Pixel Scroll 9/7/20 A Elbereth Gilthoniel, Silivren Penna Pixel Scroll

(1) LEAPIN’ STARSHIPS! Ars Technica is there when “SpaceX hops a full-scale Starship prototype for the second time”.

Less than one month ago, SpaceX blasted a full-scale prototype of its Starship vehicle to an altitude of 150 meters above South Texas before returning it safely to the ground. On Thursday, the company did it again with the latest version of the vehicle, dubbed Serial Number 6, or SN6.

As outdoor temperatures soared into the mid-90s Fahrenheit shortly after noon, the prototype was loaded with liquid methane and liquid oxygen before igniting its single Raptor engine. This engine, situated off-center, powered the vehicle at a slight angle into the sky, where it moved several dozen meters laterally before descending and coming to rest near the launch stand.

These test flights represent significant technical achievements, as they involved testing out the large, complex plumbing systems for Starship’s fuel tanks and rocket engine as well as pushing the thrust vector control system of the Raptor engine in flight….

(2) DRAGON ALONG. Doris V. Sutherland analyzed the Dragon Awards results for Women Write About Comics: “2020 Dragon Award Winners: Thousands Vote Despite Right-Wing Backlash”.

…Brian Niemeier, who won a 2016 Dragon Award for his self-published novel Souldancer, blamed the perceived flaws of the 2020 Dragon ballot on the ongoing pandemic. According to Niemeier’s assessment, the lack of a physical convention meant that “normal people tuned out” while a “Death Cult” that also holds sway over the Hugo Awards “took advantage of the drastically reduced voter base to pack the ballot”. Niemeier claims that this movement is literally in league with Satan: “the Death Cult witches lie constantly in the manner of their father below”.

Best Horror Novel winner Ursula Vernon expressed amusement at these accusations: “I did not find out I was even on the nomination list until my husband said ‘Hey, you’re up for a Dragon!’ so whoever is in charge of Death Cult Communications is falling down on the job!”

Come the day of the awards, Niemeier’s theory regarding voting numbers turned out to be wrong. While the official number of “more than 8,000 ballots” marks a smaller turnout than the 10,000-11,000 ballots cast in the previous two years, it is the same number as was given by the award administrators for 2017, and twice the number provided for 2016.

In reality, of course, there is no need to attribute the shift in the Dragon Awards to either COVID-19 or the machinations of devil-worshippers. As far back as 2017, when Brian Niemeier lost to James S. A. Corey and Declan Finn lost to Victor LaValle, it was clear that the Dragons were outgrowing the grip of any politicised clique. Rather than the year of the pandemic, the real odd-one-out year of the Dragon Awards’ history is clearly their debut in 2016 — the year in which they had their lowest turnout.

(3) DISMANTLING MULAN. At A Naga of the Nusantara, a self-identified Malaysian bookworm declares “Disney Brought Dishonour To Us All: A Film Review of Disney’s Live Action Mulan” .

…Okay, usually I would do a bit of research, reading, and maybe even talk to some friends before I review something but fuck it, I am only going to put in about the same amount of effort that had apparently been invested into this movie (i.e. minimal). I am Chinese and I am also a fan of Disney films, and I am very easy to please. Do you know how easy it is to please me? I’ll tell you. I actually don’t hate most of Disney’s naked money-grabbing live action remakes that they’ve been pushing out in recent years. That’s the truth. I’ll pay money just to watch diluted versions of their classical animated canon because I am that kind of patsy who is in his 30’s and am utterly, shamelessly susceptible to nostalgia. And I would venture to say that Disney would have done a much better job by me if they had simply stuck to the same playbook they used for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Remake it shot by shot. Play us the same catchy songs. That way at least, they would just be revisiting the original gauche liberties they took with Chinese culture back in 1998. But nooo, they have elected instead to abandon their old mistakes in order to commit new hate crimes against the Chinese people. How is it that there are way more Chinese people involved in this new version of Mulan and we still end up with a less culturally-reverent movie?

(4) SUBMISSIONS WANTED. [Item by Chuck Serface.] The next issue of The Drink Tank will be “Istanbul: Queen of Cities,” brought to you by Christopher J. Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Chuck Serface, and special guest-editor, Douglas Berry. We’re looking for submissions – history, fiction, artwork, photography, personal reminiscences, reviews, or poetry – that focus on aspects of this city and its surrounding areas, Gallipoli and the Princes’ Islands, for example.  Please send your work to drinktankeditorial@gmail.com by October 1, 2020. We’ll have it out shortly thereafter.

(5) SPIKE MCPHEE CATALOG #4. (Not to be confused with Archie.) Doug Ellis has posted another catalog of art and other items from the Spike McPhee estate. You can download it from the link below:

From 1977 to 1989, the Science Fantasy Bookstore operated in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Deb and I hung out there when we were in law school and became friends with the owner, Spike MacPhee. Spike was a member of NESFA and also founded the small press, Paratime Press, which published several checklists in the 1970’s. He was also GoH at the first Arisia convention in 1990.

Besides reading SF, Spike was a devoted science art collector. From the late 1960’s into the 1990’s, Spike attended several SF conventions – among them Boskone, Lunacon, Nycon III, Noreascon, Discon, Torcon and Disclave – where he would often buy art at the art show auction. He also became friends with many SF artists of the 1970’s and bought art directly from them as well. Spike remained a passionate fan until he passed away on November 13, 2019.

As I mentioned in my emails for previous catalogs, we’re now handling the sale of original art, books and other material for Spike’s estate. The fourth catalog is now available, and can be downloaded until September 13 as a 21 MB pdf file here.

If you’d like to download actual jpgs of the images, those can be downloaded in a zip file until September 13 directly here.

(6) DUCK! Dragon Con TV solved a problem and saved an annual tradition by making a semi-live version of a famous Warner Bros. cartoon: Duck Dodgers In The 24th And A Half Century (Sort Of).

What happens when your socially distanced sci-fi & fantasy convention wants to continue the tradition of playing DUCK DODGERS every year at The Masquerade but you don’t want to get shut down by copyright bots? Simple… you make your own version at home.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Johnny Weissmuller was one of Clayton Moore’s swimming instructors when he took lessons as a teenager at the Illinois Athletic Club.  Imagine Tarzan teaching the Lone Ranger to swim.

Source: Los Angeles Times

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1960 — Sixty years ago, Peter S. Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place was first published in hardcover by Viking Press which simply says “First published in 1960” on the copyright page. (ISFDB doesn’t list an exact date either. However, it was mentioned twice in the New York Times in May 1960.) Clute at the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy calls it “a Supernatural Fiction in chamber-opera form“.  Published before he turned twenty one, it’s been in print since along with The Last Unicorn. It is a very well written novel for a first time author. Though it won no Awards itself, it certainly contributed towards his World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master awards. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 7, 1890 – Manuel Komroff.  Playwright, screenwriter, novelist, editor, translator.  I, the Tiger from the viewpoint of a caged tiger, a few shorter stories, for us; more outside our field, including an ed’n of Marco Polo adding a chapter to the Marsden ed’n (1818) and revising the Yule ed’n (1871).  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1900 – Taylor Caldwell.  Half a dozen novels for us; many others including historical fiction e.g. Dear and Glorious Physician (Luke), The Earth is the Lord’s (Genghis Khan), Glory and the Lightning (Aspasia, mistress of Pericles).  Dialogues with the Devil is between Lucifer and the Archangel Michael.  This Side of Innocence set in Gilded Age upstate NY the best-seller of 1946.  Her books sold 30 million copies.  Outspoken conservative.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1921 Donald William Heiney. Writer under the pseudonym of MacDonald Harris which he used for all of his fiction of one of the better modern set novels using the Minotaur myth, Bull Fever. His time travel novel, Screenplay, where the protagonist ends up in a film noir 1920s Hollywood is also well crafted. Most of his work is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born September 7, 1924 – Gerry de la Ree.  Formed the Solaroid Club (New Jersey; included Manly Wade Wellman), 1939.  Collector, small-press publisher, dealer; sports journalist outside our field.  Seven books on Virgil Finlay; also Hannes Bok, Stephen Fabian, Clark Ashton Smith, Stanley Weinbaum; The Art of the Fantastic from his own collection.  First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1994 (i.e. posthumously).  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1937 John Phillip Law. He shows up as the blind angel Pygar in Barbarella, and he’s the lead in Ray Harryhausen’s The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. He’s Flight Commander Elijah Kalgan on South African produced generation ship Space Mutiny, and he was one of four actors who over the years played Harty Holt in Tarzan films, his being in Tarzan, the Ape Man. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born September 7, 1944 – Cas Skelton, 76.  She and husband Paul (he sometimes “Skel”) long active fans, particularly in fanzines; even published The Zine That Has No Name, years before Marty Cantor’s No Award.  Before that, Inferno became Small Friendly Dog.  Such, such were the joys –  [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1955 Mira Furlan, 65. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost, a series I did not watch. She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least briefly in a series called Space Command.(CE) 
  • Born September 7, 1960 Susan Palwick, 60. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Neighbor’s Wife”,  the Crawford Award for best first novel with Her Flying in Place, and the Alex Award would be awarded for her second novel, The Necessary Beggar. Impressive as she’s not at all prolific. All Worlds are Real, her latest collection, was nominated for the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award. (CE) 
  • Born September 7, 1960 – Michelle Paver, 60.  A score of novels; Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series set in Stone Age Europe sold a million copies, its Ghost Hunter winning The Guardian’s Children’s Fiction prize; Gods and Warriors series in the Bronze Age.  Patron of the United Kingdom Wolf Conservation Trust.  Met ice bears at Churchill, Manitoba. [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1973 Alex Kurtzman, 47. Ok, a number of sites claims he single handed lay destroyed Trek as the fanboys knew it. So why their hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems him for me. (CE)
  • Born September 7, 1974 Noah Huntley, 46. He has appeared in films such as 28 Days LaterThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (excellent film), Snow White and the Huntsman (great film), Event Horizon (surely you’ve something else to do) and Dracula Untold (well, not so great). He’s Gawain in The Mists of Avalon series which I refuse to watch, and shows up as Donovan Osborn in the CW series Pandora which, I’m not kidding, got a Rotten Tomatoes zero percent approval rating. Ouch. (CE) 
  • Born September 7, 1977 – Nalini Singh, 43.  A dozen Guild Hunter novels, a few shorter stories; a score of novels, a dozen shorter stories, about Psy-Changelings; a dozen more novels; thirty short stories on her Website.  Two Vogels.  A dozen NY Times Best Sellers.  [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1998 – Ghughle, possibly timeless.  The Ghreat Revelation of this so far little known fannish ghod came to Steven H Silver (no punctuation after the H) on September 22, 2001; see Argentus 2.  The birthday of Ghughle is celebrated, or had better be, on September 7th.  This image was vouchsafed to Stu Shiffman, and we all know what happened to him. [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full catches up with a UFO.
  • Speed Bump sees things from the Lilliputian point of view.
  • What Heathcliff learned from Star Trek. (Besides never to wear a red shirt.)

(11) “CHADWICK BOSEMAN IS AN ANCESTOR NOW.” Evan Narcisse remembers “Chadwick Boseman Was Ready For History Every Time” in a profile at GQ.

…A few months after that meeting, Marvel Comics approached me about writing a comic book series called Rise of the Black Panther. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to re-imagine T’Challa’s earliest days as a king. The only problem was that I was scared as hell. Could I actually step into a legacy that I’d loved from afar, before a major motion picture starring the same character came out? Could I follow in the footsteps of creators whose work made me feel seen and helped spark my dreams of writing? I’d been writing about comics for almost half my life, but I’d never actually written them before. History was getting all up in my face and asking me what I was going to do. To come up with an answer, I thought back to my interview with Boseman. He was an actor who, as far as I could tell, hadn’t read any Black Panther comics before getting slipped one on the set of Gods of Egypt. Yet he took on the risk of portraying T’Challa. What sorry excuse could I, a lifelong comics nerd, muster for not doing the same?

Because when history came for Chadwick Boseman—as it did on multiple occasions—he was ready. Every time. That’s why his passing hits me so hard. Look at his life story and you see a man who knew the importance of meeting the moment. When he got his first big TV job on a soap opera, it was a character who was getting caught up in gang life. He asked the show’s creators questions meant to help round out the role and steer it away from stereotypes. For his trouble, he got fired the next day….

(12) SURVIVOR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Yondu Udonta—actor Michael Rooker—dishes (via Entertainment Weekly) on his recent battle with COVID-19.

Guardians of the Galaxy star Michael Rooker has been fighting a real-life battle here on Earth.

In a Facebook post on Friday, the actor told fans that he’s beaten COVID-19 after an “epic battle” with the illness.

“If y’all aint figured it out by now why I’ve been isolating in this crazy awesome Airstream of mine, let me help y’all out by saying I’ve been fighting off COVID-19,” Rooker wrote. “I have to let y’all know it has been quite a battle. And as in any war, ALL is fair. And IN the middle of this epic battle I’ve come to the conclusion that there aint a whole heck of a lot one can do externally, to fight off COVID-19 once it has gotten into your body.”

(13) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. SYFY Wire signal boosts speculation that “Half Of Earth Could End Up Being Taken Over By A Digital Information Overload As Soon As 2245”.

…It could happen, if you ask physicist Melvin Vopson. An astonishing half of Earth’s mass could take the form of digital data by 2245. He believes that we process so much digital information that if we keep up so much oversaturation, we will redistribute the physical atoms that make up this planet and everything on it into digital bits and computer code until we end up living in a sort of computerized simulation. You could argue that we already live in a simulation, but the unnerving thing about Vopson’s research is that it is an actual projection as opposed to something that could happen but will continue to exist in the realm of science fiction until it actually does.

(14) THE “THERE’S TOO MUCH POLITICS ON FILE 770” ITEM OF THE DAY.

(15) ALTERNATE LITERATURE. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] If you recall the still from Seth Meyer’s show with the altered Thorn Birds cover–Thorn of the Rings, I believe it was–then you’ll be interested in the lower right hand corner of this video where I’ve cued it up. The bottom book is, sadly, not SF, but the rest of the stack is: https://youtu.be/gqV_fxqUI_I?t=143

(16) THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. ScreenRant rounds up “12 Hilariously-Titled Ripoffs of Better Movies”. Tagline: “If you’re sick of watching well-produced Hollywood films with good acting and good effects, take a look of these so-called ‘mockbusters.’”

8. What’s Up? Balloon To The Rescue

If you thought mockbusters could only rip off action films, think again. This time, Pixar was the target with the amazingingly awful What’s Up? Balloon to the Rescue. Because “What’s Up” wouldn’t have been an obvious enough ripoff of Pixar’s Up, so they had to throw the word balloon in there just to make sure everyone knew what was, um, up.

Featuring what is absolutely the worst/most nightmare-inducing animation you’ll ever see, it’s actually fascinating that What’s Up even exists considering the amount of time and effort that it must have taken to make a movie this bad. Not only is the film insultingly bland and near-impossible to watch, but it’s also insanely racist in a way that only a movie that looks like a ’90s screensaver could be. If it isn’t yet clear, everything about this film is fascinating, and if you want to cringe your way through a night with some friends, you literally couldn’t make a worse choice than What’s Up.

(17) FANDOM SURVIVES, TOO. SF2 Concatenation has posted “How Eastercon and Worldcon fandom”. Tagline: “In 2019 the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolved. By early 2020 it had spread from Asia to the rest of the World. In March 2020 much of Europe and N. America went into lockdown. Yet SF fan activity continued.  Caroline Mullan reveals how.”

… Many fans around the world had seen the virus coming and started modifying their public behaviour before lockdowns started to take hold.  One of the first fruits of this was Concellation 2020, which sprang up on Facebook on 13th March, founded by Christopher Ambler and Craig Glassner as a forum for letting off steam as fans started to stay at home.  Within 24 hours the group had over a thousand members, and at time of writing it has over 30,000 from all over the world, making jokes, exchanging information, displaying art, cosplay and merchandise, raising funds for charity, and discussing all things fannish.  This was an early example of the many new online groups and forums that have been springing up to allow fans to socialise, exhibit and share their creativity and thoughts from lockdown.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Disney’s Live-Action Mulan Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the Mulan remake “took the animated movie and removed the fun stuff” but added characters who wore so much makeup “they’re basically violent theatre majors.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Chuck Serface, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]

Reaction to 2020 Dragon Awards Winners

What was the response to yesterday’s announcement of the 2020 Dragon Awards winners among some of the award’s most ardent supporters?

It can be divided between those who ignored any category that wasn’t won by someone they approved, and those who found a way to blame the outcome on the pandemic.

Last year’s Best SF Dragon Award winner Brad R. Torgersen took a similar approach at first.

However, Torgersen revealed his true feelings in comments:

Declan Finn’s response isn’t as cryptic as it may seem if you remember he considers the 2020 Dragon Ballot to be the outcome of people not listening to him. Again.

Brian Niemeier leads the blame-the-pandemic wing of the party.

Richard Paolinelli’s tweet is a hybrid of the two common Puppy responses.

The rest of what Richard Paolinelli has to say is locked behind his paywall, which is as secure a way of keeping something secret as has yet been invented.

Meanwhile, John Scalzi is the soul of contentment. And so is his bookie, evidently.

Reaction to 2020 Dragon Award Ballot

Dragon Awards trophies from 2016. Photo by Fran Wilde.

Yesterday the 2020 Dragon Awards ballot dropped, pleasantly surprising many by being loaded with genuinely popular books. (As Cora Buhlert put it, “The 2020 Dragon Award Finalists Go Full Tilt Towards Mainstream Respectability”). But not everyone is pleased.

Tommy Lasorda famously said, “There are three kinds of people in this world: people who make it happen, people who watch what happens, and people who wonder what happened.” And this year, some of the Dragon Awards’ most vocal supporters find themselves in the third category.

Declan Finn, a Sad Puppies devotee whose passion went unappreciated by the movement’s leaders, considers the 2020 Dragon Ballot to be another outcome of people not listening to him.

You know, I am fairly hooked into the book community. If I don’t read every book, I at least hear about a lot of them. Even if I take one look and decide I don’t want to read it, I at least check it out.

Then I saw the 2020 Dragon Award ballot and wondered who the fuck any of these people were. Seriously, what sort of shit show is this?

Sure, I’ve heard of a few. Margaret Atwood at least has a TV show. She’s an opportunistic parasite, but people have at least heard of her (though I haven’t heard of that book. I guess she came out with another). I’ve heard of Scalzi–don’t like him, but I can at least pick his name out of a phone book. Chuck Wendigo? The same.

But so many of these names are just … Who? What? Huh?

I’ve been assured by some people (randoms online, mostly) that these are Hugo authors. I guess I’ll take their word on it… but usually, I’ve at least HEARD about those authors. These folks? Nah.

… If only someone could have warned about this.

If only someone could have tried to lead discussions, hold conversations on what books came out. That way, we could have narrowed it down to a few.

If only…

WAIT! I know! I DID. I FUCKING WANTED PEOPLE TO DISCUSS BOOKS FOR THE DRAGONS. WHAT DID EVERYONE THINK I WAS DOING IN 2018 AND 2019? COMPILING EVERY ELIGIBLE BOOK BECAUSE IT WAS FUN? I DID IT FOR MY HEALTH? THAT WAS EXTRA WORK I DIDN’T NEED TO DO.

…It was especially fun this year when I had an author see that “I was talking about the Dragon again,” therefore, she asked if “I could put her book on the list.” IE: She didn’t even read the blog post to see what I was talking about. It was assumed I enjoyed killing myself so I could market their book for free.

No one wanted to play. That’s fine. I’m used to it. 

But everyone can all stop bitching about it. They either didn’t vote, or didn’t want to talk about it. They didn’t want to invest even thirty minutes into presenting a selection of choices, or having a conversation.

Now this years ballot sucks….

Brian Niemeier in “The Dragon Sleeps” doesn’t think the reason is that they neglected Declan’s advice. After ranting about John Scalzi’s nomination, Niemeier says the pandemic is the reason that the award he’s spent years boosting, where EVERYONE can vote for FREE, has in 2020 generated a ballot bereft of work by him and his friends:

From the author of The Handmaid’s Tale to lesbian vampire stories to a writer so deranged even Disney fired him, this year’s Dragon ballot reads like the canon of Death Cult humiliation scripture….

Of course, the Death Cult witches lie constantly in the manner of their father below. Thus their previous attempt to take over the Dragons in 2017.

That attempt failed, and the Dragons continued to be a direct democratic process as intended. Each subsequent years’ winners were pretty much what you’d expect from a readers’ choice award with a broad voter base. Baen and the bigger indies came to dominate, with cameos from the more mainstream Pop Cult fare like Corey Doctorow and The Expanse.

I and the other cultural commentators who predicted this course of events based our forecasts on the key difference between the Dragons and the other literary awards. Anyone can vote in the former, while the latter lock voting rights behind a paywall or professional organization membership.

Put simply, the Death Cult can monopolize the Hugos because World Con’s voter base is quite small, relatively speaking. The number of CHORFs isn’t growing. In fact, they’re rapidly graying. It stands to reason that an award with an open, large, and growing voter base would be immune to manipulation by an insular Cult.

And for three years, that reasoning held true. But as is its wont, 2020 threw the con scene a curve ball: Corona-chan.

Niemeier tries to spin that the pandemic has caused these aberrant results because people won’t be able to attend an in-person Dragon Con this year. (Never mind that Brian is always telling readers one of the Dragon’s virtues is that you don’t have to buy a con membership to vote.)

…There’s your explanation for what happened with the Dragons. The virus shut down the con, normal people tuned out, and the small but relentless Cult faction took advantage of the drastically reduced voter base to pack the ballot.

Then, the following Twitter conversation was devoted to asking “What happened?”

In contrast, Larry Correia, inventor of Sad Puppies, hailed the 2020 ballot: “Fantastic! There are a bunch of really good authors nominated this year.”

And Brad R. Torgersen, who ran the last Sad Puppies slate, found the pandemic didn’t stop his friends from getting nominated: “Nice to see some friends getting some well-deserved recognition on the Dragons final ballot. Even though there is no DragonCon being held in Atlanta due to Covid-19 panic, the Dragons roar onward. Good luck to Nick and Jason, Marko, Dave, and Chris!”

As for the nominees, they’re delighted as you’d expect. John Scalzi says in “The Last Emperox a Finalist for the 2020 Dragon Awards” at Whatever.

It’s a field where I would be happy with any one of these writers/titles winning, so that’s really the best of all possible worlds. And it’s nice to see The Last Emperox getting some early recognition, award-wise. That would be lovely to have continue.

Fonda Lee is especially happy:

(She’s been up for a Nebula and won a World Fantasy Award (2018), neither of which, it’s true, would you call “fan awards,” however, she’s won three Aurora Awards, which I thought are run by fans; I’ll have to defer to her knowledge on that score.)

Meanwhile, even experienced sff news reporters like Ansible’s David Langford are still coming to grips with the Dragon Awards’ turnaround. He told Camestros Felapton:

I am of course utterly stupended. But this is a condition that comes easily to me.

You and me both, Dave. And count on you to know the best word for it.

Pixel Scroll 8/4/20 Authors Pull Flashing Swords From
Story Stones

(1) SHATNER’S NOT SHOCKED. Ross A. Lincoln, “In Case You Were Wondering, William Shatner Knows Exactly What ‘Star Trek’ Slash Fiction Is” in The Wrap, says that someone thought she was blocked from Shat’s Twitter feed for making “Spirk”  (Spock/Kirk) slash fiction references, and Shat explained that he knew what slash fiction was, thought it hilarious, and noted that there are references to slash fiction in the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

(2) FINDING WOMEN HORROR WRITERS. “Weird Women:  The Forgotten Female Horror Writers of the 19th Century And Beyond” on CrimeReads is an excerpt from the introduction to a new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton (also called Weird Women, but with a different subtitle) of women who wrote supernatural fiction in the nineteenth century who the editors think are neglected and should be better known today.

…Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

(3) INSURANCE FOR WRITERS. SFWA announcement:“Coalition of Eleven Book Industry Associations Launch Official Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP)”. Details at the link.

Today, a coalition of eleven book industry associations, including Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), launched the official Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP), an alliance with Lighthouse Insurance Group (LIG) Solutions designed to provide members from across the associations with a choice of health insurance options.

As of August 2020, official BIHIP coalition members include American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Authors Guild, Book Industry Study Group, Graphic Artists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, Novelists Inc., Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Inc., and Western Writers of America Inc….

(4) SECOND BLAST. The Dragon Awards website continues its Q&A with previous winners: “A Blast from the Past (Winners) – Part 2”.

So, your book comes out. At that time, what did you know about the Dragon Awards? Had you heard of them, and if so, how and what had you heard? How did you react when you found you were nominated?

Brian Niemeier: Oh, yes. I was well aware of the Dragon Awards from the day they were announced. The industry was in desperate need of a true readers’ choice award open to anyone, and I applauded the Dragons for meeting that need. Learning that Souldancer had been nominated confirmed that my writing efforts were worthwhile. It was like receiving the mandate of greater science fiction fandom.

Kevin Anderson: I’ve been aware of the Dragon Awards since the beginning, and I was thrilled as a fan and professional to know there was one award big enough to truly exemplify the feelings of a large pool of readers and voters. I had been soured on other awards because of politics and in-fighting, but the Dragon Awards really reflective of what readers like. Sarah and I were very thrilled to find out Uncharted had landed on the ballot.

SM Stirling: I’d heard of them and thought they were a good idea; the other major awards had become dominated by small cliques of the like-minded, and we needed a broad-based fan award. I’ve been going to Dragon Con for many years now — it’s my favorite con, full of youthful energy and like sticking your finger into a light socket, but in a -good- way. I was delighted to be nominated; you’re always in good company at the Dragons. Didn’t expect to win, though.

(5) TECH WRECK. Tim Maughan is interviewed by Brian Merchant in “The Man Whose Science Fiction Keeps Turning Into Our Shitty Cyberpunk Reality” on Medium.

.. Tim Maughan: I talk about surveillance to people who don’t think about surveillance all the time like I do and you do…And you walk in the house and they’ve got an Alexa. And you say, “I don’t like the Alexa because it’s a surveillance machine.” And they say to you, “Well, I haven’t got anything to hide. I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not a problem to me. It doesn’t matter if they’re listening to me. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

And it’s like, actually, the reason I dislike it isn’t the fact that I’m worried they might be listening to me now — it’s monitoring my behavior, and that’s what I’m worried about. I don’t care if it overhears what I say, or an algorithm is listening to it or even someone in an offshore call center. Even if they’re listening to it, that privacy thing isn’t what worries me. The issue that worries me is that they’re modeling my behavior, and they’re making judgments based on that, which might not be the right judgments for everybody. And they’re using that model to make decisions about people who aren’t even their users, too, or they’re using it to make decisions about their users.

It becomes a thing about like, well, okay, what information can we collect from Alexas about a neighborhood or just their Amazon use? What decisions can Amazon make geographically in physical spaces? This neighborhood in South Brooklyn, I used to live in, East Flatbush, it’s gentrified. And I’m sure Amazon can pull up a map of where all the Alexas are, where all their Amazon Prime accounts are and go, “Well, this is a neighborhood which is increasingly likely to be gentrified” — aka, more whites.

Tech workers are moving into the neighborhood. What can we do in that neighborhood for them? And suddenly you’re changing the nature of the neighborhood. …

(6) WOLFE TICKETS. At ReReading Wolfe, “Jack Dann talks about Gene Wolfe’s influence on the genre and his own Renaissance Man career”.

Jack Dann discusses Wolfe’s influence, on the writing process, on the New Wave, and on how he got his start.

(7) SOCIOLOGY OR ARCHEOLOGY? In case you haven’t heard enough about fandom in the Seventies this week… Hey, where did everybody go? James Davis Nicoll forwarded this link to Albert I. Berger’s paper “Science-Fiction Fans in Socio-Economic Perspective: Factors in the Social Consciousness of a Genre” in Science Fiction Studies (Nov. 1977), which analyzes the responses to 3,000 questionnaires distributed at the 1973 Worldcon in Toronto.

Since 1948, several different studies have been made of the demographic characteristics of science-fiction readers, most by the editors of the commercial science-fiction magazines seeking to determine the characteristics of their own readerships. The results of these, along with data collected at two recent science-fiction conventions, have been admirably collected and summarized by Charles Waugh, Carol-Lynn Waugh, and Edwin F. Libby of the University of Maine at Augusta, whose work this paper used throughout for purposes of comparison.2 This study, conducted at the 31st World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto, September, 1973, is offered against the historical perspective of these earlier studies. As the Waughs and Libby discovered, there are difficulties in applying the findings of this survey to the entire science-fiction audience, since it is impossible to know exactly in what ways, if any, people at a convention differ from those who did not attend. Certainly science-fiction fans themselves are divided into groups, with some, notably those primarily interested in film and television SF, and members of the cult following of the series Star Trek, under-represented at this convention (see tables 20 and 21 below). However, the numbers of people responding to the questionnaire, and the diversity of their involvement in science fiction beyond attendance at the convention, suggests that the picture of fans irelatively reliable for readers of science fiction as a whole and, if qualified for the greater affluence of those who could afford to travel to Toronto, is at least as reliable as such commonly accepted-with-qualifications measurements as the Gallup polls….

(8) COPYEDITING, THE GAME. The New Yorker signal boosts “Stet!, the Hot New Language Game”.

… Nitpickers by profession, we ran into a problem right away. The instructions for Stet! suggest that you “play with three or more players” (is that redundant?), and we had been unable, during the pandemic, to scare up a third nerd. The game of Stet! comprises two packs of cards with sentences on them, fifty of them Grammar cards with indisputable errors (dangling modifiers, stinking apostrophes, and homonyms, like horde/hoard and reign/rein) and fifty of them Style cards, on which the sentences are correct but pedestrian, and the object is to improve the sentence without rewriting it. There are trick cards with no mistakes on them. You might suspect that there is something wrong with (spoiler alert) “Jackson Pollock” or “asafetida” or “farmers market,” but these are red herrings. If you believe that the sentence is perfect just as it is, you shout “Stet!,” the proofreading term for “leave it alone” (from the Latin for “let it stand”), which is used by copy editors to protect an author’s prose and by authors to protect their prose from copy editors.

(9) PLAY NICELY. BBC says “Sony’s Spider-Man exclusive sparks backlash”.

The upcoming Marvel Avengers game has sparked a backlash after it was revealed that Spider-Man will only be in the PlayStation version.

Its developer said the web-slinger will be available as downloadable content (DLC) next year on one platform only.

The game will be released on 4 September across several platforms including PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Fans have suggested the move will see many players missing out on the game’s full experience.

Sony has owned the rights to Spider-Man since 1999.

However, the superhero has appeared in games on multiple consoles and PC over the years, including games based on The Amazing Spider-Man film and its 2014 sequel.

But one recent game, simply entitled Spider-Man, was a critically-acclaimed PlayStation 4 exclusive title.

Numerous fans shared their outrage on social media following the surprise announcement on Monday.

(10) MAY SETTLE IN SHIPPING. “Sales Of ‘Settlers Of Catan’ Skyrocket During Coronavirus Crisis”NPR demonstrates, and interviews the creator.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In the pandemic, board games are back. And as NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports, many people are turning to a classic one from Germany.

(SOUNDBITE OF DICE ROLLING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Eight.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Eight again. More brick.

Family game night – we’ve done this a lot this year, thanks to the pandemic. And my family has dusted off Monopoly, Scrabble, but we usually settle on “Settlers Of Catan.”

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Two bricks for anything.

SCHMITZ: It’s a game of trade and development. Players compete for resources on an island and trade with each other in order to build settlements, cities and roads. The most successful developer wins.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Why in the world would I need brick?

SCHMITZ: Entrepreneurs love the game. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a fan, as is LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who plays the game in job interviews as a way to size up an applicant. In its 25th year, “Catan” has sold more than 32 million units. It’s one of the bestselling board games of all time.

…SCHMITZ: [Klaus] Teuber spoke with me over an old computer, and his voice sounded distant, so we asked one of our colleagues to read for him. He’s 68 now, and he’s just released his autobiography “My Way To Catan” to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the game. Teuber was a dental technician, bored out of his mind by his job when he began creating games in his basement in the 1980s.

…SCHMITZ: And as families shelter in place, sales of “Catan” continue to climb. As the pandemic sent the global economy into a downward spiral, “Catan’s” sales skyrocketed by 144% for the first five months of this year. Teuber, whose two sons work for his company Catan Inc., says he still plays the game with his family, but he admits he’s not very good at it and that he rarely wins. He says what he enjoys most is playing it and being there with his family, something millions of other families are enjoying, too.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 4, 1992  — In the United Kingdom, The Lost World premiered. This is the third film made off the Doyle novel, the first being made in 1925. Another film would be made between these two in 1960, and four radio dramas would be as well. The 1944 one would have John Dickson Carr narrating and playing all parts, and the 1966 one would have Basil Rathbone as Professor Challenger. This film was directed by Timothy Bond and produced by Harry Alan Towers from a screenplay by Marion Fairfax. The primary cast was John Rhys-Davies, Eric McCormack, David Warner and Tamara Gorski whole character replaced that of Lord Roxton. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a twelve percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1792 – Percy Shelley.  This great poet wrote in our sphere, e.g. AdonaisPrometheus UnboundThe Triumph of Life, the novel St. Irvyne.  What about “Ozymandias”?  David Bratman, what’s this I hear about “The Marriage of King Elessar and Arwen Undómiel” appearing over his name in a Sep 82 issue of The New Tolkien Review?  I can’t get at it or I’d look instead of asking you.  (Died 1822) [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1869 – Evelyn Sharp.  For us a score of short stories, mostly collected in All the Way to Fairyland and The Other Side of the Sun; one novel (a dozen more of those).  At that time there were both suffragettes and suffragists; she was vital.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1924 – Gumarcindo Rocha Dorea, 96.  Brazilian writer, editor, publisher.  His GRD Edições alternated translations with work by local writers, beginning in 1958 with Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet and in 1960 Eles herdarão a Terra (Portuguese, “They shall inherit the Earth”) by Dinah Silveira de Queiroz.  Edited Antologia brasileira de ficção cientifica (1961), first local anthology of only Brazilian authors.  His enterprise continued despite Brazilian politics and what Roberto de Sousa Causo calls a terminal inability to make money.  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1933 – Thé Tjong-Khing, 87.  There are nine and sixty ways of transliterating Chinese these days, and every single one of them is right.  He’s an Indonesian Chinese from Java living in the Netherlands.  Illustrator.  Likes Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Stan Drake’s Heart of Juliet Jones, Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates.  He’s worked in that style, but see hereherehere – a thumbnailsworth of a long productive career.  Three Golden Brush prizes, Woutertje Pieterse prize, Max Velthuijs prize.  Website here (in Dutch).  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is ‘a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.’ I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is.) (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born August 4, 1941 Martin Jarvis, 79. He makes three appearances on Doctor Who over twenty years. Hilio, captain of Menoptra, in “The Web Planet”, a First Doctor story.  He later is the scientist Dr. Butler in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”, a Third Doctor story, and as the governor of the planet Varos in “Vengeance on Varos”, a Sixth Doctor story. He also voiced Alfred Pennyworth in the animated Batman: Assault on Arkham Adylum which is the real Suicide Squad film. (CE)
  • Born August 4, 1950 Steve Senn, 70. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space Fungus. (CE) 
  • Born August 4 – Taras Wolansky.  Persevering contributor to AboriginalAlexiadFOSFAXThe MT VoidNY Review of SFSF ChronicleScience Fiction & Fantasy Book ReviewSF Review.  Good at asking questions, like “If he had been, would he have done anything differently?” Never mind that I’d leave off the last two letters.  We’ve met in person, which is more than I can say for some people I know.  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1961 Lauren Tom, 59. Voice actress for our purposes. She shows up on Superman: The Animated Series voicing Angela Chen. From there on, she was Dana Tan in Batman Beyond and several minor roles on Pinky and the BrainFuturama is her biggest series to date where she voices Amy and Inez Wong. (CE)
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 51. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Her only other genre was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. (CE) 
  • Born August 4, 1961 – Andreas Findig.  It’s possible to be a Perry Rhodan author and an absurdist; he was.  Six PR novels; two short stories and a novella Gödel geht tr. as “Gödel’s Exit” which may be impossible.  (Died 2018)  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1981 Meghan, the former Duchess of Sussex, 39. Yes, she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the first two episodes of the second season (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects” as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the  “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City, a series you likely never heard of. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater finds working at home can be inconvenient.
  • Lio helps prepare for the zombie apocalypse.

(14) OH MY GOD, YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. In the new episode of Two Chairs Talking, “Translations, transforms and traumas”, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss ConNZealand and the 2020 Hugo Awards, then take the Hugo Time Machine back to the very interesting year of 1963, when The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick won Best Novel, and “The Dragon Masters” by Jack Vance won Best Short Fiction.

(15) KEEPING SCORE. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Music story “‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’ composer Danny Elfman assumed he’d never work in Hollywood again: ‘I thought the score would get thrown out'”, looks at how Danny Elfman began writing film scores 35 years ago with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and discusses how Elfman got into film music responding to a challenge from his brother and then explains why he is Tim Burton’s preferred choice for writing scores.

…Elfman’s Pee-wee score, with its goofy oompah riffs, Looney Tunes references, and frenetic pacing, was a wild and whimsical ride; created with Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek, it became one of the most instantly recognizable scores in ‘80s cinema. Elfman acknowledges that he quickly became the movie and TV industry’s go-to “quirky comedy guy” — for instance, Matt Groening later enlisted him to compose the Simpsons theme song. It was a label that was tough for Elfman to shed when he was hired by skeptical producers to compose an uncharacteristically darker-sounding score for Burton’s Batman, four years after Pee-wee. But it turns out the most skeptical person in Hollywood was Elfman himself.

(16) TUBULAR, MAN! See “The Roman Empire’s Roads In Transit Map Form”.

Unless you’re a historian or map buff, interpreting a map of the Roman Empire can be a daunting exercise. Place names are unfamiliar and roads meander across the landscape making it difficult to see the connections between specific cities and towns.

Today’s visualization, by Sasha Trubetskoy, has mashed-up two enduring obsessions – transit maps and Ancient Rome – to help us understand the connection between Rome and its sprawling empire.

At the height of the Roman Empire, there were approximately 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of roads, stretching from Northern England to Egypt and beyond. This impressive network is what allowed Rome to exercise control and communicate effectively over such a large territory….

(17) I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Louise McCreesh, in “Game of Thrones’s George RR Martin Accused of Making Racially and Sexually Insensitive Comments At Awards Show” on Digital Spy would only be interesting because she includes the words “in a post on File 770” and links to F770 which is the first time I have ever seen this on a random item in the Yahoo! news feed.

(18) THEY MADE A LITTLE MISTAKE. Meanwhile, Hampus Eckerman emailed to tell me, “You got promoted!” when he saw this passage in io9’s article “George R.R. Martin Responds to Accusations of Hugo Awards Racism, Apologizes for Mispronouncing Names”. (Their link for “the comment section” is to File 770.)

…In response to the criticisms of his hosting—a number of people have described it overall as racist—Martin took to the comment section of the Hugos’ official website to comment rather than his often used personal blog.

Wow. I thought io9 writers were supposed to know fandom better than that.

(19) NOW ON A MOON OF SATURN. Mad Genius Club has revamped its site design. Looks good! Or maybe I’m just a sucker for sky blue at the top of a page….

(20) SPACE CAMP SAVED. With large donations from several companies—as well as many individual donations—the USS&RC has achieved its minimum $1.5 million goal. WAFF 48 reports “New donation pushes US Space & Rocket Center past fundraising goal”.

 A $250,000 donation from Science Applications International Corporation has pushed the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s “Save Space Camp” campaign over its initial goal just one week after the effort launched.

The campaign began July 28 with the hope of raising a minimum of $1.5 million to sustain museum operations and to be able to reopen Space Camp in April 2021.

…The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the Rocket Center, which closed March 13, 2020, in keeping with state health orders intended to combat the surge in coronavirus cases. The museum reopened in late May, but with far fewer than normal visitors. Space Camp did not reopen until June 28, and then with only 20 percent of its usual attendance. With limited admission from international students and school groups this fall and winter, Space Camp will again close for weeklong camp programs in September.

The Space & Rocket Center is continuing to ask for support for the campaign. For more information and to make a donation, visit savespacecamp.com.

(21) EVERYBODY FIGHTS, NOBODY QUIPS! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Starship Troopers (ft. Casper Van Dien)” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the 1997 film “not at all based in the classic sci-fi novel” featuring soldiers whose bodies pulse “with the repulsive green goo they use to make Monster Energy” drinks.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/20 If A Pixel Walks In Dressed Like A Click And Acting As If He Owns The File, He’s A Scrollman

(1) TWO EVENTS SHUFFLED IN RESPONSE TO PANDEMIC. KU’s Gunn Center has announced these changes:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will likely move our Science Fiction Summer program to online offerings for 2020.

We are also moving this year’s Gunn Center Conference and Awards to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, NE, October 1 -3.

Stay tuned.

(2) BEYOND THE FINAL FRONTIER. Legends of Tomorrow’s Wild New Trailer Promises a Star Trek Parody for the Ages”. The trailer for the remainder of the season shows the Legends (superheroes etc. in a time-travel spaceship trying to fix time problems) taking on Star Trek and more. Io9 has a breakdown.

(3) TRAVEL BROCHURE. In “Worlds Enough and Tim”, Camestros Felapton and Timothy the Talking Cat plot a way to get out of their apartment without the inconvenience of contracting the plague.

…[Timothy] …shut that pie hole for a moment, please! This isn’t a regular cruise! It’s not a cruise on the sea! It is a cruise ship of THE IMAGINATION!
[Camestros] Gasp! Tell me more…

Timothy clicked the settings menu on his Zoom app and switched from ‘dialogue mode’ to ‘conventional narrative form’ and with that the whole story shifted style. With another deft flick of his paws he activated ‘share screen’ and a bright colourful image filled the screen. In a friendly font it announced “Mythopoeic Cruises: Travel the worlds in style”.

“Oooh! A fancy brochure!” said Camestros, who was warming to the idea of ditching this timeline altogether….

(4) VACUUM BREATHERS. How does James Davis Nicoll come up with all these listicle ideas? “Five Stories Featuring Vast Beings From the Darkest Depths of Space” at Tor.com.

Space, even the deep space between the stars, is not entirely empty. As far as we can tell at present, the matter scattered through interstellar space is lifeless. But…appearances can be deceiving. Even if they are not, there’s enough story in the idea of vast beings living in the interstellar depths to attract SF writers. Here are five books that took the idea and ran with it…

(5) SOURCE MATERIAL. “Motherhood And Monsters: How Being A Parent Helps Me Write Thrillers” — Jennifer Hillier explains the connection at CrimeReads.

 … I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I gave birth to my son, Mox. Actually, if I’m keeping it real, I haven’t slept well since I was pregnant. Nightmares have always been a normal occurrence for me, but during my pregnancy they were more vivid than usual, more visceral, more terrifying. I can only guess it was the hormones, acting as an anabolic steroid for my already overactive imagination. Mox is five and a half now, which means I haven’t slept well in six years.

Exhaustion notwithstanding, my nightmares do provide plenty of fuel for writing, since my thrillers are inspired by the things that scare me the most. For a long time, it was serial killers (and still is). I’m also afraid of dark basements, old cellars, lurking shadows, fog, dimly lit parking lots, the backseat of my car if I’m driving at night, and anytime the doorbell rings.

(6) NASA QA TESTING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From my $DAYJOB (for loosish definitions, as I’m a self-employed/freelance writer), another fun-to-research-and-write article about NASA (I’ve recently written about NASA and 3D printing, and recycling-in-space.) “How NASA does software testing and QA”.

Every quality tester worries about the cost of missing defects. But imagine the scenario when lives are at stake, and when embedded flaws can be expensive or impossible to fix. That’s what it’s like for QA testing at NASA – and it applies to equipment such as rocket engines, fuel mixes, satellites, space habitats, as well as to ordinary computer software and hardware.

What makes NASA’s testing requirements unique? Here’s a take-off point – and how the U.S. space agency’s methods can help not-for-space testers and QA practitioners….

The SFnal sub-heads were at my editor’s suggestion. (An sf story ref or two didn’t make it in.)

Enjoy!

(7) TABLEAUS. [Item by JJ.] Getty Museum challenged people who are staying at home to recreate famous works of art. Not genre, but absolutely hilarious. Click on this link to see a long string of them. The creativity is amazing!

  • Klimt’s Woman in Biscuits:
  • Vermeer’s Girl With a Purrl Earring

(8) FLIGHTS OF FOUNDRY. Dream Foundry plans to hold Flights of Foundry, a virtual convention for speculative creators and their fans, on May 16-17. Registration is open – and free, although donations are requested. The guests of honor will be:

  • Comics: Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
  • Editor: Liz Gorinsky
  • Fiction: Ken Liu
  • Games: Andrea Phillips
  • Illustration: Grace Fong
  • Translation: Alex Shvartsman and Rachel S. Cordasco

In addition to panels and information sessions, programming will include workshops, a dealer’s room, a virtual consuite (I expect people will be appertaining their own drinks), and more.

There is no cost to register, though donations to defray costs and support Dream Foundry’s other programming are welcomed.  Dream Foundry is a registered 501(c)3 dedicated to supporting creators working in the speculative arts as they begin their careers.

Register here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 21, 1911 John Lymington. Between the late Fifties and the mid-Eighties, he wrote twenty-six genre novels, an astonishing number. All of his short fiction was done in 1964 and published in his Night Spiders collection. He’s not made it into the digital realm and I’ll admit that I’ve not heard of him, so I’m hoping the brain trust here can tell me about him.(Died 1983.)
  • Born April 21, 1933 Jim Harmon. During the Fifties and Sixties, he wrote more than fifty short stories and novelettes for Amazing StoriesFuture Science Fiction, Galaxy Science FictionIfThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and other magazines. Most of his fiction was collected in Harmon’s Galaxy. EoSF says he has one genre novel, The Contested Earth, whereas ISFDB lists two more, Sex Burns Like Fire and The Man Who Made Maniacs. He’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 21, 1939 John Bangsund, 81. Australian fan most active from the Sixties through the Eighties. He was instrumental with Andrew Porter in Australia’s winning the 1975 Aussiecon bid, and he was Toastmaster at the Hugo Award ceremony at that con. His fanzine, Australian Science Fiction Review is credited with reviving Australian Fandom in the Sixties. And he’s the instigator of the term Muphry’s law which states that “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.”
  • Born April 21, 1954 James Morrison, 66. Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius ‘T.C.’ McQueen on the short-lived but much loved Space: Above and Beyond series. Starship Troopers without the politics. He’s got a lot of one-off genre appearances including recently showing up as an Air Force General in Captain Marvel, guesting on the Orville series and being Warden Dwight Murphy on Twin Peaks. 
  • Born April 21, 1965 Fiona Kelleghan, 55. Though an academic to the bone, she has two genre stories “The Secret in the Chest: With Tests, Maps, Mysteries, & Intermittent Discussion Questions” and “The Secret in the Chest”. Of her academic works, I find most fascinating Mike Resnick: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide to His Work and her forthcoming Alfred Bester, Grand Master: An Annotated Bibliography
  • Born April 21, 1971 Michael Turner. Comics artist known for his work on a Tombraider / Witchblade one-off, the Superman/Batman story involving Supergirl, his own Soulfire, and various covers for DC Comics and Marvel Comics. He would die of bone cancer and A Tribute to Michael Turner with writings from people who knew him would feature a cover done by Alex Ross would be released to cover his medical expenses. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 21, 1979 James McAvoy, 41. In the Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune series, he was Duke Leto II Atreides. Later roles included Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men film franchise, Victor Frankensteinin Victor Frankenstein and Bill Denbrough in It – Chapter Two
  • Born April 21, 1980 Hadley Fraser, 40. His first video acting role was as Gareth in the superb Tenth Doctor story, “Army of Ghosts”. He’d later be Chris in The Lost Tribe, a horror film, and play Viscount Raoul de Chagny in The Phantom of The Opera, as well as being being Tarzan’s father in The Legend of Tarzan. And though not even genre adjacent, I’m legally obligated to point out that he showed up as a British military escort in the recent production of Murder on the Orient Express.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FINAL FRONTIERSMAN. The piece by Glen Swanson for The Space Review is about how Gene Roddenberry worked with NASA during the creation of Star Trek: “’Space, the final frontier’: Star Trek and the national space rhetoric of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and NASA”.

… In the October 1956 premiere issue of Missile and Rockets, the publisher wrote, “This is the age of astronautics. This is the beginning of the unfolding of the era of space flight. This is to be the most revealing and the most fascinating age since man first inhabited the earth.”[2]

In the midst of the Cold War, space started to become a real place in popular culture as both fiction and fact began riding on the back of a galloping technology and could not dismount for fear of breaking their necks. Together, they were on a convergent course, and the lines separating fact from fiction became more blurred. Nonfiction books that romanticized humanity’s future in the new frontier of space started to borrow the look and feel of many of the popular pulps.

This essay attempts to explore the origins of some of the national space rhetoric that appeared during the Cold War, the way its use in political documents, congressional reports and campaigns tells us something about the self-image of Americans in the early to mid 1960s, and how this rhetoric may have influenced Gene Roddenberry during the creation of his pioneering and highly influential television series Star Trek….

(12) QUESTION REALITY. Camilla Bruce recommends uncanny fiction in “Eight Novels To Make You Question Reality” at CrimeReads. Some books on her list are creepy, others are surreal. One of them is –

Experimental Film by Gemma Files

This novel is about Lois Cairns, a film critic in Toronto who stumbles upon the work of what she believes to be Canada’s first female filmmaker. The latter, Mrs. Whitcomb, mysteriously disappeared in 1918, leaving behind canisters of film containing scenes from the Wendish legend of Lady Midday, a deity who shines so bright that you cannot look upon her face, and who sports a pair of shears sharp enough to cut off heads. The beauty of this novel is how it combines the mundane details of Lois’ life (she has a son with autism) with the more mysterious elements. Like several of the novels on this list, it flitters on the border between psychological thriller and horror, which is my favorite kind of read. 

(13) ZOOM FURNITURE. Nerdbot volunteers “Official Star Wars Backgrounds You Can Use For Your Next Meeting”. There’s a partial gallery at the link. You can check out all the backgrounds to download by clicking here. One example —

(14) ONE MORE STEP. “Facebook bans events that violate social distancing orders”.

Facebook has banned event listings that violate government social distancing policies.

On Monday, the social media giant removed the listing for anti-quarantine protests in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska.

The discussion sparked outrage from some including the son of President Donald Trump who claimed the company’s move violated free speech.

Protests have been planned for across the US calling for the lifting of stay-at-home orders.

Facebook said it consulted with local governments and would only take down events that violated states’ guidelines.

“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook. For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook,” a spokesperson said.

(15) COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU, EVENTUALLY. Yahoo! Entertainment reports “‘Hunger Games’ Director Francis Lawrence Returns for Prequel ‘Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’”.

The movie adaptation of the upcoming “The Hunger Games” prequel book “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” from author Suzanne Collins is a go at Lionsgate, and the creative team from the original films, including director Francis Lawrence, is all returning for the new film, Lionsgate motion picture group chairman Joe Drake announced Tuesday.

Lawrence, who directed “Catching Fire” and both “Mockingjay” films, will direct “The Hunger Games” prequel. Collins will write a treatment based on her upcoming novel, Color Force’s Nina Jacobson is returning to the franchise to produce, and Michael Arndt, who wrote “Catching Fire,” will pen the screenplay.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” takes place 64 years before the original trilogy, during the 10th annual Hunger Games, and will focus on Coriolanus Snow (played by Donald Sutherland in the original franchise) at age 18, years before he would become the tyrannical president of Panem.

(16) A NUMBER ONE NEW RELEASE. Yes, I’d say we’re all surprised to learn Amazon has a category for this —

(17) BARN DOOR. “WHO developing guidance on wet markets” – BBC has the story.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for stricter safety and hygiene standards when wet markets reopen.

And it says governments must rigorously enforce bans on the sale and trade of wildlife for food.

The start of the pandemic was linked to a market in Wuhan, where wildlife was on sale.

Wet markets are common in Asia, Africa and elsewhere, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, poultry, fresh meat, live animals and sometimes wildlife.

The WHO is working with UN bodies to develop guidance on the safe operation of wet markets, which it says are an important source of affordable food and a livelihood for millions of people all over the world.

But in many places, they have been poorly regulated and poorly maintained, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, said in a briefing on Friday.

“WHO’s position is that when these markets are allowed to reopen it should only be on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards,” he said. “Governments must rigorously enforce bans on the sale and trade of wildlife for food.”

And he added: “Because an estimated 70% of all new viruses come from animals, we also work together closely [with the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, of the United Nations] to understand and prevent pathogens crossing from animals to humans.”

(18) DON’T INVITE HIM TO THE PREMIERE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “How I’m Living Now: David Lynch, Director”, Lynch was asked about life in the time of quarantine, both current & possible future projects, and what he thinks about the upcoming movie adaptation of Dune. On that latter:

This week they released a few photos from the new big-screen adaptation of Dune by Denis Villeneuve. Have you seen them? 

I have zero interest in Dune.

Why’s that?

Because it was a heartache for me. It was a failure and I didn’t have final cut. I’ve told this story a billion times. It’s not the film I wanted to make. I like certain parts of it very much — but it was a total failure for me.

You would never see someone else’s adaptation of Dune?

I said I’ve got zero interest.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Mandalorian Theme (Cello Cover)” on YouTube is Nicholas Yee’s adaptation for cello of the theme to The Mandalorian.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit and two stars go to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 8/27/19 Fighting Pixels From The Sky, Fearless Scrolls Who Jump And File

(1) CROWDFUNDING RESNICK’S CARE. A GoFundMe has been launched to “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience”. There has been a strong response — in the first 18 hours, $7,100 of the $15,000 goal has been raised.

This GoFundMe is for writer and editor Mike Resnick, who has won a number of top awards and is known for his “pay it forward” nature in the writing field, ushering more than two dozen embryonic writers into the industry.

Mike unfortunately spent most of the first half of 2019 in the hospital. At the start of the year he fell twice for some (then) unknown reason, the second time being unable to get up. Carol, his wife, had to call 911 and it was determined that he had pneumonia and acute idiopathic pericarditis. In three days he had 30 pounds of fluid drained from around his heart and lungs. Then, a couple of months later, he collapsed again and within 24 hours the hospital had removed his colon (large intestine). Not many seventy-seven-year-olds recover from such serious medical complications, and he is very lucky to be alive and writing today.

Although he is still confined to a wheelchair, Mike has just this month gone back to writing and editing, and his doctors are very pleased with his progress. But he did go more than half of this year without any income, and as you can imagine the hospital bills are many and prohibitively expensive, as well as half a year’s worth of living expenses. He also still needs regular rehabilitation sessions (luckily, from the comfort of his home), and, quite frankly, he needs the assistance of the community of writers and readers he has had the privilege to call his family for more than half a century.

Mike and Carol Resnick would dearly thank anyone who is able to donate towards the medical/economic efforts in helping this Literary Great of the science fiction and fantasy community get back on his feet. Mike has many more books to write and stories to tell, but he can only do it with your help. Thanks again, in advance!

(2) MOVE FAST IF YOU WANT IT. The edition of WOOF assembled at Dublin 2019 is available as a free download for just a few more hours — WOOF44.pdf (30 MB) is available here. (Don’t ask me why it’s going away so soon.)

(3) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 27, 1922 Frank Kelly Freas. I’ve no idea where I first encountered his unique style on a cover of a SF book, but I quickly spotted it everywhere. He had a fifty-year run on Astounding Science Fiction from the early Fifties and through its change to the Analog name — amazing! There doesn’t appear to a decent portfolio of his work. (Died 2005.)
  • Born August 27, 1929 Ira Levin. Author of Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil. (Died 2007.)
  • Born August 27, 1945 Edward Bryant. His only novel was Phoenix Without Ashes which was co-authored with Harlan Ellison and was an adaptation of Ellison’s pilot script for The Starlost. The only short stories of his I’m familiar with are the ones in the Wild Cards anthologies. Phoenix Without Ashes and all of his short stories are available in digital form. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 27, 1947 Barbara Bach, Lady Starkey, 72. She’s best known for her role as the Bond girl Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me.  One of her other genre appearances is in Caveman which her husband Ringo Starr is also in. 
  • Born August 27, 1952 Darrell Schweitzer, 67. Writer, editor, and critic. For his writing, I’d recommend Awaiting Strange Gods: Weird and Lovecraftian Fictions and Tom O’Bedlam’s Night Out and Other Strange ExcursionsThe Robert E. Howard Reader he did is quite excellent as is The Thomas Ligotti Reader. He did a Neil Gaiman as well but not even he can find anything original to say Neil at this point.
  • Born August 27, 1957 Richard Kadrey, 62. I’m admittedly way behind on the Sandman Slim series having only read the first five books. I also enjoyed Metrophage: A Romance of the Future and I’ve got The Grand Dark on my interested in list.
  • Born August 27, 1962 Dean Devlin,  57. His first produced screenplay was Universal Soldier. He was a writer/producer working on Emmerich’s Moon 44. Together they cowrote and produced Stargate, the first movie to have a web site. The team then produced Independence Day,  Godzilla and Independence Day: Resurgence. They’re also credited for creating The Visitor series which lasted 13 episodes as The Triangle, a miniseries which I’ll bet you guess the premise of.
  • Born August 27, 1965Kevin Standlee, 54. He attended his first con in 1984, L.A. Con II. Later he co-chaired the 2002 Worldcon, ConJosé, in San José. One source says he made and participated in amateur Doctor Who films in the late 1980s.
  • Born August 27, 1978 Suranne Jones, 41. Not a long genre performance history but she shows up on the Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures as Mona Lisa. Yes, that Mona Lisa. She’ll be back on Doctor Who in “The Doctor’s Wife”, an Eleventh Doctor story as written by Neil Gaiman. She Idris, a woman hosting the Matrix of the TARDIS.  

(4) IT COULD ALMOST BE A FANZINE TITLE. [Item by John Hertz.] I happened to meet (on paper) Christian Thomasius 1655-1728 and his monthly review 1688-1690, Scherzhafte und ernsthafte, vernünftige und einfältige Gedanken über allerband lustige und nützluche Bücher und Fragen (German: “Jocose and Earnest, Rational and Silly Thoughts on All Kinds of Pleasant and Useful Books and Questions”).  He was at the time professor of natural law at Leipzig (1684-90).  You’ll note his review and his professorship ended in the same year (I’ve also seen 1689 for the end of the review).  He had to leave town.

(5) FORMELY KNOWN AS THE CAMPBELL. The initial response to the renamed Astounding Award for Best New Writer is largely positive. The comments in the announcement include expressions of approval by John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Nalo Hopkinson. There are posts elsewhere by John Scalzi and David Versace.

The Twitter response runs the gamut, for example:

(6) #METOO7. “Can Daniel Craig complete his biggest mission – modernising James Bond?”

The title of the next James Bond film was announced earlier this week. No Time To Die will see Daniel Craig return as 007 for the fifth time, but there’s little to suggest it will be business as usual.

It’s not just saving the world that will be on his mind for the 25th official film in the series – he’s also on a mission to catch up with the 21st Century. Speaking at the film’s launch in April, Craig promised the film would reflect changing attitudes, recognising Bond as a “flawed” character with “issues… worth exploring and grappling with”.

“Bond has always adapted for the times… We wouldn’t be movie makers or creative people if we didn’t have an eye on what was going on in the outside world.”

So how might the suave secret agent have to change, and can he do so without losing the essence of James Bond?

…Attitudes elsewhere in society are evolving – in many quarters at least – and producer Barbara Broccoli has said the new film “should reflect” the “huge impact” of the #MeToo movement.

Recruiting Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge to the writing team reflects this mission.

As only the second female writer in the franchise’s history, she plans to make Bond women “feel like real people”. For Sturges, this means allowing the women of the Craig era to become more than tokenistic “two-dimensional challengers” to Bond’s machismo.

(7) EXPATRIATE CHINESE WRITER CHARGED. BBC reports “China Arrests Australian Writer On Espionage Charges”.

A Chinese-born Australian writer detained for months in China has been formally arrested on charges of espionage, officials in Canberra confirmed on Tuesday.

Yang Hengjun, a former Chinese diplomat who reportedly became an Australian citizen in 2002 but retains a Chinese passport, has also lived and worked in the United States.

He is the author of three spy novels set in China, according to Reuters. In the past, he has written voluminously on his blog about the rule of law, democracy and human rights, according to news.com.au. However, according to Reuters, in recent years, he has stayed away from sensitive topics and concentrated instead on running an import-export business.

(8) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “‘Rosalind Franklin’ Mars rover assembly completed” – that’s BBC’s text story; sped-up video of final stages is here.

Assembly of the rover Europe and Russia plan to send to the Red Planet next year is complete.

Engineers at Airbus in Stevenage, UK, displayed the finished vehicle on Tuesday ahead of its shipment to France for testing.

Called “Rosalind Franklin” after the British DNA pioneer, the six-wheeled robot will search for life on Mars.

It has a drill to burrow 2m below ground to try to detect the presence of microbes, either living or fossilised.

The project is a joint endeavour of the European and Russian space agencies (Esa and Roscosmos), with input from the Canadians and the US.

(9) BRANDING. Brian Niemeier explains why he avoids online drama. (You didn’t know that, did you?) Thread starts here.

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Rabbit on the Animate Projects Archive, Run Wrake explains the bad things that happen when two children kill a rabbit.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Michael A. Rothman, Juli Marr, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Juli Marr, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/6/19 Pixel First, Fix It In The Scroll

(1) DELANY ABOUT STONEWALL. Much about the country’s sexual history and his own informs “Stonewall, Before and After: An Interview with Samuel R. Delany” in the LA Review of Books.

…Years later, my mother and the downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Horn, whose kids had also gone to Camp Woodland, were talking about “The Jewel Box Revue,” which had returned to the Apollo Theater at 125th Street in New York. And my mother said, “You know, that’s Mary, that was Mary Davies, who was a counselor up at the summer camp.” And I realized I knew Stormé DeLarverie. And I suddenly realized this is not a person who is far away from me, this is somebody I sat next to on the piano bench, who helped me write a cantata and sat beside me at chorus rehearsal at Woodland — someone who had been very close to me.

Cut to Stonewall.

Stonewall happened when I was 27, so a decade later. And who was the person who was supposed to have thrown the first punch at Stonewall? Stormé DeLarverie!

(2) STAN LEE COMMEMORATIVE. Marvel Toy News doesn’t want you to miss this chance to spend your money: “Hot Toys Stan Lee GOTG Cameo Figure Up for Order!”

Just when it seemed as though the Toy Fair Exclusive Scarlet Spider sixth scale figure was a lock for “Fastest Hot Toys Sell-Out of 2019” after going to Wait List in under 12 hours, Hot Toys dropped a bombshell this week when they revealed an MMS that’s likely to blow poor Scarlet Spider’s sales out of the water! It’s so “out there” that many collectors never even considered it could happen, but the EXCLUSIVE Hot Toys Stan Lee in Spacesuit 1/6 figure is now up for order!

(3) WHERE THE FUR FLIES. Ursula Vernon reporting from the scene at Anthrocon. Thread starts here.

(4) THE GREAT FUR MIGRATION. “The origin of how Pittsburgh and furries fell in love with each other” is a fascinating article in the Pittsburgh City Paper.

…So, Anthrocon left Philadelphia and migrated to Pittsburgh in 2006. If there were any thoughts that the furries made the wrong choice, those were quickly assuaged the first day of the convention that year. People from Downtown restaurants, bars, and hotels all ascended to meet the furries at the convention center. [Sam Conway, the CEO of nonprofit Anthrocon] says they were there to welcome, greet, take pictures with, and even hug some of the furries.

“The city literally and figuratively ran out and gave us a hug,” says Conway.

Conway says Anthrocon and the furries have been in love with Pittsburgh ever since. He has been apologizing to Visit Pittsburgh for the last 14 years, saying he unfairly stereotyped the city of Pittsburgh. But he says that might have actually resonated stronger with furries, who have faced their own damaging stereotypes.

“Maybe that is why it resonated it,” says Conway. “We came here and realized, ‘Look at how wrong we were.’”

The TV coverage of this year’s con includes –

(5) ABOUT FANTASY. Well, when you put it that way —

(6) BERRY HARVEST TIME. John Scalzi probably doesn’t find these experiences funny, yet he is perfectly capable of treating them as the inspiration for amusing posts: “Endgames, Tinkerbell and Happily Ever After”.

In the wake of a recent mild uptick in people being angry at me for existing, a question in email, which I am paraphrasing for brevity:

What do you think these people are hoping for with these posts? What’s their endgame, and how do they think it will affect you?

…In the case of the alt-right dingleberry actively hoping for the collapse of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), which will presumably take me down with it: I think the plan there was reassuring the other dingleberries with whom he corresponds on social media that, yes, indeed, one day my virtue-signaling self will get mine, along with all of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and what a glorious day that will be for them. As this particular alt-right dingleberry self-publishes on Amazon, there’s also the implication that upon the smoking ruins of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and the dessicated bones of all the SJWs that toiled there, will come a new age where these alt-right dingleberries and their work will finally take their rightful place at the top of the science fictional heap, while I and my sort, I don’t know, maybe suck quarters out of vending machines to survive.

In case anybody cares which dingleberry is being discussed, in the Twitter thread version of this post, a redacted tweet could be traced to Brian Niemeier.

(7) SFF DISQUALIFIED AS LITERATURE? A long and interesting study of Ted Chiang’s fiction in the New York Review of Books: “Idea Man”. (Online version is behind a paywall.)

What fiction is made out of is a bit of a mystery, but an old bromide has it that ideas should not be a major component. T.S. Eliot praised Henry James for not having any in his fiction, which seems to accord with James’s own understanding of his work. “Nothing is my last word about anything,” he once wrote to a critic who had upset him by construing a particular portrait in one of his tales as a general statement. Along similar lines, George Orwell praised Charles Dickens for being “a free intelligence” who, in Orwell’s estimation, “has no constructive suggestions, not even a clear grasp of the nature of the society he is attacking, only an emotional perception that something is wrong.” Ideas, by virtue of their abstractness, are deprecated as too smooth and clean, deficient in the loam of contradictory specifics from which rich fiction grows, and the wish to demonstrate an idea is seen as dangerous because it might lead a writer to neaten her picture of the world, and thereby falsify it.

Some kinds of ideas probably should be kept out of literature. It’s understandable, for example, that Orwell dismissed political dogmas as “smelly little orthodoxies,” and that he celebrated Dickens for writing novels that were innocent of them. But does it make sense to exclude ideas drawn from science or math?

The challenge of science fiction is in its embrace of them….

(8) PILGRIMAGE. NPR reminds us that Slaughterhouse-Five  was published 50 years ago.

When it was published 50 years ago, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” was an instant hit, an anti-war novel that was searing, satirical, strange and darkly funny. It revolves around a controversial moment in World War II, the firebombing of Nazi Germany’s loveliest city.

(9) PONSOT OBIT. The late Marie Ponsot is celebrated by Samuel R. Delany:

Marie Ponsot, one of my early mentors, has passed away, well into her 90s. She was 98. She was the dedicatee of my book ABOUT WRITING, and when I was sixteen, she gave me my first hardcover copy of NIGHTWOOD, a book I read more times than any other single novel and taught again and again. 

She was a kind, generous, and wonderful poet. Her first book was True Minds, and her second was Admit Impediment. She was the pocket poet who lived on this side of the country and had known Ferlinghetti in France. Her French was excellent. Her daughter Monique remains my face book friend, and her son Antoine was the dedicatee of my third novel, The Towers of Toron. Sometime later she was the traveling companions of my wife, Marilyn Hacker.

Learn more in the Wikipedia article about her: Marie Ponsot

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 6, 1990Jetsons: The Movie premiered in theatres.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • July 6, 1916 Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit.  After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.)
  • July 6, 1927 Janet Leigh. Certainly best remembered as doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. She would also be in with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, The Fog and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. She’s also in the Night of the Lepus, a very odd 70s SF film. (Died 2004.)
  • July 6, 1945 Rodney Matthews, 74. British illustrator and conceptual designer. Among his many endeavors was one with Michael Moorcock creating a series of 12 large posters that showed scenes from Moorcock’s ‘Eternal Champion’ series. This is turned became the Wizardry and Wild Romance calendar. He also worked work with Gerry Anderson on the Lavender Castle series. 
  • July 6, 1945 Burt Ward, 74. Robin in that Batman series. He reprised the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes , and two recent films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. The latter have the last work done by Adam West before his death. 
  • July 6, 1946 Sylvester Stallone, 73. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the film which was something the second film, which had a perfect Dredd in Keith Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man and him as Sergeant John Spartan were just perfect. 
  • July 6, 1950 John Byrne, 69. A stellar comic book artist and writer. He’s done far too much to detail here so I’ll just single out that he scripted the first four issues of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, was the writer and artist on the excellent Blood of the Demon from 1-17 and responsible for Spider-Man: Chapter One which took a great deal of flak. 
  • July 6, 1980 Eva Green,39. First crosses our paths in Casino Royale asVesper Lynd followed by Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass, and then Angelique Bouchard Collins in Dark Shadows. Ava Lord in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (weird films are those) with a decided move sideways  into being Miss Alma Peregrine for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And she was Colette Marchant in Dumbo. She’s got two series roles to her credit, Morgan Pendragon in Camelot and Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful.

(12) MY ULTIMATE PURPOSE. Seeing this tweet, I’m reminded of Sirens of Titan and how the Tralfamadorians directed the development of humanity simply to produce a needed spare part for a spaceship.

(13) BLIND BARD. Get a head start celebrating Heinlein’s birthday tomorrow by listening to the X-Minus One radio broadcast of “The Green Hills of Earth”:

“The Green Hills Of Earth”. The story of Rhysling, the blind folksinger of the spaceways! Great radio. The script was previously used on “Dimension X” on June 10, 1950 and December 24, 1950. + This is the story of Riesling, the singer of the space ways. Future generations of school children have sung his songs in English, French or German, the language doesn’t matter, but it was an Earth tongue. But the real story of Rhysling is not found in the footnotes of a scholars critique or a publishers biography. It is in the memories of the old time space men the pioneers who pushed the thundering old fashioned rockets to the far strange ports that are our common place heritage – these men know the true story of Rhysling.

(14) AWARD KERFUFFLE. Amanda Marcotte points to Slate’s coverage of the Staunch Book Prize, “Why an Award for Books Without Violence Against Women Is So Controversial”. Thread starts here.

The Slate article begins –

An award exclusively for novels that do not depict violence against women has come under fire for the second year in a row. British author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless launched the Staunch Book Prize in 2018 specifically to recognize thrillers “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.” The prize drew controversy almost as soon as it was announced, with crime writers such as Val McDermid arguing that “not to write about [violence against women] is to pretend it’s not happening,” and CrimeFest, the Bristol-based festival for crime novelists, ultimately withdrawing its support.

Sophie Hannah, who writes psychological thrillers as well as the continuation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, publicly announced that she would ask her publishers not to submit her books for the award. She also made the case in a lengthy Facebook post that the Staunch Book Prize muddies its message by taking an overt stand against one type of violence but not others: “If the Staunch Prize were to be awarded to a book in which a man is murdered, on the other hand, how could we avoid the conclusion that the prize, at worst, approves of this, or, at best, doesn’t disapprove of it all that much?”

(15) YOUR PLASTIC PAL. A BBC video reports “My date with a robot”:

In a place, like Japan, where workers are desperately needed, the government is hoping that robots could be the answer.

Some developers believe that instead of replacing us, robots could help get more people into work. But would you let a robot read you the news, look after your children, or even, take you on a date?

BBC’s Population Reporter Stephanie Hegarty went to Tokyo to meet them.

(16) A THOUSAND EYES. Funny bit about a peacock:

(17) NOT COMPETITION – ENVIRONMENT. “Amazon at 25: The story of a giant”

“There’s no guarantee that Amazon.com can be a successful company. What we’re trying to do is very complicated,” said Jeff Bezos in 1999, just five years after launching the online firm.

That the firm’s founder was so uncertain of its future seems surprising.

Today, 25 years on from when it started, Amazon is one of the most valuable public companies in the world, with Mr Bezos now the world’s richest man, thanks to his invention.

What started as an online book retailer has become a global giant, with membership subscriptions, physical stores, groceries for sale, its own smart devices and a delivery system which can get things to customers in just an hour.

So how has the Amazon empire been built?

(18) COUNTDOWN. BBC takes a look at “Apollo in 50 numbers: the technology”.

The Apollo programme pushed space and computing technology to its limit. Cutting edge at the time, some of the tech used seems alarmingly simple today.

74: Memory (ROM) of Apollo guidance computer, in kilobytes

Computer technology was one of the greatest – and long lasting – achievements of Apollo. From the solid-state microcomputer fitted to the lunar lander, to mighty IBM mainframes, with their flashing lights and banks of magnetic tape.

To navigate the Apollo spacecraft the quarter of a million or so miles to the Moon and then descend to a precise spot on the surface, astronauts used the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC).

Housed in a box around the size of a small suitcase, with a separate display and input panel fitted to the main spacecraft console, it was a masterpiece of miniaturisation.

Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the AGC was filled with thousands of integrated circuits, or silicon chips. Nasa’s order of this new technology led to the rapid expansion of Silicon Valley and accelerated the development of today’s computers.

(19) ON THE MOVE. In “Fairytales of Motion” on Vimeo, Alan Warburton explains how animators, with an emphasis on classic Disney films, use motion in their animation.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/23/17 Appertained Horror

(1) APPROACHES TO MILSF. Greg Hullender’s review of “Infinity Wars, edited by Jonathan Strahan” for Rocket Stack Rank includes this analysis:

Make Love not War

The stories take the following attitudes toward the military:

Hate it. Soldiers are doing evil: 7

Despise it. Soldiers are wasting their lives: 3

Admire/respect it. Soldiers are heroes: 5

All of the recommended stories are from the last group, which is a little odd. It’s perfectly possible to write a great story from an anti-military point of view or with an anti-war message (e.g. Catch 22), but that’s not what we find in this volume. Perhaps it’s just a lot easier to write good military SF if you don’t actually hate the military.

(2) I SCREAM. Freddie In Space and artist Frank Browning invite you to cool down with Ben & Jerry’s Horror Movie Ice Cream flavors. There are over two dozen like this –

(3) LET DARKNESS FALL. Coming October 10 at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination:

The recent solar eclipse transfixed the world. People in the path of totality marveled at the corona and how the air temperature dropped briefly and, in some parts of the country, the cicadas began to sing as if it were night. But the eclipse also offers a world of possibilities for scientific discovery. Jay Pasachoff, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College, joins us at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination to discuss his observations of eclipses–66 solar eclipses, including 34 total solar eclipses–and the NSF and National Geographic supported discoveries these have yielded. Dozens of cameras, including a pair of frame-transfer CCDs, were trained on the corona to isolate the specific emissions of 13-times-ionized iron (“the coronal green line”) and 9-times-ionized iron (“the coronal red line”) at high cadence, to attempt to distinguish among models for how the corona is heated to millions of degrees. Dr. Pasachoff will discuss this work and plans for future total, partial, and annular eclipse observations over the next few years, including the 2023 and 2024 American eclipses.

(4) REFORMAUTOMATION. The Babylon Bee promises “New Martin Luther-Shaped Amazon Echo Will Rudely Answer All Your Theology Questions”.

Dubbed the “Amazon Luther,” the new device is programmed to answer all your theology questions in the Reformer’s trademark aggressive tone and style.

An Amazon rep gave a demo at the press conference announcing the device, showing off some of its dynamic responses:

“Luther, can you tell me about the Pope?”

The Pope is a mere tormentor of conscience. The assembly of his greased and religious crew in praying is altogether like the croaking of frogs, which edifies nothing at all.

“Luther, am I a good person?”

You are a sinner, you’re dead, you’re eaten up with corruption. Every free choice of yours is evil and not good.

“Luther, is Joel Osteen a solid preacher?”

Yes, Joel is an excellent person, as skillful, clever, and versed in Holy Scripture as a cow in a walnut tree or a sow on a harp.

(5) DANIEL OBIT. Actress Jennifer Daniel (1936-2017) died August 16. Her film appearances included the Edgar Wallace Mysteries film series, Gideon’s Way and the Hammer horror films The Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and The Reptile (1966).

(6) WE LIVE IN HIS VISION OF THE FUTURE. The New York Times eulogizes architect Gin Wong, who died September 1: “Gin Wong, Who Designed Futuristic Buildings in Los Angeles, Dies at 94”. He put his creative mark on the city with CBS Television City, the Los Angeles International Airport theme building, and his 1960 design of a Union 76 gas station in Beverly Hills:

— that remains one of his most beloved and enduring. With its red, swooping canopy angling toward the sky, the gas station wed the space age to the mundane task of filling up in a city devoted to cars.

Mr. Wong designed the gas station while working for his former teacher and mentor, William L. Pereira, around the time that he was also credited with creating the startling, spider-like Theme Building at the Los Angeles airport. Writing in The Los Angeles Times in 2010, the critic Bob Pool called the building “part spaceship, part flying saucer” and said that Mr. Wong had “set out to create a futuristic building that would both reflect its relationship with aviation and stand the test of time.”

…While running Mr. Pereira’s company in the late 1960s, Mr. Wong oversaw the design of the Transamerica Pyramid, the striking 853-foot-tall building that pierces the sky in San Francisco.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 23, 1846 — Planet Neptune was discovered.
  • September 23, 1962 The Jetsons aired its very first episode.
  • September 23, 1968 Charly premiered in theaters, based on Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

(8) SFF MADE IT HAPPEN. Lezli Robyn thanks the sff community for donating to her GoFundMe appeal all the money needed for her eye surgery.

I am feeling so very overwhelmed, happy, and so very thankful. Gofundme donators have now raised the entire $8000 needed for a new and 100% successful cross-linking surgery on my eyes to halt the progression of my Keratoconus !!! I would love to thank my family and friends and the many authors, editors, publishers, artists and readers/fans of the sf/fantasy field for amazingly generous donations made to the surprise fundraiser my boss, Shahid Mahmud (who deserves the most thanks!), created to help me raise the money.

I have so many people to thank. I am especially thankful to the readers who donated—the people who, like me, might not have too much to spare, but still donated anyway. Even one of the first fans of my writing, a voracious reader, donated and left such a lovely message on my fundraiser (I’m looking at you, Jo Van Ekeren) that it moved me to tears.

In fact, I have been brought to tears several times over the amazing outpouring of generosity of the donations and the lovely messages written by those who have shared the fundraiser all over the web. And, let me tell you, it’s quite the bittersweet experience for me when I cry. My tears fill in the thinned parts of my corneas that the Keratoconus has eroded over the years, creating a more even, rounded, surface. So even if it was sadness that had caused my tears, for that split second my vision sharpens I experience a moment of wonder and surprise as I see how beautiful and vibrant the world really is, until gravity or the blink of an eye causes the tears to fall to my cheeks.

So, I thank you for the tears; I thank you for your generosity. I have always maintained that the sf/fantasy community operates a lot like a family. It might be a sometimes dysfunctional and controversial family at times, but it is a field notorious for paying it forward to the younger generation. Well, you guys have paid it forward this month to give me sight, in a field I like to think is full of vision for the future, and I can’t show my appreciation enough. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

(9) LAW LAW LAND. A new legal specialty: “An Accident On The Moon, Young Lawyers To The Rescue”.

…Boggs and her two teammates are the North American finalists for this year’s competition, and next week they’ll go up against teams from South Africa, Greece and India for the big prize.

Each team argues both sides of a case set in the future, in space. This year’s case is, in the broadest terms, about a traffic accident on the moon….

Titan believes that Perovsk’s mining operation is releasing pollution and contaminating experiments, so they send a rover to investigate.

“They collide,” says Boggs. “Now everyone’s upset.”

Perovsk sues Titan over the damaged equipment in the International Court of Justice. Titan accuses Perovsk of breaking the law by polluting the moon. It’s unclear who should pay for what, and why. Rovers don’t carry insurance, and there’s a larger question about who has the right to use, or pollute, the moon in the first place.

Boggs says the case exemplifies one of her favorite things about space law: it’s ambiguous.

“It’s sort of hard not to say anything controversial in space law because everyone has a different opinion about what space law should do,” she explains. Space law is largely based on two treaties, the Outer Space Treaty and the moon Agreement, plus more general international law applied to space. But there’s tension within the treaties about what space should be used for.

(10) IT’S GREAT TO BE A GENIUS, OF COURSE. Brian Niemeier, in “The Convergence of Science Fiction”, joined a YouTuber to share his unique insight into sff history.

YouTuber Max Kolbe recently had me on his show to explain how the SJW convergence of tradpub science fiction happened. Max is particularly interested in the sudden shift from stories that took the Christian worldview for granted to overtly atheistic, anti-religious works. We discussed how John W. Campbell ended the reign of the pulps and how the Futurians fomented a Marxist revolution in SF publishing.

The Futurians? So…. The SJW Convergence happened…before World War 2? Before Heinlein published his first story? Before the invention of the paperback? Not just before TOR books was started, but before Tom Doherty enrolled in kindergarten? Talk about reductio ad absurdum….

(11) IN VINO SFF. Paste says “Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary Commemorative Wine Will Be a Thing”.

We’re used to something like a coin, a keychain or at the very least toilet paper as commemorative items—but Square Enix, along with The Wine House in Los Angeles, are taking the more classy route. The two wines offered will be limited edition, one being “a 2016 Château des Bois red wine with hints of strawberry” called “Ifrit Rouge,” named after the classic fire summon from Final Fantasy. Along with Ifrit Rogue will come its counterpart, “Shiva Blanc” (after an ice summon), “a well-balanced 2015 Château des Bois white wine.”

Both bottles will be adorned with a 30th Anniversary logo, and will be packaged in boxes featuring art of the summons the drinks are named after. Of course, you have to be of the legal drinking age of 21 to order these online, with Ifrit Rogue available online here, and Shiva Blanc here. According to The Wine House’s website, these will ship in the beginning of this November to arrive by the end of that month

(12) CLASSICAL AND NEOCLASSICAL TREK. Alex Zalben watches a succession of Star Trek series pilots/first episodes and tweets his judgments. This pair will get you into the thread.

(13) RECALL BOOK WE WILL. If this Saudi artist is never heard from again, you’ll know why:

A social studies textbook in Saudi Arabia was recalled for including a photo depicting a Star Wars character next to a king.

The black and white photo, by Saudi artist Abdullah Al Shehri, features the small, green Jedi Yoda seated next to King Faisal as he signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco in 1945.

…Shehri, a 26-year-old artist who goes by the nickname Shaweesh, created the image as part of a series that inserts pop culture characters into historical photos and learned it had turned up in a textbook through a text from his mother.

“I am the one who designed it, but I am not the one who put it in the book,” he told the New York Times.

Shehri said he decided to insert Yoda into the photo because he reminded him of King Faisal and is the same color as the Saudi flag.

“He was wise and was always strong in his speeches,” he said. “So I found that Yoda was the closest character to the king. And also Yoda and his light saber — it’s all green.”

Sure, absolutely, I don’t doubt it for a moment.

(14) THE WAY THE FUTURE WASN’T. Noah Smith in “What We Didn’t Get” in his blog Noahpinion compares the successful predictions of the cyberpunk era to the failures of 1950s sf writers to adequately foresee the future and concludes that the reason Silver Age writers didn’t adequately predict the future was that “we ran out of theoretical physics, and we ran out of energy.”

If you watch Star Trek or Star Wars, or read any of the innumerable space operas of the mid-20th century, they all depend on a bunch of fancy physics. Faster-than-light travel, artificial gravity, force fields of various kinds. In 1960, that sort of prediction might have made sense. Humanity had just experienced one of the most amazing sequences of physics advancements ever. In the space of a few short decades, humankind discovered relativity and quantum mechanics, invented the nuclear bomb and nuclear power, and created the x-ray, the laser, superconductors, radar and the space program. The early 20th century was really a physics bonanza, driven in large part by advances in fundamental theory. And in the 1950s and 1960s, those advances still seemed to be going strong, with the development of quantum field theories. Then it all came to a halt. After the Standard Model was completed in the 1970s, there were no big breakthroughs in fundamental physics.

(15) THE KID WHO NEVER STOPS INVENTING. Well, that kind of negativity won’t fly with Molly!

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

Pixel Scroll 9/4/17 Little Miss Muffet Sat On A Pixel. Along  Came A Scroll.

(1) YOUR 1962 HUGO WINNERS. The Traveler at Galactic Journey spent Labor Day Weekend in Chicago engaged in fandom’s favorite pastime of complaining about the Hugo winners, like that gosh-darned Heinlein novel, Stranger in a Strange Land: “[Sep. 4, 1962] Differences of opinion (the 1962 Hugo Awards!)”

This line-up shouldn’t shock me, given the pre-convention buzz, and yet it does.  Stranger has gotten a lot of attention, particularly from the mainstream edges of our fandom (probably because it dares to mention sex).  It has also earned its fair share of scorn.  It’s a lousy, preachy book, but if we’re judging by the sales, then it’s won its trophy, fair and square.

He hates Brian Aldiss’ winning works too! (Quick, the fainting cloths!)

I did give a Star to the first story in the Hothouse series, but the quality of the tales went down over the course of the publication.  I understand they were novelized early this year, so Aldiss may get another bite at the apple.  He doesn’t deserve it, though (the reviewer for UK sf digest, New Worlds, agrees with me).

(2) HANDMAID REX. Mari Mancusi saw something strange:

The handmaids were at the DragonCon parade. I’m a little concerned by the look of one of them…

(3) MORE SURPRISES. Here’s Atlanta Loop’s photos of the rest of the parade. Wait a minute – Jane Yolen was there?!?

Literary Guest of Honor and author of “The Devil’s Arithmetic,” Jane Yolen, waves to the crowd as she rides in the annual Dragon Con Parade. Photo: Jonathan Phillips

(4) SORRY, SON. Did you remember Indiana Jones has a son? Me neither. And no need to start remembering — Entertainment Weekly says “Indiana Jones 5 won’t feature Shia LaBeouf’s character”.

Will an Indiana Jones protege soon snatch the iconic wide-brimmed fedora from atop Harrison Ford’s head? Perhaps, but it won’t be Mutt Williams — a.k.a. Indy’s son, Henry Jones III — the character Shia LaBeouf played in 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

“Harrison plays Indiana Jones, that I can certainly say,” screenwriter David Koepp, who has penned a script for the fifth film in the storied Indiana Jones franchise, tells EW. “And the Shia LaBeouf character is not in the film.”

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Chow down on Tortellini Carbonara with James Patrick Kelly” in Episode 46 of Eating the Fantastic.

James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning writer who recently published a career short story retrospective as part of the Centipede Press Masters of Science Fiction series. And had I not been turned down by the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop in 1974, I might have shared a dorm room with him! (But don’t worry. I was accepted in 1979.)

We discussed the reason he needed to attend the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop twice—and why the rules were then changed so no one could do it again, the suggestion Kate Wilhelm made that saved one of his short stories, why his reaction to comics as a kid was “Marvel, yes, DC, feh,” how the science fiction field survived the Cyberpunk/Humanist wars of the ‘80s, why he takes an expansive view of fanfic, how Cory Doctorow inspired him to enter the world of podcasting early, what allows him and frequent collaborator John Kessel to work together so well, his advice for how writing 10 endings to a story in progress will help writers find the right ending, and more.

(6) GEEKWIRE. Frank Catalano returns with the second podcast in his GeekWire special series on science fiction, pop culture and the arts.

This time, I interview SFWA President Cat Rambo about the new game writer’s Nebula Award, consider the importance of awards in a crowd-sourced recommendation landscape, revisit the Puppies controversy in light of last month’s Hugo results (you’ll recall I wrote about the Puppies for GeekWire two years ago), and get some advice for wanna be writers.

The story (focused on the game writing Nebula) with a link to the full podcast is here: “Game writers to be honored with Nebula Award in first for professional science fiction and fantasy org”.

SFWA President Cat Rambo says the organization began admitting game writers as members last year, and announced a Best Game Writing award category for 2018 to cover works published this year.

“I would think that one of the things a Nebula imprimatur would mean for a game is that it is a game that really has some story to it,” Rambo said. “That it’s a game that can achieve that sort of immersive wonderful experience that only text can bring.”

Rambo, a Seattle writer who is in her second term as SFWA president, sat down with GeekWire for this episode of our new podcast series on science fiction, pop culture, and the arts. Rambo has written more than 200 short stories and been nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Her stories are most recently collected in Neither Here Nor There (Hydra House) and Altered America: Steampunk Stories (Plunkett Press)….

Catalano says, “I have to admit, I’m enjoying mining my science fiction writing background. (And I do provide a full disclosure disclaimer early in the podcast interview that I am a former officer of SFWA, and still-active member.)”

(7) NO BUCK ROGERS, NO BUCKS. The iconic sf character is only making money for lawyers right now: “‘Buck Rogers’ Ownership at Center of Coming Trial”. Two rival estates want those bucks for their own.

The lawsuit is between descendants of author Philip Francis Nowlan, who created the fictional space explorer in the 1920s, and descendants of John Flint Dille, whose newspaper company once syndicated a Buck Rogers comic strip. On Friday, a Pennsylvania federal judge wrote the latest chapter in a long-running contest over rights with a decision that sets up a forthcoming trial over ownership….

“Although the question of whether the commercial success of Buck Rogers owes more to John F. Dille or Philip F. Nowlan is surely of great interest to the parties, and to Buck Rogers fans, it is simply irrelevant to the trademark questions that the trier of fact must answer here,” writes the judge.

The first big trademark question is who had priority on “Buck Rogers.” Who came first to claim “Buck Rogers” as their own? Not Nowlan or Dille, but rather their respective trusts. The Dilles no longer have a valid federal registration, so they must establish prior use of the mark in a way sufficiently public to be identifiable in the minds of the public.

Beetlestone writes that “there is a genuine issue as to whether Plaintiff can establish priority of use in the BUCK ROGERS mark. It must be noted that it is not necessary for Plaintiff to trace its claim to the BUCK ROGERS mark back to John F. Dille or Philip F. Nowlan. Instead, Plaintiff need only point to evidence from which a trier of fact could conclude that it developed trademark rights in the mark prior to January 15, 2009.”

That’s the date the Nowlans filed an intent-to-use trademark application.

The judge notes that the Dilles held registrations on “Buck Rogers” in the 1980s and had licensed those rights for games, comics and books.

(8) CANDID GIZZARD. The BBC reports “Scientists have developed a camera that can see through the human body”.

Scientists have developed a camera that can see through the human body.

The device has been designed to help doctors track medical tools, known as endoscopes, during internal examinations.

Until now, medics have had to rely on expensive scans, such as X-rays, to trace their progress.

The new camera works by detecting light sources inside the body, such as the illuminated tip of the endoscope’s long flexible tube.

(9) BREW HAULER. A true fan: “German waiter smashes beer carrying record – again”. Video at the link.

Oliver Struempfel spent months of training to carry as many full one-litre mugs as possible for a distance of 40m.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 4, 1966 – Gene Roddenberry showed Star Trek’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” at Tricon, the Worldcon in Cleveland, OH.
  • September 4, 1975 Space:1999 premiered in the U.S.

(11) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian will remember why he recommended this one in a moment: Speedbump.

(12) SECOND VICTIM IDENTIFIED. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published the name of the second woman injured by chairs thrown from the Atlanta Marriott early Sunday morning during Dragon Con:

Jamie Temple-Thompson Amador, who was dressed as Jessica Rabbit from the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” was rushed to Wellstar Atlanta Medical Hospital, friend Jennifer Matteson told The AJC.

Both women have been released from their hospitals.

Mattheson said she and Amador drove from Louisiana for their first Dragon Con.

All in all, Matteson said their experience was still positive from the “phenomenal” hotel hospitality to the community.

“The love and support from the Dragon Con family is heart warming to say the least,” Matteson said. “We can’t wait to return for an even better experience, and reconnect with our new Atlanta family!”

Jamie Temple-Thompson Amador

(13) DRAGON AWARDS. At Women Write About Comics, Doris V. Sutherland says “2017 Dragon Awards Are No Longer Puppy Awards”. My mileage may vary.

Despite its recent vintage, the Dragon Awards already have a rocky history. Last year, the awards largely reflected the tastes of a very specific voting bloc: namely, supporters of the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies campaigns that formed to counter perceived left-wing bias at Worldcon’s Hugo Awards.

This led to such ludicrous situations as Brian Niemeier, a Puppy-aligned author, campaigning for his little-known space opera Souldancer to be voted into the Best Horror category for tactical reasons — and winning. L. Jagi Lamplighter, who edited Souldancer and became a finalist this year for her YA novel Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamlandacknowledged the Puppies’ influence on the Dragon Awards results in 2016: “Puppy fans were eager to vote in a new award and may have been more vigilant than general fans who didn’t necessarily know about the Dragon Awards ahead of time.” Other authors from the Puppysphere, meanwhile, insisted that the Dragons were evidence of their mass popularity with the wider fandom.

However, it seems the farce of the 2016 Dragon Awards can now be consigned to the dustbin of fandom history. The 2017 Dragons have received a much higher turnout of voters and, all in all, they have done a considerably better job of living up to their stated aim of offering “a true reflection of the works that are genuinely most beloved by the core audience.”

This year, the one victory from the Puppy circles was earned by Larry Correia and John Ringo’s Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge, which won Best Fantasy Novel. Correia was the founder of the Sad Puppies campaign and is almost certainly the most popular author to be aligned with the movement, so his success here should not come as too much of a surprise.

(14) NIEMEIER ON DRAGON AWARDS. It’s kind of like watching a dog take a victory lap with one leg lifted.

(15) LOOK OUT. Kevin Standlee got splashed – uh, with vitriol, that is: “They Doth Protest Too Much Methinks”.

I (probably unwisely) tried to ask some of the people crowing over how the recent Dragon Awards are the Best Awards Evar and that The Hugo Awards are dead, dead, dead because of course the only Real Awards are the Dragons, etc., asking why they thought an award that allowed someone with a bit of internet savvy the ability to vote potentially hundreds of times was a good thing, and the amount of vitriol sent my way was, well, not surprising, really. I’m sort of wondering if these people simply assume that everything is corrupt and everyone is on the take. They assumed, after all, that the Hugo Award results were rigged by a Secret Cabal. They don’t care of their pet system is rigged or flawed, as long as they Get What They Want. It’s sort of like the people who were quoted as saying they didn’t care if the last American Presidential election was corrupted, because Their Guy Won, and that’s all that matters.

(16) BACK FROM HELSINKI. Susanna Shore adds to the legion of Worldcon 75 reports in “My #worldcon75 experience”:

The first panel was called Bad Romance. I’d chosen it because I write romance and I don’t want to write it badly, but also because Max Gladstone was on it. He doesn’t strike me as a romance writer, but I like his Craft Sequence fantasy series and wanted to hear him. He turned out to be worth the queuing.

The panel had a hiccupy start as the chair didn’t show up, but a member of the audience volunteered to moderate. She turned out to be Julia Rios, who had won a Hugo Award the previous night for Uncanny Magazine and had partied till four in the morning, but she still managed to be a great moderator. Not only did she keep the conversation flowing, she also managed to live tweet the panel. As a whole, the panel was good and funny, though I didn’t learn anything I hadn’t known before.

(17) MARVEL’S INHUMANS. Sneak peek.

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

Dragon Con Refuses To Let Authors Withdraw from Dragon Awards

Alison Littlewood has been told by the President of Dragon Con, Pat Henry, that she will not be allowed to withdraw as a nominee of the Dragon Awards. She posted the convention’s answer on her blog in “Another statement regarding the Dragon Awards”.

As stated in my previous post, I have contacted the Dragon Awards administrators to request that my nomination for The Hidden People be withdrawn. The book has been selected as part of a voting slate by a member of the ‘Rabid Puppies’ voting bloc, which I feel may have undue influence over the awards outcome. I have no connection with the Rabid Puppies and have no wish to benefit from any kind of interference in the voting process.

I have today received the following response:

Good morning Ms. Littlewood,

 While I appreciate your sense of fair play, I must decline your request to remove The Hidden People from the Dragon Award Nominations. 

We are aware of the rabid puppies and justice warriors efforts to effect the voting and we go through a number of steps to avoid ballot stuffing or other vote rigging behaviors.  While we didn’t start the Dragon Awards to foil these two groups, we believe that as we add voters, they will become irrelevant in the our awards.

We believe the “people’s choice” approach is a better way to recognize authors and their works.  The Dragon Awards ballot – which consists of works nominated by fans – is a broad representation of the best science fiction and fantasy literature available today.  With 53 novels listed, there is actually something for everybody on this ballot.     

The original purpose of the Dragon Awards was not so much as awards but as a quality reading list.  The cost of reading current material has been rising steadily for years.  Library budgets are not adequate to have all, or even a decent collection of  the type of materials that Dragon Con fans enjoy.

Thank you for your interest in the Dragon Con Awards.  Please do not let Mr. [redacted] ruin for you, the positive reception of your work. 

Pat Henry – President

. . . So there you have it. I tried. I have never heard of any awards keeping writers on the nominees list against their wishes, particularly when those wishes are surely the same as the organisers’ – to ensure that the process goes forward fairly and without interference. However, it seems in this case there is little more I can do.

Jim C. Hines, in his post about the Dragon Awards controversy observed:

Note the false equivalence of rabid puppies, a self-proclaimed group created by Vox Day, with “justice warriors,” generally used as an insult against people speaking up for greater representation and inclusion. The rabid puppy slate was posted on Vox Day’s blog back in June. I’m curious where the equivalent “justice warrior” slate supposedly appeared…

Meantime, Brian Niemeier tweeted a response to Henry’s announcement: “Scalzi is now trapped in here with me”. Scalzi had also announced his withdrawal from the awards.

And another nominee, Castalia House author Benjamin Cheah Kai Wai, has inserted a proscription list in his new post  “Between SocJus and PulpRev at the Dragon Awards”

In addition, I must point out the nominees known to be affiliated with or are social justice warriors….