Pixel Scroll 11/17/16 The Pixel Opened A Blue Scroll And Winked At Him

(1) COZY HORROR? In the November 12 Financial Times, columnist Nilanjana Roy explains why she likes “Black Mirror” — “’Black Mirror’ and ghost stories of a digital dystopia”. (* Article is behind a paywall, but you can get to it by Googling the name of the columnist.)

Black Mirror starts by riffing on the modern fear of living in a digital, immersive world.  It’s ironic that fans will watch episodes where a young boy is surveilled through his webcam by unrevealed stalkers, with inevitable grim results, then take to their smartphones or Twitter to declare that they want to get away from their phones and get offline.

But, huddled in a razai quilt with the air purifier on full blast, with a cup of ginger tea by my side, I realize I don’t watch Black Mirror to have my worst fears confirmed.  I watch it to be reassured.”

(2) THE FANNISH INQUISITION. Smofcon 34 has asked existing and prospective Worldcon and NASFiC bidders to complete a questionnaire – some responses are already available online.

Seated

Bidding

Smofcon

(3) THE BOUNDARIES OF EMPATHY. Ann Leckie says there was really nothing special about Nazis — “On Monsters”.

Here’s the thing–the Nazis? Those concentration camp guards, the people who dug and filled in mass graves, led prisoners to gas chambers, all of that? They were not inhuman monsters. They were human beings, and they weren’t most of them that different from anyone you might meet on your morning walk, or in the grocery store.

I know it’s really super uncomfortable to look around you and realize that–that your neighbors, or even you, yourself, might, given circumstances, commit such atrocities. Your mind flinches from it, you don’t want to even think about it. It can’t be. You know that you’re a good person! Your neighbors and co-workers are so nice and polite and decent. You can’t even imagine it, so there must have been something special, something particularly different about the people who enthusiastically embraced Hitler.

I’m here to tell you there wasn’t.

(4) QUESTIONING AND COMMON GROUND. Cat Rambo inserts a page from Maslow in her response to recent events, and shares her plan for moving forward: “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Stay the Course”

One of the phenomena that led to the weirdness of the recent election is the use of binary thought, a basic Us vs. Them that does not allow for the fact that human beings are significantly more complicated than a single yes/no statement. I see it being embraced even more strongly now – by both the Left and the Right.

The world is more complicated than that. To fall into that trap is to let yourself be controlled by whoever wields the media around you the most effectively. You must think, you must question. You must figure out where your common ground is and how to use it. This is not the time to be silent. This is a time when how you live and act and speak is more important than it ever has been.

So. Here’s what I’m doing.

  • I’m listening to the voices that haven’t been listened to and amplifying their message wherever I can. Recommending a wide and interesting range of works for the SFWA Recommended Reading List. Reading across the board and making sure I look for new, interesting, diverse stuff – and then spreading the word of it. I’m nominating and voting for awards and taking the time to leave reviews when I can.
  • As a teacher, the most important thing I can do is try to show my students how an artist lives and works. Why it’s important to confront and acknowledge one’s own flaws so you understand them in others. How to be a good human, one that is responsible, ethical, open to the world. Feminism is more important now than ever, and being one publicly in a way that redeems the bizarre media stereotypes that have been imposed upon it is crucial to generations to come.

And there’s more!

(5) FIRST FEMALE ISS COMMANDER RETURNS TO SPACE. Astronaut Peggy Whitson wrote a few more entries in the history books this morning: “Watch the first female commander of the space station blast off today”.

Whitson became the first female commander of the International Space Station in 2007, and at 3:20 EST today, she’ll ride a Soyuz rocket alongside cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, to take her place as commander of Expedition 51 on the International Space Station. She’s also set to become the oldest woman in space, at 56 years of age.

In a CBS News interview from 2008, following an extremely hard reentry of Expedition 16, Whitson—today holding the title of NASA’s most experienced female astronaut, with nearly 377 days logged in space and six space walks totaling 39 hours 46 minutes—said of her many records that “no one should be counting,” but until we’re beyond the point of having to count, she’s happy to be a role model. “It seems odd to me to think of myself that way, but I hope that I can inspire someone to do something they maybe didn’t think they could.”

(6) SPOOLING OUT. The inaugural Rewind Con, a new celebrity convention held this month in Chicago, probably took a bath according to a Nerd & Tie report, “Rewind Con Was Apparently a Total Mess”.

We’ve been following this con behind the scenes for quite some time, mostly because they rescheduled the even from September to November earlier this year. The schedule change was due to a switch in venues, and originally they put out a statement which directly stated that it was because the convention had grown too much — although they would later take that back and put out a slightly more vague one blaming “multiple factors with the original venue.”

…We don’t have exact figures, but people present have estimated numbers anywhere between one and three thousand attendees. And while any of those would be a respectable number for a first year convention, when you consider Rewind Con had between fifty and sixty guests (most of whom likely asked for pretty sizable guarantees) this event must have been a massive financial disaster. The only way the organizers could have paid those guarantees is if the money came directly out of owner Jaymie Lashaway’s pocket.

We’ve also seen reports of people who paid for the $300 VIP Passes not receiving what was promised, tons of reports of staff mismanagement, issues with paid photo ops, and a complete inability to put on a good show.

(7) MIND MELD. Shana DuBois populated the latest Mind Meld with the editors and authors of the recently released anthology The Starlit Wood from Saga Press.They were asked “to chat about fairy tales and their influence on modern-day storytelling.” The participants are Navah Wolfe, Dominik Parisien, Margo Lanagan, Kat Howard, Stephen Graham Jones, Aliette de Bodard, Charlie Jane Anders, Jeffrey Ford, Theodora Goss, and Daryl Gregory.

(8) FULL FATHOM FIVE-SEVEN-FIVE. With two five-syllable verses, the traditional haiku is arguably a poetic form tailor-made for Filers. Therefore I want you all to know Fantasy Literature has kicked off its “Third Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest”. Leave entries in the comments. The rules don’t state a deadline for entering.

(9) BRADBURY’S NATIONAL BOOK AWARD MEDAL. Sixteen years ago this month Ray Bradbury gave an acceptance speech when the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation conferred its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on him.

This is incredible. This is quite amazing because who you’re honoring tonight is not only myself but the ghost of a lot of your favorite writers. And I wouldn’t be here except that they spoke to me in the library. The library’s been the center of my life. I never made it to college. I started going to the library when I graduated from high school. I went to the library every day for three or four days a week for 10 years and I graduated from the library when I was 28.

(10) UNDER THE HAMMER. Heritage Auctions published the top bids from its recently-completed Space Exploration Auction #6167.

We are proud to announce that, as of this writing, total sales are $744,923 with a 98% sell-through rate both by lot and value. Of 729 total bidders, 226 were successful in winning 515 lots. It’s interesting to note that 296 of these 515 lots were won by bidders on Heritage Live! If you’re not using this amazing online bidding platform, you should definitely check it out. Eight lots vied for the honor of top price realized:

  • Lot 50102 Apollo 13 Flown and Crew-Signed Checklist $42,500
  • Lot 50145 Skylab: Rare NASA Contractor’s Model, 1/48 Scale $42,500
  • Lot 50038 Alan Bean Original 1984 Painting “Test Drive” $42,500
  • Lot 50064 Apollo 11 Flown Quarantine Cover $40,000
  • Lot 50037 Alan Bean Original 2005 Painting “Our World At My Fingertips” $38,750
  • Lot 50119 Apollo 14 LM Flown and Surface Carried Tool $37,500
  • Lot 50132 Apollo 17 Flown Robbins Medal, Serial Number 62 $37,500
  • Lot 50065 Apollo 11 Flown Robbins Medal, Serial Number 64 $35,000

(11) SUNBURST SEEKS SHORTS. The Sunburst Awards, recognizing “Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic,” is looking for submissions to be considered in its short story award category. Short stories published in magazines, anthologies or collections, or online all qualify.

Canadian authors: It’s free to submit, and your publishers may not have already done so.

Publishers: If you have submitted a collection for the novel length award already, please send us a note to secretary@sunburstaward.org to let us know which of the stories included qualify (see below) for the short story award. You may submit stories which qualify from magazines or anthologies you have published as well. To submit these, please upload the individual story files from the link on our website.

The Sunburst Awards will consider short fiction (up to 7,500 words.) for the short story award. Submissions are made electronically using a submission system for short form works and must be in either Word document or pdf format only. You will be asked to provide details of where the work was originally published along with the date and story length. All works must have been previously published in 2016. *See additional criteria on our website.

*Please include only one story per upload file.

*Do not submit a complete magazine or anthology.

*Non paying markets qualify.

*Short stories have only one year of eligibility.

*There is no administrative fee for short form submissions.

*Deadline for submissions is Midnight Eastern Standard Time on January 31, 2017.

(12) BYRON, SELL HIGH. At the SFWA Blog, Rosalind Moran talks about the appeal of broody men: “Brood For Thought: On The Enduring Appeal Of The Moody Male Lead”.

The moody male lead is widespread throughout all genres, but it can be difficult to see why anybody would want to spend time with him. He’s brooding, exceedingly individualistic, melancholic, and disposed to hanging around outdoors during thunderstorms for no good reason beyond cultivating his mystique. Furthermore, despite possessing attributes such as introspection, sophistication in some form, and intelligence, he is also typically rather unpleasant.

So what’s underpinning his enduring presence and appeal in fiction?

(13) A WRETCHED HIVE OF SCUM AND VILLANY…AND LOVE. Turns out Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford weren’t the only ones getting busy on the set of Star Wars. Stephen Colbert had a Star Wars affair, too

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chip Hitchcock.]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/16 Talkin ‘Bout My Pixelation

(1) BEVERAGE APPERTAINED. John King Tarpinian is insanely tickled by this visual reference from the latest Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episode, since Logan’s Run was co-authored by his late buddy George Clayton Johnson.

logans-rum

(2) SOUND OFF. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology Volume 2 Kickstarter successfully funded all the fiction but did not reach audiobook stretch goal. Steffen announced the stories will appear in this order:

Table of Contents

  • “Damage” by David D. Levine
  • “Pockets” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker
  • “The Women You Didn’t See” by Nicola Griffith (a letter from Letters to Tiptree)
  • “Tuesdays With Molakesh the Destroyer” by Megan Grey
  • “Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Madeleine” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “Neat Things” by Seanan McGuire (a letter from Letters To Tiptree)
  • “Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
  • “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer
  • “The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsyn Muir
  • “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” by Rose Lemberg
  • “Another Word For World” by Ann Leckie
  • “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente
  • “Our Lady of the Open Road” by Sarah Pinsker
  • “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Usman T. Malik
  • “The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps” by Kai Ashante Wilson

(3) THE MCFLY FAMILY CHRONICLE In “Computer Solves a Major Time Travel Problem” by Cathal O’Connell at Cosmos Magazine, the “grandfather paradox” has allegedly been solved by a supercomputer and the research of Israeli physicist Doron Friedman (i.e. you can go back in time, kill your father, and sire another father).

The computer’s second solution is more interesting. The snag is it only works if the father also has the ability to travel in time.

The story goes like this.

In 1954 Marty’s father George travels forward in time one year to 1955, when he impregnates Marty’s mother Lorraine before immediately returning back to 1954 – just as his future son, Marty, arrives and kills him.

Because George’s quick foray into the future allowed him to already conceive his son, the paradox disappears.

(4) TROPE TURNOVERS. Apex Publications’ Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Anthology, funded by a Kickstarter reported here, is receiving critical praise. They sent backers this update:

I wanted to mention that you may recall we sent out a few ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) in anticipation that we would be releasing this anthology in December. We are pleased to share that Publisher’s Weekly has given our anthology a starred review! Thank you SO much for making this anthology happen, and we hope you enjoy the stories. Huzzah!

(5) ROBBER BARONS. Amanda S. Green has criticized publishers for the past decade for overpricing ebooks, and tells her Mad Genius Club readers there’s no sign it’s going to change. In fact, if they can think of a way, publishers will make the arrangement even more exploitative….

As readers, it means we will have to continue to choose between buying one traditionally published e-book from publishers like Randy Penguin (at $12.99 or more) or buying two or three — or more — indie or small press published e-books. It means choosing to buy e-books from indies or publishers like Baen, sources that don’t add DRM, or buying fro publishers who aren’t afraid to say they think their customers are thieves and that is why they add the DRM. After all, they don’t trust us not to pirate their books or — gasp — resell them after we’re done with them. As readers, it also means we need to be smart and start backing up our e-books to places not connected with our e-readers, etc. Because, as sure as I’m sitting here typing this this morning, I guaran-damn-tee you there is some bean counter sitting in an ivory tower in the publishing industry who is trying to figure out a way to limit the number of times we can read an e-book before we have to buy a new license or something equally as silly. Don’t believe me? Remember, these are the same publishers that put a limit on how many times an e-book can be checked out at a library before the library has to buy — at an inflated rate — the e-book again.

(6) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Bladerunner film score composer Vangelis has released a new space-themed opera — “From Composer Vangelis, A True Story Set In outer Space”. You can listen on YouTube.

Rosetta is a concept album, inspired by the European Space Agency mission of the same name. It successfully landed a probe on a comet in 2014 and completed its mission — by total coincidence — within a week of the album’s release.

“I imagine myself being in the position of Rosetta, and going there,” Vangelis says. “It’s something amazing.” Amazing — and disorienting. “You have to go through, sometimes, total dark,” Vangelis says. “You can imagine like a child sometimes.”

 

(7) TAKE ONE DOWN AND PASS IT AROUND. Motherboard says “This Guy Is Replicating ‘Blade Runner’ Shot-for-Shot in MS Paint”. And I say, keep appertaining beverages for yourself until you’re drunk enough to know why this needs to be reported by File 770.

So when we discovered David MacGowan’s tumblr MSP Blade Runner, our response was one of collective awe and fascination. MacGowan is quite literally going through Blade Runner shot-by-shot and illustrating each in MS Paint. The drawings aren’t perfect in terms of artistry—it is MS Paint, after all—and they’re not 100 percent complete in detail. But each moment is instantly recognizable even to someone with only a passing familiarity with the film. And MacGowan has nailed that elusive, pitch-perfect Internet Ugly aesthetic so many of us try and fail to, well, replicate.

(8) SKIPPING THE AUTHENTICITY. Dwayne A. Day lays waste to a TV show in “O, full of scorpions is my mind” at Space Review.

Every few years a major entertainment program has focused on a human spaceflight theme, and usually the results have been pretty bad. In 2007, Law & Order: Criminal Intent did an episode that was based upon astronaut Lisa Nowak’s arrest for attempted murder (another one of their “ripped from the headlines” stories.) Because it was set in New York City, they portrayed the “National Space Agency” as based in New York. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit did another astronaut-based episode in 2008. In 2011, the cable spy drama Covert Affairs aired an episode about a terrorist spy working at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC (see “Tinker, Tailor, NASA, Spy,” The Space Review, July 11, 2011) In 2010, CSI: Miami had an episode dealing with a murder aboard a commercial orbiting spaceplane that operated out of Miami. (See “Space cops,” The Space Review, March 1, 2010)

Normally this is the point in this article where I would make some kind of semi-clever quip about how bad all these shows were. But they were at least watchable. The CSI: Miami episode was probably the best of the bunch, demonstrating at least a passable knowledge of commercial spaceflight. But in retrospect, all of them now look like 2001: A Space Odyssey compared to last week’s episode of the CBS drama Scorpion which featured a character being accidentally blasted into space. It was bad.

There are few words to describe how amazingly bad it was, so here are a lot of them….

Scorpion’s producers don’t really seem to care about accuracy or believability or logic or continuity or consistency. Despite spending what must be huge gobs of money on the episodes, it is amazing how slipshod some of it is—not just the writing, but the production values seemed to demonstrate that nobody had any real interest in making any of it look good.

(9) RED PLANET CRITIQUE. Mars chronicler Kim Stanley Robinson declines to take Musk’s plan at face value in “Why Elon Musk’s Mars Vision Needs ‘Some Real Imagination’” on Bloomberg.

It’s 2024. Musk figures everything out and gets funding. He builds his rocket, and 100 people take off. Several months later, they land (somehow) and have to get to work remaking a planet.

I have to note, first, that this scenario is not believable, which makes it a hard exercise to think about further. Mars will never be a single-person or single-company effort. It will be multi-national and take lots of money and lots of years.

Musk’s plan is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his backyard, combined with the Wernher von Braun plan, as described in the Disney TV programs of the 1950s. A fun, new story.

(10) BEHIND BARS. In the latest installment of “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters in Prison”, Barrett Brown, jailed for decades because of his hacking, answers questions Filers will hopefully never need to ask:  if you’re in prison, how do you teach other prisoners how to play role-playing games?  And how do you make the dice?

We began the campaign with our party having just entered a mysterious cavern that appeared to be inhabited. The gamemaster drew out a map for us as our crude little character tokens advanced down the dark, cliché-ridden passages. Coming upon a fountain in which jewels could be seen lying under the surface of the water, our Hispanic gangster/minotaur barbarian proposed to grab some. The team veteran and meth dealer/elven ranger stopped him, dipped in his flask, and, as our gamemaster informed us, watched as it sizzled and melted, the “water” having been acid.

“Whoa,” said the gangster/minotaur, awed at how close he’d just come to losing his forearm. He was beginning to understand that this wasn’t the relatively straightforward world of street-level dope dealing anymore; this was Dungeons and Dragons. Presumably the feds had never attempted to trick him into incinerating his own arm. But then some of these guys had been targeted by the ATF, so you never know.

(11) MAMATAS. At Locus Online, “Tim Pratt Reviews Nick Mamatas”.

His latest novel, I Am Providence, should be of particular interest to our readers for at least a couple of reasons. For one, it’s a murder mystery set at a genre convention: the Summer Tentacular, devoted to H.P, Lovecraft and his Mythos, held appropriately enough in Lovecraft’s hometown of Providence RI. (The book’s title is taken from Lovecraft’s famous epitaph.) Given how prevalent discussions of Lovecraft’s influence and his problematic qualities have been in our field lately, it’s an astonishingly timely book. If the convention angle doesn’t make it SFnal enough for you, there’s a bona fide speculative element: half the novel is narrated in first person by the murder victim as he lies cooling on a morgue slab.

The murder-mystery-at-a-convention is a venerable subgenre (think Isaac Asimov’s Murder at the ABA or Sharyn McCrumb’s Bimbos of the Death Sun). The best of them combine solid mystery stories anyone can enjoy with a dash of in-jokes, cameos, and thinly veiled versions of figures in the field to amuse those in the know. I Am Providence is among those best.

(12) THE HORSE, OF COURSE. Rosalind Moran reminds SFWAns, “Horses Are Not Machines: On Writing the Steeds of Fantasy Fiction”.

  1. Nobody Learns In A Day

No amount of natural talent can make a horseman in a day. If one’s horse is tolerant, one may be able to hold on over flat terrain after a few hours in the saddle. Nevertheless, there’s a big difference between not sliding off immediately, and being able to ride competently. It can take months – even years – before one is truly balanced enough to cope with a horse moving at various gaits, and occasionally acting up. Yet it’s not uncommon in fantasy novels for characters to pick up the handy skill of horse-riding in one day.

Furthermore, handling horses on the ground is also a skill requiring time. When one first begins working with horses, one can’t read their body language; flicking ears, shifting legs, squeals and snorts. The initial reaction when faced with a horse also tends to be one of intimidation – they’re big animals. So for your protagonist to be confident catching horses, feeding them, tacking them up… that all takes time and experience. You don’t need to devote pages to your character learning relatively mundane skills, but you should acknowledge that these are skills which they are learning, or which they have somehow acquired at another point in time.

Additional note: horses aren’t domesticated in a day either. Worth remembering next time you chance upon a handy herd in the wilderness – sorry.

[Thanks to StephenfromOttawa, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]