No James White Award for 2020

James White Award administrator Martin McGrath announced today they will not be running a competition in 2020.

We regret to announce that the James White Award will not be running a competition this year. Due to technical issues with the current website, and problems caused by a certain global crises beyond our control, we have not been able to set a timetable for this year and, with a great deal of reluctance, we have concluded that it will not be possible to schedule the competition in 2020.

The James White Award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine. In addition last year, the winner received a £200 prize. The competition in prior years has been open to original, unpublished short stories of not more than 6,000 words by non-professional writers.

Award Administrator McGrath also said:

We have been put off this decision for months, hoping (perhaps increasingly foolishly) that we could come up with a fix for the problems we are facing within a timescale that would allow us to go ahead this year. Ultimately, however, it simply hasn’t been possible to get things in place in time and we have – with very great reluctance – made the decision to not hold the competition this year. We will, however, be back in 2021.

In 2019, judges Justina Robson, Chris Beckett and Donna Scott selected “Limitations” by David Maskill as the winner.

[Via Locus Online.]

Retro-Hugo Superman Correction

Nicholas Whyte, CoNZealand’s Deputy Hugo Administrator, announced today it has come to the attention of the CoNZealand Hugo Awards administrators that the winner of the 1945 Retro Hugo for Best Graphic Story has been misattributed. While Superman: “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk” was originally credited to writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, the artwork was actually done by artist Ira Yarbrough. In keeping with the listing for this issue in Superman Archives Vol. 8, published by DC Comics in 2010, they are changing the listing for this work as follows:

Superman: “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk” by Jerry Siegel, Ira Yarbrough and Joe Shuster (Detective Comics, Inc.)

Whyte says, “The administrators apologize for not catching this earlier, and thank the fans who brought this to our attention. We will be correcting this on the official listings of winners on the CoNZealand and Hugo Awards pages, and request that other media outlets please update their reporting.”

2020 Dragon Award Ballot

The 2020 Dragon Awards Ballot was posted August 11. Registered voters should expect to receive notice in email.

It’s not too late to get involved. The Dragon Awards voter registration page states, “You may register to receive a ballot until 11:59 (EDT) on the Friday of Dragon Con,” which is September 4. Voting closes on September 5.

To be eligible for the 2020 Dragon Awards the book, comic, game, movie, must have been released between July 1, 2019, and the close of the eligibility period, June 30, 2020, which accounts for the mix of nominees from last year and this year.

According to the press release, “Nearly 38,000 fans have voted for their favorite works in the past four years, including more than 10,000 people who voted in 2019.”

Also, the Dragon Awards have forged a new partnership with the Fulton County Library System to promote the ballot and registration through their social media and other programs at the system’s 35 locations. Pat Henry, president of Dragon Con, Inc. said, “We are delighted to be working with Fulton County libraries to help spread the word and encourage more people to explore the best works of fiction in the galaxy.”

Interestingly, most categories have six nominees, but the Best Science Fiction Novel has eight:

1. Best Science Fiction Novel

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
  • Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
  • The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
  • The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson
  • Network Effect by Martha Wells
  • Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

2. Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • Jade War by Fonda Lee
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer
  • The Burning White by Brent Weeks

3. Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

  • Finch Merlin and the Fount of Youth by Bella Forrest
  • Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer
  • The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
  • Force Collector by Kevin Shinick
  • The Poison Jungle by Tui T. Sutherland
  • Cog by Greg van Eekhout

4. Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

  • Savage Wars by Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
  • Edge of Valor by Josh Hayes
  • Aftershocks by Marko Kloos
  • Defiance by Bear Ross
  • Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio
  • System Failure by Joe Zieja

5. Best Alternate History Novel

  • The Girl with No Face by M. H. Boroson
  • Witchy Kingdom by D. J. Butler
  • Revolution by W. L. Goodwater
  • As Our World Ends by Jack Hunt
  • Up-time Pride and Down-time Prejudice by Mark H. Huston
  • A Nation Interrupted by Kevin McDonald

6. Best Media Tie-In Novel

  • Firefly – The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove
  • Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack
  • Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller
  • Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Aliens: Phalanx by Scott Sigler

7. Best Horror Novel

  • Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
  • Scavenger Hunt by Michaelbrent Collings
  • The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
  • The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North
  • The Toll by Cherie Priest

8. Best Comic Book

  • Avengers by Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness
  • Bitter Root by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, Sanford Greene
  • Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett
  • Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
  • Spider-Woman by Karla Pacheco, Pere Perez, Paulo Siqueira
  • Undiscovered Country by Charles Soule, Scott Snyder, Daniele Orlandini, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Matt D. Wilson

9. Best Graphic Novel

  • Batman Universe by Brian Michael Bendis, Nick Derington
  • Battlestar Galactica Counterstrike by John Jackson Miller, Daniel HDR
  • Black Bolt by Christian Ward, Frazier Irving, Stephanie Hans
  • Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
  • Mister Miracle by Tom King, Mitch Gerads
  • Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera

10. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

  • Altered Carbon – Netflix
  • Lost In Space – Netflix Originals
  • Star Trek: Picard – CBS All Access
  • The Expanse – Amazon Prime
  • The Mandalorian – Disney+
  • The Witcher – Netflix
  • Watchmen – HBO

11. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

  • Ad Astra by James Gray
  • Fast Color by Julia Hart
  • Joker by Todd Phillips
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by J. J. Abrams
  • Terminator: Dark Fate by Tim Miller
  • The Lion King by Jon Favreau

12. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

  • Borderlands 3 – Gearbox Software & 2k Games
  • Control – Remedy Entertainment & 505 Games
  • Death Stranding – Kojima Productions & Sony Interactive
  • Gears 5 – The Coalition & Xbox Game Studios
  • Half-Life: Alyx – Valve
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Respawn Entertainment & Electronic Arts
  • The Outer Worlds – Obsidian Entertainment & Private Division

13. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

  • Arknights – Hypergryph, Yostar
  • Call of Duty: Mobile – TiMi Studios & Activision Games
  • Grindstone – Capybara Games Inc.
  • Manifold Garden – William Chyr Studio
  • Minecraft Earth – Mojang Studios & Xbox Game Studios
  • Mutazione – Die Gute Fabrik & Akupara Games

14. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

  • Forgotten Waters – Plaid Hat Games
  • Jaws of the Lion – Cephalofair Games
  • Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid – Renegade Game Studios
  • Tapestry – Stonemaier Games
  • The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine – Kosmos
  • The King’s Dilemma – Horrible Guild Game Studio

15. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

  • Alien RPG – Free League Publishing
  • Battlestar Galactica – Starship Battles: Viper Mk. VII – Ares Games
  • Magic: The Gathering: Throne of Eldraine – Wizards of the Coast
  • Pathfinder Second Edition – Paizo Publishing
  • Spectaculars Core Game – Scratchpad Publishing
  • Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Warcry – Games Workshop

Pixel Scroll 8/10/20
Ancillary Mustache

(1) ADDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Speculative Fiction in Translation’s Rachel Cordasco renews her appeal that “major Anglophone SFF awards should include a separate translation category” in “SFT And The Awards”.

…Really, all of this comes down to a naming problem. If the Hugos are going to be a “World Award,” logically they should include works from around the world, in any language. Since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon, and Anglophone readers generally don’t learn multiple languages unless they have to, then the award should (again, logically) stop calling itself a “World Award” and start acknowledging that, from the very beginning, it has been and still is an award given to English-language SFF by English-language readers.

….And then there’s the whole set of general arguments opposing, or at least not immediately embracing, a separate translation category. I’ve listed a few below:

  • We already have too many award categories.
  • Not enough Anglophone readers read SFT so how could they vote on it?
  • Creating a separate translation category will send the message that SFT is inferior to Anglophone speculative fiction.
  • SFT can win and has won awards without any “help.”
  • But how can we determine if the translation is any good?
  • Changing award rules is too difficult.

I’m going to address each of these points separately, making sure that I reiterate that I am not involved in any of these awards at the executive level, though I did participate in the most recent Locus Awards voting and was able to bring my knowledge of current SFT to the discussion, which I truly appreciated.

You may also know that I started a “Favorite SFT” poll in 2018, which is open to anyone who would like to vote (once!). This approach has its flaws but it’s the best I can do with the resources I have. Just the fact that the poll exists makes me think that more people are becoming aware that SFT does exist.

To the first point that “we already have too many award categories”: so what? And also, is a translated category somehow less important than the “Young Adult” or “First Novel” category? And to the subpoint that some translated work might win in two categories, can’t that happen with other categories? And aren’t there ways to get around that? I freely admit that I’m not cut out for business meetings and deciding rules about rules- which is one of the reasons why I’m not on these committees. This is just me on a website putting forth my opinions, against which everyone is free to argue. (Just be respectful when you rip me to shreds, ok?)….

(2) DAY AFTER DAY. SYFY Wire explores “The Unending Appeal Of Time Loops”. But only once.

…But outside of a stay-at-home crisis, time loops have gained traction in their appeal due to the same themes that made Groundhog Day so popular to begin with. Like the drunken locals that Phil Conners laments to in Punxsutawney, or the fellow wedding guest in the Palm Springs hotel pool talking to Samberg’s Nyles, those existing outside the loop can relate on a visceral level to the experience of feeling like today is the same as yesterday and tomorrow. For Bill Murray, the appeal of Groundhog Day as a script was its representation of people’s fear of change, and how we choose to repeat our daily lives to avoid it. These themes echoed in Russian Doll, which as a bingeable streaming series really allowed audiences to inhabit the repetitive nature of the loops, ironically utilizing the same technologies that have sped our lives up and caused them to feel even more cyclical.

(3) FIYAHCON. I signed up for FIYAHCON (October 17-18) news in time to receive its August Update naming three more guests:

FIYAHCON tweeted additional information: Rebecca Roanhorse: “We suspect you know @RoanhorseBex from all of that constant award-winning she does as a Black + Indigenous writer of many brilliant things.”; Cassie Hart: “is a Maori writer who’s been working intensely behind the scenes to shine a light on SFF from Aotearoa while grinding out an impressive number of works herself.”; Yasser Bahjatt: “chaired the Worldcon bid for Saudi Arabia. And while that didn’t land, we are thrilled to hear more from him about Arabian SFF and other ways we can uplift and celebrate the spec community there.”

The three newcomers join FIYAHCON’s previously announced guests:

There’s also an educational FIYAH Definition T-Shirt that’s new.

(4) THE NEXT MARTIAN. io9 points to today’s trailer drop: “Hilary Swank Is on a Mission to Mars in the Emotional First Trailer for Netflix’s Away.

She’s boldly going where no one has gone before, but doing so means leaving the people she loves the most. We’ve got the first trailer for Netflix’s Away, a new series that sees Hilary Swank joining the first manned mission to Mars—a three-year journey that will test the limits of its crew, as well as the patience of those who were left behind….

(5) JUST SAYIN’. Jay Blanc tweeted his ideas for improving Hugo administration. Thread starts here. Whether or not he has the solution (and CoNZealand Deputy Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte responded skeptically in the thread), I had to agree with Blanc’s last tweet about what one of the problems is.

He’s not alone in marveling at how many times in the past decade the Hugos have been hamstrung because someone was writing code from scratch. That doesn’t always happen for the same reason. We didn’t always need or want, in the past, a system that integrates all aspects of a member’s digital interaction with the convention. That’s what they’re moving toward, therefore it would make sense for that software to be created and stabilized. Funding it, having the work done and vetted, and working out licensing to the committees (which are entities of their own) would all be part of the mission.

(6) THE EYES HAVE IT. “Looking Forward on Looking Backwards” at The Hugo Book Club Blog.

… Because they are voted on primarily by people who were born decades after the original publication dates, the Retro Hugos are less likely to recognize work that has not been reprinted. This means that the average Retro Hugo voter inevitably experiences the works they’re voting on through a filter created by the intervening generations. Other than Erle KorshakCora Buhlert, and Gideon Marcus, we’d be hard-pressed to name a Hugo voter who is likely to have read a 1945-era pulp magazine cover-to-cover and experienced the works in something like their original context….

No need to be so “hard-pressed.” You have not because you ask not.

…For the Retro Hugos to be relevant and worthwhile awards, we as members of the World Science Fiction Society need to wrestle with why the awards need to exist. Is their intent to reproduce the racist tastes of the past or can they help focus a critical lens on the history of the genre and help us discover works that might have been overlooked?

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 10, 1951 Tales Of Tomorrow first broadcast the “Blunder” in which a scientist is warned his experiment with nuclear fission could destroy the earth. Written by Philip Wylie who wrote the screenplay for When Worlds Collide.  The primary cast is Robert Allen and Ann Loring. It was directed by Leonard Valenta who otherwise did soap,operas. The original commercials are here as well.  You can watch it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available in digital form. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents that four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World: “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine“ being two of them. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre-wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1931 – Alexis Gilliland, 89.  Seven novels, six shorter stories and a Feghoot; Campbell (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Chaired six Disclaves.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) met at his house for decades.  One of our finest fanartists.  Four Hugos, three FAAn (FAn Activity Achievement) Awards, Rotsler.  Letters, perhaps three hundred cartoons in AlexiadAlgolAmazingAnalogAsimov’sChungaFantasy ReviewFlagJanusLocusMimosaPulphouseSF EyeSF CommentarySF ReviewSFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) BulletinStar*Line, Worldcon Souvenir Books.  Here is a cover for SF Review.  See hereherehere.  Makes good deviled eggs.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 76. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her? (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 65. Best-known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 – Tom Kidd, 65.  Eight Chesleys.  Artbooks KiddographyOtherWorldsHow to Draw & Paint Dragons.  Three hundred eighty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Here is Not This August.  Here is the Oct 83 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is Songs of the Dying Earth.  Here is Overruled.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1962 – Horia Gâbea, Sc.D., 58.  Romanian playwright, poet, essayist, novelist, engineer, popularizer of contract bridge.  University of Bilbao prize for poetry.  The Serpent performed by the British Royal Court Theatre.  Translator of Chekhov, Corneille, John D. MacDonald, Machiavelli.  Accused of being “gratuitously bookish…. a pun more important than a murder…. thin and edgy like a razor…. forgives no one no thing.” Worlds and Beings anthology in English.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 55. Best-known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six-episode series shot in ‘05 you can on Amazon Prime.  (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1971 – Lara Morgan, 49.  Six novels for us.  “Her mission is to rid the world of tea, one cup at a time.  This is going quite well.”  She liked All Our Yesterdays, alas for me not Harry Warner’s but Cristin Terrill’s; ranked Ender’s Game about the same as Lilith’s Brood.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1985 – Andrew Drilon, 35.  A dozen short stories; Philippine Speculative Fiction 9 with Charles Tan; four covers, three dozen interiors; comics.  Here is Heroes, Villains, and Other Women.  Here is WonderLust.  Here is a sequence from his own Whapak! [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DOUBLE-OH BRACKETS. Morgan Jeffery, in “Sean Connery named the best James Bond as thousands of 007 fans vote in our poll” in Radio Times, says that 14,000 James Bond fans voted to see who the best Bond of all time was, with Sir Sean Connery first, Timothy Dalton second, and Pierce Brosnan third.  Sam Heughan from Outlander was named the #1 choice to be the new Bond in the survey,

…Round 1 saw Connery knock out current 007 actor Daniel Craig, coming out on top with 56 per cent of the vote compared to Craig’s 43 per cent, while Pierce Brosnan winning Round 2 with 76 per cent against his opponent George Lazenby’s 24 per cent.

Round 3 saw perhaps the most surprising result yet, as Roger Moore was knocked out of the competition – with 41 per cent of the vote, he lost out to his immediate successor Timothy Dalton, who scored 49 per cent of the vote.

(11) TOP TEN. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: The 10 Weirdest Official Merch You Can Buy”. After all, nobody wants to buy just plain old Trek merchandise. And one item meets a need of Filers who never have enough of these —

4. Next Generation Spoons

At some point, someone decided that Star Trek fans were fanatical about cutlery and all things fine dining, hence the creations of a series of elegant Next Generation spoons.

The high-quality spoons feature the faces of fan-favorite characters such as Captain Picard and Data on the handle of each implement. While nice its almost impossible to imagine anyone actually using these spoons to eat with and the illogical decisions that led to their creation would no doubt befuddle Spock.

(12) APOLLO 1 INVESTIGATION. Dwayne Day continues his exploration of space history with new details about the Apollo 1 fire of 1967 in The Space Review: “After the fire: a long-lost transcript from the Apollo 1 fire investigation”.

As long as there has been spaceflight, there have been conspiracy theories. There were conspiracy theories about Sputnik in the late 1950s (“their Germans are better than our Germans”) and dead cosmonauts in the early 1960s. Even before some people claimed—on the very day that it happened—that the Moon landing was faked, Apollo had its own conspiracy theories. In those days it was difficult for them to propagate and reach a wide audience, unlike today, when they can spread around the world at the speed of light. One of those Apollo conspiracy theories was about a whistleblower named Thomas Baron, who later died under mysterious circumstances.

Baron worked on the Apollo program in Florida for one of the key contractors. After the Apollo 1 fire in early 1967, Baron testified before a congressional fact-finding delegation that went to Florida. He later died under what some people considered to be mysterious circumstances, fueling speculation that he was killed to shut him up. The transcript of his testimony also could not be found by later researchers, which fueled the speculation that somebody was covering up damaging information.

In 1999, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, radio station WAMU in Washington, DC, aired a program about the role of Washington politics in the lunar landing. “Washington Goes to the Moon” was written and produced by Richard Paul and featured interviews with a number of key figures in the story. Paul had decided that the Apollo 1 fire and the subsequent investigations into its cause would be a key focus of the program. In the course of researching the fire, he stumbled upon a document that many believed was long-lost: a transcript of an interview with Thomas Baron, who alleged that there were numerous improper actions taken by his employer, North American Aviation, which was building the spacecraft.

(13) THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE. “The nuclear mistakes that nearly caused World War Three” – BBC kept count.

From invading animals to a faulty computer chip worth less than a dollar, the alarmingly long list of close calls shows just how easily nuclear war could happen by mistake.

…All told, there have been at least 22 alarmingly narrow misses since nuclear weapons were discovered. So far, we’ve been pushed to the brink of nuclear war by such innocuous events as a group of flying swans, the Moon, minor computer problems and unusual space weather. In 1958, a plane accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb in a family’s back garden; miraculously, no one was killed, though their free-range chickens were vaporised. Mishaps have occurred as recently as 2010, when the United States Air Force temporarily lost the ability to communicate with 50 nuclear missiles, meaning there would have been no way to detect and stop an automatic launch.

(14) BLOCKHOUSE FOR BLOCKHEADS? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Schultz, in “For Sale: A Cold War Bunker and Missile Silo in North Dakota” on Atlas Obscura, says that tomorrow auctioneers will sell a 50-acre site in North Dakota that housed a missile base loaded with Sprint missiles that were supposed to be the last line of defense against Soviet ICBM’s.  The missiles are gone but the buildings are still there, and it’s perfect for a slan shack or future Worldcon bid, or would be an ideal place to conduct fan feuds.  What better place to launch verbal missiles than a place that housed real missiles? Plus all the former missile silos are guaranteed to be socially distant from each other!

HALF AN HOUR SOUTH OF the Canadian border, in Fairdale, North Dakota, a hulking concrete structure rises up from the flat fields that surround it. The beige buildings are so prominent on an otherwise pastoral landscape that they could be mistaken for a 20th-century Stonehenge.

It’s a Cold War missile site, and it’s for sale.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. In “The Lord of The Rings:  The Two Towers Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George promises a film with “a whole lot of walking.  Even the trees walk.”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, N., Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/9/20 Pixel The Scroll That Makes You Happy

(1) NEW NINTH DOCTOR STORIES COMING FROM BIG FINISH. Christopher Eccleston has finally come around to playing the Doctor again announces BBC Studios.

Big Finish Productions, in association with BBC Studios announces the long-awaited return of Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor.

First seen on screen in 2005, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor introduced a whole new generation of fans to Doctor Who.

Now he’s back, with a brand-new series of twelve fantastic full-cast audio adventures in space and time, due to be released across four box sets, starting with volume one in May 2021.

Christopher Eccleston said: “After 15 years it will be exciting to revisit the Ninth Doctor’s world, bringing back to life a character I love playing.”

Big Finish’s own press release hints at how Eccleston was won over (even after turning down Steven Moffat’s attempt to get him for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who).

Big Finish’s Chairman, Jason Haigh-Ellery said: “I first talked to Christopher about returning to the role of the Doctor at the Gallifrey One convention in February this year. Christopher said he was enjoying meeting the fans and was pleased that his Doctor was remembered so fondly.  He indicated he would be open to discussing a project with Big Finish. 

“And then the pandemic happened and time moved both quickly and very slowly. Over recent months, ideas have been exchanged and discussions had. I am so pleased that Christopher has decided to return to the role with us – and I’m excited to welcome him to the Big Finish family as we discover the new adventures of the Ninth Doctor.” 

(2) SCARY GOOD. On the Horror Writers Association blog: “HWA Poetry Showcase Featured Poets” features a Q&A with Sarah Read, K.P. Kulski, and Sarah Tantlinger.

(3) WHERE TO FIND THEM. James W. Harris has been working on analysis and comparison of lists of the “great works” of SFF for several years. This week, while everyone else is busy damning the canon, he posted about the optimal solution for acquiring all the greatest sff stories in as few anthologies as possible. “The SF Anthology Problem – Solved” at Classics of Science Fiction.

Two years ago when we completed version 1 of The Classics of Science Fiction Short Story list I proposed a math challenge. Version 1 came up with 275 stories. I asked if there was any mathematically way to decide what were the fewest anthologies that contained all 275 stories using ISFDB.org as a reference database. Version 1 was generated using .csv files. Since then we updated the process to a database for version 2 of the list, which produced 101 stories — we believe that was a more practical reading list.

A science fiction fan could read the entire list over the summer by reading one story a day, or in a year by reading one story every three days, but where would they get the 101 science fiction short stories?…

(4) INSIDE THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s“The Full Lid for 7th August 2020”processes his experiences with the virtual CoNZealand.

…To all the CoNZealand volunteers: I see you. I see your hard work. Thank you.

The issues being raised by our community this week are with the structure you inherited and were bound by. None of that is the fault of volunteers, acting with minimal resources, time, communication and support.

My intention here is to report my own experiences and do so honestly. There are things that have to be done to make this experience better for everyone. My hope is my experiences can help with that.

It includes a segment evaluating the successes and criticisms of CoNZealand Fringe.

(5) A THING OF BEAUTY. The Astounding Award.

(6) RESTART TREK. All those Star Trek movies you’ve read about being developed in the past couple of years? You might not be hearing about some of them any more. Mike Fleming Jr., in the Deadline story “Emma Watts’ Top Priority At Paramount: Figure Out ‘Star Trek’ Reboot” says that Paramount CEO Watts has shelved all existing scripts for the fourth Star Trek movie, including one with Noah Hawley as writer/director, one with Mark L. Smith as writer and Quentin Tarantino as director, and one with S.J. Clarkson as director that would have had Chris Hemsworth play Chris Pine’s father.  But since Star Trek is a “monster franchise” for Paramount so Star Trek 4 will get made.

…What we’re hearing is that both the [Noah] Hawley pic — which calls for a new cast and might be about a deadly virus which might feel awkward given current circumstance — and the [Mark L.] Smith version — [Quentin] Tarantino dropped out as director, but the project is still viable based on an episode of the classic Star Trek series that takes place largely earthbound in a 30s gangster setting — might serve the franchise best as Logan-like spinoffs when the core franchise has been revitalized. But that the other one might have the cleanest path toward a relaunch, with an emphasis on boosting overseas gross numbers which have never been the franchise’s strong suit. These decisions will take place over the next few weeks.

(7) A GEM IN WAITING. ScreenRant’s Crag Elvy pooh-pooh’s the idea of a Silmarillion adaptation, but doesn’t go so far as to whinny a big horse laugh at it: “Lord of the Rings: Why A Silmarillion Movie Wouldn’t Work”.

But just because The Silmarillion could be turned into a feature-length film, that doesn’t necessary mean it should be. The book offers a fascinating insight into Middle-earth’s long history, adding context to the events of The Lord of the Rings and widening the lore in fascinating and organic ways. Arguably, there are events in The Silmarillion that eclipse anything in Tolkien’s more famous books in terms of importance. However, The Silmarillion is not a conventional novel in the same style as The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. There is no central protagonist, while the narrative spans many eras of time and vast expanses of geography. Moreover, The Silmarillion reads more like a religious text or a history textbook (albeit an infinitely more interesting one) than a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. Telling the same sort of heroic tale movie fans are used to would be a tough ask from The Silmarillion‘s source material, as would constructing one complete start-to-finish narrative suitable for mainstream cinema.

(8) BEYOND THE PANDEMIC. ConTamination2020,  “An online convention using Science Fiction & Science to explore pandemics and the long-term future of humanity,” will be held September 12-13, 2020, between 1p.m.-9p.m. GMT+1. The con is being organized by a small group of volunteers interested in using speculative fiction to explore the future of humanity after COVID-19, led by Vivienne Raper, Kat Kourbeti, and Catrin Osborne. Follow them on Twitter here.  

To avoid stepping on any toes, we’ve narrowed the focus of ConTamination to be a science-meets-speculative-fiction convention. Our aim is to tackle the big questions that many of us are asking about the future, and our place as science fiction and fantasy fans within it.

They’re looking for volunteers – if you’re interested, click on the “ConTamination 2020 Volunteer Interest Form”.

In a time of social distancing and home isolation, how about we all get together to talk books, pandemics, and the social impact this current evolving crisis will have worldwide, in both science and literature?

We still have open slots for panels so if you are interested in speaking and have a topic in mind that relates to any of the theme strands of the convention (science, fiction, or social change – where it relates to pandemics and the way we are dealing with the current pandemic), however remotely, do reach out and let us know your thoughts.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 9, 1996John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. as it was stylized on screen premiered. The sequel to Escape from New York, it was co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter, co-written and produced by Debra Hill and Kurt Russell, with Russell again starring as Snake Plissken. It also co-stars Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, and Pam Grier.  Reception was definitely mixed. With most critics thinking the script was uneven, the film bombed at the box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 39% rating.  Carpenter has said that, “Escape from L.A. is better than the first movie. Ten times better.” (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 – P.L. Travers.  Four novels, two shorter stories and a cookbook about Mary Poppins; other novels, poetry, nonfiction.  Also had a career as an actress; parents disapproved, thus “Pamela Travers”.  First two MP books unsurpassed, perhaps unequaled.  Translated into Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian.  Never happy with the Disney version though it made her rich; “It’s glamourous and a good film on its own level, but I don’t think it’s very like my books.”  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1908 – Joan Kiddell-Monroe.  Author and illustrator, famous for children’s books.  Oxford Myths & Legends (i.e. Oxf. Univ. Press).  Muriel Levy’s six Adventures of Wonk.  Four of her own In His Little Black Waistcoat about a panda.  Aesop’s Fables.  Arabian Nights.  Here is “The Exploits of Hanuman”.  Here is Queen Amata singing of Turnus and Lavinia from The Aeneid.  Here is a cover for The Magic Bed-Knob.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1914 Tove Jansson. Swedish-speaking Finnish artist wrote the Moomin books for children, starting in 1945 with Småtrollen och den stora översvämninge (The Moomins and the Great Flood). Over the next decades, there would a total of nineteen books. Currently Moominvalley, the new animated series is playing, on Netflix. And Terry Pratchett in “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” credits her for him becoming a fiction writer. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1920 – Jack Speer.  Pioneer of fanhistory with Up to Now (1939) and what we now know as Fancyclopedia I (1944).  Introduced mailing comments, i.e. on others’ contributions in mailings, or distributions, of amateur publishing associations, thus ancestor of blog postings.  His SF Song Sheet at Chicon I (2nd Worldcon) was the ancestor of filk music; the costume party he and Milt Rothman suggested was the ancestor of the spectacular on-stage contest we call the Masquerade.  Fancestral Voices collects his fanwriting.  When in my fanzine Vanamonde I misspelled the famous typo poctsarcd he promptly wrote back “Nothing is sacrd.”  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1941 – Jamila Gavin, F.R.S.L., 79.  Her Indian father and English mother met in Iran; she calls herself half and half.  The Wheel of Surya, two sequels, follow two generations of Indian Sikhs; The Magic Orange TreeThree Indian Goddesses and Three Indian Princesses are short stories from Indian legends; she is also a patroness of the Shakespeare Schools Festival.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories, for us; twoscore more books (e.g. Coram Boy about the 18th Century foundling hospital established by Thomas Coram; Whitbread Prize).  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 76. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits, Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. (CE) 
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 73. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 71. Author of two novels so far in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1953 – Jim Theis.  To him is attributed The Eye of Argon, said to be from 1970 when the author was 17 (maybe 16 when he wrote it).  For two decades he has been subject to De mortuis nil nisi bonum (Latin, “Of the dead, say nothing but good”, various reasons e.g. they cannot defend themselves), to which the reply may be that we are speaking not of him but of his Eye, or that it’s so bad it’s —  anyway, see here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1956 Adam Nimoy, 64. Son of the Leonard Nimoy and the actress Sandra Zober. His wife is Terry Farrell.  He’s directed episodes of Babylon 5Next GenerationThe Outer Limits (he directed his father in the “I, Robot” episode, and Sliders. He’s responsible for For the Love of Spock, the documentary about his father. (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1970 – Thomas Lennon, 50.  Actor, screenwriter, producer-director, guitarist.  Played Eddie the Shipboard Computer in the 2005 film of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mr. Mxyzptlk in Supergirl on CW television this year.  Two novels for us; the first, Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles, was a NY Times Best Seller.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville calls into a Trekkie talk show.
  • Prickly City wonders if Earthmen should stay home.
  • Non Sequitur says these complaints have been valid for a long while.
  • Another Non Sequitur has the “true reason” these species missed Noah’s Ark.

(12) THE UPSIDE OF THE PANDEMIC. Sir Julius Vogel Best Novel winner Sascha Stronach thinks, “One of the few saving graces of this year’s worldcon is that we didn’t end up having to host all these very important writers in TSB Arena, the worst events venue in New Zealand.” Thread starts here.

(13) FIRST THINGS FIRST. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick says “‘The First Sister’ Is Stylish, Substantial — And Very Cool — Space Opera”.

Linden A. Lewis’s debut novel The First Sister (book one in a trilogy of the same name) is a lot of fun, as stylish as it is substantial. Would you like your space opera with the social commentary and swaggery cool of Alexandre Dumas, with a dash of Cowboy Bebop and some awesome queer characters? Are you interested in political maneuverings and space economics, fantastically rich worldbuilding and sneaky spy stories? Read on. First Sister might be just the book you’ve been waiting for.

(14) IT’S IN THE CARDS. In The Washington Post Magazine, Gavin Edwards went to the 2019 Magic: The Gathering Mythic Championship in Richmond to profile players able to compete at a level where they can win serious money.  He note that nearly all of the top Magic:  The Gathering players are men, but Jessica Estephan, the first woman to win a Magic Grand Prix tournament, says that rather than two or three women at a big tournament, “I need more than two hands” to count the women competing, “and that just blows my mind and I love it.” “Strange Magic”.

The best Magic players have their games broadcast on Twitch with up to 30,000 people watching at once and up to 750,000 sampling the tournament at some point.

…After Lee gathered his cards and departed, Nettles told me quietly, “He’s a high-profile player, a Hall of Fame guy. I’m a tier below.” (Magic does have an official Hall of Fame, honoring 48 of its greatest competitors.) Nettles had played enough matches against the world’s best Magic players to assess his abilities vs. theirs: “I make a mistake in three percent of the games, they might make a mistake in one percent, and that’s the difference in a tournament.” One minute you’re a hero; the next minute, you’re a goat. Or in this case, an elk.

In 2019, Wizards provided 32 top players with sponsorship contracts worth $75,000 and, almost as important, gave them automatic invitations to major tournaments. Nettles wasn’t in that tier, but he had played well enough at Magic tournaments to get a sponsorship from a company that makes protective card sleeves, allowing him to play the game for a living.

(15) AARGHONOMICS. “The pandemic has put video game equipment in unusually high demand. The gaming chair is ascendant,” declares the New York Times: “This Is Not a Desk Chair”. (It is also not the chair John Scalzi recently bought. I checked.)

In a rented home on a sunny street in Los Angeles, a team of professional gamers sat hunched over in swivel chairs while a pair of ergonomic specialists observed their posture, asked questions and took notes.

The gamers reported pain in their necks, their lower backs, their hips, wrists and shoulders. Carpal tunnel was a common complaint. Most of them were not yet 20.

Over several days in May 2018, specialists who had come from Herman Miller, the modern furniture company, and Logitech, the computer accessory and software manufacturer, watched professional teams practice in their training facilities (often large homes they shared with teammates) and play in a tournament.

They noticed how the gamers gripped their toes on the bases of their chairs to support their bodies, how they would incline forward when they played and how, in their downtime, they would exhibit what Herman Miller personnel dubbed “the teenage slouch.”

“We’re over 50, we don’t know anything about gaming,” said John Aldrich, the vice president of advanced engineering at Herman Miller, which is best known for its Eames lounge chair and mid-century modern furniture. “Watching multimillionaire 19-year-olds playing games was not what I expected to do with my career.”

Perhaps not, but Mr. Aldrich has devoted much of his professional life to ergonomic design, an area of relevance to anyone who sits for extended periods of time, as gamers do. And many players gravitate toward models that resemble chunkier, aggressively colorful office chairs….

(16) DON”T FORGET TO CONSERVE YOUR ENERGY. Fanac.org has posted a recording of a talk given at Boskone 5 (1968): “Larry Niven: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation.” We didn’t have YouTube in Ye Olde Days, so this material was still all new to me when Niven reprised it at a convention I attended a few years later.

In this audio recording (illustrated with dozens of images), Larry Niven gives a delightful talk on the effects of teleportation on a society. Five years before his “Flash Crowd” was published, this recording is a grand exposition of what goes on in this author’s mind as he works out the impact of new technology. “The limitations you assume for your teleportation are going to define your society.” Isaac Asimov (and a number of other audience members) challenge Larry with questions and suggestions. There’s even a chalkboard talk (which you can follow from the audio). The program provides a very entertaining and complete logical framework for thinking about the problems and advantages of different implementations of mechanical teleportation, with the eager participation of the engineers in the audience.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, John Hertz, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

New Zealand Fan Organization Comments on CoNZealand

Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand President John Toon released a statement criticizing CoNZealand for how the group’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards were featured, and saying that he hopes access to the award voter packet can be reopened.

About the SJV Awards ceremony he says:

As President of SFFANZ, I would like to thank all those who worked on and attended the Sir Julius Vogel Awards ceremony in Wellington on Sunday 26 July. The credit for organising this event belongs to Lynelle Howell, Kelly Buehler, Mel Duncan and many others. Thanks also to Lynelle and Jan Butterworth for all their work administering the SJVs.

However, I acknowledge that the editing of the footage of the ceremony as broadcast during CoNZealand could have been better. Most egregiously, Sascha Stronach’s acceptance speech for the award for Best Novel was cut off mid-sentence, and this was not acceptable. I personally apologise to Sascha.

In addition, five of this year’s winners – Gareth Ward, Matthew Willis, David Bishop, Alex Lindsay and Grace Bridges – were unable to attend the ceremony in person or remotely, and did not nominate anyone to collect the trophy on their behalf. The co-presenters acknowledged this during the ceremony and promised to send the trophies to the winners. This information was edited out of the broadcast programme, which could have led viewers to believe that some of the winners had been snubbed. I personally apologise to these five winners.

I also note that many have objected to the juxtaposition of the SJV Awards with the Retro Hugo Awards in CoNZealand’s schedule. SFFANZ understood and accepted the reasoning behind this decision but I accept that, in hindsight, the outcome was not the showcase for and celebration of contemporary New Zealand SFF and fandom that we had hoped it would be.

Toon also hopes that the SJA Award voter packet, which it was hoped would show off New Zealand’s sff to CoNZealand’s worldwide membership, can be made available again. A number of people have remarked in social media that they didn’t know about it.

Lastly, I note that some members of CoNZealand were unaware of the availability of the SJV voter packet during the voting period, and that some nominees and members have asked for it to be made available again to promote awareness of contemporary New Zealand SFF. SFFANZ has contacted all finalists to ask their permission to make their nominated material available again to CoNZealand members, where material was provided. The contents of the reissued SJV packet will, of course, be subject to the agreement of those finalists who consent to participate. CoNZealand has kindly agreed to host the reissued SJV packet via the Hugo Awards voter packet system, and will be contacting CoNZealand members with the relevant details.

2020 Splatterpunk Awards

Best-selling authors and Splatterpunk Awards founders Wrath James White and Brian Keene announced the winners of the 2020 Splatterpunk Awards on August 8 during the virtual KillerCon. The awards honor superior achievement for works published in 2019 in the sub-genres of Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror. An image of the award trophy, which might be a little strong for young viewers, is here.

BEST NOVEL

  • Lakehouse Infernal by Christine Morgan (Deadite Press)

BEST NOVELLA

  • One For the Road by Wesley Southard (Deadite Press)

BEST SHORT STORY

  • “Angelbait” by Ryan Harding (from The Big Book of Blasphemy, Necro Publications)

BEST COLLECTION

  • Dirty Rotten Hippies and Other Stories by Bryan Smith (Grindhouse Press)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

  • And Hell Followed, edited by Jarod Barbee and Patrick C. Harrison III (Death’s Head Press)

J.F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Edward Lee, author and editor

Honoring his significant contributions to the sub-genres of Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror. Previous recipients are David J. Schow and David G. Barnett.

Pixel Scroll 8/8/20 You Unlock This Scroll With The Key Of Pixelation

(1) JURY SUMMONS. Two groups are recruiting jurors for their annual awards.

The British Fantasy Society’s call is here.

If you are interested in being a juror for this year’s awards, please register your interest here We are especially interested in hearing from those historically under represented on juries; and you do not need to be a member of the BFS to fulfil this role.

Both forms will remain open until Wednesday 16th August.
Any questions, please get in touch at bfsawards@britishfantasysociety.org

A few days ago they were concerned about the balance of applicants:

The Aurealis Awards also are looking – “Aurealis Awards 2020 – Call for Judges”. Full requirements at the link.

We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2020 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category (good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential).

(2) ULTIMA RATIO REGUM. Camestros Felapton continues to work out what canon means to sff readers, and if it’s useful in “Types of canon/key texts”.

… I think within discussions of canon there is a sense of books whose role it is to edify the reader, the books that will make you (somehow) a better reader. I’m sceptical that any books really fit that criteria and even more sceptical that we can find a common set of such books. However, there are clearly books that themselves provoke further books and as such books that get referenced in later works and later works that can be seen as response to earlier works. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers being an obvious example of such a work. This is canon as a kind of feedback loop of significance — the books that are themselves critiques of Troopers lend significance to Troopers as a book. You don’t have to have read Starship Troopers to enjoy Kameron Hurley’s Light Brigade but having some familiarity with Heinlein’s book adds an element to Hurley’s book.

(3) HEATED WORDS. As someone wrote on Twitter: “The phrase ‘You couldn’t make Blazing Saddles today’ takes on an entirely new meaning.” CBR.com has the story: “Blazing Saddles Is Being Remade as an Animated Samurai Movie About Cats and Dogs” .

Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is considered a film classic, even though it’s stirred up some controversy over the years. Now the film is being retold in an entirely new medium, as well as an entirely new genre.

The Los Angeles film company Align is helping develop an animated film titled Blazing Samurai. The film takes the basic premise of Blazing Saddles and transplants it to the Samurai era. The story follows a dog named Hank who dreams of becoming a Samurai. When he becomes in charge of protecting Kakamucho, he learns that the town is populated entirely by cats.

(4) A GOLDEN AGE. Galactic Journey does a rundown on the 1964-1965 television season: “[AUGUST 8, 1965] NAVIGATING THE WASTELAND #2 (1964-65 IN (GOOD) TELEVISION)”. I was 12 around then so no wonder I remember this as the Golden Age of TV. The Traveler obviously has a later bedtime than I did that year, because I never got to watch his favorite, Burke’s Law —

Three years ago, I reported on the state of television in the wake of former FCC-chief Newton Minow’s pronouncement that television was a ‘vast wastelend.’  Since then, I have remained a devoted fan of the small screen, if not completely addicted to ‘the boob tube.’  Indeed, the Young Traveler and I have our weekly favorites we do not miss if we can at all help it.

And so, as we sail through the sea of summer reruns, gleefully anticipating the Fall line-up, I take delight in awarding the Galactic Stars of Television for the 1964-65 season.

Burke’s Law 1963-65

Amos Burke is what would have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents had never been shot – he’s a Beverly Hills playboy millionaire who also happens to be the dapper Captain of Homicide for the L.A. Police Department.  In each episode, Amos, with the aide of grizzled Sergeant Hart and youthful Detective Tilson (and occasionally the doe-eyed Sergeant Ames), solves a murder mystery…..

If The Traveler hadn’t waxed rhapsodically about this show – and I’m not sure whether he thinks it fits the blog’s sff theme or just thinks it’s good – then it wouldn’t have seemed such a glaring oversight to end the post pointing out Harlan Ellison wrote a script for the lamentable Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, without mentioning Ellison also wrote four scripts for 1964 episodes of his beloved Burke’s Law series.

(5) SINCE 1984. Jane Johnson looks back on “A life in publishing”.

I realised this morning that it’s 36 years to the day when I started to work in publishing, as an editorial secretary at George Allen & Unwin Publishers, in Ruskin House on Museum Street. What follows really is the trajectory of modern publishing in microcosm.

My skillset was not ideal: I loved books, especially the works of JRR Tolkien and came with a first class English degree, a Masters in Scandinavian Studies (Old Icelandic) and absolutely no secretarial abilities at all. But I had worked for a year at Foyles and another as a boardmarker/cashier at Ladbrokes, and so had proved I could work hard and not be snooty about getting my hands dirty; and that I was numerate and understood the concept of gambling, which my new boss assured me was the essence of publishing. These were the times of Telex machines and manual typewriters, which were just giving way to electronic typewriters (my nightmare) but David was remarkably patient with my Tippexed letters, blackened carbon copies and non-existent shorthand, and within a year had promoted me away from my disaster zone to become an editor. Paperbacks were a fairly new concept: hardbacks were the prestige edition.

(6) IMPROVEMENT NOT NEEDED. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold tells how a book is being unfairly belittled.

There is currently a backlash against The Giving Tree, and some people are circulating an alternate ending.

Hey! I have an idea. I have an alternate ending for Winnie The Pooh. Pooh is a bear. He decides he likes bacon. He eats Piglet. Much more realistic, right?

No, look. Shel Silverstein knew what he was doing when he wrote The Giving Tree.

It doesn’t need an alternate ending — specifically not one that’s preachy, badly written, doesn’t really fit, and is intended to cast the original in a bad light….

(7) TAKING THE MINUTES. In “Six Novels That Bring Together Mystery And Time Travel” on CrimeReads, Julia McElwain recommends novels by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Lauren Beukes as time travel novels mystery readers might like.

Depending upon how it’s done, it can add to the tension—a race against time as our characters try to return to their own era—or it can allow readers to explore the past through modern eyes. In my own In Time mystery series, I’ve enjoyed the fish-out-of-water sensation that my main character—a modern-day woman and brilliant FBI agent—experiences after being tossed back to the Regency period in England. As women then were second-class citizens without the ability to even vote, not only does she have to deal with personal obstacles, but she also cannot tap into her usual arsenal of forensic tools to solve crimes.

Whether time travel is being used to wrap a mystery in an extra, innovative layer or is allowing readers to view humanity and history through a different lens, the theme is brilliantly done in the books that I’ve listed below….

(8) ALLEN OBIT. A software pioneer has died: “Frances Allen, Who Helped Hardware Understand Software, Dies at 88” in the New York Times.

Frances Allen, a computer scientist and researcher who helped create the fundamental ideas that allow practically anyone to build fast, efficient and useful software for computers, smartphones and websites, died on Tuesday, her 88th birthday, in Schenectady, N.Y.

Her death, in a nursing home, was confirmed by her great-nephew Ryan McKee, who said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

In the mid-1960s, after developing software for an early supercomputer at the National Security Agency, Ms. Allen returned to her work at IBM, then the world’s leading computer company. At an IBM lab in the Hudson River Valley town of Yorktown Heights, just north of New York City, she and her fellow researchers spent the next four decades refining a key component of modern computing: the “compiler,” the software technology that takes in programs written by humans and turns them into something computers can understand.

For Ms. Allen, the aim was to do this as efficiently as possible, so programmers could build software in simple and intuitive ways and then have it run quickly and smoothly when deployed on real-world machines.

Together with the researcher John Cocke, she published a series of landmark papers in the late 1960s and ’70s describing this delicate balance between ease of creation and speed of execution. These ideas helped drive the evolution of computer programming — all the way to the present day, when even relative novices can easily build fast and efficient software apps for a world of computers, smartphones and other devices.

In 2006, on the strength of this work, Ms. Allen became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 8, 1956 X Minus One aired “The Last Martian.” This is the story of a reporter  seeing if a man’s claim that he is a Martian placed in a human’s body.  George Lefferts was the scriptwriter who adapted the story from the Fredric Brown’s “The Last Martian” short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950.  Mandel Kramer, Elliot Reed, Santos Ortega, Ralph Bell, John McGovern, and Patricia Weil were in the radio cast.  You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 8, 1883 – Paul Stahr, Jr.  Forty covers for Argosy 1925-1934.  Also Collier’sJudgeLife, People’s Home JournalThe Saturday Evening Post; book covers, posters.  Here is the 10 Jan 31 Argosy.  Here is the 25 Aug 34.  Here is The Ship of Ishtar.  Here is a World War I poster.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the BarbarianFlash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween IIIDead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best-known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers, The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 85. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold MonkeyAirwolf and of course, that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. Ok, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 83. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1950 – John D. Berry, 70.  Of New York (Fanoclasts), later Seattle.  “The Club House” 1969-1972 (fanzine reviews) for Amazing.  Pacific Northwest Review of Books (with Loren MacGregor).  Fan Guest of Honor, Norwescon 1, VCON 13, Westercon 63.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Designed the souvenir book for 15th World Fantasy Con.  I daren’t say a font of knowledge but indeed he is good with them.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1958 – David Egge, 62.  Thirty book and magazine covers, three dozen interiors.  Here is The End of Summer.  Here is The Dorsai Pacifist (in German).  Here is a 1986 cover for The Mote in God’s Eye (in fact Moties don’t have faces, a non-trivial point, but see this anyway).  Here is the Apr 01 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1961 – Tim Szczesuil, F.N., 59.  Chaired Boskones 33, 53.  Five terms as NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) President, four as Treasurer; various committees.  Contributed to APA:NESFA.  For NESFA Press, edited His Share of Glory (C.M. Kornbluth), Strange Days (Gardner Dozois; with Ann Broomhead).  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1971 – Phlippa Ballantine, 49.  First New Zealand author to podcast her novel (Weaver’s Web, 2006; three more; PB since moved to Virginia).  Three novels about the Order, five (with husband Tee Morris) about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (Phoenix Rising was a top-10 SF book of the year on Goodreads, sequel The Janus Affair a Locus best-seller and Steampunk Chronicle readers’ choice for fiction), two about the Shifted World; a score of shorter stories.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1988 – Flavia Bujor, 32.  Children’s novel The Prophecy of the Stones (or “Gems”), written at age 13, translated into 23 languages.  A second is rumored.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows that the pandemic has reached mythic proportions.
  • Bizarro has a moral.

And Today In Comics History:

  • August 8, 1978: Garfield’s sidekick, Odie, made his comic strip debut.

(12) TUNING UP. CinemaBlend pays tribute to “10 Excellent John Williams Scores In A Steven Spielberg Movie”. On their list is:

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

The 1977 science-fiction epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped cement Steven Spielberg as a master of the genre, and the movie’s epic story of humans coming into contact with aliens was only made that more memorable thanks to soaring and sweeping score by John Williams. 

Throughout the entire movie, the score pushes the plot along to the point where the humans finally begin to communicate with the alien mothership, which is another way of inserting Williams’ composition into the picture. The “Play The Five Tones” scene is a miraculous piece of filmmaking and orchestration as it starts rather small and hushed before going into a back and forth between the two species before growing into a grand composition that ultimately ends with a chorus of strings growing in intensity as the aliens reveal themselves to the amazement of the humans.

(13) PRIVATE EYES. NPR tells how “From Desert Battlefields To Coral Reefs, Private Satellites Revolutionize The View”.

As the U.S. military and its allies attacked the last Islamic State holdouts last year, it wasn’t clear how many civilians were still in the besieged desert town of Baghouz, Syria.

So Human Rights Watch asked a private satellite company, Planet, for its regular daily photos and also made a special request for video.

“That live video actually was instrumental in convincing us that there were thousands of civilians trapped in this pocket,” said Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch. “Therefore the coalition forces absolutely had an obligation to stop, and to avoid bombardment of that pocket at that time.”

Which they did until the civilians fled.

Lyons, who’s based in Geneva, Switzerland, has a job title you wouldn’t expect at a human rights group: director of geospatial analysis. He says satellite imagery is increasingly a crucial component of human rights investigations, bolstering traditional eyewitness accounts, especially in areas where it’s too dangerous to send researchers

…They get those images from a handful of private, commercial satellite companies, like Planet and Maxar.

For the past three years, Planet has done something unprecedented. Its 150 satellites photograph the entire land mass of the earth every day — more than one million images every 24 hours. Pick any place on earth — from your house to the peak of Mt. Everest — and Planet is taking a photograph of it today.

“If you could visualize a string of pearls going around the poles, looking down and capturing imagery of the earth underneath it every single day,” said Rich Leshner, who runs Planet’s Washington office.

Scroll through Planet’s photo gallery and you get a bird’s eye view of the state of the world: idle cruise ships clustered off Coco Cay in the Bahamas, deserted streets around normally bustling sites like the Colosseum in Rome, and the smoke from the relentless fires set by farmers clearing land in the Amazon rainforest.

U.S. government satellites are the size of a bus. Planet’s satellites are the size of a loaf of bread. Planet is in business to make money, and its clients include the U.S. military and big corporations. But it also works with lots of non-profits and other groups it never anticipated.

(14) DAMMIT, BLANET! There is a thesis about a new type of planets, called “Blanets” (BLack Hole plANETS). “New Class of Planet Can Form Around Black Holes, Say Astronomers”Discover has the story.

Supermassive black holes are among the most exciting and puzzling objects in the universe. These are the giant, massive bodies that sit at the heart of most, perhaps all, galaxies. Indeed, they may be the seeds from which all galaxies grow.

Supermassive black holes are at least a hundred thousand times the mass of our sun. They are often surrounded by thick clouds of gas that radiate vast amounts of energy. When this happens, they are called active galactic nuclei. Discovering the properties of these clouds, and their curious central residents, is an ongoing exercise for astrophysicists.

Now researchers have a new phenomenon to consider — the idea that planets can form in the massive clouds of dust and gas around supermassive black holes. Last year, Keichi Wada at Kagoshima University in Japan, and a couple of colleagues showed that under certain conditions planets ought to form in these clouds. These black hole planets, or blanets as the team call them, would be quite unlike any conventional planet and raise the possibility of an entirely new class of objects for astronomers to dream about.

(15) DEAD OR ALIVE? In this 2019 article, WIRED considers the possibilities after “A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon”.

…Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

…The lunar library on the Beresheet lander consisted of 25 layers of nickel, each only a few microns thick. The first four layers contain roughly 60,000 high-resolution images of book pages, which include language primers, textbooks, and keys to decoding the other 21 layers. Those layers hold nearly all of the English Wikipedia, thousands of classic books, and even the secrets to David Copperfield’s magic tricks.

Spivack had planned to send DNA samples to the moon in future versions of the lunar library, not on this mission. But a few weeks before Spivack had to deliver the lunar library to the Israelis, however, he decided to include some DNA in the payload anyway. Ha and an engineer on Spivack’s team added a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer of nickel, a synthetic equivalent of the fossilized tree resin that preserves ancient insects. Into the resin they tucked hair follicles and blood samples from Spivack and 24 others that he says represent a diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry, in addition to some dehydrated tardigrades and samples from major holy sites, like the Bodhi tree in India. A few thousand extra dehydrated tardigrades were sprinkled onto tape that was attached to the lunar library.

(16) THE BARD’S SJW CREDENTIALS. Cats are the theme for Shakespeare & Beyond’s post: “Of the flattering, pampered, reviled, predatory, ‘harmless, necessary’ early modern cat”.

… While many of us today think of cats primarily as pampered pets and cherished internet weirdos, for early modern Europeans cats ran the gamut, from pests and carriers of disease, to indicators of witchcraft and other feminine misbehavior, to objects of affection and partners in play. Shakespeare’s own references to cats display such a variety. Trying to shake Hermia off in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander calls her “thou cat, thou burr! vile thing,” (3.2.270), and Macbeth’s First Witch calls out to Graymalkin, a common name for a cat that could also be applied to a “jealous or imperious old woman,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1.1.9). In other places, he references a cat’s behavior, as when Falstaff insists he is “as vigilant as a  cat to steal cream” (Henry IV, Part 1 4.2.59). The Oxford English Dictionary also credits Shakespeare with the first reference to a cat’s purr, in All’s Well That Ends Well (5.2.19)…

(17) IS THAT PAL OR HAL? Wil Wheaton devotes a blog post to his forthcoming movie: “Wil Wheaton is a very bad friend in trailer for horror-thriller Rent-A-Pal”.

Everything about this movie makes me happy. The cast is superb, the editing and photography and music are gorgeous, and the story is REALLY FUCKING CREEPY.

I can’t wait for y’all to see this when it comes out in September.

The short description of the movie on YouTube says:

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Peer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #52

A Few (Pointed) Observations of the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony

By Chris M. Barkley:  I usually don’t offer any commentary after the Hugo Awards are given out because the will of the voters has been expressed and as the song goes, “Some will win, some will lose, some of them will sing the blues.”

And when you consider what happened last Saturday morning in Wellington, New Zealand, I think what unfolded may have looked really bad, but it could have been far, far worse.

Having said that, I think the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony team deserves a modicum of credit for bringing us a telecast of the awards at all under somewhat grueling circumstances;  even though there were a number of other glitches that were glaringly evident as time went on.

And on.

AND ON…

THE HUGO AWARDS CEREMONY

Yes, the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony will probably go down as one of the longest and most poorly executed as of now and well into the near future. I am quite sure that everyone involved, and I definitely include George R.R. Martin and the CoNZealand production team had the best of intentions.

I believe that he, and Robert Silverberg, were trying to convey to a global audience the grand, sweeping history and the importance of the award, which is still, after sixty-seven (67!) years, the only prestigious literary award given to authors and artists by readers. But they took an awfully long time to convey that. 

When planning something as arduous as the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the uppermost thing to keep in mind is that brevity and conciseness are your friends and droning on and boring your audience is not what you want under any circumstances. A VERY tight script would have redeemed this broadcast.

Also, and more importantly, GRRM and the producers on his end completely misread the audience tuning in. While his folksy reminiscing and cute anecdotes about the good old days of pre-internet fandom may have been entirely appropriate on a Worldcon panel (of which I have no doubt he has done countless times beforehand) his comments were perceived by the somewhat younger crowd as meandering, problematic and boring. His stories were about as meaningful and relevant as Henry Ford regaling Elon Musk about what a genius idea the production line was.

I am rather puzzled how GRRM, a seasoned writer/producer of several tv shows, could have possibly not foreseen this Titanic-sized iceberg in the making. And with at the very least five or so months of advanced planning, it was entirely avoidable. 

But there’s the rub; this fiasco was NOT entirely GRRM’s fault. He had plenty of help. 

Someone in CoNZealand’s end of the production and the producer in charge of GRRM’s studio, whom I do not know and cannot readily find,  should have recognized the problems at the scripting stage and should be held ultimately responsible for this fiasco. And whomever they are, they should have provided GRRM with the proper pronunciations of the nominee’s names far in advance of the start of the Ceremony.

Very little responsibility should fall on the line producers of the broadcast, Directors Alan Bond and Dragos Ruiu, who were recruited late in the process.   

The script GRRM and his producers had drafted by early July had a proposed running time in excess of OVER THREE HOURS, and that was without the recipients’ speeches! That’s as long as some of the more egregious Academy Awards telecasts of recent years. The final running time of the Ceremony (including the Hugo Award recipients’ speeches) clocked in at three hours thirty-four minutes and fifty-eight seconds. (And for those of you keeping score at home, no, it was not as long as Gone with the Wind; it would have needed yet another 24 minutes to accomplish that. But it sure FELT like it…)

Several days after CoNZealand ended and the bloody autopsies of the broadcast were in full swing, I came across a Facebook post that claimed that the original tech crew had been unceremoniously sacked and had to sign non-disclosure agreements to boot.   

And then there was also this curious post from a recent File 770 comments page:

Chip Hitchcock on August 6, 2020 at 8:30 am wrote:

“@Soon Lee: I’m sympathetic to the issues brought up by having to pivot so close to curtain time. ISTM that the program book should not have been one of those, but the slow connections in the Hugo ceremony (explained in another thread as having been picked up on 3 days’ notice because the original team crumped) is understandable.”

Curious about these claims, I spent several days seeking out, contacting and speaking extensively with a source who worked on the convention. I can completely debunk and dispose both pieces of gossip:

The original technical crew did not “crump”. Nor were they sacked or forced to sign NDAs.

According to my source, the decision was made to replace the New Zealand crew by the American based production team on the evening of July 29 (the first day of the convention) at the request of the US-based producers. This request was made directly by them to the Events Division Head, Mel Duncan. The explanation that was offered was that the tech crew was too widely distributed across several time zones (AEST/NZST/PDT/EDT) and the producers wished to use a centralized crew based solely in the Pacific Daylight Time zone.

That is all fine and well in theory, BUT the original crew had already gone through several rehearsals already and may have been in a better position to handle the technical issues or difficulties that occurred. Or not. We’ll never know for certain.

One thing is certain, GRRM and the production team haven given the World Science Fiction Society a big, black eye. Needless to say, this terrible program has churned up a considerable amount of negative reactions from a wide spectrum of fans and critics. How bad? One acclaimed Hugo Nominated Best Series author, Tade Thompson, was so disgusted by the perceived racism (in praise of problematic writers and editors from generations ago) that he publicly announced on Twitter that he would no longer accept any future nominations from WSFS. So yes, really bad.   

(For those of you who are curious, there is a fan edited version of the Ceremony that is an hour and forty two minutes long.)

BEST RELATED WORK and BEST NOVELLA

The BEST part of the broadcast was the acceptance speeches by the recipients, they were fantastic! In particular, I was especially happy for Jeannette Ng, whose speech at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon accepting the (now former) John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer won the 2020 Best Related Work category. I was privileged to be in the room when it happened; her scathing condemnation of white privilege, fascism and racism was truly one of the most electrifying moments in modern literature and subsequently made headlines around the world. Ms. Ng’s acceptance speech was also heartfelt and stirring, too. 

Of all of the fiction award winners, my only lament is that Ted Chiang’s magnificent novella, “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom”, was bested by “This Is How You Lose the Time War”. But Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s story was an epic tour-de-force and just as deserving.

THE 1945 RETRO-HUGOS

I had other concerns. 

When the Retro-Hugo Awards were first established in 1996, it was generally thought that it would be a good idea to honor works of fantasy and science fiction from 50, 75 and 100 years ago. And now after honoring eight years (1938,1940, 1942-1945, 1950 and 1953), folks are having second thoughts about the whole endeavor.

The good news is that the late Leigh Brackett and artist Margaret Brundage were big winners. Brackett won twice, the first for her novel Shadow Over Mars (aka The Nemesis From Terra) and in the Best Related Work for her Writer’s Digest article, “The Science Fiction Field”. The late Ms. Brundage was honored as the Best Artist of 1944, primarily for her artwork that year for Weird Tales

The bad news, as far as I was concerned, was yet another Short Form Editor award for John W. Campbell, Jr and a Best Series award for H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

It seems to me it’s as though when the Retro-Hugos are handed out, the nominators and voters seem to punch Campbell’s award ticket EVERY SINGLE TIME. I freely admit that, without question, he was one of the most influential editors of 20th century sf literature. And despite being a bit of a weird, cranky, an eccentric and a virulent racist, he was revered by his peers and fans alike for decades.

And because of those beliefs, I don’t think that Campbell is held in such high regard by a majority of contemporary fans, writers and editors. But the Hugo Award is not given for a person’s beliefs and character, they are given for the work that has been done. And as much as I may dislike JWC as a person, there is no doubt he did some admirable work, in his era.

By my count, Campbell’s work has netted him fifteen Hugo Awards, eight of those being Retro-Hugos. The question I have is this; how much adulation is enough? Because it seems to me that even with some of the more recent revelations of Campbell’s true nature, there is a die-hard cadre of enthusiasts who will continue giving his surviving family members a Hugo Award in spite of those personal criticisms of his character.      

Well, I stopped nominating and voting for John W. Campbell, Jr.on my Retro ballot years ago. Because there were other editors of that early era who deserve recognition, too. 

As for H.P. Lovecraft, I also recognize that he has had a lasting influence in modern day fantasy and horror. He is also a very disturbing individual and racist whose writing style was admired by his contemporaries and many, many others after his death. Despite that, I have no love or admiration for his work, no matter what his personal views were.I find his works turgid, stomach-turning and generally unpleasant. So my opposition to honoring Lovecraft’s work is strictly aesthetic not personal.

In closing, I will note that Clifford Simak’s “Desertion”, the runner up in the Short Story category, was one of the most enthralling tales that I had ever read in my youth.  It is a far superior story in comparison to the winner, Ray Bradbury’s “I, Rocket”. I think that Bradbury’s long literary shadow was at work here and I believe that honoring such an inferior story would shock and dismay him.

BEST SEMI-PROZONE and BEST EDITOR, LONG & SHORT FORM

Somewhere in the middle of this miasma of an awards show, both GRRM and author Robert Silverberg mused at length about the Best Semiprozine and the Long and Short Form Editing categories. Specifically, why were these awards named in such a manner.

Well, if they knew their Hugo Awards history, they would have known that the Semiprozine category was first awarded in 1984 and, according to Wikipedia, “…is given each year for semi-professionally-edited magazines related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues, with at least one issue appearing in the previous calendar year.” The award was dominated for decades by Locus Magazine (with 8 wins as Best Fanzine in the 13 years before the creation of the Semiprozine category, followed by another 22 wins until a WSFS Constitution rules change in 2012 made it ineligible in that category.)

I was so disgusted by this category and Locus’ repeated wins that I was once recruited by Discon III Fan Guest of Honor Ben Yalow to try and KILL it altogether at a WSFS Business Meeting. Obviously, we did not succeed, at least, in this timeline. But that’s another story for another day…

In the past decade, there have been meaningful attempts to draft a constitutional amendment to make this category more relevant (and ditch the unwieldy name as well). 

This rather dovetails with Mr. Silverberg’s comments about how odd it was to have a long and short form award for editors. Having labored for three agonizing years in the conclave of SMOFs email lists and the Business Meetings, I can tell Mr. Silverberg that I was in the room where it happened and that he really, REALLY, doesn’t want to know how this particular sausage was made. 

What I can tell you is that the intent of splitting up the Editing category was to find a way to honor magazine/anthology editors and book editors, who had been sadly neglected over the decades. How neglected, you may ask? 

The last two Hugo Award winning book editors were Judy-Lynn Del Rey (1986) and Terry Carr (1987). Both were deceased by the time they were honored..

Ideally, in the 21st century, this mess can be easily solved by establishing the following categories:

  • Best Magazine: Any magazine (in print or online) related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues or edited volumes in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Anthology or Collection: Any Anthology of original stories or a single author collection related to science fiction or fantasy published in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Book Editor:The editor of at least four (4) novel length works primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy published in the previous calendar year that do not qualify as a magazine or a website.

The only thing needed for the last category to work is the establishment of a uniform commitment by publishers to credit the novel’s editor in every book. Besty Wollheim of DAW Books has been working for the past two years to make this happen. Bravo to her!

There has been some disturbing news in the past few years that certain members of the Business Meeting might be open to abandoning the Book Editor category in favor of a Best Publisher or Imprint Award. I think that would be a terrible shame to shunt book editors back into the shadows after thirteen years in the limelight.  

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION LONG & SHORT FORM

One of the most egregious oversights this year was the omission of the HBO mini-series, Chernobyl from the Long Form category.

If fans had enough gumption to nominate a film like Hidden Figures, which brilliantly dramatized the work of African-American “calculators” who helped guide the Mercury spaceflight program of the 1960’s, what was the impediment to nominating the chilling and dystopian epic of the worst nuclear disaster on record?

In a similar vein, I practically shouted to anyone who would listen that fans should NOT nominate individual episodes of Watchmen, the acclaimed ten part series that served  as a “indirect sequel” to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s 1986 Hugo Award winning graphic novel.

And it ALMOST worked; an official statement from CoNZealnd’s Hugo Award Administrators posted on the voting results read as follows:

Watchmen gained enough votes to qualify in this category (81), but two individual episodes also qualified for the Short Form category (“A God Walk Into Abar” 81, “This Extraordinary Being,” 54) with more votes collectively. The Administrators therefore removed Watchmen from this category.”

UGH!   

With Watchmen relegated to two episodes in the Short Form Category, the beneficiary of that move was The Rise of Skywalker, who slipped into the sixth spot with 75 nominations. Next in line was Spider-Man: Far From Home with 74 nominations. (See the 2020 Hugo voting statistics here.)

And what’s this? The entire season of Russian Doll was nominated????? Russian Doll but not Watchmen? That’s the year 2020 for you; all crazy, all of the time. 

So with Chernobyl nowhere to be seen and Watchmen regulated out of the Long Form competition, is anyone surprised that the adaptation of Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens (also nominated as a series) was the eventual winner? A good choice, yes, But personally, I’d like to think that Watchmen would have given them a run for their money.

In the Short Form category, the same story, same show, a related result:

“Good Omens: Hard Times (Episode 3)” gained enough votes to qualify in this category (108 nominations), but the entire series of Good Omens also qualified for the Long Form category, with more votes. The Administrators therefore removed “Good Omens: Hard Times” from this category.”

The beneficiary here? The Doctor Who episode “Resolution”, which was promoted on the ballot, just ahead of an episode of The Good Place, “Pandemonium”.

And as much as I like Michael Shur’s comedy of moral philosophy and demonic manners, I heart simply aches that “The Answer” was given the nod over two of Watchmen’s incredible episodes, “A God Walks into Abar” and “This Extraordinary Being.” 

This sort of heartbreak could be avoided if the WSFS Business meeting would come to its senses and adopt the common sense solution that fellow fan Vincent Docherty and I formally proposed two years ago at ConJose (and can be found in Appendix B: 2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee, on page 27). 

Best Dramatic Presentation: Series – Any TV or streaming series of four 60 minute episodes or more than 240 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Episodic Form – TV or any other dramatic form, 30-89 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form – For films, audio books, theatrical productions, 90 minutes or more.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form – Any dramatic form of 30 minutes or less.

Yes, FOUR categories of Dramatic Presentation. If anyone has a better idea, please step forward at the Business Meeting and be prepared to be hammered down.

So, until the proposal above comes to pass (or something like it), my advice to all of you nominating voters stands; if you love this year’s series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Homecoming, Lovecraft Country or The Umbrella Academy, DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT nominate individual episodes, nominate the whole series. That’s what the Long Form Category was created to honor in the first place. 

THE LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK

No one has EVER explained to my complete and utter satisfaction as to why this cannot be a Hugo Award category.

NO. ONE.

I hope it happens one day. Soon.

In the meantime, CONGRATULATIONS to Naomi Kritzer for her winning book, Catfishing on CatNet. Well Done! 

THIS award should be either a Hugo Award category OR renamed to honor the works and memory of  Ursula K. Le Guin. At this point, either would suit me just fine. Just Sayin’…

Titan Comics Covers for Doctor Who Time Lord Victorious #1

Cover Artist: LEE BINDING

Titan Comics is releasing Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious #1 on September 2, written by Jody Houser, with art by Robert Ingranata.

A thrilling new adventure for the Tenth Doctor (as played by fan-favorite David Tennant) that sees the shocking return of his deadliest enemies: the Daleks! But things aren’t what they seem – time is all wrong, and something is coming that terrifies even the Daleks… The first of two oversized issues kicking off the BBC’s highly anticipated multi-platform Doctor Who epic, Time Lord Victorious!

The variant cover art and page samples from the issue – the reason for this post! – follow the jump.

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