Pixel Scroll 8/30/18 I, For One, Welcome My New Cybernetic Pixel Scroll Wrangler

(1) THE (AMERICAN) GODS THEMSELVES. Neil Gaiman pointed to Leslie S. Klinger’s announcement of a planned reference work about “American Gods”.

I’m thrilled to announce that next Fall, William Morrow will publish Annotated American Gods, with my notes based in significant part on Neil’s manuscripts, journals, and research material as well as many other sources, including conversations with Neil and answers to the questions of “Who are all these unidentified gods anyway?”. I believe that this will be a large-trim edition, with the notes on each page in the margins, based on the 10th Anniversary edition text. Among other things, the notes will highlight all of the significant textual changes that were made for that edition. There will be black-and-white images of various people, places, and maybe even gods!

(2) ATTRACTIVE IDEA. You might say the Worldcon’s YA award gets some love from the Word of the Day:

(3) TREK FEATURES IN PRE-EMMY ANNOUNCEMENT. Deadline hails fans with some award news: “‘Star Trek’ Beams Up TV Academy’s 2018 Governors Award”

“Bridge to engineering — what’s that, Scotty?” “Ach, it’s the Governors Award, Captain — comin’ right at us!” “Mister Spock?!” “It seems that Star Trek has been selected to receive that honor from the TV Academy next month, Captain.”

The award to Star Trek recognizes “the visionary science-fiction television franchise and its legacy of boldly propelling science, society and culture where no one has gone before,” as the Academy put it. The honor will be beamed up September 8 during Night 1 of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

(4) POETRY CONTEST DEADLINE. 40th Anniversary Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association Speculative Poetry Contest deadline is August 31. Acclaimed Irish poet John W. Sexton is this year’s judge and esteemed Texas poet Holly Lyn Walrath is Chair. You do not have to be a SFPA member to enter poems. Rules at the link.

(5) MORE TO CTHULHU THAN MEETS THE EYE. With HPL’s 128th birthday this month, Bryan Thao Worra takes on the question “How Can Writers of Color Reconcile H. P. Lovecraft’s Influence with His Racist Legacy?” at Twin Cities Geeks.

…When I would read a story like The Shadow over Innsmouth, it felt more relevant to our journey than most of the refugee narratives on the market. Someone arrives in town to discover peculiar folks are nice at first, then turn into monstrous horrors who have bizarre traditions they want the protagonist to partake in? That’s an oversimplification, certainly, but the seeds are there to be sown. It can be sensitive to have a conversation on the real politics that ignited the Laotian Secret War, but a conversation on an alien war between Great Old Ones and Elder Things, with poor humanity caught between mindless horrors duking it out? There’s a tale that could be told, although not without its complications. Are the Great Old Ones NATO or the Warsaw Pact to Lovecraft’s Elder Things and Elder Gods? Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth appear in The Whisperer in Darkness; there, the reader learns these creatures take the brains of their victims to their distant planet in shiny metal cylinders. Simple science-fiction horror or an interesting metaphor for the cultural brain drain of a country as refugees board the metal cylinders of American planes to escape to safety?

…If I encouraged my community to read only safe, respectable literature touching on Laos, we’d find our people depicted typically as the faceless, coolies, or the enemy. In the works of writers like H. P. Lovecraft, and others, I felt we could at least start to flip the script and assert our true authentic voice from an unexpected direction. When I began writing in earnest, I had a desire to avoid many of the colonial, imperialist, and feudal trappings that disempower us. I saw science fiction, fantasy, and horror as a way to discuss our journeys and to empower ourselves, even as there can be no doubt these genres are filled with any number of paranoid and small-minded figures who may know how to put a sentence together but not necessarily an inclusive core. But like any zone of literature, one works at it.

(6) MORE ON JOHN WARD. Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) board member Jeff Tidball addresses the question “It Is Wise for GAMA to Seek a New Executive Director”. As Mark Hepworth noted in comments, Tidball very carefully avoids saying why Ward was not kept on. He does say that Ward was appointed ten years ago in very different circumstances:

The GAMA board of directors announced on Friday that it is not renewing the employment agreement of its Executive Director, John Ward. (Read a copy of the press release hosted on this site.) A fair number of members want to know why, and that’s great, because it indicates that GAMA’s members are interested in the governance and management of their trade organization.

The board’s decision arose in a closed meeting of the board, so the details and voting record of individual board members are confidential. The board’s consensus in recent discussion has been that the decisions made by the body are the decisions of the entire body, and so it would be inappropriate to publish a list reciting the votes of each member.

(Side note: This is based on very recent dialogue, the ultimate resolution of which is still pending. The question arose in the first place when a previous board decision led to a board member’s business being threatened. So, if you’ve seen or been part of board meetings in the past where detailed notes and vote-tallies were circulated, that’s why what I’m reporting here may be different from your experience.)

I wasn’t on the GAMA board ten years ago when John Ward was hired as its Executive Director. Many people, some of whom were intimately involved in the hiring process, some of whom were on the board at the time, many of whom were acquainted with the state of GAMA at that time, have assured me that John Ward was the best candidate for the position of ED when GAMA faced existential crises of finances and responsible organization. I believe them.

It’s been suggested that because John was the right person for that job, ten years ago, he must therefore still be the right person for the current job. There’s a logical disconnect there. The right person to turn a company around is not necessarily the right person to envision its future. The right person to fight a war is not necessarily the right person to rebuild the landscape. And so on. The skill sets are different.

Circumstances change, and GAMA’s have changed. The change is largely thanks to John Ward. The board gives him credit for what he’s done and applauds what he’s accomplished. So make no mistake: I thank John Ward for the hard work he’s done for GAMA. At the same time, I believe that a new voice and skill set would be better to lead GAMA for the next ten years.

(7) ALTERNATE NATURAL HISTORY. Ursula Vernon did a bunch of these today. Not in a single thread, so you’ll need to seek them out. Here is the premise and two lovely examples:

(8) BOUNCED OFF THESE BOOKS. Liz Lutgendorff finds most of the books that topped NPR’s poll “shockingly offensive” — “I read the 100 “best” fantasy and sci-fi novels – and they were shockingly offensive”. (The poll was a product of 5,000 nominators and 60,000 voters.) Lutgendorff used this test to help evaluate the list:

The test had three simple questions:

1: Does it have at least two female characters?

2: Is one of them a main character?

3: Do they have an interesting profession/level of skill like male characters?

It was staggering how many didn’t pass. Some failed on point 1….

Many failed on my second criteria, like Out of the Silent Planet or Rendezvous with Rama.

C S Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet was one of the oldest books on the list, aside from Jules Verne. It’s an early attempt at explaining space flight and encountering an alien race. Most of the plot revolves around the main character, Ransom, trying to understand the aliens before managing to escape back to earth.The most entertaining aspect of the book is the ludicrous physics. There is one woman in the story, who Ransom exchanges about three sentences with before she wanders off. Perhaps you can forgive that on age, the book being from 1938.

The same can’t be said for Rendezvous with Rama, which was written in 1973. It was critically acclaimed and won many of the main science fiction prizes such as the Nebula Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the Hugo Award and Locus Award. The story centres around a group of space explorers who have to investigate a mysterious spacecraft that enters the solar system.

While there are more women, almost all are subordinate to the main male lead. There is one female authority figure who is on the Council of Rama (the organisation directing the efforts of investigation), but she doesn’t play a significant role. I also got distracted by the fact that, inexplicably, the male lead sleeps with almost all the women mentioned in the book.

Finally, most would fail on the third part of the test because the women characters were all mothers, nurses or love interests. They were passive characters with little agency or character development, like the women in A Canticle for Leibowitz and Magician. They were scenery, adding a tiny bit of texture to mainly male dominated world….

(9) NELSON OBIT. An opportunity here to take note of her fascinating career — “Miriam Nelson, 98, Golden Age Dancer and Choreographer, Dies” in the New York Times – even if Jerry Lewis provides the unlikely genre connection:

Miriam Nelson, whose seven-decade career as a choreographer and dancer spanned the golden ages of Broadway, Hollywood and television, died on Aug. 12 at her home in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 98.

Much of Ms. Nelson’s movie work was for nonmusicals. She choreographed the madcap party scene at Holly Golightly’s apartment in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), and also appeared in it as the glamorous party guest in gold brocade and pearls who argues with the man wearing a fake eye patch.

Behind the camera, Ms. Nelson taught … Jerry Lewis to hoof it like a space alien in “A Visit to a Small Planet” (1960) and the whole cast of “Cat Ballou” (1965) — led by Jane Fonda, who she said was a balletically trained natural — to execute Old West dances for the hoedown scene.

(10) THE ROADS MUST SCROLL. Today’s trivia –

Moving sidewalks may have been synonymous with airports since the mid-20th century but the technology was known even earlier. A “moving pavement” transported people between exhibits during the Paris Expo in 1900 and science fiction novelist H.G. Wells even mentioned them in his 1899 tale “A Story of the Days to Come.”

Sources: USA TodayA short history of airport moving walkways “ (2016) and QIMoving Walkways”)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1797 — Mary Shelley. Author of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) considered by many to be very first genre novel. Though not appreciated for it until rather recently, she was a rather excellent writer of biographies of notable European men and women.
  • Born August 30 — R. Crumb, 76. Ok, this is a weird associational connection. Back in 1966, The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick was illustrated by R. Crumb in Weirdo #17. Crumb days text is by Dick. It’s really, really weird. You can find it here.
  • Born August 30, 1955 – Judith Tarr, 63. Perhaps best known for her Avaryan Chronicles series, and myriad other fantasy works. She breeds Lipizzan horses at Dancing Horse Farm, her home in Vail, Arizona. Need I note horses figure prominently in her stories?

(12) WORKING FOR LEX. Here’s one of the DC Crossovers that have been discussed in Scrolls — Lex Luthor Porky Pig Special #1 variant,. Became available August 29, according to Graham Crackers Comic Books.

Facing financial and personal ruin, a desperate Porky Pig applies for and gets and entry-level position with LexCorp. Grateful to his new benefactor, Porky becomes Luthor’s most loyal employee and defender. But when a major scandal breaks in the news and Lex is called before a Congressional Committee, guess who is about to be offered up as the sacrificial pig?

(13) ESA ASTRONAUT INTERVIEW. Newsweek interviews European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti about her time after her stay on the ISS and her current role on the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway project (“Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti: NASA Lunar Gateway Is ‘Natural Next Step in Exploration’”).

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is [… the] first Italian woman in space […] the former fighter pilot spent almost 200 days on the International Space Station (ISS) from 2014 to 2015—a record spaceflight for an ESA astronaut.

As well as investigating how fruit flies, flatworms and even human cells behave in space, Cristoforetti gained fame for brewing the first espresso on the ISS….

Q:           What is your role with the Gateway?

A:           I’m a crew representative for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway project. It’s a space station that will be built around the moon in the early 2020s. For human spaceflight, you always want astronauts involved so that they can give a little bit of perspective to the future crew members, users and operators. I’m just starting that, I’m just getting myself into the topic.

(14) INNERSPACE. The Psychedelic Film and Music Festival debuts October 1-7 in New York, and will explore “the medicinal and therapeutic use of psychedelics and investigate the existence of inner worlds through trance music and science fiction, horror, surrealism, fantasy and virtual reality film.”

Simon Boswell will be there —

Renowned film composer and noted psychedelic Simon Boswell will headline a night of music on October 3 at Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side for a special concert at The Inaugural Psychedelic Film and Music Festival. Performing with his musical group The AND, Boswell will play pieces from his illustrious film composition career in rock, electronica, gothic horror and futuristic styles.

Mr. Boswell is notable for integrating electronic elements with orchestral instruments to create vibrant and atmospheric soundtracks for widely praised cyberpunk, horror and science fiction films including Santa Sangre (1989), Hardware (1990), Dust Devil (1992), Shallow Grave (1994), Hackers (1995) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999). He was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Original Television Music for the BBC series The Lakes (1997) and in recent years has composed for several film projects and toured worldwide with The AND, performing live music against video backdrops of remixed content from his impressive film resume.

Tickets available on Ticketfly: https://ticketf.ly/2nyeb1o

(15) IN VINE VERITAS. Someone reading today needs this book – just not sure who it is. Altus Press announces plans for “Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars”. (No indication there is any connection with the series of similarly-themed action figures from days gone by.)

In 2014, Altus launched The Wild Adventures of Tarzan, with Tarzan: Return to Pal-ul-don. Two years later came the monumental King Kong versus Tarzan, a dream project long thought unachievable.

Now, in association with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Altus Books, the Wild Adventures announces its most breathtaking project to date.

Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars!

Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his amazing creations have long dreamed of reading a novel in which the Lord of the Jungle visits the Red Planet and encounters John Carter.

In Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars, this finally happens!

When a witch doctor’s sorcery hurls the ape-man’s soul out of his magnificent body, Tarzan discovers himself on a weird, treeless landscape, a dying planet inhabited by creatures unknown to him. Marooned on Mars, Tarzan must learn to survive in an unfamiliar environment. With no hope of rescue, the ape-man begins the arduous journey that takes him from being a friendless stranger on an alien world to his rise as a force to be reckoned with. For on Barsoom—as Martians style their home planet—there exists apes. Great apes of a type not found upon Earth. Hairless giants resembling gorillas, but possessing two sets of arms. Not to mention ferocious lion-like monsters known as banths as well as the elephantine zitidars.  Tarzan will go up against these fearsome creatures, and so begins the perilous march that elevates him from naked and unarmed castaway to the undisputed Ape-lord of Barsoom!

Written by genre giant Will Murray, TarzanConqueror of Mars ultimately brings the famed Lord of the Jungle into open conflict with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other great hero, John Carter, Warlord of Mars. In the end, which one will be victorious?

(16) DRIZZT IS BACK. R.A. Salvatore’s Timeless, on-sale September 4, marks the return of Drizzt Do’Urden, the legendary dark elf fighter that’s been a mainstay of fantasy books and the successful Forgotten Realms RPG games for over 30 years.

Not only will readers get more of the swashbuckling, sword-and-sorcery action Salvatore is known for; they’ll also get to know more of the characters who dwell in the Forgotten Realms.

Salvatore is unique, because he was one of the originators of modern Epic Fantasy—but he has continued to evolve, and to take on new fans. With TIMELESS, a master of Epic Fantasy is poised to make a huge splash in a beloved genre.

(17) SEND FOR THE MUPPET CORONER. According to Rolling Stone reviewer Peter Travers, “‘The Happytime Murders’ Review: Puppet Raunchfest Is Dead on Arrival”.

A few critics are calling it the worst movie of the year. Unfair! The Happytime Murders, the R-rated look at a serial killer running wild in a puppet-populated L.A., has what it takes to be a contender for worst of the decade. Directed by Brian Henson (son of the late, great Sesame Street and Muppets icon Jim Henson) and starring a painfully stranded Melissa McCarthy, this toxic botch job deserves an early death by box office….

(18) EIGHTIES UNERASED. James Davis Nicoll continues his Tor.com series with “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1980s, Part II”.

Let us journey onward, this time to women who first published speculative fiction in the 1980s whose surnames begin with B….

For example:

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff cannot be the sole Bahá’í author/musician active in speculative fiction, but she is the only one I know. Her body of work is small enough—eight books or so—that one could read the entire thing in a week or two. Those who might want just a taste could try The Meri, in which a young woman with great magical potential struggles against a society profoundly suspicious of magic. Alternatively, you could explore her shorter work in the collection Bimbo on the Cover.

(19) EPIC NERD CAMP. Karen Heller’s Washington Post article “‘Growing up, we were the weird ones’: The wizarding, mermaiding, cosplaying haven of Epic Nerd Camp” profiles Epic Nerd Camp,  a summer camp in Starrucca, Pennsylvania where “men in kilts and women withhair stained with all the colors of Disney” can eat bad summer camp food, fight off bugs, and spend their days engaging in LARPing, cosplay, “wandmaking, sword fighting, boffer games, Quidditch, waizarding, chainmaille, escape rooms and FX makeup.”

Heller credits Dr. Seuss with originating the word “nerd” —

Nerds have been with us forever, but the term seems to have been coined by Dr. Seuss, circa 1950. (From “If I Ran the Zoo”: And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo/And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo,/A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too.) The word gained further popularity on TV’s “Happy Days,” where the Fonz applied it to almost any young person who was not the Fonz. Around the same time, geek — once the name for carnival performers who bit the heads off live chickens — came into its modern interpretation, referring to intense enthusiasts.

(20) THE WALK NESS MONSTER. A sauropod stepped in something, once upon a time: “170-million-year-old dinosaur footprint found in Scotland”.

An extremely rare 170-million-year-old dinosaur footprint has been found in Scotland. Paleontologists, however, are keeping its precise location secret until they can complete their research.

The footprint was discovered earlier this year by Neil Clark, curator of paleontology at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum. Clark told Fox News that he had just given a talk in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands and decided to “visit the Jurassic rocks” in the area.

“After about a half hour looking, I spotted the footprint and was able to immediately recognize it as the footprint of a sauropod dinosaur,” he told Fox News. “I had to do a double take on the footprint as I couldn’t believe that such an obvious footprint had not been seen previously, considering the number of researchers who visit the coast each year.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and Mark Hepworth for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Karl-Johan Norén.]

Pixel Scroll 3/9/16 Pet Symmetry

(1) REMEMBERING HARTWELL. Rudy Rucker has one of the best personal tributes to the late David G. Hartwell that I’ve read.

In 2005, Dave got me invited to give the keynote talk at ICFA, the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, held in a brutally cold motel Florida. One of the organizers quipped, “We don’t come here for the sun, we come here for the air-conditioning.”

Dave told me that a member of the committee had said, “We can’t invite Rucker, he’s a difficult drunk,” and Dave told him, “Not any more.” By then I’d been sober for nearly ten years. I said to Dave, “I wonder if my drinking years had a bad effect on my career.” Dave said, “I don’t think so. Even now, I still talk to people who are very disappointed when they see you at a con and you aren’t swinging from the chandeliers.”

(2) JEMISIN DISCUSSES ROWLING’S NEW WORLD MAGIC. N.K. Jemisin’s verdict on Rowling’s magical North America is: “It could’ve been great.”

…I’m still careful, even with “dead” faiths, because I don’t know how playing with these things might hurt real people. Nations have been built upon and torn down by the concepts I’m playing with. The least I can do is research the hell out of a thing before I put a toe in that ancient water.

It’s even more crucial for religions that are alive, and whose adherents still suffer for misconceptions and misappropriations. But these are easier to research, and it’s often much easier to figure out when you’re about to put a foot right into a morass of discrimination and objectification. All the evidence is there, sometimes still wet with blood. You just need to read. You just need to ask people. You just need to think….

Anyway. This is just to say that there’s a number of ways Rowling could’ve made her Magical North America work without causing real harm to a lot of real people. That would be for her to have treated American peoples — all of us — with the same respect that she did European. Pretty sure she would never have dreamt of reducing all of Europe’s cultures to “European wizarding tradition”; instead she created Durmstrang and Beauxbatons and so on to capture the unique flavor of each of those cultures. It would’ve taken some work for her to research Navajo stories and pick (or request) some elements from that tradition that weren’t stereotypical or sacred — and then for her to do it again with the Paiutes and again with the Iroquois and so on. But that is work she should’ve done — for the sake of her readers who live those traditions, if not for her own edification as a writer. And how much more delightful could Magic in North America have been if she’d put an ancient, still-thriving Macchu Picchu magic school alongside a brash, newer New York school? How much richer could her history have been if she’d mentioned the ruins of a “lost” school at Cahokia, full of dangerous magical artifacts and the signs of mysterious, hasty abandonment? Or a New Orleanian school founded by Marie Laveau, that practiced real vodoun and was open/known to the locals as a temple — and in the old days as a safe place to plan slave rebellions, a la Congo Square? Or what if she’d mentioned that ancient Death Eater-ish wizards deliberately destroyed the magical school of Hawai’i — but native Hawai’ians are rebuilding it now as Liliuokalani Institute, better than before and open to all? …

(3) BAR’S NEW NAME. SF Site News, in its story “Geek Bar Rebrands”, reports that Geek Bar Chicago has changed its name to SFCO.

The rebranding will also bring in an influx of video consoles, late night programming, and new hours, Sunday and Wednesday from 5pm to 10pm, Thursday and Friday from 5pm to Midnight, and Saturday from 3 pm to 2 am. The bar will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. In addition to their game selection, SFCO will continue to offer a rotating menu of geek-themed signature cocktails and a pop culture reference-filled menu items. The news of the rebranding was followed by former CEO David Zoltan announcing that he had resigned from Geek Bar in January.

(4) JULIETTE WADE’S FANCAST. Juliette Wade’s TalkToYoUniverse is a great place to find regular coverage of “linguistics and anthropology, science fiction and fantasy, point of view, [and] grammar geekiness.” Wade is often joined by a guest writer, as in the latest installment, “Andrea Stewart – a Dive into Worldbuilding”.

Something that makes Wade’s project exceptional is that every episode is accompanied by a post fully detailing what was discussed. Here are the first few paragraphs about her visit with Stewart –

We were joined for this hangout by author Andrea Stewart, who told us a bit about her worldbuilding and her work. Her work has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, IGMS, and Galaxy’s Edge.

We started by talking about a piece she had in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Set in a psudo-Chinese culture, it featured an opium den with magical smoke, in a place where the land surrounding the city was dying and this had become the people’s escape. Very cool story! Andrea explained that her mom is a Chinese immigrant, so half her family is Chinese. One of the key differences, she says, is in conversational interaction style.

I asked her about her series, the Changeling Wars. She told me that it had begun as a writing exercise, where every person in a group picks a word, and then each member has to write a piece that uses all the words chosen by the group. She describes this series as being part of a move from dark fantasy to a bit lighter fantasy. The first book begins when a woman walks in on her cheating husband, and her emotion is so powerful in that moment that it awakens magic in her. It turns out she’s a changeling, and not just adopted, as she believed.

Andrea has very warm words for writing exercises, which she says can spark ideas you might not otherwise come up with.

There are 101 Worldbuilding hangouts in the index, 25 featuring special guests, including Aliette de Bodard, N.K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, Myke Cole, Usman T. Malik, Cat Rambo, Sofia Samatar and Isabel Yap.

(5) IN FOR A DIME. Sonia Orin Lyris tells how she “Will Build Worlds for Spare Change” at The Fictorians.

The next week my inbox was filled with indignant treasures, among them this: “No, no, no! This is NOT a D&D game. Coins have names! Coins have histories!”

I instantly knew how right she was. Knew it like the contents of my own pocket.

Pennies. Nickels. Dimes. Not “coppers.” Not “large silvers.”

I dove back into my research and emerged soaked in currency-related facts, from minting to metals, from Greece to China. The facts went on and on, as did the likeness of people and horses and birds and insects, of ships and buildings, of angels and flowers, of myths and monarchs.

So many coins, each symbolizing their culture’s prosperity and priorities. Its very self-image.

I now understood that not only did coins have names and histories, but they were keys to wealth and power, to trade and politics. Coins affected everyone, from rulers to merchants to the poorest of the poor. Coins mattered, and mattered quite a bit.

Coins had names and histories. They had faces. Coins traveled.

That’s when it hit me: Coins are stories.

(6) EVEN MORE WORLDBUILDING ADVICE. Coining words is the focus of “This Kind of World Building :: An Interview with Sofia Samatar” at Weird Sister.

Kati Heng: One thing that always amazes me is when a writer is able to make up not just a story, but also an entire language behind it. Like all creative writing, there must be rules you set for its creation. Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind Olondrian, and especially how the names of characters were created?

Sofia Samatar: Making up the languages was one of my favorite parts of creating the world of Olondria. The biggest influence on the Olondrian language is Arabic, which I had studied before writing A Stranger in Olondria, and was speaking daily while writing the book in South Sudan. I was inspired by Arabic plurals, for example, to devise a complicated system of plural patterns for Olondrian. Olondrian pronouns resemble Arabic pronouns as well. And, like Arabic, Olondrian has no P sound (any word with a P in it has been imported from another language).

The creation of the language was closely tied to the development of names. I don’t have anything close to a complete Olondrian vocabulary, but I do know what the names mean. “Vain” means forest, for example, so there are a bunch of “vains” on my map — Kelevain, Fanlevain, and so on. “Kele” means hunting. “Fanle” means apple.

To invent the names, I chose small chunks of sound that seemed pretty to me and played with combining them. Few activities can be more self-indulgent. It was wonderful

(7) VALLEY FORGE SHARES CoC DRAFT. The Valley Forge in 2017 NASFiC bid’s “Progress Update 2” links to its draft Code of Conduct and other policies. (They also unveiled their mascot, Proxie the Celestial Raccoon.)

Next, we have had a number of queries about what our code of conduct will look like if and when we win the bid. Like I mentioned in the last progress update, we’ve been working on a draft of the CoC for a while now, and it has been a whole heck of a lot of work for the entire team. After many, many hours of sweat and toil by all of us, we’re happy to be able to share version 1.0 of the Valley Forge 2017 Code of Conduct (html version) with you.

Now obviously, calling it “version 1.0” implies that we expect updates, and we do. The convention is a long way (and a successful vote) away and there are some details that we just can’t get in place until we have more structure, like phone numbers and room locations and websites. A lot can change in a year and a half, so what you see here may not be exactly the same thing you see if and when you show up at our door – but substantively, we are happy with what we have and are proud to put our names behind it. If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear it.

We’re also elbow-deep in the guts of an internal procedures manual for how to deal with a variety of scenarios, including what to do if we receive a report of a code of conduct violation. That’s not quite ready for prime time yet, and may not be ready until we have a more formal concom structure in place of our current bidcom (in other words, until and unless we win the bid). If we can whip something into releasable shape before then, we will publish that as well.

(8) THE KESSEL RUNS. It is alleged the full title of Kitbashed’s “Complete History of the Millennium Falcon” is “The Complete Conceptual History of The Millennium Falcon or How I Started Worrying and Lost My Mind Completely Over a Fictional Spaceship Someone Please Do Something Send Help Why Are You Still Reading Someone Do Something.”

The Pork Burger

The ILM model shop built the new Pirate Ship model, and quickly found a way to distinguish it from the old one in conversation, namely by adopting Grant McCune’s nickname for it: The Pork Burger.

And if you want my theory, that’s where the myth of the design being based off of a burger Lucas was eating got started.

(9) FURRY CUSTOMS. The Independent learned from Twitter that “Syrian refugees in Canada got housed in same hotel as VancouFur furry convention and the children loved it”.

The fifth annual VancouFur convention, in which people dress up as fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics, was held at the same hotel where a number of Syrian refugees are currently being housed.

A message was given to all attendees at the convention that the hotel had been chosen as one of the temporary housing locations for the Syrian refugees in Canada, and that “a major concern that VancouFur has is ensuring that each and every one of the refugees (and attendees) feels welcome and safe and the fact that this is likely to be a major shock to them”.

“Keep in mind that they likely will not want to interact with you and consent is important to everyone,” the message added.

But luckily for everyone involved, the refugees – especially the children – loved it.

 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born March 9, 1911 — Clara Rockmore.

Rockmore was a master of the theremin, the world’s first electronic music instrument and first instrument that could be played without being touched.

On what would have been her 105th birthday, Rockmore has been commemorated with a Google Doodle. The interactive game teaches you to play the theremin by hovering your mouse over the notes to play a melody.

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(11) PROPHET IN HIS OWN LAND. Even George R.R. Martin won’t be allowed a hometown premiere of Game of Thrones Season 6.

And yes, it’s true. After last year’s unfortunate leak, HBO is not sending out any press screeners this year, to try and cut down on the piracy.

They have also eliminated all the regional premieres, including (sob) the one we had scheduled at my own Jean Cocteau Cinema. This year the only premiere will be the big one in LA at Grauman’s Chinese.

The Jean Cocteau will, however, go ahead with our season 5 marathon. Admission is free, so watch our website and newsletter for show times.

(12) LESSER OF TWO WEEVILS. Joe Hill brings his skills as a professional horror writer to bear on the Presidential race in his latest “Perspective”.

I asked my three sons and a cousin what would be scarier: 8 years of a Trump presidency, or two kaiju attacks, one on Washington D.C. and one on L.A., separated by 8 years. Assume standard kaiju size (20 stories, 80,000 tons), atomic breath, acid blood, probably the ability to produce subsonic blasts with one whap of the tail. Immune to conventional nuclear weapons. Highly aggressive.

By a vote of 3 – 1, they agreed two kaiju attacks would be much worse for the nation than if Trump were to become President of the United States. So if you feel depressed by Trump’s toxic mix of misogyny, xenophobia, and bullying, look to this for a cheer-up. It could be worse. You could be jellied beneath the trampling scaly feet of a salamander the size of a skyscraper.

Admit it. You feel better all ready.

(13) THIS JUST IN. “New Survey Finds 92% Of Evangelicals Would Have Supported Genghis Khan” reports Babylon Bee.  

Genghis Khan, the genocidal warlord who conquered most of Central and Northeast Asia during the first part of the thirteenth century, enjoys widespread support from twenty-first century evangelicals, a new CNN poll revealed Tuesday.

“The level of support for the Supreme Khan of the Mongols is off the charts,” explained Malcom Johnstone, the pollster who conducted the survey for CNN. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Clearly, there is a strong correlation between being pro-God and pro-Genghis.”

Still, many Christians question the accuracy of the new findings.

Like Buddy Buchanan of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “I’ve been in a Bible church my whole life, and I’ve never met anyone who likes this Genghis fellow,” Buchanan revealed to sources. “I just don’t get it. I can’t think of a single person who supports him. I remember there was a cool-looking Khan in one of those Star Trek movies, but I don’t think that’s the same guy.”

(14) SHARKNADO FOUR. “Syfy and The Asylum announce Sharknado 4 casting”Sci-Fi Storm has the story.

Syfy and The Asylum announced today that Ian Ziering will slay again in Sharknado 4 (working title), reprising his role as shark-fighting hero Fin Shepard, while Tara Reid is set to return as April Wexler to reveal the outcome of the fan-voted #AprilLives or #AprilDies social campaign. The fourth addition to the hit global franchise also sees the return of David Hasselhoff as Gil Shepard and Ryan Newman as Claudia Shepard.

(15) FOREVER FANS. Future War Stories presents the case for picking Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War as the best military sf work.

In 1974, Joe Haldeman, armed with his bachelors in Physics and Astronomy along with his experiences in the Vietnam War, would craft a military science fiction tale of UNEF soldier William Mendella. This book, The Forever War, would go on to win every major award and prize, rocketing Joe Haldeman into the realm of sci-fi literature. Since its original publication, The Forever War would be re-edited, translated into every major language, and be adapted into various forms, including an major studio film has been in the works since 2008 and the effort seems to be active. The book’s legacy is being hailed has the best military science fiction book of all time and it has been a source of inspiration for decades. In this installment of the continuing Masterworks series, we will explore and explain why Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is the best literary military science fiction work. A word of caution: this blog article contains spoilers on key moments of the book. Read at your own risk!

(16) STROSS INTERVIEW. Charles Stross, in an interview at SFF World, thinks magic might be a better metaphor for one of sf’s typical tropes.

And what of newer authors? Are there any personal favourites?

In the past year, I’ve read and been incredibly impressed by Seth Dickinson’s “The Traitor” (US: “The Traitor Baru Cormorant”); grim, harrowing, and deeply interesting for his use of secondary world fantasy as a tool for interrogating kyriarchy. I’ve also been impressed by Alyx Dellamonica’s “Child of a Hidden Sea” (and sequel “A Daughter of No Nation”), V. E. Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic”, and Naomi Novik’s “Uprooted”—secondary world/portal fantasies for the most part. SF … I find myself having a knee-jerk reaction against most of what comes to me as highly-recommended or highly popular SF these days; I think this is partly because—for me, these days—magic works better as a metaphor for depicting alienating technology than actual ham-fisted attempts at describing the thing in itself. (And also because so much of the exotic tech in SF is basically warmed-over magic wands.)

(17) VINESPLAINING. In this GEICO commercial, Tarzan and Jane get into an argument about asking for directions. (I may have linked this before, but I can’t find it…)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James H. Burns, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Vintage Photograph Auction Coming

Classic glamour photographs of Hollywood’s elite will be auctioned by Profiles in History on March 26-27.

The most famous item going on the block is George Hurrell’s iconic portrait of Jean Harlow on a white bearskin rug. The original camera negative and a custom print will be sold, perhaps for more than $20,000.

Bidders will also have a chance at buying Hurrell’s photo of Johnny Weissmuller from Tarzan, which is the most symbolic ever taken of a male subject in Hollywood.

In addition to the Glamour photography collection, there master prints by Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Man Ray, Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, Cindy Sherman, Julius Schulman, Jock Sturges, Howard Zieff and Edward Steichen.  There also is fine art by Andy Warhol, Richard Duardo, Keith Haring, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Beatrice Wood and others.  

And there will also be work from photographer Len Prince, whose subjects include actresses like Kirsten Dunst and Teri Hatcher who have stfnal roles to their credit.

The full press release appears after the jump.

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Who Says Cheetas Never Prosper?

CheetaIf Tarzan’s sidekick Cheeta had been nominated for vice-president that could not have been more surprising than seeing his “autobiography” Me Cheeta on the shortlist for The Guardian‘s First Book Award. Yet there it is. Writes Helen Pidd:

The autobiography of an acting chimpanzee is going head to head with a cold war love story and a novel about the assassination of a Pakistani dictator in this year’s Guardian first book award…

Me Cheeta is up against a strong list of fiction and non-fiction titles, including A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif, which tells the story of the assassination of the Pakistani dictator General Zia-ul- Haq in 1988. Other contenders include Stalin’s Children, Owen Matthews’s memoir of his parents’ cold war love affair in Russia interspersed with his own life as a young reporter in 1990s Moscow, and The Rest is Noise, a sweeping musical history by the New Yorker’s music critic, Alex Ross.

None of these are works of sf/fantasy. Are they, Cheeta?

You Tarzan, Me Cheeta

Dave Locke reminisced on the Smofs list about the 1972 Westercon where Johnny Weissmuller, Jock Mahoney and virtually all of the extant Tarzan actors were present for a Burroughs-fan “Dum-Dum”:

I remember they all appeared on Carson‘s Tonight show that same weekend. Funniest thing, though, was Weissmuller drinking too much and, from the bar, cracking up most everyone in the hotel when he’d frequently give forth with his famous Tarzan “yell.”

Weissmuller is long gone, but Cheeta the Chimp who starred with him, remarkably is still alive. And he’s finally gotten around to writing his tell-all Hollywood autobiography, Me Cheeta.

Cheeta tells it all, a life lived with the stars, a monkey stolen from deepest Africa forced to make a living in the fake jungles of Hollywood.

At the age of 75, he is by far the oldest chimpanzee ever recorded.

Backdate: 7/18/2008: Put Dave’s story back the way he told it. Fined myself three bananas.

ERB Put Tarzan on the Map

Here in the Los Angeles area, where the Cahuenga and Topanga passes still have their Native American names, it’s easy to forget that the name of nearby Tarzana is not another such example. It was Edgar Rice Burroughs – author of the Tarzan books – who originally owned and developed the area, once part of his Tarzana Ranch.

The name has been in the news again because Danton Burroughs, grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, passed away on May 1. He is said to be the last family member to have an active interest in Burroughs’ legacy, and he was chairman of the board of the corporation that handled rights to the ERB properties. His memorial is scheduled for May 17 at 2 p.m. in the Tarzana Cultural Center.