Pixel Scroll 10/10/20 Schrödinger’s Box Remains Both Ticked And Unticked At The Same Time Until You Pixel It

(1) A NOT-SO-LITTLE LIST. BookRiot concocted a way of assessing an interesting question: “How Do Readers Rate The New York Times Best-Selling Books?”

…For their research, the organization pooled all titles on the NYT List from June 22, 2008 to March 29, 2020. They then determined the top 100 titles from the NYT list based on the number of times it appeared on the lists in that time frame, and each of those titles was subtracted from its average ranking on the list. This made for a total of 716 unique titles.

Once those titles were identified, the top 100 reviews on Goodreads—the reader’s view of books—were pulled. The researchers looked at how many times those titles appeared on the NYT List, then subtracted this from the average list ranking. A book’s total score was calculated using this number, as well as the average Goodreads starred rating for the title….

READERS RANK THE BEST BESTSELLERS

Using the methodology laid out above, which books that landed on the NYT List were among the most well-reviewed by readers on Goodreads? The researchers calculated 20 titles among the top.

… The top ranking best seller for readers was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. The book appeared on the bestseller list over 600 times, ranking at an average of #3, and readers gave it an average rating of 4.1 stars on Goodreads.

Interestingly, 11 of the titles on this list are children’s, middle grade, or YA books, and of the remaining titles, six are self-help/productivity books. Given that the NYT List has primarily featured white authors until more recently—and it’s still primarily white in some categories—it’s not a surprise to see that only a small number of the top 20 books are by authors of color…

(2) HOW HUMANS RELATE TO PROGRAMS. Future Tense ran a piece by Torie Bosch about “Shouting at Alexa”.

… For years now, commentators have reminded us that the gendered dynamics of digital assistants are troubling. In September, Future Tense ran an excerpt from The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot by Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy . “Friendly and helpful feminized devices often take a great deal of abuse when their owners swear or yell at them. They are also commonly glitchy, leading to their characterization as ditzy feminized devices by owners and technology commentators—traits that reinforce outdated (and unfounded) gendered stereotypes about essentialized female inferior intellectual ability,” they write.

That’s me, swearing and yelling at my feminized device even though it only wants to be friendly and helpful.

What I tell myself, though, is that I’m really trying to avoid anthropomorphizing the Echo and the rest of the tech in my life. It’s a tendency I’ve had ever since I got to know ELIZA, the chatbot created by an MIT researcher in the 1960s. ELIZA was designed to mimic Rogerian therapy—which basically means that this simple program turns everything you say into a question. For some reason, it was installed on some of the computers in my middle-school library in the ’90s. Most of the time, I tried to get her—I mean it!— to swear, but I also spilled my tweenage heart out occasionally. And I’m not the only one. As a Radiolab episode from 2013 detailed: “At first, ELIZA’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum thought the idea of a computer therapist was funny. But when his students and secretary started talking to it for hours, what had seemed to him to be an amusing idea suddenly felt like an appalling reality.”…

(3) THE WRITER’S CRAFT. Delilah S. Dawson on how to write a synopsis. Thread starts here. (H/t to Cat Rambo.)  

(4) IT’S A NOPE. The Mary Sue checked the social media response from two people whose opinions we’d like to hear: “Rhianna Pratchett and Neil Gaiman React To the First Trailer for The Watch.  

…Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, responded to the clips on Twitter, writing “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”

… Beloved author Neil Gaiman also weighed in on Twitter in response to fan questions on the faithfulness of adaptions. Gaiman, who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, personally oversaw the novel’s adaptation into a miniseries on Amazon Prime, serving as writer and showrunner for the series. Gaiman defended the creator’s original vision of their work, stating “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”

(5) VINTAGE DARKNESS. “25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime” as told by the author in The Guardian.

It was 1993 when I thought of Lyra and began writing His Dark Materials. John Major was prime minister, the UK was still in the EU, there was no Facebook or Twitter or Google, and although I had a computer and could word-process on it, I didn’t have email. No one I knew had email, so I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. If I wanted to look something up I went to the library; if I wanted to buy a book I went to a bookshop. There were only four terrestrial TV channels, and if you forgot to record a programme you’d wanted to watch, tough luck. Smart phones and iPads and text messaging had never been heard of. The announcers on Radio 3 had not yet started trying to be our warm and chatty friends. The BBC and the National Health Service were as much part of our identity, of our idea of ourselves as a nation, as Stonehenge.

Twenty-seven years later I’m still writing about Lyra, and meanwhile the world has been utterly transformed.

To some extent, my story was protected from awkward change because I set it in a world that was not ours. It was like ours, but different, so I could take account of the real-world changes that helped my story, and ignore those that didn’t. 

(6) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. “One Good Thing: The wonderful sci-fi novel A Memory Called Empire makes diplomacy enthralling” – a review at Vox.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, which recently won the Best Novel award at science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards, reads like its author was simultaneously influenced by Game of Thrones, histories of the Cold War, various anti-colonialism writings, and the Star Wars prequels. It’s a grand, galaxy-spanning space opera that is mostly about diplomacy. Or, if you prefer, it’s an impressively wonky novel about galactic geopolitics that just happens to feature spaceships and aliens. I love it.

It’s difficult to talk about A Memory Called Empire without spoiling some of its best surprises because the core of the book sounds impossibly dry. But let me give it a shot anyway, because the best way to read this book is to know almost nothing about what happens after its first few chapters….

(7) AFTERGLOW. The Guardian’s Matt Kamen asks — “Cancel culture: is Netflix killing off series too soon?”

Another day, another cancellation – or at least, that’s how it’s starting to feel when it comes to Netflix. Having culled the likes of Sense8, The OA, Santa Clarita Diet and Altered Carbon in recent years, all after two or three seasons and often leaving viewers on major cliffhangers, the streaming service has turned its bloodlust on to Glow, which had already started filming its fourth season before the pandemic hit, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

The latter, a prequel to the cult-favourite 1983 Jim Henson movie, produced and performed entirely with staggeringly intricate puppets and animatronics, and featuring an all-star cast, premiered on Netflix in August 2019. It garnered near-universal acclaim from critics, and a slate of awards nominations – including, crucially, picking up a 2020 Emmy for outstanding children’s program. Yet even awards success hasn’t spared it the axe, with the executive producer, Lisa Henson, confirming it won’t be returning….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1993 – Twenty-seven years ago, The Flash Girls released their first album, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones. The Minneapolis based band consisted of Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland, also known as The Fabulous Lorraine. Garland is notable as being Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant. Among the songwriters were Jane Yolen, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. Bull and Garland adopted the names Pansy Smith and Violet Jones as their alternate personas and would become characters in the DC Sovereign Seven series where they run a coffee shop. They would release two more albums, Maurice and I and Play Each Morning Wild Queen. Bull and Shetterly moved to California which broke up the band and Garland formed Folk Underground which also had songs written by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 10, 1895 – Lin Yutang, Ph.D.  Author, editor, translator, gifted popularizer (yes, it’s possible).  One SF novel.  Built a working Chinese typewriter (yes, it’s –) never developed commercially but pivotal in machine-translation research.  My Country, My People a best-seller.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1931 – Jack Jardine.  Writing under another name, four Agent of T.E.R.R.A. novels, three others.  Indeed many other names.  Radio disc jockey, humorist.  See Bill Mills’ appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1942 – Wojtek Siudmak, 78.  More than seven hundred covers, seventy interiors.  Six artbooks (in French).  Two Chesleys.  Here is Double Star.  Here is a volume of Norman Spinrad.  Here is Dune.  Here is The Return of the King.  Here is Expansion.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1957 – Rumiko Takahashi, 63.  (Names would be reversed in Japanese style.)  Manga artist with 200 million copies of her work in circulation.  Two Shogakukan Awards, two Seiun Awards.  Inkpot.  Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame.  Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, second woman and second Japanese to win.  Scottish rock band named for Urusei Yatsura, her first to be animated.  This cover reprinting vols. 1&2 of Ranma 1/2 shows Ranma’s dad changed into a panda and Ranma into a girl.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1959 Kerrie Hughes, 61. Anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings. Favorite titles for me for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s written short fiction and essays as well. It looks like almost all of her anthologies are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1968 Mark Bould, 52. British academic whose done a number of interesting genre-related works including Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, co-edited with China Miéville, Parietal Games: Critical Writings by and on M. John Harrison with M. John Harrison and Michelle Reid, and Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction written with Andrew M. Butler and Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1976 Marjan Neshat, 44. Best remembered for her recurring role as Samar Hashmi on Quantico which is at least genre related. She’s also had roles in the Robocop reboot, FringeElementaryNew Amsterdam and Person of Interest. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1971 – Jeff Miracola, 49.  Magic, the Gathering (over a hundred cards) and Shadowrun; children’s books e.g. The Book of Impossible Objects; Electronic Arts video game Mini-Golf.  In eight issues of Spectrum so far (2-5, 15-16, 19-20); Advanced Photoshop magazine; 30 Years of Adventure (Dungeons & Dragons).  Here is a cover for Tower of Babel.  “Continue to work on your craft.  Draw, paint, and create always.  Consider getting together with other artists…. actually creating and feeding off each other’s energy.”  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1984 Jenna Lê, 36. Minnesota-born daughter of Vietnam War refugees, her genre poetry is collected in A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora along with other poems. That collection placed second for an Elgin Award. You can find an excellent interview with her here. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. This weekend, the New York Comic Con managed to run a cosplay competition despite being a virtual event: “Sew And Tell! Virtual Championships Of Cosplay Winners Announced At NYCC 2020” at SYFY Wire.

… The Beginners victor was Commander Poptart, a U.S. entrant who dressed as Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “This was an incredible build for a beginner. Well, done, Commander Poptart,” said JediManda, who was dressed as Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian

No runner-up was announced.

The runner-up in Needlework was Demorafairy from the U.K., who dressed as Little Red Ashe from Overwatch. “We loved this costume, the letterwork is so impressive on it. All her engineering, like the vest, was done in three different layers, so every piece would lay correctly,” said Yaya Han. “I thought that was just really genius and it just has such a great balance of different techniques used. All her sewing was very clean and the skirt was the right length and everything was finished.”

Sewcialist Revolution from the U.S. nabbed the top honor for the Needlework category with her Claire Fraser costume inspired by Outlander. She spent five years learning how to make 18th-century clothing and then hunkered down for an extra six months putting the dress together. “This is needlework in its best representation,” Han added. “She used period-accurate methods, so much of it was hand-done … We really appreciated all of the efforts that she went into.”…

And more.

(12) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EFFECTS. “Making the Monsters of ‘Lovecraft Country’” is discussed in the New York Times.

…Consider the monstrous, man-eating Shoggoths of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” last seen decimating a squad of racist police officers on Sunday night. They may not be the mind-bending series’s most terrifying menace — that title goes to vintage, 1950s white supremacy — but it isn’t for lack of trying.

Shoggoths are hideous to look at — pale, bulbous, covered in scabby, asymmetric eyes — and deadly to encounter, with concentric rows of gnarled teeth that turn trespassers into tartare. H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about blob-like creatures called Shoggoths in the late ’20s in a series of sonnets, and they appeared in his 1936 novella “At the Mountains of Madness.”

But the original Shoggoths, described by Lovecraft as “normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles,” bear little resemblance to the fast-moving, gorilla-like beasts that first terrorized Tic, Leti and co. in the series premiere.

(13) IN SPACE THEY CAN HEAR YOU SING. Earlier this year NPR’s “Science-Fiction Music: Monsters, Aliens In ‘Filk'” covered all pop music, including work by fans.

As science fiction spread within music, fans began to share songs with one another, and the movement became known as Filk. It took its name from a 1950s article about these unusual songs, which misspelled “Folk” as “Filk.” Bill Sutton is the president of Interfilk, an organization that helps fans and musicians attend Filk conventions. Sutton says otherworldly ideas in popular music, combined with excitement about the space program, made people believe that technology could save everything.

(14) 007, MUNSTER, AND RIPLEY, OH MY! Want to buy the Green Hornet’s car? At Profiles in History’s “The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction” on November 12-13, many extraordinary costumes, props and relics are going under the hammer. 

Following is just a glimpse of the items awaiting you in these pages that left indelible marks in Hollywood history: 

  • John Travolta “Tony Manero” screen worn signature leather jacket from Saturday Night Fever.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio “Jack Dawson” poker game/boarding costume from Titanic.
  • Roger Moore “James Bond” Royal Navy uniform jacket from The Spy Who Loved Me.
  • Jane Seymour “Solitaire” psychic medium cape and headdress from Live and Let Die.
  • Orson Welles “Charles Foster Kane” coat from Citizen Kane.
  • Marilyn Monroe “The Girl” fantasy tiger gown from The Seven Year Itch.
  • Gene Kelly “Don Lockwood” legendary rain suit from the Singin’ in the Rain.
  • Gary Cooper “Lou Gehrig” Yankee uniform from The Pride of the Yankees.
  • James Dean “Jett Rink” tuxedo from Giant.
  • Elizabeth Taylor “Leslie Benedict” arrival to Reata ensemble from Giant.
  • Vivien Leigh “Scarlett O’Hara” traveling dress from Gone With the Wind.
  • Fred Gwynne “Herman Munster” signature costume from The Munsters.
  • Tina Louise “Ginger” signature glamor dress from Gilligan’s Island.
  • Sir Richard Attenborough “John Hammond” signature cane from Jurassic Park
  • Sigourney Weaver “Ripley” signature Nostromo jumpsuit from Alien.
  • Hero “ramming” Chestburster with articulating jaw and “whiplash” tail from Alien
  • Hero “Ra” Cheops class Pyramid Warship filming miniature from Stargate.
  • Hero X-71 Shuttle “Independence” filming miniature from Armageddon.
  • Zed’s “Grace” Harley chopper ridden by Bruce Willis “Butch Coolidge” in Pulp Fiction

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 9/10/20 The Pixelways Will Scroll

(1) SOUNDING OFF. John Scalzi’s new novella in The Dispatcher series debuted today as an audiobook narrated by Zachary Quinto. You can hear the two of them discuss it via Whatever: “Here’s Me and Zachary Quinto Interviewing Each Other About ‘Murder By Other Means’”.

(2) THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. Maria Poletta, in the Arizona Republic story “On Cameo, Joe Arpaio welcomed a furry convention to Arizona. Hours later, he learned what it was”, says that Sheriff Joe Arpaio (famously pardoned by President Trump) recorded a message on Cameo welcoming a furry convention to Arizona although it’s not clear he knew what furries were(he pronounced furry “fury.”)

It seems former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has found a new gig after another unsuccessful bid for public office.

Unsurprisingly, it’s in front of the camera. 

For $30.99, users of Cameo — an app where singers, actors and other public figures record custom video messages for a fee — can request a personalized clip of the divisive figure saying whatever they want.

And supporters and critics alike are seizing the opportunity. 

Most of Arpaio’s Cameo videos appear to be standard fare, such as birthday greetings, thank-you messages, congratulatory comments. But one that began circulating on social media on Tuesday evening, an encouraging message for the organizers of an upcoming event, raised eyebrows. 

“Hey, good luck organizing the Arizona Furry convention,” Arpaio begins, though he pronounces it “Fury,” suggesting he’s not totally certain what he’s been asked to talk about. It’s “for animal lovers,” he adds by way of explanation.

“I’ve always loved animals, fought those that abused animals and will continue to do so,” he continues. “In any event, have a great convention.”

…Many members of the subculture have defined it as one dedicated to artistic expression and helping people come out of their shells, but they’ve long had to endure jokes from people who mock “fur-suiting” as a sexual fetish. 

Judging by the requester listed on Arpaio’s Cameo, the person who ordered the video may be one of them. The username: Sir Yiffs A Lot.

“Yiff” refers to furry-related sexual content or activity, which made Arpaio’s sign-off all the more cringeworthy. 

“As far as what animal I would like to be, I’m kind of partial to dogs,” he says after a pause, as if responding to a question included in the video request. “But I love all animals. Thanks.”

(3) LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR MOSLEY. Walter Mosley will be presented the  National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Edwidge Danticat. Winners of the award receive $10,000 and a solid brass medal.

“Mosley is a master of craft and narrative, and through his incredibly vibrant and diverse body of work, our literary heritage has truly been enriched,” said David Steinberger, chair of the NBA board of directors, in the release. “From mysteries to literary fiction to nonfiction, Mosley’s talent and memorable characters have captivated readers everywhere, and the Foundation is proud to honor such an illustrious voice whose work will be enjoyed for years to come.”

(4) MORE ROCK THAN ROLL. “Lafawndah’s The Fifth Season by Lily Sperry” profiles an album that draws on N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy.

At first glance, what surprises about Lafawndah’s new album, The Fifth Season, is the absence of her image on the cover. Instead of the regal, sometimes confrontational gazes adorning past works, such as Ancestor Boy (2019) and “Tan” (2016), here the listener is greeted with the empty eyes of an amorphous stone figure, kneeling, palms extended, on what seems to be the edge of the Earth. It’s unclear if this character is meant to represent Lafawndah herself, or something else entirely—but upon listening to the album, it almost doesn’t matter. As an artist who self-identifies as a “creative orphan,” shapeshifting is written into Lafawndah’s DNA. It’s only appropriate that her latest release takes it as its central mode.

Its core subject, however, marks a decisive break from past projects. Rather than looking inward, Lafawndah instead extends outward, drawing on the emotionally charged myths of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy to guide her. Set in a far-future Earth rife with conflict and periodic disasters (“Seasons”) that threaten to destroy all human life, Jemisin’s Afrofuturist series tells tales of heartbreak, strife, and conflict from the perspectives of three different women. It’s only at the end the reader realizes that each character is the same person, at different points in her life….

(5) SUGGESTIONS NEEDED. “So what should do I with a half dozen signed limited edition posters by Charles Vess? Can you think of a worthy fan cause?” Cat Eldridge looks to Filers for suggestions.

“No, I don’t know why he sent them.” says Cat. “I think they’re twenty years old now but they’re in excellent shape.”

(6) VIBRANT VAMPIRES. “There Are Real Vampires in Texas. We Interviewed Them.” Fodors has the story.

The best little vampire court in Texas.

Everything’s bigger in Texas—even the vampire scene. Television and film have catapulted vampires into the mainstream, cementing vampirism into pop culture. From the cult classic Interview with the Vampire to FXX series What We Do in the Shadows, there’s no shortage of fictional portrayals of vampire life and the people who crave to be like them. Life can be stranger than fiction, and real-life vampires exist. While they tend to have an affinity for the occult, they’ve sunk their fangs into philanthropy and social good during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas is one of many states that boasts of vibrant vampire communities, known as courts. Self-identifying vampires can apply for membership in their city. To an outsider, these vampire courts may sound eerie. For the vampires, the courts are a place they can find belonging….

(7) ON THE FRONT. Lauren Panepinto examines “Book Cover Trends Thru Time (Via Dune)” at Muddy Colors.

…One of my favorite ways to visualize how much book cover design has changed over the years is to track one classic book that tends to get redesigned every few years and see how the designs have evolved. Honestly the entire Penguin Classics imprint survives on this as an entire business model. There have been entire academic studies and books published on the design history of books like Lolita. But this is a SciFi Fantasy Art blog and it just so happens that the new Dune trailer finally came out today, so we’re going to be looking at the last few decades of book cover design through the lens of Dune by Frank Herbert….

PRE-BOOK HISTORY

The stories that would become Dune were first serialized in Analog Magazine starting in December 1963. John Schoenherr was commissioned on August 7, 1963 (great backstory on the blog kept by his son Ian Schoenherr here) to create images for the covers and interiors for “Dune World” 1, 2, and 3.

(8) PARDUE OBIT. Filker Naomi Pardue took her own life reports Tom Smith who said, “She had been very depressed for awhile now, after the death of a close friend.”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 1990 — The 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction Would go to Neil Gaiman’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which was published thirty years ago this month in the nineteenth issue of Sandman. It features the beginning of Morpheus’ creative partnership with William Shakespeare, and is the only comic book to date to win a World Fantasy Award. It was drawn by Charles Vess and colored by Steve Oliff. The final issue of Sandman, number seventy five, “The Tempest”,  concerns the second of the two plays commissioned by Morpheus.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 10, 1860 – Margaret Armour.  Novelist, poet, translator.  Translated the Nibelungenlied into English prose (1887), then Wagner’s four Nibelungen operas The Rhine Gold and The ValkyrieSiegfried and Twilight of the Gods, illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1912); also Legerlotz’ Gudrun (1932).  Outside our field, tr. Heine with Leland and Brooksbank; and her own works. (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1905 – Jay Jackson.  A hundred interiors for AmazingFantasticGolden FleeceWeird Tales.  Here is Robert Bloch’s “Secret of the Observatory”.  Here is “The Space Pirate”.  Here is “Planet of the Gods”.  Also outside our field: here is an image for World War II bonds.  He appears to have been the first black SF artist.  See this from the Chicago Defender.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1911 – William Crawford.  Published and edited Fantasy Book (as Garret Ford; with wife Margaret Crawford), Marvel TalesUnusualSpaceway (i.e. not Harry Warner’s fanzine Spaceways).  Early LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) member.  Seven anthologies, some uncredited.  Started SF conventions.  Seen in Locus as late as 1981.  Helped many; received the Big Heart, our highest service award.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1914 Robert Wise. Film director, producer, and editor. Among his accomplishments are directing The Curse of The Cat PeopleThe Day the Earth Stood StillThe HauntingThe Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Though not at all genre, he also directed West Side Story and edited Citizen Kane. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1927 – Betty Levin, 93.  Ten novels for us; several others outside our field e.g. Starshine and Sunglow (“Grace and subtle humor” – Kirkus), Thorn (“Strongly lyrical writing, unusual & provocative themes” – Kirkus).  Judy Lopez Award, Hope Dean Award.  [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1952 Gerry Conway, 68. Writer who’s best known for co-creating with John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru the Punisher character and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy during his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m also fond of his work on Weird Western Tales at DC. (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1953 Pat Cadigan, 67. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she has co-written with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1955 Victoria Strauss, 65. Author of the Burning Land trilogy, she should be praised unto high for being founder along with AC Crispin of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1959 Tara Ward, 61. She played Preston in the “Warriors of the Deep”, a Third Doctor story.  After Doctor Who, she shows up in one-offs in Star Cops and Dark Realm, the Eric Roberts as the Host with vampire teeth horror anthology series,beforehaving a very minor role in the Justice League film. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1959 Nancy A. Collins, 61. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues #110 to #138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1964 – Chip Kidd, 56.  Some say he does 75 covers a year.  “Designing books is no laughing matter.  Okay, it is.”   Here is Jurassic Park.  Here is Was.  Here is The Elephant Vanishes.  Here is Loop.  Infinity Award for Design (Int’l Center of Photography), Nat’l Design Award for Communication, AIGA (Am. Inst. Graphic Arts) Medal.  “I’m very much against the idea that the cover will sell the book.  Marketing departments of publishing houses tend to latch onto this concept and they can’t let go.  But it’s about whether the book itself really connects with the public, and the cover is only a small part of that.”  [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1977 – Emily Snyder, 43.  Directed eleven Shakespeare plays, performed in twenty-five, including Brutus in Julius Caesar and Prospero in The Tempest.  Love and Death trilogy in blank verse Persephone Rises, The Seduction of Adonis and Cupid and Psyche.  Matter of Arthur plays The Table Round and The Siege Perilous.  Novels for us Niamh and the Hermit, Charming the Moon.  Feminist and Catholic.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WONDERBEASTS. [Item by N.] Cartoon Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts premieres its third (three seasons in a single year!!) and as of this writing final season on October 12.

(13) CAN YOU DIG IT? An archeology-inspired adventure is the big idea at Whatever today: “The Big Idea: Dan Hanks”.

“It belongs in a museum.”

That’s the quote we all know and love, uttered as the bad guys try to steal the priceless artifact away from Indiana Jones. And when he says it, the audience is usually cheering him on. He’s the scientist with the archaeological smarts after all. He knows how much these artifacts could benefit the world, so he’s going to risk his life to give us the chance to see them. Pretty damn noble if you ask me.

Except.

That’s not really the whole story, is it? 

Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire, was always meant to be a fast, fun, action-packed adventure in the Indiana Jones style. An entertaining beach read (or, I guess, ‘pandemic read’ now). However, it was also important to me to address some serious archaeological issues, in particular the colonial elements of these types of stories. I wanted to pull that aspect into the torch light and inspect it properly (while hoping it didn’t set off a trap). 

The big idea here is that the famous “it belongs in a museum” line is only half complete. In a world where archaeologists and museums are being nudged to move beyond their colonial past, it deserves a follow-up: 

Whose?

(14) ANGER BENEATH THE WHIMSY. In an essay for the New York Times, James Traub contends “Doctor Dolittle’s Talking Animals Still Have Much to Say”.

…No one could say that the books have grown quaint or stale; just ask my third graders. Nor was Walpole indulging in hyperbole. Doctor Dolittle is a wonderful creation: a Victorian eccentric from the pages of Dickens; a perpetual bachelor who drives conventional humans from his life but is much loved by the poor and the marginal; a gentleman whose exquisite politesse never falters, even before sharks and pirates; a peace-loving naturalist prepared to wage war to defend his friends from evil depredations. Only by the standards of the world of grown-ups does he “do little.”

… Lofting really was a genius of children’s literature. But he was also a product of the British Empire. When Doctor Dolittle goes to Africa to cure the monkeys, he stumbles into the Kingdom of Jolliginki. Prince Bumpo, the heir to the throne, is a mooncalf who mistakes fairy tales for real life, speaks in Elizabethan periphrasis and murmurs to himself: “If only I were a white prince!” In the pencil sketches with which Lofting illustrates his texts, Prince Bumpo looks like the missing link between man and ape. Lofting’s biographer, Gary D. Schmidt, defensively notes that Doctor Dolittle himself rarely utters a bigoted word. But the doctor is only a character; the narrator and the illustrator are none other than our author. While Lofting never fails to give his Africans a measure of nobility, he is also quite certain of their savagery.

… The edition I read was probably published in 1950, three years after Lofting’s death. By the 1970s, he had gone into eclipse. Over the years, new editions appeared that attempted to address the racism, including one in 1988 from which all pictures of Prince Bumpo and his parents had been removed, along with all references to their skin color, not to mention their wish to change it. “If this verbal and visual caution occasionally seems almost craven,” a reviewer for The New York Times Book Review wrote, the blind spots for which it sought to compensate were real.

(15) SET DECORATION BY NATURE. Yeah, this is how San Francisco looked yesterday.

(16) BOOKS ON TAP. Baen Books authors will make two livestreaming appearances Publishers Weekly’s Books on Tap LIVE series in the coming months.  The authors will be interviewed with the opportunity to answer questions at the end of the segment.

The first, featuring Larry Correia, will air on Wednesday, September 23rd at 4:00 PM EDT. Larry Correia is the bestselling author of the Monster Hunter International urban fantasy series, the Grimnoir trilogy, and the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior military epic fantasy series with the latest novel Destroyer of Worlds, on sale September 1st.

David Weber & Jacob Holo will be teaming up for an event on Wednesday, October 7th at 4:00 PM EDT to celebrate the release of The Valkyrie Protocol, the second book in their Gordian Division time travel adventure series. David Weber is a multiple New York Times best-selling author, the creator of the Honor Harrington military science fiction series, as well as Path of the Fury, the Hell’s Gate multiverse series, the Dahak Saga, and many more. The Valkyrie Protocol is on sale October 6th.

The authors are known for lively dialogue, interesting backstories, and enjoying interaction with guests.  These events are free to the public.  To sign up for these special events go here September 23rd at 4:00 for Larry Correia; and a link will be forthcoming for the event on October 7th at 4:00 for David Weber and Jacob Holo.

(17) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to a 2019 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Lord and Miller met at Dartmouth, where they wrote a comic strip about a chain-smoking squirrel that was turned into a feature in the Dartmouth alumni magazine.  That magazine ended up on Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s corporate jet, which led to a phone call the undergraduates got asking them to come to Hollywood and take a meeting, which they declined because they were doing mid-term exams. 

After they were graduated, Disney hired them but their first great success came with the MTV series “Clone High,” which was banned in India because Gandhi was one of the clones.  Most of the podcast includes discussion of the Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs movies and The Lego Movie.  The podcast was produced before The Lego Movie 2 came out.  There is much discussion about why it’s so much harder to come up with a good script for an animated film than for a feature film, with Leonard Maltin noting that Walt Disney threw out six months’ work on Pinocchio.

There was one question about SOLO, the Star Wars project that Lord and Miller were sacked from.

(18) RICK AND MORTY CUISINE. “Pringles Has Brought Back Its Pickle Rick Chips, and Launched Two New ‘Rick and Morty’ Flavors” – let Yahoo! Life tell you all about it.

Earlier this year, we were introduced to the Pringles and Rick and Morty collaboration that resulted in Pickle Rick pickle-flavored chips. Not only are the chips — which were released in honor of the Super Bowl — available again, but there are two new varieties that were inspired by the Adult Swim series.

The special-edition Pickle Rick flavor is joined by Honey Mustard Morty and Look at Me! I’m Cheddar & Sour Cream. While the flavors are self-explanatory (hello, honey mustard-flavored and cheddar-and-sour-cream-flavored chips!), there’s a reason these three were chosen. Stacking Pringles flavors, which fit so perfectly together, has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years, according to the brand. The idea here is that you take one of each chip and eat them together for an insane flavor combination….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, N., Daniel Dern, Bill, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Rob Thornton, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

2020 Filk Hall of Fame Inductees

The Filk Hall of Fame honors those who have contributed to filk over the years as performers, organizers, and facilitators. New inductees are announced annually during FilKONtario. Even though the 2020 convention had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees have been named:

  • Juliana McCorison

has been attending Science Fiction conventions since 1981, sometimes under the name of EJ or Eliza J. She’s been involved with filk at such cons as VCon, Dream con, Rusty con, Orycon, and Norwescon, both in the filk room and panels. In 2000, Juliana opened her home in Victoria, and invited filkers from all over to come to a weekend long house filk. This was the inception of a 10 year tradition that became known as Pondfilk – the Pacific Northwest’s first filk convention. Juliana, and her husband Douglas, hosted the event in their own home, creating an intimate, magical gathering. She’s hosted many other house filks there as well. Juliana and Douglas also gave the seed money for the first year of Conflikt, the first Washington State filk convention.

Juliana encourages filkers with her generosity and hospitality, and has given musical instruments (including a Banjimer) to beginning filkers, But this is only a small part of the encouragement she’s given to others in creating music. She gently encourages many filkers, who have since become performers in their own right, does backup for others’ performances, and knows what people need and, more importantly, where it can be found.
Juliana is a fine performer: She has recorded a fine CD, “Not Just Lullabies From Planet Earth” with an assortment of musicians she has gathered around her. Her band, We’re Not Koi, has been delighting audiences across the continent in the past few years. She has covered songs and other instrumentals from other filkers, and has also served as a recording engineer, for her own album and other projects.
Juliana has also been the Pacific Northwest Representative to Interfilk, and runs the Interfilk auction at Conflikt each year.
For these contributions to filk music and the filk community, Juliana McCorison is inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame this twenty-sixth day of April, two thousand twenty.

  • Rob Wynne

has been an enthusiastic and multifaceted pillar of the filk community since 1987.

He is a prolific and talented songwriter and performer, with a particular penchant for mischievous parody.  He writes songs in, about, and for the filk community, and maintains an archive of them on his website, www.autographedcat.com.

Rob also writes filk album and filk interest reviews articles for Aphelion, an SF webzine, and works as their WebMaven/Features Editor.

He and his partner, Larissa, are the heart and soul of GAFilk. He has been on the GAFilk Concom from 2000 to 2008 as Programming Director, and Conchair from ’09-present despite living in Seattle. Rob also has runs the convention’s very entertaining game show, “My Filk”, based on trivia from the filk community, which also preserves our shared history. More recently he has joined the Board of Directors of Interfilk.

Rob is a co-founder of Filknet which includes support for a private IRC network hosting #FilkHaven and filk-related mailing lists. #Filkhaven became a virtual meeting place for filkers worldwide. Rob is also the administrator of the chat server in that network. It was, for a long time, an online meeting point for the filk community which provided an opportunity for filkers from around the world to meet and interact. Rob’s vigilant but relaxed style of moderation made it a safe and enjoyable space where many friendships were born and flourished. In 2017, Rob and Mike revived #filkhaven on Discord, and are pleased to say that it is once again a very active online gathering spot for the filk community
In 2016, Rob started moderating a Facebook group for filkers, also based on the principles of kindness and courtesy that Rob embodies.

Whenever he’s at a convention, Rob takes pictures of all the events he’s at. He posts those, a con report, and collection of others’ con reports to a community archives, sharing the biggest communal picture he can. It may seem like a small thing, but it speaks volumes about his viewpoint and attitudes towards filk and other filkers.

He has been hosted regular house filks, since 1998; even spontaneously hold them for when filkers are visiting in town. Rob is a welcoming smiling presence at many cons. He is truly a gentle but powerful force for good within the filk community

For these reasons, Rob Wynne is inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame, this twenty-sixth day of April, two thousand twenty.

  • Blind Lemming Chiffon

The filker who currently styles himself “Blind Lemming Chiffon” has been writing and making music for, and sharing music with, the filk community for decades under a variety of names.

Apparently his first experience of convention filking was at PenultiCon 2 in May of 1979. It was soon followed by his first Worldcon (at Brighton in 1979), according to his song “Ballad of SeaCon,”.

His wealth of creative songs has been covered by many other well-known filkers including Kathy Mar. He has self-produced several CDs of his songs, and many of his songs have been published in Xenofilkia. Much of his work is parody and lighthearted, however “That Old Filk of Mine,” one of his best, is a bittersweet retrospective piece. While he often wants to be overlooked, is very unassuming, and would like people to think he cannot sing well, his performance always brings a smile, or a tear, to those listening.

He has been hosting house filks in the Denver area since the 1980’s and helped run the Denver Worldcon in 2008. He continues to be a loud and frequent voice for filk, and occasionally when a filker or folk performer comes to the Denver area Lem welcomes them with a House Concert for their benefit.

He has made a point of attending SF conventions all over the world, including many Filk Cons, World Cons, NASFics, and others. He was the Interfilk Guest at FilKONtario in 2004 and has managed to attend our convention every year since then.

He also owns an extremely large collection of filk, all of which was paid for to support the artist.

Lemming plays a multitude of musical instruments and is at master of most of them. These include mandolins and banjos in various sizes, a cittern, 6- and 12-string guitars, and three or four variations on the ukulele theme. He promotes the ukulele to be as serious an instrument as a guitar.

Lem’s style of delivery might tempt one to take his original songs and lyric alterations lightly, but one shouldn’t be fooled; his lyrics are usually both well-crafted and thoughtful.

For these contributions to filk music and the filk community, Blind Lemming Chiffon is inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame this twenty-sixth day of April, two thousand twenty.

The Filk Hall of Fame jury, representing all the filk cons in US, Canada, UK and Germany, selects the inductees, based on fan nominations. The 2020 jury was: C. J. Ueberal (Intermezzo, Germany); Mark Peters (OVFF, Columbus area); Sunnie Larson (OVFF, Columbus area); Rob Wynne (GAFilk, Atlanta area); Janet Maughan (DemiSemiQuaver, Britain); Chris O’Halloran (Consonance, San Jose area); Steve Macdonald (DFDF, Germany); and Judith Hayman (FilKONtario, Toronto area).

Here are the citations telling why these three filksingers were chosen for the Hall of Fame.

CATCHING UP WITH THE FILK HALL OF FAME. File 770 last covered the new Hall of Fame members in 2017, so let’s take this opportunity to catch up on the classes that were missed.

2018

has been a filker for the larger part of her life. In 1994, at the age of fifteen, she performed a cute filk at a German Star Trek convention, as an entry in a filk song contest. Three years later, she showed up at the first FilkCONtinental. She was hooked, and became a constant presence and mainstay in German filk fandom, and overseas fandom, ever since.

Organizing is her thing, and she is very good at it, so it came as no surprise that she volunteered very early for jobs that needed doing behind the scenes at FilkCONtinental. Later, when it became apparent that Germany was ready for a second filk convention, and another small relax con had ceased to happen, she started one together with Steve Macdonald. Das Frühlingsfest der Filksmusik (DFDF, the Spring Festival of Filk Music) has now been running since 2009. Among other things she handles all the questions concerning the DFDF hotel, and is responsible for a good working relationship there that is constantly improving. She also hosts the con website, and deals with issues such as registration, finances and virtually everything else except programming

For FilkCONtinental, If anything needs to be done at short notice, she is there to lend a hand. If a member of the ConCom cannot get there, she will take turns at shuttle service and behind the scenes organisation.

She is a translator, having assisted FilkCONtinental in translating from German to English for several years, and currently handling those for DFDF. She has also assisted in the translation of Filk Hall of Fame pages into German, to help spread the word among the non-English speakers. She is an entertainer, and an improv comedian (for which she also offers workshops – even at little or no notice), a poet, and a promoter of new ideas. She has taken part in hosting some small, house filk events. Most of all she cares deeply about the filk community and its continuous development. You can always count on her.
Whether locally or internationally, she is always interested in and up for shenanigans, bringing a lot of fun to all she does. Sib may come across as calm and serene at first, but she has a wicked sense of humour and her silliness is contagious. She is a unique writer, with a witty and hilarious approach. She makes songs out of subtitles, episode titles from TV shows or of linguistic topics, frequently taking a sideways approach to a topic. Shall we just say “Evil Eyeball”?

Sib has been Interfilk guest at OVFF in 2008 and a guest at Harmuni in 2010. She has been nominated for a Pegasus Award, twice. She does not seek the limelight,

For these contributions to filk music and the filk community, Sibylle Machat is inducted in to the Filk Hall of Fame this twenty-first day of April, two thousand eighteen.

Entered fandom in 1978, at the Phoenix Worldcon, enticed by college friend, Bob Laurent and found filk at the same time, because of luminaries like Bob Asprin and Gordy Dickson. There followed many conventions, including the infamous “Juanita Coulson versus the riverboat whistle” convention where he acquired his first small pamphlet of filksongs.

In the wake of the 1980 Westercon in Los Angeles, Paul Willett, Gary Anderson and Ev Turner stared LAFA – Los Angeles Filkers Anonymous – to host filksings in homes in the greater LA area and fill the void that, then, existed. Paul was the one out front, in public, who composed the monthly Flyer for the next filksing, and collected names, addresses, and money for postage, to start a regular mailing list. In August, 1981, the single-sheet flyer became a four page ‘zine, with news, gossip, and the occasional filksong, often written by Paul. It got a name: The Philk-Fee-Nom-Ee-Non (aka PFNEN for short). Issue #14 was the breakthrough – expanded to sixteen pages, eight of them filksongs. Paul kept this going monthly up to Issue #47 in October 1985. It quickly became what was one of the biggest filk zines of its time. It was influential in popularizing filk on the West Coast, and it is the only filk zine to be nominated for a Hugo (1984) . This lead to introducing SoCal filkers to a number of major filk performers they would never have seen without traveling themselves.

Paul was also a ringleader in the cabal which started, in1983, Con-Chord, the of Southern California filk convention, along with Gary Anderson, Eric Gerds and Chris Weber. Alternating with Bayfilk for the first few years, Paul, Gary, Eric and Chris built up Con-Chord to 2015. He served as Conchair twice and as Toastmaster in 2004.

All of the institutions Paul established continued, long after the originators have moved on to other endeavours. LAFA still meets every month, except when ConChord, or a Westercon or Worldcon are in LA. Con-Chord, which was first held in 1983 continued every year until 2015

Paul also is a filk songwriter of a number of songs most notably, “Ronald Regan Carl Sagan San Diegan Pagan” and “Cold Equations”, both published on Off Centaur tapes. The former was a cult hit at conventions through the early ’80’s with attendees wearing pins depicting the individuals named in this filk song. It is still popularly sung at LAFA filksings, it is also known and sung by filkers in both Australia and New Zealand (as discovered by a fan during visits to disCONtinuity in Auckland, 1994). Filk songs which stand the test of time are testaments to their writers and a tribute to filkdom.

During the 1980’s, Bob Laurent would send Paul off for weekends to various cons, to do another job, as the recording guy for Bob’s “Wail Songs”. He got his son Steve to flip tapes at a few ConChords and Consonances when he needed a break.

For these contributions to filk music and the filk community Paul Willett is inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame this twenty-first day of April, two thousand eighteen.

2019

attended his first open filk at Marcon in 1989; that weekend he wrote his first filk song. He is a performer who has a growing repertoire of both original songs and parodies. He has produced a boundless output of songs, ranging in tone from the hysterical (“Naked Mole Rat”), to the perennially crowd-pleasing (“Perky Goth”), to the haunting (“Elizabeth Dane”) to the touching (“My GAFilk Song”). They are warm and humane and full of clever wordplay, perfectly matched to his delivery and demeanor. They have won awards and made us laugh and cry. Three of his songs have been honoured with Pegasus nominations; four have been included on the Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle recordings. In concerts and filk circles he not only performs his own songs, he also covers songs by less well-known filkers, to promote the work of others who can’t make it to the con. The fact that he has done all this without playing any instrument other than his own voice is encouraging to all those in filk who are not gifted with instrumental ability, proving by example that it can be done.

Randy, along with his late musical partner Kira Heston, was sent as Interfilk guest to Consonance in 2012.

He has been a tireless ambassador for filk, and been pivotal in bringing many a newcomer into the fold, including many people from outside of filk who have stayed to enrich our community.

He has also been the prime mover behind making his home convention, Confluence, a hotbed of filk, like a filk convention combined with a regular convention. In addition to the usual concerts and panels, he has written and organized multiple filk musicals performed at Confluence.

People are regularly delighted they find themselves in a circle with Randy, and look forward to hearing him sing. It’s a lovely and fitting bonus that he’s one of the nicest people around.

For these contributions to filk music and the filk community, W. Randy Hoffman is inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame this 13th day of April two thousand nineteen.

has been the closest we have ever had to an official filk archivist. Over the years, he amassed and catalogued an incredible collection of filk convention material, recording many performances, from concerts to filk circles. He also ensured that performers had an opportunity to obtain copies of their performances.

In his archivist role, Harold worked to identify and preserve as many recordings of filk music as he possibly could, and put together a huge collection of tapes made at conventions and housefilks, as well as filk from other sources. This was all backed up digitally off site to prevent loss. He was also wise enough to assign people to carry on his work of preserving this collection. Because of this work, people in the distant future will have the opportunity to listen to our music. In his recording, Harold was very respectful of people’s wishes and intellectual property rights. As noted on his website (FloatingFilk.com) “Do Not Record requests are always honoured“. He was courteous to a fault.

He also made a CD-R of the concert recordings for Interfilk donation.  Over the years, he donated over a dozen such recordings to Interfilk.

He has also contributed to MASSFILC’s songbook index by making books available for indexing. He digitized filk zines, and, with the zeal of a completionist, attempted to collect them all. He made rare back issues available to Interfilk, along with copies of the digitized files.

Harold assisted in running sound at too many cons to mention, and ran filk programming at I-Con 2008 and I-Con 2009, and was Techno-Guest at ConCertino 2009.

Harold was a volunteer’s volunteer, from as early as the mid-1990s. At every filk convention he attended, he volunteered for the sound crew. He could often be seen during set-up and tear down, often under the stage, or climbing on chairs to get the equipment carefully and efficiently up or down.

For these contributions to filk music and the filk community, Harold Stein is inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame this 13th day of April two thousand nineteen.

[Update 05/02/2020: The 2020 citations were posted shortly after this post went live. Thanks to Allan Pollard for the update.]

Filk in the Time of Plague

By Karl-Johan Norén: Blind Lemming Chiffon set up The Festival of the Living Rooms as a substitute for the cancelled Consonance this weekend:

Among the performers there you can find John McDaid, TJ & Mitchell Burnside Clapp, Margaret David & Kristoph Klover, and myself.

A lot of online concerts are announced over on Filk Streams:

It is a service started by Eric Distad of The Faithful Sidekicks to help schedule and announce online concerts of filk and other fannish/nerdy music.

Pixel Scroll 6/3/18 And The Gates Scrolled Open. “It’s Old Filer; Pixel Means Friend”

(1) OVERCOMER. Robyn Bennis provides “A Debut Author’s Guide to Social Anxiety”.

….If, on the other hand, the above feels like a gross exaggeration of your social anxiety, then perhaps I do have a handful of weird old tips for you.

Perhaps the most important thing is to have someone on your side. I am extremely lucky to have talented and fearless people who want me to succeed, and it has helped immeasurably. Now, this may seem like a bit of a paradox. Social anxiety can make recruiting your friends not just a Herculean task, but a mild imposition on them, and therefore an impossible request. “How can I make such a request,” you say, “as worthless and unworthy as I am? My friend surely has better things to do—like staring into space or streaming the complete run of She’s the Sheriff. I can’t let them waste their time on me.”

To get over this, the first thing you have to do is acknowledge that your brain is lying to you. I mean, Suzanne Somers is great and all, but that show just doesn’t hold up. Good acting can only go so far in saving such a horrible premise.

Oh, and your brain is also lying about your worthlessness. You are worthy and deserving of the help of others. But seriously, who the hell thought that show was a good idea?

(2) THE BOVA ERA. Do my eyes deceive me, a kind word for Analog? Well, not about just any issue — James Davis Nicoll reviews the Special Women’s Issue from June 1977 in “Nothing Without a Woman or a Girl”. (So, perhaps Galactic Journey will say something kind about the magazine in another 14 years?)

I have excoriated Ben Bova’s fiction in the past, but I have nothing but admiration for his work as editor for Analog. While Disco-Era Analog might seem a bit stodgy to modern eyes, at the time Bova was a breath of fresh air. Rather than settle for being a second-rate Campbell, he did his best to be a first-rate Bova. He recruited new authors, many of whom differed (excitingly) from Analog’s Old Guard. He also bought more stories by women than did his predecessor1. While some old guard objected to Bova’s direction, enough readers enjoyed it to give him a remarkable six Best Editor Hugo Awards, as well as one nomination for the same category….

Eyes of Amber won the Hugo. The Screwfly Solution won a Nebula. Two major awards for stories from one issue is remarkable. Other stories, such as the Tellure, may not have won accolades but were memorable enough for me to remember as soon as I laid eye on them. All things considered, this was a pretty awesome read to be my third ever issue of Analog. It’s no surprise that Bova was nominated for a Hugo on the basis of his 1977 work.

(3) ON THE TABLE. E.D.E. Bell lists five vegan foods to try:

…In my mind, whenever someone asks what could be vegan about fantasy, it proves to me that they’ve never been a vegan reading fantasy. In addition to a lot of the violence and war in the genre (it’s usually a central component, even outside of grimdark), the best scenes feature someone riding their steed in a fine leather vest to grab a hock of ham. I’m not even sure I know what hocks are, but I have concluded they are key to the development of fantasy heroes. So, you know, my fiction is just focused a bit differently. In fact, I think that diversity and exploration is what fantasy is all about.

I’m not here to get into all of that, though. I’m here to talk about one of Cat’s and my favorite subjects: yummy food. Now, I’m not an authority on gourmet cuisine. Go to a vegan restaurant or check out many amazing online vegan chefs for that. (I’m particularly fond of Richa Hingle.) Hey, I’m not even a great cook. But I haven’t eaten meat in almost a quarter century, so I can definitely speak to “what we eat.” Don’t worry. This is just a quick blog to spark some ideas. But if you don’t mind eating plants, here are five simple foods you could give a spin….

(4) WHERE RIVERS AND FANS MEET. The 2018 Confluence will be held at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel from July 27-29, with Guest of Honor Catherynne M. Valente and special music guest S.J “Sooj” Tucker.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first Confluence, although it is not the 30th Confluence (they had to skip 1999 and 2013).

(5) TOURISTS. Stormtroopers and other Imperial military personnel dropped in to see the sf exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History today. (Photo by John King Tarpinian.)

(6) HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 2, 1920 — Bob Madle, one of only two surviving attendees of the very first Worldcon. It’s possible Bob is the oldest living SF fan.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) PIONEER FILK. Rob Hansen has added what appears to be the earliest filking fanzine produced in the UK to his THEN fanhistory site: “Songs From Space (1957)”.

Presented here is what appears to be the earliest filking fanzine published in the UK, which is dated August 1957. It was published by Eric Bentcliffe, reworked lyrics were by Sandy Sandfield, and artwork by Eddie Jones.

The final song, Space Club Drag, is inspired by The Space Club, a clubroom for London fandom that Helen Winick had tried to establish around the turn of the year.

(9) OPENING IN JUNE. Parade’s Lambeth Hochwald, in “Incredibles 2: The 10 Most Incredible Reasons We Love the Parr Family”, interviews the cast and writer/director Brad Bird, who says that the two Incredibles films “major in family and minor in superheroes.”

The most incredible family of superheroes is back. The Parrs, the lovable, fearless family of five we first met in 2004 in The Incredibles, will return for another animated adventure when Disney-Pixar’s Incredibles 2 arrives in theaters June 15.

And although 14 years have passed, it’s like the clock has barely ticked at all: The new movie picks up seconds after the first one ended, with the same cast of characters. Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) hurtles back into superhero work, while her husband, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), remains behind as a stay-at-home dad with the couple’s three kids, teenage Violet (Sarah Vowell), adolescent Dash (newcomer Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack.

(10) CONCAROLINAS. David Weber told his Facebook followers the terms under which he agreed to be a ConCarolinas special guest next year.

I have been in contact with Jada at ConCarolinas by Messenger, and she tells me that they will be making a live announcement at closing ceremonies, with the video to be on their Facebook group, which will make clear that going forward they will be inviting guests they feel are genre-related and that as a convention which has never taken a political stance they will not tolerate being told that guests must lean one way or another or that guests are uninvitable because of their political stances. They will expect anyone who attends to be able to be in a room with another person who disagrees with him/her and be civil to one another. They will also not be beholden to bullies or trolls and will not disinvite guests after such attacks. They will also mention what happened to John, and state that the mutual decision for him not to attend was wrong and that they apologize to John for the hurt and the frustration that was caused by their decision and for the fact that their initial statement did not make it clear that HE was the one being harassed and bullied by vile, unfounded allegations (which went so far as to drag his wife into the fire) and threats to harass him at the con which would have turned a regional con into a battleground. On that basis, I have agreed to attend the con as a special guest next year.

Weber also says the convention will give him a contract about his appearance.

Weber wrote at length about his expectations yesterday, concluding —

People, the object is to fix the problem, not to pile on (from either side) and not for anybody to issue masochistic mea culpas. But there is a point at which grown-ups have to begin the “fix the problem” conversation by acknowledging that they screwed up and publicly apologizing to the object of their screwing up. To be blunt, ConCarolinas owes John Ringo a public apology for not making clear who was the victim and strongly condemning the hatemongers who attacked him AS HATEMONGERS.

Coming from Weber, that is perhaps not a surprising characterization of those who had issues with Ringo’s selection as a special guest.

The ConCarolinas chair delivered the statement she negotiated with Weber this afternoon at closing ceremonies – here is the video.

Weber’s reaction to the video is:

At the moment, I am VERY satisfied. I’m sure that some people are going to wish that there’d been more self-flagellation and public contrition, but she was reading a prepared statement that she wanted to be sure got every point covered. Under the circumstances, I think this is a positive admission of the mistakes that were made, an apology to John, a proper characterization of the vileness of the allegations thundered against him, and a very decent starting point to move forward. And speaking as someone who’s had to eat a little crow in public himself upon occasion, I know how hard it is — especially coming back after the fact — to apologize in a case like this.

(11) FAN OVERBOARD. Honor Harrington fandom has been experiencing some rough sailing. Longtime volunteer Tom Coonradt announced his retirement as the Senior Master Chief Petty Officer of the Royal Manticoran Navy due to a conflict with leadership.

…It is with a very heavy heart that I say this.

It is my opinion that John Roberts is the worst possible fit for a first space lord this, or any, Organization could have.

Since before John Roberts became first space lord he has treated me with disdain, condescension, and disrespect. And I know I am not the only one. Culminating with a public outburst at a respected member of this organization at Manticon.

John Roberts refuses to communicate with me in writing, he says because he communicates poorly in writing. My concern is that there is ZERO accountability there. There is no recording of a spoken conversation that can keep a first space lord honest. He has out rightly and in writing (ironically) refused to discuss anything with me at all in writing, even if it is a simple message of “I want to talk to you about this topic, when can I call you?” I had on the phone, only a few short weeks ago, given him several possible solutions to our communication issue. When I thought we had reached a compromise, the only thing he sent me, ironically enough, is the new policy on how to replace the SMCPON. One he refused to discuss further with me after I gave my impressions.

He has no ability to be flexible, and in fact will refuse to listen or even acknowledge any advice, idea or criticism that he doesn’t agree with….

The group’s website defines The First Space Lord as the Senior Executive Vice President of The Royal Manticoran Navy: The Official Honor Harrington Fan Association, Inc.

The full text of Coonradt’s statement can be found attached to a comment on this post.

(12) DEPT. OF HARD TO KEEP SFF AHEAD OF REALITY. At TechCrunch “‘Upgrade’ director Leigh Whannell talks low-budget worldbuilding”.

TechCrunch: It’s interesting that it came from your imagination, because in some ways it feels very prescient. We had our own robotics event a couple of weeks ago and one of the big moments onstage was someone in a wheelchair who was able to take a few steps thanks to an exoskeleton.

Whannell: So the exoskeleton that helps people with paralysis walk and move, this movie is the internalized version of that, where it goes one step further and there’s nothing exterior. It’s a chip.

It has been interesting to watch the world catch up to my script. Because when I wrote the first draft of this script, automated cars and smart kitchens were still science fiction. And in the ensuing years, they’ve become ubiquitous. I mean, my wife’s car parks itself and talks to her. And my daughter thinks it’s perfectly normal to have a voice talking to her in the kitchen, and she asks it to play songs and it does. So in a way I feel like I’m living in the world of the movie I wrote all those years ago.

(13) PARVUS IS OPEN. Colin Coyle of Parvus Press says they are open for novel and novella submissions until July 15. See details on the publisher’s website under Submissions.

Coyle also notes that their Kickstarter for If This Goes On edited by Cat Rambo has raised $6,074 of its $10,000 goal in the first four days.

(14) DEPARTMENT OF MYSTERIOUS HINTS. Here’s your first clue:

(15) HEARTS OF TABAT. Marion Deeds reviews Cat Rambo’s Hearts of Tabat at Fantasy Literature.

…On the surface, Hearts of Tabat might be a slightly satirical comedy-of-manners, but the Beasts are growing restless and rebellious, and something (or someone) is trying to siphon away the magic that protects the land. When, abruptly, Bella Kanto is accused of sorcery and exiled, it is clear something is very wrong.

Rambo’s world is beautifully described, complex and plausible. Good people are complicated, and aren’t always good. Sebastiano works daily with the Beasts, seeing their natures, yet spouts standard bigoted lines about how they can’t be accorded the same rights as humans. Adelina’s infatuation with Eloquence causes her to ignore her own better judgment. Eloquence himself is charming and seductive, but we see a different side of him at home with his sisters.

A large part of the Tabat society is religion. The Trade Gods and the Moon Temples, with their different belief systems, are depicted convincingly. The effects of poverty are not romanticized. Frankly, Obedience has it so bad at home that when she is abducted along with a magic student I can only think that’s going to be a step up for her….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Cat Rambo, Jack Lint, Rich Lynch, Colin Coyle, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

2017 Pegasus Award Nominees

The 2017 Pegasus Award finalists have been announced.

The Pegasus Award is given by the Ohio Valley Filk Fest and for excellence in filking. Anyone in the filk community can vote on the winners, and community is broadly defined — check out the rules here.

Whether or not you vote, enjoy the sound clips of the nominees here. The ballot is here. The last full day to vote is October 15.

Best Filk Song
The Girl Who Couldn’t Even The PDX Broadsides
Nine hundred and ninety nine Mich Sampson / Marilisa Valtazanou
Pageant Legend Katy Dröge-Macdonald /Ju Honisch
Scarlet Town Cathy McManamon
We Are Who We Are Michelle Dockrey / Tony Fabris
Best Classic Filk Song
Alligator in the House Betsy Tinney / Cade Tinney / S. J. Tucker
The Evil Eyeball Sibylle Machat
Grief in Little Pieces Phil Allcock / Talis Kimberley
Small Designs Barry Childs-Helton
Vor Bill Sutton
Best Performer
Chris Conway
Tim Griffin
Leslie Hudson
Judi Miller
Vixy & Tony
Best Writer/Composer
Ju Honisch
Jordin Kare
Cathy McManamon
Benjamin Newman
Andrew Ross
Best Horror Song
The Dark Man Paul Kwinn
Dear Gina Seanan McGuire
Hello Stranger Erica Neely
Hellraiser Tom Smith
Mina’s Song Zander Nyrond
Best Perky Song
Chocolate Is A Vegetable Graham Leathers
Everybody Hates Elves Kari Maaren
Nathan Fillion (Please Take Off Your Pants) The PDX Broadsides
Perky Goth W. Randy Hoffman
What If Your Girlfriend Was Gone? Carla Ulbrich

 [Via SF Site News.]

Jordin Kare Passes Away

Jordin Kare (1956-2017), respected science panelist and filksinger, died July 19, having never recovered from surgery to replace his failing aortic valve.

An astrophysicist who worked on the Clementine lunar mapping mission and developed the Sailbeam propulsion concept, Kare received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from University of California, Berkeley in 1984.

He told a Smithsonian interviewer in 2014 —

I went into astrophysics because I was interested in the large-scale functions of the universe, but I went to MIT because the hero of Robert Heinlein’s novel Have Spacesuit, Will Travel went to MIT.

He typically described his career in convention bios this way —

After working for a decade at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on big lasers and little spacecraft, Jordin became a freelance rocket scientist (really — “Will design satellites for food”). He’s won two NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts fellowships. Since 2007, he’s hung up his rocket scientist hat and works as a staff inventor at Intellectual Ventures. In his spare time he’s lead engineer for LaserMotive…

He said that as a child, he went to a science camp and learned how to build a laser. When he got his laser to turn on, he had an epiphany and was absolutely sure that he wanted to work with lasers for the rest of his life.

Kare and Thomas Nugent of LaserMotive won $900,000 at the Space Elevator Games in 2009. Theirs was one of three competing teams which built prototypes designed to climb a one-kilometer cable held aloft by a helicopter. Kare explains how LaserMotive won in this video.

As a filksinger he published two albums, Fire in the Sky (1991) and Parody Violation: Jordin Kare Straight and Twisted (2000). His song “Fire in the Sky” received a Pegasus award for Best Classic Filksong in 2010 and has been quoted on national television by astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Kare also was an editor of The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction, an important filksong collection, and later a partner in Off Centaur Publications, the first commercial publisher specializing in filk songbooks and recordings.

Kare’s first convention was Boskone 1975. He and his future wife Mary Kay met for the first time at Denvention (1981) after she admired his writing in the Filk Foundation zine.

He was the brother of Susan Kare, designer of the fonts and icons of the original Apple Macintosh user interface.

He has been Tuckerized in several sf stories. An astrophysicist character with his name appears in two of David Weber’s Honor Harrington novels, War of Honor and Torch of Freedom. Jordin and Mary Kay were Tuckerized in Callahan’s Touch by Spider Robinson.

Vixy and Tony Talk About their Band with Carl Slaughter

By Carl Slaughter: The first time I interviewed Vixy and Tony, we talked about the nature of filk music. Since then, they have released another album and added 2 band members. This interview is focused on the band itself.

Carl Slaughter: What albums and songs have you come out with lately? What were the inspirations and what are the themes?

Vixy & Tony: Our most recent album, We Are Who We Are, is our second full album, and we’re very proud of it. Since Betsy and Sunnie (or cellist and fiddler) have been in our band for a while now, we’re happy to finally have a full-length studio recording that features them. The inspirations and themes are different for each song, but each song tells at least some kind of a story of its own. Of course, being filkers, all the songs are related to SF/Fantasy/Mythology, SF fandom, or geekdom in some way, though some are more directly relevant than others. It’s got a space ghost pirate ship story (our cover of the filk classic “Dawson’s Christian”), a song about an astronaut (“Anna”), and a love song for a cosplayer (“We Can Be Anything”). Some of the tracks are a bit more personal, like “Burn it Down”, which is about overcoming your fears, or “The River”, a song geeking out about songwriting. The title track, “We Are Who We Are”, is our geek anthem and social justice anthem. If I had to pick a single thematic thread for the album, it would probably be something like “fight the good fight” or “keep at it”.

CS: What exactly is an Outdoor Trek. What do the fans do there? What does the band do there?

V&T: Oh, we love Outdoor Trek very much! There are a few groups throughout the country who are turning old Star Trek TOS episodes into stage plays and performing them outdoors, Shakespeare-in-the-Park style. Portland had “Trek In The Park” for a while, and in Seattle we’ve got Outdoor Trek, and it’s wonderful. For a few weekend afternoons each summer, you can go to a local park in Seattle and watch a wonderful gender-bent version of a TOS episode performed. The cast is wonderful and funny, and they play up the inherent humor and silliness of the whole thing, but they clearly do it with a love and deep respect for the source material. These are true Trek fans who love the original series, but at the same time, aren’t afraid to laugh about it. Their low-tech prop gags are the best: phasers which are clearly just garden sprayers, and transporters which are just hula hoops with gold ribbons tied on. Their Horta from “Devil in the Dark” was epic.

They usually have an actual “house band” doing the theme music and incidental music, live, along with the play. We’re not the house band, though some of our friends have been in the house band from time to time. Our part of it is simply to be an opening act once in a while. We don’t get to do every one because our schedules are pretty busy during the summer, but we try to open for Outdoor Trek on one or two afternoons each year when we can.

Details about Outdoor Trek can be found here.

Vixy and Tony. Photo by Angela Sather Hodgetts.

CS: What exactly is a fen? What happens at a FenCon and what does the band do there?

V&T: “Fen” is simply the plural of “Fan”, intended as a bit of a pun (Man->Men, Fan->Fen). It specifically refers to people in SF/Fantasy fandom as opposed to, say, fans of a sports team or a band.

FenCon is a Dallas regional SF convention, usually held around September each year. This year we’ll be the Music Guests of Honor there, and we’re very honored that they’re having us. We’ll play a concert, participate in filk circles, and if we’re lucky, possibly appear in other musical performances with some of our friends who are slated to be playing there as well this year. For me and Vixy and Sunnie, it’ll be our first time at FenCon, but Betsy has been there before (as the cellist for Tricky Pixie) and she said it was great, so we’re really looking forward to it.

CS: You just got back from Norwescon. What happened there?

V&T: Norwescon is our Seattle regional SF con, held every spring on Easter weekend, and it was really fun this year. We got to play a really fun concert in one of the big ballrooms. Apparently we outgrew the “two adjoined smaller rooms” that we usually play in each year, so they moved us up to the “big hall”, as it were. I think we played a great set, and we also got to see our Portland friends The PDX Broadsides play a great set, too. They just finished up their Kickstarter for their new album which is going to have some great songs on it.

Of course the rest of Norwescon was fun as well, they have a great programming track every year, full of super interesting stuff. A lot of our friends do panels there every year. The con tends to overflow the hotel every year, so there are many, many geeky people there all weekend. The costuming is top-notch too.

CS: Same questions for Conflikt, and is there any actual conflict?

V&T: There is indeed conflict at Conflikt, there’s one particular conflict that the name refers to. That’s our Pacific Northwest regional filk convention, and Vixy and I were there on the day it was initially conceived. We were at a housefilk in Victoria BC several years ago, when some of the folks there got the bright idea to start our own PNW filk con. Beth Runnerwolf was there with us, and she had been doing a great job running the filk track at Norwescon at the time, and we figured she’d be a great programming chair. The only problem was that when we started looking for a good weekend on the calendar to hold the convention, we couldn’t find a weekend that wasn’t already adjacent to some other nearby fannish event. Every weekend we could think of conflicted with something else, so that’s the name that stuck. And then we made a joke in the title/logo that only proofreaders and copyeditors will get.

Eventually they settled on the weekend immediately prior to the annual the UK filk convention, thinking that the attendees for a con in WA and a con in the UK would, by their very nature, be from different geographical groups and thus those two cons wouldn’t conflict very much. Of course it never works out that way. The third year, Vixy & Tony ended up being GOHs at the UK filk con, so we played at both Conflikt and at the UK filk con on back-to-back weekends. It seems like every year there’s at least a few people who are attending both cons back-to-back. Crazy, but great. This year we were the “toastband” at Conflikt, which is the same thing as being the “toastmaster” except there’s four of us to do the job instead. We had a great time, as we do every year we attend.

CS: What happened at Music Under the Trees? BTW, why trees and which trees?

V&T: Music Under the Trees is an annual house concert put on by our cellist, Betsy Tinney. Betsy is quite popular because she’s a wonderful cellist and complete sweetheart of a person, and as a result, she plays in a lot of different bands. Most summers, schedules permitting, a lot of her connected bands get together to play for an entire afternoon and into the night. It’s sort of a mini music festival where Betsy gets to play her cello in every act. It’s held in her backyard, which has an amazing little amphitheater tucked into the woods behind her house, hence the name. Though she’s not doing it this year, due to other things in her family’s schedule this summer. Hopefully it’ll be back in 2018.

CS: What’s the connections between your music and Firefly?

V&T: We love Joss Whedon’s work, and Firefly is our favorite. It’s a richly detailed universe that’s full of interesting characters and stories and possibilities which never got fully explored due to the series’ tragically short run. We’ve written a couple of Firefly songs, and we’ve got friends who have also written some Firefly songs which we like to do covers of. Vixy’s most popular song, “Mal’s Song”, on our first album, came about because she loved the Firefly theme song, but felt like it was too short. It seemed like the chorus of a song without any verses, so, she wrote some verses to go with it. “Missing Part”, on our latest album, is about Kaylee, and it’s written by our good friend Seanan McGuire (who just won a Nebula award, by the way). It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. I learned how to play slide guitar just for that song.

CS: You’re involved in various production projects with various other bands. Tell us about some of those.

V&T: We’ve got a lot of filk and geek music friends, and we really enjoy mixing it up with them. Vixy seems to always be singing harmony vocals on someone’s album, and I’ve been known to produce the occasional song or two or three or album for someone we love. Most recently, we’ve been the backing band for Molly Lewis, including her hilarious musical Thanksgiving Vs Christmas, I co-produced “Mischief” with SJTucker, and Vixy is on some wonderful recent releases by Jeff and Maya Bonhoff and Mary Crowell. Listing all of Betsy and Sunnie’s other projects would take forever, but check them out at http://betsytinney.com/recordings/ and http://sunnie.org/.

CS: Do you do workshops and panels and such? Do you branch out into traditional folk festivals and such or do you stick with the speculative crowd?

V&T: When we play at a convention, we do indeed do workshops and panels. We like to do home recording workshops and performance workshops when we can. Being part of the fandom community and trying to share knowledge and experiences is a big deal to us.

We haven’t tried playing traditional folk festivals, we tend to prefer SF/filk cons and smaller venues where our particular audience can find us. For example, I’ve been to the Bumbershoot festival here in Seattle, it’s huge and it’s wonderful, but it’s just insane, I couldn’t imagine trying to be one of the acts there. We’d get completely lost there. It’s much more rewarding to play our geeky songs to a much smaller group of geeky fans.

CS: What exactly is Rock Band, approximately how many hours a week do you spend playing it, and are there any conventions/contests?

V&T: Heh, that reference on our web page was a little joke about the video game, the one where you use toy guitar controllers to poke colored buttons in time with the music. It’s basically Dance Dance Revolution but without the dancing. It was a huge novelty when it came out, and we had a lot of fun with it for a quite a while. Seanan stuck in a reference to it when she wrote the Bio page for our website. We actually haven’t played it in some time, though the guitar controllers are still hanging next to the TV.

There was a point in time when they were letting people put up their own indie music on Rock Band and making it available for download. I was about to put “Six String Love” up there, but then I discovered just how amazingly tedious and time-consuming it is to author the song files for it. I got halfway through the process and ran out of steam. I seem to recall reading that they’d stopped the indie music submissions for it a while back, so I don’t even think that’s an option for us anymore.

CS: One of your award songs is “The Girl That’s Never Been.” Didn’t quite understand it, but it seems to have a strong speculative element. Something to do with Alice of Wonderland fame. Give us the inside story on the lyrics.

V&T: “The Girl That’s Never Been” is essentially a direct musical interpretation of an existing short story called “The Cheshire” by Bill Kte’pi , which is itself a sort of an alternate interpretation of Alice’s story. It follows a common theme: Imagining what it might be like for someone who’s gone through an amazing, mind-bending, life-altering experience, but then has to return to a “normal” existence. In a situation like that, no one believes you and you can’t possibly explain it to anyone in a way that they can understand, and now the “real” world seems less important than the other world. At the start of the story, Alice is older, and she’s been seeing shrinks and been having drug and alcohol abuse issues as she tries to deal with the cognitive dissonance. I can’t really say more without spoilering the ending.

CS: Your band size has doubled. Who are the new additions and how do they fit in? Do they always accompany you on tours? Why additions? Weren’t you getting booked and winning awards as a duo?

V&T: We really don’t know how we ever survived without Betsy and Sunnie. They elevate our music to a new level, and we don’t ever want to play without them again. We have so much fun together, and we love how we fit together as a band.

We started playing with them only occasionally, adding a bit of cello here and a bit of fiddle there, at times when our bands were playing back-to-back sets at the same venue. Soon we started cross-pollinating each other’s bands regularly, and before we knew it, we realized that we really couldn’t live without them.

Playing as a duo is a different kind of a show than playing as a four piece, and the four piece is so much more amazing and full and energetic. When you play with other good musicians, it makes the music more interesting and intense, even when you’re talking about simple arrangements to the same songs. The core of the songs hasn’t really changed, but the songs are fundamentally different now. The way we perform them and the way you experience them is forever altered by our new lineup. It’s like the old saying “a rising tide lifts all boats”, where everyone in the band plays better and becomes better musicians through the blending of everyone’s uniqueness.

We are trying not to play any more shows as just a duo. It’s certainly more logistically complicated for us to play as a four piece, but it’s really worth it. Maybe we play fewer shows because of it, but the shows that we do play are always memorable and joyful experiences.

CS: What exactly is a Pegasus award, how many wins/nominations do you have, for which songs, and against which competition?

V&T: The Pegasus award is the annual filk community award to recognize excellence in songwriting and performing by filkers, voted on and presented at the Ohio Valley filk Festival each year. It’s nominated and voted on by members of the filk community, so it’s a peer award. I don’t really see it as a competition; I think of competitions as something where you deliberately set out to win, and I don’t think anyone in filk does that. I think filkers write filk songs because we like to have fun, and then it’s wonderful when other people like the songs too. The Pegasus is less of a competition and more of a way for the filk community to get together and say to someone, “we all think that was a really neat song this year”. We’ve been nominated a handful of years since around 2005, and won a few, but we haven’t really tried to keep count. The Pegausus site has all the historical records of Vixy’s noms and wins here, which includes works by herself as well as works with Vixy & Tony: http://www.ovff.org/pegasus/people/michelle-dockrey.html

CS: You’ve been together for over 10 years and have been singing filk for over 15 years. What’s the explanation for your endurance and that of your music.

V&T: Music in general, and filk in particular, is something we do for fun, and we do our best to keep it that way all the time. We try not to turn it into “work”. We have day jobs, so we’re lucky that we don’t need to depend upon writing and performing constantly. If we did, we’d probably burn out pretty quickly. We’ve got friends who are professional musicians, so we can see what that life is like, and we know it’s not for us. Betsy is probably the band member whose life is most strongly aligned to being a career professional musician, but even she does her best to keep everything fun and interesting all the time. As long as we all keep it fun, only writing what we want to write, and only playing where we want to play, it will always be something that enriches us and keeps going. Hopefully some of that shines through in our performances and recordings, helping to make them fun for everyone.

CS: Who writes the songs and what’s the songwriting process?

V&T: For the older songs, before we teamed up, Vixy wrote everything: Music, lyrics, arrangement, all of it. But that was very hard for her, doing it all by herself, so after we teamed up, now we have a pretty good collaboration system: Vixy writes the lyrics, and then we collaborate on the music. Usually we start with a first draft of the lyrics, sometimes just a verse and a chorus, then decide upon an overall style for the song. Then I start coming up with chord progressions on the guitar, based on the desired style. She gives me feedback on the way the chords fit the lyrics, and we make changes to the chords to fit the lyrics or vice versa. She will either come up with a melody based on the chord progression, or, sometimes she will already have parts of a melody in her head, and I will write chords which fit that melody, and fill in the gaps. Sometimes I will make a suggestion to change the melody to fit the chord progression I wrote. Occasionally I€™ll write sections of words or melodies myself, or provide suggestions for the lyrics in spots. Frequently we will collaborate on the verses and choruses but she will leave the bridge up to me (she calls me her Civil Engineer because I make her bridges for her).

Then we bring the song to the rest of the band, and the real magic happens, where we sculpt the song from a raw framework into something full of interesting details. Betsy and Sunnie add their parts, and then we play off of those until things start to cement in place. There are parts of the songs which were created by Betsy and Sunnie which are now inseparable from the songs, such as Sunnie’s wonderful violin intro to “We Can Be Anything”.

CS: How has your music evolved?

V&T: I like to think we’ve become better songwriters and performers over time. Adding Betsy and Sunnie to the band has given us a richer sound and a more detailed presentation of the songs. We’re tending to write songs with the whole band in mind, since now we can do things like play extended instrumental sections that we couldn’t have done before. And on the occasions when we want to do cover tunes, we can do more interesting variations on them.

CS: What’s on the Horizon for Vixy & Tony?

V&T: Aside from small Seattle local gigs, the aforementioned GOH slot at FenCon in Dallas is coming up in September. Sunnie is planning on making a solo album that we’re going to help out with, we’re hopefully starting work on it this summer. We’ve got at least one song that’s not recorded yet which needs a nice studio treatment, and I’m looking forward to learning a new piece of audio production software in the process (I’m switching over to Logic Audio on the Mac this summer). One idea I’m toying with is that We Are Who We Are might be our last full-length Vixy & Tony album, and that from now on we might just do single-song releases on Bandcamp and other online services. Though I have a deep fondness for the “album” as a specific art form, I find the process of recording and producing one to be very tiring and time-consuming, and I think we might have more fun if we do things a song at a time. We’ll see if that ends up happening or not. 🙂

Pixel Scroll 4/23/17 Scroll White And The Seven Pixels

(1) BORN ON THE SEVENTH OF JULY. In “Spinning a high-tech web”, the LA Times provides an elaborate, photo-illustrated preview of Tony Stark’s upgrade to the new Spider-Man suit that will be seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, due in theaters July 7.

(2) FILK HALL OF FAME. The 2017 inductees to the Filk Halll of Fame were announced at FilkOntario this weekend:

(3) FAHRENHEIT 451 TO SMALL SCREEN? The Bradbury novel is on the road to development once more. “HBO to Adapt Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan”  — BookRiot has the story.

Now, HBO is “moving toward a production commitment” (via Variety) on a feature-length adaptation of Bradbury’s 1953 novel starring Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Chronicle, Fantastic Four) as the protagonist Guy Montag and Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Boardwalk Empire) as Montag’s boss, Captain Beatty.

The film will be directed by Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes, At Any Price), who is co-writing with Amir Naderi (99 Homes, The Runner). David Coatsworth (production manager on Underworld: Evolution, Ender’s Game, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) will serve as producer.

(4) THEY’RE HUUGE! “Black Holes Are Bigger Than You Thought” accuses Yahoo! News. (Just how big did you think they were? How did Yahoo! News find out?)

Now meet S5 0014+81.

It’s the largest black hole ever discovered and is heavier than our Sun by 40 billion times (40, 000, 000, 000) in the last observation.

If you plug in the equation above, you’ll find that this black hole has a Schwarzschild radius of about… 119 billion kilometers, along with a said diameter of about 236,39 billion km.

(5) THE TOUGHEST AROUND. Let Den of Geek point you at “17 really difficult LEGO sets”.

The Tower Of Orthanc

It may look simple enough on the box, but The Lord Of The Rings’ Tower Of Orthanc is actually a real tough cookie. Because most of its 2,359 pieces are jet black and slim, working out which bit goes where is the stuff of nightmares (in, um, a good way). The Treebeard that comes with it will make the struggle worth it… honest.

Buy The Tower Of Orthanc now for £348.07.

(6) TODAY’S DAY

  • April 23 — World Book and Copyright Day

Pays tribute to authors and books and their social and cultural contribution to the world

(7) DID YOU KNOW? Last year the International Costumers’ Guild participated in a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, joining Public Knowledge, the American Library Association, and others, asking the Court to protect the rights of clothing designers and costumers to freely practice their craft.

(8) AT HOME. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak reports “Netflix will invest billions to shoot its original content in California”:

Netflix is betting that filming closer to home will produce better content. In 2015, the streaming giant has announced that it would be doubling its output of original content, and it is aiming to have original productions make up half of its of its streaming catalog in the coming years. The goal is to entice users to come to the service by providing content that can’t be found elsewhere, but that goal is proving to be a strain on the existing film studio infrastructure. To cope, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced that the company would be investing $6 billion to expand infrastructure in California, rather than chase tax incentives offered by states.

Sarandos explained to The Wrap that the company determined that going after the incentives leads to diminishing returns when it comes to their final products. Filming out of state is hard on the actors and crew of a project, and the move will help bring projects back home to California. That could prove to be costly for the company, even as California has increased its own tax incentive program in recent years. While remaining in the state will likely cost Netflix more, Sarandos seems to think that the extra cost will be worth spending.

(9) SQUEAK UP. YouTube’s TheBackyardScientist set up 10 megaphones end-to-end to see how loud a noise he could make.

The video, posted to YouTube by TheBackyardScientist, features Kevin Kohler explaining he was inspired by Bart Simpson‘s prank in the season 8 Simpsons episode The Secret War of Lisa Simpson to place 10 megaphones end-to-end and test the results.

Bart’s experiment led to a shock wave that shattered all of the windows in town — as well as Homer’s fridge full of beer — but Kohler quickly ran into a problem Bart didn’t face: a feedback loop.

 

(10) BITE ON. The number of people who give their smartphones to dogs as chew toys is probably smaller than the number of men who have walked on the moon, but for them — “There’s an anti-dog label inside the Galaxy S8 — here’s what it means”. Let The Verge explain it to you.

Basically, you don’t want Fido in a situation where a battery could hiss and explode in its mouth. It’s obviously possible that a child could bite through the battery as well, but the likelihood of him / her piercing through the battery is lower.

(11) ARTIFICIAL DOG INTELLIGENCE. Amazing. How is it mine doesn’t do that?

(12) FIX THE SLATING PROBLEM FOREVER. That’s what Greg Hullender would like to do. At Rocket Stack Rank he summarizes his views about the effectiveness of 3SV, EPH(+) and their combination. He says, “I  think it makes it really clear that we need both 3SV and either EPH or EPH+. Otherwise, even small slates (100 to 200 people) will be able to control a significant amount of the final ballot, including adding embarrassing nominees.”

For each year, we produced two theoretical maximum graphs. A “finalist graph,” which shows what percentage of finalists a slate could have captured for a given number of slate voters, and a “sweeps” graph, which shows what percentage of entire categories a slate could have captured.

Looking at those four pairs of graphs (2.1-2.4 below), we will draw the following conclusions;

  • Std (5/6) by itself is far too weak.
  • EPH doesn’t protect enough finalists, but it is excellent at preventing sweeps.
  • EPH+ is an improvement on EPH, but it’s still not enough by itself.
  • 3SV is much stronger for protecting finalists, especially for modest numbers of slate voters, but it’s vulnerable to sweeps, and it breaks down for slates above about 300 people.
  • The 3SV/EPH and 3SV/EPH+ combinations are far, far stronger than either component alone. Either combination is probably sufficient, but the second one is stronger.

Accordingly, we conclude that the Business Meeting should ratify both EPH+ and 3SV. That should protect the Hugos from slating interference for the nonce.

(13) DREAM CASTING. Enjoy “Miles To Go” hosted at Archive of Our Own. Note – Password = Vorkosigan (as it says at the post).

There once was a man who dreamt of the stars…

A fanvid based on the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

…Obviously, it’s not so easy to make a feast for a fandom with no existing visual source. But where there’s a will, or in my case an enormous and driving folly, there’s a way. It was always going to be an ensemble vid, with Miles as the star, but the question was how to cast it. I did eventually solve that problem, and I won’t discuss my solution in detail here because… spoilers.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Robin Reid, JJ, Doctor Science, Greg Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 3/13/16 We’re Off To See The Pixel, The Wonderful Pixel Of Scroll

(1) DAYLIGHT STEALING TIME. Disney’s Alice Through The Looking Glass trailer investigates a time crime.

(2) TAKING INVENTORY. Bill Roper had some insights about being a convention dealer while doing “That Taxes Thing”.

One of the distressing things about doing the taxes for Dodeka is seeing:

– How many different titles we carry.

– And how many of them appear to have sold one or fewer copies in 2015.

Some of these are the result of having bought out Juanita’s inventory when she retired and having acquired various CDs that had been sitting in her inventory for too long. A few of them are the result of my own ordering errors.

The problem is that the boxes are large and heavy and the table is very full. But if you don’t take the CDs out to the cons with you, you can’t sell them…

Filk is an extremely regional business. And given that we’re in the eighth-or-so year of a sucky economy, I certainly understand people’s reluctance to take a flyer on something that they aren’t familiar with.

(3) BATMOBILE REPLICA MAKER LOSES. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit decision in favor of DC Comics, which had sued Mark Towle over his unlicensed replicas of the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles, sold for about $90,000 each. So DC wins.

According to Robot 6:

Towle argued that the U.S. Copyright Act doesn’t protect “useful articles,” defined as objects that have “an intrinsic utilitarian function” (for example, clothing, household appliances or, in this case, automobile functions); in short, that the Batmobile’s design is merely functional.

However, a federal judge didn’t buy that argument… Towle appealed that decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wasn’t any more sympathetic, finding in September that, “the Batmobile is almost always bat-like in appearance, with a bat-themed front end, bat wings extending from the top or back of the car, exaggerated fenders, a curved windshield, and bat emblems on the vehicle. This bat-like appearance has been a consistent theme throughout the comic books, television series, and motion picture, even though the precise nature of the bat-like characteristics have changed from time to time.”

In his petition to the high court, Towle insisted that the U.S. Copyright Office states outright that automobiles aren’t copyrightable, and that the Ninth Circuit simply created an arbitrary exception. He also argued that there have been “dozens” of Batmobiles in DC comic books over the decades that “vary dramatically in appearance and style” — so much so that the vehicle doesn’t have the “consistent, widely-identifiable, physical attributes” required to be considered a “character.”

(4) SFL SURVIVOR. Andrew Liptak retells “The Adventures of the LA Science Fantasy Society” at Kirkus Reviews.

When he [Forry Ackerman] set off on his own, he founded the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. While every other Science Fiction League chapter closed—as well as many of the other fan groups—the LASFS survives to the present day, the longest running science fiction club in the world.

In the coming decades, the club became an important focal point for the growing science-fiction community. It counted some of the genre’s biggest writers as its members: when Ray Bradbury’s family moved from Arizona to Los Angles, the young storyteller quickly found the group. “A turning point in his life came in early September 1937,” Sam Moskowitz recounted in his early history Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction, “when poring through the books and magazines in Shep’s Shop, a Los Angeles book store that catered to science-fiction readers, he received an invitation from a member to visit the Los Angeles Chapter of the Science Fiction League.” Through the league, Bradbury quickly got his start as a writer, publishing “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” in the club’s fanzine, Imagination!

LASFS is not quite the lone survivor of the Science Fiction League – there is also the Philadelphia Science Fiction SocietyFancyclopedia 3 has more SFL history.

(5) ON WINGS OF STONE. You must keep an eye on these winged predators. BBC tells “How to survive a Weeping Angels attack!”

The Weeping Angels are scary. Really scary. They possess a natural and unique defence mechanism: they’re quantum locked. This means that they can only move when no other living creature is looking at them. These lonely assassins also have the ability to send other beings into the past, feeding on the potential time energy of what would have been the rest of their victims’ lives.

But how do you survive a Weeping Angel attack? Well, here’s our guaranteed, foolproof 4-step guide…

(6) TOP DRAWER. Peter Capaldi proves to have a flair for sketching his predecessors as Doctor Who.

(7) COINAGE. A horrible, fannish pun in March 12’s Brevity cartoon.

(8) MARIE WILLIAMS OBIT. New Zealand fan Marie Williams died of cancer February 27. She was a member of the board of Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ), and their announcement said, “She was a valued member and we will miss her thoughtful insights and interesting comments.”

(9) TOMLINSON OBIT. E-mail pioneer Ray Tomlinson died March 5 at the age of 74. The New York Times report gave a brief history of his development.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Tomlinson was working at the research and development company Bolt, Beranek & Newman on projects for ARPANET, a forerunner of the Internet created for the Defense Department. At the time, the company had developed a messaging program, called SNDMSG, that allowed multiple users of a time-share computer to send messages to one another.

But it was a closed messaging system, limited to users of a single computer.

Mr. Tomlinson, filching codes from a file-transfer program he had created called CYPNET, modified SNDMSG so that messages could be sent from one host computer to another throughout the ARPANET system.

To do this, he needed a symbol to separate a user name from a destination address. And so the plump little @ sign came into use, chosen because it did not appear in user names and did not have any meaning in the TENEX paging program used on time-sharing computers.

The BBC’s Dave Lee wrote “Ray Tomlinson’s e-mail is flawed, but never bettered”.

He is widely regarded as the inventor of email, and is credited with putting the now iconic “@” sign in the addresses of the revolutionary system.

He could never have imagined the multitude of ways email would come to be used, abused and confused.

Just think – right now, someone, somewhere is writing an email she should probably reconsider. Count to 10, my friend. Sleep on it.

Another is sending an email containing brutal, heartbreaking words that, really, should be said in person… if only he had the nerve.

And of course, a Nigerian prince is considering how best to ask for my help in spending his fortune.

Chip Hitchcock says, “AFAICT, nobody saw person-to-person email coming; computers were for talking to central data, as in ‘A Logic Named Joe’ or even The Shockwave Rider. The closest I can think of to discussing the effects of mass cheap point-to-point communication is the side comment on cell-phone etiquette in the opening scene of Tunnel in the Sky. Can anyone provide another example?”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 13, 1981 – Joe Dante’s The Howling premieres in North America.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard

(12) HUGO NOMINATORS: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER. Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens reappears after a five-month hiatus, because it’s “Hugo Season!”

The annual SFF self-loathing theme weeks are here again — I feel (as I feel every year) like a total loser for not having read enough new science fiction and fantasy to make informed nominations for the Hugo award. I haven’t read Seveneves, haven’t seen Ant-Man, haven’t had the time for Jessica Jones, haven’t waded through a lot of short fiction.

Damn damn damn.

Then again, you’re always going to feel that way, no matter what. And it’s not football (which means “soccer”, in case you’re American), so whining doesn’t help.

(13) BINARY BEAUTY. “Google’s AI Is Now Reigning Go Champion of the World”. Motherboard has the story.

On Saturday afternoon in Seoul, AlphaGo, the Go-playing artificial intelligence created by Google’s DeepMind, beat 18-time Go world champion Lee Sedol for its third straight win in a five game series.

The win was a historic one for artificial intelligence research, a field where AI’s mastery of this 2,500 year old game was long considered a holy grail of sorts for AI researchers. This win was particularly notable because the match included situations called ko fights which hadn’t arisen in the previous two games. Prior to AlphaGo’s win, other Go experts had speculated that ko situations could prove to be stumbling blocks for the DeepMind program as they had been in the past for other Go computer programs.

“When you watch really great Go players play, it is like a thing of beauty,” said Google co-founder Sergey Brin, himself a self-proclaimed adamant Go player in grad school, after the match. “So I’m very excited that we’ve been able to instill that level of beauty inside a computer. I’m really honored to be here in the company of Lee Sedol, such an incredible player, as well as the DeepMind team who’ve been working so hard on the beauty of a computer.”

(14) PC OR BS? Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds asks “Has Political Correctness Run Amok? Does It Even Exist?”

… I’m tempted to call this “A Prolegomena to Any Future Discourse about Political Correctness.”….

  1. Is political correctness a cut-and-dried free speech issue?  Why is it that many examples of the “political correctness has run amok” narrative involve cases where one group exercises its freedom to speak against ideas or to decide what speech they want to support in their space?  Is this really a threat to free speech in general if it’s limited to a particular space?  Is there a right to tell people what speech to support in their space? Does political correctness threaten free speech in a more fundamental way by making people feel uncomfortable to say certain things at all?  How do we decide what counts as a threat to free speech in general?  Are there some things that just shouldn’t be said in certain contexts?  Should all speech be allowed in all contexts?  If not, how do we decide when it’s permissible to limit speech?  Is there a difference between limiting speech and simply asking people not to say certain things?
  2. What is the difference between political correctness and politeness or basic respect?  Is there a difference?  What happens if what one person calls political correctness another person calls being polite, civil, or respecting the humanity of others?  How do we settle these disputes?  Is it possible that this whole issue is really just based on the feeling that people don’t like being told what to say?  Is it possible or desirable to change that feeling and thus shift the whole narrative on this issue?

(15) PI TIME. Are you getting into MIT? Then expect notification from BB-8. “MIT parodies ‘Star Wars’ for ‘decision day’ announcement”.

The video ultimately reveals that “decision day” for the class of 2020 will take place on March 14, which is also known as “Pi Day”, as 3.14 represents the first 3 digits of pi.

Hopeful applicants will be able to learn whether or not they’ve been accepted to MIT by logging onto the admissions website starting at 6:28 p.m. on Pi Day. This time represents another reference to pi as 6.28 is known as “Tau” or two times pi.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]