Pixel Scroll 9/21/22 She Took The Midnight Train To Arcturus

(1) ANTHEM LAUNCH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur discusses the new Space Force anthem by Jamie Teachenor and Sean Nelson, and lets his father make a dad joke that the tune was written by “Buck Rogers and Hammerstein.” “New Space Force anthem aims to land the military branch on your radar”.

On Tuesday, the United States Space Force entered its anthem era, announcing the release of its own official song at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor in Maryland.

The song, “Semper Supra” (“Always Above”), joins the ranks of “The Marines’ Hymn,” “The Army Goes Rolling Along” and other staples of the American military anthem repertoire. It’s also … Wait. Why are you laughing?

I knew as soon as I said “Space Force” this would happen.

Because the Space Force is, for the foreseeable future, the New Guy among military branches. Because its sudden and ham-handed public rollout in 2019 was largely entrusted to the writers’ rooms of late-night shows. And, yes, because it’s called the Space Force, so there remains a lingering temptation not to take it seriously (and a tacit cultural authorization to proceed).

… I guess for a song that’s destined to orbit around this branch of military in perpetuity, I was hoping for something … I don’t know, spacier?

Over the past century, the cosmos has supplied us with such a rich musical mood board: Gustav Holst gave us his standard-bearing model of the solar system, “The Planets,” back in 1916. Stanley Kubrick’s use of Johann Strauss’s antigravity waltzes and the monolithic motif taken from the other Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” have informed our perception of deep space since “2001” arrived in 1968. John Williams has also memorably distilled his visions of the vastness of space into universal themes — think the “five tones” of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”…

(2) FLIP THE SCRIPT. Camestros Felapton supplies the answer to the question, “Could you rewrite the Lord of the Rings as a techno-thriller?” (Did you doubt it for a moment?)

…Part of the issue is that much of what makes LotR a compelling story, are not the things that make it genre distinctive. Attempts to make a clear distinction between science fiction and fantasy can founder when we consider how LotR would change if it had to conform to proposed rules about science fiction. If, as the thought experiment goes, Tolkein’s elves were aliens, would the story now be sci-fi? The role of magic in fantasy versus materialist explanations in science fiction has also been offered. However, LotR has an odd take on magic. Much of the overt magic we see is attached to made objects (the Ring obviously, but also the palantir, the doors of Moria, Sting, the vial of light gifted to Frodo by Galadriel, or delving deeper into the mythos, the Silmarils themselves). We don’t know how those things work (magic!) but of course we don’t know how phasers, tractor beams, replicators or warp drives work either. To quote the overused quote from Arthur C. Clarke “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Clarke was making a point about technology rather than genre distinctions but the insight works almost symmetrically…. 

(3) HOPKINSON ZOOM. The Feminist Futures Forum, organized by the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity at the University of Kansas, presents a conversation with Brown Girl in the Ring author Nalo Hopkinson facilitated by Anthony Boynton, a Ph.D. candidate in the KU English Department in September 22 at 6:30 p.m. Central, They will explore Black speculative fiction, Afrofuturism, and Black feminisms. Register here. This year’s Forum is planned in conjunction with the Gunn Center’s Sturgeon Symposium.

(4) FIRST STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. Speaking of which, the 1st annual Sturgeon Symposium, a hybrid in-person/online event hosted by the Gunn Center for the Study of SF, takes place next Thursday and Friday, September 29-30. 

Sessions include presentations on Fan Fiction, Indigenous Speculative Fiction, Eastern European SF, Latin American Dystopias, Gender & The Black Fantastic, Pedagogical Approaches, and much, much more.

Visit their website for the full program: Sturgeon Symposium.

(5) HOW DO YOU TURN THAT OFF? Sarah A. Hoyt explains why “Words Are Our Profession” at Mad Genius Club, though it is this paragraph that has me nodding in agreement:

…I will also straight up admit that I must be very odd in my relationship with text, because I never understand why anyone highlights or clips certain excerpts from books. When I got my latest kindle, I had the “show other people’s markings” setting on and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. This made me glare a lot, as I couldn’t figure out why people were highlighting completely mundane sentences. Of course, it’s entirely possible that all these highlights and clipping of sentences happen the way they happen to me: Kindle starts falling, grab it with my off hand, and suddenly I’ve saved a clipping of “Hi, I am looking for my cat” as though it were some kind of life altering message. (As is, I had to turn the dictionary off, otherwise, by the same process, I was continuously having the meaning of “hand” or “parasol” explained to me.)…

Hoyt’s column is mainly about when it’s a good idea to eschew surplusage, and successful tactics for so doing.

(6) STEP BY STEP TO PUBLICATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Amit Gupta sold a short story to Tor.com.  Here, he discusses how long it took and all the rejections he accumulated. “Short stories: How much do you make? How do you sell one? How long does it take to write?” And you can read his story “India World” at Tor.com.

What’d I learn looking back through all this?

  • Writing takes forever, even if it’s a just a few thousand words. Way longer than I thought.
  • Submitting takes even longer. This tracks with other areas of my life. Selling is always less fun for me than making things.
  • SO MANY people helped! I’m blown away by how many people took time to read drafts and offer their feedback.

(7) DEUTSCHER BOOK PREIS. The only longlisted genre work didn’t make the Deutscher Buch Preis shortlist. If you want to know what did, click here.

(8) IT BECKONS. Kelly McClymer encourages writers to ask “Is Your Book Cover Doing the Job or Does It Need to Be Fired?” in the “Indie Files” series at the SFWA Blog.

… For authors, the cover is a double-edged sword. We need one that calls to our readers and makes them pick our book out of a crowded line up.

I remember the first time I realized would have to change the cover for an indie book. I didn’t want to pay for another cover design, so I delayed making the obvious decision. I kept telling myself that the book was good, so the cover couldn’t make that much difference.

I should have known better. I’ve been a voracious reader since I learned to read and my personal book choice algorithm is simple: favorite author first, then intriguing title, then intriguing cover. That personal algorithm hasn’t changed in decades. As a reader, I am easily seduced by title or cover.

As an author, I hate spending money on new covers and agonizing over the design. What got me to stop pinching pennies in this critical area of marketing? Evidence, of course. My indie author friends weren’t afraid to change their covers. Multiple times. And it (usually) helped their sales significantly. Even better, some of them were able to do so on a budget by using pre-made covers that were on sale. …

(9) WHAT’S THE MESSAGE? Scifihistory.net seriously doubts 2001 deserves a reputation for greatness: “Stardate 09.21.2022.A: Warp Core Breach: Science Fiction’s Biggest Circle Jerk – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)”.

Circle jerk = a situation in which a group of people engage in self-indulgent or self-gratifying behavior, especially by enforcing or reinforcing each other’s views or attitudes.
 
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (snicker snicker) I attended a small private college in Anytown, USA.  In one of my several classes talking about film, a professor (who shall be nameless) took the occasion one day to wax on eloquently about “mankind’s claim” that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was not only the greatest Science Fiction film ever made but very well was considered the best film ever made.
 
Now, at this juncture in my cognitive development, I was a firm supporter of Citizen Kane’s rightful claim to that title.  Not one to keep silent, I spoke up, asking where it was written that 2001 was ever considered a greater accomplishment than Kane was … to which I got an earful.  Pushing back as politely as I could, I argued that I’d never heard of anyone making such an assessment, and – while I didn’t doubt the instructor had read or perhaps thought such a ranking possible – I wanted to know which experts felt that way so that I could go out and read their analysis.  Essentially what I was told was that 2001 was, clearly, the superior film because of its central message.
 
Get ready, folks.
 
I asked, “What is 2001’s central message?”…

(10) SPELLER TRIBUTES CONTINUE. Strange Horizons’ Aishwarya Subramanian and Dan Hartland mark the loss of their colleague and friend: “In Memoriam: Maureen Kincaid Speller”.

…Maureen Kincaid Speller was capable of producing among the best criticism SFF has to offer. Now she has left us, our understandings of the genre will be poorer and less complete. We will know our favourite texts less well, and we will struggle sometimes to express a reading she would have worked into prose of wit, clarity, and pith. We will miss her because, as a critic, she helped us be better readers; because, as an editor, she made us better writers; and because, as herself, she was fearless in achieving these ends. But most of all, we will miss her because she was our friend—was the friend of all readers, and all authors, and all books. She showed us this every time she attended to a text and asked not just why she liked it, but why she—or why we—might not. Friends make us better, and they often do so via the unvarnished truth….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1969 [By Cat Eldridge.] Randall And Hopkirk Deceased (1969)

Yes, I know it had multiple premiere dating back fifty-three years ago, so I’ve picked the London Weekend Television broadcast of the pilot two days after the ATV broadcast. No reason, but that’s my choice. Well, and it’s today.

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) is a somewhat comical British PI series that starred Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope respectively as the private detectives Jeff Randall and the quickly quite dead and just as rapidly ghostly Marty Hopkirk. Annette Andre as Jeannie Hopkirk, secretary at the Randall and Hopkirk private investigation office, and widow of Marty, was the only other regular cast member. 

(Note: beautiful woman here as well. The trope holds true!) 

In the United States possibly because the word deceased would be offensive, it was called My Partner the Ghost. Or because the syndicators here were utterly lacking in imagination and had to be sickeningly cute. You pick. 

It was created by Dennis Spooner who did a lot of writing for Doctor Who, a spot of writing for The Avengers and quite a bit later for the New Avengers, and was the creator of Department S

It would last one run of twenty-six episodes. In the year 2000 it was remade by the BBC starring Vic Reeves as Hopkirk (once again in a white suit) and Bob Mortimer as Randall, with Emilia Fox as Jeannie. Two series were made lasting just thirteen episodes.

A decade ago, SyFy announced that it had secured the rights to Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and were looking to develop a pilot, and in January 2011, Entertainment Weekly announced that Jane Espenson and Drew Z. Greenberg would be writing a pilot for SyFy. Given SyFy’s record for rebooting series, guess what happened to it? Well did you see a pilot? 

It does not appear to streaming anywhere for free right now.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1904 Alexander Key. American writer primarily of children’s books. His novel Escape to Witch Mountain was made into by Disney into a film three times 1975, 1995, and again in 2009. (Originality isn’t one of Disney’s stronger suits.) The sequel novel was made into another film in 1978. The Incredible Tide novel became the Seventies Future Boy Conan anime series. (Died 1979.)
  • Born September 21, 1912 Chuck Jones. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996.  I’ve essayed him more that once here, so you know that I like him. What’s your favorite one of his? Though perhaps culturally suspect these days, I’m very fond of “Hillbilly Hare”. (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 21, 1935 Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. You know what role that was. In regards to his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to be exact in which he was Nilva, a ferengi. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 21, 1960 Mary Mara. Best remembered as Inspector Bryn Carson on Nash Bridges but she had a number of genre appearances including Mary in K-PAX from Gene Brewer’s novel of the same name, and her best role though animated was — and don’t blame the messenger — Alice Kerchief/Geisha in Spicy City is an adult animated erotic cyberpunk television series which was created by Ralph Bkashi for HBO that ran for six episodes. It was a really fascinating role. I’d rate the series a strong R. (Died 2022.)
  • Born September 21, 1964 Andy Duncan, 58.  If I were to start anywhere with him, it’d be with his very excellent short stories which fortunately were published in two World Fantasy Award-winning collections Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, and The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories, and another WFA nominee, An Agent of Utopia: New & Selected Stories.  I’ve read his novels, so what you recommend?  He has garnered some very impressive Awards — not only World Fantasy Awards for the two collections, but also for the “Wakulla Springs” novelette (co-authored with Ellen Klages), and a Nebula for the novelette “Close Encounters” (2013). He has three Hugo nominations, for his “Beluthahatchie” short story (1998), the novella “The Chief Designer” (2002), and “Wakulla Springs” (2014). 
  • Born September 21, 1974 Dexter Steven, 48. He wrote interesting novels, the first being The Dream of Perpetual Motion which is based off The Tempest, with steampunk, cyborgs and airships as well; the second being Version Control, a media-saturated twenty minutes into the future America complicated by time travel that keep changing everything. He wrote these and that was it. 
  • Born September 21, 1990 Allison Scagliotti, 42. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka, “Crossing Over”.  She was in Camille Engelson on Stitchers which I must watch soon. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro  shows mythical beasts need therapy, too.

(14) WHO DAT? The Bookseller’s Joe Phelan knows there’s always an audience for anyone prepared to tell us, “What happened to Sad Puppies?”

The Sad Puppies era is arguably the bleakest passage in the history of the Hugo Awards. The Puppies’ campaigns gave rise to smears, vitriol, conspiracy and hostility; they can be regarded as an early skirmish in publishing’s now-pervasive “culture wars”, where suspicion, belligerence and an unwavering conviction in one’s own position routinely permeate discourse.

There are quotes from Kevin Standlee and Neil Gaiman which Phelan presents as recently obtained, and another from this laughably “anonymous” pro-Puppy figure:

…The anonymous Sad Puppies advocate we spoke to fully disputes suggestions that the campaigns should be branded failures. They are adamant the Hugos remain just as unrepresentative and biased as they considered them to be in 2013, and they believe Sad Puppies played an important role in raising awareness of this apparent issue.

“No, it was not unsuccessful. The campaign(s) proved to any onlookers who care to look that the modern Hugos are awarded solely for reasons of political correctness. A casual perusal of the lists of candidates and winners over the past four years is a sufficient confirmation of this. The Hugo Awards, in effect, burned themselves to the ground for the sole purpose of avoiding my work being recognised. The fans had selected an author that the insiders did not prefer – despite that I myself was a Tor author at the time. Those who hoped sobriety would prevail, and the Hugos return to the dignity they once knew, had their hopes dashed.”…

If you know any ex-Tor authors who were on the Sad Puppy slates that weren’t named John C. Wright, please do refresh my memory.

(15) PURE WROUGHT. Speaking of Mr. Wright, his recent “Note on Christian Science Fiction” contains this wonderful passage scoffing at some familiar genre works:

…People would go mad at the sight of stars, Mr. Asimov? Really? Eyewitnesses to the Crucifixion would immediately convince the world without any fuss that all religion was bunk, Mr. Clarke? Say you so? One should sleep with whores out of courtesy to one’s hosts when visiting whoreland, Mr. Heinlein? Really? Adultery is lawful for persons truly in love, Mrs. Rand? Honestly? Or, my personal favorite, if Captain Kirk is split into a good and evil pair, a la Jekyll and Hyde, the bad side is filled with passion and energy rather than filled with vice, and the good side is indecisive and weak rather than virtuous? Really, Mr. Roddenberry? Honestly, is that the way good and evil works, or have you simply been reading too much Freud, and it has warped your brain?…

(16) SEEMS MORE RELEVANT NOW. [Item by Todd Mason.] A quote from an old sff magazine:

“The Ukraine had had a number of serious attacks in the previous week, which refuted the theory that the metal locusts were a Russian weapon being used in preparation for a mobilisation of forces.”

“The Locusts” by R. Whitfield Young, Science-Fantasy, April 1958.

Apparently the only published story by Young under that byline, and one might guess why from the bulk of the story.

(17) AGAIN. CBR.com decides “Kaley Cuoco & Pete Davidson’s Meet Cute Is a Clever, Affecting Sci-Fi Rom-Com”.

When Sheila (Kaley Cuoco) approaches Gary (Pete Davidson) in a New York City bar at the beginning of Meet Cute, it seems like the moment referenced in the title — the romantic-comedy staple of the main characters first encountering each other in an adorable, amusing manner. For Gary, that’s what it is. He’s won over by Sheila’s offbeat charms, including ordering the exact same drink as him and toasting in the exact same way. For Sheila, though, this isn’t her first time meeting Gary, or even the fifth time. As she tells him almost immediately, she’s a time traveler, and she’s experienced this moment multiple times already. It’s a disarmingly direct way for the movie to introduce its sci-fi concept, which is indicative of the clever, surprising, and emotionally affecting story to come….

(18) LONGER AGO THAN YESTERDAY. Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin, and Denise Mina are featured in this 2009 BBC piece about graphic novels that dropped today.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage reports from the convention he holds (Silicon!) and how a fabricator he calls “evil Ted” gave him a very realistic foam space helmet.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Todd Mason, Cat Eldridge, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Maureen Kincaid Speller (1959-2022)

Maureen Kincaid Speller in 2005

Influential sff critic and reviewer Maureen Kincaid Speller died September 18 of cancer. She was the Senior Reviews Editor at Strange Horizons, and Editorial Consultant for Foundation: the International Review of Science Fiction.

Active in fandom since about 1980, she wrote over the course of time as Maureen Porter, Maureen Speller, and Maureen Kincaid Speller; she was the partner of Paul Kincaid from 1986 until her death (they married in 1993).

A leader in the British Science Fiction Association, she edited its publication Matrix in the late Eighties, served as Magazine Reviews editor of Vector in the Nineties, and wrote innumerable reviews and essays for each of them. The organization mourns her loss, saying “Her diligence, wisdom and vision were instrumental in the BSFA’s continuance for several years.”  

She also edited the first issue of The Gate, a quarterly science fiction semiprozine which lasted three issues (1989-1990).

Speller was a four-time Hugo nominee, once for Best Fan Writer (1999) and three for her work on Strange Horizons (2016, 2019, 2021). She won a 1998 Nova Award, given for achievement in British fanzines, as Best Fan Writer.  

In addition to the BSFA publications she worked on, Speller created her own fanzines, including Snufkin’s Bum, and Steam Engine Time co-edited with Paul Kincaid and Bruce Gillespie.

Elected the 1998 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, she traveled to Bucconeer, the 1998 Worldcon in Baltimore, and fannish centers including Madison, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Portland. Geri Sullivan reminded friends today that Speller was “the TAFF delegate for whom TAFF-on-a-stick (a fannish outing to the Minnesota State Fair) was first invented.”

She often served as an awards judge – four years for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (1989, 1990, 1993, 1994); the Otherwise Award (2004); and the Rotsler Award (2004-2006). She also contributed reviews to the Clarke Award “Shadow” Juries of 2017 and 2018.

Outside of fandom, she was active in the Liberal Democrats party, running for local office at least once, in 2005 (the Conservative candidate won).

A great deal can be learned about the nuances of sff criticism by reading her work, partly because it was so insightful, and partly because she expressed her thoughts so clearly and concisely. One memorable example is “You’re Never Alone with a Critic – Shadowing the Clarke Award, 2018”, which says in part —

…Here’s the thing – a critic’s job is not to provide plot synopses, nor is it to tell you whether or not you’ll like a novel. It is definitely not a critic’s job to act as an unpaid publicity agent. A critic’s job is to look at the fiction itself, and to have a view about it. Critics write about all sorts of things. They think about where a text sits in relation to other works of sf, they explore themes, tease out aesthetic similarities and differences; they consider what a novel says about the world at large, and, yes, they make judgement based on their experience as informed readers….

ENCYCLOPEDIA ARTICLES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY

PERSONAL BLOGS

Pixel Scroll 6/26/21 A Planet Must Have Sharp Elbows

(1) UNRELATED TWINS. Darryl Mott tweeted a rundown about why two gaming companies that each go by the name TSR are making the wrong kind of news recently. Thread starts here.

(2) COOL IDEA. IceCon 2021, the convention happening this November in Reykjavík, Iceland has added Ted Chiang as its third GoH. The first two are Mary Robinette Kowal and Hildur Knútsdóttir.

(3) ABOUT HUGO FINALIST STRANGE HORIZONS. Maureen Kincaid Speller, Strange Horizons’ Senior Reviews Editor speaking here as an individual, set the record straight about their interactions with DisCon III in a Facebook public post.   

… There has been a lot of pushback against this kind of thing in the last few years, especially as more groups/collectives are nominated, and rightly so. There is something very wrong with trying to reduce the work of many to one or two names, as if there is something inherently wrong in not being a lone creator. Is it not amazing that all these people pull together to produce this material in their spare time? For nothing? Apparently, it isn’t.

Last year, unforgettably, Fiyahcon showed that it is actually possible to work successfully to a different model. Strange Horizons was nominated for the inaugural Ignyte Award (which we won), and the difference in approach was unbelievable. Everything from happily listing everyone in the press releases to checking how we wanted our names pronounced to providing free access to the convention online for the entire weekend. I mean, wow? Winning was purely a grace note in some ways, but god, did I feel seen! Didn’t we all.

And so to this year’s Worldcon. SH gets nominated for Semi-Prozine again! Yay! Strange Horizons has a civil interaction with the Hugo Awards team and it is agreed that all of the collective can be individually named in the announcement, because pixels are not in short supply.

Except, apparently, they are.

Consternation.

We cannot all be listed, because we are too many. I’m not sure what went on behind the scenes but then, suddenly, we were not too many after all, and we were all listed.

I was not privy to the discussion about what would happen at the ceremony, but here are the things I do know, based on ludicrous claims I have seen on the internet this week….

(4) HWA PRIDE. Horror Writers Association’s “A Point of Pride” series features an “Interview with Nikki Woolfolk”.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

Speculative fiction and horror are my go-to regarding explaining the world and reflect current events from a differing perspective. I wrote a short story that was painful and cathartic regarding a beloved cousin who was murdered. The story “L’Chaim” is my way of giving her a chance to live. My editor read the story and informed me that I had written psychological horror.

I had no idea that what I wrote could be seen as horror since I’m kinda a wimp when it comes to consistently watching or reading horror. Looking back I’ve noticed my Urban Fantasy stories have more of a horror slant and it’s surprising to me.

(5) DELANY IN ACADEMIA. Samuel R. Delany answers the question “How did I become a professor?” for Facebook readers.

…Now even then I knew enough about the history of the world to know that people who deluged older folks in a position of authority with long polemical letters are often thought of as basically nuisances whose screeds are to be glanced at and put aside to be looked at later, if not to be simply consigned to the circular file. Basically I was writing across an ocean into a world about which I had no real notion of how it worked: the American academic system.

What Leslie [Fielder]’s letter said was: Would you consider coming to the U. of Buffalo for a term, and teaching here, as Visiting Butler-Chair Professor. It’s an endowed chair. You will have a 10k fund to do with as you wish, as long as it benefits the university, as well as a salary of . . . I don’t even remember what it was. I just know that, other than a job in a rotisserie on upper Broadway (from which I’d been fired after a few weeks because I couldn’t make change) to another as a stock clerk at Barnes & Noble on 18th and 5th to still another behind the counter at a small walk-in soft-core porn and second-hand sex magazine store called Bob’s Bargain Books on West 42 St., for a couple of months each, I’d never had a salary since I was 15, working as a library page at the St. Agnes Branch Library on Amsterdam Avenue.

So Marilyn and I talked about it, and I wrote back “Yes.”

A single term as a guest professor, however, is not the same as full professorship—which did not happen until eleven years later. But it was certainly connected to it….

(6) THE TV SETS ARE BEING EXTINGUISHED ALL OVER EUROPE. Well, no – and perhaps quite the opposite will happen over the long term: “‘The thought is unbearable’: Europeans react to EU plans to cut British TV”The Guardian has the story.

…But post-Brexit, politically the will is there to challenge the dominance of British TV and film.

When the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Rome this week to formally approve Italy’s spending plan for its share of the EU’s recovery fund, the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, hosted her at the Cinecittà film studios in Rome, where €300m (£257m) of the funds are to be invested in development.

“It’s obvious that if Britain leaves the EU, then its productions no longer fall within the community’s quotas,” the Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini, told Corriere della Sera. “Europe will have to respond on an industrial and content level, and Cinecittà will be strategic on this front.”

Sten-Kristian Saluveer, an Estonian media policy strategist, said EU plans to reassess the amount of UK content – in particular on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon – were inevitable.

“A big catalyst is the increased trade tensions between the UK and France, as well as the EU’s anti-trust procedures,” he said. “The question is not so much about original content produced in the UK as it is about studios in the UK connected to platforms like Apple and Netflix, which are very well positioned to utilise the good relations the UK has with the US – as well as exploiting the European capacity, including everything from work permits to subsidies,” he said.

“When Britain was in the EU there were spillover effects for the rest of the bloc. But now it’s not, the question is why should these platforms be able to exploit the same benefits?”

Saluveer said smaller EU members could stand to benefit from a reduction in UK content, as it could allow more room for their content. He cited the box office success Tangerines – an Estonian-Georgian co-production which was nominated for a Golden Globe – or the Oscar-nominated The Fencer, a Finnish-Estonian-German collaboration…

(7) THE LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. MIT Press’ new Radium Age imprint will republish “proto-sf” from the early 20th Century.

Under the direction of Joshua Glenn, the MIT Press’s Radium Age is reissuing notable proto–science fiction stories from the underappreciated era between 1900 and 1935. In these forgotten classics, science fiction readers will discover the origins of enduring tropes like robots (berserk or benevolent), tyrannical supermen, dystopian wastelands, sinister telepaths, and eco-catastrophes. With new contributions by historians, science journalists, and science fiction authors, the Radium Age book series will recontextualize the breakthroughs and biases of these proto–science fiction classics, and chart the emergence of a burgeoning genre.

ABOUT RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF

Do we really know science fiction? There were the Scientific Romance years that stretched from the mid-19th century to circa 1900. And there was the so-called Golden Age, from circa 1935 through the early 1960s. But between those periods, and overshadowed by them, was an era that has bequeathed us such memes as the robot (berserk or benevolent), the tyrannical superman, the dystopia, the unfathomable extraterrestrial, the sinister telepath, and the eco-catastrophe. A dozen years ago, writing for the sf blog io9.com at the invitation of Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, I became fascinated with the period during which the sf genre as we know it emerged. In honor of Marie Curie, who shared a Nobel Prize for her discovery of radium in 1903, only to die of radiation-induced leukemia in 1934, I dubbed it the “Radium Age.”

Curie’s development of the theory of radioactivity, which led to the freaky insight that the atom is, at least in part, a state of energy constantly in movement, is an apt metaphor for the 20th century’s first three decades. These years were marked by rising sociocultural strife across various fronts: the founding of the women’s suffrage movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, socialist currents within the labor movement, anti-colonial and revolutionary upheaval around the world… as well as the associated strengthening of reactionary movements that supported, e.g., racial segregation, immigration restriction, eugenics, and sexist policies….

In order to help surface overlooked Radium Age texts — particularly works by women, people of color, and writers from outside the USA and Western Europe — Joshua Glenn and Noah Springer have an advisory panel that presently includes Annalee NewitzAnindita BanerjeeDavid M, Higginskara lynchKen LiuSean Guynes, and Sherryl Vint.

Here are the covers of the first books in the series.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1966 – Fifty five years ago at Tricon which was held in Cleveland and had Issac Asimov as its Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny would win his first Hugo for …And Call Me Conrad which would later be called This Immortal. It was published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, October and November of 1965 and then in book form by Ace the same year. It tied with Frank Herbert’s Dune. It would be the first of six Hugos that he would win and one of two for Best Novel, the other being for Lord of Light.  His other four Hugos would be for the “Home Is the Hangman” novella, the “Unicorn Variation“ novelette, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” novella and “Permafrost” novelette. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1904 — Peter Lorre. I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in Americanized version of Casino Royale which an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series as Le Chiffre. (James Bond was called Jimmy. Shudder!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 25, 1910 — Elsie Wollheim. The wife of Donald A. Wollheim. She was one of the original Futurians of New York, and assisted them in their publishing efforts, and even published Highpoints, her own one-off fanzine. When he started DAW Books in 1972, she was the co-founder, and inherited the company when he died. Their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) now runs the company along with co-publisher and Sheila E. Gilbert. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 25, 1950 — Tom DeFalco, 71. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his Marvel Comics and in particular for his work with the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 25, 1965 — Daryl Gregory, 56. He won a Crawford Award for his Pandemonium novel. And his novella, We Are All Completely Fine, won the World Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award as well. It was also a finalist for the Sturgeon Award. I’m also fond of his writing on the Planet of The Apes series that IDW published.
  • Born June 25, 1969 — Austin Grossman, 52. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designer, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 25, 1969 — Lev Grossman, 52. Author most noted for The Magicians trilogy which is The MagiciansThe Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His latest work was the screenplay for The Map of Tiny Perfect Things film which was based off his short story of that name. 
  • Born June 25, 1980 — Jason Schwartzman, 41. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He  was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in  Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 25, 1984 — Aubrey Plaza, 37. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers. And she was Lenny Busker on Legion.  

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Alley Oop runs into a little Moon explorer name confusion.

(11) TURING PASSES TEST. “New £50 note featuring Alan Turing goes into circulation” reports The Guardian.

The new £50 note goes into circulation on Wednesday – but with consumers increasingly going cashless, for millions of people it may be months or even years before they see or touch one….

However, perhaps the new-look £50 – featuring Alan Turing, the scientist best known for his codebreaking work during the second world war – will give the note’s image a makeover.

Its arrival is notable as it means the Bank of England has now completed its switch away from paper money.

The Turing £50 will join the Churchill £5, the Austen £10 and the Turner £20, all of which are printed on polymer, a thin and flexible plastic material that is said to last longer and stay in better condition than paper.

… The new £50 note, which features Alan Turing, contains advanced security features including two windows and a two-colour foil, making it very difficult to counterfeit.

(12) THE KLEPTO CONNECTION. “Stealing Science-Fiction: Why the Heist Works So Well in Sci-Fi” – Justin Woolley explains at CrimeReads.

…There is something inherently lovable about the heist story. They have been a mainstay of cinema since the mid-twentieth century and feature prominently in novels, TV, video games and across all media. The heist story often gives us many of the things we love in story, underdogs, a sense of style, thrills, adventure and a chance to see characters who are the smartest, the fastest, the best at what they do. Heists are also perfectly set up for the structure of a story. We usually have a clear external conflict from the very beginning, our team versus whatever is protecting the ‘big score’. Then, we get to see how the crew are going to overcome the odds by being (often literally) in on the plan, blueprints and all. Throw some spanners in the works, maybe a betrayal, a few character flaws to be overcome, and you’re primed to go for a terrific caper.

There’s something else I find interesting about heist stories—they are, in many ways, genre-neutral. They appear most commonly as contemporary action stories but also in historical fiction, fantasy and, of biggest interest to me, science-fiction. I am a fan of many genres, including crime and thriller, but I am foremost an author of science-fiction…. 

(13) IN THE BEGINNING. Mental Floss’ article about “The Early Careers of 12 Famous Novelists” includes entries on Octavia Butler, Frank Herbert, Mark Twain, and George R.R. Martin.

8. FRANK HERBERT

Frank Herbert was a veteran newspaper reporter when he began circulating Dune, his 1965 novel of galactic intrigue over spice. Though it was well-received by sci-fi fans and even serialized in Analog magazine, Herbert had no takers until it was accepted by automotive publisher Chilton. By 1972, Herbert had given up his newspaper career to write novels.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: League of Legends: Wild Rift” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this is “a bite-sized version of League of Legends that lasts half as long” and “has no chat functionality, making it “one of the few games that people who haven’t had their hearts turned to coal by the Internet” can enjoy.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Nic Farey, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/18 The Scroll Above The Pixel Was The Color Of An Old File, Tuned To A Dead DNS

(1) NOBEL ROLLOVER. The Associated Press reports “No Nobel literature prize this year but 2 prizes in 2019”.

Following weeks of internal bickering, sex-abuse allegations and a financial investigation by police, the body that hands out the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature announced Friday that no prize will be awarded this year.

Instead, the academy said two Nobel Prizes in Literature will be handed out next year, the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize. The decision was made Thursday at a weekly meeting of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on the grounds that the group was in too deep a crisis to choose a Nobel winner properly.

“The present crisis of confidence places high demands on a long-term and robust work for change,” said Anders Olsson, the academy’s permanent secretary. “We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced.”

(2) WHEATON’S SPEECH ABOUT DEPRESSION. The actor has posted the text of his speech for NAMI Ohio’s statewide conference, Fulfilling the Promise: “My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed.”

…My life is, by every objective measurement, very very good.

And in spite of all of that, I struggle every day with my self esteem, my self worth, and my value not only as an actor and writer, but as a human being.

That’s because I live with Depression and Anxiety, the tag team champions of the World Wrestling With Mental Illness Federation.

And I’m not ashamed to stand here, in front of six hundred people in this room, and millions more online, and proudly say that I live with mental illness, and that’s okay. I say “with” because even though my mental illness tries its best, it doesn’t control me, it doesn’t define me, and I refuse to be stigmatized by it.

So. My name is Wil Wheaton, and I have Chronic Depression….

(3) MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU.  For the Fourth, iFixit is doing a number of teardowns (inside hardware looks) of Empire/Jedi tech, like this lightsaber:

Do you have the death sentence on twelve systems? Do you frequent wretched hives of scum and villainy? Then you probably don’t want to see this saber firing up.

And by the way –

This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your Lightsaber, use our service manual.

(4) SALLY FOURTH. SW Day Observation: “Heathrow pranks travellers with fake Star Wars departures board for ‘May the 4th Be With You’”The Sun has the story.

Destinations such as Tatooine, Kamino, Hoth and Jakku were up on the board in a tribute to Star Wars Day.

A note below the 11.40am flight to Jakku announced that it had been “delayed due to sandstorms”.

(5) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. Saturday May 5 is Free Comic Book Day. Click here to find a participating location near you.

(6) PREVIEWING THE FREEBIES. NPR’s Glen Weldon presents “Free Comic Book Day 2018: A Guide To The Best Bets And The Best Avoided”,  a series of mini-reviews about the free comics being handed out on Saturday.

Free Comic Book Day has been an annual event for 17 years now. I’ve been writing up this guide to the FCBD books for the past 10 of those, so believe me when I say:

This year’s a good ‘un. The best yet. Don’t skip it.

There are more all-ages books in this year’s mix, more stories starring girls, women and people of color and a healthier, more robust selection of genres to choose from than ever before.

It’s also gratifying to see fewer publishers putting out FCBD offerings that amount to little more than samplers, offering readers only tiny snippets of stories from several different comics they publish. Happily, most of the books you’ll be able to pick on Saturday — even those that are simply excerpts from new or forthcoming graphic novels — make for solid, substantial, satisfying reads.

Here’s an example —

Title: Bongo Comics

Genre: TV Tie-In/Humor

The Gist: A perennially solid FCBD choice: Looks and feels like several episodes of (latter-day, it must be said) Simpsons.

Additional Info: Standout story is the lead one: Lisa takes over Krusty’s show and transforms it into an educational snore. (Yes, it’s just a riff on the season one episode “Krusty Gets Busted,” but it’s got primo Sideshow Mel content — he studied English Lit at Cornell!)

Verdict? Sure?

(7) FUNDS ROLL IN FOR BRADBURY STATUE. “Waukegan Ray Bradbury statue fundraising halfway to $125,000 goal” – the Chicago Tribune has the story.

A $ 5,000 donation from the National Gypsum Company has helped the Ray Bradbury Statue Committee reach and surpass its halfway-mark goal to erect a statue commemorating the life and works of world-renowned author and Waukegan native Ray Bradbury.

The proposed 12-foot-tall statue, which will sit on the grounds of the Waukegan Public Library on County Street in downtown Waukegan, was inspired by Bradbury’s poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” and will be created in stainless steel by acclaimed artist Zachary Oxman, depicting Bradbury astride a rocket ship.

(8) ROBOCOP. Another stfnal statue is landing in Detroit: “The Robocop statue finally finds a home”.

Back in 2011, a tweet to then-mayor Dave Bing led to a Kickstarter project that gained worldwide attention.

Project organizers announced yesterday that the Robocop Statue will land at the Michigan Science Center.

It’s been a long, strange trip for the 10-foot-tall bronze statue. From tweet to Facebook group to Kickstarter project to one small plan to one much larger vision. On the project update, organizers say, “From a humble thought of 3D scanning an action figure and blowing it up to 6 feet tall to pour in iron, we somehow found ourselves on a path to create a 10-foot-tall officially MGM-sanctioned bronze statue from a recreation of the original suit Peter Weller wore when he played RoboCop in 1987”.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found what Chewie and Heathcliff have in common.
  • Workout fashions inspire humor at Off the Mark.
  • Speed Bump makes a genre reference into sports pun to get laughs.

(10) YA AUTHOR INTERVIEW. At NPR, author Dave Eggers talks about his new YA book Lifters: “In Dave Eggers’ New Book, Heroic Kids Do The Heavy Lifting”.

On having kids read his story

They’re astoundingly good editors. They will tell you exactly what’s working, exactly what’s not working. I took every last edit from every one of these kids. They are the purest readers. They do want to be entertained, and I’ll say that sometimes they are easier to please, for sure, than cynical adult readers, because it’s all new to them — so this might have been, like, the seventh chapter book some of these kids read, or the second or the third. So that’s why I feel honored to be part of their reading experience at such a young age, because I remember every last book I read in that era. I was not, like, a voracious reader, so I remember the one or two books a year that I read when I was ten and 11 and 12, because I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a chapter book at that age.

(11) SHARKE TIME. Now that the official Clarke Award shortlist is out, Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller takes stock in “Shortlisting Thoughts”.

The Shadow Clarke jurors have now all produced their reading lists, and the official Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist has been revealed. It’s time to reflect on everyone’s choices.

At this point, it is worth reminding everyone once again that the Shadow Clarke jurors are not in direct competition with the Arthur C. Clarke Award judges. Our projects are complementary but rather different. The Clarke Award judges have to choose a winner at the end of their judging process, and we, the sf reading public, are not privy to their deliberations, as is right and proper. The Shadow Clarke jurors, on the other hand, don’t have to choose a winner, hence our emphasis on choosing ‘reading lists’: lists of titles that interest us and will, we hope, promote some broader discussion about the state of science fiction in 2018. And we can talk about how we made our choices. As our introductions have shown, we’ve chosen our lists according to a wide range of criteria. And yes, in some instances we are playing against the system, so to speak, but we have a licence to explore the submissions list in a different way.

(12)DEAR OLD DAD. Son of Bigfoot Trailer #1.

A teenage boy journeys to find his missing father only to discover that he’s actually Bigfoot.

 

(13) WORD COINAGE. Here’s where it’s happening: “Feelinig litt? The five hotspots that are driving English forward”.

The English language is forever in flux, as new words are born and old ones die. But where do these terms come from and what determines whether they survive?

Charting linguistic change was once a painstakingly slow task, but a new analysis of nearly one billion Tweets – presented on 17 April at the Evolang International Conference on Language Evolution in Torun, Poland – now offers us an unprecedented glimpse of this process in action….

The researcher behind the study, Jack Grieve at the University of Birmingham, UK, analysed more than 980 million Tweets in total – consisting of 8.9 billion words – posted between October 2013 and November 2014, and spanning 3,075 of the 3,108 US counties.

From this huge dataset, Grieve first identified any terms that were rare at the beginning of the study (occurring less than once per billion words in the last quarter of 2013) but which had then steadily risen in popularity over the course of the following year. He then filtered the subsequent list for proper nouns (such as Timehop) and those appearing in commercial adverts, and he also removed any words that were already in Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Acronyms, however, were included.

(14) FAUX GYRO. Syfy Wire says “Aliasing illusion makes 3D sculptures wiggle and gyrate”:

Another effect is called “aliasing,” where something is moving in beat with the camera frame rate. The most common of these is when you watch a video of a car moving, and it looks like the wheels are spinning backward. They’re not! It’s just that the wheel spins almost all the way around in the time it takes the camera to take two frames of video, so in the second frame it looks like the wheel has turned backward a little bit. Do this many times in a row and you get that weird effect of the wheels looking like they’re spinning the wrong way. I wrote about this extensively when a video taken by a camera that fell out of a plane went viral. You can also use it to make what looks like a magic spiral of water.

So you can get really weird effects by accident. However, artist John Edmark has used this effect on purpose and to his advantage, creating stunning and mesmerizing videos. He makes sculptures with cyclic patterns in them, then records them spinning (he also uses a strobe light with timed pulses to mimic camera aliasing). What you wind up with is very cool:

 

[Thanks to Kip W., Rich Lynch, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mark Hepworth, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/18 The Adventures Of Scrolli And Pixelwinkle

(1) ISSUES IN SFF REVIEWING. Several interesting threads about reviews and reviewing in sff. Each tweet is the jumping off point for the thread.

  • Bogi Takács

  • Charles Payseur

  • Cecily Kane

  • Also, Jason Sanford did an overview which includes numerous links to reviewers.

(2) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS. John Joseph Adams advises that the 2018 World Fantasy Awards nominations have opened and voting continues until May 31.

The World Fantasy Awards will be presented in Baltimore, MD during the World Fantasy Convention (Nov. 1-4). Deadline for nominating is and ballots must be received by May 31, 2018.

All registered members of the 2016 World Fantasy Convention, the 2017 World Fantasy Convention, and the 2018 event in Baltimore will be eligible to vote before the deadline. If you didn’t attend one of the previously mentioned World Fantasy conventions, and you don’t plan to attend this year, you can still nominate by purchasing a supporting membership.

Already registered? Go and nominate your favorite works! Voting information is available on the World Fantasy Convention 2018 website.

(3) CODE OF OMELAS. Ursula Vernon tells about the ones who stagger away…

(4) SUPER TRAFFIC MONITOR. The Caped Crusader says, “Don’t get run over!” Or something like that. From the BBC: “Lost footage of Batman star Adam West to be screened”. [Video]

Previously lost footage of Batman star Adam West teaching road safety will be screened for the first time in more than 50 years.

The clip from May 1967 of Batman teaching children the Kerb Drill will be shown to an audience of TV professionals and enthusiasts in Birmingham to kick-off a hunt for 100 missing television clips.

Kaleidoscope, which specialises in finding missing television footage, recently discovered the segment, which was never screened outside of the UK.

It will be shown at Birmingham City University on Saturday, as the company launches its list of the UK’s top 100 missing TV shows that industry professionals most want to see recovered.

This includes early episodes of Doctor Who featuring Mark Eden as Marco Polo, Top Of The Pops and The Avengers.

(5) UTAH WESTERCON NEWS. Westercon 72 (July 4-7th, 2019 in Layton, Utah) has added Special Guest Eric Flint. Westercon also will host the 2019 1632 Minicon.

Eric Flint’s writing career began with the science fiction novel Mother of Demons. His alternate history novel 1632 has led to a long-running series with over thirty novels and anthologies in print. He’s also written many other science fiction and fantasy novels. He resides in northwest Indiana with his wife Lucille.

Along with Mr. Flint, we are also pleased to announce the 2019 1632 Minicon will be held in conjunction with Westercon 72. The minicon is the annual event that allows the 1632 fans and authors to get together. (Of course, in the case of 1632, fans and authors overlap substantially.) Each year the minicon is held “inside” a science fiction convention in a different part of the country. Many cons have agreed to host the minicon over the years. (Wording courtesy of https://1632.org )

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. A fresh trailer for Incredibles 2.

(7) TIN FOIL HATS FOR CATS. Did you know these were a thing? From the Archie McPhee catalog:

It’s a tin foil hat for conspiracy cats! They want to know what your cat is thinking. They want to control your cat’s thoughts. Not on our watch! We’ve made a Tin Foil Hat for Cats to make sure that kitty’s thoughts stay private. This mylar hat fits most cats, has a comfy felt lining and is held in place with an elastic strap. It even has holes for cat ears! Take that, Illuminati! Restores the dignity of your kitty. Very effective against MKUltra satellites, cat food company dream-insertion marketing, Guy Fieri, Soviet cat control protocols, psychic dogs, skull tapping, focused magnetic pulse and the neighbor’s labradoodle. Great for pictures! Fits most cats.

(8) BELL OBIT. Art Bell (1945-2018), the original host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM, died April 13. At its peak in popularity, Bells show was syndicated on more than 500 radio stations and claimed 15 million listeners nightly

(9) TOWFIK OBIT. Sindbad Sci-Fi eulogizes an influential Egyptian sf writer: “Remembering Ahmed Khaled Towfik (1962 – 2018)”.

Ahmed Khaled Towfik is no longer with us. After a period of prolonged illness, he died of a heart attack on 2 April 2018 in El-Demerdash hospital, Cairo, at the age of 55.

By day, Dr Ahmed Khaled Towfik practised as a medical professor at Egypt’s Tanta University. Over time, he was an obsessively prolific writer who became the Arab world’s most prominent bestselling contemporary author of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror genres. He is claimed to have written over 500 titles of which one third is science fiction, including his Arabic translations of English Sci-Fi.

(10) TODAY’S SFF BIRTHDAYS

  • April 14, 1936 – Arlene Martel. She played Spock’s betrothed, co-starred with Robert Culp in the Outer Limits Demon with a Glass Hand written by Harlan Ellison plus a couple of Twilight Zone episodes.
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Peter Capaldi
  • Born April 14, 1977 — Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Born April 14, 1982 – Rachel Swirsky

(11) SWIRSKY CELEBRATED. Steven H Silver shares his appreciation in “Birthday Reviews: Rachel Swirsky’s ‘The Monster’s Million Faces’” at Black Gate.

Rachel Swirsky was born on April 14, 1982. To this point, her writing career has been focused on short stories, although in 2010 she co-edited the anthology People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Sean Wallace. Her stories have been collected in two volumes, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Courtesy of mlex:

(13) GOOD TO THE LAST DROP. Charles Payseur tests a new batch of short fiction: “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/02/2018 & 04/09/2018”.

The short SFF from the first two weeks of April’s Strange Horizons looks at faith and education, memory and time, fiction and hope. The stories feature characters either revisiting their pasts or desperate to do so. They also feature relationships between parents and children, though in opposite directions (one with a mother as main character, the other with a son). And they explore memory and trying to rewrite the past with something better than the crushing weight of the present. The poetry looks at religion and education, at expectation and death. It’s a rather complex collection of pieces, but it makes for some compelling reading. So let’s get to the reviews!

(14) ARE YOU KIDDING? The Deseret News reports “Former FBI director James Comey is a fan of Utah author Brandon Sanderson”.

In an interview with The New York Times Book Review “By the Book” section, Comey said he’s an avid reader of fiction, “almost always (reading) something my kids are reading, so I can … pretend to be cool.”

When asked what books readers would be surprised to find on his shelf, Comey answered with “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green; the Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson, and the Red Rising series, by Pierce Brown.

(15) SFF HISTORY. Tom De Haven remembers what it was like to write for Byron Preiss in a memoir at Café Pinfold.

…I met Byron Preiss in the 1970s, near the start of both our careers—as I recall, it was at an art show that he’d curated in a small Manhattan gallery (somewhere up near Bloomingdale’s, I believe) that consisted of super-realistic, high-key paintings of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (yes, the Beach Boys; don’t ask me why, although probably it was the first or second or third step in a scheme to produce a “Byron Preiss Book” sometime in the future). He was the most confident man I’d ever met. Soft spoken, slow moving, but confident as hell. Always well dressed.  Good clothes but they could get rumpled looking. For as long as I knew and saw him, and it was quite a while, Byron always had a hundred ideas for new projects and the sublime confidence they’d all make millions.

So far as I understood it, he worked like this: he’d pitch a slew of different ideas to a variety of book editors in New York City, ideas that (again, so far as I understood it) he’d dreamed up himself, ideas inspired by current trends in publishing or pop culture (U.S.S.A., for example, followed in the wake of the original Red Dawn movie). Whenever Byron got the go-aheads for specific packaging projects, he’d call up writers to do the actual writing. (He was also likely to call up cartoonists and illustrators since most of his books came illustrated. Later, when he was one of the first people to pionneer digital publishing, he probably called up programmers.)

For me, and no doubt for many other “midlist” authors like me, it was often a lifesaver to get a telephone call from Byron Preiss; he took a big cut of any advance, naturally, and the advances were never better than just okay, but when you were in-between books and fresh out of ideas, or in-between advances for novels of your own, or had a major house repair that you couldn’t afford, or there was a new baby on the way, you were glad—at least I was glad—for an offer from Byron….

(16) WILL ROBINSON REBOOTY. NPR’s Glen Weldon goes back and forth in “Will Robinson, Meet Danger; Danger, Will Robinson: The ‘Lost In Space’ Reboot”, props for competent women, points off for repetition.

The original Lost in Space, which ran on network television from 1965 to 1968, began as a straightforward, if high-concept, adventure show: A colony spaceship carrying a nuclear family, a dashing pilot and a sniveling doctor got stranded on a remote planet. They had adventures while wearing v-neck sweaters over their turtlenecks, presumably because Irwin Allen, who produced the show, imagined that the future would be a chilly place. Or maybe he got a deal on velour, who knows.

Over the course of its run, the focus of the show shifted from the family to that weaselly doctor. Looking back, it’s easy to see why: The family was a bunch of white-bread squares in matchy-matchy outfits, but the doctor – played with a sublimely mincing menace by Jonathan Harris, was a revelation. The character of Doctor Smith was vain, overdramatic (“Oh, the pain, the pain!”), selfish, self-pitying, self-aggrandizing – a campy, eminently hissable villain out of a Christmas panto, down to the clipped British accent (which was something the Bronx-born Harris sniffily affected).

(17) LOST ATTENTION. In contrast, the Boston Globe reviewer describes the robot and the series as “sleek, shiny, and boring”: “‘Lost in Space,’ we have a problem” (may be passworded soon).

The casting is a problem, except in one case — Parker Posey as Dr. Smith. Molly Parker, a favorite of mine from “Deadwood” and “Swingtown,” is OK as the logic-and-science-loving Maureen — but she can be so much better than OK. The writers try to give her a personal storyline, since she and husband John, played sternly by Toby Stephens, are dealing with a troubled marriage. But it’s hard to care about the fate of their relationship because they’re so bland and heroic. The rest of the Robinsons are bland too, with Will (Maxwell Jenkins) a sweet but dramatically inert presence. I didn’t worry about their safety during all of their dangerous missions because I just didn’t care enough about them. TV’s original Robinson family wasn’t particularly exciting, either, but at least whimpering Jonathan Harris’s Dr. Smith brought enough camp and cowardice to keep things entertaining.

(18) SHARKE BITES. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller shares her picks: “A Shadow Clarke 2018 selection box – six exciting centres”. First, what you won’t find in her box:

This year, inevitably, my decision-making process is going to be more focused and more self-conscious, so I’ve laid out a few ground rules for myself. First, I have tried to avoid seeing what the other jurors are choosing, so this selection process has been conducted in isolation. Second, my Shadow Clarke to-read list isn’t going to feature anything I’ve already read, although there are some titles there I’d dearly like to discuss with the other jurors: Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, for example, which is very much my kind of novel – formally inventive, a challenging read, a great story. But Gnomon is among a handful of titles already touted as shoo-ins for the official Clarke shortlist, and I have also decided to avoid putting any of those on my to-read list. I’m going to read them anyway and at this stage I’d rather experiment in my reading and see what’s going on in sf. This may seem very perverse but I would remind you that this exercise is categorically not about attempting to second-guess the official shortlist. As such I have leeway to explore.

With those decisions made, things become both easier and more complicated. Critics and reviewers are mortals like the rest of the world, and we all have our prejudices. For example, as I’ve noted before, I dislike zombie novels and while I could test that prejudice by reading a zombie novel – there seems to be a prime candidate on the list – I’ve come to the conclusion that I am secure enough in my understanding of my active dislikes to avoid wasting everyone’s time by confronting them, because the chances of anything positive emerging from the encounter are unlikely.

(19) CALL FOR PAPERS. Sublime Cognition is a very catchy name for a conference:

(20) SOLO CARDS. I don’t think I covered this with the rest of the Denny’s Star Wars-themed advertising: “Solo: A Star Wars Story exclusive trading cards, available only at Denny’s!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Camestros Felapton, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/18 I’ve Got A Plan So Cunning You Could Put A Scroll On It And Call It A Pixel

(1) 4SJ. At the Classic Horror Film Board, the webmaster’s reminiscence about Forrest J Ackerman prompted a #MeToo response from Lucy Chase Williams, and since then “Forrest J Ackerman’s #MeToo Moment …” has generated 561 comments.

Speaking of “failures” (!), I guess this is the time to remind the boys here of #MeToo. I and other young women like me were subjected to a different kind of “Forry worship.” How differently would any of you have felt, when all you wanted was to talk about monsters with the “over eager editor” of your favorite monster magazine, if your Uncle Forry had forced wet kisses on you? If he had put his hands all over you, pinching your “naughty bottom” and squeezing your “boobies”? If he had enthusiastically related with a big grin how he wanted to strip off your clothes with everybody watching? And if, in the face of your total refusal of any of his attentions every single time you saw him in person, he never didn’t try again, and again, and again? And if for years, in between those times, he mailed you letters with pornographic photos, and original stories about how naughty you were, and how he wanted to hurt and abuse you, yet all the while make you weep and beg for more? And if he continued that behavior, despite written and verbal demands to cease, entirely unabashed for more than two decades? No, I can’t forget him either — or how he turned my childhood love of monsters into something adult and truly monstrous.

(2) STAUNCH PRIZE. Earl Grey Editing reports on an interesting new non-sff award:

Not strictly SFF or romance, but still within genre, The Staunch Prize has been created to honour crime thrillers where no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered. The shortlist will be announced in September and the winner will be announced on 25 November.

(3) STAR GORGE. Michael Cavna has a roundup of all the current Star Wars projects, with the news being that Disney is also planning a streaming Star Wars TV series for fans who just want more after Solo, Episode IX, the Rian Johnson trilogy, and the Benioff and Weiss trilogy: “A guide to every Star Wars movie and TV show that’s planned right now”.

  1. Potential spinoffs of other characters

Talk continues to swirl around Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Boba Fett getting their own films, according to such outlets as the Hollywood Reporter. At this point of galloping Disney expansion, who’s to say that each won’t one day get his own TV trilogy?

  1. The streaming TV series

Iger’s new announcement comes just several months after he first said a live-action Star Wars series would happen. Expect that TV menu to grow at a significant rate, as Disney gets set to launch its own entertainment streaming services by next year.

(4) MILSF KICKSTARTER. M. C. A. Hogarth says, “I stealth launched my newest Kickstarter yesterday to see if I could keep it from blowing past the goal, but it overfunded anyway. So I guess I’ll advertise it? laugh It’s fluffy first contact sf” — “Either Side of the Strand Print Edition”:

MilSF with an all female crew, in an “Old Star Trek” vein! Because we all love first contact stories, with octopuses.

Having already hit $1,241, when the original goal was $500, Hogarth is far into stretch goal territory —

So, some stretch goals! Just in case, even though this is only a week!

  • $750 – I do a bookmark, and everyone who gets a physical reward will receive it!
  • $1000 – the audiobook! This should open an audiobook reward level (details for that when/if it happens)
  • Over $1000 – I will wiggle a lot! And then tuck that money away to pay for the final Stardancer novel (currently in revision).

But Jaguar! You say. Why are your stretch goals so modest! Why don’t you do Alysha plushes! We would totally be on board with Alysha plushes! And Stardancer t-shirts!

Because, dear backers, I don’t want to fall down on this job for you, and that means humble goals. *bows*

I admit Alysha plushes would be adorbs though.

(5) NEW SFF PODCAST. MilSF Authors JR Handley and Chris Winder have unveiled they latest joint project; the Sci-Fi Shenanigans Podcast. JR and Chris are US veterans (US Army and USMC respectively) that focus on producing MilSF stories. They have released five episodes in the last 2 weeks:

(6) LEAVE THE WHISTLE UNBLOWN. Joe Sherry continues picking contenders in the “2018 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”. Although the criteria he gives below disregard the actual rules for the Best Fanzine category, most of his picks are eligible anyway – no harm, no foul.

This time we are looking at what are, for lack of a better term, the “nonfiction and institutional categories”: Best Related Work, Best Semiprozine, Best Fanzine and Best Fancast. Now, those who follow this blog know how cranky The G can get on the subject of certain categories and their bizarre eligibility guidelines–and we’ve got two of them today (Best Semiprozine and Best Fancast). Nevertheless, I will do my best to stay calm and stick to the rules, frustrating as they can be. I reserve the right, will, however, get a little snarky and passive-aggressive in the process.
There are, however, some sticky issues that made putting this list together a bit difficult. Knowing what does or does not constitute a “fanzine” in the era of blogs, for example–and given that we may already be on the downward slide of that era, it only promises to get more difficult as time passes. Nevertheless, we have tried to create clear and consistent guidelines for inclusion in this category. Thus, to qualify, a fanzine: (1) must be a fan venture (i.e. must not generate a significant amount of money, or pay professional rates for work); (2) must publish a lot of content in a given year; and (3) must publish “award worthy” content. We did not discount single-author blogs from consideration, but criterion #2 makes it difficult for most single-author blogs to  merit consideration. Consequently, while a couple made it, most did not–including some very good ones.

(7) SHADOW NOMINATIONS. The Australasian Horror Writers Association reminds that nominations are open for the Australian Shadow Awards until February 28. See eligibility and submission guidelines at the link.

The Australian Shadows Awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australasian within the calendar year. Works are judged on the overall effect of a work—the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance.

[Via Earl Grey Editing.]

(8) BARLOW OBIT. John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), died February 7. NPR paid tribute:“Cyber-Libertarian And Pioneer John Perry Barlow Dies At Age 70”.

A founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, John Perry Barlow, has died at the age of 70, according to a statement issued by the Foundation.

Barlow was a poet, essayist, Internet pioneer and prominent cyber-libertarian. He co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990 after realizing that the government was ill-equipped to understand what he called the “legal, technical, and metaphorical nature of datacrime.” He said believed that “everyone’s liberties would become at risk.”

Barlow described the founding of the EFF after receiving a visit from an FBI agent in April 1990 seeking to find out whether he was a member of “a dread band of info-terrorists.” Shortly thereafter, Barlow and Mitch Kapor, the creator of Lotus 1-2-3, organized a series of dinners with leaders of the computer industry for discussions that would lead to the creation of the EFF.

And the BBC remembers

In 1996, he wrote the widely quoted Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which asked governments of the world to stop meddling in the affairs of net-centred communities.

“You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather,” he wrote.

(9) POLCHINSKI OBIT. Multiverse theorist Joseph Polchinski died February 2 reports the New York Times.

Joseph Polchinski, one of the most creative physicists of his generation, whose work helped lay the mathematical foundation for the controversial proposition that our universe is only one in an almost endless assemblage that cosmologists call the “multiverse,” died on Friday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 63. He had been treated for brain cancer since late 2015.

Dr. Polchinski was a giant force in the development of string theory, the ambitious attempt to achieve a “theory of everything,” which envisions the fundamental particles of nature as tiny wriggling strings. The theory has brought forth ideas and calculations that have opened new fields of study and new visions of a universe that is weirder and richer than astronomers had dreamed.

…After months of treatment [for cancer], Dr. Polchinski put his energy into writing his memoir, which he posted on the internet.

“I have not achieved my early science-fiction goals, nor explained why there is something rather than nothing,” he wrote in an epilogue, “but I have had an impact on the most fundamental questions of science.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 8, 1958Teenage Monster premiered at your local drive-in.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born February 8, 1828 – Jules Verne
  • Born February 8, 1908 — William Hartnell, the first Doctor Who.
  • Born February 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking
  • Born February 8, 1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal

(12) KOWAL CELEBRATES. As part of her celebration Kowal pointed to a free read short story, “The Worshipful Society of Glovers” that came out last year in Uncanny Magazine. And on her blog she told about how she developed that story:

To begin… When I was writing Without a Summer I was looking at historical guilds as models for the Coldmongers. In the process, I ran across the Worshipful Company of Glovers, which is a real livery company that has been in existence since 1349. Kinda awesome, right?

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian finds Yoda remains in character even in this mundane situation, in Off the Mark.

(14) RETRO COMICS. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club took a deep dive into the comic books that were published in 1942 and are eligible for the Retro-Hugos this summer. They suggest that in terms of Best Graphic Story “Some of the most exemplary works are little-remembered by the modern reader,” and encourage Hugo voters to consider a wide range of lesser-known works.

In 1942, the modern American comic book was still in its infancy. Sequential art published on pulp paper with gaudy CMYK illustrations was hitting the shelves at a furious pace, led by the success of best-selling books like Captain Marvel, The Spirit, and Archie. But for every Mort Meskin, Basil Wolverton or Jack Cole working in 1942, there were dozens more, often filling pages with inflexible five- and six-panel layouts, stilted dialogue, and rigidly posed figures….

Prior to 2018, the only time there was a Retro Hugo for Best Graphic Story was in 2016, when the Retro Hugos for 1941 were awarded. That ceremony saw Batman #1 take the trophy ahead of Captain Marvel and The Spirt, both of which are superior comic books. Joe Simon’s superb first 12 issues of Blue Bolt didn’t even make the final ballot.

Batman as a character may have had more popular appeal in the long-term, but those early stories are not as dynamic or innovative as The Spirit. Batman may have some science fiction elements today, but in 1940 Blue Bolt told better science fiction stories. Batman may be more popular today, but in 1940 Captain Marvel was the leading comic book character….

(15) STACKS OF FUN. The G takes “Altered Carbon, Episodes 1-3” for a test drive at Nerds of a Feather.

Netflix’s new science fiction show, Altered Carbon, is based on a novel of the same name by Richard K. Morgan. It’s basically a mashup of neo-cyberpunk, detective noir, milSF and techno thriller. Since I have particular interests in the first two parts of that equation, Altered Carbon looked to be right up my alley. So I decided to commit to 3 episodes, after which point I’d take stock. Three episodes in and I like it enough to continue. It’s not quite as good as I’d hoped, however.

Takeshi Kovacs is, or rather was, a kind of super soldier known as an envoy. Envoys were part of an insurrection against the hegemonic polity, the Protectorate. The insurrection failed and the envoys were “put in ice.” However, in the future your mind, memories and soul are stored on a “stack”–a kind of hard drive that is surgically inserted into your body. As long as the stack isn’t damaged, it can be taken out of a dead body and inserted into a new “sleeve” (i.e. a body). Religious types refuse to be re-sleeved, believing that it prevents the soul from ascending to heaven. Pretty much everyone else who can afford to do it, does.

(16) BUNDLE TIME. The latest Storybundle is The Black Narratives Bundle, curated by Terah Edun:

This month is groundbreaking for many reasons, it represents a clarion call to support and uphold cultural heritage, but more than that Black History Month is a time to celebrate accomplishments of the past and the future. From the moment I was asked to curate the Black Narratives bundle, I knew this one was going to be special. I didn’t want to just reach out to authors who were the pillars of the diverse speculative fiction community, but also the ingénues who were becoming stars in their own right.

(17) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM, CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Entertainment Weekly says “Firefly canon to expand with series of original books”.

It may sound like something out of science-fiction, but it’s true: More Firefly stories are on the way.

EW can exclusively report that Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products have teamed up to publish an original range of new fiction tying in to Joss Whedon’s beloved but short-lived TV series Firefly. The books will be official titles within the Firefly canon, with Whedon serving as consulting editor. The first book is due in the fall.

(18) DON’T YOU JUST TELESCOPE IT? At NPR, “How To Pack A Space Telescope” (text and time-lapse video).

As complicated as it as to launch and operate a telescope in space, it’s almost as complex to move a space telescope around here on Earth.

For the past 9 months or so, NASA has been testing the James Webb Space Telescope in a giant cryogenic chamber at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The $8.8 billion Webb telescope is the most powerful telescope NASA has ever built.

(19) SLICE OF LIFE. BBC tells about “Bodyhackers: Bold, inspiring and terrifying”.

Jesika Foxx has permanently purple eyeballs, and an elf-like ear. Her husband, Russ, has a pair of horns under his skin.

Stelarc, a 72-year-old Australian, has an ear on his arm. Soon he hopes to attach a small microphone to it so people can, via the internet, listen to whatever it hears.

Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow – yes, that’s his legal name – has the chip from his Sydney travel card implanted into his hand.

I met all these people during BodyHacking Con, in Austin, Texas.

Over the past three years, the event has become something of a pilgrimage for those involved in the biohacking scene – a broad spectrum of technologists, trans-humanists and performance artists. This year it also attracted the presence of the US military.

(20) FAUX COMPETITION. There should be a contest to caption this photo. My entry: “John Scalzi about to make one of his famous frozen garbage burritos.”

(21) SHARKE’S SECOND BITE. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller continues her self-introduction.

I find it difficult to talk about how I write critically because it is a thing I’ve learned mostly by doing. There was never a moment when I actively decided that I would become a literary critic. Rather, my critical practice came into being over a long period of time. Even now it is a work in progress. I always feel I could do better, and I’m forever trying to work out how.

What do I do? I read. And then I write about what I’ve read. It is as simple and as complicated as that. In ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, an exploration of meaning in Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’, Derrida focuses on the word ‘pharmakon’, paradoxical because it means both ‘remedy’ and ‘poison’. Plato sought to argue that speech was superior to writing because it required an act of memory, an act which was weakened by the use of writing. Derrida prompts us to ask whether writing is a remedy, in that it helps you remember things; or a poison in that it enables you to forget things? And I am going to argue that critical writing is both poison and remedy, depending on how you use it.

(22) VENOM. Marvel’s Venom teaser trailer:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, M.C.A. Hogarth, Dann, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat  Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 1/24/18 You Can Get Anything You Want At Filer’s Pixel Rant

(1) WORLDCON 76 MEMBERSHIPS SPONSORED FOR MEXICANX FANS, CREATORS. Artist John Picacio, a Worldcon 76 guest of honor, and John Scalzi, are funding four memberships —

John Scalzi, who will fund a pair of the memberships, also publicized the announcement on Whatever: “John Picacio Offering Worldcon Memberships to Mexicanx Fans and Creators”.

(2) COMMEMORATION. Naomi Novik was asked by the New York Times to write an appreciation of Ursula K. LeGuin. She responded with a poem — “For Ursula” – which begins:

I want to tell you something true
Because that’s what she did.
I want to take you down a road she built, only I don’t want to follow it to the end.
I want to step off the edge and go into the underbrush
Clearing another way, because that’s also what she taught
Not how to repave her road but how to lay another
Even if it meant the grass came through the cracks of the pavement, and the thicket ate it up.

(3) DID YOU REMEMBER? Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin were at Berkeley High School at the same time in 1947. However, it spoils the story to add that they didn’t know each other…. See “When Ursula K. Le Guin & Philip K. Dick Went to High School Together” at Open Culture from 2016.

(4) OF ACE BOOPS. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett draws this great anecdote from the pages of a classic Australian fanzine — “Ursula Le Guin & Her Elusive Hugo!”.

And now for my favourite Ursula Le Guin letter, one which highlights the two things I like best in an author, a lack of pretentiousness and a sense of humour. The following letter appeared in Philosophical Gas #2, published by John Bangsund in October 1970. The Hugo in question was awarded to Ursula for The Left Hand of Darkness at Heicon ’70, the worldcon held in Heidelberg, Germany in August of 1970. I assume the rocket was accepted on Ursula’s behalf by Terry Carr of Ace Books (which would explain a lot).

(5) SFWA AFFIRMED. Jennifer Brozek on “SFWA and its Community”:

Last night, I went to the SFWA Reading to see my friends Josh Vogt, Greg Bear, and Tod McCoy read. I realized something: I’d missed my SFWA community. These are people I only see at conventions and SFWA events. I’d been so busy with my own stuff lately, and needed some distance from the organization after I stepped down as a Director-At-Large, that I’d pulled away too much. That was the wrong approach, but I suppose it was one I needed at the time.

It’s hard to express just how good it feels to be in a room full of like-minded people who all understand why losing one of the greats like Ursula K. Le Guin is such a tragedy or why naming Peter S. Beagle as SFWA’s newest Grand Master is such a joy. So many of the people I met up with last night are at various points in their writing careers. It was like looking at my past, present, and future writing self. They all understood the language of the writing professional and the publishing industry. It felt like coming home. It felt like family.

Recently, SFWA has had to deal with some tough issues. All of them center around protecting its membership at large. I know, intimately, what they’ve been going through—all the time spent, the discussions had, the decisions made—and I’m proud of the Board. I think, with the evidence they had on hand, they did the only thing they could do to protect the SFWA organization and the community they’ve built.

(6) MORE ON COMMUNITY. SFWA President Cat Rambo tweeted —

(7) RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE JURY. CSFF Anglia has empaneled a new Shadow Clarke Jury for 2018 — Gary K. Wolfe, Alasdair Stuart, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Nick Hubble, Samira Nadkarni, and Foz Meadows. (Speller and Hubble are the only returning Sharkes.)

Dr. Helen Marshall, General Director of the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy says in “And Now for a Word from our Hosts”

The Arthur C. Clarke Award has long been an excellent point of reference for taking stock of the changes in the field. It has a deliberately loose mandate to identify the “best” science fiction book of the year, acknowledging that the definition of “best” must be decided by a changing pool of jurors on an annual basis. The Clarke shortlist and the eventual winner showcase the work that has been done in the field, providing an intriguing snapshot of a field in flux. Since its inception the award has been at the heart of a robust critical discussion which interrogates the centre of the genre, its heartland, as well as the margins, where the genre pushes outward. This is why we’ve chosen the Clarke Award submissions list as a starting point for our discussions, and why we return to their shortlist in our discussions.

…What a shadow jury might do, then, is bring these debates into sharper focus. We believe the criticism is valuable, and that detailed, provocative, and respectful criticism enhances our understanding of the text and the cultures which produced it. This form of criticism is not intended to serve the needs of marketers or publicists but those of readers and writers. It aims not only to make visible but also to illuminate and contextualise.

Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller’s manifesto for the return engagement, “You’re Never Alone with a Critic – Shadowing the Clarke Award, 2018”, says in part —

Here’s the thing – a critic’s job is not to provide plot synopses, nor is it to tell you whether or not you’ll like a novel. It is definitely not a critic’s job to act as an unpaid publicity agent. A critic’s job is to look at the fiction itself, and to have a view about it. Critics write about all sorts of things. They think about where a text sits in relation to other works of sf, they explore themes, tease out aesthetic similarities and differences; they consider what a novel says about the world at large, and, yes, they make judgement based on their experience as informed readers. Which is, if you think about it, exactly the same kind of work as that carried out by an award jury.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that criticism per se has become so frowned upon in the last few years. Is it just that people don’t want to admit this is what is going on behind the scenes? Is it because the word ‘criticism’ carries two meanings, one analytical, the other disapproving? We couldn’t tell but we were fascinated by this pushback against the Shadow Clarke project and decided we needed to explore it further. So, we have decided to run the project for a second year, and this time, rather than simply focusing on the Clarke Award, we’re taking the opportunity to use the shortlisting process as a springboard to exploring the business of criticism more broadly, because we continue to believe that critical analysis has a vital role to play when it comes to talking about science fiction.

(8) STRONG ATTACHMENT. Live Science reports the discovery of a “1.7-Billion-Year-Old Chunk of North America Found Sticking to Australia”.

Geologists matching rocks from opposite sides of the globe have found that part of Australia was once attached to North America 1.7 billion years ago.

Researchers from Curtin University in Australia examined rocks from the Georgetown region of northern Queensland. The rocks — sandstone sedimentary rocks that formed in a shallow sea — had signatures that were unknown in Australia but strongly resembled rocks that can be seen in present-day Canada.

Will this open the way for an Aussie Worldcon with adjacent NASFiC?

(9) WHO IS COMING. LA’s premiere Doctor Who convention takes place in three weeks, and the program has been posted: “Gallifrey One 2018 Schedule of Events Now Online”.

With great pleasure, Gallifrey One today is proud to announce the release of our Schedule of Events for our upcoming convention, The 29 Voyages of Gallifrey One in February. As in prior years, we are using the Sched online scheduling system for a seamless and easy-to-navigate program that can be used on your desktop or mobile device….

Full Screen (General Purpose) version
Fully viewable version, with custom views of events, searchable, plus panelist and guest listings
http://gallifreyone2018.sched.com

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 24, 1984 — Apple Computer, Inc. introduced the Macintosh personal computer.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) RON ELLIK AND THE RONVENTION (1962). Although I never met LASFS member Ron Ellik, who died before I ever joined the club, he was a well-known newzine editor (Starspinkle) and influence on Bruce Pelz, who kept his friend’s name alive in the title of his annual wine and cheese party that I attended for years. Now Rob Hansen gives us new reasons to remember him —

Ron Ellik in 1962.

This year’s Eastercon is being held in Harrogate for the first time in more than half a century. Known as the RONVENTION, that earlier one was organised by Ron Bennett and attended by TAFF-winner Ron Ellik, hence the name. At the January first-Thursday pub meeting here in London, Eastercon committee and staff persons Mark Plummer and Caroline Mullan asked me if I could add a section on the RONVENTION to my website that they could link to. Since this was one of those I’d always intended to get around to I was happy to oblige. I drew mainly from conreports by James White and the two Rons when putting it together: “Ronvention, the 1962 Eastercon”.

I’m uploading this earlier than originally intended because of something I realised after I started work on it, namely that tomorrow, 25th January, is the fiftieth anniversary of Ron Ellik’s death at the tragically young age of 30. So I’m publishing it today in memory of him.

Weird to think that when Ron died, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were still alive, the Beatles were still together, and astronauts had yet to leave Earth orbit and strike out for the moon.

(13) OSCAR ISSUE. The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren, in “Kobe Bryant’s Oscar nod rings awkward in a year Hollywood is hyper-focused on sexual assault”, says Dear Basketball, an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Short Film, may be in trouble because, despite its John Williams score and Glen Keane animation, it features Kobe Bryant, who settled a sexual assault case in 2003 for a substantial sum in an out-of-court settlement.

(14) WOEBEGONE. The MPR News (Minnesota Public Radio) post “Investigation: For some who lived in it, Keillor’s world wasn’t funny” has more information on the firing of Garrison Keillor. Several incidents are described at the link.

For weeks, Minnesota Public Radio refused MPR News’ repeated requests to comment on the company’s separation from Keillor. But as negotiations with Keillor’s company stalled and pressure from news organizations mounted, Jon McTaggart, president and CEO of MPR and American Public Media Group, broke his silence.

In an interview with MPR News Tuesday afternoon, he said the company’s separation of business interests from Keillor came after it received allegations of “dozens” of sexually inappropriate incidents involving Keillor and a woman who worked for him on A Prairie Home Companion. He said the allegations included requests for sexual contact and descriptions of unwanted sexual touching.

McTaggart, who after the interview with MPR News sent an email to MPR listeners and members further explaining the separation from Keillor, says cutting Keillor off was the most painful decision he’s made as CEO. But in-house and external investigations into the matter bore details he could not ignore.

“When we reached a point that from all sources we had sufficient confidence in facts that really required us to act, we took the action we did,” he said. “It was the right thing to do. It was the necessary thing to do, and we stand by it.”

Since the firing, Prairie Home Companion has been renamed Live From Here.

(15) WHAT FATE. Charles McNulty ponders “As artists fall into disgrace, must their art be consigned to oblivion?” at the Los Angeles Times.

The cavalier way men have systemically abused their power over women in and around the workplace warrants little leniency. But a more slippery question has emerged in this me-too moment of cultural reckoning: What to do with the works of artists whose conduct has been abhorrent?

In the growing gallery of alleged predators, there aren’t any artists I hold dear. James Toback’s films aren’t in my Netflix queue. I never mistook Kevin Spacey for one of the greats. And my admiration for James Levine’s conducting has been mostly of the dilettantish variety.

But inevitably a contemporary artist with whom I feel a special kinship will shatter my illusions about his or her character. I doubt that I will throw away the books or delete the recordings or swear off the films. I’m sure I’ll be disillusioned and quite possibly disgusted, but I know that an artist is not identical with his or her masterpieces and that few human beings can live up to their greatest achievements.

This is a theme that Marcel Proust returns to in his epic novel, “In Search of Lost Time” (more romantically known in English as “Remembrance of Things Past”). The narrator recalls a dinner party in which, as a young man, he meets his hero, the writer Bergotte. The young Marcel, intimidated to be seated among the important guests of the swanky Swanns, is struck immediately by the way Bergotte bears no physical resemblance to the man he had “slowly and painstakingly constructed … a drop at a time, like a stalactite, out of the limpid beauty of his books.”

More distressing to Marcel than Bergotte’s coarse appearance is “the busy and self-satisfied mentality … which had nothing in common with the type of mind that informed the books.” The narrator, a natural philosopher, begins to understand through this encounter that art is not contingent on the specific circumstances of an artist’s life.

(16) SF HISTORY. Michael Dirda, in “An expert’s guide to science fiction’s greatest — and neglected — works”, reviews the companion volume to A Conversation larger than the Universe, an exhibit on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10 (see the January 19 Pixel Scroll, item 7).

Being well-read both inside and outside the genre, Wessells contends that the first major work of alternate history was a 1931 collection of essays, edited by J.C. Squire, titled “If It Had Happened Otherwise.” Its fanciful “lapses into imaginary history” include “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg,” by none other than Winston Churchill. Wessells also lingers over one of the most chilling dystopian novels of the 20th century, “Swastika Night,” written by Katharine Burdekin under the pen name Murray Constantine. Drafted in 1936 and published in 1937, it projects a Nazified far-future Europe where Hitler is worshiped as an Aryan god and women are kept in pens as breeding animals. (For more about this remarkable book, I recommend Daphne Patai’s excellent Feminist Press edition or the Gollancz SF Masterworks paperback, for which I wrote a short introduction.)

(17) A COMFORTING DOOM. Jill Lepore’s “A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction” in the June 5-12 New Yorker last summer, is an essay-review of several dystopian novels, including Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway and Ben H. Winters’s Underground Airlines. Martin Morse Wooster flagged up its quotable last paragraph:

Dystopia used to be a fiction of resistance; it’s become a fiction of submission, the fiction of an untrusting, lonely, and sullen twenty-first century, the fiction of fake news and infowars, the fiction of helplessness and hopelessness. It cannot imagine a better future, and it doesn’t ask anyone to bother to make one.  It nurses grievances and indulges resentments; it doesn’t call for courage; it finds that cowardice suffices.  Its only admonition is:  Despair more.  It appeals to both the left and the right, because, in the end, it requires so little by way of literary, political, or moral imagination, asking only that you enjoy the company of people whose fear of the future aligns comfortably with your own.  Left or right, the radical pessimism of an unremitting dystopianism has itself contributed to the unravelling ot the liberal state and the weakening of a commitment to political pluralism. ‘This isn’t a story about war,’ (Omar) El Akkad writes in American War.  ‘It’s about ruin.’  A story about ruin can be beautiful.  Wreckage is romantic.  But a politics of ruin is doomed.

(18) UP IN THE AIR. Maybe we’ll get them after all? “Degree in ‘flying car’ engineering offered online”.

The online course is being offered by Silicon Valley e-learning school Udacity and will begin in February.

It is the brainchild of former Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun, who previously headed up Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo.

Prof Thrun is hoping to attract at least 10,000 applicants to what he is describing as a “nanodegree”.

A nanodegree, according to Udacity’s website, is an online certification that can be earned in six to 12 months, and aims to teach basic programming skills in various disciplines.

…Previously Udacity has offered a self-driving car course, which has attracted 50,000 applicants since 2016.

(19) KIDS PUT IT TOGETHER. “K’Nex builds toys rollercoaster you can ride in VR”. (Video) A little like those model railroad trains with the tiny camera on the front – only a lot faster.

Toy-maker K’Nex has designed a toy rollercoaster kit that children can assemble and then “ride” by wearing a virtual reality headset.

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones tried it out at the Toy Fair 2018 exhibition in London.

(20) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. BBC reports “A submersible mission in Antarctic waters has revealed unique ecosystems so rare they deserve special protection, say scientists.” — “Antarctica’s Weddell Sea ‘deserves protected status'”.

The seabed investigation, co-ordinated by the campaign group Greenpeace, will help build the case for the creation of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuary.

Covering 1.8 million sq km, the marine reserve will be considered by Antarctic nations at a conference in October.

It would ban all fishing in a large part of the Weddell Sea.

… Along with the smaller creatures that live on the seafloor, the reserve would bring additional protection to larger animals such as leopard seals, orcas, humpback whales and penguins.

(21) WETTER RESISTANCE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber argues “Why ‘The Shape of Water’ is the most relevant film of the year”.

All things considered, the savvy choice for best picture might be Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which has been nominated in a whopping 13 different categories. Admittedly, it’s yet another film with a male director, but it does have a female co-writer, Vanessa Taylor, and a female lead, Sally Hawkins, and it passes the Bechdel Test within minutes. If that weren’t enough, it has major black and gay characters, as well as a South American immigrant; true, he’s a half-human, half-newt South American immigrant, but that’s not the point. More diverse and inclusive than any of the other best picture nominees, the film doesn’t just rail against sexism, racism and homophobia, it argues that they are all symptoms of the same patriarchal disease – a disease which all voiceless and oppressed people should defeat together. In short, The Shape of Water is a lot more militant than the average magic-realist fable about a woman who fancies a fish-monster. What’s more, it’s even more topical now than when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last August.

(22) WORKSHOP WISDOM. Cynthia Felice shared “Five things I learned at Clarion”. The first is:

  1. Writers who write naked or wearing only a fedora do not write any better than a writer who is fully dressed.

(23) TRAILER PARK TRASH. Cnet doesn’t want you to miss it — “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek gets a trashy parody trailer”.

Ever since news emerged that Quentin Tarantino, famous for films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill,” had pitched a great idea for a Star Trek movie to film studio Paramount, we’ve been wondering what Tarantino Trek might look like.

We now have one possible answer in the form of “Star Trek: Voyage to Vengeance,” a fake trailer made up of moments from the original series.

The video comes from Nerdist and features a laundry list of some of the original series’ most cringe-worthy moments, including the space hippies and almost everyone Captain Kirk ever kissed.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mark Hepworth, ULTRAGOTHA, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, David K.M. Klaus, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/18 Always Scrolling Home

By JJ:

(1) THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED, I’LL GIVE YOU WHAT YOU NEED. (click on the date/time stamp to see the whole thread)

(2) SOUTHEAST ASIAN ANTHOLOGY. Rambutan Literary is launching its first anthology of works curated from its first two years of publishing Southeast Asian literature with a Kickstarter for Shared Horizons: A Rambutan Literary Anthology.

It’s been two great years since Rambutan Literary started publishing work from the global Southeast Asian literary community. We’ve grown from a tiny journal with a handful of readers to a robust, (proudly) small publication with a readership of thousands worldwide. We continue to publish literature from both established and emerging Southeast Asian writers, and we’re even currently sponsoring the Sing Lit Station 2018 Hawker Prize for Southeast Asian Poetry.

As we enter our third year, we want to celebrate the work that we’ve accomplished together, the amazing literature we’ve had the honor to publish, and the awesome writers we’ve gotten to work with by organizing an anthology of some of our favorite pieces from the last two years!

The Kickstarter thus far has achieved $1,224 in pledges toward a $3,370 goal, with 10 days remaining in the campaign.

(3) YOU GOT YOUR POLITICS IN MY SCIENCE-FICTION. At Tor.com, Judith Tarr provides a re-read review of Andre Norton’s Daybreak – 2250 A.D.:

Here, seven years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Norton gives us the complete destruction of Western civilization and the near-destruction of the human race. She knows about radiation poisoning, she speculates about the range and quality of mutations from it, and she makes it clear that she sees no other end to the atomic age than a cataclysmic blowup.

She also, even before Brown v. Board of Education and right in the middle of the McCarthy era, made clear that the future will not be pure white, though it may be relentlessly patriarchal. Her hero may have fair skin but he’s something other than Aryan-Caucasian, and his closest friend is African-American, descended from the Tuskegee Airmen. The implicitly white Plains people actually have a female leader, and the only women who speak in the whole novel speak at the end against the men’s insistence on perpetual war…

Her theme here, just as much as in her works of the Eighties and later, is that all humans need to work together, that cultural differences are not measures of superiority or its opposite, and that the real future of humanity is among the stars.

Apolitical? Not even slightly.

(4) SPEAKING OF APOLITICAL SF. A tweet from the prematurely-declared SFFCGuild claiming that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was apolitical evolved into a long, raucous Twitter thread on political messages in SFF. At one point, Jim Hines threatens to use a magic tattoo to make Scott Lynch bald. (click on the date/time stamp to see the whole thread)

(5) VIRAL FICTION. Story Seed Vault announces this year’s Flash Fiction contest.

The Story Seed Vault is an online micro-fiction publication that aims to entertain and educate our readers about scientific research through fiction. We are an international publication based in Sydney, Australia. As Story Seed Vault is new to the industry, we are pushing to increase our reach and to partner with science communicators all over the world.

One of the ways that we do this is by holding thematic Flash Fiction contests.

Criteria

  1. It must be based on topics/research relevant to VIROLOGY. The more recent the research, the better. We will judge a great story with science from a few years ago over an alright story with a study published yesterday.
  2. If the story is about VIROLOGY but the research provided is generic educational info, it will not be awarded a placing.
  3. The story has to be able to stand on its own – the science can provide context/make it more interesting, but it should not rely heavily on the science to be entertaining.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entrants will receive $10 each.

The submission period is Flash as well: Submissions open at 10pm AEST January 25, 2018, and close at 10pm AEST January 27, 2018. (That’s 7am EDT on those days, for you Yanks.)

Please, PLEASE nobody tell Timothy about this.

(6) KINGFISHER ENVY. Filer Cheryl S. sends a photo of her gorgeous Kickstarter Special Edition of Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). Those who missed out can still get an e-book edition, or read this magical tale for free online at the author’s website.

(7) DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, SOLARPUNK? DO YOU? Tom Cassauwers, on OZY, says Sci-Fi Doesn’t Have to Be Depressing: Welcome to Solarpunk:

Imagine a scene, set in the future, where a child in Burning Man-style punk clothing is standing in front of a yurt powered by solar panels. There weren’t many books with scenes like that in 2014, when Sarena Ulibarri, an editor, first grew interested in a genre of science fiction that imagines a renewable and sustainable future. Four years later, it’s different.

Welcome to solarpunk, a new genre within science fiction that is a reaction against the perceived pessimism of present-day sci-fi and hopes to bring optimistic stories about the future with the aim of encouraging people to change the present.

(8) VISUAL CONFUSION. SFF authors have provided their photo albums from last week’s ConFusion convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan. See Jim C. Hines’ photos and John Scalzi’s photos.

(9) THE FORCE AWAKENED. Bill Capossere, at Fantasy Literature, has posted an insightful review of the non-fiction work Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation by Carolyn Cocca:

Stylistically, Cocca is consistently engaging, her prose clear and fluid. The content is well researched, organized, focused, and incredibly detailed, and the entire work is wholly and thoroughly accessible throughout, making for reading that is enjoyable, stimulating, and thought-provoking.

Some of this is well traveled territory, and so those conversant with the topic won’t be surprised for instance to hear about how Wonder Woman’s creator had an overtly feminist motivation, or that female heroes such as Jean Grey or Sue Storm often fainted while exercising their powers. Nor will they be shocked at the difference in posing and costuming between male and female superheroes. Superwomen‘s value here for such readers then isn’t in the presentation of new information, but in how good a job Cocca does placing these things in context of time period and culture, as well as highlighting how a more diverse authorship and artistry (as opposed to just more diverse characters) can make a huge difference.

(10) INACCESSIBILITY. Despite exchanging numerous messages in advance with Ace Comic Con Phoenix, congoer Jen Sauve found the accessibility arrangements less than accommodating:

We had been told upon arrival register and then find an ace rep and they would make sure we were taken care of as per their disability policy. I must’ve asked about 15 different reps including their one at guest relations and the ace info booth and no one seemed to know of any policy or be on the same page. Irritated, I went down to the celeb photo ops redemption (missing the cap panel I wanted to see because hey, making sure I am accommodated and don’t have any sort of medical emergency is important). Celeb photo ops (they seemed rather pissed about this as well mind you) informed me that ace was telling them no one could be in their ada line unless they were in a wheelchair. I know the celeb photo ops staff rather well by this point attending so many cons and could tell they felt awful saying this to me.

(11) SHARKES IN THE WATER. Maureen Kincaid Speller has posted an intro for the 2018 Shadow Clarke project. As someone who was on the outside looking in last year, I find some of her conclusions regarding the reactions to last year’s results… questionable.

To begin with, we discovered that the phenomenon of award shadow juries is apparently not that well known outside Europe. There was an unexpected degree of resistance to the concept from some parts of the global sf community, people who saw our enterprise as part of an ongoing attempt to police their reading, which was certainly not our intention. More than that, we came to realise that a surprising number of people within the sf community had become deeply averse to the whole idea of critical writing…

Our basic approach will be almost the same as last year… But this time we’ll be placing an even greater emphasis on showing our critical working. So, alongside our individual reviews, we hope to include dialogues, round tables, and possibly some podcasts as well if we can sort out the logistics. We’re also going to be talking individually about our critical practice. It’s common to see fiction writers talking about what moves them to write, where their ideas come from, and so on, but nowadays it’s vanishingly rare to see critics and reviewers doing the same. It’s time we changed that. The Shadow Clarke jurors come from a variety of critical backgrounds, and it’s going to be very interesting to compare notes on what we do and how we do it.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:

(13) FAMILIAL FANTASY V. Fantasy photographer Alexandra Lee has embarked on a very special person project – portraits of her loved ones in fantasy costuming and settings. (click on the date/time stamp to see the tweet, then click on one of the tweet photos to open the gallery)

(14) THIS MUST BE JUST LIKE LIVING IN PARADISE. Viable Paradise 22, a writers’ workshop which will run from Sunday, October 21 to Friday, October 26, 2018, has a discount on applications during the January earlybird period.

Viable Paradise is a unique one-week residential workshop in writing and selling commercial science fiction and fantasy. The workshop is intimate, intense, and features extensive time spent with best-selling and award-winning authors and professional editors currently working in the field. VP concentrates on the art of writing fiction people want to read, and this concentration is reflected in post-workshop professional sales by our alumni…

Viable Paradise encourages an informal and supportive workshop atmosphere. During the week, instructors and students interact in one-on-one discussions, group critiques, lectures, and free-flowing Q&As. The emphasis at first is on critiquing the students’ submitted manuscripts; later, the emphasis shifts to new material produced during the week.

The application fee changes based on when in the application period your application is submitted:

  • For applications submitted from January 1 to January 31: $12.50 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from February 1 to March 31: $25 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from April 1 to May 15: $35 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from May 16 to June 1: $50 (USD).

The application fee is non-refundable and is separate from the tuition cost for applicants accepted to the workshop. For those applicants we accept as students, the non-refundable tuition cost is $1500 (USD) and is due on August 1st.

(15) PINING FOR THE SPLASHGUARDS.

(16) ASIMOV DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING. Scottish supermarket chain Margiotta, which trialled a ShopBot who they affectionately named “Fabio” in an experiment run by Heriot-Watt University for the BBC’s Six Robots & US, discovered that the First Law of Robotics should have been: Do Not Alarm the Customers.

Fabio was programmed with directions to hundreds of items in the company’s flagship Edinburgh store and initially charmed customers with his ‘hello gorgeous’ greeting, playful high fives, jokes and offers of hugs.

But within just a few days, the robot was demoted after giving unhelpful advice such as ‘it’s in the alcohol section’ when asked where to find beer. He also struggled to understand shoppers’ requests because of the ambient background noise.

Banished to an aisle where he was only allowed to offer samples of pulled pork, Fabio started to alarm customers who went out of their way to avoid him…

…when Franco Margiotta, who built the business from scratch, told the little robot they would not be renewing his contract, Fabio asked: “Are you angry?” and some staff were reduced to tears when he was packed away and shipped back to Heriot-Watt.

(17) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH WAITING FOR MOONBASE ALPHA. Author Mark R. Whittington, in a commentary in the Salt Lake Tribune which speculates that Mitt Romney will run to take the seat vacated by the retiring Senator Orrin Hatch, recommends that Romney reconsider the idea of planting a human colony on the moon.

One of Romney’s opponents, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, proposed the building of a lunar base by the year 2020, then eight years away. Mr. Romney [in 2012] took the occasion of a presidential debate in Tampa to savagely mock the idea of going back to the moon. “If I had a business executive come to me and say I want to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’…

Having listened to the experts on the matter, Trump has duly signed a directive for NASA to set America’s course back to the moon. What Romney once found beyond the pale is now federal government policy.

So, the question arises, considering Romney’s prior position and his well-known antipathy to the president, what is his position now concerning a return to the moon? Would he still fire someone who suggested it to him?

In response, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah Noel de Nevers says “Sorry, Mark, but moon colonies are just science fiction right now”:

In support of this idea [Whittington] says, “Water and ice at the lunar poles can be mined and refined to rocket fuel,” and also, “Access to the moon and its abundant resources will be of benefit to the United States.”

Both of these ideas form the basis of entertaining science fiction, e.g. “The Martian.” But the moon (and Mars), as far as we know, do not supply visitors with air, drinking water, food or fuel. Visitors to the moon (or Mars) must bring all of those with them…

So far lunar exploration has not shown that there are “abundant natural resources”, on the moon, and to date there are none whose value on earth (e.g. gold or platinum) would justify the cost of bringing them to earth, even if those resources cost nothing to find and extract from the moon’s surface (or interior, as most earthly gold and platinum is). There is no evidence that the fossil fuels or mineral deposits that life on earth depends on were ever formed by lunar geology and biology, as geology and biology has formed them on earth.

(18) YOU ALSO NEED THIS.

(19) AMNESIA SF. Michael Jan Friedman, who is perhaps best known for his Star Trek tie-in novels and a writing credit on the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Resistance”, has created a Kickstarter campaign for Empty Space, a science fiction adventure in the form of a 128-page full-color graphic novel, with 115 pages of story and illustrations by pencil-and-inks artist Caio Cacau:

Your name is Robinson Dark. You don’t know where you are or how you got there or what happened to the crew you led into space. All you know is you can’t feel a thing – not even fear.

Then it gets weird.

I’ve described Empty Space as a cross between Star Trek and Lost, but it’s really more than that. It’s a twisty, turny, sometimes unsettling narrative set against the limitless backdrop of the stars, with the sort of bizarre alien species and against-all-odds derring-do that’s always characterized the best space adventure – along with a heaping dollop of the macabre.

This is the kind of tale I’ve wanted to tell for a long time. In fact, it’s a dream project for a guy who fell in love with comics and science fiction at the age of six and never stopped loving them.

It’s also a chance for me to give back to you – the readers who’ve been following me for decades – the best, most intriguing, and most entertaining work I can possibly come up with. If at any time in your immersion in Empty Space you think you know where the story is going… I humbly invite you to think again.

The Kickstarter thus far has achieved $3,435 in pledges toward a $10,000 goal, with 23 days remaining in the campaign.

(20) CUBIK MUSIK. It doesn’t get any geekier than this: YouTuber The Cubician plays the Star Wars cantina song as part of solving Rubik’s Cube.

(21) FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO ESCAPE, JUST FOR A LITTLE WHILE, TODAY.

 In Memory of Ursula K. Le Guin, who challenged all of us to become our better selves.

[Thanks to Cheryl S., Cora Buhlert, Hampus Eckerman, lauowolf, Laura Resnick, Lenore Jones, Mark-kitteh, Paul Weimer, Soon Lee, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 7/19/17 By The Pixel Of Grayscroll!

(1) WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. Adam-Troy Castro links to his post “This Community We Love is Infested With Toxic Spoiled Brats” with this comment: “The object of a fandom you don’t care about is not a deadly infection to be wiped out on general principle. Fandoms can cross-pollinate. Interests can cross-pollinate.The things you ‘don’t give a shit about’ are not invaders you need to exterminate. Most to the point, you can get through your day without being a dick.”

Ed Sheeran, who is a fan of Game of Thrones, who got cast because he openly begged the producers to give him a bit part and had a nice little scene written for him, a scene that added texture to the story and even you hated it took up only three minutes of your life, has had to shut down his twitter feed because Game of Thrones fans have invaded in force, showering him with abuse because they are irate that the focus of another fandom has invaded theirs. They accuse him of ruining the show and stress that they don’t give a shit about his music, which sucks anyway.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

This community we love is infested with toxic, spoiled brats.

(2) CLARKE ALLEGATIONS. Jason Sanford and Paul Cornell are among those tweeting a link to Vice’s article “We Asked People What Childhood Moment Shaped Them the Most” which contains a first-hand account of abuse by an unnamed science fiction writer in Sri Lanka who they (logically) identify as Clarke.

The teller of the story, Peter Troyer, today is a performer with Tinder Tales in Toronto. His section of the Vice article begins —

Peter Troyer

I grew up in Sri Lanka. My dad was doing some work for the Canadian government. There were a lot of expat kids in my area and we had free reign of the neighbourhood. Our parents mostly let us do what we wanted, but we were told to stay away—never go near—a large property that bordered my house. When we asked why the reasons were always vague.

There were some rumors that someone very famous or maybe powerful lived there. We all got the sense that he was …a danger in some way. One day I was home sick from school. My grandfather was visiting from Canada and he was assigned to watch me. I remember that I was in pajamas. We were in the backyard and my grandfather was painting peacocks. Out of our hedges this man appeared and approached us. I instantly knew it was the man from the property. …

(3) TWO OR MORE. Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison include several “dream teams” among the authors of “Five SFF Books Written Collaboratively”, discussed at Tor.com.

The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.

(4) WHO KNEW? Apparently “ruining” Doctor Who is actually part of the show’s long and respected tradition. Steve J.  Wright explains in “Writ in Water, not Set in Stone: Doctor Who backstory”.

…Then William Hartnell became too infirm to continue with the series, and the big change happened, at the end of “The Tenth Planet”.  An exhausted First Doctor is found lying on the floor of the TARDIS, and when his companions flip him over onto his back (instead of sensibly leaving him in the recovery position), the TARDIS dematerialization SFX plays, and the Doctor’s face seems to brighten and glow… and the screen whites out, and instead of William Hartnell, there’s Patrick Troughton.

The regeneration is not really explained, at this point.  “It’s part of the TARDIS; without it, I couldn’t go on.”  The first Doctor’s ring with the blue stone no longer fits; is it some sort of prop that the Doctor no longer needs?  The Doctor initially appears confused and disoriented, but when he’s settled down, it’s apparent that this is not just a younger version, this is a whole different personality – more impish, more madcap, but also capable of great passion and commitment; the Second Doctor throws himself into situations with much more zeal and energy than the austere First.

He also becomes more obviously different.…

(5) CENTS AND SENSIBILITY. Don’t tell John C. Wright — “Author Jane Austen featured on new British 10-pound note”.

Two hundred years to the day after Jane Austen died, a new 10-pound note featuring an image of one of England’s most revered authors has been unveiled – right where she was buried.

At the unveiling Tuesday of the new “tenner” at Winchester Cathedral in southern England, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the new note celebrates the “universal appeal” of Austen’s work.

Austen, whose novels include “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility,” is considered one of the most perceptive chroniclers of English country life and mores in the Georgian era. Combining wit, romance and social commentary, her books have been adapted countless times for television and film.

The new note, which is due to go into circulation on Sept. 14, is printed on polymer, not paper.

(6) SHADOW CLARKE PROCEEDINGS. Mark-kitteh sent these links with a note, “The essay by Kincaid (the second one) asks some genuinely interesting questions about the purpose of awards and the meaning of ‘best’, although he does feel the need to end it with the now-traditional bashing of Becky Chambers.”

Of all the novels on my personal Shadow Clarke shortlist, Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground was the one I anticipated having most difficulty in writing about, partly because of its incredibly complex structure, but mostly because I wasn’t at all sure I actually had a critical language I could bring to bear on it in a way that might make sense to a reader. Back when I was compiling my personal shortlist of Shadow Clarke books, ploughing through the opening sections of each title on the submissions list, of all of the eighty-odd titles this was the one that felt ‘right’ to me. That is, this is the one that immediately held my attention, the one I would have sat down and read cover to cover right there and then if I had not had to send away for a copy.

I have been associated with science fiction awards ever since I was approached to administer the Hugo Awards for the 1987 Worldcon. In the years since then I have won and lost awards, I have administered them, judged them, handed them out, written about them, and even (in the case of the Clarke Award) helped to create them. Now, another first, I have taken part in a shadow jury. And the result of all that: I probably know less now about the purpose and function and value of awards than I ever did.

Well that’s not quite true. There are some awards, like the Tiptree which I helped to judge in 2009, that have a very specific remit: in the case of the Tiptree it is the exploration of issues of gender. I find it instructive that the Tiptree Award often identifies novels and stories that I, personally, consider to be among the best in the year; but choosing the best, as such, is not what the Tiptree Award is about.

For the vast majority of awards, however, that one word, “best”, explains all and explains nothing. “Best” is the prison cell that most awards have entered knowingly and from which they cannot escape.

In terms of a reading experience, the past six months has been unusual, to say the least. Between the publication of the Clarke submissions list in mid February, and the imminent announcement of the winner in late July, I have read and reviewed not only the titles on my personal shortlist and the official Clarke shortlist, but also as many of other Sharkes’ personal choices and interesting outliers as time has allowed. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed so much science fiction in a single stretch – a chastening experience in and of itself – and I have learned plenty along the way, not least how misguided some of my own initial choices turned out to be, how much we all – as readers, writers and critics – tend to fall back on untested assumptions. I have learned more than a little about the difficulties and compromises involved in serving on an award jury, how every argument provides a counter-argument, how every book selected will point to three that are lost, how it is impossible to arrive at a meaningful decision without reading or at least sampling every submission.

Most of all, I have been reminded of how multifarious and diverse is the art of criticism. When it comes to assessing works of literature, there is no universal standard for excellence, no unified ideological approach, no such thing as objectivity. We each come to the process heavily laden with baggage, some of which we cannot set aside because it is enshrined in who we are and where we come from, some of which we cling to out of habit. Part of our job as critics lies not so much in relinquishing our baggage but in acknowledging that it exists.

(7) THE EARLY NERD GETS THE WORM. Wil Wheaton is interviewed by Kevin Smith on a piece in IMDB called “How Wil Wheaton’s Star Trek Fandom Impacted The Next Generation”.  Wheaton, interviewed by Kevin Smith, talks about how he was a Star Trek nerd on the set of TNG and was ready to answer Trek questions on the set if cast members didn’t know what was going on.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Adam-Troy Castro, ULTRAGOTHA, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/17 Scrolltime For Pixels

(1) RABID DRAGONS. Vox Day has posted his picks for “Dragon Awards 2017”. Castalia House and John C. Wright are well represented, along with other things he likes. But poor Declan Finn — he’s not on the list.

(2) BOOZY BARBARIANS. Fritz Hahn, in a Washington Post piece called “A ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar where you can drink Dothraquiris on the Iron Throne”, reviews the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar, which will be open throughout the summer and where you can drink The North Remembers from a horn as well as all the Ommegang Game of Thrones beers. But don’t take any broadswords there or the bouncers will confiscate them!

After pop-up bars dedicated to Christmas, “Stranger Things,” cherry blossoms and Super Mario, the Drink Company team is turning the former Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich spaces into five settings evoking George R.R. Martin’s novels. (Doors open June 21, just a few weeks before Season 7 premieres on HBO.) Immersive rooms include the House of Black and White (where you’ll find a Wall of Faces made of molds of employees and friends of the bar) and the Red Keep, where you can pose for a photo as House Bolton’s flayed man. There will be dragons and house banners, of course, though the real centerpiece will most likely be a full-size replica of the Iron Throne, which co-founder Derek Brown says “is going to be totally ridiculous.”

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER SET TO MUSIC. A theatrical concert based on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is coming to Chapel Hill, NC in November.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon is a celebration of all that’s progressive and uplifting in American music. Written by Toshi in collaboration with her mother — iconic singer, scholar and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon — this powerful theatrical concert brings together 200 years of African American song traditions to give life to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel, with revealing insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.

 

(4) SPECIAL NASFIC OBSERVATORY TRIP. NorthAmeriCon ‘17 members have a chance to join guest of honor Brother Guy Consolmagno, the “Pope’s Astronomer,” on a special tour of the Arecibo Observatory. Find out how at the link.

There are 25 spaces available for the VIP tour, which includes the visitor’s center as well as a 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour in small groups. Since we anticipate that demand for the VIP tour may exceed supply, we are creating a lottery to allocate these spaces. An additional 25 spaces will be available on the bus for the Visitor’s Center only.

The lottery will close at 10 pm ET on Monday, June 12. So as long as you request a spot by then you have an equal opportunity to be picked.

Also, the convention room rate for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino ends on June 12. Reserve your rooms at the this link.

(5) WHETHER OR NOT YOU WISH. “This is really a neat piece, about the universe where a fantasy princess became a warrior general,” notes JJ, quite rightly. Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable by Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin.

Spoilers ahead for the Wonder Woman film.

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987.

The princess bride in question was played by a twenty-year-old Robin Wright….

(6) HENRY HIGGINS ASKS. In “Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be Wonder Woman?” on National Review Online, editor Rich Lowry says that conservatives will find much to like in the new Wonder Woman movie. He also addresses the mighty controversy about whether the film is feminist because Gal Gadot has no armpit hair in the movie…

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB READING SERIES. On June 21, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Catherynne M. Valente & Sunny Moraine. The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, and a small army of tulips.

Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. They are also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies and their debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone is available from Undertow Publications. In addition to time spent authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometime college instructor. They unfortunately live just outside Washington, DC, in a creepy house with two cats and a very long-suffering husband.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.). Remember to donate to their Kickstarter. Readings are always free.

(8) THE FIELD OF MARS. Esquire explains “Why Wonder Woman Has the Most Powerful Opening Scene In Comic Movie History”.

The opening scene in Wonder Woman is a stunning statement: On the enchanted island, the Amazonian women prepare for the day the god of war Ares finds them and tries to wipe them out. To prepare for the god of war is to prepare for war. The camera swoops through the training ground, capturing the Amazonian warriors as they practice wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, archery, and horsemanship. They clash, fists to skin, on a lofted pedestal. They flip from their horses in slow motion, and they smash each other to the ground, all gleaming armor and sinewy muscle as they whirl through the air, braids whipping and breastplates glinting.

It’s a purely physical display of beauty and strength. In a brief minute of film, these women redefine what it means to be a fighter, setting the tone for the rest of the movie: This is going to be two hours of a woman who was raised by women charging straight into the bloody fray of war. You just don’t ever see this bodily type of combat training with women in a movie, and it is enough to make you giddy with anticipation of whatever graceful punishment the Amazonian women will dish out against a real enemy.

(9) BLUE MAN GROUP. I guess they are not playing around. “21st Century Fox’s FoxNext Acquires Mobile Game Studio Group Developing ‘Avatar’ Title”Variety has the story.

FoxNext, the recently formed gaming, virtual reality and theme parks division of 21st Century Fox, is sinking its teeth into the $40 billion mobile games market.

FoxNext has acquired mobile-game developer Aftershock, the entity spun off from Kabam after South Korean gaming company NetMarble acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio and other assets last December in a deal reportedly worth up to $800 million.

Aftershock — which has studios in L.A. and San Francisco — currently has three titles in development. The only one that’s been publicly announced is a massively multiplayer mobile strategy game for James Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise, in partnership with Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

(10) WHEN HE’S WRONG. ComicMix’s John Ostrander has a bone to pick with Bill Maher. (And it’s not the one I expected.)

Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion — Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.

His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.

Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.

Then on his most recent show, Maher was quite disdainful about superhero movies in general.

He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

(11) BEESE OBIT. Conrunner Bob Beese suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away on Friday, June 2. He is survived by his wife Pat “PJ” Beese. Both were past Marcon guests of honor.

Bob Beese worked on Chicon IV (1982) and other Chicago cons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 6, 1933 — The first drive-in movie theater of the United States opened in New Jersey.
  • June 6, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. I may have to run this again in two days — many sources, including the Wikipedia, say it was published on June 8. The correct date has probably been lost down the Memory Hole.

(13) NEW MIDDLE GRADE FICTION PRIZE. Joan Aiken’s estate and the A.M. Heath Literary Agency have announced the creation of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize.

A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, are launching a competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.

Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’€¯ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.

The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.

A shortlist of five will be announced on August 28, and the winner will be announced on September 14. [Via Locus Online and SF Site News. See guys, giving a hat tip doesn’t hurt at all!]

(14) SMALL BALTICON REPORT. Investigative fan journalist Martin Morse Wooster gives File 770 readers the benefit of his latest discovery:

I learned from the Balticon fan lounge that there was Mythbusters slash fiction. No one knew, though, whether in these stories Jamie and Adam did it before, after, or during the explosions (because as we all know, the four best words in Mythbusters are “Fire in the hole!”

I’ll probably have to forfeit one of my Hugos for reporting that.

(15) STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Mark Kaedrin takes a stylistic cue from his subject — “Hugo Awards: Too Like the Lightning”.

You will criticize me, reader, for writing this review of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in the style that the book itself notes is six hundred years removed from the events it describes (though only two hundred years removed for myself). But it is the style of the Enlightenment and this book tells the story of a world shaped by those ideals.

I must apologize, reader, for I am about to commit the sin of a plot summary, but I beg you to give me your trust for just a few paragraphs longer. There are two main threads to this novel. One concerns a young boy named Bridger who has the ability to make inanimate objects come to life. Being young and having a few wise adult supervisors, he practices these miracles mostly on toys. Such is the way they try to understand his powers while hiding from the authorities, who would surely attempt to exploit the young child ruthlessly.

(16) INNATE OR OUTATE. Shelf Awareness interviews John Kessel about “Sex (and Pianos) on the Moon.”

John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and the story collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction dealing with gender issues. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler. Kessel’s new novel, The Moon and the Other (reviewed below), recently published by Saga Press, is set on the moon in the 22nd century and tells two love stories, in two politically opposed lunar colonies–the patriarchal Persepolis and the matriarchal Society of Cousins.

What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?

When my daughter was little, I’d take her to daycare and watch her on the playground with other kids. There was a difference in the way that the girls and the boys played. The boys would run around, often doing solitary things. The girls would sit in a sandbox doing things together. So I began to wonder: To what degree is gendered behavior innate, and to what degree is it learned? I read up about primate behavior, including chimpanzees and bonobos, both related to human beings, but with different cultures. That started me wondering whether there are other ways society could be organized. I didn’t see myself as advocating anything, but I did consider how the world might be organized differently.

(17) THE SHARKES CONTINUING DELIBERATIONS. The Shadow Clarke Jury keeps its reviews coming.

Of the six novels on my personal shortlist, Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North is the one that disappointed me most when I came to read it. I originally picked it partly because there was a slight buzz about it online, and I am always curious about novels that provoke online chatter. I chose it too because I’d gained an impression, mostly erroneous as it turned out, that the main character would spend a considerable amount of her time as a fox (and indeed, the novel’s cover art rather implies that this will be the main thrust of the novel), and I’m oddly fascinated by the human preoccupation with vulpine transformations (also, I happen to like foxes a good deal). When I initially wrote about my choices, I invoked David Garnett’s odd little novel of transformation, Lady Into Fox, but having read Many Selves and reread Lady Into Fox, I can see now that I was wrong, except perhaps for one thing, which I’ll come to in due course. Instead, as I read on I found myself thinking more about T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Again, I’ll come back to that shortly.

Even before it was published, The Underground Railroad enjoyed a spectacular amount of pre-buzz. I came to it with a certain amount of apprehension — could any book possibly survive the weight of so much hype? — but expecting to admire it nonetheless. Colson Whitehead is a writer with a notable track record in literary innovation — he gave the zombie novel the full Franzen, after all — and has always been a better-than-solid craftsman. Yet in spite of judging it a perfectly decent book — it’s a thoroughly professional, smoothly executed, highly readable novel on an important subject — I found myself distinctly underwhelmed. Where The Underground Railroad is concerned and in spite of wishing I liked it better than I do, I remain in a condition of some bemusement: I simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.

It is hard to think of a work that does a better job of articulating the artistic tensions at work within contemporary literary science fiction than Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Set in the same universe as many of the shorter works that Lee has produced since first entering the field in 1999, his first novel speaks to what science fiction must become whilst paying excessive lip-service to what some would have it remain.

Some thoughts. If anyone has ever read my blog they will, I hope, see that most of the implicit criticism is aimed at myself, though obviously some of what follows touches on various discussions on the Shadow Clarke board.

Subjective taste and critical practise depend on so many factors, thus any reading will privilege certain aspects — close reading, theoretical base, genre knowledge, life experiences, political orientation. Once you remind yourself of that basic idea, it becomes almost impossible to defend the rhetoric and moralism that goes into a special pleading for this book or that. I like a bit of rhetoric and I like a bit of hyperbole — it’s fun. BUT my head would not have exploded if The Power had won this year now would it? It will be hard to stop but I probably should. Moreover, I CAN understand why Priest, Mieville, MacInnes, Kavenna or ANY novel didn’t make it on to the shortlist. The idea that there is some objective truth or taste out there that says differently now seems to me entirely bogus. Even amongst those with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the SF megatext there is no agreement or consensus about the books this year or any year.

There is legitimate concern that by labeling The Underground Railroad as science fiction, readers might dismiss the horrors presented in this geographically and chronologically distorted history, thus relegating it all to whimsical fiction. Yet the SFnal device is there for a reason, and Whitehead’s manipulations of time and space are critical to that purpose: as unnerving as The Handmaid’s Tale, as destabilizing as The Man in the High Castle, as cognitively demonstrative as Viriconium, and as psychologically resonant as The Dark Tower€”all works that utilize alt universe devices to bring sociopolitical and literary concerns into powerful, stark relief. Whitehead’s use of this device is complex and brilliant, although I was unable to grasp just how complex and brilliant it is until this project, which has forced me into the tedious and meaningless position of having to argue for its place in science fiction.

But here we are.

(18) PERN RECOVERED. Book Riot reports: “Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy Gets New Covers”.

Del Rey Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a publisher of quality science fiction and fantasy novels. Among those titles are the three books that make up Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy and the more than 20 novels that have come since. And now, they’re getting a new look.

After August 1, readers will be able to purchase the trilogy, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon, with shiny new covers.

Images of the covers appear at the post.

(19) SUNSTROKED. The BBC knows about “A planet ‘hotter than most stars'”.

Scientists have found a hellish world where the “surface” of the planet is over 4,000C – almost as hot as our Sun.

In part, that’s because KELT-9b’s host star is itself very hot, but also because this alien world resides so close to the furnace.

KELT-9b takes just two days to complete one orbit of the star.

Being so close means the planet cannot exist for very long – the gases in its atmosphere are being blasted with radiation and lost to space.

Researchers say it may look a little like a comet as it circles the star from pole to pole – another strange aspect of this discovery.

(20) STORYTELLING. It’s great to listen to authors reading — if they’re any good at it. Book View Cafe’s Madeleine E. Robins advises how to do it well in “Modulation: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

You’re telling a story. When you’re among friends telling the anecdote about that time in Marrakesh with the nun, the waffles, and the chicken, do you tell it in a monotone? Not so much. Reading in a monotone does not give your material dignity–it flattens it. So read as if you’re talking to your friends. On the other hand, unless you’re a really gifted actor, you don’t have to act it out. No, really.

And dialogue? Speak it as you hear it in your head, as if your characters were saying it. Use the emphases you hear them using. Pause when they do. (Maybe I’m overselling this, but when I write I hear the dialogue, so that’s how I read it. Your mileage may vary.)

(21) THE PHOTON OF YOUTH. Golden Oldies on Vimeo starts at a Fifties sock hop, then explains the horrible things that happen when the music stops!

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Alan Maurer, Mark-kitteh, Ellen Datlow, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall, who may not have realized what he was doing at the time.]