Pixel Scroll 9/11/18 The Pixellist’s Scroll Is Missing

(1) LEVAR BURTON. The good news is: Episode 32 of LeVar Burton Reads features the actor’s voicing of “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon.

(2) FLORENCE. The bad news is, the hurricane is bearing down on Oor Wombat –

(3) DOMINOS START TO FALL. Tampa Bay Online reports: “In wake of San Diego Comic Con trademark case, Tampa Bay Comic Con changes name”.

Tampa Bay Comic Con has changed its name to Tampa Bay Comic Convention.

The change comes less than two weeks after a federal judge in California ordered organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con to pay nearly $4 million in attorneys’ fees and costs to San Diego Comic Convention in a trademark infringement suit.

With the award, judge Anthony J. Battaglia affirmed a December 2017 jury verdict that Dan Farr Productions infringed on San Diego Comic Con’s trademarks by operating conventions under the name “Salt Lake Comic Con.”

Tampa Bay Comic Con co-founder Stephen Solomon, a manager at Imaginarium, the company that has run Tampa Bay Comic Con and similarly-branded comic conventions around the U.S. since 2010, confirmed the name change Wednesday after re-branded images appeared on the convention’s social media. Solomon declined to comment on whether that ruling had anything to do with the Tampa Bay Comic Con name change.

(4) SPECIAL CLARION WEST WORKSHOP. Fireside Magazine’s Elsa Sjunneson-Henry will teach a Clarion West One-Day Workshop on “Worldbuilding for Disabled Characters” in Seattle on October 7. Registration info at the link.

The world as it is now, is not what we would call disability friendly. The social model suggests that disability has little to do with one’s medical condition, and everything to do with how society reacts to disability. This class will go over both models of disability (social and medical) and talk about how theories of disability can be used to create your world to include disabled characters. How do magic systems work without creating loopholes to cure disabilities in your setting? How can disability exist on a space station?

This class will help you not only envision the contemporary setting of today with a better understanding of what disabled characters go through, but to create worlds without barriers (or with barriers that aren’t erasure.)

(5) LONDON’S FORBIDDEN PLANET. The Independent expresses its appreciation for Forbidden Planet, celebrating its 40th anniversary: “How cult comic book shop Forbidden Planet changed the way we consume geek culture”.

…Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, American comic books could be picked up in newsagents, often shelved alongside the home-produced titles such as Beano, Misty, Whizzer and Chips, and Warlord.

But while you could generally guarantee that your friendly neighbourhood newsagent would be able to procure for you British comics week in and week out, American titles such as Spider-Man were a different matter. Supply was random and the monthly comics would appear in uncertain quantities, and you could never guarantee that your newsagent would get the following month’s Uncanny X-Men, or even that they would get in any American comics at all….

Today, most towns have a specialist comic shop which works on this model, but one of the most venerable and successful brands is Forbidden Planet, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary and enjoying a position at the top of the market for not only monthly comics but the ever-growing world of geek culture that takes in action figures, toys and collectible movie merchandise.

(6) LE GUIN’S IMPACT. Becky Chambers explains “How The Left Hand of Darkness Changed Everything” at LitHub.

…I wasn’t around when the book made waves in 1969, but ripples remained in 2001, that most futuristic of years. I was in the thick of adolescence, and in a fit of who-cares-about-college rebellion, I’d abandoned Honors English. I was sick of morality tales about brooding men and tragic women, of five-paragraph essays and teachers who didn’t sympathize with my indignation toward how Odysseus treated Penelope. Instead, I enrolled in an elective course: Science Fiction and Fantasy. I walked in there, with my Star Wars notebook and my Star Trek sensibilities and my brain full of role-playing games, and I felt like I’d beat the system. Like I was getting cake for breakfast….

…I soon discovered that elective courses still meant book reports, and my teacher recommended me a title: The Left Hand of Darkness. I still have the copy I bought for class, acquired on a bookstore trip involving my parents’ car and my parents’ money. It’s sitting beside my keyboard now, dog-eared and scarred, full of acid green highlighter. The highlighter isn’t related to the book report. The highlighter came after, as I read the book again and again and again. I can’t say if I’d read any science fiction written by a woman before that point, but I’d certainly never read any science fiction like that. There were no lasers, no damsels, no chosen ones. There was war, yes, but a real war, a war not for the fate of the galaxy but for hatred and fear (things that rang true while living in America in late 2001). There was science, too, but it wasn’t the science of physics or technology. It was the science of culture. The science of bodies. These sciences were every bit as worthy, The Left Hand said, and writing fictions of them was powerful business….

(7) TOLKIEN IN THE FALL. Adam Roberts cannot resist — “J R R Tolkien, “The Fall of Gondolin” (2018)”. In fact, he really doesn’t want to.

…Tolkien’s son Christopher has, over the last four decades, edited eleven thousand (give or take) posthumous volumes of his father’s unpublished writing. The previous instalment in that endeavour, 2017’s Beren and Lúthien opened with him declaring: ‘in my ninety-third year this is presumptively the last book in the long series of editions of my father’s writings’. Such presumption evidently proved premature, for here is The Fall of Gondolin (HarperCollins 2018), plumped-up with eight full-colour Alan Lee illustrations and prefaced by Christopher Tolkien’s wryly revisited promise: ‘I must now say that, in my ninety-fourth year The Fall of Gondolin is (indubitably) the last’. This is the end/Beleriand friend/The end.

I didn’t need this book. I bought this book anyway. I already knew the story of the mighty human warrior, Tuor, beloved of the Vala Ulmo (a sea-god, Tolkien’s Poseidon), who travels through a Middle Earth occupied by the forces of darkness under the evil Vala Melko (in essence; an in-the-world Satan) and his armies of orcs, Balrogs, dragons and other nasties….

I still bought it, mind.

What did I buy? (Why did I buy it? Well, duh)….

(8) FAULTY APPEALS TO AUTHORITY. Annalee Flower Horne raises the point that arguments about historical accuracy may be undermined by the historical source they rely on. (Thread starts here.)

(9) 2018 HUGO ANALYSIS. Mark Kaedrin opines about “Hugo Awards 2018: The Results”.

The Stone Sky wins best novel and N.K. Jemisin becomes the first author ever to win three in a row. I have not been a particular fan of the series, but people seem to love these books. Too much misery porn for my liking, which always kept me at an arms length from the characters and story. Forcing myself to read the three books over the past few years (if I’m going to vote, I’m going to read the books; the authors deserve that much) probably doesn’t help. I don’t see why this series in particular deserved the three-peat, but this third book was actually my favorite of the series, so there is that (in fact, the only real baffling winner in the series was the second book, which suffered from clear middle-book-in-a-trilogy problems. I can definitely see why the first and third books won.) The other funny thing about this is that a few years ago, they created a whole award for “Best Series” that could have potentially cut down on the number of sequels in the Best Novel category, but that clearly isn’t happening. Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire came in second, and probably would have been my choice (though I certainly get the criticisms of it, it was a lot more fun and pushed my SF buttons more than most of the other nominees). New York 2140 came in last place, which also matches my preference…

(10) TODAY’S DAY

(11) QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I was continuing to shrink, to become… what? The infinitesimal? What was I? Still a human being? Or was I the man of the future? If there were other bursts of radiation, other clouds drifting across seas and continents, would other beings follow me into this vast new world? So close – the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet – like the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens. The universe, worlds beyond number, God’s silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of man’s own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends is man’s conception, not nature’s. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!”  –  The Incredible Shrinking Man

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 11 – Sharon Lee, 66. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories, as well as other works including the Agent of Change and Great Migration series, and  the author by herself of two mystery novels. They strongly oppose fanfic written in their universe.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pluto has a long memory at F Minus.

(14) JUSTICE FOR PLUTO. The University of Central Florida weighs in: “Pluto a Planet? New Research from UCF Suggests Yes”.

The reason Pluto lost its planet status is not valid, according to new research from the University of Central Florida.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, a global group of astronomy experts, established a definition of a planet that required it to “clear” its orbit, or in other words, be the largest gravitational force in its orbit.

Since Neptune’s gravity influences its neighboring planet Pluto, and Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper belt, that meant Pluto was out of planet status.

However, in a new study published online Wednesday in the journal Icarus, UCF planetary scientist Philip Metzger, who is with the university’s Florida Space Institute, reported that this standard for classifying planets is not supported in the research literature.

The Daily Mail, in “Pluto SHOULD be a planet: Astronomers claim controversial demotion was based on ‘since-disproven reasoning'”, says this is the cruxof the controversy:

Since Neptune’s gravity influences its neighboring planet Pluto, and Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper belt, that meant Pluto was out of planet status.

However, the new study reviewed scientific literature from the past 200 years and found only one publication – from 1802 – that used the clearing-orbit requirement to classify planets, and it was based on since-disproven reasoning.

IBTimes wants the decision overturned: “Planet Or Dwarf? Pluto Incorrectly Lost Planetary Status, Study Suggests”.

Apart from that, the researchers also noted scientists have been using the term planet to describe moons as well, like Jupiter’s Europa or Saturn’s Titan.

“We now have a list of well over 100 recent examples of planetary scientists using the word planet in a way that violates the IAU definition, but they are doing it because it’s functionally useful,” Metzger added.

The researchers added bodies, particularly those like Pluto, should be classified on the basis of their natural properties rather than features that could change – like their orbit.

The Universe Today, in “New Reasons why Pluto Should be Considered a Planet After All”, adds depth:

As an alternative, Metzger and his colleagues claim that the definition of a planet should be based on its intrinsic rather than extrinsic properties (such as the dynamics of its orbit), which are subject to change.  In short, they recommend that classifying a planet should be based on whether or not it is large enough that its gravity allows for it to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium (i.e. becomes spherical). As Metzger explained:

“Dynamics are not constant, they are constantly changing. So, they are not the fundamental description of a body, they are just the occupation of a body at a current era… And that’s not just an arbitrary definition. It turns out this is an important milestone in the evolution of a planetary body, because apparently when it happens, it initiates active geology in the body.”

(15) THE OPOSSUM FACTOR. Matthew Wills makes his case for Pogo being “The Most Controversial Comic Strip” at JSTOR Daily.

During the 1950s, Walt Kelly created the most popular comic strip in the United States. His strip was about an opossum named Pogo and his swamp-dwelling friends. It was also the most controversial and censored of its time. Long before Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury blurred the lines between the funny pages and the editorial pages, Kelly’s mix of satiric wordplay, slapstick, and appearances by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev, J. Edgar Hoover, and the John Birch Society, all in animal form, stirred up the censors.

Taking place in a mythic Okefenokee Swamp, Pogo satirized the human condition as well as McCarthyism, communism, segregation, and, eventually, the Vietnam War. The strip is probably best remembered today for Pogo’s environmentalist’s lament, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

(16) A BIG, SEXY DINOSAUR. A new book, The Dinosaur Artist, delves into the world of commercial fossil hunters, smuggling, and the international implications. Author Paige Williams is interviewed by Becky Ferreira for Vice’s Motherboard (‘The Bizarre True Crime Story Surrounding a ‘Big Sexy Dinosaur’”) about the book and the stories behind it.

Motherboard: What first inspired you to report on Eric Prokopi’s case, first for The New Yorker and now in a full-length book?
Paige Williams: In the summer of 2009, I happened to be home (I’m from Mississippi). I was sitting in a coffee shop reading the Tupelo Daily Journal, my hometown paper, and came across this little news brief about a dinosaur thief from Montana. His name is Nate Murphy, and he’s in the book—just barely.
But I couldn’t believe there was such a thing as a dinosaur thief. I didn’t understand how it was possible or why anyone would want to do it. I really like subcultures and understanding why people inhabit them, and it just seemed like a world that was fascinating and full of authentic characters—people who are aggressively themselves, who are irreverent, and who sometimes break the law, though most of them don’t.
Then, this Prokopi case came along. I liked it because had so many threads worth exploring—the international trade, the Gobi Desert, Mongolian culture and history, New York, Florida, Virginia, Tucson, and Denver, and every fossil zone in between. It just had a lot worth pursuing and following.

(17) A DIFFERENT KIND OF CLASS. No formal registration for this one:

(18) BROUGHT TO YOU BY. The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport says NASA is open to ideas for commercialization, including ads in space and having astronauts make commercial endorsements: “Why NASA’s next rockets might say Budweiser on the side”.

The constant creep of corporate America into all aspects of everyday life — from the Allstate Sugar Bowl to Minute Maid Park — may soon conquer a new frontier.

The final frontier.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has directed the space agency to look at boosting its brand by selling naming rights to rockets and spacecraft and allowing its astronauts to appear in commercials and on cereal boxes, as if they were celebrity athletes….

But during a recent meeting of a NASA advisory council made up of outside experts who provide guidance to the agency, Bridenstine announced he was setting up a committee to examine what he called the “provocative questions” of turning its rockets into corporate billboards the way advertisements decorate NASCAR race cars.

“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don’t know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is.”

(19) MARVEL. X-Men: The Exterminated #1 arrives this December.

Cable has fallen, and the events of Extermination have left a hole in the X-Men family. What comes next??

In the wake of Cable’s death, his adopted daughter Hope Summers is attempting to deal with her loss – but a dark and terrifying path beckons her, and the X-Men’s own Jean Grey may be her only hope for survival!

This December, CABLE creative team Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler re-team for a special one-shot to say good-bye to the time-traveling, fan-favorite mutant – featuring covers by Geoff Shaw and a special back-up story that celebrates the life of Nathan Summers, from legendary X-Men series writer Chris Claremont!

“This issue is our chance to say a proper farewell to Cable, to honor his legacy, and to really see the immense impact the time travelling mutant had on those closest to him,” said Nadler. “Most importantly, it’s about how the Summers family copes with grief, and the difficulty of forging ahead. The issue is packed with fan favorite X-Men from all different eras, and we’re super excited to be bringing them together, despite the somber occasion.”

(20) BOUCHERCON. Tampa Bay Online’s Colette Bancroft had many kind words to say about last week’s Bouchercon: “It’s no mystery why fans, authors gathered for Bouchercon in St. Petersburg”.

…The 1,500 authors and fans (some from as far away as Japan) were in St. Petersburg for Bouchercon 2018, a.k.a. the World Mystery Convention. The annual gathering (named after influential mystery writer and editor Anthony Boucher) began in 1970 and is now one of the biggest mystery conventions in the world.

This was its first stop in St. Petersburg, with approximately 600 writers of crime fiction and true crime on hand to meet and mingle with fans, with many of the top names in the genre strolling the Vinoy’s halls. The event’s special guests were Mark Billingham, Sarah Blaedel, Sean Chercover, Tim Dorsey, Ian Rankin, Karin Slaughter and Lisa Unger. Other luminaries included Ace Atkins, Lawrence Block, Alafair Burke, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman and Sara Paretsky….

(21) WELCOME OUT-OF-TOWNERS. David Doering found a copy of the pitch made to attendees of the Pacificon (fourth Worldcon) in 1946 to visit the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. He notes, “Remarkably, don’t really need to change much at all to describe what I saw in Freehafer Hall the first time I went in 1985 forty years later. (For all I know, the “infamous” 4E trunk might still be in there somewhere…)”

LASFS OPEN HOUSE

CLUB ROOM OPEN FOR YOUR INSPECTION

That famous mecca for all fen, the LASFS CLUB ROOM, will most naturally be open at all times for the benefit of visiting fen, who will naturally be Interested In seeing this famous j?o?i?n?t? place.

You will see the (In) famous Ackerman trunk, repository of Ghu knows what; the fine library we maintain for the benefit of our members; the very spot where those wonderful (who said that?) meetings are held; the many fine original Illustrations which adorn the walls; that mighty project, Donald Warren Bratton’s cardfile of approximately 10,000 cards cross-indexIng all pro-mag stories and authors, as well as books pertaining to our field.

Indeed, lndeedy, your visit will not be complete until you have visited the LASFS Club Room. However, we think it only fair to warn you you will never be the same again after you have been there — in fact, YOU MAY NEVER BE SEEN AGAIN! So while you are more than welcome, you are also given fair warning in advance!

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Fern on Vimeo, Johnny Kelly looks at what happens to a grieving widow when her husband dies and is resurrected as a friendly houseplant.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Brian Z., Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, David Doering, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 8/1/17 The Magic Fileaway Tree

(1) BESIDES CONFEDERATE. Deadline tells about another post-Civil War alternate history in development: “‘Black America’: Amazon Alt-History Drama From Will Packer & Aaron McGruder Envisions Post-Reparations America”.

Another alternate history drama series, which has been in the works at Amazon for over a year, also paints a reality where southern states have left the Union but takes a very different approach. Titled Black America, the drama hails from top feature producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like A Man franchises, Straight Outta Compton) and Peabody-winning The Boondocks creator and Black Jesus co-creator Aaron McGruder. It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.

(2) SPARE CHANGE. Everybody’s getting on the bandwagon: Smithsonian curators present historic coins representative of the noble houses of Westeros: “It’s not heads or tails in the ‘Game of Thrones'”.

House Targaryen: Fire and Blood

Daenerys Targaryen has spent the Game of Thrones saga making a name for herself—several, actually: the Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and more. She harnesses the power of fire and blood, renowned for her skills as dragonlord and evidenced in the sigil of her house, which depicts a red three-headed dragon on a black field. The silver-haired Targaryens are not alone in their veneration of dragons as ancestral symbols of power and prestige. This gold liang coin depicts a mighty and ferocious dragon flying through clouds toward the viewer, flames protruding from its mouth. The coin was minted under the Guangxu Emperor of the Qing dynasty, where the dragon would have been understood as a symbol for wisdom, power, nobility, and ambition. Such symbolism is literally used by Targaryens and their dragons to claim rule of the Seven Kingdoms.

(3) BOW WOW. The Washington Post’s Karen Bruillard, in “Dire wolves were real. Now someone is trying to resurrect them”, reports on Medford, Oregon dog breeder Lois Schwarz, whose Dire Wolf Project has been going on for thirty years but has gotten national attention with Game of Thrones.  Schwarz has been working on wolf-dog hybrids for decades (the term she likes is “American Alsatians”).

“‘Game of Thones’ has given demand a bump, but not in the way Schwarz likes,” Says Bruillard.  “The fiction-motivated customers are looking for dogs that resemble the characters Ghost or Nymeria,” while Schwartz wants to breed dogs that are smart and friendly.

Bruillard also interviewed palentologist Caitlin Brown, who did her dissertation on Canis dirus.  One quibble Brown has with Game of Thrones:  “The wolves of HBO usually lunge at their enemies’ heads, whereas wolves typically drag down their prey from their haunches.”

(4) NEW MCCCAFFREY. A little birdie told me WordFire released “The Jupiter Game (The Game of Stars Book 1)” by Todd McCaffrey (Kindle edition) on July 30. Not about dragons – but aliens.

Jupiter!

The Russians and the Europeans got there first in their fusion ship Harmonie. At least, that’s what they thought.

Aliens!

“They’ve matched orbit with us!”

What do they want? What will they do?

Ooops…

“Ooops?” Jenkins echoed. “Aliens go ‘Ooops’?”

The Jupiter Game: A close encounter with aliens who watch Howdy Doody.

(5) HEVELIN COLLECTION Andrew Porter reports that it looks like the digitization of Rusty Hevelin’s fanzines has slowed dramatically.

The person in charge has left, leaving someone else in charge. Post on the blog 2 months ago, showing a flyer from the 1981 Worldcon about the Hugo Losers Party, shows how little the people in charge know about SF. “The year of the con?” Really?

“Hi Folks, I want to let you know that Laura Hampton, the librarian doing the actual digitization of Hevelin fanzines and who has masterfully displayed some of the Hevelin treasures here over the last two years, has moved on to a great job in Florida. We all wish her the very best and I am so grateful for all she’s accomplished. We’ll miss her.

“So, it’s just us chickens. And to begin my return to doing Hevelin Tumblr, I introduce this piece of fan art, done on a piece of hotel stationery from the Denver Hilton. Can anybody identify the artist? The year of the con? I’m going to post more mysteries like this so stay tuned.”

It says something that the person does not recognize references to the 1981 Worldcon – where Rusty Hevelin was the Fan Guest of Honor!

(6) BLACKOUT. The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham has discovered “The path of the solar eclipse is already altering real-world behavior”.

The upcoming solar eclipse is poised to become the “most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history,” in the words of one astronomer. Millions of people will watch it, potentially overwhelming the cities and towns along the eclipse’s path of totality.

According to Google, interest in the eclipse has exploded nationwide in the past few months, mirroring national media attention. The county-level search data above, provided by Google, paints a striking picture: Interest in the eclipse is concentrated in the path of totality that cuts through the middle of the country, receding sharply the farther you go from that path.

 

(7) SKLAR OBIT. Marty Sklar worked for Disney for 54 years and led the designing and creating most of the Disney rides during this period. He died July 27.

Los Angeles Times writers Daniel Miller and Richard Vernier marked his passing in “Marty Sklar, Pioneering Imagineer Who Channeled Walt Disney, Dies at 83”.

Long after his mentor’s death, Sklar recognized the treasure-trove of wisdom he had started compiling at Walt Disney’s elbow in the late 1950s. He distilled it all into “Mickey’s Ten Commandments,” a widely circulated creed that remains a touchstone in the theme park industry.

The commandments were a cornerstone of Sklar’s own half-century career at Walt Disney Co., where he led the creative development of the Burbank company’s parks, attractions and resorts around the world, including its ventures in the cruise business, housing development and the redesign of Times Square in New York.

Sklar died Thursday in his Hollywood Hills home. No cause of death was given. He was 83.

His retirement in 2006 marked the end of an era: He was one of the last remaining executives to have worked alongside Walt Disney in shaping the company into a global powerhouse. Sklar, who last served as principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, the storied theme park design and development outfit, was so closely associated with the company’s namesake that he became known as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 1, 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 1 opened.

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian says to check out today’s Moderately Confused.

(10) AUDIENCE BUILDING. Cat Rambo wrote a column about writers and self-promotion for Clarkesworld.

Whether opting for indie, traditional, or hybrid, publicity work on behalf of one’s output is less and less optional on the writer’s side of things for everyone except the top tier writers whose fan bases are so established that the publishers know their books are almost guaranteed to sell. Time and time again I have had writers come to me worried that they must create a social media presence because they’ve been told that they must by their agent or publisher. And it’s true that when acquiring books, some publishers look at a writer’s social media, believing that large followings will lead to greater sales.

You can see this pressure to publicize manifest in one form on Twitter, where writers work at projecting their brand as well as writing. It’s a weird balancing act, where they’re working at writing books people will want to read, but also working at attracting readers who might give them a try based on a quip or observation they’ve posted. Sometimes it feels sincere; other times less so. It is undeniable that a strong social media presence will affect sales, but its effect is generally overestimated, in my opinion. Creating consistently good work that brings readers back to look for more will always be the best strategy—although admittedly not one available immediately out of the authorial starting gate.

(11) A WORD FROM HER SPONSOR. Cat Rambo’s Patreon supporters got plenty of goodies from her in July. Here, let her draw you a picture –

(12) CLASS. And one of the items in her latest newsletter is her teaching schedule for August. See something you need? Sign up.

Plenty of Plunkett scholarships available. Please make use of them or pass the info to someone you know would benefit from the class but can’t afford it.

(13) YAKKITY-YAK. A corollary to the well-known joke about it being okay to talk to yourself as long as you don’t answer — “Chatbots develop own language: Facebook shuts down AI system…”.

Initially the AI agents used English to converse with each other but they later created a new language…

(14) AN UNCANNY EDITOR. Elsa Sjunneson-Henry tells Tor.com readers “I Built My Own Godd*mn Castle”.

I am seventeen when I meet Miles Vorkosigan. I’m not ready to meet him then. He startles me, I see myself in him and I don’t want to, because the common narrative told me being disabled was a weakness, not a strength. When I re-read him several years later, I find myself reveling in his glee, his reckless abandon. His energy.

I wish I’d been ready for him sooner. He is what tells me I deserve romance, that I deserve my own narrative. He is also still a boy. I have no women in fiction to guide me.

I am in my mid-twenties the first time the word “disabled” escapes my lips as a word to define myself. I’ve had a white cane for six years, yet I still don’t see myself as disabled, because no one else does.

When I discover it applies to me, it feels freeing.

I have mere days left in my twenties when I start writing a book about a disabled woman, a woman who shares my blindness, though not my conditions. It is rewarding, working through a story that feels right, the weight of the story, the sensory details all mine.

I’ve made a promise to myself, one that I haven’t shared yet. A promise to tell stories about disabled people as often as I can, as many varied stories as I can, because for me, I didn’t get enough of them when they were needed.

I am thirty-one when I take a job as an editor, creating a special issue for a Hugo award-winning magazine where I will, with other disabled people, destroy ableism like the kind that took me years to undo, and will take me more years to untangle and burn away.

That magazine is Uncanny. That issue is Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. That job is Guest Editor-in-Chief of Non-Fiction. Those disabled people are my co-workers, my co-editors, and the writers I will work with.

(15) BEST COMMERCIALS. Adweek says “5 Years Later, the Guardian’s ‘Three Little Pigs’ Still Blows the House Down”. Click on the link to see the video.

It’s been a good year for ads from newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times to the Atlantic. But you have to go back five years for a truly transcendent piece of advertising from a journalistic publication—the Guardian’s “Three Little Pigs” spot by BBH London.

Adweek chose “Three Little Pigs” as the single best ad of 2012. And now, Hill Holliday creative director Kevin Daley has included it among his favorite work of all time in Adweek’s latest “Best Ads Ever” video (see above).

(16) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGERS. Hampus Eckerman says, “I demand that these people get to make the soundtrack of a fantasy movie. All of them.” — Khusugtun Takes Listeners To Mongolia | Asia’s Got Talent 2015 Ep 2.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Hampus Eckerman, Jonathan Edelstein, Paul Weimer, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Jon Del Arroz, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/17 All Along The Scrolltower Pixels Kept The View

(1) BY PIXEL AND PAPER. The Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid tells what its publications policy will be for PR’s and the Souvenir Book.

So what should we do about our progress reports?

I note that for some people this is an access issue, and therefore, we will be having hard copies available for anyone who selects them as an access issue. To be clear, Progress Reports are complimentary and we’d like to send them to anyone who needs them for an access issue. Just tick the box please.

We will be sending them out electronically of course if you allow us to.

I noted that some people still liked them, as a historical document or just because they enjoy reading hard copy, and that is very cool, and the Dublin 2019 team will be making sure that anyone who wants a hard copy progress report can get one. There will be a charge of €10 Ten Euro for this.

I hope all of you are OK with this decision and support us in it.

This does not affect our plans for our Souvenir book which we plan to offer in hard copy to all members, full and supporting, and which we are happy to mail to anyone who doesn’t pick it up at con.

(2) HELP PABLO GO THE DISTANCE. Leigh Ann Hildebrand has launched a Generosity.com appeal to send Pablo Vasquez to Helsinki for Worldcon 75. The goal is $1,100. Here’s the pitch:

Bringing NASFiC to San Juan, Puerto Rico was great thing — and one of the prime movers behind that successful bid and con has been Pablo Vazquez. I was really looking forward to congratulating Pablo at the con in Helsinki and to hearing all about that NASFiC.

And then Pablo told me he wouldn’t be joining fans in Helsinki this year.

Money’s tight for Pablo; he’s been prioritizing travel and preparations for this historic and awesome NASFiC. Now he finds himself short of funds for his last travel expenses. He’s got accommodations and a membership covered, but his fixed-cost airfare and incidental expenses are beyond his means this summer.

This is where my fellow fans come in. Help me get Pablo to Helsinki! Here’s what he needs:

$600 for the air fare (it’s a fixed cost, ’cause he knows a guy.)

$500 for food, travel incidentals, walkin’ around money and buying a round. That may seem like a lot, but food in Finland is not cheap, and there’s no con suite this year, so he can’t live on Doritos and free sodas. 🙂

(3) SFF FILM FESTIVAL. Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in partnership with SIFF is now accepting entries for the 2018 Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF).

The festival will accept animated or live-action submissions of original science fiction or fantasy stories (examples: futuristic stories, space adventure, technological speculation, social experiments, utopia and dystopia, sword and sorcery, folklore, urban fantasy, magic, and mythic adventure).

A nationally recognized panel of distinguished film, television, literature, and science fiction industry professionals, peers, and film critics will review qualifying submissions to determine the winners of the Grand Prize, Second Place, Third Place, and the Douglas Trumbull Award for Best Visual Effects. Festival films will also be eligible for the Audience Favorite award.

In order to qualify, submitted films must have been completed after December 31, 2012, and must not exceed 15 minutes. Films that exceed 15 minutes may still be considered for festival inclusion but will not be eligible for awards.

See the link for guidelines, deadlines and fees.

(5) WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING? Adam-Troy Castro sighed on Facebook:

Over the past few years I have encountered Harry Potter fans who were abusive bullies, Star Trek fans who were against diversity, and now Doctor Who fans who were close-minded and unkind.

It’s like none of them were paying any attention at all.

I am looking forward to the emergence of Batman fans who are in favor of crime.

Since the targets of Castro’s comment might miss the point, Matthew M. Foster restated the message more explicitly:

The second is that people don’t see theme. SF is about space ships and explosions. Fantasy is about swords. The actual thing trying to be conveyed is missed far more often than not. The light was brought to this in a “funny” way to our little lit community by Brad and the Pups a few years back when Star Trek was pointed out to be first and foremost, about adventure and action–about combat in space. From the same group, there was a great deal of discussion in which they confused the theme with something incidental to the story because the incidental thing was not part of their normal life. So, if a story happened to have someone gay in it, then the story must be about sexual preference. If the story had a Black lead, then the theme must be about race. These are people that are big fans of science fiction, and they couldn’t see the themes.

(6) MAD PENIUS CLUB. And right on time, here’s Dave Freer’s death-kiss for the Thirteenth Doctor.

The trouble with this is it’s a judgement call, and especially inside the various bubbles (New York Publishing, Hollywood, and in the UK the Beeb’s little Guardian-and-Birkenstock club) they’re often so distant and unconnected with audiences outside their bubble that they assume they think like them and will respond like them. Which is why they have flops like the Ghostbusters remake, because they assumed the audience for the movie was just dying for a feminist version, with lots of man-kicking. Dr Who is trying much the same thing with a female Doctor. It could work because that audience is already pretty much restricted to inside their bubble. Still, with a new writer, and female lead after 12 male ones… She’ll have to be a good actress, and he’ll have to be a better writer. I expect we’ll see a long sequence of designated victim minorities cast in the role in future, until the show dies. I doubt we’ll ever see another white hetero male, but maybe that’s just me being cynical.

(7) HEADWRITER CANON. Prospect’s James Cooray Smith declares: “Uncomfortable with a female Doctor Who? It’s time to admit your real motives”.

…Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s Executive Producer from 2010 to 2017, used to make a habit, when asked if there was ever going to be a female Doctor, of throwing the question back to the audience. He’d ask for a show of hands as to who did and didn’t like the idea. Even half a decade ago, those audiences would be roughly balanced into pros and antis—although, as he noted, the proportion of “likes” was exponentially increasing every time he passed the question back.

In the last few years, the idea has gone from almost universally disliked to “Why hasn’t this happened already?”

Laying the canonical foundations

Moffat has played no small part in that himself. The first lines of dialogue given to Matt Smith’s Doctor, the first lines of Moffat’s era, see the newly regenerated Doctor, who cannot see his own face, wondering if he’s now female. A year later in “The Doctor’s Wife,” produced by Moffat and written by Neil Gaiman, the Doctor comments of a dead Time Lord friend The Corsair, “He didn’t feel himself unless he had a tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times”.

Three years after that, Moffat cast Michelle Gomez as ‘Missy’, the Doctor’s oldest friend and arch enemy, a character previously only played by male actors and usually referred to as the Master. A year after that—just to make sure that no one regarded Missy as an exception that proves the rule—Moffat had Ken Bones’ recurring Time Lord character The General regenerate into T’Nia Miller, changing sex and ethnicity simultaneously. Other Time Lords in the series treated this as momentarily distracting but thoroughly routine.

It now seems daft to say that such groundwork needed to be done: after all, the character of the doctor is an alien who merely looks human. But the series itself had never hinted that the idea was possible before 2010. Now, any viewer who has seen an episode with Missy in knows the Doctor’s own people can, and do, change sex. No one can pretend the idea isn’t part of the series, no matter how much they may want to. Moffat’s careful layering over years shows up any objections to the series having a female lead for what they are.

(8) NEVERTHELESS. Alison Scott has a shirt she would love to sell you. I bought one for my daughter. (U.K. orders here; U.S. orders here.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California
  • July 17, 1967 — Contact with Surveyor 4 lost 2.5 minutes before Moon touchdown.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop, released on this day
  • July 17, 1988 – Debut of the sci-fi telefilm Out of Time…starring Bill Maher…yes that Bill Maher.
  • July 17, 1992 — Honey, I Blew Up The Kid in theaters.

(10) COMIC SECTION. Andrew Porter noticed Zippy the Pinhead mentioned d Emshwiller.

(11) READING PLEASURE. Look for the SF pulps! Photos of old newsstands.

(12) ADAM WEST REMEMBERED. “Family Guy pays tribute to Adam West with nine-minute highlight reel” – from Entertainment Weekly.

As famous as he was for playing Batman — and he was very famous for that — Adam West was also known to another generation of fans for his wacky work on Family Guy. The late actor, who popped up and scored in more than 100 episodes as Mayor Adam West, left a colorful, indelible imprint on the animated Fox comedy — as well as on its producers and fans.

 

(13) WORLDCON PROGRAM. Worldcon 75 put its draft program schedule online today.

There are three ways to view the programme schedule DRAFT:

(14) HAUNTED HELSINKI. Adrienne Foster has arranged a “Ghost walking tour of Helsinki” for the convenience of Worldcon 75 members. It will be an English-speaking tour at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 9 August 2017.

Once again, those interested in reserving a spot on the tour need to be a member of Meetup.com and join Bay Area Ghost Hunters. Joining is free on both counts, but the fee for the ghost walk is to cover the cost of the tour operator. Yes, it was deliberate putting the “prere…gistration” fee in U.S. dollars and the “at-the-door” cost in euros.

As the 75th World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon 75) rolls around again, it gives me another opportunity to arrange a ghost walk of its host city, Helsinki. Yes, that’s in Finland. Ghost walks are one of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling and it’s always a lot more fun to do them with like-minded companions. To make it even more attractive to the many members who don’t speak Finnish, the tour operator has an English-speaking tour available.

Although this has been timed for the convenience of Worldcon 75 members, all BAGH members are welcome to participate. If anyone just happens to have coinciding travel plans to Helsinki, please join us.

In addition to ghost stories, guests on these tours learn a lot about the history of the locale, particularly some of its macabre past. It even starts at a hotel that is a converted prison.

(15) MINGLE LIKE TINGLE. Is this going to be an “I am Spartacus” kind of thing?

(16) AUREALIS AWARDS. The 2017 Aurealis Awards are now open for nominations. Eligible works must be created by an Australian citizen, or permanent resident, and published for the first time this year.

(17) VENUS AND MARS. David D. Levine’s second novel, Arabella and the Battle of Venus, sequel to the Andre Norton Award winning Arabella of Mars, comes out this week.

The thrilling adventures of Arabella Ashby continue in Arabella and the Battle of Venus, the second book in Hugo-winning author David D. Levine’s swashbuckling sci-fi, alternate history series!

Arabella’s wedding plans to marry Captain Singh of the Honorable Mars Trading Company are interrupted when her fiancé is captured by the French and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on swampy Venus. Now, Arabella must find passage to an enemy-controlled planet in the middle of a war, bribe or fight her way past vicious guards, and rescue her Captain.

To do this she must enlist the help of the dashing privateer, Daniel Fox of the Touchstone and build her own clockwork navigational automaton in order to get to Venus before the dread French general, Joseph Fouché, the Executioner of Lyon.

Once on Venus, Arabella, Singh, and Fox soon discover that Napoleon has designed a secret weapon, one that could subjugate the entire solar system if they can’t discover a way to stop Fouché, and the entire French army, from completing their emperor’s mandate.

Levine will be doing a book tour:

He is currently drafting the final book in the trilogy, currently titled Arabella and the Winds of Phobos but may end up being called Arabella the Traitor of Mars.

(18) NEWCOMERS TO THE HEARTH. Fireside Fiction is undergoing a change of management, with Brian J. White stepping down. Pablo Defendini is taking over as publisher and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry as managing editor. Julia Rios and Mikki Kendall are also joining the team.

White is leaving to focus on his work as a journalist.

As many of you know, I work at a newspaper. And that work has been consuming more and more of my time lately, with both the volume and the importance of the news rising in a way we’ve never experienced in this country. And it comes alongside a level of furious, violent antipathy toward the press that is somehow both wildly shocking and banally predictable.

Fireside has been the labor of love of my life, and it kills me to step away. But I am a journalist, first and always, and I need to focus my energy on the work we are doing. A lot of people have made fun of the earnestness of the Washington Post’s Democracy Dies in Darkness slogan, but it is true, and I won’t let the light go out.

Mikki Kendall has been signed on as editor to lead the follow-up to last year’s #BlackSpecFic report, which White says will be out soon. [Hat tip to Earl Grey Loose-leaf Links #43.]

(19) THE COOLEST. Arthur C. Clarke would be proud, as the search for extra-terrestrial life turns to ice worlds.

Chris McKay has fallen out of love with Mars. The red, dusty, corroded world no longer holds the allure it once did.

“I was obsessed with life on Mars for many years,” confesses the Nasa planetary scientist, who has spent most of his career searching for signs of life on the red planet.

“It’s seduction at the highest level,” he says. “I’m abandoning my first love and going after this other one that’s shown me what I wanted to see.”

The new object of McKay’s affections is Enceladus, the ice-encrusted moon of Saturn. Investigated by the joint Nasa and European Space Agency (Esa) Cassini space probe, the moon is spewing out plumes of water from its south pole – most likely from a liquid ocean several kilometres beneath the surface. Cassini has found this water contains all the vital ingredients for life as we know it: carbon, nitrogen and a readily available source of energy in the form of hydrogen.

“I think this is it,” says McKay. “From an astrobiology point of view, this is the most interesting story.”

(20) SO BAD IT’S GOOD. Marshall Ryan Maresca extols the antique virtues of the 1980s movie: “ELECTRIC DREAMS: A Bad Movie I’ve Watched Many, Many, MANY Times”.

The Eighties got a lot of mileage out of the idea that computers were magic.  I mean, the fundamental principle of Weird Science is that Wyatt has, like, a 386 with a 14.4 modem and a scanner, which he can connect to the Pentagon and make a goddamn genie with it.  Most Hollywood movies today still let computers be magical, but not to the same degree.  And few movies go as full out crazy with the idea as Electric Dreams.

For those not in the know, Electric Dreams is a relatively small, simple movie, in which an architect named Miles (he might be an engineer—something to do with buildings) lives in the downstairs part of a duplex, below gorgeous cellist Virginia Madsen.  And he gets himself a computer so he can design an earthquake brick.  So far, all normal.

It turns into a love triangle with Wyatt and a sentient PC as rivals.

(21) THE LATTER DAY LAFFERTY. Adri’s Book Reviews praises “Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty”.

As in any good mystery, it soon becomes clear that there are shady things lurking in the past of each and every crew member, as well as the traditional untrustworthy AI. Six Wakes builds its narrative through an omniscient third person narrator which switches between character viewpoints, as well as flashbacks to the crews’ lives in the lead up to being selected for the ship. Each crew member knows the others have volunteered for the mission because they are convicted criminals who will be pardoned upon arrival, but they have been told their crimes must remain confidential. From the ship’s doctor who was one of the original people cloned when the technology began, to the AI tech who has been on the verge of a breakdown since waking, to the shady machinations of the captain and the security officer, Six Wakes uses a small cast to great effect, with the world of the clones coming across as claustrophobic and restrictive even in background chapters set on Earth, thanks to both the Codicls as well as the inequalities and power struggles that arise from a society of functionally immortal beings. Six Wakes’ characters aren’t likeable in a traditional sense but I found them generally sympathetic, and the backgrounds go a long way towards making that balance work.

(22) A BOY AND HIS HORSE. The British Museum blog asks “The Dothraki and the Scythians: a game of clones?”

The Dothraki in Game of Thrones are represented as feared and ferocious warriors. Jorah Mormont describes their culture as one that values power and follows strength above all, and there is no greater way to demonstrate power and strength according to the Dothraki than through war. Like their fictional counterparts, the Scythians were pretty terrifying in battle. The Greek historian Herodotus writes that Scythians drank the blood of the men they killed and kept their scalps as trophies and skulls as drinking cups. While we should probably take Herodotus with a pinch of salt, by all accounts they were pretty brutal! The Dothraki also like decapitating their defeated enemies – guards known as the jaqqa rhan, or mercy men, use heavy axes to do this.

The Scythians and the Dothraki fight on horseback and are excellent archers. They both use curved (or composite) bows to maximise the range and the damage of their arrows. As Jorah Mormont says of the Dothraki, ‘they are better riders than any knight, utterly fearless, and their bows outrange ours.’

(23) THE NEXT STAGE. The Verge has learned that “The Twilight Zone is being adapted into a stage play” in London.

The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling’s landmark sci-fi anthology series about technological paranoia, creeping dread in 1960s America, and monsters and weirdos of all sorts, will be adapted as a stage play, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed this morning.

The play will debut in a limited run at London’s Almeida Theatre this December, with a script from Anne Washburn. Washburn’s best-known play is her 2012 Off-Broadway work Mr. Burns, which is about a traveling theater troupe in post-apocalyptic America that performs episodes of The Simpsons from memory. The play will be directed by Olivier-winner Richard Jones, who is best known for the 1990 London run of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, as well as the short-lived 1997 Titanic musical on Broadway, and has also directed several operas and Shakespeare productions.

(24) LIADEN UPDATE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s 81st joint project — Due Diligence (Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Book 24) – was released July 10. The pair was also recently profiled by Maine’s statewide newspaper the Portland Press Herald“Welcome to the universe of Maine writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller”.

For Maine writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, all it took to launch a brand-new universe was a single sentence.

The opening line for what would become “Agent of Change,” the inaugural volume of their Liaden Universe space opera series, was “The man who was not Terrence O’Grady had come quietly.”

It’s not quite “Call me Ishmael,” but something about typing those 10 words back in 1984 made Lee say to her husband, “I have a novel here.” And there was sufficient inspiration on the page for Miller to say, “I’m sorry, but I think you have a series.”

Both were right. Reached by phone at their Maine coon cat-friendly home in Winslow, surrounded by oil paintings, prints, book cover and other science fiction and fantasy artwork, Miller remembered, “We sat down that night and fleshed out the basic idea for the first seven books.” Four years later, in 1988, their collaborative debut was published in paperback by DelRey.

Since then, Lee, 64, and Miller, 66, have published 20 Liaden Universe novels and nearly five dozen related short stories. Baen Books published their latest hardcover novel, “The Gathering Edge,” in May.

.And they’ll be Guests of Honor at ConFluence from August 4-6.

(25) YOU WOULD BE RIGHT.

(26) PLASTIC IS NOT FANTASTIC. Jewish Business News has the story behind the commercial: “Mayim Bialik and Hodor From ‘Game of Thrones’ In New SodaStream’s Funny Viral Video”.

Following Jewish celebrity Scarlett Johansson’s campaign for the Israeli beverage company SodaStream, the Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik is the new face proudly representing the company new campaign in a Viral Video.

Features Mayim Bialik as an anthropologist, recalling her first encounter with the Homo-schlepien played by Kristian Nairn known as Hodor from “Game of Thrones.” The story reflects the devastating effect of single-use plastic bottles on Humanity. A habit that is hazardous to Earth and no longer exist in the future.

In this funny story, the Museum of UnNatural History features encounters between Mayim and the last tribe of plastic dependent species, the Homo-schlepien.

The shooting of the campaign was brought forward while Bialik had to rest her vocal chords for one month due to a medical advice. “This campaign has a powerful message and one that needed to be told before I went on vocal rest,” said Mayim Bialik.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Bill, Steve Miller, David Levine, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]