(1) THANKS FACEBOOK. Pat Cadigan joined the legions who have committed this social media gaffe — “Happy Birthday, Sorry You’re Dead”.
Well, it happened again…I wished someone a Happy Birthday on Facebook and then discovered they had passed away last year. This is what happens when you have an impossible number of Facebook friends, most of whom you don’t know personally….
Anyway, thinking or not, I have committed a birthday faux pas. And as usual, I feel awful about it. When the person’s loved ones saw that, they probably wanted to go upside my head. Because that’s how it is when you’re on the sharp end of a disaster, whether it’s something of epic proportions or the personal loss of a beloved friend or relative. Your life has changed forever, and yet the world goes on like nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Like, WTF? The stock exchange opens and closes. The sun rises and sets and rises again. People go to work, go home, go grocery shopping, go online, tweet, check Facebook––and they can’t even take a few extra minutes to find out if someone’s alive or dead? Seriously, WTF?
(2) THANKS TSA. James Artimus Owen shared a memo with his Facebook readers.
Dear TSA – I’m breaking up with you. It’s you, not me. Or anyone else you and American Airlines conned into this big threeway. We were awesome dates, going along with everything you asked for, giving you sweet, sweet lovin’, and lots of money, and always on time, and you didn’t care. You still just wanted me to get half undressed, and to feel me up, and poke me in my special place, and go through all my stuff – and then your drunk buddy American Airlines overbooked the flight…, and complained about carryons, and then broke their own damn plane while we were sitting here. And now someone is trying to “fix” things, but the air is off, and we have to sit here for another half an hour, and the paperwork is going to take longer than the repair. So, I just wanted you to know – I’m getting a private plane. With my own crew. And you can date my “people” but I’m not taking my belt and shoes off for you again just so you can lecture me about the difference between 3.5 ounces and 11 ounces.
(3) HOW DID SOME GOOD NEWS SLIP IN HERE? Hobart and William Smith Colleges (in New York’s Finger Lakes region) have announced that Jeff VanderMeer will join the Trias Residency for Writers for the 2016-17 academic year.
Winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, the Nebula Award, and three-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, VanderMeer is the author of more than 20 books, including the NYT-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy (“Annihilation,” “Authority,” and “Acceptance”), released in 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The trilogy explores, among other issues, environmental degradation in extremis, creating, as the New York Times puts it, “an immersive and wonderfully realized world” with language that is “precise, metaphorical but rigorous, and as fertile as good loam.”
During the residency, VanderMeer will teach one class in the fall of 2016 and work with a number of select students the following spring. Additionally, he will offer a public reading and lecture, participate in a service event for the greater Geneva community and curate a reading series featuring Dexter Palmer (who writes sf), Ottessa Moshfegh and a third writer to-be-announced.
Beyond his work on campus, VanderMeer adds that he is looking forward to “a creative writing visit to the super max prison [in Auburn, N.Y.] and a possible partnership with the Colleges’ environmental center.” He has also invited artist John Jennings, a professor at University of Buffalo, to visit in the fall of 2016 “for some cross-media conversation about narrative and creativity.”
…The Peter Trias Residency at Hobart and William Smith Colleges is designed to give distinguished poets and fiction writers time to write. Academic expectations allow for sustained interaction with our best students while providing the freedom necessary to produce new work. Residents are active, working artists whose presence contributes to intellectual environment of the Colleges and the town of Geneva.
(4) MORE THAN MONEY. “Stephen King On What Hollywood Owes Authors When Their Books Become Films: Q&A” at Deadline.
DEADLINE: So rather than making the old deal, with big upfront money, you figure you’ll make your money on the other side?
KING: The other side of this, too, is that if you do that, you can say to these people, what I want is a share in whatever comes in, as a result, from dollar one. So it isn’t just a creative thing, it’s also the side where I say, if you want to do this, let me make it easy for you up front and if the thing is a success, the way that 1408 was a success for the Weinstein brothers, then we all share in it together. You know, of all the people that I’ve dealt with, Harvey and Bob Weinstein were the ones who were most understanding about that. They were perfectly willing to go along with that. A lot of people feel like you want to get in their business. I don’t want to do that at all. I want to be part of the solution. There were things about the 1408 screenplay that I thought were a little bit wonky actually, you know. There’s a part where you brought in the main character’s sad relationship about how his wife had died, she’d drowned, and he was kind of looking for an afterlife a la Houdini. I thought, well this seems a little off the subject. But it was great in the movie.
DEADLINE: So you’re not an author who feels that what’s in your book is sacrosanct, even when it’s translated to the screen?
KING: No. And the other thing is, you start from the belief that these people know their business. There are a lot of writers who are very, very sensitive to the idea, or they have somehow gotten the idea that movie people are full of sh*t. That’s not the truth. I’ve worked with an awful lot of movie people over the years that I think are very, very smart, very persistent and find ways to get things done. And I like that.
(5) TIL DADDY TAKES THE T-BIRD AWAY. From The Guardian: “Elon Musk personally cancels blogger’s Tesla order after ‘rude’ post”.
Unimaginable wealth has brought Elon Musk a lot of benefits, from being able to build a private spaceflight company to planning a magnet-powered vacuum tube supersonic transport system between LA and San Francisco – and be taken seriously. But perhaps the best perk of being Elon Musk is the ability to be unbelievably petty.
The Californian venture capitalist Stewart Alsop learned that to his cost, he says, after he wrote an open letter to Musk about the badly run launch event for the Tesla Motors Model X (the newest car from Musk’s electric vehicle startup).
Headlined “Dear @ElonMusk: you should be ashamed of yourself”, the letter listed Alsop’s issues with the event: it started late, it focused too much on safety, and it was so packed that even people like Alsop, who had placed a $5,000 deposit on the car (which was originally supposed to ship in 2013, but had only delivered 208 cars by the end of 2015), didn’t get the chance to test drive it.
Alsop concluded that “it would still be nice if you showed some class and apologised to the people who believe in this product”.
Instead, Alsop says, Musk cancelled his pre-order.
(6) HARTWELL OBIT IN NYT. Here is the link to David G. Hartwell’s obituary in the New York Times.
Mr. Hartwell worked at several publishing houses before starting as a consulting editor at Tor/Forge Books in the early 1980s. At his death, he was a senior editor there. He was nominated more than 40 times for Hugo Awards, among the most prominent prizes in science fiction, and won three times for editing.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden, a senior editor at Tor, said in an email that Mr. Hartwell had edited and published hundreds of books, including Mr. Dick’s novels “The Divine Invasion,” “The Transmigration of Timothy Archer” and “Radio Free Albemuth,” as well as novels in Mr. Herbert’s “Dune” saga and Gene Wolfe’s “The Book of the New Sun” series.
He also compiled dozens of anthologies, many with Ms. Cramer, including “The Space Opera Renaissance” (2006) and “Spirits of Christmas: Twenty Other-Worldly Tales” (1989), and he wrote “Age of Wonders: Exploring the World of Science Fiction” (1984).
Mr. Hartwell championed genre fiction long before crossover hits like the “Lord of the Rings” films, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” broadened its audience.
(7) BERKELEY AUTHOR APPEARANCE. Carter Scholz, author of Gypsy, Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Lucky Strike, and Terry Bisson, author of Fire on the Mountain, at Books Inc. in Berkeley, CA on February 18th.
(8) DOLLENS ART REMEMBERED. Ron Miller’s post at io9 has a gallery of “Scenes from the 1950s Space Movie That No One Saw”.
Morris Scott Dollens is best known to aging SF fans as one of the most prolific space artists who ever lived.…
These three interests—-astronomy, photography and model-making—-led to an endeavor that that was especially close to his heart: The creation of a movie that would take audiences on a journey through the solar system.
It was to be called “Dream of the Stars,” and Dollens created dozens of meticulous models of space ships and alien landscapes. He assembled these into tabletop dioramas which were then photographed in the same way Hollywood special effects artists would create miniature effects scene. Dollens sent these photos to magazine and book publishers, who ran them with captions that declared that “Dream of the Stars . . .is said to be best space film yet.” I remember seeing these photos in books about space when I was a kid and desperately trying to track down this movie. It wasn’t until decades later, when I contacted Dollens while researching my book, “The Dream Machines,” that I finally learned the truth: that “Dream of the Stars” was just that: a dream.
(9) HAT TIP. The New York Post noticed a fan favorite is back — “’X-Files’ tips a (straw) hat to iconic ’70s TV character”.
The latest episode finds FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) interrogating a person of interest, Guy Mann (Rhys Darby), as they hunt for a reptilian “were-monster.” Mann’s quirky attire — straw hat, seersucker jacket and cheap knit tie — bears a striking resemblance to clothing worn by Carl Kolchak, the rumpled creature tracker played by the late Darren McGavin in the 1970s ABC series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.”
The homage to McGavin’s vampire- and werewolf-hunter is intentional.
(10) HINES ON REPRESENTATION. Suvudu interviewed “Jim C. Hines on Representation and the Seeds of Possibility”, and Jim made his case in a lucid and fair manner, as he always does. It’s not his fault that his examples play so well against the next item in today’s Scroll….
I don’t understand why this is such a heated topic, but people get quite distraught when you suggest our genre should be more inclusive. Just look at the attempted boycott of Star Wars for daring to cast a woman and a black man in lead roles, or the oceans of man-tears surrounding Mad Max: Fury Road and its competent and kick-ass protagonist Furiosa.
Imagine the backlash to a science fiction show in which the main starship crew—the captain, first officer, navigator, engineer, and doctor—are all women. The only male character is basically a switchboard operator.
(11) TIMING IS THE SECRET. Who knew Ghostbusters will be putting Jim’s example to the test? “Receptionist Chris Hemsworth is Here For You” at Tor.com.
Last night Paul Feig announced that the official Ghostbusters site is up and running, with the first trailer set to drop later this month. If you poke around on Ghostbusters.com (which also has pages for the original movies), you’ll find a new batch of images, featuring the ladies in civilian garb… and their adorable receptionist, played by Chris Hemsworth.
You know how there’s that silly TV/movies trope of putting glasses on a girl to make her less attractive? Yeah, that definitely doesn’t work here.
(12) CHATTACON REPORT. Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds writes about “The Importance of Community”.
Do we need Cons like ChattaCon today? Aren’t SF fans all shut-in introverts who make snarky anonymous comments on blogs and YouTube videos? Even if we do need communities, couldn’t we move the Con experience to the internet, where we’ve moved so much of our communal interactions in the 21st century? A ChattaCon Report While the internet is great (you’re reading it!), I think physical meetings are still an essential part of community. To make my case, consider some of the things I did last weekend:
…One of the guests was Larry Correia (of the Sad Puppies). I went to one of his panels with a few friends. Given my opposition to the whole Sad Puppy fiasco, I was wondering what he’d be like in person. Answer: not all that different than most author guests, although nobody asked him about the Puppies.
(13) SHOCKING. Max Florschutz at Unusual Things calls it “The Indie Scam”.
There are a lot of blogs, posts, and news articles out there decrying the pricing of the big publisher’s books. They make regular appearances on smaller author’s sites, reddit’s r/books, and very frequently in the circles of indie authors. “Publishers are making their books too expensive!” they cry. Look at the price of these books!
…Then came the bit I didn’t agree with. That everyone should flock (and was flocking) to ebooks and indie because the prices were so much better.
The problem is, this isn’t always true….
Let me tell you a story. About a year ago, I was attending a con and talking with a bunch of authors about ebook sales and indie publication. One man in the “group” we’d sort of formed in the hallway was a known trailblazer in the ebook world, one of the first authors to jump ship from his publisher and go straight indie, a decision that had been great for him. Naturally, he being the one with the most experience in success, everyone was letting a lot of questions and comments gravitate his way.
At some point, ebook pricing came up, and I mentioned I was trying to figure out a price for the draft I was about to finish. He shrugged and said it was simple, and asked me how long it was. 300,000-odd words, I said. Eyes wide, he shook his head, and then told me the best way to sell a book of such length:
Cut it up into 8 or 10 sections and sell them for $2-3 a pop.
This, readers, is what I’ve started to see as “The Indie Scam.”
You see, as already mentioned, a lot of indie authors will decry the cost of “big pubs” and their ilk. Like the classic meme, they repeat the line that the prices are “just too d**n high” while showing that their books are so much cheaper at their low, low prices.
But are they really? Well, in a lot of cases … no. And that’s the problem. It’s a misdirect. Because a lot of these indie books? They’re a lot smaller than what they’d have you believe.
(14) RABID PUPPIES TODAY. Vox Day’s picks for the Rabid Puppies slate in the Best Fan Writer category are Jeffro Johnson, Dave Freer, Morgan, Shamus Young, and Zenopus.
(15) KEEPING THE WARDROBE BUDGET DOWN. Den of Geek asks: “Saturn 3: the 1980s’ weirdest sci-fi movie?”
Saturn 3 wasn’t exactly the sci-fi blockbuster its makers might have hoped. Neither broad and upbeat like Star Wars nor as claustrophobic and disturbing as Alien, it instead became one of the great oddities of 80s science fiction. This is, after all, a movie which features such bizarre lines as “No taction contact!” and “That was an improper thought leakage.”
Then there’s the bizarre scene in which Kirk Douglas (nude, of course) chokes out Harvey Keitel after he utters the line, “You’re inadequate, Major. In EVERY department.”
Saturn 3’s by no means a classic, then, but it is undoubtedly one of the most weirdly fascinating sci-fi misfires of the 1980s.
(16) DON’T ORDER THE SOUP. Gizmodo touts a photo series created by Benjamin Wong, a.k.a. Von Wong.
A lovely shepherdess in a flowing white dress tends to her flock in these gorgeous photographs reminiscent of a fairy tale. The twist: the shepherdess is underwater, and her charges are white-tipped reef sharks.
The image is part of the latest series from conservation photographer Benjamin Wong, a.k.a. Von Wong, who has a bit of an adventurous streak, taking his models into the field for a bit of storm-chasing and to underwater shipwrecks—all in the name of capturing that perfect shot. This time, he took model Amber Bourke to Fiji, a hot spot for ecotourism specializing in shark dives.
But his focus isn’t on thrill-seeking or purely aesthetic pursuits; in this case, he wanted to draw attention to the plight of sharks worldwide. “Sharks are almost always depicted as menacing and terrifying, yet it is humans that are responsible for killing them in the millions just to make soup,” he wrote on his blog. “I wanted to create a series of images that would help break those stereotypes.”
[Thanks to James H. Burns, David K.M. Klaus, John King Tarpinian, Jeff VanderMeer, Susan Toker, Moshe Feder, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Stick.]