Pixel Scroll 1/20/16 Splendiferous Bastion of Finely-Tuned Nuance

(1) BIG PLANET. New evidence suggests a ninth planet is lurking at the edge of the solar system.

Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that they have found new evidence of a giant icy planet lurking in the darkness of our solar system far beyond the orbit of Pluto. They are calling it “Planet Nine.”

Their paper, published in the Astronomical Journal, describes the planet as about five to 10 times as massive as the Earth. But the authors, astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, have not observed the planet directly.

Instead, they have inferred its existence from the motion of recently discovered dwarf planets and other small objects in the outer solar system. Those smaller bodies have orbits that appear to be influenced by the gravity of a hidden planet – a “massive perturber.” The astronomers suggest it might have been flung into deep space long ago by the gravitational force of Jupiter or Saturn.

Accompanying the Post article is a short video with the delightfully hideous title “Planet Nine from outer space.”

(2) IN WORDS OF MORE THAN ONE SYLLABLE. Read the paper here.


Generally speaking, coherent dynamical structures in particle disks can either be sustained by self-gravity (Tremaine 1998; Touma et al. 2009) or by gravitational shepherding facilitated by an extrinsic perturber (Goldreich & Tremaine 1982; Chiang et al. 2009). As already argued above, the current mass of the Kuiper Belt is likely insufficient for self-gravity to play an appreciable role in its dynamical evolution. This leaves the latter option as the more feasible alternative. Consequently, here we hypothesize that the observed structure of the Kuiper Belt is maintained by a gravitationally bound perturber in the solar system.

(3) WORLDCON LODGING. MidAmeriCon II hotel reservations open January 25.

(4) FAKING IT. According to The Digital Reader, the “Number One Book Brits Pretend to Have Read is 1984, But for Americans, It’s Pride and Prejudice”.

A recent survey of 2,000 Brits has revealed that 62% of respondents had pretended to have read  one book or another in order to appear smart. The top ten books that people pretend to have read are an impressive list of books, with Orwell’s 1984 and War and Peace taking the top 2 spots.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is sixth.

(5) HARLAN SAVES. Elon Musk described the influence of Harlan Ellison on his thinking during this interview. The reference comes at about 13:20 into the video.

It’s possible that Harlan will save the human race. Elon has funded research on A. I.’s with the idea that when they emerge that they will be friendly to us humans. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” frightened Elon enough to get him to fund the research therefore, if that research helps avoid an unfriendly A. I., then Harlan saved all of us

In the second part of this interview, Elon Musk talks about Artificial Intelligence and the deep concerns its causing him. But first he talks about Tesla building an affordable car, Apple’ rumoured electric vehicle and the future of autonomous driving.


(6) REMEMBERING HARTWELL. Dozens of deeply moving and historically fascinating tributes to David G. Hartwell are appearing at this hour. Representative is Michael Swanwick’s memorial:

I was in Chicago a couple of years ago for Gene Wolfe’s induction into the literary hall of fame there when the phone rang and David Hartwell said, “I’m sitting in Fred Pohl’s kitchen with him, going through J. K. Klein’s photos, looking for pictures of old time writers. Do you want to join us?” You bet I did. I think back to that brief call and I can hear him grinning. The joy in his voice was infectious. That was the key to David G. Hartwell: he loved science fiction, he loved work, he loved making worthwhile things happen….

(7) SARTORIAL SPLENDOR. Here’s the David G. Hartwell Necktie Exhibit that celebrates his garish neckties.

(8) VIEW TIPTREE SYMPOSIUM. The first in a series of videos from December’s James Tiptree, Jr. Symposium at the University of Oregon is now online.

It shows Professor, Carol Stabile convening the symposium, welcome remarks by UO Dean of Libraries, Adriene Lim and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Doug Blandy, and the keynote talk by Tiptree biographer Julie Phillips, followed by Q&A.

(9) LIVED EXPERIENCE. Sarah A. Hoyt pays it forward in a column of mentoring for indie and other fledgling writers. In a few places I was nodding my head, especially section 3.

However, with the proliferation of indie, I’m seeing a lot more kid writers running around the net (and conferences) with their metaphorical pants around their metaphorical ankles and fingerpainting the walls in shades of brown.

I would hate for that to happen to one of mine, even if just one who follows my lessons here or over at PJM and as such, I’d like to at least ward off some of the worst behavior….

3- Speaking of marking you as a newbie:

Just a few years ago, I realized either a lot of people were naming their kids Author, Writer or Novelist, or the newbies in my field had got off their collective rocker.

This used to be advice given to us before social media: don’t put writer on your card.  If you’re doing it right, they’ll remember that.

I guess it’s more needful than ever for people’s egos to affirm their real writerness (totally a word) now that there are no gatekeepers.

Look, the way to affirm you’re a writer is to write, and to take it seriously.  Putting “writer” or novelist, or author on your card, your facebook page or your blog isn’t going to make you any more “real” than you are.

But Sarah, you’ll say, how will people know it’s me, and not another Jane Smith?

Well, if they’re looking for you, they’ll know.They’ll know because of your friends, your place of origin, the stuff you post.  Fans are amazing that way.


  • January 20, 1920 – DeForest Kelley.
  • January 20, 1930 — Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon.

(11) SHOW HIM THE MONEY. Stephen Harper Piziks on Book View Café doesn’t work for free anymore.

“We just don’t have the money to pay you,” say the moochers.  “We’re barely making our other expenses as it is.  Even our president is a volunteer!”

Then maybe you should charge more for admission.  Or get some sponsors.  Or just realize that you can’t have speakers at such a low-budget event.

“But you’ll get exposure,” goes more whining.

Tell you what.  You talk to the grocery store, the electric company, and the mortgage people and get them to accept exposure instead of cash, and I’ll speak for exposure.

I once showed up at a local convention where I’d been scheduled to speak on five panels (that’s five hours of public speaking) and was informed that I owed =them= $30 to cover my admission.  It was only when I turned to walk out that they grudgingly allowed me free entry.  Later, the con chair denigrated me by name on Twitter.  I thanked him for the exposure.

And that brings me to final reason I charge.  No one, including event organizers, values something they get for free.  You get what you pay for, and an author who speaks for nothing is worth nothing.  Certainly they’re treated that way.  At festivals and conventions where I spoke for free, I’ve been ignored, pushed around, insulted, and denigrated.  This has never happened at places that paid me.

(12) THE SECRET OF TIMING. Vox Day, while reporting this morning that David G. Hartwell was not expected to recover, identified him as part of this history:

Hartwell was John C. Wright’s editor at Tor Books; he was also friendlier to the Puppies than any of the SF-SJWs are likely to believe. I had the privilege of speaking with him when he called me last year after the Rabid Puppies overturned the SF applecart; he was the previously unnamed individual who explained the unusual structure of Tor Books to me, using the analogy of a medieval realm with separate and independent duchies. He wanted to avoid cultural war in science fiction even though he clearly understood that it appeared to be unavoidable; it was out of respect for him that I initially tried to make a distinction between Tor Books and the Making Light SJWs before Irene Gallo and Tom Doherty rendered that moot.

(13) IT’S A THEORY. Scholars told the BBC why they believe some fairy tales originated thousands of years ago.

Using techniques normally employed by biologists, academics studied links between stories from around the world and found some had prehistoric roots.

They found some tales were older than the earliest literary records, with one dating back to the Bronze Age.

The stories had been thought to date back to the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Durham University anthropologist Dr Jamie Tehrani, said Jack and the Beanstalk was rooted in a group of stories classified as The Boy Who Stole Ogre’s Treasure, and could be traced back to when Eastern and Western Indo-European languages split more than 5,000 years ago.

Analysis showed Beauty And The Beast and Rumpelstiltskin to be about 4,000 years old.

[Thanks to Gary Farber, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

NYRSF Readings Series Opens 25th Season with Swanwick and Khanna

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 8 (a record-breaking scorcher in New York, and, per the Swanwicks, it was also “hot as Hell in Philadelphia”), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series opened its 25th or silver anniversary season – an impressive landmark – with two sterling readers, Michael Swanwick and Rajan Khanna.

The Series has nicely settled into its new venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, less than a parsec from the Barclays Center in that renowned borough.  (The reading space is, incidentally, two floors below WBAI-FM.)  In his introductory welcome, executive curator Jim Freund, host of that self-same WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy (which broadcasts and streams every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 a.m.), shared his excitement over the Commons’ facilities, including three robotic cameras (with an eye to sparing us from embarrassment, he warned the audience about the cameras that were streaming the event live via Livestream and archiving it for a period of time [see http://livestream.com/accounts/12973202/events/4332267/videos/98611309], and lauded the professional skills of Terence Taylor, sf/fantasy writer and video producer.  (Will video kill the radio star?)

In continuing remarks, Freund noted that the date (September 8) was the birthday of Gordon Van Gelder, who began the Reading Series (and was born on the day that Star Trek premiered). Freund also announced a Kickstarter campaign (the Series’ first) to begin in December (so the money may be dispersed in January, plus it’s convenient for holiday gifts). The downside of the new venue is increased costs (such as space rental), and most every event is run at a loss.  (Admission remains free, with a suggested donation of $7.)  He announced as well the next reading, on 6 October, which will feature Brooke Bolander and Matthew Kressel; Amy Goldschlager will guest-host.

In related news, Freund shared that his September 10th Hour of the Wolf would be expanded to 5 a.m. and feature Ken Liu, with possibly a rebroadcast of an earlier show with him, and that his September 17 show would feature Ellen Datlow. And speaking of whom, on Wednesday, September 16, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB [Bar] Reading Series, hosted by Datlow and Kressel, will present Tom Monteleone and Lawrence C. Connolly.)  Eventually, he introduced the evening’s first reader.

Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna is an author, blogger, reviewer and narrator.  The selection from which he read was taken from his second novel, Rising Tide (due out in October), a sequel to his first, Falling Sky.  For the benefit of those who hadn’t read it, he offered a chapter with flashbacks.  The story is set in a post-apocalyptic near-future where a global pandemic, the Bug, has regressed numbers of people to a violent, animalistic (and, of course, hungry) state; they are called Ferals and their fluids are highly contagious.  Salvage is the order of the day, and the protagonist joins other independent airship operators on a raid on a police facility’s weapons store.  (Wow, airships and sort-of-zombies!)  His airship is called the Cherub, which he reminds them is a sword-wielding winged guardian, but which the others think of as a “fat baby.”  One guess what they run into.  Khanna’s voice is, as we heard, well-suited for narrating, and he held the audience rapt.

During the intermission, as traditional, a raffle was held for donors; the prizes were an advance copy of Rising Tide, the manuscript from which Swanwick would be reading, and a copy of After, a young adult anthology on the themes of apocalypse and dystopia, co-edited by Ellen Datlow. (Richard Bowes, also present, noted that he had a story in it.)  Afterward, Freund introduced the second and final reader, Michael Swanwick.

Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick’s body of work includes Stations of the Tide, In the Drift, Vacuum Flowers, Griffin’s Egg, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, The Dragons of Babel, and Jack Faust, and the short fiction “The Edge of the World,” “Radio Waves,” “The Very Pulse of the Machine,” and “Scherzo with Tyrannosaur,” and he has been honored with the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial, and World Fantasy Awards.

His reading was chosen from his latest novel, Chasing the Phoenix (just out from Tor Books), continues the adventures of post-Utopian con men and scoundrels Darger and Surplus (a genetically-modified dog – so he’s a con dog?) – last seen in Dancing with Bears – in which they conquer China, accidentally.  In the selection that he read, which had the audience laughing out loud, the devious duo flatter the Hidden King’s dreams of becoming Emperor, then make a deal with his rival monarch.

As customary, refreshments included crackers and cheese, and there were books offered on the Jenna Felice Freebie Table.  The audience approached 60.  (The East River is no longer a barrier.)  Among those present were Beth Anderson-Harold, Melissa C. Beckman, Brooke Bolander, Richard Bowes, Ellen Datlow, Kris Dikeman, Amy Goldschlager, Rusty Harold, Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Marianne Porter, James Ryan, Max Schmid and Terence Taylor. (Stephen Colbert was otherwise occupied.) At the end of the evening, instead of the long-established practice of going out with the writers after the reading, the gathering was on-site at the Café itself.  (The Commons offers coffees, teas, beers and wine by the glass, as well as sandwiches, salads and pastries.)

Swanwick and Khanna at NYRSF Readings on Sept. 8

The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings begins its 25th season on September 8 with presentations by Rajan Khanna and Michael Swanwick.

Rajan Khanna’s first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, was released in October 2014. A sequel, Rising Tide, is due out in October 2015. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared at Tor.com and LitReactor.com, and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Lightspeed Magazine.

Michael Swanwick has received the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards for his work Stations of the Tide, which was also honored with the Nebula Award and was also nominated for the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. “The Edge of the World,” was awarded the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1989, and nominated for both the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. “Radio Waves” received the World Fantasy Award in 1996. “The Very Pulse of the Machine” received the Hugo Award in 1999, as did “Scherzo with Tyrannosaur” in 2000. His latest novel, Chasing the Phoenix, is just out from Tor Books.

The NYRSF Readings are held at the Brooklyn The Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue (directions & links below).

The events can be viewed on Livestream, and remain archived for a period of time. (Go to Livestream.com and search for NYRSF.)

Admission is free but with a suggested donation $7.

The full press release follows the jump.  Continue reading

Swanwick Resigns From Science Fiction. Not.

Michael Swanwick told Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow on April 22:

In my adopted hometown of Philadelphia there’s a move afoot to put up a plaque where Isaac Asimov lived while he was working (and writing seminal Foundation and Robot stories) at the Naval Yard during WWII. Asimov hated Philadelphia while he lived here but came back for the conventions year after year. He gave back. Now it’s time to Philadelphia to give back to him. The Change.com petition seems to have stalled at 364, 136 short of its goal. This despite the fact that you don’t have to be a citizen of Pennsylvania to sign it. I don’t want to be a part of a genre that can’t give Isaac five hundred signatures.

Swanwick’s plea must have worked. He was looking for 500 signers. The petition hit 3,000 signatures on April 25. Today it’s up to 3,223 on the way to a target of 5,000.

The mightiness of the internet has been verified once again with much pressing of the enter key.

Yet there’s still no plaque on Asimov’s old apartment building.

There never will be until somebody springs to have one made. The Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program isn’t going to pay for it even if they accept the application —

It is important that you consider the availability of funds in making this nomination. For your information, city-type markers cost approximately $1,400; roadside markers cost approximately $1,875. Final figures may vary slightly, and there are usually other costs incurred with the installation of markers and dedication ceremony.

Think Asimov needs plaque on his old apartment house? Buy one and go ask the landlord’s permission to glue it to the building. Come back and declare victory on the internet when it means something.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Reasons to Visit PSFS

Those interested in the history of the SF field who can make it to the next two meetings of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society will be in for a treat.

March 9: SF author Michael Swanwick will interview Billee Jenkins Stallings, daughter of Will Jenkins, best known as Murray Leinster, the original “Dean of Science Fiction”. Leinster/Jenkins invented the alternate world story and the first contact story. Stallings and her sister, Jo-An Evans, have written a memoir about their father titled, Murray Leinster: The Life and Work ( McFarland, 2011).

April 13: On this Friday, fans who defy superstition will be lucky enough to hear from critic Michael Dirda.

These are General Meetings, open to the public. See the club website for location, starting time and other information.

Leinster, Dean of SF, Topic of 11/1 NYRSF Readings

Murray Leinster, known as “the Dean of Science Fiction” until his death in 1975, will be celebrated at the November 1 New York Review of Science Fiction Readings. Leinster was a nom de plume of William Fitzgerald Jenkins who wrote and published over 1,500 short stories and articles during a prolific career.

He is the subject of a recently published biography authored by his daughters. One of them, Billee Stallings, will participate. So will David G. Hartwell, a senior editor of Tor/Forge Books, Barry N. Malzberg, sf author and essayist, and Michael Swanwick, acclaimed winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial awards

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Jim Freund for the story.]

Continue reading

Frost, Swanwick at 6/7 NYRSF Reading

The next New York Review of Science Fiction reading on June 7 brings together another pair of highly honored writers, Gregory Frost and Michael Swanwick.

Gregory Frost wrote the acclaimed duology, Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet (Del Rey/Random House 2008), voted one of the best fantasy novels of the year by the American Library Association in 2009. 

Michael Swanwick’s short fiction has received numerous Hugo Awards. His novel Stations of the Tide won a Nebula. “The Edge of the World” received the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and “Radio Waves” earned the World Fantasy Award.

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Jim Freund for the story.]

Continue reading

Raffle Supports Fantastic Fiction at KGB

The Hosts of Fantastic Fiction at KGB are raffling off donations from well-known sf and fantasy authors, editors, artists, and agents to support the reading series.

Among a myriad of prizes are a signed galley of Catherynne Valente’s Deathless (plus a handmade necklace), your very own wormhole with a certificate of authenticity by physicist Michio Kaku, and three unpublished stories by Michael Swanwick where you own the rights till 2015, or one of a myriad of other prizes. Or you might simply take away the pleasure of supporting a popular literary event.

The raffle continues from October 11 through October 25. Raffle tickets will be $1 each and can be purchased from www.kgbfantasticfiction.org

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

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Howard Waldrop Sighting

 ConQuesT 41 is running in Kansas City this weekend with an excellent slate of guests including Michael Swanwick, Toni Weisskopf and Geri Sullivan. But that’s not all!

Once again on Saturday night there will be a con-within-a-con in the Dawn Patrol suite. To quote Jimmy Hollaman:

As some of you know, this coming weekend is ConQuesT 41. What you might not know is that for the last few years on Saturday night, another convention has been held. Room Con. Basically it’s a convention with in a convention. This year we will be throwing ROOM CON 6.6.6. the con of all Evil, and what a lineup we have. Writer Guest is Howard Waldrop (a national treasure), Artist Guest is Mitch Bentley, Toastmaster is Jim Murray, Fan Guest is Sue Sinor, and last but certainly not least, our returning Musical Guest Bland Lemon Denton (Brad Denton). And for those that drink, you can try a Pale Jimmy, a home brewed beer made just for Room Con. If you have not got to make it to a Room Con yet, please feel free to stop by. Saturday night at 10 we will be opening the doors. Live music, great guest and an art show where you are the artist. Yep come by and create some art with your fellow fans. For more info on Room Con, go to Facebook and look up ROOM CON. There you will find pictures of some of the past Room Cons.

Yes, my sense of humor may be too basic, but something that always gets a laugh out of me is any variation on the nickname “Blind-Lemon-whoever.”

[Via Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol.]

SFContario Comes to Toronto in 2010

SFContario will gather sf fans in downtown Toronto over the November 19-21 weekend in 2010 for a “big tent” type of convention offering guests of honor Michael Swanwick, author of Bones of the Earth and winner of five Hugo awards; Karen Linsley, writer and performer of the Mars Society anthem “Pioneers of Mars”; Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden; and Geri Sullivan.

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Murray Moore for the story.]

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