Pixel Scroll 12/4/21 This Pixel Made The John Kessel Pun In Under Twelve Pure Products

(1) NOT LOOKING GOOD.  “Friends who attended anime convention with man who contracted omicron have tested positive for coronavirus, health official says” reports the Washington Post.

The Minnesota man who contracted the omicron variant of the coronavirus met up with about 35 friends at a New York City anime convention and about half have tested positive for the coronavirus, a state health official said Friday.

Members of the group traveled to New York from a variety of states for the weekend convention that began Nov. 19 and tested positive after their return, said Kris Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at the Minnesota Department of Health. It is not known whether they are infected with omicron or another variant.“We don’t know if we’ll see a lot of omicron, or we’ll see a lot of delta,” Ehresmann said in an interview. “But we’re likely to see a lot of covid” out of the convention, which drew 53,000 people and tightly packed crowds from Nov. 19 to 21. The development is not sufficient, by itself, to determine where people were infected, who gave the virus to whom, or to develop a timeline of its spread, Ehresmann said. The man infected with omicron also spent time elsewhere in New York City. New York, Minnesota and other states, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are investigating the case and have begun tracing the Minnesota man’s contacts….

(2) ANDREW PORTER HEALTH UPDATE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] When I had my annual check-up at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in November—as you might remember, I was successfully operated on for Pancreatic Cancer in 2007—blood tests found an elevated cancer marker. As a result, I had a CT scan there on November 26th—the day after Thanksgiving. 

After having a very dark Thanksgiving, and the days leading up to the results, the news is that I remain cancer-free. The scan found some minor problems, but No Cancer!!!

I’ll expect my usual pixel payment for this.

(3) FAREWELL TOUR. In the Guardian: “Jodie Whittaker on saying goodbye to Doctor Who: ‘I thought, what if I’ve ruined this for actresses?’”

That must have felt like a lot of pressure at times.

The most heightened point of pressure for me was at Madison Square Garden in September 2018, at New York Comic Con. The very first episode was being shown live in front of a massive audience, and I went and sat next to my husband, and I’d absolutely gone. I just thought: “There’s this crowd of Whovians that are really excited and full of love and support.” And I was like: “What if I have pitched this so badly wrong? What if I’ve ruined it for actresses?” Because I know full well that when lads were cast in the part, they weren’t representing men, they were representing their own personal casting. The way it was described in every outlet was not: “Can Jodie Whittaker play the part?”, it was: “It’s a woman!” I suddenly thought: “Have I hindered us? Have I held us back?” Because we’d filmed the first series, and I’d loved it. I really felt confident all the way through. Then there is that moment where you go, oh God …

I don’t think the backlash to the Doctor being a woman was necessarily there in the way that some people anticipated, though.

“No bras in the Tardis” and stuff like that? There’s noise like that about everything, and that’s not the kind of thing that affects me, day to day. As soon as the first episode goes out, it’s either your cup of tea or it’s not. You realise, you’re not representing anyone other than yourself. Then you get the amazing Jo Martin [another incarnation of the Doctor], so then it’s really old news about me. And hopefully, with the next 15 generations of Doctors, we never have to have this chat again. I’m delighted it was mine, but it never has to happen again, thank God.

(4) MIDDLE-EARTH ALL OVER THE WORLD. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector has posted a written roundtable about the global appeal of Tolkien’s work, based on a Zoom panel involving the same participants, in “Global Tolkien – A Roundtable”.

Following the interest generated by the Tolkien and Diversity Panel at Oxonmoot 2020, (hosted by Sultana Raza), another Panel on Global Tolkien was proposed and accepted by the Tolkien Society for Oxonmoot 2021. The idea for this Panel was formed because of a rising trend in SFF and Tolkien enthusiasts, against diversity in fandoms and interpretations of SFF writers. Luckily, the Tolkien Society doesn’t seem to ascribe to this view, and has been encouraging further dialogue on this topic.

The Panelists included Sultana Raza (also the Moderator), Ali Ghaderi (Iran), María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (Chile), and Gözde Ersoy (Turkey). Gözde Ersoy (assistant-professor of English Literature at Mu?la S?tk? Koçman University, Turkey) also briefly presented a video of an online event she had organized with school children in Turkey, on the Tolkien Reading Day, where they’d read an excerpt from The Hobbit in Turkish.

Sultana Raza: The huge international success of Tolkien’s novels and adaptations especially The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) prove that the same common human values are prevalent in most cultures globally. Most people can identify with at least one major character from these books, (who also have archetypal qualities), and are eager to follow their journey, experiencing some form of catharsis at the end. In general, the appeal of SFF stories lies in the core of the human story at the centre of the drama, whether it’s unfolding on Arrakis, in Westeros, in Narnia, in Middle-Earth, or in the Undying Lands. 

(5) THE BAEN OF HIS EXISTENCE. Bruce Bethke’s “Files found while looking for something else” at Stupefying Stories Magazine tells why you probably haven’t read his novel Cyberpunk – and never could have.

Well, golly. While looking for the original source for the shareware beta version of Cyberpunk—which I still haven’t found—I found the files for the 2011 version, which was being developed under the working title of Cyberpunk 1989 for a book deal that fell through. I have some affection for the proposed cover art:

Ten years ago it probably would have been considered very edgy, although it looks kind of silly and amateurish now.

Of more interest to me is that the folder contains the prelude and postlude that I wrote specifically to go with that version of the novel, and it contains some things I’d forgotten I’d written. Without further ado, then…

…Twenty-some years later [n.b., 30 now], I still don’t know quite what to think of this one. As a 21st Century bildungsroman, it works fairly well, and there are many things in this book with which I am still quite pleased.

All the same, it’s not the novel that I set out to write, nor is it by any stretch of the imagination a “cyberpunk” novel, in the sense that the term came to be redefined by the flood of Imitation Neuromancer novels that hit the market in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the final analysis, it simply is what it is. In my less charitable moments I sometimes call this my Baen-damaged novel, but in my more honest moments I must admit that it’s largely my own fault. I wanted to do whatever it took to get an original novel into print, and willingly went along with every change Jim Baen asked me to make, right up until the moment he told me to end the book with Mikey going on a shooting rampage inside his high school. Even ten years before “Columbine” became a synonym for insane atrocity, I found the idea of writing that ending—and of turning my hero into a mass-murderer—to be abhorrent.

But it was my refusal to bend over and grab my ankles one more time, and to excrete the ending Jim Baen specifically told me to write, that killed this book….

(6) MILES MORALES IS BACK. Sony Pictures has released a first look at Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (Part One).

Miles Morales returns for the next chapter of the Oscar®-winning Spider-Verse saga, an epic adventure that will transport Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man across the Multiverse to join forces with Gwen Stacy and a new team of Spider-People to face off with a villain more powerful than anything they have ever encountered.

(7) DIANA G. GALLAGHER (1946-2021). Author, filker and fan artist Diana G. Gallagher died December 3. She wrote numerous media tie-in novels for such series as Buffy the Vampire SlayerSabrina the Teenage Witch and Charmed. As a filksong creator she had a number of tapes performing her songs commercially produced in the Eighties, and won a Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song (1986) and Best Children’s Song (1994). She won the Best Fan Artist Hugo in 1989 (as Diana Gallagher Wu). She was married four times, the third time to the writer William F. Wu, ending in 1990, and the fourth time to writer and filker Marty Burke, who died in 2011.

(8) JAMES R. TERRY. A fan who helped start Los Angeles’ Doctor Who-themed convention Gallifrey One, James R. “Jim” Terry Jr., died unexpectedly from complications following heart surgery on December 1.  He was a familiar figure at Southern California cons, often in Starfleet attire. The Gallifrey One Facebook page paid tribute:

…Jim wholeheartedly embraced his geekdom… though he loved Doctor Who, Star Trek was the one thing truly embedded in his blood. Yet that was just one facet of Jim; he was also a kind soul, a loyal friend, never a harsh word for the people he cared about… a list of fellow friends and fans that went on and on. From days of being a regular at LASFS or Time Meddlers of Los Angeles meetings, to fan socials and viewing parties and cons and dinners, so many of us were privileged to know him. His last visit to Gallifrey One was in 2019, joining us to celebrate our 30th anniversary, and he had planned to return this coming February….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-six years ago on this date in the United Kingdom, Back to The Future premiered.  It was directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Neil Canton and Bob Gale. It was written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. It starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover.  It would win a Hugo at ConFederation where Bob Shaw was the Toastmaster. The reception for it among critics and audience alike was overwhelmingly positive. Roger Ebert said that it had “a fine comic touch”. It made nearly three hundred and ninety million on a budget of only nineteen million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it currently an impressive ninety four percent rating. It would spawn two sequels, of which Back to The Future III would nominated for a Hugo at Chicon V. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 4, 1939 Jimmy Hunt, 82. He plays Dave MacLean in Invaders from Mars. Some three decades later, he’ll appear in the remake as the Police Chief. He’s an uncredited appearance early in his career in My Brother Talks to Horses which is definitely genre. And he’s in Close Encounters of the 4th Kind: Infestation from Mars though I know nothing of this film. Have any of you seen it? 
  • Born December 4, 1949 Richard Lynch, 72. Writer, Editor, Historian, and Fan who with his wife Nicki produced the long-running fanzine Mimosa from 1982 to 2003, which was nominated fourteen times for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, winning six of those years. He has been a member of several fan groups and APAs, chaired a Chattacon, and edited the BucConeer Worldcon Souvenir Program Book. He and Nicki have been Fan Guests of Honor at several conventions, and were honored with the Phoenix Award by Southern Fandom.
  • Born December 4, 1949 Jeff Bridges, 72. I’d say his best genre role was as Starman / Scott Hayden in the film of that name. Other genre work includes King Kong, the voice of Prince Lir in Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, Jack Lucas in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man and Kevin Flynn/CLU 2 in Tron: Legacy. He appeared also in a film called R.I.P.D. as Roycephus “Roy” Pulsipher which was either really bad or really, really bad. 
  • Born December 4, 1954 Sally Kobee, 67. Fan, Bookseller, Filker. She has served on the committees for myriad conventions, and chaired both Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 and OVFF 10, and WFC 2010 and 2016. She was honored as a Fellow of NESFA and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon XXVII. She and her now late husband purchased a bookstore in the nineties. She continues to the day to provide convention bookstores.
  • Born December 4, 1957 Lucy Sussex, 64. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia, she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carr-led workshop. And she’s an editor as well having edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. Sussex has won three Ditmar Awards, an A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed!   
  • Born December 4, 1974 Anne KG [Murphy] Gray, 47. Engineer, Physicist, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan. Known in fandom as Netmouse, she was a member of the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association, and has served on numerous convention committees and chaired three ConFusions. As a member of Midfan, which ran four Midwest Construction regional conrunner training conventions in the 2000s, she was editor of their publication MidFanzine. She is a past president of the Science Fiction Oral History Association. She is married to Brian Gray, with whom she won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 2010; they went to Eastercon and Corflu in the UK and produced a TAFF trip report, a piece on the Sherlock Holmes museum, and a photo album.
  • Born December 4, 1988 Natasha Pulley, 33. She’s best known for her debut Victorian steampunk novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street winner of the Betty Trask Award given for first novels written by authors under the age of 35 who reside in a current or former Commonwealth nation. She has three other novels. The second was The Bedlam Stacks. Her third, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, is the sequel to her first novel. Her latest, The Kingdoms, was just published.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s new cartoon for the Guardian:

(12) THE SWEAT SPOT. Now You See It explains why the characters in Dune aren’t sweating.

I loved Dune, but one thing about it irked me. On a planet where sweat is so crucial to survival, why do we see so little of it? Let’s take a look at how Dune’s implementation of sweat alters the emotional feeling of the story, the planet, and the characters.

(13) BUSTED. At Kalimac’s Corner, David Bratman once again disputes that Peter Jackson’s departures from Tolkien’s text were imposed by the requirements of moviemaking rather than just unilateral choices: “Contra Jackson”.

…One of my basic points about the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies, dating back to my original article on the subject in 2004, is to dispute the defense of the changes to the story on the grounds that (and here I’m paraphrasing the tone of voice used by those who make this argument) “They haaad to do it that way because it’s a mooooooovie.

In other words, that there are inviolable Laws of Movie-Making that have to be followed by anyone who wishes their blockbuster not to tank at the box office.

…In fact, I am certain that, when Jackson changed Tolkien’s story, it was because he wanted to, not because some mythical Laws of Movie-Making forced him to. And this is because Jackson boldly violated the conventions of movie-making when he wanted to. And he endured criticism for it: the prime example is the supposed “five endings” of The Return of the King when it keeps seeming as if the movie is about to wrap up with a celebration scene and then it keeps going. Here, Jackson is trying to follow Tolkien, but he’s not doing it very well, because Tolkien’s versions of these scenes don’t read like a series of postponed endings (and not because you can see the physical end of the book coming up, because in fact 160 pages, in the paperback, of appendix and index intervene between the end of the story and the end of the book).

One major movie rule-breaking Jackson indulged in was to make a trilogy of movies that were three parts of one story (again copying the books, albeit ignorantly). Series of interconnected movies, as opposed to stand-alone sequels, were (unusual? unknown?) then. They’re common now, of course, but that’s because the rules consist of “whatever worked for the last successful blockbuster” and The Lord of the Rings was certainly a successful blockbuster….

(14) ORDER IN THE GONCOURT. Sarah Lyall’s review of The Anomaly for the New York Times is certainly interesting, so maybe the book is too: “‘The Anomaly,’ Part Airplane Thriller and Part Exploration of Reality, Fate and Free Will”.

…“The Anomaly,” a runaway best seller in France, where it won the Prix Goncourt last year, lies in that exciting Venn diagram where high entertainment meets serious literature. Its plot might have been borrowed from “The Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror,” but it movingly explores urgent questions about reality, fate and free will. If our lives might not be our own and we end up dying either way, how should we live?

… It’s a measure of Le Tellier’s masterful storytelling that he makes us wait all the way to Page 151 to find out what bizarre thing has befallen the plane in question, Air France Flight 006 from Paris to New York. But before that, we meet some of its passengers and learn about their lives on the ground.

…What do they have in common, besides being on this fateful flight? Who are the shadowy government figures quietly rounding them up? And why does the bulletproof, government-issued cellphone of a nerdy Princeton statistician whose T-shirt says “I love zero, one and Fibonacci” suddenly ring, after 20 years of silence, starting an emergency response plan known as Protocol 42?

 (15) NEW EXOPLANET JUST AN IRON CORE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A large but Mercury-like planet has been detected orbiting very close to a small red dwarf. The research has been reported in this week’s Science journal. (Alas it is behind a pay-wall but the abstract is here.)

It is an odd planet of about 0.7 Earth-radii with a very high density suggesting it is largely metallic iron and it orbits close to its star in just 7.7-hours.It is so close to its star that the daytime side will be a furnace heated to 1,400°C, such that even rock would be molten.

The type of planet was able to be determined because its orbit took it between its sun and us and so (from the star’s dimming) its size could be calculated. From its orbit’s period, and its distance from its star, the planet’s mass could be calculated. Linking this into its size enabled its density to be deduced. The planet has a very high density and it thought to largely made of iron and so the best part of it is a planetary core with hardly any mantle. As such, it is much like our own system’s planet Mercury. However, Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 days and despite our Sun being hotter than a red dwarf the daytime bare rock on Mercury is heated only to 430°C. (See Lam, K. W. F. et al (2021) GJ 367b: A dense, ultrashort-period sub-Earth planet transiting a nearby red dwarf star. Science, vol. 374, p1271-1275.)

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Star Wars fans wonder how they can get their fix of Star Wars music during Christmas.  Well, why not combine Star Wars AND carols?

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Sultana Raza, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Suppose They Gave A Culture War And Nobody Came

Immediately after Jim Baen died in 2006, his friends’ wide-ranging discussions about their great respect and affection for him as a person, and regard for his accomplishments as an editor, woke Francis Turner to the realization fandom would have only one more chance to vote him the Best Editor Hugo

Baen had revitalized Galaxy in the 1970s with works from many top writers (most of John Varley’s great early stories were published in Baen’s Galaxy). He ran Ace’s sf book line under publisher Tom Doherty, and later did the same at TOR Books, before starting his own company, Baen Books. Prior to his death he’d received seven Hugo nominations, but the last had been in 1981 and he had never won the award.

Francis Turner wrote a blog post on L’Ombre de l’Olivier in August 2006 encouraging people not only to vote Baen the Best Editor (Long Form) Hugo the following year — but to visualize “A Baen Sweep of the Hugos”.

Turner listed three goals:

  • Get Jim Baen nominated and voted for Editor (books) for 2006 [i.e., the eligibility year for the 2007 Hugos]
  • Increase the participation in the Hugo process
  • Get some Baen works on the ballots

Turner’s first stop in the get-out-the-vote campaign was going to be Baen’s Bar.

As noted at Toni’s Table, the electorate for Hugo awards (and the Campbell award) is almost as small and fluid as that of a “Rotten Burough”. Also noted there is that Baen hasn’t won many such awards recently despite Baen being the #2 or #3 (depending on how you count/who is counting) speculative fiction (SF) publisher. This totally unaffiliated page is therefore set up so that loyal Baen Barflies can do a little consensus building and nominate appropriately with the goal of seeing Jim Baen nominated as editor and ideally also seeing a Baen author/artist win some other category of the 2007 Hugo awards.

Some of Turner’s other arguments have proven equally evergreen:

The participation of the wider SF community in the Hugo awards is declining….

To be honest I find it sad that even 5 years ago less than 1000 people could be bothered to vote for the awards that are supposed to represent all of SF-fandom. The fact that these numbers have now dwindled to two thirds of that in 2006 is even more tragic. What I think is also sad is that I, personally, had only read one 2006 Novel nominee – Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” – and that a number of books that I thought were great did not appear. Most of the books I liked were published by Baen (but not all were) and it was notable that none of the 5 most nominated works were published by Baen…

This is an attempt to mobilise the large number of loyal Baen readers to nominate and vote so that their point of view is recognised within the SF world. I believe both the awards and SF as a whole would benefit from the Hugos not being seen as a high-brow cliquey award…. I hope to do this by convincing a number of loyal Baen readers (aka Barflies) to register as attendees for Worldcon 2007 or as voting associates and, having done so, to nominate Jim Baen for the editor award and to nominate some Baen works/authors/artists for the other awards.

Well aware of the objections that would be raised in other quarters, Turner preemptively insisted —

There is NO intention to produce a Baen “slate” and to insist (as if it were possible) that Barflies nominate and vote for the “slate”.

And another entire section tried to deflect “Potential Controversy.” There, Turner offered such reassurances as —

Secondly despite the title, I neither want nor expect a sweep of all the awards – not in 2007 at least 🙂 .

Surprisingly, considering how well Correia and Torgersen did with the same arguments later on, Turner’s appeal failed to generate the faintest support.

Yes, Jim Baen was nominated for Best Editor. However, that was accomplished with just 30 votes and there’s no sign they were the product of any concerted effort. Because if you look at the Best Novel category in the 2007 Hugo Award nominating statistics you’ll find zero Baen novels among the top 27 books receiving votes — and it took only four votes to be listed in the report.

Two other Baen Editors, Toni Weisskopf and Jim Minz, each received seven votes.

Although Mike Resnick’s novelette “All the Things You Are” (Jim Baen’s Universe October 2006) was a Hugo finalist, nobody has had more fiction nominated for the Hugo than Resnick. He achieved that result without any dependence on Turner’s efforts.

But reading Turner’s 10-year-old post certainly produces a stunning sense of déjà-vu.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/3 The Man from P.I.X.E.L.

coverWARP932 Keith Braithwaite

(1) BRAITHWAITE RESTORES CLASSIC ARTWORK. Gracing the cover of Warp #93, the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association clubzine, is this superlative painting —

The Doctor and his Companion, by Claude Monet (oil on canvas, 1875), a painting dating from a most fertile phase of the renowned French Impressionist’s career, was recently discovered in the attic of a house in Argenteuil in which Monet lived in the 1870s. Little is known of the subjects depicted as the artist left no notes as to their identity or relationship to him. No particulars on the gentleman or lady are to be found, either, in the local historical records of the time and the odd structure beside which the gentleman is standing remains a puzzle. Civic records offer no indication that such a structure ever existed, as if this curious blue box simply appeared out of thin air, and then disappeared just as mysteriously. The title of the work gives us our only clue as to the two subjects, suggesting that the gentleman was, perhaps, a medical doctor travelling with a female relative, Fiancée, or mistress. MonSFFA’s own Keith Braithwaite worked on the restoration of the painting.

(2) BLUE PEOPLE BEWARE. Yahoo! Movies reports “’The Force Awakens’ Barreling Toward ‘Avatar’Record”.

The space opera sequel is moving up the all-time domestic box office charts at a record clip and now is poised to overtake those pointy eared blue aliens as the top grossing film in history. Avatar earned $760.5 million during its stateside run and Star Wars: The Force Awakens has generated $740.4 million domestically after picking up $88.3 million over New Year’s weekend. It should take the crown from Avatar early next week.

(3) AXANAR DECONSTRUCTED. (There’s that word again. I hope I know what it means…) John Seavey at Mightygodking has created a FAQ about the Paramount/CBS lawsuit against Axanar Productions:

Q: Then why are they being sued? Paramount allows lots of these things, don’t they?

A: Oh, yeah. “Star Trek Renegades”, “Star Trek: Of Gods and Men”, “Star Trek Continues”…basically, it seems like as long as nobody’s making any money, Paramount turns a blind eye to these fan films.

Q: But this one they wouldn’t? Why?

A: Well, there is the fact that, in an update on Axanar’s Indigogo campaign, they said, “EVERYTHING costs more when you are a professional production and not a fan film. All of this and more is explained, along with our budget of how we spent the money in the Axanar Annual Report.”

And in that latest annual budget report, they said, “First and foremost, it is important to remember that what started out as a glorified fan film is now a fully professional production. That means we do things like a studio would. And of course, that means things cost more. We don’t cut corners. We don’t ask people to work full time for no pay. And the results speak for themselves.”

And:

“Please note that we are a professional production and thus RUN like a professional production. That means our full time employees get paid. Not much honestly, but everyone has bills to pay and if you work full time for Axanar, you get paid.

Also, no other fan film has production insurance like we do. We pay $ 12,000 a year for that. Again, a professional production.”

Also, in their Indiegogo FAQ, they had this little gem:

“Q: What is Axanar Productions?

Axanar is not just an independent Star Trek film; it is the beginning of a whole new way that fans can get the content they want, by funding it themselves. Why dump hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on 400 cable channels, when what you really want is a few good sci-fi shows? Hollywood is changing. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and other providers are redefining content delivery, and Axanar Productions/Ares Studios hopes to be part of that movement.”

Which kind of contradicts the “fan film” statement.

(4) WILL SMITH’S CHARACTER IS LATE. John King Tarpinian imagines the conversation went like this: “You want how much?  Sorry but your character just died.” In a Yahoo! News interview,  “Will Smith Says It Was Terrible When He Found Out His Independence Day Character Died”.

Will Smith found it unpleasant to learn that the fat lady had sung on Steven Hiller, the character he played in 1996’s Independence Day. “It was terrible when I found out my character died,” Smith told Yahoo.

Hiller’s death was revealed on a viral site for Independence Day: Resurgence. “While test piloting the ESD’s first alien hybrid fighter, an unknown malfunction causes the untimely death of Col. Hiller,” the site’s timeline reads. “Hiller’s valor in the War of ’96 made him a beloved global icon whose selfless assault against the alien mothership lead directly to the enemy’s defeat. He is survived by his wife Jasmine and his son Dylan.” You can see an image of Hiller’s fiery death by clicking here.

(5) ALL KNIGHT. Admiring Fred Kiesche’s Damon Knight quote in a comment here, Damien G. Walter tweeted —

(6) HE FIGURES. Camestros Felapton forays into toy design with his new “Hugo” brand “Stage Your Own Kerfuffle”  figures….

(7) JEFFRO MOVES UP. Vox Day is delegating management of the Castalia House blog to “The new sheriff in town”, Jeffro Johnson:

As Castalia House has grown, it has become increasingly difficult to balance my responsibilities as Lead Editor and as the manager of this blog. Because Castalia House shoots for excellence across the board, I have decided that it is time to step back and hand over my responsibilities for this blog to someone else.

And who is better suited to take it over than one of the very best bloggers in science fiction and gaming? I am absolutely delighted to announce that the Castalia House blogger, author of the epic Chapter N series, and 2015 Hugo nominee for Best Fan Writer, Jeffro Johnson, has agreed to accept the position of Blog Editor at Castalia House.

(8) ARISTOTLE. That leaves Vox Day more time to orchestrate his winter offensive. His first target is File 770 commenter Lis Carey.

Even I occasionally forget how fragile these psychologically decrepit specimens are. Anyhow, it’s a good reminder to ALWAYS USE RHETORIC on them. They’re vulnerable to it; they can’t take it. That’s why they resort to it even when it doesn’t make sense in the context of a discussion, because they are trying to make you feel the emotional pain that they feel whenever they are criticized.

Day is developing a Goodreads author page, and Carey mentioned yesterday she had already seen early signs of activity:

Ah, this may explain a recent comment on one of my reviews of last year’s Hugo nominees–and means maybe I can expect more.

The particular comments were on her review of Castalia House’s Riding The Red Horse.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 3, 1841 — Herman Melville ships out on the whaler Acushnet to the South Seas.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 3, 1892 – J.R.R. Tolkien, honored by Emily Asher-Perrin at Tor.com:

But of course, the world remembers Tolkien for changing the fantasy genre forever. By penning The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien set a framework for fantasy literature that countless authors have attempted to recapture over the years. The creation of Middle-earth, from its languages to its poetry to its rich cultural history and varied peoples, was an astounding feat of imagination that no one had managed before with such detail and ardent care.

(11) SEMIPROZINES. Camestros Felapton continues moving through the alphabet in his “Semiprozine Round-Up: Cs and Ds”.

Keeping on going in the Cs and Ds of semiprozines.

  • The Cascadia Subduction Zone
  • The Colored Lens
  • Crossed Genres Magazine
  • Daily Science Fiction
  • The Dark Magazine
  • Diabolical Plots

(12) PARTS NOT TAKEN. “Leonardo DiCaprio Reflects On Turning Down Anakin Skywalker And Two SuperHero Roles” at ScienceFiction.com:

And it’s a philosophy that has led to him turning down parts in some guaranteed smashes and lots of cha-ching.  He recently revealed that he actually met with George Lucas, but ultimately passed on playing Anakin Skywalker in the ‘Star Wars’ prequels.

“I did have a meeting with George Lucas about that, yes.  I just didn’t feel ready to take that dive. At that point.”

Around this time, DiCaprio instead chose to make ‘Gangs of New York’ and ‘Catch Me If You Can’, the latter of which earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

Still he must be kicking himself.  The role instead went to Hayden Christiansen and look at how his career took… oh, ahem.  Nevermind.

(13) REMEMBERING BAEN. While researching another post, I rediscovered David Drake’s 2006 tribute to the late Jim Baen, who had just recently passed. Shortly before Baen’s death the two were on the phone and Baen asked, “You seem to like me. Why?” The answer is rather touching.

And then I thought further and said that when I was sure my career was tanking–

You thought that? When was that?”

In the mid ’90s, I explained, when Military SF was going down the tubes with the downsizing of the military. But when I was at my lowest point, which was very low, I thought, “I can write two books a year. And Jim will pay me $20K apiece for them–”

“I’d have paid a lot more than that!”

And I explained that this wasn’t about reality: this was me in the irrational depths of real depression. And even when I was most depressed and most irrational, I knew in my heart that Jim Baen would pay me enough to keep me alive, because he was that sort of person. He’d done that for Keith Laumer whom he disliked, because Laumer had been an author Jim looked for when he was starting to read SF.

I could not get so crazy and depressed that I didn’t trust Jim Baen to stand by me if I needed him. I don’t know a better statement than that to sum up what was important about Jim, as a man and as a friend.

(14) PEACE IN OUR TIME. In “The Stormbunnies and Crybullies”, John C. Wright devotes over 2,000 words to making his closing offer irresistible in that special way only he knows how.

But I am a forgiving man, jovial and magnanimous. I make the following peace offer: Go your way. Cease to interfere with me and my livelihood, do your work, cease to libel me and meddle with my affairs, withhold your tongue from venom and your works from wickedness, and we shall all get along famously.

Otherwise, it is against my self interest to seek peace with you. Peace is a two sided affair: both parties must agree. So far only Mr. Martin has even expressed a desire for it.

(15) WHAT KEEPS YOU FROM WRITING? Nandini Balial at Pacific Standard helps writers name their fears — “Gremlins and Satyrs of Rejection: A Taxonomy of Writers’ Foes”

THE SATYRS OF MOUNT OUTLET: Like its cousin Olympus, Mount Outlet stretches far beyond human sight into luxurious billowy clouds. The work its satyrs produce is sharp and daring. Vast networks of bloggers, freelancers, and even reporters churn out viral but self-aware listicles, personal essays that make me cry more than they should, and short stories so good I’m inclined to simply put my pen away. On Twitter, their satyrs (editors) trade barbs and witticisms with the speed of a Gatling gun. A poor peasant like me may approach the foot of the mountain, but my tattered, unworthy scrolls and I will soon turn around and head home.

(16) PUBLISHING STINKS. Kristen Lamb, in “The Ugly Truth of Publishing & How BEST to Support Writers”, says don’t bother reviewing her books on Goodreads, because that’s where the trolls are:

Tweet a picture of our book. Put it on Facebook. People in your network ARE noticing. Peer review and approval is paramount in the digital age. And don’t support your favorite author on Goodreads as a first choice (AMAZON reviews are better). The only people hanging out on Goodreads for the most part are other writers and book trolls.

Support us on your regular Facebook page or Instagram or Twitter. Because when you post a great new book you LOVED your regular friends see that. When they get stranded in an Urgent Care or an airport? What will they remember? THAT BOOK. They won’t be on Goodreads. Trust me.

(17) DISSONANCE. After reading Kristen Lamb’s discouraging words, I encountered M. L. Brennan calling for everyone to get up and dance because Generation V earned out and what that means”. That’s not the next post I’d have expected to see, straight from leaving Lamb’s black-crepe-draped explanation of the publishing industry.

One thing to bear in mind, because it’s easy to lose sight of it when you look at that last paragraph — if I hadn’t received an advance, I wouldn’t have made more money on this book. I would still have earned $7615.78 on the series — except earning that first $7500 would have taken me two years, rather than being entirely in my pocket on the day that Generation V hit the bookstores. And that $7500 paid my mortgage, my electric bill, and other bills, which made it substantially easier for me to write. Without that advance, it would’ve taken me longer to write Iron Night, Tainted Blood, and even Dark Ascension, because I would’ve been having to hustle other work elsewhere and spend less time writing.

(18) NONE DARE CALL IT SF. Whether Joshua Adam Anderson styles himself an sf fan I couldn’t say (though he did take a course from Professor James Gunn), but his LA Review of Books article “Toward a New Fantastic: Stop Calling It Science Fiction” is a deep dive into the abyss of genre. His attempt to define (redefine?) science fiction is precisely what fans love.

LAST JULY, Pakistani science fiction writer Usman Malik published a clarion call for his home country. In it, he made the claim that “[e]ncouraging science fiction, fantasy, and horror readership has the potential to alleviate or fix many of Pakistan’s problems.” While it would be difficult to disagree with the idea that science fiction is a positive force in the world, many of Malik’s reasons for championing the genre are problematic. To begin with, Malik — along with just about everyone else — still, for some reason, calls “science fiction” science fiction. His essay actually contains a handful of reasons why we should stop calling it “science fiction,” and it also inadvertently addresses how and why we need to liberate ourselves from genre itself — and how “science fiction” can help us do just that.

(19) PLANNING BEGINS: Paul Johnson’s early word is that the event to honor his father, the late George Clayton Johnson, might be in February at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

P Johnson snip Egyptian

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., Paul Weimer, Brian Z., and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Baen No Longer Alone

In light of Tor Books’ announcement that it is getting rid of digital rights management (DRM) in July, the folks at Baen Books have followed-up by announcing their entire line of ebooks will also be DRM-free – just exactly as it has been ever since the late 1990s. 

Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf commented:

We expect this strategy to be a winning formula for Tor as it has been for more than a decade for Baen. We heartily welcome Tor/Forge to the DRM-free fold.

Baen Books founder Jim Baen, who died in 2006, was known to be a passionate advocate of ebooks without DRM, according to Baen editor Tony Daniel: 

We have mugs and hats from years ago still around the office with our on-going ebook slogan written on them: “Alone in the Fight Against Encryption.”

Baen Books currently offers well 1,500 DRM-free titles at Baenebooks.com, and almost every title is available in all current file formats and many legacy formats as well, including Mobi, Kindle, Palm, EPUB, Nook, Stanza, Sony LRF, Rocketbook , RTF, MS Reader, and HTML Online versions.

The full press release follows the jump.

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Lundrigan Wins Baen Writing Contest

Patrick Lundrigan of New Jersey has won the 2010 Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest with his entry “Space Hero.” 

The result was announced on May 11, but had largely gone unnoticed til Baen copied the press release to news bloggers this week.

First runner-up was “Citizen-Astronaut” by David Levine of Portland, Oregon and second runner up was “High Ground” by Australian writer Stuart Gibbon.

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Laura Haywood-Cory for the story.]

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The Quick and the Dead

A lot of people want to know how they can win a Hugo Award. I don’t think any of them are looking to win one posthumously, which is just as well, because it would be a terrible strategy. In fact, you could say that Hugo Seeker Tip Number One is: Don’t die.

Here’s how strong the bias is in favor of the living. Bill Rotsler died in October 1997 after winning two consecutive Best Fan Artist Hugos. Fanzines printed dozens and dozens of previously unpublished Rotsler cartoons in the year of his death, yet he was not even a Hugo nominee in 1998.

Voters want to see happy winners appearing on stage at the Hugo Ceremony.

Voters are even impatient with living proxy accepters. Emily Mah said she found Denvention 3 a cause for mourning, partly because “The [Hugo] ceremony was dominated by other people reading acceptance speeches of little slips of paper.”

The voters’ preference for live winners has been reinforced by bad experiences with the other kind.

Lester del Rey, in a letter read by a spokesman, declined the Best Professional Editor Hugo voted posthumously to Judy-Lynn del Rey in 1986, saying that she would have objected to the award being given to her just because she had recently died.

When the late Jim Baen appeared on the 2007 Hugo ballot as a nominee for Best Professional Editor in 2007, there was a bit of suspense until the Hugo administrator made public that she had the approval of Baen’s exectors Toni Weisskopf and Jessica Baen. (However, in a comment posted at Whatever, James Nicoll forcefully advocated honoring the living by dismissing the Baen nomination: “He’s dead now and no matter [what] his fans do, he will never experience winning a Hugo.”)

The Apprentice

Trufen.net’s story of the day announces Jeff Berkwits will be the new editor at Amazing and that Ted White has already determined Berkwits lacks the necessary skills for this job.

Say what you will about Ted and his crystal ball, I’m sure he’s right. Ted has edited pro magazines, he ought to know. What’s more, I have a little experience in this line myself. It’s just that I was lucky enough not to get the dream job.

Berkwits is embarking on a desperate gamble that all his gifts as an editor and writer can be trained up fast enough to make the crucial difference in Amazing’s commercial survival. And he’s the kind of promising novice a scuffling prozine publisher will inevitably turn to.

When Jim Baen was leaving Galaxy in the 1970s, out of the blue Jerry Pournelle told me (entirely seriously) that I should apply to take over the job and that he’d put in a word for me. Well, I thought it over logically for about twelve seconds before getting swept up in the dream. I wrote the best application letter I could and mailed it off to Baen at Galaxy. Then I waited. Then I heard nothing. Then I read in Locus that Hank Stine had been hired as Baen’s replacement.

In hindsight one can see that Galaxy was already on the verge of a financial tailspin that could not have been halted by the resurrection of John W. Campbell. Hank Stine merely received the privilege of riding the bomb down to the target, like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.

However, Stine was editor of Galaxy long enough to find my job application in his in-box, scrawl an insulting answer on the back in red pen, and mail it back to me. Really, it was a hilarious and pathetic gesture. Didn’t he have bigger things to worry about? Yes Hank, you were right, I did not have any credentials to aspire to that job.

In the mind of a science fiction fan, editing a prozine is a dream job. Who could turn it down? But I exaggerated when I said I was lucky not to have been picked. One of the things that distinguishes a fan is looking for external validation, and wouldn’t I have “proved” something to the sf community even by editing Galaxy into the ground? Er, don’t answer that.

As for Berkwits, I wish him luck and success. Been there. Almost did that.