The White Snake: A Review

By Martin Morse Wooster: Theaters in Washington have their specialties, but Washington’s Constellation Theatre Company is at its best when it does productions of plays by Mary Zimmerman based on fables.  I’ve seen all sorts of productions from Constellation, including one of The Skin of Our Teeth I previously reviewed here and a production of Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play which was the worst six hours I spent in the theatre in 2018 (well, it felt like six hours—the play was 100 minutes long).[1]

But the best work I’ve seen from Constellation is when they perform works by Mary Zimmerman.  Zimmerman teaches at Northwestern and won a MacArthur Fellowship.  She’s written about 20 plays and has at least one Metropolitan Opera commission.  She also did an adaptation of Disney’s Jungle Book for the theatre that I’d really like to see.  I don’t know if all of Zimmerman’s plays are fantasy, but the two I’ve seen are.

The White Snake was originally premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2012 and has had productions in Chicago, New York, and Baltimore before coming to Washington.  The program told me that the story is considered one of China’s “Four Great Folktales” and that the version familiar to us was written by Fang Menglong in 1624, based on stories that were probably composed around 300. Looking at “Legend of the White Snake” in Wikipedia, I learned that the story has been turned into about a dozen Chinese movies and TV shows and was once the subject of a novella by E. Hoffman Price.

The story begins with the White Snake, a mythical creature (I don’t know if she is a god in Chinese mythology) who has obtained enlightenment after 1,500 years of studying the Tao.  But she wants to experience the human world, so with her sidekick the Green Snake, they assume human form, with the Green Snake becoming “Greenie,” the White Snake’s sidekick.  The White Snake falls in love, and we see her and her boyfriend and future husband enjoying the dragon races before marrying and settling down to raise a family.

But the Abbot, who has a lot of mystical power, wants to complicate things.  The abbot isn’t a villain—he just thinks having humanoid snakes running around his town is a bad idea.  So he persuades the White Snake’s husband to come to the monastery in a subterfuge.  The White Snake and the abbot then have a cosmic battle that will determine whether she will live in our world or have to go back to hers.

At one point Zimmerman pulls back the curtain and gives us a sense of how this drama would have been performed in China.  The Green Snake is ready to help her friend, and makes her hand into a fist.  But a pedant comes out with a scroll and explains that the green snake’s fist is a special fist, one with the pinky finger and forefinger slightly raised.  This makes the fist a particularly powerful one, with hands in a position that is normally restricted to men.  So my guess is that if I saw The White Snake in China, I’d see the same story but much more stylized.

The leads—Eunice Bae as the White Snake, Momo Nakamura as the Green Snake, and Ryan Sellers as the Abbot—were all good, and Alison Arkell Stockman competently directed the production.

 But what made the production memorable is the music.  Constellation long ago made a deal with Tom Teasley, a really talented percussionist, to provide the scores for some of their productions.  Teasley is a one-man band who is very good at what he does.  For this production, he worked with Chao Tian, who plays the Chinese dulcimer; the two of them together perform as Dong Xi or “East West.”  Teasley told me that their score was not improvised at the beginning and end of the show because of light cues but much of what I heard was improvisation.  While The White Snake was good, Teasley and Tian’s score made the show memorable.

I hope more of Mary Zimmernan’s work makes its way to Washington.  She is someone whose plays fantasy lovers would enjoy.


[1] Note to “BigelowT”:  you guessed correctly!

Guran’s Picks for Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2019

Editor Paula Guran has announced her selections for The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2019.  The book is due to be released September 3.

The supernatural, the surreal, and the all-too real . . . tales of the dark. Such stories have always fascinated us, and modern authors carry on the disquieting traditions of the past while inventing imaginative new ways to unsettle us. Chosen from a wide variety of venues, these stories are as eclectic and varied as shadows. This volume of 2018’s best dark fantasy and horror offers more than five hundred pages of tales from some of today’s finest writers of the fantastique?sure to delight as well as disturb . . .

Table of Contents

• “Down Where Sound Comes Blunt”, G. V. Anderson (F&SF, Mar-Apr 2018)
• “Hainted”, Ashley Blooms (F&SF Jul-Aug 2018)
• “The Empyrean Light” Gregory Norman Bossert (Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity, Fall 2018)
• “Raining Street” by J. S. Breukelaar (Black Static #63)
The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com)
• “Faint Voices, Increasingly Desperate”, Anya Johanna DeNiro (Shimmer #43)
• “Big Dark Hole”, Jeffrey Ford (Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity, Fall 2018)
• “And Yet”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny #21)
• “Second to the Left, and Straight On”, Jim C. Hines (Robots vs. Fairies, eds. Parisien & Wolfe)
• “He Sings of Salt and Wormwood”, Brian Hodge (The Devil and the Deep, ed. Datlow)
• “Just Another Love Song” Kat Howard (Robots vs. Fairies, eds. Parisien & Wolfe)
• “Four Revelations from the Rusalka Ball”, Cassandra Khaw (The Underwater Ballroom Society, eds. Trent & Burgis)
• “Rust and Bone”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Shimmer #26)
• “The Thing About Ghost Stories”, Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny #25)
• “A Man Walking His Dog” Tim Lebbon (Phantoms, ed. O’Regan
• “Honey” Valya Dudycz Lupescu (A World of Horror, ed. Guignard)
• “Big Mother”, Anya Ow (Strange Horizons, 1 Jan 2018)
• “Fish Hooks”, Kit Power (New Fears 2, ed. Morris)
• “The Governor”, Tim Powers (The Book of Magic, ed. Dozois)
• “True Crime”, M. Rickert (Nightmare #72)
• “Sour Milk Girls”, Erin Roberts (Clarkesworld, Jan 2018)
• “Every Good-bye Ain’t Gone”, Eden Royce (Strange Horizons, 30 July 2018)
• “Tom Is in The Attic”, Robert Shearman (Phantoms, ed. O’Regan)
• “When We Fall, We Forget”, Angela Slatter, (Phantoms, ed. O’Regan)
• “In This Twilight”, Simon Strantzas (Nothing Is Everything)
• “The Crow Knight”, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 11 Oct 2018)
• “Thanatrauma”, Steve Rasnic Tem (New Fears 2, ed. Morris)
• “Sick Cats in Small Places”, Kaaron Warren (A World of Horror, ed. Guignard)
• “Blood and Smoke, Vinegar and Ashes”, D.P. Watt (The Silent Garden, Vol. 1)
• “The Pine Arch Collection”, Michael Wehunt (The Dark #36)
• “In the End, It Always Turns Out the Same”, A. C. Wise (The Dark #37)
• “Asphalt, River, Mother, Child”, Isabel Yap (Strange Horizons, 8 Oct 2018)
• “Music for the Underworld”, E. Lily Yu (Terraform, 29 Mar 2018)

[Thanks to Jason for the story.]

Selections Announced for Horton’s 2019 Year’s Best SF & F

Editor Rich Horton has released the list of stories in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2019 Edition.

  • “The Spires” by Alec Nevala-Lee (Analog, 3-4/18)
  • “The Unnecessary Parts of the Story” by Adam-Troy Castro (Analog, 09-10/18)
  • ”A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex, 2/18)
  • ”Bubble and Squeak” by David Gerrold and Ctein (Asimov’s, 5-6/18)
  • “The Gift” by Julie Novakova (Asimov’s, 11/12/2018)
  • “Beautiful” by Juliet Marillier (Aurum)
  • ”The Starship and the Temple Cat” by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2/1/18)
  • ”Carouseling” by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld, 4/18)
  • ”The Persistence of Blood” by Juliette Wade (Clarkesworld, 3/18)
  • ”Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld, 2/18)
  • ”The Donner Party” by Dale Bailey (F&SF, 1-2/18)
  • ”How to Identify an Alien Shark” by Beth Goder (Fireside Quarterly, 7/18)
  • ”The Tale of the Ive-Ojan-Akhar’s Death” by Alex Jeffers (Giganotosaurus, 4/18)
  • “Foxy and Tiggs” by Justina Robson (Infinity’s End)
  • “Intervention” by Kelly Robson (Infinity’s End)
  • ”The Temporary Suicides of Goldfish” by Octavia Cade (Kaleidotrope, Winter/18)
  • ”Dayenu” by James Sallis (LCRW, Spring/18)
  • ”Lime and the One Human” by S. Woodson (LCRW, 7/18)
  • ”The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, 1/18)
  • “Jump” by Cadwell Turnbull (Lightspeed, 10/18)
  • ”Firelight” by Ursula K. Le Guin (Paris Review, Summer/18)
  • “The Buried Giant” by Lavie Tidhar (Robots vs Fairies)
  • ”Today is Today” by Rick Wilber (Stonecoast Review, Summer/18)
  • ”The Heart of Owl Abbas” by Kathleen Jennings (Tor.com, 4/11/2018)
  • ”Grace’s Family” by James Patrick Kelly (Tor.com, 5/18)
  • “The House by the Sea” by P. H. Lee (Uncanny, 9/10/2018)

Best of British SF 2018 Table of Contents

Newcon Press has announced the contents for Best of British Science Fiction 2018 edited by Donna Scott. The book, with cover art by Les Edwards, will be released August 21 and is available for preorder.

Full contents:

  • Introduction by Donna Scott
  • Providence – Alastair Reynolds
  • Talking to Ghosts at the Edge of the World – Lavie Tidhar
  • The Miracle Lambs of Minane – Finbarr O’Reilly
  • Territory Blank – Aliya Whiteley
  • Throw Caution – Tim Major
  • Golgotha – Dave Hutchinson
  • Salvation – Dave Bradley
  • Waterbirds – G.V. Anderson
  • Buddy System – Mike Morgan
  • Do No Harm – Anna Ibbotson
  • A Change of Heart – Hannah Tougher
  • Birnam Platoon – Natalia Theodoridou
  • Good – Sunyi Dean
  • Hard Times in Nuovo Genova – Chris Barnham
  • The Escape Hatch – Matthew de Abaitua
  • P.Q. – James Warner
  • The Purpose of the Dodo is to be Extinct – Malcolm Devlin
  • Cat and Mouse – David Tallerman
  • Before They Left – Colin Greenland
  • Harry’s Shiver – Esme Carpenter
  • The Whisperer – J.K. Fulton
  • Death of the Grapevine – Teika Marija Smits
  • Rainsticks – Matt Thompson
  • The Veilonaut’s Dream – Henry Szabranski
  • Doomed Youth – Fiona Moore
  • F Sharp 4 – Tim Pieraccini

The book will be published as a paperback, a limited edition hardback, and an eBook.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Uncanny Magazine Issue 28 Launches 5/7

The 28th issue Uncanny Magazine will be available on May 7.

Hugo Award-winning Publishers/Editors-in-Chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are proud to present the 28th issue of their 2016, 2017, and 2018 Hugo Award-winning online science fiction and fantasy magazine. As always, it features passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture, along with an award-winning monthly podcast featuring a story, poem, and interview from that issue. Stories from Uncanny Magazine have been finalists or winners of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards. 

All of Uncanny Magazine’s content will be available in eBook versions on the day of release from Weightless Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. Subscriptions are always available through Amazon Kindle and Weightless Books. The free online content will be released in 2 stages- half on day of release and half on June 4. 

EBOOKS. This issue will coincide with the Weightless Books Subscription Drive for a year’s worth of Uncanny Magazine eBooks. The drive will run from May 1-May 15. For that limited time, people can receive a year’s worth of Uncanny for $2 off the regular price. They will have giveaways for a few lucky new or renewing subscribers at particular milestones, too (including T-shirts, back issues, and tote bags.)  All new or renewing subscribers will get a vinyl Space Unicorn sticker and a Space Unicorn enamel pin.  

STAFF CHANGES. Uncanny Magazine will also be having some staff changes in the coming months. Managing and Nonfiction Editor Michi Trota has decided to move on from her Uncanny editorial duties at the end of 2019. Michi will be staying through Uncanny Magazine #31 (November/December 2019) to make sure we have a seamless editorial transition. Starting with Uncanny Magazine #31 (November/December 2019), the new Managing Editor will be Chimedum Ohaegbu, the current Uncanny Magazine Assistant Editor. Starting with Uncanny Magazine #32 (January/February 2020), the new Nonfiction Editor will be Elsa Sjunneson-Henry. And finally, starting with Uncanny Magazine #31 (November/December 2019), the new Assistant Editor will be Angel Cruz.  

Uncanny Magazine Issue 28 Table of Contents

Cover

  • She’s Going Places by Galen Dara

Editorial

  • “The Uncanny Valley” by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas (5/7)

Fiction

  • “Nice Things” by Ellen Klages (5/7)
  • “Probabilitea” by John Chu (5/7)
  • “A Salt and Sterling Tongue” by Emma Osborne (5/7)
  • “Lest We Forget” by Elizabeth Bear (6/4)
  • “A Catalog of Love at First Sight” by Brit E. B. Hvide (6/4)
  • “Canst Thou Draw Out the Leviathan” by Christopher Caldwell (6/4)

Reprint Fiction

  • “Corpse Soldier” by Kameron Hurley (6/4)

Nonfiction

  • “Black Horror Rising” by Tananarive Due (5/7)
  • “Everyone’s World is Ending All the Time: notes on becoming a climate resilience planner at the edge of the anthropocene” by Arkady Martine (5/7)
  • “Jennifer Adams Kelley—A Remembrance” (5/7)
  • “Toy Stories” by Gwenda Bond (6/4)
  • “‘You Have Only Your Trust in Me’: Star Trek and the Power of Mutual Belief” by Nicasio Andres Reed (6/4)

Poetry

  • “The Cinder Girl Burns Brightly” by Theodora Goss (5/7)
  • “The following parameters” by Nicasio Andres Reed (5/7)
  • “Flashover” by S. Qiouyi Lu (5/7)
  • “The Magician Speaks to the Fool” by Ali Trotta (6/4)
  • “Elegy for the Self as Villeneuve’s Beast” by Brandon O’Brien (6/4)

Interview

  • John Chu interviewed by Caroline M. Yoachim (5/7)
  • Elizabeth Bear interviewed by Caroline M. Yoachim(6/4)

Podcasts

Uncanny Magazine Podcast 28A (5/7)

  • “Nice Things” by Ellen Klages, as read by Erika Ensign
  • “The Cinder Girl Burns Brightly” by Theodora Goss, as read by Stephanie Malia Morris
  • Ellen Klages interviewed by Lynne M. Thomas

Uncanny Magazine Podcast 28B (6/4)

  • “A Catalog of Love at First Sight” by Brit E. B. Hvide, as read by Stephanie Malia Morris
  • “The Magician Speaks to the Fool” by Ali Trotta, as read by Erika Ensign
  • Brit E. B. Hvide interviewed by Lynne M. Thomas

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #40

The Avengers: Endgame, A (SPOILER FREE) Review.  

By Chris M. Barkley:

The Avengers: Endgame (2019, ****, 181 minutes) with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper and Josh Brolin. Screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely based on The Avengers by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.


When we last left The Avengers, catastrophe had struck; the mad titan Thanos had managed to collect all of the Infinity Stones for his Gauntlet and obliterated half of ALL lifeforms in in the galaxy.

That included a significant number of Earth protectors, leaving only the original members, Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Helmsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) of the Guardians left to pick up the pieces.

Life on a decimated Earth is hard and most of society is traumatized and mournful. Even the rescue of Tony Stark and Nebula (Karen Gillian) from deep space and the arrival of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) who was summoned by Nick Fury in the final moments of Infinity War, brings them any hope or a promise of moving on. They CAN’T move on; they’re The Avengers.

And just as things look as bleak as possible, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) (who was last seen trapped in the Quantum Realm in The Ant-Man and The Wasp), shows up at the Avenger’s front doorstep with a fantastic story and an even more incredible theory about to try to restore the Universe from Thanos’ deadly snap…

When you have a movie this that is so widely anticipated, with such a large cast and a running time of just over three hours, even a seasoned film reviewer such as myself had to wonder in the furthest reaches of my mind, can they pull this off?

Well…

Not only did screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo pull it off, they did it in a monumental, jaw dropping and dare I say, EPIC manner.

In the space of 181 minutes, you experience more callouts, call backs, call ups, fabulous cameos, easter eggs, and some of the most satisfying character arcs and revelations than you can possibly stand.

At the the sold out, first showing audience I attended with I head audible gasps, raucous laughter, and in the most unexpected places, sobs and a lot of tears. Some of them were happy and some were sad. Because sometimes, heroism is great to witness but it comes with steep price to pay.

But it was as satisfying a movie experience, in an actual theater, that I have had in quite a while.

The Avengers: Endgame is a bittersweet and beautiful film to behold, a bold and impressive end to this long and monumental story which began eleven years ago with the first Iron Man film. I don’t know what Marvel Studios has in mind next (besides Spider-Man: Far From Home in July), but my only piece of advice I have to offer them is NOT to try and top this emotional and fulfilling movie.

Because it CAN’T be done!

EXCELSIOR!!!!!

Quick Rec for The Tick Season 2, on Amazon Prime

By Daniel Dern: Since I have been buying my comic books at The Outer Limits in Waltham for the past 30+ years, rather than at New England Comics, I was not exposed to NEC’s newsletter mascot, the Tick, nor the ensuing comic books, nor the 1994-1997 animated TV series, although we did watch the 2001-2002 live action, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (Miller’s Crossing, When Harry Met Sally, A Series of Unfortunate Events — the TV series and the movie), etc., starring Patrick Warburton as the loveable big blue goof.

(Disclaimer: I remember watching it, but only vaguely remember the episodes, although browsing web articles is jogging my memory.)

In 2017, Amazon rebooted The Tick as a 25-minute series. It’s arguably grittier than the previous live-action (although, of course, I’d have to rewatch that to verify)… but it’s also got a lot of heart and humanity. And great characters. And speaking to the nature of comic books and superheroes, as large-font subtext, as it were.

Season 2 went up about a week ago, and while I didn’t quite binge it, I did prioritize it over some other things, like (some) reading. (At 10 25-minute episodes, that wasn’t that big a commit.)

Enjoyable. Some surprises. Like Expanse book #8, Tiamat’s Wrath, it both starts and wraps up a hornets’ nest of plotlines (including some from the previous season), and positions us (and the various characters) for what looks like should be one heck of a Season 3 (assuming there is one, hope hope).

Two comments:

(1) John Hodgman (who some may remember from The Daily Show), who’s been on various other movies and TV shows I mostly haven’t seen (hmmm, including 1 episode of Battlestar Garlictica Galactica) (and Amazon’s Red Oaks, which we did see), has a role throughout this season.

(2) The producers/writers have clear [ROT-13] gur 1978 FHCREZNA zbivr n srj gvzrf, cre gjb ovgf/fprarf. (I don’t think this is a spoiler, but just in case…)

Two big goofy thumbs up!

Ellison Tribute “The Unquiet Dreamer” ToC Announced

Editor Preston Grassmann has revealed the table for contents for The Unquiet Dreamer: A Tribute to Harlan Ellison, an anthology forthcoming from PS Publishing in August 2019.

It was sometime in the mid-nineties at Dangerous Visions Bookstore in Sherman Oaks, when a seismic shift altered the foundations of the room. It wasn’t the Northridge quake, but it was certainly a force of nature—in walked Harlan.

I had told him my dream of putting together an anthology someday, with a table of contents that included some of the very writers in this book. “That’s a pretty nifty list,” Harlan said. “Do it, kiddo.”

As the years passed, I went on to write for Nature Magazine and became a contributing editor at Locus, and the dream kind of fell by the wayside, but Harlan never let me forget. And though I wish Harlan could see it, the dream is finally here—a book full of memories and love—thirty-three international contributors who have joined together to celebrate his life. It’s strong and strange in ways I never expected, full of inspired ideas, anecdotes and stories of Harlan. Of course, to include everyone influenced by Harlan and the work he celebrated would more than fill The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Introduction: Older Than Five, Younger Than Twelve
  • Foreword 1 – Second Father/First Child by Josh Olson
  • Foreword 2 – Harlan Ellison’s Influence on Me by Ellen Datlow
  • Aye, and Gomorrah by Samuel R. Delany
  • The Way You Came In May Not Be The Best Way Out by Paul Di Filippo
  • A Thin Silver Line by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • On an Old Man’s Contemplation of an Archway Sealed with Stones by Adam- Troy Castro
  • Hums by Peter Crowther
  • The Re-Evolution of Cloud Nine by Nikhil Singh
  • The First of Many Shudders by Kaaron Warren
  • Break Into Three by Nick Mamatas
  • Twelve Letters to My Daughter on the Moon by Ian McDonald
  • The Last Shout of the Beast by Bruce Sterling
  • Alice’s by Lisa Tuttle
  • Digger. Split. by David Gerrold
  • The Wedding Gown by Jeffrey Thomas
  • And Everywhere That Mary Went by Anna Tambour
  • Amniocryptic by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
  • Build Your Own Monster by Rumi Kaneko (translated by Preston Grassmann)
  • Race Across a Vanishing Landscape by Gio Clairval
  • Rave On by Gregory Benford
  • The Collaboration by Allen M. Steele
  • The Man Who Saw Wakanda by Steven Barnes
  • The Starfvcker Dyad by Rich Larson
  • With Frank and Lucinda Brewer at the East Pole by Gregory Norman Bossert
  • Perfection by John Skipp & Autumn Christian
  • Silicon Times e-Book Review by Greg Bear
  • The Seer by Chris Kelso
  • Live Inside Your Own Sky by D.R.G Sugawara
  • Various Kinds of Conceits by Arthur Byron Cover
  • Five Years Later by Scott Edelman
  • The Fragments of a Hologram City by Preston Grassmann
  • Flies by Robert Silverberg

There will be a signed slipcased jacketed hardcover edition, and a hardcover jacketed edition, both with with art by Yoshika Nagata.

Preston Grassmann was born in California and educated at U.C. Berkeley. He began working for Locus in 1998, returning as a contributing editor after a hiatus in Egypt and the UK. His most recent work has been published in Nature Magazine, Shoreline of Infinity, and “Futures 2” (Tor). He is a regular contributor to Nature and writes a feature for Locus called “The Cosmic Village”. He currently lives in Japan.

[Thanks to Scott Edelman for the story.]