Pixel Scroll 1/6/19 The Million-Year Teddy Bear Picnic

(1) PICK AN SFF MAGAZINE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Gregory Hullender has a new tool for sff readers: “We just posted a detailed article aimed at helping people find SF/F magazines to subscribe to. The focus is on the eleven magazines we regularly review, but we do invite people to contribute info about other ones.” — “Finding a Science-Fiction/Fantasy Magazine to Subscribe To”

‘If you’re the editor of a magazine outside our eleven (or just a fan of such a magazine), please feel free to add a comment to this article to plug your magazine. Include the name, a link to subscription instructions, and a few paragraphs explaining why it’s special. Don’t worry about “self-promotion”; this one time, we want you to self-promote!’

Hullender concludes, “It should give us a good answer going forward when people ask ‘what magazines should I subscribe to?’”

(2) BRUNNER. At Doctor Strangemind, Kim Huett features a John Brunner article in which “he goes into vast detail about the economics of being an author in the sixties. Fascinating reading for anybody who likes to dig into the nuts and bolts of publishing” — “John Brunner – The Writer In Black”.

Perfect freedom is reserved for the man who lives by his own work,
and in that work does what he wants to do.

I think it was in an installment of his Noise Level column that John Brunner made the claim that when science fiction authors got together they mostly talked about money. Now I’m not about to disagree with a statement like that given Brunner wrote science fiction for a living and was certainly in a position to know what his fellow authors said and did. Even so I do have to wonder if his views were biased by his own preoccupations. He certainly did write about the financial aspects of being a published author more than any other SF professional I’m familiar with….

(3) MINUS WORLD. Yahoo! Entertainment says there was more waiting to be discovered about this 80’s video game: “A hidden world in the NES ‘Legend of Zelda’ was just uncovered 30 years later”.

Now seeing as how the original Zelda game is more than 30 years old at this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking that every single part of the game has already been discovered and conquered. Alas, you’d be mistaken.

In something of a fascinating story, a developer recently managed to access the game’s “minus world,” essentially another part of the game where developers could try out different gameplay dynamics. Naturally, developers implemented code to prevent players from accessing the game’s “minus world”, but a YouTuber with the handle SKELUX managed to figure out a way around it.

(4) GET YOUR NOMINATIONS IN. Through January 31, the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is taking entries in the Norma K Hemming Award for works published in 2018.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award is now open for entries.

The award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work. Entry is free for all works, and entries may be provided to the judges in print or digital format.

Two prizes will be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations are open to all eligible work produced in 2018. Entries will close on January 31, 2019. We encourage immediate entry for all eligible and appropriate 2019 work.

For more information and to stay up to date, please see the new Award website at https://normakhemmingaward.org  or find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/NKHAward/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/NKH_Award  

(5) NEW MEXICO CONNECTIONS. From the New York Times: “Winter TV Preview: ‘True Detective,’ ‘Carmen Sandiego’ and 19 More Shows to Watch”. Some of the genre shows include —  

‘Roswell, New Mexico’

Fans of the original “Roswell” sent network executives bottles of Tabasco sauce to save their beloved emo-teen-alien series, but it lasted only three seasons (1999-2002) on WB and then UPN. Their pleas have been answered, finally, with this new series, which is also based on the “Roswell High” young-adult book series but adds what now seems obvious: an immigration theme. Jeanine Mason plays a daughter of undocumented immigrants who returns home to Roswell and discovers that the guy she liked in high school is from even farther away. (Jan. 15, CW)

‘Carmen Sandiego’

The fourth TV show (and first in 20 years) spawned by the Carmen Sandiego educational-video-game franchise is an animated “Mission Impossible”-style adventure that’s more adult than its predecessors but still abundantly lighthearted. After a few episodes that provide a new origin story (and moral compass) for the master thief Carmen (voiced by Gina Rodriguez), the series gets back to using crime capers as a vehicle for geographical and cultural lessons. (Jan. 18, Netflix)…

‘Game of Thrones’

Spoiler alert: In the last six episodes of the epic climate-change allegory, the steady rise in dragon fire warms the atmosphere, winter is averted and the White Walkers settle down peacefully in the now-temperate north. Overcome by their good fortune, many characters stop wearing clothes altogether. (April, HBO)

(6) SOLARIS AUTHOR. Rich Horton recommends “The Beautiful Mind-Bending of Stanislaw Lem” at The New Yorker. Here’s a brief quote:

The idea of a private world spilling over unsettlingly into reality is also at the heart of his novel “Solaris,” from 1961, about a sentient ocean with the power of “seeing into the deepest recesses of human minds and then bringing their dreams to life,” as the Lem fan Salman Rushdie once described it. The massive popularity of “Solaris”—made into a film by Andrei Tarkovsky, in 1972, and then again in 2002, by Steven Soderbergh, as a moody near-future love story with George Clooney—helped Lem become one of the most widely read science fiction writers in the world. Yet his writing reached far beyond the borders of the genre. In addition to many novels and stories, he composed a huge philosophical treatise on the relation of human beings and machines, a good deal of pungently argued literary criticism, a volume of reviews of nonexistent books, a stochastic theory of narrative fiction, an experimental detective novel, speculative essays dealing with artificial intelligence, cybernetics, cosmology, genetic engineering, game theory, sociology, and evolution, radio plays and screenplays. Such staggering polymathic curiosity over such a vast range of material, all of it explored with lucidity and charm, gives his writing a unique place on a Venn diagram in which the natural sciences, philosophy, and literature shade into one another with mutually intensifying vividness and fascination.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 6, 1973Schoolhouse Rock! premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 6, 1955 Rowan Atkinson, 64. An unlikely Birthday perhaps except for that he was the lead in Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death which gave him I think the dubious distinction of the shortest lived Doctor.  Other genre appearances were scant though he did play Nigel Small-Fawcett in Never Say Never Again and Mr. Stringer in The Witches which I really like even if the author hates. 
  • Born January 6, 1984 Kate McKinnon, 35. Dr. Jillian “Holtz” Holtzmannon in the recent Ghostbusters film. Voice of Nikki and Margaret Fictel in The Venture Bros. and she played Mother Goose on Sesame Street. I kid you not. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In this Monty, “Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.”
  • Some people just can’t be trusted with simple tasks. (Brewster Rockit).
  • Real Life Adventures gives a familiar TV househunting show a stfnal twist.

(10) WHAT’S THAT NOISE? Musicradar reports “The BBC is letting you download more than 16,000 free sound effect samples from its archive”.

There can be few organisations that have used more sound effects than the BBC, so there’s bound to be great interest in the news that the corporation has now made more than 16,000 of its FX available for free download.

These are being released under the RemArc licence, which means that they can be used for “personal, educational or research purposes”.  

(11) BABY, IT’S DARK OUTSIDE. AND INSIDE. We already knew that the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy were destined to collide; now it seems the Large Magellanic Cloud may beat Andromeda to the punch (Ars Technica: “Milky Way to face a one-two punch of galaxy collisions”).

If our knowledge of galaxy structures was limited to the Milky Way, we’d get a lot of things wrong. The Milky Way, it turns out, is unusual. It’s got a smaller central black hole than other galaxies its size; its halo is also smaller and contains less of the heavier elements. Fortunately, we’ve now looked at enough other galaxies to know that ours is a bit of an oddball. What’s been less clear is why.

Luckily, a recent study provides a likely answer: compared to most galaxies, the Milky Way’s had a very quiet 10 billion years or so. But the new study suggests we’re only a few billion years from that quiet period coming to an end. A collision with a nearby dwarf galaxy should turn the Milky Way into something more typical looking—just in time to have Andromeda smack into it.

The researchers behind the new work, from the UK’s Durham University, weren’t looking to solve the mysteries of why the Milky Way looks so unusual. Instead, they were intrigued by recent estimates that suggest one of its satellite galaxies might be significantly more massive than thought. A variety of analyses have suggested that the Large Magellanic Cloud has more dark matter than the number of stars it contains would suggest.

(12) ENGAGE! CBR.com: “20 Star Trek Relationships That Make No Sense” — Just In Case™ you might be interested.

19 — JADZIA DAX & WORF

I might get some push back on this one, as many found this unlikely pairing enjoyable. I would argue that it was forced and lacked any sort of real buildup. Rumor has it, Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax) and Michael Dorn (Worf) pushed the writers to create a romance for their characters on Deep Space Nine.

I think what viewers might have liked was that these were two of the series’ favorite characters. Sure, the couple managed to convince many of their compatibility, but in actuality I would say it was a toxic relationship. The couple managed to bring out the worst in each other and it seemed they were endlessly arguing. I think the relationship detracted from what we like about them in the first place.

NOT ERGOT. BBC asks: “Can auto-immune illness explain the Salem witch trials?”

There are now compelling reasons to think that at least one of the girls may have suffered from a much-misunderstood neurological condition.

‘Their limbs wracked and, tormented so … their arms, necks, and backs turned this way and that way, and returned back again. Their mouths stopped, their throats choked. They had several sore fits.’ – A contemporary description of cousins Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, the first of the afflicted at Salem.

Their speech was garbled and their limbs contorted, they wailed and howled and convulsed. It was 1692. Betty was nine and Abigail was 11.

Reverend Samuel Parris was advised by a doctor that the girls, his daughter and niece, respectively, were bewitched. Soon, at least five other girls in Salem Village developed similar symptoms and began to accuse locals of witchcraft including Tituba, a slave, and Sarah Good, a homeless beggar. A flurry of accusations followed, with residents piling on to denounce over 200 people. “Persons of ill-repute” and dedicated churchgoers alike were imprisoned and Bridget Bishop, “known for her gossipy habits and promiscuity”, was the first to be hanged on 10 June. Twenty people were put to death in total with several others dying in prison.

(14) PLUME. Yahoo! Entertainment covers this astronomical event: “Volcanic Plume Rising From Jupiter’s Moon Io Spotted by Juno Probe”.

While performing its 17th flyby of Jupiter, NASA’s Juno spacecraft witnessed a volcanic plume erupting from the surface of Io, the most geologically active of the gas giant’s 79 known moons.

As detailed in a Southwest Research Institute press release, the flyby occurred on December 21, 2018. Mission controllers had no less than four instruments honed in on Io in an effort to study the moon’s surface, especially its polar regions. These instruments included the JunoCam, the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU), the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), and the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVS). An hour was budgeted for the survey, and it just so happened that a volcanic eruption occurred during this time.

(15) HEAR IN MY CAR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I’ve been known to use Walmart’s grocery pickup service when I just can’t carve out the time (or energy) to shop at my preferred grocer, which happens to be much closer to my house. I haven’t been to Wally World for grocery pickup that often, so maybe I just missed all the times that Ecto-1 or the Mystery Machine were there. SYFY Wire has the story (“Walmart ad uses genre’s most famous cars to promote new grocery pick-up service”), though they do get it a bit wrong by calling it a new service. It is a new commercial.

Over the years, pop culture has given us some pretty iconic modes of transport, from Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean to Michael Knight’s talking Pontiac Firebird.

In a stroke of marketing brilliance, Walmart took advantage of the [instant] recognizability of these cars to promote the company’s new grocery pick-up service.

Set to the ’80s-era jam of Gary Newman’s “Cars,” the one-minute ad shows some of genre’s most famous vehicles […]

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rich Horton, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.] d Table 7 Col

Toss Those Awards in the Trash?

Via SF Signal, I read a portion of Adam Roberts’ denunciation of awards:

But awards lists and best-ofs are rubbish […] The problem is timescale.

It is a convention, no less foolish for being deeply rooted, that the proper prominence from which to pause, look back and make value judgments, is at the end of the year in question. This is wrongheaded in a number of reasons. One has to do with the brittleness of snap-judgments (why else do you think they’re called snap?). Take those fans and [awards-panelists] of the 1960s and 1970s who really really thought that the crucial figures of the genre were the often-garlanded Spider Robinson or Mack Reynolds rather than the rarely noticed Philip K Dick. They weren’t corrupt; they just spoke too soon.

It wasn’t Roberts’ rejection of awards that set me off: they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. What hooked me into responding was his superior sneer at a false version of awards history.

Superior sneer: Should the Hugo and Nebula be condemned for failing to ratify Philip K. Dick’s current popularity 40 years in advance? These awards don’t exist to predict the literature that people two generations in the future will value, they celebrate what the current-day community of fans and/or pros value and admire.

False version of awards history: “…the often garlanded…Mack Reynolds”? He wrote hundreds of stories, received exactly one Hugo nomination and two Nebula nominations, and never won either award. And it seems rather sad to pick on Spider Robinson, since according to Dick’s bibliography, Dick had zero short fiction published in the three eligibility years for which Spider received nominations, so how did Spider’s name even enter this conversation? Of course, it’s easier to win an argument if you’re allowed to make up your own facts.

I also challenge Roberts’ belief that fans of the ’60s and ’70s overlooked Philip K. Dick.

Had they done so, it might have been because he did not worship at the altar of technological optimism. In fact, they didn’t overlook or ignore him, he was often up for awards. If he didn’t write Analog stories that was no detriment at all to his fame, merely his pocketbook. In the ’60s, psychological exploration and social satire abounded in sf, no physics degree required. Yes, Dick was pessimistic. Paranoid. It was impossible for Dick to think of something bad enough that the authorities would hesitate to do it, seductively using technology to make us betray ourselves. Yet anybody who thinks these things disqualified a writer from recognition in the ’60s has never seen the stacks of awards in Harlan Ellison’s office.

Now, as a fan who lived through the era in question, I can testify that I really enjoyed Dick’s stories. Time Out of Joint was the first of his novels I read: it was captivating. And when I was in college the SF Book Club brought out editions of his new novels, so I read them all as time went by. Somehow I managed to enjoy his stories without suspecting that he was a dominant voice in the literary dialog of the day. His latter-day reputation as a great sf writer has taken me by surprise, though as far as that goes, good for him! We can only wish he’d lived to enjoy it.

When I’m flying out of Denver there’s an airport bookstore I pass which has the names of top writers decorating the wall around the border of the ceiling. Philip K. Dick is up there. I pass it right before I enter the TSA security line. What could be more Dickian than the future I live in? No wonder he’s widely read.

Returning to Adam Roberts’ critique, he may have no idea who won the awards, but he is certainly right that Dick won very few of them during his lifetime. Was this actually an injustice? I’ll lay out the record, and you tell me if you disagree with my take on the question.

Dick won the first Hugo he was ever nominated for, The Man in the High Castle (1963). So I guess justice was done that year.

His novelette “Faith of Our Fathers” made the final ballot in 1968 and lost to Fritz Leiber’s “Gonna Roll the Bones,” which I have always tried to like, and which must in some sense be a helluva story because it also beat “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” by Harlan Ellison who was winning everything in those days (such as the two Hugos his work did win in 1968 for “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” and Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever.”) Dick’s story wove together some wonderfully paranoid ideas. It seems to have haunted Dick, who wrote in 1977: “I think, with this story, I managed to offend everybody, which seemed at the time to be a good idea, but which I’ve regretted since. Communism, drugs, sex, God – I put it all together, and it’s been my impression since that when the roof fell in on me years later, this story was in some eerie way involved.”

His third and last Hugo nomination was for the 1975 novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. It finished behind Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. I found the Dick novel a more entertaining read, but (confession time) I felt the same way about Anderson’s Fire Time and Niven and Pournelle’s A Mote in God’s Eye. On the other hand, there seemed a general agreement among the rest of fandom that Le Guin’s novel was the most substantial and ambitious, the most deserving of the award. The same Dick and Le Guin novels faced off for the Nebula, with the same result. Does anyone today think Flow My Tears surpasses The Dispossessed? Let’s hear from you.

Philip K. Dick’s problem with the Nebula, the first time he was nominated, is that he had to compete against a great classic of the genre. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Dr. Bloodmoney both received Nebula nominations in 1966. They lost to Frank Herbert’s Dune. I hope nobody’s complaining about that.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? made the 1969 Nebula ballot (though not the Hugo final ballot) and lost to Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage. Consulting the fanzine I was publishing at the time, I see that Richard Wadholm and I never ran out of critical things to say about the Panshin book. On the other hand, I regarded John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar as the novel of the year, not Dick’s story, and Brunner won the Hugo (with no help from me, I didn’t have a vote in 1969). If there was a great schism in the awards scene that year, it had nothing to do with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I’d say that the ultimate reason Philip K. Dick won few major awards is not because the voters were blind or ignorant, it’s because he wasn’t the only person writing excellent stories in those years.