Pixel Scroll 6/6/19 Scroll Me Some Pixels And File Hacks, I Don’t Care If I Never Get Back

(1) F&SF COVER. Gordon Van Gelder, publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, shares a preview of their July/Aug. 2019 cover. The cover art is by Mondolithic Studios.

(2) RANKING SPACE OPERA. The readers of Discover Sci-Fi voted these as “The Top 10 Space Opera books or series of all time”. Coming in first place —

1. Honor Harrington series by David Weber

And the number one, all time best space opera as selected by DiscoverSciFi readers is the Honor Harrington series! Otherwise known as The Honorverse, most of the more than 20 novels and anthology collections cover events between 4000 and 4022 AD. Much of the series’ political drama follows that of Europe’s political scene from the 1500’s to 2000’s.

(3) PRIDE MONTH. Tor.com invites readers to celebrate with free novellas: “Happy Pride Month! Download These 4 Free LGBTQ+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novellas Before June 8!”

Download In Our Own Worlds now, featuring:

  • The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

(4) SUPER JOB. LAist interview Mark Waid about “How To Become A Comic Book Writer In LA: From A Legendary Superman Writer”.

STEP 2: BUILD A NETWORK

Waid attributes getting the chance to write comics to dumb luck. But there was also a lot of hard work. He started his career at Fantagraphics in Thousand Oaks, doing editing, layout, and other production on comic book fan magazine Amazing Heroes.

He also had the chance to write for the magazine, doing interviews that he described as puff pieces — but discovered that he was inadvertently networking, since he was now in touch with every editor and creator in comics.

When an editorial position opened up at DC Comics in 1987, he was known there for his work in those fan magazines.

“Was I interested in coming in for an interview? Well, yes. Jesus, yes,” Waid said.

(5) DRAINING THE SWAMP. At this DC they really did it — “‘Swamp Thing’ Canceled Less Than a Week After DC Universe Debut” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Just six days after its debut on DC Universe, Swamp Thing has been canceled.

Only one episode of the series has aired on DC Universe. The remainder of the show’s 10-episode run will play out on the streaming platform, but it won’t return after that. 

(6) IF YOU WILL. In “The Race to Venus”, Nature reviews the initiatives to explore Venus.

After decades of neglect, the world’s space agencies can no longer resist the pull of Earth’s evil twin.

…Venus is Earth’s double. Recent research has even suggested that it might have looked like Earth for three billion years, with vast oceans that could have been friendly to life. “That’s what sets my imagination

on fire,” says Darby Dyar, a planetary scientist at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. “If that’s the case, there was plenty of time for evolution to kick into action.” That could mean that Venus was (somewhat surprisingly) the first habitable planet in the Solar System — a place where life was just as likely to arise as it was on Earth. That alone is a reason to return to the former ocean world.

(7) LEAVING MEATSPACE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature this week reviews an SF novel in a substantive way – we perhaps get a full page SF novel a review once a year or twice if we are lucky.  Up this time is Neil Stephenson’s new novel Fall. “A digital god: Neal Stephenson rides again”

Neal Stephenson likes to blow things up. In Seveneves (2015), for instance, the prolific science-fiction writer detonated the Moon, then played out how humanity tried to save itself from extinction. In his new tome, Fall, the metaphorical explosion kills just one man.  But this is an individual sitting on a few billion dollars, and longing to escape the shackles of mortality. The aftermath of the blast is thus just as powerful, and changes the fate of humanity just as profoundly.

(8) NASA COLLECTIBLES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This Orion appears to be a spacecraft, rather than the boom-boom drive discussed in a recent scroll; submitted here for the souvenir-turtles (1) aspect: “Orion Collectibles”.

(1) If you don’t recognize the Heinlein reference, you won’t be gathering moss. Or syng pngf, aka Zamboni’d credentials.

(9) BEGIN AGAIN. The American Scholar’s George Musser weighs in on the future of the space program: “Our Fate Is in the Stars”.

…In space, no one can hear your echo chamber. Those who worked on Apollo were not immune to human foibles, such as being a little too fond of their own reasoning, but the mission came first. Fishman recalls disputes over the mission plan. Engineers in Huntsville wanted to fly directly from Earth orbit to the lunar surface. Engineers in Houston wanted to use lunar orbit as a way station. The meetings got heated. NASA commissioned two studies, with the twist that each team had to flesh out the other’s plan. Making the engineers step into each other’s shoes unstuck the debate, and Huntsville came around to Houston’s approach. That one decision ended up saving billions of dollars.

But as much as the Apollo program inspires, it also taunts. The unity of purpose, the technological virtuosity, and the exploratory achievements seem beyond us today—not just in space, but in every domain. I almost wish we didn’t remember Apollo, because the remembrances fill a void. The space program still does amazing things, but nothing like Apollo. The world has made itself a safer and healthier place, but some problems demand direction from the top, and we don’t get much of that.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 6, 1853 Charles Howard Hinton. British mathematician and writer of SF works titled Scientific Romances. He’s largely known now for coining the word “tesseract” which would get used by writers as diverse as Charles  Leadbeater, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Heinlein and  Madeleine L’Engle. He and his, errr, unique family would in turn figure into the fiction of Alan Moore, Carlos Atanes, Aleister Crowley, John Dewy and Jorge Luis Borges. (Died 1907.)
  • Born June 6, 1915 Tom Godwin. He published three novels and twenty-seven short stories in total. SFWA selected his story, “The Cold Equations”, as one of the best SF short stories published before 1965, and it is therefore included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964. (Died 1980.)
  • Born June 6, 1947 Robert Englund, 72. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Of course, most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried  and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD to Strippers vs Werewolves. Versatile man, our Robert.  
  • Born June 6, 1951 Geraldine McCaughrean, 68. Fifteen years ago, she wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to Peter Pan commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital, the holder of Peter Pan’s copyright which J.M. Barrie granted them. So has anyone here read it? 
  • Born June 6, 1959 Amanda Pays, 60. I first encountered her as Thero Jones on Max Headroom, a series I think could be considered the best SF series ever made. She also had a guest role as Phoebe Green in the episode “Fire” of The X-Files, and and as Christina “Tina” McGee in The Flash. She appeared as Dawn in the Spacejacked film. 
  • Born June 6, 1961 Lisabeth Shatner, 58. Uncredited as child along with her sister Melanie in “Miri” episode. Also appeared uncredited on TekWar entitled “Betrayal” which she wrote. The latter also guest-starred her sister, and was directed by their father.  Co-wrote with father, Captain’s Log: William Shatner’s Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V the Final Frontier.
  • Born June 6, 1963 Jason Isaacs, 56. Captain Gabriel Lorca, the commanding officer of the USS Discovery in the first season of Discovery and also provided the voice of The Inquisitor, Sentinel, in Star Wars Rebels, and Admiral Zhao in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Oh, and the role of playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film franchise.
  • Born June 6, 1964 Jay Lake. Another one who died far too young. If you read nothing else by him, read his brilliant Mainspring Universe series. Though his Green Universe is also entertaining and I see Wiki claims an entire Sunspin Universe series is forthcoming from him. Anyone know about these novels? (Died 2014.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Love of books features in Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics:

(12) WW84. On Twitter, Patty Jenkins posted a photo of Gal Gadot’s snappy new costume for Wonder Woman 1984.

(13) GO WITH THE FLOW. Tor.com shows Sparth’s cover for the third book in the series — ”Revealing John Scalzi’s The Last Emperox. (Coming in April 2020.)

The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known.

(14) CAT TUBE. Science Direct has an article on “The use of animal-borne cameras to video-track the behaviour of domestic cats”.

…Free roaming domestic animals can have a profound effect on wildlife. To better understand and mitigate any impact, it is important to understand the behaviour patterns of the domestic animals, and how other variables might influence their behaviour. Direct observation is not always feasible and bears the potential risk of observer effects. The use of animal-borne small video-cameras provides the opportunity to study behaviour from the animal’s point of view….

A nontechnical article about the study in the Washington Post makes it sound like their effect isn’t as profound as advertised: “Catcam videos reveal cats don’t sleep all day. (Just some of it.)”

Indoors, Huck said, most cats’ No. 1 activity would almost certainly be sleeping. But these cats’ lives were recorded when they were outdoors, and they had a higher priority: Their top activity was “resting” — not sleeping, but not exactly up and at ’em. Another preferred pastime was “exploring,” which Huck said amounts to “sniffing at plants or things.”

Although “cats are famous for being lazy,” Huck said, even their alfresco resting was active, if subtly so. The cat’s-eye-view videos revealed many instances of felines sitting for some time in one spot, but “constantly scanning the area,” as evidenced by faint shifts in the camera angle — left to right, up and down.

“They are really very patiently watching the environment, not wasting energy,” Huck said.

(15) THE SOON TO BE LATE AUTHOR. You’ll need to hurry. In LA, it’s opening weekend for “The Assassination of Edgar Allan Poe” at the Downtown Repertory Theater. Tickets for Poe on June 7th, 7:30pm are $25 (discount)

(16) RETRO REVIEWS. Steve J. Wright has completed his Retro Hugo Novelette finalist reviews.

Novelette

(17) DRACULA’S BALLS. You didn’t know he lost them? Well, strictly speaking, “Dracula the Impaler’s 15th century cannonballs unearthed in Bulgaria”SYFY Wire’s has the story.

According to a report in Archaeology in Bulgaria, the balls were “most likely” used by Count Vlad in the winter of 1461-1462 during his “siege and conquest” of the Zishtova Fortress being held by the Ottoman Turks. The balls were used for culverins, an early, primitive form of the cannon.  

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

Space Opera and Progress

Guest Post by Joseph Hurtgen:  For its grand narratives, space opera borrows from the horse opera or western. The horse opera relies on a 19th-century vision of American progress, relying on the mythos of finding vitality and riches as a result of westward expansion; space operas map similar assumptions onto galactic expansion. Indeed, space opera constitutes a comprehensive reworking of westerns and lost-race stories, even getting its name from the western horse opera.

Westerns, centering around progress, were easy for space operas to appropriate, and space opera transposes many superficial elements and overriding themes from the western genre. Bank robbers and data pirates alike challenge the establishment of governance over wild, untamed space. But lawmen enforce the dictum of progress, riding horseback or in spaceships across vast unsettled territories or galaxies in pursuit of outlaws: the vastness and lawlessness of the old West has its binary in the vastness of space. The challenge of seeing progress through is visually punctuated by those vast and empty vistas. Another challenge to progress comes in the form of the other, whether in the guise of native populations or aliens. These figures often read as a roadblock to progress and manifest destiny, standing in the way of “going boldly . . . ”

The background of manifest destiny is space opera’s most important link to the horse opera. America’s western frontier comprised a vast, uncivilized space for the young American nation to conquer and, in so doing, exercise its sovereignty, preparing the nation for its later status as a colonial, military, and economic superpower. Manifest destiny was a crucial part of the great American dream of progress. By conquering the lands west of the Mississippi, subduing the native populations there and bringing order to the wild, Americans would annex a country excelled in area by only Russia. Controlling the resources of 3.8 million square miles would secure the United States’ position as a major player in global politics and trade. In effect, westward expansion meant progress. Horse operas operate under the mythos of taming the wild west to fulfill the dictum of progress. Given that westerns trade in nostalgia, the actions of heroes in westerns are always interpreted as moving the country ever toward its glorious future.

The first space operas were overlaid with the theme of progress, the western’s thematic raison d’etre. That borrowed sense of progress took on the same assumptions about race and nationality as Western narratives. That is, indigenous tribes, aliens, or really just anyone non-white and non-American or non-European, depending on the derivation of the tale, stand in as figures to dominate as a way of achieving the dream of progress.

The ideal of progress was rationalized as a guiding principle of Western political philosophy beginning in the 19th century. W.G.F Hegel’s concept of spirit held that history, read as human history, was on a trajectory toward the creation of a perfect society. But, problematically for non-Europeans, the perfect society was perceived as Western. Thus, Hegel’s vision of progress was used to justify Western imperialism, with all of its barbaric practices. Space opera, a subgenre that plays with ideas of galactic empires with worlds to conquer, reflects the aims and impetus of empire as progress. It’s not hard to see that the most popular space operas–Star Wars and its ilk–focus on the grand themes of history, the rise and fall of galactic empires.

Alastair Reynolds, a popular space operator, connects his fictional worlds to the Western project of political philosophy to achieve human progress through governmental intervention. In The Prefect,Reynolds describes the citizens of the Glitter Band as incapable of being trusted with “absolute freedom” (Reynolds 2007: 90), a time tested justification for increasing governmental power over citizens. Reynolds all but spells out the social contract theory of thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “Too much power had been devolved to the habitats. For their own safety, central government needed to be reasserted” (Reynolds 2007: 90). And again, engaging with social contract theory, Reynolds considers what would occur if people were, sans government, “abandoned to their own worst natures” (Reynolds 2007: 90). Reynolds uses the language and argumentation of the Western ideal of progress through government intervention, removing autonomy from the individual to ensure a safe, ordered society.

Progress as a theme has a double side. What counts as a challenge to the Metropole is progress for the colonized other. The nascence of the space opera, a post-world-war 20th century, came at a time when the practice of colonization was in fierce review. Populations that had at one time existed in innocence to the technologies and practices of civilized nations were now in possession of the products and techniques that had once set them apart from colonizing powers. This plays out in space opera with aliens and hybrid figures commandeering the flagships of the empire to defend their pocket of the universe or strike out in search of their own worlds to conquer.

Progress for one group is almost always destruction for the other, even when space is unlimited. Perhaps over the millennia, evolutionary pressures have hardcoded humans with a desire to hoard resources while denying others what they need. The progression of others reads as a threat to our own survival. Consider, to that end, the shadows cast by the sun-eclipsing flying saucers of Independence Day. Yes, the cost of progress is almost always that somebody else has to go down in a blaze of laser glory. And the great conflict of the narrative of progress is that, all too often, the figure standing in for our cultural hero is in someone else’s crosshairs.


Joseph Hurtgen is a Ph.D. in English Literature, specializing in Science Fiction. He writes mind-expanding science fiction and analyzes sci-fi on his blog, Rapid Transmission.

Pixel Scroll 9/28/18 Who Put Nineteen Great Pixels In That Itty Bitty File?

(1) ARTIFICIAL ARTELLIGENCE. Camestros Felapton has invented the “Space Opera Book Cover Maker”.

Ladles and Gentlebens, here it is: The Space Opera Book Cover Maker Thing!

http://camfelapton.ihostfull.com/

First a word of warning. The images take a while to load and might be even slower depending on your internet connection. However, that speeds up as your browser caches some of them.

The basic idea is this. There are seven layers of images which you can control. The images load as thumbnails (actually the full image is loading into your browser’s memory hence it being a bit slow). You then press a button and all the images you’ve picked get stacked together into an HTML Canvas. If you right click on the canvas then you can save the combined image to your computer.

You can tell the output is authentic space opera because these covers have no tavern and no snow!

(2) ABOUT THAT CALENDRICAL ROT. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column for Lawyers, Guns & Money is devoted to the Machineries of Empire trilogy: “A Political History of the Future: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee”.

As Lee eventually reveals, the Hexarchate’s calendar relies on regular “remembrances”, in which heretics are ritually tortured to commemorate specific victories or the suppression of a particular heresy. In order to maintain their power and the empire’s technologies, the Hexarchate’s doctrinal authorities have to provide it with a continuous stream of rebels and heretics, which requires either a constant expansion of the empire’s borders, or a constant narrowing of the range of permissible behaviors. As weird as the calendar notion initially seems, I’m struggling to think of a fantastical device that so perfectly captures the pernicious trap of life under totalitarianism, the way that such systems feed themselves on their own citizens while sapping any survivors of the capacity for resistance.

(3) BEGONE, YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE. James Davis Nicoll invokes the magic number in his latest feature for Tor.com – “Five Worldbuilding Errors That Should Be Banished from SF Forever”.

Stars Move!

The stars in our part of the Milky Way (with some notable exceptions) tend to be headed in the same general direction at the same general speed, but not exactly in the same direction and not exactly at the same speed. Over time, the distances between stars change. Today, our closest known neighbour is Alpha Centauri at 4.3 light years. 70,000 years ago, it was Scholz’s Star at as little as 0.6 light years.

This error does not come up often. It’s a timescale thing: stars move on a scale marked in increments like time elapsed since the invention of beer. That is a lot slower than plot, for the most part, unless your plot covers thousands of years. Still, if your novel is set in the Solar System a billion years from now, don’t namecheck Alpha Centauri as Sol’s closest neighbor….

(4) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— is publishing a story on a theme. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Lions and Gazelles” by Hannu Rajaniemi.

“Where do you think we are?” the young Middle Eastern woman with the intense eyes asked.

Jyri smiled at her and accepted a smoothie from a tanned aide.

“I think this is a Greek island.” He pointed at the desolate gray cliffs. They loomed above the ruined village where the 50 contestants in the Race were having breakfast. “Look at all the dead vegetation. And the sea is the right color.”

In truth, he had no idea. At SFO, he’d been ushered into a private jet with tinted windows. The last leg of the journey had been in an autocopter’s opaque passenger pod. The Race’s location, like everything else about it, was a closely guarded secret.

It was published along with a response essay, “Can You Replicate the Burning Desire to Win That Drives Superhuman Athletes?”, by evolutionary biologist Rowan Hooper.

 Take a random selection of athletes at any Olympic Games. No matter their discipline, they will have one factor in common: a burning desire to win, and a motivation to be the best in the world. Imagine if we could develop a short cut to that kind of passion.

(5) LIADEN ONLINE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s “Liaden Universe® InfoDump Number 121” is online, with news about things to come such as —

BOOK SIGNING:
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will be signing the thirtieth anniversary edition of Agent of Change, and whatever else comes to hand, at Children’s Book Cellar, 52 Main Street, Waterville, Maine 04901, on! Friday, November 2, from 7:30-9 pm. Hope to see you there!

(6) HOPEFULLY NOT ICE-9. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] LiveScience article: “Bizarre Particles Keep Flying Out of Antarctica’s Ice, and They Might Shatter Modern Physics”.

There’s something mysterious coming up from the frozen ground in Antarctica, and it could break physics as we know it.

Physicists don’t know what it is exactly. But they do know it’s some sort of cosmic ray — a high-energy particle that’s blasted its way through space, into the Earth, and back out again. But the particles physicists know about — the collection of particles that make up what scientists call the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics — shouldn’t be able to do that. Sure, there are low-energy neutrinos that can pierce through miles upon miles of rock unaffected. But high-energy neutrinos, as well as other high-energy particles, have “large cross-sections.” That means that they’ll almost always crash into something soon after zipping into the Earth and never make it out the other side.

The underlying paper(s) they’re reporting on are on the arXiv service:

—and before that—

Popsci articles reporting on not-yet-published papers can get a little breathless and further can just plain get stuff wrong. What’s being reported in the underlying papers is that 2 anomalous events from one of the flights of ANITA (NASA’s Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna experiment with uses a balloon to loft the experiment over the Antarctic) — along with some supporting data from the underground IceCube neutrino detector (also in Antarctica) — just might point to previously unseen particles not contained in the Standard Model. This would be Very Big News if true… but the scientists and/or the popular science writers may well be getting ahead of themselves on this one

(7) QUESTIONS ABOUT BOOKS. Paul Weimer covers “Six Books with Lauren Teffeau” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. And speaking of that, what’s *your* latest book, and why is it awesome?Implanted, my debut from Angry Robot, is a cyberpunk adventure featuring light espionage, high-tech gadgets, romance, and hard questions about the future. The main character is a young woman named Emery Driscoll who’s blackmailed into working as a courier for a shadowy organization, and the book explores what happens when the life she was forced to leave behind comes back to haunt her after she’s left holding the bag on a job gone wrong.

(8) LOOKING FOR SOMETHING GOOD? Lady Business knows these are times when people need a break — “Short & Sweet: Comforting Stories”.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been finding the world a very stressful place recently. That can make it really hard for me to focus. So I thought I’d put together a list of comforting stories. Because sometime I just need to read something that reminds me of the good in the world. I learned from talking about hopeful stories that some of the stories I found bleak others found hopeful, so I suspect that not everyone will be comforted by these stories. There’s a lot family in these stories: both blood family and found family; a fair bit of food; and plenty of people being nice to each other and trying their best. Those are the things I try and hold on to when things are hard. I hope they bring you some comfort.

One example –

”Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon — This story about a young man who inherits a magic sword from his grandmother—but he just wants to be a farmer! I love this story because it’s about valuing feeding people and taking care of the land.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger, Editor, from 1939 through 1953, of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels Magazine, plus two years of A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine. There is evidence that she was once a member of the New York Futurians.
  • Born September 28, 1923 – William Windom, Actor, known for playing Commodore Decker in the episode “The Doomsday Machine” of the original Star Trek series, a role he reprised in the Star Trek: New Voyages fan series. He also had numerous guest roles in genre TV series including The Twilight Zone, The Invaders, Night Gallery, Ghost Story, Mission: Impossible, and The Bionic Woman, played the President of the U.S. in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and voiced a main character in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
  • Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik, Writer and Editor, a well-known SF fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine, Fanac, in the late 1950s. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans, which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “He also had some fiction published professionally, and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.” The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in in an auto accident the day before his wedding.
  • Born September 28, 1946 – Herbert Jefferson Jr., 72, Actor, best known to genre fans as Lieutenant Boomer in Battlestar Galactica (later promoted to Colonel when he reprised that role in Galactica 1980).
  • Born September 28, 1964 – Janeane Garofalo, 54, Actor, Writer, Producer, and Comedian who has had roles in odd genre movies, including Dogma, Mystery Men, and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, and has done lots of voice acting in animated series and films including the Ratatouille movies.
  • Born September 28, 1967 – Mira Sorvino, 51, Actor and Producer whose genre credits include the TV series Falling Skies and Intruders, and the movies Mimic and Space Warriors.
  • Born September 28, 1968 – Naomi Watts, 50, English/Welsh Actor whose genre roles have included leads in the short-lived TV series Sleepwalkers and the movies Stay, King Kong (the 2005 remake), and Dream House, as well as the Divergent movie series.

(10) I FLOCK TO THE TREES. Steven H Silver celebrates one birthday in his daily Black Gate feature: “Birthday Reviews: Michael G. Coney’s ‘The Byrds’”

Michael Coney takes a look at mass hysteria in “The Byrds,” in which a Canada which is struggling with population problems sends out questionnaires to the elderly which encourage them to choose euthanasia. In one family, as Gran gets on in years, she refuses to kill herself and instead strips naked, paints herself like a bird, and straps on an anti-gravity belt before taking to the trees to the mortification of her family.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) ON FANTASY. In August Tor.com posted V. E. Schwab’s Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature, given at Pembroke College, Oxford — “’In Search of Doors’: Read V.E. Schwab’s 2018 J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature”.

I write fantasy to make cracks in the foundation of a reader’s expectations, to challenge the solidity of their assumptions and beliefs.

I write fantasy because I want to bolster the believers, and make the skeptics wonder, to instill doubt and hope in equal measure. To help readers envision a time, a place, a world in which fantastical concepts like magic, or immortality, or equality, seem within reach.

(13) FAILS. Oren Ashkenazi breaks down “Eight Absurdities We Force on Female Characters” at Mythcreants.

It would be impossible to list all the difficulties storytellers create for themselves, but here are eight of the most common….

The second on the list is —

  1. Separate Fighting Styles

I used to think it was strange how often I would see people online asking how to realistically write women in fight scenes. I thought, “Simple: pointy end goes into the other fighter.” But then I realized that people were actually confused and that the debates over which killing tools would work as “women’s weapons” are largely spawned by existing stories.

Every time a novel depicts a woman needing to find a special weapon or a film gives women a sexy fighting style, it furthers the idea that the way women fight is inherently different from the way men fight. This is nonsense – the physics of murder don’t change based on gender – but the idea persists.

Storytellers can free themselves from this problem by simply accepting that women in their setting fight the same way men fight. A sword doesn’t particularly care about its wielder’s pronouns. If a storyteller actually wants to know what tactics a physically weaker fighter would employ against a stronger opponent, they can ask that, but it should be decoupled from gender. If that level of detail is important to the setting, then it should be considered any time combatants differ in strength, not just when one of them is female.

(14) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. Another big dino discovered: “Bones Reveal The Brontosaurus Had An Older, Massive Cousin In South Africa”.

Millions of years before the brontosaurus roamed the Earth, a massive relative was lumbering around South Africa.

Scientists think this early Jurassic dinosaur was, at the time, the largest land creature ever to have lived. And unlike the even bigger creatures that came later, they think it could pop up on its hind legs.

They’ve dubbed the newly discovered dinosaur Ledumahadi mafube, which translates in the Sesotho language to “a giant thunderclap at dawn.” And the discovery sheds light on how giants like the brontosaurus got so huge.

(15) A DISCOURAGING WORD. “Hackers expose ‘staggering’ voter machine flaws” — even counters-of-paper-ballots can be hacked.

In August, the Def Con conference in Las Vegas ran a “Voting Village”, where participants were encouraged to uncover flaws in US election infrastructure by hacking into various computer systems.

The organisers of the conference on Thursday released a 50-page report on their findings.

They describe the number and severity of flaws in voting equipment as “staggering”.

(16) HE’S BATMAN. The new Nerd & Tie Podcast — “Episode 132 – Your Favorite Cartoon (That No One Remembers)” – shows there’s someplace you can hear all you want about that topic I banished here. (And no, it’s not the one mentioned  in the episode title.)

This episode of Nerd & Tie’s big topic is childhood cartoons we loved that hardly anyone else seems to remember. Trae, Gen and Nick all had different childhoods, so the list ends up being pretty diverse.

Before that though, we hit the news — where Telltale Games is shutting down, Disney is admitting that they’ve been milking Star Wars too hard, and DC showed everyone Batman’s wing wang.

We talk about that last one for waaaaaay too long.

(17) SHARE THE VISION. Engadget delves into the VR adaptation of a PKD story: “Philip K. Dick’s ‘The Great C’ for Oculus Rift arrives this October”.

The virtual reality adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Great C is now making its way to VR headsets after debuting at the Venice Film Festival. It will be available for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as soon as October 9th, but PlayStation VR owners will unfortunately have to wait until 2019. Fans can expect to be thrust into a 37-minute immersive sci-fi adventure when they put on their headsets and fire up the experience.

The Great C is a post-apocalyptic story that revolves around the remnants of humanity under the rule of an all-powerful supercomputer called “The Great C.” Every year, a human tribe living nearby has to sacrifice a young person to the machine in order to appease it. The VR adventure by Secret Location focuses on a woman named Clare whose fiancé was chosen for that particular year’s pilgrimage from which nobody ever returns.

(18) LUCASFILM GAMES. Digital Antiquarian studies the history of the gaming sideline to George Lucas’ moviemaking activities: “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (or, Of Movies and Games and Whether the Twain Shall Meet)”

Before there was Lucasfilm Games, there was the Lucasfilm Computer Division, founded in 1979 to experiment with computer animation and digital effects, technologies with obvious applications for the making of special-effects-heavy films. Lucasfilm Games had been almost literally an afterthought, an outgrowth of the Computer Division that was formed in 1982, a time when George Lucas and Lucasfilm were flying high and throwing money about willy-nilly.

In those days, a hit computer game, one into which Lucasfilm Games had poured their hearts and souls, might be worth about as much to the parent company’s bottom line as a single Jawa action figure — such was the difference in scale between the computer-games industry of the early 1980s and the other markets where Lucasfilm was a player. George Lucas personally had absolutely no interest in or understanding of games, which didn’t do much for the games division’s profile inside his company. And, most frustrating of all for the young developers who came to work for The House That Star Wars Built, they weren’t allowed to make Star Wars games — nor, for that matter, even Indiana Jones games — thanks to Lucas having signed away those rights to others at the height of the Atari VCS fad. Noah Falstein, one of those young developers, would later characterize this situation as “the best thing that could have happened” to them, as it forced them to develop original fictions instead — leading, he believes, to better, more original games.

(19) HEROIC PILOT. Here’s the extended sneak peek of Star Wars Resistance —

A daring pilot embarks upon a secret mission against the First Order… with a lot of help from his friends in Star Wars Resistance. Premiering Sunday, October 7 at 10pm ET/PT on Disney Channel.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/17 Will No One Pixel Me This Troublesome Scroll?

(1) CLOSE THE GAP. David Dean Bottrell, Producer, Sci-Fest LA, is asking people to help support The Tomorrow Prize, due to be presented this weekend:

Although Sci-Fest LA has been temporarily side-lined our amazing short story competitions continue!! Unfortunately, a grant we were depending on, has fallen through at the last second, and the awards are this coming weekend! We need your help to make up a $500.00 gap IMMEDIATELY needed to award the prizes to our winners!

Donate at:  http://www.lightbringerproject.org/support/

You can make a donation via our new non-profit sponsor, LIGHTBRINGER PROJECT. Please add a note during the payment process for what the donation’s for — You can mention Sci-Fest, Tomorrow Prize or Roswell Award.

(2) INDIGENOUS VOICES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has posted an update about her efforts to fund and launch an Emerging Indigenous Voices Award. (This would not be an sff award, but was prompted by the Canadian literary controversy reported here last week.)

I’ve gathered $4355 in pledges from people who wish to make this a reality. I’ve also e-mailed Robin Parker, who has also obtained pledges for a similar drive. We could be talking about more than $7,000 if we pool those resources together.

I have sent an e-mail to folks at the UBC Longhouse asking for some guidance.

I feel that if an award does become a reality, it must be managed by an Indigenous organization. I aim merely to help funnel money to them.

It may take some time to sort things out. I am putting together documentation tracking who pledged, how much, etc.

In the meantime, you can fund or support local organizations which represent Indigenous people in your community.

We should not turn to Indigenous and marginalized groups only when bad stuff happens and there are ways to support them that don’t involve donations. Read and review Indigenous literature. Suggest Indigenous artists as guests of honor at conventions. If you have access to a platform, invite them to write op-eds, guest posts, etc….

(3) ESCHEW CHRONOLOGICAL SNOBBERY. L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright raised her voice in defense of Anne McCaffrey at Superversive SF — “When New Is (Not) Best–The Degradation of Grand Master Anne McCaffrey”.

People talk about strong female characters today. Sometimes they mean kickbutt fighters. But when the term first got started, it meant females who held their own, who acted and achieved and accomplished, female characters who were smart.

Lessa was all that. To me, she was the sole female character in SF who really had the qualities I wanted to have. I adored her.

Recently, I was in a store and I picked up a copy of Dragonflight, the original Pern book. I remember thinking, Huh, it probably wasn’t that good. I’ve just glamorized it. Let me see… After all, some of her later books were a bit fluffy. Maybe this early book was just fluff, too, and I had just not noticed. I started flipping through it.

I read an astonishing amount of it before I realized I was standing in a bookstore and embarrassedly put it down.

It was still that good.

(4) THEY KNOW WHEN YOU’RE AWAKE. An author tells about eavesdropping on fan sites in “The Big Idea: Megan Whalen Turner” at Whatever.

As a newbie author, I was self-Googling like mad and just before The King of Attolia was published. I found a livejournal site dedicated to my books. I lurked. I did tell them I was lurking, but I knew right from the start that having authors around is a great, wonderful, exciting thing—right up until they make it impossible to have an honest conversation about their books, so I was careful not too lurk too often. In return, I got to watch these smart, funny people pick through everything I’d written and I became more and more convinced that they didn’t need my input, anyway. Everything in my books that I hoped they’d see, they were pointing out to one another. Watching them, I decided I should probably probably keep my mouth shut and leave readers to figure things out for themselves. That’s why when they got around to sending me a community fan letter, I’m afraid that my answer to most of their questions was, “I’m not telling.” Over the years, it’s hardened into a pretty firm policy.

(5) SPACE OPERA WEEK. Tor.com has declared: It’s Space Opera Week on Tor.com!

Alan Brown has a handle on the history of the term: “Explore the Cosmos in 10 Classic Space Opera Universes”.

During the Golden Age of Science Fiction, there was a lot of concern about the amount of apparent dross being mixed in with the gold. The term “space opera” was originally coined to describe some of the more formulaic stories, a term used in the same derisive manner as “soap opera” or “horse opera.” But, like many other negative terms over the years, the term space opera has gradually taken on more positive qualities. Now, it is used to describe stories that deal with huge cosmic mysteries, grand adventure, the long sweep of history, and giant battles. If stories have a large scope and a boundless sense of wonder, along with setting adventure front and center, they now proudly wear the space opera name.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer discusses why she embarked on her Vorkosigan Saga reread series for Tor.com in Space Opera and the Underrated Importance of Ordinary, Everyday Life

The Vorkosigan series is space opera in the really classic style. There are big ships that fight each other with weapons so massive and powerful that they don’t even have to be explained. The most dramatic conflicts take place across huge distances, and involve moving people, ideas, and technology through wormholes that span the Galactic Nexus, and watching how that changes everything. So it’s also about incredibly ordinary things—falling in love, raising children, finding peace, facing death.

And Cheeseman-Meyer’s latest entry “Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Borders of Infinity covers a lot of ground, but I must applaud this comment in particular —

At this point, I suddenly realize how little time we really get to spend with the Dendarii Mercenaries, who have now appeared as a fighting force in only two of the seven books in the reread.

Liz Bourke, in “Sleeps With Monsters: Space Opera and the Politics of Domesticity”, reminds readers that relationships are the web that connect the infinite spaces of this subgenre.

Let’s look at three potential examples of this genre of… let’s call it domestic space opera? Or perhaps intimate space opera is a better term. I’m thinking here of C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series, now up to twenty volumes, which are (in large part) set on a planet shared by the (native) atevi and the (alien, incoming) humans, and which focus on the personal and political relationships of Bren Cameron, who is the link between these very different cultures; of Aliette de Bodard’s pair of novellas in her Xuya continuity, On A Red Station, Drifting and Citadel of Weeping Pearls, which each in their separate ways focus on politics, and relationships, and family, and family relationships; and Becky Chambers’ (slightly) more traditionally shaped The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, which each concentrate in their own ways on found families, built families, communities, and the importance of compassion, empathy, and respect for other people’s autonomy and choices in moving through the world.

But lest we forget the reason Tor.com exists, Renay Williams plugs the franchise in “A Plethora of Space Operas: Where to Start With the Work of John Scalzi”.

101: Beginner Scalzi

If you’re brand-new to Scalzi’s work, there a few possible starting places. If you want a comedic space opera adventure, you’ll want to start with Old Man’s War and its companion and sequel novels, The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. If you’re in the mood for straight up comedy SF, then Agent to the Stars is your entry point. And if you want some comedy but also kind of want to watch a political thriller in your underwear while eating snack food and don’t know what book could possibly meet all those qualifications at once, there’s The Android’s Dream, which is the funniest/darkest book about sheep I’ve ever read.

(6) AMEN CORNER. The celebration also includes a reminder from Judith Tarr: “From Dark to Dark: Yes, Women Have Always Written Space Opera”.

Every year or two, someone writes another article about a genre that women have just now entered, which used to be the province of male writers. Usually it’s some form of science fiction. Lately it’s been fantasy, especially epic fantasy (which strikes me with fierce irony, because I remember when fantasy was pink and squishy and comfy and for girls). And in keeping with this week’s theme, space opera gets its regular turn in the barrel.

Women have always written space opera.

Ever heard of Leigh Brackett? C.L. Moore? Andre Norton, surely?

So why doesn’t everyone remember them?

Because that second X chromosome carries magical powers of invisibility.

And having read that, who would you be looking to for an “Amen!” Would you believe, Jeffro Johnson at the Castalia House Blog? Not from any feminist impulse, but because it fits his own narrative about the Pulp Revolution — “The Truth About Women and Science Fiction”:

…Yes, the “Hard SF” revolution did turn the field into something of a boy’s club. The critical frame that emerged from it has unfairly excluded the work of a great many top tier creators that happened to be female. And much as it pains me to admit it, feminist critics do have a point when they complained about women being arbitrarily excluded.

However… when they treat the Campbellian Revolution as the de facto dawn of science fiction, they are perpetuating and reinforcing the real problem. If you want creators like Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore to get the sort of attention they deserve, you have to recover not only the true history of fantasy and science fiction. You have to revive and defend the sort of classical virtues that are the root cause of why they have been snubbed in the first place.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Sea Monkey Day

The history of sea monkeys starts, oddly enough, with ant farms. Milton Levine had popularized the idea of Ant-farm kits in 1956 and, presumably inspired by the success of his idea, Harold von Braunhut invented the aquatic equivalent with brine-shrimp. It was really ingenious looking back on it, and ultimately he had to work with a marine biologist to really bring it all together. With just a small packet of minerals and an aquarium you’d suddenly have a place rich with everything your brine-shrimp needed to survive. So why sea monkeys? Because who was going to buy brine-shrimp? It was all a good bit of marketing, though the name didn’t come about for nearly 5 years. They were originally called “instant life”, referencing their ‘just add water’ nature. But when the resemblance of their tails to monkeys tails was noted by fans, he changed it to ‘Sea-Monkeys’ and so it’s been ever since! The marketing was amazing too! 3.2 million pages of comic book advertising a year, and the money just flowed in the door. So what are Sea Monkeys exactly? They’re clever mad science really. Sea Monkeys don’t (or didn’t) exist in nature before they were created in a lab by hybridization. They’re known as Artemia NYOS (New York Ocean Science) and go through anhydrobiosis, or hibernation when they are dried out. Then, with the right mixture of water and nutrients they can spring right back into life! Amazing!

Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like Trisolarians!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(9) COMIC SECTION. Daniel Dern recommends today’s Candorville: “We already knew the creator’s a Star Trek geek, clearly he’s also a (DC) comic book fan…”

(10) DOCTOROW. This is the book Cory Doctorow was promoting at Vromans Bookstore when Tarpinian and I attended his joint appearance with John Scalzi a couple weeks ago. Carl Slaughter prepared a summary:

WALKAWAY
Cory Doctorow
Tor
April 25, 2017

Hubert was too old to be at that Communist party.

But after watching the breakdown of modern society, he really has no where left to be?except amongst the dregs of disaffected youth who party all night and heap scorn on the sheep they see on the morning commute. After falling in with Natalie, an ultra-rich heiress trying to escape the clutches of her repressive father, the two decide to give up fully on formal society?and walk away.

After all, now that anyone can design and print the basic necessities of life?food, clothing, shelter?from a computer, there seems to be little reason to toil within the system.

It’s still a dangerous world out there, the empty lands wrecked by climate change, dead cities hollowed out by industrial flight, shadows hiding predators animal and human alike. Still, when the initial pioneer walkaways flourish, more people join them. Then the walkaways discover the one thing the ultra-rich have never been able to buy: how to beat death. Now it’s war – a war that will turn the world upside down.

Fascinating, moving, and darkly humorous, Walkaway is a multi-generation SF thriller about the wrenching changes of the next hundred years…and the very human people who will live their consequences.

PRAISE FOR WALKAWAY

  • “Thrilling and unexpected….A truly visionary techno-thriller that not only depicts how we might live tomorrow, but asks why we don’t already.” Kirkus
  • “Doctorow has envisioned a fascinating world…This intriguing take on a future that might be right around the corner is bound to please.” ?Library Journal
  • “Memorable and engaging. …Ultimately suffused with hope.” ?Booklist
  • “The darker the hour, the better the moment for a rigorously-imagined utopian fiction. Walkaway is now the best contemporary example I know of, its utopia glimpsed after fascinatingly-extrapolated revolutionary struggle. A wonderful novel: everything we’ve come to expect from Cory Doctorow and more.”?William Gibson
  • “Cory Doctorow is one of our most important science fiction writers, because he’s also a public intellectual in the old style: he brings the news and explains it, making clearer the confusions of our wild current moment. His fiction is always the heart of his work, and this is his best book yet, describing vividly the revolutionary beginnings of a new way of being. In a world full of easy dystopias, he writes the hard utopia, and what do you know, his utopia is both more thought-provoking and more fun.”?Kim Stanley Robinson
  • “Is Doctorow’s fictional utopia bravely idealistic or bitterly ironic? The answer is in our own hands. A dystopian future is in no way inevitable; Walkaway reminds us that the world we choose to build is the one we’ll inhabit. Technology empowers both the powerful and the powerless, and if we want a world with more liberty and less control, we’re going to have to fight for it.”?Edward Snowden

(11) LITFEST PASADENA. In addition to the Roswell Award  and Tomorrow Award readings, this weekend’s LitFest Pasadena includes these items of genre interest:

Saturday

Famed afro-futurist writer Nalo Hopkinson (The Chaos) joins the Shades & Shadows Reading Series for an evening of dark fiction from noir mystery to sci-fi.

Sunday

Popular comic book and TV writer Brandon Easton (Agent Carter), joins fellow comic book writers to discuss “Manga Influences on American Culture.”

(12) SPEAKING PARTS. Pornokitsch shows why someone could argue “Middle Earth Has Fewer Women Than Space”.

This research is from April 2016. The folks at The Pudding analysed thousands of screenplays and did a word count of male and female dialogue.

Unsurprisingly: Hollywood skews heavily in favour of dudes talking.

Naturally, I looked for all the nerdiest films I could find. This was a lot of fun, although the results were… pretty bleak. …..

There follows a whole chart about genre films.

2001 is literally a film about two dudes floating in space, and it has a higher percentage of female dialogue than two of the Lord of the Rings films.

(13) IOU. Jon Del Arroz thinks I should be paying him when I put him in the news. Now there’s an innovative marketing mind at work.

(14) PANTHER UNPLUGGED. Ernie Estrella at Blastr demands — “So why did Marvel pull the plug on Black Panther & The Crew after just two issues?”

How long should a comic book aimed at reaching a more socially aware audience be given latitude before it’s canceled? According to Marvel Comics, just two. Marvel is canceling one of two monthly titles that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, Black Panther & The Crew. After two issues have underperformed in sales, the title has been abruptly put on notice. Marvel had seen enough and was not satisfied by the early numbers to stick with a title while it finds its audience. Coates told Verge that issue #6 will be the series’ finale, wrapping up the storyline that was introduced in the debut issue, which came out in this past March.

Coates co-writes the series with Yona Harvey, and together they crafted a story starring Black Panther, Storm, Misty Knight and Luke Cage investigating the murder of a civil rights activist who died while in police custody, Ezra Keith. Relevant to America’s current societal problems facing inherent racism, Coates and Harvey’s story also dives into the main four heroes and tries to look deeper at their varied experiences as black people in the Marvel Universe….

(15) NEW GRRM ADAPTATION. George R.R. Martin gives fans the background on developments they’ve been reading about in the Hollywood trade papers — “Here’s the Scoop on NIGHTFLYERS”.

In 1984 I sold the film and television rights to “Nightflyers” to a writer/ producer named Robert Jaffe and his father Herb….

This new NIGHTFLYERS television series — actually, it is just a pilot script at present, still several steps short of going on-air, but I am told that SyFy likes the script a lot — was developed based on the 1987 movie, and the television rights conveyed in that old 1984 contract. Robert Jaffe is one of the producers, I see, but the pilot script is by Jeff Buhler. I haven’t had the chance to meet him yet, but hope to do so in the near future.

Since I have an overall deal that makes me exclusive to HBO, I can’t provide any writing or producing series to NIGHTFLYERS should it go to series… but of course, I wish Jaffe and Buhler and their team the best of luck. “Nightflyers” was one of my best SF stories, I always felt, and I’d love to see it succeed as a TV series (fingers crossed that it looks as good as THE EXPANSE).

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar, with an assist from Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/17 We Were Somewhere Around Barstow When The Pixels Began To Take Hold

(1) YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GONNA GET. I appreciate the irony in the first line of Germain Lussier’s io9 post “The New Dune Movie Is Being Written By the Man Who Wrote Forrest Gump”:

But we don’t think that should worry you.

According to Lussier, Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for Forrest Gump, has been hired to adapt the Frank Herbert novel Dune for director Denis Villeneuve.

(2) NEW AFRICAN SF AWARD. Since the Hugo announcement date was only known a few days ahead of time, the African Speculative Future Society may not have known that April 4 was a less-than-optimum date to announce the inaugural 2017 Nommos shortlist.

The categories are:

The Ilube Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel by an African  – 1000 USD prize,

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novella by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Short Story by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Graphic Novel by Africans – 1000 USD to be shared.

The award website says —

We have welcoming and inclusive definition of who is an African that includes children of an African parent. Read more about eligibility here.

The award has been funded for four years, by Mr Tom Ilube.

“Science fiction is important because it looks ahead to African futures.  Fantasy and fiction based on traditional tales are important because they link us back to our forebears.  Both are important for African development.  I wanted to make sure that the explosion of African science fiction gets the recognition it deserves.”  Mr Tom Ilube.

The first award ceremony will be held at Aké Festival in Nigeria, November 2017. After that they hope to alternate the location of the awards ceremony between West and East Africa.

Here are links to the Short List and the rest of the nominees in all 4 categories:

(3) OLD OPERA HAS NEW ACTS. Cora Buhlert couldn’t find what she liked 20 years ago, but there’s enough good stuff now for her to be writing about “The Space Opera Resurgence”.

I didn’t like any of those books. But I was an SF fan and a space opera fan and this was all the space opera there was, with very few exceptions (mostly published by Baen Books, which are notoriously difficult to find in Europe). So I kept trying the highly regarded New Space Opera of the early 2000s, until I found myself standing in the local Thalia store, the latest offering of New British Space Opera subgenre in hand (it was this one – I remember the cover very clearly), when I suddenly dropped the book to the floor and exclaimed, “Why do I keep buying this shit? I don’t even like these books.” So I turned my back on New British Space Opera and on science fiction altogether (I did put the book back on the shelf first) and read other genres for a few years, until I came back in a roundabout way via urban fantasy and science fiction romance and found a whole universe of SFF books that weren’t on the radar of the official genre critics at all.

Now, some ten to fifteen years later, there is a lot more space opera on the shelves than back in the early 2000s. It’s also a lot more diverse the than just pale Banks clones. Nor is it just written by white, overwhelmingly British dudes – indeed, some of the best space opera of today is written by women and writers of colour. And even some of those authors whose novels almost put me off science fiction altogether some ten years ago are writing much more enjoyable works these days. …

(4) MAIL CALL. It’s not easy to get letters from the year 1962 unless you’re The Traveler. Galactic Journey today unveiled – “[April 5, 1962] Pen Pals (Letter Column #1)”. The first missive comes from University of Arizona student Vicki Lucas….

Of course, to pay the tuition and room & board, I also take in ironing, do tutoring, deliver newspapers, etc., and they helped me get a student loan. It’s been a real eye-opener to go to school here. Now I know what “scholarship” means. At the University of Arizona, from which I transferred last year, I did have some great learning experiences, but nothing as rich as this.

Not that I didn’t have some great experiences at UA, meeting an English Professor who is an avante-garde composer (Barney Childs), and since I worked in the Fine Arts College I went to most concerts & saw the harpsichord played for the first time (double keyboard!) & heard Barney’s music played. (I admit, I have a crush on him — see the enclosed photo.) And then I’ve been to San Francisco & seen jazz trumpeter Miles Davis & a lot of other stuff….

(5) CAMESTROS FELAPTON EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU. Thank goodness somebody can. In  “Hugo 2017: How to vote for best series” he looks at 8 different approaches to dealing with the vastness of the Hugo nominated series. Sure, 8 is also a lot — just be grateful he didn’t try to match the number of ways Cyrano described his nose.

The issue is that Best Series is not unlike Best Editor Long Form – the normal way of voting in the Hugo Awards doesn’t work (read the relevant stuff and vote). However, unlike Best Editor Long, best series at least has accessible information and works. The problem is that it is way too much volume of stuff to evaluate if you haven’t already been following the series in question. So here are some approaches to choose from.

(6) CHOP CHOP. Shouldn’t Wolverine co-creator Len Wein be getting a cut of this?

A medical clinic in the Philippines is using an unusual mascot to advertise its circumcision service: claw-bearing X-Men super hero Wolverine.

The advertisement for Dionisio M. Cornel Memorial Medical Center in Antipolo features an image of Hugh Jackman as the adamantium-clawed character he played in the X-Men and Wolverine films next to text promoting the clinic’s circumcision service.

 

(7) RED ALERT. At Nerd & Tie Trae Dorn wants to know “What the Heck is Even Happening With AnachroCon Right Now?”

The Atlanta, GA based convention AnachroCon might be more aptly named “AnarchoCon” these days. Earlier this week the convention’s Chair and legal counsel Sarah Avraham stepped down in what sounds like an extremely complicated situation.

In a public Facebook post Avraham detailed the reasons for her departure, and while you should really read that post in its entirety, I’ll do my best to summarize it. It starts when Avraham was approached by William and Cindy MacLeod in the spring of 2016 to take over the event in an attempt to rehabilitate the convention’s image and get it back on track financially.

Because man, this con needed help….

(8) ON HOLD. Nerd & Tie is also reporting that “One Month After Cancellation, Multiple Parties Still Waiting For Refunds From Lebanon MEGA Con:.

This last weekend would have been the second annual Lebanon MEGA Con, if the Missouri based convention hadn’t announced its cancellation just one month before. While organizer Will Peden did say that everyone owed money would be paid, some parties are waiting for those promises to be fulfilled.

(9) TODAY IN FUTURE HISTORY

  • April 5, 2063 — The day the Vulcans landed. According to Memory-Alpha:

First Contact Day was a holiday celebrated to honor both the warp 1 flight of the Phoenix and first open contact between Humans and Vulcans on April 5, 2063 in Bozeman, Montana

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch

I recognize Bob Tucker on the left. Who is the woman on the right? The photo is from a 1959 party in Chicago.

(11) DELIBERATIONS CONTINUE. The Shadow Clarke Jury carries on a discussion of the books they’d like to see considered for the Clarke award.

It does not seem surprising that reading Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K, in which an estranged son accompanies his tycoon father to the threshold of his journey into eternity, brought those memories of Cold Lazarus especially rushing back. Straddling the millennium, both [Dennis] Potter’s final teleplays and DeLillo’s sixteenth novel have a leached-out, end-times quality that puts human mortality centre stage and refuses to look away. That Potter’s scripts – almost a quarter-century old now and written while SF was still very much a pariah literature – leap naked into the science fictional abyss, while DeLillo’s novel appears to negate, to brush aside the very notion of science fiction altogether, seems just one further irony.

Imagine a table laden with all the food you can think of; things you like and things you don’t like; cuisines from all around the world; the fresh and the fast; three thousand calorie freak-shakes next to organic kale salads; dessert piled on top of nachos sitting on a bed of pears. The table is groaning, under the physical and the metaphorical weight of the feast.  It’s wonderful and disconcerting and a bit horrifying and deliciously tempting at the same time.  This is the gastronomic equivalent of Cathrynne M. Valente’s Radiance, a virtuoso outpouring of language, style, trope and intertext fit to overwhelm any appetite. It took close to a week for me to sit down and start this review after I finished the book; I needed that long to digest it.  If you like your novels spare or clean this one probably isn’t for you.

His claim directly addresses the central conceit of the novel that the networks and routes by which African-American slaves escaped to the free states and the North exists as an actual underground railroad with stations and steam locomotives on rails. However, his mistake lies in imagining that the workings of the railroad can be reduced to information as legible as a map and a timetable. Earlier in the novel, when Cora visits this particular ‘ghost tunnel’ for the first time with the railroad operative, Royal, she reflects that the necessary secret of the railroad is not a bad type of secret but rather an intimate part of the self that is central to personal identity: ‘It would die in the sharing.’ The enigma of the railroad, as Royal observes, is that ‘it goes everywhere, to places we know and those we don’t’. The challenge it presents is not to classify it as a system of knowledge but to figure out both how it connects the different selves who use it and where it might lead to.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish is easily the least traditionally science fictional of my shortlist selections: not only does it feature no rockets, but it’s set firmly in the past (and is more about pasts than futures) and it includes talking snakes and something very much like a dragon. In the sense that science fiction is defined by the presence or absence of received ideas and familiar imagery—that is, using the least science fictional definition of science fiction—it would not be considered science fiction.

(12) A LITTLE SMACK. Fusion says justice has been served – “Black Panther and Ms. Marvel Nominated for Hugo Awards Days After Marvel VP Blamed Them for Sales Slump”.

On Tuesday morning, the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards (the Oscars of sci-fi and fantasy writing) were announced by the World Science Fiction. Unsurprisingly, collected volumes of Marvel’s critically acclaimed Black Panther and Ms. Marvel series were both nominated for Best Graphic Story.

These nominations come just days after Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, went out of his way to blame Marvel’s lagging sales on comics—like Black Panther and Ms. Marvel—starring people of color and women. Suffice it to say that the optics of this whole thing don’t reflect well on the publisher, but the Hugo nominations send a telling message to Marvel about just how the public actually feels about its “diverse books.” 

(13) REACTION POST. Abigail Nussbaum catalogs all the emotions she’s feeling after seeing the 2017 Hugo shortlist, beginning with happiness about her Best Fan Writer nomination, and continuing down the spectrum til she reaches —

Frustration, because the puppies’ ongoing presence on the ballot, even under extremely reduced circumstances, means that it continues to be impossible to talk about the nominees as their own thing, rather than a reaction to an attempted fascist takeover.  There’s a lot to praise about this year’s ballot, including the continued shift towards a more diverse slate of nominees, but in the short fiction categories in particular, the Hugo has once again thrown up a fairly middle-of-the-road selection.  Most of these stories aren’t bad, but quite a few of them are meh, and it would be nice to once again be able to have a proper discussion of that.  Instead, we’re all still in bunker mode, still cheering the fact that publishable fiction was nominated for the genre’s most prestigious award, which increasingly seems like a low bar to clear.

(14) PUPPY ANTENNAE ACTIVATED. Cora Buhlert sets things in context and delivers a thorough set of first impressions about the Hugo ballot.

The best novel category looks excellent. We have the sequels to two previous Hugo winners in the category, Death’s End by Liu Cixin and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin respectively. We have the long awaited and critically acclaimed debut novels by two accomplished short fiction writers, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee respectively. We have a highly acclaimed debut novel with a very unique voice, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, as well as the sort of sequel to 2014’s highly acclaimed debut novel with a unique voice, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. A Closed and Common Orbit, Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit were also on my ballot, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining three. And those who worry that science fiction is about to die out and be swamped by fantasy, which will inevitably lead to the collapse of the West or something, will be pleased that four of the six nominees in this category are unabashedly science fiction. The Obelisk Gate is an edge case, while the only clear fantasy novel is All the Birds in the Sky and even that one has a mad scientist character. Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 3 writers of colour, at least 3 LGBT writers, 1 international writer in translation, 0 puppies.

(15) TUESDAY’S HUGO NEWS. H.P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday features a picture of a dog in his more Puppy-sympathetic coverage of the 2017 Hugo Awards finalists.

… I am very gratified to see Cixin Liu back where he belongs Death’s End a finalist for Best Novel.  I loved it, as you can probably tell by my overenthusiastic review.  I thought The Dark Forest was robbed, and I voted for The Three-Body Problem as the Best Novel two years ago.  I would have loved to have seen the entire series go up for an award, but oh well.  It perhaps says something about the incestual nature of the Hugo voting that the two books in the series edited by the popular Ken Liu were finalists, and the one that wasn’t didn’t even finish in the top 15 nominations….

The Rageaholic was a finalist last year, but I only saw my first few videos within the last month or so.   And for the most part, I have no interest in watching his videos on video games or movies or politics.  If only for the main reason I don’t watch many YouTube videos or listen to many podcasts.  I ain’t got time for that stuff.  But Razorfist has an encyclopedic knowledge of comics and Elric of Melnibone.  And he’s got a great shtick.  Usually in black-and-white, decked out in mirrored sunglasses and a leather jacket, long hair, wall covered in posters behind him.  Complete with some metal thrown-in to start and finish things off, and a rapid-fire, eloquent, profane delivery.

H.P. also identifies himself as a contributor to the Castalia House blog.

(16) HUGO BY OSMOSIS. The nominations have inspired J.D. Brink’s latest theory.

And John Picacio has been nominated for best professional artist.  I’m pretty darn sure (though not 100%, mind you) that he and I shared a day at Dragon’s Liar comics in San Antonio signing stuff on Free Comic Book Day a few years ago.  We sat right next to each other.

So by sheer proximity, I should be getting a Hugo award, if not this year, than next year

(17) IF I WERE A RICH MAN. Who knew I wouldn’t have to wait til I made a million dollars before seeing my name in Forbes? They published the Hugo nominees.

(18) MOST IMPORTANT CATEGORY. Jude Terror’s account of the nominations for Bleeding Cool is intentionally myopic: “Marvel And Image Split Hugo Awards Comics Category, Shut Out Other Publishers”.

Worldcon has released the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, the science fiction and fantasy awards named after Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback. We’re pretty sure that’s the book Spider-Man first appeared in. In true snooty comics website fashion, we’ll only talk about the things that relate to comic books and ignore everything else.

First, in the most important category, Best Graphic Story (that’s fancy-speak for comics), nominees included Marvel’s Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, and The Vision, two of the most successful and acclaimed books the likes of which Marvel “has heard” people don’t want anymore, and one written by a guy who “rode off into the sunset.” Monstress, Paper Girls, and Saga from Image took the other three slots, shutting out all other publishers. Shockingly, no prominent editors from the superhero comics community earned nominations in any of the editorial categories, though Sana Takeda, a familiar name to comics readers, did move the needle with a spot on Best Professional Artist list.

Dan Slott failed to secure a nomination in Best Fan Writer despite writing some of the most acclaimed Doctor Who fan fiction around in Silver Surfer, though Doctor Who’s Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, was nominated under the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “TV show.” Yes, we know we’re breaking out “only talk about comics” rule, but what could be more “comics website” than that?! Sir Robert Liefeld’s greatest creation, Deadpool, earned a nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “movie.”

(19) VIRTUAL VISON. “Astronomers just turned on a planet-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole”Vox has the story. (No, not that Vox.)

Every image you’ve seen of a black hole is an illustration. A giant “virtual” telescope may change that….

We’ve never seen a direct image of a black hole. But if an audacious experiment called the Event Horizon Telescope is successful, we’ll see one for the first time.

Why we’ve never seen an image of a black hole

The biggest problem with trying to detect a black hole is that even the supermassive ones in the center of galaxies are relatively tiny.

“The largest one in the sky [is] the black hole in the center of the Milky Way,” Dimitrios Psaltis, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, said in 2015. “And taking a picture of it would be equivalent to taking a picture of a DVD on the surface of the moon

(20) THAT REVOLUTIONARY NEW IDEA FOR SELLING BOOKS. The Verge has another Amazon bookstore on its radar screen – it will be the third in New York.

Amazon has confirmed plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore across from the Empire State Building, bringing its total number of announced but as-of-yet unopened stores in New York City up to three.

Publisher’s Weekly reports that a sign reading “Amazon Books Coming Soon” has gone up in the 34th Street storefront, adding that an Amazon rep said the store will open this summer. The store has also been added to the Amazon Books website. This would presumably make it Amazon’s second store in New York. A location in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center (just off of Central Park) was announced in January, with the intent to open this spring.

Another, in Hudson Yards, the still-under-construction $20 billion shopping and luxury residential complex on Manhattan’s far west side, was widely reported last summer — with plans to launch alongside the rest of the development’s new stores in 2018 or 2019.

(21) CUTTING EDGE. Here’s the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword final trailer. The film will be out May 12.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/4/16 I Wept Because I Had No Pixels, Until I Met A Fan Who Had No Scroll

(1) BOLD GOING. Jason Sanford says “Space operas boldly go to the heart of the human soul”.

Only after seeing Star Wars did I begin reading literary science fiction and discover that the film not only wasn’t overly original, but that George Lucas had borrowed his themes and motifs from a number of genre sources. Among these was what is likely the first space opera as readers would recognize the genre, The Skylark of Space by E. E. “Doc” Smith, published in Amazing Stories in 1928.

There are a number of earlier stories which can lay claim to being space operas, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ highly influential Barsoom series, featuring his famous hero John Carter of Mars. But E.E. Smith introduced something different with Skylark: true interstellar travel and space ships combined with adventures on other planets. He continued this trend with his influential Lensman series of stories.

He also introduced mediocre writing and poor science, with the space engine at the center of his Skylark adventures powered by copper which is magically transformed when connected to an unknown “element X.” But if the heart of the ship’s space drive made no sense, the heart of the story resonated with readers. They ate it up.

As did other authors, who began playing in the space opera sandbox of stars, mixing romance with the clash of civilizations and interstellar drama and action. Authors such as Leigh Brackett (known as the “Queen of Space Opera”) and C. L. Moore filled the pulp magazines with these exciting stories.  As did A. E. van Vogt, who published the well-known novel The World of Null-A. Even Isaac Asimov space opera’ed away with his extremely influential Foundation series. These space operas and many more set the stage for the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

(2) FLINT ON THE COVER. An excerpt from his interview in the December issue of Locus, “Eric Flint: Remaking History”, has been posted at Locus Online.

‘‘I’ve been a full-time author since the end of 1999. I never had a job that lasted more than five years. I thought about it the other day. Of course, I’m 69, so I don’t know that anybody would want to hire me as a machinist. If I wanted to go back to work in a factory, I couldn’t put together a résumé because most of the places I’ve worked have gone out of business. It’s ironic for me, being a writer, but that’s partly because I stayed on topic. Jim Baen once said to me, ‘You know, I’m surprised. For a commie, you haven’t made any career mistakes.’ I said, ‘Jim, it’s because I’m never caught off-guard when capitalism lives down to my expectations.’ I’ll give him credit: he laughed. He thought that was funny. I’ve had a very successful career.

‘‘Andre Norton’s prose is pedestrian, and I hear her rough drafts were even worse, and she needed a lot of editing. Nevertheless, she had one of the most successful careers in the field, because she was a terrific storyteller. I like to think that I write better than that, but, like her, I’m first and foremost a storyteller. I can teach the craft of writing, but what I cannot do is tell someone how to make a good story. I have a good friend, a photographer, and he used to be a professional for years. It’s not his eyesight – he’s got terrible eyesight. It’s just that he can look at something, and I’ll see exactly the same thing he’s looking at, but he can see that if you framed it this way, it’d be a great picture. I can’t see the frame. That’s what a storyteller does, is frame a sequence of events in such a way that there’s a point to it, it makes sense, and you go somewhere with it. I don’t know how you teach that.”

(3) GRAPHIC NOVELS. Comixology has put together its list of 50 Essential Graphic Novels which, coincidentally, they would love to sell you.

(4) MIYAZAKI PROJECT. A BBC profile, “Hayao Miyazaki: Japan’s godfather of animation?”, includes hints about a possible upcoming film.

Miyazaki has tried to retire – reportedly at least six times – but it appears he is not finished telling his stories. Since last year he has been working on a short film called Boro the Caterpillar, based on a story in development for two decades.

Last month he said it would be turned into a full-length film, which may only be released in 2021 – he will be 80 years old by then.

(5) IN SUO ANNO. When C.S.E. Cooney won a World Fantasy Award, her hometown paper took notice: “World award is no fantasy for Westerly author Claire Cooney”

When she was in third grade, Claire Cooney wrote her first musical. When she was in sixth grade, she wrote her first novel.

When she was 33, she was nominated for a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America-sponsored Nebula Award for her first novella, “The Bone Swans of Amandale.”

In October the soon-to-be 35-year-old Westerly resident earned another feather for her colorful cap. She won the 2016 World Fantasy Award for “Bone Swans: Stories,” in the Best Short Story Collection category.

“I had no expectation of winning so I didn’t prepare any comments,” said Cooney, whose stories take readers on fantastical journeys through reimagined fairy tales and myths. “I just sat there saying ‘No way’ … until my friends started screaming.”

(6) HORROR APPRECIATION. This week on Jump Scare, Cierra breaks gives us a brief look at how gothic literature has help to inspire and shape horror. “A Brief Look at the Inspiration of Gothic Literature”

(7) BINKS STILL STINKS. Jerseys and bobbleheads galore in this article at Cut4 — “Get weird with 10 of the best Minor League promotions from 2016”.

MLB promotions are always a joy, but the Minors are where the most unique promotions are going to be. Teams routinely honor ’90s cartoons, give away weird bobbleheads and have the best and strangest between-innings contests.

But even in the world of zany promotions, we still must separate the wheat from the chaff. These were 10 of our favorite promotions from the last year….

  1. Altoona Curve – Jar Jar Binks jerseys

Given that “Star Wars” might be the most successful and profitable film franchise of all-time (somehow more than Space Jam), it makes sense that plenty of teams at both the Minor and Major League level host nights devoted to the space opera. But only the Altoona Curve, the Double-A affiliate of the Pirates, were willing to look back at that cruelly overlooked and maligned character: Jar Jar Binks.

The team would lose, 3-0, that night, though. Perhaps Jar Jar is fairly maligned.

(8) MONSTER MAINTENANCE MAN. Ray Harryhausen Podcast “Episode 11 – Conservation and Restoration with Alan Friswell”.

Episode 11 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast sees us interview Alan Friswell, the Foundation’s official conservator, about the work he has carried out in maintaining Ray’s models for future generations.

Listen to Alan speak about how he ended up working with Ray, and the amazing models which he has restored over the years, including most recently the original latex model of ‘Gwangi!’

(9) MTV FOR MILLENNIALS. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Swann reports that MTV is rebroadcasting Clone High, a 2003 cartoon about “historical figures resurrected as part of a government experiment (that) return to high school” because it’s part of a plan to bring back any show that appeals to cord-cutting Millennials who liked to watch cartoons as kids.  The show was one of the first projects of Chris Miller, who went on to co-create The Lego Movie and The Last Man on Earth“Feeding the nostalgia beast: MTV and other networks bring back their vintage shows”.

Abraham Lincoln spent the entire summer growing out his sideburns in the hopes of impressing Cleopatra, but it was a goth-styled Joan of Arc who yearned for his attention at John F. Kennedy’s back-to-school kegger.

Such was the plot of the pilot for “Clone High,” an animated teen comedy series whose premise was so absurd — historical figures cloned as part of a government experiment return to high school — that it could have only been produced by MTV in 2003. The network was experimenting in its attempt to find a follow-up to “Daria,” which also championed teen misfits and social outcasts. But “Clone High” never caught on; it was canceled after just 13 episodes.

“It was just like the kookiest idea ever, but that show was gone, lost,” says Erik Flannigan, executive vice president of music and multiplatform strategy for MTV. He’d all but forgotten about its existence until meeting Chris Miller, the series’ co-creator (better known as co-director of “The Lego Movie”) when their children attended the same kindergarten in Los Angeles. Around the same time, MTV was undertaking a massive archiving project, working with the data management company Iron Mountain to digitize its assets, eventually spurring Flannigan and his colleagues to launch a new network centered entirely on old content.

(10) A LITTLE SUNDAY MAGIC. Chris Pratt (Star-Lord) entertained with this card trick on The Graham Norton Show.

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

Bob Tucker Rides Again

The imminent release of Prometheus prompted Lev Grossman to write about “space opera” for the June 11 issue of Time Magazine (Into The Void, subscription required).

And Grossman remembered to pay homage to fan who coined the term, Bob Tucker —

But the term space opera was originally meant as an insult. It was coined in 1941 by Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker, a novelist and influential science-fiction fan who wrote in his fanzine Le Zombie, “Westerns are called ‘horse operas,’ the morning house wife tear-jerkers are called ‘soap operas.’ For the hacky, grinding, outworn space-ship yarn, or world-saving for that  matter, we offer ‘space opera.’”

[Thanks to Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol for the story.]