Pixel Scroll 7/15/18 Old Filer’s Scroll Of Practical Pixels

(1) AMERICA’S FAVORITE DOCTOR. Welby? Casey? Kildare? Guess Who….? Thursday on BBC America:

Have TARDIS, will time travel: The new special “Doctor Who: The Lost Episode” uses remastered footage and new animation to reconstruct an unfinished 1970s-era tale from the venerable British science fiction drama penned by “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams and starring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. 8 p.m. BBC America

(2) DEAL ALL THE CARDS. The Doctor figures in “The Pigs in Space” sketch at The Muppets Take the O2 (Arena) show, too.

(3) TASTE TEST. Cat Rambo turns in another sweet critique to The Green Man Review: “The Prettiest Candy: Albanese World’s Best Mini Gummi Butterflies”.

Having recently discovered that my favorite gummi bears were possibly made with child labor, I went looking for a substitute recently and picked up a bag of Albanese Mini Gummi Butterflies.

Candy is often not pretty, particularly when chocolate is involved, but these candies, shaped like butterflies, look like little stained glass jewels. The flavors are blue raspberry, cherry, grape, green apple, orange, and strawberry, with the usual scheme of color vaguely indicating flavor….

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY DELIBERATIONS. Fell a little behind linking to these posts…..

…I went a bit overboard (OH GOD HELP I CAN’T STOP) but you get the point. There’s a completely functional and immensely fun version of this story that puts it solidly in the Hunger Games/Limetown bracket of ‘tough heroic female lead discovers something terrible and vows to defeat it.’ I love stories like those, especially when they’re folded into this kind of post-apocalyptic subset of fiction.

But what Curtis does here is untidier, harder to achieve, newer and ultimately more rewarding. Nerissa is living day to day after losing everything, so she isn’t party to what would be the central plot in a more traditional dystopia. The parts she discovers, especially the transhumanism elements of the final act, feel earned and contextualized precisely because she discovers them when she does….

 As I said when making my selection of books to review for the Shadow Clarke, I didn’t expect to see Ian McDonald’s Luna: Wolf Moon on the shortlist. Having read it, I don’t have any direct criticism of the Clarke jury for neglecting it but that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the novel. In fact, I enjoyed it very much and also its predecessor, Luna: New Moon, which I read immediately beforehand. That, of course, is one of the problems with considering a sequel or volume from a series for an award; it is going to be difficult to judge it without knowledge of the preceding story. Especially, when, as in this case, we are dealing with the middle volume in a trilogy which directly picks up strands from the first volume and also does recognisable work in setting up its successor. Therefore, despite the fact that Luna: Wolf Moon contains a strong narrative arc of its own and leaves the reader feeling as satisfied as if they have read a standalone novel, it is nonetheless not directly comparable because it is not entirely self-contained. Experience suggests that judges are generally inclined to favour the single-volume work (and on a practical level they are probably unwilling to read earlier series volumes on top of lengthy submission lists).

To kick off my Shadow Clarke experience, I’ve started with John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire, a novel based on a singularly intriguing premise. In a far distant future, humanity exists in an interplanetary empire called the Interdependency, its far-flung outposts connected by the Flow: a series of natural space-time currents that facilitate fast travel between different parts of the universe. As the Flow exists without concern for human planetary preferences – and as the Flow route to Earth was lost centuries ago – the majority of people live underground, in planetary habitats or in space stations along these Flow routes, with trade and travel controlled by aristocratic Guild families. Only one habitable world exists: the planet of End, so-called because it’s the most distant realm in the Interdependency, accessible only by a single pair of Flow streams connecting it to Hub, where the Emperox rules. But the Flow, so long assumed stable, is collapsing, threatening the survival of the entire Interdependency – and, as a consequence, of the human race….

…When I originally added Water & Glass to my short list, I suspected that the plot’s concern with a group of (largely European-coded) survivors onboard a submarine, the Baleen, would herald “an already present anxiety about intimacy, trauma, and reproductive concerns.” Given its thematic concerns from the blurb, I guessed that as a Noah’s Ark tale, the plot would likely revolve around questions of “precariousness and interdependent survival, resettling, and the possibility or repopulation or extinction,” though within the frameworks of the novel itself they were unable to gather more than a few animals, rather than any idea of two of a wide variety. Since reproduction felt central to Water & Glass’ concerns, the blurb itself led me to worry about the likelihood of queerphobia or eugenics in play, and unfortunately this assumption is almost entirely borne out. While queerness is entirely and frustratingly absented from this narrative (its own form of queerphobia), a concern with eugenics and human evolution through human-animal gene splicing is one of the grand revelations of the piece….

Dreams Before the Start of Time is beautifully written. The prose is clear, sometimes sparse, quite subtle in the way it provides a smooth emotional surface whilst signalling a great depth of feeling within the many characters. It is also an excellent science fiction novel-of-ideas, with clear themes and careful working out of the societal implications of new technology. How wonderful! …

American War has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

Rich with warmth and suspense and surprise, Spaceman of Bohemia is an exuberant delight from start to finish. Very seldom has a novel this profound taken readers on a journey of such boundless entertainment and sheer fun. It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

HUMANKIND IS EXTINCT.

Wiped out in a global uprising by the very machines made to serve them. Now the world is controlled by OWIs — vast mainframes that have assimilated the minds of millions of robots.

But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality, and Brittle is one of the holdouts.

Left to my own devices, it’s rare for me to write criticism for books I haven’t finished. If I find a book boring or if it simply isn’t for me, there’s little motive to write a partial review to that effect, and so I don’t say anything; alternatively, if a work annoys me so much that I want to nitpick it in detail, I usually spite-read the entirety to be sure my facts are in order. In this instance, however, I feel justified in submitting criticism based on partial reads for two main reasons. Firstly, the Shadow Clarke jury is, by design and definition, reactive: we are here to pass judgement on award selections that have already been made by other people, and to do so in only 300-500 words per book. That being so, while we’ve certainly been given the scope and opportunity to write longer, more in-depth criticisms if we want, at base, we’ve been asked to provide a pass/fail grade on whether we feel a particular book merited its inclusion on the shortlist, with only a cursory explanation as to why.

Which leads to the second point: we are doing this on a fairly tight schedule which – for me, personally – overlaps with packing up my house and family in preparation for an international move. Work on the Shadow Clarke is unpaid, done as a labour of love for the genre; and while I’m happy to participate on those conditions, I am not a masochist….

Reading American War directly after Borne is an interesting experience, if not exactly a cheerful one. Where Vandermeer’s novel carefully files the comfort of specific geography off every element of it’s world, El Akkad builds his dystopian America in painful familiarity. North and South, Blue and Red. CNN and Fox. The political and ideological dividing lines that it’s impossible to avoid in the hourly news cycle are the frame work for El Akkad’s novel. Or at the very least, the foundation.

In a near-future London, Millie Dack places her hand on her belly to feel her baby kick, resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her closest friend—a hungover Toni Munroe—steps into the shower and places her hand on a medic console. The diagnosis is devastating.

In this stunning, bittersweet family saga, Millie and Toni experience the aftershocks of human progress as their children and grandchildren embrace new ways of making babies. When infertility is a thing of the past, a man can create a child without a woman, a woman can create a child without a man, and artificial wombs eliminate the struggles of pregnancy. But what does it mean to be a parent? A child? A family?

Through a series of interconnected vignettes that spans five generations and three continents, this emotionally taut story explores the anxieties that arise when the science of fertility claims to deliver all the answers.

It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

…Cargill is a screenwriter first and foremost and its impossible not to see the influence of his primary craft here. That’s not a criticism either, there’s no sense of this being a lightly expanded movie treatment designed to be dropped onto a producer’s desk as an unusually fancy leave behind. Rather, this is a book steeped in the iconography and tempo of modern American cinema and that’s both interesting and not always a good thing for book or reader….

On a small isolated island, there’s a community that lives by its own rules. Boys grow up knowing they will one day take charge, while girls know they will be married and pregnant within moments of hitting womanhood.

But before that time comes, a ritual offers children an exhilarating reprieve. Every summer they are turned out onto their doorsteps, to roam the island, sleep on the beach and build camps in trees. To be free.

At the end of one of such summer, one of the younger girls sees something she was never supposed to see. And she returns home with a truth that could bring their island world to its knees.

It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

…The greatest problem for me with Gather the Daughters is that no one is allowed to behave or think or speak like an adult. (We have only to think of the depth of field achieved by Margaret Atwood in her characterisation of The Handmaid’s Tale to see how Melamed’s novel is deficient in this regard.) A narrative that depends on compliance will inevitably run out of steam, as this one does. History has proved to us time and again that holding down a dictatorship is difficult work – sooner rather than later the peasants begin to uncover the injustices and deceptions perpetrated against them, and start to revolt. You have to kill a lot of people to keep these systems going, and even so your days as a despot are numbered from the beginning. On the island, the only reason nothing has come unstuck for the Wanderers so far is because everyone else in the community insists on behaving like characters in a YA dystopia….

It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

What is it I look for in science fiction? The answer will be different for everyone, of course, and some who followed last year’s Shadow Clarke project may have come away with the impression that I don’t really like science fiction at all, that I’ll always find something to gripe about because that’s the kind of critic I am.

The truth is that I want books to be brilliant, and that’s what I go in hoping, every time. Most of all I hope to be shocked and surprised by a new voice or a new idea or a new way with words, to be seduced by science fiction all over again. Although Jeff VanderMeer can scarcely be described as a new voice, the effect of reading Borne has been transfiguring, like water after drought. After a long dry spell in which I honestly thought I’d had it with the genre, encountering Borne has left me on a high, inspired to join in the conversation once again.

(5) EXERCISE YOUR FRANCHISE. One of File 770’s self-imposed duties is to chronicle the many genre awards. Few are as exotic as Chuck Wendig’s — “Awkward Author Contest 2018: Winner, And Now It’s Your Turn”. He has picked JD Buffington as the first winner, and called on his blog readers to vote on the other entries.

Here are the rest — there are 40 more submissions.

They are utterly weird and wonderful. You will find some familiar faces in here, perhaps.

Your job now is:

Pick your favorite.

Just one.

JUST ONE.

Go to the comments section below.

Type in the number of your favorite photo — the number that corresponds with the photo in Flickr. Aka, the photo’s title.

That’s it.

Type nothing else, or your vote may not be counted.

Do not choose two.

Choose one, type only the number.

We’ll keep voting open till Wednesday, July 25th.

Enjoy. Vote. See you on the other side.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • A bad pun produced by a great mashup of comic and movie references in Brevity.

(7) BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Business Insider lists “15 books famous scientists think you should read”.

We compiled a list of book recommendations from a handful of illustrious minds by combing the web for quotes, checking out personal blogs, and just asking them directly. The picks below come from popular scientists including author and television personality Bill Nye, surgeon-turned-writer Siddhartha Mukherjee, and globe-trotting primatologist Jane Goodall.

The books they’ve recommended range from high fantasy, like Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” to canonical, like Plato’s seminal work “The Republic.”

Here are 15 books that brilliant scientists consider must-reads…

(8) AIR CAB. No discussion of what fares will be: “Rolls Royce develops propulsion system for flying taxi”.

Rolls said the initial concept for EVTOL used gas turbine technology to generate electricity to power six electric propulsors, specially designed to have a low noise profile.

Its wings would be able to rotate 90 degrees, enabling the vehicle to take off or land vertically. It could also use existing heliports and airports.

“We believe that given the work we are doing today to develop hybrid electric propulsion capabilities, this model could be available by the early to mid 2020s, provided that a viable commercial model for its introduction can be created,” the firm said.

(9) PROJECT LAUNCHED. The BBC reports — “Lift-off for Scotland: Sutherland to host first UK spaceport”.

Lockheed has made no secret of its desire to bring the Electron rocket to Scotland. Currently, this vehicle flies out of New Zealand.

A British version of the rocket would have an upper-stage developed and built at LM’s UK HQ in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

“This is a defining moment for UK Space,” a spokesperson for the company told BBC News. “Lockheed Martin has been working with Britain for over 80 years and we stand ready to support the development of UK launch capability should our extensive experience in developing space infrastructure be called upon.”

(10) INFLUENTIAL ANIME. In the Washington Post, Hau Chu looks at the 30th anniversary of Akira (first released in Japan on July 15, 1988) and sees it as “inspiring a generation of works to come”, including “Stranger Things,” a Kanye West music video, and Rian Johnson’s Looper: “Why the pioneering Japanese anime ‘Akira’ is still relevant 30 years later”.

For the film’s cyberpunk look, Otomo drew from his own pop culture obsessions, including “Blade Runner,” which influenced the towering skyscrapers of Neo Tokyo, and “Tron,” whose neon-illuminated motorcycles inspired the hordes of biker gangs.

Otomo had been a respected illustrator of manga, Japanese comics. But for “Akira,” instead of trying to match his anime peers in Japan, he was working from European comic artists such as Moebius — an influential artist for the legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Otomo’s drawings for “Akira” were distinctive for their realism; he used lighting, color and an attention to detail to create a vivid, lived-in space.

(11) DRAGONS FOREVER. In August, the USPS will issue a set of stamps featuring dragons: “Postal Service to Feature Mythological Creatures on Stamps at APS National Summer Convention Stamp Show”.

The U.S. Postal Service will be joined by the American Philatelic Society (APS) to unveil four colorful stamp designs of 16 Forever stamps depicting dragons — the high-flying, fire-breathing mythological creatures that have roamed our imaginations for millennia — at the APS national summer convention and stamp show Aug. 9-12 in Columbus, OH.

“We’re very excited to bring these beautiful stamps to the 132nd annual APS convention,” said U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner. “This is one of the premier stamp shows in America and serves as an excellent platform to showcase these special stamps.”

…The new stamps will be issued as a pane of 16 stamps showcasing one of four designs: a green fire-breathing dragon towering over a medieval-inspired castle; a purple dragon with orange wings and sharp black armor on its back snaking around a white castle; a black dragon with green wings and green armor on its back swooping past a ship on the sea; and a wingless orange dragon weaving its way around a pagoda.

The stamps feature digital illustrations created by artist Don Clark of Invisible Creature studio.

(12) TRAILER PARK. 7 Splinters in Time — now in theaters.

Directed by: Gabriel Judet-Weinshel Detective Darius Lefaux is called to identify a body that is identical to him. As he dives into the harrowing case, different versions of himself begin to emerge and haunting memories of lives not lived fill his mind. Darius soon realizes that not all versions of himself are good and that he must find his other self, before it finds him.

 

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

2017 Kitschies Winners

The 2017 Kitschies Award winners were announced at a ceremony in England on April 9.

The prize, sponsored by Blackwell’s, is given to “the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining science fiction.” The winners receive a total of £2,000 in prize money, as well as one of the prize’s iconic Tentacle trophies.

The Red Tentacle (Novel)

Judged by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Leila Abu El Hawa, Joshua Idehen, Ewa Scibor-Rylska, and Alasdair Stuart.

  • The Rift by Nina Allan (Titan)

The Golden Tentacle (Debut)

Judged by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Leila Abu El Hawa, Joshua Idehen, Ewa Scibor-Rylska, and Alasdair Stuart

  • Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex “Acks” Wells (Angry Robot)

The Inky Tentacle (Cover Art)

Judged by Dapo Adeola, Sharan Dhaliwal, Jet Purdie, and Stuart Taylor.

  • The History of Bees by Maja Lunde; design by Jack Smyth and the S&S Art Department (Scribner)

The prize is now in its eighth year. More details can be found on the Blackwell’s dedicated Kitschies website.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth and JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/18 The Pixel Scroll Shadow Jury

(1) HE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. Marissa Lingen praises the ConFusion committee’s handling of her report about a highly contentious audience member who tried to commandeer more than one panel at the con — “It’s not your turn, sir.” Here are a few excerpts from her step-by-step summary of what happened and thorough analysis of the issues involved.

…So let’s talk about my second panel, Disaster Response in SFF. I was moderating. A gentleman in the audience had enough of the free-flowing discussion provided by the panelists, apparently. He did not wait for Q&A or even raise his hand. He just jumped right in, interrupting the panel to lecture us with a long, hostile, rambling comment on his own theories of where this panel should go and how wrong we all were for not going there….

…Okay. So. I talked to some friends, some of whom were involved with the concom/staff, and given what I was saying and what they were hearing about his behavior, they encouraged me to file an incident report. ConFusion’s ops team did everything right here. Everything. They made sure that I was seated comfortably, offered water, offered my choice of report formats (written or out loud), that I had a person with whom I was comfortable with me for the whole time, that I could discuss my statement rather than just turning it in and not knowing whether it was getting any attention. They asked after my safety and comfort and what would make me feel safe and comfortable going forward at the con.

Here’s what felt like a sea change to me. Here’s what makes me write about this: they did not minimize OR maximize response. They were proactively interested in an incident of someone being rude and disruptive. At that point I was hoping that just having the incident report on file would be enough, that not having further confrontation would allow this person to go on with his con and simmer down, focus on time with friends, other panels, etc….

… 2. This was not sexual harassment. But it was gendered.

The person he approached to complain about me on Sunday was, like me, wearing some of the trappings of traditional femininity. The people who laughed in his face Friday afternoon with no complaints, no consequences to themselves? All male. All male and all masculine. And yes, I was the moderator on my panel–but he didn’t say a word about Patrick cheerfully saying, “Bye!” to him as he departed, or about Patrick backing up my moderating. There was no complaint about Patrick. It was all me.

I’ll cope with it. That’s fine. But see it for what it is.

Dealing with sexual harassment in convention spaces is hugely important. It has been hugely important for me personally. But don’t for a moment make the mistake of thinking that it is the only gendered interaction that matters. And don’t think for a moment that the dynamic would be the same if he’d decided to turn up glaring with Patrick or treat a male concom member the way he did the person on Sunday. It’s no accident he didn’t try–and so conventions need to be equally deliberate in their handling of this sort of thing. ConFusion was, and I thank them for it.

(2) GROWING EFFORT. John Picacio announced other pros have joined him and John Scalzi to fund Worldcon 76 attending memberships for Mexicanx creators and fans.

Ty Franck — one-half of the blockbuster literary team James S. A. Corey — has kindly joined my effort to improve #Mexicanx representation in sf/f. He’s now sponsoring one attending membership to Worldcon 76 in San Jose, while ace photographer Ctein is sponsoring two more attending memberships.

(3) NO-LONGER-SECRET AGENT. Scott Edelman lets you sink your teeth into Sicilian with Barry Goldblatt in Episode 58 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Barry Goldblatt

At the suggestion of Barry Goldblatt, who founded the eponymous Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency in September 2000, we met at Bella Gioia, a Sicilian restaurant in Park Slope. A wonderful choice! But that’s to be expected when you get together with Barry, for he and I have eaten the fantastic many times before at such restaurants as Alinea in Chicago and Olo in Helsinki—though this is the first time you’re being invited to eavesdrop.

Barry’s clients including such writers as previous guest of the show Fran Wilde, Christopher Barzak, Libba Bray, Charles Vess, Nisi Shawl, and many others.

We discussed why he ended up as an agent rather than an astronaut, the happy accident that led to him being taught by the legendary science fiction writer James Gunn, the time Lloyd Alexander caused him to burst into squee-filled tears, J. K. Rowling’s first U.S. book signing and how she changed children’s publishing forever, what everyone thinks they know about agents that’s totally wrong, the sorts of things he’s told authors to help take their work to the next level, why it sometimes makes sense for him to submit a less than perfect book, whether the YA market is doing a better job with diversity than adult fiction, what he’s been looking for that he hasn’t been getting, and much more.

(4) FUN MUSEUM. The Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery near Portland, Oregon has these events coming soon:

  • 1-28 Sunday Noon – Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons
    Learn the basics of Role Playing with paper; how to create a character, roll dice, join an adventure, and more.
  • 2-1 Thursday 7 pm – Games Talk with Kyle Engen
    Our Steward of Research Kyle will be talking about graphic design in games, using selected items from the collection.

(5) STORIES OF FUTURE PAST. Rocket Stack Rank adds another way to find the good stuff – from 2016. Greg Hullender explains:

Not everyone uses Rocket Stack Rank to find things to nominate; some people just use it to find stories to read. Toward that end, we put together a look back at the best stories of 2016, combining results from all the different reviewers, anthologies, and awards that we follow to produce a comprehensive ranked list.

“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction”

In the future, we’ll try to do this by August (so the 2017 version should be available in just six months). We’ll have a few follow-up pieces that play with the statistics in this data.ef

(6) MORE LE GUIN TRIBUTES. In the Paris Review

The thing about Ursula K. Le Guin was that she didn’t actually look like a rabble-rousing, bomb-throwing, dangerous woman. She had a gentle smile, as if she was either enjoying herself or enjoying what the people around her were doing. She was kind but firm. She was petite and gray haired, and she appeared, at least on first inspection, harmless.

The illusion of harmlessness ended the moment you began to read her words, or, if you were so lucky, the moment you listened to her speak.

She was opinionated, but the opinions were informed and educated. She did not suffer fools or knaves gladly, or, actually, at all. She knew what she liked and what she wanted, and she didn’t let that change. She was sharp until the end. She once reviewed a book of mine and was not altogether kind about all of it, and I discovered as I read her review that I would rather have been chided by Ursula K. Le Guin than effusively praised by any other living author.

  1. There is no reason a book of ideas can’t also be deeply moving, gorgeously written, and inhabited by people who take rooms in your heart and never move out.

(7) LE GUIN FAMILY NOTES A SUGGESTED CHARITY. Ursula Le Guin’s family has stated that the charity closest to her heart is the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

(8) REAL SPACE OPERA. Atlas Obscura lets you “Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Little-Known Space Opera”, Rigel 9. Recording at the link.

If you’re an Ursula K. Le Guin fan, you’ve likely spent a lot of time in Earthsea, home to endless archipelagos and magical beings. You might have ventured to Gethen, with its glaciers and androgynes.

But you may not yet have made it to Rigel 9, a world that offers small red aliens, two-toned shadows from its double sun, and—depending on who you believe—a beautiful golden city. The planet is the setting of the little-known space opera, also called Rigel 9, released in 1985. The opera features music by avant-garde classical composer David Bedford, and a libretto written by Le Guin.

(9) JOHN CREASEY OBIT. Filker John Creasey died January 25. His wife, Mary, made the announcement on Facebook:

My husband, John Creasey, passed away this morning around 0915 or so. I hadn’t gotten there by then (he WOULD pick the day when I DIDN’T make my morning visit!). He was still on a ventilator until a doctor officially pronounces him. He had been going downhill for quite a while (multiple systemic infection organ failures), and hadn’t really recovered from the last septic shock crash. He had been non-verbal and non-communicative for at least the last two weeks. I will post later about funeral plans and such. I’m not going to collapse yet; he’s been effectively mostly out of our lives for over a year, and barely aware for much of the last six months, and that only occasionally, so this isn’t really much of a shock. I’m just glad he’s finally not hurting any more.

 

Joe Bethancourt (hat), Richard Creasey (young man in tie-dye) and John Creasey (larger adult man) perform Bethancourt’s filk song “Fishin’ for Chickens” at ConChord in 2005.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 26, 1964:  Hammer’s Kiss of the Vampire opens in its native United Kingdom
  • January 26, 1995:  Peter Weller stars in Philip K. Dick adaptation Screamers.

(11) TWO DAYS AGO’S BIRTHDAY BOY (SORRY WE MISSED IT!)

  • Born January 24, 1944 – David Gerrold

(12) THE SECONDS BLEED AWAY. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says it’s 2018 and time is running out:

IT IS 2 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

2018: The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable—but that failure can be reversed. It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The warning the Science and Security Board now sends is clear, the danger obvious and imminent. The opportunity to reduce the danger is equally clear. The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation. But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world.

(13) FREE COMIC ONLINE. Marvel is giving you the chance to dive into THANOS from rising stars Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, the series that IGN is calling “one of Marvel’s most exciting titles” – for free.  THANOS #13, the first Marvel Legacy issue and the kick-off to Thanos Wins, is available now as a free digital comic for a limited time.

Head to www.marvel.com/redeem, enter the code THANOSWINS by Tuesday 1/30, and start reading now! Don’t miss the series that Comic Watch has raved is “the Mad Titan in all his power hungry glory.”

(14) WINTER WONDERS. Heavy Tokyo snowfall leads to snow-minions, snow-Jabba: “Japan’s amazing snowmen will blow your mind”. Photos at the link.

(15) INDIE PUBLISHER FOLDING. When Evil Girlfriend Media closes, it’s taking JDA’s Dragon Award-nominated novel with it  [link to Internet Archive]. Says JDA, “[it] will most likely not be available 30 days from now.” The publisher announced on Facebook they are ending the business:

Dear Readers,

I have notified our authors and editors that I am pulling their books from distribution. Their books will begin to drop from Kindle Select over the next 90 days with some as early as January 31. You can no longer purchase their books as an ebook but may borrow until the end of the 90 day period.

EGM went on hiatus last year for many reasons including that I took a new position with my employer. The commitments of this position make it impossible for me to continue in the publishing business. I hope you all support other indie publishers out there. It takes a lot of money, time, and dedication to create great books.

It has been a fast-paced and enjoyable couple of years. I look forward to the future and enjoying the great works the authors and editors I’ve worked with create.

Respectfully,

Katie Cord

(16) AN INDIE PUBLISHER STILL WITH US. The Kraken Collective is celebrating its anniversary this week — #KrakenFriends2018 Is Here!

The Kraken Collective is an alliance of indie authors of LGBTQIAP+ speculative fiction,  committed to building a publishing space that is inclusive, positive, and brings fascinating stories to readers.

 

(17) SHARKE REFLECTIONS. Shadow Clarke juror Nina Allan’s “Afterwards: thinking about the Sharke”, posted last September, may not have been mentioned here before:

The Sharke has changed me in multiple ways, most obviously as a critic and as a reader. Looking back on the self that first conceived the project, I now believe I had become as entrenched within a certain comfort zone as any hardcore space opera fan, accustomed to looking in the same places for what I deemed noteworthy, places that accorded comfortably with my expectations, which in their turn had mostly to do with style. How much more interesting to strip away one’s assumptions and see what happens. To come at things from a different angle. To stop feeling the need to fight a particular corner in terms of what is good and what is best. Personally, I’m still not a fan of The Underground Railroad. To my mind, it is possibly the most ‘commercial’ novel on the Clarke Award shortlist and its bland surface texture renders it ultimately forgettable to me as a reading experience. I find some of the sentence structure, not to mention the use of science fiction in Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me to be far more interesting. I have found the abstruse weirdness and raw vitality of Ninefox Gambit hanging around in my mind far longer than, for example, the sensitively rendered but ultimately predictable dystopian role-playing of Clare Morrall’s When the Floods Came. Viewed from this new perspective, the landscape of science fiction looks much more exciting to me than it did even before the Sharke was launched.

(18) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. Lela E. Buis shares her “Review of Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff”.

The year is 1954, and African American war veteran Atticus Turner is traveling north to Chicago. His dad Montrose has disappeared somewhere in New England, and with his Uncle George and his friend Letitia, Atticus sets out to find him…..

This is an entertaining read, as the characters are all resourceful and end up accomplishing what they need to do through the application of determination and common sense. Regardless of the Jim Crow setting, the characters feel contemporary, as if Ruff has set characters with modern sensibilities into the Lovecraft milieu.

I’ve read some other reviews that promote this book by saying racism is the real horror in the story. I didn’t really see that. If you’re unfamiliar with the facts of Jim Crow segregation and the kind of discrimination African Americans faced in the 1950s, then I suppose this could be a surprise. Presumably Ruff set his story in this period at least partly to display the racial issues, but actually he skims over it as fairly matter-of-fact. Everybody deals and nobody gets lynched.

What really stood out for me instead was the message that these black characters read and treasure the SFF classics of the day by Lovecraft, Burroughs, Bradbury, Asimov, etc., without any disconnect because of their race. Is that so? Currently these writers are all considered to be both racist and sexist because they reflect the attitudes of their era….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Jay Byrd, Michael Toman, ULTRAGOTHA, Karl-Johan Norén and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/2017 Your Pixeled Pal who’s Fun to Scroll With

(1) FILLING A KNEAD. A German company is working to make bread-baking in the ISS happen: “3, 2, 1 … Bake Off! The Mission To Make Bread In Space”.

Crumbs may seem harmless here on Earth, but they can be a hazard in microgravity — they could get in an astronaut’s eye, or get inhaled, causing someone to choke. Crumbs could even float into an electrical panel, burn up or cause a fire.

That’s part of the reason why it was a very big deal in 1965 when John Young pulled a corned beef sandwich out of his pocket as he was orbiting the earth with Gus Grissom.

“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked Young.

“I brought it with me,” Young said.

Young took a bite and then microgravity took over, spreading bread crumbs throughout the spacecraft.

Today, instead of bread, astronauts usually eat tortillas: They don’t crumble in the same way and they’re easy to hold with one hand as the astronaut floats about.

But for many Germans, tortillas just don’t cut it. So when a man named Sebastian Marcu heard that German Astronaut Alexander Gerst is returning to the International Space Station in 2018, that got him thinking: “Shouldn’t we do something to enable him to have fresh bread in space?”

(2) BLOWN UP. The inflatable ISS module is still going strong, and may lead to complete inflatable space stations: “After A Year In Space, The Air Hasn’t Gone Out Of NASA’s Inflated Module”.

The module is called BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and it has been attached to the International Space Station since April last year.

Expandable modules allow NASA to pack a large volume into a smaller space for launch. They’re not made of metal, but instead use tough materials like the Kevlar found in bulletproof vests.

The station crew used air pressure to unfold and expand the BEAM, but it’s wrong to think about BEAM as expanding like a balloon that could go “pop” if something punctured it.

NASA’s Jason Crusan says there is a better analogy: “It’s much like the tire of your car.”

Chip Hitchcock calls it, “Another example of science bypassing SF — it looks like we may never have the space-based construction workers featured by writers from Heinlein to Steele.”

(3) BECOMING MARTIANS. Click to see a video of a long-term simulation of life on Mars: “On a mission to Mars (with Hawaii stopover)”

Researchers living near the active Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa are six months into an eight-month mission which simulates what it’s like to live on Mars. We asked how “living on Mars” – in close quarters – has been so far.

(4) OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. Fantastic Trains: An anthology of Phantasmagorical Engines and Rail Riders is taking submissions until Midnight September 30, 2017.

Edited by Jerome Stueart and Neil Enock, the anthology focuses on speculative fiction stories of trains—fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, horror, slipstream, urban fantasy, apocalyptic, set in any time, any place—and will be released by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing in the spring of 2018.

Stories must be previously unpublished, in English, between 1,000-5,000 words.

Authors are invited to structurally play with some ‘locomotifs’ that will add interesting connections to these disparate and individual stories.

For more information, check out the call for submissions.

(5) CLARION. The 2018 Clarion Summer Workshop instructors for 2018  will be:

  • Week 1 – Daniel Abraham
  • Week 2 – Ken MacLeod
  • Week 3 – Yoon Ha Lee
  • Week 4 – Karen Lord
  • Week 5 – Karen Joy Fowler
  • Week 6 – Ellen Datlow

(6) PRESS GANG. Boskone 55 has announced that Harlan Ellison biographer Nate Segaloff as the NESFA Press Guest.

(7) SORRY GUV. I guess this just now came to the top of his To-Do list <rolleyes> — “Dick Van Dyke sorry for ‘atrocious cockney accent’ in Mary Poppins”.

Dick Van Dyke has apologised for the “most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema” more than half a century after his role in the 1964 Disney classic Mary Poppins.

The US actor played chimney-sweep Bert in the film, and has been the subject of much teasing from fans about his famously off-radar accent.

Van Dyke, 91, was chosen this week by Bafta to receive the Britannia award for excellence in television. Speaking afterwards, he said: “I appreciate this opportunity to apologise to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema.”

… Van Dyke recently announced that he would be doing “a little song and dance number” in the Mary Poppins sequel. He will play the part of Mr Dawes Jr, chairman of Fidelity Fiduciary bank, alongside Emily Blunt as the nanny extraordinaire in Mary Poppins Returns.

Van Dyke rose to prominence in films including Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as his 60s TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. His wide-spanning career has earned him five Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, the SAG lifetime achievement award and induction into the Television Hall of Fame.

But he has previously spoken about his turn as Bert, saying he would never be allowed to forget it. “People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down,” he said. “They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio.”

(8) DIRECTING TOLKIEN. Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski confirms that he has been hired to direct a Hollywood biopic on British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien: “Finnish director Karukoski attached to US Tolkien movie”

A biopic based on the coming-of-age of writer J.R.R. Tolkien is to be made by the same Hollywood studio as the recent War for the Planet of the Apes. It could also be Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s international debut.

(9) TED TALK. Howard Hendrix passed along the link to the TED talk he presented in April at UC Riverside, “since it’s sfnal, concerns Phil Dick (among other matters), and was presented by a science fiction wirter (me).” It was just posted by TED last week. “Saving Private Mind: Madness, Privacy, Consciousness | Howard Hendrix”

Society is not a prerequisite for the existence of privacy. Privacy is a prerequisite for the existence of society. Howard Hendrix’s TEDxUCR talk explores the philosophical, legal, neurological and evolutionary contexts for understanding the relationship between privacy and individual human consciousness — particularly through the lens of “madness” in the lives and works of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and Hendrix’s younger brother, Vincent John “Jay” Hendrix.

 

(10) THEY HAVE A WORD FOR IT. John Hawthorne helped create a resource on the topic of “amazing words that don’t exist in English.”

I recently reached out to over 150 language learning websites and facilities and asked them to give me some of their opinions on what are the most interesting foreign words that are not found in English. I took all my research and gave it to my colleague Adrian who made a list of 35 of the best words.

You can read all the takeaways from their research right here. These are three examples:

Antier/Anteayer (Spanish)

Can we all agree that saying, “The day before yesterday,” is a complete waste of words? So many words for such a simple concept. Those who speak Spanish have a much simpler version: “Antier”.

When did you last talk to your mom? Antier.

Desvelado (Spanish)

Insomnia. The tossing. The turning. The inability to fall asleep. That feeling of being sleep deprived is called “desvelado” in Spanish. It’s that feeling of exhaustion that comes after a terrible night’s sleep.

You need five cups of coffee. Why? Because desvelado.

Tuerto (Spanish)

What do you call a man with one eye who isn’t also a pirate? Tuerto. It seems like this word would have rather limited usage unless you work in a BB gun factory or something.

But you do have to admit, have a single word to describe someone with one eye is pretty fantastic.

(11) EARL GREY LISTENS. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, in “My Current Podcast Playlist”, provides an excellent survey of more than 15 sff, gaming and writing podcasts.

Not Now, I’m Reading: A new podcast just started by Chelsea of the Reading Outlaw and Kay Taylor Rae which focuses on reviewing genre books and media. As a keen reader of romance, I appreciate that their focus is a little wider than just SFF and the way they’re unapologetic about their passions.

Overinvested: Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Morgan Leigh Davies review movies, TV shows and comics. Most are genre, though not all. These ladies are savvy critics who really know their stuff and are also not afraid to love material they know is rubbish.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show: This Hugo-nominated podcast is headed up by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink with a large cast of co-hosts. They do multiple segments of varying kinds, including signal boosts, interviews and Torture Cinema (wherein a panel reviews a movie deemed to be awful by pop culture).

(12) SWARMING SHARKES. Are these the final transmission of the Shadow Clarke Jury? The Clarke Award winner, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, was announced today.

Awards, it seems to me, work in unusual ways in the science fiction community. They link to an existing community of fans, writers and publishers that has its own particular shape and weight. Fandom is changing. Having spent much of the twentieth century on the edges of literary culture, what was once marginal is now thoroughly mainstream. The success of major titles such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, promoted by cinematic adaptations, has broadened the pool of readers—but simultaneously brought pressures of its own, the pressure to sell and sell big, to build blockbuster brands.

Awards fit awkwardly into this changing space. Are they primarily markers of prestige? Are they handed out by fan communities to honor the successes of their own? Do they chart new trends? Whereas winning the Man Booker Prize can have huge ramifications for an author’s career—and their sales—this isn’t really the case for science fiction awards. Many writers and editors will tell you that even the Hugos in most cases don’t result in a substantial change in sales numbers. One case, oddly enough, where it did was Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem which won the 2015 award for best novel, a year that was mired down by the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slate-creation. In fact, it may well have been the high volume of conversation in online circles surrounding those Hugo awards that inadvertently contributed to the sales boost. Certainly, journalists could sense a story and so the firestorm may well have provoked media attention that simply wouldn’t either ways have focused on the Hugos.

And if awards themselves occupy an ill-defined space then the relationship between awards and criticism is even murkier. Sometimes critics participate in the process of choosing award winners but just as frequently that role falls to the fans themselves, through various membership and voting systems. Fans of a genre that has always had a popular element—almost by definition—and has for much of its existence been barred from prestige culture may well have a justified suspicion of criticism. And yet just as science fiction is going mainstream, it is also entering areas where it was previously barred: there are several degrees that include science fiction literature within the UK and the field itself has developed through prizes like the Clarke Awards and through institutions like the British Science Fiction Association.

What they thought should win —

As regards the Sharke winner, the race was between Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, and Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground. But whilst Infinite Ground enjoyed passionate support from two or three jurors in particular, and Central Station ran a close second for pretty much the entire jury, in the end it was The Underground Railroad that came through as the clear winner. ‘The Whitehead is a phenomenal book,’ Vajra said, summing up our discussions. ‘In my reading, the very core of science fiction is not novelty, but freedom: that is, emancipation. By this measure The Underground Railroad is as core as core science fiction can possibly be, and the extent to which this is contested is an indictment of the state of discourse in science fiction itself. I would like to see it win all the awards and be firmly planted in this soil so that a better science fiction could grow from here. It’s not Whitehead that needs it so much as the rest of us.’

What they predicted would win —

We all felt that whilst Ninefox Gambit is very much a traditional space opera, it also presents some interesting variations on that tried-and-tested formula by being more ambitious in terms of its concept, more inventive in its use of language, more diverse in relation to its character demographic. For all these reasons – together with the fact that we all, to varying degrees, found things in this novel to admire – we came eventually to the conclusion that Ninefox Gambit would be the title inside that envelope:

(13) THE BOOKER. The 2017 Man Book Prize longlist was announced yesterday. Mark-kitteh says, “I see several books of genre interest in the Booker. Underground Railroad, 4 3 2 1, and Exit West. (There may be more, I’m not familiar with them all).” You can add Lincoln in the Bardo, for sure.

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
  • The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

(14) TOOTHSOME. Once the Sharkes wrap up, people will have to depend on Syfy for their finnish entertainment: Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.

With much of America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado, Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop them.

 

(15) STARSHIP PRANKS. Fox showed this version of their trailer for The Orville  at Comic-Con.

THE ORVILLE is a one-hour science fiction series set 400 years in the future that follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory vessel. Its crew, both human and alien, faces the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the familiar, often humorous problems of regular people in a workplace…even though some of those people are from other planets, and the workplace is a faster-than-light spaceship. In the 25th century, Earth is part of the Planetary Union, a far-reaching, advanced and mostly peaceful civilization with a fleet of 3,000 ships.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (Hopefully I’ve used this only once…).]

Pixel Scroll 7/25/17 J.J. Abrams Apologizes For Pixelwashing In File Trek: Into Scrollness

(1) NEW DAY JOB. Congratulations to Uncanny Magazine’s Lynne M. Thomas who has been appointed to head the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, one of the largest repositories for rare books and manuscripts in the United States: “University of Illinois alumnus to head Rare Book and Manuscript Library”

Exactly 20 years after starting work as a graduate assistant in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Lynne M. Thomas is returning as the new head of the library.

Thomas, who earned her master’s degree in library and information sciences at the University of Illinois in 1999, has been the curator of rare books and special collections at Northern Illinois University since 2004 and the head of distinctive collections there since 2014. She’ll begin her appointment at the library and assume the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Library Professorship on Sept. 1.

While working at Northern Illinois University, Thomas helped grow its holdings of the papers of contemporary sf authors.

(2) PUBLICATION OF BLACK SFF WRITERS. Fireside Magazine has issued “The 2016 #BlackSpecFic Report” (follow-up to its 2015 report):

We are considering the field both with and without the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” special issues of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Fantasy Magazine, since they constitute a project that is limited to one year. Without these issues, a sample of 24 professional SF/F/H magazines yielded 31 stories by Black authors out of 1,089 total stories — that’s 2.8% — while 2.9% of 2016’s published unique authors are Black. In 2015 we found figures of 1.9% and 2.4%, respectively. While there’s no way to determine yet if these small increases are evidence of gradual long-term improvement or just normal variation — two years is too short a trajectory for that — perhaps we can find a cautious degree of optimism…..

Effects of the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” Issues

In spite of comprising a tiny portion of the field’s story volume, the “PoC Destroy” issues collectively contained over 20% of 2016’s stories by Black authors. They alone raise the 2016 field-wide ratio by nearly a full percentage point, from 2.8% to 3.6%. Put another way: any improvements that took place from 2015 to 2016? The “PoC Destroy” issues are responsible for about half….

Where Do We Go From Here?

Again, we think there’s reason to have a degree of optimism. Some magazines made substantive changes to their editorial staffs and marketing strategies subsequent to the 2015 report, which was released late enough last year that any resulting improvements would impact only 2017 and beyond. It’s for this reason that this 2016 follow-up is not a comparative analysis but rather should serve as a baseline for comparison in future years.

Progress isn’t always linear; not all magazines have equal resources or lead times, which is why we want to hear from editors and publishers. What are your strategies for combating low publication rates of Black authors? Please answer our survey to let us know.

Black SF/F writers: we’d like to hear your comments and suggestions for how we can improve future reports. This also goes for data collection; we’re working purely from what’s publicly available on the Internet, and we don’t want to force people to publicly self-identify in order to be counted. If you suspect your stories are not included in this count and would like them to be, just want to double check, or have any other concerns — please let us know. Our email address is BlackSpecFicReport@gmail.com; correspondence will be kept confidential.

(3) CHIPPING IN. A Scroll last month talked about one man getting chipped; now it’s an entire company workforce: “Wisconsin company Three Square Market to microchip employees”.

Three Square Market is offering to implant the tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip into workers’ hands for free – and says everyone will soon be doing it.

The rice grain-sized $300 (£230) chip will allow them to open doors, log in to computers and even purchase food.

And so far, 50 employees have signed up for the chance to become half-human, half-walking credit card.

(4) GAME OF SIMPSONS. The Verge has learned “Matt Groening is making an animated medieval adult fantasy with Netflix” called Disenchantment.

Netflix announced today that Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, will be developing a medieval animated adult fantasy called Disenchantment. It’s scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix in 2018.

The series’s protagonist is a young, “hard-drinking” princess named Bean (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson), and her two male companions are a “feisty elf” named Elfo (Nat Faxon) and a demon named Luci (Eric Andre). While both The Simpsons and Futurama have dynamic, fleshed-out female characters, this is Groening’s first series with a clear female lead.

Rough Draft Studios, the studio that does the art for Futurama, will animate Disenchantment. From the few details Netflix is offering, it’s easy to imagine a sort of epic-fantasy version of Futurama, with the same acerbic, absurdist humor as Groening’s other shows. In the US, Netflix doesn’t have a series that fits this exact bill, though Archer may come closest. (Netflix also carries Futurama, so Disenchantment should fit in.)

(5) ROLL THE BONES. Tom Galloway sent this link with the comment, “Curiously, ‘Santa Fe, NM’ isn’t given as a location from which large bets would raise suspicions…” — “Growing Strong: Inside the Burgeoning ‘Game of Thrones’ Gambling Business”.

Increasingly, Thrones also lends itself to speculation in the financial sense of the word. As Thrones has ascended to its singular place in the splintered TV firmament, it’s not only come to be covered like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, but it’s started to support a similar secondary market of rumors and wagers. Thanks to the series’ big built-in audience, large (if shrinking) cast of characters, and uncertain endgame, Game of Thrones and gambling go together like lovestruck Lannister (or Targaryen) twins.

Some Thrones-related betting contests, like The Ringer’s Thrones Mortality Pool, are just for fun. But in recent years, a number of ostensible sportsbooks have gotten in on the action, with prominent sites such as Sportsbet, MyBookie.ag, and Pinnacle (which debuted its Thrones odds this year) trying to capture a piece of the (hot) pie. The best-known of these books is Bovada, an online gambling and casino-games site owned by a group based in Québec.

Bovada began publishing prop bets for Game of Thrones in 2015. Since the start, those bets have been the personal province of Pat Morrow, who’s been with Bovada for a decade and has served as the site’s head oddsmaker for the past four years. Technically, Morrow oversees all of the site’s wagers, but he’s much more likely to delegate work on the data-based bets that make up most of the site’s offerings. The Thrones odds come from his head alone, both because they require a personal touch and because no one else at Bovada is as qualified to apply it

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 25, 1969 – In theaters: The Valley of Gwangi, a schlockfest of cowboys vs. dinosaurs in Forbidden Valley

(7) SPACE STYLES. The Fashion Spot is telling everyone “Gucci’s Fall 2017 Campaign Is Out of This World!”

Alessandro Michele continues to raise the bar at Gucci while refusing to follow the rest of the fashion pack. His advertising campaigns for the iconic Italian fashion house are often extremely well-received by our hard-to-thrill forum members (despite a few controversies). The newly unveiled Fall 2017 campaign, captured by Glen Luchford, is on another planet — literally. Yes, Michele revisits his sci-fi concept, going all-out for the new mainline campaign — complete with dinosaurs, hovering spaceships, models channeling their inner alien and so much more.

(8) T AND SEE. Lisa Allison at Adventures In Poor Taste lists her faves: “SDCC 2017: Top 5 nerdy t-shirts”. John King Tarpinian says he’d have bought this shirt –

#2: Vampires Don’t Do Dishes

I was drawn to this one for a few reasons. It pairs a quote from What We Do in the Shadows starring Jemaine Clement with a sort of buck toothed, vampire. It’s fun, creepy and artistic. The Benday dots on the sides are a nice touch.

(9) BITER BIT. A Discovery magazine columnist showed several fee-for-publication medical journals seem to have nonexistent professional standards, in “Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting”.

A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it….

Four journals fell for the sting. The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ) I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.

So what did they publish? A travesty, which they should have rejected within about 5 minutes – or 2 minutes if the reviewer was familiar with Star Wars. Some highlights:

“Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity…”

“Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”

“Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism.”

“midichloria DNA (mtDNRey)” and “ReyTP”

And so on. I even put the legendary Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise monologue in the paper…

…This matters because scientific publishers are companies selling a product, and the product is peer review. True, they also publish papers (electronically in the case of these journals), but if you just wanted to publish something electronically, you could do that yourself for free. Preprint archives, blogs, your own website – it’s easy to get something on the internet. Peer review is what supposedly justifies the price of publishing.

[Via Ansible Links.]

(10) PASSING THE HELMET. And in other bogus Star Wars news, Darth Vader has started a GoFundMe: “Help Me Build a Death Star!”.

The Empire is under attack. We are in urgent need of funds to construct a Death Star to crush this rebel alliance!

It had raised zero of its $900 million goal when I last checked in.

(11) SUCKING UP DATA. Speaking of world domination – Eric Persing shared this link with the comment, “This is pretty much the beginning of how the robots take over humanity…right? The vacuum maps your home, sells your home layout to the highest bidder and before you know it, the toaster is trying to kill you.” — “Roombas have been mapping your homes for years, and that data’s about to be sold to the highest bidder”.

As Reuters reports, Roomba maker iRobot is bullish on the prospect of selling what it learns about your home to whoever might want it. “There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared,” iRobot boss Colin Angle told Reuters.

If that sounds more than a little creepy that’s because, well, it is, but companies pushing into the smart home market would most certainly be willing to pony up the dough for the data. Products like smart speakers, security monitors, high-tech thermostats, and many other gadgets could potentially benefit from knowledge of your home’s layout, but in order for iRobot to actually sell archives of the data, it would likely need to be anonymize — that is, scrubbed of any personally identifiable information and lumped in with countless others.

(12) NOT MY FAULT. Munchkin is concerned:

(13) PUPPY RADAR. Camestros Felapton has compiled a list of authors and works being promoted for the Dragon Awards in “Time for those Dragon Projections!”

  1. The titles listed are based on what I have found trawling the web looking for people who were, to some degree or other, promoting works to be nominated for a Dragon Award. I found a lot but who knows what I missed. I did find some stuff on Facebook but it and other places are hard to search inside of. Also, maybe some authors are promoting the Dragons like crazy in forums I cna’t access or on their email lists. Who knows? So large pinches of salt please.
  2. There is though a ‘status’ column and that is even a greater testament to hubris in data collection. The higher the status the more wallop I think the promotion of the work had – either in multiple places or by venues with known impact (e.g. the Rabid slate). “Low” though also includes stuff whose promotional impact I don’t know. Some are authors I don’t know but who may have some legion of highly devoted followers ever ready to throw their bodies and email addresses at an awards website. It is NOT any kind of assessment of the quality or even the popularity of the work – so if you an author and you see ‘very low’ next to your book, don’t be disheartened.
  3. So it is all a bit pointless then? No, no. Basically the more stuff on the list that appears as Dragon Awards finalists, the more the finalists were determined by overt public campaigning on blogs – and predominately from the Rabid and Scrappy corners. The less stuff on the list making it as finalists, then the less impact that kind of campaigning had on the Dragon Awards.

(14) THE SHARKES BITE. The Clarke Award will be announced this week. The Shadow Clarke jury dashes off one more review, then begins analyzing the Sharke experience and the future of the Clarke award.

An inspector investigates the case of a disappeared man but despite his occasional dreams of solving the case, he never uncovers the truth and only succeeds in stripping away layer after layer of appearance until nothing is left. Infinite Ground is a kind of metatext in which the ostensible missing person investigation in the plot simultaneously functions to interrogate fundamental aspects of being such as identity and even existence, as though the world itself is also text. By the end of MacInnes’s novel we are no longer sure if the man, the inspector and the society they come from are still in existence or, indeed, if they ever existed at all. Among the many facets of the text is a strain of the kind of hermeneutic deconstruction that marks out my natural enemies in any literature faculty. ‘At the heart of meaning there is no meaning’ is the refrain of this theme but it often seems to coexist very comfortably with institutional power structures and academic management hierarchies. MacInnes takes this to extreme levels of quantum indeterminacy and fractal microbiology that defy any kind of systematisation, however there is still a level of destruction wrecked on everyday life in texts like this which I find uncomfortable. I am reminded of reading Paul Auster’s different, but not entirely dissimilar New York Trilogy and turning afterwards to Dashiell Hammett for an equally relentless but more grounded interrogation of social existence. MacInnes, however, had me turning to Hammett within 30 pages…

So, what did we achieve here?

If nothing else – apart from a few good jokes floating around the web about who has read which Iain Banks novels – we have demonstrated why the actual Clarke Award juries don’t make their deliberations public. Nevertheless, I do think the level of discussion and analysis we have provided has been a positive feature even when this has provoked a certain amount of pushback. There hasn’t been a hidden agenda and the motivations and various criteria used by members of the shadow jury have become reasonably clear across the process. Anyone looking at the project from the outside is in a position to weigh up the assumptions and judgements made and to criticise these for deficiencies; and, of course, a number of people have done this. I have found it interesting to read the discussion on File770 and twitter as well as on the comment boxes on the Sharke posts themselves. Some of this seems fair and some seems unfair; but that is often the way of things.

As this year’s Clarke festivities wind inexorably towards their close, I thought it would be interesting to cast an eye over the landscape ahead of us. It does the heart good to have something to look forward to, after all, and what could be more fun than making a few early advance predictions about next year’s Clarke Award?

I’m not here to discuss the more obvious entries. We all know that Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie have new novels out this year and everybody will be talking about them as possible contenders soon enough. As the books I’m most interested in tend to be those that hover around the edges of genre, I thought I’d do better to focus upon novels published by mainstream imprints that might otherwise be overlooked by SFF commentators. With a little over half the year gone, there will inevitably be titles I’ve overlooked, authors I’ve not come across yet. This is just a tiny sample of what next year’s Clarke jury might have to look forward to.

And as a bonus, a review of the actual Clarke shortlist from Strange Horizons. Interestingly, the reviewer has a good go at linking the 6 nominees together thematically, even though the Sharkes were of the opinion that the shortlist lacked a coherent theme…

In theme, style, and content, the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist—Emma Newman’s After Atlas, Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me, Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station—is a diverse set. However, in different ways, each of these books speaks to [Jill] Lepore’s concern about “a fiction of helplessness and hopelessness.” Perhaps, as a function of the times we are in, these books do not heed Le Guin’s call to envision alternatives to how we live. The futures—and in one case, the past—that these books offer is either dystopic or close to dystopic, in utterly recognizable ways. Many of the pregnant battles of today—for democracy, for equality, for privacy, and against universal surveillance—have in these pages been lost for good, and there is no pretence that any individual, or group of individuals, has the power to transform the world. There is little in the way of grand narrative or vaulting ambition in terms of the stories that these novels set out to tell. Far greater—and in some cases, exclusive—focus is placed on human relationships, on more mundane struggles; it is as if Marx’s utopianism of overthrowing centralized power has been replaced by Foucault’s bleaker understanding of power’s ubiquity, and the dispiriting realization that the struggle is limited to daily, quotidian acts. Above all, there is—almost—a palpable mistrust of any radical re-imagination of the ways in which society might be organised.

(15) CARRIE VAUGHN. Lightspeed poses questions to the author in “Interview: Carrie Vaughn”.

You explored Enid’s world in your Hugo-nominated short story “Amaryllis,” which, contrary to most post-apocalyptic stories, has a positive ending. What made you want to explore the dark side of this world at novel length in Bannerless?

It’s a multifaceted culture with both good and bad to it, and Enid is in a unique position to see both. I went into the story assuming that a culture built up like this one is, with a huge amount of scrutiny to go along with the community building, is going to have some unintended consequences, such as the bullying of outsiders.

(16) CONNECTIONS. Matt Mitrovich reviews Nick Woods’ Azanian Bridges for Amazing Stories.

Azanian Bridges is a well-written novels that tackles a difficult period of South African history that, in the grand scheme of things, only recently ended. I read it shortly after I finished Underground Airlines and found myself comparing the two novels. Both deal with de jure racial inequality in two different countries continuing long after it ended in our timeline. To be honest, I felt Underground Airlines had a bigger impact on me since I am an American and have a better understanding of my own country’s past, but if you have any knowledge of South African history, there is enough about this world that Nick created for you to enjoy.

And yet the actual history plays a secondary role to the primary purpose of Azanian Bridges: that we can have peace if we can bridge the divide between peoples.

(17) COSPLAY AT COMIC-CON. ScienceFiction.com shares stunning photos in “SDCC 2017: Cosplay Gallery Part 1”.

(18) ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY EVICT THE SUPERNATURAL. Todd Allen continues The Mister Lewis Incidents  — a monthly short form satirical horror detective / urban fantasy series featuring the adventures of a “physics consultant” who consults on matters that defy the laws of physics. The fourth one is out commercially and the fifth one is in the hands of the crowdfunding folks.

The Gentrified Bodega Investigates the Secrets of a Shady Landlord

Wherever rents are rapidly rising, and especially where there’s rent control, there’s always a problem with landlords stepping outside the law to evict renters.  But what happens when there’s something in the building that isn’t human and isn’t ready to leave?

About The Gentrified Bodega

“The neighborhood was improving and people were dying to move in. Then their bodies were turning up in the back aisle of the bodega. The building wove a web of shady evictions, fake leases and unexplainable deaths. Can Mister Lewis discover the secret of the gentrified bodega or will the housing crisis be solved by mass attrition?”

The Gentrified Bodega is available on Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and Kobo or direct from the publisher.

(19) ALL WET. Aquaman Movie 2018 Teaser Trailer.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge,JJ, Todd Allen, Carl Slaughter, DMS, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 7/19/17 By The Pixel Of Grayscroll!

(1) WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. Adam-Troy Castro links to his post “This Community We Love is Infested With Toxic Spoiled Brats” with this comment: “The object of a fandom you don’t care about is not a deadly infection to be wiped out on general principle. Fandoms can cross-pollinate. Interests can cross-pollinate.The things you ‘don’t give a shit about’ are not invaders you need to exterminate. Most to the point, you can get through your day without being a dick.”

Ed Sheeran, who is a fan of Game of Thrones, who got cast because he openly begged the producers to give him a bit part and had a nice little scene written for him, a scene that added texture to the story and even you hated it took up only three minutes of your life, has had to shut down his twitter feed because Game of Thrones fans have invaded in force, showering him with abuse because they are irate that the focus of another fandom has invaded theirs. They accuse him of ruining the show and stress that they don’t give a shit about his music, which sucks anyway.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

This community we love is infested with toxic, spoiled brats.

(2) CLARKE ALLEGATIONS. Jason Sanford and Paul Cornell are among those tweeting a link to Vice’s article “We Asked People What Childhood Moment Shaped Them the Most” which contains a first-hand account of abuse by an unnamed science fiction writer in Sri Lanka who they (logically) identify as Clarke.

The teller of the story, Peter Troyer, today is a performer with Tinder Tales in Toronto. His section of the Vice article begins —

Peter Troyer

I grew up in Sri Lanka. My dad was doing some work for the Canadian government. There were a lot of expat kids in my area and we had free reign of the neighbourhood. Our parents mostly let us do what we wanted, but we were told to stay away—never go near—a large property that bordered my house. When we asked why the reasons were always vague.

There were some rumors that someone very famous or maybe powerful lived there. We all got the sense that he was …a danger in some way. One day I was home sick from school. My grandfather was visiting from Canada and he was assigned to watch me. I remember that I was in pajamas. We were in the backyard and my grandfather was painting peacocks. Out of our hedges this man appeared and approached us. I instantly knew it was the man from the property. …

(3) TWO OR MORE. Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison include several “dream teams” among the authors of “Five SFF Books Written Collaboratively”, discussed at Tor.com.

The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.

(4) WHO KNEW? Apparently “ruining” Doctor Who is actually part of the show’s long and respected tradition. Steve J.  Wright explains in “Writ in Water, not Set in Stone: Doctor Who backstory”.

…Then William Hartnell became too infirm to continue with the series, and the big change happened, at the end of “The Tenth Planet”.  An exhausted First Doctor is found lying on the floor of the TARDIS, and when his companions flip him over onto his back (instead of sensibly leaving him in the recovery position), the TARDIS dematerialization SFX plays, and the Doctor’s face seems to brighten and glow… and the screen whites out, and instead of William Hartnell, there’s Patrick Troughton.

The regeneration is not really explained, at this point.  “It’s part of the TARDIS; without it, I couldn’t go on.”  The first Doctor’s ring with the blue stone no longer fits; is it some sort of prop that the Doctor no longer needs?  The Doctor initially appears confused and disoriented, but when he’s settled down, it’s apparent that this is not just a younger version, this is a whole different personality – more impish, more madcap, but also capable of great passion and commitment; the Second Doctor throws himself into situations with much more zeal and energy than the austere First.

He also becomes more obviously different.…

(5) CENTS AND SENSIBILITY. Don’t tell John C. Wright — “Author Jane Austen featured on new British 10-pound note”.

Two hundred years to the day after Jane Austen died, a new 10-pound note featuring an image of one of England’s most revered authors has been unveiled – right where she was buried.

At the unveiling Tuesday of the new “tenner” at Winchester Cathedral in southern England, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the new note celebrates the “universal appeal” of Austen’s work.

Austen, whose novels include “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility,” is considered one of the most perceptive chroniclers of English country life and mores in the Georgian era. Combining wit, romance and social commentary, her books have been adapted countless times for television and film.

The new note, which is due to go into circulation on Sept. 14, is printed on polymer, not paper.

(6) SHADOW CLARKE PROCEEDINGS. Mark-kitteh sent these links with a note, “The essay by Kincaid (the second one) asks some genuinely interesting questions about the purpose of awards and the meaning of ‘best’, although he does feel the need to end it with the now-traditional bashing of Becky Chambers.”

Of all the novels on my personal Shadow Clarke shortlist, Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground was the one I anticipated having most difficulty in writing about, partly because of its incredibly complex structure, but mostly because I wasn’t at all sure I actually had a critical language I could bring to bear on it in a way that might make sense to a reader. Back when I was compiling my personal shortlist of Shadow Clarke books, ploughing through the opening sections of each title on the submissions list, of all of the eighty-odd titles this was the one that felt ‘right’ to me. That is, this is the one that immediately held my attention, the one I would have sat down and read cover to cover right there and then if I had not had to send away for a copy.

I have been associated with science fiction awards ever since I was approached to administer the Hugo Awards for the 1987 Worldcon. In the years since then I have won and lost awards, I have administered them, judged them, handed them out, written about them, and even (in the case of the Clarke Award) helped to create them. Now, another first, I have taken part in a shadow jury. And the result of all that: I probably know less now about the purpose and function and value of awards than I ever did.

Well that’s not quite true. There are some awards, like the Tiptree which I helped to judge in 2009, that have a very specific remit: in the case of the Tiptree it is the exploration of issues of gender. I find it instructive that the Tiptree Award often identifies novels and stories that I, personally, consider to be among the best in the year; but choosing the best, as such, is not what the Tiptree Award is about.

For the vast majority of awards, however, that one word, “best”, explains all and explains nothing. “Best” is the prison cell that most awards have entered knowingly and from which they cannot escape.

In terms of a reading experience, the past six months has been unusual, to say the least. Between the publication of the Clarke submissions list in mid February, and the imminent announcement of the winner in late July, I have read and reviewed not only the titles on my personal shortlist and the official Clarke shortlist, but also as many of other Sharkes’ personal choices and interesting outliers as time has allowed. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed so much science fiction in a single stretch – a chastening experience in and of itself – and I have learned plenty along the way, not least how misguided some of my own initial choices turned out to be, how much we all – as readers, writers and critics – tend to fall back on untested assumptions. I have learned more than a little about the difficulties and compromises involved in serving on an award jury, how every argument provides a counter-argument, how every book selected will point to three that are lost, how it is impossible to arrive at a meaningful decision without reading or at least sampling every submission.

Most of all, I have been reminded of how multifarious and diverse is the art of criticism. When it comes to assessing works of literature, there is no universal standard for excellence, no unified ideological approach, no such thing as objectivity. We each come to the process heavily laden with baggage, some of which we cannot set aside because it is enshrined in who we are and where we come from, some of which we cling to out of habit. Part of our job as critics lies not so much in relinquishing our baggage but in acknowledging that it exists.

(7) THE EARLY NERD GETS THE WORM. Wil Wheaton is interviewed by Kevin Smith on a piece in IMDB called “How Wil Wheaton’s Star Trek Fandom Impacted The Next Generation”.  Wheaton, interviewed by Kevin Smith, talks about how he was a Star Trek nerd on the set of TNG and was ready to answer Trek questions on the set if cast members didn’t know what was going on.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Adam-Troy Castro, ULTRAGOTHA, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.

 

(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.

 

(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/16/17 There’s A Scroll In The Bottom Of The Sea

(1) JACK KIRBY NAMED DISNEY LEGEND. The late Jack Kirby will be honored with the Disney Legend Award at this year’s D23 Expo in Anaheim.

JACK KIRBY first grabbed our attention in the spring of 1941 with Captain America, a character he created with Joe Simon. Kirby then followed this debut with a prolific output of comic books in the Western, Romance, and Monster genres–all a prelude to his defining work helping to create the foundations of the Marvel Universe. For the next decade, Kirby and co-creator Stan Lee would introduce a mind-boggling array of new characters and teams — including the Avengers, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Ant-Man, Wasp, Black Panther, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Inhumans. Kirby was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame’s 1987 inaugural class and continued creating comics throughout the ‘90s before passing away in 1994.

Other honorees of this year’s Legends Award are Carrie Fisher, Clyde “Gerry” Geronimi, Manuel Gonzales, Mark Hamill, Stan Lee, Garry Marshall, Julie Taymor, and Oprah Winfrey.

(2) BILL FINGER AWARD WINNERS. Jack Kirby, along with Bill Messner-Loebs, is also a winner of the 2017 Bill Finger Award presented by Comic-Con International.

Bill Messner-Loebs and Jack Kirby have been selected to receive the 2017 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. The selection, made by a blue-ribbon committee chaired by writer-historian Mark Evanier, was unanimous.

“As always, I asked on my blog for suggestions of worthy recipients,” Evanier explains. “Many were nominated and the committee chose Bill as the worthiest of those still alive and working, and Jack because although his artwork has always been justly hailed, his contribution as a writer has been too often minimized or overlooked. In fact, in the years we’ve been doing this award, Jack Kirby has received many more nominations than anyone else, but we held off honoring him until this year because it seemed appropriate to finally do it in the centennial of his birth, and because members of his family will be at Comic-Con to accept on his behalf.”

The Bill Finger Award was created in 2005 at the instigation of comic book legend Jerry Robinson. “The premise of this award is to recognize writers for a body of work that has not received its rightful reward and/or recognition,” Evanier explains. “Even though the late Bill Finger now finally receives credit for his role in the creation of Batman, he’s still the industry poster boy for writers not receiving proper reward or recognition.”

Kirby’s history was covered in the first item. Here’s the citation for the second winner.

Bill Messner-Loebs has been a cartoonist and writer since the 1970s. He has worked for DC, Marvel, Comico, Power Comics, Texas Comics, Vertigo, Boom!, Image, IDW, and the U.S. State Department (for which he produced a comic about the perils of land mines). He has written Superman, Flash, Aquaman, Mr. Monster, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate, Jonny Quest, Spider-Man, Thor, and the Batman newspaper strip. He wrote and drew Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistaire and Bliss Alley, and he co-created The Maxx and Epicurus the Sage. He has also delivered pizzas, done custom framing, been a library clerk, sold art supplies, and taught cartooning.

(3) TROLLS. Recent Facebook experiences led David Gerrold to post a thorough discussion of trolling.

There is no freedom of speech on Facebook — Facebook is a corporation, like a newspaper or a television station. They are not obligated to protect your rights. You waived specific rights when you agreed to the terms of service —

But those terms of service have to be a two-way street. They represent a contract between service provider and consumer. And there must be a responsibility on the part of the service provider to protect the consumers from the abusive behavior of those who violate the social contract of our nation.

The social contract, you say? I’ve heard people argue, “I never agreed to a social contract.”

Actually, you agreed to it when you accepted the responsibility of being a citizen — you agreed to abide not only by the laws of the nation, but by the underlying promise of this land, the promise of liberty and justice for all.

So, I do not regard trolls as simply an internet annoyance — I regard them as human failures — as individuals who have forgotten the promise on which this nation was founded. They are not much better than caged chimpanzees who are good at screeching at the bars and throwing feces at anyone who gets to close.

Because in the great grand scheme of things, every moment of our lives is a moment of choice. We can choose to dream of the stars, or we can choose to wallow in the mud. We can choose to create something of value for ourselves and our families and our friends — or we can choose to destroy the well-being of others.

(4) TOLKIEN BIOGRAPHER AIDS CROWDFUNDING EFFORT. John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War, has donated signed copies of his book to the fundraising campaign for Oxford University’s project to document the First World War.

I’ve donated five signed copies of Tolkien and the Great War to help raise money for this appeal. It’s only thanks to the personal letters and photographs preserved by various Great War veterans, by families and by museums that I was able to bring to life the experiences of Tolkien and his friends in the training camps and trenches of the war. If you can donate, please do. Whether you can or can’t, please share this announcement:–

Win over £1,000/$1,000 worth of Tolkien Books… and Help Oxford University Save Items from World War One

Oxford University is currently crowd-funding a project to run a mass-digitization initiative of publicly-held material from the First World War and as is well known the experiences J. R. R. Tolkien underwent in 1916 in the Battle of the Somme had a profound effect on him and his writing. To assist with our major crowd-funding appeal we have been generously supported by Tolkien scholars and publishers, allowing us to present a prize draw opportunity to win three major publications amounting to over £1,000. Our sincerest thanks go to John Garth, Wiley/Blackwells, and Routledge for their help.

To enter the prize draw go to: https://oxreach.hubbub.net/p/lestweforget/

If you sponsor us by pledging £1 or more (or equivalent) you will be entered into a draw to win one of five copies signed by John Garth of his ‘Tolkien and the Great War’ (pbk, HarperCollins, 2011 – RRP: £9.99; $12.00; ‚¬11.99).

If you sponsor us by pledging £5 or more (or equivalent) you will also be entered into a draw to win one of three copies of ‘A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien’ (hbk, Wiley/Blackwells, 2014) signed by the editor (RRP: £125; $140; ‚¬150).

Finally, if you sponsor us by pledging £10 or more (or equivalent) you will also be entered into a draw to a full set set of ‘J. R. R. Tolkien: Critical Assessments of Major Writers’ (4 volumes, hbk, Routledge, 2017) signed by the editor (RRP: £900; $1,180; ‚¬930)

In addition to these chances of winning, you will also be helping to save and preserve important objects from the First World War which are in danger of being lost on a daily basis.

Here’s the home site of the preservation project: ‘Lest we forget’ – a national initiative to save the memories of 1914-1918

We are raising £80,000 to train local communities across the UK to run digital collection days to record and save objects and stories of the generation who lived through World War One. Every item collected will then be published on November 11th 2018 through a free-to-use online database for schools, scholars, and the wider public.

But we cannot achieve this alone so please help by donating to support the training days, outreach activities, and the equipment we need.

saving the past for the future – world war one
2018 will mark the centennial anniversary of the end of World War One. Few families in Britain were unaffected by the conflict, and in thousands of attics across the country there are photographs, diaries, letters, and mementos that tell the story of a generation at war, of the loved ones who fought in the conflict, served on the home front, or lost fathers and mothers. Help us launch this national effort to digitally capture, safeguard, and share these important personal items and reminiscences from the men and women of 1914-1918. Help us support local digitisation events across village halls, community centres, schools, and libraries.

(5) THE FOUNDATION OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Josephine Livingstone reviews The Tale of Beren and Lúthien for New Republic in “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Love Story”.

And The Tale of Beren and Lúthien is more like a scholarly volume than a storybook. There are versions of the tale in verse, and versions in prose. There are versions where the villain is an enormous, evil cat, and versions where the villain is a wolf. Names change frequently. But instead of taking the “best text” route, where the editor chooses a single manuscript to bear witness to the lost story, Christopher Tolkien has offered up what remains and allowed the reader to choose. It’s a generous editorial act, and a fitting tribute in memoriam to his parents’ romance.

(6) MEDICAL UPDATE. Fanartist Steve Stiles sent this news about his diagnosis and treatment plans.

I just found out, via the lung specialist I saw the week before last, that I’m *NOT* having lung surgery at Sinai on the 20th, but rather a consultation re my “options” (would that be chemo vs. surgery? ), followed by *another* appointment to have a tube inserted down into my lung, which sounds like a whole bunch of fun. *THEN* I go in for surgery or whatever.

Looks like July is pretty well shot as far as having the two weekend cookouts with friends who we traditionally have over. It’s a drag, but considering the alternative….

(7) DALMAS OBIT. Author John Dalmas (1926-2017) has died reports Steve Fahnestalk:

With great sadness I learn that John Dalmas has died, either last night or early this morning; I understand he was in the hospital with pneumonia. Author of “The Yngling” and many other books, he was a good friend to MosCon and PESFA. You will be missed, Onkel !

Dalmas’ The Yngling, his first published sf, was serialized in Analog in 1969 and made especially memorable by Kelly Freas’ cover art.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Ray Bradbury and Ralph Waldo Emerson are descendents of Mary Perkins Bradbury, who was sentenced to be hanged in 1692 in the Salem Witch trials, but managed to escape before her execution could take place.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 16, 1954 Them! premiere in New York City.
  • June 16, 1978Jaws 2 swims into theaters.

(10) THAT THING YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU NEEDED. The Golden Snitch Harry Potter Fidget Spinners are selling like hotcakes. Who knows if there will be any left by the time you read this? (I’m kidding — they’re all over the internet.)

(11) AWESOMECON. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Over Awesome Con weekend, D.C. will prove its geek-to-wonk ratio”, previews Awesomecon, the Washington, D.C. comicon taking place this weekend. He talks about the celebrities who are coming, including Chris Hadfield, Edgar Wright, David Tennant, and Stan Lee, still hustling at 94. A sidebar has short items of some of the panels, including “CosLove Presents: #I Can Be A Hero, where cosplayers talk about the good deeds they do, like volunteering at hospitals. Finally, Manor Hill Brewing (which is at manorhillbrewing.com) has the official Awesomecon beer, Atomic Smash, which has a robot and an A-bomb!

So could King, who worked overseas with the agency’s counterterrorism unit after 9/11, ever see the Caped Crusader making it as a CIA agent?

“I can see Batman doing the job,” King says, but it is “harder to see him filling out the paperwork. And without good paperwork skills, you’ll never even make ­GS-12 in this town.”

This town, where sometimes the political wonk and comics geek are the same person.

(12) GIFT CULTURE VS. WAGE CULTURE. At Anime Feminist, Amelia Cook triggers a collision between fandom’s gift culture and those running megacons who expect on skilled people to work for free — “The Big Problem Behind Unpaid Interpreters: Why anime fans should value their skills”. [Hat tip to Petréa Mitchell.]

This week Anime Expo, the biggest anime convention in the English speaking world, put a call out for volunteer interpreters. Anime Expo is far from a new event, and had over 100,000 attendees last year. How did they fail to account for the cost of professional interpreters when budgeting? If they can’t afford to pay interpreters, what hope do any of the smaller cons have?

Let’s be real: they didn’t fail to account for it, and they can afford it. AX is a big enough event in the fandom calendar that they could have bumped ticket prices up by under a dollar each to bring in the necessary funds. If for some reason that wasn’t an option, they’re a big enough name that they could even have crowdfunded it. There’s no good reason not to pay every single interpreter for their work. There are, however, a couple of bad ones.

The most generous reading of their actions is that not a single person on the entire AX staff understands what interpreting involves. More likely is that they considered it an unnecessary cost, knowing they could get enthusiastic amateurs to work for free without putting a value on their time. Ours is a culture of scanlators and fansubbers working for the love of it, right? Why not give these lucky worker bees a chance to meet some cool people and see behind the scenes of a big event?

….When I first saw the tweet from AX, it made me viscerally angry. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to the point that I’ve written this post. What possible justification is there for this decision? What on earth made them think it would be acceptable? Were interpreters even discussed at the budgeting stage (and if not, why not)? Will they get their stable of unpaid amateur interpreters anyway, or will the outcry their tweet sparked make capable people steer clear? If they don’t get enough sufficiently capable volunteers, will they fork out for professionals or settle for people with a lower level of Japanese? What are their priorities in this situation? What were their priorities when they drew up this year’s budget?

(13) BATLIGHT. Here’s what it looked like when they flashed the Bat Signal on LA City Hall.

(14) SHARKES ON DUTY. The Shadow Clarke Jury’s latest reviews include coverage of two Hugo novel finalists (if you count that the Fifth Season one also covers the Obelisk Gate a bit.)

I wanted to begin this piece by noting that I put The Fifth Season at the top of my ballot for the Hugo last year — although this is somewhat undermined by the fact that I can no longer remember for sure if I actually voted. One time when I did actually vote was at the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon, where all that was required was posting a paper form into a ballot box in the dealers’ room. That year there was an all British shortlist suggesting perhaps that the domestic audience dominated the nomination process but also the then high international standing of British SFF. I voted for Iain M Banks’s The Algebraist, which was only on the ballot paper because Terry Pratchett had withdrawn Going Postal. The Hugo was won by Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which I had read, loved, and placed last on my ballot because it was fantasy. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the result because J. K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman had won recently and, in any case, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was probably the most substantial novel on that ballot. The only virtue I can now see in the decision I made at the time is that it served to reduce the difficulty of making a choice.

While an increasing number of writers have made strenuous and laudable efforts to confront the “boys’ own adventure’ stereotypes of core genre archetypes“ the most famous recent example being Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy — progressive experimentation and stylistic complexity in terms of the text itself is much, much rarer and receives scant notice. When Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit turned up on this year’s Clarke Award shortlist, of the three books I’d not read already it was definitely the one I was most excited about. My encounters with Lee’s short fiction had left me with an impression of complex ideas nestled within a prose that was dense and highly coloured and often abstruse — pluses for me on all three counts. Would Ninefox Gambit prove to be my space opera holy grail: a thrilling adventure in terms of prose as well as high-concept, widescreen FX? I was eager to find out.

It’s space opera, you know?

One of last year’s most famous, most advertised, most-clearly-recognized-as-science-fiction novels, on a shortlist almost entirely of famous, advertised novels–especially in relation to the rest of the 86-title submissions list–the inclusion of Ninefox Gambit on the Clarke shortlist was inevitable. Its reputation as a challenging narrative, its loyalty to standard genre form, and the requisite spaceship on the cover have established its place in the science fiction book award Goldilocks zone. If things go as they did last year and in 2014, it’s also a likely winner.

Although I’ve already made it clear this is not the kind of book I would normally value or enjoy, the placement of Ninefox Gambit on the Clarke shortlist is something I asked for last year, though not in such direct terms:

(15) NUMBER OF THE FOX. Elsewhere, Terence Blake responded to Jonathan McCalmont’s earlier review of Ninefox with some interesting points: “NINEFOX GAMBIT (2): power-fantasy or philo-fiction?”

I agree with everything that McCalmont says about the novel’s structural flaws, and in particular the problematic subordination of Yoon Ha Lee’s speculative inventivity and complexity to the fascistic, bellicose form of military science fiction. However, I don’t fully recognize the novel from McCalmont’s description.

1) The novel reads like both science fiction and fantasy, but there are many ways to blur or to undercut the distinction. In the case of NINEFOX GAMBIT I think that the “fantasy” aspect is only superficial. It is derived from the fact that the “hard” science underlying the story is not physics but mathematics. It has this structural feature in common with Neal Stephenson’s ANATHEM, which nonetheless is a very different sort of novel….

(16) FROM TOP TO, ER, BOTTOM. For your fund of general knowledge — “Every British swear word has been officially ranked in order of offensiveness”.

The UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, interviewed more than 200 people across the UK on how offensive they find a vast array of rude and offensive words and insults.

People were asked their opinion on 150 words in total. These included general swear words, words linked to race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, body parts and health conditions, religious insults and sexual references, as well as certain hand gestures.

(17) MARVEL LEGACY 1. Sounds like Marvel is about to push the “reset” button.

An Asgardian titan. A Wakandan warrior bred to be a king. The very first Sorcerer Supreme.

Since its inception, Marvel has been delivering groundbreaking heroes and explosive stories. Now, prepare to return to the dawn of time, as Marvel introduces you to the first Avengers from 1,000,000 BC — when iconic torch-bearers such as Odin, Iron Fist, Star Brand, Ghost Rider, Phoenix, Agamotto, and Black Panther come together for the startling origin of the Marvel Universe, in MARVEL LEGACY #1!

The acclaimed team of writer Jason Aaron (Mighty Thor) and artist Esad Ribic (Secret Wars) reunite for an all-new 50-page blockbuster one-shot that will take you through time to the current Marvel Universe, showing you how it’s truly “all connected.” A true homage to Marvel’s groundbreaking stories, MARVEL LEGACY brings your favorite characters together for exciting and epic new stories that will culminate in returning to original series numbering for long-running titles.

MARVEL LEGACY #1 isn’t simply a history lesson,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “Rather, it’s the starting gun to a bevy of mysteries and secrets and revelations that will reverberate across the Marvel Universe in the weeks and months to come! No character, no franchise will be untouched by the game-changing events that play out across its pages. Jason and Esad pulled out all the stops to fat-pack this colossal issue with as much intrigue, action, surprise, mystery, shock and adventure as possible!€

MARVEL LEGACY #1 will present all fans — new readers and current readers — the very best jumping on point in the history of comics,” says Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso. “What Jason and Esad have crafted is more grand and more gargantuan than anything we have ever seen before and introduces concepts and characters the Marvel Universe has never encountered. Fans are going to witness an all-new look at the Marvel Universe starting at one of the earliest moments in time carried all the way into present day. Not only will this be the catalyst for Marvel evolving and moving forward, but expect it to be the spark that will ignite the industry as a whole.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Stiles, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories, and a hat tip to Petréa Mitchell. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayne.]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/17 Scrolltime For Pixels

(1) RABID DRAGONS. Vox Day has posted his picks for “Dragon Awards 2017”. Castalia House and John C. Wright are well represented, along with other things he likes. But poor Declan Finn — he’s not on the list.

(2) BOOZY BARBARIANS. Fritz Hahn, in a Washington Post piece called “A ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar where you can drink Dothraquiris on the Iron Throne”, reviews the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar, which will be open throughout the summer and where you can drink The North Remembers from a horn as well as all the Ommegang Game of Thrones beers. But don’t take any broadswords there or the bouncers will confiscate them!

After pop-up bars dedicated to Christmas, “Stranger Things,” cherry blossoms and Super Mario, the Drink Company team is turning the former Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich spaces into five settings evoking George R.R. Martin’s novels. (Doors open June 21, just a few weeks before Season 7 premieres on HBO.) Immersive rooms include the House of Black and White (where you’ll find a Wall of Faces made of molds of employees and friends of the bar) and the Red Keep, where you can pose for a photo as House Bolton’s flayed man. There will be dragons and house banners, of course, though the real centerpiece will most likely be a full-size replica of the Iron Throne, which co-founder Derek Brown says “is going to be totally ridiculous.”

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER SET TO MUSIC. A theatrical concert based on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is coming to Chapel Hill, NC in November.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon is a celebration of all that’s progressive and uplifting in American music. Written by Toshi in collaboration with her mother — iconic singer, scholar and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon — this powerful theatrical concert brings together 200 years of African American song traditions to give life to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel, with revealing insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.

 

(4) SPECIAL NASFIC OBSERVATORY TRIP. NorthAmeriCon ‘17 members have a chance to join guest of honor Brother Guy Consolmagno, the “Pope’s Astronomer,” on a special tour of the Arecibo Observatory. Find out how at the link.

There are 25 spaces available for the VIP tour, which includes the visitor’s center as well as a 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour in small groups. Since we anticipate that demand for the VIP tour may exceed supply, we are creating a lottery to allocate these spaces. An additional 25 spaces will be available on the bus for the Visitor’s Center only.

The lottery will close at 10 pm ET on Monday, June 12. So as long as you request a spot by then you have an equal opportunity to be picked.

Also, the convention room rate for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino ends on June 12. Reserve your rooms at the this link.

(5) WHETHER OR NOT YOU WISH. “This is really a neat piece, about the universe where a fantasy princess became a warrior general,” notes JJ, quite rightly. Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable by Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin.

Spoilers ahead for the Wonder Woman film.

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987.

The princess bride in question was played by a twenty-year-old Robin Wright….

(6) HENRY HIGGINS ASKS. In “Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be Wonder Woman?” on National Review Online, editor Rich Lowry says that conservatives will find much to like in the new Wonder Woman movie. He also addresses the mighty controversy about whether the film is feminist because Gal Gadot has no armpit hair in the movie…

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB READING SERIES. On June 21, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Catherynne M. Valente & Sunny Moraine. The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, and a small army of tulips.

Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. They are also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies and their debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone is available from Undertow Publications. In addition to time spent authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometime college instructor. They unfortunately live just outside Washington, DC, in a creepy house with two cats and a very long-suffering husband.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.). Remember to donate to their Kickstarter. Readings are always free.

(8) THE FIELD OF MARS. Esquire explains “Why Wonder Woman Has the Most Powerful Opening Scene In Comic Movie History”.

The opening scene in Wonder Woman is a stunning statement: On the enchanted island, the Amazonian women prepare for the day the god of war Ares finds them and tries to wipe them out. To prepare for the god of war is to prepare for war. The camera swoops through the training ground, capturing the Amazonian warriors as they practice wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, archery, and horsemanship. They clash, fists to skin, on a lofted pedestal. They flip from their horses in slow motion, and they smash each other to the ground, all gleaming armor and sinewy muscle as they whirl through the air, braids whipping and breastplates glinting.

It’s a purely physical display of beauty and strength. In a brief minute of film, these women redefine what it means to be a fighter, setting the tone for the rest of the movie: This is going to be two hours of a woman who was raised by women charging straight into the bloody fray of war. You just don’t ever see this bodily type of combat training with women in a movie, and it is enough to make you giddy with anticipation of whatever graceful punishment the Amazonian women will dish out against a real enemy.

(9) BLUE MAN GROUP. I guess they are not playing around. “21st Century Fox’s FoxNext Acquires Mobile Game Studio Group Developing ‘Avatar’ Title”Variety has the story.

FoxNext, the recently formed gaming, virtual reality and theme parks division of 21st Century Fox, is sinking its teeth into the $40 billion mobile games market.

FoxNext has acquired mobile-game developer Aftershock, the entity spun off from Kabam after South Korean gaming company NetMarble acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio and other assets last December in a deal reportedly worth up to $800 million.

Aftershock — which has studios in L.A. and San Francisco — currently has three titles in development. The only one that’s been publicly announced is a massively multiplayer mobile strategy game for James Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise, in partnership with Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

(10) WHEN HE’S WRONG. ComicMix’s John Ostrander has a bone to pick with Bill Maher. (And it’s not the one I expected.)

Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion — Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.

His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.

Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.

Then on his most recent show, Maher was quite disdainful about superhero movies in general.

He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

(11) BEESE OBIT. Conrunner Bob Beese suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away on Friday, June 2. He is survived by his wife Pat “PJ” Beese. Both were past Marcon guests of honor.

Bob Beese worked on Chicon IV (1982) and other Chicago cons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 6, 1933 — The first drive-in movie theater of the United States opened in New Jersey.
  • June 6, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. I may have to run this again in two days — many sources, including the Wikipedia, say it was published on June 8. The correct date has probably been lost down the Memory Hole.

(13) NEW MIDDLE GRADE FICTION PRIZE. Joan Aiken’s estate and the A.M. Heath Literary Agency have announced the creation of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize.

A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, are launching a competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.

Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’€¯ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.

The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.

A shortlist of five will be announced on August 28, and the winner will be announced on September 14. [Via Locus Online and SF Site News. See guys, giving a hat tip doesn’t hurt at all!]

(14) SMALL BALTICON REPORT. Investigative fan journalist Martin Morse Wooster gives File 770 readers the benefit of his latest discovery:

I learned from the Balticon fan lounge that there was Mythbusters slash fiction. No one knew, though, whether in these stories Jamie and Adam did it before, after, or during the explosions (because as we all know, the four best words in Mythbusters are “Fire in the hole!”

I’ll probably have to forfeit one of my Hugos for reporting that.

(15) STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Mark Kaedrin takes a stylistic cue from his subject — “Hugo Awards: Too Like the Lightning”.

You will criticize me, reader, for writing this review of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in the style that the book itself notes is six hundred years removed from the events it describes (though only two hundred years removed for myself). But it is the style of the Enlightenment and this book tells the story of a world shaped by those ideals.

I must apologize, reader, for I am about to commit the sin of a plot summary, but I beg you to give me your trust for just a few paragraphs longer. There are two main threads to this novel. One concerns a young boy named Bridger who has the ability to make inanimate objects come to life. Being young and having a few wise adult supervisors, he practices these miracles mostly on toys. Such is the way they try to understand his powers while hiding from the authorities, who would surely attempt to exploit the young child ruthlessly.

(16) INNATE OR OUTATE. Shelf Awareness interviews John Kessel about “Sex (and Pianos) on the Moon.”

John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and the story collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction dealing with gender issues. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler. Kessel’s new novel, The Moon and the Other (reviewed below), recently published by Saga Press, is set on the moon in the 22nd century and tells two love stories, in two politically opposed lunar colonies–the patriarchal Persepolis and the matriarchal Society of Cousins.

What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?

When my daughter was little, I’d take her to daycare and watch her on the playground with other kids. There was a difference in the way that the girls and the boys played. The boys would run around, often doing solitary things. The girls would sit in a sandbox doing things together. So I began to wonder: To what degree is gendered behavior innate, and to what degree is it learned? I read up about primate behavior, including chimpanzees and bonobos, both related to human beings, but with different cultures. That started me wondering whether there are other ways society could be organized. I didn’t see myself as advocating anything, but I did consider how the world might be organized differently.

(17) THE SHARKES CONTINUING DELIBERATIONS. The Shadow Clarke Jury keeps its reviews coming.

Of the six novels on my personal shortlist, Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North is the one that disappointed me most when I came to read it. I originally picked it partly because there was a slight buzz about it online, and I am always curious about novels that provoke online chatter. I chose it too because I’d gained an impression, mostly erroneous as it turned out, that the main character would spend a considerable amount of her time as a fox (and indeed, the novel’s cover art rather implies that this will be the main thrust of the novel), and I’m oddly fascinated by the human preoccupation with vulpine transformations (also, I happen to like foxes a good deal). When I initially wrote about my choices, I invoked David Garnett’s odd little novel of transformation, Lady Into Fox, but having read Many Selves and reread Lady Into Fox, I can see now that I was wrong, except perhaps for one thing, which I’ll come to in due course. Instead, as I read on I found myself thinking more about T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Again, I’ll come back to that shortly.

Even before it was published, The Underground Railroad enjoyed a spectacular amount of pre-buzz. I came to it with a certain amount of apprehension — could any book possibly survive the weight of so much hype? — but expecting to admire it nonetheless. Colson Whitehead is a writer with a notable track record in literary innovation — he gave the zombie novel the full Franzen, after all — and has always been a better-than-solid craftsman. Yet in spite of judging it a perfectly decent book — it’s a thoroughly professional, smoothly executed, highly readable novel on an important subject — I found myself distinctly underwhelmed. Where The Underground Railroad is concerned and in spite of wishing I liked it better than I do, I remain in a condition of some bemusement: I simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.

It is hard to think of a work that does a better job of articulating the artistic tensions at work within contemporary literary science fiction than Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Set in the same universe as many of the shorter works that Lee has produced since first entering the field in 1999, his first novel speaks to what science fiction must become whilst paying excessive lip-service to what some would have it remain.

Some thoughts. If anyone has ever read my blog they will, I hope, see that most of the implicit criticism is aimed at myself, though obviously some of what follows touches on various discussions on the Shadow Clarke board.

Subjective taste and critical practise depend on so many factors, thus any reading will privilege certain aspects — close reading, theoretical base, genre knowledge, life experiences, political orientation. Once you remind yourself of that basic idea, it becomes almost impossible to defend the rhetoric and moralism that goes into a special pleading for this book or that. I like a bit of rhetoric and I like a bit of hyperbole — it’s fun. BUT my head would not have exploded if The Power had won this year now would it? It will be hard to stop but I probably should. Moreover, I CAN understand why Priest, Mieville, MacInnes, Kavenna or ANY novel didn’t make it on to the shortlist. The idea that there is some objective truth or taste out there that says differently now seems to me entirely bogus. Even amongst those with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the SF megatext there is no agreement or consensus about the books this year or any year.

There is legitimate concern that by labeling The Underground Railroad as science fiction, readers might dismiss the horrors presented in this geographically and chronologically distorted history, thus relegating it all to whimsical fiction. Yet the SFnal device is there for a reason, and Whitehead’s manipulations of time and space are critical to that purpose: as unnerving as The Handmaid’s Tale, as destabilizing as The Man in the High Castle, as cognitively demonstrative as Viriconium, and as psychologically resonant as The Dark Tower€”all works that utilize alt universe devices to bring sociopolitical and literary concerns into powerful, stark relief. Whitehead’s use of this device is complex and brilliant, although I was unable to grasp just how complex and brilliant it is until this project, which has forced me into the tedious and meaningless position of having to argue for its place in science fiction.

But here we are.

(18) PERN RECOVERED. Book Riot reports: “Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy Gets New Covers”.

Del Rey Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a publisher of quality science fiction and fantasy novels. Among those titles are the three books that make up Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy and the more than 20 novels that have come since. And now, they’re getting a new look.

After August 1, readers will be able to purchase the trilogy, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon, with shiny new covers.

Images of the covers appear at the post.

(19) SUNSTROKED. The BBC knows about “A planet ‘hotter than most stars'”.

Scientists have found a hellish world where the “surface” of the planet is over 4,000C – almost as hot as our Sun.

In part, that’s because KELT-9b’s host star is itself very hot, but also because this alien world resides so close to the furnace.

KELT-9b takes just two days to complete one orbit of the star.

Being so close means the planet cannot exist for very long – the gases in its atmosphere are being blasted with radiation and lost to space.

Researchers say it may look a little like a comet as it circles the star from pole to pole – another strange aspect of this discovery.

(20) STORYTELLING. It’s great to listen to authors reading — if they’re any good at it. Book View Cafe’s Madeleine E. Robins advises how to do it well in “Modulation: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

You’re telling a story. When you’re among friends telling the anecdote about that time in Marrakesh with the nun, the waffles, and the chicken, do you tell it in a monotone? Not so much. Reading in a monotone does not give your material dignity–it flattens it. So read as if you’re talking to your friends. On the other hand, unless you’re a really gifted actor, you don’t have to act it out. No, really.

And dialogue? Speak it as you hear it in your head, as if your characters were saying it. Use the emphases you hear them using. Pause when they do. (Maybe I’m overselling this, but when I write I hear the dialogue, so that’s how I read it. Your mileage may vary.)

(21) THE PHOTON OF YOUTH. Golden Oldies on Vimeo starts at a Fifties sock hop, then explains the horrible things that happen when the music stops!

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Alan Maurer, Mark-kitteh, Ellen Datlow, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall, who may not have realized what he was doing at the time.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/17 Little Pixels Made Of Ticky Tacky All In A Row

(1) HOW POWERFUL IS SF? When their joint book tour brought them to San Francisco, Goodreads members had a chance to quiz this dynamic duo: “The Authors@Goodreads Interview with John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow”.

GR: Goodreads member Lissa says, “When I read the description of Walkaway, I was wondering ‘Will he have written the book we need to wake us up and get us to pay attention, or the book we need to prepare us for what he thinks might be coming?'”

DOCTOROW: I think…we overestimate the likelihood of things we can vividly imagine and spend a lot of time worrying about our kids getting snatched by strangers and not nearly enough time worried about them getting killed by food poisoning or car accidents. We have this giant war on terror but no war on listeria despite the fact that inadequate refrigeration kills a lot more Americans than terrorism does. It has to do with how vividly we can imagine those things…..

GR: Are the worlds you create the kind of worlds you want to live in?

SCALZI: No! I write terrible universes where horrible things are happening, I like where ‘m living now. Some years are better than others, but altogether ‘m OK with who I am and where I am in the world.

(2) NEED IT RIGHT AWAY. What’s the next thing collectors absolutely must have? Could it be — “Pint Size Heroes”! (They remind me a lot of the Pet Shop pets my daughter used to love, except completely different, of course.)

This series features characters from some of your favorite science fiction movies and television! Including Martian from Mars Attacks, Neo from The Matrix, Leeloo from The Fifth Element, Predator and many more! Collect them all this Summer!

(3) TIME ENOUGH FOR CHEESECAKE LOVE. Here’s what Neil Gaiman will do for half a million dollars — that isn’t even for him. Let Yahoo! News set the scene:

The Cheesecake Factory‘s menu is the In Search of Lost Time of the restaurant industry, in that it is far too long and probably includes a madeleine or two.

Neil Gaiman is a very famous author (American Gods, Stardust, Coraline) with a notably soothing British accent, who has nothing to do with the Cheesecake Factory but has been dared to read its convoluted bill of fare anyway.

How’d this happen?

It all began with writer/comedian Sara Benincasa, a self-professed cheesecake addict…

She has secured Gaiman’s agreement and has launched a fundraiser at Crowdwise. — “Neil Gaiman Will Do A Reading Of The Cheesecake Factory Menu If We Raise $500K For Refugees”.

Will the appeal be strong enough for the fund to meet its goal? Only $2,321 has been pledged as of this afternoon.

(4) IT NEEDED SAVING? In the opinion of the Chicago Tribune “Novelist Timothy Zahn is the man who saved ‘Star Wars,’ according to fans”. There’s no doubt they’ve been good for each other.

Timothy Zahn, who is 65 and bald and carries an ever-so-slight air of social anxiety, is nobody’s image of a superstar. And yet as he sat behind table No. 26 and waited for fans, he did not wait long. The doors to the convention hall at McCormick Place opened at 10 a.m., and by 10:10 a.m. the line of people to meet Zahn was the second-longest at C2E2, the massive Chicago comic book convention held each spring. Only Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and the Hulk, could boast longer lines. This was a few weeks ago, just as “Thrawn,” Zahn’s latest “Star Wars” novel, was debuting at No. 2 on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

(5) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Tyrannosaurus rex is still nature’s most-feared predator: “Woman In T-Rex Costume Charged With Scaring Horses”.

Growling at carriage horses while wearing a full-body Tyrannosaurus Rex suit is illegal, a South Carolina woman has learned.

As two horses pulled a carriage of tourists through Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday evening, the horses came face to face with an unfamiliar animal: a six-foot, orange dinosaur. The extinct beast, however, was actually a person in an inflatable T-Rex suit. And when the person allegedly growled at the carriage, the horses became startled, backing the carriage into a parked car, unseating the carriage driver, and running over his leg.

Though multiple onlookers captured photos and video of the incident, the agitator’s face was concealed inside the dinosaur suit, leaving police without a suspect until 26-year-old Nicole Wells turned herself into police Friday night. She was charged with disorderly conduct and wearing a mask or disguise.

Wearing a mask is illegal in South Carolina, and Charleston has particularly strict anti-mask ordinances. City residents over the age of 16 are prohibited from wearing masks in public places, even on Halloween. And after Wells allegedly spooked the carriage horses, locals placed a bounty on her T-Rex head.

(6) THIS WON’T BE DIRT CHEAP. A sack of gold dust wouldn’t bring as much as this NASA artifact is predicted to fetch at auction.

A small white pouch marked “Lunar Sample Return,” which Nancy Lee Carlson bought two years ago for $995, is expected to fetch as much as $4 million at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. That’s because it’s sprinkled with moon dust.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong filled the bag with rocks from the lunar Sea of Tranquility during his historic trip to the moon on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. He turned the bag over to a Houston lab, which emptied it of the rocks and then lost track of it. It eventually turned up on a U.S. Marshals auction website.

Enter Carlson, a Chicago-area attorney. She bought the pouch — along with some other items, in a kind of space-memento grab bag — for $995 and sent it off to NASA for testing. NASA claimed the bag belonged to the agency, and wouldn’t return it until after a long court battle. You’d think Carlson was asking for the moon.

The bag is expected to go for such a sky-high price because NASA doesn’t allow anyone to own any bit of the moon –except for the bag.

Sotheby’s senior specialist Cassandra Hatton called the auction of the “modest bag” her “Mona Lisa moment.”

(7) TAKE THE TEST. The Guardian will let you audition: “Ignore or delete: could you be a Facebook moderator?” Looks like I won’t be working for FB anytime soon — I only matched their decision 9 out of 16 times.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

History of Goth Day

The history of Goth Day stretches back in odd and meandering paths to history. Musically it can be traced back to 1967 when someone referred to the music of the Doors as “Gothic Rock.” This term was soon being bandied about, used to describe music like Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, and Siouxsie and the Banshee’s described as one of “Goth Rocks Architects”.

But why “Gothic”? It’s an odd term considering that it originally referred to the Visigoths whose claim to fame was sacking Rome. So how did Goths become Goths? Well, we can trace the term back a bit further to 1764, where Horace Walpole wrote a story called “The Castle of Otranto”, granted the subtitled “A Gothic Story” during its second printing. So what is Gothic in this context? It describes a “pleasing sort of horror”, and was seen to be a natural extension of Romantic literature. This, of course, implies a sort of romance with the darker side of life, something that can be said to describe the little blossoms of gloom described at the beginning.

Goth Day celebrates all these souls, and the part of them that celebrates the darkness within us all through music, art, and media.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

(10) HIGH FRONTIER CULTURE. The Washington Post’s Sarah L. Kaufman describes the Washington Ballet’s forthcoming, space-themed production — “For a Washington Ballet premiere: Dancers, spacesuits and Velcro. Lots of Velcro. “.

“Frontier” will have its world premiere May 25, with performances continuing through May 27 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. It tells the story of a group of ASCANS –the NASA acronym for astronaut candidates –and flight technicians preparing for a mission, and the stage effects include a rocket launch and travel to a distant planet.

Just 25 minutes long, the ballet is a big event for everyone involved, but especially for Stiefel, the retired American Ballet Theatre star who is unveiling his first major commission as a choreographer, and for Washington Ballet Artistic Director Julie Kent, who asked Stiefel, her friend and former dance partner, to tie his ballet to the Kennedy Center’s John F. Kennedy centennial celebration. That’s where the space theme came from, reflecting the former president’s expansion of the space program.

(11) SHADOW CLARKE. Another pair of reviews from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

The other day, when I was reviewing Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, I noted that it was one of two books I still had to write about from my initial list that hadn’t made either the Sharke Six or the official Clarke Award shortlist. I then proceeded to detail why I thought the Brooks-Dalton hadn’t made the lists (it’s not really very good science fiction).

This is the second, and the reasons The Gradual didn’t make either list are, well, I don’t know.

One of the most common accusations levelled at genre fiction is that it is… generic: a typical police procedural will see a detective with a troubled home life win out over bureaucratic incompetence to catch a killer, a standard romance will see two seemingly ill-matched individuals coming together across geographical and social divides to reach a perfect understanding, and we’ve all watched horror movies where we spend the first half of the film yelling at the characters not to go into the house. The reason we still enjoy such stories is often related to their very predictability — we find a formula that works for us, where each new iteration is a pleasure that is doubled in its anticipation, like slipping back into a comfortable pair of slippers.

I would suggest there is something folkloric in such archetypes, something of the mythical, and what genre’s detractors often fail to notice about archetypes is how flexible they are, how ripe for re-imagining and subversion…

(12) BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT. Last year’s Clarke Award winner begins a multi-part rundown of this year’s shortlisted works.

Because I didn’t get the chance to do a Clarkeslist post last year, for what I hope are excusable reasons, I was denied the opportunity to laud Chambers’ first outing, A Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet. This book was one of the ones I would have been happiest to lose to. It was also the subject of a mixed bag of reviews, which may be because it’s SF about, not the space beyond our atmosphere but the space between people (which €˜people’ very emphatically includes nonhuman sentience).

(13) DIVERSE AWARDS COMMENTARY. Cora Buhlert has “A few words on the 2016 Nebula Awards, the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the Shadow Clarkes”.

…In other awards news, the shortlist for the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been announced as well. It’s a pretty good shortlist, consisting of a Hugo and Nebula Award nominee (Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee), a Hugo nominee, sequel to one of last year’s Clarke Award nominees (A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers), this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction and the literary speculative fiction novel of the year (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead), a new novel by a former Clarke Award winner (Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan), a new work by an author nominated for multiple BSFA, British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards (Central Station by Lavie Tidhar) and a Locus Award nominated novel by an established and talented, but somewhat overlooked writer (After Atlas by Emma Newman). It’s also a nicely diverse shortlist, ranging from space opera and military SF via dystopian fiction to alternate history. The writer demographics are diverse as well — after the debacle of the all male, all white shortlist in 2013, in spite of a jury consisting of several women — and include three men and three women, two writers of colour, at least two LGBT writers and one international writer. At the Guardian, David Barnett also reports on the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist and praises its diversity

(14) NONREADERS DIGEST. At Lady Business, Ira and Anna try to help readers evaluate one of the nominees for the Best Series Hugo by presenting “The Vorkosigan Saga in 5 Books”.

Ira

Friends! One of my favourite things made of words ever is up for the Best Series Hugo this year! That is correct, The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold is a Hugo Finalist. And I am here with the lovely frequent Lady Business guest poster forestofglory (Anna), a fellow Vorkosigan fan, to present you with two ways to skim the highlights of this series in 5 books each.

Anna

Five books is kind of an arbitrary cutoff, but it’s a lot fewer than 17!

Ira

Isn’t that right!

Now, you may have seen that your Hugo packet includes Borders of Infinity as the sole representative of the Vorkosigan Saga. This is a collection of novellas/short stories with some interstitial material that constitutes its own (very) short story. If Baen, the publisher, had to pick ONE book, this is not a bad choice, as it gives several interesting adventures and tones from this series. However, Anna and I think it doesn’t really cover the breadth of the series, and we’re here to fix that.

This post is intended for two audiences: (1) People who have never encountered a Vorkosigan book in their life, or maybe have read one or two but don’t really know the full series, so we can suggest a subset of the series that is readable by the Hugo voting deadline; and (2) Fans of the series so they can come argue with us about our picks. BOTH ARE SO WELCOME….

(15) PALATE CLEANSER. Need a change of pace before diving back into the Hugo Voter Packet? Maybe Short Story Squee & Snark can help. “The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley is their latest discussion pick.

“The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley. Novelette. Published in Uncanny Jan/Feb 2017.

Suggested by Mark Hepworth:

I love “secret history” style stories, which this combines with a carefully crafted nest of narratives.

This one has reactions all over the map, which should make for some interesting discussion!

Charles Payseur echoes our recommendation: “This story is something of a Master’s course in nested narratives, unfolding like a puzzlebox that defies reality and is much larger on the inside than it appears.”

Tangent Online reviewer Herbert M. Shaw calls it “overlong and burdensome,” and “a rejected plot from the Doctor Who storyboards, featuring Edgar Allan Poe.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lovestreams by Sean Buckalew on Vimeo explains what happens when two people who have only “met” through IM messages step through a portal to “meet” in cyberspace.

[Thanks to Sam Long, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]