Pixel Scroll 10/6/20 Don’t Clickety, Don’t Call Me, Let Me Sit For A While, I’m Reading All The Books In My Tsundoku Pile

(1) POWERFUL CANON. Amy Tenebrink shares the impact that stories by a leading sff author had on her: “Personal Canons: Nnedi Okorafor”.

…Onyesonwu is one of those angry, defiant, adventurous heroines of my heart. But Who Fears Death isn’t just a story of a warrior girl; it’s the story of all warrior girls. Who Fears Death is, itself, angry, defiant, and adventurous. It rips apart the fabric of our quotidian world and shows us, more clearly for all its speculation, what is wrong with us but what could be right with us. This is speculative fiction at its best: incisive, unflinching, uncompromising. Untethered from what’s “real” in a way that can show us what is, in fact, actually real—and what could be real if only we reached for the stars.

In Who Fears Death, Nnedi put a heroine of my heart into a book of my heart. Who Fears Death showed me, in a moment, what speculative literature can be: not just a series of quest-wanderings, of dragon-slayings, of evil mage-vanquishings, but an inspirational, aspirational blueprint for me and my place in the world. Who Fears Death is itself a sword, a magic wand, a spell that can change everything.

(2) ALPHA OF THE OMEGA. The award administrators — Sci-Fest L.A. and Light Bringer Project — have announced that the Tomorrow Prize and The Roswell Award will now reside under an umbrella competition name, the Omega Sci-Fi Awards. Here’s the new logo.

(3) MEMBERS OF THE JURY. James Davis Nicoll introduces the Young People Read Old SFF panel to “The Pleiades” by Otis Kidwell Burger.

The Pleiades is impressive enough readers would no doubt run out to acquire her other works. Unfortunately, Rediscovery’s biographical entry on her reveals that her SF career was quite short1. At least, I assume younger readers would react as positively as I did. How did my Young People actually feel?

(4) QUESTIONS ABOUT THE POLICY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Non-binary writer Akwaeke Emezi, whose works are at least borderline SFF, has declared that they will no longer submit their novels to Women’s Prize for Fiction (where they were a finalist last year), after being asked to provide proof of their legal gender: “Akwaeke Emezi shuns Women’s prize over request for details of sex as defined ‘by law'” in The Guardian.

Emezi said that when Faber got in touch with the Women’s prize about submitting The Death of Vivek Oji, they were informed: “The information we would require from you regards Akwaeke Emezi’s sex as defined by law.”

“Forget about me – I don’t want this prize – but anyone who uses this kind of language does not fuck with trans women either, so when they say it’s for women, they mean cis women,” wrote Emezi. “And yes, this does mean that them longlisting [Freshwater] was transphobic. It’s fine for me not to be eligible because I’m not a woman! But you not about to be out here on some ‘sex as defined by law’ like that’s not a weapon used against trans women.”

The Women’s prize was established in response to the Booker failing to shortlist a single female writer in 1991. Following Emezi’s nomination in 2019, the organisers of the £30,000 award said it was working on a policy “around gender fluid, transgender and transgender non-binary writers”.

Responding to Emezi’s comments, the prize organisers said that their terms and conditions for entry equated the word “woman” with “a cis woman, a transgender woman or anyone who is legally defined as a woman or of the female sex”.

(5) O’DELL KICKSTARTER. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here is a Kickstarter of interest: Claire O’Dell is looking for funding to republish her River of Souls trilogy, which came out in 2010 from Tor, when she was still writing as Beth Bernobich: “The River of Souls Trilogy, Second Edition” With 26 days left, $566 of the $2,500 goal has been raised.

I’m Claire O’Dell, author of the Lammy Award-winning Janet Watson Chronicles, the River of Souls trilogy, and the Mage and Empire books.

Back in 2007, writing as Beth Bernobich, I landed my very first book deal—a three-book contract with Tor Books for my novel Passion Play and two sequels, aka, the River of Souls trilogy.  Passion Play came out in October 2010, and to my absolute delight it won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Epic Fantasy. Queen’s Hunt and Allegiance followed in 2012 and 2013, with great reviews, and a prequel novel, A Jewel Bright Sea, appeared last year from Kensington Books.

Now that I have the rights back to the trilogy, I’d like to re-release them with new covers that better match the story and the characters. (Not to mention fixing a few continuity errors that crept in along the way.) Pledges from this campaign will pay for custom cover art and rewards.

(6) FOUNDATION. At WIRED, “The Geeks Guide to the Galaxy” interviews several creators to support the claim that “‘Foundation’ Has One of the Best Sci-Fi Concepts Ever”.

John Kessel on psychohistory:

“I studied physics as an undergrad, and basically what [Asimov] is doing is taking classical thermodynamics and applying it to human behavior. In thermodynamics, you can’t predict what one atom is going to do, but if you have several billion atoms in a contained box, you can predict—very precisely—if you raise the temperature, exactly what the effect on pressure is going to be, things like that. He’s basically saying if you have enough human beings—you have 100 million worlds, all inhabited by human beings—that psychohistory can predict the mass behavior of human beings, without being able to predict any individual human being’s behavior. That’s a cool idea.”

(7) WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH? [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Guardian has run several articles and opinion pieces about how the postponement of Dune and that James Bond movie will affect British cinemas — and may kill them off altogether. A lot of anger, which is partly understandable, because movie theatres are open again at reduced capacity in the UK and much of the rest of Europe, but have nothing to show, because all of the big Hollywood movies are being held back. Here are four views of the situation.

He’s best known for sweeping in at the last minute to save the day – but James Bond’s latest act could be the death knell for many British cinemas.

The announcement that the release of No Time to Die, the 25th film featuring the secret agent, would be delayed again has left cinemas facing financial obliteration because of the absence of other forthcoming blockbuster films.

Our movie industry was just about keeping its morale steady. It was enforcing perfectly workable rules on sanitising and physical distancing and not subject to those closures taking theatre and live entertainment to the cliff edge. The pilot light of big-screen cinema culture was flickering. But it was still alight.

But this is a serious blow. If it is really true that Cineworld will close 128 cinemas, putting 5,500 jobs at risk (and it is not simply a scare-story negotiating ploy leaked to the press alongside the company’s official letter to the culture secretary Oliver Dowden demanding action) then this is potentially devastating. 

…For an understanding of how we got here, look at the fates of two films that did get released during the pandemic. Following a tense summer in which Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s live-action Mulan remake competed against the coronavirus in a game of grandmother’s footsteps, both films were finally released using opposing strategies.

“Warner Bros did a brave thing bringing out Tenet [in cinemas] at that very fraught time,” says Naman Ramachandran, international correspondent at Variety magazine. “It sent a positive message to the exhibition sector as a whole.” Disney, on the other hand, launched Mulan on its streaming service Disney+, where it came with a premium price tag (£19.99/$29.99) in addition to subscription fees. Cinemas screened it only in territories where Disney+ is not available. “My opinion is that Disney should’ve released Mulan in cinemas also,” says Ramachandran. “There was a demand for it and it would’ve kept the theatrical chains happy.” As it stands, no one is: not the exhibitors who lost out on an event movie, nor Disney, who won’t be thrilled if the mediocre streaming audience estimates are correct.

Mulan’s defection and Tenet’s under-performance in the US (it still hasn’t opened in the lucrative New York and Los Angeles markets, where cinemas remain closed) have had a devastating effect on other big releases.

…After six weeks of global release, Tenet has grossed more than £235m worldwide – a number that means different things to different analysts. For a latter-day Nolan film, it’s borderline disastrous: far short of the £405m grossed by his last film, Dunkirk, which itself was a modest performer compared to the £830m racked up by The Dark Knight Rises. With a production budget around £154m, it’s fair to say these are not the receipts of Nolan’s or Warner Bros executives’ dreams. Others would argue that they’re not half bad for a film released in the midst of a global pandemic in which the filmgoing public has been actively discouraged from communal indoor activity – a metric for which there is no precedent to set the bar. Globally, it’s the third-highest grosser of the year, behind Chinese epic The Eight Hundred and January’s Bad Boys for Life, which already feels like a relic from another era.

All in all, things could be worse for Tenet – except for the fact that, by just about anyone’s yardstick, things haven’t been nearly good enough….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty five years ago this year at Intersection, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form went to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s two-part series finale, “All Good Things…“.  (It beat out The MaskInterview with the VampireStargate and Star Trek: Generations.) It was directed by Winrich Kolbe from a script written by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga. The title is derived from the expression “All good things must come to an end”, a phrase used by Q during the story itself. It generally considered one of the series’ best episodes with the card scene singled out as one of the series’s best. 

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

10/6 Mad Hatter Day. The original picture of the Mad Hatter by John Tenniel in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll depicts him wearing a hat, bearing the note “In This Style 10/6”. Although we know this is really an order from the time the picture was drawn to mean a hat in that style cost 10 shillings and sixpence, we take this as inspiration to act in the style of the Mad Hatter on 10/6 (In the UK this would point to the tenth of June, but as the day was founded in America it is the 6th of October).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 6, 1895 – Caroline Gordon.  Guggenheim Fellowship.  O. Henry Award.  Honorary D.Litt. degrees from Bethany College (West Virginia), St. Mary’s College (Indiana).  The Glory of Hera for us, her last novel; ten others; short-story collections; non-fiction.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1928 – Frank Dietz.  Co-founder of the Lunarians; chaired the first 15 Lunacons; Fan Guest of Honor at Lunacon 50.  Fanzine Luna (and Luna’).  Recorded many SF cons on wire and tape, unfortunately most now seems lost.  File 770 appreciation by Andrew Porter here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1942 – Arthur Hlavaty, 78.  A dozen times Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist.  No doubt inspired by the C.M. Kornbluth story “MS. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie” – maybe the only circumstance in which no doubt could be applied to him – he called a fanzine The Diagonal Relationship, later The Dillinger Relic, then Derogatory Reference; not seen since 2002, but in Fanzineland that’s neither complete nor conclusive: No. 33 of his Nice Distinctions just appeared after three years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Empricon 3, MidSouthCon 2, Westercon 42, Minicon 37; Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  If Sarcasm is in anger, satire is with love, he is as so often with him both.  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1942 Britt Ekland, 78. She starred in The Wicker Man* as Willow MacGregor, and appeared as a Bond girl, Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun. She was also Queen Nyleptha in King Solomon’s Treasure based off the H. Rider Haggard novels. *There is only one Wicker Man film as far as I’m concerned. (CE)
  • Born October 6, 1946 John C. Tibbetts, 74. Film critic, historian, author. He’s written such articles as “The Illustrating Man: The Screenplays of Ray Bradbury” and “Time on His Hands: The Fantasy Fiction of Jack Finney”. One of his two books is The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction in the Media, the other being The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub. (CE) 
  • Born October 6, 1950 David Brin, 70. Author of several series including Existence (which I do not recognize), the Postman novel and the Uplift series of which The Uplift War won the Best Novel Hugo at Nolacon II and is most excellent. I’ll admit that the book he could-wrote with Leah Wilson, King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape, tickles me for its title. So who’s read his newest novel, The Ancient Ones? (CE)
  • Born October 6, 1953 – Roseanne Hawke, Ph.D., 67.  Wolfchild, 11th Century story set in the lost land of Lyonesse (RD was awarded Bard of Cornwall in 2006).  Daughter of Nomads, Mughal empire.  Chandani and the Ghost of the Forest, Himalayan mountains.  Memoir, Riding the Wind.  “I started a romantic novel when I was 17 but I burnt it….  working for ten years in the Middle East and Pakistan … I started writing seriously.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1955 Donna White, 65. Academic who has written several works worth your knowing about — Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. LeGuin and the Critics and Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. She’s also the author of the dense but worth reading A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature. (CE) 
  • Born October 6, 1955 Ellen Kushner, 65. If you’ve not read it, do so now as her sprawling Riverside seriesis amazing. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read all of it. And during the the High Holy Days, do be sure to read The Golden Dreydl as it’s quite wonderful. As it’s Autumn and this being when I read it, I’d be remiss not to recommend her Thomas the Rhymer novel which won both the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award. (CE) 
  • Born October 6, 1962 – John Knoll, 58.  Chief Creative Officer at Industrial Light & Magic.  Creating the Worlds of “Star Wars”; covers for The Art of “Star Trek” (with M. Uesugi), Inside “Star Trek”.  Scientific & Engineering Award given him and his brother Thomas for creating Adobe Photoshop.  Cameo appearance as a pilot in The Phantom Menace.  More in his Wikipedia entry.  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1978 – Anna Elliott, 42.  Three Tristan & Isolde books; four about Jane Austen characters, two about Sherlock Holmes, a few more.  Among her favorites by other authors, Life With Father, Wodehouse’s books about Bertie Wooster, Sayers’ books about Lord Peter Wimsey.  “What do you like to do when you’re not writing?”  “Mostly think about writing.”  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1986 Olivia Jo Thirlby, 34. She is best known for her roles as Natalie in Russian SF film The Darkest Hour and as Judge Cassandra Anderson in the excellent Dredd. And she was Holly in the supernatural thriller Above the Shadows. (CE)  

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HEAVY GOING. Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson finds it easy to curb his enthusiasm: The Haunting of Bly Manor Is an Erratic, Melodramatic Follow-Up”.

A great actor whose name I am not supposed to mention here narrates much of the new Netflix series The Haunting of Bly Manor (out October 9). In 2007, her character tells a wedding party a chilling, sad story of 1987 (and years previous) England, when a spooky estate’s resident ghosts tangled fitfully with living people, all caught in the grip of personal loss. This American actor tries her noble best to maneuver a Northern English accent, though it gets a bit wobbly as her narration scrapes the ceiling of profundity but never quite breaks through. 

The voiceover, with its heavy writing and uneven if committed delivery, is pretty neatly representative of the whole of Bly Manor, which aims for something scary and sweeping but is too often hampered by messy adornment. Bly Manor is the second series in the Haunting franchise that began with 2018’s Hill House, an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel led by horror auteur Mike Flanagan.

(13) SCRUBTOBER IS OVER. “After series of scrubs, SpaceX launches Starlink mission from Kennedy Space Center” reports Florida Today.

After more than a month of scrubs and delays, SpaceX broke the Space Coast’s launch drought early Tuesday when a Falcon 9 rocket boosted 60 Starlink internet satellites from Kennedy Space Center.

The 7:29 a.m. liftoff from pad 39A signaled the end of what was commonly referred to as “Scrubtober,” a long series of mission delays that actually began in September due to hardware issues and inclement weather. Tuesday’s Starlink mission, for example, had been scrubbed four times…

(14) FINDING THE GEMS. The Virtual Memories Show devotes Episode 399 to editor “Sheila Williams”.

With her new fantastic short story anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Families, and Friends (MIT Press), editor Sheila Williams brings together a panoply of voices to explore how technology and scientific advances have on the deepest human relationships. We talk about Sheila’s nearly 40 years editing science fiction stories at Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, how she manages to balance new and diverse voices with a foundation of SF’s history, how she copes with receiving ~800 stories a month (while only being able to buy 5-6), and technology’s greater role in day-to-day life and what that means for writers’ and readers’ imagination and expectations. We also get into her author freakouts (like going blank when she met Samuel R. Delany many years ago), how her philosophy background helps her as an editor, missing cons and festivals, the challenge of editing an author in translation (in this case Xia Jia), and more. Give it a listen! And go read Entanglements!

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, James Davis Nicoll, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 9/15/17 Old Pixel’s Scroll Of Practical SJW Credentials

(1) SUPERSJW? The forthcoming issue of Action Comics is in the news — “Superman Protects Undocumented Workers From Armed White Supremacist in Latest Comic”. The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The moment in the book released Wednesday comes a week after President Trump ended DACA.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but perhaps not.

In the recent issue of Action Comics #987, “The Oz Effect,” released Wednesday, Superman arrives in the nick of time to protect a group of undocumented immigrants from a white man sporting an American flag bandanna, wielding a machine gun, who is going to shoot them for taking his job.

Breitbart, picking up the story from The Hollywood Reporter, gave it a predictable spin:

…In an act of Super socialism, once police arrive, our Social Justice Supes orders them to protect the illegal aliens to make sure they are “safe and cared for.”

This latest episode should not surprise anyone.

DC Comics long ago declared that Superman is no longer American. Where once the hero touted the ideals of “truth, justice, and the American way,” like a good leftist, Superman is now a “citizen of the world.”

(2) DISCOVERY NOVEL SERIES BEGINS. I was interested to see the first Star Trek: Discovery tie-in novel is already out, though the timing couldn’t be better — Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours by David Mack.

An all-original novel based upon the explosive new series on CBS All Access Aboard the Starship Shenzhou, Lieutenant Michael Burnham, a human woman raised and educated among Vulcans, is promoted to acting first officer. But if she wants to keep the job, she must prove to Captain Philippa Georgiou that she deserves to have it. She gets her chance when the Shenzhou must protect a Federation colony that is under attack by an ancient alien vessel that has surfaced from the deepest fathoms of the planet’s dark, uncharted sea. As the menace from this mysterious vessel grows stronger, Starfleet declares the colony expendable in the name of halting the threat. To save thousands of innocent lives, Burnham must infiltrate the alien ship. But to do so, she needs to face the truth of her troubled past, and seek the aid of a man she has tried to avoid her entire life—until now.

(3) OUT OF HIS SHELL. Scott Edelman invites fans to join John Kessel for a seafood feast in Episode 47 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Kessel

Kessel’s latest novel, The Moon and The Other, was released in April from Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. He’s a two-time Nebula Award winner, first in 1982 for his novella “Another Orphan,” then in 2008 for the novelette “Pride and Prometheus.” He set a new record with that second award, in that the 26 years between the two was (at the time) the longest gap for a winner in Nebula history. His short story “Buffalo”—one of my all-time favorites in or out of genre, and one which I reread often—won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1992.

We discussed why he suddenly has two novels coming out within a year two decades after his last one, how attending the 1969 St. Louis Worldcon changed his life, the ways in which his objections to “The Cold Equations” and Ender’s Game are at their heart the same, his early days attempting to emulate Thomas M. Disch, the time-travel short story he couldn’t whip into shape for Damon Knight, which author broke his 26-year Nebula Awards record for the longest gap between wins, the secret behind the success of his many collaborations with James Patrick Kelly, and more.

(4) WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS. Hampus Eckerman is living the sci-fi life while visiting France.

Most hotels have got the bible to read, but my hotel in Paris has got The Island of Dr. Moreau! On the other hand, my TV-set scares me.

(5) MORE SHORT FICTION REVIEWS, In “A New SFF Review Site Looks Interesting”, Camestros Felapton aims our attention at the inaugural work of SFF Reviews, Sara L. Uckelman’s review of “The Salt Debt” by J. B. Rockwell. In Uckelman’s explanatory post about the site she says:

Our aim is provide short reviews of short SFF stories that reflect a diversity of voices and opinions from both the authors and the reviewers. Other than a few formatting requirements to ensure the reviews are presented and tagged in a uniform fashion, and one content requirement — don’t be mean! — reviewers are free to write their reviews as they please. Some people will focus on the story; some on the narration; some on the language. Some of the reviews will be more slanted to the factual and the objective; some will be the reviewer’s own personal response to a piece. Some reviews will be longer than others, but don’t be surprised if most come in around 200 words — after all, one doesn’t want a review to be longer to read than the story itself!

(6) OKORAFOR VISION. On Twitter she winces at the “Afrocentric” and wishes they had at least said Afrofuturist – the A.V. Club’s news item, “HBO orders new sci-fi series from author Nnedi Okorafor and producer George R.R. Martin”.

HBO has officially closed a deal to grab a new TV show from George R.R. Martin, with Deadline reporting that the network has finalized plans to develop a Martin-produced adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s 2010 novel Who Fears Death. Set in a post-apocalyptic Africa, the book tells the story of a young girl who seeks to discover the meaning behind her own magical powers, as well as the nature of the powerful forces trying to end her life.

(7) POURNELLE OBIT IN NYT. It’s rather remarkable that in “Jerry Pournelle, Science Fiction Novelist and Computer Guide, Dies at 84” the New York Times obituary writer makes only the most minimal reference to Pournelle’s voluminous political writings, which have been deeply controversial within the sf community.

Dr. Pournelle was also known to many through lively columns for Byte magazine in which, beginning early in the home-computing age, he talked about personal computers and the software for them. Much of any given column was about his own experiences at “Chaos Manor” — his name for his home, and for the column — trying out new software products and wrestling with bugs, glitches and viruses.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 15, 1965 — Beach-horror hybrid The Beach Girls and the Monster opens in theaters.
  • September 15, 1965 — Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires premieres in its native Italy.
  • September 15, 2015 Rocket Stack Rank went live.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born September 15, 1940 – Norman Spinrad
  • Born September 15, 1942 – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

(10) PLANS FOR X-MEN. Marvel will be producing a six-issue arc revisiting the complete history of the X-Men universe.

Marvel Comics and Eisner Award-winning indie cartoonist indie Ed Piskor are teaming up for an unexpected, unprecedented, and uncanny undertaking. Best known for documenting the history of hip hop with the award winning HIP HOP FAMILY TREE graphic novels, Ed Piskor will sample and distill more than 8,000 pages of superheroic storytelling to create a definitive remix of the first 280 original issues of X-Men comic books and 30 years of complicated continuity into one seamless masterpiece of superheroic storytelling. Piskor will write, draw, ink, color and letter all six 40 page issues of X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, which Marvel will publish over three years as three separate but interconnected mini-series X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN-SECOND GENESIS and  X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN-X-TINCTION.

“X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN is a tribute to everything comic book fans love about the X-Men from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original run and Chris Claremont’s, epic 16-year stint as the series’ writer,” said Piskor. “It’s a compelling and complete story with a beginning, middle and an end, featuring everything from Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Cerebro and the Danger Room to the Mutant Massacre, the Reavers, Gambit, and Genosha.”

(11) ACTRESS TO REPRISE HALLOWEEN ROLE. Horror Freak news reports “Jamie Lee Curtis Returning as Laurie Strode in “HALLOWEEN” 2018!”

If fans of John Carpenter’s seminal horror classic Halloween (released in 1978) weren’t happy about the planned reboot in the works at Blumhouse, they will be now. The indie powerhouse just announced that iconic Scream Queen and original Final Girl Jamie Lee Curtis has joined the cast and will be reprising the role of Laurie Strode, Michael Myers’ sister. The news came down via Twitter.

(12) TARANTINO TREK. Dirk Lilley, in “What Kind of Star Trek Movie Quentin Tarantino Would Like to Make”  on CinemaBlend, summarizes some intelligent comments Tarantino made to the Nerdist Podcast. including why he would like to remake “City On the Edge of Forever.”

The director specifically mentions “City on the Edge of Forever” as an episode that would make a great movie. It’s one of the great Trek classics, but as Quentin Tarantino pointed out, the episode really only focuses on our main three of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and the rest of the crew would be virtually non-existent. That wouldn’t really work for a modern film adaptation. You’ve got to find something for Zoe Saldana and John Cho to do.

(13) FORNAX 20. Charles Rector has just posted the 20th issue of his fanzine Fornax to eFanzines.

Included in its contents are Bill Burns’s comments on the sad state of the Hugo Awards for Best Fanzines with blogs increasingly being counted as fanzines and winning the awards. Also, an essay about what in Rector’s view is the increasing problem of such pro authors such Sarah A. Hoyt, Larry Correia, Vox Day, and others’ trashing both fans and fandom. Fornax the 20th also has articles about road rage, how to do TV advertisements relating to hiring handicapped people as well as articles and stories by Robin Bright and Gerd Maximovic.

(14) SPLIT PERSONALITIES. The Verge’s Angela Chen explains how “These robots mind meld when they need to work together”.

Shapeshifting robots already exist; they either have a centralized “nervous system” that controls where each unit is, or each of the units works by itself and they sometimes link up. But centralized systems are weak and can’t scale, while self-organizing robots are hard to control and clumsy. Researchers created a new robot that has the strengths of both: the individual units can control themselves — but they can also connect to each other and become a single, precise robot. The study was published today in the journal Nature Communications.

In the new system, the robot is made of different units controlled by one “brain,” sort of like the nervous system in our bodies. This brain is the leader of the pack and, using Wi-Fi, gathers data from the other robots and controls them if they come into contact. “The robots in our multi-robot system are autonomous individual robots that, when they attach to each other, become a new single robot with a single control system,” study co-author Marco Dorigo, wrote in an email to The Verge. Then, if they detach, they go back to being autonomous system with their own control systems. Dorigo calls this new method “mergeable nervous system,” and says it is a more precise way to control all the units.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Launching Flowers Into Outer Space” is a piece from Great Big Story about a Japanese artist who launches high-altitude balloons from Nevada with flower displays to see what happens to the flowers in space.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Moshe Feder, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Lis Carey, Gregory Hullender, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/17 Scrolltime For Pixels

(1) RABID DRAGONS. Vox Day has posted his picks for “Dragon Awards 2017”. Castalia House and John C. Wright are well represented, along with other things he likes. But poor Declan Finn — he’s not on the list.

(2) BOOZY BARBARIANS. Fritz Hahn, in a Washington Post piece called “A ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar where you can drink Dothraquiris on the Iron Throne”, reviews the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar, which will be open throughout the summer and where you can drink The North Remembers from a horn as well as all the Ommegang Game of Thrones beers. But don’t take any broadswords there or the bouncers will confiscate them!

After pop-up bars dedicated to Christmas, “Stranger Things,” cherry blossoms and Super Mario, the Drink Company team is turning the former Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich spaces into five settings evoking George R.R. Martin’s novels. (Doors open June 21, just a few weeks before Season 7 premieres on HBO.) Immersive rooms include the House of Black and White (where you’ll find a Wall of Faces made of molds of employees and friends of the bar) and the Red Keep, where you can pose for a photo as House Bolton’s flayed man. There will be dragons and house banners, of course, though the real centerpiece will most likely be a full-size replica of the Iron Throne, which co-founder Derek Brown says “is going to be totally ridiculous.”

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER SET TO MUSIC. A theatrical concert based on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is coming to Chapel Hill, NC in November.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon is a celebration of all that’s progressive and uplifting in American music. Written by Toshi in collaboration with her mother — iconic singer, scholar and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon — this powerful theatrical concert brings together 200 years of African American song traditions to give life to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel, with revealing insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.

 

(4) SPECIAL NASFIC OBSERVATORY TRIP. NorthAmeriCon ‘17 members have a chance to join guest of honor Brother Guy Consolmagno, the “Pope’s Astronomer,” on a special tour of the Arecibo Observatory. Find out how at the link.

There are 25 spaces available for the VIP tour, which includes the visitor’s center as well as a 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour in small groups. Since we anticipate that demand for the VIP tour may exceed supply, we are creating a lottery to allocate these spaces. An additional 25 spaces will be available on the bus for the Visitor’s Center only.

The lottery will close at 10 pm ET on Monday, June 12. So as long as you request a spot by then you have an equal opportunity to be picked.

Also, the convention room rate for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino ends on June 12. Reserve your rooms at the this link.

(5) WHETHER OR NOT YOU WISH. “This is really a neat piece, about the universe where a fantasy princess became a warrior general,” notes JJ, quite rightly. Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable by Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin.

Spoilers ahead for the Wonder Woman film.

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987.

The princess bride in question was played by a twenty-year-old Robin Wright….

(6) HENRY HIGGINS ASKS. In “Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be Wonder Woman?” on National Review Online, editor Rich Lowry says that conservatives will find much to like in the new Wonder Woman movie. He also addresses the mighty controversy about whether the film is feminist because Gal Gadot has no armpit hair in the movie…

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB READING SERIES. On June 21, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Catherynne M. Valente & Sunny Moraine. The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, and a small army of tulips.

Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. They are also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies and their debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone is available from Undertow Publications. In addition to time spent authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometime college instructor. They unfortunately live just outside Washington, DC, in a creepy house with two cats and a very long-suffering husband.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.). Remember to donate to their Kickstarter. Readings are always free.

(8) THE FIELD OF MARS. Esquire explains “Why Wonder Woman Has the Most Powerful Opening Scene In Comic Movie History”.

The opening scene in Wonder Woman is a stunning statement: On the enchanted island, the Amazonian women prepare for the day the god of war Ares finds them and tries to wipe them out. To prepare for the god of war is to prepare for war. The camera swoops through the training ground, capturing the Amazonian warriors as they practice wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, archery, and horsemanship. They clash, fists to skin, on a lofted pedestal. They flip from their horses in slow motion, and they smash each other to the ground, all gleaming armor and sinewy muscle as they whirl through the air, braids whipping and breastplates glinting.

It’s a purely physical display of beauty and strength. In a brief minute of film, these women redefine what it means to be a fighter, setting the tone for the rest of the movie: This is going to be two hours of a woman who was raised by women charging straight into the bloody fray of war. You just don’t ever see this bodily type of combat training with women in a movie, and it is enough to make you giddy with anticipation of whatever graceful punishment the Amazonian women will dish out against a real enemy.

(9) BLUE MAN GROUP. I guess they are not playing around. “21st Century Fox’s FoxNext Acquires Mobile Game Studio Group Developing ‘Avatar’ Title”Variety has the story.

FoxNext, the recently formed gaming, virtual reality and theme parks division of 21st Century Fox, is sinking its teeth into the $40 billion mobile games market.

FoxNext has acquired mobile-game developer Aftershock, the entity spun off from Kabam after South Korean gaming company NetMarble acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio and other assets last December in a deal reportedly worth up to $800 million.

Aftershock — which has studios in L.A. and San Francisco — currently has three titles in development. The only one that’s been publicly announced is a massively multiplayer mobile strategy game for James Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise, in partnership with Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

(10) WHEN HE’S WRONG. ComicMix’s John Ostrander has a bone to pick with Bill Maher. (And it’s not the one I expected.)

Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion — Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.

His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.

Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.

Then on his most recent show, Maher was quite disdainful about superhero movies in general.

He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

(11) BEESE OBIT. Conrunner Bob Beese suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away on Friday, June 2. He is survived by his wife Pat “PJ” Beese. Both were past Marcon guests of honor.

Bob Beese worked on Chicon IV (1982) and other Chicago cons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 6, 1933 — The first drive-in movie theater of the United States opened in New Jersey.
  • June 6, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. I may have to run this again in two days — many sources, including the Wikipedia, say it was published on June 8. The correct date has probably been lost down the Memory Hole.

(13) NEW MIDDLE GRADE FICTION PRIZE. Joan Aiken’s estate and the A.M. Heath Literary Agency have announced the creation of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize.

A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, are launching a competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.

Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’€¯ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.

The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.

A shortlist of five will be announced on August 28, and the winner will be announced on September 14. [Via Locus Online and SF Site News. See guys, giving a hat tip doesn’t hurt at all!]

(14) SMALL BALTICON REPORT. Investigative fan journalist Martin Morse Wooster gives File 770 readers the benefit of his latest discovery:

I learned from the Balticon fan lounge that there was Mythbusters slash fiction. No one knew, though, whether in these stories Jamie and Adam did it before, after, or during the explosions (because as we all know, the four best words in Mythbusters are “Fire in the hole!”

I’ll probably have to forfeit one of my Hugos for reporting that.

(15) STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Mark Kaedrin takes a stylistic cue from his subject — “Hugo Awards: Too Like the Lightning”.

You will criticize me, reader, for writing this review of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in the style that the book itself notes is six hundred years removed from the events it describes (though only two hundred years removed for myself). But it is the style of the Enlightenment and this book tells the story of a world shaped by those ideals.

I must apologize, reader, for I am about to commit the sin of a plot summary, but I beg you to give me your trust for just a few paragraphs longer. There are two main threads to this novel. One concerns a young boy named Bridger who has the ability to make inanimate objects come to life. Being young and having a few wise adult supervisors, he practices these miracles mostly on toys. Such is the way they try to understand his powers while hiding from the authorities, who would surely attempt to exploit the young child ruthlessly.

(16) INNATE OR OUTATE. Shelf Awareness interviews John Kessel about “Sex (and Pianos) on the Moon.”

John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and the story collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction dealing with gender issues. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler. Kessel’s new novel, The Moon and the Other (reviewed below), recently published by Saga Press, is set on the moon in the 22nd century and tells two love stories, in two politically opposed lunar colonies–the patriarchal Persepolis and the matriarchal Society of Cousins.

What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?

When my daughter was little, I’d take her to daycare and watch her on the playground with other kids. There was a difference in the way that the girls and the boys played. The boys would run around, often doing solitary things. The girls would sit in a sandbox doing things together. So I began to wonder: To what degree is gendered behavior innate, and to what degree is it learned? I read up about primate behavior, including chimpanzees and bonobos, both related to human beings, but with different cultures. That started me wondering whether there are other ways society could be organized. I didn’t see myself as advocating anything, but I did consider how the world might be organized differently.

(17) THE SHARKES CONTINUING DELIBERATIONS. The Shadow Clarke Jury keeps its reviews coming.

Of the six novels on my personal shortlist, Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North is the one that disappointed me most when I came to read it. I originally picked it partly because there was a slight buzz about it online, and I am always curious about novels that provoke online chatter. I chose it too because I’d gained an impression, mostly erroneous as it turned out, that the main character would spend a considerable amount of her time as a fox (and indeed, the novel’s cover art rather implies that this will be the main thrust of the novel), and I’m oddly fascinated by the human preoccupation with vulpine transformations (also, I happen to like foxes a good deal). When I initially wrote about my choices, I invoked David Garnett’s odd little novel of transformation, Lady Into Fox, but having read Many Selves and reread Lady Into Fox, I can see now that I was wrong, except perhaps for one thing, which I’ll come to in due course. Instead, as I read on I found myself thinking more about T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Again, I’ll come back to that shortly.

Even before it was published, The Underground Railroad enjoyed a spectacular amount of pre-buzz. I came to it with a certain amount of apprehension — could any book possibly survive the weight of so much hype? — but expecting to admire it nonetheless. Colson Whitehead is a writer with a notable track record in literary innovation — he gave the zombie novel the full Franzen, after all — and has always been a better-than-solid craftsman. Yet in spite of judging it a perfectly decent book — it’s a thoroughly professional, smoothly executed, highly readable novel on an important subject — I found myself distinctly underwhelmed. Where The Underground Railroad is concerned and in spite of wishing I liked it better than I do, I remain in a condition of some bemusement: I simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.

It is hard to think of a work that does a better job of articulating the artistic tensions at work within contemporary literary science fiction than Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Set in the same universe as many of the shorter works that Lee has produced since first entering the field in 1999, his first novel speaks to what science fiction must become whilst paying excessive lip-service to what some would have it remain.

Some thoughts. If anyone has ever read my blog they will, I hope, see that most of the implicit criticism is aimed at myself, though obviously some of what follows touches on various discussions on the Shadow Clarke board.

Subjective taste and critical practise depend on so many factors, thus any reading will privilege certain aspects — close reading, theoretical base, genre knowledge, life experiences, political orientation. Once you remind yourself of that basic idea, it becomes almost impossible to defend the rhetoric and moralism that goes into a special pleading for this book or that. I like a bit of rhetoric and I like a bit of hyperbole — it’s fun. BUT my head would not have exploded if The Power had won this year now would it? It will be hard to stop but I probably should. Moreover, I CAN understand why Priest, Mieville, MacInnes, Kavenna or ANY novel didn’t make it on to the shortlist. The idea that there is some objective truth or taste out there that says differently now seems to me entirely bogus. Even amongst those with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the SF megatext there is no agreement or consensus about the books this year or any year.

There is legitimate concern that by labeling The Underground Railroad as science fiction, readers might dismiss the horrors presented in this geographically and chronologically distorted history, thus relegating it all to whimsical fiction. Yet the SFnal device is there for a reason, and Whitehead’s manipulations of time and space are critical to that purpose: as unnerving as The Handmaid’s Tale, as destabilizing as The Man in the High Castle, as cognitively demonstrative as Viriconium, and as psychologically resonant as The Dark Tower€”all works that utilize alt universe devices to bring sociopolitical and literary concerns into powerful, stark relief. Whitehead’s use of this device is complex and brilliant, although I was unable to grasp just how complex and brilliant it is until this project, which has forced me into the tedious and meaningless position of having to argue for its place in science fiction.

But here we are.

(18) PERN RECOVERED. Book Riot reports: “Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy Gets New Covers”.

Del Rey Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a publisher of quality science fiction and fantasy novels. Among those titles are the three books that make up Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy and the more than 20 novels that have come since. And now, they’re getting a new look.

After August 1, readers will be able to purchase the trilogy, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon, with shiny new covers.

Images of the covers appear at the post.

(19) SUNSTROKED. The BBC knows about “A planet ‘hotter than most stars'”.

Scientists have found a hellish world where the “surface” of the planet is over 4,000C – almost as hot as our Sun.

In part, that’s because KELT-9b’s host star is itself very hot, but also because this alien world resides so close to the furnace.

KELT-9b takes just two days to complete one orbit of the star.

Being so close means the planet cannot exist for very long – the gases in its atmosphere are being blasted with radiation and lost to space.

Researchers say it may look a little like a comet as it circles the star from pole to pole – another strange aspect of this discovery.

(20) STORYTELLING. It’s great to listen to authors reading — if they’re any good at it. Book View Cafe’s Madeleine E. Robins advises how to do it well in “Modulation: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

You’re telling a story. When you’re among friends telling the anecdote about that time in Marrakesh with the nun, the waffles, and the chicken, do you tell it in a monotone? Not so much. Reading in a monotone does not give your material dignity–it flattens it. So read as if you’re talking to your friends. On the other hand, unless you’re a really gifted actor, you don’t have to act it out. No, really.

And dialogue? Speak it as you hear it in your head, as if your characters were saying it. Use the emphases you hear them using. Pause when they do. (Maybe I’m overselling this, but when I write I hear the dialogue, so that’s how I read it. Your mileage may vary.)

(21) THE PHOTON OF YOUTH. Golden Oldies on Vimeo starts at a Fifties sock hop, then explains the horrible things that happen when the music stops!

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Alan Maurer, Mark-kitteh, Ellen Datlow, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall, who may not have realized what he was doing at the time.]