2019 Hugo Awards

The winners of the 2019 Hugo Awards were presented August 18 at a ceremony in Dublin, Ireland.

Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte reported there were 3,097 total votes cast (3,089 online, 8 paper ballots). The voting statistics are online here [PDF file].

Best Novel

  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

Best Novella

  • Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette

  • “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)

Best Short Story

  • “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)

Best Series

  • Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work

  • Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works

Best Graphic Story

  • Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC) 

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

  • Gardner Dozois

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Charles Vess 

Best Semiprozine

  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien

Best Fanzine

  • Lady Business, editors Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay & Susan

Best Fancast

  • Our Opinions Are Correct, hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders

Best Fan Writer

  • Foz Meadows

Best Fan Artist

  • Likhain (Mia Sereno)

Best Art Book

  • The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press /Gollancz)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Jeannette Ng (2nd year of eligibility)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

  • Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)

Closing note: There was a distracting mistake placed onscreen by the closed captioning service early in the ceremonies. Chair James Bacon immediately apologized for it on the convention’s Facebook page:

I would like to apologise for the problems with the closed captioning. I am dreadfully sorry for my decisions that led to us using a system that failed. I would lI would like to apologise for the problems with the closed captioning during the Hugo Awards ceremony. I am dreadfully sorry for my decisions that led to us using a system that failed.  I would like to apologise to anybody who we have upset by this and we totally understand that our members and community will be disappointed in this failure for which I accept total responsibility. I am very sorry and am ready to apologise personally to those who were hurt.

Sometimes we put too much trust in new technology and that was my failing tonight. Artificial intelligence still has a way to go in coping with human expression in all its variety. The poor transcription was stopped, but not before it undercut a number of very important speeches. Stopping it also deprived some of our audience of access to the later speeches. We are working on producing the corrected archival version of the ceremony which will be available online.

My sincerest apologies,
James Bacon

Pixel Scroll 8/16/19 Scrolls From Topographic Pixels

(1) CSF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS. David L. Ulin goes “Inside the archives — and mind — of sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick” for the LA Times. CSF’s sff collection originated with the work of Professor Willis McNelly.

…“The Man in the High Castle,” perhaps his most accomplished novel, is one of many works at Cal State Fullerton. The collection includes a “production manuscript” (a typescript with notes on fonts and chapter headings), as well as two sets of uncorrected galley proofs in long, loose sheets. “He was thirty-eight years old,” Dick writes of a character early on, “and he could remember the prewar days, the other times. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the World’s Fair; the former better world.”

To read those lines is like coming upon a precognition, a message to the present from the past. One of the clichés of science fiction is that it’s predictive, and yet, isn’t that the point of an archive such as this?

“We’re always collecting in the present for the future,” says Patricia Prestinary, Cal State Fullerton’s special collections librarian and archivist. “We look for connections. Philip K. Dick was a California writer, and late in his life, an Orange County writer. We’re preserving history in the making here.”

… In an essay written during the early 1990s, McNelly remembers receiving the manuscript of “Fahrenheit 451” from Ray Bradbury, as well as the Frank Herbert papers, which remain among the library’s most significant holdings.

(2) DUBLIN 2019 BUSINESS MEETING. “Dublin 2019 — WSFS Business Meeting Day 1” has a synopsis of the day’s machinations.

(3) AS IT HAPPENS. The Hugo Awards site has a post showing where to find August 18’s live text-based coverage of the 2019 Hugo Awards.

(4) THE NAME OF THE GAME. Did you wonder? “Why Are They Called the Hugo Awards?” At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Andrew Liptak explains it all to you:

The Hugo is the oldest and, by some measures, most prestigious award in the genre, and more often than not, the book that walks away with Best Novel honors will go on to withstand the test of time. (This year’s slate is certainly a promising one in that regard.)

(5) AO3. NPR’s All Things Considered ran a 4+-minute story: “‘Archive Of Our Own’ Fanfiction Website Is Up For A Hugo Award”.

The fanfiction website Archive of Our Own — where people post stories about their favorite movies, books and TV shows — is up for a Hugo Award, one of the highest awards in sci-fi and fantasy.

(6) IRISH FANDOM BACK IN THE DAY. David Langford has posted Hyphen 37 edited by Walt Willis as a free download at his Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund website (but feel free to contribute to TAFF while you’re there!)

The 1987 revival issue of the long-dormant classic fanzine Hyphen. With new and reprinted material by John Berry, Chuck Harris, Eric Mayer, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Bob Shaw (twice), Bill Temple, Arthur Thomson, James White (with the famous “The Exorcists of IF”) and Walt Willis himself, plus further fannish luminaries including Robert Bloch, Chris Priest and Bob Tucker in a catch-up letter column whose contents date back to the 1960s.

Hyphen 37 is also available as a web page at eFanzines.com and page scans at Fanac.org.

(7) MY LITTLE FANDOM. 11,000 people come to bid farewell to the BronyCon series: “The Friends We Made Along The Way: After 9 Years, BronyCon Calls It Quits” at NPR.

On a sweltering Saturday in Baltimore, 11,000 bronies have claimed downtown. These are the fans of the TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, their name a mashup of “bro” and “pony” because many of the show’s earliest — and unanticipated — adherents were young men.

For nine years they’ve evangelized the show, and for nine years they’ve been targets of scorn. But they’ve come here for BronyCon — the biggest My Little Pony convention in the world — heedless of what that world may think of them.

That’s what brought me here, too. I’ve dodged the brony label for years, but I can’t deny my love for the show. It’s helped me out in dark times, and I wasn’t about to pass up my last chance to join fans at BronyCon. Friendship may be magic, but the magic is fading; the show has entered its ninth and final season, and after several years of dwindling attendance, the convention’s organizers decided it was time for a last hurrah.

The promise of a final party drew record crowds much as it attracted me. “Honestly, I’m shocked that we got to this point. We were not expecting to have such a banner year,” says current convention chair Shir Goldberg. “We were expecting the fandom to be excited and maybe we would double our attendance from last year, clocking at the seven- or eight-thousand range, but we did not expect 11,000 people to show up.”

(8) REASONS TO READ. James Davis Nicoll supplies “A Brief Introduction to Sarah Tolmie’s Speculative Fiction” at Tor.com.

I was a bit surprised when in a comment someone mentioned not having heard of Sarah Tolmie. In the spirit of XKCD’s Ten Thousand, let me explain at least a little about who Sarah Tolmie is, and why you should be reading her fiction.

An Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo, Tolmie won a 2019 Rhysling Award for “Ursula Le Guin in the Underworld”; the poem was also nominated for an Aurora. Her The Art of Dying was shortlisted for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Award. Unfortunately, poetry isn’t my thing, so let’s move on to prose…

(9) FONDA OBIT. Peter Fonda (1940-2019), US actor/producer/director, died August 16, aged 79. Genre appearances include Spirits of the Dead (1968), Future World (1976), Spasms (1983), Escape from L.A. (1996), Supernova (2005), Ghost Rider (2007), The Gathering (both episodes, 2007), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (2008).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories in 1926. Also helped create fandom through the Science Fiction League. Writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 16, 1901 Earle K. Bergey. Illustrator whose work graced Strange StoriesThrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, Captain Future, and  Fantastic Story Magazine. It is said that his art inspired the look of illustrations of scantily-clad women served as an inspiration for Princess Leia’s slave-girl outfit in Return of the Jedi. And it is Madonna was inspired by his brass bras for stage outfit of the same look. (Died 1952.)

Startling Stories, Fall 1945 

  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in Outer Limits’ “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties? Well he was King Vog in one episode. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 86. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eleen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!, Twilight Zone, Fantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, Bewitched and Monster Squad
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his stories in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 16, 1946 Lesley Ann Warren, 73. Miss Scarlett, a stock femme fatal, in Clue. She’s Dana Lambert in the fifth season of Mission Impossible. And she’s got one-offs on Twilight Zone, The Muppet Show, DaredevilFaerie Tale Theatre and Community.
  • Born August 16, 1952 Edie Stern, 67. Fancyclopedia 3 says about her that she is  “a well-known SF club, con, filker, collector and fanzine fan.” Well it actually goes on at impressive length about her. So I’m going to just link to their bio for her: Edie Stern.
  • Born August 16, 1954 James Cameron, 65. Let’s see… TerminatorAliensTerminator 2True LiesStrange Days… And The Abyss as well. Did you know he was interested in doing a Spider-man film? It never happened but the Dark Angel series with Jessica Alba did. And then there’s his Avatar  franchise… 
  • Born August 16, 1958 Angela Bassett, 61. Queen Ramonda in Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame. On the DC side of things, she played Amanda Waller in the dreadful Green Lantern film. 
  • Born August 16, 1971 Alan Tudyk, 48. Hoban “Wash” Washburne  in the Firefly universe whose death I’m still pissed about. Wat in A Knight’s Tale. (Chortle. Is it genre? Who cares, it’s a great film.)  He’s K-2SO in Rogue One and yes, he does both the voice and motion capture. Impressive. He also had a recurring role on Dollhose as Alpha, and he’s currently voicing a number of characters in the Young Justice series streaming on DC Universe.

(11) LIBRARY EBOOKS. At Publishers Weekly, Joseph Janes ponders, “Do Publishers Suddenly Hate Libraries?”

… In the wake of Toni Morrison’s passing, her story about why she was fired from a library job as a teenager has been making the rounds. To summarize: instead of reshelving all the returned books, she read them. “That experience opened my eyes and shaped my future,” Morrison said. “That’s what libraries do.”

Yes. That’s what libraries do. So why is it now seen as a good strategy for publishers to choke off digital access to reading in libraries? Especially at a moment when so many diverse, fresh new voices are emerging in popular literature, and when so many other digital (often free) mediums are competing for the attention of readers and would-be authors, à la the teenage Toni Morrison?

Part of the problem, of course, is that the library e-book market is still fairly new. It’s been just over eight years since HarperCollins announced its 26-loan limit on library e-books, a halting attempt at thinking through the library e-book market that initially raised hackles among many librarians before cooler heads largely prevailed. And it took until the end of 2014 for the other major publishers, using a variety of models, to jump into the library e-book market. But whatever market equilibrium libraries and publishers had reached a few years ago now looks more like a fragile armistice than peace. And whatever it was, it appears to be ending, leaving us all to wonder, What happens now? How do we move forward?

(12) LET JUSTICE BE DONE. Ohio Needs A Train registers some last-minute opinions about who The Rightful Winners of “The 2019 Hugo Awards” should be. And the Campbell Award, too –

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Everyone here has done pretty good work and, it seems, is destined to do even more. Jeannette Ng is perhaps the least to my taste 2 of these folks, but she’s still not undeserving. Katherine Arden certainly earns full marks for showing up fully-formed and remarkably prolific. While I haven’t read all of the Winternight books, I liked The Bear and the Nightingale just fine. She also writes young people books, which I have not read but am told are excellent. R.F. Kuang is previously covered in this space 3, and I maintain the opinion that The Poppy War is a tremendous display of talent that I absolutely did not like, although I do look forward to what she writes in the future, given that she’s as good as she is already. Rivers Solomon wrote An Unkindness of Ghosts which is a terrific generation ship novel, and I’m super-excited about what happens next from her. It must be noted, however, that I thought Vina Jie-Min Prasad was the rightful choice last year, and her work this year has only gotten better, so I still think it should be Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Vina Jie-Min Prasad

(13) RETRO FIRE. Cora Buhlert delivers a trenchant appraisal of the winners in “Some Comments about the 1944 Retro Hugo Awards Winners” – though this paragraph seems a bit paradoxical:

…“R is for Rocket” by Ray Bradbury takes home a highly deserved Retro Hugo, because it is a great story that still holds up in spite of dated tech, though I’m a bit sad that “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” by Robert Bloch, which is not just a great story, but also the start of the modern fascination of serial killers in general and Jack the Ripper in particular, only finished in fourth place behind two lesser works by big names. I also wonder why “Death Sentence” by Isaac Asimov finished in second place, because – and I’m saying this as an Asimov fan – it is a weak story, which hasn’t even been reprinted in ages. Did anybody except for me actually read the Retro Hugo finalists or do they just vote by name recognition?

(14) FIRST DRAFT. “Leonardo da Vinci’s abandoned and hidden artwork reveals its secrets” (with overlays showing the original design).

New research into one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous works has revealed fresh information about an abandoned composition hidden under the painting.

Experts have found initial designs for the angel and infant Christ beneath the surface of the Virgin of the Rocks.

The designs are significantly different to how they look in the final painting, which hangs in the National Gallery.

The hidden designs were revealed using macro X-ray fluorescence maps and infrared and hyperspectral imaging.

(15) SUBTEXT. Can you imagine? (Of course you can.) Let BBC tell you about “The subversive messages hidden in The Wizard of Oz”.

It’s easy to mistake the 1939 classic as traditional family entertainment – but 80 years on from its release, the musical is more radical and surreal than ever.

In December 1937, Walt Disney Productions released its first feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It went on to be cinema’s biggest hit of 1938, a success that not only encouraged Disney to make other fairy-tale cartoons for decades to come, but also encouraged another studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, to try its own fantasy musical about an orphaned girl and a wicked witch: The Wizard of Oz.

But for all of its similarities to the Disney film, MGM’s version was more of an anti-fairy tale than a fairy tale. Just look at the trio of frightened and feeble misfits that accompanies its heroine along the yellow brick road. None of them is what you’d call a handsome prince. In the clanking of the Tin Man’s rusty limbs, you can hear echoes of Don Quixote’s home-made armour. In the trio’s moaning and blubbing as they prepare to sneak into the witch’s castle, you can see a foreshadowing of Westley, Inigo and Fezzik invading Humperdinck’s castle in The Princess Bride. The pig-tailed Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) is so wholesome, the Harburg and Arlen songs are so delightful, and the Technicolor adventures are so exciting that it’s still easy to mistake The Wizard of Oz for traditional family entertainment, 80 years on from its release in August 1939. But it upends the conventions of good-v-evil storytelling in ways that would have had Walt Disney fuming….

In the sepia opening scenes, we are warned that the magic we’re about to see might not be wholly magical. Having run away from her home in Kansas to stop her pet dog Toto being put down, Dorothy meets a travelling clairvoyant named Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan) – a character who isn’t in L Frank Baum’s source novel, but was created by screenwriters Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf. As kindly as he is, the professor is a con artist who pretends to be psychic by peeking at a photo Dorothy is carrying. Another film might have contrasted this earthbound huckster with the genuine marvels performed by the wonderful Wizard of Oz, but in this one the wizard is played by the same actor as Professor Marvel, and he turns out to be much the same character: a fast-talking fairground showman who hides behind a curtain, waggling levers, and using mechanical trickery to keep his subjects loyal and afraid.

(16) RISING TIDE. Naragansett Beer is the creepiest!

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.” -HP Lovecraft

After years of sleeping beneath the surface, Lovecraft Honey Ale has risen from the depths of R’lyeh to bring chaos and madness to Rhode Island – just in time for NecronomiCon Providence.

 [Thanks to Lis Riba, Steve Green, Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Dublin 2019 Unveils Hugo Award Bases

1944 Retro Hugo Award and 2019 Hugo Award bases.

The 1944 Retro-Hugo Award base (left) and 2019 Hugo Award base (right) are on display at Dublin 2019. Thanks to Rich Lynch for the photo.

The 1944 Retro Hugo base was designed by Eleanor Wheeler. She is an architectural and sculptural ceramicist who has created large scale art for public spaces including at the Market Square in Armagh and the Gasworks, the Mater Hospital and Drumglass Park in Belfast.  She lives in County Down and has had numerous solo exhibitions, drawing on her travels locally as well as throughout Asia, Africa and Europe for inspiration.

The 2019 Hugo base was designed by Jim Fitzpatrick. Based in Dublin, he is famous for his Celtic art, in particular for his publications The Book of Conquests, The Silver Arm, The Children of Lir (with Michael Scott) and Erinsaga; and also for his album covers for Thin Lizzy and Sinéad O’Connor. Perhaps his best known work is his iconic 1968 portrait of Che Guevara.

Pixel Scroll 8/12/19 Far From The Files We Know, Where The Pixels Flow

Editor’s Note: My mother’s pacemaker update went very smoothly. Her tech is good for years to come. Thanks for all the good wishes – which I relayed to her and she was pleased. And voilà, there’s a Scroll today after all.

(1) VERBAL KNIT. The official site says there will be text-based coverage of the Hugos and Retro Hugos: “Live Coverage of Hugo Award Ceremonies”. Details to come.

As usual we will be providing live, text-based coverage of this year’s Hugo Award Ceremony, which takes place at 8:00pm on Sunday evening, Dublin time.

This year we also plan to bring you live, text-based coverage of the Retro-Hugo Award Ceremony, which will take place as part of the Worldcon Opening Ceremonies at 8:00pm on Thursday evening, Dublin time.

(2) ST:TOS DID IT RIGHT. Next Big Future declares “Old Star Trek Was Right As US Navy Returns to Manual Switches”. So says the headline they’ve unrolled above a story ganked from the USNI News (“Navy Reverting DDGs Back to Physical Throttles, After Fleet Rejects Touchscreen Controls”).

The Navy will begin reverting destroyers back to a physical throttle and traditional helm control system in the next 18 to 24 months, after the fleet overwhelmingly said they prefer mechanical controls to touchscreen systems in the aftermath of the fatal USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) collision.

The investigation into the collision showed that a touchscreen system that was complex and that sailors had been poorly trained to use contributed to a loss of control of the ship just before it crossed paths with a merchant ship in the Singapore Strait. After the Navy released a Comprehensive Review related to the McCain and the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) collisions, Naval Sea Systems Command conducted fleet surveys regarding some of the engineering recommendations, Program Executive Officer for Ships Rear Adm. Bill Galinis said.

In the same vein, Elissa tells why she prefers sci-fi shows with physical ship controls. Thread starts here.

(3) FLAME ON. Alan Weisman takes two books with dire warnings about climate change as his texts for “Burning Down The House” in New York Review of Books.

David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth expands on his 2017 article of the same name in New York, where he’s deputy editor. It quickly became that magazine’s most viewed article ever. Some accused Wallace-Wells of sensationalism for focusing on the most extreme possibilities of what may come if we keep spewing carbon compounds skyward (as suggested by his title and his ominous opening line, the answer “is, I promise, worse than you think”). Whatever the article’s lurid appeal, I felt at the time of its publication that its detractors were mainly evading the message by maligning the messenger.

Two years later, those critics have largely been subdued by infernos that have laid waste to huge swaths of California; successive, monstrous hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria—that devastated Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico in 2017; serial cyclone bombs exploding in America’s heartland; so-called thousand-year floods that recur every two years; polar ice shelves fracturing; and refugees pouring from desiccated East and North Africa and the Middle East, where temperatures have approached 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and from Central America, where alternating periods of drought and floods have now largely replaced normal rainfall.

The Uninhabitable Earth, which has become a best seller, taps into the underlying emotion of the day: fear. This book is meant to scare the hell out of us, because the alarm sounded by NASA’s Jim Hansen in his electrifying 1988 congressional testimony on how we’ve trashed the atmosphere still hasn’t sufficiently registered.

(4) FOLLOWING IN HIS FOOTPRINTS. Doug Ellis told Facebook readers that his company, Adventure Pulp LLC, has acquired the rights to the works of A. Merritt.

I’m already chatting with some folks regarding a few possible projects, and I hope to have some exciting Merritt publishing news soon!

Along with the rights, I acquired the remaining papers and art owned by the Merritt estate. Argosy reprinted Merritt’s classic “Seven Footprints to Satan” in five installments in 1939, starting with the June 24, 1939 issue. Merritt insisted that they use Virgil Finlay (with whom Merritt was working at American Weekly) to provide the illustrations for the story. This was Finlay’s entry into the Munsey pulps, and besides further work for Argosy, he would shortly be turning out great work for the Munsey pulps Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels. All five Finlay originals for this story were among the art I acquired.

(5) BIRD BRAINS. NPR’s Ilana Masad says “Humans Are Gone In ‘Hollow Kingdom,’ So It’s Up To The Crows”.

Plague, virus, and zombie apocalypse narratives tend to share a few common threads: Often, humanity brings such terrors upon itself; usually, survivors or those with immunity come together in ragtag groups and attempt to find a cure and/or fight their way through to where the other healthy people are; and, almost always, humanity survives — perhaps in drastically reduced numbers, sans modern technology — and must learn to rebuild itself anew. The central metaphor in these narratives tends to be that humanity is really quite an awful, violent species that wars with itself constantly, and that our boundless curiosity and hubris — whether that involves scientific research gone awry or meddling with forces beyond our ken — ultimately lead to our own near-complete destruction.

This metaphor is definitely present in Kira Jane Buxton’s debut novel, Hollow Kingdom, but luckily for anyone drawn to its gorgeous cover (it’s an eye-catcher, a bright, near-neon green with a black and purple crow staring intensely from behind the white font), Buxton takes a joyfully original approach to apocalyptic fiction. See, instead of us humans being the focal point in the story of our own extinction, it’s the plethora of life that we leave behind that takes center stage.

The novel is largely narrated by a domesticated crow named S.T. — short for something unprintable — who has spent his life with a beer-drinking, junk-food-eating, sports-loving, breast-obsessed man named Big Jim, who raised S.T. from a hatchling. A dopey, lazy dog named Dennis rounds out their little Seattle-based family. When Big Jim’s eye unexpectedly falls out of his head, S.T. knows something is very wrong, but it takes him a good long while before he gives up on his beloved MoFo — S.T.’s term for humans, learned at Big Jim’s bosom — and leaves home, accompanied by Dennis.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. While Scott Edelman’s flying to Dublin he invites you to listen to the new episode of Eating the Fantastic, and “Bite into a burger with P. Djeli Clark”.

P. Djèlí Clark won both the Nebula Award and the Locus Award for Best Short Story earlier this year for “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” — and is currently up for a Hugo Award not just for that, but for his novella “The Black God’s Drums” as well. His fiction has appeared online at Tor.com, Lightspeed, Fireside Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and elsewhere, and in print anthologies such as Hidden Youth and Clockwork Cairo. He is founding member of FIYAH Literary Magazine.

We got together for dinner Friday of [Readercon] at Quincy’s Fat Cat Restaurant, which specializes in comfort food like nachos, wings, mac and cheese, and ribs, though they also serve higher end items like duck and ribeye steaks. But our tastes were not quite so upscale that night, so we stuck to chicken quesadillas and burgers.

We discussed his upcoming first novel (the sale of which was announced only days before we spoke), the background which gave birth to his award-winning story “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” the reason The Black God’s Drums switched point-of-view character during his writing of it, what he learned about New Orleans due to an unfortunate encounter with the local police department, ….and much, much more.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 12, 1894 Dick Calkins. He’s best remembered for being the first artist to draw the Buck Rogers comic strip. He also wrote scripts for the Buck Rogers radio program. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Complete Newspaper Dailies in three volumes on Hermes Press collects these strips. (Died 1962.)
  • Born August 12, 1903 J O Bailey. ESF says that “his Pilgrims through Space and Time: Trends and Patterns in Scientific and Utopian Fiction (1947) was the first academic study of sf, which it analyses primarily on a thematic basis, and without ever using the term ‘science fiction’, referring instead to ‘scientific fiction’ and the Scientific Romance.” (Died 1979.)
  • Born August 12, 1910 Jane Wyatt. Spock’s mother of course. She also was In Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon. (Died 2006.)
  • Born August 12, 1921 Matt Jefferies. He’s best known for his work on the original Trek where he designed much of the sets and props  including the Starship Enterprise, the Klingon logo, and the bridge and sick bay. The Jefferies tubes are named after him. (Died 2003.)
  • Born August 12, 1931 William Goldman. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted for the film. Wrote The Stepford Wives script and King’s Hearts in Atlantis and Misery as well. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 12, 1947 John Nathan-Turner. He produced the series from 1980 until it was cancelled in 1989. He finished having become the longest-serving Doctor Who producer and cast Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 12, 1954 Sam J. Jones,  65. Flash Gordon in the 1980 version of that story. Very, very campy. A few years later, he played the lead role in a TV adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit.
  • Born August 12, 1992 Cara Delevingne, 27. She shows up in the Suicide Squad as June Moone aka The Enchantress, and in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as Laureline. I adore The Fifth Element, should I see this film? 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Two SJW Credential comics today.

(9) POINT AND CLICK. A Polaroid camera revival, thanks to Stranger Things — “The OneStep 2 Starter Set – Stranger Things Edition”.

Polaroid Originals is also releasing collectable special edition film, perfect for super fans to capture their stranger moments. As a further ode to the Stranger Things universe, each pack of 8 will include 16 graphic design prints, which will transport you back to the summer of 1985 in Hawkins, discovering Scoops Ahoy at the town’s new Starcourt Mall and back to the flashing lights of Joyce Byer’s living room.

Stranger Things is renowned for re-imagining the early 80s, and is infused with popular culture from the period, from walkie-talkies and Fabergé Organic big hair to Dungeons and Dragons. Retro Polaroid cameras pop up throughout the series, capturing moments from the Hawkins middle school’s Snow Ball to the gang’s iconic Ghostbuster Halloween costumes. After all what would the 80s be without a Polaroid snap?

(10) DIGITAL CHARACTERS, GENUINE PATHOS. “Digital Fur, Digital Folks: Reality Is Starting to Feel Overrated” according to the New York Times.

If the historians of the future try to pinpoint the exact moment when the term “digital fur” became ubiquitous in our culture, they might eventually identify the evening of July 18, when the “Cats” trailer premiered online just as the first public screenings of Disney’s “The Lion King” remake were unspooling across the country.

Here were two state-of-the-art endeavors, using computer-generated fur — by all accounts an enormously difficult and time-consuming special effects undertaking — toward extremely different ends.

(11) EARHART’S PLANE? Dr. Robert Ballard is on his way to the site – he hopes. The New York Times has the story: “Finding Amelia Earhart’s Plane Seemed Impossible. Then Came a Startling Clue.”

…Dr. Ballard has always wanted to find the remains of the plane Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared in 1937. But he feared the hunt would be yet another in a long line of futile searches.

“You have it in a holding pattern in your head,” said Dr. Ballard, founder of the Ocean Exploration Trust. “You’re still saying, ‘No, no, it’s too big a search area.’”

Then, a few years ago, another group of explorers found clues so compelling that Dr. Ballard changed his mind. Now, not only is he certain he knows where the plane is, he has set course for a remote atoll in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati to recover it.

If his expedition succeeds, he’ll not only solve one of the enduring mysteries of the 20th century. The 77-year-old explorer will also be transferring his legacy of discovery to a new generation of oceanic detectives.

Until recently, Dr. Ballard accepted the Navy’s version of Earhart’s fate: On July 2, 1937, near the end of their round-the-world flight, the aviator and her navigator, Fred Noonan, vanished over the Pacific. After a lengthy and costly search, the Navy concluded on July 18, 1937, that the two died shortly after crashing into the ocean.

But in 2012, an old friend presented Dr. Ballard with a startling alternative….

(12) HERE WE GO AGAIN. NPR explains how “With Congressional Blessing, Space Force Is Closer To Launch”.

It started as a joke.

Early last year, President Trump riffed on an idea he called “Space Force” before a crowd of Marines in San Diego.

It drew laughs, but the moment was a breakthrough for a plan that had languished for nearly 20 years.

“I said maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the Space Force,” Trump said at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in March 2018. “And I was not really serious. Then I said, ‘What a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.'”

But now, under a new name and with Congress’ support, Space Force is closer to becoming a new military reality. It would be the first new military service in more than 70 years.

In January 2001, a special commission chaired by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said space needed to become a top national security priority. But the 9/11 terrorist attacks derailed those plans.

Since that time, military leaders, lawmakers and experts have warned that new resources were needed in space to get ahead of a potential, hostile nation setting out to destroy a U.S. satellite. Such a move could threaten our everyday lives, from our cell phones to the electric grid to the military’s ability to launch nuclear weapons.

As a result, proponents argue that the U.S. has fallen behind and needs to upgrade an existing Air Force office focused on space to become an official service.

(13) “BIRDS DO IT…” BBC reports “Berlin gay penguins adopt abandoned egg”.

Two male penguins at Berlin Zoo have been caring for an abandoned egg since July in their long quest to become parents.

The same-sex couple, Skipper and Ping, are keen to have a chick of their own, and have even been known to “try to hatch fish and stones”, spokesman Maximilian Jäger told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

He said the two king penguins adopted the egg, which had been abandoned by the sole female of the species at the zoo, and are “behaving like model parents, taking turns to keep the egg warm” by nestling it on their feet under a flap of belly skin.

The are now doing their best to protect their precious charge from jealous rivals, after a little encouragement from their human guardians.

(14) CONIC SECTION. Got to love the new art for next year’s Gallifrey One convention. Baskin-Robbins meets the TARDIS!

(15) GEICO’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE. A time portal-themed commercial for GEICO insurance.

For her science fair project, Sophie creates a wormhole which release figures from the past like Abraham Lincoln.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/19 By The Time I Get To Pixel, She’ll Be Scrolling

(1) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. Christopher J. Garcia and Chuck Serface are co-editing an issue of The Drink Tank dedicated to science-fiction comics of the 1950s and 1960s! Any critical articles, fanfic, personal remembrances, artwork, and any media we can publish in a fanzine are welcome.

Chuck Serface says, “Consideration of materials from any comic publisher of the time is fair game: Atlas/Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Charlton, Warren, EC, ones I’m forgetting at the moment — all of them.”

The deadline’s October 14, 2019. They’ll have it out by the end of the calendar year. Send submissions to ceserface@gmail.com.  

(2) COLSON WHITEHEAD Q&A. His new book is not sff, but some of his answers are about genre in “Powell’s Interview: Colson Whitehead, Author of ‘The Nickel Boys’”.

Rhianna: You’ve mentioned in other interviews being an avid reader of horror, and your novel Zone One is a zombie horror story. You’re very skilled at depicting violence. I was wondering if the horror genre has stylistically influenced the way that you depict historical atrocities, like those in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys.

Whitehead: Again, I think the story determines how you tell it. The violence in Zone One is gorier. It’s more flamboyant than some of the stuff in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys. In those two books, I think the horrific brutality that they experience speaks for itself. They don’t have to be dramatized.

This kind of language, I borrowed from reading the slave narratives. You don’t have to dramatize or sell to the listener or the reader how terrible everything is that is happening because it speaks for itself. If the violence is speaking for itself, I can concentrate more on the characters and what they’re feeling.

(3) TOLD WITH CONVICTION. LAist tells how “This LA Writer Turned Comic-Con Into A Crime Story”.

San Diego’s Comic-Con International starts Wednesday night, which makes this the perfect time to talk about Bad Weekend, a noir set against the backdrop of a fictionalized version of the now famous comics convention.

Writer Ed Brubaker described the graphic novel — with art by Brubaker’s longtime collaborator Sean Phillips and colors by Phillips’ son Jacob — as a weird love letter to comics, being a fan, and the strangeness of the comic book industry.

Bad Weekend is the product of filing away stories he’s heard around the comic book industry for the past 20 to 30 years, according to Brubaker — stories of who screwed over whom, of success not bringing happiness, and of comic companies getting rich off their work with movies and TV shows without the creators sharing in that wealth.

(4) OP-EDS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If, like me, you’ve been enjoying the New York Times’ series of science fictional op-eds, they’ve just created a landing page with all the articles in the series now organized in one place:  “Op-Eds From the Future”

It’s worth checking back every second Monday to see the latest installment, as they’ve been excellent so far. 

(5) FILER NAMED FGOH. Chris Barkley shared on Facebook: “I am pleased to report that I was asked and accepted to be the Fan GoH at the 2021 Astronomicon in Rochester, NY along with my good friend (and Identical twin) Robert J. Sawyer.”

(6) TRANSLATED NOVEL HUGO REDUX. Chris Barkley has also addressed criticism of the Best Translated Novel Hugo category in a Facebook post which begins —

I have taken this past week to ponder a response to Neil Clarke and Taiyo Fujii’s objections to the viability of a Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel. And frankly, their objections puzzle me.

I ask this of Mr. Fujii and to Mr. Clarke; if the three Hugos awarded to translated works are the awakening of fandom to translated literature, why haven’t more of those works been nominated in their wake? In the past three years of nominations; only 2017’s Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, has been included in the Best Novel category, all of the other nominees in the category have all been decidedly anglocentric.

The truth of the matter we think that the Worldcon and the Hugo Awards have been overwhelmingly perceived for quite a while as an English speakers only party since a majority of the conventions have been held in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Mr. Clarke and Mr. Fujii may see the proposed award as either unnecessary, pandering or condescending to authors and fans but all Ms. Cordasco, my co-sponsors and I only want to do is shine a spotlight to fervently call attention to and honor authors and their translators. Speaking for myself, had there been three, four or five nominees on the final ballot since those historic awards, I would not have contemplated initiating and offering this proposal for an open debate…

(7) JUDGE UNCONVINCED. “Marvel Finally Beats a Lawsuit Over the ‘Iron Man 3’ Poster”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. There does seem to be a family resemblance, just the same:

Horizon still could have gotten the case to trial, but it then needed to show an inference of copying through the similarity of the works. Specifically, Horizon argued the two works were “strikingly similar,” with reliance on an expert report discussing anatomical structures, faces and heads, and camera views.

The judge responds that the expert report is “equivocating” on some of the noteworthy similarities by addressing features on careful viewing and not going quite so far to rule out any reasonable possibility of independent creation. Plus, the judge adds, “there remain enough differences between the two works,” nodding to Marvel’s pointing out differences in pose, differing placement of blue lights, and significantly different overall coloring.

(8) SEE READERCON 30. Ellen Datlow has posted 89 photos taken at ReaderCon 30 in a Flickr album.

Catherynne M. Valente, Heath Miller, and Sebastian

(9) ARE YOU WHAT YOU CONSUME? Surprising no one, here’s where The Hollywood Reporter lands on the meaning of “fan” and “fandom” — “Among Fandoms, Marvel May Reign Supreme, Poll Finds”.

A nationally representative sample of 2,200 adults carried out between July 8 and 10 revealed that, when it comes to genre properties, Marvel is far and away the most successful, with 63 percent of those surveyed considering themselves fans. The next most popular property was Marvel’s Disney sibling, Star Wars, with a 60 percent fandom, and DC followed with 59 percent.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 17, 1858 Florence Balcombe Stoker. She was the wife and literary executor of Bram Stoker. She’s best remembered for her extended legal dispute with the makers of Nosferatu, an unauthorized film blatantly based on her husband’s novel Dracula. (Died 1937.)
  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 75. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column in Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog
  • Born July 17, 1952 Robert R. McCammon, 67. Horror writer whose Michael Gallatin books, The Wolf’s Hour and The Hunter from the Woods, Alllied WWII werewolf agent and his adventures, I strongly recommend. His “Nightcrawlers” short story was adapted into an episode of the Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 65. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of Babylon 5 and its short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the commit sides, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written Superman, Wonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles.
  • Born July 17, 1967 Kelly Robson, 52. I just got done reading her brilliant “Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach”.  Right now, it appears only this plus “A Human Stain” and “Waters of Versailles” are available on iBooks and Kindle for reading as she has no collection out yet. And no novel as far as I can tell. 
  • Born July 17, 1971 Cory Doctorow, 48. I’ll admit that I’ve mixed feelings about his work. I enjoyed Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, his first novel, and thought The Rapture of the Nerds had potential but really failed to live to that potential to great. Everything else is ‘Meh’. His activism is oft times that of an overeager puppy trying to get attention for himself. 
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 43. Wow. Author of  Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.

(12) IN THE BEGINNING. The San Diego Union-Tribune explores “50 Shades of Comic-Con: What we’ve gained and lost in five decades of pop culture celebrations”.

From its inception, Comic-Con had intergalactic ambitions.

The initial show, then called San Diego’ Golden State Comic Con, featured science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and A.E. Van Vogt; Jack Kirby, creator of Captain America, X-Men and other iconic superheroes; vintage films; an art auction; and dozens of dealers peddling mountains of new and used comics.

An unforgettable event — for the 300 attendees. Few others noticed and even they dismissed this as a juvenile jamboree. For instance:

On the show’s first day, Aug. 1, 1970, the author of “Fahrenheit 451″ and “The Martian Chronicles” granted an interview to The San Diego Union. Yet Bradbury’s spirited defense of comics was buried on page B-11, under articles about a flower show, the repainting of the White House East Room and a medical brief with the headline “Fat Men More Tipsy.”

… Neil Kendricks is a writer, filmmaker and teacher who recently led a San Diego State course on comics and sequential art. In the early 1980s, though, he was a high school student at his first Comic-Con. In the dealer’s room, he bumped into a white-haired gentleman flipping through the cardboard boxes full of used comics.

“Mr. Bradbury,” he stammered, “will you be here for awhile?”

When Ray Bradbury nodded yes, Kendricks dashed out of Golden Hall and ran the half-mile to Wahrenbrock’s Book House.

“I went upstairs to the science fiction section and bought as many of his books and I could find. Then I ran all the way back and he signed them. That,” Kendricks said, “could never happen now.”

(13) UP ON CHARGES. Trae Dorn reports at Nerd & Tie that a conrunner is being prosecuted in the Twin Cities: “How to React When a Member of Your Con Staff is Accused of Rape”. Documentation accompanies the post.

On Monday it came to light that long time staffer of Twin Cities based Anime Detour Stephen Gifford has been charged with third-degree sexual assault in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Gifford was head of Convention Communications for Anime Detour’s 2019 event earlier this year, and has previously served as the event’s convention chair.

… Now we’ve seen cons react to situations like this in many ways, but thankfully Anime Detour’s staff has taken the situation seriously.

(14) KNIT ONE, PEARL TWO. While they still can, WIRED lets readers decide for themselves what to think about this coming technology: “Here’s How Elon Musk Plans to Stitch a Computer into Your Brain”.  

…At a presentation at the California Academy of Sciences, hastily announced via Twitter and beginning a half hour late, Musk presented the first product from his company Neuralink. It’s a tiny computer chip attached to ultrafine, electrode-studded wires, stitched into living brains by a clever robot. And depending on which part of the two-hour presentation you caught, it’s either a state-of-the-art tool for understanding the brain, a clinical advance for people with neurological disorders, or the next step in human evolution.

The chip is custom-built to receive and process the electrical action potentials—“spikes”—that signal activity in the interconnected neurons that make up the brain. The wires embed into brain tissue and receive those spikes. And the robotic sewing machine places those wires with enviable precision, a “neural lace” straight out of science fiction that dodges the delicate blood vessels spreading across the brain’s surface like ivy.

…And, sure, there’s more. A public records request from WIRED in April 2019 found that Neuralink is licensed to have hundreds of rats and mice in its research facilities. In a seemingly unplanned moment at the Cal Academy, Musk also acknowledged that Neuralink’s research had progressed beyond rodents to non-human primates. It’s only because of a records request filed by Gizmodo that Neuralink’s affiliation with the primate research center at UC Davis is public knowledge. That affiliation has apparently progressed: “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI,” Musk said during the Q and A after the presentation.

His team seemed as surprised and discombobulated by the announcement as the audience. “I didn’t know we were running that result today, but there it goes,” said Max Hodak, president of the company, on stage next to Musk. (Monkeys have controlled computers via BCIs before, though presumably this would be the first time one used Neuralink.)

(15) APOLLO 11 AT 50 CLIPPINGS.

One small holograph for man, one giant holograph for the Washington Monument.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a life-size projection of the Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The Saturn V rocket is now iconic for carrying the Apollo 11 crew to the moon in 1969. The projection-mapping artwork will occupy 363 of the monument’s 555 vertical feet.

As the 17th century’s most famous Italian astronomer surveyed the heavens, he likely never dreamed a rocket shooting fire would one day power people up among the stars he eyed through his telescope, or that his work would help guide a ship to the moon.

But Galileo Galilei’s observations would become a key link in the chain of scientific research and discovery fundamental to our understanding of the universe and our drive to explore it.

That scientific continuum is at the heart of a new Houghton Library exhibit connecting early celestial calculations to the Apollo 11 mission that put two American astronauts on the lunar surface 50 years ago this July. “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty” features gems from Harvard’s collection of rare books and manuscripts as well as NASA artifacts from an anonymous lender and Harvard alumnus, many of which were aboard the spaceship that left Earth’s orbit in 1969.

Not all of the equipment carried into space was cutting edge and expensive. Some of the more humble odds and ends even prevented disaster.

…25: Length of duct tape rolls carried to the Moon, in feet

If there’s one saviour time and again of American space missions over the past 50 years, it’s a roll of duct tape. During Apollo missions, it was used for everything from taping down switches and attaching equipment inside the spacecraft, to fixing a tear on a spacesuit and, during Apollo 17, a fender on the lunar rover.

One of the surviving crew members of the first manned mission to the Moon – Apollo 11 – has returned to the site where the mission set off 50 years ago.

Michael Collins, 88, visited Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. He marked theprecise time – 09:32 (13:32 GMT) – when their rocket took off.

Mr Collins had stayed in lunar orbit while his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.

…Mr Collins described how he felt during take-off.

“The shockwave from the rocket power hits you,” he told Nasa TV. “Your whole body is shaking. This gives you an entirely… different concept of what power really means.”

Esquire was not expecting much from Neil Armstrong.

“While the space program is poised on the brink of a truly epoch-making triumph of engineering, it is also headed for a rhetorical train wreck,” the story said.

“The principal danger is not that we will lose the life of an astronaut on the Moon, but that the astronauts will murder English up there . . . . That they are likely to litter the intergalactic void with gibberish and twaddle.”

The smugness is rather remarkable, because despite the talent of the people it enlisted, Esquire got not a single decent line from any of them.

It got, in fact, a lot of gibberish and twaddle.

…With that as your benchmark, here’s a sampling of what Esquire’s best and brightest came up with:

John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist: “We will hafta pave the damn thing.”

Ayn Rand, libertarian thinker and novelist: “What hath man wrought!”

…Leonard Nimoy, the actor, then in his third season as Spock on the new TV series Star Trek: “I’d say to Earth, from here you are a peaceful, beautiful ball and I only wish everyone could see it with that perspective and unity.”

(16) BACK SEAT FLYING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Washington Post: “Airline tweets about where passengers are least likely to die in a crash”. The pic below is cribbed from the WaPo article. Apparently, they got ahold of a screenshot of the since-deleted tweet. The thought process of whoever sent this out must have been, well, let’s just call it astounding.

(17) A KING WILL BE CROWNED. Looper fills us in about The Most Anticipated Sci Fi Movies Of 2020.

2020 might feel far away, but Hollywood’s major studios are already planning ahead with some legit super hits on the horizon. And if you’re a fan of sci-fi flicks, then 2020’s looking like an especially good year for you. These are just a few of the most anticipated sci-fi blockbusters on their way to a big screen near you. Film fans will finally get the answer to an age-old question in 2020, when Godzilla and King Kong face off on the big screen. Director Adam Wingard has already assured fans that his take on the two monsters will crown a definitive winner, unlike the 1962 film that first pit the two characters against each other. This will be the fourth entry in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, first established in 2014’s Godzilla and further explored in Kong: Skull Island.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/5/19 We Hold These Pixels To Be Self Scrolling, That All Filers Are Created Equal

(1) TUNING IN. The Doctor may use her time traveling skills to visit your TV set even sooner than the beginning of Season 12. Radio Times speculates that “Doctor Who could air an extra episode before the new series”.

RadioTimes.com understands that a plan is in the works to air a standalone Doctor Who special some time before series 12 hits screens, possibly in a festive slot like this year’s New Year’s Day Special or the Christmas specials that were released every year prior (from 2005 onwards).

However, it’s also possible that the proposed episode will bypass the festive period altogether, airing in a less competitive slot to give the Tardis team their best reintroduction this winter, and avoiding the usual holiday themes favoured by previous Doctor Who specials.

(2) ORDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE. Just as French fries are merely a delivery vehicle for ketchup, File 770 exists to publicize where Scott Edelman goes to eat lunch. In Episode 99 of Eating the Fantastic, the meal is served at the Sagebrush Cantina in the company of comics legend Gerry Conway.

Gerry Conway

My first meal of the Nebula Awards weekend was with comics legend Gerry Conway, who I’ve known for at least 48 years, since 1971 — when I was a comics fan of 16, and he was 19, and yet already a comics pro with credits on Phantom StrangerKa-Zar, and Daredevil. Our paths back then crossed in the basement of the Times Square branch of Nathan’s (which, alas, no longer exists) where the late Phil Seuling had organized a standalone dealers room without any convention programming dubbed Nathan’s Con, which was a test run for his future Second Sunday mini-cons.

Gerry and I have a lot of history in those 48 years, including his time as Marvel’s editor-in-chief when I worked in the Bullpen — though his tenure was only six weeks long, two of those weeks my honeymoon — a tenure you’ll hear us talk about during the meal which follows. He’s the creator of The Punisher, Power Girl, and Firestorm, and wrote a lengthy and at one point controversial run on Spider-Man. But he’s also worked on such TV series as MatlockJake and the FatmanHercules: The Legendary JourneysLaw & Order, and many others.

At Gerry’s recommendation, our meal took place at the Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas, California, where I invite you to take a seat and eavesdrop on our longest conversation in 40 years.

We discussed how the comics business has always been dying and what keeps saving it, why if he were in charge he’d shut down Marvel Comics for six months, what it’s like (and how it’s different) being both the youngest and oldest writer ever to script Spider-Man, the novel mistake he made during his summer at the Clarion Writers Workshop, why he’s lived a life in comics rather than science fiction, what caused Harlan Ellison to write an offensive letter to his mother, the one bad experience he ever had being edited in comics (it had to do with the Justice League), the convoluted way Superman vs. Spider-Man resulted in him writing for TV’s Father Dowling Mysteries, how exasperation caused him to quit his role as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief (while I was out of the Bullpen on my honeymoon), how he’d have been treated if he’d killed off Gwen Stacy in today’s social media world, and much, much more.

(3) TALKING ABOUT A GAMES HUGO. Camestros Felapton starts a thoughtful discussion of Ira Alexandre’s motion in “Looking at the Hugo Game/Interactive Experience proposal”.

…I think accessibility to the works remains one of the biggest obstacles to this category working effectively, although the proposal makes substantial efforts to address this.

My other concern is the multiple vectors against which we’d need to judge works in this category. The proposal gives numerous examples of other game awards but I’m struck by the many ways game awards split their own categories….

(4) KOTLER’S PICKS. Paul Weimer hosts “6 Books with Steve Kotler” at Nerds of a Feather. I’m in the middle of reading the author’s latest —

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome?

My latest book is Last Tango in Cyberspace. It’s a novel that follows a protagonist named Lion Zorn. He’s an empathy tracker or em-tracker, a new kind of human with a much deeper ability to feel empathy than most. His talent lets him track cultural trends into the future, a form of empathetic prognostication, and a useful skill to certain kind of company. But when Arctic Pharmaceuticals hires him to em-track rumors of a new and extremely potent psychedelic—with potential medical uses—he ends up enmeshed in a world of startup religions, environmental terrorists and overlapping global conspiracies. It’s a thriller about the ramifications of accelerating technology, the evolution of empathy, and the hidden costs of consciousness-expansion. And it’s awesome because, well, it’s just a ton of mind-blowing fun.

(5) GROKKING JAPAN. In The Paris Review, Andrei Codrescu resurrects “The Many Lives of Lafcadio Hearn”, once among the best-known literary figures of his day.

…History is a fairy tale true to its telling. Lafcadio Hearn’s lives are a fairy tale true in various tellings, primarily his own, then those of his correspondents, and with greater uncertainty, those of his biographers. Hearn changed, as if magically, from one person into another, from a Greek islander into a British student, from a penniless London street ragamuffin into a respected American newspaper writer, from a journalist into a novelist, and, most astonishingly, from a stateless Western man into a loyal Japanese citizen. His sheer number of guises make him a creature of legend. Yet this life, as recorded both by himself and by others, grows more mysterious the more one examines it, for it is like the Japanese story of the Buddhist monk Kwashin Koji, in “Impressions of Japan,” who owned a painting so detailed it flowed with life. A samurai chieftain saw it and wanted to buy it, but the monk wouldn’t sell it, so the chieftain had him followed and murdered. But when the painting was brought to the chieftain and unrolled, there was nothing on it; it was blank. Hearn reported this story told to him by a Japanese monk to illustrate some aspect of the Buddhist doctrine of karma, but he might as well have been speaking about himself as Koji: the more “literary” the renderings of the original story, the less fresh and vivid it becomes, until it might literally disappear, like that legendary painting.

(6) VISIONARY. CNN discovers Simon Stålenhag — “Simon Stålenhag’s hauntingly beautiful retro sci-fi art”.

Simon Stålenhag’s paintings are a strange, irresistible mix of mundane scenes from the Swedish countryside and haunting scenarios involving abandoned robots, mysterious machinery and even dinosaurs.

They are the product of his childhood memories — growing up in suburban Stockholm and painting landscapes and wildlife — and his adulthood appreciation for sci-fi.

“I try to make art for my 12-year-old self,” he said in a phone interview. “I want to make stuff that would make my younger self see it and go, ‘I’m not supposed to look at this because it’s for adults, but I really want to anyway.'”

(7) UNSURPRISINGLY, THE IRS RECOGNIZES SATAN. The Burbank Leader generated some clicks with its overview: “The IRS gave nonprofit status to a satanic church. Will all hell break loose?”.

Earlier this year the Internal Revenue Service officially recognized the Satanic Temple as a church, meaning it has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

According to the church’s website, the Satanic Temple’s mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”

Yet perhaps because the group describes itself as a “nontheistic religious organization” and maintains an openness about taking political stances, the IRS decision has brought some controversy.

According to an article on Rewire.News, a pro-life petition online states, “This egregious decision runs counter to everything America stands for,” and a Catholic commentator argued that without God or a literal Satan, there is no “real religion.”

A letter to the editor from a self-identified atheist began:

I’m fine with the ruling, based on the finding that the Temple’s attributes — unique tenets, regular congregations and religious services — meet the IRS guidelines for a tax-exempt religious organization, i.e., a church. Neither God, gods nor Satan are required to be a “real religion” under these guidelines, contrary to the commentator quoted in this month’s question.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 5, 1904 Milburn Stone. Though you no doubt know him as Doc on Gunsmoke, he did have several genre roles including a German Sargent in The Invisible Agent, Captain Vickery in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, Mr. Moore in The Spider Woman Strikes Back and Capt. Roth in Invaders from Mars. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 5, 1929 Katherine Helmond. Among her roles was Mrs Ogre in Time Bandits and Mrs. Ida Lowry in Brazil. Now I’ll bet you can tell her scene in the latter… (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 5, 1941 Garry Kilworth, 78. The Ragthorn, a novella co-authored with Robert Holdstock, won the World Fantasy Award. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work? 
  • Born July 5, 1948 Nancy Springer, 71. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos.
  • Born July 5, 1957 Jody Lynn Nye, 62. She’s best known for collaborating with Asprin on the MythAdventures series  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. 
  • Born July 5, 1963 Alma Alexander, 56. Author of three SF series including the Changer of Days which is rather good. I’m including her here for her AbductiCon novel which is is set in a Con and involves both what goes on at that Con and the aliens that are involved. 
  • Born July 5, 1964 Ronald Moore, 55. He‘s best known for his work on various Star Trek series, on the Battlestar Galactica reboot and on the Outlander series.  
  • Born July 5, 1972 Nia Roberts, 47. She appeared in two two Doctor Who episodes during the time of the Eleventh Doctor, “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”. But it’s an earlier role that gets her a Birthday citation just because it sounds so damn cool: Rowan Latimer in the “Curse of the Blood of the Lizard of Doom” episode of the Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible whichspoofed shows such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.

(9) GET MAD. If you want to see more of Alfred E. Newman’s gap-toothed smile, Doug Gilford’s MAD Cover Site is the place for you.

Look at every regular issue cover from the comic book days of 1952 to the present day! Issue contents included!

(10) COUNTING FANS AT WORLDCONS. The latest round of Hugo statistics led to a discussion on the SMOFs list about other Worldcon stats, where Rene Walling reminded readers about his compilations, published by James Gunn’s Ad Astra earlier in this decade:

Sweeping statements and generalizations are often made about the membership of early World Science Fiction Conventions (WSFC, or Worldcon) such as “only the same people came back every year” or “the attendance was all male.” Yet rarely is more than anecdotal evidence given to support these statements. The goal of this report is to provide some hard data on the membership of early Worldcons so that such statements can be based on more than anecdotal evidence.

…The number of members listed over the entire 1961-1980 time span totals 33,279 for the WSFC sources, which represents 81.66% of the total from the Long List (40,752). The total number of individual members is 17,136.

(11) IS BEST SERIES WORKING? At Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry precedes his discussion of the nominees in “Reading the Hugos: Series” with some meta comments about the category.

This is worth mentioning now because 2019 is the third year of the Best Series category and the second appearance of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series because McGuire has published two additional novels (The Brightest Fell, Night and Silence) as well as some short fiction set in that universe. I wouldn’t be shocked to see McGuire’s InCryptid make a second appearance next year, and I also expect to see The Expanse to have its own second crack at the ballot, though with The Expanse I hope readers wait one more year for the ninth (and final?) volume to be published so that The Expanse can be considered as a completed work.

I’m curious what this says about the long term future and health of the category if we see some of the same series make repeat appearances. Of course, we can (and do) say the same thing about a number of “down the ballot” categories like Fanzine (we do appreciate being on the ballot for the third year in a row!), Semiprozine, and the Editor categories.

(12) IN A BAD PLACE. Steve J. Wright’s review of the finalists has reached “Hugo Category: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” – and there’s one he really doesn’t like.

We have two episodes of The Good Place, and I won’t complain about that either, because this is a popular vote and the show clearly has its fans…. I’m still not among them.  It seems to me that The Good Place is still trying to be several things at once, and is failing at all of them, and since the things it’s trying to be include “funny” and “though-provoking”, the result isn’t good. 

(13) HELICON AWARDS. Richard Paolinelli celebrated the Fourth of July by announcing the ten inaugural winners of the Helicon Awards on his YouTube channel. Sad Puppy Declan Finn won the Best Horror Novel category, which is probably more informative about where these awards are coming from than that Brandon Sanderson and Timothy Zahn also won.  

The 2019 Helicon Awards celebrates the best literary works of 2018 in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Military Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Alternate History, Media Tie-In, Horror and Anthology (SF/F/H).

Throughout the presentation Paolinelli keeps using the pronouns “we” and “our” without shedding very much light on who besides himself is behind these awards. The slides for the winners bear the  logo of his Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild, opened last year with the ambition of rivalling SFWA. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild closed group on Facebook is listed as having 275 members – you can’t see the content without joining, but FB displays a stat that it’s had 6 posts in the last 30 days. The SFFCGuild Twitter account hasn’t been active since February 2018.

Paolinelli’s blog claims sponsorship of the awards, but in the video he says not only won’t winners be receiving a trophy, he hasn’t even designed a certificate for them, though he might do that in a few weeks.

In addition to the 10 Helicon Awards, Paolinelli named “three individual honorees for the Mevil Dewey Innovation Award, Laura Ingalls Wilder Best New Author Award and the Frank Herbert Lifetime Achievement Award.”

So far as the first two awards are concerned, it’s likely that what did most to persuade Paolinelli to give them those names was the decision by two organizations this past year to drop the names from existing awards – in Wilder’s case (see Pixel Scroll 6/25/18 item #5), the US Association for Library Service to Children said it was “over racist views and language,” while the American Library Association dropped Dewey (see Pixel Scroll 6/27/19 Item #13) citing “a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment.”

(14) A FANNISH ANIMAL. “My Wild Time Living in a House Full of Wombats” is an article at The Daily Beast, where else?

What is a full night’s sleep?! I haven’t had one of those in a long time. I run Sleepy Burrow Wombat Sanctuary in Australia, which is the largest wombat sanctuary in the world. I’m up every three hours to do round-the-clock feedings for the baby wombats that have recently come into our care. Their first nights with us are always the most critical time where their survival is the most at risk. If being up all night is what it takes to pull them through, I will do it. Don’t feel too bad for me though. I wouldn’t trade the life I have for anything in the world. I have a wonderful family I built with the most supportive husband, who is my partner both in life and rescue. I’m a mother to two perfect daughters, a dog, and a house full of the cutest wombats you can imagine. As a family unit we have rescued over 1,300 wombats.

(15) NIGERIAN SFF. Adri Joy makes the book sound pretty interesting, though rates it only 6/10: “Microreview [book]: David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa” at Nerds of a Feather.

That main character, it will not surprise you to hear, is David Mogo, Godhunter. David lives in a version of Lagos which has been subjected to the Falling: a war which has caused thousands of Orisha to rain down on the city and take up residence. A half-god himself, David was abandoned by his mother and raised by a foster-father who also happens to be a wizard, wielding magical talents which David’s divinity keeps him from using in the same way. Instead, when we meet David he’s trying to throw himself into a bounty hunting existence with as much amoral abandon as possible, taking on a job from far more shady wizard Ajala for “roof money” while trying to suppress the sense that he should be acting with slightly more principle.

(16) SPONGING OFF FANS. That’s the allegation, anyway: “SpongeBob SquarePants fan claims Nickelodeon copied art”.

A fan has claimed Nickelodeon used his SpongeBob SquarePants artwork without his permission.

Matt Salvador, 17, says the art was featured in an advert for the show which was aired in June.

His artwork, uploaded online in 2016, is drawn in the style of a background used in a typical episode.

Various YouTube channels have uploaded the video, which the fan says shows the same artwork, but with his signature in the bottom-right corner removed.

(17) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Unlike Facebook or Google — “Why the BBC does not want to store your data”.

BBC audience members could soon be using all the data from their social media and online accounts to fine tune the content they listen to and view.

The BBC is developing a personal data store that analyses information from multiple sources to filter content.

Early prototypes of the BBC Box draw on profiles people have built up on Spotify, Instagram and the BBC iPlayer.

The BBC will not store data for users. Instead, preferences will be kept in the Box so they can be reused.

The project is seen as “disruptive” because individuals will decide what they use their data for themselves.

The Box is part of a larger European project seeking to give people more control over their data.

(18) STILL NOT READY. Let’s face it: “Biased and wrong? Facial recognition tech in the dock”.

Police and security forces around the world are testing out automated facial recognition systems as a way of identifying criminals and terrorists. But how accurate is the technology and how easily could it and the artificial intelligence (AI) it is powered by – become tools of oppression?

Imagine a suspected terrorist setting off on a suicide mission in a densely populated city centre. If he sets off the bomb, hundreds could die or be critically injured.

CCTV scanning faces in the crowd picks him up and automatically compares his features to photos on a database of known terrorists or “persons of interest” to the security services.

The system raises an alarm and rapid deployment anti-terrorist forces are despatched to the scene where they “neutralise” the suspect before he can trigger the explosives. Hundreds of lives are saved. Technology saves the day.

But what if the facial recognition (FR) tech was wrong? It wasn’t a terrorist, just someone unlucky enough to look similar. An innocent life would have been summarily snuffed out because we put too much faith in a fallible system.

What if that innocent person had been you?

This is just one of the ethical dilemmas posed by FR and the artificial intelligence underpinning it.

Training machines to “see” – to recognise and differentiate between objects and faces – is notoriously difficult. Computer vision, as it is sometimes called – not so long ago was struggling to tell the difference between a muffin and a chihuahua – a litmus test of this technology.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Best Translated Novel
Hugo Category Proposed

Chris M. Barkley, Juli Marr, and Mark Richards have submitted an motion to create a new Hugo Awards category for Best Translated Novel. It will soon be listed on Dublin 2019’s New Business Agenda. (Update Barkley says this is the text they submitted, but some minor tweaks will be made to the language before it is posted online.)

D.1 Short Title: Best Translated Novel

Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution for the purpose of creating a new Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel, by inserting a new subsection after existing Section 3.3.4 and revising sections 3.2.5 and 3.2.6 as follows:

3.3.4: A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more that was translated and published into English for the first time within the previous calendar year. The Award will be given both to the writer(s) of the work and the credited translator(s) of the novel.

3.2.5: In the story categories (3.3.1-3.3.56 and 3.3.78), an author may withdraw a version of a work from consideration if the author feels that the version is not representative of what that author wrote.

3.2.6: The categories of Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story, and Best Translation shall be open to works in which the text is the primary form of communication, regardless of the publication medium, including but not limited to physical print, audiobook, and ebook.

Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the 2022 Business Meeting, this Section shall be repealed and; and

Provided further that the question of re-ratification shall automatically be placed on the agenda of the 2022 Business Meeting.

  • Proposed by: Mark Richards (Attending Member), Juli Marr (Attending Member) and Chris M. Barkley (Attending Member).  

Commentary by Chris M. Barkley and Rachel Cordasco:

Eighty years ago, in July 1939, NYCon 1, the very first World Science Fiction Convention was held in New York City.

The title “World Science Fiction Convention” was a bit of a misnomer; it was about as accurate and plausible as baseball’s championship title “World Series” is today. It was named as such in honor of the World’s Fair exhibition being held nearby in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

We have no doubt that while many of the convention’s participants (and those who were excluded for political reasons) imagined science fiction and fantasy literature had a future, at the time the only thing they could be sure of at that time was that war was on the immediate horizon.

As the decades passed, sf and fantasy literature not only took hold in North American and England, it became a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

And as the Hugo Award grew in stature, so did its reputation outside the confines of the English speaking nations where it was born and nurtured.

Until recently, a majority of the nominated writers in the fiction categories have been dominated by English language authors. In 2015, Cixin Liu’ s The Three Body Problem (translated by Ken Liu) became the first novel translated from another language to win the Hugo Award.

Since then there have been very few non-English language nominees in the fiction categories although there have been two winners in the short fiction categories (Hao Jingfang, also from China and Thomas Olde Heuvelt of the Netherlands).

We feel that it is high time that the World Science Fiction Society honor writers from around the world with one of literature’s highest honors.

Each year, US/UK/Australian publishers are giving us more SF in translation (SFT) to read from countries like France, Iraq, Argentina, Japan, Finland, Israel, and many others. In recent years, the number of translated speculative novels has risen to 60-70. After several decades of speculative fiction flowing mostly from the US and UK into other countries, the tide seems to be turning and people who grew up reading translations of Anglophone science fiction or fantasy have been inspired to become translators themselves. Plus, more presses and magazines are open to SFT, and we now have two online publications that actually specialize in international speculative fiction (Samovar Magazine and Future Science Fiction Digest).

The Hugo Award, like the annual Worldcons, are sponsored by the World Science Fiction Society, and it is this inclusion of the word “world” that is at issue when discussions of a “Best Translated Novel” come up. As Donald Wollheim once wrote, “We science fiction readers whose native language happens to be English-…tend to a curious sort of provincialism in our thinking regarding the boundaries of science fiction. We tend to think that all that is worth reading and all that is worth noticing is naturally written in English. In our conventions and our awards and our discussions we slip into the habit of referring to our favorites as the world’s best this and the “world’s best that.” 

Shouldn’t the Hugo Awards recognize more than just those texts originally written in English? SFT is more popular than some people think, and if given the opportunity to recognize a non-Anglophone novel, SFT readers would probably jump at the chance. It’s time to shrug off our Anglocentric perspective, especially in relation to a genre that encourages us to look beyond our immediate environs and learn about those who are sometimes radically different from us.

Simply put, if the Best Novel Category is the equivalent of the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Best Translated novel can serve as our Best Foreign Film. If France, Spain, Israel, China, and other countries can successfully include a “Best Translated Novel” category in their SF awards, so can the US/UK-dominated Hugos.

As the noted philosopher and American football coach George Allen once sagely noted, “The Future is NOW.”

A Hugo Award for Best Game or Interactive Experience

[This guest post proposes adding a category to the Hugo Awards.]

By Ira Alexandre:  Thirteen years ago, in 2006, there was a trial attempt at a “Best Interactive Video Game” Hugo category. Then, as now, hundreds of WSFS members were also creating and playing analog games, telling stories by touch and by chance, by word and by wit. These experiences were excluded from this award entirely. Since then, we have entered the age of Steam, YouTube, and Twitch, mobile games and the indie explosion. The tools to breathe life into the branching paths of an interactive novel have never been more accessible and sophisticated. We need an award that recognizes the proliferation of games, platforms, creators, and users in the thirteen years since the video game award was last trialed.

It is time for all types of games and interactive media to be recognized in our community. It is time for an inclusive games Hugo Award.

I know we’ve tried this before, but a lot has changed – including what is actually being proposed. In addition to the 2006 trial category attempt, there was also a petition in 2015 to get MidAmeriCon II to run a Best Video Game category. There’s two major ways my proposal is different: it’s not just for video games, and it addresses the issue of modifications (DLC, expansions, fan mods, etc.).

Here’s what I’m proposing, and I’ve put together roughly 100 pages of data, arguments, and case by case analysis to back it up:

3.3.X: Best Game or Interactive Experience.

Any work or substantial modification of a work (such as a game or interactive narrative, demonstration, or installation) first released to the public in the previous calendar year in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects in any medium where player/user choice, interaction, or participation significantly impacts the narrative, pacing, play, or experience of the work.

With this proposed definition, I want to:

  • Name games specifically. Let’s keep it grounded, translatable, and accessible to international audiences.
  • Leave room for all the other amazing things that can be achieved with interactivity.
  • Acknowledge and engage with the uniquely modification-heavy nature of games. We’re taking advantage of the concept of “substantially modified,” already present in the Best Related Work Category.

This approach opens up the category to a ton of content that WSFS members are demonstrably interested in, judging by the amount of Worldcon programming that’s devoted to games. My proposal includes a Proof of Interest section covering the growth in games programming since 2006 as well as showing WSFS members writing about, playing, and creating games. Between WorldCon 64 — the year of the 2006 attempt — and WorldCon 76 last year, there have been 353 gaming panels, presentations, scheduled gaming sessions, and other gaming-related program items at WorldCons. The percentage of Worldcon programming that’s devoted to games has tripled since 2006, with some cons having as much as 6-9% of their entire program devoted to games, up from less than 1% when the category was last trialled.

Not only has interest grown, but games as a medium have changed and matured immensely. Indie and mobile games have taken off and now form the majority of the market, and the distribution platform of Steam has made gaming more accessible than ever.  There’s plenty of games – not just good but great games – to nominate every year, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot to nominate and vote. It’s not a solid wall of expensive AAAs and even more expensive consoles. Analog games are often collectively owned, with one playable set shared among several people. Prose interactive fiction is often low-cost or even free. Indie games, playable on run-of-the-mill PCs and phones, are doing a ton of the heavy lifting in terms of quality and interesting SFF work, and they cost about as much as a hardcover novel or even an ebook novella. For those who can’t or don’t want to play the games, guided game tours like Let’s Plays or “movie versions” of games abound on YouTube and Twitch (I moderated a panel on this very thing at WisCon). Existing WSFS gamers already own or buy the platform and materials in numbers large enough to nominate, and becoming an informed voter ranges from cheap to free.

But aside from the growing interest and accessibility, games are also just not well served by the current category structure.  Games simply do not fit in Best Dramatic Presentation or Best Related Work, where they’re currently eligible. In the BDP categories, not only are games competing with big budget films and TV series, but they also have to be sorted by runtime, which most games don’t even have. More importantly, putting them in either category ignores the unique nature of interactive storytelling that blends narrative and play.

It doesn’t matter if it’s audiovisual, analog, immersive, or prose. If it’s interactive, it’s made differently, it’s crafted differently. We approach the work in a different way; we shape it even as it shapes our experience. This unifying element of all interactive experiences – of this utterly unique way to convey a story, a world, an idea – deserves to be recognized.

The sort of speculative fiction storytelling that games can do is absolutely unique. There is no substitute for imagined planets you can actually explore, for time travel stories where you pick where and when to go, for being given the tools to make your own stories with your friends. Games are uniquely suited to push the limits of interactive worldbuilding (Microscope, Dragon Age, Dwarf Fortress), expand the ways we can tell stories (GRIS, Return of the Obra Dinn, Heaven’s Vault), and interrogate the natures of narrative and play themselves (BioShock, Braid, The Stanley Parable, Pandemic Legacy). There is simply nothing like this medium. There is SFF work only games can do.

WSFS members play games, write about games, make games, and are inspired by games. We have always been here. We have always gamed.

And as gamers, we understand that mods, analog or digital, pro or fan, are part of the game. Expansions, rereleases, editions, bundles. DLC, handmade cards, patches, fan mods, house rules. Part of the magic of games is that you can make them your own. Changes to the game can be experienced directly as part of it – not alongside, but during, the play. A truly inclusive game award must acknowledge game modifications. Including a substantial modifications clause in the award definition not only acknowledges the culture and reality of the gaming world, but also takes the burden off Hugo administrators during the nominations phase.

With a substantial modification clause, Hugo admins don’t have to legislate the common cases of expansive expansions, meaty DLC, and top-to-bottom remakes. These are part of modern gaming craft, and when they make a difference, they deserve to be acknowledged. And fans can tell what truly makes a difference. We are simply less likely to nominate mods that don’t have meaning when there’s so much fresh content to consider. By acknowledging this aspect of gaming culture, we honour the speculative fiction and fannish work being done without creating an undue burden on Hugo admins.

Whether you’re a gamer or not, this proposal is about you. It’s about what the speculative fiction work we as WSFS members choose to honour.

If you’re interested, please take this interest survey  – it does use Google sign-ins to enforce a single-vote policy. If you don’t have a Google account, please feel free to join the mailing list, tweet about it using #GamesHugo, email me at contact@gameshugo.com, or talk to me in person at Worldcon, where I will be at the Business Meeting.  I’ve made www.gameshugo.com as a central hub for this campaign.

If you’re not convinced, I invite you to read the full proposal, where I put forward full, detailed arguments, reams of data, and a dozen test cases: A Hugo Award for “Best Game or Interactive Experience”. There’s about 60 pages of arguments, examples, and narrative, about 40 pages of appendices, and a spreadsheet of hundreds of games, panels, and panelists. I’d love to hear feedback!

Thanks for your time!

— Ira Alexandre, (WSFS Member and Contributing Editor at Lady Business)

Hugo Voting: Let’s Look at the Record Yet Again

By Jo Van Ekeren:

I’ve spent the last couple of years exhuming statistics and ephemera about the Hugo Awards from various sources, including old Usenet posts on Google Groups, old fanzines, archived con websites, and various historical documents which have been scanned and made available online (and I give my thanks to those of you who have been making those archiving efforts, especially Joe Siclari, Edie Stern, Mark Olson, and Bill Burns).

I’ve managed to resurrect full or partial statistics for around 23 additional years beyond what was posted at TheHugoAwards.org. A few years have already been posted there, and I will be gradually rolling out the rest of them over the next few months as I get them formatted into readable documents.

This post is an expanded and updated version of earlier statistical analyses by George Flynn:
Hugo Voting: Let’s Look at the Record by George Flynn [1988]
Hugo Voting: Let’s Look at the Record (Again) by George Flynn [1999]

and of an update by Jed Hartman which pulled in some additional years and electronic vs. paper voting numbers:
Hugo stats: numbers of nominating ballots by Jed Hartman [2018]

I’ve updated it with Site Selection ballot numbers, Advance Membership numbers, and Hugo participation percentages for 2000-2019, plus Retro Hugo data, as well as showing the difference between the number of categories which were on the nominating ballot versus the number of categories which had sufficient participation to be on the final voting ballot.

I’ve got source citations for all of the numbers included here. A lot of the information came from documents on The Hugo Awards, Fancyclopedia 3, FANAC, eFanzines, the SMOFS Long List, old Usenet posts on Google Groups, and the Wayback Machine. If you have questions about where one of the numbers came from, you can message me here.

You are welcome to link to the full Google document — and certainly can make a backup of it if you wish — but please be aware that I expect it to continue to change as more bits of information become available.

Please do report to me any errors or omissions you might notice, either in the comments on this post, or by submitting a message here.

What does the most recent data about Hugo nominators and voters tell us?

  1. Tracking of the electronic vs. paper nominations and votes, at the turn of the century, was helpful in evaluating the amount of electronic uptake by Hugo voters. That hit 99% in 2011, and has remained there ever since. Now this comparison tracking is chiefly of interest in noting how many remaining members are either unable or unwilling to nominate and vote electronically.
  2. From 1989 through 2007, participation in the final ballot was consistently under 20% of the Advance membership (those eligible to participate in voting). In 2008, both overall membership numbers and Hugo participation began to rise steadily. It is likely that common acceptance and the ease of the ability to nominate and vote electronically contributed significantly to this. In addition, 2008 was the first year of the annual Hugo Voter Packet – containing finalist works which were not otherwise available for free – and this has also likely contributed to the rise of member numbers and of Hugo participation among members.
  3. The ratio of Supporting to Attending members has also steadily risen in the last 10 years, and while some of this can be attributed to the Puppy campaigns of 2015-2016 as well as to fans from the U.S. being unable to attend overseas Worldcons in London and Helsinki, it seems clear that access to a large number of free works in the Hugo Voter Packet is also a contributing factor. Percentage of eligible advance member participation in the Hugo Awards is now at an all-time high, at 40% to 50% of the eligible membership.
  4. Site Selection, which has remained a mail-in or on-site endeavour, has seen somewhat of a decline in participation in the last 10 years. This is likely due to having only one bid site in many of those years, but possibly also somewhat due to people who previously voted for both Hugos and Site Selection by mail in the past now only voting for the Hugos online. This is not likely to change unless and until it becomes common for bidcoms to be willing to have electronic voting for Site Selection.

Hugo Voting: Let's Look At The Record Again (1971-1999), by George Flynn



Over
seas



Year



Worldcon             



Location
[1]
# of
Cate
gories

Valid
Nominating
Ballots

Valid
Final
Ballots
[1]
# of
Cate
gories

Site-
Selection
Ballots

Advance
Member
Count
Final
Hugo
Vote
Ratio
197129 - Noreascon IBoston934373291,60045.8%
197230 - L.A.Con ILos Angeles927055092561,50036.7%
197331 - Torcon IIToronto, Canada11350708113752,20032.2%
197432 - Discon IIWashington DC12?930126452,60035.8%
O197533 - Aussiecon OneMelbourne, Australia12267600125281,88031.9%
197634 - MidAmeriConKansas City124861,595129933,60044.3%
197735 - SunConMiami Beach12500800128842,80028.6%
197836 - IguanaCon IIPhoenix135401,246131,1544,20029.7%
O197937 - Seacon '79Brighton, UK134671,160139204,12628.1%
198038 - Noreascon TwoBoston135631,788131,5495,44732.8%
198139 - Denvention TwoDenver124541,247121,6804,52927.5%
198240 - Chicon IVChicago126481,071121,1195,00021.4%
198341 - ConStellationBaltimore126601,322127295,50024.0%
198442 - L.A.con IILos Angeles135131,467131,3686,74021.8%
O198543 - Aussiecon TwoMelbourne, Australia13222443135272,19920.1%
198644 - ConFederationAtlanta135681,267131,863 (’88)
1,276 (’89)
5,400
[6]
23.5%
O198745 - Conspiracy '87Brighton, UK13567990131,3734,95320.0%
198846 - Nolacon IINew Orleans144181,178141,4554,72125.0%
198947 - Noreascon 3Boston13539980131,6366,10016.1%
O199048 - ConFictionThe Hague, Netherlands14291486141,0883,41814.2%
199149 - Chicon VChicago133521,048132,0865,12620.4%
199250 - MagiConOrlando14498902142,5095,29717.0%
199351 - ConFranciscoSan Francisco15397841141,2825,83414.4%
199452 - ConAdianWinnipeg, Canada14649491141,4394,38811.2%
O199553 - IntersectionGlasgow, Scotland14477744141,5544,90015.2%
199654 - L.A.con IIILos Angeles14442939141,0646,00015.7%
199755 - LoneStarCon 2San Antonio13429687131,4674,40015.6%
199856 - BucConeerBaltimore13471769132,1685,13115.0%
O199957 - Aussiecon ThreeMelbourne, Australia13425438138202,42518.1%

Hugo Voting: Let's Look At The Record Yet Again (2000-2020),
by Jed Hartman and Jo Van Ekeren


Over
seas



Year



Worldcon             



Location
[1]
# of
Cate
gories


Valid Nominating Ballots


Valid Final Ballots
[1]
# of
Cate
gories

Site-
Selection
Ballots

Advance
Member
Count
Final
Hugo
Vote
Ratio
TotalElec%ElecTotalElec%Elec
2000
[2]
58 - Chicon 2000Chicago1340713031.9%1,07147544.4%131,6985,26220.4%
200159 - Millennium PhilconPhiladelphia1349517836.0%1,05028226.9%132,0945,01320.9%
2002
[3]
60 - ConJoséSan José1462637159.3%92469775.4%141,0344,42220.9%
2003
[4]
61 - Torcon 3Toronto, Canada1473877647861.6%141,4814,20418.5%
200462 - Noreascon 4Boston1456736664.6%1,093141,6865,61319.5%
O200563 - InteractionGlasgow, Scotland1554643679.9%68455280.7%15[7]4,16916.4%
200664 - L.A.con IVLos Angeles1553343481.4%71160084.4%141,5614,12817.2%
O2007
[5]
65 - Nippon2007Yokohama, Japan1540934083.1%589159024,69112.6%
200866 - Denvention 3Denver15483895158264,06222.0%
200967 - AnticipationMontréal, Canada167991,0741,04096.8%167633,81228.2%
O201068 - Aussiecon 4Melbourne, Australia168641,094165262,89837.8%
201169 - RenovationReno161,00699298.6%2,1002,08699.3%167604,68844.8%
201270 - Chicon 7Chicago171,1011,922179325,21836.8%
201371 - LoneStarCon 3San Antonio171,343132999.0%1,848171,3484,46841.4%
O201472 - Loncon 3London, UK171,923188998.2%3,5873,57199.6%177788,58041.8%
201573 - SasquanSpokane172,122211999.9%5,9505,91499.4%172,62510,32157.6%
201674 - MidAmeriCon IIKansas City174,032401599.6%3,130171,3216,17450.7%
O201775 - Worldcon 75Helsinki, Finland182,464245899.8%3,3193,31599.9%181,2277,67243.3%
201876 - Worldcon 76San José191,813179599.0%2,8282,81099.4%197266,39344.2%
O201977 - Dublin 2019Dublin, Ireland201,800179799.8%20
O202078 - CoNZealandWellington, New Zealand

Hugo Voting: Let's Look At The Record for the Retro Hugos



Year
Held


Retro
Year



Worldcon             



Location
[1]
# of
Cate
gories


Valid Nominating Ballots


Valid Final Ballots
[1]
# of
Cate
gories
TotalElec%ElecTotalElec%Elec
1996194654 - L.A.con IIILos Angeles13111---605---10
2001195159 - Millennium PhilconPhiladelphia121304836.9%86215718.2%10
2004195462 - Noreascon 4Boston131319673.3%84110
2014193972 - Loncon 3London, UK1623322697.0%1,3071,29599.1%10
2016194174 - MidAmeriCon IIKansas City1648147598.8%86911
2018194376 - Worldcon 76San José1720419294.1%70368897.9%9
2019194477 - Dublin 2019Dublin, Ireland1821721498.6%11

No.Footnote Explanation
[1]Number of categories includes the Hugo Awards, the Campbell Award, the Lodestar/YA Award, and any other special categories or awards announced that year. Discrepancies between total nominating categories and total voting categories are the result of categories with insufficient nominations being dropped from the final ballot.
[2]Chicon 2000 received 1,101 Hugo ballots, of which 475 were electronic ballots and 626 were paper ballots. 30 ballots were invalid, which left 1,071 valid ballots. It is unclear how many of the 30 invalid ballots were paper vs. electronic.
[3]ConJosé received 940 Hugo ballots. There were 697 were electronic ballots, 226 paper ballots, and 17 fax ballots. 16 ballots were invalid, which left 924 valid ballots. It is unclear how many of the 16 invalid ballots were paper vs. electronic vs. fax.
[4]Torcon 3 received 805 Hugo ballots, of which 478 were electronic ballots and 327 were paper ballots. 29 ballots were invalid, which left 776 valid ballots. It is unclear how many of the 29 invalid ballots were paper vs. electronic.
[5]The number of final Hugo ballots for Nippon 2007 is unknown. The quoted figure is the number of Novel ballots / 80%, which is the average percentage of final ballots cast for Novel during that stretch of years.
[6]Site Selection went from 2 years to 3 years in advance
[7]Site Selection went from 3 years to 2 years in advance