Brian White Takes Over As Interim Editor at Fireside

Brian J. White announced today that Pablo Defendini is resigning from all editorial functions at Fireside Fiction Company (Fireside Magazine and Fireside Books). White, Fireside Fiction’s founding editor and publisher from 2012-2017, is returning as interim editorial director.

The change is being made as Fireside tries to recover from Defendini’s intensely criticized posting of an audio recording of a contributor’s essay by a white narrator in an affected accent, exacerbated by Defendini’s admission that he didn’t listen to it before posting it (see “Fireside Editor Apologizes for ‘Auditory Blackface’ by Narrator of Essay in November Issue”).

White, who remained one-third owner of the company when he stepped down, says:

I will be serving several roles in the capacity of interim editorial director: I will oversee the continuity of publication of Fireside’s contracted stories; lead a review and rework of Fireside’s quality control, production, and approvals process; and lead the search for a new editor-in-chief. While I will be working with the guest editors for each issue, story selection and editing will remain under their control.

Pablo Defendini, the majority owner of Fireside Fiction Company, continues as its Publisher & Art Director. He will not have a role in editorial decision-making, but he will for now remain as art director (magazine layout/design and art), as well as managing the finances and a number of other administrative functions.

White explains the necessity of this:

…The magazine has one other permanent staff member, copyeditor and proofreader Chelle Parker, and otherwise relies on freelance guest editors and artists. Simply put, there is no one in place to hand these many operations over to. If Pablo were to fully resign today, both Fireside Magazine and Fireside Books would fold, and along with them all the stories, essays, and other content in the pipeline, which currently extends deep into 2021. We strongly want to avoid causing that kind of harm to those authors.

To aid the transition, Fireside will postpone the submissions period for the Autumn 2021 issue of Fireside Quarterly, under guest editor Brandon O’Brien.

And they are indefinitely pausing the publication of all audio recordings of stories. Chelle Parker will lead a review of all previously published audio on to look for any other problematic recordings.

White says he will only be acting as editorial director for a matter of months. He is committed to finding a new editor-in-chief who comes from a marginalized background:

I am a cis, straight, white man with some chronic pain disabilities. And I know that long-term, a cis, straight, white man is not what Fireside needs in its leadership roles. I’m taking on this temporary role only because my familiarity with Fireside means I’m well-positioned to do so on short notice and without a need for extensive orientation.

During White’s prevous tenure Fireside published 150 stories, plus longer works, and produced the influential #BlackSpecFic report (2016).

Also today, the Washington Post published its account of the controversy, “Fireside Magazine’s art director Pablo Defendini apologizes for ‘auditory blackface’”. The reporter reached out to the main figures in the story, including narrator Kevin Rineer who makes several mitigating claims for his performance that were not mentioned in his original Twitter or YouTube apologies (which File 770 was able to review in the time they were online before Rineer deleted them.)

Rineer told The Post in a statement that he was unaware he would be reading a Black woman’s work when he auditioned for Fireside Quarterly and that he only received the full manuscript for the work after signing a contract.

Communications lapsed, Rineer said, when he reached out to Fireside and Bradley through a distributor and didn’t get a response. Rineer says he wishes he would have broken the contract rule to contact Bradley directly about her work.

“My normal narrative style is to read with a general West Coast American accent. I made the mistake of reading Dr. Bradley’s work and assuming an accent that was not representative of her voice,” he said. “I had tried to find a different narrator who would be a suitable representative in my network and via public forums, to no avail, in the week-long time frame I had.”

Thanks for Ray Bradbury

A Bradbury roundup to wind up this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

(1) TEN CENTS A DANCE. Input expresses its gratitude: “We have dime-operated rental typewriters to thank for ‘Fahrenheit 451’”.

…DRIVEN BY COST AND CHILDREN — Open Culture has seen fit to remind us all that the classic novel had humble beginnings. Typed on a rental typewriter for $9.80 at a dime per half an hour, the book began as a 25,000-word novella called The FiremanOver the course of nine days, Bradbury spent 49 hours on this first draft.

His speed was largely driven by the sheer cost (we’re talking mid-century dimes here) and the ticking clock of being a present father. Surely, as more parents have had to attempt working from home while their children are being adorable, you can understand why Bradbury could no longer write from his garage. Unable to afford an office, he turned to rental typewriters in the basement of UCLA’s Powell Library.

Plaque commemorating Ray Bradbury’s use of Typing Room at UCLA’s Powell Library to write Fahrenheit 451.

(2) MYSTERIOUS RAY. In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Cullen Gallagher is enthusiastic about the Hard Case Crime collection Killer, Come Back To Me, a collection of Bradbury’s crime fiction — “Bradbury Noir: The Crimes of a Science Fiction Master”.

 THE SKELETONS IN Ray Bradbury’s closet are out in Killer, Come Back to Me, a career-spanning collection of the science fictioneer’s crime stories. These 300 pages present a new side to readers who only know Bradbury from such classics as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and Fahrenheit 451 (1953). Published by Hard Case Crime on the occasion of the author’s centennial, the selections were picked by Hard Case head honcho Charles Ardai, Michael Congdon (Bradbury’s longtime agent), and Jonathan R. Eller (director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University and author of, among other titles, Becoming Ray Bradbury, Ray Bradbury Unbound, and Bradbury Beyond Apollo). Encompassing everything from the early pulp work on which he cut his teeth to a story published two years before his death in 2012, Killer, Come Back to Me offers the full spectrum of Bradbury’s criminal imagination.

… Bradbury’s life of crime spanned seven decades. Unlike Elmore Leonard and Brian Garfield, who started with Westerns, then moved to mysteries and didn’t look back, Bradbury never left the mystery genre for good. His commitment to both crime and SF recalls the career of Fredric Brown, who, while 14 years older, only entered the pulps shortly before Bradbury did and divided his output between the two genres until his death in 1972. Like Brown, Bradbury’s work displays the influence of Weird Tales and Dime Detective (where both authors published), embedding elements of the bizarre and supernatural in murder mysteries. Among Bradbury’s weirdest stories is a Dime yarn called “Corpse Carnival” (July 1945), which begins with one of two conjoined twins witnessing the murder of the other. 

(3) HE WALKS BY NIGHT. Literary Hub considers Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” in “The Dissident Act of Taking a Walk at Night”.

…He is half-consciously creating what Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, in their celebration of the edgelands that characterize the uncertain border between cities and the surrounding countryside, have classified as “desire paths.” These are “lines of footfall worn into the ground” that transform the ordered, centralized spaces of the city into secret pockets; and that, in so doing, offer a “subtle resistance to the dead hand of the planner.”

Once he has decided on a direction, Mead strides off along his desire path, then, at once purposeful and purposeless. “Sometimes he would walk for hours and miles and return only at midnight to his house.” Mead has never encountered another living creature on these nighttime walks. Nor has he so much as glimpsed another pedestrian in the daytime, because people travel exclusively by car. “In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not once in all that time” (569).

The proximate reason for the eerie solitude of the city at night is that everyone else has carefully secluded themselves in their living rooms in order to stare blankly and obediently at television screens. The silence of the city is an effect of what Theodor Adorno once called “the unpeaceful spiritual silence of integral administration.” If there is no political curfew in place in Bradbury’s dystopian society, this is because a kind of cultural or moral curfew renders it superfluous.

Crossing and re-crossing the city at night on foot, aimlessly reclaiming the freedom of its streets from automobiles, Bradbury’s Pedestrian is identifiable as the scion of a distinct tradition of urban rebellion or resistance, the dissident tradition of the nightwalker….

(4) OUT ON A LIMB. “The Best History Lesson Ever: Ray Bradbury and ‘The Halloween Tree’” at Bloody Disgusting.

…With the seminal dark fantasy masterpiece Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) and the latter career work A Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities (1990) on either side, The Halloween Tree is the middle installment in a loose Halloween trilogy by the author. Though he had written several other pieces dealing with childhood and growing up in a small town, this is his only novel that is aimed directly at children as its primary audience. Be that as it may, it is enchanting for readers of all ages. It is also well worth mentioning that the illustrations by Joseph Mugnaini, a frequent collaborator of Bradbury’s, are astounding.

In 1993, the Hanna-Barbera company produced an animated special based on the novel for the ABC network written and narrated by Bradbury himself with Leonard Nimoy voicing the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud. So often when it comes to books and the movies based on them, one is clearly superior. In this case, both are so wonderful for different reasons that neither feels extraneous. The basics of the plot remain more or less the same in both, but the details and execution in each make both vital. Because they share most of the same plot points, let us explore both at the same time, reveling in the magic of each.

(5) PAST THE APEX. In “Bradbury in the Afternoon” at the Russell Kirk Center website, James E. Person, Jr. does a lengthy review of Jonathan R. Eller’s bio Bradbury: Beyond Apollo.

…By that time Bradbury was a legend: he was hailed and feted by his writing peers and admiring readers of all ages, his name mentioned in the same breath with H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as a writer of astonishingly imaginative science fiction and fantasy. Within the world of literature he knew everybody that was anybody, and his works were well on their way to becoming staples of middle-school and high-school literature courses. So what did the man do for the remaining fifty years of his life? The answer is hinted at in the title of the third and final volume of Jonathan Eller’s masterful Bradbury biography, by the words “Beyond Apollo.”

Why those words? Their significance lies in that from Bradbury’s perspective, the Apollo moon landings—particularly the initial landing in July, 1969—marked the apex of much that the author had dreamed of, the first step in mankind’s outward journey to Mars and beyond. When Neil Armstrong and Edwin (“Buzz”) Aldrin first set foot on the moon at Tranquility Base, it marked the pinnacle of the U.S. space program’s endeavors at that time. Everything that followed—the subsequent handful of successful moon landings, the space-shuttle initiative, the probes to Mars and beyond, the international space station—were wonderful but somehow a step down. As with Bradbury’s career, there was a sense that there was nothing left to prove. Beyond Apollo, there was a transitional phase of reset and refocus in America’s approach to space exploration and in Bradbury’s career….

(6) HEY, I KNOW THAT GUY. Phil Nichols’s seventeenth episode of his series “Bradbury 100” spotlight’s some events celebrating the milestone birthday. John King Tarpinian restrained his enthusiasm when he sent the link: “Darn it, I am included in this podcast at about 7 minutes in.”

This week’s Bradbury 100 is a bit different: instead of a featured guest interview, I present highlights from two Bradbury Centenary events from recent times, as well as summing up some of the key centenary events of the year so far.

The first of the highlights is a selection from the discussion in the first (and so far, only)  Bradbury 100 LIVE episode. This was an event I ran on Facebook Live back in September. In this recording, I talk to John King Tarpinian – a friend of Ray Bradbury’s who often accompanied him to public events – and educator George Jack.

The second is the audio from a public lecture I gave earlier this week, celebrating seventy years of Bradbury’s book The Martian Chronicles.

(7) COVID-19 PUSHES 451 OUT OF THE SYLLABUS.  In the Washington Post, Ashley Fetters interviewed teachers about the changes they’ve made as a result of the pandemic.  She interviewed Morgan Jackson, a high school English teacher in Philadelphia: “Distance learning is straining parent-teacher relationships”.

…Jackson has made changes to how she teaches.  She skipped, for example, a lesson she planned about an overdose scene in Fahrenheit 451.  ‘Typically, because Philadelphia is so rife with overdoses and drug issues, I would have had an in-depth discussion and read an article about that.  But because it’s such a controversial topic and some parents don’t want their kids knowing about that side of Philly, I kind of cut that out,’ she said.  ‘I feel more monitored now than I did when we were in class.’

(8) THAT’S SHAT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from an article by David Cheal in the November 21 Financial Times about Elton John’s 1972 song “Rocket Man.”

Decades before the opening scenes of Ridley Scott’s film Alien (1979) showed astronauts smoking, chatting, and drinking, before John Carpenter’s 1974 sci-fi classic Dark Star depicted a spaceship’s crew bored and listless, science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury had the prescience to realise that one day going ino space would be just a job.  His short story ‘The Rocket Man,’ part of his 1951 collection The Illustrated Man, tells of a man who works in space for three months at a time, coming home to an anxious wife and a curious teenage son.  Sniffing his father’s space uniform, the son finds it smells of ‘fire and time.”…

…In 1972 Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s lyric-writing partner, was heading home to see his parents.  He had read Bradbury’s story and was musing on it when a lyric popped into his head, about a man preparing to head off to his job in space:  ‘She packed my bags last night pre-flight, zero hour 9am…  Taupin normally used a notebook to jot down ideas but as he was driving he had to spend the day anxiously memorizing the lines before he could finally commit them to paper.  He sent the finished lyric to John (they mostly work separately), who set them to music,'”

Cheal notes that when William Shatner sang his version of “Rocket Man” at the Science Fiction Film Awards ceremony, Ray Bradbury was in the audience as he later gave the prize for best film of the year to Star Wars.

(9) FAN MAIL. Maddy Schierl remembers her response to a life-changing fictional encounter — “Door Reader Series: Fahrenheit 451” in the Door County Pulse.

I was in seventh grade the first time that I read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I wasn’t a particular fan of science fiction, nor was I a fan of dystopian fiction. That being said, Fahrenheit 451 didn’t even register as belonging to a genre as I read it. 

Bradbury’s language was so rich and real and immediate that I remember being as convinced of the world he built as I was of any “real” setting. I wanted to sink into every sentence. I wanted to wrap myself up in unexpected metaphors and lush allusions. I wanted to be a writer just like Bradbury. 

After school the day that I finished reading Fahrenheit 451, I sat down to write Bradbury a letter. In this letter, I tried to express how much his book meant to me. I don’t remember now exactly what I wrote; I’m sure it was clumsy. What I do remember is including a small postscript informing him that I had enclosed an original short story, and would he please respond with any comments he might have. 

Then I decorated the envelope with red and orange flames and stuck three stamps in the corner because it was so heavy. (It might have been generous to call my short story short.) 

The next day, Ray Bradbury passed away. He was 91 years old, and my letter never got to him. I was devastated. Now, at 21 years old, I often wonder where that letter ended up. 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for these stories.]

Fireside Follow-up

Mourning and efforts to find a way forward are both part of the ongoing discussion about Fireside Magazine since yesterday’s audio debacle and apology (see “Fireside Editor Apologizes for “Auditory Blackface” by Narrator of Essay in November Issue”).

Ali Trotta

Nibedita Sen

Meg Frank

P. Djèlí Clark

Heath Miller

Apparition Lit

Jeff Xilon

Andrés Moon

M. M. Schill

#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster

SFWA and Alan Dean Foster will hold a joint press conference on November 18 about unpaid royalties Disney owes the author.

Famed science fiction and fantasy writer Alan Dean Foster, writer of multiple book series, numerous novelizations of film scripts and more than 20 novels, will hold a joint press conference with Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America on Wednesday, November 18 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern/1:00 p.m. Central/ 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Foster and SFWA will discuss the non-payment by Disney of several contracts for works including multiple Star Wars and Aliens novelizations. 

Foster was originally contracted to write the Alien novelizations by Titan Books, and the Star Wars novelizations by Lucasfilms. Both companies regularly paid his royalties. When The Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to these novelizations in 2015, the payments stopped although the books continue to be sold. Disney continues to get money for the books. Alan Dean Foster, and possibly other authors with similar contracts, have not been paid.

Foster and SFWA will discuss the fact the contracts are contracts and that Disney must pay this author and any author to whom they owe royalty checks.  

The press conference will be available via Zoom Zoom (register at link).

The press conference will also be available on the SFWA Facebook page.

[Based on a press release.]

Save Uncle Hugo’s – November Update

The future of Don Blyly’s Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores might be in south Minneapolis, or even Richfield, he told subscribers in his November update. The two stores were burned by vandals on May 30 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. He has since determined to sell the lot and reopen elsewhere. The Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe has raised $177,708 to date.

Don Blyly

Here are the highlights.

An assist from the local newspaper changed the tune of the city’s obstructionist regulators:

The debris removal was halted at about 95% completed for over a month while we tried to negotiate a new plan with the city.  I finally went to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune with the story of what had been going on, with lots of documentation.  The reporter talked to several other sources to confirm what I had told him, and then he started talking to people at the city.  The city learned late Thursday afternoon that the story was going to run in the Sunday paper.  Friday morning the city suddenly decided to be much more cooperative.  It still took awhile to work out details, but the debris removal under the new plan was completed about a week and a half ago. 

Then it took some jawboning of the construction company to finish their work properly:

Next, the site needed to be fenced, both to satisfy the city and under my sales agreement to the dentist.  The fencing went up yesterday, but the work crew left a 1.5 foot gap between the bottom of the fence and the ground at the corner where it meets the sidewalk.  I told the work crew that this was not acceptable.  I was told that it was impossible to have the fence meet the ground at that location.    I went home and called the supervisor and explained the situation and told him it was not acceptable.  He told me that it was impossible to make the fence meet the ground in that corner.  I told him that I guess we would have to see if the Better Business Bureau agreed with him or with me.  He got very upset and told me that mentioning the Better Business Bureau was a very counter-productive thing for me to do, but he would go take a look the next day at the area I was complaining about.  I went over to the site this morning with a sketch pad and a tape measure to document the “impossible” problem.  I pulled up just as the fencing company truck pulled away.  They had done a first rate job of fixing the “impossible “ problem.

There’s a to-do list before the sale of the lot can go through.

Now I have to wait for the bills from the debris removal contractor and the fencing contractor, pay the bills, and get lien waivers from both of the contractors, and we can have the closing on the sale of the lot to the dentist.  At that point I won’t have to drive over to the old site to shovel the sidewalk for the empty lot any more, as I have been doing (although none of the other owners of burnt out businesses have been doing that, and the city doesn’t seem to care).  Once I have the dentist’s money in my bank account, I will be able to move forward more aggressively with looking for a new building to buy.

Blyly has sifted the area real estate market and has his eye on several possibilities. The best case scenario might allow him to reopen in June. If not…,

I’ve been looking through hundreds of commercial real estate for-sale listings on the internet for the entire metro area, have driven out to look at about 15 possible locations in south Minneapolis, northeast Minneapolis, Columbia Heights, western St. Paul, and Richfield.  I’ve found 3 sites that I consider good potential new sites for the Uncles, two in south Minneapolis and one in Richfield.  I like the Richfield location best, but it would require extensive remodeling.  Once I have the dentist’s money in my account, I’ll hire a real estate agent, have an architect and general contractor go through the Richfield location with me and give me an idea of how much it would cost to make it ready for Uncles use, and see if the numbers will work.  If the numbers will work, we might be able to re-open in June.  If the numbers don’t work, then I’ll look to see what else has come on the market and then move on to my next best option.

Blyly is selling off his personal collection of books, with the money going toward reopening the Uncles.

I’ve been listing books on, although more slowly than I had expected.  Some are signed copies that assorted people (mainly authors) have donated since the fire, but most are hardcover and trade paperback books from my personal library.  I started at the top of one the bookcases on the first floor (which happened to be part way through Avram Davidson) and I’ve been working through the alphabet (and got most of the way through Harlan Ellison yesterday).  I’ve sold a lot of my Philip K. Dick books and signed Thomas Disch books, plus British David Eddings hardcovers and assorted other random books.  You can view the Uncles’ Abebooks listing by going to: and click “View this seller’s items”. 

He advises customers:

If you only want to buy one book, it costs you the same whether you go through Abebooks or directly through me, but if you want to buy multiple books you will save on shipping by buying directly from me. [E-mail:] The money from selling my personal library will go into the pot of money to try to re-open the Uncles.  

SFWA Releases the Bud Webster Legacy Kit to Aid Authors in Protecting Their Literary Estates

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) has released the Bud Webster Legacy Kit to aid professional writers in compiling the resources they need to protect their legacies. The Legacy Kit is available online at the SFWA website and as a PDF

The Legacy Kit was created in honor of Bud Webster, a driving force behind the SFWA Estates Program. It includes a checklist of important documents, sample book inventories and tables, and a layman’s glossary of important terms in addition to explanatory articles on the relevant topics. With this resource, writers can begin to plan what happens to their literary properties after their deaths. These materials will aid in that process, though they do not constitute or replace advice from a lawyer. 

The kit is available for all writers, not just SFWA members, to read or download and can be freely distributed with proper credit given. Other writing organizations are encouraged to share these materials, and the SFWA Legacy Committee members may be approached to develop seminars, workshops, and presentations on this important topic. The material will be updated quarterly to ensure relevance and incorporate new information as needed.

“SFWA hopes the Legacy Kit will help writers and their loved ones prepare their estates and protect their intellectual property in the event of emergencies or passing on,” said SFWA Vice President Tobias S. Buckell.

The Legacy Kit was written, researched, compiled, and produced by the members of the SFWA Legacy Committee, which falls under the umbrella of SFWA’s Estate Project. Committee members include Jean Marie Ward, Jeanne Adams, and Erin Wilcox. Others who contributed time and expertise to the effort include Julian Block, M. L. Buchman, Kim Headlee, James P. Nettles, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lawrence M. Schoen, Jonathan M. Wall, and Diane Whiteside. 

Bud Webster (1952-2016)

“It’s been a privilege to work on the Bud Webster Legacy Kit from its inception under Lawrence M. Schoen, to the creation of the Legacy Committee under Tobias Buckell, to today when it takes its place on the SFWA website alongside the Bud Webster Estate Project,” said Jean Marie Ward, who led the committee. “It’s not just about what happens to a writer’s legacy after their death. It’s also about helping writers get the most value for their creative endeavors while they live.”

A PDF copy of the Legacy Kit is available here.

The SFWA Estate Project promotes and helps preserve the work of those writers who helped build the science fiction and fantasy field, as well as more recently deceased writers, to ensure that legitimate publication of their works can take place without violating copyright protection.

[Based on a press release.]

Over A Third of TIME’s 100 Best Fantasy Books Are By SFWA Members

Recently, TIME Magazine put together a list of the 100 Best Fantasy Books, containing some of the most beloved titles of readers around the world, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has issued a press release pointing out that thirty-six of these books are written by current or past SFWA members.

“SFWA is thrilled that the accomplishments of its members have been recognized as the ground-breaking work that it is. This list represents the wide range of science fiction and fantasy writers working today,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, President of SFWA.

The 36 writers (and the titles of their books) are: 

  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
  • Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  • Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
  • Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Spindle’s End by Robin Mckinley
  • Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
  • The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
  • The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
  • The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
  • The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Witchmark by C.L. Polk

TIME built a team to develop the list back in 2019, recruiting a panel of leading fantasy authors—Tomi Adeyemi, Cassandra Clare, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Marlon James, N.K. Jemisin, George R.R. Martin, and Sabaa Tahir—to join the TIME staff in nominating the top books of the genre (no author nominated their own works). The team then rated 250 works on a scale, and using their responses, TIME created a ranking. After considering every finalist, TIME editors based their selection on a multitude of factors, including originality, artistry, ambition, critical and popular reception, and influence on the fantasy genre and literature.

[Based on a press release.]

Judge Rules on Motions in Rondon Murder Trial

Luis R. Rondon, former King of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, was expelled from the Society a year ago this month after his arrest in connection with the murder of Deborah Waldsinger.

Rondon’s attorneys entered not guilty pleas on his behalf to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, felonies; and misdemeanor weapon possession this past November.

Prosecutors believe Rondon used a framing hammer to beat 32-year-old Deborah Waldinger to death on October 7, 2019. He then traveled to California to attend the Great Western War sponsored by the Kingdom of Caid, a regional chapter of the SCA, and was arrested by Taft (CA) police on October 11 at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area where the event was in progress. He was extradited to New York.

The victim, Deborah Waldinger, was also active in the SCA, as well as in the Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia.

Since then, defense attorney Dennis J. Ring has filed motions trying to free his client on technical grounds, or convince the court to rule out some of the evidence the prosecution wants to present at trial.

In June, Judge Craig Brown of the Orange County (NY) court handed down rulings on eight of these motions.

Ring’s first motion asked the court to dismiss the indictment due to alleged defects in the Grand Jury proceedings. These included a claim that witness testimony stating Rondon was having an extramarital affair with Waldinger should not have been permitted:

Regarding testimony, the defendant takes exception to the People’s inclusion as a witness April Cruz, the co-worker of the deceased victim, characterizing the same as impermissible hearsay testimony for which no legally cognizable exception applies. The defendant states that the witness’s testimony was “highly inflammatory” because it related to an extramarital affair that defendant was allegedly having with the victim. Over the course of four days, the People presented fifteen witnesses, who testified as to their personal knowledge of the case as well as, where appropriate, their professional experiences in the fields of criminal investigation and forensic pathology.

… In opposition, the People …argue that their inclusion of the homicide victim’s statements to her co-worker were both appropriate and probative of her state of mind (specifically, that her intent to end the extramarital relationship with defendant and thus, by extrapolation, the defendant’s motive to kill her).

Judge Brown said in his decision that the court found no defects in the indictment.

The court did grant the defendant’s motion for the release of all transcripts of the testimony of persons who testified before the Grand Jury.

The court rejected additional claims that the Grand Jury procedure was defective, saying: “[The] Court finds that the People properly instructed the Grand Jury on the law and only permitted those grand jurors who heard all the evidence to vote on the matter… Those nineteen Grand Jurors then deliberated and voted 19-0 to indict defendant on all three counts of the Indictment.”

A motion to suppress the defendant’s statements to law enforcement was granted to the extent that a hearing was ordered to determine the admissibility of statements allegedly made by the defendant.

Likewise, the ruling on another motion, “to suppress the use of any evidence obtained as the result of a nonconsensual seizure of his cellular telephone on October 10, 2019 in Bakersfield, California by a New Windsor police detective” was deferred until a hearing could determine the admissibility of physical evidence allegedly obtained from the defendant.

The court ruled against defendant’s motion to suppress physical evidence obtained through multiple search warrants, which the judge found were based upon probable cause and supported by appropriate affidavits.

The defense’s motion to preclude the cross-examination of the defendant as to prior bad acts was granted to the extent that a hearing will be held immediately prior to trial “to determine which, if any, bad acts or convictions may be used as impeachment in the event that the defendant elects to testify at trial or as substantive proof of any material issue in the case…”

The court granted three other motions, to compel the District Attorney to provide the defense with any exculpatory evidence, ordering the mutual sharing of outstanding discovery material, and allowing the defense to file further motions as provided under the law.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for October 23.

Save Uncle Hugo’s: October Update

Don Blyly, owner of Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores, which were burned by vandals on May 30 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis, has sent another update to his subscribers. His son Sam Blyly-Strauss posted the full text to their GoFundMe campaign, which has now raised $175,858. Here are the highlights.

Don Blyly

Blyly has decided not to rebuild at his old location because a new building would push his insurance and property tax bills higher than he can afford.

…The old building was masonry construction, and I had a lower cost of insurance because of that.  The new building would have been wooden frame construction, so my cost of insurance would have gone up.  …And replacing the old building with a new building would have pushed the property tax bill from around $20,000 per year up to at least $45,000 per year, and it was very difficult even before covid-19 to cover the $20,000 per year property tax bill. 

He’s negotiated the sale of the property to the neighboring dentist.

…I decided to put a rebuild at the old location onto the back burner and talk to the dentist next door, who wanted to expand his dental clinic onto my lot.  I figured that the cash from the sale of the lot, plus the insurance money, would allow me to buy a decent older building in a better location, hopefully with off-street parking.   

The city issued a permit and work began. Then a building inspector changed the requirements. Now progress has stalled while Blyly, the dentist, and a hired civil engineer negotiate with the city.

…The demolition contractor had filed plans for what we wanted to do on the lot–finish knocking down the walls, haul away the debris, clean out the basement but leave the foot-thick concrete walls in place, perforate the old basement floor in spots so that rain water could escape, and leave the concrete slabs for Uncle Edgar’s and the back room in place.  The city looked over the plans and issued a permit based on our plans. 

…The demo guys told me that they would finish filling the basement with dirt before taking down the Uncle Hugo’s wall, and they expected the entire job to be done sometime on Friday, September 25. 

I went back over to the site Thursday morning and the heavy equipment was still there but no workers were there.  I went back Friday morning, and again there were no workers.  I went onto the site and found a red “Stop Work” order from the same inspector who had approved our original plan and issued the permit.  I went home to contact the demo people to find out what was going on.  While I had been at the site, the demo company had sent an e-mail explaining that the inspector had decided that he now wanted all the basement walls removed and the concrete slabs removed. 

Removing the basement wall would require the removal of the dirt that had been dumped and compacted into the basement hole.  Taking down the basement wall that holds up the sidewalk would cause in the dirt under the sidewalk to fall into the basement, which would result in the sidewalk sliding into the basement, and probably take out the major internet cable that was just installed under the sidewalk about a year before, with me being responsible for the cost of repairing the cable and replacing the sidewalk.  The city has now agreed to allow the basement wall that holds up the sidewalk to remain in place, but is still insisting on all the other changes to our original, approved plan.  The dentist and I have had several meetings on how to get the city to go along with what we both want and he has hired a civil engineer to argue with the city, but at this point there is still no progress.

One bonus is that Blyly’s safe has been recovered from the debris. But it will be awhile til that’s any real benefit.

Late in the afternoon on Thursday, September 17 the demo guys dug the safe out of the debris in Uncle Hugo’s basement, and water started dripping out of it.    They pointed out that safe salespeople like to brag about how fireproof their safes are, but never talk about the fact that they are not waterproof.  The next morning they broke it open while I was there to observe.  After 3.5 months of being hit by fire hoses multiple times and many rain storms, not much had survived.  None of the legal papers had survived.  None of the checks waiting to be deposited had survived.  The cash had survived, but the currency was dripping wet, slimy, mildewed, and stuck together.  I took it home, started carefully peeling the bills apart and spreading them on sheets of cardboard to dry out, and after 24 hours of drying gathered it up and put out a new batch of bills to dry.  After 3 days it was all dry and I took it to the bank to try to deposit it.  The bank refused to accept it and told me that I would have to deal with the U.S. government on my own to try to convert it to usable money and provided me with a (wrong) internet address for instructions on how to do this.  I managed to find the correct website and discovered that I had to mail the cash with explanation of how it got so messed up and lots of other information to a P.O. Box in Washington, D.C., registered, return receipt required, insured, to make a claim.    In normal times, it takes the government between 6 months and 36 months to process a claim, but these are not normal times with so many government workers working from home.  Perhaps I’ll get something back from the government before old age gets me.

People have encouraged Blyly to shift to another city. Whatever else he decides, he’s determined to stay in the metro area.

The behavior of the city does not make me want to re-open in Minneapolis, especially since so many people have told me how much friendlier St. Paul is to businesses than Minneapolis and that property taxes are lower there.    I’ve started looking harder for a new location on the western side of St. Paul or in Richfield instead of in south Minneapolis.  But I’ve had people suggesting other places to relocate.  One person wants me to relocate to Oklahoma City (where the cost of housing seems to be about 1/3 the cost in Minneapolis) and another person wants me to relocate to Northfield.  I’m not interested in moving myself or the Uncles out of the metro area.

Blyly says Fox News and a Japanese network have interviewed him.

I’ve been doing a lot of media interviews since the fire. A few weeks ago Fox News from New York City contacted me to say they were sending in a team to interview various business owners who had been impacted by the riots and they wanted to interview me.  They were coming to town on the first day of debris removal at the Uncles, so the interview was filmed with a crane piling up a 15 foot tall pile of burned books in the middle of Uncle Edgar’s.  It quickly became clear that they were trying to get me to say pro “law and order” things that could be used to benefit Trump.  Instead I kept saying things like “neither political party has a monopoly on incompetence” and drawing a distinction between arresting people who are breaking the law and using storm trooper tactics on peaceful protesters. They used almost none of my interview.    About a week ago a reporter for a  Japanese network (which he said was the Japanese equivalent to the BBC) called, confirmed that the bookstore had been burned in the riot, and then started asking me about Black Lives Matter.  I failed to see how having a burnt bookstore made me an expert on Black Lives Matter, but I talked to him for awhile.  When he wanted to fly in a television crew to interview me about Black Lives Matter, I declined.

2020 Philip K. Dick European Science Fiction Film Festival

[From a press release.] The seventh annual Philip K. Dick European Science Fiction Film Festival has announced the full lineup for its seventh annual season celebrating the legacy of novelist Philip K. Dick. The two-day live event held at the L’Hybride theater in Lille, France from October 30-31 will showcase films with a variety of themes including scientific and technological advancements, extraordinary events, and dystopian worlds

Screenings begin on Friday, October 30th with a block of shorts that examine what it means to be human. The opening film is Erik Lee’s time-bending romance Wide Awake in Bridgewater about a man who rediscovers the love of his life fifty years after her disappearance. Following are the European Premieres of Adam Hayes’ 4D about a widow in Japan who attends a ceremony in an attempt to reunite with her deceased husband, and Jesca Prudencio’s American Quartet where a small town is bitterly divided over a young Muslim-American woman’s private digitized memories. A second block of shorts investigates the nature of consciousness beginning with Identity directed by Panos Pappas and Despina Charalampous about a woman at an airport who deals with the horrific revelation that her face has changed. Other titles include the Continental European Premiere of Ben Alpi’s Hashtag which follows a popular social media star who goes to great lengths to keep her fame, Diego Mellogno’s Craneoplastia about a debt enforcer who questions his existence following an unexpected event with a mysterious stranger, and the European Premiere of Eamonn Murphy’s A Better You which delves into the dystopian neo-steampunk world of customizable carbon clones.

A lineup of films depicting unexplained encounters on Saturday, October 31st includes Heretic directed by Veselin Efremov about a future where humans merge with technology, and Best Game Ever directed by Kristóf Deák which follows two CCTV technicians whose jobs are threatened by an AI machine. The block will also screen the French Premiere of Tobias Bieseke’s Nucleus where a researcher has succeeded in using bacteria to synthesize a fluid that reveals a form of communication in carbon atoms, and the European Premiere of Hekla Egilsdottir’s adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story Beyond the Door about the influence of a peculiar cuckoo clock. The night continues with several exclusive screenings that delve into the co-existence of man and machine. Opening the block is the World Premiere of Mario Brem’s The Plan that follows a wanderer and his zombie-like puppet. Further titles include the European Premieres of Michele Gurrieri’s Circular about a hermit who intends to create a man by the force of his dreams, and Carl Timms’ Off Grid where a man protects himself and his ill wife against supernatural forces. The festival will also present the French Premieres of Jonathan Degrelle’s Transfert about a man sent to recover a strange mechanism in an alternative reality where the Germans won WWII, Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari’s Dark Water that explores family trauma in the tale of a woman who discovers an ocean within her house, and Charles de Lauzirika’s Love Bite which shows the ramifications of a couple’s deadly bet during a zombie apocalypse.

Through its lineup of innovative and thought-provoking films, Abella hopes that attendees relate to the significance of Philip K. Dick’s crucial body of work as society confronts the effects of a changing world. “PKD offers a way for people to retain their dignity and humanity because his one central message is critical thinking,” he said. “We must always remain open to a different point of view and not let fixed ideological positions rob us of our capacity to empathize with the suffering of others.”

The film program follows the jump.

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