Pixel Scroll 8/1/19 The Last Fan On Earth Was Reading A Pixel Scroll When Suddenly A New Comment Was Posted

(1) BRADBURY SCULPTURE. The Waukegan (IL) Public Library says the triumphant moment is at hand — “Ray Bradbury Sculpture: We’re Under Construction!”

…For the past four years, active community arts leaders have campaigned and fundraised to install a new piece of public art in downtown Waukegan: Zachary Oxman’s Fantastical Traveler. The sculpture features an elder Bradbury astride a rocket ship, waving a book as he journeys forth.

…As part of the sculpture installation, Oxman also designed a small plaza around the statue, so you’ll be seeing hard hats and fencing at the Library’s front entrance very soon. Construction will not impact the Library’s operating hours, and our main entrance should remain easily accessible throughout the process.

…And mark your calendars – our sculpture is set to be unveiled to the public at a special dedication ceremony on Thursday, August 22. That’s Ray’s 99th birthday! We’ll celebrate with family-friendly activities right outside the Library at the corner of County & Clayton Sts. The fun will begin at 6:30pm, and all ages are welcome!

…We are very grateful to the local contractors who are donating their services as part of the construction effort, as well as all those whose donations have made the sculpture’s arrival in Waukegan a reality!

Check out this post on the library’s Facebook page for a peek inside the sculptor’s studio.

(2) INTERNET HIGHWAY ROBBERY. In an LA Times op-ed, Douglas Preston tells how “Online book-selling scams steal a living from writers”.

…Author doppelganging, for example, occurs when someone starts publishing books just like yours, using your name, in order to game Amazon’s search algorithms. I write a series of thrillers with a partner named Lincoln Child, and our nom de plume is “Preston & Child.” Half a dozen years ago, an entity named “Preston Child” started publishing thrillers amazingly like ours, with strikingly similar covers and titles.

For years, Amazon’s algorithms mingled the books of “Preston Child” along with our books, as if they were by the same author. Our publisher investigated and was unable to confirm the existence of Preston Child. (It’s next to impossible to prove someone doesn’t exist.) It took Amazon several years before it adjusted its algorithms to distinguish “Preston Child” from “Preston & Child.”

Title cloning, like author doppelganging, is legal, since you typically cannot copyright a title. Duplicate book titles are an old problem, now exacerbated by Amazon’s search algorithms. Seven months after my nonfiction book “The Lost City of the Monkey God,” about an expedition that discovered a lost city in the Honduran jungle, was published in 2017, a novel appeared, titled “Lost City of the Monkey God,” published using Amazon’s CreateSpace platform. It was also about an “expedition to discover a lost city in the Honduran jungle.” The last time I searched for my bestselling book on Amazon, the other one popped up in the number 3 position — above some editions of my book.

The cheats get weirder. Nora Roberts, the author of romance novels, discovered that books were being sold on Amazon containing extensive passages lifted from her books. She found a person in Brazil who appeared to be running a plagiarism factory, in which she took Roberts’ books and those of other romance authors, cut, pasted, rearranged and rewrote them to make new books to be sold on Amazon….

(3) LET US SAY IT AGAIN. Arwen Curry’s Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary is being broadcast on PBS at 9 p.m.on Friday, August 2 as part of its American Masters series.

The film dives into Le Guin’s childhood, steeped in the myths and stories of Native Americans she heard growing up in Berkeley, California, as the daughter of prominent 19th century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber, author of the influential book “Ishi in Two Worlds.” This deep childhood understanding of cultural relativism infused her work with a unique perspective; her otherworldly societies are all in some way reflections of our own.

At the heart of the film is Le Guin’s intimate journey of self-discovery as she comes into her own as a major feminist author. “What I was doing was being a woman pretending to think like a man,” she says, reflecting on why her early novels put men at the center of the action. But as second-wave feminism crashed into the science fiction world in the 1970s, Le Guin recognized her own internalized notions about heroism and power. Initially defensive, she found truth in the criticisms of her work. When revisiting the realm of “Earthsea,” she turned her gaze to its women, instead of powerful male wizards. The result was a transformation that echoed throughout the rest of her oeuvre. By embracing her own identity and learning to write as a woman, she eventually rose to the height of her literary power. Working across many genres, Le Guin received numerous honors, including the National Book Award, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, PEN-Malamud, and she was voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin had its world premiere at the Sheffield Documentary Festival and has shown internationally at dozens of festivals, garnering numerous awards.

(4) THUNDER WITHOUT A LIZARD. Camestros Felapton does a fine analysis of a story which lacks any literal dinosaurs, anyway: “Hugosauriad 3.3: Dinosaurs by Walter Jon Williams”.

…Dinosaurs has a distinctly not dinosaur-like alien species being visited by a human diplomat. The aliens are justly outraged by human attempts to terraform their worlds. They have assumed this was a pre-meditated attack by humanity against them. The diplomat has been despatched to broker a peace agreement….

(5) TAKING A READING. The Brooklyn Book Festival blog has posted “The BKBF Interview: Marlon James”.

The BKBF Interview with literary giant Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

Where is your favorite place to read?

On the G train.

What is your favorite book to give an adult or a child?

An Adult: Dogeaters, by Jessica Hagedorn. Child: Anything by Walter Moers.

Tell us your best book-receiving experience.

My friends are way too intimidated to buy me books. So I just tell them what to get me….

(6) DUVERNAY’S DC PROJECT. The Hollywood Reporter eavesdropped on this Twitter Q&A: “Ava DuVernay Confirms Villains for DC’s ‘New Gods’ Movie”.

Ava DuVernay’s big-screen version of DC’s New Gods is years away from release, but the writer-director teased the project — and offered small updates — Tuesday afternoon during a Twitter Q&A.

In response to fans’ questions, DuVernay confirmed that both Darkseid and the Female Furies will appear in the movie. The former is no surprise, as Darkseid is the main antagonist of the Jack Kirby-created comic book mythology DuVernay and co-writer Tom King will be drawing from. The latter, DuVernay suggested, is the result of her fandom of the character Big Barda, the leader of the all-woman fighting force. “I’m looking forward to [the Furies] so much,” she said.

(7) NOT SO FAST. NPR’s Chris Klimek summarizes Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw as “Better Stunts & Actors, Just As Derivative”. (Classified as genresque due to cyborg badguy.)

While we were all arguing whether Idris Elba should be the new 007, he opted to become the next T-800 instead.

In Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the most agreeable of the innumerable Fast & Furious presentations, The Wire’s Stringer Bell plays a straight-up Terminator, with stainless steel innards, glowing orange eyeballs, and a Google-glass-like POV datastream that gives him helpful notifications such as ATTACK IMMINENT whenever bickering-buddy good guys Dwayne Johnson (aka Hobbs) or Jason Statham (aka Shaw) cock a fist in his direction.

But he has also got more than a little Darth Vader in him, in that he’s shown to be doing the bidding of a unseen superior with a digitally scrambled voice who scolds Brixton for his failures while his more-machine-now-than-man-body is welded back together, post-battle. The disembodied voice of Supreme Leader Snoke or whatever even orders Brixton to attempt to turn Hobbs & Shaw to the Dark Side instead of simply rubbing them out! There’s petty larceny, there’s grand theft auto.

(8) AUTHOR READINGS ON THE AIR. The New Jersey freeform radio station WFMU started a new show, Radiovert with Nicole, in June (Weds. 7-8 p.m.) which features readings from science fiction writers such as Tobias S. Buckell , Maureen F. McHugh, etc. (“Far out stories from fantastic authors “) Here’s a link to the archive page: Radiovert with Nicole: Playlists and Archives. Jack Adkins promises, “It’s a great show!” And here is their masthead art – tell me, Filers, can there be any doubt this show is for you?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 1, 1862 M.R. James. Writer of some of the best ghost stories ever done. A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings, released in 2001 from Ash-Tree Press has forty stories which includes the thirty stories from Collected Ghost Stories plus the 3 tales published after that, and the seven from The Fenstanton Witch and Others. It’s apparently the most complete collection of his stories to date. (Died 1936.)
  • Born August 1, 1904 Russell R. Winterbotham. Writer of both Western and SF novels under various names. His SF novels were all written between the late Fifties and mid Sixties and had such pulpish titles as The Space Egg and The Puppet Planet.  He wrote a lot of short fiction but almost none of it nor his novels is available digitally. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available in digital form. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 1, 1914 Edd Cartier. Illustrator who in 1992 received the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, being the first artist to receive that honor. His artwork was first published in Street and Smith publications, including The Shadow, to which he provided many interior illustrations, and Astounding Science Fiction, Doc Savage Magazine and Unknown as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 1, 1930 Geoffrey Holder. Best remembered for his performance as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die but he’s also the narrator in Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. He was Willie Shakespeare in Doctor Doolittle but it’s been so long since I saw the film that I can’t picture his character. And he was The Cheshire Cat in an Alice in Wonderland that had Richard Burton as The White Knight. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 1, 1954 James Gleick, 65. Author of, among many other books, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, and he is one of us, which is that he writes genre reviews — collected in Time Travel: A History. Among the works he’s reviewed are Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” and Heinlein ‘s “By His Bootstraps”.
  • Born August 1, 1955 Annabel Jankel, 64. Film and TV director who  was first  a music video director and then the co-creator and director of Max Headroom. She and her partner Rocky Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show, a mix of interviews and music vids which aired on Channel 4 and HBO. Jankel and Morton would go on to direct Super Mario Bros. And they’re both responsible for the Max Headroom movie and series.
  • Born August 1, 1979 Jason Momoa, 40. I knew it seen before he showed up as Aquaman in the DC film universe and I was right as he was Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis for five seasons. He was also Khal Drogo in the first season of A Game of Thrones. And not surprisingly, he was the title character in Conan the Barbarian

(10) ANCIENT LIBRARY. In Mauretania is a largely forgotten ancient desert library — the thread starts here.

(11) WILL YOU DARE TO WEAR A SHIRT OF RED? “Sandbox VR to Launch “Star Trek” Location-Based Reality Experience”Variety has the story.

San Francisco-based virtual reality startup Sandbox VR has teamed up with CBS Interactive to launch a new “Star Trek” virtual reality (VR) experience this fall. “Star Trek: Discovery Away Mission” will allow up to 6 friends to enter the world of the series, complete with phasers and tricoders, and a holodeck to boot.

The new location will first be available at existing Sandbox VR locations in Hong Kong, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, and come to new locations in New York, Austin, San Diego and Chicago soon after.

(12) SOURCE OF CRAZY IDEAS. Behind a paywall in the July 27 Financial Times, famous people were asked how they were spending their summers.  Guillermo Del Toro said he was scouting locations and working on a script for his remake of Pinocchio.

FINANCIAL TIMES:  “What’s your best memory of childhood summer holidays?”

DEL TORO:  “Reading Ray Bradbury in a hammock, by an avocado tree in Lake Chapala, Mexico.”

(13) SIGNED BRADBURY PRINTS. Gauntlet Press is running a Bradbury Oil Painting Special:

To celebrate the Ray Bradbury’s birthday (August 22) when he would be 99-years old, we are offering a special on Bradbury prints.

Besides being an acclaimed author he was also well-known for his oil paintings, a number of which we used for the covers of his signed limited editions. We have two we’re making available to commemorate his birthday, both SIGNED by Bradbury.

His oil painting from IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE & His oil painting from SOMEWHERE A BAND IS PLAYING.

(14) DARK VIEWING. For your information, there’s a Netflix Official Site for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance with the latest trailer and other videos.

In this prequel to the fantasy classic, three young Gelfling inspire a rebellion against the cruel Emperor when they discover a horrifying secret.

(15) HUNTING THE 99 PERCENT. Slate’s Matthew Dessem introduces a film’s trailer — “Capturing the Zeitgeist: The Hunt Is About Rich People Hunting Poor People for Sport”.

It’s a truism that horror, science fiction, and exploitation films often wrestle with a society’s ills earlier and more frankly than other genres, even if they dress the problem up in a Godzilla suit. We’re facing our fair share of brand new, atom-bomb-class impending catastrophes today, but one of America’s biggest problems was already ancient when Paul sat down to drop Timothy a line, and, judging from the trailer, The Hunt is aiming to shoot it in the lungs with an arrow. The rest of cinema hasn’t exactly ignored greed or money as a subject: from President Business all the way back to Eisenstein’s smoke-filled rooms, cinema’s got no shortage of greedy capitalist villains. But there have been far fewer films that have played around with the unpleasant fact that, as a general rule, the wealthiest people in the world don’t see, think about, or treat the rest of us like human beings. Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You recently literalized this for a science-fiction take in which capitalists develop an alarming solution to building the workforce of tomorrow, and now director Craig Zobel and screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof are chiming in from the horror section, as the trailer for The Hunt makes clear:

(16) DON’T BOGART THAT CREDIT. BBC reports claims that “AI system ‘should be recognised as inventor'”.

An artificial intelligence system should be recognised as the inventor of two ideas in patents filed on its behalf, a team of UK academics says.

The AI has designed interlocking food containers that are easy for robots to grasp and a warning light that flashes in a rhythm that is hard to ignore.

Patents offices insist innovations are attributed to humans – to avoid legal complications that would arise if corporate inventorship were recognised.

The academics say this is “outdated”.

And it could see patent offices refusing to assign any intellectual property rights for AI-generated creations.

As a result, two professors from the University of Surrey have teamed up with the Missouri-based inventor of Dabus AI to file patents in the system’s name with the relevant authorities in the UK, Europe and US.

(17) PRESS ENTER. NPR’s profile “Our Language Is Evolving, ‘Because Internet'” should be good for a few arguments…

The Internet has become a place where we cultivate relationships. Through quick messages that we type with our thumbs on our phones, we keep in touch with friends and family; we flirt and fall in love.

And the potential for miscommunication abounds. Who among us hasn’t wondered whether a message in ALL CAPS meant it was especially urgent? Furious? Or just enthusiastic?

The linguist Gretchen McCulloch aims to clear some things up with her new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. The “new” rules, she says in an interview, are “emergent.”

“So the old rules are these top-down, ‘here’s how you use an apostrophe,’ ‘here’s how you use a semicolon’ type of thing,” McCulloch says. “The new rules are about: How are other people going to interpret your tone of voice? … The old rules are about using language to demonstrate intellectual superiority, and the new rules are about using language to create connection between people.”

McCulloch says a lot of the confusion stems from the fact that people read Internet writing differently, depending on when they first went online. She gives NPR a few examples.

The author also features at Whatever today in “The Big Idea: Gretchen McCulloch”.

In 2014, I started writing a book about internet language. Every so often, while I was working on it, I would look at myself and think, surely this is a fool’s errand. How could I possibly sum up the entirety of the living, breathing language of the internet within a couple hundred static pages? 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin More Wooster, Jack Adkins, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Rob Thornton, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee and Greg Hullender in magnificent collaboration.]

2019 Hugo Awards Best Series Discussion

 
By JJ: With the Hugo Award nomination deadline only a month away, I thought it would be helpful for Filers to have a discussion about the potential nominees for Best Series. What follows is a précis of the series which I’m considering nominating for the Hugo Awards, telling you why I think these series are worthy.

Of the (as of this writing) 170 series listed on the Best Series Hugo: Eligible Series from 2018 page, I’ve read all or most of 43 series, 2 or 3 books each in five of the series, and 1 book each in thirteen of those series. That gives me more than 60 possibilities which I have to whittle down to a shortlist of 5 series.

While I do feel that some of the Best Series finalists from the past two years are Hugo-worthy, I’d like to highlight excellent series for which the individual volumes have not received much in the way of Hugo recognition thus far. So I’ve selected 10 series which I’ve especially enjoyed to feature in this post. These series, I feel, epitomize what the Best Series Hugo Award should be about: groups of works which, as a whole, are greater than the sum of their parts, and which, even if they’re still ongoing, can be said to have told a complete story at this point.

Because this post is about what I’ve read and liked, please bear in mind the following:

  1. I read predominantly science fiction, though I do read a fair bit of fantasy, and I especially enjoy science-fictional mysteries.
  2. I apparently had a stunted, defective childhood and do not find Tolkien-style fantasy, nor fairytale retellings or subversions, particularly compelling.
  3. I am not a big fan of urban fantasy or horror, especially not of vampires or Lovecraft.
  4. I have very definite opinions about what I like and don’t like, but these are of course entirely subjective, and the opinions of people who disagree with me are just wrong  as valid.

This means that I am counting on you Filers to make a compelling case for your own favorites, to broaden the scope of this post. Please talk about the series you like in the comments, and tell everyone what you think makes them Hugo-worthy.

(As always, please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

Hyperlinks are to stories and excerpts which are available to read for free on the internet.


Sin du Jour by Matt Wallace (list of works)
2018 work: Taste of Wrath (novella)
Notes: series contains 7 novellas and 1 short story; author has verifed that it meets the word count

What it’s about: Sin du Jour Catering has a specialty: they prepare banquets and dinners for supernatural beings and extraordinary events. But of course, no catering plan survives contact with the diners… the big question is whether the Sin du Jour crew will survive the inevitable catastrophes which ensue.

Why I think it’s great: This is an unexpected, clever, slyly-witty delight. The catering staff members are a diverse, idiosyncratic group of people who have managed, despite their annoying habits and their weaknesses, to make a true family with each other – and the author manages to weave his supernatural worldbuilding in with the real world so deftly that the reader can almost believe it’s all really true. Each volume tells a new story, but only the first novella really stands well on its own. As a whole, this series is the story of that family’s journey: lots of amusing and terrifying subplots to enjoy, full of adventure, heartbreak, humor, and caring.


Kylara Vatta / Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon (list of works)
2018 work: Into the Fire (novel)
Notes: subseries contains 2 novels; previous subseries Vatta’s War contains 5 novels; must be nominated under the main series, as the subseries has insufficient volumes. The author’s notes in the most recent novel give me concern that there won’t be any further volumes; I’d really like to see this series recognized while it’s still eligible.

What it’s about: Forced to resign in disgrace from the spaceforce academy due to another cadet’s treachery, Vatta’s family gets her out of the way by assigning her to captain one of their decrepit merchant cargo ships. She proves to be a capable, inventive captain, who must marshal her crew and allies when her extensive family group and their mercantile empire are attacked and assassinated on multiple planets and in space. Her strategic skills and leadership ability aid in her rise to lead the fleet in a galactic war… but even in victory, there are enemies lying in wait to take down her family’s company and the government.

Why I think it’s great: This is smart, fast-paced space adventure with a complex, clever, and competent main character and a supporting cast whose personalities become more deeply-developed over the course of each book. The strength of the series is that, while each book works as a standalone entry, the individual plots are woven into a larger, complex story, full of edge-of-the-seat action and political machinations.


Diving Universe by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (list of works)
2018 works: Searching for the Fleet (novel), The Rescue of the Renegat (novella), Dix (novella), Joyride (novella), and “Lieutenant Tightass” (novelette)
Notes: series contains 7 novels, 11 novellas, and 2 novelettes

What it’s about: The owner of a small spaceship-wreck exploration company discovers tantalizing clues to an ancient, more advanced spacefaring civilization, and embarks on an obsessive search for the relics which will bring more knowledge of those who came before… resulting in one really big, unexpected answer – which leads to many further mysteries.

Why I think it’s great: Scuba diving, but on spaceships! Time Travel! Ancient Mysteries! With an ever-widening cast of well-developed, complex characters, its extensive worldbuilding for a vast spacefaring civilization, mysteries to be solved, and adventures on many worlds, this series hits all of my sweet spots.


Andrea Cort / Draiken by Adam-Troy Castro (list of works)
2018 work: Blurred Lives (novella) and A Stab of the Knife (novella)
Notes: subseries contains 4 novellas; main series contains 3 novels, 4 novellas, and a novelette; must be nominated under the main series, as the subseries has insufficient word count

What it’s about: A brilliant, tenacious investigator and prosecutor, Andrea Cort serves the Diplomatic Corps of the Hom.Sap.Mercantile Empire, sent on missions to preserve the fragile peace between humans and other races. But Cort has a very dark past, and there are a lot of beings who, in their anger and contempt for her, wish to bring her a death from which the Corps protects her only as long as it suits their purposes. Draiken has retired from a profession as a highly-skilled spy and assassin for a powerful galactic organization… but his past, and his own demons, won’t let him escape so easily. Each of them faces encounters where only their own brilliance at finding the answers keeps them from being killed – but eventually their courses are destined to collide, in a game of cat-and-mouse that one of them may not survive.

Why I think it’s great: Not only is each of the stories in this series a standalone science-fictional mystery, they are so deftly-plotted, featuring intricate twists, that it’s only when the pieces slot into place that the brilliance of the plotting becomes apparent. The author has created compelling, well-fleshed-out characters, and fascinatingly-alien races and worlds, served up with intriguing spycraft and detective work.


Planetfall by Emma Newman (list of works)
2018 work: Before Mars (novel excerpt 1 excerpt 2)
Notes: series contains 3 novels

What it’s about: The first novel in the series tells the stories of the colonists on a distant, far-from-ideal planet and their gradual disintegration after their charismatic leader disappears. The second tells the stories of the people left behind on Earth, especially that of the son of one of the colonists and the resentment he faces from the rest of the planet. The third novel tells the story of an artist who accepts a position in-residence at a Mars habitat funded by an extremely wealthy man.

Why I think it’s great: Each of the novels in this series stands alone well, though they are set in the same near-future Earth universe and do have some interlinked threads. Each novel features a different compelling mystery and main character who must solve it in order to save their own life. The worldbuilding is plausible, and the characters wonderfully multi-faceted. I think that each novel has been progressively more intricate and skillful, creating a well-crafted vision of a possible not-too-distant future.


Xuya Universe by Aliette de Bodard (list of works)
2018 work: The Tea Master and the Detective (novella – scroll down for excerpt)
Notes: series consists of 25 short stories novelettes, and novellas; author has verifed that it meets the word count

What it’s about: Xuya is an alternate history universe where China discovered the Americas before the West, which led to a global Asian domination of the globe rather than the Western one – and to a space age initially dominated by Chinese and Vietnamese galactic empires.

Why I think it’s great: The author’s worldbuilding through the numerous stories in this universe is deep and extensive. The different cultural perspective makes it a refreshing change from Western-oriented science fiction. It features sentient ships capable of subdimensional intergalactic travel, resulting in widespread colonization of space, and mysterious technologies of weaponry and teleportation. Rather than featuring a small core cast of characters, this series finds its strength in the breadth of the worldbuilding details and insights into the personalities of many different characters.


Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (list of works)
2018 work: The Mortal Word (novel)
Notes: series contains 5 novels

What it’s about: As a librarian for the mysterious Library, Irene is not only a researcher, but a professional spy and thief, acquiring variant versions of significant works from alternate realities (some of which are very like our own, and some which differ wildly). Time spent in The Library is outside of real time – librarians do not age while they are there, and thus are nearly immortal. However, Irene is at the beginning of her career, just out of training, and after being viciously betrayed by her mentor, must undertake missions to prove her value. After being saddled with her own inexperienced apprentice – who has some dark secrets of his own – she is sent to various worlds, where others with their own nefarious purposes will try to thwart her success in favor of her own.

Why I think it’s great: Like many avid readers, I admire and adore librarians, with their seemingly-magical powers of knowing which books will meet various needs, and their ability to find almost anything. The adventures in this series include mysteries, dragons, fae, magical language which can compel objects to behave contrary to their ordinary nature, endless alternate timelines to explore, complex villains, and books, books, and more books. The author’s storytelling skills have leveled-up as the series has progressed, and each new entry released is an automatic addition to my TBR.


Fractured Europe by Dave Hutchinson (list of works)
2018 work: Europe at Dawn (novel)
Notes: series contains 4 novels

What it’s about: This fantasy series features a near-future Europe where the Union has fallen apart in the wake of a catastrophic pandemic and subsequent economic collapse. The borders of countries are constantly shifting and increasingly fragmented with the political winds, making mail and freight service unreliable and impractical. A mysterious spy/courier organization has come into existence, with agents who are heavily trained in spycraft and subterfuge and who will, for a hefty fee, deliver packages in a timely fashion across what are now frequently tightly-controlled and policed – or even impassable – borders. The main character, a chef who moonlights as a courier, discovers a shocking revelation: na nygreangr jbeyq shyy bs crbcyr ybfg va gvzr, juvpu pb-rkvfgf jvguva gur fnzr trbtencul nf Rhebcr, naq juvpu pna or npprffrq ivn n srj frperg ragenaprf. Naq vgf erfvqragf unir gurve bja frperg ntraqn, bar juvpu znl cebir sngny gb gur Rhebcr ur xabjf.

Why I think it’s great: The first novel can be read on its own, but the full depth of the worldbuilding slowly develops over the course of the series, with each successive volume producing new revelations which gradually weave a larger tapestry. The mysteries and spycraft are of the sort found in Le Carré novels, with some deadpan humor and lots of suspense as the mysteries unfold and random events take on significance. This is one of those series which richly rewards a re-read, as hindsight provides a new perspective on events as they occur.


The Praxis by Walter Jon Williams (list of works)
2018 work: The Accidental War (novel)
Notes: series contains 5 novels, 2 novellas, and a short story

What it’s about: This series begins with the end of the rule of a powerful alien race who conquered humans as well as numerous other alien species, setting them all under a rigid doctrine of laws known as The Praxis. The power vacuum created by the end of their empire (bored with life after many millennia, they have deliberately wiped themselves out) provides the opportunity for one of the other races to attempt a takeover – one in which the humans will be on the receiving end of some serious oppression. However, two different officers of the Terran navy, each a brilliant tactician in their own way, fight on different fronts to prevent that takeover and change the empire into some version of democracy (or at least an approximation of equality among species).

Why I think it’s great: Readers who appreciate military and social strategy, tricks, and tactics will find a lot to enjoy here – and there are some good mysteries and suspense thrown in, to boot. The main characters are well-developed and sympathetic, while still being complex and flawed, and the author continues to expand the worldbuilding with each entry in the series. As a whole, this series is very much a greater adventure than the sum of its parts.


Hail Bristol / Farian War by K. B. Wagers (list of works)
2018 work: There Before the Chaos (novel)
Notes: first novel in this subseries; previous subseries Indranan War contains 3 novels; must be nominated under the main series, as the subseries has insufficient volumes

What it’s about: After her father is killed, a younger daughter of the Empress, who disdains life in the royal court, runs off to become a feared gunrunner with criminal ties. When her sister-heirs are assassinated, with the Empress deathly ill, the royal bodyguards come to drag her, unwillingly, back to her obligations to the throne. But there are forces still hiding within the empire who want her – and her family – out of the picture for good, and she must fight to stay alive while she tries to bring some stability to her planet and her people.

Why I think it’s great: Not only does this series feature a kickass strong protagonist, it also portrays a matriarchal ruling structure which she recognizes as being inherently sexist and wrong, and must work to reform. Even her enemies are people who do what they do for the sake of what they believe is right, and there is no simple good vs. bad story here. It’s also a story of finding your family among the people around you, of obligation and duty versus desire, of loyalty and betrayal, of cruelty and kindness, and of hope.


The Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy: An Interview with Nancy Kress

By Carl Slaughter: Nancy Kress likes to write about hard science.  Especially biotech.  She likes to write about alien contact.  She tends to populate her stories with scientists.  Her recently completed Kin trilogy is a multi-generational first contact pandemic story. The third novel in the trilogy, Terran Tomorrow, was published November 13 by Tor Books.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  Where did you get the idea for the science premise?

Nancy Kress

NANCY KRESS:  The trilogy revolves around microbes, especially pathogens that cause epidemics of various kinds.  Medicine has made good strides against bacteria-caused epidemics, but bacteria mutate, swap genes, and develop antibiotic resistance so fast that sometimes our drugs and vaccines aren’t effective (witness the hit-or-miss gamble with flu shots every year).  And we really can’t handle viral epidemics except by containment (witness Ebola, until recently).  Humanity is overdue for a major pandemic.  These ideas fascinate and scare me.  Fear is good for plotting.

CS: Same question for the plot.

NK: Science is only compelling to most readers if it happens to people.  So in the trilogy, a variety of characters cope with a pandemic on two planets: a geneticist, an Army Ranger, two brothers with vastly different ideas on how to live on a devastated Earth, aliens who are not what they seem, a man more at home in the alien culture than in his own.  These people fight, love, cope, strive.  For me, plot always grows out of character.

CS: Are the main characters throughout the trilogy or a different set of characters for each story?

NK: Both.  Geneticist Marianne Jenner, her children, and ultimately her grandchildren, are the common thread through all three books.  Other major characters appear in just one book: Ranger Leo Brodie,  physician Lindy Ross, the alien woman who adopts the name Jane.

CS: Are the main characters scientists, soldiers, journalists, linguists, professors, politicians?

NK: All of the above!  A large-scale space opera involves everybody.  There is, however, a preponderance of scientists and, in If Tomorrow Comes (book 2), soldiers.

CS: Do you reveal the plot through the characters or vice versus?  My personal preference is vice versa.

NK: This question doesn’t actually make sense to me, since plot and character are intimately connected.  A plot event occurs, and a character shows their personal qualities by how they react.  A character’s actions generate more plot.  It goes back and forth, or occurs at the same time.  There is, however, an inciting plot incident that starts everything going.  In the first book of the trilogy, If Tomorrow Comes, it is the appearance on Earth of aliens with a dire warning for our planet.

CS: Is this one of those ‘the human race might get wiped out’ plots or one of those ‘the human race will definitely go through fundamental change’ plots?

NK: The human race will definitely go through fundamental changes.  I once wrote a novel in which the entire human race gets wiped out (Nothing Human) and it was not a success, although I liked it.  But in this trilogy, there are gallant, resourceful, and hopeful survivors making new societies on two worlds.

CS: What are the recurring themes?

NK: Survival.  Difficult moral choices.  The power of persistence.  The need to connect with others—alien and human.  That faced with crisis, different people will react in far different ways.  Humanity is not a monolith.

CS: Are they the same themes in your other stories?

NK: Yes, I think so.

CS: I haven’t read all of your stories, but enough to know that a large number of them involve alien cultures, hard science, or both.  I’m guessing that’s not a coincidence.

NK: No, not a coincidence.  Writing about aliens is a way of making characters confront the alien in others—and in themselves.  Xenophobia is hard-wired into our genes: “That stranger from another tribe might be dangerous!”  Civilization depends on overcoming xenophobia and cooperating.  Civilization is fragile, and fragile situations make for good narratives.  In addition, our current civilization depends on science: computers, cars, medicine, heating and cooling, advanced manufacturing techniques and tools, agribusinesses.  The most intimate science is biotechnology, affecting and altering our own bodies, as well as crops and animals and the environment.  Much of my fiction concerns genetic engineering.  This is the future.

CS: What stories are in the works?

NK: I am working on a long novella that—contrary to everything I just said!—is not about biotech.  Rather, it’s about growing automation of our businesses that result in massive unemployment and the changes to society that will bring.

CS: What’s going on on the workshop front?

NK: I am delighted that you asked!  Taos Toolbox opened for submissions December 1.  Toolbox is an intensive, two-week, Clarion-style workshop that Walter Jon Williams and I teach every year in New Mexico.  Guest lecturers include George R.R. Martin.  This year’s dates are July 7-20.  More information is available at www.taostoolbox.com

CS: Where can fans catch up with you for an autograph/photo?

NK: I am Guest of Honor at a small local con in Seattle, Foolscap (www.foolscap.org).  I will be going to Dublin for Worldcon in August.  Between those two events, I’m not sure.  My husband and I are buying a house and moving—time-consuming if exhilarating events.  Real life goes on next to science fiction life—although sometimes, of course, they blend.  Maybe all the time they blend.  Maybe aliens will inhabit my house.  Certainly microbes will.  Maybe…

Enough.  Stop.  Thank you for the interview, Carl.

Nancy Kress at Capclave 2018

Pixel Scroll 10/15/18 Scrolldenfreude

(1) WORLDS BEYOND HERE. The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle is hosting Worlds Beyond Here from October 12, 2018 through September 15, 2019.

Looking at the connection between Asian Pacific Americans and the infinite possibilities of science fiction, World’s Beyond Here follows the path of a young Sci Fi fan becoming an empowered creator, limited only by imagination.

Popular science fiction has had a disappointing lack of Asian Pacific American (APA) representation in American media, based primarily on stereotypes. Despite this, APAs have had and continue to have a large impact in science fiction, often behind the scenes, and a number of pioneering APA artists, actors, designers, writers, animators, and directors have persevered and inspired new generations of fans/creators with their stories and visions. For many Asian Pacific Americans, science fiction addresses issues related to identity, immigration and race, technology, morality and the human condition, all while capturing the imagination through exciting adventures in outer space and time travel.

Michi Trota authored the exhibit text, and told Uncanny Magazine readers about her experience in “On Writing the Exhibit Text for Worlds Beyond Here: Expanding the Universe of APA Science Fiction”

The exhibit covers pop culture touchstones like Star Trek, Star Wars, time travel, “cli-fi,” and sentient robots, as well as how APA creators are imagining silkpunk worlds, reclaiming the genre from Orientalism, envisioning exploration narratives free from colonialism, and grappling with the ethics and morality of technological access and development, as well as science fiction’s ever-present questions of what it means to be human—all through the lens of APA experiences and perspectives.

She has a Twitter thread, starting here, that includes photos and art.

On Facebook, Trota posted the list of people who were consulted in the development of the exhibit – lots of familiar names there.

One of them was Mary Anne Mohanraj, who also posted some photos from the exhibit:

I was one of the people the curators consulted at the start of the exhibit, and though I didn’t have time to get as involved as I would’ve liked, I think I helped reframe their initial concept away from just focusing on tokenization and exclusion towards examining and celebrating the historic and current work of APA SF creators.

They even included a little thing I wrote about Spock. Is this the first time I’ve had work in a museum? I think it might be!

Artist Francesca Myrman showed Facebook followers a piece of her artwork that’s in the exhibit.

I am beyond honored that Ken Liu appreciated my artwork illustrating the world of the Grace of Kings for his May 2015 Locus interview. He’s used it a couple times since to illustrate the idea of “silkpunk” for various publications, but a museum show is above and beyond!

(2) OLD PEOPLE READ NEW SFF. James Davis Nicoll has his Old People reading “Patterns of a Murmuration, in Billions of Data Points by JY Yang”. Can they dig it?

This installment of Old People Read New SFF features JY Yang’s Patterns of a Murmuration, in Billions of Data Points. Some of us—well, me, mostly—only became aware of Yang when they read Yang’s Silkpunk works for tor dot com. Yang has in fact been active since 2012, published in venues from Clarkesworld to Apex. Some of us—well, me, mostly—should have been more observant. Although Yang’s protagonist Starling is in no sense human, it turns out Starling shares something vital with its human creators. But is that common element enough to endear it to my Old Readers?

Patterns of a Murmuration, in Billions of Data Points can be read here.

(3) SENDAK. The Society of Illustrators will host a “Maurice Sendak Exhibit and Sale” from October 23 until November 3.

The Society of Illustrators is pleased to announce a special exhibition of legendary artist Maurice Sendak’s work. Longtime friends and collectors Justin Schiller and Dennis M V David present a look at some of Sendak’s rarest pieces, including illustrations from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence, a booklet commissioned by his British publishers as a 1967 Christmas keepsake. It is the only remaining manuscript for a published Sendak title still in private hands and is being exhibited for the first time publicly. In addition to these drawings, this exhibition will include more than a hundred watercolors, ink and pencil designs for Mr. Sendak’s various book, theatre and commercial work. All of the works will be available to purchase.

Admission to the exhibit will be free during special hours (Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 5pm; Saturday – Sunday: 11:00am – 5:00pm).

(4) KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED. In “Proof of life: how would we recognise an alien if we saw one?” on Aeon, Oxford postgrad Samuel Levin asks how you would recognize alien life from a photograph.  How would it be different from a bunch of rocks  The answer is that natural selection would show that aliens have adapted to their environment.

One thing that sets life apart from nonlife is its apparent design. Living things, from the simplest bacteria to the great redwoods, have vast numbers of intricate parts working together to make the organism function. Think of your hands, heart, spleen, mitochondria, cilia, neurons, toenails – all collaborating in synchrony to help you navigate, eat, think and survive. The most beautiful natural rock formations lack even a tiny fraction of the myriad parts of a single bacterial cell that coordinate to help it divide and reproduce.

(5) THE BOYS. Coming from Amazon Prime Video in 2019.

In a world where superheroes embrace the darker side of their massive celebrity and fame, THE BOYS centers on a group of vigilantes known informally as “The Boys,” who set out to take down corrupt superheroes with no more than their blue-collar grit and a willingness to fight dirty. THE BOYS is a fun and irreverent take on what happens when superheroes – who are as popular as celebrities, as influential as politicians and as revered as Gods – abuse their superpowers rather than use them for good. It’s the powerless against the super powerful as The Boys embark on a heroic quest to expose the truth about “The Seven,” and Vought – the multi-billion dollar conglomerate that manages these superheroes. THE BOYS is scheduled for a 2019 release.

 

(6) OPPORTUNITY LOST? We’re still waiting for it to phone home – and according to Gizmodo, “There May Still Be Hope for NASA’s Sleeping Opportunity Rover”.

It’s been months since NASA engineers have heard from the sleeping Opportunity rover, which powered down after getting caught in a massive dust storm on Mars that obscured its surface from the Sun. But all hope isn’t yet lost, as the space agency said in an update Thursday that a coming windy season on the Red Planet could help clear dust believed to be obstructing Opportunity’s solar panels.

“A windy period on Mars—known to Opportunity’s team as “dust-clearing season”—occurs in the November-to-January time frame and has helped clean the rover’s panels in the past,” NASA said.

In the meantime, engineers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)—which oversees the 14-year-old rover’s operations—are increasing the number of commands to Opportunity and listening for any calls home in the event that it is still operational.

(7) THEY SCOPED OUT THE PROBLEM. But there’s good news about another piece of space exploring tech: Just a few days after putting itself in safe mode after a gyroscope failure, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has been diagnosed, the problem addressed, and the telescope on its way back to normal (NASA: “Chandra Operations Resume After Cause of Safe Mode Identified”). Science operations should resume shortly.

The cause of Chandra’s safe mode on October 10 has now been understood and the Operations team has successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode. The safe mode was caused by a glitch in one of Chandra’s gyroscopes resulting in a 3-second period of bad data that in turn led the on-board computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum. The erroneous momentum indication then triggered the safe mode.

The team has completed plans to switch gyroscopes and place the gyroscope that experienced the glitch in reserve. Once configured with a series of pre-tested flight software patches, the team will return Chandra to science operations which are expected to commence by the end of this week.

(8) PAUL ALLEN OBIT. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died October 15 from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Paul Allen and Bill Gates in 1981.

Allen’s pioneering work in PC’s and software made him a wealthy man – not that it came easily. The Digital Antiquarian’s post “A Pirate’s Life for me, Part 1: Don’t Copy That Floppy!” reproduced an open letter from Bill Gates published in 1976 that ended —

The feedback we have gotten from the hundreds of people who say they are using BASIC has all been positive. Two surprising things are apparent, however: 1) most of these “users” never bought BASIC (less than 10 percent of all Altair owners have bought BASIC), and 2) the amount of royalties we have received from sales to hobbyists makes the time spent on Altair BASIC worth less than $2 per hour.

Of course, just a few years later they secured a deal to provide the software for IBM PCs, the foundation of their success.

Paul Allen effectively left the company he named (“Micro-Soft”) in 1982 due to serious illness, but remained on the Microsoft board of directors until 2000, and retained his stock, so when the company went public he became a billionaire.

His investments and philanthropy have often made news.

  • In a Gehry-designed building near Seattle’s Space Needle he created a dual science fiction and rock music museum with many exhibits drawn from Allen’s own collections. (The cream of those sf collectibles had been bought from Forrest J Ackerman.) And in 2004 the Science Fiction Hall of Fame was transplanted from the GunnCenter for the Study of Science Fiction to Seattle’s Science Fiction Museum. However, not even Paul Allen’s money could sustain things as originally conceived. The Science Fiction Museum was de-installed in 2011 and the place has been reorganized as MoPOP, a pop culture museum that includes science-fiction-themed exhibits.
  • He was the sole investor behind aerospace engineer and entrepreneur Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne suborbital commercial spacecraft.
  • He also donated $30 million to build the Allen Telescope Array, run by the SETI Institute near Mt. Shasta, an enormous ear listening for any sign of intelligent life in the universe.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ — and a guest!]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz, Writer. An émigré from Germany to the U.S., he produced numerous short fiction works and novels, the best known of which is the space opera The Witches of Karres, which earned him one of his two Hugo nominations and has been translated into several different languages. Witches was an expansion of a novelette originally published in Astounding, where many of his stories were published. His short fiction, which also garnered four Nebula nominations, has been gathered into several collections, including a NESFA’s Choice “Best of” edition.
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. “Ted” Tubb, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan from England who between 1950 and his death in 2010 produced more than 230 short fiction works and 140 novels, the best known of which are his Dumarest series, and the Cap Kennedy series written as Gregory Kern. In the late 50s, he edited the magazine Authentic Science Fiction for two years. He was one of the co-founders of the British Science Fiction Association, as well as editor of the first issue of its journal, Vector. Interestingly, he also wrote several Space: 1999 tie-in novels in the 70s. He served on convention-running committees, and was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1970 Worldcon in Germany.
  • Born October 15, 1923 Italo Calvino, Writer and Journalist who was born in Cuba, but grew up in Italy. His works range widely across the literary spectrum, across realism, surrealism, and absurdism. As a genre writer he is best known for his “cosmicomics”, linked stories which explore fantastical speculations about subjects such as mathematics, evolution, and human perception. At the time of his death in 1985, he was the most-translated Italian author, and he was recognized with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard, Actor best known to genre fans as Sarek, father of Spock, in both the original and animated Star Trek series, as well as three of the films and two episodes of The Next Generation. He also played a Klingon in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, and had guest roles in genre series Mission: Impossible, The Girl With Something Extra, Planet of the Apes, The Incredible Hulk, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Otherworld. During the same time period as the original Star Trek series, he also starred in the western Here Come the Brides, and SFF author Barbara Hambly famously worked a crossover of the two series into her early Star Trek tie-in novel for Pocket Books, Ishmael, where Lenard’s Brides character is one of Spock’s ancestors, and which also contained cameos by characters from Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica.
  • Born October 15, 1933 Georgia Myrle Miller, 85, Writer under the name of Sasha Miller who produced a number of fantasy novels and shorter works, including collaborating with Andre Norton on the five novels in the Cycle of Oak, Yew, Ash, and Rowan, a novel written in Norton’s Witch World universe, and GURPS Witch World with Ben W. Miller, a rule book for the role-playing game system.
  • Born October 15, 1935 Ray “Duggie” Fisher, Editor, Conrunner and Fan, who chaired the 1969 Worldcon in St. Louis, was on the committee for several other conventions, and was a founding member of the Poplar Bluff Science Fiction Club and the Ozark Science Fiction Association. His fanzine ODD was a finalist for a Best Fanzine Hugo. His contributions to fandom were, sadly, cut short by his death at age 52 due to complications of diabetes.
  • Born October 15, 1938 Don Simpson, 80, Artist and Fan who has done cover art and interior illustrations for numerous genre works. He also shows up in several of David McDaniel’s Man from U.N.C.L.E. tie-in novels as “Mr. Simpson of R&D”, and was the inspiration for the villain in McDaniel’s first U.N.C.L.E. novel The Dagger Affair. He is the proud possessor of a purchase order from the Smithsonian Institution for “One (1) alien artifact,” which he designed for the Air and Space Museum. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at a Westercon and other conventions.
  • Born October 15, 1942 – Lon Atkins, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan who chaired a DeepSouthCon and was editor of numerous fanzines and apazines, including eight years as co-editor of Rally!. He was Fan Guest of Honor at a Westercon, and a recipient of Southern Fandom’s Rebel lifetime achievement award. He was also a ferocious Hearts player.
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West, 49, Actor, Musician, and Director from England whose most recent appearance was as Lara Croft’s father in the Tomb Raider reboot, but has also appeared in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, 300, John Carter, The Awakening, Hannibal Rising, and a version of The Christmas Carol, as well as providing voices in animated features such as Finding Dory and Arthur Christmas.
  • Born October 15, 1999 Bailee Madison, 19, Actor who starred in The Bridge to Terabitha at the age of 7, the series The Wizards of Waverly Place at age 11, and the series Good Witch which is now in its fourth season. Other genre appearances include Afraid of the Dark, The Night Before Halloween, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, R. L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, and Once Upon a Time.

[guest birthday bio from Mark Hepworth]

  • Born October 15, 1953  Walter Jon Williams, 65, Writer. A versatile author who has skipped around genres, including writing his cyberpunk novel Hardwired  without having heard of cyberpunk, while Metropolitan is a novel he insists is fantasy but fans persistently label as some flavour of science fiction. His near-future Dagmar Shaw series rather prophetically featured a Turkish revolution facilitated by social media just as the Arab Spring was gaining momentum. His longest-running series is the space opera Dread Empire’s Fall (Praxis), which he recently rebooted with the short novel Impersonations and the just-released novel The Accidental War. He has five Hugo nominations, ten Nebula nominations (winning twice), a Sidewise Award, and an assortment of other nominations including Sturgeon, Philip K. Dick, World Fantasy, and Prix Imaginaire. He has been Guest of Honour for at least a dozen conventions, including WorldCon 75. Other work includes writing for Star Wars, Wild Cards, RPGs, TV, and historical novels, and he is founder and an instructor for the Taos Toolbox, an annual two-week SF writer’s workshop.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • A little-known fact of airline piloting — The Argyle Sweater.
  • This Monty shows that some things simply can’t be handled by a Universal Translator.

(11) THAT’S WHO. Mashable invites you to “Trip out to the new ‘Doctor Who’ title sequence, made by a longtime fan”:

The sequence is the work of a visual effects artist only known as John Smith, who made his own opening back in 2010 as a 16-year-old fan and posted it to YouTube.

“I had no idea what I was doing, but was so excited for Matt Smith’s first series that I decided to try what every Whovian-turned-VFX-Artist does at some point… making my own title sequence for the show,” Smith wrote in a Facebook post.

Eight years later, Smith was tapped to create a real sequence for the latest series.

 

(12) WHAT’S GALLIFREY LIKE? And Gizmodo consulted an array of scientists and left convinced that Doctor Who’s Gallifrey Would Be a Nightmarishly Awful Place to Live”.

…Assuming that large red star isn’t just extremely close to the planet, it could be a red giant nearing the end of its life. What of the other? For clues, we can look to the planet’s flora.

The Tenth Doctor referenced trees with silver leaves. Lillian Ostrach, a research physical scientist at the US Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center, told Earther the silver color could come from the absorption of strange metals from Gallifrey’s soil. It could also mean that those plants evolved to absorb a different type of solar radiation than Earth’s green plants do….

(13) HISTORIC SFF PHOTOS. The Forbidden Planet bookstore archive hosts images from their instore events — from 1978 to 1989, including signings with Mark Hamill and Dave Prowse, James Doohan, Nick Rhodes, Jon Pertwee, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, Anne McCaffrey and others.

(14) FANNISH PARADISE? Well, at least one day a year…. “Uzupis: a tiny republic of free spirits”.

Meaning ‘beyond the river’ in Lithuanian, Užupis is separated from the rest of the city by the Vilnele River. The republic celebrates its independence annually on 1 April, known locally as Užupis Day. On this day, travellers can get their passports stamped as they cross the bridge into the republic (every other day, the border is not guarded), use the local (unofficial) currency and treat themselves to the beer that flows from the water spout in the main square (yes, really).

(15) A LOT OF BIRTHDAYS AGO. Walter Jon Williams was interviewed about cyberpunk by phone in this 1991 episode of the Chronic Rift TV program.

In our second season premiere, Andrea Lipinski and Keith DeCandido welcome editor Brian Thomsen, physicist Joseph Pierce, and author Walter Jon Williams to our Roundtable discussion of the cyberpunk genre. The Memorable Moment is from the classic film, “H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond”. Trivia: We resolve the cliffhanger by introducing a race of beings called, “The Dork”. We also have a new animated sequence and theme song. The sequence was created by Mike Fichera who wanted to emulate the feel of the “Terminator” movie. The theme song was created by Victor Fichera. It would be the theme song for the rest of the series and was used when the podcast started. Victor recently updated the theme for our Facebook Live show. Originally Aired: September 2, 1991

 

(16) TSUNDOKU OR NOT TSUNDOKU? Most of us own books we’ve read and books we haven’t. Kevin Mims considers the importance of owning books we’ll never get around to finishing — “All Those Books You’ve Bought but Haven’t Read? There’s a Word for That” at the New York Times.

In truth, however, the tsundoku fails to describe much of my library. I own a lot of story collections, poetry anthologies and books of essays, which I bought knowing I would probably not read every entry. People like Taleb, Stillman and whoever coined the word tsundoku seem to recognize only two categories of book: the read and the unread. But every book lover knows there is a third category that falls somewhere between the other two: the partially read book. Just about every title on a book lover’s reference shelves, for instance, falls into this category.

(17) DISABLED PEOPLE DESTROY SF. Charles Payseur returns to review Uncanny in “Quick Sips – Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [October Fiction]”.

It’s the second month of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! As before, I’m breaking October’s offerings into two parts, the fiction and the poetry, and starting out with the six new stories exploring futures near and far. This month’s pieces definitely focus on some grim realities—hospitals and universities and families and cities where disabled people are not exactly the priority, or at least not in the ways they want. The stories look at characters trapped by circumstance and (largely) by tragedy, brought to a crisis because their situation is getting worse and worse. And in each case, they must make decisions either to sit down and be quiet or to fight back, to try to follow their own hearts. The works are often dark, often difficult, but ultimately I feel reaching for healing and for peace, for a space that the characters can have as their own, which is much more about freedom than confinement. To the reviews!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Outer Space” by Sabine Hossenfelder on YouTube is a video about space travel done by a singer whose day job is as a theoretical physicist.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Jeffrey Smith, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 6/23/18 And Now It’s Scrolling All Over the Land; I Still Can’t Seem to Understand

(1) COC ENFORCEMENT AT ORIGINS. Organizers of the Origins Game Fair have issued a statement telling how they will handle reported violations of their Code of Conduct at the 2018 convention, which ended June 17.

Tabletop Gaming overviewed the accusations: “Multiple reports of sexual harassment emerge from this year’s Origins Game Fair”.

Reports first surfaced during the weekend of the show, with one designer and senior member of a games publisher alleged to have asked multiple women to “play test his erect penis”.

In a separate incident, another woman was reportedly followed for multiple blocks back to her hotel.

Tabletop gaming personality Bebo used Twitter to raise awareness of the distressing events on behalf of the anonymous victims, adding: “Anyone who says harassment of women isn’t an issue in the industry can eat dirt.”

Both situations were reported to GAMA, the organiser of Origins, which is said to be taking appropriate action in response, although the company is yet to issue a public statement regarding the events.

Polygon’s story covers responses from the accused, and by Origins’ administering body, GAMA: “Accusations of sexual harassment rock the board gaming community”.

Origins Game Fair, which ran June 13-17 this year, is a tabletop gaming convention sponsored by the Game Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA). Its partner this year was Wizards of The Coast, known for Dungeons & Dragons and the Magic: The Gathering franchises. Other sponsors included a who’s who list of major publishers, including Rio Grande Games, Iello, Wizkids, Paizo and CMON.

Origins is an opportunity for fans to see the latest games, and for those in the industry to see each other and do some networking ahead of Gen Con, the nation’s largest tabletop gaming convention, which is held in Indianapolis each August. Many in the industry choose to mingle outside of the event, and that’s where at least one attendee says an exhibitor sexually harassed them. The allegations surfaced on a personal Facebook page and on Twitter, but were also sent to GAMA. The individual accused has denied the allegations….

GAMA’s official statement says in part:

An incident arose through social media at Origins this year pointing out some specific allegations of harassment. This illicit behavior is a clear violation of our show policies.

To ensure that a thorough review of any allegation is conducted, we must have statements from individuals with firsthand knowledge of the event. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this instance so gathering the information is taking more time. We understand that it can be difficult to come forward and share a statement after an incident occurs, but with the cooperation from individuals involved we can address these situations in a timely fashion.

As we demonstrated earlier this year, we take harassment very seriously and are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fun environment for everyone at the show.

This serious allegation has not been taken lightly. We are committed to handling this in a thorough and professional manner. We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging….

The complete statement is at the Polygon link.

The accusations also prompted Katie Aidley, with several years of experience working for gaming companies and in booths at conventions, to release her post “The truth about sexual harrassment and boardgaming”.

(2) SPEAKING TO THE NEXT GENERATION. A passage from Liu Cixin’s The Micro-Age was utilized in the reading comprehension section of China’s national college entrance exam: “Excerpt of popular Chinese sci-fi writer Liu Cixin’s novel selected in gaokao”.

An excerpt of famous Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin’s novel was selected as reading comprehension material in the test paper for the Chinese gaokao exam, China’s National College Entrance Exam that took place on Thursday, which not only surprised many participants but also the writer. Liu later responded saying that science fiction meets the demand of people in this day and age.

After the exam in southwest China’s Sichuan Province ended, participants expressed their surprise at finding an excerpt of Liu’s novel “The Micro-Age” since this type of literature was rare in such a rigorous exam.

…Speaking about this year’s gaokao essay topics, Liu expressed that one of the topics was related to science fiction as it required students to write a letter to the generation of 2035 to elaborate on the big events that have occurred since the year 2000 in China.

He said that unlike previous essay topics which tended to focus on current affairs or the past, this year’s topics were more likely to focus on the future.

(3) DETECTIVE WORK. Carl Slaughter asks, “How can I resist a headline like this?” It absolutely belongs in the Scroll: “This insane golden chamber contains water so pure it can dissolve metal, and is helping scientists detect dying stars.” Business Insider has the story.

Hidden 1,000 metres under Mount Ikeno in Japan is a place that looks like a supervillain’s dream.

Super-Kamiokande (or “Super-K” as it’s sometimes referred to) is a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which travel through space and pass through solid matter as though it were air.

Studying these particles is helping scientists detect dying stars and learn more about the universe. Business Insider spoke to three scientists about how the giant gold chamber works — and the dangers of conducting experiments inside it.

(4) HOW’S HE DOING? Eric Flint gave Facebook reader a health update.

I thought I’d bring everyone up to date on my medical condition, since I haven’t said anything about it for quite a while. That’s because it’s been… complicated.

On the positive side, there’s no indication that the lymphoma has come back. So, yay for homicide therapy, AKA chemotherapy.

On the down side, I started developing atrial fibrillation a year and a half ago, right around the same time the cancer was diagnosed. Whether there’s a causal relationship there or it’s just coincidence, nobody really knows….

Flint continues with full details.

(5) BABYLON FIFTH. In “‘Babylon 5’ is great, so why does it look so bad?”, Engadget’s Daniel Cooper describes in great technical detail the show’s digital origins and resulting challenges when aired using current technology.

Now that the series has made its way to Amazon Prime, it is ripe for a whole new generation of fans to discover it. Except that, if they do, they may find that the picture quality is highly variable, and some sequences are quite hard to watch. Now, it’s fair to say that the show is so good that it’s worth persisting with nevertheless. But how it ended up in this state is a tale of folks trying to plan for its future, only to be defeated by executive neglect…

How bad does it look?

We should probably begin by outlining how effects-heavy shows like Babylon 5 are made, albeit simplistically. There are three different types of shot that were put together to make an episode. You have live-action scenes, which are just actors talking in a room; composites, which have a mix of live-action and CGI; and pure-CGI scenes. In order to protect your suspension of disbelief, it’s important that you aren’t noticing the transitions between them.

A great sequence to explain Babylon 5’s problem is the monorail scene from the Season 2 finale, The Fall of Night, which originally aired on November 1st, 1995. We begin with an entirely live-action shot, where Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) boards a monorail shuttle. And you can tell, because it’s framed properly and looks pretty good, even if the film is a little grainy because it hasn’t been restored or remastered….

(6) MURDERBOT’S ASPIRATIONS. Adri Joy delivers a fascinating character analysis in “A Robot Learns to Love Itself: Reflecting on the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells” at Nerds of a Feather.

There’s a moment near the start of Rogue Protocol, the third in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series (forthcoming August 7, 2018 from Tor.com Publishing), that quietly broke my heart. The self-proclaimed Murderbot, a rogue SecUnit (a human-robot hybrid “construct”) which hacked its own governor module after an unfortunate murder-based incident that was subsequently wiped from its memory, is trying to distract itself from the endless, stupid problems of humans by watching a new show. Unfortunately, the plot isn’t working out, and Murderbot is eager to get within range of a station so it can download something different. If only, it tells us, this terraforming horror series had a rogue SecUnit character who could stop the squishy humans from all getting horribly killed…

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. Murderbot watches rather a lot of shows – indeed, extensive media consumption is its most prominent character quirk – and it also does a lot of complaining, so the combination of the two is not exactly unusual. However, this is the first time it has articulated a desire to see itself represented positively in media.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock spotted a Library Comic about All Systems Red. Chip adds, “The author’s former strip used to recommend something (often genre) at least once a week, and most of them were good; nice to see him back at it.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 23, 1976 Logan’s Run debuted.
  • June 23, 1989 — Tim Burton’s Batman is released in theaters.
  • June 23, 1989 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids premiered.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 23 – Joss Whedon, 54. Known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, FireflyDr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, Avengers and Agents Of S.H.I..E.L.D. which is not a complete listing by any means.
  • Born June 23 – Selma Blair, 46. Scream 2 appears to be her first genre role, also Xena: Warrior Princess, Hellboy and Hellboy 2,  both of the Hellboy animated films, The Fog and most recently Lost in Space.
  • Born June 23 – Melissa Rauch, 38. Bernadette Rostenkowski in The Big Bang Theory, Harley Quinn in the animated Batman and Harley Quinn film, Summer in True Blood, and Wasp / Hope Pym  in the Ant Man animated shorts.

(10) FAITH OF THE FUTURE. Syfy Wire’s story “In modern science fiction, religion plays a vital, secular role” by Tricia Ennis examines how religion is treated on a handful of TV sf series — Battlestar Galactica—the reboot of the mid/late 2000’s; not the original, The 100, and Killjoys.

It’s easy to think that science fiction and religion are anathemas to each other. Science fiction is, after all, about imagining a scientifically advanced future where we have moved to the point of near magic, explaining through science things that modern understanding can only dream up. Religion, meanwhile, is about not explaining those things at all, instead choosing to rely on faith and parable and scripture to explain the mysteries of the universe and to comfort the minds of those who follow its teachings. Obviously, those two don’t really go together.

Perhaps science and faith don’t necessarily mesh—but if you’ve been keeping an eye on certain recent science fiction television series, you’ll notice a pattern. Sci-fi might still have trouble bridging the spiritual and the secular, but it certainly recognizes the importance of scripture to understanding our past — and protecting our future.

(11) REENACTORS. Nancy Kress introduced a highly amusing photo taken at Taos Toolbox:

George R. R. Martin and the Red Workshop. If a wedding, why not a writing seminar?

Walter Jon Williams identified the bodies:

Among the casualties were David DeGraff, Jo Miles, Brenda Kalt, Sarah Paige Hofrichter, Kevin O’Neill, Sherri Woosley, Gayle Schultz, Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams, Autumn Kalquist, Joey Yu, Liz Colter, Peri Fletcher, Amanda Helms, Carsten Schmitt, Gabrielle Harbowy, Harrison Lee, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Isabel Yap, and Elliotte Rusty Harold.

(12) MUSEUM VISITOR. Rick Riordan said the minerals on display reminded him of this —

(13) A HUGO VOTER IS HEARD FROM. Joe Sherry shares another section of his ballot in “Reading the Hugos: Novelette” at Nerds of A Feather. Ranked somewhere in the middle is this nominee —

A Series of Steaks: Since I’ve already written about the Short Story category, this is Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s second story on the Hugo ballot and it is a real standout. Besides everything, what I really enjoy about “A Series of Steaks” is the framing of forgery and what makes a good forger. Ultimately, that’s what “A Series of Steaks” is about. Helena semi-legally fabricates meat for restaurants that is otherwise undetectable for not being the real thing (ultimately, a forgery). She is offered a contract that she can’t refuse because it comes with a threat to expose her.

The rest of the story is a tense game of Helena (and her new assistant) trying to fulfill the order and somehow protect herself. Prasad’s writing is clear and pulled me right in. It’s a damn fine story and I’m going to be looking for much more from Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

(14) ON THE ROAD. John Scalzi has thrown the Theory of Evolution into doubt. Could this man’s primordial ancestors possibly have lived in trees without room service?

(15) TOON TOWN. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, ”’Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ turns 30: How the toon-powered classic revolutionized Hollywood” interviews screenwriters Peter S. Seaman and Jeffrey price about the 30th anniversary of this film, first released on June 22, 1988.

According to the screenwriters, Zemeckis always had a grand vision for the Ink and Paint Club as a place where multiple cartoon characters — each of whom had its own bit of funny business — would fill the frame. A cursory glance around the nightclub reveals penguin waiters, an octopus bartender, and a vintage black-and-white cartoon heroine slinging drinks. “Bob wanted one of those almost Scorsese-like reveals, where you track in and all the stuff is happening,” Seaman remembers. “We did write gags for like the bartenders — he’s got eight arms, and he’s making these different cocktails. We’d write gags for the penguins, and everybody in there.”

(16) LUCKY PAIR. JSTOR Daily delves into “The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm”.

There once were two brothers from Hanau whose family had fallen on hard times. Their father had died, leaving a wife and six children utterly penniless. Their poverty was so great that the family was reduced to eating but once a day.

So it was determined that the brothers must go out into the world to seek their fortune. They soon found their way to the university in Marburg to study law, but there they could not find luck from any quarter. Though they had been the sons of a state magistrate, it was the sons of the nobility that received state aid and stipends. The poor brothers met countless humiliations and obstacles scraping by an education, far from home.

Around this time, after Jacob had to abandon his studies to support his family, the entire German kingdom of Westphalia became part of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquering rule. Finding refuge in the library, the brothers spent many hours studying and searching for stories, poems, and songs that told tales of the people they had left behind. Against the rumblings of war and political upheaval, somehow the nostalgia of stories from an earlier time, of people’s lives and language, in the little villages and towns, in the fields and forest, seemed more important than ever.

This then is the strange rags-to-riches tale of two mild-mannered librarians, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (affectionately known as the Brothers Grimm), who went hunting for fairytales and accidentally ended up changing the course of historical linguistics and kickstarting a whole new field of scholarship in folklore.

(17) LEND HER AN EAR. BBC invites you to “Meet Game of Thrones’ woman of weapons”.

It’s probably not a good idea to get into an argument with Natalia Lee.

The only female armourer working on Game of Thrones, she looks after all the show’s weapons, from flaming arrows to giant catapults.

She also played the fearsome Chella in season one, because they needed “a warrior who chops ears off” and then strings them around her neck.

But while she loves working with the actors, she gets worked up if anyone questions the fact that a woman is wielding swords and slingshots.

“I’m constantly told, ‘Women don’t want to see that, women don’t want to do that.’ It’s so frustrating,” says Australian-born Natalia, 35.

“We’re capable of handling weapons, I’ve proved I can carry all of them.

“My job’s a learned, technical skillset, so your gender has no bearing.”

(18) PANIC OR PATHOLOGY? Answering a pixel from 6/18: “WHO gaming disorder listing a ‘moral panic’, say experts”.

But biological psychology lecturer Dr Peter Etchells said the move risked “pathologising” a behaviour that was harmless for most people.

The WHO said it had reviewed available evidence before including it.

It added that the views reflected a “consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions” and defined addiction as a pattern of persistent gaming behaviour so severe it “takes precedence over other life interests”.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge Carl Slaughter, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus, who took inspiration from yesterday’s lyric reference.]

More Gardner Dozois Tributes

Gardner Dozois in 2017. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Gardner Dozois died May 27, and Michael Swanwick’s “The Gardner Dozois You Didn’t Know You Knew” (linked yesterday) has gone viral in the sf community.

Many other friends, colleagues and admirers of Dozois are also mourning the famed sff editor and writer. Here are a few excerpts:

Pat Cadigan on Facebook.

You will read a whole lot of tributes to Gardner, lauding him as a person, an editor, and a writer, and even the most superlative won’t be superlative enough.

But Gardner Dozois and Susan Casper were more than that to me…they were family.

I’m not trying to claim I’m part of Gardner’s and Susan’s family. I’m saying they’re part of mine.

But, as Michael Swanwick has pointed out to me, we don’t get the people we love for free. The pain of losing them is the price we pay for the privilege of having them in our lives.

They’re worth it.

Walter Jon Williams: “The Passing of a Titan”.

In public, Gardner was a Personality.  Loud, lewd, and Rabelaisian, he was an effervescent source of fun and mischief.  I remember chatting with him in a crowded restaurant when the room suddenly went quiet, in one of those odd silences that can sometimes occur even in a busy room.  Gardner was the only person in the room who kept talking, and suddenly the entire room heard Gardner’s high tenor voice singing out the words “FEMALE . . . GENITAL . . . MUTILATION.”  

The silence went on for some time after that.

But if he were only the large-scale public personality, he wouldn’t have had the impact on the field that he did, and he wouldn’t have found and published the literate, sensitive stories for which his tenure at Asimov’s became known.  He wouldn’t have won the Hugo Award so many times, and there wouldn’t be so many very good authors who owe him a boost in their careers.

David Gerrold on Facebook:

Over the years, he established himself as one of the people who simply defined what science fiction could be — as a writer, an editor, and a reviewer. It was my privilege to present the Skylark award to him at a Boskone a few years ago — but because of his health issues, he wasn’t able to accept the trophy in person. I think I was as honored to present it to him as he was to receive it.

To put it simply, Gardner was one of the people whose respect I wanted to be worthy of. He edited the Year’s Best SF anthology for over three decades. But it wasn’t until number 23 (if I remember correctly) that he finally decided one of my stories should be included. (And then one more time, a couple years ago.) To make it into one of his anthologies had been on my bucket list. I am heartbroken that there will be no more Year’s Best with his name as editor.

Equally saddening, losing him as a reviewer. Gardner had an insightful eye — which is why I always turned to his reviews first in nearly every new issue of Locus. I think that’s one of the things I will miss the most — there will be no more reviews of short fiction by Gardner and Locus will be just a little less fun to read.

Alastair Reynolds, after recounting Dozois’ influence on his career, ends his  “Gardner Dozois” tribute —

I can’t say I knew him terrible well; we met on perhaps two of three occasions over the years during which he (and his late wife) were charming company, but I liked him very much and his passing will leave a considerable void in the SF community. I always let him know how much it meant to me that he picked up my stories, and I hope some of that got through to him – it really was sincerely meant. And – all too briefly – I ought to mention that he was also a fine and stylish writer, a very accomplished SF thinker who could easily have had a career just as a writer, but who directed most of his energies into editing instead, and thereby did the community a great favour. He was also a very readable diarist, and – although it’s been many years since I last encountered them – his travel writings were extremely enjoyable. He was a loud, colourful presence at SF conventions, but also a sensitive, cultured and knowledgeable man in private.

Lorena Haldeman on Facebook.

Some days you wake up and the daylight seems a little dimmer, your gravitational spin seems a little off; as if a star has gone out and the universe has to learn to adjust to new patterns.

I’ve always truly believed that the best way to keep people with us, in our hearts, when they have to leave the party, is to look for the qualities we so deeply admired in them and cultivate those in ourselves. May a part of me, going forward, always find mad humor in the angry darkness, keep the ability to be gentle in the tossing storm of life, and to be able to find the heart of the story by expertly cutting out the unnecessary.

Matthew Cheney shares bittersweet memories of growing up with Asimov’s – and growing apart, in “Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)”.

Dozois never showed interest in avant-garde fiction, at least to my knowledge, but in his early years at Asimov’s and in the late-’80s/early-’90s Year’s Bests he published quite a bit of work that pushed against various borders and walls, especially the expectations of genre readers about what SF could and, indeed, should be. His was a pluralistic, ecumenical, eclectic vision of the field, one gained from coming up as a writer himself in the years after the New Wave had shaken things up a bit. He loved a good space opera, but he was just as much a champion of “The Faithful Companion at Forty”, the sort of story that less open-minded readers said didn’t belong in a science fiction magazine.

Lavie Tidhar will miss him in a very practical way: “RIP Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)”.

What I can say about Gardner is that he meant a hell of a lot to me. He was my most strident champion in short fiction. He first contacted me about ten years ago, asking to reprint one of my stories in his seminal Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology series. Since then, he’s included me in every volume, sometimes doing me the honour of reprinting not one but two in the same volume. I only skipped one year – I got fed up with short fiction for some reason and published barely nothing, and it was the realisation that I missed a volume in Gardner’s anthology, I think, that made me realise how ridiculous I was being, so I started again.

…He’d asked me for a new one just 3 weeks ago. I was just about to start writing it… I don’t really know what happens now. He was an amazing editor, a defining force, and my knight in shining armour. He knew my work better than I did. There is no one else like him. The world of science fiction is poorer for not having him, but God damn it, I needed you, Gardner!

Jamie Todd Rubin shares memories of one of “The Nine Billion Names of Science Fiction”.

…I was present for an amazing “panel” discussion that included Gardner, and George R. R. Martin at Capclave back in 2013. It was standing-room only, and I stood near the back for two hours, laughing harder than I’d laughed in years. Gardner told stories from his days in the army, and the refrain across the convention the following day went something like: “IF YOU DO (X) YOU WILL DIE.” You had to be there.

…I have to remind myself that Gardner himself was a supernova. He was a nursery for new stars. And while his star may have winked out, there are thousands that he helped create that still shine brightly, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Alec Nevala-Lee was affected by “The Constant Gardner”.

Gardner and I never met, and we exchanged only a handful of emails over the last decade, but he profoundly affected my life on at least two occasions. The first was when I was twelve years old, and I received a copy of Asimov’s Science Fiction—which Gardner was editing at the time—for my birthday. As I’ve recounted here before, it was that present from my parents, given at exactly the right moment, that made me aware of short science fiction as a going concern, as embodied by its survival in the three print digests. My career ended up being more closely tied to Analog, but it was Asimov’s that set me on that path in the first place. Without that one issue, I don’t know if it would have occurred to me to write and submit short stories at all, and everything that followed would have been very different.

Lou Antonelli says “Farewell, Oh Great One!”

I will always be grateful to Gardner Dozois for encouraging me and giving me invaluable writing advice when I was just starting to write spec fic back in 2003 and 2004, and ultimately accepting my first pro sale, “A Rocket for the Republic”, which was published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in Sept. 2005.

That was the only story of mine he ever accepted, because it was the last he ever accepted before he retired in April 2004. I will always be proud of the fact that mine was the last story he bought before leaving Asimov’s after 19 years.

John Clute concludes his entry on “Dozois, Gardner”  at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction —

It may be that Dozois’s main contribution to sf – including a maturely realistic sense of the nature of the worlds he honoured both in his creative work and in his edited books – was technical: his remarkable capacity to select (and to edit) work that is both exciting to read and adult on reflection. But over and above that, his abiding contributions to the field seem from the first to have been fueled by his deep love for the field, not uncritical but unfaltering.

Richard Parks remembers hanging out on Delphi: “Gardner Dozois 1947-2018”.

I actually “met” Gardner online back in the early 1990’s, in the relatively early days of what was almost but not quite the internet. Before FB and Reddit there was Genie and Delphi, “bulletin board” sites where you logged in through an analog modem to argue and chat with friends. A lot of the sf/f field hung out on Genie, but on one night a week a smaller, very lucky group came together on the sf/f board on Delphi. Membership varied, but at one time or another there was Janet Kagan, Pat Cadigan, Lawrence Person, Jack L. Chalker, Eva Whitley, Mike Resnick, Susan Casper and yes, Gardner Dozois. And me. I wasn’t the only nobody there, of course, but on the other hand there weren’t any nobodies there. It was a friendly group and everyone felt welcome. I certainly did. At the time I had only sold one story, several years earlier, to Amazing SF, and while I was still working hard, I was beginning to think that was it. And even though talking business was generally frowned on, it was there that Gardner broke the news that he was taking a story of mine, “Laying the Stones,” for Asimov’s SF. Now imagine yourself drowning, not for a minute or two but for months, years, and somebody finally throws you a lifeline.

For me, that somebody was Gardner Dozois.

Pixel Scroll 5/21/18 And The Book Recs, They Grow Just Like Lava Flows

(1) IT’S ALIVE! The Hollywood Reporter says “‘The Expanse’ Revived for Season 4 at Amazon”.

Amazon Studios is in talks to revive one of CEO Jeff Bezos’ favorite properties.

The retailer and streaming outlet is near a deal to revive space drama The Expanse for a fourth season just 10 days after Syfy canceled the series. Amazon Studios declined comment as sources note the deal is not closed.

Starring Steven Strait and based on James S.A. Comedy’s [sic] best-selling book series of the same name, Syfy had only first-run linear rights in the U.S. to The Expanse. Amazon Studios had streaming rights to the first three seasons of the show. Sources say Bezos is a big fan of the book and was livid that the TV series went to NBCUniversal-owned Syfy. The move is said to have ignited Bezos’ demand that Amazon Studios brass find the company’s version of Game of Thrones.

(2) FLYNN STROKE. Author Michael Flynn is hospitalized. His daughter made the announcement on Facebook:

Hi. This is Mike’s daughter. He will be absent from the internet for a few days, as he has had a pontine stroke and is in the hospital. After that, he’ll be going to rehab for a few days. He’s doing very well, all things considered. He’s eating a sandwich right now and has previously cracked some ill-advised “dad jokes” with the doctors and nurses.

Pontine stroke, described:

Pontine stroke is a type of stroke that happens when the blood flow in the brain stem is disrupted. The stroke is caused by decrease blood supply to brain stem. The blood flow is restricted to brain stem because of either rupture of blood vessels causing bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke) or obstruction of blood flow because of blood clot within the artery resulting in obstruction of blood supply (ischemic stroke).

(3) SUPPORT FOR ANTIHARASSMENT POLICIES. The Utah-based Rock Canyon Writers group of YA authors calls on writers to sign their “Conference Harassment Pledge”.

It has become increasingly clear that we must face the problems of sexual harassment and other kinds of harassment (racial, disability, sexual/gender identity, religion, nationalism, and more) that are happening within our own children’s literature community. We acknowledge that this is a systemic problem, and that systems of power are very difficult to change. They are also difficult
to see, but we must start to see the ways in which we are all implicated in looking away from uncomfortable talk about those we have once looked up to within the community. We cannot change this problem until we see it and face it
plainly. We must start thinking differently, intervening more quickly, believing victims more easily, and allowing excuses less readily. We cannot allow harassers to continue to act freely and without consequence, nor can we allow victims to be ignored, revictimized, or minimized. Nor can we continue a “whisper network” of knowledge that only helps those who are “in the know.”

… We plead with writers to cosign this document and to pledge NOT to attend conferences where there is no policy in place or where stated policies have not been followed through on.

(4) DOGWHISTLES FOR AI. “Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t.” The New York Times has the story.

Many people have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices, asking them to read a text, play a song or set an alarm. But someone else might be secretly talking to them, too.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

The way Walter Jon Williams puts it is:

Of course you knew that when you installed Alexa, Siri, or Google’s Assistant in your home, you were installing a spy.  You just trusted that Amazon, Apple, or Google would use your information for good, or at least would not actively harm you.

What you may not have known is that these assistants aren’t just spies, they’re potential enemy saboteurs.

(5) FOCUS ON THE DONUT NOT THE HOLE. Scott Edelman calls on everyone to “Relive Nebula Awards weekends past and present in the third lightning-round episode of Eating the Fantastic”.

In 2016, Eating the Fantastic brought you the Readercon Donut Spectacular.

In 2017, you were invited to partake of the Balticon Donut Extravaganza.

And now, in Episode 67, it’s time to experience—the Nebula Awards Donut Jamboree!

That’s right—it’s time for another lightning-round episode of Eating the Fantastic as 15 guests devour a tasty dozen—this time from Pittsburgh’s Just Good Donuts— while recounting their favorite Nebula Awards memories.

During the Nebula Awards weekend which ended yesterday, I sat near registration with a dozen donuts and a sign offering a free one to any who’d come on the show to chat about their memories of this annual event, and waited to see what would happen.

Which is how I ended up listening as Michael Swanwick explained how his love of Isaac Asimov impelled him to walk out on guest speaker Newt Gingrich, David D. Levine remembered catching the penultimate Space Shuttle launch, Daryl Gregory recalled the compliment which caused him to get yelled at by Harlan Ellison, Barry Goldblatt revealed what cabdrivers do when they find out he’s an agent, Cat Rambo put in a pitch for SFFWA membership, Fran Wilde confessed a moment of squee which was also a moment of ooops, Steven H. Silver shared how he caused Anne McCaffrey to receive a Pern threadfall, Annalee Flower Horne told of the time John Hodgman stood up for her onstage during the awards banquet, and much, much more!

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lise Andreasen says Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal’s “Responsible” makes it clear: “We’re doomed.”

(7) COMIC-CON LITIGATION. Bryan Brandenburg, of the now-renamed FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, told Facebook readers about the con’s next legal move:

If the San Diego Comic Convention vs Salt Lake Comic Con jury trial was the Empire Strikes Back, this marks Act I of Return of the Jedi. Dan Farr Productions has filed a motion for a new trial, which will likely lead to our appeal with the U.S. Court Of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

(8) HITTING THE BRICKS. Newsweek has pictures: “Lego Superheroes: Batman, Superman and Other DC Comics Characters Made of Over Two Million Bricks”.

American artist Nathan Sawaya’s captivates crowds around the world with his life-size sculptures of DC Comics’ most famous characters, building them with Lego bricks. His latest exhibition features over 100 sculptures, with some taking as long as two or three weeks to make. Besides patience, they require a lot of Lego. His recreation of the Batmobile is 18 feet long and uses around half a million bricks.

Sawaya was originally working as a corporate lawyer when he decided to turn to Lego as his creative outlet. “Some people go to the gym or go running at the end of the day; for me, I needed to create something,” he explained in a recent interview. Now he owns an art studio in Los Angeles housing over 7 million bricks.

(9) CAN YOU DIG IT? James Davis Nicoll is out to save the world: “Tugging on Superman’s Cape: Simple Suggestions for Avoiding World-Destroying Disaster. Or Not.”

There are, I think, a few basic safety rules which, if consistently ignored, will almost always provide would-be adventurers with sufficient diversion to create an exciting plot.

Rule number one: do not engage in archaeology. Do not fund archaeology. Above all, do not free that which has been carefully entombed. In most SF and fantasy settings, there were good reasons for entombment…and they still hold.

Indiana Jones did not manage to keep the Nazis from grabbing the Ark of the Covenant. No, the Ark protected itself. As you can see…

(10) THE THRILLING POO OF YESTERYEAR. NPR has the story: “DNA Analysis Of Ancient Excrement Reveals The Diets Of Centuries Past”.

When it comes to the nitty, gritty details, life in antiquity was pretty stinky – in a literal sense. Without high food and personal hygienic standards, most people probably contracted an intestinal worm at some point or another, says veterinary scientist Martin Søe. “I think it’s fair to say it was very, very common. In places with low hygienic standards, you still have a lot of whipworm and round worm.”

That also means lots of parasitic eggs dumped into latrines through the years. In a scientist like Søe’s eyes, that’s a historical record of what people ate and what ailed their guts. So he and his colleagues at the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University began exhuming ancient excrement from toilets of yore to reconstruct snapshots of food and health in bygone centuries.

(11) CROWDED NEIGHBORHOOD. At the time E.E. Smith wrote the Lensman series, the odds against this were supposed to be, ah, astronomical: “‘Ground-breaking’ galaxy collision detected”.

Star nurseries

Known as starburst galaxies, the objects are extremely bright as they are forming stars at a high rate – up to 1,000 times as fast as the Milky Way.

Professor Caitlin Casey, who was not involved in the study, described the findings as “extremely unusual.”

“We often get excited when we find just two galaxies like this grouped together, because each one is already quite unusual and rare compared to ‘normal galaxies’, forming stars several hundreds or thousands of times faster than the Milky Way. To find fourteen such starbursts all grouped together is unheard of,” the University of Texas at Austin researcher commented.

(12) ARTFUL POSER. Science Alert finds “The Official Picard Facepalm Bust Makes Daily Life Less Futile”. ThinkGeek has produced a $65 limited-edition 6-inch Picard facepalm bust, with only 1602 said to be available. Bad news – the ThinkGeek website already shows it as Out of Stock.

ThinkGeek has the perfect salve for every Trekkies effort to resist the workplace grind. An official 6-inch bust of Jean-Luc Picard in his notorious, glorious facepalm pose.

There are so many moments in life where a glance toward Picard would be just what you need to take the edge off life’s less than stellar moments.

But, here’s the bad news. It’s a limited edition. Only 1602 people will be able to get their hands on this official merchandise.

…At US$64.99 it’s a little more than joke gift territory, but ThinkGeek has limited the bust to two per customer, so they know this thing will sell out fast.

Make it so. Before it’s too late.

(13) SING ME A SONG. Rev. Bob broke out a filk to wide applause in today’s comments:

The File 770 Rag

It’s file o’clock on a Caturday
My mailbox just sounded a chime
Mike’s news for fans is awaiting me
Today’s Pixel Scroll’s here right on time!

There’s a dozen or two short news items there
Plus a couple of odd videos
A comic or two and a birthday or three
And maybe some blog links – who knows?

Pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Scroll us some pixels, Seven-Seventy
Serve up the news tonight
You’re the place that we go to be “in the know”
And the comments will roll in all night

Now Meredith’s cruising an ebook site
To tell us which books are priced right
But it seems that her dragon
Is blockin’ my wagon
So I’ll probably be here all night

I see movement – there, in a dark corner
They’re probably the shy lurker type
Far away, I may hear puppies baying now
But I’m not buying into their hype.

Oh, pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Well, Kendall scored fifth ‘fore I hit the end
With Hampus in second-fifth place
Sometime Soon Lee will appear
Followed by Paul Weimer
As Stoic and Chip up the pace.

Damn, I can’t read this verse for the life o’ me
But not ’cause I’m blind, drunk or mean
No, JJ said it was too spoilery
And encoded it in ROT13.

Fpebyy hf fbzr cvkryf, Frira-Friragl
Freir hc gur arjf gbavtug
Lbh’er gur cynpr gung jr tb gb or “va gur xabj”
Naq gur pbzzragf jvyy ebyy va nyy avtug

The discussion’s still rolling on Caturday
Camestros and Tim just arrived
Lis, Jon, Andrew, Ctein,
James, Bruce, others most fine,
Ding! A new Pixel Scroll just arrived!

And the book recs, they grow just like lava flows
As Mt. Tsundoku’s slopes reach the skies
And my bank account weeps as my rent money creeps
Into publishers’ pockets – b’bye!

Oh, pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Scroll us some pixels, Seven-Seventy
Serve up the news tonight
You’re the place that we go to be “in the know”
And the comments will roll in all night

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, Lise Andreasen, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 4/4/18 Scroll Me, Ray Pixelbury

(1) SFWA GIVERS FUNDRAISER. The SFWA charity auctions resume April 5. All auction proceeds will be earmarked for the SFWA Givers Fund which is used to disperse grants to deserving applicants, along with bolstering the existing Emergency Medical (EMF) and Legal Funds.

Available items this month include:

  • Gerrold Manuscript: The Thing on the Shelf
  • Gerrold Manuscript: The Bag Lady
  • Stewie as Robin T-shirt
  • Cooking Out of This World
  • 13th Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror signed by Ellen Datlow Advance Reading Copy
  • Signed Advance Reading Copy The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • Autographed copy of This Island Earth by Raymond F. Jones
  • Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman ARC
  • Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg ARC

The bidding will begin April 5 on — : Ebay.com/usr/sfwa65

To learn more about the SFWA Givers Fund and what it supports, visit sfwa.org/donate. If you have items you would like to donate for future SFWA Charity Auction fundraisers, please contact Steven H Silver at steven.silver@sfwa.org for more information.

(2) PIERCE BROWN IN HUNGARY. The author will be coming to the International Book Festival in Budpest, a visit heralded by the English-language profile — “Interview: Pierce Brown – April 2018”

Pierce Brown, author of Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star and Iron Gold, is going to visit Hungary soon, during the 25th International Book Festival Budapest. (You can read more about the visit and the related events here.)

Due to this occasion, we discussed sci-fi and writing, meritocracy and graphic novels with him: interview by Dominik Szabó. Many thanks to Ferenc Benk? for the translation. Photo by Joan Allen.

I imagine Iron Gold to be the elaboration on the most difficult questions of Morning Star (What happens after the fighting ends? Who will rebuild the world?), not to mention that the Hungarian title (Years of Chaos) holds out little hope… Am I right if I say that you’re not a writer who prefers “happily ever after”-stories?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I don’t enjoy happy endings. I think some stories resound because of their happy endings, while some stories would be disingenuous if they ended on anything less than a bitter note.

The Red Rising world has always been defined by its shades of grey, rather than its black and white depiction of conflict. That is why I thought it appropriate to explore the inconvenient questions of what happens after Morning Star.

(3) ART PIRACY DISCOVERED. Westercon 72 chair Kate Hatcher apologized for using some art at their publicity tables the vendor did not have rights to:

As chair of Westercon 72, and the NASFiC Bid for 2019, I need to right a wrong concerning artwork and our fan tables. It was brought to our attention a tapestry purchased through rosegal.com that we used as decoration, is a piece of artwork which was illegally obtained by the manufacturer, according to the artist. Vetting of the company was not enough. It is troubling on a level I can’t express, how widespread the image is in over 650 sites, and the depth that purchasing needs to be checked to protect artists worldwide.

What I can do is express my regret at using this image and remove it from our systems. I also reached out through ASFA (The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists) to the artist, Kazuhiko Nakamura, to let him know of the infraction and apologize as well for its use. I hope that the Science Fiction Community can continue to work together to inform and shut down pirated artwork, which has become a monumental problem far beyond what I understood.

I will continue with tools and information given me from ASFA and local artists to work better on this issue, inform our committee, and collaborate to protect artwork rights and expand awareness of this at our event (s).

(4) A SUIT AND TWO PAIR OF PANTS. If it’s successful, sue them. Variety reports “‘Stranger Things’ Creators Accused of Plagiarizing From ‘Montauk’ Short Film”. Of course, that’s because there tends to be no point in hiring lawyers to sue a money-loser.

The director of “Montauk,” a six-minute film about an incident on a Long Island beach, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the creators of “Stranger Things” of ripping off the idea.

Charlie Kessler says he made the short film in 2012 as a teaser for a feature film to be called “The Montauk Project.” He alleges that he pitched the idea to Matt and Ross Duffer, the co-creators of the Netflix sci-fi hit, when they met at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014. Kessler says the idea went nowhere at the time, but the Duffer brothers used it as the germ for “Stranger Things,” which debuted in 2016.

The Duffer brothers’ attorney, Alex Kohner, issued a statement on Wednesday, calling the claim “completely meritless.”

“He had no connection to the creation or development of ‘Stranger Things,’” Kohner wrote. “The Duffer Brothers have neither seen Mr. Kessler’s short film nor discussed any project with him. This is just an attempt to profit from other people’s creativity and hard work.”

(5) JOEY YU SELECTED. Walter Jon Williams announced the winner of the Terran Prize.

The 2018 Terran Prize, founded by George R.R. Martin and consisting of a full tuition scholarship to the Taos Toolbox master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, has been awarded to Joey Yu.

Joey Yu was born in Taipei, educated in Vancouver, and now works in Shanghai as a freelance creator.  He is the author of several novels published in Chinese, including The Sunlight Trilogy of futuristic fantasy novels, The Mirrored Truth, and The Locus, which won the Excellence Award of the Taiwan Fantasy Foundation.

(6) LONE STAR. Nnedi Okorafor will appear at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, TX on April 10.

(7) OUT TO LAUNCH. Hear Sam J. Miller in conversation with N.K. Jemisin at Miller’s Blackfish City Book Launch in Brooklyn in April 24. The event will run from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at The Powerhouse Arena (28 Adams Street). Click for more information.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY IRON MAN

  • Born April 4 – Robert Downey, Jr.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) POSTCARD FROM MOUNT TBR. Lots of sf readers know how you feel:

(11) FEAST FOR THE EARS. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Polish off Portuguese in Providence” with Victor LaValle in episode 63 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Victor LaValle

My story “That Perilous Stuff” was up against his “The Ballad of Black Tom” for a Bram Stoker Award in the Long Fiction category last year, and it was such a powerful piece of work, I was sure he was going to win. Well, neither of us won, but that doesn’t make his story any less amazing. In fact, it’s so amazing AMC recently announced it’s planning a TV adaptation, with LaValle as co-executive producer. Among his critically acclaimed novels are Big Machine—which won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel in 2009, the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, plus an American Book Award in 2010—and The Changeling—which was selected as one of 2017’s ten best books by the New York Public Library.

We stole away on the Friday night of StokerCon for O Dinis, one of the many Portuguese restaurants in Rhode Island, which I’ve been told contains the largest Portuguese-American population in the United States. I was extremely impressed with the restaurant. The food was delicious, and our server took great care of us, making us feel like part of a family, as if we were in someone’s home, not a restaurant. It was my favorite food experience of the weekend, and I’ll definitely try to return the next time I’m in Providence. Their hospitality was much appreciated!

We discussed the lunch during which his editor and publisher helped make The Changeling a better book, the graphic novel which made him fall in love with the X-Men, which magazine sent him the best rejection letter he ever received, why reading Clive Barker’s “Midnight Meat Train” for the first time was glorious, the differing reactions his readers have depending on whether they come from genre or literary backgrounds, the unusual way a short story collection became his first publication, why he was so uncertain of his critically acclaimed “The Ballad of Black Tom” that he almost published it online for free, the reason so many writers are suddenly reassessing H. P. Lovecraft, how his graphic novel The Destroyer came to be, and much more.

(12) CONJUGATION. Today’s lesson:

(13) NEW FAKE NEWS TECH. You heard it yourself? Of course you did. “Can You Believe Your Own Ears? With New ‘Fake News’ Tech, Not Necessarily”.
Soon, we might not be able to believe our own ears.

New technologies for creating faked audio are evolving quickly in the era of active information campaigns and their use of “fake news.”

This has serious repercussions for politics: Influence-mongers could create fake clips of politicians to undermine them — or politicians could deny they said things they were really recorded saying, calling it fake audio.

A Montreal startup called Lyrebird has released a product which allows users to create an audio clip of anyone saying anything. Here’s the company using a fake clip of former President Barack Obama to market their technology.

(14) ANOTHER TOLKIEN BOOK? And speaking of…. This post is dated March 31, but some have cast doubt on it as an April Fool: The Tolkien Society reports another new Tolkien book is coming in August. For what it’s worth —

Keen-eyed Tolkien fans have discovered that some bookseller sites are advertising the release of a new Tolkien book later this year.

Two days ago the book was simply listed as Untitled, so there was some speculation amongst fans as to what the subject matter was, and if indeed it was a genuine new title.

Just as with Beren and Lúthien which was published on 1 June 2017, The Fall of Gondolin, is reported to be written by J.R.R. Tolkien, and edited by Christopher Tolkien.

The news has taken many people by surprise, because in the introduction of Beren and Lúthien, Christopher Tolkien gave a strong hint that that was likely to be his final contribution.

According to Amazon the book is reported (which they still list as Untitled) to be 304 pages in length, and is due to be published on 23 August 2018.  The book is advertised to be published both as a hardback and as a deluxe slipcased version.  Amazon also mentions the simultaneous publication of a large-type version.  However, Book Depository, which does include the name of the book, has 1 August as publication day.

(15) EXTREME EMPATHY. A real-world case of the peak of The Stars My Destination, “The Man with English”, etc.: “The doctor who really feels his patients’ pain”.

Joel Salinas rushes in to the hospital bathroom and throws up until he’s dry heaving. Washing his face, the third-year medical student stares at his pale reflection in the mirror and wills himself to live.

He doesn’t know it yet, but Salinas has a condition called mirror-touch synaesthesia. Any time he sees someone experience pain, or even just the sense of touch, his brain recreates the sensations in his own body. And on this day in 2008 he has just watched someone die.

“Someone had a cardiac arrest and it completely caught me off guard,” he says.

“I saw them getting chest compressions and I could feel my back on the linoleum floor and the compressions on my own chest. I felt the breathing tube scraping down the back of my throat.”

When the patient was declared dead 30 minutes later Salinas experienced an “eerie silence”.

(16) SAMPLING THE WARES. Rowan Atkinson returns in Johnny English Strikes Again. Teaser today, full trailer tomorrow.

JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN is the third installment of the Johnny English comedy series, with Rowan Atkinson returning as the much loved accidental secret agent. The new adventure begins when a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, leaving Johnny English as the secret service’s last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives head first into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker. As a man with few skills and analogue methods, Johnny English must overcome the challenges of modern technology to make this mission a success.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Bence Pinter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 3/25/18 The Unscrollable Molly Pixel

(1) BOX OFFICE KING UNSEATED. Black Panther set records: “Box Office: ‘Black Panther’ Becomes Top-Grossing Superhero Film of All Time in U.S.”.

The Disney and Marvel release achieved the milestone on Saturday after passing fellow Marvel title The Avengers, which grossed $623.4 million in 2012. To boot, Black Panther is only one of seven films to ever earn $600 million or more domestically, finishing Sunday with $630.9 million to put it at No. 5 on the all-time list.

But it finally has been bumped from the top of the weekly pyramid: “Weekend Box Office: ‘Pacific Rim 2’ Beating ‘Black Panther’ With Muted $25M-Plus”

Legendary and Universal’s big-budget release Pacific Rim: Uprising may have the distinction of being the film to finally unseat blockbuster Black Panther atop the box office, but the big-budget tentpole may not open to much more than $26 million in its domestic debut, according to early Friday returns. The first Pacific Rim, released in summer 2013, opened to $37 million in Nrth America.

Stomping into 2,850 theaters, Pacific Rim 2 grossed $10.4 million on Friday, including $2.4 million in Thursday previews.

(2) GUARD THOSE FOOTPRINTS. The White House (the Office of Science and Technology Policy) has issued a document proposing standards for “Protecting & Preserving Apollo Program Lunar Landing Sites & Artifacts” – Popular Mechanics has the story: “The U.S. Doesn’t Want Anyone Messing With the Apollo Landing Sites”.

Nations, space companies, and even private citizens have big plans to colonize the Moon. But this reinvigorated focus on our nearest celestial neighbor have some worried that this mad dash could destroy historical lunar landmarks.

Yesterday, The White House issued a report calling for ways to protect Apollo-era landing sites, calling them “rich in scientific and historical significance.” Congress mandated the report in the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017. Damage from exhaust blasts of nearby spacecraft, biological contamination, and the obliteration of tracks in the regolith are all concerns.

“Three Apollo sites remain scientifically active and all the landing sites provide the opportunity to learn about the changes associated with long-term exposure of human-created systems in the harsh lunar environment,” the report says. “Currently, very little data exists that describe what effect temperature extremes, lunar dust, micrometeoroids, solar radiation, etc. have on such man-made material.”

(3) FOWLERS. LitHub presents “Shannon Leone Fowler on Traveling After Her Fiancé’s Death, In Conversation with her mother, Karen Joy Fowler”.

KJF: So you wrote Traveling with Ghosts while raising your kids. And you’re still interested in animals—the book has a lot of marine biology, and of course Sean’s death from a box jellyfish. This is a grief memoir, and you’ve gotten a lot of response to the grief part, but it’s also a travel memoir, and my impression is that there’s been less response to the travel part.

SLF: Yes, the vast majority of personal messages from readers as well as the media have been about Sean’s death, and I wasn’t entirely anticipating that. Because although the book is very much centered around Sean’s death, the bulk of the story is the journey after and the travel that I did following. I think the lessons I learned that were the most surprising and profound were the lessons I learned traveling. So I wasn’t entirely prepared for the focus on Sean’s death, although I guess I should have been because it’s so shocking. But it was difficult at the beginning because I was thinking I was going to have conversations about these amazing Israeli girls or the resilience of Bosnia, and instead I kept finding myself back on the beach in Thailand.

(4) 451. The Verge has the schedule: “HBO will air its film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 on May 19th”.

HBO’s upcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 finally has a release date: May 19th, 2018, according to Variety. The network announced the project last year, which stars Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan and The Shape of Water’s Michael Shannon. Ramin Bahrani (99 Houses) directed and co-wrote the film.

(5) NEW MEXICO TIME. Walter Jon Williams linked to video of him being interviewed by George R.R. Martin.

So here I am any the Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe, being interviewed by George R.R. Martin.  Right at the start he says I’m an important guy, so I must be.

 

(6) SILVERBERG-INSPIRED OPERA. “To See The Invisible”, an opera based on a Robert Silverberg story, will be performed at the 2018 Aldeburgh Festival, UK, June 8-11.

The opening performance of To See The Invisible will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s “Hear and Now”.

Tickets from £5.00 to £25.00

…Condemned for a ‘crime of coldness’ by an authoritarian regime, The Invisible is cast adrift from society. All human interaction is outlawed. This life of isolation leads to strange, vicarious thrills and painful inner torment. Yet, as the lonely exile draws to a close, it is not coldness but perilous empathy with a fellow Invisible that risks the cycle of exclusion beginning all over again…

Emily Howard’s new opera, based on a short story by renowned American sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg, is a claustrophobic study of isolation; a dark satire on social conventions; and a stark reminder of our cruelty to outsiders. Howard’s music embraces extremes – the eerie beauty of The Invisible’s secluded psychological spaces set against the perpetual motion of the World of Warmth.

 

(7) FAITH AND FICTION. In “Publishers rejected her, Christians attacked her: The deep faith of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle”, the Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey interviews Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, L’Engle biographer Sarah Arthur and King’s College English professor Alissa Wilkinson about how Madeleine L’Engle’s deep Episcopalian faith was reflected in her fiction.

It took 26 publisher rejections before Madeleine L’Engle could get “A Wrinkle in Time” into print in 1962. The book was an instant hit, winning the Newbery Medal the following year, but despite its wild success, L’Engle still had fierce critics — including a good number of them who disliked her book for faith reasons.

(8) DIETRICH OBIT. Erwin C. Dietrich (1930-2018): Swiss film producer, aged 87. Specialised in sexploitation cinema, but genre releases include Jesus Franco’s Jack the Ripper (1976) and the horror-comedy Killer Condom (1996).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY TREKKER

  • Born March 25, 1939 – D.C. Fontana

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says either the world is doomed, or ready for a feast: Non Sequitur.

(11) AKIRA AND AKITA. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan interviews Wes Anderson, who says Isle of Dogs is a homage to Akira Kurosawa and that here are also references to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II: “Why ‘Isle of Dogs’ may be Wes Anderson’s most timely film yet”

But if this is Anderson’s most timely film, why use animated dogs, not actors, to make his point?

Anderson says there was something hard to explain about the germ of the idea — a society of outcast and abandoned dogs living on a trash-strewn island — that fired up his imagination. “When Roman and Jason and I were first discussing this story, they said, ‘What do you see here? What is it that you are so interested in?’ I don’t know why, but I just had this idea that there’s a movie in that world and about this group of dogs. What are they going through? Why are they there? And the next thing you ask is, ‘What happens?’ The story just came out of our subconsciousness as much as anything else.”

(12) I CAN’T IMAGINE. What novels would you expect to find in JDA’s “man-bundle”? Maybe Monty Python’s Short History of Men Named Bruce?

(13) HOPKINSON TO WRITE COMICS. ComicsBeat boosted the signal: “WonderCon 2018: DC Announced New Justice League Titles”

Last month, Vertigo shocked readers when they announced the return to the Dreaming in a Neil Gaiman-curated THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE imprint this August. Today, Vertigo and DC Black Label Executive Editor Mark Doyle, along with guest Nalo Hopkinson who will pen the HOUSE OF WHISPERS title, gave fans a first look at Bilquis Evely’s interiors for THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1. Hopkinson shared her excitement for the transition from novelist to comic book writer, and shared some first insights into the mysterious new house and its proprietor. THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 is available August 8, 2018.

(14) TO THINE OWN SELF. Neither an ape nor an alien be…: “Origin of ‘six-inch mummy’ confirmed”.

In addition to its exceptionally small height, the skeleton had several unusual physical features, such as fewer than expected ribs and a cone-shaped head.

The remains were initially discovered in a pouch in the abandoned nitrate mining town of La Noria. From there, they found their way into a private collection in Spain.

Some wondered whether the remains, dubbed Ata after the Atacama region where they were discovered, could in fact be the remains of a non-human primate. A documentary, called Sirius, even suggested it could be evidence of alien visitations.

Genetic investigation

The new research puts those ideas to rest.

A scientific team analysed the individual’s genome – the genetic blueprint for a human, contained in the nucleus of cells.

They had already used this to confirm that the individual was human. Now, the team has presented evidence that Ata was a female newborn with multiple mutations in genes associated with dwarfism, scoliosis and abnormalities in the muscles and skeleton.

(15) BETTER MOUSETRAP. Predator introduced by colonists eliminated from World Heritage sites: “Global implications for NZ ‘Million Dollar Mouse’ success”.

Million Dollar Mouse, part-funded by a public crowd-funding campaign, aimed to continue the work of other eradication projects around New Zealand, and involved a team setting up camp on the islands, air drops of pesticides from three helicopters, culminating in a month-long search involving trained dogs for any remaining pests, Radio NZ says.

According to a Stuff.nz feature on the islands, the mice likely arrived on ships belonging to sealers, and drove at least two local species to extinction. If the project hadn’t tackled the rodents they “would have spelled doom for many of the species there,” the feature said.

“The project was done to benefit the whole ecosystem there,” Mr Horn told Stuff, “These islands are high value, they’re World Heritage sites”. Animal life on the Antipodes Islands include bird species not found anywhere else.

(16) BOUNCEHENGE REDUX. Nickpheas says:

If you’re going to discover the inflatable Stonehenge then you really need the response song by musical comedian and sometime science fiction writer Mitch Benn (Terra, Terra’s World).

When Mitch does a live show he asks the audience for typical suggestions and tries to write a song during the interval. Generally they’re forgotten. This one, which I was there to hear it’s first performance had more legs.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/10/17 The Greatest Scroll On Earth

(1) LAST JEDI REVEW. Craig Miller attended the official world premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

No Spoilers Review: A pretty amazing achievement. More emotion than most Star Wars films. And more humor (though not a gag fest like, Thor Ragnarok). Some surprises. Including a “surprise” I thought was likely yet still surprised me when it happened by the way they did it. I haven’t quite processed where I think it should go in my pantheon of Best Star Wars Movies but it’s certainly up near the top of the list. Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back still hold the top honors but this is getting near it.

His post includes a couple of sweet photos of Kelly Marie Tran (who plays Rose) seeing a fan dressed as her character for the first time.

(2) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. Mashable collected a bunch of tweets sent by people who saw the movie: “‘The Last Jedi’ first premiere reactions are here and – you guessed it – the Force is strong”.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi held its star-studded world premiere at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Saturday night, and the credits had barely finished rolling before attendees hit Twitter to share their first reactions to Rian Johnson’s take on the Skywalker saga.

While spoilers and plot details are under strict embargo until Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. PT, that didn’t stop fans from weighing in on the tone of the movie…

(3) IMPEDIMENT TO FAKE REVIEWS. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green brings news of “Amazon Review Policy Change & More”.

Since Amazon first opened its virtual doors, there have been concerns about reviews. Not just for books but for all the products sold through its site. It is no secret that authors have paid for reviews — and some still do. Or that there have been fake accounts set up to give sock puppet reviews. There have been stories about sellers and manufacturers planting fake reviews as well, all in the hopes of bolstering their product rankings and ratings. From time to time, Amazon has taken steps to combat this trend. One of the last times they did it, they brought in a weighted review system. This one differentiates between “verified purchasers” and those who did not buy the product viz Amazon. Now there is a new policy in place, once that should help — at least until a new way around it is found.

Simply put, Amazon now requires you to purchase a minimum of $50 worth of books or other products before you can leave a review or answer questions about a product. These purchases, and it looks like it is a cumulative amount, must be purchased via credit card or debit card — gift cards won’t count. This means someone can’t set up a fake account, buy themselves a gift card and use it to get around the policy….

(4) AND HEEERE’S PHILIP! Kim Huett asks, “Do you ever have those moments when you discover a different side to an author? Well of course you do. We all do. I did just the other day in regards to Philip K. Dick:” See “Straight Talking With Philip K. Dick” at Doctor Strangemind.

It’s in Lighthouse #14 (October 1966) that Carr published a Philip K. Dick article called Will the Atomic Bomb Ever Be Perfected, and If So, What Becomes of Robert Heinlein? This piece doesn’t read like a fully formed article in my opinion. It’s a series of unconnected paragraphs that feels more like a transcript of Dick’s responses to a series of questions that had been posed by a talk show host (Conan O’Brien most probably, I can’t imagine who else would enjoy interviewing Phil Dick). Take this line:

‘I have written and sold twenty-three novels, and all are terrible except one. But I am not sure which one.

That so feels like the sort of thing a talk show guest might say to set the tone of the interview. Watch out audience, I’m quirky and don’t take anything too seriously.

Mostly though Dick expresses the sort of blunt and sweeping opinions I never thought he was likely to come out with….

(5) MAKE IT SNOW. Let SyFy Wire help with your holiday shopping — “2017 Gift Guide: Beam up these great Star Trek gifts”. My favorite —

U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set

If you love Star Trek AND sushi then this awesome sushi set will hit the sweet spot. The set includes a shiny Enterprise NCC-1701 in mid-warp and propped on a wooden base, which is actually… a sushi plate. If you remove the top of the saucer section, you even get a small dish for soy sauce. Slide out the warp effects of the nacelles and voila, you have your own pair of chopsticks.

Get it for $34.99 at Star Trek Shop

(6) NO PRIZE. In the Paris Review, Ursula K. Le Guin makes a meta suggestion: “The Literary Prize for the Refusal of Literary Prizes”.

I refused a prize once. My reasons were mingier than Sartre’s, though not entirely unrelated. It was in the coldest, insanest days of the Cold War, when even the little planet Esseff was politically divided against itself. My novelette The Diary of the Rose was awarded the Nebula Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America. At about the same time, the same organization deprived the Polish novelist Stanislaw Lem of his honorary membership. There was a sizable contingent of Cold Warrior members who felt that a man who lived behind the iron curtain and was rude about American science fiction must be a Commie rat who had no business in the SFWA. They invoked a technicality to deprive him of his membership and insisted on applying it. Lem was a difficult, arrogant, sometimes insufferable man, but a courageous one and a first-rate author, writing with more independence of mind than would seem possible in Poland under the Soviet regime. I was very angry at the injustice of the crass and petty insult offered him by the SFWA. I dropped my membership and, feeling it would be shameless to accept an award for a story about political intolerance from a group that had just displayed political intolerance, took my entry out of the Nebula competition shortly before the winners were to be announced. The SFWA called me to plead with me not to withdraw it, since it had, in fact, won. I couldn’t do that. So—with the perfect irony that awaits anybody who strikes a noble pose on high moral ground—my award went to the runner-up: Isaac Asimov, the old chieftain of the Cold Warriors.

(7) TOLKIEN CANONIZATON CONFERENCE CANCELLED. The hosts of a December 18 conference in Rome to popularize the idea of canonizing J.R.R. Tolkien, an initiative of the SUPR (Student Association of Roman pontifical universities) and sponsored by the CRUPR (conference of rectors of Roman pontifical universities), say they have had to cancel the event in the face of unspecified opposition. You can see they didn’t go quietly.

(8) IMAGINING A PAST, AND A BETTER PRESENT. French novelist Jean d’Ormesson died December 6 at the age of 92 reports the New York Times.

It was only in 1971 that “La Gloire de l’Empire” — translated into English as “A Novel. A History” — secured a lasting place for him in 20th-century French literature.

The book, a fictional compendium of imagined history, won the academy’s coveted Grand Prix.

“This has to be one of the most engrossing histories ever written — yet not a word of it is true,” William Beauchamp, a French literature scholar, wrote in The New York Times Book Review when the book was published in English in the United States in 1975.

He added: “Jean d’Ormesson’s empire is pure invention; his book, fictional history. If numerous details suggest the real empires of Rome, Persia, Byzantium, of Alexander or Charlemagne, they are devices designed to achieve verisimilitude — the illusion of reality.”

When Mr. d’Ormesson entered the academy in 1973, at the age of 48, he was the youngest of its 40 members, all of them committed to maintaining the purity of the French language and to promoting French literary merit.

All were also men; the body had barred women since its founding in 1635. But that changed in 1981, when Mr. d’Ormesson sponsored Marguerite Yourcenar, a writer and classical scholar, to join the academy. Though he incurred much criticism and not a few misogynistic jibes for his championing her, she was accepted….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 10, 2009 Avatar makes its world premiere.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY LIBRARIAN

  • Born December 10, 1851 – Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. As a young adult he advocated spelling reform; he changed his name from the usual “Melville” to “Melvil”, without redundant letters, and for a time changed his surname to “Dui”.

(11) DOWNSIZING. Parade’s Amy Spencer, in “Sunday With…Matt Damon”, asks the star of Downsizing such novel softball questions as “What’s a situation where, in real life, you felt really small?” and “What is something small that means a great deal to you?” At least he didn’t have to answer any questions about potatoes.

(12) BEARLY THERE. Framestore animation director Pablo Grillo goes into Paddington 2: “Paddington 2: The challenges of making the film”. (Video at the link.)

(13) BEATING THE BUSHES. Botanical exploits: “How British plant hunters served science”.

Reginald Farrer (1880-1920) was one of four 20th Century botanists who made expeditions to then remote parts of China to discover and bring back plants.

He and his contemporaries – George Forrest (1873-1932), William Purdom (1880-1921) and Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958) – are remembered in a new exhibition at the RHS Lindley library in London.

…Frank Kingdon-Ward, son of a botany professor, was perhaps the most prolific of the four plant collectors.

“He carried out over 20 expeditions in total – not all in China; he travelled all over, in India as well and Assam Himalayas, and really his first love was exploration,” says Sarah McDonald.

Kingdon-Ward frequently cheated death on his travels. Once, lost in the jungle, he survived by sucking the nectar from flowers. Another time, a tree fell on his tent during a storm, but he crawled out unscathed. And he survived falling over a precipice only by gripping a tree long enough to be pulled to safety.

In a letter to his sister, he wrote: “If I survive another month without going dotty or white-haired it will be a miracle; if my firm get any seeds at all this year it will be another.”

(14) MARTIAN BOG. If only Heinlein could make The Traveler happy – a magazine review at Galactic Journey. “[December 9, 1962] (January 1963, IF Science Fiction)”.

Podkayne of Mars (Part 2 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein

Part II of Heinlein’s new juvenile(?) about Miss Poddy Fries and her space jaunt from Mars is a bit more readable than the last one, but it’s still overwritten and gets bogged in detail.  This is the spiritual successor to The Menace from Earth I’d hoped to share with my daughter, but I don’t think it’s quite good enough.  Three stars for this installment.

(15) CASTING FOR PIKACHU. Trae Dorn of Nerd & Tie reports “Ryan Reynolds Has Been Cast as ‘Detective Pikachu’ Because Why the Hell Not”.

So one of the weirdest projects out there for a while has been Legendary’s live action/cgi hybrid Detective Pikachu movie. I mean, it’s a live action/cgi hybrid Detective Pikachu movie. No one was really expecting it to happen, and now the latest news is that it has a rather unexpected star: Ryan Reynolds.

That’s right, Ryan Reynolds is going to play Detective Pikachu in the Detective Pikachu movie. I mean, it’s not bad casting – Reynolds is a talented actor – but it’s definitely weird casting. I mean, he’s a funny guy (remember, unlike most Pokemon, Detective Pikachu can talk), but it’s not a direction most people thought casting would go.

(16) DIAGNOSIS. Definitely sorry for his health problems, but how many cold sufferers inspire such a colorful description?

(17) VIRTUAL BEST OF YEAR. Jason, at Featured Futures, has posted his picks for the Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories). His “virtual anthology” is a table of contents of selected links to 70,000 words of the best science fiction published online in 2017.

Web’s Best Fantasy will cover the fantasy stories. The stories for both “volumes” were chosen from fifteen markets: Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld Magazine, Compelling Science Fiction, Diabolical Plots, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Flash Fiction Online, Grievous Angel, Lightspeed, Nature, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Terraform, Tor.com, and Uncanny.

(18) EDGED WEAPONS. Gary K. Wolfe reviews Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams at Locus Online.

In one of Donald Barthelme’s funnier stories, a hapless would-be writer finds that one of the questions on the National Writer’s Examination (“a five-hour fifty-minute examination, for his certificate”) involves recognizing at least four archaic words for sword. On the basis of his new novel Quillifer, Walter Jon Williams would get that certificate with flying colors. His vocabulary of antique weaponry is formidable, as well as his command of archaic military and naval terminol­ogy: the tale is packed with enough chebeks, dirks, calivers, pollaxes, and demiculverins to win a dozen Scrabble or trivia games, not to mention such neologisms as “gastrologist,” “logomania,” “poetastical,” “credent,” and others which, as Quillifer and others proudly announce, they “just made up.” As should be evident, there’s a good deal of infectious playfulness involved here, and the question that quickly arises is whether this is going to be infectious enough, or Quillifer himself ingratiating enough, to power us through what promises to be at least three hefty volumes of episodic adventures.

(19) CAT TALES AND OTHERS. In the LA Times’ Jacket Copy section, “Michelle Dean loves Ursula K. Le Guin’s cat stories. Which is a good start”:

Here we get some thoughts on publishing too, or rather, as the book calls it, “The Lit Biz.” Posts on this theme include a lament about how often people ask her “why” she writes — she calls this question “highly metaphysical.” It also includes Le Guin’s frustration with the notion that someone, somewhere has written the Great American Novel. But that argument gradually morphs into a paean to John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” the novel Le Guin evidently feels might be closest to a Great American novel. And then also segues, in a pleasingly bloggy way, into an anecdote about how Le Guin actually knew Steinbeck in her youth and hid with him in the bushes at a terrible wedding with racist guests. “We need to get away from boring people and drink in peace,” she records Steinbeck saying on this occasion. Amen, Great American Writer.

(20) LETTERS TO SANTA. The Guardian found the North Pole in an unexpected place: “Santa Claus, Indiana gets 20,000 letters a year – and ‘elves’ reply to all of them”.

The letters, sometimes addressed to Santa Claus, Indiana, sometimes to just “Santa Claus”, come from all over the US, and even from outside the country. They’re processed by a team of 300 “elves” who write personal replies – penning up to 2,000 notes a day.

“It’s an amazing thing making children happy,” said Pat Koch, the town’s Chief Elf. Koch, 86, is in charge of the mammoth effort. She’s been handling Santa’s correspondence since she was 11 years old.

“We just sit in there and laugh and cry,” Koch said.

“We get letters from children that say: ‘We learned to use the potty’ – well, their mother writes for them – ‘So we hope Santa will come’.

“Or they stopped sucking their thumb. Or some children write very sad letters: ‘I’m living with my grandma and I want to be with my daddy.’”

The elves also receive mail from older people who are lonely and want a letter from Santa, Koch said. Sometimes inmates write to Santa Claus, asking him to send a letter to their children. Post arrives from as far away as Japan, China and Malaysia. Each is read and responded to.

(21) WRATH OF KHAN REVISITED. Orange Band gives old movies the trailers they deserve.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ. Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Brian Z., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]