Pixel Scroll 9/6/19 The Soylent Green Hills of Earth

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on chowder with the award-winning Jack Dann in episode 104 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jack’s an old friend I see far too infrequently ever since he moved to Australia. I was privileged to publish a story of his in Science Fiction Age back in the ’90s, but that’s the least of his accomplishments. His first novel, The Man Who Melted, was nominated for a 1984 Nebula Award, and since then he’s gone on to win a Nebula Award, two World Fantasy Awards, three Ditmar Awards, and the Peter McNamara Award for Excellence. His short story collections include Timetipping, Jubilee: the Essential Jack Dann, and Visitations. His 1998 anthology Dreaming Down-Under (co-edited with his wife Janeen Webb) is a groundbreaking work in Australian science fiction.

He’s also created some amazing stories in collaboration with the likes of Michael Swanwick, Gardner Dozois, Barry Malzberg, and others, and since you know from listening to Eating the Fantastic that collaboration completely baffles me, we dove into a discussion of that as well.

We stepped out to The Chowder House, which has been in operation since 1985, but has a history which goes all the way back to 1920, when Darcy’s Irish Pub opened — and over the decades expanded into a row of family-owned restaurants. It was a comfortable spot, with good food, and the perfect place for us to catch up after far too long apart.

We discussed the novel he and Gardner Dozois always planned to write but never did, how a botched appendectomy at age 20 which left him with only a 5% chance of survival inspired one of his most famous stories, why he quit law school the day after he sold a story to Damon Knight’s Orbit series, the bad writing advice he gave Joe Haldeman early on we’re glad got ignored, the secrets to successful collaborations, the time Ellen Datlow acted as referee on a story he wrote with Michael Swanwick, how it felt thanks to his novel The Man Who Melted to be a meme before we began living in a world of memes, why he’s drawn to writing historical novels which require such a tremendous amount of research, the time he was asked to channel the erotica of Anaïs Nin, the gift he got from his father that taught him to take joy in every moment — and much more.

Jack Dann

(2) RSR LAUNCHES IMPROVEMENT. Rocket Stack Rank announces “New Filtering and Simplified Highlighting” in an article that analyzes the most awards won, award nominations earned, and inclusion in year’s best TOC for short fiction from 2015-2018 by using the new filtering features added to RSR.

You can now filter stories in a table to show only the ones recognized with SF/F awards, year’s best anthologies, or prolific reviewers. Click the “Show:” drop-down list in the table header and choose one of the options (see image on the right). This is an easy way to dis-aggregate scores to see which stories received the most recognition by each type of recommendation for readers who favor one type over a combined score of all three.

(3) THE DELTA QUADRANT PRIMARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Senator Cory Booker is trying to acquire the votes of undecided Trekkies by showing off his nerd cred. The 50-year-old challenger for the Democratic nomination spoke to the New York Times today about his love for all things Star Trek, and how the show has influenced his politics: “How ‘Star Trek’ Pushed Cory Booker to Make It So”.

What did your father see in Trek?

It was hope.

“Star Trek” was more than just an escape. It was a portal to say the future is going to be different. It’s incredibly hopeful and a belief that we’re going to get beyond a lot of these lines. We’re going to unite as humanity. It’ll be a place where your virtue guides you, the highest of human aspirations. I think there’s something about that he found really powerful.

Do you think you took it in differently as a person of color?

I took it in through that lens because I really believe that was the lens that compelled my father. My dad loved UFOs. When that television series “Project Blue Book” came out, that was another thing. He was fascinated by the universe and excited about it.

This idea that we as humans, where we are right now, are literally just not even at the foothills yet of the mountains of discovery that are out there. He was a man of infinite hope. “Star Trek” gave him that. It showed him that we are going to overcome so much of the stuff that rips at humanity now.

(4) SNEAK PREVIEW. Unusual drama and security accompanied The Testaments’ submission to Booker Prize judges the New York Times reports: “Judging Margaret Atwood’s Top Secret New Novel”.

In July, the author Xiaolu Guo was expecting the delivery of a book that would not be published until September: Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments,” the highly anticipated follow-up to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Guo was getting her copy so early because she is a judge for this year’s Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award. There was just one problem, Guo said in an interview on Tuesday: When the courier turned up, she was late getting home from the airport. The courier refused to give the book to her brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting from China.

Guo missed the courier’s visit the next day, too, as she was out running errands. By the time she finally got the book, she was furious, she said.

“For me, it was quite over the top, the whole security issue,” Guo added, laughing.

The secrecy around Atwood’s new novel, which is on the Booker Prize shortlist that was announced this week, has complicated the judging process this year. The prize’s organizer had to sign a nondisclosure agreement on behalf of all the judges, said Peter Florence, the chairman of the judging panel.

Secrecy agreements were not required for the 150 other novels that judges read to create an initial list of books in the running that was announced at the end of July. They then reread and argued over those thirteen titles to choose the final six.

At the shortlist announcement on Tuesday, all six books were piled on a table in front of the judges, among them Salman Rushdie’s “Quichotte” and Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport.” But the copy of “The Testaments” was actually a dummy.

“That’s not the real Atwood, by the way, in case anyone’s thinking of stealing it,” Gaby Wood, the prize’s literary director, told reporters.

(5) GAY KISS GETS COMIC BANNED IN RIO. “‘Avengers’ Comic Featuring Gay Kiss Banned by Rio de Janeiro Authorities”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The collected edition of ‘Avengers: The Children’s Crusade’ has come under fire for featuring a kiss between two male characters.

In an unexpected move, Rio de Janeiro mayor Marcelo Crivella has announced that the translated edition of the Marvel comic book series Avengers: The Children’s Crusade would be removed from the literary festival Riocentro Bienal do Livro so as to protect the city’s children from what he described as “sexual content for minors.”

The so-called sexual content in question is an on-panel kiss between two male characters, Wiccan and Hulkling, who are in committed relationship. Both characters are clothed in the scene.

(6) STAR WARS SOUVENIR OKAYED TO FLY. A press release on the TSA.gov web site called “UPDATED: Statement on Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge themed soda bottles” says the TSA has relented on the “thermal detonator” soda bottles at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and is now treating the bottles like “oversized liquids” —

 “The issue concerning Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge-themed soda bottles has recently been brought to our attention by the general public, as these items could reasonably be seen by some as replica hand grenades. We appreciate the concerns being raised, because replica explosives are not permitted in either carry-on or checked bags. We have completed our review, and instructed our officers to treat these as an oversized liquid. Because these bottles contain liquids larger than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters), they should be put in checked baggage or emptied to be brought on as carry-on item. TSA officers will maintain the discretion to prohibit any item through the screening checkpoint if they believe it poses a security threat.”

(7) DUFF FUNDRAISER. Paul Weimer says, “I am auctioning a print of one of my photos to raise money for DUFF” – the Down Under Fan Fund. See it at eBay: 10″x13″ matboarded metallic print of Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand.

(8) GRAPHIC DETAILS. Joshua Corin begins Big Thrill’s “Getting Graphic: Sequential Crime” with “An Introduction to Crime-Inspired Graphic Novels and Comics.”

It’s 1962 in Milan and a former fashion model, Angela Guissana, is looking for material for a small publishing house she and her sister Luciana have opened.  She studies the reading tastes of the local commuters and concludes that thrillers—such as those featuring criminal mastermind Fantomas—are in.

Rather than hire someone else to forge ahead with their new thriller, she and her sister write the book themselves. To increase its appeal, they present the book as a fumetto, an Italian variation on the comic book format that has recently proven so popular in Europe with Tintin and Tex Willer—also thrillers. They make sure that each volume can fit inside a businessman’s coat pocket.

Thus, the Guissana sisters create Diabolik, which has in the 60 years since its inception, sold more than 150 million copies.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 6, 1953  — Hugo awards first presented at Philcon II (the second Philadelphia Worldcon).
  • September 6, 1956  — Fire Maidens from Outer Space premiered. A group of astronauts lands on a moon of Jupiter only to find it inhabited with sexy maidens. Well, and a hideous monster of course.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 Groff Conklin. He edited some forty anthologies of genre fiction starting The Best of Science Fiction from Crown Publishers in 1946 to Seven Trips Through Time and Space on Fawcett Gold in 1968. The contents are fairly a mix of the obscure and well known as Heinlein, Niven, Simak, Dahl, Sturgeon, Lovecraft and Bradbury show up here. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 6, 1943 Roger Waters, 76. Ok, I’m stretching it. Is Pink Floyd genre? The Wall maybe. Or The Division Bell with its themes of communication. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger!
  • Born September 6, 1946 Hal Haag. Baltimore-area fan who found fandom in the early Eighties and who chaired Balticon 25 and Balticon 35 and worked on Balticon and quite a number of regionals.  He Co-founded BWSMOF (Baltimore/Washington SMOFs) along with Inge Heyer from Shore Leave, a regional organization whose purpose it is to discuss running regional conventions of all types. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society put together a very touching memorial site which you can see here. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 6, 1953 Patti Yasutake, 66. Best-known for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consult a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but made for a nice coda on her story. 
  • Born September 6, 1958 Michael Winslow, 61. Though he might bear as the comically voiced Radar Technicianin Space Balls, I’m more interested that his first genre role of significance was giving voice to Mogwai and the other gremlins in Gremlins, a role he didn’t reprise for the second Gremlins film. 
  • Born September 6, 1972 China Miéville, 47. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City is the one I’ve re-read the most, followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that the New Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. 
  • Born September 6, 1972 Idris Elba, 47. Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. And let’s not forget him as the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond
  • Born September 6, 1976 Robin Atkin Downes, 43. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later shows up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episode of Angel. Ditto for Repo Men as well. He does get as the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
  • Born September 6, 1976 –Naomie Harris, 43. She’s Eve Moneypenny in Skyfall, Spectre and the forthcoming No Time to Die. This was the first time Moneypenny had a first name. She also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Tia Dalma. And lastly I’ll note she played Elizabeth Lavenza in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Molly Ostertag drew a K&S comic strip for Sam and Frodo. Hampus Eckerman says, “I think a lot of filers might enjoy this little comic.” Thread starts here.
  • A new Tales From The Slushpile at Publishers Weekly.

(12) PREVIOUSLY UNSUSPECTED SCIENCE. Really?

(13) NOT DISNEY. BBC tells how “Team plans colour film of black hole at galaxy’s center”.

The team that took the first ever image of a black hole has announced plans to capture “razor sharp” full colour video of the one at the centre of our galaxy.

Satellites would be launched to supplement the existing network of eight telescopes to make this movie.

The researchers say the upgraded network will be able to see the supermassive black hole consuming the material around it.

The team has been awarded the Breakthrough Award for Physics.

Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the idea of the so-called Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), told BBC News that the next step was to see a black hole in action.

“Just like planets, a black hole rotates. And because of its incredibly strong gravity, it distorts space and time around it. And so seeing this very weird effect of space itself being rotated is one of the holy grails of astrophysics.”

(14) A LITTLE LIST. At CrimeReads, John Marks points out “Seven Techno-Thrillers to Read as Our World Crumbles”.

Tristan Da Cunha is the most remote yet inhabited island in the world. With just 297 people living on the volcanic enclave, it’s more than 1,750 miles away from its nearest coast of South Africa. There are no airports, hotels, or bars and it is only reachable following a six-day boat ride. Yet for all it lacks, the island still has access to the internet. There is virtually nowhere on earth where you can truly escape from technology.

Authors, like me, who write speculatively about tech, are only limited by our imaginations. And that’s why we are fascinated by it, because it offers limitless potential.

Often it is far more of a challenge to create characters and worlds that are overshadowed by tech that goes askew than tech that gets it right.

(15) 20/20 HINDSIGHT. I was soon won around to the name changes, but feel a bit jaded to read such confident reassurances from people who a month ago had no more idea than anyone else that this was coming:

Nancy Jane Moore in “Against Nostalgia” at Book View Café.

…Given the list of winners at the Hugos — which are fan awards and therefore a good marker of what the people who love their SF/F think is important — times have changed dramatically. I see no reason why Ng or anyone else needs to pay homage to Campbell, who is clearly going to be a marginal person in the genre if he’s mentioned at all fifty years from now.

…Many of the stories published in the 1950s gave us those possibilities, but they did so in the trappings of their times. Confusing those trappings with science fiction makes us misunderstand what the genre is truly about. And being nostalgic about the trappings is silly.

The world that gave us those stories has changed, and stories set in outdated realities, even good ones, often don’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t live in that period. There are a lot of times when you need context, which doesn’t mean saying someone is a “product of their times” and skipping over what they did, but looking at other layers in the story (assuming it’s a story that’s worth spending that much time on).

These days the audience for science fiction is much broader than the mythical 13-year-old (white) boys the Golden Age fiction was supposedly aimed at. We have a strong need for science fiction that breaks us out of the misogyny and racism and colonialism on which so much of western culture has been built. And the audience is worldwide, drawing from their own cultures and experiences.

If you believe storytelling is a vital part of being human – and I do – you have to realize that there are a lot of ways to tell a story and a lot of different ideas of who might be the hero.

John Scalzi in “The Gunn Center Makes a Change, and Further Thoughts on the Reassessment of John W. Campbell” at Whatever.

…This will no doubt start another round of anguished wailing from certain quarters about the erasure of John W. Campbell from the annals of science fiction history. The answer to this is he’s not being erased, he’s merely being reassessed. And the reassessment is: His extensive paper trail of bigotry, reactionary thought and pseudo-scientific nonsense wasn’t a great look at the time — a fact amply detailed by a number of his contemporaries in the field — and it’s even less of a great look now. As a result, his name is being taken off some things it was on before, because it staying on them means those things (and the people administering those things) would then have to carry the freight of, and answer for, his bigotry, reactionary thought and pseudo-scientific nonsense. And they would rather not.

…People aren’t perfect and you take the good and the bad together — but every generation, and every person, gets to decide how to weigh the good and the bad, and to make judgments accordingly. In the early seventies, in the wake of Campbell’s passing, such was Campbell’s reputation in the field of science fiction that he could be memorialized by two separate awards in his name, and apparently nobody batted an eye (or if they did, they didn’t count). Nearly fifty years later and at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, such is Campbell’s reputation in the field of science fiction that Campbell’s name is off one award, and may be off the other soon enough. In another 50 years, Campbell’s reputation in the field may be different again, or may simply be what so many things are after a century, which is, a historical footnote.

(16) SCAVENGER’S FEAST. Meanwhile, Richard Paolinelli is hastening to fill the sudden vacuum of Campbell-named awards by adding one to his personal collection of honors: “New Category Added To The Helicons in 2020” [Now links to toxic original blog].

“The Helicon Society is proud to announce that the 2020 Helicon Awards will also feature the inaugural John W. Campbell Diversity In SF/F Award.

The Society looks forward to honoring the award’s first-ever recipient next spring.”

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m pretty interested in finding out who this will be. Aren’t you?

These antics apparently help Paolinelli sell books. When he inaugurated his Helicon Awards earlier this year, Paolinelli also announced a pair of awards whose namesakes had recently been removed from awards by the American Library Association: the Melvil Dewey Innovation Award and Laura Ingalls Wilder Best New Author Award.

(17) BATTLE OF THE BULGE. In this week’s Science (the US version of Nature), Rosemary Wyse discusses “Galactic archaeology with Gaia”.

The past and present merger activity of the Milky Way galaxy has recently been put into sharp focus through the analysis of data from the Gaia astrometric satellite.

The emerging picture created is one of persistent disequilibrium, with high merger activity some 10 billion years ago that plausibly created the stellar halo and thick disk (see the figure), followed by a lull during which only lower-mass satellite galaxies were accreted. The Milky Way is now acquiring the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, which is likely sculpting the galaxy’s thin disk….

…The first data release (DR1) from Gaia provided the position on the sky and apparent brightness for over a billion stars. One result stands out from Gaia DR1: the discovery by Belokurov et al. (3) of a population of stars with distinctive motions, which were identified as debris from a massive satellite that merged into the Galaxy a long time ago. These stars are moving on unexpectedly radially biased orbits and they dominate the stellar halo, particularly close to the peak of its chemical abundance distribution. 

(18) MEET YOUR WATERLOO. James Davis Nicoll wants you to know about “SFF Works Linked by One Canadian University”.

You might not immediately identify Ontario’s University of Waterloo as a hotbed of speculative fiction writing. The establishment is far better known for its STEM programs, baffled-looking first-year students, the horrifying things in the tunnels, and vast flocks of velociraptor-like geese. So you may be surprised to learn that the University has produced a number of science fiction and fantasy authors over the years

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Eric Wong, Hampus Eckerman, Chip Hitchcock, SF Cocatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/16/17 This Scroll Is Spelt Raymond Luxury Pixel, But It’s Pronounced ‘Godstalker Manfile’

(1) TINGLE ON TV. SORT OF. I’m told Chuck Tingle appeared live via remote camera on Comedy Central’s @Midnight last night and that the video is “definitely NSFW.” And that Tingle was disguised (face covered) each time he appeared. I haven’t had a chance to watch the show yet, I’d better mention…

(2) TRAD V. INDIE. Jim C. Hines isn’t trying to referee the debate about which business model works best for writers. However, people selling their work in a variety of ways shared their income data with him and he has compiled it in “2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 2: The Large/Small/Indie Breakdown”.

Indie authors still have the largest median income, which was predicted by only 19% of the folks in our informal Twitter Poll. The large press authors once again take the highest average. (I think this is mostly because of one large press author whose income was significantly higher than any others.)

(3) BEST IN SF ROMANCE. Veronica Scott lists the nominees for the 2017 SFR Galaxy Awards at Amazing Stories.

First a word about the awards themselves – a panel of well-regarded scifi romance book bloggers and reviewers make the selections, with each judge naming five or six novels, graphic novels or anthologies that they found memorable during the preceding year. The formal description of the awards’ intent, as taken from the website: “The theme of the SFR Galaxy Awards is inclusiveness. Instead of giving an award to a single book, this event will recognize the worth of multiple books and/or the standout elements they contain. The basic philosophy behind this approach is to help connect readers with books.”

Although the awards are serious, each judge gives their reasons for selecting the books, as indicated a bit light heartedly in the title of their short essays…

(4) A KIND WORD. James Davis Nicoll sets Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Rule of Names” before the panel at Young People Read Old SFF. And this time butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths….

(5) WHY CLARION. Nancy Jane Moore rhapsodizes about her experience as “A Tricoastal Woman: Clarion West 1997” at Book View Café.

There are lots of reasons to go to Clarion West or Clarion. Yes, you will learn a lot about writing. Yes, you will get to know writers and editors. And yes, the intensity of the workshop will push you to do your best work. I’m glad for all those things.

But what really made me happy was living in a community of writers for six weeks. There is nothing like pacing the hall at two in the morning, trying to figure out how to fix a scene, and finding that someone else is also up struggling with a story.

By the end of the workshop, I wanted to figure out how to live permanently in a community of writers. I’d gladly have spent the rest of my life at Clarion West. Well, OK, with a bit less intensity, because I couldn’t have kept up with the lack of sleep and exercise much longer.

Alas, I have never figured out how to do it, though I still have fantasies about getting together to buy an apartment building with a bunch of other writers. Hell, I’d probably even be willing to live in a dorm room with the bathroom up the hall as I did at Clarion West.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 16, 1923 — In Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born February 16, 1953 – Mike Glyer
  • Born February 16, 1957 LeVar Burton

(8) MOVING ON. There’s a difference between being interested in the Hugos and feeling a sense of stewardship about them. I still feel that we’re seeing through the completion of unfinished business. On the other hand, Abigail Nussbaum, in “The 2017 Hugo Awards: Why Hugo?”, explains why she feels the award doesn’t command the same level of interest for her as last year.

The issue, therefore, is this: it’s not just that the Hugos are trivial, but that the Hugos are solved.  If last year and the year before, we had a strong argument for seeing participation in the Hugos as an important and even progressive act, this year it seems largely meaningless, precisely because the difference between the best-case and worst-case outcomes is so small.  Let’s say the Rabid Puppies come back for a third try this year, and manage to get their trash on a lot of ballots.  So what?  They’ll just get knocked down in the voting phase again, and the only people it’ll really matter to will be the ones who lost out on a nomination–and I say that as someone who did lose out on a Hugo nomination, twice, as a result of the Rabid Puppies’ actions.  Given the current state of the world, lousy Hugo nominations are pretty far down my list of things to get upset over.  And on the other hand, if the Puppies have given up (or, more realistically, moved on to greener pastures, of which there sadly seems to be an abundance), I think we all know by now that the result will not be some progressive, radical-lefty shortlist.  The Hugo will go back to what it has always been, a middle-of-the-road award that tends to reward nostalgia and its own inner circle.  Yes, there has been progress, and especially in the shadow of the Puppies and their interference–2015 best novel winner Cixin Liu was the first POC to win in that category, and 2016 winner N.K. Jemisin was the first African American.  But on the other hand, look at the “first”s in that last sentence, consider that they happened a decade and a half into the 21st century, and then tell me that this is something to crow about.

After having said all this, you’re probably now expecting me to make some huge turnaround, to explain to you why the Hugos still matter, and why it’s still important to talk about them and nominate for them.  But the thing is, I can’t….

(9) GET TO KNOW YOUR GUFFERS. Voting on the Get Up-and-over Fan Fund (GUFF) delegate to Worldcon 75 contiues until April 1.’ The candidates’ platforms and general information about voting is here. The online ballot is here. Voting is open to all interested fans, regardless of nationality.

Elizabeth Fitzgerald is interviewing the candidates online — Donna Maree Hanson, Sam Hawke, Belle McQuattie, and the tandem of Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein. Her first two interviews are up —

You’re currently working on a PhD focused on feminism in romance. How have you found this has impacted on your SFF writing?

The PhD studies so far have benefited my writing. Part of the study involves reading widely–French philosophers, feminist theory, queer theory–and I find that all mind-expanding. I’m not free to write as much as I’d like but I find with a bit of discipline (say an hour a day, at least) I can do both the PhD and write. I take a writing day once a week too. I don’t think you can study romance without touching on feminism and gender, and that is interesting to say the least. As I’m undertaking a creative writing PhD, l will be writing a novel. That novel is going to be an SF novel, post-human, focussing on gender equality and romance too. To write that novel I have to read SF dealing with that topic as well as straight romance, which is part of my research. Lots of reading. I read Left Hand of Darkness aloud to myself so I could experience it at a deeper level. So it’s a journey that I can bend to include both sides of my interests in genre.

What are you most looking forward to about Worldcon 75?

Is it cheating to say everything? I’m really looking forward to talking to fans and learning more about other areas of SFF that I don’t get exposure to normally, especially because I don’t know much about European SFF. I’m really excited to explore Finland and see another part of the world. I’m also a super huge fan of moose, and I’m hoping to see some … from a very safe distance.

(10) FAKE KNEWS. NakedSecurity tells how everyone, including members of Congress, can spot a fake twitter account. Personally, I don’t think the problem is that they are that hard to spot, but that want to believe the messages and don’t stop to ask the question.

When was it created?

As the Washington Post notes, the fake Flynn account was created a day after the authentic @GenFlynn went offline. Suspicious timing, eh? The creation date can be helpful in spotting bogus accounts, particularly when they’re created at the same time as major news breaks about whatever parodied/spoofed person they’re based on.

(11) ZETA OVER BUT NOT OUT. Mothership Zeta announced plans to go on hiatus four months ago, and the new issue of the magazine confirms that it will be the last issue for now. Here’s a quote from Mur Lafferty’s editorial.

The discussion you hear from nearly every short fiction publication is the worry about money. We are an experiment from Escape Artists, the awesome publisher of free audio fiction; we knew we were taking a risk with creating an ezine that you had to pay for.

We’re fiercely dedicated to paying our authors, our nonfic writers, our artists, and our editorial team. We did our best with the budget we had, but once the money ran out, we had to take a hard look at ourselves. So we are taking some time to figure out a new way of delivering this publication.

We have no current plans to shutter the magazine for good. We are going to take the next few months and look at our options. We may come back with a crowdfunding effort through Patreon, Kickstarter, or IndieGogo. We may come up with other solutions. But we all believe in this magazine, and believe that the world needs satisfying, fun science fiction now more than ever. We want to bring that to you.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Mark-kitteh, David K.M.Klaus, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 12/29/16 I Never Scroll Anything Twice

(1) NEAR FUTURE MARINES. The Marine Corps Security Environment Forecast: Futures 2030-2045 (MCSEF) provided “a high level snapshot of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory/Futures Directorate’s continual examination of the deep future.”

Chuck Gannon and several other writers traveled to Quantico last February and coached uniformed service members who produced Science Fiction Futures, the narrative accompaniment to the MCSEF. Writers included Commander Phillip Pournelle USN. The near-future military fiction they wrote can be downloaded as a free PDF at the link.

marine-corps-security-environment-forecast

(2) ON THE OTHER HAND. Nancy Jane Moore tells Book View Café readers why she’s not wild about Rogue One.

I was primed to be reflective about the movie because it was preceded by twenty minutes of trailers for truly dreadful movies that I don’t plan to see. About halfway through them, I said to myself, “No wonder the world is falling apart.” The prevailing narrative seems to be fighting and war as a response to everything.

Many of these movies strike me as right-wing narratives (though I suspect most of the people involved in making them don’t vote that way): Humans fighting either evil aliens or evil supernatural creatures. Others focus on the outsider who fights for us all, but gets no thanks – not a story about people coming together to solve their problems.

Stories like Rogue One might be seen as having a liberal bias – rebels fighting a fascist, dictatorial regime. But in every case the story assumes that the solution is to blow things up.

It’s not the violence and killing that I’m objecting to – I agree with pacifists about many things, but I’m not one – but rather the idea that those things are the only solution. A lifetime in the martial arts has taught me that while there are times when a physical fight (or a war) may be the best choice, those times are few and far between.

(3) UHLENKOTT OBIT. Rochelle Uhlenkott (1960-2016) died shortly before Christmas, reports Keith Kato, of complications from a flu infection. She was a UCI Extension instructor in Optical Engineering, and in SFF did a little bit of writing and editing. Her short story “The Gift” (as Rochelle Marie) was published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress XI: An Anthology of Heroic Fantasy (1994),

(4) ICONIC HAIR. Chip Hitchcock says, “It’s unclear where Princess Leia’s cinnabon hairstyle came from, but George Lucas’ account is certainly wrong”.

According to Brandon Alinger, the author of Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy, the buns do not even appear in any of the concept artwork done for Leia in the preparation of the film.

In later interviews, Star Wars creator George Lucas said he looked to Mexico’s female revolutionaries, or “soldaderas”, who joined the uprising at the start of the 20th Century.

“I went with a kind of south-western Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look, which is what that is. The buns are basically from turn-of-the-century Mexico,” Lucas told Time in 2002.

It makes sense to look to such a band of women when creating a character far removed from a traditional princess awaiting rescue.

(5) DOUBLE TROUBLE. The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor, in “Even on this, America is divided: Was Cinnabon’s Carrie Fisher tweet offensive?”, discusses how Cinnabon leaped very deeply into the culture wars when they tweeted a photo of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia with a Cinnabon replacing one of the buns in her hair and the line “RIP Carrie Fisher,  you’ll always have the best buns in the galaxy.”

(6) DON’T LET THE YEAR MUG YOU ON THE WAY OUT. Everyone, be careful out there!

(7) PROGNOSTICATION. Our secret agent informs us this wall mural will be on next week’s Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest at Blast from the Past in Burbank.

pop-culture-wall-mural

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 29, 1939 — Charles Laughton is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, first seen on this day in 1939.

(9) LET THE CUTE BE WITH YOU. This German Star Wars-themed Christmas ad for Kaufland is really sweet – and you don’t need to know any German to enjoy it.

(10) TOVE JANSSON NEWS. In the Financial Times, art critic Jackie Wullschlager reviews “Adventures in Moominland”, which is showing at the Southbank Centre in London through April 23.  British fans prepping for Worldcon can see this exhibit by Finland’s greatest fantasy writer and her creation, the Moomins, including discussions of why Tove Jansson thought herself more of an artist than a writer, how her lesbianism informed her work, and why she owned and read Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West.

You reach the Southbank Centre’s Adventures in Moominland by opening the cover of a giant book that turns out to be a door. Flit through a few gauze curtains painted with Jansson’s illustr­ations and you find yourself standing in a storybook installation: a snow-clad Finnish forest with gleaming lights and a lost troll. “The sky was almost black but the snow shone a bright blue in the moonlight” when Moomintroll, the first troll not to hibernate, stepped out alone into a cold new world. Moominland in Midwinter (1957) is a small existentialist masterpiece — the story of a frightened, angry, isolated young troll who eventually comes in from the cold to understand “one has to discover everything for oneself, and get over it all alone”.

(11) FINAL TROPE. At The Book Smugglers, Carlie St. George says this is the final installment of Trope Anatomy 101 “Choose Your Own Family”.

When we discuss common tropes in pop culture, we’re often analyzing them as inherently negative things, stereotypes or clichés that are in desperate need of subversion. And often, we’re right to do so; in this past year, we’ve already looked at some seriously problematic tropes in this column, from the waving away of chronic conditions and disabilities to the variety of fat-shaming tropes that arise time and again in film, television, and literature.

However, not every trope is harmful and some are actually quite delightful when embraced. Honestly, one of the reasons I love fanfiction as much as I do is that it downright revels in its tropes. They’re frequently used as signposts, specifically, welcome signs: “Are you looking for Huddle For Warmth Romances? How about Body Swapping Fics with a focus on Team Building? Come in, come in, you’re in the right place!”

…If those terms mean nothing to you, found family stories are about characters that come together and make their own family unit, despite not being related by blood. (Generally. Sometimes, a few characters in found families will be biologically related; think River and Simon Tam in Firefly, siblings in a disparate crew of misfits and criminals (who all just happen to share meals and celebrate birthdays with one another, deep in the black of space.) Very often these characters have been orphaned, disowned, or have otherwise extremely strained or stressful relationships with their biological families; the second family functions to support, celebrate, and mourn with one another in a way that their blood relatives will not or cannot.

(12) ROYAL COSPLAY. The Queen’s wardrobe selection for her Christmas broadcast led to a wave of science fictional levity —

[Thanks to Gregory Benford, Keith Kato, John King Tarpinian, Martn Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/16 Pixels? We Don’t Scroll No Stinking Pixels!

(1) ROBERT J. SAWYER SWEARS. In his year-end newsletter, Robert J. Sawyer reveals one of the perks of being added to the Order of Canada.

On Canada Day, July 1, 2016, I was named a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour bestowed by the Canadian government; I was honoured for “accomplishments as a science-fiction writer and mentor and for contributions as a futurist.” This makes me the first person ever to be admitted into the Order for work in the science-fiction field.

I will be presented with a medal by the Governor General of Canada early in the new year, and now am entitled to append the post-nominal initials C.M. to my name.

As a bonus, I’m now also empowered to officiate at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. I’ve been having the time of my life swearing in new citizens at the Mississauga office of the Canadian Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; I’ve sworn in about 500 new Canadians so far, from over 40 countries.

(2) LESSONS FROM URSULA. Nancy Jane Moore reports on The Tiptree Symposium at Book View Café.

“This is another lesson I take from Ursula: Sometimes if you don’t fit in the world, the world has to change.” — Karen Joy Fowler

Those words from Karen’s keynote speech at the ‘2016 Tiptree Symposium’ summed up my experience. The two-day event at the University of Oregon celebrating the work of Ursula K. Le Guin was a powerful antidote to the bombardment of horribles that continue to assault us after the election debacle. I came away feeling transformed.

For me, the most powerful item on the program was “Le Guin’s Fiction as an Inspiration for Activism,” a panel featuring adrienne maree brown (co-editor of Octavia’s Brood) and Grace Dillon (professor at Portland State University in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program), and moderated by Joan Haran (of the University of Oregon and Cardiff University in Wales).

(3) THE CALIFORNIA SPACE PROGRAM. Motherboard’s Jason Koebler concludes “California’s Hypothetical Plan to Start a Space Agency Is Legal and Feasible”.

In a scathing speech Wednesday in front of some of the most important climate scientists in the world, California Gov. Jerry Brown vowed to fight Donald Trump’s anti-environmental policies every step of the way. One audacious promise particularly stood out: Brown said that if Trump turns off NASA’s climate-monitoring satellites, the state “is going to launch its own damn satellites.”

Trump’s advisors have indeed said he will crack down on “politicized science,” and Trump campaign advisor Bob Walker noted that this would include NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, which operate several Earth-monitoring satellites. No one knows yet if Trump will actually have NASA turn off satellites that are much more expensive to make and launch than they are to operate, but for the sake of preparedness, I decided to look into whether or not California could actually keep Brown’s promise. I spoke to several space lawyers in an attempt to suss out how, logistically and legally, a California Space Agency would work.

(4) THE BUZZ. At The Hollywood Reporter “Rogue One: What the Critics Are Saying”.

Critics are divided, but mostly positive, about the appeals of Gareth Edwards’ ‘Star Wars’ spinoff.

If, as trailers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story put it, rebellions are based on hope, then it’s possibly true that the same can be said for anticipation for the next movie in the beloved science-fiction franchise. Now, however, the first reviews for Rogue One have hit the internet, giving fans their first chance to see whether or not that hope has been misplaced.

(5) YOUTH AGAINST AGE, At Young People Read Old SF, curator James Davis Nicoll turned his crew loose on Kate Wilhelm’s “Baby, You Were Great”.

Young People Read Old SFF has reached the 1960s. That means the fraction of stories by women is about to increase sharply [1], to reflect the increasing number of women in science fiction. And what better woman to herald that rising tide than the award winning Kate Wilhelm?

First published in the 1950s, Kate Wilhelm is a science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer. With her husband, Damon Knight, she established both the Clarion and the Milford Writer’s Workshop. Her award nominations and wins include the Nebula, the Hugo, the Apollo, and the Locus. In 2016, the Solstice Award, given to individuals who have had a significant impact on the science fiction or fantasy landscape, was renamed in her honour.

They hated it. And they give solid reasons. But when you consider background facts like the story originally was published in the second of Damon Knight’s avant-garde Orbit anthologies, a book that featured not one but two stories by Joanna Russ, that may only mean the author’s intended message reached them.

(6) THE HORROR. The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog posted a Best Horror Books of 2016 piece. And if I was a better person I would remember who to credit for mentioning that in comments.

This year was an interesting one for horror. Not only did genre fans see new books from established heavy hitters, they welcomed a grandmaster’s novel back into print after 52 years, encountered incredible debuts, rafts of new and disturbing short stories, and at least one satire that frightens just as easily as its source material. If there were room to list every horror book released this year, we could easily just do that. The competition was tough, and many late nights were spent pondering the list and debating where the line lays between horror and dark fantasy. Finally, final selection of contenders emerged from the chaos. Submitted for your approval, here are the 15 best horror books of 2016.

(7) MEYER OBIT.  Steven H Silver of SF Site News reports former Worldcon chair Kathleen Meyer died December 13.

Chicago area fan Kathleen Meyer (b.1948) died on December 13. Meyer was a long-time member of the ISFiC Board of Directors, serving as the organization’s Treasurer. She chaired Windycon XI and XII in 1984-5 and Windycon XV in 1988. In 1991, Meyer chaired Chicon V, that year’s Worldcon. She also worked on Capricon programming operations for several years

(8) THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKIN’. Gizmodo has a photo of the boots that left the last human footprints on the moon.

Today marks the end of Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan’s three days exploring Taurus-Littrow for Apollo 17. These extravehicular activity boots were specifically designed for Cernan. They fit over the boots integrated into the base spacesuit, adding an extra layer of protection against thermal extremes and sharp moon rocks. Manufactured by International Latex Corporation, the boots have a silicone sole with woven stainless steel uppers, and are equipped with additional layers of beta cloth and beta felt. They seal with velcro.

The boots have been a part of the human spaceflight collection at the National Air and Space Museum since 1974.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In 1954, Davy Crockett, a show that may be considered TV’s first miniseries, aired in five segments on the Disneyland program.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 15, 1974 Young Frankenstein debuted.
  • December 15, 1978: Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, premiered.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 15, 1945 – Steve Vertlieb

(12) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #17. The seventeenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles.

Today’s auction is for an autographed paperback copy of the book THE LOST PLANET, by Rachel Searles.

About the Book:

This is what the boy is told:

  • He woke up on planet Trucon, inside of a fence line he shouldn’t have been able to cross.
  • He has an annirad blaster would to the back of his head.
  • He has no memory.
  • He is now under the protection of a mysterious benefactor.
  • His name is Chase Garrety.

This is what Chase Garrety knows:

  • He has a message: “Guide the star.”
  • Time is running out.

(13) EXPAND YOUR TOOLSET. Cat Rambo has posted her schedule of live writing classes for the first quarter of 2017. There’s also a couple of opportunities still available in 2016.

There is still room in the two live classes left this year, both happening next weekend. The first on Saturday is Linguistics for Genre Writers with Juliette Wade, at the usual 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time. This class differs from pretty much every other one I’ve seen in that Wade doesn’t just cover linguistics and worldbuilding, but how to use the principles of linguistics to strengthen, deepen, and otherwise improve your prose. I heartily endorse it.

The second, which is also a really fun and informative class, is To Space Opera and Beyond with Ann Leckie. Technical difficulties hindered the first sessions but everything is smooth and running well now! In this class, Ann talks about space opera, its characteristics, how to handle them, and the process of writing not just a single novel but a series, while we provide writing exercises to take away and use to apply what Ann has told you. Ann is a lively and congenial teacher, funny without being snarky, and above all encouraging and inspiring. I’m really looking forward to the next class, which happens on Sunday, December 18, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time. There is still room in that and the Saturday, January 7 class at the same time.

I am offering the six session Writing F&SF Stories Workshop again, in three different sections:

Section 1: Tuesday afternoons 1-3 PM, January 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, and February 7 Section 2: Wednesday evenings 7-9 PM January 4, 18, 25, and February 1, 8, 15 Section 3: Sunday evenings 5-7 PM January 8, 15, 22, 29 and February 5, 12

I am offering the Advanced Story Writing Workshop on Tuesday evenings 5-7 PM starting January 3rd and going for six weeks. The Advanced Workshop focuses on workshopping stories each week along with lecture, discussion, and in-class writing exercises designed to help you continue to refine your skills and expand your toolset.

There’s also another dozen stand-alone classes listed at the post.

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? Scientists are hot on the undersea trail: “Nickel clue to ‘dinosaur killer’ asteroid”.

Scientists say they have a clue that may enable them to find traces of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs in the very crater it made on impact.

This pointer takes the form of a nickel signature in the rocks of the crater that is now buried under ocean sediments in the Gulf of Mexico.

An international team has just drilled into the 200km-wide depression.

It hopes the investigation can help explain why the event 66 million years ago was so catastrophic.

Seventy-five percent of all life, not just the dinosaurs, went extinct.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chi Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Kendall for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 11/10/16 I Grow Old… I Grow Old… I Shall Wear The Bottoms Of My Pixels Scrolled

toy-hall-of-fame

(1) PLAY ALONG AT HOME. The National Toy Hall of Fame has three additions:

Fisher-Price Little People, the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons and the simple swing are now in the National Toy Hall of Fame.

The list of 12 finalists for this year’s honors had included bubble wrap, Care Bears, Clue, the coloring book, Nerf ball, pinball, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Transformers and Uno.

…When it emerged in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons was groundbreaking, says curator Nic Ricketts of The Strong. In addition to its own merits, the game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson established a pattern for how similar role-playing games might work — both on table-tops and, eventually, on computers and other devices.

As Ricketts says, the game’s mechanics “lent themselves to computer applications, and it had a direct impact on hugely successful electronic games like World of Warcraft.”

(2) VISUALIZATION. Nancy Jane Moore tells “Why Fiction Matters” at Book View Café.

I’ve had several conversations with fiction writers lately on what we should be doing about climate change, the election, and other important concerns of the day. My immediate response was that now, more than ever, they should write.

They dismissed that advice. I got the feeling they thought of fiction as a luxury or even an irrelevance at the current time, even though they’re very fine fiction writers. But I wasn’t advising them to indulge themselves or escape into their work.

I really believe that fiction – telling stories – is one of the most important things we do as human beings. I believe that because reading fiction is one of the things that made me who I am today.

Stories matter. One of the most comforting items in my Facebook feed on Wednesday – and I saw it in more than one place – was a few lines from Lord of the Rings:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

That’s fantasy, the supposedly “escapist” literature.

Now I wasn’t telling my fellow writers to write to the exclusion of everything else that needs doing. Other things also matter. Politics matters, despite our habit in the U.S. of disparaging it. We need good people to run for office and work on campaigns, because it’s hard to get anything done when the people in power are stacked against you.

Activism matters. We need the people who mass in the streets because Black Lives Matter and those who block pipelines. We also need those who are creating new structures – those building the worker co-ops and social justice entrepreneur programs.

Most of all we need a vision, so that we can see where we’re going. And that brings me back to fiction, because stories can give us vision.

(3) SEFTON OBIT. Amelia (Amy) Sefton died November 9 from cancer and other medical problems.

She was familiar to some fans for going in costume as Madame Ovary.

This summer she was named designer in Tor’s the ad/promo department. (Corrected November 12).

She was formerly married to Connor Cochran. She was later married to writer James Kilius, who preceded her in death in 2008.

(4) REMEMBERING PAUL CALLE. Paul Calle (1928-2010), was a commercial artist renowned as a stamp designer. His most famous stamp, issued in 1969, commemorated the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Early in his career, Mr. Calle did cover artwork for science-fiction pulp magazines like Galaxy, Fantasy Fiction and Super Science Stories, as well as for general-interest publications like The Saturday Evening Post.

In 1962, he was among the inaugural group of artists chosen for the NASA Art Program, a documentary record of the space program that has produced thousands of works to date. Mr. Calle’s early art for the program includes a pair of 5-cent stamps, issued in 1967, depicting the Gemini capsule and the astronaut Ed White making the first American spacewalk in 1965.

On July 16, 1969, the day Apollo 11 was launched, Mr. Calle was the only artist allowed to observe the astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, as they readied themselves for the mission — eating breakfast, donning their spacesuits and the like. He captured their preparations in a series of intimate pen-and-ink sketches later exhibited at the National Air and Space Museum.

You can find Calle’s SF cover art here.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 10, 1960 – Neil Gaiman

(6) MARRY A MARIONETTE. “Faren Miller reviews Keith Donohue” at Locus Online.

Keith Donahue’s The Motion of Puppets opens with a bold statement from the heroine’s perspective: ‘‘She fell in love with a puppet.’’ Kay Harper loves the ancient thing – body ‘‘hewn from a single piece of poplar,’’ simple limbs designed for lost connections, ‘‘pierced at the hands and feet’’ – not just for its beauty and rarity but ‘‘because he could not be hers.’’ Note those dueling pronouns: what would be it to most observers is he for both the woman and (less ardently) for the author of this novel where some objects are very much alive. Keith Donohue’s modern take on old myths and fairy tales brings sentient puppets closer than Kay could ever imagine, when she becomes one herself.

Though the metamorphosis was unintended, and doesn’t lead to Ovidian antics, it’s still a kind of betrayal, since she leaves a bewildered human husband, Theo.

(7) TAKE DOWN THE INTERNET. David Brin is already moving on to the next disaster — “Shining light on cyber-secrets”.

Okay then, here’s a worrisome note:  Someone is preparing a BIG attack on the Internet: “Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet,” according to a blog post by security expert Bruce Schneier:

“These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. It feels like a nation’s military cyber-command trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar.”  Who might do this? “The size and scale of these probes — and especially their persistence — point to state actors. … China or Russia would be my first guesses.” Among my list of Proposals for the new administration, that I’ll issue in January, is to tell all citizens that their computers and printers etc may serve as botnet hosts, and that every person will share in tort liability for any major Net Disaster, unless they have at least tried, twice a year, to download a reputable anti-malware program.

(8) CLIMATE CHANGE. Ashley R. Pollard reviews some movies screening in the UK in her post for Galactic Journey: “[November 10, 1961] Earth On Fire (UK Sci-Fi Report).

The Day the Earth Caught Fire stars Edward Judd, Leo McKern and Janet Munro and starts in a most striking manner with Judd’s character walking in sweltering heat through the deserted streets of London.  The story then flashes back to how it all began when both the Americans and Russian simultaneously exploded atomic bombs at the Earth’s poles.  This caused both the axial tilt to change and also shifted our planet in its orbit around the Sun.

(9) THE GOOD OLD DAYS. And if you ever wondered whether the good old days were actually any good, try these antique newzines  – Fanac.org is scanning and posting old issues of File 770 and Andrew Porter’s Science Fiction Chronicle.

(10) STFNAL TIME TRAVEL. In “Can We Escape From Time?” by John Lanchester, on the New York Review of Books website, Lanchester uses his review of James Gleick’s book on time travel to give an overview of how sf authors, including Wells and Heinlein, have examined the time-travel theme in their works.

James Gleick’s illuminating and entertaining Time Travel is about one of these once-new stories. We have grown very used to the idea of time travel, as explored and exploited in so many movies and TV series and so much fiction. Although it feels like it’s been around forever, it isn’t an ancient archetypal story but a newborn myth, created by H.G. Wells in his 1895 novel The Time Machine. To put it another way, time travel is two years older than Dracula, and eight years younger than Sherlock Holmes. The very term “time travel” is a back-formation from the unnamed principal character of the story, whom Wells calls “the Time Traveller.” The new idea caught on so quickly that it was appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary by 1914.

Wells is described by Gleick as “a thoroughly modern man, a believer in socialism, free love, and bicycles.” He was a serious thinker in his own way, forceful and coarse-grained, but the invention of the time machine wasn’t one of his deep philosophical conceptions. It was instead a narrative device for a story with two cruxes, one of them political-philosophical and the other imaginative. Its main argumentative point comes when Wells travels to the far future and finds that humanity has evolved into two different species, the brutish, underground-dwelling Morlocks and the etiolated, effete, surface-living Eloi. This, Wells implies, is what could happen if current trends toward inequality continue unchecked.

This was an argument worth making in 1895, and worth being reminded of today, but it’s not what most readers remember from The Time Machine. Instead, as Gleick points out, the abiding memory of the story comes from the Traveller’s journey to the final days of the earth, the dark and cold and silent stillness of the dying planet circling the dying sun. It is an atheist’s unforgettable vision of the absoluteness of death.

(11) BACK TO THE BANG. Christopher Lloyd will make a guest appearance on the Big Bang Theory episode airing December 1.

No specifics on the actor’s role were revealed, with the series producers only saying: “We’re so excited to be working with Christopher Lloyd, and think we’ve created a fun part that fans will really enjoy.”

In addition to The Big Bang Theory, Lloyd is set to make an appearance during Season 3 of the Syfy series 12 Monkeys.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that Warner Bros. TV and CBS are currently at work on a spinoff/prequel of The Big Bang Theory. Jim Parsons is executive producing the series, which will center around a young Sheldon Cooper.

(12) SPACE BUSINESS. “Full Ariane 6 rocket funding is unlocked by ESA” reports the BBC.

The final tranche of R&D funding needed to introduce a new rocket for Europe was committed on Wednesday.

The European Space Agency has amended an August 2015 contract with Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), to unlock a further €1.7bn (£1.5bn; $1.9bn).

It tops up initial monies of €680m and means ASL can now complete development of the Ariane 6.

This new rocket will replace the Ariane 5 but, crucially, aims to cut current launch prices in half.

The move to a new vehicle is seen as vital if Europe is to maintain its competitive position.

The Ariane 5 is still the dominant player in the market for big commercial satellite launches, but this position is being challenged by a new wave of American offerings, in particular from the California SpaceX company

(13) HIT THE DECK. A piece on the Seattle Times website by Jayson Jenks called “Seahawks’ Cassius Marsh Has $26,000 in Magic: The Gathering Cards Stolen from His Car” says the Seahawks’ defensive end had someone break into his car and steal two backpacks with his iPad and $20,000 in Magic:  The Gathering cards, and if the thief returns them, he gets two tickets to the next Seahawks home game, no questions asked.

(14) DAVE KYLE ART FOR SALE. Dave Kyle original pulp magazine Illustration artwork is going under the hammer at Live Auctioneers. This example is the original artwork published April 1942 in Future Combined with Science Fiction.

dave-kyle-pulp-art

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Taral, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster, for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cally.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/16 Just Hook The TBR Pile Directly To The Vein

(1) DUALING READERS. Rob Dircks delivered an unexpected bonus to those attending his reading at Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night – it’s titled “Today I Invented Time Travel”.

I was invited to read from my novel Where the Hell is Tesla? at the Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night, and decided to write a short story for the evening — when an unexpected visitor showed up…

Here’s a clip from the story:

And my phone found me the top five reasons to go back in time:

  1. Stop George Lucas from making the prequels to Star Wars.
  2. Bet on the 1969 Mets.
  3. Talk to that girl you had a secret crush on in elementary school.
  4. Kill Hitler.
  5. Meet Jesus.

 

(2) TEMPORAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. For writers determined to stick with real science there are a lot of details to work out, even when it’s only your imagination traveling to the future. R. A. MacAvoy, co-author of Albatross with Nancy Palmer, tells about those challenges.

This ingenious 25-year leap into the future turned from wiggle-room into a straight-jacket. It helped with the science, but not so much, as each of us kept coming up with new discoveries on the news that needed massive re-write. The Higg’s Boson companion (if it is what it seems to be). Gravitational waves.

And that was just the science!

Sweating, sweating, we began to consider all the other important changes in life which would go along with the advances in the sciences and which would touch the lives of the characters in the story even more than The Theory of Everything. In twenty-five years, we assumed, would people still be driving around in automobiles? Seemed likely – as this was not a Zombie Apocalypse novel. Petrol cars? Self-driving cars? Re-write. Rewrite.

Mobile phones. On the wrist, as part of one’s glasses? People still doggedly carrying things the size of card-decks in their pockets? Hey – at least a person in a self-driving car won’t be guilty of much as they babble or text into whatever form of phone they have as their cars zoom them to their destination. Or get lost in a daily traffic jam caused by the inevitable software problems.

And in a moment of O.C.D. we decided to eliminate all references to the daily habit of tea-time in the British Isles. It suddenly seemed too difficult to decide whether or not the increasingly technical lives we lead would have time for such an old custom. Eliminating all references to tea time was perhaps the silliest rewrite. But it explains, better than anything else, the straight-jacket effect of writing in the near-future.

This is only one aspect of the difficulty we found in writing twenty-five years into the future.

(3) TROPE CONSERVATION. Peter McLean on “Why We Shouldn’t Hunt The Trope To Extinction” at Black Gate.

The poor old trope had had a lot of bad press in recent years. A lot of people seem to want to deconstruct the little critter, or subvert it or discredit it. Basically people seem to want to hunt the trope to extinction, and I think that’s unfortunate.

Now I agree some members of the trope herd have got a bit long in the tooth and are probably due for culling. No one really needs to read another fantasy novel where a simple farmboy turns out to be the Chosen One / Long Lost Heir who is foretold by prophecy and destined to save the world, do they? No, so the “Farmboy” trope is probably due to meet the huntsman, and I think the “Damsel in Distress” has probably had her day too.

You very rarely if ever see these tropes in modern fantasy now, and that’s because everyone got sick of them. An overused trope can eventually outstay its welcome and evolve into a cliché, a completely different critter, and that’s when the huntsmen need to come after it. And that’s fine. The world moves on, as Stephen King would say.

But I don’t think we should tar the whole herd of tropes with the same brush just because some of them get old and go bad. Healthy tropes can be useful little critters. Tropes are what help to stop every novel being 1000 pages long.

(4) A SCALZI FIRST. “On The Wall,” John Scalzi’s first zombie story, co-written with Dave Klecha, appears in Black Tide Rising, the zombie apocalypse anthology edited by John Ringo and Gary Poole. The book is due in stores June 7, however, Baen Books has the eARC on sale right now For $15.

(5) ATTEND ZOMBIE TECH. Amazon is hosting a Zombie Apocalypse Workshop, where you can learn to apply Amazon Web Services technology to recover from the end of civilization. Bring your own laptop and shotgun.

Apocalypse Workshop: Building Serverless Microservices – Washington D.C.

Note: The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has recruited sufficient volunteers for our mission, and all registrants from now until March 10th will be placed on a recruit waitlist. Waitlisted recruits will be admitted if space permits on a first-come, first-serve basis so please arrive early.

Scenario: Zombies have taken over major metropolitan areas. The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has built a communications system to connect the remaining survivors.

Learn how AWS Lambda provides a platform for building event-driven microservices, all without the need to provision, manage, and scale servers. In this workshop, we will introduce the basics of building serverless microservices using AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon S3.

(6) CAN ALTERNATE HISTORY BECOME DATED? Fantasy Literature reviewer Marion Deeds, in 1632: The tale is dated but I love its exuberance”,  makes it hard to figure out why there are (by her count) 23 books in this popular series. (And she may not know about the 1632 conventions…)

Flint lets us know in the prologue of 1632 that there’s going to be no discussion of quantum physics, magical portals, of clicking our heels together and going home. The story is an exciting live-action role-playing game with a small force of Americans who completely outgun the competition. The competition are evil mercenaries, so we don’t have to feel sorry for them as they are chopped down like a summer lawn under the blades of a riding mower.

There are also a few other things that are not going to be problems for twentieth-century people dumped into the seventeenth century. Here’s a short list: no one’s going to struggle with a sense of psychic displacement or post-traumatic stress; no one’s going to pine for family or loved ones left behind; no one’s going to question the basic premise that they are stuck in the 1630s. No one is going to turn, irrationally, on another group; no one is going to scapegoat anyone; no one’s going to have a spiritual crisis.

A few more things no one in the new America is going to have to worry about: sufficient food, clean water, sanitation, electrical power, medicine, radios or even TV, except they do have to create their own programming. That’s because all that stuff came with them. They have their own coal vein, and Grantsville landed next to a river in Europe, so they have water and fuel for steam power. The area had its own power plant and three machine shops, several doctors and a jewelry store, so that as the various couples hook up, they can all get wedding-ring sets. It’s nice. Knowing they can’t maintain their current level of technology for too long, the Americans decide to “gear down,” and convert to steam power, settling at late-eighteenth/early nineteenth century tech. This is smart. All of this clears away survival-level problems so that Flint can get on with what’s important; those battles.

(7) RICHARD DAVALOS OBIT. Best known for roles in East of Eden and Cool Hand Luke, actor Richard Davalos died March 8 at the age of 85. He also was in genre films The Cabinet of Caligari (1962) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). And he was the grandfather of actress Alexa Davalos, who stars in Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle.

(8) MICHAEL WHITE OBIT. Rocky Horror and Monty Python producer Michael White died March 9.

His theatre production credits included the West End premieres of The Rocky Horror Show, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and A Chorus Line.

Born in Glasgow, White began his theatrical career in London’s West End producing plays such as Annie and The Rocky Horror Show.

He later went on to produce films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1978, and those which have achieved cult status such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is still regularly screened in cinemas.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1876 — Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first telephone message to his assistant in the next room: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” (It is not true that the second telephone message was, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can…?”)
  • March 10, 1997 — The CW premiered Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is an oral tradition that Buffy inspired the creation of the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short) Hugo category, and it did receive a couple of nominations before it went off the air.

(10) RABID PUPPIES. After a brief hiatus, Vox Day resumed announcing his slate with “Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novelette”.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novelette category.

  • “Flashpoint: Titan”, Kai Wai Cheah
  • “Folding Beijing”, Hao Jingfang
  • “What Price Humanity?”, David VanDyke
  • “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”, Chuck Tingle
  • “Obits”, Stephen King

We have been repeatedly informed that homophobia and the lack of diversity is a serious problem in science fiction, and speaking as the leader of Rabid Puppies, I could not agree more. The decades of discrimination against gay dinosaur love in space by the science fiction community stops now, and it stops here!

Let’s face it, there are just three words to describe the only event that might happen in 2016 that I can imagine would be more spectacularly awesome than “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” winning a Hugo Award this year, and those three words are “President-elect Donald Trump”.

(11) HUGO LOVE. Joe Sherry at Nerds of a Feather: “My Favorite Stories Don’t Get Nominated: A Hugo Love Story”.

I love the Hugo Awards because in becoming part of the WSFS I get to add one small voice to the multitude and help pick the nominees for the five best novels / stories / whatevers. In 2014, artist Joey Hi-Fi was one nominating vote from making the final ballot for Best Professional Artist and becoming an official Hugo Award Nominee….

Collectively, a bunch of people who love science fiction and fantasy come together and say that these, these novels and stories and artists and fans – this is the best of what I read and watched last year. These are some of the best of what the genre has produced.

Then, when the nominations come out and also after the awards are given, we can all sit back and think…what the hell is everyone else thinking? Why are they so wrong? That book is terrible and this book that I loved is so much better.

Of course my opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Of course this is true. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of people who are just like me except that their taste in great fiction isn’t quite the same disagreed. Or, maybe what I loved was their sixth favorite story and they can only nominate five. Or maybe they just never read it because holy crap there is a lot of stuff published every year. I read a LOT and I don’t even scratch the surface of what’s out there. What the Hugo Awards allows me to do is be part of a group where everyone looks at what they read and tries to figure out what the best of that is – and then collectively, the numbers come together and a ballot is produced.

I love the Hugo Awards even when everyone else obviously gets it wrong because at its heart, the Hugo Award nominees are selected by a group of fans who are passionate about science fiction and fantasy. It’s a group of fans who, ideally with no agenda beyond love of genre, point to something they love and say “this, this is awesome.”

(12) LOOSELY WRAPPED. Kate Paulk has a small update on what Puppies can expect at MidAmeriCon II at Mad Genius Club.

Planning for the Puppy Presence at Worldcon continues under wraps until we have things sufficiently stable to make an announcement. The goal there is to be at the convention, have fun (lots of fun), and meet friends face to face. If I can arrange it there will be a PuppyGate in honor of the Jeopardy question and visitors will have to cross the PuppyGate to enter the fun zone.

(13) TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THAT OTHER THING. Attorney-at-Work blogger Jared Correia finds an excuse to write about a favorite show – “The Truth Is in Here: Lawyer Lessons Buried in ‘The X-Files’”:

The point is that Duchovny did not again discover wide popularity until he made it back to TV, for his turn as debauched author Hank Moody, on Showtime’s “Californication.” Now “Californication” has wrapped, and he’s back on “The X-Files.” Accepting that Mulder was the best role that he’s had, and coming back around to it, feeling at home in it, is the best end for his story.

Sometimes, you can take the circuitous route back to where you belong — but, there’s something to be said for recognizing that you should never have left in the first place.

I don’t think Jared Correia is any relation to Larry, although the click-through ad over Jared’s column “The way attorneys get paid” is very Larry-esque.

(14) GREEN PLANET. CBBC answers the question “Could vegetables grow on Mars?”

The team wanted to find out what could we grown if humans try to live on Mars in the future.

Although they didn’t have real Martian soil, they used dirt supplied by Nasa, which was taken from a Hawaiian volcano that’s thought to be very similar….

But there’s still a long way to go – no one ate the experimental vegetables, because substances in the soil including arsenic and mercury might have made them poisonous.

Now the team are trying to find a way to grow vegetables that are safe to eat.

Wait a minute. So there would have been arsenic in Watney’s potatoes…?

(15) MAD SNACKS. An aeropress is a thing for making coffee. The 2016 Australian AeroPress Championship will be held March 17 —

Australian Aeropress poster COMP

On the night, Australia’s best brewers will be stirring, steeping and pressing coffee generously supplied by Condesa and roasted by the punks at PMC.

Inspired by the Thunderdome of Mad Max, there’ll be beers, industrial disco balls, heaps of food (unlike the Thunderdome), a DJ in full Mad Max dress (not conformed) and, no doubt, some crazy revellers (confirmed), but weirdly the original Mad Max, Mel Gibson, declined the offer to MC.

(16) PUPPY IN ORBIT. Galactic Journey’s time traveler has the latest (really late) space program news in “[Mar. 10, 1961] Dog and Puppy Show (Sputnik 9)”.

We are definitely not far away from a person in space.  The Soviets launched another of their five-ton spaceships into orbit.  We’re calling it Sputnik 9; who knows what they call it?  On board was just one dog this time, name of Chernushka, who was recovered successfully after an unknown number of orbits.  It is pretty clear that the vessel that carried Chernushka is the equivalent of our Mercury capsule, and once the Russians have gotten the bugs out of the ship, you can bet there will be a human at the controls.

This is not to say that the American program is standing still—one of our astronauts may go up on a suborbital jaunt as early as next month.  But the Atlas booster, the big one that can put a man in orbit, won’t be ready until the end of the year, at the earliest.

(17) A WRITER WHO WELDS. No, it’s not the Emergency Backup Hugo – it’s Nancy Jane Moore’s “Post-Apocalyptic Spaceship”, at Book View Café .

(18) THE ROCKET’S BLUE GLARE. The New York Times has a story on Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’ private space program — “Jeff Bezos Lifts Veil on His Rocket Company, Blue Origin”.

Blue Origin is part of a shift of the space business from NASA and aerospace behemoths like Lockheed Martin toward private industry, especially smaller entrepreneurial companies. Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, founded by another Internet entrepreneur, Elon Musk, has been the most visible and most successful of the new generation of rocket companies. Last Friday, it launched another satellite to orbit, but an attempt to land the booster on a floating platform again ended in an explosion.

Much more quietly, Blue Origin has also had big space dreams, but until now did not give outsiders a look at what it was doing.

For almost four hours, Mr. Bezos, who only occasionally talks to the press, led 11 reporters on a tour of the factory and answered a litany of questions over lunch. He talked garrulously, his speech punctured by loud laughs. “It’s my total pleasure. I hope you can sense that I like this,” he said.

He described an image on a wall in the company’s central area, which showed two tortoises holding an hourglass and gazing upward at a stylized image of the planets and cosmos. Below is Blue Origin’s motto: “Gradatim ferociter,” Latin for “step by step, ferociously” — no cutting of corners, but no dillydallying, either. “You can do the steps quickly, but you can’t skip any steps,” Mr. Bezos said.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Seth Gordon, Will R., and Tom Galloway for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

BookViewCafe Contest at SF Signal

SFSignal.com is giving away two copies of the e-book, The Shadow Conspiracy, a steampunk anthology from Book View Press edited by Phyllis Irene Radford and Laura Anne Gilman.

The Shadow Conspiracy is a collection of stories set on alternative earth. The press release says this earth is “a place powered by steam and magic.” Wasn’t Bruce Jay Friedman the last writer to work with this concept? But seriously, folks…

This world takes off from a gathering of four poets on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816, and provides a setting for stories by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Sarah Zettel, Steven Harper, Pati Nagle, Jennifer Stevenson,  Nancy Jane Moore, Brenda Clough, Judith Tarr, and Irene Radford.

Available Formats include PDF, EPUB, Mobi, .prc, .lrf, and .lit.

For a chance to win a free copy, visit the SFSignal contest page. The contest ends Wednesday, February 24, 11 p.m. US Central Time.