2017 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last couple of years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015 and 35 of the novellas published in 2016 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

Last year, the result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able to do Hugo nominations for the novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I decided to do it again this year.

The success of Tor’s novella line seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, and Book Smugglers jumping on the bandwagon, as well as the Big 3 magazines and the online fiction venues – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. Toward the end, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book in such a case, and to discover that, indeed, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low. Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2017 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

(1) OUR NEIGHBOR. It’s official —

A team of astronomers composed of P. Kervella (CNRS / U. de Chile / Paris Observatory / LESIA), F. Thévenin (Lagrande Laboratory, Côte d’Azur Observatory, France) and Christophe Lovis (Observatory of the University of Geneva, Switzerland) has demonstrated that Proxima, the nearest star to the Sun, is gravitationally bound to its neighbors Alpha Centauri A and B. The nearest stellar system to the Earth is therefore a triple star. Proxima is known to host the nearest exoplanet, a telluric planet orbiting in its habitable zone. This discovery implies that the four objects (Alpha Cen A, B, Proxima and Proxima b) share the same age of ~6 billion years.

 

Paul Gilster discusses the discovery at Centauri Dreams.

Now as to that orbit — 550,000 years for a single revolution — things get interesting. One reason it has been important to firm up Proxima’s orbit is that while a bound star would have affected the development of the entire system, the question has until now been unresolved. Was Proxima Centauri actually bound to Centauri A and B, or could it simply be passing by, associated with A and B only by happenstance?

(2) THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. YouTube’s Nostalgia Critic demands to know “Where’s the Fair Use”?

(3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. While it’s commonly expected at the conventions I’ve worked that volunteers will be members of the con, this is a new one on me – having to join a secondary group in order to volunteer. “Phoenix Comicon announces changes to volunteering; paid fan group membership required” reports An Engishman in San Diego.

Square Egg Entertainment, the organisation behind Phoenix Comicon, today announced a sizeable change to its practice of staffing – and pooling volunteers for – their three annual events:  Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween. Square Egg will no longer be staffing these shows with hired hands, instead now filling those roles from the organising committee and paid membership of the Blue Ribbon Army (which originally started out as a fan group for PHXCC, and has subsequently become a social club with 501(c)(7) status).

Members of the Army have to be at least 18 years old and – here’s the kicker for a number of fiscally-minded volunteers – they also do have to become fully paid-up members of the fan group, with membership prices to join starting at $20 per year and going up to $100 per year. That’s right: you effectively have to now pay to become a Phoenix Comicon volunteer.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Ribbon Army leadership isn’t being compensated

Are your board members paid?

All Blue Ribbon Army board members are unpaid volunteers. All financial information, as required by law for a 501(c)7 organization, will be posted.

(4) BOTTOM OF THE GALACTIC BARREL. Love this article title — “15 Star Wars Characters Who Are Worthless At Their Jobs” from ScreenRant.

  1. Storm Troopers – Just Bad At Their Jobs

They just had to be here, as they’re cinematic legends when it comes to utterly failing at your job. Imperial Stormtroopers, as we’re told, are precise. The Empire has access to vast resources, so you’d think its military force would be well up to scratch. Stormtroopers even get a pretty good showing the first time we see them, managing to take over Princess Leia’s ship with only a few casualties. And then almost every time after that we see them, they’re getting destroyed like they put their helmets on backwards and their armor is made of tinfoil….

(5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Three of the “10 Books Elon Musk – ‘Tesla Founder and Billionaire’ wants you to read” are SFF, beginning with –

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Back when Elon Musk was a moody teen growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, he went looking for the meaning of life in the work of grumpy philosophers. It didn’t help. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which taught him that the hardest part was to properly phrase the question but that once this was done the answer was easy. It changed his whole perspective.

(6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cracked brings all its scholarly powers to bear in “Snow White is a LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory”.  

Mortal man Beren and elf maiden Luthien Tinuviel (of the New Jersey Tinuviels) are forebears of the kings of Numenor and Gondor. Seeing as how the love story of Beren and Luthien echoes through the millennia in their great-great-many-times-great-grandchildren, it comes as no surprise that a similar fate awaits Aragorn and Arwen’s descendant, Snow White.

The family resemblance would only be uncannier if Steven Tyler cast her in inappropriately weird videos during her early teens.

At this point you may be thinking that we’re smoking too much of that pipe with Gandalf, but have you noticed Snow White’s rapport with the birds and beasts of the wild? The way they listen and respond to her?

Doesn’t this suggest a deep connection with nature, as someone with Elvish blood would have?

(7) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Plenty of genre flicks on Film School Rejects’ “The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017”.

…[Our] 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year….

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

Neil Miller: If we’re being honest?—?and we are at all times?—?Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.

(8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Paul Weimer has announced his candidacy for the Down Under Fan Fund.

(9) REMEMBERING RICHARD ADAMS. In 1843 Magazine, Miranda Johnson, an environment correspondent for The Economist, discusses her grandfather Richard Adams, including how Adams’s experiences fighting in Operation Market Garden in World War II informed the battles in Watership Down, how her family all became characters in her grandfather’s novels, and what happened when Adams had lunch with Groucho Marx.

He also never forgot friends he made during his service. One in particular, Paddy Kavanagh, stuck with him for his fearless defence of the Oosterbeek perimeter as part of Operation Market Garden during September 1944. Paddy gave his life so that my grandpa’s platoon could escape. So my grandfather brought him back in the character of Bigwig in “Watership Down”, who stands alone to defend a tunnel in the rabbits’ new warren. Originally in the story, Bigwig also died. But my mother and aunt protested so much that my grandpa changed the tale. “We said nobody must die,” my aunt recalls, “except for Hazel, because it seemed an important part given his old age.”

(10) HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL. ULTRAGOTHA found the story and JJ tracked down a photo —

Carrie Fisher doesn’t have a Star on the Walk of Fame, so fans appropriated a blank one and are leaving tributes. Including two cinnamon buns.

(11) WWCD 2017. Redbubble is selling merchandise with the WWCD art and giving the money to charity —

100% of the proceeds will be donated to bipolar disorder through the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: https://bbrfoundation.org/

what-would-carrie-do

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku
  • Born December 30, 1982 — Kristin Kreuk.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 30, 1865 – Rudyard Kipling

(15) PRINTS IN THE FORECOURT. Filmmaker Roger Corman, a former Worldcon GoH, has been immortalized in concrete at a slightly less well-known theater than you usually think of when it comes to this sort of thing —

Roger Corman may not be a household name, but among movie fans he’s a cult hero.

In October, a tribute was held at the Vista Theatre to celebrate his 62-year career.

The legendary filmmaker was immortalized October 12th in the cement of the Vista’s forecourt with a handprint ceremony, alongside those of Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid; James Bond girl Honor Blackman; special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Cassandra Peterson—also known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“I think it’s kind of fun that [my handprints] will be out there forever,” said Corman before burying his hands deep in a patch of cement on the edge of Sunset Drive.

(16) MARS. Charles E. Gannon was part of a Dragon Con panel reported in Space.com“Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly”

Like in the Old West, the goal would be for the colony to become self-sustaining, the panel said. Once a colony could support itself, it would no longer need to rely on materials from Earth to survive. When asked if an organization on Earth could realistically hope to control what was happening on Mars, Davis said, “If they’re still getting their caloric intake from someplace else, yup, you can.” [Poll: Where Should Humanity Build Its First Space Colony?]

Gannon named the biggest challenge facing a colony that aimed to grow independent from the people back home: the supply of volatiles, particularly oxygen and water. The first explorers would need to find a way for colonists to harvest those on the new world, Gannon said.

“If you have to ship those to the colony, it will be both economically and physically dependent and probably never be profitable or really safe,” Gannon said.

Even if an underground colony relied on rocks to shield itself from deadly radiation, it would still need enough water for similar shielding during vehicular missions, he said, making ice harvesting crucial to the colony’s survival.

“There are plenty of other [challenges],” he said. “But this is the minimum ante for long-term self-supportability.”

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. NPR tells us “Astronomers Seeking Planet 9 Hope To Soon Catch A Glimpse”.

On the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they’re looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Technically, a new planet hasn’t been discovered since Neptune was spotted in 1846. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was demoted to “dwarf planet” a decade ago. If a new planet is found, it will be the new Planet Nine.

(18) TRADING INSULTS. Huffington Post’s “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word”  by Laurie Gough, “Award-winning author of three memoirs…a journalist and travel writer”, begins —

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

The rest of the article carries on in the same condescending tone which so aggravated Larry Correia that he stormed back from a self-imposed internet vacation to write a reply, “Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing” for Monster Hunter Nation. (Gough’s article is quoted in italics. Correia’s replies are bold. Of course they are…)

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers.

Nope. The problem with self-publishing is that there are so many competitors that the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the herd. Sure, lots of them are crap (I can say the same thing for tradpub too), but if you find a way to market yourself and get your quality product in front of the right market, then you can make quite a bit of money.  

From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

From what I’ve seen, I’d say the same thing about the Huffington Post.

As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

As an actual editor who gets paid for this stuff, that sentence reads like garbage.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Only you just described exactly how most real working bands got their start. Add a couple of kids with a guitar and drums, set up in your buddy’s garage, and start jamming. Eventually you will get good enough that you can book some local gigs, and if people like you, they will give you money for your stuff.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.

Nobody gives a crap about “validation”. Validation don’t pay the bills.

(19) MEDIA FAVES. It’s Aliette de Bodard’s turn to bestow Smugglivus year-end cheer at The Book Smugglers.

In media, the most striking thing I watched this year is actually from last year: it was the masterful Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, a tour de force by Peter Capaldi that slowly starts making horrifying sense throughout its length (and that I actually paused and rewatched just to make sure it all hung together — it does and it’s even more impressive on a rewatch). I haven’t had time to consume things from this year: most of my watching has been old things, like Black  Orphan (I can’t believe it took me this long to find out about it, it’s so good, and Tatiana Maslany is just amazing playing all the clones), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, period mysteries featuring the awesome Phryne Fisher (and her amazing wardrobe).

(20) CATCHING UP WITH CAMESTROS. Doctor Who was on Camestros Felapton’s telly on Christmas — “Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special”.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

(21) CAMESTROS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. Then he dashed out to see the new Star Wars movie – “Review: Rogue One”.

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

(23) CAN’T END TOO SOON. By then the year 2016 was just about done – and Camestros designed the most suitable container for its farewell journey.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Michael J. Walsh, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]  

Pixel Scroll 2/26/16 The Prisoner of Shadowban

(1) SHORTLIST TRUTHS. At The Hysterical Hamster Ian Mond asks “What Are Award Shortlists For? No… really… please tell me… I want to know….”

What are award shortlists for?

Obviously their main purpose is to recognize and celebrate the best works published in a specific timeframe and a given context.  That celebratory aspect, in particular, is reflected in my Facebook and Twitter feeds moments after a shortlist is announced as friends, rightly, congratulate the nominees.

But once people have provided virtual pats on the back to the finalists, once the glow of platitude and praise has dimmed, what purpose does an award shortlist serve?  Is it there to be read?  Is it there to spark conversation?  Is it there to further the debate – what there is of it – about the genre?

I ask because this week the Kitschies, one of my favorite awards, announced its list of nominees.  When I reported this on my blog earlier in the week I applauded the diversity on the list – both in terms of gender and race – and the fact that there was a distinct lack of multi-series books present (a particular peccadillo of mine).  I also made the throwaway remark that given the winners are announced on March 7 I wouldn’t have the time to read the nominees

(2) THE LATEST AND EARLIEST NEWS ABOUT ELLISON. Mary Reinholz’ interview in the Pasadena Weekly covers “‘Fire-bringing’ Harlan Ellison, one of America’s greatest short story writers, on protecting his work, L. Ron Hubbard, Octavia Butler, and why he will never stop writing.”

“Since the stroke, my right side is still paralyzed, but I can still type with two fingers,” he says during a recent call to his hillside home off Mulholland Drive. “I still get around. I get up and get into the wheelchair. I went to a [science fiction] convention in St. Louis and they all seemed to take it well. No one stoned me, even though I have this reputation of being a tough old bagel that’s hard to chew. A couple of times, I’ve done (spoken word) recordings. But mostly I lie in bed and watch the ceiling.”

…Ellison also remains deeply wedded to his work. December saw the hardcover publication of “Can & Can’tankerous,” which includes previously uncollected short stories and a tribute to Ray Bradbury, and in September the ninth edition of “Ellison Wonderland” was released; the collection was first published 52 years ago.

A third Ellison biography is expected to be published next year. It’s an authorized one written by Nat Segaloff, who has penned several books about Hollywood royalty, the latest on director John Huston. In “Dreams with Sharp Teeth,” a 2008 documentary directed by Erik Nelson, there are interviews with Ellison who admits he once sent a dead gopher to a publisher in the mail and others with his deceased crony Robin Williams, who committed suicide in 2014.

…Ellison, whom the Washington Post has called “one of America’s greatest living short story writers,” joined the bloody 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a friend and mentor of the late African-American novelist Octavia E. Butler, the first black woman to achieve international prominence within the largely white male bastion of science fiction writing. She grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood of Pasadena. Ellison was one of three people to whom Butler dedicated her 1994 book “Mind of My Mind.”

Butler, who died in 2006 at 58, was an unknown young writer when she first met Ellison at a workshop. “She was one of my students and came to me as part of a (program) the Writers Guild had decided to put together to bring in Latino and black female outsiders,” he recalls. “She came to me with a story. I took a look at it and knew how good it was. We talked about it and workshopped it and it went on from there. I was just one step on her way up. She did it all herself. She was a stalwart woman.”

(3) FREDRICKSON OBIT. Star Trek scenic and graphic artist Anthony Richard Fredrickson died February 15 of a heart attack. Doug Drexler paid tribute to him on Facebook.

So Anthony and I would go to school together, run science fiction stores together, edit sci fi magazines together, live through car crashes and earthquakes together, do makeup effects together, make movie monsters together, help redefine science fiction graphic design together, create spaceships for Star Trek together, and win an Academy Award together. We conquered Hollywood together. And we should never forget that it all began with baby mice dipped in honey.

(4) FIGHTING IN YEARS TO COME. Learn more about the “Narrative of the future developed at Science Fiction Futures workshop” hosted February 3 by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWF) and the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare Project and taught by Max Brooks, August Cole and Charles E. Gannon. The article is posted at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

The Marine Corps of 2035 will fight in megacities in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, deploying from an arid United States that has retreated to a defensive posture and directs little funding to the military.

The enemies of the future will be internal terrorists from both the extreme right and left, international mega-corporations that control the desalination of water, the Chinese mafia, and other established states with stable governments protecting their interests.

The weapons and equipment of the future will be autonomous robots, miniature electromagnetic pulse weapons, powered exosuits, and a proliferation of area denial weapons that limit access to trade routes.

But while the future Marines will be fighting in a different place, against a different enemy, and with different technology than they do now, they’ll still have a “boots on the ground” element and will still have to be flexible and think outside the box. And even in 2035, they’ll probably still be using masks from 2022.

(5) SFWA-SUPPORTED KICKSTARTER. “Star Project 3” at the SFWA Blog tells about the latest non-member Kickstarter project the organization is helping.

Projects are selected by the Self Publishing Committee, coordinated by volunteer Rob Balder. Selections are based on the project’s resonance with SFWA’s exempt purposes, and special preference will be given to book-publishing projects in the appropriate genres.

SFWA is delighted to announce support for our latest Star Project: The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror #6. We hope you will consider funding it as well.

From the project’s Kickstarter campaign:

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror is over 150,000 words of the best fantasy and horror fiction written by Australians (and New Zealanders) and published all over the world in 2015. We’ve already done this five times for the years 2010-2014, and we’d like to do it again.

In addition to the reprinted fiction, The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror series features an extensive introductory essay on the annual state of the genre, obituaries, a recommended reading list, and a list of Australian and New Zealand award recipients.

It is the only volume of its kind being published in Australia at present.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 26, 1920 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari premieres in Berlin.
  • February 26, 1963 — NASA announced that Venus is about 800 degrees F

(7) GUARDIANS ADDS FRAKES. Jonathan Frakes joins Guardians of the Galaxy animated seriesBleeding Cool has the story.

Marvel has tapped Star Trek’s own Will RikerJonathan Frakes… to voice J’Son, King of the Spartax in the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series. USA Today is reporting bringing the veteran actor on board to play the father of Peter Quill (Will Friedle). Frakes has spent more time behind the camera than in front over the last few years becoming a highly respected television director.

J’Son is Star-Lord’s father in the comics as well as in the animated series, but the live-action movie is going a different direction according to director James Gunn and it is believed that Kurt Russell will be playing that version of Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father.

(8) RABID SLATE. Vox Day has announced his slate for – “Rabid Puppies: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form”.

The preliminary list of recommendations for the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category:

  • Grimm, Season 4 Episode 21, “Headache”
  • Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5, “The Vault of the Traveller”
  • Life is Strange, Episode 1
  • My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic, Season 5, Episodes 1-2, “The Cutie Map”
  • A Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 8, “Hardhome”

(9) MYTHING HORSE REPORT. “Runaway Unicorn Leads Highway Patrol on Wild Chase” at Time.

A white pony dressed as a unicorn ran through the streets of Madera County, Calif., for over three hours on Wednesday night before she was caught by police. The costumed pony, named Juliet, first escaped from a child’s birthday party at about 2:30 p.m., but was soon recaptured. However, she got loose again around 5:30 p.m. and proceeded to lead California Highway Patrol on a long chase as she wove in and out of traffic. “We got a call of a unicorn running in the roadway on 12th avenue near Road 32,” Officer Justin Perry told KTUL. “I’ve been doing this for 14 years and this is my first call for a unicorn.”

(10) PIN POEM. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little broke out in verse when she received her Hugo voting PIN…

On the evergreen topic of MAC II, and in honor of the completely unprompted email I got from Hugo Administration yesterday morning (I’m not patient, I’m just lazy and never got around to emailing them), I give you…

Pup’s in the Manger (TtTO)

My PIN arrived just the other day
With a letter saying “Friend, come and have your say:
Did you read a thing that just blew you away?
Are your socks now orbiting the Milky Way?”

Well I said, hooray! time to nominate–
We don’t want to have no slates, friends,
My vote’s not about those slates

And the pup’s in the manger with a bad review
And little boy Larry wants a rocket to the moon
Are we all gonna go to K. C., then?
We’ll get together then, friends, You know we’ll have a good time then

[Thanks to Will R., JJ, Andrew Porter, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13 Another Fine Pixel You’ve Gotten Us Into

(1) Nicole Dieker at The Billfold says “Joss Whedon Made More Money With ‘Dr. Horrible’ Than ‘The Avengers,’ Unbelievably”.

Okay. Let’s compare two scenarios.

1) You decide to write, direct, and produce a 45-minute web musical. You fund the musical’s production out of your own pocket. It is free to watch online.

2) Marvel hires you to write and direct a summer blockbuster that becomes the third highest grossing film of all time.

Which one should make you more money? As Vulture reports, it’s not the one you think:

Joss Whedon shared an eye-opening fact during Saturday night’s reunion of the “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” team: He’s made more money from his independently financed 2008 Internet musical than he did from writing and directing Marvel’s first blockbuster “Avengers” movie.

(2) Nancy Kress, skillfully interviewed by Raymond Bolton

Many of your works delve into areas that require great technical expertise, for example genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Yet, as far as I can tell, before your writing exploded, you transitioned from being an educator to working in advertising. What do you read to develop the knowledge base required for your books?

I wish I had a scientific education! Had I known when I was young that I would turn into an SF writer, I would have chosen differently. Instead, I hold a Masters in English. To write about genetic engineering, I research on-line, attend lectures, and pester actual scientists with questions. My best friend is a doctor; she goes over my work to check that I have not said anything egregiously moronic.

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient for better or for worse. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal moments?

The first turning point for me came with the writing of the novella “Beggars in Spain,” which won both the Hugo and the Nebula and which would never have been written without a jolt from writer Bruce Sterling. At a critique workshop we both attended, he pointed out that my story was weak because the society I’d created had no believable economic underpinnings. He said this colorfully and at length. After licking my wounds for a few weeks, I thought, “Damn it, he’s right!” In the next thing I wrote, “Beggars in Spain,” I seriously tried to address economic issues: Who controls the resources? What finances are behind what ventures? Why? With what success? My story about people not needing to sleep, which I’d actually been trying to compose for years, finally came alive.

(3) He grew up to be the leading fantasy cover artist – here is some of his earliest work. Frank Frazetta’s Adventures of the Snowman reviewed by Steven Paul Leiva for New York Journal of Books.

Frazetta snowman

Frazetta is probably the most widely known—and revered—illustrator of science fiction and fantasy subjects, having gained much fame and a large following for his paperback book covers, putting the image into the imaginative worlds of Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and Conan the Barbarian, among others. Several generations of young minds looking for escape into fantastic realms of adventure where landscapes were often dark and danger-filled, men were perfect specimens of well-muscled heroes, and women were beyond beautiful as their “attributes” were beyond belief, will never regret having made the trip. But earlier in his career Frazetta worked in comics and comic books, even ghosting for Al Capp on his Lil’ Abner strip.

And at the age of 12 1/2, stuck in his bedroom on a snowy day, and inspired by a snowman in his backyard being battered by a winter wind, Frazetta created the Snow Man. This wasn’t a gentle character associated with winter wonderlands and Christmas, but rather a righteous fighter against the evil Axis, which America and its allies were fighting in the Second World War. A few years later, at the still young age of 15, Frazetta created at least two Snow Man comic stories, one of which was published in Tally-Ho Comics, and the other that makes up this current book.

(4) Larry Correia pulls back the curtain on another corner of the writing business in “Ask Correia #17: Velocity, Releases, Rankings, and Remainders”.

So if you turn over constantly, stores tend to like you, and will order more. The more shelf space they give you, the more new people are likely to see your stuff. Success breeds success.

Here is an example. A bookstore orders 3 copies of your first novel. If all of them sell in the first week, then the bookstore is probably going to reorder 3 more. Then when your second novel comes out, they’ll look at their prior sales, and instead of ordering 3, they’ll order 6. Do this for decades, and it is why new James Patterson or Dean Koontz novels are delivered to your local book stores on pallets.

But if those 3 copies of your first novel sat on the shelf for months before selling, then the store probably didn’t bother to restock when it finally does sell. They may or may not order 3 copies of your second, but either way they’re not super excited about you.

I’ve been inside about 300 book stores since I started my professional writing career in 2009. I can usually tell how well I’m doing at any particular store even before I talk to any of the employees, just by going by where my books are and seeing how much space they give me on their shelves. A couple of books means that I don’t do well at that store. Five or six books tells me I’m okay. Eight or ten tells me I’m kicking ass in that town. If the books are faced out, that means I’ve got somebody on staff who is a fan (and that is incredibly important).

(5) Steven Murphy commences a kind of nonlethal Death Match with “Them’s Fightin’ Words: Harry Potter V. Ender Wiggin” at ScienceFiction.com

The following is the first of a new series pitting the merits and abilities of similar characters against each other. We open with a disclosure of the personal bias of the author then outline some ground rules and end with an example of how a fight between the two might unfold.

Personal Bias: The popularity of JK Rowling’s series has cemented Harry Potter as the go-to magical youth. He is the modern personification of the fantasy genre. The perfect contrast to Potter would then be the boy who personifies science fiction, Ender Wiggin of Orson Scott Card’s novel ‘Ender’s Game‘. The two characters have a great deal in common–both are children with the fate of their kind resting on their shoulders. I prefer ‘Ender’s Game’ over any single Harry Potter book, but I can’t argue that the Potter series as a whole succeeds on a level that the Ender series of books does not.

Ground Rules: The Goblet of Fire follows Harry into a series of trials that place him in a mindset that parallels Ender’s nicely. For my purposes the version of Harry with the skills and experience gained from this book and those previous will be used. The Ender used will be the one post ‘Ender’s Game’ and before ‘Speaker for the Dead’. This will allow the two characters to be roughly the same age. Ender will not have the assistance of his friend and database intelligence, Jane. The surroundings will compliment Ender in that the arena is the Battle School’s gravity free training room complete with the immobile obstacles called “astroids” for cover. Ender will have a blaster and Harry will have his wand. They enter the arena at opposite gates, neither with a clear view of the opposing gate.

(6) Tom Knighton reviews Chuck Gannon’s Raising Caine:

Like the first in the series, this one starts out somewhat slow.  The action tends to be minimal and sporadic, but for good reason.  However, the writing is good enough that it will get you through to the moments where the action picks up.  Further, none of the other stuff is filler.  Almost all feels vital to the story (and I can’t think of anything that comes up that isn’t important later on).

When the story does pick up, it becomes something very special indeed.  That’s just Gannon’s gift, however.  The previous book, Trial by Fire contained more of the action I prefer just be necessity, and that book was definitely on my list of “special” books.

While I don’t think Raising Caine was quite up to that level, that’s not a slight on this book.  The only books I’ve read recently that were on that level included Seveneves and A Long Time Until Now.  Both of those are on my Hugo list, and Raising Caine is a contender for one of those slots as well.

(7) The Nerf Nuke fires 80 darts in all directions.

(8) Tom Galloway, past contestant and inveterate Jeopardy! watcher, saw this on the October 12 show —

Heh. Today’s Jeopardy! round was a themed board on Game of Thrones, with categories Winter Is Coming, A Song of “Ice” and “Fire”, You Know Nothing, The North Remembers, Always Pay Your Debts, and wrapping up with Game Of Thrones, of course the only category actually about the work (specifically the tv series).

(9) Sometimes there’s a reason this news is hard to find — “’Lizard men abducted me to the moon for sex,’ woman claims”.

A former U.S. air force radar operator was abducted to the moon by lizard men for nightly sex – and was also forced to stack boxes.

What our reptilian overlords want with these sinister boxes can only be guessed at.

Niara Terela Isley is just one of several witnesses quoted by Alien UFO Sightings in an expose of the U.S. military’s secret moon bases – where reptiles rule, and humans are passed around like sex toys.

(10) James Schardt delivers “A Response to Charles Gannon” at Otherwhere Gazette.

At one point, Mr. Gannon used the term “The Evil Other”. I’m not sure he has grasped the full significance of this label.

Would you talk to a Homophobic Neo-Nazi that tried to hijack a literary award?

How about a racist who married a minority wife and had a child with her to hide his racism? These have actually happened! We know, it was talked about in such serious publications as Salon, Entertainment Weekly, The Daily Beast, The Guardian, and Slate. They had to get their information somewhere. Someone sent this information to them and they should have done due diligence. Otherwise they might not have as much credibility as people thought.

Now, those two characters, above, don’t even sound plausible in comic books. But these are not just insults that have been thrown at the Puppies. This is what many of the Science Fiction Establishment actually BELIEVE. With these beliefs, almost any action becomes allowable. What tactic should be disallowed when fighting Evil? Are you going to let a prestigious award go to a Nazi? Someone might think it validated his ideas, then you have more Nazis. Would you pay for a hundred more people to vote to prevent that? Would you tone back your rhetoric for any reason? You certainly wouldn’t apologize for calling them Nazis. That’s what they are. Good grief, we’re talking about Fascists, here! It cost 60 million lives to defeat them last time! Vox Day is sadly mistaken. Social Justice Warriors don’t always lie. When you are fighting for Good, there is no reason to lie. Social Justice Warriors tell the truth as they see it.

Of course, the problem is, the Puppies are not Nazis. Even Theodore Beale, the infamous Vox Day, doesn’t quite reach that level (probably). In the face of this, the Puppies can’t back down. Not won’t, CAN’T! They know. They tried. This is the biggest problem with telling the Puppies to moderate their responses.

(11) Someone was not pleased to see the topic heat up again —

(12) John Scalzi did, however, enjoy explaining his now-famous Nerdcon somersault in the first comment on “My Thoughts on Nerdcon:Stories”.

(13) “A Harry Potter Where Hermione Doesn’t Do Anyone’s Homework For Them” by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast.

“Okay, write that down,” Hermione said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, “and then copy out this conclusion that I’ve written for you.”

“Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,” said Ron weakly, “and if I’m ever rude to you again –” He broke off suddenly. “This just says DO YOUR OWN GODDAMN WORK in fourteen languages.”

“Fifteen,” said Hermione. “One of them’s invisible.”

(14) Kimberly Potts’ “The Big Bang Theory Recap: What the Filk Is Happening” sets up the next video.

Thankfully, just as so many episodes of Will & Grace were Karen-and-Jack-ed away from the main characters, “The 2003 Approximation” is stolen, or rather saved, by Howard and Raj. In a far more entertaining half of the episode, we’re introduced to the joys of Filk. What, you may ask, is Filk? It’s a genre of music that puts a science-fiction/fantasy spin on folk, and yes, it is a real thing. It’s also the reason that, for at least the next week, many of us will be trying to get the chorus of “Hammer and Whip: The Untold Story of Thor vs. Indiana Jones” out of our heads.

 

(15) Jurassic World gets the Honest Trailer treatment.

Spoilers.

Also not very funny.

On second thought, was there some reason I included this link?

(16) Because it’s a good lead-in to Bryce Dallas Howard’s defense of her Jurassic World character’s shoe preferences?

Her insistence on wearing high-heels throughout the movie, including a memorable scene that sees her outrunning a T-Rex in stilettos, was dismissed as “lazy filmmaking” by Vulture and called “one tiny but maddening detail” that set up the film to “fail” by The Dissolve.

The actress herself disagrees. She explained to Yahoo why her character’s footwear choice is totally “logical” for the movie, seemingly putting the conversation to bed once and for all.

Watch our exclusive interview with Bryce Dallas Howard for the DVD and Blu-ray release of ‘Jurassic World’ on 19 October above.

“[Claire] is ill-equipped to be in the jungle. This person does not belong in the jungle,” reasons Bryce.

“And then when she ends up in the jungle it’s how does this person adapt to being in the jungle?”

“From a logical standpoint I don’t think she would take off her heels,” she adds.

“I don’t think she would choose to be barefoot. I don’t think she would run faster barefoot in the jungle with vines and stones.”

[Thanks to Nick Mamatas, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2 Split-Level Headcheese

(1) Pat Cadigan is still making cancer her bitch.

I didn’t plan to travel as much as I did this year, it just happened that way. And I’m not done yet. I have at least one trip, possibly two left before I put the suitcase away till next year.

It’s been very good for me, physically as well as mentally. In May, I visited Copenhagen for the first time. In June, I took a road-trip from Virginia to a college reunion in Massachusetts. In July, I spent most of a week at a festival in Spain. And in mid-August, I went to Spokane, WA for Sasquan, the world sf convention. The difference in my physical condition now compared to the same time last year is virtually miraculous. I could walk reasonable distances without collapsing. On Saturday night, I went to the Hugo Losers Party––the one given by original co-founder George RR Martin––and didn’t go to bed till four a.m. Then I was up at 9-ish to meet a friend for breakfast.

Last year at this time, I was pretty feeble. This year, I’m hopping around like an ingenue. I appear to be well, so much so that you’d never guess I had terminal cancer. A lot of people didn’t know––they thought I was in remission. It was no fun to correct them. I hated making them feel bad. Seriously; I remember what it was like to be in their shoes. I have a lot more experience being them than being terminal.

I’ve been saying that more often in the last few weeks: terminal cancer; I’m terminal; treatment is palliative. There’s about a year and four months left of my oncologist’s original two-year estimate. Where did the time go?

(2) Little White Lies “Video Artifacts No. 4 – Andrew Ainsworth”

You may not know the name, but Andrew Ainsworth is the creator of one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – the original Star Wars Stormtrooper helmet. Working out of his shop situated on the quaint, leafy Twickenham Green, Ainsworth began his career in the ’70s as a prop maker for films and has since become one of the leading exponents of products made via plastic moulding techniques.

 

(3) Here’s a headline I missed: James Potter — Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley’s son — started Hogwarts on September 1.

(4) Tremendous examples of trompe l’oeil posted by George R.R. Martin – all the work of John Pugh, “master of the art style called ‘narrative illusionism.’”

(5) Summer’s almost over, which means it’s time for Doctor Who fans to start counting down until “The Doctor and River Song Reunite For A Spectacular Christmas”

Alex Kingston returns to Cardiff to reclaim her role as Professor River Song for the highly anticipated 2015 Doctor Who Christmas special, part of BBC One’s essential seasonal viewing.

It’s Christmas Day in the future and the TARDIS is parked on a snowy village street, covered in icicles, awaiting its next adventure. Time traveller River Song meets her husband’s new incarnation, in the form of Peter Capaldi, for the first time this Christmas.

Day one of filming the eleventh Doctor Who Christmas special starts this week and is written by Lead Writer and Executive Producer, Steven Moffat, produced by Nikki Wilson and directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Sherlock).

River Song made her first Doctor Who appearance in 2008 in ‘Silence in the Library’ and ‘Forest of the Dead’ and has appeared in 15 episodes to date.

Award winning Alex Kingston comments on her reappearance, “To be honest, I did not know whether River would ever return to the show, but here she is, back with the Doctor for the Christmas special. Steven Moffat is on glittering form, giving us an episode filled with humour and surprise guest castings. I met Peter for the first time at Monday’s read through, we had a laugh, and I am now excited and ready to start filming with him and the Doctor Who team. Christmas in September? Why not!”

Steven Moffat, Lead Writer and Executive Producer, adds, “Another Christmas, another special for Doctor Who – and what could be more special than the return of Alex Kingston as Professor River Song? The last time the Doctor saw her she was a ghost. The first time he met her, she died. So how can he be seeing her again? As ever, with the most complicated relationship in the universe, it’s a matter of time…”

(6) Ken Marable drops his name in the hat as another fan who would like to host the go-to Hugo recommendation site. Details are at 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season.

I am trying to encourage the community to take part in a “Hugo Recommendation Season” from November to February. Basically to both create as much conversation as possible about the works themselves, and to give each category its fair spotlight, I’m hoping to have a Focus Week on each category. During each week, fans would post their recommendations (on their blogs, Facebook, whatever) saying what works they love, and most importantly, why. (There are a lot of recommendation *lists*, I want more – I want to know *why* it is recommended.)

….I am hoping to get as many fans as possible to participate including Sad Puppies, non-Puppies, new members, and long-time fans like you. In fact, my ideal would be to have some of the old guard introduce each category, possibly explaining why it came into existence, things to consider, etc. (e.g. suggestions on how fans can look for a Best Editor; just what is and why do we have a semiprozine; venerable past winners; surprising past winners, etc.). Sure it’s all a Google search away, but it would be nice to have a single, short reference to accompany the recommendations. However, I would be pleased if fans just participated in each Focus Week and talked about works and people they think are award worthy in each category.

(7) David Gerrold has something going too – see Facebook

Here’s a secret cabal for the rest of us. THE SECRET CABAL OF FANNISH FANS [SCOFF]. Anyone can join. Anyone can recommend. There are no slates, just people sharing the books they enjoyed.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/407010419502085/

(8) Edouard Briere Allard has posted “A Critical Review of Laura J. Mixon’s Essay”, which is as voluminous and heavily annotated as the work it attacks:

This is only my interpretation, but Mixon appears saddened that BS was not kicked out of SFF and that BS has instead decided to become a better person and keep writing in SFF (although to be clear, BS had already made that decision in 2013, possibly even some time in 2012). Mixon later tells us: “trust can’t precede the cessation of abuse. Forgiveness can’t come at the expense of basic fairness. Reconciliation can’t precede regret.” This idea that the WoC in front of her might not be guilty of all the crimes she is accused of is impossible for Mixon to believe; just as impossible as believing that she, herself, might be guilty of comparable crimes. This, I think, explains her desire to pursue the matter until she gets her way. It’s a very American way of seeing things.

In the same follow-up post, Mixon says:

Dividing people into camps, branding those who disagree with us (or whose religious beliefs (or lack thereof), skin color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. offend us in some way, for that matter) as The Enemy—as irredeemably evil—and appointing ourselves and our friends as the sole arbiters of Truth, is a destructive practice. No matter who does it. That was why I wrote my report.

Here, if nowhere else, this single paragraph illustrates perfectly why I loathed Mixon’s essay, and her apparent inability to empathise with others and to evaluate her own actions. Mixon, in an essay that begins with decrying the difficulty of getting rid of the “evil” that is BS, says: “branding those who disagree with us […] as The Enemy—as irredeemably evil—and appointing ourselves and our friends as the sole arbiters of Truth, is a destructive practice”. This branding, you’ll recall, the only branding RH as ever done that could conceivably fit into what Mixon is saying here, is calling things or people misogynist, racist, homophobic or colonialist. While there is always ample room to discuss strategy and tactics in the fight against misogyny, racism, homophobia or colonialism, I disagree with Mixon’s sweeping condemnation, and I find her framing deeply hypocritical.

(9) Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon – “2015 Hugo Analysis: Category Participation”

[Post includes an assortment of graphs covering several years of history in every category.]

Now 2015: that line is totally inconsistent with the previous 4 years. Previously ignored categories like Editor grabbed an increase of 30 points—there’s your visual representation of how the Puppy kerfuffle drove votes. Thousands of voters voted in categories they would have previously ignored. I imagine this increase is due to both sides of the controversy, as various voters are tying to make their point. Still, 80% participation in a category like Editor, Short or Long Form is highly unusual for the Hugos. Even the Best Novel had a staggering 95% participation rate, up from a prior 4 year average of 87.4%.

 

(10) Harry Connolly, taking off from a recent Eric Flint post, speculates that Hugo voters and readers have these differences — in “oh god am i really going to write about the hugos again”

But here’s my suggestion, tentatively offered: what if the Hugo voters/nominators aren’t the one’s who’ve changed these last few decades? I mean, sure, some folks age out, new folks come in, so they aren’t the same individuals. But what if they’re the same sort of novelty-seeking reader, preferring clever, flattering books to pretty much everything else?

Because that would mean that the bulk of the readership now are the sorts of readers who don’t care about fandom or voting for Awards. Who have maybe sampled a few award-winners and found them not to their taste. They’re the people who came into the genre through Sword of Shannara, because it was the first fantasy to hit the NYTimes list, through STAR WARS and dozens of other action/adventure-with-ray-guns movies that sold millions of tickets, through D&D novels like Dragonlance, or through shoot-em-up video games.

Maybe the award hasn’t changed very much, but the readership now suddenly includes huge masses of people who are looking for Hollywood-style entertainment, with exaggerated movie characterization and a huge third act full of Big Confrontation.

(11) Robert B. Marks in Escapist Magazine – “The Night Science Fiction’s Biggest Awards Burned”

When you take a step back, it’s easy to see the Sad Puppies as the only sympathetic clique of the lot. They bought their memberships and voted for the stories they thought were worthy of recognition, as was their right as members – they’re also the only group who didn’t advocate a response of “if we can’t have it, nobody can!” Of everybody involved in the voting, the Sad Puppies did nothing wrong. In fact, they may be the only clique in this mess who actually honoured the fan-driven spirit of the Hugo Awards. It speaks volumes that when George R.R. Martin asked if he could nominate authors for consideration in next year’s Sad Puppies effort, the answer came back as an unconditional “yes.”

(12) Charles E. Gannon on Whatever in a comment on “Wrapping Up 2015: A Hugo Awards Open Thread”

This is a proven recipe for quickening passionate partisans into aggressive zealots. When advocates forsake their initial behavioral limits, they have started down a path in which their ends have begun to justify means they would not have countenanced earlier. And so they are on their way to becoming radicalized extremists.

We are familiar enough with the early warning signs of this dynamic at work, and which, cast in the taxonomies of our genre, equate to:

increasing numbers of SF & F readers becoming infected with the same virus of polarization now endemic in so many other parts of our culturescape;

name-calling, mockery, and personal invective that becomes so ubiquitous that it no longer stands out as arresting or unusual;

increasingly strident and absolutist rhetoric, often accompanied by a reflex to screen for “correct think vs. wrong think” semantics.

I don’t propose to have any sweeping answer for how to reverse this trend. (That would make me yet another strident advocate, wouldn’t it?). Rather, I perceive the answer to be ultimately personal: a conscience-informed attempt to balance what one intended to convey with how it was received. In short, to temper oneself without muzzling oneself.

My own answer is to keep talking amiably with people from all over the spectrum, regardless of however different (or not) our opinions may be. Consequently, lots of the folks I’ve spoken with over the last six months will not find the content of this post surprising and have expressed sympathy for larger or smaller parts of it. The list includes people such as Larry Correia, David Gerrold, Brad Torgerson, John Scalzi, Rachel Swirsky, and Eric Flint, just to name a few. And if anything strikes me as even more prevalent than the differences of opinion and perception among the dozens of people with whom I’ve chatted, it is the degree to which the “sides” do not understand each other. Which, given America’s contemporary culturescape, is not really surprising.

(14) Solarbird on crime and the foreces of evil – ”on the business meeting, part 2: e pluribus hugo”

E Pluribus Hugo doesn’t know about intentional slates. It doesn’t need to be told, “this is a slate.” Nobody has to make that call, because it doesn’t matter. It’s kind of like a normalisation function applied to nominations. There are no arguments over whether a pattern or voting is intentional or a plot or intent or political – a lot of identical ballots will be normalised to a first-order approximation of their actual popular support, regardless.

That’s why it’s so elegant, and that’s why it’s so genius. It doesn’t lock anybody out; it just stops campaigns from locking everyone else out, dramatically reducing their value vs. their labour and monetary cost, and eliminating the incentive for opposition parties.

For me, that is fair. For me, that is enough.

I hope that, for the honest flank of the Sad Puppies, it will also be enough. One self-identified Sad came up and voiced active support for E Pluribus Hugo during the business meeting. Those who actually believe in the mythical SJW VOTER CABAL – which was emphatically demonstrated not to exist by the events of this year, but stick with me – will know that E Pluribus Hugo would normalise this supposed SJW CABAL slate just as effectively.

Is it sad that we’ve reached a point where this sort of engineering is necessary? Eh, maybe. Probably, even. But it has driven fandom to create what even some opponents at the business meeting called a more perfect nominating system.

Yes, it’s tedious as all hell to do by hand, but it can be done. Yes, it’s more complicated – but not much. It’s only a little different than what we do for final voting and for site selection already.

(15) Allum Bokhari on Breitbart – “The online culture wars have moved out of comments sections and into Amazon’s Kindle Store”.

Online progressives were not so supportive. Alexandra Erin, a sci-fi writer who described Day’s book as “rehashing old slights”, wrote a short parody of the book for Kindle. Entitled “John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels,” the book makes fun of Day’s alleged fixation with the progressive sci-fi author John Scalzi.

Scalzi himself appeared to be delighted with the parody,  saying he “loved it already.” He used the book in a fundraising drive for a charity promoting diversity at sci-fi conventions, promising to release an audio recording of him reading the book if $2,500 was raised within three days. The target was successfully met, and Scalzi subsequently uploaded an audio recording.

Supporters of Vox Day responded by releasing their own parody book, entitled “John Scalzi Is A Rapist: Why SJWs Always Lie In Bed Waiting For His Gentle Touch; A Pretty, Pretty Girl Dreams of Her Beloved One While Pondering Gender Identity, Social Justice, and Body Dysmorphia.”

The counter-parody was removed by Amazon today following complaints from Scalzi. Prior to its removal, it was the top seller in the “parodies” section of the Kindle store, two places ahead of Erin’s book. Kindle top 100 rankings are calculated on an hourly basis, and surges in popularity for titles usually reflect a short, rapid increase in the number of purchases….

Both parody authors saw genuine returns for their products. The parody books were both under 30 pages long, and are unlikely to have taken much time to write. The fact that they became part of a buying war by two factions in the culture wars shows how animosity can be harnessed for profit.

(16) John Scalzi weighed in throughout the day.

(17) Ken White on Popehat “Satire vs. Potentially Defamatory Factual Statements: An Illustration”

So. If someone wrote an article saying “Ken White’s legal analysis should be disregarded because dresses up in a rubber suit on the weekend and hunts ponies with a handmade crossbow,” and says it on their trash-talking blog, to an audience that knows them and knows about my blogging here, it’s almost certainly parody, because the relevant audiences would be familiar with our in-joke about responding to spam emails with rants about ponies and would therefore not take it seriously.

The Facts Here

Here the factors point very strongly to the book being treated as parody, and protected by the First Amendment, rather than as a defamatory statement of fact. With all respect to Scalzi, his question is wrong: you can’t analyze the book title in isolation. You have to look at it in the context of the whole. In that context, the intended audience (both fans of Beale and fans of Scalzi) would recognize it as a reference to Beale’s tiresome meme. Plus, the Amazon description explicitly labels it as “a blazingly inventive parody,” and the descriptive text is mostly nonsensical and evocative of ridicule of “SJW” concerns, and references some of the topics that anger Beale’s coterie in connection with Scalzi like the Hugo Awards.

I think this one is protected parody, and I don’t think it’s a very close call.

(18) Vox Day on Vox Popoli – “Why Johnny can’t sue”

I suppose that leaves lobbying Amazon to ban books that make fun of John Scalzi, which I tend to doubt will be a successful strategy. UPDATE: Amazon just pulled down John Scalzi Is A Rapist: Why SJWs Always Lie In Bed Waiting For His Gentle Touch; A Pretty, Pretty Girl Dreams of Her Beloved One While Pondering Gender Identity, Social Justice, and Body Dysmorphia 

Fascinating, in light of how Is George Bush a War Criminal and Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Paula Deen is a Big Fat Idiot are still available for sale there. I wonder who will be the next target of these dread parodists?

(19) Brad R. Torgersen – “Tyranny of the Safe”

We must not allow ourselves to become a Tyranny of the Safe. You can have intellectual latitude, or you can have intellectual comfort. But you cannot have both. Larry Niven was 110% correct: there are minds which think as well as yours, just differently. Silence the other minds, and you will ultimately find you have silenced yourself. Because any rules you install today, are guaranteed to be abused by your opponents tomorrow. The mob you join in — to metaphorically encircle and burn the homes of the “wrong” people — will encircle and burn your home eventually. Commanded reverence — for an institution, an idea, or a demographic — begets simmering contempt. And the harder you push and punish, the more you use threats and pressure, the more obvious it is that your concepts cannot endure objective criticism.

(20) John C. Wright – “Dantooine is Too Remote”

Look — I hate to get emotional. It is bad for my Vulcan digestion. But the Hugos used to mean something, and now they don’t. A little bit of light and glory have departed the world.

Those who snuffed that light, hating a brightness they could not ignite themselves, must pay.

(21) David Wintheiser on Contrarian Bias “My Only Hugo Disappointment”

But the big problem with [Guardians of the Galaxy]as Hugo-winner came when I discovered what movie got left off the Hugo nominations list because of the three films from the Puppy slate that got on it: Big Hero 6.

The entire plot of Big Hero 6 revolves around the question of who decides how to make the best use of technology, and for what ends. The ‘superpowers’ exhibited in the film all make use of science presented in the film, and while not all the science is strictly ‘real-world’, it still follows the rules set up in the film itself — for example, the limitations of Hiro Hamada’s big invention become a significant plot point in the defeat of the true ‘villain’ of the piece. And, of course, it was a really good story, well-told. Had Big Hero 6 been in the nominations list, I’d have voted for it myself, and felt it was the most deserving potential winner, but because a bunch of butt-hurt white dudes felt like flooding the Hugo nominations market with their own wishlist, the movie I thought would have been the most deserving 2015 Hugo winner didn’t even get nominated.

That, to me, was the biggest and really only disappointment I had from taking part in the 2015 Hugo Award voting. It may well be something I decide to do more regularly in the future, if only to continue to represent a ‘new mainstream’ in SF where diversity in stories and subjects is celebrated, not lamented.

(22) A Stitch in Time – “The World is not Black and White: Hugo-related ramblings”

So. Knowing what I knew about the author’s campaign against the Hugo, and the Puppies slate, and the things said against him, or implied against him, or actually, mostly, the things he wrote that everyone from the Other Side (TM) thinks about him though they’re not actually true… I was really pleasantly surprised. (Now that I’m writing this, I think that I read most of the accusations allegedly done against Correia in his own writing, where he stated them and then vehemently said that he, of course, was none of that. In a way and tone that very much made me think that there was probably a bit of truth to them.)

I did enjoy the books, but knowing about all the personal and sorta-political background story, it felt a little weird to do so, as the Puppy Thing really irked me. I cannot completely part the writing from the author. That may be a good thing for a person: I’ve supported artists because I like the person for their personal qualities or their way of seeing and approaching life, though do not much care for their actual art, for example. But of course it can also mean that I won’t support someone because of their political or general stance on things, and, more importantly, because of the actions they take in this field.

Without the Hugo Kerfuffle, I would choose the Grimnoir books as an Xmas or birthday present for some friends of mine who I’m sure would enjoy them. But… the world is not black and white, and I will not buy these books on their own, because of the Hugo Kerfuffle and the actions the author has taken.

(23) L. E. Modesitt, Jr. – “The Hugos, or ‘You Just Don’t Understand’”

We have two groups with very different perspectives on what constitutes excellence. Each believes the other is wrong, misguided, or the like. Those on each side can argue quite logically their viewpoint. The problem is that, all too often, people with fixed mindsets believe absolutely and firmly that their understanding of a situation is the only way it can be accurately perceived. It has nothing to do with whether one is liberal or conservative, or any other social outlook. It has to do with a certain firmness of thought, described as “principled” by each of themselves, while describing their opponents as misguided or unprincipled.

In the case of the Hugos, as I see it, and I’ve certainly been criticized for the way I see it, there is some truth in both the cases of the “sad puppies” and the “new traditionalists.” [I have to say that I don’t see much truth or objectivity in the points of the “rabid puppies,” but perhaps my mindset just doesn’t accept what seems to be hateful provocation or use of hate to self-publicize.] And, as I’ve said before, not only do I think the field is big enough for both viewpoints, but the sales of a range of authors prove that rather demonstrably.

Yet each side is contending that the other did something hateful and discriminatory, largely because one side refused to abide by unspoken rules that they believed minimized their concerns. In the end, the other aspect of groups that this conflict illustrates, again, is why unspoken rules tend to be superseded by written procedures in larger groups.

[Thanks to Will R., Vox Day, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cubist .]

Bujold Novel Among 11 New Baen Acquisitions

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, a new Vorkosigan Saga novel by Lois McMaster Bujold, is among eleven recent acquisitions by Baen Books.

There are also two new entries in the best-selling Liaden Universe® science fiction series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

Three more are by Hugo finalist Michael Z. Williamson: two set in the universe of his time travel novel A Long Time Until Now  (May 2015), and one set in the world of Williamson’s long running and popular Ripple Creek series.

Larry Correia will deliver Wendell (but Baen is silent whether the novel is named after a manatee.)

Baen has also acquired two new novels in the Caine Riordan science fiction series from Nebula finalist and Compton Crook award winner Charles E. Gannon.

Also on the way is a new hard science fiction novel by AnLab award winner and multiple Hugo finalist Brad Torgersen, plus a new Skolian universe science fiction mystery novel from two-time Nebula award winner Catherine Asaro.

“We are extremely pleased with this wonderful selection of new novels we will soon offer eager fans,” said Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf. “And we’re very happy to work with a group of such fine writers whose work engages and entertains hundreds of thousands of readers.”

The full press release follows the jump.  Continue reading