Pixel Scroll 6/25/21 Pixelin’ Files And Feelin’ Scrolly

(1) MORE CONTEXT FOR SFF HISTORY. Niall Harrison’s “Accelerated History: Chinese Short Science Fiction in the Twenty-First Century” at Vector notes that 2021 is the tenth anniversary of the publication of the translated Chinese short story that became the foundation for Clarkesworld’s ongoing collaboration with Storycom. And he has been inspired to work up a chronology of Chinese short sf in English, including a nifty diagram.

…What I hope that looking at the original chronology of stories does do, however, is provide another angle on the portrait of Chinese SF that has been presented to readers in English. To a limited extent it also makes it possible to contrast what was happening in English-language and Chinese-language SF at the same time; to think about the conscious and perhaps less-conscious choices made in the filtering process; and, most optimistically, to notice gaps, and provide a tentative framework within which future translations can be understood. In that spirit, in place of the original collections, I’ve organised my discussion into some rough periods, but I will revisit the books themselves at the end.

2. Liu Cixin Era

There’s nothing Liu Cixin likes more than a big picture, so let’s start there. With two single-author collections in the pile — The Wandering Earth (2013 / 2017 retranslations) and Hold Up The Sky (2020) — it’s not a surprise that he is the most-represented author, accounting for one-third of collected stories. In fact the skew is greater the earlier the period you look at. He accounts for over half of the 49 stories that first appeared before August 2011, and nearly three-quarters of the 28 stories that were first published in 2005 or earlier. In English, the story of Chinese SF in the early twenty-first century is overwhelmingly the story of Liu Cixin….

(2) BACK SPACE. James Davis Nicoll introduces Tor.com readers to “Five SF Travel Methods That Offer an Alternative to Starships”. (Holy cow, there’s a Langford novel on this list!)

Starships are all very nice—who among us has not wanted to own a Type-S Scout with the upgraded life support system?—but not all authors stick with that well-tested method of getting their characters from A to distant B. Ponder these five novels, each of which posits a new way of traversing the gulfs of space.

The Space Eater by David Langford (1982)

Project Hideyhole’s geniuses gave America Anomalous Physics. Anomalous Physics let Americans tweak the laws of physics to their taste. Thus, dimensional gates that facilitated an American colony on Pallas, a world that is many light-years from Earth. Thus, the inadvertent destabilization of six percent of the stars across the Milky Way and beyond. Thus, the inadvertent megamegaton explosion as Hideyhole stumbled across total conversion of matter to energy. Thus, the global thermonuclear exchange that followed thanks to the US assumption the explosion was a Soviet attack.

Having sat out WWIII, the EEC places very sensibly limits the use of AP. The problem is the American colony on Pallas, which has been isolated since WWIII. The Europeans detect that the Pallasians are dabbling in Anomalous Physics. Someone must be dispatched to convince Pallas to drop this research before more stars—stars like the Sun—are destabilized. The problem: a full-scale gate of the width needed for an adult male like unfortunate voluntold Forceman Ken Jacklin could well set off more novas. A smaller gate—1.9 cm, say—may be safe. The first step towards Pallas is going to be very, very hard on poor Forceman Jacklin, but this is a sacrifice his superiors are willing to make.

(3) YOUR TURN. Martin Morse Wooster got a kick out of a flash fiction story “Mozart Made A Tsunami, Most Likely By Accident” by Jeff Ronan at Sci Phi Journal. (Which really is too short to excerpt.)

(4) CUE THE SAND. From Yahoo! we learn that “DUNE Has a New Release Date!” But before that, Eric Diaz recaps the entire history of “cursed” efforts to bring this book to the screen.

When Does Dune Arrive In Theaters?

Dune was scheduled for release on December 18, 2020. And though the film will debut at the Venice Film Festival in September (via Variety), it won’t arrive in theaters until October 22, 2021 (this is delayed from October 1).

(5) UNDERGROUND ART. Two resources with images and histories about the artwork in Lewis Carroll’s books.

The Public Domain Review presents “Lewis Carroll’s Illustrations for ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ (1864)”.

“[W]hat is the use of a book”, asks Alice in the opening scene to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “without pictures or conversations?” This question from Alice is at once a critique of her sister’s pictureless tome, and a paving the way for the delight of words and images to follow. Indeed, John Tenniel’s famous illustrations — for both the first edition of Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass — have become integral to how we experience the story, in both books and film. Tenniel, however, was not the first to illustrate the tale. That honor belongs to Carroll himself, whose original manuscript of the story (then titled “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”) is littered with thirty-seven of his own sepia-ink drawings. It seems this entwining of word and image — so important to the published version — was there from the beginning….

“John Tenniel and his illustrations” at Alice-in-Wonderland.net.

…Carroll had Tenniel alter his illustrations several times, for example when he was not happy with Alice’s face – even when the woodblocks were already engraved, which meant also the woodblock had to be (partly) re-done.

That doesn’t mean Tenniel’s illustrations were exactly what Carroll described they should be. Tenniel had quite a lot of freedom to give his own interpretation to the illustrations. On several occasions, Carroll was very much willing to accept the artist’s ideas, and in the illustrations the typical style of Tenniel is recognizable. Tenniel had some freedom in selecting the scenes to be illustrated (Hancher), and when Tenniel complained about having to draw a Walrus and a Carpenter, Carroll was willing to change the characters of his poem for him….

(6) WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE EDITOR. E. Catherine Tobler, editor of The Deadlands, found she actually had to spell it out:

(7) JACKIE LANE (1941-2021). Actress Jackie Lane, who played the companion of the First Doctor Who, has died at the age of 79 reports Radio Times.

…The sad news was confirmed by Fantom Films on Twitter last night, with a post reading “It is with deep regret that we announce that actress and friend Jackie Lane has sadly passed away. We pass on our sympathies to her family and friends. Jackie was best known to Doctor Who fans as companion Dodo Chaplet. RIP 1941 – 2021″

… Another fan wrote, “Despite appearing on-screen for just 19 weeks in 1966 as a hastily developed & consistently underserved character who exited the series as strangely & suddenly as she arrived, it’s really heartwarming to see all the love for dear Jackie Lane on #DoctorWho Twitter tonight. RIP.”…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2019 — In Dublin 2019, fifty-one years after she got her first Hugo at Heicon ‘70 for The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin (who died in 2018) won her final Hugo for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition. It was not awarded a Best Novel Hugo but instead was awarded Best Art Book with its illustrations being by Charles Vess who won Best Professional Artist that same year. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 — George Orwell. George Orwell, born Eric Blair in 1903. I’m not sure if Animal Farm counts as fantasy, but 1984 is clearly Science Fiction, and it may hold the record for the most neologisms added to English by a single SF book. Orwell was mostly known as a journalist and essayist, including his spats with H.G. Wells, most notably in “Wells, Hitler and the World State”. (Died 1950.) (Alan Baumler)
  • Born June 25, 1925 — June Lockhart, 96. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 — Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1956 — Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro! (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. I’m also going to strongly recommend, and it’s not remotely genre, note his Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Iceland Special Edition just because it’s so damn fun to watch complete with fermented shark. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1960 — Ian McDonald, 61. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — the aforementioned Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the India in 2047 series and The Dervish House are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 
  • Born June 25, 1981 — Sheridan Smith, 40. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus makes clear why a student is anxious about a visit to the principal.

(11) HELP WANTED. Looking for work in England?“Cambridge to Hire Archivist to Catalog Stephen Hawking Collection” says Mental Floss.

… Last month, it was announced that the University of Cambridge—where Hawking got his Ph.D. and worked for decades—would house the archive in its library. Now, as BBC News reports, Cambridge is looking for an archivist to “arrange, describe, audit the physical condition, rehouse, and review” all 10,000 or so pages. Their main task is to digitize every document so researchers around the world can access them online.

Applicants should have archiving experience; and since they’ll be operating out of Cambridge University’s library, they also need to be allowed to live and work in the UK. The gig is set to last two years, and it’ll pay somewhere between £30,942 and £40,322 (about $43,000 to $56,000). If you’re an avid archivist who’d like to have a hand in preserving Hawking’s legacy, you can apply online here.

(12) HEAD’S UP. The New York Times reports “Discovery of ‘Dragon Man’ Skull in China May Add Species to Human Family Tree” (registration required.) And there’s “A Virtual Reconstruction of a New Homo species, H. longi” at YouTube.

(13) DRUMROLL, PLEASE. “UFO report: US intelligence community releases long-awaited report” at CNN. (And CNN has the full text here.) Don’t they release these things on Friday so nobody will be in the office the next day and have to take questions?

The US intelligence community on Friday released its long-awaited report on what it knows about a series of mysterious flying objects that have been seen moving through restricted military airspace over the last several decades.

In short, the answer, according to Friday’s report, is very little, but the intelligence community’s release of the unclassified document marks one of the first times the US government has publicly acknowledged that these strange aerial sightings by Navy pilots and others are worthy of legitimate scrutiny.

The report examined 144 reports of what the government terms “unidentified aerial phenomenon” — only one of which investigators were able to explain by the end of the study. Investigators found no evidence that the sightings represented either extraterrestrial life or a major technological advancement by a foreign adversary like Russia or China, but acknowledge that is a possible explanation….

(14) HARD TO BELIEVE? Chris Carter tells the New York Times: “I Created ‘The X-Files.’ Here’s Why I’m Skeptical of the New U.F.O. Report.” (Registration probably required.)

…The plot of “The X-Files” was built on a conspiracy theory: The government is lying to you about the existence of U.F.O.s and extraterrestrials. Do I believe the government lies to us? Absolutely. I’m a child of Watergate. Do I believe in conspiracies? Certainly. I believe, for example, that someone is targeting C.I.A. agents and White House officials with microwave radiation, the so-called Havana syndrome, and your government denied it.

Will the new report, or any government report, give us clear answers? I’m as skeptical now as I’ve ever been.

In 1996 I was invited to the clinic of the Harvard psychiatrist John Mack to witness the regression hypnosis of a self-professed alien abductee. I first met Dr. Mack, who studied and ultimately believed in alien abduction, when he came to Fox Studios to discuss his work. I had used a Roper survey he was involved in (a poll of 6000 Americans on their belief in the existence of extraterrestrials) to sell “The X-Files” as a TV show in 1992, and later read his book, “Abduction.” So I knew something about what I was going to see. I went in doubtful, unprepared for the drama of a woman sitting next to me in tears and in terror over the encounter with aliens that she described, on a beach in Mexico. The experience turned out to be powerful and not a little unsettling….

… But the prosecution raises a good question: Where is the Deep Throat of the U.F.O. world? Why no credible deathbed confessions? As Nobelist Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox asked, if aliens are out there, why haven’t we seen them? Could the government actually be telling the truth? That it really doesn’t know what to make of the phenomena? Or is the truth above top secret?…

(15) YOU’D BE INCONSOLABLE. Vice recommends to players of vintage games: “Don’t Piss Off Bradley, the Parts Seller Keeping Atari Machines Alive”.

Every old video game console dies eventually. Moving parts seize-up, circuit boards fail, cables wear out. If a user needs a replacement connector, chip, ribbon, gear, shell—or any of the thousands of other parts that, in time, can break, melt, discolor, delaminate, or explode—they’re usually out of luck, unless they have a spare system to scavenge.

But there is an exception to this depressing law of nature. In San Jose, on a side street next to a highway off-ramp, inside an unmarked warehouse building, is part of the world’s largest remaining collection of factory-original replacement Atari parts — a veritable fountain of youth for aging equipment from the dawn of the home computing and video gaming era. This is the home of Best Electronics, a mail-order business that has been selling Atari goods continuously for almost four decades.

But if you’d like to share in Best’s bounty, as many die-hard Atari fans desperately do, there’s a very important piece of advice you need to keep in mind: whatever you do, don’t piss off Bradley.

Almost everyone who spends enough time loving, collecting, and using Atari products eventually finds their way to the Best Electronics website. And many of them quickly develop strong feelings about Bradley Koda, Best’s proprietor, who, by outlasting most of his competition, has become a sort of one-man Atari-parts powerhouse….

(16) RUH ROH! Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog is a straight-to-video feature.

An original animated feature so exciting it’s scratching at the door! Comedy is unleashed when Scooby-Doo, your favorite mystery-solving mutt, teams up for the first time with Courage the Cowardly Dog. The canine colleagues sniff out a strange object in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, the backwoods hometown of Courage and his owners, Eustace and Muriel Bagge. Soon, the mysterious discovery puts them on the trail of a giant cicada monster and her wacky winged warriors. Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy know that this job is too big for a flyswatter. They’ll need the help of the doggy duo to piece together the puzzle. Can Scooby and Courage overcome their jitters and defeat the insect army before the whole world bugs out? Try not to get scared. We double-dog dare you!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Strange Horizons Announces New Editors-in-Chief

Strange Horizons is under new management: as of today, Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde become the magazine’s Editors-in-Chief, taking over from current editor Niall Harrison.

Crowley and Dollarhyde joined Strange Horizons in early 2016 as Associate Editors. Over the last year, they have curated several special issues, including features on the work of Nalo Hopkinson, utopia, and Spanish SF. They have also overseen the growth of Strange Horizons‘s broader publishing activities, including the recent launch of sister magazine Samovar.

Harrison has been Editor-in-Chief since early 2011, and involved with Strange Horizons since 2005. In his outgoing editorial “Moving On”, he described Crowley and Dollarhyde’s contribution over the last year as “invaluable”, noting that “it’s important for Strange Horizons, given the type of space it aspires to be, that it continues to look outwards and forwards. Kate, Jane, and the rest of the team understand that, and I’m excited to see where they take things.”

Jane Crowley said: “It’s a huge honour to be involved in a magazine like Strange Horizons, which has such ambitious plans and has hosted so many exciting new voices over the years. It’s hard to imagine the place without Niall but we’re excited to start this new chapter of the magazine’s history. I’ll try not to break anything.”

And Kate Dollarhyde said: “As a long-time reader of Strange Horizons, the past year I’ve spent working for the magazine as an Associate Editor has been a surreal and gratifying experience. I feel very lucky to have had Niall as a mentor and am sad to see him move on. But I also have great faith in the editorial team, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to help steer the great ship Strange Horizons into new seas.”

Harrison commented in his farewell, “We talk a lot about the fact that everyone who works on Strange Horizons is a volunteer, and there are probably as many reasons for volunteering as there are staff, but for me personally, it hasn‘t been a career move; I have no intention of attempting to make editing my livelihood. For me, working on Strange Horizons has been about being a part of a tradition, a community; about helping to build a thing, a space, that I think is of value.”

Strange Horizons is a not-for-profit, volunteer-staffed magazine of and about speculative fiction, founded in 2000 with the aim of highlighting new voices and perspectives in speculative fiction and related nonfiction. Since its founding, fiction and poetry published in Strange Horizons has been nominated for or won awards including the Hugo, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial, Rhysling, and James Tiptree Jr Awards.

[From the press release.]

Strange Horizons Fund Drive

Most people visit Strange Horizons to read the fiction, I’m sure, but since you’re among the select few who visit my blog the odds are if you go there it’s to read Mark Plummer’s column, just like I do.

Whatever your reason, now is the time to show appreciation by supporting the online magazine’s fundraiser.  

Founded over a decade ago by its first editor, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Strange Horizons is staffed by volunteers, and is unusual among professional sf magazines in being funded entirely by donations.

These days Niall Harrison is editor-in-chief, fiction is handled by senior editor Brit Mandelo and editors Julia Rios, An Owomoyela and Jed Hartman, and many others run departments and support the work.

The 2012 fund drive aims to raise $8,000, with stretch goals up to $11,000 — increasing pay rates for poetry (if $9,000 is raised), reviews ($10,000), and introducing fiction podcasts ($11,000) that would, like the rest of the magazine’s content, be freely available online.

All donors are entered into a prize draw which includes novels by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Angelica Gorodischer, original artwork by Alastair Reynolds and Marge Simon, magazine subscriptions, and tarot readings. Prizes will be announced in batches throughout the month of October.

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

More Plummer on the Horizon

Attending Renovation inspired Mark Plummer to explore the history of the Trans-Atlantic Fan fund in his latest column for Strange Horizons, “Paraphernalia: Beyond the Enchanted Convention to the Enchanted Peter R. Weston Memorial Defibrillator Station” —

The roots of TAFF go back to at least 1941, when D. R. Smith suggested in the pages of the December 1941 issue of Futurian War Digest that after the war British fans should club together to bring leading American fan Forrest J Ackerman to the UK. It never came to anything, but Ackerman himself later initiated The Big Pond Fund which sought to bring British fan and New Worlds editor Ted Carnell to the US.

Once you’ve read Mark’s column you’ll know the answer to the question: “What TAFF delegate took the Queen Mary to America?” More importantly, you’ll learn why this is an enduring fan institution.

And if you appreciate Mark’s column, show it today is by participating in Strange Horizon’s annual fund drive:

For over a decade, Strange Horizons has pursued a number of goals: to encourage and support new writers of speculative fiction from diverse backgrounds; to provide a home for readers looking for fiction that expands the possibilities of sf, and discussions of the same; and to offer content free of change while still paying contributors professional rates, without being dependent on advertisers or corporate interests.

Niall Harrison reminds me, “We’re an all-volunteer outfit, and we run off reader donations, so this is pretty important for us!”

Mark Plummer at Strange Horizons

Mark Plummer of Banana Wings has launched a new column about fandom, “Paraphernalia”, at Strange Horizons. Mark’s opening installment takes Susan Wood’s old “Clubhouse” column in Amazing and her experiences at the first Aussiecon (1975) as the starting point to compare science fiction fandom then and now. It’s a fine read.

Strange Horizons is a weekly web-based sf magazine publishing fiction and features. Editor Niall Harrison says “The idea is that Mark will be writing about fans and fandom, trying to do a little bit to bridge the gap there seems to be between different fannish worlds these days.” Columnists are on an 8-week rotation, so Mark’s next appearance will be in August.

Mark is off to a flying start.

Harrison Reviews Strahan’s
Best SF and Fantasy of the Year

Niall Harrison has posted a knockout review of Jonathan Strahan’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, volume 2, at Torque Control.

Let’s get one thing clear from the get-go: taken as a bundle, the stories in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 2 will almost certainly not be the best science fiction and fantasy stories of the year for anyone except Jonathan Strahan. Taste is too fickle a thing, and the acreage the book tries to encompass too great.

Locus Makes Some Voters
More Equal Than Others

The winners of the Locus Awards were announced online a few weeks ago, but controversial information about the voting was revealed for the first time in the latest printed issue of Locus. Janice Gelb drew to my attention, and SF Awards Watch discussed at length Neil Clarke’s online report about the double weight given to Locus subscribers’ votes in poll – a change made after the ballots were in, and which produced different results in some categories. Clarke quotes the explanation from the new Locus:

Results were tabulated using the system put together by webmaster Mark Kelly, with Locus staffers entering votes from mail-in ballots. Results were available almost as soon as the voting closed, much sooner than back in the days of hand-counting. Non-subscribers outnumbered subscribers by so much that, in an attempt to better reflect the Locus magazine readership, we decided to change the counting system, so now subscriber votes count double. (Non-subscribers still managed to out-vote subscribers in most cases where there was disagreement.)

Torque Control’s Niall Harrison went right to the heart of the problem in his irresistibly-titled “Locus Pocus”:

I have to say I’m deeply disappointed by this. The big selling point of the Locus Awards is, or always has been to me at least, their representativeness, precisely the fact that anyone can vote and that they are thus the best barometer of community-wide opinion that we have. As the notes at the start of this year’s result somewhat smugly put it, “We get more votes than the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy nominations combined … Nominees need at least 20 votes to make the final list, even though it frequently takes less to make the Hugo or Nebula publishing ballots.” All of that is still true, but it seems wrong to imply (as I think it’s intended to imply) that this legitimizes the results when you’ve just changed the scoring system to make some voters more equal than others — particularly if you only make the change after voting has closed, particularly if you only mention it in the print version of the magazine.

It’s hard to say which harms Locus’ reputation more, the way online participation was invited and then discounted after the fact, or that the change was not handled transparently online once it was decided. Further, the change seems to suggest that the Locus staff was unprepared to have the poll dominated by the views of fans attracted by free online voting. Anyone who didn’t predict that nonpaying voters would outnumber paying voters probably should be looking for work outside the science fiction field.

Goonan Wins Campbell Award

Niall Harrison’s Torque Control reports:

Strange day, when the John W Campbell Memorial Award is the award I feel positive about. The winner is: In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan.

I was quite interested to hear that the Goonan novel won. At Westercon, Kathryn Daugherty, Chris Garcia and I were on a panel discussing the entire Hugo ballot. When we had all said our piece about the Best Novel category, Kathryn pulled out a copy of In War Times and touted it as the book that should be winning the Hugo.

[Via SF Awards Watch.]