2019 SFWA Officer Election Results

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America posted the outcome of its 2019 officer elections.

President: Mary Robinette Kowal (unopposed)

Secretary: Curtis Chen (unopposed)

Director-at-Large: 3 Open Positions 

  • Andy Duncan
  • Jeffe Kennedy
  • Sarah Pinsker

Runners-up: James Beamon, Tobias Buckell, John Chu, Walter L. Fisher, Kevin McLaughlin, Peng Shepherd, Eric James Stone, William Alan Webb

Board vacancy also filled: Tobias Buckell has been asked to fill the position left vacant by Lawrence Schoen’s resignation.  

The SFWA Board and staff also thanked the volunteers who make up the Elections Committee: Fran Wilde (Chair), Matthew Johnson (Member), Laura Anne Gilman (Member), Maurice Broaddus (Member), and Kate Baker (Executive Director & Adviser).

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26/18 What Is The Law? Not To Reuse Titles, That Is The Law

(1) GOOD THOUGHTS ON BAD PRACTICES. Kristine Kathryn Rusch comments on historic efforts to game Amazon’s algorithms. “Business Musings: Sometimes I Just React…”

…Back when I started blogging on publishing in 2010 (after writing The Freelancer’s Survival Guide on this site in 2009), I had the lovely experience of being trashed repeatedly by the Kindle Unlimited folks. Only there wasn’t Unlimited—not yet. There was just the Kindle Boards, where writers gathered to talk.

And what they talked about was what professional writers everywhere talk about—how to make money. (We don’t dare discuss craft with each other for fear that we’ll insult our peers. We all have friends who have great writing careers, whom we believe {in our heart of hearts} can’t write their way out of a paper bag. And, we know, that some of our friends think the same thing about us. It’s better to discuss quantifiable things, like money, instead of qualitative things, like craft. {See my post on “Taste” from last week.})

That “how to make money” thing took on a life of its own on the Kindle Boards. It wasn’t about how to improve your storytelling to make money. It wasn’t about those old-fashioned systems like agents or traditional publishers or contracts, although there occasionally was talk like that.

Instead, it was about which subgenres sold, and how many books you had to write and publish each month to stay ahead of the algorithms. It was about writing short so that you had more books published (in the early days) or putting the table of contents at the end so that the algorithm would think someone who clicked there had read the whole book….

(2) RUNNING DARMOK. Whew, people really took off with this meme game….

For example (the second is what I have in mind) —

JJ suggests, “Breq, outside a tavern in snow.”

(3) AT THE CORE. Scientific American tells how “Milky Way’s Black Hole Provides Long-Sought Test of Einstein’s General Relativity”.

Genzel and his colleagues have tracked the journey of this star, known as S2, since the early 1990s. Using telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the scientists watch it as it travels in an elliptical orbit around the black hole, which lies 26,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. With a mass of 4 million times the Sun, the black hole generates the strongest gravitational field in the Milky Way. That makes it an ideal place to hunt for relativistic effects.

On 18 May this year, S2 passed as close as it ever does to the black hole. The researchers pointed instruments including GRAVITY, an instrument called an interferometer that combines light from four 8-meter telescopes and became operational in 2016. “With our measurements the door is wide open to black-hole physics,” says team member Frank Eisenhauer, an astronomer at the Max Planck institute.

GRAVITY measured S2’s movement across the sky; at its fastest, the star whizzed along at more than 7,600 kilometres a second, or nearly 3% the speed of light. Meanwhile, a different instrument studied how fast S2 moved towards and away from Earth as it swung past the black hole. Combining the observations allowed Genzel’s team to detect the star’s gravitational redshift—its light being stretched to longer wavelengths by the black hole’s immense gravitational pull, which is consistent with the predictions of general relativity.

“What we measured cannot be described by Newton any more,” says Odele Straub, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory. Future observations of S2 might confirm other Einstein predictions, such as how the spinning black hole drags space-time around with it.

(4) SFWA MENTEE PROGRAM. The deadline to apply is July 31.

(5) UNCANNY KICKSTARTER. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas have launched a Kickstarter for Year Five of their 2016 and 2017 Hugo Award-winning professional online SF/F magazine: Uncanny Magazine. The funds will cover some of its operational and production costs for the fifth year, with an initial goal of $18,700. plus an added stretch goal of launching a new Uncanny TV video magazine. The Kickstarter runs through August 24: “Uncanny Magazine Year Five: I Want My Uncanny TV!”

For Year Five, Uncanny has solicited original short fiction from Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-winning and nominated authors and bestselling authors including: Ursula Vernon, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kelly Robson, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Ellen Klages, Naomi Kritzer, Greg van Eekhout, John Chu, Sarah Pinsker,  Rebecca Roanhorse, and Delilah S. Dawson.  There will also be numerous slots for unsolicited submissions.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five plans to showcase original essays by Mark Oshiro, Zoë Quinn, Alexandra Erin, Tanya DePass, Jim C. Hines, and Diana M. Pho,  plus poetry by Beth Cato, S. Qiouyi Lu, Brandon O’Brien, Cassandra Khaw, Nicasio Reed, and Leah Bobet.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five will also feature cover art by John Picacio and Galen Dara.

This year, Uncanny is back with a new mission for the ranger corps: UNCANNY TV.

Hosted and produced by Michi Trota and Matt Peters, Uncanny TV will be the launch of our community-based vid channel, featuring exclusive geeky content related to Uncanny and the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps community. Matt Peters & Michi Trota will host a short (20-30 min) variety talk show Uncanny Magazine style: highlighting creators in SF/F working in a variety of art forms and projects, focusing on people building and nurturing their communities, particularly highlighting marginalized creators. They’ll talk about topics that can be serious, but the overall tone of the show will be to celebrate the things we enjoy and the people who make our communities good places to be in SF/F.

(6) DOES THIS WORK? Beatrice Verhoeven, in The Wrap’s story “‘Star Wars’ Director Rian Johnson Deletes 20,000 Tweets After James Gunn Firing in ‘Why Not?’ Move”, says that Johnson has deleted all his tweets before January 25 of this year, explaining, “if trolls looking for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not’ move.”

On Tuesday, The Mary Sue tweeted a story that said, “it’s also possible that Disney has issued some sort of directive to their talent about social media post-Gunn situation, suggesting caution or deletion.” In response, Johnson tweeted, “No official directive at all, and I don’t think I’ve ever tweeted anything that bad. But it’s nine years of stuff written largely off the cuff as ephemera, if trolls scrutinizing it for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not?’ move.”

(7) NO BUCKS AND NO BUCK ROGERS. The Hollywood Reporter has the latest about the Buck Rogers rights litigation: “Judge Directs Government Intervention in “Buck Rogers” Bankruptcy”.

The audacious plan to use a bankruptcy court to auction off “Buck Rogers” rights despite lingering ownership challenges appears to have backfired on those ostensibly serving the interests of heirs of John Dille, who published the fictional space hero in magazines in the early-to-mid 20th century. On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania bankruptcy court issued an extraordinary decision that faulted the Dille Family Trust with a number of sins. As a result, the Office of the U.S. Trustee has been directed to appoint a Chapter 11 Trustee in what could ultimately result in a long anticipated film adaptation of Armageddon 2419 A.D., the 1929 novella by Philip Francis Nowlan that introduced the Buck Rogers character.

The background of what happened is detailed much more extensively here, but in November 2017, the Dilles declared bankruptcy in the midst of litigation with Nowlan’s heirs about trademark rights and in the middle of fighting with producer Don Murphy about whether Armageddon 2419 A.D. was in the public domain. Filing for bankruptcy meant a pause on litigation, and the Dilles wanted to liquidate their interests in Buck Rogers rights — whatever those might be — through Heritage Auctions. Since the filing of bankruptcy, Murphy and the Nowlans have pounded the table that this proceeding was all a farce.

Now, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery Deller has seen enough.

In a memorandum opinion (read here), he writes that it is undisputed that the Dille Family Trust has no business operations, has no meaningful income, is liquidating as opposed to reorganizing, has incurred administrative expenses with no liquid assets available to satisfy these debts, and has invoked the automatic stay for the primary purpose of avoiding a trial regarding an alleged interest in various intellectual property.

(8) WORLDCON WOES. John Scalzi delivers “A Little More On Recent Worldcon Stuff”.

Also, while I’m on the subject of the Hugo and Worldcon, I see some various turdlings out there are gleeful about the recent dustup re: the Worldcon program. “The SJWs are eating themselves!” is the basic line of the turdlings. In fact, something entirely different happened.

Which was: When the problems cropped up (and they did) and people started to complain (and they did), the Worldcon, within a day, acknowledged that various mistakes had happened and actively moved to correct those mistakes. Not perfectly or instantly, but it still happened.

Which is what you want to happen! In an ideal world, mistakes don’t get made, but we don’t live in an ideal world and none of us is our ideal self. The next best thing is, when mistakes are pointed out, you move to fix them and to learn from them.

The turdlings who are gleeful at the Worldcon’s temporary woes don’t care about anything other than an institution they dislike and tried (or are still trying) to sabotage having a stumble. That’s because they’re basically awful, whiny menchildren. No surprise there.

(9) TAKE ME OUT TO THE BOT GAME. Flippy the Robot, from Miso Robotics, will be “wearing” Dodger blue this summer (Food & Wine: “Flippy the Robot Is the Tater Tot-Making Boyfriend I Deserve”) and manning (robotting?) the fry basket:

In 2017, Miso Robotics introduced the world to Flippy, a jaunty new robot that can make food alongside humans, prepping fried chicken and tater tots and burgers with ease. And this summer, Flippy will be gainfully employed at Dodgers Stadium to make concessions, working the frying station. This follows a successful stint flipping burgers at a Pasadena CaliBurger earlier this year.

“Adapting Flippy into a fryer assistant … has been a great opportunity to demonstrate the scale of Miso’s platform,” Miso Robotics CEO David Zitosaid in a statement. “[T]his technology [is] a win-win — improving working conditions for stadium employees and improving the game experience for fans.” In February, Flippy raised $10 million from investors.

(10) ROBOTS OVER THE MILLENNIA. A Nature open-access PDF article, “Ancient dreams of intelligent machines: 3,000 years of robots”, in which “Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal revisit the extraordinary history of cultural responses to automata.”

The word ‘robot’ was born in Czech writer Karel ?apek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). In the very work coining the term, the robots rebel against and destroy their creators. And that narrative of rebellion has proved to be the most potent of all our AI fears, retold repeatedly as technology evolves.

During the cold war space race, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) gave us HAL 9000, the murderous spaceship supercomputer. With the rise of the Internet, we got Skynet — a defence network that becomes self-aware in the Terminator films (starting in 1984) — and The Matrix (1999), featuring intelligent machines that farm humans whose minds unknowingly inhabit a virtual reality. Now, with AI dominating headlines, we have sophisticated robots again overthrowing their wetware masters, from Ava in the 2015 film Ex Machina to the android amusement-park hosts in the Westworld television series.

The persistent trope of robot revolts reveals the paradox at the heart of our relationship with intelligent machines. We want to create clever tools that can do everything we can do, and more. They will be the perfect oracles, servants, soldiers, even lovers. To fulfil our hopes, they must have attributes such as intellect and agency — minds of their own, superior to ours. But, paradoxically, that is also why we fear HAL and Skynet. The tension lies in our conflicted desire to create beings superhuman in capacity, but subhuman in status.

(11) PETERSEN OBIT. Andrew Petersen, a student I met at Azusa Pacific University’s Yosemite Semester in 2001, has died. One of his ambitions was to captain a Jungle Cruise boat at Disneyland and he not only did that, he went to work at the Park, along the way running the Indiana Jones ride and the Enchanted Tiki Room. What a character he was, what a great guy.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley. Swap two numbers in the year and you have another dystopian author’s book.
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick.
  • Born July 26 – Helen Mirren, 73. Genre work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, the classic Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre and as Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy film.
  • Born July 26 – Sandra Bullock, 54. First genre role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man and Gravity to name but two of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26 – Jeremy Piven, 53. Jeffrey Tanner in the quickly and mercifully canceled Wisdom of the Crowd series, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, the Hercules animated series, the Cupid series as well and a lot of voice work.
  • Born July 26 – Olivia Williams, 50. Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse and Emily Burton Silk in Counterpart, also the Jason and the Argonauts series in a recurring role as Hera, yet another Peter Pan  film, and apparently an uncredited appearance in X-Men: The Last Stand.
  • Born July 26 – Kate Beckinsale, 45. Selene in the Underworld film franchise, also Van HelsingAlice Through the Looking Glass, Haunted and a recurring role in the Elder Scrolls Online video game franchise.
  • Born July 26 – Eve Myles, 40. Gwen Cooper in both the Doctor Who and Torchwood series, and voice performer in the Big Finish series of audiobooks including Golden Age, a splendid story involving Torchwood India.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) A CAREER, JUST NOT THE ONE PRESENTED. Her history of crowdsourcing funds, promoting literary events, and tendency to not deliver made the LA Times ask “Who Is Anna March?”

…Anna March whisked in and out, a flash of pink hair in a polka-dot dress. The 2015 party at the Ace’s mezzanine bar, serving free drinks, was packed to overflowing.

March had never published a book but had been quietly working literary Los Angeles’ social media connections for months. A spunky, unapologetic, sex-positive feminist ready to raise hell, she was supportive and flattering. She was also conspicuously generous — concerned about the line of people waiting to get into the party, March asked a pair of new acquaintances if she should give $20 bills to those stuck on the sidewalk. The bill for the night would total more than $22,000.

Why is she doing this? people asked, stealing glances at March.

Some had a larger question:

Who was Anna March?

That was a harder question to answer than you might think. Anna March first appeared around 2011, when she started publishing online. Before that, she was known by different names in different cities. In researching this story, The Times found four: Anna March, Delaney Anderson, Nancy Kruse and Nancy Lott.

In three places — Los Angeles, San Diego and Rehoboth Beach, Del. — March became a part of the literary community. She won over new friends, even accomplished authors but especially writers trying to find a way into that world, with her generosity, her enthusiasm and apparent literary success — only to leave town abruptly…

(15) DOUBLE JEOPARDY. No sooner had Jon Del Arroz started an Indiegogo to fund a comic book project than somebody unveiled a bogus Kickstarter featuring an image of the same character. JDA has gotten the hoax Kickstarter taken down.

Fake fundraiser screencap

JDA knows his audience — his announcement of the real Indiegogo appeal on his blog is sandwiched between a post gloating about Worldcon 76 program travails and another post complaining that Tor Books is attacking him — and the Indiegogo appeal is closing in on its $6,000 goal.

(16) ALAN MOORE. Paste Magazine says these are “The 10 Best Alan Moore Comics of All Time”.

  1. A Small Killing
    Artist: Oscar Zarate
    Publisher: Avatar Press
    Here’s the landmark which stands nearest to Moore. Allow me to explain: I don’t think A Small Killing is the work that means the most to Moore emotionally, or that it shows some never-revealed Rosebud, or that it amounts to autobiography by code. What I mean is that A Small Killing is the work I see as somehow closest to the heart of the creator, the way the Book of Job is central to any exegesis of the Tanakh. A Small Killing is a story that unconsciously comments on Moore’s anxiety. (This is all rabid hearsay, of course, and should not be aired in a legitimate court of law.)

(17) IN UNIFORM. People.com shows how “Natalie Portman Transforms Into NASA Astronaut in Pale Blue Dot. Natalie Portman plays a NASA astronaut in Pale Blue Dot, a fictional story said to be based loosely on the Lisa Nowak -Bill Oefelein-Colleen Shipman “astronaut love triangle” of 2007.

In the early morning hours of that day, Nowak was wearing a black wig and trench coat when she approached Colleen Shipman’s car in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport. She banged on the Shipman’s window and begged for a ride. When Shipman rolled down her window, Nowak sprayed her with pepper spray and tried to get in the car.

Shipman fled the scene, shaken but unhurt. Police arrested Nowak on attempted murder and kidnapping charges.

The resulting case was dubbed the “astronaut love triangle.”

(18) DOOR-TO-DOOR.

(19) ON THE BEACH. “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars” — ESA’s Mars orbiter finds something too big (12 miles across) to be just sub-ice meltwater — probably very cold and briny, and a mile under the ice, but definitely a lake.

Marsis wasn’t able to determine how thick the layer of water might be, but the research team estimate that it is a minimum of one metre.

“This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth,” Prof Orosei added.

(20) MARSWARD BOUND. Here’s The First Teaser. The series comes to Hulu September 14.

The First is created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) and stars Sean Penn. Set in the near future (2030), this groundbreaking story explores the challenges of taking the first steps towards Mars. Viewers will get an intimate look at the dedicated characters trying to reach the unknown while dealing with the psychological and physical toll it takes to achieve the impossible.

 

(21) NOT ALONE. The last man on earth was alone in his room. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. – Oops, sorry, this is not the Fredric Brown story, it’s the I Think We’re Alone Now teaser trailer.

Del (Peter Dinklage) is alone in the world. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in his small, empty town, content in his solitude and the utopia he’s methodically created for himself – until he is discovered by Grace (Elle Fanning), an interloper whose history and motives are obscure. Worse yet, she wants to stay.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/1/17 HiphoPixeltamus Vs. RhymenoScrollos

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Famed comics writer Marv Wolfman joins Scott Edelman for gelato in Episode 54 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Marv Wolfman

As I prepared to lunch with this episode’s guest, I was startled to realize I’d last interviewed him in 1974—43 years ago! Back then, I was an assistant editor in the Marvel Bullpen, while Marv Wolfman was (among many other things) scripting Tomb of Dracula and editing Crazy magazine, not yet having ascended to the role of Editor-in-Chief. And it was my job to report on his doings for the readers of F.O.O.M., Marvel’s official fan magazine.

Over the course of his career, Marv did a whole lot more than what I talked with him about back then. He went on to script the adventures of many legacy characters for both Marvel and DC, including the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Superman, and Green Lantern, and during that time he also co-created the characters of Blade, Bullseye, Destiny, Nova, and many others. He wrote the Teen Titans comic for 16 years. There’s even more to Marv than that, of course, as you’ll find out when you give this episode a listen….

We discussed his horrifying early job as a DC Comics intern destroying (and in some cases rescuing) original art, why he loves the science fiction writer Alfred Bester, how his writing back when he started out was a blend of John Broome and Stan Lee, what he learned from binge-reading 181 issues of Spider-Man before starting to script it himself, what it was like returning to DC after his years at Marvel, why he felt he could write Tomb of Dracula even though when he was handed the assignment he’d never read the Bram Stoker novel or seen any of the movies, his secret to making the Teen Titans seem like actual teens, why he owes his career to Gene Colan, and much, more.

(2) JOSHI DEFENDS HIMSELF. S.T. Joshi tees off on Brian Keene once more in his November 15 blog post.

Let us consider his assertion that I have gone out of my way to attack certain individuals who have criticised Lovecraft only because they are women (Ellen Datlow), persons of colour (Daniel José Older), persons in the LGBTQ community (S. J. Bagley [although his membership in this community is news to me]), and self-styled “‘white trash’ Appalachians” such as himself. If anything could reveal Mr. Keene’s nincompoopery—not to mention identity politics run amok—this must be it. Mr. Keene ignores the fact that I have also addressed other individuals—unimpeachably Caucasian and undeniably male—such as China Miéville (see my blog of August 23, 2014), Charles Baxter (blog of December 3, 2014), Robert Dunbar (blog of February 27, 2015), and others. Then there’s Niels Hobbs, about as chalk-white a Nordic as one could ask for. But more significantly, Mr. Keene is blithely unaware of how his assertion can be flipped around and made to bite him in the posterior. By his own reasoning (if it can be called that), anyone who criticises me for any reason must be an anti-Asian racist. For it cannot be news to Mr. Keene that I was born in India and am an immigrant to this country (but a U.S. citizen of long standing). Is Mr. Keene therefore prepared to admit that he is a racist? How about it, Mr. Nicolay? What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Lockhart?

But of course this is absurd. I have never accused any of my antagonists of prejudice (only of stupidity, hypocrisy, and suchlike faults that are widely shared by all races and genders), and I trust I may be granted the same courtesy, especially in the absence of evidence (and of course there is none) that I myself have ever exhibited racial or gender prejudice. I confess to an irremediable prejudice against illiterate morons like Mr. Keene (in part because this “revolt of the stupid” inflicted upon us our current “president”), but beyond that, my record is clean.

Mr. Keene also asserts, preposterously, that I do not want Lovecraft’s racism discussed. I myself have discussed this issue—in my biography and elsewhere—more comprehensively and with a greater understanding of the historical, philosophical, social, and cultural issues involved than any other commentator. Where Mr. Keene got the idea that I threatened to boycott the 2017 NecronomiCon if there was a panel on this subject, I cannot begin to imagine. In fact, Niels Hobbs and I, long before our falling out, had already agreed that there need not be any such panel at the 2017 event, since we had had panels on the subject at the two previous conventions—and I was a member of the panel in 2013. My boycott threat was tied specifically to the presence of known and unrepentant Lovecraft-haters on the program—and I was under the impression that Mr. Hobbs had acceded to my request to keep them off the program…

Joshi’s love for abusing people in lush terms inspires me to ask who would win if he and John C, Wright were paired in a literary cage match?

(3) LEFTOVER STUFFING. Jon Del Arroz has posted the “Happy Frogs OFFICIAL 2017 Nebula Awards Slate Recommendations”. Whether such a slate can be effective remains to be seen, since only SFWA members can nominate. If the real goal is to court controversy and gain publicity, well, it’s working already.

The Happy Frogs are back!  It’s already getting close to award season, as nominations are opening for the 2017 Nebula Awards. Our Board of Trustees  has scoured  the best of the best of Science Fiction and Fantasy to come up with recommendations for YOUR SFWA Nebula Award ballots. These stories are tremendous. Believe me. You’ll want to jump to fill in your Nebula ballots with these choices immediately.

Many categories had very difficult choices with so much great fiction available, and we did our best to bring about the five best of the year in each category.  The TOP BALLOT was given a little extra love, so we can ensure SFWA members give proper focus if they only wanted to choose one Happy Frogs nominee.

Jon’s work, some Superversive and Castalia House authors, and other Scrappy-Doos comprise most of the list, but a Tor book is recommended for Best Novel – go figure.

Top Ballot: The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis (Tor Books) – Hands down the most epic fun book of 2017. It has fantasy, it has steampunk, it has incredibly well detailed battles that rival David Weber. It’s got one of the coolest main characters in Josette, and is so well written, we at the Happy Frogs could read it over and over again. Incredible work.

(4) CALL FOR PAPERS,. “Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations” has put out a call for papers on the theme of “Escaping Escapism in Fantasy and the Fantastic.” The event takes place April 26-27, 2018.

What is the role of fantasy and the fantastic? Why—and perhaps more crucially, how—does the genre matter? Fantasy theorists frequently define the genre in opposition to what is possible and real: Kathryn Hume, for instance, sums it up in Fantasy and Mimesis as “departures from consensus reality”. Critics often scrutinize this departure as a negative, and disparage representations of the fantastic either due to their failure to depict real world issues or their presumed attempts at “escapism.” This perceived link between fantasy and escapism is so strong that dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary define escapism as “engaging in fantasy”.

… This two-day conference seeks to examine and honour the relationship between escapism and the fantastic. We welcome proposals for papers on this theme from researchers and practitioners working in the field of fantasy and the fantastic across all media, whether within the academy or beyond it. We are particularly interested in submissions from postgraduate and early career researchers.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 1, 1932 — The big screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Island Of Lost Souls premieres in the U.S.

(6) HONOR IN GOTHAM. Welcome2TheBronx says a street will be given the name of Batman’s co-creator: “Recognition At Last! Bronx Street to be Renamed After Batman Co-Creator Bill Finger”.

On December 8th, late Bronxite and DeWitt Clinton alumni Bill Finger and co-creator of Batman will have justice with a Bronx street renamed after him.

For years, many only knew Bob Kane as the creator of Batman but it was actually Bill Finger who gave Bob Kane not only the idea of how Batman should look but also created his origin story and wrote many of the stories during the beginning of the rise of the Dark Knight.

Born Milton Finger in Denver, Colorado on February 8, 1914, eventually he and his family moved to The Bronx where he was raised and went to DeWitt Clinton High School (where Bob Kane went as well).

Kane was trying to come up with a character to compete with the craze created by Superman but was stuck in a rut when he asked Bill Finger for some advice. The two would meet up at Poe Park on the Grand Concourse to come up with ideas and it was Finger who told him to change his costume into what became the Batman we know today.

(7) THE SEASON. The Book Smugglers decreed: “Smugglivus is HERE – A Primer”.

Smugglivus is our month-long (technically about five weeks long) end of the year celebration. Back in our first year of The Book Smugglers in 2008, we wanted to do something special at the end of the year leading up to our blog anniversary in early January. So, we came up with the idea to host a holiday bonanza to celebrate our favorite books, authors, and bloggers of the year. Thus, inspired by Seinfeld’s infamous Festivus, Smugglivus was born.

Each year, Smugglivus begins on December 1 and features guest posts from our favorite people across the interwebs (with a healthy serving of our regular reviews and giveaways, of course). The event ends with a bang on January 7, our very own blogiversary. And this year? We will be celebrating our biggest milestone to date: our tenth anniversary!

…This year, our all-star author lineup includes, among many others, Aliette de Bodard, Martha Wells, Kate Elliott, N.K. Jemisin and more. Of course, we’ll also have plenty of awesome bloggers/reviewers/vloggers over to play too!

(8) EYE ON THE PRIZE. Camestros Felapton is a great fan of book cover art (something we know because he’s already done 22 covers for McEdifice Returns and may not be done). In that line, he has gathered some of the year’s most admired artwork in his post “The Book Cover Thing 2017: The Longlist”.

Thanks for all the suggestions I didn’t include them all (looks specifically at Doris for a moment). I also went hunting for some extra names and interesting covers of books I haven’t heard of. Obvious note: appearance on the list is not any kind of endorsement of the content of the books or their authors and in some cases I know nothing about the books at all – but at least one was intentionally deplorable.

(9) ENDEAVOUR AWARD. Although the winners of the 2017 Endeavour Award, Patricia McKillip and Matt Ruff, weren’t at OryCon to pick up their awards, two other finalists were on hand to receive commemorative certificates, Curtis Chen and David D. Levine. Thanks to Jim Fiscus for the photos:

The two head shots were taken when the authors were reading from their books, Arabella of Mars for David D. Levine and Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis Chen.

Curtis Chen

David D. Levine

(10) VIRAL CAT. Social media has another feline star: “Meet Max, the cat who lost the library but won the Internet”.

This story, printed and taped onto a university library door in St. Paul, Minn., might have ended there. But as seen above, it got tweeted. It also got Tumblr-ed. And Reddit-ed. And because the Internet loves cat characters — and has a special fondness for those known as library cats — the story of 3-year-old Max exploded Wednesday. (In some online corners, anyway; it was a heavy news day.)

Having been shooed away from the Macalester College library, Max sprinted straight toward Internet fame.

The people wanted a children’s book. Someone dashed off text in rhyme:

Get into the thread here —

(11) ELASTIC CURRENCY. Nerd & Tie reports “Checks Are Bouncing For Guests Who Appeared at Waxacon”.

About six hundred people turned up for the first ever Waxacon in Waxahachie, TX on November 18th and 19th. Attendees got to meet guests like Corin Nemec, Olivia Hack, Kevin Duhaney, Jeff Parazzo, Christina Masterson, Philip Andrew, Jack Guzman, Philip Jeanmarie and Chuck Huber. With so few attendees present, it must have been a fun, intimate experience for fans. But here’s the thing, as far as we can tell none of those guests have been paid yet.

We’ve spoken to representation for multiple guests who appeared at Waxacon, and those who were supposed to see payment arrive via Paypal haven’t received what’s due to them. What’s worse is that we’ve confirmed that guests who were handed checks by the convention organizer Alex Betsill have seen them bounce….

(12) ANOTHER STRANGER. Netflix has greenlighted a third season of Stranger Things. [H/T Nerd & Tie.]

(13) REJECTED. This video from the Bradbury Center tells how the scripts and films of Something Wicked This Way Comes were rewritten, reshot, and re-edited before the popular Disney movie was released.

(14) BEER REVIEW Nickpheas writes, “We had the underwhelming Dark Vader a couple of weeks ago.” He found its lack of taste…disturbing. But if you’re in the neighborhood —

The pub just next to my place of work (and any filer visiting the area can always hit on me for a pint) has turned up two more genre themed ales.

 

(15) SPECULATING ABOUT PLANET NINE. Maybe the Lectroids’ home? “Planet Nine: Theories About the Hypothetical Planet”.

A massive ice giant may be traveling through the outer solar system. Dubbed “Planet Nine,” the hypothetical world was proposed to exist after scientists noticed that a handful of objects beyond Pluto had been shaken up in unusual orbits. Search parties have formed to find the unseen planet, with optimistic hopes of spotting it within a year.

“It’s not crazy; this is the kind of stuff people are finding all the time,” co-discoverer Mike Brown, at the California Institute of Technology, told Space.com earlier this year. Brown and lead author Konstantin Batygin, also at CalTech, published a paper in January 2016 suggesting that a massive planet could be stirring up the icy bodies of the Kuiper Belt, a ring of material at the edge of the solar system.

(16) POWER UP. Tesla makes goal: “World’s Largest Battery Is Turned On In Australia As Tesla Ties Into Power Grid” — 37 days ahead of schedule.

The power grid in South Australia now includes a huge Tesla battery tied to a wind farm, allowing the system to supply electricity around the clock. The battery was installed well before Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s 100-day guarantee lapsed — and just in time for the start of summer.

“This is history in the making,” South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said of the battery system, which sits next to wind turbines at the Horndale Power Reserve.

(17) DEL TORO FILM REVIEWED. Close but no cigar: NPR’s Justin Chang finds that “Gorgeous And Lyrical ‘Shape of Water’ Doesn’t Quite Hit Its Mark”.

“The Shape Of Water” is such a lyrical and imaginative piece of storytelling that I’m genuinely disappointed that I didn’t love it more. There’s no doubting the visionary credentials of the director, Guillermo del Toro, though his richly atmospheric fantasies are often more inspired in concept than they are in the moment-to-moment unfolding. The great exception is his Oscar-winning 2006 film “Pan’s Labyrinth,” a masterpiece of historical fantasy in which he held a brutal Spanish war story and a transporting fairy tale in exquisite balance.

(18) PTEROSAUR EDEN. NPR reports “Hundreds Of Eggs From Ancient Flying Reptile Are Found In China”.

A cache of hundreds of eggs discovered in China sheds new light on the development and nesting behavior of prehistoric, winged reptiles called pterosaurs.

Pterosaurs were fearsome-looking creatures that flew during the Lower Cretaceous period alongside dinosaurs. This particular species was believed to have a massive wingspan of up to 13 feet, and likely ate fish with their large teeth-filled jaws.

Researchers working in the Turpan-Hami Basin in northwestern China collected the eggs over a 10-year span from 2006 to 2016.

A single sandstone block held at least 215 well-preserved eggs that have mostly kept their shape. Sixteen of those eggs have embryonic remains of the pterosaur species Hamipterus tianshanensis, the researchers said in findings released today in Science.

(19) A DISCOURAGING WORD. The BBC tells how they do it — “From disguises to bad manners: How celebs avoid being pestered in public”.

[Mark] Hamill recently tweeted how he hopped into a wheelchair at an airport to “avoid autograph $alesmen/Dealer$ who constantly badger me (and my family) to increase value of their items”.

Hunger Games star Lawrence, who refuses selfies with fans, said: “I just, generally, once I enter a public place, I become incredibly rude – that’s kind of like my only way of defending myself.”

Mark Hamill tries “the old wheelchair trick”, Daniel Radcliffe wore a Spider-Man suit (plus rucksack and American accent) to Comic-Con, …

(20) THE BADDEST PART OF THE FILE. For some strange reason a Jim Croce filk festival broke out in comments. Here is microtherion’s contribution:

If I could save time in a shoggoth
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to sleep in R’lyeh
‘Til eternity passes away
Just to spend strange aeons with you

(21) HOW IT TOOK SHAPE. Marc Scott Zicree, who worked on a book with Guillermo Del Toro, tells the vision behind The Shape of Water.

Mr. Sci-Fi Marc Zicree shares insider info on his friend and co-writer Guillermo del Toro’s wonderful new film The Shape of Water.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jim Fiscus, JJ, Nickpheas, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs ti File 770 contributing editoe of the day Soon Lee.]

Curtis Chen’s Kangaroo Espionage Series

chen-wwaypoint-kangaroo-cover
By Carl Slaughter: Debut author Curtis Chen is a Clarion graduate and has studied under Ursula Le Guin, James Patrick Kelly, John Crowley, and John Scalzi. His 2016 short stories have been published in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine and Daily Science Fiction. Waypoint Kangaroo came out in June. The sequel, Kangaroo Too, is set for the summer of 2017.

Curtis Chen

Curtis Chen

WAYPOINT KANGAROO

Kangaroo isn’t your typical spy. Sure, he has extensive agency training, access to bleeding-edge technology, and a ready supply of clever (to him) quips and retorts. But what sets him apart is “the pocket.” It’s a portal that opens into an empty, seemingly infinite, parallel universe, and Kangaroo is the only person in the world who can use it. But he’s pretty sure the agency only keeps him around to exploit his superpower.

After he bungles yet another mission, Kangaroo gets sent away on a mandatory “vacation:” an interplanetary cruise to Mars. While he tries to make the most of his exile, two passengers are found dead, and Kangaroo has to risk blowing his cover. It turns out he isn’t the only spy on the ship–and he’s just starting to unravel a massive conspiracy which threatens the entire Solar System.

Now, Kangaroo has to stop a disaster which would shatter the delicate peace that’s existed between Earth and Mars ever since the brutal Martian Independence War. A new interplanetary conflict would be devastating for both sides. Millions of lives are at stake.

Weren’t vacations supposed to be relaxing?

KANGAROO TOO

On the way home from his latest mission, secret agent Kangaroo’s spacecraft is wrecked by a rogue mining robot. The agency tracks the bot back to the Moon, where a retired asteroid miner — code named “Clementine” — might have information about who’s behind the sabotage.

Clementine will only deal with Jessica Chu, Kangaroo’s personal physician and a former military doctor once deployed in the asteroid belt. Kangaroo accompanies Jessica as a courier, smuggling Clementine’s payment of solid gold in the pocket universe that only he can use.

What should be a simple infiltration is hindered by the nearly one million tourists celebrating the anniversary of the first Moon landing. And before Kangaroo and Jessica can make contact, Lunar authorities arrest Jessica for the murder of a local worker.

Jessica won’t explain why she met the victim in secret or erased security footage that could exonerate her. To make things worse, a sudden terror attack puts the whole Moon under lockdown. Now Kangaroo alone has to get Clementine to talk, clear Jessica’s name, and stop a crooked scheme which threatens to ruin approximately one million vacations.

But old secrets are buried on the Moon, and digging up the past will make Kangaroo’s future very complicated…

PRAISE FOR WAYPOINT KANGAROO

  • “The pace never flags in this high-stakes thriller, the plot never stops twisting and turning, and our hero never loses his sense of humor. Debut novelist Chen has created an engaging character and a rich, believable world. Sci-fi fans will love this fun, high-tech adventure.” — Kirkus Reviews
  • “In this rollicking splice of mystery and high-tech SF … Chen’s debut keeps the plot twisting as the story builds to a powerful climax, leavening the suspense with Kangaroo’s droll quips. This book is an auspicious start for its author and his wisecracking series.” — Publishers Weekly
  • “Zippy pacing and a hyperactive, wisecracking hero are two big reasons this space adventure succeeds… For those looking for a lively spy adventure in space, this is a fun debut.” — Library Journal
  • “A very entertaining SF mystery/thriller and an impressive first novel.” — Locus Online 
  • “Kangaroo’s adventure is a great, fun read for anyone who loves a mystery or a spy story. The light narrative tone and funny side comments make the subject matter seem less serious, but the themes and comparisons to our current world are not lost on the reader.” — Booklist 
  • “This Kangaroo could just be your new favorite wisecracking interplanetary adventurer.” — Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky
  • “Full of intrigue, action, laugh-out-loud humor, and some truly awesome tech, Chen’s debut is a ripping great read.” — Jason M. Hough, New York Times bestselling author of Zero World
  • “New writer Curtis Chen delivers non-stop action that twists and turns and finally hurtles to a harrowing climax. Prepare for old-fashioned sense of wonder updated with cutting edge hardware in this deft first novel.” — James Patrick Kelly, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards