Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2019 Finalists

Mark Lawrence has posted the ten Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2019 finalists. SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist, and every finalist was the top pick out of 30 reviewed by the blog named in brackets.

  • Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke (The Coraidic Sagas Book 1) [Fantasy-Faction]
  • Beggar’s Rebellion by Levi Jacobs (Resonant Saga Book 1) [Fantasy Book Critic]
  • Never Die by Rob J. Hayes [Lynn’s Books]
  • Blade’s Edge (Chronicles of Gensokai Book 1) by Virginia McClain [The Qwillery]
  • Spark City: Book One of the Spark City Cycle by Robert J. Power [ Booknest]
  • The Sword of Kaigen: A Theonite War Story by M.L. Wang [Kitty G]
  • Fortune’s Fool (Eterean Empire Book 1) by Angela Boord [TSWI]
  • Kalanon’s Rising (Agents of Kalanon Book 1) by Darian Smith [Superstar Drifter]
  • A Tale of Stars and Shadow by Lisa Cassidy [Fantasy Hive]
  • A Sea of Broken Glass: A Dark Flintlock Fantasy (The Lady & The Darkness Book 1) by Sonya M. Black [Rockstarlit Book Asylum]

They’re now in phase 2 of the contest, where the participating bloggers are allowed five months to read and score the other 9 finalists, review their favorite, and lastly, review the winner.

Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest four years ago. Here is his Mission Statement:

The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

It is not:
i) Perfect. Great books will slip through this net just like they do every other net.
ii) Aimed at getting traditional publications deals. Some authors opt for them but it would be an insult to suggest that the holy grail for self published authors is a deal with a big publisher.
iii) Charged for. This is totally free. The enormous effort given by the reviewers/blogs is a gift. Don’t abuse it. #NoDrama

The winner will receive the prestigious Selfie Stick Award

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/13/19 Baby, It’s Fahrenheit 451 Outside

(1) CHIZINE STORY CONTINUES TO UNFOLD. Three more writers announced they have asked ChiZine Publications to revert their rights:

I have spent the past week reading and processing the ongoing revelations and allegations about my publisher ChiZine. I honour the words and experiences and the courage of those who have come forward to speak.

Through my agent, I have requested that ChiZine revert to me the rights to all of my work that they have published.

Re: The current status of my collection Celestial Inventories and Melanie’s final novel The Yellow Wood–I’ve asked for and received a reversion of the rights for these two ChiZine titles. As soon as they are removed from such online booksellers as Amazon they will be re-issued by Crossroads Press as e-books. Hopefully, at some point they will reappear in paperback form, but I can’t be sure if and when.

  • Cat Rambo

Can*Con chairs Dererk Künsken and Marie Bilodeau have offered to use the convention’s platform to support affected authors and staffers:

Statement from Can*Con regarding recent public information about ChiZine:

A large number of detailed allegations of abusive behaviour and non-payment of authors and staff have recently come to light. Friends and members of the Can*Con community have been touched and hurt financially and emotionally. As Co-Chairs of Can*Con, we stand with the victims and offer our support, both as an organization and as Derek and Marie. We do not believe that there is a place in our community for abusive behaviour.

We would also like to offer to use what platform and resources we have to help the affected authors and staffers continue to move their careers forward. We would like to immediately offer to:

***use Can*Con’s social media presence to promote the books that affected authors may have for sale that will put money in their pockets, as well as places where the public can support their art through means such as Patreon, Ko-Fi, Drip, etc;

***waive the registration fee for Can*Con 2020 to affected authors and staffers so as to reduce the burden of participating in the community; and

***we will set aside 1-2 tables for free in the dealer’s room at Can*Con 2020, where affected authors and staffers can sell their author stock, other books, etc. without an additional conference expense. The authors could work together to organize shifts for the table, so that they can enjoy the con and network.

Any staffers or authors who would like to participate in any or all of this, please email canconchairs@gmail.com.

As co-chairs of a public event, we also have additional responsibilities in the face of this new information. We’ll take other appropriate actions to make Can*Con a place free of harassment and abuse, although it is possible that we will not be able to make public statements about that work. However, we hope that people take at face value our commitment to creating a positive, encouraging, energizing, uplifting space for SFFH folk. We are committed to always listen, learn, and act to continue to make Can*Con a space the community can be proud of.

We send our best and much warmth to those directly affected and also those triggered by these events. If we can do anything to help, please feel free to personally reach out to either or both of us.

Derek and Marie (and the whole Can*Con team)

Kerrie Byrne, after reading various posts revealing ChiZine’s finances, wrote another extended thread which begins here.

Bob Boyczuk’s November 7 post “The ChiZine Shitshow” has not previously been linked here.

I’ve been at the shit end of the stick with them ever since our relationship blew up when I withdrew my last book in Jan of 2018. My reasons for doing so were both  personal and professional. Leaving the personal reasons aside, they hadn’t given me a royalty statement or payment in three years, to say nothing of the reserves against returns they withheld, some up to 5 years after they were due. Moreover, their support of my last book was, to say the least, underwhelming. To be fair, however, most of the money owing (as well as questions of rights) has been settled since, although not without a long and frustrating back and forth which included personal attacks on me. In the few years before I severed ties with them, several other authors had complained to me about their late/non-existent royalties and/or the way they’d been treated. When this first started happening, I generally defended Chizine. But, when it became clear this wasn’t just a few isolated cases, I gave up on trying to defend the indefensible, and my advice to other authors became, “They produce a good-looking product, but be aware of what you’re getting into.”

Brian Keene says listen in Thursday –

(2) LIFELINE. “We lived long and prospered! How Star Trek saved fans’ lives “ — Duncan Barrett interviewed fans who credit Star Trek for helping them survive life crises: in The Guardian.

[Letitia Lemon:] I grew up watching Voyager, but it wasn’t until university that I made my way through the whole Star Trek back-catalogue. Studying film and TV production, I could see that the shows were products of their time, but the characters and themes were timeless.

In my final year, I had an accident in the scene-dock where the sets were kept. A huge metal pole fell on to my head, missing my eye by less than an inch. For several weeks I had concussion, with nausea and light sensitivity that made it hard to look at a TV.

Then the nightmares began. In my dreams, the accident had left me with a gaping bloody eye-socket, like something from a horror movie. I would wake gasping for breath and run to check myself in the mirror. Every time I went back into the scene-dock I froze. I didn’t realise it, but I had PTSD.

It was an episode of Discovery that finally made it all click. In a crisis, Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) was having flashbacks to being tortured by the Klingons, and Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) was trying to calm him down. “You’re safe,” she told him. “What you are experiencing are the effects of past trauma.”

I stared at the screen in silence. I wasn’t watching as a film student now – or even as a fan – but as someone who knew exactly what that character was feeling. The admiral’s words gave me strength. From that day on, the nightmares stopped.

I tracked Jayne down on Twitter and told her my story. When I saw she was appearing at this year’s Las Vegas convention I knew I had to go, even though I was terrified of flying. I got through my first ever flight with Cornwell’s final line scrawled on a piece of paper in my lap: “Whatever your path may be, you can handle it.” When I arrived, she gave me a big hug. I knew it had all been worth it.

(3) OUTER LIMITS. Galactic Journey’s Natalie Devitt’s 4-episode recap includes a classic of SF television: “[November 13, 1964] Beat the Devil (The Outer Limits, Season Two, Episodes 5-8)”

Demon with a Glass Hand marks Robert Culp’s third appearance on The Outer Limits, after his previous roles in The Architects of Fear and Corpus Earthling. The third time is absolutely a charm. In this episode, Culp transforms into Trent, a man who recalls nothing of his past, but in the present is being pursued by human-like extraterrestrials called the Kyben.

The Kyben are after Trent to gain possession of his glass computerized hand, which “holds all knowledge.” His hand speaks, providing guidance to Trent to help him avoid capture. The Kyben already possess three of his fingers, which Trent needs in order to collect more information about his past. Along the way, he meets and is helped by a charming seamstress, Consuelo Biros, played by Arlene Martel of The Twilight Zone episodes Twenty Two and What You Need.

Harlan Ellison has done it again. Just like with The Soldier, Ellison‘s writing has helped The Outer Limits dive much deeper into science fiction. Ellison combines a lot of different things that, in the hands of a less skilled writer, might not work as well as they do here. The episode has an interesting premise, drama, action, and just a little bit of everything. Culp and Martel deliver spectacular performances. Back in the director’s chair is Byron Haskin, director of The War of The Worlds (1953) and this summer’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

(4) WHEN THE MAGIC INGREDIENT – $$ — IS MISSING. Mark Lawrence says this is what happened when studios came knocking on his door: “Hollywood and Hollywouldn’ts – your options as an author.”

…I spent a long time on the phone with very talkative, very enthusiastic, very convincing Hollywoodians. And I HATE phone calls. Hate them.

I was even skyped by the head of the head of a major US TV network’s Hollywood studio (CBS). He talked about how many millions would be spent on the (and here I forget the terminology) short taster that would be used to drum up funding for a full film.

I had small film companies showing me their short-form work and conference calling about scripts for different scenes – filming to start in 3 months.

Here’s the thing though. All of these people wanted the option on my work. Not one of these people was prepared to pay for it.

The option is a legal agreement that for the period of the option (typically 1 or 2 years) the author will not sell the film or TV rights to their work to anyone else. That’s all it is. You haven’t agreed to sell them to the person who holds the option (though sometimes you have – more of that later), just not to sell them to anyone else….

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 13, 1933 The Invisible Man premiered. Produced by Universal Pictures, the film stars Claude Rains, in his first American screen appearance, and Gloria Stuart. The movie was popular at the box office, Universal’s most successful horror film since Frankenstein. The film holds a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 13, 1940 — Walt Disney’s Fantasia premiered at the Broadway Theater in New York; first film to attempt to use stereophonic sound.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 13, 1850 Robert Louis Stevenson. Author of for Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the New Arabian Nights collection of short stories. (Died 1894.)
  • Born November 13, 1888 Philip Francis Nowlan. He’s best known as the creator of Buck Rogers. While working in Philadelphia, he created and wrote the Buck Rogers comic strip, illustrated by Dick Calkins. Philip Nowlan working for the syndicate John F. Dille Company, later known as the National Newspaper Service syndicate, was contracted to adapt the story into a comic strip. The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. (Died 1940.)
  • Born November 13, 1930 Adrienne Corri. Mena in “The Leisure Hive”, a Fourth Doctor story. She was also in A Clockwork OrangeDevil Girl from MarsCorridors of BloodThe Tell-Tale HeartLancelot and GuinevereRevenge of the Pink Panther and Moon Zero Two which is not a complete listing by any means. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 13, 1933 James Daris, 86. He played the role of Creature in the deservedly maligned “Spock’s Brain” episode. He’d do one-offs in I Spy, I Dream of Jeannie, Land of the Giants, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible, the latter with Shatter and Nimoy. He retired from acting with a role in Larva, a horror film.
  • Born November 13, 1953 Tracy Scoggins,66. Capt. Elizabeth Lochley on Babylon 5 and its follow-up series, the short-lived Crusade. See Neil Gaiman’s Babylon 5 episode “ Day of the Dead” for all you need to know about her. She was also Cat Grant in the first season of Lois & Clark, and she played Gilora Rejal,  a female Cardassian, in “Destiny” a DS9 episode.
  • Born November 13, 1955 Whoopi Goldberg, 64. Best known as Guinan the Barkeep in Ten Forward on Enterprise in Next Gen which she reprised in Generations and Nemesis. Other genre appearances include It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle to name but a few of her appearances as she’s very busy performer!
  • Born November 13, 1957 Stephen Baxter, 62. Ok I’m going to confess that the only thing I’ve read that he’s written is the Long Earth serieswith Terry Pratchett.  I’ve only read the first three but they are quite great SF!  Ok I really, really need your help to figure out what else of his that I should consider reading. To say he’s been a prolific writer is somewhat of an understatement and he’s gotten a bonnie bunch of literary awards as well.  It’s worth noting that Baxter’s story “Last Contact” was nominated for a. Hugo for best short story. 
  • Born November 13, 1971 Noah Hathaway, 48. Best known as Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story and for being Boxey on the original Battlestar Galactica series. He was also Harry Potter Jr. in Troll, a 1986 comedy horror film which had nothing to do with that series.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pearls Before Swine suggests a near-future story about why we didn’t get coffee this morning.

(8) SHADE OF A DOUBT. Brian Chesky, chief executive of Airbnb, answered a question for the New York Times:

NYT: What’s your craziest Airbnb experience?

…We also have some really weird things. …. One day a customer calls us and says they want a full refund. We say, “Why do you want a full refund?” They said, “Because the house is haunted and there’s a ghost in the house.” And we’re, like, “O.K., well, we have to adjudicate this.”

So we call the host, and all the host has to do is deny it, because there’s no photo evidence of ghosts. Well, unfortunately the host confirms the ghost, says that it’s a friendly ghost named Stanley, and that the ghost Stanley is in the listing description.

We read the listing description, Stanley is mentioned. So we go back to the guest and the guest says, “Yes, we knew about Stanley, that’s why we booked it. But Stanley has been harassing us all night.” How do you adjudicate that? So I guess the point is in this new economy built on trust you can only imagine the kind of issues you deal with. There is no playbook for this stuff.

(9) PRESERVING FANHISTORY. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari sent out an update – he and Edie will see you next at Loscon in LA over Thanksgiving Weekend.

We brought the FANAC scanning station to Philcon last weekend, Nov. 8-10, and  scanned over 1,500 pages. We also received donations of both publications and recordings. The week before, we also received a carton of recordings from NESFA. Those cover Boston fandom going back to at least Boskone 5 in 1968! We haven’t had a chance to inventory them yet but a quick glance includes recordings of Marvin Minsky, Isaac Asimov, Gordon Dickson and many, many others.

Lastly, and MOST IMPORTANT: Edie Stern, our webmaster is going to be a Guest of Honor at Loscon 46 in 2 weeks, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2019, at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel. Come by and say “hello” to her.

To celebrate her Honorship, we will have another FANAC Scanning Station at the con.  Bring your favorite fannish photos and fanzines to Loscon so we can scan them and add them to FANAC.org. If you have old fannish recordings or films you can bring those as well. See you at Loscon.

(10) VAMPIRE BAMBI. “Silver-Backed Chevrotain, With Fangs And Hooves, Photographed In Wild For First Time”.

The silver-backed chevrotain — a mysterious animal that’s the size of a rabbit but looks like a silver-splashed deer — has been photographed in the wild for the first time. The chevrotain is the world’s smallest hoofed mammal, or ungulate.

Scientists say they have rediscovered a type of chevrotain that had been “lost to science” for nearly 30 years.

“They are shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs,” says Global Wildlife Conservation, which helped back the project that recently tracked down the elusive animals in southern Vietnam.

(11) HOMEWARD BOUND. Returning to sender:“Hayabusa-2: Japan spacecraft leaves asteroid to head home”.

Japan’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft has departed from a faraway asteroid and begun its yearlong journey back to Earth.

The spacecraft left its orbit around Ryugu on Wednesday with samples of the asteroid in tow.

Hayabusa-2 is expected to return to Earth in late 2020, completing its successful multi-year mission.

Japan’s space agency, Jaxa, said the collected samples could shed light on the origins of the Solar System.

(12) CAT BUNGLER. Caught by social media, “‘Fat cat smuggler’ falls foul of Russian airline”.

Russian carrier Aeroflot has stripped a passenger of his air miles for breaching its rules by sneaking his overweight cat aboard a flight.

Mikhail Galin, 34, took his cat Viktor on board flight SU1702, from Moscow to Vladivostok, Aeroflot said.

Under Aeroflot’s rules, pets weighing more than 8kg (17lb) must be placed in the luggage hold.

Because Viktor was too heavy for the passenger cabin, Mr Galin devised a cunning plan.

He swapped Viktor for a smaller cat during check-in to get around the weight restrictions.

(13) AIR FROM WHERE? Independent reports “Nasa gets inexplicable new data showing unexpected oxygen fluctuations on Mars”.

…During the study, which used an instrument to analyse the air on Mars over the course of three Martian years or just under six Earth years, scientist found that gases like nitrogen and argon behave predictably through the year. The proportion of the gas rises and falls relative to the amount of carbon dioxide, which makes up 95 per cent of Martian air.

They thought that oxygen would see the same changes. But they were shocked to find that it in fact rose through the spring and summer, with a varying amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, which suggests that it is being produced and then removed from the air.

Researchers were so shocked by the findings that their first course of action was to check the accuracy of the instrument used to find the data, but found it was working fine. Other possible explanations based on what we know about the Martian atmosphere were also considered, but rejected.

“We’re struggling to explain this,” said Melissa Trainer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who led the research. “The fact that the oxygen behavior isn’t perfectly repeatable every season makes us think that it’s not an issue that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. It has to be some chemical source and sink that we can’t yet account for.”

The similarities between the mystery of Martian methane and Martian oxygen could be more than a coincidence, scientists speculate. It might be possible that they both have the same as yet unidentified cause.

“We’re beginning to see this tantalizing correlation between methane and oxygen for a good part of the Mars year,” Atreya said. “I think there’s something to it. I just don’t have the answers yet. Nobody does.”

(14) STILL TRYING TO GET THE PERFECT SHOT. “Infamous Han-Greedo Showdown Has Been Recut (Again) for Disney+”Tor.com has kept count how many times that’s been done.

This is the fourth version of the scene to appear in an official release: the original 1977, where Han appears to shoot (ahem) solo; the 1997 Special Edition that added in Greedo’s wide shot; the 2004 DVD edition which has Han and Greedo shooting at the same time; and now the 2019 Disney+ version, with Greedo getting in the last, baffling word.

(15) SOUNDS LIKE BATMAN. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Music story “‘Batman’ composer Danny Elfman says turning down Prince was ‘biggest, most stressful gamble’ of his career” says that Elfman recalled that at one point during the production of Batman he quit rather than work on the score of the film with Prince and Michael Jackson.  Eventually producer Jon Peters heard some of Elfman’s score and rehired him to completely produce the soundtrack.  But the film had two soundtracks, one by Elfman and one by Prince.

“The studio was happy,” says Elfman. “Jon Peters, he came up to me when we were scoring it — because there was not even going to be a soundtrack album for the score; it was only for Prince’s songs, and I knew that. And he came up to me, and he said, ‘You know what? This score is so good, we’re going to release a second soundtrack.’ And I go, ‘Yeah, right. You’re just saying that.’ That had never been done. And he did it! Like I said, it was a tough sell, but once he got sold, he was really excited, and he was a huge advocate, and he personally made it a big deal to get that second soundtrack out. So, he became a really fantastic advocate for the score that he was so resistant to in the beginning.”

(16) BEST AT BEING BAD. “Thanos snapped Pennywise to win SYFY WIRE’s Best Villain award “ – which is just one of the categories in SYFY Wire’s amusing “Two-Minute Award Show.”

Although Thanos may know what it’s like to lose, the Mad Titan finally knows what it’s like to win! For the inaugural SYFY WIRE Awards, Thanos has been named the Best Villain of 2019.

But it’s not like Thanos didn’t have stiff competition. His closest competitor was none other than Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It Chapter Two. Pennywise certainly knew how to strike fear into the hearts of children, as well as their impeccably cast adult counterparts. But in the end (or should we say in the Endgame?), Thanos proved to be too much for Stephen King’s fearsome creation.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Susan de Guardiola, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/29/19 Neither Wind Nor Fire Nor Darkness Shall Prevent The Pixels From Scrolling

(1) WOKE 100. Essence has named two well-known sff authors to its 2019 Woke 100.

This year’s list includes women who exemplify the true meaning of being change agents and power players. Working in areas from social justice to politics to entertainment, they inspire not only us here but also others around the world….

24

Tananarive Due

American Book Award winner Due is a leading voice in American Black speculative fiction. The author, professor and filmmaker teaches Black Horror and Afrofuturism at UCLA….

28

N.K. Jemisin

One of the best fantasy writers in the world is a Black woman. The three-time Hugo Award winner is the author of ten novels, and her latest How Long ’til Black Future Month?, which has been hailed as “marvelous and wide-ranging” by the Los Angeles Times.

(2) ‘THRONES’ PRODUCERS LEAVE STAR WARS. Deadline says the duo will be devoting their waking hours to Netflix programs: “‘Star Wars’ Setback: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Duo David Benioff & D.B. Weiss Exit Trilogy”.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the duo who in 2011 launched the singular screen sensation known as Game of Thrones, have walked away from their much-publicized deal with Disney’s Lucasfilm to launch a feature film trilogy in 2022.

Benioff and Weiss were supposed to usher in the post-Skywalker era of the Star Wars brand with a 2022 new-start story that would stake out a new frontier for the era-defining cinema brand created by George Lucas. The Emmy-winning pair cited their historic deal with Netflix. They said their enthusiasm for Star Wars remains boundless but, regrettably, their schedule is full.

…Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has plenty of other Star Wars projects in the hopper — The Rise of Skywalker on December 20, The Mandalorian in 15 days on Disney+ and the ramping up of the Ewan McGregor series, to name just three — so it’s unclear how much of a setback the now-nixed trilogy presents. There’s also no shortage of upcoming collaborators lined up, among them Rian Johnson and Kevin Feige.

…“There are only so many hours in the day, and we felt we could not do justice to both Star Wars and our Netflix projects,” the GoT pair said in a statement to Deadline. “So we are regretfully stepping away.”

(3) THRONES PREQUEL AXED. In an move reminiscent of the show’s own unexpected deaths, Deadline also reports HBO has killed one of its several Game of Thrones projects: “‘Game Of Thrones’ Prequel Pilot Starring Naomi Watts Not Going Forward At HBO”.

HBO has more Game of Thrones in the pipeline, but the prequel written by Jane Goldman and starring Naomi Watts is no longer happening.

Showrunner Goldman has been emailing the cast and crew of the project to tell them that the pilot is dead, we hear. The development has not been confirmed by HBO.

The prequel, created by the Kingsman scribe and George R. R. Martin, takes place thousands of years before the wars, romances and dragons of the Emilia Clarke- and Kit Harington-led GoT, which wrapped up its blockbuster eight-season run in May. Weaving in issues of race, power, intrigue and White Walkers, the Goldman-run prequel was given the pilot green light back in June 2018.

HBO hastened to publicize one of the surviving projects:

House Of The Dragon, a Game of Thrones prequel is coming to HBO.

The series is co-created by George RR Martin and Ryan Condal. Miguel Sapochnik will partner with Condal as showrunner and will direct the pilot and additional episodes. Condal will be writing the series.

(4) THROWING, ER, PASSING THE TORCH. Norman Spinrad’s peppery “On Books” column in the current issue of Asimov’s opines about Astounding, by Alec Nevala-Lee, and Nebula Awards Showcase 2018, edited by Jane Yolen, and Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson. [Note: Link has been updated to Pastebin, following Asimov’s removal of the column, with a statement to follow.]

Spinrad finds much to admire about the historianship of Nevala-Lee, but his positive critique is followed by the author’s own ideas about “how it really was.”  

…Nevala-Lee’s Astounding reads somewhat strangely to someone like me, who was involved with the main characters toward the ends of their literary stories and the beginning of mine, and probably would to anyone involved with the fannish history of science fiction, let alone readers of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Which is to say, to an insider one way or another. Nevala-Lee, at least to judge by what he has written, is not.

This has its strengths and its weaknesses. His research is admirably academically exhaustive, except when it comes to Hubbard—a notorious bullshit artist and outright liar—and on such a level is about as definitive as a full complex history of science fiction history up until the 1960s can get.

The strength of this is that Nevala-Lee writes all this from a certain emotional and neutral distance, as one might write a similar history of the nineteenth-century American union movement or the early twentieth-century history of the Hollywood film industry if these events occurred before you were born. The book would be entirely from the record. Nevala-Lee therefore has no personal axes to grind and sticks to the facts….

Then, Spinrad deconstructs the latest SFWA Nebula Awards anthology, doubting the benefit of excerpting novels and novellas, finding fault with many of the winners and runners-up represented in the book, and above all, expressing profoundly unhappy feelings about the condition of the genre:

So what does Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 tell us about the state of what the membership of SFWA is writing, and what is the state of their art in the present and likely into the future?

It tells us that fantasy has long since come to dominate SF. It tells us that many or perhaps even a majority of these SF writers do not have the education or indeed the inclination to learn the difference between science fiction and fantasy and to dish the result out to a populace that has more than enough confusion about the difference between reality and magic already.

(5) INDISTINGUISHABLE. Having encountered Spinrad’s column and Mark Lawrence’s recent post “The magic of science” on the same day, I wished for a panel discussion between the two writers — that would be highly interesting,

I’ve blogged several times on the dead and over-beaten horse of science vs magic. Today, rather than point out yet again that these two things are in fact the same, I’m going to point out an important difference.

This is not to contradict my earlier thoughts. Magic truly is science – but it’s generally presented in a manner that means it is radically different to the kind of science we encounter in the real world.

This difference has political echoes and doubtless would have political consequences if we were to encounter the most commonly imagined forms of “magic”.

In short, magic is typically presented in much the same way that superheroes are. To use magic you need to be specially gifted.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

…A graduate student named Charley Kline sat at an ITT Teletype terminal and sent the first digital data transmission to Bill Duvall, a scientist who was sitting at another computer at the Stanford Research Institute (now known as SRI International) on the other side of California. It was the beginning of ARPANET, the small network of academic computers that was the precursor to the internet.

  • October 29, 2012  — In Canada, Primeval: New World first aired. A spin-off of Primeval, it starred Niall Matter (Zane Donovan on Eureka) and Sara Canning. It was canceled after the first season of thirteen episodes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 29, 1926 Margaret Sheridan. She’s best remembered as Nikki Nicholson in The Thing from Another World. It was her first acting role and she’d be done acting a little over a decade later in the early Sixties. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 29, 1928 Jack Donner. He’s no doubt best known for his role of Romulan Subcommander Tal in the Trek episode “The Enterprise Incident”. He would later return as a Vulcan priest in the “Kir’Shara” and “Home” episodes on Enterprise. He’d also show up in other genre shows including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission Impossible (eleven episodes which is the most by any guest star) and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 29, 1928 Benjamin F. Chapman, Jr. He play the Gill-man in the land takes in Creature from the Black Lagoon. Ricou Browning did the water takes. His only other genre appearance was in Jungle Moon Men, a Johnny Weissmuller film. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 29, 1935 ?Sheila Finch, 84. She’s best known for her stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists which are quite excellent. The Golden Gryphon collection The Guild of Xenolinguists is well worth seeking out.
  • Born October 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 81. Started as low level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse. His first major break would be on CBS as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat which may or may not be genre but it’s got a talking cat.  Genre wise, I’d say War Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and whose final name was Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you know what film. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World
  • Born October 29, 1941 Hal W. Hall, 78. Bibliographer responsible for the Science Fiction Book Review Index (1970 – 1985) and the Science Fiction Research Index (1981 – 1922). He also did a number of reviews including three of H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy books showing he had excellent taste in fiction.
  • Born October 29, 1947 Richard Dreyfuss, 72. Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And The Player in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Not to mention the voice of Mister Centipede in James and the Giant Peach
  • Born October 29, 1971 Winona Ryder, 48. Beetlejuice of course but also Edward Scissorhands and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Not to mention Alien Resurrection and Star Trek. Which brings me to Being John Malkovich which might be the coolest genre film of all time. 
  • Born October 29, 1979 Andrew Lee Potts, 40. He is best known as Connor Temple on Primeval and the spinoff Primeval: New World. He was also Tim Larson in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series. Yes, it’s that Stan Lee.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows why computer dating is out of the question for these fantastic beings.
  • Grant Snider’s Incidental Comic for Halloween. (Apologies for a duplication of one panel – WordPress insists on showing pairs of tweets when they are internal to the thread.)

(9) MARVEL’S QUESADA. The Society of Illustrators is hosting “Highlights from The Marvel Art of Joe Quesada: Selected by Joe Quesada” through November 23. They’re located at 128 East 63rd Street, New York, NY.

Featuring a one-of-a-kind selection of rare original Joe Quesada drawings assembled from the personal collection of award-winning artist and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada.

Before becoming Marvel’s Editor-in Chief in 2000 and the company’s Chief Creative Officer in 2010, Joe Quesada made his mark as one of the most accomplished artists working in the comics medium. His groundbreaking work on series like Marvel’s X-FACTOR, DC’s THE RAY, Valiant’s NINJAK, and his own creation, ASH led to critical acclaim and an offer from Marvel to co-found the MARVEL KNIGHTS imprint. That line was an immediate success thanks to Quesada’s standout work on DAREDEVIL (with writer Kevin Smith) and later projects like WOLVERINE: ORIGIN and DAREDEVIL: FATHER (which he also wrote), cementing his reputation as one of the most important illustrators of his generation. Drawn from the pages of the career retrospective book, THE MARVEL ART OF JOE QUESADA, this exhibit features key pieces from all of those series as well as a number unique media inspired images created by Quesada during his tenure as Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer.

(10) BIG NAMES HELM FILM BASED ON STAÅLENHAG ART. ScreenRant reports “Endgame Writers Confirm Electric State Movie is Still Happening”

Avengers: Endgame writers confirm The Electric State movie is still happening. It’s no easy task following up a hit as big as this summer’s Avengers: Endgame, but it appears that the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is more than willing to try.

AMC Theatres has tweeted out an image from a panel confirming The Electric State will be the next project from the blockbuster duo. The film is based on an art book by Swedish author/illustrator Simon Stålenhag, which utilized a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2017 to get it off the ground. Previous reports have stated that Markus and McFeely would be working to adapt the project, with IT director Andy Muschietti on board to direct.

The Verge adds:

That film isn’t the only project based on Stålenhag’s works. Amazon Prime Video picked up Tales from the Loop for a TV series, which the artist confirmed was currently in production.

(11) WESTEROS FOR THE REST OF US. Despite Inverse’s headline — “Newly surfaced GRRM interview has a promising ‘Winds of Winter’ update” – while you learn several interesting things about what George R.R. Martin is working on, you come out knowing very little more about Winds of Winter than you knew going in.

His most interesting tidbit on Winds came in an update on his long-running series of Dunk & Egg short stories that take place within the world of Westeros. When asked if we may see more of the titular characters soon, Martin offered something of a tentative publication schedule for the next few Westeros titles.

“But first I have this book The Winds of Winter,” he said. “I have to finish that, and then I can write another Dunk and Egg story, and then I write A Dream of Spring, and then I write another Dunk and Egg story. At some point in there, I have to write the second part of Fire and Blood, so I have my work cut out for me.”

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants getting stumped again.

Category: Gargoyles

Answer: Paisley Abbey in Scotland added a new gargoyle likely inspired by this 1979 horror film.

No one got the question, “What is Alien?”

(13) HAUNTED HOME ECONOMICS. The Washington Post’s Emily Heil says nothing says Halloween like a hearty round of “feetloaf.”  It’s meatloaf–but shaped like feet!  With onions for bones and Brazil nuts for toenails.  It’s also known as “Feet of Meat.” — “It’s almost Halloween, and ‘feetloaf’ is already giving us nightmares”.

… Perhaps you have stopped reading right here and are clicking around somewhere else looking for videos of baby animals in the hopes of purging this image from your mind’s eye. No one could blame you. This is grade-A sickening stuff….

(14) STOLEN ROBOT CLOTHES RETURNED. Gabrielle Russon, in “NBA player Robin Lopez unknowingly bought stolen Disney World items, records show” in the Orlando Sentinel, says that police are investigating rare Disney items acquired by Milwaukee Bucks player Robin Lopez, including Buzzy, an animatronic robot that was part of the Cranium Command exhibit retired from Epcot in 2007.  Police say Lopez is a victim or a crime ring operated by former Disney employee Patrick Spikes, who they charge with an accomplice routinely stole retired Disney exhibits and then sold them through intermediaries to high-dollar Disney collectors.

Milwaukee Bucks player Robin Lopez confirmed Tuesday he gave back the clothes from Buzzy, a Disney World animatronic that authorities said had been stolen before they were sent to the company’s archives in California….

(15) FRESH BITES. A trailer for BBC’s Dracula, which also will stream on BBC’s iPlayer.

From the makers of Sherlock, Claes Bang stars as Dracula in this brand new mini-series inspired by Bram Stoker’s classic novel.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day bookworm1398.]

Pixel Scroll 6/22/19 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Files And His Churls

(1) MÜNCHHAUSEN DEBATE. Some regard Retro-Hugo nominee Münchhausen to be the best thing on the ballot, while others are considering refusing to rank it at all because the movie was made in Germany during the Third Reich. Cora Buhlert and Evelyn C. Leeper are two fans who are on opposite sides of the argument.

Buhlert analyzes a lot of the ethical questions in “Why you should not dismiss “Münchhausen” out of hand”.

… This post grew out of a comment on Steve J. Wright’s blog (whose Hugo and Retro Hugo reviews you should really read), where Steve expressed that he was unsure whether he should vote for Münchhausen due to its provenance. His is not the only comment along those lines I have seen, so here is a post explaining why you should not dismiss Münchhausen out of hand.

… However, quite a few Hugo voters have issues with Münchhausen, because it was made in Germany during the Third Reich and they don’t want to vote for “a Nazi film”. This is wrong, because – unlike some of the pretty crass propaganda stuff found elsewhere on the Retro Hugo ballot, particularly in the dramatic presentation and graphic story categories – Münchhausen is not a propaganda film, merely a film that happened to be made during the Third Reich. For while the Nazi propaganda movies are infamous – even though hardly anybody has seen them, because they still cannot be publicly displayed in Germany except for educational purposes* – these propaganda movies (about forty) only make up a small percentage of the total film output of the Nazi era. In fact, it’s a lot more likely to find propaganda in a random Hollywood movie made during WWII than in a random German movie. For the vast majority of the German movies made during the Third Reich were apolitical entertainment: musicals, melodramas, comedies, romances and the like.

…It’s also notable that most of the Münchhausen cast and crew, including director Josef von Baky, had careers that continued unimpeded in postwar Germany. And considering that both the Allies and the postwar West and East German authorities came down harder on artists who were involved with questionable movies than on Nazi doctors, judges, civil servants, military officers, etc… who were actually responsible for the deaths of many people (cause the latter were deemed important for building up the postwar state, while the former were not), this means that most of the people involved with Münchhausen were not Nazis….

Evelyn C. Leeper takes the other side in “Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Dramatic Presentation, Long Form Reviews” at MT VOID.

MUNCHHAUSEN was an attempt to provide the German audience with the lush Technicolor films they were not getting from Hollywood in 1943. And the film is beautiful, with some scenes reminiscent of Brueghel paintings, and the scenes on the moon quite fantastical. As a Hugo finalist, though, it has two flaws. One is that long stretches are fairly boring–I just don’t find Munchhausen’s intrigues with Catherine the Great very interesting. The second is that if people balk at giving an award to a film directed by someone accused of sexual misconduct and possible rape, what should one think of awarding a Hugo to a film made by the Nazis as a propaganda film (of the “Volksfilm” style)? It’s a fine line, I agree, but while I think the film worth watching (it’s available free on YouTube, and if you get it on DVD, whoever is getting the royalties, it’s not the Nazi party), I cannot vote to give it a Hugo.

(2) SCALING MT. TSUNDOKU. [Item by rcade.] Wajahat Ali, a New York Times opinion writer and CNN contributor, asked for advice on Twitter about meeting his goal of reading 3 books a month:

In the replies, someone recommends the essay “How to read a lot of books” by David Evans, an economist who read 104 books in 2018:

The favorite suggestion among Twitter users is to get off social media. 

(3) GOING FOUR IT. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane is there when “’Toy Story 4’ Plays It Again”.

…“Toy Story 4” is directed by Josh Cooley, and it must be said that, for a while, the tale doesn’t seem like the freshest that Pixar has ever told. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks, as ever), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and their bunch of pals are forced to adjust when young Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), in whose bedroom they reside, departs for orientation day at kindergarten and returns with a toy—or a thingamajig—that she has made. His name is Forky (Tony Hale), he was put together from cutlery, pipe cleaners, and goggly eyes, and he clings to a fervent belief that he is trash. Time and again, despite not having read Dostoyevsky, he has to be stopped from throwing himself away. Parents with children of Bonnie’s age may find these scenes difficult to explain….

(4) CARRYING A TUNE IN A BIG DIPPER. James Davis Nicoll was inspired by File 770 comments to consider the definition of space opera: “Single Star System Space Opera; or, Those Pesky Belters, Revisited” at Tor.com.

One world is not enough (probably). There are space operas that center on one world—novels such as Dune or The Snow Queen come to mind—but their plots require interactions between that planet and the rest of the narrative universe. The story may take place on one world, but this world is only one of many.

Space travel is a therefore a necessary feature of space opera. Travel can delightfully complicate the plot: trade, migration, proselytization, and the chance that the local equivalent of the Yekhe Khagan might pop by with ten thousand of his closest friends to discuss taxation and governance.

(5) PREFERRED SFF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tyler Cowen interviewed Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, in his podcast “Conversations With Tyler.” (“Hal Varian on Taking the Academic Approach to Business”).  In minute 38 of the interview, Varian recommended some sf.  He liked Frederik Pohl’s “The Midas Plague” in which robots produce so much stuff that the rich live lives of bucolic simplicity while the poor have to consume until they keel over.  Varian also liked L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, and said that if he could live at any time in history, it would be in the Rome of the fifth century described in de Camp’s classic novel.

(6) EXPERIENCE TOR AUTHORS. Available free from Macmillan for various digital formats: “Tor.com Publishing 2019 Debut Sampler: Some of the Most Exciting New Voices in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

Read free sample chapters from the most exciting new voices in science fiction and fantasy today, including C. S. E. Cooney, Katharine Duckett, Jennifer Giesbrecht, Kerstin Hall, Vylar Kaftan, Scotto Moore, Tamsyn Muir, Lina Rather, Priya Sharma, and Emily Tes.

(7) ALL FOR SCIENCE. Via the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off’s FB group, Mark Lawrence has asked for self-published authors to provide titles for the purpose of looking at how Goodreads ratings might correlate with sales.  

In the past I have looked at the relationship between “number of Goodreads ratings” and “sales” for recent traditionally published fantasy books.

“What do Goodreads ratings say about sales?” (from 2015.)

Data from self-published authors has shown a much greater variability.

If you want to help out (note your name and your book name will not be used) then message me the following information for each fantasy book you want to tell me about. It will become a point on a graph. I will not share your figures with anyone (except as an anonymous point on a graph). Note – please only submit info for books with more than 200 Goodreads ratings:

  1. Year the book was published
  2. number of Goodreads ratings for the book
  3. number of copies sold via Kindle Unlimited
  4. number of copies sold in all other formats
  5. estimate the % of all non KU sales (i.e number listed in 4) that were free / £0.00

(8) FIELDS OBIT. Star Trek writer Peter Alan Fields died June 19. StarTrek.com paid tribute: 

For Trek, Fields wrote or co-wrote a total of 13 episodes, most notably the TNG hours “Half a Life,” “Cost of Living” and “The Inner Light,” as well as the DS9 installments, “Dax,” “Duet,” “Blood Oath,” “In the Pale Moonlight” and “The Dogs of War,” among others. In short, he had a hand in several of both shows’ finest moments. He also served DS9 as a co-producer and later producer from 1993 to 1994, spanning seasons one and two.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 22, 1925 The Lost World enjoyed its original theatrical premiere.  The feature starred Wallace Beery and Bessie Love. And yes, Arthur Conan Doyle was said to have approved of this version. Indeed in 1922, Conan Doyle showed O’Brien’s test reel to a meeting of the Society of American Magicians, which included Harry Houdini. He refused to say if it was actual footage or not. 
  • June 22, 1979 Alien debuted.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 Kris Kristofferson, 83. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly, he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes. 
  • Born June 22, 1947 Octavia E. Butler. As you know, I do research before I decide who gets a Birthday write-up. I kept running across her detractors who grumbled that she was one of those dread SJWs. Well let’s note that she’s a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and she became in 1995 the first genre writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. As regards her fiction, I’d suggest the Xenogenesis series shows her at her very best but anything by her is both good and challenging. I’m pleased to note that iBooks and Kindle have everything of hers available. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 Meryl Streep, 70. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that it.
  • Born June 22, 1953 Cyndi Lauper, 66. Ok I’m officially old as I’m thinking of her as always young. Genre-wise, she played a psychic, Avalon Harmonia, on the Bones series. She also has one-offs in series as diverse as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!Shelley Duvall’s Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. Oddly enough she has one serious acting credit, Jenny (Ginny Jenny/Low-Dive Jenny) in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera
  • Born June 22, 1958 Bruce Campbell, 61. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved him so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally like just as much The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and godawful, often in the same film. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1971 Laila Rouass, 48. She was Sarah Page, an Egyptologist on Primeval, a series I highly recommend if you’ve not seen it. She played Colonel Tia Karim, a traitorous UNIT officer in the two part “Death of The Doctor” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. This story was the last to feature Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor, The Eleventh here, together onscreen. Jo Grant would also show up. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 Ian Tregillis, 46. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a rather good serial fiction anthology (if that’s the proper term) and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I need to check out. 

(11) UPDATE. Jim C. Hines tells fans why he needs to start a “Writing Hiatus and Other Changes”:

There’s no real news on the cancer front. If all goes well, Amy will get the next dose of chemo on Monday and Tuesday. But we have to wait a bit longer to see if and how well this is working. We’re also waiting on insurance approval for the CAR T-cell procedure she needs. In the meantime, she’s still pretty weak, but her pain is better managed, which helps a lot.

This last round – discovering the masses in her abdomen after six months of chemo and treatment – flipped a switch in my brain. Before, I’d been struggling to make time to write, squeezing in anywhere from 200-500 words a few times a week. But with this setback, I just stopped.

I’m not quitting forever. Terminal Peace is still under contract, and I’ve got an idea for a contemporary fantasy I want to do next. But…priorities, you know? I need to spend time with my wife. I need to be there for the kids. And I need to stop pushing myself to do ALL THE THINGS, and to stop beating myself up for not being able to do everything.

My editor has been incredibly understanding. So much love for Sheila and DAW! The longer gap between books two and three of this trilogy is going to suck, but c’est la vie. I just can’t worry about that right this minute….

(12) TROTTING THE GLOBE. Rich Lynch has posted the 22nd issue of his zine My Back Pages online at eFanzines.com.

Because of the temporal nearness of the upcoming Irish Worldcon, Issue #22 has a travel-oriented theme and has essays involving Native American culture and Indian food, tall mountains and ocean vistas, ancient computers and modern cell phones, completed walks and works-in-progress, rental cars and water buses, famous writers and somewhat obscure composers, small spittoons and large ash heaps, opened time capsules and preserved brains, strange stories and familiar melodies, glass artifacts and wooden bells, sunny afternoons and inky-dark skies, colorful theories and black & white comics, intense business meetings and serene beach life, fine cheese and a traffic jam, labyrinthine passageways and an expansive convention center, old friends and “old school”…and 15 minutes of media fame – in Estonia!

(13) LOOKING TO REDECORATE? Popular Mechanics displays the latest fashions from Star Wars.

(14) BITE YOUR TONGUE. The Warp Zone’s sketch shows scenes from Steve Rogers’ domestic life with Peggy Carter in “Captain America’s Life After Endgame.”

(15) COLLECTOR’S ITEM. Sorry, wrong number.

(16) BIG TICKET ITEM. Comicbook.com astonishes with the news that “Disneyland Has Already Sold Three of the $25k R2-D2 Droids at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

If you had a spare $25,000 lying around, what would you spend it on? Believe it or not, a total of three people have already spent that amount of money on a very specific purchase at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the latest Disneyland attraction that immerses fans in the galaxy far, far away. According to The OCR, the park is selling a “$25,000 life-size custom astromech unit” which is sold at Driod Depot and “looks just like the 3-and-half-foot-tall R2-D2.”

(17) LOCKED AND LIDDED. Alasdair Stuart says, “This week’s The Full Lid  takes us from the mutable dimensions of grief and horror to how much fun dying slowly in orbit can be.”

In the first instance, I take a look at Starfish, AT White’s fiercely inventive and intensely personal exploration of grief and inter-dimensional invasion. It’s a great, determined and uniquely voiced movie and one you should definitely seek out.

Elsewhere, Matt Miner’s eco-noir direct action specialists return and get WAY more than they bargained for in Lab Raider issue 1. I’ve enjoyed the way Matt’s explored this world through the two previous standalone mini-series, Liberator and Critical Hit and this new series looks to be just as good.

Finally, I take a look at Adr1ft, the under-rated EVA/Survival game released a couple of years ago. It has interesting things to say about the pressures of modern spaceflight, looks absolutely beautiful and is frequently terrifying. An overlooked gem, albeit one leaving a trail of empty oxygen cylinders in its wake.


Adr1ft

I’ve spent a good chunk of this week slowly dying in space. it’s been fun! Adr1ft, by Three One Zero and published by 505 Games is a pared down, minimalist game that demands attention and cheerily punishes you for not giving it. I found a lot to enjoy in there, not the least of which is the killer opening. You wake up in a damaged space suit, in a decaying orbit, surrounded by the shattered remains of a vast space station that has very recently exploded. Player and character enter the game in identicla states of confusion and the plot unfolds at the same pace you follow the debris trail around the shattered station. You are Commander Alex Oshima, head of the HAN-IV project. You are the lone survivor of a catastrophic accident. The accident was your fault.

Now what?

The game perfectly embodies the brutal math of orbital survival without ever getting over-excited about how unforgiving it is….

(18) ELECTRICITY BY THE BALE. Nature reports on “Sunlight harvested by nanotubes”.

The efficiency of junction-based solar cells has almost reached its theoretical limit, and it is therefore imperative to explore methods for converting sunlight into electricity that do not require semiconductor junctions. Writing in Nature, Zhang et al. report a key advance in this direction. They demonstrate a junction-free solar cell that is produced by curling an atom-thick semiconductor layer into a nanoscale tube.

(19) IN TONGUES WITHOUT FLAME. “Cambridge language conference marks Game of Thrones lingo”.

The brains behind some of science fiction’s most popular invented languages are gathering for a conference to showcase their skills.

The San Diego-based Language Creation Society has brought together “conlangers” – or people who “construct” languages – in Cambridge.

Among the languges represented is Dothraki, as used in Game of Thrones.

UK organiser Dr Bettina Beinhoff said the convention would enhance the network of language creators worldwide.

(20) WASP. Like the Eric Frank Russell novel, a tiny cause had a large effect: “Rogue slug blamed for Japanese railway chaos”

A power cut that disrupted rail traffic on a Japanese island last month was caused by a slug, officials say.

More than 12,000 people’s journeys were affected when nearly 30 trains on Kyushu shuddered to a halt because of the slimy intruder’s actions.

Its electrocuted remains were found lodged inside equipment next to the tracks, Japan Railways says.

The incident in Japan has echoes of a shutdown caused by a weasel at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider in 2016.

(21) CRUSH IT LIKE QUINT. The Narragansett brewery claims it’s not only music that soothes the breast of the savage beast:

(22) FOR NEVER IS HERD. What’s that smell? “Curiosity rover finds gas levels on Mars hinting at possibility of life”.

It’s easy to get jaded about potential signs of life on Mars, but a recent discovery might raise eyebrows. The New York Times has learned that NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected “startlingly high” levels of methane — the gas typically produced by life as we know it. The quantities are still tiny at 21 parts per billion, but that’s three times the amount Curiosity spotted during a surge in 2013. The rover’s operators were reportedly surprised enough to pause regularly scheduled studies to obtain follow-up data, with the additional findings slated to arrive on June 24th.

(23) BOT DYNASTY. You think their football team is good? Well… University of Alabama News: “UA Robotics Team Wins NASA’s Grand Prize for Fifth Consecutive Year”.

For the fifth consecutive year, the student robotics team from The University of Alabama won NASA’s grand prize in its Robotics Mining Competition.

[…] Made up of 60 students, primarily from UA’s College of Engineering, Alabama Astrobotics won the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, the grand prize, in NASA’s 2019 robotic mining competition, NASA announced. UA’s teams previously placed first in 2012 and from 2015-2018.

[…] In a separate event hosted at The University of Alabama, UA’s team bested 27 other robotics teams from across the nation to win first in mining, first in the Caterpillar Autonomy Awards and the SSERVI Regolith Mechanics Award.

In the Robotic Mining Challenge held at UA, teams demonstrated how a robot they built over the past year could autonomously navigate and excavate simulated lunar and Martian soil, known as regolith.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Dann, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, rcade, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 6/21/19 No, My Toupee Isn’t Slipping, That’s My Emotional Support Tribble

(1) BE THE FIRST ON THE MOON. Apollo 11 in Real Time is a very impressive site that collates all kinds of archival mission material to simulate a real-time journey through the first landing on the Moon. You can watch the launch, you can follow what I’ll describe as a media reenactment of the entire mission.

Included real-time elements:

  • All mission control film footage
  • All TV transmissions and onboard film footage
  • 2,000 photographs
  • 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio
  • 240 hours of space-to-ground audio
  • All onboard recorder audio
  • 15,000 searchable utterances
  • Post-mission commentary
  • Astromaterials sample data

(2) TOP ART. Mark Lawrence has started a page for the 2019 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off cover contest – only three covers as of today, more to be added when the participating blogs make their picks.

Each year I run a cover contest for the SPFBO entrants. Each blog choses its 3 favourite covers from their pool of 30 entrants. The 30 favourites collected from the 10 blogs are then voted on in separate ballots by the bloggers and by the public.

The public vote is of course a bit of fun and subject to all the issues of brigading and cheating that online polls often are – though our anti-cheat software is more effective than the raw poll results might lead you to believe.

(3) CHASTE CHUCK. Here’s a position you won’t find in the Kama Sutra:

(4) IT COULD HAPPEN. Also, there’s reason to believe that Chuck will be at CONvergence 2019 in Minneapolis over July 4th weekend.

(5) AVOID CALENDRICAL HERESEY. Steve Davidson proclaims, “Well, we FINALLY did it, and by ‘we’, I mean Kermit Woodall, Amazing Stories’ Art Director and Electronic Media Maestro and by ‘it’ I mean Amazing Stories Events Calendar!”

  • It’s gorgeous.
  • It’s clean.
  • It’s easy to navigate.
  • It has well over 500 events listed (and more regularly added).
  • It covers events World Wide.
  • It covers events from Bronycons to Middle Eastern Gaming Cons and, if there were such things as cons located off the Earth, we’d have them in there too!
  • You can export it to other calendar programs.
  • You can display it on your screens in a variety of different ways.
  • You can search it by date and by keyword, including type of event, name of event, location of event.
  • You can not only read about an event on our website, but you can click through to the event’s website right from the calendar.
  • There’s pop-outs and roll-overs and clicking for more info!
  • AND – you can add your own events.

In short, we’re now providing fans with an indispensible tool for planning their cons, one with comprehensive information and an easy to use interface.

No longer will you have to say “These aren’t the events I was looking for.”

Mini-editorial: We’ve been working towards this pretty much from the launch of the website. We’ve long believed that a comprehensive, one-stop-shopping events calendar is a must for the Fan community. Many more conventions than most realize are held every month, most of them small, intimate affairs with little to no marketing or advertising outside of a very small local footprint.

Yes, there are a few websites out there, and Erwin ‘Filthy Pierre’ Straus continues to do yeoman’s work for a couple of the print magazines (and continues to put his events rack out at conventions), but these efforts are limited in scope for a variety of legitimate reasons.

We wanted to go beyond that and we think that we’ve succeeded.

***

Want your convention to be seen by over 45,000 convention-going fans? Go click that button that says “Submit Your Event”, right there on the events calendar. There’s an easy to use interface that will let you add an image, set your dates and locations, contact information, website, select multiple ‘types’ of con (there’s 23 different categories and we’ll add more as needed!); you can add your own description of the event, enter costs, venue and more.

  • Check out the sample page below or visit The Events Calendar here – here.
  • And if you visit those pages and come away saying “But my event isn’t in there” – ADD IT!

(6) WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED. Andrew Liptak told readers of The Verge that although the movie adaptation has never been released, there may be a Three-Body Problem TV series in the works:

China’s biggest science fiction novel, The Three-Body Problem, is being developed for a potential television series, according to CX Live. If it happens, it’ll come after the massive success of another big sci-fi adaptation from the country, The Wandering Earth.

Chinese entertainment company YooZoo Entertainment holds the rights to the series, and it’s apparently working on an adaptation of the book. CX Live discovered a publicity form submitted to the Chinese government that lists the production details of the proposed series, which will apparently run for 24 episodes and could begin shooting this September.

(7) LUCASARTS. The Digital Antiquarian remembers the game “Sam and Max Hit the Road”:

Day of the Tentacle wasn’t the only splendid adventure game which LucasArts released in 1993. Some five months after that classic, just in time for Christmas, they unveiled Sam & Max Hit the Road.

At first glance, the two games may seem disarmingly, even dismayingly similar; Sam and Max is yet another cartoon comedy in an oeuvre fairly bursting with the things. Look a little harder, though, and some pronounced differences in the two games’ personalities quickly start to emerge. Day of the Tentacle is clever and funny in a mildly subversive but family-friendly way, very much of a piece with the old Warner Bros. cartoons its aesthetic presentation so consciously emulates. Sam & Max, however, is something else entirely, more in tune with an early 1990s wave of boundary-pushing prime-time cartoons for an older audience — think The Simpsons and Beavis & Butt-Head — than the Saturday morning reels of yore. Certainly there are no life lessons to be derived herein; steeped in postmodern cynicism, this game has a moral foundation that is, as its principal creator once put, “built on quicksand.” Yet it has a saving grace: it’s really, really funny. If anything, it’s even funnier than Day of the Tentacle, which is quite a high bar to clear. This is a game with some real bite to it — and I’m not just talking about the prominent incisors on Max, the violently unhinged rabbit who so often steals the show.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 21, 1938 Ron Ely, 81. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters…  other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record. 
  • Born June 21, 1932 Lalo Schifrin, 87. Argentina-American pianist and composer of the music for the original Mission: Impossible series along with The Four Musketeers (1974 version), The Amityville Horror, The Mask of Sheba, The Hellstrom ChronicleTHX 1138The Cat from Outer Space and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to select some of his work.
  • Born June 21, 1947 Michael Gross, 72. Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well-armed graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits              where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (wasn’t that a Niven story?) and voicing a  few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters. 
  • Born June 21, 1952 David J. Skal, 67. Vampires! He’s an academic expert on them and horror in general, so he’s got a number of with his first being Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. He followed that up with a more general work, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. And then he produced The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror which links horror films to what is going on in culture at that time, ie AIDS. His latest book was a biography of Bram Stoker, Something in the Blood.
  • Born June 21, 1957 Berkeley Breathed, 62. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is genre as they are fantastic creatures. 
  • Born June 21, 1964 David Morrissey, 55. His most well-known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest in seeing) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m very ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve heard the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. 
  • Born June 21, 1965 Steve Niles, 54. Writer best- known for works such as 30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film.
  • Born June 21, 1969 Christa Faust, 50. It does not appear that she’s written any original fiction save one nove with Poppy Z. Brite called Triads but she’s certainly had a lot of media tie-in work including novels set in the Final Destination, Friday the Thirteenth, FringeGabriel HuntNightmare on Elm StreetSupernatural and Twilight Zone universes. Did you know there’s an entire ecology of novels, fan fiction, a game, comics, even an encyclopedia guide, September’s Notebook — The Bishop Paradox made around Fringe? I hadn’t until I was researching her. One of the perks of doing this. 
  • Born June 21, 1979 Chris Pratt, 40. Starlord in the MCU film franchise. His first genre role was voicing Jake in the “Attack of the Terrible Trio” episode of The Batman series. After that, he’s largely confined himself to the MCU with the exception of being Owen Grady in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows a UFO abductee’s priorities.
  • And Bizarro shows that if it’s not easy being green, consider the alternatives.

(10) GUNN BEARING. Dark Matter Zine has posted another Ian Gunn illo: Hollywood Cliché No. 15. See it there!

Last week we began a series of movie cliche illustrations by Ian Gunn. This week we look at villains’ habits of climbing to the highest room in the tallest tower — then falling off. And here are some of New York’s finest, puffing and panting their way in pursuit of said villain… who is climbing to the highest room in the tallest tower.

(11) STOOGE SURPLUS. Nate D. Sanders Auctions is putting “The Personal Collection of Moe Howard” up for bid from June 24-28. Featured items include “Scarce Three Stooges Agreement With Columbia From 1946 Signed by FOUR Stooges, Moe, Curly, Larry & Shemp”.

 (12) ON THE MENU. Scott Edelman urges listeners to hash it out with Kathe Koja in Episode 98 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Kathe’s debut novel The Cipher, for which she won a Bram Stoker Award, had a tremendous impact on the horror field — as much of an impact on horror, in fact, as William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer did on science fiction — a tremendously rare thing for a debut. She’s also written historical fiction, such as her Under the Poppy trilogy, as well as a number of young adult novels, starting with Straydog in 2002, and most recently Headlong. Her short stories have been published in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Realms of Fantasy, F&SF, and many other magazines, plus anthologies such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells and Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction. She is the founder of nerve, a Detroit-based immersive theatre company.

We snuck away during StokerCon to San Chez Bistro. Not only is this tapas restaurant well-reviewed and highly rated, but they’re also amazingly sensitive to the needs of their guests, so much so they have multiple full specialized menus — not just a Vegan menu, but ones for soy allergies, tree nut allergies, citrus allergies, shellfish allergies and more. It’s one of the most accommodating restaurants I’ve ever visited when it comes to food preferences. My one regret from my trip to Grand Rapids is that time didn’t permit me to experience the full dinner menu.

We discussed her love of immersive theater (and dissected her previous night’s performance at StokerCon), why her groundbreaking debut novel The Cipher will always be The Funhole in her heart, what caused her to move into the YA world after her dark adult novels and why it’s harder to write for a younger audience, how she accidentally wrote her Under the Poppy trilogy, the allure of writing historical novels, how being in the presence of Kate Wilhelm at Clarion changed her life, what she got out of her many collaborations with Barry Malzberg and others, plus much, much more.

(13) PLOT AND PLAN. Nina Shepardson gives a quick review to Odd Adventures with Your Other Father by Norman Prentiss” at Outside of a Dog.

I did have a couple of stylistic issues with the novel. The primary one is that some of the dialogue doesn’t feel realistic. Elmore Leonard once said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” and some of the dialogue here definitely sounds like writing.

(14) PEACES OF EIGHT. Paul Weimer applauds the result in “Microreview [book]: Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky” at Nerds of a Feather.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Ruin continues the Children of Time universe in a mostly standalone braid of stories of terraforming, Uplift and first contact.

…The novel follows two strands in the web of plot. In the “past” timeline, a human exploration ship before their fall into a dark age (and subsequent revival) has come into a likely solar system looking for a planet to terraform. What they find are two candidate planets, a marginal glaciated one, Damascus,  that might be melted into terraformability, and a second inner one, Nod, that, much to their disappointment is already full of indigenous life. That strange  alien life is worth study, but it means the planet is not really suited for future colonization. But within that life on Nod is a surprise. On Damascus, in the meantime, a crew member’s idea to use octpodes to help in the colonization will have unexpected consequences.

In the present day, a Human/Portiids (Spider) exploration ship with a clone of the AI from Children of Time, has arrived in that same solar system thousands of years later, to find, to their shock and surprise, what has happened in the interim to the two planets. The humans are gone, but on both planets, their legacy and inheritors are most definitely in evidence, and much more than the explorers anticipated…

(15) THE REASONS. Ian Sales tells what he thought about “The Hugos 2019, novellas” and why at It Doesn’t Have To Be Right. This is an excerpt from his take on Binti: the Night Masquerade.

…I’m no fan of exposition, and I disagree entirely with Kim Stanley Robinson’s statement “it’s just another form of narrative”, and “streamlining exposition into the narrative” is another piece of writing advice that gets my back up… Which is not to say there’s zero info-dumping in Binti: the Night Masquerade. There’s plenty. But it’s all about Binti and her culture, or that of her male companion. The rest of the world is so sketchy it might as well have been made-up on the spot by Binti herself. I really do not rate these novellas, and I’m mystified by the love shown to them.

(16) CANCEL CULTURE. Remember that petition signed by 20,000 calling on Netflix to cancel Good Omens? Well, they did. And Amazon Prime returned the favor.

(17) BY THE YARD. The New York Times points to another Amazon Prime offering, reruns of a Fifties show with Boris Karloff.

‘Colonel March of Scotland Yard’ 
When to watch: Now, on Amazon.

This is more specimen than gem, but there aren’t that many shows from the 1950s available to stream — and this one, starring Boris Karloff in an eye patch, has a fun spookiness. Karloff plays Colonel March, who works in the “department of queer complaints,” and thus solves mysteries of all sorts. How can he do it all? one character marvels. “Because I’m a student of the major obsessions of our time: food, finance, fashion and frenzied love,” he replies. Sounds fun.

(18) TALES OF SUPER SCIENCE. You can thank a black rocket scientist from Alabama for both the Super Soaker and the Nerf Blaster. Assuming, of course, that you weren’t traumatized as a child by being blasted by either one of those at an embarrassing time (or place). Smithsonian Magazine: “The Accidental Invention of the Super Soaker”. Tagline: “A leak in a heat pump gave rocket scientist Lonnie Johnson the idea for his powerful squirt gun”

You might think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to invent a squirt gun like the Super Soaker. But Lonnie Johnson, the inventor who devised this hugely popular toy that can drench half the neighborhood with a single pull of the trigger, actually worked on the Galileo and Cassini satellite programs and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he helped develop the B2 stealth bomber.

Johnson is a prodigious creator, holding more than 120 patents on a variety of products and processes, including designs for film lithium batteries, electrochemical conversion systems, heat pumps, therminonic generators and various items to enhance battery production, including a thin-film ceramic proton-conducting electrolyte. In addition to serious-science inventions, Johnson has also patented such versatile and amusing concepts as a hair drying curler apparatus, wet diaper detector, toy rocket launcher and Nerf Blasters. Yes, that rapid-fire system with foam darts that tempts the child in all of us to mount ambushes on unsuspecting relatives and pets.

“I’m a tinkerer,” Johnson says. “I love playing around with ideas and turning them into something useful or fun.”

(19) HERE COMES THE SUN. A day like any other day, only — “Stonehenge summer solstice: Thousands gather to cheer sunrise” (lots of pictures).

Thousands of people cheered sunrise at Stonehenge on summer solstice.

About 10,000 people gathered at the Neolithic monument to greet the start of the longest day of the year, according to Wiltshire Police.

Kate Logan, from English Heritage, said: “There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere, the sun shone and the dawn was greeted with loud cheers.”

The celebrations at Stonehenge came as people descended on sites across the UK to celebrate the first day of summer.

Glastonbury Tor in Somerset and the Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire also attracted crowds.

(20) LET THERE BE LIGHT AT NIGHT, TOO. BBC hails “The invention that saved a million ships”.

In the 1820s, Augustin Fresnel invented a new kind of lens and installed it in France’s Cordouan lighthouse. Suddenly, one lamp could light the way for sailors many miles out to sea.

Since antiquity, lighted beacons have guided ships to port. The earliest lighthouses were controlled fires on hilltops that warned vessels that they were approaching land. Over time, these signals were powered by burning coal or oil lamps backed by mirrors, which could reach navigators further out to sea. But lamp power was no match for a dark and stormy night; over centuries, broken hulls and wind-whipped sails ran aground as ships’ captains and crew perished within, unable to spot the coastline before it was too late.

All that changed in the early 1820s, when a French physicist invented a new kind of lens: a ring of crystalline prisms arranged in a faceted dome that could reflect refracted light. Augustin Fresnel installed his creation in the Phare de Cordouan, a towering lighthouse situated in France’s Gironde estuary, about 100km north of Bordeaux. Suddenly, one lamp could illuminate the way for sailors many nautical miles out to sea.

(21) BDPLF MEANS FINE TOBACCO. Steve J. Wright has completed his Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist reviews.

Anyway.  Time for me to don my World’s Worst Film Critic hat and look at the films this year.  They’re all good, you see.  They get shown on a screen that’s bigger than my bedroom!  Nobody would do that if the films weren’t any good, right?

(22) PLAN F***. Rachel Bloom featured in a video that illustrated the host’s topical comments on state abortion laws on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

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

Fifth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Seeks Entries

Mark Lawrence has announced the 5th Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off will accept entries starting June 15. The rules and schedule for SPFBO 5 are at the link.

One book is allowed per author. No book that has previously been in the SPFBO can be re-entered. The book must be book 1 of a series or a stand-alone novel.

In Phase I, ten participating bloggers will review and score the 300 entries to decide which book each of them will advance to the finals. The bloggers are —

More information about the contest can be found on the Official SPFBO page.

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

SPFBO 2018 Winner

By Dann: The 2018 Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off has concluded. After the dust settled, Orconomics: A Satire, by J. Zachary Pike, was proclaimed the SPFBO champion with an average score of 8.65. Four of the ten reviewers also gave it their highest rating.

Orconomics was first published in 2014. It is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga trilogy. The final entry in the series, Dragonfired, should be issued in 2019.

Retweeting this announcement from Mark Lawrence gets you in the running for a signed copy of the book.

SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist, and every finalist was the top pick out of 30 reviewed by the participating bloggers.

Past winners include:

This year’s SPFBO was particularly competitive as four of the finalists ended up with average ratings of 8.00 or better. In past years, only the winner achieved that mark.

Pixel Scroll 3/28/19 Old Rossum’s Book Of Pixelated SJW Credentials

(1) APOLLO REUNION. Forbes tells how the picture came to be: “Buzz Aldrin Dazzles In Photo Of Apollo Astronauts”. John A Arkansawyer, who sent the link, says, “But gosh, I love the suit Buzz Aldrin is wearing! It makes me want to go out and punch a goddam liar right in the face.”

The only man between here and the moon capable of pulling off a rocket ship patterned suit, four gold rings, American flag socks, and a double watch combo is Buzz Aldrin, 89. Aldrin was one of eight Apollo astronauts to attend the 115th Explorers Club Annual Dinner March 16. The dinner also celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969, by Aldrin and the late Neil Armstrong who died in 2012. Aldrin and his astronaut brethren were photographed in New York by Felix Kunze whose composite image rocketed to the top of Reddit Sunday evening.

(2) MY TYPE. That item in a recent Scroll about getting your cat its own keyboard? Kalimac sounds like his cat is overdue for one:

I came home from a quick visit to the library to find that a reply, fortunately unsent, had been opened to the e-mail that happened to have been sitting on my desktop at the time I left. The text read:

5v44444444444444444444444jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkumuuuuuuu

Just so you know.

(3) FUNEREAL POSTER. SYFY Wire makes an observation as “All those dusted heroes return(?!) in latest poster for Avengers: Endgame “.

Walt Disney Studios marketing president Asad Ayaz tweeted out the new Chinese poster for Endgame, and aside from giving us some new looks at the living heroes the post-Infinty War team will have to rely on, it also features 14 of the ones who are no longer with us. As with all the rest of Endgame’s intentionally mysterious marketing teases, though, there’s a catch to the way the two groups are presented:

(4) VISA CATASTROPHE ENDS MALAYSIAN CON. Eleven cosplayers from four Asian countries plus the con organizer were taken into custody: “A Dozen Cosplayers Arrested During Immigration Raid at Cosplay Convention”.  

Twelve people without proper work visas were arrested during an immigration raid at a cosplay convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on its first day over the weekend.

The event, Cosplay Festival 4, had a line-up of performances on March 23 when officers from the Immigration Department of Malaysia (Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia/JIM) stormed its venue at the Sunway Putra Hotel around 2 p.m. after receiving a tip.

(5) AMAZON DEVELOPING BUTLER BOOK FOR TV. “‘Wild Seed’: Viola Davis Developing Adaptation Of Octavia Butler Novel At Amazon, Scripted By Nnedi Okorafor And Wanuri Kahiu”: Shadow and Act has the story.

“We love Octavia Butler and her work and have for decades. But Wild Seed is our favorite. It’s expansive, disturbing, and unique. Wild Seed stays with you. It’s a love/hate story of African immortals that connects people on the African continent to the Diaspora. It merges the mystical and the scientific seamlessly. You’re going to see shape-shifting, body jumping, telepaths, people born with the ability to defy the laws of physics, all in the context of our past, present and future world,” said Kahiu and Okorafor.

(6) THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Leonard Maltin says “‘Dumbo’ Begs the Question: Why?”

Disney’s new live-action Dumbo isn’t awful….but it isn’t very good, either. Why waste so much money and talent on a film that is foredoomed to take second place to a classic? I know it’s all about making money, yet surely there are new ideas to pursue instead of constantly reproducing past successes. In this case the bar is set impossibly high. Dumbo is my favorite animated Disney feature. It’s got heart, humor, and originality. What’s more, it tells its story in just over an hour’s time. It’s a perfect movie.

Why Tim Burton would devote himself to a mediocre remake with a bloated script I can’t imagine….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 28, 1918 Robert J. Serling . Brother of that Serling. Author of several associational works including Something’s Alive on the Titanic. He wrote “Ghost Writer” published in Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian tinged space opera that was the universe that of the Rim World and John Grimes was such. A very good starting place is the Baen Books omnibus To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. If there’s a counterpart to him, it’d be I think Dominic Flandry who appeared in Anderson’s Technic History series. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t.  (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 28, 1942 Mike Newell, 77. Director whose genre work Includes The AwakeningPhotographing Fairies (amazing story, stellar film), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (popcorn film — less filling, mostly tasty), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and two episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to wit “Masks of Evil” and “The Perils of Cupid”.
  • Born March 28, 1981 Gareth David-Lloyd, 48. Best known for playing as Ianto Jones on Doctor Who and Torchwood. John Watson in (what is referred to as a steampunk version by Wiki) of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, also known simply as Sherlock Holmes. I also see him in Dark Signal, a supernatural thriller.
  • Born March 28, 1983 Natalie Lander, 36. I adore the amount of characterization that a performer brings to an animated character in the voice work they do. So it is with her work as Stargirl in the Justice League Action series of short animated works done recently. She created a smart and stubborn character who wasn’t going to be second to anyone. 

(8) REDDIT REELING AFTER MCDONALD SMEAR. A moderator of Reddit’s r/Fantasy group was one of the individuals engaged in the character assassination of Ed McDonald. The other moderators, trying to find a way forward, have posted a timeline of what they knew when, plus an apology. Here are excerpts.

WEDNESDAY

All hell broke loose within r/Fantasy. Up became down.

The r/Fantasy mods received information from multiple sources that there appeared to be a smear campaign against Ed McDonald. Retractions were posted from those who had put things out there involving Ed.

Later on Wednesday, we received information that one of the two individuals involved was a longstanding r/Fantasy moderator. WTF.

The r/Fantasy mod team shifted communications to remove that moderator from conversations and, during that process, that mod appears to have deleted his account. No information or other from that former mod.

TODAY – THURSDAY MORNING

We took time to try and sort things out. Again – looking to people across the industry and reputable sources. At this time there are retractions related to Ed McDonald across the internet from those who posted and information building that indicates mis-information was put out there against Ed McDonald. It also appears that one of those individuals was (a former) moderator of r/Fantasy.

The remaining r/Fantasy mods are reeling a bit with this crazy information.

NEXT STEPS

We would like to issue a formal apology to Ed McDonald for what has transpired. Go buy his books and give him a virtual hug. The information out there is incomplete but, at the very least, Ed is owed an apology for the call to ban him for 2019. Of course, he has been reinstated as an active r/Fantasy member.

Ed McDonald

No ill will should be borne towards those that were brought to be a part of something unwittingly. The level and scale of deception used to influence and coerce those that were used against me was extraordinary. And when I say that, unless you have seen the evidence, what you’re imagining by ‘extraordinary’ probably does not even begin to cover it. I’m going to go on stating this because even describing it that way does not begin to explain the lengths, depths and time investment that were put into this. The people who were coerced have been abused and they are also survivors of online stalking. Some of them have posted publicly to say that the perpetrator has groomed them for an entire year.

It is not right to be angry towards those whose trust has been abused. Those that have come forward and publicly apologised must not be blamed or attacked. Not in my name. Not because of this incident.

While I was the target, and the consequences of that targeting would have been life altering and devastating for me if not for the actions of those who believed in me and brought the truth to light, I am not the only survivor of online abuse. The people now discovering that they have spent months, or years, talking to and confiding in someone they believed to be a friend, only to discover that they have been played, are survivors as well.

Secondly, this has nothing to do with gender. I was not targeted because I was male. Due to the nature of the campaign, and because I have never met or spoken to the perpetrator, I do not know whether the person responsible is male or female. Please do not make this a platform for unrelated issues. The issue is entirely one of online harassment and falsification, which could happen to anybody irrespective of who they are.

Be kind to one another. If there’s at least one lesson we can all agree on, it’s surely that.

Author Mark Lawrence, creator of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, shared his own experience with being attacked.

[–]MarkLawrenceStabby Winner, AMA Author Mark Lawrence 136 points 2 hours ago 

It’s remarkably easy to raise a reddit lynch mob.

It happened to me (on a vastly smaller scale) in one thread. Half a dozen accounts – all started that day and all sharing the same word in their title – started calling me a cancer and accusing me of unspecified crimes against new authors.

Most people looking at the thread just saw lots of names saying I was the bad guy and me not lying down and taking my lumps. The one guy with many accounts got lots of upvotes and I was down in negative double digits.

Mods removed my replies.

It was unfortunate but not malicious on anyone’s part but the instigator. Modding a group is hard and there is often a lot going on at once.

The developments of the past few days have actually helped some people discover the author’s work for the first time, while others are trying to counter the toxicity with positive attention, such as Mark Timmony’s review of McDonald’s Blackwing.

(9) SJWC CRISIS. Not all cats live up to their reputation as companions in the quest for social justice…. BBC asks: “Should cats be culled to stop extinctions?”

Scientists are calling for a widespread cull of feral cats and dogs, pigs, goats, and rats and mice to save the endangered species they prey upon.

Their eradication on more than 100 islands could save some of the rarest animals on Earth, says an international team.

Islands have seen 75% of known bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile extinctions over the past 500 years.

Many of the losses are caused by animals introduced by humans.

Not naturally present on islands, they can threaten native wildlife.

“Eradicating invasive mammals from islands is a powerful way to remove a key threat to island species and prevent extinctions and conserve biodiversity,” said Dr Nick Holmes, from the group Island Conservation.

(10) SPACESUITS AREN’T THE ONLY PROBLEM. BBC finds way too much science gear is available only in large sizes: “One small step for man, but women still have to leap”.

Nasa has cancelled plans for its first all-female spacewalk this Friday, citing a lack of available spacesuits in the right size.

There are not enough suits configured on the International Space Station for both Christina Koch and Anne McClain to go out at the same time, so male astronaut Nick Hague will replace Lt Col McClain.

Last week, Lt Col McClain went on a spacewalk with Col Hague and learned that a medium-sized spacesuit fitted her best.

However, Nasa said in a statement: “Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday 29 March, Koch will wear it.”

For many women working in science, a choice between using equipment designed for men or missing out altogether is all too familiar.

(11) BITS BECOME BITERS. Or something like that: “Britain’s ‘bullied’ chatbots fight back”.

UK chatbot companies are programming their creations to deal with messages containing swearing, rudeness and sexism, BBC News has learned.

Chatbots have received thousands of antisocial messages over the past year.

One financial chatbot has been asked out on a date nearly 2,000 times and to “send nude [picture]s” more than 1,000, according to its makers, Cleo AI.

The chatbot now responds to the request by sending an image of a circuit board.

(12) MORE INTERNET TOXICITY. Apparently it far exceeds the ratio predicted by Sturgeon’s Law: “‘The biggest, strangest problem I could find to study'”.

Businesses are under siege every second of every day, bombarded by a “grey noise” of potentially harmful web traffic seeking access to their networks. But IT staff often can’t tell the malicious traffic from the benign. Why?

If your office building were visited thousands of times a day by criminals peering through the windows seeking a way in, you’d be understandably nervous about hanging around.

Yet any organisation with an online presence gets exactly this type of unwelcome attention all the time.

Security researcher Andrew Morris calls this constant barrage “grey noise” and has started a company of the same name with a mission of logging, analysing and understanding it.

…In 2018, Mr Morris’s network was hit by up to four million attacks a day. His honey-pot computers process between 750 and 2,000 connection requests per second – the exact rate depends on how busy the bad guys are at any given moment.

His analysis shows that only a small percentage of the traffic is benign.

That fraction comes from search engines indexing websites or organisations such as the Internet Archive scraping sites. Some comes from security companies and other researchers.

The rest of the internet’s background noise – about 95% – is malicious.

(13) MAKING A SPECTRE OF HERSELF. TIME Magazine dutifully published the official disclaimer. But the truth is out there! “‘As Far As We Know All Our Stores Are Ghost-Free.’ Supermarket Responds to Frozen Aisle Haunting Post”.

The employee, Christiana Bush, who works in the store’s bakery department, posted about the ghost sighting in a local, private Facebook group. ”This is going to sound really strange….but has anyone seen a ghost in the Wilmington market basket?” she wrote according to the Boston Globe. Adding that after she saw the woman, she looked to see if anyone else was catching a glimpse of the apparition and when she looked back she was gone.

“She looked kind of like melancholy and a little angry. So it was kind of a creepy kind of sense, but it was something,” Bush said Monday, according to the local NBC affiliate. She believes the woman was a ghost and asked the Facebook group whether anyone else had a paranormal experience in her store. The modern day ghost story has since gone viral with people across the country weighing in on the likelihood of a Victorian era ghost choosing to haunt a Market Basket.

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

Ed McDonald Called Victim of False #MeToo Charges

Last weekend’s SPFBO FB group announcement that a reviewer accused of harassing behavior had been dropped attracted comments raising a similar issue about Ed McDonald (not mentioned in the File 770 story). Today several bloggers issued public statements saying they now are convinced the charges against McDonald were fabricated — including two who did much to publicize them.

The Fantasy Book Critic blog today defended McDonald: “Recent Me Too Allegations & Ed McDonald”.

Fantasy Book Critic has now seen irrefutable evidence that the allegations against Ed McDonald have been falsified. 

We are now aware that Ed McDonald has been targeted for online harassment and abuse, and there is also irrefutable evidence of this. The evidence proves beyond all doubt that one or two individuals have utilized multiple social accounts with the express purpose of spreading malicious rhetoric against Ed McDonald, and making it appear that ‘reports’ are coming from numerous sources, where in fact they all come from a single source. This source has never met Ed McDonald….

At The Fantasy Inn a blogger known as Book Wol apologized for spreading the allegations, and also claims to have participated in uncovering their falsity: “BookWol: Regarding Ed McDonald Allegations”.

I am writing to publicly retract any allegations that I have been party to against Ed McDonald, and to offer my apologies to him for any distress this has caused him.
Myself and another member of the community were sent allegations against Ed McDonald by a number of social media accounts. These allegations made their way onto the internet and social media.I have been provided with hard evidence that proves beyond doubt that the allegations were falsified. 

…With this knowledge, for the purpose of the investigation, I was expressly instructed to behave as normal, continue to show public and if necessary, private support for the individual being investigated. I was to allow public conversations about Ed McDonald to continue and to allow and encourage the individual behind the allegations to feel emboldened by public support for them as evidence was gathered….

…Ed McDonald also provided me with this statement that I may share with you:

“The hurt that was done to me, and the attempt to attack my career and persona has been incredibly hard to bear, but I am glad that the truth has finally come to light. Where people have been deceived and lied to, I ask that they be treated with sympathy, and it be acknowledged that given the extreme nature of the levels of deceit, falsehood and misrepresentation that have been plotted carefully over the period of a year on a scale that nobody could possibly have imagined until the evidence came to light, I bear no ill will to those that were deceived in this way. Please be kind to one another and continue to promote a message of positivity.”

Esme at The Weatherwax Report, who had solicited #MeToo stories from readers, explains in ”About Ed McDonald” why she was deceived:

I was led to believe over a long period of time that Ed McDonald had repeatedly preyed on women he perceived as vulnerable, then discarded them and defamed them afterward. I believed this in its entirety because I was told this over, and over, and over again from seemingly different accounts from totally separate people. They had family histories. They had different profile pics. They had different personas and webpages dedicated to them. They were active accounts that truly appeared to be different entities. I was contacted by a third party investigator several days ago and after listening to what they had to say, I decided to cooperate and hand over evidence I had of these allegations. I no longer believe I was contacted by multiple women, and the feeling it gives me is horror.

The person who’s done this has made a mockery of real victims. One of the HARDEST parts about getting justice for those who have been victimized is just how emotionally straining it is for those who have been hurt to come forward and name someone. When BookWol and myself sent out that tweet asking for your stories, we weren’t inundated with dozens of names with just one or two accusers each. We had two names. With many, many people behind each name. It looked so genuine. One was real. The other was not. This does such terrible, terrible damage to the image of people coming forward. The fact that it was so elaborate and over such a long period of time is nothing short of mind-blowing….

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off founder Mark Lawrence, gave the news a signal boost on Reddit, but also cautioned —

It’s also important not to let the fact that this was a hoax make us deaf to others who speak up about such things in the future.

Esme added there that she will be shuttering her blog for awhile in anticipation of being doxxed, and concerns about her personal safety.

I’ve actually just made my public statement that I’ll be closing down for at least a few months, possibly permanently.

From what I understand Ed’s involvement with this person was only 3 weeks of online talk… and they took years out of their lives building this web of lies around him. I can only imagine wtf they will try and do to Wol and myself for exposing it all.

I’ve made the statement on my blog about having the financial means to take them to court if they try anything – and I will also pay for Wols legal fees if she needs any assistance. It would be very unwise if they tried anything but I’ve been told that someone is sniffing around for our real names. We are both preparing for a doxxing event. I’ve been advised it would be wise to lay low for a while, and so I shall. In a few months, maybe after the summer passes, I’ll decide if it’s “safe” for me to pop back up.

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

SPFBO 2018 Finalists

Mark Lawrence has posted the ten Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2018 finalists. SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist, and every finalist was the top pick out of 30 reviewed by the bloggers named in parentheses.

Here’s are the finlaists in alphabetical order by author’s name. To see the current scores, click the link above.

  • Ruthless Magic (Conspiracy of Magic Book 1) by Megan Crewe
  • Sowing (The Purification Era Book 1) by Angie Grigaliunas
  • The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss
  • Out of Nowhere (The Immortal Vagabond Healer Book 1) by Patrick LeClerc
  • We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire Book 1) by Devin Madson
  • Symphony of the Wind (The Raincatcher’s Ballad Book 1) by Steven McKinnon
  • Orconomics: A Satire (The Dark Profit Saga Book 1) by J. Zachary Pike
  • Sworn to the Night (The Wisdom’s Grave Trilogy Book 1) by Craig Schaefer
  • Aching God (Iconoclasts Book 1) by Mike Shel
  • The Anointed by Keith Ward

They’re now in phase 2 of the contest, where the participating bloggers are allowed up to 6 months to read and score the other 9 finalists, review their favorite, and lastly, review the winner.

Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest four years ago.

The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

The bloggers are —

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]