Pixel Scroll 10/13/18 I Can Hear The Pixels Singing Each To Each

(1) GREAT AMERICAN READ UPDATE. Right now five of the top 10 books are sff, as Shelf Awareness alerts readers that the “Great American Read Voting Deadline Nears”:

The deadline is approaching to cast votes for the country’s best-loved novel, and organizers of The Great American Read have released a Top 10 list of the leading candidates thus far. The project’s “Grand Finale” episode will air October 23 on PBS stations nationwide to reveal the number one book.

To date, more than 3.8 million votes have been cast. Viewers can vote for their favorite titles each day through October 18 using hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter, SMS texting with the dedicated book hashtag, and toll-free by phone. All methods can be found here.

Entering the final week, the current top 10 books, in alphabetical order, are:

• Charlotte’s Web
• Chronicles of Narnia series
• Gone with the Wind
• Harry Potter series
• Jane Eyre
• Little Women
• Lord of the Rings series
• Outlander series
• Pride and Prejudice
• To Kill a Mockingbird

(2) GENRE CROSSOVERS. Claire O’Dell, in “Crime In The Land of Gods and Monsters” on Crimereads, recommends eight sf/mystery crossovers, including works by Aliette de Bodard, Malka Older, and Nnedi Okorafor.

Aliette de Bodard, The Tea Master and the Detective (Subterranean Press)

Ever since the original Watson and Holmes stories first appeared, other authors have experimented with their own takes on the genius detective and his faithful friend. De Bodard has set her own pastiche in her Xuya universe (a far future space age initially dominated by Asian powers). Here we have a Watson who is a mindship named The Shadow’s Child, and who brews psychotropic teas for her customers. Long Chau is our Holmes, and just as abrasive and given to self-medication as the original.

Of course, there is a mystery. Long Chau initially comes to The Shadow’s Child because she wants to locate a corpse in space—for scientific reasons, she says—but she needs a specific concoction to ensure her mind still functions in the Deep Spaces. Chau and The Shadow’s Child do locate a corpse, but when Chau deduces that this was no accident, but a murder, the two embark on an investigation together.

(3) SAWYER ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Reuters conducted a wide-ranging interview with Robert J. Sawyer about the future of AI — “Judging artificial intelligence on its prospects for judging us”. This is just a sample —

ANSWERS: Do you think we will achieve artificial general intelligence (AGI) this century? If so, how do you see it taking shape? And how can it be contained and managed by humans?

ROBERT J. SAWYER: …There is no inner life whatsoever, to that AI or any other AI in the world right now as far as we’ve been able to determine; not any inkling of what we would call consciousness.

The reason for that is very simple. We don’t know what gave rise to it in humanity. Therefore, reproducing it in lines of code is the same thing as saying to a programmer (no matter how good that programmer is), “Reproduce artistic genius for me. Reproduce poetic inspiration for me. Reproduce romantic love for me.”

We don’t know how to do it, so we don’t know how to code it. In that sense, I think we’re nowhere near having artificial general intelligence in the strong AI sense, the way academics use it to refer to machines capable of experiencing consciousness, of having an inner life. Not Watson, not Deep Blue, you name your favorite one, it ain’t doing it. There’s nobody home.

In the weaker sense of being able to perform any intellectual or cognitive task that a human being can perform, absolutely we will have AGI. In the near future, it will be a reality for sure. There’s no question that, with computer growth being exponential as described by Moore’s Law, we are absolutely going to have AGI and in a horizon for which business and the general public should be concerned right now.

(4) FINAL PAPER. Engadget reports “Stephen Hawking’s last paper on black holes is now online”.

Stephen Hawking never stopped trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding black holes — in fact, he was still working to solve one of them shortly before his death. Now, his last research paper on the subject is finally available online through pre-publication website ArXiV, thanks to his co-authors from Cambridge and Harvard. It’s entitled Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair, and it tackles the black hole paradox. According to Hawking’s co-author Malcolm Perry, the paradox “is perhaps the most puzzling problem in fundamental theoretical physics today” and was the center of the late physicist’s life for decades.

The information paradox arose from Hawking’s theoretical argument back in the 1970s that black holes have a temperature. As such, they’re bound to evaporate over time until there’s nothing left, releasing energy now called the “Hawking Radiation.” See, it’s believed that when an object enters a black hole, its information gets preserved on its surface forever even if it vanishes from sight. If a black hole evaporates, though, then so will that information. That creates a paradox, because according to the rules of quantum physics, information can never be destroyed.

The new paper shows how that information can be preserved by photons called “soft hair” surrounding the edge of black hole, which you might know as the event horizon. According to Hawking, Perry, Andrew Strominger and Sasha Haco, a black hole’s temperature changes when you throw an object (say, a planet’s atoms) into it. The hotter it gets, the more its entropy (its internal disorder) rises. That entropy is what’s preserved in a black hole’s soft hair.

(5) FISTREBUFFS. The Hollywood Reporter says this Marvel show is leaving the air: “‘Iron Fist’ Canceled After Two Seasons at Netflix”.

The first Marvel drama has been canceled at Netflix.

Iron Fist, the fourth in the original four-show deal between the streaming giant and Disney’s Marvel, will not return for a third season.

“Marvel’s Iron Fist will not return for a third season on Netflix. Everyone at Marvel Television and Netflix is proud of the series and grateful for all of the hard work from our incredible cast, crew and showrunners. We’re thankful to the fans who have watched these two seasons, and for the partnership we’ve shared on this series. While the series on Netflix has ended, the immortal Iron Fist will live on,” reps for Netflix and Marvel said in a statement to THR late Friday.

(6) SIGNS OF THE TIMES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • October 13, 1939 – Melinda Dillon, 79, Actor who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the Hugo finalist Close Encounters of the Third Kind. She also played roles in Harry and the Hendersons, Spontaneous Combustion, the Matt Salinger version of Captain America, and had guest roles on The Twilight Zone and the miniseries adaptation of James Michener’s Space.
  • October 13, 1954 – Stephen Gallagher, 64, Writer and Producer. He wrote more than a dozen genre novels and several dozen shorter fiction works, largely science-fictional horror, mostly in the 80s and 90s, as well as 4-part Doctor Who TV serials for both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, and adapted his novels Chimera and Oktober into TV miniseries. He has received several British Fantasy, World Fantasy, Stoker, and International Horror Guild Award nominations; his collection Out of His Mind won a BFA, and his short story “The Box” won an IHG Award.
  • October 13, 1956 – Chris Carter, 62, Emmy-Nominated Writer, Director, and Producer, best known as the creator of The X-Files, which has accumulated more than 200 episodes during its initial run from 1993 to 2002 and its renewed run from 2016 to 2018, as well as the spinoff series The Lone Gunmen and the series Millennium (no connection to the John Varley work) and Harsh Realm. He shares a credit with Elizabeth Hand for one of the X-Files tie-in novels entitled Fight the Future.
  • October 13, 1959 – Wayne Pygram, 59, Actor from Australia who played quite possibly one of the best-developed villains in genre series history, in the role of Scorpius on the Farscape series. He also appeared as Governor Tarkin in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and had guest roles on the TV Series Lost, Time Trax, and The Girl from Tomorrow.
  • October 13, 1962 – Patrick McMurray, 56, Conrunner and Fan. He is an Irish-born resident of the UK who chaired Mancunicon (the 2016 UK Eastercon National Convention), and has served on a number of other Eastercon and Worldcon committees. He has been a member of several fan groups, and for several years maintained the Memory Hole Annex, a paper archive of printed convention materials. He attended the Australian Natcon in 2004 as the GUFF delegate.
  • October 13, 1963 – Hiro Kanagawa, 55, Actor and Playwright from Japan who emigrated to Canada and has become a go-to actor for character roles in genre TV shows and films. He has had recurring roles in Salvation, Altered Carbon, Legends of Tomorrow, Heroes Reborn, The Man in the High Castle, The 100, and Caprica, with guest roles on dozens more, as well as parts in genre films such as Elektra, The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, and Doomsday Prophecy.
  • October 13, 1964 – Christopher Judge, 54, Actor, Writer, and Producer best known to genre fans as the Jaffa warrior Teal’c in more than 200 episodes of the Hugo-nominated Stargate SG-1, for which he received a Saturn nomination, with a guest appearance on Stargate: Atlantis, and a reprise of that role lending his magnificent voice to the Stargate videogames.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Good grief! A Halloween legend gets out of hand in Bacon.
  • You’ll never guess who joined the National League in Over the Hedge.
  • Can you pass the bookstore entrance exam in this Non Sequitur?

(9) KERMODE. First Man — it’s not a film about a shark (makes sense in context).

Mark Kermode reviews First Man. A biopic of Neil Armstrong and the legendary space mission that made him the first man on the Moon.

 

(10) BAD WEEK FOR SPACE TELESCOPES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ABC News reveals: “Another NASA space telescope shuts down in orbit”. Damn, it must be catching… first the Hubble loses a gyro, now what Chandra?

Another NASA space telescope has shut down and halted science observations.

Less than a week after the Hubble Space Telescope went offline, the Chandra X-ray Observatory did the same thing. NASA said Friday that Chandra’s automatically went into so-called safe mode Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope problem.

Hubble went into hibernation last Friday due to a gyroscope failure.

Both orbiting observatories are old and in well-extended missions: Hubble is 28, while Chandra is 19. Flight controllers are working to resume operations with both.
NASA said it’s coincidental both went “asleep” within a week of one another. An astronomer who works on Chandra, Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted Friday that “Chandra decided that if Hubble could have a little vacation, it wanted one, too.”

Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA’s Great Observatories series. The others are the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was also launched in the 1990s but eventually failed and was destroyed, and the Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003 and still working. Each was intended to observe the cosmos in different wavelengths.

(11) ARK PARK. Jamie Lee Curtis Taete’s byline by itself is more interesting than this religious theme park in Kentucky: “This $100 Million Noah’s Ark Theme Park Is a Boring, Homophobic Mess” at Vice.

[Owner Ken] Ham has previously blamed multiple factors for the underwhelming performance of the attraction. From local business owners to atheists. But is there a simpler explanation? Is it possible that people don’t want to visit the Ark because it sucks?

Then it’s on to the living quarters—a series of rooms showing how Noah and his family might have lived. There’s a sign as you enter explaining that they’ve had to take artistic license while designing the area, because the Bible doesn’t give much info on this topic.

They could’ve used that artistic license to make something cool, like Biblical Wakanda. But instead, they made up a name for Noah’s wife (Emzara) and created an exhibit on looms, the single least entertaining object on earth.

IS IT FUN ENOUGH TO CONVERT YOU TO A CREATIONIST BELIEF SYSTEM? No. You can see fake bedrooms and living rooms in an IKEA for free. And you don’t have to read a single word about looms while doing it.

(12) ANTI-DRONE WEAPON. BBC profiles a security technology —“Sky battles: Fighting back against rogue drones”.

Rogue drones have nearly caused air accidents, have been used as offensive weapons, to deliver drugs to prisoners, and to spy on people. So how can we fight back?

…Drones are also being used by so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as offensive weapons. On one occasion, a small number of drones carrying hand grenades were able to take out an entire Russian weapons depot….

So what can be done to prevent drones from flying places they shouldn’t?

Several companies, including Droptec, OpenWorks Engineering, and DroneDefence have developed hand-held or shoulder-mounted “guns” that fire a net to trap a suspect drone.

They’ve already been used to protect heads of state on foreign visits and other dignitaries at international meetings.

(13) UK COMICS LAUREATE. She’s the third person to hold the title: “Hannah Berry: New UK comics laureate to harness ‘untapped’ potential”.

New comics laureate Hannah Berry has said she wants to use the position to remove some of the “stigma” that still surrounds graphic novels and comics, and harness their “untapped” potential.

Berry is the award-winning creator of graphic novels Adamtine and Livestock.

“There are still a lot of people who think comics are just superheroes throwing stuff at each other.

“With the enormous, diverse, wealth of subjects out there, there’s a graphic novel for everybody,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with superhero comics, but I think if people were aware, maybe the stigma could be removed.”

(14) LEAPS AND BOUNDS IN SCIENCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Phys.org’s article “Numerous boulders, many rocks, no dust: MASCOT’s zigzag course across the asteroid Ryugu” discusses findings from the German “hopping” lander on Asteroid Ryugu (deployed from Japan’s Hayabusa2).

Six minutes of free fall, a gentle impact on the asteroid and then 11 minutes of rebounding until coming to rest. That is how, in the early hours of 3 October 2018, the journey of the MASCOT asteroid lander began on Asteroid Ryugu – a land full of wonder, mystery and challenges. Some 17 hours of scientific exploration followed this first ‘stroll’ on the almost 900-metre diameter asteroid. The lander was commanded and controlled from the MASCOT Control Centre at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) site in Cologne in the presence of scientific teams from Germany, France and Japan. MASCOT surpassed all expectations and performed its four experiments at several locations on the asteroid. Never before in the history of spaceflight has a Solar System body been explored in this way. It has now been possible to precisely trace MASCOT’s path on Ryugu’s surface on the basis of image data from the Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe and the lander’s images and data….

“We were expecting less than 16 hours of battery life because of the cold night, says MASCOT project manager Tra-Mi Ho from the DLR Institute of Space Systems. “After all, we were able to operate MASCOT for more than one extra hour, even until the radio shadow began, which was a great success.”

…Having reconstructed the events that took place on asteroid Ryugu, the scientists are now busy analysing the first results from the acquired data and images. “What we saw from a distance already gave us an idea of what it might look like on the surface,” reports Ralf Jaumann from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research and scientific director of the MASCOT mission. “In fact, it is even crazier on the surface than expected. Everything is covered in rough blocks and strewn with boulders. How compact these blocks are and what they are composed of, we still do not know. But what was most surprising was that large accumulations of fine material are nowhere to be found – and we did not expect that. We have to investigate this in the next few weeks, because the cosmic weathering would actually have had to produce fine material,” continues Jaumann. [Emphasis added.]

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #35

Mission Worldcon 76 – Fallout!

By Chris M. Barkley: First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this report. In all honesty, I didn’t think I’d be writing up a Worldcon roundup at all this year. I did not keep a set of notes of our activities so everything had to be recreated through photos that were taken and the best recollections of myself and my partner, Juli.

There were also some behind-the-scenes intrigue that I am unable to share for personal reasons and frankly, I had a hard time thinking about what to include or not in this report.

On the whole, we had a good time. I was blessed to have witnessed literary history being made in person, as it happened. And weeks later, as I wrote this report, I find that the overwhelming sense of malaise and failure I was feeling before the convention somewhat muted in the wake of what happened at Worldcon 76.

Thursday, 16 August

My partner Juli and I arrived in San Jose on Wednesday out of necessity; the flight from Cincinnati was routed through Salt Lake City and with the layover of several hours and flight time, we got there in the early afternoon Pacific Time but three hours later in body time. We tried sleeping on the plane on the way out to mitigate the jet lag and it seemed to have worked, at least for a little while. Unwisely (I think), I kept my watch on Eastern Daylight Time throughout our stay just to gauge how I think felt against the actual time back home. More often than not I ended up confusing myself so I made a promise to myself to never do that again. A good night’s sleep followed.

I barely remember the San Jose that hosted the Worldcon sixteen years ago, save for the light rail system running just outside the convention center and a few restaurants. One thing that I did notice right away is that there were fences running along the rail lines to keep errant pedestrians (like myself) from jaywalking across them (as I did all too frequently the last time I was here).

Since Juli and I had already picked up our memberships, we thought it would be cool to just hang out in the convention center lobby and see who came wandering by. Among the first people we saw was our good friend Robert J. Sawyer who posed for a picture with me. Over the past year, we both discovered much to our chagrin, that Facebook’s face recognition algorithms cannot tell the difference between Rob and me. The photo Juli took of us, hilariously, was no exception.

The Dealer’s Room opened at noon. Wandering through we spotted David Gerrold hawking books and tribbles. Juli and I jointly presented him with a of a pair socks, a joke tradition that began back when we saw him at Sasquan in 2015. This year, the socks we presented him with were emblazoned with the snarky saying “Adult In Training” which he seemed to like. We also purchased his vampire novel, Jacob and a tiger-striped tribble one for our granddaughter, Lily.

Steve Davidson, editor and publisher of the newly revived Amazing Stories, was receiving a respectable amount of traffic at his booth. I commended Steve for handing out a superb issue for free to attendees.

As the day progressed, I was approached by a number of friends and acquaintances who expressed their condolences and disappointment over the naming (or, rather, the non-naming) of the Young Adult Book Award. I thanked them all and said that I was happy that Worldcon was finally recognizing the works of young adult authors.

I had my first panel in the afternoon; “My First Worldcon” which also featured Cindy Lin (who did not appear), John Hertz (who was running late), and Edwin S. “Filthy Pierre” Strauss. Most of the audience, numbering about twenty people, had never been to a Worldcon before and for a few, THIS was their first convention. To those few I jokingly said, “Well, luckily for you, it’s all downhill from here,” which drew a hearty laugh.

But from that point on, Pierre and I gave out some basic explanations of the origins of Worldcon, what to expect and how to survive the next four-and-a-half days with their wits intact. Twenty minutes in, John Hertz, elegantly dressed as always even in the daytime, waltzed in and brought the proceedings a great deal more gravitas and more practical advice (hygiene, hydration and happiness basically) than Pierre and I had combined. I hope the audience left a little more informed about what Worldcon was all about and had a good time.

From there it was off to Opening Ceremonies, where we were greeted and regaled by a dozen or so members of the local Native American Muwekma Ohlone tribe, who shared several songs with us. Artist Guest of Honor and Hugo Toastmaster John Picacio introduced his fellow artists of the Mexicanx Initiative who were attending the Worldcon at his behest. By all accounts, they had a great time.

One unusual thing; the First Fandom Award and the Big Heart Award were given out and I don’t recall them ever being presented separately and this early in the convention. I surmised (correctly, as it turned out) that John Picacio was planning to run the Hugo Awards VERY quickly. Erle M. Korshak, one of the last living members of the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939 (Robert Madle being the other) presented Robert Silverberg with the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. The late June and Len Moffatt were inducted into the Hall posthumously. My Editor, Mike Glyer, was announced as the surprise recipient of the Big Heart.

Surprisingly, Mike was not present to accept so I promptly texted him: “Dude, YOU just won the Big Heart Award… CONGRATULATIONS!”

His reply, several hours later was:  “Thanks Chris. If only someone had hinted, ‘Mike you shouldn’t miss Opening Ceremonies!’”

As I was checking my Facebook feed at dinner, I saw that Worldcon 76 had an uninvited guest earlier in the afternoon; Jon Del Arroz. His hostile and provocative statements towards Worldcon 76 and previously recorded intentions of disrupting the convention got him banned from attending. Streaming live and commenting as he walked, he filmed himself entering the convention center and tried to register. He was quickly spotted and asked, very politely by Worldcon security, to leave the building.
As Del Arroz was being led out, he repeatedly asked why he was being ousted, knowing full well why he was getting the boot. I only wished I had been there to witness his inglorious exit because as he passed by, I would have piped up and shouted, “You want to know why, Jon? Because you’re a JERK, that’s why!”

Juli and I dined out at a restaurant amusingly called Vietnom, which was situated in an amalgamation of other eateries called SoFA Market. The food was incredibly good and generously portioned. We also heartily recommended Tac-OH, a nice, casual Mexican place with a nice ambiance to our friends and anyone else who would listen to us.

Later in the evening, We did run into Pablo Miguel Alberto Vasquez, with whom we shared several overpriced drinks with at the Marriott bar before retiring.

As my head touched the pillow I remembered that a group of folks from File 770 were going to convene at a bar but completely forgot about it. I made a mental note to try and make the second meet up, which was going to be at another venue on Friday.

Friday, 17 August

The first full session of the Business Meeting was scheduled in the morning. And while I had no doubts about the outcome, I always go in with butterflies in my stomach. To feed those butterflies, Juli and I consulted the Restaurant Guide.

“Hey hon,” said Juli, “what about Peggy Sue’s?”

Something stirred in my memory. “Where is that on the map?”

“About two blocks away.”

Sixteen years ago at ConJose, I usually started my day at an amazing little diner that served amazing food with generous portions. We walked over several streets and easily found Peggy Sue’s on San Pedro Street; a quaint little diner with the sensibility and décor that was straight out of the 50’s and 60’s. The food, eggs, burgers burritos and shakes were the best I have ever tasted. We happily ate there on a regular basis during the rest of our stay.

Frankly, I dreaded going to the Business Meeting. I had no doubt that some there were feeling a certain measure of schadenfreude towards me in the wake of the withdrawal of the proposition to add Ursula K. Le Guin’s name from the Young Adult Book Award. And I did note that several regular attendees went out of their way not greet me or ignore my friendly overtures to make small talk.

There were a few old friends who did come up and either commiserate with my frustration or added the condolences over the situation.

Regular readers of File 770 know that I had been a longtime advocate of making this new award a Hugo Award category. But, after several years and series of study committees (the last of which I did not participate in due to family issues), it was decided that it would be better to have YA novels compete separately from other award categories. But I needn’t have worried about the Friday session; it finished in what seemed to be a record time of an hour and ten minutes without too much parliamentary rancor or shenanigans. Usually these sessions take up the full three hours of allotted time each day.

What would I have said? I would have read the following excerpts from her 1973 National Book Award acceptance speech for her children’s novel, The Farthest Shore, which can be found in her 1979 collection of essays, The Language of the Night:

“I am very pleased, very proud and very startled to accept the National Book Award in children’s literature for my novel The Farthest Shore

“And I also rejoice in the privilege of sharing this honor, if I may, with my fellow writers, not only in the field of children’s books, but in that even less respectable field, science fiction. For I am not only a fantasist, but a science fiction writer, and odd though it may seem, I am proud to be both.

“We who hobnob with hobbits and tell tall tales about little green men are quite used to being dismissed as mere entertainers, or sternly disapproved of as escapists. But I think that perhaps the categories are changing, like the times. Sophisticated readers are accepting the fact that an improbable and unmanageable world is going to produce an improbable and hypothetical art.

“At this point, realism is perhaps the least adequate means of understanding or portraying the incredible realities of our existence. A scientist who creates a monster in the laboratory; a librarian in the library of Babel; a wizard unable to cast a spell; a spaceship having trouble reaching Alpha Centauri: all of these may be precise and profound metaphors of the human condition. Fantasists, whether they use the ancient archetypes of myth and legend or the younger ones of science and technology, may be talking as seriously as any sociologist – and a good deal more directly – about human life as it is lived, and as it might be lived, and as it ought to be lived. For after all, as great scientists have said and as all children know, it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, and compassion, and hope.”

Yes, even forty-five years ago, Ursula Le Guin UNDERSTOOD the power, grace and majesty of fantasy and science fiction in modern literature even if her mainstream contemporaries and literary critics refused to, then OR now.

But now, the best moment to permanently honor her, in this fashion, has passed. And so it goes.

After the Business Meeting, Juli and I made a beeline to the Dealers Room to decompress. One of our stops was at John Picacio’s table, where we marveled at his series of images inspired by his love of Loterria, a Mexican version of bingo.

We particularly liked El Arbo, La Valiente and La Luna, which we happily purchased on the spot. His image of La Calavera (The Skull) graced the cover of the Worldcon 76 Souvenir Book and the attendee’s badges.

Later that afternoon, Juli and I had the pleasure of playing Loteria (a delightful form of Mexican Bingo) with John and an enthusiastic crowd of several dozen people. We played with cards covered with mystic images, animals and symbols using uncooked beans as cover tokens. John was having a terrific time as our host, giving out prints, posters and cards of his work as prizes. Juli and I came within a space or two of winning but as frustrating as it was, we were having lots of fun and so was the everyone else.

We saw Robert Silverberg wandering in the Dealer’s Room and he said he was looking forward to Harlan’s memorial panel. He then cocked one of his bushy eyebrows at me and asked, “And what are YOU going to share about Harlan tomorrow?”

‘Oh, you’ll see, “ I said with the utmost confidence and a grin. HA! Yeah, I had NO IDEA what I was going to say right then. Then again, it’s never wise to let Robert Silverberg see you sweat.

For dinner, we joined Rick Moen and two full tables of File 770 fans and writers at Back A Yard Caribbean Grill, an excellent hangout with very good Jamaican fare. The Boss was not present but Juli and I were in excellent company.

We also made the rounds of the parties in the Fairmont Hotel. While we had a good time, we were still feeling a little jet lagged from the trip west so retired shortly before midnight.

Saturday August 18

I woke up and lay in bed with a mild case of apprehension.

The “Harlan Ellison Memorial” panel was scheduled at 4 p.m. and I had no idea of what I was going to say yet. I had left the notes I had made when I wrote my remembrance of him for my File 770 column at home.

Former Worldcon chair (and friend) Tom Whitmore was the moderator along with authors David Gerrold, Robert Silverberg, lawyer and photographer Christine Valada and Harlan’s biographer, Nat Segaloff.

And me.

I was a last-minute stand in for another close friend of Harlan’s, Adam-Troy Castro, who was unable to attend. I was pretty damn sure Adam had hundreds of Harlan stories and anecdotes that he could readily remember at a moment’s notice. What did I have?

Of all the people on the panel, Tom and I were the only fans. Realizing that, I knew exactly what I was going to say…

Saturday session came and went as quickly as the previous session. After the YA Award amendment had passed there was a pause in the meeting to provide some maintenance for the video equipment. A friend asked what i thought the YA Award should look like. “It should be a statue of Ursula Le Guin,” I said without the slightest hesitation and a small chuckle. No one knew what the award was going to look like but it was rumored that it was highly likely an engraved plaque would be presented. But I also heard from another well placed source before the convention that there was a surprise in the offing, too.

When Juli and I left the meeting, we determined that there was probably no reason to attend the Sunday session; a proposed amendment regarding the revision of the definitions of the Best Fan and Professional Artist categories had been pushed back to tomorrow’s agenda due to a meeting of the Association of Fantasy and Science Fiction Artists happening later today. ASFA members had read the proposals and wanted to debate their merits beforehand. Since neither I, nor Juli, had an opinion either way about the issue, we decided to skip it. In retrospect, I’ll wish we hadn’t.

After the Business Meeting, we decided to go on another buying expedition back at the Dealer’s room. It was there that Juli and I encountered our good friend Marcia Kelly Illingworth, who beckoned us to her table.

Marcia showed us a vast array of fannish keepsakes, artifacts and jewelry for sale, all the property of Samanda Jeude, the founder of Electrical Eggs. A survivor of a condition known as post-polio syndrome, she started Electrical Eggs in the 1980’s, first to assist physically challenged fans attend Worldcons, and then expanding to local and regional cons as well.

But an object along the back of the table immediately caught my eye, A Hugo Award mounted on a piece of glazed Georgia marble, I picked up and upon reading the engraved plaque, recognized it right away, Judy-Lynn Del Rey’s infamous posthumous Best Editor award from the 1986 Hugo Ceremony. Why do I say “infamous”? Well, Del Rey, a master book editor from all accounts, was so good at handling Ballantine Books fantasy and sf books, she was promoted to editor-in-chief and given their own imprint by Ballantine Books, with the assistance of her husband, Lester, who handled the fantasy line. Judy-Lynn Del Rey suffered a brain hemorrhage in October of 1985 and subsequently died in February of 1986. Fans who knew of her and her work were quick to nominate her in the Best Professional Editor category, which had been dominated by magazine editors since it’s modern incarnation in 1973.

I was in attendance at Confederation when this award was given. Sitting in the audience, and knowing what a curmudgeon Lester Del Rey could be, I had a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach as a representative approached the podium. He (whose name is lost to me and history), read a bitter and forceful statement from Lester Del Rey which more or less said that he was rejecting this award because she was dead and this was just a sympathetic gesture that he want no part of whatsoever. The audience sat there, stunned. The representative left the stage empty-handed. The Hugo Award was taken away, its fate unknown to everyone there.

I felt awed as I held it in my hands. Samanda Jeude and her late husband, Don Cook, members of the Confederation convention committee, were given custody of the Hugo for safekeeping. Marcia explained that Samanda was now in an assisted living facility but needed money to help pay her bills. She also said, emphatically, that this particular Hugo award was NOT for sale; but said that there were competing fund drives being held at Worldcon 76 to determine its fate. We could contribute to one fund to put it up for sale to the highest bidder or the other to make sure it stayed out of the hands of a collector. I pulled out a $20 bill and voted for the latter fund. It belongs in a museum as a noted fictional archeologist one stated. (At the end of the convention, Marcia Kelly Illingworth posted on Facebook that the fans had spoken and the Hugo will be eventually donated to an institution for posterity.)

I also spotted an Incident Response Team desk in a prominent spot in the fan activities area with two staff members at the ready. It was nice to know they were there and on duty.

At around 1 p.m., I decided to take a look outside the north entrance of the convention center. Jon Del Arroz, in his infinite wisdom, had called on like-minded right-wing fans to come and protest hedonism, liberal bias and “pedophilia” of the attendees several weeks earlier. (Which makes his effort to try and register on Thursday appeared to be a rather lame attempt to rile up his supporters.) The call also attracted the attention of Trump supporters and white supremacists, who promised to show up in force. That, in turn, inflamed local antifa members, who promised to be there to counter-protest.

Well, I went to the main entrance, which the committee had forewarned us not to use during the time period of the protest, from noon until four pm. As I descended the stairs, I saw a rather pudgy man trying to enter the front door which was blocked by a police officer and a staff person. I surmised that he was being denied entry because of the sign he was carrying, which said in huge, capitalized block letters: “DEL ARROZ DID NOTHING WRONG.” Oh well, no one said his supporters were smart. I do wish I had taken a picture of that scene, though.

Peering out onto the plaza, I did not see much of anything going on. In fact, it looked as though there were more police officers on the scene than protestors. The official estimate was a total of forty people showed up, evenly divided for each side. The local news coverage bore this out.

The charge of pedophilia against Walter Breen, and by association his wife Marion Zimmer Bradley, are quite real and happened decades ago. Bringing Samuel R. Delany into the discussion is just pure slander. The only thing he might be guilty of is writing “transgressive literature” which some critics and readers must have mistaken for pedophile porn.

I did notice that there were about a dozen people in pink shirts emblazoned with “ I’m Here To Help” acting as escorts for people coming to or leaving the convention. It was a lovely gesture which I am sure people appreciated.

Fifteen minutes before the Ellison panel, I made my way to the Green Room for a drink. As I passed through the lobby, I saw my boss, Mike Glyer, seated at a table with his back to me, holding court with a group of friends. If I hadn’t been en route to my panel, I would have stopped and said hello. In light of what happened the next morning, I really feel badly about that.

As I walked into the Green Room I bumped into my fellow panelist Nat Segaloff, whom I recognized by his Facebook profile picture. And he was there for the same reason I was. After grabbing our beverages of choice, we made our way to Room 210G…

Panelists: Tom Whitmore, Bob Silverberg, Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada, and Nat Segaloff.

And here I must fault the Programming Division on their choice of venue( although it is difficult to predict a panels popularity), which was significantly too small to accommodate the crowd, standing room only; and the time allotted, which was at the very least thirty or forty-five minutes too short. Luckily, Juli got a seat in the back as Nat and I arrived. All of the other panelists were already there except for our moderator Tom Whitmore. I took the third seat from the left, Robert Silverberg on my right, then David Gerrold, Christine Valada and Nat at the very end of the table. I gave David a hug as he sat but he then leaped up and said, “I forgot my recording mikes. Don’t start without me!”, and he ran from the room.

While David was gone, I took the opportunity to show Christine two items I have on my everyday keychain that I keep in remembrance of her late husband, Len Wein; a very small Batman symbol and a metal tag from the Wolverine work shoes. Len did me a big favor by being a guest on my public access sf radio show back in 1983 (as a counterpoint to another interview guest, Marvel’s editor-in-chief Jim Shooter). I think I may have shown them to Len at a Worldcon years earlier and he got a good laugh out of it. Christine hadn’t seen them and was very appreciative of the gesture.

David came running in with his microphones just as Tom had seated himself at the table. As soon as David had situated himself, Tom opened the proceedings.

So, as the fan representative on the panel, I reached back into my childhood memories and said that I knew of Harlan’s work on television even before I had the pleasure of knowing him. I eschewed more sophisticated stuff like Burke’s Law and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for more works of primal fear like The Outer Limits. I noted my reactions to “Soldier” and “Demon With a Glass Hand” but I also could have included “The Price of Doom” a first-season episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which was disowned by Harlan under his pseudonym “Cord Wainer Bird” (for the VERY first time, by the way), a nightmare story about a strain of mutant plankton taking over the Seaview.

While I was feeling at ease, I was very worried about David, who was opening shedding tears next to me. But when his turn came to speak, he pulled it together and told memorable stories of how they met, how Harlan inspired him as a writer and most poignantly, helped saved his life by listening and reassuring him during a particularly dark period in his life.

As you can tell from the audio recording there were many stories and anecdotes about Harlan, many of them much better than my own, in my estimation. I wished we had more time to take questions and hear memories from the standing room only crowd but it was not to be. When Robert Silverberg capped things with his eloquent quip, we all rose to a big round of applause. I gave David a hug and a kiss. Mr. Silverberg signed my copy of the special 1977 Harlan Ellison issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction I had brought with me and featured a short biographical memory written by him.

After the panel we discovered that Jon Del Arroz had not even bothered to show up at his own protest. In a video on Twitter shot on a boat at sea (not his own, it appeared) he explained that the air quality in downtown San Jose was unsuitable for his young son (WHAT? He was planning to bring his own SON into a potentially dangerous situation?) and begged off attending. Well, isn’t it nice to know that if ANYTHING had gone screwy, America’s Leading Conservative Hispanic author would have been safely out of harm’s way to protest (and annoy us) some other day.

We dined at Tac-Oh, a very nice restaurant located just around the corner from the convention center. While the ambiance and food was great, we and a dozen other patrons were put off because there was only one waiter on duty taking everyone’s orders.

When we inquired why, the waiter told us that the management was NEVER informed about a convention being in town this weekend. Since the wait schedule was made out in advance, once the management found out about Worldcon 76 they found that their most of their staff was unavailable.

Now, this was not the first time that we had heard this during our stay. I don’t know who might be at fault here but somebody, at the visitors and convention bureau or the convention committee or some third-party in between really dropped the ball on this issue. And its little irritants like this that can really stick in the minds of attending fans. Future convention committees and bids should make a bullet point note of this.

Chris Garcia

From there we traveled back to the convention center for the Masquerade, hosted by Christopher Garcia. While the presentation was plagued by what seemed to be an endless series of technical faux pas and delays, Chris gamely plowed forward as the master of ceremonies, improvising with self-deprecating humor and scattershot jokes all during the show.

Shortly after the Masquerade started there was a surprising presentation; the Seiun Awards, which had a longstanding relationship with the Hugo Awards Ceremony, began without any prior announcement from the convention. (I checked the Pocket Program Book later and there was no notice there either.)

As egregious as Programming’s mishandling of the Ellison Memorial panel was, I felt that this was far worse. The Seiun is a highly respected award and had been, to the best of my knowledge, a part of the Hugo Awards Ceremony for a considerable period of time. While I recognize that the Hugo Ceremony has been getting longer in recent years, the relegation of the Seiun Awards to the beginning of the Masquerade seemed either haphazard or, even worse, a slight to those were presenting their awards. If the length of the Hugo ceremony was the problem, then the Seiuns should have been presented at the Opening Ceremonies or in their own hour-long panel and ceremony. I don’t know how everyone else felt about this but It felt awkward that Worldcon 76 had literally put the Seiuns in a corner instead of a deserving and proper setting.

The costuming presentations resumed and when they were over, we did not hangout for the halftime entertainment or the judges’ decisions. Instead, we headed back over to the Fairmount for another round of noisy and exuberant room parties before retiring back to our room for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday, 19 August

The morning was spent in the company of Juli’s sister Gail, her husband Mauro and their kids Sonia and her younger brother, Dario. We met at Peggy Sue’s and feasted on a mountain of omelets, breakfast sandwiches and pancakes. Juli and I regaled them with our convention adventures and name-dropping the famous writers and creators that we met that week. We heard from both parents that later that morning, Dario and Sonia vehemently argued over which of us was cooler. Heh!

Meanwhile, as the Business Meeting was concluding its Sunday session, there was a motion from the floor to ask the Officers of BM to send a note of condolences to the family of Ursula Le Guin for the upsetting circumstances behind the naming of the Young Adult Award. I found out about the proposed apology and the vote on the matter after the fact several hours later after Juli read a condensed version off of a report on a blog by a mutual friend, Alex Von Thorn. When I read it, I was furious.

I had spent a great deal of time and political effort in creating the YA Award and attaching Ms. Le Guin’s name to it. And now the very people who opposed her name wanted to apologize?

What the actual HELL?

And then we heard from friends in the Dealer’s Room that Mike Glyer had been overcome with some serious ailment earlier in the morning and been taken to a hospital nearby. I immediately texted Mike on my phone through Facebook wishing him well and  offered to be a designated acceptor in case he won the Hugo. (I needn’t have worried; he called in Jo Van Ekeren to accept in his stead.)

Since there was nothing to be done about it at the moment, Juli and I split up to attend two separate program items. She went to Celebrating the New Award Category (a panel I avoided for obvious reasons) which featured Anna Blumstein, Sam J. Miller, Sarah Rees Brennan and Ursula Vernon. I attended Black Panther, Luke Cage and the #Ownvoices Creators with Steven Barnes, Sumiko Saulson, Leslie Light and T.L. Alexandra Volk. Juli found her panel a fine opportunity for YA authors to speak to other YA enthusiasts (it was well attended) and was mainly focused on its popularity and where it might be going next. My panel was just fantastic; all of the participants were engaging, excited, serious and funny. About twenty percent of the audience was made up of people of color but everyone in attendance was listening raptly to the conversation about race, sexism, appropriation and the current political and socio-economic conditions in art and fandom today.

After a delicious early dinner at La Victoria Tacqueria, we returned to our hotel to dress up for the Hugos. Juli donned a lovely black satin dress with a white bow in the back. I wore a blue suit with a black shirt, orange tie and and florid blue, white and orange FC Cincinnati scarf around my neck.

When I describe the 2018 Hugo Ceremony as a whirlwind affair, it is not an exaggeration. Clocking in at a little over two hours, it is handily one of the fastest on record. Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio had pledged as much when he was named as the Master of Ceremonies. And, as promised, he delivered the goods. (And displacing the other non-Hugo Awards helped as well.)

John Picacio

As each award was announced, I took multiple screenshots of the video boards showing the nominees and the winners on my phone and posted them immediately to my Facebook page. Several people later reported that they appreciated finding out the winners in real-time.

I was very happy that the boss, Mike Glyer, won the Hugo for Best Fanzine. And as Ms. Van Ekeren accepted for him, it was incredibly classy of him to remove File 770 from future consideration. Mike, as it was later reported, was laid up with an irregular heartbeat that would require the insertion of a pacemaker, so the Hugo was a pick-me-up. Also, Mike had Ms. Van Ekeren mention me by name in his speech, which had me a little chuffed as well.
The Best Related Work was won by Le Guin’s collection of essays, No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters. I kept thinking how tremendous it would have been to have her name on future issuances of the YA Award and winning her final Hugo in the same evening.

I was quite sure Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form Hugo was going to go to the Black Mirror episode “USS Callister”, a wicked send-up of Star Trek, The Twilight Zone and gaming fandom. Instead, it went to one of the The Good Place’s best episodes, “The Trolley Problem”. I was similarly surprised by Wonder Woman’s win in the Long Form category; the list of nominees was one of the best in recent memory, especially with Academy Award winners Get Out and The Shape of Water in the mix. Get Out ended up finishing a distant second and The Shape of Water (which won the Oscar for Best Picture) was fifth.

Rebecca Roanhorse was also a double winner; she was the winner of John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer AND in the Best Short Story category for “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM”, a tale that penetrates and shatters perceptions of cultural appropriation.

I was delighted that Suzanne Palmer’s “The Secret Life of Bots”, a comic story of interstellar war taken from a maintenance bot’s point of view, won Best Novelette. It was my first choice that category and would make a great film for Pixar. Hint, hint.

As much as I admired Sarah Gailey’s alternate history adventure, “River of Teeth”, Martha Wells novella “All Systems Red” (which also won the Nebula Award) was my first choice here as well. I would not be surprised if HBO or some streaming service comes knocking on her door for “Murderbot” stories, sometime soon.

Felicia Day’s appearance as the presenter of the YA Book Award took everyone by surprise. And I could not be any happier that Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior was named the initial recipient of the Best Young Adult Book.

Betsy Wollheim

In fact, she actually received two awards; a plaque from the convention AND a trophy commissioned by Toastmaster John Picacio and designed and built by Sara Felix. If you were wondering how she accomplished this feat, here’s a link:

I hope that Ms. Okorafor’s book will be the first of many inspiring books that will win this special award in the years to come.

The Best Novel winner, N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky was the odds-on winner since it was first published last year and I was not surprised that she prevailed. Juli, myself and the entire audience rose to its feet to applaud the first writer in history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards in the Novel category.

And the speech she gave was fearless, ecstatic, wonderful and electrifying:

And it was over. I wandered close enough to the stage to take a few photos, congratulate John Picacio for his hosting skills and, for a few brief moments, hold Mike Glyer’s Best Fanzine Hugo.

Not having an invite to George R.R. Martin’s Hugo Loser’s Party, we made our way to the Marriott’s overpriced bar to toast the winners. We met up with a friend and fellow Cincinnati Fantasy Group member, Joel Zakem and we properly indulged with hard cider and beer. New England fan Crystal Huff and her friends also wandered in and ended up seated next to us and we engaged in some fannish gossip for a while.

When we discovered that Joel’s flight was leaving at the very same time as ours, 1:10 pm, we made plans to share an Uber to the airport.

Monday, August 20

We arose before 8 a.m. and hit the ground running. I went to a nearby post office and brought back several priority mail boxes to ship back the books we purchased and had gotten signed. It was well worth the effort because we had JUST made it a pound and a half under the weight limit for our single, huge suitcase.

On the way back to the hotel, I passed by the windows of the Westin Hotel’s restaurant and stopped to make funny faces at several diners; con-runners Jim and Laurie Mann, John Lorentz and his partner Kathy, author Jo Walton and her breakfast companion and two Pittsburgh area friends, Bob and Carla Dundes.

We met Joel on the curb outside the Westin at around 11 a.m. and before long the Uber driver was taking us to the airport. I longed to make one more trip to the Dealers Room, say goodbye to friend and attend the Closing Ceremonies. But unfortunately, our early flight and the long layover in Salt Lake City would get us into the Greater Cincinnati Airport around midnight. Poor Joel had a longer haul; his flight was routed through Atlanta and he would be getting back to Louisville, Kentucky at an even more ungodly hour than us.

We were not the only ones making an early getaway; as we made our way through our terminal, we spied authors Nancy Kress (sporting a stylish black cast on her right foot from a mishap) and Jack Skillingstead waiting near a Starbucks for their flight.

Out two flights home were long and uneventful. Luckily, the last leg was a half an hour early and we were safely snug in our beds and surrounded by grumpy cats by 12:30 am. Jet lag be damned, we were asleep in ten minutes.

Pixel Scroll 8/11/18 Pixel of Steel, Scroll of Kleenex

(1) BOURDAIN IN NARNIA. The New Yorker Recommends’ Helen Rosner links to “‘No Reservations: Narnia,’ a Triumph of Anthony Bourdain Fan Fiction”.

Of all the billions of pages that make up the Internet, one of my very favorites contains “No Reservations: Narnia,” a work of fan fiction, from 2010, by Edonohana, a pseudonym of the young-adult and fantasy author Rachel Manija Brown. The story is exactly what it sounds like: a pastiche of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Channelling the casual charisma of Bourdain’s first-person writing, Brown finds him visiting the stick-wattled burrow of sentient moles, where he dines on pavender (a saltwater fish of Lewis’s invention) and is drunk under the table by a talking mouse. He slurps down eel stew and contemplates the void with mud-dwelling depressives. Later, he bails on an appointment at Cair Paravel, the royal seat of Narnia, to bloody his teeth at a secretive werewolf feast.

“No Reservations: Narnia” (2010) begins —

I’m crammed into a burrow so small that my knees are up around my ears and the boom mike keeps slamming into my head, inhaling the potent scent of toffee-apple brandy and trying to drink a talking mouse under the table. But is it really the boom mike that’s making my head pound? I know for sure that my camera man doesn’t usually have two heads. I have to face facts. The mouse is winning.

Yesterday, I thought I knew what to expect from Narnia: good solid English cooking spiced up with the odd unusual ingredient, and good solid English people spiced up with the odd faun. And centaur. And talking animal. I’d longed to visit Narnia when I was a kid, but every time the notoriously capricious entry requirements, such as the bizarre and arbitrary lifetime limit on visits, relaxed the slightest bit, it would get invaded, get conquered, get re-conquered by the original rulers, or get hit by some natural disaster….

Cat Eldridge sent the links with a note: “Weirdly enough Rachel Manija Brown was once a reviewer for Green Man Review.

(2) TUNE IN THE HUGOS. Kevin Standlee outlined the “2018 Hugo Ceremony Coverage Plans” on the award’s official website.

The 2018 Hugo Awards Ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, August 19, 2018 at 8:00 PM North American Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7) in the McEnery Convention Center Grand Ballroom in San Jose, California. The ceremony is open to all attending members of Worldcon 76, with additional seating available in “Callahan’s Place” in the convention center Exhibit Hall.

The Hugo Awards web site will once again offer text-based coverage of the Hugo Awards ceremony via CoverItLive, suitable for people with bandwidth restrictions. For those with the bandwidth for it, Worldcon 76 San Jose plans to offer live video streaming of the Hugo Awards ceremony. Details of the live-streaming coverage will be available at the 2018 Worldcon web site.

The Hugo Awards web site coverage team of Kevin Standlee, Susan de Guardiola, and Cheryl Morgan plan to be “on the air” approximately fifteen minutes before the ceremony. You can sign up at the CoverItLive event site for an e-mail notification before the event starts. Remember that the CoverItLive text coverage is text-only, and is likely to not be in synch with the video streaming. Also, the CoverItLive team here at TheHugoAwards.org is not responsible for the video streaming coverage and cannot answer any questions about it.

(3) VISA PROBLEMS. Another example of security screening that interferes with cultural exchanges. The Guardian reports some authors are having exceptional difficulty getting visas to attend a book festival in Scotland: “Home Office refuses visas for authors invited to Edinburgh book festival”.

According to Barley, the dozen authors were asked to provide three years’ worth of bank statements to demonstrate financial independence, despite being paid to participate in the Edinburgh book festival, and having publishers and the festival guaranteeing to cover their costs while in the UK. Barley said any deposits that could not be easily explained were used as grounds to deny the authors’ visas; one had to reapply three times due to her bank statements.

“It is Kafkaesque. One was told he had too much money and it looked suspicious for a short trip. Another was told she didn’t have enough, so she transferred £500 into the account – and then was told that £500 looked suspicious. It shouldn’t be the case that thousands of pounds should be spent to fulfil a legitimate visa request. I believe this is happening to many arts organisations around the country, and we need to find a way around it.”

Barley called the situation humiliating, adding: “One author had to give his birth certificate, marriage certificate, his daughter’s birth certificate and then go for biometric testing. He wanted to back out at that point because he couldn’t bear it, but we asked him to continue. Our relationship with authors is being damaged because the system is completely unfit for purpose. They’ve jumped through hoops – to have their applications refused.”

The Scottish first minister called on the government to fix the problem: “Authors’ visa struggles undermine book festival, says Sturgeon”

Nicola Sturgeon has accused the UK government of undermining the Edinburgh international book festival by failing to resolve authors’ difficulties in obtaining visas.

The festival’s director, Nick Barley, has said some of the invited writers have been “humiliated” by the process they had to endure to get into the UK.

Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, who will take part in the event, tweeted on Thursday that the difficulties were “not acceptable” and the government “needs to get it sorted”.

Barley said about a dozen people had gone through an extremely difficult process to obtain a visa this year and several applications remained outstanding. The festival starts on Saturday and will feature appearances by 900 authors and illustrators from 55 countries.

Festival organisers provide assistance with visa applications and they have reported an increase in refusals over the past few years. Barley said one author had to supply his birth certificate, marriage certificate and his daughter’s birth certificate and go for biometric testing in order to get his visa.

He said the UK’s reputation as a global arts venue could be seriously hindered if problems in obtaining visas worsened after Brexit.

(4) DISCRIMINATION. David Farland (pseudonym of Dave Wolverton, currently the Coordinating Judge, Editor and First Reader for the Writers of the Future Contest), blogged about his view of “Discrimination in the Writing World”.

A few days ago, I saw a Facebook post from a woman who complained that she didn’t want to see panels by “boring, old, white, cisgender men” at the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention. Now, I’ve always fought against discrimination based on age, race, sexual orientation, and gender, so I was kind of surprised that this person managed to offend me at every single level. I can’t help it if I was born sixty years ago, male, white, and cisgender.

There is a concerted effort by some special interest groups to push certain agendas. More than twenty years ago, just before the Nebula awards, I remember hearing a woman talking to others, pointing out that if they all voted for a certain story by a woman, then she’d certainly win. Apparently the ethics of judging stories based upon the gender of the author eluded her, but it worked. The story written by the woman won.

With the Hugos, white men in particular are not even getting on the ballots, much less winning.

The question is, if you’re a writer, what do you do? What if you write a book, and you don’t fit in the neat little category that publishers want?

For example, what if you’re male and you want to write a romance novel? What are your chances of getting published? How well will you be welcomed into the writing community? Isn’t a good story a good story no matter who wrote it?

Apparently not. I had a friend recently who created a bundle of romance novels and put them up for sale. She had ten novels, nine by women and one by a man, and it sold terribly. Why? Because the nine female romance writers refused to even tell their fans about the bundle because there was a male author in the bundle. So instead of selling tens of thousands of bundles, as she expected, she sold only a few hundred.

Of course, discrimination is pretty well institutionalized in the publishing industry. By saying that it is institutionalized, what I mean is that in certain genres, your chances of getting published are based upon your gender.

(5) NICHOLS HAS DEMENTIA. Hope Schreiber, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Nichelle Nichols, actress who portrayed the iconic Lieutenant Uhura in ‘Star Trek,’ diagnosed with dementia”,  cites a TMZ report that Nichols is under the care of a conservator.

Nichelle Nichols, the actress who brought Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek to life, has been diagnosed with dementia, according to conservatorship documents obtained by TMZ. She is 85 years old.

TMZ says that Dr. Meena Makhijani, a specialist in osteopathic medicine, has been treating Nichols for the last two to three years. According to Makhijani, the disease has progressed. Nichols has significant impairment of her short-term memory and “moderate impairment of understanding abstract concepts, sense of time, place, and immediate recall,” according to TMZ.

However, the actress’s long-term memory does not seem to be affected at this time, nor are her body orientation, concentration, verbal communication, comprehension, recognition of familiar people, or ability to plan and to reason logically.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 11 – Ian McDiarmid, 74. Star Wars film franchise including an uncredited appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, other genre appearances in DragonslayerThe Awakening (a mummies horror film with Charlton Heston), The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series and reprising his SW role in the animated Star Wars Rebels series.
  • Born August 11 – Brian Azzarello, 56. Comic book writer. First known crime series 100 Bullets, published by Vertigo. Writer of DC’s relaunched Wonder Woman series several years back. One of the writers in the Before Watchmen limited series. Co-writer with Frank Miller of the sequel to The Dark Knight Returns,  The Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
  • Born August 11 – Viola Davis, 53. Amanda ‘The Wall’ Waller in the first Suicide Squad film; also appeared in The Andromeda Strain, Threshold and Century City series, and the Solaris film.
  • Born August 11 – Jim Lee, 44. Korean American comic-book artist, writer, editor, and publisher.  Co-founder of Images Comics, now senior management at DC though he started at Marvel. Known for work on Uncanny X-Men, Punisher, Batman, Superman and WildC.A.T.s.
  • Born August 11 – Will Friedle, 44. Largely known as w actor with extensive genre work: Terry McGinnis aka the new Batman in Batman Beyond which Warner Animation now calls Batman of the Future, Peter Quill in The Guardians Of The Galaxy, Kid Flash in Teen Titans Go!, and Thundercats! to name but a few of his roles.
  • Born August 11 – Chris Hemsworth, 35. Thor in the MCU film franchise, George Kirk in the current Trek film franchise, and King Arthur in the Guinevere Jones series;  also roles in Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, Snow White and the Huntsman and its sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War,

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) SAWYER’S SCHEDULE. Robert J. Sawyer clarified on Facebook his plans for Worldcon 76 in San Jose next week:

I’ll be there. However, many months ago I made a decision not to apply to be on programming. I don’t have a new book this year, and I figured there are lots of younger/newer/diverse writers who could use the panel slots I would have taken up.

This was meant to be a quiet, private choice, but since then, there’s been a big blowup about this year’s Worldcon programming (see http://file770.com/worldcon-76-program-troubles/), with people withdrawing from the program or complaining about not being put on it in the first place. My situation is neither of those (and the Worldcon programming has been redone to most people’s satisfaction now).

However, I will be making two public and one private appearances at the Worldcon, for those who want to see me or get books signed:

* On Friday, August 17, at noon, in room 210E at the Convention Center, I will be attending the unveiling of the new batch of Walter Day’s Science Fiction Historical Trading Cards, introducing the new authors being added to the set (I’m already on a card, as you can see); Walter Day will be giving away some of these collectible cards (including my own) to those who attend.

* Also on Friday, August 17, at 4:00 p.m., in the Dealers’ Room in the Convention Center, I will be autographing at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) table.

* And on Saturday, August 18, at 2:00 p.m., I’ll be hosting a meet-and-greet for my Patreon patrons; you can become a patron here, and get other cool perks, too: https://www.patreon.com/robertjsawyer

(9) AUSTRALIAN FANZINE ARCHIVE. Kim Huett reports, “The National Library of Australia not only has a significant fanzine collection, some of the librarians take an active interest in the fanzines in their care. Take for example this recent post which talks from an outsiders perspective about all sorts of Australian fanzines, some of which are actually about science fiction: “Fanzines For fans, by Fans”.

Fans of the TV shows, Star Trek and Doctor Who, have perhaps the best known examples of fandom in the mainstream but this isn’t where fanzines start. The fanzine Futurian observer was talking about a well-established Australian science fiction fan community back in 1940.

In a year in which the inescapable realities of war were everywhere, this little publication denounced ‘the threatening ban on magazines’, reported on Government ‘restrictions on pulp imports’ and referenced meetings in which quizzes and scientific discussions were star attractions.

One of the first lines in Issue #1 is a dire warning that Australian fans needed to be more engaged. In contrast, issue #35 talks about a parody newsletter from a convention that never happened and the author ‘hibernating’ from the ‘Sydney scene’ to avoid the ‘fighting, scratching and squabbling’.

You can read digitised copies of Futurian observer here.

Fanzines are a fascinating insight into the volatility of fan communities and how they operated at the time of publication.

(10) DOCTOR STRANGEMIND. Huett also sent a link to his own site with this introduction: “Anybody who is a fan of David Langford’s ‘As Others See Us’ segment in Ansible is going to really enjoy the latest installment of Doctor Strangemind. Have you ever wondered what the official Soviet line was in regards to science fiction? Well now you can read ‘The World Of Nightmare Fantasies’ and wonder no more: ’To Pervert & Stultify’. Really, I spoil you people,”

…I’ve reproduced the entire condensed version of The World Of Nightmare Fantasies here so you might enjoy the authors attempt to crush various butterflies of fiction with their rhetorical sledgehammer….

…The American Raymond F. Jones, experienced writer of “scientific” fantasies, attempts to lift the curtain of the future for the reader. He uses all his flaming imagination in describing a machine which analyses the inclinations , talents, character and other potentialities of a new-born infant. If it finds the child normal, it returns it to the arms of the waiting mother. If it finds a future “superman,” the mother will never see him again; he will be sent to a world “parallel” to ours where he will be raised without the help of parents. But woe to the baby the machine finds defective – it will be immediately destroyed. According to the “scientific” forecast of author Jones, a network of such machines will cover the world of the future.

This tale, monstrous in its openly fascistic tendency, appears in the American magazine Astounding, under the optimistic title of Renaissance. Jones’ fascist revelations are not an isolated instance in American science fiction literature. There are numerous such examples under the brightly colourful covers which enterprising publishers throw on the market in millions of copies. From their pages glares a fearful world, apparently conceived in the sick mind of an insane, a world of nightmare fantasies. Miasma, mental decay, fear of to-day and horror of the future: all these innumerable ills of capitalism are clearly reflected.

(11) WOTF. Past winner J.W. Alden says in his experience the Writers of the Future Contest was a tool of the Church of Scientology, no matter the public relations effort to portray them as separate: “Going Clearwater: The Illusory ‘Firewall’ of the Writers of the Future Contest”.

In 2016, I won Writers of the Future. At the time, I counted it as one of my proudest moments. A story I’d written, The Sun Falls Apart, took first place in a contest judged by some of the biggest names in the genre. I’m still proud of that part. Unfortunately, that sense of accomplishment was undermined by a negative experience which forced me to confront the actual nature of the contest: Writers of the Future is a Church of Scientology endeavor. I now believe its primary purpose is not to help emerging writers, but to further the aims of the church, primarily by promoting the name of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. I make no judgments on any individual’s religious beliefs, but since I won the contest, I have come to believe it exploits writers in pursuit of this goal….

The Firewall, many claim, exists to prevent the contest from becoming a platform for the church and to ensure there’s no proselytizing of winners–though one of the first things you learn when you go asking about the Firewall, is that it seems to mean different things to different people. It’s the Firewall that keeps the contest’s panel of judges onboard. The judges of this contest include big names in the genre–names like Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, Robert J. Sawyer, Larry Niven, and many more. Hence, it’s the Firewall that ultimately lends the contest legitimacy. In my opinion, the Firewall does not exist. Or at the very least, it doesn’t exist for everyone.

It didn’t exist for me.

After winning the contest he was asked to come to Clearwater, Florida and do a signing. Clearwater is home to the church’s Flag Service Organization.

And so, I’m not that surprised one afternoon when I receive a text message from Kate*, one of the employees of Author Services Inc., the (Church of Scientology-owned) organization that runs the contest. They ask if I’d be willing to take part in an event they describe as a “massive Barnes & Noble book signing” in Clearwater, FL in a few days. The last minute nature of this invitation seems odd, but not out of step with the general disorganization that winners grow used to when dealing with ASI. At first, I turn down this request. At the time, I live in the West Palm Beach area, and I’m not willing to drive across the state on such short notice. They respond by offering to fly me out and put me up in a hotel. At that point, I say, “Sure. Why not?” I mean, it’s just Barnes & Noble, right? Book signings are fun.

However, Alden says this is what really happened:

…After that, it’s finally time for the book signing . . . which is not taking place at a Barnes & Noble. It turns out the “Barnes & Noble signing event” is actually taking place here at the Fort Harrison Hotel, during a Scientology ceremony called “Flag Graduation.” Scientologists who underwent training at the Flag Building are having some kind of graduation ceremony. Part of the ceremonies will involve announcing my presence, then directing the congregation to my signing table for an autograph. After the day I’ve had, I am not shocked by this revelation. My belief in the Firewall has long since abandoned me. I am not happy about the bait and switch. But I’m not surprised, either.

I’m led into a huge conference room with a stage and hundreds of chairs. By the time we get there, it’s already packed full of Scientologists finding their seats. Tori leads me straight to the front row. At this point, I become genuinely worried about the possible public repercussions of this little trip. Just like in L.A., there are photographers and videographers everywhere. The thought of photos and video of me at an actual Church of Scientology event floating around somewhere is (at the time) concerning. What happens next tempers this concern somewhat, if only because it grants me the conviction that this is not the first Scientology event I’ve been photographed at. Before their graduation ceremony, they play a video of the Writers of the Future gala. A Church of Scientology official talks it up beforehand, citing it as part of L. Ron Hubbard’s legacy, with the underlying message that it’s one of the many Good Things the CoS is doing in the world. In other words, Writers of the Future (and not just the name–the video of the gala, the anthology, the words and likenesses of the winners) is used as internal propaganda at an official Church of Scientology event. That’s certainly how I interpreted it, anyway….

I first started telling the story above in private circles within the SFF writing community. Over the past two years, I’ve told it to fellow WotF winners, to friends at conventions, and in private online discussion groups. Most recently, I posted about it on Codex after Nick Mamatas and Keffy R.M. Kehrli spurred the aforementioned conversation on social media about the questionable aspects of the contest back in April. I also posted a couple of twitter threads around that time, in which I voiced frustrations about the contest and rage-faced over the revelation that unattributed quotations from Dianetics were included in Writers of the Future workshop materials. Since the tweetstorm, I’ve also been in discussion with former winners and even a few contest judges who reached out to me about it.

Since all of that started happening, I’ve also had run-ins with supporters of the contest who have accused me (and others) of trying to destroy it. Let me make one thing clear: I’m not trying to destroy Writers of the Future. For one, I don’t believe that is within my (or anyone’s) power, so even if that were my goal, I wouldn’t waste the effort. My goal is merely to inform emerging writers about the troublesome aspects of this contest, because I don’t think they’re talked about enough. That includes relating my own experience that bizarre weekend in Clearwater. If anyone sees that as an effort to delegitimize or destroy the contest, all I can say is this: if spreading the truth about something delegitimizes it, was it really legitimate in the first place? …

(12) MAIN AND OTHER STREAMS. Penguin Random House would be happy to sell you these “21 Books You’ve Been Meaning To Read”, a list with a surprising amount of sff. Not this first title, though. This one has been picked for its clever misspelling —

War and Peace

A legendary masterpiece, this book is synonymous with difficult reading, so why not challenge yourshelf.

(13) WRECK-IT RALPH RETURNS. Ralph Breaks the Internet – sneak peek.The movie comes to theaters November 21.

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” leaves Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and thrilling world of the internet—which may or may not survive Ralph’s wrecking. Video game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) must risk it all by traveling to the world wide web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, Sugar Rush. In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet—the Netizens—to help navigate their way, including Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of the trend-making site “BuzzzTube,” and Shank (voice of Gal Gadot), a tough-as-nails driver from a gritty online auto-racing game called Slaughter Race.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/14/17 Don’t Crush That Scroll, Hand Me The Pixels

(1) THE CLOCK IS DRIPPING. Mary Anne Mohanraj reminds everyone today’s the last day for becoming a founding sponsor of the Speculative Literature Foundation on Drip. Minimum is a buck a month.

The Speculative Literature Foundation encourages promising new writers, assists established writers, supports magazines and presses, and develops a greater public appreciation of speculative fiction.

(2) ANNUAL ASIMOV DEBATE. You have until December 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern to enter the lottery for the right to purchase tickets to the 2018 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. It takes place at the Hayden Planetarium in New York on Tuesday, February 13, beginning at 7 p.m.

Each year, the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate brings the finest minds in the world to the Museum to debate pressing questions on the frontier of scientific discovery. Join host and moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, for the 2018 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

There is no purchase necessary, and no cost to enter the lottery. The lottery is randomized, and the order of entry has no effect on your chances of winning. …A full description of terms and conditions can be found here.

(3) NICOTINE OVERDOSE ON MARS. James Davis Nicoll turned the crew loose on Piper’s classic “Omnilingual” at Young People Read Old SFF. They took no prisoners!

H. Beam Piper’s career was cut short when, believing himself a failure and his career effectively over, he shot himself1. One of John W. Campbell’s stable of writers, he stands out as one of the few in that crowd willing to give women agency, even if he did not often feature one as a protagonist. Omnilingual is one of the few Piper stories with a woman lead, something I hope will distract from Piper’s stylistic quirks—the cocktail parties, the endless smoking—that tie the story’s creation to the early sixties. Presumably the people who suggested it had similar hopes. But what did my Young People think?

(4) CANADA’S ILLEGAL ALIENS. Echo Ishii’s series about old genre TV shows continues with “SF Obscure: First Wave”.

First Wave was a Canadian action/Adventure SF series that ran from 1998-2001. It ran for three seasons on the Space Channel in Canada. Yay Canada!

The plot centers around Cade Foster who’s framed for his wife’s murder and is on the run to uncover a vast alien conspiracy. From what I gathered-it took a bit to put the pieces together-the aliens kidnapped him and made him part of an experiment to test emotions or responses or something. Anyway, Foster doesn’t become their pawn and goes on the run. He is helped along by Eddie, a guy who ran a paranormal magazine and does all the computer nerd stuff. They are later joined in their quest to stop the aliens by an alien assassin turned ally named Joshua.

(5) HISTORIC ROCKET. Lookie what appears in “To Boldly Go,” the 11th and final episode of webseries Star Trek Continues (screenshot from around 44:00m) —

JJ explains:

It’s the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation won by “The Menagerie” (it’s the lucite rocket used in 1967, see screenshot). Rod Roddenberry was a big supporter of this webseries and was an extra in one of the episodes; I’m guessing that he lent it to the show as an Easter egg for fans.

As far as a prop, it’s a rocket and that’s the desk of an Admiral in a space force. I’m sure that lots of people at NASA have / had rocket and spaceship-related trinkets on their desks, too. And if you start at 44:00 and play forward, Robert Sawyer’s model display of all the starships Enterprise also appears in the Admiral’s office. (Sawyer co-wrote some of the ST:C episodes, including this one, and also appears as an extra.)

(6) THE TYPO FROM HELL. Adweek makes sure you don’t miss out when “Anomaly Goes to Hell This Holiday With Diabolical ‘Dear Satan’ Film Narrated by Patrick Stewart”. Video at the link.

Satan—the original Heat Miser!—reduces Santa Claus to a pile of ash, but ultimately saves Christmas, sort of, in this fiendishly farcical animated holiday film from Anomaly London.

The heavenly voiced Patrick Stewart narrates “Dear Satan,” portraying various characters with impressive wit and charm. Dude’s on fire throughout, basically.

… The new six-minute film begins with a little girl named Hope mistakenly asking Satan, rather than Santa, for a puppy at Christmastime. (She makes an unfortunate typo in her letter, and on the envelope, you see.) Naturally, her note goes straight to hell. And if you’re thinking the plot takes an infernal turn at that point, you’re getting warmer. Much warmer.

(7) OSCAR-WORTHY SHORTS. The Hollywood Reporter offers “Oscars: Breaking Down the 10 Animated Short Contenders”. Very little explicit sff content, however, there is a fannish tendency to think all animation is fantasy so that may not be a problem.

Revolting Rhymes

In celebration of what would be the 100th birthday of author Roald Dahl, Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer adapted his poetry collection based on classic fairy tales. Dominic West, Rose Leslie and Gemma Chan lend their voices to the likes of the Big Bad Wolf and Snow White.

(8) FEELING BETTER. Mike Kennedy recommends a video at Gizmodo, “An Undead Outbreak Summons a Stealth, Ruthless Response in Chilling Short The Plague.

It’s an otherwise quiet night when a woman hears a noise—and discovers her elderly father has wandered from his nursing home for an unannounced visit. Things then take a turn for the decidedly insane in Guillermo Carbonell’s short The Plague. Zombies are involved… but not how you’d expect.

(9) DON’T SAY HE CAN’TERBURY. The artist known as Chaucer hath some lofty ambitions:

(10) WEHRLE OBIT. Fan, artist, writer Joe Wehrle, Jr. died December 10. The Larque Press Blog has numerous examples of his work:

Joe Wehrle, Jr. is a writer and artist. His stories and artwork have appeared in the Cauliflower Catnip Pearls of Peril, Menomonee Falls Gazette, 1971 Clarion Anthology, Vampirella, Two-Gun Raconteur, Worlds of If, Galaxy and many other publications.

The family obituary is here:

Joseph J. Wehrle, Jr., 76, Punxsutawney, died Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh. Joseph was a self-employed artist working for The Digest Enthusiast. He was an illustrator, cartoonist and writer.  He enjoyed collecting comic books, original comic art and science fiction and fantasy genre books. Joseph loved jazz and blues music and loved playing the guitar and saxophone. He also loved his cat, Khufu. He is survived by a daughter, Jillian Rouse and husband Jim of Punxsutawney. Services will be private for family and are under the direction of the Deeley Funeral Home, Punxsutawney.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 14, 1984 Dune premiered.
  • December 14, 1984 Starman opened in theaters.
  • December 14, 1990 – Marvel’s Captain America (but not the movie you’re thinking of) was released in the UK. This iteration didn’t make it to the U.S. for two years, then went direct-to-video.
  • December 14, 2007 — Another film adaptation of version of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend was released. Matheson famously wondered why studios kept optioning his novel because they never once made a movie that followed the book.

(12) TIME CAPSULE. It’s not easy for humorists to keep ahead of reality.

(13) MOUSE EATS FOX. The Verge tries to figure out “What does Disney’s acquisition of Fox mean for the MCU?”

Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox’s film and TV studios in a landmark $52 billion deal. This means that the door is open for Disney to incorporate the Marvel properties previously controlled by Fox — including X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool — into its Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In its statement, Disney says the agreement will allow it to reunite these characters “with the Marvel family under one roof and create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories that audiences have shown they love.” Marvel is already planning to overhaul the MCU after the studio’s “Phase Three” arc. That will finish with a fourth and supposed final Avengers film in 2019, which will end the Infinity War story. “There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after,” Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, has previously said.

(14) CHEAPER BY THE HUNDRED. Here’s a diagram showing who owns what Marvel characters after the Disney/Fox merger.

(15) BLUNDER DOWN UNDER. Michael J. Walsh gifted Filers with this link to the recipe for Vegemite Icy Poles, a sweet treat that violates the Geneva Convention. The instructions begin –

COMBINE in a saucepan the sugar, cocoa, honey, VEGEMITE, corn flour and milk.

(16) SURVIVOR. The BBC profiles the plesiosaur: “Sea reptile fossil gives clues to life in ancient oceans”.

A new fossil is shedding light on the murky past of the sea reptiles that swam at the time of the dinosaurs.

With tiny heads on long necks and four pointed flippers, plesiosaurs have been likened to Scotland’s mythical Loch Ness monster.

The German discovery proves that these sea creatures were alive more than 200 million years ago during the Triassic.

The fossilised bones give clues to how the animal survived a mass extinction that wiped out most living things….

By being warm-blooded, plesiosaurs were able to roam the open seas in late Triassic times.

”Warm-bloodedness probably was the key to both their long reign and their survival of a major crisis in the history of life, the extinction events at the end of the Triassic,” said Prof Sander.

Plesiosaurs were not as hard hit by the extinction as shallow water and coastal animals. Their fossils have been found all over the world in Cretaceous and Jurassic rocks.

(17) ACCIDENTAL FANFIC. People are loving it — “Harry Potter gets a weird new chapter from a computer”.

Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash is a new story created by a predictive keyboard.

“He saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione’s family,” runs one line from the ridiculous – and funny – tale.

It was created by the team at Botnik, who fed all seven books through their computer programme.

(18) ROBOCRIMINAL. Jackie Chan fights somebody who looks vaguely like the lovechild of Voldemort and the Terminator in this Bleeding Steel trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/22/17 How Can You Tell If An Elephant Has Been On Your Scroll? By The Footprints On The Pixels

(1) EBOOKS FOR HURRICANE RELIEF. Fireside Fiction has teamed up with other small presses, authors, and editors to offer e-books to raise money for hurricane relief through the Hurricane Relief Bookstore.

Fireside Fiction Company has put together the Hurricane Relief Bookstore to raise funds for disaster relief and rebuilding for Houston, the Caribbean, and Florida.

100% of profits from sales on this store will go toward the following three relief organizations:

• For Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

• For the Caribbean: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Fund

• For Florida: ShelterBox

The ebooks on this store are intentionally priced high—the more money we raise, the better. If you want to increase your donations, simply increase the quantities in your shopping cart before checking out.

Each ebook consists of a Zip file that includes a Mobi file for your Kindle and an Epub file for iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other reader (some publishers also include a PDF file). All files are DRM-free (because come on, it’s 2017).

(2) THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS SATURN. E.R. Ellsworth presents the bittersweet “Lost Letters From Cassini” on Medium.

January 1st, 2001

My Dearest Geneviève:

I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.

Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.

Yours always,

Cassini

(3) ABOVE AND BEYOND. It is the nature of we humans to be more interested in someone’s opinion of Amazon Author Rankings if he or she happens to be speaking from the top of the pile. Take John Scalzi, for example.

Yesterday nine of my novels were on sale for $2.99 in ebook format, across a bunch of different retailers, but most prominently on Amazon, because, well, Amazon. Amazon has a number of different ways to make authors feel competitive and neurotic, one of which is its “Amazon Author Rank,” which tells you where you fit in the grand hierarchy of authors on Amazon, based (to some extent) on sales and/or downloads via Amazon’s subscription reading service. And yesterday, I got to the top of it — #1 in the category of science fiction and fantasy, and was #4 overall, behind JK Rowling and two dudes who co-write business books. Yes, I was (and am still! At this writing!) among the elite of the elite in the Amazon Author Ranks, surveying my realm as unto a god.

And now, thoughts! …

  1. This opacity works for Amazon because it keeps authors engaged, watching their Amazon Author Rankings go up and down, and getting little spikes or little stabs as their rankings bounce around. I mean, hell, I think it’s neat to have a high ranking, and I know it’s basically nonsense! But I do think it’s important for authors to remember not to get too invested in the rankings because a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.

(4) NEEDS MEANER VILLAIN. Zhaoyun presents “Microreview [book]: Babylon’s Ashes (book six of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this is where, in my opinion, Babylon’s Ashes missteps.

It turns out Inaros just isn’t that compelling a villain, and perhaps as a consequence of this, the good guys’ inevitable victory over him isn’t particularly cathartic. In one sense that shouldn’t matter, since of course it’s entirely up to Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks what sort of villain to create, and nothing mandates a “tougher than you can believe” archetype. The problem, as I see it, is that they fell into this narrative trope without having the right sort of villain for it. Inaros is simply a megalomaniac with a flair (sort of) for PR, but his ridiculous behavior and blunders end up alienating many of his erstwhile supporters. This leeches the catharsis right out of the mano y mano confrontation at the end, since in a manner of speaking Inaros has already been beaten, in small ways, numerous times before this….

(5) HOBBIT FORMING. The 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit prompted Vann R. Newkirk II to recall when right made might, in “There and Back Again” for The Atlantic.

Modern fantasy and its subgenres, as represented in [George R.R.] Martin’s work, might be positioned as anti-art in relation to Tolkien. In that way, Tolkien still dominates. While the watchword of the day is subversion—twisting tropes, destroying moral absolutes with relativism, and making mockeries of gallantry and heroism—subversion still requires a substrate. So although fantasy creators in all media have devoted most of their energies in the past eight decades to digesting Tolkien, so in turn Tolkien has become part of the fabric of their works. There’s a little Bilbo in Tyrion, a bit of Smaug in Eragon’s dragons, a dash of Aragorn in Shannara’s Shea Ohmsford, and a touch of Gandalf in the wizards of Discworld.

That’s why, on this week’s anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and of the entrance of Tolkien into the fantasy genre, it’s important to reread and reconsider his works, and his first especially. Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it’s not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo’s true arms and armor aren’t his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but—as Gollum would find out—his words and riddles.

(6) NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. Matthew Vaughn, director of Kingsman 2, wouldn’t have put the film’s biggest surprise in the damn trailers, he told IGN:

Trailers revealed that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart – who seemed to have died in the course of the first film – would return in the sequel.

Speaking to IGN, Vaughn was forthright about his feelings on that particular promotional choice: “Well, I’m not in charge of marketing. The thinking about that was stupidity, to be blunt.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Hobbit Day

The birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash,” its first episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Was Mark-kitteh surprised to find an sf reference in xkcd? No more than you will be.
  • Nor should anyone be surprised by the sports reference Mike Kennedy found in a comic called In the Bleachers. But its Star Wars component, maybe?

(11) END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Surely something called “Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)” needs a mention here?

Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition) raises funds to help end violence against women in collaboration with award-winning bestselling authors.

The Pixel Project‘s “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) campaign features live readings+Q&A Google Hangout sessions with 12 award-winning bestselling authors in support of the cause to end violence against women. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

These awesome authors have donated exclusive goodies to this special “Read For Pixels” Fall 2017 fundraiser to encourage fans and book lovers to give generously to help tackle VAW. Additional goodies come courtesy of Penguin Random House’s Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints, acclaimed Fantasy authors Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Christopher Golden, Dan Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, bestselling mystery/thriller author Karen Rose, and more.

(12) AN ANIMATED GROUP. Crave would like to tell you their picks for “The Top 15 Best Chuck Jones Cartoons Ever” and you may want to know – but I warn you in advance it’s one of those click-through-the-list posts. If you’re not that patient I’ll tell you this much – ranked number one is “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Few filmmakers could ever claim to have brought as much joy into our lives as Charles M. Jones, better known to many as Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros. on their classic Looney Tunes shorts for 30 years. Afterwards, he directed shorts for MGM, co-directed the family classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and also directed one of the best Christmas specials ever produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

His career was varied – he won four Oscars, including a lifetime achievement award in 1966 – but Chuck Jones was and still is best known as one of the comic and cinematic geniuses who made Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner the pop culture staples they are today. Along with his team of skilled animators, writers and fellow directors, Chuck Jones brought biting wit and visual wonders to the cartoon medium, and most – if not all – of the cartoons we love today owe him a direct debt of gratitude, in one form or another.

(13) AN APPEAL. A GoFundMe to “Save Rosy’s Inheritance” has been started for his wife by Guy H. Lillian III to fund these legal expenses –

Nita Green, Rose-Marie Lillian’s mother, passed away in April. 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. In person she was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a renowned artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and her stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, however, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement arrived at a legal deposition taken in December, 2016. She has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband is an attorney, he is licensed only in another state and Rosy’s cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and have every right to be paid. Rose-Marie turns to you for help. The retainer required will fall between $5000 and $7500…. Can you help?

(14) ENDOWED CHAIR. PZ Myers contends, “Only a conservative twit would believe he’s entitled to a speaker’s slot at a con”.

By the way, I have a similar example: I was a speaker at Skepticon multiple times. One year they decided they needed new blood, so they invited some other people, instead of me. If I were like Jon Del Arroz, I would have made a big stink over the violation of tradition — they invited me once (actually, a couple of times), so now they must invite me every time. Every year. Over and over. Until attendees are sick of me, and even then they aren’t allowed to stop.

That isn’t the way this works. I approve of diversity in the line-up. I think it’s great that they have enough people with interesting things to say that they can have a different roster of speakers every year. I’m perfectly willing to step aside, especially since it means I can just attend and enjoy the event without having to give a talk.

(15) DOTARD Alan Baumler sees a link between today’s headlines and The Lord of the Rings which he elaborates in “North Korea in the News-Trump is a dotard”.

So what does this tell us? Is the North Korean propaganda apparatus filled with Tolkien fans? Or is their understanding of modern idioms based on an idiosyncratic selection of foreign texts? I would guess that it is the latter, but the former would be cooler and more optimistic.

(16) ANOTHER SERVING OF SERIAL. Our favorite breakthrough author, Camestros Felapton, proves once again why books need maps – to keep the author from losing his place: “McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is”.

…The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things….

(17) WATCHMEN. HBO has given a formal pilot green light to and ordered backup scripts for Watchmen, based on the iconic limited comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had previously been adapted as the 2009 film, Deadline reported. The new project will be Damon Lindelof’s followup to his HBO series The Leftovers. Warner Horizon TV, which also was behind The Leftovers, is the studio as part of Linderlof’s overall deal at Warner Bros. TV.

(18) ALAN MOORE TAKES QUESTIONS. At ComicsBeat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has posted two sessions of Alan Moore Q&As from 2015 and 2016.

In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. At least, Moore answered 25 questions for the group in December 2015, which were later published here on The Beat over four posts towards the end of 2016. Those four posts can be found here:

And I can only apologise for the faux-clickbait titles. At the time I thought they were hilarious. What a difference a year makes…

Anyway, Moore once again answered a number of questions for the group at the end of 2016 and, having allowed the group to savour these on their own, the time has once again come to share them with the wider public. They cover subjects from Food to Fiction, but we’re starting with various aspects of Magic and Art.

Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?

Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.

(19) LEGO MOVIE REVIEW. Glen Weldon of NPR sees Lego Ninjago as running in third place in its own genre: “Plastic Less-Than-Fantastic: ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie'”.

  1. Constantly undercutting the film’s deliberately overblown genre trappings with surprisingly naturalistic dialogue that explicitly questions those trappings? Check.

The film’s stellar supporting cast gets not nearly enough to do — so little that viewers are left to impute the nature of many of the relationships among them. (Nanjiani’s Jay is meant to have a crush on Jacobsen’s Nya, I think? Based on one line?) That’s the bad news, and given the talent on hand, that news … is pretty bad.

But what’s shunting all those very funny actors into the background is the relationship between Franco’s aching-for-connection Lloyd and Theroux’s blithely evil Garmadon. And Theroux — deliberately channeling, he has stated in interviews, Will Arnett — is so fantastic here you almost forgive Garmadon’s hogging of the spotlight. Almost.

Watching him — or, more accurately, listening to him — is when you truly begin to appreciate how much of the load these vocal performances are carrying, how totally the success of a given Lord/Miller LEGO movie lives or dies in the specific execution of that breezy, naturalistic humor.

Because here, just three movies in, the Lord/Miller LEGO genre is showing signs of exhaustion.

(20) NEANDERTHALS GET ANOTHER BOOST. “Did Robert J. Sawyer have a point?” Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link to the BBC’s article “Neanderthal brains ‘grew more slowly'”. The gist of the article is that slow-growing brains were associated with the ‘most advanced species’ (i.e., homo sapiens sapiens); discovery further knocks the idea that Neanderthals were brutes.

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child’s skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Love, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 7/31/17 I’ll Get You, My Pixel, And Your Little Scroll, Too

(1) FANDOM FEST AFTER ACTION REPORT. Randall and Anne Golden decided they’d go to Louisville’s Fandom Fest despite “Weird Al” Yankovic’s cancelling his appearance. They lowered their expectations and lived to tell the tale in a two-part conreport.

We finished our FandomFest experience and were out the door by 12:30. For the math-curious that’s four hours of two-way driving, one hour spent on the line to get in, forty minutes on ticket exchanges, and 110 minutes on actual conventioning. We’ve done worse for less.

By the end of the day at least a couple hundred more fans had packed into the Macy’s and begun turning into a bona fide crowd. Anne noted that today’s attendance was probably more people than the actual Macy’s had entertained in years. But it was never anywhere near 1700. For a show that once welcomed a five-digit annual attendance, that’s an alarming deceleration.

For a show in its twelfth year, with so many years of experience and resources (you’d think, anyway), that’s a drastic sign either of incompetence, evil, or intentional downsizing. We can’t speak for the innumerable fans still upset with their FandomFest fleecing and still crying out for retribution, but I wish more could be done for them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on Saturday my wife Anne and I attended FandomFest in Louisville, KY, the twelfth iteration of this entertainment/”comic” convention that’s quite low on comics, heavy on controversy, improper in its online customer service, saddled with a years-old negative image not really helped by the depressing role call of thirty-one canceled guests, and graded a solid F by the Better Business Bureau. But beyond the mountains of baggage, their volunteers were pretty friendly to us in person despite their upper management, and the fifteen actors in the house seemed like decent folks.

Publisher Tony Acree of Hydra Publications talked about the (literal) silver lining he found in the clouds surrounding the con — “Fandom Fest 2017 Day 1 Recap”. (Lots of cosplay photos in his Day 2 and Day 3 recaps.)

What hasn’t changed, is the number of high quality vendors who have been to Fandom year after year. Hydra Publications lucky to be in “Author Corner” along with Stephen Zimmer and Holly Phillippe of Seventh Star Press, the wonderful ladies of Per Bastet, along with Lydia Sherrer, Lacy Marie and my fellow Hydra authors, Arlan Andrew Sr., Dave Creek, Lynn Tincher and Stuart Thaman. Oh. And super editor Josiah Davis.

Despite all the negative news, we sold more books this year on Friday, than we did last year. To you, the fans, we say thank you.

 

Arlan Andrews Sr. and Dave Creek at the Hydra table

Jeff raises an interesting question – when quoted by the press, the co-organizer of Fandom Fest went by the name Myra Daniels.

Noah Bisson posted a video of his walkthrough of the con. Crowding was definitely not an issue.

(2) NO SHOW. Steve Davidson, in “What’s Happening with the TV Show?”, explains why you shouldn’t be looking for an Amazing Stories revival on NBC. For one thing, the check wasn’t in the mail.

I waited for a period of time to determine if I would receive something.  After months of waiting and still receiving nothing, a notice of Termination/Breach of Contract was sent to NBC legal, seeing as how pretty much everybody we had previously been working with was no longer with NBC.  It sure looked to us like Amazing Stories The TV Show had become an orphan:  no showrunner, prior contacts no longer with the company, no word, no checks.

The notice was properly delivered to NBC in May of this year.  Despite the fact that the orginal contract would have expired in August of this year, I had completely lost confidence in two things:  NBC’s ability to treat me properly AND NBC’s ability to deliver a show.

(3) HE SECONDS. Robert J. Sawyer has added himself to the list of people sponsoring the “Separate Fantasy and Science Fiction Hugo Best-Novel Awards Amendment” submitted by Chris Barkley and Vincent Docherty and discussed here last week.

(4) MOVING DAY FINALLY HERE FOR MACMILLAN.  After years of rumors, Macmillan Publishers is really going to bid farewell to the iconic Flatiron Building.

Macmillan Publishers is officially leaving the Flatiron Building, having signed up for 261,000 square feet at Silverstein Properties’ 120 Broadway.

The space will span five full floors, the New York Post reported. In April, sources told The Real Deal the publisher was weighing a move to the Lower Manhattan building, but the size of the space was not clear.

Asking rents at 120 Broadway are in the mid-$50s per square foot, according to the newspaper.

Macmillan is the Flatiron Building’s sole tenant. The property has not been totally empty since it was built more than a century ago. Sorgente Group of America, which owns a majority stake, may rent it out to new tenants or potentially go through with a plan to turn it into a hotel.

(5) SHAKEN UP. A Marvel Comics editor posted a selfie of herself and some coworkers enjoying milkshakes. For this innocuous act, she has been harassed on Twitter: “Female Marvel Comics editor harassed online for milkshake selfie”. (Warning: the harassment is extensively quoted in the article.)

Antos condemned the abuse the following day, writing that “the internet is an awful, horrible, and disgusting place.” She added, “Woke up today to a slew of more garbage tweets and DMs. For being a woman. In comics. Who posted a selfie of her friends getting milkshakes.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 31, 1971 — Astronauts David Scott and James Irwin became the first people to drive a vehicle on the Moon.
  • July 31, 1976 — NASA released the famous “Face on Mars” photo, taken by Viking 1.
  • July 31, 1999 — The ashes of astro-geologist Eugene Shoemaker were deposited on the Moon.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • July 31, 1965 – J.K. Rowling

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born July 31, 1980 – Harry Potter

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY KRYPTONIAN

  • Born July 31, 1966 – Dean Cain

(10) COMIC SECTION. Chip Hitchcock recommends today’s Rhymes With Orange.

(11) FILER ALERT. Greg Machlin extends an invite to all Filers in Helsinki for his very first Worldcon panel as a panelist —

Science Fiction & Fantasy in Musical Theatre

Thursday 16:00 – 17:00, 103 (Messukeskus)

Wicked, Into the Woods, Rocky Horror, Little Shop of Horrors – fantasy and science fiction have long been represented in the musical theatre. The panelists discuss their favorites and also perhaps some not-so successful SF musicals.

Emily January, Sari Polvinen (M), Ada Palmer, Greg Machlin, Sami Mustala howeird

Also on the panel: Ada Palmer (Too Like The Lightning).

Machlin adds: As someone who’s written and had produced a fair amount of sci-fi/fantasy theatre (Keith Haring: Pieces of a Life in L.A. in 2014; the one-act “Sushi” all over the place), this is my jam. I may, if the other panelists are patient, present a song from an actual sci-fi musical I wrote the book and lyrics for, The Great Swiss Cheese Conspiracy Theory.

(12) MARLOWE MAKES FINALS. Congratulations to Francis Hamit who is a finalist in the London 2017, New Renaissance Screenwriting Competition. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony, on August 20.

Christopher Marlowe

Feature Screenplay • Drama, Thriller, War, History, Biography

Francis Hamit 

COUNTRY  U S A

The poet, playwright and spy lives in two worlds at a time when politics was religion and vice-versa. He is a brilliant playwright and an effective spy but his intemperate ways and desire for power as well as fame combined with a free thinking pose of atheism eventually lead to his death at the hands of his fellow agents at the order of Queen Elizabeth herself. Timeline is from 1585-1593 and includes real events such as the Babington Plot, The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the sailing of the Spanish Armada. Characters based upon real personalities of the time, and extensive research.

(13) LET DARKNESS FALL. The Planetary Post, hosted by Robert Picardo, is devoted to the Total Solar Eclipse coming on August 21.

In this month’s episode, we explore all things eclipse, including a special visit to NASA JPL to see a spacecraft that can create artificial eclipses!

…The Total Solar Eclipse on August 21st is coming up! We’re getting ready with the U.S. National Parks Service and a new Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer activity book. Also, Starshade is new technology being studied by a team at JPL/NASA and Picardo has the inside scoop.

 

(14) ON BOARD. The Borg site is impressed with this tie-in edition of the classic game: “Monopoly–Planet of the Apes means a tie-in madhouse for Hasbro”.

For its next franchise tie-in, Hasbro has partnered with 20th Century Fox Consumer Products to release this summer’s strangest mash-up game: Monopoly: Planet of the Apes Retro Art EditionIt’s not just your typical Monopoly tie-in with a popular franchise.

For Monopoly: Planet of the Apes Retro Art Edition, Hasbro tapped artist Dan Perillo to give the game a design it might have had, had it been released when the movie premiered in 1968.  Perillo is known for his retro style.  One of his works was featured in last year’s Star Trek: 50 Years/50 Artists project (reviewed here at borg.com), and he’s produced some stunning work for Mondo.  Perillo’s work for the new Monopoly game should appeal to Planet of the Apes fans, but it’s also a dose of silly fun that will appeal to fans of all things retro.

The standard game is altered–slightly.  Instead of paying an Income Tax, in the new edition you get strung up on a spit by your hands and feet and led off.  Instead of the joy of landing on Boardwalk you get to discover the ruins of the Statue of Liberty.  And that’s Taylor’s marooned space capsule instead of the valuable Short Line railroad.  Perillo created six character tokens to choose from: Taylor, Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, Nova, or a gorilla general (it looks like you could play the gorilla as either General Ursus from Beneath of the Planet of the Apes, Chief of Security Urko from the TV series, or General Aldo from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes).  As with all Monopoly editions, the four corners of the gameboard never change.

(15) NEVERTHELESS, HBO PERSISTED. The Wrap, in “HBO Responds to #NoConfederate: Slavery Drama Will Be Handled ‘With Care and Sensitivity’”, says that the hashtag #NoConfederate was the #1 hashtag last weekend. Despite the protests HBO replied they are going to develop this series.

A campaign protesting the planned HBO series “Confederate” flooded social media Sunday night, with viewers tweeting #NoConfederate in massive numbers during “Game of Thrones,” propelling the hashtag to Twitter’s No. 1 trending spot in the U.S. and No. 2 worldwide.

“We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around ‘Confederate,’” HBO responded in a statement. “We have faith that [writers] Nichelle, Dan, David and Malcolm will approach the subject with care and sensitivity. The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see.”

“Confederate” tells an alternate version of history in where the South has seceded from the Union… and slavery has remained legal and continued into the modern era.

(16) WHITE HOUSE BEAT. Camestros Felapton has a scoop: “Breaking news: Talking cat named Whitehouse Communications Director”.

Followed by another scoop: “Breakin News: Timothy the Talking Cat Fired as Whitehouse Communications Director”.

Both stories are dated August 1. How is anybody supposed to compete with someone who gets tomorrow’s cat news today?

(17) THRONE QUESTIONS. Did Camestros and Melisandre graduate from the same J-school? …Vulture has burning questions after “The Queen’s Justice,” the latest episode of “Game of Thrones”:

  • Did Varys get a tan on Dragonstone?
  • Does Melisandre know how Varys will die?
  • Will it all come down to two women battling for the Iron Throne?
  • Will Theon ever redeem himself?
  • What fate awaits Yara?
  • Which city is a worse place to live: Gotham or King’s Landing?
  • Will Cersei really marry Euron? And is Euron actually the best thing to ever happen to Jaime?
  • How has Cersei not yet grown out that pixie cut?
  • Why is Littlefinger quoting True Detective to Sansa?
  • We know, Baelish, time is a flat circle. #hbocrossover
  • When will Jon find out about his parentage?
  • Will Jorah and Sam forge the alliance between Jon and Dany?
  • Was that seriously all we get to see of Casterly Rock?

(18) CULTURE WARRIORS. At Nerdist, “Darth Vader and Captain Picard Face Off for a Sci-Fi Debate”. Click through to see the debate between two toys.

When you have toys, all things are possible, including a dream crossover between Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation! In the new episode of Toy Shelf, we finally get to see what happens when Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise encounters the Dark Lord of the Sith: Darth Vader!

Keep in mind that these are toys that know they are toys. And Vader catches Picard as he goes for more of a cowboy diplomacy by swinging a lightsaber around. It’s pretty much the laser sword of Picard’s dreams, and if Vader was looking to tempt the Captain to the Dark Side of the Force, then he would have a pretty good head start.

(19) RARITY. Ashley Hoffman of TIME, in “A Super Rare Copy of Super Mario Bros. Just Sold for $30,000 on eBay”, says that a copy of “Super Mario Bros. that has been sealed since its release in 1985 and never opened just sold for $30,100 on eBay

To outsiders, that may seem like a high cost to become the proud owner of a game, but they might not appreciate the most exciting feature, which distinguishes this Nintendo Entertainment System game from all those unwrapped $10 versions: a hangtag on the back that indicates the copy originates from back when video games hung on pegs in stores.

“They said the reason that game went for so much was because Mario was always sold in the system,” CEO Drew Steimel told Mashable quoting the experts of Reddit. “You bought it with the system, it came in the box. This particular copy was from before that happened, before Nintendo decided to bundle them. They only did it for a short time.”

You read that right. No box for this game, hence its final price.

(20) BOTTLED LIGHTNING. I would have answered yes if the question had been, “Should I use this to launch a torpedo?”

(21) HARD SCIENCE FICTION. The 1910 Thomas Edison production A Trip To Mars begins with “The Discovery of Reverse Gravity.”

[Thanks to rcade, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Greg Machlin, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

2017 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award

Seabury Quinn is  the winner of the 2017 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, announced at Readercon on July 14.

The juried award goes each year to a science fiction or fantasy writer whose work displays unusual originality, embodies the spirit of Cordwainer Smith’s fiction, and deserves renewed attention or “Rediscovery.” The award judges are Elizabeth Hand, Barry Malzberg, Mike Resnick, and Robert J. Sawyer.

Seabury Grandin Quinn (1889–1969) is best known for his stories of the occult detective Jules de Grandin, published in Weird Tales. The Wikipedia entry says about Quinn’s most famous creation:

Jules de Grandin is a fictional occult detective created by Seabury Quinn for Weird Tales. Assisted by Dr. Trowbridge (serving the same narrative purpose as Dr. Watson), de Grandin fought ghosts, werewolves, and satanists in over ninety stories, and one novel, between 1925 and 1951. Jules de Grandin and Dr. Trowbridge lived in Harrisonville, New Jersey. De Grandin was a French physician and expert on the occult and a former member of the French Sûreté who resembled a more physically dynamic blond, blue-eyed Hercule Poirot. Often, the supernatural entities in the mysteries are revealed not to be supernatural at all but the actions of insane, evil and depraved human beings.

Quinn’s first published story, “The Stone Image,” appeared in the May 1, 1919 issue of The Thrill Book and marked the first appearance of a character named “Dr. Towbridge,” who with a slight name change became de Grandin’s sidekick later on.

Quinn’s work appeared in 165 of the 279 issues in Weird Tales’ original run, making him the magazine’s most prolific contributor.

Robert J. Sawyer: Calling Us To the Future

By Carl Slaughter: Robert J. Sawyer talks science premises, scientific method, philosophy of human existence, and the themes and messages in his stories.

CARL SLAUGHTER: You said of your latest novel, Quantum Night, that the theme is, “The most pernicious lie humanity has ever told itself is that you can’t change human nature.” You list 50 books you consulted for Quantum Night. Why is this so important?

ROBERT J. SAWYER: It’s important to recognize that this canard that you can’t change human nature is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card; if you accept it, you can forever be racist, sexist, transphobic, jingoistic, militaristic, religious, and so on, then say, well, it’s always been that way so it always must be that way. And that is pernicious. Even when invoked on a small scale, when we forgive someone for being “tone deaf” rather than recognizing that they’re a dyed-in-the-wool racist or misogynist, or whatever, is to excuse the behavior as being an acceptable, normal gaffe rather than something that we rightly demand should be changed, and can be changed.

When I teach science-fiction writing, I tell my students that one of the standard story-generating engines for the genre is to take something we normally only think of as metaphoric and treat it as literal — from H.G. Wells’s making concrete the fantasy of knowing what the future holds, to Robert Charles Wilson’s recent The Affinities, which turns the online notion of “social networking” into a real-life paradigm. And so, in that same vein, Quantum Night is quite literally about changing human nature.

If we don’t change — if we don’t find better ways of conflict resolution, if we don’t move from zero-sum thinking to win-win thinking, if we don’t discard and abjure our millennia-old prejudices — then we as a species are headed for disaster.

As for the bibliography, it’s proven to be extremely popular. I’ve had short ones at the end of a couple of my previous novels — my Hugo Award-winner Hominids and my John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winner Mindscan — but this is by far the most elaborate one I’ve ever provided. Quantum Night is, among other things, a serious attempt to make sense of human consciousness — I was thrilled when Stuart Hameroff invited me to give a talk about the book in 2013 at the famed Tucson “Science of Consciousness” conference. I allude in the novel’s text to the work of many experts in many areas — psychology, neuroscience, quantum physics, philosophy — but didn’t want to bog down the narrative with excessive exposition. The annotated bibliography is there for those who want to go deeper into the underpinnings of the novel.

CS: I was intrigued with the story Far-Seer as well as its cast of characters, both rational and irrational. What lessons does Far-Seer offer society?

RJS: In 1999, I give a talk at the Library of Congress entitled “Is There a Place for Science Fiction in the Twenty-First Century?” Far-Seer — as well as its sequels, and my 2001 Hugo-nominee Calculating God — are exemplars of the point I made in that talk, so I’ll just quote the conclusion of it:

Does science fiction have a role in the 21st century? Absolutely. If we can help shape the Zeitgeist, help inculcate the belief that rational thought, that discarding superstition, that subjecting all beliefs to the test of the scientific method, is the most reasonable approach to any question, then not only will science fiction have a key role to play in the intellectual development of the new century, but it will also, finally and at last, help humanity shuck off the last vestiges of the supernatural, the irrational, the spurious, the fake, and allow us to embrace, to quote poet Archibald Lampman, “the wide awe and wonder of the night” but with our eyes wide open and our minds fully engaged. Then, finally, some 40,000 years after consciousness first flickered into being on this world, we will at last truly deserve that name we bestowed upon ourselves: Homo sapiens — Man of Wisdom.

CS: Are there any parallels between Far-Seer and the Trump era?

RJS: That’s an interesting question. Far-Seer came out in 1992, and its sequels Fossil Hunter and Foreigner came out in 1993 and 1994. It’s been observed that there were three great blows to the human ego. First, the Copernican/Galilean revolution — ironically named, if you think about it — that says we aren’t at the center of the universe; we revolve around the sun. Second, the Darwinian revolution, which punctuated thousands of years of our equilibrium, so to speak, by showing that we weren’t divinely created in God’s image, but rather were the results of mindless evolution; and the Freudian insight, which demonstrated that we don’t even really have conscious volition but rather are driven by unconscious forces and the impacts of our early experiences.

But, you know, all of those were academic victories for us. It might be irritating to try to argue with a young-Earth creationist, but what he or she believes — and, for that matter, what we believe — doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect how either of us do our jobs, treat our families, or, indeed, our ultimate fate.

But for that trilogy — which I’ve just reissued as ebooks and is collectively called the Quintaglio Ascension — I wanted to tell parallel stories of the three great ego blows on an alien world, but have it be desperately important that the aliens learn these truths. They face an existential threat — doomsday — unless they come to grips with, in turn, the facts of cosmology, evolution, and their own psychology.

When I wrote the books, we weren’t really conscious of the existential threat our species is facing, but now, in the current era — and this existed before Trump, but has gotten substantially worse since he was elected — acknowledging radical climate change is crucial; the science deniers, if they continue to have political clout, will result in doomsday for us, too. So, yeah, to answer your question: this trilogy is 100% relevant right now, as its core message — accepting reality; embracing science; thinking rationally not emotionally — is the only thing that will save this planet.

Robert J. Sawyer in 2009.

CS: Here’s a report about how Canadian scientists fought the good fight and won. Being a Canadian science fiction writer, can you tell us if this report is accurate and if it offers hope to the American science community and its supporters?

RJS: The report is absolutely accurate. Canada is very much better off than the US right now in terms of government support for intellectualism, art, and science but it was only a short time ago that the reverse was true. To quote from Quantum Night:

“Actually, until recently, Canada had had a much more conservative leader than the United States did. When Stephen Harper came to office in 2006, George W. Bush had been in the White House and, to liberal Canadian sensibilities — the kind found on university campuses — he seemed the lesser of two evils. But once Barack Obama was elected, Canada had by far the more right-wing leader. Harper managed to hold on to power for almost a decade, but Canada was now ruled by the left-leaning Liberal Party….”

So, how did we get out of the anti-science mess that was the horrific Harper regime? We voted him out of office. Trump has already started his bid for re-election; let’s hope you have palatable alternatives — on the left and the right — in your next election.

CS: How do the cognitive sciences define a mind? How do you prove a mind exists? If a mind is an object, what is its location, appearance, and molecular structure?

RJS: The only mind you can prove exists is your own, as Descartes so handily showed: cogito ergo sum; I think therefore I am. As to whether others have minds or just appear to do so, that’s the whole notion behind Australian philosopher David Chalmers’s “philosopher’s zombie” thought experiment, which I expand upon at length in Quantum Night. Dave, who introduced me when I gave a keynote address at the Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference in Tucson in 2010 — the first of two times I’ve spoken there — reviewed my novel in manuscript for me.

The mind is an emergent phenomenon of the brain, not an object. You can no more point to its location, describe its appearance, and define its molecular structure than you can do that for any of the things mind produces, such as patriotism, which is love of the things a nation stands for. It would be as wrong to point to the borders of Canada or the United States and say “patriotism is these neurotransmitter molecules or synaptic webs in relation to all atoms circumscribed by this border.” Mind is emergent; patriotism is a feeling created by mind in response to a concept — a nation’s principles — that only exists within minds.

CS: OK, now what’s the connection between consciousness and mind?

RJS: Consciousness, as I mostly use the term, refers to self-awareness and self-reflection. HAL 9000 claimed to be conscious; maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. But in both science fiction and computer science we definitely used to conflate the notions of “artificial intelligence” and “artificial consciousness” into one thing. That’s wrong.

We’ve got some great AIs now — Deep Blue and Watson, or even Siri and Cortana — but none of them have any consciousness. They may look like they pass the Turing test in some narrow ways, but they’re only Turing machines, and that’s a key distinction: a Turing machine is an idealized, bare-bones computer that can only perform three basic operations, but can simulate any algorithm, no matter how complex; everything Deep Blue, Watson, Siri, or Cortana does can be reproduced on a Turing machine; they just do it very fast. But as mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose, who wrote the 1989 book The Emperor’s New Mind — and who I got to spend time with last year in Tenerife — would argue, self-reflection can’t be simulated on a Turing machine. In other words, we have fast calculators now; we don’t having self-aware devices. To put it in old sciffy jargon, we’ve got electronic brains, sure, but not a single electronic mind.

Not all brains are conscious, but any entity that passes the cogito — that can say only to itself and understand what it has said — that “I think therefore I am” is conscious. The conceit in Quantum Night is that four-sevenths of the human race can’t pass the cogito and therefore are not conscious. The lights are on, but nobody’s home.

CS: How exactly can a consciousness theoretically be transferred or downloaded?

RJS: My friend Andrew Porter used to publish the wonderful Science Fiction Chronicle, and many years ago he won a charity auction to be Tuckerized in one of my novels (where I described him affectionately thus: “Andrew Porter was a tall bear of a man, sixty or so, slightly stooped from dealing with a world populated by shorter people. He had squinty eyes, a beard, and hair combed straight back from a high forehead. His kindly face was home to eyebrows that seemed constantly in motion, as if they were working out, in training for the body-hair Olympics.€).

In my 2007 novel Mindscan, Andy plays the part of a scientist who does precisely what you’ve asked about — transferring consciousness to artificial bodies — so I’ll let him answer for me:

“Consider it like this: I don’t know anything about music. When I was in school, they thought I’d be a menace to every hearing person if they gave me a musical instrument to play, so I was assigned to the vocal class, along with all the other tone-deaf people. So, I know nothing at all about what makes Beethoven’s Fifth a great piece of music. But as an engineer, if you brought me a CD recording of it, and asked me to copy it onto a MemWafer, no problem — I could do that. I don’t look for the ‘musical’ stuff on the CD; I don’t look for the ‘genius’ on the CD. I just copy everything to the new medium. And that’s exactly what we do when we’re transferring consciousness.”

CS: Have you read much literature about the subcognitive – dreams, premonitions, discernment, instinct? People often claim to know things, even though they don’t know how they know, even though they have no scientific proof, and are often vindicated by experience. How do you explain this aspect of human existence?

RJS: I don’t explain it; I reject it. People claiming things is not evidence, and the plural of anecdote is not data. None of that has been replicated under controlled conditions. I’m a rationalist, an empiricist, and a skeptic — in other words, a science-fiction fan.

CS: What’s on the horizon for Robert J. Sawyer?

RJS: My longtime friend (and fellow judge for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award) Barry Malzberg has just retired from doing the science-fiction column for the bimonthly Galaxy’s Edge magazine and editor Mike Resnick has tapped me to take over. My first column will appear in the July-August 2017 edition.

Beyond that, I have a development deal with a major Canadian broadcaster for an original science-fiction TV series, and am having a blast working on that.

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Michelle Pincus.

Pixel Scroll 4/12/17 Blah, Blah, Blah, Pixels, Blah, Blah, Scroll

(1) FOR THE RECORD. Odyssey Con co-chair Alex Merrill published an official response to the departure of GoH Monica Valentinelli yesterday – filling the void left by Richard S. Russell’s retracted statement with something more socially acceptable.

We, the Convention Committee of Odyssey Con, deeply regret losing Monica as a Guest of Honor, especially in the way the last twenty-four hours have unfolded. Odyssey Con strives to be a warm and welcoming place for all people to express themselves and engage in fandoms. We took a long and hard look at the issue of having Jim Frenkel continue to be a member of our convention committee when he was banned from WisCon in 2012. Our position at that time was to look at our policy on harassment and ensure that any situation that may take place at our convention would be dealt with professionally. We now have an ombudsman, anonymous reporting procedures, and a very detailed policy. There have been no complaints filed against Mr. Frenkel from attendees of Odyssey Con. However, in light of Monica’s email, the following changes have been made: Mr. Frenkel is no longer a member of our ConCom in any capacity, he has no position of authority in the convention proper, and he is not a panelist or lecturer. He has the right to purchase a badge and attend the convention, but as of this writing, I do not know if he is planning to do that.

I personally wish to apologize for the mishandling of our response to Monica’s concerns. It has never been our intent to minimize any guest’s complaints. Odyssey Con is an all volunteer organization staffed by people who have many strengths, but not all of us are great communicators.

I have already reached out to Monica to personally apologize for the email response she received from one of our ConCom members and for the subsequent posting of email chains publicly. This exchange was not an example of Odyssey Con as a whole, which is run by fans, for fans. I hope to have a continued dialogue with you all.

However, the first comment left on the post identified a number of questions that remained unanswered by the statement.

And after K. Tempest Bradford looked over the new response, she shared her reaction in the comments of her blog.

…No matter how much the Internet is mad at your organization, that does not excuse any implication that the person reporting feeling unsafe because a harasser is involved in running the con is at fault here. That’s immature. That’s not professional. That’s yet another indication that guests would not have been treated professionally by OddCon as an organization.

Also an indication that attendees will not be treated in a professional manner.

And being a volunteer run con is not an excuse for that. Yeah, you’re all volunteers, but you’re running an event. People attending said event as fans or guests have the right to expect a certain level of safety and respectful treatment from those running the event. That was not what happened. Now they’re sorry. Yet I still do not see that behavior addressed in a meaningful way in this Sorry….

(2) MARVEL FIRES SYAF. Marvel pencil artist Ardian Syaf, who inserted anti-Semitic and anti-Christian political references into his work on X-Men Gold has now been officially terminated.

Over the weekend, Marvel released a statement that it had been unaware of the references, and they would remove the artwork from all upcoming versions of the issue.

The company’s follow-up statement, quoted in Paste Magazine, says:

Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. X-Men: Gold #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly.

Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to X-Men: Gold in the coming weeks.

Syaf wrote on his Facebook page:

Hello, Worlds…

My career is over now.

It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it.

Please no more mockery, debat, no more hate. I hope all in peace.

In this last chance, I want to tell you the true meaning of the numbers, 212 and QS 5:51. It is number of JUSTICE. It is number of LOVE. My love to Holy Qur’an…my love to the last prophet, the Messenger…my love to ALLAH, The One God.

My apologize for all the noise. Good bye, May God bless you all. I love all of you.

Ardian Syaf

However, Coconuts warns that statement should not be confused with Syaf actually regretting his actions.

…In an interview about the controversy with local newspaper Jawa Pos published today, Ardian explained why he thought that Marvel could not accept his explanation for including the references.

’But Marvel is owned by Disney. When Jews are offended, there is no mercy,” he was quoted as saying.

After making the anti-Semitic remark, Ardian reiterated to the interviewer that he was not anti-Semitic or anti-Christian because, if he was, he wouldn’t have worked for a foreign publisher.

(3) WHITE AWARD DELAYED. The British Science Fiction Association has postponed the date for revealing the winner of the James White Award:

With apologies to those who have entered this year’s competition, we are sorry to announce that the announcement of this year’s James White Award winner has been delayed.

The longlist will announced shortly after Easter and the shortlist shortly after that. We are working to complete the judging as quickly as possible.

We intend to announce the winner by Friday, 19 May at the latest.

(4) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo has unveiled The SFWA Science Fiction Storybundle.

The SFWA Science Fiction Bundle is a very special collection full of great sci-fi books that benefit a great cause! If you’re unfamiliar with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it’s over 50 years old, and has a membership of professional writers and publishing professionals from around the globe. It administers the Nebula Awards each year. This bundle is filled with talented SFWA members and their wonderful works, such as Tech Heaven by Locus-award-winning Linda Nagata and Factoring Humanity by Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Award winning Robert J. Sawyer, plus 10 more tremendous reads. You can easily choose to donate part of your purchase to the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America to support these fantastic authors. Don’t forget to click here to read much more about the bundle, and make sure to click on each cover for reviews, a preview and a personal note from our curator!

It has another 22 days to run.

(5) DISTRACTIONS. With so much happening in 1962, Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf finds it hard to concentrate on her reading — “[April 12, 1962] Don’t Bug Me (May 1962 Fantastic).

Maybe it’s because it’s almost time to mail in those tax forms to Uncle Sam, or maybe it’s because of the tension between President Kennedy and the steel companies, or maybe it’s because Jack Parr left his television series (which will now be known by the boring, generic title The Tonight Show), or maybe it’s because the constant radio play of the smash hit Johnny Angel by actress Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show is driving me out of my mind, or maybe it’s because of George Schelling’s B movie cover art for the May 1962 issue of Fantastic; but for whatever reason your faithful correspondent approached the contents of the magazine with a leery eye….

(6) TIPTREE. There will be a Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41 on Saturday, May 27.

Can’t get enough Tiptree fun on Facebook? Are you curious about Tiptree auctions? Fan of Sumana Harihareswara? Want to support science fiction that explores and expands gender? Want to roar with laughter? There are dozens of possible reasons to go to the Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41.

(7) APEX REPRINTS EDITOR. Apex Magazine is bringing aboard Maurice Broaddus as reprints editor. The magazine publishes one reprint in each issue, and he will be responsible for finding those reprints beginning with issue 98, July 2017.

Maurice Broaddus and Apex Publications have a long history together going back 10 years. He has been published in several of our anthologies, including most recently in Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Monica Vallentinelli and Jaym Gates. He has also had several books published through Apex, including Orgy of Souls (co-written by Wrath James White), I Can Transform You, and the anthologies Dark Faith and Dark Faith: Invocations which he co-edited with Jerry Gordon. Most recently, Maurice Broaddus guest edited an issue of Apex Magazine—issue 95 (http://www.apex-magazine.com/issue-95-april-2017/) , which included original fiction by Walter Mosley, Chesya Burke, Sheree Renee Thomas, and Kendra Fortmeyer, poetry by Linda D. Addison and LH Moore, and nonfiction by Tanya C. DePass.

(8) NEW COLUMNIST. Galaxy’s Edge magazine has a new columnist, Robert J. Sawyer. He’ll replace Barry N. Malzberg starting with issue 27.

Robert J. Sawyer, author of the bestselling novel Quantum Night, has agreed to write a regular column for Galaxy’s Edge magazine. Robert is currently one of the foremost science fiction authors in the field and one of Canada’s top writers. He was admitted into The Order of Canada (one of the country’s highest civilian honors) in 2016. His novels have won more awards than any other person in the history of the genre (as per the Locus index for science fiction awards) from countries around the world.

(9) SINISALO. At Europa SF, Cristin Tamas conducts a lengthy interview with 2017 Worldcon GoH Johanna Sinisalo.

Cristian Tamas : Johanna Sinisalo seems to have emerged, along with Leena Krohn and Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, as a central figure in the ‘‘Finnish Weird’’, which like many such movements may be a coincidence, a plot, or even, as Sinisalo herself said in her introduction to last year’s Finnish Weird anthology, simply a ‘‘brand.’’ In any case, it seems to carry with it a celebratory feeling of having just rediscovered the possibilities of nonrealistic fiction, even as some of its major works come with pretty grim premises.” – Gary K.Wolfe ; Please comment !

Johanna Sinisalo : Finnish Weird is basically a term invented for commercial uses, based on the fact that most of the Finnish Weird writers do not want to be pigeonholed as fantasy or sf or horror writers. Words like “nonrealistic” or “speculative fiction” are relatively strange to the wider audiences, so we came up with this kind of definition that could perhaps be compared to the commercial term “Nordic Noir”. Analogically, the Scandinavian crime writers have not “rediscovered the possibilities of crime fiction”, but the term Nordic Noir tells the reader that those books are a part of a certain literary tradition (and in many cases it is also considered as a sign of high quality).

Cristian Tamas : Isn’it weird that the oldest (beginning of the 13th century) known document in any Finnic language, the Birch Bark Letter no.292 is written in Cyrillic alphabet in the Karelian dialect of the archaic Finnish (or Finnic language) and it was found in 1957 by a Soviet expedition led by Artemiy Artsikhovsky in the Nerevsky excavation on the left coast side of Novgorod, Russia ? Is this an avant-la-lettre sample of Finnish Weird ?

Johanna Sinisalo: It is an interesting document. As far as I know the only words in that letter that the scholars totally agree upon are “God” and “arrow”, and the most popular theory is that the the text is a spell or prayer protecting from lightnings, saying “Jumaliennuoli on nimezhi”, roughly ”You are / will be called as the Arrow of Gods”. Perhaps it forecasts that we Finnish Weird writers are lightnings of the literary gods?

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Bookmobile Day

Bookmobile Day is an opportunity to celebrate one of the many services offered through public libraries. Originating in the nineteenth century, the earliest bookmobiles were horse-drawn wagons filled with boxes of books. In the 1920s, Sarah Byrd Askew, a New Jersey librarian, thought reading and literacy so important that she delivered books to rural readers in her own Ford Model T. And today, Kenya still uses camels to deliver materials to fans of reading in rural areas.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 12, 1981 — Space shuttle Columbia first launched.

(12) COMIC SECTION. A horrible pun and a funny gag – John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Brevity.

(13) HATERS. John Scalzi, the midst of his annual Reader Request Week, takes up the subject of “Haters and How I Deal With Them”. This section of his post is from a list of “things I know about haters, and how they relate to me.”

Fourth, I’ve come to realize that some people are using hating me primarily as a transactional enterprise; they see some personal business advantage to holding me up as someone to be hated, and doing so allows them to, say, peddle to the gullible and strident wares that they might not otherwise be able to profitably market. To this respect the hating isn’t actually about me — if I didn’t exist, they’d just pick someone else who suited their needs. That being the case, why get worked up about it? Especially if it’s not having any noticeable effect on my own personal or professional fortunes.

(14) MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH. Quite coincidentally, Vox Day put up a post titled “This is what ‘Zero Fucks’ looks like” that’s all about….would you like to guess?

(15) LIBRARIANS LIKE IT. Library Journal gives its take on the 2017 Hugo ballot in “Quality and Diversity”

After a contentious two years owing to the Sad/Rapid Puppies dispute, last week’s announcement of the 2017 Hugo Award nominees was received with acclaim. Library Journal sf columnist Megan McArdle, noting that the puppies appeared to have lost their fangs, was thrilled by the lists. “The fact that so many women are represented (and trans women! and women of color!), just shows that diversity is actually valued by the majority of SFF fans, which is great to see after so much drama in past years.” She was also excited to see a couple of her favorites—Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky and Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit—make the list.

Co-columnist Kristi Chadwick was equally excited by the nominations, which are voted on by attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and paying members of the World Science Fiction Society. “I am a big squeeing girlfan of Seanan McGuire, and I think Every Heart a Doorway has given fantastical tropes a way to bend sideways. Then I see N.K. Jesmin, Charlie Jane Anders, and [Lois McMaster] Bujold? Amazing stories that never cross our desks? The editors, movies and everything else that makes this genre amazing? I am so thrilled with the wealth of knowledge and imagination available to readers today.”

(16) A VISIT TO DYSTOPIA. Nerds of a Feather continues its series on Dystopian Visions. Here are excerpts from two of the major critical essays. And the link will also lead you to innumerable posts about individual books and films with dystopian themes.

What marked Utopia out from these fantasies of plenty was that it could be reached, and reached in two ways. Reached physically: there was a long, arduous but supposedly practicable journey that could get you from here to there. It was a journey beyond the abilities and wishes of most people, but the idea was established that perfection did not exist only in dreams or upon death, but here in the everyday world we all inhabited. And it could be reached structurally: this perfection was not the province of god or of fairies or some supernatural inversion of the natural world, this perfection was achieved by rational men. If a safe, secure, happy existence could be achieved by sensible human organisation in Utopia, then sensible, rational men could achieve the same here.

No, I don’t think science fiction’s exploration of dystopian presents and futures has been instrumental in bringing on twenty-first century dystopia, but the genre as a whole does bear some small responsibility for our comfort with what we should be deeply uncomfortable with…

Three science fiction novels spring to mind as examples, published in 2011, 2013 and 2014. One was by a highly-regarded genre writer, who has spent the last twenty years writing fiction not actually published as science fiction. Another was written by a successful British author of space operas. The earliest of the three is also a space opera, the first in a series of, to date, six novels, which was adapted for television in 2014.

…The three books are: The Peripheral by William Gibson, published in 2014, Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, published in 2011, and Marauder by Gary Gibson, published in 2013.

Since its beginnings, science fiction has exhibited a blithe disregard for the characters who people its stories, outside those of the central cast of heroes, anti-heroes, villains, love interests, etc. Frank Herbert’s Dune from 1965, for instance, describes how Paul Muad’Dib launches a jihad across the galaxy which kills billions. EE ‘Doc’ Smith’s Second Stage Lensman, originally serialised in 1941, opens with a space battle between a fleet of over one million giant warships and an equal number of “mobile planets”… Manipulating scale to evoke sense of wonder is one thing, but the lack of affect with which science fiction stories and novels massacre vast numbers of people, for whatever narrative reason, is more astonishing.

(17) DO YOU? I had to answer “No.”

(18) EXOTIC GAME. Review of Simon Stålenhags RPG Tales from The Loop at Geek & Sundry — “Tales from the Loop Invites You to Roleplay in the ‘80s That Never Was”.

Tales from the Loop takes place in a retro-futuristic version of the 80’s where Cold War Era science brought us hover-vehicles, robots, and other advancements that pepper this light sci-fi landscape. It’s an idyllic time. Kids are free to roam after dark. The same children who have grown up around robots and Magnetrine Vehicles geek out over Dungeons & Dragons and Atari systems. There are problems, but the future is hopeful.

If this whole setting sounds like a sci-fi version of Stranger Things you wouldn’t be far off. If that’s what it takes to get you to crack into this portal into a future past then by all means: it’s a sci-fi version of Stranger Things. But in reality it captures more of the feeling of E.T. or The Goonies. Mike, Dustin, and Lucas were able to get help from Joyce and Sheriff Hopper. In Tales from the Loop the focus is squarely on the trials, challenges, and successes of the kids. One of the 6 Principles of the game right in the book is that “Adults Are Out of Reach and Out of Touch”, and if your character ever turns 16 years old, they age out of the campaign

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Marc Criley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W, who will be awarded a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the basic Scroll title DNA.]

Robert J. Sawyer Wins 2017 Heinlein Award

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Christina Frost.

Canadian hard sf writer Robert J. Sawyer has won the 2017 Robert A. Heinlein Award, given annually to an author of outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space.

Sawyer’s most-recent book is Quantum Night, from Ace, his 23rd novel. Sawyer was an initial inductee into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

The Robert A. Heinlein Award is managed and sponsored by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. The award selection committee is chaired by Michael F. Flynn and is composed of science fiction writers..

The Robert A. Heinlein Award is a sterling silver medallion bearing Heinlein’s image as depicted by artist Arlin Robbins. A grant from the Heinlein Society funds half the costs associated with the award.

The list of past winners of the Robert A. Heinlein Award can be found here.