Pixel Scroll 3/5/18 Don’t Scroll That Shoggoth, Hand Me The Pixel

(1) FIGHT TO THE FINISH. Unbound Worlds, the Penguin Random House website for sff fans, is running Cage Match 2018: Creature Feature, a March Madness-style original fiction bracket tournament.

For the first time, Cage Match will feature an all non-human bracket of 32 characters — monsters, murderbots, mythological beings, and more from SF/F books — in battles to the death written by acclaimed authors.Contributors include Liana Brooks, C.A. Higgins, Seanan McGuire, Tina Connolly, and many others. Below are links to a couple of Round One matches.

  • Seanan McGuire’s (Tricks For Free) battle between Pennywise, a shapeshifting monster turned sinister clown from Stephen King’s It and Shelob, a venomous spider from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Read it here.
  • Michael Poore’s (Reincarnation Blues) account of Deep Thought, the supernatural computer from Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vs. Lovelace/Sidra, a sentient computer from Becky Chambers The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet. Read it here.

Some of the other creatures from classic and contemporary science fiction and fantasy are:

  • Cthulhu, a massive, octopoid god-being from the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
  • Drogon, the largest and most aggressive of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons from A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin.  
  • Iorek Byrnison, an armor-clad polar bear warrior from Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.
  • Murderbot, a self-aware robot that hates humans from Martha Wells’s The Murderbot Diaries.
  • Pennywise, a shapeshifting monster turned sinister clown from Stephen King’s It.
  • War, a supernatural horseman of the apocalypse from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

Also new for Cage Match 2018 is a special creature-themed Spotify playlist.

(2) BRADBURY IS BACK. As Bill Oberst Jr. describes his exciting new project, Ray Bradbury Live (forever):

Dinosaurs.

Dark Carnivals.

Rockets To Mars.

Ray Bradbury Live (forever) has them all. It’s a smart show; alternatively funny, sppoky and biting; a mix of Epcot ride, Planetarium show and dream.

The Show: Like Mark Twain Tonight, or The Bell of Amherst. But with dinosaurs.

Ray Bradbury Live (forever) is licensed for performance by the Ray Bradbury Estate, with script approval by the family.

Bill is doing the first staged reading in NYC at Theatre Row on April 12th at 7 p.m. It’s not the full production, just a reading, but it will give an idea of the piece. Jeff Farley is doing the prosthetic make-up for the actual show when it opens. The plan is to debut Off-Broadway in 2019 and then tour it nationally (and maybe overseas, too.) This first reading is the first baby step.

As a reminiscence, here is a promotional graphic from Bill’s 2015 Bradbury-themed performance in LA:

(3) WITHOUT RESERVATION. Adweek explains “Why the Overlook Hotel From The Shining Got an Ad on the Oscars”.

The one hotel in the world where you really don’t want to stay got a high-profile commercial on the Oscars telecast tonight—38 years after it first terrified people on the big screen.

The Overlook Hotel, which was the setting for Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror movie The Shining (based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name), was the ostensible advertiser behind the 30-second spot—which invited you to enjoy a “quiet, remote family getaway” at the “newly renovated” property, where “there’s a surprise around every corner.”

… A few seconds at the very end of the ad reveal the true advertiser—the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a new museumdedicated to the art and science of movies that will be opened in Los Angeles in 2019 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (which runs the Oscars).

 

(4) INTERSECTIONALITY. Damien Walter has an intriguing idea for explaining a theoretical concept: “The trouble with intersectional political alliances as illustrated by Star Wars”.

Intersectionality is a powerful idea conveyed in an overcomplicated word. But Star Wars is a great way to understand it better.

…From what we see, Rebel X-Wing pilots are predominantly male, blue collar guys with security / technical backgrounds. In contrast the alliance diplomatic corps lead by Mon Mothma and Leia seem to be mostly women with liberal arts / humanities educations. These two groups probably see the rebellion very differently, and have to continually negotiate to find a good working relationship.

The Mon Calamari cruisers can take on multiple Imperial star destroyers at once, but were only converted for military function after the Mon Calamari were targetted and nearly wiped out by Imperial forces. No doubt Admiral Ackbar feels his people are the real leaders of the rebellion, and as allies the humans, who basically caused all these problems with their history of colonialism, should damn well shut up and take orders.

Who knows what the Bothans want from the whole thing, but many of them died to recover those plans, so they probably expect a cut of any political settlement when the Republic is re-established.

In real life we have a word for the problems of factionalism faced by Liberal political alliances.

INTERSECTIONALITY

(5) SEE STOKERCON. Ellen Datlow shared her photos of StokerCon 2018 on Flickr. Posing for the camera here are Craig Engler and the electrifying Scott Edelman.

(6) THE SHAPE OF DOLLARS. Are you up on the charges of plagiarism made against the makers of the movie The Shape of Water? If not, Time.com posted a summary today, immediately after the film won the Academy Award: “Everything to Know About the Shape of Water Plagiarism Controversy”.

Jim Meadows sent the link together with his commentary:

The whole thing got my attention, because I can remember watching “Let Me Hear You Whisper”, the Paul Zindel play that Zindel’s family says was unauthorized source material for The Shape of Water. The Time article mentions a 1990 TV movie (actually an episode in an artsy drama series on the A&E cable channel, according to IMDB). My memory is of an earlier production, in 1969, on the NET Playhouse series that ran on public television throughout the mid and late ’60s. My memories were reinforced a few years later when I found the play published in a 1970s Roger Elwood anthology, Six Science Fiction Plays.

I have not seen The Shape of Water, but the common points seem to include: a female janitor striking up a relationship with an intelligent aquatic creature housed in a research facility, with ensuing conflict between hard-headed scientists and the more romantic janitor. In Let Me Hear You Whisper, the creature was a talking dolphin, which I remember being a thing in SF back then. But unlike The Shape of Water, there was no physical relationship, just compassion on the janitor’s part for the dolphin’s plight. From the Time article, I gather there are other points of both similarity and difference.

The interesting question that makes this story more than One More Thing in the news is that of what counts as plagiarism. In science fiction, and, I suspect, other genres, there are countless stories that are essentially about the same thing. When is plagiarism, in the legal sense, involved? How many stories about, for instance, traveling to the moon for the first time, are actually very similar? Or telepathy? Or nuclear holocaust? If the plot-line goes in a different direction, or if certain basic elements are changed — a biped “river god” instead of a dolphin, for instance —- does that cancel out the charge of plagiarism? Among all these stories, how many cases exist that would meet legal grounds for a plagiarism charge? What is the precedent in these cases? Perhaps most importantly in a real-world sense, who could win a lawsuit?

Perhaps a lot of people could, but those lawsuits are never filed because most cases do not involve celebrated, money-making movies, but obscure stories in low-circulation magazines.

(7) GUFF REASONS. Going Under Fan Fund (GUFF) candidate Marcin Klak appeals for support by telling readers “What can I pack in my ‘fandom suitcase’?”

…So far I have visited more than 100 conventions in Poland. Their size ranged from less than 50 members to over 40 000 members. Among them were manga and anime cons, SF&F cons, some of them were multigenre and some were focused solely on gaming or on a particular franchise. I would like to pack all of those experiences with me. This way I can share pictures, memories and talk about the general Polish approach to conrunning and congoing….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 5, 1954The Creature from the Black Lagoon premiered.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 5, 1942 – Mike Resnick

Steven H Silver paid tribute at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Mike Resnick’s ‘The Evening Line’”:

…In this particular story, Plug Malone has hit it big at the races and when word gets out about his good fortune, he finds himself facing a huge number of fortune-hunting women looking for a husband. The story, both stylistically and in its depiction of men and women, is very much a throwback to the period in which [Damon] Runyon was writing his Broadway stories.

The story sets Malone’s desire not to get married against the various citizens of Broadway stating that as soon as he has money, women will want to marry him, turning the first line of Pride and Prejudice askew….

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock says it’s obvious Rose is Rose follows our new regular feature about cats.

Mike Kennedy sent in a trio —

  • Bits for sale at Foxtrot.
  • Edward can’t help violating that kindergarten dictum about what you don’t run with: In The Bleachers.
  • And Monty is on the beam.

(11) TAKE WEIRD TO THE NEXT LEVEL. The Dark Magazine has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund ”Two More Years of Unsettling Fiction”.

The Dark Magazine has been around for five years and in that short period of time we have published award-winning stories by new and established authors; showcased great artwork from all corners of the world; and done it all on the backs of a small team of simply wonderful people. But now it is past time to take it to the next level, and help finance the magazine for two more years to allow us to increase the subscription base, increase the pay rate, and increase the amount of fiction we bring to you. Because we don’t just like dark fantasy, horror, or weird fiction . . . we love it. And it means so much to us to introduce you to unsettling and thoughtful stories every month that we want to keep on doing it, with your help.

Who we are:

Co-Editor and Publisher Sean Wallace is the founder, publisher, and managing editor of Prime Books….

Co-Editor Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music, magic and Mexico City, was listed as one of the best novels of the year …She was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for her work on the anthology She Walks in Shadows and is the guest-editor for Nightmare Magazine’s POC Destroy Horror. She edits The Jewish Mexican Literary Review together with award-winning author Lavie Tidhar.

Kate Baker is the podcast director and non-fiction editor for Clarkesworld Magazine. She has been very privileged to narrate over 250 short stories/poems by some of the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy. …She is currently working as the Operations Manager for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

(12) SHORTISH. Charles Payseur’s Quick Sips Reviews covers Glittership February 2018.

Glittership is back after a short delay with new 2018 content! Woo! First up is an original story, a reprint, and a poem, all of which are gloriously queer. The fiction is set in the “real” world with a heavy emphasis on death and with people generally occupying space bordering both the living and the dead. Especially for queer people who are in a state of constant danger, it’s a precarious space, but it can also be a powerful one that allows them to face the larger world and its mysteries more directly. These are rather wrenching pieces, and the the poetry doesn’t let up, looking at shapeshifting and portrayal and it’s just wonderful work all around that I should get to reviewing!

(13) EXACTLY. I confess to having a problem with all awards that use the eligibility year instead of the award year in their titles, not just the Nebulas.

(14) ANSWER WITH A QUESTION. Rich Lynch tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! where one category was “Facts About Fiction.” This was the $2000 clue. The defending champ got it right.

(15) BEST OF SFRA. The Science Fiction Research Association announced its annual awards.

  • Thomas D. Clareson Award for distinguished service: Veronica Hollinger
  • Mary Kay Bray Award for best essay, interview, or extended review to appear in the SFRA Review: Hugh C. O’Connell for his review of Jack Fennell’s Irish Science Fiction
  • Pilgrim Award for lifetime contribution to SF and Fantasy scholarship: Carl Freedman
  • Pioneer Award for best critical essay-length work of the year: Thomas Strychacz for “The Political Economy of Potato Farming in Andy Weir’s The Martian” in Science Fiction Studies
  • Student Paper Award for outstanding scholarly essay read at the annual SFRA conference: Josh Pearson, for “New Weird Frankenworlds: Speaking and Laboring Worlds in Cisco’s Internet of Everything.”
  • Honorable mention for student paper goes to Kylie Kornsnack for “Towards a Time Travel Aesthetic: Writing-between-worlds in Okorafor, Butler, and Baledosingh.”

Also, in January, SFRA named Dr. Emily Cox the winner of the Support a New Scholar Award.

[Via Locus Online and SF Site News.]

(16) MOTH MAN. Neil Gaiman has participated in a few Moth storytelling events. Moth participants relate true events from their lives before a theater audience. Here is a list of his stories that are currently available via The Moth’s website.

(17) I’M BAAACK. Disney dropped the teaser trailer for Mary Poppins Returns.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Jim Meadows, Rich Lynch, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann Todd, Mike Kennedy, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Leland Sapiro (1924-2013)

Leland Sapiro (born Shapiro) died October 8. Sapiro was best known as editor of Riverside Quarterly, three-time nominee for the Best Fanzine Hugo (1967, 1969, 1970), “an earnest little fanzine, the hand-knitted fannish equivalent of an academic journal” as described by Alexei Panshin, whose Heinlein in Dimension first saw print there.

The zine began when Sapiro, along with Jon White and Ron Smith revived the fanzine Inside Science Fiction as Inside in 1962. Eventually, Sapiro gained editorial control, renaming it Riverside Quarterly in 1964. The zine continued to appear until it went on hiatus in the mid-1970s. When he resumed publication issues came out infrequently, the last in 1993.

In the early days of academic study of science fiction Sapiro considered his Riverside Quarterly in a rivalry with Thomas Clareson’s Extrapolation. He humbly conceded first place to Clareson in a 1972 Worldcon program book ad while touting his own long list of distinguished contributors.

Among his contributors were Jack Williamson, who let RQ run an expanded version of his Ph.D. thesis H.G. Wells: Critic of Progress, James Blish, Robert Bloch, Algis Budrys, Samuel Delany, Philip Jose Farmer, Ursula K. Le Guin, Darrell Schweitzer, John Sladek and Harry Warner, Jr.

These were the early days of academic interest in science fiction and fantasy. In 1962 Sapiro, Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Sam Russell, and Arthur Jean Cox participated in a panel discussion about Lovecraft at a LASFS meeting and the published transcript (with annotations by August Derleth) became a sought after collectors item.

Sapiro lived all over North America during his lifetime – Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada, Florida, Texas and Louisiana, to name a few.

Although he had a reputation as a dry, scholarly writer, there was a passionate fan inside. So the story goes, in the 1950s a prozine published a bigoted letter by a Louisiana fan that pushed Sapiro’s buttons. Sapiro, who then lived in Los Angeles, took a plane to New Orleans and a taxi to the fan’s house. When the fan answered the door, Sapiro punched him in the face, returned to his taxi, and flew back to LA.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

He Was the Dean

Promotional copy for the new Murray Leinster biography says he was known as “The Dean of Science Fiction.”

I should not have been surprised: I read this in Sam Moskowitz’ Explorers of the Infinite: Shapers of Science Fiction way back in the Seventies. However, I’d managed to forget it since. Or possibly repressed it, because as a young fan my fannish loyalties were to that rival claimant of the title: Robert A. Heinlein.

Heinlein acquired the title “Dean of Science Fiction” sometime around 1960, says J. Daniel Gifford in Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader’s Companion.

How? Thomas Clareson suggests in his essay for Voices for the Future (1976) that whoever wrote the jacket copy on his books was responsible:

Today Heinlein is known to many, thanks to paperback advertising techniques at least, as the “Dean” of science fiction writers, not so much because of his length of service as because of his relationship to the corporate body of science fiction.

Certainly a book cover was the first place I saw Heinlein called “Dean.” On the other hand, Leinster was called “Dean” in 1949 by no less an authority than Time Magazine

In the U.S., Will F. Jenkins, a 27-year veteran, who also writes under the pen name of Murray Leinster, is regarded as the dean of writers in the field.

Leinster was rather humble about the whole thing. In his introduction to Great Stories of Science Fiction (1951) he explained that he was sometimes called “’Dean’ of science fiction writers by virtue of my having outlived a number of better men. This wholly accidental distinction is perhaps the reason I was given the opportunity to compile this book.”

And as Leinster makes clear, the term “Dean” was primarily associated with seniority, length of service in the sf field. Lester Del Rey in The World of Science Fiction, a survey of the genre published in 1980, echoed the choice of Leinster:

…Murray Leinster, whose work remained popular in science fiction for more than fifty years and who was rightly named “the Dean of science fiction writers.”

I don’t know whether Heinlein liked being called “Dean” or thought it mattered at all. Maybe Bill Patterson can answer this in a later volume of his Heinlein bio. From a fan’s viewpoint I thought the name suited RAH because so many of his stories involved mentoring, the acquiring of self-discipline, or were delivered in the voice of a respected elder who has things to say about life, like Lazarus Long.

After Leinster died in 1975 some of the writers who acknowledged him as the “Dean” thought the title deserved to be perpetuated, which meant picking a successor. Isaac Asimov made it clear he preferred length of service as the criterion for naming someone the “Dean.” In his 1979 essay for IASFM “The Dean of Science Fiction,” Heinlein was not a finalist. Asimov listed Jack Williamson, Clifford D. Simak, L. Sprague de Camp and Lester Del Rey. And just a few years later – even while all four were still alive – Asimov seemed to have narrowed his list to two, saying in The Hugo Winners: 1980-1982 (1986) “the only writer who can possibly compete with [Clifford D. Simak] as ‘dean of science fiction’ is Jack Williamson, who is four years younger than Cliff but has been publishing three years longer.”

Both Simak and Heinlein died in 1988. Del Rey died in 1993. De Camp died in 2000.

Williamson seems to have been the writer most people felt comfortable calling the “Dean” in later years. Several of his peers labeled him by some version of the title both before and after Heinlein died. Interestingly, when Algis Budrys dubbed Williamson the “Dean of Science Fiction” in a 1985 essay for The Science Fiction Yearbook the usage even passed muster with the volume’s editor, Jerry Pournelle, a good friend of Heinlein’s. Williamson lived on until 2006, continuing to produce, his last novel The Stonehenge Gate published just the year before he died.

Some others regarded Arthur C. Clarke as the true heir to the title. Gerald K. O’Neill in The High Frontier (1989) called Clarke the dean of science fiction, and so did a contributor to a 1989 volume of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Clarke passed away in 2008.

People outside the field have always bandied the title about – Ray Bradbury was called the Dean on a TV show in the Sixties. Now he practically qualifies, though not quite – I imagine Fred Pohl has the edge in years as a professional writer.

Other specialties in the science fiction field have their “Deans.” Google tells me Frank Kelly Freas was called the “dean of science fiction artists,” though I must say I managed to go my entire time in fandom up to today without ever hearing him called that.

The New York Times once referred to Donald Wollheim as the “Dean” of science fiction editors, according to a 1981 article in The Bloomsbury Review.  Campbell had been so-called at least as early as 1947 — in Samuel Stephenson Smith’s How to Double Your Vocabulary, of all places — but he’d been dead almost ten years before The Bloomsbury Review took up the subject.

And let’s not forget that in Ann Arbor in 1975, Dean McLaughlin, author of “Hawk Among the Sparrows,” was who trufans called “Dean of Science Fiction.”

Of course, many will have become aware that no woman author’s name has been mentioned at any point, even in touching on the most recent decade. Ursula K. LeGuin regularly offers wisdom about topical issues in the field, and until death ended her long career Andre Norton was respected and influential, so there are women who might have been nominated to the role. However, I suspect the whole notion of a “Dean of Science Fiction,” which was never more than of anecdotal significance, is fading from fannish awareness too rapidly for a real sense of injustice to take hold.

[Thanks to John Lorentz, Google Ngram and Steven H Silver’s SF Site for help with this story.]