Pixel Scroll 10/13 Another Fine Pixel You’ve Gotten Us Into

(1) Nicole Dieker at The Billfold says “Joss Whedon Made More Money With ‘Dr. Horrible’ Than ‘The Avengers,’ Unbelievably”.

Okay. Let’s compare two scenarios.

1) You decide to write, direct, and produce a 45-minute web musical. You fund the musical’s production out of your own pocket. It is free to watch online.

2) Marvel hires you to write and direct a summer blockbuster that becomes the third highest grossing film of all time.

Which one should make you more money? As Vulture reports, it’s not the one you think:

Joss Whedon shared an eye-opening fact during Saturday night’s reunion of the “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” team: He’s made more money from his independently financed 2008 Internet musical than he did from writing and directing Marvel’s first blockbuster “Avengers” movie.

(2) Nancy Kress, skillfully interviewed by Raymond Bolton

Many of your works delve into areas that require great technical expertise, for example genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Yet, as far as I can tell, before your writing exploded, you transitioned from being an educator to working in advertising. What do you read to develop the knowledge base required for your books?

I wish I had a scientific education! Had I known when I was young that I would turn into an SF writer, I would have chosen differently. Instead, I hold a Masters in English. To write about genetic engineering, I research on-line, attend lectures, and pester actual scientists with questions. My best friend is a doctor; she goes over my work to check that I have not said anything egregiously moronic.

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient for better or for worse. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal moments?

The first turning point for me came with the writing of the novella “Beggars in Spain,” which won both the Hugo and the Nebula and which would never have been written without a jolt from writer Bruce Sterling. At a critique workshop we both attended, he pointed out that my story was weak because the society I’d created had no believable economic underpinnings. He said this colorfully and at length. After licking my wounds for a few weeks, I thought, “Damn it, he’s right!” In the next thing I wrote, “Beggars in Spain,” I seriously tried to address economic issues: Who controls the resources? What finances are behind what ventures? Why? With what success? My story about people not needing to sleep, which I’d actually been trying to compose for years, finally came alive.

(3) He grew up to be the leading fantasy cover artist – here is some of his earliest work. Frank Frazetta’s Adventures of the Snowman reviewed by Steven Paul Leiva for New York Journal of Books.

Frazetta snowman

Frazetta is probably the most widely known—and revered—illustrator of science fiction and fantasy subjects, having gained much fame and a large following for his paperback book covers, putting the image into the imaginative worlds of Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and Conan the Barbarian, among others. Several generations of young minds looking for escape into fantastic realms of adventure where landscapes were often dark and danger-filled, men were perfect specimens of well-muscled heroes, and women were beyond beautiful as their “attributes” were beyond belief, will never regret having made the trip. But earlier in his career Frazetta worked in comics and comic books, even ghosting for Al Capp on his Lil’ Abner strip.

And at the age of 12 1/2, stuck in his bedroom on a snowy day, and inspired by a snowman in his backyard being battered by a winter wind, Frazetta created the Snow Man. This wasn’t a gentle character associated with winter wonderlands and Christmas, but rather a righteous fighter against the evil Axis, which America and its allies were fighting in the Second World War. A few years later, at the still young age of 15, Frazetta created at least two Snow Man comic stories, one of which was published in Tally-Ho Comics, and the other that makes up this current book.

(4) Larry Correia pulls back the curtain on another corner of the writing business in “Ask Correia #17: Velocity, Releases, Rankings, and Remainders”.

So if you turn over constantly, stores tend to like you, and will order more. The more shelf space they give you, the more new people are likely to see your stuff. Success breeds success.

Here is an example. A bookstore orders 3 copies of your first novel. If all of them sell in the first week, then the bookstore is probably going to reorder 3 more. Then when your second novel comes out, they’ll look at their prior sales, and instead of ordering 3, they’ll order 6. Do this for decades, and it is why new James Patterson or Dean Koontz novels are delivered to your local book stores on pallets.

But if those 3 copies of your first novel sat on the shelf for months before selling, then the store probably didn’t bother to restock when it finally does sell. They may or may not order 3 copies of your second, but either way they’re not super excited about you.

I’ve been inside about 300 book stores since I started my professional writing career in 2009. I can usually tell how well I’m doing at any particular store even before I talk to any of the employees, just by going by where my books are and seeing how much space they give me on their shelves. A couple of books means that I don’t do well at that store. Five or six books tells me I’m okay. Eight or ten tells me I’m kicking ass in that town. If the books are faced out, that means I’ve got somebody on staff who is a fan (and that is incredibly important).

(5) Steven Murphy commences a kind of nonlethal Death Match with “Them’s Fightin’ Words: Harry Potter V. Ender Wiggin” at ScienceFiction.com

The following is the first of a new series pitting the merits and abilities of similar characters against each other. We open with a disclosure of the personal bias of the author then outline some ground rules and end with an example of how a fight between the two might unfold.

Personal Bias: The popularity of JK Rowling’s series has cemented Harry Potter as the go-to magical youth. He is the modern personification of the fantasy genre. The perfect contrast to Potter would then be the boy who personifies science fiction, Ender Wiggin of Orson Scott Card’s novel ‘Ender’s Game‘. The two characters have a great deal in common–both are children with the fate of their kind resting on their shoulders. I prefer ‘Ender’s Game’ over any single Harry Potter book, but I can’t argue that the Potter series as a whole succeeds on a level that the Ender series of books does not.

Ground Rules: The Goblet of Fire follows Harry into a series of trials that place him in a mindset that parallels Ender’s nicely. For my purposes the version of Harry with the skills and experience gained from this book and those previous will be used. The Ender used will be the one post ‘Ender’s Game’ and before ‘Speaker for the Dead’. This will allow the two characters to be roughly the same age. Ender will not have the assistance of his friend and database intelligence, Jane. The surroundings will compliment Ender in that the arena is the Battle School’s gravity free training room complete with the immobile obstacles called “astroids” for cover. Ender will have a blaster and Harry will have his wand. They enter the arena at opposite gates, neither with a clear view of the opposing gate.

(6) Tom Knighton reviews Chuck Gannon’s Raising Caine:

Like the first in the series, this one starts out somewhat slow.  The action tends to be minimal and sporadic, but for good reason.  However, the writing is good enough that it will get you through to the moments where the action picks up.  Further, none of the other stuff is filler.  Almost all feels vital to the story (and I can’t think of anything that comes up that isn’t important later on).

When the story does pick up, it becomes something very special indeed.  That’s just Gannon’s gift, however.  The previous book, Trial by Fire contained more of the action I prefer just be necessity, and that book was definitely on my list of “special” books.

While I don’t think Raising Caine was quite up to that level, that’s not a slight on this book.  The only books I’ve read recently that were on that level included Seveneves and A Long Time Until Now.  Both of those are on my Hugo list, and Raising Caine is a contender for one of those slots as well.

(7) The Nerf Nuke fires 80 darts in all directions.

(8) Tom Galloway, past contestant and inveterate Jeopardy! watcher, saw this on the October 12 show —

Heh. Today’s Jeopardy! round was a themed board on Game of Thrones, with categories Winter Is Coming, A Song of “Ice” and “Fire”, You Know Nothing, The North Remembers, Always Pay Your Debts, and wrapping up with Game Of Thrones, of course the only category actually about the work (specifically the tv series).

(9) Sometimes there’s a reason this news is hard to find — “’Lizard men abducted me to the moon for sex,’ woman claims”.

A former U.S. air force radar operator was abducted to the moon by lizard men for nightly sex – and was also forced to stack boxes.

What our reptilian overlords want with these sinister boxes can only be guessed at.

Niara Terela Isley is just one of several witnesses quoted by Alien UFO Sightings in an expose of the U.S. military’s secret moon bases – where reptiles rule, and humans are passed around like sex toys.

(10) James Schardt delivers “A Response to Charles Gannon” at Otherwhere Gazette.

At one point, Mr. Gannon used the term “The Evil Other”. I’m not sure he has grasped the full significance of this label.

Would you talk to a Homophobic Neo-Nazi that tried to hijack a literary award?

How about a racist who married a minority wife and had a child with her to hide his racism? These have actually happened! We know, it was talked about in such serious publications as Salon, Entertainment Weekly, The Daily Beast, The Guardian, and Slate. They had to get their information somewhere. Someone sent this information to them and they should have done due diligence. Otherwise they might not have as much credibility as people thought.

Now, those two characters, above, don’t even sound plausible in comic books. But these are not just insults that have been thrown at the Puppies. This is what many of the Science Fiction Establishment actually BELIEVE. With these beliefs, almost any action becomes allowable. What tactic should be disallowed when fighting Evil? Are you going to let a prestigious award go to a Nazi? Someone might think it validated his ideas, then you have more Nazis. Would you pay for a hundred more people to vote to prevent that? Would you tone back your rhetoric for any reason? You certainly wouldn’t apologize for calling them Nazis. That’s what they are. Good grief, we’re talking about Fascists, here! It cost 60 million lives to defeat them last time! Vox Day is sadly mistaken. Social Justice Warriors don’t always lie. When you are fighting for Good, there is no reason to lie. Social Justice Warriors tell the truth as they see it.

Of course, the problem is, the Puppies are not Nazis. Even Theodore Beale, the infamous Vox Day, doesn’t quite reach that level (probably). In the face of this, the Puppies can’t back down. Not won’t, CAN’T! They know. They tried. This is the biggest problem with telling the Puppies to moderate their responses.

(11) Someone was not pleased to see the topic heat up again —

(12) John Scalzi did, however, enjoy explaining his now-famous Nerdcon somersault in the first comment on “My Thoughts on Nerdcon:Stories”.

(13) “A Harry Potter Where Hermione Doesn’t Do Anyone’s Homework For Them” by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast.

“Okay, write that down,” Hermione said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, “and then copy out this conclusion that I’ve written for you.”

“Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,” said Ron weakly, “and if I’m ever rude to you again –” He broke off suddenly. “This just says DO YOUR OWN GODDAMN WORK in fourteen languages.”

“Fifteen,” said Hermione. “One of them’s invisible.”

(14) Kimberly Potts’ “The Big Bang Theory Recap: What the Filk Is Happening” sets up the next video.

Thankfully, just as so many episodes of Will & Grace were Karen-and-Jack-ed away from the main characters, “The 2003 Approximation” is stolen, or rather saved, by Howard and Raj. In a far more entertaining half of the episode, we’re introduced to the joys of Filk. What, you may ask, is Filk? It’s a genre of music that puts a science-fiction/fantasy spin on folk, and yes, it is a real thing. It’s also the reason that, for at least the next week, many of us will be trying to get the chorus of “Hammer and Whip: The Untold Story of Thor vs. Indiana Jones” out of our heads.


(15) Jurassic World gets the Honest Trailer treatment.


Also not very funny.

On second thought, was there some reason I included this link?

(16) Because it’s a good lead-in to Bryce Dallas Howard’s defense of her Jurassic World character’s shoe preferences?

Her insistence on wearing high-heels throughout the movie, including a memorable scene that sees her outrunning a T-Rex in stilettos, was dismissed as “lazy filmmaking” by Vulture and called “one tiny but maddening detail” that set up the film to “fail” by The Dissolve.

The actress herself disagrees. She explained to Yahoo why her character’s footwear choice is totally “logical” for the movie, seemingly putting the conversation to bed once and for all.

Watch our exclusive interview with Bryce Dallas Howard for the DVD and Blu-ray release of ‘Jurassic World’ on 19 October above.

“[Claire] is ill-equipped to be in the jungle. This person does not belong in the jungle,” reasons Bryce.

“And then when she ends up in the jungle it’s how does this person adapt to being in the jungle?”

“From a logical standpoint I don’t think she would take off her heels,” she adds.

“I don’t think she would choose to be barefoot. I don’t think she would run faster barefoot in the jungle with vines and stones.”

[Thanks to Nick Mamatas, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Exotic Fan Fundraiser

Steven H Silver, who accepted Joss Whedon’s Hugo for The Avengers last night, writes —

I raised $176 for the Fan Funds by letting people hold the Hugo I accepted as I wandered around the party floors.  I started this fundraiser in 2009 in Montreal when Aliette de Bodard and Christopher Kastensmidt asked if they could hold it and I jokingly asked for $5.  After they reached their wallets, I kept it up and raised over $200 that year to be divided between TAFF, DUFF and CUFF.  Figured I’d continue this year.

No Whedon, No Nothin’

Bad news for fans buying the British release of Marvel’s The Avengers on DVD/Blu-Ray. Variety reports the U.K. version lacks Joss Whedon’s director’s commentary and other significant extras. And there’s an alternate edit from the U.K. theatrical version.

A spokesperson for Disney U.K. Home Entertainment said Whedon’s commentary was finished too late for the U.K. manufacturing deadline, which came a month earlier than the U.S. pressing. The U.K. disc was released September 17, while the U.S. release isn’t until September 25.

The alternate edit involves the scene where Loki kills Agent Coulson – in the theatrical release Loki’s spear is seen protruding from the agent’s chest, but not in the UK disc version.

I was intrigued by the British Board of Film Classification’s Extended Classification Information for the disc:

The action sequences are similar to those in other recent films passed at ’12’ which feature the same superhero characters. Although there are some strong blows and impacts there is little detail in the violence, which is highly stylised. Furthermore, the involvement of fantastical superheroes means that there is no real danger of the combat resulting in serious injury or death. Much of the violence is directed at an army of aliens that have no human characteristics. The injuries sustained by the aliens are very unreal, with small blue splashes representing ‘blood’ when they are blasted by weapons. The BBFC’s Guidelines at ’12A’/’12’ state ‘Moderate violence is allowed but should not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood, but occasional gory moments may be permitted if justified by the context’.

So, definitely no spears sticking through people if you want the age “12” rating. When I was younger I’d have ended this with a snarky line about how things have changed since the days when Britons commissioned Edward Armitage to celebrate violent conflict in paintings. However, now that I have a 10-year-old daughter, if they cut all the cinematic violence I’m unwilling for her to see The Avengers would amount to nothing more than a nice 10-minute travelogue about New York.

[Via Diane Duane.]

Follow Alyson Abramowitz’ Campaign

Alyson Abramowitz, known within fandom as a conrunner and once-upon-a-time fanzine publisher, has also applied her skills to organizing the mundane world as an active member of the Democratic Party.

She enjoyed the best of both in 2004 as the National Chairperson for High Stakes, a Kerry/Edwards fundraising event that connected donors at local parties in a conference call with Joss Whedon.

Just now Alyson is running for one of the six seats on the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee from the 22nd Assembly District. You can follow her campaign on Facebook. Democratic voters will make their choices on June 8.

California’s Democratic Party is governed by the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC). Members serve two-year terms.

In 2000, Alyson was among the six who won seats on the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee from the 24th Assembly District. In a contested election she finished fifth in a field of nine candidates.

Alyson previously ran for the 22nd Assembly District in 2006 and in 2008, the second time being one of the six selected for the 22nd Assembly District in an uncontested election.

I first met Alyson at the 1974 Worldcon and when an acquaintance is the candidate it’s easier to take an interest in the wealth of political intelligence that can be discovered with Google.

Of course it was no surprise to learn from Huffington Post’s Fundrace 2008 that Alyson contributed to Kerry’s 2004 campaign. After all, she was a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, pledged to Kerry. (And she had been an alternate delegate to the 2000 convention.)

Today she’s a member of the Finance Committee of the California Democratic Party. And Alyson was Chair California Democratic Party Business and Professional Caucus during the 2009 campaign.

I’ll be back with the results on Election Day.

Slayage Conference Attracts Whedon Scholars

The fourth Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses will convene June 3-6 at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

SC4 is organized by the college in partnership with the Whedon Studies Association. When scholars study a prolific living artist there is barely room to list all the exciting developments that crop up between conferences, as one can tell from the introductory remarks in the conference program (PDF file):

The freshly?minted Whedon Studies Association welcomes you to the fourth biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses . At the first three—in Nashville (Middle Tennessee State University, 2004), Barnesville (Gordon College, 2006), and Arkadelphia (Henderson State University, 2008)—over 400 paper s on the works of Joss Whedon were presented. Last time we met, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog had not yet been webcast and Dollhouse had not yet aired (or been cancelled). So we have much to talk about, including fresh takes on Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Serenity.

The conference’s keynote speakers (and their topics) are Lorna Jowett (Sex and the Slayer), Dale Koontz (Faith and Choice in the Works of Joss Whedon), and Steve Halfyard (Music, Sound, and Silence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

[Thanks to Richard Gutkes for the story.]

Whedon’s Med Cred DOA

Dr. Grasshopper’s blog How to Kill Your Imaginary Friends isn’t on a crusade to restore the preeminence of hard science fiction, but anyone longing to see that happen should feel encouraged to see an sf-writing medical student chastising producers who disdain scientific accuracy in pursuit of gaudy effects.

The genre’s most popular tv producer was the target of the doctor’s recent post titled “Joss Whedon, I’m calling you out!”

I was watching the Dollhouse episode entitled “Hollow Men” (2×12) the other day. And there was this scene. You probably know the one I’m talking about. It involved lots of needles. It involved cerebrospinal fluid. And it involved absolutely indefensible pseudo-medical ridiculousness.

[Via David Klaus and SFWA.org]

Update 3/8/2010: Took a hint from Gary Farber and corrected the spelling of the name.

Battlestar Galactica, Caprica at PaleyFest09

PaleyFest09, the twenty-sixth festival of the best in television and new media, will start in Los Angeles on April 10 and run for two weeks. The features with the greatest sf fan appeal are four different Joss Whedon projects, including Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, a kind of Galactica origin story:

Now that Battlestar Galactica-itself a reimagined version of a 1970s TV space opera-has dry-docked, we turn our attention to Caprica, a BSG prequel scheduled to debut on DVD in April and on Sci Fi Channel in 2010. Set fifty years before the nuclear apocalypse that opened Galactica, Caprica follows two families-the Graystones and the Adamas (particularly Bill’s “old man” Joseph)-as they feud over the creation of cybernetic life forms, marrying artificial intelligence with mechanical bodies, aka, Cylons.

An April 20 event will bring together cast and creative team members from Galactica and Caprica and feature a premiere screening of Caprica. Appearing in person will be Ronald D. Moore, Executive Producer; David Eick, Executive Producer; Jane Espenson, Executive Producer; Paula Malcomson (Amanda Greystone, Caprica); Polly Walker (Sister Clarice Willow, Caprica); Eric Stoltz (Daniel Greystone, Caprica); Esai Morales (Joseph Adama, Caprica)’ Alessandra Torressani (Zoe Greystone, Caprica); Magda Apanowicz (Lacy Rand, Caprica); Tricia Helfer (Number Six, Battlestar Galactica); Grace Park (Sharon/Athena/Boomer, Battlestar Galactica); Special Guest; Moderator: Seth Green (Robot Chicken, Buffy The Vampire Slayer).

Info: Monday, April 20, 2009, 7:00 p.m. , at the Cinerama Dome at ArcLight Hollywood. Tickets are available online, the first four rows priced to the general public for $60, the remainder of the house, $45.

Full information about PaleyFest09 can be read in the press release.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link]