Pixel Scroll 7/13/16 Scroll on the Water, Fire in the Sky

(1) YOUTUBER PAYOLA? ScienceFiction.com headlined that “The FTC Has Proven That Warner Brothers Has Paid YouTubers For Positive Reviews”.

In some not so awesome news, Warner Brothers was caught buying off YouTubers to give them positive reviews of their video games. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released details that the company was working with some of the most influential YouTubers out there to provide positive reviews of their games, film gameplay footage that worked around bugs and hype sales numbers that all ignored criticism of the titles they were being paid to look at. Oh, and they of course never disclosed that they were being paid to do this which is against the law. **

While this is currently limited to video games, one has to wonder if it may extend to films as well.

Most damning though is that Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, or PewDiePew as he is known to millions of ‘Let’s Play’viewers was involved as well. PewDiePew is the highest watched YouTube celebrity in gaming circles and had an undisclosed agreement to provide positive press for ‘Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor’ when it was released….

** According to Washington Post reporter Andrea Peterson, the notices that they were paid endorsers of the game appeared in fine print no one read. The FTC settlement says that paid endorsers have to reveal in non-fine print that that they have been paid by game manufacturers.

(2) PAUL AND STORM CONCERT AT MACII. The comedic musical duo Paul and Storm will perform in concert at MidAmeriCon II on Thursday.

MidAmeriCon II is delighted to announce that comedic musical duo Paul and Storm will be appearing at the convention. They will be live in concert at 12 Noon on Thursday, August 18, and interacting with members throughout the convention in the MidAmeriCon II Dealers’ Room.

Paul and Storm (Paul Sabourin and Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo) are known internationally and across the Internet for their original comedy music and vaudeville style shows (mostly with a nerdish bent). They also co-founded the geek variety show “w00tstock” (along with Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage) which has toured across America since 2009, and co-produce the annual JoCo Cruise (www.jococruise.com).

The duo’s original webseries musical, LearningTown, debuted on YouTube’s Geek & Sundry channel in January 2013. In the same year, their song “Another Irish Drinking Song” was featured in the movie Despicable Me 2, while their guitar was memorably smashed on stage by George R.R. Martin. Their fifth full-length CD, Ball Pit, came out in 2014, and was the central item of the duo’s successful Kickstarter campaign.

Paul and Storm have a long history of bringing well known personalities on stage during their shows – and with this being their first Worldcon appearance, they will have an exceptionally broad range of writers, editors, artists and other genre names to choose from. Members can look forward to a memorable and entertaining concert, full of “mature immaturity” (NPR).

More information on Paul and Storm can be found on their website at www.paulandstorm.com.

(3) CHARITY AT SDCC. NBC Los Angeles covers Comic-Con charitable events including the Heinlein Blood Drive:

The annual Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive returns to the mega pop culture convention for its 40th go-around. Billed as “the San Diego Blood Bank’s longest-running event,” the Comic-Con blood drive has collected “16,652 pints of blood” over its four-decade history.

Talk about superheroes. Want to give? Head for Grand Hall D at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Once you’ve given your pint, and you want to look for more ways to lend a hand, consider two off-site traditions that, while not affiliated officially with the convention, still keep ties to its cape-wearing themes and charitable heart.

The Heroes Brew Fest raises money each year for Warrior Foundation — Freedom Station. Yep, you can wear your costume, yep, you’ll drink nice beer, and yep, you’ll need to zoom through the clouds from the convention center, or at least catch a ride, to San Diego’s Waterfront Park on Saturday, July 23.

Earlier in the day the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Pawmicon returns, though don’t head for Rancho Santa Fe, the home of the center. The “Cosplay for a Cause” — think furry pumpkins in their “Star Wars” and superhero best — is happening at the Hazard Center in the late morning.

(4) BLOOD OF PATRIOTS. There was also a Blood Drive at LibertyCon – Lou Antonelli says that’s where he met Jason Cordova, one of many first encounters mentioned in his con report.

(5) AUTO CRASH. I found Brad Templeton’s “Understanding the huge gulf between the Tesla Autopilot and a real robocar, in light of the crash” to be very helpful.

It’s not surprising there is huge debate about the fatal Tesla autopilot crash revealed to us last week. The big surprise to me is actually that Tesla and MobilEye stock seem entirely unaffected. For many years, one of the most common refrains I would hear in discussions about robocars was, “This is all great, but the first fatality and it’s all over.” I never believed it would all be over, but I didn’t think there would barely be a blip.

There’s been lots of blips in the press and online, of course, but most of it has had some pretty wrong assumptions. Tesla’s autopilot is a distant cousin of a real robocar, and that would explain why the fatality is no big deal for the field, but the press shows that people don’t know that.

Tesla’s autopilot is really a fancy cruise control. It combines several key features from the ADAS (Advance Driver Assist) world, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and forward collision avoidance, among others. All these features have been in cars for years, and they are also combined in similar products in other cars, both commercial offerings and demonstrated prototypes….

(6) JOE HILL’S DAD. Boston.com reports, “Library of Congress to recognize Stephen King for his lifelong work”.

Stephen King—Maine native, horror author, and hater of Fenway’s “protective netting”—will get a new title this fall: Library of Congress honoree.

King is set to open the main stage of the 2016 Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., where the Library will recognize the author for his lifelong work promoting literacy, according to a release.

Since his first published novel, Carrie, in 1974, King has written more than 50 novels and hundreds of short stories, according to his website.

The festival takes place Saturday, September 24. Authors Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shonda Rhimes, Bob Woodward, Raina Telgemeier, and Salman Rushdie will also appear on the main stage.

(7) JUNO SHOOTS THE MOONS. IFLScience has the story behind Juno’s first image of Jupiter and its moons from orbit.

This image, taken on July 10, proves that the camera has survived the pass through Jupiter’s intense radiation, meaning it can start taking stunning high-resolution shots in the next few weeks. The camera (called JunoCam) itself has no scientific purpose, but will be used to engage the public with images of the gas giant. You can even vote online for what it takes pictures of.

 

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(8) FUNNY PAGES. A popular fantasy work is referenced in the July 13 Wizard of Id comic strip.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 13, 1940 — Patrick Stewart (age 76)
  • Born July 13, 1942  — Harrison Ford (age 74)

(10) LIVING UNOFFENDED. Maggie Hogarth, SFWA VP, was moved by Cat Rambo’s post yesterday (“SFWA Is Not a Gelatinous Cube”) to make a point about personal growth. The comments are very good, too.

I wanted to call out specifically her comment about having been pleased to recruit me specifically because I’m a conservative writer. When she suggests that we work well together because of our sometimes opposing perspectives, I think she’s entirely correct. It’s not that we talk politics specifically (though unfortunately, sometimes our jobs as officers require us to)… it’s that our beliefs give us oblique approaches to things, and consulting each other helps us find our own weaknesses and blind spots.

This is not a new thing for me. I have always worked in arenas that are overwhelmingly colonized by people of opposing political viewpoints (hello, Art, Academia). The knowledge that I would have to find a way to work with people who believed stuff I found strange, wrong-headed, or toxic is so old by now that I don’t even think about it. But it’s interesting to me that the people who are in the majority in any arena often seem to be offended at the thought that they should have to deal with people who disagree with them. At the university, I have brought up lots of professors short who were upset that I didn’t think they were right. One of them even asked me what I was doing there, which was… frankly bizarre. (Broadening my mind, maybe? By grappling with ideas I don’t necessarily agree with?)

Here then is my takeaway from living as a political minority in the workplace all my life: unless you’re in a group devoted specifically to a political cause you agree with, you cannot expect to be protected from people who don’t share your beliefs. Inevitably someone will tell me that this is an invitation to abuse and cruelty, as if there can be no disagreement without extremism. Reject this false dichotomy. People who don’t share your beliefs aren’t all heartless criminals who long to see you hurt. They just… don’t agree with you.

(11) TAKING THE TEST. Rambo and Hogarth have also publicized their vocabulary quiz results.

Rambo Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 4.37.22 PM

(12) SCALZI BREAKS THE SPELL. Don’t expect John Scalzi to be posting a quiz score.

No risk of my relitigating my SAT results. I can personally assure John you’ll never see me embarrassing myself by reporting results from an internet math quiz. I did just enough on the math side of the SAT to keep that from sandbagging what I did on the verbal side and get a California State Scholarship. (However, if someone knows a link to an online math quiz the rest of you might enjoy it….)

(13) TIMOTHY BREAKS THE QUIZ. Camestros Felapton published Timothy the Talking Cat’s score plus Timothy’s interpretation of all his test answers.

(14) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE THESAURUS. If there’s anyone who should score high on a vocabulary test it’s John C. Wright – and he did.

My score was 30500, also in the top 0.01% Albeit there was one word I did not know, and guessed.

I am going to the dictionary to look it up, and then I am going to use it three times correctly within the next 24 hours.

I was once told that is the way to accumulate a large and handsome vocabulary.

(15) COMICS HUGO. Nicholas Whyte has posted “My Hugo and #RetroHugos1941 votes: Best Graphic Story”.

It’s really striking that two years ago, it was impossible to find enough comics from 1938 to populate the Retro Hugo category – we gave a Special Committee Award to Superman instead – but this year there is a wealth of 1940 material to choose from. Having said that, there’s not in fact a lot of variety; with one exception, the 1941 Retro Hugo finalists are origin stories of costumed crime-fighters

(16) TASTE TEST. Joe Sherry continues his series at Nerds of a Feather, “Reading the Hugos: Novella”.

Today we continue with our Hugo Award coverage with a look at the Novella category. There are not many categories on this year’s ballot which lines up so well with my nomination ballot, but this is one of them. Of the five nominees, I nominated three of them: Binti, The Builders, and Slow Bullets. Naturally, I am happy that the three of them made the cut. If I had the power to add just one more story to this category, I would have loved to have seen Matt Wallace’s wonderful Envy of Angels make the list. That was a fantastic story and everyone should read it. Since people tend not to fully agree with my taste in fiction, let’s take a look at what is actually on the final ballot.

(17) FROM THERE WILL BE WAR. Lisa Goldstein reviews “Novelette: ‘What Price Humanity?’”, a Hugo-nominee, at inferior4+1.

And here we are at the third story from There Will Be War, “What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke.  It’s the best of the three, though unfortunately that’s pretty faint praise.  An infodump at the beginning tells us that aliens called Meme (Meme? Really?) are attacking from the outer Solar System, and that when the Meme’s reinforcements come, every decade or so, EarthFleet suffers catastrophic losses.  Captain Vango Markis wakes up in Virtual Reality, having suffered what he thinks is a bad hit, and meets other officers he’s served with, some of whom he remembers as having died.  They find flight simulators, and go on practice runs.

(18) LEVINE HIP-HOPS FOR ARABELLA OF MARS. Science fiction writer David D. Levine performs a hip-hop theme song, based on the opening number of “Hamilton,” for his Regency Interplanetary Airship Adventure novel “Arabella of Mars.”

…Every day she was learning posture and Latin
But every night she and her brother would batten
Down the hatches, hit the desert, going trackin’ and whackin’
Her brother backtrackin’, their Martian nanny was clackin’…

The rest of the lyrics are under “Show More” here. Arabella of Mars was released by Tor on July 12.

Arabella Ashby is a Patrick O’Brian girl in a Jane Austen world — born and raised on Mars, she was hauled back home by her mother, where she’s stifled by England’s gravity, climate, and attitudes toward women. When she learns that her evil cousin plans to kill her brother and inherit the family fortune, she joins the crew of an interplanetary clipper ship in order to beat him to Mars. But privateers, mutiny, and insurrection stand in her way. Will she arrive in time?

 

(19) FUTURE PLAY. On her Dive into Worldbuilding hangout, “Games”, Juliette Wade discussed games as a feature of worldbuilding.

Power struggle is one of the big things that games can symbolize. Chess has sometimes been used in science fiction as a form of communication between races. It can reflect or change a power dynamic.

Games are also powerful in folk tales, such as when you play a game with the devil, the fae, or Death.

Games can be critical as a symbolic representation of a larger conflict. If you can engage in single combat instead having whole armies clash, why not do it? If you can play a game and agree on the stakes, might you save many lives?

Games and the ways in which they are played reflect the world around them. If you are playing a game with plastic dice, it’s not the same as playing a game with pig knucklebones. Where do the knucklebones come from? Knucklebones, the word itself, makes the game of dice sound exotic and like it comes from a particular period. There are many games of chance or rune-reading. We noted that people have found real twenty-sided stone dice from the Roman period.

 

(20) TODAY’S UN-FACT-CHECKED TRIVIA

Four Pokémon have palindromic names: Girafarig, Eevee, Ho-oh and Alomomola.

(21) ROUNDUP. In a Washington Post article, Hayley Tsukuyama and Ben Guarino do a Pokemon Go roundup, including that Nintendo’s shares have risen by 38 percent in two days and how police in Riverton, Wyoming say that four men lured victims to a remote spot in the Wind River by promising an elusive Pokemon avatar.

On their screens, players of the viral mobile game “Pokémon Go” are seeing these creatures pop into existence alongside real-world physical objects. The mole-like Diglett peeks out of a toilet. A flaming demon Shetland called Ponyta gallops across the National Mall. A ostrich-like Doduo appears on top of the hold button of an office phone.

Capturing these little monsters isn’t just good for players. In just a few days since its July 6 launch, the game has become a national sensation, nearly overtaking Twitter in daily active users. It currently ranks as the most profitable game on Google and Apple’s app stores. On Monday, Nintendo’s stock jumped 25 percent. On Tuesday, it rose another 13 percent…..

Its makers also have made the game highly shareable. The delight of seeing a little monster pop up on the sidewalk in front of your home, or, in one case, on the bed of your wife while she’s in labor — has been social media gold for players.

The game is perhaps the first real success story of the use of augmented reality technology, which blends the digital and real world together. The combined effect is part bird-watching, part geocaching, part trophy-hunting, with a heavy dose of mid-1990s nostalgia.

(21) POKEMON SNARK. In a humor piece another Washington Post writer, Caitlin Dewey, says she told her fiance to stop playing Pokemon while he is wandering in the supermarket and driving.

This is all well and good, of course, but the hype glosses over something that gives me pause: With an app such as Pokémon Go, we’ve essentially gamified such basic pursuits as going outside, talking to strangers and visiting national monuments. These are activities we’ve long undertaken on their own merits. But everything must be digitally augmented now; no value is inherent.

The same could be said of the sorts of “engagement” trumpeted by the makers of Pokémon Go. If you’ve ventured to a local PokéStop, you know that — counter the pitch — most players aren’t making friends or appreciating the vista anew: They’re squinting into their screens, ignoring each other, hoping to sight that rare Pikachu.

(22) VIP BREW. Time to tap those kegs (or whatever they make it in) — “Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout 2016 Release”.

2016_w00tstout4

COLLABORATORS
Drew Curtis, Fark.com Creator & Patent Troll Killer
Wil Wheaton, Actor & Web Celeb
Greg Koch, CEO & Co-founder, Stone Brewing

This barrel-aged palate-saver has been a favorite among our fans—and us—since its inception in 2013. Pecans, wheat, flaked rye and bourbon-soaked wood provide this whopping, complex superhero version of an imperial stout with a profound complexity that makes it ideal for cellaring—if you can wait that long. Now, we can’t say this beer bestows jedi powers, exactly, but your taste buds may just be fooled into believing as much….

A famed illustrator celebrated for her characters Vampirella, Power Girl, Silk Spectre and Harley Quinn and comics “Gatecrasher” and “Gargoyles,” Amanda Conner embraced the term “Stone’s bearded leader” for this year’s bottle art design. She transformed the three collaborators into unique renditions of “Star Wars” characters, with Koch playing the woolly role of everyone’s favorite wookiee.

At 13 percent alcohol by volume and with the highest concentration of midi-chlorians seen in a beer, the Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout may be enjoyed fresh, or cellared for several months or years to give way for the deliciously rich flavors to mature and develop more prevalent dark cocoa, coffee and nut notes.

The brew will be a centerpiece of the celebration at Hopcon 4.0 on July 20 in San Diego, where Paul and Storm will be among the many guests.

Our annual celebration of nth-degree beer geekery is back for a fourth round, and this time all 66,000 square feet are dedicated to the convergence of geek culture and beer culture. More retro arcade games, more casks and more bars add up to a release party large enough to match the formidable Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout.

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, Lisa Goldstein, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Red Wombat.]

Pixel Scroll 6/16/16 Schroedinger’s Kzin

(1) ARM-WRESTLING WITH A PUBLISHER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sees writers as too prone to follow rules, and too prone to think themselves as powerless in the face of contractual language: “Business Musings: Thus, Lawyers, and Writers (Contracts/Dealbreakers)”.

Lawyers aren’t afraid of thugs and goons and cartoon characters that go bump in the night. They’re not afraid of someone who plays the Big Dog and says, You’ll never work in this town again. Lawyers generally say, Well, let’s see.

Lawyers know there’s usually a solution—and it’s often as simple as standing up and saying to the person on the other side of the contract, I’m not playing your silly game. No. I’m not doing it. Now, what are you going to do?

…. Here’s the bottom line, people. I know a bunch of you are stuck in contracts you don’t like. Publishers are reinterpreting contracts in whole new ways, ways that they never looked at in the past.

The big shift is that publishers no longer see themselves as manufacturers and distributers of books. They’re running a rights management business, which means taking advantage of the full copyright on a property, instead of licensing a tiny part of that copyright. (If you don’t understand that sentence, get a copy of the Copyright Handbook. If you’re too damn lazy or cheap to do that, at least see this blog post of mine.)

(2) ATWOOD. “Margaret Atwood awarded 2016 PEN Pinter Prize”.

Canadian poet, novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood has been awarded the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. She will receive her award at a public event at the British Library on the evening of Thursday 13 October, where she will deliver an address.

Margaret Atwood was chosen by this year’s judges Vicky Featherstone, Zia Haider Rahman, Peter Stothard, Antonia Fraser and President of English PEN and Chair of Judges, Maureen Freely.

The judges praised Atwood as a ‘consistent supporter of political causes’, adding ‘her work championing environmental concerns comes well within the scope of human rights … she is a very important figure in terms of the principles of PEN and of Harold Pinter’.

Atwood said:

I am humbled to be the recipient of the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. I knew Harold Pinter and worked with him – he wrote the scenario for the film version of The Handmaid’s Tale, back in 1989 – and his burning sense of injustice at human rights abuses and the repression of artists was impressive even then. Any winner of such an award is a stand-in for the thousands of people around the world who speak and act against such abuses. I am honoured to be this year’s stand-in.

(3) GUY WITH A GUN. Bruce Arthurs wrote about this army experience in 2012 after the Aurora theater shooting, and it’s relevant again this week: “Shots In The Dark, or, How I Became A Sharpshooter”.

Several ammo clips later, I and the other trainees have finished the Night Firing exercise and gather around to get our scores. I get a high score.  I get a surprisingly high score.  I get an astonishingly high score, far above the type of scores I’d gotten during daytime firing exercises.  I get a score so high that suddenly I’ve moved up into Sharpshooter-level numbers. That Holy Shit guy?  He skunked it.  Didn’t hit a single target. Well, let’s revise that statement, because it doesn’t take much time or brains to figure out what happened.  In the dark, with everyone firing around him, with multiple targets and multiple dim flashes, he’d gotten his orientation just slightly off and had been shooting at the wrong target.  The target of the guy next to him.  At my target.

(4) HOWARD TAYLER’S TAKE ON GUN OWNERSHIP.

(5) FIRST FIFTH. Joe Sherry continues his series at Nerds of a Feather with “Reading the Hugos: Novel”. Number five on his ballot is: The Aeronaut’s Windlass:

Butcher’s novel is the only finalist not on my nomination ballot. Prior to last year, I was completely unfamiliar with Butcher’s work. I knew that it existed, but until Skin Game‘s nomination, I had never read anything Butcher wrote. Happily, Skin Game was a solid read and one that I vastly preferred over the eventual winner, The Three-Body Problem. The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first volume in a steampunk epic fantasy series from Butcher. I like it more than Skin Game, and I’m happy to be getting in on the ground floor of the series rather than jumping in at Book 15 like I did with the Dresden Files. The setting was fantastic (airships and insanely tall towers), but what drew me in was the characters. Gwen, Benedict, Brother Vincent, Bridget Tagwynn, Rowl, Captain Grimm, and pretty much everyone across the board are what sold me on this book. These are characters I would love to spent more time with.

This is one of those spots on my ballot that I could realistically swap positions with the next one up. I think Seveneves is an overall a better book, but I enjoyed The Aeronaut’s Windlass just about as much as I did Seveneves, just in different ways. They are two very different sorts of novels, and I’m down for more of Butcher’s Cinder Spires series, but Seveneves gets the nod today.

Sherry’s first installment was – “Watching the Hugos: Dramatic Presentation Long Form”.

(6) CONCLUSION OF FROZEN SKY. “Jeff Carlson has finished his Frozen Sky trilogy and the third book is by far the biggest and most ambitious of the 3 books,” reports Carl Slaughter. Frozen Sky 3: Blindsided was released June 11.
Carl interviewed Jeff in 2014 for Diabolical Plots. He was nominated for the John Campbell and Philip Dick awards and has been published in Asimov’s.

The aliens in The Frozen Sky are intelligent, but they look a bit like squids, they don’t speak and they don’t have sight. Why not bipedal aliens like Vulcans or Klingons or Romulans with vocal cords and eyes?

Because I’m not constrained by a production budget! Ha. “Let’s glue some ears on him. We’ll glue some forehead thingies on them. Okay, we’re done.”

Star Trek is good fun but limited in presentation. That’s the beauty of being a novelist. The medium requires the reader’s imagination. Yes, I direct the action, but hard sf readers are smart readers. They want to be strangers in a strange land. So I can say, well, I have this claustrophobic three-dimensional low-gravity environment like the mazes of an ant farm inside Europa’s icy crust. What would kind of creatures would evolve here? Six-foot-tall bipedal creatures like people? Heck no.

Jeff’s other series is the Plague series.

(7) GREAT GHOSTBUSTERS POSTER.

(8) EARLY WRITING. Jami Gray gets a great interview — “Hugo award winner, Seanan McGuire visits with latest InCryptid novel!”

Many writers have that first novel which will never see the light of day. Out of curiosity, do you have one stashed somewhere? Inquiring minds want to know: what was your first attempt at writing and how old were you?

My first serious attempt at writing was a fourteen-page essay when I was nine, explaining to my mother why she had to let me read Stephen King. It had footnotes and a bibliography. I finished my first book when I was twelve. It was called Dracula’s Castle, and if I knew where it was, I’d probably put it online.

(9) MORE STORIES. Editor Glenn Hauman’s Indiegogo appeal to fund the Altered States of the Union anthology has an update – “We’re annexing new territory!”

The response to the concept behind Altered States has inspired a lot of authors to join in the fun, so we’re proud to announce we’re expanding the book by almost 60%, adding new stories by:

  • Russ Colchamiro
  • Peter David
  • Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • Robert Greenberger
  • Meredith Peruzzi
  • Aaron Rosenberg
  • David Silverman & Hildy Silverman
  • Anne Toole

(10) A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU. Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt will be on a book tour in the US in June and July, courtesy of TOR. The trip includes three appearances in California, including an LA-vicinity stop at Dark Delicacies Bookstore in Burbank on the evening of Tuesday, July 19.

TOH-US-Tour-2016

(11) MEDIA STRATEGY. Vox Day’s tells followers at Vox Popoli that his new philosophy is “Don’t talk to the media!”

In light of my ridiculous experience with Wired and after seeing how multiple media outlets turned to George RR Martin and John Scalzi to ask them to interpret my actions, I now turn down most media requests. I do so literally every week; I just turned down two yesterday alone. The media is not in the business of reporting the news, they are in the business of selling their masters’ Narrative.

(12) A MAD GENIUS ON THE HUGOS. Kate Paulk devotes half of “Hugo Awards – The Nominee Highlights – Best Fanzine” to criticizing Gregory Benford’s intention to vote for Steve Stiles in the Best Fan Artist category. Yet his reasons for supporting Stiles — Steve’s years of accomplishment as a cartoonist — parallel my reasons for voting for Toni Weisskopf as Best Pro Editor in 2015.

(13) PRINCE OF TIDES, THE GREAT SANTINI. George R.R. Martin urges readers to donate:

Pat [Conroy] passed away in March… but his books will live on, and so will his memory. In his memory, his family has now establishing a Pat Conroy Literary Center in his beloved home town of Beaufort, South Carolina. You can read about it here: http://patconroyliterarycenter.org/ A worthy project, I think. I’ll be donating. I urge all of you who love good writing to do the same.

(14) LOOKING FOR LAUGHS? The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog is enthusiastic about Joe Zieja’s humorous Mechanical Failure.

Comedy is a tricky beast, especially in science fiction. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is unquestionably a towering achievements of the form, but after than, opinions vary wildly (we’d wager John Scalzi has equal numbers of fans who either want him to stop trying to be funny, or to stop writing books that are so serious). It’s rare in genre to find a book that can do satire without being preachy, comedy without being entirely silly (not that a little silliness is a bad thing), and still manage toss a little “science fiction” into the mix. Joe Zieja’s debut novel, Mechanical Failure (the first part of the Epic Fail trilogy, which gives you a hint as to what you’re in for) makes as good a bid as we’ve seen in quite some time, diving headfirst into full-on military SF parody and making it look easy.

(15) UPJOHN OUTPACED BY REALITY? Alexandra Erin’s facing a challenge that reminds me of the one Garry Trudeau faced while producing Doonesbury during the Watergate era — it’s hard to be more absurd than real life.

Mr. Upjohn’s post-con report from WisCon is still forthcoming; it’s evolved and grown a few times since the con actually ended as I took reality onboard , which once again has made parody seem tame. When actual flesh and blood con attendants are decrying the “dystopian” tape lines designating travel lanes on the crowded party floor, I clearly need to step up the game.

Meanwhile, Erin writes, “I’d really love to close out my WorldCon fundraiser” – still needs $375.

(16) CHANGE OF ADDRESS. Juliette Wade has ported her TalkToYoUniverse content to her Dive Into Worldbuilding site.

Introducing the Dive into Worldbuilding Workshop at Patreon!

Dive into Worldbuilding started in 2011 – five years ago – when Google+ introduced their hangouts feature and I decided it would be fun to hang out with fellow writers and talk about worldbuilding. Since then, it has grown and changed, from just a bunch of friends meeting online with no record except my written summaries, to a meeting that got recorded and sent to YouTube, to a show featuring a wide variety of guest authors as well as regular topic discussions. With each change, my goal has been to reach a wider variety of interesting people, listen to more interesting views on worldbuilding, and share insights with as many people as possible.

Today, I’m taking it a step further with the Dive into Worldbuilding Patreon – which is also the Dive into Worldbuilding Workshop.

This Patreon will do more than just support my research into panel topics. It will help me to pay my guest authors for their time and expertise – but it will also let me help more of you.

(17) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 16, 1816 — At the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron reads Fantasmagoriana to his four house guests—Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori—and challenges each guest to write a ghost story, which culminates in Mary Shelley writing the novel Frankenstein, Polidori writing the short story The Vampyre, and Byron writing the poem Darkness.

[Thanks to Petréa Mitchell, Vincent Docherty, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/9/16 Pet Symmetry

(1) REMEMBERING HARTWELL. Rudy Rucker has one of the best personal tributes to the late David G. Hartwell that I’ve read.

In 2005, Dave got me invited to give the keynote talk at ICFA, the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, held in a brutally cold motel Florida. One of the organizers quipped, “We don’t come here for the sun, we come here for the air-conditioning.”

Dave told me that a member of the committee had said, “We can’t invite Rucker, he’s a difficult drunk,” and Dave told him, “Not any more.” By then I’d been sober for nearly ten years. I said to Dave, “I wonder if my drinking years had a bad effect on my career.” Dave said, “I don’t think so. Even now, I still talk to people who are very disappointed when they see you at a con and you aren’t swinging from the chandeliers.”

(2) JEMISIN DISCUSSES ROWLING’S NEW WORLD MAGIC. N.K. Jemisin’s verdict on Rowling’s magical North America is: “It could’ve been great.”

…I’m still careful, even with “dead” faiths, because I don’t know how playing with these things might hurt real people. Nations have been built upon and torn down by the concepts I’m playing with. The least I can do is research the hell out of a thing before I put a toe in that ancient water.

It’s even more crucial for religions that are alive, and whose adherents still suffer for misconceptions and misappropriations. But these are easier to research, and it’s often much easier to figure out when you’re about to put a foot right into a morass of discrimination and objectification. All the evidence is there, sometimes still wet with blood. You just need to read. You just need to ask people. You just need to think….

Anyway. This is just to say that there’s a number of ways Rowling could’ve made her Magical North America work without causing real harm to a lot of real people. That would be for her to have treated American peoples — all of us — with the same respect that she did European. Pretty sure she would never have dreamt of reducing all of Europe’s cultures to “European wizarding tradition”; instead she created Durmstrang and Beauxbatons and so on to capture the unique flavor of each of those cultures. It would’ve taken some work for her to research Navajo stories and pick (or request) some elements from that tradition that weren’t stereotypical or sacred — and then for her to do it again with the Paiutes and again with the Iroquois and so on. But that is work she should’ve done — for the sake of her readers who live those traditions, if not for her own edification as a writer. And how much more delightful could Magic in North America have been if she’d put an ancient, still-thriving Macchu Picchu magic school alongside a brash, newer New York school? How much richer could her history have been if she’d mentioned the ruins of a “lost” school at Cahokia, full of dangerous magical artifacts and the signs of mysterious, hasty abandonment? Or a New Orleanian school founded by Marie Laveau, that practiced real vodoun and was open/known to the locals as a temple — and in the old days as a safe place to plan slave rebellions, a la Congo Square? Or what if she’d mentioned that ancient Death Eater-ish wizards deliberately destroyed the magical school of Hawai’i — but native Hawai’ians are rebuilding it now as Liliuokalani Institute, better than before and open to all? …

(3) BAR’S NEW NAME. SF Site News, in its story “Geek Bar Rebrands”, reports that Geek Bar Chicago has changed its name to SFCO.

The rebranding will also bring in an influx of video consoles, late night programming, and new hours, Sunday and Wednesday from 5pm to 10pm, Thursday and Friday from 5pm to Midnight, and Saturday from 3 pm to 2 am. The bar will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. In addition to their game selection, SFCO will continue to offer a rotating menu of geek-themed signature cocktails and a pop culture reference-filled menu items. The news of the rebranding was followed by former CEO David Zoltan announcing that he had resigned from Geek Bar in January.

(4) JULIETTE WADE’S FANCAST. Juliette Wade’s TalkToYoUniverse is a great place to find regular coverage of “linguistics and anthropology, science fiction and fantasy, point of view, [and] grammar geekiness.” Wade is often joined by a guest writer, as in the latest installment, “Andrea Stewart – a Dive into Worldbuilding”.

Something that makes Wade’s project exceptional is that every episode is accompanied by a post fully detailing what was discussed. Here are the first few paragraphs about her visit with Stewart –

We were joined for this hangout by author Andrea Stewart, who told us a bit about her worldbuilding and her work. Her work has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, IGMS, and Galaxy’s Edge.

We started by talking about a piece she had in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Set in a psudo-Chinese culture, it featured an opium den with magical smoke, in a place where the land surrounding the city was dying and this had become the people’s escape. Very cool story! Andrea explained that her mom is a Chinese immigrant, so half her family is Chinese. One of the key differences, she says, is in conversational interaction style.

I asked her about her series, the Changeling Wars. She told me that it had begun as a writing exercise, where every person in a group picks a word, and then each member has to write a piece that uses all the words chosen by the group. She describes this series as being part of a move from dark fantasy to a bit lighter fantasy. The first book begins when a woman walks in on her cheating husband, and her emotion is so powerful in that moment that it awakens magic in her. It turns out she’s a changeling, and not just adopted, as she believed.

Andrea has very warm words for writing exercises, which she says can spark ideas you might not otherwise come up with.

There are 101 Worldbuilding hangouts in the index, 25 featuring special guests, including Aliette de Bodard, N.K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, Myke Cole, Usman T. Malik, Cat Rambo, Sofia Samatar and Isabel Yap.

(5) IN FOR A DIME. Sonia Orin Lyris tells how she “Will Build Worlds for Spare Change” at The Fictorians.

The next week my inbox was filled with indignant treasures, among them this: “No, no, no! This is NOT a D&D game. Coins have names! Coins have histories!”

I instantly knew how right she was. Knew it like the contents of my own pocket.

Pennies. Nickels. Dimes. Not “coppers.” Not “large silvers.”

I dove back into my research and emerged soaked in currency-related facts, from minting to metals, from Greece to China. The facts went on and on, as did the likeness of people and horses and birds and insects, of ships and buildings, of angels and flowers, of myths and monarchs.

So many coins, each symbolizing their culture’s prosperity and priorities. Its very self-image.

I now understood that not only did coins have names and histories, but they were keys to wealth and power, to trade and politics. Coins affected everyone, from rulers to merchants to the poorest of the poor. Coins mattered, and mattered quite a bit.

Coins had names and histories. They had faces. Coins traveled.

That’s when it hit me: Coins are stories.

(6) EVEN MORE WORLDBUILDING ADVICE. Coining words is the focus of “This Kind of World Building :: An Interview with Sofia Samatar” at Weird Sister.

Kati Heng: One thing that always amazes me is when a writer is able to make up not just a story, but also an entire language behind it. Like all creative writing, there must be rules you set for its creation. Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind Olondrian, and especially how the names of characters were created?

Sofia Samatar: Making up the languages was one of my favorite parts of creating the world of Olondria. The biggest influence on the Olondrian language is Arabic, which I had studied before writing A Stranger in Olondria, and was speaking daily while writing the book in South Sudan. I was inspired by Arabic plurals, for example, to devise a complicated system of plural patterns for Olondrian. Olondrian pronouns resemble Arabic pronouns as well. And, like Arabic, Olondrian has no P sound (any word with a P in it has been imported from another language).

The creation of the language was closely tied to the development of names. I don’t have anything close to a complete Olondrian vocabulary, but I do know what the names mean. “Vain” means forest, for example, so there are a bunch of “vains” on my map — Kelevain, Fanlevain, and so on. “Kele” means hunting. “Fanle” means apple.

To invent the names, I chose small chunks of sound that seemed pretty to me and played with combining them. Few activities can be more self-indulgent. It was wonderful

(7) VALLEY FORGE SHARES CoC DRAFT. The Valley Forge in 2017 NASFiC bid’s “Progress Update 2” links to its draft Code of Conduct and other policies. (They also unveiled their mascot, Proxie the Celestial Raccoon.)

Next, we have had a number of queries about what our code of conduct will look like if and when we win the bid. Like I mentioned in the last progress update, we’ve been working on a draft of the CoC for a while now, and it has been a whole heck of a lot of work for the entire team. After many, many hours of sweat and toil by all of us, we’re happy to be able to share version 1.0 of the Valley Forge 2017 Code of Conduct (html version) with you.

Now obviously, calling it “version 1.0” implies that we expect updates, and we do. The convention is a long way (and a successful vote) away and there are some details that we just can’t get in place until we have more structure, like phone numbers and room locations and websites. A lot can change in a year and a half, so what you see here may not be exactly the same thing you see if and when you show up at our door – but substantively, we are happy with what we have and are proud to put our names behind it. If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear it.

We’re also elbow-deep in the guts of an internal procedures manual for how to deal with a variety of scenarios, including what to do if we receive a report of a code of conduct violation. That’s not quite ready for prime time yet, and may not be ready until we have a more formal concom structure in place of our current bidcom (in other words, until and unless we win the bid). If we can whip something into releasable shape before then, we will publish that as well.

(8) THE KESSEL RUNS. It is alleged the full title of Kitbashed’s “Complete History of the Millennium Falcon” is “The Complete Conceptual History of The Millennium Falcon or How I Started Worrying and Lost My Mind Completely Over a Fictional Spaceship Someone Please Do Something Send Help Why Are You Still Reading Someone Do Something.”

The Pork Burger

The ILM model shop built the new Pirate Ship model, and quickly found a way to distinguish it from the old one in conversation, namely by adopting Grant McCune’s nickname for it: The Pork Burger.

And if you want my theory, that’s where the myth of the design being based off of a burger Lucas was eating got started.

(9) FURRY CUSTOMS. The Independent learned from Twitter that “Syrian refugees in Canada got housed in same hotel as VancouFur furry convention and the children loved it”.

The fifth annual VancouFur convention, in which people dress up as fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics, was held at the same hotel where a number of Syrian refugees are currently being housed.

A message was given to all attendees at the convention that the hotel had been chosen as one of the temporary housing locations for the Syrian refugees in Canada, and that “a major concern that VancouFur has is ensuring that each and every one of the refugees (and attendees) feels welcome and safe and the fact that this is likely to be a major shock to them”.

“Keep in mind that they likely will not want to interact with you and consent is important to everyone,” the message added.

But luckily for everyone involved, the refugees – especially the children – loved it.

 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born March 9, 1911 — Clara Rockmore.

Rockmore was a master of the theremin, the world’s first electronic music instrument and first instrument that could be played without being touched.

On what would have been her 105th birthday, Rockmore has been commemorated with a Google Doodle. The interactive game teaches you to play the theremin by hovering your mouse over the notes to play a melody.

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(11) PROPHET IN HIS OWN LAND. Even George R.R. Martin won’t be allowed a hometown premiere of Game of Thrones Season 6.

And yes, it’s true. After last year’s unfortunate leak, HBO is not sending out any press screeners this year, to try and cut down on the piracy.

They have also eliminated all the regional premieres, including (sob) the one we had scheduled at my own Jean Cocteau Cinema. This year the only premiere will be the big one in LA at Grauman’s Chinese.

The Jean Cocteau will, however, go ahead with our season 5 marathon. Admission is free, so watch our website and newsletter for show times.

(12) LESSER OF TWO WEEVILS. Joe Hill brings his skills as a professional horror writer to bear on the Presidential race in his latest “Perspective”.

I asked my three sons and a cousin what would be scarier: 8 years of a Trump presidency, or two kaiju attacks, one on Washington D.C. and one on L.A., separated by 8 years. Assume standard kaiju size (20 stories, 80,000 tons), atomic breath, acid blood, probably the ability to produce subsonic blasts with one whap of the tail. Immune to conventional nuclear weapons. Highly aggressive.

By a vote of 3 – 1, they agreed two kaiju attacks would be much worse for the nation than if Trump were to become President of the United States. So if you feel depressed by Trump’s toxic mix of misogyny, xenophobia, and bullying, look to this for a cheer-up. It could be worse. You could be jellied beneath the trampling scaly feet of a salamander the size of a skyscraper.

Admit it. You feel better all ready.

(13) THIS JUST IN. “New Survey Finds 92% Of Evangelicals Would Have Supported Genghis Khan” reports Babylon Bee.  

Genghis Khan, the genocidal warlord who conquered most of Central and Northeast Asia during the first part of the thirteenth century, enjoys widespread support from twenty-first century evangelicals, a new CNN poll revealed Tuesday.

“The level of support for the Supreme Khan of the Mongols is off the charts,” explained Malcom Johnstone, the pollster who conducted the survey for CNN. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Clearly, there is a strong correlation between being pro-God and pro-Genghis.”

Still, many Christians question the accuracy of the new findings.

Like Buddy Buchanan of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “I’ve been in a Bible church my whole life, and I’ve never met anyone who likes this Genghis fellow,” Buchanan revealed to sources. “I just don’t get it. I can’t think of a single person who supports him. I remember there was a cool-looking Khan in one of those Star Trek movies, but I don’t think that’s the same guy.”

(14) SHARKNADO FOUR. “Syfy and The Asylum announce Sharknado 4 casting”Sci-Fi Storm has the story.

Syfy and The Asylum announced today that Ian Ziering will slay again in Sharknado 4 (working title), reprising his role as shark-fighting hero Fin Shepard, while Tara Reid is set to return as April Wexler to reveal the outcome of the fan-voted #AprilLives or #AprilDies social campaign. The fourth addition to the hit global franchise also sees the return of David Hasselhoff as Gil Shepard and Ryan Newman as Claudia Shepard.

(15) FOREVER FANS. Future War Stories presents the case for picking Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War as the best military sf work.

In 1974, Joe Haldeman, armed with his bachelors in Physics and Astronomy along with his experiences in the Vietnam War, would craft a military science fiction tale of UNEF soldier William Mendella. This book, The Forever War, would go on to win every major award and prize, rocketing Joe Haldeman into the realm of sci-fi literature. Since its original publication, The Forever War would be re-edited, translated into every major language, and be adapted into various forms, including an major studio film has been in the works since 2008 and the effort seems to be active. The book’s legacy is being hailed has the best military science fiction book of all time and it has been a source of inspiration for decades. In this installment of the continuing Masterworks series, we will explore and explain why Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is the best literary military science fiction work. A word of caution: this blog article contains spoilers on key moments of the book. Read at your own risk!

(16) STROSS INTERVIEW. Charles Stross, in an interview at SFF World, thinks magic might be a better metaphor for one of sf’s typical tropes.

And what of newer authors? Are there any personal favourites?

In the past year, I’ve read and been incredibly impressed by Seth Dickinson’s “The Traitor” (US: “The Traitor Baru Cormorant”); grim, harrowing, and deeply interesting for his use of secondary world fantasy as a tool for interrogating kyriarchy. I’ve also been impressed by Alyx Dellamonica’s “Child of a Hidden Sea” (and sequel “A Daughter of No Nation”), V. E. Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic”, and Naomi Novik’s “Uprooted”—secondary world/portal fantasies for the most part. SF … I find myself having a knee-jerk reaction against most of what comes to me as highly-recommended or highly popular SF these days; I think this is partly because—for me, these days—magic works better as a metaphor for depicting alienating technology than actual ham-fisted attempts at describing the thing in itself. (And also because so much of the exotic tech in SF is basically warmed-over magic wands.)

(17) VINESPLAINING. In this GEICO commercial, Tarzan and Jane get into an argument about asking for directions. (I may have linked this before, but I can’t find it…)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James H. Burns, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]