Pixel Scroll 3/2/21 What Is Pixel, But Scroll Persevering

(1) A PEEK AT APEX. Apex Magazine Issue 122 has been released. The link below takes you to the new issue page where you’ll find fiction by Sam J. Miller, Sheree Renée Thomas, A.C. Wise, Annie Neugebauer, Barton Aikman, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Jason Sanford, and Khaalida Muhammad-Ali, plus essays by ZZ Claybourne and Wendy N. Wagner. The cover art is by Thomas Tan.

(2) ON “READ ACROSS AMERICA DAY” OBJECTIONS TO SEUSS IMAGERY PROMPT WITHDRAWAL OF SIX BOOKS. The National Education Association founded “Read Across America Day” in 1998 and deliberately aligned it with Dr. Seuss/Ted Geisel’s birthday, March 2. However, the NEA has been deemphasizing Seuss, and today President Biden’s proclamation for “Read Across America Day” — in contrast to his predecessors Obama and Trump — omitted all mention of Dr. Seuss reports the New York Post.

President Biden removed mentions of Dr. Seuss from Read Across America Day amid accusations of “racial undertones” in the classic, whimsical tales for children.

Read Across America Day, started by the National Educational Association in 1998 as a way to promote children’s reading, is even celebrated on the author’s March 2 birthday.

In his presidential proclamation, Biden noted that “for many Americans, the path to literacy begins with story time in their school classroom,” USA Today reported.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, rightsholder to his books, also picked today to announce they’ll stop licensing six of his books: “Statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises”.

Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.

We are committed to action.  To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles:  And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.  These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

The New York Times article “6 Dr. Seuss Books Will No Longer Be Published Over Offensive Images” describes two examples of images that have inspired the objections:

…In “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” a character described as “a Chinaman” has lines for eyes, wears a pointed hat, and carries chopsticks and a bowl of rice. (Editions published in the 1970s changed the reference from “a Chinaman” to “a Chinese man.”) In “If I Ran the Zoo,” two characters from “the African island of Yerka” are depicted as shirtless, shoeless and resembling monkeys. A school district in Virginia said over the weekend that it had advised schools to de-emphasize Dr. Seuss books on “Read Across America Day,” a national literacy program that takes place each year on March 2, the anniversary of Mr. Geisel’s birth….

Loudoun County, Virginia, schools just outside Washington, D.C. have joined the move away from Seuss — and as a result needed to douse rumors last month that they were banning the books entirely. CNN reports: “Dr. Seuss books: This Virginia school district says it isn’t banning his books. On the annual Read Across America Day, it’s just no longer emphasizing them”.

A school district in Virginia recently made headlines for allegedly banning books by Dr. Seuss.

But Loudoun County Public Schools(LCPS), located in Ashburn, said it is not banning books by the famous children’s author. It’s just discouraging a connection between “Read Across America Day,” which was created to get kids excited about reading, and Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Both fall on March 2, and have often been “historically connected” to each other, the district said in a statement.

“Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,” LCPS said in its statement, which links to School Library Journal article from 2018 about the National Education Association focusing its Read Across America efforts “on Diversity Not Dr. Seuss.”

…Dr. Seuss had a long history of publishing racist and anti-Semitic work, spanning back to the 1920s when he was a student at Dartmouth College. There, Dr. Seuss once drew Black boxers as gorillas, as well as perpetuating Jewish stereotypes as financially stingy, according to a study published in the journal “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature.”

That study, published in 2019, examined 50 books by Dr. Seuss and found 43 out of the 45 characters of color have “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism.” The two “African” characters, the study says, both have anti-Black characteristics.

(3) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF is actually Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists this go-round. And he’s asked the panelists what they thing about “The Star” by Arthur C. Clarke

Kit leads off the discussion:

…[It’s] still kind of on that spectrum of ?“Why does a benevolent God do these things?” and so it’s interesting to think about ?“What, exactly, is the point where you’re pushed over the edge in terms of thinking the world is too cruel to have a controlling power?”… 

(4) FASHIONISTA. Suzanne Palmer makes a convincing argument.

(5) THE FUTURE OF THE WARDMAN PARK. In the Washington Post, Paul Schwartzman profiles activists who want to increase affordable housing in the largely white areas west of Rock Creek Park.  He interviews Rebecca Barson, who wants to turn the bankrupt Wardman Park Hotel into “a mix of retail and affordable housing.  She has embraced the cause even as she contemplates the risk to her property value.” The Wardman Park is still listed on the DisCon III website as the venue of this year’s Worldcon.   “D.C. affordable housing push linked to racial justice after George Floyd’s death”.

… As she drives around the city, Rebecca Barson, a health-care advocate, finds herself noticing encampments of people sleeping in tents in Dupont Circle and under highway overpasses.

“It just feels unconscionable that this is happening in a city like ours,” she said.

Barson, 43, joined a grass-roots campaign seeking city support for converting a recently bankrupt hotel near her Woodley Park condominium — the Marriott Wardman Park — into a mix of retail and affordable housing. She has embraced the cause even as she contemplates the potential risk to her property value.

“I’m not saying I’m not grappling with it. There could be a financial cost — personally, my apartment may not be worth as much,” she said. “I also think I have benefited as a White person from systems I didn’t create, and this is an important moment to do what’s right for the greater good.”

(6) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel will livestream readings by Jeffrey Ford and Kaaron Warren on March 17 at 7 p.m. Eastern. The link will be posted later.

Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford is the author of several novels and novellas including The Physiognomy, Memoranda, The BeyondThe Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, The Cosmology of the Wider World, The Shadow Year, The Twilight Pariah, Ahab’s Return, and Out of Body. His short fiction has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies and in six collections. His work has won the World Fantasy, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, Nebula, and other awards. His most recent collection Big Dark Hole will be out from Small Beer Press this July

Kaaron Warren

Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren published her first short story in 1993 and has had fiction in print every year since. She has published five multi-award winning novels including The Grief Hole, currently under development, and seven short story collections. Her most recent books are the novella Into Bones Like Oil and the chapbook Tool Tales (with Ellen Datlow!) She was recently given the Peter McNamara Lifetime Achievement Award.

(7) THE GOLDEN AGE, WHEN YODA WAS YOUNG(ER). In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews authors Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Cavan Scott, Daniel José Older, and Justina Ireland about their forthcoming Star Wars tie-in novels set in the High Republic (formerly the Old Republic). “The future of Star Wars has arrived, and it takes place hundreds of years in the past”.

In the Star Wars universe, the High Republic is the stuff of legend. But someone had to write the story.

It all started with a vague reference from Obi-Wan Kenobi. “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic,” Obi-Wan explained in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope.” “Before the dark times. Before the Empire.”

In the decades since those words were uttered, movies, books and television have explored nearly every imaginable facet of the Star Wars universe. But this particular period in the galaxy’s past remained in the realm of conjecture. Now, that abstract golden age — a time of tranquility but also expansion, hundreds of years before the Skywalker saga — is finally coming into focus. Five writers, all with previous Star Wars books on their résumés, have been tapped to usher in a new era for the franchise by exploring one of the most storied.

In the coming years, Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Cavan Scott, Daniel José Older and Justina Ireland will release books in the High Republic series, including comics and novels targeting various age groups. They will introduce new heroes — including the inspirational Jedi Avar Kriss — and villains, such as the Nihil, “space marauders,” who threaten the peace of the galaxy.

… Readers with Star Wars knowledge will find at least one familiar face, though: Yoda’s. (Forget you must not that Yoda lived to be 900 years old.) In the new series, he’s younger (kind of) and does a lot more than dispense wisdom, especially in the IDW comic books written by Older, “Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures,” illustrated by Harvey Tolibao.

“We see Yoda really out in the galaxy,” Older said. “He’s not stuck on Coruscant. He’s not in a library somewhere studying. .?.?. We get to see him in action, in the thick of battle doing all these Jedi master Yoda things.”

(8) WOLTMAN OBIT. Pilot and Mercury 13 trainee Rhea Woltman (1928-2021) died on February 15. The family obituary, here, has this to say about her efforts to become an astronaut:

…In 1960, Rhea was invited to participate in the secret Mercury project, where she underwent grueling physical examinations and a battery of tests with 12 other female pilots to become the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATS), now known as the Mercury 13. Rhea passed all of the tests and advanced as one of five to meet the requirements. The U.S. government shut down the women’s program before they were ever allowed to fly a space mission….

The Mercury 13 were thirteen American women who, as part of a privately funded program, successfully underwent the same physiological screening tests as had the astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959, for Project Mercury. (They were not part of NASA‘s astronaut program.)

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 2, 1984 — On this date in 1984, Repo Man premiered. It was written and directed by Alex Cox. It was produced by Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy with the executive producer being Michael Nesmith. It starred Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez. It is widely considered to be one of the best films of 1984, genre or otherwise. Ebert in his review said that “Repo Man comes out of left field, has no big stars, didn’t cost much, takes chances, dares to be unconventional, is funny, and works. There is a lesson here.” It currently holds a 98% rating among the Rotten Tomatoes audience. You can watch it here. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 2, 1904 Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. My favorite books by him are Horton Hears a Who!Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat and The Hat. I adored the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas, can’t stand the Jim Carrey one and haven’t seen the most recent version. Oh, and let’s not forget the splendid The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. For which he wrote the story, screenplay and lyrics. (Died 1991.) (CE) 
  • Bon March 2, 1933 – Leo Dillon.   A hundred sixty covers, two hundred twenty interiors, with his wife Diane Dillon, working so fluently and intimately they sometimes called their joint work the product of a third artist; much else outside our field.  Artbook The Art of Leo & Diane Dillon.  Here is Some Will Not Die.  Here is Dangerous Visions.  Here is Fourth Mansions.  Here is The Phoenix and the Mirror.  Here is The Left Hand of Darkness.  Here is Ashanti to Zulu.  Here is the Winter 2002 On Spec.  Here is Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.  Here is my note of an exhibit at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon.  Here is an on-line archive.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1939 – jan howard finder.  Known as the Wombat.  Co-founder of Albacon; Fan Guest of Honor at Albacon 2000, also BYOB-Con 8, Maplecon 3, LepreCon 8, Ad Astra 12, Arisia ’01, Archon 30, ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  One story, one anthology that I know of.  Often a judge of our on-stage costume competition the Masquerade.  Led tours e.g. of New Zealand sites where Tolkien films were shot.  Fanzines The Spang Blah and Il Vombato.  Susan Batho’s reminiscence here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1943 Peter Straub, 78. Horror writer who won the World Fantasy Award for Koko and the August Derleth Award for Floating Dragon. He’s co-authored several novels with Stephen King, The Talisman which itself won a World Fantasy Award, and Black House. Both The Throat and In the Night Room won Bram Stoker Awards as did 5 Stories, a short collection by him. OK, you know not that I’m that impressed by Awards, but this is reallyimpressive! (CE)
  • Born March 2, 1952 – Mark Evanier, age 69.  Writer for comics, television, both: BlackhawkGroo the WandererGarfield and Friends and The Garfield Show (animated); outside our field e.g. Welcome Back, Kotter.  Has attended every San Diego Comic-Con since the first (1970).  Won an Eisner and a Harvey for Kirby: King of Comics.  Three more Eisners; Inkpot; Clampett; Lifetime Achievement Award from Animation Writers’ Caucus, Writers Guild of America West.  Started Fantagraphics’ reprints of Pogo.  Administers the Bill Finger Award.  Weblog NEWS FROM me. [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1960 – Jeff Beeler, age 61.  Hardworking Michigan fan, e.g. on ConFusion, Detcon the 11th NASFiC (N. Amer. SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas), Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  Member of the Stilyagi Air Corps.  Having been a librarian, is now a bookseller.  [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1960 Peter F. Hamilton, 61. I read and quite enjoyed his Night’s Dawn trilogy when it first came out and I’m fairly sure that I’ve read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained as they sound really familiar. (Too much genre fiction read over the years to remember everything…) What else have y’all read by him? (CE) 
  • Born March 2, 1966 Ann Leckie, 55. Ancillary Justice won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Nebula Award, the Kitschies Award Golden Tentacle, Locus Award for Best First Novel, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the BSFA Award. The Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy also won awards and were no less impressive experiences. I’ve not yet read The Raven Tower, so opinions in it are welcome. (CE)
  • Born March 2, 1968 Daniel Craig, 53. Obviously Bond in the present-day series of films which I like a lot, but also  in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider as Alex West, Lord Asriel In the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, in SF horror film The Invasion as Ben Driscoll, in the very weird Cowboys & Aliens as Jake Lonergan,voicing Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine / Red Rackham  in The Adventures of Tintin and an uncredited appearence as Stormtrooper FN-1824 In Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (CE)
  • Born March 2, 1974 – Marianne Mancusi, age 47.  Two dozen novels, two shorter stories.  I’ve not yet read A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court.  Won two Emmys producing television.  Loves pineapple pizza and marshmallow Peeps – she says so herself.  [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1982 – Chelsea Campbell, age 39.  Eight novels, three shorter stories.  Fiber artist e.g. knitting & crocheting.  Collects glass grapes.  As a kid & teen, used to read adults’ books; now reads kids’ & teens’.  Degree in Latin & Ancient Greek; “humanity … honestly hasn’t changed that much in the last couple thousand years, and that isn’t useless.  (Plus even when people look at you funny for being ‘useless,’ you know Latin and they don’t.)”  [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1992 Maisie Richardson-Sellers, 29. A most believable Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow for the first three seasons, in my opinion, as I’ve always liked that DC character. (Season four onward, she’s been Clotho.) Prior to that role, she was recurring role as Rebekah Mikaelson / Eva Sinclair on The Originals, andshe had a cameo asKorr Sella in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (CE) 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Yesterday, xkcd explained Leap Year 2021.

(12) THERE WAS SCIENCE BEHIND KING KONG? March 2, 1933 is the date of the world premiere of King Kong. And Mental Floss assures us “’King Kong’ Was Inspired By a Komodo Dragon-Hunting Expedition”.

…According to Slate, a 1926 expedition to the East Indies funded by the American Museum of Natural History planted the seeds for King Kong. The party, led by museum trustee William Douglas Burden, set off with the goal of recording footage of Komodo dragons and bringing specimens back to the U.S. for the first time.

In addition to the many lizards that were hunted and shot, the expedition brought back two live Komodo dragons that ended up at the Bronx Zoo. Tens of thousands of spectators went to see the living dinosaurs in person. In a pre-King Kong world, the exhibit was the closest people could get to seeing a monster with their own eyes….

(13) DEADLIER THAN. CrimeReads knows you think you know who’s number one on this list — “The Most Murderous Mammals: Adventures From the Dark Side of Science”.

Picture the most murderous mammal in the world. Not the best predator, taking down prey with a single swipe of a great talon or claw, but the one that excels in slaying its own kind.

Are you picturing a human being? Well, you would be wrong. But you might be surprised to know Homo sapiens actually falls at number 30 out of more than a thousand species on the list of animals that most often kill members of their own kind. Humans, it turns out, are just average members of a particularly violent lot, the primates. And the most prolific murderers* in the animal world are a different species altogether.

Which, you might ask? Believe it or not, it’s the meerkat, a cute little African mammal belonging to the mongoose family and immortalized in the wisecracking character Timon in The Lion King

(14) GRRM STORY IN DEVELOPMENT. Director Paul W.S. Anderson is teaming with Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) for the movie In the Lost Lands, based on the short story by George R.R. Martin, Deadline reported. Anderson has written the script. “’Resident Evil’ Duo Set For George R.R. Martin Adaptation ‘Lost Lands’” at Deadline.

…The movie will follow a queen, desperate to obtain the gift of shape shifting, who makes a daring play: She hires the sorceress Gray Alys (Jovovich), a woman as feared as she is powerful. Sent to the ghostly wilderness of the “Lost Lands,” Alys and her guide, the drifter Boyce (Bautista), must outwit and outfight man and demon in a fable that explores the nature of good and evil, debt and fulfillment, love and loss.

(15) THE HECK YOU SAY. Gizmodo’s eye-catching headline declares: “A 1990s iMac Processor Powers NASA’s Perseverance Rover”.

…However, there’s a major difference between the iMac’s CPU and the one inside the Perseverance rover. BAE Systems manufactures the radiation-hardened version of the PowerPC 750, dubbed RAD750, which can withstand 200,000 to 1,000,000 Rads and temperatures between ?55 and 125 degrees Celsius (-67 and 257 degrees Fahrenheit). Mars doesn’t have the same type of atmosphere as Earth, which protects us from the the sun’s rays, so one flash of sunlight and it’s all over for the Mars rover before its adventure can begin. Each one costs more than $200,000, so some extra protection is necessary.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter continues to monitor Jeopardy! contestants’ struggles with genre topics. From tonight’s episode —

Category: Alternate History Novels

Answer: In “Ruled Britannia”, the Spanish Armada was victorious & this Spaniard rules England alongside Bloody Mary Tudor.

Wrong question: Who is Francis Drake?

No one got, Who is Phillip II?

All the other questions, including Philip K. Dick, and Charles Lindbergh, were correct.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Little Nightmares II” on YouTube, Fandom Games says Little Nightmares II portrays “a disgusting, but adorable world” where “twee Tim Burton knockoffs try to kill you.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Dann, James Davis Nicoll, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Arisia 2021: A Brief Dern’s- and Web’s-Eye View

By Daniel Dern: Taking place Friday, January 15 through Monday, January 18, Arisia 2021  was, unsurprisingly, virtual-only with, according to the con runners, about 1,500 registrations.

For comparison, according to my File 770 report on Arisia 2020:

“The first Arisia had just over 800 attendees; Arisia 2017 had over 4,500 registered attendees! According to the con’s Monday morning January 20 Clear Ethernet newsletter, Arisia 2020 is reporting 3,052 registered attendees.”

Arisia 2021’s Guests of Honor were Suzanne Palmer (Author GoH), Hannibal King (Artist GoH), and Kat Tanaka Okopnik (Fan GoH).

Currently — fingers and pseudopods crossed! — Arisia 2022, January 14-17, 2022, is planned to be IRL, back at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, with Guests of Honor Andrea Hairston (Author GoH), Reiko Murakami (Artist GoH), and Elsa Sjunneson (Fan GoH). Memberships are for sale here.

Over the past year, I — like, I presume, everybody else reading this — have “attended”/participated in my share of family, friend, social, and work-related virtual events, including, for me, over the previous week or so, press events for the Consumer Electronics Show that’s normally live (and crowded) in Las Vegas.

However, Arisia 2021 was my first virtual Con. And I was under the weather enough that other than fulfilling my own panel commitments — part of a Readings panel, plus, over in FastTrack, reading some of my Dern Grim Bedtime Tales, Few Of Which End Well, & Other Stories, plus an instructive attempt to do my magic show en Zoom — I didn’t do anywhere as much as I might otherwise. (Plus, alas, no hall costume pix.) 

That said, here’s some info, screen grabs (with permission from Arisia, where appropriate), and some other notes’n’thoughts. (Please feel encouraged to put links to your own reports/posts for Arisia 2021, or other thoughts, in this post’s COMMENTS.)

ARISIA ONLINE! Arisia 2021 was organized to take place “entirely online, primarily across Discord, Zoom, and a new Arisia Virtual Convention website, designed specifically for this convention with an eye to recreating what we all love most about an in-person convention experience.”

Activities included meetups (using Zoom and Discord), including use of Zoom break-out rooms.

Arisia 2021 also of course used the usual gamut of email and social media for communicating/schmoozing, including Arisia’s Clear Ether blog, Twitter (https://twitter.com/Arisia), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/arisiainc/), and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/arisiainc/). (My apologies if there are any I’ve missed.) (Balticon 54, back in May 2020, apparently used Second Life extensively. According to Balticon: “Balticon 54 will be hosting a social space inside Second Life for convention attendees. The convention space, Balticon Station, will be a virtual con suite where you can meet and hang out with other fans. We also plan to sponsor Second Life convention activities, events, and to provide links to sci-fi and fantasy themed locations throughout Second Life.”)

Arisia 2021 had over 100 panels, meetups, song-circles, and sing, hosted live on Zoom. According to Arisia, “This year’s panels are running 55 minutes, instead of 75 minutes, with 35 minutes between sessions. This gives program participants time to make sure all of the technical pieces are working for the next session, hopefully minimizing technical disruptions.”

THE HELP DESK WAS STRONG: Program participants were expected to connect to Zoom half an hour before the actual session, to confirm those pesky details like “are my video and audio working,” “are all the participants here,” and (where appropriate) also making sure we were Discorded in.

Support cued us up at start the session, hung around in the background just in case, and helped make sure panelists and audience knew where the virtual break-out rooms where. Having been on my share of multi-person, many-newbies Zooms by know, I could tell we were in good, experienced hands.

THE MASQUERADE: You can still watch Arisia 2021’s half-hour Virtual Masquerade video, and while you don’t get the part-of-an-audience dynamic, you get a much closer, fuller look at the costumes, some in motion, along with some close-ups of the work and some comments from the creators.

DEALERS ROOM AND ART SHOW: According to pre-con info from Arisia, “The Art Show https://online.arisia.org/artshow and the Dealer’s Room https://online.arisia.org/dealers will be available to the public for the first time in Arisia history! …This year, Art Show and Dealer sales will happen through the specific Artists’ and Dealers’ websites. Links will be provided on their pages.”

Dealer and Art Show participants were organized alphabetically with info-tiles — straightforward enough, but lacking the walk-through/visual-browse of a live room, of course. I wonder whether there are manageable (as in, easy to implement and cross-platform/device-usable) ways to do this, like, say, using Second Life.

Arisia 2021 also offererd Gaming, filking, workshops (including swordplay — see the picture), dancing, and meet-ups — if anyone reading this participated in any of those, I welcome your thoughts below in the comments.

EXPERIENCES AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY OWN SESSIONS. I was in one of the multi-person reading sessions, along with  Anne Nydam (nydamprints.com), who read from her The Extraordinary Book of Doors (which I enjoyed, and highly recommend — it also includes books, libraries and cats), and RR Angell reading from a rather somber cyber/military-SF story. (I read a few of my flash-length Dern Grim Bedtime Tales.)

The audience was, by default, muted. Particularly since I was looking at my text, I couldn’t keep an eye on the audience view, I found the lack of audio feedback disconcerting.

Doing magic tricks — especially for FastTrack kids — proved harder than I thought, between things (unwantedly) disappearing into my virtual background, trying to keep my cards, rabbits, hats, etc. in my camera view, and properly lit. On the other hand, we — about eight or nine kids — had fun also asking and answering questions, telling jokes, showing me (and the rest of the audience) tricks, keeping us all happily occupied for the near-hour, which, I’m pretty sure, more than met the hopes of many of the parents/adults.

The good news: no problems with weather, hotel reservations, or public transit. No need to board our dog. Everybody had an equally good “seat” for events.

The sad news: none of the opportunistic or planned schmoozing with friends.

Were there bid or other parties? I forgot to check.

See you — with the emphasis on “see!” — you next year, tentacles twirled.

Suzanne Palmer Wins 2020 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award

The winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction of 2019 is Suzanne Palmer for “Waterlines,” published by Asimov’s Science Fiction.

The second-place story for the Sturgeon was Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s “This is How You Lose the Time War.” The third-place story was Karin Tidbeck’s “The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir.”

The winner was selected by a jury composed of Elizabeth Bear, Andy Duncan, James Gunn, Kij Johnson, and Nöel Sturgeon, Trustee of the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Estate.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person presentation of the award will be postponed until next year’s Gunn Center Conference, date and location to be announced.

The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award recognizes the best science fiction short story of each year. It was established in 1987 by James Gunn, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at KU, and the heirs of Theodore Sturgeon, including his partner Jayne Engelhart Tannehill and Sturgeon’s children, as an appropriate memorial to one of the great short-story writers in a field distinguished by its short fiction.

2019 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / pjgon71

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Continue reading

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.]