Pixel Scroll 9/8/16 Happy Birthday Star Trek

A modest Scroll, but mine own.

(1) WORLD FANTASY CON EVOLVES. Meg Turville-Heitz posted a statement about potential changes in World Fantasy Con on Facebook on August 26.

Apologies for the length of the following, but it is in response to a lengthy letter to the board from Andy Duncan and thus requires some length in return…..

Since we are in the process of agreeing on a new structure for the board, issues of board make up and authorities will be discussed as part of our larger conversation about what we will look like in the wake of David’s passing, and thus will be addressed when that is finalized.

We’ve heard, as well, a number of concerns that we as a board have been non-responsive. This is a product of time scales. We approve conventions two to three years out and thus requirements that we put in place in a given year required already seated conventions to react, which can appear like disorder, when it is not. In 2012, a series of incidents regarding harassment, beginning at other conventions, led us to add a harassment policy to our guidelines and a requirement that upcoming conventions draft one. The word, harassment, however, became a problem. Some of the jurisdictions require anything that can be called harassment be reported to the police for incidents that, in convention culture, wouldn’t be appropriate. We modified this to a requirement for a code of conduct and have been building upon the code of conduct language from DC in 2014. We’ve shared this language with upcoming committees as we work through what we want in place. We are limited, again, by local jurisdictions that could supersede our policy regarding something such as, for example, concealed weapons.

Additionally, concerns about the hotel setup in Saratoga Springs in 2015 (board members were participants on panels where the issues were evident, and were also highly dissatisfied with the hotel’s response to an inaccessible dining room) led the board to add the requirement for accessibility guidelines be provided by incoming conventions and as part of upcoming bids. Board members were working on drafting an acceptable guidance document when David died.

Our difficulty with that document comes from the fact that as a mobile convention, we are landing in places where other laws again supersede our guidelines. We have guidance that we will be looking at that suggests language and kinds of policies, but it must remain flexible.

Regarding Columbus’ program, we have looked at the guerilla site and agree that there are great ideas there. Some topics are not relevant to WFC (e.g. science fiction); others clarify topics we have and we plan to steal from it liberally. Darrell’s role in programming is far advanced, and the timing in the convention planning process does not allow for Columbus to seek a replacement. Ellen Datlow has worked with him to vet and build a better and more diverse program. Critical errors were a draft, unvetted program being published.That’s partly due to disrupted leadership as David had always assumed final authority on the program. We aren’t flush with volunteers who know how to program. If we were, some of these issues wouldn’t even need to be debated

And continues at great length.

(2) SNAIL MAIL SALUTES STAR TREK. Classic Trek went on the air 50 years ago today, and the US Postal Service has issued a sheet of stamps in commemoration.

On September 8, 1966, Star Trek premiered. Centered on the interstellar voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the prime-time television program’s mission was to boldly go where no man has gone before.With an intricate futuristic setting, multicultural cast, and story lines that touched on social issues, Star Trek pushed past the boundaries of popular science fiction and became a worldwide phenomenon. Each of the 20 self-adhesive Star Trek stamps showcases one of four digital illustrations inspired by elements of the classic TV show…

Star Trek

(3) PLANETARY POST.  Robert Picardo’s latest Planetary Post for the Planetary Society.

In this issue, I share my journey to San Diego Comic-Con, where I quiz Trekkies and NASA scientists with trivia to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. Engage:

 

(4) A TRIBE THAT FITS THE DESCRIPTION. Meir Soloveichik makes a Tolkien-endorsed case in “The Secret Jews of The Hobbit” for Commentary Magazine,

…The dwarves of Middle Earth, the central characters of one of the most beloved books of all time, are indeed based on the Jews. This was confirmed by Tolkien himself in a 1971 interview on the BBC: “The dwarves of course are quite obviously, [sic] couldn’t you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews?” he asked. “Their words are Semitic obviously, constructed to be Semitic.” Similarly, in a letter to his daughter, Tolkien reflected, “I do think of the ‘Dwarves’ like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue.” …

(5) NO CHILLS. The Guardian reports on a study that found “One third of parents avoid reading children scary stories”.

A psychologist has stressed the importance of scary children’s literature, after new research revealed that a third of parents would avoid reading their children a story containing a frightening character. A survey of 1,003 UK parents by online bookseller The Book People found that 33% would steer clear of books for their children containing frightening characters. Asked about the fictional creations they found scariest as children, a fifth of parents cited the Wicked Witch of the West from L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with the Child Catcher from Ian Fleming’s Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang in second place. Third was the Big Bad Wolf, in his grandmother-swallowing Little Red Riding Hood incarnation, fourth the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl’s The Witches, and fifth Cruella de Vil, from Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians…

(6) DROPPED IN THE PUNCHBOWL. Don’t let the birthday party stop you. Cheat Sheet fights another round in a timeless culture war: “’Star Wars’ vs. ‘Star Trek’: Why ‘Star Trek’ is Losing”

Star Wars versus Star Trek. The classic debate continues to rage on. But while Star Trek has gained popularity in recent years with both Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) achieving mainstream appeal and box office success, it’s still nothing compared to what The Force Awakens (2015) did this past December both at the box office and when it came to popular culture. In fact, to date the Star Wars series has made $2.8 billion with eight films compared to Star Trek’s $1.2 billion through 12 films. So why has Star Wars continued to be such a juggernaut in the cultural landscape compared to its sci-fi foe? Here are six reasons why Star Wars might be winning the long battle with Star Trek.

(7) MARTINSON OBIT. Leslie H. Martinson, a ubiquitous TV director who was active for decades, has died at the age of 101 reports the New York Times.

Just a partial list includes, from the 1950s, the live drama series “General Electric Theater” and “Chevron Theater,” the sitcom “Topper,” the drama “The Millionaire” and the westerns “The Roy Rogers Show” and “Tales of Wells Fargo.” In the ’60s, he directed episodes of “Surfside 6,” “Maverick,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “The Roaring Twenties,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “No Time for Sergeants,” “Run for Your Life,” “Batman,” “Mister Roberts,” “Mission: Impossible” and “The Green Hornet.” His output in the ’70s included “Ironside,” “Love, American Style,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Room 222,” “Mannix,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Wonder Woman” and “Dallas.” He wound up his television career in the ’80s with, among others, “Eight Is Enough,” “Quincy, M.E.,” “CHiPs,” “Fantasy Island” and “Diff’rent Strokes.”

 [Thanks to Andrew Porter and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/16 Stop, Drop, And Scroll

(1) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Ann Leckie’s train delivered her to Chicago on time for Nebula Weekend, unlike last year when she was delayed by a bacon-related catastrophe.

(2) FREE ALLEGED BOOK. Timothy the Talking Cat’s amanuensis Camestros Felapton reports:

Now available from Smashwords, until they decide it is too embarrassing even for them, There Will Be Walrus First Volume V.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/636378

There Will Be WALRUS final

Crafted from the finest pixels and using exquisite fonts and typographical metadata, There Will Be Walrus is the ground breaking anthology series from Cattimothy House – the world’s leading publisher of feline edited military science fiction anthologies.

The book comes with additional bonus content and includes features such as:

  • clauses
  • sentences
  • paragraphs
  • chapters

Spelling and punctuation are used throughout and in many cases radical new and exciting approaches have been taken. Copy-editing has been applied at industry standards as found in top flight Hugo nominated publishers such as Castalia House or Baen Books.

(3) ZINES ONLINE. The University of New Brunswick Library has posted complete scans of a number of classic old fanzines from their collection, Algol, Luna, Amra, Mimosa, four  issues of Tom Reamy’s Trumpet, the earliest issues of Locus, and others. Click here.

(4) BETTY OR VERONICA? CW has given series orders to Greg Berlanti’s live-action Archie Comics series Riverdale. Entertainment Weekly says it will look like this:

Set in present-day and based on the iconic Archie Comics characters, Riverdale is a surprising and subversive take on Archie (KJ Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Veronica (Camila Mendes), and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will write and executive-produce with Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Jon Goldwater. Cole Sprouse, Ashleigh Murray, Luke Perry, Madelaine Petsch, Marisol Nichols, and Mädchen Amick will also star.

(5) I COME NOT TO PRAISE THEM. ABC has axed The Muppets. Entertainment Weekly ran its obituary.

The comedy series lasted one 16-episode season on the network after launching to tremendous buzz last fall.

The beloved franchise was given a modern-day, adult-themed makeover by producers Bob Kushell (Anger Management) and Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory). The show also some criticism for trying to make the classic family characters more contemporary, including focusing on their love lives. Midway through the season run, falling ratings prompted ABC to make a major change behind the scenes, replacing showrunner Kushell with Kristin Newman (Galavant), who pledged to bring “joy” to the series. Yet the changes didn’t alter the show’s fate.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman has posted Episode 8 of his podcast Eating the Fantastic, in which he dines and dialogs with dual guests, Lynne Hansen, and Jeff Strand.

Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen

Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen

Lynne is a horror novelist turned filmmaker whose recent short, Chomp, received 21 nominations at a variety of film festivals, winning 7 times, including the Fright Meter Awards Best Short Horror Film of 2015, and Jeff Strand is not only the author of the wonderfully titled horror novels I Have a Bad Feeling About This and The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (and many others)—he’ll also be the emcee Saturday for the Stoker Awards banquet.

Next episode of Eating the Fantastic, which will go live in approximately two weeks, will feature Maria Alexander, whose debut novel, Mr. Wicker, won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel

(7) WOMEN FEATURED AT GENCON. Anna Kreider points out “GenCon’s Featured Presenters are 52% female, and that’s a huge deal”.

[Before I start – full disclosure, I am one of the Industry Insider Featured Presenters for this year’s GenCon. So I’m sure that there are those who will say that me writing this post is self-serving arrogance and/or egomania, but whatever.]

The GenCon Industry Insider Featured Presenters for 2016 have been announced, and holy shit is this year’s lineup amazing! Seriously, take a look:

That’s right, folks. There are 13 female IIFPs and only 12 men. This means there are MORE WOMEN THAN MEN, and that is a HUGE FUCKING DEAL, because that is a HUGE amount of change in a really short period of time. To prove it, let’s look at the numbers:

(8) MEDICAL UPDATE. It was announced on his blog that Darwyn Cooke is being treated for cancer.

It is with tremendous sadness that we announce Darwyn is now receiving palliative care following a bout with aggressive cancer. His brother Dennis and I, along with our families appreciate the outpouring of support we have received. We ask for privacy as we go through this very difficult time

(9) BLOG LAUNCH KEEPS UP MOMENTUM. Our Words’ rollout includes Sarah Chorn’s list of future plans

Anyway, things I envision for this website, so you know what to expect in the near future-ish:

1. I am continuing the guest posts. I love them. I think they are interesting, and I love getting diverse perspectives about many, many facets of disabilities in the genre.

2. I have a few interviews out. Yay! And I really want to keep interviews going.

3. I have a few giveaways in the works.

4. I have launched the book club, which I really, really want to take off.

5. I am currently working on doing a series of questions and answers. The idea behind this actually came from a few convention panels I was on, focusing on the topic of disabilities in the genre. After each panel, a host of authors would stand up and ask a ton of very good, very important questions about writing disabilities. So I figured maybe I can try to bring something like that to my website. I’m not exactly sure the format yet, but the idea is that I will get questions about writing disabilities from people who wish to ask said questions, and then I will send those questions to a few disabled genre authors to answer in a panel sort of format. That will take time to figure out, but it will happen eventually.

6. I have received a handful of books this week to review for this website, so start expecting book reviews.

7. I am trying to drum up a bunch of people willing to write about accessibility issues at conventions. There was some noise about this topic last year, but con season is upon us, and I’d like to get some people over here who are willing to write about it. We need to make some more noise about this. It is so important. 8. I am working on getting some people who are willing to write/do regular features over here.

(10) DAN WELLS. Our Words reposted “Dan Wells on Writing Mental Illness”, which originally appeared on SF Signal in 2015.

One in five people in America has a mental illness. One in twenty has a mental illness so serious it inhibits their ability to function. Look around the room you’re in: do you know who they are? Do you know how to help them? Maybe that one in five is you: do you know how to help yourself? The most depressing statistic of all is that no, none of us do. In 2015, Americans with mental illness are more likely to be in prison than in therapy. As a nation and as a culture we are absolutely terrible at recognizing, treating, and coping with mental illness. This needs to change.

(11) JAY LAKE. Our Words has also republished “Jay Lake on Writing With Cancer”, which the late author wrote for Bookworm Blues in 2012.

Cancer is not a disability in the usual sense of that term. It’s not even really a chronic disease, like lupus or MS. Rather, it’s an acute disease which can recur on an overlapping basis until one is cured or killed. Some cancers, such as indolent forms of prostate cancer or lymphoma, can be lived with until one dies of other causes. Other cancers such as pancreatic cancer can move like wildfire, with a patient lifespan measured in weeks or months from diagnosis to death.

My cancer falls somewhere in the mid range between the two. And though I wouldn’t think to claim it as a disability in either the social or legal senses of that term, it has a lot in common with disabilities.

Cancer has affected my writing in two basic ways. First, the disruptions of treatment. Second, the shifts in my own thoughts and inner life as I respond to the distorting presence of the disease in my life.

The treatments are brutal. Surgeries are rough, but they’re fairly time constrained. I’ve had four, a major resection of my sigmoid colon, a minor resection of my left lung, and two major resections of my liver. In each case, I spent three to six days in the hospital, followed by several weeks at home in a fairly serious recovery mode. I was back to writing within a month every time. These days, when I contemplate future surgery (far more likely than not, given the odds of recurrence for my cancer cohort), I budget a month of time lost and all it good.

(12) FIND YOUR OWN INKLINGS. Rachel Motte tells “Why C.S. Lewis Would Want You to Join a Writing Group” at Catholic Stand.

When J.R.R. Tolkien retired from his post at the University of Oxford in 1959, he intended to spend his new-found free time finishing The Silmarillion. Though this book is less well-known than his Lord of the Rings, Tolkien considered it his real work—the work he’d spent decades trying to get back to.

One can easily imagine the newly retired professor, still in his tweeds, bent over his desk, glad to at last avoid the professional obligations that had long kept him from the literary project he loved best. Instead, writes Inklings scholar Diana Pavlac Glyer, he found that the increased solitude hampered his ability to move forward with his favorite project. Glyer explains,

He quickly became overwhelmed by the task. He found himself easily distracted, and he spent his days writing letters or playing solitaire… Tolkien had become increasingly isolated, and as a result, he found himself unable to write. (Diana Pavlac Glyer, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, p. 117)

You probably think of writing as a solitary activity—and, to some extent, you are right. “Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world,” notes Annie Dillard in The Writing Life. “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.”

In the best of circumstances, however, that’s not where the story ends. Although we’re right to think of writing as partly a solitary activity, it’s also true that writers—like other artists—benefit from meeting regularly with other creative people.

(13) CRITICAL THEORY. “Russell Letson reviews Judith Merril” at Locus Online.

The Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism: Judith Merril’s Nonfiction, Judith Merril (Aqueduct Press 978-1-61976-093-6, $22.00, 348pp, tp) March 2016.

…Her critical work was more practical than theoretical, but nonetheless systematic and precise. She was a commentator who was also a practitioner, an analyst who was also a fan, with a broad-church sensibility that could not disentangle SF from the cultures that surrounded it.

In The Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism, editor Ritch Calvin has gathered and condensed thirteen years’ worth of material into a single vol­ume that includes the introductions and ‘‘sum­mation’’ essays from her long-running series of annual ‘‘Best SF’’ anthologies; book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; and a single long, reflective essay written for the Science Fiction Research Association’s journal Extrapolation. The chronological arrangement allows us to follow Merril as she explores the shape and extent of the modern fantastic, locates particular writers and works in that geography, and develops an aesthetic and historical-social framework for making judgments. (The full texts of all the items are available as an e-book, which is nearly twice as long as the print version. Omitted material consists mainly of individual story introductions from the annual anthologies.) …

(14) LAST YEAR, WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. Matt interviews Andrew J. McKiernan  at Smash Dragons.

The title story for your collection is a fascinating tale about survival amidst a strange and very disturbing apocalypse. I’m curious, how did this particular story come about? Where did you draw your inspiration from? 

Like pretty much every story I write, it starts with a title. That’s where I thought Last Year, When We Were Young came from. Just a title that popped into my head that I ran with and a story emerged from it. It is always my wife who points out the real life inspirations for my stories, when here I am thinking they’re just stories, fictions. In this case, my father-in-law had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour and the operation to remove it didn’t go too spectacularly for him. At the same time, my own father had a heart attack and I’d just entered my 40s and my eldest son had turned 18. So, the title story is me trying to deal with the fact that we all age, and that it happens so goddamn quickly. We get older, and yet a lot of the time we still feel like we’re kids and teenagers. The first 20 years of our life seem so long and so important and our mind dwells on those times. I’m 45 now, and yet a part of me still feels like I’m 18 and should be out there playing in a band and getting drunk and enjoying myself. Age creeps up on us so quickly. We’re adults before we know it. Mid-life crisis, I guess, the realisation that I had aged and that I really would die one day, and this story was my subconscious way of examining that.

(15) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. George Donnelly will be having a sale a week from today.

Today’s top libertarian fiction authors bring you 99-cent fiction books May 18-20 only. Some are even free. Read on your phone, tablet, browser or kindle

(16) PLANETARIUM PANEL FEATURES CLARKE FINALIST. Spaceships: Above and Beyond at the Royal Observatory Planetarium”, Greenwich, Thursday, May 26 (18.30-20.30). Click the link for full details and tickets. Here’s the line up:

  • Libby Jackson, Former ESA Flight Director now working for the UK Space Agency
  • Dr. Adam Baker, Senior Lecturer in Astronautics at Kingston University
  • Dr. Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich
  • James Smythe, Science Fiction author – shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2016
  • The panel discussion will be hosted by Tom Hunter, Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

(17) PANAMA GOLD. At The Toast, Mallory Ortberg has posted “Every Fan Fiction I Have Started Writing Once I Found out Emma Watson Was Named In The Panama Papers”.

“Mustn’t complain, though,” Harry said after an odd silence. “That’s what our taxes are for, after all.”

“We don’t pay taxes,” Hermione said. “Taxes are for Muggles.” She extinguished her cigarette in the last slice of cake.

“But you’re –” Harry started.

“I used to be a lot of things,” Hermione said decisively. “I have money now instead.”

Harry stopped at every bar on the way home, until he could no longer remember the look that had entered her eyes as she said it.

(18) PIXAR PRAISE. Kristian Williams’s YouTube video “Pixar–What Makes a Story Relatable” explains why Pixar films work — because at their core, they’re great stories.

(19) ADDRESSEE KNOWN. Not everybody Andrew Liptak outs was very far undercover to begin with: “Guess Who? 15 Sci-Fi Authors Who Used Pseudonyms—and Why” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

U.K. Le Guin, Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most famous living science fiction authors, but when she sold her story “Nine Lives” to Playboy, her editors asked her to change her name to U.K. Le Guin, fearing that a female author would make their readers “nervous.” Le Guin remembered it as the only time, “I met with anything I understood as sexual prejudice, prejudice against me as a woman writer.” She’s never used a pseudonym again, and “Nine Lives” appears under her own name in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters.

(20) THE NEBULA ON CHAOS HORIZON. Brandon Kempner calls his shot in “2016 Nebula Prediction”.

I’ve spun my creaky model around and around, and here is my prediction for the Nebulas Best Novel category, taking place this weekend:

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season: 22.5%
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Mercy:22%
Naomi Novik, Uprooted: 14.7%
Ken Liu, The Grace of Kings: 13.3%
Lawrence Schoen, Barsk: 10.7%
Charles Gannon, Trial by Fire: 9.5%
Fran Wilde, Updraft: 7.3%

Remember, Chaos Horizon is a grand (and perhaps failed!) experiment to see if we can predict the Nebulas and Hugos using publicly available data.

(21) A PICTURE AND A THOUSAND WORDS. Defenestration, for reasons that will become obvious, made sure we didn’t miss this Hugo humor.

Andrew Kaye (known in some circles as AK) is the creator of Ben & Winslow and other questionable comics, many of which can be found in his deviantART gallery and his Tumblr. He’s also the editor-in-chief of this magazine. Duh.

I realize a lot of the folks who read Ben & Winslow might not be familiar with the drama that’s surrounded the Hugos lately–you can find plenty of articles and blogs discussing it in more detail than I can spare here. Basically, unlike other major awards, the Hugos are chosen by science-fiction and fantasy fandom. Last year a subset of that fandom got angry with the growing diversity among the award nominees and the subject matter they wrote about (or in other words, the nominees weren’t all straight white men writing adventure stories). They took advantage of the Hugos’ fan-based voting  and hijacked the list of nominees with their own choices. The 2015 Hugo ballot was a shambles–many nominees dropped out, and most Hugo voters chose to vote for “No Award” rather than vote for what actually made it to the ballot.

Well, the same thing has happened this year. The same people are trying to control the award. Trying to destroy the award. And if they’re allowed to continue, they’ll succeed. Needless to say, a lot of people are upset about this. To someone unfamiliar with the award, the whole thing looks like a big joke.

http://www.defenestrationmag.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/04292016-Hugo-Boss.jpg

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Matthew Davis, and Tom Hunter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 4/25/16 That Which We Call A Pixel By Any Other Name Would Scroll As Sweet

(1) NORTH CAROLINA FAN EVENT AWAITS DEVELOPMENTS. Walker Stalker Con has announced that they are postponing their 2016 Charlotte, NC event until December to give the North Carolina state house a chance to repeal NC HB 2 (or the courts to throw it out).

Steven H Silver adds, “Just last night, I was wondering if conventions and conferences (not just in NC) would start to try to include a clause which allows the event to pull out of the venue without penalty if the state government passes discriminatory laws.”

(2) HAVING FUN YET? Geek Crusade analyzes “How (almost) everything went wrong at the Civil War blue carpet”. Apparently this was a celebrity event in Singapore. I don’t even know what a “blue carpet” is, so let me turn this over to the experts….

Civil war blue carpet jm wong for geek

As the time neared for fans to be let into the skating rink, the crowd swelled to a ridiculous size and effectively blocked off any sort of access to the food court or the surrounding shops itself. And when VIPs and fan zone winners asked where they could queue up for entry into the rink, no one had any answers for them.

So about 20 minutes before we were let in, I was queueing in the corner of the rink (marked “Access point for inner sanctum” in the picture at the top of this post), right smack in the middle of a big crowd. That one access point was where everything went in and out, so at one point I had trays of hot food for VIP guests brushing past my left, while random people kept pushing me from behind or squeezing in front of me to get to the escalators. I was quite literally trapped on all sides.

To make things worse, when members of the media started going in with bulky equipment, I got pushed around a lot because there was literally no more space to move or to let people through. And people were STILL trying to push their way through the crowd to try and get closer to the rink. That bottleneck was a serious fire hazard, and at one point I seriously thought that I’d never get out of this bloody event unharmed….

(3) YOU PAYS YOUR MONEY. Geek Crusade also has this post – “’I paid $688 for the Civil War blue carpet package and I loved it’”

One fan flew all the way in from Brunei for the chance to meet Cap, Falcon and Winter Soldier.

So after all that hoohah about the $688 and $1288 packages for the Civil War blue carpet, there’s only one question left to ask: Was it all really worth it?

In the run up to the event, many fans had contacted Geek Crusade for more information about the blue carpet. But we soon realised that one of them had actually purchased a $688 package, before the packages on offer mysteriously disappeared from the event page. (Reed Exhibitions later told The Straits Times that the packages had sold out)

(4) HOW SHE FOUND FANDOM. MidAmeriCon II chair Ruth Lichtwardt ponders, in “A Reflection on the Hugos”.

In the long-ago days before email and about when ARPANET was becoming the Internet, there was a young woman who was a fan but not in fandom. She barely knew of the existence of fandom, and if any of the people around her were SF fans, they didn’t talk about it because it was somehow lowbrow. But she had read all the Bradbury, Bradley, Heinlein, and Le Guin in her school libraries. She loved books, and reading, and SF, and fantasy, and somewhere along the way had become aware that in far away places there were people who thought SF was pretty cool and authors won awards for this stuff, prestigious awards, a thing called the Hugo Awards. But these were the pre-internet days and news about this was not widely circulated unless you knew where to look.

The young woman went off to college. One day she stopped by the office of one of her professors and was standing in the doorway talking with him. On his desk was a beautiful silver rocket on a wooden base. “That’s a really lovely sculpture,” she said. “Thank you,” he replied, “That is my Hugo.”

That was the day that I learned that the Hugo Awards were not some unobtainable honor given only to mythical, unapproachable authors by mysterious deities. That shiny rocket had been bestowed on James Gunn for “Best Related Work”, his biography of Isaac Asimov. The book had been chosen by the biography’s actual readers, by science fiction fans, as deserving of the award. To me, that made it even more of an honor….

 

(5) THE PINOCCHIO GAMBIT. If you’re one of the people who told a friend you nominated them for the Hugo, and they went and blabbed it all over the internet, what are you going to do when they find out they’re not on the final ballot tomorrow? Don’t fret. Order your friend a set of these Rocket-shaped salt and pepper mills and tell them they already won!

rocket salt and pepper grinders

(6) WHO BENEFITS? John Scalzi spotlights the way Kindle Unlimited compensates authors in “Scammers and Fixed Pots” at Whatever.

…(Nor is adjusting one’s work to take advantage of the market a problem; publishers have always done this. Is the money is cheap paperbacks? They will make cheap paperbacks. Is the money in hardcovers? They’ll make hardcovers. What, novellas are the next big thing? They’ll all make novellas! Likewise, if Amazon is saying to self-pubbed authors (and, by extension, scammers) “[X] is the way we decide to pay you,” then it’s rational to do [X].)

The problem with the Kindle Unlimited scammers isn’t really the compensatory triggers of KU or the fact that everyone, legit author or otherwise, is looking for the way to squeeze as much money as possible from it. The problem is: who bears the immediate economic brunt of the scammers taking advantage of whatever scheme Amazon decides upon? Well, it’s not Amazon, that’s for sure, since its financial exposure is only what it wants to pay out on a monthly basis; scammers in the system or no, Amazon only pays what Amazon wants to pay. The readers also get off lightly; their economic exposure is only they flat fee they pay to access KU.

So that leaves the actual authors, whose share of a fixed amount of money is being diluted by bad actors who see how the system can be gamed and are cheerfully gaming it as fast as they can….

(7) SPEAKING OF MONEY. The BBC’s piece “If cryonics suddenly worked, we’d need to face the fallout” deals a glancing blow to the discussion in today’s comments.

…It is possible, however, that money will no longer exist by the time cryonics pays off, and that people will not have to work for a living. A society that has achieved the medical breakthroughs necessary to cure disease and end aging, Kowalski and others believe, may also be one bereft of poverty and material want. In such a scenario, clothing, food and homes, fabricated with 3D printers or some other advanced means, would be abundant and freely available. “It doesn’t make sense that they’d take the time to revive people into some dystopian, backward future,” Kowalski says. “You can’t have the technology to wake people up and not have the technology to do a bunch of other great things, like provide abundance to the population.”

Still, even if cryogenically revived persons come back to a more equitable and advanced future, the mental flip-flops required to adjust to that new world would be substantial. Dislocated in time, alienated from society and coming to grips with the certainty that everyone and everything they had ever known is irretrievably lost, they would likely suffer symptoms of intense trauma. And that’s not to mention the fact that some may have to deal with a whole new body because only their head was preserved.

(8) EX MACHINA. Abigail Nussbaum delves into the issues raised (and some missed) by the movie “Ex Machina”. BEWARE SPOILERS. Scores high on bringing to my attention new ways of thinking about things. (Will they be new to you? I guess there’s only one way to find out.)

While I agree with [Laurie] Penny about the anxiety that underpins these stories [about fembots], I think that I would take a step further, and suggest that they–and Ex Machina in particular–are getting at the more fundamental question of what being a woman actually is.  As much as it raises feminist issues, Ex Machina makes much more sense to me when read through a trans lens, as the story of Ava’s becoming–unwillingly, and only as a means of survival and escape–a woman.

(9) SF’S VANISHING COMPETENCE. Charlie Jane Anders’ io9 post, “The Moment When Science Fiction Split off From Competence Porn” is recommended by Gregory N. Hullender as an “Interesting article about how mainstream shows and movies have ultra competent technical folks but SF shows have incompetent people. Anders suspects it’s because lots of people are overwhelmed by new technology these days and they like post-apocalypse stories because they let us return to a simpler world.”

 …[The], the original Star Trek mostly shows the Enterprise crew being pretty competent, but now we’re only allowed to have science explorer heroes if the focus is on the captain being unqualified for his rank.

But meanwhile, “competence porn” is our most popular entertainment, in the movies as well as television. Medical shows (like House) and forensic/detective shows (like CSI or Bones) celebrate the hero who has godlike powers of reconstructing the past and figuring out exactly what’s happened. There are detectives who can tell whether you’re lying at a glance, or who can reconstruct a complicated crime scene by looking at a few twigs, Sherlock-style.

And as we wrote a while back, every police procedural and spy show (or movie) has to have the stock “nerd” character, the slightly loopy guy or gal who can hack into any computer or zoom-and-enhance any video. There is an army of incredibly brilliant, nigh-omnipotent nerds on television….

David Brin has his own take on why this happens: authors are lazy.

“How SF split off from ‘competence porn’.” The latter genre – like The Martian – thrills fans with a can-do spirit that used to be core to science fiction, both on-page and on-screen. In io9, Charlie Jane Anders writes: “This shift coincides with the decline in space opera on television, and the rise of apocalypses and “disaster porn,” which are at least partly a wish-fulfillment fantasy about life becoming simpler and less confusing again. We have ‘competence porn’ in the present day, but when we imagine the near future, we reach for ‘disaster porn.’” I revere Charlie Jane for (among other things) clearly citing the current, largely dismal mood in SF as dull, unimaginative and unhelpful, contributing to decayed confidence in real life problem solving.

Where I part company is over why. This is not a matter of near-future vs far. Competence and hope – set amid thrilling danger and good writing – can be found in SF set amid all kinds of futures — near, middle and far — as evoked by Stargate and Firefly, by the works of Banks and Vinge. (And some of the rest of us try, as well.) No, the plague of zombies and apocalypses and illogically red-eyed dystopias has one central cause — laziness.

(10) INFORMATION WANTS TO BE FREE. This is a week old, but here’s an epic example of trying to work the system – “’Game of Thrones’: Journalist Files FOIA Request for President Obama’s Season 6 Screeners”.

A day following the April 13 news that President Obama will receive early screeners of the highly anticipated Game of Thrones season six episodes, a journalist requested through the Freedom of Information Act that he “share his advance screeners” with the public.

Though HBO announced in early March that no members of the press will receive advance screeners, unlike in past seasons, a journalist is still trying. On Friday, Vanessa Golembewski revealed in a Refinery 29 article titled “Only Obama Gets Game of Thrones Screeners, So I Filed an FOIA Request for Them” that an FOIA request was filed on Thursday in an attempt to obtain the episodes….

Upon learning that Obama would come to know the fate of three of the show’s stars before the rest of the waiting global audience, Golembewski reasoned in the application: “If the president — and by extension, our government — is in possession of a file, surely that file is subject to my request to see it as a U.S. citizen.” In the “description” section of her web application, Golembewski penned, “I would like President Obama to share his advance screeners for Game of Thrones with the public” and filed “$0” as the amount of fees she would be willing to pay for the information.

(11) AND ONE MORE THING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT. By all means, get emotional over the change in the Cracker Jacks packaging, and weep that those cheap little prizes have been replaced with QR codes to access a game app. Gizmodo leads the Greek chorus —

Truth be told, the prizes inside Cracker Jacks haven’t been that cool for some time. There used to be decoder rings and toy figurines. In the most recent “box” of Cracker Jack that I ate, I got a temporary tattoo. But they were prizes! They were real. They did not require a smartphone to appreciate them.

A world with prize-less Cracker Jack is not a world I want to live in, but I think I’m more upset about the loss of the box. The Uncanny Valley-ization of Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo in the logo is awful enough, but taking the box away is an affront to baseball fans everywhere.

(12) SHAKESPEARE V. FAKESPEARE. The Digital Reader brings you an “Infographic: Fourteen Amazing Shakespeare Facts (Including a False One)”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bruce Arthurs, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Steven H Silver, Gregory N. Hullender, and David Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Dublin 2019 Worldcon Bid’s Access Report

The Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid did a walkthrough of its facility and posted a preliminary access report on their website.

The Dublin 2019 Bid team take accessibility extremely seriously, and we want to work from the start to make our Bid, and our convention places where we have done our utmost to make the convention available to everyone.

On the blog, we’ve published our first accessibility report. Our team took an access specific tour of the Conference Centre Dublin (CCD), and the report also includes some observations from seeing the building in use. We are very positive about the building, and the steps it has taken in making the area accessible, and we’ve also added several observations that we’d like to work towards from our own perspective.

They would like to hear about any specific questions people think they should address in their next visit.

Recent issues experienced by other conventions also prompted the bidders to remind everyone they have a Code of Conduct for the bid itself, which can be read here. The committee will update it as necessary if Dublin is voted to host the Worldcon.

[Thanks to Esther MacCallum-Stewart for the story.]

World Fantasy Con 2016 Publishes Policies, Announces GoHs

The 2016 World Fantasy Convention, which will be held October 27-30 in Columbus, Ohio, announced three of its Guests of Honor today.

  • Mercedes Lackey
  • Larry Dixon
  • L.E. Modesitt, Jr

The committee also responded to criticism for failing to post a Code of Conduct or an accessibility policy before the February 1 rate hike by publishing both today.

These statements are on the registration page.

Code of Conduct:

We do not tolerate harassment of the people at our convention in any form.

In order to take action, we need to know about any incident during the convention.

Everyone is entitled to a harassment-free convention experience, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, or physical appearance.

Harassment includes, but is not limited to, inappropriate physical contact, unwelcome sexual attention, offensive verbal comments, deliberate intimidation, stalking or following someone, making harassing photography or recordings, and disrupting talks or other events.  Anyone asked to stop any unacceptable behavior is expected to comply immediately.

A request to “stop” or “go away” means exactly that.  If anyone engages in harassing behavior, the convention committee may warn the offender, remove the offender from the room, or expel the offender from the convention with no refund at the Chairs’ discretion.

If you feel that you are being harassed, or if you notice someone violating hotel or convention policies, we respectfully suggest the following:

  1. If you feel comfortable doing so, point out the inappropriate behavior to the persons involved.  Often this will solve the problem immediately.
  2. If you do not feel comfortable talking with the persons involved or if talking to them does not resolve the issue, please report the situation, in person, immediately to the Operations Staff, or a Convention Committee member.  Try to provide a name (found on all badges) and/or a physical description of the person or persons involved.
  3. In order to take action, we need to know about any incident during the convention.

The Code of Conduct they’ve adopted is nearly identical to the 2014 WFC’s anti-harassment policy, which was reviewed as a successful model at the time.

And the committee’s statement about accessibility says:

The philosophy of our Accessibility Policy is about giving equal access to everyone.

The Hyatt Regency Columbus is an ADA compliant hotel. They have a limited number of ADA hotel rooms for different needs, these are available on a first come first serve basis. The hotel also has public “facilities” that are ADA compliant.

We have made arrangements for signing to be available (upon request) for GOH panels and the Sunday Banquet.

We have reserved the ADA ramp for the Sunday Banquet.

We will have a local phone number on the website for members to make their own arrangements, at their own expense, for mobile wheelchairs (scooters / mobies). We are doing some pre-pricing and will put the number on the website once we have it.

Mari Ness, who earlier opined that four out of the last five World Fantasy Cons have had accessibility issues, made this response:

Earlier today, before the policies were posted, she explained her reasons for making an issue about WFC’s delay in providing an accessibility policy, and for not assuming the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will avoid all problems:

I haven’t registered yet for World Fantasy Con because I use a wheelchair and I don’t know if the convention will be accessible. “Held in an ADA facility” isn’t enough; I’ve had accessibility issues in ADA facilities.

Also:

What I HAVE asked for, repeatedly, is some form of public statement from World Fantasy Con about their accessibility policy. And I have done this because of repeatedly running into accessibility concerns at previous World Fantasy Cons.

And because last year, I paid the same price as other members, and didn’t get the same access to the convention. I had to stay on ground level while my fellow panelists got to go up on the stage.

That’s the moral wrong: I’m paying the same, but I’m not getting the same access.

Sanford Challenges WFC About Missing Safety Policies

The 2016 World Fantasy Con committee has been criticized by Jason Sanford because as of February 1 they still had not posted their antiharassment policy or accessibility policy.

As of February 1st, WFC2016 has yet to post either of these policies. Today’s date matters because on January 31 at 11:59 pm the price to register jumped from $150 to $225. I wanted to register at that lower price but without the policies I wouldn’t do so…

In his blog post “World Fantasy Con 2016 doesn’t care about your harassment and accessibility concerns”, Sanford explains that, even more than the price hike, what really made him lose patience is the dialog between committee leadership and others in a closed World Fantasy Con 2016 Facebook group.

Until today I was trying to be understanding. After all, managing a convention is difficult and relies extensively on volunteer assistance. Maybe no one had pointed out to the people running WFC 2016 how important these policies were to people. Maybe they were having trouble devising these policies.

But then I receive the following screengrabs and many others, which come from the private Facebook group of the people running WFC 2016. The screengrabs show that the people behind WFC 2016 were told repeatedly that they needed these policies, and that it is unfair to not have the policies up before the lower registration fee deadline passed.

But instead of listening to these concerns, which were raised with WFC 2016 since early December, the people agitating for these policies — along with the very need for such policies — were ignored and belittled.

The screencaps are posted at his blog.

Other writers and editors shared his concerns on Twitter.

Sigrid Ellis

Michael Damien Thomas

Marie Brennan

T. Frohock

Steven Saus

Andrea Phillips

Mari Ness

Jeff VanderMeer

However, the WFC committee was not without support.

And Morgan Feldstein wrote this comment on Sanford’s post:

You signed a pledge that prevents you from registering for conventions until certain policies are posted and those policies are deemed adequate by the organizers of the pledges you signed onto. You chose to sign the pledges and adhere to their terms. The organizers of the World Fantasy Convention did not require you sign the pledges. Nor did the World Fantasy Convention make related pricing commitments to the pledge organizers. If you choose to register late for the World Fantasy Convention in order to keep a promise to the pledge organizers, any associated financial burdens are yours to bear and yours alone. The World Fantasy Convention is under no obligation to financially accommodate you in this matter.

I’ve was at the World Fantasy Convention in 2014. I’ve never seen a more polite and well-mannered bunch of conventioneers in my life. If you feel you can’t attend in good conscience because they haven’t properly bent the knee to the pledge organizers, by all means stay home. I have the feeling the conference will manage perfectly well without the collection of Mrs. Grundys who are presently harassing the World Fantasy Convention for an anti-harrassment policy.

In contrast, Marie Brennan called it “World Fantasy’s Safety Surcharge” in a February 1 post.

Today the registration fee for the 2016 World Fantasy Convention went up by seventy-five dollars, from $150 to $225.

I registered during the previous WFC, as has been my habit for years. Unfortunately, now I realize that I need to rethink this policy. Because despite being prodded on these matters, WFC 2016 still has not posted either a harassment or an accessibility policy. The con-runner, going by her comments posted there, seems to think that “be nice to one another” and “the hotel is ADA compliant” are sufficient measures in that regard — and maybe there will be policies posted by the time the con begins, but apparently it’s totally unreasonable to ask for those things before the price of attendance gets jacked up.

This is not okay. It amounts to a safety surcharge, because if you want to attend WFC, you have two choices:

1) Buy your registration early, in the blind faith that the con will do its duty and put together an acceptable set of policies before you arrive.

2) Wait for the policies, and pay more money in exchange: seventy-five dollars more now, another fifty if they aren’t posted by mid-April, literally twice the membership price if you pick your membership up in the fall (y’know, around the time the harassment policy got posted last year). To say nothing of the difficulty in getting a hotel room if the block has sold out, which it often does — a situation that might put you in a different hotel entirely, and yeah, like that won’t cause you problems if your mobility is limited.

Oh, and let’s not forget: this is a con with a membership cap. Waiting to register might mean you can’t attend at all, because they’re sold out. So really it’s heads they win, tails you lose, because if these things matter to you, then you wind up paying more money to the con, or not showing up at all.

Pixel Scroll 12/7 Mr. Mxyzpixelstalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 #2 The Crack-Fic Trophy for Unintended Erotica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(6) Today In History

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

(7) Today’s Birthday Girl

  • Born December 7, 1915 – Leigh Brackett

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

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

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

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

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

 

Leigh Brackett

Leigh Brackett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the pitch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Pixel Scroll 11/28 Sympathy For The Devil’s Arithmetic

(1) Connor Johnston opens a different doorway into the commonplace activity of reviewing Doctor Who episodes by “Ranking the Writing Debuts of the Capaldi Era” at Doctor Who TV.

Doctor Who is home to some of the greatest and most confident writers in the history of television, who have each been responsible for some of the most riveting storylines of the last 52 years,  and every great writer must start somewhere. So far in Capaldi’s era, five ambitious personalities have made their first contribution to the show, expanding the already respected list of accomplished Who alumni significantly. With Sarah Dollard’s “Face the Raven” having aired last weekend, she has become the final new addition for the show’s ninth series, as such making this the perfect time to reflect on the newer talent we’ve seen grace our imaginations in the last two years.

(2) Passengers are go! “Airbus proposes new drop-in airplane ‘cabin modules’ to speed up boarding” at ars technical UK.

Today, Airbus has been granted a patent (US 9,193,460) on a method that essentially turns an airplane into an articulated truck. The plane, instead of being a single, contiguous hull, would have a huge hole in the middle where the passengers and luggage would normally be. Instead of boarding the plane directly, passengers and luggage would be loaded into a separate “cabin module.” Then, when the module is ready to go, it’s simply dropped into the airplane. If you ever watched Thunderbirds as a kid, it’s a lot like Thunderbird 2.

The post comes with diagrams.

(3) Sam Weller’s “Where the Hills Are Fog and the Rivers Are Mist” in The Paris Review.

Ray Bradbury’s The October Country turns sixty.

“The Dubliners of American Gothic”—that’s how Stephen King referred to Ray Bradbury’s first book, the little-known 1947 short-story collection, Dark Carnival. There’s good reason few readers, even those well versed in Bradbury’s work, are unfamiliar with Dark Carnival: Arkham House, a small press out of Sauk City, Wisconsin, published the book in a modest run of 3,112 copies; the book went out of print just a few years later. Besides a pricey limited-edition reprint in 2001, Dark Carnival exists as a literary apparition.

And yet many people have read some of Dark Carnival without knowing it

(4) Ryan Britt has a daring demand in “The Ghost of Hayden Christensen: Why Anakin MUST Appear in Episode VII” at Tor.com.

The nice thing about Anakin is that he gets to redeem himself in Return of the Jedi—which, if you’re a kid experiencing the Star Wars movies in the Lucas-order, is a pretty neat arc. Also for contemporary kids, Anakin is the focus of more hours of Star Wars than really any other character, thanks to The Clone Wars. So for better or worse, the prequel-era Anakin defines Star Wars for a big chunk of the viewing public.

If all the actors from the classic trilogy are reprising their roles, the giant space elephant in the room is how old everyone has gotten. Let’s get real, the focus of these new films will doubtlessly be on new characters, but it would be nice to have some existing Star Wars characters in there too, particularly ones who don’t look super old. Luckily, you don’t have to do any Tron: Legacy de-aging CG action on Hayden. He looks good!

(5) N K Jeminsin made the New York Times “100 Notable Books of 2015”. Interestingly, it’s in Fiction. The list does not put sf/fantasy in a separate section.

THE FIFTH SEASON. The Broken Earth: Book One. By N.K. Jemisin. (Orbit, paper, $15.99.) In Jemisin’s fantasy novel, ­civilization faces destruction and the earth itself is a monstrous enemy.

(6) Michael Damien Thomas will work on accessibility at SFWA’s big annual event —

(7) With Carrie Fisher returning in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this 2011 comedy video has a new lease on life —

Kaley Cuoco addresses an important issue affecting cosplay girls across the globe: Slave Leia fatigue. With so many choices available to women who cosplay, there’s no reason everyone needs to be Slave Leia.

 

(8) “Seed bombing to save the bees” at Interesting Engineering.

Seed bombs began as a fun and friendly tactic for greening abandoned lots in urban spaces, but are still a developing idea to be done in large scale. It involves throwing small seed ‘bombs’ from planes onto deserted areas that have suffered deforestation, to gradually begin to recover the ecosystem. This method not only allows the growth of more trees and plants, but helps combat the extinction of bees, indispensable beings for the reproduction of life on Earth….

Each seed capsule is made from biodegradable plastic and functions as a small greenhouse where the seeds grow at first. When they reach the ground, the capsule disintegrates without polluting the environment until it disappears completely, allowing the plant growth to take its natural course.

seed bombs

(9) At Examined Worlds, a philosophical Ethan Mills claims “I’m Thankful For My Regrets”.

Yesterday we celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.  One popular tradition is to enumerate what you’re thankful for.  I’m thankful for lots of things.  Of course, I’m thankful for my family and friends and my cats.  I’m thankful that I have a fulfilling career and no major health issues.  I’m thankful that I have neither the greed nor the need to go “Black Friday” shopping today.  I’m thankful that the new Star Wars movie is coming out soon!

Also, I’m thankful for my regrets.  Like most people, I have plenty.  I regret that I haven’t done more international travel and that I haven’t done more charitable giving and volunteering.  I regret never figuring out this whole physical fitness thing.  I regret that I saw Star Wars: Episode I seven times in the theater.  I regret voting for Ralph Nader in 2000.  I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my mom.

I don’t think regrets have to be the soul-crushing thing they’re made out to be; you don’t have to exterminate them entirely to have a healthy life. I also don’t think you need to go in the direction of some Nietzscheans and existentialists to say that you have to take ownership of regrets and affirm them, because they’ve made you who you are.  There is, as Buddhists would say, a middle way between these extremes.

(10) There’s an app for the Battleship Iowa?

The Battleship IOWA experience is at your fingertips – you’re all aboard for adventure! You will never look at the Navy the same way. The Battleship IOWA Interactive Tour will let you experience, first hand, what it was like to live and serve on this historic ship. You’ll be part of the adventure!

You’ll see and hear the fascinating stories behind the ship, its crew, and the part it played in shaping our world and our country. It is virtually impossible to get a feel for the service and spirit of this historic shp by simply reading a sign or placard. The Battleship IOWA Interactive Tour puts you in control of your experience. Dive deep into the content of the ship and explore the areas that intrigue you most. You’ll find crewmember stories, fun facts, ship service records, videos of her in action all in the palm of your hand. Enjoy content that isn’t available anywhere else in the museum.

 

Mike Glyer and Sierra visit the USS Iowa in 2013.

Mike Glyer and Sierra visit the USS Iowa in 2013.

(11) Tom Knighton’s “Review of Jessica Jones Season 1”:

…The show stars Kristen Ritter as Jones, a private investigator who got super powers after an auto accident that killed her family.  She’s not the typical hero.  An encounter prior to the show with a mind controller named Kilgrave (played by David Tennant) leaves her with a healthy dose of PTSD and a penchant for whiskey.

Early on, she meets a bar owner who she’s been following for a reason explained later in the series.  The bar owner is a large black man named Luke Cage.

Yeah, baby.

Ritter is solid as Jones, nailing the smart mouth and feigned apathy the script called for.  Her natural thinness might not normally fit a super strong hero, but personally I think it fits the character nicely.  Not only does it make it more impressive when she lifts a car’s back wheels without straining, but it fits the alcoholic aspect of the character pretty well….

(12) Den of Geek’s spoiler-filled review of Jessica Jones focuses on the question, “Is Kilgrave Marvel’s Creepiest Villain?”

The casting of David Tennant makes Kilgrave’s grim demands seem ever more shocking, and this must be deliberate from the showrunners. At points, when Kilgrave’s enthusiasm levels rise a little, he really does resemble a twisted version of the Tenth Doctor. His charisma – combined with his creepiness and callousness – makes for unsettling viewing.

(13) Black Gate’s John ONeill knows why it continually costs more to be a fan who’s passionate about “Collecting Philip K. Dick”.

I have a lot of experience selling vintage paperbacks at conventions and other places, and nobody — but nobody — has skyrocketed in value like Philip K. Dick. The only authors who even come close are George R.R. Martin, James Tiptree, Jr, Robert E. Howard, and maybe Samuel R. Delany.

A big part of the reason, of course, is that virtually all of Dick’s novels were originally published in paperback, which means that — nearly unique among highly collectible authors — the coveted first editions of his novels are all paperbacks.

(14) Not all of CheatSheet’s “10 Sci-Fi Cult Classics That Everyone Should See” are as surprising as Snowpiercer (at #4) – who knew it had been around long enough to be a classic? Some might even agree with its strong preference for remakes — John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, David Cronenberg’s The Fly (#10) and Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (#5).

  1. The Thing

Audiences in 1982 were more interested in cuddly aliens like Steven Spielberg’s ET than they were in monstrous, shape-shifting ones, which explains the critical and commercial failure of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Thankfully, viewers have rediscovered the film, which stands as one of the greatest horror films and one of the greatest science fiction films. An Antarctic outpost of men struggles to identify and destroy an alien that can assume the form and personality of any living thing it consumes. The men, led by a never-better Kurt Russell, act competently in facing the threat, making it all the more terrifying when they can’t stop it. There’s mounds of existential tension and paranoid distrust to go around in the icy and isolated setting. Carpenter knows how to play off the tension brilliantly, using some of the most tactile and creatively terrifying practical effects in cinema history, courtesy of Rob Bottin.

(15) How Attack of the Clones Should Have Ended!

(16) After reading about Ridley Scott’s plans for more Prometheus movies I look forward to a future video series telling How It Should Have Begun.

Ridley Scott has confirmed that ‘Alien: Covenant’ will be the first of three films that will then link up to the story from the original 1979 ‘Alien’.

The second movie in his ‘Prometheus’ series is in its pre-production stage in Sydney, Australia, at the moment, where Scott confirmed the plans in a press conference.

He said that the newly-named ‘Covenant’ and the next two films will answer the ‘very basic questions posed in Alien: why the alien, who might have made it and where did it come from?’.

Covenant will tell the story of the crew of a colony ship which discovers what it believes to be an ‘uncharted paradise’ world, but is in fact a ‘dark and dangerous’ place, inhabited solely by David, Michael Fassbender’s android character from the first ‘Prometheus’ movie.

 [Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/19 The Endochronic Pixils of Resublimated Scrollotimoline

(1) Randall Munroe has a piece on The New Yorker blog called “The Space Doctor’s Big Idea”.  He’s explaining Einstein and relativity, but doing it with his cartoons and quirky humor.

The first idea is called the special idea, because it covers only a few special parts of space and time. The other one—the big idea—covers all the stuff that is left out by the special idea. The big idea is a lot harder to understand than the special one. People who are good at numbers can use the special idea to answer questions pretty easily, but you have to know a lot about numbers to do anything with the big idea. To understand the big idea—the hard one—it helps to understand the special idea first.

(2) Steven Barnes’ new book Star Wars Saved My Life: Be the Hero in the Adventure of Your Own Lifetime has been released. Amazon Prime members can borrow it free, all others pay cash!

SW Saved My Life COMP

It’s finally here! The book I’ve been hinting about for months, STAR WARS SAVED MY LIFE is the first self-help book ever written for science fiction fans, the LIFEWRITING system applied to healing finances, career, health, and the wounded heart. A pure work of love, available FREE to anyone with an Amazon Prime membership, it is my way of saying “thank you” to all of you who helped me find my way, gave me friendship, support, and love.

(3) Downthe tubes.net reports that Star Trek comic strips published in various UK comics and annuals back in the 1970s (and never in the US) will be republished in a collection next year.

In all, the British Star Trek ran for 257 weekly magazines spanning five years and 37 storylines and in addition to its weekly appearances, more original material drawn by Ron Turner, Jack Sutter, Jim Baikie and John Canning appeared in the 1969 Joe 90 Top Secret annual, the Valiant 1972 Summer Special, the 1971-1973 TV21 hardcover annuals and the 1978-1979 TV Comic annuals.

An original Frank Bellamy Star Trek strip also appeared in the June 27, 1970 issue of Radio Times to promote the show’s return to BBC1.

These strips have never been published in the United States and were not written with strict adherence to Star Trek‘s core concepts. The U.S.S. Enterprise frequently traveled outside our galaxy, and the crew committed many violations of the never-mentioned Prime Directive along the way. Spock shouted most of his lines and often urged Kirk (or “Kurt,” as his name was misspelled in early issues) to shoot first and ask questions later.

(4) Nancy Hightower’s picks for the “Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2015” at the Washington Post include one that hasn’t been heavily discussed here.

THE ONLY ONES

By Carola Dibbell (Two Dollar Radio)

This fascinating first novel details the emotional journey of Inez Fardo, a 19-year-old who has survived terrible trauma and yet still manages to find life sometimes wondrous. In a time when most of the population has been wiped out by a series of superviruses, she makes a meager living cleaning up contaminated sites. But when it’s discovered that she is resistant to the viruses that continue to threaten the world, an amateur scientist and his team offer to harvest her DNA to make healthy babies for others. Inez goes along with the plan, but soon a series of events forces her to raise the one child produced by the experiment. What follows is a heart-piercing tale of love, desire and acceptance as Inez tries to give her daughter a different life from the one she’s experienced.

(5) Larry Correia turns off the game long enough to offer “Fallout 4, Initial Thoughts”.

The atmosphere is great. Unlike many post apocalyptic things, Fallout doesn’t take itself too seriously. So everything has that retro cool, 50s but blown up vibe.

It gets really buggy at times, but better than the last one. This engine is dated, and it shows. Sometimes you kill stuff and it flies up into the air and spins around for a while. Other times a body will get stuck in the wall and vibrate forever. I’ve had a few crashes, freezes, and once I had to unplug and replug in the Xbox to get it to launch. But still better than the last one, and less buggy than Skyrim.

I had to turn on subtitles, because the music has a tendency to get annoyingly loud when people are trying to tell you important things. Then I learned that the subtitles only show up about half the time. So I turned the music way down and the voice volume way up, and even then I miss lots of things my companions are telling me. Damn it, Piper. Speak up. My character has been in like 400 gun fights without hearing protection, so maybe this is just added realism.

(6) John DeNardo has a fun discussion of “Why I Love Retro Science Fiction” at Kirkus Reviews.

Simply put, retro-futurism is what people of the past thought their future might look like. It’s our great-grandparents’ depiction of today. Or, the future that could-have-been.

Retro futures can be observed in many mediums: books, television, film, even sculpture. When you see an “old school” ray gun, you’re looking at a retro future. When you see the people wearing shiny white uniforms on Moonbase Alpha in Space: 1999, that’s the show’s creators’ view of how people in their future might dress. When you see Captain Kirk pull out his cellphone—er, personal communicator—you’re seeing someone from the past predict what cool gadgets the future might bring.

(7) Jason Sanford calls for writers to “Stop Duotrope’s attempt to own authors’ personal submission data”. The service authors use to track submissions and research markets is now trying to restrict users’ rights to their data.

According to Duotrope’s terms of service, “Any data downloaded from this website, including but not limited to submission histories, is strictly for personal use and may not be shared with any third parties or used for commercial purposes.”

What does this mean? It means that if you upload your submission information to Duotrope, you no longer have the right to use your own data as you see fit. You can’t use the data to write an article about submissions for a magazine or upload your data to another online submission system such as the site run by Writer’s Market. Basically, once you use Duotrope you can’t leave and take your data elsewhere.

Duotrope also attempts to make a blatant copyright grab, with their terms stating “The website and its database are also protected as a collective work or compilation under U.S. copyright and other laws and treaties. All individual articles, pages and other elements making up the website are also copyrighted works. Use of any of these original works without written permission of Duotrope LLC is expressly forbidden.”

Duotrope is skating on thin ice here because you can’t copyright data. But combine this copyright statement with their terms of use for the data and Duotrope is essentially saying they own any submission data uploaded to their system by authors.

(8) Annie Bellet asks people not to nominate her for awards in 2016.

I don’t wish to have my work considered for awards this year. I’d like to just have 2016 to get stuff done, worry about my readers and my career, and (hopefully!) not be involved in any award business. I’m not attending Worldcon 2016 either (I’ll be there for 2017 though, yay excuse to go to Finland!).

So please… if you read and enjoyed something of mine that was published this year (and there were a few things I think are some of my best work),  thank you. But don’t vote for my stories.   I’ve got cool work coming out next year, and maybe by 2017 I’ll have healed the stress of this last award season, but for now… please, I want a year of not having to even worry about it, slim as my chances might be.

(9) Fantasy Literature has launched its “Second annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest”. Leave your entries in the comments. Can you improve on this entry from last year? I knew you could…

a meddlesome god
sows nightmares in childhood dreams
meesa jar jar binks

(10) Sarah Avery writes the kind of immersive conreport I like. Now at Black Gate — “World Fantasy 2015: It’s the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead of Convention Reports”.

Lots of interesting stuff about trying to line up an agent is woven around accounts of WFC’s panels and conversations in the bar. I’m picking this passage for the excerpt, because Avery was actually on one of Mari Ness’ panels that made news here:

After reminding myself a couple of times that panels were not, overall, my mission, I prepared for the one panel I was on.

That panel turned out to be newsworthy not for its content, but because of accessibility issues. Author Mari Ness, who uses a wheelchair, was unable to get onto the stage because there was no ramp. This issue has been covered elsewhere, with all its ramifications for policy, conrunning logistics, and ethics. All I can add to the accessibility discussion is that the other panelists (David Hartwell, Darrell Schweitzer, Stephen R. Donaldson) and I were nearly as uncomfortable with the situation as Ness was. The hotel staff said they’d have to take the stage entirely apart to put their ramp on it, and we were late already, so Ness decided to do the fastest thing. She positioned her wheelchair close enough that we could pass her a microphone. Donaldson was an excellent moderator, and Hartwell and Schweitzer (who on occasion have been known to hold forth) kept themselves uncharacteristically concise to make space in the discussion for Mari. The physical space might not have been inclusive, but we were all determined that the discussion would be.

As it turned out, Mari was the only one whose remarks drew spontaneous applause. We were talking about the ancient epics, contemporary fantasy epics, and what kinds of lineages do or don’t connect them. What, Donaldson asked, were our personal favorites among the modern epics? And though the rest of us got more and more obscure with our picks, Mari’s was Star Wars. And that felt more personally foundational than any other epic we’d discussed.

(11) And as often as I’ve been invoking her name lately, I should also publicize Sarah Avery’s Kickstarter appeal to fund publication of her fantasy novel The Imlen Bastard, which has raised $6,695 to date, achieving its initial $4,500 goal, then a stretch goal that will pay for the audiobook, and finally aspires to raise $9,600 which will allow Avery to commission more Kate Baylay art.

(12) Movie footage was shot at the first Worldcon. We may see it someday, if it hasn’t been tossed, and if anyone can ever find it. Doug Ellis has been searching for years, as he explains in “The Elusive Film Footage of the Very First Worldcon” at Black Gate.

I have a carbon copy of a letter dated August 16, 1939 that Darrow wrote to his friend, Walt Dennis, concerning the first Worldcon. In part, it reads as follows.

The following day was the big day of the convention. [NOTE – DARROW IS REFERRING TO SUNDAY, JULY 2, 1939, THE FIRST DAY OF THE CON.] Otto [BINDER] picked up Bill, Jack [JACK WILLIAMSON], Ed Hamilton and myself and we took a bus to the convention hall. Bill and I had had no breakfast and it was almost noon, so we deserted the gang long enuf to invade an Automat. Arriving back at the hall we found a mob gathered at the door. Somebody shoved an autograph book in my face. [PERHAPS THIS IS WHAT’S CAPTURED IN THIS PHOTO] They way they worked this was to ask every stranger they saw for their autograph and then look to see who they got. I took several snaps (enclosed) and Bill took snaps and movies. There seemed to be a lot of excitement when Forrest J. Ackerman and I met for the first time. Bill took movies of the handshake. Forrie was quite a surprise to me. Tall, handsome and quiet. A very pleasant fellow. He was dressed in an outfit out of Wells’ pic Things to Come.

(13) Gregory N. Hullender has posted Rocket Stack Rank’s evaluation of “Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft”, and adds this incentive to click the link – “The fact that I not only worked at Microsoft for a long time but actually worked on some of these technologies might make this a bit more interesting.”

(14) Yes, I can imagine.

(15) This just in from 2009! “Moon landing tapes got erased, NASA admits”. We now join our conspiracy theories already in progress.

The original recordings of the first humans landing on the moon 40 years ago were erased and re-used, but newly restored copies of the original broadcast look even better, NASA officials said on Thursday.

NASA released the first glimpses of a complete digital make-over of the original landing footage that clarifies the blurry and grainy images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the moon.

The full set of recordings, being cleaned up by Burbank, California-based Lowry Digital, will be released in September. The preview is available at www.nasa.gov.

NASA admitted in 2006 that no one could find the original video recordings of the July 20, 1969, landing.

Since then, Richard Nafzger, an engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, who oversaw television processing at the ground-tracking sites during the Apollo 11 mission, has been looking for them.

The good news is he found where they went. The bad news is they were part of a batch of 200,000 tapes that were degaussed — magnetically erased — and re-used to save money.

(16) Jeremiah Moss at Vanishing New York asks friends to help Jerry Ohlinger

A couple of years ago, I visited Jerry Ohlinger’s amazing movie material store in the Garment District. In business since 1976, it was the last store in New York City dedicated to movie photos.

Struggling with the rent, Jerry closed his shop and moved most of his “one million and one hundred thousand” photos to a warehouse in New Jersey as he downsized to a much smaller shop on West 30th, with limited hours.

Now Jerry needs help. The items in the warehouse need to be moved again, and there’s no money to do it. Visit <https://www.gofundme.com/996j7zvc> and consider giving him a hand.

Jeremiah wrote about the old store for The New Yorker a few years ago in “The Last Picture Shop”.

Jerry Ohlinger’s Movie Material Store has been in business since 1978. It started on West Third Street, moved to West Fourteenth, and eventually ended up on West Thirty-fifth, in the Garment District. With the Internet stealing customers, business isn’t what it used to be, and the nine-thousand-dollar-a-month rent is more than movie photos can pay. Jerry will be closing his shop and selling just online in the next three to six months.

This is unfortunate, because a computer screen will never provide the physical, sensory experience you get when you step into Ohlinger’s. An obsessively organized clutter of movie posters and postcards, stacks of DVDs, and boxes full of eight-by-seventeen poster reproductions, the small front of the store is walled by towering shelves packed with shopworn three-ring binders, all strapped with duct tape and hand-labelled in Magic Marker with the names of the movie stars contained within. The space smells of Jerry’s cigar and the musty vanilla aroma of old paper slowly decaying.

“We’ve got about two hundred and fifty thousand to three hundred thousand photos in all these books,” Jerry says, waving his gummy, unlit cigar in the air.

(17) NPR is impressed —  “Amazon’s ‘High Castle’ Offers A Chilling Alternate History Of Nazi Triumph”.

Many of the goose-bump-inducing moments in this new drama are visual and are startling. Picture this: In Times Square, a giant neon swastika emblazons a building. Or an American flag with the familiar colors — but instead of stars and stripes, there’s a swastika where the stars used to be. Even the map of the former United States of America is disturbing to witness — much more so than those wind-up maps of opposing territories opening each episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

The alternate-history American map in The Man in the High Castle is made even more jarring, and creepy, by the sound, and the song, that accompanies it in the opening of each episode. It’s the sound of a film projector whirring into action — underscoring the importance of those illicit films — followed by the old familiar song “Edelweiss” being sung in a much more haunting performance than you’re used to from The Sound of Music.

(18) Rachel Swirsky collected writing advice from novelists about how to start your second book – quotes from Steven Gould, N. K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, and Helene Wecker.

Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni:

First, celebrate. Turning in your novel is a huge hairy deal. Go out for a fancy dinner with a significant other or something. Give yourself permission to relax for a few days. You’ve probably been holed up for a while, so go talk to some humans. Send a few emails to friends, accept an invitation to coffee. Go for a walk outside.

Ok, now back to work. It’s a good idea to focus on marketing during the pre-pub months, and to that end you’ll want to prep a master Q&A about the book. My publisher sent me one with about a dozen questions (“How did the idea come to you?” “Who were your favorite characters to write?” “Describe your research process,” etc). It took forever to fill out, but it meant I didn’t have to think on the fly during interviews or readings. If your publisher doesn’t do it for you, make one yourself, with what you’d guess are the most likely questions that a reader or interviewer would ask. It might feel tedious, but you won’t regret it.

(19) Songwriter P. F. Sloan died November 13 at the age of 70. Though best known for his hit “Eve of Destruction”, Sloan also wrote the theme song for Secret Agent Man, which became a hit for Johnny Rivers. The Wikipedia entry for “Secret Agent Man” sets the song in context of genre history:

The lyric “They’ve given you a number and taken away your name” referred to the numerical code names given to secret agents, as in “007” for James Bond, although it also acts as the setup to the “continuation” of Danger Man, the cult classic The Prisoner.”

(20) Wonder if the rest of the book lives up to this line?

 [Thanks to Janice Gelb, Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Mark-kitteh, Tasha Turner, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 11/18 Count Hero

(1) John Picacio’s thoughts about “The New World Fantasy Award: What’s Next”.

  1. THE FIRST QUESTION NEEDS TO BE THE RIGHT ONE. In this case, I would offer that the first question should not be, “Hey, World: what do you think this award should look like?” The first question should be, “Who are the best sculptors and who is the sculptor that can best elevate this award toward a new timeless icon? Who can carry this responsibility? Who can take us to a place we could not have imagined on our own?” The same respect that is given to a great novelist should be given to a great sculptor here.

The sculptor of this award needs to be an artist, first and foremost — someone who solves problems, conceives original thoughts, has unique insights, and visually communicates those thoughts, insights, emotions and intangibles into tangible form. If the plan is to take a straw poll of the most popular and familiar symbols and word pictures, or to concoct a preordained vision and then hire some poor sap to carefully sculpt to that prescription, then please hire a pharmacist, not a professional artist. However, the World Fantasy Award can do better than that, and I’m hoping it will. If I were a decision maker in this process, I would be sky-high excited about the amazing creative (and branding) opportunity ahead, and I would be vigorously searching for the right sculptor to cast a new icon, rather than casting a fishing line praying to hook an idea.

(2) Many others continue to discuss what it should look like, including Charles Vess on Facebook (in a public post).

Ari Berk (friend & folklorist) suggested this idea. Going back to the original story that it seems all cultures around the world share: the hand print on the cave wall. “I am here and this is my story”.

vess wfa idea

(3) Frequent commenter Lis Carey is looking for financial help. Her GoFundMe appeal asks for $3,000, of which $400 has been donated so far.

I’m in a major fix. I don’t have an income right now, but I do have some major expenses. The tenant’s apartment has no heat, and a leaky kitchen sink, and needs a plumber. I have outstanding gas,and electric bills, and water bills for both apartments. I’m looking for work and trying to hold things together, but I’m desperate and need some breathing space. Help!

(4) Sarah Avery delves into some reasons for the success of multi-volume fantasy in “The Series Series: Why Do We Do This To Ourselves? I Can Explain!” at Black Gate. It’s a really good article but not easy to excerpt because it is (unsurprisingly!) long. This will give you a taste, anyway:

I love an ensemble cast. Reading, writing, watching, whatever. In my imaginative life as in my personal life, I’m an extrovert. The struggles of a main character connect with me best when that main character is part of a community. The solution to the existential horror Lovecraft’s protagonists face had always seemed so obvious to me that I’d never articulated it fully, even to myself. The cosmos as a whole doesn’t prefer you over its other components? Of course not. Unimaginably vast forces that would crack your mind open if you let yourself understand them are destroying your world, and you are entirely beneath their notice? Well, that would explain a lot. So what do you do?

You take comfort in the people you love, you go down swinging in their defense, and you live your mammalian values of compassion and connection intensely, as long as it does any good — and then longer, to the last breath, if only in reproof of whatever in the universe stands opposed to them.

Or maybe that isn’t obvious. But I’m pretty sure it’s not just me.

For whatever reason, Lovecraft was not a person, or an author, who could go there.

But the man could write a shorter story than I could. I’ll go to school on anyone who knows something I don’t, including authors who stretch me beyond the bounds of easy sympathy. What could the thing that appeared to me to be a malady in Lovecraft teach me about the gap in my craftsmanship?

First, I tried sharpening the distinction between the main character and the secondary characters. Simplifying the supporting cast, making my protagonist the only one who got to be as vivid and three-dimensional as I prefer for every significant character to be, got me out of novella territory. I could get my stories down to about 10,000 words and still feel that my work hit my own sweet spots.

What about getting the count lower? Magazine editors tend to set their cutoffs at 4,000 words or 7,000 words. What kind of cast size can you fit into that length, and what can you do with it?

I really don’t think you can squeeze in much of a supporting cast, unless those secondary characters are functioning more as props than as people. At most, you can have two realized characters, but that second can only be squeezed in if you’ve got serious writing chops. More characters than that, and you’re down to tricks that, as Elizabeth Bear likes to put it, hack the reader’s neurology: one telling detail that leads the reader to do all the work filling in a character around it. Okay, that’s a cool skill, one worth having, especially if you can do it so that the reader forgets s/he did all the work and remembers the story as if you’d written the character s/he filled in for you. I think I’ve pulled that trick off exactly once. Man, that was strenuous, and not in the ways I find exhilarating.

Avery’s subtopics include “Is It Enough to Call a Novel Community-Driven When It Sprawls across Two Continents, Seven Kingdoms, Three Collapsed Empires, a Passel of Free Cities, and Two Migrating Anarchic Proto-Nations?” Her short answer is, “Nope.”

(5) Mary Robinette Kowal seeks to lock in real progress to keep pace with conversation since the World Fantasy Con with the “SF/F Convention Accessibility Pledge”.

Over the last few years, there have been numerous instances of SF/F conventions failing to provide an accessible experience for their members with disabilities. Though accessibility is the right thing to do, and there are legal reasons for providing it in the US thanks to the 25-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act, many conventions continue to have no trained accessibility staff, policies, contact information, or procedures for accommodating their members with disabilities. As Congress said in the opening of the ADA, these “forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem.”

…We the undersigned are making a pledge. Starting in 2017, to give conventions time to fit this into their planning, the following will be required for us to be participants, panelists, or Guests of Honor at a convention:

  1. The convention has an accessibility statement posted on the website and in the written programs offering specifics about the convention’s disability access.
  2. The convention has at least one trained accessibility staff member with easy to find contact information. (There are numerous local and national organizations that will help with training.)
  3. The convention is willing and able to make accommodations for its members as it tries to be as accessible as possible. (We recommend that the convention uses the Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces as a beginning guideline. Other resources include Fans for Accessible Cons, A Guide for Accessible Conferences, and the ADA rules for places of public accommodation, which apply to US conventions.)

Many people have co-signed.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden also observed, “…When you put in the work on these issues, you find out how many people out there have been staying home.”

(6) Michael Kurland’s autobiographical essay “My Life as a Pejorative” is featured on Shots Crime & Thriller Ezine.

At fourteen I discovered mystery stories and couldn’t decide whether I was Rex Stout, Dorothy Sayers or Dashiel Hammett. Or maybe Simon Templar. Not Leslie Charteris, but Simon Templar. How debonaire, how quick-witted, how good looking.

I was 21 when I got out of the Army, enrolled at Columbia University and began hanging out in Greenwich Village. There I fell into bad company: Randall Garrett, Phil Klass (William Tenn), Don Westlake, Harlan Ellison, Bob Silverberg, and assorted other sf and mystery writers. This was my downfall, the start of my slide into genre fiction. I wrote a science fiction novel, Ten Years to Doomsday, with Chester Anderson, a brilliant poet and prose stylist who taught me much of what I know about writing, and followed that up with The Unicorn Girl, a sequel to Chester’s The Butterfly Kid, a pair of fantasy novels in which the two main characters were ourselves, Chester Anderson and Michael Kurland. These books, and The Probability Pad, a continuation written by my buddy Tom Waters, have become cult classics, known collectively as the Greenwich Village Trilogy, or sometimes The Buttercorn Pad.

(7) Today In History

  • November 18, 1963 – Push-button telephones made their debut.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boys and Girls

  • Born November 18, 1928: Mickey Mouse
  • Born November 18, 1939: Margaret Atwood
  • Born November 18, 1962: Sarah A. Hoyt

(9) John Scalzi makes “An Announcement Regarding Award Consideration for 2015 Work of Mine”. He asks people not to nominate him, and in comments indicates he will decline nominations that come his way.

But this year, when it comes to awards, I want to take a break and celebrate the excellent work that other people are doing, and who deserve attention for that work. My year’s already been, well, pretty good, hasn’t it. I’ve had more than enough good fortune from 2015 and I don’t feel like I need right now to ask for another helping…

But for work that was put out in 2015, please look past me. Find the other writers whose work deserves the spotlight you can put on them with your attention, nomination and vote. Find the works that move your heart and your mind. Find the writers whose work you love and who you feel a nomination can help in their careers and their lives. Look past your usual suspects — including me! — and find someone new to you whose stories and effort you can champion to others. Put those people and works on your ballots. 2015 has been genuinely great year for science fiction and fantasy; it won’t be difficult to find deserving work and people for your consideration.

(10) Bigger than your average bomb shelter. “Czech out the Oppidum, the ultimate apocalypse hideaway” at Treehugger.

We do go on about the importance of resilient design, the ability of our buildings to survive in changing times and climates. We are big on repurposing, finding new uses for old buildings. And if the greenest brick is the one already in the wall, then surely the greenest bomb shelter is the one that’s already in the ground. That’s why the Oppidum is such an exciting opportunity; it’s a conversion of a classified secret facility built in 1984 by what were then the governments of Czechoslovakia and The Soviet Union. Now, it is available for use as the ultimate getaway, deep in a valley in the Czech Republic. The developer notes that they don’t make’em like they used to:…

It has a lovely above-grade modestly sized 30,000 square foot residence, which is connected via secret corridor to the two-storey, 77,000 square foot bunker below, which has been stylishly subdivided into one large apartment and six smaller ones for friends, family and staff, all stocked with ten years of supplies.

(11) Former child actor Charles Herbert died October 31 at the age of 66. The New York Times obit lists his well-known roles in movies like The Fly and 13 Ghosts.

Mr. Herbert was supporting his parents by the time he was 5. He appeared in more than 20 films and 50 television episodes, in which he fended off all kinds of adversaries, from a robot to a human fly.

He shared the limelight with Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and James Cagney. He played a blind boy in a memorable episode of “Science Fiction Theater” in 1956, and appeared in a 1962 “Twilight Zone” episode in which a widowed father takes his children to choose an android grandmother.

(12) SF Signal’s latest Mind Meld, curated by Rob H. Bedford, asks Andrew Leon Hudson, Stephenie Sheung (The BiblioSanctum), Richard Shealy, Michael R. Fletcher, Mark Yon, and Erin Lindsey

Q: Who is your favorite animal companion (pet, familiar, etc) in SFF?

A significant number of genre stories features character’s pets or animal companions. From Loiosh of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books to Snuff from Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October to Hedwig from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, animals can be companions, pets, or near equals to their “owners.” Who is/are your favorite(s)?

(13) Bruce Gillespie invites fans to download SF Commentary 90, November 2015 — over 100 contributors and 70,000 words.

(14) A Christopher Reeve-worn Superman costume is available for bid until November 19 at 5 p.m. Pacific in a Nate D. Sanders auction.

Superman lot COMP

(15) Heritage Auctions reports a menu from the Titanic fetched a high price in a recently closed auction.

Ironically, the top two lots related to a major disaster and a national tragedy. The first was a first class dinner menu from the last supper on the R.M.S. Titanic, the evening of April 14, 1912. Five salesmen and retailers shared a meal, each signing a menu with their place of residence. Of the five, all but one managed to survive the sinking which occurred in the wee morning hours. We believe this to be the only signed example and the only one from the “last supper”. It sold for $118,750.

The second lot was the license plates from the limo President Kennedy was in when he was shot — which went for $100,000.

(16) And this weekend, Heritage Auctions will take bids on Neal Adams’ original cover art for Green Lantern #76, “one of the most important and influential comic books ever published,” as part of the company’s Nov. 19-21 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction where it is expected to bring $300,000+.

Adams’ iconic cover is striking and symbolic. This issue broke more than just the lantern on the cover! Adding Arrow’s name to the title and logo of the book was genius. It created the first “buddy book” in the comic industry… the equivalent to the “buddy movie” genre. It also allowed writer Denny O’Neil to launch into a 13 issue run that dove into political and sociological themes like no comic had before.

 

Green lanter green arrow

(17) Lovecraft’s mug has already been saved from awards obscurity (or permanently guaranteed it, depending on your view) by the administrators of the Counter Currents and the administrators of its H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature. (Which can also be reached using this handy Donotlink link.)

Last year, we at Counter-Currents saw this coming. Thus we have created the Counter-Currents H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature, to be awarded to literary artists of the highest caliber who transgress the boundaries of political correctness. Our first laureate is novelist Tito Perdue, who received the award at a banquet in Atlanta on March 7, 2015.

The prize bust is by world-famous porcelain artist Charles Krafft, whose own defiance of political correctness has just led to the cancellation of an exhibition in London.

Wikipedia has an entry on Tito Perdue.

More details about Krafft’s exhibit being pulled by a Whitechapel art gallery from Jewish News:

A fashionable Whitechapel art gallery has pulled the plug on an exhibition by an artist who has been described as a “Holocaust denier” and a “white supremacist,” after complaints and threats were made.

Charles Krafft, who denies both charges, was due to show his work at StolenSpace for the second time, but gallery bosses said they pulled out after receiving “both physical and verbal threats”.

Krafft’s controversial ceramics include busts of Hitler, swastika perfume bottles with the word “forgiveness” emblazoned upon them and plates covered in drawings of Nazi bombings. His work and attributed comments has led to him being labelled a white supremacist, a Nazi sympathiser and a Holocaust denier.

(18) Triple-threat interview with Ken Liu, Lauren Beukes and Tobias S. Buckell at SFFWorld.

Ecotones are the points of transition that occur when two different environments come into contact, and almost inevitably conflict. Can you describe for us an ecotone that has had personal significance for you?

Ken Liu: We’re at a point in our technological evolution where the role played by machines in our cognition is about to change qualitatively. Rather than just acting as “bicycles for the mind,” computers, transformed by ubiquitous networking and presence, will replace important cognitive functions for us at an ever accelerating pace. Much of our memory has already been outsourced to our phones and other devices—and I already see indications that machines will be doing more of our thinking for us. Not since the invention of writing has technology promised to change how we learn and think to such an extent.

The transition between the environment we used to live in and the environment we’re about to live in is going to be exciting as well as threatening, and we’re witnessing one of the greatest transformations in human history.

Tobias Buckell: Last year a deer walked on down through Main Street and then jumped through the window of the local downtown bar. They got it on security camera.

Lauren Beukes: The shared reality of overlapping worlds I live through every day – the schism in experience between rich and poor where everything works differently, from criminal justice to the food you eat, how you get to work, schooling, the day-to-day you have to navigate.

I saw this most clearly and devastatingly when I tried to help my cleaning lady get justice for the scumbag who fatally assaulted her daughter. The cops didn’t care. The hospital put it down as “natural causes”. The prosecutor had to throw the case out because there was so little evidence. This compared to an incident when a friend’s motorbike was stolen at night in the nice suburbs and five cops ended up on his balcony drinking tea, having recovered the vehicle.

(19) Sarah Chorn at Bookworm Blues wonders if her conflict of interest should bar her from reviewing two books.

I feel pretty weird about doing this, but I also think it has to be done. This year I was a beta reader for two books that are currently published (a few more that have upcoming publication dates). I have struggled a little bit with how to approach these novels. While I feel obligated to review them (and I want to review them), I feel like being a beta reader for them takes my objectivity out of it, which is a problem for me. Is it really a review if I can’t objectively judge it?

Am I pondering my navel?

I’m surprised her desire to ask the question didn’t lead to a built-in answer.

(20) The Ant-Man Gag Reel has a few bloopers, though it’s not all that funny.

(21) Marvel’s Agent Carter Season 2 premieres January 5 on ABC.

[Thanks to Kate Savage, Will R., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]