Pixel Scroll 5/10/19 There Have Always Been Starpixelers At Scrolled Comfort Farm

(1) EUROVISION. In “Eurovision 2019 Is Here: Science Fiction Fans, Rejoice!”, Tor.com’s James Davis Nicoll supplies plenty of examples to show that “Although Eurovision itself may not be exactly SF, some of the pieces are definitely science fiction-adjacent. The visuals are often glorious, and the show as a whole is well worth viewing.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. The Bounding Into Comics Facebook group was restored on May 9. Supposedly they still don’t know why it was shuttered, apart from a notice that they had violated “the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.”

…As you can see the last post was our Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer article, which was posted on May 6th.

When we asked for further clarification on why the page was taken down. We did not receive a response.

While it’s still unclear exactly why Facebook took down our page, we are glad that it has been restored. And we are extremely grateful and truly humbled by the fan support we received after the page was taken down.

While we are happy to continue publishing to our Facebook audience. We do plan on continuing to grow our presence on other social media platforms including MeWe and Gab.

(3) LOCUS COLLECTION PRESERVED. Duke University Libraries announced a prized acquisition — “Locus Collection Tracks the Stars and Universe of Sci-Fi”.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired the archives of the Locus Science Fiction Foundation, publisher of Locus, the preeminent trade magazine for the science fiction and fantasy publishing field.

The massive collection—which arrived in almost a thousand boxes—includes first editions of numerous landmarks of science fiction and fantasy, along with correspondence from some of the genre’s best-known practitioners, including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Octavia E. Butler, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Dean Koontz, Robert A. Heinlein, and hundreds more.

…A tireless advocate for speculative fiction, [founder Charles N.] Brown was also a voluminous correspondent and friend to many of the writers featured in the magazine. Many of them wrote to him over the years to share personal and professional news, or to quibble about inaccuracies and suggest corrections. The letters are often friendly, personal, humorous, and occasionally sassy.

Reacting to a recent issue of Locus that featured one of her short stories, the science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler wrote, “I am Octavia E. Butler in all my stories, novels, and letters. How is it that I’ve lost my E in three places in Locus #292? Three places! You owe me three E’s. That’s a scream, isn’t it?”…

(4) ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM. The New York Times’ Glenn Kenny works hard to resist the movie’s charms in “‘Tolkien’ Review: A Fellowship That Rings Obvious”.

Directed by Dome Karukoski from a script by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford, this picture about the pre-fame days of the author of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” teems with many on-the-nose moments. And it does so while hewing so strongly to the Distinguished British Biopic ethos (including the “England: Land of Magnificent Sunsets” trope) that it teeters on the edge of genuine obnoxiousness. Surprisingly, the emphatic score by the customarily more nuanced Thomas Newman is one of the prime offenders.

Nevertheless, “Tolkien” manages several scenes of credible emotional delicacy. And it doesn’t shy away from the conspicuously literary, treating the writer’s explorations of Wagner (sparked by his love interest and future wife Edith, played by Lily Collins) and passion for philology (sparked by chats with the intimidating professor Joseph Wright, played by Derek Jacobi) with a commendable amount of detail.

(5) SOMETHING FOR YOUR BRAIN’S POKÉMON CENTER. NPR’s Vincent Acovino calls “‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ — Go!”

Have you ever questioned the moral fabric of the Pokémon universe?

Sure you have. For starters: In what kind of world would “Pokémon battles” — in which two humans force two excessively cute creatures to a fight until one of the beasts faints — constitute an acceptable social convention? And isn’t the whole Trainer/Pokémon relationship more than a little … problematic? Who decided that wild Pokémon, who demonstrate a level of intelligence several degrees above that of other animals, should live out their lives under the constant fear of capture and exploitation by humans?

Your enjoyment of Pokémon Detective Pikachu will likely depend on your degree of investment in these sorts of existential questions.The strength of the film lies in the way it playfully undermines the Poké-verse, poking holes in a thing that, when reduced to its essentials, seems just real silly. Much like last year’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Pokémon Detective Pikachu looks itself in the mirror and remarks on what it sees there. And while it doesn’t pull off the trick nearly as well, there’s something admirable about a film that isn’t afraid to have some fun with a property so established — and beloved — by its core audience.

(6) ALL THE BEST: Following Paula Guran’s announcement of the contents of The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2019, Jason has completed his “Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links)” over at Featured Futures.

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals have been announced, they have been combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. (The only one not yet integrated is the BASFF, which will likely be announced late in the year.) Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(7) VAMPIRELLA’S PRIEST. Christopher Priest is writing Vampirella comics now. ComicsBeat questioned him about it — “Why Priest Added Vampirella to His Iconic List”

Deanna Destito: Before jumping into this, were you a Vampirella fan? What appealed to you about this project?

Christopher Priest: No, I wouldn’t call myself a Vampirella fan (which is sure to annoy Vampirella fans!), although I was certainly aware of the character. But I’d guess I viewed the property nostalgically. Fondly, for sure, but if I thought of Vampirella at all I thought of her in a kindly past-tense, as an artifact of the 1970s and my misspent youth….

(8) BEHIND THE SCENARIOS. I learned from this interview there’s a book of notes, too! “Getting Transreal: An Interview with Rudy Rucker” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Your companion book, Notes for Million Mile Road Trip, is actually longer than the novel! The idea of following up reading a novel with that kind of metadata is fascinating; can you tell us more about it?

It’s hard to write a novel. It takes a year or maybe two years of tickling the keyboard at your desk or using a laptop in a cafe, and doing that pretty much every day, even on the days when you don’t know what comes next. This is where writing a volume of notes comes in. When I don’t have anything to put into the novel, I write something in the notes. I might analyze the possibilities for the next few scenes. Or craft journal entries about things I saw [that day]. Or describe some the people sitting around me, being careful not to stare at them too hard. Or think about how hopeless it is to try to write another novel, and how I’ve been faking it all along anyhow. The more I complain in my notes, the better I feel. I publish the finished Notes in parallel with with the novel, not that I sell many copies of the notes. Long-term, the notes will be fodder for the locust swarm of devoted Rucker scholars who are due to emerge any time now from their curiously long gestation in the soil.

(9) LORD WINSTON OBIT. Zombie Squad, an international network of dogs and other pets dedicated to protecting society from the walking dead, paid its respects on Saturday to Lord Winston, the indefatigable West Highland terrier who inspired the group’s creation in 2013 and had served as its official leader until his death on 21 April, aged nearly 15. Despite losing the use of his back legs following a series of operations, Lord Winston – via his British owner – posted daily messages and regular videos on Twitter, where prospective new members continue to be welcomed at @ZombieSquadHQ.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As the authors of SFE put it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ‘mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive. 
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. Star Maker contains the first known description of what are now called Dyson spheres. (Neal Asher currently is making the best use of these in his Polity series.) He wrote about a baker’s dozen novels of which iBooks has pretty much everything available at quite reasonable prices. I know I read and enjoyed Star Maker many years ago but don’t recall what else I read. (Died 1950.)
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film where the SJW credential was the defendant in a Perry Mason murder case, The Case of Black Cat. (Died 1940)
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles he did. (Died 1987.)
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks, 84. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelisation of more than 60 of the Doctor Who shows. Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. 
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 56. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. Might be stretching the definition of genre (or possibly not), but he did the animation for “Spy vs. Spy” for MADtv. You can see the first one here:
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 50. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokey.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MARVEL 1000. Marvel’s celebration of its 80th Anniversary will include a new epic comic book issue to celebrate the legacy of the Marvel Universe: Marvel Comics #1000.

Featuring 80 creative teams with luminaries from both classic and current comic books (and beyond!), this oversized one-shot will be packed with pages spanning across generations of Marvel’s iconic Super Heroes – with cover art from legendary artist Alex Ross!

Among those individuals, some of whom teased the project on social media this week, are long-time Marvel veterans — including Roy Thomas, Peter David, Gerry Conway, and Adam Kubert — and current creators — including Saladin Ahmed, Gail Simone, Chip Zdarsky, and Kris Anka — as well as talents outside of comics, like filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

(13) THE WORD FROM PORTALES. Locus Online’s “2019 Williamson Lectureship Report” quotes GoH Alex Rivera, criminalist Cordelia Willis (daughter of Connie) and others —

“We’re living in a time of walls,” said filmmaker Alex Rivera when introducing Sleep Dealer at the start of the 43rd Williamson Lectureship April 4-6, 2019 in Portales NM. “It’s a global obsession. How do we tell stories in such a world? In my film, I try to cross the consciousness of walls by looking at them, through them, and beyond them.”

(14) 124C41. Hephzibah Anderson’s profile of John Brunner focuses on his novel Stand on Zanzibar (taking the typical “sci-fi predicted it, gosh!” angle) in today’s BBC Culture post “The 1969 sci-fi that spookily predicted today”.

…Though it divided critics on publication, Zanzibar has come to be regarded as a classic of New Wave sci-fi, better known for its style than its content. This seems a pity. When an excerpt appeared in New Worlds magazine in November 1967, an editorial claimed that it was the first novel in its field to create, in every detail, “a possible society of the future”.

There’s irony in some of what Brunner got wrong. He assumed, for instance, that the US would have at last figured out how to provide adequate, inexpensive medical care for all by 2010. Other inaccuracies are sci-fi staples – guns that fire lightning bolts; deep-sea mining camps; a Moon base. And yet, in ways minor and major, that ‘future society’ nevertheless seems rather familiar today. For example, it features an organisation very similar to the European Union; it casts China as America’s greatest rival; its phones have connections to a Wikipedia-style encyclopaedia; people casually pop Xanax-style ‘tranks’; documents are run off on laser printers; and Detroit has become a shuttered ghost town and incubator of a new kind of music oddly similar to the actual Detroit techno movement of the 1990s.

(15) NEBULA REVIEWS. A full rundown of all the nominees for “The 2018 Nebula Awards” is preceded by an analysis of this year’s kerfuffle at Ohio Needs A Train.

The accusations of slate-building, especially as it’s so close to the Hugos being basically completely turned aside for a couple of years there by slating antics 4, led to tensions running fairly high and people running fairly hot on the issue. The SFWA, for its part, says that it wants to take this sort of thing seriously and is looking into ways to try to keep stuff like this from taking over, without (as of the time of this writing) mentioning what steps it may be taking. I suppose that’s fine, but it’ll be interesting to see if anything is different about the nomination process next year.

(16) LODESTAR REVIEWS. Lodestar Award Finalist Reviews by Sarah Waites at The Illustrated Page.

(17) FANTASY LITERATURE’S NOVELLA HUGO REVIEWS. Despite the name, the Fantasy Literature site reviews science fiction, fantasy, and speculative horror, as well as comics and graphic novels.

Best Novella

(18) WRIGHT OF WAY. Steve J. Wright has completed his Best Novelette Hugo Finalist reviews

Novelette

(19) SPACE PASTA. SYFY Wire reveals “Saturn’s rings are hiding moons shaped like frozen ravioli. Here’s why.”

Even from beyond its cosmic grave, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft continues to amaze us with the things it unearthed during its Saturn flybys — like the moons that have been lurking in its rings for billions of years.

When Cassini ventured as close as it would ever get to Saturn, it imaged the moons (which look like space ravioli) in enough detail to reveal that they were covered in the same stuff as its iconic rings. Some of them were even blasted with icy particles from nearby Enceladus. The posthumous images from Cassini’s flyby have given scientists unprecedented close-ups of these really weird satellites.

(20) CRIMESTOPPER. Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Great Superhero Movie Rewatch reaches the films inspired by Chester Gould’s iconic cop — “’Contact Dick Tracy at once’ — RKO’s Dick Tracy Features” at Tor.com.

While he’s pretty much a pop-culture footnote in the 21st century, Dick Tracy was a household name in the 20th. Created by Chester Gould for the eponymous comic strip in 1931, Dick Tracy saw the hard-boiled detective stop a bunch of over-the-top criminals with cutting-edge technology. Gould foresaw the advent of smart-watches with Tracy’s “two-way wrist radio,” and the character was hugely popular.

It wasn’t long before Tracy was adapted to the big screen, first with movie serials in the 1930s and then four one-hour feature films in the 1940s….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/21/17 Pass The Pixel On The Left Hand Side

(1) MYSTERY SOLVED. Yesterday’s Scroll reported the episode of Fargo where someone picked up a rocket-shaped trophy as a weapon, which several people identified (incorrectly) as a Hugo. Today Movie Pilot ran a story about the episode’s Easter eggs and repeated the Hugo Award identification – illustrated with photos for comparison — in item #5.

When the sheriff drives back to her step-dad’s house to get the statue he’d made for her son, Nathan, she discovers the door ajar and the place a mess. Before heading up the stairs to investigate, she grabs something that looks very much like a Hugo Award, in case she needs to defend herself.

A Hugo trophy is awarded to the best sci-fi and fantasy writer of the year, meaning Ennis Stussy might have at one point won the award. Could he have been a witness to the alien encounter all the way back in 1979, inspiring him to write sci-fi?

The Fargo award is not a physical Hugo (whatever may be intended). Movie Pilot’s comparative Hugo photo is, and I was vain enough to hope it was one of mine (several have been photographed for archival purposes). After searching I found they used Michael Benveniste’s photo of a 1987 Hugo, and I definitely did not win in Brighton (although I won the year before and after), and the 1990 Worldcon bid I chaired was also annihilated in the voting…..

Whose Hugo is it? The plaque in the photo is hard to make out, but the phrase “edited by” is there, which narrows it the Hugo for Best Semiprozine or Best Fanzine, and there being an initial in the middle of the person’s name, it must be the 1987 Hugo given to Locus, edited by Charles N. Brown.

(2) NOTICING A TREND. JJ says at some point “Hugo award” entered the popular lexicon as “that’s some far-fetched confabulation you’ve got going on there.”

(3) ROAD WARRIOR. John Scalzi did a LA Times Q&A in which he shared “10 things you don’t know about authors on book tour”

  1. You have to be “on”

When people show up to your event, they expect to be entertained — yes, even at an author event, when technically all you’re doing is reading from your book and maybe answering some questions. As the author, you have to be up and appear happy and be glad people showed up, and you have to do that from the moment you enter the event space to the moment you get in a car to go back to the hotel, which can be several hours. It’s tiring even for extroverts and, well, most authors aren’t extroverts. Being “on” for several hours a day, several days in a row, is one of the hardest things you’ll ask an introverted author used to working alone to do. And speaking of work …

(4) IF I HAD A HAMMER. An advance ruling from @AskTSA.

(5) A VISIT FROM THE TARDIS. The Register claims “Doctor Who-inspired proxy transmogrifies politically sensitive web to avoid gov censorship” – a headline almost as badly in need of deciphering as HIX NIX STIX PIX.

Computer boffins in Canada are working on anti-censorship software called Slitheen that disguises disallowed web content as government-sanctioned pablum. They intend for it to be used in countries where network connections get scrutinized for forbidden thought.

Slitheen – named after Doctor Who aliens capable of mimicking humans to avoid detection – could thus make reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights look like a lengthy refresher course in North Korean juche ideology or a politically acceptable celebration of cats.

In a presentation last October, Cecylia Bocovich, a University of Waterloo PhD student developing the technology in conjunction with computer science professor Ian Goldberg, said that governments in countries such as China, Iran, and Pakistan have used a variety of techniques to censor internet access, including filtering by IP address, filtering by hostname, protocol-specific throttling, URL keyword filtering, active probing, and application layer deep packet inspection.

(6) NAFF WINNER. Fe Waters has been voted the 2017 National Australian Fan Fund (NAFF) delegate and will attend Natcon at Continuum in Melbourne in June.

Waters got into fandom in 1990, started attending Swancon in 1995, and after being inspired by the kids’ programming at AussieCon IV took on organizing the Family Programme for Swancon 2011–2013. For her Family Programme work she was awarded the Mumfan (Marge Hughes) Award in 2013. In 2016 she was the Fan Guest of Honour at Swancon.

The National Australian Fan Fund (NAFF) was founded in 2001 to assist fans to travel across Australia to attend the Australian National Convention (Natcon).

(7) NEIL GAIMAN, BOX CHECKER. Superversive SF’s Anthony M, who liked Neil Gaiman’s 17th-century vision of the Marvel universe — Marvel: 1602 (published in 2012) – nevertheless was displeased by its revelation of a gay character: “Marvel: 1602” and the Wet Fish Slap.

….Or even, if you are really, really incapable of not virtue signaling, if it’s truly so very important to you that people know you’re Totally Not Homophobic, why on earth would you have this character tell Cyclops he’s gay?

It was stupid, it was pointless, and it was insulting that Gaiman decided to make his story worse in order to tell the world that he was Totally Cool With Being Gay. It was a way of telling the reader that he cared less about them than about making himself look good to the right people….

(7-1/2) SEVEN DEADLY WORDS. Paul Weimer watched Mazes and Monsters for his Skiffy and Fanty podcast. You can listen to what he thought about it here, but wear your asbestos earbuds because Paul warned, “That episode is most definitely not safe for work, because I ranted rather hard, and with language not suitable for children….”

(8) AROUND THE SUBWAY IN 25 HOURS. “50 Years Ago, a Computer Pioneer Got a New York Subway Race Rolling” is a fascinating article about a Vernian proposition, and may even involve a couple of fans from M.I.T. in supporting roles, if those named (Mitchell, Anderson) are the same people.

A six-man party (Mr. Samson, George Mitchell, Andy Jennings, Jeff Dwork, Dave Anderson and Dick Gruen) began at 6:30 a.m. from the Pacific Street station in Brooklyn. But when they finally pulled into the platform at Pelham Bay Park after a little more than 25 hours and 57 minutes, reporters confronted them with an unexpected question: How come they hadn’t done as well as Geoffrey Arnold had?

They had never heard of Mr. Arnold, but apparently in 1963 he completed his version of the circuit faster (variously reported as 24 or 25 hours and 56 minutes). Worse, he was from Harvard.

“I decided to take it on a little more seriously,” Mr. Samson recalled.

With his competitive juices fired up, he got serious. He collaborated with Mr. Arnold on official rules and prepared for a full-fledged computer-driven record-breaking attempt with 15 volunteers on April 19, 1967.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 21, 1989 — Mary Lambert’s Stephen King adaptation Pet Cemetery opens

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CITY

  • April 21, 753 BC – Rome is founded.

(11) SAD ANNIVERSARY. An interview by his local paper — “Pine Mountain author Michael Bishop to release book of short stories” – notes it’s been 10 years since his son was killed is a mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

Q: What led you to write “Other Arms Reach Out to Me: Georgia Stories” as a collection?

A: First, this book gathers almost (but not quite) all my mainstream stories set in Georgia or featuring characters from Georgia in foreign settings (see “Andalusia Triptych, 1962” and “Baby Love”) in a single volume. So, in that regard, it represents the culmination of a career-long project that I did not fully realize that I had embarked upon, but that I did always have in the back of my mind as an important project.

You will notice that “Other Arms” opens with a hommage to and an affectionate parody of the short fiction of Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor (called “The Road Leads Back”) and that it concludes with a controversially satirical take on gun politics in Georgia set in an alternate time line (“Rattlesnakes and Men”).

I might add that this last story grows out of our lifelong desire to see the United States adopt sensible nationwide gun legislation that mandates background checks in every setting. We also are advocates for the banning of sales to private citizens of military-style weapons, high-capacity magazines, and certain excessive kinds of body-maiming ammunition without extremely good reasons for them to own such armament, which is totally unnecessary for protecting one’s home and hunting.

(12) MERGE WITH TV. The Into The Unknown exhibit at The Barbican in London runs June 3 to September 1. Visitors will be able to “Step Into A Black Mirror Episode”.

Walking into a Black Mirror.

Is that something you can see yourself doing?

Because if so, we have some good news for you: as part of their new show exploring the history of sci-fi, Into The Unknown, The Barbican are going to turn their huge Silk Screen entrance hall into an immersive take on the oh-so-gloriously bleak episode 15 Million Merits.

Quite how they’re doing this is still under wraps, but we do know that moments from the episode will be re-edited, mashed-up, and displayed on huge six-foot video installations surrounding you. We’re assuming that there will also be exercise bikes….

(13) ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE. How did I miss this Klingon parody of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” at the height of the craze in 2012?

(14) WOZ SPEAKS. Steve Wozniak’s convention starts today. CNET made it the occasion for an interview — “Woz on Comic Con, iPhones and the Galaxy S8”.

Wozniak, commonly known as “Woz,” sat down with CNET a week before the second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con to talk about the geek conference he helped start in San Jose, California; what superhero he’d like to be; what features he’d like to see in the next iPhone; and why he’s excited to get his Galaxy S8.

Even though California already has a Comic Con — the massive event in San Diego — Wozniak said there’s plenty of room for more. “We’re going to have a big announcement at the end of this one,” he said. “We’re different and better, and we don’t want to be linked in with just being another.”

Last year marked the first time Silicon Valley hosted its own Comic Con, and this year it expands into areas like virtual reality and a science fair. The show kicks off Friday and ends Sunday.

“We’ll have the popular culture side of Comic Con, but we’ll mix in a lot of the science and technology that’s local here in Silicon Valley,” he said. “It seems like [tech and geek culture are] made for each other in a lot of ways.”

(15) THE TRUTH WILL BE OUT THERE AGAIN. Another season of X-Files is on the way says ScienceFiction.com.

You can’t keep a good TV series down – well, unless you’re Fox with ‘Firefly,’ I guess.  But hey, maybe Fox feels some remorse over this too-soon axing, so they are making up for it by giving 1990s hit sci-fi/conspiracy show ‘The X-Files‘ another go!

Originally, ‘The X-Files’ ran from 1993-2002 on TV, with two theatrical films in the mix as well.  Off the air but never truly forgotten, the show reached a sort of “cult status,” enough so that Fox made the call to bring the show back for a limited 6-episode revival in early 2016.  Based on the success of that experiment, Fox has rewarded series creator Chris Carter with a 10-episode order for this new season to debut either this Fall or early 2018 on the network.

(16) CELL DIVISION. A news item on Vox, “The new Oprah movie about Henrietta Lacks reopens a big scientific debate”, reminds Cat Eldridge of an sf novel: “There’s a scene in Mona Lisa Overdrive where Gibson hints strongly that one of the characters is a runaway cancer that’s contained within a number of shipping containers…”

This practice went on for decades without much controversy — until the bestselling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot came along in 2010. The story sparked a debate among the public, researchers, and bioethicists about whether this practice is ethical — and whether the benefits to science truly outweigh the potential harms to individuals whose donations may come back to haunt them.

On Saturday, a new HBO movie starring Oprah based on the book will surely reignite that debate. The movie strongly suggests the practice of using anonymous tissues in research can be nefarious and deeply disturbing for families — while at the same time great for science. And so the research community is bracing for a backlash once again….

(17) WORKING. “Analogue Loaders” by Rafael Vangelis explains what would happen if real-life objects had to “load” the way computers do when we boot them up.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Clack.]

Who’s Selling Charlie Brown?

More than five dozen lots of art and books from the Charles N. Brown Collection are on the block at Liveauctioneers.com.

Only a few items are explicitly connected with sf and fantasy, like 10 interior prozine illustrations by artists including Ed (Emsh) Emshwiller, Vincent Di Fate, John Schoenherr, David K. Stone and Don Sibley. And the hand-painted animation cell of wizard Merlin used in the production of Disney’s Sword in the Stone (1963) with the caption “Women…Schwomen!!”

Otherwise, there are several examples of Arts and Crafts style furniture and a great many pieces of ethnic, antique and even ancient pottery. Any collector might be interested in these, but I find it especially easy to imagine Charlie owning this piece in particular:

Finely painted Greek blackware footed amphora, possibly Corinthian, 600-500 BC, of tapering ovoid form with applied handles at the shoulder, decorated with erotic scenes having a Nympth and Saytr on one side and an aroused Centaur on the other, with a black band below the decoration and a ring of black rays around the bottom edge, the whole rising on a circular foot

There also are several batches of mystery novels, by Leslie Charteris, John Dickson Carr, Anthony Boucher and others. They may be collectibles now, however, most of the books in the photos look well-worn – they remind me of my own shelf of carefully accumulated, out-of-print Poul Anderson paperbacks bought cheaply second-hand when I was in college. Did Charlie regard his old books with the same affection?

[Thanks to Bill Burns for the story.]

Why Gaiman Won the Best Novel Hugo

Neil Gaiman refused a 2006 Hugo nomination for Anansi Boys, but Charlie Brown’s timely insistence that he accept prevented Gaiman from declining his nomination for The Graveyard Book:

The late Charles N. Brown called me during that week having found out by his own methods, or possibly just guessing, and told me not to decline the nomination. He was astonishingly firm and bossy about it, and while I had been wavering, after that call I emailed the administrator of the awards to let them know that I accepted. I should have thanked Charlie, and I didn’t. So I am, here.

Gaiman nevertheless feels that Neal Stephenson’s Anathem ought to have been the winner.

Charlie Brown also made Gaiman a director of the Locus Foundation, which has assumed long-term responsibility for the magazine. Gaiman is having a little fun with it:

Yesterday began with the Locus Foundation Board Meeting, the Foundation founded by Charles N Brown before his death. These are the people whose responsibility it is to overlook Locus Magazine and make sure it continues into the distant future. I am on this foundation.

There may also be a shadowy Second Locus Foundation, whose job it is to ensure that the future of Science Fiction and Fantasy proceeds as Charles had planned it. Or that might be an Isaac Asimov book, now I come to think of it.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter and Lee Gold for the story.]

Rx for the Worldcon Business Meeting

A friend wrote that the news of Charlie Brown’s death had convinced him to vote against abolishing the Semiprozine category. He thinks the timing is unsavory, and it would be disrespectful to the memory of a giant in the field.

For the same reason, a few other fans have speculated about parliamentary maneuvers to derail the vote or eviscerate the amendment. As these are people who actually attend Business Meetings, there’s always a possibility they will translate these sentiments into action.

What I expect to happen, and hope will happen, is that the vote on ratification will occur as scheduled, and on the motion in its present form.

First, the WSFS Constitution states the ratification vote is the work “of the subsequent Worldcon.” So let’s just get on with it.

Second, if there was any “disrespect” inherent in eliminating the category it was already communicated to Charlie Brown while he was alive. I’m convinced the rules change was not purposed to offend Charlie but, in either case, he is beyond being hurt anymore.

Third, it’s the opponents to the motion I’ve seen speak against carrying on in the aftermath of Charlie’s death. However, it’s also the opponents who have tried to use online discussion to get more people who might not otherwise appear at the Business Meeting to come and vote against ratification. Next year’s Worldcon is in Australia – the motion’s supporters, who are Business Meeting “regulars” will attend, but will its opponents be there? It seems to me that delay works to the detriment of opponents of ratification.

Yes on Dropping the Semiprozine Hugo

In August fans are scheduled to decide the fate of the Best Semiprozine Hugo at the Worldcon Business Meeting. Last year voters approved an amendment eliminating the category, a change subject to ratification at Montreal. If passed a second time, the category will be dropped.

Should it stay? Should it go? I’ve honestly been having a hard time deciding. Now having spent many hours looking over the arguments I’ve come to the conclusion that the Best Semiprozine category ought to go.

The rules define a semiprozine as one that meets at least two of the following criteria:

(1) had an average press run of at least one thousand (1000) copies per issue,
(2) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication,
(3) provided at least half the income of any one person,
(4) had at least fifteen percent (15%) of its total space occupied by advertising,
(5) announced itself to be a semiprozine.

Internet technology has put zine publishing on a much different economic footing than the days (not so long ago) when paper issues predominated. A person can choose a far less expensive strategy to distribute work and be spared the necessity of creating a large commercial enterprise in order to survive.  

The way pros market their writing has been radically changed by the ability to create online communities of fans and customers. One result is that the amount of free nonfiction about the field available from pro writers has greatly increased. How logical is it to compartmentalize directly compensated writing as semipro, when the other also has the commercial motive of establishing a writer’s brand and stimulating sales?

Finally, a little discussed but very significant change to the Best Fanzine category is likely to be ratified at the same Business Meeting. As I read it, blogs and some websites will become eligible in the fanzine category. Wouldn’t it be absurd to preserve a category for the benefit of a few paper semipro fanzines if other issue-based fanzines must compete with blogs having thousands of readers?

In essence, times have changed and done away with many of the reasons for keeping the semiprozine category.

No Reservation Required: The category was created 25 years ago by fans concerned that the Best Fanzine Hugo category had become dominated by commercially-motivated, professionally-printed, high-circulation zines like Locus, Science Fiction Review/The Alien Critic, Algol/Starship, and Science Fiction Chronicle. Such zines were moved into the new Best Semiprozine category in 1984. And I’m hardly ungrateful – that’s the reason mimeographed, hand-collated File 770 won its first Best Fanzine Hugo in 1984.

But with the dawning of the Age of the Internet a strange reversal occurred, and  I wonder to what extent Ben Yalow and Chris Barkley (who submitted the original motion) were spurred to action by the slate of Best Semiprozine nominees for 2006: Ansible, Emerald City, Interzone, Locus, New York Review of Science Fiction.

Locus won again, of course.

However, nominees Ansible and Emerald City would have been eligible to compete in the Best Fanzine category (and had done so formerly) barring their editors’ unilateral declaration that these were semiprozines (one of the eligibility definitions provided by the rules). Consider that just three of several dozen semiprozines proved capable of outpolling amateur publications in order to make the final ballot.

It’s as if in 2006 the voters were already exercising an implicit veto over the continued existence of this Hugo category.

Drawing a Circle Around Locus: The rules change eliminates the Hugo for semiprozines while preserving the list of semiprozine criteria in the simultaneously amended definition of Best Fanzine. So Locus (and semiprozines generally) won’t drop back into contention with other fanzines after the rules are changed. No doubt that’s a politically necessary feature to get the change passed by long-time fans at the Business Meeting who won’t have forgotten the original purpose of the semiprozine category.

On the other hand, consider how trivial some of the criteria now are, compared with their importance 25 years ago.

One of the formerly important attributes of Locus that made its way into the Best Semiprozine definition was “an average press run of more than 1000 copies per issue” (Locus far exceeded that, of course). A zine needed to become an engine of commerce in order to pay its printer for thousands of expensively-published paper copies, and buy postage for mailing them. Now the ease of distributing material to many readers through the internet allows the option printing no copies, using instead PDFs or other kinds of electronic text files. Press runs aren’t a limiting factor when Hugo voters can see many eligible works online.

Paying for material can also be a defining feature of a semiprozine. The amateur ideal has hung around the discussion since the original Hugo award for Best Amateur Magazine, later renamed Best Fanzine. Yet paying contributors has never legally ruled a fanzine ineligible for the Best Fanzine category provided that’s the only one of the five semiprozine criteria it satisfies. That’s proven by 2009 nominee Electric Velocipede, which pays for material.

Another cherished assumption about the categories in which pro writers should properly compete has already been tested to destruction in the Best Fan Writer Hugo category. The kind of writing that once filled Science Fiction Review and Algol/Starship – bought and paid for – now is available for free from literally hundreds of pros in venues that don’t possess a single attribute of semiprozines as defined by the Hugo rules.

Internet distribution levels the playing field. Fanzines can pay writers and remain fanzines. Pro writers market their work by giving away to fans what we used to have to buy. We may believe we can infer the commercial or noncommercial motives behind various types of published writing and art, but awards categories based on our guesses about people’s intent are arbitrary and inconsistent. “Semipro” is no longer a helpful boundary definition, which makes it hard to justify continuing any category it defines.

Til Semiprozines Have Faces: Some object that Locus has virtually monopolized the category, winning 21 times in 25 years. One of the paradoxes of fan psychology is how we set up “best of the year” awards, then become impatient unless they’re won by someone new every year.

I consider Locus to have gone beyond consistent excellence over the past four decades — it’s also achieved ever-increasing quality during that time. I’d say something has been lost when an award causes people who might otherwise marvel at its phenomenal achievement to curse Locus for not obligingly going out of business and leaving room for someone else to win. In short, my opinion about the change has nothing to do with how many times Locus has won.

One zine, no matter how great, isn’t sufficient justification for a Hugo category, however. Even two or three top semiprozines, adding in the frequently-nominated New York Review of SF and Interzone, are not enough. Some have argued there are too few strong semiprozines to support a Hugo category.

I suspect advocates of the rules change considered the fiction semiprozines immaterial to the debate until Neil Clarke, Publisher/Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, refused to let the Best Semiprozine Hugo category go down without a fight.

Clarke’s Save the Semiprozine rallied vocal opposition to the change, and 32 semiprozines have identified themselves on the site. They’re a volatile group, some having suspended publication or gone out of business since the beginning of this campaign. That still leaves the population larger than I believed: others may have been surprised, too.

When there was a Best Professional Magazine Hugo category, the universe of prozines sometimes shrank to 10 (1967) or even 6 (1972) as titles fell victim to downturns in the economy. (Source: the Wikipedia entry on science fiction magazines.) Yet there was never a call to abolish the category due to there being too few potential nominees. Perhaps that’s not a very strong argument against the Best Semiprozine category, either.

Pro Arguments: Save the Semiprozine has also opened channels of communication for people to hear the semiprozine editors’ own arguments in favor of keeping the award.

John Klima said it is a rush to be nominated, and that the award recognizes hard work. David G. Hartwell wrote:

We are opposed to that abolition for several reasons: we cannot honorably compete in any other category; we derive great personal satisfaction from our nominations; and most of our competitors in the category feel the same way.

That is not an inconsiderable argument. It’s very gratifying to witness a friend’s pleasure in winning a Hugo. People voted to divide the Best Editor category into Long Form and Short Form partly so that David Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and other noted novel editors would share some of the glory going to magazine editors every single year. (As it turned out, Hartwell’s first Hugo win occurred just before the division took effect.)

New York Review of Science Fiction is the kind of classic sercon publication that the creators of the Best Semiprozine category expected to dominate it. However, as shown at Save the Semiprozine, nonfiction semiprozines are very much in the minority. And that “great personal satisfaction” has been denied to fiction zines for the most part.

There have never been more than two semipro fiction zines nominated in any year. Just six different fiction zine titles made the Hugo ballot from 1999-2008.

(Interestingly, only two titles nominated during that timespan are still published, Interzone and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Absolute Magnitude, Helix, Speculations, and The Third Alternative are gone.)

Despite the odds against semipro fiction zines ever winning, their editors are very reluctant to see the category killed off.

If anyone harbors a prejudice against fiction semiprozines, assuming they’re filled with stuff that “real” prozines would pass over, be aware that’s seldom the case. Over the years, some of these zines have had award-nominated stories. A couple have sold “best of” collections to major sf publishers, like Del Rey. Many of the zines listed at Save the Semiprozine pay competitive rates to beginning writers. 

One editor believes a Hugo is needed to reward what these semiprozines are doing for the sf field.

Wendy S. Delmater of Abyss & Apex argued that the Best Semiprozine Hugo should continue in recognition of services like:

(1) We are talent scouts for the pro magazines. A&A is a good market for new writers – 25% of our stories are first-ever publications for our authors.

(2) Other semiprozines give similar things to the community: a place to move up the publication ladder, a niche that might appeal to a broader audience, and-especially in the case of review zines-a place for the community to interact.

When I looked at the wordage rates offered to beginning writers by semiprozines and prozines, I was surprised to see they often aren’t that far apart, by no means the great chasm I expected. The competition to develop a successful magazine involves more than money, it requires a lot of other skills and personal intangibles, too. Exactly the spectrum of abilities already recognized in this Hugo category:

3.3.8: Best Editor Short Form. The editor of at least four (4) anthologies, collections or magazine issues primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year.

The present rule is not limited to editors of printed publications. It isn’t restricted to professional publications. Fiction semiprozine editors are already eligible for the award as presently defined. There will still be a Hugo recognizing their services if the Best Semiprozine category is eliminated.

Eliminating the category is consistent with the long-term trend to recognize individual people. That’s why Best Prozine was superseded by Best Editor, because fans wanted to honor a person, not a title or corporate entity.

Calling the Question: There seems to me little need for a Best Semiprozine Hugo. The five hallowed criteria have diminished meaning, due to the advent of the internet, and because we are not trying to enforce a strict amateur/pro divide.

The semiprozine editors’ arguments that we need to keep their category because (1) it’s a rush to be nominated and (2) it rewards hard work aren’t very persuasive. If that was all it took to get Hugo categories added, there’d be a Best Filk Hugo and many more.

Semiprozines help uncover literary and artistic talent, and for that the editors are eligible in another category, Best Editor: Short Form.

That’s why it makes sense to me to ratify the rules change.

Oh, You Have One of Those, Too

I noticed Cheryl Morgan agreeing with Hugo-winner John Scalzi:

You were probably wise to ship it home, though we had all been looking forward to you trying to take it through security.

I packed mine in my suitcase, and TSA did indeed leave one of their calling cards letting me know they searched the bag before letting it on the plane. The contents seemed little disturbed, however, as if the search had only been done out of a sense of obligation, because you could never explain to a Congressional committee that there really was no need to check something that looked like a mortar round on the x-ray screen.

The Hugo I brought home from Australia in 1985 was packed in my carry-on and I lightheartedly wondered how much explaining I’d have to do when I walked through the metal detector. None, as it turned out. The security guard smiled and said, “Oh, you have one of those too.” I was deflated, and didn’t bother to answer Sure, fella, a tourist practically can’t get out of Australia without somebody forcing one of these on him. The real explanation proved to be that Fred Pohl and Charlie Brown had taken their Hugos through the same security checkpoint just before I arrived.

Andrew Wheeler’s Hugo Handicap

It’s no surprise that Andrew Wheeler’s 2008 Hugo predictions are interesting in direct proportion to his actual familiarity with the nominees. Or that they sputter and completely run out of gas the moment he ventures into the fan categories:

[Best Fanzine] I’m terribly ignorant about the fan categories, and so tend to make predictions based on the entrails of small mammals or the flight patterns of sacred birds. I vaguely recall that Mike Glyer is a West Coast guy, so I’m going to predict that File 770 will win.

[Best Fanartist] Frank Wu, the current 800-pound gorilla of the category, is nowhere to be seen. (Did he take himself out of contention?) Brad Foster and Teddy Harvia are both former 800-pound gorillas here, Harvia slightly more recently than Foster, and Mason wins whenever the Worldcon is in the UK. My Magic 8-Ball says that Brad Foster will take it this year.

It’s lost on me why Wheeler makes such a public display of contempt for the elementary work needed to make informed comments about these categories, there being links to all five fanzine nominees from the Denvention 3 website. Are we supposed to think it reflects badly on the nominees that they aren’t worth Wheeler’s effort to read? Guess again.

And what about poor Frank Wu, his courtesy to the field ignored. I’m reminded why Charlie Brown never withdrew Locus again after his comparable gesture in 1978 was also ignored.