Pixel Scroll 1/2/20 Pixellate In Glorious Scrollovision

(1) NETWORK ANALYSIS OF RWA/MILAN CONTROVERSY. Mikki Kendall did a breakdown for NBC News: “The Romance Writers of America racism row matters because the gatekeepers are watching”.

…Let’s talk about the power of romance. There’s power in the written word, even in a genre that we tend to consider — because of sexism — less intellectual than some others. And it isn’t just about hearts and flowers and candy; this is cold hard cash: Romance as a literary genre represents a quarter of all fiction sales and more than half of all paperback sales, and it brings in over a billion dollars in sales annually.

The impact of romance books on the culture is outsize because everyone is interested in romance, whether they admit it publicly or not.

…But there’s inevitably a small contingent of writers who simply can’t handle being criticized, whether directly or indirectly. Vitriolic responses to critics are hardly limited to well-known writers; those who aspire to become household names are equally prone to them. Having your work dissected, discussed and sometimes even demeaned, however, is part of putting it out into the world. All writers know this — or at least they should — and writing romance novels is no exception.

(2) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Jason Sanford continues releasing interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his well-researched report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: You said Fireside pays its editors a fee for each issue of the print magazine, with the fee based on Fireside’s word rate and the revenue to pay for this coming entirely from subscribers. Was there a break-even point with subscribers where this started to work? Do you still rely on any fundraising to support the magazine?

Pablo: I think using a word like ‘fundraising’ is misleading. Fireside is not a non-profit, and it’s not a charity – so we’re not ‘raising funds’ for anything. Using vocabulary linked to non-profits and charities implies that the people who support us are doing so out of the kindness of their heart, without receiving any direct value in return. The stories, artwork, and publications that Fireside publishes have value, our customers recognize that, and are willing to pay money for it.

But I digress. To answer your question…

Jason: According to this year’s Locus Magazine survey, Escape Pod has an audience size of 37,000 people, making it one of the largest English-language SF magazines in the world. What percentage of your audience supports the magazine with donations? Any  thoughts on how to convinces more genre readers and listeners to support the magazines they love?

Mur: I believe we have the typical 1% rate of donation. We have no funding but our listeners, and the couple of times we’ve been in trouble, we’ve been honest with saying, hey, we can’t keep delivering the show to you if you don’t support us, and they’ve always stepped up. With Patreon it’s much easier to allow people to donate on a sustaining level and get rewards as well!

(3) ROSE IS STILL MISSING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna discusses the controversy over whether Kelly Marie Tran deserved more screen time in The Rise of Skywalker, noting that screewnwriter Chris Terrio has withdrawn his explanation that Tran would have had many scenes with Carrie Fisher had Fisher lived to not much of an explanation at all: “Many Star Wars fans are upset the new movie sidelines Kelly Marie Tran’s character. The writer is trying to explain.”

…On Monday, Terrio walked back that explanation, saying that the real issue with Rose had nothing to do with visual effects.

He told Vulture: “I badly misspoke if in an earlier statement I implied that any cut scenes between Rose and Leia were the fault of our VFX team and the wizards at ILM. In that earlier interview, I was referring to a specific scene in which Leia’s emotional state in ‘Episode VII’ [‘The Force Awakens’] did not seem to match the scene we wrote for use in ‘Episode IX’ [‘Rise’] and so it was cut at the script stage before the VFX work was done.”

Terrio underscored to the Hollywood Reporter on Monday that the issue did not involve “photorealism,” as he earlier stated. “I would sometimes come and sit at the VFX reviews and my jaw would drop at seeing Leia live again.”

(Representatives from the film have not yet responded to a request from The Post to speak with Terrio.)

(4) FAVES OF 2019. Hot off the blocks with the New Year, SF² Concatenation has its team’s annual choice for the Best SF books and films of the previous year. They have advance posted “Best Science Fiction of the Year – Possibly?” ahead of their spring edition of news and reviews (which is slated for mid-January).

Every year, around Christmas and New Year a round-robin is sent to many members of the SF² Concatenation team asking for their favourite SF/F/H books and films of the previous year.  If just two or three nominate the same work then it gets added to a list of Best SF/F/H works of the previous year.  This list appears in the Spring (northern hemisphere academic year) edition’s news page.  It is simply a bit of fun and not meant to be taken too seriously but as a pointer for our regulars to perhaps check out some recent works.  Yet over the years, each year sees a few from these lists go on to be short-listed, and even win, a number of SF awards.

Spooky, huh?

(5) BITES JUST RIGHT. “Dracula: Critics applaud ‘energetic and fun’ revival of vampire classic” – BBC has a roundup.

The BBC’s new take on Dracula is a hit with critics, one of whom says it is “the meatiest, goriest, most energetic and fun version” she has ever seen.

“Previous versions now look anaemic,” writes The Times’ Carol Midgley.

The Mail’s reviewer hailed “a Dracula to delight horror movie fans of all stripes” in his five-star write-up.

The Telegraph’s reviewer, meanwhile, praised Danish actor Claes Bang for his “witty, outrageous and thrilling” portrayal of Bram Stoker’s vampire.

“It might not have been faithful to the original, but it was a scream,” writes the paper’s Anita Singh.

The BBC One mini-series has been written and created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the duo behind the award-winning Sherlock.

(6) BREATHE IN. IGN interviews the midwives…. “Galaxy Quest: How the Thermians Were Born”.

…Parisot remembers Colantoni’s audition inventiveness setting the tone for the Thermians. After a solid read, the direct says he could tell the actor was holding back on his way out the door.

“For some reason I said, ‘Rico, it seems like you’ve got something on your mind,’” recalls the director. “He goes, ‘Well, I have this voice. I don’t know if it works.’ I said, ‘What is it? Try it.’ He did it and I just went, ‘Oh my God, that’s it!’

“The Thermians came out of that voice,” Parisot continues. As more actors were added to the Thermian ranks, that voice became the reference point with every addition, including Missi Pyle (Laliari), Jed Rees (Teb), and Patrick Breen (Quellek).

“We had alien school and we would come up with things like the walk,” Parisot remembers. “Rather than swinging in the direction most people do, we went the opposite direction with the arms, and the posture because they’re basically giant calamari hiding in human shape.

(7) THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN. It might be this year.“Chandrayaan-3: India plans third Moon mission”.

India has announced plans for a third lunar mission, months after its last one crash landed on the Moon’s surface.

The chairman of India’s space agency, K Sivan, said work was going “smoothly” on the Chandrayaan-3 unmanned mission.

He said the country was aiming to launch the mission in 2020 but that it “may spill over” to 2021.

If successful, it would make India the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, and boost its credentials as a low-cost space power.

(8) BUT WAIT — THERE’S MORE. “India Announces Plans For Its First Human Space Mission”.

India’s space agency says that four astronaut candidates have been selected for its first human mission, targeted to launch by 2022, but they’ve not been publicly named or identified.

India hopes to join the United States, Russia and China as the world’s fourth nation capable of sending people to space. It has been developing its own crewed spacecraft, called Gaganyaan (or “sky vehicle” in Sanskrit), that would let two to three people orbit the Earth on a week-long spaceflight.

K Sivan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, held a press briefing on New Year’s Day and told reporters that the four astronauts would start their training in Russia in a few weeks.

(9) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. There’s even a Wikipedia entry – unfortunately, one that makes it sound like a big commercial. That attitude would make more sense to me if I’d ever seen a Hallmark card for the occasion.  

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 2, 1996 The Demon Headmaster aired the first episode of its three seasons. Based on the children’s series by Gillian Cross of the same name, the later books were based off the screenplays for the series which Cross wrote. The cast included Terrence Hardiman, Frances Amey, Gunnar Atli, Cauthery and Thomas Szekeres. A sequel series was done. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. I can’t possibly summarize him here so I won’t. My favorite novels by him are the original Foundation novels followed very closely by his Galactic Empire series and I, Robot. I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction but I’ll be damn if I can recall any of it specifically right now. (Died 1992.)
  • Born January 2, 1940 Susan Wittig Albert, 80. She’s the author of The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, a series of mysteries featuring that writer. Really. Truly. Haven’t read them but they bear such delightful titles as The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood. She has non-genre series involving an herbalist and a gardening club as well. 
  • Born January 2, 1948 Deborah Watling, Best known for her role as Victoria Waterfield, a companion of the Second Doctor. She was also in Downtime, playing the same character, a one-off sequel to a sequel to the Second Doctor stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. No Doctors were to be seen. If you’ve seen the English language dubbed version of Viaje al centro de la Tierra (Where Time Began, based off Verne’s Journey to the Center of The Earth), she’s doing the lines of Ivonne Sentis as Glauben. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 2, 1952 Caitlín Matthews, 68. Fiction writer. Well she sure as Odin’s Beard isn’t a scholar in any meaningful sense. With her husband John, she’s written such works as King Arthur’s Raid on the Underworld: The Oldest Grail Quest, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures and on her own, Mabon and the Mysteries of Britain: An Exploration of the Mabinogion. They’re entertaining as long as you accept that they’re really mostly fiction. 
  • Born January 2, 1959 Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 61. Wiki in a fit of exuberance list him as a “editor, fan, fanzine publisher, essayist, reviewer, anthologist, teacher and blogger”. Which is true. He’s won three Hugo Awards for Best Editor Long, and he won a World Fantasy Award for editing the Starlight 1 anthology. 
  • Born January 2, 1967 Tia Carrere, 53. Best remembered for her three-season run as Sydney Fox, rogue archeologist on Relic Hunter. She’s been in a lot of one-offs on genre series including Quantum Leap, Hercules, Tales from The Crypt, Airwolf, Friday the 13th and played Agent Katie Logan for two episodes on Warehouse 13.
  • Born January 2, 1979 Tobias S. Buckell, 41. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which he managed to wrap up rather nicely. The collection he edited, The Stories We Tell: Bermuda Anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, is well worth reading, as is his own Tides from a New World collection.
  • Born January 2, 1983 Kate Bosworth, 37. She’s Barbara Barga in the SS-GB series done the superb Len Deighton novel. She’s both a producer and a performer on The I- Land Netflixseries where she’s KC, a decidedly not nice person. For a more positive character, she portrayed Lois Lane in Superman Returns.

(12) SOLAR TO BLAME. Mark Lawrence’s “Star one stars!” features bad reviews that Amazon customers gave books, complaining about things that aren’t in the writer’s control. His first example —

I was recently the lucky recipient of this 1* review on Amazon. It struck me as worthy of note because not only is it not a review of the book, it’s not even a criticism of Amazon. It’s more of a critique of the customer’s own life skills…

“1*: Can’t remember ordering these books. Not my type of subject. Unable to find a method of cancelling the transaction”

(13) LIGHT ‘EM UP. Cora Buhlert tells how she celebrated a “Happy New Year 2020” in Germany, where fireworks are part of the tradition – but for how long?

…However, this year some organisations are calling for a complete ban on private fireworks. The initial reasons given were environmental – fireworks release smoke and microparticles, but then other reasons like animal welfare and health and safety were also given. Plus, there is a call – echoed by various charities – that fireworks are a waste of money and that the people should rather donate the money spent on fireworks to charity. One figure that’s often bandied about is that in 2018, 130 million Euros were spent on fireworks in Germany. That sounds like a lot – until you do the calculations and realise that this figure means that every person in Germany spent 1,57 Euros per year on fireworks on average. And 1,57 Euros per person is not a lot of money, especially if you consider that the total figure of 130 million Euros also includes money spent on professional fireworks.

So why are fireworks suddenly so controversial, especially since they are limited to one night of the year – with the occasional firecracker going off a few days before or after? IMO, the underlying reason is just that some people find fireworks annoying, because they are noisy, frivolous and the wrong kind of people (teenagers, immigrants, poor people) are having fun. In recent times, there has been a resurgence of the kind of joyless moralism that dominated the 1980s. And not coincidentally, the “Give to charity rather than buying fireworks” campaign originally also dates from the 1980s.

(14) IN TIMES TO COME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature points out “The science events to watch for in 2020”. This includes… 2020 will see a veritable Mars invasion as several spacecraft, including three landers, head to the red planet. NASA will launch its Mars 2020 rover, which will stash rock samples that will be returned to Earth in a future mission and will also feature a small, detachable helicopter drone. China will send its first lander to Mars, Huoxing-1, which will deploy a small rover. A Russian spacecraft will deliver a European Space Agency (ESA) rover to the red planet — if issues with the landing parachute can be resolved. And the United Arab Emirates will send an orbiter, in the first Mars mission by an Arab country. Closer to home, China is planning to send the Chang’e-5 sample-return mission to the Moon.

Attached is a pic of the forthcoming Mars lander being tested.

(15) ONLY 3600-SOME-ODD SHOPPING DAYS ‘TIL. In “The 2030 Last-Minute Christmas Gift Guide” on Vice, Tim Maughan foresees what the hot holiday items of ten years from now will be, including Barron Trump’s rap albums and Marvel Vs. Star Wars VI: The Final Conflict.

…Want to take a low flying helicopter ride over the Texas Refinery District Toxic Exclusion Zone? Try urban scuba deep under what was once the Miami waterfront? Or maybe you want to take a leaf out of your favorite influencer’s book, and get your photo taken on the rim of the crater that was once the Space X test facility? The Unlimited Dream Company can make it happen, with its range of exclusive, customizable tourist trips. You’ll be given full safety training and orientation—including an entry level handgun course for trips in disputed states—and will be accompanied by medical staff*, Darklake certified security agents, and tour guides with unmatched local knowledge.

(16) RESOLUTIONS. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova selects “Elevating Resolutions for the New Year Inspired by Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds” (2016). A long Ursula K. Le Guin excerpt crowns the middle of the list – but the Vonnegut is short enough to quote —

In 2005, Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922–April 11, 2007) — a man of discipline, a sage of storytelling, and one wise dad — penned a short and acutely beautiful remembrance of his friend Joseph Heller, who had died several years earlier. Originally published in the New Yorker, it was later reprinted in John C. Bogle’s Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life (public library).

JOE HELLER

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.

I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!

(17) ART LARP. “One Night In An Edward Hopper Hotel Room? It’s Less Lonely Than You Might Think”.

It isn’t hard to imagine yourself inside an Edward Hopper painting — having a coffee at a late-night diner, or staring out the bedroom window at the bright morning sun.

Now, for $150 a night, you can sleep in one — or a reproduction of one — at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Designers have constructed a 3D version of Hopper’s 1957 Western Motel, and invited Hopper fans to sleep over.

It feels a little funny getting undressed for bed in a museum. (There are plenty of nudes on the walls, but you don’t expect to be one yourself.) But suddenly there you are, in your jammies — a guard outside in the hallway — turning off the goose-neck lamp on the bedside table, tucking yourself under a deep burgundy bedspread, and looking out the big picture “window” at a green Buick parked outside.

(18) THE NEXT MARVEL FIRSTS. “Marvel to get first transgender superhero”. And that’s not all.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is set to get its first transgender superhero.

“And very soon. In a movie that we’re shooting right now,” Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige said during a Q&A at the New York Film Academy.

Asked by a fan whether there were any plans for more LGBT characters in Marvel’s films, “specifically the T, trans characters”, Kevin said: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.”

This year, The Eternals will introduce Marvel movies’ first gay character.

There have been reports since 2019 that Phase 4 of the MCU – the films following the Avengers Infinity saga – would star a trans character.

Marvel has also said it will introduce its first deaf superhero in The Eternals and its first Asian-American superhero, in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

“You look at the success of Captain Marvel and Black Panther. We want the movies to reflect the audience and we want every member of our global audience to see themselves reflected on the screen,” Kevin Feige previously said.

(19) DIY. “Invasion Planet Earth: Sci-fi filmed in Birmingham” — video, with clips and interviews.

Since being a teenager Simon Cox loved science fiction, especially Star Wars.

He wanted to make his own blockbuster, and he has finally realised his dream to write and direct his own film, which is called Invasion Planet Earth.

It’s taken 20 years, crowd funding and several campaigns to fund the small budget film.

Much of the sci-fi epic was filmed in Birmingham with 900 Brummies acting as extras.

The movie, which has been shown in mainstream cinemas, is available on DVD and available to download.

(20) LOOKING AHEAD. Sounds like they’re not going with Jubal Harshaw’s solution. BBC covers “Writing a ‘national anthem’ for Mars” — video, with performance.

An Indian former software analyst who’s now a rising star in the opera world has written a new “national anthem” for Mars.

Oscar Castellino was commissioned to give the Red Planet its own anthem by the UK’s Mars Society – to promote the idea that if humans ever live there then they will need their own musical identity.

(21) THESE ARE THE DROIDS I’M LOOKING FOR. Philadelphia channel 17 captured the highly stfnal “Fralinger String Band at the 2020 Mummers Parade” on video.  

Love the Fralinger String Band?  Then you came to the right place.   We’ve got Fralinger’s 2020 Mummers Parade performance video of their “Lunar Effect” theme and some photos below.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 7/29/19 The File, The Pixel Scroll, And Everything

(1) MADE TO PRAISE. In another New York Times “op-ed from the future,” Stephen James argues “Artificials Should Be Allowed to Worship”.

Last Sunday, an Artificial named Ian tried to attend a religious service at Living Savior Community Church in Savannah, Ga., and was denied access. According to church elders, the decision to exclude Ian had to do with the fact that “he had no God-given soul and therefore no way to genuinely worship” during the service.

Like Ian, I am an Artificial. Like Ian, I know what it feels like to be excluded from communities of faith solely because I am a nonbiological being. In the past, I have been forced to leave religious services; at the time, I left in silence. But I can no longer remain silent.

The time has come to stop excluding Artificials from communities of faith. …

 (2) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s newest Future Tense story is E. Lily Yu’s “Zero in Babel”

Read a new short story about DIY genetic editing for keeping up with high school trends.

Then read the response essay, “The Future Will Grind On”, by law professor Diana M. Bowman.

A world of technological fixes in which biotechnology solutions can eradicate injury and disease. A world in which online platforms have accelerated the democratization of science and scientific tools, allowing everyday individuals to experiment on themselves.
But at what cost?

E. Lily Yu’s “Zero in Babel” depicts a futuristic world in which the daily struggles of life have, for the most part, been eradicated. So, too, purpose and meaning. Yet some things remain the same: financial inequity, lives filled with excess, and, for Imogen and her peers, the pressure to fit in, regardless of cost.

(3) BRAVE NEW WORLDS. James Davis Nicoll tracks how space exploration rearranged the options of genre storytellers in “Science Fiction vs. Science: Bidding Farewell to Outdated Conceptions of the Solar System” at Tor.com.

If an author was very, very unlucky, that old Solar System might be swept away before a work depending on an obsolete model made it to print. Perhaps the most famous example was due to radar technology deployed at just the wrong time. When Larry Niven’s first story, “The Coldest Place,” was written, the scientific consensus was that Mercury was tide-locked, one face always facing the sun, and one always facing away. The story relies on this supposed fact. By the time it was published, radar observation had revealed that Mercury actually had a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance. Niven’s story was rendered obsolete before it even saw print.

(4) NO BARS ON THE WINDOWS. While Camestros Felapton was educating his readers with “Just a tiny bit more on Wikipedia”, he came up with a nifty turn of phrase to explain how Wikipedia’s article deletion debates work:

The net effect of what the highly fragile souls surrounding Michael Z Williamson were calling an ‘unpersoning’ was zero articles deleted and both articles get some extra references and tidy-ups. It’s just like a Stalinist show trial but one were they come round to your house and makeover your living room with new curtains and also not send you to prison or anything.

(5) A LITTLE LIST. The Guardian propagates a list from Katherine Rundell, author of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise in “Story time: the five children’s books every adult should read”. You’d think with a list this short I’d score better than 40%.

…Those of us who write for children are trying to arm them for the life ahead with everything we can find that is true. And perhaps also, secretly, to arm adults against those necessary compromises and heartbreaks that life involves: to remind them that there are and always will be great, sustaining truths to which we can return.

When you read a children’s book, you are given the space to read again as a child: to find your way back, back to the time when new discoveries came daily and when the world was colossal, before your imagination was trimmed and neatened, as if it were an optional extra. But imagination is not and never has been optional: it’s at the heart of everything, the thing that allows us to experience the world from the perspectives of others, the condition precedent of love itself. …

(6) TEACHING MOMENT. “What’s a ‘Science Princess’ doing in an ice field in Alaska?” BBC has the answer ready.

While Celeste Labedz knew quite a few fellow scientists would appreciate the picture of her dressed up as a “glaciologist Princess Elsa”, she had no idea the image would become a viral hit with more than 10,000 “likes” on Twitter.

She tweeted
: “I firmly believe that kids should not be taught that girly things and sciencey things are mutually exclusive. Therefore, I packed a cape with my fieldwork gear just to show what glaciologist Princess Elsa would look like. #SciencePrincess #TheColdNeverBotheredMeAnyway”.

The cryoseismologist told BBC News: “I posted the picture because I thought it would resonate with other scientists.

…Celeste, whose dream is to visit glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, said: “Women have been excluded for a long time both historically and socially. There is a lack of role models and science is bound by historical notions that it’s a white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied environment.

“It can be exclusionary if you have the opposite of any of these characteristics and I want to encourage people with intersecting identities in everything that I do.

“I would like people to think carefully about what they think a scientist should look like.”

(7) KEEPING THE BUCKS IN STARBUCKS. What Starbucks thinks a scientist should look like is a shill for expensive coffee –

Conclusion: Nitro Cold Brew is many things. But mostly, it is Whoa.

(8) WHERE IS THY STING? A species of wasp has been named after the Escape Pod podcast.

Get a grip, Ben!

(9) RUSSI OBIT. “Russi Taylor, Voice Of Minnie Mouse For Over 30 Years, Dies At 75” – NPR pays tribute:

On Friday, Minnie Mouse joined Mickey in the place that cartoon voice-over actors go when they die.

Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie for over 30 years, died this weekend in Glendale, Calif., according to a press release from the Walt Disney Co. She was married to Wayne Allwine, who voiced Mickey and died in 2009. Both portrayed their iconic characters longer than any other voice actors….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 29, 1907 Melvin Belli. Sole genre role is that of Gorgan (also known as the “Friendly Angel”) is in the Star Trek “And the Children Shall Lead” episode. He was mainly a lawyer for celebrities, however, he was also the attorney for Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 29, 1915 Kay Dick. Author of two genre novels, The Mandrake Root and At Close of Eve, plus a collection, The Uncertain Element: An Anthology of Fanta. She is known in Britain for campaigning successfully for the introduction of the Public Lending Right which pays royalties to authors when their books are borrowed from public libraries. She’s not available in digital or print currently. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 29, 1927 Jean E. Karl. Founder of Atheneum Children’s Books, where she edited Ursula K Le Guin’s early Earthsea novels and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. An SF author as well for children and young adults, she wrote The Turning Place collection and three novels, Beloved Benjamin is WaitingBut We are Not of Earth and Strange Tomorrow. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 29, 1939 Curtis C. Smith. 80. Editor of Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, plus two genre biographies, Olaf Stapledon: A Bibliography with co-author Harvey J. Satty, And Welcome to the Revolution: The Literary Legacy of Mack Reynolds. Not active since the mid-Eighties as near as I can tell.
  • Born July 29, 1941 David Warner, 78. Being Lysander in that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was his first genre role. I’m going to do just highlights after that as he’s got far too extensive a genre history to list everything. So he’s been A Most Delightful Evil in Time Bandits, Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Ed Dillinger / Sark In Tron, Father in The Company of Wolves, Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Creature in Frankenstein, voice of Ra’s al Ghul on Batman: The Animated Series and Abraham Van Helsing on Penny Dreadful. 
  • Born July 29, 1956 Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 63. Author of the India set magical realist The Brotherhood of the Conch series. She also has three one-off novels, The Palace of Illusions The Mistress of Spices, and her latest, The Forest of Enchantments. Her website is here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • In today’s Bizarro, a purist explains the best way to enjoy a musical experience.  

(12) THE HOUSE OF COMMAS HAS NEW LEADER. The Guardian finds there’s a new grammar sheriff in town: “The comma touch: Jacob Rees-Mogg’s aides send language rules to staff “.

A list of rules has been sent to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s staff asking them to stop using words such as “hopefully” and demanding that they use only imperial measurements and give all non-titled males the suffix Esq.

Aides to the new leader of the House of Commons sent out the list shortly after Rees-Mogg’s appointment to the role by the new prime minister on Wednesday night.

Among the words and phrases considered unacceptable were: “very”, “due to” and “ongoing”, as well as “equal”, “yourself” and “unacceptable”. Rees-Mogg’s aides also barred the use of “lot”, “got” and “I am pleased to learn”.

The guidance, obtained by ITV news, was drawn up by the North East Somerset MP’s constituency team years ago, but has now been shared with officials in his new office.

In a call for accuracy contained in his list, staff were told: “CHECK your work.” Other directions include a call for a double space after full stops and no comma after the word “and”.

(13) VIDEO GAME APEX PREDATORS. Yahoo! News shows where the real money is: “Fortnite awards world champion duo $1.5 million each”. The video game tournament was held at Queens’ Arthur Ashe Stadium, where U.S. Open doubles winners share  a mere $740,000.

Gamers using the pseudonyms “Nyhrox” and “aqua” became the first Fortnite world champions in the duo division in New York on Saturday, winning $1.5 million each.

Competitors gathered in the Big Apple to determine who is top dog at the shoot-’em-up survival game, which has become an international phenomenon since launching in 2017.

The pair won games four and five out of a total of six in the first-ever Fortnite World Cup Finals, and finished with the most points.

(14) THE QUEST CONTINUES. ComicsBeat’s Nancy Powell met with the fames comics creators at SDCC: “INTERVIEW: Richard and Wendy Pini talk Elfquest and STARGAZER’S HUNT”.

Powell: Are there any reveals to Cutter? Does he play any role in Stargazer’s Hunt?

Wendy: Well, that’s a good question because, assuming this goes out to people who have read Final Quest, they know that Cutter’s hero’s journey is done. What lives on afterwards? That’s a mystery.

Richard Pini: We have always maintained that Elfquest is a love story, but not in the sense that most people superficially think. It’s not the love story between Cutter and Leeta. It’s the love story between Cutter and Skywise, brothers in all but blood. With Cutter’s passing that love story is now incomplete. And the question that we attempt to answer in Stargazer’s Hunt is, how does Skywise complete that story for himself? Or does he? Is he able to? That is what we’re going to investigate. And it’s going to take Skywise—it’s really his story—all over the map.

(15) PREMEDITATED. The Hollywood Reporter has a follow-up story — “Kyoto Animation Arson Attack: Death Toll Rises to 35, Attack Was Carefully Planned”.

The suspect walked miles around Kyoto, visiting locations related to the company, including some that appear in one of its anime productions.

The death toll in the Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) arson reached 35 as another victim succumbed to their injuries over the weekend.

In the days before the attack, the suspect in the attack was captured on surveillance cameras visiting places in Kyoto that are featured in one of the studio’s anime.

A man in his 20s, believed to be a KyoAni employee, died Saturday from extensive burns across his body, suffered when Shinji Aoba allegedly poured 11 gallons (40 liters) of gasoline around the first floor of the company’s 1st Studio building July 18. The victim was reported to have been on the first floor and got out of the building, but was severely burned….

(16) VISITING THE UK? Just in case people going to Dublin don’t have their entire trip locked down — “Leeds dinosaur trail opens in city shopping centres” (short video.)

Five huge animatronic dinosaur models have been installed around Leeds city centre.

The Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Velociraptor, Apatosaurus and Carnotaurus will surprise shoppers for six weeks, with participating venues including Leeds Kirkgate Market and the Merrion Centre.

(17) BLUE, NO — RED SKY. Not as autonomous as current rovers, but more capable: “Nasa’s Valkyrie robot could help build Mars base” (video).

A semi-autonomous robot designed to operate in hostile environments has been developed by Nasa.

The robot is able to use human tools and can plot its own path safely across difficult terrain to a location picked by its operator.

Nasa hopes the robot might one day help build colonies on the Moon or Mars, but it could also be used on Earth in places which cannot be reached by humans.

(18) NOM DE PLUME. Howard Andrew Jones has published a two-part announcement that author Todd McAulty (who wrote The Robots of Gotham) is a pseudonym for Black Gate editor John O’Neill.

“I just…. I just got carried away,” he said. “I started by publishing a few stories in Black Gate. But then Todd started getting fan letters, and became one of the most popular writers we had. Rich Horton used his Locus column to announce ‘Todd McAulty is Black Gate‘s great discovery,’ and pretty soon there was all this demand for new stories. It felt like a cheat to stop then.”

(19) RUTGER HAUER. This is a damn strange Guinness commercial… From back in the day:

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Joey Eschrich, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Four Winners Refuse Parsec Awards

Four 2018 Parsec Awards winners announced today they will decline their awards because the committee has sustained the award given to an alleged harasser.

The December 17 announcement of the 2018 Parsec Awards for sff podcasting was hailed by protests that one of the winners “has a history of extremely disturbing behavior”, according to a follow-up statement the committee issued the same day. The person was not named in that statement, nor in the committee’s December 19 release explaining why they were allowing the award to stand. The reasons given were —

…It is the goal of The Parsecs to judge solely on the merit of the content and not on gender, heritage, religious belief, sexual orientation, politics, or other factors not in the podcast as presented to the audience. To do more would be to fail at our core purpose.

There is neither precedent nor procedure for The Committee to intervene in the results based on information outside of the stated policies….

The target of the protests is Edward Champion, winner of the 2018 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction Story: Large Cast (Short Form).

Some of the allegations against Champion were covered by Gawker in 2014:

Last night, a Brooklyn-based literary blogger/podcaster/personality named Edward Champion suddenly began attacking the novelist Porochista Khakpour on Twitter, after Khakpour tweeted about Champion’s private threats against her. Before the night was over, Champion had been kicked off Twitter, and several other writers and literary agents had come forward to tell stories of Champion’s threatening and bizarre behavior….

A Parsec Awards judge, Wil Williams, also says she has been harassed by Champion. Her thread starts here.

Several winners have answered the Parsec Awards committee’s decision not to take away Champion’s award by refusing to accept theirs.

Escape Artists has publicly declined their two 2018 Parsec Awards, as explained in the post “If You Stand for Nothing, What’ll You Fall For?”

In light of recent events, Escape Artists is declining its 2018 Parsec wins.

Escape Pod, edited by Mur Lafferty and S. B. Divya, won Best Speculative Fiction Magazine or Anthology Podcast.

PodCastle, edited by Jen R. Albert and Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali won Best Speculative Fiction Story: Small Cast (Short Form) for its production of “Six Jobs” by Tim Pratt, narrated by Stephanie Malia Morris.

EA co-owners Alasdair Stuart and Marguerite Kenner have been in consultation with both editorial teams and Mr. Pratt, and we have unanimously decided to reject both awards. We also reached out to Ms. Morris, but have not head back from her as of the time of this post.

… The systemic failure of care that has taken place with this year’s Parsec Awards can’t go unanswered and this is one of the strongest ways we can express our displeasure.

Pendant Productions has rejected the award they won for Best Speculative Fiction Video Story:

And Grant Baciocco of Saturday Morning Media has refused the award for Best Podcast about Speculative Fiction Content Creation.

Escape Artists co-owner Alasdair Stuart gave an overview of their decision in “The 2018 Parsec Situation”. He concluded:

…Letting down judges like this is bad. Lacking a complaints policy at a minimum in this day and age borders on unforgivable. The community’s trust in the Parsecs has, at the very least, been torpedoed by this incident and the committee’s response to it. Whether that torpedo hit under the water line remains to be seen.

For me, I’d love to see some changes. A complaints policy is years overdue. More awareness of the field and problematic behaviour within it even more so. That doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be political either but rather based on fundamental decency. Sexism, racism, homophobia, harassment. These aren’t political lines, they’re lifestyle choices and choices that podcasters up for awards should be aware of, just as prose authors are slowly starting to be. Blindness isn’t necessary here, and ignorance is the opposite of bliss. Engagement, compassion, dialogue and change are all needed. I hope the committee feels the same way and I hope that next year, these awards can be what they deserve to be; celebrated.

Escape Pod assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney added his thoughts in “The Year of Declines: Parsecs and WOTF”:

…I understand the appeal and principles of above-the-fray neutrality. But in practice, any organization must choose between those who would act abusively, and their victims. If you won’t banish anyone, the harmful people will do the banishing….

And Adam Pracht, who worked on Escape Artists’ Parsec Award submissions, endorsed the decision in a thread that starts here.

Pixel Scroll 9/13/18 A Pixel Without A Scroll Is Like Leslie Fish Without A Bicycle Card

(1) COMING DISTRACTIONS. Space.com presents a gallery of photos of Hurricane Florence taken from space.

With Hurricane Florence dominating this view from the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready, “this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you.” Click through this gallery to see the latest images of Hurricane Florence.

(2) SF CONCATENATION. The new issue of SF Concatenation is up “Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2018”. Jonathan Cowie outlines what’s in store for readers —

Most recently added (mid-September) is our autumnal edition of news and reviews.  As usual its news page has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major SF/F imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere in the world.  (A great way to see what will be coming out and ideas for your Christmas shopping.)  And then there is the news page’s science consisting of short paragraphs on the season’s key, primary research papers that are cited so our scientist regulars can Google Scholar the papers for themseleves (and our non-scientist regulars can see that we don’t do fake news).  Plus there’s the news page’s science-and-SF-interface section where yesterday’s SF is becoming today’s fact.

Other content includes articles and convention reports. Here there is another in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century.

The issue delivers over 40,000 words of selected news. That selection includes not reporting most of the Hugo winners:

…We continue (from last year) to define the Hugo ‘principal categories’ as those that had over a thousand nominating in that category (down from two thousand as our definition in 2016 as the numbers involved in Hugo nominating have declined since 2016).  The 1,813 number nominating was down on last year’s number (2,464) (the second year of decline).  The 2,828, voting on the final shortlist was down on the 3,319 voting in 2017 which in turn was marginally up on the number voting in 2016 (3,130).
So not surprisingly, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were markedly fewer than last year. Indeed, for the first time in many years we are not counting the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form’ as principal category (it only saw 819 nominating ballots and just a paltry 87 nominating the programme that went on to win). The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-

Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (fantasy) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the ‘best books’ of 2017. This is the third consecutive win for ‘best novel’ for Jemisin something that has never happened before in this category.
Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Wonder Woman (Trailer here) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2017.

(3) THE MILITARY USES OF VENTRILOQUISM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Bluetooth earpieces have made people apparently talking to themselves normal—at least sort of. But at least one can spot the earpieces if you look carefully. A product in development for military use could change that, moving the mic and speaker inside the mouth (Smithsonian: “Military Invests in ‘Molar Mic’ That Can Route Calls Through Your Teeth”).

Communications devices have taken over our pockets and our wrists, but soon the gadgets may go even deeper. Patrick Tucker at Defense One reports that the Air Force has signed a $10 million deal with a California company to continue development of a communication device that is fitted to a users’ teeth.

Dubbed the “Molar Mic,” the gadget is being designed by San Mateo-based Sonitus Technologies  Officially called the ATAC system, the two-way communication system consists of a small microphone that clips to a users back teeth. This enables them to hear communications through their cranial bones which transmit the sound to the auditory nerve. Users also wear a low-profile transmitter loop around their neck that connects to the Molar Mic via near-field magnetic induction, a system similar to Bluetooth that can be encrypted and also passes through water. The loop then connects with with a phone, walkie-talkie or other communications device.

The device has seen field testing—albeit not in combat—with good results reported according to the contractor:

Tucker reports that airmen in Afghanistan tried it for 14 months while deployed, though not in active missions. Pararescuemen from the Air National Guard’s 131st Rescue Squadron based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, also tested the device in Houston last year during Hurricane Harvey. The team faced high water, noisy helicopters and other external noises that make traditional communication difficult.

“This guy is standing in neck-deep water, trying to hoist a civilian up into a helicopter above. He says, ’There is no way I would be able to communicate with the crew chief and the pilot if I was not wearing your product,” [Sonitus CEO Peter] Hadrovic tells Tucker.

Might you ever see a civilian walking around with a “molar mic”? Gizmodo weighs in on that question (“Weird Tooth Phone Wins Millions in Pentagon Funding”):

A spokesperson for Sonitus told Gizmodo the company won’t speculate about when the technology will be available for commercial, industrial, or consumer markets—and the company won’t scale beyond military use until it completes the contract the Department of Defense just awarded them.

So, we probably have at least a few years before civilians start lodging phones into their throats.

(4) FRESH COMPETITION. Deadline is determined not to be left behind: “Former Hero Complex Columnist Geoff Boucher Joins Deadline As Genre Editor”.

Veteran journalist Geoff Boucher, best known for launching the Hero Complex column in the Los Angeles Times that built a vast following, has joined Deadline in the newly created post of Genre Editor. He will be based in Los Angeles and specialize in breaking news, features and analysis of “Comic-Con culture.” His stomping ground will encompass superhero fare, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and animation, the hottest film and television sectors in today’s Hollywood.

(5) CONSPIRASKI. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A conspiracy theory promoted by Russian media have it that a NASA astronaut deliberately damaged the docked Soyuz that was leaking air from the International Space Station. A joint NASA/Roscosmos statement reported in The Verge (“NASA is trying to squash conspiracy theories about the space station leak”) tries to quash that rumor… this despite earlier media reports that Roscosmos personnel are feeding those rumors through back channels.

Wild theories of sabotage still persist two weeks after a mysterious pressure leak occurred on the International Space Station, and the gossip has gotten so nonsensical that both NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, are now trying to quell the rumors.

In a joint statement released today, NASA and Roscosmos claim that the US space agency is working closely with Russia to figure out the cause of the leak. The statement also notes that no information will be released until the Russian-led investigation is over, despite rampant speculation in the Russian press that the leak was possibly caused by one of NASA’s astronauts in space.

…the gossip over the leak seems to have only grown in the last couple of weeks. As first reported by Ars Technica, a story published in Russia’s Kommersant cited anonymous sources from Roscosmos, who claimed that investigators were looking into the possibility that the hole was caused by a NASA astronaut. The theory was that one of the three American crew members had gotten sick, so one of the astronauts caused the leak in order to force a quick evacuation to Earth.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

Setting aside his technical first appearance in 1981’s Donkey Kong, today is a fun anniversary to take note of for fans of the Super Mario video game franchise. The fat plumber who sports the iconic overalls and red cap debuted as a titular video game hero 33 years ago today, in Super Mario Bros. which was released in Japan on Sept. 13, 1985.

Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but when the game made its way over to North America and started selling here, it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. With some 40 million copies sold for the original NES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1894 – J.B. Priestley. Who apparently wrote SF but I’ll admit that even after reading his page at the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction that I’ll be buggered if I can figure out precisely what that means. One of y’all will need to explain what sort of genre fiction he did.
  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl. Writer, though how much of his work I’d consider genre is a good question, Witches certainly as well as Gremlins, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox but what else are genre to your thinking? He would win the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, so I may be being overly fussy tonight.
  • Born September 13 — Bernard Pearson, 72. Discworld specialist. Would I could kid you? He wrote the Compleat Discworld Atlas with Ian Mitchell and Isobel Pearson and Terry Pratchett and Bernard Pearson and Reb Voyce; Also such works (and for sake of brevity I’m skipping co-authors though you can assume Pratchett was listed as being involved though how involved he was is a good question) as the Discworld Almanak: The Year of the PrawnDiscworld Diary: A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch and Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo.
  • Born September 13 – Bob Eggleton, 58. He has won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist an amazing eight times, he also won the Hugo for Best Related Book for his art book Greetings From Earth. He has also won the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement. He was the guest of honor at Chicon  in 2000.
  • Born September 13 – Tom Holt, 57. Humorous fantasy such as Expecting Someone Taller and Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?  One of his latest works, The Good, the Bad and the Smug is roughly a take on Rumplestiltskin based economies where Evil goes for modern, hopefully appealing appearance.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Over the Hedge strip is not what Kirk had in mind when he asked for more power:

(9) DRIVERLESS MOTORCYCLE ON THE WAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Don’t worry, this is probably not going to develop into the first Terminator. BMW has taken the wraps off a research project — said to be more than two years old — and has published video of a self-driving motorcycle (Mashable: “BMW’s riderless motorcycle can handle curves, obstacles”). In the video, the cycle is shown driving both with and without a rider along. What appears to be an early version has wide outrider wheels, but the current prototype looks pretty much lke a regular motorcycle with extra metal boxes attached that presumably contain the electronics.

This week BMW Motorrad — the motorcycle division of the German car company — showed a prototype driverless bike on a test track accelerating, navigating curves, and braking all on its own. In Munich, safety researchers have been using the autonomous motorcycle to test out features for its real motorcycles to handle dangerous situations.

(10) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE UNCANNY SLUSHPILE. You can’t say they don’t know what they missed.

(11) ESCAPE POD OPENING FOR SUBMISSIONS. On September 16.

(12) ST. KOONTZ. Benedictine College English professor Stephen Mirarchi, reviewing Dean Koontz’s new novel The Forbidden Door, says that Koontz is an orthodox Catholic who is “a wildly successful writer who has infused his art with God’s grandeur.” National Review Online has the story: “The Transcendent Dean Koontz”.

… To take a wider view, Koontz is presenting in the series a large-scale defense of the ability to choose meaning and virtue. One of his recurring characters is an anxiety-prone latter-day Puritan, while another is an intellectually and physically domineering hulk straight out of a Max Weber tract. Koontz fairly and logically shows the necessary consequences of these characters’ thoughts and actions by creating storylines of such accessibility that the general reader can see how their ideologies contradict any coherent notion of the good life. The modern Puritan, for instance, moves nervously from scene to scene, constantly seeking perfection and never finding it, unjustly critiquing others while placating his own ego. The ideologies Koontz critiques inevitably lead to disaster — not just for the characters, but for the societies built on such chimeras.

Hawk, on the other hand, embraces the natural religion to which Koontz’s wide fan base responds with awe. She finds solace in the wonder of creation while calling out evil for its supernatural maliciousness, ever uniting reason with hope against secular hedonism. Koontz does “diversity” the right way, too: He features an autistic character in this series who is a compelling hero because he faces down his particular suffering by accepting grace. And as Flannery O’Connor and Léon Bloy before her have shockingly reminded us, the reception of grace usually hurts — badly.Speaking of the reception of grace, I am going to prognosticate: There is one mesmerizing scene in The Forbidden Door, an explicitly Catholic one, that many readers may wildly misinterpret….

(13) THOSE MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES. Jason Heller intended to write an evocative, nostalgic tribute to the world of Piers Anthony – until he reread A Spell for Chameleon: “Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth” at AV Club.

I know other people who have read Anthony’s Xanth books. All of them did so in their youth—and like me, they drifted away from them long before graduating high school. There’s something inherently juvenile about the Xanth series, even though it wasn’t marketed as young adult, a distinction that didn’t exist as such back then. Even worse, as the series progressed it became increasingly reliant on really bad puns. That was more of a turnoff than any perceived lady hating, at least when I was a teenager and less attuned to such things. I do wonder how much of the books’ warped view of women trickled into my sensibility back then. Or other readers’ sensibility.

I grew up to be involved deeply in science fiction and fantasy, but it doesn’t take an insider to know that those genres have trouble with gender issues—both on the page and in real life, where sexual harassment at sci-fi conventions is an ongoing problem. Anthony’s books were huge in their day, and their influence runs deep; dozens of similarly humorous series, from Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth Adventures to Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger, popped up in Xanth’s wake. I read and loved them, too, when I was a kid. But they don’t evoke an icky feeling the way Xanth does—a creepiness that retroactively corrodes any lingering nostalgia.

(14) LUNCH WAS SERVED. Can you guess “Who killed the largest birds that ever lived?” Bones show that humans lived beside “elephant birds” on Madagascar for millennia before wiping them out for food.

Prehistoric humans are under suspicion of wiping out the largest birds that ever lived after fossilised bones were discovered with telltale cut marks.

According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.

The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.

“This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.

(15) WALLACE WINS. “Smarty pants: Robot trousers could keep the elderly mobile” — linings of legs fitted to act as supplementary muscles.

Johnathan Rossiter proudly displays his new trousers. Brightly coloured and fit for the running track, but packing more than just Lycra. They’ll be robotic.

“We are all going to get older and our mobility is going to reduce,” he says. “What we want to do is give people that extra bit of boost, to maintain their independence as long as possible.”

A team of British researchers thinks the future lies in wearable soft robotics. They’ve developed robotic muscles; air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position.

(16) FLY ME TO THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX is up to something… the Moon. Or, at least they want to be. They’ve announced (via a tweet) that they have signed their first customer to take a trip around the Moon (The Verge: “SpaceX says it will send someone around the Moon on its future monster rocket”):

SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen. SpaceX says it will announce who is flying — and why — on Monday, September 17th.

The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, [presented] by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.

(Yeah, yeah, BFR stands for “Big Falcon Rocket.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more, say no more.)

SpaceX had already announced (in early 2017) plans for two people to take such a trip; it’s not immediately not clear if this new announcement is one of those or yet a third person. The tweet does say that the name of the person as well as the reason for the trip will be announced Monday 17 September.

(17) MESSAGE FROM A CRYPTIC KRYPTONIAN. Erin Donnelly, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Henry Cavill Posts Complex Superman Vibe as Reports Claim He’s Leaving Superhero Role” says that Henry Cavill posted a video on Instagram wearing a “Krypton Lifting Team” and waving a Superman action figure around, leaving his 6.4 million followers wondering what this means.

View this post on Instagram

Today was exciting #Superman

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

(18) DAREDEVIL. Nextflix release the Daredevil Season 3 teaser trailer.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 8/12/18 Let My Pixels Go

(1) NINE WORLDS. London’s Nine Worlds wrapped today, and the leadership has announced plans to move on:

Nine Worlds is beginning a process of reconstitution. This means that the current ownership will be dissolved, and the assets, liabilities and necessary data transferred to a new entity. The purpose of this is to a) ensure that its continued existence is sustainable and rewarding for those involved in it, and b) allow me (Dan) and the other shareholders to step away from the company and our responsibilities to it….

Why is this happening, and why now?

The current organising model is not sustainable for those on the organising side of it. A lot of people gain a lot from the event, but certain roles reliably cause harm to the people performing them or exploit them, and there’s a treadmill effect that leads to organisers carrying on until they burn out and / or do something that can’t be reconciled with continued involvement. I include myself in that: I’ve been working without choice and without pay for over two years now.

Additionally, the mix of cultures and people involved has embedded tensions that may benefit from a more concretely agreed purpose and identity. This has been causing issues from the event’s beginning, and while the intent to create a big platform that still kept high expectations of behaviour and support was positive, I’m not sure that the event will be able to meet a standard that’s acceptable to all those who attend and take part in organising, without being clearer who it’s for, what it stands for, and what people should expect, and letting people choose whether to engage in that knowledge.

And finally, I’ve invested a huge amount of time, money and my heart in Nine Worlds, but I’ve done so as a job, often working all the time for months at a time. My ’employer’ hasn’t paid me in years and imposes working conditions that would be illegal in any volunteering or employment context, and I’ve been wanting to move on for some time.

The reason I’m doing it right now is that I couldn’t do it two years ago, as an attempt to change the organisation in a different way three years ago failed hard, and necessitated an intervening two years of steady steering.

2016 put Nine Worlds Ltd far enough in debt that I couldn’t guarantee the end result of any process to reconstitute. We were reliant on future sales to cover the running cost of the current convention, and failure to transition (or attempting to close down) would result in the business failing and being unable to repay the future event sales to ticket holders.

I now have enough money to cover the shortfall without opening future ticket sales, and the event’s financial position has also improved, so I can start this process without trying to sell tickets for an undetermined event with unknown leadership to cover the gap.

(2) SPIDER TRACKS. Worldcon 76 is running a travel blog about one of the guests of honor — “The Worldcon 76 – Bound Peregrinations of Spider Robinson.” But the first entry sounds pretty disturbing.

Day 1: Victoria to Port Angeles

The trip began with a 4 AM call.

“Steph. I don’t think I’m gonna make it”

The Worldcon 76 Guest of Honour was white as a sheet and barely able to stand. It was my job to get him from Canada to San Jose in one piece and it was looking like the trip was going to be over before it began.

After six hours in the emergency room, we got the all clear and Spider finally got some needed sleep. Luckily so did I.

The spirit of Fandom and SF must have been watching over us, because when he woke up he was his old self and willing to try to make the trip after all. (I on the other hand was about ready to pass out from stress and worry).

(3) MCMOVIE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “‘Mac and Me’ at 30: ‘Ronald McDonald’ remembers his infamous 1988 movie” notes that this is the 30th anniversary of Mac and Me, a cheesy ripoff of E.T. in which Ronald MacDonald teams up with alien “MAC” (or “Mysterious Alien Creature”.)  Squire Fridell, who played Ronald MacDonald at the time, tells stories about the production and wishes that the Razzies had mailed him his award for Worst New Actor.  Paul Rudd has a long-running gag on Conan where he promises an “exclusive new clip” from whatever movie he is promoting and then shows something from Mac and Me.

The trailer turned out to be a bit of a bait-and-switch, and not just because it made the movie look halfway entertaining. While Ronald presents himself as an equal co-star with the titular bug-eyed alien, his actual role in the Stewart Raffill-directed movie is little more than a glorified cameo.

 

(4) ASK THE PRIMATES. BBC profiles “Primate speech: How some species are ‘wired’ for talk” — since we don’t have soft tissues from our own ancestors, looking at evolution of speech by studying vocalization in existing species.

A new study has compared different primate species’ brains.

It revealed that primates with wider “vocal repertoires” had more of their brain dedicated to controlling their vocal apparatus.

That suggests that our own speaking skills may have evolved as our brains gradually rewired to control that apparatus, rather than purely because we’re smarter than non-human apes.

Humans and other primates have very similar vocal anatomy – in terms of their tongues and larynx. That’s the physical machinery in the throat which allows us to turn air into sound.

So, as lead researcher Dr Jacob Dunn from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge explained, it remains a mystery that only human primates can actually talk.

(5) SOMEHOW STILL HERE. In “Coral reefs ‘weathered dinosaur extinction'”, new studies say that corals go back 160Myrs, not just 60.

Corals may have teamed up with the microscopic algae which live inside them as much as 160 million years ago, according to new research.

The two organisms have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they need each other to survive.

But this partnership was previously thought to have developed about 60 million years ago.

The new findings suggest that reef algae may have weathered significant environmental changes over time.

This includes the mass extinction that wiped out most of the dinosaurs.

Algae’s resilience to temperature changes has been of concern to scientists recently, as warming events on the Great Barrier Reef have seen the coral “bleached” of its algae.

(6) TALK TO THE ANIMALS. How hot was it, Johnny? “Cows allowed to visit Swedish nudist beaches in heatwave”.

The government in southern Sweden have granted permission for cows to visit nudist beaches during the prolonged summer heatwave, despite complaints from locals, it’s reported.

According to The Local news website, nudists have been complaining to officials in provincial Smaland about livestock visiting their beaches, saying that their presence is “unhygienic and could pose a health risk”.

It says the roasting summer heat affecting much of continental Europe has led to drought throughout the country, and has meant that farmers have been struggling to feed their animals.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 12, 1939The Wizard of Oz receives its world premiere in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on this day.
  • August 12, 1941 – Premiering this day, Dr.  Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Spencer Tracy.
  • August 12, 1943 – Universal’s Phantom of the Opera debuts. At one point in pre-production it was planned for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to star.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 12, 1881. Cecil B. DeMille. Yes he did some genre work as Producer: When Worlds Collide, The Ghost Breaker (a silent horror film now lost) and the 1953 War Of The Worlds which he’s not credited for as Executive Producer.
  • Born August 12 — William Goldman, 87. Writer and / or screenwriter of The Princess Bride, The Stepford WivesMemoirs of an Invisible Man, Dreamcatcher (horror film) and a short video based on The Princess Bride with apparently none of the original cast.
  • Born August 12 — Sam J. Jones, 64. Flash Gordon in the 1980 film of that name, Krebb in the later Flash Gordon series.
  • Born August 12 — Bruce Greenwood, 62. Lead in the Nowhere Man series, the Sleepwalkers series, I, Robot, voice work in animated Class of the Titans series, Christopher Pike in Star Trek and voices Batman in Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and Young Justice. Not the same Batman mind you
  • Born August 12 — Claudia Christian, 53. Babylon 5 of course, and genre roles also in the possibly forthcoming Space Diner Tales in which the year is 2075 and an alien race is set on conquering Earth, the Upworld detective series complete with a talking gnome, Space Rangers, Relic Hunter and Starhyke, a truly awful sounding series.

(9) THE ICING ON THE CAKE.

(10) NOTCONJOSE II. George R.R. Martin will be there: “Worldcon Time!”

I have cut way down on the number of cons I attend, due to the press of work, but there’s no way I’d miss a worldcon, by any name.   I’ve only missed one in the last thirty years.   Dragoncon and San Diego Comicon and GenCon and many other cons are now much bigger, but worldcon remains the original, and the best, the heart of the fannish community.   Worldcon is like a family reunion.   And yes, like any large family, we have our share of drunken uncles, loony cousins, and snot-nosed kids… but still, family is family.   I’ll be there for the whole con.  I hope to see many of you in SanJose.  Worldcon is great time for getting together with old friends and making new ones.

(11) JUST ONE THING MISSING. Andrea discusses “Nexhuman by Francesco Verso” at Little Red Reviewer.

#sorrynotsorry, I’m going to give you a spoiler right out of the gate:

Nexhuman will offer you enough ideas and discussion topics and thought experiments to keep you busy for the next ten years. In fact, an entire Convention programming track could be built just around the questions and ideas in this book.

What Nexhuman does not offer is concrete answers to any of the questions that are brought up.

(12) FRESH OFF THE 1963 NEWSSTANDS. Galactic Journey’s John Boston finds a little gold-dust among the grit in the new issue of Amazing: “[August 12, 1963] WET BLANKET (the September 1963 Amazing)”.

But the issue opens with Poul Anderson’s Homo Aquaticus, illustrated on the cover by a swimmer with a menacing look and a more menacing trident, next to a nicely-rendered fish, in one of artist Lloyd Birmingham’s better moments.  This is one of Anderson’s atmospheric stories, its mood dominated by Anglo-Saxon monosyllables.  No, not those—I mean fate, guilt, doom, that sort of thing.  The story’s tone is set in the first paragraph, in which the protagonist “thought he heard the distant blowing of a horn.  It would begin low, with a pulse that quickened as the notes waxed, until the snarl broke in a brazen scream and sank sobbing away.”

This is rationalized as the wind in the cliffs, but we know better.  The good (space)ship Golden Flyer and its crew have been sentenced to roam the galactic hinterlands after some of their number betrayed other ships of the Kith, a starfaring culture separated from planetary cultures by relativistic time dilation.  Right now they’re looking at what used to be a colony planet, but all they see is ruins, until their encounter with the colony’s descendants, as given away by the title.  In the end, doom and fate are tempered with rationality and mercy.  Three stars, but towards the top of Anderson’s middling range.

(13) LECKIE LIKES THESE. Ann Leckie recommends three books in “Some things I’ve read recently” beginning with —

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Look, you should just read this. Rivers is nominated for the Campbell (Not a Hugo) this year on the strength of this book. It would have been an entirely worthy Best Novel finalist, quite frankly. I was late to it partly because I have lots of things to read and very little time to do it in, and also because I was aware that it would be a difficult read–as in, full of violence and death and heartbreak. That’s all true. This is a fabulous book.

(14) A CONVERT. Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds says he now understands what the Stephenson hype was about: “Philoso-monks Save Some Worlds: Anathem by Neal Stephenson”.

A few times while reading this book, I tried to explain the basic premise to friends. The best I could do is something like this: weird monks on an alien planet or maybe another dimension talk about philosophy, science, and math. This does not in any way do it justice, of course, but it’s really hard to explain this novel.

Of course, for hard core Stephenson fans, the name on the cover is enough. And for philosophers such as myself, those weird alien philosophical monks are irresistible (which is why this novel made a lot of the lists of philosophers’ picks for best philosophical SF compiled by Eric Schwitzgebel). I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some other lovers of this book who sometimes dream about a life as a monastic entirely dedicated to intellectual pursuits, or who maybe just liked Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Others who might love this: people who love immersive world building and massive tomes that come with with a glossary (no maps here, but there are a few calcas – explanatory appendices for those who need even more nerdish detail).  As I am at least an occasional member of all of the above groups, my love for this book is present in all nearby possible worlds.

(15) SAVED. Much truth in this.

(16) BATWOMAN LEAVES TWITTER. Yahoo! Lifestyle reports “Ruby Rose Apparently Left Twitter Following Harassment over Her “Batwoman” Role”.

Ruby Rose has apparently removed her Twitter account after continued social media harassment that centered on her upcoming role as Batwoman.

As noted by SyFy, the Orange is the New Black star’s absence from Twitter was spotted by fans on August 11. Ruby also appeared to allude to a potential leave of the platform on Friday, August 10, tweeting: “Where on earth did ‘Ruby is not a lesbian therefore she can’t be Batwoman’ come from — has to be the funniest most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. I came out at 12? And have for the past 5 years had to deal with ‘she’s too gay’ how do y’all flip it like that? I didn’t change.” Her account appears to have been removed soon after the tweet was made.

Ruby’s Instagram remains active, but SyFy reports that she seems to have limited what comments appear. Her last Instagram post was shared on August 10.

(17) DIOP TURNS OFF COMMENTING. Another actress facing toxic social media: “‘Titans’ Star Anna Diop Disables Instagram Comments”ComicBook.com has the story.

The first trailer for Titans brought its cast into the spotlight this week, and it looks like that has had some major effects.

Anna Diop, who is set to play Koriand’r/Starfire on the DC Universe series, recently disabled comments on the vast majority of her Instagram posts. Her Instagram, which you can check out here, features only six photos that have been posted since May 11th. The latest post, where Diop announces that she has a role in Jordan Peele’s Us, is the only one that currently allows comments.

While it’s unknown exactly why Diop essentially cleaned house on her Instagram, some have speculated that it is due to the negative backlash from the first Titans trailer. The trailer, which debuted on Thursday, features several brief glimpses of Starfire using her powers, which have appeared to only continue the racist and sexist remarks surrounding Diop’s casting.

Earlier this year, a series of leaked set photos provided the first look at Diop and her co-stars in costume, which earned backlash for not being “comic accurate”. At the time, Diop actually used Instagram to fire back at the negativity, posting a passionate response to her followers.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In The New York Public Library’s Collections of Weird Objects on Vimeo, The New Yorker shows viewers some weird things that have ended up in the library’s collections, including a paw from one of Charles Dickens’s cats!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Karl-Johan Norén, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Alasdair Stuart Talks About Escape Artists

By Alasdair Stuart: Hello, I’m Alasdair Stuart and I own Escape Artists. We’ve been active for 14 years, we produce 4 weekly podcasts, have an archive of over 2,000 episodes covering science fiction, fantasy, horror and YA and we don’t charge for a single one of them.

I love my job. And this year, it involves being a part of Hugo history. Escape Pod is our science fiction show and it’s a Best Semiprozine finalist this year. That’s amazing. What’s more amazing is that it’s the first ever audio-first magazine to reach that level. For years, the category was dominated by print magazines. Then it was opened up to digital possibilities and the digital magazines spent a few years making their way into the running. Now you can draw a line with two distinct points on it showing the massive progress not just the field, but the awareness of it outside the legacy print magazines, has made. Print. Print and digital. Now, print, digital and audio in a glorious melange. The entire field this year is amazing and in no small part due to the massive variety in style, format, tone and approach between the finalists. Variety really is the spice of life for this industry and an award like this and remember, whoever controls the spice, controls the universe.

That’s why I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved in 2017, and also where it’s got us.

Take a look at the Escape Pod Hugo Voter Packet. Five episodes, a cross-section of 2017 that covers every editor, every host, reprints and originals as well as an entry from our yearly Artemis Rising project. There’s a sample of every major voice on the show there and it was consciously designed to be that way. We didn’t want to bury voters under hundreds of pages of material so, instead, went for some of our finest hours. Or, more commonly, our finest 35 minutes at a time. We work hard to ensure our stories fit inside a commute so you’ve always got something good to listen to.

Those stories were picked by our heroic slushers, polished and finalized by Norm Sherman (Now doing great work over at the revitalized Drabblecast), S.B. Divya and Mur Lafferty along with Benjamin C. Kinney. Then narrators and hosts, including Mur, Divya, Tina Connolly and myself were assigned, audio producers like Adam Pracht worked their magic and the episode was ready to go.

It takes a village to make a podcast. And that village works 52 weeks of the year to make sure it gets done. And I’ve never been prouder of the people I work with than I am right now. Especially as our fantasy show PodCastle just became the first podcast to be shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award and PseudoPod, our horror show, is a finalist in the BFS’ inaugural Best Audio award.

So if you’re a listener, thank you. If you’re a new listener, welcome aboard. We hope you enjoy the shows and where they’re going. Because after this year, we certainly do.

Escape Pod’s Divya Breed and Mur Lafferty Interviewed by Carl Slaughter

By Carl Slaughter: Newly promoted Escape Pod co-editors Divya Breed and Mur Lafferty give us the inside story on the magazine and their careers.

Carl Slaughter:  What did Escape Pod look like in the beginning, how has it evolved, and what’s the vision for the future?

Mur Lafferty: Escape Pod was a one-person show, run entirely by Serah (then Steve) Eley. She covered all of the work from slush reading to audio production to hosting to web design, and it was a huge job.

Serah’s focus was to deliver fun science fiction, with the meaning of fun open to interpretation, but, like obscenity, you know it when you see it.

It was the first podcast magazine, driven only by online donations.

The show hasn’t really changed a lot since those early days, nearly 600 episodes ago. It’s still one story per week, we still have the same Creative Commons license, and we still have music from Daikaiju. Some changes have included paying SFWA pro rates for original stories and paying narrators, not to mention the show doing well enough to branch off other shows focused on other genres.

Different editors have also brought different visions to the magazine, sometimes veering away from “fun,” sometimes coming back to it. I think looking forward Divya and I just want to present a good story. That sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Divya Breed: I suspect Mur has a better handle on Escape Pod’s history than I do, having been around for much more of it! In terms of the future, we are indeed looking for whatever tickles our fancy, and I can say safely that so far, we’re generally in agreement on what that means. We enjoy publishing new authors, we’ll be soliciting stories, especially from up-and-coming authors, and we’ll continue to highlight classics for some of our special episodes.

CS:  How is the site different since the last time Mur was at the helm?

ML: We have a bigger staff now, and the incredible workload is spread among many people. I keep having the feeling that “Oh crap, I didn’t do X for the show,” and then remember that X is someone else’s job. It makes the actual editorial job easier when I don’t need to worry about finding narrators, or production, or the website.

CS:  You’re listed as co-editors.  Is there an official or implied chief co-editor.  Does Divya take the lead because she was part of the current regime when Mur arrived?  Does Mur take the lead because she has more podcast experience.  Am I reading too much into this?  Is it more like 2 editors getting into the groove with each other?

DB: You are definitely reading too much into it! [insert me laughing] It’s an equal partnership at the top right now. When Norm decided that it was time for him to focus on other parts of his life, I had been working as the Assistant Editor of Escape Pod for less than a year. Between that and my writing career, I didn’t want to take on an editor-in-chief role without some backup. Mur was my ideal choice, having plenty of experience in the editor’s chair, but also being an author herself and therefore understanding how to balance the two roles.

We are getting into the groove of things, and we do our best to keep the bumps in the road from becoming unpleasant for our audience. And I confess: a good portion of our monthly meeting revolves around non-Escape Pod related conversation, like writing, conventions, and family. I’ll quote Casablanca: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

ML: I came into this with the editorial and EP experience, but have been away for a while, and Divya knows how the machine is working now. So while she’s made some of the decisions regarding staff (ie, promoting our new Assistant Editor, Ben Kinney), we are equals with regards to editorial decisions.

So far we’ve pretty much agreed on everything, with only two non-negotiable claims so far (one was “We have to buy this story, I will fight you if you disagree,” and one “This is a hard no, I hate this.” I will leave out who was on which side, to keep an air of mystery about this. But I will say that one of us was willing to fight for a story, and one of us was willing to fight to NOT buy a story. We get along quite well despite the occasional violent threats.)

CS:  How has editing duties affected your own writing and other ambitions?

ML: Not so much, I don’t think. I usually try to do my EP work in batches, so a few days are all focused on EP, and I can work on writing and my other podcasts on other days.

DB: I tend to work similar to Mur, compartmentalizing my editing duties to one day per week (not counting email). I’ll often pick up stories to review while eating lunch or in the evenings, but other than that, my time is devoted to writing or other types of work.

CS:  I count 2 editors, a host, an assistant editor, an audio producer, a community manager, and 8 associate editors.  Wow, does it really take that many people to generate a weekly podcast episode?  Exactly who does what?

ML: Since we deal with a large slush pile, and no one is making a living wage (and some are 100% volunteer), it’s definitely a relief to have a team backing us up.

The associate editors are our slush team, our valiant volunteers. The audio producer finds the narrators and assembles the podcast. We split the hosting duties between the two editors and our one host for variety (and to not have to write a host spot every week). The community manager wrestles the forums (since personally I prefer Twitter as a way to communicate with people.) And our assistant editor manages the slush team and the flow of stories from slushers to us.

DB: Part of being a SFWA qualifying market means being professional in our engagement with authors and delivery of content. After we migrated to using Submittable for our story and narrator submissions, our monthly input almost doubled. We also have quite a bit of turnover at our associate editor level, with many a slusher needing to move on after a year or so. We’re in one of those transitional periods, but even otherwise, we try to keep their loads light so they have adequate time to give every story a fair reading.

In addition, our annual Artemis Rising month (to highlight authors who identify as women or non-binary) pulls away several members of the team who dedicate themselves to those submissions.

CS:  What’s the criteria for becoming an Escape Pod story?  What type of stories do you target and what do you decidedly avoid?

DB: Right now, the criteria is that Mur and I both like it. In general terms, we try to create some boundary conditions between us and the other Escape Artists podcasts, so we want stories where a science or technological element plays a fundamental role. The focus of the story might lie elsewhere, but as long as that SFnal aspect exists, we’ll give the story a chance.

ML: I also like to consider the aspect of “fun,” but if a nonfun story knocks my socks off, I definitely won’t turn it down.

CS:  What type of gauntlet does a story go through from submission to posting?

DB: Most stories go through 3 tiers. The associate editors get first crack at our slush pile, and each story will be read and reviewed by one of them. The assistant editor (currently Ben Kinney) then looks over the results, decides which stories to decline and which to hold on for review by Mur and myself. The final round stories must get a go-ahead from both of us. We have enough high-quality stories that filling our weekly quota has not posed a problem.

Some stories take a shorter path when Ben, Mur, or I pick them up straight from slush. We might do this for a variety of reasons. The shortest of all is when we solicit reprints directly from the author. At that point, we’ve already decided to buy the story.

Once we’ve accepted a story, it goes to the contracts team who handle the paperwork and payments for all of the Escape Artists podcasts. In parallel, our audio producer starts on the process of selecting and contracting a narrator for the story, and any text edits get sent to the author for approval.

The final podcast is a concatenation of promotional spots, host segments, and story narration that’s edited and posted by our audio producer.

CS:  Looking through the list of Escape Pod authors, I don’t see the same names I see in the sci-fi magazines, ie, Asimov’s, etc.  Is that deliberate?  Do you prefer unknown and lesser known authors?

ML: (laugh) Are you asking if we deliberately don’t publish Elizabeth Bear or David Gerrold? No, it’s not a deliberate decision to ignore the bigger writers. Remember that it’s not always the editors’ decision what gets published – if authors don’t send us anything, we can’t publish them. A lot of authors don’t know about us, aren’t interested in Creative Commons or audio distribution, or know they can make more money elsewhere. We’re an indie magazine driven only by donations, and aren’t backed by a larger publisher.

Anecdote: A while back I was at a con and tried to solicit a story from a big author (no, I won’t name them) and they frankly (and politely) told me they get so many solicitations that they have to charge $.25 a word. We would very rarely pay that much, so we usually end up publishing a lot more reprints from bigger names than we do originals.

That said, we are a SFWA pro market, and we love giving newer authors their first sale, and we hope to become a place where marginalized voices will feel comfortable soliciting to.

DB: I will add this: Escape Pod has evolved over its lifetime, and the larger community hasn’t always kept up with those changes. We’re working to address some common misconceptions that are holdovers from the past. For example, every new episode is available (in full) as text on our website. We accept original stories – and pay professional rates for them – as well as reprints, paid with a flat fee. Alasdair Stuart has a wonderful blog post on this topic that I encourage everyone to read: “The Top 5 Myths about Escape Artists”.

CS:  How does Escape Pod distinguish itself from other sci-fi podcast sites?

DB: We run exclusively short fiction, we hand-select the best narrator for every episode, and we have a round-table of hosts who discuss what that week’s story meant to them. That has been Escape Pod’s focus from its inception, and that will continue to be so.

Other podcasts are doing great work, but I think we occupy a unique, trusted space with our listenership in part because of our consistent history.

CS:  What’s the status of Mothership Zeta with Mur gone?

ML: Mothership Zeta had a trial run to see if people would pay for a larger project. We wanted to give it six issues to see if it could sustain itself, and we failed at that. We’ve learned an awful lot of lessons and are proud of the work we put out. The magazine is on indefinite hiatus now, but Escape Artists continues to grow, and we’re not ruling out bringing it back someday (although it’s highly unlikely I’ll abandon Divya and go back to MZ.)

CS:  What’s on the horizon for Mur Lafferty and Divya Breed?

ML: The book based on my podcast I Should Be Writing will be out in August. I’ve wanted to write this book for years, and so glad I finally got the opportunity. I’m editing the space marine midwives anthology along with Cast of Wonders editor Marguerite Kenner, and I continue to podcast. As for writing fiction, I’m working on several proposals to throw at my agent, hoping for another book project in the near future.

DB: I’m chipping away at a full-length novel and, of course, learning how to be the best co-editor of a podcast magazine that I can be. I have short stories forthcoming in Apex Magazine and an anthology of Asian science fiction called, Where the Stars Rise. I’m also traveling and making local appearances to promote Runtime, including Worldcon and FenCon. This will be my first Worldcon outside of the USA, and I’m excited about that.

In terms of Escape Pod news, we’ll be closing submissions for the month of August, then reopening in September to general submissions as well as our open call for Artemis Rising 4. We’re also looking forward to our 600th episode this November, and we’ll celebrate the occasion with something special!

ML: We will both be at Worldcon, so please come say hi to us!

Escape Pod Makes Editorial Staff Changes

Escape Artists announced today that Divya Breed and Mur Lafferty are the new co-editors of Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast, filling the role formerly occupied by Norm Sherman. Benjamin C. Kinney will take on the role of assistant editor.

Norm Sherman has stepped away for a variety of personal reasons.

Alasdair Stuart, owner of Escape Artists, Inc.. endorsed the new editors:

I’m incredibly happy to see Mur and Divya take the helm at Escape Pod. Their talent, discernment, and enthusiasm for the field is inspiring, inclusive, and welcome. I can’t wait to see them build on the esteemed past of the world’s first science fiction podcast and set its course for new stories.

Divya Breed

Divya Breed has been with Escape Pod for the past two years, first as an Associate Editor, and then as Assistant Editor. She is also an author of science fiction, writing as S.B. Divya. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, including Lightspeed, Mothership Zeta, and Tor.com, and her writing appears in the indie game Rogue Wizards. Her debut science-fiction novella, Runtime, was released by Tor.com Publications in May, 2016, and is a Nebula Award Finalist.

Mur Lafferty

Mur Lafferty is an author and pioneer podcaster who has been involved with Escape Artists since nearly the beginning (after Serah Eley Fed-Ex’d brownies to her as a bribe to spread the word about this new podcast magazine format). She was one of the founding editors of Pseudopod, editor of Escape Pod for a brief time, and then founder and editor of Mothership Zeta, the quarterly ezine for Escape Artists. She is currently the co-host (with Matt Wallace) of Ditch Diggers, a Hugo Finalist for Best Fancast, and the author of the science fiction murder mystery Six Wakes, out from Orbit.

Benjamin C. Kinney

Benjamin C. Kinney has been an Associate Editor for Escape Pod for the past year. He is an itinerant neuroscientist with a frozen New England heart, though nowadays he lives in St. Louis with two cats and his Martian wife. He no longer creates cyborg monkeys, after too many nights delivering them Prozac. His fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, PodCastle, Flash Fiction Online, and more.

Escape Pod is the premier science fiction podcast magazine, bringing its 40,000 listeners a variety of original and reprinted short fiction.

Pixel Scroll 2/20/16 It’s Like My Body’s Developed This Massive Pixel Deficiency

(1) CROTCHETY GOES TO TOWN. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson gets his Boskone report off to a fast start with a post about Day 1.

I’m at Boskone this weekend, hanging out with the fans, loquaciously displaying my intimate knowledge of arcana  on several panels and availing myself of various perks offered by this long-running (53rd year) convention that was launched as a bid for the 1967 Worldcon.

It’s operated by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA), one of the longest running fan clubs in the country.

One of the things NESFA does is clear out their library and make the clearances available on a freebie table.  Last year, someone snagged a bunch of large-size Analogs out from under my reaching hand (‘sigh’).  This year I was one of the first ‘gleaners’ to hit the table and was rewarded with:

several D series Ace Doubles; a good-sized stack of early Locus fanzines;  same for File 770; a handful of Groff Conklin paperback anthologies (filling in a couple of gaps.  The paperbacks are shortened versions of the hardback anthologies Conklin produced over the years.); a couple of Lee & Miller hardbacks; a NESFA anthology of Lester Del Rey shorts (edited by our own Steven H. Silver); the remaining issues of Galileo magazine that I didn’t have (complete run now!). (Galileo was a “semi-prozine” from back in the late 70s); a few issues of Infinity digest magazine, and a smattering of this and that interesting looking items.

I’m thinking a loquacious displayer would be a great subject for an Audobon drawing.

(2) HARTWELL REMEMBERED. Boskone ran a David Hartwell memorial panel.

(3) THE NEW WAY TO BE HAPPY. Authors shared their excitement over the Nebula Award announcement.

(4) WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO PWN IT TOO? David Brin leads off “Science Fiction and Freedom” with  this book deal —

While in San Francisco for a panel on artificial consciousness, I had an opportunity to stop by the headquarters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation — dedicated to preserving your freedom online and off.  As part of their 25th year anniversary celebration, EFF released Pwning Tomorrow, an anthology of science fiction stories by Bruce Sterling, Ramaz Naam, Charlie Jane Anders, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, Lauren Beukes, and others. You can download it for a donation to this worthy organization.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

UPI-Almanac-for-Saturday-Feb-20-2016

  • February 20, 1962 — A camera onboard the “Friendship 7” Mercury spacecraft photographs astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. during the Mercury-Atlas 6 space flight.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 20, 1926 – Richard Matheson

Matheson

(7) MUSICAL MISSION. In San Diego on March 31, the Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage 50th Anniversary Concert will be performed by a symphony orchestra.

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage brings five decades of Star Trek to concert halls for the first time in this galaxy or any other.

This lavish production includes an impressive live symphony orchestra and international solo instruments. People of all ages and backgrounds will experience the franchise’s groundbreaking and wildly popular musical achievements while the most iconic Star Trek film and TV footage is simultaneously beamed in high definition to a 40-foot wide screen.

The concert will feature some of the greatest music written for the franchise including music from Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Starfleet Academy and much more. This never-before-seen concert event is perfect for music lovers, filmgoers, science-fiction fans and anyone looking for an exciting and unique concert experience.

(8) PERCEPTIONS ABOUT DISABILITY. At The Bias, Annalee Flower Horne covers a lot of ground in “The Geeks Guide To Disability”.

I want the science fiction community to be inclusive and accessible to disabled people. I want our conventions and corners of the internet to be places where disabled people are treated with dignity and respect. I’m hoping that if I walk through some of the more common misconceptions, I can move the needle a little–or at least save myself some time in the future, because I’ll be able to give people a link instead of explaining all this again.

What is Disability?

This may seem like starting from first principles, but a lot of the misconceptions I’ve encountered within the science fiction community have been rooted in a poorly thought-out model of what the term ‘disability’ means….

(9) THE “TO BE HEARD” PILE. Escape Pod has done a metacast about the stories they ran that are eligible for the Hugos.

(10) LONG FORM EDITOR. George R.R. Martin, in “What They Edited, The Third”, posts an impressive resume from Joe Monti of Saga Press, the new science fiction imprint of Simon & Schuster/ Pocket Books.

(11) PRIVATE LABEL. From the Worldcon in the city where everything’s up to date….

(12) FINNISH SNACKS. Things are up to date in Helsinki, too, but there’s a reason you don’t see reindeer roaming the streets….

(13) AND SPEAKING OF EATING. Scott Edelman says a second episode of his podcast Eating the Fantastic has gone live, with guest Bud Sparhawk.

Bud Sparhawk

Bud Sparhawk

I chatted with Bud—a three-time Nebula finalist and Analog magazine regular—about how Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology inspired him to become a writer, what it was like to write for three different Analog editors over four decades, the plotters vs. pantsers debate, and more.

Edelman ends, “If all goes well, Episode 3 will feature writer, editor, and Rosarium Publishing owner Bill Campbell.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rose Embolism, and Gerry Williams for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]