Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #12

Dear America, We Need to Talk…

By Chris M. Barkley: Hey America, rough weekend?

Yeah, I was watching and listening. Now, we need to talk. About what happened in Charlottesville.

And other things.

I am an African-American man. I was not born of privilege. Each day, I know that I am a marked man.

Marked as a threat by white people. Marked as a security risk by store owners. Marked to be maimed or murdered by fascists, racists and white supremacists. Marked for scrutiny (or worse) by various agents of law enforcement.

All because my skin tone is darker than their own.

But each day I awake, rise and step out my door, America. I do so with the full knowledge that I may never return to the embrace of my loving partner, my family and friends. I may fear all the things that may happen to me in the course of a day, but that is leavened by what I know:

  • That my parents, loved me enough to bring me into this troubled world.
  • That they provided me with a comfortable home, the love, guidance, education and love to be a kind and thoughtful person.
  • And that these things were given to me, my life, beliefs, associations and citizenship, are protected by the Constitution of the United States of America.

I was born a child of the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower; smack dap in the middle of the past century. My father, Erbil Augustine Barkley and my grandmother, who hailed from Birmingham, Alabama, came north to Cincinnati as part of the black diaspora of the 1930’s. My mother, Alice Elder and her four orphaned sisters came to Ohio to attend school. When they met, in a corner drugstore in the neighborhood I grew up in as a child, it was love at first sight. The best and worst of American history lay ahead of me.

I grew up in the age of science and science fiction. Vaccines. Lasers. Computers. Jonny Quest, Fireball XL-5 and Star Trek! Actual men flying actual space capsules, solo, in pairs and then, more. Neil Freaking Armstrong and Buzz Freaking Aldrin walking on the freaking MOON in the summer of ‘69, America! And all of this was balanced out by my constant fear of being vaporized in a nuclear war, the ongoing communist menace, the Vietnam War on the evening news everyday and the constant threats from the nuns at school and in the bullies on the neighborhood streets.

I mostly kept to myself, riding my bike, walking, watching old movies on television and reading. I read throughout the Silver Age of DC, Marvel, Gold Key and Charlton comic books. I read the adventures Danny Dunn and Alvin Fernald. I also dabbled in young adult books by Madeleine L’Engle and Isaac Asimov and Eleanor Cameron. These pursuits were not as frivolous as my parents made them out to be; they were essential tools that led to my being who I am today.

In 1976, I had the good fortune to fall in with sf fandom, which changed my life forever. Author David Gerrold recently described sf (and fandom, too, I think) as, “our private little secret, sniffed at by those who ‘knew better.’” Fandom has been my second family for over forty years and I have never regretted my association with these wonderful people who greeted me with wide and open arms.

But lately America, the stresses and strains of these modern times have tested even the strongest bonds of the best of families.

Nowadays, with social media and modern communication systems, a misunderstanding, a rumor, faked news or blatant lie can circle the globe a million times before the truth finishes rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

I am the direct descendent of people enslaved here. I don’t want revenge. I don’t want reparations for the actions of people I have never met or seen.

You know what I really want, America? I want all of us dwelling here to have a lengthy conversation about slavery, Native American genocide, immigration, the treatment of the veterans of our armed services and the basic right to just be FREE.

Free to explore places I’ve never been. Free to love my partner and friends. Free to hate the New York Yankees (in a benign way, of course), free to assemble peacefully, free to protest, free to make mistakes,  free to watch, comment, read and speak. These freedoms should be extended to everyone without reserve; to those I agree with but ESPECIALLY to those of whom I disagree with.

As I wise person I encountered once said, The First Amendment and the freedom to speak isn’t a private dance party limited to the elites, best buds or your social clique. Everyone dances and no one should be excluded.

I know that these freedoms come with a price and that while I am free to speak and express myself, I am not free from the consequences of any of my decisions.

And if the fascists, racists, opportunists, fear and hate merchants have their way and change to Constitution, to place legal limits on the freedoms we hold so dear, I am afraid that I and many of my family and friends may come to a parting of ways with you. This is a shame, because while 241 years is quite a run for a freedom loving people, I expected you to last far past my lifetime and far into the future.

I never met the late Heather Heyer, but I consider her to be my sister. According to her friends and family, she was an advocate of the poor and disadvantaged in her city.

I mourn her death because she did not have to be downtown in Charlottesville on a beautiful Saturday protesting the presence of fascists, nazis, and other merchants of hate and fear. She WANTED to be there because she wanted to show them that she was not afraid of them and to show them what the true face of democracy looks like.

Her martyrdom and the injuries to the wounded were sudden, brutal and so unnecessary.

What have we become, America? Can we honestly look in the mirror and call ourselves “that shining city on the hill” anymore?

We are no longer the envy of the civilized world. We are no longer considered the gold standard of liberty.

The slow erosion of American manners and civility, in the course of our everyday lives, in our business and trade practices and especially with our politics, makes us out to be a country to be loathed and feared. The current occupant of the White House and his minions are reinforcing this heinous message with each passing day.

We are on the verge of a new Civil War. But what will be different about this new war is that won’t be fighting about borders or slavery, we’ll be in conflict between the haves and have-nots, the disenfranchised verses the uninformed, the rich and bigoted against the poor and minorities of all races and beliefs.

And so America, the battle is on. The battle for your heart and your soul. Who will prevail?

And despite the pessimism and grief I have expressed in this letter to you, I believe in my heart that there are more Americans who want to maintain our shores as a beacon of freedom and prosperity than there are those who would seek to tear it all down.

For the sake of my families, my friends and fellow freedom fighters, I hope it’s us.

See you in the streets. Best Wishes,

Chris B.

Docherty and Whyte Seek Hugo Study Committee

Chris Barkley and Vincent Docherty’s proposals to make major changes to several Hugo categories, first published by File 770, are now on the Worldcon 75 business meeting agenda (see page 29, item D.6.)

However, Docherty would prefer they not go to an immediate up-and-down vote, but be sent to a study committee. Docherty writes:

Given the number of Hugo category proposals this year, and that we have managed to trigger some public discussion about the proposed changes, we have proposed the creation of a Hugo Awards Study Committee, to which a number of the category changes can be referred to.

Docherty, seconded by Nicholas Whyte, have made a motion to that effect (same link above, page 6, item B.2.1).

B.2.1 Short Title: Hugo Awards Study Committee (amendment by substitution)

Moved: to substitute for B.2 the following: To create a Hugo Awards Study Committee, appointed by the Chair, to

(1) Study revisions to Article 3 (Hugo Awards) of the WSFS Constitution, including any such proposals for amending Article 3 as may be referred to it by the Business Meeting or suggested by others;

(2) Make recommendations, which may include proposing constitutional amendments, to the 2018 Business Meeting; and

(3) Authorize the Chair of the Committee to appoint other persons to serve on the committee at the Chair’s discretion.

Docherty told File 770 there are certain rules to be navigated before the committee can be created:

As mentioned in the commentary under B.2.1. the rules of the Business Meeting are that Constitutional amendments currently on the agenda for this year’s meeting cannot be referred to this proposed committee by the Preliminary Business Meeting (on Thursday), but can be referred to it by the Main Business Meeting (on Friday or later). Kevin Standee and the Business Meeting team have been very helpful with the preparations and will keep us on track I’m sure.

Pixel Scroll 7/31/17 I’ll Get You, My Pixel, And Your Little Scroll, Too

(1) FANDOM FEST AFTER ACTION REPORT. Randall and Anne Golden decided they’d go to Louisville’s Fandom Fest despite “Weird Al” Yankovic’s cancelling his appearance. They lowered their expectations and lived to tell the tale in a two-part conreport.

We finished our FandomFest experience and were out the door by 12:30. For the math-curious that’s four hours of two-way driving, one hour spent on the line to get in, forty minutes on ticket exchanges, and 110 minutes on actual conventioning. We’ve done worse for less.

By the end of the day at least a couple hundred more fans had packed into the Macy’s and begun turning into a bona fide crowd. Anne noted that today’s attendance was probably more people than the actual Macy’s had entertained in years. But it was never anywhere near 1700. For a show that once welcomed a five-digit annual attendance, that’s an alarming deceleration.

For a show in its twelfth year, with so many years of experience and resources (you’d think, anyway), that’s a drastic sign either of incompetence, evil, or intentional downsizing. We can’t speak for the innumerable fans still upset with their FandomFest fleecing and still crying out for retribution, but I wish more could be done for them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on Saturday my wife Anne and I attended FandomFest in Louisville, KY, the twelfth iteration of this entertainment/”comic” convention that’s quite low on comics, heavy on controversy, improper in its online customer service, saddled with a years-old negative image not really helped by the depressing role call of thirty-one canceled guests, and graded a solid F by the Better Business Bureau. But beyond the mountains of baggage, their volunteers were pretty friendly to us in person despite their upper management, and the fifteen actors in the house seemed like decent folks.

Publisher Tony Acree of Hydra Publications talked about the (literal) silver lining he found in the clouds surrounding the con — “Fandom Fest 2017 Day 1 Recap”. (Lots of cosplay photos in his Day 2 and Day 3 recaps.)

What hasn’t changed, is the number of high quality vendors who have been to Fandom year after year. Hydra Publications lucky to be in “Author Corner” along with Stephen Zimmer and Holly Phillippe of Seventh Star Press, the wonderful ladies of Per Bastet, along with Lydia Sherrer, Lacy Marie and my fellow Hydra authors, Arlan Andrew Sr., Dave Creek, Lynn Tincher and Stuart Thaman. Oh. And super editor Josiah Davis.

Despite all the negative news, we sold more books this year on Friday, than we did last year. To you, the fans, we say thank you.

 

Arlan Andrews Sr. and Dave Creek at the Hydra table

Jeff raises an interesting question – when quoted by the press, the co-organizer of Fandom Fest went by the name Myra Daniels.

Noah Bisson posted a video of his walkthrough of the con. Crowding was definitely not an issue.

(2) NO SHOW. Steve Davidson, in “What’s Happening with the TV Show?”, explains why you shouldn’t be looking for an Amazing Stories revival on NBC. For one thing, the check wasn’t in the mail.

I waited for a period of time to determine if I would receive something.  After months of waiting and still receiving nothing, a notice of Termination/Breach of Contract was sent to NBC legal, seeing as how pretty much everybody we had previously been working with was no longer with NBC.  It sure looked to us like Amazing Stories The TV Show had become an orphan:  no showrunner, prior contacts no longer with the company, no word, no checks.

The notice was properly delivered to NBC in May of this year.  Despite the fact that the orginal contract would have expired in August of this year, I had completely lost confidence in two things:  NBC’s ability to treat me properly AND NBC’s ability to deliver a show.

(3) HE SECONDS. Robert J. Sawyer has added himself to the list of people sponsoring the “Separate Fantasy and Science Fiction Hugo Best-Novel Awards Amendment” submitted by Chris Barkley and Vincent Docherty and discussed here last week.

(4) MOVING DAY FINALLY HERE FOR MACMILLAN.  After years of rumors, Macmillan Publishers is really going to bid farewell to the iconic Flatiron Building.

Macmillan Publishers is officially leaving the Flatiron Building, having signed up for 261,000 square feet at Silverstein Properties’ 120 Broadway.

The space will span five full floors, the New York Post reported. In April, sources told The Real Deal the publisher was weighing a move to the Lower Manhattan building, but the size of the space was not clear.

Asking rents at 120 Broadway are in the mid-$50s per square foot, according to the newspaper.

Macmillan is the Flatiron Building’s sole tenant. The property has not been totally empty since it was built more than a century ago. Sorgente Group of America, which owns a majority stake, may rent it out to new tenants or potentially go through with a plan to turn it into a hotel.

(5) SHAKEN UP. A Marvel Comics editor posted a selfie of herself and some coworkers enjoying milkshakes. For this innocuous act, she has been harassed on Twitter: “Female Marvel Comics editor harassed online for milkshake selfie”. (Warning: the harassment is extensively quoted in the article.)

Antos condemned the abuse the following day, writing that “the internet is an awful, horrible, and disgusting place.” She added, “Woke up today to a slew of more garbage tweets and DMs. For being a woman. In comics. Who posted a selfie of her friends getting milkshakes.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 31, 1971 — Astronauts David Scott and James Irwin became the first people to drive a vehicle on the Moon.
  • July 31, 1976 — NASA released the famous “Face on Mars” photo, taken by Viking 1.
  • July 31, 1999 — The ashes of astro-geologist Eugene Shoemaker were deposited on the Moon.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • July 31, 1965 – J.K. Rowling

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born July 31, 1980 – Harry Potter

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY KRYPTONIAN

  • Born July 31, 1966 – Dean Cain

(10) COMIC SECTION. Chip Hitchcock recommends today’s Rhymes With Orange.

(11) FILER ALERT. Greg Machlin extends an invite to all Filers in Helsinki for his very first Worldcon panel as a panelist —

Science Fiction & Fantasy in Musical Theatre

Thursday 16:00 – 17:00, 103 (Messukeskus)

Wicked, Into the Woods, Rocky Horror, Little Shop of Horrors – fantasy and science fiction have long been represented in the musical theatre. The panelists discuss their favorites and also perhaps some not-so successful SF musicals.

Emily January, Sari Polvinen (M), Ada Palmer, Greg Machlin, Sami Mustala howeird

Also on the panel: Ada Palmer (Too Like The Lightning).

Machlin adds: As someone who’s written and had produced a fair amount of sci-fi/fantasy theatre (Keith Haring: Pieces of a Life in L.A. in 2014; the one-act “Sushi” all over the place), this is my jam. I may, if the other panelists are patient, present a song from an actual sci-fi musical I wrote the book and lyrics for, The Great Swiss Cheese Conspiracy Theory.

(12) MARLOWE MAKES FINALS. Congratulations to Francis Hamit who is a finalist in the London 2017, New Renaissance Screenwriting Competition. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony, on August 20.

Christopher Marlowe

Feature Screenplay • Drama, Thriller, War, History, Biography

Francis Hamit 

COUNTRY  U S A

The poet, playwright and spy lives in two worlds at a time when politics was religion and vice-versa. He is a brilliant playwright and an effective spy but his intemperate ways and desire for power as well as fame combined with a free thinking pose of atheism eventually lead to his death at the hands of his fellow agents at the order of Queen Elizabeth herself. Timeline is from 1585-1593 and includes real events such as the Babington Plot, The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the sailing of the Spanish Armada. Characters based upon real personalities of the time, and extensive research.

(13) LET DARKNESS FALL. The Planetary Post, hosted by Robert Picardo, is devoted to the Total Solar Eclipse coming on August 21.

In this month’s episode, we explore all things eclipse, including a special visit to NASA JPL to see a spacecraft that can create artificial eclipses!

…The Total Solar Eclipse on August 21st is coming up! We’re getting ready with the U.S. National Parks Service and a new Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer activity book. Also, Starshade is new technology being studied by a team at JPL/NASA and Picardo has the inside scoop.

 

(14) ON BOARD. The Borg site is impressed with this tie-in edition of the classic game: “Monopoly–Planet of the Apes means a tie-in madhouse for Hasbro”.

For its next franchise tie-in, Hasbro has partnered with 20th Century Fox Consumer Products to release this summer’s strangest mash-up game: Monopoly: Planet of the Apes Retro Art EditionIt’s not just your typical Monopoly tie-in with a popular franchise.

For Monopoly: Planet of the Apes Retro Art Edition, Hasbro tapped artist Dan Perillo to give the game a design it might have had, had it been released when the movie premiered in 1968.  Perillo is known for his retro style.  One of his works was featured in last year’s Star Trek: 50 Years/50 Artists project (reviewed here at borg.com), and he’s produced some stunning work for Mondo.  Perillo’s work for the new Monopoly game should appeal to Planet of the Apes fans, but it’s also a dose of silly fun that will appeal to fans of all things retro.

The standard game is altered–slightly.  Instead of paying an Income Tax, in the new edition you get strung up on a spit by your hands and feet and led off.  Instead of the joy of landing on Boardwalk you get to discover the ruins of the Statue of Liberty.  And that’s Taylor’s marooned space capsule instead of the valuable Short Line railroad.  Perillo created six character tokens to choose from: Taylor, Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, Nova, or a gorilla general (it looks like you could play the gorilla as either General Ursus from Beneath of the Planet of the Apes, Chief of Security Urko from the TV series, or General Aldo from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes).  As with all Monopoly editions, the four corners of the gameboard never change.

(15) NEVERTHELESS, HBO PERSISTED. The Wrap, in “HBO Responds to #NoConfederate: Slavery Drama Will Be Handled ‘With Care and Sensitivity’”, says that the hashtag #NoConfederate was the #1 hashtag last weekend. Despite the protests HBO replied they are going to develop this series.

A campaign protesting the planned HBO series “Confederate” flooded social media Sunday night, with viewers tweeting #NoConfederate in massive numbers during “Game of Thrones,” propelling the hashtag to Twitter’s No. 1 trending spot in the U.S. and No. 2 worldwide.

“We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around ‘Confederate,’” HBO responded in a statement. “We have faith that [writers] Nichelle, Dan, David and Malcolm will approach the subject with care and sensitivity. The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see.”

“Confederate” tells an alternate version of history in where the South has seceded from the Union… and slavery has remained legal and continued into the modern era.

(16) WHITE HOUSE BEAT. Camestros Felapton has a scoop: “Breaking news: Talking cat named Whitehouse Communications Director”.

Followed by another scoop: “Breakin News: Timothy the Talking Cat Fired as Whitehouse Communications Director”.

Both stories are dated August 1. How is anybody supposed to compete with someone who gets tomorrow’s cat news today?

(17) THRONE QUESTIONS. Did Camestros and Melisandre graduate from the same J-school? …Vulture has burning questions after “The Queen’s Justice,” the latest episode of “Game of Thrones”:

  • Did Varys get a tan on Dragonstone?
  • Does Melisandre know how Varys will die?
  • Will it all come down to two women battling for the Iron Throne?
  • Will Theon ever redeem himself?
  • What fate awaits Yara?
  • Which city is a worse place to live: Gotham or King’s Landing?
  • Will Cersei really marry Euron? And is Euron actually the best thing to ever happen to Jaime?
  • How has Cersei not yet grown out that pixie cut?
  • Why is Littlefinger quoting True Detective to Sansa?
  • We know, Baelish, time is a flat circle. #hbocrossover
  • When will Jon find out about his parentage?
  • Will Jorah and Sam forge the alliance between Jon and Dany?
  • Was that seriously all we get to see of Casterly Rock?

(18) CULTURE WARRIORS. At Nerdist, “Darth Vader and Captain Picard Face Off for a Sci-Fi Debate”. Click through to see the debate between two toys.

When you have toys, all things are possible, including a dream crossover between Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation! In the new episode of Toy Shelf, we finally get to see what happens when Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise encounters the Dark Lord of the Sith: Darth Vader!

Keep in mind that these are toys that know they are toys. And Vader catches Picard as he goes for more of a cowboy diplomacy by swinging a lightsaber around. It’s pretty much the laser sword of Picard’s dreams, and if Vader was looking to tempt the Captain to the Dark Side of the Force, then he would have a pretty good head start.

(19) RARITY. Ashley Hoffman of TIME, in “A Super Rare Copy of Super Mario Bros. Just Sold for $30,000 on eBay”, says that a copy of “Super Mario Bros. that has been sealed since its release in 1985 and never opened just sold for $30,100 on eBay

To outsiders, that may seem like a high cost to become the proud owner of a game, but they might not appreciate the most exciting feature, which distinguishes this Nintendo Entertainment System game from all those unwrapped $10 versions: a hangtag on the back that indicates the copy originates from back when video games hung on pegs in stores.

“They said the reason that game went for so much was because Mario was always sold in the system,” CEO Drew Steimel told Mashable quoting the experts of Reddit. “You bought it with the system, it came in the box. This particular copy was from before that happened, before Nintendo decided to bundle them. They only did it for a short time.”

You read that right. No box for this game, hence its final price.

(20) BOTTLED LIGHTNING. I would have answered yes if the question had been, “Should I use this to launch a torpedo?”

(21) HARD SCIENCE FICTION. The 1910 Thomas Edison production A Trip To Mars begins with “The Discovery of Reverse Gravity.”

[Thanks to rcade, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Greg Machlin, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #11

By Chris M. Barkley

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017, **) with  Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu and Rutger Hauer. Based on Valérian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières, Written and Directed by Luc Bresson.

BECHDEL TEST RESULTS: Fail. Bigly.

Every now and then, I have the bad habit of get so hyped up to see a sf film that when I survey the results afterward, I feel so disappointed.

And angry.

Why yes, I did go and pay to see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Is it that obvious?

And it’s going to be an EXPENSIVE train wreck ladies and gents; independently produced with a projected budget between $180 – $200 million dollars and a breakeven point of nearly $400 million, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has just grossed an estimated $17 million in it’s opening weekend in North America and a here it is a week later with a worldwide gross of $34,596,147. (Source: http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Valerian-and-the-City-of-a-Thousand-Planets-(France)#tab=summary  Sunday, 30 July 2017)

This is a shame because the well-known writer-director- co-producer of this effort, French auteur Luc Besson, had excellent property to adapt, the well-known and beloved French comic book series Valérian and Laureline created by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières.

The plot of the movie follows Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline, two of the top agents of an intergalactic police force, are assigned to retrieve the last known specimen of an alien species being held hostage by ruthless criminal elements hiding out in inter-dimensional shopping mall. Little do they know that the rescue of the adorable and cuddly little creature is merely the tip of a conspiracy that spans the galaxy…

So, if I were a producer or a potential investor for this film and Luc Besson’s script, audition shots and production design plans landed on my desk, I’d be tempted to write the following notes to the director:

Note One: Casting — The two leads, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, don’t look like hard-core soldiers and covert operatives, they look like they just graduated from high school! He seems to be mouthing his lines like a weak imitation of Keanu Reeves and she seems to be nothing more than a warmed over version of Hermione Granger. You know, what would be MORE interesting? If Ethan Hawke and Rihanna (who you have cast in two lesser, glorified cameos), were cast as the leads; he for his solid acting chops and her for her persona, which radiates nothing less than sheer star power. Which is what this movie is going to need. IN ABUNDANCE!

Note Two: The Workplace “Romance” — Yeah, I know Valerian and Laureline are romantically linked in the comics but we live in the 21st century, Luc. As you MUST KNOW Luc, the first rule in adapting a work for the screen is not being so reverent and a slave to the text.  When you do that, it boxes in your ability to be more malleable with the material, which is something you want to have during the production phase. When Valerian professes his desire to get into Laureline’s pants right at the top of the movie, her protestations, no matter how well she acts or dishes it back to Valerian, it automatically makes THAT the ultimate goal of the screenplay, NOT what she truly believes or desires. And you can imagine, Luc, how modern women are going to feel about that when you put THAT up on the screen? Plus, personally speaking, if Valerian had pulled that crap on me while we were on the job, I’d report him, have his ass demoted for sexual harassment and marched right down to the stockade for remedial training in how to behave while on duty. I think it should mainly involve making bigger rocks into smaller rocks in a very unpleasant climate.

Note Three: Sexism — And although Laureline is seen as smart, gutsy, competent and strong, she’s practically the ONLY woman in the script with a major speaking role. WHERE THE HELL are the other women????? It’s supposed to be set in the 28th century.Duh!

Note Four: Valerian and Laureline’s rescue of the creature in the first act looks great. But after that, the subsequent acts are less appealing; it seems as though it was written by a 13-year-old boy who frantically wrote his homework Sunday night to be handed in the very next day. And while the climax looks like loud, noisy fun (because you can NEVER go wrong having Clive Owen being beaten to a pulp) almost everything that preceded it makes it look rushed, shallow and dumb. It’s only saving grace are the visual effects, which are truly spectacular.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is crashing and burning at the box office and it seems as though it will not make back its initial investment, even with some modest oversea grosses and potential dvd sales. And you can forget about establishing a tent pole series because NO ONE will want to invest their time, money and prestige on backing a franchise that lost a bundle coming out of the gate.

My advice to you, the reader, is to skip this one altogether or watch it home as eye candy for your weary brain late one evening when you have nothing better to watch.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #10

By Chris M. Barkley and Vince Docherty

Some VERY Modest Proposals for The Hugo Awards

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.” — Sydney J. Harris

Chris Barkley: Change is hard. It’s hard for those who perceive it as a threat to a well-established order of normalcy and for those who seek to improve on an existing situation.

Two years ago, Vincent Docherty, a former Hugo Awards administrator and a former Worldcon Chair, approached me with a new proposal, which was then followed by several more ideas, that I found that I agreed would strengthen the Hugo Awards for the foreseeable future.

I know that by presenting these ideas, I know I will be involving myself with a very tough and potentially divisive argument with the more conservative elements of the literary branch of sf fandom. While I am delighted to be asked by my co-author, Vincent Docherty, to undertake this endeavor, I also recognize that these proposed changes will be viewed with unadulterated glee by some and absolute revulsion by others. And the prevalence of multiple outlets of social media will have its advocates and detractors at war with each other within hours of the publication of this article.

Some will say that I am doing this just to be a disruptor and a gadfly. I can only say that everything that I have done regarding the Hugo Awards I have done to ensure that they remain fair, equitable, engaging, exciting and most importantly, relevant.

The changes the Hugo Award categories have undergone since 2003 have led to higher numbers of fans participating in the voting process and an ever-growing acceptance and recognition from the public at large. But, as well off as the Hugo awards are now, there’s always room for improvement. Which brings us to our proposals.

Vincent Docherty: The Hugo Awards have grown considerably in visibility and in participation over the last decade. In my view that’s been mostly positive, although there have been big bumps in the road.

We have tried to adapt the Hugo categories and rules to the changes occurring to the genre, particularly the shift to online works and participation.”

However, a number of issues have arisen, in my view:

Where the categories don’t fully reflect the breadth of work begin done, either because there is so much more work (eg. fiction, very short BDP), or changes have occurred such that categories become confused (arc-story, rather than episodic television series).

And where the category definitions are no longer fit-for-purpose, or are difficult for nominators and administrators to use, is resulting in works appearing on the ballot in categories which cause significant disagreement (eg. Related Work and the Fan and Semi-Pro categories).”

Given the number of changes to the rules currently being enacted and the general resistance to adding new categories, I expect that these proposals will need time to be considered and worked.

However, we believe the time is right to raise them now. I think there is both sufficient need and specific enough possible solutions to propose changes to the Novel, Related Work and BDP categories.

Proposal One: A Reorganization of the Best Novel Category

The Current Amendment

3.3.1: Best Novel. A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more

Replace with:

3.3.1: Best Science Fiction Novel. A science fiction story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.

And

3.3.2: Best Fantasy Novel. A fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.

VINCE DOCHERTY: The Best Novel is by far the category with the highest participation by nominators and voters every year, at a time of great strength in genre publishing. By splitting the category in a simple way, the Worldcon community can recognise more works.

The most useful comparison of what we are trying to accomplish is the Locus Awards, which divide the Novel nominees into the following categories:

  • Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
  • Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
  • Locus Award for Best Horror Novel
  • Locus Award for Best First Novel
  • Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book

Analysis:

  • Under the current WSFS rules, the John W. Campbell Award For Best New Writer is probably sufficient to cover first time writers, and/or risks duplicating works.
  • There is also an emerging YA award, which could potentially become a Hugo category in the future. (Or not, depending on what happens at the Helsinki Business Meeting.)
  • The nominators and voters of the Hugo Awards have predominantly nominated sf and fantasy works rather than horror. (We therefore offer the conjecture that if nominators want to nominate a work of horror, it can be done as a work of  fantasy.)
  • Definition of the boundaries between fantastic genres are notoriously difficult, nevertheless, almost all genre novels are published with a clear category (perhaps not surprising as the genres are largely publishing-derived).

Rule 3.2.6 refers to the fiction categories by name and will need minor adjustment.

(Suggestion: Borrow simplifying text from 3.2.5 ‘story categories’.)

Rule 3.2.8 relating to fiction category boundaries remains unchanged.

Chris Barkley: Both Vince and I believe this move is probably long past overdue. Other awards, most notably the Locus, Sunburst (since 2008), Seiun and the newly-formed Dragon Awards have no problem at all with nominating or administering multiple novel award categories.

We also feel that on the whole, Hugo Award nominators have proven to be very adaptable to adjusting to new categories and rule changes over the past decade to produce (Rabid and Sad Puppy interferences aside) some very strong ballot nominees.

Here are some examples of how this category change might look like by using the existing long lists of nominees from 2010 through 2016 (with the deliberate redaction of the recent nominees advocated by the Sad/Rabid Puppy movement).

2010 

SF

  • The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • The City & The City, by China Mieville
  • WWW: Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
  • Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, by Robert Charles Wilson

Fantasy

  • Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett
  • Finch, by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Lifelode, by Jo Walton
  • The Price of Spring, by Daniel Abraham

2011

SF

  • Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
  • The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
  • Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Fantasy

  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
  • Feed by Mira Grant
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Kraken by China Mieville
  • Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

2012

SF

  • Embassytown by China Mieville
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  • The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
  • Rule 34 by Charles Stross
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

Fantasy

  • Among Others by Jo Walton
  • A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
  • Deadline by Mira Grant
  • The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemison
  • Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine

2013

SF

  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
  • 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
  • Existence by David Brin

Fantasy

  • Blackout by Mira Grant
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
  • Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia
  • The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
  • Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

2014

SF

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  • London Falling by Paul Cornell
  • Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey

Fantasy

  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
  • Parasite by Mira Grant
  • A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
  • The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker
  • The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

2015

SF

  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  • The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
  • Lock In by John Scalzi
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • My Real Children by Jo Walton

Fantasy

  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
  • City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
  • Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone (speculative choice to replace Skin Game by Jim Butcher)

2016

SF

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • Aurora Kim by Stanley Robinson
  • Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
  • The Just City by Jo Walton
  • The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Fantasy

  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Proposal Two: A Reorganization of the Best Related Category

The Current Amendment

3.3.5: Best Related Work. Any work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text, and which is not eligible in any other category.

Replace with

3.3.5: Best Non-Fiction Book. Any book or work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is clearly non-fiction or has a basis in fact with the intent to be educational and/or informational in nature and which is not eligible in any other category.

And

3.3.6: Best Art Book. Any art book or related volumes of works in the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year.

VINCE DOCHERTY: This category has changed significantly over the years.  Created in 1980 as ‘Best Non-Fiction Book’ it was changed to ‘Best Related Book’ in 1999 and became the current ‘Best Related Work’ in 2010.

A review of the finalists in the category up to 2010 shows that almost all of them were either non-fiction books (including biographical and academic books) or art books of various types.

The well-intended change in 2011 from Book to Work (which I supported!) was a response to the rapid rise of e-books, web-sites and blogs, alongside test categories such as best website.

However this change, changes to other categories and clarifications to the rules to make clear that it is the content, not the container that is important in an e-world, caused uncertainty for nominators, and the complex eligibility interactions for administrators resulted in works such as podcasts, music recordings and blogs appearing on the ballot, alongside a much reduced number of non-fiction work and almost no art-related works. In many cases these new types of work could have been placed in a different category such as BDP or Fancast or Fan writer, and in several cases in fact they appeared in both.

Data supporting a new approach:

  • A review of the top 15 works nominated each year shows that significant numbers of non-fiction and art books are still being judged Hugo-worthy by many nominators.
  • Looking again at the Locus Award, (and the Locus annual recommendations list), one can see two strong and stable categories; Best Non-fiction Book and Best Art Book.
  • The definition of content in the Hugo rules now explicitly makes clear that electronic forms of text are equivalent to print. The word ‘book’ can therefore be used to describe a unit of published work in either electronic or printed form.

We also believe there is a need to better promote art in the Hugo Awards, reflecting the significance art has to the genre.

Chris Barkley: Speaking personally, I think it would be nice to see more artistic works being honored with Hugo Awards.

Proposal Three; A Reorganization of the Best Dramatic Presentation Category

The Current Amendments

:3.3.7: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.

And

3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of 90 minutes or less, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.

We suggest the creation of four BDP categories:

3.3.7: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. (Intent: Mainly for theatrical films, theater presentations and audio books, etc.)

3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Episodic Form.

Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of between 30 and 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. No more than two episodes of any one series may be finalists in this category. (Intent: Stand alone television episodes or other media.)

3.3.9: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Any production, with a complete running time of less than 30 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. No more than two episodes of any one show may be finalists in this category. (Intent: Mainly current internet/youtube type works, or cartoon/serials, typically less than 30 minutes.)

3.3.10: Best Dramatic Presentation, Series.

Any episodic series or other dramatic production, with more than four episodes of sixty minutes or more, or a running time of 240 minutes or more in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.

(Intent: Streaming series, mini-series or episodic television shows are eligible, the key point being that the intent of the amendment is to honor programs comprising a single story-arc presented over a number of episodes, rather than separate episodes in an anthology series, which would be eligible in BDP-Episodic.)

Current Rule 3.2.10 relating to BDP category boundaries remains unchanged. Also, Current Rule 3.2.9: No work shall appear in more than one category on the final Award ballot.

VINCE DOCHERTY: After fifteen years, we both thought that is was time to overhaul and reorganize the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo category.

The basic principles the Hugos use for works are measurability (word count, minutes) and discrete units of content, rather than the container. In practice the story-arc has been used as the main determinant of ‘discrete/single work’ by both voters and administrators, with length then used to determine which category to use. Hence story-arc based (mini)series and pairs/trios of episodes have appeared on the ballot in both short and long form. Stand-alone episodes and movies have always been treated as single works, and the case where movies are part of a series seems not to be an issue, in a similar way to novels in a series – they generally are separated by years and are marketed as discrete works.

We have seen a huge increase in the number of genre series in recent years especially with services such as Hulu, Netflix and HBO. A quick analysis gives a count of 80 such series in English in the last year or so (see below). This presents us with an opportunity to honor a series through the nomination process.

Here is a long list of recent and/or current television and streaming (mini-)series:

  1. 11.22.63
  2. 12 Monkeys
  3. 3%
  4. A Series of Unfortunate Events
  5. American Horror Story
  6. Ascension
  7. Black Mirror
  8. Black Sails
  9. Class
  10. Colony
  11. Containment
  12. Continuum
  13. Crazyhead
  14. Dark Matter
  15. DC: Arrow
  16. DC: Gotham
  17. DC: Legends of Tomorrow
  18. DC: Supergirl
  19. DC: The Flash
  20. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
  21. Doctor Who
  22. Emerald City
  23. Frequency
  24. From Dusk Till Dawn
  25. Game of Thrones
  26. Glitch
  27. Grimm
  28. Helix
  29. Heroes Reborn
  30. Hunters
  31. Humans
  32. iBoy
  33. iZombie
  34. Killjoys
  35. Limitless
  36. Lucifer
  37. Marvel: Agent Carter
  38. Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  39. Marvel: Jessica Jones
  40. Marvel: Legion
  41. Marvel: Luke Cage
  42. Marvel: Daredevil
  43. Mr. Robot
  44. Once Upon a Time
  45. Orphan Black
  46. Outcast
  47. Outlander
  48. Penny Dreadful
  49. Powers
  50. Preacher
  51. Second Chance
  52. Sense8
  53. Shadowhunters
  54. Sleepy Hollow
  55. SS-GB
  56. Star Wars Rebels
  57. Stranger Things
  58. Supernatural
  59. Teen Wolf
  60. The 100
  61. The Aliens
  62. The Expanse
  63. The Leftovers
  64. The Magicians
  65. The Man in the High Castle
  66. The OA
  67. The Returned
  68. The Shannara Chronicles
  69. The Strain
  70. The Vampire Diaries
  71. The Walking Dead
  72. The X-Files
  73. Thunderbirds Are Go
  74. Travelers
  75. Twin Peaks
  76. Under the Dome
  77. Van Helsing
  78. Westworld
  79. Z Nation
  80. Taboo

VINCE DOCHERTY: The logic of series here is possibly different from yours, in that I distinguish a series which is a single story arc from one that is essentially a collection or anthology of separate episodes.

Chris Barkley: Indeed it does; as an American, I am more used to thinking that a nominee in this category should not be just a single story arc within a series, but to judge and nominate the series episodes as a whole entity. In fact, the BDP Hugo were awarded to an entire seasons of The Twilight Zone on three occasions in the early 1960’s.

VINCE DOCHERTY: It seems to me that this is the key request being asked by lots of voters – how to be able to nominate a single episode which is clearly outstanding, from a series which overall is outstanding but where it’s hard to single-out one episode.

Chris Barkley: Which I totally agree with. But, inversely, we don’t want Hugo voters using the BDP Series to nominate entire seasons of shows like Black Mirror, which is an anthology series of unconnected, one-off episodes.

VINCE DOCHERTY: There are problems with any categorization of course. The choice of lengths, which is already an issue (unless we choose to soften them to a guideline) remains. Also where a series comprises a series of arcs – Doctor Who, for instance, has had cases of pair/trios of episodes nominated as single works. I imagine that could be dealt with by categorizing them as longer single works, but not the whole. Another possible issue is dealing with nominations of episodes from a series which is also nominated as a whole (this occurs now as well).

Chris Barkley:  I imagine that Rule 3.2.9. might be applied by the Hugo Administrators or that the works may be removed or disqualified altogether, solely at their discretion as per the WSFS Constitution, if several arcs from the same show were nominated. But who knows? A better solution may come through the debate process and further arbitration of the amendments.

Both Vince and I thank you for your time and attention.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #9

Photographed at the Wild Light exhibit. Images used by permission.

By Chris M. Barkley:

Rick Lieder: The Modern Master of Mother Nature (and Coincidently, Horror)

Just on the outskirts of Toledo, Ohio, off a semi-rural stretch of US 20, renowned artist Rick Lieder is the star of an exhibit of exquisite photographs at the National Center of Nature Photography at the Secor Metro Park. The exhibit, called Wild Light, will run through August 19.

Rick Lieder and Helen Frost at Wild Light exhibit.

Lieder produced several dozen framed photographs of birds, insects and other wildlife for display, in addition to nearly more 300 other images and videos projected throughout the center. He has been a working artist for quite some time. “I started working with mainstream newspapers and magazines in 1981,” he said. “I think my first book cover was for Berkley Books, a paperback edition of The Roswell Incident in 1987.” His fine art, photography and digital work has been featured in galleries in the Midwest and Canada.

Among the most well-known book covers he has produced are the award-winning YA novels Princess Academy (Shannon Hale), A Single Shard (Linda Sue Park), an X-Files novel, Ground Zero (Kevin J. Anderson), the reissued edition of Under Venus (Peter Straub)  and a number of vivid and compelling works for his wife Kathe Koja’s books, Kissing the Bees,  Skin, Going Under, Buddha Boy, The Blue Mirror and The Bastard’s Paradise.

As accomplished as these works are, he felt the need to stretch himself further as an artist. “I’ve always done some wildlife/nature photography since I picked up a camera, but most of the work I’m known for started about 2002.”

These interests led to a series of wildlife books, with prose and poetry written by Helen Frost, an eminent young adult author whose best known for the young-adult novel Keesha’s House, which was a Michael L. Printz Award honor book in 2004.

Rick Lieder and Helen Frost (Photo by Ryan Walsh, courtesy of Kid’s Ink Children’s Bookstore, 5 May 2017)

Lieder and Frost met by happenstance. “Helen was signing books here in Michigan at an event with Kathe Koja and Sarah Miller in 2007.” Both found they had a mutual admiration for nature and wildlife and their discussion soon turned towards collaborating on a project “It’s was a collaborative process right from the start,” said Frost.

“Rick and I are both deeply interested in the natural world—I keep my eyes open and try to find just the right words to share what I see, and Rick does the same with his camera. Sarah Ketchersid, our wonderful editor, is also a big part of the collaboration, and as a book progresses we work with a book designer and others at Candlewick to see it to fruition.”

”We put together our first book dummy soon after and started the long process of submitting it to publishers,” Lieder said. “Helen and I sold our first book together in 2010, which was published by Candlewick in 2012, Step Gently Out”.

That book was then followed by Sweep Up The Sun (2015), Among A Thousand Fireflies (2016) and their current book, Wake Up!, which was published in March.

When asked about how they work together, Frost said, “We talk together fairly frequently and, in addition to nailing down details of each current project, we often toss out ideas for new books. At first they might be vague: ‘Let’s do something with insects.’ Or ‘Everyone loves fireflies.’ Then as our work progresses, it becomes more focused—we might be looking at images of birds and realize that the smaller birds should go together in one book, and it could be mostly about birds in flight. As I write a poem, we start to match images to words. Sometimes Rick keeps working to get a better image to go with a line of a poem, and sometimes I revise my poem so that it will more naturally be paired with a particular image.”

For the most part, Lieder has found the subjects of his work relatively close to home. “The majority of my work is done in my backyard, but also in a few locations in Southeastern Michigan.”

His work was considered so detailed and remarkable that some of his photographic footage was featured in the PBS NOVA documentary \ Creatures of Light in 2016.

The event at the National Center of Nature Photography has been in the works for some time. “I showed my work to the Center’s director several years ago, and we began planning the exhibit. Summer is their busiest season, so the timing is nice.”

When asked whether or not he was still doing any genre related work, Lieder said, “I’m always doing new work, mostly paintings, some of which are SFF related. Many are fine art, so you won’t see them among my SFF images. I’m doing more work with my wife, Kathe Koja, and some of those are within the genre. I designed the dustjacket of her latest novel, Christopher Wild, which was published this month. I’m also working on some future book ideas, very much in the fantastic field.

“My wildlife work started as a fun sideline, and I’ve been surprised by its success. Working as an illustrator on someone else’s project can be frustrating, both financially and artistically. Regardless of genre, I always prefer to work on my own ideas. Being able to create my own books is wonderful, and has taken up much of my time. I’ve learned a lot collaborating with Helen Frost. I’m also hoping to combine my wildlife work with more fantastic story ideas.”

And of course, there is always the next book project, which is already under way. “Our next book will tell the story of a Sandhill crane family, and is scheduled for 2019,” Lieder said. “We’re just starting to design the book, and this spring I’ve been busy following newborn cranes.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

Photographed at the Wild Light exhibit. Images used by permission.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #8

By Chris M. Barkley:

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part Three

Best Series (Special Category)

The Expanse by James S.A. Corey featuring Leviathan Wakes (2011), Caliban’s War (2012), Abbadon’s Gate (2012), Cibola Burn (2014), Nemesis Games (2015), Babylon’s Ashes (2016).

Seriously, is there any series in recent sf literature that can match The Expanse? It is probably the most well-written, exciting, riveting and audacious series of novels the community has ever seen or likely to any time in the near future.

Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (who write the series as James S.A. Corey) have created a universe filled with intrigue, war, horror and a ton of surprising plot twists and revelations that have landed each subsequent volume on the New York Times Best Sellers list and in critics and fans hearts as well.

With each novel, the evolving conflict between a United Nations ruled Earth and Moon, the militaristic Mars, the asteroid dwelling Belters and the Outer Worlds grows in intensity and wonder as the ever-growing cast of characters are drawn together and cast apart with alarming frequency.

This isn’t the fairly clean and antiseptic future depicted here; it’s hard scrabble, dirty, dangerous and as fatal as anything George R.R. Martin has written in the guise of a hard science epic. The television adaptation of the novels on the SyFy network (which also happens to be the best sf show currently on television) is easily comparable to Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Doctor Who.

Needless to say, The Expanse will be my only entry in this category.

 

Best Novel

Version Control by Dexter Palmer, Pantheon Books, 495 pages.

On the surface, Dexter Palmer’s second novel, Version Control, seems at first to be an attempt at those pretentious literary novels pretending not to be a pretentious sf novel. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Philip is a physicist in a small fictional New Jersey town. He has just invented a “causality violation device” , which he prefers you NOT to call a “time machine”. Rebecca, his wife, works as a customer service rep at a digital dating service called Lovability, a hyperbolic version of Match.com.

As Philip’s experiments progress, Rebecca begins to notice that objects and people around her are not quite right. In her mind’s eye, events are ever shifting and changing causing her to believe that everything is on the verge of spinning out of control. And then she starts receiving messages from a Lovability customer that seem to confirm their reality is unraveling and they are the only two who are aware of it happening. And then, things take a truly terrifying turn for the worst.

Palmer’s layered plot takes a while to get started but once it does, it becomes a captivating and terrifying tale of science gone awry. And it’s easily the best novel about time travel in the past decade.

Best Novel

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, Crown, 352 pages.

Over the past fifteen years, Blake Crouch has built himself a growing reputation as a crackerjack writer of crime thrillers (Good Behavior, Abandon and Run) and sf-tinged novels (the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted for television and ran for two seasons during the summer on Fox).

His bestselling breakthrough novel is Dark Matter, which features another scientist in peril. Jason Dessen is a failed scientist who had a theory about multiple universes. Unfortunately for him, he has been abducted and taken into an alternate universe where his family does not exist. Desperate to Return to his true home, Dessen finds himself being chased from one reality to the next by forces who will do anything and literally go anywhen to ensure he does not talk.

Although the pace is lightning fast and the plot holes pop up like potholes in the springtime, Crouch’s story just hooks you and demands you keep reading to the end.

 

 

Best Novel

All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor Books, 313 pages.

All The Birds in the Sky is a strange and wondrous amalgam of a novel that touches on and combines the worlds and manners of fantasy and science fiction in the same novel. Usually, an author chooses either one form or another. Combining both is an audacious and dangerous act of literary larceny, which Charlie Jane Anders pulls off brilliantly.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were very close friends in their childhood years. Then Patricia grew up to be a witch and Laurence grew up to be a mad scientist. Their world is coming apart at the seams and each is convinced that either science, or magic, will be Earth’s salvation.

Their story is unlikely, enthralling, scary, sexy and terrifying. A novel like this may come around only once in a generation or so and we are damned lucky to be reading it and considering it for a Hugo Award.

Best Novel

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager, 441 pages.

Every now and then, a reader (like myself) will come across a novel that is SO DELIGHTFUL and fun to read, that you never want it to end. Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is such a novel and fans and critics have been clamoring for more since its publication.

Just consider the opening paragraph:

As she awoke in her pod, she remembered three things. First, she was traveling through open space. Second, she was about to start a new job, one she could not screw up. Third, she bribed a government official into giving her a new identity file. None of this information was new, but it wasn’t pleasant to wake up to.

The “she” in question is Rosemary Harper, the newest member of the Wayfarer, an interstellar ship that opens up hyperdrive tunnels to new worlds. Along the way, we meet and get to know Rosemary’s shipmates, Ashby, the captain, Lovey the ship’s AI, Doctor Chef (who provides both functions!) and Sissix, the pilot and Jenks and Kizzy, the onboard techs.

As the year-long voyage progresses, they all engage in various adventures and get into trouble. It’s all very picturesque and a bit cozy, reminiscent of the sort of stories Murray Leinster, James H. Schmitz and Clifford D. Simak used to write for Astounding and Analog for John W. Campbell, Jr., but with a more modern sensibility.

And the best news is that her second novel in this series, A Closed and Common Orbit, was just published in paperback. So get out to your local bookstore and enjoy!

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #7

By Chris M. Barkley:

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part Two

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Arrival (Paramount Pictures/Sony Pictures, 116 minutes) Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on the novella “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, Produced by Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde.

Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tzi Ma.

I have no doubt that some of the nominees on the BDP Long Form ballot that will probably be slam dunks:  Star Wars: Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond  and (fingers crossed) Stranger Things. I will not be nominating any of the aforementioned films because I know they have their fans and they’ll get plenty of support.

However, I will be nominating one movie I want to be on the final ballot, one that towers above all the rest: Arrival.

Arrival has the top spot on my ballot this year and in my heart as well. Based on the Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella by Ted Chiang, it is expertly brought to life on the screen by screenwriter Eric Heisserer, director Denis Villeneuve and actors Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. It was honored by the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards with multiple nominations (and winning an Oscar for Sound Editing), it also serves as a brilliant textbook example of a successful adaptation from page to cinema.

The story of linguist Louise Banks (Adams) and her encounters with the mysterious aliens whose motives she’s trying to understand is not only intriguing, it’s also moving and full of love and empathy as well. As good as the other nominees in this category are, none of them can even approach Arrival, which will be considered a classic film in EVERY sense of the word in coming decades.

Extra: Here a link to an Entertainment Weekly feature on how Denis Villeneuve and Eric Heisserer worked on the screenplay.

Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form

The Expanse – Season One (Penguin in a Parka, Approx 440 minutes, ten episodes), based on The Expanse novels by James S. A. Corey.  Written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby, Robin Veith, Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck, Jason Ning, Naren Shankar and Dan Nowak. Produced by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Lynn Raynor, Ben Cook and Dan Novak.

Starring Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Paulo Costanzo, Florence Faivre, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Frankie Adams

The Expanse is based on series of novels by James S. A. Corey, the pseudonym of two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who also produce the show as well.

Spanning for a crowded Earth and Moon, Mars, the asteroid belt and beyond, this sprawling and exciting space opera is the best sf show produced for television since the heydays of Firefly and Babylon 5. Two hundred years in the future, several fractions of humanity are struggling for control and political power in the solar system. Little do any of them know that a much larger game is being played and that humanity’s survival is hanging in the balance.

The Expanse (and other excellent shows of this length, like HBO’s Westworld) are practically advertising for a change in the WSFS rules to establish a Best Dramatic Series award. Just Sayin’, folks…

NPR’s Cosmos and Culture called The Expanse the “Best Science Fiction Show in a Decade”.

Best Related Work

William Schafer, Publisher – Subterranean Press, Burton, Michigan 48519

One of the things that I have been meaning to do over the past few years is to nominate William Schafer for a Hugo Award.

I should have done it while Subterranean Press Magazine was still being published on a regular basis. (It published its final issue in the summer of 2014). Since he cannot be nominated as an editor, I will do so in the Best Related Work category.

William Schafer does not merely reprint classics and contemporary books, he masterfully commissions and creates magnificent works of art which immediately become THE treasured collector’s item of anyone’s book collection.

I should know since I own several of his books, including the ultimate edition of Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories, The Jack Vance Treasury edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan and Project Moonbase and Others, a collection of Robert Heinlein’s teleplays based on his own works.

Here is a list of the books published by Subterranean Press in 2016, which can be viewed on the SubPress website: http://subterraneanpress.com/

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  • Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds by Alastair Reynolds
  • Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
  • DJSTURBIA by David J Schow
  • Down and Out in Purgatory by Tim Powers
  • Downfall of the Gods by K. J. Parker
  • Early Days: More Tales from the Pulp Era by Robert Silverberg
  • Eternity’s Wheel by by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves
  • Freedom of the Mask by Robert McCammon
  • Half a War by Joe Abercrombie
  • Hell’s Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale
  • Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  • Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers
  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
  • The Authentic William James by Stephen Gallagher
  • The Case of the Bleeding Wall by Joe R. Lansdale and Kasey Lansdale
  • The Days of Tao by Wesley Chu
  • The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred by Greg Egan
  • The Further Adventures of Langdon St. Ives by James P Blaylock
  • The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne
  • The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons
  • This Census-Taker by China Mieville
  • This Year’s Class Picture by Dan Simmons
  • White Night by Jim Butcher

Convincing, yes?

Best Related Work

The Fifty Year Mission: The First Twenty Five Years (June 2016) and The Next Twenty Five Years (August 2016) by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, Thomas Dunn Books and St. Martin’s Press.

Many histories have been written about Star Trek, one of the most phenomenal, influential and culturally significant television shows of the 20th century. What makes Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’ oral history of Star Trek so significant is that for the first time, nearly ALL of the participants get to tell the inside story of how the series and movies were made from their point of view.

It is breathtaking to read directly from the creators, producers, actors, writers, artists and fans on what happened and how it happened. And none of the participants, deceased or otherwise, spare any detail on the triumphs, mistakes, tragedies and screw ups that made Star Trek what it is today.

It would be a marvelous to reward Mr. Altman and Gross with a Hugo nomination for collecting these anecdotes, memories and interviews over the past thirty years to bring us the inside dope on one of our favorite indulgences…

Excerpts:

Leonard Nimoy (actor, “Mr. Spock”) I went in to see Gene at Desilu Studios and he told me that he was preparing a pilot for a science fiction series to be called “Star Trek,” that he had in mind for me to play an alien character. I figured all I had to do was keep my mouth shut and I might end up with a good job here. Gene told me that he was determined to have at least one extraterrestrial prominent on his starship. He’d like to have more, but making human actors into other life-forms was too expensive for television in those days. Pointed ears, skin color, plus some changes in eyebrows and hair style were all he felt he could afford, but he was certain that his Mr. Spock idea, properly handled and properly acted, could establish that we were in the 23rd century and that interplanetary travel was an established fact.

William Shatner Captain Kirk and I melded. It may have been only out of the technical necessity; the thrust of doing a television show every week is such that you can’t hide behind too many disguises. You’re so tired that you can’t stop to try other interpretations of a line, you can only hope that this take is good, because you’ve got five more pages to shoot. You have to rely on the hope that what you’re doing as yourself will be acceptable. Captain Kirk is me. I don’t know about the other way around.

David Gerrold (writer, “The Trouble With Tribbles”) The problems with Shatner and Nimoy really began during the first season when Saturday Review did this article about “Trek” which stated that Spock was much more interesting than Kirk, and that Spock should be captain. Well, nobody was near Shatner for days. He was furious. All of a sudden, the writers are writing all this great stuff for Spock, and Spock, who’s supposed to be a subordinate character, suddenly starts becoming the equal of Kirk.

PHILIP KAUFMAN (Writer-Director: Planet of the Titans) I still remember the night when it was getting very close. I was then writing and I stayed up all night, but I knew I had a great story. I remember how shaky I was trying to stand up from my writing table and I called Rose, my wife, and I said “I’ve got it, I really know this story,” and right then the phone rang. It was Jerry Isenberg saying the project’s been cancelled. And I said, “What do you mean?” and he said, “They said there’s no future in science fiction,” which is the greatest line: there is no future in science fiction.

Excerpted from The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years © Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, 2016

Best Novella

Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling, November 2016, Tachyon Press.

I am ashamed to admit that even though I work in a bookstore, my knowledge of the yearly offerings of short fiction is woefully inadequate. Annually, I depend on recommendation sites, word of mouth and the actual nomination lists to catch up.

BUT, this year, I have at least one recommendation: Bruce Sterling’s darkly comic novella, Pirate Utopia.

Set in a small Italian town of Fiume off the Adriatic coast after the First World War, a disparate group of artists, veterans, scientists, criminals and various political fanatics have come together to form the Free State of Carnaro which has dedicated itself to explore and exploit every form of libertine and social excess in every shape and form.

Based on a true story of a similar city that actually existed between 1920 and 1924, Sterling takes a small piece of obscure history and turned it into a brilliantly funny and by turns, grotesque piece of alternative-diesel punk history.

Among the cast of characters who are part of the action are Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor of radio), Benito Mussolini (as a newspaper editor!), Harry Houdini and H.P. Lovecraft (as American spies?), and Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels (as innocent bystanders?).  The crazy quilt of a plot is just barely on the sane side of satire and is always twisting and turning in unexpected directions. Bruce Sterling deserves a lot of credit for turning many of the tropes of the genre of its head to make the story work.

Finally, a word about the artwork; all of the marvelous and madcap illustrations in Pirate Utopia are the work of John Coulthart, who also wrote an entertaining essay about how his work in the book  was influenced by Futurist artists of the period.

There a LOT packed into this little volume and it is quite a triumph for Bruce Sterling and Tachyon Press.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #6

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part One

By Chris M. Barkley:

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

Blackstar by David Bowie,  ISO Records – Columbia, Music and Lyrics by David Bowie with Maria Schneider, Paul Bateman and Bob Bharma on “Sue (Or A Season of Crime)”.

Album Personnel

David Bowie – vocals, acoustic guitar, mixing, production, string arrangements, “Fender Guitar” (3), harmonica (7)

Length: 41 minutes 17 seconds.

It has been a year and a month since the passing of David Bowie. His final gift to us, Blackstar, is a testament to his musical sensibilities and genius.

In the fall of 2014, Bowie and his longtime producer Tony Visconti secretly gathered together a group of New York City jazz musicians and began to record this album. Although he knew his days were numbered, Bowie desperately wanted to add one last note to his majestic musical legacy.

Blackstar is not a conventional rock album by anyone’s standards. If anything, his use of the jazz ensemble more resembles a throwback to the jazz-fusion era of the 1970’s and ’80.

Besides showing Bowie was well aware of his fatal cancer diagnosis, he was also keen to show everyone that he would not let death get in the way of his artistic and creative endeavors.

Blackstar’s Hugo worthiness, in my opinion, rests on the title track, “Lazarus” and the accompanying ten-minute music video of “Lazarus.” Reading between the lines of his lyrics, Bowie’s symbolism and longing for something beyond death are there, even though he doesn’t know exactly what it might be or what form it might be in. There is no morbidity or fear in these musings, just a sense of wonderment.

You can view the full version of the “Lazarus” video here:

Two previously released songs, “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” and “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore”, were re-recorded for this album, replacing bridges that Bowie had originally played with new saxophone parts played on the latter song by Donny McCaslin.

Blackstar was released on January 8, 2016, coinciding with Bowie’s 69th birthday. David Bowie succumbed to liver cancer two days later.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Stranger Things (Eight Episodes, 395 minutes, Netflix) created and directed by Matt and Ross Duffer. Produced by Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen and the Duffer Brothers. Written by The Duffer Brothers, Jessica Mecklenburg, Justin Doble, Alison Tatlock, Jessie Nickson-Lopez and Paul Dichter.

Starring:  Mille Bobby Brown, David Harbour, Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine, Finn Wolfhard , Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp and Shannon Purser as “Barb” Holland.

When I first heard about the premise of Stranger Things, my eyes rolled so hard they nearly catapulted from my skull. And I have never been more wrong and delighted in my life.

The setting:  Hawkins, Indiana, November 1983. When young Will Myers (Noah Schnapp) goes missing , a nightmarish chain of events is set into motion that include a government conspiracy conducted by a local science facility, an unhinged mother’s (Wynona Ryder) desperate search for her child, an alcoholic sheriff (David Harbor) involved in an investigation that’s way over his head, mysterious deaths and other disappearances of citizens and three pre-teen boys (Finn Wolfhard , Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin,) who happen upon an unearthly young girl with paranormal abilities (Millie Bobby Brown).

And there’s a monster.  A BIG ONE! From ANOTHER DIMENSION!

If you haven’t seen this phenomenal blend of horror, sf, fantasy, conspiracy thrillers and cultural tropes of the 1980’s, it would be criminal of me to say anything else do actually describe it. To those of us who actually grew up in that era (and I am one of them, to be sure), Stranger Things nostalgically calls out our cultural past and its tropes in practically every scene; Stephen King novels, the films of John Hughes, John Carpenter, Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas among many, many others.

The cast is uniformly spectacular and earned them all the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for 2016 against such world-class competitors like as The Crown, Downton Abby, Game of Thrones and Westworld.

So don’t count Stranger Things out if (or when, more likely than not) it goes up against heavyweights challengers like Star Wars: Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond and Deadpool on the final ballot.

Best Novel

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, Mulholland Books, published 5 July 2016, 336 pages.

Victor, the narrator of this novel, is a clandestine US Marshal in contemporary America. His job is hunting fugitives. Victor does it and he does it well. But there are a couple of wrinkles to this situation:

Abraham Lincoln is assassinated before his inauguration and the Civil War never happens.

Slavery is kept viable through a series of political compromises by the ruling parties. By the 20th century though, only four southern states still have legalized slavery and the rest of the country is “civilly” segregated for everyone’s protection.

Victor is hunting African-American fugitive slaves under the Fugitive Persons Act.

Victor himself is black, is STILL a “Person Bound to Labor” and has the freedom to roam the country at will, but only at the brutal expense of the people he captures.

When Victor is sent to track down an outlaw abolitionist codenamed Jackdaw, he is forced to come to terms with his work, his life and the country he serves.

Even more daring than the plot of Underground Airlines is the fact that the author, Ben H. Winters, is white. A white author, even a well-meaning one, writing about such an explosive cultural topic today, with a black narrator, might seem to be professional suicide in the literary world. Winters, a skilled professional whose previous works have won the Edgar Award (The Last Policeman) and the Philip K. Dick Award (Countdown City) for Best Novel, has won over critics and readers with this brilliant alternate history thriller.

I will be very disappointed if Underground Airlines does not make the final Hugo Award ballot this year.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #5       

usbtypewriter

The Proust Questionnaire Answered

By Chris M. Barkley:

From the Vanity Fair website:

The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire.

1)      What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To be listening to music, reading, writing or creating something of value.

2)      What is your greatest fear?

That my life has no meaning and nothing I have done has any value.

3)      What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Without a doubt, I procrastinate way too much. I’ll work on that tomorrow. Promise.

4)      What is the trait you most deplore in others?

When people impulsively give in to their most inner crassness and do things to please themselves without a thought to how their actions might be interpreted by others.

5)      Which living person do you most admire?

Currently, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. I also admire the men and women of law enforcement and public safety, who put their lives on the line EVERY day.

6)      What is your greatest extravagance?

I LOVE buying music, books and films. What I take for granted everyday is a pleasure that is denied to a great number of people in the world.

7)      What is your current state of mind?

Troubled, but feeling hopeful.

8)      What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Modesty or moderation. When I was younger, I tried to dial back my self-worth and ego to appease other people, which, I think, held me back in my development as a person. As I’ve grown older, I learned the hard way that those sorts of feelings are actually harmful. If you’re good at doing something, ANYTHING, you have to be your own cheerleader first before you can get others to believe it. Occasionally, you’ve got to cut loose and feel it, otherwise you’ll tie yourself in emotional knots.

9)      On what occasion do you lie?

It’s usually a selfish impulse to protect myself from some stupid mistake or faux pas that I should have avoided in the first place. Shameful, but true.

10)   What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I would love to have been three or four inches taller.

11)   Which living person do you most despise?

I TRY not to despise anyone because hating takes a lot of personal energy and  is distracting me from more important concerns. Having said that, Donald J. Trump has worked himself off of my Christmas card list..

12)   What is the quality you most like in a man?

Honesty and a sense of humor.

13)   What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Honesty and a sense of humor.

14)   Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Gotcha. Really? C’mon Man!!!!!!

15)   What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I have the privilege of having two exceptional people in my life; my daughter Laura and my life partner, Juli. I LOVE them both so much.

16)   When and where were you happiest?

When I am in the company of the people I love and good friends.

17)   Which talent would you most like to have?

One day, I would like to learn how to play musical instrument, such as a guitar or the piano.

18)   If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Well, I am learning to be more decisive, be less of a procrastinator and try not to be such a hoarder. Every day is a challenge.

19)   What do you consider your greatest achievement?

That I am a loving parent who has successfully raising a responsible adult.

20)   If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I honestly can’t fathom to idea of being someone or something else. One thing is certain; not as a lobster. PLEASE!

21)   Where would you most like to live?

Anywhere my partner Juli happens to be.

22)   What is your most treasured possession?

The love I feel for Juli and Laura. It is greater than any physical possession I have. (Except for those 1966 copies of Justice League of America, numbers 46 and 47.)

23)   What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Being depressed, mainly about my own state of mind or being worried about my country and our world.

24)   What is your favorite occupation?

While I love my current occupation as a bookseller, I would gladly trade it in to be a full time, professional writer.

25)   What is your most marked characteristic?

My dry and somewhat caustic wit. And my big nose.

26) What do you most value in your friends?

Honesty, loyalty and Vernor’s Ginger Ale..

27) Who are your favorite writers?

Harlan Ellison, Rita Mae Brown, Octavia Butler, William Shakespeare, William Goldman, Aaron Sorkin, Elmore Leonard, Dashiell Hammett, Gregory McDonald, Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, Jack Vance, Jim Bouton, Theodore Sturgeon, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Robert A. Heinlein, Leonard Maltin, Kage Baker, Kij Johnson Nnedi Okorafor, Lois McMaster Bujold, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Alfred Bester and Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.) .

28)   Who is your hero of fiction?

I tend to gravitate towards film characters than literary ones. Lately I have been drawn to Max Rockatansky and Imperator Furiosa, the haunting main characters of Mad Max – Fury Road.

29)   Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Until Lin Manuel-Miranda enlightened us all about the life of Alexander Hamilton, I wouldn’t have an answer to this question.

30)   Who are your heroes in real life?

Teachers, cops, fire fighters and all other first responders. They should be the most respected and highest paid workers in America.

31)   What are your favorite names?

Laura and Juli, of course.

32)   What is it that you most dislike?

Arrogance, avarice and dishonesty are at the top of my list, especially if that person happens to be an elected servant of the people.

33)   What is your greatest regret?

That I spent nearly forty years wondering if I could be a writer instead of BEING a writer.

34)   How would you like to die?

Quietly, of old age if at all possible, watching Casablanca or 2001, A Space Odyssey. Otherwise, it should be in a spectacular fashion, with tons of spectacle.

35)   What is your motto?

“No Surrender, No Retreat.”

With MANY THANKS to Vanity Fair magazine.