Never Mind The News – File 770’s Best Feature Articles of 2021

Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!

FEATURES

David DoeringMost Remote SF Bookstore in the World?

Meet “Book Island” in the town of Saint Denis on Reunion Island—a small speck in the vast Indian Ocean

Pierre E. Pettinger, Jr.Never Too Late To Start: Guest Post by Pierre E. Pettinger Jr.

… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.

John HertzAt the Height of His –

… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?”  He said “No.  But my characters do.”  As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”

JJ2020 Novellapalooza

… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …

Patty WellsLearn About SAFF, the Space Agency Fan Fund

… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests. 

JJWhere To Find The 2020 Nebula Finalists For Free Online

To help propel you into your awards season reading, here are links to excerpts or complete works from the 2020 Nebula Award finalists.

John HertzGood Names for Bad Guys

 During 1937-1956 a radio program called “The Answer Man” was broadcast over the Mutual Broadcasting System….  

Wolf von WittingInexplicable Phenomena and How To Approach Them

… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.

His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….

A Multitude of FilersOpening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic — By Filers

Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.

–Nina Shepardson

Brendan DuBoisIn Happy Pursuit of Jeopardy!

… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios.   Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each.  To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations. 

There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.

But how did I get here?

John HertzAnother Well-Titled Book

Glorious, the Greg Benford – Larry Niven novel appearing last year, is one of the more ambitious SF stories.  

Rich LynchRocket Boy

… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble.  Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while.  It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house.  And then it was gone from sight.  I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…

IphinomeFour Reviews by Iphinome

Reading. That’s what I do, I read and I snark things.

IphinomeIphinome Reviews Novik’s A Deadly Education

El (Galadriel) is pissed off. Her classmate Orion just rescued her for the second time –needlessly. She’s capable, more than capable, El’s powerful – El, power, get it? Get it?…

Lyrics by Aydrea Walden and Jocelyn Scofield“All Because of You” Lyrics from the Nebula Awards Ceremony

But then I had a spark, a realization
While floating here all by myself
I’m actually in the best of company
Because you’re on my shelf

Mark L. BlackmanDeath and Doom (and Cats) at the KGB Bar with Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin

On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)

This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….

Mike GlyerSmell Like A Superhero

Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.

Sara FelixWhy I Work on Worldcon: Guest Post by Sara Felix

There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”

And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show.  Working on Dublin was like that for me as well.  I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”

But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…

Cat EldridgeLeague of Extraordinary Gentlemen Film Anniversary: Celebrate or Not?

… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”

Martin Morse WoosterSpace Jam: A New Legacy – A Review

Space Jam:  A New Legacy is a fun-free synthetic entertainment substitute.  Its many writers (six are credited) created a screenplay from artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and gas….  

Mark L. BlackmanTwo Too-Near Futures from Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress

… Datlow asked Robinson, “How can you be so optimistic?” He replied that his mother was; she felt that it was our duty to be optimistic and to help people….

Mike GlyerLe Guin Stamp Issued Today

The Ursula K. Le Guin commemorative Forever stamp was officially unveiled today during a ceremony at the Portland (OR) Art Museum.

Steve VertliebCelebrating The Wonderful Nehemiah Persoff At 102

… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….

Melanie StormmEmails From Lake Woe-Is-Me: Links To Every Installment

Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.

Robin A. ReidWriting Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….

Brian Z.A Modest Proposal for the Very Retro Hugo for Genre-Related Work

The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….

Sultana RazaHergé’s Multi-Layered Worlds

… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….

Robert RepinoConsequences as an Engine of Storytelling: A Guest Post by Robert Repino

…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…

Mike GlyerHallmark Rolls Out 2021 Ornaments

Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.

If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….

Craig MillerPreview of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

In, I believe, 1927, the Academy of Motion Pictures was founded.

In 1929, they decided there should be a museum of motion picture history and memorabilia.

In three days, a little shy of a hundred years later, the Academy Museum will open to the public….

Martin Morse WoosterReview: Museum of the Bible

Continuing my reports on museums that might be of interest to Filers coming to Washington for DisCon III, I offer a report on the Museum of the Bible, which I visited recently.  (I had a Groupon!)…

Glenn HaumanOh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

The Dr. Seuss Enterprises lawsuit against us is finally over….

Esther MacCallum-StewartCOP26 and Glasgow in 2024

… COP26 has produced an enormous impact on Glasgow….

Sultana RazaFan or Spy?

… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few…. 

Mike GlyerShould the Best Series Hugo Category Be Kept?

The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?

Shana WorthenTwas the Night Before DisCon III

Then down the long hall there arose so much chat,
that I sprang from my chair to see what was that?
Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng
as the loud murmuration came strolling along.

Colin HarrisThe World in Worldcon

… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.

I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….

Sultana Raza (and others)International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….

Mike GlyerThe Twenty Percent Solution: A Self-Published Science Fiction Competition Judge’s Upvotes

… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….

TRIGGER SNOWFLAKE

The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Election

… Trigger put his cup down, as he saw Coraline wave a paper in the air.

“Trigger!” she said, “Look at this! Look who’s standing for president!”

IngvarTrigger Snowflake and the Dessert

A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”

“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”

“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Grand Reopening

“Sheriff! Sheriff! Have you heard?”

“No, Ms Dimatis, I don’t believe I have?”

“The Bistro has re-opened!”

“Bistro Futuristo?”

INTERVIEWS

Brandon Sanderson WFC 2020 Interview Highlights – Conducted by David Doering

Far Sector Round Table with N.K. Jemisin – Conducted by James Bacon and others

CHRIS BARKLEY

ConStellation Hat. Photo by Craig Glassner/Pinterest/Hat of the Day

… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….

… Before I reveal my BDP Hugo Nomination Ballot choices, let’s contemplate these ten outstanding films from 2020…

So forget about what the naysayers are saying; Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a big, exciting, sprawling, violent, intense, profane, beautiful and ultimately moving film.

DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office

CONVENTION REPORTS

Commemorative button.

CHRIS BARKLEY’S DISCON III REPORTS

Ride along with Chris at this year’s Worldcon, everywhere from major events to favorite restaurants.

JAMES BACON

In addition to reviewing comics and graphic novels, James used his camera and descriptive abilities to take us along on visits to all kinds of fascinating exhibits and pop culture events.

CATS SLEEP ON SFF

OBITUARIES

[date of publication]

A Modest Proposal for the Very Retro Hugo for Genre-Related Work

Hugo Gernsback demonstrating his television goggles in 1963 for Life magazine

By Brian Z: The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Here’s my draft ballot:

1000 years

  • Beowulf (poem)

2000 years

  • The Antikythera Mechanism (computer model of the solar system)

3000 years

  • The Odyssey (poem)

4000 years

Tie between:

Inscriptions that quote the Book of Two Ways

10,000 years

The Chhattisgarh UFOs (sci fi cave art)

20,000 years

Atlantis (sunken city, which the Administrator can’t prove DOESN’T exist)

30,000 years

The Lascaux Dead Bird-Headed Man (fantasy cave art)

40,000 years

Lion-man of the Hohlenstein-Stadel (flint-carved zoomorph)

We could post a Google Doc to add suggestions as the contest (hopefully) approaches.

X-Files Hate Roundup

Did you hate the X-Files revival, or love it? Brian Z. produced this roundup of critics’ negative responses to help jumpstart discussion.

The Original X-Files Pilot Perfectly Explains Why the Reboot Fails – Slate

We wanted to believe the revival of The X-Files would be a return to form, but after last night’s inaugural episode, our hope quickly faded. From the opening monologue, a seriously confusing snooze-fest, to the arbitrary new conspiracy theory, the episode veers off track early and never recovers.

To understand where it goes wrong, watch the video above, which goes back to the masterful original pilot of The X-Files to show how creator Chris Carter and his writers have forgotten what made the show work in the first place.

weird, but not in a good way – The Guardian

“You can’t say these things,” Scully tells Mulder after his epiphany (by the way: Anderson is great here, even without this monologue to endear her to the embrained members of the audience). “It’s fearmongering claptrap isolationist techno-paranoia so bogus and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason. Saying these things would be irresponsible.”

I have another reason Mulder, and people who think the dumb things Mulder thinks, should stay silent: equating news reports of government surveillance (which is real) with the theory that the Trilateral Commission secretly orchestrated 9/11 (which is not real) makes it harder for people who want to stop things like the expansion of the former to be taken seriously.

‘I want to believe’Hollywood Reporter

After more than a few heavy-handed scenes that would otherwise seem like parody, there’s a moment in the first hour when — after an “oh-don’t-do-that” rant by Mulder about what’s really happening under their noses — Scully says something that serves as both descriptor and indictment of revisiting the series: “It’s fear-mongering, clap-trap, isolationist, techno-paranoia so bogus and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason.”

Yes, what she said.

 I Wanted To Believe, But… – Yahoo!

The fault in the new X-Files is in some part our own fault. After all, Carter might not have executed his wish to get the old band back together for a reunion tour if there wasn’t an audience perennially agitating for it. This aspect of Nostalgia Culture — the one that is inspiring the returns of everything from Full House to Twin Peaks to Gilmore Girls — is both understandable and regrettable.

If ‘The X-Files’ Sticks Around, It Has To Abandon Its Bloated Mythology – Forbes

Now the story goes that aliens grew concerned for humanity’s survival when we started toying with nukes, but we in turn killed their emissary at Roswell in 1947 and stole their technology to further fuel a shadow government’s takeover of America, and then the planet. That’s just…well ok, that’s something I think is borderline plausible given the evils and atrocities on display by humankind lately. But I digress.

‘My Struggle’ Doesn’t Encourage Our Faith Or Trust – Indiewire

Behold Mulder, a man of the year 2016, which we know because apparently he’s learned how to use Uber. (This is something I honestly find a little hard to believe. Any man driven to investigate conspiracies on Mulder’s level ought to at least be a little familiar with that company’s shady underpinnings.)

Everything Is Wrong (PHOTO RECAP) – tv.com

But yeah, levitating invisible spaceships built by humans. It was like we were in a Syfy miniseries suddenly! Anyway, Mulder honestly looked like he’d rather stretch out on a futon than think about aliens for another second.

Every Episode of The X-Files, Ranked From Worst to Best

That said, it’s best to be forewarned that while the post-Mulder episodes of the series aren’t spectacular pieces of television, I find season eight incredibly underrated (and miles better than season seven, where David Duchovny seems as bored as all of us were at that point), and I actually like not only John Doggett, but Monica Reyes, too. Please don’t stop reading.

SF Goes Global in the Year of the Monkey

By Brian Z. Liu Cixin’s 2015 Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel was listed today as one of China’s top ten cultural events of 2015 by Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China.

The rocket-shaped trophy shared space on the state news agency’s top ten list with the Chinese film industry, which earned praise for a record 2015 box office of $6.8 billion, making China the world’s second largest film market. By the end of 2017, the Los Angeles Times reports, China is expected to surpass North America as the largest movie market in the world.

The first day of the Year of the Monkey (February 8, 2016) will see an unprecedented number of Chinese genre blockbuster releases, including “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny” (trailer – US release on February 26), Stephen Chow’s fantasy comedy “The Mermaid (trailer), and “The Monkey King 2” (trailer), a fantasy film inspired by the Ming Dynasty novel Journey to the West. “Kung Fu Panda 3” (trailer), co-produced by Dreamworks and China Film Co., opens in both China and the United States a week before the holiday (January 29).

This first day of the Lunar New Year will also see the release of China’s first English-language sci-fi action flick, “Lost in the Pacific (trailer), written (together with Peter Cameron) and directed by Vincent Zhou. Starring erstwhile Superman Brandon Routh and Zhang Yuqi, who also stars in “The Mermaid,” the film is set in the year 2020 and tells the story of passengers on an inaugural luxury transoceanic flight who meet with an unspeakable terror. Later in 2016, China Film Co. has announced, comes another sci-fi thriller, “The Arctic,” about humans under attacks from mysterious creatures.

“The Three-Body Problem,” aka “3Body in 3D,” is expected in July. December will bring director Zhang Yimou’s science fantasy adventure “The Great Wall,” starring Matt Damon, Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau, Pedro PascalWillem Dafoe, and many more. Set a thousand years in the past and shot on location in Qingdao in northeastern China, it is, at a reported $135-150 million, China’s most expensive film to date.

“The Great Wall” is a product of Legendary Entertainment’s partnership with China Film Co. Earlier this month, Variety reported that entertainment and real estate giant Dalian Wanda Group Co., owned by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, was in talks to buy a significant minority stake in Legendary. Wanda owns Wanda Cinemas, bought the US AMC Entertainment in 2012, and is building China’s largest studio complex in Qingdao. Last year, Japanese SoftBank Corp. also said it is investing an initial $250 million in a minority stake in Legendary.

Zhang Yimou said at a press conference in July that although “The Great Wall” is fantasy, his film is still about Chinese culture.

“China doesn’t have many stories about fighting against monsters. This time I will do it with Chinese cultural messages and make it outstanding and unique, and allow the whole world to experience China and its culture,” Zhang said.

“But the biggest pressure for me is to make it understandable for everyone, not just Chinese audiences, but young people all over the world.”

Liu Cixin, First Financial reported today, feels less than optimistic about the success of Chinese science fiction as literature, at least in the near term. “Few writers, a small number of works, little influence, in 2016 there will not be any change,” he said.

But Liu Cixin sees 2016 as the first year of the Chinese science fiction movie. With the concurrent release of so many SF films after so many years of preparation, he believes, the success or failure of films like 3Body will either allow the trend to continue or bring it to a screeching halt.

Liu Cixin expects to spend 2017 working on adapting the rest of his trilogy, Remembrance of Earth’s Past. Rights have been sold for other works by Liu Cixin, “The Era of Supernova,” “The Wandering Earth,” “The Micro-Age,” “The Rural Teacher” and “Of Ants and Dinosaurs,” and the first two are said by China Film Co. to be in the pipeline. However, the author is not sure at what level he will participate in those projects. The public and market attention can be a blessing and a curse, he says, “which has to be properly handled, to give yourself time and energy for creation.”

Over the past five years, film options for science fiction stories have gone from as low as ¥30-50,000 ($4,600-7,700) to over ¥1,000,000 ($153,500) – and Liu Cixin notes this trend may continue in 2016.

According to Global Times, the industry research institute Entgroup has listed Remembrance of Earth’s Past as the most valuable IP out of all traditional publications in China. But Liu Cixin’s goal, he told China Youth Daily, is to inspire young people to enter the field of aerospace. “Liu Cixin is already China’s Clarke and Asimov,” that paper concurred, “but China still needs the appearance of its own Elon Musk.”

Chinese SF News Roundup

3 body poster

By Brian Z. SF author and historian Andrew Liptak’s informative review essay, “Narratives of Modernization: China’s History of Science Fiction” is up at Barnes & Noble. Liptak places Chinese SF in its historical context and showcases some important works available in English, including Lao She’s 1930s interplanetary social satire, Cat Country, Cixin Liu’s short fiction collection, The Wandering Earth, and Chan Koonchun’s banned political allegory, The Fat Years.

On Saturday, August 22nd, 2015, author Ken Liu stepped up to the podium at Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, to accept the Hugo Award for Best Novel on behalf of Liu Cixin, author of The Three-Body Problem. It was a historic moment: Liu Cixin’s novel was the first translated novel to ever win the award, one of the highest honors in SF/F fandom.

Precipitating this moment is a long history of science fiction in China. The genre enjoys its own vibrant tradition of speculative works, developed over the past century. Liu Cixin’s award comes at an interesting time for China: the Asian nation has become a major player in the world economy, and as it grows, its authors and culture are reaching new, global audiences, introducing the western genre culture to new worlds of ideas and stories.

In related news, Cixin Liu fans might be interested in seeing two-meter high, three-meter wide model of Red Coast Base from the upcoming movie “Three Body” (July 2016), first unveiled at the Chinese Nebula Awards on October 18. Photos, not terribly well lit, have been posted on various websites (some accompany an article translated to English, “’Red Bank base’ debut tour family Nebula award Pictures called ‘three body’ will exceed expectations”, at Sunning View), and the Red Coast Base design sketch turned up on Facebook.

Red Base

Just ahead of Chinese Nebula Weekend there had come news about the construction of China’s 500 meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, prompting twitter users to ask: Red Coast Base?

“China enters the search for alien life with the construction of the world’s biggest radio telescope” at the Independent.

Chinese scientists are constructing the world’s biggest radio telescope, which will be more effective than any other at picking up weak messages from outer space that could be linked to intelligent life.

Assembly of the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, began in July and is expected to be completed in 2016.

 

A CCTV news report from a while back included some interesting footage of the filming of “Three Body,” the actors and the special effects team, and some comments from Cixin Liu. Chinese only, but fun to look at.

Pixel Scroll 10/18 Psycho Filer

(1) 2015 Canadian Unity Fan Fund winner Paul Carreau is a council member of the Federation of Beer. Their latest officially-licensed Star Trek brew is Vulcan Ale.

Federation of Beer announces that Shmaltz Brewing Company of Clifton Park, NY is brewing a new Star Trek-themed beer called Vulcan Ale – The Genesis Effect, that will be made available on Planet Earth in early October. Under license by CBS Consumer Products, Vulcan Ale – The Genesis Effect will pay homage to the Star Trek franchise and its legacy, tying into the storyline of The Wrath of Khan as well as Shmaltz’s own brand of He’brew craft beers.

 

Vulcan Ale

(2) Camestros Felapton uses photographic evidence to set the record straight in “Tentacled Victorians”.

Rumors that Queen Victoria herself was a squid monster where unfounded. Photographic evidence shows she was an octopus-monster not a squid monster.

(3) Amazon has filed suit against 1,114 fake reviewers who “sell fabricated comments to companies seeking to improve the appeal of their products,” according to the BBC. The lawsuit was filed Friday in Seattle.

The defendants, termed “John Does,” have offered their false review service for as little as $5 on the website Fiverr.com, according to Amazon. The sellers were avoiding getting caught by using different accounts from unique IP addresses.

However, Amazon was able to identify the fake reviewers by conducting an investigation and purchasing some of the fake reviews. Amazon is also working with Fiverr to resolve the issue.

“While small in number, these reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufactures place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon’s brand,” Amazon said in its complaint.

Vox Day suggests “More than a few SJWs should be shaking in their shoes” because – why wouldn’t he?

(4) Bri Lopez Donovan reports on the latest conrunners’ convention in “JOFCon 2015 Helps Build the Convention Community” on Twin Cities Geek.

I was fortunate to be a part of the “Disability Access” panel, which was actually more about accessibility in general rather than disability access in particular. I and my fellow panelists, Amanda Tempel and Rachel Kronick, started with brief self-introductions before jumping into the discussion by talking about some pitfalls and how they’ve been addressed in various conventions. One of the problems we talked about was the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms at CONvergence. Amanda mentioned how it had been a problem and a point of discussion for years, and how member engagement really pushed the initiative to create bathrooms that were accessible to those outside of the gender binary. The solution she spoke of was convention runners working with their venues to relabel or re-allocate resources, in this case to relabel the gendered bathrooms of a hotel to make them gender neutral for the duration of the convention.

Another issue tackled was the vetting of panelists. Audience members of this panel brought up the lack of diversity on panels that were covering topics of diversity—for example, no people of color on a panel about race in sci fi, or no folks with autism on a panel about spectrum disorders within geek media. Audience members and panels brainstormed various ways to address this, including vetting panelists by asking why they are interested in being on a particular panel and assessing their answers for issues that could arise.

(5) Kevin Trainor asks “SF Won The Culture Wars A Long Time Ago. Isn’t It Time Fandom Started Acting Like It? on Wombat Rampant.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Is a trend becoming apparent to you? Here, let’s add another ingredient to this mulligan stew. In 1997, while I and my wife at the time were mostly busy trying to raise our kids, the regional SF convention in Minneapolis, Minicon, was in crisis. Attendance had ballooned to over three thousand people, staff turnover and burnout were epidemic, and the fan club nominally responsible for running Minicon, MNSTF, had no real idea whether the con was making money, losing money, or investing it in beaver hat futures on the Medicine Hat Commodities Exchange. The MNSTF Board of Directors, wakened from their dogmatic slumber by all the hooting, hollering, carrying-on, shrieks of horror, and assorted gibbering, actually paid serious attention to various proposals regarding the upcoming Minicon. One proposal, advanced by Minicon veteran Victor Raymond, was to split the baby: have one Minicon dedicated to traditional SF fandom, and another at a different time which would be more of a Gathering of the Clans, a three-ring circus and big ol’ party for media fans, anime fans, BDSM folk, and the other subcultures drawn to SF fandom, where being different wasn’t automatically considered bad. Another proposal, which was the one MNSTF wound up going with, was called the High Resolution Minicon Proposal, and whatever its authors’ original intentions, it was seen by most of Upper Midwest fandom as “Thanks for all the time and money you’ve sunk into Minicon over the years, you fringefans, but we’re tired of you now, and you need to fuck right off.” What became immediately apparent was that the vast majority of Minicon’s attendance and staff had in fact been made up of those “fringefans” for quite some time, and in the years following the implementation of the HRMP, Minicon’s attendance imploded to a low of about 400 people. Meanwhile, those fans who felt snubbed by the HRMP organized three other conventions: Marscon, more focused on media and gaming but still mainly an SF convention; Convergence, essentially Minicon 2.0; and Diversicon, which was ironically even more focused on traditional SF & fantasy but had split from Minicon over the issues of a “dry” consuite and open staff meetings, which Minicon had rejected. So in the end, what Victor had campaigned for happened anyway, but instead of successfully managing the change and remaining the preeminent SF club in the upper Midwest, MNSTF dropped the ball and dwindled into obscurity, which their graying membership seems quite happy with. The same thing, with minor variations, also happened at Boskone and Disclave and other regional conventions, so i think it’s reasonable to draw a few conclusions about SF fandom in general from these examples.

Let’s fast forward a few years. By now, everyone is familiar with the Sad Puppies story: Larry Correia noticed a drop in Worldcon attendance correlating with an increase in Hugo Awards to works of SF that weren’t terribly successful in the marketplace, but were written by the Right People and tended to have the Right Characters expressing the Right Views. Over the next two years, he tested the hypothesis, encouraging his readers and friends to join Worldcon and vote. Membership numbers at Worldcon increased, votes for the Hugo increased, and in the third year of Sad Puppies, when massive numbers of people bought supporting memberships and nominated works by John Wright, Tom Kratman, Michael Williamson, and other authors considered “badthinkers” by defenders of the existing order – the same people, mind you, who had encouraged Larry to go out and get more people to join Worldcon if he felt it wasn’t sufficiently reflective of the SF market- the backlash from people such as Patrick and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, John Scalzi, David Gerrold, and various unhousebroken employees of Tor Books was vitriolic. The Sad Puppies (and their co-belligerents, the Rabid Puppies led by Vox Day) were libeled as racists, homophobes, neo-Nazis, misogynists and pretty much every politically correct insult in the book. In the end, despite the Puppy Kickers’ hypocritical preaching against the evils of “slate voting”, a bloc of 2500 voters chose “No Award” over any work nominated from the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies list – a list, mind you, that SP3 leader Brad Torgersen had not delivered from on high, but instead crowdsourced from anyone who wanted to suggest works worth nominating. Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies list was almost identical to the SP list, but as far as anyone knows, it was a list he chose and distributed to the Dread Ilk. This massive “No Award” result, which doubled the number of such from the last ten years, was loudly cheered and celebrated by those in attendance at the Hugo Award banquet; this cheering was encouraged by MC David Gerrold, while thousands of fans around the world were subjected to this display of vile behavior thanks to the Internet.

(6) Meantime, Kevin J. Maroney has his say, “Once More Around the Sun”, at New York Review of Science Fiction.

As I’m sure you know by now if you have even the faintest scintilla in the Hugo Awards, the “No Awards for Slates” option won out in this year’s Hugo final voting. This is the approach I advocated in my previous editorials, excluding the Puppy finalists not on grounds of quality or lack thereof, nor on the politics or personal foibles of the people running either of the Puppy slates. This was entirely a vote against the underhanded tactics that resulted in those finalists reaching the ballot. (The kindest thing that can be said about slate voting in this type of open-ended popular vote is that it is “technically not cheating.” That’s not a kind thing to say at all.) The people who were dragged onto the Puppy ballots without being consulted can be assured that this vote absolutely was not a personal rejection of you but of an unacceptable process.

There are larger issues involved in the Puppy movement that I don’t feel the need to rehash right now, issues of culture war, of reader communities and their protocols, of the powers and perils of our deeply interconnected communications. But at its core, the Puppy fight was about a group of people deciding to “not technically” cheat their way into an award and they were rebuffed, and that much, at least, is good. The Puppies will be back next year. It’s not particularly clear what they hope to accomplish in a fourth bite at the apple they claim is poisoned, but it will certainly be something.

(7) Today in History:

Moby Dick script dustjacket

October 18, 1851Moby-Dick by Herman Melville was published. Much later, Ray Bradbury turned it into a script for John Huston.

October 18, 1976 — Burnt Offerings, from Dark Shadows‘ Dan Curtis, opens in theaters.

(8) The Superheroes in Gotham exhibit at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library will be open through February 21, 2016.

Superheroes in Gotham

Superheroes in Gotham will tell the story of the birth of comic book superheroes in New York City; the leap of comic book superheroes from the page into radio, television, and film; the role of fandom, including the yearly mega event known as New York Comic Con; and the ways in which comic book superheroes, created in the late 1930s through the 1960s, have inspired and influenced the work of contemporary comic book artists, cartoonists, and painters in New York City.

Michael Powell reviews the exhibit for the New York Times.

The curators found in a private collection the Pow! Bam! Wham! Pop Art-era Batmobile and put it in the lobby. They mounted the Penguin’s umbrella and Catwoman’s hot unitard upstairs, along with Action Comics No. 1 (the first appearance of Superman) and art originals of the singular Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man.

The exhibition focuses on comic book founding fathers. They were predominantly Jewish kids — with a few Italians and the occasional wayward Protestant mixed in — from the Bronx, the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. And in the 1930s and ’40s, they created a world.

Bob Kane (born Robert Kahn), a creator of Batman, and Will Eisner, a son of Jewish immigrants and the creator of the Spirit, attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, as did the wisenheimer bard Stan Lee (born Stanley Lieber), who created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk and many more.

(9) Christopher Lloyd told The Hollywood Reporter he’d be glad to do Back to the Future: Part IV if somebody reunited the whole gang. “Doc” also says he’d like to toss out the first pitch if the Chicago Cubs get to the 2015 World Series, as predicted in Back to the Future: Part II.

(10) Book trailers by SFWA Members are collected here on YouTube.

(11) Brian Z. lays that pistol down in a comment on File 770.

Meet me in the thread, pixel, pixel
Puppies all around, pooping, pooping
Tear those puppies down, scrolling, scrolling
Droppings in the ground where flowers grow
Old familiar whine
Shiny happy pixel-scrolling fans
Shiny happy pixel-scrolling fans
Shiny happy people laughing
Filers all around, love them, love them
Never make amends, dish it, dish it
There’s still time to cry, crappy, crappy
Save an unkind word for tomorrow’s whine
Old familiar whine
Shiny happy pixel-scrolling fans…

(12) J-Grizz scores one for the home team.

Pixel pixel little scrolls
God Stalk! Brackets, maybe trolls
Reading comprehension’s bad
Perhaps that’s why they are so sad
Pixel pixel little scroll
Filking’s just the way we roll

(13) Yipes.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

 

To Sail Beyond the Doghouse 5/19

aka Chronicle of a Slate Foretold

Hitched to the sled today are Spacefaring Kitten, David Gerrold, Vox Day, Jim Henley, John C. Wright, Jim C. Hines, Lis Carey, Martin Wisse, Chris Gerrib, Joe Sherry, Rebekah Golden, Bob Snyder, and the masterpiece of Brian Z. (Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Rev. Bob and Kary English.)

Spacefaring Kitten on Spacefaring, Extradimensional Kittens

Unfisk / refisk / fisk² – May 19

All I know about smoking ruins is that if that’s to happen, Elric the Prince of Ruins will be pleased. Frankly, I don’t think that anything is truly lost in either case. A Puppy-sponsored work getting a Hugo is not the end of the world and there have been weak winners in the past (and maybe all Puppy-nominated works aren’t that weak). No Award winning means that the majority of the Worldcon voters didn’t enjoy the works on the Rabid Puppies slate (plus the two or three additions that Sad Puppies managed to get up there on their own) and/or they weren’t ready to give in to a campaign of tactical voting, and that’s fine too.

I wonder who are the “CHORFs” Brad’s talking about there. Kevin J. Maroney hasn’t been suggesting that you should vote No Award over everything, slate or not. Neither has Teresa Nielsen Hayden, or Steve Davidson, or Anita Sarkeesian, or John Scalzi, or Karl Marx, or Barack Obama. I’ve been following the discussion rather closely and I remember reading one single blog post in which someone said that the voters should do a blanket No Award thing, and I think nobody was very keen on the idea.

Brad, is it possible that you’re exaggerating?

 

David Gerrold on Facebook – May 18

Coming back to a comment someone made here about “threats of ostracism” — no.

In all the articles I’ve seen, nobody has said, “We’re going to shun X, Y, and Z.”

Because … nobody in fandom has the power to lock anyone out.

But what is possible is that people will choose on their own not to associate with those who they perceive as toxic.

It’s not even an organized boycott. It’s just a personal reaction.

An example from the 70s: There was a C-list author whose behavior toward women was so creepy that when he entered a room, several of the women would quietly and discreetly excuse themselves and leave. He was never specifically ostracized — but individuals were choosing to spend their time elsewhere. That’s the most you’ll ever see in fandom.

And here’s how that works on the larger level:

There are opportunities that are occasionally offered to authors. You get invited to speak, you get handed an award, you get to be a Guest of Honor, sometimes you even get a lifetime achievement plaque. All very nice. But if you have a reputation for being hard to work with, and there are a lot of authors and artists who have that reputation — or if you’re the center of a major controversy, one that you created yourself — the organizers of those opportunities are going to look elsewhere for honorees.

 

Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“King Log or King Stork?” – May 19

The moment that the SJWs in the science fiction community decided they could exclude individuals from it (and whether the SFWA expulsion was technically real or not is irrelevant in this regard), that meant the open community concept was dead. The principle was established. Now we can exclude Eskimos, people with big noses, people with little noses, people who look funny, or people who smell bad; in short, we can openly exclude anyone we have the power and the desire to exclude. There is no longer free speech in science fiction.

There is no longer freedom of expression or thought. It is now a simple ideological power game and we are ready to play that game with extreme prejudice. There is no need for discourse. There is no need for dialogue, for compromise, or negotiations. There is nothing to discuss. They laid out the new rules.

They laid out the new consensus. We not only accept them, we’re going to use make far more ruthless use of them than they ever imagined. Once we were content to let the twisted little moral freaks do and think and say what they wanted, but now they have claimed the right to tell US what to do and think and say we’re not going to tolerate them anymore. We are the sons of the Crusades and the daughters of the Inquisitions. This is a game we know how to win.

 

Jim Henley on Unqualified Offerings

“The Puppies of This Generation and the Trainers of Ever Afterwards” – May 19

What occasioned considerable jocularity in comments was Wright’s statement that

For the record, I write literary fiction…

People laughed at this because many of them have read Wright’s stories and/or essays and found them to be bad. But I have no problem with Wright’s claim whatsoever. Not because I think his stories and essays are actually good. I haven’t read them. People who seem to be acute readers have found his Hugo-nominated work wanting or worse, but even if, as I suspect, they’ve got it right, I still have no problem with Wright calling his own work “literary fiction.”

 

John C. Wright in a comment on File 770 – May 19

I notice this debate consists of two points, endlessly repeated: We say that for which we stand, what our goals and methods and motives are, publicly and repeatedly. The enemy pretends we said something else and that are motives are whatever impure and horrible impulse happens to be at hand. We state that we said what we said and that our motives are what we said. The enemy pretends we did not say it. And repeat.

Now, just as a matter of logic, who has access to knowledge about our inner secret motives? How did we communicate our goals to each other and to our voters aside from public statements of our goals?

 

 

Jim C. Hines

“Hugo Thoughts: Short Fiction” – May 19

No Award will be scoring pretty high in this category. That doesn’t mean I think all of the stories are bad. (Though I don’t think they’re all good, either.) But it’s one thing for a story to be competent or interesting or fun. It’s another thing for that story to be award-worthy, for me to consider it one of the best things published in the past year. Four of these stories don’t clear that bar for me, and the fifth I’ll have to think about a little more.

 

Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library

“The Plural of Helen of Troy (from the collection City Beyond Time), by John C. Wright” – May 19

There’s a plot here, but time travel can make even a simple plot complicated, and Wright has no interest in people following the story. The nonlinear storytelling was a “feature” I didn’t need in a story where I already had difficulty caring what happened to the characters.

 

Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library

“Pale Realms of Shade (in The Book of Feasts & Seasons), by John C. Wright” – May 20

Based on reading all the other Wright fiction nominees, I kept waiting for this to go bad places. It didn’t. It’s a solid story that, given it is explicitly religious fiction, expresses beliefs and values that have a strong and positive resonance for me. It won’t work for other people for the very reasons it does work for me, and it’s not so good that it blows me away, but this is the first of the Puppy nominees whose placement on my ballot I will have to think seriously about.

 

Martin Wisse on Wis[s]e Words

“My gods it’s full of puppy poo!” – May 19

That gets you two of last year’s best novels and nobody will force you to read the Kevin J. Anderson. Many of the other categories are of course soiled with Puppy droppings you don’t want even if free, but there are some gems among the dross. Especially so in the Best Graphic Story category, with no Puppy nominee included and complete PDFs of Sex Criminals Vol. 1, Saga Vol. 3, Ms Marvel Vol. 1 and Rat Queens Vol. 1.

Though the Hugo Voting Packet should be seen as a bonus, rather than an inalienable part of buying a supporting membership for Worldcon, for plenty of people this of course has been the main benefit of membership, after getting to vote for the Hugos and all that. For those people this year’s packet is far from a bargain, despite the presence of the books listed above. Another reason to smack down the Puppies..

 

Chris Gerrib on Private Mars Rocket

“Hugo Packet – Thoughts” – May 19

Best Related Mike Williamson’s Wisdom From My Internet is everything the Amazon preview promised, namely random crap half-assedly puked into book format. Yeah, I get that it was parody, but I’m not amused by it. Antonelli’s Letters from Gardner is better (small praise indeed) but seems mostly an excuse for an anthology of Antonelli’s short fiction. No Award for the whole category.

 

Joe Sherry on Adventures in Reading

“Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Short Story” – May 19

“On a Spiritual Plain” / “A Single Samurai”: One thing that I found very interesting about reading through the nominated short works is that they pair very closely in my head in how I would rank them. Antonelli’s story of a faith (of sorts) on an alien world and a man trying to lead a human spirit to wherever “moving on” turns out to be. It’s a simple story, but cleanly told. The comparison between human faith and that of the alien is interesting. “A Single Samurai”, on the other hand, is a story of action, of one samurai taking on a kaiju about to terrorize the samurai’s land. There is a certain spirituality to the samurai’s thoughts and actions and an economy to the movement and pacing of the story. On a different day, I could flip my ranking of these two stories.

 

Rebekah Golden

‘2015 Hugo Awards Best TV Show: Reviewing Orphan Black” – May 18

I can easily see how the whole series deserves a Hugo and this episode definitely has individual merit.

Rebekah Golden

“2015 Hugo Awards Best Graphic Story: Reviewing Sex Criminals” – May 18

Well this one definitely captured the “graphic” part of graphic story.

Rebekah Golden

“2015 Hugo Awards Best TV Show: Reviewing Grimm” – May 19

It was good, it was entertaining but I’m hung up on the history of the Hugo Award and the depth of respect I feel for past winners. Grimm is good, and this episode is good, but it’s not that good.

 

Adult Onset Atheist

“SNARL: Turncoat” – May 19

For a story where there is so much happening there is very little going on.

 

 

Brian Z. on File 770 – May 19

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for Castalia House that day;
The score stood 16 of 20 with one story out of play.
And then when Kloos withdrew at first, and Bellet did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few turned off the stream in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought if only John C. Wright could get a whack at that–
We’d put up even money now with John Wright at the bat.

But Vox preceded John Wright, as did Bryan Thomas Schmidt,
Resnick already had 36, and Schubert, he had quit;
So upon that Evil League of Pups a pall was settling in,
For there seemed but little chance for John Wright’s editor to win.

Thomas Schmidt’s Kickstarter was still in its final surge,
And Vox, the much despised, had so far failed to reemerge;
And when the list was opened, and the pups saw what had occurred,
There was Resnick safe at second and poor Bryan hugging third.

Then from 5,000 pups and more there rose a lusty bark;
It echoed through the group blogs, it rattled Riverfront Park;
It blasted like a ray gun shining from the Golden Age,
For John Wright, mighty John Wright, was advancing to the stage.

There was ease in John Wright’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in John Wright’s bearing and a smile on John Wright’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No rabbit in the crowd could doubt ’twas John Wright at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he dipped his pen in ink;
The hoi polloi applauded as he urged them to the brink.
Then as Social Justice Warriors began to jibe and snip,
Defiance flashed in John Wright’s eye, a sneer curled John Wright’s lip.

And now the silver-plated rocket came from off the stage,
And John Wright stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy penman the trophy unheeded sped–
“Remember, nits make lice,” said John Wright. “No Award,” the Emcee said.

From Ustream, thick with puppies, there went up a muffled howl,
While Torgersen swooped in again like Weasley’s Great Gray Owl.
“BOO HIM! BOO THE CHORF!” shouted someone in the thread;
And it’s likely they’d have booed him had not John Wright raised his head.

With a smile of Christian charity great John Wright’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the show go on;
He signaled to the Emcee, and once more the rocket flew;
But John Wright still ignored it, and Mr. Gerrold said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the rabid puppies, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from John Wright and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his fingers strain,
And they knew that John Wright wouldn’t let that rocket by again.

The sneer is gone from John Wright’s lip, his teeth are clenched in rage;
He scratches with hyperbole his pen upon the page.
And as Due holds the envelope, he continues to compose,
And now the air is shattered by the force of John Wright’s prose.

Oh, somewhere on the favored fen the sun is shining bright;
The filk is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere pups are yelping, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy at Sasquan –mighty John Wright has struck out.