Pixel Scroll 6/14/16 The Scroll Above The Port Was The Color of a Pixel, Encoded in a Dead Website

(1) BIG CON BUSINESS. At ICv2 Rob Salkowitz analyzes “Three Convention Trends We Could Do Without”, art scammers, pay to (cos)play and –

Indifference to fan experience. The rising prominence of cons means more and more families and individuals plan vacations and big-ticket trips around these experiences. The expectations are higher, and more at stake for the business in delivering great experiences.

Naturally, each year, there are always a few bad cons, and bad moments at good cons. These are complex events to organize, and well-meaning folks can get in over their heads. I find it’s best to never attribute to malevolence what can adequately be explained by incompetence.

But as the industry becomes more competitive and conventions become more templated, it’s easy to see how organizers can get so focused on the “best practices” for separating fans from their money that they lose sight of the big picture: that this whole business is built on fun and passion.

The more shows become dependent on tightly-booked celebrities, the more likely that some fans will get the runaround. It’s already astounding to me how much some fans will put up with – and spend – to get a few seconds and a photo with a famous media personality. But when cons lose control of this process, either because they are not following through on little details like whether the photos actually came out properly, or because they are having a behind-the-scenes business dispute with their talent, as happened at Houston’s Space City Comic Con a few weeks ago, it’s the fans who suffer.

(2) THREE BODY. Carl Slaughter delivers another awesome interview: “Liu Cixin, The 3 Body Problem, and the Growth of SF in China”. Where? Here!

CARL SLAUGHTER: Why was science fiction not taken seriously in China until several years ago?

LIU CIXIN: Actually, the 80s was a peak period for Chinese science fiction.  Some books during that period sold as many as 4 million copies.  When public officials deemed parts of science fiction socially unhealthy, publishers went through a slump.  In the 21st century, science fiction in China made a comeback.  This might be related to China’s modernization.  Modernization focuses people’s attention on the future.  They see the future as full of opportunities, as well as crisis and challenges.  This set the stage for the development of science fiction and an interest in this literary form.

(3) GAMER. In “Guest Post: Better Sci-Fi Through Gaming, by Yoon Ha Lee”, the author talks about growing up gaming, for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Not that I needed writing a novel an excuse to play games, mind you. But it made for useful background. One of the major characters in the novel basically is a game designer; he comes  from the Shuos faction, which likes using games and game design in its pedagogy. It’s something I can trace back to my excellent 8th grade teacher Mr. Capin, who taught social studies and made use of simulations. I’ll never forget the Middle East sim, in which the class was divided up into different nations. I was assigned to “Israel.” Mr. Capin also played the role of the USA, and from time to time, the “USA” would drop “foreign aid” on us. The other groups hated us instantly. Another time, we did the “Roman Senate,” with Mr. Capin playing the role of “Julius Caesar.” He gave me the opportunity to try to stop him, so long as I didn’t spoil what was to come. I was insufficiently persuasive, and he assassinated me. (I have never been prouder to have a teacher announce, “Senator Yoon is dead.” God knows, that’s the closest I’ll ever come to a government position!) It was very visceral, and I’ve never forgotten how vivid the lessons became in that format.

(4) GHOSTBUSTED. “Doc” Geressey, a fixture at cons in NC, SC, and VA for several years, known for having a very exact Ghostbusters replica vehicle and dressing up as a Ghostbuster with friends, has been charged with soliciting a child on social media.

The Gaston Gazette reports:

Michael “Doc” Robert Geressy, 36, of South New Hope Road, has been charged with soliciting a child for sex act by a computer and appearing to meet a child.

Detectives with the Lincolnton Police Department conducted an undercover sting operation involving Geressy. An officer posed as a 14-year-old child on social media. Geressy reportedly discussed meeting to engage in sexual activity.

When Geressy arrived at the predetermined location and was arrested, he was wearing a black suit, tie and sunglasses, police said, like characters in the movie, “Men in Black.” Geressy showed up driving a 1987 Ford Crown Victoria that is a replica of the car used in the movie, according to reports. The vehicle had emergency light equipment as well as after-market toggle switches to replicate the car seen in the movie, police say.

Another member of The Carolina Ghostbusters told the reporter that the group disbanded a year ago, however, they were advertised as appearing at XCON World in Myrtle Beach last month.

carolina_ghostbusters

(5) MESZAROS OBIT. Michu Meszaros, an actor who brought the titular alien in ’80s sitcom “Alf” to life, has died reports Variety. He was 76.

I had no idea – I thought Alf was a puppet….

(6) TEMERAIRE. Kate Nepveu reviews the series finale: “The Temeraire Series Sticks the Landing: Non-Spoiler Review of League of Dragons”, at Tor.com.

Let me put the conclusion up front: League of Dragons sticks the landing, and if you like the series overall, you should read it. It handles gracefully the general challenges of concluding a long series, and it has lots of the best parts of the series to date, and not that much of the worst.

The general challenges are, by this point, fairly well known. The final book of a long series has to address long-standing problems, without being boringly obvious; surprise the reader, without being unfair; maintain continuity, without letting past decisions unduly constrict the story; and give the reader a satisfying sense of where the important characters wind up, without overstaying its welcome.

I think League of Dragons does well on all these fronts.

(7) A PG-RATED DRAGON. Disney dropped the official trailer for Pete’s Dragon today.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 14, 1938 — The first Superman comic book — Action Comic No. 1 — was published

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • June 14, 1909 – Burl Ives, the voice of Gepetto in a Pinocchio TV movie, and Sam the Snowman in Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, who also had a role in an episode of Night Gallery.
  • June 14, 1949 – Harry Turtledove

(10) WHY WAIT FOR THE MOVIE? Based on viewing the trailer, BBC popular culture writer Nicholas Barber gives the Ghostbusters remake a thumb’s-down, but only for the “right” reasons: “Why the sexists get Ghostbusters wrong”.

Fast-forward 32 years, and it doesn’t look as if much of that innovation and counter-cultural grubbiness has made it into the new film. From what we have seen of it so far, Feig’s version will be a slavish copy of Reitman’s – right down to the cameos by Slimer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man – except with bright and shiny CGI replacing practical effects, and all-for-one togetherness replacing cynical opportunism. But the one thing it has got right is its casting. After all, the Ghostbusters were always meant to be unconventional underdogs. They were meant to be the last people you would expect to save the world from demonic forces – just as the film as a whole was meant to challenge your preconceptions of what a summer blockbuster could be. And one ingenious way to give both the new film and its protagonists that pioneering freshness is to have women in the lead roles.

(11) RADIANCE. Speculiction hosts Jesse Hudson’s “Review of Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente”.

Working with the art of filmmaking, the relationship between the fictional and the real, and Hollywood of old, Radiance is a novel that possesses every ounce of Valente’s literary awareness and fervor for language. Paul Di Filippo calls it “uncategorizable fantastika,” which is, in fact, a shortcut from Valente’s own more complex but accurate description: “a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery.” Dynamic to say the least, the milieu is never allowed to desiccate into simple retro-pulp homage, going further to tell a rich, multi-faceted tale of one woman’s life and legacy in Hollywood’s Golden Age—or what it would have been were the solar system alive with humanity.

(12) MONEY IN HAND. Buy a first edition of Logan’s Run, signed and decorated by Bill Nolan, from Captain Ahab’s Rare Books.

  1. Nolan, William F. and George Clayton Johnson. LOGAN’S RUN – INSCRIBED TO HERB YELLIN. New York: The Dial Press, 1967. First American Edition. First Printing. Octavo (23cm); red pebbled paper-covered boards, with titles stamped in black on spine; dustjacket; [10], 134pp. Inscribed by the author to his long-time friend and publisher on the half-title page: “A GEN-U-INE LOGAN 1ST!! / To Herb, with hand, and with friendship, Bill Nolan / June 4, ’80.” At the center of the page Nolan has drawn an open hand with crystal disc in red, blue, and black ink; he has also tipped a typed 41-line bio of himself (measuring 2.75″ x 3.5″) onto the opposite page. Pinpoint wear to spine ends and corners, with upper rear board corner gently tapped (though still sharp); very Near Fine. Dustjacket is unclipped (priced $3.95), lightly shelfworn, with a few short tears, shallow loss at crown, with a few small chips along edges of front panel; an unrestored, Very Good+ example.

Nolan’s best-known work, a novel which takes place “after a strange act of nuclear terrorism, forcing the remaining population into underground keeps; a youth culture takes over, instituting the dystopian rule that all those over twenty-one must be killed to combat overpopulation” (Encyclopedia of Science Fiction). Basis for Michael Anderson’s Oscar-nominated 1976 film, starring Michael York and Farrah Fawcett. Sargent, p.144.             $1,750.00

Logans Run nolan auto

(13) SIMAK FAN. The Traveler at Galactic Journey is excited about this recently-completed serial: “[June 14, 1961] Time is the simplest thing… (The Fisherman, by Clifford Simak)”.

If you’re a fan of Cliff’s, you know that he excels at writing these intensely personal stories, particularly when they have (as this one does) a rural tinge.  The former Fisherman’s transformation into something more than human is fascinating.  Blaine’s voyage of self-discovery and self-preservation is an intimate one, a slow journey with a growing and satisfying pay-off.  The pace drags a little at times, and Simak adopts this strange habit of beginning a good many of his sentences with the auxiliary words “for” and “and,” which lends an inexorable, detached tone to the proceedings.

Still, it’s an unique book, one that I suspect will contend for a Hugo this year.  It single-handedly kept Analog in three-star territory despite the relative poor quality of its short stories and science articles.

I won’t spoil things for The Traveler by blabbing about what else came out in 1961 if you won’t….

(14) THE SPY WHO SLAGGED ME. James Bond vs Austin Powers – Epic Rap Battles of History – Season 5.

[Thanks to Laura Haywood-Cory, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 6/2/16 Scroll Songs of an Old Pixel

(1) WHO NEXT. From The Guardian, “Doctor Who showrunner says there was going to be a black Doctor”.

The starring role in BBC1’s Doctor Who was offered to a black actor but it “didn’t work out” according to the series showrunner, Steven Moffat.

Moffat said it would be “amazing” to have two non-white leads after Pearl Mackie, whose father is from the West Indies, was cast as the Doctor’s companion earlier this year.

He said the producers took a conscious decision to cast a non-white actor as the companion “because we need to do better on that. We just have to”.

Moffat said the show had tried to go one further by casting the first non-white Doctor, but the choice later fell through….

Moffat said Doctor Who had “no excuse” not to feature a diverse cast of black, Asian and minority ethnic actors. “Sometimes the nature of a particular show – historical dramas, for instance – makes diversity more of a challenge, but Doctor Who has absolutely nowhere to hide on this,” he said.

“Young people watching have to know that they have a place in the future. That really matters. You have to care profoundly what children’s shows in particular say about where you’re going to be.

“And we’ve kind of got to tell a lie: we’ll go back into history and there will be black people where, historically, there wouldn’t have been, and we won’t dwell on that. We’ll say, ‘To hell with it, this is the imaginary, better version of the world. By believing in it, we’ll summon it forth.’

“And, outside of the fiction, it’s about anyone feeling that they can be involved in this industry as an actor, a director, a writer … It’s hugely important, and it’s not good when we fail on that. We must do better.”

(2) ‘MASS EFFECT. Mark-kitteh is excited that “Quatermass will return to television in a new series on BBC America”.

Quatermass is returning to television – over a decade since the character last visited the small-screen.

Created by legendary writer Nigel Kneale, Professor Bernard Quatermass is a genius scientist who battles alien forces.

First appearing in the BBC’s 1953 serial The Quatermass Experiment, the character has gone on to feature in numerous TV and film projects.

Now, BBC America is revisiting the character for a new series written by The League of Gentlemen‘s Jeremy Dyson, reports Variety.

(3) TEA AND JOCULARITY. Rachel Swirsky did an interview with Ann Leckie, or rather a “Silly Interview with Anncillary Leckie, Yes I said That, I’ll Be Here All Night”. Includes photos of Leckie’s bead jewelry.

RS: I’ve been reading your Raadchai stories for eleven years now (Yeah, eleven years. Let that sink in.) and I know the gloves and tea were in them by the time I started reading. Were they part of the initial germ of the Raadch, or if not, how did they evolve?

They weren’t part of the initial germ, but they got into the mix pretty soon after that. And I’m not sure where they came from or why they stuck–it just kind of worked for me somehow.

Which is how a lot of things are when I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll see someone say, like, “Oh, and this detail here, this is obviously Leckie doing this profound intentional thematic thing” and I’m like, no, actually, it was shiny, or else it made the story work the way I wanted it to, but I am  not going to speak up and spoil the impression that I was actually doing this very sophisticated thing!

(4) SILLY SYMPHONIES. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra features LACO @ the Movies, an evening of Disney Silly Symphonies on Saturday, June 4 @ 7 pm The Orpheum Theatre.

Experience movie magic! Conducted by six-time Emmy® Award-winning conductor and composer Mark Watters, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performs the score live for an evening of Disney Silly Symphonies. These classic shorts, Walt Disney’s earliest experiments in animation, set timeless fables and fantastical scenes against a backdrop of lively classical music. With LACO providing the accompaniment live in the theatre, it’s an evening that’s sure to exhilarate your senses!

There’s no better setting for this night of classic cartoons than The Orpheum Theatre, one of LA’s most opulent and lovingly restored movie palaces in the historic downtown Broadway District. Bring the whole family and enjoy the show.

projecting on the silver screen a curated selection of landmark animated shorts including the first commercial short produced in Technicolor and five Academy Award winners!

  • The Skeleton Dance (1929)
  • Flowers and Trees (1932)
  • Three Little Pigs (1933)
  • The Old Mill (1937)
  • The Ugly Duckling (1939)
  • The Country Cousin (1936)
  • Music Land (1935)

(5) A SPAGHETTI EASTERN. Aaron Pound reports on Balticon 50 in The Tale of the Good, the Bad, and the Shoe-Cop.

The Good: There was a lot that went right at Balticon 50. This was a unique event, as Balticon invited all of its previous guests of honor back to celebrate the fiftieth time this convention had been held. As a result, the lineup of guests was quite impressive for a relatively small regional convention, and a similar event is probably not going to happen outside of a Worldcon for at least a few years….

The Bad: Balticon 50 had a lot of issues. Some were beyond the control of the convention staff. The following problems, however, are pretty much squarely on them.

One glaring problem was that programming was a mess, and apparently so from the beginning of the convention. Balticon provided both a large convention book containing a schedule and a pocket guide that also had a schedule. The first problem was that these schedules were incompatible with one another, each listing events at different times – they diverged by a half an hour, which unsurprisingly served to make it difficult to figure out when an event was supposed to take place. The second problem was that many program participants had schedules that were, as Mur Lafferty described it, “temporally impossible”, with many participants double-booked for two events at one time, or booked with back-to-back events separated by several hotel floors…..

And the Shoe-Cop story? I musn’t lift all of Aaron’s material. Go read the post.

(6) LAW WEST OF THE AMAZON. “Amazon sues sellers for buying fake reviews”: TechCrunch has the story.

As part of its effort to combat fake reviews on its platform, Amazon sued three of its sellers today for using sock puppet accounts to post fake reviews about their products. Amazon has been aggressively pursuing reviewers it does not consider genuine over the last year, often using lawsuits to discourage the buying and selling of reviews, but this is the first time it has sued the sellers themselves.

Today’s suits are against sellers who Amazon claims used fake accounts to leave positive reviews on their own products. The fake reviews spanned from 30 to 45 percent of the sellers’ total reviews. The defendants are Michael Abbara of California, Kurt Bauer of Pennsylvania, and a Chinese company called CCBetter Direct.

(7) BYRON PREISS BACK IN THE NEWS. The late publisher’s clues have yet to be fully deciphered, as Vice explains in “The 35-Year Long Hunt to Find a Fantasy Author’s Hidden Treasure”.

There is a treasure buried somewhere in Milwaukee. Not just in Milwaukee, but in nine other North American locations, including (possibly) New York, San Francisco, and Montreal. And it’s not so much “treasure” as hunks of ceramic encased in Plexiglas. But one man’s trash is another man’s marketing strategy.

The treasures were hidden in 1981 by publisher Byron Preiss, as part of his plan to promote his new book, The Secret. Preiss’s fantasy paperback (which predated the identically titled self-help book by a quarter of a century) included a series of puzzles in the form of cryptic verses with matching images. If solved, they’d lead readers to a real-life ceramic bin, or “casque,” containing a key to a safe-deposit box, which held a gem worth roughly $1,000….

The next puzzle wasn’t solved until 2004, when an attorney named Brian Zinn tracked down a casque in Cleveland from a verse that mentioned Socrates, Pindar, and Apelles (all three names are etched into a pylon at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens). After four hours of digging holes, he found the casque buried next to a wall marking the perimeter of the gardens.

To date, the Cleveland casque is the last known resolved puzzle. “Byron Preiss, according to family and friends, figured all of them would be found upon publication. I don’t think he realized how difficult the poems were,” said James Renner, an author and filmmaker who’s working on a documentary about the book.

Preiss died in a 2005 car crash at age 52, and never disclosed the locations of the remaining casques. His publishing house went bankrupt and was acquired by a rival press. Many people viewed the sale as the last chance to redeem the gems, suggesting now, there may only be empty bins.

But 35 years later, people are still searching….

As for the gems, which were believed to be confiscated in bankruptcy proceeding after Preiss’s death, Preiss’s widow Sandi Mendelson told VICE they’re safely in her possession and will be available to the first people to recover the remaining casques.

“If somebody would find something, yes,” said Mendelson. “I haven’t done anything with them, so they’re still around.”

(8) FAN WRITER. Kate Paulk resumes her study – “Hugo Awards – The Nominee Highlights – Best Fan Writer”.  She frankly concludes, “At least one of the nominees probably should be there…”

(9) HEMSTREET’S WAVE. Ray McKenzie reviews The God Wave at Fantasy Literature.

Like The Martian before it, it is the science in The God Wave that makes for such an engrossing and convincing tale. The story feels utterly believable and meticulously researched, whilst not being overbearing; the novel will please hard- and soft-sci-fi fans alike. Hemstreet uses plenty of familiar tropes throughout, and you’ll recognise scenes reminiscent of Alien and Star Trek.

(10) VICTORIAN GAZING DRAGON. Hampus Eckerman said, “Seeing the nice posable dragon in the last pixel scroll reminded me of this dragon illusion.”

Hollow Face Illusion Dragon

Ever seen those illusions where there is a face that seems to turn toward you? I’ve seen it in theme parks and museums like the Exploratorium, and the Disneyland Haunted House thing. But, now you can make your own. All you need is a printer and some scissors!

 

(11) SEEING REALITY. Kameron Hurley asks “Is Living Worth It?”.

Being that close to death all the time changes the way you think about life. It’s why I feel such an affinity for other people who’ve been through it, or who are going through it. My spouse is a cancer survivor. He had just finished the last of his radiation a few months before we met. We understood life in a way that only people who’ve stared at death really do.  You appreciate the little things a lot more. You constantly feel like you’re running on borrowed time.

Most of all, you get how precious life is, and you do your damnedest to hold onto it.

In reading this post from Steven Spohn over at Wendig’s site, I was reminded of this again. I may have all the appearances of being able-bodied, but when people talk about tossing out people for being defective, I can tell you that somewhere on there, no matter how far down, I am on that list. I know that because before I got sick, I put people like me on that list. I believed in “survival of the fittest.” What I didn’t realize is that “fittest” is a lie. The “fittest” don’t survive. There are some truly ridiculous animals out there (pandas??? Narwhales??). Those who survive are the most adapted to their particular niche. That is all. They are not stronger or smarter or cooler or better built or more logical.

(12) THE DARK SIDE. Smash Dragons  interviews horror writer Hank Schwaeble.

What is it about horror and dark fiction that appeals to you the most? 

The peek behind the curtain.  Not necessarily a peek at something real, but a peek at the sort of things that we might wonder about that we don’t understand.  Few of us believe there really are goblins in the shadows, but what if there were?   That’s the nature of shadows—you don’t really know what’s in there.  What we do know, however, is that there is a dark side to life, to human nature.  Horrors and atrocities are real, so exploring them in fictional ways allows us to deal with them intellectually and philosophically.  I don’t believe it’s just morbid curiosity, either.  Our brains are wired to sense things about the world, about our environment.  We are driven to explore, to discover, to learn.  We enjoy so many creature comforts, so many sources of entertainment, so many colors and sights and recreations, I think many of us are drawn to seek out the opposite as a way of reminding ourselves of how good things can be.  It’s like listening to the blues.  People don’t play Muddy Waters to be depressed, they listen to him to be reminded of struggles, of adversity, of our common humanity.  People like me, I believe, like dark fiction because a part of ourselves like to swim in deep waters, to be reminded that we can be afraid, intrigued, mystified.  When we lift ourselves from the pages, the world seems a much brighter place.

(13) SPEND MORE MONEY. Disney and Lucasfilm are getting their prop makers into the retail business.

Propshop, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, is now making official prop replicas of its work from The Force Awakens available to collectors in a new line called Star Wars Collectibles: Ultimate Studio Edition. Wave one is a treasure trove of memorable gear from the film: FN-2187 (i.e., Finn) Stormtrooper Helmet (with blood streaks!), Kylo Ren Helmet, Poe Dameron X-wing Helmet, Darth Vader Helmet (Melted), Rey Staff, Chewbacca Bowcaster, Kylo Ren Lightsaber Hilt, and Rey Lightsaber Hilt. Propshop is making them the same exact way it made the original props: 3D prints of the final output made for the film, all hand-painted by the original prop makers.

For example, the melted Darth Vader helmet (a limited edition of 500) goes for $3,750.

(14) IS LONGER BETTER? There will be an R-rated extended edition of Batman v. Superman available for digital purchase on June 28 and on disc July 19 says CinemaBlend.

Although Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was especially intense for a PG-13 movie, the “Ultimate Edition” is including extended or brand new action scenes that are more comfortable nestled in rated-R territory. So if you liked the original version’s fights, get ready for even more bombastic throw-downs. Along with these sequences, this cut is also including 30 minutes worth of scenes cut from the theatrical release, taking the runtime to over three hours. This includes one (or several) featuring Hunger Games star Jena Malone. Several months ago, it was rumored that she was playing Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl/Oracle. However, in this trailer, she’s seen with blonde hair and looks like she’s working at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean she’s still not Barbara. Maybe this version dyed her hair and took a job at the Planet to separate herself from the Bat-Family. Still, this is peculiar.

 

(15) HOWDY STRANGER. The Space Between Us comes to theaters August 19.

In this interplanetary adventure, a space shuttle embarks on the first mission to colonize Mars, only to discover after takeoff that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Shortly after landing, she dies from complications while giving birth to the first human born on the red planet – never revealing who the father is. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Gardner Elliot – an inquisitive, highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing.

While searching for clues about his father, and the home planet he’s never known, Gardner begins an online friendship with a street smart girl in Colorado named Tulsa. When he finally gets a chance to go to Earth, he’s eager to experience all of the wonders he could only read about on Mars – from the most simple to the extraordinary. But once his explorations begin, scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere.

Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team of scientists and joins with Tulsa on a race against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe.

 

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doctor Science.]

Pixel Scroll 2/23/16 The Lurker at the 5% Threshold

(1) THE PUPPET’S INSIDE STORY. Mary Robinette Kowal livestreamed “Ask a puppet about publishing” today. The answer to the old standby “Where do you get your ideas?” got perhaps the truest answer that has ever been given to this question.

(2) GREG KETTER MAKES NEWS. The legendary Minneapolis bookstore is featured in Twin Cities Geek — “From the Stands: DreamHaven Books Is Still Standing”.

Dreamhaven

A later memory I have of the store is hearing Neil Gaiman read his book The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish there upon the book’s rerelease in 2004. I remember maybe 35 or 40 people in the store, which can’t be correct—there must have been more than that to see Neil Gaiman—though I’m certain it was a number far smaller than you’d expect to see today, in the age of expanded cons, fandom, and the Internet social-media grapevine. Except for running into Gaiman a few weeks later at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival (and a few other places, actually—that was a weird summer), I wouldn’t see him again in the flesh until an MPR Wits show last year, crammed into the Fitzgerald Theater with over 1,000 other fans. That show was a little closer to what one would expect of a Gaiman sighting, where Neil is a smudge, his pale face and customary black clothes treating us to an impromptu and sparsely populated Mummenschanz show against the stage’s dark backdrop, not at all the mild, T-shirted man with the roiling mind, reading to us about the best deal you could get in a trade for your dad.

… Last April, DreamHaven returned to normal store hours with the help of Alice Bentley, a former business partner of Ketter’s. The two co-founded the Chicago bookstore The Stars Our Destination in 1998, which Bentley ran by herself from 1994 until 2004, when she closed the store, moved to Seattle, and got out of the book business. Says Ketter of Bentley, “She had been out of books for a while, and she really wanted to get back in. So, she moved to [Minneapolis] from Seattle and she’s partnering with me . . . She’s very knowledgeable; in the last 11 or 12 years since she left, things have changed a great deal [but] she’s been very happily relearning the book business.” The two now run the business as partners, with Ketter as the “go-to guy for questions” and Bentley employing her “love of spreadsheets” to keep the business on track.

(3) SPURNING PASSION. Andrew Porter recalls, “I wanted to reprint a Tolkien poem first published in the 1940s, and Tolkien refused me permission — and then he refused a whole bunch of other people including Ballantine Books, and it’s still not been ‘officially’ published. But some people got tired of waiting for “official” publication, and here it is, on the web: “The lay of Aotrou and Itroun” (1945).

A witch there was, who webs could weave
to snare the heart and wits to reave,
who span dark spells with spider-craft,
and as she span she softly laughed;
a drink she brewed of strength and dread
to bind the quick and stir the dead;
In a cave she housed where winging bats
their harbour sought, and owls and cats
from hunting came with mournful cries,
night-stalking near with needle-eyes.

(4) TELL ME IF YOU’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE. At MeTV, “7 reused props on television that will make you do a double-take”.

Neosaurus Disguise:

Lost in Space’s creator Irwin Allen liked to recycle props, but one of his most notable ones was reused by another iconic ’60s TV show. The neosaurus disguise first appeared in Lost in Space:

(5) NEW SAWYER NOVEL. Robert J. Sawyer’s 23rd novel Quantum Night will be released March 1 in hardcover, ebook (all formats), and as an audiobook from Audible.

Robert-J-Sawyer-novel-Quantum-Night

What if the person next to you was a psychopath? And that person over there? And your boss? Your spouse? That’s the chilling possibility brought forth in bestselling author Robert J. Sawyer‘s new novel Quantum Night. Psychopaths aren’t just murdering monsters: anyone devoid of empathy and conscience fits the bill, and Sawyer’s new science-fiction thriller suggests that there are as many as two billion psychopaths worldwide.

A far-out notion? Not at all. As Oxford Professor Kevin Dutton, the bestselling author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, says, “Sawyer has certainly done his homework about psychopaths and he understands well that, far from being just the occasional headline-grabbing serial killer, they’re everywhere.”

Sawyer says: “Reviewers often call me an optimistic writer — one of the few positive voices left in a science-fiction field that has grown increasingly dystopian. I like to view my optimism as a rational position rather than just naïveté, and so I felt it was necessary to devote a novel to confronting the question of evil head on: what causes it, why it flourishes, why there seems to be more and more of it — and what we can do about it. The theme is simple: the worst lie humanity has ever told itself is, ‘You can’t change human nature.’”

Click to read the opening chapters. Details of the Canadian and U.S. stops on Sawyer’s book tour can be found here.

(6) OSHIRO STORY CONTINUES. Here are links to new posts dealing with Mark Oshiro’s published harassment complaint.

The Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, Inc. (KaCSFFS) is the sponsor of ConQuesT, the oldest convention in the central states region. The KaCSFFS Board of Directors oversees ConQuesT, but the day-to-day operations of the convention are done by the volunteer chairs and convention committee, who change from year to year.

In light of recent issues we feel that more oversight of the convention committee as a whole is necessary by the KaCSFFS Board of Directors. This is being addressed by the current Board of Directors as we speak.

KaCSFFS is profoundly sorry that these issues arose, and the policies in place were not followed through to completion. We are taking steps to ensure that future complaints are addressed appropriately and in compliance with current policies and procedures in place.

Posted by Jan Gephardt

The KaCSFFS Board of Directors is: Margene Bahm, President, Earline “Cricket” Beebe, Treasurer, Kristina Hiner, Secretary, Jan Gephardt, Communications Officer, Keri O’Brien, ConQuesT Chairperson for 2016, and Diana Bailey, Registered Agent.

From SFF and romance convention attendees alike. To the point that I’ve applied some probably unfair stereotyping of my own, in deciding that media and writers’ conventions in Those Four States (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri) are probably off limits to me. If I won a lottery tomorrow and travel costs were not an issue…I probably wouldn’t change my decision.

I get told, rightfully so: ‘That’s unfair. We have lovely, diverse people at X convention or Y festival! By not attending, you are letting the bad people win!”

True. I know some good people in those places. I’d love to visit them. There is a large romance convention in Texas and an even bigger SFF gathering in Kansas City that I *should* attend for career reasons. (Except that the romance con has a dismal record respecting M/M romance authors, and I’m not sure I’m at the professional level to go to the SFF con yet.)

By not attending, I’m not validating some indefensible behavior from con committees who keep getting away with this shit, and use fans and sane staffers as their human shields. I’m not paying into the tax coffers of hotels, cities, and corrupt hypocritical legislatures who still seem to be stuck in Pre-Civil Rights America. By myself, I’m a nobody, and I only have power over what I personally spend and buy.

I was unlucky enough to get tapped for a self-pub panel at CONQuest (Kansas City 2013) that consisted of me and two gatekeepers who bloviated the entire time, talking over anything I had to say. Lawrence M. Schoen was the moderator who opened his introductory email to me with a declaration that nobody should self publish unless they’d already been vetted by the publishing industry. He also used the term “politically correct” which prompted the following response from me:

“Please do not use the term ‘politically correct’ in my presence. My colleagues and mentors include survivors of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Soviet GULag. Current American usage of this term trivializes these mass atrocities in the service of defending lazy-minded reflexive bigotry.”

In response, he doubled down on his insistence on right to say anything he liked.

On the panel, Silena Rosen was particularly notable for her crude, hostile manner as well as rant about how self-pub was shit, fanfic was public masturbation, yadda yadda yadda. Schoen wasn’t so much a moderator as a partner in the pile-on. I had quality assurance experience from multiple industry jobs, and a whole list of suggestions for editorial collectives and the like. They talked right over me as loudly as they could. None of that stuff even got said.

I felt the whole time as if I were fighting with both hands tied behind my back. I was there to give the audience new ideas and perspectives and to present myself with courtesy and professionalism; they were there to beat me up in public.

I don’t know anything about the Oshiro thing. Is that the one where the guy was the GoH at a con and didn’t get treated well? I’ve seen that in passing is all. I can only assume that if File 770 is upset over it, they’re either on the wrong side, or just plain stupid.

A bunch of comments from File 770 are reproduced in that same thread. Which is great, because it proves how many of Larry’s fans find this blog despite his refusing to allow pingbacks from my posts, and how they force the rest to read the material anyway.

(7) REASONS WHY DOING NOTHING IS WORSE. Jim C. Hines reviews the recent history of convention antiharassment policy enforcement in “The Importance of Having and ENFORCING Harassment Policies at Cons”

I get it. It’s one thing to write up policies on harassment and appropriate behavior for a convention. It’s another to find yourself in the midst of a mess where you have to enforce them.

Emotions are running high. The person accused of violating the policy isn’t a mustache-twirling villain, but someone who’s been attending your con for years. They’ve got a lot of friends at the con — possibly including you. If you enforce the consequences spelled out in your policies, someone’s going to be upset. Someone’s going to be angry. Someone’s going to feel hurt. It feels like a no-win situation.

And it is, in a way. There’s nothing you can do to make everyone happy. But we’ve seen again and again that there’s a clear losing strategy, and that is to do nothing. To try to ignore your harassment policy and hope the problem goes away on its own.

It won’t. As unpleasant as it is to be dealing with a report of harassment, doing nothing will make it worse. Here are just a few examples from recent years.

(8) THE F IN SF IS NOT FILLET. Seeing a comment on File 770 about all the fiction with “bone” in the title, Fred Coppersmith recommended:

(9) HENCEFORTH THEY WILL BE CALLED FUCHSIA HOLES. Gazing at black holes – “What does a black hole actually look like?” at Vox.

Impossibly dense, deep, and powerful, black holes reveal the limits of physics. Nothing can escape one, not even light.

But even though black holes excite the imagination like few other concepts in science, the truth is that no astronomer has actually seen one….

We do have indirect images of black holes, however

Some of the best indirect images of black holes come from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, where Edmonds works. “The friction and the high velocities of material forming out of a black hole naturally produces X-rays,” he says. And Chandra is a space telescope specially designed to see those X-rays.

For example, the Chandra observatory documented these X-ray “burps” emanating from the merger of two galaxies around 26 million light-years away. The astrophysicists suspect that these burps came from a massive black hole: …

Similarly, the fuchsia blobs on this image are regions of intense X-ray radiation, thought to be black holes that formed when two galaxies (the blue and pink rings) collided: …

Be sure to check out the fuzzy but fascinating video showing the proper motion of stars around an apparent black hole.

(10) YES THERE IS A DRAGON. Pete’s Dragon official teaser trailer.

(11) FARTHER BACK TO THE FUTURE. TechnoBuffalo declares “This fan-made Back to the Future prequel trailer is amazing”.

There’s never going to be a Back to the Future sequel or reboot—at least as long as director Robert Zemeckis is alive. With that in mind, what if there was a prequel? Didn’t think of that, did you? I sure didn’t, but after seeing the trailer above, I’d totally be on board.

If you’ve never seen BTTF (what’s wrong with you?), it begins with Doc Brown revealing to Marty that the only way to produce the 1.21 Gigawatts necessary to time travel is to use plutonium. The prequel would be a story about how Doc Brown gets hands on the plutonium, which he only mentions in passing in the original film.

The prequel trailer was brilliantly edited together by Tyler Hopkins, who used footage from various movies featuring Christopher Lloyd (the actor who played Dr. Emmett Brown).

 

(12) HE’S A MARVEL. “Stan Lee Makes a Cameo During Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 30th Anniversary Panel”. (Check out the photo at the post — Stan looks younger than Frank!)

In Los Angeles to celebrate the 30th Anniversary Edition of the book’s release, Miller sat down with IGN to talk about The Dark Knight Returns’ enduring legacy, what makes Batman relevant, and why he keeps coming back to the character. He then took the stage for a Q&A moderated by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, where he discussed his initial apprehension at reinventing such an established character, the impact he’s had on future creators, and who would win in a fight between Batman and Captain America.

The evening took an unexpected turn right out the gate as Miller’s panel was interrupted by an audience heckler. That heckler turned out to be none other than Marvel Comics legend/cameo king Stan Lee, who was on hand to celebrate pal Miller’s accomplishments. Lee of course demanded to know who would win in a showdown between publisher mainstays Batman and Captain America, to which Miller slyly responded “Robin.”

(13) THE ICON’S IMAGE. Abraham Riesman profiles the icon in “It’s Stan Lee’s Universe” at Vulture.

A comic-book Methuselah, Lee is also, to a great degree, the single most significant author of the pop-culture universe in which we all now live. This is a guy who, in a manic burst of imagination a half-century ago, helped bring into being The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, and the dozens of other Marvel titles he so famously and consequentially penned at Marvel Comics in his axial epoch of 1961 to 1972. That world-shaking run revolutionized entertainment and the then-dying superhero-comics industry by introducing flawed, multidimensional, and relatably human heroes — many of whom have enjoyed cultural staying power beyond anything in contemporary fiction, to rival the most enduring icons of the movies (an industry they’ve since proceeded to almost entirely remake in their own image). And in revitalizing the comics business, Lee also reinvented its language: His rhythmic, vernacular approach to dialogue transformed superhero storytelling from a litany of bland declarations to a sensational symphony of jittery word-jazz — a language that spoke directly and fluidly to comics readers, enfolding them in a common ecstatic idiom that became the bedrock of what we think of now as “fan culture.” Perhaps most important for today’s Hollywood, he crafted the concept of an intricate, interlinked “shared universe,” in which characters from individually important franchises interact with and affect one another to form an immersive fictional tapestry — a blueprint from which Marvel built its cinematic empire, driving nearly every other studio to feverishly do the same. And which enabled comics to ascend from something like cultural bankruptcy to the coarse-sacred status they enjoy now, as American kitsch myth.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Moshe Feder, Paul Weimer, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

How Rich Was Smaug?

After his first attempt was pilloried by fantasy fans and bean-counters alike, Forbes writer Michael Noer has vastly increased his estimate of the value of Smaug’s horde. See “How Much is a Dragon Worth, Revisited”

Citing errors in everything from the value of the “Arkenstone of Thrain” to the price of mithril armor, Fictional 15 fans critiqued nearly every aspect of my calculation, usually concluding that I had vastly underestimated the old flamethrower’s net worth. One reader, gvbezoff, pegged Smaug’s wealth to be $870 billion, calling it a “conservative estimate.” For context, that’s about 12.5 times richer than Carlos Slim Helu, the planet’s richest non-fictional being.

[Thanks to Janice Gelb for the story.]

Dragons to Download

Famed mythopoeic artist and author James A. Owens has made his autobiography about succeeding as an artist, Drawing Out the Dragons, available as a free download until midnight July 4:

Drawing out the Dragons is, I believe, my best, most vital, most necessary work. The responses I’ve gotten since releasing the ebook in April have, at least in part, shown me that my readers feel the same way. But still, as passionate as the comments, letters, and reviews have been, it’s difficult for someone to really explain what the book is, and what effect reading it can have on someone’s life….

There is no reciprocation expected or required, and there is no limitation on the number of downloads during the timeframe of this offer. If you know more than ten people you feel would like it – write to more. Twenty. Fifty. A Hundred. Right now, until midnight tomorrow, the book is free to download and read.

What everyone who does read it chooses to do then is entirely up to them. As all good choices should be.

Dragon Net

Although my family prefers to believe dragons come from the pen of James Owen, some scientists now claim dragons come from the land Down Under. At least, the Komodo kind of dragon and its much larger, extinct relatives.

For the last 4 million years, Australia has been home to the world’s largest lizards, including the 16-foot-long giant (5 meters) called Megalania, once the world’s largest terrestrial lizard but which died out some 40,000 years ago.

They wonder why the Komodos of Australia died out. For a change the explanation for a vanished species is not that hungry 19th century British sailors ate them all:

Were humans involved? “We have no evidence for this because the youngest Komodo fossils in Australia are around 300,000 years old, well before humans arrived. So we don’t know whether the Komodo dragons in Australia died out before humans arrived or after. So the jury will remain out on this question until a better fossil record is found.”