Pixel Scroll 6/4/22 Pixel Of Illusions

(1) ANOTHER BURKE CO-PANELIST MAKES A STATEMENT. Shahid Mahmud, Arc Manor Books publisher, who was one of the panelists on “Diversity Readers and Why You Need Them” at Balticon 56, today told Facebook readers that he and Stephanie Burke “got into a heated discussion” but that Burke did “nothing that warranted her treatment” or expulsion from program afterwards.

…One of the panels that keeps getting referred to is a panel I was on with Stephanie, the one on Sensitivity Readers. Not only that, but I was also the one who got into a heated discussion with her on the panel.

As a fellow panelist (particularly one who got into that that discussion with her) I would like to, in no uncertain terms, make it clear that Stephanie NEVER crossed the ‘line.’ I found her charming, informative, and forceful (in a good way).

At one point I did turn to the audience and apologized for us having hijacked the discussion for the last few minutes and several of them pointed out how refreshing it was to hear different sides of the issue (a couple of them reiterating it after the panel as well).

After the panel ended, Stephanie and I did chat briefly and both of us indicated to the other how much we had enjoyed the discussion even though we disagreed with each other.

So, imagine my shock when I found out that she had been kicked off panels. Even more so, since no from Balticon bothered to contact me about the panel (and no one still has).

Anyway, as a fellow panelist on the panel that is being cited as the reason for her expulsion, I want to make it absolutely clear that Stephanie did nothing that warranted her treatment.

What I find incredulous is that someone at Balticon took it upon themselves to treat another person like that without even bothering to find out what happened or having any investigation of a any kind. Escorting someone out of a panel is pretty extreme. I do think Yakira (the Balticon Chair) is trying to set it right to the extent she can (she has publicly apologized and is now leading an investigation into the incident). I hope the investigation also focuses on Lisa Adler-Golden (the program chair, and I believe the person behind the expulsion) and her actions, motivations and suitability for participation in future Balticons.

David Weber responded at length in comments (here and here), saying in part:

…I’m waiting to see how this all works out, and I hope the con chair is able (and willing) to tell the world what really happened and issue a very sincere and public apology (if appropriate) based on the results of her investigation.

If, as I suspect from all I have heard so far, an apology IS appropriate, I think it should be accompanied with an invitation to return as a special guest and, particularly, for a panel on just how destructive this sort of thing is for the fan community as a whole, and not just for the pros/guests immediately affected by it. It’s an issue that needs to be dragged out into the daylight and confronted, without accepting it as long as it only happens to people WE don’t like, and without degenerating into fruitless rounds of whataboutism. This is goring ALL our oxen. It needs to stop, and I hope one response to this fiasco is that Balticon will tell us how IT intends to prevent it going forward….

Also in comments, Gregory Benford reminded readers why he was removed from the 2019 Loscon.  

(2) THE MESSAGE RECEIVED VARIES WITH THE READER. Jeff VanderMeer addresses the question if “Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ is a classic for its portrayal of gender, but is it also sometimes, for the modern reader, a climate change parable?” in  “Landscape, Change, and the Long Road Ahead” at Orion Magazine.

…Le Guin, in creating both this world and this situation, meant to interrogate the politics and logic of countries, and how societies deal with the outsider. Even the long, harrowing journey by Genly and his erstwhile friend from Winter, Estraven, across barren ice can be interpreted as a traditional Jack Londonesque extreme wilderness survival tale, rather than anything more modern.

Yet, the reader changes a book because the world changes, and so when I read of the “facts” of Genly being disputed in Orgoreyn, I could not help but think about the “disputed” facts and proofs of the climate crisis.  

Climate crisis is about extremes, and in The Left Hand of Darkness cultures are shaped by an immeasurably hostile physical environment. The coldness of the place, which forces adaptation to its conditions and discourages certain kinds of risk. The fact the nations of Winter do not engage in war constitutes one unique manifestation of this adaptation to an extreme environment. Full-scale conflict, as opposed to minor sorties, skirmishes, individual feuds, simply seems alien to the nations of Winter…. 

Genly describes war as “the opposite of civilization,” and this is literally true on Winter—if not on our Earth. The planet’s inhabitants cannot afford the destructiveness of war or risk Death by Planet, by diverting or destroying resources needed for survival. They do not have the luxury of surviving both the climate and war….

(3) ALMOST BREAKING EVEN. Despite having cancelled Arisia 2022 due to Covid and the small number planning to attend or be on the program, Arisia, Inc. reports they have made up their annual expenses from grants and donations.

…We have heard back from the grants from this cycle, and we’ve gotten quite a few of them.  A few were contingent on holding a convention and I’ll get into the disposition of each of those.

The big news is that we got $15,000 from the City of Boston!  This is $10,000 for COVID relief and $5,000 in general operating support.  We can use this money to pay organizational expenses such as rent, which comes to $15.600 per year.

We got a grant for $2,275 from SFWA for convention expenses and we can use this for expenses the convention had even though it didn’t actually happen.  We have easily enough eligible expenses to get the access grant and $2500 for organizations that did.  This appears to be what happened, as we were approved for $2500 for training.  We have heard back from the grants from this cycle, and we’ve gotten quite a few of them.  A few were contingent on holding a convention and I’ll get into the disposition of each of those.

…We proposed to use this general staff anti-racism training, and I also requested in the application to be able to use the money for board training, in case we get other funding for anti-racism trainings.  I believe the Anti-Racism Committee is working on specifics for this training.

We got $3000 for CART from the Universal Participation Fund and the expenses didn’t happen.  This is the grant that we qualify for because of Card to Culture.  I don’t know if the money can be repurposed, or if so how.

Speaking of Card to Culture, we had 12 people registered for A22 via Card to Culture, vs. 3 in 2021.  I am hopeful that we get even more in 2023.

Finally, we have gotten about $4,000 in donations, with one large donation pending in an unknown amount.

This is a total of almost $24,000 not including the access grant.  Our annual expenses are a little over $19,000 and the convention had $6,000 in expenses that can’t be passed on to Arisia 2023, plus one of the grants obliges us to spend money on training that we might not have spent otherwise.  So we aren’t quite square, but we’re pretty close….

(4) LAWSUIT GOING FORWARD. “Freedom to Read Advocates Sound Alarm as Obscenity Lawsuit Advances in Virginia” reports Publishers Weekly.

Library groups this week joined with booksellers, publishers, and public advocacy groups in sounding the alarm over a lawsuit in Virginia in which two popular authors and their publishers have been ordered to defend their works against obscenity charges.

The legal action was filed last month by Virginia Beach lawyer and delegate in the Virginia Assembly Tim Anderson (on behalf of local plaintiff and congressional candidate Tommy Altman), citing an obscure state obscenity law. It alleges that two books for sale in a Virginia Beach Barnes & Noble—Maia Kobabe’s popular graphic memoir Gender Queer (Oni Press) and A Court of Mist and Fury (Bloomsbury) by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.”

According to the Virginia Mercury, “the little-utilized state law allows ‘any citizen’ to ask a court to weigh in on books alleged to be obscene.” And in a development that has shocked observers, a local judge on May 18 found there was probable cause the books could be deemed obscene and ordered the authors and publishers to defend the books later this month.

According to the Mercury, the judge who issued the order, Pamela Baskervill, is “a retired Petersburg-area judge,” who is handling the case because “all other judges in Virginia Beach recused themselves.”

The court’s order raises the possibility that the court could issue a restraining order barring the books from public display and restraining booksellers and libraries from selling or loaning the books to minors without parental consent. In a Facebook post, Anderson hailed the judge’s order as “a major legal victory” and laid out the playbook for those seeking to restrict access to materials they find objectionable: “Suits like this can be filed all over Virginia,” Anderson wrote. “There are dozens of books. Hundreds of schools.”…

(5) HEAR FROM EUGEN BACON. Space Cowboy Books will host a free “Online Reading & Interview with Eugen Bacon” on Thursday, July 7 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Get tickets at the link.

(6) INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN. “Can a book change a young woman’s life?” Hear The Conversation with Nnedi Okorafor and Mel Mazman on BBC Sounds.

Can a book change a young woman’s life? Kim Chakanetsa talks to two women in the publishing world about the importance of writing stories that inspire and empower girls. 

Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning Nigerian-American writer of fantasy and science fiction for both children and adults. Her books have strong female leads and draw inspiration from her Nigerian roots. Nnedi has also written comics for Marvel: she was the first woman to write the character of T’challa, the Black Panther, and she wrote a series about his tech loving sister, Shuri. She is a recipient of the World Fantasy, Hugo and Nebula Awards. 

Mel Mazman is the chief product officer at Rebel Girls, a franchise publishing books and digital content aimed at empowering young women. The company started in 2016, with a crowdfunding campaign for Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a book featuring the stories of 100 inspirational women. Since then, they sold 7.5 million books in over 100 countries. Mel shares her insights on how the publishing industry is changing to cater for the needs and interests of younger generations of readers. 

(7) BREAKFAST WITH TIFFANYS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jo Walton talks to Helen Zaltzman about what she calls “The Tiffany Problem, or how do you tell readers that the “anachronisms” they find in novels aren’t actually anachronistic.  “Tiffany” is an authentic 12th century name (ultmately derived from “Epiphany”) but use it in a historical novel and readers complain,  Walton discusses how she handles this problem in her novels. “The Tiffany Problem” at The Allusionist podcast.

(8) KEN KELLY (1946-2022). Prolific genre and album artist Ken Kelly died June 3 at the age of 76. He was particularly known for his sword & sorcery cover art. He depicted Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan and the rock acts KISS, Manowar, Sleepy Hollow, Rainbow, and Ace Frehley.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1982 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this day forty years ago, my favorite Trek film by far, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, premiered. As I noted yesterday in my essay on the ending of the original series, there have been thirteen films so far — the good, the bad and the just plan forgettable. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is in my opinion stellar.

Now I’ll admit that the episode that spawned it, “Space Seed”, isn’t one of my favorite episodes, but the screenwriter for this film, Jack B. Sowards, who based it off a story by him and Harve Bennett, created a story here that is fantastic. Neither had any genre background so Bennett watched all of the original series after being hired by Paramount and decided to do a film off the “Space Seed” story.

Damn, they did a great job. From the Kobayashi Maru simulation (named after Soward’s neighbor) to the over-the-top villain that Ricardo Montalbán is here (far more than he was in “Space Seed”), there is nothing that is not completely entertaining here. Most of these Trek films have a spot or two where I want to say to the editor why is that scene in here, but not in this film. I loved it from beginning to end unreservedly.

(Roger Ebert in his review had an interesting point about Khan: “Khan is played as a cauldron of resentment by Ricardo Montalban, and his performance is so strong that he helps illustrate a general principle involving not only Star Trek but ‘Star Wars’ (1977) and all the epic serials, especially the ‘James Bond’ movies: Each film is only as good as its villain.”) 

(Some of them are entirely like that.) 

They were given a lousy budget, just twelve million, as Paramount really didn’t believe the film was going to do crap. It did as it made ninety million. 

What did the critics think? If they were Trekkies, they liked it. If they weren’t, they didn’t.

Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times definitely liked it: “In this new film there’s no feeling that its makers are straining to compete with ‘Star Wars’ and other special-effects spectaculars, instead, they’re attempting to recapture the spirit of the beloved TV series. (It is, in fact, probably a plus that the film actually began production intended for TV.) The result is a brisk, handsomely designed film in which its hardware, sturdy as it is, never overwhelms its humanity.” 

Whereas David Khmer of the Chicago Reader wasn’t impressed: “In this second Star Trek feature (1982), the crew of the Enterprise confronts middle age in a plot that makes very little literal sense but is packed with pertinent life-out-of-death, Waste Land imagery: a 200-year-old heavy (Ricardo Montalban) living on a barren planet, a secret project code-named ‘Genesis’ that can turn deserts into tropical jungles, Captain Kirk wearing specs and rediscovering his long-lost family. If only director Nicholas Meyer had grasped the implications of his tale more fully and enthusiastically, this might have become a classic piece of cornball SF poetry, but as it stands the tepid acting and one-set claustrophobia take a heavy toll.” 

It was nominated for a Hugo at ConStellation losing out to Blade Runner. Rotten Tomatoes reviewers really like giving a ninety percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 4, 1951 Wendy Pini, 71. With husband Richard, responsible for Elfquest which won them a Balrog. Over the years Elfquest has been self-published by the Pinis through their own company Warp Graphics, then Marvel Comics, then the Pinis again, more recently DC Comics and then Dark Horse Comics. Everything prior to 2013 is free online at the Elfquest Comic Viewer. Be prepared to spend hours lost in great reading! 
  • Born June 4, 1960 Kristine Kathryn Rusch, 62. If you’ve not discovered the delights of her Diving Universe series, you’re in for a treat — it’s that good. Her Retrieval Artist series is one that can be read in no particular order so is great deal of fun no matter where you start. And her Spade / Paladin series of which the first novel just came out, Ten Little Fen, is absolutely delightful.  Oh, and she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her website is here; don’t miss her appreciation of A.J. Budrys. 
  • Born June 4, 1960 Bradley Walsh, 62. His first genre was on The Sarah Jane Adventures as Odd Bob Elijah Spellman aka The Pied Piper in “The Day of the Clown” story. His major genre role video wise however is Graham O’Brien, companion to the Thirteenth Doctor. Now it’s worth noting that he has a lot of theatre experience that is genre having appeared in multiple versions of AladdinCinderellaJack & the Bean StalkPeter Pan and Snow White.
  • Born June 4, 1964 Sean Pertwee, 58. Let’s see, where did I see him first? Oh, of course, playing Sheriff Hugh Beringar on Cadfael but that’s not genre, is it? Captain Heinz in “Trenches of Hell, Part 2 “,  on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which was his first genre role followed being Pilot Smith on Event Horizon and Macbeth in a UK film of that name the same year. He did a bit of low-budget horror playing Bradley Cortese in Tale of the Mummy and likewise in being Sergeant Harry G. Wells in Dog Soldiers. There were some fairly low budget SF as well, say Father in Equilibrium. Not to mention Brother Proteus in Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie which I dearly want to see! All of which gets redeemed by his Inspector Lestrade in Elementary, a stunning take on that character. And then there’s his Alfred in Gotham.
  • Born June 4, 1969 Julie Gardner, 53. She was executive producer on the revival of Doctor Who and the spin-offs of Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures. She co-founded with Julie Tranter Bad Wolf, best known for the BBC TV series His Dark Materials and A Discovery of Witches on which she serves as an executive producer.
  • Born June 4, 1972 Joe Hill, 50. I’ve met him once or twice down the years as he shows up here in Portland for signings at both book shops and comic shops pre-Pandemic. Really nice guy like his father. Actually the whole family is amazingly nice. Locke & Key is a superb graphic novel series and I’m fond of all of his short stories, particularly those collected in 20th Century Ghosts, and his collection Full Throttle. I notice that though he’s not yet won a Hugo, he’s won a fistful of Stokers, many BFAs, a World Fantasy Award and even an International Horror Guild Award.
  • Born June 4, 1975 Angelina Jolie, 47. I really liked her two Tomb Raider films and thought Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a really cool film with her role being quite magnificent. I never saw her early Cyborg 2 undertaking but think Hackers and her role as Kate “Acid Burn” Libby was rather good. I’ve not seen her Maleficent films. 
  • Born June 4, 1991 Jordan Danger, 31. She is best known for her role as Zoe Carter on Eureka. (Now inexplicably renamed A Town Called Eureka in syndication but not on Peacock which is streaming it now along with Warehouse 13.) She also showed up in Ragin Cajun Redneck Gators which as horror is genre of sorts, plus the SF films, Higher Power and Beyond the Sky. And even a vampire film, Living Among Us. All low budget, all straight to DVD productions.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COWL SCOWL. In “What Is Batman” the Pretty Much Pop podcast shares its taxonomical theories.

In light of the recent release of Matt Reeves’ film The Batman, we consider the strange alternation of darkness and camp that is Batman. Is he even a super hero? What’s with his rogues’ gallery? What’s with DC’s anti-world-building?

Your Pretty Much Pop host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by philosophy prof/NY Times entertainment writer Lawrence Ware, improv comedian/educator Anthony LeBlanc, and Marketing Over Coffee host John J. Wall, all of whom are deeply immersed in the comics, and we touch on other recent shows in the Batman universe.

(12) HUMOR IN THE DARKNESS. Death’s Intern by D.C. Gomez is the debut novel in the Intern Diaries series launched in 2017.

A talking cat, a boy genius, missing people, and an untrained Intern for Death. What could possibly go wrong?

Did that really happen?

There’s no way Death offered me a job. I’m a musician that makes her living as a waitress, with absolutely no training in the supernatural world. This is all a very bad dream.

But Bob has been kidnapped, and I can’t possibly lose the only friend I have.

Bob, you’d better be alive. Because if I just gave my soul to Death for nothing, I will personally kill you. Not to mention, it seems Death’s Interns have fairly short life expectancies.

God, don’t let me die.

D. C. Gomez was born in the Dominican Republic, and grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. She study film and television at New York University. After college she joined the US Army, and proudly served for four years. Those experiences shaped her quirky sense of humor. D.C. has a love for those who served and the families that support them. She currently lives in the quaint city of Wake Village, Texas, with her furry roommate, Chincha.

One of D. C.’s passions is helping those around her overcome their self-limiting beliefs.  She writes both non-fiction and fiction books, ranging from Urban Fantasy to Children’s Books. To learn more about her books and her passion, you can find her at www.dcgomez-author.com.

Available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

(13) SCIENCE TAKES A HOLIDAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] You don’t know what it has been like the past few days as you are a citizen living in a flawed democracy, conversely, I am a subject living in a full democracy kingdom. Anyway, our Queen has ruled that we must have four days celebrating 70 years of her reign. So it has been street parties, barbecue, coronation chicken and a right old national knees-up this side of the Pond. It is a tough life, but we Brits are used to it.

It has also meant that, with the exception of this morning, the library cybercafés have been closed, hence no science news until now.

“NASA’s Perseverance rover begins key search for life on Mars” in Nature.

More than fifteen months after landing in Jezero Crater on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally begun its hunt for ancient life in earnest.

On 28 May, Perseverance ground a 5-centimetre-wide circular patch into a rock at the base of what was once a river delta in the crater. This delta formed billions of years ago, when a long-vanished river deposited layers of sediment into Jezero, and it is the main reason that NASA sent the rover here. On Earth, river sediment is usually teeming with life.

Images of the freshly ground spot show small sediment grains, which scientists are hoping will contain chemical or other traces of life. Poet William Blake’s “‘To see a world in a grain of sand’ comes to mind,” wrote Sanjeev Gupta, a planetary geologist at Imperial College London, on Twitter….

Meanwhile, the journal Science has been looking at Mayan astronomy and this features on their cover: “The Stargazers”.

The historic Maya oriented their lives by the heavens. Today, their descendants and Western scholars team up to understand their sophisticated astronomy

In the past few years, slowly converging lines of evidence have been restoring the clearest picture yet of the stargazing knowledge European colonizers fought so hard to scrub away…

(14) SHADOWPAW PRESS MAKES DUOTERO AVAILABLE AGAIN. Duatero by Vancouver author Brad C. Anderson, a searing far-future science fiction novel about the struggles of an abandoned human colony to survive on a hostile alien world, is back in print in a new edition from Shadowpaw Press after being orphaned by the closing of its original publisher, Bundoran Press.

Majstro Falchilo Kredo has devoted his life to protecting the abandoned Earth colony of Duatero from Malamiko, the indigenous ecosystem that makes their crops fail and whose contamination turns humans into mindless monsters.

But Malimiko is changing, becoming more dangerous, more aware, even as the ancient technology the humans use to combat it fails piece by precious piece. Kredo and his fellow soldiers must risk everything or see all they hold precious wiped away and forgotten.

Kredo is prepared to sacrifice himself—and anyone around him—to do his duty. But what if the price demanded is even higher?

Duatero is a powerful work of science fiction that confronts issues of morality and survival head-on in a carefully thought-out and terrifying alien world,” said Edward Willett, editor and publisher of Shadowpaw Press. “It deserves to find many new readers, and I’m thrilled to be able to give it that opportunity.”

Duatero can be bought directly from the publisher or from most online bookstores in both ebook and print and can also be ordered through any brick-and-mortar bookstore. This handy URL provides links to multiple online sources:  https://books2read.com/duatero/

(15) SPELL TREK. “Harini Logan is the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion after a historic spell-off” reports CNN.

…This year’s host was LeVar Burton. The Emmy and Grammy-award winner hosted the semifinal and the final round of the event.

In a statement in December, Burton called the position “an honor.”

“Like a lot of folks, I look forward to the competition every year and am excited to be a part of this wonderful tradition that celebrates excellence,” he said….

(16) IT’S ALMOST TIME. Suspension by Andrea Faye Christians – “a time travel tale of epic proportions” — is Book One of the Time Binder Series.

When Carla Thompson falls asleep and doesn’t wake up, she is shocked to discover what destiny has in store for her. Suspended between two worlds, she meets Isambard Brunel, the legendary eighteenth-century civil engineer, who built the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England, and who now serves as guardian of its secrets. Historical events intertwine with Carla’s current reality and along the way she discovers a murder, encounters a host of characters including Jamaican psychic, Matilda, and engages in verbal banter with literary legend, Ernest Hemingway. Her adventures lead her to a startling revelation about why she was chosen for her strange new role. In death Carla realises she has never felt more alive.

Andrea Faye Christians was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales. Following a successful career in British radio including the BBC, she moved to the southern Mediterranean island of Malta to pursue her dream of becoming a freelance writer. A decade later she bought a farm in the Madonie Mountains of Sicily where a menagerie of rescue animals found their way to her. With a son in Malta and a daughter in Sicily, Andrea has a home and her heart in both places, and she now divides her time between the neighboring islands.

The book will be released June 30 and is available for pre-order from Bookshop, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Book Depository, and Barnes & Noble.

(17) PHILIP K. DICK WILL BE SORRY HE MISSED THIS SHOW. Matt O’Dowd on PBS Space Time dares to ask,“What If Physics IS NOT Describing Reality?”

Neils Bohr said, “It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about Nature.” Well it turns out that if we pay attention to this subtle difference, some of the most mysterious aspects of nature make a lot more sense.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Arisia 2022 Is Cancelled

Arisia 2022 has been cancelled due to the impact of Covid announced Chair Vivian Abraham today. The event had been planned for the January 14-17 weekend in Boston. The hotel has agreed to slide Arisia’s contractual obligations to later years.

At the end of 2021, the Con Chair team met and determined how we would move forward.  We decided that we would look at the COVID numbers in the new year (they are higher than ever), we would look at the health of our team (several of whom now have COVID or have family members with COVID), we would look at the number of folks planning to attend and/or be on program (which is currently too small to sustain us financially), and we would look at the advice of our COVID advisory team.  Together, these things portray only one responsible decision that we can make:  We need to cancel the in-person Arisia 2022.  Fortunately, the hotel has agreed to reschedule the 2022 and 2023 contracts and, instead, host Arisia 2023 and 2024 in the Westin.

More information about how memberships will be rolled over, and the deadline for cancelling current year room reservations is in the Final Progress Report.

They will not pivot to a virtual convention. However, on the weekend Arisia would have been held they will still have an online Minecraft server and an official Discord. People will not need a badge to participate. The Arisia code of conduct will apply in both of these spaces. Check the website for updates about how to connect.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern for the story.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 9/30/20 Fantastic Pixels And Where To Scroll Them

(1) HEAD FILLED WITH IDEAS. “Interview: P. Djèlí Clark, author of Ring Shout”, an author Q&A conducted by Andrea Johnson at Nerds of a Feather.

…Mr. Clark was kind enough to talk with me about the music behind his new novella, the novella’s long (and then fast) journey to publication, how the novella got personal, and more. Let’s get to the interview!

NOAF: You mention on your blog that this story was in your head for a long time before you wrote it down. Can you tell us about when and why you decided to write the story down? And while you were drafting it out, did were there any scenes or characters that ended up completely differently than how you had originally imagined them?

P. Djèlí Clark: Yeah, the story was definitely with me for a while—mostly in dreamt up scenes and characters with a smattering of a plot. Visuals or a song could send me daydreaming for a minute. As I’m prone to do, it’s only when I have a full sketch of a story in my head that I start jotting down notes. That was in early August 2016. I sat down and wrote up Ring Shout from start to ending, on the Notes feature on my iPhone. Then I put it down and went and lived the rest of my life. It wasn’t until April of 2019 that it started to become “a thing.” I was sitting in a DC café, on the phone with my editor Diana Pho about a book contract for an unrelated completed full-length novel. The book world being the book world, it probably wouldn’t come out until 2021. My novella The Haunting of Tram Car 015 had just been released and that meant there’d be this big gap before I was next published. Diana asked if I might be interested in doing another novella in between—that is, if I had any ideas. I pitched two concepts, one of which was Ring Shout. It ended up in the contract.

Then came the real trouble. I had nothing written but a set of notes from almost 3 years back and a head full of ideas. I had until about September to turn it into a working story. Planned to get it done that summer. But nope. Academic work and copyedits on the unrelated full-length novel pretty much devoured my writing time. Finally, I got started on August 30, 2019. Two days before it was due. Had to ask for an extension. Then somehow, in the next four weeks, got it written. By that time whole new characters had been added, scenes had changed, and elements of the overall plot had been rewritten—so that it only resembles in passing those original notes from 2016. But hey, that’s the writing process….

(2) ARISIA. Progress Report 3 confirms Arisia 2021 will be entirely virtual – which hadn’t been taken for granted after last year’s issues.

Over the past seven months, the Eboard Con Chair Team, along with Assistant Con Chair Vivian Abraham and the Division Heads, have been working hard to determine what we need to recreate the Arisia experience in an online-only convention. Our first step was to make sure that Arisia is squared away with its hotel contract. Hotel liaison Wendy Verschoor, along with Eboard President Nicholas “Phi” Shectman, have been in talks with the Westin Boston Waterfront and Aloft regarding our Arisia 2021 contract. As of September 15, 2020 we were able to come to an agreement. We will not need to have a hotel presence this year, and our continuing contract with the Westin Boston Marriott and Aloft will resume in 2022.

(3) EPIC SLAPDOWN. CNN Business is a fly on the wall as “Judge in Apple ‘Fortnite’ case slams Epic’s tactics, hints at July trial date”.

A federal judge presiding over a high-stakes antitrust lawsuit between Apple and Epic Games — maker of the popular video game Fortnite — repeatedly slammed Epic on Monday on its legal theories and tactics in the company’s case against the iOS App Store, a court battle that could reshape the digital economy.

Epic is seeking a temporary court order that would force Apple to unblock Fortnite from its iOS App Store. Apple removed the game in August after Epic pushed a software update to the app that allowed players to circumvent Apple’s proprietary in-app payment system — a move that is contractually prohibited.

…Judge Gonzalez Rogers looked skeptically at many of Epic’s claims, explicitly telling the company several times in the hearing she was not persuaded by its arguments or its strategy.

Epic knew that it was breaching its contract with Apple when it published the update, but did it anyway, she said, accusing the company of dishonesty.

Apple has justified its app store policies partly as a way to protect consumers from security risks and malicious software. Epic has countered that it is a credible business that has been on the iOS App Store for years and poses no security threat. But Gonzalez Rogers said that is not the issue.

“You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being forthcoming. That’s the security issue. That’s the security issue!” Gonzalez Rogers told Epic. “There are a lot of people in the public who consider you guys heroes for what you guys did, but it’s still not honest.”

Epic’s attorneys acknowledged that the company breached its agreement with Apple but claimed Epic was simply refusing to comply with an anti-competitive contract, and that forcing a legal battle was part of Epic’s plan.

…It also cited Apple’s in-app payment system as an example of illegal tying — when a company bundles two products together for anti-competitive gain.

But there is no tying going on with Apple’s in-app payment system, Gonzalez Rogers observed.

“I’m not particularly persuaded,” she said of the in-app payment mechanism. “I just don’t see this as a separate and distinct product.”

Nor did the judge buy Epic’s argument that Apple has harmed the distribution of Fortnite because of Apple’s exclusive control of the iOS App Store. Fortnite players on iOS have a variety of choices to access the game even if it is no longer available on iOS, she said.

“Walled gardens have existed for decades,” she said. “Nintendo has had a walled garden. Sony has had a walled garden. Microsoft has had a walled garden. What Apple’s doing is not much different… It’s hard to ignore the economics of the industry, which is what you’re asking me to do.”

(4) TWO OPEN LETTERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Alison Flood, in “More than 200 writers and publishers sign letter in support of trans and non-binary people” in The Guardian, says that 200 people, most notably Jeanette Winterson signed a letter generally supporting trans and non-binary people after 58 writers, including Lionel Shriver, Ian McEwan, and Susan Hill, signed a letter supporting J.K. Rowling.  But the article about that letter was published in The Times, which is behind a paywall.

(5) ACCIO ERRAT! [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing in Forbes, film critic Scott Mendelson examines the recent announcement that Warner Brothers will be making another Harry Potter-related movie, despite the diminishing returns from the franchise, and the cavalcade of transphobia from J.K. Rowling. “4 Reasons Warner Bros. Is Still Making J.K. Rowling’s Third ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Movie”.  

He writes: “In a skewed way, stopping now and admitting that the Fantastic Beasts franchise was a failed experiment would probably do Warner Media, a publicly-traded company, more harm than just bringing the story to a natural conclusion and taking their commercial licks along the way. Call it sunk-cost fallacy.”

(6) JOHN THE BALLADEER NEWS. The latest Haffner Press newsletter includes an update on the forthcoming 500+-page volume, Manly Wade Wellman’s The Complete John The Balladeer – with a link to preview five examples of Tim Kirk’s illustrations. Here’s one of them:

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 30, 2005. The Joss Whedon-written Serenity premiered. The sequel, or perhaps continuation, or perhaps finale of, the short-lived Firefly series, it reunited the entire cast from the series. It would overwhelmingly win the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation at L.A. Con IV beating out The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,  Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Batman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It holds an excellent eighty two percent rating by audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 30, 1915 – Richard D. Mullen.  Founder of Science Fiction Studies; co-editor (with Darko Suvin) 1973-1978; returned as editor, managing editor, and like that, 1991.  Two books of selected SFS articles, two more on P.K. Dick (with DS & others); essays, reviews, in SFS, ExtrapolationFoundationRiverside Quarterly.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1926 – Gillian Avery.  Historian of children’s education and literature.  The Guardian Children’s Literature prize for Edwardian father-son novel A Likely Lad.  For us, Huck and Her Time Machine (note pronoun); a dozen others; nonfiction including a Life of Juliana Ewing and an ed’n of Emily Pepys’ Journal (this branch of the family pronounces their name peppis).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1949 – D Potter.  Fanziner, photographer, railroad fan.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 16.  Active in various apas including APA-QFAPAMyriad.  Appreciations by Our Gracious Host and Avedon Carol here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1950 Laura Esquivel, 70. Mexican author of Como agua para chocolateLike Water for Chocolate in English. Magic realism and cooking with more than a small soupçon of eroticism. Seriously the film is amazing as is the book. ISFDB says she’s also written La ley del amor (The Law of Love) which I’ve not read. (CE)
  • Born September 30, 1951 Simon Hawke, 69. Author of the quite superb Wizard of 4th Street series as well as the TimeWars series. He has written Battlestar GalacticaTrekFriday the 13thPredator and Dungeons & Dragons novels as well as the genre adjacent Shakespeare & Smythe mysteries which bear titles such as Much Ado About Murder. (CE) 
  • Born September 30, 1954 – Sylvia McNicoll, 66.  Two dozen children’s novels, of which two for us.  Silver Birch; four Hamilton Arts Council awards (Body Swap won 2019 Literary Award for Fiction); several more.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1960 Nicola Griffith, 60. Editor with Stephen Pagel of the genre gender anthologies, Bending the Landscape: Science FictionBending the Landscape: Fantasy (World Fantasy Award and Lambda winner) and Bending the Landscape: HorrorAmmonite won both the Lambda and Otherwise Awards. She also garnered a Lambda and a Nebula for the most excellent Slow River. All of her novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 30, 1972 – Sheree Renée Thomas, 48.  Dark Matter, a NY Times Notable Book of the Year, won World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology, then Dark Matter, Reading the Bones won another; Fall 2016 Obsidian; Jul 2018 Strange Horizons (with Rasha Abdulhadi, Erin Roberts); Aug 2018 Apex.  A dozen short stories, fifty poems, essays, for us; many others; see here (Wikipedia).  [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1975 Ta-Nehisi Coates, 45. He has also written Black Panther and Captain America stories. Issue number one of the former series sold a quarter million physical copies, very impressive indeed. The Water Dancer contains magic realism elements. (CE) 
  • Born September 30, 1982 Lacey Chabert, 38. Penny Robinson on the Lost in Space film reboot which I did see in the theater and didn’t think it was too bad.  She’s done mostly voice acting and children’s features after that. She voiced Gwen Stacy on The Spectacular Spider-Man series and does likewise for Zatanna Zatara on the current Young Justice series. (CE) 
  • Born September 30, 1983 – Angela Kulig, 37.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories.  “I write books, many of which have been published.  I live in Las Vegas, which sounds exciting, but I prefer to pretend I live in books.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 30, 1985 Katrina Law, 35. She’s well-known for playing the roles of Mira on Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Spartacus: Vengeance which are sort of genre, and  Nyssa al Ghul on Arrow. (CE)

(9) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says another Jeopardy! contestant missed their shot with a genre topic.

Category: Playing the part on TV

Answer: Mr. Sulu; His own head on “Futurama”

Wrong question: “Who is DeForest Kelley?”

(10) FORD NOVEL RETURNS. Today is the republication date for John M. Ford’s long out-of-print The Dragon Waiting.

Available for the first time in nearly two decades, with a new introduction by New York Times-bestselling author Scott Lynch, The Dragon Waiting is a masterpiece of blood and magic.

Isaac Butler has all kinds of reasons you should read it:

(11) DO INQUISITORIAL SPAIN AND YA MIX? Not a problem. At garik16’s blog: “SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova”.

Incendiary is the first in a new Young Adult Fantasy trilogy by author Zoraida Córdova, with the setting inspired by Inquisitorial Spain.  Córdova is a prolific YA writer whose work I hadn’t gotten to previously, but one I was hoping to get to at some point, so I requested this novel via inter-library loan once my library reopened.

And well, Incendiary is a really interesting YA fantasy novel, with a compelling protagonist….but also one that feels not quite sure what it wants to do with her…. 

(12) RENDEZVOUS WITH DESTINY. “Man steals truck to go ‘meet an alien'” – but this time it’s Utah Man, not Florida Man.

A Utah man is behind bars after he stole a pickup truck out of a 7-Eleven parking lot.

The victim left the keys in the truck and the vehicle unlocked when he went in to the convience store for a quick stop.

That’s when Bryce Jerald Dixon hopped into the vehicle and took off.

KUTV reports that Dixon took the truck in order to drive all the way to the “Colosseum to get on a flight with alien diplomats.”

Unfortunately, before Dixon could get to the Colosseum, which was some 6,000 miles away across the ocean, he started feeling bad, and decided to return the red pickup truck to the parking lot and its owner, where the police were waiting….

(13) CHEESE FROM OUTER SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Mamie Van Doren On The Red Skelton Show S09E30 (5/24/60” on YouTube is a sketch from a 1960 episode of The Red Skelton Show where Mamie Van Doren is the Queen of Outer Space and Peter Lorre is the Galactic Emperor.  They want to destroy the Earth — and the only person who can stop them is Red Skelton’s goofball character  Clem Kadiddlehopper!  Special cameo by Rod Serling.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Among Us” Fandom Games reviews a mindless phone game from 2018 that’s for “the attention-deficit gaming community” that “searches for something to keep them busy in this time of isolation.”

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

Noel Rosenberg Sues Crystal Huff

Noel Rosenberg, former President of Arisia, Inc. (2000, 2018) and Arisia convention chair (2002), filed suit against Crystal Huff in Middlesex (MA) Superior Court on September 17 alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Huff published a 6,000+ word statement on October 25, 2018 ending her connections with the convention: “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again”. Rosenberg says in his complaint:

…Her blog posting also alleged that in addition to raping her, Noel had “stalked,” “harassed” and “intimidated” her. Crystal’s accusations of violent and heinous criminal wrongdoing by Noel are utterly devoid of any basis in reality.

Rosenberg requests a jury trial, with damages in an amount to be determined by the jury (plus interest), plus costs and attorney’s fees.

A complete copy of the complaint can be downloaded here from a website created for the plaintiff: Noel Rosenberg v. Crystal Huff.

At the time it was published, Huff’s statement evoked a strong and immediate response. Two of Arisia 2019’s guests of honor, Daniel Jose Older and Malka Older, dropped out of the convention. Within three days, the Arisia, Inc. Executive Board announced that Noel Rosenberg had been removed as President and permanently banned from the convention. (This was just the beginning of the convention’s problems. Although not involving Rosenberg, Arisia soon received several more statements criticizing their handling of code of conduct violations, and apologies from two former Arisia officers. There followed four resignations from the Arisia eboard.)

Rosenberg’s complaint gives his version of the relationship he had with Crystal Huff from 2007 to 2010, characterizing all of the encounters where it applies as “consensual sexual intercourse.”

He gives his interpretation of what was done about Huff’s charges at the time under Arisia’s Incident Reporting process, or later when it existed the Arisia Incident Response Team (IRT).

He follows a list of salient examples of the allegations in Huff’s blog post with the summary response:

These and other statements set forth in the blog were false, defamatory and literally fabricated. Her accusations of criminal misconduct are defamatory per se.

The blog post is reproduced in full as one of the attached exhibits.

The court’s website indicates Huff has until January 15, 2021 to file her answer to the suit – coincidentally, the same date the next Arisia is scheduled to begin.

Pixel Scroll 6/20/20 Let The Filed Rumpus Begin

(1) ARISIA’S LATEST REFORMS. Boston’s Arisia conrunning group is taking steps to create “A More Welcoming Arisia”. The post begins:

Black Lives Matter. While we don’t have a time machine to prevent the injustices of the past, we certainly have the power and the duty to correct present injustices and prevent future injustices in the spaces we are responsible for creating. Actions speak louder than words, and we are determined that our actions will reflect our resolve to make Arisia a more diverse, more welcoming space.

Changes have been made to the Arisia Code of Conduct:

  • We have replaced some language that has been weaponized against BIPoC or used to police their behavior. In particular, we strive to avoid coded words like “intimidating” and “civilized”. We can and will continue to clarify our expectations of Arisia attendees, but we will do it in ways that do not alienate fans of color.
  • We have added “display of hateful iconography” to the list of behavior the Code of Conduct explicitly forbids, with reference to the iconography listed on the SPLC and ADL websites.
  • In light of our knowledge of endemic police racism and brutality in interactions with BIPoC, we have removed suggestions that Arisia would involve the police, either reactively in response to prohibited behavior, or proactively by encouraging a police presence. In the past, we have sometimes paid for Boston Police Department details during the convention, but we commit to ending this practice.
  • We have clarified the protected classes, including race, to which our harassment policy pertains.

They have retired the “Lens” logo.

This artwork too closely resembles a modern police badge, which has become a symbol of oppression.

It is being replaced with Lee Moyer’s winged-A logo designed for Arisia 2017.

They have formed an Anti-Racism Committee “dedicated to educating ourselves about the injustices suffered by BIPoC and how to become actively anti-racist.” They also are “re-committing to supporting the convention’s Diversity Committee, which exists to make the Arisia convention a safer, more welcoming space for fans of color.”

(2) PROGRESS REPORT. Good news from DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis: “We have achieved a proper glass door! Now we even look open. Noon-6, Monday-Saturday.”

And on June 17, publisher Catherine Lundoff spoke at DreamHaven Books about owning and operating a small press. The title of the the talk was “The Return of Running a Small Press: It’s an Adventure” and it also featured a live Q&A on Facebook.

(3) FREE READS FROM SOMTOW. Somtow Sucharitkul is giving away three free ebooks on Amazon THIS WEEKEND ONLY — from now till 23:59 Sunday night.

Somtow in a mask.

The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter • A book for young adults, this was a Junior Literary Guild selection as well as a Science Fiction Book Club selection. It’s about a half Jewish, half Lakota boy with some cultural identity issues who befriends a girl in school whose problem leaves his in the dust: she’s half human and half vampire. And she has to pick a side before she turns sixteen.…

Light on the Sound • the first volume of a series set in a galactic empire of incredible beauty and brutality. Of this series, reviewers said:

“He can create a world with less apparent effort than some writers devote to creating a small room … yet these tales are intricately wrought as those handcarved oriental balls within balls” — The Washington Post

“His multicultural viewpoint may yet give us the best SF novel of all time” — Analog

After a twenty year silence, I’ve added a fifth book to the series, and am working on a sixth, so this book is by way of introduction.

The final free book is Sounding Brass. It is an autobiographical memoir about the time I spent as a student ghost-writing music that was presented as the work of a cabinet minister during the Vietnam War. It’s definitely a worm’s eye view of “the swamp” with major political figures making cameo appearances, but although it’s definitely a funny book it also asks some questions about what “being an artist” really means.

To get these books for free, please make sure you order them from Amazon during the window of Saturday the 20th – Sunday the 21st, Pacific Standard Time.

Please enjoy the books and, if you so desire, visit my website  (www.somtow.com) and sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll receive news and the occasional free ebook.

(4) IN PRAISE OF VIRTUAL CONS. Polish fan Marcin Klak discusses “Online Conventions and Where to Find Them” at Fandom Rover. His post is a great window on what’s been done in this line in Europe.

… All in all, I found the conventing online is really rewarding. The feeling is different than the one at the in-person cons but it has also some similarities. The most important aspect is that it allows me to socialize with fellow fans. I do hope that sooner rather than later in-person cons will be possible, but even then I think I would like to find some time for the online events. They have their own certain value not only as a “replacement” but also as events worth spending time on even in the “regular” times.

(5) UFO #8. Alex Shvartsman has released the Unidentified Funny Objects 8 table of contents. He expects the book to be released by early October.

  • Foreword by Alex Shvartsman
  • “The 10:40 Appointment at the NYC Department of Superhero Registration” by Chris Hepler
  • “Soul Trade” by Galen Westlake
  • “A.I., M.D.” by Kurt Pankau
  • “The Fellowship of the Mangled Scepter” by James Wesley Rogers
  • “When the “Martians” Return” by David Gerrold
  • “Welcome Home” by Simon R. Green
  • “The Unwelcome Mat” by J. J. Litke
  • “Get Me to the Firg-<click><cough>-xulb On Time” by Laura Resnick
  • “Black Note, in His Transition to a Supreme State of Wokeness” by James Beamon
  • “The Other Ted” by Wendy Mass and Rob Dircks
  • “C.A.T. Squad” by Gini Koch
  • “Ambrose Starkisser” by Jordan Chase-Young
  • “Gommy” Amy Lynwander
  • “Journey to Perfection” by Larry Hodges
  • “Fifteen Minutes” by Mike Morgan
  • “Zaznar the Great’s Fifty-Sixth Proposal to the Council for Urban Investment” by Jared Oliver Adams
  • “Terribly and Terrifyingly Normal” by Illimani Ferreira
  • “Couch Quest” by Eric D. Leavitt
  • “Pet Care for the Modern Mad Scientist” by Michael M. Jones
  • “The Punctuation Factory” by Beth Goder
  • “One Born Every Minute” by C. Flynt
  • “Shy and Retiring” by Esther Friesner
  • “Suburban Deer” by Jamie Lackey
  • “Body Double” by Jody Lynn Nye

(6) PAWS FOR ENJOYMENT. I’ve learned you can support George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe by accessing the “Quarantine Cat Film Festival” (mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll) with a virtual ticket purchased through their site. The link will take you there.

…Jean Cocteau Cinema presents Quarantine Cat Film Festival. Amateur filmmakers from around the world filmed their beloved cats during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. This compilation reel brings together the cutest, funniest, brave stand most loving of these videos, exclusively filmed during the pandemic.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1997 — Will Shetterly’s Dogland was published by Tor Books. The Chopping Block was listed as the cover artist. Shetterly has said it’s the novel that he’s most proud of. The story is based on his own childhood and a business that his parents owned called Dog Land. In 2007 Shetterly published a sequel, The Gospel of the Knife. Reviewers including Faren Miller, Ellen Kushner, Gahan Wilson and Peter Crowther praised both the characters and the setting. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s ShadowThe Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born June 20, 1913 Lilian Jackson Braun. Author of The Cat Who… series which really may or may not be genre. The two cats in it are delightful and one, Koko, certainly has a sixth sense, but the author never suggests this is psychic. The first, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, was published in 1966. She’d publish twenty-nine more novels plus three collections of The Cat Who… shorter tales over the next forty years.  Good popcorn reading. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1919 – Kees Kelfkens.  A dozen covers for Dutch translations.  Here is The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym.  Here is The Two Towers.  Here is Nineteen Eighty-Four.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1920 – Lloyd Eshbach.  Fan, pro, church publisher and Evangelical Congregational minister.  First sold SF 1930 to Scientific Detective Monthly; thirty more short stories.  Founded Fantasy Press and helped other small presses; edited Of Worlds Beyond about pro writing.  Pro Guest of Honor at Cinvention the 7th Worldcon (Cincinnati); reminiscences of the 1st, 6th, 7th, 10th, 39th, 41st, for the 47th (Noreascon III Program Book).  Last novel 1990, The Scroll of Lucifer.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1941 – Pamela Zoline.  Illustrated several stories for New Worlds, see e.g. this for “Camp Concentration”.  Her most famous story “The Heat Death of the Universe” has been translated into Croatian, German, Japanese, Polish; five more.  You can read “Heat Death” here [PDF].  In 1984, with husband John Lifton and five others, founded the Telluride Institute at Telluride, Colorado; in 2006, she and JL founded the Centre for the Future at Slavonice, Czech Republic.  [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1950 – Bruce Dane.  Attended L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; first President of the Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society; after Los Angeles and Phoenix, Colorado Springs.  A filker; at his death Bill Mills sang “Don’t Bury Me in the Cold Cold Ground” to which you could once and might still get access here [PDF]; the File 770 report is here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1951 Tress MacNeille, 69. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1947 Candy Clark, 73. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye, and The Blob in the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon because it’s not the Whedon Buffy. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1962 – David Clink.  As he says, poet, poker player, punster (e.g. “The Valet of the Shadow of Death”).  Fourteen dozen poems, e.g. in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology; four collections, recently The Role of Lightning in Evolution.  A poetry editor for Amazing.  His Website is here; it has his 2013 biography here.  [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1967 Nicole Kidman, 53. Batman Forever was her first foray into the genre but she has done a number of genre films down the years: Practical MagicThe Stepford WivesBewitched (I liked it), The Invasion (never heard of it), The Golden Compass (not nearly as good as the novel was), the splendid Paddington and her latest was as Queen Atlanna in the rather good Aquaman. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1968 Robert Rodriguez, 52. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1971 – Wu Ming-yi, Ph.D.  Professor of Chinese at Nat’l Dong Hwa University, Taiwan.  Two novels for us, The Man with the Compound Eyes and The Stolen Bicycle; six others, short stories, essays; known for nature writing, or as some would have it, ecological literature; translated into Czech, English, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Turkish.  Designed and illustrated his non-fiction Book of Lost Butterflies and The Dao of Butterflies.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • All glory is fleeting: Wondermark,”In which a Visitor proves a Nuisance, Part 2.”

(10) LIVE LONG. Gothamist ran this Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock image of Dr. Fauci street art on the Lower East Side. Andrew Porter adds, “Note The Pigeon of Truth on his shoulder!”

(11) MARTIAN HOP. The art students at Liverpool John Moores University couldn’t have their senior exhibits because of the pandemic. So they used NASA’s 3D Scans to hold a “Degree Show on Mars”.

The planet is currently broken. We are doing our degree show on Mars.

The trajectory of the LJMU Fine Art Degree show has been charted. We proceed at full-throttle and we are on schedule. This final journey into the unknown for our graduating students is not a pared back simulation of what might have been, it is a voyage that seeks to collectively establish new relevance and understanding for their individual endeavours, amid the stasis the world is currently experiencing. 

Artists respond to the world as they find it, they reflect it and help to build an understanding of what we are experiencing. The Degree Show on Mars is not simply showcasing the extraordinary originality and resilience of our graduating artists. It is a means by which we can document and understand the crisis through the eyes of artists who are emerging into a world very different to that which they had anticipated. 

(12) FACING UP. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova invites you to enjoy a gallery of homemade masks — “As an Antidote to Fear of Death, I Eat the Stars: Vintage Science Face Masks” – now licensed for sale.

A small, coruscating delight: I have made a series of face masks featuring wondrous centuries-old astronomical art and natural history illustrations I have restored and digitized from various archival sources over the years….

(13) ABOUT POE. At CrimeReads, Sarah Weinman asks “Can You Really Separate Edgar Allan Poe’s Work From His Life?” Weinman wrote the introduction for a reissue of Julian Symons’ Poe biography The Tell-Tale Heart, originally published in 1978, which has been out of print for decades.

…But the audacity of Symons’ project makes more than a bit of sense: because, he rightly argues in The Tell-Tale Heart, so much of what we think we know about Edgar Allan Poe is rooted in grudges, hearsay, rumor, and mystery, and of intuiting too much personal meaning from his successful, written-for-the-money mystery stories and from the poems that were closer to Poe’s heart and spirit.

(14) LAST AT BATS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Holy Bat-feuds! Revisiting the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding ‘Batman Forever’ 25 years later”, Ethan Alter argues that Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever “might arguably be worse” than Schumacher’s widely reviled Batman & Robin, and lists the many feuds surrounding the film, including Michael Keaton turning down $15 million to get in the bat-suit because the script for the film “sucked,” Val Kilmer regretting he replaced Keaton in the bat-suit, and villians Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey wanting to stick knives in each other.

…Schumacher and Kilmer were all smiles during the Batman Forever publicity tour, but it turns out that was just really good acting. Interviewed by Entertainment Weekly in 1996 — one year removed from the film’s release — the director described a tense on-set relationship that culminated in an actual pushing match. “He was being irrational and ballistic with the first AD, the cameraman, the costume people,” Schumacher said. “He was badly behaved, he was rude and inappropriate. I was forced to tell him that this would not be tolerated for one more second. Then we had two weeks where he did not speak to me, but it was bliss.” Speaking with Vulture in 2019, Schumacher was even more pointed: “I didn’t say Val [Kilmer] was difficult to work with on Batman Forever. I said he was psychotic.” 

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Neil Gaiman–Is Writing For Children Tougher Than Writing for Adults?” on YouTube is a 2013 video by Bloomsbury Publishing where Gaiman explains that when writing for children, he has to be more precise than writing for adults.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Arisia Succeeds in Raising Funds to Pay Hotel Cancellation Penalty Settlement

Arisia, Inc. announced during their 2020 convention last weekend that they  hit the $40K fundraising target to pay the hotel cancellation penalty settlement. The penalties were incurred when Arisia 2019 was moved from two strike-affected hotels they were planning to use.

Under the terms of the settlement agreements, the hotels waived a total of approximately $150,000 in cancellation fees and anticipated attrition charges, provided that Arisia makes a residual $44,486.23 payment by March 15, 2020.

The goal was met with the help of $20,000 in matching funds from anonymous sources.

Fundraising continues —

Thanks to many donations, we have met the need for $40,000 to take care of Arisia’s recent settlement of our Westin and Aloft cancellation fees. We are continuing to raise money to cover previously incurred legal expenses and settlements and to return Arisia to a financially stable position.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern for the story.]

Arisia 2020 Con Report: As Always, Festive And Fun

By Daniel Dern: Arisia 2020 was back again at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel from Friday, January 17 through Monday, January 20 — and, in the day-and-change I was there, it looked like, as always, lots of people were having lots of fun. (Including me.)

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

That’s a lot of people — but, when and where I was at the con, not so many as to create mosh-pit crowding or room over-filling (unlike at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon, for example).

Looking ahead, as of the Monday report, eighty-eight people have already pre-registered for Arisia 2021.

Guests of Honor (GoH) for Arisia 2020 were: Author GoH Cadwell Turnbull, Artist GoH Kristina Carroll, and Fan GoH Arthur Chu.

Before I actually talk about this year’s con — since I wasn’t there for much of it, and was busy doing or at sessions for at least one-third of the time I was there — here’s some general Arisia/con info, for any fan/con newcomers in the audience. Feel free to read or just skip over the next two subsections.

HOTEL BACK-STORY — SETTLEMENT COST FUNDRAISER A SUCCESS!  “Back again at the Westin,” because, as some may recall, at the near-last-minute, Arisia 2019 switched to the Boston Park Plaza (where it had been thirteen times previously). (Here’s backstory if you’re interested.

Good news! The fundraiser to cover settlement costs from this has reached its $40,000 goal as of Arisia 2020’s final afternoon, well in advance of the March 1 deadline to do so.

According to a tweet from the con, “We have raised $40.3k as of now. We are still taking donations and will be posting about stretch goals soon.”

WHAT’S ARISIA? (FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW OR HAVE LOST TRACK).  The greater Boston Area is home to three major annual science fiction & fantasy conventions: Arisia, in January; Boskone, in March; and ReaderCon, in July.

First held in 1990, Arisia is, in the con’s own words, “New England’s Largest, Most Diverse Sci-Fi & Fantasy Convention… Arisia is a convention for fans of science fiction and fantasy, in all forms of media.”

FIRST ARISIA/FIRST CON? READ UP AND LEARN. Many Arisians have been attending since the con’s founding — but equally, there’s many for whom this is their first Arisia or even first sf con. (“My First Arisia” badge ribbons were available. (Probably also “My First Con” ones, but I didn’t notice any.) These can be helpful conversation starters.

If it’s your first Arisia — particularly if you haven’t attended any science fiction conventions before — do your homework/research — ideally, before you register and make any trip reservations. This can help you maximize your fun, perhaps save some money, and be aware of Code of Conduct do’s and don’ts.

  • Read the basic con description. Does it sound like something you’d enjoy? (And/or find relevant professionally/business-wise?)
  • Read the First Time Arisia Attendees Guide.
  • Read the Code of Conduct (CoC) . This covers how you can and shouldn’t interact with fellow attendees — and they with you. Among other reasons, registering for the con includes ticking the box that says you have read and agreed to the CoC.
  • Read or at least skim the Arisia Survival Guide and Packing List — this is a longish document, and not all will be relevant to you, but it can’t hurt to learn/be reminded rather than learn the hard way.Also, keep in mind that Boston in mid-January may be sunny and only mildly chilly — or it may be freezing cold, with rain or snow — and access to the “T” (MBTA, Boston’s public transit) is an unshielded block-ish walk over a highway. Bring suitably warm/waterproof outer garments and footwear.

ARISIA: A CON WITH LOTS OF CHOICES OF STUFF TO DO. This is true of most cons (possibly all, but I haven’t been to all cons).

Things to do at Arisia range from program tracks like interviews, panels, and readings, to gaming — board, card, LARP (live-action roleplaying) and video;, craft and costuming workshops, filking, concerts and dances, and anime and videos.

This includes lots of fun stuff for kids of all ages.

Sunday evening, there’s the Masquerade, where you can see a wide range of costume and performance skills. (If you like looking at costumes and cosplay, even if you can’t make it to the Masquerade, you’ll see lots of amazing costumes simply strolling around the con — particularly in the hotel lobby.)

The Arisia Dealers Room always offers a mix of books, art, garb, gear, games, and accessories, along with teas, spices, chocolates and other sundries.

Arisia has an Art Show — with nearly a hundred artists this year. And while many of the displayed items are expensive or not-for-sale, there are always lots of originals and prints available in the $15-$30 range, which make great souvenirs and gifts!

You can also join the volunteer team — volunteer — it’s also a great way to meet people and make new friends). According to the con, “Arisia is a volunteer-run convention, from the bottom all the way up to the top. With a staff of over 200 people working pre-con and an at-con volunteer corps of over 500.”

You can donate blood, through the Blood Drive run by the Heinlein Society. This year’s resulted in at least 73 blood units donated to Mass General Hospital, and 37 to Children’s Hospital.

And you can simply hang out, to schmooze. Some fans go to little or no programming, instead chatting with old friends (or meeting new ones).

Like many — but not all — cons, Arisia includes focused areas and tracks for 19-and-unders, including a teen-run Teen Lounge space for ages 13-19, plus childcare tracks for various age groups.

If any of these apply to or include you, or pre-adults you are responsible for, be sure to read Arisia’s Family Friendly Guide.

DERN@ARISIA (FINALLY!)  Since I was only planning to be at Arisia on Saturday — and had sessions to do at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., with one panel I wanted to go to in between — I went in Friday afternoon to pick up my badge and my Press ribbon, including reading and signing the Photographers Contract. (There’s a separate contract for commercial photographers, but that doesn’t apply to what I’m doing.) The Participant Packets (schedule, “Program Participant” ribbon, “name tent,” helpful info, etc.) weren’t ready yet, but confirming the location of Program Ops for pickup is the important piece of this process.

It turns out my Friday badge run was a good idea; on Saturday, between getting a late-ish start from home, and sundry T hiccups, I got to the con an hour later than I’d planned… although still with enough time to zoom through the Dealers Room and the Art Show. And have brief chats with friends.

And I began taking pictures, using a mix of my phone and DSLR camera:

Daniel Dern

A Few Free Books: There was (only) a short pile on the table just outside the Dealers Room (on Friday, before the room opened), but I found one to adopt: The Warrior’s Apprentice, Lois McMaster Bujold’s third book in her Vorkosigan Saga. While I’ve read some MILSF over the years (here’s a rec for Marko Kloos’ latest, Aftershocks), and was very aware of Bujold and the Miles V books (hard to miss if you’re looking at the NESFA table at Boskone, for example), I had for no clear or good reason avoided them. Convenience and price — it was there.

Having finished the book before the weekend was out (it’s short, and I had three T trips of reading time, but there was a con to be busy at), I’ve library-reserved books one, two, and four, for a start. (I’ll interleave them with Adam Halls’ very non-sf Quiller Cold War spy novels.) Question for fellow Filers: do books that are on our To-Be-Read list, but, whether as library transients or as e-books (or both), count in Mount To-Be-Read? Either way, is there a categorical way to refer to these? Discuss.

My “Program Participant” ribbon was for doing two sessions in FastTrack: my magic show (with a mixed bag of age-appropriate tricks, props and jokes), and reading some of my Dern Grim Bedtime Tales (Few Of Which End Well), which are flash-length. We all had fun, and I got to use some new magic paraphernalia, including a different type of Chameleon bag, and “jumbo” versions of the Rising Card deck and Zig-Zag Card. I always have fun.

As you can probably guess from the photos that Mike posted, two of my favorite to-do’s at Arisia are strolling the Dealers Room — I bought a dinosaur tie — I’ve already got one, but this has slightly larger-sized dinos — and admiring hall costumes — and taking pictures of both. It’s also a chance to bring along my larger cameras and accessories (flash, and bounce card)… and to practice and improve my skills.

I only had time to get to one program event; unsurprisingly, I went to “Photographing Respectively,” a panel of five photo pro’s discussing the various concerns, challenges, and advice for photographing people out-of-studio — at events and in public. Instructive!

If it hadn’t been on Sunday, I would have gone to the “Fighting with Swords!” workshop given by Cambridge Historical European Martial Arts Studies Group. (I did the broadswords one a few years back, either at an Arisia or Boskone.)

And that was my Arisia 2020 — shorter than I’d preferred, but I did everything I needed to (filing this report to OGH is my final deliverable), so now, I’m looking forward to Boskone, where I’m doing a reading, a panel, a DragonsLair magic show, and a LEARN MAGIC intro talk (which I first did at SmofCon, when they created it as a program item, as I learned on arrival). And no doubt taking more pictures.

More Photos of Arisia 2020

Photos by Daniel Dern:

Costumes: Three with Shield

(L) Skyevean. (M)? (R) Zornhau

Costumes: At Ease

(L) Capt. Hentchel, (R) Captain Ironborn

Costumes: Sad Flower Hatters

Jana Beagley, Twistpeach, Nightmare Vermont

Costumes: Hats with Horns

More Costumes

Dealers

Service Dog — Neelix

Fan Tables

Daniel Dern — Your Photographer

Arisia 2020: Friday

Photos by Daniel Dern: Taken at Arisia 2020 in Boston, MA on January 17.

Arisia Setup

Convention Publications

Clear Aether Newzine Logos and Drop-boxes

Hall Costumes

Villianamous, Fairieprincen
Villianamous, Glassarow Cosplay, Fairieprincen

C.A.P.E. – Cosplay and Photography Expo

Dragon and Rider

Kylie Selkirk

Pooch

Klingon Assault Group fan table