The 2018 winners are:
- “When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller (October)
Best Cover Art
- “The Storkfriars” by Sean Murray (June)
The 2018 winners are:
Best Cover Art
(1) TWO CIXIN LIU MOVIES BATTLE FOR TOP BOX OFFICE. A pair of films based on the work of Cixin Liu recorded the top box office grosses in mainland China over the Chinese New Year.
Popular Chinese director Ning Hao has seen his comedy fantasy film “Crazy Alien” gross more than $100 million at the mainland China box office after just two days on release during the Chinese New Year holiday period. It’s the highest two-day total for any film in the Middle Kingdom so far this year.
The milestone was passed at around 8 p.m. on Wednesday. By 10 p.m., the film’s accumulated gross had advanced to $101 million (RMB680 million), according to website China Box Office.
The film is about a zookeeper who finds an unusual animal and takes it home. There he discovers that the creature is in fact an extraterrestrial, but getting rid of it may be problematic.
China’s first homegrown sci-fi epic, The Wandering Earth, is continuing its upwards trajectory. After opening at No. 4 on Tuesday, the start of the Chinese New Year, it gained traction on Wednesday to move into the No. 2 spot, and today, it led the daily Middle Kingdom box office.
With an estimated additional RMB 342M ($50.7M) on Thursday, the increase from yesterday was about 33% for a local cume of RMB 800M ($118.6M). That still lags about $20M behind Crazy Alien‘s cume, though it should quickly make up the difference after Crazy Alien had led the first two days of the Lunar New Year period. The Wandering Earth‘s performance is testament to the positive buzz being generated by the $50M pic, which stars Wolf Warrior 2’s Wu Jing in a race against time to save the planet’s population.
(2) RETCON. Maybe you think you’ve painted yourself into a corner but Robert Woods knows lots of tricks to get out of these situations – “‘Retcon’: How To Rewrite Details In An Ongoing Series” at Standout Books.
Secrets, lies and errors in judgement
The easiest way to add or remove details from a story is to undermine those elements that contradict the new canon. In Stars Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope¸ Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that his father was a skilled pilot betrayed and killed by the evil Darth Vader. Later in the series, it’s revealed that Vader is Luke’s father and that Obi-Wan knew all along.
Creator George Lucas has claimed that he always knew Vader was Luke’s father, but fans point to a host of evidence that this wasn’t the case when the scene was written. If they’re right, Lucas had no problem retconning his decision later, since the information that stood in his way came from a single source. When it’s time to reveal that Vader is Luke’s father, Obi-Wan admits he lied, hiding the truth to try to influence Luke’s reaction.
This is the easiest way to retcon information out of a story – someone lied, omitted key details, implied something that wasn’t true, or thought they were telling the truth but were wrong. Sometimes, this means adding additional information to give characters a reason to have lied, but since all this takes place in the realm of character motivations and interactions, it can even serve to enliven a story, and it might inspire new directions, as in the Star Wars prequel films….
(3) KOREAN SF. Neil Clarke announced Clarkesworld’s opportunity to expand its program of sf in translation: “Clarkesworld Receives Grant to Publishing Korean Science Fiction”.
In May 2015, Clarkesworld published “An Evolutionary Myth” by Bo-Young Kim, translated from Korean by Gord Sellar and Jihyun Park. I am pleased to announce that Clarkesworld Magazine has now received a grant from the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea) to translate and publish nine more Korean science fiction stories in 2019.
The process for selection and translation of stories will be similar to the model developed for Clarkesworld‘s Chinese translation project, which has recently celebrated its fourth anniversary. In that model, a group of people serve as a recommendation team that will provide story notes and details to Neil Clarke for evaluation and selection. Stories will then be confirmed for English language availability, contracted, and assigned to one of several translators.
(4) HOLD THE CAKE! In theory a new edition of The Best of R.A. Lafferty was released by Gollancz today. Except it wasn’t.
(5) READ THIS, NOT THAT. But yesterday Tor.com published Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut story “Articulated Restraint”.
He took a slow breath. “No one is dead. A ship returning from the moon had a retrorocket misfire while docking with Lunetta yesterday evening.”
“Oh God.” Scores of people worked on the Lunetta orbiting platform. People she knew. And Eugene Lindholm, her partner for today’s run—his wife would have been on the lunar rocket. Ruby played bridge with Myrtle and Eugene. She turned, looking for the tall black man among the people working by the pool. He was at the stainless steel bench, running through his checklist with tight, controlled motions. No one was dead, but if the Meteor had taught the world anything, death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to someone. “How bad?”
(6) FANHISTORY RESOURCE. Peter Balestrieri, Curator, Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections at University of Iowa Libraries has announced —
The Daniel McPhail Correspondence Collection is now processed and ready for research http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/2836. This includes around 500 letters and post cards sent by the biggest names in fandom and the pros, starting around 1930. It’s not digitized but digitized copies of individual letters are available on request http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/2836.
McPhail was one of the earliest sf fans (1929). He co-edited a magazine called The Original Idea with Jim Speer (Jack’s older brother). In 1936 he founded the Oklahoma Scientifiction Association. An early member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA), McPhail introduced the Mailing Comment –which, if you’ve ever belonged to an apa, you know that’s what everyone hopes their contribution will inspire. File 770 published McPhail’s obituary in 1984.
(7) JOSHI FELLOWSHIP. There’s
a name I don’t associate with fellowship, nevertheless — The John Hay Library at Brown University invites
applications for its 2019-2020 The S. T. Joshi Endowed Research
Fellowship for research relating to H.P.
Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is
March 15, 2019.
The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog Magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others.
The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library. The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $1,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2019 and June 2020. The fellowship is open to individuals engaged in pre- and post-doctoral, or independent research.
(8) HOW TO AFFORD AN EDITOR. Authors who want their manuscripts worked on by a professional an editor know they have to come up with the bucks to pay them. There have been a couple of threads recently filled with more-or-less serious advice about ways “broke” writers can foot the bill. C.L. Polk’s begins here.
Fred Coppersmith’s less serious thread begins here.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s movie Pinocchio debuted. Guillermo del Toro’s version might be slightly darker.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
(11) COMICS SECTION.
(12) QUARTERS, WITH MORE OR LESS BITS. Writing for The Mary Sue—and using floor plans that were on Angie’s List—Kaila Hale-Stern takes a look at six different Captain’s quarters from the various Star Trek series (“Let’s Judge These Star Trek Captains’ Quarters”). Welcome to Kirk’s, Picard’s, Sisko’s, Janeway’s, Archer’s, and Lorca’s abodes.
We’ve had several beloved Starfleet Captains, but how are they sleeping at night? Journey with me into the final frontier of Star Trek Captains’ quarters, and let’s see who had the sweetest floor plan.
Courtesy of a post by home services site Angie’s List, we now have detailed layouts to pore over. They created floor plans of our Captains’ quarters, starting with Kirk’s in The Original Series to Archer’s on Enterprise. Discovery is a bit trickier Captain-wise, since we only have the late unlamented Lorca’s rooms for reference—but maybe Pike will show us where he lays his head in the future.
(13) DON’T SHUSH THEM. Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table… “Brian Blessed among stars brightening up library speaker system”.
Library closing time is ringing out to the sound of Brian Blessed after a host of celebrities recorded their voices for the building’s loudspeaker system.
Manchester Central Library has recruited the Flash Gordon actor and other stars to bring a showbiz feel to its public information announcements.
Former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh and ex-England footballer Gary Neville are also onboard.
The quirky bespoke broadcasts will run for two weeks, the city council said.
(14) PTERRY WOULD BE PROUD. BBC tells why — “Climate change: ‘Future proofing’ forests to protect orangutans”.
A study has identified key tree species that are resilient to climate change and support critically endangered apes.
Planting them could help future proof rainforests, which are a key habitat for orangutans, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN.
Researchers surveyed 250 plants in Indonesia’s Kutai National Park.
Over 1,000 orangutans are thought to inhabit the park, as well as other rare animals such as the Malayan sun bear.
“Selecting which species to plant is a significant contribution to restoring the health of this ecosystem,” said study co-author Douglas Sheil.
“Of course, the reasons why forest cover was lost in the first place must also be addressed for reforestation efforts to succeed.”
(15) NAMING A ROVER. They didn’t pick “Blood” — “Rosalind Franklin: Mars rover named after DNA pioneer”.
The UK-assembled rover that will be sent to Mars in 2020 will bear the name of DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin.
The honour follows a public call for suggestions that drew nearly 36,000 responses from right across Europe.
Astronaut Tim Peake unveiled the name at the Airbus factory in Stevenage where the robot is being put together.
The six-wheeled vehicle will be equipped with instruments and a drill to search for evidence of past or present life on the Red Planet.
Giving the rover a name associated with a molecule fundamental to biology seems therefore to be wholly appropriate
(16) A PERSONAL CATASTROPHE. While trying to “upgrade their toilet facility” there was a water leak on the International Space Station (“ISS Suffers Toilet Malfunction, Leaks Water Everywhere”). Earthbound DIY plumbers can probably sympathize.
The toilet onboard the ISS was installed in 2008, during one of the last space shuttle missions. It’s based on a design that’s about as old as the ISS itself, so it was in need of some improvement. The ISS astronauts were trying to install that improvement when something went wrong.
According to a NASA blog, the ISS crew were trying to install the new Universal Waste Management System, a next-gen toilet system that’s supposed to be smaller, lighter, cleaner, and more efficient than what they have now. […]
The aforementioned 1 February 2019 NASA blog explains:
Universal Waste Management System (UWMS):
The crew successfully installed a new double stall enclosure within Node 3 today. During the activity, the crew experienced a water leak while de-mating a Quick Disconnect (QD) for the potable water bus. Approximately 9.5 liters leaked before the bus was isolated by MCC-H flight controllers. The crew worked quickly to re-mate the leaky QD and soak up the water with towels. An alternate QD was then de-mated in order to continue with the installation. The new concept, referred to as the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), includes favorable features from previous designs while improving on other areas from Space Shuttle and the existing ISS Waste Collection System (WCS) hardware. This double stall enclosure provides privacy for both the Toilet System and the Hygiene Compartment. The starboard side will provide access to the existing toilet and the port side will be used for hygiene until new replacement Toilet System arrives in early 2020.
Mopping up 2.5 gallons of water is hard enough with gravity to collect it all on the floor for you,
(17) GET MY BETTER SIDE. NASA has taken a candid snapshot of the neighbors (NASA: “First Look: Chang’e Lunar Landing Site”). The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted the landing site of China’s Chang’e 4 lander on the back side of the Moon. The LRO wasn’t close enough to picture the whole Chang’e 4 “family”—the tiny rover is just too small for the camera to pick up.
On Jan. 3, 2019, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 4 safely landed on the floor of the Moon’s Von Kármán crater (186 kilometer diameter, 116 miles). Four weeks later (Jan. 30, 2019), as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter approached the crater from the east, it rolled 70 degrees to the west to snap this spectacular view looking across the floor toward the west wall. Because LRO was 330 kilometers (205 miles) to the east of the landing site, the Chang’e 4 lander is only about two pixels across (bright spot between the two arrows), and the small rover is not detectable. The massive mountain range in the background is the west wall of Von Kármán crater, rising more than 3,000 meters (9,850 feet) above the floor.
(18) FUTURE OF ENTERTAINMENT. The future of musical concerts—is it to be folded inside games? Blockbuster shoot-em-up game Fortnite recently called a cease fire and staged a concert (The Verge: “Fortnite’s Marshmello concert was a bizarre and exciting glimpse of the future”).
Even if you’re not a huge fan of electronic music or have never heard of the EDM producer Marshmello, Fortnite’s live in-game concert was still a shockingly stunning sight to behold — it was also an unprecedented moment in gaming. It truly felt like a glimpse into the future of interactive entertainment, where the worlds of gaming, music, and celebrity combined to create a virtual experience we’ve never quite seen before.
At 2PM ET [2 February], every one of the likely tens of millions of players of Epic Games’ battle royale title were transported to a virtual stage. There, Christopher Comstock — who goes by the DJ name Marshmello and is known best for his signature food-shaped helmet — began a 10-minute mini-set, all while while up to 60 players across thousands of individual matches were able to watch live. Epic, having learned from past one-time live events like its iconic rocket launch and its most recent freezing over of the entire game map, smartly launched a special game mode specifically for the show.
Based on its team rumble mode, it allowed players to respawn if they were taken out by an especially rude enemy trying to spoil the fun. Going even further, however, Epic disabled the ability to use weapons for the entirety of the 10-minute event, which ensured that everyone could have a front-row seat to the spectacle.
(19) DON’T TELL ME. Matthew Johnson’s song parody is a mite long for a Scroll title, so I’ll salute it here:
Counting pixels on the scroll, that don’t bother me at all
Playing D&D ’til dawn, with my twenty-sideds gone
Eating soylent green and watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Now don’t tell me I can’t go back in time
[Thanks to Paul Weimer, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, StephenfromOttawa, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]
The 5 finalists for best Clarkesworld short story and cover art of 2018 are in listed in Neil Clarke’s February editorial.
Clarke had this to say about the first phase:
We held a two-day nomination period for the Clarkesworld Magazine Reader’s Poll in January. Similar to last year, the shortened nomination phase appears to have minimized the attempts at ballot-stuffing without any significant impact on the total number of participants. It was a tight race in both categories and the top five changed many times. In the end, there were enough ties that both ended with six finalists instead of the normal five.
Finalists for Best Story
Finalists for Best Cover Art
Voting on the finalists is open until February 20 at 8 p.m. EST. The results will be announced in Clarkesworld’s March issue. Vote here.
The nomination phase for the annual Clarkesworld poll is open, but move fast — it closes Friday at 8 p.m. EST: 2018 Clarkesworld Survey – Nomination Phase. Readers are invited to nominate their three favorite 2018 Clarkesworld stories and covers.
The works with the most nominations will become the 2018 finalists and a winner will be determined by a second round of voting in February. All stories and artwork can be found here.
(1) STFNAL MUSIC. Out of Mind, the new album by the band Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate, includes two songs inspired by Philip K. Dick and one by Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Here are the notes for “When I Was a Ship” —
This song was inspired by Ann Leckie‘s Ancillary series. The main character had once been a warship, whose artificial mind had been distributed within the ship, and also within many ancillaries – prisoners who have had their minds wiped. The ship itself and all of the other ancillaries was destroyed, leaving just one fragment of the mind left in one body.
And here’s a section of the lyrics —
That I was designed as a warrior slave
When I was an asset
I think I remember
The communal song
Of curious pleasure
The many mouths
The single phrase
And reflected gaze
I am the last
I am my remains
All of my others
Dissolved in the flames
Leckie (who also likes their previous album When the Kill Code Fails) told readers of her blog where to find the new song –
Spotify requires registration.
(2) LEVAR BURTON READING SFF. The three most recent installments of LeVar Burton Reads: The Best Short Fiction, Handpicked by the World’s Greatest Storyteller feature —
(3) A KILLER COMPLAINS. Christian Gerhartsreiter, aka Clark Rockefeller, now serving time in San Quentin for the murder of LASFS member John Sohus, has written a complaint to the New York Review of Books about Walter Kirn’s book about him.
Please forgive the extreme delay of this letter in response to Nathaniel Rich’s review of Walter Kirn’s book about me [“A Killer Con Man on the Loose,” *NYR*, May 8, 2014]. To the whole business I can only say that I barely ever knew Mr. Kirn. … His reasons for wanting retroactively to insert himself so deeply into my life, calling himself a “close friend,” seem either purely commercially motivated or perhaps speak to a deeper pathology on which I do not have the expertise to comment.
(4) FUNDING FOR A PUNK ROCK FUTURE. Editor Steve Zisson and associated editors are in the final week of a Kickstarter appeal to fund publication of A Punk Rock Future, their anthology featuring sf/f/h stories mashing up genre fiction and punk rock music.
Why now for this anthology? A punk strain not only runs through music and art but right through the heart of SFFH (think cyberpunk, steampunk, solarpunk, silkpunk, hopepunk, ecopunk, or whatever punk).
…It is the forward-thinking science fiction and fantasy community that is propelling all things punk into the future.
Want a recent published example of the kind of story you’ll read in A Punk Rock Future? The Big So-So by Erica Satifka in Interzone. Or read Sarah Pinsker’s Nebula Award winner, Our Lady of the Open Road, published in Asimov’s. These influential stories were inspirations for this anthology.
The big news is that we will have stories from both writers in A Punk Rock Future!
The anthology will feature 25 stories by Erica Satifka, Sarah Pinsker, Spencer Ellsworth, Margaret Killjoy, Maria Haskins, Izzy Wasserstein, Stewart C Baker, Kurt Pankau, Marie Vibbert, Corey J. White, P.A. Cornell, Jennifer Lee Rossman, M. Lopes da Silva, R. K. Duncan, Zandra Renwick, Dawn Vogel, Matt Bechtel, Josh Rountree, Vaughan Stanger, Michel Harris Cohen, Anthony Eichenlaub, Steven Assarian and more to come.
The appeal has brought in $2,557, or 51 percent, of its $5,000 goal, with seven days to go.
(5) MUGGLES GOT TALENT. ULTRAGOTHA recommends this high school Harry Potter dance video posted by MuggleNet.com on Facebook.
(6) THE HOLE MAN. The Boring Company wants to give you a free ride. (No, not a Free Ride.) The Verge reports that “Elon Musk says the Boring Company’s first tunnel under LA will open December 10th.”
The rapid transit tunnel that Elon Musk’s Boring Company is digging beneath Los Angeles will open on December 10th, and free rides will be offered to the public the following night, Musk tweeted on Sunday evening.
The two-mile test tunnel underneath SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, is a proof of concept for an underground public transportation system, which aims to transport passengers and vehicles beneath congested roadways on autonomously driven electric platforms called “skates.” The skates will theoretically transport eight to 16 passengers, or one passenger vehicle, along magnetic rails at speeds of up to 155 mph (250 km/h), Musk tweeted.
(7) PINOCCHIO ANTIFA? “Guillermo del Toro to direct new stop-motion Pinocchio for Netflix” – Entertainment Weekly has the story.
Fresh off his Best Picture and Best Director Oscar wins for The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro is ready for his next project — and it’s one he’s been working on for a long time. Netflix announced Monday that it’s teaming up with del Toro for a stop-motion musical version of Pinocchio that is the director’s “lifelong passion project.”
Although Disney famously created an animated version of Pinocchio in 1940 (widely regarded to be among the studio’s greatest artistic achievements), the fairy tale was first written by Italian author Carlo Collodi in 1883. Del Toro’s version in particular will draw heavily from illustrator Gris Grimly’s 2002 edition, but will still pay homage to the story’s Italian origins — this Pinocchio will be set in 1930s Italy, under the reign of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
(8) RONNEBERG OBIT. Joachim Ronneberg has died at the age of 99 — “Joachim Ronneberg: Norwegian who thwarted Nazi nuclear plan dies”. Described as the most successful act of sabotage in WWII, he and his team destroyed the world’s only heavy-water plant.
In 1943, he led a top-secret raid on a heavily-guarded plant in Norway’s southern region of Telemark.
The operation was immortalised in the 1965 Hollywood film Heroes of Telemark, starring Kirk Douglas.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
(10) COMIC SECTION.
(11) TIMELAPSE SFF SCULPTURE. On YouTube, artist Steven Richter has posted time-lapse videos of his creation of a number of genre sculptures. These include:
And quite a few more.
(12) COLD CASE. BBC discusses “The bones that could shape Antarctica’s fate” — aka who was really there first? It could matter if the current protocols are allowed to expire in 2048.
In 1985, a unique skull was discovered lying on Yamana Beach at Cape Shirreff in Antarctica’s South Shetland Islands. It belonged to an indigenous woman from southern Chile in her early 20s, thought to have died between 1819 and 1825. It was the oldest known human remains ever found in Antarctica.
The location of the discovered skull was unexpected. It was found at a beach camp made by sealers in the early 19th Century near remnants of her femur bone, yet female sealers were unheard of at the time. There are no surviving documents explaining how or why a young woman came to be in Antarctica during this era. Now, at nearly 200 years old, the skull is thought to align with the beginning of the first known landings on Antarctica.
(13) AIRPORT ANXIETY. John Scalzi has a growing suspicion that all glory is fleeting —
SOMEONE IS BEING UPGRADED TO FIRST CLASS
NOOOOOO TAKE ME INSTEAD
DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM
I AM A VERY IMPORTANT PHOTOGRAPHER OF CATS AND BURRITOS
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 22, 2018
(14) ROAD THROUGH TIME. BBC reports “A14 road workers find woolly mammoth bones” and woolly rhino bones. Did you know there was such a thing as a woolly rhino?
A spokesman they were “the latest in a series of fantastic finds” from the team working on the A14.
So far, they have also unearthed prehistoric henges, Iron Age settlements, Roman kilns, three Anglo-Saxon villages and a medieval hamlet.
(15) SABRINA. The entire first season– 10 episodes– of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina become available to stream on Netflix this Friday.
(16) 1001 NIGHTS ART. NPR posts newly republished images by Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen — “Long-Lost Watercolors Of ‘1001 Nights’ Bring New Life To Age-Old Tales”. May be NSFW where you are.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Nielsen’s work, Taschen published all 21 of his original illustrations, reproduced directly from the never-before-seen original watercolors.
The extra-large coffee table book delivers an experience of its own — the prints are meticulously curated and presented in a blue velvet box, as if the book itself was a tale to unveil.
(17) WITCH WORLD REVIEWED. Galactic Journey’s Rosemary Benton reviews a prime Andre Norton novel, newly released in 1963 — “[October 22, 1963] A Whole New Fantasy (Andre Norton’s Witch World)”
When the subject of magic is approached in any of Norton’s writing there is never any easy solution lying right below the surface. Her flaire for piecing out information and not revealing more than what the characters themselves know keeps the reader on edge, as well as humble. This sense that there are always bigger forces at play, yet are never fully explained, teases the rational mind of the reader and allows for there to be doubt that anything “magical” can be easily quantified by rational, scientific method. It’s very disquieting when Norton’s established and venerated forces, like the witchcraft of the Women of Power and the Axe of Volt, are threatened by something indefinable that is even older and more powerful – travel across dimensions.
(18) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur finds a thread running through the stories in the October Clarkesworld — “Quick Sips – Clarkesworld #145”.
The October issue of Clarkesworld Magazine is all about survival. Or, I should say, about finding out what’s more important than survival. These stories take settings that are, well, grim. Where war and other disasters have created a situation where just holding onto life is difficult. Where for many it would seem obvious that it’s time to tighten one’s belt and get down to the serious business of surviving. And yet the stories show that surviving isn’t enough, especially if it means sacrificing people. That, without justice and hope beyond just making it to another day, surviving might not be worth it. But that, with an eye toward progress, and hope for something better (not just the prevention of something worse), people and peoples can begin to heal the damage that’s been caused and maybe reach a place where they can heal and find a better way to live. To the reviews!
(19) CODEWRITERS CODE. But for Jon Del Arroz’ wholehearted endorsement — “SQLite Created a Code Of Conduct And It’s AMAZING” [Internet Archive link] – it probably wouldn’t have come to my attention that SQLite, a library of public domain resources for a database engine, posted a Code of Conduct based on a chapter from The Rule of St, Benedict.
Having been encouraged by clients to adopt a written code of conduct, the SQLite developers elected to govern their interactions with each other, with their clients, and with the larger SQLite user community in accordance with the “instruments of good works” from chapter 4 of The Rule of St. Benedict. This code of conduct has proven its mettle in thousands of diverse communities for over 1,500 years, and has served as a baseline for many civil law codes since the time of Charlemagne.
This rule is strict, and none are able to comply perfectly. Grace is readily granted for minor transgressions. All are encouraged to follow this rule closely, as in so doing they may expect to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. The entire rule is good and wholesome, and yet we make no enforcement of the more introspective aspects.
Slashdot’s coverage “SQLite Adopts ‘Monastic’ Code of Conduct” says the response has ranged from laughter to hostility, an example of the latter being —
This sort of stunt will make actual code of conduct discussions harder. It's not funny, helpful, or wise
— Josh Bressers (@joshbressers) October 22, 2018
On the other hand, Vox Day hopes it will be widely adopted [Internet Archive link].
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “First Bloom” on Vimeo is a cartoon showing an Imperial Chinese love story, directed by Ting Ting Liu.
[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W – have we really not used that one before? It didn’t come up on my search.]
Brian J. White, founding editor of Fireside Magazine, today pursued Goodreads’ deletion of FIYAH’s Series listing in two different forums on Goodreads. (He screencapped the entire interaction.) Thread starts here.
And there was heightened concern after Anathema Magazine, a “spec fic mag of work by queer POC/Indigenous/Aboriginals,” reported Goodreads has deleted its entry, too.
This is possibly related to our lack of ISSNs, yes. & hey, ISSNs are great cataloguing tools, true. BUT -> pic.twitter.com/f8O5Cw1ZkA
— Anathema Magazine (@anathemaspec) September 19, 2018
The discussion surfaced the Goodreads Librarian who deleted Anathema and some issues of FIYAH. A couple of excerpts (note, unfortunately I can’t make WordPress display only the selected tweet, so these come in pairs) —
— Brian J. White (@talkwordy) September 19, 2018
Further response from the librarian who did the deleting. pic.twitter.com/0nKKYKCSRs
— Brian J. White (@talkwordy) September 19, 2018
Responses by Goodreads participants have focused on (1) Goodreads has a policy against listing publications which lack ASIN/ISBN numbers, and (2) denying that the enforcement could be anything besides business as usual, let alone an individual or institutional expression of racism.
Here are links to the discussions –
An important element of the controversy has been that Goodreads deleted these particular spec fic magazines while leaving intact the listings for many others. Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, in a twitter thread that can be reached via Carrie Cuinn, describes his own encounters with Goodreads librarians, what rules were invoked then, and how decisions were made. Some of his tweets say —
By the way, they also appear to take ASIN. They load data from Amazon, so that's likely how most of the magazines mentioned were added.
— clarkesworld (@clarkesworld) September 19, 2018
That's the true comparative then. Now the question is whether or not they'll strike that too or restore what they've deleted. Always thought it weird that this "rule" was not programmed into their system. Suggests it's not as much of a rule as some say.
— clarkesworld (@clarkesworld) September 19, 2018
Never really understood their hangup on this issue though. Specifically odd when you see they allow "short stories published online" and then disallow "Short stories only published in an anthology or magazine."
— clarkesworld (@clarkesworld) September 19, 2018
Did some more digging. Found a recent thread about issues of another magazine and Clarkesworld came up. Since we have the print edition with ISBN, issues survived, but some of the editions linked to those issues went away. pic.twitter.com/A0RuTAPQrz
— clarkesworld (@clarkesworld) September 19, 2018
— clarkesworld (@clarkesworld) September 19, 2018
Due to the attention now being paid, a reader contacted Brian J. White to say that an issue of his Fireside Magazine was (at some point) deleted by Goodreads –
I still can’t get over that the ONLY issue of @FiresideFiction that has been removed from @goodreads like all @fiyahlitmag was had a story called “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington", by Phenderson Djéli Clark, and this cover: pic.twitter.com/pOsEcnmHN9
— Jeff Xilon (@JXilon) September 19, 2018
Responses to Goodreads’ actions also include —
Bridget of SF Bluestocking wrote a thread which says in part:
Short thread. So listen. I added the first couple issues of @fiyahlitmag to @goodreads myself, because it's a great and important publication and I wanted everyone who follows my reviews to see it, and it wasn't there when I went to add it to my currently reading list.
— Bridget McHatesNazis (@SFBluestocking) September 19, 2018
This is why no one is ever going to convince me that the removal of @fiyahlitmag from @goodreads wasn't an act of malicious, targeted racism, committed with the intent to silence a black publication and exclude them from mainstream structures commonly used to market their work.
— Bridget McHatesNazis (@SFBluestocking) September 19, 2018
Escape Artists says they will be taking down Mothership Zeta’s Goodreads listing in protest:
The selective enforcement action of @goodreads appears racially motivated and we won't be a part of it. We're taking down all @EditorZeta volumes until @fiyahlitmag is reinstated and receives a public apology.
— Escape Artists Inc. (@EAPodcasts) September 19, 2018
[Thanks to JJ and Mark Hepworth for the story.]
(1) ROBSON ON WORLDBUILDING. Juliette Wade interviews celebrated author Kelly Robson in her latest Dive Into Worldbuilding hangout — “Kelly Robson and ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’”. Wade has both notes on the interview and a video at the link.
This hangout looks twice as exciting now that Kelly has gone on to win a Nebula in the meantime (for her novellette, A Human Stain)! It was a pleasure to have her on the show to talk about her recent novella, Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.
Kelly started out by telling us about how critical economics was to this story. She’s passionate about economics! (And so she should be; worldbuilding without economics is flimsy.) She calls it “the physics of worldbuilding.” She told us that when she was first writing historical fiction, she began with medieval settings because it seemed more straightforward to manage, but that since then, she’s branched out into greater challenges. In this story, the historical portion is set in Mesopotamia!
(2) RECAP. Shannon Hale, one of the principals in the story, gives her own rundown of yesterday’s FanX antiharassment news in “My FanX craziness, annotated”.
Since this has blown up and become news, I’m going to lay out here all my interactions with FanX (Salt Lake City’s Comic Con).…
(3) IN TUNE. Olga Polomoshnova shares her analysis “On Lúthien’s power of singing” at Middle-Earth Reflections.
The fairest of all Children of Ilúvatar, Lúthien is not an ordinary character. Being the daughter of an Elf and a Maia, she inherited various traits of both kindreds. Among many of her gifts and skills singing was one of the most exceptional. However, when it comes to talking about Lúthien’s singing, we should bear in mind that hers was not renowned just for being done in a beautiful voice. Lúthien’s songs possessed special power
(4) REALITY SHOW. Tom McAllister tells new writers to recalibrate their expectations in “Who Will Buy Your Book?” at The Millions.
Before I ever published anything, I’d assumed that if I ever finished a book, there would be so much demand from family and friends alone that we’d have to go into a second printing before the release date. But I am here to tell you: most people in your family will never buy your book. Most of your friends won’t either.
I have a handful of friends and family members—people I consider close to me, people I see regularly—who have never come to any of my dozens of book events. I don’t know if they own any of my books because I haven’t asked, but I have a pretty good guess. After my first book came out, I would peruse friends’ bookshelves, trying to determine their organizational system (if it’s not alphabetical, then where is my book? Maybe they have some special hidden shelf for books they truly cherish?). On a few occasions, I called them out for not having it. This accomplished nothing, besides making both of us feel bad.
The point of this piece is not to shame those people or to complain about not getting enough support. It’s just to say: whatever you think it’s like after you publish a book, it’s actually harder than that.
(5) PAYSEUR. Quick Sip Reviews’ Charles Payseur covers “Beneath Ceaseless Skies #251”, which, coincidentally has a story by Jonathan Edelstein.
It’s a rather quick issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two stories linked in a way by their length (neither of them over 2500 words, which is unusual for the publication). But it lends both stories a sort of impact, and a feeling of anticipation. In the first, that means having to wait for the results of a very important test. In the second, that means having to wait for the results of a very important confrontation. In both, there are certain indications that might guide readers otwards guessing what happens next, but both times it’s left up in the air what _actually_ transpires after the final stories end. What it is certain is that both look at characters struggling to solve tricky problems, ones where they have been made culpable of a misstep and are desperate to find a way forward. So yeah, to the reviews!
“The Examination Cloth” by Jonathan Edelstein (2232 words)…
(6) LAW WEST OF THE EAST RIVER. The New York Times Magazine offers the verdict of “Judge John Hodgman on Children Watching James Bond Movies”. Here’s the problem —
Ren writes: Our children, ages 7 and 9, love James Bond movies. We’ve seen almost every one, but my wife doesn’t want them to see Casino Royale. It’s often referred to as the best Bond, but she believes it is too inappropriate for them. Can you help? I’d like to watch the movie with my kids, who are James Bond fans just like me.
John Hodgman’s answer:
Of course 7-and 9-year-olds like movies with cars that fly. But they don’t love problematic gender portrayals and seventh-grade-level sex jokes. That’s why Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for children and the James Bond series for man-children. But if Casino Royale (which is great!) is truly the last one you have left, why not? Why not complete your experiment and cuddle up with your kids and watch Daniel Craig be tortured in a very private area? No one can stop your mad plan now. Not even you, Mr. Bond!
(7) GOLD OBIT. Virtuoso movie poster creator Bill Gold died May 20 at the age of 97. His iconic work included Casablanca and The Exorcist.
Mr. Gold comfortably spanned the years from paperboard to the computer era, and many of his posters became nearly as famous as the movies they promoted. Some won design awards; many were coveted by film buffs, sold at auctions or collected in expensively bound art books. The best originals came to be considered rare and costly classics of the genre.
For Michael Curtiz’s “Casablanca” (1942), Mr. Gold’s second assignment, he drew Humphrey Bogart in trench coat and fedora, dominant in the foreground, with a constellation of co-stars — Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and others — in the airport fog behind him. To raise the drama, Mr. Gold put a pistol in Bogie’s hand. And he put fear and regret, not love, in Ms. Bergman’s eyes, to avoid stepping on his last lines.
(8) COMICS SECTON.
(9) SHORT STUFF. Camestros Felapton walks us through his rankings in “Hugo Ballot 2018: Short Story”.
…It doesn’t feel that long ago that the talk was whether the SF short story was dead or close to death. The impact of Sad Puppy campaigns and Rabid Puppy vandalism hit the short story category hard. And what an emblematic category it had been for the Hugo Awards and science fiction! American style science fiction had grown out of the short story style and some of the greats of SF were intimately connected with shorter form fiction. Ray Bradbury especially but also Issac Asimov – The Foundation Trilogy being one of many SF classics that grew from connected shorts.
The Hugo finalists this year are a set of entertaining and varied reads. There’s not one theme or style and there are elements of fantasy and science-fiction as well as some classic twists.
(10) KATE BAKER AT WORK. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak points to Clarkesworld where people can “Listen to one of the best short science fiction podcasts right now”.
In the years since she became the full-time narrator for the podcast, Baker has become the de facto voice for the podcast, an experience that she says is “surreal.” “I view it as a huge responsibility and an honor,” she says. “because I get to go and be in someone’s ear, and I think that’s an intimate power, and I don’t ever want to abuse that.”
Baker doesn’t read or rehearse the story before recording, and while she notes this approach has burned her a couple of times, the “biggest draw to this whole job is the fact that I’m experiencing the story along with the listener for the first time, and I can experience those emotions with the listener. If you’re hearing my voice crack or if I sound stuffy because I had to walk away because I started crying, that’s all pretty genuine.”
That’s something that shines through: a recent episode featured Rich Larson’s heartbreaking short story “Carouseling”, and you can hear her voice break after she finishes reading the story. This emoting, along with Baker’s long-standing narration for the podcast, provides a familiar and consistent warmth that subtly enhances each story that the magazine produces. The result is not only a catalog of powerful short fiction, but one that’s also presented in a voice that makes them even better.
(11) CHINESE BOTS. My brethren are bound for Luna. “China launch will prep for Moon landing”.
“The launch is a key step for China to realise its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the moon,” the state news service Xinhua quoted Zhang Lihua, the satellite project’s manager, as saying.
In addition to its onboard communications equipment, Queqiao will also carry two scientific instruments and will deploy two microsatellites.
The forthcoming Chang’e 4 mission will explore the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin with a payload of scientific instruments. It is a key step in China’s long-term plan to further its ambitions as a major space power.
China previously landed a robotic lander and rover, collectively known as Chang’e 3, on the Moon in December 2014. The rover continued to transmit data until March 2015.
(12) STONY END. BBC tells about plans for “Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever”.
With rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2, scientists have been testing “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) solutions since the 1970s.
CarbFix, however, stands out among CCS experiments because the capture of carbon is said to be permanent – and fast.
The process starts with the capture of waste CO2 from the steam, which is then dissolved into large volumes of water.
“We use a giant soda-machine”, says Dr Aradottir as she points to the gas separation station, an industrial shed that stands behind the roaring turbines.
“Essentially, what happens here is similar to the process in your kitchen, when you are making yourself some sparkling water: we add fizz to the water”.
The fizzy liquid is then piped to the injection site – otherworldly, geometric igloo-shaped structure 2km away. There it is pumped 1,000m (3,200ft) beneath the surface.
In a matter of months, chemical reactions will solidify the CO2 into rock – thus preventing it from escaping back into the atmosphere for millions of years.
(13) HOW IT BECAME A KILLER. From the BBC: “Malaria genetics: study shows how disease became deadly” — relatively recently — and a warning to watch for other parasites and viruses jumping species.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million people are infected with malaria every year; the disease caused the deaths of almost half a million people globally in 2016, and the majority of those deaths were children under the age of five.
By far the deadliest species of the parasite which causes this global health scourge is Plasmodium falciparum.
While this species infects and often kills people when injected through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito, there are many other related species which infect some of our great ape cousins – chimpanzees and gorillas.
To study those, the researchers collaborated with a team caring for injured and orphaned apes in a sanctuary in Gabon. As part of the animals’ health checks, veterinary staff take blood samples from them.
“It turns out that healthy animals have a really high background level of parasites in their blood,” Dr Berriman told BBC News. “[These animals] are blissfully ignorant of the scientific value in their blood.”
The blood samples provided a series of malarial genetic codes that the scientists could use to trace its evolutionary history.
“We don’t have fossils for tracing the history of a parasite,” said Dr Berriman.
(14) WATCHMEN PITCH. ComicsBeat is less skeptical after seeing how “Damon Lindelof details new WATCHMEN television adaptation in open letter”.
But recently, reports began to spring up that the showrunner might be taking a completely different approach to the material. Instead of a mannered, straight adaptation of the 12 issues or any kind of extrapolation thereof, he was instead comparing it to what Noah Hawley has been up to with FX’s Fargo: a series whose world is informed by the original property, but not beholden to it in terms of character or plot. In short: think of it as “stories taking place in that same world, at any time period you can think of”. It’s great, with a capital “G”.
And today, Lindelof has spoken in more specific (maybe) terms, with a letter he posted on his Instagram, to give the public an opportunity to dig into his headspace a bit regarding his overall pitch for the series…if it sounds familiar, well…it should:
More at the link.
(15) ZOMBIE EMERGENCY. Not “Florida man” this time: “Florida city apologizes for alert warning of zombies”.
Officials in a Florida city apologized for an emergency alert that warned of a real power outage and a not-so-real “zombie alert.”
The alert, sent out by the city of Lake Worth early Sunday, warned of a “power outage and zombie alert for residents of Lake Worth and Terminus,” referencing a city from AMC’s The Walking Dead.
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr. Horrible copyediting courtesy of OGH.]
Clarke had this to say bout the first phase:
The announcement was sent out via Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, and my blog. The brevity of this phase was an experiment. In theory, it would create a sense of urgency and reduce the opportunities for a coordinated ballot-stuffing campaign. It worked. The nomination phase generated more responses than the majority of our full surveys from years past and a significant reduction in stuffing—though there were some very clumsy attempts to do so, of course.
The finalists are:
Best Cover Art
Voting on the finalists is open through February 24. Everyone may participate whether or not they nominated in Phase 1 – vote here.
[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]
(1) BESIDES CONFEDERATE. Deadline tells about another post-Civil War alternate history in development: “‘Black America’: Amazon Alt-History Drama From Will Packer & Aaron McGruder Envisions Post-Reparations America”.
Another alternate history drama series, which has been in the works at Amazon for over a year, also paints a reality where southern states have left the Union but takes a very different approach. Titled Black America, the drama hails from top feature producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like A Man franchises, Straight Outta Compton) and Peabody-winning The Boondocks creator and Black Jesus co-creator Aaron McGruder. It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.
(2) SPARE CHANGE. Everybody’s getting on the bandwagon: Smithsonian curators present historic coins representative of the noble houses of Westeros: “It’s not heads or tails in the ‘Game of Thrones'”.
House Targaryen: Fire and Blood
Daenerys Targaryen has spent the Game of Thrones saga making a name for herself—several, actually: the Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and more. She harnesses the power of fire and blood, renowned for her skills as dragonlord and evidenced in the sigil of her house, which depicts a red three-headed dragon on a black field. The silver-haired Targaryens are not alone in their veneration of dragons as ancestral symbols of power and prestige. This gold liang coin depicts a mighty and ferocious dragon flying through clouds toward the viewer, flames protruding from its mouth. The coin was minted under the Guangxu Emperor of the Qing dynasty, where the dragon would have been understood as a symbol for wisdom, power, nobility, and ambition. Such symbolism is literally used by Targaryens and their dragons to claim rule of the Seven Kingdoms.
(3) BOW WOW. The Washington Post’s Karen Bruillard, in “Dire wolves were real. Now someone is trying to resurrect them”, reports on Medford, Oregon dog breeder Lois Schwarz, whose Dire Wolf Project has been going on for thirty years but has gotten national attention with Game of Thrones. Schwarz has been working on wolf-dog hybrids for decades (the term she likes is “American Alsatians”).
“‘Game of Thones’ has given demand a bump, but not in the way Schwarz likes,” Says Bruillard. “The fiction-motivated customers are looking for dogs that resemble the characters Ghost or Nymeria,” while Schwartz wants to breed dogs that are smart and friendly.
Bruillard also interviewed palentologist Caitlin Brown, who did her dissertation on Canis dirus. One quibble Brown has with Game of Thrones: “The wolves of HBO usually lunge at their enemies’ heads, whereas wolves typically drag down their prey from their haunches.”
(4) NEW MCCCAFFREY. A little birdie told me WordFire released “The Jupiter Game (The Game of Stars Book 1)” by Todd McCaffrey (Kindle edition) on July 30. Not about dragons – but aliens.
The Russians and the Europeans got there first in their fusion ship Harmonie. At least, that’s what they thought.
“They’ve matched orbit with us!”
What do they want? What will they do?
“Ooops?” Jenkins echoed. “Aliens go ‘Ooops’?”
The Jupiter Game: A close encounter with aliens who watch Howdy Doody.
(5) HEVELIN COLLECTION Andrew Porter reports that it looks like the digitization of Rusty Hevelin’s fanzines has slowed dramatically.
The person in charge has left, leaving someone else in charge. Post on the blog 2 months ago, showing a flyer from the 1981 Worldcon about the Hugo Losers Party, shows how little the people in charge know about SF. “The year of the con?” Really?
“Hi Folks, I want to let you know that Laura Hampton, the librarian doing the actual digitization of Hevelin fanzines and who has masterfully displayed some of the Hevelin treasures here over the last two years, has moved on to a great job in Florida. We all wish her the very best and I am so grateful for all she’s accomplished. We’ll miss her.
“So, it’s just us chickens. And to begin my return to doing Hevelin Tumblr, I introduce this piece of fan art, done on a piece of hotel stationery from the Denver Hilton. Can anybody identify the artist? The year of the con? I’m going to post more mysteries like this so stay tuned.”
It says something that the person does not recognize references to the 1981 Worldcon – where Rusty Hevelin was the Fan Guest of Honor!
(6) BLACKOUT. The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham has discovered “The path of the solar eclipse is already altering real-world behavior”.
The upcoming solar eclipse is poised to become the “most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history,” in the words of one astronomer. Millions of people will watch it, potentially overwhelming the cities and towns along the eclipse’s path of totality.
According to Google, interest in the eclipse has exploded nationwide in the past few months, mirroring national media attention. The county-level search data above, provided by Google, paints a striking picture: Interest in the eclipse is concentrated in the path of totality that cuts through the middle of the country, receding sharply the farther you go from that path.
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) August 1, 2017
(7) SKLAR OBIT. Marty Sklar worked for Disney for 54 years and led the designing and creating most of the Disney rides during this period. He died July 27.
Los Angeles Times writers Daniel Miller and Richard Vernier marked his passing in “Marty Sklar, Pioneering Imagineer Who Channeled Walt Disney, Dies at 83”.
Long after his mentor’s death, Sklar recognized the treasure-trove of wisdom he had started compiling at Walt Disney’s elbow in the late 1950s. He distilled it all into “Mickey’s Ten Commandments,” a widely circulated creed that remains a touchstone in the theme park industry.
The commandments were a cornerstone of Sklar’s own half-century career at Walt Disney Co., where he led the creative development of the Burbank company’s parks, attractions and resorts around the world, including its ventures in the cruise business, housing development and the redesign of Times Square in New York.
Sklar died Thursday in his Hollywood Hills home. No cause of death was given. He was 83.
His retirement in 2006 marked the end of an era: He was one of the last remaining executives to have worked alongside Walt Disney in shaping the company into a global powerhouse. Sklar, who last served as principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, the storied theme park design and development outfit, was so closely associated with the company’s namesake that he became known as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian says to check out today’s Moderately Confused.
(10) AUDIENCE BUILDING. Cat Rambo wrote a column about writers and self-promotion for Clarkesworld.
Whether opting for indie, traditional, or hybrid, publicity work on behalf of one’s output is less and less optional on the writer’s side of things for everyone except the top tier writers whose fan bases are so established that the publishers know their books are almost guaranteed to sell. Time and time again I have had writers come to me worried that they must create a social media presence because they’ve been told that they must by their agent or publisher. And it’s true that when acquiring books, some publishers look at a writer’s social media, believing that large followings will lead to greater sales.
You can see this pressure to publicize manifest in one form on Twitter, where writers work at projecting their brand as well as writing. It’s a weird balancing act, where they’re working at writing books people will want to read, but also working at attracting readers who might give them a try based on a quip or observation they’ve posted. Sometimes it feels sincere; other times less so. It is undeniable that a strong social media presence will affect sales, but its effect is generally overestimated, in my opinion. Creating consistently good work that brings readers back to look for more will always be the best strategy—although admittedly not one available immediately out of the authorial starting gate.
(11) A WORD FROM HER SPONSOR. Cat Rambo’s Patreon supporters got plenty of goodies from her in July. Here, let her draw you a picture –
(12) CLASS. And one of the items in her latest newsletter is her teaching schedule for August. See something you need? Sign up.
- Saturday, August 12, 9:30-11:30 AM – Description and Delivering Information
- Wednesday, August 9, 2:30-4:30 PM – Creating an Online Presence for Writers Workshop
- Wednesday, August 23, 2:30-4:30 PM – Literary Techniques for Genre Writers
- Saturday, August 26, 9:30-11:30 AM – Writing and Gender (co-taught with Cheryl Morgan)
- Wednesday, August 30, 2:30-4:30 PM – Writing Your Way Into Your Novel
Plenty of Plunkett scholarships available. Please make use of them or pass the info to someone you know would benefit from the class but can’t afford it.
(13) YAKKITY-YAK. A corollary to the well-known joke about it being okay to talk to yourself as long as you don’t answer — “Chatbots develop own language: Facebook shuts down AI system…”.
Initially the AI agents used English to converse with each other but they later created a new language…
(14) AN UNCANNY EDITOR. Elsa Sjunneson-Henry tells Tor.com readers “I Built My Own Godd*mn Castle”.
I am seventeen when I meet Miles Vorkosigan. I’m not ready to meet him then. He startles me, I see myself in him and I don’t want to, because the common narrative told me being disabled was a weakness, not a strength. When I re-read him several years later, I find myself reveling in his glee, his reckless abandon. His energy.
I wish I’d been ready for him sooner. He is what tells me I deserve romance, that I deserve my own narrative. He is also still a boy. I have no women in fiction to guide me.
I am in my mid-twenties the first time the word “disabled” escapes my lips as a word to define myself. I’ve had a white cane for six years, yet I still don’t see myself as disabled, because no one else does.
When I discover it applies to me, it feels freeing.
I have mere days left in my twenties when I start writing a book about a disabled woman, a woman who shares my blindness, though not my conditions. It is rewarding, working through a story that feels right, the weight of the story, the sensory details all mine.
I’ve made a promise to myself, one that I haven’t shared yet. A promise to tell stories about disabled people as often as I can, as many varied stories as I can, because for me, I didn’t get enough of them when they were needed.
I am thirty-one when I take a job as an editor, creating a special issue for a Hugo award-winning magazine where I will, with other disabled people, destroy ableism like the kind that took me years to undo, and will take me more years to untangle and burn away.
That magazine is Uncanny. That issue is Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. That job is Guest Editor-in-Chief of Non-Fiction. Those disabled people are my co-workers, my co-editors, and the writers I will work with.
(15) BEST COMMERCIALS. Adweek says “5 Years Later, the Guardian’s ‘Three Little Pigs’ Still Blows the House Down”. Click on the link to see the video.
It’s been a good year for ads from newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times to the Atlantic. But you have to go back five years for a truly transcendent piece of advertising from a journalistic publication—the Guardian’s “Three Little Pigs” spot by BBH London.
Adweek chose “Three Little Pigs” as the single best ad of 2012. And now, Hill Holliday creative director Kevin Daley has included it among his favorite work of all time in Adweek’s latest “Best Ads Ever” video (see above).
(16) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGERS. Hampus Eckerman says, “I demand that these people get to make the soundtrack of a fantasy movie. All of them.” — Khusugtun Takes Listeners To Mongolia | Asia’s Got Talent 2015 Ep 2.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Hampus Eckerman, Jonathan Edelstein, Paul Weimer, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Jon Del Arroz, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]
Commence appertainment in 5..4…3…2…
(1) BOMBS AWAY. Contrasting Giles Coren’s first novel experience with his own career, Ben Jeapes explains “Why everyone should be a science fiction fan” at Milford SF Writers.
…Ten years later he felt brave enough to make a documentary about it. Links have changed since I first saw it, but search “Giles Coren my failed novel” and you’ll find it. It’s really quite touching as you see the penny begin to drop. He speaks to the reviewers who had slated it. He listens in on a book club tearing it apart. He takes the first chapters to a creative writing course workshop. He tries rereading it himself and finds it unbearable. (He can’t get through the Bad Sex Award-winning passage without breaking down into laughter.) He listenes in awe to the likes of David Mitchell and Jeffrey Archer as they describe their highly disciplined writing habits, and admits to the latter that he had basically been lazy.
And he comes to the conclusion that this was the first novel everyone has – the one that should be written and then spend the rest of eternity in a trunk in the attic. Only, because he was Giles Coren, his got sold for a £30k advance. You sense that even he feels the injustice of this. No one likes being done a favour.
But here’s the thing. Coren was born in 1969. He’s in his late 40s, but I can’t imagine his discoveries and revelations being news to anyone past their late 20s or even late teens. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been spoiled by growing up in the science fiction community, where expertise and experience flow like milk and honey. I read Dave Langford’s columns in 8000 Plus. I went to Milford. I jostled with the large crowd trying to get through the narrow doorway of Interzone acceptance. I knew it took hard work. I knew that if you didn’t think this was your best yet then you didn’t send it in. How did anyone not know that?
Conclusion: everyone should be an sf fan….
(2) WHERE THE IDEAS COME FROM. The Red trilogy features in “The Big Idea: Linda Nagata” today at Whatever.
Next, it occurred to me that if I set the new book even closer to the present time, I might have a chance of pushing beyond the science fiction genre and making inroads into the military thriller market.
Hey, we can all dream.
The Red trilogy was written around a unit of US Army soldiers. Following that similar-but-different philosophy, I decided the new novel would involve a private military company, because that would allow for more freedom with the plot.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, this all still makes sense to me. But in selecting my protagonist, I embarked on a major gamble.
My version of brainstorming is to engage in swiftly typed stream-of-consciousness question-and-answer sessions. It’s the best way I know to develop ideas. I was brainstorming the possible identity of my main protagonist when I typed this:
Hey. Maybe she’s middle aged. (How to kill a novel in one bad move.)
Generally speaking, middle-aged women are not considered to be cool main characters of the sort that commonly inhabit techno-thrillers. So this was a perfect example of the creative and logical parts of my mind contending with one another. The logical part immediately recognized the risk, but the obstinate, defiant, creative part turned out to be in charge.
(3) A STATISTIC. Here’s Clarkesworld’s box score.
30% of our readers, listeners, and story submissions come to us from outside the US. Would be nice to increase that. We can do better.
— clarkesworld (@clarkesworld) June 19, 2017
(4) OPIE TO DIRECT ‘HAN SOLO’? Let’s just drop his name here: “Ron Howard Top Choice To Take Over Han Solo Film?” Deadline has the story.
Deadline hears that Ron Howard has emerged as front-runner to replace Phil Lord & Christopher Miller on the untitled Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film. Disney dropped a shocker this afternoon with the announcement that the duo exited a picture that has been in production since February at London’s Pinewood Studios. This after an inability to recover from creative rifts with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The latter has been mentioned as possible to step in, but I’m putting my money on Howard.
(5) ‘BOTS! IT HAD TO BE ‘BOTS! I suspect this review is more entertaining than the movie. Nick Schager at The Daily Beast says “‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Is Two-and-a-Half Hours of Racist Robot Torture”.
Those fans will be thrilled to hear that the latest entry in the canon du Bay-hem, Transformers: The Last Knight, more or less picks up right where its predecessor left off—by which I mean, in an orgiastic stew of detonations, jingoism, and sequences in which CGI vehicles make that weird wrink-wronk-wrank-wank noise as they turn into CGI titans. The only thing missing is Wahlberg unsubtly lusting after his offspring. Luckily, though, he’s still playing a character named Cade Yeager—a moniker that would make Keanu Reeves’ Point Break hero Johnny Utah stand up and slow-clap in appreciation—and this time around, he at least has an amusingly floppy new haircut. Oh, and there’s a three-headed Transformers dragon who’s amassed from ancient Autobots who used to hang out with a drunken Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. If you were worried that Bay had lost his touch for sublimely absurd, wantonly steroidal toy cinema, you can lay your fears to rest.
(6) PALEO-HEDGEHOG. Live long enough and you see strange things happen, like 1991 becoming “the good old days” — “Sega Forever makes Genesis classics free on mobile”.
We have no shortage of shiny, life-like HD games these days, but if you’d like to revisit older titles from a bygone era, Sega has got your back. The video game company has just officially launched the first wave of the Sega Forever collection with five titles meant to begin “a retro revolution that will transport players back through two decades of console gaming.” Starting today, the 1991 version of Sonic the Hedgehog, fan-favorite RPG Phantasy Star II, classic arcade-style beat ’em up Comix Zone, platformer Kid Chameleon and Greek mythology-themed beat ’em up Altered Beast will be available on Google Play and iTunes as free ad-supported games. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, your games will even come accompanied by iMessage sticker packs.
(7) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. After reporting the other day that he was too shy to try, Wil Wheaton got to meet David Tennant after all.
IT HAPPENED! IT HAPPENED! I MET DAVID TENNANT! pic.twitter.com/eMzgzqsPlv
— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) June 18, 2017
(8) ALIEN TRIPPER. Mark Kaedrin ranks the finalists in another category — “Hugo Awards: Novelettes”. There’s an alien in first place, and another in last place.
So we come to the short fiction categories of this year’s Hugo Awards. This year, I start with the Novelettes, that odd category that fits stories that are longer than a short story but shorter than a novella. If the past several years are any indication, these stories actually tend to be my favorite of the short fiction finalists. Short stories have been almost uniformly a disaster for the past few years (partly the doing of the Puppies, but it was an issue for me even before then). Novellas somehow seem to be bloated and overlong while still missing the depth you get from a novel (with the notable exception of Bujold’s Penric novellas, which I love). Novelettes hit the Goldilocks zone, providing enough space for a complete narrative, but not so much that the story drowns in hooptedoodle. Does the trend continue this year? Let’s find out:
- Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman – Mysterious alien ships arrive one night without warning. Translators (comprised of formerly abducted humans) emerge and claim the aliens come in peace and don’t want anything. A woman is hired by the government to drive around a translator so that he can see the sights. It turns out that the aliens are intelligent but unconscious, which has some interesting implications. This story works well, with a good exploration of consciousness with the occasional detour into other areas. The ending has a twist that’s pretty easy to see coming (though it does elicit some questions as to the premise of this whole road trip – aren’t there, like, security clearances or something? Is the trip even necessary?), but it works. Lots of open questions, but at least we’re getting something that’s engaging with an interesting idea and trying to hit that sense of wonder that makes SF so great. Short and sweet, this is certainly not perfect, but it’s got some solid ideas and it works well enough…
(9) NOMINATED NOVELLA. Elan Samuel praises “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe – Kij Johnson” at Warbler Books.
A strange and delightful congruity connects The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe with the last Hugo-nominated book I reviewed, The Ballad of Black Tom. Both reach back toward Lovecraft, grab hearty handfuls of story, and mold it into works that manage the requisite respect for the author of such incredible tales while openly challenging his prejudices. You can refresh your memory about how Victor LaValle elegantly reframes Lovecraft into a tale of loss and revenge in last month’s review. We’re here today to talk about Kij Johnson’s brilliant, expansive, and enthralling The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.
(10) INSIDE THE VOTING BOOTH. Ariela Housman of Geek Calligraphy gives readers the lowdown about how she’s voting in three categories on her Hugo ballot – including a thorough discussion of Best Fanartist, which is something you rarely see. Here’s part of her take on the Best Novel finalists.
Novels are my favorite thing to read and what I read the most of. I had already read a number of the nominees before nominations opened, much less after they closed.
- A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers I adored The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which was an utterly delightful reading experience. But it lacked the emotional punch that the sequel delivers here. I’m a sucker for “what does it mean to be a person?” books, and this one comes at it from both ends in a devastating way.
- Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee I will admit that I couldn’t finish this one, which I started before award season. I bounced off it in much the same way I bounced off Ancillary Justice my first time around. Serious culture shock, working too hard to absorb the world to be able to sit back and enjoy the story. Though I finished AJ on my first attempt, it took me until my third readthrough to just enjoy it. I suspect it will be the same here. As is, I recognize the technical accomplishment already.
(11) FB. After being away for a while Joe Vasicek put a set of fresh eyeballs on Facebook and here’s what he found:
Second, Facebook has become really slutty. Again, first impressions here. It’s really interesting when Facebook has nothing to base their algos off of. I assume from what I’m seeing that the recommendations default to its power users, which at a cursory glance are mostly chicks and dude bros. Also, some of the group recommendations I’m seeing are insanely over the top in terms of sheer raunchiness. Since when did Facebook turn into Potterville?
He’s also a critic of multiracial emojis.
But Joe, what’s the harm in an emoji that reflects your skin tone? Two things. First, social media divides us far more than it unites us. It walls us off into tribes, helping us build our own custom echo chambers full of people who only agree with us. It’s an incubator for much of the divisiveness in society right now. Second, there is a very real effort in the country today to divide us all by race.
(12) THE FRENCH HAVE AN EQUATION FOR IT. Of concern to Traveling Jiants everywhere: “Why suitcases rock and fall over”.
It’s a common experience when dashing for a train or plane while lugging a two-wheeled suitcase.
The bag rocks alarmingly from side-to-side and threatens to overturn.
Now, scientists have investigated this conundrum of everyday physics. Speeding up rather than slowing down can solve the problem, they say.
Alternatively, you can pivot the handle of the suitcase as close to the ground as possible.
French scientists studied a model suitcase on a treadmill to see what goes wrong when a suitcase rocks out of control at high speed. They developed equations to explain why two-wheeled trolleys have a tendency to rock from one wheel to the other.
(13) ON RELIGION. Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica reviews American Gods season 1: “American Gods may be the best show about religion on TV”
The first season of American Gods ends with an image that compacts the many themes of the series into one odd moment. It’s an aerial shot, slowly revealing a line of cars, buggies, and other vehicles crowding the tiny road to a neglected Wisconsin tourist trap called The House on the Rock. Without giving you any spoilers, I can say that this scene captures American Gods‘ perspective on religious faith in America.
And now, with a generous dose of spoilers, I will tell you what I mean by that….
(14) LOST LIGHT. The Wertzone is sarcastic about the need for a Watchmen TV series: “Damon Lindelof penning frankly unnecessary WATCHMEN adaptation for HBO”.
Scriptwriter Damon Lindelof will be helming the new project, as he continues to play Russian Roulette with his career. He charmed millions of fans with his TV series Lost, only to annoy them with a somewhat confused ending, and then really annoyed lots of people with his scripts for Star Trek (2009) and Prometheus (2012), which were both troubled. More recently, however, he has won plaudits for his work on HBO’s The Leftovers, which recently concluded a three-season run with a lot of critical acclaim and plaudits.
(15) NEW GAME OF THRONES TRAILER. Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres this July. “It may be the first day of summer, but #WinterisHere on 7.16.”
(16) PHILIP “TWO SHEDS” PULLMAN. House Beautiful reports “Author Philip Pullman’s old shed is Shed of the Year 2017 contender”.
This shed has an impressive literary history – it was once owned by renowned author Philip Pullman. He allegedly even wrote His Dark Materials trilogy within it. It was passed down to current owner Ted, who is an author himself. But this shed comes with one strict rule – it must be freely passed on to the next steward of creative endeavours.
(17) STRANGE MAN. There’s a common saying that “Inside every man, there’s X trying to get out.” How often does X = dragon? I Am Dragon (2017) Movie Trailer.
[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]