Pixel Scroll 6/14/16 The Scroll Above The Port Was The Color of a Pixel, Encoded in a Dead Website

(1) BIG CON BUSINESS. At ICv2 Rob Salkowitz analyzes “Three Convention Trends We Could Do Without”, art scammers, pay to (cos)play and –

Indifference to fan experience. The rising prominence of cons means more and more families and individuals plan vacations and big-ticket trips around these experiences. The expectations are higher, and more at stake for the business in delivering great experiences.

Naturally, each year, there are always a few bad cons, and bad moments at good cons. These are complex events to organize, and well-meaning folks can get in over their heads. I find it’s best to never attribute to malevolence what can adequately be explained by incompetence.

But as the industry becomes more competitive and conventions become more templated, it’s easy to see how organizers can get so focused on the “best practices” for separating fans from their money that they lose sight of the big picture: that this whole business is built on fun and passion.

The more shows become dependent on tightly-booked celebrities, the more likely that some fans will get the runaround. It’s already astounding to me how much some fans will put up with – and spend – to get a few seconds and a photo with a famous media personality. But when cons lose control of this process, either because they are not following through on little details like whether the photos actually came out properly, or because they are having a behind-the-scenes business dispute with their talent, as happened at Houston’s Space City Comic Con a few weeks ago, it’s the fans who suffer.

(2) THREE BODY. Carl Slaughter delivers another awesome interview: “Liu Cixin, The 3 Body Problem, and the Growth of SF in China”. Where? Here!

CARL SLAUGHTER: Why was science fiction not taken seriously in China until several years ago?

LIU CIXIN: Actually, the 80s was a peak period for Chinese science fiction.  Some books during that period sold as many as 4 million copies.  When public officials deemed parts of science fiction socially unhealthy, publishers went through a slump.  In the 21st century, science fiction in China made a comeback.  This might be related to China’s modernization.  Modernization focuses people’s attention on the future.  They see the future as full of opportunities, as well as crisis and challenges.  This set the stage for the development of science fiction and an interest in this literary form.

(3) GAMER. In “Guest Post: Better Sci-Fi Through Gaming, by Yoon Ha Lee”, the author talks about growing up gaming, for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Not that I needed writing a novel an excuse to play games, mind you. But it made for useful background. One of the major characters in the novel basically is a game designer; he comes  from the Shuos faction, which likes using games and game design in its pedagogy. It’s something I can trace back to my excellent 8th grade teacher Mr. Capin, who taught social studies and made use of simulations. I’ll never forget the Middle East sim, in which the class was divided up into different nations. I was assigned to “Israel.” Mr. Capin also played the role of the USA, and from time to time, the “USA” would drop “foreign aid” on us. The other groups hated us instantly. Another time, we did the “Roman Senate,” with Mr. Capin playing the role of “Julius Caesar.” He gave me the opportunity to try to stop him, so long as I didn’t spoil what was to come. I was insufficiently persuasive, and he assassinated me. (I have never been prouder to have a teacher announce, “Senator Yoon is dead.” God knows, that’s the closest I’ll ever come to a government position!) It was very visceral, and I’ve never forgotten how vivid the lessons became in that format.

(4) GHOSTBUSTED. “Doc” Geressey, a fixture at cons in NC, SC, and VA for several years, known for having a very exact Ghostbusters replica vehicle and dressing up as a Ghostbuster with friends, has been charged with soliciting a child on social media.

The Gaston Gazette reports:

Michael “Doc” Robert Geressy, 36, of South New Hope Road, has been charged with soliciting a child for sex act by a computer and appearing to meet a child.

Detectives with the Lincolnton Police Department conducted an undercover sting operation involving Geressy. An officer posed as a 14-year-old child on social media. Geressy reportedly discussed meeting to engage in sexual activity.

When Geressy arrived at the predetermined location and was arrested, he was wearing a black suit, tie and sunglasses, police said, like characters in the movie, “Men in Black.” Geressy showed up driving a 1987 Ford Crown Victoria that is a replica of the car used in the movie, according to reports. The vehicle had emergency light equipment as well as after-market toggle switches to replicate the car seen in the movie, police say.

Another member of The Carolina Ghostbusters told the reporter that the group disbanded a year ago, however, they were advertised as appearing at XCON World in Myrtle Beach last month.

carolina_ghostbusters

(5) MESZAROS OBIT. Michu Meszaros, an actor who brought the titular alien in ’80s sitcom “Alf” to life, has died reports Variety. He was 76.

I had no idea – I thought Alf was a puppet….

(6) TEMERAIRE. Kate Nepveu reviews the series finale: “The Temeraire Series Sticks the Landing: Non-Spoiler Review of League of Dragons”, at Tor.com.

Let me put the conclusion up front: League of Dragons sticks the landing, and if you like the series overall, you should read it. It handles gracefully the general challenges of concluding a long series, and it has lots of the best parts of the series to date, and not that much of the worst.

The general challenges are, by this point, fairly well known. The final book of a long series has to address long-standing problems, without being boringly obvious; surprise the reader, without being unfair; maintain continuity, without letting past decisions unduly constrict the story; and give the reader a satisfying sense of where the important characters wind up, without overstaying its welcome.

I think League of Dragons does well on all these fronts.

(7) A PG-RATED DRAGON. Disney dropped the official trailer for Pete’s Dragon today.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 14, 1938 — The first Superman comic book — Action Comic No. 1 — was published

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • June 14, 1909 – Burl Ives, the voice of Gepetto in a Pinocchio TV movie, and Sam the Snowman in Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, who also had a role in an episode of Night Gallery.
  • June 14, 1949 – Harry Turtledove

(10) WHY WAIT FOR THE MOVIE? Based on viewing the trailer, BBC popular culture writer Nicholas Barber gives the Ghostbusters remake a thumb’s-down, but only for the “right” reasons: “Why the sexists get Ghostbusters wrong”.

Fast-forward 32 years, and it doesn’t look as if much of that innovation and counter-cultural grubbiness has made it into the new film. From what we have seen of it so far, Feig’s version will be a slavish copy of Reitman’s – right down to the cameos by Slimer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man – except with bright and shiny CGI replacing practical effects, and all-for-one togetherness replacing cynical opportunism. But the one thing it has got right is its casting. After all, the Ghostbusters were always meant to be unconventional underdogs. They were meant to be the last people you would expect to save the world from demonic forces – just as the film as a whole was meant to challenge your preconceptions of what a summer blockbuster could be. And one ingenious way to give both the new film and its protagonists that pioneering freshness is to have women in the lead roles.

(11) RADIANCE. Speculiction hosts Jesse Hudson’s “Review of Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente”.

Working with the art of filmmaking, the relationship between the fictional and the real, and Hollywood of old, Radiance is a novel that possesses every ounce of Valente’s literary awareness and fervor for language. Paul Di Filippo calls it “uncategorizable fantastika,” which is, in fact, a shortcut from Valente’s own more complex but accurate description: “a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery.” Dynamic to say the least, the milieu is never allowed to desiccate into simple retro-pulp homage, going further to tell a rich, multi-faceted tale of one woman’s life and legacy in Hollywood’s Golden Age—or what it would have been were the solar system alive with humanity.

(12) MONEY IN HAND. Buy a first edition of Logan’s Run, signed and decorated by Bill Nolan, from Captain Ahab’s Rare Books.

  1. Nolan, William F. and George Clayton Johnson. LOGAN’S RUN – INSCRIBED TO HERB YELLIN. New York: The Dial Press, 1967. First American Edition. First Printing. Octavo (23cm); red pebbled paper-covered boards, with titles stamped in black on spine; dustjacket; [10], 134pp. Inscribed by the author to his long-time friend and publisher on the half-title page: “A GEN-U-INE LOGAN 1ST!! / To Herb, with hand, and with friendship, Bill Nolan / June 4, ’80.” At the center of the page Nolan has drawn an open hand with crystal disc in red, blue, and black ink; he has also tipped a typed 41-line bio of himself (measuring 2.75″ x 3.5″) onto the opposite page. Pinpoint wear to spine ends and corners, with upper rear board corner gently tapped (though still sharp); very Near Fine. Dustjacket is unclipped (priced $3.95), lightly shelfworn, with a few short tears, shallow loss at crown, with a few small chips along edges of front panel; an unrestored, Very Good+ example.

Nolan’s best-known work, a novel which takes place “after a strange act of nuclear terrorism, forcing the remaining population into underground keeps; a youth culture takes over, instituting the dystopian rule that all those over twenty-one must be killed to combat overpopulation” (Encyclopedia of Science Fiction). Basis for Michael Anderson’s Oscar-nominated 1976 film, starring Michael York and Farrah Fawcett. Sargent, p.144.             $1,750.00

Logans Run nolan auto

(13) SIMAK FAN. The Traveler at Galactic Journey is excited about this recently-completed serial: “[June 14, 1961] Time is the simplest thing… (The Fisherman, by Clifford Simak)”.

If you’re a fan of Cliff’s, you know that he excels at writing these intensely personal stories, particularly when they have (as this one does) a rural tinge.  The former Fisherman’s transformation into something more than human is fascinating.  Blaine’s voyage of self-discovery and self-preservation is an intimate one, a slow journey with a growing and satisfying pay-off.  The pace drags a little at times, and Simak adopts this strange habit of beginning a good many of his sentences with the auxiliary words “for” and “and,” which lends an inexorable, detached tone to the proceedings.

Still, it’s an unique book, one that I suspect will contend for a Hugo this year.  It single-handedly kept Analog in three-star territory despite the relative poor quality of its short stories and science articles.

I won’t spoil things for The Traveler by blabbing about what else came out in 1961 if you won’t….

(14) THE SPY WHO SLAGGED ME. James Bond vs Austin Powers – Epic Rap Battles of History – Season 5.

[Thanks to Laura Haywood-Cory, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Liu Cixin, The 3 Body Problem, and the Growth of SF in China

Liu Cixin is China’s most famous science fiction author.  He has won the Galaxy, China’s version of the Hugo, 9 times.  His trilogy, “The 3 Body Problem,” won the Hugo and Galaxy for best novel and was nominated for a Nebula.  The story was first published as a series in Science Fiction World, China’s #1 science fiction magazine.  The English version was translated by Ken Liu and published by Tor.  A screen version, produced in China and starring Chinese A-listers, will be released in July.

Cixin Liu

Cixin Liu

CARL SLAUGHTER: Why was science fiction not taken seriously in China until several years ago?

LIU CIXIN: Actually, the 80s was a peak period for Chinese science fiction.  Some books during that period sold as many as 4 million copies.  When public officials deemed parts of science fiction socially unhealthy, publishers went through a slump.  In the 21st century, science fiction in China made a comeback.  This might be related to China’s modernization.  Modernization focuses people’s attention on the future.  They see the future as full of opportunities, as well as crisis and challenges.  This set the stage for the development of science fiction and an interest in this literary form.

CS: “The Three Body Problem” significantly contributed toward science fiction becoming legitimate and popular literature in China.  What is the appeal of the story to a broader audience?

LC: Many reasons.  “The Three Body Problem” describes a great crisis for the human race.  Namely an alien invasion.  The story is closely related to reality.  It discusses issues of morals and humanity, politics and cultures, from the perspective of universe, and also shows China’s current and future situation and the world’s perspective on space.  Part of the appeal of the story is that there’s never been a story like “The Three Body Problem” in China.  Also, past science fiction fans were teenagers and college students.  Now they are grown, have high social status and more discourse power, and can make a difference in promoting “The Three Body Problem” in social networking media.

CS: How did you develop a love for and cultivate an understanding of the science fiction genre in an age when there was little available to Chinese science fiction fans?

LC: My interest in science fiction is mainly from my interest in science, my curiosity about the universe and nature.  After being introduced to science fiction, I was fascinated with imaginable worlds and joined the first generation of science fiction fans.

CS: Your stories seem to consistently fit these patterns:  apocalyptic, macro structure, Sino-centric, scientist centric, and hard science.  Is that an accurate analysis?

LC: Science fiction is imaginative in ways other genres cannot be.  This is the main attraction of science fiction.  The end of the world and the macro structure you mentioned belong to this category.  I’ve always believed the science premise is one of the best elements of science fiction.  I use the science background to create the literary form of the beauty of science.  In my novels, scientists and science are prominent.  You mentioned Sino-centric.  My stories are Sino-centric because my audience is primarily Chinese readers and because I’m familiar with Chinese history and culture.  “The Three Body Problem” has a lot of Chinese elements, most of the people in the story are Chinese, and Chinese characters save the world.  But I believe in human-centric science fiction, not Chinese-centric science fiction.

CS: Is there a science fiction movement in China, with magazines, ebooks, podcasts, fan clubs, conventions, etc?

LC: Compared to English language science fiction, the percentage of fandom in China is relatively small, but active.  There are few Chinese science fiction magazines, Science Fiction World being the most influential.  China’s literature network is well developed.  Most science fiction stories in China are very long and serialized on the Internet.  There are a large number of science fiction fan clubs in China.  Most of them are on university campuses.  There are also some online groups.  There are many activities related to science fiction every year.  Mainly the Milky Way and Nebula awards.  The former is sponsored by Science Fiction World Magazine.  The latter is sponsored by the Chinese Science Fiction Association.  Large numbers of fans attend conferences.  There are also online forums.  “The Three Body Problem” has a reader forum.  All of the characters in the book have a profile on WeiBo.

CS: China is a big market for Hollywood and science fiction has been mainstream in America for some time.  What about Chinese produced science fiction movies and TV shows in China?  Is your screen industry starting to catch on to the potential science fiction market?

LC: Screen science fiction in China is not well developed.  Most movies are low budget and don’t have much impact.  Most science fiction movies watched by Chinese audiences come from Hollywood.  The highest grossing science fiction movies in Chinese markets are Hollywood movies.  But the situation is changing.  The domestic film and television industry see screen science fiction as having huge market potential.  On the other hand, producers, directors, and screenwriters lack experience with science fiction.  So Chinese screen science fiction is still in infancy.  If it wants to be an A industry, it has a long way to go.

CS: Is there a screen version of “The Three Body Problem” in the works?

LC: The first movie in the “Three Body Problem” trilogy finished shooting in March of last year and is in production.  The investment was huge and generated a lot of attention at home and abroad.

CS: What do you see in the future for print Chinese science fiction in China, print Chinese science fiction in the west, and print western science fiction in China?

LC: Since the 80s, China has been introduced to a large amount of foreign (mainly English) science fiction.  Some influential American science fiction has been translated and published in China.  The publication cycle has been greatly shortened.  For example, when stories win a Hugo/Nebula, they are soon after published in China.  Foreign publishing in China is still in infancy and quantity is tiny.  “The Three Body Problem” is the only Chinese science fiction novel published in English.  It won a Hugo.  Some Chinese writers have appeared in western magazines and websites.  There are 2 Chinese writers published in Nature.  In my opinion, science fiction is the most global literature because it deals with issues relevant to all races.  So I prefer English speaking science fiction fans read my novel because it’s science fiction, not because it’s “Chinese” science fiction.

Ken Liu and Cixin Liu at the Autograph Session during SFWA Nebula Weekend.

Ken Liu and Cixin Liu at the Autograph Session during SFWA Nebula Weekend.

CS: One of the translators for the English version of “The Three Body Problem” is Ken Liu.  He’s a very popular author in America.  I met him through a writing workshop and later interviewed him.  How did you meet him?

LC: I used to read the books written by Liu Yu Kun and I appreciated it very much.  The first time I met him was in the Nebula ceremony held in Beijing in 2013.  Since then, we have had many chances to communicate and cooperate because he is the translator of first and third “The Three Body Problem” novels.

CS: Are you planning to travel internationally to promote the English version of “The Three Body Problem”?  Will your American fans be able to meet you at a convention?  Will there an English website for “The Three Body Problem?”

LC: I carried out these kinds of activities in America in 2014.  I met many readers and science fiction writers in New York and Chicago and we had pleasant conversations.  Last year, I went to Turkey to promote “The Three Body Problem” in Turkish.  I am going to promote this book in Europe. There are 2 main websites of “The Three Body Problem.”  One is the English version; the other is the website which is made by film producer.  The latter is http://www.3body.com/

3 body poster

ENDNOTE

MIKE GLYER: Carl, I’ve seen the author’s name rendered as Cixin Liu and Liu Cixin. Which is right?

CARL SLAUGHTER: Both versions of the name are correct.  In Chinese culture, the family name is listed before the given name; in western culture, vice versa.  Thus, we English speakers call the translator of “The Three Body Problem” — and he calls himself —  Ken Liu.  When I tell my Chinese students that I interviewed China’s most famous science fiction author, I write “Liu Cixin” on the board; but when I tell them that I also interviewed his translator, I write “Ken Liu” on the board; same when I assigned my college translation majors several English science fiction stories, including “The Paper Menagerie,” as homework.

To make identification even more complicated, his name has 2 Chinese versions.  One written in simplified Hanzi, which is used on the mainland; one written in traditional Hanzi, which is still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.  BTW, the spelling with English letters is called Pinyin.  At the request of his American publicist, I submitted the interview through her; at the insistence of his Chinese publicist, his American publicist had to go through her.  Since I conducted the interview through 2 intermediaries, I’ve never actually corresponded with the author directly, so I’ve never seen how he signs his name.  Anyway, Wikipedia lists his name as Liu Cixin.

Pixel Scroll 5/12/16 The Pixels Scrolls Don’t See

(1) THE SICHUAN CHICKEN EMERGENCY. Last year’s Hugo-winning novelist has received a new honor — “Dinosaur relics named after science fiction writer Liu Cixin”.

A new kind of bird-footed dinosaur footprint was discovered in Gulin county, Southwest China’s Sichuan province and named for Chinese science-fiction writer Liu Cixin, to honor his contribution to raising public interest in science.

Liu, who was thrilled to hear the news, said that he has great interest in paleontology.

“It is like a science fiction we’re reading that the dinosaur in Gulin county was preserved so well for billions of years. It helps us travel back in time. I hope the relics could be studied and preserved well.”

(2) SUPERGIRL ADDS W, LEAVES BS BEHIND. Variety makes it official — “’Supergirl’ Lands at the CW for Season 2”.

After nearly two years of rumors, “Supergirl” is heading to the CW for its second season, Variety has learned….

At CBS, “Supergirl” averaged a 2.5 rating in adults 18-49 and 10.03 million viewers overall in Nielsen’s “live plus-7” estimates. It was CBS’ top-rated rookie drama this season in the demo, and was also its youngest-skewing drama with a median age of 55.6 — however, it was down from comedies in the Monday night timeslot last year.

The hotly anticipated crossover with “The Flash” on March 28 was a ratings hit for the CW, prompting the rumors to begin swirling once again that “Supergirl” would head over to the younger-skewing network, in order to nab a renewal. That episode, co-starring “Flash’s” Grant Gustin, averaged a 2.5 rating in 18-49 and 9.6 million total viewers in L+7 — the show’s best numbers in the second half of its run.

(3) KRYPTON. Vulture says Supergirl’s home planet is also going to be on the tube: “Syfy Orders Pilot for Krypton, a Show About Superman’s Grandpa Who Lives on a Planet That Definitely Isn’t Going to Explode Any Time Soon”.

And you thought Batman was the only DC Comics superhero who would get a TV show about what everyone around him was doing before he became interesting: THR reports that SyFy has ordered a pilot for Krypton, a Superman prequel from David S. Goyer set on the eponymous doomed planet. The series will follow Superman’s grandpa as he “fights to redeem his family’s honor and save his beloved world from chaos,” which is one task at which he is guaranteed to fail (because the world will blow up) and another that is a bit of a moot point (because, again, the world will blow up).

(4) GEMMELL VOTING STARTS TOMORROW. Voting on the longlists for 2016’s David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy (the Legend, Morningstar, and Ravenheart Awards) opens midday on Friday, May 13 and closes at midnight on Friday June 24.

The award’s Facebook page revealed there will be 48 nominations for the Legend Award, 6 for the Morningstar and 39 for the Ravenheart.

Voting on the shortlist opens at midday on Friday July 8 and closes at midnight on Friday August 19.

The presentation takes place at 8pm on Saturday September 24 at Fantasycon in Scarborough.

(5) MIND MELD. SFFWorld threw a lifeline to Rob B, whose Mind Meld installment needed a home after SF Signal went offline. The participants are N. E. White, Jonah Sutton-Morse, Yanni Kuznia, and Summer Brooks.

“MIND MELD: Recent SF/F/H You’ve Read & Enjoyed About Which You Knew Little”

Q: What recent SF/F/H books have you read and enjoyed which you knew little to nothing about beforehand? (For example, you go into a bookstore and picked a book off the shelf based on title and/or cover alone.)

(6) NEW YORK NEW YORK NEW YORK. Pornokitsch compares and contrasts in “Will Eisner and Three Visions of New York”.

Both Eisner and Fantasia 2000 also recognise this aspect of the city: it can grind people down, even to the point of death. Using the darkness of the city in this way all three of these representations show the city itself to be an active force working on their various protagonists. Dark Dark Dark focus more on the elemental aspects of the city while Eisner examines the interaction of the people and their home, but both are aware of the inherent magic of the place. Dark Dark Dark present in their enigmatic lyrics and the swirling otherworldliness of their instrumentals what Eisner recognised in his introduction to ‘The Building’, there is something “unexplained and […] magical” about the city which can affect those that live in it.

(7) NEW DESTINATION. Variety’s article “Winchester Mystery House Movie Attracts Spierig Brothers” discusses the next project by the Spierig Brothers, Winchester, about the famous San Jose, CA haunted house.

Keith Kato writes, “Michael and Peter Spierig, the Spierig Brothers, are favorites of (and members of) The Heinlein Society for their most recent film, Predestination (2014 U.S. release), based on the Robert A. Heinlein short story ‘All You Zombies.’ We have been told by the Brothers that they will be out of the country from July-September, presumably for filming commitments for this project and they regret they will not be able to attend the Kansas City Worldcon.”

(8) FURNITURE. I don’t think we’ll be able to order a park bench from them, though it’s nice to know Sancal’s Futura collection is based on 1960s sci-fi space stations.

Dezeen promotion: Spanish brand Sancal has launched a “retro-futuristic” collection of furniture, featuring tables, chairs and ornaments that reference 1960s science fiction films (+ movie).

The Futura collection, which was exhibited by Sancal during this year’s Milan design week, is modelled on the set designs of movies such as the 1968 epic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

futura-furniture-collection-sancal-milan-design-week-2016_dezeen_936_8

(9) NEW AWARDS? Bleeding Cool passed on this rumor about the San Diego Comic-Con.

The word on the street is that we are about to get a brand-new, very well-funded awards show for San Diego Comic Con.

I understand that high level talks are taking place between Jennifer O’Connell, Executive VP of Alternative Programming, Seth Lederman, Executive VP General Manager of the new streaming channel Comic-Con HQ and David Glanzer, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer of Comic-Con International, the people behind San Diego Comic Con.

While the existing Eisner Awards cover the comic book industry, and have been the premier awards at San Diego for some time, this new award show is planned to cover comics, TV, film, games and all manner of fan and genre culture. So expect very big names on hand to host and present awards…..

Lionsgate is said to be interested in producing the show.

(10) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY. Can it be May 11th was National Twilight Zone Day….? And I missed it?

Well…! Then I guess that makes it appropriate to feature a “lost episode”…

(11) STARFLEET TRAINING. “’Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience’ is coming to the USS Intrepid this summer”. MeTV has the story.

The museum exhibit will allow fans to study Starfleet culture as part of “Starfleet Academy’s Career Day.”

Beginning July 9, those lucky enough to get to New York City can visit Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience. The museum exhibit is opening aboard the USS Intrepid, which sits on Pier 86 along the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan. A naval museum might seem like a strange location for a Star Trek exhibit, but what is Star Trek if not a space navy? Besides, NASA’s Space Shuttle Enterprise is on display at the Intrepid Museum.

The Intrepid Museum will be the first venue in the United States to host this immersive “Trek Tech” experience, a sort of quick fantasy camp. The exhibit allows visitors to join Starfleet Academy’s Career Day, which includes orientation and nine zones of study in language, medicine, engineering, navigation, command and science. Tickets cost $18–$35. The exhibit runs through October 31, 2016. (That final day will be a cosplay dream.)

Visit the Intrepid website for more information.

(12) MEMORIES. Here’s a Lou Stathis artifact I never heard of before.

The cover image comes from here.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 12, 1937 — George Carlin (comedian; first to host Saturday Night Live)
  • Born May 12 – Heather Rose Jones
  • Born May 12 – David Doering

(15) WILL FANAC FOR CHARITY. Jim C. Hines is back with another example of “SF/F Being Awesome: Lar DeSouza and Sailor Bacon”.

If my math is right, Lar [DeSouza] and his fans have raised around $40,000 in total to fight MS.

There’s even a new Sailor Bacon plush, with a portion of the proceeds going to MS research.

Fighting MS by con light,
Winning breakfast by daylight,
Rainbow beard that is so bright!
It is the one named Sailor Bacon!

The MS Walk was May 1 this year, but it looks like you can still donate.

(16) END OF DISNEY DOLLARS. Paleofuture at Gizmodo mourns that gift cards have killed Disney Dollars.

When I was a kid I loved Disney Dollars. For those unfamiliar, they’re Disney’s paper notes that look like real money and feature cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and Dumbo on the front. They’re only good at Disney Parks and stores, making them essentially like gift certificates. But Disney will stop printing Disney Dollars on May 14, 2016.

It’s truly the end of an era for Disney nerds. As reported by WDW News Today, the move is being blamed on the rise of gift cards and the general death of paper money. Disney staff were told just a couple of hours ago but the company has yet to make an official statement.

Disney Dollars will continue to be accepted at Disney locations, since they have no expiration date. But unless you have hundreds of notes to unload you should probably just hold on to them for a bit. The resale market for even once-common Disney products can be pretty lucrative after a few years.

John King Tarpinian recalls, “A long time ago when friends would have a kid or a grandkid I would buy one share of Disney stock. (Usually with a $25 premium over the stock price.) The certificates were beautifully framed, not to mention that with even one share it would get an invite to corporate events. Then Disney went electronic and that was gone. Now Disney Dollars. Gift cards are just not the same.”

(17) CAP’S PSA. Jim Burns says, “With all this Captain America chat (my all time favorite super hero, by the way!), a truly rare piece of film: a public service announcement, circa 1980 (or thereabouts)!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Keith Kato, Will R., Tom Galloway, Andrew Porter, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doctor Science.]

SF Goes Global in the Year of the Monkey

By Brian Z. Liu Cixin’s 2015 Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel was listed today as one of China’s top ten cultural events of 2015 by Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China.

The rocket-shaped trophy shared space on the state news agency’s top ten list with the Chinese film industry, which earned praise for a record 2015 box office of $6.8 billion, making China the world’s second largest film market. By the end of 2017, the Los Angeles Times reports, China is expected to surpass North America as the largest movie market in the world.

The first day of the Year of the Monkey (February 8, 2016) will see an unprecedented number of Chinese genre blockbuster releases, including “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny” (trailer – US release on February 26), Stephen Chow’s fantasy comedy “The Mermaid (trailer), and “The Monkey King 2” (trailer), a fantasy film inspired by the Ming Dynasty novel Journey to the West. “Kung Fu Panda 3” (trailer), co-produced by Dreamworks and China Film Co., opens in both China and the United States a week before the holiday (January 29).

This first day of the Lunar New Year will also see the release of China’s first English-language sci-fi action flick, “Lost in the Pacific (trailer), written (together with Peter Cameron) and directed by Vincent Zhou. Starring erstwhile Superman Brandon Routh and Zhang Yuqi, who also stars in “The Mermaid,” the film is set in the year 2020 and tells the story of passengers on an inaugural luxury transoceanic flight who meet with an unspeakable terror. Later in 2016, China Film Co. has announced, comes another sci-fi thriller, “The Arctic,” about humans under attacks from mysterious creatures.

“The Three-Body Problem,” aka “3Body in 3D,” is expected in July. December will bring director Zhang Yimou’s science fantasy adventure “The Great Wall,” starring Matt Damon, Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau, Pedro PascalWillem Dafoe, and many more. Set a thousand years in the past and shot on location in Qingdao in northeastern China, it is, at a reported $135-150 million, China’s most expensive film to date.

“The Great Wall” is a product of Legendary Entertainment’s partnership with China Film Co. Earlier this month, Variety reported that entertainment and real estate giant Dalian Wanda Group Co., owned by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, was in talks to buy a significant minority stake in Legendary. Wanda owns Wanda Cinemas, bought the US AMC Entertainment in 2012, and is building China’s largest studio complex in Qingdao. Last year, Japanese SoftBank Corp. also said it is investing an initial $250 million in a minority stake in Legendary.

Zhang Yimou said at a press conference in July that although “The Great Wall” is fantasy, his film is still about Chinese culture.

“China doesn’t have many stories about fighting against monsters. This time I will do it with Chinese cultural messages and make it outstanding and unique, and allow the whole world to experience China and its culture,” Zhang said.

“But the biggest pressure for me is to make it understandable for everyone, not just Chinese audiences, but young people all over the world.”

Liu Cixin, First Financial reported today, feels less than optimistic about the success of Chinese science fiction as literature, at least in the near term. “Few writers, a small number of works, little influence, in 2016 there will not be any change,” he said.

But Liu Cixin sees 2016 as the first year of the Chinese science fiction movie. With the concurrent release of so many SF films after so many years of preparation, he believes, the success or failure of films like 3Body will either allow the trend to continue or bring it to a screeching halt.

Liu Cixin expects to spend 2017 working on adapting the rest of his trilogy, Remembrance of Earth’s Past. Rights have been sold for other works by Liu Cixin, “The Era of Supernova,” “The Wandering Earth,” “The Micro-Age,” “The Rural Teacher” and “Of Ants and Dinosaurs,” and the first two are said by China Film Co. to be in the pipeline. However, the author is not sure at what level he will participate in those projects. The public and market attention can be a blessing and a curse, he says, “which has to be properly handled, to give yourself time and energy for creation.”

Over the past five years, film options for science fiction stories have gone from as low as ¥30-50,000 ($4,600-7,700) to over ¥1,000,000 ($153,500) – and Liu Cixin notes this trend may continue in 2016.

According to Global Times, the industry research institute Entgroup has listed Remembrance of Earth’s Past as the most valuable IP out of all traditional publications in China. But Liu Cixin’s goal, he told China Youth Daily, is to inspire young people to enter the field of aerospace. “Liu Cixin is already China’s Clarke and Asimov,” that paper concurred, “but China still needs the appearance of its own Elon Musk.”

Pixel Scroll 12/31 At the Scroll of Midnight

(1) THE PERFECT MATCH. Fathom Events is bringing Starship Troopers back to theaters – but only so the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 can give the movie everything it deserves.

The stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000® are bringing The Best of RiffTrax Live back to select cinemas nationwide. On Thursday, January 14, join Mike, Kevin, and Bill for a re-broadcast of their hilarious take on Starship Troopers.

Originally riffed in August 2013, this fan favorite features the guys hurling their wisecracking humor at what has become the king of modern campy sci-fi epics.

(2) THREE BODY. President Barack Obama spent his holiday vacation in Hawaii reading these four books reports Newsweek.

His reading list includes: The Whites by Richard Price, Purity by Jonathan Franzen, The Wright Brothers by David Mccullough, and The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin.

(3) DEMENTO AND CRAZY-EX. Joe Blevins at Splitsider fills you in on everything from Dr. Demento to YouTube in “2015: The Year Comedy Music Broke”.

And then there are the vloggers and other YouTube stars, the ones who make their livelihoods from the site. It’s an under-reported phenomenon, but original comedic music has played a huge role in the success of many of them. Popular channels like Epic Rap Battles of History, Axis of Awesome, and Schmoyoho, all of which regularly rack up millions of views per video, are essentially delivery systems for new comedy music, even if few would think to lump them in with the acts getting airtime on The Dr. Demento Show. They’re all playing the same basic sport, though, just in different arenas. The comedy duo Smosh, long one of YouTube’s most-subscribed channels, mostly concern themselves with sketches, but they do enough songs to warrant inclusion here. Even vlogger Jenna Marbles occasionally does a musical number (usually about her doted-upon dogs) as part of her weekly video series. If there is a way to make money doing funny music in 2015, it is to partner with YouTube, nurture a subscriber base, and never really define yourself as a comedy or worse yet “novelty” music artist. Meanwhile, none of these people are getting much validation from traditional media, including pop radio. Whether that constitutes a problem is debatable.

(4) CHAOTIC NEUTRAL. Brandon Kempner has declared Chaos Horizon ineligible for the 2016 Hugos.

After careful thought, I’m declaring that Chaos Horizon (and myself) will not accept a Hugo nomination in 2016. Because Chaos Horizon reports so extensively on the numbers related to the Hugo process, I feel it would be a conflict of interest to be part of that process in any way.

Since I do reporting and analytical work here at Chaos Horizon, it’s important from me to maintain some journalistic distance from the awards. I couldn’t do that if I were nominated. This is consistent with my past practice; I haven’t voted in the Hugos since I began Chaos Horizon. Simply put, the scorekeeper can’t play the game.

(5) TANGENTIAL HISTORY. The Tangent Online 2015 Recommended Reading List” says it contains 417 works: 355 short stories, 46 novelettes, and 16 novellas.

Its long, error-filled endorsement of Sad Puppies 4 begins with this generous rewriting of history —

Sad Puppies was the name given to a small group of fans four years ago who had become disgruntled after seeing many of the same names on the final Hugo ballot, year after year. It was spearheaded that first year by SF author Larry Correia, who decided to put forth a list of authors and works he believed were being overlooked. He recused himself from being recommended or being nominated.

The Sad Puppies name was given these campaigns by their creator, Larry Correia, who started them to stir support for his own Hugo prospects. He was successful enough to be nominated three times; it was only the third he declined. Nor did he recuse himself from Sad Puppies 3, but supported the SP3 slate with his novel on it, only at the end suprising his fans by taking himself off the ballot.

(6) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. The respected Lois Tilton begins “2015 Reviews in Review” at Locus Online with a sigh:

Lovers of SFF can only deplore the late year’s outbreak of divisiveness and animosity, with the hostile parties displaying a willingness to destroy the genre in order to deny it to the other. Calls for unity go unheard while the partisans make plans to continue the hostilities in the upcoming year. The only bright spot is that ordinary readers appear to have largely ignored the entire thing.

(6) FLICK ANALYSIS. Ethan Mills shares his picks “2015 Movies: The Good, the Bad, and the Mediocre” at Examined Worlds.

I’ve been trying to decide between Fury Road and The Force Awakens as my favorite movie of the year.  Both movies have ultra-competent female protagonists, although Fury Road could certainly have done better on the racial diversity front.  While Fury Road gives us pulse-quickening action and a fully realized post-apocalyptic world, Star Wars gives us all the fun of a real Star Wars movie.

Click to see who wins.

(7) READY-TO-WEAR TBR PILE. And if you have a week free, Fantasy Faction will tell you about the Top 50 fantasy novels of 2015.

It’s getting harder and harder to be a well-read and up-to-date reviewer in Fantasy these days. It’s also getting incredibly difficult to order the best of the year lists. I know that complaining that too many good books are being released probably isn’t an argument I will get much support for, but wow oh wow were there too many damned good books published in 2015, right? RIGHT!?

It’s not just the quality of the books, but the diversity of the Fantasy genre worth applauding too. Take Empire AscendantThe Grace of Kings, The Vagrant and Uprooted – these aren’t books being based on proven and familiar formulas

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis

https://twitter.com/EdMcKayinFay/status/682559367087013888

(9) MURDER BY DEATH. “The Medieval Revenant: Restless, Dead, and Out for Revenge” by Matt Staggs at Suvudu. Interesting paragraph – perhaps the literati around here can tell whether it’s accurate.

Unlike us, medieval men and women didn’t make much of a distinction between various kinds of the living dead. There were revenants who fed on blood, and vampires who fed on anything but blood. Sometimes the restless dead took physical form, and other times they were immaterial spirits, like ghosts. (The zombies stayed down in Haiti, and those poor souls didn’t eat anyone.) Because of these reasons, classifying a story as one about a revenant rather than a ghost, vampire, or other restless dead thing can be difficult. That said, we can draw upon these tales for some ideas of what revenants did and why they rose from the dead in the first place.

(10) MISSING YOU. Journey Planet #27 takes as its theme “Fan History – To Absent Friends.” Download it here.

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We look at the impact of those who have come before us, and what they meant to the evolution of Fandom, and of fans. Wonderful stories of legends like Bruce Pelz, Peggy Rae Sapienza, Jerry Jacks, Mikey Jelenski, Fred Duarte, Gary Louie, Robert Sacks, Poul Andersen, Mick O’Connor, Dave Stewart, James White, Ted Johnstone, Joe Mayhew, LeeH, Jay Haldeman, George Flynn, and many many more, help us understand the legacies that led us to where fandom is today.

It was lovely to learn more about so many people that we had heard of but sadly never met, and to learn about people new to us that, unfortunately, we will never have an opportunity to meet. Our experience as fans is enriched by knowledge, and we hope that you will all have a similar experience reading the issue. Produced by guest editors Helen Montgomery & Warren Buff, plus editors Chris Garcia & James Bacon.

(11) BOOKLESS. Is making these announcements a new trend? Greg Van Eekhout is another author explaining why he won’t have a new book out in 2016.

First of all, I won’t have a new novel out. That’s mostly because I didn’t complete one in time to have a novel out in 2016. From the time a novel is sold, a publisher usually needs at least nine months and often more than a year to get it ready for release. And by “ready” I mean not just editing and printing, but also positioning it with a marketing campaign and finding an advantageous slot for it in the release schedule. So, for me to have a book out in 2016, I would have had to finish writing it sometime in late 2014 or early 2015, so an editor could edit it, so I could revise it, so an art director and book designer and cover artist could make it pretty, and so on. Unfortunately, taking care of two elderly parents was more than a full-time job that didn’t leave much physical or emotional energy for new writing.

(12) EXPANSE RETURNING. Lizard Brain shares Syfy’s press release announcing that The Expanse has been renewed for a second season.

Currently airing on Syfy Tuesdays at 10PM ET/PT, THE EXPANSE has garnered strong multiplatform viewership since its December 14 debut, with 4.5 million viewers sampling the first episode on Syfy.com, On Demand and digital outlets prior to the series’ linear premiere, and an average of 1.6 million P2+ linear viewers (L3) in its first three episodes.

(13) MISTER LISTER. Black Gate’s John ONeill amusingly comments

Fortunately, the tireless John DeNardo works much harder than me. He doesn’t go to Christmas parties, or watch movies. Ever. Or sleep, apparently. No, he read every single one of those Best SF & Fantasy of the Year lists. The ones that matter anyway…

— before guiding us to John DeNardo’s compilation of “The Best of the Best of 2015’s Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books” at Kirkus Reviews. There, De Nardo explains:

o  I used 8 different sources to arrive at the aggregate, all of them specifically geared toward science-fiction and fantasy books: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Publishers Weekly, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and course Kirkus Reviews.

o  I only included books that garnered three or more mentions. That yielded a list of seven books, which seems like a good size. That said, I also include below a list of “Honorable Mentions” that appeared on two lists.

(14) SNOPES CLEARS HARLAN. Snopes says a famous Harlan Ellison story never happened/

Claim:   Writer Harlan Ellison was rebuffed after making a crude remark to a tall blonde woman at a party.

Status:   False.

In Snopes’ example, Isaac Asimov spins out an entire anecdote, but the gist is —

…Harlan approached one of these giraffelike women, fixed her with his glittering eye, and said, “What would you say to a little fuck?” And she looked down at him and said, “I would say, ‘Hello, little fuck.'”

Snopes says this is nothing more than a riff off one of the jokes in Gershon Legman’s Rationale of the Dirty Joke first published by Grove Press in 1968.

I remember hearing the joke whispered between fans in the early 1970s. It must have been freshly purloined from Legman at the time.

(15) HALLOWEEN STAMPS. Naturally, horror news blog Dread Central is more interested in the 2016 Jack O’Lantern stamps that will be issued for Halloween. I skipped over those to avoid spoiling the symmetry of the space and Star Trek theme in yesterday’s post. But they are lovely!

halloweenstamps

(16) TREK ACTORS CASH IN. “Star Trek Actor Salaries Just Beamed Up With Big Raises” at Celebrity Net Worth says Paramount will pay big to hang onto the cast of its franchise films.

…In order for the latest Star Trek film series to “live long and prosper,” Paramount needed to keep Pine and Quinto on board as Spock and Kirk…

Pine only made $600 thousand for 2009’s Star Trek, which grossed over $385 million. For 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness, Captain Kirk made $1.5 million of the $467 million gross. Before a new deal was struck, he was scheduled to make $3 million for the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. Thanks to a lucrative new deal, Pine will now make $6 million for the third Star Trek film, which is double what he was supposed to make, and will be 10 times what he made for the first film in the series!

The new deal features big raises and much better performance bonuses for the cast. Paramount only wanted to give the ship mates nominal raises, but ended up giving in for the better of the franchise. Thanks to last minute negotiations, the production house ended up adding somewhere between $10 and $15 million to the movie’s budget to pay the stars of the show. As part of the new deal, Pine and Quinto have been granted an option and will now be a part of the 4th film in the J.J. Abrams directed series.

(17) SKY TRASH. Almost 20,000 pieces of space debris are currently orbiting the Earth. This visualisation, created by Dr Stuart Grey, lecturer at University College London and part of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory, shows how the amount of space debris increased from 1957 to 2015, using data on the precise location of each piece of junk. (Via Chaos Manor.)

(18) KEEP THE FAITH. James H. Burns writes:

For the end of the year, or really the start of the new, and in the spirit of the season, one of the greatest minutes ever in the history of filmed science fiction…  Courtesy of J. Michael Straczynski, and the good folks at, and on, Babylon 5….

 

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, James H. Burns, Brian Z., and Sean Wallace for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Chinese SF News Roundup

3 body poster

By Brian Z. SF author and historian Andrew Liptak’s informative review essay, “Narratives of Modernization: China’s History of Science Fiction” is up at Barnes & Noble. Liptak places Chinese SF in its historical context and showcases some important works available in English, including Lao She’s 1930s interplanetary social satire, Cat Country, Cixin Liu’s short fiction collection, The Wandering Earth, and Chan Koonchun’s banned political allegory, The Fat Years.

On Saturday, August 22nd, 2015, author Ken Liu stepped up to the podium at Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, to accept the Hugo Award for Best Novel on behalf of Liu Cixin, author of The Three-Body Problem. It was a historic moment: Liu Cixin’s novel was the first translated novel to ever win the award, one of the highest honors in SF/F fandom.

Precipitating this moment is a long history of science fiction in China. The genre enjoys its own vibrant tradition of speculative works, developed over the past century. Liu Cixin’s award comes at an interesting time for China: the Asian nation has become a major player in the world economy, and as it grows, its authors and culture are reaching new, global audiences, introducing the western genre culture to new worlds of ideas and stories.

In related news, Cixin Liu fans might be interested in seeing two-meter high, three-meter wide model of Red Coast Base from the upcoming movie “Three Body” (July 2016), first unveiled at the Chinese Nebula Awards on October 18. Photos, not terribly well lit, have been posted on various websites (some accompany an article translated to English, “’Red Bank base’ debut tour family Nebula award Pictures called ‘three body’ will exceed expectations”, at Sunning View), and the Red Coast Base design sketch turned up on Facebook.

Red Base

Just ahead of Chinese Nebula Weekend there had come news about the construction of China’s 500 meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, prompting twitter users to ask: Red Coast Base?

“China enters the search for alien life with the construction of the world’s biggest radio telescope” at the Independent.

Chinese scientists are constructing the world’s biggest radio telescope, which will be more effective than any other at picking up weak messages from outer space that could be linked to intelligent life.

Assembly of the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, began in July and is expected to be completed in 2016.

 

A CCTV news report from a while back included some interesting footage of the filming of “Three Body,” the actors and the special effects team, and some comments from Cixin Liu. Chinese only, but fun to look at.

Pixel Scroll 12/6 From the Mixed-Up Pixels of Mrs. Basil E. Frankscroller

(1) WITNESS FOR GOLLUM. Well-known Tolkien scholar Michael D.C. Drout is quoted in the New York Times’ “Is Gollum Good or Evil? Jail Term in Turkey Hinges on Answer”.

Michael D. C. Drout, an English professor at Wheaton College who edits an annual review of Tolkien’s works, is observing the situation from America. He said that those experts will be assessing the most complicated character in the English writer’s already complex world.

“I don’t think there’s any consensus that Gollum is evil,” Mr. Drout said in an interview. “He is the most tragic character in ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ ”

Middle Earth, the place where Gollum began his life as a creature named Sméagol, is full of complex characters and allegiances. But a single gold ring, forged with a dark lord’s evil powers, has the power to rule them all. Sméagol catches a glimpse of the ring, murders for it, and possesses it for centuries until it is mislaid and found by another hobbit. Sméagol struggles to redeem himself, but his obsessive bloodthirst for the ring wins out. He accidentally destroys himself and the ring, but also saves Middle Earth in the process. (It is the hobbit hero Frodo who gets most of the credit.)

“The context is this: Gollum accidentally, not intentionally, saves the entire world,” Mr. Drout said.

Mr. Drout said that no one would’ve appreciated the existential debate over Gollum more than the author who created him. Painfully and pitifully, Sméagol almost succeeds in overcoming his evil side, but fails. It is a scene that is said to have upset Mr. Tolkien to the point of tears as he wrote it, Mr. Drout said.

“He didn’t see him as irredeemably evil,” he said of Mr. Tolkien. “He saw him as someone who had been destroyed by this evil ring.”

(2) COMIC CON IN INDIA. The fifth Delhi Comic Con drew an estimated 40,000 people last weekend.

Thousands of fans cheered and clicked pictures with their favorite comic characters Saturday at India’s annual comic book fest at a sprawling fairground in southeast New Delhi.

The fifth Delhi Comic Con had something for everyone who attended on this mild, wintry day. Die-hard fans came dressed as their favorite comic characters. Others crowded the more than 200 stalls selling comic books, graphic novels and merchandise on cartoon characters.

There was real live entertainment, as well.

Crowds of college students and young people cheered and roared as Kristian Nairn, best known for his role as Hodor in “Game of Thrones,” ascended a stage and addressed them. Nairn was mobbed as eager fans pushed to get themselves clicked with the star of the popular television series….

Indian mythological heroes, dressed in gaudy costumes with bejeweled crowns and sparkly clothes, added to the carnival atmosphere, ready to oblige fans with an autograph, a selfie or a photograph.

Indian comics have seen a revival in the last decade thanks to new funding and technologies for printing, animation, digitizing and distribution.

(3) STAR WARS REWATCH. A new installment of Michael J. Martinez’ Star Wars rewatch has been posted: ”Star Wars wayback machine: Star Wars (or A New Hope if you prefer)”.

I know this movie by heart. In fact, while in my 20s and firmly in my barfly life-stage, several friends and I recreated the entire movie over pints at the pub. We didn’t miss a line. There are few cultural touchstones so firmly rooted in our global community as this one.

But I’m now looking at it with fresh eyes, and asking myself…is it really any good? Does it stand up to the test of time and the grey clouds of cynicism accumulated with age?

Largely, yes. Enthusiastically, yes. Are there things that I’ve noticed now, years later, both good and bad? Absolutely. Is it dated? Sure, but not as bad as you think. But ultimately, I think it works. The resonance it has in our culture is well deserved.

(4) STANDLEE ON SMOFCON. Kevin Standlee is running short notes on his LiveJournal about this year’s SMOFcon.

At 4 PM, I went to the panel about administering the Hugo Awards. A year ago, a panel on this subject would have been lucky to draw more audience than panelists. This year, it was standing-room-only. Had we two hours rather than one to discuss how the Hugo Awards are administered, we could have filled it.

 

After breakfast with Linda Deneroff, Mo Starkey, and John Sapienza, I went to the first panel of the morning, presented by Andrew Adams based on work that René Walling has done to accumulate available demographic information about Worldcon members. The slide above shows the memberships over time, attending and supporting, both in absolute numbers (line) and percentage (colored bars) for the 2015 Worldcon, showing how the numbers changed over time. (The upper line and the upper colored section are supporting members; the lower are attending.) Sasquan really was different. There were many more very interesting charts in this presentation, and you can see some of them if you click through the photo above, but Andrew said he’d publish the entire slide deck later and asked us not to keep taking photos.

 

How to Call Out Other Conventions. This was a discussion about how and whether you should point out other groups’ mistakes, particularly the most egregious ones that could poison your convention’s relationship with hotel facilities. I found it very interesting listening to the stories behind the panel title, but I was so sleepy that I couldn’t concentrate that well.

(5) ASTRONAUTS SEND MESSAGE ON CLIMATE CHANGE. Sasquan GoH Kjell Lindgren is one of the astronauts in the video “Call to Earth: Astronauts Send a Message from Space to Global Leaders at #COP21 Urging Action on Climate Change”.

In less than three days, an outpouring of messages streamed in from astronauts around the world – eyewitnesses to profound changes to our planet they’ve seen first hand while in orbit. The messages were produced by members of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), the professional association of flown astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts. ASE assists members to communicate their unique perspective of Earth to help stimulate humanity’s sense of responsibility for our home planet.

Also in the video was Wubbo Ockels, Ph.D. Space Shuttle, the first Dutch citizen in space, who said “Our Earth has Cancer and I have cancer too.” He was filmed the day before he died.

(6) BUCKELL. Tobias Buckell offers 28 solid ideas for finding focus in the task of writing.

There are two places to lose focus. One: yourself sitting down to do the work. Two: inside the work as the work itself loses focus. I’ll tackle number one, as I think that was what was being asked.

Caveat: I believe most writing advice is only as valuable to someone as it works. In other words, I believe all writing advice is a hack to get you to a finished draft and help you find tricks to get there. You try something. If it works, it goes in your toolbox. If it doesn’t, you mark it as not currently effective and move on….

11) Don’t tell anyone about what you’re writing about before sitting down to do it

12) Tell someone how cool what you’re writing about is right before sitting down to do it

I really like this pair. Obviously the answer is to use the alternative that helps you. Larry Niven always perfected his story ideas by explaining them to select people before putting them on paper. In contrast, if I tell somebody an idea, then I never feel the need to actually do the writing…

(7) WRIGHT. Someone showed John C. Wright Liu Cixin’s remarks about the Sad Puppies in Global Times, which triggered Wright into writing a post headlined “Liu Cixin to Sci Fi: Drop Dead”.

Within the same fortnight that David Hartwell announced that the World Fantasy Award trophy would no longer be a bust of Lovecraft, but instead be the head of someone whose sole qualification to represent all of fantasy literature is her skin color, Liu Cixin, the first chinaman ever to win a Hugo Award has publicly spit in the face of those of us who voted for him….

That means that this man is gullible enough to believe either what his translator, or Tor Books, or the mainstream news told him, namely, that we who voted for him were motivated by race-hatred against non-Whites. So we voted for a non-White because his book was good, not because his skin color was correct. Because we treated the award as if it were for the merit of science fiction story telling, not as if it were a political award granted to whatever most helped the far Left. We ignored race. By Morlock logic, that makes us racist.

I realize, my dear readers, that if you read THREE BODY PROBLEM, and weighed its merits, and in your honest judgment you thought it was the best SF novel of the year, and your judgment does not matter because you are not the correct sort of people to have opinions.

Even though your opinion in this one case agreed with our Leftist insect Overlords, the mere fact that the opinion was your taints it.

You are wrongfans.

(8) COLLECTING HEINLEIN. Black Gate’s John ONeill compares the collectible paperback market for science fiction’s Big Three – Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein – and comes away surprised by the demand for Heinlein.

Whatever your opinion on their relative merits, it’s hard to argue against the fact that Heinlein has endured longer than Asimov and Clarke… and virtually any other Twentieth Century genre writer except H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Philip K. Dick. Much of his work is still in print in mass market paperback today.

Even more impressively, Heinlein has stayed popular and in print with virtually no help from the film industry. With the notable exception of 1997’s Starship Troopers (and the much lesser-known films The Puppet Masters, from 1994, and Predestination, 2014), Heinlein has endured chiefly on his own steam.

(9) MORLEY REMEMBERED. Available online now and for the next few weeks is the BBC 4 radio production 1977, about the creation of the soundtrack for Watership Down.

In 1977 the bestselling children’s novel Watership Down was made into an animated film. Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queens music, had been hired as the film’s composer. But all was not well. Williamson, a notoriously difficult and complicated man, was under extreme pressure; it was the Queens jubilee year and he was over commissioned. When the film’s conductor, Marcus Dods, arrived looking for the film’s score he found to his horror that all that existed were two small sketches of music which amounted to no more than seven minutes of screen time. With an expensive orchestra and recording studio booked for the following week, the film’s future looked to be in jeopardy. In desperation he turned to the one person he knew could help; composer and arranger Angela Morley. But she, for her own reasons, was going to need some persuading…

Morley needed persuading because this would be her first high-profile composing job after transitioning to female. Morley later worked on other genre music projects, too, scoring for TV’s Wonder Woman, and assisting John Williams on several films including E.T.

(10) BULK SALES. Hey, John King Tarpinian saw rafts of these at his local CostCo and shot a photo.

GRRM at Costco by JKT COMP

Let Suvudu’s Shawn Speakman fill you in on the details —  “Gifts For the Geek – Day 6: George R. R. Martin leather Box Set”.

I’m always on the hunt for leather books!

George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones Leather-Cloth Boxed Set fits that bill. It is a gorgeous representation of the bestselling series, perfect for that Game of Thrones fan in your life.

The books are not full-sized but instead of a traveling variety, easy to take with as well as looking beautiful on the shelf.

(11) EMPIRE PERIOD ARCHITECTURE. “Alamo Drafthouse Unveils ‘Star Wars’ Themed Movie Theater” at ScienceFiction.com.

If you happen to be curious about what it would be like to see a movie on the Death Star, you don’t need to travel to a galaxy far, far away. You can just head to Omaha, Nebraska. The Alamo Drafthouse just opened a Star Wars-themed cineplex that’s absolutely astounding.

There’s a 10-foot replica of the Death Star in the front lobby, and from the looks if it, you can purchase tickets at an Imperial Command center.

(12) SISTERS. The new Tina Fey/Amy Poehler movie Sisters will be released on the same day as The Force Awakens. How will they fight for their audience share? With a Star Wars trailer of their own called “Sisters – The Farce Awakens.”

(13) ALIENS DIG SECONDHAND SMOKE. Saturday Night Lives presents the Pentagon debriefing of three subjects of the first verified alien abduction.

An establishing shot of the Pentagon took us to a room where National Security Agency dudes Aidy Bryant and Bobby Moynihan are interviewing the three participants in “the first verified alien abduction.” Cecily Strong and Gosling are all lah-dee-dah groovin’ on the cosmic beauty of the mind-expanding, I’ve-seen-God-and-all-the-colors-of-the-rainbow Kenny-G-type experience. Then there’s McKinnon, slumped in her chair in a K-Mart blouse and jeans, her hair a rat’s nest, cigarette in hand, relating a series of experiences that were much more, let’s say tactile, than teleological.

 

[Thanks to Petrea Mitchell, JJ, Brian Z., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3 Ten Things I Slate About You

(1) Disney has optioned the movie rights to Ursula Vernon’s childrens book Castle Hangnail for an adaptation to be produced by Ellen DeGeneres.

DeGeneres will produce with Jeff Kleeman, her partner at A Very Good Production banner.

The book tells of a 12-year old witch who shows up at a dark castle that needs a master or be decommissioned by the bureaucratic Board of Magic and its many minions, such as a hypochondriac fish and a letter ‘Q’ averse minotaur, dispersed into the world. She projects confidence as she tackles the series of tasks laid forth by the board but underneath lie several simmering secrets, including one of her being an imposter….

DeGeneres and Kleeman are busy in the television world but Hangnail is their second notable move on the movie side and keeps their feet firmly in the fantasy field. Earlier this year the duo set up Uprooted, the novel from Temeraire author Naomi Novik, for Warner Bros.

(2) A magisterial essay by Ursula K. Le Guin at Tin House, “’Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?’”.

American critics and academics have been trying for forty years to bury one of the great works of twentieth-century fiction, The Lord of the Rings. They ignore it, they condescend to it, they stand in large groups with their backs to it, because they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid of dragons. They know if they acknowledge Tolkien they’ll have to admit that fantasy can be literature, and that therefore they’ll have to redefine what literature is.

What American critics and teachers call “literature” is still almost wholly restricted to realism. All other forms of fiction—westerns, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical, regional, you name it—are dismissed as “genre.” Sent to the ghetto. That the ghetto is about twelve times larger than the city, and currently a great deal livelier, doesn’t bother those who live in ivory towers. Magic realism, though—that does bother them; they hear Gabriel García Márquez gnawing quietly at the foundations of the ivory tower, they hear all these crazy Indians dancing up in the attic, and they think maybe they should do something about it. Perhaps they should give that fellow who teaches the science fiction course tenure? Oh, surely not.

To say that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to imply that imitation is superior to invention. I have wondered if this unstated but widely accepted (and, incidentally, very puritanical) proposition is related to the recent popularity of the memoir and the personal essay. This has been a genuine popularity, not a matter of academic canonizing. People really do want to read memoir and personal essay, and writers want to write it. I’ve felt rather out of step. I like history and biography fine, but when family and personal memoir seems to be the most popular—the dominant narrative form—well, I have searched my soul for prejudice and found it. I prefer invention to imitation. I love novels. I love made-up stuff.

(3) “The Call of the Sad Whelkfins: The Continued Relevance of How To Suppress Women’s Writing“ by Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Luhrs in Uncanny Magazine #7 uses Joanna Russ’ text to diagnose some critics’ responses to Ancillary Justice.

I snorted. For the past week, Natalie Luhrs and I had been discussing the book in the context of the ongoing fight for the soul of the science fiction community, most recently played out in the failed attempt to take over the Hugo Awards. In HTSWW, Russ uses an alien species called the whelk–finned Glotolog to illustrate the methods by which human cultures control women’s writing without direct censorship (4). These days, the tactics the so–called “sad puppies” use to paint themselves as the true heirs of science fiction, bravely holding the line against the invading masses, are the very same tactics Joanna Russ ascribed to the whelk–finned Glotolog in 1983…

False Categorizing of the Work She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. (HTSWW)

False Categorization is, essentially, bad faith. It allows the critic to shift the focus to something else—usually something trivial in the larger context, so as to dismiss the whole. So once again, we’ll look at the pronouns in Ancillary Justice. By focusing on the pronouns, the sad whelkfins are able to dismiss the entire work as nothing more than a political screed against men, as turgid message fiction that doesn’t even tell a good story.

That’s a massive tell to anyone who has actually read the book—because while the pronouns do take some adjustment, they’re a small part of the novel’s world–building and not a major source of plot or conflict. They just are, the way there is air to breathe and skel to eat.

(4) “Updates on the Chinese Nebula Awards and the Coordinates Awards” at Amazing Stories has the full list of award winners (only two were reported here on the night of the ceremony). Since Steve Davidson is able to reproduce the titles in the original language, all the more reason to refer you there.

(5) Liu Cixin participated in “The Future of China through Chinese Science Fiction” at the University of Sydney on November 3.

(6) Crossed Genres Magazine will close after the December 2015 issue reports Locus Online.

Co-publisher Bart Lieb posted a statement:

Two primary factors led to this decision. First, one of Crossed Genres’ co-publishers, Kay Holt, has been dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for more than two years. It’s made it extremely difficult for her to help with the running of CG, leaving the lion’s share of responsibilities on the other co-publisher, Bart Leib, who’s also working a day job. Magazine co-editor Kelly Jennings, ebook coordinator Casey Seda, and our team of first readers have all been heroic in their volunteer efforts, but we’ve still been unable to keep from falling behind.

The second factor is simply that the magazine has run out of funds to continue. In April 2014 we ran a successful Kickstarter to keep CG Magazine going, but once another year had passed, roughly 90 percent of those who’d pledged to the Kickstarter chose not to renew their memberships….

(7) Today In History

  • November 3, 1956 — On this night in 1956, CBS presented the first broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.  It was a major event for which the network paid MGM a quarter of a million dollars for the rights (over $2,000,000 in today’s dollars.)
  • November 3, 1976 — Brian De Palma’s Carrie is seen for the very first time

(8) Today’s Birthday Monster

  • November 3, 1954 — Godzilla was released in Japanese theaters.

(9) Today’s Belated Birthday

  • Lovecraft’s 125th birthday (in August) was celebrated in many ways in Providence. A new plaque was installed near his birthplace at 454 Angell Street, designed, created, and installed by Gage Prentiss.

(10) Today’s Yodeling Marmot

(11) “Transparent Aluminum: IT’S REAL!” at Treehugger.

Remember Star Trek: The Voyage Home, where Scotty talks into a computer mouse and then instantly figures out keyboards and gives away the formula for transparent Aluminum? And remember Galaxy Quest, where Commander Taggart tells the Justin Long character about the ship: “IT’S REAL!”

Mash those two scenes together and you have Spinel, described by US Naval Research Laboratory scientist Dr. Jas Sanghera as “actually a mineral, it’s magnesium aluminate. The advantage is it’s so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments—so it can withstand sand and rain erosion.” He likes it for the same reason Scotty did, according to an NRL press release

(12) Arlan Andrews told Facebook friends that Ken Burnside has answered the Alfies.

The Wreck of the Hugo

So, today I received this 3D-printed crashed rocket ship, titled “The Wreck of the Hugo” as created by artist Charles Oines and commissioned by Ken Burnside. Others went to Kary English, Mike Resnick, and Toni Weisskopf. According to Ken Burnside, the official 2015 Hugo voting tallies showed each of us recipients as runners-up to the 2500-vote NO AWARD bloc that wrecked the Hugos this year in many categories. I gratefully accept the gifted award in the spirit in which it was given, and sincerely hope that no future Hugo nominees are ever again voted off the island in such a fashion.

(That last part resonates strangely, at least in my memory, because “I accept this award in the spirit in which it is given” was Norman Spinrad’s answer when handed the Brown Hole Award for Outstanding Professionalism in 1973. And he was right to be suspicious.)

(13) Meanwhile, the curator of the Alfies, George R.R. Martin, is already making recommendations for the Dramatic Presentation categories in “Hugo Thoughts”.

In the past, I have usually made my own Hugo recommendations only after nominations have opened. But in light of what happened last year, it seems useful to begin much sooner. To get talking about the things we like, the things we don’t like. This is especially useful in the case of the lesser known and obscure work. Drawing attention to such earlier in the process is the best way to get more fans looking at them… and unless you are aware of a work, you’re not likely to nominate it, are you? (Well, unless you’re voting a slate, and just ticking off boxes).

Let me start with the Dramatic Presentation category. Long form….

(14) Damien G. Walter does best when the target is as easy to hit as the broad side of a barn. “Gus. A Case Study In Sad Puppy Ignorance”.

Firstly, is Gus actually asking us to believe that Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the famed early feminist icon, daughter of philosopher and political activist Mary Wollstonecraft, wife of romantic poet and political radical Percy Byshe Shelley, close friend of paramilitary revolutionary Lord Byron, and author of  seven novels (many science fictional) and innumerable other stories, essays and letters, all of them revealing a life of deep engagement with political and social issues of gender, class, sexuality and more, that this same Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus (a subtitle explicitly invoking the mythical act of stealing fire from the gods as an opening rhetorical reference to the risks of scientific endeavour) as, and I quote, “the sole purpose of…macabre entertainment”? Because I would suggest, on the basis of all available evidence, including every single thing ever written about Frankenstein, that Gus is in a minority on this one. In fact, I will go so far as to say that he is utterly, absurdly and idiotically wrong.

(15) John Thiel’s responses to Steve Davidson’s queries about “trufandom” appear in “The Voices of Fandom” at Amazing Stories.

Steve’s introduction notes –

I posed a series of interview questions to members of the Fan History group on Facebook.  I thought it would be a good place to start because that group is made up entirely of Trufans.

Today, I present the first in a series of responses to those questions and I should point out that, in typical Fannish fashion, the answers are anything but monolithic.  Apparently Fans have as many different ideas about what it means to be a Fan as there are Fans, which just serves to point out how difficult it is to get a handle on this question.

(16) A video interview with Dame Diana Rigg.

Five decades since she first appeared as Emma Peel in The Avengers (1961-1969), fans of the show still approach Dame Diana Rigg to express their gratitude. Rigg joins BFI curator Dick Fiddy to reflect on the influence of Peel on real-life women and acting with Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry.

(17) Jon Michaud reviews Michael Witwer’s Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons in The New Yorker and accuses the biographer of shielding Gygax rather than exploring more deeply the controversial topic of his religious views.

Dr. Thomas Radecki, a founding member of the National Coalition on TV Violence, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the game Dungeons & Dragons is causing young men to kill themselves and others.” In her book “Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society,” Tipper Gore connected the game to satanism and the occult. All of this prompted a “60 Minutes” segment in which Gygax rejected these myriad accusations, calling them “nothing but a witch hunt.”

What was largely unknown or omitted from this brouhaha is that Gygax was an intermittently observant Jehovah’s Witness. This startling fact crops up about halfway through Witwer’s biography, when he notes that Gygax’s “controversial” game, along with his smoking and drinking, had led to a parting of the ways with the local congregation. Up until that point, the matter of Gygax’s faith had gone unmentioned in the biography, and it is barely discussed thereafter. (The book’s index does not have an entry for “Jehovah’s Witness” or “Gygax, Gary—religious beliefs.”) Given the furor that D. & D. caused, the absence of a deeper analysis of Gygax’s faith is a glaring omission. In a recent interview with Tobias Carroll, Witwer acknowledged that Gygax “was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He would go door-to-door and he would give out pamphlets. He was pretty outspoken about it, as a matter of fact.” The reason for almost completely excluding it from the biography, Witwer says, is that “I couldn’t find it [as] a huge driving force in his life.…I didn’t want to be too heavy-handed with that, because I’m not clear that, especially with his gaming work and even his home life, how big a factor that was on a day-to-day basis. But I do know he was practicing.”

(18) Galactic Journey visits the year 1960 where young Mike Glyer’s favorite TV series, Men Into Space, is still on the air, and there’s even a tie-in novel by Murray Leinster.

men into space cover COMP.jpg

“Men Into Space” consists of short stories following the career of Space Force officer Ed McCauley:

As a lieutenant, McCauley makes the first manned rocket flight.

As a captain, McCauley deals with an injured crewman while piloting the first space-plane.

As a major, McCauley deals with a potentially-fatal construction accident while in charge the building of the first space station.

As a colonel, McCauley deals with a murderous personnel problem while overseeing the establishment of a series of radio relays to the moon’s far side, then deals with a technical problem aboard a rocket to Venus, and another personnel problem on a Mars mission.

Lots of nuts and bolts details about ballistics, rocket fuels, radiation, the van Allen belts, and so forth.  And with each story, McCauley deals with progressively more complex human problems as he moves up in rank.

Although 7-year-old me would have loved the tie-in novel, 35 cents would have been a king’s ransom in my personal economy….

(19) Here’s a photo of the Cosmos Award presentation to Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Planetary Society 35th anniversary celebration on October 24.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society's Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on "Star Trek" (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society’s Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on “Star Trek” (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Before the award was given to Tyson, Nye reminisced about meeting Tyson through the organization. Nye then showed a photo of what Tyson looked like in 1980, when he was a wrestler (Tyson wrestled in high school and college), and Tyson joked that he kicked some serious butt.

Tyson had come prepared, and showed a photo of Nye in 1980, in a “Coneheads” costume, with a silver ring around his head.

(20) The Red Bull Music Academy website has published David Keenan’s “Reality Is For People Who Can’t Handle Science Fiction”, about the influence of SF on French progressive rock from 1969 through 1985.

In 2014 I interviewed Richard Pinhas of Heldon, still one of the central punk/prog mutants to come out of the French underground. I asked him about the influence of the visionary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick on his sound and on his worldview. “Philip K. Dick was a prophet to us,” Pinhas explained. “He saw the future.”

It makes sense that a musical and cultural moment that was obsessed with the sound of tomorrow would name a sci-fi writer as its central avatar. Indeed, while the Sex Pistols spat on the British vision of the future dream as a shopping scheme, the French underground projected it off the planet altogether.

When Pinhas formed Heldon in 1974 he named the group in tribute to sci-fi writer Norman Spinrad’s 1972 novel The Iron Dream, conflating his own vision of a mutant amalgam of Hendrix-inspired psychedelic rock and cyborg-styled electronics with Spinrad’s re-writing of history.

(21) At CNN, “Art transforms travel photos with paper cutouts”:

That’s what happened when Londoner Rich McCor began adorning pictures of British landmarks with whimsical paper cutouts and posting the results online.

Originally, the 28-year-old creative agency worker intended the photos for the amusement of himself and friends.

Then he got a lesson on the impact of “viral” when Britain’s “Daily Mail” publicized some of his photos.

 

arc-de-triomphe-paris-jpg-rich-mccor-exlarge-169

 [Thanks to Rob Thornton, Mark-kitteh, Will R., Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Janice Gelb, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 11/1 Rank Election

(1) If you are fan who drinks, the newly reopened Clifton’s Cafeteria would like to tempt you with these two science fictional libations –

drinks at Cliftons

(2) “Another Word: Chinese Science Fiction and Chinese Reality” by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu, in Clarkesworld, talks about the themes of other Chinese writers after these introductory comments about the domestic reception for his own work.

China is a society undergoing rapid development and transformation, where crises are present along with hopes, and opportunities coexist with challenges. This is a reality reflected in the science fiction produced there.

Chinese readers often interpret science fiction in unexpected ways. Take my Three Body series as an example. The alien-invasion story takes as its premise a “worst-case” scenario for relationships among members of the cosmic society of civilizations, which is called the “Dark Forest” state. In this state, different starfaring civilizations have no choice but to attempt to annihilate each other at the first opportunity.

After publication, the novels became surprisingly popular among those working in China’s Internet industry. They saw the “Dark Forest” state portrayed in the novels as an accurate reflection of the state of brutal competition among China’s Internet companies….

Authors (myself included) are often befuddled by such interpretations.

(3) From “’Star Wars’: Their First Time” in the New York Times.

Ridley Scott: I had done a film called “The Duellists” and was in Los Angeles to shoot at Paramount, and I honestly think Paramount had forgotten. I remember saying, I’m Ridley Scott, and they said who? So David Puttnam, one of the greatest producers I’ve ever worked with and the most fun, said, “Screw them, let’s go see [“Star Wars”] at the Chinese [theater].” It was the first week. I’ve never known audience participation like it, absolutely rocking. I felt my “Duellist” was this big [holds thumb and forefinger an inch apart], and George had done that [stretches arms out wide]. I was so inspired I wanted to shoot myself. My biggest compliment can be [to get] green with envy and really bad-tempered. That damn George, son of a bitch. I’m very competitive.

(4) Andrew Porter was interviewed, complete with photo, for “Longtime Brooklynites Reflect on a Changing Brooklyn” on Brownstoner.com:

Now you can put a face to me and my non SFnal opinions about recent changes in Brooklyn Heights, where I’ve lived for 47 years.

I’m sure you’ll also appreciate the comments, one of which accuses me of hating Brits!

(Daveinbedstuy accuses – “Andrew Porter sounds cranky; as he usually does on BHB. I wonder what he has against ‘Brits.’ And bringing up ‘granite countertops’ Really????????”)

(5) Jim C. Hines on Facebook:

I HAVE WRITTEN THE FIRST 22 WORDS OF MY NANOWRIMO NOVEL!

The NaNo word counter says at this rate, I’ll finish by January 20, 2022.

I suppose I should probably keep writing, eh?

(6) “Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910” is on exhibit through February 26, 2017 in the newly renovated Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition Gallery of the National Museum of American History.

Travel with us to the surface of the moon, the center of the earth, and the depths of the ocean – to the fantastic worlds of fiction inspired by 19th century discovery and invention.

New frontiers of science were emerging. We took to the air, charted remote corners of the earth, and harnessed the power of steam and electricity. We began unlocking the secrets of the natural world. The growing literate middle class gave science a new and avid public audience. Writers explored the farther reaches of the new scientific landscape to craft hoaxes, satires and fictional tales.

Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910 is accompanied by an online exhibit.

(7) Francis Hamit, a novelist and film producer who is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, has published A Perfect Spy, a memoir about his first two years at the University of Iowa when he was a dual major in Drama and Business. While he narrates the ongoing dramatic social changes that were transforming society and the university in 1965 and 1966, he also covers the impact of the sexual revolution, the sudden rise of a drug culture, and the beginnings of the anti-war movement at the University of Iowa, from a first-person perspective.

“I saw the first draft card burnt,” Hamit says; “And I would see the last anti-war riot there several years later. I was also very disturbed by the rise of all kinds of drug use in and around Iowa City. Unlike almost everyone else I knew, I did not think this ‘cool’. I saw people ruining thier lives by refusing to tell the police who’d sold them the drugs: facing years in prison. I offered to help them find the dealers if they would leave my friends alone. How I did this is narrated in A Perfect Spy, which is a 118-page excerpt from my forthcoming book Out of Step: A Memoir of the Vietnam War Years.

“I was already in place,” Hamit added; “A perfect spy who made no pretenses of approving of recreational drugs. I didn’t do anything with them, but simply watched and listened so I could collect some useful intelligence for the police. At the same time, I became involved with some very interesting women who were part of the Sexual Revolution. That was part of a larger social revolt. None of what happened then can be viewed in isolation, so I’ve just tried to be as truthful as possible while changing a lot of the names of the people to prevent embarrassment.”

A Perfect Spy will be available exclusively at first from November 12, 2015 on Amazon Kindle for $5.00 and can be pre-ordered now. A print edition will be available in March, 2016 with a suggested retail price of $12.00 from most bookstores.

(8) “The artist who visited ‘Dune’ and ‘the most important science fiction art ever created’” – a gallery of Schoenherr at Dangerous Minds.

Frank Herbert said John Schoenherr was “the only man who has ever visited Dune.” Schoenherr (1935-2010) was the artist responsible for visualising and illustrating Herbert’s Dune—firstly in the pages of Analog magazine, then in the fully illustrated edition of the classic science fiction tale. But Herbert didn’t stop there, he later added:

I can envision no more perfect visual representation of my Dune world than John Schoenherr’s careful and accurate illustrations.

High praise indeed, but truly deserved, for as Jeff Love pointed out in Omni Reboot, Schoenherr’s illustrations are “the most important science fiction art ever created.”

(9) Jason Sanford posted a collection of tweets under the heading “The fossilization of science fiction and fantasy literature”. Here are some excerpts.

https://twitter.com/jasonsanford/status/660782118356783104

https://twitter.com/jasonsanford/status/660783781654233088

https://twitter.com/jasonsanford/status/660789856075948034

Although I have friends that do exactly what Sanford complains about, he doesn’t hang with them, read their fanzines, or (I’d wager) even know their names, so I’m kind of curious whose comments sparked off this rant.

Personally, I’m prone to recommend Connie Willis or Lois McMaster Bujold if I’m trying to interest someone in sf – though both have been around over 25 years and aren’t spring chickens anymore either.

People recommend what they know and esteem. It’s perfectly fine to argue whether recommendations will win fans to the genre, but it seems petty to act as if pushing “classic” choices is a war crime.

(10) John Scalzi was more or less content with Sanford’s line of thought, and responded with “No, the Kids Aren’t Reading the Classics and Why Would They”.

Writer Jason Sanford kicked a small hornet’s nest earlier today when he discussed “the fossilization of science fiction,” as he called it, and noted that today’s kids who are getting into science fiction are doing it without “Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and Tolkien.” This is apparently causing a moderate bit of angina in some quarters.

I think Sanford is almost entirely correct (the small quibble being that I suspect Tolkien is still common currency, thanks to recent films and video games), nor does this personally come as any particular shock. I wrote last year about the fact my daughter was notably resistant to Heinlein’s charms, not to mention the charms of other writers who I enjoyed when I was her age… thirty years ago. She has her own set of writers she loves and follows, as she should. As do all the kids her age who read.

The surprise to me is not that today’s kids have their own set of favorite authors, in genre and out of it; the surprise to me is honestly that anyone else is surprised by this.

(11) “The kids” who don’t read the classics are one case, would-be sf writers are another, explains Fynbospress in “Slogging forward, looking back” at Mad Genius Club.

Kris Rusch has also noted how many young writers she’s run into who are completely ignorant of the many, many female authors who’ve been in science fiction and fantasy since the start. Among other reasons, many of their works have gone out of print, and the new writers coming in may not have read the old magazines, or picked up the older, dated-artwork books at the used bookstores. So they really, truly, may not know that their groundbreaking new take has been done to death thirty years before they came on the scene, or that they’re trying to reinvent a wheel that has not only been invented, it’s evolved to all-wheel drive with traction control.

(12) I can’t say that Vivienne Raper is going where no one has gone before in responding to the latest Wired article about the Hugos — “Five reasons why the ‘Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul’ isn’t about ‘white men’”.

[First three of five points.]

There are many reasons why I might be “angered” by previous Hugo winners.  And none of them are anything to do with ‘the increasingly multicultural makeup’ of the awards:

ONE

Science fiction’s most prestigious award‘ for Best Novel was decided in 2014 by fewer than 4,000 voters.

TWO

The Best Short Story for 2014 got onto the ballot with fewer than 43 nominations.

THREE

Popular blogger John Scalzi has won more Hugo Awards (inc. best fan writer) than Isaac Asimov – author of I, Robot – or Arthur C. Clarke. He also has 90K+ Twitter followers.

(13) Jeb Kinnison at Substrate Wars is more analytical and lands more punches in “The Death of ‘Wired’: Hugo Awards Edition”. Here are his closing paragraphs.

The various flavors of Puppies differ, but one thing they’re not is anti-diverse — there are women, people of various colors, gays (like me), religious, atheists, and on and on. The one thing they have in common is that they oppose elevating political correctness above quality of writing, originality, and story in science fiction. Many of the award winners in recent years have been lesser works elevated only because they satisfied a group of progressives who want their science fiction to reflect their desired future of group identity and victim-based politics. For them, it is part of their battle to tear down bad old patriarchy, to bury the old and bring themselves to the forefront of culture (and incidentally make a living being activists in fiction.) These people are often called “Social Justice Warriors” – they shore up their own fragile identities by thinking of themselves as noble warriors for social justice. Amy Wallace places herself with them by portraying the issues as a battle between racist, sexist white men and everyone else.

She then goes on to give some space to Larry Correia, Brad Torgerson, and Vox Day (Ted Beale). While her reporting about them is reasonably truthful, they report that she promised to interview Sarah Hoyt (who ruins the narrative as a female Puppy) but did not do so, and left out material from other interviews that did not support her slant. Tsk!

The piece is very long, but written from a position of assumed moral superiority and elite groupthink, a long fall from classic Wired‘s iconoclastic reporting. It’s sad when a quality brand goes downhill — as a longtime subscriber, I’ve noticed the magazine has grown thinner in the last year as ad revenues declined and competition from upstarts like Fast Company ate into their market. Now they are me-tooing major controversies for clicks. Once you see this dishonesty in reporting, you should never view such sources as reliable again.

(14) Sometimes I suspect AI stands for “artificial ignorance.”

If the programmer of this tweet-generating robot was literate, they could easily discover that the words Portugal and Portuguese are not even mentioned in this U.S. Census definition of “Hispanic or Latino.”

(15) “The Original Star Wars Trilogy Gets An Awesome Force Awakens-Style Trailer” via Geek Tyrant.

I’d warn that there are too many spoilers, except you’ve already seen the original trilogy how many times?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mark-kitteh, Will R., JJ, Trey Palmer, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19 Asterix and the Missing Scroll

(1) The stars came out for White House Astronomy Night.

(2) New interview with Liu Cixin conducted by Yang Yang for China Daily.

When, in a telephone interview, China Daily reminds him of that comment, he replies: “It’s not a joke. Aliens may arrive at any time. When it happens, everything, social and economic reform, educational problems, international conflicts or poverty, will become much less important, compared with the alien crisis.”

Big countries such as China and international organizations such as the United Nations need to be ready for such an eventuality, he says.

“It does not necessarily involve a lot of money and human resources. But we should prepare, in the fields of politics, military, society and so on. The government should organize some people to do related research and preparations for the long term.”

Unfortunately, he says, “no country seems to have done this kind of thing”.

In the postscript for the English version of The Three-Body Problem, translated by Ken Liu, Liu Cixin says: “I’ve always felt that extraterrestrial intelligence will be the greatest source of uncertainty for humanity’s future. Other great shifts, such as and ecological disasters, have a certain progression and built-in adjustment periods, but contact between mankind and aliens can occur at any time. Perhaps in 10,000 years the starry sky that mankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent, but perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the Moon parked in orbit. … The appearance of this Other, or mere knowledge of its existence, will impact our civilization in unpredictable ways.”

(3) Bob Byrne’s “The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Tying in the BBC Sherlock Special” at Black Gate has a lot of good information.

Back in July, what seems to be the most popular ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ post appeared here at Black Gate. I looked at what I think went wrong with season three of the BBC’s Sherlock. I included the just-released ninety-second, ‘first look’ video for the upcoming Special, to be aired around Christmas. And I pointed out it seemed to be full of the “Look how clever we are” bits that I lamented in my post.

Now, just about everyone, including myself, loves that the Special is set in Victorian times; unlike the episodes in the first three seasons. Cumberbatch and Freeman would be given their first (and quite likely, only) opportunities to play Holmes and Watson in the Doyle mold. I view it as a chance for the show to get back on track and reclaim the multitude of fans it lost during season three.

(4) Brad Torgersen, in a comment on Kevin Trainor’s blog, now says:

I had multiple conduits for suggestions, and the comments section was just one conduit.

But he doesn’t identify what those sources for the majority of slated Sad Puppy 3 fiction were.

(5) Francis W. Porreto does not approve – “Really Quickies: From The Garbage Heap” at Bastion of Liberty.

If you’d like a gander at “how the other side emotes,” take a look at this post at this hard-to-describe site, particularly the comments that follow commenter “alauda’s” citation of this bit of dark foreboding. These past two days a fair amount of traffic has come here from there.

Note the complete lack of rational analysis. Note the immediate and unconditional willingness to condemn me, as if the scenario I wrote about were something I actually want to happen.

(6) Alyssa Rosenberg, while commenting on “The downside of cultural fragmentation” in the Washington Post, touches on a familiar topic —

Debates over what kinds of books, movies, television shows, comics and video games get awards are often a proxy way of debating what our cultural values ought to be. The alternative slates that attempted to wrest control of Hugo nominations were based on the idea that awards voters had over-prioritized identity politics over the quality of writing and plotting; GamerGate erroneously asserts that there’s a movement afoot to ban or stop the production of video games with certain themes or images. While I don’t agree with the premises of either of those two cultural movements, I do think left cultural criticism has sometimes asserted political litmus tests for art in recent years, and that elements of the right, spurred by the sometime success of this approach, have fallen into the same patterns (for a good example, see the suggestions that the action movie “Mad Max: Fury Road” was anti-male).

(7) After Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories picked apart the Trek-related fanhistory in Kevin Trainor’s post on Wombat Rampant, Dystopic followed with his own critique of what Davidson had to say about Trainor on Declination.

As my readers probably know already, I consider myself somewhere on the Puppy spectrum of the Science Fiction community. There’s quite a bit of difference between the Sad Puppies, who one might call the reformists, and the Rabid Puppies who are mostly of the opinion that Worldcon and the Hugos should be burnt to the ground and set on fire by their own Left-wing, Social Justice proponents.

Either way, though, both camps agree that the existing community is hopelessly corrupt, cliquish, and prone to a particular animus against Conservatives and Libertarians. This prejudice is such that their works are repeatedly voted down from awards, publishers like Tor Books are run by individuals openly hostile to alternate political affiliations, and backroom deals are made to secure nominations for authors based on political backgrounds and special interests.

Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories confirms this for us in a ridiculous post, so loaded up with Strawmen that he might as well be the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Let’s allow him to hang himself with his own rope, shall we?

(8) Workaholics actor Blake Anderson appears in the Halloween episode of The Simpsons:

“Well, you know, we kind of feel a little disrespected by Homer and we show up at his doorstep basically looking for revenge,” Anderson explains. “So it turns into a full onPanic Room situation, where he’s kind of stuck in the attic and looking for him. We’re out for blood for sure.”

In the vein of the Treehouse episodes, Anderson says this one is not necessarily “piss your pants” scary, but, he assures, “me and Nick Kroll definitely brought our creepy to the table for sure.”

 

(9) Is this a clue to the future of Game of Thrones?

(10) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • October 19, 1903 — Tor Johnson is born Karl Oscar Tore Johansson in Sweden. Especially known for his appearance in Plan 9 From Outer Space, although he had credits in all kinds of things, from the movie musical Carousel to Walter Cronkite’s You Are There nonfiction TV show.
  • October 19, 1945 — John Lithgow is born. Acted in Twilight Zone, Third Rock from the Sun, Buckaroo Banzai

(11) Today’s Birthday Book

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is 62 years old today. Phil Nichols explains:

Fahrenheit 451

FAHRENHEIT 451 was deposited for copyright at the Library of Congress on October 19, 1953. Both the first edition hardbound and mass market paperback carry this publication date, although the paperbacks actually reached the market a month earlier.

The McCarthy era’s climate of fear lingered beyond 1953, however; in spite of the book’s initial critical success, the first paperback printing took seven years to sell out.

(12) Diana Pavlac Glyer was very pleasantly surprised to find her forthcoming book Bandersnatch mentioned in a recent Publishers Weekly post, “Exploring C.S. Lewis’s Lasting Popularity – 52 Years After His Death”.

Coming in November, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings (Kent State University Press) by Diana Pavlac Glyer and James A. Owen shows readers how encouragement and criticism made all the difference in books written by the Inklings. A companion coloring book by Owen is expected next spring.

(13) Learn how to make your pumpkin look like a galaxy nebula.

front-view-galaxy-pumpkin

(14) Io9 says “The Glorious Poster For Star Wars The Force Awakens Has A Giant Planet Killer On It”. Almost needless to say, you can also see the full, high resolution poster there.

(15) This collection of “13 Creepy Bits of Bookish Trivia” at BookRiot lives up to its headline. Here’s one of the tamer entries.

  1. J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, is rumored to have been quite the odd character. However, after his brother died in a skating accident, Barrie would routinely dress up in his dead brother’s clothing in order to ease his mother’s grief. The tragedy of his brother’s death would come to inspire the character of Peter Pan.

(16) Tonight was the Terry Gilliam talk at the Alex Theatre. Crusading photojournalist John King Tarpinian snapped a picture of the marquee.

Terry Gilliam on Alex marquee COMP ph by JKT

(17) Chuck Wendig in “About That Dumb Star Wars Boycott” begins…

Let’s imagine that you are, as you are now, a straight white dude. Except, your world features one significant twist — the SFF pop culture you consume is almost never about you. The faces of the characters do not look like yours. The creators of this media look nothing like you, either. Your experiences are not represented. Your voice? Not there. There exist in these universes no straight white dudes. Okay, maybe one or two. Some thrown in to appease. Sidekicks and bad guys and walk-on parts. Token chips flipped to the center of the table just to make you feel like you get to play, too. Oh, all around you in the real world, you are well-represented. Your family, your friends, the city you live in, the job you work — it’s straight white dude faces up and down the block. But on screen? In books? Inside comic panels and as video game characters? Almost none. Too few. Never the main characters.

It feels isolating, and you say so.

And as a response you’re told, “Hey, take what you get.” They say, can’t you have empathy for someone who doesn’t look like you? Something something humanist, something something equalist. And of course you can have that empathy because you have to, because this is all you know, because the only faces and words and experiences on-screen are someone else’s so, really, what else are you going to do?

Then one day, things start to change. A little, not a lot, but shit, it’s a start — you start to see yourself up there on the screen. Sometimes as a main character. Sometimes behind the words on the page, sometimes behind the camera. A video game avatar here, a protagonist there. And it’s like, WOO HOO, hot hurtling hell, someone is actually thinking about you once in a while. And the moment that happens, wham. A backlash. People online start saying, ugh, this is social justice, ugh, this is diversity forced down our throats, yuck, this is just bullshit pandering quota garbage SJW — and you’re like, whoa, what? Sweet crap, everyone else has been represented on screen since the advent of film. They’ve been on the page since some jerk invented the printing press. But the moment you show up — the moment you get more than a postage stamp-sized bit of acreage in this world that has always been yours but never really been yours, people start throwing a shit-fit. They act like you’re unbalancing everything. Like you just moved into the neighborhood and took a dump in everybody’s marigolds just because you exist visibly.

(18) Amy Sterling Casil recommends The Looking Planet.

During the construction of the universe, a young member of the Cosmos Corps of Engineers decides to break some fundamental laws in the name of self expression.

 

[Thanks to Will R., JJ, John King Tarpinian and Amy Sterling Casil for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]