Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.

 

(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.

 

(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

One Day Left in Matching Challenge To Help WisCon Member Assistance Fund

The WisCon Member Assistance Fund provides financial aid for people to attend the con.

Depending on the number of nominations and the amount of donations, the committee will try to help out as many people as possible who would like to come to WisCon but need some support to do so.

The fund is supported by donations, and until midnight February 27 (Central time) longtime WisCon attendee Jed Hartman is multiplying others’ contributions by matching them

Here’s the deal:  For donations made to WisCon’s Member Assistance Fund from now until Saturday night (11:59pm Central Time), i will match every dollar up to $500 — TWICE.  So if you donate $5 to WMAF this week, i’ll donate $10.  If we all pull together, this could mean another $1,500 to help bring people to WisCon 40 this May.

Also, for every membership donated to the Fund, I’ll donate another one.  If you’re interested in donating a membership, please email treasurer@sf3.org.

On Sunday, the SF3 Treasurer and i will tally it all up, i’ll PayPal some monies over to WisCon, and we’ll announce here just how much damage we did to my tax refund.

WisCon 40 takes place May 27-30, 2016.

[Thanks to Will R. for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3 The Nine Billion Noms of Dog

(1) Digg has the best space images from the month of August. They are beauties.

As we tediously while away our days down here on Earth, satellites are zooming through space, snapping incredible pictures of Earth, the solar system and outer space. Here are the highlights from August.

(2) Answer just 4 questions, and the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Sonnet Generator will create a unique 14-line love sonnet just for you!

What Is Lovely As A Summer Slate

Based on the William Shakespeare Star Wars series by Ian Doescher

When sorely press’d by Sith-like enemy,
I think on thee, and soon have no regret.
My heart is lock’d, yet thou dost hold the key,
Our lives are join’d in lovers’ sweet duet.
Let us unto Naboo, its shores of green,
There meet the call of passion at our best.
If thou wert droid, I’d love thee, though machine
If thou would claim mine heart, I’ll not protest.
Love, like a lightsaber, one’s heart can slay,
Love is the new-grown fruit sprung from the heart,
Love plunges one headlong into the fray,
Love is the canvas, passion is the art.
Let rivals come, who chase me at the rear,
Thou hast e’er been my solace, dear.

(3) Radio Times learned nothing from Christopher Eccleston about Doctor Who in a recent interview.

When asked if he’d been watching his successor Peter Capaldi onscreen recently, Christopher Eccleston replied in the negative – in a pretty big way.

“I never watched Doctor Who when I was a child,” he retorted. “I never watched MYSELF as Doctor Who!”

(4) Pat Cadigan on Facebook

After recent events in which Bryan Thomas Schmidt did a solid for both me and everyone else working on MACII, I’ve had some thoughts:

Whatever else happens on social media, on websites, in review columns, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I want a kinder, gentler worldcon.

Worldon is our annual gathering of the clans, not a field of combat. We go there to enjoy ourselves and to be among friends. For a few days, we get to hang out on Planet Science Fiction/Fantasy.

Worldcon is *not* a battlefield.

This is not to say that those with opposing perspectives can’t have a meaningful, even spirited dialog. But there’s a big difference between a heated discussion between people who feel strongly about their respective positions and gladiatorial combat in the Colisseum for the lurid amusement of people who didn’t even bother to show up and in fact never intended to.

I don’t care what your point of view is; I don’t even care if you don’t like *me*––you’re welcome at MACII and I will do nothing to make you feel like you aren’t. But worldcon isn’t a passive, static thing like a department store. Worldcon is interactive (worldcon was interactive before it was fashionable)––what you get out of if, for the most part, is what you put into it. If you go to the panels, check out the dealers’ room and the art show, meet some writers or artists or other pros at kaffeeklatsches, literary beers, or signings, go to the bid parties, and make a little effort to meet new people, you’ll have a great time…

(5) Can you tell this book by the cover?

(6) Tom Knighton gives his “Thoughts on Sad Puppies 4”.

For most people, the idea of tens of thousands voting for the Hugos should make you giddy.  For us, it has added benefits of rendering any small group influence on the awards non-existent.  No, our favorites may not win, but you know what?  That’s life.  What we want to see win is the stuff the actual fan–the people that [George R.R.] Martin may dismiss but who buy books by the truckload–actually reads.

While Martin doesn’t think it will add to the prestige of the award, more fans voting on them will do one thing from my perspective.  We’ll start to see some books win that actually look interesting and then deliver on the inside.  With the exception of Three Body Problem (which I haven’t read yet, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt), that hasn’t been the default position of the Hugos in some time.

(7) Spacefaring Kitten on Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens – “My first (seven) reactions to the surprise announcement of Sad Puppies 4”

4 reasons to pet the Puppies:

  1. Tone

The Puppy organizers Kate Paulk, Sarah A. Hoyt and Amanda S. Green have written things that I consider stupid, hateful and obnoxious, but the Sad Puppies 4 announcement was phrased very un-obnoxiously. Civility is a nice thing.

  1. It’s not a slate, really

Listing more works than one can nominate for the Hugos and stating up front that one should read the stuff before suggesting it are good and play down the slate aspect.

  1. No more shady correct taste comissars

With Sad Puppies 3, Brad Torgersen had a somewhat similar nominee suggestion phase (that had humorously few participants). After that, though, he ditched most of the stuff people had suggested and went on with the things that were written by his chums. There will be no more of that, it seems.

  1. Focus on MOAR

The Puppy trio has promised to focus on participation instead of ideological screeds. It remains to be seen if that is a promise they are able to keep.

(8) Barry Deutsch – “Don’t Be Fooled – Kate Paulk’s Kinder, Gentler Sad Puppy Slate Is Still A Slate”

For instance, in 2012 (before the puppies), 611 Hugo voters turned in ballots for short stories. The most popular short story, E. Lily Yu’s amazing The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees, was listed on only 72 of those 611 ballots (about 12%). At least 60% of those 611 ballots didn’t vote for any of the top five nominated stories.

And that’s fine. That’s how the Hugo nominations are designed to work. 611 Hugo voters, acting as individuals, each nominate whatever short stories they think are award-worthy. From that list of hundreds of short stories, the five most-nominated make it to the final ballot.

Unfortunately, it’s an easy system to game, as the Puppies have proven. If you can form a voting bloc of just 100 people who will nominate an agreed-upon list, instead of voting as individuals, that’s enough to completely overwhelm the much larger number of Hugo voters who are voting as individuals. 100 people voting for just 5 works will beat out 500 people voting from among hundreds of works.

(9) Philip Sandifer – “Weird Kitties: An Organized Anti-Slate For The 2016 Hugos”

The good news is that there are five thousand of us, united, if nothing else, by the facts that 1) We voted in the Hugos, and 2) We are not Puppies of any stripe. We are not a campaign. We are not a political movement. We are not playing some elaborate game of four-dimensional chess in order to topple Christendom. Indeed we, in the sense of “me and everyone reading this,” are not even all five thousand voters. But nevertheless, we are a bunch of fans defined by the simple fact that we’re eligible to nominate things for Hugos next year, and we’re not Vox Day’s pack of rabid dogs.

One of the most helpful things, then, would be if all five thousand of us nominated, and if we nominated a full ballot. Among us, we’ve got 25,000 open slots on our ballots in every category with which to push a work over the slate-busting threshold of 541. That’s doable, but it’s also hard. A lot of us, myself included, don’t identify five eligible Hugo-worthy items in every category in a normal year’s reading. In many categories, a lot of us don’t identify one. We don’t all have writing Winds of Winter to be distracted from, after all. And we could use some help.

So I’m creating Weird Kitties for exactly that. It’s going to be an ongoing conversation about awesome science fiction and fantasy that’s come out and is coming out in 2015, conducted for people who want to fill in their Hugo ballots with things they love.

(10) Camestros Felapton – “How big should the Hugo Awards”

What is the ideal number of people to vote on the Hugo Awards? I’d say it should be around whatever the number of people is that feel they can make a reasonable decision on the least popular story category (Novelette? I haven’t checked historically) – i.e. how many people are taking an active interest in SF/F Novelettes published in English in a given year. I don’t know what that number is but those are the interesting people. Why? Because they are people looking at newer writers and people doing interesting things and who are interested in trends etc.

(11) John C. Wright – “Hugo Controversy Quiz Questions”

Theodore Beale, who writes under the pen name Vox Day, joined us as an ally, but disagreed with the goals. He thought the award could not be salvaged and restored to its former glory; indeed, the only thing that could be done would be to force the politically-correctness faction (which he calls by the mocking title Social Justice Warriors, at one time their own name for themselves) to reveal their true purposes. His plan was to make it clear to any honest onlooker that the awards were being given out not based on merit, but due to politics. For this reason, he promoted his own slate of suggested works for his fans to read and vote upon, called the Rabid Puppies.

The Social Justice Warriors did in fact react precisely as Mr Beale predicted, and after the Sad Puppies unexpectedly swept several categories in the nominations, the SJWs used their superior numbers to vote NO AWARD into that category rather than give the award to whichever work was most worthy among the candidates.

This was done purely and openly for political reasons. The mask is torn. No honest onlooker can doubt the motive of the Social Justice Warriors at this point, or ponder whether the claims made by the Sad Puppies were true or false.

(12) Sarah Mirk of Bitch Media interviews Ann Vandermeer in “’Sisters of the Revolution’ Collects Powerful Feminist Sci-Fi”

I was wondering what you think of the “puppies” pushback to the Awards and what that reveal.

Well I have to say I was really excited at the people that won. The best novel category, I was very, very excited about that, because I know both the writer and the translator, so that was—I mean the way that I look at the outcome of the entire awards ceremony is it was showing you that science fiction is bigger than just the United States and the U.K. That’s how I felt. The science fiction community is definitely making that outreach into the wider world. When you think about the Hugos, what you’re looking at is a popularity contest in a sense because the awards are going to be voted on by the people that buy the memberships. It’s plain and simple. It’s not a juried award, there’s no judge, it’s just who’s voting and how they’re voting. So it’s just by the numbers. When you look at it that way, the thing that was really exciting to me is that this past year they had more than double the average number of people voting than they’ve had in the past. I think they had close to 6,000 people who voted.

Did more people turn out to vote because they’d heard about the controversy over the awards?

Well, I think people were getting more involved in the discussion. If you take a look at the numbers, and you look at the number of people who are actually members of World Con, every single person who signs up for a membership, whether it’s supporting or attending, can vote. So, typically, only half of the people that have memberships, vote. Only half. It’s kind of like when you take a look at our Presidential elections, what’s the percentage of people that vote? Not everybody. But we had so many people that actually voted. Now, here’s the good thing about that. It’s not true for every voter, I’m not naïve, but a lot of voters went in and read the stories, which to me is amazing. So a lot of those stories got a larger audience than they ever would.

(13) Didact’s Reach – “So what now, Hugo?”

The detailed statistics behind the awards results showed very clearly that the voters at WorldCon and Sasquan were perfectly willing to undermine the legitimacy of their own award process in order to keep out those that they don’t like. LTC Tom Kratman, John C. Wright, Steve Rsaza, a number of Baen authors, and Toni Weisskopf herself, were all denied awards that they richly deserved and should have won for their respective categories.

Yet, instead of even bothering to consider the alternatives, five different categories were given “No Award”. The Hugo and Nebula Awards were, essentially, reduced to a farce. And all because politics overruled etiquette, courtesy, wisdom, and good judgement.

The SJWs who currently control the nomination and award process have made it perfectly clear that they intend to amend the (already incomprehensible) rules for next year’s ballot in order to prevent a similar uprising from happening again. Good luck with that; I have every reason to think that the Sad Puppies leaders for next year, Amanda Green, Kate Paulk, and Sarah A. Hoyt, will simply adapt, react, and overcome in order to get works by actual skilled authors that fans actually might want to read up for nominations.

(14) Jed Hartman on Lorem Ipsum – “Why I love the Hugos”

I acknowledge that the system is contentious and complicated and initially confusing, and I’m sad that people feel excluded, because I want everyone who’s interested to feel like they can be part of it. In general, I feel like bringing more people into the process means that the awards are more valid, because they’re less likely to represent the views of only a few people.

And there’s a whole lot of room for expansion. Even though I agree that the financial barrier to entry is high, that’s certainly not the only issue, because every year a large percentage of the Worldcon members who are eligible to vote don’t do so. So it’s great that the nominating and voting numbers have been going up and up in recent years, but there are still a lot of people who could vote but don’t, and a lot of other people who want to but can’t.

But even so. Despite all of the system’s flaws; despite my eye-rolling when an MC yet again does the “I’m going to make this ceremony last as long as possible” schtick; despite occasional bad behavior on the part of an MC or a presenter or a nominee; despite my personal disappointment that the magazine I edited for twelve years hasn’t yet won one (I’ve wanted a Hugo since I was a kid); despite the sometimes-contentious arguing about what should be nominated and what should win; despite my dubiousness about making nominees sit there tensely waiting to find out whether they’ve won, and about the basic idea of declaring one particular work or person to be the “best” of the year; despite everything—the Hugos are important to me.

And I especially love the Hugo ceremony itself, in all its disparate parts. The pause to honor the people in our field who’ve died over the past year, as their names scroll by on the screen. The awards honoring contributions to fandom, like the Big Heart award. The occasional very entertaining MCs. The beautiful designs for the Hugo award base. The passing-along of the Campbell tiara. The delight of most of the winners. The sometimes gracious and sometimes funny and sometimes overwhelmed acceptance speeches. The rush to analyze the stats afterward. The whole thing, flaws and all. It’s one of my favorite things about Worldcon, which is (despite its flaws) one of my favorite conventions.

(15) Robert Bevan on Caverns and Creatures “Hugo Loss (Sad Puppies Can Eat a Dick.)”

  1. What do the Sad Puppies see as the problem? 

SJW, the all-too-often abbreviated form of the “Social Justice Warrior”. It’s most often used as a lazy means for bigots to dismiss opinions which differ from whatever they were told by their daddy/preacher/grand wizard.

Having said that, I will admit to being annoyed by people I perceive as SJWs (in the derogatory sense) as well. In fact, they were an entry in my Reviewers Who Can Eat a Dick post right up until the final edit. I ended up removing that entry because I felt it made me sound like a whiny asshole, and because it’s so hard to differentiate an actual advocate for social justice, which is something that I admire, from an obnoxious loudmouth who’s only interested in scoring sensitivity points by pretending to be offended by innocuous words. (If enough people read this, I’ll get a few comments calling me a misogynist, in spite of the SJW nature of this post, for using the phrase “Cry like little bitches.” in the above entry.)

The puppies’ stated problem was that these SJWs had already compromised the integrity of the Hugos by voting along the lines of authors’ race, gender, sexuality, or politics, rather than based on the quality of the actual books they were voting on. Books with “messages” and meaning were winning out over good old-fashioned fun space romps, like the kind Puppies like to write.

That last sentence is paraphrased from what I read on one of the puppies’ blogs. The implication seemed to be that their books were more deserving of a prestigious award specifically because they were devoid of anything important to say. By that metric, my books should be pulling in Hugos left and right.

(16) Vox Day declares:

John Scalzi can ban all the parodies he likes. The VFM [Vile Faceless Minions] will just publish more bestsellers. Strike one down and two pop right back up to the top of the category within 24 hours.

parodies_3

(17) Scalzi looked over the goods and said…

(18) Kevin Standlee is working on a proposal to drop some Hugo categories and add others.

I think we’ve reached a point, in small steps, where a significant proportion of the Hugo Award electorate doesn’t know how to actually nominate in at least three categories, and at worst derides those categories because they think they are so complicated or need specialist knowledge that they’ll never have. This is not good for the health of the Hugo Awards. I therefore propose that we should delete three existing categories that people find confusing and unclear and replace them with three new categories that, while not perfectly defined (it’s difficult to define things completely air-tight), are at least more accessible and understandable to the people picking up the ballot or reading the results list.

Categories to Delete

  • Best Semiprozine
  • Best Editor Long Form
  • Best Editor Short Form

Categories to Add

  • Best Professional Magazine
  • Best Anthology or Collection
  • Best Publisher

(19) Andrew Porter writes:

Couldn’t get to Smokane? The smoke made it to the East Coast … by the middle of last week, according to this report. That explains the haze and pollution so many places on the East Coast have been experiencing.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Steven H Silver, Mark, Barry Deutsch and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Seavey.]

Modern Life

Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

Such trials Jed Hartman is having with everyday technology. Pa Ingalls never had problems like this on Little House on the Prairie. Then again, Pa wasn’t a customer of Comcast.

I agree, when people are paying for cable it’s reasonable for them to expect it to work. But for some reason this made me wonder what customer service was like in the early days of home electricity. Expectations are everything. Go back far enough, and the customers’ attitude was that if electricity worked at all it was amazing. William Randolph Hearst once had a party around the Neptune Pool and when he turned on the electric lights at night, everyone gasped and applauded.

Public Health Investigates
Wave of Illnesses at Wiscon

Well worth reading is Cheryl Morgan’s report on the many fans who got sick at Wiscon:

Most of you will already know about the particularly virulent strain of con crud that struck Wiscon last weekend (and to those of you still recovering, my condolences)…. This one, however, was different. Not only was it much more virulent than usual, it also made the local news.

Jed Hartman went to Wiscon and suffered the symptoms of that widespread malady.