Pixel Scroll 5/25/19 The Stars Not Your Destination? Recalculating…

(1) BACK FROM THE NEBULAS. Connie Willis shares with Facebook readers some of her info from the “We Have Always Been Here” panel —

At the Nebula Awards weekend in Los Angeles this last week I was on a panel with Sarah Pinsker, Cat Rambo, and Eileen Gunn called “We Have Always Been Here,” about early women SF writers. We discussed a bunch of them and decided to follow up with a Twitter hashtag–#AlwaysBeenHere–and discussions on our blogs and Facebook pages of these terrific (and sometimes nearly forgotten) writers.

One of the reasons their names aren’t well-known now is that they, like everybody else in SF at the time, were writing short stories rather than novels, so their stuff can be hard to find. Great writers like Fredric Brown, Ward Moore, and Philip Latham found themselves in the same boat.

Here are some of the women writers I’d like to see be read by a new generation…

(2) UNREAD WORD POWER. Cedar Sanderson expands our vocabulary in “Tsunduko Tsundere” at Mad Genius Club.

…My daughter explained to me that tsundere is ‘typically someone who acts like they don’t want something, but they really do.’ In anime or manga it’s actually a romantic style. Argues with the one they are attracted to, but inside they are all lovebirds and sighs. I am feeling a bit like this in my current relationship with books, in particular paper books.

(3) HERO PICKER. In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao profiles Sarah Finn, who, as the casting director of Marvel, has cast more than 1,000 roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Tom Hiddleston:

The risk paid off. Downey’s performance as the morally torn superhero anchors the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga, which began with 2008?s “Iron Man” and concluded 21 films later with last month’s box-office behemoth, “Avengers: Endgame.” It’s difficult to imagine anyone but him in that role — a statement that could extend to any of the heroes, really.

That’s largely thanks to Finn, who took on the gargantuan task of casting every actor who appears in the MCU (aside from those in “The Incredible Hulk,” released a month after “Iron Man”). That amounts to more than a thousand roles overall, she says, ranging from characters as high-profile as Captain America to those as minor as his background dancers. The job — which Finn held for the first five MCU films alongside Randi Hiller, who now heads casting for live-action projects at Walt Disney Studios — calls for a certain prescience, the ability to predict what sort of traits an actor would one day be asked to exhibit in films that have yet to be written.

(4) STAN LEE ELDER ABUSE. Variety reports “Stan Lee’s Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges”.

Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department.

The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, special aggravated white collar crime loss of over $100k; and one count of elder or dependent adult abuse.

The investigation into whether Stan Lee was the subject of elder abuse began in March 2018 stemming from actions allegedly taken by Morgan in May and June of 2018.

The grand theft charges stem from $262,000 that was collected from autograph signing sessions in May 2018, but that Lee never received.

(5) MORE ON JACK COHEN. Jonathan Cowie writes —

The funeral was mainly a family affair with Ian Stewart and I representing SF, and in addition to myself there were a couple of other biologists.

However there were over a hundred messages sent in to family.  And a few tributes read out including one from Nobel Laureate Prof. Sir Paul Nurse who was one of Jack’s student and who praised his teaching saying that every university departments needs its Jack Cohen.

  • Read Jonathan Cowie’sown tribute on his personal site.
  • And he’s archived an article he commissioned from Jack for Biologist way back in the 1990s on alien life here.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 25, 1953It Came From Outer Space premiered (story by Ray Bradbury).

May 25, 1969 — The first shave in space took place on Apollo 10.

May 25, 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope premiered on this day.

May 25, 1979 — Ridley Scott’s Alien debuts.

May 25, 1983 Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi in theatres.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1808 Edward Bulwer-Lytton. In addition, the opening seven words from Paul Clifford : “It was a dark and stormy night”, he also coined the phrases “the great unwashed”, “pursuit of the almighty dollar” and “the pen is mightier than the sword.” ISFDB credits him with eight genre novels including The Coming RaceAsmodeus at Large and Last Days of Pompeii to name but three. He wrote a lot of short fiction with titles such as “Glenhausen.—The Power of Love in Sanctified Places.— A Portrait of Frederick Barbarossa.—The Ambition of Men Finds Adequate Sympathy in Women”. (Died 1873.)
  • Born May 25, 1916 Charles D. Hornig. Publisher of the Fantasy Fan which ran from September ‘33 to February ‘35 and including first publication of works by Bloch, Lovecraft, Smith, Howard and Derleth. It also had a LOC called ‘The Boiling Point’ which quickly became angry exchanges between several of the magazine’s regular contributors, including Ackerman, Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. He paid for the costs of Fan Fantasy by working for Gernsback at Wonder Stories. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well known that Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 80. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s going to be Gus the Theatre Cat in the forthcoming Cats
  • Born May 25, 1946 Frank Oz, 73. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise.
  • Born May 25, 1946 Janet Morris, 73. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy, the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series. 
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 70. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon.
  • Born May 25, Kathryn Daugherty. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here, including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1962 Mickey Zucker Reichert, 57. She’s best know for her Renshai series which riffs off traditional Norse mythology. She was asked by the Asimov estate to write three prequels in the I, Robot series. She’s the only female to date who’s written authorized stories. 
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 53. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies, Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics takes “A Writer’s Routine” from A to Z.

(9) URSULA VERNON. A hound wants out of this chicken outfit. Thread starts here.

(10) EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS. ComicsBeat’s Hannah Lodge advances “5 reasons DOOM PATROL is the best superhero show of the decade”. Reason number one —

Power Patrol 

The Doom Patrol isn’t a team of shiny superheroes, a team of super-villains working to thwart those heroes, or even bad guys with a change of heart. They’re flawed, but trying, and their quests are less of the greater-good variety and more of the personal, soul-searching kind (even if they do casually prevent an apocalypse or two along the way). Each of the team members has your standard issue set of powers. What’s different about this show is the way they view and use them: as consequences and reminders of the mistakes they made in life they must learn to use and accept rather than invitations to a virtuous or higher moral calling. It’s refreshing to see this team as a found family working for smaller stakes and through very human issues – more often through things like superhero therapy than sprawling battles.

(11) OBJECTION. We’ve all heard sf stories get criticized for bad science – but what happens when a Real Lawyer Reacts to Star Trek TNG Measure of a Man — an episode written by Melinda Snodgrass?

When Starfleet officer Maddox orders Data’s disassembly for research purposes, Data is thrust into a legal battle to determine if he is entitled to the rights enjoyed by sentient beings. Data tries to resign his commission but Starfleet won’t let him. Worse, against his will, Commander Riker is ordered to advocate against Data. Captain Picard must defend Data in a trial for his life. Is it a realistic trial? Does Data deserves all the rights and privileges of a Starfleet officer? IS DATA A REAL PERSON?!

(12) LINGO SLINGING. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles linguist David J. Peterson, who created the Valyrian and Dothraki languages for Game of Thrones in “a 600-page document owned by HBO”.  Peterson explains he began his career by being irritated at a scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi where Princess Leia includes the words “yate” and “yoto” to mean “a wookie; a bounty; a thermal detonator, and 50,000 space credits.” Selk also profiles several other creators of imaginary languages, including Jessie Sams, who teaches a course in imaginary languages at Stephen F. Austin State University. “How a community of obscure language inventors made it big with ‘Game of Thrones’”

A running joke in “Game of Thrones” has Peter Dinklage’s character, Tyrion, repeatedly butchering the Valyrian language, despite his best efforts.

In the episode last Sunday, he’s trying to ask a military guard for permission to see a prisoner and comes up with: “Nyke m?zun ipradagon bartanna r?elio.” A subtitle on the screen translates this for us as: “I drink to eat the skull keeper.”

When the guard stares at him in confusion, Tyrion tries again but only utters more gibberish. Finally, the guard informs him in perfect English, “I speak the common tongue,” and takes him to see the prisoner. Hah.

It’s a simple gag on its face, but there’s a deeper layer. The language Tyrion is garbling actually exists….

(13) FOR THE ROCKET. James Reid’s assessment of a Hugo finalist category: “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – Short Story”.

I like short stories to be self-contained: a good idea or a complete story.  As such I often gravitate to stories that are focused on doing one thing well.   It also means that I tend to prefer vignettes, where Hugo short stories can be surprisingly long (7500 words or less).

Note: it’s hard to discuss a short story without spoilers, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to my rankings and general comments.

(14) RETRO REVIEWS. Right this way to Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Hugo Novella Reviews.

There’s always one on each ballot–one finalist that is totally unavailable–and this year it is “Attitude” by Hal Clement. This will not stop it from winning, of course; Clifford Simak’s “Rule 18” won a Retro Hugo in 2014 for its 1939 publication, and it had been reprinted since only once–in Italian. I think I can safely say that he won on name-recognition, and the same could happen with Clement. (“Attitude” is available in NESFA’s Clement collection, but I have no access to it.)…

(15) THE WRIGHT STUFF. Steve J. Wright has completed his Lodestar YA Novel Finalist reviews.

(16) SCIENCE ESSAY CONTEST. Nature has launched a young writers nonfiction contest to find the most inspiring ideas about the research of the future.

This year, Nature turns 150 years old. To mark this occasion, we are celebrating our past but also looking to the future. We would like to hear from you. Nature is launching an essay competition for readers aged 18 to 25. We invite you to tell us, in an essay of no more than 1,000 words, what scientific advance, big or small, you would most like to see in your lifetime, and why it matters to you. We want to feature the inspiring voices and ideas of the next generation

The deadline for completed essays is midnight GMT, UK time, on 9thAugust 2019. The winner will have their essay published in our 150th anniversary issue on 7 November, and receive a cash prize (£500 or $ equivalent) as well as a year’s personal subscription to the journal. For further information and to submit, visit go.nature.com/30y5jkz. We are looking for essays that are well reasoned, well researched, forward-looking, supported by existing science, and leave room for personal perspective and anecdotes that show us who you are. We encourage you to entertain as well as to inform; we are not looking for academic papers, an academic writing style or science fiction (though clearly those with an SF interest may have interesting ideas.

(17) BIG BANG’S BREXIT. Okay, it’s safe to talk about The Big Bang Theory again — its final show has aired in the British Isles and western Europe. British media reaction includes:-

(18) ANOTHER LEGO BRICK IN THE WALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Ars Technica: “Massive Lego National Cathedral built with Vader, droids, Harry Potter wands’. The National Cathedral is using LEGOs to raise money for a restoration fund, and is including sff references (see added emphasis below) in the 1:40 scale model structure.

As millions of dollars in donations stacked up for the Notre-Dame Cathedral following the horrific fire last month, the Washington National Cathedral was quietly building its own restoration fund—brick by plastic brick.

[…] [Instructions were] created by the designers and professional Lego aficionados at Bright Bricks—are used by volunteers and kind donors who buy individual bricks and place them on the growing replica by hand. The bricks go for $2 each and all the money goes toward the $19 million needed to repair damage from a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in 2011.

[…] While the size of the project is impressive, what’s perhaps more remarkable is that Santos is designing and assembling only with off-the-shelf Lego bricks. This requires some creative workarounds and repurposing of parts. Small stone angels that sit at the foot of the tomb of Bishop Henry Yates Satterlee (the first Episcopal bishop of Washington and a key figure in the Cathedral’s construction) are represented by Star Wars droid heads. Part of the ornaments along a stained-glass window are made of droid arms. A cross at the altar of the basement chapel (Bethlehem Chapel) is made of Lego tire irons, and an ornate railing on the outside of the back of the cathedral is made of Harry Potter wands. The Lego cathedral will also include a Darth Vader head, replicating the actual Darth Vader “gargoyle” that sits high on the Northwest tower.

(19) RELEASE THE KAIJU. The “Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Knock You Out – Exclusive Final Look.” Movie comes to theaters May 31.

Following the global success of “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island” comes the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ cinematic MonsterVerse, an epic action adventure that pits Godzilla against some of the most popular monsters in pop culture history. The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) NIXING BREXIT. In a letter to The Guardian, “John le Carré and Neil Gaiman join writers warning Brexit is ‘choosing to lose'”.

Dozens of writers have put their names to a letter to the Guardian that urges UK voters taking part in Thursday’s European parliament elections to use their franchise to support the European Union, “unless they know what they are choosing to lose, for themselves and everyone they know, and are happy with that”.

The authors, who also include Neil Gaiman, Nikesh Shukla, Kate Williams and Laurie Penny, go on to say: “It seems to us that the same question is facing every industry and every person in the UK: what will you choose to lose? Because we used to hear about advantages in Brexit. We used to hear about the bright future, the extra money, the opportunities. Now the advocates of Brexit just assure us that it won’t be as bad as the last world war.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Episode 96 of Scott Edelman’s podcast let you listen to him crunch into a crab cake sandwich with leading Aussie author Kaaron Warren.

Kaaron Warren

We met at the Freer Gallery, and then wandered over for lunch at the Capitol Hill branch of Hank’s Oyster Bar, which opened in 2012.

I first met Kaaron slightly less than 10 years ago, at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon, where her novel Slights was one of the inaugural titles from Angry Robot Books. The publisher even had a robot rolling around the launch party! (It was not angry, however.) She’s published many more novels and stories since then, with one novel, The Grief Hole, winning all three of Australia’s genre awards — the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and the Australian Shadows Award. Her most recent novel is Tide of Stone. She’s published seven short story collections, the most recent being A Primer to Kaaron Warren.

We discussed how her recent Rebecca reread totally changed her sympathies for its characters, the disturbing real-life crime related to the first time she ever saw The Shining, the catalyst that gave birth to her award-winning novel Tide of Stone, how she came up with new angles for tackling stories about such classic characters as Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein, the way flea market bric-a-brac has led to some of her best ideas, the only correct method for preparing fairy bread, her go-to karaoke song, and much, much more.

(3) TAKING A BITE OUT OF SONIC’S SCHEDULE. ComicsBeat explains why “Character design changes push SONIC THE HEDGEHOG movie release date to 2020”.

…The first trailer for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie definitely got people talking…just probably not the way the studio intended. Reaction to Sonic’s design—his muscular legs, his regularly-proportioned head, his teeth—was swift, loud, and overwhelmingly negative. The filmmakers heard the cries of the masses, and they responded with action, as director Jeff Fowler tweeted a few days after the trailer’s release that they would be working to tweak the design of the character…

(4) DRAGON RECOMMENDATIONS. Red Panda has created a “Dragon Awards 2019 Eligible Work” based on Renay’s Hugo recommendation’s spreadsheet. She says, “We’re trying to get folks to pay attention to the Dragon Awards to prevent them from becoming puppy awards by default. Here is a spreadsheet of eligible works – and people are welcome to add to it as long as works fit the Dragon award rules.”

(5) AFTERMATH. Cora Buhlert wrote a blog post about the Nebula Awards kerfuffle involving 20Booksto50K: “Some Reactions to the 2018 Nebula Award Winners and a Post-mortem on the 20Booksto50K Issue”.

…Most of [Craig] Martelle’s post seems to be extolling the virtues of the 20Booksto50K group and the idea behind it which was developed by Martelle’s business partner and occasional collaborator Michael Anderle. For those who don’t know, the basic idea behind 20Booksto50K is  is basically “write fast, publish fast and create a ‘minimum viable product’ in highly commercial genres”. For more information, you can also read their manifesto or watch videos of their conferences. They also have a Wiki with more background information here.

Now I don’t have a problem with either the 20Booksto50K group or their system. I don’t doubt that the group or their conferences help a lot of indie writers. And while their approach to writing and publishing isn’t mine, there are a nuggets of useful information in there.

Alas, the rest of the Martelle’s post engages in same tired “indie versus traditional publishing” rheotric that we’ve been hearing since 2010. “Traditional publishing is slow” – yes, it is, because their model is different, but that doesn’t make it bad. “Awards don’t matter, but whether stories resonate with readers does” – okay, so why are you so desperate to win an award then?

(6) ROTTEN TOMATOES REVAMP. The movie ratings site makes changes in the wake of their experience with people who lowballed Captain Marvel’s pre-release score: “We’re Introducing Verified Ratings and Reviews To Help You Make Your Viewing Decsions”.

In February we ditched our pre-release “Want to See” percentage in favor of a more straightforward Want to See tally (kind of like the “likes” you see on social media). We also removed the function that allowed users to write comments about a movie prior to seeing it. You can read about these changes here.

What’s next? Today, we’re excited to introduce new features to our Audience Score and user reviews with the addition of Verified Ratings and Reviews.

So, let’s get to it.

Rotten Tomatoes now features an Audience Score made up of ratings from users we’ve confirmed bought tickets to the movie – we’re calling them “Verified Ratings.” We’re also tagging written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets to a movie as “Verified” reviews.

… The first Audience Score you see on a movie page – that’s it next to the popcorn bucket just to the right of the Tomatometer – will be the score made up of Verified Ratings. As with the current Audience Score, when the score is Fresh (that is, above 60%), you’ll see a red popcorn bucket; when it is Rotten (59% and below), the bucket will be green and tipped over (you can read more about that here). If you want to see a score that incorporates all included ratings – both verified and non-verified – simply click “more info” where you can toggle between the two….

(7) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson says “The trouble with streaming: It could fragment fandom”.

…All this is a reminder that genre tales now dominate the entertainment landscape. The people behind all these platforms are fighting to attract the attention of us, the SF, fantasy and horror fandom.

But they are also fighting for our wallets. And while is is technically possible for one household to receive all these services, it is unlikely that very many households could afford to.

Once, producers essentially had two ways of monetising their entertainment. They could charge for it – for movie tickets, videotapes or discs; or they could give it to us via free-to-air television and sell our eyeballs to advertisers.

Now, we have a new eco-system where the producers are charging us, not for individual works, but for whole bundles of content. So we can get the Netflix package, the HBO package or the Hulu package, but not everything….

What is this in contrast to? Sure, things are different than when all TV was free, however, not so different from periods when there were five or eight or ten printed prozines coming out that you could only get by subscription, unless you were lucky enough that your local library subscribed to some (never all) of them.

(8) KERR OBIT. British children’s book writer and illustrator Judith Kerr died May 22 aged 95. Cora Buhlert comments —

In spite of the title, her most famous work (at least in Germany) When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit is not genre, but about the Kerr family’s escape from the Nazis in the 1930s. The pink rabbit of the title was young Judith Kerr’s beloved toy, which she lost en route. But a lot of her children’s picture books are at least genre-adjacent and several feature SJW credentials. Besides, she was married to Nigel Kneale, British TV writer and creator of Professor Quatermass:

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s know as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher) and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. Producer and script editor. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during the era of the Fourth Doctor. He went to be one of the producers of Rould Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1946 Jeremy Treglown, 63. Author of Roald Dahl: A Biography and Roald Dahl: Collected Stories. Amateur actor who met his first wife while both were performing Romeo and Juliet at University. 
  • Born May 24, 1949 Jim Broadbent, 70. He played Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. He joined the cast of A Game of Thrones, playing a role of Archmaester Ebrose, in the seventh season. His genre credits include Time Bandits, BrazilSuperman IV: The Quest for PeaceThe BorrowersThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (well somebody had to be in it). 
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 67. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars. She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series, She  appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 66. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the  outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character.
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 59. Among his roles, I’ll single out as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy films, the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, the ghosts of Edith’s Mother and Beatrice Sharpe in Crimson Peak, and the Amphibian Manin The Shape of Water. 
  • Born May 24, 1965 Michael Chabon, 54. Author of one of the great baseball novels ever, Summerland. Then there’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay which is the best look I know of at the comics industry during the Golden Age. And The Final Solution: A Story of Detection may be an awesome home to the Greatest Beekeeper Ever.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wondermark takes fan disappointment about Game of Throne’s final season in a hilarious new direction.

(11) REVISITING THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR. The highlights from February’s two-day conference on The Art of the Mimeograph at the University of Westminster include an appearance by fanhistorian Rob Hansen beginning around the 8:54 mark.

(12) OVERFLOWING LID. Alasdair Stuart says his Full Lid for May 24 2019 “takes a look at DJ Kirkbride and team’s excellent SF/crime/comedy comic series Errand Boys. I’ve also got a breakdown of the 2014 Godzilla in the first of two briefings in the run up to Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There’s a look at the excellent documentary Knock Down The House and the one thing about its structure that bothered me. Finally, special guest Sarah Gailey drops by to do the Hugo Spotlight feature, which, this week, features me.”

…The creative team behind Errand Boys is a who’s who of people whose work I pick up, sight unseen. DJ Kirkbride and Adam P Knave are two of the best writers and editors in the business and Frank Cvetkovic is one of the best letterers. They’re joined by a raft of artists whose work is unfamiliar to me but is all massively impressive, kinetic and fun.

(13) RETRO REVIEWS. The link takes you to Evelyn C. Leeper’s Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Finalists and to her Retro Hugo Novel Reviews Part 1 and Part 2.

I am pretty sure this is the first time someone has been a finalist both in a fiction category and in an art category (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). It is also the first time a father and son appeared on the same ballot–well, sort of. Fritz Leiber, Jr., is a finalist for three works of fiction; Fritz Leiber, Sr., (the actor) appeared as Franz Liszt in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943), a Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist.

(14) ALADDIN’S LAMP DOES NOT SHINE BRIGHTLY. NPR’s scott Tobias finds  “Aladdin to be A CGI World, Neither Whole Nor New”.

As Disney plunders its archives for live-action remakes of animated classics, the question of “Why?” continues to be less evident on the screen than it is on the company ledger. The one quiet exception was Pete’s Dragon, which succeeded because it had no fidelity to the second-rate slapstick and songcraft of the original, and could re-imagine the premise from the ground up. When the catalog titles get as massive as Aladdin, however, the mission becomes to replicate it as closely as possible, which inevitably leads to stilted facsimile. No matter how sophisticated CGI gets, the speed and fluidity of animation is hard to reproduce.

The new Aladdin mostly has the beat-for-beat quality of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, the current standard-bearer for pointlessness, but there are elements of it that really pop, even for being bizarre missteps. Foremost among them is Will Smith’s Genie, whose entire look is a Violet Beauregarde nightmare of bright blue and CGI-inflated swole, with a top-knot/goatee combination that suggests 10,000 years away from the fashion pages. Yet Smith is the only member of the cast who’s bothered to rethink the original character: He doesn’t bother to imitate Robin Williams’ manic schtick, but draws on his own ingratiating silliness and kid-friendly hip-hop flavor instead. If everyone else had followed suit, this Aladdin wouldn’t necessarily be any better, but at least it would be its own thing….

Chip Hitchcock notes: “My local paper wasn’t quite so harsh, but did give it just 2.5 stars.”

(15) EINSTEIN? NEVER HEARD OF HIM. BBC remembers “The man who made Einstein world-famous”.

It is hard to imagine a time when Albert Einstein’s name was not recognised around the world.

But even after he finished his theory of relativity in 1915, he was nearly unknown outside Germany – until British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington became involved.

Einstein’s ideas were trapped by the blockades of the Great War, and even more by the vicious nationalism that made “enemy” science unwelcome in the UK.

But Einstein, a socialist, and Eddington, a Quaker, both believed that science should transcend the divisions of the war.

It was their partnership that allowed relativity to leap the trenches and make Einstein one of the most famous people on the globe.

Einstein and Eddington did not meet during the war, or even send direct messages. Instead, a mutual friend in the neutral Netherlands decided to spread the new theory of relativity to Britain.

Einstein was very, very lucky that it was Eddington, the Plumian Professor at Cambridge and officer of the Royal Astronomical Society, who received that letter.

Not only did he understand the theory’s complicated mathematics, as a pacifist he was one of the few British scientists willing to even think about German science.

(16) FAKEBOOK. According to NPR, “Facebook Removed Nearly 3.4 Billion Fake Accounts In Last Six Months”. Over half a century ago, Clarke suggested what’s now become a truism: that the Internet would be a haven for porn. But he didn’t foresee the other abuses….

Facebook says it removed 3.39 billion fake accounts from October to March. That’s twice the number of fraudulent accounts deleted in the previous six-month period.

In the company’s latest Community Standards Enforcement Report, released Thursday, Facebook said nearly all of the fake accounts were caught by artificial intelligence and more human monitoring. They also attributed the skyrocketing number to “automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time.”

The fake accounts are roughly a billion more than the 2.4 billion actual people on Facebook worldwide, according to the company’s own count.

(17) SPIKING THE CANON. James Davis Nicoll diagnoses the waning popularity of once-beloved works in “The Sad But Inevitable Trend Toward Forgotten SF” at Tor.com.

Love your beloved classics now—because even now, few people read them, for the most part, and fewer still love them. In a century, they’ll probably be forgotten by all but a few eccentrics.

If it makes you feel any better, all fiction, even the books people love and rush to buy in droves, is subject to entropy. Consider, for example, the bestselling fiction novels of the week I was born, which was not so long ago. I’ve bolded the ones my local library currently has in stock.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, JJ,. Mike Kennedy Cat Eldridge, Standback, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Hansen, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor Peer.]

MT Void Publishes 2000th Issue

Mark and Evelyn Leeper in 2002. Photo by Mark Olson.

By Bill Higgins: 1978 was a good year for me and, apparently, a good year for starting fanzines. Congratulations on celebrating File 770‘s fortieth anniversary! And last Friday I noticed that Issue Number 1998 of MT Void had slipped into my mailbox. Which means that Evelyn and Mark Leeper are scheduled to publish the two-thousandth issue on February 2, 2018.

Here’s an account of the zine’s history Mark wrote in 2009 (Volume 28, No. 23, Whole Number 1574):

TOPIC: A Brief History of the MT VOID and the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

We have had some questions about the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society and the MT Void. Let me try to answer all the questions in one very short history.

Since we first met Evelyn and I have always mixed out interest science fiction with our socializing. We were in the science fiction club at the University of Massachusetts from before school started freshman year until we graduated. The last six months I was the president of the club. Evelyn preferred to be the club librarian and did about six times the work anyone else in the club did.

When we graduated we married, and while I was getting my Masters from Stanford we filled the need for a science fiction club by joining PenSFA, the Peninsula Science Fiction Association, which included such members as artists George Barr and Jim Thomas.

When I graduated Stanford I went to work for Burroughs Computer Corporation in Detroit. Wednesday evenings we would go over to Wayne State University and attend the science fiction meetings of the Wayne Third Foundation. We liked the people of that area, but Detroit was depressing and cold. Also, Burroughs was a rather unpleasant place to work. After three and a half years, at the end of 1977, we left and went to work for Bell Laboratories, the research arm of the telephone company.

Bell Laboratories was one of the primary scientific research environments in the world, and they treated their employees well. They even funded social clubs for their staff. But nobody had started a science fiction club. This seemed peculiar for a cutting edge research facility. There was a little science fiction activity, but it consisted of one group what shared the cost of a subscription to the Science Fiction Book Club and then they passed the books around by inter-office mail. This was not entirely satisfying. We did go to the Empiricon science fiction convention in November, 1978. On the way home I told Evelyn that we really ought to found a science fiction discussion group at Bell Laboratories. Things were never the same again. By the end of 1978 we had a working science fiction club.

Bell would give some minimal funding to the club and we could use company facilities if we could get ten people to say they would join it. At first we thought finding ten people interested would be difficult. That fear was quickly disposed of. We should have been able to call ourselves the “Bell Labs Science Fiction Club”, but that was not allowed by the company so we were just the “Science Fiction Club”.

We met every other week and discussed one book and picked another for the following meeting. So two notices had to go out through inter-office mail for each meeting, one to remind people of the coming meeting and one to tell people what book had been chosen for the next meeting. That was a notice a week, and they started hand-written and photocopied, then typed, and eventually e-mailed. A year or so later the meetings were changed for once every three weeks so we would send out two notices every three weeks, but we soon returned to weekly publication. It seemed pointless to just have one item per notice so I started commenting on films and making jokes. Evelyn would write book reviews and other comments and announcements.

We at first were based at Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, but members would come to meetings from other nearby Bell Laboratories locations, particularly Lincroft and Middletown. Each of these locations had a two-letter code to make addressing in interoffice mail quick. Holmdel was HO; Middletown was MT; Lincroft was LZ. Why Lincroft was not LC we never found out. The meetings were at whichever facility Evelyn and I were at the time. We were moved around. At a time when we were in Middletown we decided that the club and the notice needed a better name. We could have called ourselves the Middletown-Holmdel-Lincroft Science Fiction Club, but we shortened that using the mail codes to the MT HOLZ. That is not an abbreviation for a mountain’s name, and there appears to be no Mount Holz. Instead it is pronounced as if it were “empty holes.” The weekly notice has was similarly named the MT VOID or pronounced “empty void.” These names were proposed by member Paul S. R. Chisholm.

There are still something like 215 real members of the MT HOLZ Science Fiction Society. Activities have become increasingly rare. For a long time there was a video film festival that went along with the club showing pairings of related films like THE POWER and SCANNERS, WHO? and THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE, or Z and ELENI. As participation dropped off the festival died and was reborn once or twice. These days we do not even announce showings to the whole club, but this activity goes on. The one activity that still goes strong is a weekly publication of surprising length, the MT VOID. It may well be the science fiction fanzine that has had the greatest number of issues. The notice/fanzine has had 1574 issues going back to 1978. The members get the MT VOID emailed to them, but it is reprinted on numerous web locations and my reviews appear separately on sites like the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes. [-mrl]

Asked for a comment on reaching issue 2000, Mark Leeper replied, “If you are going to start a fanzine one thing you should have that we did not have is an exit strategy.”

I can’t recall when I myself began subscribing to MT Void. Sometime in the Nineties? Maybe the late Eighties? Anyway, it has given me many years of pleasurable reading, as movie reviews, book reviews, wit, whimsy, and the occasional mathematical puzzle paraded past my eyeballs.

I salute Evelyn, Mark, and their correspondents for the remarkable longevity of their creation, and for their efforts in maintaining a high level of entertainment. Long may MT Void wave!

Pixel Scroll 7/26/17 Fifth File At Scrollory Towers

(1) CAPTAIN’S LOG. Actor John Barrowman had his appendix out the other day.

(2) MARCH. After a Saturday panel about the March comics, fans followed the history-making co-author in a re-enactment: io9 has the story — “Rep. John Lewis Leads March for Civil Rights Through Comic-Con”.

Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) was at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday discussing his award-winning graphic novel, March, which resulted in a real march for civil rights awareness.

After Lewis’ panel ended, he led a group of over 1,000 people through the San Diego Convention Center, with some shouting “No justice, no peace” as they marched past cosplayers and attendees. According to the Associated Press, Lewis made sure to stop and shake hands with people who recognized him as he passed.

(3) HELSINKI DINING TIPS. Worldcon 75 has posted its Restaurant Guide [PDF file].

Helsinki is currently undergoing a “fun dining” wave. It seems not a day goes by without a new street food restaurant being opened on one corner or another, from Mexican burrito shops to a boom of high-quality burger joints. At the same time, many Helsinki restaurateurs are opening casual fine dining restaurants, where the food is top-notch but the atmosphere is laid-back. Helsinki also has many restaurants with long histories and traditions…

(4) 2017 NASFiC REPORT. Evelyn Leeper’s NorthAmeriCon ’17 / NASFIC 2017 con report is online at Fanac.org.

This is a convention report for NorthAmeriCon ’17 (NASFIC 2017, and henceforth referred to as just NASFIC), held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 6-9, 2017, with a little bit of sightseeing thrown in (because a separate report would not be worthwhile).

It is with some trepidation I start this report. We had never attended a NASFIC before. For a long time we always went to Worldcon, and for the recent years where we skipped the overseas Worldcon, the NASFIC seemed like a misguided attempt to be a substitute. But a NASFIC in Puerto Rico was very appealing for a couple of reasons: I am half Puerto Rican, and we could take a tour of the Arecibo Telescope. And of course, I figured it was a chance to connect with authors and old friends and all that….

(5) THE GOOD, THE WEIRD, AND THE SCROLLY: Over at Featured Futures, Jason comments on the month in webzine fiction with a list of links to remarkable tales — “Summation of Online Fiction: July 2017”.

Aside from a two-part novella from Beneath Ceaseless Skies (which was just a flash away from counting as a novel), July was a relatively light month in the webzine world. The number of noteworthy stories is also light, but Clarkesworld continued its resurgence with a July issue that was probably even better overall than the June (though each had a standout story), Ellen Datlow picked another for Tor.com, and some other zines also contributed particularly good work.

(6) HITTING THE TARGET. Having seen some make the wrong choice, Sarah A. Hoyt advises indie authors to find “The Right Slot” – to be sure they’re marketing their work in its proper genre. In her latest column for Mad Genius Club she takes a cut at defining several genres, beginning with fantasy.

The SUBJECT determines genre.  A non exhaustive list of genres and subgenres and subjects (this is off the top of my head and I’ll miss some.  If you guys want an exhaustive list it will take a long time.)

Fantasy – Anything that is technically impossible in our reality, by our physical rules, including but not limited to supernatural beings, all the creatures of Tolkien, etc.  Often draws on the myths and legends of mankind.

Has subgenres: High Fantasy – Tolkien-like.  Also often known as heroic fantasy.

Alternate history – usually where magic works, but still related to our world.

Urban fantasy, which might of might not be a subgenre of alternate history.  It’s not just “fantasy in a city.”  Although both F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack and Larry Correia’s monster hunters are technically urban fantasy, as is my Shifter series, it would be more honest to call it “contemporary fantasy.”

Urban fantasy has a structure added to the theme and location, and that often involves a young woman with powers, a love interest on the dark side, etc.  Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Paranormal Romance – Like Urban Fantasy but way more in the romance and sex side.  In fact, it’s more a subgenre of romance, really.

(7) SF WORTH WAITING FOR. T.W. O’Brien declares “The Future Library Is a Vote of Confidence Humanity Will Make It to 2114” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

The work of Scottish artist Katie Paterson is nothing as mundane as oil on canvas or carved marble. Her works includes  Timepieces—nine clocks showing the time on the planets of our solar system, plus the Earth’s moon (Pluto still loses out); Fossil Necklace—170 beads carved from fossils, each representing a major event in the 3 billion year history of life on Earth; and Campo del Cielo, Field of Sky—a 4.5 billion year old meteorite, melted then recast into a replica of its original form, and finally returned to space by the European Space Agency.

In May 2014, Paterson planted 1000 Norwegian spruce trees in a forest north of Oslo, Norway. The plan is to harvest them in 2114 for paper to print a limited edition anthology of books. Each year, starting in 2014, an author was to be invited to write a book for Paterson’s project, Future Library; he or she will have one year to complete the work, which then won’t be read  until well after the turn of the next century. 

The completed manuscripts will be kept in a specially designed room on the fifth floor of the New Deichmanske Library in Oslo. The authors’ names and the book titles will be on display, but the manuscripts themselves will be unread until the anthology is published in 2114.

(8) THE ELVISH SPECTRUM.

Key: First row vertical: Hugo Weaving, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett from The Hobbit as Elrond, Thranduil, and Galadriel. Second row vertical: Marvel: Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger), Ronan the Accuser (Guardians of the Galaxy), Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)

(9) JORDIN KARE. Paul Gilster mourns the astrophysicist and filker in two excellent posts at Centauri Dreams, “Remembering Jordin Kare (1956-2017)”, and “SailBeam: A Conversation with Jordin Kare”.

Looking around on the Net for background information about Jordin Kare, who died last week at age 60 (see yesterday’s post), I realized how little is available on his SailBeam concept, described yesterday. SailBeam accelerates myriads of micro-sails and turns them into a plasma when they reach a departing starship, giving it the propulsion to reach one-tenth of lightspeed. Think of it as a cross between the ‘pellet propulsion’ ideas of Cliff Singer and the MagOrion concept explored by Dana Andrews.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick

(11) A LIST TOP DC MOVIES. Io9 gives you “All 28 DC Animated Original Movies, Ranked”. Why isn’t the new Wonder Woman movie #1? Because, like the title says, this is a list of their animated movies. Cancel the heart attacks…

This list contains the 28 DC Animated Original movies released so far, ranked from worst to best on the quality of their story, characters, and adaptation of the source material….

(12) STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST. Wil Wheaton heartily endorses

Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon, is essential reading for all artists.

It’s a quick read that you can finish in one sitting, but the ideas and advice it contains will stay with you long after you’ve put it down. Some of Austin’s suggestions will validate what you’re already doing, some will challenge you to fundamentally change a creative practice, others will inspire you to grab a notebook and get to work immediately.

Because it’s such a small and accessible book, you’ll want to go back to it from time to time. Just like Stephen King’s On Writing, as you change and grow as an artist, it reveals new ideas and inspirations to you that you may have missed on a previous read.

This is a fantastic addition to your library, and a wonderful gift for any creative person in your life.

(13) WIELD THE POWER. I can’t possibly resist reading an item headlined “Wow, the Iron Throne Makes an Excellent Phone Charger!” – at Tor.com.

YouTube crafters Natural Nerd have a new video up showing viewers how to make their own custom Iron Throne phone charger. It’s marvelously simple, and could make for a good starter project if you’re interested in exploring nerd crafts. Basically, make a throne out of blocks of wood, glue on a ton of cocktail swords, coat in metallic paint, and thread in the charger cord, and you’re there!

(14) SUPERMAN WITH A ‘STACHE. Henry Cavill’s upper lip is a story: “Justice League’s telling reshoots involve Joss Whedon, more banter, absolutely no mustaches”.

Superman can do anything, it seems, but have a mustache. Or to be more accurate, it’s Henry Cavill’s mustache that’s reportedly causing some problems for Warner Bros.’ upcoming Justice League movie, which is due to be released on November 17 but is nonetheless currently undergoing extensive reshoots (which are generally filmed to fix or replace scenes that aren’t working). After initial filming on Justice League was complete, it seems that Cavill reasonably assumed he was done playing the smooth-jawed Man of Steel for a minute and grew out his facial hair for a part in the next Mission: Impossible movie. According to a new Variety report, however, Justice League is being retooled so much — with an assist from The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, no less, now that director Zack Snyder has stepped away from the project to cope with his daughter’s recent death — that Warner Bros. has agreed to just digitally remove Cavill’s mustache from any reshot Justice League scenes rather than lose any more time.

But Jon Bogdanove thinks it would make a great addition.

(15) MARVEL VALUE STAMPS. The publisher is bringing them back:

Who saved them? Who clipped them? Who collected them? This fall, the Marvel Universe returns to an untapped corner of its expansive history for MARVEL LEGACY with the return of the Marvel Value Stamps. Just as Marvel Legacy is bridging the past and the future of Marvel’s iconic universe, this nostalgia-based program is designed to excite new readers. Comic fans may remember these fondly, while new fans and the uninitiated will be able to enjoy them without destroying their prized possessions!

Inspired by the classic 1970’s program where different stamps could be clipped from the letters page of Marvel books, fans will be able to collect stamps featuring all their favorite Marvel characters. These stamps will be on inserts within the regular cover editions for all first issue Marvel Legacy titles, beginning with titles debuting in October. And a proper homage to these collectible stamps wouldn’t be complete without a collectible stamp album – to be revealed!

(16) THE OLDS. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf leads into her review of the latest (August 1962) issue of Fantastic with a survey of the news — “[July 26, 1962] The Long and Short of It (August 1962 Fantastic)”.

…AT&T launched Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite (which we’ll be covering in the next article!)

The world of literature suffered a major loss with the death of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner.

In Los Angeles, young artist Andy Warhol exhibited a work consisting of thirty-two paintings of cans of Campbell’s Soup….

(17) GAZE INTO THE FUTURE. And don’t forget to sign up for Galactic Journey Tele-Conference #2, happening Saturday, July 29, where they’ll present their predictions for the 1962 Hugo Science Fiction Awards.

(18) THE PLAY’S THE THING. A local community theater in Urbana, IL is staging Jordan Harrison’s 2014 play Marjorie Prime, recently produced as a movie. It runs July 27-August 12. An interview with the director is here. Get tickets here.

Marjorie Prime, written by Jordan Harrison and directed for the Station by Mathew Green, is a near-future play where technology has gone just a little farther than today. In the show, Tess is caring for her elderly mother, and Tess’ husband Jon advocates for the use of an artificial intelligence companion called a “Prime”. Primes are designed to help a particular person, in this case Marjorie, record and retain their memories, often taking the form of someone close to the subject.

(19) LIFE UNPLUGGED. Gareth D. Jones discusses “The Real Town Murders by Adam Roberts (book review)” at SF Crowsnest.

….One of the consequences of Alma’s divorce from the on-line Real Town is that she can no longer check references and definitions and she quickly realises that everyone’s speech is littered with literary and historical references. This makes an interesting game for the reader, too, attempting to parse and divine all of the little jokes and quotes that Adam Roberts has thrown in along the way. To add to the interest, characters who spend much of their time on-line find real-life speech difficult so that several conversations consist of stammering and stuttering and the breaking of words into individual syllables replaced with homophonous single-syllable words. It’s quite fun to follow the convoluted and sometimes rambling speech.

The basic plot of the book follows Alma’s investigations into the miraculously-appearing dead body, with a secondary investigation into a mysteriously skinny man…..

(20) A BOY CALLED PERCY. At Black Gate, Derek Kunsken tells when he learned the true theme of a famous YA series: “Crappy Parents All Around: A Look At Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson Series”

…Eventually, I recommended it to a friend for his kids, who were complaining about their road-tripping. When my friend got back, he thanked me for the rec and said “It’s all about shitty parents.”

For some reason, I hadn’t clued into this as the theme. Perhaps I’d taken it as straight-on adventure. Maybe I hadn’t considered how lucky I am to have the parents and extended family I did. Then it occurred to me what a giant strategic advantage it was to Riordan to have linked crappy parents to the Greek myths.

Percy is of course pretty miffed at times about having Poseidon essentially be a dead-beat dad whom he doesn’t meet until he’s twelve and who really doesn’t meaningfully interact with him even after that. He has a crappy step-dad to boot, but he’s not the only one with parental issues….

(21) IN VINO. Martin Morse Wooster has sent File 770 lots of beer label stories. Now he tries to even the score by reporting that Australian wine lovers can enjoy Some Young Punks‘ vintage “Monsters Monsters Attack!”

A full 750ml of Monster Mayhem bottled up for far too long breaks and takes over the unsuspecting city. Trixie and Tessa’s middle names are danger and adventure but is the maelstrom released by the raging beast too fierce to be calmed by their charms? Will they arrive in time or will a deadly rage be realised.

Variety / Vintage     2015 Clare Valley Riesling

Vineyards     We sourced fruit from two sites in the Clare Valley; Mocundunda and Milburn. All the fruit was whole bunch pressed before fermentation in a mixture of stainless and neutral oak by a mixture of cultured and indigenous yeast. Post ferment the wine is merely stabbed and filtered prior to bottling.

(22) ONCE TOO OFTEN. Adam-Troy Castro files a grievance: “’What if I Told You’ There Was Another Way to Impart Exposition?”

Thing that I am getting awfully sick of, in dramatic presentations of sf/fantasy works.

Honestly, if I ever see this again, it will be too soon.

The exposition-sentence that begins with, “What if I told you–”

Usually followed by something that sounds batshit insane to the person who’s been living a normal life until that moment.

I first became aware of this with Laurence Fishburne in THE MATRIX, but it has become the go-to form, and I just saw it with the trailer for the new TV series, THE INHUMANS. I think but cannot be sure that it was in DOCTOR STRANGE too. But it’s certainly all over the place….

(23) YOU COULD ALWAYS TRY THE AUTOGRAPH LINE. Here are the places George R.R. Martin will not be signing at Worldcon 75:

For those of you who want books signed, please, bring them to one of my two listed autograph sessions. I will NOT be signing before or after panels, at parties, during lunch or breakfast or dinner, at the urinal, in the elevator, on the street, in the hall. ONLY at the autograph table. If the lines are as long as they usually are, I’ll only be signing one book per person.

You can also find his programming schedule at the link.

(24) LAUGH WARS. Martin Morse Wooster says Star Wars Supercuts:  Parodies of The Trench Run is “a really funny four-minute mashup from IMDB of lots of parodies of the Death Star Trench Run. I particularly liked the Family Guy bit where Red Leader is followed by Redd Foxx, Red Buttons, and Big Red chewing gum…”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jason, Evelyn Leeper, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jim Meadows, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Evelyn Leeper’s Too-Hip Blog

When fanwriter Evelyn Leeper broke her hip on March 20, her husband Mark decided the best way for them to keep all their friends updated was to start a blog.

Mark wrote the first post from the emergency room of Bayshore Hospital.

Evelyn fell off the bottom step of the attic steps in our garage, hit her head, and it looks like she broke her hip. Right now I am waiting for her to return from the x-rays.

Evelyn began adding to the blog while she was still in the hospital. Now she’s back home but the recovery process has been painful, as she describes in her May 14 entry:

Leg pains (including knee pains and hip pains) come and go. I suspect the knee pains may be if I sit on a low couch, or drive some distance, with my leg bent for long periods of time. There is less pain from twisting around, though, so it seems things are improving. I can actually sleep on my side, somewhat curled up (which had been my favorite position for sleeping before all this).

Here’s wishing Evelyn a rapid and complete recovery with freedom from pain.

Conrunners React to Cornell Initiative

Paul Cornell and Si Spurrier have called for a 50/50 male/female balance on all convention programs.

I am terribly prone to complacency, therefore, regardless of my initial skeptical reaction to the implied criticism, I think anybody who puts himself out there trying to raise the bar for con runners is doing me a service just by making me think about why I do things the way I do.

Although I don’t believe in being ruled by a canned number, I do believe in getting more women on programming. I was willing to ask — how well am I really doing? (See “Program Participation as Civil Disobedience”.)

Next, I wanted to know how other convention program organizers feel about Cornell’s initiative. Will it make any difference? Should it? How practical is it? I reached out to a dozen experienced conrunners (plus fandom’s best-known program reporter) with these questions:

  • What is your approach is to gender parity on panel programs?
  • Do you think Cornell’s initiative will change or has already changed your approach?
  • Do you have any comments on Paul Cornell’s and Si Spurrier’s actions?

Responses came back from Emily Coombs, Janice Gelb, Evelyn Leeper, Jim Mann, Craig Miller, Priscilla Olson, Arlene Satin and two fans preferring to remain unnamed. Most of their comments were so deeply thoughtful I decided to run them in full. That makes for a long post, of course, so I have placed their views after the jump.

Continue reading

The Drink Tank’s Bicentennial Issue

The double-century issue of The Drink Tank (#200), its fourth annish, is more than historic — it’s a hoot-and-a-half. Chris Garcia and a whole slate of interesting fans have packed it with laughs.

When Chris invited Cheryl Morgan to contribute, the word annish seems to have been garbled in transmission. But who could have done a better job than Cheryl of envisioning traditional Amish fanac?

A fanzine produced by science fictional Amish, therefore, would be composed on an Apple Mac, or a Dell running Windows XP (which, incidentally, is still on sale in the future because Microsoft still haven’t got the bugs out of Vista, or whatever they are calling the latest release).

Cheryl shows that being a fine writer can take you far. Beth Zuckerman proves that fine writing combined with advance preparation goes even farther toward ensuring your convention experiences will yield great fanzine material. No conreport of mine can ever hope to achieve anything like her account of Arisia 2009:

I did have to seek out a t-shirt vendor, because while my 51-lb suitcase was fully equipped with rocketship pajamas, the ostentatiously unnecessary coin bra, an entire No. 6 costume with eyebrow makeup, a veritable mountain of lingerie, and a generous supply of little rubber things, somehow I entirely failed to bring anything to wear during the day before the parties started.

Pro wrestling is one of Chris Garcia’s passions. In this issue, his friend Bobby Toland has a lot to say about professional wrestler Kurt Angle’s need to learn humility, and how those lessons might be imparted. One of the hallmarks of good fanwriting is its ability to make fascinating a subject that ordinarily would be of little interest, which is my default response to pro wrestling. Toland held my attention from start to finish.

I also admired the trivia quiz “Fantastic Fours” by Frank Wu and Brianna Spacekat Wu. I answered more than half of them wrong, but everyone reading this review should be able to name the foursome composed of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo.

Christian McGuire spends most of his time as one of the leading conrunners of the age, but thanks to Chris Garcia he hasn’t been completely lost to the world of fanwriting. Plenty of people will want to read all about McGuire’s adventures at Further Confusion 2009 once I mention that one of the lines in the report is: “A prurient Pink Panther holding up the tail of the Tiger before him offered Andy the choice to play jump rope with the tail. All I can say is that Andy can Double-Dutch with me any day.”

Leigh Ann Hildebrand is yet another friend of Chris’s with a great sense of humor. This is not even the funniest line in her list of “Five Things I’m No Longer Allowed To Do in the Fanzine Lounge”:

4. Not allowed to offer impromptu origami classes using materials at hand, even with the justification that it’s a form of performance art expressing my thoughtful critique of the phrase “core fandom.”

Every issue of The Drink Tank is highlighted by a combination of original art and assorted graphics liberated from the internet. An example of the latter, my favorite in issue #200, is the wry parody of RIAA’s anti-piracy ads showing a woman in a pre-WWI hairdo manipulating two Edison phonographs under the caption “Home Cylinder Duplication Is Killing the Music Industry.”

It doesn’t seem that long ago Chris was gushing poetically about what it might be like to produce his hundredth ish, at the time something only a select few active faneds like Arnie Katz, Knarley Welch and Mike Glyer could claim. Within five seconds after mentioning this in File 770, I immediately heard from myriads of offended fans who’d been left off the list, the most impressive being Mark and Evelyn Leeper who wondered what was the big deal, since their MT Void has published fifteen “one-hundredth” issues.

But the point is that it’s my turn to live vicariously through Chris’s experience. At the rate I’m producing issues there’s a good chance I will have to wait until 2028 or so to have a 200th issue experience of my very own. Great work Chris!

The Hugo and Gender Controversy, A Year Later

When people discovered only one work of fiction by a woman was on the 2007 Hugo ballot lightning rent the blogosphere. Writers seeing this as a denial of women’s contribution to sf voiced surprise, disappointment and anger. Some of them decided to work for change, creating websites with information about works by women published in 2007, in hopes of making them more competitive for awards. Then came the backlash from bloggers defending the makeup of the Hugo ballot, or arguing that it wasn’t symptomatic of any problem that needed to be solved. The debate made sf fandom’s corner of the web crackle with electicity.

The 2008 Hugo ballot came out in March: it listed four works of fiction by women. A few people immediately predicted that last year’s controversy would repeat itself. Patrick Shepherd, who in 2007 essentially argued that sf is more nearly gender-blind than it once was, sighed:

Once again, there are no women represented in [the Best Novel] category, although there are several in the other categories. There will probably be some more flack about this, which I believe is really irrelevant…. Of far more importance is just what the quality level is of those that are nominated.

And John Scalzi, author of a 2008 Best Novel nominee, said he expected to see criticism “that none of the authors of the books nominated are women.”

Yet the blogosphere remained tranquil.

In fact, K. Tempest Bradford, Non-Fiction Editor for Dark Fantasy, who also started the SF Bookswap and often blogs about power and privilege issues that affect the sf field, said in her opinion piece titled “And the Phallic Symbol Goes To…” —

Denvention posted this year’s Hugo nominees a few days ago, and much rejoicing was heard across the land. I’m happy to see that there wasn’t a repeat of last year’s ovary-free fiction categories, though there are still fewer women than I’d like. Just means I’ll have to work harder for next year!

Bradford seemed to feel that the increase in women nominees, from one to four, represented a satisfying reward for the work she and others had invested in putting out the word about fiction by women.

What accounts for the change since last year?

Some of the explanations I thought of included:

  1. The calm has less to do with the issue and more to do with how the blogosphere works – something that ignites a brushfire of comment can use up the topic, even in the case of an issue people care about.

  2. The number of women nominees isn’t, in itself, a significant issue, it was just an opportunity to draw attention to women’s or feminists’ concerns. People will move on to a fresh issue.

  3. The number of nominees matters, and moving the needle from one to four is satisfying progress. Or,

  4. The quality of the works nominated is the main thing, and some people have in hindsight decided last year’s controversy took away from that focus, but they still hope more women get nominated.

I asked Adrienne Martini, Evelyn Leeper and Nancy Kress, all women who are very familiar with the sf field and these issues, why the heated discussion did not resume where it left off.

I began with Adrienne Martini because her column for Bookslut was the most interesting and pungent thing I read about last year’s controversy. Actually, I was incensed when I first read it. As I realized later, that was the first clue that I would feel compelled to give the question serious thought. (After all, I was also incensed when Harlan Ellison used the 1978 Worldcon to agitate for the Equal Rights Amendment, but I ended as a convert to the idea.) I sent her an e-mail outlining these ideas and asking for comment.

Adrienne Martini responded:

Pungent — I like that. For me the whole episode itself was rather pungent. FWIW – my initial Bookslut post was borne out of anger, not necessarily because of the Hugo noms that year. Until the list of nominees made it startlingly apparent that nothing had changed, it did feel like women in the SF/F field had gained some momentum. Not just the old reliables — the women that men point to to say “look, we have some” — but doors for all female writers in the field felt more open. Then it slammed shut, rather abruptly.

In hindsight, I would have said that differently than I did and wouldn’t have taken it out on Eifelheim. But I don’t regret the anger, which did seem to touch off a number of discussions, most of which were worth having.

I’m not certain there is just one explanation for why it’s so quiet this year. I do lean toward the first two. Plus, I don’t think that year-to-year comparisons shake out useful data. What will be interesting is to see what happens in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Evelyn Leeper knows sf, is well versed in the history of the Worldcon and its Hugo Awards, and has been up for the award herself a dozen times in the Best Fan Writer category. Evelyn said this about my four suggestions:

The calm has less to do with the issue and more to do with the way the blogosphere works – something ignites a brushfire of comment that uses up the topic, even in the case of an issue people care about.

Could be, although if Usenet is any indication, there is never a topic so dead that a brushfire can’t be lit in it.

The number of women nominees isn’t, in itself, a significant issue, it was just an opportunity to draw attention to women’s or feminists’ concerns. People will move on to a fresh issue.

This definitely seems the case to me.

The number of nominees matters, and moving the needle from one to four is satisfying progress

Not really. That is, I don’t think the number matters that much. One needs to look at what percentage of SF writers (not the population at large) are female, etc. That is, if only 10% of the writers are female, then you can’t complain that they aren’t 50% of the nominees.

And 20 authors out of the entire set of authors is such a small figure that it is not statistically significant.

For 1992, 12 of the 23 fiction nominees were by women. Does anyone ever talk about that? Did we reach some sort of high point then?

The quality of the works nominated is the main thing, and some people have in hindsight decided last year’s controversy took away from that focus, but they still hope to see more women get nominated.

If I had to choose one answer, it would be this one (though frankly, the gender, or race, or religion of the nominees is pretty low on my list of concerns for the Hugos).

When Rowling won the Hugo, no one seemed to be thrilled a woman had won. There was more concern that a fantasy had won.

The people who are complaining — can they list works by women that better than what made the ballot? I have found that if you have a panel on “The Top Ten [X],” people will criticize the list and say, “Well, what about such-and-such.” To which the answer is, “Okay, but which work will you take off the list to make room for it?” It’s not enough to say, “There were lots of good works by women,” one needs to be able to point to works better than what is on the list, and indicate what should be removed.

Now, of course, the nominations are all subjective, so this should be easy, but while people will occasionally list things to be added, no one ever seems to do the other half.

And people don’t seem to complain that not enough “people of color” are nominated. Why the focus on gender?

Nancy Kress’ 1993 speech on “Women in American Science Fiction,” a horizon-expanding exploration of the sf genre’s history, brought me a lot closer to understanding the grievances behind last year’s Hugo and gender controversy, as I wrote in File770 #150, pages 15-17. Here’s what she answered:

Nancy Kress: I don’t know why there aren’t more women on the Hugo ballot this year. If you read my 1993 speech, you saw that women SFWA members win awards (Hugos and Nebulas combined) in roughly the same numbers as their membership. Here are the updated figures, from the 2007 SFWA Directory:

Male names: 58%
Female Names: 35%
Other: 7% (These people are unknown to me personally and are using initials, have unisex names like “Pat” or “Terry,” or have non-English names which I don’t know the usual gender for).

From 1977-2007:

Female Hugo winners: 35
Male Hugo winners: 93

Female Nebula winners: 57
Male Nebula winners: 70

So women are under-represented for Hugos and over-represented for Nebulas. Why? I have absolutely no idea.

While Kress doesn’t claim to know the answer, her statistics do help answer one of Evelyn Leeper’s queries about the proportion of male and female pro writers. (Kress also posted these figures on her blog. Mike Flynn added some comments that also are worth reading.)

In the final analysis, why wasn’t there a replay of last year’s Hugo controversy?

Reason Number One: No mana. Larry Niven’s story “The Magic Goes Away” postulates that magic works until the local supply of mana is exhausted. The Hugos were thoroughly worked over last year. Bloggers like to be read, and repeating the exact same arguments that were made a year ago is not the way to get an audience.

Reason Number Two: If a person literally was only concerned about getting more women nominated for the Hugo, he or she may have been satisfied by the progress represented by there being four fiction nominees by women instead of one.

For others whose complaints about the Hugos were linked to the larger inquiry about whether women have equal access to succeed as sf/fantasy writers, the Hugo Awards are just one set of data among many that can be mined for statistics to support a feminist critique.

As people are aware, the validity of statistics depends on the size of the sample. For example, prozine editors have bought and published hundreds of stories over the past 15 years. Something is shown by comparing the percentage of stories by men and women these editors have selected over that timespan, as Feminist SF – the Blog recently did.

But I really feel that Sheila Williams [editor of Asimov’s] should get more notice (perhaps even accolades) for doing exactly what all of us who are annoyed by gender imbalance have asked other editors to do. (And let me point out again: we have not asked them to publish stories JUST because they were written by women, or to not publish stories JUST because they were written by men.)

(Tip of the hat to  SF Signal.)

Another post on the Feminist SF blog using proportional representation as the hook, 17.948%: Best of Best New SF, challenged Gardner Dozois’ The Best of the Best New SF on grounds that only 7 of its 39 stories were by women.

When someone uses a statistic to level criticism at very small sample, like the Hugo ballot or Dozois’ selection of top stories from the last 20 years, I think it’s fair to expect them to anticpiate Evelyn’s question, “Okay, but which work will you take off the list to make room for it?” Or the question I’m most interested in, “What work do you want to add?”

The bare number 17.948% doesn’t carry the argument. Would anyone read a murder mystery that only dealt in the probability of there being a victim? I want to know whose story was unjustly left out. Tell me about the good stuff I am missing. There are a lot of good stories published every year, and when I add the critics’ lists to the Hugo ballot or Gardner Dozois’ list, it gets easier to find them all.

Update 5/12/2008: Fine-tuned the lead-in to K. Tempest Bradford’s quote.