Yr humble correspondent at the helm
That would be Starship Captain Dern, putting the vessel through its paces
More of Dern’s photos follow the jump.Continue reading
Yr humble correspondent at the helm
That would be Starship Captain Dern, putting the vessel through its paces
More of Dern’s photos follow the jump.Continue reading
(1) END OF PERIOD. As John Hertz said in his report on the dedication of Forrest J Ackerman Square, the city promised to replace the original sign with the erroneous period after the initial “J” – erroneous, because Forry spelled his name without one. And as you can see in this photo by Robert Kerr, the city has installed the corrected sign above the intersection.
(2) BIG ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION. Greg Ketter’s Minneapolis bookstore is featured in “Wi12: Busman’s Holiday Possibilities” at Shelf Awareness.
DreamHaven Books & Comics
Since opening on April 1, 1977, DreamHaven Books & Comics has moved 10 times and even had multiple locations open at once. Today it’s located in an approximately 3,300-square-foot storefront at 2301 East 38th street, the store’s home for the last eight and a half years, in a neighborhood around five miles southeast of downtown Minneapolis. According to owner Greg Ketter, despite various changes over the years, DreamHaven’s specialization in science fiction, fantasy, horror and comic books has remained constant. The book inventory is a mix of used and new, with a higher proportion of used, rare and collectible books than in years past; Ketter also carries a great deal of movie and comic memorabilia. One of the store’s centerpieces is a towering model of Robby the Robot from the film Forbidden Planet. Throughout the store other models and statues abound.
DreamHaven is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a party on April 1. Ketter has author appearances and a sale planned for the day, and is working in concert with Once Upon a Crime, a mystery bookstore in Minneapolis celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
(3) BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES. Randy Byers, co-editor of Chunga, has promising news about the progress of his cancer treatment.
Again, the discussion is too technical for me to follow, but it all sounds pretty hopeful, which I assume is why Dr. Taylor was willing to be so optimistic right to my face. I feel torn between wild optimism on my own part and cautious skepticism. No doubt I’ll need to read and discuss it further, but damn if I didn’t immediately start thinking, “Maybe I *will* get to see Celine grow up!”
(4) INCONSTANT MOON. A little birdie told us that Larry Niven’s award-winning story may be filmed — “’Arrival’ Producer Developing ‘Inconstant Moon’ Sci-Fi Movie for Fox”.
“The Specatcular Now” director James Ponsoldt is attached from a script by Daniel Casey. Levy and 21 Laps’ Dan Cohen will produce along with Ponsoldt through his 1978 Pictures company and Vince Gerardis through his Created By company.
“Inconstant Moon,” which first appeared in the 1971 short story collection “All the Myriad Ways,” begins with the moon glowing much brighter than ever before, leading the narrator to presume that the sun has gone nova and that this is the last night of his life. He spends the night with his girlfriend but then discovers that the reality is that the Earth has been hit by massive solar flare that kills most the inhabitants of the Eastern Hemisphere.
Levy received an Oscar nomination Tuesday for producing “Arrival” along with Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde. “Arrival” was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Denis Villeneuve.
(5) A REALLY BAD MAN. Atlas Obscura reminds us about a forgotten fictional character who had a major influence on genre fiction over the years: “The Criminal History of Fant?mas, France’s Favorite Fictional Villain”.
As villains go, Fantômas is a nasty one. Created in 1911, he is a gentleman criminal who perpetrates gruesome, elaborate crimes with no clear motivation. He hangs a victim inside a church bell so that when it rings blood rains on the congregation below. He attempts to kill Juve, the detective on his trail, by trapping the man in a room that slowly fills with sand. He skins a victim and makes gloves from the dead man’s hands in order to leave the corpse’s fingerprints all over the scene of a new crime.
His creators called him the “Genius of Evil” and the “Lord of Terror,” but he remained a cipher with so many identities that often only Jove would recognize him. The book that first introduces him begins with a voice asking: Who is Fantômas?
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY
(7) FAUX FACTS FOR SALE. Chuck Tingle’s Buttbart has opened an Alternative Fact Warehouse where you can purchase such alternative facts as “JOM HAMM IS YOUR HANDSOME ONLINE BUD WHO LIKES TO SKYPE” for a few dollars, with the proceeds going to Planned Parenthood.
— Chuck Tingle (@ChuckTingle) January 24, 2017
(8) HE SAID ILK. Milo is scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley on February 1. He was prevented by protestors from speaking at another UC campus a few weeks ago. UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has issued a statement reminding the university community that theirs is the home of the Free Speech Movement.
Mr. Yiannopoulos is not the first of his ilk to speak at Berkeley and he will not be the last. In our view, Mr. Yiannopoulos is a troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to “entertain,” but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas. He has been widely and rightly condemned for engaging in hate speech directed at a wide range of groups and individuals, as well as for disparaging and ridiculing individual audience members, particularly members of the LGBTQ community….
Berkeley is the home of the Free Speech Movement, and the commitment to free expression is embedded in our Principles of Community as the commitment “to ensur(e) freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.” As a campus administration, we have honored this principle by defending the right of community members who abide by our campus rules to express a wide range of often-conflicting points of view. We have gone so far as to defend in court the constitutional rights of students of all political persuasions to engage in unpopular expression on campus. Moreover, we are defending the right to free expression at an historic moment for our nation, when this right is once again of paramount importance. In this context, we cannot afford to undermine those rights, and feel a need to make a spirited defense of the principle of tolerance, even when it means we tolerate that which may appear to us as intolerant.
As part of the defense of this crucial right, we have treated the [Berkeley College Republicans’] efforts to hold the Yiannopoulos event exactly as we would that of any other student group. Since the event was announced, staff from our Student Affairs office, as well as officers from the University of California Police Department (UCPD), have worked, as per policy and standard practice, with the BCR to ensure the event goes as planned, and to provide for the safety and security of those who attend, as well as those who will choose to protest Yiannopoulos’s appearance in a lawful manner.
(9) EARLY WARNING. Declan Finn, in “Live and Let Bite, Best Horror at the Dragon Awards”, shows a photo of a Dragon Award trophy and declares —
In 2017, I’m going to be getting one of these.
Nice, huh? They look nifty, right? Here, let’s pull back a bit.
Yeah, I’m pretty much going to lay my cards on the table and say this is going to win the second annual Dragon Awards in 2017. This is not actually a boast. It’s just logical. No, seriously. Follow me around the windmills of my mind. Live and Let Bite is everything you loved in Honor at Stake and Murphy’s Law of Vampires, and then doubles down.
(10) THE MAGIC NUMBER. Dan Koboldt gives “5 Reasons to Vote for the Hugo Awards”.
2. Expose Yourself to Other Forms of SF/F
Most of us read enough novels to know how we want to vote in that category. Novels and series are the bread-and-butter of the SF/F genre. Furthermore, after the commercial success of Game of Thrones, Westworld, and other franchises, there are arguably more people reading SF/F novels than ever before. Thousand of people vote for the “best novel” Hugo Award.
I wish we could say the same about short stories, novelettes, and novellas.
Short fiction is a critical form of SF/F literature, and indeed is how many of us learned how to write. There are some wonderful markets that publish it — Clarkesworld, Galaxy’s Edge, and Nature, just to name a few — but the readership is much, much smaller. The Hugo Awards are a great opportunity to discover, read, and reward outstanding works in these briefer formats.
(11) AN ICE TOUR. Val and Ron Ontell are organizing pre- and post-Worldcon tours designed for those heading to Helsinki. Before the con there is a tour of Scandinavia, Talinn and St. Petersburg, and afterwards a tour of Iceland. Itineraries for both are at the site.
(12) FISHING WITH BAIT. John Joseph Adams has posted Hugo-eligible items and from Lightspeed, Nightmare and anthologies, and is offering to e-mail additional material to Hugo nominators with proof of voting eligibility.
If you are planning and eligible to vote for the Hugos this year, if you email me proof of your Worldcon membership (i.e., your name is listed on the Worldcon website as an attending member, or the email confirmation or receipt you received when you purchased your membership, etc.) I would be happy to make some additional 2016 material I edited available to you in digital format.
(13) ANOTHER FISHERMAN. Jameson Quinn wrote in a comment here today —
The paper on E Pluribus Hugo by Bruce Schneier and I had made it through peer review when the journal that had accepted it (Voting Matters) suddenly lost its funding and retroactively folded. We were trying to pressure the editor who had accepted it to help us find another place for it, but it looks as if that’s not happening. We’re still planning to publish it in another journal, but sadly we’ll probably have to repeat the whole peer review process. However, it is our belief that the paper is still eligible to be nominated for Best Related Work.
(14) TICKY. The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists make it out to be two-and-a-half minutes til Midnight — “Doomsday Click Moves Closer to Midnight, Signaling Concern Among Scientists” in the New York Times.
Ms. Bronson, in a post-announcement interview, explained why the board had included the 30-second mark in the measurement. She said that it was an attention-catching signal that was meant to acknowledge “what a dangerous moment we’re in, and how important it is for people to take note.”
“We’re so concerned about the rhetoric, and the lack of respect for expertise, that we moved it 30 seconds,” she said. “Rather than create panic, we’re hoping that this drives action.”
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Dr. Titley and Dr. Krauss elaborated on their concerns, citing the increasing threats of nuclear weapons and climate change, as well as President Trump’s pledges to impede what they see as progress on both fronts, as reasons for moving the clock closer to midnight.
“Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person,” they wrote. “But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Howard Osler, Van Ontell, David K.M.Klaus, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W and Yours Truly.]
(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”.
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”.
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.
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.’”
(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:
Someone needs to write a story titled "The Boneblack and Bony Bones of the Bonesetters' Bony Bonefish Boneyard." https://t.co/1EtX6KQAma
— Fred Coppersmith (@unrealfred) February 24, 2016
(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.]
In the roundup today: Francis Turner, Greg Ketter, Kristel Autencio, Lyle Hopwood, Abigail Nussbaum, Ridley, Cheryl Morgan, Rachel Neumeier, Brandon Kempner, Kevin Standlee, Lis Carey, Spacefaring Kitten, JT Richardson, Laura “Tevan” Gjovaag, Rebekah Golden, Tim Matheson, Damien G. Walter and less identifiable others. (Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Dave Clark and Will Reichard.)
— Spacefaring Kitten (@SpacefaringK) June 25, 2015
“The Future of Tor” – June 25
The posts inspired me to take a look at my book buying habits and it turns out I jumped the shark gun on the boycott thing because it seems I’ve been boycotting Tor for a while now. Not intentionally, but that’s probably more serious for Tor and its owners than a straightforward determination to boycott. You see Tor don’t actually publish books I want to read and, Kevin J Anderson apart, haven’t done so for a few years.
[Greg Ketter of DreamHaven Books is offering Tor hardcover books at 40% off through the end of July to show support for Irene Gallo. For locals, the store address is: DreamHaven Books, 2301 E. 38th St., Minneapolis, MN 55406.]
Alright. Enough’s Enough…
I’ve been following some of the Hugo controversy and the follow on Irene Gallo / TOR dust-up and I’m truly tired of the demands for Irene’s ouster as some mis-guided and some other downright evil people threaten boycotts. It’s completely disgusting and JUST PLAIN WRONG and, well, I can do something about it in terms of sales of Tor books.
From now until the end of July, I will sell all TOR hardcover books at 40% off cover price. If I don’t hav…e it in stock, I’ll order it. You can come in the store or you can order by phone or email. This should make it easier to support Irene and negate any minimal effect the boycotters may have. A letter in support of Irene to the very same people that Vox Day and Peter Grant and others are asking you to send hate mail to would also go a long way.
I’ve been quiet on the whole subject mostly because I just couldn’t be bothered to spend any time on it. I wasn’t worried about adverse effects on my own business since I sincerely doubt the kinds of trollish behavior I’m seeing is from any of my customers. I’m amazed that the biggest complainers would have bought any books from Tor, ever, since they admit their reading tastes are generally contrary to everything that Tor holds dear (this is a totally facetious statement since I have no idea what it could really mean – I’ve been buying Tor books for my store since they first started and from what I can see, they publish books that they can sell. Period.)
So, I’m declaring July to be TOR BOOKS MONTH around here and I wish you all good reading.
Let’s address the giant, unhappy elephant in the room. When I started building this primer early in June, I automatically rounded up some of my favorite short stories published on the Tor website, acquired by keen editors such as Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Ellen Datlow and Anne Vandermeer. I was going to talk about how each story is paired with some of the most arresting artwork in the genre, thanks in large part to the art direction by Irene Gallo. That was before Tor publisher Tom Doherty proceeded to throw Irene Gallo under the bus, succumbing to an extended campaign by so-called Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, whose reason for existence is their opposition to the fact that more people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and women are taking up space in the SFF landscape. Rioter Brenna Clark Gray goes more in-depth with this story.
This is not the recommendation I had wanted to write.
Some who are appalled by these developments are disavowing support for Tor, since it is an institution that would rather appease genre reactionaries than support their own employees who are doing vital work. This is a valid response. But Tor (both the website and the publishing house) is also home to stories that Irene Gallo and other people like her are working hard to champion, the very voices that the Puppy Industrial Complex are saying should not be recognized by the Hugos or the Nebulas. It is your prerogative to not give Tor any of your money or your clicks, but I urge you to take note of these names, all of whom I first encountered through this publication: ….
In an impassioned argument against the proposal for a Hugo for “Sagas”, a professional SF writer writes:
“Do you mean to throw a level playing field under the bus?” I don’t know whether that fantastic image makes me more likely to buy their work or less. I’ve been thinking about the phrase to throw someone under the bus recently, as it was used approximately 16,993 times in the discussions about publisher Tor’s open letter disavowing Irene Gallo’s Facebook comment, which, since it referred to her by name, was widely considered to be throwing her under the bus.
@booksmugglers Wow, caving to him on Irene Gallo really had a calming effect, didn't it?
— Abigail Nussbaum (@NussbaumAbigail) June 25, 2015
For the first time in my life, I’ll be voting on the Hugo Awards this year.
I’ve been reading science fiction for several decades now, but this is the first time I’ve felt strongly enough about the awards to get involved. One vote isn’t much, but I feel like it’s important to do what little bit I can. I’ll share my ballot after I submit it.
“Archipelacon – Day 1” – June 25
Thus far I have done one panel. It was about the Puppies and what to do about them. Hopefully I managed to convey the fact that there’s not much any individual can do because of the determined way in which WSFS refuses to give anyone any power. All that Kevin, or I, or anyone else can do is try to make things better and hope that sufficient people come along with us. No matter what we do, large numbers of people will think we failed, because so many people refuse to believe that there isn’t a secret cabal running everything.
I’m using the assumption that Hugo voters would vote for Best Saga like they vote for Best Novel and other categories. Take Connie Willis: she has 24 Hugo nominations and 11 wins. I figure the first time she’s up for a Best Saga, she’d win. This means that my imagined winners are very much in keeping with Hugo tradition; you may find that unexciting, but I find it hard to believe that Hugo voters would abandon their favorites in a Best Saga category. I went through each year and selected a favorite. Here’s what I came up with as likely/possible winners (likely, not most deserving). I’ve got some explanation below, and it’s certainly easy to flip some of these around or even include other series. Still, this is gives us a rough potential list to see if it’s a worthy a Hugo: ….
[Reviews all nominated fiction, movies, and pro artists. Then continues with comments about Hugo rules changes.]
The best post I’ve seen about the situation with the Hugos this year, incidentally, is this recent one by Rich Horton at Black Gate. I think he is dead right about the desirability of reforming the Hugo Award so that any one person can only nominate so many works per category, and then the categories contain more works than that. I don’t think I would say that anyone can nominate up to five works and then there will be ten nominees, though. Ten is a lot. I think it is too many. My preference would be: you can nominate only four works per category, and there will be six (or, fine, eight if necessary) nominees. That should really help break the power of both bloc voting and over-the-top fan clubs to put one author on the ballot five times in a single year.
I would also be in favor of a more specific reform: No author can have more than two works up for a Hugo in one year, or more than one work per category. If more than that make the cut, the author must choose two total, one per category, and the rest must be eliminated from the ballot. No one – no one – ever has or ever will write one-fifth of all the best stories produced in a given year. It is absolutely ridiculous to allow a ballot that implies that is possible, and worse to deny exposure to other works that might otherwise be nominated….
I have mentioned a few times and in a few places that at this year’s Business Meeting, what I call the “technical” discussion of complex proposals such as E Pluribus Hugo (and possibly Popular Ratification) might best be handled by having the meeting go into what is known as “Committee of the Whole.” A proponent of the proposal would then hold the floor during the COTW and do a Q&A-style discussion. Such discussions are procedurally more difficult to do in the main debate because of the rules regarding who can speak and how often; however, the two proposals I’ve named (and possibly others to come) are sufficiently complex that I expect that many members simply want to ask the sponsors of the motions what the proposals mean…..
“Interstellar, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)” – June 25
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form 2015 Hugo nominee Interstellar is visually magnificent, exciting, thought-provoking, and a bit long. It pains me to say that last bit. I wanted to love every second of it. In the end, I couldn’t, though I did love most of it. Parts of it did just drag, and there’s no way around that.
All Captain America is good for seems to be posturing and telling everybody what’s the moral thing to do (in addition to throwing his shield around which looks sillier in movies than in comic books). I almost rooted for the comically sinister Nazis.
Hugos 2015 Read – Best Graphic Story – June 25
I am, and have long been*, a MASSIVE comics fan. My tastes generally run to superhero comics, though I’ve dipped my toe into the more “serious” waters — Maus, Persepolis, Blankets***, Logicomix****, and the AWESOME Cartoon History of the Universe. But this year’s noms are a pretty nice mix — One Marvel, 3 Image (Hooray for creator-owned!) and one webcomic. DC was too busy planning its semi-annual reboot to generate nominees*****. Best Graphic Story — As a long-time reader of superhero, especially Marvel, comics, I’m definitely biased toward the capes. But this year’s noms only have one (which I have already read, and loved). Here are my thoughts, in reverse alphabetical order: ….
Apart from that, my main criticism of the article regarding its Hugo nomination is the fact that its SFF-relatedness is nothing more than a single reference to one of Eric Flint‘s novels. So, even though this is a good article, I don’t think it should be on the Hugo ballot as a “Best Related Work”, irrespective of whether it was published by SFF publisher Baen or whether it contains a SFF-al reference.
In conclusion, this nominee will not appear on my ballot, it should never have been nominated in this category as I don’t consider it to be a “Related Work”.
The plot is nothing special and unfortunately for me, the reader, it was predictable how things would turn out very early on (the title of the story was a big give-away, but even without that title the plot design would have been obvious).
Still, the story is good enough that I will place it above No Award.
Wisdom from my Internet is a collection of very short jokes (tweets maybe?) on a variety of subjects, mainly US-American politics though. It self-published by the author in an imprint he fittingly named “Patriarchy Press”. I started reading, then skimming then fast-forwarding through it with short stops to see whether it had improved further on (it hadn’t) until I reached the end. That was fast. And easy to judge: not on my ballot will this thing ever be. No Award. Because:
Are you* serious?
*By “you” I mean Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, and whoever gets to decide whether a given nominee is an eligible nominee.
“Hugo Reviewing – Professional Artist” – June 25
[Comments on all five nominees before concluding –]
It’s not hard to figure out that Dillon’s work impressed me the most, by a fairly large margin. I’d then go with DouPonce for my second-place choice. Pollack and Greenwood rank about the same and Reid is last, not because he’s worst, but because his art doesn’t seem to fit for me. I might even mix it up and put Reid above the other two. This is another one I’m going to have to sleep on.
With the exception of Dillon, whose subjects I enjoyed, and Reid, who had a wide variety of subjects, the choice of imagery was fairly standard for the artists. They were cover art for the most part, but they were fairly static. As a comic book reader, I like my art to flow and have some sense of movement… like your mind will fill in the next scene. Pollack, Greenwood and DouPonce had art that felt like it was posed. Dillon’s work was more natural. Reid, of course, is a sequential artist, so he didn’t have that problem.
I’m glad I read Ancillary Sword. It was an interesting book with some very topical thoughts on oppression and distribution of wealth. Anyone who is familiar with the concepts of company towns will find similar motifs in Ancillary Sword. Anyone who read and enjoyed Ancillary Justice will find Ancillary Sword to be a fitting continuation of the story, well written, well thought out, well developed. The compelling questions behind it aren’t as striking as in the first novel which I think is why it falls a little flat comparatively. Still, solidly good military sci-fi in the tradition of Elizabeth Moon and Tanya Huff.
I know there’s a lot of nostalgia over D&D right now but personally I’m tired of fictionalized D&D campaigns no matter how clever or well drawn. Throw in a little Lovecraft, add a college dorm element, top it off with some back story and potential for depth, it’s still D&D nostalgia. And nostalgia must be written let it at least have a twist. No twist. Fun, well drawn, nostalgia.
The Three Body Problem was a late arrival to the Hugo ballot this year, being added after withdrawals due to voting slate politics.
The work of one of China’s most prominent science-fiction writers, Liu Cixin, it is actually nearly ten years old. In 2014, it finally penetrated the cultural myopia of the Anglosphere in translation, and is therefore eligible for a Hugo.
And I’m jolly glad of this, since The Three Body Problem is one of the two stand-out novels on the shortlist, along with the very different The Goblin Emperor. Amid space opera and fantasy (urban and classic flavours) it sticks out like a tall poppy because it is full to the brim of ideas.
Things it's easier to do that write this story. 1.Argue on twitter 2. Care about the Hugo awards 3. Juggle balls of molten magma.
— Damien Walter (@damiengwalter) June 25, 2015
By Martin Morse Wooster: Operacon (Hilton Center City Milwaukee, March 12-15, 2015)
I’ve loved classical music for as long as I have loved science fiction. So when I saw a flyer for Operacon at Capclave, I knew I had to go, and I was very glad I did. This was an excellent small convention and I had a very good time.
Dick and Leah Zeldes Smith organized Operacon so that fans could get together and attend The Snow Dragon, an opera by Somtow Sucharitkul that premiered at the Skylight Theatre in Milwaukee in March. Attendees received a ticket to the opera, a copy of the libretto signed by Somtow and artist Mikey Jiraros, and admission to a very well run consuite run by Alan Rosenthal and Jeanne Bowman.
Even though Operacon was small, we had most of the features of larger conventions. There was a dealer’s room, run by Greg Ketter. Leah Fisher brought a bag full of games, and some of us spent a pleasant evening playing Yahtzee and Clue.
Attendance was about 60, of whom half were from the Chicago or Milwaukee areas and the rest from all parts of the country. There was one international attendee, British journalist Michael Proudfoot, on assignment for opera magazines in Great Britain and Germany. Two Canadians tried to come, but were thwarted by bad plane connections.
Among the attendees was Elizabeth Anne Hull of Palatine, Illinois, Fred Pohl’s widow. I had several long conversations with Hull, and told her how much I enjoyed Pohl’s novel Narabedla Ltd., a 1988 work in which aliens kidnap second-tier opera singers and have them perform to appreciative aliens who love opera but can’t replicate human voices. Hull explained that she and her husband had been subscribers to the Chicago Lyric Opera for many years, and she still is an avid opera and theatregoer to events in the Chicago area.
When you have a group of fans intensely interested in classical music, the talk turns to musical ideas. Among them: what’s your local classical music station like? What’s your local opera like? And how cool is it to hear Renee Fleming? (Very cool indeed.)
We even got into some highly specialized topics. I had a good discussion about Regietheater, where egomaniac European directors think any operas can be improved with the addition of gorillas and nudity. I even had a discussion with a fellow oldphart about the great Milton Cross, the Vin Scully of opera broadcasters, who was the host of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts until his death in 1975.
Somtow Sucharitkul arrived with an entourage of five, including a personal assistant and his mother, Thaitow. Somtow has not been to a science fiction convention since L.A.Con III in 1996, because he isn’t a science-fiction writer any more. He is a composer, conductor, and creator and manager of the Siam Philharmonic and Bangkok Opera. Somtow has written five symphonies and nine operas; his most important operas include Mae Naak (2003) the first grand opera based on Thai themes, and the Japanese-inspired Dan No Ura (2012). When Somtow began composing, his work was brutal and atonal. But after a spiritual crisis in 2001 (which led to his becoming a Buddhist monk for an extended period), he decided to become a “neo-Asian, neo-romantic” composer.
One afternoon, Somtow told stories about his life in Thailand. He prides himself on introducing Gustav Mahler’s symphonies to the Thais. (The performances are on YouTube.) His efforts led him to receive a treasured relic from the International Mahler Society — the baton Leonard Bernstein had used the last time he had conducted Mahler. The baton, Somtow noted, had yellowed, because of Bernstein’s decades of chain smoking.
Somtow also told about the time he tried to bring an elephant for a performance of Aida. He didn’t know that elephants in Bangkok had to be licensed, and was surprised when the pachyderm police showed up and arrested the elephant, taking him to the elephant impoundment lot or wherever it is that unlicensed elephants in Bangkok go. The resulting performance of Aida was elephant-free.
Fandom assembled for the March 13 premiere by going to the Milwaukee Ale House for a good old Wisconsin Friday fish fry. Then we went to the Skylight Theatre.
We were encouraged to dress up for the event, and about half of us did. Amy Axton, for example, showed up in full steampunk regalia, including goggles, a blaster, and various pieces of watches used for decoration. But the clear winner in the costume contest was Greg Rihn, whose outfit replicated a famous one worn by Giuseppe Verdi, including top hat, tails, a cane, a long flowing white scarf, and a white waistcoat underneath his tux. It was a magnificent effort, and Rihn seemed a time traveler from the sunny part of the past where it is always 1895.
The Skylight Theatre is a very pretty place that seats about 500. It has three tiers and curved light-brown walls. The theatre was meant to be a pastiche first of the nearby Pabst Theatre, second of nineteenth-century opera houses generally. The architects did a very fine job.
The fans were introduced to the crowd. The management also knew what fans liked, and we all enjoyed the little bags of chocolates given us as a present.
The opera is based on Somtow’s short story “The Fallen Country,” which he later expanded to a YA novel. Billy Binder is the victim of an abusive stepfather, who at one point beats him so badly he goes to the hospital. Dora Marx, a social worker who quickly recognizes that Binder is a victim of child abuse, treats him. To mentally escape his plight, Binder, with the Snow Dragon as his guide, uses his anger to travel to The Fallen Country, ruled by the Ringmaster, an avatar of his stepfather who uses a whip instead of a belt. The Fallen Country is a land of perpetual emotional and physical cold. Can Binder beat the Ringmaster—and use his victory in an imaginary world to fight back against his stepfather in our world?
The cast was all good, but 12-year-old Luke Brotherhood as Billy Binder was excellent. The Snow Dragon was played by Cassandra Black, a Wagnerian soprano in good voice. Her costume was a silver lame dress, complete with a bustle, silver boots, and a helmet with spikes and bells. The women I talked to admired Black’s dress and said that costumers would faunch after it.
As for the music, I asked Michael Proudfoot, the British music critic. He detected traces of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Der Rosenkavalier, and thought the trio that concludes The Snow Dragon was very Straussian. But he also saw a lot of Benjamin Britten in Somtow’s work, particularly The Turn of the Screw. Somtow wrote in the program notes that many of Dora Marx’s arias were atonal, symbolic of Marx’s Freudian beliefs.
After the opera, there was a post-concert reception, and I saw Thaitow Sucharitkul sitting quietly at a table. “You must be very proud of your son,” I said.
Mrs. Sucharitkul smiled. “I am,” she said.
The following day there was a discussion of the opera with Somtow and Skylight Artistic Director Viswa Subbarman. I missed the discussion, because I was in Milwaukee, and I had to drink beer.
That evening Dick and Leah Zeldes Smith held a special reception honoring their 30th wedding anniversary. They had Kiddush cake, a Jewish delicacy, and a special cake congratulating the Smiths on their anniversary. Of course the cake had a snow dragon on top.
Somtow showed up briefly, as he had given talks at a performance that night and had to prepare for a matinee the next day. But he decided to bring his personal copy of The Laughing Dead, a 1989 gorefest that Somtow wrote, directed, provided the music for, and acted as Dr. Um-Tzec, a villain who cackles, ”I want to bring a new age — of death!”
Somtow suggested we look at the reviews on Amazon, and the critics there had such comments as “very clumsy and slow,” “this movie is so, so bad” and “Amazon really needs to add minus numbers to the ratings.” These critical comments are quite accurate. The film is best known for the large number of pros in the cast, with Tim Sullivan in the lead, with substantial supporting roles for Gregory Frost as a tourist and Ed Bryant as a bus driver. Those of us who think of Ray Ridenour as a debonair Baltimore fan will be surprised to see him here wearing a tacky yellow leisure suit. A lot of other pros showed up to play corpses and zombies, including Tim Powers and Forrest J Ackerman, who can be glimpsed for two seconds near the film’s conclusion.
How could one man write The Snow Dragon and The Laughing Dead? I’ve known Somtow for 35 years and I don’t know the answer to this question. The paradox of Somtow Sucharitkul is that a man who can write arias fit for the gods once had feet of cheese.
The Snow Dragon is an important artistic achievement and Operacon was one of the most pleasant weekends I have ever had in fandom.
Legendary Minneapolis sf store DreamHaven Books, which has been operating on a limited schedule since 2012, will be open five days a week starting in April.
The change has been made possible by a new partnership between owner Greg Ketter and Alice Bentley, who is moving to Minneapolis to oversee and revitalize the store.
The duo have partnered before. They co-founded Chicago’s bookstore The Stars Our Destination in 1988. Bentley became sole owner in 1994 and carried on business until 2004 when she closed the Chicago store and moved to Seattle.
With Bentley arriving in early April, DreamHaven will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from Noon until 6:30 p.m.
“We’re both very excited to be working together again” says Ketter. “We’ve been friends forever and have always made a great team. There will be some visible changes throughout the store, as we fight about what’s right and what’s wrong with the current store, as well as less visible things.”
Bentley adds “I look forward to using my love of working retail and my delight with spreadsheets as ways to return to immersing myself in the world of speculative fiction. Expect many lists to emerge.”
DreamHaven Books is located at 2301 E. 38th St., Minneapolis, MN 55406
The full press release follows the jump.