporary award, while Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and HBO’s “Westworld” won for period and sci-fi/fantasy, respectively. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” took the reality-competition prize.

“The Wife” star Glenn Close received the organization’s Spotlight Award, while Ryan Murphy received the Distinguished Collaborator Award. “Black Panther” costume designer Ruth E. Carter received lifetime achievement recognition.

(6) NETFLIX WILL AIR MOVIE BASED ON LIU CIXIN STORY. SYFY Wire: “Netflix bringing Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth to the U.S.”

China’s film industry is truly making itself known around the globe these days. Especially now that Netflix has announced it’s snagged the rights to release The Wandering Earth, the Chinese sci-fi blockbuster touted as the country’s first mainstream sci-fi hit on par with the production quality and thrills of a Hollywood tentpole.

[…] Netflix hasn’t issued a release date for the film on its platform, but considering the streaming giant doesn’t operate in China due to local regulations favoring homegrown streaming services, it marks a major acquisition for the U.S. streaming service.

(7) HEADLINER. What does it mean, anyway, for an AI to be dubbed “female”? “China Unveils the World’s First Female AI News Anchor”Futurism.com has the story.

On Tuesday, China’s state-run news outlet Xinhua announced the latest addition to its news team: Xin Xiaomeng.

But Xin never went to journalism school — or any school — because “she” is not a real person. Instead, she’s an artificial intelligence created by Xinhua and search engine Sogou — making her the world’s first female AI news anchor.

Xin will make her professional debut during March’s Two Sessions, the name given to a pair of annual meetings featuring China’s legislature and its top political advisory body.

She won’t be the only AI news anchor covering the event either….

(8) HULKAMANIA. From WIRED we learn: “Thor Is Going To Be Playing the Hulk”. Hulk Hogan, that is.

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time once again for The Monitor, WIRED’s look at all the news coming out of the world of pop culture. What’s hot today? Well, Chris Hemsworth is set to play Hulk Hogan, The Wandering Earth is coming to Netflix, and Idris Elba is set to host Saturday Night Live. Pretty steamy, amirite?

(9) NEW MOON. Nature reports they discovered a “A new moon for Neptune”:

Hippocamp, a previously undetected moon of Neptune, has a peculiar location and a tiny size relative to the planet’s other inner moons, which suggests a violent history for the region within 100,000 kilometres of the planet.

The discovery of Hippocamp is intriguing because of the moon’s relationship to Proteus and the role that both objects might have had in the history of Neptune’s inner system. Hippocamp, the smallest known inner moon of Neptune, orbits just 12,000 km inside the orbit of Proteus, the planet’s largest inner moon (Fig. 1). Both moons migrate outwards because of gravitational interactions with Neptune, but smaller Hippocamp moves much more slowly than Proteus. Therefore, Hippocamp resides nearer to the location at which it formed than does Proteus, which suggests that the two bodies were much closer together in the past.

Whether Hippocamp formed in place from material that did not originate from Proteus or was born of Proteus remains to be determined. Nevertheless, applying the techniques that were used to find it might result in the detection of other small moons around giant planets, or even planets that orbit distant stars.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 Peter Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp fiction starting in the Thirties, and is generally considered one of the more popular writers of the period. His work appeared in such magazines as Amazing Stories, Astounding, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Marvel Tales, Super Science Stories, and Weird Tales to name but a few of the publications he appeared in. He began book reviewing beginning initially for Astounding Science Fiction and later for its successor, Analog. He was awarded a special Hugo Award for book reviewing. He had but two novels, Genus Homo, written with L. Sprague de Camp, and  Alicia in Blunderland. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1913 Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He was a professional guest at the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff, 84. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of who writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol.  To say  he’s prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works of fiction, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 73. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. He is the only actor to have appeared in all of the  films in the series. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest,  voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Both Disney films I’d guess. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role on the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume in our community. Of course he olayed Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bad film, worse acting by Costner.)  He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role.(Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1949 Frank Brunner, 70. Comics artist whose career started at such venues as Creepy, Web of Horror and Vampirella. Worked later mostly at Marvel Comics on such features as Howard the Duck where he did his artwork for his early features. He also did the art for the  Chamber of Chills, Haunt of Horror, and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction anthologies. In addition, he and Moorcock collaborated on a adaptation of the latter’s sword-and-sorcery hero Elric in Heavy Metal magazine. 
  • Born February 21, 1950 Larry Drake. I know him best as Robert G. Durant in both Darkman and Darkman II: The Return of Durant. His other genre roles are largely in series one offs such as several appearances on Tales from the Crypt, an appearance on The Outer Limits and even an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1961 David D. Levine, 58. Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for his story “Tk’tk’tk” which you hear thisaway. He has the Adventures of Arabella Ashby series which currently is three novels strong. To date, he has had one collection titled Space Magic.
  • Born February 21, 1962 David Foster Wallace. I will openly confess that I was never even slightly inclined to read it. The sheer size was enough to put me off and reading the first chapter convinced me I was right in that belief. So who’s read it? ISFDB also lists The Pale King as genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 21, 1977 Owen King, 42. There are not quite legions of Kings though sometimes it seems like it. Owen, a son of Stephen and Tabitha, is early in his writing career. His first novel, Double Feature, was not genre and got mixed reviews. His second, Sleeping Beauties, written with his father is genre and getting much better reviews. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) BILL ON BIG BANG. Here’s a two-minute featurette about William Shatner’s Big Bang Theory appearance.

(13) EATS, SHOOTS, AND LEAVES. That’s what this Gizmodo story made me think of: “Japanese Spacecraft Hayabusa2 Touches Down on Asteroid Ryugu”.

The Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft has completed one of its most exciting challenges yet: On Thursday evening, it touched down on the asteroid Ryugu, fired a tantalum bullet into the rocky surface, and ascended back into orbit around the tiny world, according to updates from the mission’s English-language Twitter account.

During its brief contact with the asteroid, the spacecraft should have attempted to collect rock samples kicked up by the bullet, the Planetary Society explained. The return of these samples to Earth is a major goal of the mission. 

(14) TOY FAIR. This Uproxx.com has a good con going — “We Went To Toy Fair And Looked At Lots Of New ‘Star Wars’ Toys, Which Look A Lot Like Old ‘Star Wars’ Toys”.

Every year I find it more and more difficult to make up excuses that I can send to my editor so that I can cover Toy Fair. As far as I can tell, Uproxx isn’t a toy collecting website (not yet, at least, but if I ever get my way…) and I don’t know much about the intricacies and nuances of toy reporting except that, sometimes, I like looking at new toys. (Watching the toy reporters at work is truly something. They will spend hours taking painstakingly detailed photographs of every single flake of paint on a new action figure. I only wish I could be that detailed about anything.)

But, whatever, I like going! Especially, of course, to look at Star Wars toys. One of my last “pure” memories of being a little kid was turning that corner into the toy aisle of whatever department store we happened to be at that day, then seeing rows and rows of vintage Kenner Star Wars action figures on that now-classic packaging. (Toys ‘R’ Us was never really in the equation for me. I’ve been seeing a lot of Toy ‘R’ Us nostalgia lately, but, in the greater St. Louis region at the time, our toy store was Children’s Palace. If I remember correctly, the store looked kind of like a castle. I wish there were Children’s Palace nostalgia.)

(15) SIPPY ACTION. Charles Payseur made me click! “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The “Time to Run Some Red Lights” Sippy for Excellent Action!!! in SFF”.

These are stories that got my blood pumping, that made me want to run outside and punch an eagle in the face. Or, perhaps more accurately, they made me want to climb into a mech suit and punch the moon! I mean, come on, the moon is pretty smug up there, always looking down on everyone. Just saying. Anyway, the action doesn’t always have to be traditional battles and brawls. Some of these stories are about a chase, or a race. Some are about war and the struggle of the individual against the weight of history and press of injustice. But these stories run hot, fast, and furious, and I think that stories like that deserve to be seen, because they do show how much fun and thrilling short SFF can be without sacrificing nuance or meaning.

(16) BEE SERIOUS. The world’s biggest bee has been re-discovered, after decades thought lost to science — “World’s biggest bee found alive”.

The giant bee – which is as long as an adult’s thumb – was found on a little-explored Indonesian island.

After days of searching, wildlife experts found a single live female, which they photographed and filmed.

Known as Wallace’s giant bee, the insect is named after the British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace, who described it in 1858.

Scientists found several specimens in 1981, but it has not been seen since.

(17) WHAT A DRAG. BBC has research that shows “Stonehenge: Preseli stone ‘transported over land'”.

Stones from Pembrokeshire used in the construction of Stonehenge may have been transported by land rather than sea, archaeologists have found.

A study found some of the stones were taken from the northern part of quarries in the Preseli hills, making it easier to transport them over land.

The findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

Earlier research suggested the bluestones were taken south to the coast.

…However, the new study of crops at Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin found the stones were removed from further north in the Preseli hills – making it easier for ancient people to go over the hills rather than around them.

The referenced Antiquity paper opens —

Geologists and archaeologists have long known that the bluestones of Stonehenge came from the Preseli Hills of west Wales, 230km away, but only recently have some of their exact geological sources been identified. Two of these quarries—Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin—have now been excavated to reveal evidence of megalith quarrying around 3000 BC—the same period as the first stage of the construction of Stonehenge.

(18) CUE TWILIGHT ZONE THEME. Two minor league pitchers with identical names and heights and hair color and beards and glasses and Tommy John surgery (with the same doctor no less) and a distinct resemblance had their DNA checked to show that they are not, in fact, related. They do, however, share that they are 53% of Germanic ancestry. “2 Baseball Players Named Brady Feigl Take DNA Tests To See If They’re Related”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Nick Mamatas, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]