Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards Announces 2020 Book Shortlist

Books from veteran and debut speculative fiction authors have been named to the shortlist of the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards, released June 17.

“This is such an odd and unsettling time to be reading through so much speculative fiction,” said Dan Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute and creator of the award program. “It’s also an important time. The works chosen for the 2020 Neukom shortlist are insightful, provocative and may even guide our thinking as we experience the challenges that beset the world today.”

2020 Neukom Awards Shortlist:

Debut Category

Open Category

The shortlist was determined by Rockmore and his Dartmouth colleagues Professors Tarek El-ArissPeter Orner, and Eric Schaller, as well as Santa Fe Institute Professor Jessica Flack.

Sam J. Miller

The third annual speculative fiction awards program will be judged by sff writer Sam J. Miller.

Miller also provided input on the shortlist selections.

“There’s lots to be angry about, and plenty of reasons for pessimism, but this list is proof that today’s speculative fiction writers can still help us imagine—and create—a better future,” said Miller. “I’m eager to dive into this list, and suddenly intensely terrified at the prospect of picking winners out of such an excellent list of books, encompassing work from well-known genre luminaries and bright new lights in the literary sky.”

Awards for both the debut and open book categories will be announced during the summer.

Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium that is typically presented during a Dartmouth-hosted panel discussion about the genre and the winning works.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society.

[Based on a press release,]

Two Plays Win Neukom Institute 2020 Honors

Playwrights Deborah Yarchun (L) and Elizabeth Keel (R). (Photo Credits: Deborah Yarchun, Tasha Gorel)

The winner of the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting is Drive by Deborah Yarchun.

“I was floored and delighted by the overwhelming number of submissions for this year’s award,” said Dan Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College and creator of its speculative fiction program. “In a time when so many artists are struggling, we are glad to be able to support even more playwrights by offering two awards this year.”

In light of the threat to the arts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Neukom Institute also awarded a second-place prize to Override by Elizabeth Keel.

The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards program was established in 2017 as an open competition to honor and support creative works around speculative fiction. The playwriting award is offered to works that respond to the prompt: “What does it mean to be human in a computerized world?”

The first-place prize includes a $5,000 honorarium. Second place comes with a $750 honorarium.

Drive tells the story of truckers who lose their jobs to self-driving vehicles. The play explores fears surrounding the next stage of automation in a country where people are defined by their work.

“An award celebrating work that explores what it means to be a human in a computerized world is so relevant, particularly in these strange, socially-distant times,” said Yarchun. “The resources this honor provides would be helpful anytime but are particularly meaningful now.”

The second-place winner, Override, is a story of innovation and competition wrapped in a romantic comedy. The play reinforces the importance of contact through the body, heart, and mind.

“The play’s emphasis on human interaction and touch-based technology resonates even more keenly now than when I first wrote it,” said Keel. “I feel such an abiding appreciation for the Neukom Institute’s efforts to bring scientists and theatre artists together. This prize allows me to move forward in the hope of collaborating in a shared space again soon.”

Both plays will have remotely-staged readings with Dartmouth’s VoxFest this summer.

“The festival’s virtual production will necessitate an exploration of new forms of theater,” said Matthew Cohn, co-founder of VoxFest. “Both Drive and Override are extremely engaging, relevant plays, and we couldn’t be more excited to explore these new forms with Deborah Yarchun and Elizabeth Keel.”

Additionally, Yarchun will work with Northern Stage to further develop her play. Drive will receive a staged reading at Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont during the 2020-2021 season.

“In the past two years, Northern Stage’s collaboration with the Neukom Institute has introduced us to imaginative new content and important new writers,” said Jess Chayes, the BOLD Associate Artistic Director at Northern Stage. “We are thrilled to develop Drive, Deborah Yarchun’s thoughtful and sensitive exploration of the human cost of automation.”

The playwrights will also have the opportunity to work with members of Dartmouth’s Department of Theater.

The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards also honors speculative fiction books. Awards are given to established and first-time authors who feature themes relevant to computational work or computing in their writing. The book awards will be announced later this year.

[Based on a press release.]

Nebula Award Winner Sam J. Miller To Judge 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards

Sam J. Miller. Photo credit: Kalyaní-Aindrí Sanchez

Nebula Award-winning author Sam J. Miller has been announced as the judge for the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards. The awards are presented annually at Dartmouth College to honor and support works in speculative fiction.

Miller is the author of the Nebula-winning The Art of Starving. Miller’s second novel Blackfish City—a shortlist selection of the 2019 Neukom Awards—tells the story of life set in a floating Arctic city where rising seas have caused dramatic geopolitical changes. His most recent book, Destroy All Monsters, was published in 2019.

“The imagined futures of some of the best speculative fiction have always felt uncomfortably close,” said Dan Rockmore, director of Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science and creator of the award program. “We are excited to have Sam Miller, one of the most imaginative writers of our day, guide us through this year’s awards under circumstances that seem like they were pulled from the pages of a spec fic book.”

The Neukom awards program presents prizes in two book categories: one for a debut author, and another in an open author category. There is also a separate award for playwriting. Miller will serve as a judge for the book awards.

“We’re living in weird and terrifying times that rival the best speculative fiction in their outlandishness,” said Miller, a recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award. “My peers and heroes in the genre community are rising to the challenge by writing magnificent books that not only capture the true horror of how we’re destroying the world, but the hope and power we have to save it. We’ve seen some astonishing novels come out in the past year, and I’m excited to help celebrate some of them as part of the Neukom Awards.”

Each Neukom award comes with a $5,000 honorarium given as a part of Dartmouth programming. The literary awards will be presented during a panel scheduled for fall of 2020. The playwriting award also includes the opportunity to develop and perform the script, first as a part of the summer VoxFest program and then later with the local Northern Stage theatre group.

The short list of books for this year’s awards will be made public in May. The list will be decided by Rockmore, along with Dartmouth colleagues Eric SchallerTarek El-Ariss, and Peter Orner, as well as The Santa Fe Institute’s Jessica Flack. The awards will be announced in June.

Additional information on the awards may be found on the Neukom Institute website here.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 11/11/19 The Wendig from a Burning Pixel

(1) ANOTHER TESTIMONY ABOUT HARASSMENT AT CZP. Kelsi Morris, who rose from intern to managing editor of ChiZine Publications – all unpaid – shared a painful account of the chronic sexual harassment she endured from its owners and authors on Facebook. (Much more at the link.)

…I think we can all agree there is a clear pattern of financial mismanagement and ill treatment of authors. What has only just started to be touched on is the deeply rooted culture of bullying, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, and the silencing of victims. And this is why I think it’s important I finally say something.

I started with ChiZine in 2012, when I was 22 years old and less than a week out of publishing school…

…I did move up quickly. I started as an intern (unpaid, of course), then became the head of marketing & publicity (also unpaid), then at 23 years old, became the managing editor for the biggest indie speculative fiction publisher in Canada (still unpaid). And more than that, I had somewhere I *belonged*.

…I was considered cool enough to hang, which meant I got to go to the exclusive parties, all the cons and events (at my own expense, of course), was invited to the casual pool nights, and fancy family dinners. I loved being included, and I was still young enough to be starstruck around so many amazing authors I admired.

Being cool, and eventually becoming friends with the “inner circle”, also meant that everyone talked freely around me. I heard the cruel ways they talked about their friends who weren’t around. I heard them plan out ways of breaking up couples. I attended family dinners where folks brought short stories written by their peers to read dramatically aloud and laugh. I heard the boundless misogyny, the mockery of women who spoke out about harassment at cons & the snowflakes who found comfort in content warnings, and the resentment they held towards their authors who had the audacity to expect to be paid. I sat, and listened, and internalized the implicit threat of what could happen to me.

And so I continued to just sit, and listen, with an uncomfortable smile pasted on my face, when I was hit on by male authors more than 15 years my senior. I smiled when hanging out with the inner circle and they made jokes about my body. I grimaced when one of the authors caressed my ass in full view of all my colleagues in the crowded con suite, but didn’t move away. I dressed accordingly at events when Sandra told me the only thing that mattered was “tits and teeth”. I nervously laughed along with everyone else when I was the only woman in a room full of men, and one of them started making rape jokes about me. …

…There are so many people who were complicit in, or at the very least enabled, what has accurately been described as the cult-like culture of bullying, abuse, harassment, and silencing. This will continue to be a problem long after ChiZine is gone, if it’s not something we start talking about now….

(2) FIREBELL IN THE NIGHT. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has quit the professional organization SF Canada over its lack of support for the ChiZine authors who have voiced grievances. The thread here.

(3) AMAZON MAKES ITS INVENTORY PROBLEM EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM. Publisher Weekly reports “Amazon Reducing Orders to Publishers”. Just in time for Christmas.

In order to deal with congestion issues at its warehouses,Amazon has been cutting book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. It isn’t clear how widespread the reduction in orders is, but several independent publishers contacted by PW reported cuts in their weekly orders since late October. One publisher reported that an order placed last week was about 75% lower than an order placed last year at this time. “It’s a nightmare,” the head of one independent publisher said.

…The head of yet another company said if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks, “we [could] lose the entire holiday season.” He added that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible that some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations. If Amazon starts running out of stock, he added, “maybe they’ll lose some market share to their competitors.”

(4) SEEN AT WFC 2019. Ellen Datlow has shared photos she took at World Fantasy Con and afterward on Flickr.

(5) WRITING ABOUT A DIFFERENT RACE. In “Who Gave You The Right To Tell That Story?” on Vulture, novelists discuss how they wrote about characters who were a different race than they are.  Among the writers who contribute short essays are N.K. Jemisin, Victor LaValle, and Ben H. Winters.

Scouring Tumblr

N. K. Jemisin, The Broken Earth Trilogy

I’ve learned to not fear obviousness when I’m describing race or topics related to oppression. With an American audience, you have to be as in your face about it as possible because our society encourages delicate euphemism. I’d rather be accused of being obvious than allow people to get away with thinking all of my characters are white people. The truth is, when you walk into a room and you see a bunch of strangers, the first thing you notice is their appearance, their race and gender. When I first describe a character, I sometimes hang a lampshade on race. My narrator will immediately think: ‘She might be Latino, oh maybe not, she might be Indian.’ I render that mental process.

You’re not going to be perfect. In The Broken Kingdoms, my protagonist was a blind woman, and she had a superpower associated with her blindness. As I now know, disability as a superpower is a trope. I didn’t read enough literature featuring blind people to really understand it’s a thing that gets done over and over again. Ehiru, a character from The Killing Moon, is asexual, and I don’t think I explored that well. If I were writing it now, I would have made him more clearly ace. I figured this out by reading Tumblr. I am on Tumblr quietly — I have a pseudonym, and nobody knows who I am. Because lots of young people hang out there and talk about identity and the way our society works, it’s basically a media-criticism lab. It’s an interesting place to talk about identity, and I did not understand until I saw these conversations that asexuality was an identity. I thought about it as a broken sexuality. My story reflected my lack of understanding of how that worked.

(6) NEUKOM SEEKS SFF AWARD ENTRIES. The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College is now “Accepting Submissions for 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards”.

The Neukom Awards, now in its third year, offers prizes in three categories of speculative fiction. Each category will receive an honorarium of $5,000 at a Dartmouth-sponsored event related to speculative fiction.

The speculative fiction awards are offered for playwriting, established author and first-time author.

The deadline for all submissions is December 31, 2019. The awards will be announced in the spring of 2020.

(7) TOP DOLLAR. “Joker: How it became the most profitable comic book film ever” – let BBC tell you.

Joker has become the most profitable comic book movie of all time, having made more than $950 million (£738m) at the worldwide box office.

It tells the story of how Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) becomes the Joker, Batman’s nemesis and one of the most infamous comic book villains ever.

Joker has now made more than 15 times what it cost to make, reports Forbes.

Director Todd Phillips made the movie on a budget of $62.5m (£49m), a fraction of the budget of many comic book adaptations.

Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing movie of all time, has earned close to $2.8 billion (£2.2bn) but had a budget of $356 million (£276m).

Endgame has made more at the box office overall, but Joker has made more in relation to what was spent to make it.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 11, 1951 Flight to Mars premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch for Monogram Pictures, and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell and Arthur Franz. Most of the interiors are from the Rocketship X-M shooting. It currently has a 21% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 11, 1917 Mack Reynolds. He’d make Birthday Honors just for his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, published in 1951, which as you likely know is a murder mystery set at a Con.  He gets Serious Geek Credits for writing the first original authorized classic Trek novel Mission to Horatius.  And I’ve seriously enjoyed his short fiction. Wildside Press has seriously big volumes of his fiction up at Apple Books and Kindle for very cheap prices. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan was his first SF novel followed by Cat’s Cradle which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. Next was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death which is one weird book and an even stranger film. It was nominated for best novel Nebula and Hugo Awards but lost both to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 11, 1925 ?Jonathan Winters. He’s in a number of genre series and films including Twilight Zone, Wild Wild West, Mork & Mindy where he was Mearth, the animated Smurfs series and The Animaniacs.  And that’s a very selective list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 11, 1926 Donald Franson. Longtime fan who lived most of his life in LA. Was active in the N3F and LASFS including serving as the secretary for years and was a member of Neffer Amateur Press Alliance.  Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom. Also wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964, the first with Howard DeVore. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 59. He was Puck in that film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, his first role was asDr. John Wiseman in Monkey Shines. (Shudder.) he shows as in forgettable The Core, and was amazing as Stanley Kubrick in The Life and Death of Peter Seller. And I’m fond of his voicing Boldo in The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 57. Ghost, of course, getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grimmy shows why it can be disillusioning – but funny – to meet your heroes.
  • Bizarro fractures a fairy tale.

(11) DISNEY DROPS SONG FROM REMAKE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Controversial Scene That’s Not In The Live-Action of The Lady and the Tramp says that in The Lady and the Tramp remake, streaming on Disney+ on November 12, Disney decided to keep the scene where the Lady and the Tramp bond over a plate of spaghetti but decided to cut “The Siamese Cat Song” because it reflects a  “50s-era Orientalism” considered out of place today.

Interestingly, Disney+ subscribers will have the chance to watch both the the 2019 version of Lady and the Tramp and the 1955 version on the studio’s new streaming service, allowing families to compare and contrast the two films, and discuss moments like “The Siamese Cat Song.”

(12) YOUNG PEOPLE WEIGH IN. James Davis Nicoll connects the Young People Read Old SFF panel with Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon A Star”.

Judith Merril was a founding member of the Futurians, an editor, founder of what is now the Merril library and of course a science fiction writer. 

“Wish Upon a Star” is a generation ship story. By their nature, the need for a stable society able to keep a small community functioning for decades in total isolation, generation ships are forced to make some striking adaptations. In most cases, those adaptations included mutiny, cultural amnesia, barbarism and eventual extinction. 

Merril’s characters made very different choices. Let’s see what the Young People made of them.

(13) AN EARLIER STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Jeff Kingston’s “Exhuming Lafcadio Hearn” at the LA Review of Books surveys the Japanese Tales of Lafcadio Hearn, edited by Andrei Codrescu, the author’s Japanese Ghost Stories, and Monique Truong’s “mesmerizing” novel The Sweetest Fruits.

In 1890, Hearn moved to Japan, where he was to spend the last 14 years of his life, initially teaching English in remote Matsue, in Shimane Prefecture, and subsequently at Waseda University and the University of Tokyo. He also had stints in journalism and became an influential and popular interpreter for a Western audience of what was regarded at the time as an inscrutable culture and society. He is now best remembered for his traditional Japanese stories about supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons. Hearn died from heart failure at age 54, yet he was a prolific writer, despite poor health in his final years. His insights into turn-of-the-century Japan attest to his powers of observation and interpretation. Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan (1894) is a classic, conveying his rapturous appreciation for all things Japanese, especially traditions, customs, and ways of living unsullied by foreign accretions.

(14) ONE TRUE WAY. The Cut discovered this is a controversial question: “What Is the Correct Way to Eat a Cinnamon Roll?” What do you say?

Madeleine Aggeler, writer: No, you unroll and tear it apart with your fingers.

Izzy Grinspan, deputy style editor: There’s no wrong way to eat a cinnamon roll.

Rachel: Incorrect, Mrs. Switzerland, only one can survive.

(15) PRESS THE BUTTON, MAX. “The switch that saved a Moon mission from disaster”.

Just a few months after the triumph of Apollo 11, Nasa sent another mission to the lunar surface. But it came chillingly close to disaster.

In November 1969, just four months after men first set foot on the Moon, Nasa was ready to do it again. Basking in the success of Apollo 11, the agency decided that Apollo 12’s mission to the Ocean of Storms would be even more ambitious.

Unlike Neil Armstrong, who had been forced to overshoot his planned landing site because it was strewn with boulders, Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad was aiming for a precision touchdown, within moonwalking distance of an unmanned Surveyor probe. Conrad and landing module pilot, Al Bean, would then spend longer on the surface – with two excursions planned – while beaming back the first colour television from the Moon.

On 14 November, Conrad, Bean and Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon settled into their couches at the top of the 111-metre-high Saturn 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Meanwhile, in mission control Houston, flight director Gerry Griffin took his seat behind his console – his first time leading a mission.

At the launchpad, the ground was wet from storms that recently passed through the area and the sky is overcast. But with the rocket and crew ready to go, and US President Richard Nixon watching (for the first time) from the VIP stands, all systems were green for launch.

At 11.22, the giant white rocket slowly lifted off the pad and accelerated into the clouds.

“This baby’s really going,” shouts Conrad to his crewmates as the launcher cleared the tower and Houston takes over control. “It’s a lovely lift-off.”

Then, 36 seconds into the flight, Conrad sees a flash. All the fuel cells supplying power to the capsule fell offline and the entire alarm panel lit up….

(16) RAISING THE SUB STANDARD. The Brooklyn Paper tells how it happened: “A rough knight: Medieval fighter slashed in subway”.

Some wacko slashed a modern-day knight in the face aboard an L train in Williamsburg on Nov. 8, after the chivalrous straphanger prevented him from assaulting another man.

The victim — who dons plate armor to engage in armed duals as part of the Society for Creative Anachronisms and New York City Armored Combat League — sustained a seven-inch gash amid the attack, and said Medieval warfare has nothing on the city’s transit system. 

“My sport involves swords and axes, but the only thing I’ve gotten from that is a torn ACL and a couple broken bones, and here I finally get a scar,” said Zorikh Lequidre…. 

(17) BACK OFF. “Bird of the Year: Rare anti-social penguin wins New Zealand poll” – BBC has the story.

An endangered yellow-eyed penguin has won New Zealand’s coveted Bird of the Year competition after two weeks of intense campaigning.

The hoiho saw off more than five rivals to become the first penguin to win the annual honour in its 14-year history.

(18) RUH ROH! SCOOB! is a Scooby-Doo remake which Warner Bros. will release in the summer of 2020.

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

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards

Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute announced the winners of the 2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards for speculative fiction and playwriting on June 4.

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction (Debut Category)

  • Peng Shepherd, The Book of M (William Morrow, 2018)

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction (Open Category)

  • Audrey Schulman, Theory of Bastards (Europa Editions, 2018)

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting

  • Francisco Mendoza, Machine Learning

The book awards were judged by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. The play award was judged by a panel of experts from Northern Stage, VoxFest, Dartmouth’s Department of Film and Media Studies, Dartmouth’s Department of Theater and The Civilians theater company.

Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium that will be presented during a Dartmouth-hosted panel to discuss the genre and their work.

Ann VanderMeer said about Peng Shepherd’s debut novel The Book of M:

It’s an outstanding first novel. Very ambitious, highly imaginative, and hits all the right emotional beats. Parts of it took my breath away.

And she said of the open book category winner, Audrey Schulman’s Theory of Bastards:

Beautifully written, provocative and yet highly satisfying, this novel took lots of risks. And it paid off in this remarkable story. Unlike many dystopian novels, this one gives you hope for humanity and the future without being sentimental.

The 2019 Neukom award winner for playwriting is Francisco Mendoza, whose play, “Machine Learning,” draws on insights from the immigrant experience and the human relationship with technology to detail how a computer scientist’s intelligent nursing app both repairs and complicates his troubled relationship with his father.

Mendoza will receive assistance with the play’s development in the form of a reading with VoxFest at Dartmouth College in July, and a staged reading at Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont, during the 2019/2020 season.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society. The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards were established in 2017. The awards aspire to raise general awareness of the speculative fiction genre, as well as the interconnectivity between the sciences and the arts.

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards Finalists

Ten books that “dare to imagine how society collides with the future” have been shortlisted for the 2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards.

From the challenges of life on a floating Arctic city, to epidemics of forgetfulness and zombification, to an Earth occupied by amphibious aliens, the Neukom shortlist forces readers to grapple with uncomfortable twists to familiar storylines of climate change, social justice and technological innovation.

The second annual speculative fiction awards program will be judged by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. The winners will be announced in late May.

Open Category

Debut Category

Co-judge Jeff VanderMeer commented:

It’s been gratifying to play a part in reading and selecting such unique and strong fiction from so many different points of view. We’ve particularly enjoyed encountering writers we had not read before—and it’s especially gratifying to find so many new voices, who we believe readers will be encountering for decades to come. The Dartmouth prize is a much-needed addition to the current slate of science fiction awards.

And co-judge Ann VanderMeer said:

We’re looking forward to selecting the winners. This is such a strong list and a difficult choice for us but a very good problem to have! It’s wonderful to see so many writers taking chances and showing us other ways to view the world we live in today and what our tomorrows could be.

Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium that will be presented during a Dartmouth-hosted panel to discuss the genre and their work.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society. The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards were established in 2017. The awards aspire to raise general awareness of the speculative fiction genre, as well as the interconnectivity between the sciences and the arts.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/18 Last Week I Went To Pixeldelphia But It Was Scrolled

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman, in Episode 79 of Eating the Fantastic, invites podcast listeners to join him for lunch with Rebecca Roanhorse at Zona Rosa Mexican restaurant.

Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse’s short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM),” which appeared in Apex magazine, won the Nebula Award earlier this year, and was also nominated for this year’s Hugo Award, an amazing feat for a writer’s first published short story. Plus she was also nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And the following night after she and I dined, she was the winner in both of those categories. (By the way, she was the first writer since 1980 to win the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Campbell Award for Best New Writer the same year. It’s only been done once before, by Barry B. Longyear with his novella “Enemy Mine.”)

Roanhorse’s debut novel, Trail of Lightning, was published this summer by Saga Press, about which the New York Times had this to say: “Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick.” It’s the first book is The Sixth World series, and will be followed next year by Storm of Locusts.

We discussed the spark without which her award-winning short story would never have been written, the differing reactions her tale garnered from inside and outside of the Native American community, the compelling reason she chose to write it in the second person, what she learned as a lawyer that helped in writing her first novel, how she upped her game when she decided to be a writer for real, why she fell out of the reading habit and how a Laurel K. Hamilton novel drew her back in, what it was like to hear Levar Burton read her award-winning story, and much more.

(2) ARTHUR FOR PURISTS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers these are “The Best Arthurian Novels for Fans of Actual History”

I suspect a lot of people’s minds ran in the same direction mine did at the news that a girl named Saga had pulled a fifteen hundred-year-old sword from a lake. Not all swords are Excalibur, of course, and the lake in question was in Sweden, but Britain could do worse than seeing if Saga has any interest in becoming Prime Minister.

All of which reminded me of Arthuriana, and my first and favorite Arthur novel, Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Lantern Bearers (1959)….

(3) NEUKOM TAKING ENTRIES. Tor.com reports “Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award Opens Submissions for Second Year Honoring Speculative Fiction”.

The three award categories are —

1 • The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction

2 • The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction (for a first book)

3 • The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting

…The submission window recently opened for the second year of the Neukom Institute award. Asked how they are approaching the second season, Rockmore responded, “We are not just award judges, we are readers. We can’t wait to read the next crop of speculative fiction that is being submitted for the second Neukom season. We are hoping that we can build on the success of the inaugural year of the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards to gather an even stronger and broader collection of submissions for this year. We continue to welcome speculative fiction in all of its many forms and look forward to continuing to bring greater attention to this important genre.”

Eligible books include any works published no earlier than June 1, 2016 or under contract to be published no later than December 31, 2018; the submission deadline for all three awards is December 31. More detailed submission guidelines here. The awards will be announced in spring 2019.

(4) MORE ABOUT EREWHON. The press release from Liz Gorinsky’s new Erewhon Books fills in more details:

Erewhon’s founder, President, and Publisher Liz Gorinsky came to Erewhon after nearly fifteen years at SF&F publisher Tor Books, where she edited a list that included acclaimed and award-winning speculative fiction authors Liu Cixin, Annalee Newitz, Cherie Priest, Nisi Shawl, Catherynne M. Valente, and Jeff VanderMeer. She was part of the team that founded Tor..com and has won multiple prestigious awards for editing, including the Hugo Award for Best Editor, Long Form. Gorinsky remarked, “I started to learn about science fiction and fantasy at Tor Books as an intern, but I’ve loved those genres ever since I started reading. I’ve been honored to publish many beautiful SF&F books that have been bestselling, award-nominated, critically acclaimed (or all three!), and I’m thrilled to carry on my work with the many great authors in this genre and build the special attention and individual approach that a boutique independent publisher can provide.”

The rest of the Erewhon team includes Editorial Assistant Jillian Feinberg and business advisor Peter Burri, who is the co-founder of the successful independent press The Experiment and has twenty-five years of experience in publishing operations and financing. Erewhon also has substantial financial backers who come from families with over fifty years of publishing experience and are committed to the long-term growth of the company.

Erewhon is pleased to have signed on as a distribution client of independent publisher Workman Publishing, which has fine imprints including Algonquin Books and Artisan Books and a select distribution group that includes The Experiment and duopress. Previously, Workman has had very little presence in the speculative fiction world and is excited to be expanding its offerings in that direction. Workman’s Chief Executive Officer Daniel P. Reynolds commented, “It’s exciting to be part of the talented team starting up Erewhon Books. Many years ago, Workman had a bestseller with Good Omens – our first and only SF&F title, so it’s about time we got back into this category. We can’t wait to help Erewhon develop their own list of bestsellers.”

Erewhon opened its New York City office in June 2018 and is starting to build its list with the aim of debuting its first season of new titles in 2020.

(5) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Mallory O’Meara, in “10 Great Horror Books for Wimps”  on Vulture, selects books for people who think Halloween is a good time to read a horror novel, but would want to read “books that won’t keep you up at night.” Her good taste is evident because one of the books she picks is Something Wicked This Way Comes, and she mentions Bradbury in connection with another choice —

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Kelly Link is the literary heir to Ray Bradbury’s short fiction throne, and her latest collection is filled with fantastic, genre-melding tales. These stories incorporate various horror elements, like vampire boyfriends and creepy faeries, but they fascinate instead of scare, making it the perfect book to test the spooky waters with. Also notable: Get in Trouble was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

(6) USING SFF TO TEACH COMPUTER ETHICS, Teachers at the University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago have been using science fiction to offer students a way to cultivate their capacity for moral imagination. In the recent edition of the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, they write: ” Teaching ethics to computer science students is a pressing responsibility for computer science faculty but also a challenge. Using fiction as the basis for an ethics course offers several advantages beyond its immediate appeal.” — “How to Teach Computer Ethics through Science Fiction” at Communications of the ACM.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born October 18, 1924 – Vol Molesworth, Mathematician, Editor, Publisher, and Fan from Australia who led a revival of the Sydney Futurians in 1947, becoming one of the leading Australian fans in the 50s. He played a major role in the three Australian Natcons held in Sydney during the 50s, and founded and operated the Futurian Press. His works include An Outline History of Australian Fandom and A History of Australian Science Fiction Fandom 1935-1963, and the fanzines  Luna, Cosmos, and Telefan.
  • Born October 18, 1944 – Katherine Kurtz, 74, Writer who has published sixteen novels in the Deryni series, which is notable for being one of the first historical fantasy series (as opposed to Tolkien-type high fantasy), has garnered her several Mythopoeic and BFA nominations, and has been a perennial favorite in the Locus Reader’s Choice polls. With Deborah Turner Harris, she has co-written the alternate history Templar Knights series and the Adept urban fantasy series. She has written several standalone novels, of which I strongly recommend both Lammas Night and St. Patrick’s Gargoyle. She also contributed a number of recipes to Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey which was co-edited by McCaffrey and John Gregory Betancourt (I’m curious – have any Filers seen that work?). She has been Guest of Honor at more than two dozen conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born October 18, 1946 – Howard Shore, 72, Oscar-winning Composer from Canada who has created the scores for nearly 80 films, many of them genre, including Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (all of which won Hugo Awards), the Hobbit movies, eXistenZ, Scanners, Videodrome, Dogma, and the Hugo finalists Big and Hugo (which was based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, about science fiction film pioneer George Méliès and his automata).
  • Born October 18, 1947 – Joe Morton, 71, Tony- and Emmy-nominated Actor of Stage and Screen, who had a lead role on Eureka and a recurring role on Smallville, as well as guest parts on Mission: Impossible, The X-Files, and Warehouse 13. He starred in the film The Brother from Another Planet and had roles in the Hugo-winning Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Paycheck, The Astronaut’s Wife, What Lies Beneath, Dragonfly, Stealth, The Clairvoyant, Batman vs Superman, and Justice League.
  • Born October 18, 1950 – Tony Roberts, 68, Artist from England who, from the 60s to the 90s, produced more than 100 SFF book covers as well as numerous interior illustrations, many of them for the first editions of books by well-known authors, including Heinlein, Le Guin, Leiber, Dick, and van Vogt; they were distinctive for their spaceships and futuristic architecture, and many of them are still instantly recognizable to long-time SFF readers. His work yielded a nomination for the British Fantasy Award Best Artist; however, in the mid-90s, he mostly left the field to pursue fine art painting. In 2000, he made international news for suing artist Glenn Brown, who had plagiarized  reinterpreted his 1974 cover for Heinlein’s Double Star in a painting which became a finalist for the £20,000 Turner Prize.
  • Born October 18, 1964 – Charles Stross, 54, Computer Programmer, Writer, and Fan from England who has transplanted himself to Scotland. His longest-running series is The Laundry Files, a sort of Bondian occult pastiche that can only truly be appreciated if read from the beginning. His Halting State and Rule 34 series novels might, I think, be his best work, but The Merchant Princes series got much better when they were released by Tor in their second incarnation. His Heinlein-homage Saturn’s Children novels are a quick, fun read. His works have racked up an impressive array of more than 50 Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Sturgeon, Tiptree, Sidewise, Prometheus, Skylark, and Kurd Laßwitz Award nominations including 7 wins (his novel Accelerando alone being responsible for 7 of those nominations). He has been Guest of Honor at more than 20 conventions, including a Eurocon.
  • Born October 18, 1987 – Nicola Posener, 31, Actor from England with an amazingly prolific resume of genre films of which I don’t recognise a one: Lab Rats, House Of Anubis, Dawn Of The Dragonslayer, The Crown And The Dragon, Survivor, Mythica: A Quest For Heroes , Mythica: The Darkspore, Mythica: The Necromancer, Mythica: The Iron Crown, Mythica: The Godslayer and Magellan  – which, trust me, is not a complete list.
  • Born October 18 – Filer NickPheas (who is welcome to provide his own capsule bio if he is so inclined; photos of credentials are also welcome).

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • A super inept job interview at Bizarro.

(9) IF YOU’RE NOT CHEATING YOU’RE NOT TRYING. Some cheating video gamers have been hauled into court —

A YouTube gamer who posted videos of himself cheating at Fortnite is being sued by its developer Epic Games.

Brandon Lucas has attracted 1.7 million subscribers to his Golden Modz channel, where he plays modified or hacked versions of Fortnite and other games.

He also runs a website where he sells cheats, such as automatic aiming, for more than $200 (£150).

“Defendants are cheaters. Nobody likes a cheater,” Epic Games said in its legal filing.

“Defendant Lucas not only cheats, he also promotes, advertises, and sells software that enables those who use it to cheat,” the document states.

The publisher of video game Grand Theft Auto V has been granted the right to search the homes of five people accused of making cheat software.

The court order allowed Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive, to search two properties in Melbourne, Australia, for evidence related to a cheat known as Infamous.

The Australian federal court has also frozen the assets of the five, who have not yet filed a defence.

The cheat went offline six months ago.

(10) ABOUT ALT COMICS. A transcript of last month’s Reveal “Never meet your (super) heroes” interview with Vox Day and Chuck Dixon is available online.

Al letson: So how does this book become a bestseller?

Amanda Rob: Well it’s possible that a lot of people are really reading it, and it’s possible that Vox is taking advantage of something that Amazon does which is called micro-categorizing. So right now, one of the issues of Alt-Hero is the number one new release in Superhero Graphic Novels. That’s a pretty small category, but it is number one in that category.

Al letson: Is there a way to game the system?

Amanda Rob: Sure. There’s a way to game the system. You have your fans and followers click on the book. If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free.

***

Chuck Dixon: See, that’s the problem. That’s where the agenda, putting the agenda … I’m not saying you have an agenda. There’s nothing wrong with you wanting to see a character that you can relate to more closely, but, when you put the agenda before the story, that’s where the problem lies because then you come up with uninteresting characters for the sake of diversity.

Al letson: Then, I asked the question that brought me all the way down to Florida. Why work with Vox Day?

Chuck Dixon: Well, there’s … He approached me. I didn’t know much about him, I still don’t know a whole lot about him, but this is the first time in my experience that I’ve gone to work on a job and everybody’s concerned with who is publishing it and their background, their beliefs, and everything else because this guy is … Man, is this guy a lightning rod. I don’t agree with a whole lot of what he says but he was offering me an opportunity to create our own work. He had a funding thing and he had a distribution deal set up. He admitted that he didn’t know what he didn’t know, so he wasn’t telling me what to do, he was asking me what I should do or what would be best for me and all the rest of it.

Offering me an opportunity and didn’t tell me what to write, and still has not told me what to write, so, to me, it was just an opportunity to be free of the kind of constraints that are put on you at the major companies, the political correctness constraints. I wasn’t interested in doing a book that was political. I wasn’t interested in doing a message book.

Al letson: So he’s not asking you to write anything political, but you understand how just working with him is political?

Chuck Dixon: I’ve read the “Alt-Hero” thing and I’ve rejected parts of it I didn’t want to do, that I don’t agree with. I don’t write for that.

(11) SPIDEY SINGS, KINDA. At The Verge, Patricia Hernandez gives a strong, if reluctant recommendation for a new music video set in the universe of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (“To see this gorgeous new Into the Spider-Verse footage, you must endure Post Malone”).

I’m sorry to direct Verge readers to a Post Malone song, but the grubby musician has made his latest music video hard to pass up: “Sunflower” is a collaboration with Swae Lee that the pair wrote and recorded to accompany Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the gorgeous upcoming animated film that follows Miles Morales (and basically every other Spidey that ever existed).

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theaters on December 14th.

(12) WE GOT US A CONVOY. Vice brings the news “The Army is preparing to send driverless vehicles into combat’—as transportation, not as fighting vehicles.

The Army is getting ready to drive into war — in driverless trucks.

Next fall, its “Leader-Follower” technology will enable convoys of autonomous vehicles to follow behind one driven by a human. It’s a direct response to the improvised explosive devices that caused nearly half the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The military has been trying to bring robots into wars since the 1950s, a long line of technological innovations that began with a bulky roving platform and carried into bomb-defusing robots.

The same basic idea is always at play: “remoting the lethality,” essentially creating a bigger, safer distance between American soldiers and the enemy they are trying to kill.

(13) CHENGDU MIRRORSAT FOLLOW-UP. The Asia Times has a followup on the plan announced by Chengdu to orbit a mirrorsat (“Chinese city to launch man-made moon to light up skies”), with a few additional details.

The satellite would be able to light an area with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometers, while the precise illumination range can be controlled within a few dozen meters, according to the People’s Daily, which quoted a developer with the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute as saying.

…The man-made moon has a highly reflective coating to reflect light from the sun with solar panel-like wings whose angles can be adjusted to realize “precise lighting.” The 14,300-square-meter city of Chengdu would be the primal focus of the light from the man-made moon, and astronomers throughout China and overseas should be able to spot the glowing star at night.

…The idea of an “artificial moon” came from a French artist, who imagined hanging a necklace made of mirrors above the earth, which could reflect sunshine through the streets of Paris all year round.

(14) FICTION FEAST. Charles Payseur dishes up a first serving of short fiction reviews from Beneath Ceaseless Skies — “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #262 [part 1/2]”.

The anniversary offerings continue with a second special double issue from Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Again, for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to break this out into two parts. The first features a novelette and short story that for me deal very much with narratives and with learning. They both have the feel of engaging with fable, with magic, and with characters learning lessons that they weren’t really expecting to. Whether that lesson is about the nature of growing up or of becoming a better person, in both there’s a focus on people seeking something that will give them power and answers and then, ultimately, wondering if that’s what they really want. Both carry a sense of strangeness and wonder, as well, and are warm and cozy at the same time. Before I give too much away, though, let’s get to the reviews!

(15) SECOND OPINION. According to NPR, “Geologists Question ‘Evidence Of Ancient Life’ In 3.7 Billion-Year-Old Rocks”.

That’s according to a new analysis, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by a different team of experts.

This second group examined structures within the rock that were thought in 2016 to have been produced by communities of single-celled microbes that grew up from the bottom of a shallow, salty sea. A three-dimensional look at these structures shows that instead of having a telltale upside-down ice-cream cone shape — the kind produced by microorganisms — they are shaped like a Toblerone candy bar.

“They’re stretched-out ridges that extend deeply into the rock,” said Joel Hurowitz, a geochemist at Stony Brook University in New York and an author of Wednesday’s paper. “That shape is hard to explain as a biological structure and much easier to explain as something that resulted from rocks being squeezed and deformed under tectonic pressures.”

(16) WHAT’S IN THE GIN? Theoretically, this could be yummy — “Not Just For Cows Anymore: New Cottonseed Is Safe For People To Eat”.

You probably don’t think of cotton as food.

There’s a good reason for that. Farmers grow it mostly for the fluffy white fibers that turn into T-shirts or sheets. Cotton plants do produce seeds, but those seeds are poisonous, at least to humans.

This week, though,the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a new kind of cotton — one that’s been genetically engineered so that the seeds are safe to eat.

The invention promises to open new markets for cottonseed, and it could give cotton farming a big boost. Because cotton plants are prodigious seed producers: Every pound of cotton fiber, or lint, comes with 1.6 pounds of seed.

“You’re getting more cottonseed than you are lint,” says Greg Holt, who leads research on cotton production and processing at a USDA research station in Lubbock, Texas.

Each seed is the size of a small peanut. In principle, it could be highly nutritious. It contains lots of oil and protein.

(17) PARENTAL CAUTION. Watchers of Ellen found out “Keira Knightley bans daughter from watching some Disney films”.

Keira Knightley says she has banned her three-year-old daughter from watching Disney films whose portrayal of women she disagrees with.

Edie Knightley Righton is not allowed to watch Cinderella or Little Mermaid.

Knightley told Ellen DeGeneres that 1950’s Cinderella “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her. Don’t! Rescue yourself. Obviously!”

She said of Little Mermaid: “I mean, the songs are great, but do not give your voice up for a man. Hello!”

Presumably on the OK list is the Disney film Knightley is promoting, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, in which she plays the Sugar Plum Fairy.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Hedgehog on Vimeo is a short animated film from France about a little boy obsessed by hedgehogs.

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

2018 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards in Speculative Fiction.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College has named the winners of the inaugural Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards in Speculative Fiction. The awards go to three works of fiction that “demonstrate that the future can be imagined as something other than a slick, techno-dystopia.”

2018 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award “Open Category”

  • On the Edge of Gone by Corrine Duyvis (Amulet/Abrams, 2016)
  • Central Station by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon Publications, 2016)

2018 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award “Debut Speculative Fiction Award”

  • Best Worst American by Juan Martinez (Small Beer Press, 2017)

Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium that will be presented during a Dartmouth-hosted panel to discuss the genre and their work.

Lavie Tidhar, co-winner in the open category for Central Station, said: “Writing Central Station, I was finally able to put into form many of the ideas on the future – of people, of machines, of communication – that occupied me since first loading a command line prompt, and since the first time I heard the siren call of a modem. I’m honored to be among the inaugural recipients of the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards.”

Corinne Duyvis, co-winner in the open category for On the Edge of Gone, said: “This was a highly personal book for me to write, and for it to receive an honor of this magnitude is thrilling both professionally and personally.”

Juan Martinez, winner in the debut author category for Best Worst American, said: “I’m thrilled, humbled, and tremendously happy. I’m a huge fan of the writers on the shortlist, and it was a surprise to find myself in there; it’s an even bigger surprise to be among the winners.”

 

The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards program was announced last year as an open competition to honor and support creative works around speculative fiction. The inaugural playwriting award announced earlier this year was given to Jessica Andrewartha for her play, “Choices People Make.” Andrewartha’s play navigates a
near-world future dominated by artificial intelligence, but that also struggles with the real-world issues faced in today’s society.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society.

More about the Neukom Award can be found here.

[Thanks to Jim DeMaio and Mark Hepworth for the story. This coverage is based on the press release.]

2018 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards Shortlist

“Books that imagine futures far and near, nudged or driven by science but still bound by the human experience,” have been named to the shortlist for the inaugural Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College will announce the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards winners from among the shortlist in May.

Awards will be presented for a debut work and an established author in the genre of speculative fiction. Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium that will be presented during a Dartmouth-hosted panel to discuss the genre and their work.

Included within the list of 11 finalist books in the speculative fiction genre are novels, a graphic novel, young adult work, and collections of stories. The finalists comprise a mix of first-time and established authors.

2018 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards Shortlist of Books:

  • After Atlas by Emma Newman (Roc, 2016)
  • Best Worst American by Juan Martinez (Small Beer Press, 2017)
  • Central Station by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon Publications, 2016)
  • Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein (Picador, 2016)
  • Made for Love by Alissa Nutting (HarperCollins, 2017)
  • New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, 2017)
  • On the Edge of Gone by Corrine Duyvis (Amulet/Abrams, 2016)
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (Orbit, 2017)
  • Telling the Map by Christopher Rowe (Small Beer Press, 2017)
  • Using Life by Ahmed Naji (UT Press, 2017)
  • Void Star by Zachary Mason (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017)

“These books run the gamut in form, context, and outlook. We see irony, adventure, humor, and loss,” said Dan Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute. “Whether describing a cloned space crew, the future of sexual relations, or everyday life in a changed environment, the Neukom shortlist is filled with essential reads that address the complexities that the future may bring.” The shortlist was prepared by Rockmore and Dartmouth colleagues Alexander Chee and Tarek El-Ariss.

The judging is spearheaded by New York Times-bestselling author Maria Dahvana Headley, whose soon-to-be-released novel The Mere Wife (MCD × Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is a contemporary retelling of the classic “Beowulf.” Headley says:

I couldn’t be more excited to judge a shortlist that represents such a diverse group of writers. It’s a privilege to get to award prizes like these, which push the boundaries between forms and genres, and which amplify the innovative work of radical thinkers, intense creators, and brave analyzers of our culture and future.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society.

[Thanks to Gordon Van Gelder for the story. This coverage is based on the press release.]

Pixel Scroll 12/20/17 God Stalk Ye Merry Pixel Scrolls

(1) IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR. Somebody reading this needs a ThinkGeek Steampunk Styled Tesla Analog Watch.

Tesla came up with all sorts of inventions and has sort of become the poster scientist for awesomeness now. Sure he wasn’t perfect. Sure he was a bit crazy. But he was always on time for his appointments. (Ed. note: We made that up.) And now you can be, too, with the new Tesla Watch.

The Tesla Watch goes with your steampunk aesthetic. With a weathered-brass look on all the metal parts, this analog watch features a leather strap. The highlights of this design, however, are the two faux vacuum tubes with red LEDs inside that you can turn on and off with the flick of a switch. Everybody will want to ask you what time it is so they can see your watch. Just remember to follow the answer with, “… 1875.”

(2) ACADEMY MUSEUM. The opening of The Academy Museum in 2019 is more than a year away, however, they have a website to satisfy your curiosity about what’s coming:

The Academy Museum will be the world’s premier institution dedicated to the art and science of movies. Located on Wilshire and Fairfax in Los Angeles, the Museum, will be simultaneously immersive, experimental, educational, and entertaining. More than a museum, this dynamic film center will offer unparalleled experiences and insights into movies and moviemaking.

The Museum will have huge resources to draw its exhibits from:

The Academy’s unparalleled permanent collection contains more than 10 million photographs, 190,000 film and video assets, 80,000 screenplays, 50,000 posters, 20,000 production and costume design drawings, and 1,400 special collections.

Their Rick Baker page illustrates the range of their offerings, in photos, videos, and documents.

A record-holding winner of seven Academy Awards for Makeup out of eleven nominations, Rick Baker is a lifelong “monster kid” who won the first competitive Oscar awarded in that category for his innovative work on An American Werewolf in London (1981), one of several collaborations with director John Landis. His apprenticeship under one of the industry’s greatest makeup artists, Dick Smith (including working as his assistant on The Exorcist), prepared him for a career providing cutting-edge makeup effects in many genres ranging from comedy to science fiction to horror, with titles including Ed Wood (1994), The Nutty Professor (1996) and Men in Black (1998).

(3) ONE MAGAZINE, ONE YEAR. Standback has Storified his “Favorite Stories From F&SF Magazine, 2017”:

F&SF is a magazine that always fills me with joy, wonder, and feels. A quick rundown of my favorite stories of 2017.

(4) THE REASON FOR THE FIFTH SEASON. N.K. Jemisin’s Twitter stream is filled with holiday song mashups today.

(5) SURPRISES. John Scalzi did a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” today. You never know what you’re going to learn.

Q: Do you often set out to write a book to be a series? Or do some of them just insist that you write more in that universe?

SCALZI: Only once: The Collapsing Empire, which we knew was the first installment of a series. Everything else was written standalone, and became series in when they sold well and the publisher asked for more.

(6) NEW SPECULATIVE FICTION AWARDS. Darthmouth College’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College has created two new literary awards, the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction and the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction, For A First Book. Each award comes with an honorarium of $5,000. The deadline for entry is December 31, 2017. Complete information about eligibility and submission guidelines is at the linked sites.

(7) TOYS, FIGURATIVE AND LITERAL. While Rian Johnson reasonably says — “You Have To Take The Toys Out Of The Box.” Rian Johnson Talks Creative Risks In “The Last Jedi” (at Fast Company), not as many people are doing that literally this year — “Star Wars ‘Last Jedi’ Toy Shipments Down Sharply From ‘Force Awakens'” (from The Hollywood Reporter.)

(8) WFC PROGRAMMING SURVEY. World Fantasy Con 2018 co-chair Bill Lawhorn announces they have put up a programming survey on their website — http://www.wfc2018.org/programsuggest.php

Lawhorn says, “You do not need to be a member to suggest ideas. There are no guarantees that any individual suggestion will be used.”

One of the things they’re looking for are items that carry out the WFC 2018 themes “Ports in a Storm” and “Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of Frankenstein.”

(9) U.F.O. 6. Laura Resnick has a story in Unidentified Funny Objects 6 called “Lost & Found”. That story has a backstory.

I used to work part-time at a community newspaper. It should have been a great job. The hours, the location, the work, the community, and the rest of the staff were all pleasant, and the pay was okay.

Unfortunately, though, the boss (who was the editor, publisher, and owner of the paper) was an incredibly toxic person, which made working there miserable and stressful, despite all the positive attributes the place otherwise had….

Well, at one point, the boss wanted to print some “joke” stories in the newspaper. He presented staffers with a few real news stories that he wanted us to riff on. I selected one about NASA, wrote my story as directed, and turned it in. After reading it, the boss informed me that this story was not at all what he had wanted. In fact, it was what he had asked for, but now he was asking for something else. So I wrote another draft. He sent this one back to me with some notes. I revised the material in accordance with the notes and turned it in. Now he gave me all-new feedback, stuff he had not said on any previous iteration, and had me revise it again. I did so. And then he did the same thing again.

Next, he told me to start all over from scratch. He couldn’t articulate why, he just knew he wanted something else. I pointed out that I had already done 5 versions. He said I would probably have to do 10 or 12 versions before we were done….

The sad part, so to speak, was that the pieces he kept spiking were funny, and none of them ever saw the light of day.

So when Alex Shvartsman asked me to participate in UFO6, I decided to turn my ideas  for that article into a short story. The result is “Lost & Found,” in which some surprising visitors emerge from a UFO orbiting Earth.

And apparently someone thinks I can write humor, since Imagine A Book SF gave my story 5 stars and said, “So many different layers of humor. Wonderful.”

Yep, getting published is still the best revenge.

(10) HELP WANTED. Roger Silverstein is trying to identify a story —

Tim Pratt posted this on Facebook a little while back, he is hunting for a half-remembered fantasy story.  I actually remember reading this story, but I cannot remember the dang title.  This is bugging me almost as much as it bugs him.  Would you be willing to post this?  (I emailed Tim Pratt for permission to copy and paste and he said “Sure, feel free” He has posted this in various places, but never File 770.

I’ve been trying to track down a half-remembered story for the past 25 years or so. Maybe one of you will recognize it. Google always fails me, either because it’s an obscure story with no digital footprint, or because I’m misremembering salient details. I was reading some rooming house stories by Theodore Sturgeon today, and it reminded me.

The story is set in a boarding house, full of peculiar characters, many of whom have supernatural powers. There’s one man who travels the world and fixes tears in reality; I think he’s described as having “lightning in his hands.” There’s an old woman who sees angels, or maybe just one angel, I think named Toby. There’s a man with magical mechanical aptitude; I think he fixes up an old car, and takes a left turn, and the car disappears, taking him with it. There’s someone who can make things you desire appear, maybe — they make the angel the old woman sees visible to everyone, at one point; that’s one of the hazier details. I don’t remember the plot at all. I probably read it in an anthology or SF magazine that was available at the Wayne Country library in Goldsboro North Carolina in the early ’90s, but it could be from any year before that.

Ring any bells? It’s entirely possible I’m misremembering or even conflating. It was a long time ago, but the story made a big impression on my fledgling writer brain, and I’d love to find it again.

(11) SPEAR CARRIER. “Remember That Guy Who Speared a Drone At a Ren Faire?” (Reference is to this video.) They made a runestone of his feat.

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Rudyard, Montana is the only populated place in the US where if you drill through the earth you wind up on land — the Kerguelan Island in the South Indian Ocean.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

The remarkable Ed Wynn makes his second and final appearance in The Twilight Zone as Sam Forstmann, a septuagenarian obsessed with maintaining the family grandfather clock. Sam is convinced that if the clock stops, he will die… a belief that baffles his family and the psychiatrist he visits (William Sargent).

  • December 20, 1974 — Walt Disney’s The Island At The Top Of The World debuted.
  • December 20, 1978The Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake opened.
  • December 20, 1985  — Enemy Mine was released

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • If this link works, it will take you to Matthew Gallman’s incredible 360-degree cartoon spoofing The Last Jedi.
  • Mike Kennedy says, “You haven’t seen that? Quelle horror!” – two Game of Thrones jokes, one in Pearls Before Swine, the other in Foxtrot.
  • John King Tarpinian knew we wouldn’t want to miss this moderately horrible superhero-inspired pun — Brevity.

(15) MYTHBOOSTER. In the unlikely event somebody thinks Game of Thrones is science fiction rather than fantasy, Live Science’s Charles Q. Choi, in “Is the Ice Wall from ‘Game of Thrones’ Physically Possible?”, summarizes a paper by University of Alaska (Fairbanks) glaciologist Martin Truffer about whether “The Wall” in Game of Thrones could exist.  He notes that ice flows over time and the only way to preserve a giant ice wall is to keep it at -40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the wall from cracking or deforming.

(16) FOR THE BIRDS. BBC covered the annual Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards:

An owl dangling precariously from a branch has scooped the overall prize of this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

Out of the 3,500 entries, Tibor Kercz won the overall prize with his series of images showing an owl losing its footing and trying to claw its way back on to a branch.

Other entrants included a yawning dormouse, a photobombing sea turtle and a rather shocked seal.

(17) GORMENGHAST. John C. Wright griped about Gormenghast being published as fantasy, and prompted in response this terrific essay on the subject by Tom Simon, “Gormenghast and the Great Tradition”. (Hat tip to Niall McAuley.) At the end of his tour-de-force, Simon says –

In Britain, where genre labels count for less, the books found a permanent following years before anybody troubled to ask whether they were fantasies or not. In America, they were flung on the ash-heap by the strict rules of Modernism as practised by New York publishers, only to be rescued by Lin Carter. They are the very opposite of fairy tales; but they belong to Faërie nonetheless, for no less spacious realm will claim them. What the critics call ‘Realism’ is a small and besieged principality, entirely surrounded by the empire of Fantasy. On one side, the map says ‘Here Be Dragons’; the other side could plausibly be labelled ‘Gormenghast’. But both are provinces of the same boundless country.

That, my dear Mr. Wright, is why Titus Groan and Gormenghast count as fantasy.

(18) SMITHSONIAN CATS. SJW credentials for everything: “No Kitten Around: Museum Exhibit Celebrates ‘Divine Felines'”.

Independent, graceful, agile, adorable when they’re small — if cats are where it’s at for you, the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery of Asian Art has you covered. Their new exhibition is called Divine Felines, and it features images of cats both big and small from the land that honored them as holy: Egypt.

Ever feel fearful? Or brave? Protective? Aggressive? They had a cat for that in ancient Egypt….

(19) THE INSIDE GAME. The BBC asks — “Video games: How big is industry’s racial diversity problem?”.

When Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was released this year, it gained a lot of attention – not because it is the latest instalment for a popular franchise, it stood out for another reason.

The game was set in India, had two lead women, and one of them, Nadine Ross, is a black South African.

Other big releases this year include Assassins Creed Origins, which is set in Egypt with an African protagonist, while Star Wars Battlefront II used the likeness and voice of Janina Gavankar, an actress with part-Indian heritage.

But speaking to BBC Asian Network, Jo Twist, chief executive for Ukie, the trading body for the UK’s games industry, said there was still a long way to go before video games could be truly representative of the gaming audience.

(20) ABOUT FINN. Steven Barnes weighs in on “’The Last Jedi’ (2017)” – beware spoilers. (I thought this one mild enough to excerpt.)

I’m also still not happy with the amount of “Jar Jar” DNA in Finn. It is noticeable on a couple of levels, although they did allow his character to expand and grow some. When the very first thing we see with him is him falling out of bed, the first “buffoon laugh” of the film, you have a hill to climb, and they didn’t quite climb it. Finn’s treatment was an “othering” I didn’t appreciate. And if you defend it, you are, frankly, the reason I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized Marvel was seeking a black director for T’Challa’s saga.

(21) SFWA’S NEXT MEMBER? Jon Del Arroz publicly applied for SFWA membership today.

To SFWA’s leadership: You can check with all these people listed to verify payment, they are all members of your club. If you try some funky stuff to disqualify me, 10,000+ people who read this blog see it, that’s 5x the amount of members you have. I know you’ll play fair.

I guess we’re all interested to see what happens with that. My sympathy to whoever has to make the decision. I’d say it matters less whether his act is better or worse than other SFWA members’ than if there’s even more damage he could do once he’s inside the tent.

Maybe this is the answer.

(22) DRINK UP. The Daily Beast’s Max Watman hasn’t been killed by doing it, and he sets out to convince others “Why You Should Be Drinking Month-Old Eggnog”.

My friends Ford and Lisa invited me to their “Nog Salon” this year, and I was thrilled to attend. For you see, Ford and Lisa are practitioners of the mysterious art of aging Eggnog. Yes, aging Eggnog is actually a thing. No, I don’t have a death wish. I was actually very excited to taste their mature Nog side by side with a fresh batch we were going to whip up together.

…But I’ve learned that aging Eggnog—contrary to anyone’s first gut instinct—actually can make it safer. To be clear, I’m not talking about the non-alcoholic cartons you buy in the supermarket but the boozy old-fashioned treat that’s made from scratch. In fact, it’s very important that your recipe contains a sufficient amount of liquor, generally recommended at around 20 percent, since the alcohol is key to killing bacteria.

(23) NOT THE GREATEST MOVIE. The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney tries to convince people to stay home: “‘The Greatest Showman’: Film Review”.

The sawdust and sequins are laid on thick, the period flashbulbs pop and the champagne flows in The Greatest Showman, yet this ersatz portrait of American big-top tent impresario P.T. Barnum is all smoke and mirrors, no substance. It hammers pedestrian themes of family, friendship and inclusivity while neglecting the fundaments of character and story. First-time director Michael Gracey exposes his roots in commercials and music videos by shaping a movie musical whose references go no further back than Baz Luhrmann. And despite a cast of proven vocalists led with his customary gusto by Hugh Jackman, the interchangeably generic pop songs are so numbingly overproduced they all sound like they’re being performed off-camera.

(24) STARGATE TEASER. The Verge reports —

After releasing a pair of behind-the-scenes clips from Stargate: Origins, MGM has unveiled its first teaser for the upcoming digital-only show. While the franchise is known for its interstellar adventures, this prequel looks as though it’s remaining firmly grounded, and taking a bit of inspiration from the likes of Indiana Jones.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, IanP, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Niall McAuley, Roger Silverstein, Daniel Dern, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mr Dalliard.]