Pixel Scroll 2/27/17 That’s it! Scroll Over Man, Scroll Over!

(1) ACADEMY INVITES LE GUIN. Ursula K. LeGuin has been voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters reports SFGate. The 87-year-old Le Guin is one of 14 new core members of the Academy.

The arts academy, an honorary society with a core membership of 250 writers, artists, composers and architects, once shunned “genre” writers such as Le Guin. Even such giants as science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and crime novelist Elmore Leonard never got in.

Academy member Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, advocated for Le Guin.

“As a deviser of worlds, as a literary stylist, as a social critic and as a storyteller, Le Guin has no peer,” he wrote in his recommendation, shared with the AP, that she be admitted. “From the time of her first published work in the mid-1960s, she began to push against the confines of science fiction, bringing to bear an anthropologist’s acute eye for large social textures and mythic structures, a fierce egalitarianism and a remarkable gift of language, without ever renouncing the sense of wonder and the spirit of play inherent in her genre of origin.”

(2) 2017 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY COVER REVEAL. Hat tip to F.J. Bergmann.

(3) NEW FICTION WEBZINE. Science fiction and fantasy book imprint Strange Fictions Press will officially launch Strange Fictions SciFi & Fantasy Zine on February 28 with “This Chicken Outfit,” by Pushcart nominated author, A.L. Sirois. Siriois’ short stories have appeared in ThemaAmazing Stories, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He has also contributed comic art for DC, Marvel, and Charlton.

Strange Fictions will focus “on publishing speculative short fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry twice a week for genre fans worldwide.”  New stories, poems, and essays will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribers can sign up for email notifications whenever a new story is posted.

Strange Fictions SF&F Zine is open to submissions from both new and experienced genre writers, and details can be found at the website.

Authors of acquired pieces for Strange Fictions SF&F ‘Zine will receive a flat fee payment of $5 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 4,999 words and under and $10 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 5,000-10,000.

(4) ALOFT. Martin Morse Wooster recommends Miyazaki Dreams of Flying as “a lovely compilation of flying scenes from Miyazaki films, including an interview where the great animator expresses his love of airplanes.”

(5) DEFYING THE LAW…OF GRAVITY. In “Mars Needs Lawyers” on FiveThirtyEight, Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the many problems of international law that have to be solved in we’re ever going to have successful Mars missions.  For example:  if you have astronauts from five countries flying in a spacecraft that’s registered in Liberia, how do you figure out which country’s law applies?

For instance, a limited number of satellites can orbit the Earth simultaneously. Put up too many, and you end up with an expensive game of celestial bumper cars. But some countries — Russia and the United States, in particular — had a big head start on gobbling up those slots. What do you do if you’re Nigeria? Today, Gabrynowicz said, the international community has settled on a regulatory system that attempts to balance the needs of nations that can put an object into geostationary orbit first with the needs of those that aren’t there yet but could be later. And even this compromise is still extremely controversial.

The same basic disagreement behind them will apply to Mars, too. And it’s at issue right now in the U.S., as lawmakers try to figure out how best to implement the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act — a bill signed by President Obama in November 2015. That law states that U.S. companies can own and sell space resources — including minerals and water. But the details of what this means in practice haven’t been worked out yet, Gabrynowicz said. Legal experts say that those details will make the difference in terms of whether the law puts the U.S. in violation of the Outer Space Treaty.

This question of whether space should be an Old West-style gold rush or an equitably distributed public commons could have been settled decades ago, with the 1979 Moon Agreement (aka the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies), which would have established space as part of the “common heritage of mankind.” What this would have meant in practice is not totally clear. But at the time, opponents saw it as having the potential to ban all private enterprise and effectively turn the heavens into a United Nations dictatorship. It ended up being signed by a handful of countries, most of which have no space program. But it is international law, and if humans go to Mars, though, we’ll likely end up debating this issue again.

(6) GAME WRITING. Monica Valentinelli gives an “Overview of Game Production and the Role of Writers” at the SFWA Blog.

One of the things I enjoy doing as a game developer is hiring new writers. In almost every case, writers are shocked to learn how many levers and pulleys there are in game production. This tends to hold true regardless of what kind of game a writer is contributing to; in part, this has to do with the process of transitioning from a consumer’s mindset (e.g. fan, critic, reviewer) to that of a creator’s. Sometimes, however, the process is confusing because there are aspects physical development that writers aren’t always involved with. A good example of this is that developers often regard word processing documents with an eye for production when they redline and provide comments. What’s laid out vertically on a page in text isn’t how it will be rendered in the final product, and that has a huge impact on what the writers are hired to write, edit, and make changes on. Sometimes, the number of words that fit on a page or a screen can also shape a writer’s assignment, too.

Other, lesser-known aspects of production might include:

  • Canon or Setting Bible creation
  • Systems/rules documentation
  • Marketing copy and sell sheets
  • Outlining and project management
  • Mock-ups and proofs for manufacturing
  • Playtest or beta editions

(7) DISNEY’S DUDEFRÉRES. Another clip from the live-action Beauty and the Beast shows LeFou singing “My, what a guy, that Gaston!” With Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou.

(8) VOIR DIRE STRAITS. Shadow Clarke juror Jonathan McCalmont followed his introductory post with an entry on his ownblog, Ruthless Culture “Genre Origin Stories”.

A couple of things that occurred to me upon re-reading the piece:

Firstly, I think it does a pretty good job of capturing how I currently feel about the institutions of genre culture. To be blunt, I don’t think that genre fandom survived the culture wars of 2015 and I think genre culture has now entered a post-apocalyptic phase in which a few institutional citadels manage to keep the lights on while the rest of the field is little more than a blasted wasteland full of isolated, lonely people. One reason why I agreed to get involved with shadowing the Clarke Award is that I see the Shadow Clarke as an opportunity to build something new that re-introduces the idea that engaging with literary science fiction can be about more than denouncing your former friends and providing under-supported writers with free PR….

McCalmont’s post includes a high overview of the past 40 years of fanhistory. I was surprised to find many points of agreement, such as his takes about things that frustrated me at the time they were happening, or that I witnessed affecting my friends among the LA locals who founded anime fandom.

Regardless of whether they are conventional, idiosyncratic, or simply products of distracted parenting, our paths into science fiction cannot help but shape our understanding and expectations of the field. Unfortunately, where there is difference there is bound to be misunderstanding and where there is misunderstanding there must inevitably be conflict.

The problem is that while the walls of science fiction may be infinitely porous and allow for inspiration from different cultures and artistic forms, the cultural institutions surrounding science fiction have shown themselves to be remarkably inflexible when it comes to making allowances for other people’s genre origin stories.

The roots of the problem are as old as genre fandom itself. In fact, the very first Worldcon saw the members of one science fiction club deny entry to the membership of another on the grounds that the interlopers were socialists whose politicised understanding of speculative fiction posed an existential threat to the genre’s continued existence. A similar conflict erupted when the unexpected success of Star Wars turned a niche literary genre into a mass market phenomenon. Faced with the prospect of making allowances for legions of new fans with radically different ideas as to what constituted good science fiction, the institutions of genre fandom responded with sluggishness indistinguishable from hostility. Media fandom was born when traditional fandom refused to expand its horizons and the same thing happened again in the early 1990s when fans of anime decided that it was better to build their own institutions than to fight street-by-street for the right to be hidden away in the smallest and hottest rooms that science fiction conventions had to offer.

The institutions of genre culture may pride themselves on their inclusiveness and forward-thinking but this is largely a product of the excluded not sticking around long enough to give their own sides of the story. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have been offered the chance to get in on the ground floor when science-fictional ideas began to manifest themselves in different ways. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have chosen to protect the primacy of the familiar over the vibrancy of the new and the different….

Cultural commentators may choose to characterise 2015 as the year in which genre culture rejected the misogynistic white supremacy of the American right but the real message is far more nuanced. Though the institutions of genre culture have undoubtedly improved when it comes to reflecting the diversity not only of the field but also of society at large, this movement towards ethnic and sexual diversity has coincided with a broader movement of aesthetic conservatism as voices young and old find themselves corralled into a narrowing range of hyper-commercial forms.

I thought that was well said. Unfortunately, I also read the comments.

(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • February 24, 1909 – August Derleth
  • February 26, 1918 – Theodore Sturgeon

(10) THE STRAIGHT POOP. “Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype” advises WIRED.

The link between schizophrenia and cats goes back to the 1970s, when psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey learned that viruses from dogs might trigger multiple sclerosis—a neurological condition—in humans. “That got me thinking about which animals host which infectious agents,” he says. Soon, he learned that cats host the most successful infectious bacteria in the world: Toxoplasma gondii. Looking into previously published research, he found plenty of studies showing that schizophrenics often had higher levels of toxoplasma antibodies in their blood than people without the mental illness.

Then he started surveying schizophrenics about their life history, and found that many had indeed lived with cats. But what’s important isn’t just if, it’s when. See, Torrey’s theory isn’t merely that T. gondii causes mental illness, it’s that it somehow alters the development of a person’s brain during crucial periods of brain development—and probably only if that person is genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. It’s a complicated hypothesis, and even after four decades of study, Torrey says he’s still not totally convinced it’s fact. Hence, his continued research on the subject.

Still, every study he publishes—his most recent, dropped in July of 2015—attracts the media like nip. Same with refutations, like the one published this week. The authors analyzed a dataset of 5,000 UK children, looking for a correlation between cat ownership during critical ages of brain development and behavioral indicators of later psychosis (like dark thoughts) at the ages of 13 and 18. Their statistical analysis of the results showed no correlation. Most (but not all) news websites ran with some variation of “Relax, Cats Don’t Cause Schizophrenia.”

But that’s not what the study said.

(11) GUESS WHO. From 2015. David Tennant’s NTA Special Recognition – his reaction: “Actor Sees A Tribute Video On Screen. The Realizes It’s For Him And He Can’t Believe It”

(12) TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Carl Slaughter says, “This documentary convincingly demonstrates how the Batman movies/trilogies reflect the cultural era in which they were produced.”

  • 60s Batman  –  prosperity
  • 70s  –  disillusionment  –  no Batman movies
  • Batman  –  escapism
  • Batman Returns  –  anti rich
  • Batman Forever, Batman & Robin  –  safety
  • Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises  –  fear
  • Batman versus Superman  –  extremism

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 1/30/17 There Are Studies Underway To Fluoridate Pixels. Children’s Pixels!

(1) CAPALDI MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Not unexpectedly, the Twelfth Doctor is leaving Doctor Who as new showrunner Chris Chibnall gets ready to take the reins.

“Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi has announced he’ll step down from the role at the end of the year.

Capaldi has starred in the long-running sci-fi series as the titular Twelfth Doctor since 2013, following the departure of Matt Smith.

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead,” Capaldi said in a statement. “I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

Capaldi will conclude his time as the Doctor with the 2017 Christmas special.

The actor’s departure will correspond with the exit of executive producer Steven Moffat, who previously announced his intention to leave his post.

(2) BURN OF THE DAY. J. K. Rowling knows how to deal with fantastical creatures, like frogs that tweet.

(3) DECOLONIZING SF. Strange Horizons has posted an Indigenous SF special issue.

It’s our second special of the month, and showcases fiction, poetry, and non-fiction by native and indigenous writers.

We have Drew Hayden Taylor’s story “Take Us To Your Chief” (from his collection of the same name); we have three poems apiece by poets Halee Kirkwood and Tanaya Winder; we have a round-table moderated by Rebecca Roanhorse; and of course reviews, including a double-feature look at Moana.

(4) THE HARP THAT ONCE OR TWICE. R. Graeme Cameron wrote a superlative column based on Walt Willis’ 1952 U.S. Trip report for Amazing Stories that combines his analysis with the old master’s storytelling.

Walt actually had a good time aboard ship. When asked what he did for a living he said he was a pulp fiction author going to America to pick up his earnings. The “Greenwich Village” pseudo-intellectuals on board coming back from bumming around Europe stood in awe of this creative type who actually earned money. Late in the voyage he was asked if anyone was meeting him in New York and he replied (more or less honestly) “Just a few fans.” This only increased his reputation. Sometimes fannish ploys work very well on Mundanes.

QUOTE

At last we docked, and hordes of officials swarmed on board … I had a whole stack of documents in an old Galaxy envelope and every time I came to an official I would shuffle them and deal him a hand. If I’d won I’d be allowed to go on to the next table, like a bridge tournament. I’d had some practice in this game already and at last I won the first prize, a clear view of the gangway. I found to my shocked surprise that suddenly there was absolutely nothing to stop me walking ashore. I promptly walked ashore.

Someone in a blue suit came up and shook my hand … It was Dave Kyle … Joe Gibson came along in a few seconds. After a few minutes chat the two revealed conspiratorially that Will Sykora and his henchman Calvin Thomas Beck were lurking outside to meet me. They suggested a cloak and dagger scheme by which they would go out and wait for me a couple of hundred yards outside the shed, while I strolled out by myself past Sykora and Beck, who wouldn’t recognise me.

I was thrilled. Nobody could have arranged a more fannish welcome. Not two minutes in the country and already I was up to my neck in New York fan feuds. However I temporized; I had nothing personally against Sykora … I had never been able to sort out New York fandom anyway … and I rather wanted to meet such a legendary figure. Besides, I knew Shelby had in his innocence asked Beck to meet me …

Outside, in the fresh clean smog of Hoboken … I had my first hamburger, closely followed by my second. As far as I was concerned, the food problem in America was now solved …

END QUOTE

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. There are a bunch of sites whose Hugo picks I’m interested in hearing, and Nerds of a Feather is high on that list — “2017 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”.

Given the vast number of Hugo categories, we’ve also made the decision to split the longlist up into multiple posts. Today we look at the fiction categories (Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story). For fiction that is available free of charge, we’ve embedded a direct link to the story. For novels and works of short fiction that are not available for free, the embedded link redirects to a review.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 30, 1933The Lone Ranger made its radio debut.

(7) GAME WRITING. “Guest Post: On Representation in RPGs, from Monica Valentinelli” on Jim C. Hines’ blog.

Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!

Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.

(8) MOVIN’ ON. I had forgotten that James Cameron did Aliens, but that explains why someone asked his opinion about Ridley Scott’s upcoming trilogy that begins with Alien: Covenant “James Cameron On The ‘Alien’ Franchise: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Worked Out Terribly Well. I Think We’ve Moved On’” at ScienceFiction.com.

“The franchise has kind of wandered all over the map. Ridley [Scott] did the first film, and he inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and science-fiction fans with that one movie and there have been so many films that stylistically have derived from it, including my own Aliens, which was the legitimate sequel and, I think, the proper heir to his film. I sort of did it as a fanboy. I wanted to honor his film, but also say what I needed to say. After that, I don’t take any responsibility.

I don’t think it’s worked out terribly well. I think we’ve moved on beyond it. It’s like, okay, we’ve got it, we’ve got the whole Freudian biomechanoid meme. I’ve seen it in 100 horror films since. I think both of those films stand at a certain point in time, as a reference point. But is there any validity to doing another one now? I don’t know. Maybe. Let’s see, jury’s out. Let’s see what Ridley comes up with. Let me just add to that — and don’t cut this part off, please — I will stand in line for any Ridley Scott movie, even a not-so-great one, because he is such an artist, he’s such a filmmaker. I always learn from him.

(9) CASSINI ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Dr. Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was recently interviewed by Starship Sofa, appeared on Cassini’s Ring-Grazing Orbits Facebook Live today. You can view the half-hour video recording at the link.

NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn Project Scientist Linda Spilker and mission planner Molly Bittner are taking questions about these exciting orbits, the closest look ever at Saturn’s moons and ring particles — what we’ve learned so far and what we can expect to see as they continue.

(10) OPEN THE PILL BAY DOORS HAL. In our future, robots as care companions: “Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics” at the BBC.

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

(11) A BLACK AND WHITE ANSWER. Opus would be proud: penguins used as models for better software: “Hungry penguins keep car code safe”.

The communal, co-ordinated action helps the penguins get the most out of a hunting expedition. Groups of birds are regularly reconfigured to match the shoals of fish and squid they find. It helps the colony as a whole optimise the amount of energy they have to expend to catch food.

“This solution has generic elements which can be abstracted and be used to solve other problems,” he said, “such as determining the integrity of software components needed to reach the high safety requirements of a modern car.”

Integrity in this sense means ensuring the software does what is intended, handles data well, and does not introduce errors or crash.

By mimicking penguin behaviour in a testing system which seeks the safest ways to arrange code instead of shoals of fish, it becomes possible to slowly zero in on the best way for that software to be structured.

(12) THE RIVALS OF 1984. The BBC has hard data on dystopia sales surge.

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

Sales: As of Friday, the eighth best-selling book on Amazon. It was out of print in the UK but publishers Penguin launched a new edition following the inauguration – promoting it as the book that predicted Trump – and has so far ordered three print runs, totalling 11,000 copies, a spokeswoman said.

Plot: A charismatic demagogue, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, runs for president on a promise to restore American greatness, dragging the country into fascism.

The Trump factor: Sales of this relatively obscure 1935 satirical novel took off when critics began claiming it was essentially the Donald Trump story. Sally Parry, of the Sinclair Lewis Society, claims there are parallels with Trump in the way that Windrip targets his message at disaffected white working class males – The League of Forgotten Men in the book – sweeping to victory on a wave of anti-immigrant, nationalistic sentiment.

But she adds: “Some of his satire is not necessarily towards Buzz Windrip, the fascist character, but towards the lazy intellectuals, the lazy liberals who say ‘well, things will go along’ and the constant refrain of ‘it can’t happen here’, this is America, we are exceptional.”

(13) MAKING LEMONADE. Someone has a plan for putting a contaminated area to use: “How solar may save Ukraine’s nuclear wasteland”.

Earlier this year Ostap Semerak, the minister for ecology and natural resources in Ukraine, announced plans to build a large-scale solar farm in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone. “The first phase will install solar panels with a total capacity of one gigawatt,” says a ministry spokesperson. “In the future [there] are plans for capacity increase.”

A large field of 25 acres, filled with solar panels, generates approximately 5MW. To put this into perspective, the football pitch at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground is 1.75 acres and would only generate 0.35MW. So, for a solar farm to generate a gigawatt of power, it will need an area of 5,000 acres, which is nearly eight square miles. There is, fortunately, a lot of available land in the Exclusion Zone.

(14) BRUCE WAYNE’S ROOMMATE. Lego Batman explains why his movie is awesome.

Lego Batman hypes up his own upcoming Lego Batman Movie in a new behind-the-bricks featurette that breaks the fourth wall.

“Obviously after I made The Lego Movie, a monster hit $468 million worldwide, not that I’m counting of course, it seemed clear to everyone that the world needed more of me,” Will Arnett says as Lego Batman in the clip released Thursday.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve “Dr. Strangelove” Davidson.]

Apex Publications Announces Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling

upsidedown001-minFollowing a successful Kickstarter campaign, Apex Publications has released Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli. Over two dozen authors chose a tired trope or cliché to challenge and surprise readers through their work.

Each author in this collection has examined a specific trope or cliché that includes:

  • Chainmaille Bikini
  • The Magical Negro
  • The Super Soldier
  • The Chosen One
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot
  • Love at First Sight
  • Damsels in Distress
  • Heroine Loves a Bad Man
  • Yellow Peril
  • The Black Man Dies First
  • The Villain Had a Crappy Childhood
  • The City Planet
  • Prostitute with a Heart of Gold
  • The Singularity Will Cause the Apocalypse
  • First Period Panic
  • Girlfriend in the Refrigerator
  • Retired Pro’s “Last” Job

And each author tells what these tropes mean to them and what inspired their story.

Contributors include Maurice Broaddus, Adam Troy-Castro, Delilah S. Dawson, Shanna Germain, Sara M. Harvey, John Hornor Jacobs, Rahul Kanakia, Alethea Kontis, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Haralambi Markov, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Ferrett Steinmetz, Anton Strout, Michael Underwood, and Alyssa Wong.

Upside Down is editor Jaym Gates’s (War Stories) second anthology with Apex Book Company, and it is the first for editor Monica Valentinelli.

Pixel Scroll 3/26/16 Who Killed Morlock Holmes?

(1) WHERE THE DEER AND ANTELOPE PLAY. BBC’s report “Grand Theft Auto deer causes chaos in game world” includes a video clip.

More than 200,000 people have tuned in to watch the deer via a video stream on the Twitch site.

Best version

The project uses a modified version of GTA V that let Mr Watanabe change the player to look like a deer. The animal wanders around the virtual 100 square miles of the San Andreas world in which the game is set.

“The most difficult thing during the creation of the project was simply teaching myself to modify GTA V,” Mr Watanabe told the BBC. “There is an incredibly active modding community and I figured out how to programme the mod through a lot of forum searches and trial and error.

“The biggest difficulty was getting it stable enough to run for 12-14 hours at a time without crashing,” he said.

He made the deer impervious to harm so it can keep on wandering despite being regularly shot at, beaten up, run over by cars and trucks, shelled by tanks and falling off buildings.

The trouble it has caused on military bases, beaches and on city streets led, at one point, to it having a four star wanted rating.

The deer regularly teleports to a new position on the game map so it does not get stuck in one part and to make sure it samples the games’s many different environments and meets lots of its artificial inhabitants.

(2) JEDI EVANGELISM. Darren Garrison wanted to be sure I knew about “Jedism in the Wisconsin State Capitol”. I enjoy running Jedi religious stories more when the concept hasn’t been appropriated for the culture wars.

Around Easter every year, the Capitol rotunda becomes cluttered with numerous religious displays, mostly of a Christian nature. This year’s the rotunda features a large wooden cross, several Christian posters promoting Jesus’ death, and pro-life displays, among many others. This time, the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (AHA) have added a Jedism poster to the mix.

The poster, designed by AHA, is based on a modern, newer religion called Jedism. Its followers worship Jedis such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, from the Star Wars movies. Their poster reads “One Man Died for All”, referring to the Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi. The poster displays a portrait of Obi-Wan Kenobi as a Jedi, but is oftentimes confused as a portrait of Jesus. Their poster asks the following questions with respective answers: “Who is this man?” “Obi-Wan Kenobi”, “Why is it important that we remember him?” “To escape the death star”, and “How does his death help us?” “Because he comes back as a ghost at times and it can be quite surprising”.

(3) ORIGIN STORY. Andrew Liptak praises “The Innovative Jim Baen” at Kirkus Reviews.

Baen returned to Ace Books in 1977, where he began working with publisher Tom Doherty. Doherty had grown up reading Galaxy, and “I had kept reading both of those magazines,” He recalled, “I thought [Baen] was doing an exceptional job, and brought in him to head up our science fiction [program].”

At Ace, Baen continued his streak of discovering new and interesting authors. “He brought in a number of strong authors,” Doherty recalled. His time at Ace was short-lived, however: Doherty decided to venture out into the publishing world on his own, setting up Tor Books. Baen, along with Harriet McDougal, joined Tor Books, where he continued his work under Doherty editing science fiction

Baen followed “the same pattern that had revived Ace,” Drake wrote in his remembrance, “a focus on story and a mix of established authors with first-timers whom Jim thought just might have what it took. It worked again.”

In 1983, rival publisher Simon & Schuster began having some problems with their paperback division, Pocket Books. Their own SF imprint, Timescape Books, run by David G. Hartwell, wasn’t doing well, and was being closed down. They reached out to Baen, asking him if he’d like to run the imprint.

Doherty remembered that Baen wasn’t keen on joining Simon & Schuster: “Look, Jim doesn’t want to join a big corporation,” he told Ron Busch, Simon & Schuster’s president of mass-market publishing. “But he’s always dreamed of having his own company. How about we create a company which you will distribute. We’ll take the risk and make what we can as a small publisher, and you’ll make a full distribution profit on our books?” Busch agreed to the deal: he would get his science fiction line.

Baen formed his own publishing house, Baen Books, with Doherty as a partner, and began to publish his particular brand of science fiction.

(4) KEN LIU INTERVIEW. Derek Kunsken has “The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories: An Interview with Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award-Winner Ken Liu” at Black Gate.

You play with a lot of myths. Good Hunting and The Litigation Master and the Monkey King pull in Chinese myth. The Waves weaves the creation myths of different cultures into the narrative. State Change creates its own mythology of souls and famous people. What are your favorite myths? When writers use myth, do they only borrow that cultural and thematic gravitas, or do you think that writers today can bring to the table a new way of looking at older myths?

All cultures are founded on myths, and modern life hasn’t changed that at all. It’s important to remember that living myths are not static, but evolving, living tales we craft.

Our sense of what it means to be American, for example, depends on contesting and re-interpreting the foundational myths of America—our “Founding Fathers,” our original sins of slavery and conquest, our exceptionalism, our self-image as the city on the hill, the crucibles of the wars that gave us birth, the gods and heroes who laid down our republican institutions and democratic ideals like the bones and sinew of a giant upon whose body we make our home.

Or look at the myths that animate Silicon Valley: the idea that a single person, armed with a keyboard (and perhaps a soldiering iron), can transform the world with code; the belief that all problems can be reduced down to a matter of optimization, disintermediation, and “disruption”; the heroes and gods who founded the tech colossi that bestride the land while we scurry between their feet — some of us yearning to join them in a giant battle mecha of our own and others wishing to bring them down like the rebels on Hoth.

(5) COVERS UP. John Scalzi answers readers’ questions about writing at Whatever.

Listhertel: There’s an adage not to judge a book by its cover, but we all know people do. I know authors get little to no say in the cover art, but do you have any preferences? Painting versus digital, people versus objects, a consistent look versus variety? Are there any of your covers you particularly love or hate (including foreign editions)?

The book cover of mine I like least is the one on The Book of the Dumb, but inasmuch as BotD sold over 150,000 copies, meaning that the cover art worked for the book, this might tell you why authors are not generally given refusal rights on their covers. Cover art is advertising, both to booksellers and to readers, and that has to be understood. I’m at a point where if I really hate a cover, I’ll be listened to, but I also know what I don’t know, so I rarely complain. But it also helps that, particularly with Tor, the art director knows her gig, and they do great covers. I would probably complain about oversexualized covers, or characters not looking on the cover they way they’re described in the book, but in neither case has this happened to me.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 26, 1969 — Rod Steiger stars as Carl, The Illustrated Man.

(7) TWO SPACEMEN. From George Takei:

Crossed paths Thursday with Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, at Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Experience, where I am appearing Friday and Saturday. Buzz walked on the moon 47 years ago, back in 1969. Isn’t it time someone set foot on Mars?

 

Takei Aldrin COMP

(8) MORE FROM SALT LAKE. “Doctors and River reunite to celebrate the infinite possibilities of ‘Doctor Who’” in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Actors from “Doctor Who,” including Alex Kingston, left, Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and Matt Smith fielded fan questions and discussed the popular show among the Salt Lake Comic Con’s FanX 2016 at the Salt Palace Convention Center on Friday….

Even a fleeting moment is going to follow Smith for the rest of his life. A fan in Friday’s audience asked Smith if he would do the Drunk Giraffe. The Drunk Giraffe is a dance move Smith’s iteration of The Doctor does, during which he throws his arms over his head and waves them around like noodles of spaghetti.

Fans count the moment — which takes up just 3 seconds of screen time — as a favorite of Smith’s run. Smith, to uproarious cheering, obliged.

“For the rest of my life, I’m going to have to do that,” Smith said. Kingston joked that McCoy and Davison should join him; alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

(9) NEEDS MORE KATSU. BBC Magazine remembers “The octopus that ruled London” at the Crystal Palace in 1871. Several stfnal references.

“It would have been a bit like a freak show for the Victorians,” says Carey Duckhouse, curator of the Brighton Sea Life Centre, as the aquarium is known today. “They would have featured models of ships in the cases for the octopus to grab hold of. They would probably have loved that, as they enjoy playing.”

One possible visitor to Crystal Palace aquarium was the writer HG Wells, who was just five years old when it opened and lived in Bromley, four miles away. Several octopus-like creatures appear in his stories.

In his 1894 essay The Extinction of Man, Wells pondered a “new and larger variety” that might “acquire a preferential taste for human nutriment”. Could it, he asked, start “picking the sailors off a stranded ship” and eventually “batten on” visitors to the seaside?

More famously, the invading Martians in Wells’s War of the Worlds have tentacle-like arms.

(10) UPSIDE DOWN IS UPRIGHT FINANCIALLY. The Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Kickstarter appeal has successfully funded. A total of $23,206 was raised from 1,399 backers.

The anthology, edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates, is an anthology of short stories and poems that highlights the long-standing tradition of writers who identify tropes and cliches in science fiction, fantasy, and horror and twist them into something new and interesting.

(11) SANS SHERLOCK. “WonderCon 2016: HOUDINI & DOYLE Screening and Q&A” at SciFi4Me.com.

During this year’s WonderCon, there was a preview screening of the first episode of the new Fox show Houdini & Doyle, “The Maggie’s Redress”, followed by a short Q&A with Michael Weston, who plays Harry Houdini, and executive producers David Shore, David Ticher, and David Hoselton.

The series follows the two men in 1901 as they go about investigating cases that involve supposed paranormal events. Houdini, riding high on his celebrity as a magician, is the doubter, wanting to bring reason and expose those who would take advantage of people who are looking for comfort from the great beyond. Doyle, on the other hand, has just killed off Holmes and is trying to get out of that shadow, and is the believer, wanting proof that there is something more to this life beyond death. We will be recapping the series when it premieres.

 

(12) GRAPHIC PREFERENCES. Barry Deutsch completed review of “2015 Science Fiction and Fantasy Graphic Novel Recommendations, Part 3: Crossed + One Hundred, and, Stand Still, Stay Silent”.

….Moore returns to the reinvention game with Crossed + One Hundred, a new graphic novel set in Garth Ennis’ awful Crossed universe. Crossed was Ennis’ attempt to make the zombie genre more disturbing and violent: the premise is that most of humanity population gets infected with a mysterious disease that turns them into torturing, murdering, rape-happy idiots. In many ways Crossed is the comics equivalent of the Saw movies; cheap, gratuitous, and compelling…..

(13) VOLTRON WILL RETURN. Engadget has the story and a gallery of images — “Here’s your first look at Netflix’s ‘Voltron’ series”.

As Netflix expands its suite of original programming it’s going to the nostalgia well once again. The good news here is that instead of another sitcom spinoff like Fuller House, we’re getting Voltron: Legendary Defender. Today at Wondercon 2016 its partner Dreamworks Animation showed off a teaser trailer and some artwork that confirm everything at least looks right to children of the 80s.

(14) BACK TO BASIC. The video “How to Send an ‘E mail’–Database–1984” is an excerpt from a 1984 episode of the ITV series Database where viewers learned how to send emails. Major retro future action is obtained where they get onto the net through a phone modem with a dial on the telephone… (Yes, I’ve done that, and I have the white beard to prove it…)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Darren Garrison, JJ, and Barry Deutsch for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Apex Delivering Upside Down This Fall

Apex Publications will bring out Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, an athology edited by Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli, in Fall/Winter 2015.

The anthology will highlight the long-standing tradition of writers who identify tropes in science fiction, fantasy, and horror and twist them into something new and interesting. Maurice Broaddus, Shanna Germain, Laura Anne Gilman, Sara Harvey, John Jacob Hornor, Rahul Kanakia, Haralambi Markov, Sunil Patel, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Lucien Soulban, Wrath James White, and Alyssa Wong will be among the contributors.

The anthology will be Gates’s second collection from Apex and Valentinelli’s first. A Kickstarter and open submissions period are also planned for this fall.

The full press release follows the jump.

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