Jody Lynn Nye: Carrying The Torch for Humorous SF

By Carl Slaughter: Humor author Jody Nye has way too much fun. So do the authors she hangs out with.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Why do you write primarily humor?

JODY LYNN NYE: I enjoy it. I love a book that makes me laugh out loud, or even chuckle knowingly. There’s so much out in the real world that is depressing that I want to help lift people’s spirits. If I can help by being the anodyne to the evening news, I will consider my job well done. From the responses I’ve had from readers, they enjoy it. The books I reach for are primarily ones that examine a situation wisely, but with a kind heart behind it. Terry Pratchett, Robert Asprin, and Mark Twain all had a hand in forming my point of view, and they were masters at what I practice. You can make hard truths palatable if you make people laugh while you’re stating them, but pure entertainment is also a noble cause.

CS: What makes good humor?

JLN: The easiest way to look at humor is to take an ordinary situation, but put a twist in it. (A very quick example is a commercial on television right now, where a man behind a desk is explaining his business, but an adorable two-year-old is asking, as two-year-olds do, “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” after every explanation, so he keeps going. At last, he clearly feels that he’s done enough catering to a two-year-old, and glances toward the mother, who scolds him. “These are important questions!” she insists.) Elevate the lowly, bring the lofty down a peg, make the unimportant vital. There’s a saying that humor is tragedy plus time, but I believe it’s also defined as tragedy plus distance. (i.e., “The Ballad of Harry Lewis,” by Allan Sherman.) Exaggeration is another factor. As Mel Brooks says, “If I get a papercut on my finger, that’s a tragedy. If you fall down a manhole and die, that’s comedy.” Most good humor is brief, so you need a good story to base the funny moments upon. Humor should never punch down.

CS: How do you mix humor and speculative?

JLN: Like tragedy or drama, humor can enhance a story. Read any science article while keeping an ironic point of view, and almost anything can sound absurd. Take the ravings of a clear crank seriously, and you also have humor. In my Lord Thomas Kinago space opera series, maintaining humankind’s genetic structure is vital, but it has the unintended consequence of allowing the otherwise useless nobility to keep existing. The humorous SF detective stories I write for Alex Shvartsman’s Unidentified Funny Objects anthology series feature a detective sergeant having to allow the implantation into her abdomen of a symbiotic alien as an extreme form of witness protection. Each story also has a further SF twist to otherwise ordinary objects, rendering such things as contact lenses and a swimming pool as murder weapons.

CS: How did you hook up with Anne McCaffrey and what type of relationship did you have with her?

JLN: Anne had licensed the Pern universe to Mayfair Games for the Dragonriders of Pern role play game. My husband, then fiancè, was one of the partners who owned Mayfair. I wrote game materials for them. Bill created two series of choose-your-own adventures set in licensed fictional worlds, the Crossroads individual adventures for TOR Books and the Combat Command military adventures for Ace. Because I wrote game materials for Mayfair (I had been playing D&D since 1976) and I could write fiction, I ended up penning two Crossroads game novels set on Pern, and Anne’s son Todd, wrote a Combat Command set in David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series. I met Anne at Norwescon that year to go over the proposed plot of the first one, Dragonharper (yes, I know Todd has since written a Pern novel called Dragon Harper.) and explain how a chosen-path story works. Since Dragonharper was going to be about young Journeyman Harper Robinton (later Master Harper Robinton), I wrote a very short sample for her, which was called “Robinton Hits the Sauce.” Anne thought it was hilarious, and it explained game book structure to her. Anne adopted me as one of her large extended family. She told me, “You’re going to be writing official Pern fiction, and a lot of people might be jealous of you. You can tell them, “Oh, that Anne McCaffrey! She’s so hard to deal with! I’ll never work with her again!” Or, you can tell them you’re my daughter.” She was always encouraging and otherwise wonderful and welcoming. I’ll always miss her.

CS: How did you hook up with Robert Asprin and what type of relationship did you have with him?

Jody Lynn Nye and Robert Asprin

JLN: Bob was one of my husband Bill’s best friends. They knew each other long before I met either of them. When Bill and I were still engaged, we went to Ann Arbor, where Bob lived with his second wife, Lynn Abbey. They were so welcoming and kind that I felt I had known them for years. They introduced me to interests such as ice dancing and needlepoint. A lot of people pushed me and Bob to work together. Since we both wrote humor, of course. And we liked cats. And singing show tunes. We eyed each other dubiously, but when Bob hit a hard writer’s block after Phule’s Company hit the New York Times bestseller list (fear of success is a thing), Bill encouraged us to sit down and write something together that had nothing to do with any of our previous series.

Bob came up to our house, to Chicago in January, showing incredible faith in his friends, since our winters are not for sissies. Bill sat in the room as we began to outline the story, which later became License Invoked, for Baen Books. After no more than half an hour, it became evident that we were having a blast, and didn’t need him to referee. I think we were born to be collaborators. Bill went back to his office to play computer games, and we wrote the outline and divided it by sections. It seemed to help him get over the hump.

When he finally finished the twelve-book Donning Starblaze contract for Myth, he said he wanted me to collaborate on continuing Myth books. We wrote six novels and a story collection before he passed away in 2008. I’ve done two Myth books since, and continued his Dragons series, also from Ace Books. I adored Bob. Our sense of humor were similar. We had a stunning number of things and attitudes in common. My favorite times were sitting with him in the restaurant of the Hyatt in Atlanta every DragonCon weekend working on the plot of the next Myth book. We’d be laughing like loons, and passersby would rubberneck furiously to try to hear what we were talking about.

CS: What goes on in the Myth Adventures universe?

JLN: Same as always. Skeeve is a soft touch to a hard-luck story and has to deal with his shortcomings as an innocent Klahd. Aahz lets people think he’s a heartless, greedy monster, instead of the soft-hearted old grouse we all know him to be. (Notice I didn’t dispute the “greedy” part.) Their friendship will never die. Bunny is now in charge of M.Y.T.H., Inc., which means more organization for the gang. The series will always be full of horrible puns and chapter quotes which, trivia fact, only appear on the head of chapters in which Skeeve is featured. I have had so many people tell me that the books came along when they needed them. The same is true for me. I started reading them during a tough time in college. I want that joy to be there for future readers.

CS: How long will the Myth Adventure series continue and how often will the stories be released?

JLN: I will continue them as long as I can. I’m trying to keep the breezy mood of the earlier volumes such as Little Myth Marker. I’ve got ideas for several more volumes waiting in the wings, more short stories (a couple have been published in anthologies by Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press), and a young adult series. Keep an eye on my website or the Myth-Adventures website for news as I get it.

CS: You’ve done a lot of work with DAW, Baen’s, Ace, Del Rey, and Tor. What type of relationship have you have with these blue chip speculative publishers?

JLN: Cordial, I hope. Baen is my primary publisher. I’ve been with them since 1988 or 1989, and twelve books so far, if you don’t count the omnibuses. Moon Beam will make it thirteen. I love being part of the Baen family. It’s one of the few publishers that encourages their writers to collaborate and intersect on series. I have only done short stories for DAW, but they’re a joy to work with. Ace encouraged me by bringing out my own science fiction series (Taylor’s Ark). Susan Allison had been the series editor for the Myth-Adventures since the beginning, and pleaded with me to continue the Dragons series after Bob died. Del Rey published the Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern. The editor was surprised when we brought her twice the length and twice the number of illustrations she originally requested, but they got behind it in a big way. Tom Doherty of TOR is my hero. Claire Eddy at TOR was my editor on the Crossroads books, and I am still very fond of her. Brian Thomsen edited my fantasy duology, but died before the second volume came out. He had been my editor on my first fantasy books, the Mythology 101 series (no relation to Myth), and I loved him. I’d still be working with him if he was around.

CS: What type of story is Moon Beam?

JLN: Adventure featuring a group of great characters in an exciting setting. Barbara Winton is the newest member of the Bright Sparks, a group of young scientists working on the Moon under the auspices of Dr. Keegan Bright, the host of a daily science broadcast program for kids. Dr. Bright is the Sparks’ mentor, but they come up with the experiments and programs that they want to explore, and they do all the work. In Moon Beam (this is intended as an ongoing series; the second is already being written), the Sparks are building a radio/radar telescope on the far side of the Moon, well away from the light pollution and atmosphere of Earth. If that wasn’t enough of an adventure by itself, a coronal mass ejection, the hard radioactive rays ejected from a sunspot, is heading toward the Sparks, who are trapped days away from rescue, and have to save themselves as one thing after another goes wrong.

CS: Why a young adult series?

JLN: Since my style makes many people already think I write young adult fiction, it seemed like a natural progression. I got into a conversation at a Baen party with Travis Taylor, who actually IS a rocket scientist as well as an author. He, too, had wanted to write YA fiction, but hadn’t made the jump yet. We started throwing ideas back and forth. They gelled beautifully, and I started taking notes. By the party’s end, we had written an outline and proposed it to our publisher, Toni Weisskopf. She didn’t take that particular outline, but we soon adapted it to something she liked.

CS: What’s the STEM connection?

JLN: Young scientists working on the Moon. The subject just begs to be explored.

CS: Why a STEM connection?

JLN: The US is falling far behind other countries in promoting the STEM disciplines, science, technology, engineering and math, to students, particularly female students. Too many kids begin to think that science is too hard, and that there’s no place for them in any program that does anything real or important. They drop away, and we lose brilliant, motivated, interested minds when we should be begging them to share their energy with us. Science can be fun and exciting, and we need young thinkers to be part of our shared future.

CS: How long will the STEM series continue and how often will the stories be released?

JLN: The second one is being written, and we have proposals in for several more. I think that Baen would like to have them out once a year.

CS: What’s Travis Taylor’s connection to the series and connection with you?

JLN: We are collaborators and getting to be friends. We first met at Deep South Con 50 in Huntsville, AL, in 2012, but it wasn’t until LibertyCon the next year, I think, that we had a chance to sit down and talk. (see above)

CS: WordFire, isn’t that Kevin Anderson? What’s it like to work with him?

JLN: I’ve known Kevin since we were all at an awful convention together in 2001. He started WordFire some years later, and did me the honor to invite me to bring out my backlist of out-of-print books through WordFire. He’s been very encouraging. I think it’s been beneficial to both of us. I’m working on a small book for his Million Dollar Productivity series at the moment.

CS: You’ve sold at least 4 stories to Galaxy’s Edge, 3 the same year and one on the horizon. What’s it like to work with Mike Resnick?

JLN: (Correction — our name is usually on the cover because of the book column. I’ve sold three reprints to Mike, but they didn’t all come out in the same year.) Mike’s a national treasure. He has been enormously encouraging to younger writers, including me. He has collaborated with a number of them that he felt could benefit from the attention of being published with him. He calls them his “author daughters.” I’m working on a book with him, too, but I’m waiting to see what title he gives me. Mike created the Stellar Guild series, which pairs “superstars” (his term), including Robert Silverberg, Mercedes Lackey, Harry Turtledove, Kevin J. Anderson, and me, with younger, less experienced writers. The senior author creates a novella, and the junior author writes a prequel or sequel to the main story. I thought it was a wonderful idea. My Stellar Guild book was written with Angelina Adams, a promising new writer whom Todd McCaffrey had been teaching. My husband and I also write the Book Recommendations column for Galaxy’s Edge. So far, Mike seems happy with it.

CS: It’s hard not to notice that all your short fiction is through anthologies. Why not market to periodicals?

JLN: At first, it was blatant cowardice. I sent my first SF story to Stan Schmidt at Analog. He rejected it, but with a full letter telling me that he had seen the plot before, but he really liked my style, and to send him something else. I was only nineteen and had no connection to other SF writers to be reassured how rare and special a thing such a letter was. Instead, I retreated into my shell for several more years. I wrote my first professional short story for David Drake and my husband Bill for The Fleet shared world anthologies. After that, I got on Martin Greenberg’s radar, and wrote at least forty stories for his anthologies. I like the guidance of themed anthologies. The idea creates a frame I can paint in. It turns out that there were three of us who were Marty’s go-to authors when he needed good stories in a hurry, or to fill up a space for a writer who had let him down: me, Esther Friesner, and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Other editors reached out to me, filling my schedule with terrific ideas I couldn’t wait to explore. Now, it’s probably pure indolence that I don’t write more stories for magazines. I do want to. The more I read the good things that are being published, the more I want to be part of that.

CS: Did I miss anything?

JLN: I’m a big cat fan. My cat Jeremy enjoys a life of quiet luxury. A few of my friends have told me they’d like to come back as one of my cats. I enjoy reading, cooking and baking, travel, photography, and calligraphy. I have found that I really enjoy teaching. I run the two-day intense basic workshop at DragonCon every year.

Pixel Scroll 5/16/17 Will No One Pixel Me This Troublesome Scroll?

(1) CLOSE THE GAP. David Dean Bottrell, Producer, Sci-Fest LA, is asking people to help support The Tomorrow Prize, due to be presented this weekend:

Although Sci-Fest LA has been temporarily side-lined our amazing short story competitions continue!! Unfortunately, a grant we were depending on, has fallen through at the last second, and the awards are this coming weekend! We need your help to make up a $500.00 gap IMMEDIATELY needed to award the prizes to our winners!

Donate at:  http://www.lightbringerproject.org/support/

You can make a donation via our new non-profit sponsor, LIGHTBRINGER PROJECT. Please add a note during the payment process for what the donation’s for — You can mention Sci-Fest, Tomorrow Prize or Roswell Award.

(2) INDIGENOUS VOICES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has posted an update about her efforts to fund and launch an Emerging Indigenous Voices Award. (This would not be an sff award, but was prompted by the Canadian literary controversy reported here last week.)

I’ve gathered $4355 in pledges from people who wish to make this a reality. I’ve also e-mailed Robin Parker, who has also obtained pledges for a similar drive. We could be talking about more than $7,000 if we pool those resources together.

I have sent an e-mail to folks at the UBC Longhouse asking for some guidance.

I feel that if an award does become a reality, it must be managed by an Indigenous organization. I aim merely to help funnel money to them.

It may take some time to sort things out. I am putting together documentation tracking who pledged, how much, etc.

In the meantime, you can fund or support local organizations which represent Indigenous people in your community.

We should not turn to Indigenous and marginalized groups only when bad stuff happens and there are ways to support them that don’t involve donations. Read and review Indigenous literature. Suggest Indigenous artists as guests of honor at conventions. If you have access to a platform, invite them to write op-eds, guest posts, etc….

(3) ESCHEW CHRONOLOGICAL SNOBBERY. L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright raised her voice in defense of Anne McCaffrey at Superversive SF — “When New Is (Not) Best–The Degradation of Grand Master Anne McCaffrey”.

People talk about strong female characters today. Sometimes they mean kickbutt fighters. But when the term first got started, it meant females who held their own, who acted and achieved and accomplished, female characters who were smart.

Lessa was all that. To me, she was the sole female character in SF who really had the qualities I wanted to have. I adored her.

Recently, I was in a store and I picked up a copy of Dragonflight, the original Pern book. I remember thinking, Huh, it probably wasn’t that good. I’ve just glamorized it. Let me see… After all, some of her later books were a bit fluffy. Maybe this early book was just fluff, too, and I had just not noticed. I started flipping through it.

I read an astonishing amount of it before I realized I was standing in a bookstore and embarrassedly put it down.

It was still that good.

(4) THEY KNOW WHEN YOU’RE AWAKE. An author tells about eavesdropping on fan sites in “The Big Idea: Megan Whalen Turner” at Whatever.

As a newbie author, I was self-Googling like mad and just before The King of Attolia was published. I found a livejournal site dedicated to my books. I lurked. I did tell them I was lurking, but I knew right from the start that having authors around is a great, wonderful, exciting thing—right up until they make it impossible to have an honest conversation about their books, so I was careful not too lurk too often. In return, I got to watch these smart, funny people pick through everything I’d written and I became more and more convinced that they didn’t need my input, anyway. Everything in my books that I hoped they’d see, they were pointing out to one another. Watching them, I decided I should probably probably keep my mouth shut and leave readers to figure things out for themselves. That’s why when they got around to sending me a community fan letter, I’m afraid that my answer to most of their questions was, “I’m not telling.” Over the years, it’s hardened into a pretty firm policy.

(5) SPACE OPERA WEEK. Tor.com has declared: It’s Space Opera Week on Tor.com!

Alan Brown has a handle on the history of the term: “Explore the Cosmos in 10 Classic Space Opera Universes”.

During the Golden Age of Science Fiction, there was a lot of concern about the amount of apparent dross being mixed in with the gold. The term “space opera” was originally coined to describe some of the more formulaic stories, a term used in the same derisive manner as “soap opera” or “horse opera.” But, like many other negative terms over the years, the term space opera has gradually taken on more positive qualities. Now, it is used to describe stories that deal with huge cosmic mysteries, grand adventure, the long sweep of history, and giant battles. If stories have a large scope and a boundless sense of wonder, along with setting adventure front and center, they now proudly wear the space opera name.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer discusses why she embarked on her Vorkosigan Saga reread series for Tor.com in Space Opera and the Underrated Importance of Ordinary, Everyday Life

The Vorkosigan series is space opera in the really classic style. There are big ships that fight each other with weapons so massive and powerful that they don’t even have to be explained. The most dramatic conflicts take place across huge distances, and involve moving people, ideas, and technology through wormholes that span the Galactic Nexus, and watching how that changes everything. So it’s also about incredibly ordinary things—falling in love, raising children, finding peace, facing death.

And Cheeseman-Meyer’s latest entry “Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Borders of Infinity covers a lot of ground, but I must applaud this comment in particular —

At this point, I suddenly realize how little time we really get to spend with the Dendarii Mercenaries, who have now appeared as a fighting force in only two of the seven books in the reread.

Liz Bourke, in “Sleeps With Monsters: Space Opera and the Politics of Domesticity”, reminds readers that relationships are the web that connect the infinite spaces of this subgenre.

Let’s look at three potential examples of this genre of… let’s call it domestic space opera? Or perhaps intimate space opera is a better term. I’m thinking here of C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series, now up to twenty volumes, which are (in large part) set on a planet shared by the (native) atevi and the (alien, incoming) humans, and which focus on the personal and political relationships of Bren Cameron, who is the link between these very different cultures; of Aliette de Bodard’s pair of novellas in her Xuya continuity, On A Red Station, Drifting and Citadel of Weeping Pearls, which each in their separate ways focus on politics, and relationships, and family, and family relationships; and Becky Chambers’ (slightly) more traditionally shaped The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, which each concentrate in their own ways on found families, built families, communities, and the importance of compassion, empathy, and respect for other people’s autonomy and choices in moving through the world.

But lest we forget the reason Tor.com exists, Renay Williams plugs the franchise in “A Plethora of Space Operas: Where to Start With the Work of John Scalzi”.

101: Beginner Scalzi

If you’re brand-new to Scalzi’s work, there a few possible starting places. If you want a comedic space opera adventure, you’ll want to start with Old Man’s War and its companion and sequel novels, The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. If you’re in the mood for straight up comedy SF, then Agent to the Stars is your entry point. And if you want some comedy but also kind of want to watch a political thriller in your underwear while eating snack food and don’t know what book could possibly meet all those qualifications at once, there’s The Android’s Dream, which is the funniest/darkest book about sheep I’ve ever read.

(6) AMEN CORNER. The celebration also includes a reminder from Judith Tarr: “From Dark to Dark: Yes, Women Have Always Written Space Opera”.

Every year or two, someone writes another article about a genre that women have just now entered, which used to be the province of male writers. Usually it’s some form of science fiction. Lately it’s been fantasy, especially epic fantasy (which strikes me with fierce irony, because I remember when fantasy was pink and squishy and comfy and for girls). And in keeping with this week’s theme, space opera gets its regular turn in the barrel.

Women have always written space opera.

Ever heard of Leigh Brackett? C.L. Moore? Andre Norton, surely?

So why doesn’t everyone remember them?

Because that second X chromosome carries magical powers of invisibility.

And having read that, who would you be looking to for an “Amen!” Would you believe, Jeffro Johnson at the Castalia House Blog? Not from any feminist impulse, but because it fits his own narrative about the Pulp Revolution — “The Truth About Women and Science Fiction”:

…Yes, the “Hard SF” revolution did turn the field into something of a boy’s club. The critical frame that emerged from it has unfairly excluded the work of a great many top tier creators that happened to be female. And much as it pains me to admit it, feminist critics do have a point when they complained about women being arbitrarily excluded.

However… when they treat the Campbellian Revolution as the de facto dawn of science fiction, they are perpetuating and reinforcing the real problem. If you want creators like Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore to get the sort of attention they deserve, you have to recover not only the true history of fantasy and science fiction. You have to revive and defend the sort of classical virtues that are the root cause of why they have been snubbed in the first place.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Sea Monkey Day

The history of sea monkeys starts, oddly enough, with ant farms. Milton Levine had popularized the idea of Ant-farm kits in 1956 and, presumably inspired by the success of his idea, Harold von Braunhut invented the aquatic equivalent with brine-shrimp. It was really ingenious looking back on it, and ultimately he had to work with a marine biologist to really bring it all together. With just a small packet of minerals and an aquarium you’d suddenly have a place rich with everything your brine-shrimp needed to survive. So why sea monkeys? Because who was going to buy brine-shrimp? It was all a good bit of marketing, though the name didn’t come about for nearly 5 years. They were originally called “instant life”, referencing their ‘just add water’ nature. But when the resemblance of their tails to monkeys tails was noted by fans, he changed it to ‘Sea-Monkeys’ and so it’s been ever since! The marketing was amazing too! 3.2 million pages of comic book advertising a year, and the money just flowed in the door. So what are Sea Monkeys exactly? They’re clever mad science really. Sea Monkeys don’t (or didn’t) exist in nature before they were created in a lab by hybridization. They’re known as Artemia NYOS (New York Ocean Science) and go through anhydrobiosis, or hibernation when they are dried out. Then, with the right mixture of water and nutrients they can spring right back into life! Amazing!

Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like Trisolarians!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(9) COMIC SECTION. Daniel Dern recommends today’s Candorville: “We already knew the creator’s a Star Trek geek, clearly he’s also a (DC) comic book fan…”

(10) DOCTOROW. This is the book Cory Doctorow was promoting at Vromans Bookstore when Tarpinian and I attended his joint appearance with John Scalzi a couple weeks ago. Carl Slaughter prepared a summary:

WALKAWAY
Cory Doctorow
Tor
April 25, 2017

Hubert was too old to be at that Communist party.

But after watching the breakdown of modern society, he really has no where left to be?except amongst the dregs of disaffected youth who party all night and heap scorn on the sheep they see on the morning commute. After falling in with Natalie, an ultra-rich heiress trying to escape the clutches of her repressive father, the two decide to give up fully on formal society?and walk away.

After all, now that anyone can design and print the basic necessities of life?food, clothing, shelter?from a computer, there seems to be little reason to toil within the system.

It’s still a dangerous world out there, the empty lands wrecked by climate change, dead cities hollowed out by industrial flight, shadows hiding predators animal and human alike. Still, when the initial pioneer walkaways flourish, more people join them. Then the walkaways discover the one thing the ultra-rich have never been able to buy: how to beat death. Now it’s war – a war that will turn the world upside down.

Fascinating, moving, and darkly humorous, Walkaway is a multi-generation SF thriller about the wrenching changes of the next hundred years…and the very human people who will live their consequences.

PRAISE FOR WALKAWAY

  • “Thrilling and unexpected….A truly visionary techno-thriller that not only depicts how we might live tomorrow, but asks why we don’t already.” Kirkus
  • “Doctorow has envisioned a fascinating world…This intriguing take on a future that might be right around the corner is bound to please.” ?Library Journal
  • “Memorable and engaging. …Ultimately suffused with hope.” ?Booklist
  • “The darker the hour, the better the moment for a rigorously-imagined utopian fiction. Walkaway is now the best contemporary example I know of, its utopia glimpsed after fascinatingly-extrapolated revolutionary struggle. A wonderful novel: everything we’ve come to expect from Cory Doctorow and more.”?William Gibson
  • “Cory Doctorow is one of our most important science fiction writers, because he’s also a public intellectual in the old style: he brings the news and explains it, making clearer the confusions of our wild current moment. His fiction is always the heart of his work, and this is his best book yet, describing vividly the revolutionary beginnings of a new way of being. In a world full of easy dystopias, he writes the hard utopia, and what do you know, his utopia is both more thought-provoking and more fun.”?Kim Stanley Robinson
  • “Is Doctorow’s fictional utopia bravely idealistic or bitterly ironic? The answer is in our own hands. A dystopian future is in no way inevitable; Walkaway reminds us that the world we choose to build is the one we’ll inhabit. Technology empowers both the powerful and the powerless, and if we want a world with more liberty and less control, we’re going to have to fight for it.”?Edward Snowden

(11) LITFEST PASADENA. In addition to the Roswell Award  and Tomorrow Award readings, this weekend’s LitFest Pasadena includes these items of genre interest:

Saturday

Famed afro-futurist writer Nalo Hopkinson (The Chaos) joins the Shades & Shadows Reading Series for an evening of dark fiction from noir mystery to sci-fi.

Sunday

Popular comic book and TV writer Brandon Easton (Agent Carter), joins fellow comic book writers to discuss “Manga Influences on American Culture.”

(12) SPEAKING PARTS. Pornokitsch shows why someone could argue “Middle Earth Has Fewer Women Than Space”.

This research is from April 2016. The folks at The Pudding analysed thousands of screenplays and did a word count of male and female dialogue.

Unsurprisingly: Hollywood skews heavily in favour of dudes talking.

Naturally, I looked for all the nerdiest films I could find. This was a lot of fun, although the results were… pretty bleak. …..

There follows a whole chart about genre films.

2001 is literally a film about two dudes floating in space, and it has a higher percentage of female dialogue than two of the Lord of the Rings films.

(13) IOU. Jon Del Arroz thinks I should be paying him when I put him in the news. Now there’s an innovative marketing mind at work.

(14) PANTHER UNPLUGGED. Ernie Estrella at Blastr demands — “So why did Marvel pull the plug on Black Panther & The Crew after just two issues?”

How long should a comic book aimed at reaching a more socially aware audience be given latitude before it’s canceled? According to Marvel Comics, just two. Marvel is canceling one of two monthly titles that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, Black Panther & The Crew. After two issues have underperformed in sales, the title has been abruptly put on notice. Marvel had seen enough and was not satisfied by the early numbers to stick with a title while it finds its audience. Coates told Verge that issue #6 will be the series’ finale, wrapping up the storyline that was introduced in the debut issue, which came out in this past March.

Coates co-writes the series with Yona Harvey, and together they crafted a story starring Black Panther, Storm, Misty Knight and Luke Cage investigating the murder of a civil rights activist who died while in police custody, Ezra Keith. Relevant to America’s current societal problems facing inherent racism, Coates and Harvey’s story also dives into the main four heroes and tries to look deeper at their varied experiences as black people in the Marvel Universe….

(15) NEW GRRM ADAPTATION. George R.R. Martin gives fans the background on developments they’ve been reading about in the Hollywood trade papers — “Here’s the Scoop on NIGHTFLYERS”.

In 1984 I sold the film and television rights to “Nightflyers” to a writer/ producer named Robert Jaffe and his father Herb….

This new NIGHTFLYERS television series — actually, it is just a pilot script at present, still several steps short of going on-air, but I am told that SyFy likes the script a lot — was developed based on the 1987 movie, and the television rights conveyed in that old 1984 contract. Robert Jaffe is one of the producers, I see, but the pilot script is by Jeff Buhler. I haven’t had the chance to meet him yet, but hope to do so in the near future.

Since I have an overall deal that makes me exclusive to HBO, I can’t provide any writing or producing series to NIGHTFLYERS should it go to series… but of course, I wish Jaffe and Buhler and their team the best of luck. “Nightflyers” was one of my best SF stories, I always felt, and I’d love to see it succeed as a TV series (fingers crossed that it looks as good as THE EXPANSE).

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar, with an assist from Camestros Felapton.]

McCaffrey’s Fan Letter To John Schoenherr

Analog_1967_10_webAnne McCaffrey’s novella Weyr Search was published in the October 1967 issue of Analog and around the time it was hitting the newsstands she had an opportunity to visit John W. Campbell in his office and see the original Schoenherr illustrations.  She was so captivated by his interpretation of her dragons that she wrote the artist a fan letter, which his son Ian has reproduced on his blog, accompanied by scans of the images.

But man, those are mighty appealing dragons. Particularly, especially, and triumphantly, the one in which Lessa is enclosed in Mnementh’s talons. Oh, that, I die a little over. How HOW did you manage to convey that foolish bronze’s tender regard and lack of menace in black and white, no less. Superb. Honest, I nearly cried in front of John and Miss Tarrant…which at my age would be a little the other side of enough. But the sketch was so much, so very much what I had imagined in my mind for the scene, I’d swear you were a telepath yourself.

The following year Weyr Search became the first story written by a woman to win the Hugo Award.

Warner Bros. Options McCaffrey’s Dragonriders

Cover of 1968 edition of Dragonflight.

Cover of 1968 edition of Dragonflight.

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider stories may finally reach the big screen now that Warner Bros. has optioned the film rights for the 22-book series.

As you know, Bob

The first book was published in 1968, and the focus is on an elite group of warriors who take to the skies on the backs of giant, fire-breathing dragons with telepathic powers.

Reportedly behind the deal is Warner production executive Drew Crevello, who came to the studio from Fox two months ago.

It has been three years since the last major announcement about the series’ movie prospects, when a scriptwriter was named for a Copperheart Studios production.

[Thanks to Robert Whitaker Sirignano for the story.]

Dragonwriter Signing at Burbank Library

Todd McCaffrey and John Goodwin.

Todd McCaffrey and John Goodwin.

My 11-year-old daughter Sierra, a voracious reader, is enthralled by Menolly the harper and Pern. She jumped at the chance to hear Todd McCaffrey speak at the Burbank public library’s Buena Vista branch last night (August 7) where she also got Todd to autograph her copy of Dragonwriter: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Pern, officially published this week.

Todd, Anne’s son, is the collection’s editor and was joined by contributor John Goodwin, President of Galaxy Press.

The evening was an open question-and-answer session. The first thing the audience wanted to hear was the status of the Dragonriders of Pern movie. Todd gave a basic explanation of options and chronicled the several attempts to bring McCaffrey’s books to the screen. In 2002 Ronald D. Moore, who would go on to revive Battlestar Galactica, and the WB Network had completed sets and casting for a television series. However, WB wanted to make more changes to the script than Moore would tolerate, and the project ended up canceled.

At that point, Anne McCaffrey, Todd, and his sister Georgeanne Kennedy, decided rather than wait for someone to approach them, they would solicit interest in making a Dragonrider movie and pick the strongest proposal. In 2011, Steven Hoban’s Copperheart Entertainment announced plans for the movie David Hayter attached as scriptwriter. But in Hollywood, things take time.

Another questioner complimented Todd’s ability to write in an identical voice to his mother’s. But he said his aim is to write Pern stories in a similar voice, not the exact same voice, because he strives for the grittier tone of the earliest stories, like “Weyr Search,” published in Analog by John W. Campbell.

He also confessed the anxiety he felt as a 14-year-old when he submitted a story of his own to Analog. He says that, fortunately, Campbell let him down easy.

John Goodwin reminisced how Algis Budrys enlisted Anne McCaffrey as the first female judge for the Writers of the Future contest in 1985 after she asked why all the original judges were male. She told Goodwin in a video interview years later, “I could get rather stuffy about lack of females when there should be some, and there was no reason why there weren’t some on that.”  

Todd had some advice for young writers like Sierra – to keep a diary. Because it can help later whenever they want to remember the real concerns and interests of a child. Which is hard to do by the time you’re 30 or 40.

On the way home Sierra paid him the accolade of making her feel comfortable – an uncommon ability among the adults she knows.

dragonwriterDragonwriter assembles memories and stories about Anne from Angelina Adams, David Brin, David Gerrold, John Goodwin, Janis Ian, Alec Johnson, Georgeanne Kennedy, Mercedes Lackey, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Lois McMaster Bujold, Elizabeth Moon, Charlotte Moore, Robert Neilson, Jody Lynn Nye and Bill Fawcett, Robin Roberts, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Wen Spencer, Michael Whelan, Richard J. Woods and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.

Whelan’s contribution includes several never-before-published Pern sketches.

There will also be an audiobook version of Dragonwriter from Brilliance Audio voiced by Todd, Mel Foster, Emily Durante, and Janis Ian.

David Fairbrother-Roe Dies

White dragon

The White Dragon.

Artist David Fairbrother-Roe, who created iconic covers for several UK editions of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, passed away July 21. He had been suffering from cancer.

Fairbrother-Roe’s work appeared on Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, The White Dragon and Get off the Unicorn. Several examples are online at the Pern Museum Art Gallery

Early in his career he did artwork for record albums – Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog (1975), Popol Aces’ Stolen From Time (1976), and Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow (1976).

He also did covers for novels by John Barth, George Macbeth and C. J. Cherryh.

Results of NPR Top 100 SF&F Survey

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien finished atop of NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey. Over 60,000 voters participated. Coming in second and third were Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

The three highest-ranking works by women were Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, #20, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, #22, and Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, #33.

Ray Bradbury had four books make the list, the most popular being Fahrenheit 451, #7. The leading Heinlein novel among his three on the list was Stranger in a Strange Land at #17.

And oh, yes, Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, #93, ran ahead of Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, #97. I’ll have to ask if Jo Walton is willing to go two falls out of three…

Pern Coming to the Big Screen

David Hayter will write the screenplay for the film adaptation of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, the first novel in her Dragonriders of Pern series. Production is expected to begin in 2012. McCaffrey’s Pern series began in 1968 – in the pages of Analog, of all places — and continues to this day:

Dragonflight centers on “an elite group of warriors who take to the skies on the backs of giant, fire-breathing, telepathic dragons to save the wondrously exotic planet of Pern from a terrifying airborne menace.

Hayter’s screenwriting resume includes adapting several celebrated graphic novels to film, including X-Men, X2: X-Men United and Watchmen.

Just 44 years from story to screen for McCaffrey’s story… What other classics of science fiction are you still longing to see turned into movies? I think something quite spectacular could be done with The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Just what kind of world is it where they’ve already made a movie out of Zotz! and not the story of how Mike and Manny fomented a Lunar revolution?

[Thanks to Craig Miller for the story.]