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

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

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

Dreamhaven

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

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

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

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

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

Neosaurus Disguise:

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

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

Robert-J-Sawyer-novel-Quantum-Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jan Gephardt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We do have indirect images of black holes, however

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/16 The Pixels of Karres

(1) PLAY INSIDE PKD’S MIND. Chris Priestman of Kill Screen describes Californium, a game based on a famous sf writer in “The videogame tribute to Philip K. Dick is out today”.

In Californium, you essentially play an alternate world version of Dick himself. Cast as one Elvin Green after his wife and daughter leaves him, you start alone but for the pills in your cabinet and the sprawled pages of unfinished novels on the floor. As grim as the circumstances may be, Californium‘s world is brought to life thick with the exaggerated colors of sunny Orange County and a population of 2D cartoon characters drawn with rich expression. Granted, these encounters with fellow residents are mostly miserablean angry landlady, a disappointed editor, a government agent trying to take you downbut considered strictly visually, the whole thing pops and beams out of the screen at you.

(2) SIMPLE ADDITION. Mary Robinette Kowal contributes eight “Thoughts about how to add diversity. Real simple thoughts.” Here is number 7.

(3) FIRST FANDOM. Dave Kyle at Boskone.

(4) NEXT FANDOM. Squeaker, David Gerrold, and Muffin at Boskone.

(5) MERCURY TEST FAILS. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler has the latest space exploration news from 1961.

Unfortunately, MA-1 broke up 58 seconds after lift-off.  It was a cloudy day, so no one saw it occur, but when the telemetry stopped and pieces of the craft fell from the sky, it was pretty clear the mission was over.  The culprit was later identified as the junction between the capsule and booster.

(6) BUD WEBSTER MEDICAL FUND. A repeat signal boost for the Bud Webster Medical Fund drive. Rich Stow says the out-of-pocket medical expenses that Bud and Mary have incurred are staggering. Donations for these medical expenses are being accepted through the MarsCon online store link — https://squareup.com/market/marscon/bud-webster-medical-fund . [Cut and paste URL; I had trouble with the link, but no trouble if I pasted the URL directly into my browser.]

100% of every donation will go to Bud’s out-of-pocket medical and final expenses. The MarsCon Executive Committee has agreed to cover all of the fees that are levied by Square on each transaction. Thank you for any help you can give.

As an added thanks for your donation, you are entitled to receive some ebooks courtesy of ReAnimus Press, publisher of the ebook editions of three of Bud’s books. (Past Masters / The Joy of Booking / Anthopology 101: Reflections, Inspections and Dissections of SF Anthologies)

The perks escalate in proportion to the donations – see details at the site. Also 100% of sales of Bud’s ebooks from ReAnimus Press is going to Mary as well — http://ReAnimus.com/authors/budwebster.

(7) CAMPBELL-ELIGIBLE ANTHOLOGY. SL Huang and Kurt Hunt (campbellreading2016@gmail.com) have put out a call for submissions for Up and Coming: Stories by the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Authors.

AnthoCover3_400

Authors eligible for the 2016 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer include writers who published their first qualifying professional science fiction or fantasy fiction in 2014 or 2015. This free e-anthology will collect stories by these award-eligible authors in one place, showcasing the work of exciting new talent for award nominators and for a general audience.

Up and Coming will be available in early March. See the submission link and writers guidelines here. The deadline for submissions is 8:00 a.m. Tokyo time on February 28 (February 27 in Western timezones).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 21, 1946 – Alan Rickman

(9) NEXT, PREDICT THE NEBULA WINNER. Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizons expected the finalists in the Nebula novel category would be the books on top of the Recommendation List, and they were. He says it won’t be as easy to predict the winner.

Winning a Nebula is very different than getting nominated; a small group of passionate fans can drive a nomination, but to win you need to build a broader coalition…

He produces some new tables, and comes up with some fresh analysis:

In some ways, [Fran] Wilde’s nomination is a key one. It’s the first time we’ve seen a novel receive both a Nebula Nomination and an Andre Norton nomination (the SFWA YA category). I don’t know what that means for Wilde’s chances in either, but it may signal a loosening of the SFWAs attitude towards YA fiction in the Best Novel category. That could have major implications moving forward.

(10) SPIDER-MAN AND HIS EXPENSIVE FRIENDS. Comic Book Resources counts down “The 10 Most Expensive Comic Books Ever Sold”.

On Thursday, February 18, Heritage Auctions auctioned off a Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) graded 9.4 copy of “Amazing Fantasy” #15 at their Comics and Comic Art Signature sale in Dallas. As one of the highest-graded copies of Spider-Man’s first appearance ever to be sold at public auction, it was expected to fetch a high price. In fact, it set a record, selling for $454,100. That’s the most ever paid for a Spider-Man comic at public auction.

(11) TRADITIONAL V. INDIE. Kristine Kathryn Rusch tells indie book authors to beware of “Book-Shaming”.

As I prepped for this blog today, I read article after article, opinion piece after opinion piece, shredding self-publishing. The language in these posts is condescending. The implication is clear: Self-publishing is for losers.

And yet, there’s a tinge of fear in all of these posts. The power brokers understand that things are changing. They can feel the change all around them, but they don’t understand it.

Rather than try to understand it, they’re shaming writers, playing to that writer insecurity. These former power brokers keep trying to convince writers who self-publish that they’re embarrassing themselves, that they’ll never amount to anything. Oh, sure they’re making money, but from whom? Readers who will read anything.

Let me be as blunt as I can here.

People who shame you are trying to control you. They want you to behave in a certain way. Rather than telling you to behave that way, they’re striving to subtly change your behavior by embarrassing you, and making you think less of yourself.

These people are trying to place themselves above you, to make you act the way that they want you to act, even if it is not in your own best interest. Shame is a particularly useful tool, because so many good-hearted people want to behave properly. These good-hearted folk don’t want to offend in any way. Yet shamers try to convince the good-hearted that they are offending or at least, making themselves objects of ridicule.

There’s an entire psychological area of study about this kind of shaming. It’s subtle, it’s nasty, and it often hurts the people it’s aimed at. Usually, shame is used by the powerful to keep the less-powerful under their thumbs.

That’s why shaming has suddenly become a huge part of the public discourse about how writers should publish their works these days. The powerful are losing their hold on the industry. This scares them. The language is getting more and more belligerent (and hard to believe) as the powerful realize they’re going to lose this battle

(12) WHAT RUSCH REALLY MEANT? But at Mad Genius Club, Fynbospress felt this was the takeaway from Rusch’s post:

So the next time someone tells you that you’re “racist sexist homophobic”, without ever trying to get to know you first, makes fun of your religion, expresses disgust at the idea of having children, belittles your choices in what to put in and what to leave out, how you publish, or makes fun of the type of fiction you like to read…

Tell them to take a long walk off a short pier, and keep writing what you makes you happy, and your readers want to read. They’re just trying to control you.

(13) BATMAN. A Los Angeles Times interviewer learns “Frank Miller has more in store for Batman”.

How would you distinguish what you do under the “Dark Knight” title and other Batman comics that you’ve done?

“The Dark Knight” was my ticket to freedom. I was able to do Batman as I’ve seen him. When I do Batman now it’s my version. I’m given a lot of leeway. The character is wonderfully adaptable to the times. There’s the version from the 1940s compared to the ’50s and compared to the ’60s and the Adam West show. They’re altogether different. Mine was just updated for the ’80s and ’90s.

My relationship with DC has always been very, very good. When I first did “Dark Knight” it was turbulent trying some new things out, but that’s the normal tension that happens between your publisher and the writer. There’s bound to be give and take as you hash things out.

There has been about a 15-year gap between each of your “Dark Knight” series.

It takes me a while to get as angry as he is. The character is one I can redo any old time. It’s about finding the right time and everybody’s schedules being open, and having the right people in place who want to get more daring. All these things have to combine at the right time. First of all, the story has to pop into my head.

(14) BOUND TO LIE. “’Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren’t’ Explores the World of Fake Books” at the New York Times.

Mindell Dubansky’s romance with fake books began nearly two decades ago at a Manhattan flea market, where she picked up a small volume carved from a piece of coal and bearing the name of a young man who had died in a mining accident in 1897.

Some 200 items from her collection went on display on Thursday at the Grolier Club in Manhattan, a temple to books, where they will remain through March 12. The exhibition, “Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren’t,” appears to be the first of its kind in the United States.

Most exhibitions at the Grolier, whose grand library holds more than 100,000 volumes with real pages and sometimes spectacular fine bindings, don’t include items like Secret Sam’s Spy Dictionary, a 1960s toy that lets users photograph enemies with a camera hidden inside a fake tome that also shoots plastic bullets out of its spine.

(15) ANOTHER PIECE OF ADVICE. A conversation between two characters in Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night.

Phoebe Tucker. He may be a perverse old idiot, but it’s more dignified not to say so in so many words.  A bland and deadly courtesy is more devastating, don’t you think?

Harriet Vane. Infinitely.

(16) WINTER IS TRUMPING. Do Donald Trump’s border policies make more sense in Westeros?

In this video, his face and campaign audio have been cleverly grafted into footage from Game of Thrones.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cubist.]