Pixel Scroll 5/31/17 I Watched TBR Piles Grow In The Dark Near Tannhäuser’s Gate

(1) THE UGLY SPACEMAN. Adam Roberts tells New Scientist readers, “If I were a Martian, I’d start running now”.

Exploration has never been neutral, and it’s hard to believe that future exploration of the cosmos will be different. So: doesn’t SF have a duty to flavour its fantasies of boldly going with a smidgen of ideological honesty? “Exploration Fiction” is, after all, better placed than any other kind of literature to explore exploration itself.

(2) IN VINO VERITAS. The Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival takes place in Waukegan on June 3. The Chicago Tribune has the story —

Ray Bradbury wrote about the happiness machine in his iconic novel “Dandelion Wine,” published in 1957 and reminiscent of his early boyhood days exploring the ravines of Waukegan.

Sixty years later, the annual Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival in Bowen Park offers participants the chance to create pictures of their own “happiness machines” for the community art project….

“The festival is an important way to honor and pay tribute to Ray Bradbury and it’s a great time for everybody to finally get over winter — spring’s here — and it kicks off summer,” Rohrer said.

Bradbury served as the festival’s honorary chairman until his death in 2012. The festival tradition ensures his legacy will live forever in Waukegan. Typically more than 1,000 adults and children come to the festival each year, Rohrer said.

John King Tarpinian says of dandelion wine, “I am told it tastes like grass.”

(3) LITERARY TOURIST. Laura J. Miller’s “Dark Futures” adapts the age-old literature vs. science fiction dichotomy as a vehicle to administer a kick to Donald Trump from a different angle. However, that still forces her to discuss actual writers and books, a discussion she ends with this malediction:

Science fiction has always promised its readers fictional wonders they can’t get in other genres, stories in which the stakes are high and the ideas are heady. What’s surprising is not that literary novelists are increasingly taking up science fiction’s tools, but that more of them didn’t try it sooner. Now, as the present crumbles away into a future that evolves more quickly than most of us can track, it seems impossible to write about contemporary life without writing science fiction. But the secret to doing it well doesn’t lie in suspenseful chase scenes, weighty messages or mind-blowing existential puzzles. That stuff can be fun, but it can also feel pretty thin without something that’s supposed to be a specialty of literary novelists: the fullest appreciation of humanity in its infinite variety and intricacy. Do justice to that, and the wonders will take care of themselves.

The article enraged a whole handful of sf writers, quoted by Jason Sanford in his rebuttal post, “Laura Miller, or what happens when a literary critic loathes genre fiction but knows that’s where the best stories are?”

So. Much. Fail. In. One. Essay. And before you believe I’m biased because I’m one of those lowly SF authors who need step aside for my literary betters, check out the reaction of other authors to Miller’s words:

Part of the problem with the essay, beyond Miller’s actual condescending words, is that she overlooks the ability of SF authors to write at the level of the authors she’s praising. She grudgingly gives William Gibson and Karen Joy Fowler minor props but ignores the stylistic and literary ability of SF masters like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, N. K. Jemisin, Connie Willis and so many others.

(4) TRAINING WHEELS. The Telegraph explains “Why Harry Potter fans will like the new Bank of Scotland £10 note”.

An image of the Glenfinnan Viaduct – part of the West Highland Railway Line that was made famous by the Harry Potter movies – will remain on the reverse of the design, but with the addition of a steam locomotive hauling a heritage tourist train.

(5) BINDING PLANS. Provided they don’t let the Doctor himself navigate, “A TARDIS-inspired shared library is coming to Woodbridge” this weekend.

Fans of Doctor Who will have a new destination to check out in Detroit. On Saturday, June 3 at noon, a TARDIS-inspired shared library will be installed at the corner of Vermont and Warren.

Dan Zemke has been a fan of Doctor Who and wanted to build a TARDIS (a Police Box time machine that stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space). It can transport a person anywhere in time and space, kind of like a great book. Inspired by his brother Jon, who rehabs houses in Woodbridge and had a large mural painted on one prominent home last year, Dan decided to create a practical use for it and build it into a library. With the help of his dad, the time machine/library is now ready to be installed.

It’s big — 10 feet tall and likely weighs a ton — and they’re seeking book donations since it can hold so many. Zemke says he’d like to include a large book where people can write and share their own stories.

The public is invited to the installation at noon on June 3. And if you have some books to contribute, feel free to bring them.

(6) FOURTH STAGE LENSMAN. Joe Vasicek experiences “What it’s like to write after a life interruption”. His post takes readers from Stage Zero through Four.

Stage 0: Procrastination

I guess I should write — but first, I should check my email. Also, there’s a couple of publishing tasks I need to do. I’m also kind of hungry, come to think of it.

Wow, those publishing tasks took a lot longer than I thought they would. I could start writing now, but I’d only have half an hour, and what can I possibly get done in that time? Maybe I should just relax for a bit and play this addictive online game…

Stage 1: BIC HOC

All right, no more excuses. It’s butt in chair, hands on keyboard time!

What’s wrong with my chair? Did someone put a magnet in it? It seems like my butt gets repulsed every time I try to sit down in it. I can knock off a couple of paragraphs, but then I have to get up and pace for a while. Or do some chores. Or–

No! I’ve got to focus. But man, it feels like I’m pulling teeth. The words just aren’t coming. It’s been more than an hour, and how much have I written? Holy crap, that’s pathetic.

Well, it’s the end of the day, and I only managed a few hundred words, but that’s better than nothing I guess.

(7) BACK FROM THE SHADOWS. Carl Slaughter observes:

NBC cancelled the Constantine live action series after only one season. CW’s Arrow series brought the Constantine character in for 2 episodes. Now CW is giving the Alan Moore-created comic book character another crack at a television series through animation. Constantine actor Matt Ryan will return to voice the animated version. Here’s a history of Constantine.

 

(8) BERKELEY OBIT. Makeup artist Ron Dursley Berkeley (1931-2017) died May 9.

His 50-year career included working on George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960), The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, and Star Trek. He won one Primetime Emmy, and was nominated four times altogether.

His non-genre work spanned The Manchurian Candidate, Anne of a Thousand Days, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends the librarian humor in today’s Farcus.

(10) ADA PALMER. In May 2017, Ada Palmer came out with Seven Surrenders, the second in her Terra Ignota series. The Will to Battle comes out in December 2017.

 

SEVEN SURRENDERS

In a future of near-instantaneous global travel, of abundant provision for the needs of all, a future in which no one living can remember an actual war — a long era of stability threatens to come to an abrupt end.

For known only to a few, the leaders of the great Hives, nations without fixed locations, have long conspired to keep the world stable, at the cost of just a little blood. A few secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction can ever dominate, and the balance holds. And yet the balance is beginning to give way.

Mycroft Canner, convict, sentenced to wander the globe in service to all, knows more about this conspiracy the than he can ever admit. Carlyle Foster, counselor, sensayer, has secrets as well, and they burden Carlyle beyond description. And both Mycroft and Carlyle are privy to the greatest secret of all: Bridger, the child who can bring inanimate objects to life.

(11) MARVEL INVADES GOTHAM. You can find Marvel at BookCon 2017 starting tomorrow:

This weekend, Marvel returns to New York’s Javits Center for BookCon 2017, spotlighting how Marvel continues to branch out and bridge the divide between pop culture and book buyers, librarians, and book fans of all ages.

This Thursday, June 1st, join novelists Jason Reynolds (Miles Morales: Spider-Man), R. L. Stine (Man-Thing), and Margaret Stohl (Mighty Captain Marvel) as they are joined by some of the biggest names from the House of Ideas — as well as some surprise Mighty Marvel Guests! These blockbuster creators will discuss bringing their prose skills to Marvel’s graphic fiction, bringing Marvel characters into the prose world, and the exciting universal appeal of Marvel’s new wave of graphic novels.

Can’t make it to the convention? Follow along on Marvel.com and @Marvel on Twitter.

 

(12) SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. The passing of actor Roger Moore prompted Dwayne Day to consider the actor’s legacy as the face of the James Bond franchise in an article for The Space Review.

Roger Moore passed away on May 23 at the age of 89. Moore, who was born in London in 1927, was best known for playing James Bond in seven movies between 1973 and 1985, more Bond movies than any other actor. Moore’s Bond appearances included the 1979 film Moonraker, the highest-grossing Bond movie until Daniel Craig rebooted the franchise in the 2000s. Moonraker is one of several Bond movies with a space theme, but the only one where James Bond travels into space.

Moonraker often tops critics’ lists of the worst Bond movie made, although it sometimes ties for that dubious honor. Like most Bond films, it recycled a lot of over-used plot devices: the megalomaniacal billionaire bent on world destruction, lame double-entendres, blatant sexism, dumb quips Bond makes upon dispatching a bad guy, the amazing coincidence that Bond happens to possess exactly the right gizmo he needs at the moment of maximum peril, and the absurdity of a “spy”with brand name recognition whom everybody recognizes the second he walks through the door. But these were the franchise’s fault, not Moore’s…

Moonraker was made because producer Cubby Broccoli saw the box office returns from Star Wars and decided that his next Bond movie should be set in space. Broccoli was shameless, but his decision paid off handsomely, with a worldwide gross of $210 million in then-year dollars. Although Moonraker frequently rates among the worst Bond movies, it made more money than any other Bond film for the next 16 years. Moore reprised the role three more times.

(13) WHEN VENUS WAS A SOGGY MESS. A Bradbury story with sound effects — radio reinvented! “THE LONG RAIN, by Ray Bradbury, sound-designed & narrated by Alexander Rogers”.

THE LONG RAIN is my personal favorite short story from Ray Bradbury’s classic body of tales, The Illustrated Man. Written in 1950, it paints a deadly and seductive image of an interminably rainy planet of Venus. Admittedly, science now shows us Venus is more of a lead oven than a drenched rainscape, but let’s not take Venus literally in this sense. I’ve always felt that planets in sci-fi are more of a mental/spiritual arena in which to place relatable, earthly characters.

Bradbury’s writing here is so poetic and so visual, I just knew a vocal narration wasn’t enough. An audiobook like this deserves a rain soundtrack, complete with soggy footsteps and storms and rivers and shimmering things. May you enjoy the sound design as well as the characters!

(14) THE DOG DAYS. Once I read John Scalzi’s opening tweet I knew it was going to be a slow news day….

(15) REALLY FINICKY. Mashable has a funny video: “Cute kitty devastates the crew of the Nostromo in this recut trailer of ‘Aliens'”.

The spacecraft Nostromo has an unwanted guest wreaking havoc on the crew. No, it’s not a bloodthirsty Alien… but an adorable kitten? Watch what happens in this re-imagined trailer.

 

[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Writers React: Thumbs Up for New WFA Design, Thumbs Down for Lovecraft Nominee Pins

Everyone’s raving about Vincent Villafranca’s winning design for the World Fantasy Award. However, World Fantasy’s statement in the same press release that nominee pins will still feature the supposedly retired Lovecraft image is being widely criticized.

There was one dissent, from a Castalia House blogger —

Here is a sampling of the reaction to the news about the Lovecraft nominee pin:

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 7/31 Happy Hour at Paulk’s Tavern

Lions roar, kittens tweet, and other animals make noise in today’s Scroll.

(1) Recommended – Gregory Benford reviews Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora in “Envision Starflight Failing”.

Aurora depicts a starship on a long voyage to Tau Ceti four centuries from now. It is shaped like a car axle, with two large wheels turning for centrifugal gravity. The biomes along their rims support many Earthly lifezones which need constant tending to be stable. They’re voyaging to Tau Ceti, so the ship’s name is a reference to Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun, which takes place on a world orbiting Tau Ceti named Aurora. Arrival at the Earthlike moon of a super-Earth primary brings celebration, exploration, and we see just how complex an interstellar expedition four centuries from now can be, in both technology and society.

In 2012, Robinson declared in a Scientific American interview that “It’s a joke and a waste of time to think about starships or inhabiting the galaxy. It’s a systemic lie that science fiction tells the world that the galaxy is within our reach.” Aurora spells this out through unlikely plot devices. Robinson loads the dice quite obviously against interstellar exploration. A brooding pessimism dominates the novel.

There are scientific issues that look quite unlikely, but not central to the novel’s theme. A “magnetic scissors” method of launching a starship seems plagued with problems, for example. But the intent is clear through its staging and plot.

I’ll discuss the quality of the argument Aurora attempts, with spoilers.

 

 

(2) Spacefaring Kitten is one of many people posting their Hugo ballot today, but one of the few who has an interesting analysis of my favorite category.

Best Fanzine

  1. Journey Planet
  2. Tangent SF Online
  3. Elitist Book Reviews
  4. No Award
  5. The Revenge of Hump Day

Journey Planet is easily the most interesting of these publications. Black Gate would have been able to put up a fight here, but they chose to withdraw because of Puppy-related embarrassment.

Tangent SF Online and The Revenge of Hump Day were probably on the Puppy ballots as a sort of payback for, respectively, the public outcry following Tangent’s umm… let us say fatherly review of the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed and the disinvitation of Tim Bolgeo (the guy behind The Revenge of Hump Day) as a Fan Guest of Honor in Archon after accusations of racism. However, I chose to place Tangent second and well above No Award, because I think all venues in which short SFF fiction is discussed are important.

As far as I can see, Tangent’s short fiction reviews are quite good, even if the editor’s attitudes smell a bit aged. Take a look at their 2014 Recommended Reading List, for example. Tangent lists noteworthy stories in four categories (0, 1, 2 and 3 stars), and I couldn’t resist counting that together all the 14 Puppy finalists get four mentions and one star. In contrast, the five short story nominations I made myself (none of which made the final ballot, obviously) collect three mentions and eight stars. The Tangent seems like a useful resource for finding the sort of fiction I’d enjoy, and I plan to take a look at some of the three-star stories I haven’t read yet.

There was nothing terribly amiss with Elitist Book Reviews either, even though they seem to generally like books that I don’t and I found their practice of discussing recommended age and levels of offensive language, violence and sex amusingly over-protective. You don’t really have to be 16 to be able to read a curse word, do you? However, they’re number three.

 

(3) By now I think everybody has seen Adam Roberts’ cheery thoughts about the Hugos in the Guardian:

What the Puppies have done is within the rules of the awards, and key figures in the movement have already declared their intention to repeat the process next year. But this is larger than one set of awards. It is about the direction of science-fiction as a whole, and it poses larger cultural questions.

The truth is that this year’s Hugo awards are wrecked. Can you imagine anyone saying that of the Pulitzer, Man Booker, or Nobel? Yet here we are, and if the Puppies succeed in gaming the awards again in 2016 we may as well give up on the Hugos forever.

This is what is so frustrating about the Puppies’ campaign. Not that it has resulted in a bunch of frankly inferior works being shortlisted – although it has. And not that it values old-fashioned SF over more experimental, literary and progressive writing – that’s a matter of taste. What is so annoying is that it so ostentatiously turns its back on the global context out of which the best writing is happening today.

 

Can it be true that Roberts values rhetoric about diversity over rules changes that preserve it as a possibility?

(4) The Guardian article sure revived Larry Correia! Yesterday’s limp “fisking” of The New Yorker’s Delany interview has been succeeded his vibrant smackdown “Fisking the Guardian’s Latest Sad Puppy Article of the Week”. Correia’s remarks in boldface, Guardian text in regular text.

Considering that the Hugo awards hadn’t even ever nominated a single work of media tie in fiction until Sad Puppies came along, I don’t know where the hell you’re getting this idea that the insular little inbred cliques were combing the whole world for worthy new talent before. Hell, I believe the first ever INDY PUBLISHED novel nomination came from Sad Puppies, and you expect that little cliquish circle jerk of friends who’ve been taking turns giving each other awards, to suddenly teach themselves Spanish in order to check out the best sci-fi from Uruguay? 

This whole train of thought is just a stupid diversion. The Guardian is just being its normal snooty self. Look at us, we read MOAR GLOBALLY (no, actually, they probably don’t. From inaccuracies in previous articles about various classics we’re already pretty sure Damien skates by reading Wikipedia synopsis of books and then pretending to be well read). 

Science fiction, if it is about anything, is about hospitality to otherness,

Just not conservatives or libertarians, because screw those guys.

 to the alien and the unusual, about freeing one’s mind and boldly going where no one has been before. It is, centrally, about diversity. Locking out women writers, writers of colour, gay and trans writers does a violence to the heart of the genre.

That concluding paragraph is just regurgitated tripe.  We’re not the ones trying to lock out anyone. Female, “writers of colour” (oh how I hate that stupid racist term), gay, trans, left handed ginger pygmy wolf-riding garden squirrels, WE DON’T CARE. Write books. Entertain people. Fans get to judge books by the content of their pages rather than the author’s bio. Then give the really good ones awards.

This isn’t exactly rocket science, not that you jackasses didn’t literally try to make actual fucking rocket science all about sexism too.

If the Puppies win, nobody wins.

No. The Puppies would win. That’s sort of what the word win means, dumbass.

 

 

(5) Sasquan guest astronaut Kjell Lindgren is at the International Space Station.

 

(6) Mark your calendars. Vox Day has announced the release date for his next project:

This is interesting. Apparently the SJWs are more than a little worried about my upcoming book, SJWS ALWAYS LIE: Taking Down the Thought Police….

Just wait until August 27th, the one-year anniversary of #GamerGate, which I plan to celebrate by publishing the book.

You read it here first. Or possibly second. But more likely first. Maybe you can leave town that day – does Kjell Lindgren have a spare cot?

(7) The Final Interview of C. S. Lewis, conducted by Sherwood Eliot Wirt, appeared in Decision magazine in September 1963.

From Part I —

Wirt: How can we foster the encounter of people with Jesus Christ?

Lewis: “You can’t lay down any pattern for God. There are many different ways of bringing people into his Kingdom, even some ways that I specially dislike! I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgment.

“But we can block it in many ways. As Christians we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the faith. We give in too much. Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colors, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away.

“There is a character in one of my children’s stories named Aslan, who says, ‘I never tell anyone any story except his own.’ I cannot speak for the way God deals with others; I only know how he deals with me personally. Of course, we are to pray for spiritual awakening, and in various ways we can do something toward it. But we must remember that neither Paul nor Apollos gives the increase. As Charles Williams once said, ‘The altar must often be built in one place so that the fire may come down in another place.’”

In Part II, Lewis answers questions about Heaven, Earth and Outer Space.

Wirt: Do you think there will be widespread travel in space?

Lewis: “I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can’t bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter.”

[Thanks to JJ, Gregory Benford, and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Nice Is Nice

A Worldcon coming to London has prompted some of the field’s most literate voices to speak out about their Hugo preferences.

Martin Lewis, reviews editor of Vector, the critical magazine of the British Science Fiction Association, has begun to discuss his nominees online at Everything Is Nice.

His discussion of the Best Fan Writer category is articulate and well-informed, also risk-taking and edgy. I enjoyed his analysis even though the only opinion we share is that Abigail Nussbaum would make a great addition to the Hugo ballot.

Hands down the best blogger in the field. I am in awe of Nussbaum’s ability to maintain the holy trinity of blogging: writing regularly about a broad range of subjects in depth. Even her brief reading round up posts are more in-depth than a lot of online reviews but she rights at length about books, films and television (and even a bit of Shakespeare). She missed the shortlist by one nomination last year, let’s not make the same mistake in 2014.

He’s also to be commended for writing such a post without advancing his own name as a nominee. So few are able to resist the temptation.

Indeed, if you’re as tired as I am of people plugging themselves for the Hugo, check out what Adam Roberts has to say. He told readers at Sibilant Fricative that he never wants to see another self-pimping blog post

Award season is also the start of the ‘for your consideration’ blogposts, in which writers large and small draw potential voters’ attention to all the things they have published during the relevant period and try, with varying degrees of success, to find endearing or witty ways of making VOTE FOR QUIMBY sound less self-serving than it actually is. I used to find all that blather annoying and vulgar. Nowadays I find it more directly loathly, because it seems to me directly and negatively distorting of the award shortlists that follow.

I saw this paragraph quoted in an e-mail and clicked on the link supposing Roberts’ whole post would be equally earnest. I was willing to pay that price to see a leading writer decry the annual outpouring of awards-inspired narcissism. In fact, the balance of Roberts’ remarks are chatty and humorous and his survey of the pockets of the internet most infected with self-promotion is quite shrewd.