Pixel Scroll 1/26/19 Sitting On The Dock Of The Pod Bay Door

(1) MANGA AT THE MUSEUM. The British Museum will host an exhibit on “Manga” from May 23-August 26.

Enter a graphic world where art and storytelling collide in the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan.

Manga is a visual narrative art form that has become a multimedia global phenomenon, telling stories with themes from gender to adventure, in real or imagined worlds.

Immersive and playful, the exhibition will explore manga’s global appeal and cultural crossover, showcasing original Japanese manga and its influence across the globe, from anime to ‘cosplay’ dressing up. This influential art form entertains, inspires and challenges – and is brought to life like never before in this ground-breaking exhibition.

For those who haven’t encountered manga before there’s a familiarization post at the Museum’s blog: “Manga: a brief history in 12 works”.

Japanese manga artists find inspiration for their work in daily life, the world around them, and also in the ancient past. Many people are familiar with modern manga, but the art form – with its expressive lines and images – is much older than you might think. …Here is a brief history of Japanese manga in 12 works.

(2) LEFT ON THE BEACH? SYFY Wire springs a little surprise: “Patrick Stewart won’t be a captain on the Picard spinoff series, says Jonathan Frakes”.

The upcoming Picard TV series on CBS All Access will feature one major difference regarding its titular main character played by Patrick Stewart—he won’t be a starship captain. Speaking with Deadline about the current Star Trek revolution being helmed by Discovery showrunner, Alex Kurtzman, actor/director Jonathan Frakes revealed this interesting bit of news.

“Patrick isn’t playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard this time, he’s done with Starfleet in this show. That’s about the only thing I do know about the show,” he said.

(3) VERDICT COMING FOR OPPORTUNITY. NASA has received only silence from Opportunity since contact was lost during a global dust storm on the red planet last June. The agency may soon decide to move on. The New York Times has the story — “‘This Could Be the End’ for NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover”.

…The designers of the spacecraft expected that dust settling out of the Martian air would pile up on the solar panels, and the rovers would soon fail from lack of power. But unexpectedly, gusts of Martian winds have repeatedly provided helpful “cleaning events” that wiped the panels clean and boosted power back up.

In 2009, Spirit became ensnared in a sand trap and stopped communicating in March 2010, unable to survive the Martian winter.

Opportunity continued trundling across the Martian landscape for more than 28 miles. Instead of just 90 Martian days, Opportunity lasted 5,111, if the days are counted up until it sent its last transmission. (A Martin day is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.)

This time, the dust may have been too thick to be blown away or something else broke on the rover. John L. Callas, the project manager, conceded that hopes were fading. “We’re now in January getting close to the end of the historic dust cleaning season,” he said.

(4) AFROFUTURISM IN DC. The Folger Library in Washington, DC will host a reading with Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, & Airea D. Matthews on February 12 at 7:30 p.m. — “What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism”. Tickets available at the link.

Due, Jemisin and Matthews

Cultural critic Mark Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” in his essay “Black to the Future,”and its meaning has expanded to encompass alternative visions of the future influenced by astral jazz, African-American sci-fi, psychedelic hip-hop, rock, rhythm and blues, and more. This reading is co-sponsored with PEN/Faulkner Foundation as part of its Literary Conversations series and The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and Poetry and Literature Center. 

The reading at the Folger will be preceded by a moderated conversation with all three writers at the Library of Congress. This event is free and will take place at 4 p.m. Register here.

(5) FANTASTIC WOMEN. As part of the celebration of Women’s History Month, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and the National Museum of Women in the Arts will present “Fantastic Women” on March 10 in Washington, DC.

Arimah, Link and Machado

Join us in celebrating the work of Lesley Nneka ArimahKelly Link, and Carmen Maria Machado, women writers who all use elements of the fantastic in their work, often in ways that allow them to explore crucial themes (power, sexuality, identity, the body) without the constraints imposed by strict realism. These authors play with the boundaries of time and space through short stories and novels, and use their writing to push back against the traditional boundaries of women’s fiction.

(6) KLOOS’ AFTERSHOCKS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak interviewed Marko Kloos and revealed the cover of his new book series which begins with the novel Aftershocks“Sci-fi author Marko Kloos on what it takes to build a brand new solar system”.

…An eye-opening moment for Kloos came when he attended another science fiction workshop: the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, held each year at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. (Disclaimer — I was an attendee in 2014). The week-long boot camp is engineered to impart science fiction writers with a baseline of astronomy and physics knowledge, with the idea that more scientifically accurate works will in turn help provide readers with better science. “That gave me a lot of ideas that I wanted to put into this series,” he says, “and basically created the solar system from scratch.”

The workshop “taught me all the things I did wrong with Frontlines, which was luckily not a whole lot,” Kloos says, “but there are some whoppers in there, like a colony around a star that does not support a habitable zone.”

(7) BLEAK ENOUGH FOR YOU? Behind a paywall at the Financial Times, John Lanchester argues that Brave New Worlds did a better job than 1984 in predicting the future.

One particular area of Huxley’s prescience concerned the importance of data.  He saw the information revolution coming–in the form of gigantic card-indexes, but he got the gist.  It is amusing to see how many features of Facebook, in particular, are anticipated by Brave New World.  Facebook’s mission statement ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together’ sounds a lot like the new world’s motto ‘Community, Identity, Stability.’ The world in which we ‘haven’t any use for old things’ dovetails with Mark Zuckerberg’s view that ‘young people are just smarter.’  The meeting room whose name is Only Good News–can you guess whether that belongs to Huxley’s world controller, or Sheryl Sandberg?  The complete ban on the sight of breast feeding is common to the novel and to the website. The public nature of relationship status, the idea that everything should be shared, and the idea that ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ are also common themes of the novel and the company–and above all, the idea, perfectly put by Zuckerberg and perfectly exemplifying Huxley’s main theme, that ‘privacy is an outdated norm.’

(8) HAMIT. Francis Hamit, a longtime contributor here, has a new Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/francishamit. He says, “There is s lot of free stuff in the Public area.  Some of it is even science fiction.  Feedback is welcome and the minimum sign-up is $2.25 a month for those who want to support my efforts.”

(9) TERMINATOR REBOOT. Variety has behind-the-scenes video (in English with Hungarian subtitles) from the next Terminator movie (“Arnold Schwarzenegger and the late Andy Vajna Appear in Video From ‘Terminator’ Set”). The movie, currently called just Untitled Terminator Reboot, is said to be coming out 1 November 2019.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Andy Vajna, the Hollywood producer who died earlier this week, have appeared in a just-released video from the set of the latest movie in the “Terminator” franchise, which shot in Hungary last year.

The behind-the-scenes promotional video, posted online by the Hungarian National Film Fund, sees Schwarzenegger and the movie’s director, Tim Miller (“Deadpool”), sing the praises of Budapest as a location, and Vajna complimenting the “Terminator” franchise. It ends with Schwarzenegger saying, “I’ll be back.”

It was Vajna’s last set visit to one of the international productions filming in Hungary, where he served as the government commissioner for the film industry. With partner Mario Kassar, Vajna founded the indie powerhouse Carolco, which produced blockbusters including “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the first three “Rambo” films and “Basic Instinct.” He died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74.

(10) AN ANCIENT EASTERCON. Rob Hansen has added a section about “Bullcon – the 1963 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory website THEN “featuring the usual cornucopia of old photos:”

BULLCON the 1963 UK National Science Fiction Convention – the fifth to be run under the aupices of the B.S.F.A. – took place over the weekend of 12th April – 15th April, 1963. It was held at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough (see it today here), as it would also be the following year. Guest of Honour was Bruce Montgomery aka Edmund Crispin. In SKYRACK, Ron Bennett reported that: “this was the best attended British Convention to date, with over 130 avid fans gathering to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the British Science Fiction Association.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director of Barbarella which was based on the comic series of the same name by Jean-Claude Forest. Need I note that it starred Jane Fonda in the title role? (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Philip Jose Farmer.  I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. Anyone read them? I know, silly question. I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1943 Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Editor at Ballantine Books after first starting at Galaxy Magazine. Dick and Asimov were two of her clients who considered her the best editor they’d worked with. Wife of Lester del Rey. She suffered a brain hemorrhage in October 1985 and died several months later. Though she was awarded a Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor after her death, her widower turned it down on the grounds that it only been awarded because of her death. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 26, 1949 Jonathan Carroll, 70. I think his best work by far is The Crane’s View Trilogy consisting of Kissing the Beehive, The Marriage of Sticks and The Wooden Sea. I know de Lint liked these novels though mainstream critics were less than thrilled. White Apples I thought was a well crafted novel and The Crow’s Dinner is his wide ranging look at life in general, not genre at all but fascinating.
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 40. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his short fiction. Ninefox Gambit, his first novel, received the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel. His newest novel, Dragon Pearl, riffs off the fox spirit mythology. 

(12) THOUSAND WORLD SPACE FORCES. Stephanie at Holed Up In A Book connected with Yoon Ha Lee — “Weekly Author Fridays featuring Yoon Ha Lee – Author Interview”.

Do you have a writing routine? 
More or less. I get up, walk my cat (or more accurately, she walks me), maybe work on one of the languages I’m trying to learn (French, German, Welsh, Korean, and Japanese), brew myself a cup of tea, then set up in my study. For a long project like a novel, I usually write in Scrivener, although for a shorter project or to mix things up I sometimes write longhand with fountain pen. When I’m working in Scrivener, it gives me a running wordcount. So every 100 words that I write, I go to my bullet journal and write out the phrase, “100 words down, 1,900 words to f***ing go!” “200 words down, 1,800 words to f***ing go!” It’s kind of aggro but it keeps me going? I generally aim for 2,000 words in a writing day. More than that and my brain seizes up. 

(13) ST:D RECAP. Let Camestros Felapton fill you in on the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery: “Discovery: New Eden”.

Discovery decides to play it safe with an episode that’s so The Next Generation that it needs Commander Riker to direct it.

The mystery of the red signals leads Discovery to the Beta quadrant via a quick use of the spore drive. There they discover a colony of humans from pre-warp Earth. Meanwhile in orbit, the collapse of a planetary ring of radioactive rocks (just go along with it) imperils not just the lost colony of humans but the away team (Pike, Michael and crew member of the week).

It’s nice enough. There’s a theme of faith versus science with Pike sort of taking one side and Michael the other.

(14) ATWOOD. Shelf Awareness reports on “Wi14: Margaret Atwood in Conversation” at a New Mexico conference.

Erin Morgenstern and Margaret Atwood

“I think this is very uplifting. We’re all still in this room. There’s still books, people are still reading them,” said Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin and much more, during the breakfast keynote on the second day of Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, N.Mex.

“Part of the uptick of books is that’s one of the places people go when they feel under both political and psychological pressure,” Atwood continued. “It is actually quite helpful to know that other people have been through similar things before, and have come out of them.”

Atwood was in conversation with Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus and the upcoming The Starless Sea, and during a wide-ranging, illuminating and often funny discussion, topics ranged from forthcoming novels to blurring genre lines, early book-signing experiences, and past and present reactions to The Handmaid’s Tale.

On the subject of her new novel, The Testaments—the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale coming from Nan Talese/Doubleday on September 10—Atwood joked that her publisher would kill her if she said too much, but she did say that it is set 16 years after the events of the previous book and features three narrators. Beyond that, her publisher “would be very cross” with her.

When asked what led her to return to the world of The Handmaid’s Tale more than 30 years later, Atwood replied that there have “always been a lot of questions asked” about the book, like what happens next and what happens to the main character after the end of the novel. She said that she never answered those questions, because she didn’t know. Writing The Testaments, Atwood explained, was “an exploration of the answers” to those many questions

(15) LITIGATION. The New York Times reports “Jay Asher, Author of ‘Thirteen Reasons Why,’ Files Defamation Lawsuit”. In 2017 Asher was accused of sexual misconduct, and when that went public last year he agreed to stop attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators events.

More than a decade ago, Jay Asher’s young adult novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” a dark story about a bullied teenager who kills herself, became an unexpected best-seller. Teachers and librarians around the country embraced the novel as a timely and groundbreaking treatment of bullying and teenage suicide, and the novel went on to sell several million copies. A popular Netflix adaptation set off controversy over its depiction of the causes of suicide, but still drew hordes of new readers to the book, and has been renewed for a third season.

Then, last year, Mr. Asher’s career imploded when he was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators announced that he had violated the professional organization’s anti-harassment policy. The repercussions were swift: His literary agency dropped him, speaking engagements and book signings evaporated, and some bookstores removed his novels from their shelves.

Now Mr. Asher, who denied the allegations, has filed a lawsuit against the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the group’s executive director, Lin Oliver, claiming that Ms. Oliver and the organization made false and defamatory statements about him that torpedoed his career, and caused financial harm and intentional emotional distress.

(16) ONE SMALL STEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Checkers? Long since mastered. Chess? Mere child’s play. Go? Can’t you make me work a little?

Now what? StarCraft? Humans down to defeat again. Wired has the story of another victory for robot-kind (partial paywall: “DeepMind Beats Pros at StarCraft in Another Triumph for Bots”).

In London last month, a team from Alphabet’s UK-based artificial intelligence research unit DeepMind quietly laid a new marker in the contest between humans and computers. On Thursday it revealed the achievement in a three-hour YouTube stream, in which aliens and robots fought to the death.

DeepMind’s broadcast showed its artificial intelligence bot, AlphaStar, defeating a professional player at the complex real-time strategy videogame StarCraft II. Humanity’s champion, 25-year-old Grzegorz Komincz of Poland, lost 5-0. The machine-learning-powered software appeared to have discovered strategies unknown to the pros who compete for millions of dollars in prizes offered each year in one of e-sports’ most lucrative games. “It was different from any StarCraft that I have played,” said Komincz, known professionally as MaNa.

[…] Mark Riedl, an associate professor at Georgia Tech, found Thursday’s news exciting but not jaw-dropping. “We were pretty much to a point where it was just a matter of time,” he says. “In a way, beating humans at games has gotten boring.”

(17) WHO NEEDS ROVER? “Rare angel sharks found living off Wales”.

Scientists have found evidence that one of the world’s rarest sharks is alive and well, living off the Welsh coast.

Sightings from fishing boats suggest the mysterious angel shark is present in Welsh waters, although no-one knows exactly where.

The shark’s only established stronghold is the Canary Islands, where the animals have been filmed on the seabed.

Wales could be a key habitat for the critically endangered shark, which is from an ancient and unique family.

(18) INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER. “Obscure words with delightful meanings” — animation: “12 words we don’t want to lose.”

Paul Anthony Jones collects terms that have fallen out of use and resurrects them. We have featured 12 of our favourites in an animation celebrating forgotten phrases. Animation by Darren McNaney.

(19) MARVEL CASTING. The Hollywood Reporter tells about another superhero series: “Marvel’s ‘Vision and Scarlet Witch’ Series Lands ‘Captain Marvel’ Writer”.

The Vision and Scarlet Witch, one of the first series that Marvel Studios will be making for Disney’s streaming service Disney+, has landed a writer and showrunner.

Jac Schaeffer, one of the scribes behind Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel movie, has been tapped to run point on the series that will focus on the two characters that are integral members of the Avengers. She will pen the pilot and executive produce, say sources.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are expected to star in the series, reprising the roles they originated on the big screen.

(20) RETURN TO ROSWELL. Critic Darrell Fienberg covered the mid-January reappearance of this series: “‘Roswell, New Mexico’: TV Review”.

…As The CW’s Roswell, New Mexico is set to premiere, my guess is that audience response to the series’ fitfully immigration-heavy perspective will fall into two camps.

First: “Keep your politics out of my teen-friendly supernatural soaps!” This group of detractors will be frustrated that a series about aliens set in the American Southwest in 2019 would attempt to connect that extreme circumstance to what is actually happening at the border in 2019. Leaving aside that those people may not like or understand science fiction on a very fundamental level, they won’t like Roswell, New Mexico anyway.

Second: “If this is your skid, steer into it!” This’ll be from those who want Roswell, New Mexico to do more with the immigration metaphor or, rather, to approach it better. It’s the thing that makes Roswell, New Mexico relevant as a brand reinvention, so there’s very little purpose in soft-selling it.

(21) DISCONTINUITIES AND OTHER PROBLEMS. Seems it’s never too late to find something wrong with The Original Series: “30 Mistakes In The Original Star Trek Even Trekkies Completely Missed” at ScreenRant. There might even be a Filer who caught this gaffe when it originally aired —

27. SCRIPT SPELLING ERROR

It is always an awkward situation when a movie or TV show spells something wrong in the credits. This can be problematic if an actor’s name is spelled wrong, but as for Star Trek, the word “script” was spelled incorrectly for 13 episodes of season 1.

When giving the crew member George A. Rutter his title, the credits credit him as a “Scpipt” Supervisor. This mistake was eventually fixed on the show, but in the ‘60s, it likely would have cost a lot of money to redo the credits to fix one spelling error. 

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

Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne Among Six New Additions to NEA Big Read Library

Two poetry collections, one memoir, one creative nonfiction book, and two novels will join the NEA Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The NEA Big Read annually supports community reading programs across the country, each designed around a single book. Through the act of sharing a book together, participants have the opportunity to broaden their understanding of the world, their community, and themselves.

In total, 32 books will be available for nonprofit organizations to choose from in applying for a 2019-20 NEA Big Read grant. The six new additions are:

This timely collection explores the struggles and questions that can arise from an assigned gender identity that doesn’t feel right, described through the lens of, among other things, inanimate objects, talking animals, and 1980s pop culture.

  • Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (novel)

In a ruined city overrun with hybrid creatures from a defunct biotech company, a woman nurtures a strange creature that grows into something she will both love and fear in this science fiction tale of love and hope and inevitable change.

  • Hustle by David Tomas Martinez (poetry)

Emblazoned with a tattoo on its cover, this collection examines the experiences of the poet’s Southeast San Diego youth—his activity in a gang, the complicated dynamics of his family life, and eventually his discovery of poetry, leading him to reflect on what it means to be a man.

This is the true story that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick about the crew of the 19th-century whaleship Essex that got rammed and shattered by one of the largest whales anyone had ever seen and the whalers’ subsequent, harrowing fight for survival on the open seas.

A young woman passionate about trees and plants and other aspects of the natural world finds friendship in odd places, battles bipolar disorder, perseveres through setbacks, and ultimately becomes a wife, a mom, and a respected scientist in this inspiring and engrossing memoir.

Set during World War II in the Australian bush and based on the true history of Italian POWs sent there to work the farms, this story is told from the perspective of a woman with albinism and a troubled past whose secrets and desires will upend her and her family’s isolated lives.

The NEA’s Big Read website has more information on the program, including book and author information, podcasts, videos, and community stories from past NEA Big Read grantees. In addition, the NEA will host a webinar on November 14, 2018 at 2 p.m. ET about these six new titles.

“We are always looking to expand the NEA Big Read library with a range of new genres, perspectives, and experiences,” said NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls. “Communities can choose to explore, for example, the story behind Moby-Dick with In the Heart of the Sea, or get immersed in rural Australia and World War II history with The Paperbark Shoe, or dive into one of the books of poetry, a genre we know from NEA research is growing in popularity, particularly among younger readers. I look forward to seeing how communities embrace the new books and find ways to highlight and explore them together.”

Guidelines are now available for organizations applying for grants to support Big Read projects between September 2019 and June 2020. The application deadline is Thursday, January 24, 2019. Full details on eligibility, how to apply, and application advice are available on Arts Midwest’s website. Eligible applicants include organizations such as arts centers, arts councils, arts organizations, colleges and universities, community service organizations, environmental organizations, fairs and festivals, faith-based organizations, historical societies, housing authorities, humanities councils, libraries, literary centers, museums, school districts, theater companies, trade associations, and tribal governments.

To select new books for the NEA Big Read library, the NEA collected suggestions from a variety of sources, including the public, NEA Big Read grantees, and past NEA Big Read panelists. The National Endowment for the Arts narrowed the list of suggestions based on the following criteria: the capacity to incite lively and deep discussion; the capacity to expand the range of voices, stories, and genres currently represented in the NEA Big Read library; the capacity to interest lapsed and reluctant readers and/or to challenge avid readers and introduce them to new voices; and the capacity to inspire innovative programming for communities. A committee of outside readers and community organizers reviewed the books and made the final recommendations.

The full list of books available for 2019-2020 Big Read grants also includes works by Bradbury, Le Guin, Kelly Link, and Emily St. John Mandel —

  • In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Advice from the Lights by Stephanie (previously Stephen) Burt
  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
  • Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
  • The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom
  • How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002 by Joy Harjo
  • To Live by Yu Hua
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Hustle by David Tomas Martinez
  • The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka
  • The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  • In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • True Grit by Charles Portis
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
  • Burning Bright by Ron Rash
  • A Small Story About the Sky by Alberto Ríos
  • Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Our Town by Thornton Wilder
  • The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang
  • Book of Hours by Kevin Young
  • Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra

 [Thanks to Jeff VanderMeer for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/18 Last Week I Went To Pixeldelphia But It Was Scrolled

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman, in Episode 79 of Eating the Fantastic, invites podcast listeners to join him for lunch with Rebecca Roanhorse at Zona Rosa Mexican restaurant.

Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse’s short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM),” which appeared in Apex magazine, won the Nebula Award earlier this year, and was also nominated for this year’s Hugo Award, an amazing feat for a writer’s first published short story. Plus she was also nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And the following night after she and I dined, she was the winner in both of those categories. (By the way, she was the first writer since 1980 to win the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Campbell Award for Best New Writer the same year. It’s only been done once before, by Barry B. Longyear with his novella “Enemy Mine.”)

Roanhorse’s debut novel, Trail of Lightning, was published this summer by Saga Press, about which the New York Times had this to say: “Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick.” It’s the first book is The Sixth World series, and will be followed next year by Storm of Locusts.

We discussed the spark without which her award-winning short story would never have been written, the differing reactions her tale garnered from inside and outside of the Native American community, the compelling reason she chose to write it in the second person, what she learned as a lawyer that helped in writing her first novel, how she upped her game when she decided to be a writer for real, why she fell out of the reading habit and how a Laurel K. Hamilton novel drew her back in, what it was like to hear Levar Burton read her award-winning story, and much more.

(2) ARTHUR FOR PURISTS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers these are “The Best Arthurian Novels for Fans of Actual History”

I suspect a lot of people’s minds ran in the same direction mine did at the news that a girl named Saga had pulled a fifteen hundred-year-old sword from a lake. Not all swords are Excalibur, of course, and the lake in question was in Sweden, but Britain could do worse than seeing if Saga has any interest in becoming Prime Minister.

All of which reminded me of Arthuriana, and my first and favorite Arthur novel, Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Lantern Bearers (1959)….

(3) NEUKOM TAKING ENTRIES. Tor.com reports “Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award Opens Submissions for Second Year Honoring Speculative Fiction”.

The three award categories are —

1 • The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction

2 • The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction (for a first book)

3 • The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting

…The submission window recently opened for the second year of the Neukom Institute award. Asked how they are approaching the second season, Rockmore responded, “We are not just award judges, we are readers. We can’t wait to read the next crop of speculative fiction that is being submitted for the second Neukom season. We are hoping that we can build on the success of the inaugural year of the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards to gather an even stronger and broader collection of submissions for this year. We continue to welcome speculative fiction in all of its many forms and look forward to continuing to bring greater attention to this important genre.”

Eligible books include any works published no earlier than June 1, 2016 or under contract to be published no later than December 31, 2018; the submission deadline for all three awards is December 31. More detailed submission guidelines here. The awards will be announced in spring 2019.

(4) MORE ABOUT EREWHON. The press release from Liz Gorinsky’s new Erewhon Books fills in more details:

Erewhon’s founder, President, and Publisher Liz Gorinsky came to Erewhon after nearly fifteen years at SF&F publisher Tor Books, where she edited a list that included acclaimed and award-winning speculative fiction authors Liu Cixin, Annalee Newitz, Cherie Priest, Nisi Shawl, Catherynne M. Valente, and Jeff VanderMeer. She was part of the team that founded Tor..com and has won multiple prestigious awards for editing, including the Hugo Award for Best Editor, Long Form. Gorinsky remarked, “I started to learn about science fiction and fantasy at Tor Books as an intern, but I’ve loved those genres ever since I started reading. I’ve been honored to publish many beautiful SF&F books that have been bestselling, award-nominated, critically acclaimed (or all three!), and I’m thrilled to carry on my work with the many great authors in this genre and build the special attention and individual approach that a boutique independent publisher can provide.”

The rest of the Erewhon team includes Editorial Assistant Jillian Feinberg and business advisor Peter Burri, who is the co-founder of the successful independent press The Experiment and has twenty-five years of experience in publishing operations and financing. Erewhon also has substantial financial backers who come from families with over fifty years of publishing experience and are committed to the long-term growth of the company.

Erewhon is pleased to have signed on as a distribution client of independent publisher Workman Publishing, which has fine imprints including Algonquin Books and Artisan Books and a select distribution group that includes The Experiment and duopress. Previously, Workman has had very little presence in the speculative fiction world and is excited to be expanding its offerings in that direction. Workman’s Chief Executive Officer Daniel P. Reynolds commented, “It’s exciting to be part of the talented team starting up Erewhon Books. Many years ago, Workman had a bestseller with Good Omens – our first and only SF&F title, so it’s about time we got back into this category. We can’t wait to help Erewhon develop their own list of bestsellers.”

Erewhon opened its New York City office in June 2018 and is starting to build its list with the aim of debuting its first season of new titles in 2020.

(5) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Mallory O’Meara, in “10 Great Horror Books for Wimps”  on Vulture, selects books for people who think Halloween is a good time to read a horror novel, but would want to read “books that won’t keep you up at night.” Her good taste is evident because one of the books she picks is Something Wicked This Way Comes, and she mentions Bradbury in connection with another choice —

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Kelly Link is the literary heir to Ray Bradbury’s short fiction throne, and her latest collection is filled with fantastic, genre-melding tales. These stories incorporate various horror elements, like vampire boyfriends and creepy faeries, but they fascinate instead of scare, making it the perfect book to test the spooky waters with. Also notable: Get in Trouble was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

(6) USING SFF TO TEACH COMPUTER ETHICS, Teachers at the University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago have been using science fiction to offer students a way to cultivate their capacity for moral imagination. In the recent edition of the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, they write: ” Teaching ethics to computer science students is a pressing responsibility for computer science faculty but also a challenge. Using fiction as the basis for an ethics course offers several advantages beyond its immediate appeal.” — “How to Teach Computer Ethics through Science Fiction” at Communications of the ACM.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born October 18, 1924 – Vol Molesworth, Mathematician, Editor, Publisher, and Fan from Australia who led a revival of the Sydney Futurians in 1947, becoming one of the leading Australian fans in the 50s. He played a major role in the three Australian Natcons held in Sydney during the 50s, and founded and operated the Futurian Press. His works include An Outline History of Australian Fandom and A History of Australian Science Fiction Fandom 1935-1963, and the fanzines  Luna, Cosmos, and Telefan.
  • Born October 18, 1944 – Katherine Kurtz, 74, Writer who has published sixteen novels in the Deryni series, which is notable for being one of the first historical fantasy series (as opposed to Tolkien-type high fantasy), has garnered her several Mythopoeic and BFA nominations, and has been a perennial favorite in the Locus Reader’s Choice polls. With Deborah Turner Harris, she has co-written the alternate history Templar Knights series and the Adept urban fantasy series. She has written several standalone novels, of which I strongly recommend both Lammas Night and St. Patrick’s Gargoyle. She also contributed a number of recipes to Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey which was co-edited by McCaffrey and John Gregory Betancourt (I’m curious – have any Filers seen that work?). She has been Guest of Honor at more than two dozen conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born October 18, 1946 – Howard Shore, 72, Oscar-winning Composer from Canada who has created the scores for nearly 80 films, many of them genre, including Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (all of which won Hugo Awards), the Hobbit movies, eXistenZ, Scanners, Videodrome, Dogma, and the Hugo finalists Big and Hugo (which was based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, about science fiction film pioneer George Méliès and his automata).
  • Born October 18, 1947 – Joe Morton, 71, Tony- and Emmy-nominated Actor of Stage and Screen, who had a lead role on Eureka and a recurring role on Smallville, as well as guest parts on Mission: Impossible, The X-Files, and Warehouse 13. He starred in the film The Brother from Another Planet and had roles in the Hugo-winning Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Paycheck, The Astronaut’s Wife, What Lies Beneath, Dragonfly, Stealth, The Clairvoyant, Batman vs Superman, and Justice League.
  • Born October 18, 1950 – Tony Roberts, 68, Artist from England who, from the 60s to the 90s, produced more than 100 SFF book covers as well as numerous interior illustrations, many of them for the first editions of books by well-known authors, including Heinlein, Le Guin, Leiber, Dick, and van Vogt; they were distinctive for their spaceships and futuristic architecture, and many of them are still instantly recognizable to long-time SFF readers. His work yielded a nomination for the British Fantasy Award Best Artist; however, in the mid-90s, he mostly left the field to pursue fine art painting. In 2000, he made international news for suing artist Glenn Brown, who had plagiarized  reinterpreted his 1974 cover for Heinlein’s Double Star in a painting which became a finalist for the £20,000 Turner Prize.
  • Born October 18, 1964 – Charles Stross, 54, Computer Programmer, Writer, and Fan from England who has transplanted himself to Scotland. His longest-running series is The Laundry Files, a sort of Bondian occult pastiche that can only truly be appreciated if read from the beginning. His Halting State and Rule 34 series novels might, I think, be his best work, but The Merchant Princes series got much better when they were released by Tor in their second incarnation. His Heinlein-homage Saturn’s Children novels are a quick, fun read. His works have racked up an impressive array of more than 50 Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Sturgeon, Tiptree, Sidewise, Prometheus, Skylark, and Kurd Laßwitz Award nominations including 7 wins (his novel Accelerando alone being responsible for 7 of those nominations). He has been Guest of Honor at more than 20 conventions, including a Eurocon.
  • Born October 18, 1987 – Nicola Posener, 31, Actor from England with an amazingly prolific resume of genre films of which I don’t recognise a one: Lab Rats, House Of Anubis, Dawn Of The Dragonslayer, The Crown And The Dragon, Survivor, Mythica: A Quest For Heroes , Mythica: The Darkspore, Mythica: The Necromancer, Mythica: The Iron Crown, Mythica: The Godslayer and Magellan  – which, trust me, is not a complete list.
  • Born October 18 – Filer NickPheas (who is welcome to provide his own capsule bio if he is so inclined; photos of credentials are also welcome).

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • A super inept job interview at Bizarro.

(9) IF YOU’RE NOT CHEATING YOU’RE NOT TRYING. Some cheating video gamers have been hauled into court —

A YouTube gamer who posted videos of himself cheating at Fortnite is being sued by its developer Epic Games.

Brandon Lucas has attracted 1.7 million subscribers to his Golden Modz channel, where he plays modified or hacked versions of Fortnite and other games.

He also runs a website where he sells cheats, such as automatic aiming, for more than $200 (£150).

“Defendants are cheaters. Nobody likes a cheater,” Epic Games said in its legal filing.

“Defendant Lucas not only cheats, he also promotes, advertises, and sells software that enables those who use it to cheat,” the document states.

The publisher of video game Grand Theft Auto V has been granted the right to search the homes of five people accused of making cheat software.

The court order allowed Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive, to search two properties in Melbourne, Australia, for evidence related to a cheat known as Infamous.

The Australian federal court has also frozen the assets of the five, who have not yet filed a defence.

The cheat went offline six months ago.

(10) ABOUT ALT COMICS. A transcript of last month’s Reveal “Never meet your (super) heroes” interview with Vox Day and Chuck Dixon is available online.

Al letson: So how does this book become a bestseller?

Amanda Rob: Well it’s possible that a lot of people are really reading it, and it’s possible that Vox is taking advantage of something that Amazon does which is called micro-categorizing. So right now, one of the issues of Alt-Hero is the number one new release in Superhero Graphic Novels. That’s a pretty small category, but it is number one in that category.

Al letson: Is there a way to game the system?

Amanda Rob: Sure. There’s a way to game the system. You have your fans and followers click on the book. If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free.

***

Chuck Dixon: See, that’s the problem. That’s where the agenda, putting the agenda … I’m not saying you have an agenda. There’s nothing wrong with you wanting to see a character that you can relate to more closely, but, when you put the agenda before the story, that’s where the problem lies because then you come up with uninteresting characters for the sake of diversity.

Al letson: Then, I asked the question that brought me all the way down to Florida. Why work with Vox Day?

Chuck Dixon: Well, there’s … He approached me. I didn’t know much about him, I still don’t know a whole lot about him, but this is the first time in my experience that I’ve gone to work on a job and everybody’s concerned with who is publishing it and their background, their beliefs, and everything else because this guy is … Man, is this guy a lightning rod. I don’t agree with a whole lot of what he says but he was offering me an opportunity to create our own work. He had a funding thing and he had a distribution deal set up. He admitted that he didn’t know what he didn’t know, so he wasn’t telling me what to do, he was asking me what I should do or what would be best for me and all the rest of it.

Offering me an opportunity and didn’t tell me what to write, and still has not told me what to write, so, to me, it was just an opportunity to be free of the kind of constraints that are put on you at the major companies, the political correctness constraints. I wasn’t interested in doing a book that was political. I wasn’t interested in doing a message book.

Al letson: So he’s not asking you to write anything political, but you understand how just working with him is political?

Chuck Dixon: I’ve read the “Alt-Hero” thing and I’ve rejected parts of it I didn’t want to do, that I don’t agree with. I don’t write for that.

(11) SPIDEY SINGS, KINDA. At The Verge, Patricia Hernandez gives a strong, if reluctant recommendation for a new music video set in the universe of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (“To see this gorgeous new Into the Spider-Verse footage, you must endure Post Malone”).

I’m sorry to direct Verge readers to a Post Malone song, but the grubby musician has made his latest music video hard to pass up: “Sunflower” is a collaboration with Swae Lee that the pair wrote and recorded to accompany Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the gorgeous upcoming animated film that follows Miles Morales (and basically every other Spidey that ever existed).

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theaters on December 14th.

(12) WE GOT US A CONVOY. Vice brings the news “The Army is preparing to send driverless vehicles into combat’—as transportation, not as fighting vehicles.

The Army is getting ready to drive into war — in driverless trucks.

Next fall, its “Leader-Follower” technology will enable convoys of autonomous vehicles to follow behind one driven by a human. It’s a direct response to the improvised explosive devices that caused nearly half the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The military has been trying to bring robots into wars since the 1950s, a long line of technological innovations that began with a bulky roving platform and carried into bomb-defusing robots.

The same basic idea is always at play: “remoting the lethality,” essentially creating a bigger, safer distance between American soldiers and the enemy they are trying to kill.

(13) CHENGDU MIRRORSAT FOLLOW-UP. The Asia Times has a followup on the plan announced by Chengdu to orbit a mirrorsat (“Chinese city to launch man-made moon to light up skies”), with a few additional details.

The satellite would be able to light an area with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometers, while the precise illumination range can be controlled within a few dozen meters, according to the People’s Daily, which quoted a developer with the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute as saying.

…The man-made moon has a highly reflective coating to reflect light from the sun with solar panel-like wings whose angles can be adjusted to realize “precise lighting.” The 14,300-square-meter city of Chengdu would be the primal focus of the light from the man-made moon, and astronomers throughout China and overseas should be able to spot the glowing star at night.

…The idea of an “artificial moon” came from a French artist, who imagined hanging a necklace made of mirrors above the earth, which could reflect sunshine through the streets of Paris all year round.

(14) FICTION FEAST. Charles Payseur dishes up a first serving of short fiction reviews from Beneath Ceaseless Skies — “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #262 [part 1/2]”.

The anniversary offerings continue with a second special double issue from Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Again, for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to break this out into two parts. The first features a novelette and short story that for me deal very much with narratives and with learning. They both have the feel of engaging with fable, with magic, and with characters learning lessons that they weren’t really expecting to. Whether that lesson is about the nature of growing up or of becoming a better person, in both there’s a focus on people seeking something that will give them power and answers and then, ultimately, wondering if that’s what they really want. Both carry a sense of strangeness and wonder, as well, and are warm and cozy at the same time. Before I give too much away, though, let’s get to the reviews!

(15) SECOND OPINION. According to NPR, “Geologists Question ‘Evidence Of Ancient Life’ In 3.7 Billion-Year-Old Rocks”.

That’s according to a new analysis, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by a different team of experts.

This second group examined structures within the rock that were thought in 2016 to have been produced by communities of single-celled microbes that grew up from the bottom of a shallow, salty sea. A three-dimensional look at these structures shows that instead of having a telltale upside-down ice-cream cone shape — the kind produced by microorganisms — they are shaped like a Toblerone candy bar.

“They’re stretched-out ridges that extend deeply into the rock,” said Joel Hurowitz, a geochemist at Stony Brook University in New York and an author of Wednesday’s paper. “That shape is hard to explain as a biological structure and much easier to explain as something that resulted from rocks being squeezed and deformed under tectonic pressures.”

(16) WHAT’S IN THE GIN? Theoretically, this could be yummy — “Not Just For Cows Anymore: New Cottonseed Is Safe For People To Eat”.

You probably don’t think of cotton as food.

There’s a good reason for that. Farmers grow it mostly for the fluffy white fibers that turn into T-shirts or sheets. Cotton plants do produce seeds, but those seeds are poisonous, at least to humans.

This week, though,the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a new kind of cotton — one that’s been genetically engineered so that the seeds are safe to eat.

The invention promises to open new markets for cottonseed, and it could give cotton farming a big boost. Because cotton plants are prodigious seed producers: Every pound of cotton fiber, or lint, comes with 1.6 pounds of seed.

“You’re getting more cottonseed than you are lint,” says Greg Holt, who leads research on cotton production and processing at a USDA research station in Lubbock, Texas.

Each seed is the size of a small peanut. In principle, it could be highly nutritious. It contains lots of oil and protein.

(17) PARENTAL CAUTION. Watchers of Ellen found out “Keira Knightley bans daughter from watching some Disney films”.

Keira Knightley says she has banned her three-year-old daughter from watching Disney films whose portrayal of women she disagrees with.

Edie Knightley Righton is not allowed to watch Cinderella or Little Mermaid.

Knightley told Ellen DeGeneres that 1950’s Cinderella “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her. Don’t! Rescue yourself. Obviously!”

She said of Little Mermaid: “I mean, the songs are great, but do not give your voice up for a man. Hello!”

Presumably on the OK list is the Disney film Knightley is promoting, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, in which she plays the Sugar Plum Fairy.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Hedgehog on Vimeo is a short animated film from France about a little boy obsessed by hedgehogs.

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

SFF Author Kelly Link Receives 2018 MacArthur Genius Grant

Genre writer Kelly Link and planetary scientist Sarah T. Stewart are among the 25 fellows who are receiving this year’s “genius grants” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, $625,000 disbursed over five years to spend any way they choose. The recipients work in a variety of fields, from the arts and sciences to public health and civil liberties,

Link’s work, already well-known in the sff field, previously gained national recognition when a collection of her stories was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The Macarthur Foundation had this to say about Link’s selection —

Kelly Link

Fiction Writer

Pushing the boundaries of literary fiction in works that combine the surreal and fantastical with the concerns and emotional realism of contemporary life

Northampton, MA

Kelly Link is a short story writer pushing the boundaries of literary fiction in works that draw on genres such as fantasy, science fiction, and horror while also engaging fully with the concerns and emotional realism of contemporary life. The worlds of her stories are recognizably based on reality but governed by idiosyncratic, internal logics. The elements of the surreal and fantastic that emerge without explanation are by turns unsettling, heartbreaking, and hilarious.

The familiar tedium of low-wage retail jobs, for example, is considered in the context of 24-hour convenience stores for zombies (“The Hortlak”), and a couple’s attempt to revive their marriage by moving to a house in the country fails, due to complications posed by giant bunnies and the haunting of household items (“Stone Animals”). Many of the stories collected in Get in Trouble (2015), Link’s most recent volume, take place in social landscapes marked by deep social and economic inequality. In “The Summer People,” teenage Fran faces a life of limited opportunities both because of poverty and her forced servitude to magical fairy-like creatures. She escapes on morally ambiguous terms, deceiving a classmate from an upper-class family into becoming the new captive caretaker. “Valley of the Girls” explores the consequences of excessive wealth from the perspective of the privileged. Teenagers of the very rich are protected from kidnapping and their own potentially bad choices by having body doubles act as their public “Faces.” The nonlinear structure of the story obscures the major relationships among the real teenagers and their “Faces” until halfway through the story, when with a single sentence Link clarifies the identities of the characters and the inevitable tragedy of the story’s ending.

Link is committed to helping other writers chart their own course, much as she did; with her husband, Gavin Grant, she runs the Small Beer Press, which publishes unique voices in fantasy and literary fiction that do not appeal to commercial publishers. As a writer and an editor, Link is mapping new literary territory, and she is a source of inspiration for many young writers dissatisfied with traditional distinctions between genres.

 

The work of grant-winner Sarah T. Stewart will also be of interest to Filers —

Sarah T. Stewart

Planetary Scientist

Advancing new theories of how celestial collisions give birth to planets and their natural satellites, such as the Earth and Moon

Davis, CA

Sarah Stewart is a planetary scientist shedding light on planet formation and evolution. Through a combination of shock physics experiments on natural materials (such as ice and rock), theoretical models, and computational simulations, Stewart investigates the effects of high-energy impacts onto planets and planet-like bodies. For example, using ice impact experiments, she demonstrated that the presence of subsurface ice significantly and predictably affects the shape of an impact crater, such that the shapes of craters on planets such as Mars can reveal much about their subsurface composition.

Most notably, Stewart has advanced a novel explanation for how the Moon was formed. It had been widely accepted that the moon was formed from the debris of an object that collided with the proto-Earth. Recent geochemical studies, however, show that the chemical composition of the Moon is very similar to that of the Earth—that is, the Moon is made up primarily of terrestrial materials rather than materials from the impacting celestial body. Stewart and her colleagues have discovered an entirely new astrophysical object, called a synestia, in seeking to resolve this discrepancy. A synestia is a donut-shaped cloud of vaporized and molten rock produced when two objects collide in a high-energy, high-angular momentum impact. The Earth and Moon both formed from one large synestia, produced by such a collision, cooled and condensed. The synestia theory could explain both the similarity in the elemental and chemical compositions of the Earth and Moon as well as heretofore unexplained features in the Moon’s orbit.

The synestia structure could be a common outcome of collisions during planetary growth and thus hold broader implications for understanding the evolution of other planets. With the ever-growing number of exoplanet discoveries and missions to other planets, Stewart will play a critical role in providing a firmer and more comprehensive basis for understanding planet formation and the resulting physical, geological, and geochemical features of planets.

 

Here is the complete list of 2018 fellows.

  • Matthew Aucoin, Composer and conductor, New York
  • Julie Ault, Artist and curator, New York
  • Rev. William J. Barber II, Pastor and civil rights activist, Goldsboro, N.C.
  • Clifford Brangwynne, Biophysical engineer, Princeton, N.J.
  • Natalie Diaz, Poet, Tempe, Ariz.
  • Livia S. Eberlin, Analytical chemist, Austin, Texas
  • Deborah Estrin, Computer scientist, New York
  • Amy Finkelstein, Health economist, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Gregg Gonsalves, Epidemiologist, New Haven, Conn.
  • Vijay Gupta, Violinist and speaker, Los Angeles
  • Becca Heller, Human rights lawyer, New York
  • Raj Jayadev, Community organizer, San Jose, Calif.
  • Titus Kaphar, Painter, New Haven, Conn.
  • John Keene, Writer, Newark
  • Kelly Link, Writer, Northampton, Mass.
  • Dominique Morisseau, Playwright, New York
  • Okwui Okpokwasili, Choreographer and performer, New York
  • Kristina Olson, Psychologist, Seattle
  • Lisa Parks, Media scholar, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Rebecca Sandefur, Sociologist and legal scholar, Urbana, Ill.
  • Allan Sly, Mathematician, Princeton, N.J.
  • Sarah T. Stewart, Planetary scientist, Davis, Calif.
  • Wu Tsang, Filmmaker and performance artist, New York
  • Doris Tsao, Neuroscientist, Pasadena, Calif.
  • Ken Ward Jr., Journalist, Charleston, W.Va.

[Thanks to Bill for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19/17 Good King Pixel Scroll Looked Out On The Feast of File

(1) VISUAL SCIENCE. Nature brings us “2017 in pictures: The best science images of the year”.

The spectacular total solar eclipse that swept the United States dominated headlines as it delighted scientists and the public alike in August 2017 (the composite image above shows the event’s progression as seen from Perryville, Missouri). The year also brought innovations in spaceflight and surprising insights into species past. Here are the striking shots from science and the natural world that caught the eyes of Nature’s editors.

Here’s one —

BACK-SEAT OCTOPUS: This interspecies piggyback ride was caught by photographer Michael Hardie in the waters off Hawaii. The image was a finalist in the annual Smithsonian.com photo contest.

(2) SCIENCE HEADINLINES. Nature also posted this roundup — “2017 in news: The science events that shaped the year”.

From political chaos to cases of sexual harassment, scientists have had a tough year. But there were also bright spots, including approval of a new type of cancer treatment and the detection of gravitational waves from a neutron-star collision….

On 12 July, an iceberg twice the size of Luxembourg broke free from the Antarctic Peninsula. It carried away roughly 12% of the surface area of Larsen C — Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf. The shelf’s fate remains unclear but, if it collapsed, Larsen C could unleash glaciers containing enough water to boost global sea levels by a centimetre.

(3) VISIT FROM THE GRINCH. Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link’s Small Beer Press, which has published work by such authors as Ursula K. Le Guin and Sofia Samatar, and Sarah Rees Brennan, received its “Worst Business Holiday Present Ever”.

Our distributor Consortium/Ingram just finished negotiations with Am*zon for the next year and forwarded the results. Ouch. After the distro’s fee, we will now receive less than 1/3 of the retail price on each book sold on Am*zon. (The details are confidential and not be shared — which is fine, it’s all fine.)

It is hard to pay printing, royalties, artists, advertising and marketing, rent, etc. with less than 1/3 of retail.

I know not everyone has a good local bookstore, a local branch of a chain, or a decent library, but if you have, *please* consider buying/borrowing books there. Am*zon still want to crush all competition (Bezos’s first name for the business was Relentless dot com) in all markets that they enter. They are fantastic at customer service, especially compared to some local businesses, but they are terrible for everyone else, suppliers, intermediaries, etc.

The discount creeps up a little more every year — something has to give. I suppose it won’t be Am*zon. Guess it will be us Small Gazelle Presses who want to publish interesting books, work with a wide range of people and artists, and see if we can send these weird things out into the world and find readers.

(4) EAVESDROPPING. Luckily they loved her part — “Kelly Marie Tran surprises fans discussing ‘Star Wars’ at the next table”.

At long last, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has hit theaters, and those of us who were hyped for our girl Kelly Marie Tran as Rose finally got to see her get her Resistance on and join the fight in a galaxy far, far away.

So what’s the verdict on The Last Jedi? What are people saying? Sure, you can go read some critics’ reviews, log on to some message boards or jump in on a discussion thread on your Facebook wall. Or you can listen in on people talking about it at the next table. That’s what Kelly Marie Tran did.

 

(5) PRESCRPTION. Jason Sanford considers “Why the red pill doesn’t wake people to our world’s true reality”.

“If you are not one of us, you are one of them.” That’s a hell of a political statement. That’s the type of statement embraced by history’s worst political movements, movements which have killed millions in pursuits of their goals.

The Matrix is a great SF film, one of the best of the last few decades. But as political theory the film is extremely simplistic. After all, there’s a word for people who go through life with such an extreme “us or them” attitude: psychopaths.

While simplistic “us or them” arguments resonate with many people, our greatest achievements come when we put this attitude aside. When we stand with those we have disagreements with but with whom we can still find common ground.

And it’s this human determination to reach for common ground which makes me stay optimistic about the future. Because I believe in people. I believe most people try to do good and try build a better world….

(6) THE AXE. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ Canceled at BBC America”.

Never a ratings breakout, viewership was down year-over-year compared with season one. Season two averaged slightly less than 250,000 total viewers. The decision to cancel Dirk comes after BBC America bid farewell to critical darling Orphan Black in August.

(7) TV HOPES. Guy Gavriel Kay reports his The Fionavar Tapestry will get a shot at television:

Short version: I’ve entered a development agreement with the really impressive production company that did “Orphan Black” – to produce The Fionavar Tapestry as a television series.

There are many stages to any project as big as this one will be, but I’m genuinely happy – these are really good people, several of them with a personal passion for the trilogy (including Kris Holden-Ried, who was all-in some time ago, as it worked its way through the ‘process’).

He posted a full press release which includes this description of the work:

The Tapestry tells the tale of five young men and women who are brought to Fionavar – the first of all worlds. Told they are simply to be guests for the 50th anniversary celebration of a king’s ascension to the throne, each of the five discovers they have a greater, dangerous role to play as they’re thrust into a war between the forces of good and evil, whose outcome will affect all worlds, including our own.

Kay draws upon a variety of creatures and mythologies, predominantly Celtic and Norse, to create the world of Fionavar, and the saga also features the legendary story of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere, heroes of medieval literature.

(8) CEBULSKI STORY GOES MAINSTREAM. Marvel Comics editor C. B. Cebulski’s previous life as a Japanese comics writer, mentioned in recent Scrolls is a story that now has been picked up by the Washington Post: “The curious tale of the Marvel comics editor who pretended to be a Japanese writer”.

Although it was long-rumored in the comic book world that Yoshida was, indeed, Cebulski, no one investigated deeply. Since he retired the pseudonym fairly quickly, the rumors might have died.

But in November, Cebulski was named the editor in chief of Marvel Comics, arguably the most prominent job in his industry, and the rumors resurfaced. Since the comic book industry is often criticized for its lack of creators of color, the fact that its new figurehead was a white man who had pretended to be an Asian writer drew outcry.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 19, 1871  — Mark Twain received a patent for suspenders. (We’ll file this under “Things writers do when they should be writing.”)
  • December 19, 1958 — The first known radio broadcast from outer space was transmitted when President Eisenhower’s recorded voice issued a holiday greeting for the whole world from the Atlas satellite which was launched the previous day.
  • December 19, 1972 — Apollo lunar-landing program ends when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down.
  • December 19, 1986 Little Shop of Horrors, the movie, was seen for the first time.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian learned that Yoda has day job – from today’s Brevity.

(11) GOLDEN AGE COMIC STRIPS. Garry Trudeau reviews Cullen Murphy’s My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe in the New York Times Book Review:

With harlots in fish-net stockings hanging on each arm, a self-satisfied grandee, shades and ascot in place, struts down a city sidewalk. A policeman clears the way, and as he kicks a blind beggar into traffic, he bellows, “Out of the way, you swine! A cartoonist is coming!”

To the few hundred American oddballs who draw funny pictures for a living, there’s never been a more hilariously inapt portrait of a cartoon professional than the one described above, inked by the great B. Kliban late in his career. Many of us have a copy pinned to our walls, not to keep us humble (we have no choice), but to celebrate our forced distance from the more conventional metrics of success. As Cullen Murphy admits in his warm and graceful memoir, “Cartoon County,” comics creators have long been among the most dimly perceived of celebrities, and when they venture out into society, they are usually sized up as dentists or insurance adjusters long before the awful truth comes tumbling out.

(12) TOP MOVIES. Three critics caucus to produce “NPR’s Favorite Movies Of 2017”. Genre callouts: Blade Runner 2049, Coco, Get Out, The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, Your Name. Also of interest: Ex Libris (Wiseman documentary about the NYC public library).

(13) STRAIGHT TO FANS. Blockchaining as a way to connect artists directly to fans: “How did music producer Gramatik raise $2m in 24 hours?”

Gramatik – real name Denis Jasarevic – is a Slovenian electronic music producer and DJ with a worldwide fan base.

He’s become the first music artist to “tokenise” himself using the Ethereum application, Tokit. It allows users to embed their intellectual property rights, revenue and royalties into a programmable digital token.

Fans and investors who “buy” the token using the Ether cryptocurrency can then – potentially – share in the revenue from an artist’s work.

… When his GRMTK token was launched in November it raised $2.25m (£1.65m) in Ether digital currency in just 24 hours.

“I’m cool with being the guinea pig,” Gramatik explains. “This tech has the potential to change the industry.”

(14) HIDDEN TREASURE. Not just a cigar: “Interstellar object may hold ‘alien’ water”

The body showed no signs of “outgassing” as it approached the Sun, strengthening the idea that it held little if any water-ice.

But the latest findings suggest water might be trapped under a thick, carbon-rich coating on its surface.

(15) MAKING BOOK. Congratulations to John Scalzi for winning DecNoWriMo –

(16) HAVE YOU NO DECENCY? Andrew Husband, in “Porg Recipes For The ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Fans In Your Life” on Uproxx, says that porgs are not only cuddly, they’re also tasty as he shares recipes for Porg in Green Milk Sauce and Fire-Roasted Porg.

Yes, you read that right. Despite being protected by several national and international conservation organizations, puffins are considered a rare delicacy in Nordic countries. And seeing as how The Last Jedi‘s porgs are based on the puffins writer/director Rian Johnson saw while filming at Skellig, it makes sense their preparation would be similar. Like “Porg in Green Milk Sauce” (as opposed to blue milk), a slight variation on an Icelandic dish in which the arctic birds are cooked with a buttery sauce rich in creamy dairy and some sweet additions.

(17) OMG! The horror! Atlas Obscura investigates “Why Chuck E. Cheese’s Has a Corporate Policy About Destroying Its Mascot’s Head”.

Several weeks ago, a local Patch report in Illinois revealed a seemingly disturbing underpinning of the Chuck E. Cheese universe: A former employee told the paper that a company policy required them to demolish branded items, among them the cartoon character’s head, which is part of the costume. A Patch video captured two former employees of the recently-shuttered Oak Lawn location bashing Chuck’s brains in with a sledgehammer.

Why did executives at CEC Entertainment, Inc. establish a policy mandating the destruction of their business’s beloved namesake?

(18) JEDI. Love the title: “Rian Johnson Murders the Prequels – A Spoiler Soaked Review of the Last Jedi” by Camestros Felapton. It’s a spoiler post, but here’s a non-spoilery excerpt:

Luke does not bring balance to the force (yet). By implication Anakin did not bring balance to the force. Kylo Ren can barely bring balance to his emotional state for hour-long stretches. Maybe Rey will but who knows? Putting the prequels and the original trilogy together, it was always unclear how Anakin, even by killing the Emperor, brings balance to the force. If he did somehow do it, it clearly wasn’t worth the price of firstly a galactic war and then a galactic Empire

(19) LE GUIN. NPR’s Jason Heller reviews Ursula K. Le Guin’s No Time To Spare — “Ursula K. Le Guin’s Voice Rings Out In New Nonfiction Collection”.

Le Guin’s clinical, theoretical way of framing complicated social and literary ideas makes sense. Her parents were the noted anthropologists Alfred Louis Kroeber and Theodora Kracaw — a fact that doesn’t usually come up in her nonfiction. She makes an except in “Indian Uncles,” one of The Wave in the Mind‘s most heartfelt essays. She originally delivered it as a lecture in 1991 at the University of California at Berkeley, where her father taught and her mother studied. Le Guin recounts, from her point of a view, part of the events surrounding the famous case of Ishi, a member of the Native American Yahi people who became the subject of Kracaw’s 1961 book Ishi in Two Worlds.

Ishi died in 1916, thirteen years before Le Guin was born, but in “Indian Uncles” she writes eloquently and intimately about the how Ishi’s time with her parents inspired and haunted them throughout their lives, and how her own life was shaped by this invisible “uncle.”

(20) EVERYBODY INTO THE POOL. The Shape of Water “Making of” featurette.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Man” is a cartoon by Steve Cutts on YouTube giving a very nasty history of the last 500,000 years.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 11/6/17 All Of The True Pixels I Am About To Tell You Are Shameless Scrolls

(1) MORE MAPS. Ursula K. Le Guin shares the Hainish Endpapers from new editions of her books:

  • Gethen Map by UKL Colorization by Donna G. Brown

  • List of Known Hainish Worlds by Donna G. Brown, LoA.

(2) IT’S BEGINNINNG TO LOOK A LOT LIKE ADVENT. Hingston and Olsen have included stories by several sff authors in the 2017 “Short Story Advent Calendar”.

For the third straight year, the Short Story Advent Calendar is here to be the spice in your eggnog, the rum in your fruitcake—another collection of 24 brilliant stories to be opened, one by one, on the mornings leading up to Christmas.

These stories once again come from some of the best and brightest writers across North America, and beyond. Plus, this year featuring more all-new material than ever before!

Contributors to the 2017 calendar include:

  • Kelly Link (Get in TroubleMagic for Beginners)
  • Jim Gavin (Middle Men, AMC’s forthcoming Lodge 49)
  • Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties)
  • Ken Liu (The Paper MenagerieThe Grace of Kings)
  • Maggie Shipstead (Astonish MeSeating Arrangements)
  • and [REDACTED x 19]!

As always, each booklet is sealed, so you won’t know what story you’re getting until the morning you open it.

(3) WSFS PAPERS. Kevin Standlee announced more documentation from the 2017 Worldcon Business Meeting has been posted:

The 2018 WSFS Constitution (including all of the amendments ratified in Helsinki), Standing Rules for the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting, and Business Passed On to the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting are now online at the “WSFS Rules page”.

The Resolutions & Rulings of Continuing Effect are being reviewed by the WSFS Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee, and I expect them to be online at the same page within a week or so.

Thanks again to Linda Deneroff for pulling this all together and putting up with me futzing around with the documents.

(4) I CHING, YOU CHING. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler has just gotten his hands on PKD’s brand new novel! “[November 6, 1962] The road not taken… (Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle)”.

Philip K. Dick has returned to us after a long hiatus with a novel, The Man in the High Castle.  It is an ambitious book, longer than most science fiction novels.  Castle‘s setting is an alternate history, one in which the Axis powers managed to defeat the Allies…somehow (it is never explained).  Dick explores this universe through five disparate viewpoint protagonists, whose paths intertwine in complex, often surprising ways…

Surprisingly, The Traveler scoffs at the alternate history premise.

There are significant problems with Castle, however.  For one, it suffers from lazy worldbuilding.  The book is an opportunity for Dick to draw a wide cast of characters and depict their complex web of interactions.  But the underpinnings of the world they inhabit are implausible.  First and foremost, it would have been impossible, logistically, for the United States to have fallen to the Axis Powers.  For that matter, I have doubts that the Soviet Union was ever in existential danger.  Certainly the Reich never came close to making The Bomb – their racial theory-tinged science wouldn’t have allowed it.  It is sobering when you realize that the Allies managed to fight two world wars and develop the most expensive and powerful weapon ever known all at the same time.  An Axis victory in World War 2 resulting in the conquest of the United States is simply a nonstarter.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Sink your teeth into samosa with Karin Tidbeck” in episode 51 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karin Tidbeck

This time around, you get to listen in on my lunch at Mero-Himal Nepalese Restaurant with Karin Tidbeck during the penultimate day of the con. Tidbeck writes fiction in both Swedish and English, and debuted in 2010 with the Swedish short story collection Vem är Arvid Pekon? Her English debut, the 2012 collection Jagannath, was awarded the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts William L. Crawford Fantasy Award in 2013 and was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. Her novel debut, Amatka, was recently released in English.

We discussed the serious nature of Live Action Role-Playing games in Nordic countries, the way pretending to be a 150-year-old vampire changed her life, how discovering Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics made her forget time and space, the most important lesson she learned from the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing Workshop, how she uses improvisational exercises to teach beginning writers, why Amatka grew from a poetry collection into a novel, what made her say, “I’m not here to answer questions, I’m here to ask them,” and more.

(6) CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT AGAIN? Scholars contend: “Science Fiction Makes You Stupid” in a post at The Patron Saint of Superheroes.

That is a scientifically grounded claim.

Cognitive psychologist Dan Johnson and I make a version of it in our paper “The Genre Effect: A Science Fiction (vs. Realism) Manipulation Decreases Inference Effort, Reading Comprehension, and Perceptions of Literary Merit,” forthcoming from Scientific Study of Literature.

Dan and I are both professors at Washington and Lee University, and our collaboration grew out of my annoyance at another study, “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind,” published in Science in 2013. Boiled down, the authors claimed reading literary fiction makes you smart. And, who knows, maybe it does, but if so, their study gets no closer to understanding why–or even what anyone means by the term “literary fiction” as opposed to, say, “science fiction.”

Our study defines those terms, creates two texts that differ accordingly, and then studies how readers respond to them. The results surprised us. Readers read science fiction badly. If you’d like all the details why, head over to Scientific Study of Literature.

Arinn Dembo says about the article:

This is an interesting study. It strongly suggests that years of internalized stereotyping might influence the way you read and are *able* to read, in and out of the pulp genres you might favor. I said years ago, in my first published review, “If you don’t read outside the genre… soon you won’t be able to.”

But it might just be that if you listen too long to what arrogant, dismissive people think of your genre, you’ll stop being able to read it intelligently.

(7) VERSE WARRIORS. E. Catherine Tobler (Shimmer editor), Rachael K. Jones (recently nominated for World Fantasy Award for short fiction) and Aidan Doyle have launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund  “Sword and Sonnet” an anthology of genre stories about battle poets.

“Sword and Sonnet” will be an anthology featuring genre stories about women and non-binary battle poets. Lyrical, shimmery sonnet-slingers. Grizzled, gritty poetpunks. Word nerds battling eldritch evil. Haiku-wielding heroines.

We have a wonderful group of writers who have agreed to write stories for us: Alex Acks, C. S. E. Cooney, Malon Edwards, Spencer Ellsworth, Samantha Henderson, S. L. Huang, Cassandra Khaw, Margo Lanagan, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, Tony Pi, A. Merc Rustad and A. C. Wise. We’ll also be holding an open submission period.

The cover art is by Vlada Monakhova. The project is live on Kickstarter throughout November. At this writing they have raised $1,982 of their $7,654 goal.

(8) IN PASSING. Here’s a photo of the late Ben Solon, a Chicago fan whose death was reported the other day.

L to R: John D. Berry, Ray Fisher and Ben Solon at a party at late Sixties Worldcon. Photo copyright © Andrew Porter

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Darrah Chavey found the reason for the season in Cul de Sac.
  • John King Tarpinian noted The Argyle Sweater getting its laughs at the pharmacy.

(10) TEMPLE TALK. Kim Huett writes to say he has updated his William F. Temple article with corrected information supplied by Rob Hansen in a comment.

Meantime, Bill Burns says he was “Surprised to see that when you posted Kim’s piece on Bill Temple the other day you didn’t also mention Rob Hansen’s excellent new compilation of Bill’s fan writing, Temple at the Bar – free in promotion of TAFF!”

It’s one of the free ebooks at Dave Langford’s TAFF site.

(11) MOO SIXTY-NINE. NASA’s New Horizons team is looking for help naming their next target — “Help us Nickname a Distant World”.

On January 1, 2019, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly past a small, distant, and cold world at the outer frontier of our solar system. The spacecraft is about to set the record for visiting the most remote world ever explored by humankind.

For now, our destination goes by the unexciting name “(486958) 2014 MU69“, or “MU69” for short. We would like to use a more memorable nickname when we talk about our target body.

At this site, we are asking you—the public—to suggest your ideas for the nickname to assign to MU69, and to vote for your favorites. The New Horizons team and NASA will review your best ideas and announce our selection soon—in early January, 2018.

… From here you can:

  • Read about the nicknames we are already considering.
  • Vote for your favorite names on the ballot (so far).
  • Nominate names that you think we should add to the ballot.
  • Check out the top-ranked names on the vote tally.

Would you believe — right now, Mjölnir is leading the poll.

(12) TRAD PIZZA. In “Papa John’s condemns new customers: White supremacists” the alt-right rationale that a business is “failing” – because it didn’t grow as fast as predicted (mind you, it still grew) – sounds like the same criticism recently levied against a sff writer who said his productivity was down.

Papa John’s pizza has a new customer, the alt-right.

In the days following a rant by Papa John’s CEO and Louisville resident John Schnatter where he blamed the NFL and anthem protests for low sales, a white-supremacist publication claimed it as their official pizza.

In a blog post at the Daily Stormer, a photo of pizza with pepperonis arranged in a swastika has a caption that reads “Papa John: Official pizza of the alt-right?”

“This might be the first time ever in modern history that a major institution is going to be completely destroyed explicitly because of public outrage over their anti-White agenda,” Daily Stormer writer Adrian Sol said.

Peter Collins, the senior director of public relations at Papa John’s, said the company was taken off-guard by the endorsement.

“We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it,” Collins told Courier Journal. “We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza.”

Papa John’s released third-quarter sales figures last week that show diminished rates of growth at established North American locations: 1.5 percent this year as opposed to a projected 2- to 4-percent increase. In 2016, North American sales increased 5.5 percent during the same period.

(13) TWO-LEGGED SYLLOGISM OF THE DAY. In a piece mainly devoted to slandering David Gerrold, Dr. Mauser informs the sff community “The Science Fiction is Settled”, indulging in the fallacious logic that if any member of a group wrote sff in the early days of the genre, by that date the field was wide open to writers from that group.

And then, tragedy strikes. Because to Gerrold, Change has an Arrow on it, with a single destination, and it’s pointing to the left. He launches into a paean about Immigrants and diversity and the global village because Diversity is Strength! And then:

So, yes, it is inevitable that science fiction authors will explore that diversity — expanded roles for women, new definitions of gender and sexuality, the contributions of People of Color and other non-white ethnicities. We’ve discovered the overlooked skills of the aged and the disabled, the unusual and extraordinary ratiocinations of people who are neuro-atypical. The next generation of authors are exploring vast new landscapes of possibility — places to explore and discover ways of being human previously unconsidered.

It’s not that SF CAN explore those things, but that SF SHOULD explore those things he seems to think. Forget exploring the stars or asking “What if we’re not alone in the universe?” Nah, we’re alone, so let’s spend all our speculative energies on exploring our own bad selves. He grudgingly admits that while we have probes going past Pluto, “some of our most ambitious authors are turning their attention to a different frontier —exploring the workings of the human soul.” I suppose our navels give us much more instantaneous gratification than the stars. But really, that kind of narcissism is only interesting to the narcissist.

And at this point, we can see where the train leaves the tracks, because he switches from talking about science fiction, to the science fiction community, while trying to carry the same points. He talks about the changes in the SF Community from all these new folks of diverse backgrounds showing up. The only problem with this theory is that they have always been here. There’s a case of DoubleThink going on here when the same folks who like to claim Mary Shelley as one of the first female authors of Science Fiction, and then set it out there as if women are something new, and even more patronizing when they act as if their side’s genuflecting to Feminism is somehow responsible for their appearance. No, this is not a change. Try reading some C.L. Moore and realize that not only have women been in SF all along, they have been awesome.

Likewise with minority writers. The publishing world is, or at least was, the ultimate meritocracy. Since most of the business was conducted by mail, a publisher had no clue about the racial background of an author. Bias was eliminated through the medium of the Manila envelope. It takes very little research to find out that Black authors have been writing science fiction since the turn of the century. No, not this century, the previous one. Likewise for Gay authors, an obvious example being from the previous list, Samuel R. Delany. He was first published in 1962. That’s FIFTY FIVE years ago. This “change” Gerrold is touting really is nothing new.

Do you think there’s much chance that David Gerrold will be stunned to learn a gay author wrote sf in the Sixties?

(14) TURNOVER AT CASTALIA HOUSE BLOG. Jeffro Johnson is leaving the Castalia House blog. Contributor Morgan Holmes will take charge. Culture warrior Johnson said in his farewell post —

I remember when Sad Puppies first came to my attention. Upon reading the most vilified author of the whole crop– Vox Day, of course– I saw a nominated story that’s worst fault could only be that it was explicitly Christian. Looking up the publishing house it was produced at, I found a manifesto stating their goal to restore fantasy and science fiction to more what it was like when it was written by Tolkien and Howard. (And yeah, I had no idea how the person that wrote that could possibly think that a pulp writer like Robert E. Howard could be anywhere on par with J. R. R. Tolkien. And even more ironically, I couldn’t imagine how a “Campbellian Revolution” they claimed to want could be anything other than good.)

…So much is happening in the wider scene today that I can barely keep up with even a portion of it. Along with that, I find that areas of my life outside of gaming and fiction have increasingly laid greater and greater claims to my time. And while I wish I could do all the things that I can think of that could really capitalize on everything that’s developed here… I’m afraid I instead have to admit that I’ve run with all of this about as far as I can.

It’s a tough thing to do, but I think it’s the right thing for me at this time. So I’m handing over editorship of Castalia House blog to Morgan Holmes, who has been writing about classic fantasy and science fiction here almost as long as I have. (Good luck, man!)

(15) ONE THING PEOPLE SEEM TO AGREE ABOUT. On National Review Online, Heather Wilhelm, in “The Surprising Joy of Stranger Things”. praises the show for being “a good, non-angry, non-political TV show.”

The show features “a prelapsarian world of walkie-talkies, landlines, and suburban kids left free to roam wherever they want on their bicycles,” wrote Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker last year. Or, as Ross Duffer told Rolling Stone: “We were the last generation to have the experience of going out with our friends to the woods or the train tracks and the only way our parents could connect with us was to say, ‘It’s time for dinner.’” That world is largely gone, and with it, many childhood adventures. The image of a freewheeling kid on a bicycle, so integral to iconic films such as E.T. — Matt and Ross Duffer make no secret of drawing inspiration from classic ’80s blockbusters — is also integral to Stranger Things. Tooling around town or in the local woods on a bike is almost diametrically opposed to most widely approved childhood activities today, which tend to involve hyper-organized and ludicrously time-consuming team sports that seem purposely designed to torture kids and parents alike. Tooling around town or in the local woods on a bike is almost diametrically opposed to most widely approved childhood activities today. But given free rein on their bikes in and around the town of Hawkins, the kids of Stranger Things can meet up, explore, barrel through the forest, investigate baffling occurrences, and evade a posse of bad guys from a sinister government agency gone awry. That would be the Hawkins National Laboratory, a hulking structure nestled deep in the midwestern woods, packed to the gills with mysteries. According to the Duffer brothers, it was inspired mostly by “bizarre experiments we had read about taking place in the Cold War.”

(16) HERDING CATS. Camestros Felapton expanded his survey of animals in sff blogs (“Blogstrology”) to include one more —

Rocket Stack Rank www.rocketstackrank.com is interesting because the animals mentioned would be more determined by their incidence in short fiction. Overall low frequencies and RSR has no presence on the otter or goose dimensions. Wolf-Rabbit-Cat blog – “Cat” strongly assisted by reviews of the works of Cat Rambo.

Goat has a presence but is just shy of the top 3.

(17) GLASGOWROK. Apparently he’s a riot pronouncing the word “bairn” — “Jeff Goldblum Answers Scottish Themed Questions About the End of the World Posed by Wee Claire”.

While promoting his new film Thor: Ragnarok, the wonderfully affable Jeff Goldblum sat down with Wee Claire of the BBC Scotland show The Social to answer a few Scottish-themed questions about the end of the world.

 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Time Travel in Fiction Rundown” on YouTube is a look at how lots of movies and Ender’s Game and Harry Potter and the Prisomer of Azkaban handle the time travel theme.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Bill Burns, Kim Huett, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

The Underground Railroad Wins Pulitzer Prize

Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad has won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The citation says Whitehead’s book was chosen “For a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”

As the publisher describes the story:

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

The Pulitzer Prize, worth $15,000, goes to “distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.”

The winner was determined by a jury composed of Eric Banks (Chair), Director, New York Institute for the Humanities, New York University; Lan Samantha Chang, Director and May Brodbeck Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, University of Iowa; Mary Ann Gwinn, Book Editor, Seattle Times.

Overcoming a historic mainstream bias, in the past two decades speculative fiction has contended for the Pulitzer several times. In 2016 Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble: Stories was one of two finalists, while past winners have included The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (2007) and The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (2001).

Pixel Scroll 9/19/16 Scroll Like A Pixel Day

(1) OUT OF STEAM. Southern California will be without one of its Halloween traditions this year, and probably for the future. “Ghost Train Cancelled by Los Angeles Live Steamers Board of Directors”. The Griffith Park model steam railroad center will not be giving rides or decorating for Halloween. Jay Carsman, a members of LA Live Steamers, told the Theme Park Adventure blog the reasons.

“The LA Live Steamers Ghost Train’s popularity finally outgrew our volunteer club’s ability to manage it,” said Carsman. “Of course, there were other issues too. For 2015 [sic], we really did not plan to have a Ghost Train at all because of the water pipeline project underway on Zoo Drive. The pipe was huge and due to the tunnel boring and the collapse of part of the old pipe, a fairly long stretch of our railroad began to sink in the ground. Just a few weeks before Halloween 2015 [sic], the city’s contractor for the pipe project shored up the mess and injected cement into the ground to stop the sinking. We went ahead and did the Ghost Train but everything was very rushed and stressful. We managed to do it, but the small group of volunteers who really made it happen were exhausted.

“Compounding the problem for future Halloween Ghost Trains were some financial issues, the city advising that our Ghost Train had become a major safety issue for the park due to the crowds, traffic on Zoo Drive, and parking issues,” stated Carsman. Last, they said absolutely no more flames, torches, and exposed hazardous electrical wiring. Then there was the continuing problem of the scale-model railroad is just not designed for such concentrated heavy use. The trains are models, not amusement park machines and the track is a very small scaled-down version of real train track. Carrying ten or fifteen thousand people on the little railroad during a 10-day period is just brutal for such small machines….”

ghost-train-2015_8456

(2) MIDAMERICON II PHOTOS AT FANAC.ORG. They’ve started a photo album for MidAmericon 2 at Fanac.org. “So far there are 42 photos up, most of them courtesy of Frank Olynyk.”

Shots of the Guests of Honor and Toastmaster are here.

(3) AWARD PHOTO. This year Orbital Comics in London beat off fierce competition to win the Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. James Bacon who seems to collect opinions on good comic shops around the world took the photo and said; “First time at Orbital Comics since the win. The shop embodies an awful lot of what I consider to be just right in comic shops. Huge amount of small press, great events and a gallery, with a lovely attitude, and Karl and his team really deserve it.”

Spirit of Comics Retailer Award

Spirit of Comics Retailer Award

(4) FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T HEARD ENOUGH. Dave Truesdale appeared on the SuperversiveSF podcast today. He gives his version of the notorious MAC II panel beginning immediately after the intros.

“[The] theme of my opening remarks….was that science fiction is not for snowflakes, those people who are perpetually offended or microaggressed at every turn, these people are nothing but, they are intellectually shallow emotionally stunted thumb-sucking crybabies who are given validation by such organisations or platforms as the Incident Report Team at Worldcon, or places they can go such as safe rooms at WisCon or other safe places around the internet or social media. Science fiction is not the place for these people because SF is part of the arts and the arts should be always one of the most freeform places for expression and thought and instances of being provocative and controversial there should be. They have invaded science fiction to the point where we are not seeing the sort of fiction,, short fiction at least, any more that we used to, we are not seeing the provocative controversial stuff…”

A bit later he comments on the specifics of his expulsion

“…95% of the audience were probably somewhere along the snowflake spectrum and it was just anathema to them so they went crying to the IRT (the Incident Reporting Team) and a one-sided version of what happened got me expelled from the convention and I think it was a travesty that I never got to give my side and it was more or less just a kangaroo court and I think it was just abominable and set a very bad precedent for future Worldcons and just fandom at conventions in general”

(5) EXPULSIONS THROUGHOUT FANHISTORY. Alec Nevala-Lee, in “The Past Through Tomorrow”, discusses Dave Truesdale’s conduct at MidAmeriCon II, and ends by comparing it with the “Great Exclusion Act” at the first Worldcon.

Afterward, one of the other participants shook my hand, saying that he thought that I did a good job, and essentially apologized for taking over the discussion. “I don’t usually talk much,” he told me, “but when I’m on a panel like this, I just can’t stop myself.”

And this turned out to be a prophetic remark. The next day, the very same participant was expelled from the convention for hijacking another panel that he was moderating, using his position to indulge in a ten-minute speech on how political correctness was destroying science fiction and fantasy. I wasn’t there, but I later spoke to another member of that panel, who noted dryly that it was the first time she had ever found herself on the most controversial event of the weekend. Based on other accounts of the incident, the speaker—who, again, had been nothing but polite to me the day before—said that the fear of giving offense had made it hard for writers to write the same kinds of innovative, challenging stories that they had in the past. Inevitably, there are those who believe that his expulsion simply proved his point, and that he was cast out by the convention’s thought police for expressing an unpopular opinion. But that isn’t really what happened. As another blogger correctly observes, the participant wasn’t expelled for his words, but for his actions: he deliberately derailed a panel that he was supposed to moderate, recorded it without the consent of the other panelists, and planned the whole thing in advance, complete with props and a prepared statement. He came into the event with the intention of disrupting any real conversation, rather than facilitating it, and the result was an act of massive discourtesy. For a supposed champion of free speech, he didn’t seem very interested in encouraging it. As a result, he was clearly in violation of the convention’s code of conduct, and his removal was justified.

(6) BAD WOLF. Bertie MacAvoy had a science fictional encounter this weekend.

Seeing the Tardis is always unexpected:

This weekend I drove to the nearest town for some Thai take-out. As I passed down the aisle of cars I saw a dark blue van on the other side of the row. It had decals on the top of its windows. They read: POLICE CALL BOX. Carrying my tubs of soup and cardboard boxes of food, I crossed over. Each rear door had a magnetic sticker on it, such as are used by people to signify that theirs is a company car. These said SAINT JOHN’S AMBULANCE SERVICE and all the rest of the usual Tardis markings. On the rearmost window had been scrawled in white paint: BAD WOLF….

(7) INFLUENTIAL BOOKS. The Washington Posts’s Nora Krug, getting ready for the Library of Congress National Book Festival next weekend, asked writers “What book–or books–influenced you most?”  Here is Kelly Link’s response:

Kelly Link s books include “ Stranger Things Happen ” and “ Pretty Monsters .” Her latest collection, “ Get in Trouble: Stories ,” was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist:

The short-story collection “Not What You Expected,” by Joan Aiken, is one of the most magical of all the books I found at the Coral Gables public library during one of my many childhood moves. I checked it out on my library card over and over. In it were stories about dog ghosts, unusual harps, curses and phones that could connect you to the past. Aiken could put a whole world into a 10-page story, and she was funny as well as terrifying. She made the act of storytelling feel limitless, liberating, joyful.

(8) LOSE THESE TROPES. Fond as we are of the number five, consider “Marc Turner with Five Fantasy Tropes That Should Be Consigned To History” for The Speculative Herald.

…Having said that, here are five tropes that I’d be happy never to see again. (Please note, I’m not suggesting that any book that contains these tropes is “bad” or “unimaginative”; I’m simply saying that I would be less inclined to read it.)

  1. Prophecies

When I was a teen, it seemed every other fantasy book I read featured a prophecy. You know the sort of thing: “The Chosen One will claim the Sword of Light and defeat the Dark Lord”, or “Upon the death of three kings, the world will be plunged into Chaos”. Now maybe it’s just me, but if I foresaw the precise set of circumstances that would bring about the end of all things, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to share it with the world. You can guarantee that somewhere a Dark Lord is listening in and saying, “Well, that is interesting.”

And why is it that whoever makes these prophecies never sees clearly enough to be able to provide a complete picture? It’s never an entirely useful prophecy. There’s always room for misinterpretation so the author can throw in a twist at the end.

Plus, there’s so much scope for abuse. It’s a wonder the bad guys don’t have fun with prophecies more often. “Ah, yes, paradise on earth is just one step away. All you have to do is destroy that kingdom over there. What’s that you say? If you attack, you’ll leave your border with my Evil Empire undefended? Purely a coincidence, I assure you.” *Whistles innocently*

(9) GRAVELINE OBIT. Duane E. Graveline (1931-2016), a doctor who did pioneering research in space medicine, and was briefly a NASA astronaut, died September 5. According to the New York Times:

In 1965, Duane E. Graveline, a doctor who did pioneering research in space medicine, was awarded one of the most coveted jobs the government can bestow: astronaut. But he resigned less than two months later without ever being fitted for a spacesuit, let alone riding a rocket into space. His tenure is believed to be the shortest of anyone in the astronaut program, a NASA spokeswoman said.

Dr. Graveline cited “personal reasons” for his resignation. In fact, NASA officials later said, he had been forced out because his marriage was coming apart and the agency, worried about tarnishing its image at a time when divorce was stigmatized, wanted to avoid embarrassment.

Dr. Graveline, who married five more times and became a prolific author but whose later career as a doctor was marred by scandal, died on Sept. 5 at 85 in a hospital near his home in Merritt Island, Fla.

In later years, Dr. Graveline continued to consult with NASA and wrote 15 books, including memoirs, science fiction novels and works detailing his research into side effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which he blamed for his own medical decline.

Graveline also was a self-published science fiction author with numerous works available through his website.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 19, 1961 — On a return trip from Canada, while in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Betty and Barney Hill claimed to have been abducted for two hours by a UFO. After going public with their story, the two gained worldwide notoriety. The incident is the first fully documented case of an alleged alien abduction.
  • September 19, 2000 — The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel by Michael Chabon about the glory years of the American comic book, is published on this day in 2000. The book went on to win the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

(11) TODAY IN PIRACY. It’s “Talk Like  Pirate Day” and if you show up at Krispy Kreme and talk or dress like a pirate you can get a dozen free doughnuts.

Customers who do their best pirate voice get a free glazed donut. Dress like a pirate and you get a free dozen glazed donuts.

To qualify for the free dozen, customers must wear three pirate items like a bandana or eye patch.

If you’re not willing to go that far, but still want to get the free dozen, there is another option: Customers can digitally dress like a pirate through Krispy Kreme Snapchat pirate filter. Just be sure to show the photo to a team member

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 19, 1928 — Adam West
  • Born September 19, 1933  — David McCallum in 1933. His was in arguably the best Outer Limits episode, The Sixth Finger. And then, of course, he was in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

(13) READING WITHOUT TURNING A PAGE. M.I.T. uses radiation to read closed books reports Engadget.

There are some books that are simply too delicate to crack open — the last thing you want to do is destroy an ornate medieval Bible simply because you’re curious about its contents. If MIT has its way, though, you won’t have to stay away. Its scientists have crafted a computational imaging system that can read the individual pages of a book while it’s closed. Their technology scans a book using terahertz radiation, and relies on the tiny, 20-micrometer air gaps between pages to identify and scan those pages one by one. A letter interpretation algorithm (of the sort that can defeat captchas) helps make sense of any distorted or incomplete text.

(14) EMMY NOTES. Steven H Silver lists all the Emmy Award winners of genre interest at SF Site News. And he sent along this summary to File 770:

As I noted in my coverage of the Emmy Awards, with their nine wins earlier this week and their three wins last night, Game of Thrones now has the record for the most Emmy wins for a scripted prime time series with 38 (it took the record from Frasier, which has 37).  The record for most Emmys of any type seems to be Saturday Night Live, with 43 (including Kate McKinnon’s win this year).  It took GOT only six seasons to rack up that total, Frasier took 11, and SNL took 41 years.

(15) ALAN MOORE TALKS TO NPR ABOUT HIS NEW PROJECT. The writer of Watchmen is writing a book (without pictures) based on his hometown: “In ‘Jerusalem,’ Nothing You’ve Ever Lost Is Truly Gone”.

Recently, Moore said he’s stepping back from comics to focus on other projects — like his epic new novel, Jerusalem. It’s full of angels, devils, saints and sinners and visionaries, ghost children and wandering writers, all circling his home town of Northampton, England.

Moore still lives in Northampton, about an hour north of London. He rarely leaves, so I went there to meet him.

“This is holy ground for me,” he told me as we stood on a neglected grassy strip by a busy road. It doesn’t look like holy ground — nothing’s here now except a few trees, and a solitary house on the corner. But it wasn’t always this way.

“This is it,” Moore says, pointing to the grown-over remains of a little path behind the corner house. “This is the alley that used to run behind our terrace. This is where I was born.”

(16) OWN HARRY POTTER’S CUBBYHOLE. The house used to stand in for the Dursleys’ house in the Harry Potter films is on the market.

Until he went to Hogwarts, Harry was forced to live there with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and his cousin Dudley, and returned there every summer.

The house in Bracknell, Berkshire, rather than the fictive Little Whinging dreamt up by J. K. Rowling, but is otherwise as it appeared in the films.

On the market for £475,000, it has three bedrooms, enough for a married couple, their over-indulged son, and their over-indulged son’s second bedroom. Whether there is room for a child to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs is unclear.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Steven H Silver, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint and Cadbury Moose.]

 

The Big Read Gets Makeover

Big Read logoThere’s been a changing of the guard in The Big Read program, with sf/f novels being added and subtracted.

Over the past ten years, the National Endowment for the Arts has supported more than 1,200 NEA Big Read projects, with 4.2 million Americans taking part in community-wide programs that each explore a single book.

On the new list of titles available from the program, Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link and Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel have been added, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin remains, while Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury has been dropped.

An NEA spokesperson’s introduction of the new list emphasized the authors’ availability for interaction.

When author Kelly Link was a kid, she owned a pet boa constrictor named “Baby.” Celeste Ng had dreams of becoming an astronaut and Kao Kalia Yang loved reading Little House on the Prairie. Before they became writers, Ron Carlson was a fry cook, Emily St. John Mandel was a professional dancer, and Yu Hua was a dentist who wasn’t too fond of the inside of anyone’s mouth. Alejandro Zambra records himself reading his entire books aloud (he’s lucky they’re short); Claudia Rankine wrote a play performed on a bus ride through the South Bronx; Joy Harjo plays the ukulele; and Kevin Young, on occasion, watches Judge Judy on CBS. Books by these authors will soon be added to the NEA Big Read as part of a new vision for the program to celebrate its tenth anniversary, as well as the NEA’s 50th anniversary. Can you imagine what fun communities around the country will have chatting with them?

Titles Available for 2017-2018 NEA Big Read Programming (new titles in BOLD):

  • In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
  • Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  • Five Skies by Ron Carlson
  • Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
  • How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001 by Joy Harjo
  • Sun, Stone, and Shadows, edited by Jorge Hernández
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
  • Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  • The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick
  • True Grit by Charles Portis
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
  • In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
  • The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang
  • Book of Hours by Kevin Young
  • To Live by Yu Hua, translated from the Chinese by Michael Berry
  • Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell

Pixel Scroll 4/19/16 You’ve Lost That Scrollin’ Feelin’

(1) OPENING DAY. The PKDFest is three days long — I posted about the Friday and Saturday sessions at Cal State Fullerton. The party starts Thursday, April 28 on another campus — at UC Irvine.

PKD IN OC CROP

Philip K. Dick in the OC: Virtually Real, Really Virtual

Thursday, April 28, 2016, 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Humanities Gateway 1030)

Philip K. Dick spent the last decade of his life from 1972 to 1982 in Orange County, having fled the Bay Area convinced he was the target of various malevolent forces, ranging from governmental agencies to religious groups. In Orange County, PKD experienced the anonymity of everyday life in suburbia. He also experienced a divine vision that, as he explained in later writings, permitted him to glimpse the “trans-temporal constancy” of the universe. During his decade in Orange County, he produced some of his most enduring and enigmatic works, including novels like A Scanner Darkly and VALIS that reflect a pervasive sense of paranoia and also PKD’s attempts to make sense of his life-altering spiritual experience.

Schedule:

Opening Remarks & Welcome – 10:30am

  • Jonathan Alexander

10:45am-12:00pm

  • Interviewing Phil, Charles Platt
  • PKD in Perspective, Gregg Rickman
  • PKD on the Couch, Barry Spatz

Lunch Break – 12:00pm-1:00pm

Living with Phil – 1:00pm-2:00pm

  • Tessa Dick, Grania Davis, Gregory Benford (moderator)

Visualizing Phil (in the High Castle and Otherwise) – 2:00pm-3:00pm

  • Sherryl Vint, Jonathan Alexander, Antoinette LaFarge

Coffee break – 3:00pm-3:15pm

PKD and Privacy – 3:15pm-4:30pm

  • David Brin, Gregory Benford

Closing Reception – 4:30pm

Please RSVP to icruse@uci.edu to confirm your attendance.

(2) B.C. Things Kelly Link did before being announced as a Pulitzer finalist yesterday now appear in a strange new light….

(3) VENDORS IN SPACE. Russ Ault told Facebook readers merchants are getting a bum deal at Worldcons.

Some of us out here in the world of convention merchants have, for some time now, been getting increasingly disenchanted with the opportunity presented by the typical Worldcon. (For those unfamiliar, that’s the annual “World Science Fiction Convention”, held in a different place each year, and nominally staffed and run by a different group each year as well.) In a space that is typically similar to that occupied by a Wizard World event, at a cost of more than twice as much per attendee, they end up hosting a crowd that is just 10% to 25% of the size of the typical media or comic con – but the rates they want for vendor space (when you include the price of the separate membership) end up being commensurate with the worst of the WW shows in terms of per-live-body-square-foot results. An eight-foot table and one membership will cost you over $400, with the prospect of having a crowd of as few as 3500 to 4000 people. (Compare that to a 10×10 booth for $1500 with a delivered head count that’s typically in the area of 20,000 – which is not really a very good deal either.)

And they wonder why we bristle when they say things like “The Worldcon doesn’t owe the dealers anything.”

(4) ARTIFICIAL CHARM. Hugh Hancock foresees the “Rise of the Trollbot” in a guest post on Charles Stross’ blog.

… In “Accelerando”, Charlie posited the idea of a swarm of legal robots, creating a neverending stream of companies which exchange ownership so fast they can’t be tracked.

It’s rather clear to me that the same thing is about to happen to social media. And possibly politics.

What makes me so sure?

Microsoft’s Tay Chatbot. Oh, and the state of the art in Customer Relationship Management software….

2: On The Internet, No-one Knows Their Friend Is A Dog.

In many ways, the straightforward trollswarm approach is the least threatening use of this technology. A much more insidious one is to turn the concept on its head – at least initially – and optimise the bots for friendliness.

Let’s say you wish to drive a particular group of fly-fishers out of the fishing community online for good.

Rather than simply firing up a GPU instance and directing it to come up with the world’s best fly-fishing insults, fire it up and direct it to befriend everyone in the fly-fishing community. This is eminently automatable: there are already plenty of tools out there which allow you to build up your Twitter following in a semi-automated manner (even after Twitter clamped down on “auto-following”), and Tay was already equipped to post memes. A decent corpus, a win condition of follows, positive-sentiment messages and RTs, and a bot could become a well-respected member of a social media community in months.

THEN turn the bot against your enemies. Other humans will see the fight too. If your bot’s doing a half-decent job – and remember, it’s already set up to optimise for RTs – real humans, who have actual power and influence in the community, will join in. They may ban the people under attack from community forums, give them abuse offline, or even threaten their jobs or worse.

For even more power and efficiency, don’t do this with one bot. One person starting a fight is ignorable. Twenty, fifty or a hundred respected posters all doing it at once – that’s how things like Gamergate start.

(And of course, the choice of persona for the bots, and how they express their grievances, will be important. Unfortunately we already have a large corpus of information on how to craft a credible narrative and cause people to feel sympathy for our protagonist – storytelling. If the bot-controller has a decent working knowledge of “Save The Cat” or “Story”, that’ll make the botswarm all the more effective…)

(5) A NUMERICAL LACK. From the Dictionary of Fantastic Vocabulary, ”a compendium of imaginary words and their uses,”comes —

Anquintan, n.

a person without five

That’s what happens when someone uses double share!

(6) DO AS I SAY. Dr. Mauser says “Don’t Pirate Indies”. (But dude, your blog is named Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas!)

…. Now, I understand a bit of what’s going on, there’s an awful lot of piracy going on out there, and yeah, in strictest terms, virtually every picture you’ve got on your phone or hard drive that you didn’t take yourself is some kind of copyright violation. I’m not going to go down that puritan road. But let me go through the usual excuses and explain why they don’t apply to indy books….

But I’m broke! – No, you’re not, you just can’t prioritize, or childishly can’t manage your budget. We’re talking an e-book in the $2.99 to $5.99 range. Hell, Comic books are about that much apiece these days. You just bought the latest video game for enough to buy TEN eBooks. You could stock a library for what you spent on that Con. Give up ONE Latte? (Furries are particularly notorious for pleading poverty when their favorite artists put out a $10 portfolio, then drop $50 for a single commission of their personal character in some sexual position – go fig.)

Hey, I’m doing you a favor, it’s free publicity! – Bullshit. In my friend’s case, it’s costing him plenty – hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Free publicity is writing reviews, having discussions, all that stuff they call “Word of Mouth”, and actually BUYING the book so that its Amazon Rankings go up. If you actually Love the author’s work, why are you destroying it?

(7) CAT’S PICTURES. Cat Rambo tells “How I Use Instagram”.

Still working frantically on the update for the Creating an Online Presence for Writers book, plus prepping for this weekend’s online class. One big change since the last version is Instagram‘s rocket upward in popularity. Here in 2016, it is the number two social media network in number of users, second only after Facebook.

It lets you post pictures, often with some sort of caption, and see what other people are posting. Unlike Facebook, it doesn’t play fast and loose with what you see, but gives you a stream composed of everyone you’re following.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 19, 1987 — The Simpsons first aired on The Tracey Ullman Show.

(9) MORTALITY. Rachel Swirsky has revised her essay “On Writing and Mortality”. “It was originally published in 2011. I had recently had a death scare.”

A year or two ago, an article made the rounds which had asked a number of famous authors for ten pieces of writing advice. Some of the advice was irritating, some banal, some profound, and some amusing.

One piece of advice that got picked up and repeated was the idea that if you were working on a project, and found out that you had six weeks to live, if you were willing to set the project down then it was the wrong project for you to be writing.

I dislike that advice. It seems to come from the same place that makes writers say things like “a real writer has to write” or “any writers who can be discouraged should be.” (A convenient excuse for acting like a jerk.)

(10) GOOGLE BOOK SCANNING UPHELD. “Supreme Court rejects challenge to Google book-scanning project”. As David Klaus puts it, “The court says ‘to Hell with your ownership of the books you write.’”

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge by a group of authors who contend that Google’s massive effort to scan millions of books for an online library violates copyright law.

The Authors Guild and several individual writers have argued that the project, known as Google Books, illegally deprives them of revenue. The high court left in place an October 2015 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in favor of Google.

A unanimous three-judge appeals court panel said the case “tests the boundaries of fair use,” but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law.

The individual plaintiffs who filed the proposed class action against Google included former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, who wrote the acclaimed memoir “Ball Four.”

Several prominent writers, including novelist and poet Margaret Atwood and lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim, signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief backing the Authors Guild.

The authors sued Google, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc, in 2005, a year after the project was launched. A lower court dismissed the litigation in 2013, prompting the authors’ appeal.

(11) WICKED AUTOGRAPH. Abe Books has a special Something available for Bradbury fans.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. (SIGNED)

BRADBURY, Ray, [ Christopher Lee ].

Published by Simon & Schuster, New York, 1962 Second Edition. Hardback. Dust Jacket. (1962)

Used Hardcover Signed

…Signed presentation from the author on the front endpaper to Christopher Lee, ‘For Christopher Lee, who is Mr. Dark! With the admiration of his fan – Ray Bradbury, Mar. 21st 1964’. Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE,(1922–2015) was an English actor, singer, author, and World War II veteran. He was notably in ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ but is best known for his role as Count Dracula in a sequence of Hammer Horror films and later as Saruman in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy.

(12) SPOCK AT TRIBECA. Yahoo! Movies’ Seth Kelley has the story: “’For the Love of Spock’ Q&A Remembers Leonard Nimoy, Talks Future of ‘Star Trek’ Franchise”.

Adam Nimoy remembered his late father, Leonard, during a Q&A that followed a screening of his documentary “For The Love of Spock.” The discussion took place on Monday as part of the Tribeca Film Festival where the film first screened two days earlier.

Variety‘s Gordon Cox moderated the conversation, which also included Zachary Quinto, EP David Zappone and film critic and self-proclaimed Trekker Scott Mantz.

Adam Nimoy, who wrote and directed the film, said that he had plenty of material. “A lot of things got left on the cutting room floor, unfortunately,” he said. But he added that his father would have approved of the final cut. “I think he would be very pleased and proud.”

(13) IMMURED. “Elizabeth Banks Unrecognizable As Power Rangers Reboot’s Rita Repulsa” says Yahoo! News.

People magazine has lifted the lid on 2017?s live action ‘Power Rangers’ reboot by revealing the film’s villain Rita Repulsa as played – beneath layers of costume and prosthetic make up – by Elizabeth Banks.

The ‘Hunger Games’ star is channelling her dark side to play the mean green witch – her first villain role – describing the character as “a modern and edgy re-imagining of the original Rita”.

(14) CROWDSOURCED BOWIE TRIBUTE. Unbound’s project Fill Your Heart: Writers on Bowie will be an anthology of writers inspired by the musician.

Our mourning isn’t over, but we want to write, we’ve got to write: to him, for him, about him. Fill Your Heart: Writers On Bowie is an anthology by some of our greatest contemporary writers. It is an anthology celebrating David Bowie with creativity. Whether a short story, a poem, a piece of memoir, psychogeograhy or creative non-fiction, these pieces will be personal responses to Bowie, to his shaping work and influence.

Edited by the novelist Tiffany Murray, this will be an important celebration, possibly a strange, mad celebration, but it is for anyone who was and is inspired by David Bowie and his work.

Fill Your Heart will be creating something new, a bold anthology that in some way shows us all how Bowie sparked each generation’s imaginations: how he made us.

Let’s spark together.

The collection is 11% funded so far.

(15) GUARDIANS. A Russian Marvel-esque superhero flick. It’s called Zaschitniki (Russian) or Guardians (English).

Set during the Cold War, a secret organization named “Patriot” gathered a group of Soviet superheroes, altering and augmenting the DNA of four individuals, in order to defend the homeland from supernatural threats. The group includes representatives of the different nationalities of the Soviet Union, which each one of them have long been hiding their true identity. In hard times, they settled down to business and gather to defend their homeland.

 

[Thanks to Kendall, JJ, Will R., Gregory Benford, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]