File 770 usually has a tiny uptick of Twitter followers every month, and I happened to notice that what was tracking +19 a few days ago is now +6. Since I don’t think I did anything new to make people irate during the week I am going to guess it’s not about me and instead reflects the followers who have terminated their Twitter accounts because Elon Musk took over the service.
I’ve seen many Twitter users in the sff community discuss what course they should take once Musk assumed control because at times he has signaled there will be a radical change (for the worse) in content moderation and a weakening of rules enforcement. Some wrote they were thinking about leaving. I read a few announcements by others just before they did terminate their accounts. Their decisions are to some degree a protest, and an obviously more quantifiable one than the subtle changes that will be registered in other users who, although unhappy with developments, keep their accounts but filter more severely what they post, or simply post less.
I wondered if there was data that could be used to infer how many people have taken the step of actually quitting the service.
I laid the subject before John Scalzi and asked if he’d experienced a fluctuation in his large Twitter following this week. He had:
I was at 204.2K this time last week; I’m down to 202k today, so I’ve seen a drop of about 1%. When I noted that, other people also anecdotally noted similar percentage drops. My expectation is that the drops may be skewed by general political affiliation and/or antipathy to Musk, either as a person or with regard to his stated aims for the service. 1% is not a large number overall — I’ve had larger drops before when Twitter cleared out some bot accounts — but the question is whether these drops will stabilize, as they’ve done in the past, or continue as Musk continues to bumble along. If I drop below 200k, and especially if that happens by the end of this month, I will consider that not great news for Twitter’s general direction.
(Thanks to John for permission to quote his reply.)
That people are actually terminating their accounts speaks to their determination to separate themselves from the future of Twitter. Because there are easier alternatives, like just abandoning the account. Think how common that phenomenon is anywhere in social media where accounts are free. Therefore, the wave of departures from Twitter this week indicates an intentional message, and we will watch to see whether it is the start of a trend.
By Hampus Eckerman: There is a Jazz Festival running in the Millennium Park which makes it an impractical place to have a meetup. There are fences and cops everywhere.
Instead, we will move the meetup closer. We meet at Friday, 13:00 just outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel, by the statue of a horse.
I will bring hot water in thermoses and also instant coffee, tea, cups and some cookies and Swedish candy.
You are all welcome!
The editors of this year’s Best Fanzine Hugo winner Nerds of a Feather have opted to remove themselves from contention for the 2022 Hugos. But they will compete again in 2023.
They explained the decision in a post:
In 2021, Nerds of a Feather. Flock Together won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine. It was our fifth nomination and first win in the category. However, we will not win our second this year – continuing an emergent tradition in this category started by our friends at Lady Business (and continued by 2020 winners The Book Smugglers), we are recusing ourselves from consideration for this year’s award.
Why, you ask? Well, it’s pretty simple: Fanzine is more than just an award category – it’s a community. Over the years we’ve gotten to know our competitors for the award as peers, colleagues and friends. Really, “competitor” is a wrong term, because we aren’t fighting over readers; rather, we all benefit from the community’s growth and the conversations that emerge from that growth. We hope that other fanzines will benefit from the publicity and excitement that comes with being on the ballot, and have their own shot at taking home the big rocket. And while there’s no guarantee we would win in 2022, we really just want to stand and cheer for our friends this year.
(We’ll compete again in 2023.)
Although several Hugo categories have perennial nominees, the Best Fanzine category is unusual for the number of times winning editors have taken themselves out of contention for the following year.
Charlie Brown withdrew Locus for 1979 while making his speech accepting the 1978 Hugo. At that time fanzines from which the editors earned their living were still eligible in the category and when another such fanzine, Science Fiction Review, won in 1979 Charlie was left to wonder what had been the point. Locus went on to win the Fanzine Hugo for the next four years, and beginning in 1984 when the Semiprozine category was created, win that Hugo for another nine straight years.
Dividing the category in 1984 opened the way for File 770 to win twice, then I withdrew for 1986. And later I recused twice more, in 1996 and 2017.
Lady Business won the 2017 Best Fanzine Hugo, then they withdrew for 2018. After winning in 2018, File 770 permanently withdrew from eligibility. Lady Business returned to win the Hugo in 2019.
There have been similar examples in other fan Hugo categories. In the Best Fan Artists category, Frank Wu, after winning three out of the four previous Hugos, took himself out of contention for 2008. And although John Scalzi was not nominated in 2009 after winning in 2008, he had been prepared to decline if he made the ballot and has since encouraged voters to “pass up the chance” to nominate him. But the Best Fanzine category, where it has now happened at least seven times, supplies by far the most examples. (And who’s to say I’ve remembered all of them?)
(1) PLEASE STAND BY. File 770 was repeatedly offline for hours today. According to my ISP’s customer support, their outage report said “that the host machine the VPS is on became unresponsive and needed to be restarted.” That fix took effect about midday locally.
However, my home internet service always craps out several times a day, so it’s been a challenge to have access to download material for the Scroll when I could also edit things on the blog. Today’s Scroll, therefore, is a bit shorter than it would be if that time could have been used productively.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled pixels.
(2) THE DAYS DWINDLE DOWN TO A PRECIOUS FEW. DisCon III asks: Have you made your choices for the 2021 Hugo Awards? There’s still time!
The deadline for voting for the Hugo Awards is November 19, 2021, 23:59 Pacific Standard Time (November 20th at 02:59 Eastern Standard Time, 07:59 Greenwich Mean Time, and 20:59 New Zealand Daylight Time).
(3) A TRANS-ATLANTIC PHONE CALL, HURRAH! Bill Burns anticipates he’ll be an on-air expert commentator in the “Cable Across the Sea” episode of the new (USA) History Channel series “The Engineering That Built the World”. He says, “I did a three-hour video studio interview with the production team a couple of months ago.”
The episode is on Cyrus Field and the first Atlantic cables, and the producers also used material from Bill’s website History of the Atlantic Cable & Submarine Telegraphy.
(4) STAND BY TO LAUNCH. Cat Rambo’s book You Sexy Thing comes out from Tor Macmillan on November 16. The elevator pitch is “Farscape meets the Great British Bake-off.”
It’s the story of a band of former mercenaries who’ve opened a restaurant on a space station and are doing well, so well that a critic may be about to bestow a coveted Nikkelin Orb on the restaurant.Then a mysterious package arrives, things start exploding, and they have to steal a ship to escape. But that ship’s intelligent, and it’s not so sure it wants to be stolen.
There’s plenty of places to leave reviews, and if you do it on GoodReads, you can enter the giveaway for a special copy with an enamel pin here.
There are a lot of online events where you can catch up with Cat Rambo this week:
- Monday, November 15, 2021, 6:30 – 8:00 PM Pacific time: Chaotic Storytime with Christopher Paolini & Friends
- Tuesday, November 16, 2021, 6 PM Pacific time University of Washington Bookstore reading
- Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 4 PM Pacific time Mysterious Galaxy conversation with Ann Leckie
- Thursday, November 18, 2021, 4 PM Pacific time Copper Dog Books Events with Martha Wells
- Saturday, November 20, 2021, 10 AM Pacific time Parsec-SFF.org Monthly Meeting
Cat will also be appearing live at Emerald City ComicCon in Seattle and Writers with Drinks in San Francisco in December.
(5) UNIONIZING AMONG BOOKSTORE EMPLOYEES. “Pandemic sparks union activity where it was rare: Bookstores” – the Brooklyn Eagle has the story.
Britta Larson, a shift leader at Half Price Books in Roseville, Minnesota, has been with the store for nearly 12 years but only recently thought about whether she wanted to join a union.
“With the pandemic going on, we all were just weary of the constant dismissals we got when we raised concerns about staffing and workload to upper management,” said Larson, noting that the staff had been reduced when the store shut down for a time and was “stretched extremely thin” once it opened again.
“Before the pandemic, I’d say we would have kind of just thought ‘Things aren’t great’ because it was all we had ever known. The pandemic forced us to do some things differently and we learned from that.”
…“I think COVID-19 was a rude awakening for bookstore workers, and really anyone who works with the public,” says Owen Hill, a buyer at Moe’s Books in Berkeley, California, which unionized earlier this year. “We were given no say regarding safe working conditions, even though we were risking our health by showing up for work. We had to organize in order to be a part of the conversation around worker safety.”…
(6) MAYER OBIT. Petra Mayer, a books editor on NPR’s Culture desk, died unexpectedly November 13 in a Maryland hospital. She was a fan of sf and comics, and not shy about letting her love of the genres into her work. NPR’s obituary makes that clear – here are a few quotes.
…Mayer was a proud nerd with a penchant for science fiction, comics and cats, said fellow books editor Meghan Sullivan.
She shared those passions with readers and listeners through her reviews of sci-fi, fantasy, romance, thrillers and comics, her trusty on-the-scene reporting at Comic-Con, and her contributions to the Book Concierge, NPR’s annual literary-recommendation tool. She brought her zeal to the guest chair on occasional Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast episodes.
Prior to joining the NPR Books team in 2012, she was an associate producer and director for All Things Considered on weekends, and also spent time as a production assistant for Morning Edition and Weekend Edition Saturday.
…”She was the best and rarest species of nerd, whose enthusiasm was eager and sincere and open and inviting,” tweeted Glen Weldon, an NPR culture critic and a host of the network’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. “She wanted you to love the stuff she loved, and supplied you hard incontrovertible evidence to support her thesis.”Mayer traced her nerd-dom back to George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, which she happened to read in 1984 when she was 9 years old.
“My dad handed me his old college copy of the book and said, ‘Here, I think you’re ready to read this,’ ” she said in a 2018 “Faces of NPR” interview. “I was hooked, and started reading all the dystopia I could get my hands on, and the rest is history.”…
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1966 — Fifty-five years ago, the Fahrenheit 451 film premiered. Based on Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 novel that has since picked a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4, it was directed by directed by François Truffaut. The screenplay by Jean-Louis Richard off a story that he wrote with the director. It starred Julie Christie, Anton Diffring, Oskar Werner, and Cyril Cusack. It was produced by Lewis M. Allen who was has previously done The Lord of The Flies. Though critics at the time really, really didn’t like with some claiming that Julie Christie couldn’t act and Truffaut couldn’t direct, Bradbury liked the film mostly and time has shown that both later critics and audiences like it. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather good seventy-two percent rating. It wasn’t a box office success making only a million dollars combined in the United States and France against its very small one point five million budget. A reboot was made three years ago, which gets a twenty-three percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born November 14, 1907 — Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i Lönneberga, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s 18th most translated author, and the fourth most translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter was an animated series in Japan recently. (Died 2002.)
- Born November 14, 1950 — Elliot S. Maggin, 71. A writer for DC Comics during the Bronze and early Modern ages of comics where he helped shaped the Superman character. Most of his work was on Action Comics and Superman titlesthough he did extensive work elsewhere including, of course, on the Batman titles.
- Born November 14, 1951 — Beth Meacham, 70. In 1984, she became an editor for Tor Books, where she rose to the position of editor-in-chief. After her 1989 move to the west coast, she continued working for Tor as an executive editor which she just retired from. She does have one novel, co-written with Tappan King, entitled Nightshade Book One: Terror, Inc. and a handful of short fiction. At L.A. Con II, A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy that she co-wrote wrote Michael Franklin and Baird Searles was nominated for a Hugo. And she was nominated on her own for a number of Hugos for Best Editor Long Form.
- Born November 14, 1959 — Paul McGann, 62. Yes, he only did one film as the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who television film but that role he has reprised in more than eighty Big Finish audio dramas and the 2013 short film entitled “The Night of the Doctor”. Other genre appearances include The Pit and the Pendulum: A Study in Torture, Alien 3, the excellent FairyTale: A True Story, Queen of the Damned and Lesbian Vampire Killers.
- Born November 14, 1961 — D. B. Sweeney, 60. Actor who’s been lead cast in two genre series, neither of which lasted very long. The first was as Chance Harper in Strange Luck that lasted but seventeen episodes; the second was as Mike Pinocchio in Harsh Realm that last an even briefer nine episodes. He also had roles in Tales from The Crypt, The Outer Limits, Jericho, Leverage and The Legend of Korra.
- Born November 14, 1963 — Cat Rambo, 58. All around great person. Really. Recently finished up a term as SFWA President. She was editor of Fantasy Magazine for four years which earned her a 2012 World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional nomination. A story of hers, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain”, was a Nebula Award finalist. Her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, is the beginning of what I suspect will be an impressive fantasy quartet. Hearts Of Tabat came this year. She also writes amazing short fiction as well. The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is her long-standing school for writers that provides her excellent assistance in learning proper writing skills both live and on demand as well. You can get details here. Her latest, You Sexy Thing, is just out, and I’m looking forward to listening to it starting in a few days!
- Born November 14, 1969 — Daniel Abraham, 53. Co-author with Ty Franck of The Expanse series which won a Hugo at CoNZealand. Under the pseudonym M. L. N. Hanover, he is the author of the Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy series. Abraham collaborated with George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois to write the Hunter’s Run. A frequent collaborator of Martin, Abraham adapted several of Martin’s works into comic books and graphic novels, such as A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, and has contributed to Wild Cards anthologies. By himself, he picked up a Hugo nomination at Denvention 3 for his “The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics” novelette.
- Born November 14, 1976 — Christopher Demetral, 45. He played the title character on the oh so excellent The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne series which still isn’t on DVD or streaming services, damn it. (Ok, oh ahead and contradict me please. I’d be delighted). He shows up in the “Future Imperfect” episode of Next Gen, and had the recurring role of Jack on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
(9) TEA & TENTACLES. In Sunset Distortion: The Pyramid At The End Of The World by Paul Bahou uses his rock band experience to craft an intergalactic adventure.
Lazer is an almost made it, middle-aged guitarist who plays in an 80’s hard rock cover band at a Sunset Strip dive bar. While not quite a rock star, he plays to a packed house nightly. His blissful inertia is disrupted one night however when he is abducted by aliens and given a strange imprint on his hand: A key which will send him on an intergalactic journey in search of an artifact that gives its possessor “infinite life.” With the help of his new friend Streek, a timid floating octopus-creature with an English accent, Lazer will have to survive encounters with monsters, robots, alien pirates, inter-dimensional brain leeches and much more. Will Lazer get back home? What does ‘infinite life’ actually mean? And why does everybody in space speak English? All answers await at the pyramid at the end of the world.
(10) YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE. Here’s an excerpt from Frequently Asked Questions about the Universe by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson discussing “Why we can’t ‘beam ourselves up’ Star Trek-style” from Yahoo!
…Information has to travel through space just like everything else, and the fastest anything can travel in this universe is the speed of light. Really, the speed of light should have been called the “speed of information” or “the universe’s speed limit.” It’s baked into relativity and the very idea of cause and effect, which are at the heart of physics.
Even gravity can’t move faster than light. The Earth doesn’t feel gravity from where the Sun is right now; it feels gravity from where the Sun was eight minutes ago. That’s how long it takes information to travel the ninety-three million miles between here and there. If the Sun disappeared (teleporting off for its own vacation), the Earth would continue in its normal orbit for eight minutes before realizing that the Sun was gone.
So the idea that you can disappear in one place and reappear in another place instantly is pretty much out of the question. Something has to happen in between, and that something can’t move faster than light.
Fortunately, most of us aren’t such sticklers when it comes to the definition of “teleportation.” Most of us will take “almost instantly” or “in the blink of an eye” or even “as fast as the laws of physics will allow” for our teleportation needs. If that’s the case, then there are two options for making a teleportation machine work…
(11) TWO SINGLES, ONE HOMER. That’s how John A Arkansawyer scored this week’s Saturday Night Live. Click through to see History Channel parody “March of the Suitors” or faux Syfy show “Strange Kid Tales” (I kind of like that one). Or watch John’s fave here —
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John A Arkansawyer, Jim Meadows III, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]
By JJ: Today it’s a Do-It-Yourself Scroll. Please post in comments links to items which you feel would be of interest to Filers.
(1) SHATNER’S NOT SHOCKED. Ross A. Lincoln, “In Case You Were Wondering, William Shatner Knows Exactly What ‘Star Trek’ Slash Fiction Is” in The Wrap, says that someone thought she was blocked from Shat’s Twitter feed for making “Spirk” (Spock/Kirk) slash fiction references, and Shat explained that he knew what slash fiction was, thought it hilarious, and noted that there are references to slash fiction in the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
(2) FINDING WOMEN HORROR WRITERS. “Weird Women: The Forgotten Female Horror Writers of the 19th Century And Beyond” on CrimeReads is an excerpt from the introduction to a new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton (also called Weird Women, but with a different subtitle) of women who wrote supernatural fiction in the nineteenth century who the editors think are neglected and should be better known today.
…Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.
(3) INSURANCE FOR WRITERS. SFWA announcement:“Coalition of Eleven Book Industry Associations Launch Official Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP)”. Details at the link.
Today, a coalition of eleven book industry associations, including Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), launched the official Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP), an alliance with Lighthouse Insurance Group (LIG) Solutions designed to provide members from across the associations with a choice of health insurance options.
As of August 2020, official BIHIP coalition members include American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Authors Guild, Book Industry Study Group, Graphic Artists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, Novelists Inc., Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Inc., and Western Writers of America Inc….
(4) SECOND BLAST. The Dragon Awards website continues its Q&A with previous winners: “A Blast from the Past (Winners) – Part 2”.
So, your book comes out. At that time, what did you know about the Dragon Awards? Had you heard of them, and if so, how and what had you heard? How did you react when you found you were nominated?
Brian Niemeier: Oh, yes. I was well aware of the Dragon Awards from the day they were announced. The industry was in desperate need of a true readers’ choice award open to anyone, and I applauded the Dragons for meeting that need. Learning that Souldancer had been nominated confirmed that my writing efforts were worthwhile. It was like receiving the mandate of greater science fiction fandom.
Kevin Anderson: I’ve been aware of the Dragon Awards since the beginning, and I was thrilled as a fan and professional to know there was one award big enough to truly exemplify the feelings of a large pool of readers and voters. I had been soured on other awards because of politics and in-fighting, but the Dragon Awards really reflective of what readers like. Sarah and I were very thrilled to find out Uncharted had landed on the ballot.
SM Stirling: I’d heard of them and thought they were a good idea; the other major awards had become dominated by small cliques of the like-minded, and we needed a broad-based fan award. I’ve been going to Dragon Con for many years now — it’s my favorite con, full of youthful energy and like sticking your finger into a light socket, but in a -good- way. I was delighted to be nominated; you’re always in good company at the Dragons. Didn’t expect to win, though.
(5) TECH WRECK. Tim Maughan is interviewed by Brian Merchant in “The Man Whose Science Fiction Keeps Turning Into Our Shitty Cyberpunk Reality” on Medium.
.. Tim Maughan: I talk about surveillance to people who don’t think about surveillance all the time like I do and you do…And you walk in the house and they’ve got an Alexa. And you say, “I don’t like the Alexa because it’s a surveillance machine.” And they say to you, “Well, I haven’t got anything to hide. I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not a problem to me. It doesn’t matter if they’re listening to me. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
And it’s like, actually, the reason I dislike it isn’t the fact that I’m worried they might be listening to me now — it’s monitoring my behavior, and that’s what I’m worried about. I don’t care if it overhears what I say, or an algorithm is listening to it or even someone in an offshore call center. Even if they’re listening to it, that privacy thing isn’t what worries me. The issue that worries me is that they’re modeling my behavior, and they’re making judgments based on that, which might not be the right judgments for everybody. And they’re using that model to make decisions about people who aren’t even their users, too, or they’re using it to make decisions about their users.
It becomes a thing about like, well, okay, what information can we collect from Alexas about a neighborhood or just their Amazon use? What decisions can Amazon make geographically in physical spaces? This neighborhood in South Brooklyn, I used to live in, East Flatbush, it’s gentrified. And I’m sure Amazon can pull up a map of where all the Alexas are, where all their Amazon Prime accounts are and go, “Well, this is a neighborhood which is increasingly likely to be gentrified” — aka, more whites.
Tech workers are moving into the neighborhood. What can we do in that neighborhood for them? And suddenly you’re changing the nature of the neighborhood. …
(6) WOLFE TICKETS. At ReReading Wolfe, “Jack Dann talks about Gene Wolfe’s influence on the genre and his own Renaissance Man career”.
Jack Dann discusses Wolfe’s influence, on the writing process, on the New Wave, and on how he got his start.
(7) SOCIOLOGY OR ARCHEOLOGY? In case you haven’t heard enough about fandom in the Seventies this week… Hey, where did everybody go? James Davis Nicoll forwarded this link to Albert I. Berger’s paper “Science-Fiction Fans in Socio-Economic Perspective: Factors in the Social Consciousness of a Genre” in Science Fiction Studies (Nov. 1977), which analyzes the responses to 3,000 questionnaires distributed at the 1973 Worldcon in Toronto.
Since 1948, several different studies have been made of the demographic characteristics of science-fiction readers, most by the editors of the commercial science-fiction magazines seeking to determine the characteristics of their own readerships. The results of these, along with data collected at two recent science-fiction conventions, have been admirably collected and summarized by Charles Waugh, Carol-Lynn Waugh, and Edwin F. Libby of the University of Maine at Augusta, whose work this paper used throughout for purposes of comparison.2 This study, conducted at the 31st World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto, September, 1973, is offered against the historical perspective of these earlier studies. As the Waughs and Libby discovered, there are difficulties in applying the findings of this survey to the entire science-fiction audience, since it is impossible to know exactly in what ways, if any, people at a convention differ from those who did not attend. Certainly science-fiction fans themselves are divided into groups, with some, notably those primarily interested in film and television SF, and members of the cult following of the series Star Trek, under-represented at this convention (see tables 20 and 21 below). However, the numbers of people responding to the questionnaire, and the diversity of their involvement in science fiction beyond attendance at the convention, suggests that the picture of fans is relatively reliable for readers of science fiction as a whole and, if qualified for the greater affluence of those who could afford to travel to Toronto, is at least as reliable as such commonly accepted-with-qualifications measurements as the Gallup polls….
(8) COPYEDITING, THE GAME. The New Yorker signal boosts “Stet!, the Hot New Language Game”.
… Nitpickers by profession, we ran into a problem right away. The instructions for Stet! suggest that you “play with three or more players” (is that redundant?), and we had been unable, during the pandemic, to scare up a third nerd. The game of Stet! comprises two packs of cards with sentences on them, fifty of them Grammar cards with indisputable errors (dangling modifiers, stinking apostrophes, and homonyms, like horde/hoard and reign/rein) and fifty of them Style cards, on which the sentences are correct but pedestrian, and the object is to improve the sentence without rewriting it. There are trick cards with no mistakes on them. You might suspect that there is something wrong with (spoiler alert) “Jackson Pollock” or “asafetida” or “farmers market,” but these are red herrings. If you believe that the sentence is perfect just as it is, you shout “Stet!,” the proofreading term for “leave it alone” (from the Latin for “let it stand”), which is used by copy editors to protect an author’s prose and by authors to protect their prose from copy editors.
(9) PLAY NICELY. BBC says “Sony’s Spider-Man exclusive sparks backlash”.
The upcoming Marvel Avengers game has sparked a backlash after it was revealed that Spider-Man will only be in the PlayStation version.
Its developer said the web-slinger will be available as downloadable content (DLC) next year on one platform only.
The game will be released on 4 September across several platforms including PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Fans have suggested the move will see many players missing out on the game’s full experience.
Sony has owned the rights to Spider-Man since 1999.
However, the superhero has appeared in games on multiple consoles and PC over the years, including games based on The Amazing Spider-Man film and its 2014 sequel.
But one recent game, simply entitled Spider-Man, was a critically-acclaimed PlayStation 4 exclusive title.
Numerous fans shared their outrage on social media following the surprise announcement on Monday.
(10) MAY SETTLE IN SHIPPING. “Sales Of ‘Settlers Of Catan’ Skyrocket During Coronavirus Crisis” – NPR demonstrates, and interviews the creator.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In the pandemic, board games are back. And as NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports, many people are turning to a classic one from Germany.
(SOUNDBITE OF DICE ROLLING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Eight.
ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Eight again. More brick.
Family game night – we’ve done this a lot this year, thanks to the pandemic. And my family has dusted off Monopoly, Scrabble, but we usually settle on “Settlers Of Catan.”
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Two bricks for anything.
SCHMITZ: It’s a game of trade and development. Players compete for resources on an island and trade with each other in order to build settlements, cities and roads. The most successful developer wins.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Why in the world would I need brick?
SCHMITZ: Entrepreneurs love the game. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a fan, as is LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who plays the game in job interviews as a way to size up an applicant. In its 25th year, “Catan” has sold more than 32 million units. It’s one of the bestselling board games of all time.
…SCHMITZ: [Klaus] Teuber spoke with me over an old computer, and his voice sounded distant, so we asked one of our colleagues to read for him. He’s 68 now, and he’s just released his autobiography “My Way To Catan” to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the game. Teuber was a dental technician, bored out of his mind by his job when he began creating games in his basement in the 1980s.
…SCHMITZ: And as families shelter in place, sales of “Catan” continue to climb. As the pandemic sent the global economy into a downward spiral, “Catan’s” sales skyrocketed by 144% for the first five months of this year. Teuber, whose two sons work for his company Catan Inc., says he still plays the game with his family, but he admits he’s not very good at it and that he rarely wins. He says what he enjoys most is playing it and being there with his family, something millions of other families are enjoying, too.
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- August 4, 1992 — In the United Kingdom, The Lost World premiered. This is the third film made off the Doyle novel, the first being made in 1925. Another film would be made between these two in 1960, and four radio dramas would be as well. The 1944 one would have John Dickson Carr narrating and playing all parts, and the 1966 one would have Basil Rathbone as Professor Challenger. This film was directed by Timothy Bond and produced by Harry Alan Towers from a screenplay by Marion Fairfax. The primary cast was John Rhys-Davies, Eric McCormack, David Warner and Tamara Gorski whole character replaced that of Lord Roxton. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a twelve percent rating.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 4, 1792 – Percy Shelley. This great poet wrote in our sphere, e.g. Adonais, Prometheus Unbound, The Triumph of Life, the novel St. Irvyne. What about “Ozymandias”? David Bratman, what’s this I hear about “The Marriage of King Elessar and Arwen Undómiel” appearing over his name in a Sep 82 issue of The New Tolkien Review? I can’t get at it or I’d look instead of asking you. (Died 1822) [JH]
- Born August 4, 1869 – Evelyn Sharp. For us a score of short stories, mostly collected in All the Way to Fairyland and The Other Side of the Sun; one novel (a dozen more of those). At that time there were both suffragettes and suffragists; she was vital. (Died 1955) [JH]
- Born August 4, 1924 – Gumarcindo Rocha Dorea, 96. Brazilian writer, editor, publisher. His GRD Edições alternated translations with work by local writers, beginning in 1958 with Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet and in 1960 Eles herdarão a Terra (Portuguese, “They shall inherit the Earth”) by Dinah Silveira de Queiroz. Edited Antologia brasileira de ficção cientifica (1961), first local anthology of only Brazilian authors. His enterprise continued despite Brazilian politics and what Roberto de Sousa Causo calls a terminal inability to make money. [JH]
- Born August 4, 1933 – Thé Tjong-Khing, 87. There are nine and sixty ways of transliterating Chinese these days, and every single one of them is right. He’s an Indonesian Chinese from Java living in the Netherlands. Illustrator. Likes Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Stan Drake’s Heart of Juliet Jones, Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates. He’s worked in that style, but see here, here, here – a thumbnailsworth of a long productive career. Three Golden Brush prizes, Woutertje Pieterse prize, Max Velthuijs prize. Website here (in Dutch). [JH]
- Born August 4, 1937 — David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is ‘a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.’ I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is.) (Died 2011.) (CE)
- Born August 4, 1941 — Martin Jarvis, 79. He makes three appearances on Doctor Who over twenty years. Hilio, captain of Menoptra, in “The Web Planet”, a First Doctor story. He later is the scientist Dr. Butler in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”, a Third Doctor story, and as the governor of the planet Varos in “Vengeance on Varos”, a Sixth Doctor story. He also voiced Alfred Pennyworth in the animated Batman: Assault on Arkham Adylum which is the real Suicide Squad film. (CE)
- Born August 4, 1950 — Steve Senn, 70. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space Fungus. (CE)
- Born August 4 – Taras Wolansky. Persevering contributor to Aboriginal, Alexiad, FOSFAX, The MT Void, NY Review of SF, SF Chronicle, Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review, SF Review. Good at asking questions, like “If he had been, would he have done anything differently?” Never mind that I’d leave off the last two letters. We’ve met in person, which is more than I can say for some people I know. [JH]
- Born August 4, 1961 — Lauren Tom, 59. Voice actress for our purposes. She shows up on Superman: The Animated Series voicing Angela Chen. From there on, she was Dana Tan in Batman Beyond and several minor roles on Pinky and the Brain. Futurama is her biggest series to date where she voices Amy and Inez Wong. (CE)
- Born August 4, 1969 — Fenella Woolgar, 51. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Her only other genre was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. (CE)
- Born August 4, 1961 – Andreas Findig. It’s possible to be a Perry Rhodan author and an absurdist; he was. Six PR novels; two short stories and a novella Gödel geht tr. as “Gödel’s Exit” which may be impossible. (Died 2018) [JH]
- Born August 4, 1981 — Meghan, the former Duchess of Sussex, 39. Yes, she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the first two episodes of the second season (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects” as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City, a series you likely never heard of. (CE)
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater finds working at home can be inconvenient.
- Lio helps prepare for the zombie apocalypse.
(14) OH MY GOD, YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. In the new episode of Two Chairs Talking, “Translations, transforms and traumas”, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss ConNZealand and the 2020 Hugo Awards, then take the Hugo Time Machine back to the very interesting year of 1963, when The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick won Best Novel, and “The Dragon Masters” by Jack Vance won Best Short Fiction.
(15) KEEPING SCORE. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Music story “‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’ composer Danny Elfman assumed he’d never work in Hollywood again: ‘I thought the score would get thrown out'”, looks at how Danny Elfman began writing film scores 35 years ago with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and discusses how Elfman got into film music responding to a challenge from his brother and then explains why he is Tim Burton’s preferred choice for writing scores.
…Elfman’s Pee-wee score, with its goofy oompah riffs, Looney Tunes references, and frenetic pacing, was a wild and whimsical ride; created with Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek, it became one of the most instantly recognizable scores in ‘80s cinema. Elfman acknowledges that he quickly became the movie and TV industry’s go-to “quirky comedy guy” — for instance, Matt Groening later enlisted him to compose the Simpsons theme song. It was a label that was tough for Elfman to shed when he was hired by skeptical producers to compose an uncharacteristically darker-sounding score for Burton’s Batman, four years after Pee-wee. But it turns out the most skeptical person in Hollywood was Elfman himself.
(16) TUBULAR, MAN! See “The Roman Empire’s Roads In Transit Map Form”.
Unless you’re a historian or map buff, interpreting a map of the Roman Empire can be a daunting exercise. Place names are unfamiliar and roads meander across the landscape making it difficult to see the connections between specific cities and towns.
Today’s visualization, by Sasha Trubetskoy, has mashed-up two enduring obsessions – transit maps and Ancient Rome – to help us understand the connection between Rome and its sprawling empire.
At the height of the Roman Empire, there were approximately 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of roads, stretching from Northern England to Egypt and beyond. This impressive network is what allowed Rome to exercise control and communicate effectively over such a large territory….
(17) I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Louise McCreesh, in “Game of Thrones’s George RR Martin Accused of Making Racially and Sexually Insensitive Comments At Awards Show” on Digital Spy would only be interesting because she includes the words “in a post on File 770” and links to F770 which is the first time I have ever seen this on a random item in the Yahoo! news feed.
(18) THEY MADE A LITTLE MISTAKE. Meanwhile, Hampus Eckerman emailed to tell me, “You got promoted!” when he saw this passage in io9’s article “George R.R. Martin Responds to Accusations of Hugo Awards Racism, Apologizes for Mispronouncing Names”. (Their link for “the comment section” is to File 770.)
…In response to the criticisms of his hosting—a number of people have described it overall as racist—Martin took to the comment section of the Hugos’ official website to comment rather than his often used personal blog.
Wow. I thought io9 writers were supposed to know fandom better than that.
(19) NOW ON A MOON OF SATURN. Mad Genius Club has revamped its site design. Looks good! Or maybe I’m just a sucker for sky blue at the top of a page….
(20) SPACE CAMP SAVED. With large donations from several companies—as well as many individual donations—the USS&RC has achieved its minimum $1.5 million goal. WAFF 48 reports “New donation pushes US Space & Rocket Center past fundraising goal”.
A $250,000 donation from Science Applications International Corporation has pushed the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s “Save Space Camp” campaign over its initial goal just one week after the effort launched.
The campaign began July 28 with the hope of raising a minimum of $1.5 million to sustain museum operations and to be able to reopen Space Camp in April 2021.
…The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the Rocket Center, which closed March 13, 2020, in keeping with state health orders intended to combat the surge in coronavirus cases. The museum reopened in late May, but with far fewer than normal visitors. Space Camp did not reopen until June 28, and then with only 20 percent of its usual attendance. With limited admission from international students and school groups this fall and winter, Space Camp will again close for weeklong camp programs in September.
The Space & Rocket Center is continuing to ask for support for the campaign. For more information and to make a donation, visit savespacecamp.com.
(21) EVERYBODY FIGHTS, NOBODY QUIPS! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Starship Troopers (ft. Casper Van Dien)” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the 1997 film “not at all based in the classic sci-fi novel” featuring soldiers whose bodies pulse “with the repulsive green goo they use to make Monster Energy” drinks.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
[Editor’s Note: Twenty years ago I reprinted Bill Bowers’ catalog of online fanac, Fan Basic 101, in an issue of File 770. As a companion piece, I wrote about my own experiences as a novice website creator. They now make a rather nostalgic set of confessions.]
By Mike Glyer: If you have to write your own HTML code, designing a web page is a lot like being forced to solve one of those word problems that starts “if a train leaves Baltimore at 50 miles per hour.” On the other hand. I’ve always used Microsoft Publisher and I feel the experience combines the best features of building blocks and finger-painting, with no tidying afterwards.
I started out like an Internet neo, searching for free icons, copying blinky lights, culling through hundreds of animated GIFs, and thieving other pages’ colorful backgrounds. Naturally, I also spent hours selecting a free hit counter.
A link on CompuServe’s Ourworld (which hosts my web page) led me to a suite of icons created from photographs of the nine planets as seen from space. They are very well crafted, and float beautifully on a mottled gray background reminiscent of a lunar landscape. I made them the thematic elements of my main page.
Somewhere else I found three sets of animated red, yellow and green console lights that blink at slow, frequent, and rapid speeds. Every article about web page design warns against loading a page with too many animated files and blinking lights. Because “too many” is not a numerical limit, I am free to assume that the ten or twelve blinky lights I’ve used as hyperlinks to news stories is not “too many.”
Once I had my web page set up, I wanted it to be easy for you to read and use. My first concern was the address:
Try getting anyone to type a 55-character address! One solution is getting other web pages to link to mine. Then, the only person who ever has to type the address correctly is the other webmaster. Chaz Boston Baden and the Chicon 2000 page have sent some of you my way. I’d like to set up reciprocal links with more fannish web pages.
I’ve also thought about how to get a shorter URL. The obvious way is to register my own domain and pay to have it hosted on a server. Domain registration costs about $70 for the first two years. At that price I have to ask, for the number of hits I’m going to get, does it make more sense to pay for my own domain, or just send each of you a dollar bill with a polite request to look at the site?
Another way to get a shorter URL is by going through someone else’s domain. Charlie, how about — www.locusmag.com/file770….?
Or maybe I can go in with a local group. SCIFI wants to set up a web page to get some good publicity. Shaun Lyon offered to handle the whole thing for us through Network Solutions. His own “Dr. Who” pages are getting 12,000 hits a day. Hearing that, I darned near left the meeting to drive home and add some “Dr. Who” stuff to my site.
But no. If the sole object was to reach the maximum number of people, it would have made the most sense to convert File 770 to an e-mailed zine. The medium’s practically free. The audience is still there — most, if by no means all, fans get e-mail. Best of all, fans will immediately read something delivered to them, whereas many will never get around to browsing a fannish web page, or necessarily look at one more than once. Despite the advantages I’m not going to do that. Developing layouts that flow text and art together is something I enjoy too much to give up editing a paper fanzine. Designing a web page involves the same pleasures, and adds new dimensions of color, animation, sound and mutability.
As yet, a faned can’t use e-mail to achieve all he can do on a web page. The culture of e-mail use, more than technology, is the main barrier to distributing documents with the same level of design complexity found on a web page. Any use of graphics rapidly increases a document’s size, and fans don’t seem to appreciate receiving unsolicited 400K e-mails. (Bill Bowers handles this by sending a notice that his e-zine is available for you to request.) There are also some technical limits. A document’s layout is unlikely to remain stable if it is read by a different program than created it. And megabyte-sized files will be rejected by the filters on some services.
So for the time being, I’m investing my energy in a web page, and keeping it consistent with the purpose of the paper File 770, not adding any Doctor Who stuff. Of course, I want more people to read it. I assume that when I mail out 325 copies of File 770, 325 people read it. What if I actually knew the truth, the way I know how many readers access my web page? In fact, the number on my hit counter hasn’t changed since last Thursday. Odd how that little counter subverts everything. Suddenly, I don’t need LoCs, I don’t need contributions — I need a big number! I want to win! How can I tap the power of the Internet to draw an audience and shift my counter into overdrive?
I heard there were free services that promote web pages. A search on Altavista promptly retrieved a list of 14. The first one I looked at – SelfPromotion.com — worked so satisfactorily I’ve made no comparisons. SelfPromotion.com is an easy-to-use, free site with extensive and intelligent coverage of search engines and indexes.
It’s even fun to use. SelfPromotion.com’s designer believes – correctly – that users will disdain the simplest instructions and blunder ahead, filling in blanks on the computerized forms with their unenlightened best guesses. So the designer steers us to a tutorial cleverly written as a dialogue between himself and his 6-year-old son. The tutorial proceeds as if we adults were looking over little James Ueki’s shoulder as he learns how to make Dad’s site promote his first web page:
“At first, James wants to use the account name ‘Anakin Skywalker,’ but after Dad explains who Anakin grows up to be, James (unimaginatively) decides to use his name as his account name, and his nickname (‘jkun’ is Japanese for ‘jimmy’) as his password. Dad will have to talk to him about choosing an unguessable password later!”
Fellows like Dad and I are too grown-up to need instructions ourselves, of course, but I closely watch little Jimmy’s progress so that I won’t be embarrassed by making any errors he’s managed to avoid. Along the way I pick up a lot of good information about the differences between a search engine and an index, what they’re looking for and strategies to optimize a page for selection.
He makes Yahoo sound like the grail for anyone trying to increase traffic on their website. He says that Yahoo is selective and it helps a page get listed if it has won some legitimate awards. So my first thought was to go back to the ISP that hosts my page, CompuServe’s “Ourworld,” and apply for consideration as Ourworld’s Site-of-the-Day.
Within hours of getting my e-mail, they notified me that my page had been “suspended.” They sternly reminded me about the three cardinal rules Ourworld homepages must obey: (1) they can’t violate copyright, (2) they can’t post pornography, and (3) they can’t carry on a business. I hadn’t done (1) or (2). That left (3). I knew this was about the subscription rates in the colophons. So I spent a couple of hours finding and deleting the subscription info and reloading the page. The authorities did not trouble me again.
I may never get listed on Yahoo, but I did become CompuServe Out-of-Sight for a day.
Meantime, the SelfPromotion.com robots are doing their work. I’ve been listed on at least one search engine. Where? I’ll give you a hint.
People on the island of Vanuatu can’t brag very often about having something North America lacks. Now added to that very short list is getting the File 770 web page indexed on Matilda, their local Internet portal. The Matilda search engine has a series of portal pages tailored for users throughout the South Pacific, including Vanuatu, though Australia and New Zealand probably account for most of their traffic. Matilda added File 770‘s page to its index within two days of submission, a decision encouraged by the frequent mention of “Australia” in stories about the latest Worldcon. Until Altavista, Excite, and perhaps the big prize, Yahoo!, catch up with Matilda’s leadership, fan(s) on Vanuatu will have a lot easier time searching for the File 770 web page than most of you.
But please keep trying!
[The only place you can see that old website anymore isn’t on Vanuatu but at the Internet Archive.]
The 2020 Locus Awards finalists have been posted at Locus Online. See the full list at the link, but here’s one category of particular interest!
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies
- File 770
- Strange Horizons
Winners will be announced June 27, 2020 at the virtual Locus Awards Weekend; Connie Willis will MC the awards ceremony. Additional weekend events are planned. Supporting/virtual memberships are available and come with a Locus t-shirt.
Walter Day, the trading card creator who also celebrates video games and historical figures, has announced that Balticon will host his 2020 Science Fiction Trading Card Award Ceremony on Saturday, May 23 at 2 p.m. Day will unveil the newest cards in the Science Fiction Series and present ornate awards to worthy honorees who have contributed greatly to the global science fiction culture.
In recent years this ceremony has been conducted at WorldCon 74 (Kansas City), WorldCon 75 (Helsinki, Finland), WorldCon 76 (San Jose) as well as smaller ceremonies at the last five years of the Nebula Awards Weekend.
This year’s awards ceremony will be held at Balticon 54, which is the annual Maryland Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention put on by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Here are some of the trading cards that will be unveiled during these ceremonies and given away as free gifts to the attendees at the event. I thank Walter for including my card in this release!
(Note: Day says he has already corrected the spelling of Leibowitz, but he hasn’t posted the new art.)
Day has held his ceremony in conjunction with major cons and events over the past several years. Card #65 (author C. J Cherryh) was presented on the stage during the 2016 Nebula Awards weekend festivities, in Chicago, IL. Card #34 (author Robert Silverberg) was among many presented on the stage during the Grand Masters Talk at the 2016 WorldCon, in Kansas City, MO. On Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the 2019 SFWA Nebula Awards Conference in Los Angeles, Science Fiction Historical Trading Card #211 was presented to William Gibson — the author of Neuromancer — as part of the ceremonies that enshrined him as the 2019 SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction.
Here is a link to the full gallery of the 182 Science Fiction Historical Trading Cards already in print.
Day first gained fame as a video arcade owner and for his work certifying video game achievements for the Guinness Book of Records. He is widely recognized as the inspiration for Mr. Litwak, the beloved arcade owner in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph animated film released in November 2012.
Ready Player One author Ernest Cline says Walter Day (along with Twin Galaxies arcade and Billy Mitchell) were the inspiration for writing his story in 2011, later adapted for the screen by Steven Spielberg.
[Card art reproduced with permission.]