Pixel Scroll 9/17 Second pixel to the left and straight on till Worldcon

(1) Curbed LA is not alone in thinking “The New Look of the Petersen Automotive Museum is Really Really Bad”.

petersen automotive museum

Shawn Crosby hit the nail on the head – “It looks as if the Petersen had skinned Disney Concert Hall Buffalo Bill style and is wearing its bloody outsides like a dress.”

(2) A critical headline also provides the first clue that Io9’s Germain Lussier is down on another project — “The Latest Stephen King Book To Become a Fatally Disappointing TV Show Is…”

The Mist is about how a group of citizens react when—you guessed it—a mysterious mist takes over their town, filled with horrible monsters. Both the movie and novella mostly take place in a isolated supermarket but the TV show will only use that as inspiration, and will have a larger scope.

(3) Anne and Wil Wheaton are hosting “Fancy Dinner: Burgers, Beer, and a Book” on October 20 from 6:30-9 p.m. at Crossings restaurant in South Pasadena. Admission is $100 per person. Click on the link for menu and other details.

At the end of the evening, you will get your own, autographed, advance copy of our book “A Guide To Being A Dog by Seamus Wheaton.” Proceeds from this event will be donated by Crossings to the Pasadena Humane Society to support our participation in the Wiggle Waggle Walk.

(4) This is a good example of what people look to SFWA for — Jennifer Brozek discusses “How Do You Ask For A Blurb?” on the SFWA Blog.

How do you ask for these blurbs without making a nuisance of yourself? You do your research. Many professional authors have “blurb and review” policies in place on their websites, mostly out of self-defense. An author can read only so many books when they are not writing or doing their own story research. Some of these policies may be “No. I will not blurb your book.” Some of them may be “Talk to my agent.” Whatever the posted blurb policy is… follow it. That’s the polite and correct thing to do.

If you have an agent, you can talk to them about talking to the agent of the author you’d like a blurb from. Your agent should have a decent handle on who can be approached and who should be avoided. If you don’t have an agent, you need to do things the old fashioned way: ask.

(5) Steve Davidson harkens back to his Crotchety Old Fan days with “The Things Robert Heinlein Taught Me” at Amazing Stories

What this little episode did remind me of is the fact that, in many ways, Bob served as a surrogate grandfather for me.  Both of mine passed before I’d been on this planet five years, and as anyone who has read Time Enough For Love can tell you, a rascally, unrepentant and self-assured grandfather is a must have in the proper development of the creatures we euphemistically call little boys.

And of course it then occurred to me that there were quite a few humorous (and not so humorous) lessons to be had from all of Heinlein’s books and, lacking the kind of social restraint that would undoubtedly have been passed on to me by a real-life grandfather, I have decided to share some of them with you.

(6) “The Cold Publishing Equations: Books Sold + Marketability + Love” is Kameron Hurley’s latest autobiographical post based on her royalty statements.

Being above average is important, because being average sucks —

The average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime (Publishers Weekly, 2006).

Yes. It’s not missing a zero.

Take a breath and read that again.

But wait, there’s more!

The average traditionally published book which sells  3,000 in its entire lifetime in print only sells about 250-300 copies its first year.

But I’m going indie! you say. My odds are better!

No, grasshopper. Your odds are worse.

(7) Wallpaper Direct has a fun infographic about Doctor Who villains through time.

The role of The Doctor has been assumed by 12 respected actors, each bringing their own quirks and characteristics to the programme. Along with his Mark I Type 40 TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), the time travelling rogue has blasted his way across space, but not without gaining some enemies in the process.

From the Daleks to the Cybermen, we take a look at the most notable enemies from the Dr. Who franchise.

And they’d be thrilled to see you some wall covering from their Dr. Who Wall Mural collection.


Officially licensed wallpaper murals based on the latest BBC series with Doctor Who starring Matt Smith as the Time Lord – from the company Black Dog Murals. The mural is easy to hang – paste the wall product and each is supplied in a box, with full hanging instructions. Please read the hanging instructions carefully. The mural is supplied in pre-cut lengths. The lengths are sometimes reverse rolled due to the manufacturing process. If you are in any doubt regarding direction of pattern please refer to website.

(8) Steve Davidson is back with another installment of what’s eligible for the Retro Hugos that will be voted on by next year’s Worldcon members – Part 4 – Media, specifically, the Long Form category.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, is well served in 1940.  Not necessarily because there were a lot of worthy films, but only in comparison to Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, which has to settle for serial episodes and cartoons.  Television shows were still almost a decade away.

However, when it comes to film there are a few interesting contenders, and, fortunately, the vast majority of eligible works are known and viewable, thanks largely to the Internet Archive, Youtube and copyright law.

I’m looking forward to short form, where there should be a trove of radio shows and phonograph records, too.

(9) Steven H Silver saw this today on Jeopardy!

Category:  “E” Readers

Daily Double Answer: This novel by Sinclair Lewis caused and uproar for its satiric indictment of fundamentalist religion

Question from returning champ: What is Ender’s Game?

Lost $2000.

(10) Francis Hamit’s new book Security Matters: Essays On Industrial Security is available in a Kindle edition from Amazon. Says Francis:

It’s hard reality actually from the security industry; the experiences that inform some of my fiction.  There are some dramatic moments and instances recounted and the writing is some of my best. If it were a poetry book you’d at least look at the sample.

The volume is edited by Leigh Strother-Vien and Gavin Claypool.

A collection of “Security Counterpoint” columns that originally appeared in Security Technology & Design Magazine between 1993 and 2001 about problems and concerns that are still relevant today. Francis Hamit spent 21 years in that industry in operational, sales and consulting positions.

(11) A tough day for the let’s-you-and-him-fight crowd – because John Scalzi begins “How Many Books You Should Write In a Year” with this preamble:

Folks have pointed me toward this Huffington Post piece, begging self-published authors not to write four books a year, because the author (Lorraine Devon Wilke) maintains that no mere human can write four books a year and have them be any good. This has apparently earned her the wrath of a number of people, including writer Larry Correia, who snarks apart the piece here and whose position is that a) the premise of the article is crap, and b) authors should get paid, and if four books a year gets you paid, then rock on with your bad self. I suspect people may be wanting to have me comment on the piece so I can take punches at either or both Wilke or Correia, and are waiting, popcorn at ready.

If so, you may be disappointed. With regard to Correia’s piece, Larry and I disagree on a number of issues unrelated to writing craft, but we align fairly well here, and to the extent that I’m accurately condensing his points here, we don’t really disagree.

(12) “Here’s how the first humans will live on Mars –and why traveling the 140 million miles to get there will be the easy part” – despite the headline, it’s not a story about The Martian. It’s a pointer to an eye-grabbing infographic based on TED speaker and technologist Stephen Petranek’s book on How We’ll Live on Mars.

[Thanks to Mark, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Win Star Trek Role in Charity Contest

star trek actors ad COMPStar Trek: To Boldly Go, a fundraiser for nine kid-oriented charities, is offering donors a chance to win a walk on role in a Star Trek movie as well as receive other premiums.

The Grand Prize Walk-On Role Winner will be selected from all the donors from launch to the close of the campaign on September 1.

The winner and a friend will be flown to Vancouver, be taken behind the scenes, hang with the cast, and witness the filming of Star Trek Beyond.

Six additional winners will be randomly selected each week to form the Star Trek: To Boldly Go crew, who will also visit the set, meet the cast, and witness scenes from the latest voyage of the USS Enterprise.

This is touted as the first time a fan will have a walk-on role in a Star Trek movie.

However, fans have been in a Star Trek movie before — File 770 contributor Leigh Strother-Vien is one of them. She was an extra in the crowd scene of the first Star Trek movie made in 1979. Ian McLean’s post “Faces in the crowd” lists the names of many participants in the scene, and the photos taken on the set that day include this b&w group shot; Bjo Trimble is front and center, Leigh is in the second row (just behind Paula Crist, in alien makeup) with LASFSian Dennis Fischer (the very tall man). David Gerrold is in the third row, on Fischer’s right and behind Grace Lee Whitney.

TMP fan extras with Bjo Trimble and Grace Lee Whitney

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus for the story.]

What Is “Alternate History” and What Is “Self Published”?

Editor’s Note: Francis Hamit, who self-published his Civil War espionage novels The Shenandoah Spy and The Queen of Washington, contributes insight pieces about the strategies and emerging technologies he uses to market his books.

By Francis Hamit: We are about to roll out the audiobook edition of The Queen of Washington, wonderfully narrated by Melanie Mason and David Wilson Brown.  It will run about nine and a half hours and we will have links for a limited number of free review copies.  Out of respect for the narrators, we only want to give these to people who will listen to the entire narration and not cheat by skimming the e-book. They worked very hard for several months and deserve no less.  I had very little to do with it, aside from approving the final version.  ACX.com is the distributor and it will be exclusively available on Audible.com, Amazon.com and iTunes.  They set the price, not us.  So is this still “self published”?  Melanie and David are the real stars in this genre, not me.  ACX.com does the final technical execution,not me.  I just sit back and collect my share of the money.

This book is my second American Civil War spy thriller.  Originally published in 2011 just as I became desperately ill and almost died, it did not get the usual publicity push.  Leigh Strother-Vien* was pretty sick, too and we are just now recovered.  In the interval we escaped from Pine Mountain Club to Sherman Oaks, which took a great of effort and money.  So this, in a way, is a stealth re-launch of the print and e-book editions on the theory that fresh attention generates collateral sales.  We have set up a new Facebook page,(https://www.facebook.com/QOWaudiobook) bought an ad in Audiofile Magazine and will put out press release on PR Newswire.  We also have the Christopher Marlowe film project underway.

I called this “Alternative History” rather than “Historical Fiction” but is it?  Where does one begin and the other stop?  In The Queen of Washington Rose Greenhow’s husband, unhappy and frustrated by a fading career and a bad marriage where he had been made a cuckold fakes his death in 1853 and runs off to China with his two beautiful Chinese mistresses.  This is the culmination of a long campaign of seduction orchestrated by Judah P. Benjamin, revealed as a long-term agent of the British, working with British Chinese agents from Hong Kong.  It’s a very complicated dance and entirely my own invention.   Greenhow died in 1853 after being attacked.  That’s the fact rather than the fiction.

There are no whiz-band deus e-machina. elements here.  No time travel, no advanced weapons imported from another time.  It didn’t happen. I made it up.  But what is it? Fish or Foul?  What is needed for that “Alternative history” designation? The basis here is social science not technology. .

“Self-publishing” is a negative term because you don’t have the imprimatur of a big publishing house behind you, or even a small one.  Your work is either automatically denied a review or given special scrutiny.  A recent review of the hardbound edition of this book criticized the quality of the jacket paper.as being too thin and tending to curl.   Using that paper was a decision of the printer, not us, so I thought it very unfair; just looking for something to complain about.  It doesn’t really matter because most people are now buying the e-book edition, which is only $3.99 but actually provides more net profit   .We are now doing all print edition as very short print-on-demand runs, as a convenience for the customer, not because there is any money to be made.  The audiobook edition is where we expect to make the real money.  Why?  Because we’re also in the film business and that’s where the big bucks really are.  The audiobook is also a demonstration of how a film can be made from the same story.  Every novel I write is also a treatment for film or television.

I invite comments on the above.  I also hope that, before weighing in on the merits of this book, people will actually bother to read it first.

(*) Congratulations to Leigh Strother-Vien and Francis who celebrated 26 years together as roomates, business partners and best friends on July 1.

A Few Comments on Loncon 3

Overview of the Fan Village at Loncon 3.

Overview of the Fan Village at Loncon 3.

By Leigh Strother-Vien: I’m thrilled that younger fans are having a good fandom to come into. But we older fans *sigh* need softer floors, smaller venues, or reallyreally fast medical breakthroughs — everything aches. Aside from that, LonCon 3 has been a friendly place to be. I’ve enjoyed chatting with random people: in queues, and sitting in food courts, standing next to dealers’ tables, waiting for a lift, etc.

The Art Show was, unsurprisingly, Very High Quality, and I’m glad to say that the artists are asking for prices that reflect more accurately their worth, i.e., I couldn’t afford what I Really Liked (at least, not yet).

The Dealer’s Area was diverse with lots of booksellers as well as the usual Neat Stuff.

But, mostly what struck me was the general feeling of Good Will. And, I believe, the exceptions were mostly due to aches and pains (and jet lag). Which are inevitable with a large con, apparently.

Good Con. Kudos to the ConCom and their volunteers.

Loncon 3 Opening Ceremonies Rock Softly

By Francis Hamit and Leigh Strother-Vien: “Hey Kids, Let’s Put On A Play!” These words must have been uttered at some point in the decision-making process by someone on the ConCom’‘s Ceremonial Brain Trust. The result was a highly enjoyable hour of fun and frivolity that combined elements from “Waiting For Godot”, performance art, the Harry Potter films, and a long-winded debate about whether or not the venue was LonCon3 or the LonCon School of Witchcraft and Wizardry [formerly Hugowarts SoW&W].

Scenes from well-known sf films and TV, such as “2001″ and “Doctor Who” were recreated before the co-chairs, Steve Cooper and Alice Lawson, attired as professors from the school, took the stage to introduce the Guests of Honour. They were occasionally interrupted by a very large man dressed as an owl, bearing messages to be read aloud to the audience. The GOHs were “sorted” with a propeller beanie, and assigned to various houses at the school.

This was followed by short documentary film about how the bases for the 2014 Hugos and the 1939 Retro-Hugos were made. The hour ended in a sing-along of “LonCon” to the music of Petula Clark’s best remembered number “Downtown”. The whole thing defies further description, but was videoed and will hopefully be coming to a YouTube channel near you.

Loncon 3 Opens With Record-Breaking Numbers

By Francis Hamit and Leigh Strother-Vien: The Press Briefing immediately before the Opening Ceremonies of Loncon 3, the 2014 World Science Convention, featured all of the Guests of Honor (though Chris Foss was on the program opposite the briefing) except the late Iain M. Banks, who is sorely missed and was named Ghost of Honor. The two committee chairs, Steve Cooper and Alison Lawson, said that this is the largest World Science Fiction Convention in history, with more than 10,000 members, and may prove to have the largest number of attending fans due to a last minute surge of locals that account for a 20% increase. Final figures will be posted Sunday.

GOH Malcolm Edwards said “It is a great honor to be here.” He added that at his first Con the total number of attendees would have fit in the 20 by 20 room where this briefing was being held.

GOH John Clute remarked that “a convention like this combines all the (science fiction) things that came before and all that would be.”

And it is truly an international affair. Over 1,500 fans come from 62 other nations than the UK and USA. The USA has about 2,400 members and the rest are UK residents.

There are over 200 dealers tables, and 80 artists exhibiting works worth more than a combined total of £350,000. The atmosphere is cordial and friendly, unlike some American WorldCons of recent years, where rivalries and fan politics marred the events.

Programming is so extensive that many attending are being forced to pick and choose between competing interests they hold. Notable is a sercon Academic track that rivals those presented in the Mundane spaces.

The Opening Ceremonies were also notable. More about that in our next report.

Brass Cannon’s Vietnam Project

Francis Hamit and Leigh Strother-Vien have started an Indiegogo fundraiser for a book project, Coming Home From ‘Nam, an anthology of short memoirs by veterans of the Vietnam War about their experiences when returning to the United States and their hometowns — How they were greeted by strangers, friends and family and the impact of those receptions on their lives then and later.

WHY THIS BOOK? It’s simple. The Vietnam generation is dying out and there should be a record of these experiences made for future generations. We want to collect and curate these stories while there is still time to get the story direct from those who experienced it. There is a lot of myth about negative outcomes, but we are also looking for instances of positive homecomings to balance out this narrative and testimony.

Hamit and Strother-Vien are the owners of Brass Cannon Books, a small independent publisher specializing in military and related narratives. Hamit is a Vietnam veteran and served as an enlisted clerk in an Army Security Agency aviation company in the Mekong Delta in 1968-69. Strother-Vien was a supply specialist with a Pershing missile battalion in Germany between 1980 and 1984

The full text follows the jump.

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Hamit and Strother-Vien Recovering

When I saw them on the last day of Renovation, Francis Hamit and Leigh Strother-Vien were just fine. They gave me a review copy of The Queen of Washington, Francis’ new Civil War/espionage/alternate history novel. Unfortunately, soon afterwards they were struck by a sudden and severe illness:

A day after Leigh and I returned from our six-weeks long road trip we were mugged by a gang of microbes and given a new kind of pneumonia that they are still trying to figure out. We thought it was flu and would be gone in a few days. It wasn’t and was not. On September 30th we went to the ER at the VA hospital in Westwood. Leigh was released, although still very ill and I was admitted, to spend a week on IV fluids and antibiotics and oxygen before I could again breathe well enough to go home. We are told we will be weeks, possibly months recovering and are relying on our part timer to do a lot of things we normally do ourselves as a matter of routine. We have canceled all events just as the next book The Queen of Washington is about to be released. 

Apparently someone at Amazon.com decided this book will be a best seller. They are pricing it at 34% off. An almost eleven dollar savings off the $32.00 price of the hardbound. Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million have similar offers. We are pleasantly perplexed by this since we get the same money per copy back. The discount is out of their end I’m assuming that the five star reviews for The Shenandoah Spy helped drive this decision.  Here is a link to their page for The Queen of Washington.

As for the health crisis it is one. I damn near died. Almost beat Steve Jobs to the exit door. It gave me a lot of time to think. In the meantime, people of good will, who want to help us out a bit need only buy the new book on the offers mentioned above. Sales beget sales. And if you haven’t read The Shenandoah Spy please consider buying that as well. It’s still in print and in e-book formats.

Francis also says he is willing to send review copies of The Queen of Washington to qualified reviewers. It does slip into the “Alternative History” sub-genre of S-F, so those reviewers are welcome. Contact him via e-mail — Francishamit (at) earthlink (dot) net.

LASFS Cuts the Birthday Cake

The Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League (No. 4) began meeting in 14-year-old Roy Test Jr.’s family garage in 1934. On October 28, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society celebrated 70 years of friendship and fanac. Founding member Forrest J Ackerman performed the duty of gaveling the 3,507th meeting to order with President Van Wagner’s pink plastic lobster.

For Ackerman, Len and June Moffatt, this was their second consecutive day of celebration. A group of eofans gathered on October 27, the real anniversary, at their old stomping grounds, Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown LA. Local TV news covered the get-together because it also included those teenaged fans who grew up to have stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen.

The October 28 club meeting drew around a hundred fans, about evenly divided between the usual crowd of active members and old-timers from bygone decades. The more widely-known regulars included John Hertz, Joe Minne (who introduced me to LASFS), Rick Foss, Matthew Tepper, Elayne Pelz, Drew Sanders, Charles Lee Jackson 2, Marc Schirmeister, Marty Massoglia, Christian McGuire (L.A.con IV chair), Francis Hamit, Leigh Strother-Vien, Ed Green, Liz Mortensen, John DeChancie, Marty Cantor, Tadao Tomomatsu (“Mr. Shake Hands Man”) and Mike Donahue. Some of the graybeards present were notables in national fandom back in the day, like Arthur J. Cox, and others remain well-known, like Fred Patten, John Trimble, William Ellern, Dwain Kaiser and Don Fitch.