Is This Practice Unreal or Unfit? It’s Both

Unreal and Unfit magazines use Thinkerbeat Reader to “chart… the authors that we thought did really well with a story submission.” But these are not stories they bought – six days ago they tweeted out a link to the list of stories they rejected. The page had names, titles, and a rating between one and five stars. One problem: none of the authors had given them permission to do so.

As we read the stories we rank them. For 1 star, not shown on the list, please try again. For 5 stars, we buy them, also not shown on the list. For 2 to 4 stars, we think you deserve recognition and have created this list to say thank you.

Benjamin Kinney called out the practice in “Writer Warning: Unfit / Unreal / Thinkerbeat Reader”.

If you’re an author out there submitting short stories, you should be aware of the things that the magazine Unfit and Unreal (via their portal Thinkerbeat Reader) are doing without your permission.

Here’s a screenshot from the page where they publish the authors, titles, and ratings for some stories they’ve rejected….

…I’ve edited the screenshot to only reveal the information of authors who’ve given me consent to share. I’m not providing links because there are dozens more authors on that page, who presumably never wanted this information publicized. Nothing in the website’s guidelines warns an author that their story may be publicly named & rated. In fact, their privacy policy states that they will not share your information with anyone.

(Yes, public. This page is visible to everyone, not only Thinkerbeat readers.)

…Maybe some authors are willing to have their rejections named & rated. I certainly wouldn’t be, but that’s your choice to make. But it’s DEFINITELY not okay to share information about individual submissions without asking permission. None of the authors in my screenshot were aware of this until I told them.…

After some subtweeting (see here for an example), Jason Sanford broke the news on Twitter. His thread about Kinney’s post has received numerous responses from editors and writers. Starts here.

Stephen Granade writes: “I was one of the authors on the list, and chose to out myself, as the editor hadn’t asked permission” – see his tweet here.

Interestingly enough, the magazines claim they won’t use your data in any way — see screencap of their policy in this tweet by Erin M. Hartshorn.

To add to this lack of professionalism, when Benjamin Kinney asked about this practice, the editor of the magazines replied simply, “Grow up.”

Victoria Strauss has added a warning to her followers about not submitting to those sites:

Alasdair Stuart, as usual, has cogent thoughts on the matter. Thread starts here.

[Thanks to Stephen Granade for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/3/20 Please Vasten Your Seatbelts

(1) A CENTURY OF THE GOOD DOCTOR. This week Asimov would have been 100. James Gunn marked the occasion in an article for Science “Asimov at 100”.

A case can be made that, like H. G. Wells, Asimov came along at the right time. (Wells once commented that he made his writing debut in the 1890s, when the public was looking for new writers.) But Asimov also had a restless and productive mind. His early experience of reading, and then writing, science fiction gave his popular science writing a rare narrative model, while his fiction similarly benefited from his scientific training.

(2) NOW A JOURNALISTIC TECHNIQUE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Columbia Journalism Review, in “Journalism and the foreseeable future”, takes note of the trend in mainstream publishing to look at contemporaneous and emerging issues through the lens of science fiction. It’s a welcome trend that is producing excellent work we’ve seen featured on the Pixel Scroll several times, and I’m very glad to see this getting attention within journalistic circles. 

Despite its dangers, [Sam] Greenspan sees the value of speculative journalism’s mix of the true and the fanciful. “I think the goal should be to use fiction or sci-fi to tell a better true story,” he says. “And I’m taking seriously the kind of emotional impact these stories have on people. By introducing even just the slightest amount of something fantastical, it gives your audience permission to have their minds wander a bit from what we know to be true, and really opens up this window into possibility and hope.”

(3) GUD LISTENING. On the latest Rite Gud podcast R.S. Benedict’s guest is Stephen Mazur, associate editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. They talk about whether or not originality really matters in writing. Stephen also gets into a bit of inside baseball regarding F&SF publishing: the recent history of the magazine, how many submissions they get, what kind of submissions they get, the process, etc.

(4) ROMANCE WRANGLERS BEWARE. Who but Chuck Tingle would add “no sex” as a selling point? Or need to?

Gorblin Crimble is an aspiring romance author with a brand new novel that could be his first breakthrough hit. Of course, Gorblin is going to need some help getting his work out there, and starts by seeking likeminded creatives.

After attending a local writer’s group, Gorblin makes a new friend, Amber, who points him towards Romance Wranglers Of America. It sounds like this community is exactly the helpful, loving, supportive group that Gorblin is looking for, but when him and Amber arrive at the Romance Wranglers Of America headquarters, they quickly realize something is wrong. This once loving group has been taken over by a dark and mysterious force; lead by a man named Demon and his chanting coven of board members in jet-black robes.

Something horrible from the depths of the cosmic Void has taken hold, but is it too late to prove that romance is about love, not hate?

This important no-sex tale is 4,300 words of reasonable writers looking for a kind and supportive romance community that respects its members and treats them fairly.

(5) SFF ZINES. Jason Sanford today posted three more interviews with editors done in conjunction with his fine “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines” report.

Jason Sanford: I suspect most people in the SF/F genre don’t understand the difficulties of publishing a magazine. What’s one aspect of running a genre magazine you wish more readers and writers knew about?

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas: We think it’s important that people know the financial margins for magazines to stay in the black are razor thin, and that most of the magazines are unable to generate income for their publishers. (And many aren’t able to pay the editors.) Almost all of the income generated by magazines are going to the writers and artists….

Jason Sanford: Amazing Stories was the first science fiction magazine, and helped launch the pulp fiction era of the 1920s and ’30s. What is it like publishing a magazine with such history? Has that history presented any difficulties to your relaunch of the magazine?

Steve Davidson: Well, you get unexpected support and assistance;  a lot of people in the field are still very fond of both the magazine and its place in Science Fiction’s history.  But that brings with it two difficulties.  One, most younger fans among our potential market seem to assume that we’re publishing reprints of older works or new works in a golden-age style, despite the fact that promotion and discussion of the magazine – let alone our contributor’s own statements – clearly say otherwise.  We’re an old, venerable name in the genre publishing new, ground-breaking science fiction from the current era. …

Jason: In many ways Clarkesworld helped birth the current movement in online and genre magazines. How have things changed since the founding of Clarkesworld? Would you say it’s harder or easier to run a genre magazine these days?

Neil: It was a very different world for magazines in 2006. Online fiction wasn’t particularly respected. I remember having established authors tell me point-blank they wouldn’t publish online because it was the domain of “newbie writers and pirates.” The year’s best anthologies and various genre awards rarely featured works from those markets. With two-to-three years, that started changing and today, the awards have heavily swung the other direction – something you could reasonably argue is just as problematic….

(6) BURNED OUT. Australian fan Don Ashby, who lost his home to one of the fires now raging Down Under, was interviewed by The Age: “The sky turned black. The beast had arrived in Mallacoota”. (Via Irwin Hirsh.)

When Don Ashby caught a lift through town on Tuesday afternoon, he counted as many as 20 properties destroyed. One was his mother-in-law’s mudbrick cottage. Another was his own home of 20 years.

Ashby had evacuated his family to Melbourne and spent Monday night helping a friend to defend her house.

It had been an exhausting night and morning, punctuated by the rapid combustion of gas cylinders at a nearby storage business.

“It was like we were in the middle of the battle of the Somme,” he said.

When he returned to his own home, it looked unscathed. Then he realised it was just the facade that had been untouched by fire. The rear of the house was a blazing ruin. With no CFA tankers nearby and no water pressure left to fight the fire, he could only stand and watch it burn.

“It is all a bit grim really,” he said. “We really copped it.

“I have been in a few bushfires before but nothing like this. Nothing like this has happened before. The whole of Gippsland was on fire.”

(7) BABY IT’S GOLD OUTSIDE. Plagiarism Today reports from the front in “The Battle Over ‘Baby Yoda’”.

…However, those were just the first drops of a tidal wave that came crashing down on the internet. Etsy, for example, is swarming with unauthorized Baby Yoda merchandise of all types and eBay is much the same way.

This has become the subject of a lot of media coverage as well, such as this article on The Nerdist highlight a Baby Yoda plush toy.

This glut of unauthorized toys isn’t due to a lack of effort on Disney’s part. Several artists have reported receiving takedown notices after selling Baby Yoda merchandise on such sites and even the toy referenced above was also removed. Still, it’s clear that the Baby Yoda craze has outpaced even Disney’s capacity for control.

And the issues aren’t just related to physical items. Back in November, the popular gif website Giphy pulled all of its Baby Yoda gifs. Though Disney was initially blamed for this, it turned out it was a proactive move by Giphy that aimed to head off potential legal action by Disney. Disney hadn’t done anything.

(8) 2020 SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) is taking nominations for the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel awards until 11.59 pm NZT on March 31.

The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2019 calendar year.

…A nomination made by a SFFANZ member carries a weight of two nominations, where non-members’ nominations carry a weight of one.

Full information about the awards, including the rules and criteria for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, can be found here. Eligibility list is here.

(9) PRO-ROWLING. Megan McArdle’s opinion piece in the Washington Post “Has J.K. Rowling figured out a way to break our cancel culture?” says that Rowling’s defense of Maya Forstater and her refusal to back down after social media protests shows that “the opinions of officious strangers, possibly thousands of miles away, who swarm social media like deranged starlings over and over again” can be safely ignored.

The censorious power of Mrs. Grundys always depends on the cooperation of the governed, which is why their regime collapsed the moment the baby boomers shrugged off their finger-wagging. If Rowling provides an unmissable public demonstration that it is safe to ignore the current crop, we can hope others will follow her example, and the dictatorship of the proscriptariat will fall as quickly as it arose.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 3, 1970 Doctor Who’s “Spearhead from Space” serial started airing. The Third Doctor as played by John Pertwee first appears in this episode. It would also be the first appearance of companion Liz Shaw who’s played by Caroline John. She only lasted a season because the next showrunner decided she was too intelligent to be a proper companion.
  • January 3, 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication. As you know, it would have a seven-year run with one seventy-six episodes in total. S.D. Perry wrote a sort of authorized ninth season in her Avatar novels. She’s written a number of Trek universe novels including a Section 31 one.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 3, 1892 J. R. R. Tolkien. I’m not going to waste my time detailing Tolkien to this group. My go-to book for him for him after over forty years of reading him remains The Hobbit. The book that still annoys me? The Two Towers. Best Tolkien experience? Seeing The Father Christmas Letters read live. (Died 1973.)
  • Born January 3, 1898 Doris Pitkin Buck. She’s got my feline curiosity aroused. Wiki says “She published numerous science fiction stories and poems, many of them in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.” That’s fine but there’s little said about her or how she came to be a SF writer. ESF notes her “still unpublished tale “Cacophony in Pink and Ochre” has long formed part of the announced contents of Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions.” So what do y”all do about her? (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 3, 1930 Stephen Fabian, 90. He specializes in genre illustration and cover art for books and magazines such as H. Warner’s The Werewolf of Ponkert which you can see here. I see he got a World Fantasy Award—Life Achievement, and was nominated seven times for Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Is that the most times for being nominated without winning? His collected works include Ladies & Legends and Women & Wonders. Of course, they’re genre. 
  • Born January 3, 1937 Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980The Six Million Dollar Man, ManimalBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure any way to claim that’s even genre adjacent. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.)
  • Born January 3, 1940 Kinuko Y. Craft, 80. She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here?  Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plain for a favorite cover she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work.
  • Born January 3, 1956 Mel Gibson, 64. I know the first thing I saw was genre wise involving him was The Road Warrior in a cinema which would be some forty years ago. Likewise I saw Mad Max 2 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in cinemas, but I admit have mixed feelings about both of those films, though less about the latter as it’s at least fun. He’s in FairyTale: A True Story, a look at the the Cottingley Fairy photographs of the 1920s, and voices John Smith in Pocahontas. He plays Hamlet in Hamlet but I really don’t think I can call that genre, but I know some of you will. 
  • Born January 3, 1975 Danica McKellar, 45. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in Young Justice. It’s just completed its third season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it. 
  • Born January 3, 1976 Charles Yu, 44. Taiwanese American writer. Author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award. 

(12) ALL ROBOT DOGS GO TO THE CLOUD. BuzzFeed: “While Americans Worry About The AI Uprising, People In Japan Are Learning To Love Their Robots — And Be Loved Back”.

It was before 10 a.m. on a gray summer Sunday, but already a small crowd had gathered outside Penguin Café at the end of a block in residential Tokyo. A woman named Kyoko, dressed in a white T-shirt and apron, unlocked the doors and motioned for everyone to come inside.

Half a dozen or so people filed in, several with signature pink dog carriers slung over their shoulders. As more entered, the group clustered at the center of the café. Carefully, they unzipped the mesh panels of their carriers and removed the small white and silver dogs inside, setting them down on the wooden floor. One owner peeled back a yellow blanket over a baby carrier strapped to her chest where she held her dog, still asleep.

Some of the owners fussed with the dogs’ outfits before putting them down — straightening a necktie or pulling up the elastic band on a pair of shorts. One owner had dressed their dog in a Hawaiian shirt, while another was wearing aviator goggles and had a strong resemblance to Snoopy. Several had tiny straw hats affixed between their ears. All the dogs were plastic, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence….

(13) BOOKMARKS. Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books With Yoon Ha Lee”.

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

Thor: Metal Gods
is a Serial Box serialized novel by Aaron Stewart-Ahn (the lead writer), Jay Edidin, Brian Keene, and myself.  It features Thor and Loki, both coming to terms with old sins and old friends, a Korean tiger goddess, and a genderfluid space pirate and astronomer.  There are black holes, eldritch abominations, heavy metal, and mayhem.  We had terrific fun writing it and we hope you’ll enjoy it too.

(14) CLEANER OR MEANER? Daily Beast writer David Axe contemplates whether “It’s the First Orbiting Garbage Collector—or a New Kind of Space Weapon”.

… The European Space Agency is about to pull one of the bigger hunks of garbage from orbit. But there’s a problem: The same tech that could help make space cleaner might, in the long run, also make it more dangerous.

That’s because the ESA’s ClearSpace-1 orbital garbage truck, as well as other spacecraft like it, could double as a weapon. 

Swiss startup ClearSpace designed the ClearSpace-1 vehicle to intercept a chunk of debris, latch onto it, and drag it back into Earth’s atmosphere where it can safely burn up. The ESA has scheduled the clean-up mission for 2025 and has even identified its target: a 265-pound piece of an old rocket orbiting 310 miles above Earth’s surface.

The 2025 mission will involve what ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet called “non-cooperative capture.” That is to say, the targeted piece of debris wasn’t designed with an interface or any other system that might help a clean-up craft grab onto it. 

(15) AMAZONS! A growing body of archaeological evidence shows that legends about the horseback-riding, bow-wielding female fighters were almost certainly rooted in reality. The Washington Post has the story: “Amazons were long considered a myth. These discoveries show warrior women were real. “

…In a landmark discovery revealed this month, archaeologists unearthed the remains of four female warriors buried with a cache of arrowheads, spears and horseback-riding equipment in a tomb in western Russia — right where Ancient Greek stories placed the Amazons.

The team from the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences identified the women as Scythian nomads who were interred at a burial site some 2,500 years ago near the present-day community of Devitsa. The women ranged in age from early teens to late 40s, according to the archaeologists. And the eldest of the women was found wearing a golden ceremonial headdress, a calathus, engraved with floral ornaments — an indication of stature.

(16) WORDSMITH ALSO TUNESMITH. Don’t say you never got the chance to hear Norman Spinrad sing. Today on Facebook he reminded people about the time he performed at the Cirque Electrique in Paris.

Not that I’m planning to ever give up my day job, but I’ve had a long slow minor career with music, something around a dozen songs written or co-written, something less than that creating and recording, occasional live performances too such as this one, my best I think.

(17) 2019. Joe Sherry explains his choices for the “Top 9 Books of the Year” at Nerds of a Feather.

7. Middlegame: Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work. It’s impressive. McGuire goes big with Middlegame. Doubt Seanan McGuire at your peril. (my review)

(18) IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE HONOR OF THE THING. Publishers Weekly declared “Dav Pilkey Is PW’s Person of the Year for 2019”.

Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, the ninth book in his popular children’s novel series, published in 2012, features a comic strip made by the book’s incorrigible pranksters George and Harold, the stars of the series. This comic-within-a-novel marks the first appearance of Dog Man, Pilkey’s lovable crime-fighting superhero, who is surgically constructed from the body of a cop and the head of his police dog companion after they were both injured in a typically Pilkey-style zany accident.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  From Savag Entertainment, “Timelapse Reveals How Clever This Billboard Ad For The BBC’s ‘Dracula’ Is.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Contrarius, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, R.S. Benedict, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/2/20 Pixellate In Glorious Scrollovision

(1) NETWORK ANALYSIS OF RWA/MILAN CONTROVERSY. Mikki Kendall did a breakdown for NBC News: “The Romance Writers of America racism row matters because the gatekeepers are watching”.

…Let’s talk about the power of romance. There’s power in the written word, even in a genre that we tend to consider — because of sexism — less intellectual than some others. And it isn’t just about hearts and flowers and candy; this is cold hard cash: Romance as a literary genre represents a quarter of all fiction sales and more than half of all paperback sales, and it brings in over a billion dollars in sales annually.

The impact of romance books on the culture is outsize because everyone is interested in romance, whether they admit it publicly or not.

…But there’s inevitably a small contingent of writers who simply can’t handle being criticized, whether directly or indirectly. Vitriolic responses to critics are hardly limited to well-known writers; those who aspire to become household names are equally prone to them. Having your work dissected, discussed and sometimes even demeaned, however, is part of putting it out into the world. All writers know this — or at least they should — and writing romance novels is no exception.

(2) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Jason Sanford continues releasing interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his well-researched report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: You said Fireside pays its editors a fee for each issue of the print magazine, with the fee based on Fireside’s word rate and the revenue to pay for this coming entirely from subscribers. Was there a break-even point with subscribers where this started to work? Do you still rely on any fundraising to support the magazine?

Pablo: I think using a word like ‘fundraising’ is misleading. Fireside is not a non-profit, and it’s not a charity – so we’re not ‘raising funds’ for anything. Using vocabulary linked to non-profits and charities implies that the people who support us are doing so out of the kindness of their heart, without receiving any direct value in return. The stories, artwork, and publications that Fireside publishes have value, our customers recognize that, and are willing to pay money for it.

But I digress. To answer your question…

Jason: According to this year’s Locus Magazine survey, Escape Pod has an audience size of 37,000 people, making it one of the largest English-language SF magazines in the world. What percentage of your audience supports the magazine with donations? Any  thoughts on how to convinces more genre readers and listeners to support the magazines they love?

Mur: I believe we have the typical 1% rate of donation. We have no funding but our listeners, and the couple of times we’ve been in trouble, we’ve been honest with saying, hey, we can’t keep delivering the show to you if you don’t support us, and they’ve always stepped up. With Patreon it’s much easier to allow people to donate on a sustaining level and get rewards as well!

(3) ROSE IS STILL MISSING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna discusses the controversy over whether Kelly Marie Tran deserved more screen time in The Rise of Skywalker, noting that screewnwriter Chris Terrio has withdrawn his explanation that Tran would have had many scenes with Carrie Fisher had Fisher lived to not much of an explanation at all: “Many Star Wars fans are upset the new movie sidelines Kelly Marie Tran’s character. The writer is trying to explain.”

…On Monday, Terrio walked back that explanation, saying that the real issue with Rose had nothing to do with visual effects.

He told Vulture: “I badly misspoke if in an earlier statement I implied that any cut scenes between Rose and Leia were the fault of our VFX team and the wizards at ILM. In that earlier interview, I was referring to a specific scene in which Leia’s emotional state in ‘Episode VII’ [‘The Force Awakens’] did not seem to match the scene we wrote for use in ‘Episode IX’ [‘Rise’] and so it was cut at the script stage before the VFX work was done.”

Terrio underscored to the Hollywood Reporter on Monday that the issue did not involve “photorealism,” as he earlier stated. “I would sometimes come and sit at the VFX reviews and my jaw would drop at seeing Leia live again.”

(Representatives from the film have not yet responded to a request from The Post to speak with Terrio.)

(4) FAVES OF 2019. Hot off the blocks with the New Year, SF² Concatenation has its team’s annual choice for the Best SF books and films of the previous year. They have advance posted “Best Science Fiction of the Year – Possibly?” ahead of their spring edition of news and reviews (which is slated for mid-January).

Every year, around Christmas and New Year a round-robin is sent to many members of the SF² Concatenation team asking for their favourite SF/F/H books and films of the previous year.  If just two or three nominate the same work then it gets added to a list of Best SF/F/H works of the previous year.  This list appears in the Spring (northern hemisphere academic year) edition’s news page.  It is simply a bit of fun and not meant to be taken too seriously but as a pointer for our regulars to perhaps check out some recent works.  Yet over the years, each year sees a few from these lists go on to be short-listed, and even win, a number of SF awards.

Spooky, huh?

(5) BITES JUST RIGHT. “Dracula: Critics applaud ‘energetic and fun’ revival of vampire classic” – BBC has a roundup.

The BBC’s new take on Dracula is a hit with critics, one of whom says it is “the meatiest, goriest, most energetic and fun version” she has ever seen.

“Previous versions now look anaemic,” writes The Times’ Carol Midgley.

The Mail’s reviewer hailed “a Dracula to delight horror movie fans of all stripes” in his five-star write-up.

The Telegraph’s reviewer, meanwhile, praised Danish actor Claes Bang for his “witty, outrageous and thrilling” portrayal of Bram Stoker’s vampire.

“It might not have been faithful to the original, but it was a scream,” writes the paper’s Anita Singh.

The BBC One mini-series has been written and created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the duo behind the award-winning Sherlock.

(6) BREATHE IN. IGN interviews the midwives…. “Galaxy Quest: How the Thermians Were Born”.

…Parisot remembers Colantoni’s audition inventiveness setting the tone for the Thermians. After a solid read, the direct says he could tell the actor was holding back on his way out the door.

“For some reason I said, ‘Rico, it seems like you’ve got something on your mind,’” recalls the director. “He goes, ‘Well, I have this voice. I don’t know if it works.’ I said, ‘What is it? Try it.’ He did it and I just went, ‘Oh my God, that’s it!’

“The Thermians came out of that voice,” Parisot continues. As more actors were added to the Thermian ranks, that voice became the reference point with every addition, including Missi Pyle (Laliari), Jed Rees (Teb), and Patrick Breen (Quellek).

“We had alien school and we would come up with things like the walk,” Parisot remembers. “Rather than swinging in the direction most people do, we went the opposite direction with the arms, and the posture because they’re basically giant calamari hiding in human shape.

(7) THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN. It might be this year.“Chandrayaan-3: India plans third Moon mission”.

India has announced plans for a third lunar mission, months after its last one crash landed on the Moon’s surface.

The chairman of India’s space agency, K Sivan, said work was going “smoothly” on the Chandrayaan-3 unmanned mission.

He said the country was aiming to launch the mission in 2020 but that it “may spill over” to 2021.

If successful, it would make India the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, and boost its credentials as a low-cost space power.

(8) BUT WAIT — THERE’S MORE. “India Announces Plans For Its First Human Space Mission”.

India’s space agency says that four astronaut candidates have been selected for its first human mission, targeted to launch by 2022, but they’ve not been publicly named or identified.

India hopes to join the United States, Russia and China as the world’s fourth nation capable of sending people to space. It has been developing its own crewed spacecraft, called Gaganyaan (or “sky vehicle” in Sanskrit), that would let two to three people orbit the Earth on a week-long spaceflight.

K Sivan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, held a press briefing on New Year’s Day and told reporters that the four astronauts would start their training in Russia in a few weeks.

(9) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. There’s even a Wikipedia entry – unfortunately, one that makes it sound like a big commercial. That attitude would make more sense to me if I’d ever seen a Hallmark card for the occasion.  

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 2, 1996 The Demon Headmaster aired the first episode of its three seasons. Based on the children’s series by Gillian Cross of the same name, the later books were based off the screenplays for the series which Cross wrote. The cast included Terrence Hardiman, Frances Amey, Gunnar Atli, Cauthery and Thomas Szekeres. A sequel series was done. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. I can’t possibly summarize him here so I won’t. My favorite novels by him are the original Foundation novels followed very closely by his Galactic Empire series and I, Robot. I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction but I’ll be damn if I can recall any of it specifically right now. (Died 1992.)
  • Born January 2, 1940 Susan Wittig Albert, 80. She’s the author of The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, a series of mysteries featuring that writer. Really. Truly. Haven’t read them but they bear such delightful titles as The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood. She has non-genre series involving an herbalist and a gardening club as well. 
  • Born January 2, 1948 Deborah Watling, Best known for her role as Victoria Waterfield, a companion of the Second Doctor. She was also in Downtime, playing the same character, a one-off sequel to a sequel to the Second Doctor stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. No Doctors were to be seen. If you’ve seen the English language dubbed version of Viaje al centro de la Tierra (Where Time Began, based off Verne’s Journey to the Center of The Earth), she’s doing the lines of Ivonne Sentis as Glauben. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 2, 1952 Caitlín Matthews, 68. Fiction writer. Well she sure as Odin’s Beard isn’t a scholar in any meaningful sense. With her husband John, she’s written such works as King Arthur’s Raid on the Underworld: The Oldest Grail Quest, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures and on her own, Mabon and the Mysteries of Britain: An Exploration of the Mabinogion. They’re entertaining as long as you accept that they’re really mostly fiction. 
  • Born January 2, 1959 Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 61. Wiki in a fit of exuberance list him as a “editor, fan, fanzine publisher, essayist, reviewer, anthologist, teacher and blogger”. Which is true. He’s won three Hugo Awards for Best Editor Long, and he won a World Fantasy Award for editing the Starlight 1 anthology. 
  • Born January 2, 1967 Tia Carrere, 53. Best remembered for her three-season run as Sydney Fox, rogue archeologist on Relic Hunter. She’s been in a lot of one-offs on genre series including Quantum Leap, Hercules, Tales from The Crypt, Airwolf, Friday the 13th and played Agent Katie Logan for two episodes on Warehouse 13.
  • Born January 2, 1979 Tobias S. Buckell, 41. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which he managed to wrap up rather nicely. The collection he edited, The Stories We Tell: Bermuda Anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, is well worth reading, as is his own Tides from a New World collection.
  • Born January 2, 1983 Kate Bosworth, 37. She’s Barbara Barga in the SS-GB series done the superb Len Deighton novel. She’s both a producer and a performer on The I- Land Netflixseries where she’s KC, a decidedly not nice person. For a more positive character, she portrayed Lois Lane in Superman Returns.

(12) SOLAR TO BLAME. Mark Lawrence’s “Star one stars!” features bad reviews that Amazon customers gave books, complaining about things that aren’t in the writer’s control. His first example —

I was recently the lucky recipient of this 1* review on Amazon. It struck me as worthy of note because not only is it not a review of the book, it’s not even a criticism of Amazon. It’s more of a critique of the customer’s own life skills…

“1*: Can’t remember ordering these books. Not my type of subject. Unable to find a method of cancelling the transaction”

(13) LIGHT ‘EM UP. Cora Buhlert tells how she celebrated a “Happy New Year 2020” in Germany, where fireworks are part of the tradition – but for how long?

…However, this year some organisations are calling for a complete ban on private fireworks. The initial reasons given were environmental – fireworks release smoke and microparticles, but then other reasons like animal welfare and health and safety were also given. Plus, there is a call – echoed by various charities – that fireworks are a waste of money and that the people should rather donate the money spent on fireworks to charity. One figure that’s often bandied about is that in 2018, 130 million Euros were spent on fireworks in Germany. That sounds like a lot – until you do the calculations and realise that this figure means that every person in Germany spent 1,57 Euros per year on fireworks on average. And 1,57 Euros per person is not a lot of money, especially if you consider that the total figure of 130 million Euros also includes money spent on professional fireworks.

So why are fireworks suddenly so controversial, especially since they are limited to one night of the year – with the occasional firecracker going off a few days before or after? IMO, the underlying reason is just that some people find fireworks annoying, because they are noisy, frivolous and the wrong kind of people (teenagers, immigrants, poor people) are having fun. In recent times, there has been a resurgence of the kind of joyless moralism that dominated the 1980s. And not coincidentally, the “Give to charity rather than buying fireworks” campaign originally also dates from the 1980s.

(14) IN TIMES TO COME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature points out “The science events to watch for in 2020”. This includes… 2020 will see a veritable Mars invasion as several spacecraft, including three landers, head to the red planet. NASA will launch its Mars 2020 rover, which will stash rock samples that will be returned to Earth in a future mission and will also feature a small, detachable helicopter drone. China will send its first lander to Mars, Huoxing-1, which will deploy a small rover. A Russian spacecraft will deliver a European Space Agency (ESA) rover to the red planet — if issues with the landing parachute can be resolved. And the United Arab Emirates will send an orbiter, in the first Mars mission by an Arab country. Closer to home, China is planning to send the Chang’e-5 sample-return mission to the Moon.

Attached is a pic of the forthcoming Mars lander being tested.

(15) ONLY 3600-SOME-ODD SHOPPING DAYS ‘TIL. In “The 2030 Last-Minute Christmas Gift Guide” on Vice, Tim Maughan foresees what the hot holiday items of ten years from now will be, including Barron Trump’s rap albums and Marvel Vs. Star Wars VI: The Final Conflict.

…Want to take a low flying helicopter ride over the Texas Refinery District Toxic Exclusion Zone? Try urban scuba deep under what was once the Miami waterfront? Or maybe you want to take a leaf out of your favorite influencer’s book, and get your photo taken on the rim of the crater that was once the Space X test facility? The Unlimited Dream Company can make it happen, with its range of exclusive, customizable tourist trips. You’ll be given full safety training and orientation—including an entry level handgun course for trips in disputed states—and will be accompanied by medical staff*, Darklake certified security agents, and tour guides with unmatched local knowledge.

(16) RESOLUTIONS. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova selects “Elevating Resolutions for the New Year Inspired by Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds” (2016). A long Ursula K. Le Guin excerpt crowns the middle of the list – but the Vonnegut is short enough to quote —

In 2005, Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922–April 11, 2007) — a man of discipline, a sage of storytelling, and one wise dad — penned a short and acutely beautiful remembrance of his friend Joseph Heller, who had died several years earlier. Originally published in the New Yorker, it was later reprinted in John C. Bogle’s Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life (public library).

JOE HELLER

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.

I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!

(17) ART LARP. “One Night In An Edward Hopper Hotel Room? It’s Less Lonely Than You Might Think”.

It isn’t hard to imagine yourself inside an Edward Hopper painting — having a coffee at a late-night diner, or staring out the bedroom window at the bright morning sun.

Now, for $150 a night, you can sleep in one — or a reproduction of one — at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Designers have constructed a 3D version of Hopper’s 1957 Western Motel, and invited Hopper fans to sleep over.

It feels a little funny getting undressed for bed in a museum. (There are plenty of nudes on the walls, but you don’t expect to be one yourself.) But suddenly there you are, in your jammies — a guard outside in the hallway — turning off the goose-neck lamp on the bedside table, tucking yourself under a deep burgundy bedspread, and looking out the big picture “window” at a green Buick parked outside.

(18) THE NEXT MARVEL FIRSTS. “Marvel to get first transgender superhero”. And that’s not all.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is set to get its first transgender superhero.

“And very soon. In a movie that we’re shooting right now,” Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige said during a Q&A at the New York Film Academy.

Asked by a fan whether there were any plans for more LGBT characters in Marvel’s films, “specifically the T, trans characters”, Kevin said: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.”

This year, The Eternals will introduce Marvel movies’ first gay character.

There have been reports since 2019 that Phase 4 of the MCU – the films following the Avengers Infinity saga – would star a trans character.

Marvel has also said it will introduce its first deaf superhero in The Eternals and its first Asian-American superhero, in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

“You look at the success of Captain Marvel and Black Panther. We want the movies to reflect the audience and we want every member of our global audience to see themselves reflected on the screen,” Kevin Feige previously said.

(19) DIY. “Invasion Planet Earth: Sci-fi filmed in Birmingham” — video, with clips and interviews.

Since being a teenager Simon Cox loved science fiction, especially Star Wars.

He wanted to make his own blockbuster, and he has finally realised his dream to write and direct his own film, which is called Invasion Planet Earth.

It’s taken 20 years, crowd funding and several campaigns to fund the small budget film.

Much of the sci-fi epic was filmed in Birmingham with 900 Brummies acting as extras.

The movie, which has been shown in mainstream cinemas, is available on DVD and available to download.

(20) LOOKING AHEAD. Sounds like they’re not going with Jubal Harshaw’s solution. BBC covers “Writing a ‘national anthem’ for Mars” — video, with performance.

An Indian former software analyst who’s now a rising star in the opera world has written a new “national anthem” for Mars.

Oscar Castellino was commissioned to give the Red Planet its own anthem by the UK’s Mars Society – to promote the idea that if humans ever live there then they will need their own musical identity.

(21) THESE ARE THE DROIDS I’M LOOKING FOR. Philadelphia channel 17 captured the highly stfnal “Fralinger String Band at the 2020 Mummers Parade” on video.  

Love the Fralinger String Band?  Then you came to the right place.   We’ve got Fralinger’s 2020 Mummers Parade performance video of their “Lunar Effect” theme and some photos below.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 1/1/20 Old Pixel’s File Of Practical Scrolls

(1) AFTER QUARTER CENTURY, GOMOLL STEPS DOWN. The Otherwise Award announced yesterday: “Jeanne Gomoll Retires from Motherboard”.

Jeanne Gomoll, whose art, design, and organizing energy has propelled and sustained the Award for the last 25 years, is retiring from the Otherwise Motherboard at the end of 2019. The remaining members of the Motherboard are incredibly grateful for Jeanne’s tireless, brilliant work and look forward to celebrating her contributions at WisCon in 2020.

Jeanne writes:

Up until 1991 it felt to me as though the efforts of the Madison SF Group, Janus and Aurora fanzines, and WisCon, to encourage and celebrate feminist science fiction were largely restricted to a single place and to those who came to this place and attended WisCon. Indeed, by the late 1980s, it felt to me as if our efforts to foster feminist SF were increasingly being met with opposition and might possibly have been in danger of flickering out, as the backlash to feminism in general and feminist SF in specific gained strength. Pat Murphy’s 1991 announcement of the Tiptree Award thrilled me and gave me renewed strength. It was as if a small group of us, following a narrow, twisty path had merged with a much wider, well-traveled path. After the Tiptree Award began handing out annual awards and raising funds, and had sparked a massive juggernaut of community activism, I stopped worrying about the viability of the movement.

I will be forever grateful to the Tiptree Award and proud of my work on it. I chaired two Tiptree juries—one in 1993, which chose Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite as the winner; and the other in 2016, which presented the award to When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore. I served on the Motherboard for 25 years, 1994-2019, and worked behind-the-scenes on most of the auctions during those years, and as an artist creating logos, publications, and Tiptree merchandise. I will be forever grateful to the Motherboard for the work we did together and the friendships we created along the way. I am awed by and very proud of the community of writers and readers who supported and were nurtured by the award, even as they guided the award further along the path toward greater diversity and scope.

The Tiptree Award, and now the Otherwise Award will always have my heartfelt support. But it is time for me to step back and make space for a new generation of activists. I want to thank my fellow motherboard founding mothers and members, past and present—Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Jeff Smith, Alexis Lothian, Sumana Harihareswara, Gretchen Treu, Debbie Notkin, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman—for all they have done and for their friendship, which I will value forever.

(2) THIS IS HORROR. Public nominations are being accepted through January 8 for the This Is Horror Awards.

The public nominations are now open for the ninth annual This Is Horror Awards. This year we’ve retained all the categories from last year and added one more, ‘Cover Art of the year’. Here are the categories: Novel of the Year, Novella of the Year, Short Story Collection of the Year, Anthology of the Year, Fiction Magazine of the Year, Publisher of the Year, Fiction Podcast of the Year, Nonfiction Podcast of the Year, and Cover Art of the Year.

Readers can e-mail in their nominations for each category. Taking into consideration the nominations for each category This Is Horror will then draw up a shortlist.

We invite you to include one sentence as to why each nomination is award-worthy.

(3) DEEP STATE. Jason Sanford has been posting interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his fantastic report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: How much of an increase in your budget would be required to pay all editorial and publishing staff a living wage?

Scott: Estimating using a salary of $15/hour for the work our staff does, we would need a $45,000 increase in our annual budget to pay all staff a living wage.  That’s double what our annual budget is to pay for the stories we publish.  To cover that, our monthly donations through Patreon would have to increase by 7000%….

Jason: Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has said some of the problems experienced by genre magazines come about because “we’ve devalued short fiction” through reader expectations that they shouldn’t have to pay for short stories. Do you agree with this? Any thoughts on how to change this situation?

LDL: …I think the issue is one of exhaustion on the part of volunteer staff and a strained supporter base. In my observation, the people who contribute to zine crowdfunds also contribute to crowdfunds for individuals in emergency situations. There are a lot of emergencies or people in general need, just within the SFF community and funds are finite. If you’re supporting your four favorite zines every year, donating to three medical funds, two Kickstarters, a moving fund, and also taking on costs associated with at least one fandom-related convention every year, it’s not sustainable for a lot of readers, especially the marginalized ones….

Jason: In addition to paying your writers, Asimov’s also pays all of your staff, something which is not common among many of today’s newer genre magazines. Is it possible to publish a magazine like Asimov’s without the support of a larger company, in this case Penny Publications?

Sheila: An anecdotal review of the American market doesn’t really bear that out. F&SF is published by a small company. Analog and Asimov’s are published by a larger (though not huge) publishing company. Being published by a larger company does have its advantages, though. While only one and a half people are dedicated to each of the genre magazines, we do benefit from a support staff of art, production, tech, contracts, web, advertising, circulation, and subsidiary rights departments. I’m probably leaving some people out of this list. While the support of this infrastructure cannot be underestimated, Asimov’s revenue covers our editorial salaries, and our production and editorial costs. We contribute to the company’s general overhead as well.

Jason: Strange Horizons also helped pioneer the idea that a genre magazine could be run as a nonprofit with assistance from a staff of volunteers. What are the pros and cons of this publishing model?

Vanessa: With volunteer staff, the con is simple: no pay. Generally, working for no pay privileges people who can afford to volunteer time, and devalues the work we do as editors. I’d like to think that at SH, we have partially balanced the former by making our staff so large and so international that no one need put in many hours, and folks can cover for you regardless of time zone. Despite having 50+ folks, we’re a close group. Our Slack is a social space, and we bring our worst and best days there for each other. Several members (including me) have volunteered right through periods of un- and underemployment because of the love of the zine and our community….

(4) NEBULA CONFERENCE EARLYBIRD RATE. The rate has been extended another week —

(5) MORE ON MILAN. The Guardian’s coverage of the RWA/Courtney Milan controversy, “A romance novelist spoke out about racism. An uproar ensued”, starts with the now-familiar origin story, then adds dimension with background history like this:

HelenKay Dimon, a past RWA president, previously told The Guardian that she regularly received letters from white RWA members expressing concern that “now nobody wants books by white Christian women”.

There is “a group of people who are white and who are privileged, who have always had 90% of everything available, and now all of a sudden, they have 80%. Instead of saying: ‘Ooh, look, I have 80%,’ they say: ‘Oh, I lost 10! Who do I blame for losing 10?’” Dimon said.

The tweets that sparked the ethics complaints against Milan, which were posted this August, were part of a broader conversation on romance Twitter about how individual racist beliefs held by gatekeepers within the publishing world have shaped the opportunities available to authors of color.

(6) ARRAKIS AGAIN. Just before the calendar clicked over to 1965, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus forced himself to read the first installment of the Dune World sequel: “[December 31, 1964] Lost in the Desert (January 1965 Analog)”.  

The…next installment of Frank Herbert’s Dune World saga has been staring me in the face for weeks, ever since I bought the January 1965 issue of Analog. I found I really didn’t want to read more of it, having found the first installment dreary, though who am I to argue with all the Hugo voters?

And yet, as the days rolled on, I came up with every excuse not to read the magazine. I cleaned the house, stem to stern. I lost myself in this year’s Galactic Stars article. I did some deep research on 1964’s space probes.

But the bleak desert sands of Arrakis were unavoidable. So this week, I plunged headfirst into Campbell’s slick, hoping to make the trek to the end in fewer than two score years. Or at least before 1965. Join me; let’s see if we can make it.

(7) RINGS TWICE. Tor.com reprints “A Weapon With a Will of Its Own: How Tolkien Wrote the One Ring as a Character”, Megan N. Fontenot’s engrossing manuscript study about how Bilbo’s trinket became the key to the LOTR trilogy.

In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained; it was “impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Letters 326). Even had someone of unmatched power, like Gandalf, claimed the Ring, there would have been no real victory, for “the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end” (332).

It would have been the master.

From humble beginnings as a mere trinket bartered in a game of riddles (see the original Hobbit), the Ring grew in power and influence until it did indeed include all of Middle-earth in its simple band of gold. “One Ring to rule them all” wasn’t just meant to sound intimidating—it was hard truth. Even Sauron couldn’t escape the confines of its powers. It was his greatest weakness.

But how did the Ring become the thing around which the entirety of the Third Age revolved (Letters 157)?…

(8) JANUARY 2. Get ready – tomorrow is “National Science Fiction Day”. It must be legit – “National Science Fiction Day is recognized by the Hallmark Channel and the Scholastic Corporation.”

National Science Fiction Day promotes the celebration of science fiction as a genre, its creators, history, and various media, too. Recognized on January 2nd annually, millions of science fiction fans across the United States read and watch their favorites in science fiction. 

The date of the celebration commemorates the birth of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.  An American author and Boston University professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov on January 2, 1920. He was best known for his works of science fiction and his popular science books.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 1, 2007 — The Sarah Jane Adventures premiered starring Elizabeth Sladen who had been in the pilot for K-9 and Company which the Beeb didn’t take to series. The program, which as you well know was a spin-off of Doctor Who, lasted five series and fifty-four episodes. It did not make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in either 2007 or 2008. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1854 James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally.  He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1952.)
  • Born January 1, 1889 Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. (Died 1969.)
  • Born January 1, 1926 Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger Man, The Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 1, 1933 Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.” Like his other novels, it’s not available digitally.  (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 66. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meets Irish myth novel of hers and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati which I’ve not read.  With Yolen, Snyder co-authored the novel Except the Queen which I do recommend. (Yolen is one of my dark chocolate recipients.) She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1957 Christopher Moore, 63. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work which I’m planning on listening to soon. Has anyone read it? 
  • Born January 1, 1971 Navin Chowdhry, 49. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London.“ I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
  • Born January 1, 1976 Sean Wallace, 44. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark which I’ve never encountered, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav read  of mine. He has won a very, very impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy co-edited with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended by me. He’s not well represented digitally speaking which surprised me. 
  • Born January 1, 1984 Amara Karan, 36. Though she’s Tita in an Eleventh Doctor story, “The God Complex”, she’s really here for being involved in a Stan Lee project. She was DS Suri Chohan in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series which is definitely SFF. Oh, and she shows up as Princess Shaista in “Cat Among Pigeons” episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but even I would be hard put to call that even close to genre adjacent. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DODGED THE BULLET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In an alternate universe, it seems that original director Harold Ramis would’ve made a very different Galaxy Quest. From ComicBookResources.com: Galaxy Quest: Tim Allen Equates Harold Ramis’ Version to Spaceballs”.

Before Dean Parisot signed on to direct Galaxy Quest, Harold Ramis was supposed to helm the movie, which was initially titled Captain Starshine. However, according to Tim Allen, if Ramis directed the film, it wouldn’t have just been titled differently — it would have looked quite different as well.

[…] “Katzenberg pitched me the idea of the commander character and then they started talking and it became clear that Ramis didn’t see me for the part,” Allen said. “It was pretty uncomfortable.”

[…] Interestingly, Sigourney Weaver also wouldn’t have gotten her role as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest if Ramis had directed the film, despite their relationship from Ghostbusters. “I had heard that Harold was directing a sci-fi movie but he didn’t want anyone who had done sci-fi in the film,” she said. “Frankly, it’s those of us who have done science fiction movies that know what is funny about the genre.”

(13) JUST CHUCK IT. Is this April 1 or January 1? Today Tor.com posted Leah Schnelbach’s “Excellent Writing Advice from Erotica Author Chuck Tingle”.

…I’ll start with this reddit AMA from a few years back, and an interview with Tingle on Nothing in the Rulebook. His answers reveal a consistent approach to the writing life that mirrored the habits of authors who are, possibly, even more well-known than our favorite erotica author.

Asked about a typical writing day, Tingle replies:

yes average day is getting up and having two BIG PLATES of spaghetti then washing them down with some chocolate milk then i get out of bed and meditate to be a healthy man. so when i am meditating i think ‘what kind of tingler would prove love today?’. if nothing comes then i will maybe trot around the house or go to the park or maybe walk to the coffee shop with my son jon before he goes to work. if i have a good idea i will just write and write until it is all done and then I will have son jon edit it and then post it online.

OK, so to translate this a bit out of Tingle-speak, we have a recommendation that you fuel your writing with carbs (and also an unlikely alliance with Haruki Murakami’s spaghetti-loving ways) with a bit of a boost of sugar….

(14) GREASED LIGHTNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From one of the CES 2020 press releases I got today…

Subject: [CES NEWS] Experience a Roomba-Like Device that Navigates the Home Charging ALL Devices

…I want to put an innovative device on your radar: RAGU, a Roomba-like robot that navigates the home charging ALL of your devices.

GuRu is the first company to crack the code on totally untethered, over-the-air charging.

Even discounting remote mal-hackers, this sounds like a recipe for either a droll TV episode, or Things Going Horribly Wrong. (Fires, fried gear, tased/defibrilated pets and sleeping people, etc.)

(15) MIXED BAG. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] I expect everybody will find something interesting or strange in the BBC’s “Alternative end-of-the-year awards”

Animal rescue of the year

Winner

Spare a thought for the poor fat rat of Bensheim, which became stuck in a German manhole in February. She was eventually freed, but not before passers-by took embarrassing photos of her plight. “She had a lot of winter flab,” one rescuer said, compounding the humiliation.

…Runner-up (2)

In this case, the animals were the rescuers rather than the rescued (sort of).

Anticipating the threat of wildfires later in the year, staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California hired a hungry herd of 500 goats to eat flammable scrub around the building in May.

And so, when fires did strike in October, the library was saved because of the fire break the goats had created by eating the flammable scrub. Nice one, goats.

(16) MAKING TRACKS. “SpaceX satellites spotted over Derbyshire” – BBC has photo and short video.

Stargazers across Derbyshire were startled when they saw what appeared to be a new “constellation” in the night sky.

The near-perfect line was in fact formed by the Starlink, satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company earlier this year.

They were spotted across Derbyshire and the Peak District.

Tom Sparrow, an amateur photographer, said the satellites were “quite a spectacle”.

The Bradford University archaeology researcher caught the orbital pass by chance on a time-lapse video in the Peak District.

(17) BEYOND BINARY. The Hollywood Reporter’s Robyn Bahr, in “Critic’s Notebook: Baby Yoda, ‘The Dark Crystal’ and the Need for Puppetry in the Age of CGI “, cheers on non-digital effects.

As always, the existential wisdom of Werner Herzog prevails. “You are cowards,” the director castigated on set of The Mandalorian, upon realizing the producers intended to shoot some scenes without the Baby Yoda puppet in case they decided to go full CGI with the character. “Leave it.”

Herzog, who guest-starred on a few episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series, was one of Baby Yoda’s earliest champions. And indeed, Baby Yoda — a colloquial epithet referring to the mysterious alien toddler merely known as “The Child” in the script — was designed for maximum neoteny. The gigantic saucer-like dilated eyes; the tiny button nose; a head that takes up nearly half his body mass; the hilariously oversized brown coat; the peach fuzzy hairs tufted around his head; and the pièce de résistance of his custardy little green face: that minuscule line of a mouth that could curve or stiffen in an instant and erupt a thousand ancient nurturing instincts in any viewer. (He’s the only thing my normally stoic husband has ever sincerely described as “cute.”) Heck, there may very well be a micro generation of Baby Yoda babies about eight months from now, thanks to this frog-nomming, lever-pulling, bone-broth-sipping little scamp.

And all because Jon Favreau and company finally recognized that rubber-and-fabric practical effects will almost always have a greater emotional impact than plasticky digital ones.

The recent success of The Mandalorian, thanks to the adorable face that launched a thousand memes, and Netflix’s fantasy-adventure epic The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, recently nominated for a WGA Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, prove that we still need puppetry and mechanical effects in the age of CGI….

(18) PERRY MASON. My fellow geezers may enjoy this quick quiz.

[Thanks to Jo Van Ekeren, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/19 Code of the Headline-Maker by James Scrollgan

(1) QUEEN’S NEW YEAR HONOURS. Over a thousand people are on the list. It is a very good New Year to be a musician with the surname “John” — both Olivia Newton-John and Elton John received honours.

As for literature and genre…

In the Queen’s New Year’s Honors list, literary agent Felicity Bryan was given an MBE for services to publishing, and novelist Rose Tremain was made a Dame.

Director Sam Mendes received a Knighthood for services to drama. He was Executive Producer of Penny Dreadful, and his two James Bond movies, the Oscar winning Skyfall and Spectre, released in 2012 and 2015 respectively, are the most successful in the history of the franchise.

(2) THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES. Jason Sanford has released “a detailed look at science fiction and fantasy magazine publishing in this day and age” — “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines”. His report is loaded with information and includes observations by a dozen magazine editors.

Introduction

Back in August I tweeted congrats to the fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies for achieving their fundraising goal. Which again, excellent news! But I then foolishly used that thread to try and demonstrate why BCS’s success was proof that science fiction and fantasy magazines were doing better than ever.

Spoiler: I was wrong. As multiple editors and publishers of genre magazines quickly pointed out.

Now don’t misunderstand. In many ways we’re living through the best of times for writers and readers of science fiction and fantasy short fiction. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America lists more than 25 professional-level magazines, likely more than the genre has ever witnessed at the same time. And Locus Magazine’s most recent analysis of the genre’s magazines found “70 magazines, 14 audio sites, and nine critical magazines.

And that’s merely English-language magazines. There are also many great magazines around the world such as XB-1, Galaxies Science-Fiction, and Fantastica. And the biggest SF/F magazine currently in existence is Science Fiction World in China, which reportedly has a circulation of over 200,000 a month.

In addition, the boon of e-publishing has lowered the traditional printing and distribution cost barriers to creating new genre magazines. This allows more people than ever, including marginalized and diverse voices, to create their own magazines without the need for a large company or trust fund to support their dreams.

But despite all this, times are still tough for many magazines. A number of high-profile and award-winning genre magazines have shut down in the last two years, including Apex Magazine, The Book Smugglers (although their review site continues), Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Shimmer.

And during this same time period Neil Clarke, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld, has been speaking publicly about the many issues faced by genre magazines and warning that the short fiction market was “oversaturated when compared to the number of paying readers.” He believed this might eventually result in a market correction and said a big part of the problem was that having so many SF/F short stories available to read for free had “devalued short fiction.”

(3) CLIMATE CHANGE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Not strictly SF but since climate fiction is arguably a sub-branch of SF —

The BBC Radio 4 morning Today programme is the most listened radio news programme in the British Isles.

In the dead period between Christmas and New Year, when Westminster and Capitol Hill are shut down, the Today programme gives over editorial control to guest editors. This morning (30th Dec) we had Greta Thunberg as the day’s editor who brought on folk from Antarctic researchers to the head of the Bank of England.

It is a three-hour programme interspersed with the general news of the day — such as the Australian wildfires.  Rarely do we get such an intense, diverse burst of climate information on a news programme. You can listen to it here.

Of course, if you have been studying for an environmental science degree between 2007- 2018 then likely you might be aware of my own take on the biological and human aspects of climate change.

I have also talked about this at conventions.

10 years ago I wrote a short article based on the questions people often asked me.

Back then I was perhaps considered as depressing and even a few might have thought a little controversial alarmist. However over the subsequent decade I have bullet-point listed the key science developments since my original writing of the essay.  These show how the overall science view has slowly migrated to my own perspective.  In fact, today my own views might be considered by some as positively conservative…

But if you want a short (8 minute) summary as to how well we are doing addressing the issue then here’s Thunberg herself earlier this month:

(4) CLEVER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The idea/company is great (and a few years old at this point), but for some of us, the name is likely the coolest part. (Via Scott Kirner’s column in the Dec 30 Boston Globe, “Technology and planning are helping to take a bite out of food waste”, and don’t worry if you can’t get see it because paywall.)

The Boston startup Spoiler Alert runs an online trading platform that enables food producers and distributors to get rid of excess inventory by selling it or donating it.

https://www.spoileralert.com/ – I wonder if they had to buy the URL, hard to believe it hadn’t previously been taken.

(5) CARTOPHILE’S LITTLE LIVER PILLS. If you’re a mapophile (or whatever the technical term is), this site is for you: “Download Over 91,000 Maps from the World’s Largest Private Collection” at My Modern Met.

Map lovers will be thrilled by the possibility to peruse some of the world’s most unique historic maps. Over 91,000 maps from the exhaustive David Rumsey Map Collection have been placed online for the world to view and download, making it a treasure trove of information related to cartography. The collection, which was started over 30 years ago, is now housed at Stanford University.

In the 1980s, David Rumsey, president of the digital publishing company Cartography Associates, began building his collection by first focusing on maps of North and South America. With materials dating from the 16th to 21st centuries, the collection is unique in its scope of maps focusing on the United States. From 19th-century ribbon maps of the Mississippi to the world’s largest early world map, the collection is filled with special gems that show the wide variety of artistic maps produced throughout history.

(6) THAT PANTING SOUND. Brenda Clough advises “Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Listen!” at Book View Café.

If you’re a pantser you are not in sole charge of the work. The characters, the plot, the theme, all chip in and drag the book to new and exciting places. You want them to do that. This is the whole point of pantsing in the first place. The book will go to places that you, if you outlined it at the beginning, could never have imagined. You know the thing’s really alive, when it gets up and runs!

But to get this to happen, you have to listen…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. Yea, Kipling. I didn’t do him last year and he’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got Hump“ and “ The Cat that Walked By Himself“ being wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic in them that I should’ve of done so. Or there’s always The Jungle Books, which run to far more stories than I thought. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire-loving writer who expressed that more than once but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.)
  • Born December 30, 1922 Jane Langton. Author of the Hall Family Chronicles series which is definitely SFF in nature having both fantasy and SF elements in these charming tales for children. The eight books herein are mostly not available digitally though Kindle has the final novel but the Homer Kelly mysteries which both Fantastic Fiction and ISFDB list as genre or genre-adjacent are partially available. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 30, 1942 Fred Ward, 77. Lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins which was pleasant but forgettable upon finishing.  Co-lead with Kevin Bacon in several of the Tremors films. Plays The Captain in The Crow: Salvation and Maj. General David Reece in the Invasion Earth series. My favorite role for him? Detective H.P. Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell. Is he that Lovecraft? Maybe, maybe not. 
  • Born December 30, 1945 Concetta Tomei, 74. Blank Dominique, operator along with Blank Reg (the late Morgan Shepherd) of Big Time Television, on Max Headroom. She’s had one-offs on Touched by an Angel, Numb3rs, Ghost Whisperer, and Voyager.
  • Born December 30, 1950 Lewis Shiner, 69. Damn, his Deserted Cities of the Heart novelwas frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I see is on the DC Universe app. Yea! Anyone that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on Kindle with Joe Lansdale?  It looks interesting. 
  • Born December 30, 1951 Avedon Carol, 68. She was the 1983 winner of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund to Albacon II in Glasgow, And she was GOH at Wiscon II along with Connie Willis and Samuel R. Delany. She has been nominated for three Hugos as Best Fan Writer. She’s been involved in thirty apas and fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3.
  • Born December 30, 1959 Douglas A. Anderson, 60. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog Tolkien and Fantasy as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there. Today he’s saying a few words about Holdstock.
  • Born December 30, 1976 Rhianna Pratchett, 43. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her father. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot. For her father, she’s overseen and being involved several years back in The Shepherd’s Crown, the last Discworld novel, to print. She was also with Simon Green the writer of The Watch, the Beeb’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch series. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They, of course, helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon.
  • Born December 30, 1980 Eliza Dushku, 39. First genre role was Faith in the Buffyverse. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One which is quite well done and definitely worth watching.   She done a fair of other voicework, two of which I’ll single out as of note. One is is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies – view here. The other role is fascinating — The Lady In Glen Cook’s The Black Company series. Here’s the link to that story.
  • Born December 30, 1986 Faye Marsay, 33. Shona McCullough In a Twelfth Doctor story, “The Last Christmas”. She also was on A Game of Thrones for several seasons as The Waif. (Who that is I know not as I didn’t watch that series.) She also played Blue Colson in Black Mirror’s “Hated in the Nation” tale. Her theater creds include Hansel & Gretel, Peter Pan and Macbeth — all definitely genre.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) AMONG THE MISSING. LA Curbed’s article “Mapping the most incredible lost mansions of Los Angeles” has Ray Bradbury’s home at #10 – with John King Tarpinian’s photo that originated on this blog.

…The most recent teardown on our list, this 1937 Cheviot Hills house was the home of author Ray Bradbury for more than 50 years. In January 2015, starchitect Thom Mayne began deconstruction of the house, much to the chagrin of Bradbury fans and local preservationists. Mayne claimed, “I could make no connection between the extraordinary nature of the writer and the incredible un-extraordinariness of the house. It was not just un-extraordinary, but unusually banal.”

(10) A STUNNER. Joe Sherry’s confidence in the Old Guard is not misplaced: “The Hugo Initiative: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2001, Best Novel)” at Nerds of a Feather.

In Retrospect: Rowling’s Hugo Award is very likely one of the most controversial in the history of the award – while beloved, the Harry Potter novels have never quite received their due as literature. They are books for children and the series is wildly popular, a combination which is great for success and less great for earning respect (such that it truly matters). 

The main thing working against Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for its place in Hugo Award history, though, is that it won the award over A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin (as well as novels from Ken MacLeod, Robert Sawyer, and Nalo Hopkinson). A Storm of Swords is, notably, the third novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire sequence and widely considered the finest novel in not only that series but in Martin’s acclaimed career. To those who care about such things, Martin is considered “core genre”, writing epic fantasy and being a lifetime part of the Worldcon community. Rowling was an outsider who writes children’s books. I’m sure there is a segment of the old guard Worldcon crowd who still has not gotten over Rowling’s win and Martin’s loss…. 

(11) CUBIC. Cat Eldridge flagged this New York Times article as “really SFnal” — “WeWork Planned a Residential Utopia. It Hasn’t Turned Out That Way.”

After first pledging to upend the way people worked, WeWork vowed to change how they lived: WeLive, a sleek dormitory for working professionals with free beer, arcade games in the laundry room and catered Sunday dinners, would spread around the world.

It has not quite turned out that way.

WeLive has not expanded beyond its first two locations and efforts to open sites in India and Israel have collapsed. In addition to long-term rentals, WeLive offers rooms at its only locations, in New York City and Virginia, for nightly stays on hotel sites.

…Now WeLive’s chances of surviving as the We Company tries to recover from its failed initial public offering are slim, said Scott Galloway, a business analyst and professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“I bet WeLive is wonderful for everyone except the shareholders and We,’’ Mr. Galloway said. “There was a total lack of internal controls. Where were the board’s basic questions like, ‘Why are we doing WeLive?’”

The uncertainty about WeLive comes as other co-living companies are thriving and expanding. A London-based company, The Collective, has plans to build a co-living building in Brooklyn, while another company, Common, has more than 12,000 beds under development in multiple cities, including a 600-unit building in Miami.

(12) WHEN FANDOM IS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT. Vox critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff and Constance Grady join Aja Romano to discuss “Fandom went mainstream in the 2010s — for better and worse”.

Constance: Ooh, this is tricky, and actually, Veronica Mars is a good case study here.

Veronica Mars went on as long as it did entirely because of its fandom. In the ’00s, fan mail-in campaigns got it renewed for a second and third season despite low ratings. In 2013, the fan Kickstarter campaign raised over $5 million to pay for the movie’s production budget. This year, the show’s history of intense fan engagement is an enormous part of what led to the Veronica Mars Hulu revival — and in that revival, Veronica’s love interest Logan dies, destroying the ship that large swaths of the fandom were hugely invested in and, with it, their fannish investment in the show.

My impulse when Logan died was to think, “Well, that sucks, but certainly showrunner Rob Thomas is entitled to do whatever he wants with his characters. He doesn’t owe me or his fans anything.” But a number of fans disagreed: Rob Thomas, they said, had taken advantage of their desire to see Veronica and Logan together, using their investment as shippers to leverage not just their time and attention, but the literal dollars out of their pockets. In that case, didn’t he owe them something? Wasn’t killing Logan a betrayal of the contract Thomas had made with the fandom?

To be honest, I can see the argument. When a show’s survival depends this heavily on its fans, the power dynamic between creator and fandom does change dramatically. The Veronica Mars fandom went above and beyond to keep that show coming back again and again, and the showrunner responded by destroying the piece of the show that a huge part of the fandom cared about most. Emotionally, that does feel like a betrayal.

Emily: …I think a lot about a quote from Joss Whedon that I heard when I was a teenager and decided was accurate without a ton of reflection: “Don’t give people what they want; give them what they need.” Of the many bits of storytelling wisdom Whedon has dispensed in interviews over the years, this is the one that has most taken on a life beyond his fandom, because it speaks to something that I think we’re all a little wary of in 2019: anesthetizing art against the horrors of the world so much that it becomes a sort of safe space.

(13) RENAISSANCE PLAYER. Paul Weimer appraises the next book in a series, “Microreview [book]: Priest of Lies by Peter McLean”, at Nerds of a Feather.

…That rich worldbuilding seen in the first novel is extended and expanded on here. From the nature of magic, to the political structure of the capital (including the true structure of the Queen’s Men), the novel enfolds rich details of the main character’s world. Both Ellisberg and now, Dannsburg come across as distinct, real cities that you can imagine walking down the streets of (although do mind the smell of the first, and all the guards in the second)….

(14) JEOPARDY! On tonight’s Final Jeopardy, contestants showed they can draw a blank on non-sff literary items, too. Andrew Porter took notes —

Answer: In a New Yorker profile, he said, “Where I like it is out west in Wyoming, Montana, & Idaho, & I like Cuba & Paris.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Kerouac?” and “Who is John Wayne?”

Correct question: “Who is Hemingway?”

Not skiffy, but what the hey…

(15) HOW DO YOU GET THIS THING OUT OF SECOND GEAR? Jason Kottke frames a video in “How Do You Move a Star? Stellar Engines!”

In this episode of Kurzgesagt, they’re talking about building engines powerful enough to move entire stars, dragging their solar systems along with them….

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Bill, Alan Baumler, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 12/9/19 My High School Class Voted Me Most Likely To Scroll Pixels

(1) INTERSTELLAR TBR. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In response to comet Borisov streaking through the solar system, the Guardian invited Alastair Reynolds to talk about his favorite books about interstellar objects. Alongside some obvious choices, he gives shout-outs to some lesser known gems. It’s a nice little article: “Space invaders: the best books about interstellar arrivals”.

… A significant triumph in recent astronomy has been the detection of gravitational waves, finally achieved by an international consortium using immensely precise (and huge) laser interferometers. But the work to reach this discovery began a century ago, and encompasses a huge cast of heroes and dreamers – and its share of failure. In Black Hole Blues astrophysicist Janna Levin has written the definitive account of this grand quest, and it’s as insightful about the human protagonists in this story as it is about the mind-bending physics of black holes and warped spacetime….

(2) BOOKSCAN. Jason Sanford’s informative analysis “An Author’s Guide to Understanding BookScan” is an unlocked post at his Patreon page.

How Authors Should Use BookScan

If you’re an author, be aware of the limitations in what BookScan captures. A good publisher or agent will know BookScan numbers are useful for analyzing overall sales trends but do not reflect total sales. Be sure to point out your correct sales numbers when approaching publishers and agents. 

You can also try pointing out any important sales not captured by BookScan, such as with e-books. If you’ve hit a Kindle Bestseller list, definitely mention that because it won’t be reflected in BookScan. If you’ve likewise sold a large number of books at conventions and other appearances, mention that.

And if you’re an author where BookScan captures a much lower percentage of your print sales than the 45 to 50% mentioned above, point that out. The BookScan numbers for one of the ChiZine authors represented only 20% of their total print sales in the USA. If I was this author I’d mention that to any publisher or agent I worked with. Otherwise people may assume your sales are extremely low when they aren’t.

(3) OSHIRO UPDATE. Mark Oshiro filled in blog readers about his loss, and made a request: “Mark Does Stuff is going on hiatus”.

…I am currently safe and surrounded by friends every day. Suffice to say that I am devastated beyond words; even typing all of this feels trite and artificial. I don’t think there’s a person in this community in the last five years who doesn’t know how intensely I loved him or how instrumental he was in my life, in my work, and in my happiness. 2019 has been truly one of the worst in my life, as I unfortunately separated from him in the beginning of the year, a choice I knew was necessary but yet still regret and have regretted for a long time. Love is fucking awful like that, and there is no person on this Earth I have ever loved so completely and painfully as Baize.

Baize’s mother started a fundraiser to pay for the astronomical costs of not just the funeral, but sending his body back home to Los Angeles for the funeral. It is most important that if you decide to help out, you start here. If you are not able, a simple boost on social media is very much appreciated.

(4) ACTING I’M NOT. “Baby Yoda: ‘The Mandalorian’ Star Isn’t Real, but Why Shouldn’t It Compete for Awards?”Variety makes the question sound almost reasonable.

… In 2003, the Broadcast Film Critics Association took a step in that direction, creating the category “best digital acting performance” for its Critics Choice Awards. Gollum won the inaugural award, for his part in “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” Serkis accepted the award, along with New Zealand’s Weta Digital team, which animated the character. Among nominees, Gollum beat out Yoda for “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and Dobby from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” But the category was a bit controversial, and didn’t return the following year — or in any future Critics Choice Awards after that.

The MTV Movie Awards also went tongue-in-cheek with its Lifetime Achievement award for a period of time, handing out the prize to characters such as Chewbacca, John Shaft, Godzilla and Jason Voorhees — but that was in the telecast’s early, 1990s life.

(5) THE EXPANSE. AV Club’s reviewer Zack Handlen reassure fans, The Expanse has a new home, but it’s as excellent as ever”.

On The Expanse, every choice has weight. Sometimes literally. Early in the show’s compelling fourth season, a character decides to leave her spaceship home and go planetside. It’s a decision her crewmates have made multiple times before, but in Naomi Nagata’s (Dominique Tipper) case, there are special circumstances. As a Belter, Naomi was born and raised in low-gravity environments, which means that her body hasn’t built up the necessary muscle mass to endure planetary gravity. The series hasn’t lost its sense of scope since it left the SyFy channel for Amazon Prime. If anything, it’s broadened its horizons, taking in new worlds and the political strife of multiple systems. Yet a small but meaningful amount of tension is generated out of wondering if a person can walk across level ground without collapsing.

Naomi’s struggles, and the attention paid to those struggles, is emblematic of what makes The Expanse so effective. The show’s canny use of consequences ensures that its wilder sci-fi concepts exist in a context that grounds them without diminishing their impact….

(6) EAR CANDY. Paste calls these the “The 19 Best Audiobooks of 2019”. Ann Leckie and Nnedi Okorafor are on the list, and so is this author –

The Passengers by John Marrs

Narrators: Clare Corbett, Roy McMillan, Tom Bateman, Shaheen Khan, Kristin Atherton, Patience Tomlinson

Run time: 11 hours and 39 minutes

John Marrs’ The Passengers, which follows strangers from the near-future who are locked in their self-driving cars by a murderous hacker, might be your new favorite thriller. As read by a quintet of narrators—all British, for you American listeners looking for your next pond-hopping aural hit—and scored by tempered sound effects, this novel reads as a multi-dimensional nightmare. Do we need another reason to mistrust both technology and the government? Obviously not. Do we still plan to obsessively listen? Of course! If you’re the type of reader who enjoys a truly harrowing story, Marrs’ chilling book is for you.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 9, 1960 The Twilight Zone First aired “The Trouble with Templeton”. Written by Ernest Jack Neuman (1921 – 1998) who was an Edgar and Peabody award-winning writer and producer, it had an amazing cast as well including  Brian Aherne as Booth Templeton, Pippa Scott as Laura Templeton  and Sydney Pollack as Arthur Willis. The Twilight Museum has an great essay on this episode here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 9, 1848 Joel Chandler Harris. American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist who is best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Yes, he’s white and the stories are about the ‘Brer Rabbit’ stories from the African-American oral tradition but he’s widely accepted by all about having done these stories justice.  James Weldon Johnson called them “the greatest body of folklore America has produced.” (Died 1908.)
  • Born December 9, 1900 Margaret Brundage. An illustrator and painter who’s now remembered chiefly for having illustrated Weird Tales. She’s responsible for most of the covers for between 1933 and 1938. Wiki notes that L. Sprague de Camp and Clark Ashton Smith we’re several of the writers not fond of her style of illustration though other writers were. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 9, 1902 Margaret Hamilton. Most likely you’ll remember her best as The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. She would appear later in The Invisible Woman, along with much later being in 13 Ghosts, a horror film, and a minor role in The Night Strangler, a film sequel to The Night Stalker. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 9, 1911 Don Ward. Author of H. Rider Haggard’s She: The Story Retold. More intriguingly, he ghost-wrote works credited according to ESF to both Alfred Hitchcock (Bar the Doors: Terror Stories) and Orson Welles (Invasion from Mars: Interplanetary Stories). He also worked with Theodore Sturgeon on Sturgeon’s West. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 9, 1916 Jerome M. Beatty Jr. His best-read fiction is the Matthew and Maria Looney books, a SF series for children. They were a brother and sister who live on the Moon, part of an alien civilization resident there. ISFDB lists seven novels in total across two series, one for each child. Nothing of his books including The Tunnel to Yesterday, a time travel novel, is available digitally, nor does it appear that anything is in print currently. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 9, 1934 Judi Dench, 85. M in a lot of Bond films. Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick, Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love which is at genre adjacent, Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Miss Avocet in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Her very first genre film in the late Sixties, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was poorly received by critics and I recall her role being a mostly nude faerie. 
  • Born December 9, 1937 – Fandom. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says “Fandom’s Thursday meetings in London begin, 1937 – then weekly in a teashop, now in a pub on the first Thursday of the month.”
  • Born December 9, 1952 Nicki Lynch, 68. She and her husband Rich Lynch edited Mimosa which won six Best Fanzine Hugos and was nominated a total of 14 times. She and her husband have been members of WSFA, the Southern Fandom Confederation, the Chattanooga Science Fiction Association. She has also been a member of SAPS, SFPA, Myriad (Galactic Hitch Hiker), and LASFAPA.  Nth Degree has a neat conversation with her and her husband about Mimosa here.
  • Born December 9, 1952 Michael Dorn, 67. Best known for his role as the Klingon Worf in the Trek franchise. Dorn has appeared on-screen in more Star Trek episodes and movies as the same character than anyone else. 
  • Born December 9, 1953 John Malkovich, 66. I was pondering if I was going to include him then decided that Being John Malkovich which won him a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor was enough for me to include him. What a strange role that is! He also shows up in the dreadful Jonah Hex film and played Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in the Crossbones series which is at genre adjacent. He also appeared in Mutant Chronicles, though, and there was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well.
  • Born December 9, 1970 Kevin Hearne, 49. I’ve really, really enjoyed the Iron Druid Chronicles.  Though I’ll confess that I’ve not yet read the spin-off series, Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DECONSTRUCTING THE GHOSTBUSTERS TRAILER. Vanity Fair hunts down all the Easter eggs: “Who You Gonna Call-Back? How the Ghostbusters: Afterlife Trailer References the 1984 Original”.

…In the original film, Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz, and the late Harold Ramis’ Egon Spengler investigated a spirit in the New York Public Library, where they found a similar tower in one of the basement corridors. “Symmetrical book stacking!” Ray exclaimed, like a kid opening a birthday present. “Just like the Philadelphia Mass Turbulence of 1947!”

“You’re right,” Peter replied, drolly. “No human being would stack books like this.”

In that original scene, we hear a haunting, three-note piano trill on Elmer Bernstein’s score as the three men proceed deeper into the library. Those same three notes play in the Afterlife trailer when Mr. Grooberson examines a real-life ghost trap….

(11) THE CYBER WHISPERER. “How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real” is a New Yorker profile of the legendary author.

… Droll, chilled out, and scarily articulate, Gibson talked about the future on television. (“It doesn’t matter how fast your modem is if you’re being shelled by ethnic separatists,” he told the BBC.) He appeared on the cover of Wired, did some corporate consulting, and met David Bowie and Debbie Harry. For a time, U2, which had based its album “Zooropa” in part on Gibson’s work, planned to scroll the entirety of “Neuromancer” on a screen above the stage during its Zoo TV tour. The plan never came to fruition, but Gibson got to know the band; the Edge showed him how to telnet. During this period, Gibson was often credited with having “predicted” the Internet. He pointed out that his noir vision of online life had little in common with the early Web. Still, he had captured a feeling—a sense of post-everything information-driven transformation—that, by the nineties, seemed to be everywhere.

As the Internet became more accessible, Gibson discovered that he wasn’t terribly interested in spending time online himself. He was fascinated, though, by the people who did. They seemed to grow hungrier for the Web the more of it they consumed. It wasn’t just the Internet; his friends seemed to be paying more attention to media in general. When new television shows premièred, they actually cared. One of them showed him an episode of “Cops,” the pioneering reality series in which camera crews sprinted alongside police officers as they apprehended suspects. Policing, as performance, could be monetized. He could feel the world’s F.Q. drifting upward….

 (12) HOLODECK QUALITY EXPERIENCE. Olav Rokne says, “Anytime I see an article about Douglas Trumbull in the news, I’m going to read it because the guy created the most important visuals of my childhood. I still think the best Enterprise is the one from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” — “‘Star Trek’ special effects expert gives talk in Monroe”.

… MAGI projects regular and 3D images at a rate of 120 frames per second. The standard rate at modern theaters is 24 frames per second.

Trumbull has been working on the MAGI technology for years at his home studio, where he has constructed a prototype of the MAGI Pods he hopes to one day install at public venues and movie theaters across the globe. These pods are fully enclosed, small-theater experiences featuring a hemispherical screen and cutting edge projection and sound technology.

“It’s so much like a holodeck, you wouldn’t believe it if you actually saw what we have,” Trumbull said. “In this hemispherical screen, with laser projection, and an extremely wide field of view and my frame rate, it’s like a window onto reality. It’s as close to a holodeck as we are going to get, and we could do it tomorrow, right now.”…

(13) PROPOSED INTERVENTION. A spammer is offering to help Paul Weimer fix everything wrong with File 770. Which apparently is a lot — (click for larger image)

Some of my titles are too long? (Said in the same tone as Rick in Casablanca when he looks up from his dossier and asks, “Are my eyes really blue?”)

Meanwhile Paul wonders, why him?

There actually have been days when this blog has been run by a non-male person (like when I was hospitalized, or needed a couple days away). Did the spammers not notice, or just treat the sudden, short-lived improvement as a statistical outlier? 🙂

(14) LEARNING ABOUT FACIAL RECOGNITION. Don’t be put off by the Harvard Gazette’s headline: “Who’s That Girl?”

Our ability to recognize faces is a complex interplay of environment, neurobiology, and contextual cues. Now a study from Harvard Medical School suggests that country-to-country variations in sociocultural dynamics — notably the degree of gender equality in each — can yield marked differences in men’s and women’s ability to recognize famous faces.

The findings, published Nov. 29 in Scientific Reports, reveal that men living in countries with high gender equality — Scandinavian and certain Northern European nations — accurately identify the faces of female celebrities nearly as well as women. Men living in countries with lower gender equality, such as India or Pakistan, fare worse than both their Scandinavian peers and women in their own country on the same task. U.S. males, the study found, fall somewhere in between, a finding that aligns closely with America’s mid-range score on the United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index.

The results are based on scores from web-based facial recognition tests of nearly 3,000 participants from the U.S. and eight other countries, and suggest that sociocultural factors can shape the ability to discern individual characteristics over broad categories. They suggest that men living in countries with low gender equality are prone to cognitive “lumping” that obscures individual differences when it comes to recognizing female faces.

(15) RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. A BBC video chronicles how a “South African creates sign language glove for deaf parents”.

Having struggled throughout his childhood to communicate with his deaf parents, Netshidzati Lucky Mashudu, from Limpopo, South Africa, created smart glove which translates sign language into speech.

Through an app, it can also work the other way, translating speech into sign language.

He says it’s helped him to communicate with his parents.

He showed BBC Life Clinic how it works and what he hopes it could mean for others in the future.

(16) PARADE OF MYTHS. BBC’s post “Mythical creatures appear in Medellín” has spectacular photos.

Fantasy creatures took over the Colombian city of Medellín on Sunday with 800 artists taking part in the annual Parade of Myths and Legends.

The parade is in its 45th year. It started in 1974 as a family event and to bring the country’s myths and legends to life.

The event’s artistic director said that in 2019 the emphasis was less on Colombian myths but on legends from across the world.

As a result, Mexican “catrinas”, elegant skeletons made famous by cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada more than a 100 years ago, featured heavily in the parade.

(17) UGLINESS WASN’T THE PROBLEM. Exceptional tastelessness was, explains Global News: “Walmart.ca pulls Christmas sweater featuring Santa with cocaine”. There’s a good video of the merchandise at the link.

Walmart Canada is apologizing after several adult-themed “ugly” Christmas sweaters — including one involving Santa and drugs — were posted for sale on its website.

…One sweater shows a bug-eyed Saint Nick and three lines of a white substance that is heavily implied to be cocaine, along with the phrase “let it snow.”

…Another featured an upside-down snowman with its carrot nose and jingle bells suggestive of genitals while another showed Santa roasting his “chestnuts” over a holiday ornamented fireplace.

(18) ON THE AVENUE. HBO dropped a new trailer for Avenue 5 with Hugh Laurie:

(19) A GRAND IDEA. Rich Horton is happy with SFWA’s latest choice for Grand Master – however, he would be even happier if an exception could be made to allow the addition of one more woman writer, as he explained to his Facebook followers.

Lois McMaster Bujuld has just been named the latest SFWA Grand Master, an honor she surely deserves. She is the seventh. The first was Andre Norton, in 1984.

However, in 1983 SFWA wanted to name C. L. Moore Grand Master. Alas, she had Alzheimer’s disease, and her family declined the award in her name, stating that she would find this too confusing. (Some have suggested that her second husband’s dislike of SF contributed to this, but I don’t know that we KNOW this, and, especially after the recent revelations about John M. Ford’s case, I don’t want to make such assumptions without knowing more about it.)

Moore was an entirely deserving recipient, and in fact the list of Grand Masters seems incomplete without her. And an idea occurred to me — would it be possible for SFWA to, even at this late date, posthumously award C. L. Moore the Grand Master title?…

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

Pixel Scroll 11/8/19 I Tell You My Friend, You Got Tribbles — Right Here In River City

(1) STAR WARS FAN. Craig Miller’s book, Star Wars Memories is now available in paperback and as an eBook on Amazon.

Craig Miller was the original Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm, working on “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back”. As part of that, he was a publicist, a writer, an editor, and a producer. He wrote press material and articles, created and ran the Official Star Wars Fan Club, oversaw a staff who opened and responded to the seeming tons of fan mail the films received, worked with licensees, created a telephone publicity stunt that accidentally shut down the state of Illinois’ phone system, was the producer on projects ranging from episodes of “Sesame Street” to commercials for Underoos (“underwear that’s fun to wear”), operated R2-D2, and spent weeks hanging out on the set of “The Empire Strikes Back”. “…It’s a book of stories you haven’t heard before; an insider’s look from someone who, himself, is a fan and found the whole experience joyful and exciting. These stories are told in a way that brings you in and makes you feel like you were there.”

(2) HOWLING AGAIN. Jim Freud’s long-running sff-themed radio show “Hour of the Wolf” on New York station WBAI was one of the casualties when Pacifica closed the station down, claiming the non-for-profit could no longer support WBAI and its multimillion-dollar debt. But a state court ruling has restored power to the people, so to speak: “‘A victory for free speech’: WBAI is back on air” – the Brooklyn Daily Eagle has the story.

… Until Nov. 6, Pacifica had only complied with half of the ruling, keeping WBAI staffers on payroll. But after New York State Supreme Court Judge Melissa Crane ruled in favor of WBAI Wednesday, the Brooklyn-based station finally regained control of its own programming….

One of the first programs back on air, White said, was the station’s science fiction talk show, “Hour of the Wolf.” Shortly after the shutdown, the show’s host Jim Freund vowed in an interview with the Eagle that he would dedicate his first show back to fielding questions from listeners about the shutdown.

And that’s exactly what he did, White said. “We have a lot of work to do in dispelling some of the misinformation that’s out there,” he said.

(3) MORE CHIZINE INFORMATION. Some deeper dives into ChiZine’s finances amplify things learned from the last two days’ revelations.

For those unfamiliar with the Canadian publishing industry, many publishers benefit from subsidies and grant money. For example, according to a 2013 article in the National Post between 50% and 60% of ChiZine’s operating budget comes from grants. And in 2016, the Ontario Arts Council gave a $20,262 block grant to ChiZine

ChiZine has also received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, such as a “Supporting Artistic Practice” grant for $42,000 for 2017-18 and the same amount for 2018-19 (note: link is a spreadsheet download from Canada Council for the Arts; all amounts are in Canadian dollars).

… A publisher does not get every amount of grant money they vie for. BUT, in a year where you get OAC and Canada Council for the Arts block operating grants you can pull in something close to $60,000. CZP also vied for the OMDC Book Fund, though as far as I know was not successful in that aim – you know, that fund they kept promising I could get paid out of if they acquired it. They later sought additional aid from the OMDC (unsuccessfully as I recall, though others can speak to what happened after I left in 2015). I don’t know that CZP ever got Toronto Arts Council block operating grants. Though I know they were looking to apply at various points. But your revenue has to be up over $100,000/year as a threshold. I don’t know that CZP ever hit that.

I recall a lot of the numbers because, along with others, wrote a lot of those arts council grant and other granting body applications. It was shared work. And multiple grant applications were successful.

CZP also applied for, and on different fronts and in different years received, project-based operating grants for both the Chiaroscuro Reading Series, and the annual SpecFic Colloquium conference. And sought funds over the years for the CZP/Rannu Fund fiction contest (though I could not tell you without more digging into my emails whether that ever got grants).

All of these grants, block operating and project-specific, require as part of ther fulfillment that publishers publicly disclose and acknowledge receipt of funds or face violation of terms, and the CCA, OAC, and TAC may request return of dispersed funds. That’s easy to do with books – you put the acknowledgement on the colophon page, which CZP did. But CZP wasn’t always so great with doing that around the other projects..

  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia has written about the CZP news from the viewpoint of operating her own small press. She also touches on one of the less obvious motives for CZP writers to stay silent. Thread starts here.
  • Bracken MacLeod makes the case in a Facebook post that an ethical publisher should allocate sales and place the portion representing author royalties into a separate escrow account that cannot be reached for the operating expenses of their press. He models this on how attorneys are required to handle client funds (by their professional ethical code, and in some jurisdictions, by law).
  • Lucy A. Snyder is another writer who has pulled a story from a ChiZine project:

(4) DOCTOR SLEEP REVIEW. NPR’s Scott Tobias finds that “‘Doctor Sleep’ Is Haunted By The Ghost Of Stanley Kubrick”.

The screen history of Stephen King adaptations has for decades couched a peculiar irony: Namely, that of the dozens and dozens of films that have been produced from his work — many of them not-so-great — the author famously detested the most revered, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 version of The Shining.

…Over time, images from Kubrick’s The Shining have so dominated the culture that King’s efforts to redirect the public to the source, including the sequel novel Doctor Sleep, have fallen under its shadow. Director Mike Flanagan’s new adaptation represents near-total capitulation, lifting many of Kubrick’s familiar visual and aural cues to continue the story of Danny Torrance, the child whose psychic sensitivities are referred to as “the shining.”

Flanagan proved a gifted steward of King’s Gerald’s Game, a seemingly unadaptable book he pulled off for Netflix, and he has borrowed from Kubrick’s film with the author’s blessing. By King’s apparent calculation, it’s the finer points that count.

To that end, King and Flanagan have restored the legacy of alcoholism in the Torrance family, which ignited Jack’s madness like gasoline to flame, and has been passed along to a now-middle-aged Dan. In Dan’s case, however, alcohol muffles the traumas of the past and the voices that still echo in his head through his extrasensory perception.

Played by a sad-eyed Ewan McGregor, Dan is a loner who has bused his way to small-town New Hampshire on the modest hope of a steady job, a small apartment and a path to recovery. And he finds it, too, going a full eight years as a sober contributor to society. He even discovers the perfect application of his unique talent, sitting bedside at a hospice center and gently guiding patients into the hereafter.

But from there, Doctor Sleep gets complicated. Around the time the Torrances were battling ghosts in the Overlook Hotel, a hippieish death cult called the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), were traveling across the country, recruiting new members and feasting on the psychic energy (called “the steam”) of people like Danny. “The steam,” passed around and inhaled like pot smoke, gives Rose and company immense power and eternal life, and those with the shining radiate to them like a beacon of light. It’s only a matter of time before they catch up with Dan, but he finds an ally in Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a teenager who shines just as brightly.

(5) CAN’T WAIT TO SEE IT — ER. Universal Pictures has dropped a trailer for The Invisible Man, in theaters February 28.

What you can’t see can hurt you. Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss (Us, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale) stars in a terrifying modern tale of obsession inspired by Universal’s classic monster character. Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister (Harriet Dyer, NBC’s The InBetween), their childhood friend (Aldis Hodge, Straight Outta Compton) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid, HBO’s Euphoria). But when Cecilia’s abusive ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House) commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of eerie coincidences turns lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 8, 1847 Abraham “Bram” Stoker. You know that he’s author of Dracula but did you wrote that he other fiction such as The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm? Of course you do, being you. The short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker. (Died 1912.)
  • Born November 8, 1898 Katharine Mary Briggs. British folklorist and author who wrote A Dictionary of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures , and the four-volume Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, and the Kate Crackernuts novel. Her The Anatomy of Puck: An Examination of Fairy Beliefs among Shakespeare’s Contemporaries and Successors is fascinating read. (Died 1980.)
  • Born November 8, 1914 Norman Lloyd, 105. His longest genre role was as Dr. Isaac Mentnor on the Seven Days series. He’s been on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Get Smart! in the form of the Nude Bomb filmand The Twilight Zone, and in a fair of horror films from The Dark Secret of Harvest Home to The Scarecrow
  • Born November 8, 1932 Ben Bova, 87. His more than one hundred and twenty books have won six Hugo Awards. He’s a former editor of Analog, along with once being editorial director at Omni. Hell, he even had the thankless job of SFWA President. (Just kidding. I think.) I couldn’t hope to summarize his literary history so I’ll single out his Grand Tour series that though uneven is overall splendid hard sf as well as his Best of Bova short story collections put out recently in three volumes. What’s your favourite book by him? 
  • Born November 8, 1952 Alfre Woodard, 67. I remember her best from Star Trek: First Contact where she was Lily Sloane, Cochrane’s assistant. She was also Grace Cooley in Scrooged, and polishing her SJW creds, she once voiced Maisie the Cat in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to School. And yes, I know she’s portrayed a character in Marvel Universe. I just like the obscure roles. 
  • Born November 8, 1956 Richard Curtis, 63. One of Britain’s most successful comedy screenwriters, he’s making the Birthday List for writing “Vincent and the Doctor”, a most excellent Eleventh Doctor story. He was also the writer of Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot which isn’t really genre but it’s Roald Dahl. And he directed Blackadder.
  • Born November 8, 1968 Parker Posey, 51. Doctor Smith on the rebooted Lost in Space series. I’ve not seen it, so how is it?  She was in a film based on based on Dean Koontz’s version of Frankenstein. And she shows in Blade: Trinity as well.
  • Born November 8, 1972 Gretchen Mol, 47. Dr. Agatha Matheson in the Nightflyers series off Martin’s novel. Canceled after a single season. Annie Norris In Life on Mars which also made it but a single season. She’s also in The Thirteenth Floor, a genre crime thriller where she plays two roles, Natasha Molinaro and Jane Fuller. 

(7) KLINGON COVERS. This is timely, given the upcoming “Re-Frozen” movie: Klingon Pop Warrior – yIbuSQo’ (Let It Go) from Warrior Woman CD, “Pop songs translated into the Klingon language.”

(8) IT’S THE LAW. “The ‘law’ that explains why you can’t get anything done”.

A British historian famously wrote that work expands to fill available time – but what was he actually saying about inefficiency?

“It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” British naval historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote that opening line for an essay in The Economist in 1955, but the concept known as ‘Parkinson’s Law’ still lives on today.

…But what fewer people know is that Parkinson’s original intent was not to take aim at old lady letter-writers or journalists like me, but at a different kind of inefficiency – the bureaucratisation of the British Civil Service. In his original essay he pointed out that although the number of navy ships decreased by two thirds, and personnel by a third, between 1914 and 1928, the number of bureaucrats had still ballooned by almost 6% a year. There were fewer people and less work to manage – but management was still expanding, and Parkinson argued that this was due to factors that were independent of naval operational needs.

Get more subordinates, create more work

One scholar who has taken a serious look at Parkinson’s Law is Stefan Thurner, a professor in Science of Complex Systems at the Medical University of Vienna. Thurner says he became interested in the concept when the faculty of medicine at the University of Vienna split into its own independent university in 2004. Within a couple years, he says, the Medical University of Vienna went from being run by 15 people to 100, while the number of scientists stayed about the same. “I wanted to understand what was going on there, and why my bureaucratic burden did not diminish – on the contrary it increased,” he says.

He happened to read Parkinson’s book around the same time and was inspired to turn it into a mathematical model that could be manipulated and tested, along with co-authors Peter Klimek and Rudolf Hanel. “Parkinson argued that if you have 6% growth rate of any administrative body, then sooner or later any company will die. They will have all their workforce in bureaucracy and none in production.”

(9) NANO NANO. SYFY Wire admits “Nanomedicine looks like a Borg implant but can save lives in space”.

…Next for Grattoni’s team is something even more extraordinary and Borg-like; nano-telemedicine. An implant about the size of a grape (below), equipped with Bluetooth technology to consult doctors back on Earth, will rely on a remote control to tell it to store and release medication as needed. Remote doctor appointments will determine how an astronaut’s medicine is adjusted and enable the doctor to control the device by sending a command that makes it increase, decrease, or stop dosage. This unreal device will be tested on the ISS next year.

(10) TWO EYES GOOD, FOUR EYES BAD. BBC finds that “Japan ‘glasses ban’ for women at work sparks backlash”.

Wearing glasses at work has become an emotive topic in Japan following reports that some firms have told female employees to remove them.

Several local news outlets said some companies had “banned” eyewear for female employees for various reasons.

Among them, some retail chains reportedly said glasses-wearing shop assistants gave a “cold impression”.

That has sparked heated discussion on Japanese social media over dress practices and women in the workplace.

The Nippon TV network and Business Insider were among the outlets to report on the issue, which looked at how firms in different industries prohibit women from wearing glasses.

They included safety reasons for airline workers, or being unable to see make-up properly for women working in the beauty sector.

(11) FIRST, CATCH YOUR MAMMOTH. “Mexico mammoths: Human-built woolly mammoth traps found in Tultepec” — BBC’s article contains several photos (none taken at the time, naturally.)

At least 14 woolly mammoth skeletons have been uncovered in Mexico in traps built by humans about 15,000 years ago.

The two pits in Tultepec north of Mexico City are the first mammoth traps to be discovered, officials say.

Early hunters may have herded the elephant-sized mammals into the traps using torches and branches.

The recent discovery of more than 800 mammoth bones could change our understanding of how early humans hunted the enormous animals.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) says more traps could be uncovered in the area north of Mexico City.

Archaeologists thought early humans only killed mammoths if the animals were trapped or hurt.

However, INAH’s discovery of the human-built traps could mean such hunts were planned.

(12) A STORY THAT GROWS IN THE RETAILING. Just like every science fiction fan, I want to ask the author – “Where do you get your ideas?” Today it’s James Davis Nicoll I want to hear from – whatever made him think of “Adventures in Retail! SFF Stories Set in Department Stores” for Tor.com.

Savertown USA in Erica L. Satifka’s Stay Crazy doesn’t offer protagonist Em much in the way of pay or happiness, but it’s not as if Em has options. Clear Falls, Pennsylvania is in the heart of the rust belt and Em herself is still dealing with the paranoid schizophrenia that ended her college days; a job at a soulless big box store is the best offer available.

It’s just too bad that this particular Savertown USA was built over a dimensional rift. Thanks to her psychiatric history, Em isn’t inclined to take a voice in her head warning her about the fate of the world at face value. Nor would the people around Em place much faith in her claims if Em did reveal the dire warnings she is receiving. As is so often the case, it’s up to an expendable clerk and whatever allies she can scrounge to face down danger and save the world.

(13) I’LL BE BACK. “How airships could return to our crowded skies” – let BBC tell you.

Airships lost out to conventional aircraft after a series of disastrous crashes. But now safer technology could be the key to their return.

Zeppelins fill the skies of Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials. The giant airships of his parallel universe carry the mail, transport soldiers into battle and explorers to the Arctic. What was once my local post office in Oxford is in Pullman’s fantasy – a zeppelin station where I could catch the evening airship to London.

When I put the books down the reality is rather disappointing. A handful of smaller airships can be found flying proudly across the United States on promotional tours for brands like Goodyear and Carnival Cruise Line. Last year, a blimp demeaned itself by setting two world records, including one for the fastest text on a touch screen mobile phone while water skiing behind a blimp. A few more are employed to fly well-heeled tourists on sight-seeing trips over the German countryside. Another can be found flying over the Amazon. And that’s about it.

The good news is that soon, the real world may finally drift closer to Pullman’s fantasy. In four to five years, all being well, one of the first production models of the enormous Airlander airship dubbed “the flying bum” will be the first airship to fly to the North Pole since 1928. The men and women on board the Airlander are tourists on an $80,000 (£62,165) luxury experience rather than explorers. Tickets are on sale today

The Airlander won’t be alone in the skies either. About the same time, a vast new airship the shape of a blue whale, at 150m the length of an A380 and as high as a 12-storey building should rise up above its assembly plant, out of the heat and humidity of Jingmen, China. Its job: heavy lifting in some of the toughest places on Earth. The manufacturers have some Boeing-sized ambitions for this new age of the airship. They expect there to be about 150 of these airships floating around the world within 10 years.

In the history books, the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937 marked the end of the brief, glorious era of the airship – except it didn’t. The US Navy continued to use blimps for anti-submarine warfare during World War Two. The American Blimp Corporation manufactured airships for advertising. New, bigger, hi-tech airships were built by Zeppelin in Germany. Engineers and pilots have spent whole careers in an industry that wasn’t supposed to exist anymore.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Life of Brian 1979 Debate–Complete” on YouTube is an episode of Friday Night…and Saturday Morning from 1979 in which John Cleese, Michael Palin, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark, discuss The Life of Brian, which had just been released.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/6/19 The Bulleted, Bolded People

(1) SFF MAGAZINE SURVEY. Jason Sanford is working on a report about science fiction and fantasy magazines for which he’s already interviewed a number of publishers and editors. Sanford also wants feedback from the larger genre community – that means you! Readers are welcome to respond to his short survey hosted on Google Docs.

Sanford aims to release his report after Thanksgiving.

(2) ELIGIBILITY POSTS. Cat Rambo has started her “Round-up of Awards Posts by F&SF Writers, Editors, and Publishers for 2019”.

Once again I have created this post for consolidating fantasy and science fiction award eligibility round-ups. Here are the rules.

I prefer to link to, in order of preference:

  1. Your blog post listing what you published that is eligible
  2. Your social media post listing what you published that is eligible
  3. A single link to the material that is available online

(3) CIVIL WAR. It won’t take you long to figure out what inspired James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post “Science Fiction vs. Fantasy: The Choice Is Clear”. Which side will you choose?

…Science fiction provides its readers with iron-hard, fact-based possibility. For example, Frank Herbert’s Dune played with the possibility that the right combination of eugenics and hallucinogenic drugs (taken from enormous alien worms) might allow messianic figures to draw on the memories of their ancestors. Well, how else would it work?

(4) LOOKING BACKWARD. At Quillette, Craig DeLancey analyzes the removal of Tiptree, Campbell and Lovecraft from sff award iconography in “Science Fiction Purges its Problematic Past” to lay the foundation for his own unique proposal.

…If we must be concerned with the author and not just the work, then Houellebecq’s book is an example of the balance that our criticism should achieve: we must recognize that the work is one thing, the author another. Literary criticism should not be a struggle session.

But this is not the spirit of our moment. Instead, as speculative fiction becomes more diverse, the sense that it must be corrected grows, and author and art are evaluated together. There is a notable asymmetry in this evaluation. Most fiction readers are women, and many fiction genres are dominated by women. Men who write romance novels or cozy mysteries must write under female pseudonyms, because the audiences for these genres will largely avoid books by men. In publishing, this is considered merely a demographic fact, and not an ethical failure of some kind. The attitude is very different towards science fiction. That for decades science fiction was mostly written, read, and published by white men is seen, at best, as something that must be denounced and aggressively corrected, and at worst as evidence that racism and sexism were the driving engines of this creative explosion. We do not single out other genres of fiction, or other art forms, for this kind of invective. We do not hear admirers of the golden age of jazz, for example, denounce the great composers of that era because they were nearly all African-American men. Louise Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and many other such men are honored for their genius, and we recognize their creations as a gift to humankind. Why not consider American science fiction in the twentieth century as a gift, instead of dismissing it as “Sterile. Male. White.”?

(5) EXPLORING SPACE – ON BOOKSTORE SHELVES. Sarah A. Hoyt treats Fonda Lee as someone who deserves mockery for “A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Supply and Demand”. Hoyt addresses Lee’s March 2019 tweets:

…Sigh.  We won’t get into the idiocy of traditional publishing and their artificial restrictions on market, but still…

This poor woman has everything backward in her head.  It makes it very difficult for me to believe that she can create any kind of sane or believable world. Why? Because she doesn’t understand the laws of supply and demand, which means she doesn’t understand reality….

…The dead great shall always be with us. You want to outsell them: write a lot and write well.  Or find another job.

Economics in the end — regardless of what prizes you get for being a good little girl, or how much your professors praised you — is cold equations. Cold equations ALL THE WAY DOWN.

Is it fair? No. Well…. Not fair in the sense that it doesn’t matter how good you are if people don’t know you exist.  But it is fair in the sense that if you write well and a lot and figure out how to advertise you’ll be rewarded.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 6, 1981 Time Bandits premiered. Co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Kenny Baker, Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, and David Warner. It received critical acclaim with a current 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and was a financial success as well.  Apple has gained the rights for a Time Bandits television series to distribute on Apple TV+ with Gilliam on board in a non-writing production role and Taika Waititi as the director of the pilot. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 6, 1907 Catherine Crook de Camp. Author and editor. Most of her work was done in collaboration with her husband L. Sprague de Camp, to whom she was married for sixty years. Her solo work was largely non-fiction. Heinlein in part dedicated Friday to her. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 6, 1914 Jonathan Harris. Doctor Zachary Smith, of course, on Lost in Space. He was somewhat typecast as a villain showing up such Mr. Piper on Land of the Giants, The Ambassador on Get Smart and the voice of Lucifer on Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 6, 1951 Nigel Havers, 68. The bridegroom Peter Dalton in “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. He’s done a lot of children’s genre theatre: Jack in the Beanstalk twice, Robin Hood, Cinderella, Peter Pan and Aladdin. He’s been in one Doctor Who audiobook and narrated Watership Down once upon a time. He was Mark Ingram in An Englishman’s Castle, an alternate telling of WWII. 
  • Born November 6, 1953 Ron Underwood, 66. His first directing effort was Tremors starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Reba McEntire in her acting debut. Later genre efforts include Mighty Joe Young, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, episodes of Once Upon A Time, Fear the Walking Dead and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
  • Born November 6, 1955 Catherine Ann Asaro, 64. She is best known for her books about the Ruby Dynasty, called the Saga of the Skolian Empire. I don’t think I’ve read them, so if you’ve read them, please do tell me about them. 
  • Born November 6, 1960 Michael Cerveris, 59. Remembered best as the Primary Observer on Fringe. He’s played Puck and been in Macbeth way off Broadway so his creds there are covered too. He was Mr. Tiny in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, and Elihas Starr, the original Egghead, in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
  • Born November 6, 1964 Kerry Scott Conran, 55. A director and screenwriter, best known for creating and directing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a film I absolutely adore. And that’s it. That’s all he done. 
  • Born November 6, 1968 Kelly Rutherford, 51. She’s here for having the recurring role of Dixie Cousins on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and that’s in addition to managing to get herself involved in more bad genre series that got cancelled fast such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Kindred: The Embraced (8 episodes each). Indeed, her very first genre gig had the dubious title of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge.
  • Born November 6, 1972 Rebecca Romijn, 47. Played Mystique in the X-Men film franchise but my favorite role for her is as Eve Baird, The Guardian of the Library that cross all realities in The Librarians series.  She also was a regular playing Roxie Torcoletti in Eastwick, yet another riff the John Updike novel. She is now Number One on Discovery

(8) LEARN ABOUT STAN LEE. In LA at the Skirball Cultural Center on November 10, there will be a conversation between Danny Fingeroth, author of “A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee”, and comics historian Jerry Beck.

Discover how Stan Lee became known as the voice and face of comics at this conversation between Lee’s colleague and author Danny Fingeroth and animation historian Jerry Beck.

As editor, publisher, and co-creator of Marvel, Lee worked with creative partners, like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, to create world-famous characters including Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers. But Lee’s career was haunted by conflict and controversy. Be amazed by Lee’s complex and accomplished life at this illuminating discussion.

(9) MARY YES, HERMAN NO. A word sticks out prominently in this Guardian interview: “Tade Thompson: ‘Quite frankly Victor Frankenstein was a dick’ “.

The book that influenced my writing
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I read it as a teenager and the seething mess of nested narratives and charnel houses lodged itself in my imagination. I’ve read it more than any other book and hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of making corpses walk. Quite frankly Victor Frankenstein was a dick.

The book I think is most overrated
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. With apologies to my US friends and my English teacher. This book didn’t just leave me cold. When I finished I wanted to make a list of everybody who had recommended it and make them eat it.

(10) GENRE WORK NOTED. BBC’s panelists invite everyone to “Explore the list of 100 Novels That Shaped Our World”. Chip Hitchcock says, “I count 17 of the 100 (and there’s probably a few I’m missing through not knowing the works), although I’d be happier if the Twilight series wasn’t one of them.”

(11) NOT A TWELVE-STEP PROGRAM. “Boeing aims for Moon landing in ‘fewer steps'”.

Aerospace giant Boeing has unveiled its proposal for a lander that could take humans to the Moon’s surface.

Under a programme called Artemis, the White House wants to return humans to the Moon by 2024.

Its approach, named “Fewest Steps to the Moon”, would use the huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

The company says its plan reduces the complexity involved in sending several different bits of hardware into space on multiple launches.

For most robotic space missions, all the hardware needed for the mission is launched on one rocket. Likewise, the crewed Apollo missions to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s required only one lift-off.

However, the Artemis missions are expected to involve several flights to loft all the hardware needed. For example, the lander elements are likely to be launched separately from the Orion capsule carrying crew.

Boeing says it can land astronauts on the Moon with only five “mission critical events” – such as launch, orbit insertion and others – instead of the 11 or more required by alternative strategies.

…The company says its lander would be ready for the 2024 mission, called Artemis-3. But Boeing’s plan would depend on a more powerful variant of the SLS rocket called Block 1B.

Under current Nasa plans, the Block 1B version of the rocket wouldn’t be ready until 2025.

(12) VARIATION ON FLORIDA MAN. UPI says be on the lookout — “Florida police seek return of 300-pound Bigfoot”.

Police in Florida are seeking information on the disappearance of an unusual piece of property — a 300-pound Bigfoot statue.

The Boynton Beach Police Department said the 8-foot-tall Sasquatch statue was stolen from in front of a store called Mattress Monsterz in October.

(13) HPL. SYFY Wire opines: “Nic Cage goes full Lovecraft in first trailer for cosmic horror tale Color Out of Space”. Tell me if you don’t think the kid doesn’t look like he just walked out of A Christmas Story. (Not the one framed below, the one in the beginning of the trailer,)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Nina Shepardson, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Authors Break Silence with Complaints About ChiZine Publications

ChiZine Publications, the Canadian horror publisher run by Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory, has been under fire from writers this week for slow payment and nonpayment, accused of bullying and blackballing an author who complained, and in connection with remarks made by some individuals associated with CZP of a sexist and racist nature.

The social media outpouring seems to have been precipitated by the sharing of what passed between author Ed Kurtz and ChiZine Publications. I haven’t sourced the beginnings of this conversation (which may not have been public), but the details appear in CZP’s denial and Kurtz’ rebuttal below. But before turning to them, it’s helpful to look at one of Michael Matheson’s posts.  

Matheson’s comments on Facebook include:

…Just now catching the edges of what happened with Ed Kurtz and CZP. And I can’t even begin to say I’m surprised. Honestly, I’m just glad we’re finally as a field starting to talk about the problems with CZP a little more publicly.

If you’ve never had a problem working with/for them, that’s fantastic, and I know it’s true for a number of people. But having been on the inside of that company for two years (2013-2015, longer if you count time spent working for Chiaroscuro Magazine doing reviews and review management before that), the issues that are coming up around Ed aren’t unusual. These are longstanding issues, spread across CZP’s interactions with writers, editors, interns, publicists, cover artists, agents (some who flat out won’t allow their clients to work with CZP), multiple distributors, several book printers, and they’re not going to get better.

…Long story short, you could not pay me to work with CZP ever again – not least of all because beyond the collected freelance payment of $3,200 for working on 30 books in whatever span it was (which I think was also in the two years I worked directly for them), I never did get paid. Nothing like hearing “Oh we’ll be able to pay you a salary/stipend when we get the Book Fund,” for two years running.

ChiZine Publications has publicly responded to charges about their payments to Ed Kurtz and allegations of mistreatment.

Given the recent discussion on social media about our professional relationship with author Ed Kurtz and other authors, we feel some of the mis-statements that have been made need to be corrected.

In 2018, Ed approached us, asking about monies due him from a Russian translation of his novel. At the time, we told him the monies had not yet been paid to us, and we checked with our foreign rights agent, who confirmed that they had received no monies either. We did not receive the translation rights monies until late April of 2019.

Once we received the translation monies owed, we paid Ed within 48 hours.

Earlier this year, we were approached by the Horror Writers Association to mediate the situation—and we do acknowledge that Ed’s author royalties were late at the time, which we regret, and which situation was corrected promptly. ChiZine Publications remains a small press run by two people, and while we do our best to stay on top of the business, we occasionally fall short. This is not something we take lightly—our author relationships are important to us.

Ed Kurtz’s royalties are currently paid in full. Any other monies he might be due will be paid on his next royalty statement, which will be in spring 2020.

As to an accusation that we, along with other small presses, attempted to blacklist Ed Kurtz, or threaten him in any way—that is categorically untrue, and we deny it. We were proud to publish Ed’s novel and were eager to publish his next one, as per our contract option. But when he wished to withdraw that novel, we respected his wish.

At no time has Ed ever asked for a rights reversal, although of course he is entitled to do so. We are happy to revert his rights if he makes that request.

We are aware that this discussion has brought to light instances of late royalty statements or payments, and we believe it is important to address this with our authors.

Accordingly, over the next four to six weeks we will be reviewing our financials, and reaching out to our authors and/or their representatives, to ensure that royalties are up to date, and promptly address any shortfalls.

If any of our authors have any specific questions—whether regarding royalty statements or any other business-related concerns—please contact us and we will do our best to provide answers in a timely fashion.

Ed Kurtz authorized this rebuttal to be posted on Facebook:

The statement from Chizine neglects a number of salient facts, such as the moment in July 2018, at Necon, when I explained to Brett Savory that my partner was facing a layoff, our cat was ill, we were in severe financial distress, and I had *never* been paid a single cent of royalties in what was at that time almost two years for a moderately successful book. He actually grinned and said, “Things are hard for everyone right now” before walking away. The following morning it was reported to me that Sandra was loudly complaining in the dealer room about me having asked about my royalties, and of course the two of them went on a whirlwind trip around the world a few weeks after that, showing us all that things weren’t so rough for them, after all.

In fact, I’d asked after my royalties several times and was rebuffed or given excuses every single time (usually something wrong with their accounting software or something similar, which I later learned they’d been saying to authors for years). I only went to the HWA after several other frustrated CZP authors (one of whom hadn’t been paid in five years!) strongly encouraged me to do so. I expressed fear of bullying and/or retaliation, and some of these authors promised me they’d have my back (they didn’t). And yes, a lot of us got paid through my efforts, though it is untrue I’m paid in full. I was never paid royalties for the months of my first year of publication, 2016, though CZP continues to claim I was. I just gave up on this.

As for bullying/blackballing? I’d call the half dozen people who refused to acknowledge my existence at Necon 2019 and since then just that. Some of these people I once called friends. They know who they are and they can keep their excuses and apologies to themselves. (Not the ones who blocked me for demanding to get paid, of course. They’ll never make excuses!) This behavior has wrecked my mental health, driven me from the writing community, and killed in me any last vestiges of my desire to continue writing at all, so hurrah for you if that’s the sort of thing that pleases you, I guess. (And sending excuses and apologies through my partner when you have my email and/or phone number is just sad and cowardly.) Of course, I’ve heard from a number of people some of the awful, nasty things CZP say about me and other authors (including calling us “cunts”), so if that’s not bullying, I guess I don’t understand the meaning of the word. (That’s just their sense of humor, I was told by one of the authors who completely failed to stand up for me. I just don’t get it, apparently.)

And again, I had no idea that I would be the only one named on the complaint submitted through the HWA to Chizine. There were more than half a dozen of us, some of whom were happily chumming it up with Brett and Sandra at Necon while avoiding me like the bubonic plague—after getting them paid. Had I known these authors had planned to do this to me, I might never have gone that route. (Also note, I’ve been told a LOT of other Chizine authors were NEVER paid.)

As to all this nonsense handwringing about them being just a small, two-person operation, look—if you can’t pay, you can’t play. Shut down. If you’re doing more than you can handle, do less or shut down. It does NOT MATTER how small you are or what accounting problems you’ve had for ten years running. PAY YOUR AUTHORS. PAY THEM EVERY TIME. PAY THEM ON TIME. And for fuck’s sake, stop lying about every goddamned thing. No one is fooled by you anymore. Chizine has been a “squeaky stair” in the whisper network for a decade about how they mistreat and cheat people. It’s out now. No more whispers. Tell your truths, people. I’ve heard from a LOT of people. Other authors, former employees. It’s all coming out now.

Let this be a public announcement that I demand my rights back for THE RIB FROM WHICH I REMAKE THE WORLD in total. I have sent an email to the same effect and I have been told this morning by ChiZine that this will be granted. I asked for my rights back once before, when CZP asked me about turning the book into a POD affair, and the request was ignored. We’ll see about this time around. Let it also be known that I received an unrequested PayPal payment this afternoon from ChiZine, along with a statement I have yet to review at the time of this writing, which ostensibly covers 2019 to the present day. I was also promised a final payment come February 2020. I do not know if it will ever be re-issued once it goes out of print.

Anyway, they don’t have to worry too much. I’m still gone. I’m still wrecked. My career is still in shambles. They won in that regard, they and their minions. I just want my book back so I don’t have to have any further contact and I’ll stay away from the whole damn scene that’s been so toxic to me and others. And to everyone else, for Christ’s sake: DO BETTER. I know everyone wants to get ahead, but when you stop being a decent human being just for this nonsense? When someone you have the temerity to call a friend tells you they’ve been hurt and wronged, and you go running to the one doing the hurting with your hands open like Oliver fucking Twist? DO BETTER. It’s fucking pathetic the way some of y’all treat each other just to get your name on the cover of a small press book. The whole “Well, gee, I see how awful you and literally dozens of others have been treated, but I’ve known them LONGER!” thing? Do I need to say it again?

DO. BETTER.

Adios.

Michael Matheson also indicates there were deep problems with CZP’s work environment. Thread starts here.

Kerrie Byrne told about some of their experiences working for CZP. Thread starts here.

Today’s conversation has also surfaced complaints of sexism and racism.

Livia Llewellyn’s thread starts here.

Chesya Burke on Facebook recalled a 2013 experience where she was a victim of online racism by ChiZine author Michael Rowe, and detailed the ways in which CZP’s publishers condoned his behavior:

…Even after posting yesterday that writers need to stick together and talk about their experiences in this business, I hesitated writing this post. Not because it isn’t important, but because I know it could be seen as a pile on and it’s not quite a ChiZine ChiZine story. But, I’ve never been one to shut the fuck up out of fear and it won’t start now.

While this story has nothing to do with ChiZine not paying their authors and artists, it certainly supports the growing concern over the atmosphere of fear and control that ChiZine seems to create….

Few people, in all of horror defended me. One of them was an artist friend who called them all out for their racism. He also worked for ChiZine. After this, Brett and Sandra [of ChiZine] began “relaying passive aggressive messages” to my artist friend from Micheal. Eventually, “they defended Micheal saying that he didn’t mean it,” which lets you know that they knew what he’d said was beyond the pale, but the refused to address it. The artist says that ChiZine “became this insular thing about their buddies and pals. Don’t worship their racist friends? You’re not worth it.”

My artist friend, who is a damn fine artist, quit publishing altogether. This left a bad taste in his mouth and because “it’s hard to get work after you’ve severed ties abruptly.”

Let me make it clear, Brett and Sandra are not responsible for Micheal Rowe’s behavior. But I absolutely hold them responsible for harboring an atmosphere that hid and silently condoned racists and white supremacy. I don’t know their ideologies. Their ideologies don’t matter. Their actions when faced with outright, in your face, call-a-black-woman-a-nigger-in-2013 racism, was to support the racists and harm anyone who didn’t fall in line.

Do with this this information, what you want. But I will not hide it. And will repost every single time it’s taken down.

Jeff VanderMeer, after reading these revelations, made a succinct statement:

We do not recommend ChiZine as a publisher or as an employer.

He also said:

Meanwhile, there is concern that the authors will unfairly receive the brunt of the punishment when customers stop buying books from CZP, or reviewers don’t cover their CZP books (as a couple online critics have already announced they will refuse to do in the future). Rio Youers said:

This concern prompted Richard Thomas to remind people about the “Ten Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors This Holiday Season” which he posted last December and could be helpful now.

More people are expected to share their CZP stories in days to come. Among those reaching out to authors for their ChiZine experiences are Jason Sanford, and The Horror Show with Brian Keene.

Note: A follow-up post with more information can be read here.

Pixel Scroll 10/9/19 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll Me Your Answer, Do

(1) WAPO’S NEW SFF COLUMN. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar have launched a new column on SFF in the Washington Post: “The weird, the wacky, the underappreciated: A new look at science fiction and fantasy”.

Even 10 years ago, the fields of science fiction and fantasy were still overwhelmingly American and white. And, if you grew up speaking Spanish in Mexico City, (as I, Silvia, did), or Hebrew on a small kibbutz in Israel (as I, Lavie, did), it meant that the world of science fiction, filtered through translation, was as remote and alien as the other side of the moon. The very idea we could be writing novels like these seemed, well, fantastical.

Yet, somehow, here we are. The past decade has seen the science-fiction world change as more international voices enthusiastically jumped into the fray. Now, wonderful writers including Malaysian Zen Cho can write smart, funny fantasies such as “Sorcerer to the Crown”; after years of struggle, Nigerian Tade Thompson’s ambitious Africa-set novel, “Rosewater,” was published to wide acclaim and recently won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award; and Chinese author Liu Cixin’s “The Three-Body Problem,” translated by Ken Liu, has become a bestseller and even has a recommendation from former president Barack Obama.

(2) LISTEN TO HURLEY. The title of Kameron’s Hurley’s latest podcast says it all: “GET TO WORK HURLEY: Episode 13. In this episode we discuss how to take notes, long-term career planning, and why it is books seem to get more difficult to write the more of them you write. I’ll also be tackling some listener questions, from where to find more gooey biopunk to what I think of writers’ unions”.

(3) FIRESIDE CANCELLATIONS. The October 8 issue of Jason Sanford’s Genre Grapevine reported —

Fireside Press contacted a number of its authors and cancelled their pending book titles. The messages received by those authors said that due to unexpected changes at Fireside, the publisher had to re-evaluate their plans for the upcoming year. As a result Fireside was cancelling the contracts for multiple titles which had been accepted and contracted but not yet scheduled for publication. Fireside reverted the rights for these books to their authors, although no kill fee was paid because that wasn’t in the contract.

Pablo Defendini, the Publisher of Fireside, responded to the report with a statement: “About our Acquisitions”.

On Monday morning, I sent out messages reverting the rights on five unpublished and unannounced manuscripts that we acquired last year during our novel and novella acquisitions period. In the last day or so there’s been lots of rumor and speculation, so I wanted to explain what’s going on directly.

We’ve had some unexpected changes on the editorial front at Fireside this year. Any time there’s a change like that, it affects workflow, capacity, and resourcing throughout, especially at very small operations like ours. Over the past few months, as I’ve reworked our editorial operations to account for working with more people than ever before, it’s become clear to me that the amount of work that I’d previously thought Fireside could take on was unsustainable. Trying to take on too much work would have made living up to our obligations to our authors extremely challenging. It would have been bad both for Fireside and for these authors and their work. So rather than publishIng these books badly, I made the decision to cut down on our upcoming list.

This sucks no matter how you slice it, but it would have sucked more down the line. As I told each author, this is not a reflection on their work. There’s a reason we were attracted to these manuscripts in the first place — they’re great stories, and I have no doubt that they will find good homes. But I’d much rather revert the rights to these books back to their authors, than do a bad job publishing their work, or worse: sit on the rights until the contracts expired….

Meg Elison today said she is one of the authors whose contract was cancelled, and commented at length about how that was handled. Thread starts here.

(4) LEWIS QUEST. Matt Mikalatos, while “Introducing the Great C.S. Lewis Reread” at Tor.com, raises the suspicion that the series will be of great interest to all except to those who actually like Lewis’s writing.

…Time passed, and over the years I’ve grown and changed, of course; recently my 16-year-old picked up my favorite Lewis book, Till We Have Faces. It’s a beautiful novel about loss and faith and confronting the gods. My daughter told me it was good, but added, “He didn’t like women much, did he?”

Okay, yes, that’s a fair response. And there are certainly moments of deeply troubling racism in Lewis’s books, too. And for those who aren’t from a Christian background (and maybe some who are), the central Christian conceits can be off-putting (even Tolkien, who was a key player in Lewis’s conversion, often disliked Lewis’s sermonizing).

So why are we embarking on a massive re-read of Lewis’s books?

Well, love them or hate them, the Narnia books played a key role in bringing children’s literature back into the worlds of the fantastic. There was a strong emphasis on realism in Lewis’s days, and too much imagination was seen as unhealthy for kids (though Baum, Barrie, and Nesbit might still be on the nursery shelf). The popularity of Narnia opened the door to more fantasy literature for children, and The Chronicles of Narnia still get placed on “Best Of” lists for children today….

(5) EMULATING WHO. Watch the full recreation of the missing Doctor Who 1965 episode Mission to the Unknown by the University of Central Lancashire. Find out more and watch the making-of here.

(6) A HOGWARTS TENURE APPLICATION. McSweeney’s Alyse Knorr reveals “Professor Minerva McGonagall’s Letter to the Tenure Committee”.

…When I first applied for this position, did I know that my expected job duties would include dueling genocidal dark lords or battling Death Eaters in the Astronomy Tower? No. Did I do them anyway, even after being denied a cost of living adjustment to my salary for ten years in a row while also dealing with insidiously small-but-steady cuts to my annual conference travel budget? Yes. Do these accomplishments count as service to the student body, to the institution, or to humanity itself? Hard to say.

Not even saving the institution from an apocalyptic calamity orchestrated by a noseless neo-Nazi, however, can compare to the daily, ongoing, and, frankly, deeply disheartening struggle to protect our students from themselves….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 9, 2010 Monsterwolf debuted on Syfy. It stars Leonor Varela, Robert Picardo, and Marc Macaulay. It’s a werewolf movie and Robert Picardo appeared in The Howling as a werewolf.
  • October 9, 2012 Werewolf: The Beast Among Us was released on DVD. Starring Ed Quinn and Guy Wilson, it rated 37% at Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, a lot of werewolf films get released round Halloween. 
  • October 9, 2015 Pan was released by Warner Bros. Starring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard and Levi Miller as Pan, it bombed at the box office. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 27% approval rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 9, 1900 Harry Bates. His 1940 short story “Farewell to the Master” was the basis of The Day the Earth Stood Still just over a decade later. And he edited Astounding Science Fiction from its inception in January 1930 until March 1933 when Clayton went bankrupt and the magazine was sold to Street and Smith. Other than The Day the Earth Stood Still, neither iBooks or Kindle has much by him. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 9, 1936 Brian Blessed, 83. Lots of genre appearances including Space 1999, Blake’s 7, Doctor Who, Hamlet (as the a Ghost of Hamlet’s father), MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis, Johnny and the Dead and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
  • Born October 9, 1953 Tony Shalhoub, 66. Two great genre roles, the first being Jack Jeebs in Men In Black, the second being more I think more nuanced one, Fred Kwan in Galaxy Quest. Actually, he’s done three great genre roles as he voiced Master Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
  • Born October 9, 1954 Scott Bakula, 65. Lead in two great SF series, Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap and Captain Jonathan Archer on Enterprise. He also starred as Nolan Wood who discovers the alien conspiracy in the remake of The Invaders.
  • Born October 9, 1956 Robert Reed, 63. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well, such as the superb Marrow series. 
  • Born October 9, 1958 Michael Paré, 61. I’ll start off with his being in Streets of Fire but he’s also been in The Philadelphia Expirement, Lunarcop, both BloodRayne films and Moon 44.
  • Born October 9, 1961 Matt Wagner, 58. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel Are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too.
  • Born October 9, 1964 Jacqueline Carey, 55. Author of the long-running mildly BDSM centered Kushiel’s Legacy Universe which also includes the Moirin Trilogy. (Multiple Green Man reviewers used this phraseology in their approving reviews.) LOCUS in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”.  She did several stand-alone novels including the intriguingly entitled Miranda and Caliban.
  • Born October 9, 1964 Guillermo del Toro, 55. Best films? Hellboy, Hellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth. Worst films? The Hobbit films. Hellboy II would make it solely for the Goblin’s Market sequence. 
  • Born October 9, 1979 Brandon Routh, 40. The lead in Superman Returns, a film that got a very positive 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Surprisingly it didn’t make the final ballot for the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form when It was eligible. He’s currently Ray Palmer, The Atom, in the Arrowverse.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

They’re always the last to know.

(10) EIGHTY CANDLES. Let the BBC tell you about this survivor: “Marvel Comics at 80: From bankruptcy threat to billions at the box office”.

…But that universe could have been lost forever when Marvel hit financial problems in the 1990s.

“The comics industry had been massively overvalued for years,” says [Professor Chris Murray].

“Comic collectors had been buying multiple copies of issues, believing that they were going to be valuable in 10-20 years time so they were investing.”

(11) TAKING THE TUBE. Steve Carper has a fascinating profile of “Gyro Gearloose’s Little Helper” at Black Gate.

…The tiny figure, like those singers in the terrific documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, was a major talent in its own right. Like so much else in Disney comic history, the name was applied retroactively, because fans and followers needed a tag to put on the character. They had little to go on. At first, Barks seldom had Gyro even directly notice his shadow, much less address it. But even Barks occasionally nodded. There is an instance of Gyro calling it “Helper.” And Helper morphed into Little Helper, which is the best term to search on. (It’s Little Bulb in the Duck Tales cartoons.) Helper is canonical, because helper is how Barks thought of his creation, as quoted in Tom Andrae, Carl Barks and the Disney Comic Book: Unmasking the Myth of Modernity.

(12) THE CREEPIEST. Food Network calls these the “15 Limited-Edition Halloween Candies to Hunt for This Year”. For example:

Zombie Skittles are the definition of trick or treat. This new bag of candy looks like regular ol’ Skittles — but beware! Some of the candy pieces are sweet and fruity, while others taste like rotten eggs. So, brace yourself before you grab a handful. There’s a good chance you’ll get a mouthful of YUCK.

(13) HOLD THE PHONE. A prize for device power: “Nobel chemistry prize: Lithium-ion battery scientists honoured”.

Three scientists have been awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries.

John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino share the prize for their work on these rechargeable devices, which are used for portable electronics.

At the age of 97, Prof Goodenough is the oldest ever Nobel laureate.

Professor of chemistry Olof Ramström said lithium-ion batteries had “enabled the mobile world”.

The trio will share the prize money of nine million kronor (£738,000).

The lithium-ion battery is a lightweight, rechargeable and powerful battery that is used in everything from mobile phones to laptops to electric cars.

(14) DON’T FORGET TO CENSOR YOURSELF. Looper is there when “South Park creators ‘apologize’ to the Chinese government after being erased from the internet”. Once you learn how to fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.

…A recent episode of the adult-oriented animated series entitled “Band in China” was, well, banned in China after the country’s government deemed it inappropriate (via The Hollywood Reporter). Every last clip of the episode, which critiques the ways in which Hollywood tends to adjust its content to avoid censorship from the Chinese government and features character Randy Marsh (Trey Parker) getting thrown in jail after he’s caught selling drugs in China, has been scrubbed from China’s intensely monitored internet — including from streaming services, fan pages dedicated to South Park, and social media platforms. All instances of discussion about the “Band in China” episode, official or otherwise, have also been removed from the Chinese internet.

(15) AT THE CORE. Atlas Obscura reveals that “Russia’s Retro Lenin Museum Still Runs on Decades-Old Apple II Computers”.

The versatility of the Apple II made it one of the most widespread personal computers of the 1970s and 80s. In schools, labs, and even command centers, these classic American computers kept a foothold even after the advent of more advanced machines. But of all the places you’d expect to find the computer that popularized The Oregon Trail, the mournful museum of a Communist leader is one of the most unlikely.

Lenin Museum in Gorki Leninskiye, located 20 miles south of Moscow, doesn’t look hi-tech even by 1980s standards. But among black marble interiors, gilded display cases, and Soviet historical documents, there is an elaborate audiovisual show about the last years of Vladimir Lenin’s life. Opened in 1987, it’s still powered by vintage Apple technology….

(16) BRADBURY PROFILE. Thanks to YouTube, it’s not too late to tune into Ray Bradbury – Story of a Writer, a 25-minute documentary from 1963 by David L. Wolper.

(17) FRIGHT NIGHT. Remember the week horror stars Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and Vampira were on the Red Skelton Show? Me neither, but YouTube does. (And it somehow seems appropriate that Geritol was the sponsor.) Dial B for Brush starts at about the 7:30 mark.

(18) DRAWN THAT WAY. In “The Real Fake Cameras of Toy Story 4” on YouTube, the Nerdwriter looks at how Toy Story 4 cinematographer Patrick Lim used analog cinematography techniques, including split diopter shots and anamorphic lenses, to improve the film.

[Thanks to Andy Leighton, Mlex, Lise Andreasen, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]