Palmer Wins 2018 WSFA Small Press Award

The Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) presented the 2018  WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction at Capclave on September 29.

WINNER

  • “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, ed. by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace, (September 2017).

Suzanne Palmer

The award, which honors the efforts of small press publishers in providing a critical venue for short fiction in the area of speculative fiction, showcases the best original short fiction published by small presses in the previous year (2017). An unusual feature of the selection process is that all voting is done with the identity of the author (and publisher) hidden so that the final choice is based solely on the quality of the story.

The winner receives a trophy and a monetary prize of $500

The other finalists for the award this year were:

  • “A Vague Inclination to Please,” by Brandon Daubs in All Hail Our Robot Conquerers!, ed. by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, published by Zombies Need Brains LLC, (September 2017);
  • “The Cat of Five Virtues,” by Richard Parks in Tales of the Sunrise Lands: Anthology of Fantasy Japan, ed. by David Stokes, published by Guardbridge Books (July 2017);
  • “Floaters Can’t Float,” by Pip Coen, published in Compelling Science Fiction, ed. by Joe Stech and Emily Goodin, (March 2017);
  • “Oba Oyinbo,” by Jonathan Edelstein, published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, ed. by Scott Roberts, (October 2017);
  • “The Oracle and the Warlord,” by Karina Sumner-Smith in The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound, ed. by Lucas K. Law & Susan Forest, published by Laksa Media, (September 2017);
  • “Probably Still the Chosen One,” by Kelly Barnhill, published in Lightspeed Magazine, ed. by John Joseph Adams, (February 2017); and
  • “Through Milkweed and Gloom,” by Wendy Nikel in Submerged, ed. by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, published by Zombies Need Brains LLC, (September 2017).

Worldcon 76 Program Troubles

When Worldcon 76 program participants were sent their schedules over the weekend such controversy resulted that the schedule was taken offline this morning, Chair Kevin Roche issued an apology, and the committee now is reviewing the participant bios, asking to hear from Hugo nominees who haven’t been put on the program and, presumably, filling the vacancies left by writers who have now dropped out.

Three issues drawing the most fire in social media have been —

  1. Respect for people’s chosen pronouns (and related concerns about LGBTQAI+ and POC participation);
  2. Whether new writers are being accepted onto programming (with skepticism fueled by the realization that several newer writers who are Hugo nominees are not on the program); and
  3. Dissatisfaction with responses by the Worldcon 76 program division.

Lighting off the social media cycle was Hugo nominee Bogi Takács’ call for an apology after seeing eir bio in the program database. (The thread starts here.)

Takács also pointed to undeserved criticism from Worldcon 76 Program Division Head Christine Doyle for going public:

Takács received an apology from Chair Kevin Roche:

Unfortunately, Roche’s general apology was preceded by another one based on some wrong information, leading to this exchange:

Hugo nominee JY Yang voiced concerns for POC as well:

Another comment:

Yang later wrote another thread (starts here) to make such points as these –

Michi Trota, in a thread that starts here, reminded programming why these creators are Hugo nominees in the first place —

In other thread, Trota wrote:

Amal El-Mohtar did this roundup of the issues —

For the record, the email Program Division Head Christine Doyle sent to program participants yesterday said in part:

We had over 2000 people ask to be on the program, and unfortunately there was no way to accommodate everyone. Similarly, we had over 2000 program items submitted, with lots of duplication in some areas, and we couldn’t schedule them all.

We realized that many people didn’t receive our initial communications, because they were either blocked without us getting notice (i.e., earthlink), or filtered into the promotions bin (gmail).

We may contact some people for headshots and bios. If the headshot and/or bio that we have for you is not to your liking, please contact us with suggested edits or replacements. A note about names: for consistency and fairness, we are not using any prefixes (honorifics) or suffixes for your name unless it changes who you are (Sr/Jr/III). That said, we fully expect all of those details to be in the bios. Let us know if we need to edit the bio to get this included.

The present controversy has cost Worldcon 76 some of its best-known participants.

N.K. Jemisin dropped out of Worldcon 76 programming:

Mary Robinette Kowal is going to the con but is getting off the program:

Several writers say they are dropping off the program to (in effect) leave room for newcomers.

John Scalzi, in “Being Seen at Worldcon”, sums up what he terms to be —

A Twitter thread on the recent contretemps at Worldcon 76, where many newer writers (including some Hugo finalists) were not represented on the initial programming slate

Including this comment:

David Gerrold said on Facebook:

Re: Worldcon.

There are program items I cannot step out of (specifically the memorial panel for Harlan Ellison), but I have written to the Worldcon Committee and asked them to cancel my reading and slot in a Hugo nominee or a person of color or a woman into that spot instead.

I will be taking a second look at a couple other panel assignments as well.

David D. Levine also offered to vacate his place on Worldcon 76 program.

(This is unlikely to be an exhaustive list, just the ones I found.)

Worldcon 76 Chair Kevin Roche has announced on Facebook (with a parallel Twitter thread):

(From the Chair)

I directed the Program Division to take down the preliminary program information that was released yesterday evening. There were too many errors and problems in it to leave it up.

I am sorry we slighted and angered so many of the people we are gathering to meet, honor, and celebrate. This was a mistake, our mistake. We were trying to build a program reflecting the diversity of fandom and respectful of intersectionality. I am heartbroken that we failed so completely.

We are tearing the program apart and starting over. It was intended to be a reflection of the cultures, passions, and experiences of Worldcon membership, with room for both new voices and old. What we released yesterday failed to do that; we must do better.

Many of you have offered to help us do a better job. Thank you. We cannot accept all those offers, but yes, we will be turning to some of you to help us do it better this time.

We will continue to reach out to the Hugo Finalists we have missed connections with, to ensure any who wish to be on the program will have a place on it.

Kevin Roche
Chair, Worldcon 76 in San Jose

An additional complaint about how the bios seem to have been created:

More dissatisfaction about program from two Hugo nominees.

Suzanne Palmer (thread starts here).

K.M.Szpara (thread begins here)

Alexandra Erin responded to the latest social media cycle with these thoughts about the application of lessons from the culture wars to the science fiction community. (Thread starts here.)

Furthermore, Alexandra Erin has decided what is needed is a “Queer Rapid Response Team for WorldCon 76”.

So, this is one of those posts that’s going to be mystifying to a lot of people but make perfect sense to others. It’s a busy day and I don’t have the time or wherewithal to go into the background. The short version is: WorldCon 76 is fudging up quite badly in how it treats attendees, up to and including finalists for its crown jewel Hugo Award. Multiple genderqueer, non-binary, and non-conforming members have spoken up about feeling unsafe and disrespected, and WorldCon’s safety team is not inspiring a lot of confidence.

Accordingly, I am taking one of my standing offers at WisCon and expanding and formalizing it for the larger WorldCon: I am forming a Queer Rapid Response Team. Before the convention next month, I will set up an automated channel that will text any messages onward to everybody on the team. The idea is that if anybody in the family needs an escort, needs a friendly face, needs emotional support, or whatever, we can form up on them like queer Voltron.

Pixel Scroll 4/18/18 Wanna Bees Pulling Gees Through The Trees

(1) LUKE SKYRANTER. Movie Banter brings you “10 minutes of Mark Hamill being HONEST about The Last Jedi.

No matter what you think of the film and the way Luke Skywalker was portrayed, thank goodness Mark isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He is sincere and cares about the franchise as much as he cares about the fandom.

 

(2) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. Inverse explains that “Ewoks Are Coffee Farmers According to Star Wars Canon”.

The upcoming Han Solo movie will, no doubt, make all sorts of changes to Star Wars canon, but a just-released book about Han and Lando’s adventures quietly revealed that Ewoks are actually renown coffee farmers. Yep, those cute little Imperial-killing teddy bears are responsible for the best cup of java you’ll find outside of Dex’s Diner.

The book, Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel, came out earlier this week, and it follows the two coolest characters in the galaxy across three distinct time periods. In one of them, set after Return of the Jedi but well before The Force Awakens, baby Ben Solo kicks his dad in the face. Later in that scene, Han’s culinary droid, BX-778, brews up a mean cup of Endorian caf. (Coffee is called “caf” in the book because, well, that’s how Star Wars rolls).

(3) STURGEON ANALYSIS. At Rocket Stack Rank, Eric Wong’s analysis shows the Sturgeon Award nominees are highly correlated with other guides to outstanding short fiction: “Sturgeon Award Finalists Versus Other Top Stories of 2017”. Greg Hullender says:

Last year too, the Sturgeon Award Finalists were the most accurate guide to which stories would be broadly recommended (by serious reviewers, major anthologies, and prestigious awards). http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2018/01/2016-best-sff-short-fiction-guides.html

There’s definitely something special about this award. It should get more attention than it does.

(4) THESE POTATOES AIN’T GONNA PLANT THEMSELVES! Or will they? “All by Itself, the Humble Sweet Potato Colonized the World”.

Of all the plants that humanity has turned into crops, none is more puzzling than the sweet potato. Indigenous people of Central and South America grew it on farms for generations, and Europeans discovered it when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean.

In the 18th century, however, Captain Cook stumbled across sweet potatoes again — over 4,000 miles away, on remote Polynesian islands. European explorers later found them elsewhere in the Pacific, from Hawaii to New Guinea.

The distribution of the plant baffled scientists. How could sweet potatoes arise from a wild ancestor and then wind up scattered across such a wide range? Was it possible that unknown explorers carried it from South America to countless Pacific islands?

An extensive analysis of sweet potato DNA, published on Thursday in Current Biology, comes to a controversial conclusion: Humans had nothing to do with it. The bulky sweet potato spread across the globe long before humans could have played a part — it’s a natural traveler.

Likewise, ArsTechnica says “Sweet potatoes may have reached Pacific Islands 100,000 years ahead of Polynesians.”

“This finding is likely to be controversial because it calls into question the alleged contacts between Polynesians and Americans in pre-European times,” Oxford University botanist Pablo Muñoz-Rodriguez, who led the study, told Ars Technica. “[The] sweet potato was the only remaining biological evidence of these contacts.”

Muñoz-Rodriguez and his team sampled DNA from 119 specimens of sweet potatoes and all of their wild relatives, including a sweet potato harvested in the Society Islands in 1769 by the Cook expedition. With those samples, Muñoz-Rodriguez and his colleagues built a phylogenetic tree: a family tree that shows evolutionary relationships among organisms based on the differences in their DNA. For plants, researchers often build two phylogenetic trees: one for the DNA stores in the nucleus of the plant’s cells and one for the chlorophyll-producing organelles called chloroplasts, which have their own DNA. Genetic material doesn’t always get passed on in the same way for both, so it’s sometimes useful to compare the two.

The team used the phylogenetic trees to estimate how long ago each branch of the tree split off from the others. It turned out that the Society Islands sweet potato hadn’t interbred with Central and South American lines for at least 111,500 years…

(5) TODAY’S JOB LOST TO ROBOTS. WIRED Magazine reports “A Robot Does the Impossible: Assembling an Ikea Chair Without Having a Meltdown”. I’m beginning to suspect Brian Aldiss wrote the wrong ending for “Who Can Replace A Man.”

Researchers report today in Science Robotics that they’ve used entirely off-the-shelf parts—two industrial robot arms with force sensors and a 3-D camera—to piece together one of those Stefan Ikea chairs we all had in college before it collapsed after two months of use. From planning to execution, it only took 20 minutes, compared to the human average of a lifetime of misery. It may all seem trivial, but this is in fact a big deal for robots, which struggle mightily to manipulate objects in a world built for human hands.

(6) ALL IN A DAY. Initially, Patrick Nielsen Hayden made his feelings clear about a new book coming out which has the same title as an Emma Bull novel. (Jump on the thread here.)

Later he apologized. (Thread begins here)

(7) DOG DUTY. The New York Times inquires: “Do You Know Which Dog Breeds Are in a Mutt? Scientists Want to Find Out”.

One of the favorite pastimes of dog people is guessing a mutt’s ancestry.

Is that scruffy little guy in the dog park a mix of Afghan hound and Catahoula leopard dog? Is the beast that bit someone really a pit bull, or a cocker spaniel-beagle potpourri? And how about your aunt’s yippy pillow on paws — Maltese/poodle/peke?

If you’re wondering about your own dog you can, of course, get a DNA test. But there’s a lot of open territory for that familiar figure in the canine world, the dog guesser. You know who I mean, they’re like dog whisperers, but louder.

Now all self-proclaimed experts have a chance to prove their mettle or meet their comeuppance. The MuttMix survey debuted on Monday. It is citizen science for people who are willing to be proven terribly wrong, a dog quiz that tests how good you are at figuring out what a mutt is made of.

The survey is being run by the Darwin’s Dogs program at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., a center for genome studies, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Fellow dog guessers (yes, I confess) proceed at the risk of your exceedingly high self-regard….

(8) THE MODERN PROMETHEUS. Mary Shelley biopic opening in theaters May 25.

Starring: Elle Fanning, Maisie Williams, Bel Powley, Douglas Booth, Joanne Froggatt & Stephen Dillane She will forever be remembered as the writer who gave the world Frankenstein. But the real life story of Mary Shelley—and the creation of her immortal monster—is nearly as fantastical as her fiction. Raised by a renowned philosopher father (Stephen Dillane) in 18th-century London, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is a teenage dreamer determined to make her mark on the world when she meets the dashing and brilliant poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). So begins a torrid, bohemian love affair marked by both passion and personal tragedy that will transform Mary and fuel the writing of her Gothic masterwork. Imbued with the imaginative spirit of its heroine, Mary Shelley brings to life the world of a trailblazing woman who defied convention and channeled her innermost demons into a legend for the ages.

 

(9) NEXT ON HIS AGENDER. Jon Del Arroz, worried there might still be a few people he hasn’t alienated this week, announced he is “Coming Out As A Woman” [Internet Archive link] – which is to say, adopting a pseudonym.

After serious deliberations, I will be only submitting short fiction to professional markets from a new female pen name. I’ve come up with the name, I’ve got the email address, it’s ready to go. I will be, for all intents and purposes, a female author. It’s the only way to get ahead in the business, and the smart thing to do. I won’t be broadcasting the name here in case of any inadvertent discrimination, but I will keep you informed as to how reactions change based on having a female name. It’ll be interesting to say the least.

(10) PRELUDE TO SPACE. NPR tells about “Antarctic Veggies: Practice For Growing Plants On Other Planets”.

…Now, the greenhouse project, called EDEN ISS, is fully operational. Bamsey’s colleagues in Antarctica harvested their first salads last week.

And while growing greens in Antarctica is exciting — for much of the year there’s no fresh produce at Neumayer Station III — Bamsey says the end goal of this project is much farther away. EDEN ISS is a practice round for cultivating food in space.

The eight-nation team of EDEN ISS researchers chose to grow “high-water-content, pick-and-eat-plants,” Bamsey says, “things that can’t normally be stored for long periods of time.” The crops include lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, swiss chard, and herbs — basil, chives, cilantro and mint. One-tenth of the yield will become research data, while the rest will help feed Neumayer Station III’s crew….

(11) SPACE DIAMONDS. “Inter Jovem et Martem”? “Meteorite diamonds ‘came from lost planet'”.

A diamond-bearing space rock that exploded in Earth’s atmosphere in 2008 was part of a lost planet from the early Solar System, a study suggests.

The parent “proto-planet” would have existed billions of years ago before breaking up in a collision and was about as large as Mercury or Mars.

A team has published their results in the journal Nature Communications.

They argue that the pressures necessary to produce diamonds of this kind could only occur in planet of this size.

Using three different types of microscopy, the researchers characterised the mineral and chemical make-up of the diamond-bearing rocks. The fragments were scattered across the Nubian desert of northern Sudan after the asteroid 2008 TC3 exploded 37km above the ground on 7 October 2008.

(12) MUSICAL INTERLUDE. Another Instant Classic by Matthew Johnson:

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive

Well you tell by the way I use my spear
I’m a murder bear, I got no fear
Speeder bikes and Empire goons, I’ve been kicked around
My forest moon
And now it’s all right, it’s OK
I’ve got stormtroopers to slay
And way above, I think I spy
A Death Star hangin’ in the sky

Whether you’re a Jedi or just a little yeti
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the walkers breakin’, this tree trunk is a-shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive

Well you might think I’m a teddy bear
My god’s a droid in a wooden chair
I may just have stone age tools
But I’m the end of those Empire fools
And now it’s all right, it’s OK
There’ll be some fireworks this day
And way above, I think I spy
A Death Star fallin’ from the sky

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ al-i-i-i-ve…

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day A.G. Carpenter, Ingvar and Cassy B.]