Pixel Scroll 9/27/19 Pixel, Pixel, In The Scroll, Who’s The Blogger That’s A Troll?

(1) CHANGES TO NY TIMES BESTSELLER LISTS. Publishers Weekly reports “‘NYT’ Shifts Its Lists Again”. Mass market paperbacks and graphic books will be tracked again, and middle grade paperback and YA paperback lists will debut.

The New York Times Book Review has announced a new slate of changes to its bestseller lists, both in print and online.

After cutting the mass market paperback and graphic novel/manga lists in 2017, the TimesBest Sellers team will again track mass market paperback sales, as well as debut a combined list for graphic books, which will include fiction, nonfiction, children’s, adults, and manga. Two new monthly children’s lists, middle grade paperback and young adult paperback, will debut as well. (The Times retired its middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists in 2017.) In addition, the Times will cut its science and sports lists, explaining that “the titles on those lists are frequently represented on current nonfiction lists.” The changes are effective October 2 online and October 20 in print.

The Times has already cut back its print lists on the combined print/e-book and print hardcover lists to 10 titles, from 15, although the online lists will continue to show 15 titles. A representative of the paper said that the change “was made for design reasons, specifically to improve the readability of the lists in print.”

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace on Wednesday, October 16.

Barbara Krasnoff

Barbara Krasnoff is the author of over 35 short stories, including “Sabbath Wine,” which was a finalist for the Nebula Award, and recently published a mosaic novel titled The History of Soul 2065. She’s also responsible for a series of captioned photos that can be found under the hashtag #TheirBackstories.

Nicole Kornher-Stace

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey. Her next novel, Firebreak, is due out from Saga in 2020. She can be found online at nicolekornherstace.com or on Twitter @wirewalking.

The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)
New York, NY.

(3) SUNDAY IN THE PARK. Last Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival, Andrew Porter took this photo of the Dell Magazines booth which was hosted by Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams and her daughter.

(4) NEW AWARD PROMOTES DIVERSE SFF. Gollancz and author Ben Aaronovitch are launching a writing prize championing under-represented voices in science fiction, fantasy and horror after stats showed less than 1% of the genres’ books come from British BAME authors. (BAME is used in the UK to refer to black, Asian and minority ethnic people.)

Submissions for the Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award will be taken from October 1, 2019 until January 31, 2020 — 5,000 to 10,000 words consisting of either a self-contained short story or the opening of a novel that fits into the scifi, fantasy or horror genres

The prizes include:

  • £4,000 for the overall winner alongside a critique and year-long mentoring programme with Gollancz commissioning editor Rachel Winterbottom.
  • Second place: £2,000 and a critique of their work
  • Five runners-up will receive £800 and a Gollancz goodie bag.

Gollancz publisher Anne Clarke said:

The current lack of representation in science fiction and fantasy is no secret and it has to change. As modern speculative fiction publishers, we at Gollancz have a responsibility not just to say our doors are open, but to actively seek out and support writers whose backgrounds and experience have historically been – and still are – under-represented in our genre. I hope this award will encourage writers who have perhaps not always felt welcome in the world of science fiction and fantasy publishing and I’m looking forward to discovering exciting new writing talent within the submissions.

[Via Locus Online.]

(5) CINEMA’S SPINOFF STINKERS. ScreenRant offers these titles as “10 Of The Worst Spin-Off Movies Of All Time According To IMDB”.  Most are sff.

It’s Hollywood logic to try bleed more money from a stone. Whenever there’s a successful franchise, it’s natural for studios to stay safe and invest in more of the same product and produce as many sequels, prequels, TV shows, and reboots of the property. However, every so often, Tinseltown fails to catch lighting in a bottle a second time. Not every movie deserves 815 more iterations of the same story.

In the middle of the list is —

5. CATWOMAN

Long before DCEU fans bemoaned the current DC movies, they were (rightfully) bailing on another one. Somehow, DC was able to zap all of the fun and sultriness out of Selina Kyle for the long-gestating Catwoman movie, which starred Oscar winner Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, and Benjamin Bratt. All in all, not a bad trio. So what went wrong?

First, the entire origins of a cat burglar/vixen are heaved out the window and replaced with an Egyptian Cat Mythology. That mythology would have worked if it was a little more thought out and the movie itself wasn’t just an excuse to feature the gorgeous Berry in as little clothing as possible.

(6) STEAMFEST. Cora Buhlert shares lots of photos in her report “Steampunk in East Frisia: Steamfest Papenburg 2019”. (Before I read Cora’s post, Papenburg was, for me, only an obscure reference in a Patrick O’Brien novel.)

…Steampunk is not exactly something you would associate with Papenburg, even though the steamship MV Liemba a.k.a. Graf Goetzen, which starred in The African Queen as the German gunboat Königin Luise, was built here in 1913. Therefore, I was very surprised to learn that Papenburg not only has an active Steampunk community, but also hosts Steamfest, a Steampunk festival which took place for the second time in 2019. And since Papenburg is only about 114 kilometres away, I of course decided to pay Steamfest a visit.

(7) SHORT SFF FOR YOUR TBR PILE. Alex Brown monthly picks are listed on Tor.com: “Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: September 2019”.

Magic as revenge, retaliation, or retribution is the theme of many of September’s best short speculative fiction stories. There are some new authors on this list alongside some very well-known names, yet no matter where they are career-wise, the stories they’ve written have left a mark on this world. Here are some of the ten best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories I read in September.

(8) FUTURE TECH CRIMINALS. Editors Eric Bosarge and Joe McDermott have launched a Kickstarter to fund their The Way of the Laser: Future Crime Stories anthology from VernacularBooks.

The contributing authors include Kameron Hurley, Mur Lafferty Patrice Sarath, Wendy Wagner, Julie C Day, Paul Jessup, Jamie Mason, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Ross Lockhart, Karen Bovenmyer, with open submissions to new authors.

It used to be if someone wanted to mug you, they had to look you in the face and make a threat. Not anymore. Hackers can wipe a bank account without ever having to risk drawing blood. Bad people use technology for personal gain. Nothing’s new about that. What is new is the ways technology opens up opportunities for exploitation.

New technology is coming on-line all the time, creating new opportunities for creative criminals and dissidents. Stolen elections, companies held hostage by hackers, and acts of terror have all been committed with technology that didn’t exist a few short years ago. 

Join leading edge speculative fiction authors on an exciting walk into darkness where people and machines plunder, cheat, kill, and steal in ways we can’t even imagine with tools that may not even exist, yet. But, they’re coming. 

(9) SATIRE ON TWO WHEELS. Remember Knight Rider? Well, here’s David Hasselhoff in Moped Rider…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 27, 1958 — In Italy, The Day the Sky Exploded (Italian: La morte viene dallo spazio, “Death Comes From Space”. It is known as the first Italian SF film, predating even the SF films of Antonio Margheriti.
  • September 27, 1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century began its regular first season (after the airing of the film) with an episode called “Planet of the Slave Girls”.
  • September 27, 2002 — Joss Whedon’s Firefly premiered on Fox TV. It was cancelled after eleven of the fourteen produced episodes were aired. Eventually it concluded in a film called Serenity which Will Shetterly reviewed here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 27, 1902 Henry Farrell. Novelist and screenwriter, best known as the author of the “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” story which was made into a film of the same name starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 27, 1932 Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as he appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd”” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion”. I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd. He also had one-offs on I-Spy, Munsters, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but not confirmed he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 27, 1934 Wilford Brimley, 85. His first genre role is as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He’s Benjamin ‘Ben’ Luckett in the Cacoon films, and Agency Director Harold Smith in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He made a rather splendid President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisted. And finally I note that he was Noa in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
  • Born September 27, 1947 Meat Loaf, 72. He has a tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And I’d argue some of his music videos are genre stories in their own right. He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes, more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the Crypt, The Outer Limits, Monsters, Masters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars
  • Born September 27, 1950 Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, 69. He’d be on the Birthday Honors list if he’d only been Zylyn in Space Rangers which lasted only six episodes. Damn. But he’s also shown up on Babylon 5, the premier of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Superboy, Alien Nation, the Australian version of Mission: ImpossibleSabrina the Teenage WitchStargate SG-1Poltergeist: The LegacyThe Librarians, voicing characters on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars Rebels. He’s currently got two main roles going, the first being Nobusuke Tagomi in The Man in The High Castle, the other being Hiroki Watanabe in Lost in Space
  • Born September 27, 1956 Sheila Williams, 63. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction last fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. 
  • Born September 27, 1972 Gwyneth Paltrow, 47. Yes, she is Pepper Potts in the Marvel Universe film franchise but her first genre role was as a young Wendy Darling in Hook. And she shows up in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow asPolly Perkins, a reporter for The Chronicle

(12) ROCKET ROYALTY. In Olav Rokne’s post “Many Princes; One Crown” at the Hugo Book Club Blog, readers are reminded of the challenges in voting on works translated to English, beginning with a recent Retro-Hugo winner.

…But the case of The Little Prince is more comparable to that of the first translated work to appear on a Hugo Ballot: the 1963 novel Sylva, which was written by French war hero Vercors (A.K.A. Jean Bruller). No translator is mentioned on the dust jacket of the book. And until this summer, when the record was updated at our request, the official Hugo Awards site did not list the name of the translator, Rita Barisse. The Wikipedia entry for the Hugo Awards, and several other publications continue to neglect Barisse’s contribution to the work….

(13) LAFFERTY AWARENESS. Shelf Awareness checks in with the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me in “Reading with… James W. Loewen”. R.A. Lafferty gets a big shout-out:  

Book you’re an evangelist for:

The only historical novel I recommend without reservation: Okla Hannali by R.A. Lafferty. Even though by a white author, I credit it as a Choctaw history of the 19th century, in the form of a biography of a fictional Choctaw leader who was born in Mississippi around 1801 and died in Oklahoma in 1900. I realize such a statement creates all sorts of problems for me–expropriation of Native knowledge, white arrogance, etc. My only defense is the work itself. I have no idea how Lafferty, otherwise known for science fiction, learned so much about Choctaws (and white folks), but every time I have checked out any fact in Okla Hannali, no matter how small, Lafferty got it right. And what a read! Only a little over 200 pages long, but an epic, nevertheless.

(14) ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT THINGS. David Gerrold contends art and the artist should be regarded separately in his public Facebook post:

So let’s say that I point out that the owners of a specific fast-food chain have donated a lot of money to anti-LGBTQ+ causes.

This is not an invitation to say:

“The food is terrible.”

Let’s say that I point out that a particular actor has said some unsavory things about politics. This is not an invitation to say,

“She can’t act anyway.”

Or maybe a well-known author has said something egregiously stupid. That’s not an invitation to say,

“I never liked his writing in the first place.” …

(15) ETERNAL QUESTIONS. Meantime, Michael A. Burstein invited his FB friends to study a different moral dilemma:

You are on a runaway trolley. On one track are five people who have not yet seen The Good Place and don’t intend to, and who will die if you don’t move the lever. On the other track is one person who, like you, is caught up and can discuss the show with you. What do you do?

(16) PENN AND POURNELLE. There’s a pair of names you wouldn’t put in the same sentence – unless you’re Tedium’s Ernie Smith. In “All Penn, No Teller” he recalls when Penn Jillette was “a sometimes-rebellious big-name computer magazine columnist in the ’90s.”

…Now, tech writing of this era doesn’t have the pedigree of, say, good music journalism in the 1970s. Certainly, there were good tech writers during this time, particularly free-wheeling voices like fellow moonlighter Jerry Pournelle of Byte, hard-nosed insiders like journeyman scribe John C. Dvorak and the long-anonymous Robert X. Cringely, and well-considered newspaper voices of reason like syndicated columnist Kim Komando and the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg.

But Jillette was something different. He was already famous—certainly more famous than Pournelle, an established science-fiction author, thanks to being a regular fixture on television during much of his career and starring in a legendary Run-DMC music video—and he likely did not need a nationally distributed computer magazine column to make a living. Jillette simply liked computers and knew a lot about them, which meant that he could rant about the details of an Autoexec.bat file just as easily as he can about politics. He gave the tech writing form something of an edge, while maintaining the freewheeling nature established by fellow pre-blogging voices like Pournelle….

(17) EARLY WORMS. Science Daily reports “Otherworldly worms with three sexes discovered in Mono Lake”. The lede reads:

“Caltech scientists have discovered a new species of worm thriving in the extreme environment of Mono Lake. This new species, temporarily dubbed Auanema sp., has three different sexes, can survive 500 times the lethal human dose of arsenic, and carries its young inside its body like a kangaroo.”

Terry Hunt sent the link in with a note: “I was irresistibly reminded of Vonda N. McIntyre’s story ‘Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand’ and its novel expansion Dreamsnake.”

(18) LOOKING FOR ET IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD. The Beyond Center presented the 2019 Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Lecture with James Benford on September 5.

Abstract: A recently discovered group of nearby co-orbital objects is an attractive location for extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) to locate for observing Earth. Near-Earth objects provide an ideal way to watching our world from a secure natural object that provides resources an ETI might need: materials, a firm anchor, concealment. These co-orbital objects have been little studied by astronomy and not at all by SETI or planetary radar observations. I describe the objects found thus far and propose both passive and active observations of them by optical and radio listening, radar imaging and launching probes. We might also broadcast to them.

(19) SMACK DAB ON THE MOON. “Chandrayaan-2: India Moon probe made ‘hard landing’, says Nasa” – BBC has the story.

India’s Moon rover, which lost contact moments before it was to touch down on the lunar surface earlier this month, had a “hard landing”, Nasa has said.

New pictures from a Nasa spacecraft show the targeted landing site of the Vikram rover, but its precise location “has yet to be determined”.

The images were taken at dusk, and were not able to locate the lander.

India would have been the fourth nation to make a soft landing on the Moon.

Chandrayaan-2 was due to touch down at the lunar South Pole on 7 September, over a month after it first took off.

It approached the Moon as normal until an error occurred about 2.1km (1.3 miles) from the surface, Indian space officials said.

On Friday, Nasa tweeted the images of the targeted landing site of the Indian module.

(20) STAR WARS AT DISNEYLAND. Good Morning America shared an advance look at the “Rise of the Resistance” attraction that will be part of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area of the Disney parks,

(21) TITAN PROBE. According to the MIT Technology Review “NASA is testing a shape-shifting robot that could explore Saturn’s moon Titan”. NASA’s Shapeshifter would change its configuration to meet the demands of the mission.

The future: The fully realized version of Shapeshifter would be a “mothercraft” lander that carries a collection of 12 mini robots (“cobots”) to the surface, acts as the main power source, and uses a suite of scientific instruments that can directly analyze samples. The cobots could work together to carry and move the mothercraft to different areas. They would be able to operate individually or as one cohesive unit, in order to adapt to a variety of terrains and environments. 

For example, the cobots would be able to separate and fly out in different directions or together as a flock, link up together like a barrel of monkeys in order to explore narrow caves and caverns, or even float on or swim in liquid.

(22) SURVIVE BY A WHISKER. Gato Roboto is a video game designed to let you channel your inner feline.

Pounce inside of your cozy armored mech and set off on a dangerous trek through an alien underworld full of irritable creatures and treacherous obstacles in a valiant effort to save your stranded captain and his crashed spaceship. Tiptoe outside the friendly confines of your technological marvel and follow your feline instincts through tight tunnels and mysterious waterways to scavenge for new weapons and gear. Adventure awaits the most curious of cats in Gato Roboto!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Terry Hunt, Nina Shepardson,Cliff, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna NImmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/1/17 We Had Scrolls, We Had Fun, We Had Pixels In The Sun

(1) TRUE GRIT. The director of Arrival has signed on make another adaptation of Dune.

Denis Villeneuve, best known for his directorial work on Arrival, Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, is set to tackle the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s celebrated sci-fi epic, Dune.

Villeneuve was first rumored to be in the running for the role in December, but it wasn’t until yesterday the confirmation was announced. Brian Herbert, son of Frank Herbert and a celebrated science-fiction author in his own right, made the announcement on Twitter.

(2) PETER WESTON EULOGY. This month, Ansible has an extra issue — #355-1/2 — with Tom Shippey’s funeral tribute to Peter Weston. Shippey illustrates Peter’s personality with anecdotes about his business.

What powered that success was not government assistance but reason number two, Peter’s complete lack of pretence. The success of Weston Body Hardware was not based on cunning marketing or managerial tricks, it was based on Peter’s 150-page catalogue of door locks, and unlike many managers Peter knew everything about his product. He took every picture in his catalogue himself, and in each one you could tell left-hand from right-hand.

He usually had a screwdriver in his pocket as well, for removing interesting locks from derelict vehicles, and he could tell a Hillman Minx lock from a Ford Capri blindfolded. I recall one occasion in Texas, 1988, when his attention was caught by a beautifully-refurbished sports car in a car-park. He stepped smartly over to it, looked down, shook his head and remarked (to himself, not the yuppie owner who was standing proudly by), ‘How very disappointing! An Austin-Healey 3000, and all they’ve found to put on the boot is a left-over lock from a Singer Vogue!’ It sounded absolutely apocalyptic.

(3) STICKY FINGERS. Bleeding Cool has the rundown on “The New York Comic Con Organiser Barred From Attending New York Comic Con” after he looted another dealer’s display.

Frank Patz, organiser of the neighbouring comic con, Eternalcon in Long Island, New York, attending NYCC as part of Michael Carbonaro‘s Vintage Movie Posters booth, was arrested by NYPD Special Forces on charges of grand larceny and possession of stolen goods….

It is common practice at shows for the trash at the end of the shows to be raided by some vendors to find things that other vendors have left behind. However Eaglemoss representatives told me they were still in the process of breaking down their space, and the items in question were still inside the booth, and not considered trash.

Most of the items were returned after the arrest, and the charges are pending dismissal if Patz keeps a clean record for the next six months.

…However NYCC and the Javitz Center do not seem to hold with the “innocent until proven guilty” thesis. And so while Frank Patz will have no marks on his official police record as a result of this, he and all the individuals named, have been barred from entering the Javits Center, and show organisers Reed POP have barred them for life from attending any of their events, including the New York Comic Con, C2E2, ECCC and more.

(4) NEW PRESCRIPTION. Alasdair Stuart contends “It’s Time for Doctor Who to Change Television History for the Better” at Tor.com.

A Doctor who isn’t a white man is not a destination, it’s the start of a conversation. If the character worked—and it would—that would be an unmistakable turning point in how POC and female characters are portrayed on screen. It would also empower a generation of writers and actors, crew and producers to make their own work, with their own voices—work that, in the wake of a successful Doctor Who run with a woman or a POC in the lead role, would almost certainly find itself in a far more open and welcoming production environment.

That conversation is long and complicated and years overdue. It’s one that has to include bringing more and more women and POC into the fold as scriptwriters and showrunners and directors. It’s also one that needs to be years long in order for the changes it would catalyse to take effect. Most of all, it’s simply one that needs to happen, and there is no better time than now, and no better place to start than with Doctor Who.

(5) YOUR INVITATION TO A CONSPIRACY. John Scalzi shows us the way to make lemonade after he discovers an author has fallen for Vox Day’s insinuations about his bestseller status. (I argued in 2014 that Vox’s gambit was dubious because it equally undermined Larry Correia, then his ally).

I was pointed this morning to a blog post by an author not previously of my acquaintance who was making a bit of noise about the UK cover of The Collapsing Empire; the June 2016 cover reveal of the UK cover featured the strapline “The New York Times Bestselling Series”…

A little further digging revealed that this author almost certainly got this idea from one of my usual suspects (i.e., the same poor wee racist lad whose adorable mancrush on me has gone unabated for a dozen years now), who trumpeted the strapline as evidence that Tor is planning to fake a position for me and TCE on the New York Times bestseller list. As apparently they have done with all my work, because as you know I don’t actually sell books; Tor and Tor UK and Audible and a couple dozen publishers across the planet give me lots of money strictly because I am the world’s best virtue signaller, and therefore worth propping up with byzantine schemes to fake my standing on bestseller lists, because who doesn’t like virtue.

…(P.S.: If you would actually like to see me get on the New York Times bestseller list with The Collapsing Empire — or in the UK, the Times bestseller list (that’s the Times in the UK, that is, these newspapers with the same names are confusing) — then be part of the vast conspiracy of people who pre-order the book, either from your local bookseller, or via your favorite online retailer. Sadly, my publishers don’t actually prop me up. I really do have to sell books for a living. Again: Sooooooooo unfair!)

(6) BALANCING THE BOOKS. Tolkien once was a customer of a shop now closed and auctioning off its business archives: “These boots were made for Tolkien: Ledgers from iconic Oxford shoe shop Duckers go under the hammer”.

Famous names feature in the ledgers of shoemakers Ducker & Son which are about to be offered for sale by Oxford auction house Mallams, writes Richard Lofthouse…

They range from little-known Oxford academics and wealthy undergraduates with a taste in bespoke footwear to local luminaries such Tolkien, Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh and publisher Sir Basil Blackwell (who insisted his shoes were always rubber-soled).

First World War flying ace Baron von Richthofen, European aristocratic families and several maharajahs also shopped at Duckers. More recent patrons have included Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent, comedian Rowan Atkinson, former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Formula One boss Eddie Jordan.

Tolkien’s first order at the start of Michaelmas term 1913 is for a pair of black rugby boots for 14s 6d, a pair of porpoise laces for 8d, and a pair of ordinary laces for 2d. He was then an undergraduate at Exeter College, just up the street from Duckers’. The year had been a landmark one for Tolkien: he had changed his course from the Classics to English literature and, on the turn of his 21st birthday, had proposed to his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt. Standing (above) in his pale jersey in the middle of the beefy athletes of Exeter College’s Rugby and Boat Clubs in 1914, Tolkien looks rather small; but he said that what he lacked in weight, he made up by extra ferocity.

A later page shows two orders by Tolkien in the 1950s, when he was Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and shoe prices had risen considerably: he bought three pairs for around £6 apiece. Fortunately his professorial income was supplemented by royalties from The Hobbit and, by the time of the last order, The Lord of the Rings, published in 1954–5.

(7) SNAKES, IT HAD TO BE SNAKES! I am told February 1 is Serpent Day. Not sure why that precedes Groundhog Day, but there you have it.

Serpents deserve a day dedicated to them; its presence is somehow necessary, what with all of the fables and stories abound with snake-inspired situations and wise or evil serpents, that have filled our culture for as long as any of our ancestors could remember.

(8) WHO FATIGUE. Are you tired of watching Doctor Who? I’m not, but if you are, CheatSheet offers four reasons that might explain why. (More likely, you’re tired of clickbait articles like this that drag you through multiple ad-saturated screens to see the complete post.)

  1. The Doctor got meaner

Fans familiar with the progression of the Doctor are familiar with the defining personality traits of each modern doctor. Christopher Eccelston was a stripped-down version of a previously flamboyant character, beginning a walk down a decidedly grimmer path for the Doctor’s personality. David Tennant after him was kind yet stern, with sharp features to match. He always carried with him a certain guilt over the burden of being the last of the Time Lords, leading into the reactively younger and more carefree Matt Smith iteration.

Finally, we were left with Peter Capaldi, the more mature and notably older version of the Doctor. It was more than a little jarring to go from the warm, goofy demeanor of Smith to the crotchety and sometimes mean-spirited Capaldi version. This in turn made it hard to adjust for fans, leading many to jump ship mere episodes in to the latest season.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Nerds of a Feather rounds out its Hugo recommendations with two more posts:

Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

Editor – Short Form, Editor – Long Form, Professional Artist, Fan Artist, Fan Writer.

(10) FURTHER THOUGHTS. Rich Horton ranges widely in his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts: Long Fiction (and some notes on Dramatic Presentation)”. And he compliments one of JJ’s posts, too.

Best Series

Considering this brand new category reminds me of one novel that I have just read, Impersonations, by Walter Jon Williams, a new pendant to his Praxis (or Dread Empire’s Fall) series. It’s a fun story, and I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think it’s Hugo-worthy by itself. I am strongly considering nominating the entire series for a Hugo, however.

And, indeed, that hints at one of my misgivings about the Hugo for Best Series. The most recent entry in a series may not be particularly representative of the series as a whole, nor as good as the rest of the series. The same comment, obviously, applies to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, represented in 2016 by the rather pedestrian Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. I would say personally that both Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and Williams’ Praxis book are worthy, over all, of a Best Series Hugo, but that the best time to award them that Hugo has passed. (Which, to be sure, is primarily a function of this being a brand new award.)

At any rate, I was wondering what the possible candidates for Best Series, eligible in 2016, might be, and I was delighted to find that JJ, over at File 770, had done the heavy lifting, producing this page with a good long list of potential eligible series: http://file770.com/?p=30940.

(11) TRUE LOVE. With Valentine’s Day on the calendar this month, Seattle’s MoPOP Museum has sent those on its email list a set of Fictional Flames: A Lovesick List of #MoPOPCULTURE Power Couples.

In honor of cupid’s return, here are our picks for the fictional couples who remind us why we love to fall in love.

Uhura + Spock : Star Trek – This futuristic couple showed the world how to love long and prosper.

Clark Kent + Lois Lane: Superman – The most unique story of journalistic love. Ever.

Hermione + Ron: Harry Potter – These longtime friends fell hard with no love potion required.

Buttercup + Westley: The Princess Bride – True love has never been more adventurous.

Elizabeth + Mr. Darcy: Pride and Prejudice – This enduring duo have been charming readers and viewers since 1813!

Kermit + Miss Piggy: The Muppets –  The most sensational, inspirational, celebrational muppet couple.

Gomez + Morticia: The Addams Family – “Till death do us part” takes on a whole new meaning.

Mitch + CamModern Family – These loving family men are the perfect suburban couple.

Rick + Ilsa: Casablanca – This bittersweet, war-torn romance will have you reaching for the tissues.

Willow + Tara: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The couple that slays together stays together.

Han + Leia: Star Wars – She loves him. He knows. (He loves her too.)

(12) TRIBBLES AT THE UNIVERSITY. “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode of Star Trek will be screened at UCLA in the Billy Wilder Theater on February 5 as part of the “Family Flicks Film Series.” Details about price and schedule are at the link,

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of a classic television episode from a landmark series! Watch as Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) deal with an infestation of cute, fuzzy tribbles aboard the Enterprise. Soothing to the crew and annoying to the Klingons, the furry nuisances nonetheless hold the key to a mystery on board. Trekkie suits and transporters optional!

(13) BRAND ‘EM. Rawle Nyanzi, in “Fear of a Pulp Planet”, calls it a “Pulp Revolution” —

Bloggers Jeffro Johnson — whose Appendix N book I spotlighted here — and Jon Mollison, both of whom I’m acquainted with online, have made much of the “Pulp Revolution,” a nascent literary movement intended to turn modern sci-fi and fantasy away from a perceived focus on deconstruction and embrace its heritage as a literature of the heroic and wondrous. It also seeks to bring the works of long ignored pulp authors back into the limelight.

I find “Pulp Revolution” a more appealing label than Sad Puppies, if anyone wants to know. (Like that’s going to happen….)

(14) RINGS. I still haven’t forgotten the first film in the series. This is the third.

First you watch it. Then you die. Rings hits theatres Friday!

A new chapter in the beloved RING horror franchise. A young woman becomes worried about her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before…

The film is being promoted by a pranks like this —

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Dave Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 1/27/17 You Are A Scroll Of The Pixelverse/You Have No Right To Be Here

(1) DYSTOPIAS SELL LIKE INFERNAL HOTCAKES. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles notes that sales of dystopian novels, including Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and The Handmaid’s Tale, are soaring under a Trump presidency.  He interviews Orwell biographer Gordon Bowker about what 1984 (Amazon’s #1 bestseller) tells us about a Trump administration.

President Trump may not be a big reader, but he’s been a boon for sales of dystopian literature. Amid our thirst for adult coloring books and stories about missing girls and reincarnated puppies, some grim old classics are speaking to us with new urgency. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451 ,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World ” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale ” have all risen up the latest paperback bestseller list.

But by far the greatest beneficiary of our newly piqued national anxiety is George Orwell’s “1984.”

Soon after senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Sunday that the administration was issuing “alternative facts,” Orwell’s classic novel spiked to No. 1 on Amazon.

And if you prefer an autographed leatherbound copy of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, eBay has one on sale this week.

(2) MIND MELD. Ken Liu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Helen Lowe, T. Frohock, Mur Lafferty, and Margo-Lea Hurwicz participate in “Mind Meld: Alternate Histories We Love” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog

Alternate history can be a thrilling, but daunting, subgenre of science fiction, fantasy, and horror to dive into; there are seemingly endless possible “what-if,” timeline, and story combinations for readers to try. This month, Mind Meld asks writers:

What is your favorite alt-history novel?

What about the author’s treatment to the particular time period and story made you fall in love? What about the alt-history subgenre draws you in, as an author or a reader?

(3) STARS AND STRIPES. Jack Clemons tells the story of the late “Gene Cernan And The Last Flag On The Moon” at Amazing Stories.

Before Cernan and his fellow moonwalker Harrison Schmitt finished their final moonwalk, as a salute to the Apollo Program and a reminder to others of where we came from and how far we could go, Cernan positioned his camera so that Schmitt and the American Flag were framed in the black sky with the flag pointing to the distant blue Earth. Cernan’s own reflection can be seen in the visor of Schmitt’s helmet.

(4) WEREWOLF, THERE CASTLE. Here’s fan love for you – someone made Larry Correia a 50-pound “Bronze Statue of Earl Harbinger from MHI”. See photo at the link.

Pretty cool, huh?

That’s Earl Harbinger, mid transformation into werewolf (spoiler alert).

Devon Dorrity is a fantastic sculptor, He likes to listen to Audible while working, and had gone through the MHI series a couple of times. Alpha inspired him to create this.

(5) OVERFEASANCE. While we’re still flailing to catch up with last year’s award-worthy fiction, Jason has already evaluated this month’s new stories from semiprozines and other free sites in “Summation of Online Fiction: January 2017” at Featured Futures.

I tried forty-three stories of 176,695 words from thirteen January 2017 pro-rate webzines (Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Diabolical Plots, the final issue of the now-defunct Fantastic, Flash Fiction Online, Lightspeed, Nature, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Terraform, Tor.com, and Uncanny)….

(6) PRINCE OBIT. Sarah Prince, a longtime fan who started receiving File 770 in 1978, passed away at the beginning of the week. Exact details are not immediately available – she was found when a friend asked someone to check on her.

Prince was a talented artist and potter. She was a resident of Columbus, OH when I first had contact with her in the Seventies, but has lived for many years in New York state. Prince ran for TAFF in 1999. Her website is here.

Sarah Prince in 2015

Sarah Prince in 2015

(7) CLOVEN COSPLAY. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn gets to the bottom of a new round of complaints in “Angry Goat Productions’s Cosplay Unplugged Los Angeles Is Setting Off Red Flags For Sailor Moon Fans”.

Are people getting scammed by Angry Goat Productions, or is this simply a case of Angry Goat Productions being really bad at this….

We can confirm that the photos posted to the event’s page are stolen. The examples come from an event held in Japan last year, and that in itself is a pretty big red flag. Taking an image from someone else’s business and misrepresenting it as your own is a big no no pretty much everywhere, but it’s considered an especially egregious sin in the cosplay and convention world.

I know quite a few people who would boycott an event just for that.

The warning also links to a Who Scammed You? page, which claims that organizer Ray Jelley isn’t a real person. Now, I’ve had some experience dealing with people pretending to be other people online, and while Mr. Jelley does occasionally use an Errol Flynn photo on social media, I can honestly say that he appears to be a real human being.

A real human being with an interesting history….

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends this installment of Brevity, with a Star Wars twist.

(9) UNLISTED NUMBERS. ComicsBeat learned that graphic novels will no longer be part of the New York Times Bestseller list.

According to an email subscription version of February 5th’s NY Times Best Sellers List, “Beginning with the advance BSL edition that will be delivered today for February 5, 2017 there will be revisions to multiple categories in the publication. These changes will span weekly and monthly lists.” One of these changes appears to be the deletion of the hardcover graphic novels, softcover graphic novels, and manga Best Seller lists, as none of these sections are included in the document that we have reviewed.

ComicsBeat had further comment here and here, in which an unnamed spokesperson for the Times cites that “the discontinued lists did not reach or resonate with many readers.”

(10) MARCHING INTO PREHISTORY. If you’ve got six minutes, you can see how a vast number of dinosaur species compared in size to modern humans.

(11) REPEAL. The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America reports –

Assembly Bill 228 has been introduced by California State Assembly Members Gloria and Chiu. If passed, this bill will provide significant relief from the most troubling and onerous provisions of AB 1570, California’s new autograph law.

The full language of AB 228 is found HERE.

…The legislative process is long and complicated.  Bills pass through policy committees in each house of the legislature and the process takes many months.  What AB 228 needs to help ensure that it becomes law is your support.  Right now, the best help you can provide is to:

Write a letter of support for AB 228 addressed to the bill’s primary author:

Assemblymember Todd Gloria

P.O. Box 942849

Sacramento, CA 94249-0078

Make sure you have added your name and comments to the change.org petition.

(12) DON’T DRINK AND CRUNCH. All that and a bag of chips – they may have too much sodium, but otherwise a bag of Tostitos keeps you out of trouble.

Frito-Lay unveiled “Party Safe” Tostitos bag for the Super Bowl that detects whether its holder has been drinking and can even order an Uber.

The limited-edition “Party Safe” Tostitos bag, designed by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, contains a sensor connected to a microcontroller that detects trace amounts of alcohol on a person’s breath, turning the front of the bag red and showing an image of a steering wheel and the message, “Don’t Drink and Drive.”

The bag also flashes an Uber code and contains technology that allows the holder to tap their phone against it to order an Uber for $10 off during and after the Super Bowl Feb. 5.

“We’re proud to introduce to the world the first bag of chips that gets you home safe,” Roger Baran, a Goodby Silverstein & Partners creative director, told Adweek

(13) ULTIMATE SACRIFICE. Observing the 50th anniversary of the Apollo pad fire on January 22, 1967: “The fire that may have saved the Apollo programme”.

Fifty years ago, a fire broke out during a test of the rocket that would take men to the Moon. Three astronauts died on the launch pad – but their deaths were not in vain.

As countdown resumed, the air in the capsule was replaced with pure oxygen. The oxygen was maintained at higher pressure inside the capsule than outside. This simulated the increased pressure of the spacecraft in orbit and allowed the astronauts to breathe comfortably.

Both the single-man Mercury and two-man Gemini capsules had followed the same procedure without incident. It was so routine that the safety manual for testing the spacecraft made no reference to the hazards of strapping a crew into an experimental space capsule in a pressurised oxygen environment.

17:40, Apollo 1 spacecraft

There had been problems all day with communications between the ground and spacecraft, which was only a few hundred metres away from the control centre on the launch pad. As the countdown continued and more systems were switched across to Apollo 1, at times it was impossible to make out what the astronauts were saying. “I remember Gus Grissom got very exasperated,” recalls Griffin. “He was really mad.”

“Jesus Christ,” Grissom exclaimed. “How are we going to get to the Moon if we can’t talk between two or three buildings?”…

(14) PEAKE PERFORMANCE. Soyuz capsule ridden by Tim Peake’s goes on exhibit in London’s Science Museum.

The museum says the Russian capsule is an important part of UK space history and hopes it will inspire the public.

The Soyuz TMA-19M has been refurbished, but is still slightly singed from re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Business Secretary Greg Clark has confirmed that Major Peake will make a second mission to the space station.

The timing will be decided by the European Space Agency (Esa).

(15) TECH HOT AIR. Hideo Kojima says games and films will merge together.

“In life people are very busy doing lots of things,” he explains through a translator.

“The time you have to choose what media or entertainment you experience is dwindling.

“More and more people are looking at types of media that combine elements together.”

“If we just make a game people are less likely to choose that as something to do.

“They would rather engage in something that combines different forms of entertainment together.

“That’s where we need to focus our efforts, on this convergence.”

(16) BOOKS BEYOND NUMBER. Hampus Eckerman calls it, “The roots of Mount Tsundoku.” The Guardian calls it “Bibliomania: the strange history of compulsive book buying”.

In the 19th century, book collecting became common among gentlemen, mostly in Britain, and grew into an obsession that one of its participants called “bibliomania”. Thomas Frognall Dibdin, an English cleric and bibliographer, wrote Bibliomania, or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance, which was a gentle satire of those he saw as afflicted with this “neurosis”. Dibdin medicalised the condition, going so far as to provide a list of symptoms manifested in the particular types of books that they obsessively sought: “First editions, true editions, black letter-printed books, large paper copies; uncut books with edges that are not sheared by binder’s tools; illustrated copies; unique copies with morocco binding or silk lining; and copies printed on vellum.”

(17) NO ALIEN SEQUEL. Alien Theory analyzes the fate of the series – “Alien 5 Cancelled: Where Does This Leave the Series? And Ripley?”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, and Jason for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

The Bestseller Illusion

When I was a student at USC (yes, during the Middle Ordovician period) one of my English professors told the class that Erich Siegel’s contract with Paramount called for the studio to buy enough copies of his novel Love Story to make it a bestseller. Is that true? I have no idea. Love Story spent 41 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list — how much help did it need? But he told the story and I repeat it here to show you people have speculated about ways to game the bestseller lists for a long time.

Actual proof that a book’s ranking was a result of manipulation is hard to come by. That’s what makes Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s Wall Street Journal article about ResultSource, a firm that orchestrates bestseller status for clients, unusual – he got an author to go on record.

He said ResultSource told him it could arrange the purchase of a quantity of books in such a way that they were counted toward national best-seller lists.

While Mr. Kaplan wrote the initial check for the books, he got reimbursed through preorders from his clients, he says.

“They use that check to buy the books,” he says. “I had a big network of clients that I’d been consulting for, and I was able to presell enough books to them to get the funding to have ResultSource buy the books.”

Mr. Kaplan purchased about 2,500 books through ResultSource, paying about $22 a book, including shipping, for a total of about $55,000.

Mr. Kaplan says he also paid ResultSource a fee in the range of $20,000 to $30,000.

How exactly ResultSource stages its purchases to get them tallied by statkeepers isn’t revealed – bulk sales and quantities purchased by the authors are ordinarily excluded by services like Nielsen BookScan.

In the days of Love Story it would have taken the bankroll of a movie studio to buy enough books to create a bestseller. Now the market has shriveled to a point that individual authors can engage in this strategy. The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing tells how few copies most books sell —

4.  Average book sales are shockingly small, and falling fast.
Combine the explosion of books published with the declining total sales and you get shrinking sales of each new title.  According to BookScan – which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books (including Amazon.com) – only 263 million books were sold in 2011 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined (Publishers Weekly, January 2, 2012).  The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.  And very few titles are big sellers.  Only 62 of 1,000 business books released in 2009 sold more than 5,000 copies, according to an analysis by the Codex Group (New York Times, March 31, 2010).

In that environment, a book that sells 2,500 pre-ordered copies must stand out like a searchlight on a desert night. All the more so if the copies seem to have been ordered by 2,500 different people.

Not that the $85,000 spent in the WSJ example is trivial. Why would anyone spend that much? The appeal on ResultSource’s website suggests its customers are authors who treat paying for bestseller status as an investment in a career speaking about corporate leadership as much as in future book sales.

Imagine: Your Book, a Bestseller
What would a Bestseller do for your brand? Your business? Your future? Publishing a book builds credibility, but having a Bestseller initiates incredible growth—exponentially increasing the demand for your thought leadership, skyrocketing your speaking itinerary and value, giving you a national (even global) spotlight, and solidifying your author brand as the foremost leader in your niche.

Since being quoted in the WSJ article Soren Kaplan has written two posts for his blog about life as the poster boy for this practice, “Debunking the Bestseller” (Part 1 and Part 2). He thinks a very a large number of business book authors are gaming the bestseller lists:

Given what I’ve learned from working with ResultSource, the marketing company who’s literally written the book on bestseller campaigns, I estimate that a minimum of 20-30 percent of all business books on the bestseller list in a given week are “SpikeSellers” – books that achieve enough of a short-term sales boost through orchestrated pre-orders to hit the bestseller list, only to fade away into obscurity.  And my estimate is conservative.  A few years ago, Todd Sattersten of the BizBookLab conducted an analysis of the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list and found that “60% of the titles that appeared on the list one week were gone the next.”

Since Nielsen BookScan compiles its data based on weekly sales numbers, SpikeSellers stack the deck in favor of those authors and marketers who are able to cram significant sales into a single week, usually the first week after the book’s publication date.  While not “illegal” in the sense of the law, they usurp the assumptions held by the general public – that the books on bestseller lists are quality reads that represent what’s trending in society.

Why is this issue so gut-wrenching for so many?  Easy answer:  one more trusted institution in our society has been debunked.

“Trusted institution” may be a bit dramatic. I have about the same amount of faith in the credibility of bestseller lists as I have in toothpaste commercials: it’s not a very high pedestal they’re falling from. He is right, however, that I will never again look at an authors’ one-week-and-done appearance on the NY Times list without wondering how it was accomplished. Unfortunately, that will make it harder to cheer for the writers who do it.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

PKD Selling Like Hotcakes

The science fiction and fantasy genres are somewhat notorious for their best-selling dead authors. Philip K. Dick, at least, can be said to have written nearly all of his hot properties while he was alive.

Media Bistro reports that the Philip K. Dick omnibus, Four Novels of the 1960s, is Library of America‘s fastest-selling title ever: 23,750 copies have shipped.

Next on the launching paid is the Library’s second Dick collection, Five Novels from the 1960s and 1970s. Already more than 10,000 advance orders have been placed.

Right now would be a good time for the missing Philip K. Dick android to turn himself in and give the marketing department a hand.

[Thanks to Michael Walsh for the Galley Cat link.]