Pixel Scroll 2/12/19 Fans Scroll In, Where Pixels Fear To Tread

(1) RIDLEY SCOTT’S COGNAC AD. The noted director of Blade Runner, various Aliens movies, and the Apple Mac: 1984 commercial, Ridley Scott, has returned to commercial work this year. First to air was his Turkish Airlines ad for the Super Bowl, and now comes a short video tailored for airing online and on TV during the Oscars:

The liquor brand is promoting its Hennessy X.O cognac in “7 Worlds,” a mix of epic drama and sci-fi odyssey. The video highlights the seven notes of X.O and pays homage to the Oscars with a scene that includes colossal golden figures similar to the Oscars award statue.

Scott, who directed films including “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator,” created a four-minute film for the brand that will air on Hennessey’s site during the Oscars on Feb. 24. A 60-second version airs during the show on ABC.

The YouTube blurb explains:

Hennessy X.O – The Seven Worlds – Directed by Ridley Scott. Each time you taste Hennessy X.O, you go on an odyssey. Seven tasting notes, like seven unique worlds to explore. Seven oneiric stories to convey the incredible richness and complexity of this cognac. …The Seven Worlds are creative interpretations of each tasting note, described by Hennessy’s Comité de Dégustation as illustrations of Hennessy X.O’s taste and feel: Sweet Notes, Rising Heat, Spicy Edge, Flowing Flame, Chocolate Lull, Wood Crunches. Culminating in Infinite Echo. These seven notes are envisioned by Ridley Scott as individual worlds each brought to life through wonderous and extreme physiography.

(2) ZAK SMITH CALLED OUT. Game author Zak Smith, a four-time Ennie Award nominee in 2018, has been accused by several women of sexual assault. One company will no longer do business with him.

The Morrus’ Unofficial En World Tabletop RPG News site summarized the story: “RPG Writer Zak S Accused Of Abusive Behaviour”.

RPG writer Zak S (aka Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) has been accused by multiple women of abusive behaviour in a public Facebook post by his ex-partner, and two other women.

Zak Smith appeared in the video series I Hit It With My Axe, and is known for the Playing D&D With Porn Stars blog. He has also written several RPG books, most recently for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, consulted on the D&D 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, has won multiple ENnies, and recently worked for White Wolf. As yet, he hasn’t made any public response to the accusations.

The Facebook post referred to is public, and can be accessed here. Consider ALL the content warnings given. Many reactions and links will be found using this search on Twitter.

OneBookShelf / DriveThruRPG President Steve Wieck says they basically won’t be doing business with Zak Smith going forward — “DriveThruRPG Responds to Current Industry News” at OneBlogShelf.

Thanks to everyone for your patience as we deliberated on the situation that has unfolded regarding Zak Smith (aka Zak Sabbath). At DriveThruRPG, we want to do our part to keep bad actors out of the roleplaying community, and we don’t want business relationships with such people. As such, you’d think there wouldn’t be much deliberation needed on our part. However, the situation posed a number of challenges for us to consider in terms of precedent and collateral impact on other parties.

I have decided that we will not accept future titles for sale on DriveThruRPG (or our other marketplaces) if Zak is a contributor on the title. If any publisher has a title-in-process to which Zak is a contributor and this policy would impact you financially, then we’d ask that you please reach out to us via the publisher services link to have a dialogue about that title…

So DriveThruRPG is now banning certain creators? Will whoever the “outrage brigade” complains about next be banned as well?
We all share a responsibility for the health of our hobby. Any demographic measure we’ve ever seen on the roleplaying hobby shows women are under-represented. Things won’t improve if people shirk the responsibility to make our hobby inclusive.

Zak Smith has a long and well-documented history of behaviors antithetical to a healthy community. In light of recent allegations, which we find credible, we think our business and our hobby is better off without him, so we’re doing our part.

Eric Franklin explained the significance of this decision in a comment: “DTRPG/OBS is the largest RPG PDF retailer on the planet, and are the ONLY legal source for many publishers’ games. This is equivalent to Amazon cutting a publisher off – without OBS, it’s super-hard to make money selling RPG PDFs.”

(3) LEGO CAMEOS. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “How LEGO MOVIE 2 Scored Those Surprising Celebrity Cameos (Spoilers!)” discusses how Bruce WIllis and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have cameos in the film, with Justice Ginsburg saying she would only be in the movie if her action figure had a small gavel.

But there are a few cameos in the new hit animated sequel that will catch you for a loop. While folks like Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return as superheroes Superman and Green Lantern, respectively, and DC stars Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot are onboard to voice Lego versions of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, fans who saw the film over the weekend got an unexpected surprise in the bricky form of Bruce Willis playing… well, Bruce Willis (though he bears a striking resemblance to Bruce Willis as Die Hard‘s John McClane).

(4) ERRM, NO. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber asks: “Does The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part match the original?”

Set five years after the original, a new film continues the story of Lego figure Emmet – and it fails to measure up.

Perhaps no sequel could ever have reached the giddy heights attained by The Lego Movie. Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the best cartoon of 2014 was such a magnificently animated and dazzlingly inventive delight that there was probably only one way its follow-up could go. But it is still depressing to see The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part falling so far short of its glorious predecessor.

One obvious reason for the shortfall is that the first film caught everyone unawares. Those of us who walked into the cinema fearing a cynical advert for a Danish construction toy brand found ourselves gawping instead at a daring Orwellian satire, the exhilarating and hilarious adventure of a cheerfully conformist construction worker, Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), who learns that the tyrannical Lord Business (Will Ferrell) plans to glue every one of Bricksburg’s Lego citizens into place….

(5) NOT PRIME ENOUGH? The Counterpart TV series has been cancelled. (At least in this universe.)

Creator Justin Marks announced Monday on his verified Twitter account that the premium cable network has opted to cancel the drama starring J.K. Simmons after two seasons. The news comes ahead of Sunday’s season two finale, which will now serve as a series finale should another outlet not pick up the Media Rights Capital-produced drama.

(6) MARVEL MIGRATION. Hulu looks like the new home for Marvel TV programs: “Marvel, Hulu Set Four-Show Animated Slate”. The Hollywood Reporter has details:

As Marvel’s Netflix relationship sours, the comic book powerhouse is entering a new pact for a slate of four animated series with Hulu.

The streamer — soon to be majority controlled by Marvel parent Disney as part of the Fox asset sale — has greenlit four animated series (and a special) as part of a new partnership with the comic giant.

M.O.D.O.K. centers around an egomaniacal supervillain with a really big head and a really little body, who struggles to maintain control of his evil organization and his demanding family. Writers Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt will also executive produce.

Hit-Monkey tells the tale of a wronged Japanese snow monkey, mentored by the ghost of an American assassin, as he cuts a wide swath through the Tokyo underworld in this darkly cinematic and brutally funny revenge saga. Writers Josh Gordon and Will Speck will executive produce.

Tigra & Dazzler Show is a story about two woke superheroes and best friends, Tigra and Dazzler, as they fight for recognition among powered people who make up the eight million stories in Los Angeles. Writers Erica Rivinoja and Chelsea Handler serve as executive producers.

Howard the Duck is trapped in a world he never made, but America’s favorite fighting fowl hopes to return home with the help of his unstoppable gal pal Beverly before the evil Dr. Bong can turn him the crispiest dish on the menu. Writers Kevin Smith and Dave Willis will also executive produce.

The Offenders follows MODOK, Dazzler, Tigra, Hit Monkey and Howard the Duck as they are all forced to team up in order to save the world and certain parts of the universe.

(7) HOLLOMAN OBIT. Master costumer D. Jeannette Holloman (1955-2019) died February 11.

Jeannette was a founding member of the Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumers Guild. Her costumes have been featured in Threads magazine and The Costume Makers Art. She has participated several WorldCon, CostumeCon and Malice Domestic award-winning costumes. She was a noted voice-over artist. She is survived by her husband Ron Robinson, author, costumer, and technocrat. She also leaves a vast number of good friends.

(8) SMITH OBIT. British fan Tony “Blindpew” Smith died of cancer on February 9 according to the Novacon 49 Facebook page. He is survived by his wife Wendy and his family. Smith was an early member of the Peterborough SF Club.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 Russ Chauvenet. He co-founded the National Fantasy Fan Federation, with Damon Knight and Art Widner, and was a member of First Fandom. He coined the word “fanzine” in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine Detours and was for many years a member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association. He later coined prozine, a phrase for professionally published magazines containing SF stories. It looks like he wrote one piece of fanfic called “If I Werewolf”.  He shares credit for it with Harry Jenkins, Jr., Elmer Perdue, Jack Speer, Wilson Tucker and Arthur L. Widner, Jr. and it was published in Spaceways, January 1942. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 12, 1922 Sam Youd. Best known for writing under the name of John Christopher, which he used when he penned The Tripods series. A BBC and Seven Network (Australia) series would be made from the books. He also wrote two other genre novels, The Death of Grass and The Guardians. (Died 2012.)
  • Born February 12, 1933 Juanita Ruth Coulson, 86. She apparently is well-known for her Children of the Stars books though I’ve not heard of them. She co-edited the fanzine Yandro for many years. The magazine won the Hugo in 1965, thus making Coulson one of the very first women editors to be so honored. She’s also known for being an excellent filker. She was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 1996.  She was nominated for several Pegasus Awards for filk music, winning the award for Best Writer/Composer in 2012.
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry  Bisson, 77. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire,” which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat.” His genre novels includes Talking ManWyrldmaker and a rather superb adaptation of Johnny Mnemonic
  • Born February 12, 1950 Michael Ironside, 69. Ahhhh, he of Starship Troopers fame. His first SF role was actually as Darryl Revok in Scanners. Later roles included Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Ricther In Total Recall, General Katana in Highlander II: The Quickening and of course Lt. Jean Rasczak In Starship Troopers. Now he also did some series work as well including being Ham Tyler on V The Final Battle and V The SeriesseaQuest 2032 as Captain Oliver Hudson, General Sam Lane on Smallville and on the Young Blades series as Cardinal Mazarin. 
  • Born February 12, 1952 Steve Szilagyi, 67. This is going to get very meta. Photographing Fairies, his first novel, was short-listed for the 1993 World Fantasy Award. But the novel itself is based on the Cottingley Fairies hoax so is the novel a metanarrative? Ok I’ve been up too long again. At any rate the film made the novel starring Ben Kingsley is first rate.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • In its own way, Non Sequitur asks whatever happened to that sense of wonder?

(11) TOLKIEN TRAILER. Oxford, WWI, true love – it’s all in Tolkien, the biopic, arriving in theaters on May 10.  

TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels.

(12) STAR STRUCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One of pop star Ariana Grande’s tracks on her new album is called “NASA,” though it’s more about self-empowerment than space exploration. That didn’t keep there from being some cross-talk (Bustle: “Ariana Grande’s Twitter Exchange With NASA & Buzz Aldrin Perfectly Shows Why She’s Such A Superstar”) featuring Twitter exchanges between NASA and Grande plus between Buzz Aldrin and Grande. For the latter, she seemed a bit, shall we say, star struck.

Another article (The Atlantic: “A Space Nerd’s Reading of Ariana Grande’s ‘NASA’ Song”) notes that the song begins “with a reimagining of Neil Armstrong’s famous line: ‘This is one small step for woman / One giant leap for womankind.’” Self-empowerment indeed.

(13) THE RIGHT-ER STUFF. TV will take another look at America’s space pioneers.Variety: “Nat Geo Orders Adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Right Stuff’ to Series”.

National Geographic, in partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way and Warner Horizon Scripted Television, has greenlit to series an adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff,” which recounts the early days of the U.S. space program and its astronauts.

Using Wolfe’s book as a jumping-off point, the first season begins in 1958, the height of the Cold War, with the Soviets leading the space race and the U.S. launching NASA’s Project Mercury. The best-selling book was previously adapted into a feature film in 1983.

The show is described as taking “a clear-eyed, non-nostalgic look at the lives of these ambitious astronauts and their families, who became instant celebrities in a competition that would either kill them or make them immortal.” Following seasons will follow the Apollo Space Program, the moon landing, and other missions.

(14) THE FUTURE IS UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. BBC asks, “Sweden’s Cashless Experiment: Is It Too Much Too Fast?”

Cash is still king around the world, but there are pockets of places, especially in Europe, moving away from cash. And no one is dropping cash as fast as Sweden.

In 2018, only 13 percent of Swedes reported using cash for a recent purchase, according to a nationwide survey, down from around 40 percent in 2010. In the capital, Stockholm, most people can’t even remember the last time they had coins jingling in their pockets.

By contrast, around 70 percent of Americans still use cash on a weekly basis, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

In Sweden, however, especially in bigger cities, going cashless is becoming the norm. Purchases usually happen as digital transactions — by card, online or with Sweden’s most popular mobile payment app, Swish.

…But all this change has also spurred a debate in the Nordic nation over the consequences of how quickly Sweden is going cashless, especially for the most vulnerable groups in society. Many retirees, people with disabilities and newly arrived refugees struggle with digital transactions.

“If you go to a bar or if you go to some shops, they say to you that the only way to pay is to pay with cards or this Swish system,” explains 75-year-old Christina Tallberg, who is president of the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation.

She says that even going to public toilets can pose a problem. These often cost 10 kronor (around a dollar) in Sweden, but the toilets rarely accept cash these days.

(15) OF THIS EARTH. Dylan Narqvist has translated his research into graphic form —  

He’d love to sell you a copy of the “World Map of Alien First Contacts in Popular Motion Pictures – Poster”. Here’s an excerpt of the detail —

(16) THE ONE ELLISON TOOK HIS NAME OFF. Cancelled SciFi tells you how to watch Cordwainer Bird’s 1973 TV show: “Streaming Finds: The Starlost Has Its Own Roku Channel”.

The Skinny: This oddity from the 70’s is not well known, but some sci fi fans may be interested in checking it out. It was a Canadian production that was syndicated in the U.S. and that ran for only one season of sixteen episodes. It was created by Harlan Ellison and his script for the pilot even received the Best Original Screenplay award from the Writer’s Guild of America. But Ellison distanced himself from the show after growing disillusioned with the production direction (the studio made many changes and recorded the show on video tape like classic Doctor Who), and had his name removed from the credits (replaced with his usual protest moniker Cordwainer Bird). The resulting series was not great, but still of interest to fans of 70’s sci fi. 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s Keir Dullea was one of the leads in the series and Star Trek‘s Walker Koenig showed up in a couple of episodes as an alien.

Apparently this series has slipped into the public domain and a Roku channel titled–what else?–The Starlost has been set up with the entire sixteen episodes available for streaming.

(17) LIVING ON MARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Verge: “The company that promised a one-way ticket to Mars is bankrupt”.

As the subheading says, “What a shocker.” (Not.) 

Mars One Ventures — the company that claimed it was going to send hundreds of people to live (and ultimately die) on the Red Planet — is now bankrupt, according to Swiss financial notices. It’s an unsurprising development, as many experts suspected that Mars One has been a scam for years, preying on people’s desires to travel to space without having a real plan to get them there. 

—On the other hand—

CNBC:   “Elon Musk: Moving to Mars will cost less than $500,000, ‘maybe even below $100,000’”.

Elon Musk says he is “confident” moving to Mars will “one day” cost less than $500,000 and “maybe even” cost below $100,000.

While the final cost is “very dependent on [the] volume” of travelers, Musk said the cost of moving to Mars will be “low enough that most people in advanced economies could sell their home on Earth [and] move to Mars if they want.” (The median home price in the U.S. is $223,900, according to Zillow.)

Mike Kennedy says, “Hmmm, I move to Mars and weigh about 60% less? I would say ‘sign me up NOW,’ but I suppose that people who move there will be expected to work and I don’t want to un-retire.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Errolwi, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/18/16 It’s Better To Pixel Out, Than To Scroll Away

(1) WHILE YOU WERE WAITING. Ann Leckie must be wondering if any of us are paying attention.

Quite frequently someone at a reading will ask me if I’ll ever explain about that icon Breq is carrying. And the answer is, I already have.

(2) JUST SAY THANKS. Joe Vasicek has some intriguing “Thoughts on series and perma-free”.

For the last five years, the conventional wisdom among most indie writers has been to write short books in sequential series and make the first book permanently free. It’s a strategy that works, to a certain extent. It’s what got me from making pizza money on my book sales to making a humble living at this gig. However, I’m starting to question that wisdom….

….Also, when you have a book that’s permanently free, it tends to accumulate a lot of negative reviews. It’s strange, but some people seem to feel more entitled to XYZ when they get it for free, as opposed to paying for it. Or maybe these are the people who try to go through life without actually paying for anything? Who hoard everything, even the stuff that they hate, so long as they can get it for free? I don’t know.

Certainly, that’s not true of everyone who reads free books. But when you have a perma-free book, it tends to accumulate more of the barely-coherent “dis buk sux” kinds of reviews from people who probably weren’t in the target audience to begin with. And over time, that tends to weigh the book’s overall rating down, which unfortunately can be a turn-off for people who are in the book’s audience.

(3) TIPTREE AUCTION. Here’s an advance look at an item in the Tiptree Auction at WisCon.

On Saturday, May 28, fans of the Tiptree Award will have the opportunity to bid on a genuine blaster that was once the sidearm of Space Babe, a legendary feminist superhero. (Blaster is modeled here by a Space Babe impersonator). This rare item will be part of the annual Tiptree Award Auction, to be held at at WisCon in Madison Wisconsin….

 

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

(4) MANCUNICON. Starburst brings you Ed Fortune’s 2016 Eastercon report.

Event highlights included interviews with the Guest of Honour John W. Campbell Award-winning novelist Aliette de Bodard, Hugo Award-winning author Ian McDonald, British Fantasy Award-winning creator Sarah Pinborough, and noted astrophysicist David L. Clement. Each drew a huge crowd, and coloured the event in their own unique way. Notably, Clement spearheaded a science-heavy approach to many of the panel items, and many of the talks centred on science and Manchester’s iconic research centre, Jodrell Bank. The iconic building, which has inspired many works of science fiction throughout its history, was thoroughly explored in many talks and lectures.

(5) NUMBER FIVE. Nina Munteanu, at Amazing Stories, continues the series — “The Writer-Editor Relationship, Part 2: Five Things Writers Wish Editors Knew – and Followed”.

  1. Edit to preserve the writer’s voice through open and respectful dialogue

Losing your voice to the “hackings of an editor” is perhaps a beginner writer’s greatest fear. This makes sense, given that a novice writer’s voice is still in its infancy; it is tentative, evolving, and striving for an identity. While a professional editor is not likely to “hack,” the fear may remain well-founded.

A novice’s voice is often tangled and enmeshed in a chaos of poor narrative style, grammatical errors, and a general misunderstanding of the English language. Editors trying to improve a novice writer’s narrative flow without interfering with voice are faced with a challenge. Teasing out the nuances of creative intent amid the turbulent flow of awkward and obscure expression requires finesse—and consideration. Good editors recognize that every writer has a voice, no matter how weak or ill-formed, and that voice is the culmination of a writer’s culture, beliefs, and experiences. Editing to preserve a writer’s voice—particularly when it is weak and not fully formed—needs a “soft touch” that invites more back-and-forth than usual, uses more coaching-style language, and relies on good feedback….

(6) KELLY LINK. Marion Deeds picked the right day to post a review of a Kelly Link story from Get in Trouble at Fantasy Literature.

“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2016, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone, and she is neglected by her moonshiner father. While Fran is running a fever of 102 with the flu, her father informs her that he has to go “get right with God.” On his way out the door, he reminds her that one of the summer families is coming up early and she needs to get the house ready. However, that family isn’t the only group of summer people that Fran “does for,” and this is the point of Link’s exquisite, melancholy tale.

(7) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. While Doctor Who can travel to anyplace and nearly any point in time, he invariably ends up in London. The Traveler at Galactic Journey seems likewise constrained always to arrive at the same opinion of John W. Campbell, although his fellow fans voted Analog a Hugo for this year’s work — “[April 18, 1961] Starting on the wrong foot”.

Gideon Marcus, age 42, lord of Galactic Journey, surveyed the proud column that was his creation.  Three years in the making, it represented the very best that old Terra had to offer.  He knew, with complete unironic sincerity, that the sublimity of his articles did much to keep the lesser writers in check, lest they develop sufficient confidence to challenge Gideon’s primacy.  This man, this noble-visaged, pale-skinned man, possibly Earth’s finest writer, knew without a doubt that this was the way to begin all of his stories…

…if he wants to be published in Analog, anyway.

(8) ON MILITARY SF. SFFWorld interviews Christopher Nuttall.

Christopher Nuttall’s Their Darkest Hour has just been released as part of the Empire at War collection where four British Science Fiction authors have joined forces to show the world that British Military Science Fiction is a force to be reckoned with….

So what is different with British Military SF? Obviously in Their Darkest Hour you have the UK setting that probably will be more familiar to a Europeans than Americans, but do you also think there are other aspects where British authors are able to bring something different and unique to military SF? 

I think that’s a hard question to answer.

There is, if you will, a cultural difference between American MIL-SF (and military in general) and British MIL-SF.  Many American military characters (in, say, John Ringo’s work) are very forward, very blunt … I’d go so far as to say that most of them are thoroughly bombastic.  Think a Drill Instructor screaming in your face.  While a great many British characters are often calm, competent and basically just get the job done.  We’re not as outwardly enthusiastic as the Americans; we’re more gritty endurance, stiff upper lip and just keep going until we win.

To some extent, I think that comes from our differing experiences.  The Americans are staggeringly rich and, even as early as their civil war, had little trouble keeping their troops supplied.  Britain, particularly in the years after 1919, had very real problems making ends meet, let alone keeping the troops supplied.  We operate on a shoestring and know it.  The Falklands was our most successful war in years, yet it was a very close run thing.  We simply cannot afford to be as blatant as the Americans.

I think that is reflected in our SF too.  Independence Day was followed by Invasion: Earth, a six-episode TV series set in Britain.  Independence Day is blatant; the enemy is clearly visible, merely overwhelmingly powerful.  Invasion: Earth has an enemy who hides in the shadows, at least up until the final episode.  They both represent, too, a very different set of fears.

(9) OVER THE EDGE OF HISTORY. Jeff Somers considers “6 Historical Fiction Novels That Are Almost Fantasy” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Hild, by Nicola Griffith Set in the so-called “Dark Ages,” after Rome abandoned Britain but before the squabbling kingdoms and tribes were unified under one crown, Griffith’s novel tells the true story of the Christian saint Hild, who would become Saint Hilda of Whitby, patron saint of learning. In 7th century Britain, she is the 6-year old niece of King Edwin of Northumbria, and becomes his seer and mystic upon arrival at his court. The reality of otherworldly forces is taken for granted as real in this brutal, violent land, and Griffith plays with the concept expertly as Hild becomes increasingly masterful at sniffing out plots and advising her uncle in ways that often seem magical. Anyone who has been awed by a brilliant mind’s ability to perceive what most cannot will witness that superpower at work in Hild, one of the most complex and deeply-drawn characters to ever appear in a novel—historical, fantasy, or otherwise.

(10) AN OP-ED. David Dubrow, in “David A Riley and the HWA”, criticizes how Horror Writers of America handled the recent controversy. And he’s announced he’ll be publishing an interview with Riley about it.

At times it’s interesting to get under the hood of the writing business and see how the sausage is made, to mix cliched metaphors. This issue happens to concern horror writers, so it has particular meaning for me at this time.

In short, an English horror author named David A Riley was set to be on the jury for the anthology segment of the upcoming Bram Stoker Awards. As it turns out, Riley was once a member of a far-right, nationalist political party in the UK called the National Front. A Tumblr blog was created to curate some of Riley’s online commentary, titled David Andrew Riley Is a Fascist. Wikipedia’s entry on National Front can be found here.

When outraged members protested Riley’s appointment to the jury, Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton issued a tepid statement on Facebook that satisfied nobody. As is so often the case, the most arresting thing wasn’t the statement, but the ensuing discussion. Three distinct elements stood out and are worth examination….

Second, the thread has really big buts. The biggest but is, of course, “I believe in free speech, but…” A clever reader always ignores everything before the but in any statement containing a but. Anyone who puts his big but into the free speech discussion is not on the side of free speech, but is actually in favor of criminalizing speech he finds offensive (see what I did there?). As someone who worked at the bleeding edge of First (and Second) Amendment issues in publishing for over thirteen years, I find the big buts disturbing, but they’re there, and they stink like hell….

(11) THE FIRST RULE OF CHICXULUB. According to the BBC, this is “What really happened when the ‘dino killer’ asteroid struck”.

Where armies of trees once stretched skywards, seemingly escaping from the thickets of ferns and shrubs that clawed at their roots, only scorched trunks remain. Instead of the incessant hum of insect chatter blotting out the sound of ponderous giant dinosaurs, only the occasional flurry of wind pierces the silence. Darkness rules: the rich blues and greens, and occasional yellows and reds that danced in the Sun’s rays have all been wiped out.

This is Earth after a six-mile-wide asteroid smashed into it 66 million years ago.

“In the course of minutes to hours it went from this lush, vibrant world to just absolute silence and nothing,” says Daniel Durda, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado. “Especially in the thousands of square miles around the impact site, the slate was just wiped clean.”

Much like putting in all the edge pieces of a jigsaw, scientists have outlined the lasting impacts of the meteor strike. It claimed the lives of more than three-quarters of the animal and plant species on Earth. The most famous casualties were the dinosaurs – although in fact many of them survived in the form of birds….

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 18, 1976 — Melissa Joan Hart. She’s not a teenaged witch anymore.

(13) THE STARLOST. Created then disowned by Harlan Ellison, the 1970s series The Starlost can be seen here on YouTube. The link takes you to the entire series for Starlost (16 episodes plus the “sales pitch.”)

Complaining about how the show was dumbed down from the original concept, Ellison took his name off the credits and substituted his Writers Guild alias Cordwainer Bird.

(14) DUTCH TREATS. Wim Crusio reminisces about conversations with writers at the 1990 Worldcon, in “Writing science, writing fiction (I)”.

Synopsis: Whether writing a good novel or a killer scientific article, the process is much the same: What scientists can learn from science fiction authors…

Many years ago, back in 1990, I attended my first Science Fiction Worldcon, called “ConFiction“, in The Hague. An interesting feature that year was the “Dutch Treat”. One could sign up with a group of about 10 people and invite a science fiction writer for lunch and talk with them in that small circle. To me, these “treats” were the highlights of that particular meeting. I did as many of them as I could and have fond memories of speaking with John Brunner, Harry Harrison (a Guest of Honor, accompanied by his charming wife, Joan), Fred Pohl, Brian Aldiss, and Bob Shaw (I think that’s all of them, but I am writing this from memory, so I may have forgotten one). Of course, these conversations spanned many topics and I was not the only participant, but at some point or another I managed to pose the same question to each of them, namely: how do you write a story (be it a short story or a novel in multiple parts). Do you just start, do you write some parts first and only continue when you’re completely done with revising them, or something else entirely?

(15) REJECTION. Editor Sigrid Ellis’ post “On handling publishing rejection” tells things that can’t really be said in rejection letters. Some of them would be encouraging to writers!

Speaking from my work as a short fiction editor, I can 100% genuinely assure you — sometimes your story is fantastic, it’s just not what that venue needs at that time.

I hated writing those rejections. I knew that the writers would take them as a sign that the story wasn’t any good, no matter how much I tried to say “I swear to GOD it’s not you, it’s us! We just need something lighter/darker/fantasy/sf this month I SWEAR!!!”

Of course authors take that hard. Because — and here’s the secret — the generic blow-off letter is very similar to a genuine, personal rejection. That similarity is on PURPOSE. It permits everyone to save face. It allows everyone to walk away, dignity intact. But, then, if you get a personal rejection, you understandably might wonder if this is just the blow-off.

I know. It’s hard, and I know.

But here’s what I always wanted every author to do when they received a rejection, whether standard or personalized…..

(16) STRICTLY ROMANCE. The first romance-only bookstore starts in LA. (Strictly speaking, The Ripped Bodice is in Culver City.)

Romance novels are a billion dollar industry, vastly outselling science fiction, mystery and literary books.

And there’s only one rule for writing a romance – it has to have a happy ending.

Yet the romance genre has long been dismissed as smut or trashy by many in, and out, of the publishing world – a fact that mystifies sisters Bea and Leah Koch, who last month opened the US’s first exclusively romantic fiction bookstore.

Their shop in Los Angeles is called The Ripped Bodice, and the store’s motto is “smart girls read romance”.

(17) DEFINING X. They say it’s the intersection of politics and Marvel comics: “A People’s History of the Marvel Universe, Week 9: The Mutant Metaphor (Part I)” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

A lot of people have discussed the manifold ways in which the “mutant metaphor” is problematic, but what I’m going to argue in this issue is that a big part of the problem with the “mutant metaphor” is that it wasn’t clearly defined from the outset, in part because it wasn’t anywhere close to the dominant thread of X-Men comics.[i] While always an element of the original run, as much time was spent on fighting giant Kirby robots or stopping the likes of Count Nefaria from encasing Washington D.C in a giant crystal bubble. And this was always problematic, because in the shared Marvel Universe, you need to explain why it is that the X-Men are “feared and hated” and must hide beneath the façade of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester, whereas the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were treated as celebrities and could live openly on Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, respectively.

So what did the “mutant” metaphor mean initially?

One of the best ways to understand how the “mutant metaphor” was originally understood is to look at depictions of anti-mutant prejudice. In the early Lee and Kirby run, anti-mutant prejudice is described almost entirely as a mass phenomenon, a collective hysteria that takes hold of large groups of people. You can see this especially in the way that crowds of humans descend into violence in contexts that you wouldn’t normally expect them. Like sports events:…

(18) SKYWALKERED BACK. J. J. Abrams made a little mistake…. CinemaBlend has the story: “Star Wars: J.J. Abrams Backtracks Statement About Rey’s Parents”.

Earlier, J.J. Abrams sat down with Chris Rock at the Tribeca Film Festival to talk about the director’s work in television and film. During the Q&A segment, a young fan asked the identity of Rey’s parents and Abrams said “they aren’t in Episode VII.” This implies that just about every fan theory is wrong, but Entertainment Weekly caught up with Abrams after the show and he was able to clarify his statement:

What I meant was that she doesn’t discover them in Episode VII. Not that they may not already be in her world.

So, Rey’s parents could be somewhere in The Force Awakens as opposed to not being in it at all. That’s a pretty serious backtrack, but it opens the floor back up for fans to come up with theories on the heroine’s lineage. This potentially limits the amount of suspects, but most theories were already focused on Force Awakens characters. There are a few contenders that have risen above the rest, each with there own amount of logic and speculation.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

History, Where Is Thy Sting?

The University of Iowa has made a very nice beginning in publicizing the M. Horvat fanzine collection on its website.

There’s also a page devoted to describing the way amateur press associations (apas) work. I wish its section on Contributors was less celebrity-driven:

Apas have historical signficance in that many of them contain the amateur work of famous genre writers and illustrators. Much of this material predates the writers’ fame, although this is not always the case. In addition, many apa members, though not professional writers, were significant voices in the world of fandom. Examples of apas with contributors of significant importance in the field include Apa-Five (Frank Miller), APA-H (Harlan Ellison, as “Cordwainer Bird”), Apa-L (Alan Dean Foster; David Gerrold; Larry Niven); Apanage (Jane Yolen); Elanor (March Laumer); Fantasy Amateur (Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robert Silverberg, Donald Wollheim); Rehupa (Charles de Lint; Michael Stackpole); and SAPS (Jack Chalker; Gordon Eklund).

In this case the fascination with famous names has hoist the writer by his own petard. How can somebody understand the notion of an apa for hoaxes and still be taken in by the contributions of Cordwainer Bird? All of Cordwainer Bird’s contributions to APA-H were written by Elst Weinstein or me.