Pixel Scroll 8/15/20 To Clickfinity And Beyond!

(1) RECONVENE REPORT. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ReCONvene, the one-day virtual con of NESFA, was this afternoon, so I paid my ten dollars and attended via Zoom. 

It was worth devoting much of the afternoon to it for just one conversation, the Worldbuilding in Speculative Fiction panel which had Ellen Kushner as moderator with P. Djèlí Clark, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Carlos Hernandez and, to my utter delight, Aliette de Bodard. I learned much about the writers and their worlds that I didn’t know. Like all items it allowed conversations among the fans as a text feed — I didn’t listen in too very much of that but they were getting a lot of participation. 

Earlier on, Modernizing Fairy Tales and Myths with Adam Stemple as moderator had Victor Lavalle, Seanan McGuire, Catherynne Valente and Rebecca Roanhorse as panelists. Like the other Zoom groups I listened to, it was flawless in its sound and video. Lots of personal ethnic background here as basis for storytelling — most excellent.

The panels were good and they used Discord for follow up chats which I’ll admit I skipped. There was a tour of the art show which is less interesting than being there, but the writers were the reason to be there and they even did Kaffeeklatsches, solo conversations with authors, so I listened to Justina Ireland who I was hearing of for the first time and turned out to be fascinating.

All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. If Boskone is virtual next February (and I wouldn’t count against it being so), I’ll certainly pay for a virtual membership based on his trial run which was organized well and easy to use.  

(2) THE ANSWER. Robert J. Sawyer has a piece in The Star today: “Robert J. Sawyer: We’re all living in a science-fiction novel now”.

As soon as Toronto let customers eat on restaurant patios again, I made a beeline for Orwell’s Pub — best dang chicken wings in the city. The indoor restaurant was closed, and Chris, the guy who usually tends bar, was serving. When he came by my table, he quipped, “Seems like we’re all living in a Robert J. Sawyer novel now.”

I was surprised he knew who I was. Despite Orwell’s being a cosy “Cheers”-style “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” place, as a non-drinker, I’m usually invisible to bartenders. But Chris was right: we are living in a science-fiction novel now, and a dystopian one at that.

Since my latest novel, “The Oppenheimer Alternative,” is about the Manhattan Project, I often get asked what should be the next big-science undertaking with an all-but-unlimited budget bringing together our brightest minds.

My answer: developing a general antiviral technique, rather than an endless succession of vaccines targeting one, and only one, specific virus. The old method is why our annual flu shots are sometimes ineffective; we’d guessed wrong about which strain of flu would become prevalent. It’s also why we’ve never had a vaccine against the common cold, which is caused by a vast, ever-mutating range of coronaviruses.

Viruses aren’t even alive. They’re just bits of genetic code encased in a protein shell, sometimes (as with the novel coronavirus plaguing us now) slicked down with a fatty coating. And that’s it.

(3) FREEDOM AT MIDNGHT. Somtow Sucharitkul will give away free eBook versions of three of his YA novels from August 17-19, starting at midnight Pacific time.

(4) FUTURE FREE READS. Ellen Datlow told HWA today about the dark fantasy reading coming out for free on the Tor.com website in the next few weeks:

  • “Wait for Night” by Stephen Graham Jones, a horror story -September 2 (which is when his novella Night Of The Mannequins will also be out).
  • “The Little Witch” by M. Rickert, a dark fantasy novelette-October 28
  • “On Safari in R’lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera” by Elizabeth Bear, a dark fantasy novelette-November 18

(5) THE REINVENTED COUNTRY. “HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism” – an NPR Morning Edition transcript.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Here’s the thing about being a Black nerd who loves science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories. Often, you wind up admiring work created to glorify people who are the exact opposite of you. That’s something the aptly-named bookworm Atticus Freeman tries to explain while telling a female friend about the latest novel he was reading on a long bus ride, the 1912 book “A Princess Of Mars” and its star, planet-jumping hero John Carter.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You said the hero was a Confederate officer.

JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Ex-Confederate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) He fought for slavery. You don’t get to put a ex in front of that.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Stories are like people. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.

DEGGANS: That could be something of a mission statement for the “Lovecraft Country,” a series based on the recent novel of the same name. The book and series reference the work of renowned horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, known to have racist views about African Americans. The show compares the work of Lovecraftian (ph) supernatural beings which could have sprung from his books to the racism Black people faced in 1950s-era America.

Atticus Freeman, played by “Da 5 Bloods” costar Jonathan Majors, is a Korean War veteran who returns home to find his missing father. Before long, he’s enlisted help from his Uncle George, played by Courtney B. Vance, and his friend Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett. They must travel across the country from Chicago to follow a clue. And along the way, they run into a not-too-helpful police officer who informs them Black people aren’t allowed in the area after dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

JAMIE HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Any of y’all know what a sundown town is?

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Yes, sir. We do.

HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Well, this is a sundown county. If I’d have found you after dark, it would have been my sworn duty to hang every single one of you from them trees.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) It’s not sundown yet.

DEGGANS: But when the police officer and his buddies try to lynch the trio, everyone is attacked by huge, teethy, flesh-eating monsters who chase them into a cabin. Uncle George, who’s just as much of a bookworm as Atticus, has an idea of what they might be facing.

…At a time when the world is still reeling from seeing a Black man die with a white policeman’s knee on his neck, there is no better moment for HBO’s gripping “Lovecraft Country” to reinvent a supernatural tale.

(6) FLOURISHNG MAGIC. Rebecca Roanhorse tells the New York Times: “‘We’ve Already Survived an Apocalypse’: Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi”. Tagline: “Long underrepresented in genre fiction, Native American and First Nations authors are reshaping its otherworldly (but still often Eurocentric) worlds.”

When Cherie Dimaline was growing up near Penetanguishene, a small town on the Georgian Bay in Ontario, her grandmother and great-aunts told her stories about a werewolf-like monster called the rogarou. It wasn’t spoken of as a mythical creature but as an actual threat, the embodiment of danger in a place where Indigenous women face heightened risk of violence.

“This wasn’t like, here’s a metaphor,” she said. “They would say, ‘The rogarou’s out, and he’s really hungry.’”

Decades later, Dimaline, a member of the Métis Nation in Canada, was working on a novel about a woman whose missing husband reappears with no memory of her, seemingly under a spell. She needed a charismatic villain, and when the rogarou — a wily trickster figure in Métis oral traditions — popped into her head, she realized the creature had never been given its due in popular culture.

That flash of inspiration turned into “Empire of Wild,” a genre-bending novel whose modern Indigenous characters confront environmental degradation, discrimination and the threat of cultural erasure, all while battling a devious monster….

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you all will accept his invitation to polish off prawn pizza with Stephen Dedman on Episode 125 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This episode I have breakfast while Australian writer Stephen Dedman has dinner 12 hours in my future.

Stephen has published more than 100 short stories, some of which I was privileged to publish back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine. You can find many of those stories in his collections The Lady of Situations (1999) and Never Seen by Waking Eyes (2005). His novels, which include The Art of Arrow Cutting (1997), Foreign Bodies (1999), Shadows Bite (2001), and others, have been Bram Stoker, Aurealis, William L. Crawford, and Ditmar Award nominees. He’s also written role-playing games, stageplays, erotica, and westerns. And he at one time worked as a “used dinosaur parts salesman,” a job which had me extremely curious — and as you listen to us chat and chew, you’ll find out all about it.

We discussed how the Apollo 11 moon landing introduced him to science fiction, what his father told him which changed his plan to become a cartoonist, the huge difference the Internet made in the lives of Australian writers, his creative trick for getting his first poem published, what acting taught him about being funny in the midst of tragedy, his former job as a used dinosaur parts salesman, the way page one tells him whether he’s got a short story or novel idea, how Harlan Ellison became the first American editor to buy one of his stories, and much more.

(8) MIND’S EYE. At LitHub, Kathleen Rooney discusses “How Fiction Allows Us to Inhabit Animal Consciousness”.

For centuries, human thinking—at least in the West—has been dominated by the notion, said to have originated with Aristotle, of the Scala Naturae, or the Ladder of Life. Also known as the Great Chain of Being, this concept establishes a hierarchy in which all life forms can be arranged in ascending degrees of perfection with humans, conveniently, at the topmost rung. Even after Darwin came along and replaced this model with his considerably less vertical Tree of Life, the idea of the human mind as the apex of biological consciousness has persisted.

Increasingly, in the face of climate catastrophe, more humans are beginning to question their hubris. In the introduction to their 2017 book Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, the editors note: “Some scientists argue that the rate of biological extinction is now several hundred times beyond its historical levels. We might lose a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.” This, the arguable point of no return, affords a chance to examine the received belief in human exceptionalism. Science writing in particular and nonfiction in general have much to say regarding the similarities between human and non-human minds, but fiction offers opportunities to explore this interconnectedness as well. After all, if fiction has the power to show us another individual’s private and interior uniqueness, then why not depict animals possessing such interiority?

(9) YOU KNOW IT IN YOUR BONES. Skeleton Hour is a new monthly horror literature webinar series presented as an Horror Writers Association event in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.

Each panel will be an hour long and bring together 3-5 authors to discuss a specific topic in horror with a moderator guiding the discussion. Panels will take place on Zoom, with the audience able to ask questions in the chat window. The series launches Friday, August 28th, with the first panel focused on 70s-90s throwback horror including authors of novellas from the Rewind or Die series published by Unnerving Press: Mackenzie Kiera, Stephen Graham Jones, Lisa Quigley, and Jessica Guess, as well as noted subject matter expert Grady Hendrix!

Register for the Zoom webinar here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2C6hfS-ARoGvvNontWmiqg. The event will also be live streamed by HWA on Facebook and YouTube.

(10) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Be sure to consult NASA’s Guide to Near-light-speed Travel before blasting off.

So, you’ve just put the finishing touches on upgrades to your spaceship, and now it can fly at almost the speed of light. We’re not quite sure how you pulled it off, but congratulations! Before you fly off on your next vacation, however, watch this handy video to learn more about near-light-speed safety considerations, travel times, and distances between some popular destinations around the universe.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 15, 1984 The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension premiered. Directed by and produced by W.D. Richter (with co-production by Neil Canton), the screenplay was by Earl Mac Rauch who did nothing else of a genre nature. Primary cast was Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd. Initial critical response was generally negative with a few claiming the script was unintelligible. More than one said it was too hip for its good. No, it didn’t do well at the box office but has since become a cult film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent 70% rating. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 15, 1771 – Sir Walter Scott, Bt.  Lawyer, reviewer, antiquarian, poet, novelist; in the last three, fantastic elements recur; in the last two, by his doing; his reputation has soared, fallen, soared again.  He may yet prove timeless.  He wrote “Breathes there the man with soul so dead” and “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive!”  RossiniDonizettiSchubertBeethoven set his words to music.  His baronetcy became extinct upon the death of his son.  (Died 1832) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1907 – Jack Snow. Wrote Who’s Who in Oz (1954), rightly praised by Anthony Boucher (“Recommended Reading”, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar 55).  By then JS had written two Oz novels of his own, five darker short stories for Weird Tales.  When Frank Baum, the first and arguably best Oztorian, died in 1919, JS offered to succeed him – age 12; he was turned down.  Matching or at least harmonizing with Baum’s style has been elusive ever since; Who’s Who which could neither treat at length nor argue is masterly, as Boucher noted.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1917 John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for TexansHunter PatrolCrisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1933 – Bjo Trimble, 86.  (There should be a circumflex over the j, an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”, but the software won’t allow it.)  Omnifan preceding Bruce Pelz.  Her vitality and wit sparked LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) out of a slump, authored SF con Art Shows (for which she still refuses credit), led a letter-writing campaign that saved Star Trek from being scrapped (see On the Good Ship “Enterprise”), flourished in fanart, concocted cons and costumes.  Received the Big Heart (our highest service award) in 1964, possibly the youngest ever; Inkpot, 1974 (its first year); Fan Guest of Honor at Dragon*Con 1995 the 6th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  She and husband John have the Life Achievement Award from the Int’l Costumers Guild.  They were early Baroness and Baron in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she has the Order of the Laurel (arts & sciences), both the Order of the Pelican (service).  Together co-chaired Westercon 23; were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJosé the 60th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1934 – Darrell K. Sweet.  Three hundred fifty covers for us, seventy-five interiors; perhaps 3,000 images all told.  Here is Space Cadet.  Here is Beyond the Blue Event Horizon.  Here is The Dictionary of SF Places.  Here is The Eye of the World.  Here is “The Gap Dragon and Princess Ivy”.  Artbook, Beyond Fantasy.  Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Tuckercon the 9th NASFiC; World Fantasy Con 2010; LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon which had to celebrate him posthumously.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 77. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Did 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1952 – Louise Marley, 68.  A score of novels (some under other names) including both a Glass Harmonica and a Mozart’s Blood, as many shorter stories.  Interviewed in FantasyLocusStrange HorizonsTalebones.  Two Endeavour Awards (note spelling; named for Captain Cook’s ship).  Before authoring, sang with the Seattle Opera.  See this autobiographical note.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1958 Stephen Haffner,  62. Proprietor of Haffner Press which appears to be largely a mystery and genre reprint endeavor though he’s published such original anthologies as Edmond Hamilton & Leigh Brackett Day, October 16, 2010 and the non-fiction work Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship which he did with Patric Caldwell. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1964 – Carla Sinclair, 56.  Editor of Net Chick.  Author of Signal to Noise.  Co-founder of bOING bOING.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 48. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best know role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on the  2013 Star Trek into Darkness where he was the surviving sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. (CE)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SETTING DOWN THE S.H.I.E.L.D. “‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Behind the Scenes of the Emotional Series Finale” – a New York Times Q&A with showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.

…The resulting series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” went on to have a successful seven-season run on ABC, which ended Wednesday with a complex two-hour series finale. That didn’t seem especially likely after its rough debut in 2013. Some critics wanted flashier connections to Marvel cinema — where was Iron Man? — and the show had to operate in the shadow of the movies: The existence of magic couldn’t be acknowledged until it was first revealed by the 2016 film “Doctor Strange” first; “life-model decoys,” a kind of android, weren’t permissible until an android character appeared in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

But about halfway through its run, the show began reinventing itself, with characters ping-ponging through space, time and alternative realities. Once the writers freed themselves of the timeline and narrative restraints established by the movies (and even ignored a few), the series started to soar.

“We could just make up our own stories,” said Jed Whedon. “It was liberating.”

In the final season, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hopped around different decades, with a pit stop in the 1980s that provided pure pop-geek joy. (Agent Coulson as Max Headroom? Check.)

But the show never lost its emotional core: the relationship between Agents Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), who crossed the galaxy more than once to be together, only to be repeatedly pulled apart. In the finale, they reunited, as Fitz helped the ragtag team save both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Earth from a takeover by an alien android race.

(15) IT ONLY MAKES HIM MAD. “Bald Eagle Sends Government Drone Into Lake Michigan” reports the New York Times.

… A squabble in the sky over Lake Michigan left one bald eagle victorious and one government drone mangled and sunken.

Hunter King, a drone pilot at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, was surveying an area of the lake near the state’s Upper Peninsula last month when the drone started “twirling furiously” after it indicated that a propeller had been torn off.

“When he looked up, the drone was gone, and an eagle was flying away,” said the department, whose name is abbreviated E.G.L.E.

A couple who regularly spends time watching eagles go after sea gulls in the area witnessed the battle but were surprised when they learned that it was a drone that had been downed in the fight, the department said….

The department speculated that the eagle could have attacked because of a territorial dispute, because it was hungry “or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled.”

(16) THE WORM TURNS. NPR asks“Could Giving Kids A 50-Cent Pill Massively Boost Their Income Years Later?”

It’s one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.

To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.

It was the mid-1990s and Kremer was visiting Kenya. “I mean I was on vacation. I wasn’t there for a research trip or something,” he recalls.

Kremer, who had spent a year after college teaching at a school in Kenya, decided to look up a friend from that project. And at their get-together, the friend mentioned to Kremer that he was about to start a new aid program to help elementary school children — including by giving them deworming pills.

The parasites aren’t just bad for kids’ health. They can make a child too listless to pay proper attention in school or so sick she misses many school days.

Kremer, who had recently gotten his doctorate in economics, says he was struck by an idea: “I suggested that if he chose twice as many schools and then they initially started working in half of them and then later expanded [the deworming to the other half], I could measure the impact of what they were doing.”

…The experiment, which involved about 32,000 children, also turned deworming into a popular form of aid. That’s because the first set of results, released in 2004 by Kremer and a collaborator, Edward Miguel of University of California, Berkeley, showed that giving the kids the pills reduced absenteeism and dropping out of elementary school by a fourth — from 28% to 21%.

(17) WE INTERRUPT THIS DESSERT. Serious Eats reminds people of “The History of Astronaut Ice Cream”.

There may be no novelty sweet more polarizing than astronaut ice cream. Those who adore it praise its light, crunchy texture, and a flavor that is still unmistakably creamy and sweet. Its detractors will say biting into it is akin to chomping down on a piece of chalk: powdery and unnatural. And for those who have never tried it, the entire concept of eating ice cream stripped of all liquid may seem downright bizarre. But even though so-called astronaut (or to be more precise, freeze-dried) ice cream isn’t the most popular of novelty treats, its longevity proves that it has found a small, but fiercely loyal fan base.

Even its creator has been a little surprised at the product’s staying power….

[Thanks to amk, Andrew “Eagle Eye” Porter, Somtow Sucharitkul, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Dan Bloch, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/16 In A Scroll On The Web There Lived A Pixel

(1) FURTHER DISCOVERIES. Two more Star Trek: Discovery cast members have been announced reports Variety.

Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp have joined Michelle Yeoh as the first official cast members of “Star Trek: Discovery.”

Jones will play Lt. Saru, a Starfleet science officer and a member of an alien species new to the “Star Trek” universe. Anthony Rapp will play Lt. Stamets, an astromycologist, fungus expert, and Starfleet science officer aboard the starship Discovery. Yeoh, whose addition to the cast was reported last week by Variety, will play Captain Georgiou, the Starfleet captain aboard the starship Shenzhou.

(2) IT IS WHAT IT AINT. Mike Resnick, in “What Science Fiction Isn’t”, says the history of science fiction is littered with discarded definitions of the genre. The creator of the field, Gernsback, SFWA founder Damon Knight, critic James Blish, all were sure somebody else was doing it wrong.

And what’s driving the purists crazy these days? Just look around you.

Connie Willis can win a Hugo with a story about a girl of the future who wants to have a menstrual period when women no longer have them.

David Gerrold can win a Hugo with a story about an adopted child who claims to be a Martian, and the story never tells you if he is or not.

I can win Hugos with stories about books remembered from childhood, about Africans who wish to go back to the Good Old Days, about an alien tour guide in a thinly-disguised Egypt.

The narrow-minded purists to the contrary, there is nothing the field of science fiction can’t accommodate, no subject – even the crucifixion, as Mike Moorcock’s Nebula winner, “Behold the Man”, proves – that can’t be science-fictionalized with taste, skill and quality.

I expect movie fans, making lists of their favorite science fiction films, to omit Dr. Strangelove and Charly, because they’ve been conditioned by Roddenbury and Lucas to look for the Roddenbury/Lucas tropes of movie science fiction – spaceships, zap guns, cute robots, light sabres, and so on.

But written science fiction has never allowed itself to be limited by any straitjacket. Which is probably what I love most about it….

(3) A PRETTY, PREDICTABLE MOVIE. Abigail Nussbaum’s ”(Not So) Recent Movie Roundup Number 22” includes her final verdict on Doctor Strange.

Marvel’s latest standalone movie has a great opening scene, and a final battle that toys with some really interesting ideas, finally upending a lot of the conventions of this increasingly formulaic filmic universe.  In between these two bookends, however, there’s an origin story so tediously familiar, so derivative and by-the-numbers, that by the time I got to Doctor Strange‘s relatively out-there conclusion, all I wanted was for the thing to end.  As noted by all of its reviewers, the film is very pretty, positing a society of sorcerers who fight by shaping the very fabric of reality, causing geography and gravity to bend in on themselves in inventive, trippy ways.  The film’s opening scene, in which bad guy Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and Dumbledore-figure The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) stage such a battle in the streets of London, turning buildings and roads into a kaleidoscope image, is genuinely exciting.  For a brief time, you think that Marvel might actually be trying something new. Then the story proper starts, and a familiar ennui sets in….

(4) THE CASH REGISTER IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD, Fanartists have been doing this all along – so Mr Men thought to himself, “I should get paid!” — “Mr Men to release a series of Doctor Who themed books”.

dr-twelfth

In a fun new partnership, BBC Worldwide and Mr Men publishers Sanrio Global have got together to create a series of Mr Men books based on each of the 12 Doctors….

The books be published by Penguin Random House and will combine “the iconic storytelling of Doctor Who” with the Mr Men’s “whimsical humour and design”.

And, of course, there will also be a series of related merchandise released to coincide with the first four books’ release in spring 2017.

They will follow stories based on the First, Fourth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, played by William Hartnell (1963-1966), Tom Baker (1974-1981), Matt Smith (2010-2013) and Peter Capaldi (2013-present). The remaining Doctors’ stories will follow on an as-yet unconfirmed date.

(5) NORTHERN FLIGHTS. Talking Points Memo says the Internet is fleeing to Canada. Well, okay, I exaggerated….

The Internet Archive, a digital library non-profit group that stores online copies of webpages, e-books, political advertisements and other media for public record, is fundraising to store a copy of all of its contents in Canada after Donald Trump’s election to the presidency.

Five hundred years from now will somebody be writing “How the Canadians Saved Civilization” like that book about the Irish?

(6) STOP IT OR YOU’LL GO BLIND. Gizmodo found out “Why Spaceflight Ruins Your Eyesight”

Astronauts who return to Earth after long-duration space missions suffer from untreatable nearsightedness. Scientists have now isolated the cause, but finding a solution to the problem will prove easier said than done.

The problem, say researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has to do with volume changes in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) found around the brain and spinal cord. Prolonged exposure to microgravity triggers a build-up of this fluid, causing the astronauts’ eyeballs to flatten, which can lead to myopia. A build-up of CSF also causes astronauts’ optic nerves to stick out, which is also not good, as the optic nerve sends signals to the brain from the retina. This is causing nearsightedness among long-duration astronauts, and it’s problem with no clear solution in sight (so to speak).

(7) APPLAUSE. Congratulations to JJ – her post about Walter Jon Williams’ Praxis series got a shout-out in Tor.com’s newsletter —

Your Praxis Primer Impersonations is the latest book in Nebula Award winning author Walter Jon Williams’ Praxis series, a standalone story that fits into the bigger arc of Williams’ ongoing space opera adventure. For a helpful rundown on the series, check out this guide to the Praxis universe, with links to excerpts for each installment! If you enjoy fast-paced, fun military science fiction like David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, pick up Impersonations, or start with The Praxis: Dread Empire’s Fall, the first book in the series.

(8) CARTER OBIT. Author Paul Carter has died at the age of 90 reports Gregory Benford. “I wrote a novella with him about Pluto and had many fine discussions at the Eaton and other conferences. A fine man, historian, fan.”

David Weber in his introduction to The Year’s Best Military SF & Space Opera (2015) credited C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner’s “Clash by Night” (Astounding, March 1943) and Paul Carter’s “The Last Objective” (Astounding, August 1946) as two of the earliest examples of military science fiction (by which he means something a bit more cerebral than all the space opera that preceded them):

The Last Objective by Paul Carter appeared in 1946, but Carter wrote the story while he was still in the Navy; his commanding officer had to approve it before it could be sent to Astounding. It’s just as good as [Moore & Kuttner’s] Rocketeers, but it’s different in every other fashion.

Carter describes wholly militarized societies and a war which won’t end until every human being is dead. Rather than viewing this world clinically from the outside, Carter focuses on  a single ship and the varied personalities who make up its crew. (The vessel is tunnelling through the continental plate rather than floating on the sea, but in story terms that’s a distinction without a difference.)

Carter is pretty sure that his CO didn’t actually read the story before approving it. My experience with military officers leads me to believe that he’s right, though it’s also possible that his CO simply didn’t understand the story’s horrific implications.

Carter also wrote a book about sf history. The Science Fiction Encyclopedia says his The Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction (anth 1977) “demonstrated an intimate and sophisticated knowledge of the field.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 29, 1948 — Kukla, Fran and Ollie debuted on television. (And a couple of years later, my father worked as a cameraman on the show)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 29, 1898 – C. S. Lewis

(11) HINES AUCTIONS KRITZER CRITIQUE. In the fourth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions, the item up for bid is a story critique from award-winning author Naomi Kritzer.

Attention writers: Today’s auction is for a critique of a short story, up to 7500 words, by Hugo award-winning author Naomi Kritzer.

Kritzer has been writing and selling her short fiction since before the turn of the century, and she’ll use that experience and expertise to help you improve your own story.

Disclaimer: Winning this auction does not guarantee you’ll win a Hugo award — but you never know, right?

(12) WE INTERRUPT THIS NOVEL. George R.R. Martin will attend a book fair in Mexico. Then he’s going to finish Winds.

My first real visit to Mexico starts tomorrow, when I jet down to Guadalajara for the Guadalajara International Book Fair: https://www.fil.com.mx/ingles/i_info/i_info_fil.asp I’m one of the guests at the conference. I’ll be doing interviews, a press conference, a live streaming event, and a signing. I expect I will be doing some tequila tasting as well. I am informed that Guadalajara is the tequila capital of Mexico. I am looking forward to meeting my Mexican publishers, editors, and fans. This is my last scheduled event for 2016. My appearance schedule for 2017 is very limited, and will remain so until WINDS is completed. So if you want to meet me or get a book signed, this will be the last chance for a good few months…

(13) THEIR TRASH IS HIS TREASURE. Artist Dave Pollot’s business is improving old, clichéd, mundane art prints and selling them to fans through his Etsy store:

holy-seagulls-batman

This is a print of repurposed thrift store art that I’ve painted parodies of Batman and Robin into….

The Process: This is a print of one of my repurposed paintings. I find discarded prints and paintings (ones you may have inherited from great grandma and brought to your local donation bin), and make additions. Sometimes I paint monsters, other times zombies, and most times some pop culture reference- Star Wars, Futurama, Ghostbusters, Mario Brothers…the list goes on. I use oil paints and do my best to match the style of the original artist. My hope is to take these out of the trash can and into a good home; full-circle- from a print that proudly hung on your Grandma’s wall, to a print that proudly hangs on yours.

(14) BANZAI LAWYERS. SciFiStorm reduces the bad news to basics: “MGM sues Buckaroo Banzai creators over rights; Kevin Smith exits project”.

Let me see if I can sum this up, as it seems a lot has happened very rapidly…MGM and Amazon struck a deal to develop a series based on the 1984 film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and signed on Kevin Smith, the creator of Clerks and all the other Jay and Silent Bob movies and the guy I’d most like to just hang out and have a beer with, as the showrunner. But original writer Earl Mac Rauch and director Walter D. Richter claim they have the rights to a TV series. So MGM preemptively filed a lawsuit to have a court to seek declaration of the rights.

Telling fans in a Facebook video…that the lawsuit was “news to me,” Smith announced that he has dropped out of the project.

(15) PLAQUE. Gregory Benford sent along a photo of the plaque he received as a Forry Award winner last weekend at Loscon.

forry-award-min

(16) TREE FULL OF TENTACLES.  Archie McPhee is working desperately hard to sell you this seasonal abomination:

While her Cthulhumas Wreath Creature guards the entrance to the house, this year there’s a bright red Cthulhumas tree watching everyone and everything and it never, ever sleeps.

‘Twas a week before Cthulhumas, when all through the house every creature was trembling, in fact so was the house. Not one stocking had been hung by the chimney this year, for fear that Dread Cthulhu was already near.

The cats were nestled all snug in their beds, completely indifferent to our cosmic dread. And mamma in her robes and I in my mask, had just steadied our minds for our infernal task, when from deep in the basement there arose such a din, at last we knew the ritual was soon to begin.

Down to the cellar I flew like a flash, lit all the candles and sprinkled the ash. Light on the altar came from no obvious point, it soon became clear time was all out of joint.

When what to my cursed bleeding eyes did appear, but a fathomless void, then I felt only fear. With a wriggle of tentacles and shiver of dread, I knew in a moment I was out of my head.

Then a nightmarish god, with his eight mewling young, burst forth from the dark and shrieked, “Our reign has begun!“

christas-cthulhu

(17) SPEED TYPIST. Just the other day File 770 lined to a clip from Chris Hardwick’s Almost Midnight all about Chuck Tingle.

Looks like it took no time at all for Tingle to write a book commemorating the occasion: Hard For Hardwick: Pounded In The Butt By The Physical Manifestation Of My own Handsome Late Night Comedy Show.

tingle-hard-for-hardwick

(18) ONE STAR REVIEWS. One-star reviews were a weapon used by some in last year’s literary fracas, though never with any sense of humor. But a Chicago Cubs blogger just put out a book about their World Series season — and it is getting the funniest bunch of one-star reviews I’ve ever read. Read this sample and it will be easy to guess why the author received such a hostile reception….

I know this author from the Internet. He runs a website and routinely posts opinions and people comment on those opinions.

Ín real life he routinely bans commenters on his website that disagree with him. This leads to one of the bad features of this book. If you think a bad thought about the book, it shuts close and you are unable to read it until you contact the author by email and apologize. This is an annoying feature.

Also in real life when one of the author’s website opinion posts are disliked by the majority of readers he deletes the post and comments like it never happened. This book has a similar feature in that the words disappear from the pages over time and eventually you are left with 200+ blank pages that really aren’t good for anything but the bottom of a bird cage. This decreases the value of the book and does not make it suitable for archiving.

Overall, I can’t recommend.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Andrew Porter, and Harold Osler for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 10/5/16 That’s Appertainment!

(1) BEST SERIES HUGO FLAW? Sami Sundell is dissatisfied with the 2017 Hugo test category, judging by his title: “Best Series is a popularity contest”.

Last year, Eric Flint wrote about the discrepancy between popularity in bookstores and winning (Hugo) awards. I then pointed out, that the big time bookstore magnets tend to write series. So, on the face of it, adding a new category could bring the awards closer to general populace…..

Re-eligibility of a nominee

The actual series proposal suggests a non-winning nominee for Best Series could become re-eligible after at least two additional tomes and 240 000 words. If the series is long enough and the writer prolific enough, you might see the same series popping up every few years, adding at least quarter of a million words to the reading effort every time.

You see, that’s another thing about the popular series: they hook their readers. Even if the quality wanes, it’s hard to let go of a series you’ve started – and some of those series have gone on for 40 years.

There’s nothing wrong with the same author and series being nominated multiple times; that happens regularly with other categories. In this case, however, it’s not just the latest installation that should be considered. It’s the whole body of work, which may span multiple authors, media, and decades.

More than any other written fiction category, Best Series has makings of a popularity contest in it: people will vote for whatever they are familiar with and attached to. That’s fine for selecting what to read next, but it shouldn’t be grounds for a Hugo.

(2) AUDIBLE INKLINGS. Oxford fellow Michael Ward (Planet Narnia) narrates Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings in the Audible Audio Edition, released September 26.

Bandersnatch cover

(3) MYTH BUSTED OR INTACT? Aaron Pound looks at the “2007 Hugo Longlist” and commences to bust what he feels is a Hugo voting “myth.”

Whenever a Worldcon is held outside of the United States, people suggest that genre fiction works produced by local authors and editors are going to receive a boost in the Hugo nomination process and subsequent voting. Nippon 2007, the Worldcon held in 2007, was located in Yokohama, and given that Japan has an active science fiction and fantasy scene, one would think that the ballot would have been filled with Japanese books, stories, movies, and television shows. At the very least, one would think the Hugo longlist would be filled with such works. With the exception of Yoshitaka Amano’s appearance on the Best Professional Artist category, the 2007 Hugo longlist appears to be entirely devoid of any influence from Japanese voters.

Based upon the evidence of the statistics from 2007, it seems that the “bump” for local writers and artists is negligible at best….

This question really requires a more nuanced investigation of ALL Worldcons held outside North America, not just the one in Japan (inexplicable as the result was).

Looking at the final ballots from UK and Australian Worldcons, you can see a number of nominees (especially in the fan categories) who don’t get that support when the con is in North America.

However, the membership of most Worldcons is predominantly US fans, which gives things a certain consistency, wanted or not.

(4) KNOW YOUR GENRE. Sarah A. Hoyt explains the traits of a long list of genres and subgenres in a breezy column for Mad Genius Club.

If I had a dime for every time someone approaches me and says “My erotica/romance/science fiction/fantasy isn’t selling and I can’t tell why.”  And/or “I keep getting these really weird comments, like they’re angry at me for not being what I say it is.” I’d be buying a castle somewhere in England, as we speak.

And almost everytime I look into the matter, my answer is something like “But that’s not an erotica/romance/science fiction/fantasy.”

I will say right here that most of the time the problem is that people don’t read the genres they’re identifying their books as.  They just heard of them, and think that must be what they are.  This also explains all the people who assure me I write romance (rolls eyes) and that’s why they won’t read Darkship Thieves, or Witchfinder, or…

Because there is a romance in the book, somewhere, and they think that’s what the romance genre is.

It’s time to get this figured out, okay?…

(5) LUKE CAGE’S SHORTCOMINGS. Abigail Nussbaum finds a new Marvel superhero series wanting — “Tales of the City: Thoughts on Luke Cage” .

“For black lives to matter, black history has to matter.”  A character says this shortly into the first episode of Luke Cage, Netflix’s third MCU series, and the fourth season of television it has produced in collaboration with Marvel as it ramps up for its Defenders mega- event.  It’s easy to read this line as a thesis statement on the nature of the show we’re about to watch, but it’s not until some way into Luke Cage‘s first season that we realize the full import of what creator Cheo Hodari Coker is saying with it, and how challenging its implications will end up being.  As has been widely reported and discussed, Luke Cage is the first black MCU headliner–not just on TV or on Netflix, but at all.  And, unlike the forthcoming Black Panther, whose story is set in a fictional African superpower, Luke Cage is explicitly a story about African-Americans in the more-or-less real world, at a moment when the problems and indignities suffered by that community are at the forefront of public discussion.  It is, therefore, a show that comes loaded with tremendous expectations, not just of introducing a compelling character and telling a good superhero story, but of addressing increasingly fraught issues of race, in both the real world and the superhero genre.  It’s perhaps unsurprising that Luke Cage falls short of these expectations, but what is surprising is how often it doesn’t even seem to be trying to reach them.  Or, perhaps, not surprising at all–as the first episode spells out, Luke Cage is less interested in black lives than it is in black stories.

(6) FINAL INSTALLMENT. Renay from Lady Business has produced her last column for Strange Horizons:

When I started this column back in 2013, I didn’t know a lot of things. I didn’t know a lot about the depth and breadth of the science fiction and fantasy community. I didn’t know what it felt like to have a wider audience. I didn’t know yet how many people would be kind to me and also didn’t know (thankfully, because I might have run the other way) that people would be cruel. I hadn’t done any of the things that would change my perspective as a fan: write a fan column, be paid for writing, be included in a fan anthology, edit a fan anthology, become a Barnes & Noble reviewer, start a podcast with another big name fan, be a Hugo nominee, or go to Worldcon. But I’ve done all those things now and here’s what I’ve learned….

(7) CHARACTER (ACTING) COUNTS. Edward L. Green’s website for his acting career is now online.

(8) SUPPORTING HOMER HICKAM. San Diego fan Gerry Williams is encouraging a boycott of the musical October Sky at the Old Globe Theaters in his hometown. He explains:

ROCKET BOYS author Homer Hickam is in a very serious dispute and lawsuit with the corporate establishment at Universal Studios and with The Old Globe Theaters. He has tried to have his name removed from the Old Globe’s production (to no avail) for their Rocket Boy’s version of his story. You can read about all the problems on his blog here: http://homerhickamblog.blogspot.com/2016/09/my-struggle.html Personally I’m urging our local Southern California space community to stand with Homer Hickam and BOYCOTT The Old Globe’s production.

Hickam’s many frustrations about the rights struggle include the effect it’s having on the musical adaptation he himself has written Rocket Boys, the Musical.

Meantime, if you’re curious about the version being produced at the Old Globe —

October Sky

Book by Brian Hill and Aaron Thielen Music and Lyrics by Michael Mahler Directed by Rachel Rockwell Inspired by the Universal Pictures film and Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam,  Jr.

“A sumptuous production of an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser. October Sky feels good all over!” —Talkin’ Broadway

The beloved film is now a triumphant new American musical that will send your heart soaring and inspire your whole family to reach for the stars! In the small town of Coalwood, West Virginia, every young man’s future is in the coal mines, but after the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the world’s race to space inspires local highschooler Homer Hickam to dream of a different life. Against the wishes of his practical-minded father, he sets out on an unlikely quest to build his own rockets and light up the night sky. October Sky is an uplifting musical portrait of small-town Americana packed with youthful exuberance, and a sweeping, unforgettable new score.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

October 5, 1969  — Monty Python’s Flying Circus first appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s BBC-1

(10) TERRY JONES RECEIVES BAFTA CYMRU AWARD. The Guardian has video of this touching acceptance:

Monty Python star Terry Jones collects his award for outstanding contribution to television and film at the Bafta Cymru awards on Sunday. Jones announced last month he has a severe type of dementia which affects his speech. He was accompanied on stage by his son Bill who told the audience it was a “great honour”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 5 – Paul Weimer
  • Born October 5, 1958 — Neil DeGrasse Tyson

(12) WAYWARD FACULTY ADDITIONS. Who they are and what they’ll teach – the new faculty joining Cat Rambo’s Academy.

Now the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers (classes.catrambo.com) adds three new teachers to its roster: Ann Leckie, Rachel Swirsky, and Juliette Wade. Each presents both a live version of the class, limited to eight students and taught via Google Hangouts, as well as an on-demand version.

Swirsky’s class, Old Stories Into New (http://catrambo.teachable.com/p/old-stories-into-new/), discusses existing forms and how genre writers draw on the stories that have preceded them–particularly folklore, mythology, and fables, but also beloved literature and media. The class presents the best methods for approaching such material while warning students of the possible pitfalls.  Readings, written lectures, and writing exercises from Hugo and Nebula award winning writer Rachel Swirsky teach the student how to keep work original and interesting when playing with familiar stories.  A live version will be offered on October 29, 2016; the on-demand version is available here.

Wade’s class, The Power of Words (http://catrambo.teachable.com/courses/the-power-of-words-linguistics-for-speculative-fiction-writers), focuses on the study of linguistics and its relevance to genre writing. Wade shows how linguistics differs from the study of foreign languages, and gives a survey of eight different subfields of linguistics. The class examines principles of language at levels of complexity from the most basic articulation of speech sounds to the way that language is used to participate in public forms of discourse. Wade looks at how each subfield can be used to enhance a writer’s portrayal of characters and societies in a fictional world. Then she takes the discussion to the level of text to consider how principles of linguistics can hone point of view and narrative language in storytelling. A live version will be offered on December 17, 2016.

Leckie’s class, To Space Opera and Beyond, will centers on space opera: its roots as well as its current manifestations as well as how to write it.  Topics covered include creating and tracking multiple worlds, characters, and plots,  interlocking and interweaving plots, writing storylines stretching across multiple books, and developing engaging and distinct politics, languages, and other cultural institutions. Both live sessions of the class are sold out. The on-demand version will be available in November.

Live classes are co-taught with Cat Rambo; registration details can be found at: http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/upcoming-online-classes/.

(13) THIS WASN’T A TEST WHERE I WANTED TO SCORE WELL. “10 Habits of extremely boring people”. Send help — it’s alarming how many of these I checked off…

(14) BUCKAROO BANZAI CAN’T GET ACROSS THE AMAZON. Joseph T. Major in concerned. He looked at this article and said, “It looks like the World Crime League is making a score.” — “Rights Issues Stymie BUCKAROO BANZAI Amazon Series”.

Buckaroo Banzai may be in trouble and this time it is not from the machinations of evil Lectroids from Planet Ten or the World Crime League, but from something far more vexing – rights issues.

In an interview, W. D. Richter, director of the 1984 cult classic The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eight Dimension, revealed that it is possible that the rights to the actual character of Buckaroo Banzai actually lie with screen writer Earl Mac Rauch. And that could impact the television version of the film that writer/director Kevin Smith is currently developing with MGM for Amazon Studios.

(15) WHERE DID YOU GET MY NUMBER? I don’t make a lot of phone calls, but when I do the person on the other end seems more surprised to be getting a call than that it’s from me, and that may be part of  trend – Slate explains: “The Death of the Telephone Call, 1876-2007”.

The phone call died, according to Nielsen, in the autumn of 2007. During the final three months of that year the average monthly number of texts sent on mobile phones (218) exceeded, for the first time in recorded history, the average monthly number of phone calls (213). A frontier had been crossed. The primary purpose of most people’s primary telephones was no longer to engage in audible speech….

Calling somebody on the phone used to be a perfectly ordinary thing to do. You called people you knew well, not so well, or not at all, and never gave it a second thought. But after the Great Texting Shift of 2007, a phone call became a claim of intimacy. Today if I want to phone someone just to chat, I first have to consider whether the call will be viewed as intrusive. My method is to ask myself, “Have I ever seen this person in the nude?” The sighting doesn’t have to be (indeed, seldom is) recent. Nor is it necessary that I remember it. I need only deduce that, sometime or other, I must have seen this person naked. That clears phone calls to a wife or girlfriend, to children, to parents, to siblings, to old flames, to former roommates from college, and very few others.

(16) TREKKIE STONELORE. UPI tells us Redditor Haoleopteryx posted a photo of the business cards he had specially printed to deal with constant jokes about the name of the profession.”

I’m a volcanologist and I really don’t know how it took me so long to actually get around to making these

 

View post on imgur.com

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day — Heather Rose Jones because I noticed her post it, and Kip W. because he actually suggested it first eight hours earlier. The bar is open — everybody appertain your favorite beverage!]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/16 Pixel McScrollface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fans of The Adventure Of Buckaroo Banzai,

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

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

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

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

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

Murphy explains there are two ways to give money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the FAQ is here.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/16 (Take Another) Piece Of My Artificial Heart

May the 4th be with you

(1) BREAKING THINGS. Wired studies the physics behind the destruction of a Super Star Destroyer in Star Wars.

The Mass of the Death Star

The real question remains—why is it moving so fast? There are three possible answers:

After rebels destroyed the bridge, the Super Star Destroyer veered out of control and used its thrusters to drive into the Death Star.

The Destroyer used its engines in some way to stay above the Death Star. The attack eliminated this ability, and the ship fell into the Death Star due to the gravitational interaction between the two objects.

The impact was the result of the engines and gravity.

For the purpose of this analysis, I am going to assume the collision was due only to the gravitational interaction. If that’s the case, I can use this to estimate the mass of the Death Star.

(2) ANATOMY OF A REWRITE. Mark Hamill confirmed the story: “It’s official: ‘The Force Awakens’ almost started with Luke’s severed hand”.

“I can tell you now, the original opening shot of [Episode] VII, the first thing that came into frame was a hand and a lightsaber, a severed hand,” Hamill reveals in a video Q&A with The Sun timed to May the 4th. “It enters the atmosphere [of the desert planet Jakku] and the hand burns away.”

The lightsaber landed in the sand, and an alien hand picked it up. Hamill says he doesn’t know if that alien was Maz Kanata, the castle owner who has the lightsaber in a trunk in the movie.

Then “the movie proceeds as you see it” — presumably meaning we’d cut from the alien hand to a Star Destroyer above Jakku as Stormtroopers depart in shuttles, then Max Von Sydow handing the all-important map with Luke’s whereabouts to Oscar Isaac.

(3) FOURTH WITH. Digg has a compilation of Star Wars related fan art.

The “Star Wars” fanbase has always been fantastically passionate and creative, so in honor of their greatest holiday, here’s a bunch of different kinds of fan art to represent every corner of the “Star Wars” universe.

(4) FASHION STATEMENT. Michael A. Burstein had a big day, and shared a photo with his Facebook readers.

Today, I was sworn in for my fifth term as a Brookline Library Trustee. In honor of Star Wars Day, I wore my Han Solo vest.

(5) EQUAL TIME. That other famous franchise is making news of its own. Canada Post will issue a set of Star Trek themed stamps to commemorate the show’s 50th anniversary. Linn’s Stamp News ran an article about the stamp for Scotty.

The three previous Canada Post Star Trek designs have pictured William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk on a commemorative stamp similar to the Scotty design, the Starship Enterprise on a coil stamp, and Leonard Nimoy as Spock, also in commemorative format. Full details of the set, and the planned issue date, have not been officially revealed by Canada Post, though information released with the “Scotty” stamp design added, “More stamps are to be revealed soon.”

And Canada Post has release several short videos previewing the series.

(6) YOU DID IT. Donors stepped up to support Rosarium Publishing’s Indiegogo appeal and Rick Riordan dropped $10,000 of matching funds in the pot. The appeal has now topped $40,000 in donations.

(7) J.K. ROWLING’S ANNUAL APOLOGY. On May 2, the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling followed her tradition.

(8) FIRST FAN. Inverse knows this is the perfect day to dip into Craig Miller’s font of Star Wars anecdotes: “George Lucas’s Original Plans for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ and Boba Fett Revealed”.

Craig Miller, Lucasfilm’s first fan relations officer, reveals the original plan for ‘Return of the Jedi.’

…“At first there was one film, and then George originally announced that it was one of 12, and there were going to be 12, and then that changed to, oh there was never 12, there was only 9, and he was going to make 9,” Miller said. “And then during all of it, George kind of lost interest in continuing it… While we were working on The Empire Strikes Back, George decided he was going to complete the first film trilogy and that would be it.

“And I remember sitting in a mixing room with George, working on Empire, and he told me he was just going to make the third movie, which didn’t have a title at that point, and then stop,” Miller continued. “He was going to retire from making big movies and make experimental movies. And that’s why the whole plot of the third movie, what became Return of the Jedi, completely changed.”

Lucas’s 15-year retirement from Star Wars didn’t do much to derail the enthusiasm amongst hardcore fans, who showed early on that they were very, very dedicated to the Galaxy far, far away. Miller remembers one of his better publicity coups, setting up an 800 number (1-800-521-1980, the film’s release date) that allowed fans to call in before Empire and hear little clues about the upcoming sequel, as recited by Luke, Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO and Darth Vader.

“There was no advertising; we talked about it at conventions, and Starlog ran a two paragraph announcement of it,” Miller recalled. “And with just that, we completely swamped the 800 system.”

AT&T forced Lucasfilm to buy more phone lines, cease their advertising (easy, since they weren’t doing any), and apologize to the public and other 800-number users. “That was great because now it was being carried all over the world that we were apologizing that Star Wars fans were so enthusiastic about seeing Empire that they swamped AT&T,” Miller said, laughing.

(9) MAKING THE SCENE. Cat Rambo shares some material from a class, that takes apart what having a scene gives you for purposes of making it into a story: “More From Moving from Idea to Draft”

What it is:

A scene is usually a moment in time that has come to you. It usually has strong visual elements, and something is usually happening, such as a battle, or has just happened in it (a battlefield after the fighting is done). It is probably something that would appear at a significant moment of a story and not be peripheral to it.

What it gives you:

  • Everything but the plot. But actually, that’s not true. What is the main source of tension in the scene, what is the conflict that is driving things? That is probably a version of the overall plot.
  • A scene gives you a strong slice of the world and all that is implicit in that, including history and culture.
  • If characters are included in your scene, they are usually doing or have just done something more purposeful than just milling about. You have some sense of their occupation, their economic circumstances, and often some nuances of their relationship.

(10) NED BROOKS. Part of the late Ned Brooks’ fanzine collection is on display at the University of Georgia, where his family donated it.

The university library’s blog has posted “To Infinity and Beyond! Selections from the Ned Brooks Fanzine Collection”.

A look at a fun collection examining all facets of science fiction fandom. Included are representative fanzine titles from the 17,000+ issues to be found in the Brooks zine collection. They represent a variety of times (including the zine some hold to be the earliest Science Fiction zine in the U.S., Planet #1, from July of 1930), a myriad of international locales, and a broad spectrum of specialized Fandom communities and their interests. Mementos from Brooks’ 38-year career with NASA’s Langley Research Center, along with a vintage typewriter and early reproduction equipment.

The exhibit, in the Rotunda of the Russell Special Collections Libraries, will be up through July.

(11) COOL SPACE PICTURES. Digg has “The Best Space Photos from April”.

Every day satellites are zooming through space, snapping incredible pictures of Earth, the solar system and outer space. Here are the highlights from April.

(12) YA AND AWARDS. Joe Sherry makes raises a point about YA in his post about “2016 Locus Award Finalists” at Adventures in Reading.

This is likely worth a longer discussion, but this year’s Locus Awards are pretty close to what the Hugo Awards should have looked like in the absence of the Rabid Puppy participants voting a slate in apparent lockstep….

Now, there are things we can argue with because it isn’t an awards list or a list of books at all if there isn’t something to argue with. For example, the YA category features five books written by men even though a huuuuuuge number of YA novels are written by women. Further, Navah Wolfe points out that the nominees in this category are, across the board, writers best known for adult science fiction and fantasy.

In terms of the Locus Awards, I think this is a bug rather than a feature. Locus (and it’s readers who voted / nominated), as a whole, is far more plugged into the adult SFF scene. Their nominees for Young Adult Book very strongly reflects this.

This isn’t to say that these finalists are bad, because they very much are not, but they are also not reflective of the YA field.

A committee has been looking at a proposed YA Hugo category for a couple of years. The Hugo voter demographic is probably similar to that of Locus voters. So if we make two assumptions – that the category had existed this year and was not affected by a slate – wouldn’t the shortlist have looked pretty much like the Locus Award YA novel category? And how does that affect people’s interest in having a YA Hugo category?

(13) DEFECTION FROM THE RANKS.

(14) ANOTHER SHOCK. Because that’s what popularly voted awards do?

(15) USE OF WEAPONS. Paul Weimer curated the latest SF Signal Mind Meld reading pleasure today, in which people talk about their favorite SF/F weapons.

(16) TODAY IN HISTORY. Norm Hollyn remembered on Facebook:

May 4 is the 19th anniversary of the death of Lou Stathis, one of my closest friends and major influences (I first heard the Mothers thanks to him). Hopefully you’re happily playing the kazoo wherever you are.

(17) HAY THERE. Signal boosting author Judith Tarr’s appeal to help feed her horses.

Right now I do not know how I’m going to feed the horses for the rest of the month. I have managed to scrape out enough to pay for the last load of hay (if that late check finally gets here), but once it’s eaten, which it will be in about ten days, I don’t know what I’m going to do. The farm will be gone by midsummer unless I find a steady source of sufficient income. I’ve been hustling like a hustling thing but so far with minimal results.

The market does not want either me or the horses. The horses are all old and therefore retired and unsalable, or else would require thousands of dollars’ worth of training and show fees to have any sale value. No one can take them. The market is saturated with unwanted horses and the rescues are overloaded. I am over 60, hearing impaired (ergo, unable to use the phone), and with chronic fatigue syndrome which makes office or minimum-wage work difficult to impossible. And minimum wage would not support the animals, let alone me. All my income streams from backlist books, editing, writing, etc. have shrunk to a trickle or dried up. No one has booked a Camp in over a year.

I have had a few small things come through, but as with everything else, they’ve fallen short or failed to produce. I continue to push, and with the fiction writing regaining its old fluidity, I may manage to make something happen there. I’ve been urged to try an Indiegogo for a short novel, and I am closing in on that. (Indiegogo, unlike Kickstarter, offers an option that pays even if the goal is not met. The goal would be enough to cover mortgage, horses, and utilities for a month.) Since for the first time in my life I’m able to write more than one project at a time, that means I can continue to meet my obligation to backers of last November’s Kickstarter for a science-fiction novel, and also write the novella (and short stories, too).

A friend suggested that I offer sponsorships for the horses. I feel weird about that, but they need to eat. What I would give in return is a little writeup about the horse being sponsored, with a digital album of pictures and a monthly update. And short fiction as it happens, if you are a reader with an interest….

Details and specific support levels at the site.

(18) MEMORY OF THINGS PAST. Katster once was “Dreaming of Rockets”

Of course things got derailed.  My cunning plan to eventually raise myself to a point where I’d get notice from the nominating body of Worldcon crashed hard with two factors — the rise of blogs and fancasts as well as the related fact that pros were getting nominated in the fan awards and, more importantly, my own demons.

I’d end up semi-GAFIAting (the acronym means Getting Away From It All, and covered anybody who’s dropped out of science fiction) and not being very enamored of fandom in general.  The break point came in 2013, with a completely different award.  Fanzine fandom recognizes its own in an award called the Fan Achievement Awards (FAAns) and I’d hoped a particular issue of my fanzine Rhyme and Paradox I’d poured my heart into might have a chance at Best Issue.  A friend of mine said he was nominating it, and I hesitantly nominated it myself, hoping in some way that it would end up on the shortlist.  It didn’t, and the award was won by somebody that was well known in fandom for a typical issue of his (once a year) fanzine.

The blow really came when I got ahold of the longlist and found how many votes my ‘zine had gotten.  It had gotten two, one from my friend and one from me.  It stung like hell.  Here I had poured my heart out writing that zine (I still think it’s some of my best writing ever) and it had sailed quietly in the night.  I know, it’s just an award, and all these things are popularity contests, but even now, I feel the hurt in that moment.

I wonder if it’s the same hurt that has fueled the slates.  The influence of failing to get an award did somewhat lead Larry Correia to start making slates.  As I’ve said before, the Hugos were vulnerable to this kind of attack, but it was explained to me pretty early in fandom that making slates was anathema in fandom, a policy only practiced by Scientologists.  Everybody knows where the rest of this story goes.

(19) ANTI. “’Ghostbusters’ Is the Most Disliked Movie Trailer in YouTube History” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Not only does it have the most dislikes for a trailer on the social platform, but it also makes the top 25 most disliked videos overall.

Things are not boding well for director Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters based on the film’s first official trailer on YouTube.

Released March 3, the trailer, viewed 29.2 million times and counting, is the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history, according to “MyTop100Videos” channel’s “Most Disliked Videos” list that was last updated April 16. (Justin Bieber comes in at No. 1 with 5.99 million dislikes for “Baby.”)

Coming in at No. 23, the reboot — starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth — has more than double the number of dislikes as likes (208,606)….

Although there has been controversy over the trailer, with many YouTube comments centered around the all-female cast, the video has been generating mostly positive reviews on Facebook with 1,186,569 positive reactions (like, love, haha and wow) and 32,589 negative reactions (sad, angry). The reactions add up to 97.3 percent positive sentiments on Facebook overall.

(20) BREAK THE PIGGY BANK. Coming August 16 in Blu-Ray/DVD — “The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension [Collector’s Edition]”. (Doesn’t it feel like you’ve been reading the word “buckaroo” a lot this week?)

Expect the unexpected… he does.

Neurosurgeon. Physicist. Rock Star. Hero. Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller, Robocop) is a true 80s renaissance man. With the help of his uniquely qualified team, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, Buckaroo is ready to save the world on a moment’s notice. But after his successful test of the Oscillation Overthruster – a device that allows him to travel through solid matter – he unleashes the threat of “evil, pure and simple from the 8th Dimension”… the alien Red Lectroids.

Led by the deranged dictator Lord John Whorfin (John Lithgow), the Lectroids steal the Overthruster with the intent of using it to return to their home of Planet 10 “real soon!” But no matter where you go, there Buckaroo Banzai is… ready to battle an interdimensional menace that could spell doom for the human race.

How can Buckaroo stop the Lectroids’ fiendish plots? Who is the mysterious Penny Priddy? Why is there a watermelon there? For the answers to these and other questions, you have to watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, monkey boy!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, James Davis Nicoll, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/14 The Trixels Scroll

(1) SURREAL CEREAL. “When I just saw this, I did suddenly wonder, ‘Is nothing sacred?’” says James H. Burns.

Trix Pic-12142015-001 COMP

(2) RED LIGHT AT MORNING. Bob Byrne’s “The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: ‘Rudolph’s Performance Review’”  at Black Gate continues his tradition of holiday humor.

You’d think the reindeer with the shiny red nose would have knocked his annual review out of the park after that foggy Christmas Eve, eh? Well, that Santa is one tough reviewer. Read on, and I wish you a safe, happy and blessed Merry Christmas….

(3) DON’T LINK. Jenneral Geek’s theory about Doctor Who’s most popular episode suggests “’Blink’ Might be Even More Timey-Wimey Than You Think”.

Now, you may also remember a flirtatious babe from the same episode named Billy Shipton. Billy is a detective investigating the disappearance of people in relation to Wester Drumlins. This is what brings us to the lovely meet-cute in which Billy Shipton and Sally Sparrow flirt in front of a dusty blue police box. Billy gets Sally’s number and when he asks for her full name she retorts, “Sally Shipton” without thinking, followed by her instant mortification and departure. Cut scene and fast forward – Billy gets Weeping Angel’d back to 1969 where he receives instructions from the Doctor not to contact Sally Sparrow until after their original encounter. Billy lives his life back to 2007 and calls Sally. They re-meet minutes later for Sally and 38 years later for Billy in his hospital room. An elderly Billy tells Sally Sparrow information that is relevant to the plot, BUT he also tells her that he married a woman coincidentally named Sally from the 70’s. He even shows a picture of his dearly beloved, Sally Shipton.

I know this is timey-wimey enough as is, but what if there is more? At this point of the episode I had to press pause because my mind was going through the time vortex. Hey, how cool would it be if Billy Shipton actually married Kathy Wainwright’s daughter? So, I couldn’t resist whipping out my handy dandy calculator and pretending like I don’t blow at math.

(4) RETROSPECTIVE. TCM Remembers 2015 honors actors, actresses and filmmakers who passed away this year, among them Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Lee, Rod Taylor and Wes Craven.

(5) BSFA AWARDS. Nominations are open for the British Science Fiction Association Awards through December 31.

Who can nominate?

You may nominate a work if YOU:

  • Are a member of the BSFA

AND

  • Send or give your nominations to the Awards Administrator to arrive by the 31st December of each year.

See here for further details.

(6) SEE ME. Now I’m surprised John Scalzi didn’t drop in this morning to support Buckaroo Banzai in Hampus’ next set of brackets.

But John, do you mean Perfect like Perfect Tommy, or like Roger Daltrey’s Tommy?

(7) ACKERMANSION II. There’s a petition at change.org calling on the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission to “Declare Forrest Ackerman’s house a historic monument!”  The Commission considered an application at its December 3 meeting – I don’t know what they decided.

Forrest Ackerman is considered “the father of science fiction.” He was a magazine editor, science fiction writer and literary agent who represented Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, J.P. Lovecraft and L. Ron Hubbard, among many others. His magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, was an inspiration to writers and filmmakers like Stephen Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Stephen King, J.J. Abrams and Guillermo del Toro. Ackerman housed his extensive collection of sci-fi memorabilia in a private museum at 4513 Russell Ave. in Los Angeles and this home was dubbed the “Acker-Mini-Mansion.” The Smithsonian described Ackerman’s home as “one of the 10 best private museums in the country” open to visitors every Saturday since 1951 until Ackerman’s death in 2008.  Please support designating Ackerman’s house a historic monument to prevent its demolition by developers who want to “put up a parking lot.”

I’m guessing “put up a parking lot” is a reference to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” rather than an immediate plan for the property.

(8) THE VOICE. Last summer Natalie Luhrs raised $5,125 from folks who wanted her to livetweet her experience reading a Theodore Beale novel, and unlock another major incentive. And now that incentive has arrived — “Bad Life Decisions: Mary Robinette Kowal Reads Theodore Beale. Sexily” — at Pretty Terrible.

As promised at the conclusion of the fundraiser, here is Mary Robinette Kowal reading snippets from Theodore Beale’s Eternal Warriors™: War In Heaven in a very, very sexy voice.

(9) OKORAFOR. Nnedi Okorafor has been named the winner of Brittle Paper’s African Literary Person of the Year Award.

Brittle Paper is a blog written by Duke Ph.D. student Ainehi Edoro.

The 2015 African literary person of the year goes to Nnedi Okorafor for the many ways in which Africa inspires innovation in her approach to storytelling.

The way she writes about Africa is refreshingly different. Take for example her 2014 novel titled Lagoon. The novel follows the near-apocalyptic chaos that takes over Lagos when aliens land on its shores. In the novel, she pushes us to imagine a futuristic but recognizable Lagos swarming with aliens and creatures. The novel is a mashup of cultural iconographies that range from alien spaceships and viral youtube videos to Igbo ancestral masquerades and folkloric archetypes to Karl Marx and Danfo buses. She tells a story about Lagos by situating the city, its fears and anxieties, its history and its landscape within a global network of literary traditions and philosophical concerns. A novel such as Lagoon brings to the conclusion that African life is so complex, so rich that to adequately give an account of it we have to draw inspiration from everywhere—from Nollywood but also from Star Wars, from Esu but also from American rappers, from Pentecostal churches but also from underground LGBT communities.

(10) Today In History

Through physical experiments, Planck demonstrated that energy, in certain situations, can exhibit characteristics of physical matter. According to theories of classical physics, energy is solely a continuous wave-like phenomenon, independent of the characteristics of physical matter. Planck’s theory held that radiant energy is made up of particle-like components, known as “quantum.” The theory helped to resolve previously unexplained natural phenomena such as the behavior of heat in solids and the nature of light absorption on an atomic level. In 1918, Planck was rewarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on blackbody radiation.

(11) TOY AUCTION. An auction of over 600 Star Wars collectible toys on December 11 brought in more than $500,000.

The higher-end items in Nigo’s collection were either rare or still in the original packaging, making them desirable collectors’ items.

A rare Luke Skywalker figure — one of only 20 confirmed — was expected to sell for $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for $25,000.

The highest-selling lot, a seven-figure multi-pack sold exclusively in Canada in 1980, garnered $32,500 at the auction.

Among the items were two sets of “Star Wars” coins which were estimated to sell for between $25,000 and $35,000. They sold for $27,500.

(12) LITTLE TEENY EYES. Supervike is creating Monster Hunter International miniatures.

I paint and model little toy soldiers, and since there really aren’t any commercially available that represent the world of MHI, I’m trying to convert and paint existing miniatures to fit and represent the characters.

The scale of these miniatures is about 28mm.  That just means the ‘average’ man of 6ft tall or so, is represented as 28mm tall.  So, that’s a bit over an inch tall for us that never could figure out the metric system (thanks Jimmy Carter).

Some are fascinating, like the set in “It’s beginning to look a lot like Fishmen”.

Deep ones, those aquatic Lovecraftian fishmen, are only briefly mentioned in Monster Hunter International.  They serve as the badguys in a mission previously mentioned with a SEaL team and a cruise ship.

Turns out that the Deep Ones aren’t just interested in mindlessly attacking humans, they also prefer to lay their eggs inside a human host.  I’m assuming the outcome (other than the obvious madness) would be something like these guys.   These are Deep One Hybrids, the spawns of such an unholy union.

(13) PATENT FENDING. The Washington Post’s Larry Downs names “The 4 worst patents of 2015” after this introduction:

This was another depressing year for patent law, which long ago lost sight of its constitutional moorings as a balanced and limited source of incentives for innovators. Though Congress, the courts and the Patent and Trademark Office each tried in their own way to rein in a system widely-regarded as out of control, in the end nobody made much progress.

On just one day in November, for example, over 200 new patent lawsuits were filed, as plaintiffs rushed to beat a change in federal procedure that could require more specific claims. Most were from companies that buy up patents of dubious quality and use them to extract nuisance settlements from actual innovators….

To give just a sense of just how out of touch the law has become, I asked Daniel Nazer, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to highlight the worst patents he’s come across this year. Nazer, who holds the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents (yes, really), had little trouble coming up with these four, culled from a monthly “Stupid Patent of the Month” post he writes for the EFF site.  (The complete list is available here.)  Each one highlights a different crisis in our badly-misaligned patent system…

(14) VASICEK. Joe Vasicek’s latest proposition is “Disagreement is not offensive”, at One Thousand And One Parsecs.

If you take offense whenever people disagree with you, chances are that you’ll never be able to cut it as a writer. In order to write well, you have to be able to see things from inside the heads of people who aren’t like you and probably don’t agree with you.

This is why I support Sad Puppies: because the SJW types in Science Fiction are usually the first to cry offense over anything that doesn’t fit into their narrow worldviews. This naturally makes them as vehemently opposed to intellectual diversity as they (falsely) claim that the Puppies are to racial, sexual, and cultural diversity. When you look at the books and stories that these people uphold as shining examples of the genre, their rigidly ideological worldview is as plain as the emperor’s new clothes.

Disagreement is not “offensive.” In fact, it’s a sign of respect. If your opponent thought that your opinion or argument wasn’t worth engaging with, then they simply would have ignored you. By saying “I don’t agree,” they are acknowledging your position in an intellectually honest way. When you willfully misrepresent your opponent’s views, or bully them into silence, it is a sign of disrespect that warrants taking offense. And who is most guilty of that? I’ll give you two chances, and the first one doesn’t count.

(15) THE MAX. Blunt is one way of describing Max Booth III’s “Sad Puppies and The Goosebumps Rap: The Best and Worst Things to Happen to Literature in 2015” at Lit Reactor.

Sad Puppies

The KKK Sad Puppies are a group of white supremacists science fiction writers set on fixing the Hugo Awards. They are very pathetic nerds who won’t be satisfied as long as people other than straight white males are represented in science fiction. Keep the genre pure, they say. Heil Hitler, they probably also say. Our penises are tiny and we need to make others feel miserable to satisfy ourselves, they almost definitely say. So, in 2015, they managed to get Puppy nominees in almost every category. Because of this clusterfuck, many categories were given “No Awards”.

World Fantasy Award

Hey, speaking of racists. This year also saw a very nice and welcome change: Lovecraft was removed as the model for the World Fantasy Award. Many non-terrible people celebrated this victory, and many other terrible people whined about it. Especially ST Joshi, whose recent blog posts are both hilarious and sad. It’s still unknown what will take Lovecraft’s place as the trophy model. I’ve already suggested myself, but have yet to hear back. I’ve also heard many people suggest a dragon, but dragons as we all know, are lame. Honestly, a giant dong might be the way to go.

(16) ONE STAR (WARS) RATING. Milo Yiannopolous argues ”Star Wars Is Garbage” at Breitbart.com.

With Star Wars, liberal Hollywood got it all wrong. They get everything wrong, of course, but this movie franchise really takes the biscuit. They turned the heroes into villains, and the villains into shining beacons of virtue. With a new film on the horizon, I feel duty-bound to warn you about the desperate shortcomings of this particular entertainment phenomenon.

If we’re honest with ourselves, the real wretched hive of scum and villainy is Skywalker Ranch, where George Lucas and his band of morally dissolute bastards created the Star Wars universe, a blight on western civilisation and culture.

This magisterial bit of trolling includes lines such as —

Jabba the Hutt was actually pretty progressive.

And –

Oh, and by the way, Darth Vader’s daughter was installed as the leader of the galaxy after he killed the rightful and democratically elected leader, Emperor Palpatine. I’m just saying.

(17) USE THE SOURCE. A “Google Chrome extension replaces all mentions of Donald Trump with Voldemort” reports the Telegraph. 

The Trump2Voldemort extension for the web browser replaces any text referring to the Republican candidate with ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ or ‘Tom Riddle’

The source is here:

(18) ULTIMATE TIME SAVER. Michael McNulty’s YouTube video plays Star Wars I-VI simultaneously in six side-by-side windows!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jerry Pournelle, and Brian Z. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day James H. Burns.]

Pointy-Eared Pals

capetownArt

Zachary Quinto provided an affectionate video introduction of Leonard Nimoy for Entertainment Weekly’s CapeTown Film Festival earlier this month.

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Both appear in the new Star Trek movie, Nimoy uncredited.

*** ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT (DIDN’T YOU PAY ATTENTION THE FIRST TIME?) ***

Peter Weller, who had the title role Buckaroo Banzai (discussed here recently), plays a strident Starfleet admiral in the new movie.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Listen Up, Buckaroos

Would I sound crazy if I claimed the closing credits were the best part of Buckaroo Banzai? Probably. Besides, unless someone has watched the whole movie the credits just look like another 1980s men’s fashion commercial. But they are the best part, just the same.

Moviefone interviewed director W. D. Richter about the credits in 2011

Moviefone: To this day, the end credits of ‘Buckaroo Banzai’ make me very happy. Where did the idea for the end credits even come from?
W.D. Richter: Well, actually, an unlikely source was [producer] David Begelman, who was really our enemy for the entire movie. He was the guy who said, “Go ahead, you can make this movie,” but he never got it on any level. And so, when it ended just with a kiss, he said, “it needs something else.” And we had no money, at all, at that point. And he said, “I’m going to pop for some sort of choreographed ending that we can talk about.” We got a choreographer in because there was no way I would know how to movie around all of those people. So it kind of emerged from the end of the postproduction.

My high opinion of the credits was simply based on the music, the choreography, and ultimately, my desire to see more of these characters.

But once I started replaying this video over and over, like a favorite old 45, I noticed a couple of things for the first time —

(1) Seven characters meet at the base of the dam and start marching. Penny Priddy and John Bigbooté join them. That’s nine. Then there’s a cut, everybody turns left at the wall — and suddenly there are 16 or 17 people marching!

(2) Also Perfect Tommy comes out of the left turn wearing a completely different outfit. (Perhaps one that’s more perfect for walking in front of walls?)

Another character’s change in appearance requires no magical explanation because we see him shucking off his jacket.

Heaven only knows what else I’m missing.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]