Pixel Scroll 3/31/19 Those Who Do Not Learn Their Pixel Scrolls Are Doomed To Repeat Them

(1) HARD SF FOR HARD MONEY. In a field where a lot of magazines release their content free, you wonder how they survive. Here’s one answer to that question.Compelling Science Fiction editor Joe Stech says “Compelling Science Fiction is going to a paid subscription model”.

I’m proud that over the last three years we’ve released 63 phenomenal stories and paid professional rates to 57 wonderful authors. However, over the last three years I’ve also spent a significant amount of money keeping the magazine afloat. Year one I spent a lot, and years two and three leveled out to almost break-even (but revenue stopped growing). Based on these numbers, I’ve decided that I need to go to a subscription-only model to keep the magazine strong and growing.

(2) ANNE BUJOLD ART. Lois McMaster Bujold wrote on Facebook –

Recently, the work of my daughter Anne Bujold, presently an artist-in-residence at the Appalachian Center for Craft, was showcased by the local TV folks. They did an excellent job, I thought. The segment is now up on YouTube:

(3) EXPLOSIVE TOPIC. Steve Davidson is peeved at anyone who would call A. Bertram Chandler’s books “popcorn” reading:

I don’t care what anyone says: A. Bertram Chandler’s works are not “popcorn”.
Popcorn does not win awards, except at popcorn festivals…

Two of his stories are the UR tales for “humans locked in an alien zoo (The Cage) and “mutated rats take over” (Giant Killer); both were frequently included in anthologies of SF through the 80s.

Harlan Ellison was so impressed with his short story Frontier of the Dark that he talked ‘Jack’ into expanding it into a novel; then, when Chandler admitted he didn’t have his own copy of the original manuscript, Ellison pulled his copy of Astounding and sent it off (and the novel was written)

He wrote about major social issues in the 60s, well before they became mainstream…

(4) A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY. Eric Flint preceded a very brief political opinion with a long introduction about why he rarely talks politics on Facebook. (See the opinion at the link.)

I don’t usually post political comments on my Facebook page for the same reason I don’t use my novels to expound my own political philosophy.

In a nutshell, It’s false advertising. My novels (and other pieces of fiction) purport to be entertainment, not political screeds. If I want to write political screeds, nothing prevents me from doing so. In point of fact, I _have_ written political screeds. Plenty of them. If you were to compile my various political writings done in the quarter of a century or so when I was a socialist activist, they would add up to several volumes worth.

But I wasn’t trying to make a living from those political writings, and so I didn’t try to pass them off to the unsuspecting public as “entertainment.” I didn’t do it then, and I’m not about to do it now.

Albeit watered down, I feel somewhat the same way with regard to my Facebook page….

(5) GENRE INFERIORITY COMPLEX.The Guardian’s Sam Jordison convinces himself this is no longer an issue: “‘Screw the snobbish literati’: was Kurt Vonnegut a science-fiction writer?”

I’m willing to concede that people may see things differently. The New York Times obituary may have been fulsome in its praise for Vonnegut, but it also noted that publishing Slaughterhouse-Five helped him to “shed the label of science fiction writer”. Vonnegut was painfully aware of this stigma; in an essay called Science Fiction, he wrote: “I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labelled ‘science fiction’ … and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.”

(6) KURT AND RAY. Open Culture remembers when they had TV shows on the same year — “Discover Ray Bradbury & Kurt Vonnegut’s 1990s TV Shows: The Ray Bradbury Theater and Welcome to the Monkey House.

…I never know exactly when to take Vonnegut seriously. He also calls TV everybody’s “rotten teacher” and says “I’m sorry television exists,” but he had long been a TV writer in its “so-called golden days,” as John Goudas put it in a Los Angeles Times interview with Vonnegut in 1993, when his seven-episode run of Kurt Vonnegut’s Monkey House, hosted by himself, would soon come to a close. Vonnegut found himself very pleased by the results, remarking of his stories that “TV can do them very well,” and especially praising “More Stately Mansions,” above, starring an irrepressible Madeline Kahn, whom he called “a superb actress.”

Another very direct, witty speculative writer in the same year’s issue of The Cable Guide, Ray Bradbury, appeared with Vonnegut as part of two “dueling, short features,” notes Nick Greene at Mental Floss, “under the auspices of promoting the authors’ upcoming cable specials,” Monkey House and The Ray Bradbury Theater. Bradbury was also an old media hand, having written for radio in the 50s, and seeing adaptations of his stories made since that decade, including one on Alfred Hitchcock’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Like Hitchcock, when it came time for his own show, The Ray Bradbury Theater in 1985, Bradbury introduced the episodes and became a public face for thousands of viewers….

(7) WHEN I’M (IN) ’64. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas reacts to the adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel: “[March 31, 1964] 7 Faces and 7 Places (The movie, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao)”.

If you saw my review of Finney’s Circus of Dr. Lao back on June 16, 1962 you would know why I went to such (literally) lengths to see this movie.  It did not disappoint, but I did object to the interpolations of a soppy romance and a hackneyed Western takeover-the-town plot.  The “Circus” was filmed, according to sources, on the MGM back lots, although some of those Culver City hills must be pretty rough if that’s so.  My theory is that filming on location was out due to the many roles of Tony Randall, who plays Dr. Lao, the Abominable Snowman, Merlin, Apollonius of Tyana, Pan, The Giant Serpent, and Medusa.  All those makeup and costume changes (to say nothing of any other cast) must have needed the workshop of famed makeup artist William Tuttle and a large selection of MGM costumes, as well as (not credited) costumer Robert Fuca.

(8) SFF EVENT IN LISBON. Free admission to Contacto 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal on April 4-5.

Imaginauta (a literary publisher of speculative fiction), in partnership with the Library of Marvila and BLX, the Libraries of the Network of Municipal Library of Lisbon are pleased to present the 2nd Edition of Contact – Literary Festival of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

FREE ENTRY FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY

Come live two days filled with activities for whom a world just is not enough.

– Book Fair

– Book Launching

– Sessions with Portuguese authors

– Thematic areas (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Steampunk)

– Board games and narratives

– Speeches

– Movie theater

– Stories Counters

– Exhibitions

– Live performances

– Stand-up comedy

– Medieval Bar

– Activities for schools

Come join the new generation of science fiction and fantasy!

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse Five, published.
  • March 31, 1987Max Headroom made his television premiere.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 31, 1844 Andrew Lang. To say that he is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales is a bit of understatement. He collected enough tales that twenty five volumes of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books  for children were published between 1889 and 1913. That’s 798 stories. If you’re interested in seeing these stories, you can find them here. (Died 1912.)
  • Born March 31, 1932 John Jakes, 87. Author of a number of genre series including Brak the Barbarian. The novels seem to fix-ups from works published in such venues as Fantastic. Dark Gate and Dragonard are his other two series. As  Robert Hart Davis, he wrote a number of The Man From UNCLE novellas that were published in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The magazine apparently only existed from 1966 to 1968.
  • Born March 31, 1934 Richard Chamberlain, 85. His first dive into our end of reality was in The Three Musketeers as Aramis, a role he reprised in The Return of Three Musketeers. (I consider all Musketeer films to be genre.) some of you being cantankerous may argue it was actually when he played the title character in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold which he did some years later. He listed as voicing the Jack Kirby created character Highfather on the superb Justice League: Gods and Monsters but that was but a few lines of dialogue I believe. He was in the Blackbeard series as Governor Charles Eden, and series wise has done the usual one-offs on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsBoris Karloff’s Thriller, Chuck and Twin Peaks
  • Born March 31, 1936 Marge Piercy, 83. Author of He, She and It which garnered won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction novel. Of course she also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time doomed to be called “classic of utopian speculative sf”. 
  • Born March 31, 1943 Christopher Walken, 76. Yet another performer whose first role was in The Three Musketeers, this time as a minor character, John Felton. He has a minor role in The Sentinel, a horror film, and a decidedly juicy one in Trumbull’s Brainstorm as Dr. Michael Anthony Brace followed up by being in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone as Johnny Smith. Damn, I’d forgotten he was Max Zorin, the villain in A View to a Kill! H’h, didn’t know he was in Gibson’s New Rose Hotel but then I haven’t then I haven’t actually seen it yet. And let’s wrap this up by noting his appearance in The Stepford Wives as Mike Wellington.
  • Born March 31, 1960 Ian McDonald, 59. I see looking him up for this Birthday note that one of my favorite novels by him, Desolation Road, was first one. Ares Express was just as splendid. Now the Chaga saga was, errr, weird. Everness was fun but ultimately shallow, Strongly recommend both Dervish House and River of Gods. Luna series at first blush didn’t impress me, so other opinions sought. 
  • Born March 31, 1962 Michael Benson. 57. Author of Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece. His earlier book Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes featured an intro by Clarke. Benson is an artist and journalist who also mounts shows of astronomical art and who advocates for such things as keeping the Hubble telescope operating. His site is here.
  • Born March 31, 1971 Ewan McGregor, 48. Nightwatch, a horror film, with him as lead Martin Bell is his first true genre film.  That was followed by The Phantom Menace and him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role repeated in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. His latest role of interest, well to me if to nobody else, is as Christopher Robin in the film of the same name.

(11) US AT A GLANCE. Camestros Felapton is back from the multiplex — “Review: Us (spoiler free)”.

So I like horror best in small doses. I like a taste of it, circumscribed by the way horror overlaps with other genres (thrillers, fantasy and science-fiction). So I probably shouldn’t have gone to see Us.

Jordan Peele’s first film Get Out, was just about the right ratio for me. Undoubtedly scary and tense but also full of interesting ideas. The final premise was knowingly absurd and tapped into that rich seam of conspiratorial mythology of secret societies and grand sinister designs of powerful people.

Us has all of that and quite a lot more. There are no shortage of horror movie tropes in the film, indeed at a given moment the film plays along with standard styles of horror movie but only for awhile and then it moves on….

(12) PERMAFROST. At Rapid Transmissions, Joseph Hurtgen reviews Alastair Reynolds’ Permafrost and finds the parallels with La Jetee — and 12 Monkeys by way of La Jetee — are hard to miss, and make the book enjoyable.

The book wrangles a great deal over the time paradox. The time paradox wrangling is enough to make your head spin and the characters in the novel throw up more than once as a result of time travel paradox complications.

Paradoxically, Reynolds never has the characters reflect on the absurdity of humans developing futuristic technologies–nuclear power, time travel, artificial intelligence–while persisting in myopia about their impact on the environment. Reynolds isn’t treading new material here, Asimov discussed the problem of science’s interest in doing science over and above environmental concerns in The God’s Themselves (1972). But Reynolds’ story is quick, fun, and is sure to give you the feels. 

(13) A WORD FROM SOMEBODY’S SPONSOR. Daniel Dern writes:

I don’t know if this qualifies as a “Meredith Moment,” but, via KinjaDeals via io9, you can get 2 months of Kindle Unlimited for $1/month, before it automatically goes to the normal $10/month — not as cheap as the free 1-month trial, but good for 2x as long. I’ll be giving it a try, soon. (The deal is available for another month or so, but I’ll probably sign up today or tomorrow)

More info at the post: “Turn Off the Internet and Read Some Damn Books – Kindle Unlimited Is $1 For Two Months”.

(14) MORE DC. As announced this weekend at WonderCon: “DC Universe Unveils Expanded Digital Comics Library, STARGIRL Suit, & More at WonderCon!”

At no extra charge or increase in the price of a subscription, DC Universe subscribers will be able to enjoy access to DC’s enormous digital comics library, starting in April of 2019. (Each of these comics will appear at least 12 months after it was first published). That’s over 20 thousand comic books!

Daniel Dern notes: “This brings DC/U closer to Marvel’s streaming offering, which is ‘many comics each week once they’re at least 6 months old’ and 25,000+ comics. I’ll know (somewhat) more once I log onto my DC/U account and browse.”

(15) PUT ON YOUR AVENGERS FACE. Yahoo! enthuses: “Ulta and Marvel Are Launching an Avengers Makeup Collection, and the Prices Are Heroic”.

The star of the collection is arguably the Eyeshadow Palette (above), which includes 15 colors — mostly shimmers with a few mattes thrown in — for just $20. Under a lid that reads “Courageous. Tenacious. Fearless. Legendary,” you’ll find the aptly named shades Hero Vibes (copper shimmer), Games Changer (burnished gold), Save The World (champagne shimmer), Amazed (cream matte), Gauntlet (burgundy shimmer), Super Charged (mauve taupe matte), Out Of This, World (khaki brown shimmer), Last Shot (vanilla shimmer), Cosmic (eggplant shimmer), Smash (olive green shimmer), Legend (dirty aqua shimmer), Reassemble (smoky navy matte, I’ve Got This (ivory shimmer), Built For Battle (peach nude shimmer), and Fearless (moss graphite shimmer).

(16) WE THE FUTURE PEOPLE. In “Sci-Fi Writers Are Imagining a Path Back to Normality”, WIRED touches base with contributors to the anthology A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams

Tobias S. Buckell on metaphors:

Nora K. Jemisin was just saying on Twitter the other day that in science fiction we have this venerable tradition of using metaphor to dig at some of these problems—like race and power and structure and history—and that it’s been a mistake, because in the past we would always use the metaphor assuming that our fellow readers and fans of the genre were following along, getting the metaphor, and it turns out that they weren’t. In other words, you needed to be way more in-your-face and say, ‘This is what I’m trying to say.’ Because they were looking at a metaphor of an alien that is powerless and out on the fringes of society—and that that society was being racist toward, and things like that—and then when they were done with that story they’d say, ‘That poor alien,’ and they’d never make the implicit connection.”

(17) ARMSTRONG’S PURSE. Space.com shares a flock of photos as “Smithsonian Debuts Apollo 11 ’50 Years from Tranquility Base’ Exhibit”.

The Apollo 11 “50 Years from Tranquility Base” display case was installed on Monday (March 25) at the Washington, D.C. museum, opposite its Space Race gallery on the first floor. The exhibit offers a look at almost two dozen artifacts that flew on board the July 1969 Apollo 11 mission that landed Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the Sea of Tranquility on the surface of the moon.

“’50 Years from Tranquility Base: Humanity’s First Visit to Another World’ highlights some of the smaller artifacts the crew needed to live and work on their way to and on the moon. Of particular interest are Neil Armstrong’s Omega chronograph, which hasn’t been on public display for over 20 years at least, and some of the items found in Armstrong’s purse,” said Jennifer Levasseur, a curator in the space history division of the National Air and Space Museum.

(18) TIME LORD. Beautiful video: “The guardian of the sands of time”.

Adrian Rodriguez Cozzani has a passion for time, the way it flows and the way we keep track of it. For nearly 30 years he has been crafting beautiful hourglasses and sundials by hand in his small workshop in Trastevere, a colourful neighbourhood in Rome, Italy.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/19 Submitted For Your Pixelation

(1) HOW TO AVOID MUSHROOM-SHAPED CLOUDS. Charlie Jane Anders argues in the Washington Post that, with the likelihood of “devastating nuclear conflict” starting to rise, popular culture creators should deal with the possibility of atomic attack in the tradition of Wargames, The Terminator, and Dr. Strangelove: “Pop culture is no longer full of apocalyptic nuclear visions. That’s too bad.”

Let’s hope pop culture starts to warn us once again. Pfeiffer says the challenge of talking about the risk of nuclear holocaust is to raise enough awareness to galvanize people to take small, constructive steps — but not so much that people become paralyzed with anxiety over the enormity of the threat.

The good news is, fictional portrayals of nuclear conflagration don’t have to rehash the same old story lines; it’s no longer just a matter of the United States and the Soviet Union staring each other down. And it’s not merely rogue states that pose a risk, either. There are many ways a possible misunderstanding, including one induced by a rogue hacker, could lead to a nuclear strike.

(2) FLASH CROWD DEPARTS. Books Beyond Binaries chronicles the sudden meltdown of a Book Riot paid subscription group in “Book Riot Breakup/down”.

… The forum was a Slack (see how Slack works), hosted on the free version of the platform, and capped at 275 Epic subscribers, plus the Book Riot staff, and some contributors. Separate Slacks exist that are exclusively for Book Riot contributors, and for staff only. The Slack was active, and many Epic subscribers joined specifically for access to that exclusive community…

On February 12, 2019, a new platform-wide Book Riot policy was announced by a moderator in the General channel of the BRI Slack. At the time that the announcement was made, there were 397 members in the channel, which had the description, “mayhem and anarchy”. One section of the new policy was specifically highlighted by the mod: going forward, no generalizations made about any group of people would be tolerated in the “public” channels on the Slack – that is those spaces open to all paid Epic subscribers. The examples of “groups of people” that were given were specifically “men”, and “Republicans”. As soon as the announcement was made, the moderators began to delete custom emoji that users had created in the forum, including one that read, “WHY ARE MEN”.

…On February 20th, at 2:30 PM, an Email went out to Insiders, the subject line of which read, “An Epic Announcement.” The same message was posted to the General channel of the BRI Slack. The full message can be read here. The announcement was that the Epic Insiders Slack – the only interactive element of the “exclusive digital hangout for the Book Riot community” – was being shut down on Friday, February 22nd, 2019, at 5 PM. Ten days after the announcement of a violent and oppressive policy, the company doubled down again. Rather than learning from the feedback of their financial supporters and engaged community members, they chose to delete the space they had created for them, and any record of what they had chosen to do….

(3) SCHAUDENFREUDE? Reason says that Kosoko Jackson participated in the Twitter takedown of Amélie Zhao, but now YA Twitter has found his own book fatally lacking: “He Was Part of a Twitter Mob That Attacked Young Adult Novelists. Then It Turned on Him. Now His Book Is Cancelled.”

Until recently, Kosoko Jackson’s website described him as “a vocal champion of diversity in YA [young adult] literature, the author of YA novels featuring African American queer protagonists, and a sensitivity reader for Big Five Publishers.” Jackson is black and gay—this matters here, a lot—and was preparing for the release of his debut young adult novel, A Place for Wolves, an adventure-romance between two young men set against the backdrop of the Kosovo War. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Code Name Verity in this heartbreaking and poignant story of survival,” read the publicity materials. The book [was] slated for release on March 26.

… “Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons—sometimes before anybody’s even read them,” Vulture‘s Kat Rosenfield wrote in the definitive must-read piece on this strange and angry internet community. The call-outs, draggings, and pile-ons almost always involve claims that books are insensitive with regard to their treatment of some marginalized group, and the specific charges, as Rosenfield showed convincingly, often don’t seem to warrant the blowups they spark—when they make any sense at all.

But surely Jackson, an enforcer of social justice norms and a gay black man writing about gay black protagonist should have been safe, right?

Instead, it all came crashing down quite quickly. As with any internet outrage, it’s hard to know exactly what sparked it, but a major turning point came in the form of a quote-retweet. “HEY HOW ABOUT WE DONT PROMOTE OR SUPPORT BOOKS ABOUT A ROMANCE BETWEEN AND THE VICTIMIZATION OF 2 AMERICANS, SET DURING A REAL LIFE HISTORICAL GENOCIDE WHERE THE VILLAIN IS PART OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC THAT WAS ETHNICALLY CLEANSED,” read the tweet, which was published on February 25 and which, as of when I screencapped it, had 164 retweets—a sizable number for YA Twitter, which generally consists of relatively low-follower accounts.

… Part of what makes this story so interesting is that Kosoko himself has been on the other side of these online attacks on authors.

He was outspoken during a particularly intense recent example, when a campaign based on misunderstanding and exaggeration led the author Amélie Zhao to take the unusual step of agreeing to cancel the publication of Blood Heir, her hotly anticipated debut novel, which was set to be the first in a trilogy….

(4) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. Delish advises “This Game of Thrones Beer Is The Only Thing You Should Be Drinking At Your Premiere Party”.

Season after season, Brewery Ommegang has dropped their Game of Thrones-themed beer, because how else would we have survived the emotional turmoil of Khal Drogo’s death? (Personally coping with the Cersei-inspired Sour Blonde, how ’bout you?) Now the brewing co. that brought us Hand of the Queen Ale and Mother of Dragons Porter is releasing For The Throne—and it’s coming just in time for your premiere party.

(5) SO YOU WANT A NEBULA? Jim C. Hines guides writers through the rocks and shoals of sff’s top two awards in “How to Get Nominated For a Nebula or Hugo”. Here’s an extract –

Logrolling/Vote-Swapping

“Psst. Hey, buddy — I’ll nominate your book for the Nebula if you nominate mine!”

It happens. I don’t think it happens as much as it used to, though I don’t have hard data one way or the other.

It’s also, in my opinion, pretty dickish. This approach may get you some extra nominations. It will also quickly get you a reputation as That Author, the one who doesn’t give a damn about whether or not a book is any good, and just wants to cheat their way onto the ballot.

Technically, it may not be cheating — but while this approach might not violate the letter of the rules, it’s pretty blatantly cheating the spirit of the thing. And it’s unlikely to win you an award.

(6) ANOTHER PROTIP. J.A. Sutherland tells how making book recommendations fits into his overall publicity strategy. Thread starts here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs.  An illustrator known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of  his fathers books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations. He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1934 H. Bruce Franklin, 75. Academic, editor of the Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century anthology, Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction and the sixth chapter of  Nancy R. Reagin’s Star Trek and History anthology.
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yes, that novel. It obviously served as the basis for the 1976 film by Nicolas Roeg, The Man Who Fell to Earth, with Bowie as star, as well as a later television adaptation which I’d never heard of. He also wrote Mockingbird which was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel. James Sallis reviewed both novels in F&SF. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1948 Bernadette Peters, 71. Performer, stage, film and television, so this is selected look at her. She was A Witch in Into the Woods on Broadway and reprised the role in a tv film. It is a Stephen Sondheim musical based on the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. She’s in The Martian Chronicles as Genevieve Seltzer. She does a lot of voice acting, to wit in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted ChristmasWakko’s WishLegends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, Rita, a recurring role on the Animaniacs and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The most recent genre role I see her doing is Circe on The Odyssey series several back. 
  • Born February 28, 1966 Philip Reeve,53. He is primarily known for the Mortal Engines and its sequels. Look the film is proof that an author can’t be held responsible for a shitty film. I read Mortal EnginesPredator’s Gold and Infernal Devices before deciding that was enough of that series, it’s a fine series, it just wasn’t developing enough to warrant me reading any more of it.
  • Born February 28, 1957 John Barnes, 62. I read and like the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like?
  • Born February 28, 1969 Murray Gold, 50. English composer who is best known as the musical director and composer for Doctor Who from 2005 until he stepped down after the tenth series aired. He also composed the music for The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood as well.
  • Born February 28, 1970 Lemony Snicket, 49. He’s the author of several children’s books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though I’ve read the books, they’re very popular I’m told at my local bookstore. It has been turned into a film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and into a Netflix series as well which is named, oh you guess. 
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 42. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exist and does a damn fine job of doing so.

(8) TL;DR. You’ll get a kick out of the “TL;DR Wikipedia” on Instagram (or on Twitter.)

(9) SON OF STARMAN. You may recall that, when SpaceX launched Elon Musk’s personal Tesla automobile into stellar orbit, they had a spacesuit-wearing dummy—dubbed Starman—aboard. In a sort of repeat of that, SpaceX plans to put another spacesuit wearing dummy into the test capsule for Crew Dragon they are launching to the ISS this weekend. (Assuming the schedule holds this time.) Space.com has the story—”SpaceX Is Launching a Spacesuit-Clad Dummy on 1st Crew Dragon.”

Starman is about to get some off-Earth company. 

When SpaceX launches its first Crew Dragon capsule on an uncrewed test mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this Saturday (March 2), the vehicle will be carrying a passenger of sorts: a humanoid dummy wearing the company’s sleek black-and-white spacesuit. 

Such a suit also graces the inert body of Starman, the mannequin driver of the red Tesla Roadster that SpaceX launched into orbit around the sun last year on the maiden flight of the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket.

(10) OPEN IN QUESO EMERGENCY. An Israeli company’s mission to the Moon is taking a backup of Earth’s knowledge. SpaceX added a cheesy addendum to that package. (Fast Company: “Why SpaceX is helping Austin, Texas, send a queso recipe to the moon”.)

When SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off last week, it carried an Israeli-made moonshot, The Lunar Library, and a letter offering aliens unlimited queso.

The offer was made by Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, who wrote a letter to potential queso-loving extraterrestrials inviting them to visit (or move to) Austin, writing: “Y’all are most definitely welcome here in Austin, Texas.”

However, if a visit to the Lone Star State wasn’t in the cards, Adler also sent along a recipe from Austin’s Kerbey Lane café to make their own cheese-and-chile queso, presumably from the blue cheese that the moon is made out of. “Have you heard of queso?” Adler asks in the letter. “Have you tried it? Do it. Do it now.” If the aliens happen to prefer a plant-based diet, Kerbey Lane does offer a vegan queso option.

(11) PRACTICALLY MAGIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The BBC Click channel on YouTube has a story of how many of the special effects in First Man were produced (“First Man (2018) | Behind the Scenes of Neil Armstrong Biopic Movie”). They used a clever mixture of in-camera “practical” effects and now-traditional post-production digital effects. The in-camera effects were produced using a frickin’ enormous curved video wall to provide backdrops for flying scenes. Benefits of that included not having to digitally add reflections post-production and giving actors something other than a blue screen to react to doing filming. Digital effects included expanding square-formatted archival footage on each side to provide modern wide aspect-ratio film while preserving the real thing in the middle.

(12) BRITBOX. The BBC, home to Doctor Who, Blakes 7Sherlock, The Survivors, etc, are in the “concluding phase of talks” to create a rival to Netflix: “BBC and ITV set to launch Netflix rival”.

BBC director general Tony Hall said the aim was to launch “BritBox” in the UK the second half of 2019.

The price was not announced but Lord Hall said it would be “competitive”.

ITV’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall said it would be home for the “best of British creativity”.

There are reports it could cost £5 a month.  BBC I-Player is already the second most popular streaming service in the British Isles after Netflix.

(13) MEJIA’S FIRST NOVEL. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “‘We Set The Dark On Fire’ Burns Bright”.

Tehlor Kay Mejia’s debut novel We Set the Dark on Fire aims to burn it all down.

Daniela is graduating at the top of her class at the Medio School for Girls, an elite institution that trains girls to be wives. Divided into two groups — Primeras and Segundas, Dani and her classmates know that they will be offered in pairs to the rich young men whose families can afford to pay their dowries. Primeras like Dani are preparing to be skilled life-partners and social managers, while Segundas, like her nemesis Carmen, are destined to be objects of beauty and desire and bear children.

When Dani is chosen as Primera for the son of Medio’s chief military strategist — who is rumored to be next in line for the presidency — she is fulfilling the destiny that she and her family have sacrificed so much to obtain. But instead of being elated, Dani is filled with dread. Two days before graduation, her deepest secret almost comes out: She was born on the wrong side of the wall that protects Medio from society’s poor and disenfranchised, and was smuggled across illegally as a child. A resistance group saves her from discovery, but in exchange, they want her to spy on her new husband….

(14) THE PULPS. Episode 28 of Colin Reid’s Words To That Effect is “Pulp Fiction (Amazing Stories of the Sisters of Tomorrow)”. There’s a transcript on the site, too. Reid knows how to get people’s attention. Don’t start throwing things before you get to the end…

If you want to understand how we ended up with anything from Star Wars to Star Trek, Superman to Batman, intergalactic travel to microscopic worlds, profound meditations on the nature of being human to thrilling tales about Martian princesses, you have to look at pulp fiction magazines.

Argosy, Blue Book, Adventure, Black Mask, Horror Stories, Flying Aces…there was a lot of it. The 1920s and 30s was the age of pulp fiction magazines, the time when genres truly became genres. Science fiction, detective stories, war stories, horror, westerns, fantasy. Everything. All those categories that we use to divide up fiction and film and TV came together in the pulps at this time.

But what I want to do in this episode in particular is to look at some of the commonly held ideas about pulp fiction magazines, and about science fiction more particularly. So here are a few things that we all know:

1: Science fiction was, and continues to be, mostly consumed by men
2: Science fiction is, for the most part, aimed at 12-year-old boys
3: There were very few women writers of science fiction between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the new feminist sf of the 60s and 70s
4: Those few women who did write SF were forced to write under male or androgynous pseudonyms in order to make it in an utterly male-dominated industry

So you can probably guess where I’m going with. Yes, all of these are myths. They’re ideas that are completely, demonstrably false. This week Professor Lisa Yaszek joins me to discuss the history of the pulp fiction magazines and the many myths around early women’s science fiction….

(15) I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC. A new concept in hi-fi, and SYFY Wire has the news: “Mummy parts found inside speaker at Egyptian airport, heads still missing”.

Mummy smugglers of the most audacious variety were caught cloth-handed via security X-rays while trying to smuggle mummified human limbs out of Egypt and into Belgium. Wrapped up in the hollowed-out speaker were “six preserved body parts belonging to two different mummies: two sets of feet and lower legs; two sets of hands and forearms; an upper arm; and part of an upper torso,” according to The New York Times, which spoke to Egyptian archaeological official Iman Abdel-Raouf about the incident. No word on where the heads are, though.

(16) MADE TO ORDER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]  Herewith 2 Disney park/Star Wars stories. They are from different publications, but are effectively a pair since they discuss different aspects of the same upcoming park attraction(s).

Plenty of fans are counting down the days until they can pilot the [Millennium Falcon], but it’s another attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that may become the main draw.

For Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which will open with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort in summer 2019 and Walt Disney World Resort in fall 2019, Disney has reconsidered the entire concept of a ride. The old conceit of waiting in line, boarding a vehicle, and having a few minutes of high-octane fun are long gone, as this new experience, which will be one of Disney’s longest ever, puts riders in Rey, Luke, and Leia’s shoes as they face the greatest challenge of all: the First Order.

Glendale, California isn’t exactly in a galaxy far, far away, but it’s here inside a beige building where Star Wars characters are brought to life. 

Within its nondescript walls, safe from the unseasonably chilly February day swirling outside, all eyes are on Hondo Ohnaka, a scheming pirate from Star Wars: Rebels. His head bobs up and down, shaking his long green alien braids. His foot appears to step forward, rattling his bronze belt. His mouth curls into a wide smile before devolving into a deep belly laugh. 

For a split second, it seems that this colorful, horns-for-a-beard alien is flesh and blood. But Hondo is actually a Disney audio-animatronic, one of the most advanced ever built, and he’s getting ready for his debut at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. He’s performing what’s known as “cycling,” going through its predetermined movements for 120 hours before installation at one of Disney’s theme parks.

(17) X MARKS THE SPOT. Dark Phoenix comes to theaters June 7.

In DARK PHOENIX, the X-MEN face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.

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

SFF Collectibles on the Market

The gift-giving season is upon us and John King Tarpinian has spotted all kinds of things you can buy for your sff-loving friends — provided your bank balance has enough zeroes in it. (Well, and also starts with a number that isn’t a zero….)

Very rare Superman ”muscle tunic” worn by Christopher Reeve during filming of ”Superman: The Movie”, the very first film of the beloved Christopher Reeve franchise, released in 1978. Tunic used in the flight scenes features two stitched holes on the sides, used to attach the flying harness. Four snaps at top are for attaching the cape. Signature blue tunic is made complete with Superman’s large emblematic gold and red ”S” sewn onto the front. The original ”Bermans & Nathans / 40 Camden St. / London N.W. 1” tag is still intact on the tunic’s inner back collar, next to the zipper, with the label reading in type: ”CHRISTOPHER REEVE / 12312 WITH MUSCLES / SUPERMAN”. Made of special nylon fabric, used for its stretch and ability to retain its original shape. Without being stretched, tunic measures 18” across the chest and 29” long. A few small holes, otherwise in near fine condition. With Prop Store COA.

Price $100,000

Presentation Stainless Steel Pocket Watch Given by Actress Zoe Saldana to Select Members of the Cast And Crew On the Film Production Team of the James Cameron Film Avatar. 1 1/4” x 1 1/2”, Presentation stainless steel quartz pocket watch given as a thank you gift by actress Zoe Saldana to select members of the cast and crew on the production team of the James Cameron film Avatar. With “NA’VI NATION” engraved on the interior of the hinged case covering, signifying the tribal unity of the Na’vi, the native people living on Pandora, the distant world where Avatar is set….

Price: $315

Original autograph poem signed by Lewis Carroll, dedicated to the sister of an ”Alice” who died in infancy. Carroll composes the tender poem inside a presentation copy of ”Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (London: MacMillan and Co., 1874), inscribed on the half-title page in Carroll’s signature purple ink, ”Presented to Jessie Howard Clark, in remembrance of her sister Alice, by the Author / July 15, 1875”. Young Jessie lived in Australia which served as the basis for the poem, alongside the themes of death and the connected experience of childhood across the world. The poem is additionally constructed so that the letters of the first words of each line form the recipient’s name, ”Jessie Howard Clark”. Written on the page opposite the table of contents, poem reads in full…

Price: $50,000

Neil Armstrong signed photo, showing fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin descending onto the lunar surface. This less common NASA photo is signed “Neil Armstrong” without an inscription, in blue ink on the white moon. Matte photo measures 10″ x 8″. Near fine condition. With Steve Zarelli Space Authentication COA.

Price: $15,000

Pixel Scroll 11/5/18 Pixeltopia By James Scrolley

(1) VISIONS OF WFC 44. Ellen Datlow’s photos from World Fantasy Con 2018 are up on Flickr.

(2) DESIGNING WAKANDA. Black Panther designer Hannah Beachler spoke to the CityLab Detroit conference about what went into designing the capital city of Wakanda for the blockbuster movie. Social responsibility and connection to culture were critical in her designs of everything from street plans to public transit — “The Social Responsibility of Wakanda’s Golden City” at CityLab.

… It took ten months and 500 pages to design Golden City, the thriving Afrofuturist capital of Wakanda. The result is a stunning, complex metropolis that has delighted urbanist nerds and city-dwellers alike. Behind it all is Beachler, a production designer whose job is to act as “cinematic architect” and to create the “landscape of a story.”

…“You know what’s keeping us together: the connectivity of people, not the connectivity of users. We’re not users; we’re people, but we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re users,” she said. “So I took all of that, and I just chucked it out of Wakanda, because the people were the most important thing about it, and we’re forgetting it. And I think that’s why people responded to Wakanda on this massive level: people.”

(3) BOOK BUCKET BRIGADE. “A Store Had to Move Thousands of Books. So a Human Chain Was Formed” – the New York Times has the story:

The plea went out a few weeks ago from the bookstore in a port city in southern England: “Care to lend a hand?”

Volunteers were needed for “heavy manual work” in shifts. It was “essential” that they be able to lift and carry boxes and office supplies. Among the supplies: thousands upon thousands of books.

The appeal from October Books, a nonprofit that began 40 years ago as a “radical” bookshop, came after a rent increase forced it from its old home in Southampton, Jess Haynes, a member of the collective and one of the few paid employees, said on Wednesday.

The shop was looking to move lock, stock and barrel about 150 meters (just under 500 feet) to a three-story building that used to house a bank. Would anybody respond to the call for help?

This past Sunday, the bookstore got more than a helping hand — it got hundreds. A human chain began forming from the old October Books stockroom, snaking past 54 doors to the new building. The shop stopped counting after about 250 people showed up…

(4) GLASS UNIVERSE. Dava Sobel, the author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, will be talking about her latest book The Glass Universe in the Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory (in Laurel, Maryland) on Friday, November 9 at 2 p.m. This talk is open to the public held at the Parsons auditorium (directions here). A summary of the talk is below (taken from this link):

Edward Pickering, who took over as director of the Harvard College Observatory in 1877, was a physicist, not an astronomer. Pickering quickly moved to expand activities beyond determining the positions of stars and the orbits of asteroids, moons, and comets. He invented new instruments for studying stellar brightness to help quantify the changes in variable stars. He introduced photography as a boon to celestial mapping and a key to characterizing the spectra of stars. The images that Pickering began amassing on glass plates in the late 19th century came to number in the hundreds of thousands and are currently being digitized to preserve their enduring value. Their abundance of pictures necessitated a special building to house them and a large team of assistants – nearly all women – to analyze them.

Pickering’s glass universe gave these women the means to make discoveries that still resonate today. Williamina Fleming, Antonia Maury, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Annie Jump Cannon, and Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin, the most famous members of the group, all played a part in the early development of astrophysics.

(5) BABY. Heath Miller and Cat Valente share their parental discoveries:

(6) OPIE’S SPACE PROGRAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At the Beeb (no, not this one), Science Editor Paul Rincon talked to Ron Howard, who was wearing his Executive Producer hat for the National Geographic series, Mars (Ron Howard: Creating vision of a future Mars colony). Season 2 begins 11 November.

“When I first began the series a couple of years ago, I thought it was a great idea to do an adventure about going to Mars and we should make it as real as we possibly could,” Mr Howard says.

“But I wasn’t sure I believed in the idea of going to Mars. I knew I believed in the idea of space exploration… and any show that advocated that was making a statement that was healthy and positive for human beings – to inspire their imaginations to look outward.

“But as I have gone through the process of working on the show and interviewing some of the big thinkers, I now really do believe in it strategically – I don’t mean that from a military standpoint, I mean it from the point of the ongoing evolution of the human species… I not only believe it’s viable, I’m a big supporter.”

Season one of Mars followed the crew of the spacecraft Daedalus, as the astronauts attempted to create a pioneer settlement on the Red Planet in 2033. Season two is set nine years later and follows the fortunes of the first fully-fledged colony. The script tackles the everyday challenges of the settlers, including the first births on the Red Planet, outbreaks of disease and mechanical breakdowns.

(7) ARMSTRONG AUCTION RESULTS. NBC News totes up the results: “Neil Armstrong memorabilia fetches $7.5 million at auction”.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions says the item that sold for the highest price, $468,500, at Saturday’s auction was Armstrong’s spacecraft ID plate from Apollo 11’s lunar module Eagle. Also sold were a fragment from the propeller and a section of the wing from the Wright brothers’ Flyer, the first heavier-than-air self-powered aircraft, which each sold for $275,000.

The flight suit Armstrong wore aboard Gemini 8, the 1966 mission that performed the first docking of two spacecraft in flight, brought the astronaut’s family $109,375.

(a) In a separate auction, a gold-colored Navy aviator’s helmet once owned by John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, sold for $46,250.

(b) It appears there were some flown artifacts in the Armstrong auction (but not the Glenn auction)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 5, 1903 – H. Warner Munn, Writer and Poet known in genre for his early stories in Weird Tales in the 20s and 30s, his Atlantean/Arthurian fantasy saga, and his later stories about The Werewolf Clan. After making two mistakes in his first published genre story, he compensated by becoming a meticulous researcher and intricate plotter. His work became popular again in the 70s after Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter sought him out to write sequels to the first novel in his Merlin’s Godson series, which had been serialized in Weird Tales in 1939, and they published those novels as part of their Ballantine and Del Rey adult fantasy lines. The third novel in the series received World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award nominations, he himself was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and he was Guest of Honor at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention. He won the Balrog Award for Poet twice in the 80s, and received the Clark Ashton Smith Award for Poetry.
  • Born November 5, 1938 – James Steranko, 80, Artist, Illustrator, Writer, Publisher, and Magician who is noted for his work in the comic book and graphic novel industry. His breakthough was the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales, and the subsequent series, in the 60s. His design sensibility would become widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for which he created conceptual art and character designs. He also produced several dozen covers and illustrations for genre novels and anthologies in the 60s and 70s. His two-volume history of the birth and early years of comic books established him as a historian of the field. He received and Inkpot Award and Dragon Con’s Julie Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1940 – Butch Honeck, 78, Sculptor and Fan who learned mechanics, welding, machining, and metal finishing as a teenager, then went on to build a foundry and teach himself to cast bronze so he could create shapes that were too complex for welding. His bronze fantasy sculptures, which depict dragons, mythical creatures, wizards, and other fantasy-oriented themes, use the lost wax method with ceramic shell molds and are characterized by intricate details, mechanical components, humor, and surprise. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several conventions, was named to Archon’s Hall of Fame, and won a Chesley Award for Best Three-Dimensional Art.
  • Born November 5, 1942 – Frank Gasperik, Writer, Filker, and Fan who was a close friend to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was Tuckerized as a character in several novels, including in Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, in Footfall as Harry Reddington (aka Hairy Red), and in Fallen Angels. His own genre writing in collaboration with filker Leslie Fish resulted in a novella in Pournelle’s Co-Dominium universe, and an unfinished work which Fish completed for him after his death, at John F. Carr’s request. He was a well-known filker in that community; here he is doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. He died in 2007.
  • Born November 5, 1944 – Carole Nelson Douglas, 74, Writer and Editor who has produced a fantasy series and several genre series which are mysteries with a supernatural twist, including one which showcases Arthur Conan Doyle’s minor Sherlockian character Irene Adler as a brilliant investigator. But I’m here to pitch to you her SJW credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series, which was inspired by a classified ad seeking an adoptive home for a big black cat. Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie; the cat himself speaks in a style which some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great dearies, lovely premise.
  • Born November 5, 1958 – Robert Patrick, 60, Actor and Producer best known in genre as FBI Special Agent John Doggett in The X-Files series, as the T-1000, the main adversary of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and a main role in the alien abduction movie Fire in the Sky  –  all of which netted him Saturn nominations. He has had a main role in the TV series Scorpion, and recurring roles in True Blood and From Dusk till Dawn. He has also appeared in a lengthy list of genre movies, including The Last Action Hero, Asylum, Future Hunters, Warlords from Hell, Alien Trespass, and Double Dragon, and episodes of Stargate: Atlantis, Lost, Tales from the Crypt, and The (new) Outer Limits.
  • Born November 5, 1960 – Tilda Swinton, 58, Oscar-winning Actor who is well-known to genre fans as the evil White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia films, for which she received a Saturn nomination; roles in the films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Doctor Strange won her Saturn trophies. She played the long-lived main character in Orlando, computing pioneer Ada Lovelace in the film Conceiving Ada, and had parts in Constantine, Snowpiercer, The Zero Theorem, and the upcoming zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die.
  • Born November 5, 1964 – Famke Janssen, 54, Actor who started out as a fashion model, and then had an acting career breakthrough as an unknown in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was followed quickly by appearances in genre films Lord of Illusions, Deep Rising, and House on Haunted Hill, then her 15-year genre role as Jean Grey / Phoenix in the numerous X-Men films, for which she won a Saturn Award. Since then, she has had main roles in the horror series Hemlock Grove and the supernatural social media film Status Update.
  • Born November 5, 1968 – Sam Rockwell, 50, Oscar-winning Actor who is probably best known as !Spoiler alert! (just kidding) Guy Fleegman, a redshirt in the Star Trek homage Galaxy Quest, whose character initially simply exists for comic relief but transcends that casting by the end of the Hugo-winning film. He also played Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, had parts in The Green Mile, Iron Man 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Cowboys & Aliens, and voice a lead role as a guinea pig in the animated Disney film G-Force.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark cleverly juxtaposes James Bond and Poe to trigger this punchline.

(10) MALIBU TREK. Deadline found a home on the market with some celebrity history in its own right: “‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Home For Sale In Malibu, Part Of ‘The Survivors’ Episode”.

(a) House is listed for $5.695 million

(b) This appears to be the listing — https://www.coldwellbankerhomes.com/ca/malibu/27553-pacific-coast-hwy/pid_27011186/

(c) A photo from that listing is:

(11) LOOKING FOR THE GOLDEN AGE. David M. Barnett (@davidmbarnett) of the UK-based Independent newspaper uses Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding as a jumping-off point to explore the ongoing diversification of science fiction authorship and audiences. In “Out of this world: The rise and fall of Planet Sci-fi’s ‘competent man’” he offers a perspective on John W. Campbell’s legacy, both negative and positive, and puts recent events in science fiction fandom in context for a popular audience. Registration required.

Campbell was what he was, and he did what he did. He didn’t create science fiction, nor did he own it. It was an important period in history, but one that has passed. Science fiction today is new and wondrous and inclusive, and perhaps, in years to come, historians will be referring to this, not the Campbell era, as the true Golden Age.

(12) APOCALYPSE TUESDAY. The Rumpus says this is “What to Read When the World Is Ending”. A few sff works made the list.

…The above cataloguing of recent atrocities isn’t exhaustive. If the world isn’t truly ending, it’s certainly in the midst of several significant crisis. And in moments of crises, we at The Rumpus find solace in, and draw strength from, literature. Below is a list of books our editors think are especially appropriate to read right now, in this fraught political moment….

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okrafor
In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her Onyesonwu, which means “Who fears death?” in an ancient language. Even as a child, Onye manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

(13) ARE YOU TRACKING WITH ME? There will be a Traincon to the 2019 NASFiC / Westercon / 1632 Minicon happening in Layton, UT next July. Well, two Traincons might be more accurate, since organizers want to have one running to the con from Chicago and another from the San Francisco Bay Area (and return). More information at the link.

Join your fellow fans on Amtrak for the trip to Spikecon and then back home. We’ll have fun on the train, getting together periodically to discuss SF, the con, or anything that comes to mind. Games and filk, too, if anyone is so inclined – all with old friends and new. While you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The train from the Bay Area (Traincon West) crosses the Sierra Nevada, the one from Chicago (Traincon East) crosses the spectacular Rockies, both in full daylight.

There will be no group reservation for this Traincon; members will need to make their own individual Amtrak reservations; early reservations are recommended for the best prices…..

The organizers are Bill Thomasson and Nancy Alegria.

(14) HOTEL WATCHING IN NZ. The Comfort Hotel in Wellington (venue for some recent NZ NatCon’s and about a km from WorldCon venues) will be renamed and refurbished.

Renovations for the 115-room Comfort Hotel will begin after March 2019 with expected completion at the end of that year, for rebranding as Naumi Heritage Wellington.

The Quality Hotel renovations will also be completed about the same time, and be rebranded as Naumi Suites Wellington with 62 rooms.

…The theme of the hotel refurbishments in Wellington will be “romantic Edwardian age meets literary bohemian”, according to a Naumi media statement – “a space that embraces diversity and steadfastly refuses to be boring”.

(15) LOVE OFF THE CLOCK. SYFY Wire’s “FanGrrls” columnist Alyssa Fiske extols “The appeal of the time-travel romance”:

While some may accuse the genre of being formulaic (fools), romance does indeed have some of the greatest tropes of any kind of story. Enemies to lovers, fake dating becoming real, the good old “oh no there’s only one bed in this hotel room I guess we have to share,” all of these tropes are at once familiar and thrilling. The building blocks may be the same, but each swoony outcome has its own sense of magic.

In particular, time travel and other time-related complications pop up again and again. Whether they’re communicating via time bending mailbox (The Lake House), kept apart by centuries as a plastic centurion (Doctor Who), or powered by genetic anomalies both charming (About Time) and devastating (The Time Traveler’s Wife), this obstacle has long been a popular stalwart in the romantic canon.

(16) GHOST MOONS. NBC News goes for the clicks with its headline “‘Ghost moons’ discovered in orbit around Earth”. These are patches of “dust” at the Earth-Moon L4 & L5 (Lagrange) points

Astronomers in Hungary say they’ve detected a pair of what some call “ghost moons” orbiting our planet not far from the moon we all know.

The hazy clouds of dust — tens of thousands of miles across but too faint to be seen with the naked eye — were first detected almost 60 years ago by a Polish astronomer, Kazimierz Kordylewski. But the patches of light he found were too indistinct to convince some scientists that the clouds were really there, and the existence of the “Kordylewski clouds” has long been a matter of controversy.

Now the astronomers, Gabor Horvath and Judit Sliz-Balogh of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, have obtained clear evidence of the clouds using a specially equipped telescope in a private observatory in western Hungary.

(17) MORE IMPORTANT — IRON OUTSIDE OR IRON INSIDE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At the A.V. Club, Tom Breihan is considering “the most important superhero movie of every year” in a series entitled “Age of Heroes.” Breihan is up to 2008 and asks, “Does the most important year for superhero movies belong to The Dark Knight or Iron Man?

Midway through Christopher Nolan’s 2008 movie The Dark Knight, the Joker gets himself arrested so that he can then break out of his holding cell and continue his grand experiment in human darkness. While he’s locked up, he’s placed in the custody of the Major Crimes Unit, the police force that’s supposedly been devoted to locking up Batman. In the movie, people keep referring to the Major Crimes Unit as the MCU. As in: “There’s a problem at the MCU!” Watching it today, you might hurt your neck doing double-takes at those initials every time. The Dark Knight, as it happens, came out at the last moment that “MCU” could possibly refer to anything related to Batman.

Today, of course, we know the MCU as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the steamrolling blockbuster-generating engine that has become the dominant commercial force in all of moviemaking. It was never a given that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would work. By the time the people at Marvel got around to establishing their own movie studio, they’d already sold off the rights to many of their most-famous characters: Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four. Only the relative dregs were left over, and nobody knew whether a relatively minor character like Iron Man could anchor a whole movie, let alone a franchise. It was a gamble.

It was a gamble, too, to cast Robert Downey Jr., a faded star who’d spent years battling his personal demons. […]

Breihan lavishes much praise on Iron Man and notes how well it set up much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that followed, but in the end he picks The Dark Knight as the more important movie. His reasoning may surprise you and you may or may not agree with it. In part, he say:

[…] The Dark Knight made money, too; it was the highest-grossing movie of 2008. But it didn’t just make money. It was, in its moment, widely hailed as something resembling a masterpiece. When, for instance, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences failed to nominate The Dark Knight for a Best Picture Oscar, there was such a wide public outcry that the Academy changed its roles to allow for more nominees. That is an impact.

It should probably be noted that Breihan doesn’t believe The Dark Knight actually was a masterpiece, but that doesn’t diminish the impact such a perception may have had in the moment. Some of Breihan’s highest praise goes to Heath Ledger’s performance (sadly, his last) as the Joker.

[…] Ledger is legitimately disgusting: dirty and scarred-up, with yellow teeth and a tongue that’s constantly darting in and out of his mouth, like a lizard’s. But he’s magnetic, too. He tells different stories about his scars, just so we’ll know that he’s always lying. He confounds criminals as badly as he does police. He dances his way through a hospital explosion and intimidates a roomful of mob bosses. His voice—the best description I can manage is a tweaked-out Richard Nixon impression—is chilling and alien. And he seems to be in love with Batman in ways that make even Batman uncomfortable: “Don’t talk like you’re one of them. You’re not.”

Besides Iron Man and The Dark Knight, Breihan devotes a fat paragraph to a handful of other superhero movies from 2008, plus a sentence or two to several others. Finally, he promises a look at 2009’s Watchmen in the next Age of Heroes installment.

(18) GAIMAN’S SANDMAN. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky on a new printing of Neil Gaiman’s Preludes and Nocturnes: “Enter ‘Sandman’: Anniversary Edition Celebrates 30 Years Of Dream-Spinning”.

When Neil Gaiman first envisioned the Sandman, the supernatural dream lord he created 30 years ago, he thought about prison. “Before I even knew who he was,” Gaiman writes in the afterword to The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, he had the image of “a man, young, pale and naked, imprisoned in a tiny cell, waiting until his captors passed away, willing to wait until the room he was in crumbled to dust.”

Dreams and imprisonment? It’s not a connection most would make. True, dreams are just about the only thing a prisoner has of his own, but it seems odd to imagine the bringer of dreams himself trapped in a cell. As so often happens with Gaiman, though, meditating upon one of his intuitions leads you to a whole new way of thinking

(19) TUNING UP DEADPOOL. Daniel Dern recommends “Deadpool The Musical 2 – Ultimate Disney Parody!”. “The songs aren’t the best… but, among other things, it’s arguably one of the best representations of the X-Men (about halfway in), and many of the Avengers. And the last minute or two is great.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Errolwi, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2/18 Elvish Has Left The Building

(1) DECOPUNK CITATION. Language Log quotes Cat Valente today in “Decopunk and other quasicompositional compounds”.

Complex lexical items generally have analogical historico-semantic accretions similar to those in the X-punk domain. This includes phrases like red tide, solar energy, or historical fiction,  as well as compounds like jumpsuitski lift, or break room. In the other direction, proper names are far from being semantically arbitrary in practice — to quote from a Decopunk work, Catherynne Valente’s Radiance

(2) THE MATTER OF ENGLAND. One people, divided by a common tongue…

https://medesha.tumblr.com/post/131750372841/altarandwitchinghour-kingfucko-gollyplot

(3) PETER CAPALDI, VENTRILOQUIST. This caught my eye –

(4) AND THEN, AT DRAGON CON. Remember what they said about “Inconceivable”?

(5) THE MEANING OF IT ALL. Bow Tie Writer asked an array of fans at Worldcon 76 to answer his question. I recognized Judy Bemis, Kevin Standlee, and Michelle Pincus among them.

Worldcon 2018 was held in San Jose August 15th – 20th. I went around and I asked people one simple question: What does Worldcon mean to you. This video is my homage to fandom, to internet friends, and to all the good people who come together to celebrate the things we love.

 

(6) RSR’S WORLDCON REPORT. At Rocket Stack Rank, Greg Hullender has an interesting set of “WorldCon 76 Takeaways” (including coverage of the Filer meetups).

…The audience for this panel had lots of people with many decades of experience with fanzines, so we had a lively but always cordial discussion. I was pleased to learn that even the folks who’d done fanzines back in the days of mimeograph machines all seemed to agree that online publications were definitely the future, particularly in terms of their ability to immediately involve fans via comments that don’t need to wait a month or more for publication. They worried that blogs in particular lack some of the feel of a fanzine, which has an arrangement of related stories. (At RSR, we’ll think about how a content-management system might capture that for an online publication.)

I was very pleased when someone in the audience told me that Rocket Stack Rank fit into a long tradition of “Review Fanzines,” of which Tangent is another surviving example. That made me feel a lot less like an impostor….

(7) TRUESDALE’S WORLDCON 76 PHOTO GALLERY. Dave Truesdale’s Worldcon 76 report for Tangent, “Photos from Worldcon 76, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention”, begins with coverage of Saturday’s alt-right demonstration, and ends by explaining what a raw deal he got when his 2016 Worldcon membership was revoked. In between there are a quite a few fine author photos. Here are the captions from one set —

Below Left: Lezli Robyn, helping out at the Galaxy’s Edge dealer’s table. Below Right: Galaxy’s Edge Publisher Shahid Mahmud. Both Lezli and Shahid are two of the most delightful people I’ve met in a long time. Shahid’s enthusiasm and love of SF is infectious. We talked for quite some time about this and that, and his intelligence and sense of humor shone through everything. I can’t imagine anyone not liking Shahid once they’ve met him.

(8) PROMETHEUS SPEECH. The Libertarian Futurist Society presented the Prometheus Awards at Worldcon 76. The author of the Prometheus Award-winning novel, Travis Corcoran, was unable to attend, so his acceptance speech for Powers of the Earth was read by Chris Hibbert. Its message is conveyed with classic libertarian subtlety.

…Since the first Worldcon in 1939 science fiction has been a libertarian territory under attack from authoritarians. Futurian Donald Wollheim was a communist, and argued that all of science fiction “should actively work for the realization of the . . . world-state as the only . . . justification for their activities”.

Wollheim failed with his takeover in 1939—he was physically removed from Worldcon—but he started a Gramscian long march through the institutions, and it worked. In the current year conventions, editors, and publishing houses are all cordy-cepted. The sociopaths have pushed the geeks out and have taken over the cultural territory.

“You made this? <pause> I made this.”

When the state tries to take your home, they come with guns, and you have to fight them with guns, if at all.

When a subculture tries to take your home, they come with snark and shame and entryism . . . and you fight them by making better art….

(9) DIRT FARMING. James Davis Nicoll has a long fannish exploration of “Science Fiction’s Trouble with Terraforming” at Tor.com.

Terraforming is, of course, the hypothesized art of converting an uninhabitable rock into a habitable world. Jack Williamson coined the term in his Seetee-related short story, “Collision Orbit”, published under the pen name Will Stewart in the July, 1942 issue of Astounding Magazine. While Williamson invokes non-existent super-science in order to make the task seem doable, he probably felt confident that terraforming would someday make sense. In the short run, we have seen humans shaping the Earth. In the long run—well, Earth was once an anoxic wasteland. Eons of life shaped it into a habitable planet. Williamson suspected that humans could imitate that process elsewhere…and make it happen in centuries rather than eons. Perhaps in even less time!

(10) AUGUSTULUS: With the help of a belated July issue, Jason has compiled a diminutive list of notable reading in Summation: August at Featured Futures:

This month has been doubly strange. Despite reading 42 stories of about 201K words from the August magazines, I’m in the unprecedented and unpleasant position of only being able to note one story (and that’s not even fully recommended). Counting a late July story and things for a couple of Tangent reviews, I read 59 stories of about 324K words this month and can at least add two recs and another honorable mention, all from the July/August Black Static, but only one of those is even speculative with the other two being straight horror.

(11) GIDDINGS OBIT. Sff writer and critic Joseph “Joe” Giddings passed away from ALS at the age of 45 on August 16. He was born April 6, 1973. His criticism appeared in Bull Spec and Tangent Online (among others). His fiction appeared in Mystic Signals and Dark Stars (more information in his entry at Internet Science Fiction Database.) Giddings blogged at “The Clockwork Pen”.

Joseph Giddings

(12) TODAY’S MEMORIAL DAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Who looked at the wrong ISFDB page today — but waste not, want not!]

  • Died September 2, 1973. J.R.R. Tolkien. It’d be extremely silly of me to list what he’s done given what the group knows, so instead I’ll ask instead what’s your favourite work by him. Mine’s still The Hobbit, a book I delight in re-reading in the Autumn as I think of him as being of that season.
  • Died September 2, 2000 – Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and science fiction film genres, with such films as The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain with the latter being adapted from his novel of the same name. Siodmak is credited with creating the legend that only silver can kill a werewolf. He also wrote the screenplays for include Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, I Walked With a Zombie and The Beast With Five Fingers.
  • Died September 2, 2013 – Frederik Pohl. Obviously needs no introduction here. His first published was a 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna”. Noted work include the Heechee series whose first novel, Gateway, was the winner of the Campbell Memorial, Hugo, Locus SF, and Nebula Awards, Man Plus , and The Space Merchants with Cyril M. Kornbluth. I won’t say that any of the short story collections thrill me but Platinum Pohl is a decent collection. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) HOGWARTS EXPRESS. More “Back to Hogwarts” hype: “Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law were at Kings Cross for the Hogwarts Express”.

As every good Harry Potter fan knows, the Hogwarts Express departs from Kings Cross station, London, platform nine and three-quarters at 11.30am on September 1. This year Professor Dumbledore and Newt Scamander themselves, aka Hollywood stars Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne, were there to kick off the new year.

(15) AND WHILE WE’RE HOGWARTING. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “A ‘Harry Potter’ neophyte watches all 8 movies for the first time: Here’s what happened”  says that “my cred as a film nerd and a nerd nerd has been threatened by a shameful omission”– she had never seen a Harry Potter movie (not literally – she’d seen the first one in its initial theatrical release.)  So she decided to watch them all over a 24-hour binge. Some notes are better than others. Is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix really about the problems of standardized testing? On the other hand, she had an interesting response to this 20-years-after rewatch of the very first movie —

What surprised me most on my second viewing of Sorcerer’s Stone was how much I loved Emma Watson’s Hermione. The first time around, I remember thinking that her show-offish, know-it-all nature was borderline unbearable. Now I love how unapologetic she is about her intelligence, how confidently she wields it in a room full of boys. (Seriously, where are the Hogwarts girls? Hermione needs some female friends!) Maybe as a girl who grew up downplaying her intelligence, Hermione made me uncomfortable in some primal, fourth-grade part of my subconscious. If that’s true, it only makes me more grateful that my daughter will grow up in a post-Hermione world.

(16) THE HORROR. From Agouti (@bitterkarella) comes news of the horror genre’s Midnight Society of writers. Dean Koontz, HP Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Edward Lee, Stephen King, and Edgar Allen Poe trade inspirations for their next novels. The thread starts here.

(17) NED KELLY AWARDS. My internet wanderings brought me the results of the Australian Crime Writers Association’s 2018 Ned Kelly Awards, and far be it from me to turn down literary award news…

2018 Ned Kelly Awards

Best Crime

  • Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill

Best First Crime

  • The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Best True Crime

  • Unmaking A Murder: The Mysterious Death of Anna Jane Cheney by Graham Archer

(18) NGAIO MARSH. Likewise, I learned the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for the “very best in Kiwi Crime” were recently presented in New Zealand.

Best Crime Novel

  • Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)

Best First Novel

  • All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)

(19) RENAME THAT TUNE. The IAU will probably decide that Hubble needs to share credit – The Conversation has the story: “Game-changing resolution: whose name on the laws of physics for an expanding universe?”

Astronomers are engaged in a lively debate over plans to rename one of the laws of physics.

It emerged overnight at the 30th Meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), in Vienna, where members of the general assembly considered a resolution on amending the name of the Hubble Law to the Hubble-Lemaître Law.

The resolution aims to credit the work of the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître and his contribution – along with the American astronomer Edwin Hubble – to our understanding of the expansion of the universe.

While most (but not all) members at the meeting were in favour of the resolution, a decision allowed all members of the International Astronomical Union a chance to vote. Subsequently, voting was downgraded to a straw vote and the resolution will formally be voted on by an electronic vote at a later date.

(20) BEWARE BENNU. The NASA mission to visit and sample Bennu — a “potentially hazardous asteroid” — has entered a new phase (“NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Asteroid Operations Campaign”). The spacecraft has begun approach operations:

After an almost two-year journey, NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. Kicking off the mission’s asteroid operations campaign on Aug. 17, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km).

…The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion km) since its Sept. 8, 2016, launch and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3.

…During the mission’s approach phase, OSIRIS-REx will:

  • regularly observe the area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites, and study Bennu’s light and spectral properties;
  • execute a series of four asteroid approach maneuvers, beginning on Oct. 1, slowing the spacecraft to match Bennu’s orbit around the Sun;
  • jettison the protective cover of the spacecraft’s sampling arm in mid-October and subsequently extend and image the arm for the first time in flight; and
  • use OCAMS to reveal the asteroid’s overall shape in late-October and begin detecting Bennu’s surface features in mid-November.

Ultimately, the craft will map the asteroid, then perform a sampling “touch-and-go” maneuver. The sample will be dropped off at Earth in a Sample Return Capsule in September 2023. OSIRIS-REx itself will end up in a solar orbit.

(21) LOX WARNING. It used to be a thing — and may still be in some fannish circles — to whip up fresh ice cream at room parties using liquid nitrogen. The US Food and Drug administration has issued a safety alert about the danger of drinks and food prepared with LN2 at the point of sale (CNN: “FDA issues warning about liquid nitrogen on food”):

“The FDA has become aware of severe — and in some cases, life-threatening — injuries, such as damage to skin and internal organs caused by liquid nitrogen still present in the food or drink,” the FDA said in issuing its safety alert. “Injuries have occurred from handling or eating products prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption, even after the liquid nitrogen has fully evaporated due to the extremely low temperature of the food.”

In its warning, the FDA said inhaling the vapor “released by a food or drink prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption may also cause breathing difficulty, especially among individuals with asthma.”

…The FDA did not say how many reports of injuries it has received or provide details on life-threatening cases.

(22) MOON WALKER. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber gives “Five Stars for First Man”

The life story of Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, is so full of astounding courage, tragedy and triumph that it is just begging for an old-school Hollywood biopic, with all the inspiring speeches, swelling orchestras and grand themes that the genre entails. First Man is not that biopic.

Directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land) and scripted by Josh Singer (Spotlight), the film is an understated, economical drama which, like a rocket that has to escape from the Earth’s gravity, jettisons absolutely everything it doesn’t need. Dialogue is kept to a minimum. Exposition is edited out. Extraneous characters are stripped away to the point that you see almost nothing of Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), who moonwalked with Armstrong, and even less of Mike Collins (Lukas Haas), who piloted the orbiting craft. You don’t hear about Armstrong’s Korean War heroics, for that matter, and the space-race politics that were behind Nasa’s Apollo programme remain in the background. And yet, as restrained as First Man is, this riveting, exhaustively researched and utterly believable film manages to shake you, take your breath away and even pull a few tears from your eyes.

(23) SCREEN PLAY. “Movie Madness: Why Chinese cinemas are empty but full”. Speculators think buying seats (to fake up hits, to push stock prices) is cheaper than making good movies.

For a country which will soon assume the mantle of the world’s largest cinema audience, China comes out with a surprising number of big budget B-grade flops.

Some blame this on censorship, others on a lack of creativity but there are also those who see a more sinister force at work, which has nothing to do with film-making.

It also has nothing to do with selling tickets: at least not real ones.

Some investors are apparently financially backing movies with the sole goal of boosting their stock price that can shift on the perception of a movie’s performance, irrespective of its true popularity.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Bridge Tongues” on YouTube is a look back at our times from the 25th century, where no one argues with each other and everyone lives in their own digital bubble.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gregory Benford, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill Burns, Dann, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/29/18 Scrollvolt Of The Pixeldestrians

(1) CASE DISMISSED. In May 2018, Fur Affinity, winner of the 2012 and 2013 Ursa Major Awards for Best Anthropomorphic Website, banned several dozen accounts for Code of Conduct violations — Section 2.7 “Do not identify with or promote real hate or terrorist organizations and their ideologies.”

Furry artist Scott Malcolmson (whose fursona is Roy Calbeck), filed suit in Arizona against IMVU, Fur Affinity’s parent company, on grounds of breach of contract and defamation of character.

The suit was dismissed on August 27. Boozy Badger analyzed the result in a Twitter thread which starts here.

IMVU is a Delaware corporation. The court did not find its connections to Arizona legally sufficient for IMVU to be sued there. The court further said:

Plaintiff objects that he is a per se litigant filing in forma pauperis. That may be so. However, in our legal system, there is but one law and it applies to rich and poor alike. That Mr. Malcomson is too impecunious to litigate in IMVU’s home state of Delaware cannot detract from IMVU’s constitutional right not to be sued in an improper forum.

Boozy Badger noted:

Jurisdiction, Forum, and Venue are literally most of a semester of Civil Procedure in law school. There are options OTHER than Delaware, but you can’t sue just anywhere.

Wikifur’s article on “History of Fur Affinity” has more background:

COC 2.7 bans (May 2018)[edit]

On May 15, 2018, several dozens FA accounts were banned from the site for presumed violations of the site’s updated Code of Conduct, Section 2.7 (“Do not identify with or promote real hate or terrorist organizations and their ideologies”).[68] This included personal and group accounts related to AltFurry (FurRight), Furry Raiders and other perceived Alt-Right connected accounts.

Complaints came in swift, from people claiming to be false positives[69][70] to banned and not banned users that argued that biased staff had failed to also struck down left-leaning “hate/terrorist” individuals and groups (e.g. Deo Tas DevilAntifa, “Far-Left”/”Alt-left” accounts and Communist Furs).[71][72] Instructions were passed among the affected and sympathizers to vacate to other sites, specifically, InkBunny,[73][74][75] and discussions were started to pin down who was to blame for the bans (from Antifa-cowered FA staff to outright ban demands/orders from the online news site Dogpatch Press).[76][77]

It would be three days later (May 18), when legal proceedings initiated by Roy Calbeck were to take the form of a lawsuit against FA’s parent company, IMVU, for:

Defamation/Breach of Contract against IMVU for actions taken by their wholly-owned subsidiary, @FurAffinity…

(2) GONDOLIN FALLS TOMORROW. Smithsonian says after two lifetimes of work this probably is it: “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Final Posthumous Book Is Published”.

Though J.R.R. Tolkien passed away in 1973, he has never really stopped publishing. For decades his son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien has painstakingly catalogued and edited his father’s papers, creating new books out of unfinished and unpublished manuscripts. Most of those tales delve deep into the history of Middle-earth, the fantasy realm where Tolkien’s best known works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series take place. Now, it’s likely that work will come to an end with one last Tolkien book. Critic Andrew Ervin at The Washington Post reports that The Fall of Gondolin, which will be released tomorrow, is likely J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkien’s swan song.

(3) SFF MARKETING. Cat Rambo appeared on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing podcast: “Writing Tips, Selling Short Fiction, and What SFWA Can Do for You with Cat Rambo”. Here are a few of the many topics touched on during the conversation:

  • How Cat ended up publishing her first two Tabat novels through Kevin J. Anderson’s Wordfire Press (which he talked about when he was on Episode 194 and Episode 138) and how marketing goes when working with a small press.
  • Some tips from her recent non-fiction publication Moving from Idea to Finished Draft.
  • What’s been going on at SFWA since we had MCA Hogarth on the show back on Episode 20 (more than three years ago!) and why both trad and self-published may find a membership useful.
  • What it takes to qualify for SFWA membership.
  • Benefits that come with SFWA membership and how the Nebula convention has changed over the years to have helpful panels for all.

(4) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series: “When We Were Patched” by Deji Bryce Olukotun.

The last time we ever spoke, my partner Malik asked me whether I believed speed or power made for the best athlete. I was puzzled, of course, feeling that neither could explain why some athletes excelled more than others, even in straightforward competitions like sprinting or the javelin. “There are enough variables to make it unclear,” I observed, “whether speed or power offers a better advantage in competition, or whether some other factor confers the greatest advantage.” It seemed to me an unanswerable question….

It was published along with a response essay by algorithmic bias expert Jeanna Matthews, “Algorithms Could Create an Even Playing Field—if We Insist on It”.

Big decisions about our lives are increasingly made jointly by humans and computer systems. Do we get a loan? Are we invited for an interview? Who should we date? Which news stories should we read? Who won the tennis match? This is our reality today. In “When We were Patched,” Deji Olukotun explores what the boundaries of these human and machine partnerships will be. Could we get the best of both, or will we end up with the worst of both? …

Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives—is publishing a story on a theme.

(5) FOLLOWING ARMSTRONG’S FOOTSTEPS. Slate compiles the early reviews: “Here’s What Critics Are Saying About First Man.

Space! Now that I’ve got your attention, the reviews of Damien Chazelle’s First Man, which had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, today are in—and fortunately, like the film itself, there’s really no way for them to spoil the ending. The space drama follows Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) in his literal and metaphorical journey to become the first man on the moon.

It’s a story and a genre we know all too well, but this doesn’t hold the film back—it even improves upon its galactic forbearers. Critics agree that the story is masterfully handled by Chazelle, who mixes realism with reverence, without overblowing the drama.

And of course, it’s simply an irresistible opportunity to employ space metaphors, whether that’s about “soaring,” “sky-high expectations,” “slip[ping] the surly bonds of earth or “shoot[ing] the moon.” (Michael Nordine at IndieWire wins this space race: “Chazelle is an adept flight commander, guiding the action with the elegance of a space dance in one scene and the intensity of a rocket launch in the next … It may not be a giant leap for filmmaking, but it’s another small step for this filmmaker.”)

(6) A WRITER’S DAY. John Scalzi’s to-do list for Wednesday.

(7) NEW HORIZONS SPOTS TARGET. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft — which performed a Pluto flyby about three years ago — has officially spotted its next target (“Ultima in View: NASA’s New Horizons Makes First Detection of Kuiper Belt Flyby Target”). The craft took a series of long-duration images from which the star field was subtracted to pick out the Kuiper Belt object (nicknamed Ultima Thule) New Horizons is headed toward. The closest encounter with Ultima Thule is expected to be early (EST) New Year’s Day 2019.

Mission team members were thrilled – if not a little surprised – that New Horizons’ telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was able to see the small, dim object while still more than 100 million miles away, and against a dense background of stars. Taken Aug. 16 and transmitted home through NASA’s Deep Space Network over the following days, the set of 48 images marked the team’s first attempt to find Ultima with the spacecraft’s own cameras.

“The image field is extremely rich with background stars, which makes it difficult to detect faint objects,” said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist and LORRI principal investigator from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “It really is like finding a needle in a haystack. In these first images, Ultima appears only as a bump on the side of a background star that’s roughly 17 times brighter, but Ultima will be getting brighter – and easier to see – as the spacecraft gets closer.”

This first detection is important because the observations New Horizons makes of Ultima over the next four months will help the mission team refine the spacecraft’s course toward a closest approach to Ultima, at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1, 2019. That Ultima was where mission scientists expected it to be – in precisely the spot they predicted, using data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope – indicates the team already has a good idea of Ultima’s orbit.

(8) REMEMBERING WILLY LEY. Steven Levy’s WIRED article “385 Feet of Crazy: The Most Audacious Flying Machine Ever” is about Paul Allen’s effort to build a giant airplane called a Stratolaunch which he wants to use to carry rockets to the edge of space and then launch from the stratosphere. It includes this sentimental memory about a writer who was important to a lot of fans back in the day.

As a teenager, Paul Allen was a sci-fi and rocketry nerd. He dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but that ambition was scuttled by nearsighted­ness. His childhood bedroom was filled with science fiction and space books. Bill Gates remembers Allen’s obsession. “Even when I first met him—he was in tenth grade and I was in eighth—he had read way more science fiction than anyone else,” says Gates, who later founded Microsoft with Allen. “Way more.” One of Allen’s favorites was a popular science classic called Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel, by Willy Ley, first published in 1944. As Allen tells it in his memoir, he was crushed when he visited his parents as an adult and went to his old room to reference a book. He discovered that his mother had sold his collection. (The sale price: $75.) Using a blowup of an old photo of the room, Allen dispatched scouts to painstakingly re-create his boyhood library.

(9) OPTIMUS SOLUTION. Daniel Cohen’s Financial Times article “Tales from the storage unit: inside a booming industry”, in a survey of storage spaces, recommends Inner Space Stations in York:

A large model of the Optimus Prime character from TRANSFORMERS stands beide the entrance of its main store, on a busy road.  A Dalek is visible through a window; a model of a STAR WARS stormtrooper guards the reception.  The sizes of the units correspond to planet s in the solar system; the smallest lockers have an image of Mercury on the door, while the biggest show Jupiter.  ‘It’s just making fun,’ says Graham Kennedy, the owner.  ‘Quite often there’s a stressful reason for going into storage.  So I’ve decided to lighten it.’

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born August 29, 1898 – C.S. Lewis. Author of the Narnia books and The Space Trilogy, also The Screwtape Letters which I got assigned in University a very long time ago. Ardent Christian, he wrote three dense book on that religion, Mere ChristianityMiracles, and The Problem of Pain. There’s a Doctor Who episode with Matt Smith that riffs off the Narnia book entry way if memory serves me right.
  • Born August 29 — Nancy Holder, 65. Perhaps best known for her myriad work, fiction and non-fiction, based off the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. However I’ll single her out as a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award including Best Novel for Dead in the Water.
  • Born August 29 – Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 64. Extensive writing in the Star Wars genre but also has written such novels as The Quiet Pools which was a Hugo Award nominee and Emprise which was a Philip K. Dick nominee. Several of his short stories were adapted into episodes of theTales from the Darkside series.
  • Born August 29 — Lenny Henry, 60. Co-creator with Neil Gaiman and producer of the 1996 BBC drama serial Neverwhere. Narrator of Anansi Boys. Appeared, well appeared isn’t quite proper, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as the voice of the Shrunken Head.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HISTORY REVEALED. Michael Cassutt will be signing The Astronaut Maker at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA on September 6. (More details at “Michael Cassutt discusses and signs The Astronaut Maker”).

One of the most elusive and controversial figures in NASA’s history, George W. S. Abbey was called “the Dark Lord,” “the Godfather,” and “UNO”–short for unidentified NASA official. He was said to be secretive, despotic, a Space Age Machiavelli. Yet Abbey had more influence on human spaceflight than almost anyone in history. His story has never been told–until now.   The Astronaut Maker takes readers inside NASA to learn the real story of how Abbey rose to power, from young pilot and wannabe astronaut to engineer, bureaucrat, and finally director of the Johnson Space Center. During a thirty-seven-year career, mostly out of the spotlight, he oversaw the selection of every astronaut class from 1978 to 1987, deciding who got to fly and when. He was with the Apollo 1 astronauts the night before the fatal fire in January 1967. He was in mission control the night of the Apollo 13 accident and organized the recovery effort. Abbey also led NASA’s recruitment of women and minorities as space shuttle astronauts and was responsible for hiring Sally Ride.   Written by Michael Cassutt, the coauthor of the acclaimed astronaut memoirs DEKE! and We Have Capture, and informed by countless hours of interviews with Abbey and his family, friends, adversaries, and former colleagues, The Astronaut Maker is the ultimate insider’s account of ambition and power politics at NASA. (Chicago Review Press)

(13) JUST DRAWN THAT WAY. Need a goat? Remember to smile: “Goats ‘drawn to happy human faces'”.

Scientists have found that goats are drawn to humans with happy facial expressions.

The result suggests a wider range of animals can read people’s moods than was previously thought.

The researchers showed goats pairs of photos of the same person, one of them featuring an angry expression, and the other a happy demeanour.

The goats made a beeline for the happy faces, the team reports in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

(14) THE ACME OF SOMETHING OR OTHER. Maybe this will be your cup of tea but I confess: I plan to be somewhere (anywhere) else when this picture is in theaters: “The ‘Wile E. Coyote’ Movie Has Ordered A Pair Of Writers Who Aren’t From ACME!”

The Roadrunner had better watch out as there is a new ‘Wile E. Coyote’ movie in the works and Warner Bros. has just tapped The Silberman Brothers (‘Living Biblically,’ ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’) to write it! Jon and Josh are going to have a lot of work ahead of them to bring this iconic character to the big screen for an audience base that had significantly changed from when the toon was originally popular.

While this “Super Genius” will always be known for creative inventions that pave the way for perfect slapstick humor, the lack of dialogue for a feature film might mean that we’re getting some massive changes to the Wiley cartoon. While there is no mention of his arch nemesis and his uncatchable meal of The Roadrunner being part of the film, it would be hard to imagine a story that doesn’t include him.

(15) DIAL EIGHT. Another thing I didn’t get done at Worldcon 76 – meeting Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus. By now he’s back in 1963 keeping track of the myriad developments in outer space: “[August 29, 1963] Why we fly (August Space Round-up)”.

Bridging the Continents

Communication satellites continue to make our world a smaller place.  Syncom, built by Hughes and launched by NASA late last month, is the first comsat to have a 24-hour orbit.  From our perspective on the Earth’s surface, it appears to do figure eights around one spot in the sky rather than circling the Earth.  This means Syncom can be a permanent relay station between the hemispheres.

It’s already being used.  On August 4 the satellite allowed Nigerian journalists and folks from two U.S. services to exchange news stories as well as pictures of President Kennedy and Nigerian Governor General Dr. Nnamdi Zikiwe.  Five days later, voice and teletype was exchanged between Paso Robles, California and Lagos, Nigeria.  This 7,7700 mile conversation represents the longest range real-time communication ever made.

I think he means 7,700 miles – but of course I would!

(16) GAMING, IT’S NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST ANYMORE. The BBC reports on the finding of an ancient gaming board and how it may be the clue to the location of an important lost monastery (“Medieval gaming board clue to lost monastery”).

The discovery of a medieval gaming board may have helped bring archaeologists closer to confirming the site of a lost early monastery.

Archaeologists have been actively seeking the Monastery of Deer in Aberdeenshire since about 2008.

Monks at the monastery wrote the important 10th Century illuminated manuscript, the Book of Deer.

Layers beneath the disc-shaped stone gaming board have been carbon dated to the 7th and 8th centuries.

Charcoal also found at the remains of a building uncovered by archaeologists during the latest dig at the site, near Mintlaw, has been dated to the same time, between 669 and 777AD.

Smithsonian follows up with more about the game board itself and its monastic connections (“Archaeologists Unearth Medieval Game Board During Search for Lost Monastery”).

According to The Scotsman’s Alison Campsie, monks likely used the board to play Hnefatafl, a Norse strategy game that pits a king and his defenders against two dozen taflmen, or attackers. As the king’s men attempt to herd him to safety in one of the four burgs, or refuges, located in the corners of the game board, taflmen work to thwart the escape. To end the game, the king must reach sanctuary or yield to captivity.

The board “is a very rare object,” archaeologist Ali Cameron of The Book of Deer Project, who is in charge of excavations, tells Campsie. “Only a few have been found in Scotland, mainly on monastic or at least religious sites. These gaming boards are not something everyone would have had access to.”

…The game board’s discovery and dating to the 7th and 8th centuries offer tantalizing indication that the dig site was, in fact, home to the medieval monastery, but as Mark Hall, a medieval games specialist at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, cautions, “This temptation remains just that until further evidence presents itself to make a valid link between the disc and the date.”

(17) MORE COMICS CROSSOVERS. Daniel Dern is keeping an eye open for these: “Sometime within the last year we got a great bunch, notably the Batman/Elmer Fudd (including the narrated-by-Denny-ONeil video). A bunch just came out today, including Lex Luthor/Porky Pig, Joker/Daffy Duck, and Catwoman/Sylvester.”

And io9’s James Whitbrook looks ahead to when “All the Incredible New Comic Series to Cozy Up With This Fall”.

DC/Hanna-Barbera Crossovers—DC’s bizarro mashups between its comics universe and the animated antics of Hanna-Barbera’s most beloved creations continues with another wave of weird and wonderful adventures.

Deathstroke/Yogi Bear #1—Frank Tieri, Mark Texeira

Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound #1—Mark Russell, Rick Leonardi

Nightwing/Magilla Gorilla #1—Heath Corson, Tom Grummett

Superman/Top Cat #1—Dan DiDio, Shane Davis

(18) GAME OVER. Camestros Felapton discovered spammers have taken over the abandoned Sad Puppies IV website  but kept most of the content to make it look like Kate Paulk is selling slot machines in Italian –

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

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

appreciate-a-dragon-day-e1421395592126-808x380

(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]