Pixel Scroll 6/10/18 Ascroll Just Off The Pixels Of Langerhans

(1) LICENSE TO THRILL. Steven H Silver spotted an unusual collectible in traffic the other day —

I was unaware that Illinois issued such event specific license plate until I saw this one today (June 6).  The text around Superman indicates it is for the 40th Annual Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois from June 7-10.  On the right you can see that the plate expires on June 10, 2018.

(2) SATISFYING SPACE OPERA. Abigail Nussbaum delivers insightful and fascinating sff analysis in “A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente”, at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations.

When I say “culture”, I’m talking about several different things, each integral to the believability of any invented world. Culture can mean shared cultural touchstones, classic and modern, that give people a common frame of reference, like humming a pop song or quoting the Simpsons. It can mean characters who are artists, professional or amateur. It could refer to the way that culture can become a political battleground, as we were discussing just a few days ago in response to the news that conservatives want their own version of SNL. Or it could be a discussion of material culture—fashion, design, architecture—and how it allows people to express themselves in even the most mundane aspects of their lives.

It’s very rare, however, to see science fiction try to engage with any of these aspects of culture. Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.

(3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Delilah S. Dawson tells what she thinks is the real meaning of that traditional writerly advice “kill your darlings.” The thread starts here —

(4) IN THE BEGINNING. The International Costuming Guild presents its research into what fans wore to the masquerade at the Second Worldcon (1940) — “Convention Costuming History: The Pre-WWII Years – Pt. III”.

The earliest Worldcon masquerades were more like informal costume contests, with several well known authors of the time participating. The costumes worn were a mix of original designs, interpretations of literary characters and what would come to be known as media recreations. 1940 – Chicon I

Following the novelty of Ackerman’s and Douglas’ costumed appearance the previous year, a “Science Fiction Masquerade Party” was featured as part of the convention programming.(1) By Forrest Ackerman’s count, there were 25 people in costume there. The co-host masters of ceremonies were fans and writers Jack Speer and Milton Rothman. Judging from the accounts of the party, the occasion was informal – there was no stage, but there were one or two skits, including one by Ackerman and “Morojo” (Douglas) wearing their outfits from the previous year.

There were several reports of who was there for the first official costumed event. Among that first group of convention costuming contestants were…

(5) ICG IN PASSING. The International Costuming Guild’s in memoriam video, presented at Costume-Con 36 (2018) to recognize those in the community lost in the previous year, is posted on YouTube.

(6) WITH CAT IN HAND. Yoon Ha Lee will be doing an Ask Me Anything on June 12.

(7) THIEVES LIKE US. A recent movie premiere inspires B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s listicle “12 Fantasy Heist Novels”.

There are genre tropes, and then there are those archetypes that are mainstays of not just science fiction and fantasy, but of popular culture in general. One of the best examples is the character of the Gentleman Thief (who doesn’t always have to be a gentleman). These rogues are witty, engaging, and will rob you blind with a rakish wink and a smile. You can’t help but be charmed by them. From Robin Hood to Danny Ocean, the character is a permanent favorite in books and on film….

The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s interconnected Maradaine books (multiple series examining life in the same fantasy city) are a real treat. The latest series is about the Holver Alley crew, a ragtag group of formerly retired thieves are forced to return to a life of crime when their new, respectable shop burns down. When they learn the fire was no accident, they are forced to take desperate measures. All of the Maradaine books are a treat, but this one really stands out because of the especially strong characters. In fine Oceans tradition, Asti and Verci are both brothers and ringleaders, and must assemble a skilled crew to pull of a job to rob a gambling house that took everything from them.

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Are any of you trying to get in? “Stephen Hawking: Ballot opens for Westminster Abbey service”.

The public is being offered the chance to attend a service of thanksgiving for Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March aged 76.

It will take place in Westminster Abbey on 15 June and up to 1,000 tickets are available in a ballot.

During the service, the scientist’s ashes will be interred between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

His daughter, Lucy Hawking, said she wanted to give some of her father’s admirers the chance to remember him.

(9) LAST DAYS. Christopher Stasheff’s son, Edward posted the following to his Facebook page on June 9:

My father, Christopher Stasheff, is currently in hospice and expected to die from Parkinson’s Disease within the next two weeks, quite possibly this week. If anyone would like to say goodbye to him, post it as a response here, and I’ll read it to him the next time I see him (I visit him in the nursing home daily). Thanks.

The most recent reports are suggesting that he may only have a day or so left.

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

My father Christopher Stasheff died at 6:45 PM on June 10th, 2018, surrounded by his wife and two of his children. The other two were able to phone in and say goodbye before he passed. He is survived by hundreds of his students and uncountable fans, and his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

(11) VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club just put out a new blog post, “Is that The Canon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, in which they muse about literary awards and their relation to posterity and questions of enduring value. Is science fiction the new Western Canon?

It is worth noting that Harold Bloom’s 1993 list of The Western Canon included only two works that are traditionally categorized as science fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s Hugo Award winner The Left Hand of Darkness and George Orwell’s 1984.

But of Bloom’s list, I would argue the majority of the works cited are less relevant to the broad public – and to a concept of cultural literacy – than the recent Hugo Award winners and popular works of science fiction.

For example, references and allusions to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century poem Parzival are lost on the broader public, while Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One protagonist Parzival is familiar to many.

(12) ICE NINE. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas has just read the new Vonnegut release – in 1963: “[June 10, 1963] Foma: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle)”

When a friend lent Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s newest novel, Cat’s Cradle to me, I thought, “Oh, I know this book!” because I saw, as I flipped through it, the “ice-nine” and “Bokonon” I’d heard people buzzing so much about.  So I was glad to read it and understand the phenomenon.

But that’s where my joy ended.  Vonnegut is a fine writer.  His style is idiosyncratic, askew; this is a novel novel.  But no one would accuse him of being optimistic or hopeful about the human future.  No Pollyanna he….

(13) BBC RADIO STAR TREK DOCUMENTARY. BBC Radio 4 has just re-broadcast “Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future”, first aired December 2017. It’s available to listen to online right now.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek’s vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry’s vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn’t give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden – the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the ‘Admiral of Star Fleet’. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

(14) ST:D SEASON TWO. Comedian and new Star Trek: Discovery cast member Tig Notaro opened her set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert poking fun at her inability to understand any of the tech talk from her Trek dialog. See “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Tig Notaro Talks Technobabble” at Comicbook.com.

Tig Notaro is one of the new additions to the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in the show’s second season and while she’s excited to be a part of the Star Trek universe she doesn’t exactly speak the language.

Notaro was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new comedy special Happy to be Here. She greeted Colbert by saying his theater was “like a room full of pleasant subspace particles wrapped in a tachyon field of good vibes.”
The comment is obviously a reference to her role on Discovery, though she admits “I have no idea what I’m saying on that show…I can’t even picture what I’m talking about.”
She revealed that her character is human and that she plays Commander Jet Reno, a name she got to choose for herself. As for how she got the job, “They just asked if I wanted to do it” she says.

 

(15) BAD WITH NUMBERS? Deadline interviewed the president of Marvel Studios: “Kevin Feige Talks Marvel’s Success, Female Directors, ‘Infinity War II’ & How He’s ‘Bad With Numbers’”.

More female directors on Marvel pics: Captain Marvel is the first Marvel title to have a female director at the helm Anna Boden (who is co-helming with Ryan Fleck. And having more female directors behind his superhero pics is a trend he plans to maintain, “I cannot promise that (the next) 20 Marvel movies will have female directors but a heck of a lot of them will,” he said in response to an audience member’s question. The Marvel boss mentioned that agencies are sending more female directors than men for Marvel directing jobs.

On the $1.3 billion success of Black PantherFeige said that Marvel “wanted to destroy the myth that black movies don’t work well around the world,” and being at Disney with its platinum marketing department allowed the comic book studio to swing for the fences.

“The budget for Black Panther was bigger than Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and you can’t do that without the support and encouragement from the leaders of the company,” he said.

Feige also applauded Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s championing his diverse below-the-line team in Hannah Beachler as production designer, Ruth Carter’s costumes, and DP Rachel Morrison. Their resumes, like Marvel’s directors, didn’t scream tentpole experience, but Feige is grateful he heard them pitch rather than rely on his regular team.

“We can’t imagine the movie without them, and the future movies we hope to make with them,” he said.

(16) JURASSIC LARK. In Parade, “Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard Talk Dinosaurs, Parenting and Friendship”.

After their wildly successful first dino film in 2015, the pair reunited last year to film much of Fallen Kingdom on the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. But even surrounded by tropical paradise, they faced more than a few challenges on camera, from filming in a chlorinated pool that fried Pratt’s hair and skin to riding in a zero-gravity gyrosphere that made Howard nauseous. And Pratt had to do some awkward face-offs with a velociraptor that wasn’t really there—until the special-effects department created it. He acts out how he’d say to the air in front of him, “Get back, get back . . .” and then “Whoa!” as he’d throw himself on the ground. The camera crew, watching on monitors nearby, “didn’t want to say how stupid it looked!”

(17) SCARIEST MOVIE. The Washington Post’s Monica Castillo, in “The story behind ‘Hereditary,’ the Toni Collette horror movie that scared the bejesus out of Sundance”, interviews Hereditary director Ari Aster who, “in his first feature, marries the horror and melodrama genres into an unnerving movie about grief.”

Aster said he deliberately amped up the drama in the film slowly. “I’m not affected by anything in a film unless I’m invested in the people at the center of it,” he said. “I wanted to take my time and immerse people in this family’s life and their dynamic, which is quite complicated. I just wanted to make a film in the tradition of the horror films I grew up loving, like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Innocents.’ Films that take their time are very much rooted in character.”

Setting also plays an important role in the creepiness in “Hereditary.” The family’s luxury cabin in the woods has the right dark corners and haunted attics to make it feel like a trap where its inhabitants are left to slowly die. Annie’s miniature houses become a motif. “The miniatures just struck me as a potent metaphor for the family’s situation,” Aster said. “They have no agency, and they’re revealed over the course of the movie to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by these outside forces.”

(18) SPONGEBOB TONY. In “How ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ invaded our brains”, Washington Post writer Sonia Rao interviews the cast and creators of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is up for 12 Tonys as best musical tonight and is making a lot of Millennials very happy.

Tom Kenny never thought SpongeBob SquarePants, a character he originated on the children’s program almost 20 years ago, would one day end up on Broadway. Why would he have? Parents clamp their hands over their ears whenever they hear SpongeBob’s helium voice, let alone his nasal laugh. The anthropomorphized sponge is no Hugh Jackman.

And yet, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is up for 12 Tonys on Sunday, tied with “Mean Girls” for the most nominations. Its resonance with serious theatergoers is surprising until you consider that even as adults, those of us who watched the series can’t shake its omnipresent songs, references and memes. Somehow, it became a cultural earworm.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Lexica, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Jonathan Cowie, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 2/22/18 Scroll Up For The Pixelly Tour!

(1) IT COULD BE A REAL PLACE. Nadia Maddy hopes people will look beyond their headspace for the answer to “Where Is Your Wakanda?”

Where is your Wakanda? Wakanda is real but have you found it? Is it really in East Africa or is it in Central Africa? Perhaps its in Nigeria? What do you think?

 

(2) LE GUIN WINS A PEN AWARD. PEN America held its 2018 Literary Awards ceremony on February 20 at New York University reports Publishers Weekly “Long Soldier, Zhang, Le Guin Win At 2018 PEN Literary Awards”.

[Ursula K.] Le Guin won the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for No Time to Spare. The author’s son, Theo [accepted the] award on behalf of the late Ursula K. Le Guin.

(3) A SINGAPORE FIRST – AND SECOND. The Straits Times interviews “Two Singaporeans on Nebula awards shortlist”, J.Y. Yang and Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

Yang, a science communications officer, recalls: “When I was growing up, I would print out a list of the works that had won the Hugo and Nebula and try to make my way through them. I would never have imagined that one day I would be a finalist. I’m so proud to be one of the Singaporeans on the list, it’s just fantastic.”

Prasad, 27, a full-time writer, started submitting to science-fiction magazines only last year, but has already been shortlisted twice. “I’m overwhelmed and really honoured,” she says.

She is up for Best Novelette for A Series Of Steaks, about two women in Nanjing who forge quality beef – inspired by the real-life counterfeit food industry – and Best Short Story for Fandom For Robots, in which a sentient robot discovers Japanese anime and starts writing fan fiction.

(4) AT YOUR SERVICE. For anyone who wants paper Hugo and Retro-Hugo ballots, there’s now a way to print them.

Worldcon 76 has published PDFs of the paper nominating ballots for the 2018 Hugo Awards/Award for Best Young Adult Book/John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and for the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards.

(5) NOMMO NOMINATIONS OPEN. Members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until March 31 to nominate works for the 2018 Nommo Awards. The awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2018.

(6) BUZZWORDKILL. In The Atlantic, Bruce Sterling commands people to “Stop Saying ‘Smart Cities'” – “Digital stardust won’t magically make future cities more affordable or resilient.”

The term “smart city” is interesting yet not important, because nobody defines it. “Smart” is a snazzy political label used by a modern alliance of leftist urbanites and tech industrialists. To deem yourself “smart” is to make the NIMBYites and market-force people look stupid.

Smart-city devotees all over this world will agree that London is particularly smart. Why? London is a huge, ungainly beast whose cartwheeling urban life is in cranky, irrational disarray. London is a god-awful urban mess, but London does have some of the best international smart-city conferences.

London also has a large urban-management bureaucracy who emit the proper smart-city buzzwords and have even invented some themselves.  The language of Smart City is always Global Business English, no matter what town you’re in.

(7) IN TRAINING. Lightspeed Magazine interviews Carmen Maria Machado about her learning experiences.

I know that you also went to the Clarion science fiction writers workshop. I wonder if you could contrast Iowa and Clarion a little bit?

Clarion is not an MFA program. Clarion is a six-week, insane, exhausting boot camp. It’s a totally different process. The MFA program is more moderate, in the sense that it’s happening over the course of several years. I don’t know really how to compare them. The workshop style is really different. Genre places tend to use the system where everybody goes around in a circle and says their piece and then is silent.

The Milford system?

Oh yeah, the Milford. Which, actually, I do not like that workshop system, but that is the way it’s done at Clarion. It was done that way when I went to Sycamore Hill. That’s just the sort of tradition. Whereas, in my MFA program, it was more of a style of people talking and responding to each other in real time, which I prefer. It’s hard to compare Clarion and Iowa. They’re just inherently really different in terms of what you’re getting out of them. What I got out of Iowa was two years of funded time to work on my own shit, which was amazing and really wonderful. What I got out of Clarion was this really bombastic, high-intensity, octane-fueled, genre extravaganza where I barely slept. I was writing a lot of stuff, some of which was really terrible, and some of which was pretty good, and workshopping non-stop and barely sleeping. They’re really different programs.

(8) IF YOU CAN SAY SOMETHING NICE. Marshall Ryan Maresca helps sff readers pay attention to some people who are doing it the right way in “On My Mind: Building Community”.

So, this past weekend I was at Boskone, and it was a wonderful time, as I was reminded what an amazing community we have in SF/Fantasy Literature.  There are some amazing people in this business, who are filled with wisdom and warmth and kindness.   I had the great fortune of sharing the signing table with Mary Robinette Kowal, who all of these attributes in abundance.  We, as a community, are blessed to have her in it.

Sadly, this past week, I’ve also been reminded that we have a way to go, and there are some people who thrive in being terrible, and making things unpleasant for those around them.  And that behavior, sadly, gets them notoriety.  They get talked about, which serves their ends.  I won’t give them the time of day.

Because the people who are wonderful, who do great work and are good people– they’re the ones who deserve notoriety.  They’re the ones who should get notice and have their names mentioned over and over.  So here is a large list of great people who deserve your attention…..

Names follow.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian says Brevity found a way to make a joke at the expense of two actors who’ve played Captain Kirk.

(10) STORY AMPLIFIED. Yesterday’s Scroll linked to the latest release in Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series, “Mother of Invention” by Nnedi Okorafor. Joey Eschrich notes that it was published along with a response essay by Internet of Things expert Stacey Higginbotham, focusing on the smart home technology in the story.

(11) SHORT FICTION DISCOVERIES. The prolific Charles Payseur has launched a column at Book Smugglers X Marks The Story. The first installment leads readers to such treasures as —

“A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” by Jamie Berrout (published in Strange Horizons, 01/2018 )

What It Is: Coming in a special issue of Strange Horizons featuring transgender and nonbinary authors, “A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” stars Lupita, a trans woman stuck in an awful job as a security guard at a museum, hoping that she can work her way out of mistakes she made when she was younger and her world was imploding. The changing nature of employment, learning algorithms, employer greed and entitlement, and the dream of economic mobility all collide in a plot that kept the reading experience for me fast and tight and devastating. (And for fans of this story, I also recommend checking out “Dream Job” in January’s Terraform SF, which also explores themes of employment and the traps of late capitalism).

Why I Love It: Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but stories exploring the future of employment and capitalism seem to be on the rise. For me, it’s a constant reminder of the realities of growing up and entering the workforce in a time where so many things that previous generations take for granted are in shambles or completely gone. Retirement contributions, healthcare, vacation, sick leave, debt forgiveness—the present isn’t exactly a cheery place for many hoping to live and maybe reach for that dream of comfort, security, and autonomy. …

[Via Earl Grey Editing Services.]

(12) BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, MORE! At Featured Futures, Jason has posted an “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links)” which begins its additional coverage with Ellen Datlow’s freshly announced The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten.

By request, this is an expanded edition of Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!). That post collates and links to the stories selected by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan. This will add Afsharirad, Best American SF&F, Datlow, and Guran.

(13) SIGNAGE. Culver City, CA’s Ripped Bodice Bookstore gives fair warning:

(14) PASSING THE BUCKING BRONCO. Something else we know that ain’t so: “Why The Last ‘Wild’ Horses Really Aren’t”.

A Mongolian horse that has long been hailed as the last truly wild horse species in existence isn’t really all that wild.

It turns out that Przewalski’s horses are actually feral descendants of the first horses that humans are known to have domesticated, around 5,500 years ago.

What’s more, the modern horses that people ride today cannot be traced to those early steeds. That means humans must have tamed wild horses once again later on, somewhere else, but no one knows where or when.

(15) CAVE DWELLERS. If the pics remind you of a kindergarten project, remember your kids didn’t have to be the first people to ever have the idea: “Neanderthals were capable of making art”.

Contrary to the traditional view of them as brutes, it turns out that Neanderthals were artists.

A study in Science journal suggests they made cave drawings in Spain that pre-date the arrival of modern humans in Europe by 20,000 years.

They also appear to have used painted sea shells as jewellery.

Art was previously thought to be a behaviour unique to our species (Homo sapiens) and far beyond our evolutionary cousins.

The cave paintings include stencilled impressions of Neanderthal hands, geometric patterns and red circles.

(16) YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS STORY IS LEADING. The people who built Stonehenge didn’t get to enjoy it for long: “Ancient Britons ‘replaced’ by newcomers”.

Prof Reich told BBC News: “Archaeologists ever since the Second World War have been very sceptical about proposals of large-scale movements of people in prehistory. But what the genetics are showing – with the clearest example now in Britain at Beaker times – is that these large-scale migrations occurred, even after the spread of agriculture.”

The genetic data, from hundreds of ancient British genomes, reveals that the Beakers were a distinct population from the Neolithic British. After their arrival on the island, Beaker genes appear to swamp those of the native farmers.

Prof Reich added: “The previous inhabitants had just put up the big stones at Stonehenge, which became a national place of pilgrimage as reflected by goods brought from the far corners of Britain.”

He added: “The sophisticated ancient peoples who built that monument and ones like it could not have known that within a short period of time their descendants would be gone and their lands overrun.”

(17) DON’T MISS THIS NON-GENRE LINK. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the surviving cast and writers for “‘MAS*H’ Oral History: Untold Stories From One of TV’s Most Important Shows”.

(18) NO ARMY CAN STOP AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Adam-Troy Castro offered this subtle suggestion on Facebook:

Let’s run an International Science Fiction Asshole Convention.

People who want to go to conventions or to award ceremonies in order to be disruptive assholes — all while filling thousands of pages of blog posts with their fiendish snickering about the trouble they intend and how much it will bother everyone else — will finally have their annual event, where they can hand out awards to honor The Year’s Biggest Asshole, The Year’s Biggest Dickweed, the Year’s Most Appalling Runner-Up, as well as the Award for Best Newcomer (which at the Hugos are named after a luminary with J, W, and C as initials, and can be done here as well, albeit in different order).

Steve Davidson has volunteered to do the con’s Souvenir Book. In fact, he’s not even going to wait for the convention to be founded —

I’m soliciting articles for this, lol. Someone want to write a history of the (what was it, the ISFC?) from its founding to the present?

Anyone want to do short profiles of award winners from the past?

(19) JUST WAITING TO BE FOUND.  Annalee Newitz tells about the “8,000-year-old heads on spikes found in a remote Swedish lake” at Ars Technica. Warning – the article is full of grisly medical commentary.

In east-central Sweden, workers demolishing a railway that crossed the Motala Ström River discovered something bizarre. For roughly 7,500 years, a shallow, swampy lake in the area had hidden a pile of stones that contained the skeletal remains of at least 10 people and weapons made of stone and antler. They also found the bones of bears, deer, boar, and a badger. Two of the human skulls were mounted on pointed stakes.

Thousands of years ago, this semi-submerged burial ground must have been an imposing sight for the small settlements located nearby. A pile of rocks rose above the water, covered in weapons, wooden structures, and the grisly remains of fearsome animals—as well as the skulls of some carefully chosen people. Now dubbed “Kanaljorden,” the archaeological site has finally begun to yield some secrets about the people who created it. In a recent article for Antiquity, Stockholm University archaeologist Sara Gummesson and her colleagues explain what the evidence reveals about how this ritual site was used.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/24/17 Look Upon My Scrolls, Ye Mighty, And Despair

(1) BANNED IN SAN DIEGO. United Airlines told people leaving San Diego after Comic-Con that TSA had banned comic books from checked luggage, but was permitting them in carry-ons.

Le Chic Geek’s Jeanne Marie Hoffman spread the story: “TSA Bans Comic Books in Checked Luggage for Comic-Con”.

The TSA banned comic books from checked luggage for flights leaving San Diego after Comic-Con.

This is problematic in a few ways.  First, attendees tend to purchase rare comic books that they are trying to keep in pristine shape.  Yes, you can do with when you have a few comic books in your carry on–but remember, this is a convention.

People aren’t flying out to San Diego to purchase *one* comic book.

Second, while large vendors enter into freight shipping contracts, small vendors rely on their checked bags to get their wares to and from the convention.

TSA tweeted a denial saying no, they’re not banning comic books (so why did United?)

TSA also addressed it in a blog post, “Let’s Close the Book on Book Screening Rumors”, which confusing gives an “answer” talks about carry-ons, not checked bags. So the whole thing remains as clear as mud.

Do you have to remove books from your carry-on bags prior to sending your bag through the X-ray?

Short answer: No

Longer answer (but still pretty short): You know us… We’re always testing procedures to help stay ahead of our adversaries. We were testing the removal of books at two airport locations and the testing ran its course. We’re no longer testing and have no intentions of instituting those procedures.

So, with that out of the way, you might be wondering why we were interested in books. Well, our adversaries seem to know every trick in the book when it comes to concealing dangerous items, and books have been used in the past to conceal prohibited items. We weren’t judging your books by their covers, just making sure nothing dangerous was inside.

Occasionally, our officers may recommend passengers remove items such as heavy, glossy programs during a special event with a lot of travelers such as Super Bowl programs.

(2) ROOM FOR MORE. GoFundMe for Dwain Kaiser’s widow, Joanne, is now up to $17,979, far above $10,000 goal. You can still contribute.

(3) BEGINNING WHO. Nicholas Whyte suggests there are as many doors into the series as there are Doctors: “Doctor Who: advice for someone who hasn’t seen it yet”.

Dear Chris, You asked me:

Friend in US wants to start watching Dr Who now there is a female doctor. Which are the seminal episodes she should watch in advance? Is there one episode per season she should watch?

Unless your friend is already a big fan of sf shows from the last century, she should probably start with New Who, meaning the 2005 reboot with Christopher Eccleston. One sometimes needs to be forgiving of the production values of Old Who, and it may not be right to demand that tolerance of a newbie. For what it’s worth, I answered a similar question about the first eight Doctors here many years ago; and a couple of years later I polled my blog readers on their favourite stories from the first ten Doctors here (and also on their least favourite stories here). But for now, we’re looking at New Who.

(4) DESTROYING SF AGAIN. Thirty-one days remain in the Kickstarter “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine” — seeking funding for an Uncanny Magazine special double issue: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction and Uncanny Magazine Year Four. At this writing it’s achieved $8,402 of its $20,000 goal.

(5) BY COINCIDENCE. New York’s Museum of Modern Art is running an exhibit “Future Imperfect: The Uncanny in Science Fiction” from July 17–August 31.

Imagine a science-fiction film series with no space travel, no alien invasions or monsters, and no visions of the distant future. Imagine instead a dazzling array of science-fiction films that focus on alternate visions of Earth in the present or very near future. Science fiction, at least in the movies, essentially boils down to two questions: Are “they” coming to kill us or to save us? And, what does it mean to be human? Presented in association with the Berlinale and the Deutsche Kinemathek-Museum für Film und Fernsehen, this exhibition of more than 40 science-fiction films from all over the world — the United States, the Soviet Union, China, India, Cameroon, Mexico and beyond — explores the second question: our humanity in all its miraculous, uncanny, and perhaps ultimately unknowable aspects. Since the dawn of cinema, filmmakers as diverse as Kathryn Bigelow, Kinji Fukasaku, Rikwit Ghatak, Jean-Luc Godard, Georges Méliès, Michael Snow, Alexander Sokurov, and Steven Spielberg have explored ideas of memory and consciousness; thought, sensation, and desire; self and other; nature and nurture; time and space; and love and death. Their films, lying at the nexus of art, philosophy, and science, occupy a twilight zone bounded only by the imagination, where “humanness” remains an enchanting enigma. Guest presenters include John Sayles, Michael Almereyda, Larry Fessenden, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and more.

Organized by Joshua Siegel, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

(6) TWEET BRAWL. Looks like Wilson Cruz is getting some pushback on his Star Trek: Discovery character, but he’s giving as good as he gets. Use this tweet to beam up to where the discussion is happening:

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Could you have named them? The founding members of Marvel Comics’ super-hero team the Avengers were: Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-Man, The Wasp and Thor.

(8) STEINBERG OBIT. Marvel legend Florence Steinberg (1939-2017) died July 23. Heidi MacDonald paid tribute at ComicsBeat.

Florence “Fabulous Flo” Steinberg, an iconic member of the original Marvel Bullpen, has passed away, age unknown but truly ageless.

Flo was the sole Marvel staffer besides Stan Lee himself in the early Marvel Comics of the 60s. She can be heard on this immortal Merry Marvel Marching Society record starring Stan, Jack Kirby and Flo in her inimitable Boston/Queens accent.

 

At Marvel, Flo was the true Gal Friday, helping with every aspect of getting books out the door. She left in 1968 but didn’t leave publishing: in 1975 she published Big Apple Comix, an early indie comic that included “mainstream” comics creators doing more personal stories.  As great as Stan and Jack were, they never launched out entirely on their own as publishers, as Flo did.

(9) BENNETT OBIT. Tolkien fan Joanne Bennett died July 14. She started the Crickhollow branch of the Mythopoeic Society some 40 years ago, covering the Reno-Sparks- Carson City area. Here is an excerpt from the family obituary.

Many of the students who most enjoyed her classes and teaching also were members of Wooster’s Tolkien Society, which she founded in the late 1960s upon discovering and becoming captivated by the Middle Earth fantasy world that J.R.R. Tolkien created in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Many of those students became her lifelong dear friends as she and they continued their relationships and discussions even up until the last days of her life in a group called Crickhollow and through ongoing individual relationships with other former students.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 24, 1948 — Debut of Marvin the Martian in Bugs Bunny’s Haredevil Hare

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SUPERHERO

  • July 24, 1951 — Lynda Carter

(12) COMIC SECTION. Not recommended for the theologically sensitive, the webcomic Meanwhile In Heaven purports to show the Big Guy in all of his infinite wisdom.  There’s a recent arc where God has decided to redecorate using a Star Trek theme. We find out there are some things that Leonard Nimoy won’t do. And the story continues in “Captain’s Log”.

(13) PREDICTING MAGIC. Lois McMaster Bujold tells folks on Goodreads another Penric novella is on the way.

I am pleased to report that I have finished the first draft of a new Penric & Desdemona novella. (For that peculiar value of “finished” that means, “still dinking till it’s pulled from the writer’s twitchy hands.”) Title will be “Penric’s Fox” Length, at this moment, is around 37,400 words. It is more-or-less a sequel to “Penric and the Shaman”, taking place about eight or nine months after that story. Final editing and formatting, arranging for cover art to send it out into the world nicely dressed, etc., will take some unknown amount of time and eyeball-endurance, but e-pub will likely happen in August.

(14) RECOMMENDED BADNESS. Marshall Ryan Maresca tells about his love for “KRULL: A Bad Movie I’ve Watched Many, Many, MANY Times”

As I’ve said before, there’s something to admire about a movie that points to the fences and swings with everything that it has.  Because Krull is just that movie.  It really wants to be the epic fantasy movie– it wanted to be the movie that did for epic fantasy what Star Wars was for space opera.   And by god, it throws everything it can think of up on the screen to become that, and more.  I mean, it’s not just an epic fantasy movie.  It’s an epic fantasy movie that’s hiding inside a full-on sci-fi space-opera, like a Russian nesting doll.  On top of that, it’s got prologue and epilogue voice-over to let you know that this is just the tip of the iceberg of the total amount of story here.  Yes, it was laying the groundwork for sequels and prequels and all sorts of things that were never meant to be.

(15) NINE WORLDS. London’s Nine Worlds con (August 4-6) has posted its program schedule. There are a lot of good, thoughtful items, and at least three I can say I haven’t seen at any con I’ve attended:

(16) ART LESSON. Nikola at Thoughts on Fantasy teaches us “How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover”.

I’ve encountered a few covers that take it a bit far, but I thought it’d be amusing to go even further, and have a bit of fun with the tropes of my favourite genre… so here is my recipe for a no-holds-barred, all-boxes-ticked, epic high fantasy book cover (accompanied by examples from the most clichéd design I can muster). I’m no graphic designer, but I imagine that will add a nice level of unprofessional shine to my examples.

  1. Fantasy Landscape

It’s a good idea to start your cover with a moody fantasy setting. This can be any of the following:

  • medieval cityscape
  • castle or tower
  • craggy mountains
  • dark forest + looming trees
  • rough sea + sailing ship

If you want to go full-fantasy cliché, try to include as many of the above as possible, just to be sure you cover all your bases.

Her recipe has 12 ingredients altogether.

(17) SFF TREND ON JEOPARDY! Tom Galloway keeps a close eye on these things:

OK, some current Jeopardy! writer is definitely an sf fan and is having fun with categories. A few weeks ago we had the adjacent “Shaka” and “When the Walls Fell” categories in Double J!.

Last Tuesday, July 18th, the last two Double J! categories were “The Name of the Wind” and “The Wise Man’s Fear”, the titles of Patrick Rothfuss’ first two books in his trilogy. As with the Trek named categories, no clues related to Rothfuss, although the $2000 in Fear was about Dune.

(18) NO RELATION. We know some fans’ names are not so uncommon that there couldn’t be others running around with the same name. That doesn’t seem to make it any less surprising.

Steven H Silver writes:

On my recent trip to Europe, Elaine and I stopped in Bath.  While there, I spotted this ice cream shop, which, despite its name, is not owned by a Hugo Award winning fan artist.

And Paul DiFilippo recently posted a picture of a product called Malcolm Edwards Beer Shampoo.

(19) WHEN THE ‘W’ IN WTF STANDS FOR WHO. Here is a bit of a whoot about last week’s announcement of the new Doctor Who, which came at the end of the Wimbledon men’s singles finals.

Legions of Doctor Who fans caught several minutes of televised sport, many for the first time, this evening.

In their haste to learn who the new Doctor will be, tens of thousands of fans were confused by the spectacle of a man running when he wasn’t being chased by an Ice Warrior.

The BBC was inundated with complaints from viewers who saw David Tennant in the Wimbledon crowd and believed it to be some sort of spoiler, or who thought that shots of someone chasing a ball were footage of some kind of ground level Quidditch match and started cheering before they realised their error.

“The people dressed in white chasing about weren’t even the robots from Krikket, which was an unused Douglas Adams script,” avid Whovian Simon Williams told us.

(20) EYE OF THE STORM. Marcus Errico of Yahoo! Movies, in “First CAPTAIN MARVEL Concept Art Shows Brie Larson in Her Supersuit”, says at Comic-Con Brie Larson was busily promoting the Captain Marvel movie coming from Marvel Studios next year.  It’s set in the 1990s, has the Skrulls in it, and has Nick Fury with two eyes with a possible explanation as to how he ended up losing one eye.

(21) FROM THE ARCHIVES. Paul DiFilippo thinks he has found a never-reprinted Arthur C. Clarke short story, and Bonestell illustration in a 1962 issue of The Elks Magazine. He has scanned the pages and posted them at The Inferior 4 blog.

(22) COMMEMORATIVE DRINKS. Andrew Porter learned that the building where Gollancz published is now a trendy hotel.

Gollancz was located in London’s Covent Garden, at 14 Henrietta Street, from 1928 until the early 1990s. The new hotel, with only 18 bedrooms, is at 14 and 15. The drinks menu references Gollancz’s past, as publisher of Arthur C. Clarke, Kingsley Amis, George Orwell and others, with drinks named “Down and Out,” “Lucky Jim,” “Fall of Moondust,” “Sirens of Titan,” and “Cat’s Cradle.”

For a history of the company, see the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s ”Gollancz” entry.

(23) DRINK UP. The Verge tells you where to find it — “The Moon has more water than we thought”.

The Moon has more water than previously thought, and it’s deep below the lunar surface. A new study suggests that water is widespread beyond the poles, where it was already known to exist, although scientists don’t know exactly how much water is there. The discovery has consequences for future missions to the Moon.

Scientists analyzed lunar rock samples that contain tiny, water-trapping beads of glass; these beads formed when magma erupted from the Moon’s interior billions of years ago, trapping water inside them. The scientists then looked at satellite data collected by an Indian lunar orbiter to check where these water-trapping glass beads are. The results, published today in Nature Geoscience, show that there are widespread “hot spots” of water-rich volcanic material beyond the Moon’s poles.

(24) WESTEROS IS COMING. George R.R. Martin updated fans through his Livejournal on the status of the unfinished Winds of Winter:

I am still working on it, I am still months away (how many? good question), I still have good days and bad days, and that’s all I care to say.

Another project, the first of a two-volume collection of fake histories of the Targaryen kings called Fire and Blood, is “likely” for publication in late 2018 or 2019.

Whether WINDS or the first volume of Fire and Blood will be the first to hit the bookstores is hard to say at this juncture, but I do think you will have a Westeros book from me in 2018… and who knows, maybe two.

Meantime Gardner Dozois’ new anthology, The Book of Swords, has been scheduled for release on October 10, and is now available for pre-order from Amazon. As Martin notes —

And of course it also includes “Sons of the Dragon,” a chronicle of the reigns of Aegon the Conquerer’s two sons, Aenys I Targaryen and Maegor the Cruel, for those who cannot get enough of my entirely fake histories of Westeros. That one has never been published before in any form, though I did read it at a couple of cons.

(25) FIFTH FIFTH. Not to be missed — these comments in File 770 today:

[Thanks to JJ, ULTRAGOTHA, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Dann Todd, Harold Osler, Alan Baumler, Tom Galloway, Moshe Feder, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/17 All Along The Scrolltower Pixels Kept The View

(1) BY PIXEL AND PAPER. The Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid tells what its publications policy will be for PR’s and the Souvenir Book.

So what should we do about our progress reports?

I note that for some people this is an access issue, and therefore, we will be having hard copies available for anyone who selects them as an access issue. To be clear, Progress Reports are complimentary and we’d like to send them to anyone who needs them for an access issue. Just tick the box please.

We will be sending them out electronically of course if you allow us to.

I noted that some people still liked them, as a historical document or just because they enjoy reading hard copy, and that is very cool, and the Dublin 2019 team will be making sure that anyone who wants a hard copy progress report can get one. There will be a charge of €10 Ten Euro for this.

I hope all of you are OK with this decision and support us in it.

This does not affect our plans for our Souvenir book which we plan to offer in hard copy to all members, full and supporting, and which we are happy to mail to anyone who doesn’t pick it up at con.

(2) HELP PABLO GO THE DISTANCE. Leigh Ann Hildebrand has launched a Generosity.com appeal to send Pablo Vasquez to Helsinki for Worldcon 75. The goal is $1,100. Here’s the pitch:

Bringing NASFiC to San Juan, Puerto Rico was great thing — and one of the prime movers behind that successful bid and con has been Pablo Vazquez. I was really looking forward to congratulating Pablo at the con in Helsinki and to hearing all about that NASFiC.

And then Pablo told me he wouldn’t be joining fans in Helsinki this year.

Money’s tight for Pablo; he’s been prioritizing travel and preparations for this historic and awesome NASFiC. Now he finds himself short of funds for his last travel expenses. He’s got accommodations and a membership covered, but his fixed-cost airfare and incidental expenses are beyond his means this summer.

This is where my fellow fans come in. Help me get Pablo to Helsinki! Here’s what he needs:

$600 for the air fare (it’s a fixed cost, ’cause he knows a guy.)

$500 for food, travel incidentals, walkin’ around money and buying a round. That may seem like a lot, but food in Finland is not cheap, and there’s no con suite this year, so he can’t live on Doritos and free sodas. 🙂

(3) SFF FILM FESTIVAL. Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in partnership with SIFF is now accepting entries for the 2018 Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF).

The festival will accept animated or live-action submissions of original science fiction or fantasy stories (examples: futuristic stories, space adventure, technological speculation, social experiments, utopia and dystopia, sword and sorcery, folklore, urban fantasy, magic, and mythic adventure).

A nationally recognized panel of distinguished film, television, literature, and science fiction industry professionals, peers, and film critics will review qualifying submissions to determine the winners of the Grand Prize, Second Place, Third Place, and the Douglas Trumbull Award for Best Visual Effects. Festival films will also be eligible for the Audience Favorite award.

In order to qualify, submitted films must have been completed after December 31, 2012, and must not exceed 15 minutes. Films that exceed 15 minutes may still be considered for festival inclusion but will not be eligible for awards.

See the link for guidelines, deadlines and fees.

(5) WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING? Adam-Troy Castro sighed on Facebook:

Over the past few years I have encountered Harry Potter fans who were abusive bullies, Star Trek fans who were against diversity, and now Doctor Who fans who were close-minded and unkind.

It’s like none of them were paying any attention at all.

I am looking forward to the emergence of Batman fans who are in favor of crime.

Since the targets of Castro’s comment might miss the point, Matthew M. Foster restated the message more explicitly:

The second is that people don’t see theme. SF is about space ships and explosions. Fantasy is about swords. The actual thing trying to be conveyed is missed far more often than not. The light was brought to this in a “funny” way to our little lit community by Brad and the Pups a few years back when Star Trek was pointed out to be first and foremost, about adventure and action–about combat in space. From the same group, there was a great deal of discussion in which they confused the theme with something incidental to the story because the incidental thing was not part of their normal life. So, if a story happened to have someone gay in it, then the story must be about sexual preference. If the story had a Black lead, then the theme must be about race. These are people that are big fans of science fiction, and they couldn’t see the themes.

(6) MAD PENIUS CLUB. And right on time, here’s Dave Freer’s death-kiss for the Thirteenth Doctor.

The trouble with this is it’s a judgement call, and especially inside the various bubbles (New York Publishing, Hollywood, and in the UK the Beeb’s little Guardian-and-Birkenstock club) they’re often so distant and unconnected with audiences outside their bubble that they assume they think like them and will respond like them. Which is why they have flops like the Ghostbusters remake, because they assumed the audience for the movie was just dying for a feminist version, with lots of man-kicking. Dr Who is trying much the same thing with a female Doctor. It could work because that audience is already pretty much restricted to inside their bubble. Still, with a new writer, and female lead after 12 male ones… She’ll have to be a good actress, and he’ll have to be a better writer. I expect we’ll see a long sequence of designated victim minorities cast in the role in future, until the show dies. I doubt we’ll ever see another white hetero male, but maybe that’s just me being cynical.

(7) HEADWRITER CANON. Prospect’s James Cooray Smith declares: “Uncomfortable with a female Doctor Who? It’s time to admit your real motives”.

…Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s Executive Producer from 2010 to 2017, used to make a habit, when asked if there was ever going to be a female Doctor, of throwing the question back to the audience. He’d ask for a show of hands as to who did and didn’t like the idea. Even half a decade ago, those audiences would be roughly balanced into pros and antis—although, as he noted, the proportion of “likes” was exponentially increasing every time he passed the question back.

In the last few years, the idea has gone from almost universally disliked to “Why hasn’t this happened already?”

Laying the canonical foundations

Moffat has played no small part in that himself. The first lines of dialogue given to Matt Smith’s Doctor, the first lines of Moffat’s era, see the newly regenerated Doctor, who cannot see his own face, wondering if he’s now female. A year later in “The Doctor’s Wife,” produced by Moffat and written by Neil Gaiman, the Doctor comments of a dead Time Lord friend The Corsair, “He didn’t feel himself unless he had a tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times”.

Three years after that, Moffat cast Michelle Gomez as ‘Missy’, the Doctor’s oldest friend and arch enemy, a character previously only played by male actors and usually referred to as the Master. A year after that—just to make sure that no one regarded Missy as an exception that proves the rule—Moffat had Ken Bones’ recurring Time Lord character The General regenerate into T’Nia Miller, changing sex and ethnicity simultaneously. Other Time Lords in the series treated this as momentarily distracting but thoroughly routine.

It now seems daft to say that such groundwork needed to be done: after all, the character of the doctor is an alien who merely looks human. But the series itself had never hinted that the idea was possible before 2010. Now, any viewer who has seen an episode with Missy in knows the Doctor’s own people can, and do, change sex. No one can pretend the idea isn’t part of the series, no matter how much they may want to. Moffat’s careful layering over years shows up any objections to the series having a female lead for what they are.

(8) NEVERTHELESS. Alison Scott has a shirt she would love to sell you. I bought one for my daughter. (U.K. orders here; U.S. orders here.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California
  • July 17, 1967 — Contact with Surveyor 4 lost 2.5 minutes before Moon touchdown.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop, released on this day
  • July 17, 1988 – Debut of the sci-fi telefilm Out of Time…starring Bill Maher…yes that Bill Maher.
  • July 17, 1992 — Honey, I Blew Up The Kid in theaters.

(10) COMIC SECTION. Andrew Porter noticed Zippy the Pinhead mentioned d Emshwiller.

(11) READING PLEASURE. Look for the SF pulps! Photos of old newsstands.

(12) ADAM WEST REMEMBERED. “Family Guy pays tribute to Adam West with nine-minute highlight reel” – from Entertainment Weekly.

As famous as he was for playing Batman — and he was very famous for that — Adam West was also known to another generation of fans for his wacky work on Family Guy. The late actor, who popped up and scored in more than 100 episodes as Mayor Adam West, left a colorful, indelible imprint on the animated Fox comedy — as well as on its producers and fans.

 

(13) WORLDCON PROGRAM. Worldcon 75 put its draft program schedule online today.

There are three ways to view the programme schedule DRAFT:

(14) HAUNTED HELSINKI. Adrienne Foster has arranged a “Ghost walking tour of Helsinki” for the convenience of Worldcon 75 members. It will be an English-speaking tour at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 9 August 2017.

Once again, those interested in reserving a spot on the tour need to be a member of Meetup.com and join Bay Area Ghost Hunters. Joining is free on both counts, but the fee for the ghost walk is to cover the cost of the tour operator. Yes, it was deliberate putting the “prere…gistration” fee in U.S. dollars and the “at-the-door” cost in euros.

As the 75th World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon 75) rolls around again, it gives me another opportunity to arrange a ghost walk of its host city, Helsinki. Yes, that’s in Finland. Ghost walks are one of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling and it’s always a lot more fun to do them with like-minded companions. To make it even more attractive to the many members who don’t speak Finnish, the tour operator has an English-speaking tour available.

Although this has been timed for the convenience of Worldcon 75 members, all BAGH members are welcome to participate. If anyone just happens to have coinciding travel plans to Helsinki, please join us.

In addition to ghost stories, guests on these tours learn a lot about the history of the locale, particularly some of its macabre past. It even starts at a hotel that is a converted prison.

(15) MINGLE LIKE TINGLE. Is this going to be an “I am Spartacus” kind of thing?

(16) AUREALIS AWARDS. The 2017 Aurealis Awards are now open for nominations. Eligible works must be created by an Australian citizen, or permanent resident, and published for the first time this year.

(17) VENUS AND MARS. David D. Levine’s second novel, Arabella and the Battle of Venus, sequel to the Andre Norton Award winning Arabella of Mars, comes out this week.

The thrilling adventures of Arabella Ashby continue in Arabella and the Battle of Venus, the second book in Hugo-winning author David D. Levine’s swashbuckling sci-fi, alternate history series!

Arabella’s wedding plans to marry Captain Singh of the Honorable Mars Trading Company are interrupted when her fiancé is captured by the French and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on swampy Venus. Now, Arabella must find passage to an enemy-controlled planet in the middle of a war, bribe or fight her way past vicious guards, and rescue her Captain.

To do this she must enlist the help of the dashing privateer, Daniel Fox of the Touchstone and build her own clockwork navigational automaton in order to get to Venus before the dread French general, Joseph Fouché, the Executioner of Lyon.

Once on Venus, Arabella, Singh, and Fox soon discover that Napoleon has designed a secret weapon, one that could subjugate the entire solar system if they can’t discover a way to stop Fouché, and the entire French army, from completing their emperor’s mandate.

Levine will be doing a book tour:

He is currently drafting the final book in the trilogy, currently titled Arabella and the Winds of Phobos but may end up being called Arabella the Traitor of Mars.

(18) NEWCOMERS TO THE HEARTH. Fireside Fiction is undergoing a change of management, with Brian J. White stepping down. Pablo Defendini is taking over as publisher and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry as managing editor. Julia Rios and Mikki Kendall are also joining the team.

White is leaving to focus on his work as a journalist.

As many of you know, I work at a newspaper. And that work has been consuming more and more of my time lately, with both the volume and the importance of the news rising in a way we’ve never experienced in this country. And it comes alongside a level of furious, violent antipathy toward the press that is somehow both wildly shocking and banally predictable.

Fireside has been the labor of love of my life, and it kills me to step away. But I am a journalist, first and always, and I need to focus my energy on the work we are doing. A lot of people have made fun of the earnestness of the Washington Post’s Democracy Dies in Darkness slogan, but it is true, and I won’t let the light go out.

Mikki Kendall has been signed on as editor to lead the follow-up to last year’s #BlackSpecFic report, which White says will be out soon. [Hat tip to Earl Grey Loose-leaf Links #43.]

(19) THE COOLEST. Arthur C. Clarke would be proud, as the search for extra-terrestrial life turns to ice worlds.

Chris McKay has fallen out of love with Mars. The red, dusty, corroded world no longer holds the allure it once did.

“I was obsessed with life on Mars for many years,” confesses the Nasa planetary scientist, who has spent most of his career searching for signs of life on the red planet.

“It’s seduction at the highest level,” he says. “I’m abandoning my first love and going after this other one that’s shown me what I wanted to see.”

The new object of McKay’s affections is Enceladus, the ice-encrusted moon of Saturn. Investigated by the joint Nasa and European Space Agency (Esa) Cassini space probe, the moon is spewing out plumes of water from its south pole – most likely from a liquid ocean several kilometres beneath the surface. Cassini has found this water contains all the vital ingredients for life as we know it: carbon, nitrogen and a readily available source of energy in the form of hydrogen.

“I think this is it,” says McKay. “From an astrobiology point of view, this is the most interesting story.”

(20) SO BAD IT’S GOOD. Marshall Ryan Maresca extols the antique virtues of the 1980s movie: “ELECTRIC DREAMS: A Bad Movie I’ve Watched Many, Many, MANY Times”.

The Eighties got a lot of mileage out of the idea that computers were magic.  I mean, the fundamental principle of Weird Science is that Wyatt has, like, a 386 with a 14.4 modem and a scanner, which he can connect to the Pentagon and make a goddamn genie with it.  Most Hollywood movies today still let computers be magical, but not to the same degree.  And few movies go as full out crazy with the idea as Electric Dreams.

For those not in the know, Electric Dreams is a relatively small, simple movie, in which an architect named Miles (he might be an engineer—something to do with buildings) lives in the downstairs part of a duplex, below gorgeous cellist Virginia Madsen.  And he gets himself a computer so he can design an earthquake brick.  So far, all normal.

It turns into a love triangle with Wyatt and a sentient PC as rivals.

(21) THE LATTER DAY LAFFERTY. Adri’s Book Reviews praises “Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty”.

As in any good mystery, it soon becomes clear that there are shady things lurking in the past of each and every crew member, as well as the traditional untrustworthy AI. Six Wakes builds its narrative through an omniscient third person narrator which switches between character viewpoints, as well as flashbacks to the crews’ lives in the lead up to being selected for the ship. Each crew member knows the others have volunteered for the mission because they are convicted criminals who will be pardoned upon arrival, but they have been told their crimes must remain confidential. From the ship’s doctor who was one of the original people cloned when the technology began, to the AI tech who has been on the verge of a breakdown since waking, to the shady machinations of the captain and the security officer, Six Wakes uses a small cast to great effect, with the world of the clones coming across as claustrophobic and restrictive even in background chapters set on Earth, thanks to both the Codicls as well as the inequalities and power struggles that arise from a society of functionally immortal beings. Six Wakes’ characters aren’t likeable in a traditional sense but I found them generally sympathetic, and the backgrounds go a long way towards making that balance work.

(22) A BOY AND HIS HORSE. The British Museum blog asks “The Dothraki and the Scythians: a game of clones?”

The Dothraki in Game of Thrones are represented as feared and ferocious warriors. Jorah Mormont describes their culture as one that values power and follows strength above all, and there is no greater way to demonstrate power and strength according to the Dothraki than through war. Like their fictional counterparts, the Scythians were pretty terrifying in battle. The Greek historian Herodotus writes that Scythians drank the blood of the men they killed and kept their scalps as trophies and skulls as drinking cups. While we should probably take Herodotus with a pinch of salt, by all accounts they were pretty brutal! The Dothraki also like decapitating their defeated enemies – guards known as the jaqqa rhan, or mercy men, use heavy axes to do this.

The Scythians and the Dothraki fight on horseback and are excellent archers. They both use curved (or composite) bows to maximise the range and the damage of their arrows. As Jorah Mormont says of the Dothraki, ‘they are better riders than any knight, utterly fearless, and their bows outrange ours.’

(23) THE NEXT STAGE. The Verge has learned that “The Twilight Zone is being adapted into a stage play” in London.

The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling’s landmark sci-fi anthology series about technological paranoia, creeping dread in 1960s America, and monsters and weirdos of all sorts, will be adapted as a stage play, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed this morning.

The play will debut in a limited run at London’s Almeida Theatre this December, with a script from Anne Washburn. Washburn’s best-known play is her 2012 Off-Broadway work Mr. Burns, which is about a traveling theater troupe in post-apocalyptic America that performs episodes of The Simpsons from memory. The play will be directed by Olivier-winner Richard Jones, who is best known for the 1990 London run of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, as well as the short-lived 1997 Titanic musical on Broadway, and has also directed several operas and Shakespeare productions.

(24) LIADEN UPDATE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s 81st joint project — Due Diligence (Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Book 24) – was released July 10. The pair was also recently profiled by Maine’s statewide newspaper the Portland Press Herald“Welcome to the universe of Maine writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller”.

For Maine writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, all it took to launch a brand-new universe was a single sentence.

The opening line for what would become “Agent of Change,” the inaugural volume of their Liaden Universe space opera series, was “The man who was not Terrence O’Grady had come quietly.”

It’s not quite “Call me Ishmael,” but something about typing those 10 words back in 1984 made Lee say to her husband, “I have a novel here.” And there was sufficient inspiration on the page for Miller to say, “I’m sorry, but I think you have a series.”

Both were right. Reached by phone at their Maine coon cat-friendly home in Winslow, surrounded by oil paintings, prints, book cover and other science fiction and fantasy artwork, Miller remembered, “We sat down that night and fleshed out the basic idea for the first seven books.” Four years later, in 1988, their collaborative debut was published in paperback by DelRey.

Since then, Lee, 64, and Miller, 66, have published 20 Liaden Universe novels and nearly five dozen related short stories. Baen Books published their latest hardcover novel, “The Gathering Edge,” in May.

.And they’ll be Guests of Honor at ConFluence from August 4-6.

(25) YOU WOULD BE RIGHT.

(26) PLASTIC IS NOT FANTASTIC. Jewish Business News has the story behind the commercial: “Mayim Bialik and Hodor From ‘Game of Thrones’ In New SodaStream’s Funny Viral Video”.

Following Jewish celebrity Scarlett Johansson’s campaign for the Israeli beverage company SodaStream, the Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik is the new face proudly representing the company new campaign in a Viral Video.

Features Mayim Bialik as an anthropologist, recalling her first encounter with the Homo-schlepien played by Kristian Nairn known as Hodor from “Game of Thrones.” The story reflects the devastating effect of single-use plastic bottles on Humanity. A habit that is hazardous to Earth and no longer exist in the future.

In this funny story, the Museum of UnNatural History features encounters between Mayim and the last tribe of plastic dependent species, the Homo-schlepien.

The shooting of the campaign was brought forward while Bialik had to rest her vocal chords for one month due to a medical advice. “This campaign has a powerful message and one that needed to be told before I went on vocal rest,” said Mayim Bialik.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Bill, Steve Miller, David Levine, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Interview with Marshall Ryan Maresca

Marshall Ryan Maresca

Marshall Ryan Maresca

By Carl Slaughter: Marshall Ryan Maresca’s tale of murder and magic, secrets and lies, policemen and vigilantes, misfits and criminals, professors and sidekicks, conspiracies and guerilla warfare continues to unfold with the release of the second book in his first trilogy, Alchemy of Chaos, and the second book in his second trilogy, Import of Intrigue.

His main characters continue on their journey of discovery and maturity, decisions and consequences, goals and limits, risks and relationships. They frequently make mistakes and are frequently overwhelmed, but they never lose their sense of destiny and their sense of justice.

Meanwhile a third trilogy has been scheduled and more stories are in the works or in the planning, all in the same universe. Other fictional universes and other genres are waiting their turn in line. All this under the experienced oversight of DAW editors.

When he first approached me about an interview/feature, only cursory information about the series was available at the time and I was not impressed with the premise. I thought, “Change the school from a magic academy to a computer academy, change the skills from magic skills to computer skills, change the artifacts to software, or whatever, and the story is essentially the same.”

Big mistake. Never underestimate the power of compelling characters. The more I hear about these characters, the more I am drawn to them. I am mighty curious about the characters in those first two trilogies. In this follow-up interview, he satisfies my curiosity – within the boundaries of spoilers and deadlines.

CARL SLAUGHTER: The main character in Import of Intrigue is an uncircled mage. What exactly is an uncircled mage?

MARSHALL RYAN MARESCA: For mages to practice their craft in Maradaine, they need to be part of a Circle, which is a legal organization that provides training and accountability, but also that protects the mage from egregious arrest or prosecution. An Uncircled Mage is someone who has the knack for performing magic, but lacks the formal training, and thus is not part of any circle. This can happen a few different ways, but in Minox’s case, his magical abilities didn’t manifest until he was much older, when he was already in the constabulary.

CS: What sort of unique circumstances does a police detective who is an uncircled mage find himself in?

MRM: Since the Circles exist to give mages legal protection from constabulary harassment, they do not cooperate with the Constabulary at all. Which means that Minox—a man with deep familial ties to the Constabulary, who always wanted to be an Inspector—had to make the choice to not learn how to use his powers, and be shunned by other mages. But it also means that many in the Constabulary, who distrust and fear mages, don’t want to work with him. He’s on the outside in both worlds.

CS: His partner faked her credentials. Faking credentials as a constabulary is easy enough. But how does she fake her skills as a crime investigator? If you can’t solve a crime, won’t your partner and superior and eventually other police colleagues realize you’re a fake?

MRM: Satrine has the skills. She was a spy in Druth Intelligence for years, and her time being married to an inspector gave her a familiarity with the procedures and methods of the constabulary. She’s brilliant and she’s observant. Doing the job, solving the crimes—that’s never going to be a problem for her.

CS: What sort of chemistry do these 2 characters have?

MRM: Satrine and Minox both recognize competence and capability in each other. They recognize their mutual regard for the job and their dedication to doing it well. They click as partners because they each trust that the other one is trying to do the job as well as they possibly can, and have the ability to back that up.

CS: What about our original hero from the first series. What sort of progress has he made in developing his magic skills and waging war against his father’s murderer?

MRM: Veranix gets put on his path from vigilante to hero in The Thorn of Dentonhill. The main thing he has to contend with in The Alchemy of Chaos and beyond is finding out that declaring himself a hero means taking on responsibility, above and beyond his own vengeance. If the drugs are coming into the campus or adjoining neighborhoods, if other dangers appear that are beyond the normal authorities, if his identity is being appropriated—what is he obliged to do to handle those things? Is he obliged? That his war against the drug kingpin will involve battles he never anticipated. That’s what he needs to struggle with as that series progresses.

maresca-thorn-of-dentonhill

CS: Is he still maintaining his secret identity as a vigilante or does his circle of confidants increase?

MRM: Maintaining his secret remains a challenge. Sometimes that involves bringing new people into his circle of trust, and sometimes that means extreme choices. Sometimes trusting someone is the extreme choice.

CS: He’s a college student. Surely he has a dating life. How does his dating life affect his career in magic and his career in crime fighting.

MRM: On one hand, romance is the last thing he wants to think about. He’s got so much on his plate. On the other hand—he’s still a teenage boy, and thus he’s still a ball of hormones and confusion. He’s still drawn to the people he’s attracted to, and not always sure what to do about that—if he even should do something about it.

The key relationship in his life is with Kaiana, the young woman who works on campus and keeps his secret safe. She’s his best friend, and he is attracted to her—but does that necessarily mean they should be romantic, especially if he’s not really sure if that’s something that interests her? One thing I want to explore is how—especially as a teenager—these things are confusing and unclear and don’t always go how they “ought” to go.

CS: Once he avenges his father murder, is he going to take off his cap and mask?

MRM: Again, it ties into responsibility and burden. If he avenges his father’s murder, will he be “done”? Or will he have created an even bigger mess? And if so… who’s responsibility is that mess?

CS: Do the detectives and the vigilante have any interaction?

MRM: Things have been building to that– Alchemy of Chaos showed one of Minox’s siblings on the constabulary force in Veranix’s neighborhood. We’ll see that pushed further in The Imposters of Aventil— coming out in October next year. That book will mark the first proper “crossover”, but far from the last.

maresca-alchemy-of-chaos

CS: Are the kingpins in the first series, the conspirators in the second series, and the arsonists in the third series connected?

MRM: The clearest answer I can give you right now (without delving into pure spoiler territory) is that there are a lot of things simmering under the surface, and the tendrils of those things all touch each other in different ways. So there are underlying sources for these different challenges my heroes are facing, and those sources also have their interconnections.

CS: What about the magic premise. Is being a magician in the genes, the artifacts, the gadgets, or the chemicals?

MRM: It’s in the genes, to a degree. There isn’t a clear “this family has magic” or anything like that—but a small portion of people are born with the knack to channel and shape the energy of magic (called “numina” by the academics). Within the context of the world, there isn’t any noted pattern to who gets born with the knack, just that it usually manifests around puberty. Minox—our uncircled mage inspector—is the rare exception that his ability manifested well into adulthood.

CS: How does magic fit into the society of this fictional universe?

MRM: It’s still something that’s trying to be understood. Of course, it’s always been around, but for centuries Druth society treated it in a very hostile way—incarcerating or lynching anyone who manifested talent. Circle laws and university sanctioned training of magic were part of a desire to change that, to reshape the public attitudes—make society safe for mages, integrate what they can do into everyday life. They’re also trying to understand what it is and what it means, approaching it with scientific rigor. But a lot of people don’t like that, or are, at the very least, uncomfortable with that.  So you see a society with a lot of tension when it comes to magic.

CS: Once all three trilogies are wrapped, are we going to revisit this fictional universe? Are we going to revisit any of the same heroes? Are the main characters in all three series going to interact in a grand finale?

MRM: Hmmm… how to answer this question without getting too spoilery. OK, I have a grand, mad plan for Maradaine that involves three phases. Phase I will consist of the first three books for these three series, as well as the first three books of a fourth series that I’m provisionally calling The Maradaine Elite. Phase I, if I pull it off well, will finish in a way that is satisfying along the lines of the grander arcs, without closing the doors for what Phases II and III will need.

That’s a complicated way of saying “yes, but….”. And that’s pretty much the answer at its core.

CS: Who would play the main characters of the first and second series in a screen adaption?

MRM: This is a tough one, especially with the Thorn characters, because their young age makes the “appropriate actors” a constant moving target, and whoever would fit for playing Veranix and Kaiana are actors who are just starting their careers. So I’m not sure who would fit those roles.  Ideally, Veranix and Kaiana and many other characters would be played someone who is making it their break-out role.

The Constabulary characters are easier. After the first book came out I watched The Killing, and it was eerie how much Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman—playing mismatched detectives partnered to solve a murder—physically matched how I saw Satrine and Minox. I mean, their characters are completely different in that show, but they look perfect.

CS: Any new fictional universes and fictional characters in the works?

MRM: I have several things in the works, in various stages of development. There are a few things that are in the world of Maradaine, but outside of the confines of that city—I’m still figuring out what sort of format that will take, but it will be new characters (or spotlight on existing minor characters). Those will likely be novella-length works or standalone novels. I’ve also been working on a space opera for a while, but that’s still coming together– it’s about two-thirds of a novel so far, but it still needs some further development. I hope to have something concrete to say about that within the next calendar year. And there are a few other fantasy concepts in brand new worlds that are brewing… my worldbuilding process is always long and open-ended, so I can’t say when that will be ready to properly talk about. Of course, as I have plenty of things already planned and in the works, so there’s no rush there. I’m happy with the current pace I’m working at.

Marshall Ryan Maresca’s Maradaine Constabulary

By Carl Slaughter: Sheila Gilbert, editor of the distinguished DAW speculative publisher, was pretty impressed with Marshall Ryan Maresca.

Marshall Ryan Maresca

Marshall Ryan Maresca

“Sometimes I am just stunned by the faith that Sheila Gilbert and DAW have placed in me,” Maresca said when I interviewed him for SF Signal. “They bought two books to release in the same year, coming out just months apart. They bought two more before the second one came out. Then four more before the third one. I mean, that last one really astounds me. A lot of other publishers would have been all, ‘Let’s see how these next books do before we commit to anything.’ But DAW committed to me, and because of that, I’m getting to tell the stories I’ve been wanting to tell, in the way I want to tell them. Sheila gets what I’m trying to do, and a large part of her role as editor is to give me ideas how to make that story clearer, stronger and more vibrant.”

Maresca’s Maradaine city fictional universe spans three trilogies. The main character in the first trilogy is a magic student by day and caped vigilante by night, determined to use his magic skills to avenge the death of him father and bring down the local kingpin. The main characters in the second trilogy are outcast constabulary inspectors, one an uncircled mage and one with forged credentials, who struggle to prevent their district and city from unraveling. Import of Intrigue is out in November. The Holver Alley Crew, the first book in the third trilogy, is set for March 2017.

THE MURDER OF MAGES

maresca-amurderofmages

Satrine Rainey: Former street rat. Ex-spy. Wife and mother who needs to make twenty crowns a week to support her daughters and infirm husband.  To earn that, she forges credentials and fakes her way into a posting as a constabulary Inspector.

Minox Welling: Brilliant Inspector. Uncircled Mage. Outcast of the stationhouse.  Partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with “the jinx”.

Their first case together—the ritualized murder of a Circled mage—brings Satrine back to the streets she grew up on, and forces Minox to confront the politics of mage circles he’s avoided.  As more mages are found dead, Satrine must solve the crime before her secrets catch up with her, and before her partner ends up a target.

THE IMPORT OF INTRIGUE

maresca-an-import-of-intrique

The neighborhood of the Little East is a collision of cultures, languages, and traditions, hidden away in the city of Maradaine. A set of streets to be avoided or ignored. When a foreign dignitary is murdered, solving the crime falls to the most unpopular inspectors in the Maradaine Constabulary: exposed fraud Satrine Rainey, and uncircled mage Minox Welling.

With a murder scene deliberately constructed to point blame toward the Little East, Rainey is forced to confront her former life, while Welling’s ignorance of his own power threatens to consume him. And these few city blocks threaten to erupt into citywide war unless the constabulary solves the case.

SAMPLE CHAPTER FROM AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE

The dead man had no face.

All that remained where a face had once been was a gruesome mess of flesh, bone, and hair. The rest of his body was no better. Satrine Rainey was astounded that it was still recognizable as a man.

She also astounded how, after two months as an Inspector Third Class in the Constabulary of the city of Maradaine, she had grown accustomed to sights like this. Too many of her case assignments involved dead bodies, and Captain Cinellan still delighted in assigning, in his words, the “strange ones” to her and her partner, Minox Welling.

Since Captain Cinellan was still letting her be an Inspector Third Class, and draw the salary she needed to care for her husband and daughters, she wasn’t about to complain …