Pixel Scroll 1/21/19 I Don’ Wanna File, I Wanna Bang On The Pixel All Day

(1) A DOG STORY. The Verge has released the latest installment in its multimedia science fiction project about hope, Better Worlds. Don’t tell me – John Scalzi wrote a story about a Sad Puppy?

Today, we published one of the original short stories that we’re most excited about, “A Model Dog,” from prolific science fiction writer and Hugo Award-winner John Scalzi. Scalzi is a familiar name to most science fiction readers, best known for his novels Old Man’s War, Redshirts, The Collapsing Empire, and, most recently, The Consuming Fire.

In Scalzi’s hilarious new story story “A Model Dog” and the video adaptation from animator Joel Plosz, an eccentric tech billionaire’s frivolous project to “engineer a solution” to a dying dog takes a surprising and heartwarming turn.

There’s also a Q&A — “John Scalzi on machine learning and remembering our favorite pets”.

It does seem like this type of experimentation would have a downstream effect. I know Neil deGrasse Tyson is fond of saying that going to space brought with it a number of other things you wouldn’t expect.

Absolutely. It’s the whole Velcro effect. You go into space, so you had to invent Velcro. It’s weird when you think about it. I’m not necessarily a proponent of the idea that you do a big thing because you get a few small, ancillary things out of it because it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get anything out of it. But it’s certainly not wrong. Anything you do is going to have failures and spinoffs and dead ends. But those failures, spinoffs, and dead ends aren’t necessarily things that are going to be bad or useless. It might be an unexpected thing. You do see this. A guy wanting to make a more powerful adhesive ended up creating the sticky note at 3M. Even if something doesn’t work the way you expect it to, you still get something beneficial out of it. And, to some extent, that’s what this story also nets: they aimed for one thing, and they ended up getting another.

(2) NUSSBAUM STATUS REPORT. Winner of the 2017 Best Fan Writer Hugo, Abigail Nussbaum, took herself out of contention in 2018. I asked what her plans were for 2019. She replied —  

I really hadn’t thought about the issue this year.  I suppose my feeling is that one year of telling people what to do with their vote is enough.  I’m not officially taking myself out of the running, but I don’t expect to be nominated again.  If it does come up, I’ll decide what to do then.

(3) AMERICAN GODS. The epic war of the gods begins when American Gods premieres March 10 on STARZ.

(4) ROSWELL AWARD. The submission deadline for The Roswell Award sci-fi writing competition is Monday, January 28.

The UCLA Extension Writer’s Program is sponsoring a free 10-week or shorter online class for the 1st Place winner with the option of three (3) UCLA credits.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place Roswell Award prizes!

Special prizes awarded for the Women Hold Up Half the Sky Award feminist sci-fi story and the Best Translated Sci-Fi Story Award.

Full details and guidelines here.

(5) FREE READ. A story by Kary English made the Bram Stoker Awards preliminary ballot and she’s made it available as a free read in a Facebook public post — “Cold, Silent, and Dark” from Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath.

Here’s the story in its entirety. Please enjoy it while I have a sip of port and a bite of chocolate to celebrate. The chocolate, like the story, is deliciously dark.

(6) HALL OF FAME CALLS TROY L. WIGGINS. The Darrell Awards jury has chosen the next inductee to the Dal Coger Memorial Hall of Fame:

It gives us great pleasure to announce that the winner is TROY L. WIGGINS, who was chosen for his outstanding contributions to Midsouth literacy, both as a writer of SF/F/H short stories and for his role in founding Fiyah Lit Mag, a relatively-new SF/F/H magazine (now in its third year).

Mr. Wiggins joins 16 previous inductees, including Nancy Collins, Eric Flint, Justin Cronin, Howard Waldrop, and a dozen more worthies.

There’s more information on the Coger Memorial Hall of Fame here.

(7) THE BEST POLICY. Virgin Money wants people to pay attention to their life insurance offerings so they’ve increased the scope of their coverage. ScienceFiction.com has the story — “Insurance Company Will Cover Wacky Deaths, Including Death By Dalek”.

Here is the entire list of what Virgin Money will cover:

  1. Engulfed by a sharknado
  2. Attacked by a 100 ft tall Stay Puft marshmallow man
  3. Dalek invasion
  4. Attack by a world terraforming engine (ie: Superman)
  5. Injury caused being pursued by a Giant from a cloud-based castle
  6. Getting trampled by Godzilla
  7. Attack by Decepticon (ie: Transformers)
  8. Attack by heat ray from Martian tripods
  9. Attack by the Loch Ness monster
  10. Being given the cruciatus curse by Lord Voldemort

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 21, 1972 — NYC hosted the first Star Trek Convention.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 21, 1923 Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the HearthGunner CadeOutpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much lauded Books Editor there at the same time. Yes, I know she had a complicated personal life but that’s not for here. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 21, 1924  — Dean Fredericks. Actor best known for his portrayal of the comic strip character Steve Canyon in the television series of the same name which aired from 1958–1959 on NBC. His first genre role is in Them! followed by appearances in The Disembodied and the lead in The Phantom Planet. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 21, 1956 Diana Pavlac Glyer, 63. Academic whose work centers on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. She has a number of published works to date with two of interest to us, Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings and The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community.  The third in case you’re wondering is Clay in the Potter’s Hands.
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 63. Her first genre was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly  followed by her by widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She next plays Morgan Adams in the theatrical bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten episode FOX sequel to the film. 
  • Born January 21, 1958 Michael Wincott, 61. Guy of Gisbourne In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was his first genre role. Oh well. He did much better playing the truly evil Top Dollar in The Crow next, and his Comte de Rochefort in the 1993 The Three Musketeers wasn’t that bad. He played Philo Grant in Strange Days, and was Captain Frank Elgyn In Alien Resurrection. His latest film role was as Dr. Osmond In Ghost in the Shell. He shows up as the Old Bill character in the “The Original” and “Contrapasso” episodes of Westworld
  • Born January 21, 1970 Ken Leung, 49. Best known for playing Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. His latest role is as  Karnak, a member of the Inhumans on the series Inhumans. His first genre appearance was I think was as Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. and he later has a recurring role on Person of Interest, a show where AIs play a prominent role.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The problems of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Graduated: Rhymes With Orange.
  • For Over the Hedge’s RJ, there’s just too much good stuff on TV.
  • Lucas could have made a fortune with custom editions if he’d followed the advice implicit in this classic FoxTrot.

(11) REACTIONARY COMPS. Laura B. McGrath, in “Comping White” at LA Review of Books, makes the case that a publishing industry technique for projecting a book’s success, comp titles, is biased against people of color, and further, tends to neutralize the effect of having more people of color working behind the scenes.

…Instead, I decided to study the most important data that no one outside of publishing has ever heard of: Comp Titles. “Comps are king in this business,” an editor told me. (She works for a major house, and spoke under the condition of anonymity.) Comps, short for “comparable” or “comparative” titles, are the basis of all acquisitions. By predicting profits and losses, comps help editors determine if they should acquire a book or not. Comps are a sort of gatekeeper, determining what — and who — gets access to the marketplace.

The logic is straightforward: Book A (a new title) is similar to Book B (an already published title). Because Book B sold so many copies and made so much money, we can assume that Book A will also sell so many copies and make so much money. Based on these projections, editors determine if they should pre-empt, bid, or pass on a title, and how much they should pay in an author advance. Above all, comps are conservative. They manage expectations, and are designed to predict as safe a bet as possible. They are built on the idea that if it worked before, it will work again…

And if there’s no comp to be found? If a book hasn’t ever “worked” because it hasn’t ever happened? If the target audience for a book isn’t considered big or significant enough to warrant the investment? “If you can’t find any comps,” one editor explained, grimacing, “It’s not a good sign.” While intended to be an instructive description (“this book is like that book”), some editors suggested that comps have become prescriptive (“this book should be like that book”) and restrictive (“…or we can’t publish it”). 

(12) DISCO VOLANTE. Motherboard thinks “Mysterious ‘Planet Nine’ Might Actually Be a Gigantic Disk of Space Objects”.

The mysterious “Planet Nine,” which is theorized to be 10 times larger than Earth and lies somewhere in the outer reaches of our solar system, might not be a planet at all, says a new study.

It may really be a gigantic disk made up of smaller objects lying just beyond Neptune exerting the same gravitational force as a super-Earth-sized planet, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge and the American University of Beirut.

(13) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED A MARTIAN COLONIST. Dwayne Day reviews season 2 of National Geographic’s Mars in “Mars: Bringer of ennui (Part 1)” at The Space Review.

The first season, consisting of six episodes, featured some excellent and insightful documentary segments and commentary, but the drama segments, which were closely tied to the documentary stories, were grim and depressing. Now, two years later, season two has aired. Unfortunately, that same dynamic was repeated: often stunning documentary segments and intelligent commentary interspersed with tedious and uninspiring drama. If National Geographic has a message about the human exploration of Mars, it is that nobody will have any fun.

(14) UNEXPECTED HOMECOMING. A piece of history will go on display: “Black Arrow: UK space rocket returns home from Australia”.

The UK’s only rocket to successfully launch a satellite into orbit is to be unveiled in Scotland after a 10,000-mile journey back home.

The Black Arrow projectile had lain at its crash landing site in the South Australian outback for 48 years.

Over time it was damaged by extreme weather and vandalism before space technology firm Skyrora stepped in.

The historic rocket is set to go on display in Penicuik, Midlothian, later this month.

Daniel Smith, director at Skyrora, said: “This is quite feasibly the most important artefact linked to the UK’s space history.

“While our engineers have been working on our own launches, our STEM ambassadors have been arranging all of this in the background.”

(15) SHOWBOATING. “He Jiankui: China condemns ‘baby gene editing’ scientist”.

China says the scientist who claims to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies last year acted illegally and in pursuit of fame and fortune, state media report.

He Jiankui’s claim to have altered twin girls’ genes so they could not get HIV was met with scepticism and outrage.

Investigators say the researcher faces serious punishment after acting on his own and forging ethical review papers.

Professor He, who is reportedly under house arrest, has defended his work.

In November, he told a genome summit in Hong Kong he was “proud” of his gene-editing work, a practice which is banned in most countries, including China.

His announcement was met with condemnation from hundreds of Chinese and international scientists, who said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical

(16) ANOTHER PIECE OF HISTORY. “How migration formed the English language”

The interconnectedness of Europe has a long history, as we’re reminded when we explore the roots of the English language – roots that stretch back to the 5th Century. Anglo-Saxon England “was connected to the world beyond its shores through a lively exchange of books, goods, ideas,” argues the Medieval historian Mary Wellesley, describing a new exhibition at the British Library in London – Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War – that charts the genesis of England.

“Something like 80% of all surviving Old English verse survives in four physical books… for the first time in recorded history they are all together,” she tells BBC Culture. “The period that is represented by Old English is about 600 years, which is like between us and back to Chaucer… imagine if there were only four physical books that survived from that period, what would that say about our literature?”

(17) CRETACEOUS PERAMBULATOR. (Well before that era, actually, but I couldn’t resist the Barfield reference.) A recent issue of Nature tells how “SF/F cinematic and scientific techniques combine to show how a long-extinct creature moved”.

The trolls and orcs in The Lord of the Rings films aren’t real. The dragons and dire wolves on the hit television show Game of Thrones are simulated. The dinosaurs that rampaged through a string of Jurassic Park films don’t exist outside a computer. Or do they?

These days, it can be hard to tell from the screen, given that computer-generated characters in films and video games now seem so realistic down to every tooth and claw. The realism comes from the long and fruitful interaction between science and the cinema that can be traced back to the pioneering work more than a century ago of the photographer Eadweard Muybridge (the eccentric spelling of his first name was a deliberate homage to Anglo-Saxon style).

The blending of cinematic and scientific techniques continues today. In a paper in this week’s Nature, researchers describe how they used animation techniques to reconstruct the motion of a long-extinct animal….

(18) LOOKING FOR A LAIR. A new trailer for SHAZAM! — in theaters April 5.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/17 The Scrollish Pixelman’s Union

(1) FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS. Share a grilled snook to die for with Elizabeth Hand in Episode 40 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Elizabeth Hand

We discussed why she probably won’t take LSD on her deathbed, what made her a fan of Marvel rather than DC when she was a kid, her unusual fee for writing term papers back in college, the true meaning of Man’s Search for Meaning, the unfortunate occupational hazard of book reviewing, who was the best science fiction writer of all time (and why), plus more.

(2) MAD PLASTIC DISEASE. Cedar Sanderson raises the spectre of hostile Nature in “Take two aspirin”:

Toni Weisskopf shared a photo on Facebook of a computer module absolutely infested with an ant nest, seething with eggs, and her comment was that she’d like to see more stories like that in science fiction. It’s an excellent point. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read ( and written) where the tech performs flawlessly. Which does happen. There are also stories where it doesn’t, but how many can you think of where the characters have to deal with an infestation? How would we prevent that, control it, and what kind of adaptations will we see?

I’d run across an article recently about bacteria which will break down plastics that were formerly thought invulnerable. Then there was another one speculating about why less plastic (by an order of magnitude) is found in the ocean than projected, and the discovery of novel bacteria on that plastic. The concern was focused on reducing pollution, but what happens when bacteria evolve to eat stuff we want to stay intact and functional? The stories about nanotech making gray goo aren’t that far off from what bacteria are already capable of — only fortunately they are not so fast to act.

(3) STINKS ON DRY ICE. Entertainment Weekly has the roundup: “‘The Mummy’ reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”.

Universal’s first foray into the depths of its Dark Universe probably would have benefitted from a brighter guiding light.

After spending over three decades dazzling audiences across large-scale action-adventures on the big screen, Tom Cruise’s latest genre spectacle, The Mummy, is set to unravel in theaters this Friday. Movie critics, however, got a peek under wraps this week, as movie reviews for the blockbuster project debuted online Wednesday morning. The consensus? According to a vast majority of them, perhaps this romp should’ve remained buried.

(4) 451 CASTING. Probably fortunate, then, that this bit of promotion came out before The Mummy opened: “HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 casting heats up as The Mummy’s Sofia Boutella boards”

If you were already fired up for HBO’s upcoming movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, then prepare to throw a couple more books on the barbie, cause this cast is starting to cook.

Just ahead of her titular turn in this weekend’s The Mummy, Sofia Boutella has signed on to join Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Creed, Fantastic Four) and Michael Shannon (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 99 Homes) as the core players in the film from writer/director Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes).

According to THR, Boutella will play the female lead Clarisse, “an informant caught between” Jordan’s Montag — a fireman whose job it is to burn books, but who ends up rebelling against such a scorching notion after meeting free-spirited Clarisse — and Shannon’s Fire Chief Beatty, Montag’s mentor.

(5) ROSARIUM OPENS ANTHOLOGY. Rosarium Publications invites submissions of science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works to Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan, and Troy L. Wiggins.

TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue will be a new anthology of water-themed speculative short stories that explore all kinds of water lore and deities, ancient and new as well as unimagined tales. We want stories with memorable, engaging characters, great and small, epic tales and quieter stories of personal and communal growth. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works are welcome. We are seeking original stories in English (2500 — 7000 words; pays 5-6 cents per word) from writers of all walks of life from this beautiful planet and will accept some select reprints (pays 2-3 cents per word). Deadline: November 1, 2017. Projected publication: November 2018, Rosarium Publishing, www.rosariumpublishing.com. Please send submissions as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file in standard mss formatting with your name, title, and word count to: TroubletheWaters2018@gmail.com

Complete submission guidelines can be found here.

(6) DYSTOPIAS. The Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy, in “Future Shocks”, reviews Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne and Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing” to see if our love of dystopias as something to do with the continued decline in urban life around the world.

The nightmare near-future city that a writer like Prayaag Akbar, by contrast, summons in his first novel, Leila (2017), rests on a distinctly South Asian set of fears. About a mother’s search for the daughter she was separated from, it is set in a frightening world where cities are segregated into zones of Purity, citizens sorted by their community, surnames, castes and religion.

This background came out of his discomfort with the way Indian cities have developed. “They are segmented, self-enclosing,€ he told me recently. “We practise a kind of blindness — you teach yourself not to see the tragedies that unfold in public spaces.”

These concerns — about cities splitting into walled enclaves, residents separated from each other’s lives by fears of pollution, contamination, or a striving after purity — find startling expression in Hao Jingfang’s Hugo award-winning “Folding Beijing”….

(7) BRADBURY. BookRiot’s Andy Browers is your guide to “A Friend In High And Low Places: Finding Ray Bradbury Where You May Not Expect Him”.

While I hate to ruin surprises, here are four places you might find yourself in his presence, sometimes peripherally, sometimes looking him right in the bespectacled eye.

Star Trek (aka “Star Track”, as my grandma called it)

Too obvious? Maybe. He and Gene Roddenberry, the fella who dreamed the franchise up, were pals who sat at the same midcentury science fiction table in the cafeteria. Bradbury famously loved all things space and rocket related, and it is fitting that he gets a couple of nods as the namesake of a Federation star ship. In the saucily-named episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Menage a Troi”, for instance, which ship is bestowed the great honor of relieving the pain of fandom everywhere by arriving to whisk away Wesley Crusher to Starfleet Academy? The U.S.S. Bradbury, the first of its class.

Wesley missed the space bus by saving the day in that episode, much to the chagrin of a large swath of viewers at home who were sick of having a kid on the Bridge. (Wil Wheaton, I was cheering for you. Please know that.) (Mostly because I kept hoping Wesley would scream TRAAAAIIIIIN in slow motion, which as far I know never happened.)

(8) ORPHAN BLACK. Carl Slaughter advises, “If you haven’t watched Tatiana Maslany portray as many as 14 cones in Orphan Black, you’re missing a treat.”

View Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery, “‘Orphan Black’ A to Z: Dive Into the Show’s DNA Before Its Final Season”.

(9) STREET MEMORIAL. Here’s Pat Evans’ photo of the mementos being left today on Adam West’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. West died on Friday from leukemia.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 10, 1692 — Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged at the Salem Witch trials.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CREATORS

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak.
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker

(12) FAMOUS BOOKSTORE HAS A BACKUP PLAN. The original Books of Wonder, inspiration for the bookstore owned by Meg Ryan’s character in the 1998 comedy You’ve Got Mail, is opening a second location as a contingency plan in case it can’t afford the coming rent hike — “Books of Wonder to Open Upper West Side Location”.

Books of Wonder, the renowned children’s bookstore on 18th Street in New York City, announced Thursday that it would open a second location, on West 84th Street, sometime this summer.

According to the store’s founder and owner, Peter Glassman, the 18th Street store’s lease will expire at the end of 2019. “Given the rise in retail rents along 18th Street, I am not optimistic about our ability to renew the lease,” he said. Though he said he planned to seek a new location in that area, the impending uncertainty was part of his decision to open another branch on the Upper West Side.

“I wanted to make sure we had another location open and well established before the current store’s lease expires, so if we have difficulty finding a new location and have to close for a few months we would have another location to serve our customers, not be out of business for any period of time, and not have to lay off my wonderful staff,” he said.

Andrew Porter adds,

When they opened, originally on Hudson Street in the lower Village, they were primarily an SF/fantasy-oriented store. They took out full-page ads in my Algol/Starship, then in SF Chronicle. The store regularly has readings and signings by SF/F YA and children’s authors, for example, with Sarah Beth Durst. It has also published numerous books by and about L. Frank Baum.

 

Peter Glassman. Photo by Andrew Porter:

Sarah Beth Durst and Bruce Coville at her signing in 2015. Photo by Andrew Porter.

(13) TOMBSTONE TERRITORY. This just in from the Australian National Convention.

(14) DEADPOOL’S NEXT RAMPAGE. Marvel pulls back the shroud, er, curtain.

If you’re Deadpool and you kill the entire Marvel Universe, why not eat some chimichangas…and then kill all over again? Proving there’s nothing like revenge, the superstar team of Cullen Bunn (X-Men Blue, Venomverse) and Dalibor Talajic (Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe, Redwolf) reunite to bring you Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again, and the Merc with the Mouth has never been more ready to return to that katana.

“This is not a sequel to the original story,” warns series writer Cullen Bunn. “This is an all new murderous rampage. The Marvel Universe has changed a great deal since the first series. So, of course, Deadpool had to up his game and change his tactics.”

 

(15) WONDER MOTHER. Marguerite Bowling, in a Daily Signal piece called “Wonder Woman Can Get the Job Done Pregnant, So Can You” says that Gal Gadot’s reshooting fight scenes while five months pregnant should be an inspiration to women. (The Daily Signal is a news website run by the Heritage Foundation.)

But here’s another fun fact that shows you can proudly be pro-mom and pro-career woman: Israeli actress Gal Gadot was five months pregnant with her second child when she did reshoot scenes for the movie that included a climactic battle scene.

To get around her then-visible baby bump, costumers cut an ample triangle on her iconic suit and replaced it with a bright green cloth that allowed the movie’s special effects team to change her figure post-production.

Given the prevailing negative news that shows women facing all sorts of career challenges by wanting to have a baby, it’s refreshing to see a successful woman embrace her pregnancy and still do an exceptional job.

(16) MIL-SF. Jeffrey C. Wells says “I Can’t Believe it’s not Baen: Rick Shelley’s Lieutenant Colonel” — and throws in a funny bingo card as a bonus.

If you didn’t figure it out from the title, or the cover, Lieutenant Colonel is Military Sci-Fi (Mil-SF for short), a genre devoted to chronicling how and why people are gonna shoot at each other in the future. And, also unsurprisingly, Lieutenant Colonel is the fifth book in Shelley’s “DMC” series, with each earlier book having sequential titles like Lieutenant, then Major, then Captain, and so on. Not exactly creative, but what can you do.

In any case, this series centers around a dude named Lon Nolan as he works his way up through the ranks in the Dirigent Mercenary Corps (from which we get the “DMC” acronym). Lon is your typical officer– professional, honorable, and — kind of boring. Dude makes Honor Harrington seem like Hamlet. Wait, no, that’s not a good analogy, ‘cause Harrington gets shit done. But I digress.

…Thankfully, Lieutenant Colonel doesn’t delve into super preachiness. Though it did inspire me to create MIL-SF BINGO! Just print this off next time you read about space-soldiers shooting space-lasers at space-commies, and check off the boxes as you go along!

(17) WIDER SPECTRUM. An Adweek story tells how “Equinox Extends LGBTQA from A to Z With a New Alphabet for Pride Month”.

It’s Pride Month! And every year, around this time, a certain kind of pundit hops on a soapbox to complain about how the term “LGBTQA” just keeps getting longer, and isn’t that just ludicrous?

Actually, it isn’t. In fact, it’s not nearly long enough. And a campaign from Wieden + Kennedy New York highlights why.

For Equinox and the LGBTQA Community Center, the agency has produced “The LGBTQAlphabet,” whose chill and choreographed film goes down the list of not six letters but 26. The goal is to show that a handful of labels isn’t remotely sufficient to encompass the complex identities of the world’s 7 billion people.

(18) SHARKES KEEP NIBBLING. Here are more recent reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury, and a guest post by the actual Clarke Award director.

This is the future we were promised. This is what all those science fiction novels from way back told us to expect: silver-finned rocket ships taking us out to the frontier towns of Mars and beyond; clanking metal robots wanting to be human; people transformed into something monstrous by whatever is out there.

And Tidhar, whose work has always displayed an over-fond preference for intertextual references to other science fictions, makes absolutely certain we recognise that these are other writers’ futures. The digital vampire is called a Shambleau, a pointed reference to the first of C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith adventures. There are repeated references to someone called Glimmung on Mars, which of course recalls Philip K. Dick’s children’s novel, Nick and the Glimmung, which is, of course, set on Mars. And the presiding spirit that dominates the whole novel is probably Cordwainer Smith, with the way space is repeatedly described as the “Up and Out”, as well as casual references to C’Mell and Mother Hitton. There are more, some less familiar than others; I’m pretty sure that there are references to Edward Whittemore’s little-known but brilliant Jerusalem Quartet scattered throughout this novel. Someday, I suspect, someone might produce a concordance for Central Station, teasing out all of the echoes of and references to other works of science fiction. It will be a thick volume.

Of course, no one has gone broke by playing to the geeky self-regard of the science fiction fan. In recent years, self-referential science fiction books, novels like Among Others by Jo Walton that deliberately draw attention to other science fiction works, have proved especially popular.

If not for my commitment to the Sharke process I wouldn’t have chosen to write about Occupy Me; it’s unlikely that I would have finished reading it at all. My immediate response was akin to a toddler presented with something green and fresh and healthy: stampy feet; scowly face; a protesting shriek of ‘I don’t like it!’. I bounced off the book hard and repeatedly, and continued to do so despite dosing myself with Gareth’s blazingly positive review and Nina and Paul’s balanced perspectives at the midway point. Whatever the book’s thematic qualities, whatever its madcap quirks — and often because of them — I couldn’t stomach it. I find it impossible to see or be fair to the better parts of the novel because I’m painfully fixated on the fundamental ways in which it fails for me. Under usual circumstances I would think it ill-advised to throw a hat into the critical ring when I have so little critical perspective to share but I will try to explain.

While the Clarke Award can never guarantee having every potentially eligible book submitted, we are able to offer a reasonably comprehensive ‘state of the nation’ snap shot via our lists, not only of the books themselves but also for deeper analysis into the numbers of submitting publishers, the demographic breakdowns of authors and similar should people want to take those numbers and run with them.

More immediately, after my first couple of spins in the director’s chair I was starting to learn all of the ongoing debates, criticisms and wishes that surrounded the award’s announcements every year.

The award was, in no particular order, overly predictable, willfully unpredictable as a tactic to generate PR controversy, trying too hard to be the Booker, ignoring the heartlands of SF, full of wrongheads (a lovely fannish term that one), and so on and so on — Business as usual for a book award in other words.

(19) DRINK IT OR ELSE. Atlas Obscura recalls a series of 1950s commercials for Wilkins Coffee that featured violent Muppets prototypes.

In the ads, Wilkins — who bears a striking resemblance to Kermit the Frog — tries to convince another proto-Muppet, Wontkins to drink Wilkins Coffee. Wontkins almost always refuses. In retaliation, Wilkins shoots him, stabs him, or otherwise inflicts physical harm upon him.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, JJ, John King Tarpinian and Lace for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr, with a little help from his friends.]