Pixel Scroll 9/15/19 Rikki, Don’t Scroll That Pixel, It’s The Only One You Own

(1) SOUND AND FURY. Locus Online has a fine summary of recent developments in “Audible’s Caption Controversy”.

Audible, Amazon’s audiobook publishing arm, announced plans for “Audible Captions,” a fea­ture that displays the text of a book along with the narration on listener devices. Audible said the feature would be “available on hundreds of thousands of audiobooks at launch” – a decla­ration that was met with surprise and alarm by publishers who haven’t licensed the rights to publish such text to Audible. Publishing the text without permission would likely be a violation of copyright.

The Association of American Publishers filed a lawsuit on August 23, 2019 in the southern district court of New York to block the program….

(2) RECEIVED WISDOM. New “Worldcon Runner’s Guide Updates” are posted on the WSFS web site.

The Worldcon Runner’s Guide Committee has issued updates to several guide sections. These are now available on the main Guide page. The sections that have been updated are:

(3) JOE ON JOE. In a teaser for the Joe Lansdale documentary — All Hail the Popcorn King: Joe Hill talks Lansdale inspiration”

Joe Hill is currently one of the hottest scribes around. His popular book, NOS4A2 has been adapted for an AMC series. Netflix will be partnering with producer Carlton Cuse on a 10 episode version of Hill’s comic book series, Locke and Key.

Recently, the busy writer sat down with Hansi Oppenheimer, the director of the upcoming documentary on Joe Lansdale, All Hail the Popcorn King. He discussed his deep admiration and fondness for his fellow author.

As an impressionable 13-year-old, Hill read Lansdale’s The Drive In and was transformed. He made such a deep connection with the novel that he felt that it was written especially for him. Which is one of the best compliments to receive when you are a wordsmith. It is what you strive for, to make an impact on your readers.

(4) AUTUMN LEAVES. Entertainment Weekly’s Kristen Baldwin includes a couple of genre works on her list of “The 8 must-watch new TV shows this fall”.

First, a disclaimer: With approximately 183 TV series premiering every hour in America, it would be all but impossible for any one critic to view all the new fall shows. That said, I was able to screen 31 of the programs making their debut in the coming months — and now that my eyes have readjusted to sunlight, I humbly submit this report.

One of them is Evil. The other is —

Watchmen

Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued.

(5) FOUNDATIONS OF HORROR FILMMAKING. SYFY Wire thinks fans should go ape over “Fay Wray’s underappreciated career as a genre queen”.

Fay Wray is remembered best for her role in the original King Kong as Ann Darrow, the woman who is kidnapped and carried about like a rag doll while Kong goes on his city-wide rampage. Yet she had a much longer career than just that one film, spanning several different genres and working for more than half a century. In her early years in Hollywood, she would have been better known for a series of westerns she had done in the silent era than anything else, but even at that, she’d also been in several comedies and romances. Wray was a working actor for most of her life, so her filmography is mostly all over the place.

Of course, we’re mostly here for Wray’s career as a Scream Queen. In the time leading up to what would become her definitive role, she starred in a series of low-budget horror movies that are now considered as much a part of classic horror canon as Frankenstein or The Mummy….

(6) GROWING UP GRYFFINDOR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall at Financial Times, Alice Ross discusses how YA authors in Britain are increasingly interested in politics.

The second legacy often credited to Harry Potter is that the series helped to form a generation of liberal thinkers.  In Harry Potter and the Millennials (2013), political scientist Anthony Gierzynski published th results of his survey of more than 1,000 college students.  He concluded that readers of Harry Potter were more often to diversity and more politically tolerant than non-fans…

…Modern authors of children’s books both in the UK and the US–many of whom hail from the Harry Potter generation–tend to feel strongly about social or moral issues, and they bring this into their writing.

‘I really do believe that all writing is political and you have to try to do that; you are not just bringing yourself to your work,’ says Kiran Millwood Harris, whose debut novel The Girl of Ink and Stars won the 2017 Waterstone Children’s Book Prize. ‘I see some people saying, ‘I don’t want to be political’ but actually now it’s kind of immoral not to speak up or take a stand as some people don’t have that luxury.  Her latest book The Way Past Winter deals with the environmental crisis, increasigly a topic coming up in children’s books.

(7) DYSTROPIA. Michelle Goldberg’s opinion piece “Margaret Atwood’s Dystopia, and Ours” in the New York Times coincidentally shows how hard it is for fictional commentary to keep pace with cultural changes.

…And it’s not just in America that truth has lost its political salience. Naked censorship continues to exist, but it’s augmented by the manipulation of search algorithms, and by trolls and bots harassing dissidents and spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories. Truth is less suppressed than drowned out. Contemporary propaganda, write P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking in “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media,” “is colorful and exciting, reflecting the tastes of the digital age. It is a cocktail of moralizing, angry diatribes, and a celebration of traditional values, constantly mixed with images of scantily clad women.” There’s a solemn churchlike hush in Gilead. Modern authoritarianism is often as lurid and cacophonous as a casino.

Dystopian fictions that extrapolate from this shift are starting to appear. (Though young adult novels had a head start: “The Hunger Games” foresaw the nightmare of fascism run as a reality show.) There’s a scene in “Years and Years,” a recent series co-produced by HBO and the BBC, where Vivienne Rook, the sly British demagogue played by Emma Thompson, is asked about the spread of fraudulent, digitally created videos of her political rivals making inflammatory statements. “Oh, of course they’re fake videos. Everyone can see they’re not real,” she says to an interviewer. Then she adds, with faux concern, “All the same, they really did say those things, didn’t they?” Soon after, she is elected prime minister…

… “Writing dystopias and utopias is a way of asking the reader the question, ‘Where do you want to live?’” Atwood said when I talked to her last year….

(8) SCHELLY OBIT. Comics fan, writer, and historian Bill Schelly (1951-2019) died September 12 of cancer. His books included The Golden Age of Comic Fandom (1995; rev. ed. 1999) published by his own company, Hamster Press, Harvey Kurtzman, The Man Who Created “Mad” (Fantagraphics, 2015), and his autobiography Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story (North Atlantic Books, 2018). Carl Slaughter recommended Schelly’s biography Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionaryto Filers in 2016.

Many friends have left comments on his Facebook page. Neil Caputo penned “Bill Schelly: In Tribute”, Mark Evanier ends his appreciation “Bill Schelly, R.I.P.” at News From Me by saying:

Bill was quite good…just a lovely, talented man. I’m sure going to miss talking to him on the phone and at conventions, and I’m sorry we aren’t going to get all the other books that he would have written. Such a loss.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 15, 1965 — CBS debuted Irwin Allen’s  Lost In Space as “The Reluctant Stowaway” episode seeing the Jupiter 2 being sabotaged by  Dr. Smith who became part of the inhabitants. The theme music was composed by a little known composer then credited as, Johnny Williams.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1890 Agatha Christie, or to giver her full name of Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller). ISDB lists her Harley Quin tales as being genre as they think the lead character is supernatural though no reviewers I can find think that he is. Anyone here who has read them? They also list one Hercule Poirot story, “The Big Four”, as genre – it apparently involved the use of atomic explosives in a 1927 story. Weirdly iBooks has almost nothing by her but Kindle has works beyond counting. (Died 1976.)
  • Born September 15, 1925 Carlo Rambaldi. He won Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects in 1980 and 1983 for, respectively, Alien and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which was for the mechanical head-effects for the Alien creature and the design of the E.T. himself. The 1976 version of King Kong earned him an Oscar for Best Visual Effects as well. He also worked on Dune, Conan the Destroyer, King Kong Livesand films you’ve likely never heard of such as Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 79. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is that he’s never won a Hugo? 
  • Born September 15, 1943 John M. Faucette. He published five novels and one short story. He left seven unpublished novels in various states of completion at his death. Two of his novels; Crown of Infinity and Age of Ruin, were published in the Ace Doubles series. None of his works are in print  in digital or paper format currently including his Black Science Fiction anthologywhich he as an African-American SF writer was very proud of. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 15, 1946 Howard Waldrop, 73. I think that the The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 which he wrote with Jake Saunders is my favorite work by him. His short fiction such as  “The Ugly Chickens” which won The World Fantasy and Nebula Awards is most excellent. A generous selection of his short fiction and novellas are available at iBooks and Kindle. 
  • Born September 15, 1956 Tommy Lee Jones, 73. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s has done other genre with the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. 
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 57. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much is Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. 
  • Born September 15, 1987 Christian Cooke, 31. He’s Ross Jenkins, a UNIT Private in two Tenth Doctor stories, “The Sontaran Stratagem” and “The Poison Sky”. Genre wise, He’s also been Luke Rutherford-Van Helsing in Demons, a six-part series from the Beeb, and he’s Frederick Beauchamp in the second season of The Witches of Eastwick.
  • Born September 15, 1960 Kevin Roche, 59. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also is the editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows what happens when aliens reach the border.

(12) CLASSIC REVIVED? The Far Side web page made this announcement:

Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen.

A new online era of The Far Side is coming!

(13) SCOOBY TAXONOMY. Eleni Theodoropoulus, in “How Scooby Doo Revived Gothic Storytelling for Generations of Kids” on CrimeReads, says that Scooby-Doo is really a Gothic series rather than mystery, as she discusses how the show’s supernatural elements made it so popular.

.. From its first episode, “What a Night for a Knight,” Scooby Doo establishes the very atmosphere that is integral to the gothic genre. The episode opens onto an empty country road under a full moon when a pickup truck rolls into view. The crate in the back opens. An armored knight rears his head and fixes his glowing eyes on the driver. Danger is imminent. “What a nervous night to be walking home from the movies, Scooby Doo,” says Shaggy, echoing the viewer’s sentiment. Moments later they come across the abandoned pickup truck where the suit of armor sits behind the wheel. Pristine, it shines in the moonlight. Suddenly, the head of the armor rattles and tips over, landing at their feet. Boy and dog chuckle nervously before they run away in what will become their signature manner of dealing with problems. The next two seasons of Scooby Doo, Where Are You! follow in this same vein, resting on a balance between suspense and fear, mystery and horror.

Instrumental to evoking these feelings in the viewer was less the plot itself than the atmosphere framing it….

(14) PLAYING FOR TIME. Cecilia D’Anastasio relates the “Confessions Of A Teenaged Strip-Mall GameStop Delinquent” at Kotaku.

… Once a week, I’d enter that GameStop to ask whichever bored employee was manning the place when they’d get Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii, and whether they’d give it to me early. I wanted to play a video game before anybody else, and I wanted it to be Super Smash Bros. Brawl so I could get really good and nobody would ever be able to catch up. Certainly, I felt, GameStop had that power and would be generous with it. Theo, who worked at that GameStop, told me many times: Cecilia, it comes out in December. Each time, I’d fuss, forget what he said, and distract myself with some other game they had pre-installed on the Wii kiosk in the store. Then I’d go in again the next week….

… Back then, I was usually grounded. Each sentence lasted for a week, two weeks, a month, and eventually, it all blurred into an endless, sprawling, dusty-grey dream. My mom theorizes that I’d purposefully do bad teen stuff so she’d ground me. That way I could avoid my increasingly complicated friendships at the strip. Time would spin on there without me: break-ups, fights, pranks, insults. In the world of Final Fantasy XI, I had comrades who needed me. As my dedication to leveling up heightened, so too did my in-game friends’ expectations of me as a community member. A couple times a week, one would reach out to me on a forum, or on Myspace, or eventually even through text message, asking me to log on and help them with some level grinding, some quest.

Then came the emotional labor. As a teenager, I did not have the tools to counsel the cat girl FlameKitty, the avatar of an older man, through his joblessness, his unpaid bills, his loneliness. I could not offer authoritative advice after a married mother of five fell in love with another Final Fantasy XI companion, whose shadowy forum profile picture featured a katana. …

(15) A FAMILIAR FACE. The Waterloo (ONT) Public Library is doing a sff author panel October 5 – details on the programs calendar. You should recognize at least one of the participants.

James Bow moderates a panel of five other authors talking about Canada as a setting for science fiction and fantasy novels. Why should New York, Los Angeles, or London have all the fun? Canada boasts some of the world’s best science fiction and fantasy writers, and some of the most innovative tech sectors. We have a part to play in the wider science fiction community, and we intend to represent.

Science Fiction and fantasy writers Erin Bow, James Nicoll, Leah Bobet, James Alan Gardner and (maybe – still to be confirmed ) Sarah Raughley join moderator James Bow in a free-flowing discussion of what Canada can contribute and has contributed to science fiction and fantasy. The event at the Main library will be followed by the launch of James Bow’s new urban fantasy novel, “The Night Girl”. Books will be sold and authors are available to sign copies. Everyone welcome

(16) BOARD OF EQUALIZATION. FastCompany thinks “‘Ms. Monopoly’ is not as patronizing as Hasbro’s version for millennials, but it’s not empowering either”.

…However, last year, Hasbro shook the table with Monopoly for Millennials, which critics universally bemoaned as an “insulting experience.” The game’s tagline of “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway” seemed to signify that Hasbro was perhaps more interested in wooing back older players (who also like dunking on young adults) rather than genuinely appeal to a new generation discovering the joys of game night. (The reasons why millennials can’t afford homes are varied and complex and have nothing to do with pouring our income into artisanal coffee and avocado toast—xoxo, a millennial.)

Then just last month there was Monopoly for Socialists, another widely panned bit of pandering to older people who might still be afraid of the s-word that the game-centric site Polygon dubbed “horrible, even as a parody.” The release also led to the surely unintended wider dissemination of Monopoly’s roots as a game created by a woman named Elizabeth Magie to spread the message that landlords and real-estate hoarding are societal ills, yet it was appropriated by men and turned into a pro-capitalist pastime.

Now, there’s Hasbro’s latest addition to the Monopoly family: Ms. Monopoly. Its tagline is “The first game where women make more than men.”…

(17) TRACKING DOWN BARGAINS. Contact Mr. Muffin’s Trains for all your Hell-bound “O” Gauge model train needs….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Walk The Dog Before I Sleep on Vimeo is an animated music video by Drew Christie of a song by Brian Cullman.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Steve Johnson, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 2/4/18 For There Is No Joy In Scrollville, Mighty Pixel Has Struck Out

(1) LEFT AT THE ALTER. Damien Walter, never easy to please anyway, declares “Altered Carbon was always doomed”.

Imagine somebody wrote a novel about the cat and the fiddle, and the cow that jumped over the moon. In fact, imagine somebody wrote a trilogy of novels, starring the luna leaping cow. Then imagine that Netflix turned the first novel into a 10 hour premium tv series, with Joel Kinnman?—?swiftly becoming this generation’s Christopher Lambert?—?as the cow.

If you’re really into the cat, fiddle and cow genre, if you’re MEGA excited by animals leaping over celestial bodies, you’ll be happy.

For everybody else, the experience of watching Altered Carbon is going to be about as enjoyable as 10 hours of kids nonsense poetry. You might have some patience for the first hour, but by episode 3 the audience will be desperate to jump ship.

(2) NOM DE GUERRE. “Anthony Boucher & I Discuss Pseudonyms” – “I think that says it all,” writes Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind.”Beware though, I am particularly verbose in this installment.”

Their names are Legion, for they are many.

According to The Illustrated Book Of Science Fiction Lists (edited by Mike Ashley for Virgin Books in 1982) E.C. (Ted) Tubb has 45 pseudonyms credited to him, Robert Silverberg is well behind with 25, Henry Kuttner further back yet with 18, while Cyril Korthbluth trails with a mere 13.

I suspect that in this, the future world of today, the question the above information raises is not why so many pseudonyms but why any at all? I know that when I were a lad it was a given that authors used pseudonyms all the time while we, their audience, didn’t but nowadays it seems to be very much the opposite. So yes, I can understand why the above numbers might seem inexplicable to many of you.

So why were authors fond of pseudonyms once upon a time? Luckily for us editor, author, and co-founder of The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Anthony Boucher, decided to offer some explanation in Rhodomagnetic Digest #2, published by George Blumenson in August 1949 for The Elves’, Gnomes’ & Little Men’s Science-Fiction Chowder & Marching Society. Boucher was certainly qualified to write on this topic since his real name was William Anthony Parker White….

(3) KICKSTARTER. Hampus Eckerman says “I’ve always regretted I was out of cash when the Swedish edition was made. I’ll back this one for sure.” — “The Keyring RPG”.

The Keyring RPG is a combination of the idea of creating a procedural role-playing game and the discovery of a really cute notepad. Mashing those ideas together gave rise to the Keyring RPG.

From the FAQ —

What is the resolution mechanic in the game?

You have three basic abilities, strength, charisma and mental strength. Each of those abilities have a number of dots. Each dot represent a die. To determine if you succeed, you roll as many die as you have against a set difficulty, and you add the skills to the result of the die roll to improve your results.

Example:
I have 2 dots in strength, and I need to climb a wall. The wall has a difficulty of 3. Both of my rolls fail, a one and a two, but I have two dots in the skill problem solving. I add my dots in problem solving to the roll and succeed. From a narrative perspective, I use problem solving to create a sling harness and have my friends haul me up the wall.

Key features (no pun intended):

  • The Basic Game is very small, only 7 x 3 x 2 centimeters. You can carry it on your keyring.
  • It features a procedural adventure building system
  • A full rules set that allows for a lot of flexibility when playing
  • Five sets of generic maps
  • Mission cards
  • Location cards
  • Obstacle cards
  • Reward cards
  • Motivation cards
  • Character sheets

They’ve raised $3,795 of their $7,590 goal with 13 days to go.

(4) THE 39 CANDLES. Galactic Journey hopes you didn’t miss Rod Serling’s guest appearance on Jack Benny’s show — “[February 4, 1963] Fiddler in the Zone (a most unusual episode of Serling’s show)”.

As Benny walks home in the dark, a Twilight Zone-like fog envelops him and the music takes off on a Twilight Zone-like theme.  Before long he runs into a sign reading, “Welcome to Twilight Zone.  Population unlimited. [an arrow left] Subconscious 27 Mi./ [an arrow right] Reality 35 Mi.” (It gets a laugh, if only canned.) Benny finally sees his house across the street and goes and rings the bell.  Rochester answers but doesn’t recognize Benny.  Rochester calls on his employer, “Mr. Zone” (Serling) to deal with the situation, and Serling explains that the town is named after him (“You can call me Twi”), and he is the mayor.

(5) CLARKE CENTER PODCAST. Into The Impossible, a podcast of stories, ideas, and speculations from the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, has posted Episode 14, “Alien Contact”:

We’re digging in the vaults to explore ideas of alien contact, with Jill Tarter (SETI Institute) and Jeff VanderMeer (bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy). We’ll talk about the Drake Equation, the faulty math of the film Contact, manifest destiny, whether we’re alone, flawed assumptions about the concept of intelligence, what fiction can do to help us think about the very alien-ness of alien contact, and how it may be happening all around us.

(6) DOCTOROW TO SPEAK AT UCSD. On February 9, bestselling author and blogger Cory Doctorow will be back on the University of California San Diego campus for a lecture on “Scarcity, Abundance and the Finite Planet: Nothing Exceeds Like Excess”.

His 5 p.m. talk and a public reception are organized by the Qualcomm Institute’s gallery@calit2.

The event in Atkinson Hall is open to the public and the UC San Diego community, and admission is free. RSVPs are requested to galleryinfo@calit2.net.

In 2017, Doctorow was a Writer in Residence in the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, hosted by the Clarke Center (also located in Atkinson Hall) on the UC San Diego campus. You can hear Cory and fellow 2017 instructor Nalo Hopkinson talk about the Clarion Workshop in an interview with Maureen Cavanaugh at KPBS last summer.

(7) CASE OBIT. David F. Case (1937-2018) died February 3 at the age of 80. Stephen Jones remembers him:

Since the early 1960s he has lived in London, as well as spending time in Greece and Spain. A regular contributor to the legendary Pan Book of Horror Stories during the early 1970s, his stories “Fengriffin” and “The Hunter” were filmed as, respectively, —And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973) and Scream of the Wolf (1974), and Arkham House published his novel The Third Grave in 1981 (soon to be reprinted by Valancourt Books). The author of an estimated 300 books or more under various pseudonyms, his powerful zombie novella “Pelican Cay” was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2001, and David was Guest of Honour at the 2010 World Horror Convention held in Brighton, England. He was always a bigger-than-life character, and I’ll miss him.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 4, 1938 — Disney releases Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • February 4, 1950The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.
  • February 4, 1951Two Lost Worlds premiered.
  • February 4, 1995 — Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys appeared in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 4, 1914 – George Reeves, 1950s TV’s Superman.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit is always genre, and this one doubly so.

(11) SPANNING THE DIVIDE. Derek Kunsken told Black Gate readers he’s doing his best at “Bridging the Cultural Gap between Canada and the USA”.

But on an ongoing basis, now that I have a New York literary agent, I do my best to provide her with as much information as possible about how to best handle a Canadian client. I’m aware that what is normal for me might not be normal for her, so I send her videos and articles.

For example, Canada is going through its own crime wave. Last year in Miramichi, some people tried to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru on a chesterfield pulled by an ATV. This year, a bank was robbed in New Brunswick and the thieves were only caught when they stopped in their get-away to go through a Tim Horton’s drive-thru….

(12) HUGO RECS. Rich Horton tells his “2018 Hugo Recommendations: Novelette”.

The top candidates for my ballot are:

  1. Yoon Ha Lee, “Extracurricular Activities” (Tor.com, 2/17) – a quite funny, and quite clever, story concerning the earlier life of a very significant character in Lee’s first novel, Ninefox Gambit. Shuos Jedao is an undercover operative for the Heptarchate, assigned to infiltrate a space station controlled by another polity, and to rescue the crew of a merchanter ship that had really been heptarchate spies, including an old classmate….

(13) NEWITZ REVIEWED. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column, “A Political History of the Future: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz”, has been posted at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

Welcome back to A Political History of the Future, an irregular series about how contemporary SF and fantasy address current political issues, and how they imagine worlds different than our own in their political, social, and economic functioning. Our first subject, published last fall, is the first novel by io9 co-founder Annalee Newitz, a technothriller about a world in which the ready availability of non-human labor fundamentally changes the meaning of freedom.

The title of Autonomous is a pun, and a thesis statement. “Autonomous”, in our understanding and in the current common usage, refers to machines that can function without human interference–autonomous cars, most commonly. Despite its connotations of freedom, it’s a designation that denotes inhumanity. It isn’t necessary, after all, to specify that a human being is autonomous. In the world of Autonomous, this is no longer the case. Its citizens–human and machine–are distinguished as either autonomous or indentured. So a word that connotes freedom becomes a reminder of how it can cease to be taken for granted, and a usage that connotes inhumanity is transformed in a world in which personhood is a legal state and not a biological one. In both cases, it’s a reminder that the hard-won ideas of liberty and human rights that we take for granted are not set in stone; that core assumptions about how society could and should function can change, in many cases for the worse.

(14) BOY STUFF. NPR’s Scott Simon interviews the author about her new book: “Tamora Pierce Writes One For The Boys (But Just One) In ‘Tempests And Slaughter'”

On writing her first male hero

I thought it was fair. I thought I owed the boys some. And Arram is so popular, and gets into so much trouble, that I knew I could do it. Which was an act of hubris on my part that still leaves me breathless. See, I’m kind of notorious for one thing in particular as a writer — I’m pretty straightforward about teenagers and sex. I’ve lost count of the mothers and father’s who’ve come up to me and said, “Thank you for explaining it to them.” The thing was, in my first book, I had a girl disguised as a boy. And when you’re a girl disguised as a boy, going through puberty, the changes in your body become a major part of the plot. So I just stuck with it as I went on. And when I was working on this book, I got to a point and I went, “Oh my god, I can skip it, but that wouldn’t be right.” So I went to my writing partner, Bruce Coville, and first he laughed himself silly at me, but all those embarrassing little questions, he answered them for me. But it was important, it had to be done. I had to be as fair to the guys as I was to the girls. Which is one reason why I’m going back to girls after this is over.

(15) MOURNING LE GUIN. Ricky Grove told Booklad readers, “Ursula K. Le Guin, My Book Parent, Has Died”.

…Ursula was not just a great author to me, she was one of several of my book parents. Growing up as I did with a family who was more interested in drinking and violence, I never got guidance in how to live. Through her books, Ursula taught me that you could deal with a problem by thinking rather than fighting. She taught me that gender differences don’t make one gender superior to the other. And she also helped me understand that we all have shadow parts of ourselves that we fear, but the way to cope with the shadow is to accept it with courage….

(16) BILL SCHELLY AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Now available for pre-order, Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story by Bill Schelly. (Publishing date: April 17.)

A fascinating story of growing up as a gay fan of comic books in the 1960s, building a fifty-year career as an award-winning writer, and interacting with acclaimed comic book legends.

Award-winning writer Bill Schelly relates how comics and fandom saved his life in this engrossing story that begins in the burgeoning comic fandom movement of the 1960s and follows the twists and turns of a career that spanned fifty years. Schelly recounts his struggle to come out at a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness, how the egalitarian nature of fandom offered a safe haven for those who were different, and how his need for creative expression eventually overcame all obstacles. He describes living through the AIDS epidemic, finding the love of his life, and his unorthodox route to becoming a father. He also details his personal encounters with major talents of 1960s comics, such as Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man), Jim Shooter (writer for DC and later editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), and Julius Schwartz (legendary architect of the Silver Age of comics).

… Note from the author: This is NOT the same book that was published in 2001 under the title Sense of Wonder, A Life in Comic Fandom (which is out of print). This new book contains two parts: the text of the first book, and a sequel of equal length. Part one covers my life up to 1974; part two picks up the story and continues it to 2017.

(17) IT’S A THEORY. According to MovieWeb, “Secret Gay Porgs in The Last Jedi Have Twitter Freaking Out”.

Before The Last Jedi hit theaters, there were rumors circulating that Finn and Poe would have a relationship in the movie, marking the first openly gay characters in Star Wars. That rumor was obviously proven to be false, but The Last Jedi did feature a brief gay relationship between two other characters that many Star Wars fans did not notice right away and now everybody is freaking out. Rian Johnson has not confirmed the scene yet, but he will more than likely address it since he has talked about nearly every decision he made while making The Last Jedi.

An eagle-eyed Twitter user spotted two Porgs snuggling with each other in the background of a scene on Ahch-To and noticed that both of the creatures were male. Officially, male Porgs are slightly larger and have orange feathers around their eyes, which both of the Porgs in question have. The image of the two gay Porgs has since taken the internet by storm and people are freaking out that they didn’t notice the small detail right away.

 

(18) PORTMAN ON SNL. Natalie Portman answers Star Wars questions in her Saturday Night Live monologue….

And her Stranger Things 3 preview is hysterical.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Will R., Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Steve Vertlieb for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jenora Feuer.]

Three To Watch For

By Carl Slaughter:

bill-schelly

Bill Schelly

OTTO BINDER: THE LIFE AND WORK OF A COMIC BOOK AND SCIENCE FICTION VISIONARY
By Bill Schelly

otto-binder-cover

Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary chronicles the career of Otto Binder, from pulp magazine author to writer of Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and Superman comics. As the originator of the first sentient robot in literature (“I, Robot,” published in Amazing Stories in 1939 and predating Isaac Asimov’s collection of the same name), Binder’s effect on science fiction was profound. Within the world of comic books, he created or co-created much of the Superman universe, including Smallville; Krypto, Superboy’s dog; Supergirl; and the villain Braniac. Binder is also credited with writing many of the first “Bizarro” storylines for DC Comics, as well as for being the main writer for the Captain Marvel comics.

In later years, Binder expanded from comic books into pure science writing, publishing dozens of books and articles on the subject of satellites and space travel as well as UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Comic book historian Bill Schelly tells the tale of Otto Binder through comic panels, personal letters, and interviews with Binder’s own family and friends. Schelly weaves together Binder’s professional successes and personal tragedies, including the death of Binder’s only daughter and his wife’s struggle with mental illness. A touching and human story, Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is a biography that is both meticulously researched and beautifully told, keeping alive Binder’s spirit of scientific curiosity and whimsy.

 

S.D. Smith

S.D. Smith

THE GREEN EMBER
By S.D. Smith

green-ember-cover

S. D. Smith’s 2014 debut epic anthropomorphic novel, The Green Ember, was met with lavish endorsements from speculative authors and Amazon reviewers alike. 90% of over 500 reviews were 5 stars. Ember Falls, the much awaited sequel, came out in September 2016.  All 35 initial reviews of Ember Falls are 5 stars.  It’s been compared to Empire Strikes Back because the events turn much darker for the heroes.  Plot details on Amazon and the author’s website are very skimpy.  But here are comments from the more articulate reviewers.  Meanwhile, The Black Star of Kingston, a prequel and the first in the Tales of Old Natalia series, came out in 2015.

 

  • “Here’s the best way I can sum up The Green Ember for you: It reads as if Brian Jacques had Sam Gamgee’s famous quote from The Return of the King (‘Is everything sad going to come untrue?’) nailed above his desk while writing a version of Redwall that wasn’t awful. Far from being merely ‘not awful,’ though, Smith’s first novel shows that he truly understands the essentials of storytelling. Ember picks up and rolls, its two young protagonists landing in near-constant peril of some sort or another from the fifth chapter on. Refreshingly, Smith doesn’t defang the subject matter. Combatants die. Conflicts leave lasting scars. Internal politics roil old allies. And the book intentionally refuses to end neatly. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking Joe Abercrombie or George R.R. Martin here. The Green Ember is liberally seasoned with hope (and gorgeous pencil illustrations by Zach Franzen). But whenever the proceedings threaten to become saccharine, Smith tosses a little grit into the pot. The final pages find the characters with swords in their hands and a very long fight ahead of them. Indeed, the only real problem with the novel is its abrupt conclusion. I won’t complain when fantasy authors decide to keep things short. Goodness knows we have too many doorstop-thick titles in the genre. But The Green Ember almost begs for a sequel. Here’s to hoping that Smith pens it someday.”  Loren Eaton, I Saw Lightning Fall
  • “This is an ‘instant classic.’ That is to say, it shares the same spirit of derring-do involving small characters cast into big adventure against long odds with so many of the stories I’ve loved through the years, from Treasure Island to Watership Down. The Green Ember is about two rabbits, sister Heather and brother Picket, who find themselves caught up in the struggle at the fabric of their world and seek to right some pretty dreadful wrongs. Along the way, they wrestle with their own weaknesses and encounter dastardly deeds, danger, and double-crosses. (Thankfully, no terrifying over-use of alliteration.) It’s entertaining, thought-provoking, beautifully-written, and I’m sure will challenge its young readers to dig deep by inspiring them with both the successes and failures of its lapine protagonists.”  Glenn McCarty, Eye Wonder Why
  • The Green Ember is a wonderful, poignant adventure tale, set in a time of great chaos, with lament of a lost kingdom and hope for a new, peaceful time. Characterized by anthropomorphic rabbits, birds, wolves and other animals, this fresh tale certainly is within the realm of popular fantasy, with this story written for the comprehension level of middle grade readers.
  • “But what sets this wonderful novel apart are several things. The plot is intricately developed and works very well. When I sat down and thought about it, there is almost a chiastic layout to the plot. For a first time novel, to be that well laid out, yet still not lose sight of the joy of the characters and stories is a great feat. Also, the reader understands the story from the perspectives of the two protagonists, Heather and Pickett, who are complex and young and inexperienced. In a sense, the reader is the third partner here, because nothing is revealed to the reader until it is revealed to these two.
  • “Also, there are some real moments of wisdom written here, that come across very softly, but effectively. Matters dealing with the nature of evil, the real price of friendship, how different roles and interests play into larger communities, how hope and sadness can often, and sometimes must exist side by side. This is a real story of truth and beauty. There are larger points to be made, but it still remains a good story. The larger points are up to the reader to extrapolate from.
  • “Readers should see the influence of Lewis and Tolkien, Narnia and Middle Earth, on Smith’s Natalia and his Rabbit Kingdom. Yet Smith has told an entirely original tale, that honors its forebears, but brings new light and skill to tale spinning. And like those earlier works, the reader certainly hopes that future stories will come to further expand and tell more stories, because of the truth and beauty they represent.”  Jason G.
  • “‘My place beside you, my blood for yours. Till the Green Ember rises or the end of the world!’ So ends the prologue to The Green Ember. What a start! S.D. Smith’s debut novel stands in stark contrast to most contemporary middle school fiction. Courage, loyalty, wisdom, and hope abound. Classic virtues are esteemed. It is moral without moralizing. It is dramatic without resorting to preteen angst. It is swashbuckling without glorifying violence. Good is good and evil is evil. Clearly Smith is influenced by Lewis’ Narnia, but this isn’t derivitive fan fiction. Smith has created a new world that stands on its own inhabited by wonderful and sometimes terrifying characters.”  J. Hanks
  • “My 5-yr old son and 3- and 7-yr. old daughters are all mesmerized and plead for extra chapters when we read together. After even just the first chapter, we knew that this was going to be a rare favorite. It has proven breathlessly thrilling and so much fun, edifying… challenging for all of us. And heartrendingly tender. Beautiful. At times, profound. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Don’t miss this.”  Kristin B

David Liss

David Liss

RANDOMS
By David Liss

randoms-cover

In 2015, Randoms, David Liss’ riotous debut YA space opera novel, was greeted with a tidal wave of enthusiasm from fans, critics, and fellow authors.  In September 2016, Liss followed Randoms with Rebels.  With Randoms at 500 pages and Rebels at 400 pages, it’s particularly impressive that Liss was able to maintain the humor, adventure, and pop culture references.

RANDOMS

A science fiction superfan finds himself on his very own space adventure when he’s randomly selected to join an alien confederacy in this “exhilarating” (Booklist, starred review) middle grade debut novel.

Zeke Reynolds comes from a long line of proud science fiction geeks. He knows his games, comics, movies, and TV shows like Captain Kirk knows the starship Enterprise. So it’s a dream come true when he learns the science fiction he loves so much is based on reality—and that he’s been selected to spend a year on a massive space station. To evaluate humanity’s worthiness, the Confederation of United Planets has hand picked three of Earth’s most talented young people—and then there’s Zeke. He’s the random.

Unfortunately, Zeke finds life in space more challenging than he’d hoped. When he saves his transport ship from a treacherous enemy attack, he’s labeled a war criminal. Now despised by the Confederation, rejected by his fellow humans, and pursued by a ruthless enemy, Zeke befriends the alien randoms: rejected by their own species, but loyal to each other. But their presence in the Confederation may not be so random after all, and as the danger increases, Zack’s knowledge of science fiction might be the only thing that can save himself, his friends, and Earth itself.

rebels-cover

REBELS

A science fiction superfan is heading back to space on a new mission to save Earth in this hilarious follow-up to the “exhilarating” (Booklist, starred review) Randoms.

It’s difficult to return to Earth and live a simple, unadventurous life after having seen the wonders of the universe—especially when you find yourself with Smelly, a self-important artificial intelligence living in your head, reminding you how much of a primitive meat bag you are. But with Smelly’s help, Zeke is on his way back to space on a new, super-secret mission. Zeke may earn Earth a second chance at intergalactic membership—and better yet, he’ll be reunited with Tamret, the alien girl of his dreams.

However, things never go as planned for Zeke. Conspiracy abounds as he’s once again blamed for destroying a spaceship, and sent deep into the dangerous Forbidden Zone to find the military tech tree that the enemy Phands are already using. Will his knowledge of pop culture and science fiction that saved him in Randoms help again?

PRAISE FOR RANDOMS

  • “Liss’s characters are engaging, the video-game-like competitions and SF commentary are fun, the sheer plenitude of alien species is fascinating, and the jokes just keep on coming.” (Publishers Weekly)
  • “Real geeks wouldn’t have it any other way.” (Kirkus Reviews)
  • “Fans of science fiction and nonstop action alike will enjoy this smart, light adventure that brims with allusions to a variety of sci-fi movies and TV shows old and new.” (School Library Journal)
  • *”First in a series, Randoms is an exhilarating read that will have no trouble hooking sci-fi fans—particularly with its many sf references—and it carries enough fun and excitement to appeal to reluctant readers, in spite of the intimidating page count. With a tip of the hat to geeks everywhere, this novel is a class act.” (Booklist, starred review)
  • “For readers who get giddy about mentions of obscure episodes of Star Trek or complex descriptions of nanites that allow humans to build up their natural abilities as they gain skill points (complete with a flowchart), this is a comradely treat.” (BCCB)
  • “Funny, wild, possibly deranged, and way too much fun.” (Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan Army and Rot & Ruin)
  • “As fun as a barrel full of tribbles, Randoms is middle-grade space opera at its best. Scary aliens! Cat people! Exploding starships! My inner geek stood up and cheered. Kids who love sci-fi, comics, or gaming will gobble up this fast-paced story, and it will make converts out of the rest.” (Pete Hautman, author of National Book Award Winner Godless)
  • “What an adventure! Randoms has such a clever concept behind it, and it’s thrilling to ride along as Zeke Reynolds battles enemy aliens (and humans), buddies up with up with aliens (and even, sometimes, humans), and manages again and again to score his own version of victory for underdogs and ‘randoms’ all across the universe.” (Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of the New York Times bestselling series The Shadow Children and The Missing)
  • Randoms is an incredibly fun and heartfelt space adventure. With menacing villains and lovable underdogs, this book has so much to offer readers of all ages. I can’t wait to read what happens to Zeke and his friends next!” (SJ Kincaid, author of Insignia)
  • “A smorgasbord of sci-fi geekiness, David Liss’s Randoms blends angst, adventure, humor, pathos, space battles, anime, giraffe aliens, and philosophical meanderings on the nature of “humanity” into a plot that twists and tumbles towards a breathless summer-action-flick finale. Be prepared to cheer on the underdogs in this dizzying romp of a novel.” (John David Anderson, author of Sidekicked)
  • “My fellow geeks, rejoice! We have a new hero in the form of the all-nerdy, all-knowing, Zeke. And it is no random chance that his knowledge of pop sci-fi makes him the hippest hero of the galaxy.” (Tony DiTerlizzi, author of The Search for Wondla)

Pixel Scroll 4/5/16 If You Pixel Us, Do We Not Recommend? If You Scroll Us, Do We Not Read?

(1) NO MCKELLEN AUTOBIO AFTER ALL. In The Hollywood Reporter, “Ian McKellen Explains Why he Returned $1.4M Memoir Advance”.

“It was a bit painful — I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.”

The world isn’t going to get to read Sir Ian McKellen’s autobiography.

Last year it emerged that the celebrated and Oscar-nominated thespian would be penning his own memoir in a deal with publishers Hodder & Stoughton reported to be worth £1 million ($1.4 million). But earlier this month the 76-year-old stage and screen icon revealed that he’d pulled the plug on the contract.

(2) OVERFLOWING WITH VERSE. Poems that Make Grown Women Cry edited by Anthony and Ben Holden gets a plug at Book View Café . One of the contributors, Ursula K. Le Guin, explains her choice of a poem in the collection:

I chose Robinson Jeffers’ “Hurt Hawks” because it always makes me cry. I’ve never yet got through the last lines without choking up. Jeffers is an uneven poet, and this is an uneven pair of poems, intemperate and unreasonable. Jeffers casts off humanity too easily. But he was himself a kind of maimed, hurt hawk, and his identification with the birds is true compassion. He builds pain unendurably so that we can know release.

(3) KUZNIA MOVES UP. ”Job Moves” at Publishers Weekly reports “Yanni Kuznia, previously director of production, is being promoted to managing editor and COO at Subterranean Press.” SF Signal did an interview with Kuznia last year when she was still Director of Production.

AJ:  Subterranean Press has a pretty small staff, so everyone wears multiple hats. Can you tell us a little about what you do at Subterranean? What is a typical work week like for you?

YK: As Director of Production, it’s my job to keep titles moving through the production machine. I need to make sure every book is proofed, art is commissioned, signature sheets are designed and signed, ARCs are ordered and sent out, authors receive and return page proofs, and that everything is reviewed one last time before we go to press. Of course, I have help doing all of this. I have two wonderful people, Geralyn Lance and Kyle Brandon, who work under me in Production, overseeing the day-to-day of several titles each. We talk continuously throughout the process to make sure every milestone is hit on time.

(4) FAITH. Deborah J. Ross at Book View Café finds three ways out for writers forced to deal with their “Original Vision vs. Compromising With the Market”. Number two is – go indie.

If you believe in your work, how can you be sure but this is not infatuation with your own words but that your work truly is of high quality? Every writer I know goes through spasms of self-doubt. Writing requires a bizarre combination of megalomania and crushing self-doubt. We need the confidence to follow our flights of fancy, and at the same time, we need to regard our creations with a critical eye. Trusted readers, including workshops like Clarion and Clarion West, critique groups, fearless peers, and freelance editors can give us invaluable feedback on whether our work really is as good as we think it might be. Of course, they can be wrong. It may be that what we are trying to do falls so far outside conventional parameters that only we can judge its value. It may also be that we see on the page not what is actually there but what we imagined and hoped.

Assuming that we are writing from our hearts and that the product of our creative labors is indeed extraordinary, what are we to do when faced with closed doors and regretful rejection letters? As discouraging as this situation seems, we do have choices. We writers are no longer solely dependent upon traditional publishers. We live in an era where writers can become publishers, and can produce excellent quality books, both in digital form and Print On Demand.

However, not all of us are cut out to format, publish, and market our work. All of these activities require time in which to acquire skills and time to actually perform them. That’s time we have lost for writing. While becoming your own publisher is a valid choice, it is not right for everyone. Some of us would much rather write in the next book.

(5) YURI’S NIGHT WORLD SPACE PARTY IN SAN DIEGO. Down in San Diego on April 9, Yuri’s Night celebrations will include a movie will include an sf movie showing. They’ll show Contact free at 7:00 p.m. in Studio 106 (San Diego Reader Building, 2323 Broadway, 92102).

Astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway has long been interested in contact to faraway lands, a love fostered in her childhood by her father, Ted Arroway, who passed away when she was nine years old leaving her then orphaned. Her current work in monitoring for extraterrestrial life is based on that love and is in part an homage to her father. Ever since funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was pulled on her work, which is referred to some, including her NSF superior David Drumlin, as more science fiction than science, Ellie, with a few of her rogue scientist colleagues, have looked for funding from where ever they could get it to continue their work. When Ellie and her colleagues hear chatter originating from the vicinity of the star Vega, Ellie feels vindicated. But that vindication is short lived when others, including politicians, the military, religious leaders and other scientists such as Drumlin, try to take over her work.

Although it is free, please RSVP as seating is limited.

(6) GUESS WHO? The website for Innominate (“The Con with no name!”) is up.

Innominate is the 2017 Eastercon, the British National Science Fiction Convention. Eastercon’s have been held over the Easter weekend every year since 1955 and is a regular gathering place for science fiction fans from around the UK and elsewhere to celebrate the genre in all of its formats.

Eastercons stand in a long tradition which we intend to celebrate, while aiming to bring in new elements too. The convention will cover books, film, television, art and costume and the programme will include talks, discussions, exhibits, workshops and other entertainment.

(7) FIREFLY LESSONS. Tom Knighton points out what businesses can learn from his favorite TV series in “Loyalty, Firefly, and Captain Mal”.

From a management perspective, Mal may be an ideal leader to emulate.  Oh sure, there are others out there.  Real life examples exist.  I’ve been blessed to work with someone like that myself, but not everyone is exposed to that.  However, anyone can pop in a DVD and watch Mal and learn.

So why is Mal so ideal?

First, he is a hands-on leader.  In the pilot episode, Mal and Jayne are moving crates of their ill-gotten gains, stashing them where prying eyes won’t see.  He doesn’t relegate the task to anyone else, but instead works just as hard as his crew does.  When they don’t eat, he doesn’t eat.  When they work, he works.

This firmly establishes his belief that he’s not better than anyone, despite being captain.  Yes, he issues orders, but because he’s shown that he’ll do anything he asks others to do, his orders are followed.

Second, his top-down loyalty.  Mal doesn’t have to like a member of his crew to be loyal.  He doesn’t care for Simon, not in the least.  It’s obvious to everyone, especially Simon. However, he refused to leave a member of his crew behind, regardless of his personal feelings about the man.

(8) OTTO BINDER BIO. Bill Schelly’s Otto Binder, The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is coming back into print June 7 from North Atlantic Books (paperback, 320 pages, $19.95.) It has 28 new images, of which 14 are new photographs.

Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary chronicles the career of Otto Binder, from pulp magazine author to writer of Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and Superman comics. As the originator of the first sentient robot in literature (“I, Robot,” published in Amazing Stories in 1939 and predating Isaac Asimov’s collection of the same name), Binder’s effect on science fiction was profound. Within the world of comic books, he created or co-created much of the Superman universe, including Smallville; Krypto, Superboy’s dog; Supergirl; and the villain Braniac. Binder is also credited with writing many of the first “Bizarro” storylines for DC Comics, as well as for being the main writer for the Captain Marvel comics. In later years, Binder expanded from comic books into pure science writing, publishing dozens of books and articles on the subject of satellites and space travel as well as UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Comic book historian Bill Schelly tells the tale of Otto Binder through comic panels, personal letters, and interviews with Binder’s own family and friends. Schelly weaves together Binder’s professional successes and personal tragedies, including the death of Binder’s only daughter and his wife’s struggle with mental illness. A touching and human story, Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is a biography that is both meticulously researched and beautifully told, keeping alive Binder’s spirit of scientific curiosity and whimsy.

(9) PENNED BY C. S. LEWIS. There are a couple dozen entries on Brenton Dickieson’s list of “Photographic Plates of C.S. Lewis’ Manuscripts and Letters”, and several illustrate the post.

A reader suggested I add to my collection of previously unpublished C.S. Lewis manuscripts (“The Lost-But-Found Works of C.S. Lewis“) by providing a list of manuscripts that show up in photographic plates in books and journals. I know that most of these are published by now, but this list is valuable for people who want to get to know C.S. Lewis’ handwriting.

(10) RACHEL SWIRSKY INTERVIEWS FRAN WILDE. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly Interview with Fran Wilde, expert on man-made wings”.

3. Have you ever done skydiving or hang gliding or anything similar?

I haven’t! I’m a sailor. I have relatives who hang-glide, and I spent a lot of my childhood watching storms roll in on the cliffs of the Chesapeake Bay (it gets really windy), but in order to do the research for UPDRAFT, I wanted to feel the physics of being in a wind tunnel, and I wanted to make sure I was writing a flying book, not a sailing book turned sideways. So I went indoor skydiving, which was a hoot. And very spinny.

The wings in the book aren’t hang-gliding wings, they’re more like a cross between furlable wings and wing-suit wings, so I also watched a lot of wingsuit fliers on long-flights and also doing particularly dangerous things like flying through canyons. I researched about 2,000 years of man-made wings in history, and talked a lot with engineers who understand the physics of foils – aka: wings.

(11) YA REVIEWS YA. My favorite YA reader, Sierra Glyer, added a review of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas to her blog.

…It is about a 18 year old assassin named Celaena Sardothien. She is the most feared assassin on the continent but one day she gets caught. After she gets caught she is sent to a slave camp and this is where the book starts….

(12) WEIST ESTATE AUCTION. The catalog for this year’s Jerry Weist estate auction (to be held at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention April 22-24, 2016) is now available. Over 4,000 pulps, dime novels, men’s adventure magazines and other magazines. Here’s a link to the catalog  (19 pages).

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 5, 1908 – Bette Davis

Bette David fountain

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 5, 1916 — Gregory Peck. Among his many roles: Ahab in John Huston’s Moby Dick, scripted by Ray Bradbury.

Gregory Peck Moby Dick

  • Born April 5, 1933 — Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler on Batman and the bigoted half-whiteface, half-blackface alien Bele on an episode of Star Trek.

(15) THREE-BODY. Ethan Mills tackles the “Wobbly Relations of Past, Present, and Future: The Three-Body problem by Liu Cixin (Translated by Ken Liu) at Examined Worlds.

The Philosophy Report: Is Nature Uniform?  What to Expect from ETs?

Philosophy is mentioned several times, including the Chinese philosopher, Mozi, and the German philosopher, Leibniz, who are both characters in the game.  Aside from such small connections, two major issues are the uniformity of nature and the reaction to extraterrestrial intelligence.

In philosophy of science (and regular life for that matter) we all rely on what some philosophers have called the principle of the uniformity of nature.  This is usually discussed in (constant) conjunction with David Hume’s problem of induction.  Could we live as successfully in the world as we do, could we do science, if the laws of nature were not in some sense uniform across time and space?  If the laws of nature varied over time or between countries or planets, could we really get around?  Could we do science?  Or — closer to Hume’s point — whether this principle is really true or not, should we believe it?  Could we stop believing it even if it turned out to be unjustified?

But what if we had lived on a planet where as far as we could tell the laws of nature do sometimes change, where things are never the same over time, could we have evolved as we did and could we have developed science?  Those are some of the intriguing questions raised in The Three-Body Problem.

(16) HEARING MCCARTHY. TC McCarthy is not alone in his opinion:

(17) GETTING THE CAMEL’S NOSE UNDER THE TENT. A list of “11 sci-fi and fantasy books for people who don’t like sci-fi and fantasy” at Minnesota Public Radio News.

Sci-fi picks for people who don’t like sci-fi

So, you think you don’t like sci-fi. What turned you off?

Long descriptions of space ships and their alternative fuels? Too many alien names to keep straight? Just not into “nerd” stuff? Send your stereotypes packing to Planet Zurlong for a minute, and try one of these books that may offer you a new perspective on the genre.

For the record, most of these fall into the category of “soft” science fiction. “Hard” science fiction revels in technical details, whereas soft is not as focused on the specificity of its futuristic elements. Consider this a “soft landing” on your genre dive.

(But yes, sometimes descriptions of space ships can be fascinating.)

1) “The Wool Omnibus” by Hugh Howey

When Howey’s work first caught critics’ eyes in 2012, it was dubbed the “sci-fi version of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.'” That comparison is purely about how the book was published, not about the quantity of whips or handcuffs in it. Like “Shades,” it took off as a self-published Internet phenomenon.

Howey posted the first 60 pages of “The Wool Omnibus” online as a standalone short story in 2011, but within a year, that turned into a 500-plus page project that topped bestseller lists. The books take place in the Silo, a post-apocalyptic city built more than a hundred stories underground.

(18) DANIEL RADCLIFFE RETURNS. Swiss Army Man will be in theaters June 17.

There are 7 billion people on the planet. You might be lucky enough to bump into the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

 

(19) BFG OFFICIAL UK TRAILER 2.

From Director Steven Spielberg, “The BFG” is the exciting tale of a young London girl and the mysterious Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl, “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) was published in 1982 and has been enchanting readers of all ages ever since.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor ULTRAGOTHA.]