Pixel Scroll 12/4/18 You Miss 100 Percent Of The Pixels You Don’t Scroll

(1) WRITING IDENTITY. Lara Elena Donnelly discusses the challenges to a writer in an industry with entrenched genre labels and sublabels. Thread starts here.

(2) “I’M SHOCKED”: The Wrap begins its story

We sense a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of bank accounts suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly emptied.

…Hollywood auction house Profiles in History is offering the original lightsaber prop used by Mark Hamill in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope” at the estimated value of $150,000 – $200,000.

But is it the real McCoy? BBC reports that “Mark Hamill questions Luke Skywalker lightsaber auction”.

[On] Twitter, Mr Hamill explained it may not be a one-off.

But the Academy Award-winning production designer for the original Star Wars film, Roger Christian, told the BBC the lightsaber is an original.

“There are five originals I handmade myself, and this is one of them,” he said. “It is real – I’ve got the Oscar to prove it.”

(3) ON THE FRONT. “How I became a book cover designer: Chip Kidd” at USA Today.

Q: What has been your biggest career high and your biggest career low?

Kidd: High: “Jurassic Park.” That will be the first line of my obituary, and I’m extremely proud of that. I have absolutely no regrets.

Low: There’s nothing where I think, oh my God, I’m so ashamed I did X or Y- I mean, I’m really not. There are books that you work on that you are hoping are going to do really well, but that’s not the same – that’s not saying ‘oh my God, I’m so ashamed of that,’ it’s just like saying, ‘well, we did our best and that didn’t work.’

(4) THE BOOK OF KINGFISHER Camestros Felapton chimes in with “Review: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher”.

This book positively sparkles with snappy dialogue as if it were a 1940s romantic comedy…but with swords, talking badger people and a possibly demonic bird.

We are back to the world of the Clockwork Boys, a few years on since the end of the Clocktaur wars. There are no shared characters but the shared fantasy setting relieves the story from having to spend time on additional world building. There are hints of broader trouble brewing but unlike the Clockwork Boys this is a less conventional fantasy quest.

(5) AUDIBLE.COM BEST OF THE YEAR. Audible.com has announced the audiobooks picked in various categories as the Best of the Year 2018.

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the Sci-Fi Winner.

Sci-Fi Winner: Rosewater

Rosewater is one of the most unique sci-fi books I’ve listened to in the past few years, let alone 2018. Author Tade Thompson—who won the inaugural Nommo Award (Africa’s first speculative fiction award) for this novel—describes his concept as a Frankenstein of influences, a phrase that calls to mind a monster cobbled together with mismatched parts. But in reality, the pieces all fit together in near-perfect synchronicity. A completely original alien invasion story with neocolonialist themes, combined with top-notch world-building make this series as unpredictable as it is unputdownable. And enhancing the experience is new narrator Bayo Gbadamosi, who was personally chosen by the author, and whose effortless performance of various characters and accents immerse the listener in this twisty, enthralling world. —Sam, Audible Editor

The other finalsists were Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, Level Five by William Ledbetter, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, and Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor.

Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver is the Fantasy Winner.

Fantasy Winner: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver is unexpectedly epic. The spell of it sneaks up on the listener. Yes, it’s a fairytale retelling of Rumplestiltskin, only with six different character perspectives and a fully fleshed-out world that’s familiar, but imbued with magic. At its center are two main heroines, Miryem and Wanda. Together, they carry complicated and relatable problems on their shoulders, making this an easily accessible fantasy for those who might be daunted by the genre. The land around them is bewitching and enchanting, made all the more so from Lisa Flanagan’s subtly accented narration. Simply put, it led us away to a wintry fantasy land and trapped us there, firmly cementing its place in our minds. —Melissa, Audible Editor

(6) EXPANDING UNIVERSE. Awareness of science-fiction’s blossoming of cultural inclusivity seems to be reaching the mainstream, as the BBC culture writer Tom Cassauwers looks at a variety of literary movements that are making the genre more meaningful to more people: “What Science Fiction Says About The Cultures That Create It”.

Well-known artistic depictions of the future have traditionally been regarded as the preserve of the West, and have shown a marked lack of diversity. Yet new regions and authors are depicting the future from their perspectives. Chinese science fiction has boomed in recent years, with stand-out books like Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem. And Afrofuturism is on the rise since the release of the blockbuster Black Panther. Around the world, science fiction is blossoming.

Susana Morris, Associate Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology says:

“People often think Afrofuturism is a genre, while really it’s a cultural movement. It isn’t just black science fiction. It’s a way for black folks across the diaspora to think about our past and future.”

(7) THE OTHER FIRST PERSON. “Jonathan Lethem on First-Person Narrators: When Men Write Women and Women Write Men” on Bookmarks has a conversation between Lethem and Jane Ciabattari about novels with first-person narration from the opposite gender.  Among the books discussed are Philip K. Dick’s The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and Anna Kavan’s Ice.

JL: …One of the things that’s striking about Dick’s work is that for such a wildly imaginative writer, he also frequently uses material from his own life quite directly, and the two nestle side-by-side very easily.

(8) BLACK MIRROR HINTS. Get yer red hot wild guesses here — “‘Black Mirror’ Season 5 Date and Episode Title Leak, Prompting Fan Theories” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

The wait for new “Black Mirror” is almost over, maybe. As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Netflix’s science-fiction Twitter account @NXonNetflix accidentally leaked the Season 5 premiere date and first episode title. If the tweet is to be believed, then “Black Mirror” returns December 28 with an episode called “Bandersnatch.” The tweet was deleted off Twitter but not before fans captured it via photo and sent it around the web.

…The “Bandersnatch” is a fictional creature in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass” and his 1874 poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” but, as one eagle-eyed Twitter user uncovered, it was the name of a video game listed on the cover of a fictional magazine in the Season 3 episode “Playtest,” directed by Dan Trachtenberg and starring Wyatt Russell.

The “Bandersnatch” game, as it turns out, is real. The UK-based Imagine Software developed the project in 1984 but it was never released to the public…

(9) STAYS MAINLY ON THE PLAIN. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights of theRambo Academy for Wayward Writers’ December 1 class “Highspeed Worldbuilding for Games and Fiction” with James L. Sutter. Thread starts here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 4, 1945 – Karl Edward Wagner, Writer, Editor, Publisher, Poet, and Fan. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as was it was originally written by Howard. He is quite likely best known for his invention of the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman, who appeared in thirty novels. His short fiction amassed piles of World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Stoker Award nominations and took home the trophy for many of them. He took over as editor of The Year’s Best Horror Stories series for DAW Books at the 8th edition, a role he held for fifteen years. He also edited the three Echoes of Valor anthologies that came out around the late 1980s. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of stories by authors of the Golden Age pulp magazines. He received a British Fantasy Awards Special Award for his work with Carcosa; in 1997, the BFS renamed this award in his honor. (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Richard Lynch, 69, Writer, Editor, Historian, and Fan who with his wife Nicki produced the long-running fanzine Mimosa from 1982 to 2003, which was nominated fourteen times for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, winning six of those years. He has been a member of several fan groups and APAs, chaired a Chattacon, and edited the 1998 Worldcon Souvenir Program Book. He and Nicki have been Fan Guests of Honor at several conventions, and were honored with the Phoenix Award by Southern Fandom.
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Jeff Bridges, 69, Oscar-winning Actor whose best genre role, I’d say, was as the Oscar-nominated, Saturn-winning lead in Starman – but many genre fans would offer his Saturn-winning dual role as Keven Flynn/CLU in TRON and the followup TRON: Legacy as his main genre credential. Other genre work includes Kiss Me Goodbye, K-PAX, Tideland, King Kong (1976), the Saturn-nominated titular character in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man, and the voice of Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn. He appeared also as an undead police officer in a film called R.I.P.D. (the Rest in Peace Department), which was either really bad or really, really bad.
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Pamela Stephenson, 69, Psychologist, Writer, Actor, and Comedian who was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, and emigrated to the UK. She may be recognized by genre fans as villain Robert Vaughn’s moll in Superman III, or as Mademoiselle Rimbaud in Mel Brooks’ alt-history History of the World: Part I. Other roles include the films The Comeback and Bloodbath at the House of Death, and guest parts on episodes of Space: 1999, The New Avengers, Tales of the Unexpected, and – of special interest to Ursula Vernon fans – a 3-episode arc as Wombat Woman on the British series Ratman. She is married to comedian Billy Connolly, with whom she has three children; she was the travel researcher for his film series Billy Connolly’s World Tour of…, which JJ highly recommends, as each trip includes visits to numerous interesting sites of quirky, bizarre, and supernatural reknown.
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Sally Kobee, 64, Bookseller, Filker, and Fan who, with Larry Smith, ran for 25 years comprehensive dealer stores at Worldcons and other conventions, which always contained books written and illustrated by convention guests, so that fans could obtain works for autographing sessions. She has served on the committees for numerous conventions, and chaired two Ohio Valley Filk Fests and two World Fantasy Conventions. She was honored as a NESFA Fellow and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon.
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Tony Todd, 64, Actor, Director, and Producer. Let’s see… He was memorable as Kurn in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and as Captain Anderson of EarthForce in Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, but he is likely best known to horror fans as the lead character in the Candyman horror trilogy. He also had main roles in Night of the Living Dead, the Final Destination film series, and played Cecrops in Xena: Warrion Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. He provided the voice of The Fallen in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
  • Born December 4, 1957 – Lucy Sussex, 61, Teacher, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan from New Zealand who emigrated to Australia. Writing across the range of science fiction, fantasy, and horror (as well as crime and detective fiction), her works have won 4 Ditmar Awards, 2 Aurealis Awards, and a Sir Julius Vogel Award, mostly for short fiction; however, her Ditmar-winning novel The Scarlet Rider was also longlisted for the Tiptree Award. Her anthology She’s Fantastical was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. She has been an instructor at Clarion West and Clarion South. She has been Guest of Honor at several conventions including the New Zealand Natcon, and has been honored with the A. Bertram Chandler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction and the Peter McNamara Achievement Award.
  • Born December 4, 1964 – Marisa Tomei, 54, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who played May Parker in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, but also, to my delight, has an uncredited role as a Health Club Girl in The Toxic Avenger! She also had a guest role in the “Unwomen” episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • Born December 4, 1974 – Anne KG [Murphy] Gray, 44, Engineer, Physicist, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan. Known in fandom as Netmouse, she was a member of the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association, and has served on numerous convention committees and chaired three ConFusions. As a member of Midfan, which ran four Midwest Construction regional conrunner training conventions in the 2000s, she was editor of their publication MidFanzine. She is a past president of the Science Fiction Oral History Association. She is married to Brian Gray, with whom she won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 2010; they went to Eastercon and Corflu in the UK and produced a TAFF trip report, a piece on the Sherlock Holmes museum, and a photo album.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • PvP Online takes a turn with one of 770’s favorite motifs….

(12) PRIME SUSPECTS. Christopher Sandford, in “Who Was the Real Sherlock Holmes?” on CrimeReads, has an excerpt from his book The Man Who Would Be Sherlock where he looks at the people who inspired Sherlock Holmes, including Dr. Joseph Bell and Conan Doyle’s rich imagination.

Although Conan Doyle, like most authors, deplored the habit of identifying ‘real-life’ models for his characters, he also took the opportunity to pay Dr Joseph Bell (1837–1911) the compliment of calling him the “true Holmes.”

The frock-coated Bell was 39 years old when Doyle, an impoverished medical student, first attended one of his lectures at Edinburgh University. Described as a “thin, white-haired Scot with the look of a prematurely hatched bird, whose Adam’s apple danced up and down his narrow neck,” the doctor spoke in a piping voice and is said to have walked with a jerky, scuttling gait “suggestive of his considerable reserves of nervous energy.” Bell was a keen observer of his patients’ mental and physical characteristics—”The Method” as he called it—which he used as an aid to diagnosis. A lecture in the university’s gaslit amphitheater might, for example, open with Bell informing his audience that the subject standing beside him in the well of the auditorium had obviously served, at some time, as a non-commissioned officer in a Highland regiment in the West Indies—an inference based on the man’s failure to remove his hat (a Scots military custom) and telltale signs of tropical illness, among other minutiae. Added to his impressive powers of deduction, Bell also liked to bring an element of drama to his lectures, for instance by once swallowing a phial of malodorous liquid in front of his students, the better to determine whether or not it was a deadly poison. (He survived the test.) For much of the last century, Bell has been the individual most popularly associated with the “real Holmes.”

(13) GAME OF STRAPHANGERS. Gothamist says commuters will have a chance to buy collectible prepaid fare cards: “Limited Edition ‘Game Of Thrones’ MetroCards Available At Grand Central Starting Tuesday”.

Last week, the MTA announced that there would be a delay on a set of limited edition Game Of Thrones-emblazoned MetroCards planned for release in advance of the hotly-anticipated final season of the show. Today, we’ve learned that the MetroCards will be available starting tomorrow (Tuesday, 12/4) at Grand Central Terminal—and you can get a first look at them up above.

There will be 250,000 copies of the four MetroCards available at in the Grand Central subway station while supplies last.

(14) WHO’S ON FIRST. Galactic Journey was there in November 1963 for the series premiere: “[Dec. 3, 1963] Dr. Who?  An Adventure In Space And Time”.

Produced by Verity Lambert (the BBC’s youngest and only woman producer), Doctor Who is the new science fiction series from the BBC, about the mysterious eponymous old man and his machine that allows him to travel through time and space. Along with him are his granddaughter, Susan, and two of her school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Together, they’ll travel backwards and forwards through history, and upside down and sideways through the universe. According to the Radio Times, each adventure may bring them to the North Pole, distant worlds devastated by neutron bombs (well, THERE’S a relevant story for you!), and even the caravan of Marco Polo. I also hear this show is to have a bit of an educational element, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing how that goes.

(15) BELIEVABLE FANTASY. Marion Deeds and Terry Weyna, in their review of Alexandra Rowland’s novel at Fantasy Literature, “A Conspiracy of Truths: Interesting debut novel from a writer to watch”, point out that Chant is an unreliable narrator – but maybe not that unreliable:

For a story that takes place mostly within prison cells, where it seems pretty likely the first person narrator has not been executed, A Conspiracy of Truths becomes surprisingly suspenseful. Partly this is because there are characters at risk, particularly Ylfing and Consanza, but the suspense comes also not from “what will happen,” but “how will it happen?”

(16) A BIT MUCH. Fantasy Literature’s Taya Okerlund wrote a headline that made me read her review — “Legendary: If you like The Cheesecake Factory, this book might be for you” – and wrote a review that talked me out of reading the book:

The CARAVAL series has been very well received among YA readers; I guess I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Critics call it sweeping and immersive, and I’ll go with that. The writing is quite rich, and conjures to mind a world that might have been decorated by a cooperative design team from The Cheesecake Factory and Victoria’s Secret. It is gilded, rich and sugar crusted — which may be just the thing for an escapist read, but it wasn’t for me.

(17) SUPERCALI-WHAT? “Odeon defends £40 hi-tech cinema prices” — per an image, ticket prices for a show of Mary Poppins Returns started at £25.75; average price in the UK is £7.49. Just how much better than a typical cinema is this one? (And does this mean the bankers are the heroes in the Poppins sequel?)

Odeon has responded to criticism over the prices it is charging for seats at its new hi-tech cinema in London, where tickets will cost up to £40 ($51).

It told the BBC the prices were similar to tickets for theatre or live sports.

The newly refurbished Odeon Leicester Square will re-open later this month, showing Mary Poppins Returns.

It has had a multi-million pound facelift in partnership with Dolby, which is providing cutting-edge audio-visual technology.

(18) SHATNER CLAUS. Cleopatra Records would love to sell you a copy —

A very special gift of the holidays – the first ever Christmas album from the godfather of dramatic musical interpretations and a legend of stage and screen, Mr. William Shatner!

(19) FURSUITS AND LAWSUITS. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn says a well-known Chicago-region vendor “Lemonbrat Has Filed Suit Against Former Employee (and Con-Runner) Corey Wood “. (They specialize in costumes and gear of interest to furries.)

In a series of events that has left many of us shocked, frequent convention vendor Lemonbrat has filed a lawsuit against their former financial manager Corey Wood.

The Cook County Record story lists the allegations:

According to the complaint, Wood has been employed by the plaintiffs since January 2013 as a financial manager and prepared payroll and the company’s books. The plaintiffs allege they discovered Wood established separate Square accounts for Lemonbrat and its predecessor that diverted credit card payments that belonging to the plaintiffs to Wood personally. The plaintiffs allege Wood diverted more than $40,000 to himself via his false Square account or accounts and has written more than $15,000 in bogus checks.

Dorn adds:

What makes it even more important though is Wood’s prominence in the con running community. Wood is the convention chair for Anime Milwaukee (Wisconsin’s largest anime convention), and owns and operates other events including the upcoming furry convention Aquatifur.

(20) PICKING HELLBOY. In an episode of PeopleTV’s video series Couch Surfing, Ron Perlman says that director Guillermo del Toro had to work a long time to get Perlman cast in HellboyEntertainment Weekly has the story (“Guillermo del Toro fought 7 years for Ron Perlman to star as Hellboy”), transcribing part of the video. It wasn’t until del Toro’s success with Blade II that producers would listen to him.

Before actor Ron Perlman played the titular role in Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 unconventional superhero flick Hellboy, he was a typecast character actor, successful but with little hopes of ascending to leading man status. Luckily for Perlman, del Toro had a very specific vision for the film, with Perlman front and center.

“I said to him from the get-go, ‘That’s a great idea and god bless you, I love you for entertaining the idea, but it’ll never happen,’” Perlman says in the latest episode of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, recalling his disbelief that he’d ever excite studios enough to be cast. “Sure enough, for seven years he’d go to these meetings at these studios, and he’d say, ‘Ron Perlman.’”

(21) MISSION-CRITICAL. Another first world problem: “Research worms ‘too old’ to go to space station”.

Thousands of worms being blasted into space could be “too old” for research when they get to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch of a SpaceX rocket was delayed after mouldy food was found among another research team’s kit.

Teams from Exeter, Nottingham and Lancaster universities are hoping the microscopic worms could lead to new treatments for muscular dystrophy.

The worms were meant to be “just turning into adults” at the launch.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to launch from the NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday evening, but has now been rescheduled for 18:16 GMT on Wednesday.

(22) PASSING THE POST. Congratulations to Adri Joy for reaching a specialized kind of milestone with “Microreview [Book]: A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White” at Nerds of a Feather.

Hurrah! With this review, I have officially reached my “sequeliversary” for Nerds of a Feather: Alex White’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe was one of the first books I reviewed on this site, and now here I am looking at its successor for your potential reading pleasure! Admittedly, there were only six months between the two, but I still think that’s cool. If you haven’t read White’s breakneck opener full of grumpy yet brilliant ladies and satisfying space magic, now’s the time to go check out that review and the book behind it…

A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy opens one year after we last saw the crew of the Capricious, having hunted down the big ship at the edge of the universe (also known as the Harrow) and started to uncover a galaxy spanning plot. Like it’s predecessor, Bad Deal doesn’t waste any time, throwing its audience right into the middle of things

(23) WHERE THERE’S SMOKE. Vance K adds James Tiptree Jr. to the dossier in “Feminist Futures: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” at Nerds of a Feather.

In reading Tiptree, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Flannery O’Connor in that wherever the stories started or whichever direction they may start heading, they would always veer hard to death. Characters don’t get happy endings, hope is inevitably extinguished just when it seemed likely to pay off, and those misgivings nagging at the back of characters’ minds always turn out to be harbingers of a doom lurking just up ahead.

(24) GEM OF A DINO. National Geographic has a photo of this exotic find: “Sparkly, opal-filled fossils reveal new dinosaur species”.

In a dazzling discovery, fossils brought up from a mine in Wee Warra, near the Australian outback town of Lightning Ridge, belong to the newly named dinosaur species Weewarrasaurus pobeni. The animal, which was about the size of a Labrador retriever, walked on its hind legs and had both a beak and teeth for nibbling vegetation.

…But perhaps the most striking thing about this fossil—described today in a paper published in the journal PeerJ—is that it is made from opal, a precious gemstone that this part of the state of New South Wales is known for.

(25) ALL FINISHED. Gothamist tweaks the celebrated fantasy author: “George R.R. Martin Finally Finishes His Guide To NYC Pizza”.

Do you ever get the feeling that George R.R. Martin will do literally anything to get out of finishing the A Song Of Ice & Fire series? It’s been well over seven years since the release of A Dance Of Dragons, and in lieu of the long-awaited new GoT book, Martin has released spin-off books like Fire and Blood, he’s helped adapt his 1980 novella Nightflyers into a TV show, he’s started non-profits, he’s cameoed in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, gone to some Dead shows, campaigned for Hillary Clinton, and he’s blogged way too much about the Jets.

The latest iteration of this phenomenon: to promote Fire & Blood, Martin gave his guide to NYC pizza. Did we really need the creator of Game Of Thrones to confirm what we all already know, that NYC pizza is by far the best in the world?

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/22/16 Pixelpotamus vs. Scrolloceros

(1) PRECISION. In “Save the Allegory!” on Slate, Laura Miller calls on writers to actually define “allegory” correctly.  She quotes from C. S. Lewis’ The Allegory of Love at length and makes lots of superhero references.

What people usually mean when they call something an allegory today is that the fictional work in question can function as a metaphor for some real-world situation or event. This is a common arts journalist’s device: finding a political parallel to whatever you happen to be reviewing is a handy way to make it appear worth writing about in the first place. Calling that parallel an allegory serves to make the comparison more forceful. Fusion says that Batman v Superman is a “none-too-subtle allegory for the fight between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.” (It is not.) The Hollywood Reporter calls Zootopia an “accidental anti-Trump allegory”—this despite the fact that there is no literary form less accidental than allegory. The meaning of the word has drifted so far that even works that aren’t especially metaphorical get labeled as allegory: A film about artistic repression in Iran is a “clunky allegory” for … artistic repression in Iran.

Allegory or metaphor: The distinction might seem obscure and academic to many readers. Shouldn’t allegory be grateful to get any attention at all? Isn’t it just an archaic literary mode that nobody uses anymore? Yes and no. About the only people creating true allegories today are political cartoonists. But a culture never entirely discards its roots, and allegory, which first appeared in the waning years of the Roman Empire, is one of the foundations of Western literature. Maybe if we understood it better, we’d realize how much we owe to it.

(2) NEXT AT SFWA. While detailing her writing and travel plans for the summer, Cat Rambo also previews SFWA’s upcoming activities in “Catching My Breath and What’s Coming Up”. In her second year as the organization’s president, she will be putting some needed infrastructure in place.

In SFWA areas, I’m focusing on a new committee that I’ll be working with, the Membership Retention Committee, whose job will be to look at the new member experience for SFWA members as well as how to keep the organization useful for members. (If you’re interested in volunteering with that, feel free to drop me a line.) Other efforts include a) working with SFWA fundraising, b) a small musical endeavor that I just prodded someone about and which involves Tom Lehrer (yes, that Tom Lehrer), and c) helping out where I can with some of M.C.A. Hogarth’s amazing efforts, such as this mysterious thing here lurking under a tarp that I am not at liberty to discuss. *mouths the words “SFWA University” then is dragged away by the SFWA honey badgers while shouting something about a guidebook*

Three other important SFWA things:

  1. I’ll be watching the results of our decision to admit game writers with keen interest. I can tell you that the initial set is criteria is being voted on right now and I expect to see it announced soon.
  2. An effort is in the works that I think will prove a lovely tribute to longtime SFWA volunteer Bud Webster and which will, in the longtime SFWA tradition, provide a benefit for professional writers at every level of their careers.
  3. And we’ll (finally) be announcing some of the partnerships we’ve been making — you saw reps from Amazon, Audible, BookBub, Draft2Digital, Kickstarter, Kobo and Patreon at the Nebulas and those relationships are going to extend beyond the weekend and give our members special resources and relationships at all of those companies — and others, including one that I am super-stoked to have facilitated.

(3) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH. Neil deGrasse Tyson gives his view about how long you could survive on each planet in our solar system. It’s a 2015 video.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

(5) POSERS FOR TINGLE. Neigh, a thousand times neigh!

(6) EVERMORE. The Baltimore Sun quotes lots of people involved with the convention in “Balticon grew to 50 as sci-fi, fantasy grew more mainstream”. Several are Filers.

Even 50 Balticons later, Ray Ridenour remembers his introduction to the annual gathering of the Baltimore region’s science-fiction and fantasy aficionados.

Ridenour, then a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, recalls taking the elevator to the top floor of the city’s since-demolished Emerson Hotel. This was the first Balticon put together by the then-4-year-old Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and he had little idea what to expect.

“As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I heard something very noisy and stepped back in,” he recalls. “Two guys roared by in a wheelchair; one of them was singing loudly, the other was pushing loudly. They careened down the hotel aisle and then zoomed in another direction and disappeared.”

Ridenour asked someone walking by if they had any idea what was going on. “‘Oh, yeah,'” came the reply. “‘That was the president of the club.'”

Ridenour, now 68, a graphic artist and designer living in Hampden and a veteran of every Balticon since, knew he was in the right place. “So I said, ‘Well, these guys look like they know how to party.'”

…Baltimore natives Miller, 65, and Lee, 63, authors of a series of books set in the Liaden universe, were guests of honor at Balticon 37 in 2003. Veterans of Balticons dating to the mid-’70s — they met at Balticon 10 in 1976, when Lee won a short-story contest Miller had helped start — they have been married since 1980.

Balticon’s strength, Miller says, lies in its deep fan base. At a time when many fan gatherings have become massive affairs staged by professional organizations whose business is organizing conventions, with an emphasis on movie- and TV-star guests, Balticon is still organized and run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and skewed toward the written word.

“Balticon hasn’t lost touch with the fact that it’s a bunch of fans putting this together, for their own interests and the interests of their friends,” Miller says.

(7) DUNGEON N-COUNTER. Jo Lindsay Walton tweeted this sample of what goes on in the Sputnik Award’s Dungeons of Democracy.

(8) ARE GO. Michael Flett describes the 2015 revival in “Thunderbirds 1965” at GeekChocolate.

…Adhering strictly to the ethic of the late sixties, wires are visible, the motion and expressions of the puppets are limited but still capable of expressing great character, and while Tracy Island is extended by the use of archive footage of tropical islands there can no justifiable objection to this use of stock footage nor in the famous launch sequences or any repeated shots of flybys, as this was all part and parcel of the original productions.

What is undeniable is the loving recreations of puppets, props, sets and machines, from Lady Penelope’s wonderfully shiny pink Rolls Royce FAB1 to the Thunderbirds vehicles themselves, the characters themselves graced by the creations of costume designer Liz Comstock-Smith who has crafted an exquisite new wardrobe for Lady Penelope, much to the chagrin of her chauffeur Aloysius Parker who in addition to his other duties must act as porter.

“When one is visiting, one tries to look one’s best,” his employer drily responds as she arrives at Tracy Island in opening episode Introducing Thunderbirds, less of an audio adventure now granted a visual dimension than, as the name would suggest, a showcase of International Rescue’s secret base and the amazing vehicles used to perform their daring missions.

Adapted from the soundtrack of F.A.B., The Abominable Snowman offers more in the way of spectacle with big explosions from the opening moments as a fire rages at Meddings Uranium, named of course in honour of the late special effects designer Derek Meddings who worked on many Anderson shows and later progressed to several James Bond films….

(9) STOP FIGHTING THE LAST WAR. Jim Henley, in “Hugo McHugoface Has Sailed”, offers his own frame for the Hugo reform discussions.

…Various options – including some kind of jury component and restricting voting rights (e.g. to only attending members) – have raised the objection that “They change the fundamental character of the award.” That class of objections fails to recognize the core truth: the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed. Again, the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed.

The Hugo Awards have become an internet poll in the age of Boaty McBoatface, freeping and chan culture. Nobody set out to make them this, and ex ante it was reasonable to imagine that the supporting membership fee (currently $50) was enough of a gating function to keep LULZers and trolls from targeting the process for abuse. But experience shows that there are enough motivated bad actors willing to spend that much to tie up the bulk of the ballot with whatever works their whims inspire them to place there, motivated by any combination of venial and mortal sins.

There is no question of preserving the character of the Hugo Awards. That ship has sailed, and it is not named for David Attenborough. The question is how can the award process be restructured so that future nominees and award winners will be of a character consistent with the Hugo tradition for the ’70 years prior to the mid-’10s.

I suppose the other question is how long it will take Hugo fandom and WSFS members to admit this.

(10) VERBAL AUTOPSY. Toby Litt tells Guardian readers “What makes bad writing bad”.

…Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating misjudgment

While bad writers may read a great many diverse works of fiction, they are unable or unwilling to perceive the things these works do which their own writing fails to do. So the most dangerous kind of writers for bad writers to read are what I call excuse writers – writers of the sort who seem to grant permission to others to borrow or imitate their failings.

I’ll give you some examples: Jack Kerouac, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou. Bad writers bulwark themselves against a confrontation with their own badness by reference to other writers with whom they feel they share certain defence-worthy characteristics….

(11) DOWN UNDER FAN FUND. Julian Warner, Justin Ackroyd and Lucy Huntzinger officially announced that the winner of the 2016 race is Australian fan Clare McDonald-Sims. She was the only candidate. The administrators say voting numbers to follow. McDonald-Sims will attend MidAmeriCon II.

(12) IT’S STILL NEWS TO SOMEONE. Fanac.org now has James V. Taurasi’s classic fan newzine Fantasy Times online, published from 1941-1955.

Also, congratulations to Jack Weaver, Fanac.org’s Webmaster of 20 years, and the site’s software developer, who received a special award at FanHistoricon in Virginia last month.

weaverplaque

(13) TANK FOR THE MEMORIES. NPR covered yesterday’s transfer from the harbor to the museum – “A 66,000 Pound Space Shuttle Fuel Tank Is Parading Through The Streets Of LA”.

fuel tank

The last remaining space shuttle external propellant tank is moved across the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday. The ET-94 will be displayed with the retired space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

A massive space shuttle fuel tank is winding its way through the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, on a 16-mile trek heading to the California Science Center.

It’s set to be displayed with the space shuttle Endeavor. The tank, which was never used in a mission, is the “last flight-qualified space shuttle external tank in existence,” according to the science center…..

As The Associated Press reports, the giant tank started moving at midnight from Marina del Rey, where it “arrived by barge Wednesday.” It’s crawling along at about 5 mph, the wire service reports, and is expected to take 13 to 18 hours to reach the science center….

The tank was donated by NASA, and Science Center President Jeff Rudolph tells Danielle that he’s thrilled to acquire the tank.

“As soon as we got Endeavor, we said we got to see if there’s any way we can get that one remaining external tank,” he says. Danielle adds that the center is hoping to eventually add booster rockets to the display.

According to the center, that means it will be the “be the only place in the world that people will be able to see a complete shuttle stack — orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket booster — with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Brian Z., and Jim Henley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]