Pixel Scroll 9/5/19 You Don’t Scroll On Pixelman’s Cape, You Don’t File In The Wind

(1) DID AMAZON CHEAT? The American Booksellers Association is on the warpath: “ABA Condemns Amazon for Breaking ‘Testaments’ Embargo”.

The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.

Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”

In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. “Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments,” the statement said. “We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”

Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)

…The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.

The store went to ask customers to “please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore” or to visit a story “on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

(2) MEANWHILE IN VIDEOLAND. The question is — “Handmaid’s Tale: Was it right to take the series beyond the book?” Warning for those who click through — Excerpt ends at point where spoilers start.

The second series of the Handmaid’s Tale came to an end on Sunday night.

Writing in iNews, Mark Butler calls the finale “a nail-biting conclusion to the season, with a controversial twist”, but Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya termed the climax “a singularly frustrating end to a season that, despite its high points, often struggled to find its purpose”.

The series went beyond Margaret Atwood’s original novel – with her blessing – but how well did the show do in extending the novel beyond its intended lifecycle and how difficult is it to go beyond the book of an acclaimed author like Atwood?

“The novel ends quite ambiguously,” says Julia Raeside, who has written The Guardian’s episode-by-episode guide to series two of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Speaking to BBC News, she adds: “It’s really interesting when someone takes up the mantle of an unfinished story. If they’ve got something to say about what happens when you repress women for so long, then it’s something I welcome.”

The second series has been criticised by some for its brutal scenes, with some viewers switching off entirely due to what’s been termed by some as “needless torture porn”.

“I think the first couple of episodes were slightly misjudged,” says Raeside, “and I wonder how much brutality Atwood really agreed with.”

(3) GREAT LINES FROM SFF. Discover Sci-Fi is running a poll: “What are the best one-liners from sci-fi books?” There are 13 choices. I’d say about half of them shouldn’t even be under consideration. And it doesn’t include one of my all-time favorites, the line that opens E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman Series –

“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.”

I’m writing it in. So there.

(4) GAME HUGO? The Hugo Book Club Blog, in “Game Over”, casts doubt on the qualifications and capability of Worldcon members to choose a winner of a proposed Best Game Hugo. Here are some of the reasons they say the proposal should be rejected:

Ira Alexandre, who has been the driving force in arguing for a Best Game Hugo, has done their research. They looked at the amount of gaming content at Worldcons, examined the burgeoning field of interactive works, and made some significant arguments in favour of the suggested award.

But none of their work addresses the fact that gaming has never been a primary focus of Worldcon. Alexandre’s number-crunching even showed that the amount of gaming-related programming has never exceeded nine per cent of the convention — and is usually much smaller. We would suggest that the majority of Hugo voters are unlikely to have played a wide-enough and diverse-enough range of games and interactive experiences to make adequate nominations in a category dedicated to gaming. 


It’s already difficult enough for Hugo voters to get through a voting package with six works on the shortlist in 15 categories. Games and Interactive Works individually take up to 150 hours to play through – with a short time between the announcement of the shortlist and the voting deadline, it would be difficult to play through, and be able to adequately assess, even one such game.

(5) A CAT BY ANY OTHER NAME. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]  Not sure if this is newsworthy, but a cheap laugh for others at my own expense is surely a good thing.

One of our rescue cats, Baldur, who we’ve had for about two years, came down very sick and has spent the last week at the vet’s. Recovering well, thankfully, but in the process we discovered something surprising about “him”. Tweeted it here:

In some follow-up tweets, I discussed a possible renaming for our newly-female cat:

Hope the tweets are amusing. I wouldn’t say “amused” for myself, but certainly bemused.

(6) SUPERBRAWL. Alyssa Wong has written all three issues of these Future Fight Firsts comics from Marvel.

Introduced in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game, White Fox, Luna Snow, and Crescent & Io recently made their Marvel comic book debut in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas and now, because you demanded it, all three will have their origin stories revealed in Marvel Future Fight Firsts! Check out these gorgeous covers by In-Hyuck Lee and prepare yourselves for an up close look at these new fan-favorite characters!

Marvel Future Fight Firsts arrives in October in comic shops, on the Marvel Comics App, and on Marvel.com.

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: WHITE FOX #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by KEVIN LIBRANDA
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by GANG HYUCK LIM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: CRESCENT AND IO

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by JON LAM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

(7) POLLY WANNA CONVERSATION? “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang in Nautilus is a short story excerpted from Chiang’s new collection Exhalation.

The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?

(8) SOLUTION UNSATISFACTORY. Randall Munroe will soon be bringing us How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. His book tour started this week.

For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.

It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.

With text, charts, and stick-figure illustrations, How To walks you through useless but entertaining approaches to common problems, using bad advice to explore some of the stranger and more interesting science and technology underlying the world around us.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. (Died 2009 and 2005.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 80. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. 
  • Born September 5, 1939 Donna Anderson, 80. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neal Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 79. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though her appearance in One Million Years B.C. with her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in BewitchedSabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1951 Michael Keaton, 68. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 55. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who star Alex Kingston. 
  • Born September 5, 1973 Rose McGowan, 46. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in  Planet Terror and Pam in  Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(10) MYTHBUSTING. The results of test purport to explain “Why phones that secretly listen to us are a myth”.

A mobile security company has carried out a research investigation to address the popular conspiracy theory that tech giants are listening to conversations.

The internet is awash with posts and videos on social media where people claim to have proof that the likes of Facebook and Google are spying on users in order to serve hyper-targeted adverts.

Videos have gone viral in recent months showing people talking about products and then ads for those exact items appear online.

Now, cyber security-specialists at Wandera have emulated the online experiments and found no evidence that phones or apps were secretly listening.

(11) IN A SNAP, IT’S GONE. “Trolls cause shutdown of official Jeremy Renner app” – BBC has the story.

Superhero Hawkeye may have helped defeat Thanos – but trolls have proved too tough a foe for him to best.

Actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Marvel’s eagle-eyed hero, has shut down his app after it was hijacked and used to harass people.

Abuse and harassment mushroomed after trolls found a way to impersonate the actor and others on the Jeremy Renner Official app.

Renner apologised for the shutdown in a post explaining what had happened.

Identity crisis

Created in 2017, the app, on which Renner regularly posted exclusive images and content and occasionally messaged users, also operated as a community hub where fans could post their own stories and communicate with each other.

In his explanatory post, Renner blamed “clever individuals” who had found a way to pose as other users.

(12) FRIENDLY (?) NIEGHBORHOOD SPIDER-DRONE. What flies through the air and snares its enemies in webs? CNN has the answer: “China says its drone can hunt like Spiderman”.

               China says it has developed a new hunter drone that can disable other drones — or even small aircraft — by firing a 16-square-meter (172 square feet) web at them.

               “Caught by the web, the hostile drone should lose power and fall to ground,” said a report on the Chinese military’s English-language website.

               Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the drone can work alone but also can integrate with China’s defense system for small, slow and low-flying targets, according to the report.

The hexacopter drone can also perform surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.

(13) NECRONOMICON. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda gives a con report for Necronomicon, including the panels he enjoyed and the art and books he brought home: “Dispatch from a ‘horror’ convention: It began in a dark, candlelit room .?.?.”

… Because NecronomiCon runs a half dozen simultaneous tracks, you can’t help but miss wonderful-sounding panels and events. On Friday alone I would have liked to have heard “Unsung Authors,” “Pulp History,” “Providence in Weird Fiction,” “Children’s Horror Anthologies of the 1960s and 70s,” and a discussion of the lushly decadent fantasist Tanith Lee, which featured, among others, her bibliographer Allison Rich, science fiction writer and critic Paul Di Filippo and popular Washington author Craig Laurance Gidney.

Still, along with my friend Robert Knowlton — a Toronto book collector who has read more weird fiction than anyone else alive — I did catch the program devoted to the specialty publisher Arkham House. Its participants included Donald Sidney-Fryer, who in his youth got to know that most poetical of Weird Tales writers, Clark Ashton Smith. Donaldo, as he likes to be called, generously inscribed my copy of “The Sorcerer Departs,” his memoir of that friendship. Not surprisingly, among the many films shown during the con was Darin Coelho Spring’s superb documentary “Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams.”…

(14) PYTHON RECOVERIES. Not exactly SF but Monty Python does a surreal riff. The BBC in a two part series of just 15 minutes are revealing newly discovered material from the cutting room floor — Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes.

Part one here.

On the 50th anniversary of Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost sketches. This programme contains material never heard before, including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch.

(15) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Jezebel claims “The Woman Who Wore a T-Rex Costume to Her Sister’s Wedding Is the Best Person in America”. Photo at the site.

…As chill as many soon-to-be-married couples pretend to be, weddings are all about control. This is why bridesmaids are forced to purchase matching dresses that make them look like bipedal draperies, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. But this wedding season, one woman had the courage to say “no” to wrapping herself in an ill-fitting puff of chiffon for her sister’s nuptials. Instead she went with an outfit she loved, something she knew she’d wear again and again: A T-rex costume….

(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Live Proms from the Royal Albert Hall, London: London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames in music from Sci-Fi films. On the BBC Sounds website: “Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music”. You can listen anytime.

A Late Night Prom with a futuristic spin brings together some of the best sci-fi film music. Excerpts from cult soundtracks come together with recent works by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. The award winning London Contemporary Orchestra – whose collaborators include Radiohead, Goldfrapp and Steve Reich – perform music from Under the Skin, Interstellar and the recent Netflix series The Innocents, among other titles, as well as from Alien: Covenant, whose soundtrack the LCO recorded.

  • Steven Price: Gravity 
  • Mica Levi: Under the Skin 
  • John Murphy: Sunshine 
  • Wendy Carlos: Tron (Scherzo) 
  • Carly Paradis: The Innocents 
  • Clint Mansell: Moon 
  • Louis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden Planet (Main Titles – Overture) 
  • Jed Kurzel: Alien: Covenant Jòhann Jòhannsson arr. 
  • Anthony Weeden: Arrival (Suite No 1) 
  • Hans Zimmer: Interstellar 

(17) SWEET. The Harvard Gazette calls it “Pancreas on a chip”.

By combining two powerful technologies, scientists are taking diabetes research to a whole new level. In a study led by Harvard University’s Kevin Kit Parker and published in the journal Lab on a Chip on Aug. 29, microfluidics and human, insulin-producing beta cells have been integrated in an islet-on-a-chip. The new device makes it easier for scientists to screen insulin-producing cells before transplanting them into a patient, test insulin-stimulating compounds, and study the fundamental biology of diabetes.

The design of the islet-on-a-chip was inspired by the human pancreas, in which islands of cells (“islets”) receive a continuous stream of information about glucose levels from the bloodstream and adjust their insulin production as needed.

“If we want to cure diabetes, we have to restore a person’s own ability to make and deliver insulin,” explained Douglas Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). “Beta cells, which are made in the pancreas, have the job of measuring sugar and secreting insulin, and normally they do this very well. But in diabetes patients these cells can’t function properly. Now, we can use stem cells to make healthy beta cells for them. But like all transplants, there is a lot involved in making sure that can work safely.”

Before transplanting beta cells into a patient, they must be tested to see whether they are functioning properly. The current method for doing this is based on technology from the 1970s: giving the cells glucose to elicit an insulin response, collecting samples, adding reagents, and taking measurements to see how much insulin is present in each one. The manual process takes so long to run and interpret that many clinicians give up on it altogether.

The new, automated, miniature device gives results in real time, which can speed up clinical decision-making.

(18) BUT IT’S NOT RIGHT. BBC reports “Left-handed DNA found – and it changes brain structure”.

Scientists have found the first genetic instructions hardwired into human DNA that are linked to being left-handed.

The instructions also seem to be heavily involved in the structure and function of the brain – particularly the parts involved in language.

The team at the University of Oxford say left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.

But many mysteries remain regarding the connection between brain development and the dominant hand.

(19) HAVING A MELTDOWN. Global Meltdown:My Ice on YouTube explains what happens when the last man on Earth stands on the last piece of ice.

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 7/31/19 Yes, It’s True. This Scroll Has No Pix

(1) AHH, THE CLASSICS. Newly available from British fandom’s premier historian, Rob Hansen, a reader of fannish literature intended as a companion to his classic history of UK fandom, THEN, assembled by Rob and the late Vince Clarke. 

THEN Again: A UK Fanhistory Reader 1930-1979 is a free download (in multiple formats) from Dave Langford’s TAFF website, but please consider making a donation to the Transatlantic Fan Fund while you’re there. (And check out the other free downloads, too.)

This companion to Rob Hansen’s monumental THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980 brings together the writings of many players on the stage of British and Irish fandom from 1930 to the end of 1979, telling in their own words the stories of SF groups – including the BSFA – fanzines, famous fannish addresses, bizarre fan activities and much more. There are 59 articles, several compiled from more then one source, plus an Introduction, Appendix and Afterword.

Cover photo: Festivention 1951, with Ted Carnell speaking and Forrest J Ackerman at front right. Published by Ansible Editions for the TAFF site on 1 August 2019. Over 120,000 words.

(2) SLIMED. Alyssa Wong was the victim today of right-wing media circulating a fake anti-Stan-Lee tweet (dated last November) reports Bleeding Cool. Wong herself tweeted a denial:

What seems to have triggered the attack on Wong, says Bleeding Cool, was this news:

Two weeks ago, Greg Pak announced that fantasy, sci-fi and comics writer Alyssa Wong was to work with him on the current Aero series, writing the character’s origin. This would be her first work for Marvel Comics.

As the article shows, Wong sharply criticized Marvel’s C.E. Cebulski in the past, but that’s not in dispute.

Meantime, outlets like Bounding Into Comics today ran stories capitalizing on the fake tweet. (I’m not linking to it, you do what you need to do.)

(3) LOTS TO LOVE. James Davis Nicoll is “Celebrating Poul Anderson with Five Favourite Works” at Tor.com.

Poul Anderson died on this day back in 2001. Anderson’s career spanned over sixty years, from the 1940s to the early 2000s. He wrote fiction and non-fiction. He published in many genres: fantasy, science fiction, historicals, and mysteries. He wrote dozens of novels and hundreds of shorter pieces, all of a level of quality that was never less than competent—and sometimes better. The often acerbic Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls Anderson “his generation’s most prolific sf writer of any consistent quality[…].” (He was the anti-Lionel Fanthorpe.)

(4) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. John Scalzi has tweeted the photo that goes with his Whatever post from the other day that said:

On my walks on my street these days, I pass by a dairy farm. Mostly the cows keep near the barn but yesterday they were down by the road, and they were very very interested in me as I walked by.

Of course these cows are interested — they’ve heard John knows when The Last Emperox is arriving.

(5) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON. “Toby Walsh, A.I. Expert, Is Racing to Stop the Killer Robots” – the New York Times interviewed Walsh about his concerns.

What was your argument?

That you can’t have machines deciding whether humans live or die. It crosses new territory. Machines don’t have our moral compass, our compassion and our emotions. Machines are not moral beings.

The technical argument is that these are potentially weapons of mass destruction, and the international community has thus far banned all other weapons of mass destruction.

What makes these different from previously banned weaponry is their potential to discriminate. You could say, “Only kill children,” and then add facial recognition software to the system.

Moreover, if these weapons are produced, they would unbalance the world’s geopolitics. Autonomous robotic weapons would be cheap and easy to produce. Some can be made with a 3-D printer, and they could easily fall into the hands of terrorists.

Another thing that makes them terribly destabilizing is that with such weapons, it would be difficult to know the source of an attack. This has already happened in the current conflict in Syria. Just last year, there was a drone attack on a Russian-Syrian base, and we don’t know who was actually behind it.

(6) THE WILL TO WRITE. “Facebook funds AI mind-reading experiment”. The opening line of BBC’s article says “Facebook has announced a breakthrough in its plan to create a device that allows people to type just by thinking” – which sounds like it should be easy for a company that already has people typing without thinking.

It has funded a study that developed machine-learning algorithms capable of turning brain activity into speech

It worked on epilepsy patients who had already had recording electrodes placed on their brains to assess the origins of their seizures, ahead of surgery.

Facebook hopes it will pave the way for a “fully non-invasive, wearable device” that can process 100 words per minute.

University of California San Francisco scientists asked the patients to answer out loud a list of simple multiple-choice questions ordered randomly.

And the algorithms learned to identify:

the question they had been asked, 75% of the time

their chosen answer, 61% of the time

“Most previous approaches have focused on decoding speech alone,” Prof Eddie Chang said, “but here we show the value of decoding both sides of a conversation – both the questions someone hears and what they say in response.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. if you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek, and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the episode “The Corbomite Maneuver” and the Gorn in the episode “Arena”. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair”, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. (Died 1979.)
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 68. Though best know as a British crime fiction novelist, she has three SH novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain andA Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but one I wasn’t aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first.
  • Born July 31, 1955 Daniel M. Kimmel, 64. His essays on classic genre films were being published in The Internet Review of Science Fiction from 2005–2010 and are now in Space and Time. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association.
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 63. Best known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He’s also as being The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. 
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 60. Though best known For his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88, a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten.
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 57. The first actor to be Blade in that Blade film franchise. There’s a new Blade actor though they name escapes right now. I also like him as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. 
  • Born July 31, 1965 J. K. Rowling, 54. I will confess that the novels were not my cup of Earl Grey hot but I loved the films. Anyone here read her Cormoran Strike crime series?
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 43. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond of The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West which he did. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed and Nightmare Magazine since the early part of this decade.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd jokes about ebook reading habits.

(9) A WHIZ OF A WIZ. ModernCryptid muses about D&D interior design. Thread starts here.

(10) THE DOCTOR IS IN…THE COMPUTER? Smithsonian Magazine: “Will Artificial Intelligence Improve Health Care for Everyone?”

Tagline: “A.I.-driven medical tools could democratize health care, but some worry they could also worsen”

     There is no shortage of optimism about A.I. in the medical community. But many also caution the hype surrounding A.I. has yet to be realized in real clinical settings. There are also different visions for how A.I. services could make the biggest impact. And it’s still unclear whether A.I. will improve the lives of patients or just the bottom line for Silicon Valley companies, health care organizations, and insurers.

(11) LE LOCH NESS. Look out! “Giant Serpent Emerges From the Sea Off the Coast of France”.

Just off the shore of the Loire estuary outside of Nantes, France, a slithering serpent rises from the water. Completed in 2012, Serpent d’océan is an impressive 425-foot (130 meters) sculpture by French Chinese contemporary artist Huang Yong Ping and is part of the Estuaire permanent public art collection along the estuary’s 37 miles.

The aluminum skeleton of the serpent is continually covered and uncovered by the tides, excavating itself as the water level decreases and revealing its archeological remains. The curving shape of the serpent’s spine mirrors the form of the nearby Saint-Nazaire bridge, harmonizing the creature with its surroundings.

(12) SMASH HIT. BBC finds Disney has gotten into a habit: “The Lion King hits $1bn box office mark”.

The Lion King has become the fourth Disney film this year to make $1bn (£821m) in worldwide box office sales.

The Disney remake of the 1994 classic has achieved the feat less than three weeks after being released in cinemas.

The movie, which features the voices of Beyonce and Donald Glover, joins Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel and Aladdin in Disney’s $1bn class of 2019.

As reported by Variety, director Jon Favreau’s version is already the fifth-biggest global release of of the year.

(13) NON LOCATION. “The Lion King – how VR brought the animals to life” – a BBC video.

Director of Disney’s The Lion King, Jon Favreau, has told BBC Click how they created a completely digital 3D environment with 3D digital animals.

“We had a full live-action film crew in VR, operating camera equipment as though it was a live-action set,” said Favreau.

The crew achieved a documentary look by limiting themselves to the camera platforms that would be available to them if they were out on location filming live animals, he explained.

The digital characters and environment were created by visual effects company MPC.

(14) IT’S DANCEABLE. For the ages: “Could La Folia be history’s most enduring tune?”

Why did this humble tune, first conjured by medieval farmers, capture so many people’s imaginations and even feature in The Addams Family? Andrea Valentino takes a look.

Checking the pop charts today is simple. Want to know the most popular artist on Spotify? Just a few clicks will take you to Ed Sheeran and his 72 million monthly listeners. What about the most popular song? The scruffy ginger-haired heartthrob strikes again. Sheeran’s Shape Of You was the first track to be streamed a bewildering two billion times. The numbers elsewhere are even more astounding. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s Despacito has over 6.3 billion views on YouTube.

But for all that, the internet can’t tell you everything. What, for example, is the most popular tune ever? Not the most covered song: that would be Yesterday by The Beatles. But rather the most enduring melody, a simple theme that has been shaped by countless hands. One of the strongest candidates is a tune few will recognise. Yet for centuries, La Folia has dazzled hundreds of composers and musicians, up to the present day. Its story tells us much about the history of music, and maybe even something about ourselves….

(15) MCU COMMANDMENTS. ScreenRant chronicles “25 Strict Rules Marvel Actors Have To Follow” if they want to keep making the big bucks.

In today’s ScreenRant video special, we’re going to look at some of the rules that Marvel devised. You lucky bunch. The video has a variety of different rules. Some rules dictate the public personas that the actors must show. Another rule looks at which other production companies that the thespians can’t work for. A different collection of rules include what the actors can be expected to do when on set. And finally a different bunch of rules that cover Marvel’s obsession with reducing the possibility of film leaks. So, strap in. Get your cape ready. And relax whilst we fill you in on Marvel’s collection of rules.

[Thanks to Moshe Feder, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Contrarius, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/18/17 There Is A Scroll In Everything, That’s How The Pixel Gets In

(1) WISDOM. Chuck Wendig’s birthday gift to himself can also be shared with the universe — lucky us: “What I’ve Learned After 5 Years And 20 Books: 25 Lessons”. JJ’s favorite is #21. This is my pick —

  1. The Opposite Of ‘Kill Your Darlings’ Is ‘Know Which Hill To Die On’

Early on you learn to kill your darlings. Your work has these precious, preening peacocks who strut about for their own pomp and circumstance. These darlings are like chairs you can’t sit on, food you can’t eat — they’re just there to look pretty and take up space. So, you kill them. You learn to kill them. You get good at killing them. And then, one day, you realize maybe you got too good at it. Maybe you went too far. You started to think of everything as expendable, everything as negotiable. But it isn’t. It can’t be. I learned this writing Star Wars: yes, those books are not purely mine. They belong to the galaxy, not to me. Just the same? It’s my name on those books. If they fail, they fail on my watch. If there’s something in there you don’t like, it doesn’t matter if it’s something Mickey Mouse his-own-damn-self demanded I put in there: it lands on my doorstep. That’s when I saw the other side of the brutally execute your peacocks argument: some peacocks stay. Some peacocks are yours, and you put them there because that’s where you want them. Maybe they add something specific, maybe you’re just an asshole who demands that one lone peacock warbling and showing its stuff. But you own that. You have to see when there are battles to lose, and when there are wars to win. There are always hills to die on. It can’t be all of them. You want to die on every hill, then you’re dead for no reason and the book will suffer. But some things are yours and you have to know which ones to fight for, and why. You have to know why they matter and then you have to be prepared to burn the book to ash in order to let it stay.

(2) WRITE LIKE THE LIGHTNING. Too Like the Lightning author and Hugo nominee Ada Palmer is interviewed in the Chicago Maroon.

CM: Where’d your inspiration arise from, and what made you want to write a book with such an intersection of so many topics like philosophy, politics, science fiction?

AP: I mean, good science fiction is like that. Great science fiction is full of ideas, not just one, or two, or five ideas, but new ideas in every page. Also, I was inspired by reading pre-modern science fiction, which I do as a historian. We think of science fiction as a late 19th- and 20th-century genre, but Voltaire wrote a science fiction short story called “Micromegas,” in which aliens from another star and from Saturn come to the Earth. When they make first contact with people, the first thing they discuss is, “Is Plato or Descartes correct about how the soul and body connect to each other?” and “Is Thomas Aquinas’s discussion of Aristotle’s divisions of the parts of the soul true?” Voltaire’s society was obsessed with providence, so providence and the existence of God and the immaterial soul was what his people talked to aliens about, and it was as plausible to him as our science fiction works are to us.

So I wanted to write science fiction that used the amazingly sophisticated vocabulary of modern science fiction, all the great developments we’ve had in terms of thinking about AI and flying cars, but to ask questions like Voltaire would.

(3) GOT TO HAVE IT. A couple of other Hugo nominees woke up the internet.

Ditch Diggers has been nominated for a Hugo Award! You did it! Mur and Matt will go up against the likes of The Coode Street Podcast and Tea & Jeopardy in Helsinki for Best Fancast (even though we’re all professionals. Because there’s only one podcast category)! Thank you to all Ditch Diggers listeners who supported the show and don’t forget to vote for Mur and Matt for the Hugo itself!

(4) PROFESSIONALISM. Michi Trota reinforces the lessons of Odyssey Con in “Volunteers, Professionals, and Who Gets to Have Fun at Cons”.

…Being on the job at a con doesn’t have to ruin my fun–or anyone else’s for that matter–but you know what does? The dude with the grabby hands and eyes trained on my chest. The person who kills a conversation with their racist jokes. The gatekeeper who quizzes me on the X-Men then tries to play Gotcha! with a question about Legend of Zelda because obviously the brown Asian woman’s just playing at being a nerd. The asshole selling misogynistic art. A concom that selectively enforces their code of conduct and dismisses concerns I’ve expressed about my safety because “Stories about X’s behavior are just exaggerated.” Not only does that ruin any fun to be had, it also makes my job that much harder to do, potentially costs me opportunities as a creator, and makes me wonder how much of my investment that con is actually worth (Elise Matthesen had some excellent things to say about the real costs of harassment and who pays them).

This is where the argument that having things like rules, codes, and policies that attendees and organizers are expected to abide by also ruins everyone’s fun usually comes up. But it begs the question: just whose fun are we referring to here? Because let’s be real, con’s haven’t always been fun for everyone.

… The widespread adoption and implementation of anti-harassment policies and codes of conduct has made it a bit easier for people like me to be more involved in fandom. They don’t mean that I never run into problems, but it’s less likely those problems will outweigh the time and effort I invest in those cons. It’s because of my participation and attendance at cons as both a fan and a pro that I was able to meet people and find opportunities that helped me get to where I am now. Expectations of professionalism on the part of con organizers are not unreasonable simply because those organizers are volunteers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about professionals treating cons as a workplace (particularly if they’re guests who have been contracted by the con for their presence) and nothing preventing pros and fans from being friendly with each other. There’s nothing about running your con with a minimum of professional standards, practices, and behavior that excludes everyone also having fun.

If your fun is dependent using your status as a volunteer as an excuse to not act responsibly, if it requires victims to stay quiet about mistreatment: then it’s not really a fun time for “everyone” is it? It’s not the expectation of professionalism that’s killing the fun at cons, it’s the lack of it.

As Deb Geisler says, “Never, ever, ever should “but we’re just volunteers” be an excuse not to do the finest job of which we are capable.”

(5) STUMBLING BLOCK QUESTIONS. Alyssa Wong says it in her own way in “Why ‘I’m a feminist, but –‘ isn’t enough”.

ii.

Incidents of sexual harassment in the SFF field are distressingly numerous. And it’s nothing new; Isaac Asimov was so well known to grope women that in 1961 he was asked to deliver a “pseudo lecture” on “the positive power of posterior pinching” (read the correspondence between Earl Kemp, chairman of Chicon III, and Asimov here).

But this isn’t 1961. SFF is more global, diverse and inclusive than ever, and much richer for it. Writers who challenge and explore systematic injustice and oppression through their work are myriad; their work can be found in bookstores, presses, and online across genres, across the world.

And yet we keep asking:

are you sure she didn’t just have a vendetta?

how could it be sexual harassment if he didn’t touch her?

why do we need to be so politically correct?

Why? Because real people are affected. Because both macro- and microaggressions are harmful.Because everyone deserves to feel safe in professional settings, and for writers and industry professionals, that is what conventions are. Moreover, Wiscon is a feminist SFF convention. If safe feminist space exists in genre, Wiscon should definitely be part of it.

What concerns me is the number of women and men who continue to stand up for known abusers. In this sense, it seems that Jim Frenkel is not alone.

(6) CARPENTRY. Cat Rambo also says it is “Time to Fix the Missing Stair”, in a multifaceted post that includes this allusion to a Superversive SF post, and highlights from a relevant panel at last weekend’s Norwescon.

…[Re: Monica Valentinelli’s departure as OdysseyCon guest] One manifestation of that is a brief statement asking why she hates women, declaring that her example will make conventions reluctant to invite any women in the future. Let’s unpack that one a little because the underpinnings seem ill-constructed to me.

There are many kinds of humans in the world. That means there’re also many kinds of women. The logic of the above statement says two things: 1) that it is wrong for people speak out about conditions that are uncomfortable, unprofessional, or sometimes even dangerous and 2) that only people with the strength to survive a gauntlet that can include being groped onstage, being mocked publicly, having their work denigrated for no reason other than having been produced by a woman, and a multitude of other forms of harassment deserve careers and the rest are out of luck. Does that really need to be demanded for someone to have a career? Writers are notoriously unstable mentally as it is. Serial harassment is a professional matter.

This was underscored for me on a Norwescon (a con that does a great job with selecting programming and volunteers and understands the issues) panel that I moderated last Friday, Standing Up to the Mob, with panelists Minim Calibre, Arinn Dembo, Mickey Schulz, and Torrey Stenmark. The description was:

How do you support female creators who are being harassed online by the ravening hordes of the unenlightened? Tips for voicing your support in ways that mean something.

Here are Arinn Dembo’s excellent notes on the panel overall.

(7) THEY’RE GONE. Would you like to bet this writer’s stance was a factor in today’s decision to retire the Lovecraft nominee pins?

(8) THE ONE-PERSON SALES FORCE. A lot of things affect an indie author’s sales and it isn’t easy to keep all of them in mind, as Amanda S. Green explains in “It really is a business” at Mad Genius Club.

The next thing I looked at happened to be my product pages. Oh my, there is so much there we have to take into consideration and we don’t tend to. At least I don’t. Sure, I want to have the best possible cover to draw the reader’s eye. I want a snappy and interesting blurb to grab the reader and make them want to buy the book. But I don’t tend to check the product page on anything other than my laptop. I forget to look at it on my Kindle Fire or Mom’s iPad. I sure forget to look at it in my phone. Or, more accurately, I used to forget it. After the last few days, I won’t. What I learned is that the longer blurbs will work on a tablet or computer screen but, on a phone, they are a pain because you have to keep scrolling. Not good. Scrolling for a screen or two is one thing but for screen after screen after screen — nope. Not gonna happen. Fortunately, most of mine weren’t that bad and those that were happen to be on two titles I am going to withdraw because they were supposed to be short term promo titles initially.

(9) I’M A DOCTOR NOT A MILLIONAIRE. By the way, if you want to know how much the tricorder X Prize was worth, the Washington Post article says that Final Frontier Medical Devices, led by Dr. Basil Harris, won the $2.6 million first prize in this contest, with Dynamical Biomarkers Group got $1 million for second place.

(10) MAGAZINE LAUNCH. Anathema has published its first issue. The free, online tri-annual magazine publishes speculative fiction by queer people of color. The magazine was funded by a 2016 IndieGoGo campaign.

Exceptional art is a bruise: it leaves its mark on you. At its best it leaves us vulnerable and raw, transformed by the experience. At Anathema we’re interested in giving that exceptional work a home. Specifically the exceptional work of queer people of colour (POC). As practicing editors we’re keenly aware of the structural and institutional racism that makes it hard for the work of marginalized writers to find a home.

So Anathema: Spec from the Margins is a free, online tri-annual magazine publishing speculative fiction (SF/F/H, the weird, slipstream, surrealism, fabulism, and more) by queer people of colour on every range of the LGBTQIA spectrum.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 18, 1938 – Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1. (Cover-dated June, but published in April.)

(12) TAFF. SF Site News reports John Purcell has won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race. Voting details at the link.

(13) CARTOON OF THE DAY. Martin Morse Wooster recommends The Bigger Picture, a cartoon by Daisy Jacobs done in the style of a painting about two brothers feuding over their ailing mother. It was a 2015 Academy Award nominee

(14) DEVIL’S DICTIONARY. In McSweeney’s, Rajeev Balasubramanyam’s “A Short Description of Cultural Appropriation for Non-Believers” supplies a wryly amusing 10-point illustration of the term.

(15) WINTER IS HERE. Dave Truesdale, who had a lot to say about “special snowflakes” at last year’s Worldcon, has been using an F&SF forum discussion to call into account Liz Bourke’s Tor.com post “Thoughts on the 2017 Hugo Awards Ballot”.

….Going back to 1993, women received the majority of the 15 Hugo short fiction nominations that year. Hardly discrimination by the entire SF field. And that was just shy of 25 years ago!

But now it’s not yay!, look how far we’ve come in a positive celebration for a year in which women and poc dominate several major awards ballots, it’s neener neener we dominated an award ballot and “This year is a historic one for the Hugo Awards in more ways than one. In addition to the changes to the awards process, this is the first year in which the Best Novel nominees have been so completely devoid in white men.” [[Link added]]

Why the F bring up white men I ask for the umpteenth time. Why not white straight women too, then, who have been on the ballot plenty over the past 40 or 50 years and have taken up plenty of slots that could have gone to poc, especially in the past decade or so (pick your starting point).

Why just white men? An unconscious bias perhaps? A conscious prejudice? Give me a sound reason why not just “white” people, or “men” were noted in the article, but “white men.” There’s something else going on here. The article doesn’t have to come right out and be the instigation of a flame war in its use of inflammatory language and tone to reveal certain things about the writer or her view of the situation. That she’s more subtle in doing it doesn’t give her a pass.

He came back again and added:

In the stuff-you-always-think-of-later department:

CJW wrote: “She noted the lack of white men on the Best Novel list, because there were no white men on the Best Novel list.”

There were also no black, brown, yellow, or red men on the list either. So why single out white men I ask again for the 3rd or 4th time? Subconscious prejudice bubbling to the surface because that is her default–that pesky white color? What could possibly be the reason she forgot non-white men? I mean, there has to be a perfectly reasonable explanation for her discriminatory statement.

Although other commenters weren’t interested in engaging with Truesdale’s complaint, they couldn’t resist dropping in another coin to see him go off again.

SHamm ended a reply —

P.S.: Dave, I am not quite sure from your phrasing: are you under the impression that Milo Yiannopoulos is a “straight white male”?

P.P.S.: Dave, I believe Best Novel nominee Liu Cixin qualifies as a “yellow man,” in your parlance, although I am told that particular descriptor is no longer much in vogue.

P.P.S.: Dave, does it have to be a “straw MAN”? Asking as a man.

Truesdale answered:

SHamm, of course Milo is gay, but he doesn’t agree with the party line and so is reviled and efforts are made to silence him.

Liu Cixin is a yellow man in historical terminology, which makes the essayists use of “white men” even more telling. Person of color=OK. White men not OK.

Straw man is just a phrase we are all familiar with. No need to make anything out of it.

Why bring Puppies into this? No Sad Puppy I know of is afraid of women/people of color/LGBTQ writers dominating the awards. Certainly not me. I’ve said it a hundred times, the more the merrier. The problem for me arises when these same people heralding diversity for their own benefit try to silence diversity of thought from everyone else. And if you dare speak out you suffer the consequences–inside and outside the SF field, witness Milo and others lately who have suffered similar fates while trying to express differing views on university campuses (though maybe not with the violence attendant at Milo’s cancelled talk). It’s the darker underside agenda of those rallying behind good causes such as diversity that puts the lie to their true agenda. And it’s hurting SF. Again, writers aren’t taking the kinds of chances in speaking of social or political issues they used to, for fear of various forms of reprisal from those waving the banner of diversity. Their diversity only runs in one way, and its killing free speech and controversial thought experiments in our stories. That Puppy crap still being thrown out is ridiculous and an intellectual dodge. Besides, there was no SP this year as far as I know, but every time this discussion comes up someone thinks that tossing in SP or RP is the answer to everything, when it is an excuse to honestly address the issue.

(16) MAKES SENSE. The head of Netflix isn’t worried about Amazon and HBO because, he says, they aren’t the competition.

But today, on Netflix’s Q1 earnings call, [Netflix CEO Reed] Hastings got a little more expansive, in a bong-rip-in-a-dorm-room way, if that’s still a thing. (Is that still a thing?) Here’s the answer he gave to an Amazon competition question; we join this one mid-response, right after he finished praising Amazon and Jeff Bezos:

They’re doing great programming, and they’ll continue to do that, but I’m not sure it will affect us very much. Because the market is just so vast. You know, think about it, when you watch a show from Netflix and you get addicted to it, you stay up late at night. You really — we’re competing with sleep, on the margin. And so, it’s a very large pool of time. And a way to see that numerically is that we’re a competitor to HBO, and yet over 10 years we’ve grown to 50 million, and they’ve continued modestly growing. They haven’t shrunk. And so if you think about it as, we’re not really affecting them, the is why — and that’s because we’re like two drops of water in the ocean, of both time and spending for people. And so Amazon could do great work, and it would be very hard for it to directly affect us. It’s just — home entertainment is not a zero-sum game. And again, HBO’s success, despite our tremendous success, is a good way to illustrate that.

(17) AND NOW FOR MORE SCIENCE. This unauthenticated video may date before the Ice Age. Or before breakfast today.

(18) INKLINGS NEWS. Inklings Abroad is developing an international registry of known Inklings groups.

(19) DANCE WITH ME. Believe it — Guardians of the Galaxy has a La La Land moment!

(20) THINK TWICE BEFORE GETTING THAT EXTRA LARGE SODA. In its own way, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 threatens to have as many endings as Return of the King. As ScienceFiction.com says — “Just To Outshine The Rest Of Marvel’s Movies, ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2? Will Have 5 Post-Credit Scenes!”

Director James Gunn blew away expectations with his first foray into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and now he’s doing it again by adding five post-credit scenes at the end of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘! Originally it was being announced that he had four included from early press screenings and now Gunn himself took to clarify that it would be five. That’s one announcement he could make that would easily top his return to helm ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, ‘ but honestly, I think we were all hoping that was going to happen anyway.

This will set an all new record for the most post-credit scenes in a superhero movie, possibly of any genre.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo. and Kate Nepveu for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Schnookums Von Fancypants.]

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

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

There was one dissent, from a Castalia House blogger —

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

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/26/16 Scrolls To The Left Of Me, Pixels To The Right

(1) JUST. ONE. SCHOOL. UPDATE. There was the inevitable brush with bureaucracy, but the books everyone donated are now being checked out to kids at Greenville High School in the Sierras of California.

“Just. One. School. A Saga Continues” (August 11) at Throwing Chanclas.

Last night I attended a monthly board meeting of Plumas Unified School District in Quincy, CA. I don’t normally attend such meetings as I thankfully as a reporter do not have the school board as my regular beat. I attended because I got last minute word that the Library Project was an agenda item. I’d received no phone call or email from the district, no inquiries whatsoever. As this was my idea and I’ve been heading up the volunteer effort (we’ll let my 17 years experience as a college instructor + knowledge of books, music, and film go at this point). So I show up there because um…my library, OUR library is on the agenda.

So I address the school board and give them a brief history of the project. As the board only has one member who regularly engages online, they were not all completely aware that we exist.  So I spend my five minutes of public comment time on facts of our project and I answer a few questions.

The curriculum director–who has never set foot in our library, nor called me or emailed me to ask questions–gets up and makes a brief presentation whereupon she states that she’ll “approve” students to check out books as soon as we produce a list of titles so that she can decide whether they belong in our library.

…America. This is why we can’t have nice things. This is why Holden Caufield whines about how every time you see something beautiful someone else has scrawled an OBSCENITY upon it.

None of this comes out of my mouth however. I do remind however that we are two schools, not one. That all summer 98% of my volunteers have been from community members and Indian Valley Academy students and parents and that we have no such stipulations concerning censorship and approval. Our goal –which we had thought and hoped was shared–was to get kids reading–especially kids who don’t read. And we’ve already been achieving our goal.

just-one-book-library

Mary of the Good Week (August 28)

There’s some bureaucratic snags. The curriculum director finally came down to look at the site (honestly we are a brisk 22 minutes from Capital City–it wasn’t that hard) and we hope she went away knowing that the books aren’t hers that they are indeed the communities and the kids.

…We had a great moment last week when a kid who was on track to drop out and have no use for the world walked into the library almost on a dare and realized that every graphic novel and Japanese manga he ever wanted to read was in there. (He was too cool for school and then left like a kid coming out of a candy store). We let him borrow the Death Note series.

just-one-book-library-2

Just. One. Book. Live with Students! (September 9).

Since Sept 6 when we opened we’ve checked out about 65 books, dvds, and cds  to students and faculty.  Considering the two schools have only 200 students combined that’s some great reach.

THANK YOU!’

Oh and on a side note. Whoever sent the soundtrack to Hamilton? I LOVE YOU. That’s the first thing that I checked out.

(2) SFWA ISSUES STATEMENT ON GALAKTIKA MAGAZINE. On March 23, 2016, Bence Pintér published an article at Mandiner Magazine regarding numerous stories published by Hungary’s Galaktika Magazine in 2015 – most of them translated and reprinted without the knowledge or consent of the original authors. The unfolding story is included in today’s SFWA statement on Galaktika, warning professionals to avoid working with the publication.

SFWA has refrained from comment so far due to hopes that Galaktika would resolve outstanding issues, but so far this has not been the case. It has taken the Hungarian agency representing one leading U.S. agency months to arrive at an agreement with Galaktika calling for a per-story fee of $75 covering 37 stories by 16 authors; this agreement was finally signed by István Burger on 7th September 2016, and apparently the money is on the way to the Hungarian Agency.  Meanwhile, the same agency is still working on finding a satisfactory arrangement with other clients whose authors are involved, although no other agreement is in the works yet (as of mid-September 2016). Some clients of the Hungarian Agency reportedly are inclined to give Galaktika a post-publication license; others want to review legal options that their own clients can undertake; others are working with other U.S. agents to explore a possible collective response.

SFWA formally recommends that authors, editors, translators, and other publishing professionals avoid working with Galaktika until the magazine has demonstrated that existing issues have been addressed and that there will be no recurrence. Authors should check to determine whether or not their works have been published by Galaktika on the magazine’s website at http://galaktikabolt.hu/galaktika/page/6/. SFWA recommends that members work with their agents and publishers to address the issue before passing it to Griefcom. At the moment SFWA has three active grievances against Galaktika

(3) GETTING THERE EVENTUALLY. Kelly Robson, “On Being a Late Bloomer”, at Clarkesworld.

I always wanted to be a writer. That’s not unique. Many writers have their destiny revealed in childhood. Like others with this particular itch, I read voraciously, and when I bought my first Asimov’s magazine at the age of sixteen—a moment embedded in my senses more vividly than my first kiss—I knew I had to be a science fiction writer.

But it took me more than thirty years to become one. And by that, I don’t mean I was thirty before I published my first fiction. I was forty-seven. By anyone’s measure, that’s late for a first publication.

Most of us have preconceived ideas about how a writer’s career should proceed, and we judge ourselves harshly if we don’t achieve the various benchmarks on time…

(4) VISIT TO THE CHINESE NEBULAS. Cat Rambo has written up her trip to China: “Beijing/Chengdu Trip, September 206: Some Notes, Observations, and Images”.

We were treated very well. Overall, recent wins by Cixin Liu have drawn significant attention to SF in China. In all of this, I am speaking primarily about science fiction, rather than fantasy, since the Chinese see the two genres as very distinct from each other. There has also historically been tension between science writing and science fiction, which is the past has been perceived as being aimed at children, or at least that is something that came up multiple times over the course of the visit.

Nowadays, that’s very different. Numerous groups in China are working on putting together Worldcon bids and I would suspect the question is not so much whether or not we’ll see a Worldcon bid from China in coming years so much as which city will host it: Beijing, Chengdu, or Shanghai. Several people, including the World Science Fiction Society, said that they’d love to see SFWA’s Nebulas hosted over in China if we’re ever interested in doing that. Crystal Huff had been sponsored by the first group as part of their effort to research what would be needed to run a Worldcon.

(5) THE DARK ADDS MORENO-GARCIA. The Dark Magazine has hired Silvia Moreno-Garcia as co-editor alongside current editor Sean Wallace. Moreno-Garcia will assume her responsibilities effective October 1 and her first issues will start next January.

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination, Silvia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music, magic and Mexico City, was listed as one of the best novels of the year at io9, Buzzfeed and many other places and nominated for the British Fantasy, Locus, Sunburst and Aurora awards. She was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for her work on the anthology She Walks in Shadows and is the guest-editor for Nightmare Magazine’s POC Destroy Horror. She edits The Jewish Mexican Literary Review together with award-winning author Lavie Tidhar. Her website can be found at www.silviamoreno-garcia.com

“Silvia has always impressed me with her editorial acumen and acquisitions, both with her own anthologies and Innsmouth Magazine, and it is to our credit that we have her onboard going forward,” said Sean Wallace, co-editor and publisher of The Dark Magazine.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born September 26, 1932  — Donna Douglas. Her “Eye of the Beholder” Twilight Zone episode had one of the best reveals on any TV show.
  • Born September 26, 1956 — Linda Hamilton

(7) ANCILLARY COMIC. Someone has been peeking inside the heads of Ancillary Justice readers.

(8) CROWDFUNDING TERRY JONES BOOK. Terry Jones’ publisher Unbound is crowdfunding the publication of the third volume of a Medieval adventure trilogy he has written. They discuss his recent announcement on this page.

It’s safe to say that when Unbound launched, five years ago, we could not have done it without Terry Jones.

He launched his collection of stories, Evil Machines, and went on every form of media to help us launch the business, brilliantly communicating what was new and exciting about Unbound. Here was one of the country’s best loved comic writers and performers – a Python! – entrusting us with a brand new book and pushing our start-up for all it was worth.

First and foremost, though, Terry has been a friend, not ‘just’ a driving force and collaborator. So the news of his illness has hit us hard.

We launched this book in the hope that we could get it to him for his 75th birthday in February but the announcement of illness gives us all pause for thought. We have considered whether we should remove the project but after speaking to the family we have decided we still very much want to publish this book because it completes the trilogy and because it meant a great deal to Terry that we should. So we hope you’ll agree that we should continue to fund and publish the final fictional work from an old and dear friend.

There’s an excerpt from Chapter 1 at the site.

(9) LETTERS TO TIPTREE. Alisa Krasnostein’s scorecard reads —

LETTERS TO TIPTREE has won: the Tin Duck, Ditmar, Aurealis Convenor Award, Locus, Alfie, British Fantasy; shortlisted for the British SF and WFA, long listed for the Tiptree. Which kinda blows my mind!!!!

(10) AN INGENIOUSLY DECEPTIVE WORK OF ART. Nobody knows about this transportation disaster because it didn’t happen it happened on the same day as the Kennedy assassination, you see…. Artist Joe Reginella told The Gothamist how he perpetrated the hoax.

Staten Island Ferry Disaster Monument

Staten Island Ferry Disaster Monument

Reginella told The Post that the project took six months to plan and that it’s “part practical joke, part multimedia art project, part social experiment.” The fliers, which he and his team have been giving out around downtown Manhattan and Staten Island in recent weeks, promise an octopus petting zoo, historical exhibits and a “Ferry Disastore” gift shop at the nonexistent museum.

It also includes directions to a fictitious shoreline address across the street from the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, where some people have ventured to. Francesca Navarro, who works the front desk of the Staten Island Museum, told the Post that despite the ludicrousness of the premise, some people can’t help but check it out: “I think they maybe have a suspicion it’s fake, but they feel like they just have to prove it.”

The Post found a few of the tricked: “Australian tourist Tamara Messina [said]: ‘The brochure sounded very intriguing,’ adding that her three young sons ‘seemed a bit more concerned that it may happen again’ as the family rode the ferry.”

In addition to the fake monument, there’s a website for the Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum. The New York Post says people are still looking for it.

About the Memorial

The Staten Island Ferry Disaster Story. . . It was close to 4am on the quiet morning of November 22, 1963 when the Steam Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff vanished without a trace. On its way with nearly 400 hundred people, mostly on their way to work, the disappearance of the Cornelius G. Kolff remains both one of New York’s most horrific maritime tragedies and perhaps its most intriguing mystery. Eye witness accounts describe “large tentacles” which “pulled” the ferry beneath the surface only a short distance from its destination at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. Nobody on board survived and only small pieces of wreckage have been found…strangely with large “suction cup-shaped” marks on them. The only logical conclusion scientists and officials could point to was that the boat had been attacked by a massive octopus, roughly half the size of the ship. Adding to the tragedy, is that this disaster went almost completely unnoticed by the public as later that day another, more “newsworthy” tragedy would befall the nation when beloved President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated.  The Staten Island Ferry Disaster Museum hopes to correct this oversight by preserving the memory of those lost in this tragedy and educating the public about the truth behind the only known giant octopus-ferry attack in the tri-state area.

 

(11) SOMETIMES. Just saw this today and it cracked me up.

(12) THAT MALLEABLE VERSE. And I had a smile left over for this —

[Thanks to Janice Gelb, Sean Wallace, Ruth, Steven H Silver, Dawn Incognito, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series Presents Barron and Wong

Alyssa Wong and Laird Barron.

Alyssa Wong and Laird Barron.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, September 21 – the last day of summer – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Laird Barron and Alyssa Wong at its venue, the Red Room at the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. Up a steep flight of stairs to the 2nd-floor, the Bar is made further distinctive by its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor. “It’s one of the truly great venues to read at,” said Barron. The Series, running since the late ’90s, reliably offers stellar lineups, often pairing established authors and up-and-coming newcomers, and readings are always free. (The Bar is a cordial and hospitable host, and the Series’ presenters duly exhort the audience to express gratitude by buying something to drink.)

As traditional, as the room filled, co-host Ellen Datlow swirled through the crowd, taking photos.  (They may be seen on the Series website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.)

Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcomed the capacity crowd, and reported on upcoming events in the Series.  Next month’s readers, on October 19th, are Jack Ketchum and Caitlìn R. Kiernan.  Reading on November 16th will be John Langan (who was in attendance) and Kressel himself; on December 21st, Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker; and on January 18, 2017, Holly Black and Fran Wilde. Concluding, he introduced the evening’s first reader.

fist-of-permutatons-alyssa-wongAlyssa Wong’s story, “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story, and her work has been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, the Bram Stoker Award, the Locus Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award.  The story that she read, “The Clamor of Bones,” was set in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  A “dead-talker,” tasked by the underworld to look for a missing 9-year-old girl, consults the finger bone of a corrupt detective whom she had killed, chopped up and dumped into the Bay.  It seems that he had been retrieved and magically reanimated (though missing bits, rotting and tending to ruin carpets), and been the last one seen with the girl.  Oddly, he seems reluctant to cooperate with his murderer.  Despite its essential ickiness, the story’s macabre humor had the audience laughing.

swift-to-chase-laird-barronAfter a break, Datlow introduced the second reader of the night.  Hailing from Alaska (where he raced the Iditarod three times during the early 1990s, and against whose backdrop many of his stories are set), Laird Barron is the author of X’s for Eyes, The Imago Sequence, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, and the forthcoming (in two weeks) Swift to Chase.  The story that he shared, “The Cyclotron,” appeared in a Canadian anthology riffing on “a famous franchise character” (hint:  his first name is James and there are references to “Double-O” and the British Secret Service), so, for predictable reasons, “may never be reprinted in my lifetime.”  Written in the second-person, the story presents the world-saving agent, past retirement and ill, through his memories of car chases, pointless shootouts, “sequences of horror,” death traps, assassination attempts, and seduction of and betrayal by women (he has had “extensive serious difficulties with women”), under the shadow (or should that be spectre?) of the black-clad Dr. Hemlock.  Recognition of the familiar, hackneyed tropes and their flippant treatment provided chuckles.  (As far as we know, though, no one in the Bar ordered vodka martinis shaken, not stirred.)

Copies of Barron’s X’s for Eyes and The Imago Sequence were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City, while, at the front of the room, Wong had copies of a short horror comic.

Pixel Scroll 5/16/16 Pixel McScrollface

(1) AGENT OF TERRA? Brad Templeton confesses, “I was investigated by the feds for taking a picture of the sun”.

A week ago, a rather strange event took place. No, I’m not talking about just the Transit of Mercury in front of the sun on May 9, but an odd result of it.

That morning I was staying at the Westin Waterfront in Boston. I like astrophotography, and have shot several transits…

I did not have my top lenses with me but I decided to photograph it anyway with my small size Sony 210mm zoom and a welding glass I brought along. I shot the transit, holding the welding glass over the lens, with all mounted on my super-light “3 legged thing” portable tripod….

At 10am I got a frantic call from the organizer of the Exponential Manufacturing conference I would be speaking at the next day. “You need to talk to the FBI!” he declared. Did they want my advice on privacy and security? “No,” he said, “They saw you taking photos of the federal building with a tripod from your hotel window and want to talk to you.”

(2) SHINING EXAMPLE. Ann Leckie discovered someone’s named a nail polish after her.

There’s a Jemisin and Le Guin too. In fact, Nerdlacquer has named its products after all kinds of sf/f references, from Octarine to General Effing Leia.

(3) #STARWARSFORJJ. Not our JJ. An Irish kid — “Star Wars hero Mark Hamill stuns brave Northern Ireland cancer teen Jamie Harkin”

Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker was reduced to tears when he felt the remarkable force of a brave Northern Irish teen who has fought off cancer twice.

Actor Mark Hamill, who plays the famous Jedi Knight , met up with super fan Jamie Harkin.

The brave 17-year-old has raised more than £15,000 for other children battling the disease….

And on Monday the Derry lad joined his idol for breakfast during a break in filming for the latest instalment of the sci-fi saga in Donegal.

“People say that you should never meet your idols, because you build them up in your head so much that when you do meet them, they are a let down, and to that, I say, ‘you’re wrong’,” he said.

(4) SLACKEROO BANZAI. Birth. Movies. Death. is not enamored of reports that Kevin Smith might get to make a Buckaroo Banzai TV series.

Dear fans of The Adventure Of Buckaroo Banzai,

We regret to inform you that, on a recent episode of his podcast, Tusk director Kevin Smith revealed that he has been approached by MGM about possibly adapting The Adventures Of Buckaroo Bonzai for television.

In situations like these, it is natural to look for someone to blame for your grief. In this case, it appears that you have The CW’s The Flash to thank (or, rather, Smith’s recent episode of The Flash).

According to i09, the studio was impressed with Smith’s work on that single episode (the studio is apparently unaware of Tusk, Red State, the porch sequence from Tusk, the trailer for Yoga Hosers, Mallrats, Smith’s intention to make a movie called Moose Jaws, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, most of Dogma, Clerks 2, and Cop Out), so much so that they invited him over to pitch ideas….

(5) KALDON CLARION SCHOLARSHIP. SF author Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon passed away on April 20. A GoFundMe campaign has been started to create a Dr. Phil Memorial Scholarship for the Clarion workshop.

Janiece Murphy says, “Dr. Phil was a kind and generous man, and we’d like to memorialize him in a way that reflects these qualities.”

Murphy explains there are two ways to give money.

Folks can donate to the GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/drphilclarion , or they can donate directly to Clarion in Dr. Phil’s name at http://imagination.ucsd.edu/support.html . If they choose the latter, I would ask that they ensure the gift is designated for the Dr. Phil Clarion Scholarship, otherwise it will go to the general fund.

The GoFundMe appeal has raised $1,045 of its $5,000 goal as of this writing.

(6) WHAT’S IMPORTANT. Joe Sherry makes a great point in “My Favorite Stories Sometimes Win: A Nebula Love Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

First, it should be noted that two of my favorite stories from 2015 did, in fact, win Nebula Awards on Saturday night. I adored both Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti as well as Sarah Pinsker’s “Our Lady of the Open Road“. Both are wonderful stories and I am so happy both Okorafor and Pinsker were recognized as being excellent pieces of fiction…

This leads into my second thing I’d like to talk about. So much of the conversation about awards, whether it is the Nebula or the Hugo or the any other award you’d like to mention, is about the winner. Don’t get me wrong, of course I want my favorite stories to be recognized as the “best” novel or short story or whatever other category. Of course I do. I not only get emotionally invested in the story, I sometimes also become emotionally invested in the success of the author. Of course I want my favorite author to win all the awards and sell all the books. Of course I do.

That’s okay, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that just receiving a nomination is a significant recognition and is difficult enough to do in any given year, let alone a single time in a career. Publish your best work in the wrong year and it may still miss the ballot for any number of reasons. The recognition of a nomination is important, both for the work as well as for the field itself. The nomination says “yes, this story was excellent and we value it”….

(7) KAGAN BOOKS AVAILABLE. To capture a news item seen the other day in comments: Baen has republished several long-out-of-print Janet Kagan works as ebooks – Mirabile, Hellspark, and The Collected Kagan.

(8) SFWA ELECTIONS. SF Site News covered this weekend’s SFWA officer elections.

Last year saw some officers elected for two year terms and others elected for one year terms. This year, elections were only held for positions which were elected for one year terms last year. Erin M. Hartshorn, Justina Ireland, and Lawrence M. Schoen ran for two open Director-at-Large positions.

  • Vice President: M.C.A. Hogarth, re-elected, unopposed
  • CFO: Bud Sparhawk, re-elected, unopposed
  • Director at Large: Justina Ireland
  • Director at Large: Lawrence M. Schoen

(9) NEBULA DIVERSITY. K. Tempest Bradford reported on the Nebula Awards for NPR.

…This weekend’s winners reflect many different types of diversity beyond gender. Half are women of color, half are self-identified queer women – which mirrors the overall diversity of the ballot. 24 out of the 34 works nominated for the award were written by women from multiple racial and cultural backgrounds and a spectrum of sexual orientations. Of the 10 works by men, five of them were written by people of color and queer authors.

“The Nebula ballot is everything a ballot should be in this community,” said Brooke Bolander, author of the nominated story “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead.” “It’s diverse, it’s wide-ranging, and it includes amazing stories by amazing authors.”

That’s an important point, given the ongoing conversation about diversity happening now in speculative fiction circles. The Hugos — the other major awards in the genre — are nominated by fans. Last year and again this year, Hugo nominations have been affected by the Sad and Rabid Puppies groups, who campaign against what they see as affirmative action-based nominating and voting in the Hugo and Nebula awards.

But “people want these stories,” says Alyssa Wong. She was the first Filipino author to be nominated for the Nebula award last year and is now the first to win it for her 2015 short story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.” Though she says she’s seen some Puppy-style criticism of her success, most of the reaction has been positive.

Readers “want to read stories from the points of view of people who have been historically been locked out of the genre,” Wong says. “‘Hungry Daughters’ is about a group of women who are all Asian-American and all from very different backgrounds, all of whom feel isolated in some way … But clearly this is not just Asian-American audiences who this is resonating with. I’m appreciative that people are reading more widely now. It means more opportunities — not just to be published, but to be seen.”

(10) SITE PICKED FOR 2019 COSTUME-CON. Over Mother’s Day weekend at Costume-Con 34 in Madison, WI, the site for Costume-Con 37 in 2019 was chosen.  It will be run under the auspices of MCFI with Aurora Celeste and Sharon Sbarsky as co-chairs. Social media still to come.

Costume-Con 37
Salem, MA
March 22-25, 2019
DoubleTree Boston North Shore
(actually Danvers, MA)
$129 Hotel Rate including Free WiFi, Free Parking, and Free Cookies!
$60 ($45 for those that voted) through at least December 31, 2016

(11) HUGO FIX. Damien Walter takes a math-lite approach to fighting slates, where Yobs = Ø

(12) DARLEY OBIT. Dick Darley, who directed Space Patrol, died April 21 at the age of 92. He also directed the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club.

Born in Los Angeles, he served as a fighter pilot in the United States Navy during World War II, then studied radio production and writing at USC. First working at San Diego’s KFMB, he later joined L.A.’s KECA where in 1950 he became director on the channel’s new series Space Patrol.

Set in the 30th century, the series followed the adventures of Commander-in-Chief Buzz Corry of the United Planets Space Patrol, who along with his sidekick Cadet Happy faced off against a rogues gallery of villains inspired by then-current Cold War. For its first 10 months, the show aired as 15 minute episodes Monday through Friday. In December, 1950, ABC commissioned a half hour version that ran on Saturdays, concurrently with the 15-minute version. Aimed at children, the show picked up a following of adult viewers and would go on to make history when it became the first regular live West Coast morning show to be beamed to the East Coast.

(13) A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. Norman Spinrad has some strong opinions about Facebook.

Well my attempt to split my so-called Facebook “Timeline” into several different forums has been a dismal failure. Didn’t work, and more recent news (and I mean real news, not Facebook’s so-called “News Feed”) about Facebook begins not only to explain why, but begins to illuminate far larger issues about what Facebook is doing and trying to do.

Facebook has been accused of using both secret algorithms and human “editors” to control and even censor its so-called News Feed and “Trending topics” feed to suit the political agenda of Mark Zuckerberg &Co. But not to worry, Zuckerberg himself has appointed a committee to investigate.

Facebook had generously offered to finance free Internet service to third world countries, notably India. Well not exactly. The Facebook “free Internet service” would only connect to web sites approved and chosen by Facebook. India at least being a sophisticated democracy said no thanks. And other so-called “developing countries” have likewise gotten the point.

The point being that Facebook is becoming a threat to democracy itself, nowhere more so than in the United States, where a majority of people are getting their “news” from Facebook already and Facebook is expanding the process exponentially, as witness how it has weaseled itself into most of the televised presidential primary debates and now is funneling selected news stories from legitimate journalistic news channels through “News Feed” and “Trending” to far larger demographics than they can possibly reach by themselves.

And now it has been revealed that Facebook is in effect filtering and editing these feeds according Mark Zuckerberg’s political agenda. But not to worry, Zuckerberg has appointed a committee of his own minions to investigate himself.

Why is this a threat to democracy? Because it is already a huge threat to professional and politically neutral journalism itself, the commons cornerstone of any democracy….

(14) PROTECTION OR THEATRE? Recently the Society for Promotion of Japanese Animation, which runs Anime Expo in Los Angeles, announced a new Youth Protection program that requires all employees, volunteers, vendors and panelists to submit to a criminal background check and take online courses. Christopher Macdonald argues in an Anime News Network editorial that “The SPJA Needs to Change Its Youth Protection Policy”.

On the surface the new policy seems like a great idea. Who isn’t in favor of protecting children from predators? This policy isn’t unwarranted either, as with every similarly large event, bad things happen… and have happened. Unfortunately the SPJA’s new policy has many unintended consequences. Here are but a few:

  • Cost: It isn’t entirely clear who has to pay for the background checks, but these checks could be very expensive for people who have to pay for them. While a typical background checks costs as little as $50, the actual price can be prohibitively expensive for some vendors. For example, some background checks cost an extra $50 for every country a subject has visited in the past 5 years, and an extra $200 if they have lived outside the USA. With those prices, my background check would cost over $1,000 (note: AX has stated on Twitter “No artist, volunteer, guest, staff is being asked to pay for own bg check,“ however it seems that vendors and exhibitors do have to pay for the background checks).
  • Privacy & Security: The new SPJA policy requires that all vendors register with their real names & info. Many people in our industry, particularly professional and semi-professional cosplayers, have problems with stalkers. They do not want to be forced to wear badges with their real names, and they do not want their home address in the SPJA’s database. It may even be illegal to force employees of California based vendors to undergo background checks. There is a very limited number of cases in which an employer can mandate a background check, and this is not one of those cases. Therefore, it may be illegal for companies like Aniplex of America, Bandai, Crunchyroll, NIS America and Viz Media to ask their employees to undergo the background check.
  • Good People will fail the background check: I won’t go into too much detail about this here, there is plenty of information online about it, but many people often have significant trouble with background checks. Here are but a few of the reasons you can fail a background check: a name change, a minor violent arrest (got into a fight in a bar back in your college days), visiting an “undesirable” country (have you been to Iran or Cuba? I have), sharing your name with an actual criminal, etc…
  • It’s Insulting: Picture this, “Hi, you’re one of the top manga artists in Japan, and we’d really like to have you as a guest of honor at our show, but first we need to make sure you aren’t a child molester.” This is straight up offensive; you should expect that people will be insulted by this. And they are; I can say with absolute certainty that some of AX’s potential guests have pulled out because of this, and in at least one case an artist is disturbed enough that it is having an effect on their work. Have you noticed that we’re less than 2 months out, and almost no guests of honor have been announced? Guest contracts are in limbo while they wait for this issue to be resolved. For some guests it is already too late for them to commit to the event, their schedules are made more than 2 months in advance.

(15) TESTING FOR HUMANITY. The Futility Closet blog describes a proposed replacement for the Turing Test.

The original test, in which a computer program tries to fool a human judge into thinking it’s human during a five-minute text-only conversation, has been criticized because the central task of devising a false identity is not part of intelligence, and because some conversations may require relatively little intelligent reasoning.

The new test would be based on so-called Winograd schemas, devised by Stanford computer scientist Terry Winograd in 1972. Here’s the classic example:

The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they [feared/advocated] violence.

If the word feared is used, to whom does they refer, the councilmen or the demonstrators? What if we change feared to advocated? You know the answers to these questions because you have a practical understanding of anxious councilmen. Computers find the task more difficult because it requires not only natural language processing and commonsense reasoning but a working knowledge of the real world….

In July 2014 Nuance Communications announced that it will sponsor an annual Winograd Schema Challenge, with a prize of $25,000 for the computer that best matches human performance. The first competition will be held at the 2016 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, July 9-15 in New York City.

(16) SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. George R.R. Martin weighs in on the EPH discussion with “All the King’s Horses…” at Not A Blog.

I can hear the proponents of EPH and 4/6 saying their reforms were never meant to be a cure all. Yes, I know that, I never believed otherwise, and I applaud your efforts to help. I just wish these reforms helped more. Neither EPH nor 4/6 is going to prevent us from having VD on the Best Editor shortlist from now until the heat death of the universe.

And I also know that there are now other proposals out there, proposals that call for three-stage voting, for negative votes and blackballing, for juries. Some of these cures, I fear, might be even worse than the disease. We have plenty of juried awards; we don’t need another. Three-stage voting, with fifteen semi-finalists that get boiled down to five finalists and one winner? Maybe, but that considerably increases the workload of the Hugo administrators, whose job is hard enough already… and I fear it would actually ratchet up campaigning, as friends and fans of those on the List of Fifteen rallied around their favorites to get them on the List of Five. And a blackball round, voting things off the ballot? Is that really a can of worms we want to open, in this present climate? That would dial the ugliness up to eleven, I fear… or higher.

Sadly, I don’t think there is an answer here. No magic bullet is going to fix this. And I fear that the people saying, “pretty soon the assholes will get bored and go away,” are being hopelessly naive. The assholes are having far too much fun.

(17) BABELFISH NOW REALITY? Here’s the pitch.

Although the Indiegogo did not reach its goal, Waverly Labs appeas to be going ahead with production — the preorder campaign is scheduled to launch May 25.

1. How much will it cost? Retail is expected to be $249-$299
2. How much is the early bird? Early bird will be first come first serve. A limited quantity will go for $129, then another round for $149, and then a few more Late Early Bird options for $179+. Signup here: www.waverlylabs.com/launch
3. When can I preorder the Pilot? The preorder campaign is scheduled to launch on May 25th. We will keep everyone updated via email. As long as you have signed up for the launch then you will be alerted.
4. When will they be delivered? We are releasing a translation app this summer for basic translation. This is included in your purchase. However, the earpieces require much more testing, manufacturing and production time. Therefore, we anticipate the earliest will be in late fall/early winter, although fulfilling all orders could take until next spring. Again, it is first come first serve.
5. What’s included? The full package includes the Pilot and secondary earpiece (2 earpieces total), 1 portable charger, and an accompanying app. The app is where the languages are downloaded for the earpiece.

The rest of the FAQ is here.

[Thanks to Rick Kovalcik, JJ, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Lola McCrary, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Four Nominees’ Statements About Staying on the Ballot

Since Thomas A. Mays decided to withdraw his Hugo-nominated short story as his way of dealing with its having been on the Rabid Puppies slate, some Hugo and Campbell nominees in the same position have made statements to explain why they are not withdrawing. Alyssa Wong and Alastair Reynolds posted theirs today, and Brandon Sanderson yesterday. Also included is a quote from Lois McMaster Bujold — made prior to Mays’ withdrawal — addressing her story’s presence on the slate.

ALYSSA WONG

Alyssa Wong says she is staying, in “Toe the Line:” On Being a 2016 John W. Campbell Award Finalist.

There is no way in hell I’m withdrawing. The fact is, in spite of the Rabid Puppies attempts to lock people like me out of the finalists list through slate voting, some truly deserving folks and their works who weren’t on their slate slipped onto the list anyway….

And that’s the crux of it. If you are on this list despite the Rabid Puppies’ slate voting, it means you absolutely, absolutely deserve it. It means that enough SFF fans appreciated your work and contributed their individual voices to overwhelm a slate being pushed by an organized mob of malicious people determined to “leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were.” And to withdraw is to let them win.

ALASTAIR REYNOLDS

The author posted “Slow Bullets on the Hugo Ballot” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

…I’d had high hopes for Slow Bullets, after all. I considered it a strong story, and it had picked up enough positive reviews and recommendations throughout the year that it didn’t seem beyond the bounds of possibility that it might make the ballot. That’s not to say I was confident, but that just that the omens were about as good for that story as they had been for any of my recent pieces.

The adminstrators, quite reasonably, wanted a clearer, less ambiguous commitment from me. After a friendly and productive transatlantic phone call, I came around to the view that I’d not only accept the nomination, but take whatever came after it.

As several commentators have noted, the eventual ballots are quite strongly biassed in favour of Rabid Puppy choices. The unpalatable conclusion to be drawn from this is that my story, good as its chances were, probably wouldn’t have made the cut were it not for the RP block vote. However, I didn’t ask for those votes and in fact I expressly requested that my story not be slated. Kate Paulk (of the Sads) and Vox Day (of the Rabids) both declined my requests.

Since the announcement of the ballots, there’s been quite a lot of discussion about the rights and wrongs of the finalists withdrawing their stories. Quite honestly, I’m very sympathetic to both sides of the debate. If I knew then what I know now, I’d probably have declined the initial nomination. But I didn’t, and beyond that I made a commitment to the administrators not to withdraw at a later stage. On that basis alone, therefore, I’m keeping “Slow Bullets” on the ballot. I can’t say I’m exactly over-joyed about this decision, though – from my point of view it just feels like the least worst choice of a very bad hand. Compare and contrast to the situation when my only other nomination happened, for “Troika”, and my mood couldn’t be more different.

Let’s hope things are better next year….

BRANDON SANDERSON

Brandon Sanderson, author of a slated Hugo finalist, the novella Perfect State, says he is staying on the ballot and urges other nominees to do the same. This excerpt is just part of his lengthy post, which also describes what he tried to achieve behind-the-scenes during last year’s puppy travails. Oddly, while he mentions the Sad Puppies he never names the Rabid Puppies, obviously the “list” under discussion here —

If I’d known I was on this list, I would have asked to be taken off of it. This year, their list seems to include some people (I can’t know if I’m one) who are mainstream. People liked in the community, or likely to get a nomination anyway. They’ve done this, I presume, in order to see whether these people too would get “No Award.”

I can’t know how much the nomination of my novella was helped by this group, and even contemplating the idea is distasteful to me. This puts me in the position of having to decide whether or not to withdraw my nomination. It wouldn’t be heartbreaking for me to do so. I’ve won a Hugo in this category before, during the pre-Puppy years. I think my story is strong, but I will write other, stronger stories in the future. I’d be fine sitting it out this year.

I think that would be bad for fandom, and the award. Though I agree with those who withdrew nominations last year, I think we’re entering into a dangerous area. If we withdraw anytime someone like this person puts us on a slate, that gives them an enormous amount of power over us and the award. In addition, if we vote something under No Award anytime someone we don’t like advocates for it, then that’s the same as letting that person win the award whenever they want. Either way, we’re just being pushed around by a troll.

I’d like to think that we’ve learned from last year, and I have decided not to withdraw my nomination. I realize I’m setting myself up for being part of a potential blanket “No Award” voting slate this year. I will accept that, if it happens. But I don’t think letting a troll dictate my actions is going to work out better for me. And I certainly don’t want to insult the fans who nominated my work in good faith.

Therefore, I will stand by what I’ve always said: Nominate and vote for me only if you think the story itself deserves the recognition. Don’t vote for (or against) any person or their ideas. Vote for or against the story. Even when the nomination rules change next year (assuming the proposal gets enough votes again this year), we’re still likely to have a candidate in every category that was nominated in by certain elements.

In many cases, I feel it’s going to be impossible to separate which nominees are the result of trolls throwing rocks at us and which are the result of passionate fans who simply have different views from the mainstream. We’re going to have to do better than counter-voting, a point which many voices in the community, including Scalzi and GRRM, made last year.

I request that my fellow nominees consider not withdrawing. And I request that voters continue to look at the individual stories, artists, and editors, and judge based on the nominee themselves—rather than judging based on who is advocating for them.

LOIS MCMASTER BUJOLD

On the day the nominees were announced, Lois McMaster Bujold also posted a brief statement — “Penric’s Demon” is a Hugo nominee – about the slate:

…(As a point of information, “Penric’s Demon” was conscripted onto the “Rabid Puppies” slate without my notification or permission, and my request that it be removed was refused.)

Ta, L.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh and Greg Hullender for the links.]