Pixel Scroll 2/21/19 I Said I Didn’t Get Nothin’, I Had To Pay Fifty Dollars And Scroll Up The Pixels

(1) BAD BUSINESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sees disaster in store for those who will do anything to make their Amazon hamster wheel turn faster: “Business Musings: Ghostwriting, Plagiarism, and The Latest Scandal”.

… They will be dealing with this for months, maybe years. And I sure wish them the best.

That’s bad enough, but what this mess has revealed is that ugly underbelly of indie that I noticed a while ago, and decided to run away from.

This ghostwriting thing? It’s a disaster waiting to happen. For everyone. I expected the problems to be contractual with the writers who hired the ghostwriters, particularly the dumbfucks who don’t have a contract or any kind of written agreement with their ghostwriters.

I did not expect plagiarism although, given the contracts I’ve seen from traditional publishers, I should have.

I mean, what’s to stop the ghostwriters from plagiarizing? It’s not their name on the manuscript. And I know some of the writers who are hiring ghostwriters. Those writers aren’t vetting the books. They’re not doing the kind of due diligence that college professors and high school teachers do to see if the writing is plagiarized. (There are programs that search for similar wording all over the internet.)

The writers are not overseeing the projects at all, and are doing it for all the wrong reasons. These writers want more product out, to goose Amazon algorithms, not to get the best stories possible to their readers. …

(2) 20BOOKSTO50K AND THE NEBULAS. Cora Buhlert covers a range of topics in “Some Thoughts on the 2018 Nebula Award Finalists”, such as the professional connections of some newer nominees.

…Which brings us to the other notable trend on this year’s Nebula shortlist, namely the surprising amount of indie writers nominated. There are six indie writers and five indie books/stories nominated for Nebula Awards this year, which is a lot more than we’ve seen before. Now the SFWA opened membership to self-published writers a few years ago, so it was only to be expected that we would start to see more indie books on the Nebula shortlist (disclaimer: I’m not an SFWA member).

I also guess another disclaimer is in order: I don’t hate indie authors. I’m one myself, for heaven’t sake. I also promote a lot of indie books, both on this blog and over at the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I included Jonathan P. Brazee’s nominated novella Fire Ant in one of my new release round-ups last year – at any rate, the title rings a bell.

Because what’s really notable is how different the five indie finalists are from the rest of the finalists. For starters, the indie finalists are all space opera with strong military leanings or outright military science fiction. Again, this isn’t too surprising, since a whole lot of indie SFF writers, including the massively successful ones who are most likely to be SFWA members (there is a minimum income threshold for SFWA eligibility), write space opera and military SF.

Furthermore, most (five of six – I’m not sure about Rhett C. Bruno) of the indie Nebula finalists are affiliated with the 20Booksto50K group founded by Michael Anderle. For those who don’t know, 20Booksto50K started out as a Facebook group for business minded indie writers (the name implies that 20 books should bring you an income of 50000 USD), but by now they are also holding regular writers’ conferences. 20Booksto50K is a huge group – I think they have twenty thousand members or something – and because of their business focus, a lot of financially successful indie writers, i.e. the ones also most likely to join SFWA, are members….

Camestros Felapton shares screenshots and asks more questions in “The Nebulas & 20booksto50, not-a-nudge-nudge-slate”.

Cora notes the presence of several nominees associated with the 20booksto50 group. I discussed this group last year after they received several finalist positions in the Dragon Awards. The group is centered on helping indie writers write and promote their books and notable figures in the group are Craig Martelle, Michael Anderle and Jonathan Brazee.

So was there a 20bboksto50 slate? Well, they have a closed Facebook group but it’s not a particularly mysterious group or highly exclusive and I don’t thing it is a secret (but perhaps not well known) that they’ve had a recommended reading list for the Nebulas for a few years.

Here’s a screenshot of the start of the relevant post this year (I’ll post the text further on)….

(3) BALLANTINE TRIBUTE. TheSmithsonian Magazine says   “Sci-Fi Lovers Owe a Debt of Gratitude to Betty Ballantine”. Subheading: “‘Introverted and quiet’ Betty, who ran the editorial side of the Ballantine publishing companies, deserves her due for changing the industry.”

The next time you pick up a science fiction novel, you should take a moment to thank Betty Ballantine for helping bring the genre into the mainstream.

Ballantine and her husband, Ian, were two halves of a pioneering team that revolutionized the publishing industry in the 20th century. The couple was inseparable, says Beth Meacham, executive editor at science fiction and fantasy publishing company Tor Books, but it’s the “boisterous and charismatic” Ian, who ran the promotional and sales side of their publishing companies, who frequently is given the majority credit for their success. The “introverted and quiet” Betty, who ran the editorial side of the business, also deserves her due for changing the industry.

Meacham calls Betty, who died at her home in Bearsville, New York, at the age of 99 earlier this month, a “quiet magician, working behind the scenes with the writers.”

(4) CON CRISIS SOLVED. LibertyCon sold all its memberships, like they do, and everything was great. Then suddenly they had to find a new venue.

On Wednesday, 20 Feb 2019, at 2pm we received a call that no convention wants to get. Due to delays in their construction schedule, we will not be able to hold LibertyCon at the Read House this year on May 31 – June 2, 2019. After some very late night and early morning discussions and negotiations, we are relieved to say that we have a new home for the next several years, but with so many conventions using Chattanooga as a destination, we could not get the same weekend.

LibertyCon will now be held at the Marriott and the Chattanooga Convention Center on June 28 – 30, 2019.

(5) COSTUME DESIGNERS GUILD AWARDS. Genre took home some of the honors — Variety: “‘Black Panther,’ ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ ‘Westworld’ Among Costume Designers Guild Winners”.

“Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24.

[…] In the television categories, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” took the contemporary award, while Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and HBO’s “Westworld” won for period and sci-fi/fantasy, respectively. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” took the reality-competition prize.

“The Wife” star Glenn Close received the organization’s Spotlight Award, while Ryan Murphy received the Distinguished Collaborator Award. “Black Panther” costume designer Ruth E. Carter received lifetime achievement recognition.

(6) NETFLIX WILL AIR MOVIE BASED ON LIU CIXIN STORY. SYFY Wire: “Netflix bringing Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth to the U.S.”

China’s film industry is truly making itself known around the globe these days. Especially now that Netflix has announced it’s snagged the rights to release The Wandering Earth, the Chinese sci-fi blockbuster touted as the country’s first mainstream sci-fi hit on par with the production quality and thrills of a Hollywood tentpole.

[…] Netflix hasn’t issued a release date for the film on its platform, but considering the streaming giant doesn’t operate in China due to local regulations favoring homegrown streaming services, it marks a major acquisition for the U.S. streaming service.

(7) HEADLINER. What does it mean, anyway, for an AI to be dubbed “female”? “China Unveils the World’s First Female AI News Anchor”Futurism.com has the story.

On Tuesday, China’s state-run news outlet Xinhua announced the latest addition to its news team: Xin Xiaomeng.

But Xin never went to journalism school — or any school — because “she” is not a real person. Instead, she’s an artificial intelligence created by Xinhua and search engine Sogou — making her the world’s first female AI news anchor.

Xin will make her professional debut during March’s Two Sessions, the name given to a pair of annual meetings featuring China’s legislature and its top political advisory body.

She won’t be the only AI news anchor covering the event either….

(8) HULKAMANIA. From WIRED we learn: “Thor Is Going To Be Playing the Hulk”. Hulk Hogan, that is.

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time once again for The Monitor, WIRED’s look at all the news coming out of the world of pop culture. What’s hot today? Well, Chris Hemsworth is set to play Hulk Hogan, The Wandering Earth is coming to Netflix, and Idris Elba is set to host Saturday Night Live. Pretty steamy, amirite?

(9) NEW MOON. Nature reports they discovered a “A new moon for Neptune”:

Hippocamp, a previously undetected moon of Neptune, has a peculiar location and a tiny size relative to the planet’s other inner moons, which suggests a violent history for the region within 100,000 kilometres of the planet.

The discovery of Hippocamp is intriguing because of the moon’s relationship to Proteus and the role that both objects might have had in the history of Neptune’s inner system. Hippocamp, the smallest known inner moon of Neptune, orbits just 12,000 km inside the orbit of Proteus, the planet’s largest inner moon (Fig. 1). Both moons migrate outwards because of gravitational interactions with Neptune, but smaller Hippocamp moves much more slowly than Proteus. Therefore, Hippocamp resides nearer to the location at which it formed than does Proteus, which suggests that the two bodies were much closer together in the past.

Whether Hippocamp formed in place from material that did not originate from Proteus or was born of Proteus remains to be determined. Nevertheless, applying the techniques that were used to find it might result in the detection of other small moons around giant planets, or even planets that orbit distant stars.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 Peter Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp fiction starting in the Thirties, and is generally considered one of the more popular writers of the period. His work appeared in such magazines as Amazing Stories, Astounding, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Marvel Tales, Super Science Stories, and Weird Tales to name but a few of the publications he appeared in. He began book reviewing beginning initially for Astounding Science Fiction and later for its successor, Analog. He was awarded a special Hugo Award for book reviewing. He had but two novels, Genus Homo, written with L. Sprague de Camp, and  Alicia in Blunderland. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1913 Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He was a professional guest at the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff, 84. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of who writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol.  To say  he’s prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works of fiction, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 73. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. He is the only actor to have appeared in all of the  films in the series. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest,  voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Both Disney films I’d guess. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role on the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume in our community. Of course he olayed Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bad film, worse acting by Costner.)  He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role.(Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1949 Frank Brunner, 70. Comics artist whose career started at such venues as Creepy, Web of Horror and Vampirella. Worked later mostly at Marvel Comics on such features as Howard the Duck where he did his artwork for his early features. He also did the art for the  Chamber of Chills, Haunt of Horror, and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction anthologies. In addition, he and Moorcock collaborated on a adaptation of the latter’s sword-and-sorcery hero Elric in Heavy Metal magazine. 
  • Born February 21, 1950 Larry Drake. I know him best as Robert G. Durant in both Darkman and Darkman II: The Return of Durant. His other genre roles are largely in series one offs such as several appearances on Tales from the Crypt, an appearance on The Outer Limits and even an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1961 David D. Levine, 58. Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for his story “Tk’tk’tk” which you hear thisaway. He has the Adventures of Arabella Ashby series which currently is three novels strong. To date, he has had one collection titled Space Magic.
  • Born February 21, 1962 David Foster Wallace. I will openly confess that I was never even slightly inclined to read it. The sheer size was enough to put me off and reading the first chapter convinced me I was right in that belief. So who’s read it? ISFDB also lists The Pale King as genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 21, 1977 Owen King, 42. There are not quite legions of Kings though sometimes it seems like it. Owen, a son of Stephen and Tabitha, is early in his writing career. His first novel, Double Feature, was not genre and got mixed reviews. His second, Sleeping Beauties, written with his father is genre and getting much better reviews. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) BILL ON BIG BANG. Here’s a two-minute featurette about William Shatner’s Big Bang Theory appearance.

(13) EATS, SHOOTS, AND LEAVES. That’s what this Gizmodo story made me think of: “Japanese Spacecraft Hayabusa2 Touches Down on Asteroid Ryugu”.

The Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft has completed one of its most exciting challenges yet: On Thursday evening, it touched down on the asteroid Ryugu, fired a tantalum bullet into the rocky surface, and ascended back into orbit around the tiny world, according to updates from the mission’s English-language Twitter account.

During its brief contact with the asteroid, the spacecraft should have attempted to collect rock samples kicked up by the bullet, the Planetary Society explained. The return of these samples to Earth is a major goal of the mission. 

(14) TOY FAIR. This Uproxx.com has a good con going — “We Went To Toy Fair And Looked At Lots Of New ‘Star Wars’ Toys, Which Look A Lot Like Old ‘Star Wars’ Toys”.

Every year I find it more and more difficult to make up excuses that I can send to my editor so that I can cover Toy Fair. As far as I can tell, Uproxx isn’t a toy collecting website (not yet, at least, but if I ever get my way…) and I don’t know much about the intricacies and nuances of toy reporting except that, sometimes, I like looking at new toys. (Watching the toy reporters at work is truly something. They will spend hours taking painstakingly detailed photographs of every single flake of paint on a new action figure. I only wish I could be that detailed about anything.)

But, whatever, I like going! Especially, of course, to look at Star Wars toys. One of my last “pure” memories of being a little kid was turning that corner into the toy aisle of whatever department store we happened to be at that day, then seeing rows and rows of vintage Kenner Star Wars action figures on that now-classic packaging. (Toys ‘R’ Us was never really in the equation for me. I’ve been seeing a lot of Toy ‘R’ Us nostalgia lately, but, in the greater St. Louis region at the time, our toy store was Children’s Palace. If I remember correctly, the store looked kind of like a castle. I wish there were Children’s Palace nostalgia.)

(15) SIPPY ACTION. Charles Payseur made me click! “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The “Time to Run Some Red Lights” Sippy for Excellent Action!!! in SFF”.

These are stories that got my blood pumping, that made me want to run outside and punch an eagle in the face. Or, perhaps more accurately, they made me want to climb into a mech suit and punch the moon! I mean, come on, the moon is pretty smug up there, always looking down on everyone. Just saying. Anyway, the action doesn’t always have to be traditional battles and brawls. Some of these stories are about a chase, or a race. Some are about war and the struggle of the individual against the weight of history and press of injustice. But these stories run hot, fast, and furious, and I think that stories like that deserve to be seen, because they do show how much fun and thrilling short SFF can be without sacrificing nuance or meaning.

(16) BEE SERIOUS. The world’s biggest bee has been re-discovered, after decades thought lost to science — “World’s biggest bee found alive”.

The giant bee – which is as long as an adult’s thumb – was found on a little-explored Indonesian island.

After days of searching, wildlife experts found a single live female, which they photographed and filmed.

Known as Wallace’s giant bee, the insect is named after the British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace, who described it in 1858.

Scientists found several specimens in 1981, but it has not been seen since.

(17) WHAT A DRAG. BBC has research that shows “Stonehenge: Preseli stone ‘transported over land'”.

Stones from Pembrokeshire used in the construction of Stonehenge may have been transported by land rather than sea, archaeologists have found.

A study found some of the stones were taken from the northern part of quarries in the Preseli hills, making it easier to transport them over land.

The findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

Earlier research suggested the bluestones were taken south to the coast.

…However, the new study of crops at Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin found the stones were removed from further north in the Preseli hills – making it easier for ancient people to go over the hills rather than around them.

The referenced Antiquity paper opens —

Geologists and archaeologists have long known that the bluestones of Stonehenge came from the Preseli Hills of west Wales, 230km away, but only recently have some of their exact geological sources been identified. Two of these quarries—Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin—have now been excavated to reveal evidence of megalith quarrying around 3000 BC—the same period as the first stage of the construction of Stonehenge.

(18) CUE TWILIGHT ZONE THEME. Two minor league pitchers with identical names and heights and hair color and beards and glasses and Tommy John surgery (with the same doctor no less) and a distinct resemblance had their DNA checked to show that they are not, in fact, related. They do, however, share that they are 53% of Germanic ancestry. “2 Baseball Players Named Brady Feigl Take DNA Tests To See If They’re Related”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Nick Mamatas, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

2019 Costume Designers Guild Awards Nominees

The Costume Designers Guild announced its 2019 awards nominees in film and television categories. Winners will be revealed at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards on February 19.

The full slate of nominees is at Variety. Those of genre interest are listed below:

Excellence in Period Film
“Mary Poppins Returns” (Sandy Powell)

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film
“Aquaman” (Kym Barrett)
“Avengers: Infinity War” (Judianna Makovsky)
“Black Panther” (Ruth E. Carter)
“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” (Jenny Beavan)
“A Wrinkle in Time” (Paco Delgado)

Excellence in Period Television
“The Alienist” (Michael Kaplan)
“The Man in the High Castle” (Catherine Adair)
“Outlander” (Nina Ayres & Terry Dresbach)

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television
“American Horror Story: Apocalypse” (Paula Bradley & Lou Eyrich)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Ane Crabtree)
“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Cynthia Summers)
“Star Trek: Discovery” (Gersha Phillips)
“Westworld” (Sharen Davis)

Career Achievement (previously announced)

Ruth E. Carter