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.]

Pixel Scroll 1/24/2016 I Saw The Best Scrolls Of My Generation Destroyed By Pixels, Filing Hysterical Numbered

(1) THE FINNISH. Finland hosts the World Science Fiction Convention in 2017 — but if you can’t make it to Helsinki, hit the library: more and more Finnish speculative fiction authors are getting English translations, as NPR reports in “Finnish Authors Heat Up The Speculative Fiction World”.

In the middle of Johanna Sinisalo’s novel The Core of the Sun, the reader is interrupted by an ad. It’s for Fresh Scent, a personal fragrance available from the State Cosmetics Corporation of Finland. It’s marketed to woman, although “marketed” is an understatement. In Sinisalo’s nightmarish, alternate-reality vision of her homeland, a tyrannical patriarchy splits women into two classes — docile “eloi” and undesirable “morlocks,” terms cheekily drawn from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine — as part of an oppressive national health scheme that crosses insidiously over into eugenics.

The ad for Fresh Scent is just one of the novel’s many fragmentary asides. In additional to its more conventional narrative, which centers on Vanna, a woman with an addiction to chili peppers (it makes sense a skewed sort of sense, really), The Core of the Sun is made up of epistolary passages, dictionary entries, article excerpts, transcripts of hearings, scripts for instructional films, homework assignments, folk songs, and even fairytales that exist only in Sinisalo’s twisted version of the world. Chillingly, one passage concerning the social benefits of human sterilization is taken from a real-world source, a Finnish magazine article from 1935.

There’s a streak of scathing satire to the book’s fragmentary science fiction, and in that sense it sits somewhere between Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut — but Sinisalo crafts a funny, unsettling, emotionally charged apparition of the present that’s all her own.

(2) SPEAKING OF COLD PLACES. The New York Times captioned this tweet “A Wookie Chills in Washington (Not Hoth)”

(3) AN ALARMING INSIGHT.

(4) DEATH OF A GOLDEN AGE. Saladin Ahmed’s Buzzfeed article argues “Censors Killed The Weird, Experimental, Progressive Golden Age Of Comics”.

In the 1940s, comic books were often feminist, diverse, and bold. Then the reactionary Comics Code Authority changed the trajectory of comic book culture for good.

The comics themselves exhibited wild stylistic variety. A single issue of Keen Detective Funnies could contain one story with gorgeous Art Nouveau-ish illustration, and another with glorified stick figures. The comic books of the Golden Age were also significantly more diverse in terms of genre than today’s comics. On newsstands across America — in an era when the newsstand was an urban hub and an economic juggernaut — comic books told tales of True Crime, Weird Fantasy and Cowboy Love, Negro Romance, and Mystery Men. And Americans bought them.

Even as Amazing-Man and Blue Beetle were rescuing helpless, infantilized women, badass superheroines like the Lady in Red, the Spider Queen, and Lady Satan were stabbing Nazis and punching out meddlesome, sexist cops.

(5) NOW THAT SHE HAS OUR ATTENTION. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s post “Business Musings: Poor Poor Pitiful Me Is Not A Business Model” actually is not a rant telling writers to buck up, it’s a discussion of the true levers of culture change. But it begins with a rant….

Granted, in the recent past, the major publishing companies were the only game in town. But they are no longer the only game in town. A major bestselling writer can—and should—walk from any deal that does not meet her contractual and business needs.

Hell, every writer should do that.

But of course most writers won’t. Instead, an entire group of them beg for scraps from the Big All-Powerful Evil Publishers, proving to the publishers that writers are idiots and publishers hold all the cards.

I already bludgeoned the Authors Guild letter last week, so why am I going back to the same trough? Because this poor-poor-pitiful-me attitude has become the norm in the publishing industry right now, and I’m really tired of it.

The big battles of 2014 and 2015, from all of the fighting over the meaning of Amazon in the past few years to the in-genre squabbling over the Hugo awards that science fiction indulged in last year to the hue and cry indie writers have treated us to over the various changes in Kindle Unlimited since its inauguration have all had the same basic complaint.

Someone—be it a publisher (that Amazon is Evil argument) or a writer (the rest of it)—believes they’re entitled to something, and when they don’t get that something, they complain loudly, on social media or in traditional media or via group letter or through (in sf’s case) hateful spiteful posts about the opposing parties.

Only a handful of people take responsibility for the situation they’re in—if, indeed, they are responsible. Only a few actually analyze why the situation exists.

(6) HIGH PRAISE. The first line in David Barnett’s review of Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds is —

Imagine that Diana Wynne Jones, Douglas Coupland and Neil Gaiman walk into a bar and through some weird fusion of magic and science have a baby. That offspring is Charlie Jane Anders’ lyrical debut novel All The Birds In The Sky.

Do you think that’s a lot to live up to?

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 24, 1888 — Typewriter “copy” ribbon patented by Jacob L. Wortman. Harlan Ellison still uses one.
  • January 25, 1984 – Apple’s Macintosh computer went on sale. Price tag: $2,495.

(8) TRI ROBOT. Mickey Zucker Reichert, the author of To Preserve, is a working physician and the author of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot Trilogy (To Protect, To Obey, To Preserve). The third book will be published in hardcover by Roc in February.

Nate, has been Manhattan Hasbro Hospital’s resident robot for more than twenty years. Nate’s very existence terrified most people, leaving the robot utilized for menial tasks and generally ignored. Until one of the hospital’s physicians is found murdered with Nate standing over the corpse.

As programmer of Nate’s brain, Lawrence Robertson is responsible for his creation and arrested for the crime. Susan Calvin knows the Three Laws of Robotics make it impossible for Nate to harm a human. But maybe someone manipulated the laws to commit murder.

(9) DOUGH-REY. Kip W. pays tribute to characters from that billion-dollar movie The Force Awakens.

Poe, a flier; a fast male flier
Rey, who scavenges a bit,
Maz, a host who knows the most,
Finn, a white shirt drone who quit,
Snoke, a hologram quite tall,
Ren, a very angry joe,
Beeb, a droid head on a ball,
Which will bring us back to Poe. Poe, Rey, Maz, Finn, Snoke, Ren, Beeb, Poe!

(10) FLEXIBILITY. Nick Osment analyzes the benefits of reading science fiction in “What We Can Learn From a Time Lord: Doctor Who and a New Enlightened Perspective” at Black Gate.

If tomorrow you stepped inside a time machine and found yourself standing in the yard of this man who is separated from being your neighbor only by the passage of a century, then suddenly his opinions would become somewhat more relevant because now you would actually have to interact with him. But they would not become any more credible to you just because you were now hearing them face-to-face. You would still hear them from the vantage of having come from the future.

Now imagine your life today not as if you were living in your own time but as if you were visiting from a hundred years in the future. The weight given by proximity, i.e., these people are my neighbors, is leveled off, much the way that visiting that long-dead neighbor would be. Detach yourself from all the noise of the television and the Internet and your workplace, your college, your local pub. See it from a more objective position — of not being of this time, with the knowledge that this time, too, will pass, and all these people who are speaking right now; they all, too, will be dead and most of them forgotten.

(11) BIGGER ON THE OUTSIDE. 11.22.63, the eight-part event series based on Stephen King’s 2011 novel, premieres Presidents Day, February 15 on Hulu.

11.22.63 is a thriller in which high school English teacher Jake Epping (James Franco) travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — but his mission is threatened by Lee Harvey Oswald, falling in love and the past itself, which doesn’t want to be changed

 

(12) LONG TAIL OF SALES. Fynbospress summarizes the impact of streaming on the music business, and explains the parallels in book publishing to Mad Genius Club readers in “The Importance of Being Backlist”.

In summary, if publishing continues to mirror music, then streaming will continue to increase, but frontlist sales may continue to fall, and it become harder and harder to get discovered in the initial release period. However, backlist volume is growing, and people are discovering their way through the things that have been out there a while. So, while you can and should do some promotion of your latest release – if it fails to take off, don’t despair. Instead, write the next book, the greatest book you’ve written yet. Sometimes you make your money on the initial release surge, and sometimes, it’ll come in having a lot of things out there all bringing in an unsteady trickle.

(13) TWO COMIC CONS MAY SETTLE. A settlement may be at hand in the San Diego Comic-Con’s suit against the Salt Lake Comic Con for for trademark-infringement. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that on Thursday, attorneys for both conventions asked the judge to extend a procedural deadline so that they could work “diligently” on a settlement. The conventions have scheduled a meeting with Adler on Wednesday in San Diego.

Drafts of the agreement have been exchanged,” according to the Thursday court filing requesting the extension, “and the parties hope to soon reach agreement as to all terms.”

San Diego Comic-Con is a trademarked name, and lawyers have argued that the similarity of “Comic Con” in the name of the Salt Lake City event has confused people into thinking the event is somehow associated with San Diego’s convention.

As Salt Lake’s organizers have seen it, the legal battle isn’t just between them and the flagship convention; it’s a threat to the dozens of other comic book conventions around the world that also use “comic con” in their names. Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder and chief marketing officer Bryan Brandenburg previously asserted that if San Diego wins the case, the precedent will allow it to do this to other organizations.

(14) RING OF POWER. Jim C. Hines snapped this photo at Confusion:

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

Pixel Scroll 1/10/16 The Nine Billion Rules of God’s Robotics

(1) RAY BRADBURY WOULD BE SO PROUD. That’s what John King Tarpinian thinks. Look who won at the Golden Globes tonight.

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
    Rachel Bloom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

Here’s video of her acceptance speech.

(2) OTHER GOLDEN GLOBES OF GENRE INTEREST.

FILM

  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture ?? Musical or Comedy
    Matt Damon, “The Martian”
  • Best Motion Picture — Animated
    “Inside Out”
  • Best Motion Picture -? Musical or Comedy
    “The Martian”

TELEVISION

  • Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
    “Wolf Hall”
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television
    Christian Slater, “Mr. Robot”
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
    Lady Gaga, “American Horror Story: Hotel”
  • Best Television Series ?? Drama
    “Mr. Robot”

(3) SCIENCE-ING THE SHIT OUT OF ENDOR. ScienceFiction.com has the scoop of the century – Star Wars’ science is defective! The proof? “Physicist Theorizes There Should Have Been An Ewok Extinction Upon Death Star Destruction”.

What if all the Ewoks were killed at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’? You don’t have to think about it. Really, you don’t. But someone thought about it—Dave Minton, a physicist at Purdue University.

Now before you start thinking Minton hates all things cute, he performed some interesting research into what the reality would be like if the second Death Star really did explode near Endor.

(4) DIDN’T KNOW THERE WAS A STAT FOR THIS. Harrison Ford has passed Samuel L. Jackson to become the top-grossing actor in domestic box office history, powered to the top by the growing bank for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Ford’s 41 films have grossed $4.699 billion at the domestic box office, led by The Force Awakens, which accounts for $764.4 million of that figure as of Box Office Mojo’s last update.

Jackson’s films, in comparison, have grossed a mere $4.626 billion, led by Marvel’s The Avengers and its $623.4 million domestic haul.

(5) PAPER TARDIS. This animation is something I’m going to share with my daughter. One of her Christmas gifts was a hand-made facsimile of River Song’s journal. (Via io9)

(6) ROWLING YANKED HIS CHAIN. Hello Giggles says that Stephen Fry met J.K. Rowling long before becoming the narrator of the UK Harry Potter audiobooks, and claims his bland disinterest during that first encounter motivated her to refuse a favor he asked later while trying to record a challenging phrase. True story? Who knows. But it has an edge to it.

(7) SCOOBY CHOO-CHOO, WHERE ARE YOU? The BBC explores “Why Britain has secret ghost trains”. Hobbyists spend a lot of time tracking these down so they can ride them. And as usual where ghosts are concerned, the explanation is less than supernatural.

“Ghost trains are there just for a legal placeholder to prevent the line from being closed,” says Bruce Williamson, national spokesperson for the advocacy group RailFuture. Or as Colin Divall, professor of railway studies at the University of York, puts it: “It’s a useless, limited service that’s borderline, and the reason that it’s been kept is there would be a stink if anyone tried to close it.”

Why ghosts exist

That is the crux of why the ghost trains still exist. A more official term is “parliamentary trains”, a name that stems from past years when an Act of Parliament was needed to shut down a line. Many train operators kept running empty trains to avoid the costs and political fallout – and while this law has since changed, the same pressures remain.

(8) SCRIMM OBIT. Actor Angus Scrimm, best known for playing the “Tall Man” in the Phantasm horror franchise, died January 9 at the age of 89. He also was in I Sell the Dead (2008), the TV show Alias, and the audio play series Tales From Beyond the Pale. Scrimm also appeared in a production of Ray Bradbury’s play Let’s All Kill Constance.

For several decades Scrimm writer album liner notes for Capitol Records, winning a Grammy in 1974 (credited as Rory Guy, as were his early film roles) for his notes on Korngold: The Classic Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

(9) FITZSIMMONS OBIT. SF Site News reports kT FitzSimmons (1956-2016) who ran program for the 1991 Worldcon, Chicon V, died January 10 after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was a veteran conrunner who worked on Windycon and Capricon in Chicago, and served as a board member of Capricon’s parent organization Phandemonium.

(10) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 10, 1927 Metropolis makes its world premiere in Germany.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CHARACTER

  • Born January 10, 1732 — Saara Mar. According to Taral Wayne, she was born in 1732 on a planet 400 light years from Earth, in the direction of the Pleiades cluster. She “discovered” Earth in 1970, on the 5th of April, 6 days before the lift-off of Apollo 13, and 8 days before the miraculous rescue of the crew that changed history.

Saara Mar

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 10, 1904 — Ray Bolger, the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

(14) SHORT AND SWEET. Fynbospress teaches sound techniques for blurb writing at Mad Genius Club.

At the heart of every story, there is this: A person, who wants something, but a force opposes him. This is important, because of these stakes. Either they get it, or they don’t.

Take the first and second sentence of that paragraph. (Not the third; you don’t give away how it comes out in the blurb.) Who is your person? What do they want? What opposes them? What are the stakes?

Simplify. If you have two or three main characters, pick the one whose wants or needs drive the story the most. Unless you’re writing epic fantasy, where the browser will be disappointed if you don’t introduce at least three sides, stick to one protagonist, and one opposing force. Generally, that’s the first opposition they meet in the story, not the one they meet in chapter 3, and definitely not the one revealed in the twist in chapter 20.

Your description should not, as a rule of thumb, reveal any information past chapter 3.

(15) ONE IN A MILLION. Mark Lawrence in “Luck, Deus Ex Machina, Plot Armour” tells why it’s okay to build a story around the statistically unlikely survivor.

We don’t see the article about the lottery winner in the newspaper and cry, “Jesus fuck! What are the odds that the reporter chose the winner to write about.”

…Swap now from reality to fiction. The author still has a choice about who they write about. They can still pick the person who survives, at least long enough to do some interesting things. But they also get to choose how that person survives

(16) SPEAK TO THE GEEK. Declan Finn devoted today’s installment of his internet radio show The Catholic Geek to Sad Puppies 4 (he’s in favor), with time left over to diagnose why George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished his book, and to argue Shakespeare really wrote for the rabble not the nobility.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/27 So Long, and Thanks for All the Fifths

(1) ORPHAN BLACK TEASER. BBC America says Orphan Black Season 4 has started production and will be shooting in Toronto through March.

Tatiana Maslany returns to her Emmy®-nominated role as multiple clones in 10 new episodes in Spring 2016.

Season 4 of the drama will see leader-of-the-pack, Sarah, reluctantly return home from her Icelandic hideout to track down an elusive and mysterious ally tied to the clone who started it all — Beth Childs.  Sarah will follow Beth’s footsteps into a dangerous relationship with a potent new enemy, heading in a horrifying new direction. Under constant pressure to protect the sisterhood and keep everyone safe, Sarah’s old habits begin to resurface. As the close-knit sisters are pulled in disparate directions, Sarah finds herself estranged from the loving relationships that changed her for the better.

 

(2) UNDERSTANDING CONTRACTS. Fynbospress provides a wide-ranging introduction to contracts for creators in “When do you need a contract?” at Mad Genius Club, a post that does much more than merely answer the title question.

This isn’t just for court; this is when you’ve submitted a rough draft to a copyeditor and found out they only did the first third of the book and the last chapter , or when you paid a cover artist $500 and they returned one proof of concept, then stopped answering emails. This is for when the small press gives you a horrid cover, no release press, and you have some real doubts about your royalty statements. This is for when you’ve agreed to turn in a sequel, and you find out your spouse has cancer, and nothing’s going to get done that’s not medically related. It’s for when you get the avian flu and aren’t going to make your slot with your editor, and aren’t sure you could make a pushback date, either, or the house washes away in a flood and you weren’t even thinking about when your cover artist finished her painting and wants paid.

(3) NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Lela E. Buis in “Safe spaces and personal self defense” conflates safe spaces with the convention antiharassment policies of which she disapproves.

Reading through the proposed convention policies, safe spaces apparently mean that no one can annoy you. When some evil lowlife approaches and says something that disturbs or upsets you, then you should be able to just say “no, go away” and they are required to do so. It means that you can cruise through the convention experience without worrying about anything. If anyone fails to do what you ask, then all you have to do is complain to management and they’ll take care of the lowlife who’s bothering you, pitching him/her out on the street. This is really an ideal situation, where nobody ever has to hear things they don’t want to hear, or deal with situations they don’t want to be in.

However, when you always depend on management to protect you, then you’re not taking personal responsibility for your own well-being. You end up with no self-defense skills….

(4) CHROMIUM SÍ IN AMERICA. “Here’s How Captain Phasma Got Her Silver Armor” explains Andrew Liptak in an intro to a video at io9.

Gwendoline Christie has certainly made her mark in the Star Wars universe as the silver-armored Captain Phasma. This short video shows where that armor came from, and it’s hilarious.

(5) NO SPOILERS. Joe Vasicek’s spoiler-free first impressions of the new Star Wars movie at One Thousand and One Parsecs.

Was it campy? Yep. Was it rife with scientific inaccuracies? Oh heck, yes! Were parts of it over the top? Yeah, probably. But these were all true of the original Star Wars, too. The stuff that really mattered was all there: good writing, solid plot, believable characters, awesome music, and that grand sense of wonder that drew us all into Science Fiction in the first place.

(6) SPOILERY AND FUNNY. Emma Barrie’s “The Confused Notes of a Star Wars Newbie Who Felt Compelled to See The Force Awakens” is a high comedy journal of watching The Force Awakens.  Paragraph two only spoils the original Star Wars trilogy, so that’s safe to quote….

Even as a member of the uninitiated minority, I did know some basic stuff about Star Wars, because how could I not? My birthday is May 4, so there’s that. I knew Darth Vader is bad and has the voice of Mufasa. I knew Han Solo is a person (though I thought it was Hans Solo). I could definitely pick Chewbacca out of a lineup. Princess Leia is Carrie Fisher (whom I primarily associate with hating that wagon-wheel table in When Harry Met Sally). She has those Cinnabon hair swirls and at some point wore a gold bikini (info gleaned from Friends). Lightsabers are kind of like fancy swords. Darth Vader is Luke’s dad.

(7) SPOILERY AND SERIOUS. David Brin was greatly relieved to find things to complain about in “J.J. Abrams Awakens the Force” at Contrary Brin.

Okay we saw it.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SW:TFA), on Christmas Eve.  And although I am lead author — and “prosecuting attorney” — of the book Star Wars on Trial, and hence a leading critic of the series, I must admit that:

(1) The newest installment of the franchise — directed by J.J. Abrams under Disney management — has none of the deeply objectionable traits of Episodes I, II, III and VI that I denounced in that controversial tome. Abrams and Disney shrugged off the lunacies George Lucas compulsively preached in those vividly colorful-yet-wretched flicks….

(8) SPOILERY TROLLING. Nick Mamatas is like one of those basketball players who in the parlance can create his own shot. If there was nothing in The Force Awakens to complain about, Nick would not be inconvenienced in the slightest. His review is at Nihilistic Kid.

Like any Star Wars film, it makes little sense. I’m not even talking about the inexplicable political economy of the galaxy that has both intelligent robots and people hanging out in tents with dirt floors, or the horrifying reactionary theme of an entire galaxy being held a prisoner of fate by about a dozen closely related individuals.

Is that last part so unrealistic, Nick? Think of Queen Victoria’s family ties.

(9) A FAN OF PEACE. I thought Hank Green was a science fiction fan (among other things) yet he exhibits a practically unfannish lack of interest in quarrelling with his fellow fans about Important Genre Definitions.

(10) FIVE IS ALIVE. At The Book Smugglers, “Jared Shurin’s Five Terrific 2015 Titles That’ll Tie Awards in Knots”  actually contains seven titles. Did he think nobody would count? Or was he worried File 770 wouldn’t link to his post without a “fifth” reference? Never fear, Jared, your praise for “A Small, Angry Planet” deserves to be shared.

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

It lurked (and won The Kitschies) as a self-published work at the start of 2015, but as far as the ‘stablishment is concerned, this utterly glorious, brilliantly progressive and undeniably joyous space opera didn’t exist until the UK release in February and the US release soon after. It has been on multiple ‘Best Of’ lists (Waterstones, Guardian, Barnes & Noble), and hopefully that translates to even more well-deserved recognition. The awards scene is dominated by a) Americans and b) traditional publishing, so this book’s… er… long way… to market should hopefully pay off with further acclaim.

(11) SMACKIN’ WITH THE PUPPIES. George R.R. Martin finally froze comments on “Puppies at Christmas” after two days spent duking it out with trolls. Martin’s last entry in the discussion might also be taken as a reply to the coverage here the other day:

When people behave badly (in fandom or out of it), or do things that I find immoral or unethical, I reserve the right to speak out about it, as I did about Sad Puppies 3 last year.

When, on the other hand, I see behavior I regard as positive, I am also going to speak out about that… regardless of whether my words are going to be “spun” to suit someone else’s narrative. So far, what I am seeing on the Sad Puppies 4 boards is a step in the right direction… a spirited literary discussion that includes everyone from Wright and Williamson to Leckie and Jemisin. That’s good.

If it turns into something else later, well, I’ll revise my opinion or raise objections. But I am not going to deal in hypotheticals. Right now what I see is people talking books.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904Peter Pan by James Barrie opens in London.
  • December 27, 1947 — The first “Howdy Doody” show, under the title “Puppet Playhouse,” was telecast on NBC.
  • December 27, 1968 — The Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — returned to Earth after orbiting the moon 10 times.

(13) RESTATE OF THE ART. “How Weinstein Co. Distribution Chief Erik Lomis Rescued 70MM Cinema For Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’” at Deadline Hollywood.

Lomis had an 18-month lead before Hateful Eight would hit the screen, and he promptly began scouring eBay and interfacing with film warehouses and antique collectors across the country “pulling the equipment, checking it and Frankenstein-ing it together. Configuring the lens took six months alone. They needed to be adjusted to today’s stadium auditoriums, which from the booth to the screen have a shorter throw versus the lens on the older machines which had a longer throw due to the sloping floor auditoriums,” explains Lomis. For the first six months, Lomis was picking up 70MM projectors at affordable prices, but once word slipped out that it was for a Tarantino film, collectors tripled and quadrupled their asks.  Essentially, to make three solid working projectors, one needed to pull parts from as many as five projectors.  Gears, shafts, bearings and rollers were the typical replacements. At times, these parts were manufactured from scratch off original blueprints. On average, Schneider Optics made a lens a day during production to restore this antiquated technology.

(14) SIR TERRY. Rhianna Pratchett  in The Guardian“Sir Terry Pratchett remembered by his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett”.

…The reaper came for my father much earlier in his life in the form of Death from his world-famous and much-loved Discworld novels. Death was a towering, cloaked and scythe-wielding skeleton who had a penchant for curries, a love of cats and TALKED LIKE THIS. We got a number of tear-inducing letters from fans who were nearing the end of their lives and took great comfort in imagining that the death that came for them would be riding a white horse called Binky. Dad had done something with more success than anyone else – he made Death friendly.

For me, as for many of his fans, it was his gift for characterisations like this that made his books pure narrative gold. Dad was a great observer of people. And when he ran out of actual people, he was a great imaginer of them. Both his grannies come through in his witch characters, while there’s a fair chunk of me in Tiffany Aching and Susan Sto Helit, Death’s adoptive granddaughter. …

(15) THE JAVA AWAKENS. “Designers Create Star Wars-Themed Coffee Concept” at Comicbook.com.

Graphic designer Spencer Davis and product designer Scott Schenone have come up with “Dark Brew Coffee House,” a concept that imagines what a Star Wars-themed coffee shop would look like.

(Lots more thematic imagery displayed at Dark Brew Coffee House.)

Dark Side coffee

(16) DARK OUTSIDE. Then could we change this to the Darthburger?

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

Pixel Scroll 12/4 “Nightrise, Nightfall,” from Astronomer On The Roof

(1) SAFETY LAST. I didn’t know it was this dangerous to work for J.J. Abrams. Or to be J.J. Abrams.

In his interview on the Howard Stern show, Abrams tells stories about (1) how a hydraulic door on the “Force Awakens” set slammed down on Harrison Ford’s ankle, (2) how Abrams broke his back trying to lift the door, and on an earlier occasion, (3) Leonard Nimoy broke his nose while working on the Star Trek reboot.

“He fell, he hit his nose… he had a gash on his nose,” J.J. revealed. “I thought, ‘holy crap, this is a disaster.’ I felt horrible. I wanted to kill myself at this point.

(2) GENERAL LEIA. Louis Virtel of Hitflix decrees: “Carrie Fisher just scorched ‘Good Morning America’ and you’re not worthy” .

The most intense and thrilling part of this universe is the real-life Carrie Fisher, whose self-possessed wooziness makes her one of pop culture’s most sublime entities. She was just on “Good Morning America” chatting about losing weight to play the part of General Leia. She brought her dog. She was electric. She was rad, weird as hell, and right. She awakened America.

I love everything about this interview, namely Carrie’s one-liner about resuming her role in the “Star Wars” universe. “I got in character and I’ve never gotten out again – and really, I’ve tried everything.”

(3) FORBIDDEN BOOM. That highly scientific party-pooper Adam Korenman (When the Stars Fade) pulls back the curtain on “Dramatizing Space Battles in Film and Fiction” at SF Signal.

[First of three points.]

Star Wars, like pretty much every space drama of the past 40 years, is more in the realm of fantasy than science-fiction. Though our understanding of arriving and surviving outside the atmosphere has grown tremendously, our representations of such acts in film and literature remains steadfastly in the realm of fiction. In my series The Gray Wars Saga, I am equally guilty of playing space battles more for the drama than the science. Why is it that every auteur from Heinlein to Abrams showcases a false image of the dark void above? Let’s take a look at the realities of space combat and see if we can find out.

1) Explosions are Pretty, Space-splosions are not.

In any space opera worth its salt, a massive ship is bound to explode. As an audience, we anticipate it the same way we expect anyone in a dark hat to be a bad guy. To paraphrase Anton Chekhov, if you show a spaceship in Act 1, you’d better be blowing it up by Act 3. But explosions, and fire in general require three elements to exist: Heat, Fuel, and Oxygen. You’ll notice I bolded the last word, as it is fairly important. Space is famously lacking in O2—to the point where people think you explode if you’re ever exposed to the vacuum (also not true, but Cracked already covered that, so let’s move on). Space explosions look more like the time you dropped your LEGOs on the kitchen floor than when you dumped a pack of Mentos into a 3 liter of Diet Coke. The rapid expansion of heat (literally the definition of an explosion) will rend your big ol’ ship into pieces, and those shards will head in every direction until acted upon by another force (thanks, Newton). No fireball, no awesome ring-shaped shockwave. Just scrap….

Real space may not be able to carry sound (no oxygen, so nothing to carry the vibrations) but a movie theater with a THX monster system can. If we’re going to allow musical cues in our cinematic experiences to pull our emotional strings, we can surely forgive a few foley artists getting creative with the sound design. It allows the truth of the drama to reach the audience on more levels. And if playing to one of our senses for the sake of drama makes the cut, then allow us science-fiction writers the joy of delivering fiery ends to our marvelous creations.

(4) BOSKONE GUESTS. At the Boskone Blog, “Mini-Interview: Robert J Sawyer and Cerece Rennie Murphy.

How would you describe your work to people who might be unfamiliar with you? [Robert J Sawyer:] I’m a hard-SF writer, heavily influenced by the best of Frederik Pohl (I consider his Gateway to be the finest novel our field has ever produced). I’m also liberal, even by Canadian standards, and a rationalist, a secularist, and a humanist (Humanism Canada gave me their first ever “Humanism in the Arts” award) — and my work embraces all those things. I mostly do near-future or present day stories, usually set on Earth, with a strong philosophical bent. My prose is pellucid (much more Arthur C. Clarke than Gene Wolfe) and my tone usually upbeat….

What is your favorite Star Wars memory, scene, or line? What is it that that memory, scene or line that continues to stick with you today? [Cerece Rennie Murphy:] (It could be a moment from within any of the films, a moment associated with the films, or something inspired by the films. – My favorite scenes from Star Wars are all the scenes between Luke Skywalker and Yoda from Empire Strikes Back. I remember watching theses scenes in the theatre when I was 7 years old. They literally changed my perception of God, my place in the world and my potential. I realized then, as I still believe now, that we’re all Jedi, we just don’t know it. Watching Luke’s fear and doubt keep him from fully accessing his own potential was powerful for me, even then. I don’t think you can sum up the human condition any better than that. “Luminous beings are we….not this crude matter,” I really believe that the healing of our entire world could begin with this statement.

(5) HELP ANN TOTUSEK. “I’ve started a GoFundMe to help with my family’s housing situation,” Ann Totusek told me. Her complete narrative about her situation is here.

As a short overview, Ann recommended Steven H Silver’s comment at Whatever.

Through a change in circumstances, Minneapolis fan Ann Totusek has found herself in a situation where she either needs to buy her house or find herself homeless. Ann is currently the caregiver for her mother, suffering dementia, and her teenage son, who suffers SPD. Ann, who helps run conventions throughout the upper Midwest in Iowa, Minneapolis, and Chicago, is running a GoFundMe to raise money for the down payment on their home.

Ann has run Green Room and Program Ops for me at several Windycons as well as the hospitality suite at the Nebula Award Weekend in Chicago in 2015 (and plans to again in 2016). Her hospitality has always been wonderful and now we have the opportunity to repay some of that hospitality by ensuring that Ann and her family can live and thrive.

In the first 11 hours, the appeal brought in $8,463 of its $150,000 goal, including a $2,000 boost from Ctein and another $5,000 anonymous donation.

(6) MARKETING TIP. Fynbospress makes a compelling argument for placing more of the “front matter” in the back of your self-published ebook, in “What’s the matter with front matter?” at Mad Genius Club.

Why? Well, a sample is 10% of your entire file, not 10 percent of your story. When you get a reader interested enough that they downloaded a sample, or are clicking “look inside” on a web page, you really don’t want them to scroll past all of that stuff only to find three paragraphs of story! You want a couple pages to hook them in, draw them deep, and make them immediately click “buy the book” so they can keep reading.

Some very savvy authors actually set up the amount of front matter and their story so the 10% cutoff falls directly after a cliffhanger. This is sneaky and wonderful, because you can immediately deliver the payoff with the rest of the book.

(7) Today In History

  • December 4, 1985:  Barry Levinson’s Young Sherlock Holmes makes its theatrical debut.
  • December 4, 2008: Forrest J Ackerman passes away.

(8) DOES SIZE MATTER?

Two Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers stand with three vehicles, providing a size comparison of three generations of Mars rovers. Front and center is the flight spare for the first Mars rover, Sojourner, which landed on Mars in 1997 as part of the Mars Pathfinder Project. On the left is a Mars Exploration Rover test vehicle, a working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004. On the right is a test rover for the Mars Science Laboratory, which landed Curiosity on Mars in 2012.

 

PIA15279_3rovers-stand_D2011_1215_D521 COMP

(9) THEATER HISTORY. Alex Ross’ profile “The Magnificent Memory of Norman Lloyd” at The New Yorker shows the 101-year-old actor still has the power to bring history to life.

Through the Group Theatre, Lloyd came in contact with the Stanislavsky method, and he applied it to his character in “Caesar.” In Act III of Shakespeare’s play, Cinna the Poet ventures out to attend Caesar’s funeral; a mob mistakes him for another Cinna, a member of the conspiracy, and drags him off. Welles had realized that the scene could stand in for contemporary Germany, where even non-Jews were persecuted for having Jewish-sounding names. Initially, Welles thought of the character as a Byronic figure, wearing a beret. But Lloyd wanted to pattern Cinna on someone he knew: the Greenwich Village poet Maxwell Bodenheim, who used to sit on the stoops around Washington Square, offering to write poems for twenty-five cents. Lloyd pictured Cinna as a bum in a suit, foolscap spilling out of his pockets. Welles said, “O.K., do it your way.”

(10) LOGGIA OBIT. The actor who played the President’s military advisor in Independence Day, and the toy company mogul who danced on the piano with Tom Hanks in Big, Robert Loggia, died December 4at the age of 85. He had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease for the past five years.

He was best known for his roles in the movie Scarface and in the TV series Mancuso FBI

During a long career he worked a lot, in the beginning often playing ethnic characters, usually Hispanic or Middle Eastern, and at the end frequently cast as a mobster.

His genre appearances in television included episodes of One Step Beyond (“The Hand,” 1959), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“Graveyard of Fear,” 1966), The Wild Wild West (“Suspicion,” 1967), Wonder Woman (“Wonder Woman vs Gargantua,” 1976), The Bionic Woman (“Jaime and the King,” 1977), The Six Million Dollar Man (1976), Tales of the Unexpected (1984), and The Outer Limits (2000).

(10) REDISCOVERED TALKIE. High Treason (1929), not only one of the earliest sound movies but an sf movie to boot, will be shown December 6 at the Anchorage International Film Festival. The sound version of the film was long thought lost until it was rediscovered in 2005 in a group of old films in Washington State. Kevin Tripp, a moving image archivist in Alaska, arranged transfer of the nitrate films to Library of Congress for salvage – having first completed a hazardous materials training program.

HT29-title1

The film was taken from a play by Noel Pemberton-Billing. He was an aviator, politician and inventor who founded the Supermarine aviation company, which would produce the Spitfire fighter plane in World War II.A declared pacifist, the playwright nonetheless advocated aerial bombing of civilian targets in wartime, two topics that weight heavily in the script.

Read an in-depth study of High Treason illustrated with many stills at And You Call Yourself A Scientist!

File 770 reader Steve Johnson says, “I will be in the Bear Tooth Theatre for the show on Sunday–my wife snapped up two reserved seats.”

(11) DESTROYED AGAIN. Funded as a stretch goal of Lightspeed’s “Queers Destroy Science Fiction!” Kickstarter campaign, a companion publication “Queers Destroy Fantasy!” is now available from Amazon.

…This month we’re presenting a special one-off issue of our otherwise discontinued sister-magazine, FANTASY, called Queers Destroy Fantasy!: an all-fantasy extravaganza entirely written—and edited!—by queer creators. Here’s what we’ve got lined up for you in this special issue: Original fantasy—edited by Christopher Barzak—by Catherynne M. Valente, Kai Ashante Wilson, Carlea Holl-Jensen, and Richard Bowes. Reprints—selected by Liz Gorinsky—by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Austin Bunn, Shweta Narayan, and Nicola Griffith. Nonfiction articles—edited by Matthew Cheney—by merritt kopas, Matthew Cheney, Keguro Macharia, Ekaterina Sedia, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Ellen Kushner. Plus an original cover illustration by Priscilla Kim and original interior illustrations by Goñi Montes, Odera Igbokwe, Sam Schechter, Elizabeth Leggett, and Vlada Monakhova.

(12) LOAFING AROUND. Will R. sent along the link to “Make This Awesome Dune-Inspired Sandworm Bread” with a skeptical comment: “I have to agree with the person I saw this via, who said ‘delicious-looking is not the description I would have used.’” Will had a valid point, and that is why I didn’t gank the picture to go with the excerpt.

Fans of the novel and movie Dune will appreciate this spice-filled sandworm bread recipe from geek baker extraordinaire Chris-Rachael Oseland….

The sandworm bread consists of a basic sweet bread with a spice filling and a sugar glaze. Yum. Blanched almonds are added to create the sandworm’s intimidating, toothsome maw. I can smell its melange breath from here!

(13) S.H.I.E.L.D. S.P.O.I.L.E.D. Those who know say that spoilers abound in this trailer for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD 3×10 “Maveth” (Winter Finale).

S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra go head-to-head in a battle that will change Coulson’s world forever.

 

[Thanks to Steve Johnson, John King Tarpinian, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]