Pixel Scroll 2/12/18 One Night In Genre And Worlds Are Your Oyster

(1) FIVE FAVORITES. Uncanny Magazine released its 2017 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll Results. Six stories made the Top Five – now that’s uncanny!

1- And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker

2- Fandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

3- IS A TIE!!!

Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. Szpara

Sun, Moon, Dust by Ursula Vernon

4- Monster Girls Don’t Cry by A. Merc Rustad

5- Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde

(2) BANKS ART BOOK COMING. Did you know Iain M. Banks could draw, too? “Orbit announces the publication of original Culture drawings from the Estate of Iain M. Banks”.

Original drawings by Iain M. Banks, author of the hugely popular Culture novels, will be included in a book that celebrates the author’s vision of the Culture universe. The previously unseen drawings, most of which are annotated by the author, and many of which predate the writing of the novels themselves, will be curated by the Estate of Iain M. Banks and Iain’s life-long friend and science fiction writer Ken MacLeod. With additional commentary by MacLeod, further notes on the Culture, and extracts from the Culture novels, the book will provide a unique insight into the Culture, including its history, language, technology, philosophy and values.

(3) KEEP THE HONOR IN GOH. Seanan McGuire has spot-on advice for conrunners about GoH invitations and etiquette. Jump on the thread here —

(4) WOMBAT IN DEMAND. A gig at Anthrocon is in her future.

(5) THE WAY TO SAN JOSE. John Picacio revealed more recipients of Mexicanx Initiative sponsored Worldcon memberships.

(6) THE SCHOOL OF BAD EXAMPLES. Diana Pharaoh Francis tells how to learn craftsmanship in “The Classroom of Dissatisfaction” at Book View Café.

Likewise, he’s never noticed her and suddenly she’s his ‘mate.’ (This is a shifter story). He’s apparently been dreaming about her and even though he’s known her previously, never paid attention to her. But what bothers me is that when he realizes he has to work to win her affections, he doesn’t stop to consider what their relationship has been, how they’ve interacted before, and why she might not like him.

The more I read, the less I’m convinced that their attraction is real instead of shoehorned into a situation without enough attention to actually building a believable foundation.

So what do I learn from this? Well, stuff I already knew. The motivations have to be believable. The character interactions have to be genuine and real. That readers want to stick with the story but won’t waste their time if there are significant cracks in it. But I also learned that you can have things in the story that will pull a reader along despite problems. That a reader *wants* to like the characters and will be fairly forgiving if you just smooth out the road a little.

I’ve read books that I wanted to put down because of the problems, but I kept getting dragged along because *something* in the book demanded it. But then I get to the end and I have regrets that the book wasn’t executed better. And those regrets make me sad.

(7) STAR TREK DISCOVERY WITH SPOILERS. Looking ahead: “‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Producers on Season 1 Finale, and How Season 2 Will Be ‘What Trek Does Really Well’”.

According to “Star Trek: Discovery” co-showrunner Gretchen Berg, legendary TV producer Aaron Spelling is the reason why no major character dies in the season finale of “Star Trek: Discovery.”

“We worked on the original ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’” she told IndieWire, “And somebody was going to die or not going to die, and his attitude came back down that he didn’t want the person to die and I was like, ‘Why? Come on, that’s life!’”

Added Aaron Harberts, her co-showrunner, “The Mr. Spelling in me is always like, ‘You don’t kill a character! You just don’t. Because it’s good to be able to bring them back.’”

(8) CRIDER OBIT. Crime fiction writer Bill Crider died February 12 at the age of 72. Crider, who also won a 2015 Sidewise Award for his story “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” had entered hospice care in December.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 12, 1931 — Bela Lugosi’s famous role of Dracula hit the silver screen in New York
  • February 12, 1940The Invisible Man Returns premiered theatrically.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 12, 1915 — Lorne Greene, Commander Adama (or Pa Cartwright, if you prefer.)

(11) MUSIC TO WRITE BY. Neil Gaiman has written an essay about ex-Pixies guitarist Kim Deal’s band The Breeders to celebrate their new album All Nerve:

The first time I heard of Kim Deal, it was because the co-owner of Dark Carnival, the bookstore in San Francisco I was signing in had been mistaken for her the night before by a waiter, who had taken her protestations that she was a bookshop person as a cover story and brought her and the people she was with, bookstore people whom he believed to be the rest of the Pixies, free drinks all night. I now knew a band called the Pixies existed.

I owned a tiny black and white television that sat on the corner of my desk, and kept me company when I wrote, all alone, too late at night, playing badly dubbed European Detective shows, late night rock shows, cheap television. Somewhere in 1989 it played a Pixies video. A week later I had every Pixies CD you could find in London record shops. I loved the aesthetic as much as the music: the Vaughn Oliver art and typefaces.

Information scarcity. I didn’t know who these people were. I was 29 years old, writing Sandman, in England, with two small children. I bought the CD of Pod, and I wrote Sandman to the jangly Breeders music.

(12) PRO TIP. From Sarah Gailey:

(13) SEVENTIES WOMEN SFF WRITERS. James Davis Nicoll is back with “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part II” at Tor.com. First up —

Sally Miller Gearhart

Gearhart may be best known now for her political activism and her decades of scholarly work. The Sally Miller Gearhart Chair in Lesbian Studies at the University of Oregon is named for her. SF fans unacquainted with her work might do well start with The Wanderground, a novel about feminist separatism set in a near future. Any of you planning to write a feminist separatist novel (or found a separatist feminist community) might want to explore prior art, including Gearhart’s contributions.

(14) SCRIPTER AWARDS.  SyFy Wire reports “Under His Eye The Handmaid’s Tale wins yet another award”.

On Saturday night, the 30th annual Scripter Awards were hosted at the University of Southern California. The Scripter Awards are given out annually honoring adaptations of “printed word into film” and are awarded to both the original author and writer of the screenplay. The pilot episode of Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale won in the television category with writer Bruce Miller, who is also the creator and executive producer of the show, picking up the award.

(15) OPEN FIELD. Diane Duane is one writer unaffected by last year’s version of Best Series, as she explains in “2018 Hugo Award eligibility: for those who were asking”.

First of all: the 2017 e-publication* of Interim Errantry 2: On Ordeal means that the Young Wizards series is once again eligible for Hugo consideration. In 2017 this would have been because of the 2016 publication of Games Wizards Play, which made the series eligible for the Best Series one-time “special” Hugo awarded by Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. That, however, was a different award from the new Best Series Hugo. (A distinction that apparently may make a difference for last year’s award finalists, if this year’s Hugo Administrator decides to rule out their nomination this year. But that’s hardly an issue for me.)

So — as confirmed here on the list of Best Series Hugo eligibles at File 770 — the Young Wizards series is eligible for nomination for the 2018 Best Series Hugo. Yay! …And if (as someone eligible to nominate) you feel inclined to nominate it, then I encourage you to do so.

(16) SECRET SFWA OPERATION CODENAMES REVEALED. The leak came right from the top!

(17) LIFE PRESERVER. The BBC, in “UK team set for giant Antarctic iceberg expedition”, tells about a team looking at life hidden over 100K years, now exposed by calving.

Scientists will set out in the next week to study an Antarctic realm that has been hidden for thousands of years.

A British Antarctic Survey-led team will explore the seabed ecosystem exposed when a giant iceberg broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula in 2017.

The organisation has also released the first video of the berg, which covers almost 6,000 sq km.

(18) USA TODAY’S TOP 100 SELLERS OF 2017. Here are the works of genre interest that made the top 100 books of the year, according to data from USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
12. It by Stephen King
15. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
19. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
31. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
32. 1984 by George Orwell
41. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
54. Goodnight Moon Board Book by Margaret Wise Brown, art by Clement Hurd
55. Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss
57. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, art by Mary GrandPré
59. The Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
63. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling; art by Jim Kay
65. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Board Book by Eric Carle
66. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
70. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan
76. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
80. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
86. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
92. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
93. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
94. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

(19) THEY CAME FROM SPACE. SFF is the latest fashion — “Philipp Plein takes NY Fashion Week on snowy spaceship ride”.

Provocateur Philipp Plein descended on New York Fashion Week with a giant spaceship, silvery rock formations and Migos lighting up the crowd Saturday night as fake snow fell and covered the floor of a huge industrial space at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

And there were clothes. Skiwear mostly, lots emblazoned with Plein’s name, skulls and crossbones and some Playboy logos.

The show roared to life with a couple of motorcycle riders and a space utility vehicle that plowed through Plein’s fake wall of rocks. Later came a schmoozy transformer (big person in costume) who greeted Irina Shayk as she slinked out of the ship in a black bodysuit emblazoned with “I Love You Philipp Plein.”

(20) HUMANS EVOLVED. The Titan Official Trailer.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, Joel Zakem, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Soon Lee, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/17 On The Gripping Hand Of Darkness

(1) SPACE, THE INITIAL FRONTIER. In a profile published in the October 17 New Yorker, Julie Phillips reveals why Ursula Le Guin’s name has a space in it.

Her husband’s birth name was Charles LeGuin.  They were married in France, and “when they applied for a marriage license, a ‘triumphant bureaucrat’ told Charles his Breton name was ‘spelled wrong’ without a space, so when they married they both took the name Le Guin.”

(2) JUST MISSPELL MY NAME CORRECTLY. By a vote of the members, the Science Fiction Poetry Association has renamed itself the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. Although its name has changed, the organization will keep using the initials SFPA.

And nearly every time the poets talk about SFPA in the hearing of old-time fanzine fans you can depend on someone dropping a heavy hint that they’re at risk being mixed up with a pre-existing fan group that uses the same abbreviation. Today it was Andrew Porter chirping in a comment on the announcement —

Not to be confused with the Southern Fandom Press Association, which has been around for more than 40 years…

Unfortunately it’s Porter who is confused, as he seems to have forgotten the apa’s name is the Southern Fandom Press Alliance.

(3) SAMOVAR LAUNCHES. A new sff magazine, Samovar, launched today, featuring “the best of speculative fiction in translation including original stories, reprints, poetry, reviews and more material, as well as printing translations alongside the stories in their original language.” Samovar will be produced as a quarterly, special imprint of Strange Horizons.

“Stories tell us who we are, and let us see who other people are. We already have access to an enormous wealth of speculative fiction in English, but we want to know more” – The Samovar editorial team.

What wondrous fantastical tales are being conjured in Finnish? Who writes the best Nigerian space odysseys? Is Mongolia hiding an epic fantasy author waiting to be discovered? We want to know, and we aim to find out.

For Samovar, writers and translators are of equal importance, and we do our best to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals who pen both the original and the translated version of a story. We hope that in this way we can boost the profile of speculative fiction in translation so that everyone involved receives the recognition they deserve and so we can all continue to enjoy the strange, mind-bending and fantastical fiction of all cultures.

In issue one: two sisters create an imagined world where things that are lost can be found. A despot is forced to see the truth he’s tried to hide from. An academic finds poetry, science fiction and reality beginning to merge. And the Curiosity Rover turns its own sardonic gaze on Mars.

The Samovar editorial team is Laura Friis, Greg West and Sarah Dodd. Their advisory board includes Helen MarshallRachel Cordasco and Marian Via Rivera-Womack.

(4) TENSION, APPREHENSION, AND DISSENSION. The Atlantic’s Megan Garber asks: What’s the opposite of a “cliffhanger”?

Extended cliffhangers (cliffstayers? cliffhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaangers?) have animated some of the most narratively powerful works of television of recent years; they have helped to heighten the tension in shows like Breaking Bad (how low will Walt go?) and Serial (did he do it?) and Quantico (did she do it?) and True Detective (who did it?) and Lost (who are they? where are they?) and, in general, pretty much any sitcom that has ever featured, simmering just below its surface, some will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension.

What’s especially notable about the recent shows that are employing the device, though, is that they’re locating the tension in one (unanswered) question. They’re operating in direct opposition to the way traditional cliffhangers were primarily used: between installments, between episodes, between seasons, in the interstitial spaces that might otherwise find a story’s momentum stalling. Big Little Lies and Riverdale and This Is Us and all the rest are taking the specific narrative logic of “Who shot J.R.?” and flipping it: The tension here exists not necessarily to capture audience interest over a show’s hiatus (although, certainly, there’s a little of that, too), but much more to infuse the content of the show at large with a lurking mystery. Things simmer rather than boil. The cliffhanger is less about one shocking event with one central question, and more about a central mystery that insinuates itself over an entire season (and, sometimes, an entire series).

(5) SLOWER THAN LIGHT COMMUNICATION. This is how social media works: I never heard of Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality until somebody complained about it.

The appeal for a 2016 Hugo nomination was posted by the author in 2015.

First, the following request: I would like any readers who think that HPMOR deserves it sufficiently, and who are attending or supporting the 2015, 2016, or 2017 Worldcon, to next year, nominate Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality for Best Novel in the 2016 Hugos. Whether you then actually vote for HPMOR as Best Novel is something I won’t request outright, since I don’t know what other novels will be competing in 2016. After all the nominees are announced, look over what’s there and vote for what you think is best.

I don’t know how many votes he ended up getting but it wasn’t enough to rank among the top 15 works reported by MidAmeriCon II.

(6) FINALLY A GOOD WORD ABOUT THE MOVIES. Book View Café’s Diana Pharoah Francis was both nostalgic and thoughtful after hosting a Lord of the Rings marathon at home.

…Among the SF/F communities, it was this extraordinary vision come to life in a way we had never experienced before. It was not cheesy or all about the CGI. It was about strength, honor, choices, and hope. It was real characters in dreadful situations. The watching of heroes being made and broken beneath weights no one should have to bear. And Aragorn — a king in the making. A soul of strength and doubt and humility.

The movies were inspiring on a lot of fronts. I think it’s appropriate to watch it now in a world that is struggling so hard against itself. With so much fear, and worry and such dire enemies. Who are those enemies? Too many are ourselves. Our fears that turn us into monsters or traitors. Denethor, Gollum, Boromir, the Nazgul — absolute power corrupts. There are those who give up. Those who refuse to fight. Those who lose themselves.

The stories, the movies and the books, are a view into ourselves and what we can hope to be and what we may become — good and bad. It’s a reminder that it’s never a good time to quit in the battle against darkness — in whatever shape it takes….

(7) MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! ON YOUR SHELVES. James Davis Nicoll names “Twenty Core Space Operas Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

“Chosen entirely on the basis of merit,” says James, “with a side-order of not repeating titles that were on the first list.”

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO. I felt a disturbance in the force. Just not right away.

(9) FIVE PLUS TWO. John Scalzi offers “7 Tips for Writing a Bestselling Science Fiction Novel” at Female First. This is my favorite:

Make your universe two questions deep. By which I mean, make it so when someone asks you a question about why/how you created or portrayed the universe, character etc the way you did, you have a smart, cogent answer for it, consistent with the construction of the book. And then when they have a follow-up question, be able to answer that effectively, too. That will make 95% of your readers happy with your worldbuilding (the other 5% are SUPER nerds. Which is fine! For them, say “Oh, I’m glad you asked that. I’m totally going to address that in the sequel.” Try it! It works!).

Strangely enough, none of his seven tips is “Start a fuss with somebody in social media.”

(10) SECOND FIFTH. But as we just witnessed last week, that is part of the Castalia House playbook – which is evidently followed by Rule #2, “Stalk real bestselling writers on their book tours.”

Here’s a video of a jackass asking John Scalzi to sign Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie, and posing an insulting question about John’s Tor book deal. You’ll note the book in John’s hand has not been autographed by Vox Day. When is his book tour?

(11) HOT OFF THE PRESS. Liz Colter (writing as L. D. Colter) has a new book out this week – A Borrowed Hell.

Facing a sad, empty life, July always persevered by looking forward. An unhappy childhood, a litany of failed relationships, and even losing his job–none of it could stop him. But then the foreclosure notice arrives, and July is facing losing the one thing that keeps him grounded–his home.

With pain in his past and now in his future, July gives up and starts down the same road of self-destruction that the rest of his family had followed. It is only when he awakens in a hospital after a violent car accident that things change.

He starts to experience blackouts, which leave him in an alternate reality of empty desert and strange residents. It is a nightmarish world that somehow makes the real world seem that much better. Then he meets a woman that becomes a beacon of light, and his life starts to turn around.

But the blackouts continue, sending him to the alternate reality more often and for longer periods of time. Realizing that he may never escape, July asks the question he’d always been afraid to ask: How can he finally be free? The answer is one he’s not sure he can face.

I can’t resist a droll bio:

Due to a varied work background, Liz can boast a modest degree of knowledge about harnessing, hitching, and working draft horses, canoe expeditioning, and medicine. She’s also worked as a rollerskating waitress and knows more about concrete than you might suspect.

(12) HISTORY MINUS FDR. The LA Times says a bestselling author has a new trilogy on the way.

Charlaine Harris, whose Sookie Stackhouse books inspired the television series “True Blood,” will release the first book in a new trilogy next year.

Harris’ novel “Texoma” will be published in fall 2018 by Saga Press, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Simon & Schuster, the publisher announced in a news release.

“Texoma” will be a work of speculative fiction that takes place in “an alternate history of a broken America weakened by the Great Depression and the assassination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

(13) DAMP YANKEES. In New York Magazine’s author interview “Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140: To Save the City, We Had to Drown It”, Robinson discusses why the book is surprisingly optimistic, how his thoughts on the global economy influenced 2140, and how he came up with the time frame for the book.

…[T]here were two goals going on that forced me to choose the date 2140, and those two goals cut against each other. I needed to put it far enough out in the future that I could claim a little bit of physical probability to the height of the sea-level rise of 50 feet, which is quite extreme. A lot of models have it at 15 feet, though some do say 50 feet. So I did have to go out like a 120 years from now.

Cutting against that future scenario, I wanted to talk about the financial situation we’re in, this moment of late capitalism where we can’t afford the changes we need to make in order to survive because it isn’t cost effective. These economic measures need to be revised so that we pay ourselves to do the work to survive as a civilization facing climate change.

I wanted a finance novel that was heavily based on what lessons we learned — or did not learn — from the crash of 2008 and 2009. All science-fiction novels are about the future and about the present at the same time.

(14) WEBCAST. Another Spider-Man trailer will be out tomorrow – here’s a seven-second teaser for it.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Chris Gregory, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/2/17 The Pixel Shines In The Darkness, And The Darkness Has Not Overcome It

(1) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. Today is National Science Fiction Day, the date chosen because it is Isaac Asimov’s birthday. Judging by the return on my Google search, it’s a day beloved by writers of calendar clickbait but it goes largely unnoticed by fans. Should we be doing something about it?

(2) YOU’LL GO BLIND. Self-publishing isn’t the problem – self-editing is. At least, the kind of self-editing that Diana Pharoah Francis discusses in “Writers Club: The Evils of Self Editing” at Book View Café.

I’m not saying that self-editing is bad. It’s not. It’s just we often do it while writing and that’s when it’s evil. Sometimes we do it when we aren’t aware and that’s when it’s really awful.

When I first started out writing, I wrote for me and me alone. I was trying to entertain myself and so I didn’t worry about whether this would be offensive or that would be sappy or if readers would hate my characters. None of that entered my mind because it was all about the fun of telling myself the story and getting lost in it.

Then I published. This was a dream come true. But that’s when the evil self-editor started sneaking in to my creative zone. I’d write something and then delete it because it was too something: too off-color, too disgusting, too violent, and so on. That limited me in ways that I stopped noticing. I internalized those limits and made them an unacknowledged part of my writing process. It’s like a house. You don’t pay attention to where walls are or light switches because they just exist and are necessary and you’re glad they’re there doing their job.

Only really, the self-editor at this point in the process is really a saboteur. It’s a swarm of termites eating away your writing in secret and you have no idea it’s even happening.

(3) BOUND FOR CHINA. Tomorrow Nancy Kress leaves for Beijing . “I will be teaching a week-long workshop with Sf writer Cixin Liu, SF WORLD editor Yao Haijun, and Professor Wu Yan.”

(4) CA$H CALL. Jim C. Hines is collecting data for his 2016 Writing Income Survey.

For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. It’s not something we talk about very much, and I think the more data we put out there, the more helpful it is to other writers.

The trouble is, I’m just one data point. Better than none, of course. But this year, I decided to try something a little different, and created a 2016 Novelist Income Survey.

The process and goals are similar to the First Novel Survey I did seven years ago. (The results of that one are a little outdated at this point…) I’ll be sharing the basic data like the median, mean, and range of author incomes, as well as looking at patterns and other correlations. No personal or identifying information will be shared in any way.

(5) THEY BLINDED ME WITH (PSEUDO)SCIENCE. A site called Book Scrolling (say, are we cousins?) compiled “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (Year-End List Aggregation)”.

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016? We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!”

It comes as no surprise that the results are blindingly arbitrary.

Even though it ranked first among sf books in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards, Pierce Brown’s Morningstar comes in #26 on this list.

And this is a list of books not just novels – the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Science Fiction is #24.

Joe Hill’s The Fireman is #4.

Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky is #1.

(6) EARLY SCRIPT DOCTORING. It’s a new month – which means I can read another five LA Times articles free, so I caught up on John Scalzi’s tribute to the late Carrie Fisher from December 27 —

Out on the Internet, along with the many heart-touching tributes to Carrie Fisher, photographs of her as Leia Organa, either as princess (the original trilogy) or general (from “The Force Awakens”) and with her beloved French bulldog Gary, there’s another picture, originally placed there by cinema documentarian Will McCrabb, showing a page of the script of “The Empire Strikes Back.” On the script are several edits, in red pen, condensing and improving the script. McCrabb said the hand that put the edits there was Carrie Fisher’s, noting on Twitter that Fisher herself confirmed it to him.

Is he correct? The edits might have been made by Irwin Kershner, “Empire’s” director, instead. At the time — 1979 — Fisher would have been 22 years old. Yet here she was, looking at a script written by Lawrence Kasdan, who would go on to several screenwriting Oscar nominations, and Leigh Brackett, Howard Hawks’ secret screenwriting weapon and one of the great science fiction writers of her time, and thinking “this needs some fixing.” And then getting out her pen and doing just that.

Whoever made the edits wasn’t wrong. At least some of the edits to the scene (in which Leia, Han and Chewbacca plot a course to visit Lando Calrissian) made it to the final cut of the film. Simpler, tighter, better — and with the rhythm of speech rather than exposition (science fiction, forever the genre of people explaining things to other people). Carrie Fisher played a galactic princess, but she had a working writer’s gift for understanding how people talk, and how language works. At 22.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 2, 1902 – Leopold Bloom takes a walk around Dublin.
  • January 2, 1902 — The first dramatization of The Wizard of Oz opens, in Chicago. Book and lyrics by Baum, music by Paul Tietjens, plot reworked to provided plenty of gags and cues for irrelevant songs (and to eliminate the Wicked Witch of the West). Described in detail in Ethan Mordden’s Anything Goes: A History of American Musical Theatre, it sounds worse than the way US cinema reworked The Dark is Rising, but it was suited the audiences of the time well enough to run on various stages for seven years.
  • January 2, 1905 — Elara, a Moon of Jupiter, discovered.
  • January 2, 2000 — Patrick O’Brian died this date. Alan Baumler notes, “He was born on Dec 12. but I forgot to send it to you) and while his Aubrey-Maturin series of sea stories is not Fantasy/SF, given that Novik’s Temeraire series is pretty explicitly O’Brian WITH DRAGONS and Weber’s Honor Harrington series is O’Brian IN SPACE I would think it was worth mentioning.” Absolutely – and besides one of the Nielsen Haydens (I wish I could find the exact quote) said the technology in Napoleonic warships was so complex they were like the starships of their time.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov. (Hey, wouldn’t it look bad if we forgot to list him on National Science Fiction Day?)
  • Born January 2, 1929 – Charles Beaumont, known for scripting Twilight Zone episodes.

(9) WHEN IS IT TIME TO BAIL? Max Florschutz helps new writers avoid the death spiral of investing time in unproductive writing projects by a self-evaluation process, partially quoted here:

What really sets a death spiral apart, however, from a fresh project that is still in its growing stages is the amount of time that has been sunk into it. For example, when looking at your current writing project, ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer yes to even one of them, you may want to consider the possibility that you are stuck in a death spiral.

—Has forward progress stopped in lieu of going back and editing/rewriting what you’ve already written before you’ve made it very far into the story?

—Have you since spent more time editing/rewriting that first bit of the story than you did originally writing it?

—Do you get started on writing new material for said story only to realize that you need to go back and edit/add in something and gone and done that instead? Has that been your experience the last few times you sat down to work on this story? Has it kept you from adding any new material in significant amounts (say, chapters)?…

(10) OCCASIONAL ACCURACY. NASA presents “The Science of Star Trek”, but finds it difficult to marry those two concepts.

The writers of the show are not scientists, so they do sometimes get science details wrong. For instance, there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Dr. Crusher and Mr. LaForge were forced to let all of the air escape from the part of the ship they were in, so that a fire would be extinguished. The doctor recommended holding one’s breath to maintain consciousness as long as possible in the vacuum, until the air was restored. But as underwater scuba divers know, the lungs would rupture and very likely kill anyone who held his breath during such a large decompression. The lungs can’t take that much pressure, so people can only survive in a vacuum if they don’t try to hold their breath.

I could name other similar mistakes. I’m a physicist, and many of my colleagues watch Star Trek. A few of them imagine some hypothetical, perfectly accurate science fiction TV series, and discredit Star Trek because of some list of science errors or impossible events in particular episodes. This is unfair. They will watch Shakespeare without a complaint, and his plays wouldn’t pass the same rigorous test. Accurate science is seldom exciting and spectacular enough to base a weekly adventure TV show upon. Generally Star Trek is pretty intelligently written and more faithful to science than any other science fiction series ever shown on television. Star Trek also attracts and excites generations of viewers about advanced science and engineering, and it’s almost the only show that depicts scientists and engineers positively, as role models. So let’s forgive the show for an occasional misconception in the service of an epic adventure.

(11) SUAVE AND DEBONAIR. The Daily Beast tells everyone, “Blame Horror-Film Legend Vincent Price for the Rise of Celebrity Lifestyle Brands”.

But while Martha Stewart famously (and accurately!) said in 2013 that “I think I started this whole category of lifestyle,” the concept that Stewart began selling with her first book, 1982’s Entertaining, is a little different from what celeb lifestyle brands are peddling. Stewart—who worked as a model and in the financial industry before becoming Our Lady of the Hospital Corner—became famous due to her lifestyle of perfect taste, immaculate table settings, and painfully severe pie crust prep. In contrast, celebrity lifestyle brands—like Paltrow’s Goop, which launched in 2008 and is widely considered the OG celeb lifestyle site—hinge on the more loaded idea that celebrities have great taste because they’re rich, and if you master that taste and pick up a few celeb-approved luxury items, you might get closer to the lifestyle of an Academy Award winner (without having to do all that pesky acting training).

Despite attracting the attention of many petty haters like myself, Goop is, of course, a resounding success—according to Fast Company, in 2015 the site had one million subscribers and got more than 3.75 million page views each month. But while everyone from Real Housewives to Gossip Girls have followed in Paltrow’s (presumably Louboutin-clad) footsteps in recent years, the roots of the celebrity lifestyle brand don’t lie solely with Stewart—rather, they began in the mid-20th century, with a cookbook.

The first celebrity cookbook was penned by horror film legend and acclaimed mustache expert Vincent Price (or, at the very least, its publisher, Dover, proclaimed it as such in a 2015 press release). Called A Treasury of Great Recipes, the book—which Price wrote with his wife, Mary—drew from their world travels, collecting recipes from high-end restaurants like New York City’s Four Seasons as well as ones that the Prices whipped up while entertaining at home. And the book didn’t just feature cooking instructions; it also included shots of the Prices at play, sipping soup proffered by a waiter in black-tie dress, or simply relaxing in their gorgeously appointed, copper pot-filled kitchen.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bartimaeus, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Alan Baumler, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 10/24/16 I’m Free. I’m Free, And Waiting For Scroll To Pixel Me

(1) KEEP ON FIBBING. Diana Pharaoh Francis says according to “Writer Club Rules: Truth is No Excuse” in a post at Book View Café.

That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, that truth is no excuse for fiction. I’ve had students who want to fictionalize a real story and then have found themselves floundering because true things are often too unbelievable to work in fiction. Fiction needs to make sense. It needs to be plausible. Reality doesn’t. That’s why the saying, Stranger Than Fiction.

(2) SACRED QUESTER. In “Is This Economist Too Far Ahead of His Time?” in the October 16 Chronicle of Higher Education, David Wescott profiles Robin Hanson about The Age of Em, including where Hanson gets his wild ideas, how Hanson hopes to write sf someday, and how fans accost him with ideas about “transcension and living in blocks of computronium.”

Hanson considers himself something of an exception to that rule and has described his mission as a “sacred quest, to understand everything, and to save the world.” He argues that academics are primarily devoted to signaling their own importance, and not necessarily to the pursuit of intellectual progress. “We lie about why we go to prestigious colleges as students, we lie about why we fund research, we lie about why we do research … we lie about lots of things,” he says. “We are so tempted to bullshit and give the most noble reason for why we do things.”

For academics who do actually care about intellectual progress more than “prestige, promotions, salaries, funding, lots of students, and roaring crowds,” Hanson says, there is a lot of freedom.

For him it’s the freedom to study things like immortality, aliens, and what to do if you suspect you are living in a computer simulation. “There are important silly subjects,” he says. And while most academics shy away from silly, “silly doesn’t equal unimportant.”

(3) GHOSTBUSTER. Fox News reports “Bill Murray honored as he accepts Mark Twain prize for humor” in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center on Sunday night.

There were plenty of laughs at Murray’s expense in evening that took on the tone of a gentle roast. Jimmy Kimmel, Aziz Ansari, Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin were among those who ribbed Murray for being aloof, unpredictable and difficult to reach — and somehow still lovable.

“I think you and I are about as close as two people can be, considering that one of them is you,” Martin said in a video tribute.

(4) TEPPER OBIT. Shari S. Tepper (1929-2016) died October 22 reports Locus Online.  The author of over 40 novels, Tepper received a lifetime achievement award from the World Fantasy Convention just last year.

John Scalzi paid tribute at Whatever:

Also a bit depressing: That Tepper, while well-regarded, is as far as I can tell generally not considered in the top rank of SF/F writers, which is a fact I find completely flummoxing. Her novel Grass has the sort of epic worldbuilding and moral drive that ranks it, in my opinion, with works like Dune and Perdido Street Station and the Earthsea series; the (very) loose sequel to GrassRaising the Stones, is in many ways even better, and the fact that Stones is currently out of print is a thing I find all sorts of appalling.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 24, 1893 — Film producer-director Merian Cooper (the original “King Kong”).
  • Born October 24, 1915 — Bob Kane, creator of Batman.

(6) FREER’S SCAPEGOAT OF THE WEEK. Remember when Dave Freer used to teach about writing in his column at Mad Genius Club? Me neither.

Here am I, in the esteemed company of such luminaries in my field as Larry Correia and John C Wright, as winners of the Wally Award, an honor I will treasure – because it isn’t every day I find myself lumped with authors that I try to learn from and imitate, and I hear some terribly tragic news.

There’s no doubt that being singled out by none other than Damien Walter of ‘The Grauniad’, a newspaper whose reputation for unbiased journalism is only rivaled by Pravda, legendary for its typos and grammos (hence Grauniad, rather than The Guardian), and with research and factual quality which is mentioned in the same breath as News of the World and Beano (although they cannot seriously compete with Beano in the opinion of most people of an IQ above ‘sheep, dim (Merino)’) and whose sf/fantasy correspondent’s effect on the sales and livelihoods of sf and fantasy authors has been equated with file 770. The last comparison I feel unfair, because despite Damien’s tiny readership his attempts to harm my career and ability to make a living, he actually had some effect on my sales, with his hatred of my unread work improving sales for me. It is for this reason I find the news that the floundering ‘Grauniad’ (the Venezuela of mainstream print media, which is running out of other people’s money) seems to have dispensed with his services, so sad.

(7) CLOSE CALLS. The BBC interviews Megan Bruck Syal about avoiding extinction by asteroid.

Sixty-five million years ago, a catastrophic impact forever changed the environmental landscape of Earth – and there was no way to see it coming.

This Earth-bound asteroid – or maybe several – changed the course of millions of years of evolution, altered the composition of our atmosphere – and the geology of Central America for good measure.

To prevent a similar event, we need to be prepared. Megan Bruck Syal, postdoctoral researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, works on the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (Aida) – which, for the first time, will test how effective a kinetic impact mission would be in altering the course of an Earth-bound asteroid.

“It’s not a matter of if an asteroid will impact again, but when,” says Bruck Syal. “Planetary defence began to be an issue when more and more near-Earth asteroids began to be discovered.”

She warns of close calls, like the Chelyabinsk meteorite – which in 2013 made international headlines when it left hundreds of people injured and damaged thousands of buildings in Russia. “It really captured the world’s attention because no one saw it coming. And it was pretty small yet it still did a lot of damage for its size.”

(8) BLABBY MCBLABFACE. Apparently, if you want to know what’s happening in season 7 of Game of Thrones, it would not be too hard to find out — “MAJOR SPOILERS: The Entire Plot of ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 May Have Been Leaked on Reddit”.

A brave Redditor named awayforthelads dumped what appears to be the entire plot of Season 7 onto the Freefolk subreddit. The subreddit has a long history of being the go-to place for Thrones leaks and last season was incredibly reliable at thoroughly spoiling almost every detail of Season 6.

As further proof of authenticity, awayforthelads has deleted his account, presumably to evade the wrath of HBO.

And actress Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays Daenerys Targaryen’s beautiful handmaiden Missandei, appears also to have confirmed the authenticity of the leak on Twitter:

(9) COSPAIN. Apparently it’s not a favorite holiday for some: “University of Florida offers counseling for students offended by Halloween costumes”.

Halloween can be scary, but it can also be… offensive?

The University of Florida wants students to know that counseling is available for students hoping to work past any offense taken from Halloween costumes.

“Some Halloween costumes reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions. Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people,” the school administration wrote in a blog post. “If you are troubled by an incident that does occur, please know that there are many resources available.”

(10) THE ETHICS OF ASTRONOMICAL ART. NPR feature: “Out of This World: How Artists Imagine Planets Yet Unseen”. There’s a brief shout-out to Bonestell, but the artists interviewed aren’t likely to be known to fans.

“It’s tricky with computer graphics,” says Ray Villard, news director for the Space Telescope Science Institute. “You can make stuff in such extraordinary detail, people might think it’s real. People might think we’ve actually seen these features — canyons, all kinds of lakes and rivers.”

“The point of these illustrations is to create excitement, to grab the general public’s attention. But there is a danger that many people sometimes do mistake some of these illustrations for real photos,” agrees Luis Calçada, an artist with the European Southern Observatory’s education and public outreach department.

“Many, many astronomers actually do see this danger on this kind of illustration,” he says, “because it might create false images on people’s minds.”

(11) FIRE WHEN READY. NPR reports on experiments planned for the ISS, including deliberately starting a fire in the cargo ship in “Gotcha: Space Station Grabs Onto NASA’s 5,100-Pound Cargo Craft”.

Astronauts used the International Space Station’s robotic arm to grapple the Cygnus cargo spacecraft early Sunday morning, starting the process of bringing more than 5,100 pounds of supplies and research equipment aboard. The cargo’s experiments include one thing astronauts normally avoid: fire.

“The new experiments include studies on fire in space, the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, collection of health-related data, and a new way to measure neutrons,” NASA says.

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