Pixel Scroll 9/12/18 Pleonasmatic

(1) MAGIC ON DISPLAY. Sean McLachlan reviews the exhibit of “Magical Items at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum” for Black Gate.

A new exhibition at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum showcases 180 real-life magical items.

Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft explores the history of magic from the early modern era to the present day through objects ranging from Renaissance crystal balls to folk charms against witchcraft. It looks at basic human needs such as fear of death and desire for love, and how people have used magic to try to get what they need.

The exhibition also turns the question of magic and superstition back on the viewer. In the entrance hallway, you are invited to step under a ladder or go around it. The museum is counting how many people dare to tempt fate. I did, and I hope they post the statistics when the exhibition is over!

(2) WHEEL OF TIME TV. Adam Whitehead shares his notes at The Wertzone: “WHEEL OF TIME TV showrunner hosts Q&A”.

Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins has hosted a Q&A on Twitter, where he invited fans to pitch him questions about the show. Given that the project is still in an early stage of pre-production, a lot of questions couldn’t be answered, but some interesting tidbits were dropped about how he sees the project moving forwards.

The current status of the project:

Judkins confirmed that the show is in development at with Amazon (via, as we know already, Sony TV Studios) but it has not yet been formally greenlit, either for a full first season or a pilot. As such, things like production timelines, timetables for casting and when we might get to see the show all remain up in the air.

Judkins notes that he is now able to talk about the show in a way he couldn’t a couple of months ago, and that indeed something has changed to facilitate this….

(3) QUITE A BUNCH. At NYR Daily, “David Bunch’s Prophetic Dystopia”, an overview adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s introduction to the new Bunch collection.

…That these tales come off as a seamless meld of the eccentric poetics of E.E. Cummings, the genius-level invention of Philip K. Dick, and the body horror of Clive Barker perhaps explains both why they remain vital today and why they were characterized as “fringe” during Bunch’s career. They are wild, visceral, and sui generis, without the signifiers of a particular era that might provide anchors for mystified readers. Popular contemporaries like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, and even James Tiptree Jr. ameliorated the strangeness of their work with the scaffolding or appearance of more familiar plotlines, even as they wrote stories generally from the point of view of marginalized groups. Bunch, by contrast, foregrounded lyricism over plot and chose to write from the potentially unsympathetic viewpoint of a hyper-aggressive warmonger—a viewpoint clearly quite far from his own. Even his authorial stand-in, the nameless writer of the fictional introduction to this volume, has monstrous qualities.

Nothing quite like the Moderan stories had been written before and nothing like them has been written since….

(4) NARNIA LETTER. Brenton Dickieson spotted a bit of literary history on sale: “For £5,000 You Can Own A Piece of Narnia: New C.S. Lewis Letter Surfaces”.

That’s right, Dominic Winter Auctioneers is putting a newly surfaced letter from C.S. Lewis on the auction block. It is a great artifact, as The Daily Mail reports, a generous and light bit of Narnian delight as Lewis answers some questions from schoolchildren at Grittleton House School in Wiltshire. The auctioneers have made photographs of this short, two-page 22 May 1952 letter. The children of Grittleton House–who Lewis calls Grittletonians–were no doubt curious after the release of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) and Prince Caspian: Return to Narnia (1951). Not only did Lewis assure them that The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (1952) would be out in a few months, but that there would be seven stories in all.

Although the letter is very much like one sent to Michael Irwin just a couple of months previously (25 Mar 1952), there are a couple of things really worth noting here….

His post includes stats of the letters.

(5) SUPERMAN OUT, SUPERGIRL IN. Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit, in The Hollywood Reporter’s story “Henry Cavill Out as Superman Amid Warner Bros.’ DC Universe Shake-Up”, say that Warner Bros. has removed Henry Cavill from any future movies as Superman because a cameo by him in Shazam! didn’t work out and DC wants to do a Supergirl origin movie next and put off doing anything with Superman for several years.

Warners had been trying to enlist Cavill, who most recently co-starred in Mission: Impossible — Fallout, for a Superman cameo in Shazam!, which stars Zachary Levi and will bow April 5. But contract talks between Cavill’s WME reps and Warners broke down, and the door is now closing on other potential Superman appearances.

That’s because the studio has shifted its focus to a Supergirl movie, which will be an origin story featuring a teen superheroine. This effectively removes an actor of Cavill’s age from the storyline’s equation given that Superman, aka Kal-El, would be an infant, according to DC lore.

Furthermore, Warners isn’t likely to make a solo Superman film for at least several years, according to another source. “Superman is like James Bond, and after a certain run you have to look at new actors,” says a studio source.

(6) VEGGIE OVERLOAD. Laura Anne Gilman makes a simple request at Book View Café: “A Meerkat Rants: No More Kale, Please.”

Let me admit this shameful fact up front.  I like kale. No, really, I do.  It’s not an easy-to-love vegetable, I’ll agree, but if you know how to buy and handle it, you can get tender, sharp-yet-tasty roughage that serves a variety of salads (including my fave: baby kale and pear with white wine vinaigrette).

But I don’t want it every week. Hell, I don’t want anything food-wise, every single week without fail.

But then I went and joined a CSA.

CSA, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, stands for community supported agriculture.  Basically, you pay a set fee, and get a box of whatever the local farms have on-offer, on a seasonal basis….

(7) VERSE THE CURSE. Charles Payseur interviews Aidan Doyle — “Quick Questions – Aidan Doyle of Sword and Sonnet”. Doyle co-edited the Sword and Sonnet anthology with Rachael K. Jones and E. Catherine Tobler.

So why battle poets?

AD: I liked the idea of poetry being used as a magic system. Sei Sh?nagon was one of the original inspirations for my idea of what a battle poet could be. She wrote The Pillow Book, one of the classics of Japanese literature and was renowned for intimidating the men of Heian-era Japan with her knowledge of poetry. I hadn’t seen any other anthologies that covered a similar theme. After we announced the Kickstarter, there were many writers who told us they were particularly excited by the theme.

(8) DIY STEAMPUNK DÉCOR. Clickbait time at Homedit“21 Cool Tips To Steampunk Your Home”.

The steampunk style is not one of the most well known in terms of interior design. Maybe that’s because many of us don’t even know which are the basic details that define this concept. When I say steampunk, I remember about the Victorian era, with all the inventions back then, but the meaning of this word would be incomplete without the industrial details.

In essence, this trend is a mixture between elegant Victorian interior accessories and the strength of industrial elements. Maybe you remember about Joben Bistro, that beautiful pub from Romania. It’s an inspiration for us….

The fifth tip is –

  1. Buy a terrestrial globe (in case you don’t have one already)

Make sure it’s old and very used. It would be one of the most popular items in the house, and kids would love to spin it over and over again.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The town of Santa Claus, Indiana, changed its name in 1856 from Santa Fe, which was already taken, to get its own post office. As a result many of the town’s street names are Christmas-themed, including Sled Run, Blitzen Lane and Melchior Drive. Source: Wikipedia

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 12, 1958 The Blob got loose in theaters.
  • September 12, 1993Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” premiered on TV.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1921 – Stanislaw Lem. Polish writer whose The Man from Mars was a first contact novel, other genre works include Solaris, and two short story collections, Fables for Robots and The Cyberaid. His later years are marked by his anti-technological views including outright opposition to the internet. In 1973, he was made an honorary member of SFWA (later rescinded).
  • Born September 12 —John Clute, 78. Critic, reviewer and writer. Some of his reviews are in his early collection, Strokes. I’ll  single out The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which he co-edited with Peter Niicholls and The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (John Grant, co-editor) which I think are still really awesome. Oh and The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror is fucking amazing! I’ve not read his fiction so I welcome your opinions on it.
  • Born September 12 – William Goldman, 87. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted as a screenplay. He also wrote the screenplays for Misery and The Stepford Wives. His late brother is James Goldman who wrote The Lion in Winter and Robin and Marian.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BOOKSTORE ON WHEELS. The thread starts here.

(14) PHILOSOPHICAL DILEMMAS. Eric Schwitzgebel’s guest post for Cat Rambo’s blog deals with an episode of The Good Place: “Eric Schwitzgebel Gives One-Point-Five Cheers for a Hugo Award for a TV Show about Ethicists’ Moral Expertise”.

When The Good Place episode “The Trolley Problem” won one of science fiction’s most prestigious awards, the Hugo, in the category of best dramatic presentation, short form, I celebrated. I celebrated not because I loved the episode (in fact, I had so far only seen a couple of The Good Place’s earlier episodes) but because, as a philosophy professor aiming to build bridges between academic philosophy and popular science fiction, the awarding of a Hugo to a show starring a professor of philosophy discussing a famous philosophical problem seemed to confirm that science fiction fans see some of the same synergies I see between science fiction and philosophy.

I do think the synergies are there and that the fans see and value them – as also revealed by the enduring popularity of The Matrix, and by West World, and Her, and Black Mirror, among others – but “The Trolley Problem”, considered as a free-standing episode, fumbles the job. (Below, I will suggest a twist by which The Good Place could redeem itself in later episodes.)

(15) A MEXICANX INTIATIVE LOOK AT W76. Alberto Chimal, part of the MexicanX Initiative at Worldcon 76, has written up his experience for Literal Magazine: “Fui a otro mundo y me traje esta camiseta” . (Here’s a link to a Google Translate English language versioncaveat emptor.)

….La delegación en la que estuve, compuesta por casi cincuenta artistas, escritores y lectores mexicanos y mexicoamericanos, pudo inscribirse y figurar en el programa de la convención gracias a un proyecto de fondeo y apoyo entre el propio fandom que se llamó The Mexicanx Initiative. Éste fue idea del artista John Picacio, ilustrador y portadista de larga carrera a quien se nombró invitado de honor de la Worldcon: es la primera vez que una persona de origen mexicano recibe esa distinción. Picacio, como muchas otras personas, ha observado la postura abiertamente racista y antimexicana del gobierno actual de los Estados Unidos, y cómo los exabruptos y tuits de su presidente, Donald Trump, están “normalizando” formas de odio y extremismo que hace menos de una década hubieran sido condenadas sin vacilación….

(16) OVER THE TRANSOM. JDA submits to Uncanny. Surprised it’s lasted this long — the title phrase is really too well-known to be called a dogwhistle.

(17) SPECIAL ISSUE. Charles Payseur finds an extra big serving of short fiction on his plate: “Quick Sips – Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [September Fiction]”.

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! is here!!! And with it comes a whole heck of a lot of fiction and poetry. To be specific, ten stories and ten poems. But, because this is also a regular issue of Uncanny, the work will be released publicly over two months. And so, to keep things manageable for me, I’m going to be tackling this extra-big issue in four parts—September fiction, September poetry, October fiction, and October poetry. So let’s dig in! The first half of the issue’s fiction is up and features five short stories touching on aliens, assistive devices, families, and a whole lot of disabled characters getting shit done. The work in these focuses primarily (for me, at least) on occupations and growing up. About facing down intolerance and violence and finding ways to find community, hope, and beauty in a universe that can often be ugly and cruel. So let’s get to the reviews!

(18) D&D MANGA. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog enumerates “14 Graphic Novels & Manga for Dungeons & Dragons Fans”.

Comics and fantasy role-playing games have shared a similar trajectory as of late: once considered distinctly nerdy pursuits and viewed as mildly disreputable by the broader culture (when they weren’t the subject of full-blown moral panics, anyway), they both have recently been thrust into the mainstream, whether via big budget movies or name-dropping teens on Netflix. Yet somehow, both forms of entertainment have maintained their legit geek cred.

The recent release of the graphic novel The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins illustrates (heh) the intersection perfectly: a number one New York Times’ bestseller based on a popular podcast that’s all about a family sitting around playing Dungeons & Dragons. With that in mind, we rolled a d20 to perform a skill check on the 13 great graphic novels below, and discovered they are all highly proficient in satisfying tabletop gamers looking for a fantasy fix between play sessions.

(19) NOVELLAS. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy reviews two novellas published by The Book Smugglers: “Microreview [Books]: A Glimmer of Silver by Juliet Kemp and Accelerants by Lena Wilson”.

The Book Smugglers’ Novella Initiative line was a highlight of my novella reading in 2017, bringing a set of diverse, different stories with some interesting romance and a more YA sensibility to some of the entries than I’ve seen in other fiction of this length. I’ve been hoping throughout this year that we’d see more from the line, and in August my waiting was rewarded with this pair – with some bonus theming around the classical elements to really seal the deal!

Both Accelerants and A Glimmer of Silver deal with people on the cusp of adulthood in their own societies, whose choices are immediately constrained by the societies they live in.

(20) THREE ON A MATCH. Nerds of a Feather’s Joe Sherry gives quick verdicts on three books including Adrian Tchaikovsky’s latest: “Nanoreviews: The Skaar Invasion, Phoresis, The Expert System’s Brother”.

(21) BUY YOUR OWN HAMMER. Bonobos won’t share tools. Now I want to know what their policy is on books: “What’s Mine Is Yours, Sort Of: Bonobos And The Tricky Evolutionary Roots Of Sharing”.

An intriguing study published this week suggests that bonobos, among the closest relatives to humans, are surprisingly willing to hand over food to a pal. But they didn’t share tools.

The discovery adds a new wrinkle to scientists’ efforts to understand the evolutionary origins of people’s unusual propensity to help others.

“One of the things that is really striking about humans is how cooperative or helpful we are,” says Christopher Krupenye, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “It’s just a really pervasive element of our behavior.”

Common chimpanzees (a related species that diverged from bonobos about 2 million years ago) do engage in some altruistic behavior. For example, it’s been shown that chimps will hand a tool that’s out of reach to a person who clearly is trying to get it — as will human children. So Krupenye and some colleagues recently repeated that experiment with bonobos in a sanctuary.

“Bonobos didn’t help at all,” says Krupenye. Instead, sometimes they would retrieve the tool but still keep it out of reach, showing it off in a teasing way. “They didn’t help, in this particular context.”

(22) PUTTING HUMANITY TO THE TEST. In fact, Margaret Atwood called on the internet for some help with a tool just yesterday. Is social media more or less evolved than bonobos? The thread starts here.

(23) SPARE CHANGE. Meanwhile, I will gladly pay you Tuesday for an Apple today: “6-Figure Price Tag Expected For Rare Apple-1 Computer At Auction”.

Before Apple was a trillion-dollar company, before its phones and laptops came to dominate the tech industry, it was just a California startup working out of a garage. Now, one of the first products the company ever made — the Apple-1 computer — is about to be the star of a live auction on Sept. 25 in Boston.

“The Apple-1 is so iconic of that era, of the garage era of Silicon Valley, that I think there is almost no other object that really encapsulates what it does culturally and technologically,” says Dag Spicer, senior curator for the Computer History Museum, which has an Apple-1 in its collection. Spicer says it’s one of their most popular pieces.

(24) LARPING. A photo essay about costumes, including some genre, at the Washington Post: “Inside the fantastical world of live-action role playing”:

What is LARP? It is an acronym for live-action role playing, a phenomenon inspired by fantasy board games, films, literature and computer games. People who are into LARP outfit themselves as their favorite characters such as orcs, dwarfs, zombies and vampires, among others. Photographer Boris Leist takes us into this world with his latest book, “LARP,” which will publish this year by Kehrer Verlag.

A few years ago, Leist met a man in the LARP community. The man was dressed as a dwarf, and Leist was impressed by the quality of the man’s costume and the passion he had for role playing. Although the man was an IT professional in real life, he was so committed to LARPing that he was taking a welding class so that he could build armor for himself. This passion and commitment inspired Leist to go deeper into the LARP community and meet more of its members. Leist ended up spending three years delving into that world and compiling portraits.

(25) SCARY GOOD. The Guardian has a great gallery of international posters from Harryhausen films: “A monster talent: Ray Harryhausen movie posters – in pictures”.

From roaring dinosaurs to clashing titans and flying saucers, the stop-motion genius made audiences gasp, shriek and doubt their eyes. Here are the best posters his groundbreaking movies inspired

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Lise A., Norman Cook, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Bill, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, StephenfromOttawa, David W., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Hertz.]

Pixel Scroll 11/6/17 All Of The True Pixels I Am About To Tell You Are Shameless Scrolls

(1) MORE MAPS. Ursula K. Le Guin shares the Hainish Endpapers from new editions of her books:

  • Gethen Map by UKL Colorization by Donna G. Brown

  • List of Known Hainish Worlds by Donna G. Brown, LoA.

(2) IT’S BEGINNINNG TO LOOK A LOT LIKE ADVENT. Hingston and Olsen have included stories by several sff authors in the 2017 “Short Story Advent Calendar”.

For the third straight year, the Short Story Advent Calendar is here to be the spice in your eggnog, the rum in your fruitcake—another collection of 24 brilliant stories to be opened, one by one, on the mornings leading up to Christmas.

These stories once again come from some of the best and brightest writers across North America, and beyond. Plus, this year featuring more all-new material than ever before!

Contributors to the 2017 calendar include:

  • Kelly Link (Get in TroubleMagic for Beginners)
  • Jim Gavin (Middle Men, AMC’s forthcoming Lodge 49)
  • Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties)
  • Ken Liu (The Paper MenagerieThe Grace of Kings)
  • Maggie Shipstead (Astonish MeSeating Arrangements)
  • and [REDACTED x 19]!

As always, each booklet is sealed, so you won’t know what story you’re getting until the morning you open it.

(3) WSFS PAPERS. Kevin Standlee announced more documentation from the 2017 Worldcon Business Meeting has been posted:

The 2018 WSFS Constitution (including all of the amendments ratified in Helsinki), Standing Rules for the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting, and Business Passed On to the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting are now online at the “WSFS Rules page”.

The Resolutions & Rulings of Continuing Effect are being reviewed by the WSFS Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee, and I expect them to be online at the same page within a week or so.

Thanks again to Linda Deneroff for pulling this all together and putting up with me futzing around with the documents.

(4) I CHING, YOU CHING. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler has just gotten his hands on PKD’s brand new novel! “[November 6, 1962] The road not taken… (Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle)”.

Philip K. Dick has returned to us after a long hiatus with a novel, The Man in the High Castle.  It is an ambitious book, longer than most science fiction novels.  Castle‘s setting is an alternate history, one in which the Axis powers managed to defeat the Allies…somehow (it is never explained).  Dick explores this universe through five disparate viewpoint protagonists, whose paths intertwine in complex, often surprising ways…

Surprisingly, The Traveler scoffs at the alternate history premise.

There are significant problems with Castle, however.  For one, it suffers from lazy worldbuilding.  The book is an opportunity for Dick to draw a wide cast of characters and depict their complex web of interactions.  But the underpinnings of the world they inhabit are implausible.  First and foremost, it would have been impossible, logistically, for the United States to have fallen to the Axis Powers.  For that matter, I have doubts that the Soviet Union was ever in existential danger.  Certainly the Reich never came close to making The Bomb – their racial theory-tinged science wouldn’t have allowed it.  It is sobering when you realize that the Allies managed to fight two world wars and develop the most expensive and powerful weapon ever known all at the same time.  An Axis victory in World War 2 resulting in the conquest of the United States is simply a nonstarter.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Sink your teeth into samosa with Karin Tidbeck” in episode 51 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karin Tidbeck

This time around, you get to listen in on my lunch at Mero-Himal Nepalese Restaurant with Karin Tidbeck during the penultimate day of the con. Tidbeck writes fiction in both Swedish and English, and debuted in 2010 with the Swedish short story collection Vem är Arvid Pekon? Her English debut, the 2012 collection Jagannath, was awarded the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts William L. Crawford Fantasy Award in 2013 and was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. Her novel debut, Amatka, was recently released in English.

We discussed the serious nature of Live Action Role-Playing games in Nordic countries, the way pretending to be a 150-year-old vampire changed her life, how discovering Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics made her forget time and space, the most important lesson she learned from the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing Workshop, how she uses improvisational exercises to teach beginning writers, why Amatka grew from a poetry collection into a novel, what made her say, “I’m not here to answer questions, I’m here to ask them,” and more.

(6) CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT AGAIN? Scholars contend: “Science Fiction Makes You Stupid” in a post at The Patron Saint of Superheroes.

That is a scientifically grounded claim.

Cognitive psychologist Dan Johnson and I make a version of it in our paper “The Genre Effect: A Science Fiction (vs. Realism) Manipulation Decreases Inference Effort, Reading Comprehension, and Perceptions of Literary Merit,” forthcoming from Scientific Study of Literature.

Dan and I are both professors at Washington and Lee University, and our collaboration grew out of my annoyance at another study, “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind,” published in Science in 2013. Boiled down, the authors claimed reading literary fiction makes you smart. And, who knows, maybe it does, but if so, their study gets no closer to understanding why–or even what anyone means by the term “literary fiction” as opposed to, say, “science fiction.”

Our study defines those terms, creates two texts that differ accordingly, and then studies how readers respond to them. The results surprised us. Readers read science fiction badly. If you’d like all the details why, head over to Scientific Study of Literature.

Arinn Dembo says about the article:

This is an interesting study. It strongly suggests that years of internalized stereotyping might influence the way you read and are *able* to read, in and out of the pulp genres you might favor. I said years ago, in my first published review, “If you don’t read outside the genre… soon you won’t be able to.”

But it might just be that if you listen too long to what arrogant, dismissive people think of your genre, you’ll stop being able to read it intelligently.

(7) VERSE WARRIORS. E. Catherine Tobler (Shimmer editor), Rachael K. Jones (recently nominated for World Fantasy Award for short fiction) and Aidan Doyle have launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund  “Sword and Sonnet” an anthology of genre stories about battle poets.

“Sword and Sonnet” will be an anthology featuring genre stories about women and non-binary battle poets. Lyrical, shimmery sonnet-slingers. Grizzled, gritty poetpunks. Word nerds battling eldritch evil. Haiku-wielding heroines.

We have a wonderful group of writers who have agreed to write stories for us: Alex Acks, C. S. E. Cooney, Malon Edwards, Spencer Ellsworth, Samantha Henderson, S. L. Huang, Cassandra Khaw, Margo Lanagan, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, Tony Pi, A. Merc Rustad and A. C. Wise. We’ll also be holding an open submission period.

The cover art is by Vlada Monakhova. The project is live on Kickstarter throughout November. At this writing they have raised $1,982 of their $7,654 goal.

(8) IN PASSING. Here’s a photo of the late Ben Solon, a Chicago fan whose death was reported the other day.

L to R: John D. Berry, Ray Fisher and Ben Solon at a party at late Sixties Worldcon. Photo copyright © Andrew Porter

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Darrah Chavey found the reason for the season in Cul de Sac.
  • John King Tarpinian noted The Argyle Sweater getting its laughs at the pharmacy.

(10) TEMPLE TALK. Kim Huett writes to say he has updated his William F. Temple article with corrected information supplied by Rob Hansen in a comment.

Meantime, Bill Burns says he was “Surprised to see that when you posted Kim’s piece on Bill Temple the other day you didn’t also mention Rob Hansen’s excellent new compilation of Bill’s fan writing, Temple at the Bar – free in promotion of TAFF!”

It’s one of the free ebooks at Dave Langford’s TAFF site.

(11) MOO SIXTY-NINE. NASA’s New Horizons team is looking for help naming their next target — “Help us Nickname a Distant World”.

On January 1, 2019, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly past a small, distant, and cold world at the outer frontier of our solar system. The spacecraft is about to set the record for visiting the most remote world ever explored by humankind.

For now, our destination goes by the unexciting name “(486958) 2014 MU69“, or “MU69” for short. We would like to use a more memorable nickname when we talk about our target body.

At this site, we are asking you—the public—to suggest your ideas for the nickname to assign to MU69, and to vote for your favorites. The New Horizons team and NASA will review your best ideas and announce our selection soon—in early January, 2018.

… From here you can:

  • Read about the nicknames we are already considering.
  • Vote for your favorite names on the ballot (so far).
  • Nominate names that you think we should add to the ballot.
  • Check out the top-ranked names on the vote tally.

Would you believe — right now, Mjölnir is leading the poll.

(12) TRAD PIZZA. In “Papa John’s condemns new customers: White supremacists” the alt-right rationale that a business is “failing” – because it didn’t grow as fast as predicted (mind you, it still grew) – sounds like the same criticism recently levied against a sff writer who said his productivity was down.

Papa John’s pizza has a new customer, the alt-right.

In the days following a rant by Papa John’s CEO and Louisville resident John Schnatter where he blamed the NFL and anthem protests for low sales, a white-supremacist publication claimed it as their official pizza.

In a blog post at the Daily Stormer, a photo of pizza with pepperonis arranged in a swastika has a caption that reads “Papa John: Official pizza of the alt-right?”

“This might be the first time ever in modern history that a major institution is going to be completely destroyed explicitly because of public outrage over their anti-White agenda,” Daily Stormer writer Adrian Sol said.

Peter Collins, the senior director of public relations at Papa John’s, said the company was taken off-guard by the endorsement.

“We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it,” Collins told Courier Journal. “We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza.”

Papa John’s released third-quarter sales figures last week that show diminished rates of growth at established North American locations: 1.5 percent this year as opposed to a projected 2- to 4-percent increase. In 2016, North American sales increased 5.5 percent during the same period.

(13) TWO-LEGGED SYLLOGISM OF THE DAY. In a piece mainly devoted to slandering David Gerrold, Dr. Mauser informs the sff community “The Science Fiction is Settled”, indulging in the fallacious logic that if any member of a group wrote sff in the early days of the genre, by that date the field was wide open to writers from that group.

And then, tragedy strikes. Because to Gerrold, Change has an Arrow on it, with a single destination, and it’s pointing to the left. He launches into a paean about Immigrants and diversity and the global village because Diversity is Strength! And then:

So, yes, it is inevitable that science fiction authors will explore that diversity — expanded roles for women, new definitions of gender and sexuality, the contributions of People of Color and other non-white ethnicities. We’ve discovered the overlooked skills of the aged and the disabled, the unusual and extraordinary ratiocinations of people who are neuro-atypical. The next generation of authors are exploring vast new landscapes of possibility — places to explore and discover ways of being human previously unconsidered.

It’s not that SF CAN explore those things, but that SF SHOULD explore those things he seems to think. Forget exploring the stars or asking “What if we’re not alone in the universe?” Nah, we’re alone, so let’s spend all our speculative energies on exploring our own bad selves. He grudgingly admits that while we have probes going past Pluto, “some of our most ambitious authors are turning their attention to a different frontier —exploring the workings of the human soul.” I suppose our navels give us much more instantaneous gratification than the stars. But really, that kind of narcissism is only interesting to the narcissist.

And at this point, we can see where the train leaves the tracks, because he switches from talking about science fiction, to the science fiction community, while trying to carry the same points. He talks about the changes in the SF Community from all these new folks of diverse backgrounds showing up. The only problem with this theory is that they have always been here. There’s a case of DoubleThink going on here when the same folks who like to claim Mary Shelley as one of the first female authors of Science Fiction, and then set it out there as if women are something new, and even more patronizing when they act as if their side’s genuflecting to Feminism is somehow responsible for their appearance. No, this is not a change. Try reading some C.L. Moore and realize that not only have women been in SF all along, they have been awesome.

Likewise with minority writers. The publishing world is, or at least was, the ultimate meritocracy. Since most of the business was conducted by mail, a publisher had no clue about the racial background of an author. Bias was eliminated through the medium of the Manila envelope. It takes very little research to find out that Black authors have been writing science fiction since the turn of the century. No, not this century, the previous one. Likewise for Gay authors, an obvious example being from the previous list, Samuel R. Delany. He was first published in 1962. That’s FIFTY FIVE years ago. This “change” Gerrold is touting really is nothing new.

Do you think there’s much chance that David Gerrold will be stunned to learn a gay author wrote sf in the Sixties?

(14) TURNOVER AT CASTALIA HOUSE BLOG. Jeffro Johnson is leaving the Castalia House blog. Contributor Morgan Holmes will take charge. Culture warrior Johnson said in his farewell post —

I remember when Sad Puppies first came to my attention. Upon reading the most vilified author of the whole crop– Vox Day, of course– I saw a nominated story that’s worst fault could only be that it was explicitly Christian. Looking up the publishing house it was produced at, I found a manifesto stating their goal to restore fantasy and science fiction to more what it was like when it was written by Tolkien and Howard. (And yeah, I had no idea how the person that wrote that could possibly think that a pulp writer like Robert E. Howard could be anywhere on par with J. R. R. Tolkien. And even more ironically, I couldn’t imagine how a “Campbellian Revolution” they claimed to want could be anything other than good.)

…So much is happening in the wider scene today that I can barely keep up with even a portion of it. Along with that, I find that areas of my life outside of gaming and fiction have increasingly laid greater and greater claims to my time. And while I wish I could do all the things that I can think of that could really capitalize on everything that’s developed here… I’m afraid I instead have to admit that I’ve run with all of this about as far as I can.

It’s a tough thing to do, but I think it’s the right thing for me at this time. So I’m handing over editorship of Castalia House blog to Morgan Holmes, who has been writing about classic fantasy and science fiction here almost as long as I have. (Good luck, man!)

(15) ONE THING PEOPLE SEEM TO AGREE ABOUT. On National Review Online, Heather Wilhelm, in “The Surprising Joy of Stranger Things”. praises the show for being “a good, non-angry, non-political TV show.”

The show features “a prelapsarian world of walkie-talkies, landlines, and suburban kids left free to roam wherever they want on their bicycles,” wrote Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker last year. Or, as Ross Duffer told Rolling Stone: “We were the last generation to have the experience of going out with our friends to the woods or the train tracks and the only way our parents could connect with us was to say, ‘It’s time for dinner.’” That world is largely gone, and with it, many childhood adventures. The image of a freewheeling kid on a bicycle, so integral to iconic films such as E.T. — Matt and Ross Duffer make no secret of drawing inspiration from classic ’80s blockbusters — is also integral to Stranger Things. Tooling around town or in the local woods on a bike is almost diametrically opposed to most widely approved childhood activities today, which tend to involve hyper-organized and ludicrously time-consuming team sports that seem purposely designed to torture kids and parents alike. Tooling around town or in the local woods on a bike is almost diametrically opposed to most widely approved childhood activities today. But given free rein on their bikes in and around the town of Hawkins, the kids of Stranger Things can meet up, explore, barrel through the forest, investigate baffling occurrences, and evade a posse of bad guys from a sinister government agency gone awry. That would be the Hawkins National Laboratory, a hulking structure nestled deep in the midwestern woods, packed to the gills with mysteries. According to the Duffer brothers, it was inspired mostly by “bizarre experiments we had read about taking place in the Cold War.”

(16) HERDING CATS. Camestros Felapton expanded his survey of animals in sff blogs (“Blogstrology”) to include one more —

Rocket Stack Rank www.rocketstackrank.com is interesting because the animals mentioned would be more determined by their incidence in short fiction. Overall low frequencies and RSR has no presence on the otter or goose dimensions. Wolf-Rabbit-Cat blog – “Cat” strongly assisted by reviews of the works of Cat Rambo.

Goat has a presence but is just shy of the top 3.

(17) GLASGOWROK. Apparently he’s a riot pronouncing the word “bairn” — “Jeff Goldblum Answers Scottish Themed Questions About the End of the World Posed by Wee Claire”.

While promoting his new film Thor: Ragnarok, the wonderfully affable Jeff Goldblum sat down with Wee Claire of the BBC Scotland show The Social to answer a few Scottish-themed questions about the end of the world.

 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Time Travel in Fiction Rundown” on YouTube is a look at how lots of movies and Ender’s Game and Harry Potter and the Prisomer of Azkaban handle the time travel theme.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Bill Burns, Kim Huett, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 3/18/17 Your Mother Was A Scroller And Your Father Smelt Of Pixelberries

(1) CLARIFICATION. In my report about Sunil Patel the other day I conflated two separate social media comments that were each about two different newly-published Patel stories that came out very recently.

Just before Twitter started circulating angry anti-Diabolical Plots tweets (because of the story published there), there had been a complaint about Patel’s story “The Tragedy of the Dead Is They Cannot Cry” in Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, view-able from the front page.

Whether or not Galaxy’s Edge can accurately be called “sad-puppy-adjacent,” it makes more sense that somebody might apply the label there than to David Steffen, who published the Long List anthologies as a very deliberate middle finger to the Puppies.

(2) MORE THAN HEY YOU. Steven Brust on “Fantasy Writing and Titles of Nobility”.

For Americans there is an element of the romantic and the exotic about titles of nobility, about Baron Soandso, or Count Thisandsuch, that I suspect is missing, or at any rate different, for who were raised in places where a feudal aristocracy was part of history..  In reality, the feudal landlords were vicious bloodsuckers—when not for personal reasons, than simply because of the nature of the property relations that ultimately defined everyone’s life.  What I am not about to do is suggest is that American fantasy writers ignore the exotic and romantic elements—your readers have them in their heads, and unless you see your job is primarily pedagogical (which I do not), what is in the reader’s head is key: it is easier to play with the reader’s head if you work with what you know is rattling around in there.

(3) RACISM TAKES EXTRA WORK. Justina Ireland offers one more reason why “Writing is Hard: Racism in a Fantasy Landscape”. The excerpt covers the first of her four points.

I touched on the idea of dismantling racism within a fantasy setting on twitter earlier this week.  Authors, especially white authors, like to tackle ideas of racism within fantasy settings by creating fake races for the point of view characters to be racist against.  This seems like a good idea in theory, but it is actually harder than just writing fantasy cultures that have a correlation to real world cultures and deconstructing real world racism within a fantasy setting.

Here’s why:

  1. You have to teach a reader about the power structures in your fantasy world. And then deconstruct them.  Part of writing fantasy is about teaching a reader how to read your book.  This involves setting up scenes that illustrate the possible outcomes that can exist in your fantasy world.  Can your characters use magic? Great, now you have to show the reader the price of that magic, or the societal ramifications of that magic.  But you also will have to do that for the racism against the made up races within your book.  So creating a made up race creates more work to be done on the page.

(4) A BETTER TANGLED WEB. Aidan Doyle begins his explanation of the Twine program in “Writer’s Guide to Twine” at the SFWA Blog.

Twine was created by Chris Klimas in 2009 and is “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” Simply put, it’s a program that makes it easier for writers to make their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” style fiction. There are a number of tools for writing interactive fiction, but Twine is one of the simplest and most popular.

Interactive Fiction (IF) comes in many forms, including text-based parser games such as Zork where the player types in commands (Go north. Eat chocolate. Talk to green wizard). If you want to make this style of game, then Inform is probably your best option. Ken Liu’s Clockwork Soldier is an example of a traditional story which has IF-like commands embedded within it.

In contrast, stories written in Twine generally present the reader with choices in the form of hypertext links. Although there are many systems available for writing IF, Twine in particular has been celebrated for its ease of use. Twine is more focused on stories as opposed to games and produces HTML files, allowing anyone with a modern browser to read your story.

(5) BERRY OBIT. Rock’n roll legend Chuck Berry passed away today.

(6) THE FORCE IN ARIZONA. Phoenix public radio station KJZZ had a six-minute piece about Jedi-ism’s rise. (Listen at the link.)

The Star Wars universe has been a vital part of popular culture for more than 40 years, and that passion was renewed by the box-office smash “The Force Awakens.”

And thousands of people have decided that they want the force to be with them, even when they’re not watching one of the films.

They have decided to practice Jedi-ism. And here with me to explain its tenets and more is Jodie Vann, an instructor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

(7) MONOPOLY BROKEN. Or improved. It alll depends on how you feel about the change.

The boot has been booted, the wheelbarrow has been wheeled out, and the thimble got the thumbs down in the latest version of the board game Monopoly. In their place will be a Tyrannosaurus rex, a penguin and a rubber ducky.

More than 4.3 million voters from 146 countries weighed in on which tokens they wanted to see in future versions of the property-acquisition game, which is based on the real-life streets of Atlantic City. Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Hasbro announced the winners Friday morning.

(8) QUANTUM OF STROLLERS. Bruce Arthurs came across some of these “quantum physics for babies” books by Chris Ferrie listed on Goodreads Giveaways and thought they might be quirky enough for a Pixel Scroll mention: Books.

Quantum Physics for Babies is a colorfully simple introduction to the principle which gives quantum physics its name. Baby will find out that energy is “quantized” and the weird world of atoms never comes to a stand still. It is never too early to become a quantum physicist!

The author, Chris Ferrie, is an actual quantum theorist who self-published the original Quantum Physics For Babies; surprise, it took off well enough Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (childrens books division of Sourcebooks) will be coming out with an entire series starting in May.

Ferrie’s recently-started blog is fun too. Here’s an excerpt from “Milking a new theory of physics”:

For the first time, physicists have found a new fundamental state of cow, challenging the current standard model. Coined the cubic cow, the ground-breaking new discovery is already re-writing the rules of physics.

A team of physicists at Stanford and Harvard University have nothing to do with this but you are probably already impressed by the name drop. Dr. Chris Ferrie, who is currently between jobs, together with a team of his own children stumbled upon the discovery, which was recently published in Nature Communications*.

The spherical theory of cow had stood unchallenged for over 50 years—and even longer if a Russian physicist is reading this. The spherical cow theory led to many discoveries also based on O(3) symmetries. However, spherical cows have not proven practically useful from a technological perspective. “Spherical cows are prone to natural environmental errors, whereas our discovery digitizes the symmetry of cow,” Ferrie said.

(9) MORE MARS BUZZ. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon, has launched a virtual reality movie detailing his plan to get humans to Mars. The BBC has the video — Buzz Aldrin takes you to Mars in VR.

The film – Cycling Pathways to Mars – lasts just under 10 minutes and features the astronaut as a hologram narrating the experience.

Mr Aldrin’s plan involves using the moons of Earth and Mars essentially as pitstops for people travelling to and from the Red Planet – a trip that will take about six months each way.

(10) FOR THE ROUND FILE. Chip Hitchcock says, “If you thought the jet-boarder wasn’t extreme enough, somebody pushing circular runways. He says it’s to prevent crosswind landings — but airports that could afford such a mishegoss can certainly afford enough runways to avoid this hazard, and as a former lightplane pilot (who had to learn about heavy ops to get an instrument rating) I see so many things wrong with this idea.”

(11) IN A COMMA. The BBC notices the Oxford-comma case, and provides several other examples of expensive errors in comma use.

(12) FROM BBC TO BB-8. “Droids Interrupt Darth Vader Interview” is a parody of the “Children Interrupt BBC Interview” viral video.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Bruce Arthurs, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/16 May the Pixels Be Ever in Your Scroll

richard-gaitet-avait-attaque-en-disant-vouloir-realiser-la-ceremonie-la-plus-courte-de-l-histoire-parce-que-tout-le-monde-a-envie-d-aller-boire-des-coups-et-da(1) A COMIC DISGRACE. A few weeks ago The International Festival of Comics (Angoulême) embarrassed itself by issuing a set of nominees for its awards with zero women among them. Several were added in response to a threatened boycott.

And at the awards ceremony on January 30, what the organization covered itself with was not glory. “Angouleme organizers criticized for presenting fake awards” reports Robot 6.

As if this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival hadn’t been plagued by enough controversy, the organizers decided to play a practical joke at the closing ceremony that a lot of people didn’t find very funny.

The ceremony began with comedian Richard Gaitet, clad in a neon-blue suit and red bow tie, announcing, “This will be the shortest ceremony in history, because all we want to do is drink and dance.” He proceeded to present nine awards in rapid succession, including the award for best series to Saga, best comic for young people to Aaron Renier’s The Unsinkable Walker Bean, and the Fauve d’Or, the big prize, to Arsène Schrauwen, by Olivier Schrauwen. And then two women appeared and said, “Bravo Richard, for that joke about the false fauves [awards] and the size of the Grand Prix. We laughed a lot, but now we must go.” And then they presented the real awards because that first set? That was fake.

(2) SELF-DOUBT. That first item is just one more of the zillion reasons people identify with Aidan Doyle’s “The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt”. Here’s his introduction, and the first few entries on the scale.

Even if you’ve had a successful writing year, there’s always going to be another writer who achieved more. Sure, I had a few short stories published last year, but none of them ended up on recommended reading lists. No matter what level of writer you are, there’s always something to worry about. Take consolation in The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt.

Why don’t I have any ideas?

Why haven’t I written anything?

Why haven’t I written anything good?

Why won’t anyone publish my stories?

(3) NEW CAMPBELL REQUIREMENTS. On the other hand, last year’s Campbell Award winner Wesley Chu sounds pretty confident. He just announced the next new writer to win it will have to go through him.

(4) BEFORE DAWN. What if the Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice film was made in 1966 starring Adam West and George Reeves?

The makers also produced a video showing scene-by-scene how they parodied the official Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice trailer.

(5) TIP OF THE DAY. “Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From Carlos Hernandez” at Black Gate.

A Few Words on Structure, Point of View, and Discovery

I once told Delia Sherman that one of the great pleasures of reading her work is the same pleasure I would have purchasing an antique grandfather clock. Maybe I bought the clock because it is gorgeously carved and imbued with history, but then I am delighted to discover over a period of months that it keeps perfect time.

“Perfect time” in that conceit is structure, the mechanics of storytelling. It is, to my mind, the absolute hardest aspect of writing. I can write a funny line or a mordant or trenchant one, but how many of those may I keep and still preserve the pace and measure of the whole? It’s an impossible question to answer in advance of writing, and maybe just plain impossible.

(6) SHATNER COVERS ALL THE BASES. William Shatner does his usual first-rate narrating job on the Major League Baseball Network’s new documentary, The Colorful Montreal Expos, about the National League team that existed from 1969 to 2004 (before moving to Washington D.C., and becoming The Nationals.) Shatner, of course, was born in Canada….

It debuted this week, and should be repeated frequently. Here’s the trailer.

(7) SOURCES OF LOVECRAFTIAN LANGUAGE. Jeffro Johnson has an exposition on “Lovecraft on Lord Dunsany and the King James Bible” at Castalia House blog whose theme is —

So… Lovecraft doesn’t merely encourage writers to study the King James Bible for its “rich and forceful English.” He points out that that Lord Dunsany was among the best (if not the best) because of assimilation of its style– and that lesser writers suffered from not being familiar with it! Given how his politics and beliefs tend to be portrayed, this is liable to be a surprise.

(8) MORE LOVECRAFT ADVICE. Maria Popova’s “H.P. Lovecraft’s Advice to Aspiring Writers: Timeless Counsel from 1920” was Johnson’s inspiration. There are several more interesting quotes in her post.

Much like Jennifer Egan did nearly a century later, Lovecraft stresses the vital osmosis between reading and writing:

No aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules. … All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost. In many cases, the usage of good authors will be found a more effective guide than any amount of precept. A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.

(9) FINLAY OBIT. SF Site News reports actor Frank Finlay (1926-2016) died January 31.

One of his earliest roles was in the six-episode sf series Target Luna (1960). (He did not appear in the three sequels.)

Fans probably know him best as Porthos in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1961 — NASA launched a rocket carrying Ham the Chimp into space.

(11) ARCHIE ON TV. Jackson McHenry of Vulture spins the announcement of Greg Berlant’s new Riverdale series this way — “The CW Orders an Archie Pilot That Will Finally Answer the Question: What If Everyone in Riverdale Were Really Hot?”

According to Variety, Riverdale will offer a “surprising and subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.” Substitute “Riverdale” for “Lumberton” and this is also the plot of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

(12) A FOURTH HELPING OF DOGS. Jim C. Hines returns to a subject he has studied closely in “Puppies, Redux”, but I’m compelled to ask — if a Middle-Earth blogger wrote, “So far the new ringbearer has been doing a better job,” would you feel reassured?

Predictions:

I don’t know for certain what’s going to happen this year. My personal opinion, for whatever it’s worth, is that there’s been so much hatred and nastiness surrounding Sad Puppies that it’s all but impossible to run a “clean” recommendations list under that brand. That said, SP4 seems to be genuinely trying for openness and to escape last year’s nastiness. Props to the organizers for that, and I hope it continues.

Given everything that went down in 2015, I don’t expect the Sad and Rapid Puppy groups to have as much influence on the final ballot. I imagine they’ll get some nominees from their lists onto the ballot, but it won’t be the same kind of shutout we saw in 2015.

(13) YEP, THAT’S MY PUBLISHER. G. Willow Wilson, the writer of Ms Marvel, talks about the whole Marvel CEO-donating-to-Trump thing that was on yesterday’s scroll.

In an ordinary election cycle, I’d say that when the CEO of an entertainment company supports a conservative candidate while also fostering diverse creative talent within his company, it is a sign of a healthy democracy. Being a Republican is not a crime. However, this is not an ordinary election cycle, and Trump is not an ordinary Republican. The irony that Ms Marvel was launched on Perlmutter’s watch–while Donald Trump would like to prevent Muslims from even entering the United States–was not lost on the mainstream media, nor on me.

(14) NEWS IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Let me be the last to report that William Shatner played the role of Mark Twain in an episode of Murdoch Mysteries aired in October 2015 on Canadian television. Here’s the behind-the-scenes preview.

When Twain’s life is threatened after a controversial speaking engagement at the Empire Club of Canada in 1903 Toronto, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his colleagues must protect the esteemed writer.

 

[Thanks to Soon Lee, lurkertype, snowcrash, John King Tarpinian, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]