Pixel Scroll 4/17/20 We Go Scrolling Through The Park, Goosing Pixels In The Dark

(1) ON BOARD. Tim Pratt’s space opera The Fractured Void will kick off a new series of books from Aconyte based on the Twilight Imperium strategic boardgame. Pratt does a Q&A here about his novel, coming in November.

Tim Pratt

How do you get into the headspace of a completely alien species… ones who might not even have heads?
 
All the playable aliens in Twilight Imperium have something in common with humanity: they want stuff. Desire is the common language that drives character motivations (and character is what drives plot).
 
Whether you’re a telepathic serpent or an ocean-dwelling scientist with tentacles, the universality of desire makes you comprehensible.
 
Admittedly, there are some factions that are harder to write point-of-view characters for, because their mental process is so alien – the Nekro Virus and the Arborec come to mind – but there are tricks for writing entities that are insane by human standards or possessed of a group consciousness (stream of consciousness, first-person plural viewpoints, and so on). Science fiction is all about imagining alien mindsets, or familiar mindsets confronted by alien circumstances and writing Twilight Imperium will give me the chance to do both.

(2) FULLY PACKED. This week in “The Full Lid 17th April 2020”, Alasdair Stuart leads off with “The Patron Saints of Freelancing,” about the lessons freelancers can take away from the hard-travelling heroes of The Mandalorian and The Witcher.

The Mandalorian and The Witcher have a lot in common. Monosyllabic leads, a bone-dry sense of humor, plots about reluctant dads, tons of cool armor, not quite enough screen time for supporting female characters…

But underneath all that there’s another narrative, one that resonates with me on a deep level. Both shows are about freelancers. And not (just) the biblical ass-kicking you get handed either: the social pressures of the job, the ways you survive it and the people you meet….

He also takes a look at how The Letter for the King almost lands some really brave choices, and the new oceanic horror movie, Sea Fever. Interludes this week are Sam Rockwell, Margaret Qualley and Christopher Walken cutting various degrees of rug in some epic dance routines and, as ever, Signal Boost is crammed full of treasures.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

(3) READERCON CANCELLED. The Readercon committee has announced that the event, which was to be held in Boston this July, has been cancelled. The series will resume next year.

Since our initial announcement on March 15, the United States has become an epicenter for COVID-19. The Governor of Massachusetts has prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people through at least May 4, as of this announcement. Experts predict that continued social distancing efforts may be required until such time as there is an effective vaccine, a milestone we are not expected to reach in time for this summer.

Because the safety of all our members—and their families—is our top concern, we have decided to postpone Readercon 31 for a year. It will now be held July 8 to 11, 2021 at the Marriott Boston Quincy, and Jeffrey Ford and Ursula Vernon have graciously agreed to remain our Guests of Honor, with Vonda N. McIntyre as our Memorial Guest of Honor….

(4) LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE ISOLATOR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport interviews astronauts and explorers who have spent a lot of time in isolation for tips about how to survive the age of social distancing.  (Two tips:  don’t count the number of days you are isolated and have as many celebrations as possible.) “Even astronauts get ornery: Coronavirus advice from those who have endured social distancing in the extreme”.

…“I have no idea how many days I’ve been in quarantine. None,” said Scott Kelly, the former NASA astronaut who spent 340 days in space, the record for the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut. “I don’t think about it. I just think, this is my reality. This is my mission. And it will someday be over.”Today, instead of being confined on the International Space Station with a handful of crewmates, he’s restricted to his 1,200-square-foot, two-bedrooms-with-den apartment in Houston with his wife. But his philosophy is the same, as is his strict adherence to routine, laid out daily on a shared Google calendar. He sets his alarm for 7 a.m., eats breakfast, “then work goes to noon, and then lunch, and then work, and then physical training, then plan for the next day, then dinner, then free time.”

(5) HUGO COVERAGE. “Vermont Author Katherine Arden Nominated for Hugo Award” – Andrew Liptak’s report was published in the Vermont pop culture publication Seven Days.

The conclusion of the trilogy qualified it for this year’s Best Series award, which is the Hugo’s newest addition, established in 2017.

In reaction to the nomination, Arden said, “The first time the Hugos came onto my radar was when I read Ender’s Game over and over as a kid. It had ‘WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARD’ emblazoned on the cover.”

That introduction is common to genre fans: The award can help readers cut through the overwhelming pile of stories and find the best ones. “The possibility that a book of my own will have a similar bit on its cover is thrilling and surreal,” Arden said.

(6) OBJECT LESSON. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com article, “Shiny Cosmic Objects and the Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe”, is of interest in its own right, and triggered a good conversation about sff history in the comments.

It’s just the sort of object SF authors might find notable enough to namecheck. More importantly, it’s something at which curious, technically advanced species would want a closer look. Call it a Leinster Object.

(7) ROWAND OBIT. LASFS member Ken Rowand (1948-2020) died April 12 of cancer. In years gone by he was a regular at the clubhouse’s Hell’s Bridge games and Magic Tournaments. He lived in Northern California for awhile in the early 1980s and did work for the Star Wars Fan Club, such as conducting the interview with Ralph McQuarrie published in Bantha Tracks #15 (1982). He is survived by his wife Marta Strohl.

(8) DAVIAU OBIT. Five-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Allen Daviau, who collaborated with Steven Spielberg and other film directors, died of COVID-19. NPR paid tribute: “‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’ Cinematographer And Spielberg Collaborator Dies.

…In a statement, Spielberg said his old his friend was, “a wonderful artist, but his warmth and humanity were as powerful as his lens.”

Daviau was born 77 years ago in New Orleans, and started out making music videos long before MTV existed. In 1968, he teamed up with Spielberg for the short film Amblin. They went on to make the memorable 1980’s films Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, and E.T. the Extra -Terrestrial….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 17, 1956 X Minus One’s “Jaywalker” first aired. Written by Ross Rocklynne who was a regular contributor to Astounding StoriesFantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, and who is a finalist this year for the Retro Hugo for his “Intruders from the Stars” novella. George Lefferts wrote script. The cast included Bob Hastings, R.E. Johnson, Terri Keane  and Connie Leinke. You can hear it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 17, 1923 Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best known series was about the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey.  I find it interesting that he wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 T. Bruce Yerke. Involved in LASFS early on, serving as its secretary for many years, and instrumental in recruiting Ray Bradbury to the club. Forrest J. Ackerman, Morojo and he co-edited the Imagination! zine which won the Best Fanzine 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards at Loncon 3. His unfinished biography though published biography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Fan, is a good look at the early days of LASFS. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 17, 1942 David Bradley, 78. It’s his Doctor Who work that garners him a Birthday honor.  He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as actor who was the First Doctor that makes him really worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time and then played the role of the First Doctor again in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories.  He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.
  • Born April 17, 1948 Peter Fehervari, 72. Ok, I’ll admit I’m including him because he’s written a number of novels set in the Warhammer Universe and I’ve never read anything set there. Who here has read the fiction set there? Is it worth reading, and if so, is there a good starting point?
  • Born April 17, 1959 Sean Bean, 61. His current role that garners him recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s worked in our area interest a long time.  His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus).  Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark high purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of the The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.)  Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally, something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playingMitch Henderson. 
  • Born April 17, 1972 Jennifer Garner, 48. Back before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were Marvel Comic movies. Such was the case with Elektra and its lead character of Elektra Natchios. Don’t remember anything about the film anymore. She also had the same role in Daredevil which was at best an OK film.
  • Born April 17, 1985 Rooney Mara, 35. She first shows up as Mary Lambert in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, a slasher film, followed by being Nancy Holbrook in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and then Tiger Lily in Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan. Since then, she’s been M in A Ghost Story, and lastly is Molly Cahill in Nightmare Alley.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MAKING HEADLINES. As anticipated Cora Buhlert’s Hugo nomination made the news in her other local paper, too, the Kreiszeitung (County Paper): “Sie ist eine Auserwählte”. The tagline says (according to Google Translate) —

Seckenhausen – “You have been nominated.” These four words were in an email that Cora Buhlert had discovered in her mailbox about three weeks ago. At first she thought it was just a Worldcon newsletter, but then she read the next word

Cora says, “I’m quite stunned about the extensive coverage. I suspect part of the reason is that since sports events, city council sessions, festivals, etc… don’t take place at the moment, local journalists have more time and space to report about other things such as North Germany’s first Hugo finalist. 

“I also got invited to contribute a book recommendation to the World Book Day coverage of one of the two local papers, which again has never happened before, even though I used to hang out on the edges of the local arts scene.”

 (13) NOT SPARING THE ROD. In “Shorefall: Come for the heists and explosions, stay for the debates”, Fantasy Fiction’s Bill Capossere leads into a review of the new Robert Jackson Bennett novel with this exhortation:

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Once upon a time there was a small group of uber-powerful folks who truly messed up the world. Luckily that was ages, sorry, I mean, Ages, ago. But now one of those ancient badass power users is potentially going to return and hoo boy is the world in trouble if he gathers all his power yet again. Thank the gods for the plucky group of scruffy underdogs who are definitely not a fellowship and who have decided to risk their lives to prevent the Dark Power’s rise. Anyone? Bueller?

OK, yes. We’ve all heard it before. So you might be forgiven if, upon learning that Robert Jackson Bennett’s newest title, Shorefall (sequel to the fantastic Foundryside), is about a spirited group of outnumbered and outgunned people trying to prevent the resurrection of an ancient power, you think to yourself, “Oh man, not another one of these!” You might be forgiven. But then again, you might not be. Because that would mean you haven’t been paying attention to Robert Jackson Bennett, because you would know he doesn’t do “another one of those.” And really, nobody should be forgiven for not paying attention to Robert Jackson Bennett, who has proven himself to be one of our best writers. Consider yourself duly chastised….

(14) SPACEX MANNED MISSION “Nasa to launch first manned mission from US in decade” – BBC has the story.

Nasa has announced that next month it will launch its first manned mission from US soil in almost 10 years.

The rocket and the spacecraft it is carrying are due to take off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre on 27 May, taking two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

Both the rocket and spacecraft were developed by private company SpaceX.

Nasa has been using Russian rockets for manned flights since its space shuttle was retired in 2011.

(15) 1984 BALLET. Available on YouTube as a fundraiser, the UK’s Northern Ballet production of 1984.

Winston Smith lives in a world of absolute conformity, his every action is scrutinized by Big Brother. But when Winston meets Julia, he dares to rebel by falling in love. Based on George Orwell’s masterpiece and choreographed by [former Royal Ballet dancer] Jonathan Watkins, 1984 pushes the boundaries of contemporary ballet and won the dance award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards in June 2016. If you can, please help us to protect our people and our work during these unprecedented times and make a donation when you watch:

It is now available to watch online until May 2 as part of their “Pay As You Feel Digital Season.”

(16) PHANTOM RETURNS. Also available for a very short time – today and tomorrow – “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary special to be streamed for free on YouTube”.

Musical maker Andrew Lloyd Webber will stream his anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera on his new YouTube channel from 7pm on Friday (17 April).

The 25th-anniversary concert production, filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011 features Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine. It will be available for 24 hours – so worth planning for a Friday night or Saturday matinee!

The show is the third in a new series of Lloyd Webber’s works that are being streamed for free online while a lockdown of UK households continues, which has seen theatres closed up and down the country. You can tune in here on Friday for more.

(17) IF I HAD A HAMMER. A Late Show with Stephen Colbert excerpt discovered thanks to Gizmodo (“We Could Watch Cate Blanchett Showing Off Her Thor and Hobbit Props Forever”).

The star of “Mrs. America” on FX and Hulu wields some serious hero weaponry in this pajama party interview with Stephen Colbert.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/17/19 By The Time I Get To Pixel, She’ll Be Scrolling

(1) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. Christopher J. Garcia and Chuck Serface are co-editing an issue of The Drink Tank dedicated to science-fiction comics of the 1950s and 1960s! Any critical articles, fanfic, personal remembrances, artwork, and any media we can publish in a fanzine are welcome.

Chuck Serface says, “Consideration of materials from any comic publisher of the time is fair game: Atlas/Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Charlton, Warren, EC, ones I’m forgetting at the moment — all of them.”

The deadline’s October 14, 2019. They’ll have it out by the end of the calendar year. Send submissions to ceserface@gmail.com.  

(2) COLSON WHITEHEAD Q&A. His new book is not sff, but some of his answers are about genre in “Powell’s Interview: Colson Whitehead, Author of ‘The Nickel Boys’”.

Rhianna: You’ve mentioned in other interviews being an avid reader of horror, and your novel Zone One is a zombie horror story. You’re very skilled at depicting violence. I was wondering if the horror genre has stylistically influenced the way that you depict historical atrocities, like those in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys.

Whitehead: Again, I think the story determines how you tell it. The violence in Zone One is gorier. It’s more flamboyant than some of the stuff in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys. In those two books, I think the horrific brutality that they experience speaks for itself. They don’t have to be dramatized.

This kind of language, I borrowed from reading the slave narratives. You don’t have to dramatize or sell to the listener or the reader how terrible everything is that is happening because it speaks for itself. If the violence is speaking for itself, I can concentrate more on the characters and what they’re feeling.

(3) TOLD WITH CONVICTION. LAist tells how “This LA Writer Turned Comic-Con Into A Crime Story”.

San Diego’s Comic-Con International starts Wednesday night, which makes this the perfect time to talk about Bad Weekend, a noir set against the backdrop of a fictionalized version of the now famous comics convention.

Writer Ed Brubaker described the graphic novel — with art by Brubaker’s longtime collaborator Sean Phillips and colors by Phillips’ son Jacob — as a weird love letter to comics, being a fan, and the strangeness of the comic book industry.

Bad Weekend is the product of filing away stories he’s heard around the comic book industry for the past 20 to 30 years, according to Brubaker — stories of who screwed over whom, of success not bringing happiness, and of comic companies getting rich off their work with movies and TV shows without the creators sharing in that wealth.

(4) OP-EDS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If, like me, you’ve been enjoying the New York Times’ series of science fictional op-eds, they’ve just created a landing page with all the articles in the series now organized in one place:  “Op-Eds From the Future”

It’s worth checking back every second Monday to see the latest installment, as they’ve been excellent so far. 

(5) FILER NAMED FGOH. Chris Barkley shared on Facebook: “I am pleased to report that I was asked and accepted to be the Fan GoH at the 2021 Astronomicon in Rochester, NY along with my good friend (and Identical twin) Robert J. Sawyer.”

(6) TRANSLATED NOVEL HUGO REDUX. Chris Barkley has also addressed criticism of the Best Translated Novel Hugo category in a Facebook post which begins —

I have taken this past week to ponder a response to Neil Clarke and Taiyo Fujii’s objections to the viability of a Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel. And frankly, their objections puzzle me.

I ask this of Mr. Fujii and to Mr. Clarke; if the three Hugos awarded to translated works are the awakening of fandom to translated literature, why haven’t more of those works been nominated in their wake? In the past three years of nominations; only 2017’s Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, has been included in the Best Novel category, all of the other nominees in the category have all been decidedly anglocentric.

The truth of the matter we think that the Worldcon and the Hugo Awards have been overwhelmingly perceived for quite a while as an English speakers only party since a majority of the conventions have been held in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Mr. Clarke and Mr. Fujii may see the proposed award as either unnecessary, pandering or condescending to authors and fans but all Ms. Cordasco, my co-sponsors and I only want to do is shine a spotlight to fervently call attention to and honor authors and their translators. Speaking for myself, had there been three, four or five nominees on the final ballot since those historic awards, I would not have contemplated initiating and offering this proposal for an open debate…

(7) JUDGE UNCONVINCED. “Marvel Finally Beats a Lawsuit Over the ‘Iron Man 3’ Poster”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. There does seem to be a family resemblance, just the same:

Horizon still could have gotten the case to trial, but it then needed to show an inference of copying through the similarity of the works. Specifically, Horizon argued the two works were “strikingly similar,” with reliance on an expert report discussing anatomical structures, faces and heads, and camera views.

The judge responds that the expert report is “equivocating” on some of the noteworthy similarities by addressing features on careful viewing and not going quite so far to rule out any reasonable possibility of independent creation. Plus, the judge adds, “there remain enough differences between the two works,” nodding to Marvel’s pointing out differences in pose, differing placement of blue lights, and significantly different overall coloring.

(8) SEE READERCON 30. Ellen Datlow has posted 89 photos taken at ReaderCon 30 in a Flickr album.

Catherynne M. Valente, Heath Miller, and Sebastian

(9) ARE YOU WHAT YOU CONSUME? Surprising no one, here’s where The Hollywood Reporter lands on the meaning of “fan” and “fandom” — “Among Fandoms, Marvel May Reign Supreme, Poll Finds”.

A nationally representative sample of 2,200 adults carried out between July 8 and 10 revealed that, when it comes to genre properties, Marvel is far and away the most successful, with 63 percent of those surveyed considering themselves fans. The next most popular property was Marvel’s Disney sibling, Star Wars, with a 60 percent fandom, and DC followed with 59 percent.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 17, 1858 Florence Balcombe Stoker. She was the wife and literary executor of Bram Stoker. She’s best remembered for her extended legal dispute with the makers of Nosferatu, an unauthorized film blatantly based on her husband’s novel Dracula. (Died 1937.)
  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 75. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column in Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog
  • Born July 17, 1952 Robert R. McCammon, 67. Horror writer whose Michael Gallatin books, The Wolf’s Hour and The Hunter from the Woods, Alllied WWII werewolf agent and his adventures, I strongly recommend. His “Nightcrawlers” short story was adapted into an episode of the Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 65. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of Babylon 5 and its short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the commit sides, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written Superman, Wonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles.
  • Born July 17, 1967 Kelly Robson, 52. I just got done reading her brilliant “Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach”.  Right now, it appears only this plus “A Human Stain” and “Waters of Versailles” are available on iBooks and Kindle for reading as she has no collection out yet. And no novel as far as I can tell. 
  • Born July 17, 1971 Cory Doctorow, 48. I’ll admit that I’ve mixed feelings about his work. I enjoyed Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, his first novel, and thought The Rapture of the Nerds had potential but really failed to live to that potential to great. Everything else is ‘Meh’. His activism is oft times that of an overeager puppy trying to get attention for himself. 
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 43. Wow. Author of  Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.

(12) IN THE BEGINNING. The San Diego Union-Tribune explores “50 Shades of Comic-Con: What we’ve gained and lost in five decades of pop culture celebrations”.

From its inception, Comic-Con had intergalactic ambitions.

The initial show, then called San Diego’ Golden State Comic Con, featured science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and A.E. Van Vogt; Jack Kirby, creator of Captain America, X-Men and other iconic superheroes; vintage films; an art auction; and dozens of dealers peddling mountains of new and used comics.

An unforgettable event — for the 300 attendees. Few others noticed and even they dismissed this as a juvenile jamboree. For instance:

On the show’s first day, Aug. 1, 1970, the author of “Fahrenheit 451″ and “The Martian Chronicles” granted an interview to The San Diego Union. Yet Bradbury’s spirited defense of comics was buried on page B-11, under articles about a flower show, the repainting of the White House East Room and a medical brief with the headline “Fat Men More Tipsy.”

… Neil Kendricks is a writer, filmmaker and teacher who recently led a San Diego State course on comics and sequential art. In the early 1980s, though, he was a high school student at his first Comic-Con. In the dealer’s room, he bumped into a white-haired gentleman flipping through the cardboard boxes full of used comics.

“Mr. Bradbury,” he stammered, “will you be here for awhile?”

When Ray Bradbury nodded yes, Kendricks dashed out of Golden Hall and ran the half-mile to Wahrenbrock’s Book House.

“I went upstairs to the science fiction section and bought as many of his books and I could find. Then I ran all the way back and he signed them. That,” Kendricks said, “could never happen now.”

(13) UP ON CHARGES. Trae Dorn reports at Nerd & Tie that a conrunner is being prosecuted in the Twin Cities: “How to React When a Member of Your Con Staff is Accused of Rape”. Documentation accompanies the post.

On Monday it came to light that long time staffer of Twin Cities based Anime Detour Stephen Gifford has been charged with third-degree sexual assault in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Gifford was head of Convention Communications for Anime Detour’s 2019 event earlier this year, and has previously served as the event’s convention chair.

… Now we’ve seen cons react to situations like this in many ways, but thankfully Anime Detour’s staff has taken the situation seriously.

(14) KNIT ONE, PEARL TWO. While they still can, WIRED lets readers decide for themselves what to think about this coming technology: “Here’s How Elon Musk Plans to Stitch a Computer into Your Brain”.  

…At a presentation at the California Academy of Sciences, hastily announced via Twitter and beginning a half hour late, Musk presented the first product from his company Neuralink. It’s a tiny computer chip attached to ultrafine, electrode-studded wires, stitched into living brains by a clever robot. And depending on which part of the two-hour presentation you caught, it’s either a state-of-the-art tool for understanding the brain, a clinical advance for people with neurological disorders, or the next step in human evolution.

The chip is custom-built to receive and process the electrical action potentials—“spikes”—that signal activity in the interconnected neurons that make up the brain. The wires embed into brain tissue and receive those spikes. And the robotic sewing machine places those wires with enviable precision, a “neural lace” straight out of science fiction that dodges the delicate blood vessels spreading across the brain’s surface like ivy.

…And, sure, there’s more. A public records request from WIRED in April 2019 found that Neuralink is licensed to have hundreds of rats and mice in its research facilities. In a seemingly unplanned moment at the Cal Academy, Musk also acknowledged that Neuralink’s research had progressed beyond rodents to non-human primates. It’s only because of a records request filed by Gizmodo that Neuralink’s affiliation with the primate research center at UC Davis is public knowledge. That affiliation has apparently progressed: “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI,” Musk said during the Q and A after the presentation.

His team seemed as surprised and discombobulated by the announcement as the audience. “I didn’t know we were running that result today, but there it goes,” said Max Hodak, president of the company, on stage next to Musk. (Monkeys have controlled computers via BCIs before, though presumably this would be the first time one used Neuralink.)

(15) APOLLO 11 AT 50 CLIPPINGS.

One small holograph for man, one giant holograph for the Washington Monument.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a life-size projection of the Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The Saturn V rocket is now iconic for carrying the Apollo 11 crew to the moon in 1969. The projection-mapping artwork will occupy 363 of the monument’s 555 vertical feet.

As the 17th century’s most famous Italian astronomer surveyed the heavens, he likely never dreamed a rocket shooting fire would one day power people up among the stars he eyed through his telescope, or that his work would help guide a ship to the moon.

But Galileo Galilei’s observations would become a key link in the chain of scientific research and discovery fundamental to our understanding of the universe and our drive to explore it.

That scientific continuum is at the heart of a new Houghton Library exhibit connecting early celestial calculations to the Apollo 11 mission that put two American astronauts on the lunar surface 50 years ago this July. “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty” features gems from Harvard’s collection of rare books and manuscripts as well as NASA artifacts from an anonymous lender and Harvard alumnus, many of which were aboard the spaceship that left Earth’s orbit in 1969.

Not all of the equipment carried into space was cutting edge and expensive. Some of the more humble odds and ends even prevented disaster.

…25: Length of duct tape rolls carried to the Moon, in feet

If there’s one saviour time and again of American space missions over the past 50 years, it’s a roll of duct tape. During Apollo missions, it was used for everything from taping down switches and attaching equipment inside the spacecraft, to fixing a tear on a spacesuit and, during Apollo 17, a fender on the lunar rover.

One of the surviving crew members of the first manned mission to the Moon – Apollo 11 – has returned to the site where the mission set off 50 years ago.

Michael Collins, 88, visited Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. He marked theprecise time – 09:32 (13:32 GMT) – when their rocket took off.

Mr Collins had stayed in lunar orbit while his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.

…Mr Collins described how he felt during take-off.

“The shockwave from the rocket power hits you,” he told Nasa TV. “Your whole body is shaking. This gives you an entirely… different concept of what power really means.”

Esquire was not expecting much from Neil Armstrong.

“While the space program is poised on the brink of a truly epoch-making triumph of engineering, it is also headed for a rhetorical train wreck,” the story said.

“The principal danger is not that we will lose the life of an astronaut on the Moon, but that the astronauts will murder English up there . . . . That they are likely to litter the intergalactic void with gibberish and twaddle.”

The smugness is rather remarkable, because despite the talent of the people it enlisted, Esquire got not a single decent line from any of them.

It got, in fact, a lot of gibberish and twaddle.

…With that as your benchmark, here’s a sampling of what Esquire’s best and brightest came up with:

John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist: “We will hafta pave the damn thing.”

Ayn Rand, libertarian thinker and novelist: “What hath man wrought!”

…Leonard Nimoy, the actor, then in his third season as Spock on the new TV series Star Trek: “I’d say to Earth, from here you are a peaceful, beautiful ball and I only wish everyone could see it with that perspective and unity.”

(16) BACK SEAT FLYING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Washington Post: “Airline tweets about where passengers are least likely to die in a crash”. The pic below is cribbed from the WaPo article. Apparently, they got ahold of a screenshot of the since-deleted tweet. The thought process of whoever sent this out must have been, well, let’s just call it astounding.

(17) A KING WILL BE CROWNED. Looper fills us in about The Most Anticipated Sci Fi Movies Of 2020.

2020 might feel far away, but Hollywood’s major studios are already planning ahead with some legit super hits on the horizon. And if you’re a fan of sci-fi flicks, then 2020’s looking like an especially good year for you. These are just a few of the most anticipated sci-fi blockbusters on their way to a big screen near you. Film fans will finally get the answer to an age-old question in 2020, when Godzilla and King Kong face off on the big screen. Director Adam Wingard has already assured fans that his take on the two monsters will crown a definitive winner, unlike the 1962 film that first pit the two characters against each other. This will be the fourth entry in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, first established in 2014’s Godzilla and further explored in Kong: Skull Island.

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

ReaderCon 30 Photos

Neil Clarke

By Daniel Dern: [In addition to his photos taken onsite this weekend, Dern offered this “quotable tidbit” from ReaderCon 30 — ]

The “Remembering Gene Wolfe” session was amazing and wonderful. Howard Waldrop opened with what could easily have been a great first line: “I first met Gene Wolfe at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland…”  C.S.E. Cooney related how she met Wolfe (leading to a long friendship) — when she was still a new writer, her father suggested she might like to meet and talk with one of his parishioners who wrote science fiction…

Hopefully, ReaderCon (or somebody else volunteering to do it) will post the audio of this panel.

The rest of Dern’s photos follow the jump.

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2018 Shirley Jackson Awards

The 2018 Shirley Jackson Awards were presented on Sunday, July 14 at Readercon 30, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Quincy, Massachusetts. (Kate Maruyama livetweeted the ceremony.)

The awards are given for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.

They are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics. The jurors for the 2018 awards were Chikodili Emelumadu, Michael Thomas Ford, Gabino Iglesias, Kate Maruyama and Lynda E. Rucker.

NOVEL

  • Little Eve, Catriona Ward (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, an imprint of The Orion Publishing Group)

NOVELLA

  • The Taiga Syndrome, Cristina Rivera Garza (Dorothy, a Publishing Project)

NOVELETTE

  • “Help the Witch,” Tom Cox (Help the Witch)

SHORT FICTION

  • “The Astronaut,” Christina Wood Martinez (Granta 142: Animalia)

SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION

  • All the Fabulous Beasts, Priya Sharma (Undertow Publications)

EDITED ANTHOLOGY

  • Robots vs Fairies, edited by Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien (Saga Press)

Pixel Scroll 7/13/19 Our House Hasn’t Collapsed Under The Weight Of All The Books Yet

(1) ARISIA BACK IN THE WESTIN. The convention website indicates Arisia 2020 will return to the Westin Boston Waterfront, from January 17-20, 2020.

(2) READERCON. Kate Nepveu compiled a great set of panel notes about the Readercon panel “Translation and Embedded Assumptions” with Anatoly Belilovsky, John Chu, Neil Clarke, Pablo Defendini, Tamara Vardomskaya (mod).

Neil: is publishing translations without being able to read original, has to count on team of people. So a lot of these granular issues settled before comes to, but not always. It’s interesting when there’s an American in the translated story . . . who is not always that American. They try to get the spirit of story across, so often work extra with the translators on that situation. Has edited bilingual anthology of Chinese SF, two volumes published in China, not been able to get published in U.S.

Tamara: gives example from Ada Palmer, in whose books gender is outlawed: everyone uses “they” (except narrator) to signal that progressive viewpoint has won. Polish translator said, in Polish that’s the conservative position, the progressive is to give high visibility to female existence (e.g., “waitress and waiter”, not “server”). Ada went with political connotation rather than word-for-word….

(3) SHINY. Nature’s David Seed delves into “Two millennia of lunar literature”:

The Moon’s luminous, cratered face, visible to the naked eye, has sparked the imaginations of writers and scientists for centuries with much proto-science fiction…

This included the second-century Syrian satirist Lucian of Samosata, whose A True Story is often cited as the first science-fiction narrative….

But Greek the biographer Plutarch’s Moralia (ad 100) is arguably the first such narrative to introduce scientific ideas…

Lunar literature began to crystallize in the ferment of the Renaissance, and to surge in the seventeenth century…

(4) TRUE CONFESSIONS. At American Magazine, Tom Deignan asks “Why do Catholic priests keep popping up in sci-fi?”

This month, Simon & Schuster will reissue a short story collection entitled The Toynbee Convector, by science fiction master Ray Bradbury, best known for classics like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. First published in 1988, The Toynbee Convector features 23 stories, among them “Bless Me, Father, for I Have Sinned,” about a priest who hears a chilling confession on a snowy Christmas Eve.

That story—as well as countless other science fiction classics published over the centuries—raises an intriguing question: Why do priests and other religious figures play such an important role in the fantastic worlds and futuristic dystopias conjured by a wide range of sci-fi writers?

(5) SPACE INVADERS. The Alien Party Crashers official trailer has dropped.

In the style of Shaun Of The Dead, The Lost Boys and Attack the Block, this is a funny, dark and action packed sci-fi horror comedy that pits a group of drunken friends on New Years Eve in a Welsh valley against an invasion task force of creepy time-traveling aliens. A kick-ass M.O.D agent, an insecure radio DJ and a kung fu master who owns the local B&B learn their new years resolution this year is simple: STAY ALIVE.”

(6) HEAR WRITERS’ THOUGHT PROCESSES. Authors Marshall Ryan Maresca, Alexandra Rowland, and Rowenna Miller have started a podcast called World Building for Masochists, Downloadable at the website, transcripts also available. They have two episodes out so far. The first, “Playing God in Your Spare Time” includes this exchange:

ROWENNA: …I think that I start thinking about the character first, and what are they encountering, what do they have for breakfast, what do they see when they go out of their door in the morning, and there might be things that the character doesn’t know about their world. I think, you know, like you, Marshall, I started the story in a city, and my character actually doesn’t know very much about what’s going on outside of that city; she’s never been outside of it. So there’s kind of a freedom there for her to be ignorant, and it was kind of weird for me at first to be like, okay, there are things that I might know, but I need to keep that shoved aside, because there’s no reason for her to know what this other city would look like, or what the patterns of trade are between, you know, these two coastal towns. She’s never been there, she has no idea. 

MARSHALL: But she might have, say, heard the name, and has her own preconceived notions of what it’s supposed to be.

ALEXANDRA: And I think that having a character with some degree of ignorance can also be a really useful tool for you as an author, because then you can — and I’m going to keep bringing this up because it’s my favorite trick of all time to use — you can sort of build a negative space and invite your character to make assumptions about the world, and also invite the reader to make assumptions about the world…

We’re keeping an eye out for the arrival of “World Building for Sadists,” too.

(7) HEAR IT MEOW? “Do critics think Lion King is a ‘roaring success’?” – BBC has compiled their reactions.

Disney’s Lion King remake, starring Donald Glover and Beyonce, has been described equally by pun-tastic critics as both a “roaring success” and “tame”.

The original 1994 animation won two Oscars for best music and score, while the stage version is also Broadway’s top grossing musical.

…In a four-star review, The Telegraph said “the power of this new Lion King comes from the outside”.

…The Guardian, were less impressed with the film, writing the “deepfake copycat ain’t so grrreat.”

(8) STRANGER THAN EVER. The Hollywood Reporter brings word that “Nielsen Confirms ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Is a Big Hit”.

Netflix has said that Stranger Things amassed a bigger audience over its first four days than any other original show in its history. New data from Nielsen shows that a lot of people did, in fact, spend the July 4 holiday weekend watching the series.

Per the ratings service’s SVOD content ratings, the eight episodes of Stranger Things 3 had an average minute audience — the closest approximation for streaming shows to Nielsen’s average viewership on linear TV — of 12.8 million viewers over its first four days of release. That’s a 21 percent increase over the same time frame after the release of season two in October 2017 (10.6 million)

(9) AFTER THE KING RETURNED. Paul Weimer is back to discuss a Robin Hood-themed novel in “Microreview [book]: Brightfall, by Jaime Lee Moyer” at Nerds of a Feather.

The other characters in the novel, human and otherwise, are the strength, power and richness of the novel. Beyond Marian herself, Robin comes off as a prat at first, someone to intensely dislike and hate because of his abandonment of Marian. The reasons how and why he did so, and his ultimate connection with the unraveling of the plot, humanize him to a degree, but the writer’s and reader’s intended sympathy comes off the page intended for Marian. Even by the end of the novel, I still thought he was a prat for his actions, even if I ultimately understood the how and why of them by the end of the novel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.)
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he says to play three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Wombles, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart, 79. If you count The Avengers as genre (and I certainly do), his first SF role was as a man walking in from the sea in “The Town of No Return” episode. Setting aside Trek, other memorable genre roles include Leodegrance in Excalibur, Gurney Halleck in Dune, Prof. Macklin in The Doctor and the Devils, Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise and he’s played Macbeth myriad times in the theatre world. 
  • Born July 13, 1942 Mike Ploog, 77. He’s a storyboard and comic book artist, as well as a visual designer for films. his work on Marvel Comics’ Seventies Man-Thing and The Monster of Frankenstein series are his best-known undertakings, and as is the initial artist on the features Ghost Rider, Kull the Destroyer and Werewolf by Night.  He moved onward to storyboarding or other design work on films including John Carpenter’s The Thing, Little Shop of Horrors, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and The Storyteller series.
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 77. His best films? Raiders of The Ark, Star Wars and Blade Runner. Surely that’s not debatable. His worst film? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Equally not debatable.
  • Born July 13, 1955 David J. Schow, 64. Mostly splatterpunk horror writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he’s did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1953 Chip Hitchcock, 66. A conrunner who co-chaired the 1999 World Fantasy Convention with his wife, Davey Snyder, he also has worked Worldcons as a Division Head, and chaired Bosklone, Lexicon 7 and Boskone 24. He was made a Fellow of NESFA in 1979. Other fannish credits include book editing, Worldcon floor plans, and producer of fannish theatricals.
  • Born July 13, 1966 David X. Cohen, 53. Head writer and executive producer of Futurama. Cohen is a producer of Disenchantment, Matt Groening’s fantasy series on Netflix. He also wrote a number of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes on the Simpson’s which have a strong genre slant such as “Treehouse of Horror VII” (“Citizen Kang”). 
  • Born July 13, 1981 Monica Byrne, 38. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is I’ve added to my reading list as it sounds fantastic which won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was also nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. She also had an essay in Wired back four years ago, “Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos”, commenting on the Sad Puppies. It’s interesting reading still. And this essay, “Literature Still Urgently Needs More Non-White, Non-Male Heroes”, certainly shows where she is ideologically.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) IN THIS DICTIONARY, HIS PICTURE REALLY IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE WORD. For reasons you can now guess, Sir Patrick Stewart figures in the entry for the Wikitionary word of the day for July 13, 2019: “calvous”.

(13) UNDER THE LID. Alastair Stuart’s “The Full Lid 12th July 2019” stops “in at Centerville for Jim Jarmusch’s deeply strange The Dead Don’t Die, which may be the oddest horror movie you’ll see this year. It’s certainly, along with Midsommar, one of the most interesting. Also on deck this week is Greg van Eekhout’s startlingly good middle-grade SF novel Cog and the always excellent ZoomDoom Stories continue to impress with season one of The Six Disappearances of Ella McCray.”

The Dead Don’t Die

The best way to spot a Jim Jarmusch movie is to throw a dart, blindfold, at a wall of ideas. He’s done existential westerns (Dead Man), anthologies about taxi drivers (Night on Earth), a documentary about The Stooges (Gimme Danger) and the best hip-hop/samurai/film noir movie ever made (Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai). Now, he’s turned his attention to horror comedy and the result is so inherently Jarmuschian it basically breaks the meter and embeds the needle in the wall of the lab. Where, I can only assume, Bill Murray stares at it for a moment, goes…’Huh’ and then continues about his day.

(14) SHALL WE DANCE?

(15) WHEN I’M ’64. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes is fascinated by the new Doctor Who series – in 1964: “[July 12th, 1964] Mind Over Matter (Doctor Who: The Sensorites [Part 1])”.

Can I admit to something silly? I am a little bit scared of mind-readers. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually believe in telepaths. Then again, who knows what sort of freaky experiments certain entities get up to.

I just think the idea of someone reading my mind, or even manipulating it, is one of the most horrifying concepts out there.

And it looks like Doctor Who agrees with me.

(16) CHESS PLAYER CHEATED IN TOILET. I saw ESPN’s headline and I said to myself, that’ll get some clicks. They sourced their post from this Chess.com story:

GM Igors Rausis is under investigation for cheating after he was caught with his phone during a game at the Strasbourg Open. The 58-year-old Latvian-Czech grandmaster had raised suspicions after he increased his rating in recent years to almost 2700.

During an open tournament July 10-14 in Strasbourg, France, a phone was found in a toilet that had just been used by Rausis. He later signed a declaration that the phone was his.

Whether he was using his phone to get assistance from a chess engine is not clear at the moment.

In a comment to Chess.com, Rausis said:

I simply lost my mind yesterday. I confirmed the fact of using my phone during the game by written [statement]. What could I say more? Yes, I was tired after the morning game and all the Facebook activity of accusers also have a known impact. At least what I committed yesterday is a good lesson, not for me—I played my last game of chess already.

…Six years ago, in May 2013, [Rausis’] rating was still 2518, and it had fluctuated around the 2500 mark for at least 10 years. It has since increased by almost 200 points. 

Over the last six years, Rausis increased his rating steadily as he mostly limited himself to playing lower-rated opponents against whom he continued scoring perfectly or almost perfectly. For instance, in the July 2019 rating calculations, he scored 24.5/25 against almost only players rated more than 400 points below his own rating.

…To increase one’s rating like Rausis did requires almost perfect play over a long period of time, which is not easy even against very low opposition.

The case of Rausis is similar to that of a Georgian grandmaster who got banned from a tournament in 2015 after his phone was found in a toilet. In that case, it was discovered that he had been analyzing his position with a chess engine. He was banned for three years and lost his GM title.

(17) GET THE SHOT. NPR remembers “The Camera That Went To The Moon And Changed How We See It” – a feature with lots of pictures — some well-known, some less so.

In the summer of 1962, Walter Schirra — who would soon become America’s third man to orbit the Earth — walked into a Houston photo supply shop looking for a camera he could take into space.

He came out with a Hasselblad 500C, a high-end Swedish import that had been recommended to him by photographers from Life and National Geographic.

“He was sort of an amateur photographer,” Jennifer Levasseur, a curator in charge of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s astronaut cameras, says of Schirra. “Somewhere along the line, the decision was made that he could select what camera was flown on his flight.”

…When NASA got a look at Schirra’s Hasselblad, they liked what they saw. The space agency purchased at least one more. Engineers tore into the off-the-shelf consumer model to make it space-worthy. They stripped it down to save weight and painted it dull black to reduce reflections. They also had to “astronaut-proof it,” says Cole Rise, a photographer and filmmaker who builds custom reproductions of the Hasselblad space cameras.

…Hasselblad’s Chris Cooze says until then, the space agency was so focused on the technical side of spaceflight that photography was something of an afterthought.

He says it was in 1965, when NASA released stunning photos of Ed White’s spacewalk on Gemini 4, that Hasselblad “put two and two together” and realized the pictures were taken with one of their cameras.

“Then they got in touch with NASA to see if there was anything that we could cooperate on,” Cooze says.

(18) FOLLOW THE BOUNCING ‘BOW. “Rippling Rainbow Map Shows How California Earthquakes Moved The Earth”NPR has the story.

Curious how much the ground shifted after the two large earthquakes last week in Southern California? NASA has just the map for that question — and it happens to look like beautiful, psychedelic art.

On July 4, a 6.4 magnitude quake hit the town of Ridgecrest, north of Los Angeles. The next evening, the area was jolted again by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Luckily, there were no serious injuries or major infrastructure damage.

The map was created by the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It shows rippling rainbows forming a circular pattern around the faults of the two quakes.

Each rainbow stripes[sic] means that the ground has been displaced there by some 4.8 inches. It’s the same logic as a topographic map, where lines that are closer together indicate steeper slopes. In this case, the closer together the rainbow stripes are, the more the ground was displaced by the temblor.

(19) THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT. Steve J. Wright has done both sets of Hugo editor categories now:

The editing categories are always hard for us non-initiates to judge; we do not know the Dark Arts of editorship, the secret and sacred magic by which a piece of text is transmogrified into a professional story…. However, at least we can see the general tenor of a skiffy magazine, and read, well, editorials and the like, and we can work out from that how the short-form editors think.  Sort of.

And, of course, it is distorted in 1943 by the unassailable fact that there’s only one right answer: Astounding, edited by John W. Campbell Jr.  Like it or not, Campbell was shaping science fiction in his own image at this time.  He is the unavoidable choice; the eight-hundred-pound gorilla of the SF world.

Wright begins his Long Form Editor reviews (the Retro category was cancelled) with the same observation, but faithful to the category, at greater length:

Anyway, here we are again, with the category no one is particularly qualified to decide on.  We don’t know, for example, if Beth Meacham found a scrawled note one day that read “dere iz dis wumman who wantz 2 b a spaceman” and worked it up into The Calculating Stars from that, or if Mary Robinette Kowal submitted the manuscript exactly in its current form, and Meacham’s only contribution was to fling it at a passing minion with a cry of “Publish this!”  The truth, of course, must lie somewhere in between those extremes… and it is probably (unless you’re actually interested in the minutiae of the editing profession) pretty darn boring, for those of us not directly concerned.  I think it was John Sladek who said that there were secrets of the universe which Man was not meant to know, and some of them are not even worth knowing.

(20) BLACK HOLE DETECTIVE. BBC says it has lifted off: “Spektr-RG: Powerful X-ray telescope launches to map cosmos”.

One of the most significant Russian space science missions in the post-Soviet era has launched from Baikonur.

The Spektr-RG telescope is a joint venture with Germany that will map X-rays across the entire sky in unprecedented detail.

Researchers say this information will help them trace the large-scale structure of the Universe.

The hope is Spektr-RG can provide fresh insights on the accelerating behaviour of cosmic expansion.

It should also identify a staggering number of new X-ray sources, such as the colossal black holes that reside at the centre of galaxies.

As gas falls into these monsters, the matter is heated and shredded and “screams” in X-rays. The radiation is essentially a telltale for the Universe’s most violent phenomena.

Spektr-RG is expecting to detect perhaps three million super-massive black holes during its service life.

(21) APOLLO DOCUMENTARY. Assembled by Voice of America:

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic mission to land humans on the surface of the moon, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh presents this reflection of the monumental achievement through the eyes of the NASA astronauts themselves. In exclusive interviews Farabaugh gathered, the men of the Apollo program reflect on the path to the moon, and what lies beyond.

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

Readercon 29 Photos

Daniel Dern shares his pictures of guests, panelists and vendors who participated in Readercon 29 over the July 12-15 weekend.

GoH Nisi Shawl


More photos follow the jump.

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Pixel Scroll 7/16/18 Now With Bolded Typos

(1) GONE WITH THE YUAN. The most expensive film ever made in China bombed and is already out of theaters. The Hollywood Reporter has the story — “China’s First $100M Film Pulled From Cinemas After Disastrous Opening Weekend”.

In the long lead-up to its release, Chinese fantasy epic Asura was promoted as China’s most expensive film ever made, with a production budget of over $110 million (750 million yuan). So perhaps it’s unsurprising that the film’s producers, which include Jack Ma’s Alibaba Pictures, decided to take desperate action after the movie opened to just $7.1 million over the weekend.

Late Sunday evening in Beijing, Asura‘s official social media accounts posted a simple statement saying that the film would be pulled from cinemas as of 10 p.m. local time. After landing in theaters with limited fanfare, China’s priciest picture ever would vanish from the scene entirely.

Asura is co-produced by Zhenjian Film Studio and Ningxia Film Group — two of the investors behind the successful Painted Skin fantasy franchise — along with Alibaba Pictures Group and other minority investors.

The statement announcing Asura‘s retreat from cinemas supplied no explanation for the unprecedented move. But a representative from Zhenjian Film, which is credited as lead producer, later told Chinese news site Sina: “This decision was made not only because of the bad box office. We plan to make some changes to the film and release it again.”

Chinese site Sixth Tone tells it this way: “Epic Budget, Epic Fail: Chinese Blockbuster ‘Asura’ Tanks”.

China’s latest fantasy epic, “Asura,” claimed to be the most expensive domestic production to date — but it didn’t even last three days in cinemas.

Six years in the making, the film was planned as the first of a trilogy based on ancient Tibetan mythology. The Alibaba Pictures production promised lush CGI from an award-winning, international team in its depiction of war between two heavenly realms. Marketing campaigns for the film emphasized its budget of $100 million.

But after opening on Friday, the film made a mere $7.1 million over its first weekend. By contrast, “Hidden Man,” a highly anticipated action-thriller by actor and director Jiang Wen, brought in $46.5 million. Meanwhile “Dying to Survive,” a dark comedy about cancer drug smuggling operations, defended its box office lead, racking up $68.5 million on its second weekend and even prompting a spike in online insurance sales.

Aggregate user ratings of “Asura” varied wildly across China’s two biggest ticketing platforms, Tencent-funded Maoyan and Alibaba-owned Tao Piaopiao, earning 4.9 and 8.4 out of 10, respectively. Users of review platform Douban rated the film a miserable 3.1 out of 10.

(2) EFFECTS OF COMIC CON PROLIFERATION. Heidi MacDonald tells Publishers Weekly readers why “In a World of Too Many Cons, San Diego Is Still King”.

An ever-increasing number of comics and pop culture conventions are taxing publishers’ exhibition budgets and turning artists into nomads, on the road signing autographs in a different city or country every weekend….

Indeed, the expanding comics convention schedule is beginning to tax publisher budgets while turning comics creators into a hardened (and often exhausted) group of road warriors who must trek to a different city every weekend.

As more and more events flood the schedule, publishers and creators alike are developing new strategies for dealing with the demands for their time. And the conventions are beginning to evolve, some developing business models to stay above the pack of newly launched shows, while others, including many poorly planned and financed events, are becoming synonymous with disaster, poor attendance, canceled events, and disappointed fans.

“The number of cons has really exploded over the last five years,” says Martha Donato, president of MAD Events Management, which puts on the Long Beach Comic Con every September, along with other shows. “It’s [become] every city, every weekend, all year, globally.”

Even for a location such as Long Beach, Calif., close to many West Coast comics publishers, the competition for guest artists and publisher-exhibitors has become fierce, she says. “A much bigger percentage of our time, energy, and resources are now devoted to getting exhibitors to attend,” she adds. “Talent and their publishers have many more offers than they could ever accept, even if they wanted to.”

Donato’s show gets support from publishers in Los Angeles, including Top Cow and Aspen, but even loyal exhibitors have to pick and choose. “Publishers are facing a deluge of opportunities and they can afford to be choosy,” says Donato. “There’s a lot of saying no.”

(3) RECASTING MUPPETS MOVIES. The most selfless answer is….

(4) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered on the small screen
  • July 16, 1958The Fly creeped the heck out of everybody…”Help Me…Help Me.”
  • July 16, 2005 — The 6th book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series sold 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley
  • Born July 16 – Will Ferrell, 51. Holmes in the forthcoming comedy Holmes and Watson film,  HerculesHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildCurious George and The Last Man on Earth series.
  • Born July 16 – Corey Feldman, 47. Genre roles in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series, the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Tales from the Crypt and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven series to name but a few of his files.
  • Born July 16 – Rose Salazar, 33. Genre work includes American Horror StoryMaze Runner: The Death Cure, and Batman: Arkham Origins video game.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Updating a Kafka classic at Bizarro.

(7) THE TIDE IS IN. Camestros Felapton continues scoping out the Hugo nominees: “Review: The Black Tides of Heaven (Novella) J.Y.Yang”.

As I said above, I found the second half easier to engage with than the first. It focuses more on Akeha, the surpising “spare” half of the twins, who in post-adolesence decides to be confirmed as a male (gender is assigned post-childhood in this world). Fate, prophercy, control and inevitability (whether magical or political) play out as important themes but, again, I think their impact as ideas get lost amid the scale of the story.

(8) IN ORDER. Mark Kaedrin gives his rankings and his reasons — “Hugo Awards: Short Stories”.

In the past five years of reading Hugo nominated short stories, I think I’ve enjoyed about 2-3 of the stories quite a bit. That’s… not a very good batting average. For whatever reason, I always find that this category just fills up with stories that don’t work for me. True, several puppy trolling nominations made the cut, which didn’t help (for example: they nominated SF-themed erotica two years in a row, and then another that was a bad parody of a bad story, etc…), but even the stories I liked weren’t that great. I’ve always chalked that up to this category having the lowest barrier to entry. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time or effort to seek out a bunch of short stories (mostly available for free online too), so the nominations are spread far and wide. There used to be a requirement that a finalist had to have at least 5% of the nominations in order to be considered, which often resulted in a small category because most stories couldn’t clear that bar. So basically, the stories that do make it here rarely have wide appeal. That being said, this year’s nominees are actually a pretty congenial bunch. I don’t actually hate any of the stories, even if a few don’t quite tweak me the way I’d like (even those are pretty good though). I do still find it hard to believe that these are the actual best short fiction of the year, but I’ll take this over the past 4 years’ worth of nominations. However, I do think it’s telling that at least one story on the 1942 Retro Hugos ballot, Proof by Hal Clement, is far better than any of these nominees, which I think says something (I’d have to read/reread a couple of the other 1942 finalists to be sure, but I suspect that ballot is more my speed). Anyway, let’s get to it….

(9) CURRENT EVENTS. And don’t forget this year’s fiction. Rocket Stack Rank hasn’t — “July 2018 Ratings”. Greg Hullender summarizes:

We posted our monthly ratings last night. It was a typical month, with 11 stories recommended (with 4 or 5 stars) out of 72 (expected would be 11 to 13).

We recommended 4 stories from F&SF, 3 from Asimov’s,  2 from Analog had 2. The other two were in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. Over time, the three print and seven online magazines we follow split the recommendations 50/50 (not counting stand-alone novellas or original anthologies), and the print magazines only come out 6 times a year, so this isn’t quite as lopsided as it looks, but it was definitely a good month for the traditional three magazines.

(10) START YOUR COCKY CAREER. This article on “Cocky-gate” also seems to be a great blueprint for how to use Kindle Unlimited to give you a 6-figure salary. Let The Verge tell you about it: “Bad Romance”.

…The fight over #Cockygate, as it was branded online, emerged from the strange universe of Amazon Kindle Unlimited, where authors collaborate and compete to game Amazon’s algorithm. Trademark trolling is just the beginning: There are private chat groups, ebook exploits, conspiracies to seed hyperspecific trends like “Navy SEALs” and “mountain men,” and even a controversial sweepstakes in which a popular self-published author offered his readers a chance to win diamonds from Tiffany’s if they reviewed his new book.

Much of what’s alleged is perfectly legal, and even technically within Amazon’s terms of service. But for authors and fans, the genre is also a community, and the idea that unethical marketing and algorithmic tricks are running rampant has embroiled their world in controversy. Some authors even believe that the financial incentives set up by Kindle Unlimited are reshaping the romance genre — possibly even making it more misogynistic.

A genre that mostly features shiny, shirtless men on its covers and sells ebooks for 99 cents a pop might seem unserious. But at stake are revenues sometimes amounting to a million dollars a year, with some authors easily netting six figures a month. The top authors can drop $50,000 on a single ad campaign that will keep them in the charts — and see a worthwhile return on that investment….

(11) THEY’VE GOT ‘RITHIM. Or you can try this route–sell your old pb’s for hundreds or thousands of dollars each on Amazon. The New York Times has the story: “Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback”.

Even a casual browse through the virtual corridors of Amazon reveals an increasingly bizarre bazaar where the quaint policies of physical bookstores — the stuff no one wants is piled on a cart outside for a buck a volume — are upended. John Sladek, who wrote perceptive science fiction about robotics and artificial intelligence, predicted in a 1975 story that computers might start making compelling but false connections:

If you’re trying to reserve a seat on the plane to Seville, you’d get a seat at the opera instead. While the person who wants the opera seat is really just making an appointment with a barber, whose customer is just then talking to the box-office of “Hair,” or maybe making a hairline reservation …

Mr. Sladek, who died in 2000, is little read now, which naturally means his books are often marketed for inordinate sums on Amazon. One of his mystery novels, “Invisible Green,” has a Red Rhino “buy box” — Amazon’s preferred deal — offering it for $664.

That is a real bargain compared with what a bookseller with the improbable name Supersonic Truck is asking: $1,942. (Copies from other booksellers are as little as $30.) Supersonic Truck, which Amazon says has 100 percent positive ratings, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ms. Macgillivray, who has published eight novels, said she had been poking around Amazon’s bookstore and was more perplexed than ever by the pricing.

“There’s nothing illegal about someone listing an item for sale at whatever the market will bear, even if they don’t have the book but plan to buy it when someone orders it,” she said. “At the same time, I would think Amazon wouldn’t want their platform used for less than honorable practices.”

(12) READERCON PORTRAITS. Paul Di Filippo shares photos of “Some Members of Fictionmags Attending Readercon 2018 “ at The Inferior 4.

In order of appearance: Ellen Datlow, Fred Lerner, Gary Wolfe, George Morgan, Gordon van Gelder, Henry Wessells, Jess Nevins, Michael Dirda, Peter Halasz, Scott Andrews, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Steve Dooner, Mark Walsh.

(13) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. And Daniel Dern covered the non-human population at ReaderCon, photographing this “alternative SJW credential.”

An ‘edge-‘og (hedgehog). (Not mine.)

Yeah, the SF context isn’t visible, would you take my word for it?

(14) ICE DELIVERY. NPR tells what it’s like for locals: “Massive Iceberg Looms Over A Village In Greenland”.

The photographs are stunning: a giant mountain of ice towers over a tiny village, with colorful homes reminiscent of little doll houses against the stark, blue-gray landscape.

But for the people living in those houses – that beauty could be life-threatening.

“It’s kind of like, if you lived in the suburbs, and you woke up one morning and looked out, and there was a skyscraper next to your house,” says David Holland, an oceanographer at New York University who does research in Greenland during the summer months. “I’d be the first to get out of there.”

He says that’s why authorities have taken action to evacuate those living closest to the water from the village of Innaarsuit, where the iceberg has parked itself just off the coast. According to the BBC, the village has just 169 residents.

(15) THE IMPORTANCE OF POORFEADING. “Harry, it s***s” — just not quite so badly: “Aliens killed by spelling mistake in 2013 Colonial Marines game”.

An infamously dreadful 2013 Aliens video game is now believed to have fallen victim to the most chilling of threats in the universe: a typo.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to terrible reviews.

Many of them mentioned how badly the artificial intelligence (AI) behaved.

But it has now emerged that a single stray “a” in the game’s code may have been to blame.

Videos on YouTube show the game’s AI characters – the aliens and human teammates the player doesn’t control – ignoring threats, shooting wildly at nothing or standing in the line of fire.

(16) EARLY BRADBURY. David Doering has been digging through ancient fanzines and found a curiosity: “Here’s a little gift for you: a verse by Ray Bradbury himself–likely never before reprinted in the history of, well, like poetry or something. And maybe for some reason…”

VERSE OF THE IMAGI-NATION

“TIs a Sinema”
by Ray Bradbury

I think that I shall never see
Flash Gordon as he ought to be.
Midst growls of pain & awful lafter
each Saturday I see a chapter.
I cannot bear to see him more
for he Is really such a bore.

& Tarzan! too, is all so poor:
A shrinking violet demure
who beats upon his frazzled chest
& turns his puss into the west
to roar defiance with…”Fresh fish!
–I think that he’s a lousy dish…

From: Imagination, v. 1, issue 11, whole no. 11, August 1938

[Thanks to David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Bill Burns, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mix Mat.]

Readercon Issues Apology

Readercon’s Board of Directors posted an apology to Facebook for the letter sent to some of its past program participants informing them they would not be invited back this year. The full text of the apology is below.

A number of older writers who received the letter took offense, both for being dropped, and for being offered an unfortunately-phrased “PASTPRO” discount. Readercon apologized for the wording and for failing to make clear that writers getting the letter were being rotated out but could be considered as participants in future years.

The charge of age discrimination, which Kathryn Cramer publicly called on Readercon’s board to investigate, is not addressed by the statement.

Dear Readercon Community,

This year for the first time Readercon sent a letter notifying some previous program participants that they would not be invited onto panels this year. We sent the letter to assist them in planning for the con. We are a convention of under 1000 people. We usually have around 150 panelists/program participants each year, but the list of invitees onto program had grown to over 900.

It has always been our policy that program participants do not pay for their convention membership. In some years we had more invited panelists than paying attendees, and that is not a viable model. We cannot afford to give free memberships to everyone.

Readercon is at its best when we strive to include a mix of experienced and rising authors, editors, publishers, and others in the community. We need to rotate the names on that list to ensure we continue nurturing a strong mix. We only have so many slots available on panels each year.

That 900+ person list was reviewed by several people including the past three program chairs. Together they determined a process for selecting who would rotate out and identified who would be affected for Readercon 29.

While similar rotation has been happening for several years behind-the-scenes, we realized that there was a need to start letting recent program participants know that they would not be invited for programming this coming year.

We realize we did not handle this well. The letter we sent was not well written.

We neglected to point out explicitly that even if individuals were not going to be considered for panels this year, they would always be eligible for consideration in years to come. We would like to make that known now and will be correcting it in next year’s letter.

We should have been more transparent and clearer.

It was never our intention to give people the impression that they will never be invited to participate in Readercon programming again. We also hoped and continue to hope that they will choose to attend Readercon because they enjoy the convention itself.

In conclusion, we messed up and we are sorry.

We should have said upfront that not every program participant will be invited back every year. Our only exception is that all past Guests of Honor receive invitations every year.

As important members of the industry, you are always welcome to tell us if you are an expert on one of our upcoming Guests of Honor or the Cordwainer Smith Award winner, if you are publishing a piece by an upcoming Guest of Honor, or if you have a new book coming out. We have always worked hard to support the incredible people who have participated in Readercon programming over time. This has included talking with the US State Department , universities, and supplying documentation for grants.

The Readercon Board of Directors:

Rachel Borman
Sioban Krzywicki
B. Diane Martin
Emily Wagner
Louise Waugh

Pixel Scroll 3/1/18 I Fell Into A Pixeled Link Of Fire

(1) MANAGEMENT CHANGES AT TOR. Today Tor.com announced “Fritz Foy Named President and Publisher of Tor and Forge Books”.

Tom Doherty, who will become Chairman, wrote:

Fritz Foy, Senior Vice President of Strategic Technology at Macmillan and Publisher of Tor.com, will join Tom Doherty Associates as President and Publisher, with all the Tom Doherty Associates publishing units reporting to him.

Fritz has had an impressive career in publishing, first at Simon & Schuster, and for the last 21 years at Macmillan. He has had roles in sales, marketing, operations, technology, workflow, production, and analytics. He brings with him a passion for books and publishing. For the last decade he has been actively engaged with me at Tor Books.

Fritz will be reporting to me as I move into the role of Chairman and as he begins to lead Tom Doherty Associates into the future.

Fritz Foy announced additional promotions and changes, including:

Effective immediately, Devi Pillai, previously Associate Publisher, is now Vice President and Publisher of Tor Books, reporting to me. In her year and a half with Tor, Devi has brought a true sense of author and editor care to the organization, while also building efficiency through the adoption of publishing-industry best practices. She is uniquely qualified to help lead Tor into the future.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Associate Publisher, is now also Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Tor Books, reporting to me. Patrick’s 29 years at Tor, coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of the industry and his award-winning editing skills, make him perfect for this key role that will help us to continue to grow the business.

Kathleen Doherty, Publisher of Tor Teen/Starscape, has been promoted to Vice President. Kathleen has been instrumental in the establishment of our young adult and teen publishing programs, and has been responsible for our success across educational markets.

While continuing in her role as Creative Director of Tom Doherty Associates, Irene Gallo will take on the additional responsibility of Publisher of Tor.com. I’ve been working with Irene for over a decade on online community building, and more recently on launching the novella imprint, and I prize her innovative spirit.

[H/t Locus Online.]

(2) READERCON AND THE AGE DISCRIMINATION CHARGE. Kathryn Cramer listed her takeaways from social media response to her request that the Readercon Board investigate age discrimination against writers told they will not be invited to be on program this year.

First of all, the Readercon board not only did not answer the questions I asked but never acknowledged receipt of that email. The conclusions I draw from that are that they feel the questions I asked in my letter should not have been asked and that I am not entitled to an answer. This may in part be because I framed my quantitative questions with a suggested remedy involving the firing of the program chair. So maybe my framing got their back up. But since I am not the only one who has expressed concerns about age discrimination, I think the main problem is that they don’t want to talk about it. This, in itself, is not all that surprising.

Here is what does surprise me. After several days of relatively unpleasant conversation of the topic, I also arrive at the following conclusions…

5) There are worthwhile values such as increasing diversity and showcasing new talent that are sometimes in conflict with non-discrimination, and these are some of the values that are cited by people who think age discrimination should not be seen as a problem.

6) Inexperienced convention-runners have fewer strategies for resolving the conflicts between these conflicting values and some seem uninterested in learning them.

7) Because of the lack of consensus against retaliation, engaging with and further exploration of this problem should be done by writers collectively rather than individually. SFWA, of which I am not a member, is the obvious organization to draft best practices guidelines on how conventions might achieve diversity goals and liven up their programs without engaging in one or more kinds of discrimination. Another possible organization that might be a venue for such best practices guidelines would be the Worldcon Runners Guide Editorial Committee, which is tasked with curating information about con-running best practices. I have no involvement with that either.

8) Given the overlap between con-running and the small press, publishing, reviewing, etc. all of the above-listed issues may occur in those areas as well.

When I engaged with the question of whether there had been age discrimination, I made two basic assumptions: that we all agree that age discrimination as such is a bad thing, and secondly that we all agree that it is something that it is OK to ask questions about. Since both of those assumptions appear to be wrong, I exit the conversation, leaving the matter to others with more organization and institutional umph behind them. Good luck.

(3) SFWA SPACE OPERA PANEL. The SFWA YouTube channel did an episode on space opera featuring Ann Leckie, Bonnie Milani, Khaalidah Muhammed-Ali, Chandra
Trulove Fry, and Diane Morrison:

(4) MAKING A STINK STINKIER. Io9 is tracking the daily changes in Terry
Goodkind’s justification for disliking Bastien Lecouffe Deharme’s cover on his new book: “FantasyWriter Terry Goodkind Now Claims He Hated His Book Cover Because It’s ‘Sexist’”:

Earlier this week, Goodkind wrote a post on Facebook calling Shroud of Eternity “a great book with a very bad cover. Laughably bad,” inviting readers to share their thoughts in a poll. He later apologized to cover artist Bastien Lecouffe Deharme in a follow-up post, though Deharme said he was never contacted by Goodkind personally nor does he plan on working with the author again. Now, after posting a video of his dog licking the book cover, Goodkind has added a new layer to his previous criticism. The author told io9 he and his agent had objected to the cover upon release because the protagonist’s portrayal was too sexist and didn’t match the character in-book.

…I followed up with Deharme, who said this was the first time he’d heard any claims of sexism regarding the book cover, from Goodkind or anyone else. On the contrary, he said Tor Books specifically asked him to avoid typical sexist fantasy tropes when designing the cover. After reading the part of the book sent to him by the art director, as well as the character description provided, Deharme said he chose to focus on Nicci’s strength. He gave her practical armor and didn’t put the focus on the traditionally exploited parts of the female body.

(5) PLAYING WITH A MISSION. Filers attending Emerald City ComicCon this weekend can support a good cause by playing games with awesome authors: “Worldbuilders Party: Emerald City Comic Convention”. Cat Rambo will be one of them.

Where: Washington State Convention Center, Room 3AB
When: Friday, March 2nd, 7 – 11 p.m.
Tickets and Infohttps://worldbuildersparty.com/

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play tabletop games with some of the folks who create the books, podcasts, games, and other geeky stuff you love? Wonder no more! Join Worldbuilders, Pat Rothfuss and friends for an evening of games, food, drinks, and mingling with some awesome authors, game designers, and creators. Sign up to play games with the celeb of your choosing in a relaxed environment, and participate in the silent auction and raffle for a chance to win some cool geeky prizes.

This is a charity event and all proceeds will go towards Worldbuilders.

(6) THE GREENING OF A WRITER. Cat Rambo has become a contributor to Green Man Review. Her first review is of “Tim Cooper’s The Reader: War For The Oaks.

The Reader: War For The Oaks is a hardbound book presenting a photography project by Tim Cooper.  It’s a slim little 8.5?x 11? volume, clocking in at 96 pages. The pleasant interior design presents the photos nicely, along with some pretty arboreal details. The cover, whose design is unobjectionable but unremarkable, features a photo that lets the reader know exactly what the book is about: photos of people reading War For the Oaks in various Minneapolis locations.

She follows with: “Recent Reading: Cat Valente Launches in a New Direction”.

It is difficult to describe how Catherynne M. Valente’s new book Space Opera (Saga Press, available April 3, 2018, 292 pages) manages to be so wonderfully resonant of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy yet so insistently, inimitably her own. And yet, that’s the challenge.

Valente’s skill manifests in a book that bounces right along, full of glorious, funny, wonderful, sparkly explosions of humor and wit that still, just as Adams always did, manages to say Insightful and Interesting Things about Human Nature. And it’s funny. Did I mention that this is a funny book? It’s the story of failing rock singer Decibel Jones and his dysfunctional band, the Absolute Zeroes, who have been chosen to represent their world in an interstellar challenge that determines whether or not the Earth will be destroyed.

(7) A NEW SCREEN. Another first for Cat Rambo – she made her Twitch TV debut in February.

(8) ALT-RIGHT COMICS. At Medium, Jason Yungbluth takes aim at Theodore Beale’s recent attempt to create an alt-right brand of comic books: “The Menace of Doc Vox!” The article dates to last October, but hasn’t been mentioned in the Scroll before. The article explores the business model that Beale is using, all designed to monetize controversy.

Can Teddy make a profit off of this effort? Sure, but not much. There is obviously a fascist ecosystem out there capable of bringing a project like this to life, but it is very niche. The thrill of pissing in liberals’ Cheerios (which, as Markku put it to me, was this project’s first, last and only goal) won’t make ugly, politically driven comic books any less boring….

What, then, will Teddy get out of all the time he will ultimately have to pour into this low-reward venture? An excuse to troll the Eisner awards? The thrill of ruining the costume contest at Comic-Con?

(9) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Never mind global warming or the imminent extinction of honeybees – Camestros Felapton has discovered s fresh crisis: “Felapton Towers Scoop – How Numbers are Disappearing”.

Look, there’s just some breaking stories that you can only read here thanks to the deep investigative journalism that my crack team of journalists do. In this case – plugging two digit numbers into Google n-gram.

I don’t know what I expected the graph to look like but apparently peak numbers-in-books was sometime in the late 1980s after which the bubble burst plunging books into a deepening two-digit-numbers-as-words recession.

Are digits really disappearing? Maybe they have migrated to television? Sesame Street seems to use plenty of them.

(10) JUST WHAT IS IT? Cora Buhlert is catching up with The Orville — “The Other Star Trek Show: Some Thoughts on The Orville”.

For starters, The Orville is not a Star Trek parody in the vein of Bully Herbig’s Traumschiff Surprise skits, Pigs in Space or even Galaxy Quest. And The Orville is indeed very different from Seth MacFarlane’s comedy work (which is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned, considering how dreadful my previous experience with Seth MacFarlane and his work was), though it does resort to typical US sitcom humor on occasion. Now some of the jokes – mostly those arising out of science fiction and Star Trek clichés, e.g. the jokes about the “anti-banana ray”, drinks on the bridge and cannabis from the replicator, Ed accidentally walking through the Blob like crewmember, the tentacled underwater creature which turns out to be a botanist or the bit with the Krill commander standing off center on the viewscreen (come on, it is weird that people always stand exactly in the middle of the viewscreen in SF films and TV shows, to the point that I even included a “Sorry, could you please adjust your screen” line in Graveyard Shift) – work. They work precisely because these jokes arise naturally out of the science fiction setting.

In the interests of good taste, please, no one tell Seth MacFarlane the German word for space travel is “raumfahrt.”

(11) MORE MEXICANX PICKS. The next group of Mexicanx Initiative recipients of Worldcon 76 memberships has been announced by John Picacio.

(12) WALKING THE PATTERN. Michael Michel talks about “Forming Practice from Passion” at the SFWA Blog.

Success is not a thing given, nor a thing taken or forced. It is something practiced. The pathways we travel most often are the ones with the deepest grooves. Ever heard the term, “Get in the groove?” It holds more truth and functionality than folk might realize. Success depends on the proverbial grooves we create–practices forming pathways.

Here’s a quick and easy process to get in the Write Groove:

  1. Orient: Despite my B.S., how would I love to show up to my writing, right here and now?
  2. Engage: Am I willing to show up to it in the way I’d love?
  • If yes, continue to step three…
  • If no, see step one again…
  1. Practice: Show this by completing a small, clear action step.
  2. Celebrate: You’ve practiced successful writing. Savor the truth, then repeat at later date.

(13) A DISNEY WINTER IS COMING. Peter Marks has written in the Washington Post about the development of the Broadway version of Frozen, which has ten new songs, a new ending, and has been in development for seventeen months:

Disney likes to hire directors who don’t just reorchestrate, but also can cogitate freshly about what on the surface might merely seem easily digested fairy tales rendered immaculately on celluloid. This has not always translated into success on Broadway: Think of opera director Francesca Zambello’s overproduced “The Little Mermaid” or design auteur Bob Crowley’s turgid “Tarzan.” When it does work, though, as in Julie Taymor’s visually ravishing “The Lion King,” the enchanting results fulfill the artistic mission the company has striven to uphold as it continues the tradition of big-time transferences from screen to stage it commenced with “Beauty and the Beast” in 1994.

For Grandage, the challenge has not only been to accept the magnitude of expectation fans of the movie would bring into the theater — “You realized you were taking on something that has seeped so deeply into the consciousness of people globally” — but also to bring to the fore an emotionality better suited to characters in three dimensions.

“It’s a show that’s very much about a family in trauma,” says Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who with her husband, Robert Lopez, wrote the score for the film and added more than a dozen other songs for the Broadway version, which of course retains the Oscar-winning “Let It Go.” That was sung on screen by Idina Menzel as the tormented Elsa, the young queen cursed with an ice-making power that bedevils her subjects and sends her into self-imposed exile.

(14) TWO MUSIC LOVERS. Steve Vertlieb invites you to watch a video of “a delightful conversation with composer and music preservationist Roger Hall in my living room, talking candidly about the cultural significance and artistic importance of Music For The Movies … our interaction with composers Elmer Bernstein, Lee Holdridge and Mark McKenzie … as well as the oldest, most successfully enduring website devoted entirely to the study and presentation of original motion picture music, Film Music Review.”

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, Cora Buhlert, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Rambo.]

Cramer Asks Readercon to Investigate Age Discrimination Charge

Kathryn Cramer announced on Facebook that she has asked the Readercon board to investigate whether its program organizers engaged in age discrimination while culling their program participants list and violated the convention’s own Code of Conduct.

Several older white male writers who have been on Readercon’s program in previous years have posted to Facebook that they were notified they won’t be on this year’s program, or simply haven’t received the expected invitation. The wording of the notice sparked resentment —

Allen Steele’s reaction was typical:

Oh, we’re still welcome to attend, if we pay the registration fee. In fact, because of our exalted former status, we’re entitled to a 25% discount … if we go to a private registration site and enter the password (get this) PASTPRO.

So not only have we been told that we’re not welcome to come as professionals, we’re also being told that we’re no longer professionals, period.

Whether writers/editors/artists who have been on a convention’s program in the past are owed the courtesy of being formally notified that they are not going to be on the current year’s program, or a con should let silence speak for itself, is worthy of discussion in its own right, however, Readercon made the former choice.

Even more important than the careless language of the letter (“PASTPRO”), some writers who received it say they suspect that Readercon’s effort to churn its roster of panelists has been done entirely at the expense of older writers.

A few days ago Jeffrey A. Carver added his name to the list of writers who have gotten the letter: “Readercon Says, ‘So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!’”

I worried I was getting old when I turned 50 and started getting mail from AARP. And then, when I wasn’t looking, I suddenly became eligible for senior discounts. (No, that can’t be right. My parents were seniors, not me!) And now…

Readercon, once one of my favorite conventions, has decided that—well, let’s let them tell it in their own words: “You won’t be receiving an invitation to participate in programming for Readercon 29. We’re deeply grateful to you for your years of participation at Readercon… but…” But so long, and thanks for all the fish!

They go on to say that they’re making room for fresh, young writers—which, if I thought that were the real reason, would at least be understandable. The truth, of course, is that Readercon has always been welcoming to new writers. I was one myself once, and Readercon always gave me a place at the table, as they did others. In fact, one of the things I liked about it was the yeasty mix of writers of all kinds, all ages, genders, creeds, etc. It made for great conversations. I guess the newer team of organizers are aiming for a new shape for their demographics. Either that, or they think they’re comping too many memberships to program participants.

I’m not the only one to receive this letter, of course. A number of older, white male writers (including my friend Craig Shaw Gardner) have received the same email. I don’t know if any female writers have received it or not. I’d be interested in knowing. (Update: I’ve received a secondhand report that a woman-writer friend of mine, also in my age group, got a similar boot to the backside.)

Kathryn Cramer tried to bring the matter to a head and tweeted Readercon a question —

Cramer also criticized a comment left on FB by Readercon program chair Emily Wagner:

…Speaking as the widow of a Readercon 13 GoH, I take exception to your complaints about past program participants’ “longevity.” You may find this whole matter “hilarious” (as per screen shot). I do not. Readercon has a code of conduct. I suggest you read it. And if you still think it is hilarious that you have given offense to many of the writers you have written such things to, and if you still think other peoples’ impression that you are engaging in age discrimination is hilarious, then I suggest you politely submit your resignation to the Readercon committee and find another hobby.

(This page lists 150 program participants from the 2017 Readercon – how Wagner’s 700 figure relates to that is unclear.)

Cramer has made a public request that the Readercon Board get involved.

I have just sent the following letter to info@readercon.org: To the ReaderCon Board:

In light of letters from Emily Wagner, writing as program Chair, recently received by older writers and professionals disinviting them from future participation on the ReaderCon program based their “longevity”, offering a discount code of “pastpro,” I formally request that the Board open an inquiry into whether Emily Wagner has committed age discrimination and whether she has, in the process, violated ReaderCon’s published Code of Conduct as pertains to age. Since Emily Wagner also sits on the Board, it would be appropriate for her to recuse herself from this inquiry.

I further request that the ReaderCon board publicly release the age demographics of the list of people to whom such letters were sent. And further, should these demographics demonstrate that all or nearly all such letters were sent to writers over age 50, I request that Emily Wagner be removed as Program Chair of ReaderCon and removed from the ReaderCon Board.

Ms. Wagner has posted on Facebook that she finds these allegations of age discrimination on her part “hilarious.” Age discrimination is not hilarious.

Further, should the Board determine that age discrimination has, in fact, taken place – which is to say that all or almost all of those disinvited are over 50 – I request that the Board take appropriate action to remedy the situation.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Cramer

Several other well-known writers have added their protests. Peter Watts ended a comment on the subject:

Readercon, you suck.

Barry Longyear chimed in:

So, the Readercon “Dump-the Old” program is still in effect. It makes me think there ought to be two new categories in the Hugo Awards at the World SF Con: Best Science Fiction Convention, and a booby prize for that convention committee deemed as “doing the absolute least to promote science fiction and fellowship surrounding the literature of science fiction.” Designs for the Fucktard Award are currently being solicited.

David Gerrold made a more substantial comment on Cramer’s announcement:

About ten years ago or so, the Writers Guild of America won a major lawsuit on age discrimination. The studios paid out $70 million, some of which was distributed to writers who had proven they had been discriminated against, the rest to establish protections for the future.

Age discrimination is real — it’s pernicious, it’s vile, and in venues where there are laws prohibiting it, it is illegal.

For it to occur in the science fiction community is appalling. This is a community that has prided itself on inclusion. The rule in fandom is that “the ceiling constitutes an introduction.” That is, we’re all in the same room, we’re all fans, we’re here to have fun celebrating what we love.

So for any convention to knowingly violate the trust of the community, to disinvite the experienced and respected members of that community — this doesn’t just punish the authors, it punishes the fans who want to hear from those authors.

I’ve always wanted to attend a Readercon. I’ve only heard good things about Readercon — but now I suspect that I am too old to be considered worthy to contribute to Readercon.

I hope that this is a momentary glitch that the Board of Directors will address quickly. Otherwise, Readercon’s good reputation will be soiled for a long time to come