Pixel Scroll 9/12/18 Pleonasmatic

(1) MAGIC ON DISPLAY. Sean McLachlan reviews the exhibit of “Magical Items at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum” for Black Gate.

A new exhibition at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum showcases 180 real-life magical items.

Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft explores the history of magic from the early modern era to the present day through objects ranging from Renaissance crystal balls to folk charms against witchcraft. It looks at basic human needs such as fear of death and desire for love, and how people have used magic to try to get what they need.

The exhibition also turns the question of magic and superstition back on the viewer. In the entrance hallway, you are invited to step under a ladder or go around it. The museum is counting how many people dare to tempt fate. I did, and I hope they post the statistics when the exhibition is over!

(2) WHEEL OF TIME TV. Adam Whitehead shares his notes at The Wertzone: “WHEEL OF TIME TV showrunner hosts Q&A”.

Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins has hosted a Q&A on Twitter, where he invited fans to pitch him questions about the show. Given that the project is still in an early stage of pre-production, a lot of questions couldn’t be answered, but some interesting tidbits were dropped about how he sees the project moving forwards.

The current status of the project:

Judkins confirmed that the show is in development at with Amazon (via, as we know already, Sony TV Studios) but it has not yet been formally greenlit, either for a full first season or a pilot. As such, things like production timelines, timetables for casting and when we might get to see the show all remain up in the air.

Judkins notes that he is now able to talk about the show in a way he couldn’t a couple of months ago, and that indeed something has changed to facilitate this….

(3) QUITE A BUNCH. At NYR Daily, “David Bunch’s Prophetic Dystopia”, an overview adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s introduction to the new Bunch collection.

…That these tales come off as a seamless meld of the eccentric poetics of E.E. Cummings, the genius-level invention of Philip K. Dick, and the body horror of Clive Barker perhaps explains both why they remain vital today and why they were characterized as “fringe” during Bunch’s career. They are wild, visceral, and sui generis, without the signifiers of a particular era that might provide anchors for mystified readers. Popular contemporaries like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, and even James Tiptree Jr. ameliorated the strangeness of their work with the scaffolding or appearance of more familiar plotlines, even as they wrote stories generally from the point of view of marginalized groups. Bunch, by contrast, foregrounded lyricism over plot and chose to write from the potentially unsympathetic viewpoint of a hyper-aggressive warmonger—a viewpoint clearly quite far from his own. Even his authorial stand-in, the nameless writer of the fictional introduction to this volume, has monstrous qualities.

Nothing quite like the Moderan stories had been written before and nothing like them has been written since….

(4) NARNIA LETTER. Brenton Dickieson spotted a bit of literary history on sale: “For £5,000 You Can Own A Piece of Narnia: New C.S. Lewis Letter Surfaces”.

That’s right, Dominic Winter Auctioneers is putting a newly surfaced letter from C.S. Lewis on the auction block. It is a great artifact, as The Daily Mail reports, a generous and light bit of Narnian delight as Lewis answers some questions from schoolchildren at Grittleton House School in Wiltshire. The auctioneers have made photographs of this short, two-page 22 May 1952 letter. The children of Grittleton House–who Lewis calls Grittletonians–were no doubt curious after the release of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) and Prince Caspian: Return to Narnia (1951). Not only did Lewis assure them that The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (1952) would be out in a few months, but that there would be seven stories in all.

Although the letter is very much like one sent to Michael Irwin just a couple of months previously (25 Mar 1952), there are a couple of things really worth noting here….

His post includes stats of the letters.

(5) SUPERMAN OUT, SUPERGIRL IN. Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit, in The Hollywood Reporter’s story “Henry Cavill Out as Superman Amid Warner Bros.’ DC Universe Shake-Up”, say that Warner Bros. has removed Henry Cavill from any future movies as Superman because a cameo by him in Shazam! didn’t work out and DC wants to do a Supergirl origin movie next and put off doing anything with Superman for several years.

Warners had been trying to enlist Cavill, who most recently co-starred in Mission: Impossible — Fallout, for a Superman cameo in Shazam!, which stars Zachary Levi and will bow April 5. But contract talks between Cavill’s WME reps and Warners broke down, and the door is now closing on other potential Superman appearances.

That’s because the studio has shifted its focus to a Supergirl movie, which will be an origin story featuring a teen superheroine. This effectively removes an actor of Cavill’s age from the storyline’s equation given that Superman, aka Kal-El, would be an infant, according to DC lore.

Furthermore, Warners isn’t likely to make a solo Superman film for at least several years, according to another source. “Superman is like James Bond, and after a certain run you have to look at new actors,” says a studio source.

(6) VEGGIE OVERLOAD. Laura Anne Gilman makes a simple request at Book View Café: “A Meerkat Rants: No More Kale, Please.”

Let me admit this shameful fact up front.  I like kale. No, really, I do.  It’s not an easy-to-love vegetable, I’ll agree, but if you know how to buy and handle it, you can get tender, sharp-yet-tasty roughage that serves a variety of salads (including my fave: baby kale and pear with white wine vinaigrette).

But I don’t want it every week. Hell, I don’t want anything food-wise, every single week without fail.

But then I went and joined a CSA.

CSA, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, stands for community supported agriculture.  Basically, you pay a set fee, and get a box of whatever the local farms have on-offer, on a seasonal basis….

(7) VERSE THE CURSE. Charles Payseur interviews Aidan Doyle — “Quick Questions – Aidan Doyle of Sword and Sonnet”. Doyle co-edited the Sword and Sonnet anthology with Rachael K. Jones and E. Catherine Tobler.

So why battle poets?

AD: I liked the idea of poetry being used as a magic system. Sei Sh?nagon was one of the original inspirations for my idea of what a battle poet could be. She wrote The Pillow Book, one of the classics of Japanese literature and was renowned for intimidating the men of Heian-era Japan with her knowledge of poetry. I hadn’t seen any other anthologies that covered a similar theme. After we announced the Kickstarter, there were many writers who told us they were particularly excited by the theme.

(8) DIY STEAMPUNK DÉCOR. Clickbait time at Homedit“21 Cool Tips To Steampunk Your Home”.

The steampunk style is not one of the most well known in terms of interior design. Maybe that’s because many of us don’t even know which are the basic details that define this concept. When I say steampunk, I remember about the Victorian era, with all the inventions back then, but the meaning of this word would be incomplete without the industrial details.

In essence, this trend is a mixture between elegant Victorian interior accessories and the strength of industrial elements. Maybe you remember about Joben Bistro, that beautiful pub from Romania. It’s an inspiration for us….

The fifth tip is –

  1. Buy a terrestrial globe (in case you don’t have one already)

Make sure it’s old and very used. It would be one of the most popular items in the house, and kids would love to spin it over and over again.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The town of Santa Claus, Indiana, changed its name in 1856 from Santa Fe, which was already taken, to get its own post office. As a result many of the town’s street names are Christmas-themed, including Sled Run, Blitzen Lane and Melchior Drive. Source: Wikipedia

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 12, 1958 The Blob got loose in theaters.
  • September 12, 1993Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” premiered on TV.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1921 – Stanislaw Lem. Polish writer whose The Man from Mars was a first contact novel, other genre works include Solaris, and two short story collections, Fables for Robots and The Cyberaid. His later years are marked by his anti-technological views including outright opposition to the internet. In 1973, he was made an honorary member of SFWA (later rescinded).
  • Born September 12 —John Clute, 78. Critic, reviewer and writer. Some of his reviews are in his early collection, Strokes. I’ll  single out The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which he co-edited with Peter Niicholls and The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (John Grant, co-editor) which I think are still really awesome. Oh and The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror is fucking amazing! I’ve not read his fiction so I welcome your opinions on it.
  • Born September 12 – William Goldman, 87. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted as a screenplay. He also wrote the screenplays for Misery and The Stepford Wives. His late brother is James Goldman who wrote The Lion in Winter and Robin and Marian.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BOOKSTORE ON WHEELS. The thread starts here.

(14) PHILOSOPHICAL DILEMMAS. Eric Schwitzgebel’s guest post for Cat Rambo’s blog deals with an episode of The Good Place: “Eric Schwitzgebel Gives One-Point-Five Cheers for a Hugo Award for a TV Show about Ethicists’ Moral Expertise”.

When The Good Place episode “The Trolley Problem” won one of science fiction’s most prestigious awards, the Hugo, in the category of best dramatic presentation, short form, I celebrated. I celebrated not because I loved the episode (in fact, I had so far only seen a couple of The Good Place’s earlier episodes) but because, as a philosophy professor aiming to build bridges between academic philosophy and popular science fiction, the awarding of a Hugo to a show starring a professor of philosophy discussing a famous philosophical problem seemed to confirm that science fiction fans see some of the same synergies I see between science fiction and philosophy.

I do think the synergies are there and that the fans see and value them – as also revealed by the enduring popularity of The Matrix, and by West World, and Her, and Black Mirror, among others – but “The Trolley Problem”, considered as a free-standing episode, fumbles the job. (Below, I will suggest a twist by which The Good Place could redeem itself in later episodes.)

(15) A MEXICANX INTIATIVE LOOK AT W76. Alberto Chimal, part of the MexicanX Initiative at Worldcon 76, has written up his experience for Literal Magazine: “Fui a otro mundo y me traje esta camiseta” . (Here’s a link to a Google Translate English language versioncaveat emptor.)

….La delegación en la que estuve, compuesta por casi cincuenta artistas, escritores y lectores mexicanos y mexicoamericanos, pudo inscribirse y figurar en el programa de la convención gracias a un proyecto de fondeo y apoyo entre el propio fandom que se llamó The Mexicanx Initiative. Éste fue idea del artista John Picacio, ilustrador y portadista de larga carrera a quien se nombró invitado de honor de la Worldcon: es la primera vez que una persona de origen mexicano recibe esa distinción. Picacio, como muchas otras personas, ha observado la postura abiertamente racista y antimexicana del gobierno actual de los Estados Unidos, y cómo los exabruptos y tuits de su presidente, Donald Trump, están “normalizando” formas de odio y extremismo que hace menos de una década hubieran sido condenadas sin vacilación….

(16) OVER THE TRANSOM. JDA submits to Uncanny. Surprised it’s lasted this long — the title phrase is really too well-known to be called a dogwhistle.

(17) SPECIAL ISSUE. Charles Payseur finds an extra big serving of short fiction on his plate: “Quick Sips – Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [September Fiction]”.

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! is here!!! And with it comes a whole heck of a lot of fiction and poetry. To be specific, ten stories and ten poems. But, because this is also a regular issue of Uncanny, the work will be released publicly over two months. And so, to keep things manageable for me, I’m going to be tackling this extra-big issue in four parts—September fiction, September poetry, October fiction, and October poetry. So let’s dig in! The first half of the issue’s fiction is up and features five short stories touching on aliens, assistive devices, families, and a whole lot of disabled characters getting shit done. The work in these focuses primarily (for me, at least) on occupations and growing up. About facing down intolerance and violence and finding ways to find community, hope, and beauty in a universe that can often be ugly and cruel. So let’s get to the reviews!

(18) D&D MANGA. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog enumerates “14 Graphic Novels & Manga for Dungeons & Dragons Fans”.

Comics and fantasy role-playing games have shared a similar trajectory as of late: once considered distinctly nerdy pursuits and viewed as mildly disreputable by the broader culture (when they weren’t the subject of full-blown moral panics, anyway), they both have recently been thrust into the mainstream, whether via big budget movies or name-dropping teens on Netflix. Yet somehow, both forms of entertainment have maintained their legit geek cred.

The recent release of the graphic novel The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins illustrates (heh) the intersection perfectly: a number one New York Times’ bestseller based on a popular podcast that’s all about a family sitting around playing Dungeons & Dragons. With that in mind, we rolled a d20 to perform a skill check on the 13 great graphic novels below, and discovered they are all highly proficient in satisfying tabletop gamers looking for a fantasy fix between play sessions.

(19) NOVELLAS. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy reviews two novellas published by The Book Smugglers: “Microreview [Books]: A Glimmer of Silver by Juliet Kemp and Accelerants by Lena Wilson”.

The Book Smugglers’ Novella Initiative line was a highlight of my novella reading in 2017, bringing a set of diverse, different stories with some interesting romance and a more YA sensibility to some of the entries than I’ve seen in other fiction of this length. I’ve been hoping throughout this year that we’d see more from the line, and in August my waiting was rewarded with this pair – with some bonus theming around the classical elements to really seal the deal!

Both Accelerants and A Glimmer of Silver deal with people on the cusp of adulthood in their own societies, whose choices are immediately constrained by the societies they live in.

(20) THREE ON A MATCH. Nerds of a Feather’s Joe Sherry gives quick verdicts on three books including Adrian Tchaikovsky’s latest: “Nanoreviews: The Skaar Invasion, Phoresis, The Expert System’s Brother”.

(21) BUY YOUR OWN HAMMER. Bonobos won’t share tools. Now I want to know what their policy is on books: “What’s Mine Is Yours, Sort Of: Bonobos And The Tricky Evolutionary Roots Of Sharing”.

An intriguing study published this week suggests that bonobos, among the closest relatives to humans, are surprisingly willing to hand over food to a pal. But they didn’t share tools.

The discovery adds a new wrinkle to scientists’ efforts to understand the evolutionary origins of people’s unusual propensity to help others.

“One of the things that is really striking about humans is how cooperative or helpful we are,” says Christopher Krupenye, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “It’s just a really pervasive element of our behavior.”

Common chimpanzees (a related species that diverged from bonobos about 2 million years ago) do engage in some altruistic behavior. For example, it’s been shown that chimps will hand a tool that’s out of reach to a person who clearly is trying to get it — as will human children. So Krupenye and some colleagues recently repeated that experiment with bonobos in a sanctuary.

“Bonobos didn’t help at all,” says Krupenye. Instead, sometimes they would retrieve the tool but still keep it out of reach, showing it off in a teasing way. “They didn’t help, in this particular context.”

(22) PUTTING HUMANITY TO THE TEST. In fact, Margaret Atwood called on the internet for some help with a tool just yesterday. Is social media more or less evolved than bonobos? The thread starts here.

(23) SPARE CHANGE. Meanwhile, I will gladly pay you Tuesday for an Apple today: “6-Figure Price Tag Expected For Rare Apple-1 Computer At Auction”.

Before Apple was a trillion-dollar company, before its phones and laptops came to dominate the tech industry, it was just a California startup working out of a garage. Now, one of the first products the company ever made — the Apple-1 computer — is about to be the star of a live auction on Sept. 25 in Boston.

“The Apple-1 is so iconic of that era, of the garage era of Silicon Valley, that I think there is almost no other object that really encapsulates what it does culturally and technologically,” says Dag Spicer, senior curator for the Computer History Museum, which has an Apple-1 in its collection. Spicer says it’s one of their most popular pieces.

(24) LARPING. A photo essay about costumes, including some genre, at the Washington Post: “Inside the fantastical world of live-action role playing”:

What is LARP? It is an acronym for live-action role playing, a phenomenon inspired by fantasy board games, films, literature and computer games. People who are into LARP outfit themselves as their favorite characters such as orcs, dwarfs, zombies and vampires, among others. Photographer Boris Leist takes us into this world with his latest book, “LARP,” which will publish this year by Kehrer Verlag.

A few years ago, Leist met a man in the LARP community. The man was dressed as a dwarf, and Leist was impressed by the quality of the man’s costume and the passion he had for role playing. Although the man was an IT professional in real life, he was so committed to LARPing that he was taking a welding class so that he could build armor for himself. This passion and commitment inspired Leist to go deeper into the LARP community and meet more of its members. Leist ended up spending three years delving into that world and compiling portraits.

(25) SCARY GOOD. The Guardian has a great gallery of international posters from Harryhausen films: “A monster talent: Ray Harryhausen movie posters – in pictures”.

From roaring dinosaurs to clashing titans and flying saucers, the stop-motion genius made audiences gasp, shriek and doubt their eyes. Here are the best posters his groundbreaking movies inspired

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

Pixel Scroll 9/13/17 Is That A Pixel On Your Screen, Or Are You Just Scrolled To See Me?

(1) YOU CAN ORBIT BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE. Alex Parker likes to think Cassini’s dive into Saturn is payback for the dinosaur extinction event. A thread explaining his complicated theory starts here:

(2) SFWA GALAKTIKA SETTLEMENT NAMES AFFECTED AUTHORS. There are further developments in a story reported here in July. Full information at the SFWA Blog: “Agreement Reached with Galaktika on Past Infringements”.

The Authors Guild and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced today that they collaboratively reached an agreement with a Hungarian science fiction magazine, Galaktika, which for years had been reprinting stories of American and British science fiction writers without their permission….

Part of the settlement between the magazine Galaktika and SFWA and the Authors Guild was that Galaktika would provide a complete list of authors whose work had been published without authorization by Galaktika. The list below was created from the spreadsheet that they provided, and, as far as SFWA can discover, it is accurate. This list includes authors or their representatives who have already come to agreements with Galaktika or are still in the process of negotiation. It is being made public to aid authors who may not know their work was published without authorization. Note that some of the works affected may be out of copyright in Hungary.

(3) BOOK SMUGGLERS KICKSTARTER. Thea James and Ana Grilo have launched The Book Smugglers: Level Up Kickstarter.

Ana and Thea

We celebrate our tenth anniversary next year and we would like to level up, so we finally decided to take the leap and create a Kickstarter of our own. We are trying to raise $16,500 which will go towards a new season of short stories (under the theme “Awakenings”) at a higher pay rate and ensuring we can hire freelancers to do production work for the ebooks. We would also love to get paid contributors to the blog on a weekly basis. If we raise more than the initial amount? The sky is the limit. All with a view to continue to publish and highlight diverse voices.

We donate our time to the Book Smugglers because we love the work that we do, which we hope to continue doing for another ten years.

To date their Kickstarter has raised 5,842 of its $16,500 goal.

(4) KEEP ON TICKING. Jim C. Hines reviews “The Tick, Season One”. BEWARE SPOILERS. In case that sort of thing worries you….

I didn’t need this to be a repeat of the animated show I loved. But it felt like it tried way too hard to be dark and gritty and edgy, at the cost of the heart and joy I was hoping for.

With all that said, I might still watch the next batch of six episodes when they come out. (I’m told that technically, this won’t be season two, but the second half of season one.) If they continue to improve the way they did in those last couple of episodes…

But for now, I’m rating this a solid disappointment.

(5) GUILTY CONSCIENCE. Anybody who’s watched the right episodes of the TV series Suits on the USA Network knows that lawyer Louis Litt is a Game of Thrones fan … at one point, he said, referring to himself, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” This clip from the most recent episode shows that watching aGoT may not always be good for your mental health:

(6) ACROSS THE ATLANTIC BY HOT AIR. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan blows the whistle on a pre-internet author of bogosity: “Edgar Allan Poe Wrote Fake News”.

In 1844 he was working for the New York Sun, and penned a front-page story for the April 13 issue trumpeting a new scientific wonder — the crossing of the Atlantic in three days by balloon. The story breathlessly related how a crew of eight men, including William Henson and Monck Mason, both well-known aeronauts, and famous British novelist Harrison Ainsworth, traveled in a powered balloon from England to Charleston, South Carolina, in 75 hours. The article went on to give various technical details.

(7) GETTING PAID, BUT NOT MUCH. Catherine Baab-Migura, in “Edgar Allan Poe Was A Broke-Ass Freelancer” on The Millions looks at how little money Poe made for his great works and how much time he had to hassle publishers to pay him. But now that you know his history with fake news, how broken up can you really feel?

A lot of fans know Edgar Allan Poe earned just $9 for “The Raven,” now one of the most popular poems of all time, read out loud by schoolteachers the world over. What most people don’t know is that, for his entire oeuvre—all his fiction, poetry, criticism, lectures—Poe earned only about $6,200 in his lifetime, or approximately $191,087 adjusted for inflation.

Maybe $191,087 seems like a lot of money. And sure, as book advances go, that’d be a generous one, the kind that fellow writers would whisper about. But what if $191,087 was all you got for 20 years of work and the stuff you wrote happened to be among the most enduring literature ever produced by anyone anywhere?

(8) AFTER THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION. Jennifer Brozek’s new project returns her to the BattleTech universe: “Award-winning author Jennifer Brozek slated to pen the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy”.

Catalyst, licensors of the BattleTech tabletop game and Shadowrun roleplaying game, is taking the next step in creating a diverse BattleTech universe with a new young adult trilogy. Jennifer Brozek, award-winning author of BattleTech: The Nellus Academy Incident and Shadowrun: DocWagon 19, is developing a character-driven, action-filled story set after the Jihad, and exploring the tumultuous aftermath of the Age of Destruction. Currently scheduled for a Fall 2018 release date, it can’t come soon enough for BattleTech fans looking for brand new fiction set in the military science fictional universe.

(9) SADCOMS. The Guardian should warn readers they might need a tissue here: “In the golden age of TV, the existential-animation is king”

Why is a talking cartoon horse making me cry? It’s a question many of us might have asked ourselves as the new season of BoJack Horseman – an improbably moving Netflix cartoon about a version of Hollywood populated by talking animals – surfaced over the weekend.

The characters, led by BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett), make terrible decisions about sex and dating, sell themselves short, and generally end up miserable in the funniest possible ways. It’s a show at the forefront of a recent crop of animated TV series for adults that surpass most live-action shows this side of Twin Peaks in terms of sheer emotional ambition.

There’s BoJack, Adult Swim’s critically lauded sci-fi series Rick and Morty, the Duplass brothers’ Animals on HBO, and Archer, a workplace comedy about a spy agency that has gone crazily off the rails. In broad terms, TV is still embracing what critic Jenny Jaffe dubbed the “sadcom” – a show with an ostensibly comic outlook that trades in for pathos – but something special is happening in animation. With animated shows TV is able to flex different muscles.

(10) FROZEBUD. Citizen Lucas might go for this — “Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe” from ThinkGeek.

We’re going to be honest here: we squeed when we first unboxed this product. Our excitement might have drawn other employees over to look. There are SO many little details. “Oh look! Luke’s lightsaber is in the snow!” “I love how the ice of the cave starts on the inside of the globe and continues outside it.” “OMG. THERE’S A DEAD TAUNTAUN ON THE SIDE.” A Hoth snow globe just makes sense. And this Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe created by our GeekLabs team is magnificent. It perfectly captures the tense atmosphere of the cave scene while still being a flippin’ snow globe. Watch the snow gently settle around Luke in what looks like a hopeless situation. And the Tauntaun isn’t gory so it’s appropriate for all ages. Stick it behind your little holiday village diorama as a reminder to the elves and reindeer not to wander out alone.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 13, 1965 Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster battled their way into theaters
  • September 13, 1974 Planet of the Apes TV version premiered.
  • September 13, 1977 — Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror is published.

(12) TODAY’S CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANGER

  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl

(13) YOUR FAVORITE ICONOCLASTS. Timothy the Talking Cat and Straw Puppy declare “Chapters are cultural convention that we need not adhere to” at Camestros Felapton’s blog as they unleash (get it?) a new installment of their classic work.

“Well, well, well,” said McEdifice, “if it isn’t Commander Clench, my old nemesis. I thought I told you never to set foot again on the Grassland Planet of Steppe.”

“Well yes, you did but as I explained at the time, I’m free to go anywhere I like and also I outrank you and also I have an orbiting space-dreadnought directly above us that could wipe you off the face of the planet before you could even grimace at me in a way I didn’t like.” explained Commander Clench.

I don’t know, I thought this was quite readable…. Send help….

(14) EMPTY THE MAGAZINE. Bullets with the Monster Hunters International logo on sale for charity. Ten percent goes to the Houston Food Bank. They’ve already sold 60,000. Living in interesting times.

These are just bullets for handloading. This is not loaded ammunition. Also, be aware that this design is on the front of a 9mm bullet. It is VERY small and serves no purpose other than being really cool. Please do not expect anything magical or supernatural from them. They are just bullets with an awesome stamped logo. Though the lead we sourced does contain trace amounts of silver, it isn’t enough for serious hunting. They are to be used on nothing larger than a gnome.

(15) NZ CONREPORT. At Concatenation, Lee Murray, Dan Rabarts and Darian Smith discuss LexiCon 2017, New Zealand’s 38th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention – with a shout out to DUFF delegate Paul Weimer.

LM:  First up for me panel-wise was moderating a session on the language of science fiction and fantasy, with Swedish writer Emma Lindhagen, Cloud Ink Press’ Mark Johnson and local personality Jack Newhouse sharing the front table. One of the first panels of the con, it was too soon for convention goers to have succumbed to con crud, so the room was packed and it was a lively discussion covering topics such as conlanging, conlinging, inclusiveness, and Klingon. I also moderated a panel on Introducing new readers to SFF, but because the session was scheduled against Paul Mannering in conversation with Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire, there were only seventeen of the con’s attendees present. So we decided to pull the chairs into a circle and invite everyone to join in, which turned out to be a great idea as the input from the audience was terrific. I think that’s one of the advantages of our New Zealand conventions: because we are small and most of us know each other, we can be flexible and no one throws a hissy fit. The DUFF delegate, Paul Weimer from Minneapolis, made a comment to that effect in the ‘Australia and Us’ panel, saying he hadn’t realised before he came, just how close-knit our SF/F/H community is here, an aspect he felt might be unique to New Zealand.

DR:  In the way of all good cons, a good portion of the Con should have seen the bar buzzing with people rubbing shoulders and chinking glasses, and from time to time it was. Surprisingly, there was less of this than expected, mainly because so many of the attendees were going to panels, which in some cases came as a surprise even to them. So while there was less action in the bar than we are used to, the panels were humming and people were networking and fan fund delegates were hanging out and talking community-building while peddling raffle tickets and auction lots. I am not quite sure the Suncourt knew what they were letting themselves in for when they agreed to our booking the place out for a convention, but they were amazing hosts as well, and everything went off about as smoothly as we could have hoped.

(16) SCHRODINGER’S 7-11. Fast Company says “Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete”.

While it sometimes feels like we do all of our shopping on the internet, government data shows that actually less than 10% of all retail transactions happen online. In a world where we get our groceries delivered in just two hours through Instacart or Amazon Fresh, the humble corner store–or bodega, as they are known in New York and Los Angeles–still performs a valuable function. No matter how organized you are, you’re bound to run out of milk or diapers in the middle of the night and need to make a quick visit to your neighborhood retailer.

Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past. Today, he is launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the “store.”

Cat Eldridge sent the link with a comment, “Interesting idea but expecting it to be viable in ethic communities where a bodega or the cultural equivalent is as much community centre as store is incredible culturally naive.”

Where Cat lives, “We have, other than gas stations that carry a range of stuff this plans on carrying, exactly one English language as first tongue convenience shop for the twenty thousand inhabitants of the peninsula. But there’s dozens of ethically based shops including Central American, Middle Eastern, African, Russian and at least one Armenian one.”

And to see the Bodega Cats, er, SJW Credentials mentioned in the above article, click here, Instagram has photos.

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(17) BRIGHT. Will Smith in Bright available on Netflix starting December 22.

In an alternate present-day where magical creatures live among us, two L.A. cops become embroiled in a prophesied turf battle. Stars Will Smith.

Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace

 

(18) LEAGUE OF GODS. Out on DVD.

Based on the 16th-century Chinese novel Feng Shen Yan Yi (The Investiture of the Gods), the story tells of how King Zhou of Shang becomes a tyrant due to the wiles of Daji, a vixen spirit who is disguised as one of his concubines.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2/16 Soylent Green Is Pixels

(1) NAZIS, I HATE THOSE GUYS. The BBC, while reporting on somebody who wants to fly on Mars, made sure we didn’t miss out on any Nazi clickbait. Honestly….

The flying wing isn’t a new idea. The first practical design was developed by engineers in Nazi Germany in the final months of World War Two. The reason we are still whizzing around the globe in aluminum tubes with tails bolted to the back is that flying-wing aircraft have had a tendency to fall out of the sky.

Not anymore. Bowers’ team has spent the last few years developing and successfully testing models of flying wing aircraft. But, as befits the world’s foremost air and space organisation, Bowers is not only looking at terrestrial applications. He aims to become the first person to fly an aircraft across the surface of Mars.

(2) ANOTHER TEA LOVER. Elizabeth Fitzgerald of Earl Grey Editing Services reports on the most interesting parts of Australia’ Conflux 12, held at the beginning of October.

Conflux 12, Part 1

There were some great panels throughout the convention. Fanning the Sacred Flame discussed religion in SFF. Panel members came from atheist, Anglican, Buddhist and Jewish backgrounds. Despite being an atheist, K.J. Taylor said she finds it weird when religion or superstition is never mentioned in fantastical societies because it is something that exists in every real culture. She also spoke about her experiences with writing religious characters and stressed the importance of not being patronising or making the characters look like idiots by following their beliefs. Rivqa Rafael discussed ignorance as a writer’s worst enemy. Often writers don’t know what they are evoking when they borrow elements from religions they’re not a part of, with the results being beyond offensive and into hurtful. She gave the example of the Jewish golem. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia was mentioned many times, with the consensus being that the story worked best when its parable elements were subtle. Rivqa also cited Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy as an example of religion done well, pointing out that conflicts between religions rarely happen on a level playing field, historically speaking. There are often major cultural and colonial elements at play.

Conflux 12, Part 2

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. At the closing ceremony, Sean Williams demonstrated the last of his Sci Chi. There’s an excellent video of Sean and Alan Baxter, if you’re interested in learning the moves (or just being mightily entertained).

Conflux 12 took place at the beginning of the month and I reported on it in two parts. The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild have a round-up of convention reports from other members. However, they missed a few, including one from Guest of Honour Alan Baxter. Master of Ceremonies Sean Williams was in Canberra for a month leading up to the convention and has shared some of his experiences of that time. Rivqa Rafael has also storyfied her comprehensive tweets of the convention.

However, even Conflux can be a problematic favourite. No Award offers some criticism on aspects of this year’s convention.

Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of Juliet Marillier and loved her latest book, Den of Wolves. If you’re also a fan and live in the US, you may be interested to know she’ll be appearing at a few conventions over the next few weeks.

(3) STONY END. Yes, he may be the finest idolator idolizing today. “Why I am a Milodator” by John C. Wright.

Many of my Christian friends wonder why I have erected a nine-story tall idol made out of of radioactive protactinium atop Mount Erebus in Antarctica to my hero Milo Yiannopoulos, to which each dark of the moon I sacrifice thirteen lesbians and journalists and randy Ethiopian bisexuals, thereby violating four of the Ten Commandments and two amendments of the Bill of Rights….

(4) INVISIBLE PLANETS WORTH A LOOK. Reviewer Ardi Alspach of B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog says “Invisible Planets Is a Singular Anthology of Chinese Science Fiction”.

Ken Liu has made his name as both a translator and novelist. His translated edition of Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem (two of Cixin Liu’s stories appear here) is the first work of translated fiction to win a Hugo Award, and he’s been nominated for—and won—many awards for his own fiction. The stories he’s chosen for this anthology are representative of the expansive breadth of styles and ideas Chinese science fiction has to offer. I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below, but the bottom line is, this is a well-balanced, thoughtfully assembled collection, essential for any reader who wants to expand their understanding of the genre on a global scale.

(5) IRAQI SF. Sean McLachlan puts the anthology Iraq +100  on everyone’s radar in his Black Gate post “The Future of Iraq, According to the Country’s Science Fiction Authors”.

With all the grim news coming out of Iraq, it’s easy to think the country has no future. That’s wrong, of course, because being one of the oldest countries in the world, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

But what will that future look like? To answer that question, UK publisher Comma Press has released Iraq +100, an anthology of Iraqi writers imagining the future of their nation.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 2, 2000 — Cookie Monster (character on Sesame Street) was born.

(7) BEHIND COSPLAY. Mindy Weisberg fathoms “The psychology behind cosplay” for Huffington Post.

Certain costumes offer some people a way of working through personal difficulties, Rosenberg said. Batman, for example, can be an especially meaningful cosplay choice for someone coping with trauma. The dark superhero faced devastating trauma when he was a child — witnessing the brutal murder of his parents — which he overcame to become a hero.

“When people are dressed as Batman, many talk about having [experienced] their own traumatic experiences,” Rosenberg said. “He survived and found meaning and purpose from his experience, and that is inspiring to them.”

(8) COSPLAY IN L.A. Here is a photo gallery of the best Marvel cosplay from Stan Lee’s L.A. Comic Con 2016.

(9) PLAY FOR PAY IN L.A. Yahoo! celebrates one of the “MVPs of Horror: The Woman Behind Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, on Her 35th Year as the Bodacious Horror Hostess”.

Elvira was born, so to speak, during an era when independent TV stations like KHJ-TV kind of operated like the Wild West. Did it help being able to workshop the character in that kind of environment?

When I first appeared on local television as Elvira, I was allowed a lot more leeway than I expected. After I got the job, my friend made a sketch of what my dress should look like. I said, “There’s no way I can wear this on TV,” and they were like, “Just make the slit on the leg higher and it’ll be great.” Local TV stations didn’t really worry about standards and practices, so I made it pretty edgy. The station manager would come in just about every other week and say, “We’ve got a complaint again about your dress being so low-cut. You have to fix that.” I’d go, “OK, I’ll have them make the neckline higher.” And then I wouldn’t do anything at all, and he’d come back a couple weeks later and go, “We got a complaint.” It just kept going on like that. I never changed it!

(10) MOVIE CULTISTS. The October 28 Washington City Paper has a profile by Matt Cohen of the Washington Psychotronic Film Society, which has been screening weirdo films, many fantasy and sf, since 1989.  Cohen discusses how the group manages to keep going, even though they get bounced from bar to bar, in part for showing such fare as the “infamous 1974 Belgian art film VASE DE NOCES,” which has many scenes of happy pigs makin’ bacon. — “For Nearly 30 Years, the Washington Psychotronic Film Society Has Been Home for D.C.’s Underground Flick Fanatics”

For horror aficionados, Halloween is a 31-day celebration. It’s an excuse to spend the month of October cramming in as many spine-chilling movies as time allows. But for Carl Cephas, October is just another month. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, every single Monday evening, Cephas dons a white lab coat, carries a stately meerschaum pipe, and becomes his alter ego: The Incorrigible Dr. Schlock.

It’s a role he’s been playing for 27 years as the president of the Washington Psychotronic Film Society—a club that has been meeting almost weekly to screen weird movies since 1989. “We’ve always shown underground, B-, student, experimental, underrated, non-Academy, anime, avant-garde, guerilla filmmaking, but people kept saying, ‘Oh, you guys just sit around watching bad movies,’” Cephas says. “And I would go, ‘No, they are not bad movies! They are films of a peculiar interest!’”

(11) BEYOND PRICE. Gabriel Ricard at Culture Vultures shows his appreciation for a horror movie legend in “Make the Case: Five Essential Vincent Price Movies”.

To be honest, I don’t think Vincent Price has ever actually scared me. Yet there is something about the multifaceted, unforgettable approach he brought to villainy that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. The great actors and actresses of the horror genre do not have to actually be scary, in order to make a connection to the audience. They simply have to bring something to the material that makes it almost impossible to imagine that material without them.

A good example of the above thought with Price would be the numerous Edgar Allan Poe movies he worked on. Yeah, there have been a ton of Poe film adaptations through the years, but I really don’t care about the vast majority of the movies that didn’t feature Price. He was the perfect actor to play characters like Roderick Usher or Nicholas Medina. While he was not overtly scary in those roles, he did set the bar for the kind of bad guy who could still capture your attention. He frequently transcended the notion of merely being scary. In the best Vincent Price films and worst Vincent Price films, he was rarely boring. The horror films of Vincent Price could establish tension and atmosphere on their own terms. Price would then bring his singular presence to the proceedings. He enhanced the tension and atmosphere through performances that were so unique, they didn’t have to be outright scary. They were an approach to evil, sympathetic or not, that were essential to the appeal of the movie.

(12) GHASTLY ACTING. Gizmodo declares its candidates for “The 30 Weirdest Horror Movies of the 1970s”. How about this one with two servings of ham, Shatner and Travolta?

9) The Devil’s Rain (1975)

Robert Fuest, director of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, returns to this list with this Satanic delight about a family cursed by a devoted servant of the Dark Lord. William Shatner plays the hero and Ernest Borgnine plays the red-robed villain, while John Travolta makes his film debut in a very small role. Other than Borgnine, the most memorable part of this cheese-fest is when the title event manifests onscreen, and everybody’s face melts. It’s spectacularly nuts.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/26 The Strange High Pixels on the Blog

(1) TRADITIONAL THANKS. Joe Vasicek’s “Giving Thanks” at One Thousand and One Parsecs is one of the best posts I saw that combined an sf theme with a serious reflection on the holiday.

So in the spirit of that first Thanksgiving feast, here are the things that I am especially thankful for this year:

  • I am thankful for my near and extended family. Tolstoy was wrong when he said that all happy families are alike: every family has their own quirks, even the ones that hold together. I wouldn’t give up my family’s quirks for anything.
  • I am thankful to live in a free country, where my rights to life, liberty, and property are respected and honored. I am also thankful for the brave men and women of our armed forces who sacrifice so much to keep it free.
  • I am thankful for the opportunity to pursue a career as an author, and for the flexibility and control that indie publishing provides. I have no one but myself to blame for my failures, but my successes are all my own. Even after four years, it’s still exhilarating.
  • I am thankful for my readers, who have made and continue to make this publishing journey possible. I am thankful for all that they do that supports me, from buying and reading my books to sharing with friends, posting reviews, sending me fan mail, and connecting in a hundred other little ways that together make this whole thing worthwhile. Seriously, you guys are awesome. The only thing I could ask is to have more of you!

(2) AMAZING THANKS. Steve Davidson sends holiday wishes to all in a post at Amazing Stories.

Whether you occupy the North American continent or not, and whether you celebrate “Thanksgiving Day” or not, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and all of the supporters, contributors, members and passersby at Amazing Stories to wish you a few moments of happy reflection on this day.

I urge you to take a moment to think back over the year and remember the people and happenings you’re thankful for this year.

I’m thankful for my wife and her support, and of the support and well-wishes I receive from our extended family….

(3) CONTRARY THANKS. David Brin ends his post “Cool science stuff… and more reasons to be thankful” at Contrary Brin with minor key gratitude.

Okay!  That great big pile of cool items ought to keep you busy, clicking and skimming while groaning and loosening your belts on Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday)… or else however you folks elsewhere around the world celebrate Thursday.  (Ah… Thursday!)

Don’t let grouches undermine our confidence.  Star Trek awaits.  Do thrive and persevere.

(4) DAUGHTERS. Three writers who love their daughters for exactly who they are:

(5) PREMIERE CONTEST. Omaze.com’s new charity fundraiser offers a chance to “Win a Trip to the Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. Deadline to enter is December 4 at 11:59 PST. The winner will be announced December 5.

Charity:

Africa Cancer Foundation; Arts in the Armed Forces (AITAF); Barnardos UK; Central London Samaritans; Damilola Taylor Trust; fStop Warrior Project; Feeding America; Make-A-Wish; Malala Fund; PACER: Children’s Mental Health and Emotional or Behavioral Disorders Project; Phab; St. Francis Hospice, Raheny; The Circle; UNICEF; Union of Concerned Scientists (“Charity”)

Prize Provider:

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (“Prize Provider”)

Details:

This experience includes attending the red carpet premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (“Picture”) in either Los Angeles or London. The attendance by any specific cast member, filmmakers, or such other talent from the Picture during the Premiere is not guaranteed and shall be subject to such talent’s availability and Sponsor’s and/or Prize Providers’ sole discretion. Neither Sponsor nor Prize Providers guarantee any type of meeting or photo opportunity with any specific cast member or talent from the Picture during the trip.

(6) CAPALDI IN AUCKLAND. “’Dr Who’ arrives to soothe pain” in the New Zealand Herald.

SPOILER WARNING. MAYBE.

Peter Capaldi

Peter Capaldi

Though Peter Capaldi, who plays the 12th incarnation of the sci-fi character hinted that, as it has been for more than 50 years, things in the show aren’t always clear-cut.

“My message for them would be life is tough,” Capaldi joked to The Herald about fans upset by Clara’s passing, sounding not unlike his second most-famous character, harsh spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker from political comedy The Thick of It.

“But Doctor Who is never quite what it seems. We haven’t told a lie. The story is the story but the Doctor is not going to rest. He is not going to accept that that is the last time he will be see Clara.”

(7) DAVID TENNANT. Io9 points to“David Tennant Celebrates 100 Years of General Relativity in This Clever Animation”, a YouTube video.

(8) Today In History

  • November 26, 1922 — In Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, British archaeologists Howard Carter and George Carnarvon became the first humans to enter King Tutankhamen’s treasure-laden tomb in more than 3,000 years.

(9) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born November 26, 1919Frederik Pohl. Pohl himself had started out in sf as a teenaged fan – not without controversy, for he was one of the six Futurians who were thrown out of the First Worldcon in 1939. The scales of justice would balance later when he was named guest of honor at the 1972 Worldcon, L.A.Con I.

(10) Leah Schnelbach’s “Frederik Pohl Made Doing Literally Everything Look Easy” at Tor.com is an entertaining overview of one of the field’s great figure. One paragraph may need a small fix.

Agent. Frederik Pohl attempted a career as a specialist science fiction literary agent, at a time when that wasn’t really a thing that existed. By the early 1950s he had a large number of clients, but he finally decided to close the agency to focus on editorial work. He was the only editor Isaac Asimov ever had.

Perhaps she meant “only agent”? Asimov’s work went under the hand of lots of other editors, according to the Internet Science Fiction Database.

(11) WRITER DISCIPLINE. Marc Aplin tells “How Writing Is A Lot Like Fighting – Part 1: Introduction” at Fantasy Faction.

The key to both statements is that the speaker’s practice/training has given them a degree of confidence that allows them to enter into a familiar situation (whether opening a word document or stepping into a ring/cage) and allowing their instincts to take over. It is important that you understand here that this isn’t simply ‘willingness’ to do their chosen activity (although that will be the first step), this is instead such a strong grasp of fundamentals that the person can switch their conscious mind off (i.e. ‘enter the zone’).

(12) CELTIC EXHIBIT. “British Museum Explores Celtic Identity” by Sean McLachlan at Black Gate.

For many of us, the Celts are an enduring fascination. Their art, their mysterious culture, and the perception that so many of us are descended from them makes the Celts one of the most popular ancient societies. So it’s surprising that the British Museum hasn’t had a major Celtic exhibition for forty years.

That’s changed with Celts: Art and Identity, a huge collection of artifacts from across the Celtic world and many works of art from the modern Celtic Revival. The exhibition is at pains to make clear that the name ‘Celts’ doesn’t refer to a single people who can be traced through time, and it has been appropriated over the last 300 years to reflect modern identities in Britain, Ireland, and elsewhere. “Celtic” is an artistic and cultural term, not a racial one.

The first thing visitors see is a quote by some guy named J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote in 1963, “To many, perhaps most people. . .’Celtic’ of any sort is. . .a magic bag into which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come. . .anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight.”

(13) HUMBLE BUNDLE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announced that the newest  Book Bundle will be supporting SFWA’s Givers Fund.

Pay what you want for Obsession: Tales of Irresistible Desire, One-Eyed Jack (Elizabeth Bear), Digital Domains: A Decade of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Word Puppets (Mary Robinette Kowal).

Pay more than the average price to also receive Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, The Year’s Best Science & Fantasy Novellas: 2015, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2015, New Cthulhu 2: More Recent Weird, and Witches: Wicked, Wild & Wonderful.

Pay $15 or more for all of that plus Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook, The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015, and Warrior Women.

Choose the price. Together, these books ordinarily go for up to $86. Here at Humble Bundle, though, you name the price! …

Support charity. Choose where the money goes — between the developers and three charitable causes (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Worldbuilders, or the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America–Giver’s Fund).

The bundle will be available til December 9.

(14) LETSON REVIEW. At Locus Online, Russell Letson begins his review of Greg Bear’s Killing Titan with an admission:

I should probably cop to this: I’m fascinated by military history, but I’ve never been much taken by what I think of as genre military SF, by which I mean adventure stories set in the military establishment and emphasizing weaponry, com­radeship, chains of command, career progress, and (of course) combat. As much as I enjoyed and understood Starship Troopers and The Forever War, I have found the run of routine combat or military-life series, well, routine and no match for the best of their historical-setting cousins (C.S. Forester, Bernard Cornwell, Pat­rick O’Brian, George MacDonald Fraser).

Nevertheless, it’s a positive review of Bear’s novel.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg.]