Pixel Scroll 2/18/16 Pixel Bell Rock

(1) INTERNET HIGHWAY ROBBERY. Chuck Wendig tees off on a Huffington Post UK editor who preens about not paying their 13,000 contributors.

Because it isn’t “authentic.” To pay writers.

You toxic tickledicks.

You venomous content-garglers.

You thieves, you brigands, you media lampreys.

Let us expose this hot nonsense for what it is: a lie meant to exploit writers and to puff up that old persistent myth about the value of exposure or the joy of the starving artist or the mounting power of unpaid citizen journalism.

The lie is this: writing is not work, it is not fundamental, it is a freedom in which you would partake anyway, and here some chucklefuck would say, haw haw haw, you blog at your blog and nobody pays you, you post updates on Twitter and nobody pays you, you speak words into the mighty air and you do it for free, free, free. And Huffington Post floats overhead in their bloated dirigible and they yell down at you, WE BROADCAST TO MILLIONS and DON’T YOU WANT TO REACH MILLIONS WITH YOUR MEAGER VOICE and THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU.

But it is an opportunity for them, not for you.

But it seemed to me after a strong start Wendig’s rant winds down and loses headway:

Writing is work. Most things begin with writing. Though I find writing a pleasure, it is also a thing that requires great mental effort. It is not mere content — that word said almost dismissively, as if it is a synonym for styrofoam peanuts. (And by the way: you actually have to buy styrofoam peanuts. They aren’t free unless you rob them from boxes shipped to you.) Content is not slurry. It’s not protein goo. It’s not mud or air or some readily available resource…

Intrinsic value and market value are different things. While I don’t think Chuck Wendig believes all writing has the same market value, or necessarily any market value, it seems to me he has conflated spiritual and economic value in this paragraph.

Wendig is right that Huffington Post capitalizes on uncompensated labor, of course. If HuffPo is making money, that establishes that the content collectively has some market value. Since none of that value flows through to the contributor, you can argue an injustice.

But are all these contributors trying to launch writing careers? I do agree that if somebody is trying to be a pro writer, which not all HuffPo contributors necessarily are, they should be working on material that has a paying market.

(2) THAT GETTING PAID THING. In a series of tweets, John Scalzi thanked Wendig for doing the heavy lifting today, and tossed in a few more points:

(3) WRITING VS. WIDGETS. Elizabeth Bear tells about detoxing as a writer, metaphorically speaking, in “if you live for something, you’re not alone”.

One of the things I’ve realized that I need to work on in order to develop a healthier relationship with my job involves certain toxic aspects of the professional writing/publishing culture that I’ve done an overly good job of internalizing. And I’m trying to scrape it out of my soul, because in the long term it winds up being the opposite of productive when dealing with a creative career.

Some of that is a competition thing: “Writer X turns in three books a year and I’m a slacker if I don’t, too!” And that’s not great, honestly, and the sheer pressure to produce isn’t great, either, and doesn’t necessarily lead to good work. One has to think up new things to say between books, after all, or one ends up writing the same book over and over again. No use in that.

I think there’s a certain bravado of culture among may writers that is actively toxic in a lot of ways. And it’s tied to the NaNoWriMo kind of mode of “produce a bunch of stuff really fast, lather rinse repeat” pressure, and also the “THIS JOB SUCKS AND WE’RE WARRIORS FOR DOING IT” thing. It’s this weird Puritan machismo in suffering.

I mean, you don’t learn to write well by turning out 50K in a month once a year. It’s the two pages a day or whatever that get you there. Constant practice, as with any art. And mammals don’t respond well to punishment for performance. If we do a thing and the result is horrible, we generally avoid doing that thing again

(4) STARSHIPPING. From the Initiative for Interstellar Studies, Principium, Issue 12, February 2016 [PDF file]. The overview begins —

In this edition our guest introduction is by Gill Norman. Gill is a former director of i4is. She has helped us become the reasonably well organised body that we now are. Her thoughts here are on the necessity of human engagement in Interstellar Studies and space in general, Space: It’s all about people. She tells us how we need to engage resources and talents from all who feel our outward urge. Scientists and engineers are essential but so are entrepreneurs, PR experts and, of course, the best administrators we can find!

(5) FRAUD AT ICE CREAM COUNTER. “Astronaut ice cream is a lie”!

Astronaut ice cream — did it really fly? Vox’s Phil Edwards investigates, with the help of the Smithsonian and an astronaut.

 

(6) MOVING DAY. “China displaces nearly 10,000 humans for huge telescope in search for aliens” reports Asia One.

China will move nearly 10,000 people to make way for the world’s largest radio telescope which promises to help humanity search for alien life, state media reported on Tuesday.

It’s compensating them less than $2,000 each to relocate.

(7) CONGRATULATIONS: Becky Thomson and Tom Veal, friends for over 45 years, have announced they are engaged to be married. The wedding will be on June 25, in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

(8) SIGNALLING THE BEST. At SF Signal, “Top 15 Sci-Fi Comics of 2015 (Becky Cloonan, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Greg Rucka, More” .

We don’t write many articles about comics here at SF Signal. That’s not to say that we dismiss comics as literature, though. Many of the contributors to this blog are huge fans of the medium, but sites devoted the field abound, and whether superheroes are actually science fiction or a form of fantasy that simply employs sci-fi conventions as convenient MacGuffins is debatable. The one notable exception to our comic freeze out is our annual list of the top science fiction comics of the year… which number exactly one, because last year’s list was our first.

To my surprise, though, last year’s list of the Top 14 Sci-Fi Comics of 2014 turned out to be one of our top ten most popular articles of 2015. So, back by popular demand, here’s a rundown of the best on-going science fiction comics to hit stands in 2015. It’s not exhaustive, because there were a LOT of great sci-fi series this year, but it’s what we consider these to be the cream of the crop. Feel free to debate or contribute your own suggestions in the comments below….

(9) KENYON/CLARE ARTICLE. Laura Miller at Slate writes with a fannish slant about “The Shadowhunters vs. the Dark-Hunters”.

A lawsuit between two best-selling authors involves fantasy, romance, charges of plagiarism, and fan fiction gone mainstream….

I have friends with deep roots in fandom—albeit without much connection to this particular sector of it—who believe that this is the true source of the undying animosity toward Clare: She left fandom “badly,” or, worse yet, she seemed to be repudiating her own origins in that community by changing the spelling of her name. Fan-fiction writers are routinely and viciously ridiculed and shamed for their hobby, which makes their communities especially insular and self-policing. “Back in the day,” Cleolinda Jones, a onetime regular at Fandom Wank, wrote to me, “we used to say, ‘The first rule of fanfic is, do not take money for your fanfic.’ Because the overriding fear was intellectual property holders would sue everybody and shut fandom down.” Rights-holders that once issued cease-and-desists against fan sites for using promotional photos now encourage fan art and other tributes, Jones says, but in the early 2000s, “I just really cannot overstate the sense of living on borrowed time by the grace of the IP holders.” This would explain why word-for-word plagiarism, as opposed to the transformative appropriation of another creator’s characters and setting, would seem a catastrophically reckless sin against the entire community.

Of course, Clare was reviled—and adored—in Harry Potter fandom even before the plagiarism charges against her came to light. And fan fiction itself has come a long way, spawning numerous real-world stars, fan writers such as E.L. James who move on to publish best-sellers. Clare was among the very first to do this. But the prospect of going pro and striking it rich seems to many fan-fiction writers like a serpent in the garden, corrupting what once felt like an idyllic, egalitarian gift-economy of like-minded dabblers. Once, fandom was a destination in itself; now it’s just another stepping stone for ambitious writers with their eyes on a richer prize. Like so much of the idealism of the early Internet, this, too, has become an offshoot of the marketplace. “I think what you don’t understand,” one friend told me when I expressed bafflement that Clare’s fellow fan-fiction writers didn’t view the popularity of her books as a feather in their collective cap, “is that a lot of them just feel used.” When I admitted that didn’t make sense to me, she added, “It’s hard to explain, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.”

(10) CON OR BUST. MidAmeriCon II has also pitched in:

MidAmeriCon II, August 17-21, 2016, Kansas City, MO, USA. MidAmeriCon is the 2016 WorldCon; its Guests of Honor are Kinuko Y. Craft, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Tamora Pierce, and Michael Swanwick, and its Toastmaster is Pat Cadigan.

MidAmeriCon has donated four memberships to Con or Bust, either in full or as upgrades to supporting memberships (if the recipient already has one).

(10) TAKING ART IN NEW DIRECTIONS. “Best Fan Artist?” asks Steven H Silver. GPS Doodles’ Stephen Lund creates figures by riding his bike in meatspace on routes tracked by Strava. Some are Star Wars-themed.

GPS Yoda

“Doodle a Jedi I must”

Wasn’t it Yoda, Grand Master of the Jedi Order, who said “Doodle. Or doodle not. There is no try”?

Well, doodle I must. And on May the 4th, there’s little choice but to doodle the Jedi Order’s most disciplined master of the Force. Good ol’ Yoda.

“Take a ride on the dark side”

Subject: ride along I’d like to request one. Can you come up with a suitable topic? Vader and his young apprentice perhaps?

It sounded like fun – not just the Star Wars theme but the idea of having someone along for the ride.

Kudos to Geoff, who stuck with me for the entire 4.5+ hours with no inkling whatsoever about what we were doodling. He was completely in the dark (“on the Dark Side,” I suppose you could say) until he got home afterward and downloaded the ride to Strava.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 18, 1930 – Clyde Tombaugh discovered planet Pluto, before it became a dwarf.
  • February 18, 1977 – First unmanned test flight of space shuttle Enterprise mounted on another aircraft.

(12) ARE YOU SHOCKED? Kate Paulk’s award overview series continues with “Hugo Categories Highlight – The Short Fiction Categories”.

The problems of the Hugo voting/nominating population being relatively small and to a large extent long-term fans who could be termed the science fiction “establishment” (in the sense that many of these people have been to the same conventions for twenty and more years and helped each other run quite a few of them) have probably had years where they actually could read everything eligible with the result that they’ve seen practically everything.

This leads to a kind of weird inversion of killer mailbox syndrome (what happens to your marvelous tale about a killer mailbox when the slush reader has just read the third killer mailbox piece in the slush dive and the other three were horrible. The horrible gets imputed to your story because of the human mind’s extreme pattern-making and association ability) where something that isn’t all that great seems the freshest, most wonderful piece of the year because it’s sufficiently unlike the rest of the entries it stands out. This gets good-but-not-extraordinary works nominated and winning awards because they aren’t like everything else.

There’s no need for a conspiracy to explain some of the “winning the future” selections in recent years – this effect will do just as nicely, particularly since many of said voting group have very similar opinions about what constitutes a desirable message and from what I’ve seen are honestly shocked that their views of what is right and proper are not shared by the rest of fandom (two rules that we fans have to remember: sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice; and highly intelligent people are capable of extremely advanced stupidity).

(13) THE REBUTTAL. Vox Day at Vox Popoli makes additional arguments supporting his contention that he is a better editor than David Hartwell.

The SF-SJWs at File 770 are appalled at the fact that Tor Books and Castalia House author John C. Wright is willing to go on the record and state that, in his opinion, I am a better editor than the late, Hugo Award-winning editor David Hartwell:…

You see, I have perspective that they do not. Unlike them, I have seen Mr. Wright’s unedited prose. I know exactly what it looks like. And as it happens, it looks very much like the prose that appears in Mr. Wright’s novels that are published by Tor Books. John is an excellent writer; he is one of the greatest SF/F writers alive. But he writes very, very quickly and he is prone to what one might describe as an exuberant approach to writing. Last year, Castalia House offered him a contract for a 60k-word book. I am now reading the manuscript, which clocks in at nearly 200k words. Even those authors who don’t like Mr. Wright or his style might well contemplate suicide if they truly understood how speedily and effortlessly the man writes… and writes well. When I say he is a great writer, I do not do so lightly, nor do I do so because I am fortunate enough to publish some of his works. I say it out of pure envy and awe.

…. UPDATE: It appears my surmise about the extent to which Mr. Wright’s books were edited at Tor Books was correct, as per L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright

Just in case anyone wondered: John has tremendous respect for Mr. Hartwell, whom he admired, appreciated working with, and liked as a person. But Mr. Hartwell almost never made any changes to John’s manuscripts.

(14) ADMIRATION. John C. Wright’s contributions to the foregoing discussion included this compliment to another author:

I would have trouble editing George RR Martin’s books. Most of the comments here mock him, but he is an exquisitely skilled writer, a consummate writer. His writing is a little dark for me, but reread the opening prologue of GAME OF THRONES: the text establishes a fullfledged three dimensional character, a man who is realistic yet sympathetic, and who is snuffed out as a redshirt a few paragraphs later to show you how the monster works — and it comes as a surprise because usually the redshirts are not given a backstory. What in other hands would have been a boring B-movie horror scene in Martin’s is a masterful, and even moving, establishing scene. Now, to be frank, I have not read his last two volumes, and I may never, because he has killed off too many likable characters and is taking too long to get anywhere: but once the series is done, and I know it reaches a satisfying conclusion, I may revisit that decision. So Mr. Martin may be suffering from the victory disease, where some of his discipline lapses due to his popularity. Or he may be, as I am, an exuberant writer who likes his digressions.

(15) TROPE TRAP. At The Book Smugglers, Carlie St. George “examines the Sexy Douchecanoe trope” in “Trope Anatomy 101: Reader, I Didn’t Marry Him – I Kicked His Jerk Ass to the Curb”.

The Sexy Douchecanoe isn’t an official trope, as such; at least, it’s not one that I often find people analyzing, subverting, and/or railing against. It is one, however, that I run into constantly because, while they’re often unfairly associated with strapping, half-dressed men on paperback covers, Sexy Douchecanoes actually pop up in every medium and every genre. The first time I remember coming across one, I was maybe 20 and reading Naked in Death by JD Robb. At the time, I’d been interested in giving romance a go, but as I hadn’t read much of the genre, I wasn’t entirely sure where to start. I figured the best plan was to pick a romance that was also a murder mystery set in the future.

And maybe that plan would have been successful, if I hadn’t hated the love interest with the power of a thousand suns.

(16) MONSTER HIGH NOTE. Lady Gaga and Mattel are teaming to create a Monster High doll.

You know you’ve made it big when you’re commissioned by a major toy manufacturer to design a doll. That’s exactly what’s happened to Lady Gaga. The singer/actress is adding “toy designer” to her resume now with a forthcoming Monster High doll. Is there anything she can’t do? She’s designing the doll with her sister, costume designer Natali Germanotta. Which is totally fitting, given Gaga’s Mother Monster moniker.

 

https://twitter.com/LGMonsterFacts/status/698251609860485120

(17) THIRD MILLENNIUM. Part three of “Who Are Millennial Fans: An Interview with Louisa Stein” by Henry Jenkins at Confessions of an Aca-Fan.

[Louisa Stein] I mentioned above the TV series Supernatural’s ambivalent depictions of female fans over the years. Supernatural is a series that has a dynamic and rich transformative fandom, and the majority of those participating in the fandom are women. Supernatural fans, while expressing love for the series and its characters and potential, have long been critics of its gender and racial politics, and have spoken out at times about how they have felt misrepresented and even attacked by the series and its metatexts, for example, in response to a preview that declared the teenage girl the “ultimate monster.”

(18) STUBBY ON SPUDS. At Tor.com Stubby the Rocket says, “Matt Damon Has Replaced Sean Astin as the Face of Pop Cultural Potato Enthusiasm”. Yes, I guess he has…. (It’s a reference to this antique video from the dawn of YouTube.)

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Brian Z., Dave Doering, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day redheadedfemme.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2 Unstable Molecules: For Starship Captains Who Shift Shape, And Get Overly Personal With Hedgehogs and Fondue Pots

(1) Jon Zeigler has posted his “100 Year Starship Symposium 2015” report at Sharrukin’s Palace.

Executive summary: I was quite impressed by the whole endeavor. It’s a fairly small technical conference, but it’s attracting serious academics and scientists, and it has a distinctive focus on cultural and social issues as well as science and technology. I can recommend it for science fiction writers, especially those of us who are interested in doing work in the “hard” end of the field.

As with all technical conferences, I found myself wanting to be in several places at once. There are always more technical tracks going on that any one person can possibly take in.

A set of three one-hour “classes” was held first thing on Friday morning. I sat in on a presentation by Bobby Farlice-Rubio, from the Fairfield Museum and Planetarium in Connecticut. The title was Neighborhood Watch: An Advanced Look at our Space Neighborhood, and it served as a summary of recent discoveries in planetary science. I follow interplanetary exploration closely, so I didn’t hear much that was completely new, but there were a few details I hadn’t heard before.

One item in particular stuck with me. Apparently the New Horizons spacecraft that just made a flyby of Pluto contained a small canister of human remains – a pinch of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto in 1930. That makes Mr. Tombaugh the one human being thus far whose remains are destined for interstellar space. Don’t know if there’s a whole story in that, but it’s a very evocative image.

(2) Although he hasn’t gotten as close to Pluto as Clyde Tombaugh, the Guardian proclaims David A. Hardy “The space artist who saw Pluto before Nasa”.

In 1950, a 14-year-old boy found an astronomy book at his local library. As he pored over it, a light bulb lit up over his head. “It inspired me, really, to do it myself,” says that boy, David A Hardy, 65 years on. Not to become an astronaut, but to draw outer space with incredible military accuracy. Today, he is the world’s oldest living space artist. He’s 79 and he lives in the suburbs of Birmingham, churning out visions of the universe while his wife makes him cups of tea.

Chances are, if you’ve read books by Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, the covers were painted by Hardy. He worked with Sir Patrick Moore for over half a century. He has created spaceships descending upon Big Ben for Doctor Who and the Daleks. His art has been the backdrop for Pink Floyd gigs, and he counts the Rolling Stones and Queen among his collectors.

Hardy’s work is part of a new exhibition called Visions of Space at the Wells & Mendip Museum, Somerset, from November 7-21. David A Hardy speaks on November 6 at 7:30pm.

(3) A website now documents the “Aliens, Androids & Unicorns” exhibition at the University of Otago (New Zealand) held March to May 2015, that highlighted sf&f collection of the late Harold Terrence Salive (1939-2012). The exhibition contained (amongst others) his almost complete run of Astounding Stories, numerous works by Van Vogt, Delany, C.J Cherryh, Jack L. Chalker, Poul Anderson, and Piers Anthony. Salive’s Collection was donated to Special Collections in March 2013 by his wife Rachel.

(4) To avoid spoilers, the release of the Star Wars: The Force Awaken tie-in novel has been delayed.

Walt Disney Co. is so determined to maintain the secrecy surrounding its hotly anticipated “Star Wars” movie that it asked its publishing partner to delay the release of a hardcover book tied to the film and forgo a potential holiday sales bonanza.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the franchise’s first new installment in a decade, will hit theaters Dec. 17. But the print edition of the novel, which will be published by Penguin Random House’sDel Rey imprint, won’t be released until Jan. 5, after the lucrative holiday gift-giving season has ended.

The unusual delay reflects Disney’s fears that printed copies of the book, which would have to start rolling off presses long before they hit store shelves, could be purloined by people who want to spill plot details online. The e- book will be released Dec. 18, since it is easier to control digital files before they go on sale.

(5) “Amazon opens its first real bookstore – at U-Village” in Seattle.

Bookstore owners often think of Amazon.com as the enemy.

Now it’s becoming one of them.

At 9:30 Tuesday morning, the online retail giant will open its first-ever brick-and-mortar retail store in its 20-year life, in University Village.

The store, called Amazon Books, looks a lot like bookstores that populate malls across the country. Its wood shelves are stocked with 5,000 to 6,000 titles, best-sellers as well as Amazon.com customer favorites.

(6) “Holy Crap, They Are Officially Making a New Star Trek TV Series” reports io9.

Multiple outlets are reporting that Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of 2009’s Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, will executive produce a new Star Trek show through CBS Television Studios.

The show will premiere in January 2017 with a preview episode on CBS and then, in the U.S., move exclusively to the CBS video on-demand and streaming service, CBS All Access. It’ll be the first developed specifically for the CBS streaming service.

Quoting the CBS press release —

The brand-new “Star Trek” will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.

(7) Far more surprising – incredible, really — is Fox’s decision to reboot Greatest American Hero. Deadline reports —

In a preemptive buy, Fox has given a pilot production commitment to Greatest American Hero, a single-camera comedy inspired by Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic. It hails from Dope writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, Phil Lord & Chris Miller–  the directing duo behind the successful feature franchise based on another ’80s TV series by Cannell, 21 Jump Street — and Cannell’s daughter, television director Tawnia McKiernan. 20th Century Fox TV, where Lord and Miller are under an overall deal, is the studio.

Written and to be directed by Famuyiwa, Greatest American Hero is the story of what happens when great power is not met with great responsibility. An ordinary man, completely content with being average, wakes up with a superpower suit he never asked for and has to deal with the complications it brings his life.

Via SF Site News.

(8) Today’s Birthday Manned Space Mission

  • November 2, 2000 — The first crew docked at the International Space Station. Commander William Shepherd and Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko spent 141 days in space. Since Expedition 1, there has been a continuous human presence aboard the space station for 5,478 days and counting.

(9) Nate Hoffhelder responds to John Scalzi’s post about kids not reading the classics in “Culture and Relatability Are Why people Don’t Read Classic SF, Not Age” at The Digital Reader.

While all the points he made are correct, I don’t think he gets at the root cause of the shift in reading tastes.

I have trouble accepting the point that commercial availability driving demand because when I was growing up (in the 1990s) I frequented used book stores just to get those older books. I also combed through the library stacks for those three-, four-, and five-decade-old books because I liked the authors and wanted to read them. (In fact, there were a few early Heinleins that I didn’t find for the first time until the early aughts, and I still read them when I found them.)

Instead, I have to agree with the several commenters who argue that culture in the older books and the relatability of the characters have a greater impact.

(10) Harper Voyager’s open call for submissions runs November 2-6.

In this time of flux and accelerated evolution in the field of genre publishing, the editorial leaders of Harper Voyager Books are delighted to announce an exciting venture that will offer talented aspiring writers the chance to join the same science fiction and fantasy imprint that publishes such visionary authors as Richard Kadrey, Chuck Wendig, Raymond E. Feist, and many, many more.

For the first time since 2012, Harper Voyager is offering writers the chance to submit full, un-agented manuscripts for a limited five-day period. The publisher is seeking new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines. In this Open Call, Harper Voyager will be seeking out novels written in the Urban Fantasy and Military Sci-Fi genres. Submission guidelines and key information can be found at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com.

The submission portal, www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com, will be open from noon ET on the 2nd to noon ET of the 6th of November 2015. The manuscripts will then be read, and all submissions will receive a letter notifying them of whether or not their submission is being offered publication on the Voyager list. As with every Harper Voyager project, the author will be paired with an editor, publicist, and marketing team in order to develop the manuscript and promotional efforts before and during publication.

The submissions and digital publications are spearheaded by Executive Editor David Pomerico.  He notes that: “The last time we had an open call, we had over 4,500 submissions, and were able to add 10 new voices to our growing list. We know, though, that writers are always eager to connect with editors here, and we’re excited to offer them an opportunity to do exactly that. These are two sub-genres we are finding a lot of readers for—especially in the digital space—and I’m looking forward to finding some great new projects.”

(11) Thomas Rossiter declares that “My Hugo Must Be Acknowledged” at Pelican Magazine, though it never is made evident why the headline refers to “my Hugo.”

This controversy led to the largest number of votes ever received by the awards committee (just over five thousand). Not one of the Puppies’ nominees received an award. Many of the categories were resolved with “No Award” where there was no alternative to a Puppy-approved candidate.

The Puppies have on numerous occasions stated that their goal is to make the Hugos as democratic as possible, so their anger now that their nominees have lost seems hypocritical to say the least.

(12) A review in the October Audiofile praises the audiobook edition of Francis Hamit’s novel The Queen of Washington.

Narrator Melanie Mason finds a wonderful Southern accent for Rose Greenhow that adds a great deal to the atmosphere of this novel. David Wilson Brown uses a variety of tones and accents–Southern and Northern, as well as French and Spanish–for the various male characters. Together, the two narrators provide tension and a theatrical atmosphere to the story. Rose, a rich nineteenth-century player in Washington, D.C., society is a spy, first for the Confederacy and later for British and French intelligence in the 1850s and ’60s. The many plot twists of this historical novel make for an engaging performance by two smooth narrators.

Says Hamit: “I could not be more pleased for my narration team, who worked very hard on this and are the real stars. I do call this ‘alternative history’ so it fits (barely) within the genre.”

(13) A Princess of the Chameln by Cherry Wilder ($5.99, ISBN 978-1-5040-2697-0) is going to be published as an e-book for the first time, on November 17, by Mashup Press, distributed by Open Road Integrated Media on all major retailers’ web sites. It will be available as a print on demand trade paperback a month later. The sequels Yorath the Wolf and The Summer’s King, which together with A Princess of the Chameln comprise the Rulers of Hylor trilogy, will be published at three month intervals.

It has been a while since this book has been available—two decades, in fact, since the Baen Books paperback edition, which reprinted the original hardcover edition ofA Princess of the Chameln.

Princess of the Chameln cover final COMP

A Princess . . . is the story of Aidris, the heir to the double-throne of Hylor. When her crown is usurped by pretenders and she must flee for her life, she must fend for herself, exiled in a world of enemies, forced to fight to survive as she seeks allies friendly to her cause. In the richly developed fantasy world of Hylor and the realms within it that vie for ascendance, Cherry Wilder deftly balances politics and warfare with the subtly nuanced, memorable characters whose lives play out in this uniquely powerful novel.

Jim Frenkel of Mashup Press predicts, “If you are familiar with A Princess of the Chameln or the trilogy—you already know that they are Cherry Wilder’s great epic high-fantasy adventure. If you don’t know these books, I think you’ll have a great surprise in store. Cherry Wilder died in 2003, but her great works live on, and we’re all thrilled to be able to bring these books to a new generation of fantasy readers.”

Stack of Old Books

(14) Free Special Speaker Event presented by the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society on Saturday November 21, 2:30 p.m. at the Palms-Rancho Park Library in Los Angeles, CA.

Spec fic then and now

(15) Steven Moffat told Variety to expect Doctor Who to be around for years to come:

You are credited with taking “Doctor Who” to a new level. What do you think allowed this format to be rebooted so brilliantly?

“Doctor Who” is the all-time perfectly evolved television show. It’s a television predator designed to survive any environment because you can replace absolutely everybody. Most shows you can’t do that with. For example, once Benedict Cumberbatch gives up “Sherlock,” what are we going to do? We are going to stop, that’s what we are going to do. Most shows have a built-in mortality. But here is a show that sheds us all like scales; a show that can make you feel everything except indispensable. It will carry on forever, because you can replace every part of it…

In terms of longevity of the show, I think you’ve said it could go five more years?

It is definitely going to last five more years, I’ve seen the business plan. It’s not going anywhere. And I think we can go past that. It’s television’s own legend. It will just keep going.

(16) Last Friday, Chuck Yeager stopped by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum to say hello to his Bell X-1, the airplane in which he broke the sound barrier 68 years ago on October 14, 1947.

ChuckYeager COMP

[Thanks to Wendy Gale, Roger Tener’s Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol, Gregory Benford, Will R., Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Close Enough To Kiss Pluto

The New Horizons probe made its closest approach to Pluto on Tuesday morning, carrying the ashes of the man who discovered the dwarf planet, along with spectrometers to analyze Pluto’s surface, and one telescopic camera taking so many pictures it will be more than a year before NASA receives them all.

“Perihadean Achieved” was Steven H Silver’s headline at SF Site News. Silver, a true Pluto aficionado, uses as his Facebook profile picture a 1980 snapshot of him standing with Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh, whom he corresponded with for two years before meeting.

A New Horizons tribute video has been assembled by NPR from images returned by the probe. The words that accompany the video come from Ray Bradbury, who read his poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” at a celebration of a NASA mission to Mars in 1971.

“With all the data collection on the menu (and the incredibly slow download rate), NASA estimates that New Horizons will be sending home the data it collects on Tuesday for the next 16 months,” says the Washington Post.

On NASA’s Facebook page someone asked the New Horizons team if they expect to find more moons around Pluto. The answer is

I think most people on the NH team were expecting we’d find a small moon or two. We haven’t seen any yet, but there is a lot of data that still needs to come down

And the mission isn’t done yet: