2017 Inkshares & Launch Pad Contest Results

The 2017 Inkshares & Launch Pad Contest winners have been announced. The first- and third-place books are of genre interest.

According to the contest website, “This competition has one goal: to bubble up new author voices whose prose and stories will capture our collective consciousness and make an impact on the publishing and entertainment worlds alike….”

Cat Rambo’s Follow-Up to “Learning From Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports”

SFWA President Cat Rambo follows yesterday’s roundtable with notes and action items in “Talking About Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Report, Part 2 of 2”.

What’s Happened So Far

When the original 2015 report came out, we discussed it on the SFWA Board but little conclusive was achieved. I wrote about some of that discussion as well as my own thoughts.

….There is a fine line between asking for help from black writers in fixing the issue and expecting them to fix it. I still try to navigate this in addressing the issue, and with the podcast, my hope was to a) facilitate discussion that promoted awareness of the issue and b) gather information that helps me — and the rest of the SFWA Board — figure out what SFWA can/could/should best do.

… One of my core beliefs is that if I’m leading an organization, I need to make sure that organization is doing what I believe to be the right thing. So what can I help SFWA do? Here are my notes.

Nisi Shawl: Ones and Twos and Rarely Threes. Shawl mentions editor Gardner Dozois telling her Clarion West class in 1992 that writing and selling stories in a particular universe is a good path to selling a novel in that universe. She references Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing and makes the observation that the suppression of thought requires nothing more difficult than misunderstanding. For me that raises a question about how to recruit and train slush readers. She also notes that “you have to be printed to be reprinted.” In the podcast this came up again: for there to be better representation in the slushpile, there needs to be more black publishers, editors, and slush readers in the system.

Action item: Think about slush readers. How do we create systems that recruit widely and also teach those readers and editors to read without so many filters? (Reading these essays might be a pretty good start on that.) Figure that out, then figure out how to spread that knowledge via panels, podcasts, handouts. Slush readers and interns are where the majority of our editors and publishers come from; change at this level will spread upward and do so within a few years, particularly if we figure out ways to help first-time anthologists and newbie editors as well, perhaps simply with resources….

James Patrick Kelly & Jennifer Marie Brissett Read at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the lovely autumn evening of Wednesday, October 18 (and as the Yankees were winning in the Bronx), the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors James Patrick Kelly and Jennifer Marie Brissett at its longtime venue, the doubly-aptly-named Red Room at the 2nd floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The gathering again seemed smaller than usual.

KGB Bar

The Series is characterized by its mix of well-established authors and newer writers quickly making a name for themselves, but the evening’s readers shared a noteworthy connection, aside from each having triple-barreled names. It turns out that Kelly was Brissett’s graduate mentor. “She passed,” he hastened to add.

The event opened, as customary, with Series co-host Matthew Kressel’s exhortation to support the Bar by buying a drink or two (and tip the bartenders) – “Support the Bar, support the Series” – and announcing upcoming readers:

  • November 15: Grady Hendrix and David Rice
  • December 20: N.K. Jemisin and Chris N. Brown
  • January 17: Joseph Helmreich
  • February 21: Cassandra Khaw and Peternelle van Arsdale

(All dates – other than December’s, which is a Saturday – are the third Wednesday of the month. Details and lineup well into 2018 are available at the Series website. He concluded by introducing the evening’s first reader.

Jennifer Marie Brissett, a Jamaican-British-American, is the author of Elysium, or The World After. She has been shortlisted for the Locus Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the storySouth Million Writers Award, and has won the Philip K. Dick Special Citation. Her short stories have appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Lightspeed, Uncanny, The Future Fire, APB: Artists against Police Brutality, and other publications. She read from her next novel, Eleusis, the upcoming sequel to Elysium (she had just handed it in to her agent). The myth of Persephone and Demeter is “at the heart of the story,” she explained, before cautioning the audience about the ugly violence in her selection. In a post-apocalyptic future, the activities of a group of children, one of whom, Cora, has visions, is interrupted by the invasion of a rebel army. The boys, he declares, are now child soldiers, and the girls, including Cora, are raped; those resisting are summarily shot.

During the intermission, Kelly circulated, handing out print copies of his newsletter, Strangeways. Afterward, Series co-host Ellen Datlow assumed the podium and introduced Kelly, the second reader of the night.

James Patrick Kelly has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards for his works, among which are . Planet of Whispers, Look Into the Sun, Wildlife, Burn, “Think Like a Dinosaur” and “1016 to 1.” Additionally, he has edited several reprint anthologies with John Kessel, among them The Secret History of Science Fiction. His most recent publications are the novel Mother Go (“my first novel in twenty-something years”), an audiobook original from Audible (and an audio exclusive – there’s “no print edition for the foreseeable future”), and the career retrospective Masters of Science Fiction: James Patrick Kelly from Centipede Press. He also writes a column on the internet for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.

“I love to read aloud,” he began, and “this is my favorite place to read.” Though he should have been “flogging” Mother Go (his editor was in the audience), he instead read “Yukui!” (pronounced U-Q-E), an (the) original story from his new collection (forthcoming in February from Prime), The Promise of Space. (“I used up my yearly allotment of exclamation points,” he quipped.) The titular character is a DI, directed intelligence, or sidekick, who calls herself Sprite for her avatar’s fairy body, in unrequited lust with her owner. As a result, she is, to her great dismay, transferred into a sexless shell or chassis, deprived of what she considered her destiny and given another. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek, he said that it’s “my Blade Runner story.”)

Copies of Brissett’s Elysium were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn (and Jersey City). (As it happens, “once in her life, a long time ago and for three and a half years,” she herself owned and operated a Brooklyn indie bookstore called Indigo Café & Books, which I confess apologetically never having visited.)

Prior to the readings, as usual, Datlow snapped photos of the readers and the audience. Her photos of the event may be seen at the Series website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.

James Patrick Kelly and Mark Blackman

Umberto Lenzi (1931-2017)

Umberto Lenzi in 2008.

By Steve Green: Umberto Lenzi (1931-2017): Italian film director, screenwriter and novelist, died  October 19, aged 84. Genre work includes Messalina Vs the Son of Hercules (1964), Spasmo (1974), Eaten Alive!, Nightmare City (both 1980), Cannibal Ferox (1981), Ironmaster (1983), Ghosthouse (1988), The House of Witchcraft, House of Lost Souls, The Hell’s Gate, Nightmare Beach (all 1989), Black Demons (1991).

Star Trek News and Analysis

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) Star Trek scandals. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: 15 Dark Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Never Knew”.

  1. The series creator tried to ruin Wrath of Khan

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was over-budget and underwhelming. In response, Paramount removed Gene Roddenberry as Executive Producer and made him a consultant. They brought in Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett to shepherd the sequel, The Wrath of Khan. Only, Leonard Nimoy was going through a phase all Trek actors have: he was sick of playing the character and wanted out. To appease him, it was decided that Spock would be killed off early on.

Then, “somehow,” the script was leaked, and fans had a shared nervous breakdown. The source of the leak was never truly revealed, but the actors and producers largely accept that Gene himself leaked the pages of the script. He was vocal about not wanting Spock killed off and was frustrated with the darker plot, as well as the theme of growing into middle age. He wanted to sabotage the project, or at least have Spock’s death taken out of the script. In the end, it was just rearranged, and, if anything, it made the film even better.

(2) Star Trek controversies: Next, ScreenRant totes up the “15 Most Controversial Things Star Trek Has Done”. Call this the controversial kiss compilation.

  1. Trill Wives Kiss

For all of its inclusiveness regarding things like race and class, Star Trek has always been a bit skittish about portraying gay characters. One of the reasons for this might be how much their simple explorations of any kind of same-sex romance riled audiences up. We can see that at play with Deep Space Nine’s episode “Rejoined”.

While they were introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, DS9 let us fully explore the aliens known as Trills. Science Officer Jadzia Dax is one such alien, and she hosts a symbiote that has inhabited generations of previous Trills. In “Rejoined”, Dax is reunited with another Trill who used to be her wife in a previous life. Despite cultural laws forbidding it, the two resume their old relationship, giving us our first onscreen, same-sex kiss in Trek history.

The moment was sweet, but very controversial, with some TV stations refusing to air the episode and others editing the kiss out. Paramount was inundated with negative phone calls regarding the episode, forcing staff to work back-to-back shifts just to deal with the volume of calls. While the episode has aged well, Trek hasn’t done much more in terms of gay representation.

(3) Undeveloped Star Trek episodes: Memory Alpha knows about the “Undeveloped Star Trek episodes”.

In his introduction to the 1994 book Lost Voyages of Trek and The Next Generation (p. 3), Edward Gross commented, “Perhaps most surprising in the Star Trek mythos is the sheer quantity – and in many cases quality – of unfilmed adventures that have spanned from the original through various aborted attempts at revival throughout the 1970s and right in to The Next Generation. In many cases, these scripts and treatments were left unfilmed due to political reasons, studio indecisiveness or ego. In others, they just weren’t up to snuff and probably wouldn’t have made a decent episode of Lost in Space.

(4) Star Trek writers talk about the unsold spec stories they wrote and pitched. Vulture talks to the writers about “8 Star Trek Spec Scripts That Never Saw the Light of Day”.

Almost every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series begins, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization. To boldly go where no man has gone before.” The opening promised a whole new world of adventure and discovery. And this utopia of exciting new ideas expanded beyond the screen all the way to its writers room: Star Trek had a famous open-submission policy, meaning any writer, anywhere, could submit a script.

The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager helped launch the careers of several great TV writers. Ron D. Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods), and René Echevarria (Teen Wolf, Terra Nova, The 4400) all got their start pitching for the show. But spec writing, obviously, didn’t always lead to success (not the first time at least). Sometimes your episode would get produced, sometimes it would get you in the door to pitch, and sometimes, well, you just had to keep trying….

Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time, Husbands, Battlestar Galactica)

The only [spec] whose plot I recall at the moment was the one that got me invited in to pitch at the show. It was about Data using the holodeck to put himself in situations calculated to evoke strong emotions, hoping to feel happiness or love … but when the simulation goes awry (someone reprogrammed it? I forget), he does get a taste of emotion, but it ends up being anger. He has to confront the downside of being like a human being — not all emotions are positive. It reads like it sounds — a fun little thought experiment, certainly not enough to provide the spine of an episode. But it got me in the door!

(5) Jason Isaacs interview: The incoming captain tells Entertainment Weekly how much he admires the archetype — Star Trek’s Jason Isaacs explains why William Shatner is a genius”.

Yeah, what he’s doing with really tough dialogue in those scenes, the way he knows which lines to just casually throw away and others where he just really sells it.

It’s so tough. He sells everything. People who think he’s hammy are people responding to other people doing funny impressions of him. If you watch the original he’s utterly brilliant. He was one of Canada’s top Shakespearian actors. He brings that level of commitment and epic high stakes to what could have been ridiculous dialogue. He and [Leonard] Nimoy together were a genius double. Anyone who thinks they’re hammy should try to do it themselves. I’m trying to do it now and, I’m telling you, it’s not easy.

Full of Quotations

By John Hertz:  I’m not sure if it’s a classic of science fiction.  But it reminds me of the fellow (in 1875?) who said Shakespeare was full of quotations.

By the time I got to Stephen Vincent Benét’s “By the Waters of Babylon” (1937) I’d read a lot of post-apocalypse stories.  The title recalls one I think is among the best, Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon (1959).

“By the Waters” has Dead Places which are forbidden and a religion of caretakers.  Its boy narrator coming of age finds on a journey a lost place of great riches.  The god who lived there must have been a powerful god.

There was a shattered image of white stone, a man or a god who wore his hair tied back and whose name, on the cracked half of a stone, was ASHING.  You can supply W and TON and so could I.

The boy wants to tell everyone but his father, a priest, says “Truth is a hard deer to hunt.  If you eat too much truth at once, you may die of the truth.”  Perhaps, thinks his son, in the old days people ate knowledge too fast.

Look at the date.  Benét’s story came two years before the Einstein-Szilárd letter, a year before the Hahn-Strassman-Meitner-Frisch discovery of nuclear fission; four years before Heinlein’s “Solution Unsatisfactory”, seven before Cartmill’s “Deadline”.

Scholarship says, as I understand, that Benét was probably moved by the bombing of Guernica, 26 Apr 37.  Picasso finished his painting in June.

“I like the Carpenter best,” said Alice, “if he didn’t eat so many oysters as the Walrus.”  “But he ate as many as he could get,” said Tweedledum.

We’ve anthologized “By the Waters” repeatedly over the years, starting with Wollheim’s pioneering Pocket Book of Science Fiction (1943).

Benét was a fine and maybe a great poet.  During his life he was better known than T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens.

Some prose is poetry.

Pixel Scroll 10/18/17 You Can Get Anything You Want From Alice’s Restaurant At The End Of The Universe (Excepting Neutrinos)

(1) JAILHOUSE ROCK. Brian Lee Durfee says “The First Ever in the History of the World Prison Comic Con Is in the Books!”:

James Dashner (Maze Runner) and I put on a fun event at the Utah State Prison last night. If two writers can make an auditorium full of felons laugh non-stop for one hour we know we did our job right. Mr. Dashner’s sense of humor and story-telling gifts were spot-on perfect. My favorite line of the night from Dashner, “My next book is about a serial killer…oh…um…are there any serial killers here tonight?” It brought down the house. He received a standing ovation.

And today, walking around the prison, I’ve received nothing but huge smiles and mega thanks from all the Inmates who attended. Gotta give a huge shout out to all who helped make it happen. Many publishers donated books and comics. Many writer friends donated signed books. Plus all the staff at the prison who got behind the project and helped out. I will post a link to the Dept of Corrections official event page w/photos when our public relations team makes it available.

PS I’ll try and make this an annual event bigger and better each year including the women’s unit, drug rehab, mental health, etc. One day I will have all the guards in Harley Quinn cosplay…

(2) THE VAST WASTELAND. Will no one rid him of this troublesome editor? The Traveler from Galactic Journey is stuck in 1962 with an editor of F&SF who’s driving him mad: “[Oct. 17, 1962] It’s Always Darkest… (The November 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

Ah F&SF.  What happened to one of my very favorite mags?  That’s a rhetorical question; Avram Davidson happened.  The new editor has doubled down on the magazine’s predilection for whimsical fantasy with disastrous (to me) results.  Not only that, but it’s even featuring fewer woman authors now than Amazing, of all mags.  I am shaking my head, wishing this was all some Halloween-inspired nightmare.  But no.  Here it is in black and white with a forty cent price tag.  Come check out this month’s issue…but don’t say I didn’t warn you:…

(3) BURDEN LIFTED FROM CALIFORNIA BOOKSELLERS. Publishers Weekly carries more coverage about the legislative change: “California Rescinds Autograph Mandate for Booksellers”.

California’s controversial law that requires booksellers to obtain a certificate of authenticity before they could sell books autographed by authors has been rescinded.

The move follows a lawsuit filed in May by Book Passage owner Bill Petrocelli and backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation that argued that common bookstore practices like guest author lectures and book signings “are fundamental to First Amendment freedoms.” The original law was enacted to require that store owners certify that any autographed item over $5 carry an authentic signature. The law was passed to fight against the sale of fake memorabilia, but included books.

Petrocelli, as well as other California booksellers, argued that the paperwork involved to meet the new law would make selling copies of autographed books too expensive. Book signings are an important part of booksellers’ business model, with Book Passage, for example, hosting more than 800 signings a year.

Faced with the lawsuit and opposition from booksellers, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that exempted books from the law, after which the PLF dropped its lawsuit.

(4) THE CURSE. Don Steinberg in the Wall Street Journal (in an article behind a paywall), notes that nearly all of the companies that paid for product placements in the original Blade Runner either no longer exist or are in severe financial trouble.

Atari began its downward spiral a year after the film’s 1982 release; Koss went bankrupt in 1984, and RCA and Bell Telephone received substantial screen  time and disappeared by the late 1980s. The last company Blade Runner promoted that failed was Pan Am, which folded in 1991.

(5) YOUR PERSONAL POP CULTURE SF RADAR. Daniel Dern sent these selected YA sci-fi references from contemporary TV shows:

This week’s episode of The Flash: Barry Allen is speed-binging all the shows he missed over the previous six months… “…wait, Jon Snow is dead [two seconds later] … wait, Jon Snow is alive?”

Unexpected music: In last week’s episode of Gotham, one scene opens to the sound of Jefferson Airplane’s “Go Ask Alice.” No obvious direct plot or character reference, but it sonically made sense. (Vs the use of Led Zepp’s “Foreigner” for the upcoming Thor/Ragnarok trailer and theme, which also makes topical sense, along with being great.)

 

Ditto vs a mountainside of characters singing or otherwise mutilating Nirvana’s “Sounds Like Teen Spirit” in the 2015 movie Peter Pan.

 

(6) FAUX PHARMA. The Guardian lists “Top 10 imaginary drugs in fiction”, most of them from sf.

Fictional drugs are miniature rocket ships: they take characters to places unknown and strange. The practice of drug invention goes back to the ancient Greeks (Moly, Lethe) and Shakespeare (Oberon’s love potion). Here are some modern examples from the pharmacopoeia of dangerous delights.

The first two are:

  1. Soma (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley) Soma is used to calm and pacify, suspending people in a state of permanent bliss. The World State of Huxley’s dystopian novel issues the drug as a means of control, to quell rebellious feelings. This is a drug used as a political metaphor, a form of mass entertainment taken to its ultimate level, a replacement for religion. In contrast, Huxley’s own mescaline-induced journey through the “doors of perception” gave him a glimpse of the mystery of pure being. From which we can only conclude that he kept the best drugs for himself.
  2. Melange (Dune by Frank Herbert) The most famous drug in science fiction – and one of the most powerful – melange or “spice” is found on the desert planet of Arrakis, produced and guarded by giant sandworms. In small doses it brings on a perfect high and increases sensual awareness of the world around you. In large amounts it enables the user to travel through the folds of space. Wow. This property makes it highly desirable, and entire empires rise and fall in the struggle to control its procurement and distribution. This is drug as merchandise, and as a gateway to the stars.

I was wondering why Thiotimoline wasn’t in the list ‘til I refreshed my memory – it’s a chemical compound, not a drug.

(7) LEAVE ROOM ON YOUR HUGO BALLOT. Lois McMaster Bujold announced on Goodreads that a new Penric novella is upcoming – maybe in November.

I am pleased to report I have finished the first draft of a new Penric & Desdemona novella, sequel to “Mira’s Last Dance”. Title is decided all but one vowel — I’ll add it when my aesthetic waffling concludes. About 44,980 words.

Later: Having spent the whole last day wrestling with one. dratted. vowel., title has finalized as: “The Prisoner of Limnos”

I plan to have cover art by Ron Miller again, of which I will post a sneak peek in due course.

…This e-publication thing is getting frighteningly fast, in part because a lot of little things which were baffling decisions or upward learning curves first round are now set templates which only need replicated.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Vincent Price’s grandfather invented baking powder.  (Source: Cooking Price-Wise)

(9) A CABELL CABAL. A link to a Crooked Timber of academic interest: “Robert A. Heinlein and James Branch Cabell” by John Holbo.

…I’m not going to quote pre-print stuff [from Farah Mendlesohn’s Heinlein book] but I’ll pass along one detail I never would have guessed. Heinlein was, apparently, a huge James Branch Cabell fan. He loved Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. I have just started rereading Jurgen myself, since I’m done with Dunsany. (I’m not making any systematic early 20th century fantasy circuit, mind you. We just shifted houses and, somehow, an old, long-unregarded 60’s paperback copy of Jurgen floated to the top. Perhaps this universe’s God is a Richard Thaler-type, giving me a nudge. Also, Mendlesohn is apparently not the first to note that Heinlein liked Cabell. Wikipedia knows. I am, apparently, last to know. But perhaps you have been in that sorry boat with me.)

This isn’t a major theme of her monograph, but Mendlesohn suggests Heinlein wanted to be a satirist in a Cabell-ish (and/or Swiftian, Twainian, Sinclairian, Kiplingesque) vein, in some of his works. But he didn’t really have it in him. He’s too earnest and convicted, albeit eccentrically so. He doesn’t do ironic equivocation. (I imagine if Cabell had tried to write Jurgen as a boy’s adventure book – Have Fine, Snug, Well-Fitting Garment With Curious Figures On It, Will Travel – he might have encountered equal and opposite stylistic incapacities in his soul.)

(10) HMMM. Does Luke do that?

(11) CLASS IS IN SESSION. “Pitches and Synopses Workshop with Jennifer Brozek” has been Storified for your edification from notes taken by Cat Rambo.

(12) KYELL GOLD IN STORYBUNDLE. Daniel Potter interviews Kyell Gold about his book in the SFWA Fantasy Storybundle. (This is a video in a public Facebook post.)

(13) A MORAL AUTHOR. Ann Leckie told this story in a Twitter thread that starts here.

It includes a moral:

(14) FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. Here are the links to all three four parts of the SFWA and indie series, in case you missed any:

(15) ARTS AND SCIENCES. Shades of Hedy Lamar — artist/model designs a better health monitor for ISS: “Meet the model changing the future of space medicine”.

Alex Sorina Moss is an artist and a model, but that’s just a side hustle for her main ambition – to design an ear piece that could transform medicine and space travel forever.

Moss’s idea has already shot her team to stardom, winning a 2016 Nasa prize for the Best Use of Hardware.  But what’s more, it signals an uplifting new direction for wearable tech.

Canaria is a small cuff worn on the ear which measures vital bodily statistics, as well as other metrics such as levels of certain gases in the air around the wearer. Where other well-known biometric wearables target consumers looking to keep fit, Canaria is being prepped as a medical grade instrument.

(16) DECONTAMINATION. Cleaning up after the Fukushima disaster — “The robots going where no human can”. (Video at the link.)

Robots have become central to the cleaning-up operation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, six years after the tsunami that triggered the nuclear meltdown.

It is estimated that around 600 tonnes of toxic fuel may have leaked out of the reactor during the incident.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company is using a variety of robots to explore areas too dangerous for people to go near.

BBC Click was given rare access to the site to see how the decontamination work was progressing.

(17) IN TIMES TO COME. EPCOT for real? “‘Future city’ to be built in Canada by Alphabet company”.

Sidewalk Labs, owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is to build a digital city in Toronto.

It aims to turn a waterfront area into a working laboratory for a range of “smart” technology.

It is likely to feature fast wi-fi availability, millions of sensors, sustainable energy and autonomous cars.

Technology companies are touting their hardware and software to cities, as urban planners tackle issues such as congestion, pollution and overcrowding.

(18) FANHISTORY HELP WANTED. Do you recognize the artist?

(19) REMEMBERING THE AEROSPACE RACE. The BBC looks back on “The Soviet Union’s flawed rival to Concorde”.

It is December 1968, and a truly ground-breaking airliner is about to take its first flight.

It resembles a giant white dart, as futuristic an object as anything humanity has made in the 1960s. The aircraft is super streamlined to be able to fly at the speed of a rifle bullet – once thought too fast for a passenger-carrying aircraft.

The distinctive, needle-nosed front of the aircraft looks like the business end of something rocket-powered from a Flash Gordon serial; when the aircraft approaches the runway, the whole nose is designed to slide down, giving the pilots a better view of the ground. The effect makes the aircraft look like a giant bird about to land.

It sounds like a description of the Anglo-French Concorde, the plane that will cross the Atlantic in little more than three hours – but it’s not. The spaceship-styled jet sports the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union on its giant tailfin. It is the Tupolev Tu-144, the communist Concorde, and the first passenger aircraft to fly more than twice the speed of sound….

(20) HEARTBREAKER. Steven Soderbergh tweeted what he says is “a rejection from Lucasfilm” from 1984 — but which is actually a standard Hollywood release saying that they won’t consider unsolicited material.

(21) COMING TO NETFLIX, Bright Official Trailer #3.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sputnik-2, or Laika, Our Hero” is a video from Popular Science about the 50th anniversary of Laika’s journey into space aboard Sputnik 2.

When the international press reported that the Soviets sent a dog into orbit, the public freaked. Not because communism was beating democracy in the space race, but because how could anyone send a dog—alone—into space. If there’s one global commonality, it’s this: everyone loves dogs. So, the Soviets spun the story. Laika, the space dog, became a national hero. Yes, she died on her one way mission. But, she gloriously orbited Earth for over a week until her eventual, peaceful death. And, because of Laika’s sacrifice, the Soviet space program was now years ahead of the Americans…

But, none of that was true.

Based on declassified Soviet space program documents as well as primary source archive from back in the day, this is a revised version of Laika’s one way trip. In her words. That is, approximately her words. She was a dog, after all.

 

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Atwood Accepts Franz Kafka Prize

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood was presented with the Franz Kafka Prize at a ceremony in the Old Town Hall of Prague, Czech Republic, on October 17.

Atwood received a small statue of Kafka by Czech artist Jaroslav Rona and a cash prize of $10,000.

The international literary award named for the German novelist was first awarded in 2001 and is co-sponsored by the Franz Kafka Society and the city of Prague.

It is given to “authors whose works of exceptional artistic qualities are found to appeal to readers regardless of their origin, nationality and culture.”

Atwood is the 17th recipient of the award. Past winners include American Philip Roth, British playwright Harold Pinter, and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

“Lincoln in the Bardo” Wins 2017 Man Booker Prize

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is the winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

He is the second American author to win the prize in its 49-year history. U.S. authors became eligible in 2014. He was in contention for the prize with two British, one British-Pakistani and two American writers.

Lincoln in the Bardo

George Saunders (Bloomsbury Publishing)

On 22 February 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln is laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, his father Abraham arrives at the cemetery, alone, under cover of darkness.

Over the course of that evening, Abraham Lincoln paces the graveyard unsettled by the death of his beloved boy, and by the grim shadow of a war that feels as though it is without end. Meanwhile Willie is trapped in a state of limbo between the dead and the living – drawn to his father with whom he can no longer communicate, existing in a ghostly world populated by the recently passed and the long dead.

Unfolding in the graveyard over a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief and the deeper meaning and possibilities of life.

George Saunders’ win was announced at a dinner at London’s Guildhall. He was presented with a trophy and a £50,000 check by Luke Ellis, Chief Executive of Man Group. Saunders also receives a designer bound edition of his book and a further £2,500 for being shortlisted.

In his acceptance speech, Saunders said:

If you haven’t noticed, we live in a strange time. So the question at the heart of the matter is pretty simple: Do we respond to fear with exclusion and negative projection and violence? Or do we take that ancient great leap of faith and do our best to respond with love? And with faith in the idea that what seems other is actually not other at all, but just us on a different day.

In the U.S. now we’re hearing a lot about the need to protect ‘culture.’ Well this tonight is culture. It’s international culture; it’s compassionate culture; it’s activist culture. It’s a room full of believers, through the word, in ambiguity, in beauty and in trying to see the other person’s point of view even when that’s hard. Believers in working to eliminate hatred and meanness and lazy habitual thinking even when–especially when–we find these in ourselves.

Chair of judges Lola Young commented:

For us, it really stood out because of its innovation, its very different styling, the way it, almost paradoxically, brought to life these almost dead souls in this other world. There was this juxtaposition of the very personal tragedy of Abraham Lincoln and the death of his very young son next to his public life, as the person who really instigated the American civil war. You’ve got this individual death, very close and personal; you’ve got this much wider issue of the political scenario and the death of hundreds of thousands of young men; and then you’ve got this weird state across the cemetery, with these souls who are not quite ready to be fully dead, as it were, trying to work out some of the things that plagued them during their lives.

 

Lola, Baroness Young was joined on the 2017 judging panel by the literary critic, Lila Azam Zanganeh; the Man Booker Prize shortlisted novelist, Sarah Hall; the artist, Tom Phillips CBE RA; and the travel writer and novelist, Colin Thubron CBE. The judges considered 144 submissions for this year’s prize.

Royal Mail is again issuing a congratulatory postmark featuring the winner’s name, which will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail nationwide on Wednesday, October 18 and Friday, October 20. It will say ‘Congratulations to George Saunders, winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize’.

The rules of the prize were changed at the end of 2013 to embrace the English language “in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory”, opening it up to writers beyond the UK and Commonwealth when their novels are published in UK.

[Based on a press release.]

Learning From Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports

SFWA President Cat Rambo, in “Talking About Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports, Part 1 of 2”, is joined by Steven Barnes, Maurice Broaddus, Tananarive Due, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Tonya Liburd, and Nisi Shawl for a roundtable discussion of Fireside Fiction’s reports on blacks in speculative fiction and what the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America might take away from it as action items. Listen to the recording at Soundcloud.

The reports driving their discussion are Antiblack Racism in Speculative Fiction: #BlackSpecFic: A Fireside Fiction Company special report (2015), the follow-up 2016 #BlackSpecFic Report, and the accompanying essays by black writers.

Cat Rambo notes in her introduction:

Here is the central fact they present. Black writers are underrepresented in fantasy and science fiction short fiction magazines. The 2015 figures: 2039 stories in 63 magazines, of which 38 stories were by black authors, in 2015….

For the sake of very broad comparison, American demographics as of July 2016 (according to Wikipedia) were 13.3% African American, 17.8% Latino/Hispanic, and 61.3% white. Like the magazines when it comes to publishing black writers, SFWA’s population skews much whiter than figures might lead one to assume.

Rambo plans to follow the up the two-part discussion with a post about her own takeaway, and how SFWA can respond.

This was a terrific conversation. I was scribbling notes down throughout most of it. In a day or two I’ll post those notes and action items, along with an account of what’s happened so far, but today the focus should be that discussion.