Pixel Scroll 3/27/18 Godstalk It, Jake, It’s Pixel Scroll

(1) READ THE GAME. The Read it Forward site is celebrating Ready Player One’s theatrical debut this week with an interactive 8-bit-inspired excerpt that “gamifies” the prologue from Ernest Cline’s novel. [Click on the GIF to view.]

Read your way to the top of the Scoreboard as you earn points for discovering Easter eggs that bring the content to life. As readers learn of Parzival’s hunt for the keys to OASIS, they’ll maneuver their way around a maze, attend an ‘80s dance party, unlock footnotes, and more. Upon completion, readers can add their name to a Scoreboard and share their score with a link to the excerpt on social media. All of the excerpt’s hidden extras are unlocked once a reader earns the maximum score of 10,000 points.

(2) TV INTEREST IN THREE-BODY PROBLEM. From io9: “Report: Amazon May Pay $1 Billion to Adapt the Hugo-Winning Chinese Novel The Three-Body Problem”.

The Hugo-winning Chinese novel The Three-Body Problem could become Amazon’s Game of Thrones. A new report from Financial Times suggests Amazon is pursuing a deal to make a three-season television show based on the trilogy from Liu Cixin, and it may be willing to pay up to $1 billion to do so.

According to the Financial Times report, international investors say Amazon is negotiating for the rights to produce three seasons based on Remembrance of Earth’s Past, the scifi trilogy more commonly known by the title of its first book, The Three-Body Problem.

In a statement reported by Chinese news outlets, YooZoo Pictures stated that it remains the sole owners for the film and TV rights for The Three-Body Problem, though it didn’t comment on whether Amazon had approached the company or were in talks with them to collaborate on this reported streaming project. Cixin was also asked about this development by Chinese news outlet MTime.com, where he revealed he knew nothing about the project and doesn’t know if he’d be invited to work on it.

(3) DISSENTING VOICE. In contrast to those looking forward to the movie, Vox says “The Ready Player One book used to be considered a fun romp. Then Gamergate happened,” in “The Ready Player One backlash, explained”.

A time traveler from 2011 could be forgiven for being deeply confused by this response. In 2011, Ready Player One was beloved. It was “a guaranteed pleasure.” It was “witty.” It was not only “a simple bit of fun” but also “a rich and plausible picture of future friendships in a world not too distant from our own.”

What gives? How did the consensus on a single book go from “exuberant and meaningful fun!” to “everything that is wrong with the internet!” over the span of seven years?

… But the main thing Ready Player One is doing is telling those ’80s-boy-culture-obsessed gamers that they matter, that in fact they are the most important people in the universe. That knowing every single goddamn word of Monty Python and the Holy Grail can have life-or-death stakes, because why shouldn’t it? (Yes, that is a crucial step in Wade’s battle to save the OASIS.)

For readers in Cline’s target demographic in 2011, that message felt empowering. For readers who weren’t, it felt like a harmless piece of affirmation meant for someone else. Everyone deserves a silly escapist fantasy, right? And since Cline’s silly escapist fantasy wasn’t specifically meant for girls — unlike, say, Twilight, which was getting savaged in popular culture at the timeReady Player One was largely left alone by the people it wasn’t built for…

(4) ASHBY STORY. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series, “Domestic Violence” by Madeline Ashby, is a free read at Slate.

A partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University, Future Tense explores how emerging technologies will change the way we live. The latest consumer gadgets are intriguing, but we focus on the longer-term transformative power of robotics, information and communication technologies, synthetic biology, augmented reality, space exploration, and other technologies. Future Tense seeks to understand the latest technological and scientific breakthroughs, and what they mean for our environment, how we relate to one another, and what it means to be human. Future Tense also examines whether technology and its development can be governed democratically and ethically.

And there’s also a response essay from Ian Harris, who works on technology issues with the National Network to End Domestic Violence: “The Complicated Relationship Between Abuse and Tech”.

Violence against women is having something of a moment right now. Which is to say, portrayals of domestic violence in film and TV are gaining critical acclaim. Through shows like Big Little Lies and movies like I, Tonya, popular culture is grappling with more nuanced representations of domestic violence and the humanity of survivors of abuse. These are important conversations, and I hope that this is the start of a profound societal transformation, though time will tell. For me, the most disturbing part of these portrayals is not the brutality of the assaults, but how frequently physical violence is prioritized over other types of abusive behavior. It is what we don’t see that worries me.

We see this distorted prioritization in real life, too. I’ve been a domestic violence attorney for more than a decade. Despite the long list of clients who have struggled to get the justice system to live up to its name, I have found that survivors are much more likely to get help for physical assaults than for other kinds of abusive behavior such as stalking, surveillance, harassment, and intimate image disclosures, which frequently feel more harmful to the survivor.

(5) AVENGERS PLUG. A new TV spot for Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War.

The end is near. One month until Avengers: Infinity War.

 

(6) SEARCH FOR DIVERSE FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has another new feature. Greg Hullender explains:

In response to readers who wanted a way to find good stories by diverse authors, we did an analysis of the most-recommended short speculative fiction stories written by people of color in 2015 and 2016 — “Best People of Color SF/F of 2015-2016”.

This only looks at stories that got some sort of recognition (e.g. solid recommendation from a prolific reviewer, inclusion in a years-best anthology, finalist for a major award), so just 481 stories across those two years. Of those, 112 were written by people of color.

The credit for this work goes to Eric Wong, who did the hard work of looking up information on all the authors as well as customizing the software to let readers group the data different ways.

(7) BLOWN UP, SIR. In “This teacher aims to get kids fired up about chemistry”, the Washington Post’s Kitson Jazynka profiles University of Texas chemistry instructor Kate Biberdorf, who “breathes fire and makes explosions that blast the eyes out of jack-o-lanterns.”

Or what about one who, with a quick pour of potassium iodide into a mix of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and food coloring, makes bubbly foam that shoots toward the ceiling? Kate Biberdorf is no imaginary teacher. She’s real, and she’s coming to Washington next month, bringing along her blowtorch and cornstarch, her supplies of liquid nitrogen and dry ice, and a lot of enthusiasm for chemistry.

Bibersdorf’s website is http://katethechemist.com/.  How could Filers NOT be interested in a woman who says her goal in life is “to have an explosive science show in Vegas?”

(8) HELP BILL SPENCER. Paul Di Filippo urges readers to support a GoFundMe that will “Give Back to Bill Spencer”.

We all need a little help sometimes. This is one of those times for Bill. He has several different health issues going on right now and the medical expenses he is incurring that are not covered through Medicare are mounting and could get much worse.   As well, he’s facing some unforeseeable out of pocket expenses that could potentially end up being a serious problem.   Right now, Bill simply doesn’t have enough for monthly bills, day to day living expenses and numerous co-pays that keep coming his way for various medical necessities.

Many readers know Bill as the award-winning writer William Browning Spencer, author of novels like Zod Wallop, Resume with Monsters and short-story collections like his latest, The Unorthodox Dr. Draper and Other Stories.

But Bill has contributed to others in a very different way as well.  By freely and graciously donating endless amounts of his time over the years to sponsoring and supporting people who are facing their own daunting problems related to alcohol, drugs and living life.  It’s time to give back to Bill what he has so freely given.

This is something Bill would never ask for himself, but he is one of my best friends and I know he is important to folks like yourself, who may wish to help in his time of need.  Bill is truly one of the most amazing, caring and hilarious human beings I know and if you’re reading this you most likely feel the same.  I think we’d all love for Bill to have the peace of mind of knowing that, whatever happens, he need not be stressed out and worried each day about how he’s going to pay for medication or a test or procedure he needs on top of his modest monthly and day to day expenses.

(9) BISCHOFF OBIT. Writer David Bischoff, 66, of Eugene, OR died March 19. He was a contributor to Doug Fratz’ 1970s fanzine Thrust. His first professional successes included The Seeker, a novel published in 1976, and the Nebula-nominated story “Tin Woodman,” co-authored with Dnnis Bailey, later adapted into both a novel and TV episode for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also wrote the Star Trek tie-in novel Grounded, which spent time on the bestseller list. His other TV work included Dinosaucers (with Ted Pedersen). Bischoff wrote 75 original novels, and tie-in novels for movies and TV series.

David Bischoff. Photo by and copyright Andrew Porter.

(10) A POLICEMAN’S LOT. Camestros Felapton reacted to Richard Paolinelli’s minor league prank of complaining to the Aussie cops about Felapton’s blog.

(11) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. “The hidden history of the UK’s highest peak”: A tourist hiking trail once led to an early weather station whose records are now being used to trace climate change.

Back in Victorian Britain, science was still largely an amateur pastime conducted by bands of self-financed enthusiasts who formed scientific societies. One was the Scottish Meteorological Society, which set up and maintained a network of weather stations across Scotland between 1855 and 1920.

(12) WAVE GOODBYE. “Stephen Hawking’s final interview: A beautiful Universe” starts from LIGO discovery of grav waves.

Tell us how important is the detection of two colliding neutron stars?

It is a genuine milestone. It is the first ever detection of a gravitational wave source with an electromagnetic counterpart. It confirms that short gamma-ray bursts occur with neutron star mergers. It gives a new way of determining distances in cosmology. And it teaches us about the behaviour of matter with incredibly high density.

(13) MAY THE ODDS BE ALWAYS IN YOUR FAVOR. Don’t look up — “Tiangong-1: China space station may fall to Earth ‘in days'”.

Should I be worried?

No. Most of the 8.5-tonne station will disintegrate as it passes through the atmosphere.

Some very dense parts such as the fuel tanks or rocket engines might not burn up completely. However, even if parts do survive to the Earth’s surface, the chances of them hitting a person are incredibly slim.

“Our experience is that for such large objects typically between 20% and 40% of the original mass will survive re-entry and then could be found on the ground, theoretically,” the head of Esa’s space debris office, Holger Krag, told reporters at a recent briefing.

“However, to be injured by one of these fragments is extremely unlikely. My estimate is that the probability of being injured by one of these fragments is similar to the probability of being hit by lightning twice in the same year.”

(14) WEDDING BELLS. Page Six headline: “‘Star Trek’ star marries Leonard Nimoy’s son”:

Live long and prosper, you two.

Adam Nimoy, son of the late “Star Trek” icon Leonard Nimoy, and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” actress Terry Farrell married on Monday, on what would’ve been Leonard Nimoy’s 87th birthday.

The couple tied the knot in a civil ceremony at City Hall in San Francisco, according to film critic Scott Mantz, who tweeted a photo of the couple on their wedding day. Farrell retweeted Mantz’s photo and wrote, “Freakin AWESOME day!!!!!!! Love ya all! Aka: Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”

She also changed her Twitter bio to include “Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”

(15) COMPLAINTS ABOUT DATE OF HUGO ANNOUNCEMENT. The announcement of the 2018 Hugo finalists wouldn’t be on March 31/Passover/Easter weekend/a Saturday if it was up to these folks:

(16) VERTLIEB CANVASSES. Rondo Awards voting closes April 8 at midnight and Steve Vertlieb hopes people will consider his nominated article “Robert Bloch: The Clown at Midnight” for Best Article of the Year.

My published work about the author of “Psycho” … “Robert Bloch: The Clown At Midnight” … has been nominated for a Rondo Award for “Best Article of the Year.” Anyone can vote.  This year’s competition ends Sunday night, April 8th, at midnight. To vote for my remembrance of Robert, simply send your choice, along with your name, to taraco@aol.com

This is the story of my twenty five year friendship with acclaimed writer Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho. It is the newly published remembrance of a complex, remarkable man, and our affectionate relationship over a quarter century.

Robert Bloch was one of the founding fathers of classic horror, fantasy, and science fiction whose prolific prose thrilled and influenced the popular genre, its writers, and readers, for much of the twentieth century. An early member of “The Lovecraft Circle,” a group of both aspiring and established writers of “Weird Fiction” assembled by Howard Phillips Lovecraft during the early 1930’s, Bloch became one of the most celebrated authors of that popular literary genre during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, culminating in the publication of his controversial novel concerning a boy, his mother, and a particularly seedy motel. When Alfred Hitchcock purchased his novel and released “Psycho” with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in 1960, Bloch became one of the most sought after authors and screen writers in Hollywood. His numerous contributions to the acclaimed television anthology series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” are among the best of the director’s classic suspense series, while his legendary scripts, adaptations and teleplays for Boris Karloff’s “Thriller” series for NBC are among the most bone chilling, frightening, and horrifying screen presentations in television history. He also famously penned several classic episodes of NBC’s original “Star Trek” series for producer Gene Roddenberry. Writers Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and Harlan Ellison have written lovingly and profusely of their own literary debt to Robert Bloch. Bob was, for me, even more significantly, a profoundly singular mentor and cherished personal friend for a quarter century. This is the story of that unforgettable relationship.

(17) NUMBER PLEASE. A strange post at George R.R. Martin’s Not a Blog caught Greg Hullender’s eye: “I wonder if this is a coded announcement that Winds of Winter is coming?” “Yowza” consists of a series of pictures of hands with finger extended as though counting. But does the number 4534 really mean anything?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Ghostbird, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Greg Hullender, Paul DiFilippo, and Mark Hepworth for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Patreon Cancels Fee Changes, Will Find A Different Fix

Patreon’s Jack Conte has walked back the controversial new fee structure that was scheduled to go into effect later this month, with the implied promise the company will find a solution to its problems that doesn’t hurt creators.

Conte’s statement, “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change”, says in part —

Creators and Patrons,

We’ve heard you loud and clear. We’re not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week. We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.

I’ve spent hours and hours on the phone with creators, and so has the Patreon team. Your feedback has been crystal clear:

  • The new payments system disproportionately impacted $1 – $2 patrons. We have to build a better system for them.
  • Aggregation is highly-valued, and we underestimated that.
  • Fundamentally, creators should own the business decisions with their fans, not Patreon. We overstepped our bounds and injected ourselves into that relationship, against our core belief as a business.

We recognize that we need to be better at involving you more deeply and earlier in these kinds of decisions and product changes….

Although Patreon folded on their proposed fee changes, the damage to creators’ income has already been done. One author offered this analogy to describe the moral effect of today’s announcement:

Webcomic artist Zack Morrison voiced what must be a lingering concern for many creators:

Here are some reactions tweeted by people in the sff field:

  • Kameron Hurley

  • Catherynne Valente

  • Seanan McGuire

  • M.C.A. Hogarth

  • Kevin Sonney

  • Patrick Rothfuss

  • Aidan Moher

  • Fireside Fiction Company

[Thanks to Dann and Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 6/12/17 Avoid The Green Pixels, They’re Not Ripe Yet

(1) READING SERIES CROWDFUNDING. Less than two days to go in the Fantastic Fiction Kickstarter at KGB and Matthew Kressel says they’re still about $1500 shy of what they need to run for six years.

Here are a few of the clever Facebook appeals made by the Kindling Kris Dikeman to encourage people to squeeze out a few more bucks for the series.

  • Sick of how things are going? Hoping the singularity hits soon? You can make things better right now by supporting the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series Kickstarter. The Fantastic Fiction series helps writers promote their work and creates a community for genre artists. Pay tribute to our future robot overlords and receive cool stuff at http://kck.st/2rq5KFA
  • Has the state of our world got you wishing the zombie apocalypse would just start already? You can make the world a better place without the rotting undead’s help by supporting the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series Kickstarter. The Fantastic Fiction series helps writers promote their work and creates a community for genre artists. Plus, you’re going to need stuff to read while you’re cowering in the dark. Check it out: http://kck.st/2rq5KFA
  • Considering a move to the Shire to escape the current state of the world? Put down that second breakfast and shuffle your hairy little feet on over to the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series Kickstarter. The Fantastic Fiction reading series helps writers promote their work and creates a community for genre artists. Galadriel sez: do it for me, hafling: http://kck.st/2rq5KFA

(2) DISAPPOINTMENT. Mari Ness sent a series of tweets discussing why she isn’t on Worldcon 75 programming.

(3) WILD CARDS. In “Something Old, Something New…” George R.R. Martin refutes an old complaint, then explains why readers will have no grounds for it in the Wild Cards book coming out tomorrow.

I’ve had some readers complain about my name being featured on the covers of the Wild Cards books because I “didn’t write them.” That’s a bullshit complaint, IMSHO. No, I am not the sole author of the Wild Cards stories, I am only one of… ah, lemme see, I believe it was forty-one writers at last count.

I am, however, the editor of every single one of the twenty-three volumes published to date, and the new ones in the pipeline as well… the guy who recruits all those writers, determines the ‘overplots’ of the triads, solicits proposals, accepts and rejects, and gives extensive notes on rewrites. (And there’s a LOT of rewriting in Wild Cards, to make all the bits fit together so the whole will be more than the sum of its parts). It’s a lot more work than any other sort of anthology, believe me… though I love it, so I don’t complain… too much. I earn those credits, and to suggest that my name is just being ‘slapped on’ the covers while someone else does the work is as ignorant as it is offensive.

(4) BIRD IS THE WORD. At Tor.com, Aidan Moher makes Yoon Ha Lee’s Raven Stratagem sound irresistible.

Unlike its predecessor, Raven Stratagem requires no warming up period. Very little of the narrative in Raven Stratagem is bogged-down by incomprehensible infodumps about “calendrical rot.” In comparison, it feels open and airy. Through Cheris and Jedao, Lee proved his ability to create complex and interesting characters, and this time around he throws the doors open by introducing several new point-of-view characters, all of whom are engaging in their own way. From the crashhawk Brezan, who’s on a mission to take Jedao down, to General Kel Khiruev, who is reluctantly beholden to the undead general after he commandeers her swarm, to Shuos Mikodez, leader of a faction of assassins, each of the major players has their own well-defined and compelling part to play in Raven Stratagem’s overall narrative. They’re all damaged and dangerous, full of regrets, but they are also vulnerable and likeable in a way that allows readers to connect with them on the right emotional level.

(5) FOOLPROOF WISDOM. Timothy the Talking Cat continues to dispense advice to writers in “More Mentoring from Tim” on Camestros Felapton’s site. It’s all one graphic, so we’ll have to do without an excerpt. But I’m sure knowing Timothy’s track record you have already clicked through before reaching the end of this paragraph.

(6) AUSTIN OBIT. UK comics fan Alan Austin died May 9.

Alan Austin, pioneer of UK comics fandom and a long-time friend of 30th Century Comics, passed away yesterday morning after a long struggle with cancer.

Beginning in the 1970’s, Alan published the long-running fanzine Fantasy Unlimited (later Comics Unlimited), which drew together comics enthusiasts from all over the UK, and indeed, all over the world. He also published Whiz Kids, Golden Age Fanzine, and the Marvel Super-Hero Index, as well as being a co-publisher of the very first Comics Price Guide for Great Britain. For many years, he ran the shop Heroes, in Islington, London, and in later years was a regular feature at UK comic marts.

Neil Gaiman purchased his first Spirit comic book from Austin’s shop in 1975.

(7) VERDUGO OBIT. Actress Elena Verdugo died May 30. Her radio, movie and TV career spanned six decades. Although she was best known for her TV role in Marcus Welby, M.D., her genre work included horror movies like The Frozen Ghost (1945). Here’s an excerpt from her New York Times obituary,

… Because she had a Hispanic surname, Hollywood mostly typecast her in horror movies and comedies as Gypsy girls, Indian maidens, Mexican peasants, harem handmaidens and South Sea islanders. “With that name, they don’t call you up to do little American parts,” she was quoted as saying in “Women in Horror Films, 1940s” (1999) by Gregory William Mank. “They think you’re a black-eyed, dark-haired señorita” and I’m blond. So I put on my wig and tried to live up to what they thought ‘Spanish’ to be or ‘Gypsy,’ or ‘native,’ or something.”

She later played opposite Lon Chaney Jr. and Boris Karloff in Universal’s “House of Frankenstein” (1944), in which a trio of movie monsters collaborate against their makers’ enemies, and in “The Frozen Ghost” (1945), also opposite Chaney.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Superman Day

What’s that?! There in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s the Man of Tomorrow! Superman has gone by many names over the years, but one thing has remained the same. He has always stood for what’s best about humanity, all of our potential for terrible destructive acts, but also our choice to not act on the level of destruction we could wreak. Superman was first created in 1933 by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the writer and artist respectively. His first appearance was in Action Comics #1, and that was the beginning of a long and illustrious career for the Man of Steel. In his unmistakable blue suit with red cape, and the stylized red S on his chest, the figure of Superman has become one of the most recognizable in the world.

Mark Seifert at Bleeding Cool News has more:

In 2013, DC Entertainment declared June 12 as Man of Steel day “in celebration of the summer’s most eagerly anticipated film”. The date seems to have stuck, with a name change to “Superman Day” because I’ve seen a whole lot of #supermanday hashtags in my twitter feed this morning. I know that Metropolis, IL just held their Superman Celebration over the past 4 days€¦

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 12, 1968 Rosemary’s Baby first seen this day.
  • June 12, 1987 Predator first played to audiences.
  • June 12, 2015 Jurassic World debuted.

(10) PAST TENSE. ComicsBeat tees up an unusual WW2-era critique, “Bennett and Savuage take on Japanese Internment in new BOMBSHELLS UNITED series”.

It was important to Bennett to make her takes on DC’s greatest heroines less inherently perfect and to provide them with the opportunity for improvement and redemption. “I’m very into fallible heroines,” Bennett explained. “I understand why so many inspirational characters are given to girls, whether it’s to make up for the years that their weren’t any or that there were so many damsels in distress, but there’s a degree at which when we only give children– but little girls especially– aspirational heroines, we’re denying them the ability to screw up. To have a complete human experience. Being a child and seeing these role models, I knew that I could never possibly compete or live up, so when I screwed up it was horrible. These characters weren’t afforded the opportunity to fail and come back from it.”

Indeed, the first arc of Bombshells United is all about failure– in particular, America’s failure to protect the rights of up to 120,000 Japanese Americans when the national government imprisoned them in internment camps for the duration of World War II. In Bennett’s exploration of Japanese American internment, she casts Cassie Sandsmark and Donna Troy, two characters who have carried the Wonder Girl moniker, as second generation Japanese Americans whose friends and family are being held against their will. While Cassie and Donna are not Japanese in the mainstream DC Universe, according to Bennett, these are her universe’s “definitive versions” of the characters.

(11) POSTSCRIPT. Abigail Nussbaum has more to say — “Five (Additional) Comments on Wonder Woman”.

My problem, however, with talking about Wonder Woman as a feminist work is that most of that feminism is external to the film. That is, Wonder Woman is feminist because of what it is, not because of what it does. To be clear, I absolutely agree with the statement that being the first movie about a female superhero in the current, mega-successful iteration of superhero movies (and one of only a small number before that) is a feminist act in its own right. But there’s only so much that you can say about that, and that’s a problem that is exacerbated by Wonder Woman herself. More than almost any other character in pop culture, Diana exists outside of patriarchy. And while it’s powerful to see a woman who brushes aside the assumption that she’s not as good as a man because the very idea that this might be true is completely foreign to her heritage and upbringing, what this also means is that a lot of the central questions of feminism are equally foreign to her. I’m not as down on Wonder Woman as Jill Lepore, writing in The New Yorker, but she’s not wrong when she says that “Gadot’s Wonder Woman doesn’t fight for rights because she transcends that fight; she is unfettered by it and insensible to it, an implausible post-feminist hero.” Diana’s journey over the course of the movie involves learning to see humanity–or, as she puts it, “men”–for what it is, with all its strengths and flaws. But left completely unacknowledged is the degree to which the cruelty of men is often visited upon women. How does Diana’s bemusement at the concept of marriage face up to the discovery that almost all of the people she meets in 1918 would consider it acceptable for a man to beat his wife? How does her decision to engage in heterosexual intercourse change in light of the fact that she is moving through a rape culture? How does her joy at seeing a baby withstand the knowledge that most women in that period have no choice in when or whether to have children, and that many of them die in childbirth?

(12) WONDER WHY. Meanwhile, Stephanie Abraham clearly feels there’s no pop culture victory that can’t be pictured as a defeat with a little effort — “When Will Wonder Woman Be a Fat, Femme Woman of Color?”

Why couldn’t Wonder Woman be a woman of color? When it was announced that Gadot would play Wonder Woman, audiences went wild body shaming her for not having large enough breasts. One can only imagine the white supremacy that would have emerged had the announcement said instead that she would be played by a Black woman. On Paradise Island, there are Black warriors in addition to white ones, which is a good start, but other women of color are missing. Also, while the female warriors are strong and ass-kicking, they all have tall, thin body types and they all could be models on a runway. In fact, in a pivotal battle scene, Wonder Woman struts across the battlefield as if on a catwalk. As a result, their physical strength plays second fiddle to their beauty, upholding the notion that in order to access power women must be beautiful in a traditional way. Especially with the body positivity movement gaining steam, the film could have spotlighted female warriors with fat, thick and short body types. While people have said that warriors can’t be fat, some of our best paid male athletes are, particularly linebackers on the football field, and no one doubts their physical strength.

Another problem is that the story’s overt queerness gets sublimated by heteronormativity. Diana comes from a separatist commune of women who have intentionally chosen to live without men. In one of the first scenes between Diana and Steve, she explains that she read 12 volumes of a series on sex that concluded that while men are required for reproduction, when it comes to female pleasure, they’re unnecessary. While a love story develops between them, a requirement in superhero stories, Diana thankfully doesn’t compromise her integrity for him.

(13) GENRE MOVIE POSTERS. Bill recommends Posteritati

Hundreds of SF movie posters: https://posteritati.com/genre/sci-fi?page=1

Hundreds more Fantasy movie posters: https://posteritati.com/genre/fantasy?page=1

Note: click “In Stock Only” to “off” to maximize browsing.

(14) BIONIC HANDS. Click on “3D printed bionic hands trial begins in Bristol” to see the video report.

The world’s first clinical trial of 3D printed bionic hands for child amputees starts this week in Bristol.

They are made by a South Gloucestershire company which only launched four years ago.

If the trial is successful the hands will become available on the NHS, bringing life-changing improvements for patients.

(15) PROSPECTIVE ASTRONAUTS. NPR’s story “Meet Your Lucky Stars: NASA Announces A New Class Of Astronaut Candidates” comes with pictures and short interviews.

Jasmin Moghbeli, one of the dozen candidates, spoke with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro from Houston’s Johnson Space Center, where she’ll undertake the training program starting in August.

Moghbeli, who says she’s wanted to be an astronaut since the sixth grade, talked about what kind of candidate it takes to earn the coveted spot.

“Start looking into science, technology, engineering, math, those kinds of fields,” the German-born, New York native says. But whatever you do, she says, love it.

“There were many other applicants that applied who were extremely qualified for this position that aren’t lucky enough to be sitting up here like I am,” she adds. “So make sure you’re doing what you love. If I did not get the call saying, ‘Hey can you join us here at NASA?’ I still would’ve been extremely happy in the career that I was in.”

The seven men and five women of the class bring an impressive resume to NASA: The astronaut candidates are an athletic crew and include former SpaceX employees, a marine biologist and half of them are military officers.

(16) CAPED CLAPTRAP. Glen Weldon claims “Adam West Saved Batman. And Me.” If only by reaction — the author argues that the show was so silly it revived interest in the One True Dark Knight.

In my book, The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, I attempt to unpack how the show, and West’s performance in particular, are the reason anyone’s talking about the character of Batman today.

Batman comics had languished near the bottom of the sales charts — the publisher even made (likely disingenuous) threats to cancel them outright — before West took the hero into the mainstream. The mainstream embraced him, and — after a brief Batmania fad gripped the country in 1966 — swiftly tired of all things Bat. Batman comics sales plummeted again.

Comics creators and fans resented the clownish version of their hero who’d spent time in the cultural spotlight, and reacted against it by engineering a version of the character who was — specifically and intentionally — everything West’s Batman wasn’t: dark, haunted, gothic, brooding. Obsessed.

A new generation of comics readers — who knew a little something about obsession — saw themselves in this new, grim, self-serious Batman. For better or worse, he’s been DC Comics’ top-selling hero ever since.

(17) NOT FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON. Whenever Larry Correia blows his stack at me, once he finally runs out of obscene things to say, which takes awhile, the next thing he does (like today) is tell people I keep linking to his blog to get pingbacks that will lure traffic from his popular site. Which is not only a lie – I link whenever I have an interest in an item – but is absurd on its face. Below are the Alexa rankings for our two sites. And the fact is that although Correia has repeated this claim several times since 2014, at no time then or now was his site ranked above mine, or anywhere close to it.

(Bear in mind that 1 would be the highest ranking, so the site with the most traffic has the lower rank numbers.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Bill, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/16 Little Old Lady Got Pixelated Late Last Night

(1) SHINY. What’s the latest at Young People Read Old SF? Curator James Davis Nicoll has assigned them Arthur C. Clarke’s “Superiority”.

I knew I would be offering my subjects a Clarke story at some point, not because he is an old favourite of mine, but because Clarke was name-checked in the Facebook post that inspired Young People Read Old SF.

nobody discovers a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein anymore, and directing newbies toward the work of those masters is a destructive thing, because the spark won’t happen.

But which Clarke? A White Hart anecdote? (No bar stories in this series … so far). A Meeting with Medusa? His creepy “A Walk in the Dark”? The puritanical “I Remember Babylon”? After considerable dithering, I selected 1951’s “Superiority,” because I thought pretty much everyone has had some worthy endeavour undermined by someone else’s desire to embrace a new shiny, whether it’s a committee member using email options they clearly have not mastered (1) or simply someone who discovers Windows 10 installing itself on their once useful computer. Or, in the case that inspired Clarke, the V2 rocket program that undermined the German war effort….

(2) THE QUESTION. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog couldn’t be more right — “The Biggest Question in Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Series or Standalone?” Aidan Moher and Corrina Lawson take opposite sides in the debate.

Aidan: Very interesting. I was definitely raised on series and trilogies as I first discovered science fiction and fantasy, and I totally agree that there’s something exciting and comforting for a young reader to know that there are more books just like the one she’s finished reading. As I’ve grown older, though, my tastes have changed quite a bit.

Honestly, I think that downfall you mention is a serious one for me. My time for reading is limited, even more so as I’ve grown older, established a career, and started a family, so I want to know that when I commit to a story, I’m guaranteed some measure of satisfaction by the time I finish it….

Corrina: It’s the time commitment for a stand-alone that gets to me. I have to take that extra time to get used to the style of the book. I’m more likely to enjoy something that is fast-paced in that case, like Chuck Wendig’s Invasive, which really reads more like a movie playing in my head….

(3) MACARTHUR FELLOWS. The 2016 MacArthur Fellows have been named, recipients of the “genius grants.”

The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more

Here are some of the fellows who are involved in the arts:

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, New York, New York
Playwright using a range of theatrical genres in subversive, often unsettling works that engage frankly with the ways in which race, class, and history are negotiated in both private and public.
Josh Kun, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
Cultural Historian exploring the ways in which the arts and popular culture are conduits to cross-cultural exchange and bringing diverse communities in Los Angeles together around heretofore unnoticed cultural commonalities.
Maggie Nelson, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
Writer rendering pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day experience in works of nonfiction marked by dynamic interplay between personal experience and critical theory.
Claudia Rankine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
Poet crafting critical texts for understanding American culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century in inventive, ever-evolving forms of poetic expression.
Lauren Redniss, Parsons, The New School for Design, New York, New York
Artist and Writer fusing artwork, written text, and design in a unique approach to visual nonfiction that enriches the ways in which stories can be conveyed, experienced, and understood.
Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker, New York, New York
Long-Form Journalist bringing to light the stories of people usually invisible to mainstream reporting and providing new and compelling perspectives on even well-covered social justice issues.
Gene Luen Yang, San Jose, California
Graphic Novelist bringing diverse people and cultures to children’s and young adult literature and confirming comics’ place as an important creative and imaginative force within literature, art, and education.

 

(4) GENRE REALITY. Ann Leckie takes a swing at defining “Real Science Fiction” by looking at a negative definition.

It is notoriously difficult to define “science fiction” but a common attempt to do so–to wall off stuff that isn’t “really” science fiction from the proper stuff–is to assert that a real science fiction story wouldn’t survive the removal of the science fictiony bits, where, I don’t know, I guess “fake” science fiction is just Westerns with spaceships instead of horses or somesuch….

And I can’t help noticing how often this particular criterion is used to delegitimize stories as “real” science fiction that by any other measure would more than qualify. It’s not just that the critic doesn’t really like this work, no, sadly the story is just not “really” science fiction, because if you take away the robots and the spaceships and the cloning and the black holes and the aliens and the interstellar civilizations and the fact that it’s set way in the future, well, it’s still a story about people wanting something and struggling to get it. Not really science fiction, see?

(5) SCHEINMAN OBIT. How “The Day the Earth Stood Still” became the impetus for the creation of assembly-line robots. From a New York Times obituary.

Victor Scheinman [1942-2016], who overcame his boyhood nightmares about a science-fiction movie humanoid to build the first successful electrically powered, computer-controlled industrial robot, died on Tuesday in Petrolia, Calif. He was 73.

His brother, Dr. Richard Scheinman, said the cause was complications of heart disease. He said he had been driving his brother to visit Dr. Scheinman’s home in Northern California when he apparently had a heart attack. He lived in Woodside, near Palo Alto, Calif.

Mr. Scheinman was part of Stanford University’s mechanical engineering department when, in 1969, he developed a programmable six-jointed robot that was named the Stanford Arm.

It was adapted by manufacturers to become the leading robot in assembling and spot-welding products, ranging from fuel pumps and windshield wipers for automobiles to inkjet cartridges for printers. Its ability to perform repeatable functions continuously equaled or surpassed that of human workers.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

Born September 22, 1982 — Billie Piper. Order your Rose Tyler action figure now!

billie-piper-rose-tyler-series-4-side

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • September 22 – Bilbo
  • September 22 — Frodo

(8) YOUR PATRONUS. “Now Pottermore Lets You Find Out Your Patronus (J.K. Rowling Got a Heron)”io9 has the story.

The latest feature on Pottermore, the ever-expanding home of Harry Potter content, is a quiz designed by J.K. Rowling to tell you what your Patronus is.

In case you’d forgotten, a Patronus is a spell conjured by a happy memory and the incantation “Expecto patronum!” The Patronus takes the form of a silvery animal that protects against the soul-crushing depression caused by exposure to Dementors.

The test on Pottermore, like all Pottermore quizzes, is multiple choice. Only instead of answering a question, two or three words pop up and you have a short time to click one instinctively. No thoughts needed or wanted.

(9) KEN LIU TRANSLATIONS. Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction from editor/translator Ken Liu will be released November 1, 2016. Here’s more information plus the Table of Contents.

Award-winning translator and author Ken Liu presents a collection of short speculative fiction from China.

Some stories have won awards; some have been included in various ‘Year’s Best’ anthologies; some have been well reviewed by critics and readers; and some are simply Ken’s personal favorites. Many of the authors collected here (with the obvious exception of Liu Cixin) belong to the younger generation of ‘rising stars’.

In addition, three essays at the end of the book explore Chinese science fiction. Liu Cixin’s essay, The Worst of All Possible Universes and The Best of All Possible Earths, gives a historical overview of SF in China and situates his own rise to prominence as the premier Chinese author within that context. Chen Qiufan’s The Torn Generation gives the view of a younger generation of authors trying to come to terms with the tumultuous transformations around them. Finally, Xia Jia, who holds the first Ph.D. issued for the study of Chinese SF, asks What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?.

Full table of contents:

  • Introduction: Chinese Science Fiction in Translation

Chen Qiufan

  • The Year of the Rat
  • The Fish of Lijiang
  • The Flower of Shazui

Xia Jia

  • A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight
  • Tongtong’s Summer
  • Night Journey of the Dragon-Horse (unpublished)

Ma Boyong

  • The City of Silence

Hao Jingfang

  • Invisible Planets
  • Folding Beijing

Tang Fei

  • Call Girl

Cheng Jingbo

  • Grave of the Fireflies

Liu Cixin

  • The Circle
  • Taking Care of God

Essays

  • The Worst of All Possible Universes and the Best of All Possible Earths: Three-Body and Chinese Science Fiction
  • The Torn Generation: Chinese Science Fiction in a Culture in Transition
  • What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?

(10) BANDERSNATCH. Diana Pavlac Glyer’s book about the Inklings, Bandersnatch, was released in January 2016. Here was one of the ads from last year encouraging people to pre-order….

gilligan-bandersnatch

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Darrah Chavey, Dawn Incognito, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stores. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Arthurs.]

Pixel Scroll 6/15/16 Great Sky Pixel

(1) DEFENDING SELF-DEFENSE. Larry Correia covers a lot of ground in “Self-Defense Is A Human Right” at Monster Hunter Nation. Here’s a representative excerpt.

Orlando is yet another example that Gun Free Zones are vile, stupid ideas. The intent is to prevent people from getting hurt. The reality is the opposite. Your feelings on the matter don’t change the results. The vast majority of mass shootings have taken place in areas where regular citizens are not allowed to carry guns.

I’ve seen a lot of people over the last few days saying that the “random good guy with a gun” is a myth. That is foolish simply because we have plenty of examples where a mass shooter was derailed or stopped by the intervention of a random person who happened to be near. Just in my home state alone, which is relatively peaceful, with low crime, a low population, and above average police response time in our urban areas, I can think of several instances where a killer was interrupted or stopped entirely by somebody other than the responding officers.

Sometimes these were regular citizens with concealed weapons permits (KSL shooting, mass stabbing at Smiths) and others they were off duty police officers in regular clothing going about their daily lives who responded first (Trolley Square, Salt Lake Library hostage situation) or even a parole officer who just happened to be at a hospital (Cache) for unrelated reasons, and ended up saving lives.

The identity of the responder doesn’t matter, just that there is one as soon as possible. The important thing is how much time elapses between the beginning of the massacre and the violent response, because that is time the killer is allowed to work unimpeded. In some cases the attack was in a gun free zone and the responders had to leave, go to their vehicles, retrieve a weapon, and then return (Pearl Mississippi, and if I recall correctly the Appalachian School of Law).

Traditionally the gay community has trended overwhelmingly statistically liberal in their politics, with a correspondingly low number of gun owners. But being unarmed also makes you easier victims for evil people. This has to change.

I don’t care what your personal beliefs are, or what your lifestyle is, self-defense is a human right. Take advantage of it. Please.

(2) EUROCON HITS MEMBERSHIP LIMIT. Eurocon 2016 Barcelona has sold out four months ahead of the event.

The committee is creating a waiting list where members who no longer want their memberships can arrange an exchange with people who wish to join—email info@eurocon2016.org

Perhaps unexpectedly, the committee is also publicizing on its Facebook page things that people who don’t have memberships can do at and around the con:

Even if you are not lucky, there are several activities you can enjoy without a membership. Our DEALERS ROOM will be awesome! Bring your wallet and cards, we will make sure you keep on using them. You can also enjoy the EXHIBITIONS (three, but allow us our secrets for the moment), and there will be a number of presentations of books in the LIBRARIES of Barcelona.

Also, our friends at GIGAMESH bookstore will have special activities during the days before Eurocon, and CHRONOS bookstore has several surprises in the oven, too.

For a bit of money, if you have some left after the Dealers Room, there will be THREE PANELS open for the general public at CCCB. We are doing this in order to attract people from outside fandom, but that doesn’t mean these events can’t be enjoyed by true fans who, ahem, forgot to buy their memberships in time.

Last but not least, FILMOTECA DE CATALUNYA will project a few movies with panels afterwards featuring some of our celebrities. The tickets will not be expensive, we promise.

(3) CLASS. Showrunner Ness is conflicted — “Doctor Who spin-off will have a gay lead character”: should he take credit, or say that’s how the world should work?

Doctor Who spin-off TV series Class will feature an gay lead character, it has been confirmed.

Celebrated author Patrick Ness is helming upcoming the BBC spin-off series, which features teenagers at a school set in the Whoniverse.

The show has been described as a British take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and Ness revealed this week that like Buffy, one of the main characters will be gay.

After recent events in Orlando, he tweeted: “Been asked if Class will have LGBT representation in it. Will a lead character with a boyfriend who he kisses & sleeps with & loves do?

“We were keeping that secret, but today that secret doesn’t seem very important. #lovewins”

The series stars Mr Selfridge’s Greg Austin, alongside  Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins and Vivian Oparah.

Ness added: “Kind of astounded that having a gay lead on Class has been such big news. One day it won’t be, one day soon.

(4) EYE ON SHORT FICTION. At Locus Online, “Rich Horton reviews Short Fiction, May 2016”.

March is science fantasy month at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which I always like. There’s something about mixing SF and fantasy that to my mind brings forth ideas wilder and more colorful than either genre provides alone. The best, which is to say, weirdest example comes from Jason Sanford (not surprisingly). ‘‘Blood Grains Speak Through Memories’’ (3/17) is set in a far future in which the environment is preserved by ‘‘anchors’’, humans en­hanced by ‘‘grains’’ on their land. ‘‘Normal’’ humans (called day-fellows) are forced to a nomadic life: if they stay too long anywhere, or interfere with the environment (use too high technology, or cut down a tree), the grains will compel the anchors to kill them. Frere-Jones Roeder is an anchor with doubts, some related to her now dead life-partner, some to an atrocity she committed at the behest of the grains long before, some expressed in her concern for her son, exiled to life among the day-fellows. When a day-fellow girl becomes infected by the grains on her territory, she is finally pushed to take a drastic step. It’s cool and strange stuff, almost gothic at times, thought-provoking and honest.

(5) DROP IN ANYTIME. Jeremy P. Bushnell selects “Five Books Riddled with Holes” for Tor.com.

I have a good friend who suffers from trypophobia, the fear of holes. (If you think you might have this, I don’t recommend Googling it, as right on top of the search results is a rather horrific array of “images for trypophobia.”) When my new novel, The Insides, came out, I had to apologize to this friend—going so far as to offer to personally hand-annotate her copy of the book with trigger warnings—because holes are at the very center of the narrative. The novel features a set of characters who use magic to cut holes into the fabric of time and space, and these holes don’t always behave as they should: sometimes they open or reopen unexpectedly, sometimes weird things come out of them.

(6) THERE’S THAT PESKY TAVERN AGAIN. Guess what shows up in “Juliette Wade takes a ridiculously close look at the worldbuilding of Ancillary Justice” on Ann Leckie’s blog?

Paragraph 1:

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. It was minus fifteen degrees Celcius and a storm had passed just hours before. The snow stretched smooth in the wan sunrise, only a few tracks leading into a nearby ice-block building. A tavern. Or what passed for a tavern in this town.

I’m going to start here with the word “The.” That little article has an important job, which is to tell you that “body” is something that someone already knows about. It’s as if someone just said “Wow, a body,” and then the story picked up an instant later. As readers, we are seeing it for the first time, but we can sense that observing someone outside the boundaries of the page. Thus, “the” implies the presence of a narrator. The first hint of a world comes with “the snow around it.” Our minds produce a snowy scene.

(7) PLANETARY SOCIETY. In the fifth installment of The Planetary Post, Robert Picardo and Bill Nye take a special tour of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to see the amazing new James Webb Space Telescope.

(8) EXTRA CREDIT. The Planetary Post webpage has additional links of interest.

Juno Orbit Insertion: The Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on July 4-5 (orbit insertion is on the night of July 4 in the Americas, early July 5 in the Eastern Hemisphere). This groundbreaking mission will improve our understanding of the solar system’s beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Watch our CEO Bill Nye demystify the cutting-edge science behind NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter. Follow Emily Lakdawalla to learn when you will be able to see new Jupiter pictures from its camera, JunoCam.

Tanking It To The Streets: After an epic parade through the streets of Los Angeles, the last unflown space shuttle external tank arrived at the California Science Center to be displayed alongside the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The tank, known as ET-94, had quite an eventful journey—including a rescue at sea.

New Space Policy Podcast: Planetary Radio just launched a monthly podcast that looks underneath the hood of how NASA works. Join Space Policy Director Casey Dreier, Policy Advisor Jason Callahan, and Mat Kaplan in this new series exploring the history, politics, and process of how we get to space. A new episode will be released on the first Friday of every month. Subscribe to Planetary Radio on your favorite listening platform.

SpaceX’s Fantastic Four: Elon Musk and his team have done it again and landed a fourth first-stage booster. This makes three landings by sea and one by land. Be sure to watch the spectacular Falcon 9 landing from the side of the booster.

LightSail™ 2 Test Success: Our citizen-funded LightSail 2 spacecraft recently breezed through a major systems test. The CubeSat successfully deployed its antenna and solar panels, communicated with the ground, and unfurled its 32-square-meter solar sails in a lab setting. Read more in our full recap.

(9) JUST LIKE CLOCKWORK. Tor.com has posted the first chapter of David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars as a free read.

Arabella-MarsA plantation in a flourishing 18th century British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby, a young woman who is perfectly content growing up in the untamed frontier. But days spent working on complex automata with her father or stalking her brother Michael with her Martian nanny is not the proper behavior of an English lady. That is something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.

However, when events transpire that threaten her home on Mars, Arabella decides that sometimes doing the right thing is far more important than behaving as expected. She disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company, where she meets a mysterious captain who is intrigued by her knack with clockwork creations. Now Arabella just has to weather the naval war currently raging between Britain and France, learn how to sail, and deal with a mutinous crew…if she hopes to save her family remaining on Mars.

Arabella of Mars, the debut novel by Hugo-winning author David D. Levine offers adventure, romance, political intrigue, and Napoleon in space—available July 12th from Tor Books. Read chapter one below, and come back all this week for additional excerpts!

(10) POWERED BY BELIEF. Kameron Hurley is a trusted interpreter of the career writer’s inner life — “Real Publishing Talk: Author Expectation and Entitlement”.

As I’ve had more interest in my work, and more opportunities have come my way, I’ve also learned how to say no to things that aren’t furthering my ultimate goal of building my work into its own powerhouse. This is another reason I still hold onto the day job, because it means I don’t have to take every deal or every opportunity. Still, it’s hard to say no. You’re always concerned about opportunities drying up. What if this is the best it ever gets? What if I don’t get an opportunity again?

And then I look at my career and I go, “We are just getting started.”

And it is this, this hope, this rally from the depths of doubt and despair, that keeps me going. You must believe in the future. You must believe you can create it. You must believe that endurance, and hard work, and persistence, will carry you through.

(11) YOON HA LEE. Aidan Moher was pleased he found a reason to persist, as he explains in “Stealing the Future: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee”.

I have a confession to make. When I finished the first chapter of Ninefox Gambit, the debut novel from noted short fiction author Yoon Ha Lee, I thought that was all I would read. It wasn’t clicking with me. I found the world confusing, the action gruesome, and the pace difficult to keep up with. I could recognize that novel’s quality, and the originality that Lee is known for, but other books beckoned, and there was an easy, lazy whisper at the back of my head. “It’s just not for you,” it said. I listened, and moved onto another book.

Yet, here I am reviewing it.

(12) SEASON 10 SHOOTING BEGINS. CinemaBlend tells fans “Doctor Who Is Giving Fans Way More Of An Unexpected Character”.

It was announced today that Bridesmaids star Matt Lucas will reprise Nardole for the opening episode of Doctor Who Season 10, which begins filming in Cardiff on June 20. Reuniting with the Twelfth Doctor and meeting his new companion, Bill (played by Pearl Mackie), for the first time, Lucas’ Nardole will have a recurring role throughout the season. The episode is being written by showrunner Steven Moffat, and it was also revealed that Sherlock actor Stephanie Hyam will have a guest cast role this season.

(13) CYBERPUNK WOMEN. Before moving on to the positives, Geoff Willmetts starts with the shortcomings of “Cyberpunk Women, Feminism And Science Fiction by Carlen Lavigne (book review)” at SF Crowsnest.

I had slight misgivings with the preface to Carlen Lavigne’s book, ‘Cyberpunk Women, Feminism And Science Fiction’ when she starts describing the history of cyberpunk without mentioning Bruce Bethke’s 1983 short story but in the proper introduction, she clearly is well read on the subject and covers the history in the following chapter. She describes cyberpunk as belonging to the 4 C’s: corporation, crime, computers and corporeality (read that as corporations) and the changes to our world today as computer technology takes over our reality and taken to extremes. She also includes cyborgs as a near fifth C. Oddly, she misses out the meaning of ‘punk’. Not the original meaning which meant ‘prostitution’ but that of rebellion as given with the UK punk movement of the 1980s. The reason why ‘cyberpunk’ didn’t really last that long was because, unlike William Gibson’s assertion that people would rebel against computers, is because they embraced the technology instead. Many of you people reading here lived through that period and look what you’re reading this review on. Something else Lavigne misses out on is Gibson admitting that he doesn’t like computers and I suspect those who read his novels probably raised their own eyebrows as to how druggies could program computers when you really need all your attention when writing code.

(14) OUTSIDE OF A WALRUS. Camestros Felapton created a parody of Tran Nguyen’s Spectrum-winning art “Traveling To a Distant Day,” as it appeared on the cover of semiprozine Hugo nominee Uncanny.

Then he shared his analysis: “Hugo Choices 8: Best Semiprozine – Sci-Phi beats No Award” — and for a moment I panicked because I thought that meant it was the only nominee he placed above the event horizon. But no, he means all the nominees deserve to be ranked above No Award.

What Sad Puppies (particularly SP4) has inadvertently demonstrated, is that the lack of authentic conservative voices in modern science fiction lies less with sinister conspiracies or SJW gate-keepers but rather a genuine lack of conservatives writing SF/F of any great depth. Sci-Phi journal hasn’t fixed that problem but at least it is attempting to do something constructive about it.

(15) GAIMAN ON STAGE. In the Baltimore Sun Tim Smith reviews a production of Neverwhere, the fantasy novel and BBC television series by Neil Gaiman adapted for stage by Robert Kauzlaric and performed by the Cohesion Theatre of Baltimore.  He says “this theatrical version…is well worth visiting.”

Whatever the influences, Gaiman spins a good, fresh yarn. And Kauzlaric’s adaptation does a mostly smooth job of cramming in characters and incidents, while maintaining a coherent thread.

Likewise, director Brad Norris proves adept at keeping the Cohesion production cohesive, drawing nicely delineated portrayals from the actors (accents are respectably achieved), and keeping the pace taut enough to make a long play feel almost speedy.

Some of the dry wit in the script could use brighter delivery; that may emerge as the run continues. But the violent bits — the story gets pretty dark at times — are well in hand, deftly guided by fight choreographer Jon Rubin….

(16) ABOUT FEYNMAN. In a 2011 TEDX talk called “Leonard Susskind: My Friend Richard Feynman”, Stanford physicist Susskind tells Feynman stories.  Sidney Coleman is mentioned starting at about 4:06 and continuing for a minute as Feynman, Susskind, and Coleman, take on some clueless philosophers over the nature of artificial intelligence.

Richard Feynman was a very complex man. He was a man of many, many parts. He was, of course, foremost, a very, very, very great scientist. He was an actor. You saw him act. I also had the good fortune to be in those lectures, up in the balcony. They were fantastic. He was a philosopher; he was a drum player; he was a teacher par excellence. Richard Feynman was also a showman, an enormous showman. He was brash, irreverent — he was full of macho, a kind of macho one-upmanship. He loved intellectual battle. He had a gargantuan ego. But the man had somehow a lot of room at the bottom. And what I mean by that is a lot of room, in my case — I can’t speak for anybody else — but in my case, a lot of room for another big ego. Well, not as big as his, but fairly big. I always felt good with Dick Feynman.

 

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

To Your Scattered Kennels Go 7/6

aka Last and First Puppies

The Ultimate Roundup brings you Benjamin Domenech and Robert Tracinski, Samuel John Klein, T.P. Kroger, Vox Day, Doctor Science, Aidan Moher, Brandon Kempner, Martin Wisse, Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, David Steffen, Lis Carey and Cryptic Others. (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Bruce Baugh and Milt Stevens.)

 

Benjamin Domenech and Robert Tracinski on The Federalist

“Welcome To Culture War 4.0: The Coming Overreach” – July 6

Culture War 4.0

Today we live in the early stages of that triumph, and as a small number of public intellectuals and media commentators predicted, it is a bloody triumph indeed. Culture War 4.0 brings the Counterculture full circle: now they have become the blue-nosed, Puritanical establishment. Once they began to achieve their goals and saw the culture moving their way, they moved from making a plea for tolerance and freedom to demanding persecution of anyone who dissents against the new orthodoxy in even the smallest way.

Whichever side believes it is winning will tend to overreach, pushing too far, too fast, and alienating the public.

In just the past two years, the Counterculture’s neo-Puritanical reign has made things political that were never thought to be: Shirtstorms and Gamergate, Chik-fil-A and Brandon Eich, Indiana and Sad Puppies, and don’t you dare say Caitlyn Jenner isn’t a hero.

History teaches us two clear lessons about the ebb and flow of the Culture War: first, that whichever side believes it is winning will tend to overreach, pushing too far, too fast, and in the process alienating the public. The second is that the American people tend to oppose whoever they see as the aggressor in the Culture Wars—whoever they see as trying to intrusively impose their values on other people and bullying everyone who disagrees.

 

Samuel John Klein on The ZehnKatzen Times

“The Sad Puppies May Have A Point” – July 6

One of the most juvenile, at least to me, of the Sad Puppies’ plaints about the trend of modern SF (you can fill in speculative fiction or science fiction, as is your wont) is elaborated by this point made by one of the leading opiners of the movement, Brad Torgerson: ….

And then it occurred to me that one of the cornerstones of this insurgency is apparently the right to judge a book by its cover. This is something that I was told never to do, that it was the sign of shallowness and unwarranted prejudice.

But then, I thought, what if there was a point to made here? Maybe I just work too hard at wanting an experience here. I mean, if I, as a consumer, should want to be guided with pretty shiny images, then who am I to complain? They do me a service, after all, in truth-in-labeling (as a liberal, I’m supposed to like that).

So, truth-in-labeling. Okay. We’ll go with that. I hold in my hand a Berkeley 1981 re-release of one of my favorite novels, written by an acknowledged master of the form, one who went on to create iconic works of SF that inform the genre to this day. But, book-by-its-cover now … okay, I see an organically-formed, liquid, almost-melting edifice on a horizon under a hot yellow sky, and that edifice appears to be a building … after all, there’s something that looks like a tiny figure standing in one of the openings (is it a window). On the whole, it looks like something Frank Gehry came up with in a fever dream.

In the sky, an eye orbits. Setting or rising, I can’t tell, but there it is. to the right of the building, a small thing resembling a misconceived volcano seems to launching a weather balloon, or maybe Rover from The Prisoner. It’s all on a purple plain resembling fused glass, with two rocks resembling rocketships in the foreground, and in the extreme foreground it appears that some poor soul has died, being embedded in the fused glass of the plain.

Needless to say, I expected a tripping-balls adventure about a science-fictional acid trip, but what did I actually get? Some lame story about an alternate past where the Japanese and Germans won WWII and divided up America between them.

Oh, by the way, here’s the book:

HighCastleCover

And, to fit the Sad Puppy profile of undeserving novels, it won the Hugo.

In 1962.

Clearly, this conspiracy has gone on way longer than any of us imaginers could have possibly imagined.

Wake up, sheeple!

 

 

 

Vox Day wrote in an e-mail – July 5

One of your commenters said this:

“Like the persecution they are always whining about, it doesn’t exist.  Claiming it does only makes them look foolish.”

You could read the FIVE Guardian pieces libeling me. Or the Entertainment Weekly piece, the Boston Globe piece, the NPR report, or the Popular Science piece. Note that none of them ever interviewed me, even though the Guardian guidelines require a subject to be interviewed if they are identified by name.

Note that three of the individuals on the SFWA Board were actually guilty of the charge that I was falsely accused of. I did NOT attack an SFWA member in an official SFWA forum, in fact, I didn’t even LINK to an attack on an SFWA member in an official SFWA forum. (@sfwaauthors is not the official SFWA Twitter feed, and the feed belongs to Twitter anyhow, not SFWA.) Stephen Gould, among 70 other SFWA members, did.

This is why no one on our side gives even the smallest damn about anything the other side says. We know they are all absolutely and utterly full of shit. And we also know that even when we prove something beyond any shadow of a doubt, they will not change their mind in the slightest, but will promptly move the goalposts.

We will never, ever talk to them. There is no point.

 

 

bloggingandcapturing

“Nerd Entitlement or: How to stop hating and accept diversity” – July 6

This phenomenon isn’t limited to gaming. Hell the term GamerGate was first coined by the actor Adam Baldwin, a man whose Twitter feed is a smorgasbord of right-wing rambling that would fit right in at a Rick Santorum dinner party. Then there’s this years Hugo Awards, which has managed to be hijacked by a group right-wing authors and their supporters calling themselves ‘The Sad Puppies’, even managing to raise the ire of George R.R. Martin. Whilst they’ve been around for a couple of years with very little effect, their sudden rise in influence has coincided with the emergence of GamerGate. And then there’s the YouTube channels that have jumped on the crazy train. I remember watching Thunderf00t videos to do with astronomy years ago. Imagine my surprise when swathes of his channel is now dedicated to bashing feminists.

It’s become a lightning rod for those who had their niche, a thing that they could call their own. Now that it’s become more inclusive they’re rallying against feminists, “Social Justice Warriors” and those who think that maybe, just maybe, having more equality is a good thing. Because everything in geek culture in the past was aimed at a smaller market to which they belonged, their sense of entitlement is so that they feel that should continue.

Do I think that the likes of Adam Baldwin gives a toss about video games, aside from being paid to occasionally be in them? No. But it helps to further their agenda and people who see themselves as victims get swept up in it.

Is there a solution to this? Can those of us who, through our fandom, hobbies and interests are inextricably linked to these people, do or say anything to turn people away from such hate? I would like to think yes. We need to support those game developers, film makers and creative types who are helping to diversify geek culture. It’s important to not be afraid to provide constructive criticism when they drop the ball from time to time.

It’s my hope that, given time, opportunists like Baldwin, the misogynists GameGate, the Sad Puppies and countless YouTubers will become increasingly marginalised. With the widespread critical acclaim of the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road and Her Story and the increasing condemnation of shows like Game of Thrones for its treatment of women, I’d like to think that perception is starting to change. Sadly, I feel that for the time being those that shout the loudest will continue to impinge on geek culture.

 

Doctor Science on Obsidian Wings

“Hugo voting: how, why, for what” – July 6

This is a guide intended for fans from the transformative works/Tumblr ends of fandom who are voting for the Hugo Awards for the first time.

There are two basic principles for Hugo voting:

  1. You do not have to vote in every category
  2. When you *do* vote in a category, you have to at least look at all the legitimate nominees. You don’t have to finish them, but you’re honor-bound to at least try…..

 

Aidan Moher on A Dribble of Ink

Aidan Moher: Well, I wear my Hugo Award on a platinum chain around my neck — Flavor Flav-style — so, that tells you all you need to know about my perspective on awards. If you got ‘em, flaunt ‘em. Life’s too short for humility.

 

Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon

“Inside the Locus Results” – July 6

My copy of Locus Magazine arrived today, and with it some interesting insights on how the Hugo nominees did in those awards. While not a perfect match to the Hugos, the Locus are the closest thing going: a popular vote by SFF “insiders” to determine the best novel of the year…..

You’ll notice that the Top 2 from the SF and the Top 1 from F make up 3/5 of the Hugo Best Novel ballot. Neither the Jim Butcher nor the Kevin J. Anderson made the Top 28 SF novels or the Top 21 fantasy novels. If you were going by Locus vote counts alone, VanderMeer and Gibson would have been next in line for nominations. Since Hugo voters have ignored Gibson since 1994 (seriously, no nominations since 1994), the 5th spot would have been a toss up between Scalzi and Bennett. Given Scalzi’s past Hugo performance, you might lean in that direction, although we’ll find out when the full nomination stats are released.

 

Martin Wisse on Wis[s]e Words

“Best Novel Hugo vote 2015” – July 6

I don’t have to tell you I won’t be voting for any Puppy candidates, right, so the question becomes which of the three non-Puppy candidates will get my vote. Even diminished, this is a great shortlist:

The Goblin Emperor — Katherine Addison.

The Goblin Emperor at heart is a very traditional power fantasy, about the boy of humble origins who becomes emperor by happenstance and now has to very quickly learn how to survive in a world of political intrigue he’s completely unprepared for, filled with people who either want to manipulate him or replace him with a better figurehead. It’s one of those fantasy scenarios other writers can write multiple trilogies about to get to that point, but Katherine Addison has her goblin hero confirmed as the emperor within five pages, the rest of the novel being about him getting to grips with his new job, woefully inadequate though he feels.

 

Martin Wisse on Wis[s]e Words

“The Three-Body Problem — Cixin Liu” – July 6

If it hadn’t been for Marko Kloos doing the honourable thing and withdrawing his nomination, The Three-Body Problem wouldn’t be on the ballot for this year’s Best Novel Hugo. And that would’ve been a shame, since The Three-Body Problem is the first translated novel to make the shortlist. The start of a trilogy, it originally came out in China in serialisation in 2006, with the novel version coming out in 2008. The English translation was done by Ken Liu, who has won a Hugo Award himself. The sequels will come out this year and next.

 

Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag on Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog

“Hugo Reading – Related Work” – July 6

[Comments on all five nominees]

This entire category seems like a race to the bottom. “Wisdom” is clearly meant as an insult to anyone who actually cares about the Hugos, and none of the rest are award-worthy, though some are ok or even almost good. I feel like the time I spent reading this category was completely wasted. The only thing to do with this one is vote “No Award” and leave everything off the ballot.

 

David Steffen on Diabolical Plots

“Hugo Short Story Review: ‘A Single Samurai’ by Steven Diamond” – July 6

“A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond was first published in The Baen Big Book of Monsters published by Baen Books.

In this story a mountain-sized kaiju has arisen in Japan, rising from beneath the land itself where the landscape had built up around it.  The monster is moving across the countryside, crushing everything in its path.  A samurai has survived its uprising where so many others haven’t by riding the kaiju as it rose up and climbing up its back even as the soil and trees and rocks shift off the kaiju as it walks.  To save Japan he has to finish his climb and find some way to kill the monster.

 

Familiar Diversions

“Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie” – July 6

Ancillary Justice has been on my TBR for a while, because books with prominent AI characters that aren’t evil are my catnip. Then the whole thing with the Sad Puppies and the Hugo Awards blew up. Ancillary Justice was one of two works that kept coming up again and again as one of the works most hated by the Sad Puppies, so I suppose I should thank them for reminding me I hadn’t read it yet…..

 

Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library

“Edge of Tomorrow, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)” – July 6

Groundhog Day meets every high-tech war movie you’ve seen. And, really, too violent for my tastes; I don’t do war movies. My nerves don’t handle the sound and images well. But this, honestly, is very good.

Hugo Nominated Fauxzines

While paging through the Hugo Voter Packet a friend of mine discovered that the four blogs up for Best Fanzine are represented by samples made to look like real magazines, with selections from their entire year’s work and new introductory material.

This annoyed my friend, who is one of the old guard with strong opinions about the difference between fanzines and blogs, and what belongs in the Best Fanzine category.

I, on the other hand, was highly amused. Just as people determined to overcome L’Académie française’s rejection of foreign vernacular like “hot dog” speak about finishing the good work begun by Henry V, I thought it was beyond wonderful to see Aidan Moher forced to present A Dribble of Ink to Hugo voters in a nicely formatted little PDF file.

That would be the same Aidan Moher who tweeted these gloating remarks after the Hugo nominations were announced in April.

Not at all. I can only applaud when someone turns away from the dark side. Congratulations on your first fanzine, Aidan!

Give ‘em the axe!

That’s what Milt Stevens will be asking voters to do at the 2013 Worldcon Business Meeting – delete the Best Fanzine, Best Fan Writer, and Best Fan Artist Hugo categories from the WSFS Constitution.

Stevens shared the text of his motion with readers of the Smofs listserv and justified it by saying these categories are “susceptible to manipulation” because they get fewer voters and are chronically influenced by people campaigning for themselves. He also expressed frustration with fans’ irreconcilable differences over the definition of a fanzine —

Efforts at compromise have failed. One group says that fanzines are words on paper only, and nothing else can be allowed. Another group thinks fanzines and fan writing are anything the voters can imagine and will tolerate no limitations whatsoever. There is wide dissatisfaction with these three awards, and it doesn’t seem likely to go away.

When Milt and I discussed his idea a few months ago, I argued that the implicit message in his motion was not that fanzine fans refuse to let the awards be abused, but that we quit, we’re abdicating our influence over the future of this subset of the Hugos. And other fans, semipros and bloggers who already feel entitled to control the awards will just tell us don’t let the door bang our butts on the way out.

(Yet I’m intrigued how much Milt has in common with Aidan Moher, who makes some of the same criticisms about the Hugo electorate. Of course, Moher wants to give all the fan Hugos to bloggers, so never the twain shall meet…)

I disagree with the proposal to repeal the fan Hugos because I feel our best interests involve keeping fanzines in the mix for these awards. There are still large numbers of fanzines being published and there’s no reason to legislate the irrelevance of this healthy brand of fanac.

It’s also too bad that the debate over the motion will inevitably make fanzine fans look more like jackasses than we already do, having just spent the last two years getting our alleged political allies to help us reconstitute the Best Fanzine category as we supposedly wanted it to look. Something they were happy to do because they had no intention of asking Hugo Administrators to enforce the result the movers, including Rich Lynch, said the rules change was actually supposed to have.

Like it or not, for fanzine fans the Hugos resemble the joke version of the Laws of Thermodynamics — you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game. So, since we can’t get out, we should not be abandoning the influence we still have left.

Update 08/01/2013: Corrected which set of natural laws the joke refers to, per comment.

Amazing’s 50 Shades of Blog

Amazing Stories relaunch continues January 2 when over 50 bloggers will begin contributing to its Social Magazine Platform.

Publisher Steve Davidson has lined up personalities from all over the field to stoke discussion of an enormous array of subjects of interest to genre fans.

We’ve got authors and agents, bloggers and editors, podcasters and broadcasters; we’ve got gamers and game designers; artists and art collectors; pulpsters and indie authors; we’ve got Hugo winners, John W. Campbell Memorial Award winners, John W. Campbell Best New Writer winners, Nebula and Hugo Award winners and nominees and winners and nominees of many other awards; people who review films, people who make films; we’ve got fanboys and fangirls; we’ve got former editors of Amazing Stories, writers who’ve become synonymous with the field and writers who are just getting started; comic artists, book reviewers; traditionally published authors, self-pubbed authors and authors who’ve done it all. The response to my request for participation was phenomenal.

They’ll cover 14 principal topics: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, (lit), Film, Television, Gaming, Comics and Graphic Works, the Visual Arts, the Pulps, Audio Works, Anime, the Business of Publishing, Science and Fandom.

Here’s the starting lineup:

Cenobyte – http://www.cenobyte.ca
Mike Brotherton – http://www.mikebrotherton.com
Ricky L Brown – http://doctorfantastiques.com/author/rickbrown
Michael A Burstein – http://www.mabfan.com , http://www.bursteinbooks.com
Cait Coker – http://www.aggiescifi.wordpress.com
Johne Cook – https://twitter.com/theskypirate
Paul Cook – http://www.paulcook-sci-fi.com
Gary Dalkin – http://www.tothelastword.com
Jane Frank – http://www.wow-art.com
Jim Freund – http://www.hourwolf.com
Adam Gaffen – http://www.thekildaran.blogspot.com
Chris Garcia – http://efanzines.com/DrinkTank
Chris Gerwel – http://elflands2ndcousin.com
Tommy Hancock – http://www.allpulp.blogspot.com , http://www.prosepulp.com
Liz Henderson – http://www.true-blood.net , http://www.onceuponafansite.com , http://www.nicegirlstv.com
Samantha Henry – http://www.scifidramaqueen.com
M. D. Jackson – http://www.michaeldeanjackson.blogspot.com
Monique Jacob – http://www.moniquejacob.com
Geoffrey James – http://www.geoffreyjames.com , http://www.sorcerer.net
J. Jay Jones
Peggy Kolm – http://blog.sciencefictionbiology.com
Justin Landon – http://www.staffersbookreview.com
Andrew Liptak – http://www.andrewliptak.wordpress.com
Meilissa Lowery http://www.true-blood.net , http://www.sidcity.net , http://www.chucktv.net
Barry Malzberg
C. E. Martin – http://www.troglodad.blogspot.com , http://www.mythicaltheseries.blogspot.com
Farrell J. McGovern – http://www.can-con.org
Steve Miller – http://stevemillerreviews.blogspot.com , http://nuelow.blogspot.com/
Matt Mitrovich – http://alternatehistoryweeklyupdate.blogspot.com
Aidan Moher – http://aidanmoher.com/blog
Kevin Murray – www.kevinmurray.ca , http://www.falloutfiles.com
Ken Neth – http://nethspace.blogspot.com
Astrid Nielsch – http://webdesign.asni.net/ , http://www.asni.net , http://www.asni.net/newsletter.php , http://music.asni.net/ , http://conceptart.asni.net/
D. Nicklin-Dunbar –http://mouldysquid.wordpress.com/book-reviews
John Purcell – http://efanzines.com/Prior/index.htm
James Rogers – http://scienceismagic.com/
Diane Severson – www.divadianes.blogspot.com , http://www.starshipsofa.com/category/podcast/fact-articles/poetry-planet/ , http://www.sfpoetry.com
Doug Smith – http://www.smithwriter.com
Lesley Smith
Bill Spangler
Duane Spurlock – http://pulprack.blogspot.com , http://spurandlock.blogspot.com , http://duanespurlock.blogspot.com
Michael J. Sullivan – http://www.riyria.com
G. W. Thomas – http://www.gwthomas.org
Erin Underwood – http://www.underwords.com
Stephan Van Velzen – http://www.rantingdragon.com
Cynthia Ward – http://www.cynthiaward.com , http://www.writingtheother.com
Michael Webb – http://www.martianexpatriate.com/
Keith West – http://www.adventuresfantastic.blogspot.com , http://futurespastandpresent.blogspot.com
John M Whalen – http://johnmwhalen.wordpress.com
Ann Wilkes – http://sciencefictionmusings.blogspot.com
Karlo Yeager
Leah Zeldes – http://www.zeldes.com , http://www.thewaythefutureblogs.com , http://www.diningchicago.com/blog

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Personal Thoughts About the Fan Hugos

I promised I’d return to Aidan Moher’s questions about the fan Hugo nominees:

But don’t even get me started on the Best Fanzine and Best Fan Writer awards. Maybe I’m exposing my ignorance here, but beyond StarShip Sofa, I haven’t heard of a damn one, nor am I familiar with any of the writers. My beef, obviously, is the lack of presence of blogs, bloggers and online writers. Where’re the Nialls (Harrison and Alexander)? Where’s Abigail Nussbaum or Adam Whitehead? No nod for SF Signal? Really?

Really? Are we to assume from Moher’s tone that there’s a consensus about the best work in the field accepted by everyone except the actual Hugo voters?

There’s no consensus – there’s not even a plurality of opinion. Not among fandom at large and not among those dinosaurs the “traditional fanzine fans.”

Look how many different things were nominated in the fan categories this year – 119 fanzines, 225 fan writers. The leading fan writer (whoever that is) appeared only on 22% of the ballots. It was possible to reach the finals in Best Fanzine or Best Fan Artist with support of just 13% of the voters, and in Best Fan Writer with only 9%. Four-fifths of the voters might easily be asking if everyone else really neglected their favorites, but filling in the blank with names Moher never mentioned:

Votes Unique Nominees Range
Low % High %
Best Fanzine 340 119 43 0.13 69 0.20
Best Fan Writer 323 225 30 0.09 70 0.22
Best Fan Artist 176 97 23 0.13 46 0.26

I happen to agree that Moher’s examples are, indeed, excellent. The thing is — there’s a lot of quality work being done, many admired writers, and the voters in the fan categories are passionate about a wide variety of choices. They have such a diversity of interests that there’s no justification for Moher to take on so, as if his examples of the most award-worthy fan writers or fanzines are so superior they’re the only ones anyone should embrace.

The Not So Great Divide: Moher’s complaint about a “lack of presence of blogs, bloggers and online writers” among the nominees appeals to the idea there is divide between people who engage in online fanac and…  uh… come to think of it, who exactly is supposed to be on the other side of that divide?

Everybody uses the Web now. The Cool Kids and the Old Pharts haven’t been divided between pixels and paper for years. Did you notice there were only 14 paper ballots out of 1006 cast?

In hindsight, I believe the separation of various fan communities was not a technological divide but was a byproduct of people’s attempt to define fandom in a way that allowed them to believe they were keeping up with the part that mattered (therefore making it okay to ignore the rest.) Time is finite and interests vary with the individual, few fans have the desire or resources to participate in the full spectrum. That’s a social dynamic at work, not a byproduct of choices in communication technology.

There may be a divide of a different kind at work currently. Aren’t most of Moher’s examples distinguished by their passion for discussing sf & fantasy? Don’t most of the present fan Hugo finalists focus on fandom and social interests rather than discussions of genre literature? In the last culture war between faanish and sercon fans, the former were offended by all those darn book review zines hogging space on the Hugo ballot. I wonder if we haven’t cycled around to a version of this controversy again.

Despite our milieu being called “science fiction fandom” we often underestimate how much a quality discussion of science fiction or life inside the writing business appeals to fans. Would Fred Pohl have won a Best Fan Writer Hugo if every post was about the bheer can tower to the moon or something equally skiffy?

This pendulum swings back and forth as time passes and varies which interest dominates the Hugo ballot.

Legislated Change: When the “Making the Web Eligible” amendments to the Hugo rules took effect in 2010 many fans predicted they would yield a radically different slate of nominees – a prospect filling some with delight and others with dread. Those predictions came true. The winner of the 2010 Best Fanzine Hugo, StarShip Sofa, was a podcast. Three first-timers were up for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, two bloggers, those overnight sensations James Nicoll and Fred Pohl, plus letterhack Lloyd Penney.

Yet in 2011 voters returned some of the old standbys to the final ballot, so it’s not as if an asteroid struck the earth last year and wiped out the dinosaurs.

Why Does It Look This Way? Three factors seem to have moderated the change everyone predicted.

First, the growing participation in the Hugos — a record 1006 Worldcon members cast nominating ballots in 2011 — hasn’t impacted the fan categories. The average voter isn’t interested in fanac and leaves that part of the ballot blank.

Second, veteran fans with somewhat convergent ideas about fanzines still exert leverage on the Hugo nominating process, as I’ll explain.

Third, voters don’t know what “Making the Web Eligible” made eligible that wasn’t before. The amended rules failed to provide clear direction. This vagueness makes newcomers shy away from participating in the fan categories. People only vote when they’re somewhat confident about what they’re supposed to be voting for.

White Space: Hugo Administrator Vincent Docherty’s statistical summary shows that while practically every voter nominated something in the Best Novel category, with 83% participation, the typical ballot otherwise left many of categories completely blank.

2011 Hugos
Total Ballots = 1006 Votes Cast in Category Percentage of All Ballots
Best Novel 833 0.83
Best Novella 407 0.40
Best Novelette 382 0.38
Best Short Story 515 0.51
Best Related Work 375 0.37
Best Graphic Story 287 0.29
BDP, Long Form 510 0.51
BDP, Short Form 394 0.39
Best Editor, Short 425 0.42
Best Editor, Long 300 0.30
Best Pro Artist 406 0.40
Best Semiprozine 368 0.37
Best Fanzine 340 0.34
Best Fan Writer 323 0.32
Best Fan Artist 176 0.17

My interpretation of these statistics is that they show voters nominate in categories where they feel a higher level of confidence in their knowledge about what deserves an award — and skip the rest.

Something else I believe is true, though it can’t be proven with the voting stats, is this:

Most Hugo voters don’t read fanzines.

Most Hugo voters don’t read blogs by fans.

Because most Hugo voters don’t read fan writing, which is what your typical fanzine or fannish blog is filled with. It really makes no difference whether the fan writing is online or what format it’s in.

Most Hugo voters don’t know any names to write down in the fan categories, so most of them don’t nominate in the fan categories.

Ballots Better Than Bullets: That leaves those of us who think we do know something about the subject to thresh things out. And the numbers show in the Best Fanzine category that the people who are sure they know what a fanzine is and have an opinion about what the best ones are, simply by filling out their ballots completely, wield a surprising degree of influence over what makes the final ballot. This can be inferred from the voting statistics.

In every category a great many voters cast “bullet votes” — they write down just one or two selected friends or favorites. Here’s how we know that. Remember, a voter can nominate up to five items in each category. Now look at the Best Novel category:

2011 Hugos
Total Ballots = 1006

Total

Nominations

Average Nominations
Best Novel 833 2657 3.19
Best Novella 407 987 2.43
Best Novelette 382 1014 2.65
Best Short Story 515 1538 2.99
Best Related Work 375 729 1.94
Best Graphic Story 287 660 2.30
BDP, Long Form 510 1283 2.52
BDP, Short Form 394 1036 2.63
Best Editor, Short 425 1105 2.60
Best Editor, Long 300 629 2.10
Best Pro Artist 406 1058 2.61
Best Semiprozine 368 881 2.39
Best Fanzine 340 819 2.41
Best Fan Writer 323 912 2.82
Best Fan Artist 176 462 2.63

Docherty reports voters made 2657 total nominations. Therefore, 2657 divided by 833 ballots equals an average of 3.19 nominations per ballot.

Working through the rest of the ballot there’s surprising consistency — nearly every category averaged 2-3 nominations or less per ballot.

Some voters are filling in four or five slots on their ballots, so that overall low average can only be achieved if a large proportion of the other voters write in just a single nominee – casting bullet votes.

Without looking at the ballots, which isn’t allowed, no one can tell which nominees were helped by bullet voting, and that’s beside the point. My purpose is to show how prevalent bullet votes must be.

I believe we fannish voters continue to have a greater impact for the very reason that we do put something in all five spaces. If, after I fire one of my bullets for File 770, I follow it with another for Challenger (which is a terrific fanzine), give the third to The Drink Tank and so on – that collectively lifts a certain community of fanzines above the background noise. Even a small convergence of this kind influences the outcome.

Why Johnny Can’t Define “Issue”: A few months ago I was happy to get an e-mail from the Hugo Administrator telling me File 770 was nominated. The e-mail also asked me to verify that I was eligible in the category:

We’re delighted to inform you that File 770 has been nominated for a Hugo Award in the category of Best Fanzine. The Best Fanzine category is for any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of 2010 has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which does not qualify as a semiprozine.

Can you confirm this requirement and do you accept the nomination in this category?

Easy for me to answer that affirmatively, I had a paper issue out last year. All the other finalists had distinct issues, too.

Were any of the prospective nominees blog creators, who read this paragraph and decided their work didn’t qualify and declined the nomination? I doubt it. Nobody on the verge of making the final ballot will think, “I’ve made 200 blog posts but I’m not sure if that’s the equivalent of four issues, so I’d better turn down this nomination.”

But I do suspect that Hugo voters are deterred from nominating things that don’t come in easily-definable issues. Maybe they should be. Last year John Scalzi, seconded by Cheryl Morgan, advanced the idea that their blogs were not fanzines or related works, setting an example to the effect that bloggers should be recognized only in the Best Fan Writer category.

No way of really deciding who’s right – the authors of “Making the Web Eligible” failed to say what “the equivalent in other media” is. And because fans shy away from voting in categories unless they’re confident in their knowledge, don’t you suppose the lack of an explicit definition chills participation?

Vincent Docherty, Hugo Administrator for 2010 and again in 2011, provided helpful guidance last year that made it clear the voters collectively would have the most say about what qualifies:

In summary, unless I feel very certain a work is technically ineligible, (which includes having only a trivial amount of new material), I will accept the will of the nominators. It is therefore up to the electorate to act as the jury on the facts and answer the question: ‘Is this work a fanzine (or semiprozine or Related Work) or not?

Of course the rules change was nicknamed “Making the Web Eligible” for a reason – the movers did not intend that only things looking like paper magazines would be allowed into contention as fanzines, otherwise they need not have changed the rules.

Last year the three online non-magazine publications receiving the most nominations for Best Fanzine, besides winner StarShip Sofa, were SF Signal (17), Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (13), and The Way the Future Blogs (11). They may make it yet.

Conclusion: I hate to say it, but the infinite audience of the internet mostly avoids reading our fascinating verbiage, whether it appears on a hip happening blog or in a bilious old PDF file at eFanzines. Everybody wishes they drew like Scalzi at Whatever. Most are lucky to draw like Glyer at File 770. Enormous numbers of people online have an interest in sf – it’s mainstream now. How many are engaged in fannish activities like fan writing, con running, publishing, etc. How many are connected to the Worldcon community whose members vote on the Hugos?

We have fannish communities with varied interests and tastes and while it’s typical of the age to assume the other side is biased and corrupt, in fact it’s everyone’s privilege to like what they like. The prospects with the most support will make the final ballot, which is how the Hugos are designed to work.

(P.S. I note that SF Awards Watch has done its own exploration of the voting stats in “A New Hugo Award Podcast”. If this post was inspired by their work I’d happily admit it, but it’s not.)

Update 05/23/2011: Fixed one table — thanks to Mike K. Discovered I had copied another test calculation which isn’t discussed in this post.