(1) HERE’S THE PLOT. Ursula Vernon cultivates history in her garden. Read “Sowing History: A Gardener’s Tale” at Tor.com.
When people think of gardeners, many of them tend to picture little old ladies in straw hats with bright green gloves, pottering among the roses.
When people think of gardeners who are also children’s book authors, they go straight to Beatrix Potter and assume that not only are these little old ladies in straw hats pottering among the roses, but they are also greeting the friendly woodland creatures by name—“Hello, Mister Robin! You’re looking very feathery today!” “Why, Missus Tiggywinkle, how have you been?” “Oh dear, that naughty little cottontail has been at my lettuces again!”
Well, I am a gardener and a children’s book author. I am also under forty, tattooed, and the owner of a mostly black wardrobe, and when I greet a happy woodland creature by name, there is an excellent chance that the sentence will end with “touch that and I will end you.”
(2) THE FIRST STAR WARS FANS. The Skywalking Through Neverland podcast discusses “The Early Days of Star Wars Fandom with Craig Miller”.
Our special guest Craig Miller was the Publicist and Director of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm during the hey-day of the 70’s and 80’s. Ever wonder how fans knew what was going on in fandom before social media? Whose job was it to tell the world about this new movie called Star Wars? Craig shares some awesome stories.
(3) KAMERON HURLEY. Asked where his inspiration came from, lyricist Sammy Cahn said “When the check arrives.” Kameron Hurley’s check has arrived, but she explains what else she needs besides, in “Kameron Hurley: Cultivating Inspiration on Deadline” at Locus Online.
Instead of spending all that time feeling guilty about what I wasn’t doing and scrolling through Twitter, I needed to release myself from the ‘‘I should be writing’’ mentality and let my brain start connecting things on its own. I found that the more I actively thought about plot problems, the less my brain wanted to fix them. It kept trying to avoid the problems I’d put to it. For instance, instead of fixing a plot problem on my current book, my brain recently offered up a solution to a subplot problem in the next book I’ll be working on. At some point I have to give in and let my brain make the connections it needs to make, without getting in its way. More and more, I have to let my brain go more than I’m used to, or it just retreads the same old story paths.
I would like to tell you that giving up everything to write is the only way to write. I enjoy spouting that whole ‘‘fall on your sword’’ advice time and time again. Giving up activities that waste your time while you should be writing is beneficial, but I can only burn hard like I have for so long before the flame gutters out. I don’t want to be that writer who just writes the same story over and over again.
(4) A LECKIE FANTASY. Rachel Swirsky’s April 8 Friday Fiction Recommendation is “Marsh Gods” by Ann Leckie.
I’m a fan of Ann’s fantasy universe in which gods must be careful to speak the truth, lest they lose their power. I hope we get longer work in it someday, or at least more. (Publishers: Hint, hint.)
Read “Marsh Gods” at Strange Horizons, or listen at PodCastle.
(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There was a bit of drama during “Day 5 – Writers of the Future Volume 32 Workshop”.
First up was Liza Trombi from Locus Magazine, the foremost professional publication in science fiction and fantasy literature. She discussed Locus, and then moved on to the vagaries of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and going hybrid. Liza recommended trying traditional publishing before attempting self-publishing. She also mentioned that publishing your first novel is rare, and that the best thing you can do for your future writing career is to always be writing a new book.
Robert J. Sawyer was up after Liza. With fresh copies of Locus in the winner’s hands, Robert took the opportunity to point out that his latest book, while having been well reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and the Washington Post, was disliked by Locus. And while the book is doing extremely well, the reality is that someone will always dislike your work. He stressed that you should never write to please everyone because you never will. Your job, he says, is to identify what it is you do. You should know what your brand is as a writer, and write to please those people.
(6) WRITERS OF THE PRESENT. The bestselling authors are walking between the raindrops at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend.
Stan Lee kept dry.
Other ornaments to our genre were on hand.
No Scalzi food photo today, but it played an important part on the program.
He also found time to practice his starship hijacking skills, on a modest scale.
(7) BINDER FULL OF LETTERS. Doug Ellis shares a few more historic letters in his post “Otto Binder on H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard” at Black Gate.
In late December 1935, science fiction author Otto Binder moved from Chicago to NYC to represent Otis Adelbert Kline’s literary agency. Among the authors he represented for Kline’s agency was Robert E. Howard. Binder had been to NYC previously, in late June and early July 1935, with his friends Clifford Kornoelje (better known in SF circles as Jack Darrow) and Bill Dellenback.
As I’ve mentioned before, back in 2001 I bought a few boxes of correspondence from Darrow’s estate, including dozens of letters that Binder had written to Darrow over the course of many decades. In going through them last month, I pulled this one and thought I’d post it today.
Once in NYC, Otto quickly resumed his friendships with Mort Weisinger and Charles Hornig, and rapidly met more figures involved in the local science fiction community. Less than two weeks after he’d arrived, he was invited to a gathering at Frank Belknap Long’s place, which was held on Friday, January 3, 1936. Binder and Long were fellow Weird Tales authors, with Binder and his brother, Earl, having sold WT some stories under their Eando Binder penname.
Among the others at the party were Donald and Howard Wandrei, Kenneth Sterling and, most interestingly of all, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft impressed Binder greatly, as he relates in this letter to Darrow dated January 12, 1936. That would have been some gathering to attend!
(8) HAMPUS, IS THAT YOU? Not a toll-free call! CNN has the story: “The Swedish Number: Random Swedes are waiting to hear from you”.
Are you there, Sweden? It’s us, the world.
To mark the 250th anniversary of Sweden’s abolition of censorship, the Swedish Tourist Association has launched a phone number connecting global callers with random Swedes.
Think Chatroulette meets the United Nations.
Sweden’s new ambassadors don’t receive any training and their time is voluntary. They simply download the Swedish Number app, register their number, and signal their availability by switching themselves on or off.
As for the cost of ringing up, it’s charged as an international call so check with your provider before chatting with your new Swedish buddies late into the night.
There have been nearly 14,000 calls since the service launched on April 6, with nearly a third coming from the U.S. and a fifth from Turkey.
(9) GAME MAKER YIELDS. Crave reports “Baldur’s Gate Developer States They Will Change Trans Character and Remove GamerGate Joke”.
After an inexplicable amount of press was placed upon their team by angry gamers, Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear‘s developer Beamdog has stated that they will be altering the dialogue of transgender character Mizhena in a future update, along with removing a reference to GamerGate.
In the game, which is an expansion to the original Baldur’s Gate, there is a line of dialogue in which minor NPC Mizhena explains the origins of her name, revealing to the player that although being born a boy, she and her parents “came to understand [she] was truly a woman” later in life. This entire exchange, which is limited to four sentences, led to the game being bombarded with negative user reviews online, despite critical reviews of the game being positive. Another point of contention for its detractors was a line at the expense of GamerGate, in which popular character Minsc says “really, it’s all about ethics in heroic adventuring.”
(10) CARPENTER ON GALAKTIKA PAYMENT OFFER. Anna Grace Carpenter, who surfaced the story (“Galaktika Magazine: Theft on a Massive Scale”) expresses her views about Galaktika’s response in “Galaktika Magazine: By Way of Explanation”.
Let me pause for a moment and say that the offer of compensation is a step in the right direction. However, neither Mr. Burger or Mr. Németh have addressed the underlying issue.
This is a chronic and widespread issue of theft. It is not just the stories published in 2015 (of which there are many), but work that was published as far back as 2008….
This pattern is more than a lack of diligence or caution or speed on the part of the publishing staff at Galaktika. It is not an occasional oversight or misunderstanding of previous contracts. This is habitual theft.
Remember that the vast majority of these authors never submitted their work for consideration, there was no implication of giving their permission for the translation and publication of their stories in Galaktika. Rather, their work was copied from other, paying publications online without any attempt to contact the original publisher, editor or author, and then printed for profit in Galaktika. That is not a mistake, that is theft.
Cat Rambo, current president of SFWA, said she is still trying to obtain a copy of István Burger’s statement in English and there are still questions to be answered. (How soon can authors expect to receive payment? Will authors be able to request their work be pulled from Galaktika? Will Galaktika contact all those involved to arrange compensation or will they put the responsibility on the individual to contact them and make a claim?)
And the question remains, what will Mr. Burger and Mr. Németh do going forward?
(11) DRAGON AWARDS DISCUSSION CONTINUES.
Deby Fredericks on “The Dragon Awards” at Wyrmflight.
One of the distinctions I believe Dragon Con is trying to make, is that the existing prestigious awards are decided by a limited number of people — a jury, members of a particular convention or group — while the Dragon Awards will be nominated and voted by all fans. This sounds fair and noble, but I’m remembering that time when DC let fans vote on whether Robin should be killed by the Joker. They were aghast that fans wanted Robin dead. Was the outcome fair? Perhaps. But was it noble?
Already, some in the community responsible for the Hugo Awards Kerfluffle have been heard to gloat that now they will win because no bunch of snobs can vote them down. As you probably can tell, I’m a little tired of hearing privileged majorities play the dismartyrdom card. We’ll all find out in time.
I don’t necessarily agree that SF/media/everything needs another set of awards. However, I do believe Dragon Con is a large enough and inclusive enough organization to credibly present such an award. It will be interesting to see the outcome, and where it aligns or doesn’t align with the other awards.
Brian K. Lowe posted about “The Dragon Awards” at Graffiti on the Walls of Time.
“Another trophy,” you say, possibly enthusiastically, perhaps dismissively, maybe with a touch of boredom. Or maybe you say it with an appraising tone, as do we authors who think, “Hey, there’s another award I can aspire to (and probably never win)…” Regardless of your personal reaction, the awards are here and presumably they’re going to stick around a while. (America’s thirst for awards ceremonies is almost as impossible to slake as its thirst for reality shows, or sleazy political drama. If it ain’t a competition, we’re not interested.)
All of these reactions are quite understandable. What I don’t understand is those who believe that this development somehow spells trouble for the Hugo Awards given out every year by the aforementioned Worldcon.
Cirsova takes the whole thing rather less than completely seriously in “Genrefication and Dragon Awards”.
This isn’t a victory, unless your aim is creating genre ghettos.
In response, I propose an alternative. If I ever get the reach to make such an endeavor feasible, I will give you the Brackett Awards:
- Categories will include, but are not limited to, in Long and Short Form:
- Best Space Princess/Classiest Dame
- Most Dashing Swordsman/Gunman
- Creepiest Monster/Alien
- Most Exotic/Erotic Xeno-hominid
- Best Explosion
- Coolest Spaceship
- Best Empire (domineering, crumbling or otherwise)
Will these categories end up punishing certain books under the SFF umbrella? Probably, but not the most awesome ones.
Ian Mond says live and let live at Hysterical Hamster.
And a day or so ago Dragon Con launched its own genre awards. To reflect the size of the con there’s about fifty billion categories ranging from best Apocalyptic fiction (my personal favourite) to Best episode in a continuing science fiction or fantasy series, TV or internet (take a deep breath). I don’t begrudge any organisation, individual or entity organising and administering their own awards. More power to them. Personally though, I think I’ll give this one a miss.
Martin C. Wilsey’s sentiments about “The Dragon Awards” are shorter but not as sweet.
Well it was bound to happen. The Hugo Awards process corruption scandal has finally led to the inevitable conclusion. A new award that has fairness baked in. The Dragon Awards.
–Let’s hope that this award is all about quality of the fiction.
(12) RECAP. I don’t watch Sleepy Hollow so it’s hard to explain how I got sucked into reading this spoiler-filled recap of the final episode. This paragraph will give you the gist of what SciFi4Me felt about it:
Bloody Hell. I don’t know what they are thinking. And I don’t know how a show based on such a flimsy premise could jump the shark, but they did.
(13) DEAN KAMEN. The inventor of the Segway is the son of E.C. Comics’ Jack Kamen. Read about “Inventor Dean Kamen’s Big Ideas” in the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Kamen, 65, is known for coming up with the Segway (the two-wheeled electric vehicle), the iBot (a stair-climbing wheelchair) and a portable dialysis machine. He considers the First Robotics Competition, now in its 25th season, one of his best ideas yet…
In the competition, teams of students have six weeks to build a robot from scratch. The robots must then complete various tasks, working in teams. In this year’s challenge, they have to get through their opponents’ fortifications and take over territory in a space set up to look like a medieval battlefield with castles and towers. More than 400,000 students are competing this year, up from about 100 in 1992. “More and more, kids are starting to see that technology is cool. It’s not for nerds,” he says.
Mr. Kamen grew up a self-described nerd in New York’s Long Island, the son of a comic-book illustrator and a teacher. His engineering career started early; in high school, he earned more than $50,000 a year for designing and installing light and sound systems for musicians and museums.
Mr. Kamen, who is unmarried and doesn’t have children, spends most of his time working. “I get up in the morning, and I start working, then I keep working until I can’t work anymore, then I fall asleep,” he says. His idea of a vacation is going from one project to another when he’s stuck.
(14) TODAY IN HISTORY
- April 9, 1833: First tax-supported U.S. public library founded, Peterborough, New Hampshire
- April 9, 1959: NASA introduced first seven astronauts to press.
(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- Born April 9, 1926 – Hugh Hefner.
(16) KEEPING THE HARD IN HADRON. Ladies and gentlemen, the LEGO Particle Accelerator! JK Brickworks says —
This is a working particle accelerator built using LEGO bricks. I call it the LBC (Large Brick Collider). It can accelerate a LEGO soccer ball to just over 12.5 kilometers per hour.
(17) A CASE OF PHYSLEXIA. As most of you already guessed, I picked the previous item’s headnote because it references a typo that made news this week.
The BBC get overexcited by the world’s largest atom smasher.
(18) ATARI FLASHBACK. RPF Pulse brings us “The Art of ATARI Book Preview Images”.
Co-written by Robert V. Conte and Tim Lapetino, The Art of Atari includes a comprehensive retrospective collecting game production and concept artwork, photos, marketing art, with insight from key people involved in Atari’s rich history, and behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!
Includes a special Foreword by New York Times bestseller Ernst Cline, author of Armada and Ready Player One, soon to be a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.
Atari is a touchstone for many people. Their games and game system exposed many to video games for the first time. Whether you’re a fan, collector, enthusiast, or new to the world of Atari, this book offers the most complete collection of Atari artwork ever produced!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ,and Soon Lee for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]