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Today’s subject: Science Fiction Resources

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That’s actually a quote from the Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars Barsoom stories. I won’t cite which one since I think it appears in all eleven novels, at least once.

It’s no secret that Pixar is making a live action film – just about everyone is talking about it these days. Casting began today (I know that casting agents are supposed to be able to find anything, but tusked, four-armed green giants are a little thin on the ground these days. ANYONE fitting that bill has a guaranteed job!)

I’m eagerly anticipating this film, although I am also dreading disappointment. This is, after all an adaptation, not a remake (no original to fall back on), so there is the possibility that it can achieve ‘as good as – but different’ status, even though I wasn’t as thrilled with Wall-E as everyone else seems to be.

I thought it might be a cool idea to take a look at the various incarnations of Barsoom over the years. So, without further ado –

Under the Moons of Mars (the original title for Princess) first appeared in All Story magazine in 1912.

under the moons of mars from erbzine

Except where otherwise noted, these images can be found on the Erbzine site and, of course, all images are copyrighted by the artist(s).

Note that the byline is for Norman Bean.

See the rest here.

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HUGO VOTE FIX

SciFi Wire posted an entry to day that has got a few folks into an uproar.

They basically suggested that it was possible to fix the vote, and then ran down the list of ways and means, concluding with a rated list of options (best bribe, best deal, etc).

I have to take some responsibility for this; last year we were discussing the diminishing number of voters in the LIST THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED (in fact, the response to my post on the subject is why I now refer to the SMOFS list as the LTSNBN) and I offered a few theoretical suggestions on ways that WSFS might go about attracting greater participation.

The original posts are here –

Info Dump

Banished From the Breakfast Table (again)

More SMOF Secrets (which includes links to SFAwards Watch and IO9 commentary on the subject)

One of the things I covered was the possibility that a small voting membership made the awards vulnerable to a fix by the simple expedient of ‘buying the vote’.

What SciFi Wire in their seemingly hasty quest to out IO9 IO9 didn’t realize is that we were essentially speaking about one of the Hugo Award categories that frequently receives the least amount of voting participation.

If they’d gone and done their homework, they’d have realized that their dastardly scheme is not nearly as simple as it might first appear to be.

In order to vote for a Hugo Awars, one must be a member of the Worldcon convention, early enough to be eligible to vote.

If one wants to have the privilege of nominating something for an award, early membership is required – or membership in the previous years Worldcon is required.

What this basically means is that if you really want to insure that you are in a position to ‘fix’ the vote – you need to join WSFS a full year BEFORE the thing you want to nominate becomes eligible. Whatever you’re planning on voting for might not even exist yet at that point.

Furthermore – while it is possible for someone with deep enough pockets and the silly, ridiculous desire to fix the awards to plan two years ahead, they’re still going to be up shit creek when it comes to the final ballot – because there is NO WAY that our conspirators will be able to know HOW MANY MEMBERSHIPS THEY NEEDED TO BUY two years ago.

Let me try and ‘splain a little clearer.

You have oodles and oodles of money and, rather than spending it on mason jars for your urine collection (gold labels, natch) you decide to fix the Hugo awards.

You take a look at the votes this year, and notice that only 200 people (total) voted for the ‘best cell-phone based science fiction art’ category.

You find an obscure artist, commission them to turn out a piece of SF art for cell phones and then HOLD ON TO IT FOR A YEAR.

This year’s Worldcon – 2024 – is coming up. You buy 300 memberships to the convention, thus obtaining 300 possible nominating ballots for the 2025 convention.

You lock 300 people up for a year to make sure that they can’t change their minds about participating in your nefarious scheme.

You publish the cell phone art in time to be eligible for the 2025 nominating ballot.

Your minions vote for it on the 2025 nominating ballot and it receives enough nominations to make it onto the final ballot.

You purchase ANOTHER 300 memberships for the 2025 convention, early enough so that your minions are eligible to vote on the final 2025 ballot.

Meanwhile – there has been a HUGE upsurge in cell-based SF art and – unknown to you, the 2025 convention receives an enormous boost to voting membership.

Nearly 1000 people vote for the Cell Phone Art category, with 401 of them voting for something other than your chosen piece of art.

Because of the nominating, voting and membership process, no matter what you do, you’ll ALWAYS be playing catch-up with the numbers. Sure, you might get lucky, on an under-represented award – but look how much money you’d have to spend – not to mention over two years of planning and organizing.

Besides – if enough new people suddenly joined WSFS, sent in nominations AND voted for the awards, it would be such an unusual occurrence that we’d know something was up.

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HUGO VOTE FIX

SciFi Wire posted an entry to day that has got a few folks into an uproar.

They basically suggested that it was possible to fix the vote, and then ran down the list of ways and means, concluding with a rated list of options (best bribe, best deal, etc).

I have to take some responsibility for this; last year we were discussing the diminishing number of voters in the LIST THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED (in fact, the response to my post on the subject is why I now refer to the SMOFS list as the LTSNBN) and I offered a few theoretical suggestions on ways that WSFS might go about attracting greater participation.

The original posts are here –

Info Dump

Banished From the Breakfast Table (again)

More SMOF Secrets (which includes links to SFAwards Watch and IO9 commentary on the subject)

One of the things I covered was the possibility that a small voting membership made the awards vulnerable to a fix by the simple expedient of ‘buying the vote’.

What SciFi Wire in their seemingly hasty quest to out IO9 IO9 is that we were essentially speaking about one of the Hugo Award categories that frequently receives the least amount of voting participation – one of the ‘media’ awards.

If they’d gone and done their homework, they’d have realized that their dastardly scheme is not nearly as simple as it might first appear to be.

In order to vote for a Hugo Awars, one must be a member of the Worldcon convention, early enough to be eligible to vote.

If one wants to have the privilege of nominating something for an award, early membership is required – or membership in the previous years Worldcon is required.

What this basically means is that if you really want to insure that you are in a position to ‘fix’ the vote – you need to join WSFS a full year BEFORE the thing you want to nominate becomes eligible. Whatever you’re planning on voting for might not even exist yet at that point.

Furthermore – while it is possible for someone with deep enough pockets and the silly, ridiculous desire to fix the awards to plan two years ahead, they’re still going to be up shit creek when it comes to the final ballot – because there is NO WAY that our conspirators will be able to know HOW MANY MEMBERSHIPS THEY NEEDED TO BUY two years ago.

Let me try and ‘splain a little clearer.

You have oodles and oodles of money and, rather than spending it on mason jars for your urine collection (gold labels, natch) you decide to fix the Hugo awards.

You take a look at the votes this year, and notice that only 200 people (total) voted for the ‘best cell-phone based science fiction art’ category.

You find an obscure artist, commission them to turn out a piece of SF art for cell phones and then HOLD ON TO IT FOR A YEAR.

This year’s Worldcon – 2024 – is coming up. You buy 300 memberships to the convention, thus obtaining 300 possible nominating ballots for the 2025 convention.

You lock 300 people up for a year to make sure that they can’t change their minds about participating in your nefarious scheme.

You publish the cell phone art in time to be eligible for the 2025 nominating ballot.

Your minions vote for it on the 2025 nominating ballot and it receives enough nominations to make it onto the final ballot.

You purchase ANOTHER 300 memberships for the 2025 convention, early enough so that your minions are eligible to vote on the final 2025 ballot.

Meanwhile – there has been a HUGE upsurge in cell-based SF art and – unknown to you, the 2025 convention receives an enormous boost to voting membership.

Nearly 1000 people vote for the Cell Phone Art category, with 401 of them voting for something other than your chosen piece of art.

Because of the nominating, voting and membership process, no matter what you do, you’ll ALWAYS be playing catch-up with the numbers. Sure, you might get lucky, on an under-represented award – but look how much money you’d have to spend – not to mention over two years of planning and organizing.

Besides – if enough new people suddenly joined WSFS, sent in nominations AND voted for the awards, it would be such an unusual occurrence that we’d know something was up.

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Yes, I know they’re doing a remake – but that’s not what I’m talking about.

AMC recently put all of the hour-long episodes up on their site and I’ve linked to it from the Classic Science Fiction Channel.

If you have never seen this show – watch it. Forgive it the old technology, cars, 1960s mod British clothing styles and anything else that might make you whine “but it’s dated, waaaa” and WATCH it. I don’t mean turn it on. I mean PAY ATTENTION. Listen to the dialogue and, above all – hang on to something because when it comes to television shows that play with your head, this is not just the progenitor of them all, this is a SERIOUS mind-fuck.

You poor little children, thinking that Lost or the X-Files or anything else that’s since appeared on the little screen is something to rave about. You just don’t know. You’ve been raised in a vacuum. It’s not your fault that television doesn’t make you think. You’ve been eating tripe but have been told it was filet mignon – how the heck are you supposed to know any better?

But imagine, just for one second, if every piece of steak you’ve ever eaten in your life (or every tofu burger for you vegans out there) tasted like crap. Everyone in your life has told you it was delicious and you’ve gone about pretending that you like it just to get along. Somewhere in the back of your head though, you’ve had this nagging suspicion that ‘steak’ tastes like shit. And now.

Now someone hands you a Kobe beef filet mignon. You can smell it. You’re starting to salivate. You know this isn’t your ordinary piece of shit on a bun and any second now you’re going to get that very first taste…

That’s kind of, in a small way, what watching the Prisoner is going to be like for those of you who’ve never seen it. You’ve been sucking up doo-doo through your eyeballs and didn’t even know it.

When I was growing up, The Prisoner was the second-most talked about show, after Star Trek. (At least amongst those of us who sat at the geek table in the cafeteria.) It would have been the number one topic of discussion but it just wasn’t on as much. You had to be pretty slick back in those days to be able to catch it on PBS at the odd hours they put it on.

And I’ll apologize now for the future ruination of your television watching pleasure. You’re just not going to be the same after watching it.

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Likes and Dislikes

I suppose that the evidence of a half century suggests that I am the kind of person who is given to introspection. I may sometimes be as knee-jerk as the next guy, but more often than not I’ll also sit back (afterwards) and try to figure out why I feel the way I do about something.

Maybe everyone else does this as frequently as I do, but since it’s an internal dialogue, who’d know?

My most recent internal musings have concerned the question of ‘why I don’t like certain genres’ and ‘why I have a problem with remakes’. I’ve come to what I think is an interesting, if preliminary conclusion.

To sum up the facts: I don’t ever think I’ve seen a re-made movie that was better than the original. Maybe one “as good as but different”, but not better. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or read an adaptation that was better than the original (movie to tv, book to movie, etc).

I’ve rarely enjoyed a fantasy novel (Tolkein and Donaldson’s Covenant original trilogy being the exceptions); not even fantasy works by favorite SF authors (Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser tales come to mind as an example) and I’ve utterly failed to be able to make any headway with: horror (excepting a couple by Koontz), urban fantasy, vampire/werewolf, SF romance, paranormal-reality and any number of other derivative, hyphenated sub-genres.

I think that the connection between all of these dislikes has something to do with the nature of the journey, and here’s how.

When you get into a cab, you tell the driver where to go. There might be some interesting things to be seen along the way, maybe a bit of engaging conversation, perhaps even an uexpected event or two – but you’re still on a rail, proceeding inevitably and predictably from point A to point B. You already know the destination. “Take me home from the airport” always ends in the same place.

On the other hand, when you take a road-trip (a real road-trip), you never know what’s going to happen. You pick a cardinal direction, hit a street and proceed until the first interesting thing appears, and then you detour. You might travel a thousand miles while still being within ten miles of your departure point, but you always end up visiting places you’ve never been to.

Re-makes are obviously a cab ride. We know the route and the final destination. The only real question is whether we’re going to get a cab driver who speaks English intelligbly or not. The same is true for adaptations – except maybe this time the cab is a rickshaw or a water taxi.

I’m not sure what kind of vehicle ‘fantasy’ is (this is only preliminary analysis, remember). I do know that it is colored by the fact that between Tolkein and Donaldson – there was an awful lot of Tolkein. Maybe fantasy isn’t a cab anymore, but ever since I got my own car I’ve stopped worrying about cabs.

The sub and sub-sub-genres: I think they’re taxis too. This is because they’ve self-restricted themselves to a particular set of tropes and must stay within that set in order to keep their readers happy: specialization only occurs when there is a niche to fill. Finches with beaks adapted for pulling insects out of dead trees can’t survive on fruit; finches that eat fruit can’t crack nut shells. The moment that a sub-genre steps outside of it’s chosen niche, it is no longer able to nourish its audience. The experiment becomes counter-survival.

I’ve left the cab analogy behind in favor of finches. Here’s where they come back together. The sub-genres are automated taxis. The elm street taxi only travels on Elm street. That’s great if you live and work on Elm, but if you live on Elm and work on Main, you’re going to need to make a transfer. Because of the specialization, like the automated taxi on Elm, you already know the destination.

And that’s fine if you’re a fruit-eating finch and a giant mango is staring you in the face. You’re going to get exactly what you need out of that meal and you’re going to love it.

But if you’re an omnivore, not only does eating mangos day in and day out get boring, it also doesn’t provide for all of your nutritional needs. Eventually you’re going to have to eat a finch.

My experience is that, rather than specializing, science fiction, as a genre, is an omnivoracious road trip. The genre is the progenitor of many, if not most, of the specialist species; its ‘genes’ are adaptable enough to have allowed its descendants to fill all of those niches.

SF is not a taxi, nor is it a finch. It’s a Cadillac, with a full tank of gas, gas shocks, a trunk you can camp in, equipped with stereo surround-sound, GPS, on-board computer and a touchscreen HUD on the windshield. And right smack dab in the middle of that HUD is a button that says ‘random destination’. That button is programmed to take you somewhere you’ve never been before.

I think I mentioned the other day that I signed up with Authonomy. I still haven’t put anything up there, but visiting the site and an NPR discussion with Clay Sharky, the author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations, got me thinking. If a publisher’s slush pile can become a social-networking, distributed activity – why not publishing itself? Authonomy already has a handle on the submission, review and recommendation side of things, now all that’s necessary is to figure out the links to cover design, copyediting, printing, marketing and distribution. Marketing is already partially taken care of by the reader/submitters on the slushpile end of things. Maybe one of those participation-point systems can be used to handle editorial, design and copyediting. Obviously I haven’t wrestled with the question too deeply – yet – but given what is already going on with sites like Authonomy, the folks who are doing the on-line ‘build your own anthology’ (link, please if you know who I’m talking about) and the huge increase in POD-self-publishing, something like the above isn’t too far over the horizon. Maybe small press folks can use sites like Authonomy to identify works they might pick up with an eager and ready market?

I finally read Doctorow’s piece on distractions and time management over at Locus. He has some good, simple suggestions, many of which I already avail myself of (so much for finding THE solutiuon). His high-points are: turn off the social pop-up stuff (like IMs); heck, I never turn those damn things ON to begin with. Commit to writing something everyday (such as your current novel, not the blog) – but don’t over-committ. Maybe write for 20 minutes or a page or two. A page or two in twenty minutes? Well, I guess that’s about right, if you take out the editinig/re-drafting time. So I kind-of already do that.

Leave a ‘hint’ as in – when your time is up, stop, “Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence.” Here’s where Cory and I part company. i’m just too anal to be able to stop in the middle of

I’m also too emotionally involved in what I’m writing not to continue until the end of the emotion, rather than when my time is up for the day. But I do maintain the central concept of what Cory is suggesting, which is to leave yourself in a place that its easy to start from the next day. I always know where I’m going next and always follow his next suggestion, which is to think about that next scene when I’m not writing.

His final points are: don’t research (while writing). I’ve used pound signs up till now to mark places where I have to stick in researched facts, I’ll probably adopt the ‘TK’ convention.

Dump the word processor. I get the point – don’t play with formatting and etc., but since I was raised on a Royal and still love the old IBM Selectric II, I’ve never treated my word processor as anything other than an electric typer anyways, so I guess you could say I’m already in compliance there too.

Don’t be ceremonious. Are you kidding? I used to have to have quiet and isolation in order to be able to write. Now I think I could almost get the job done with a crowd of people standing around, loudly commenting on the latest page to come out of the printer. Almost – but not quite. What with the wife not understanding ‘don’t interrupt the writer when he’s writing’, the dog thinking that my feet are a chew toy, the house-husbanding errands that must get done daily, the other website that must be maintained. Speaking of which, I have to wash the dishes.

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Israel and Gaza

Despite the fact that I have engaged in discussing politics here previously, I always hesitate to do so. This blog’s focus is not politics or the world at large but (tries) to restrict itself to a narrower focus on things that are fun.

However, I feel compelled to weigh in on the current situation in Gaza and particularly the coverage that it has been receiving from the press at large. And to cover a few points that some folks might need to be reminded of.

First: folks need to get off the idea that there is any real legitimate claim on the land by a ‘Palestinian entity’. Without going into all of the details, the oldest records we have for the region indicate that it was Caananite land and that the semitic tribe known as Hebrews either were or merged with the Caananites in the far distant past.

Those people went on to found what were essentially city-states – Judah and Israel and to control the surrounding valleys. This is the same land that was conquered by the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Romans, etc.

The region eventually fell under the control of the Ottoman Empire, was then taken by the French and British in the form of UN mandates following World War I. The British promised the indigenous arabic tribes self-rule and didn’t deliver. Eventually they evolved a plan to divide the area up into a Jewish state and an Arabic state; the Jews accepted the UN resolutions, the Arabs didn’t and we essentially arrive at where we are today.

If you look at historical maps of the region (they’re online and freely available) you’ll find that there was NEVER a country called Palestine. There were political boundaries – satrapies, mandates, regions, call them what you will – that had a name based on the Roman designation for the region that was similar – Palestina – but the region referred to as such was the land of the Jews. (Dereivation information at wikipedia)

However, (unfortunately), that particular argument – no matter how true and historically correct – has been lost in the political wranglings that have gone on since at least the first world war.

Second – the various tribes that now refer to themselves as Palestinians are mostly refugees of their own making. When the arabs refused to accept the UN resolutions that would have created an arab state and an Israeli state in the region they did so because the leaders of the Arab League promised them that they would destroy the new state of Israel and that the entire region would be their land. Entreaties from the new Israeli government went unheeded.

Of particular note is that the Mufit of Jerusalem – an arabic political leader with ties to Nazi Germany – attempted to get the Arab League to recognize a separate region, called Palestine, that he would essentially rule: this attempt to create an entirely new country/political entity for personal gain was REJECTED by the the Arab League.

Following the War of Independence – which Israel won – the arabs who had fled the region (rather than remaining as Israeli citizens) had no where to return to.

It should also be noted that under the many plans for two-states in the region that preceded Israeli independence, every single plan gave more land to the arabs than to the jews, the jews accepted every single plan, the arabs rejected every single plan.

Third. Those arab refugees fled to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and other surrounding countries where they formed large refugee communities and, rather than moving back to the non-Israeli lands remaining, chose to agitate within those countries. They subsuquently had to be kicked out of Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan following attempts at insurrection and coup.

Four. Whether the refugees have any legitimate claim to lands now within the borders of Israel is essentially moot, since those people have become political fodder for politico-military organizations that have been declared terrorist organizations by the US, many European countries and, in some cases, the UN. We are not dealing with an homogenous displaced people – we are dealing with terrorists who have repeatedly stated their unwillingness to come to any political accomodation in the region. The refugees – victims of their own decisions initially – are now being victimized by radicals who claim to speak for them.

Those terrorist organizations – from those organized by Arafat as the PLO, down to the current Iranian-funded and backed Hamas and Hezbollah, are not interested in any way whatsoever in seeking peace in the region. They have as their creed the destruction of the state of Israel – which is only a small part of their goal of establishing a world-wide Islamic Caliphate.

Five. If you study the history, regardless of any of the specific details, you will note that EVERY SINGLE TIME Israel has agreed to accomodate their demands, rather than waiting for a political process to work itself out, they have once again resorted to violence. When they said they wanted autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza, their capital in East Jerusalem and would work towards creating a two-state solution in the region – they did not mean that receiving such would satisfy them. They meant that this would be only a step towards their ultimate goal of the elimination of the state of Israel.

Which brings us (once again) to where we are essentially today, leaving me only one final point to make.

Israel is a democratic country that enjoys wide personal rights, a free press, elected representatives, open education and all of the other trappings that those of us in the west are used and accustomed to.

This is not true of Hamas. One particular incident bears this out. Israel has been accused of firing tank shells at UN relief workers. The world’s press outlets have taken statements to that effect from Hamas and from the UN (which itself admits that it does not posess the full story) – without corroboration. Israeli sources state that the relief workers were shot, rather than shelled and that those wounded workers are now in Israeli hospitals being treated.

Yet the international press insists on running with the Hamas/UN version of the story – again, without having it confirmed.

It certainly is possible for both sides to be telling stories – but Israel has offered up the location of the people wounded in the incident. It would be a relatively easy task for ‘international reporters’ to visit that hospital and obtain the facts themselves – yet none of them have done so as of this writing.

There is no doubt in my mind that collateral damage is occurring in Gaza – some of it the responsibility of Israel. But the international press seems bent on showing Israeli actions in the worst possible light – even to the point of maintaining uncertainty about a wide-spread story that could be easily resolved.

Read the press coverage that you want to, but make sure to check in with the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz as well (both English language papers) – you just might gain a different perspective on what is going on.

SF content here today? suffice it to say that if the above were the plot of a novel you were reading – you wouldn’t buy it.

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