The #DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster and SFWA Joint Press Conference

Cora Buhlert

By Cora Buhlert: After some confusion regarding the start time, the joint Zoom press conference of Alan Dean Foster and SFWA about Disney’s failure to pay royalties due to Mr. Foster, started with a slight delay. Present were Alan Dean Foster, his agent Vaughne Hansen and Mary Robinette Kowal, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The moderator was Kitty Kurth.

The press conference began with statements from Alan Dean Foster and Mary Robinette Kowal. Alan Dean Foster phrased his statement as an open letter to Mickey Mouse, while Mary Robinette Kowal talked about the broader implications of the issue. Both statements may be found on the SFWA website. After the statements were read, moderator Kitty Kurth opened the floor to questions from the audience.

Some time ago, Alan Dean Foster noticed that he no longer received either royalties or royalty statements for the novelization of the first Star Wars movie, the Star Wars tie-in novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye as well as the novelizations of Alien, Aliens and Alien 3.

Alan Dean Foster contacted his agent Vaughne Hansen, who contacted the current publishers of the novels in question. It turned out that the problem was not with the publishers, but with Disney.

When Disney’s legal department kept stonewalling Vaughne Hansen, Alan Dean Foster contacted the SFWA grievance committee, who had no more luck getting a response from Disney. According to Alan Dean Foster, his agent and SFWA have been trying to talk to Disney without success for over a year now. So the matter was escalated to SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal, who decided to take the unprecedented step to go public with the issue.

In essence, Disney claims that when they purchased Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, they purchased the rights to the five novels in question, but not the obligation to pay Alan Dean Foster the royalties he is entitled to.

Mary Robinette Kowal stated that according to US contract law, when a company is bought or merged, both rights and obligations are transferred to the legal successor of the original company. Vaughne Hansen confirmed that the original contract for the Alien novelisations also includes a clause stating that rights and obligations are transferred to the legal successor in case of a buyout or merger. No word on the two Star Wars novels, but it would be very unusual, if the contract did not contain a transference of rights and obligations clause.

In my day job as a translator, I see a lot of contracts and can confirm that every contract contains a clause regarding the transferences of rights and obligations in case of a buyout or merger. This is very much a legal and business standard.

Vaughne Hansen stated that the problem is not with the contracts, but with Disney. Mary Robinette Kowal also pointed out that Disney’s behaviour sets a dangerous precedent with potentially huge consequences for all creatives. Mary Robinette Kowal also implored any writers who have experienced similar issues with Disney or any other company to contact SFWA via this form on their website.

Alan Dean Foster’s experience does not seem to be an isolated incident, because during the Q&A part of the press conference Steve Davidson reported experiencing a similar issues regarding the trademark to Amazing Stories, which he holds, and the eponymous Apple TV series. Michael Capobianco also expressed concerns regarding the novelisation of Alien Resurrection, which his late wife A.C. Crispin wrote.

Mary Robinette Kowal once more stressed that SFWA and Alan Dean Foster’s representatives want to talk to Disney to find a solution to the problem and that they only decided to go public, because they could not get a reply from Disney. Mary Robinette Kowal also stated that whether the contracts in question continue or are cancelled, Disney must pay the outstanding royalties to Alan Dean Foster.     


Here are the statements by Mary Robinette Kowal and Alan Dean Foster posted at the SFWA Blog:

#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster

A message from SFWA’s President, Mary Robinette Kowal:

Last year, a member came to SFWA’s Grievance Committee with a problem, which on the surface sounds simple and resolvable. He had written novels and was not being paid the royalties that were specified in his contract. The Grievance Committee is designed to resolve contract disputes like this. As part of our negotiating toolbox, we guarantee anonymity for both the writer and the publisher if the grievance is resolved.

When it is working, as president, I never hear from them.

When talks break down, the president of SFWA is asked to step in. We do this for any member.

In this case, the member is Alan Dean Foster. The publisher is Disney.

Here are his words.

Dear Mickey,

We have a lot in common, you and I.  We share a birthday: November 18.  My dad’s nickname was Mickey.  There’s more.

When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote.  STAR WARS, the novelization of the very first film.  SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE, the first sequel novel.  You owe me royalties on these books.  You stopped paying them.

When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written.  The novelizations of ALIEN, ALIENS, and ALIEN 3.  You’ve never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them.

All these books are all still very much in print.  They still earn money.  For you.  When one company buys another, they acquire its liabilities as well as its assets.  You’re certainly reaping the benefits of the assets.  I’d very much like my miniscule (though it’s not small to me) share.

You want me to sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) before even talking.  I’ve signed a lot of NDAs in my 50-year career.  Never once did anyone ever ask me to sign one prior to negotiations.  For the obvious reason that once you sign, you can no longer talk about the matter at hand.  Every one of my representatives in this matter, with many, many decades of experience in such business, echo my bewilderment.

You continue to ignore requests from my agents.  You continue to ignore queries from SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  You continue to ignore my legal representatives.  I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do.  Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away.  Or possibly die.  But I’m still here, and I am still entitled to what you owe me.  Including not to be ignored, just because I’m only one lone writer.  How many other writers and artists out there are you similarly ignoring?

My wife has serious medical issues and in 2016 I was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer.  We could use the money.  Not charity: just what I’m owed.  I’ve always loved Disney.  The films, the parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show.  I don’t think Unca Walt would approve of how you are currently treating me.  Maybe someone in the right position just hasn’t received the word, though after all these months of ignored requests and queries, that’s hard to countenance.  Or as a guy named Bob Iger said….

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

I’m not feeling it.

Alan Dean Foster

Prescott, AZ

Alan Dean Foster

Mary Robinette Kowal adds:

In my decade with the organization, the fact that we are forced to present this publicly is unprecedented. So too, are the problems. The simple problem is that we have a writer who is not being paid.

The larger problem has the potential to affect every writer. Disney’s argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company.

If they are doing this to Alan Dean Foster, one of the great science fiction writers of our time, then what are they doing to the younger writers who do not know that a contract is a contract?

To resolve the immediate issue regarding their breach of contract with Alan Dean Foster, Disney has three choices:

Pay Alan Dean Foster all back royalties as well as any future royalties.

Publication ceases until new contract(s) are signed, and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster as well as any future royalties.

Publication ceases and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster.

This starts with a conversation. You have our contact information and offer to sit down with a Disney representative, Alan’s agent Vaughne Lee Hansen, and a SFWA representative.

Regardless of choice, Disney must pay Alan Dean Foster.

If you’re a fan of Alan Dean Foster or believe that a writer’s work has value, please let Disney know.

If you are a writer experiencing similar problems with Disney or another company, please report your circumstances to us here.

#DearMickey #DisneyMustPay

How Audible’s Returns Policy Exploits Writers

Audible, the audiobook publisher/distributor, stands accused of attracting readers to pay its monthly membership premium by encouraging customers to exchange a book they’re done with for another they want to listen to – becoming in effect a rental library. By treating the first sale as a return, Audible deprives the author of what they should have earned on a work that was bought and enjoyed.

Even worse for some authors, depending on the circumstances discussed below, their audiobooks will remain subject to Audible’s distribution scheme for years to come.  There’s a colloquial version of the laws of thermodynamics that seems to apply: “You can’t win. You can’t break even. And you can’t get out of the game.”

Susan May, Scott Baron, and Cory Doctorow are three writers who have been focusing the spotlight of publicity on these issues.

Scott Baron defined the key problem on Facebook:

Recently Audible has been actively promoting “exchanging” titles. Treating it as a library rather than a book store. The issue is, they literally take every exchange and treat it as a RETURN for authors.

That means authors are now taking HUGE hits on that platform. Every exchange takes a sale out of an author’s pocket. We don’t see one penny if it is exchanged.

Cory Doctorow synopsizes how Amazon’s companies ACX and Audible do business in this series of tweets.

Susan May educated her readers about how authors create audiobooks and offer them for sale, and what the attraction had been for going exclusively with Audible – or was, before this financial abuse was uncovered — in “Audiblegate! The incredible true story of missing sales”.

First, May describes the business basics.

Audible has their own publishing/distribution company where you can produce your book and then that book is distributed to Audible, Amazon and Apple. If you choose to “go exclusive” and distribute only to these three, you are granted the princely profit split of 40%. This is after spending sometimes upward of $6 to $8k on an audiobook. To give you an idea, my last audiobook Destination Dark Zone cost me $US6,200 to produce.

If you’re not exclusive to Audible and decide to distribute your book to other retail stores such as Kobo, Scrib’d and local libraries, then you only receive twenty-five percent of your sales or your share of the pot from memberships.

Oh, that’s right, I didn’t mention that. There’s three ways an author is paid. When an Audible member uses a monthly credit which they receive as part of their membership, a rights holder receives a share of the pot created by the number of memberships paid, minus Audible’s profit. This pot varies each month. So we never know how much this per download share will be until the day we are paid, but it’s something close to $US5, while members pay $14.95 for a membership with one credit per month to use on a book.

When you pay, say, $7.49 on Amazon for an add-on audiobook when you’ve purchased the eBook, we are paid $2.99 on the forty percent split. Should you buy an audiobook as a member from Audible and not use a credit, according to my reports, members pay $9.15 for most of my books, and I receive $3.61.

Some rights holders don’t have an exclusive deal with Audible. Many don’t because they believe in not putting all their eggs in Amazon’s basket. Well, they get less. So, just go right ahead and nearly halve these payments because they only receive twenty-five percent. It’s not much is it compared to what readers and members pay for each book or monthly subscription fee?

… So, this whole system seems a little unfair, right? Authors pay for everything, take all the risk for a smaller cut of the profits, while the richest man in the world’s company keeps the lion’s share and controls everything.

But that’s only the background, so readers can picture the injustice that May explains next:

Even more insidious than the low royalty rates paid us by Audible is something I call #AudibleGate, of which you may not be aware. Audible is promoting returns of any audible book for “any reason, no questions asked,” even if the person has listened to the whole Audible book and enjoyed it. The return is permissible up to 365 days and in some countries it’s been reported that it’s infinity. What??? Hey now, no, Susan May, how would that work? Surely not. That would be objectively unfair to the author. Might even be illegal.

Why, yes, it is unfair and morally wrong and possibly even theft by stealth. You’re so smart to realize that. Do tell Audible because they don’t seem to get it.

Audible are actively promoting this “benefit” to their members as a way of incentivizing them to stay locked in each month because you can only return audiobooks if you’re a member. Hmm, that’s clever marketing. Audible even sends emails encouraging users to return a book, screens pop up after you finish reading suggesting a return, and there is even an obvious “return” button on the app which changes wording depending on whether you’ve finished the book or are part way through. Part-finished it’s “RETURN TITLE”. Finish the book and it changes to “EXCHANGE.”

Who loses when I return a book? readers think.

Audible! Surely, Audible? Surely not authors? And who cares anyway? Audible’s owned by the world’s richest man, so, it’s not big deal to return a book. It’s my right. It’s part of being an Audible member.

Well, you’re favorite authors lose, my wonderful reader. Our accounts are debited for that returned book, sometimes a year later. We, the hard-working content creators and narrators eat this loss, not Amazon. Let me repeat this for impact. Authors pay for this “benefit” and many times we are not earning any money for the sale of an audiobook even if it is thoroughly enjoyed by the reader. Audible though, they don’t miss out, they still get your monthly subscription payment. Authors weren’t asked if we wanted to offer this “benefit” or if we agreed to it or were happy to pay for it. Audible just did it for their own commercial benefit.…

Then, May quantifies how prevalent this abuse is.

How many readers, I hear you ask, are returning books? Surely everybody is honest and wouldn’t do this unless the book is absolutely terrible and you’ve only listened to an hour or so?

Ah, ah, ah, nearing fifty percent returns for many authors. Some less, but not by much. My number is fifty per cent. Think on that now. They’re halving my sales to prop up their business. My books can’t be that bad. If they were that bad, they should kick me off the platform for poor customer experience.

We don’t know how long they’ve been doing this but we feel it could be the past eighteen months or longer, maybe a lot longer, maybe even years but growing slowly as more people spread the word about how to easily return books.

The true state of affairs was not readily apparent to authors because of the timing of the return transactions and the format of Audible’s earnings statements. Then, in October, authors got some shocking news when something caused several weeks’ returns to be reported collectively:

… So, until a recent glitch occurred (which they’re “sorry for the confusion”, or because they finally got found out) where ACX clawed back three weeks of returns in one day on the 20th October, many authors had no idea this was even happening.

Authors simply awakened to see they had lost ten, twenty, thirty, and in some cases hundreds of sales. That was for those who’d been keeping tally of their sales to date for the month (quite a few don’t). Some had suspected something was amiss, like myself, but didn’t know how many were being returned exactly. We only saw the minus figures and zeros on a regular enough basis to know there was an issue.

Susan May is taking what action she can:

…Many authors, myself being one, are not creating any more audiobooks until this is resolved. We don’t get paid much per sale, the lion share is kept by Audible, even though we pay up to anything around $8k to create an audiobook, and then add marketing on top of that. Now they are also stealing up to half of our small percentage return to bump up their own profits.

WHY DON’T WE LEAVE AUDIBLE AND ACX?

Yes, we are all leaving Audible to go wide, if we haven’t already, but they still represent a large chunk of the pie, and even if you place your books through another distributor to deliver to Audible, you’re still losing via the returns on the Audible platform.

There is also the annoying detail of a lock-in contract of seven years which prevents authors from leaving even if they are unhappy and bonded into a feudal farming-style, unfair practice literally cheating them.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

If you’ve been returning audiobooks and misusing the system, whether you were completely unaware of the implications to an author or not, please STOP. JUST STOP. In the physical world, this is akin to eating at a restaurant, enjoying the food and then a month later asking for your money back because you fancy eating at the restaurant again and can’t afford to pay, or don’t want to pay, or want to eat at another place because you’ve already tried their food but you want them to pay by refunding your money. We will never know who you are, we authors, but we will be grateful if you stop doing this.

May asks:

Please spread the word to your friends and family how the system works at Audible…

In compliance with her request about half of what she has to say is quoted here. There’s even more you can learn by reading her complete post — “Audiblegate! The incredible true story of missing sales”.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Apex Magazine: A Taste of Things To Come

Jason Sizemore, Editor-in-Chief of Apex Magazine has anticipated the official relaunch on January 5th with a promotional mini-issue that was part of their Kickstarter stretch goals. It contains original fiction by Maurice Broaddus and Beth Dawkins.

The stories and content are available to read online or you can order the free eBook edition from the Apex store.

EDITORIAL

FICTION

NONFICTION

Cover art by Justin Stewart.

Register for Odyssey’s Winter 2021 Online Classes

The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust has announced its Winter 2021 online classes:  

  • One Brick at a Time:  Crafting Compelling Scenes, taught by award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford;
  • Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers, taught by award-winning editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews; and
  • Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction, taught by New York Times bestselling author Patricia C. Wrede.

The application deadline for all three courses is December 7, 2020.  

One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes

Course Meets: January 4 – February 1, 2021

Instructor: Award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford

Level:  Intermediate

While writers often focus on their characters, plot, and setting, they seldom put as much attention on each scene–whether it is fulfilling its purpose in the story and whether it’s as strong as possible. Stories and novels are made up of scenes, so if your scenes are weak, your piece has little chance of success. A compelling scene engages readers intellectually and emotionally, changes something of significance to the story, and leaves readers eager to turn the page to find out what happens next. One of our most highly rated instructors, award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford, will explain how to design your scenes so they carry tension and power, how to track and develop the emotional beats in a scene to create strong impact, and how to diagnose and fix problems in scenes. Students will study effective scenes and weak scenes, discover the special needs of opening and ending scenes, and learn how to make sure all the scenes work together to create a powerful story or novel. These skills are invaluable for intermediate students seeking to take their work to the next level.

Barbara is truly an incredible resource for writers. Her students regularly praise the depth of her knowledge, the useful tools and techniques she provides, and her insightful critiques.

Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers

Course Meets: January 6 – February 3, 2021

Instructor: Award-winning editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews

Level:  Intermediate to Advanced

According to Scott H. Andrews, editor-in-chief and publisher of the eight-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the most common weakness in submissions is the failure to convey character emotions in a powerful way.

Scott will explain the most effective techniques to convey character emotions realistically and powerfully on the page, so that moment by moment, you can create an authentic and evocative experience. He’ll show you which techniques work best for point-of-view characters, and which work best for non-point-of-view characters. He’ll also discuss how to handle multiple emotions, conflicting emotions, and complex emotions, because that’s when stories get really interesting. More than that, the course will cover strategies for developing situations and stories with strong potential for emotional resonance, and how to use character emotions to make every page a gripping read. The character’s emotions may draw readers to the character or repel readers from him, but either way, line by line and scene by scene, you’ll be able to give readers an authentic, powerful, involving experience.

Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Course Meets: January 7 – February 4, 2021

Instructor: New York Times bestselling author Patricia C. Wrede

Level:  Beginner/Intermediate

A well-chosen, compelling world can capture the reader’s imagination and enhance every aspect of a story. But fantasy and science fiction writers often struggle to create strong worlds that enhance their stories. Worldbuilding carries many difficulties and potential pitfalls, including inconsistencies, overcomplication, oversimplification, confusion, distraction, lack of vividness, and lack of originality. Coming up with the best world for your story, one that works with the characters and plot to create the strongest effect, can be difficult, and then getting that world down on the page can be even more difficult.

Patricia C. Wrede, New York Times bestselling author of 24 fantasy and science fiction novels and creator of the legendary Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions tool for writers, will share her expert knowledge about the processes by which imaginary worlds can be designed, discovered, and developed, as well as different ways writers convey their worlds within their stories. The course will explore the various ingredients of worldbuilding in depth and look at the ways different worldbuilding choices can affect characters and plot, and enhance your story or novel. You’ll learn how different worldbuilding choices can affect characters and plot, and how to avoid common pitfalls. Finally, you’ll learn how to portray your world on the page in a way that enriches the story rather than distracting from it.

Odyssey Online offers only three classes each year and admits only fourteen students per class, to keep quality high and ensure each student receives individual attention.  Courses are focused on some of the biggest challenges writers face.

Live class meetings allow a virtual classroom experience, with students participating in discussions, asking questions, and learning from an instructor responsive to students’ concerns.  Between class meetings, students interact with each other and the instructor in a discussion group, complete assignments, and give and receive feedback.  Each student also has a one-on-one meeting with the instructor.

Classes are held in January and February.  While Odyssey’s nonprofit mission is to help writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, writers of any genre of fiction are welcome to apply.  Courses cover issues helpful to writers aiming their work at adult, young adult, or middle grade readers.  Full information can be found at their website or you can email jcavelos@odysseyworkshop.org.  

[Based on a press release.]

Sheree Renée Thomas Is F&SF’s New Editor

Sheree Renée Thomas

Sheree Renée Thomas has been named the new editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, taking over with the March/April 2021 issue. She replaces C.C. Finlay, who will be stepping down to devote more time to writing. Gordon Van Gelder remains the magazine’s publisher.

Fantasy & Science Fiction closed its online submissions form in early October in preparation for this editorial transition. The few remaining stories in queue will receive replies shortly. Thomas plans to re-open F&SF to submissions in January 2021.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction was launched in 1949, and has been one of the leading magazines in the field for more than seventy years. For more on the history of F&SF, see its entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction or Wikipedia.

Sheree Renée Thomas is the award-winning writer and editor of Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000) and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2004), which earned the 2001 and 2005 World Fantasy Awards for Year’s Best Anthology. She has also edited for Random House and for magazines like ApexObsidian, and Strange Horizons. She is a member of SFWA, HWA, SFPA, and Cave Canem. Thomas is an author and poet with three collections, Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future (Third Man Books, 2020), Sleeping Under the Tree of Life (Aqueduct Press, 2016) and Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems (Aqueduct Press, 2011). Widely anthologized, her work also appears in The Big Book of Modern Fantasy and The New York Times. She was honored as a 2020 World Fantasy Award Finalist for her contributions to the genre. Thomas will be the tenth editor in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction‘s history. Her first appearance on the masthead will be in the March/April 2021 issue.

C.C. Finlay’s writing career began with frequent appearances in Fantasy & Science Fiction, publishing more than twenty stories in the magazine between 2001 and 2014, earning Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Sidewise Award nominations, along with four novels, a collection, and stories in numerous other magazines and anthologies. He guest-edited the July/August 2014 issue of F&SF, which included Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Nebula-winning novelet “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i.” In January 2015, he was announced as the new editor of the magazine and took over officially with the March/April issue. His tenure as editor is the fourth longest in the magazine’s history, following Ed Ferman, Gordon Van Gelder, and Anthony Boucher. He was a Hugo finalist for Best Editor Short Form in 2020, a finalist for the Locus Award for Best Editor in 2020, and a finalist for the World Fantasy Award for editing F&SF in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The January/February 2021 issue will be his last.

[Based on a press release.]

Uncanny Magazine Issue 37 Launches November 3

The 37th issue of Uncanny Magazine, winner of five Hugos and a British Fantasy Award, will be available on November 3.

Hugo Award-winning Publishers Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are proud to present the 37th issue of their five-time Hugo Award-winning online science fiction and fantasy magazine, Uncanny Magazine. Stories from Uncanny Magazine have been finalists or winners of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards. As always, Uncanny features passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture, along with a Parsec Award-winning monthly podcast featuring a story, poem, and interview from that issue. 

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 December 1. 

Follow Uncanny on their website, or on Twitter and Facebook.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 37 Table of Contents

Cover

  • Treetops by Julie Dillon

Editorials

  • “The Uncanny Valley” by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • “Imagining Futures: They’re Trying to Sell You A Haunted House” by Elsa Sjunneson

Fiction

  • “50 Things Every AI Working with Humans Should Know” by Ken Liu (11/3)
  • “Proof of Existence” by Hal Y. Zhang (11/3)
  • “Words We Say Instead” by Brit E.B. Hvide (11/3)
  • “The Salt Witch” by Martha Wells (12/1)
  • “The Span of His Wrist” by Lee Mandelo (12/1)
  • “The Bottomless Martyr” by John Wiswell (12/1)

Reprint

  • “Cerulean Memories” by Maurice Broaddus (12/1)

Nonfiction

  • “Evoking the Gothic: The House That Anxiety Built” by Meghan Ball (11/3)
  • “Black and White and Red All Over: On the Semiotic Effect of Color (11/3)
  • Printing in Genre Fiction” by Meg Elison (11/3)
  • “Traveling Without Moving” by Michi Trota (12/1)
  • “This Isn’t the End: On Becoming a Writing Parent” by K.A. Doore (12/1)

Poetry

  • “Mourning Becomes Jocasta” by Jane Yolen (11/3)
  • “An Elder Resigns from the Chorus of Oedipus at Colonnus” by Peter Tacy (11/3)
  • “Cento for Lagahoos” by Brandon O’Brien (11/3)
  • “Making Accommodations” by Valerie Valdes (12/1)
  • “The Automaton Falls in Love” by Jennifer Crow (12/1)

Interviews

  • Ken Liu Interviewed by Caroline M. Yoachim (11/3)
  • Lee Mandelo Interviewed by Caroline M. Yoachim (12/1)

Podcasts

  • Episode 37A (November 3): Editors’ Introduction, “Proof of Existence” by Hal Y. Zhang, as read by Joy Piedmont, “Mourning Becomes Jocasta” by Jane Yolen and “An Elder Resigns from the Chorus of Oedipus at Colonnus,” by Peter Tacy, as read by Erika Ensign, and Lynne M. Thomas interviewing Hal Y. Zhang.
  • Episode 37B (December 1): Editors’ Introduction, “The Salt Witch” by Martha Wells, as read by Erika Ensign, “Making Accommodations” by Valerie Valdes, as read by Joy Piedmont, and Lynne M. Thomas interviewing Martha Wells.

Not at the KGB Bar, Hunts in Weird October with Joe Hill and Laird Barron

By Mark L. Blackman: On the night of Wednesday, October 21, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in a pre-Halloween event featured horror writers Joe Hill and Laird Barron. In its new normal (or abnormal), with the Series’ longtime venue, the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village shut down due to the pandemic (though it’s starting to reopen with limited capacity), for the eighth time, the presentation was livestreamed on YouTube. (Hill called the Bar “one of my New York City happy places.” Missing the full KGB Bar experience, I considered climbing several flights of stairs before logging on.)

As the evening began, Hill and Barron schmoozed with co-hosts Ellen Datlow (who has been hosting these readings for 20 years) and Matthew Kressel about everything from what they were and weren’t drinking (Madeira is too sweet), masks and pizza breath, candied bacon (a mix of sweet and savory), and that no one liked getting apples or food trick or treating. Kressel relayed that the evening was sponsored by Tor’s Nightfire line (and not by Jeffrey Toobin), then introduced the first reader.

Laird Barron is the author of several books, including The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllSwift to Chase and Worse Angels., and short fiction that has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, “stories about the evil that men do.” He spent his early years in Alaska and currently resides in the Rondout Valley in upstate New York. His reading selection was “Lorn,” a work in progress set in the wilderness around a dying town (“Lorn” is all that remained on its sign), which he began with a caution that it was “R-rated” and included animal violence. “Animals can be murderers,” he said, and related a true story about a Husky serial killer that had slaughtered sled dogs. Two brothers, Paul and Casey Arnaz, are recruited by an old buddy to hunt a predator killing the area’s pets; it could be a late eccentric’s menagerie on the loose or “local yokels who’ve gone back to the old ways.”

During a break, Hill was asked about the TARDIS behind him. He and his family were huge fans of David Tennant’s stint as the Doctor, and he even (with help from Neil Gaiman) pitched stories to Doctor Who; but they don’t, never have and never will accept scripts written by Americans. Datlow segued into his introduction.

Joe Hill (yes, I saw Joe Hill last night) is the author of Full ThrottleStrange Weather, The Fireman, NOS4A2, Heart-Shaped Box and Horns, the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, and the comics and graphic novels Locke & Key, Basketful of Heads and Plunge.(the latter under his Hill House Comics imprint with DC, ). Much of his work has been adapted or is in development for film and TV. He is, incidentally, the son of Stephen and Tabitha King, and, he joked, his wife “collects writers’ tears.”

He read from “Faun,” a short story in Full Throttle. A very wealthy young man is invited to a presentation in Boston about joining a curated hunt in Maine. For a quarter of a million dollars he can go through a little door and stalk a faun (a variety of satyr, a goatman with hooves and horns). (Hill got to do a Maine accent and a sort of Mickey Mouse voice.) The story alludes to Bradbury’s “A Sound of Distant Thunder,” but, as Hill revealed during the Q&A that followed, was also inspired by Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia; however, instead of decent English children going through a wardrobe, here a spoiled young man is the traveler. Imagine running hunts, he said, into Middle Earth or Narnia, he said.

The Q&A and discussion that followed was far-ranging. The X-Files, Hill thought, was better as a romance (will they or won’t they) than as horror (the monster of the week). Is it easier to write horror when the world feels like a horror story? Barron said that he’s as isolated as when he lived in the woods. Hill said that when he writes, he’s buried in the mechanics of each paragraph, and described himself as “a wicked overwriter” (“Faun” should have been shorter, had “fewer words”). What he writes, he felt, “isn’t scary;” other people’s stories scare him.

Some horror stories, Hill continued, are “like comfort food;” Barron also finds horror “comforting” – “there’s a filter.” In some horror stories (and movies), observed Datlow (who’s edited more than a few horror anthologies), the good are saved and evil punished, though not always. Said Hill, if you make sacrifices, the worst things in the world can be driven back. Horror reminds us of our shared humanity. “Good horror is about empathy, not sadism” (“torture porn”).

The conversation shifted, appropriately, to horror movie viewing for Halloween. Barron said that a favorite was John Carpenter’s The Thing, also Hawks’ and Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There?” Datlow cited Personal Shopper, Get Out and Hereditary. Hill quipped that his horror viewing was the next night’s Presidential Debate. The Swedish film Sauna and Let the Right One In were also mentioned.

Favorite villain? Hannibal Lecter was shared, though Barron liked Nicholson’s. Hill said that he wants heroes to root for, but then cited Walter White and Bruce the Shark from Jaws, who’s “the perfect menace.” Barron observed that Jaws is, in essence, “a slasher film.” The shark is a shark; she isn’t evil. This reminded Datlow of Peter Watts’ “The Things,” The Thing from the Thing’s point of view.

Datlow concluded by announcing upcoming readers:

  • November 18: William Gibson and Cat Rambo
  • December 16: Priya Sharma and Justin Key
  • January 20, 2021: Lauren Beukes and Usman T. Malik
  • February 17: Kathleen Jennings and Shveta Thakrar

All dates are the third Wednesday of the month. The new setup allows readers from all over the world, noted Datlow, though time zones do limit things.

Himebaugh Steps Up As New StarShipSofa Editor

Tony C. Smith, Host/Producer of the Hugo Award winning StarShipSofa podcast, today announced that Fred Himebaugh is their new fiction editor.

Fred Himebaugh will be the new editor of StarShipSofa once Gary Dowell has officially stepped down from the role. I want to welcome Fred onboard the Sofa. It will be great to journey with him to see and hear what great stories he finds.

Smith told his mailing list last Friday that a search for a new editor was under way.

Himebaugh takes over from Gary Dowell, who succeeded Jeremy Szal when he stepped down in January 2020. Dowell was StarShipSofa’s fiction editor for just 10 months.  

Himebaugh tweeted a comment about his selection:  

Thrilled to join (rejoin, really) the District of Wonders team. StarShipSofa will always be the ur-podcast of the sci-fi universe to me. Thanks to Tony C. Smith for hiring me and I look forward to renewed closeness in our old friendship.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
News Torrent

Steve Miller told his and Sharon Lee’s fans they have a lot to look forward to in the coming months, even if the pandemic keeps the authors home. He also shared a medical update about Sharon.

A strange year — the first year in decades that we haven’t had an in-person convention experience, though we have taken part in some virtual stuff. So, for fans and friends we haven’t caught up with in RL recently, this is what’s happening with us. Writing has been interrupted several times, but it is moving forward.

Elsewise, we’re generally doing well. Sharon’s recovery from her foot-rebuilding operation last October is complete and she’s now able to comfortably wear and walk with matched shoes, so that’s good and in fact we both have been getting in a few miles a day of walking when we can.

Also she’s done with her radiation treatments following her March mastectomy and though we’re basically staying home and isolating, we have been getting in some fall day trips around the state around once a week to enjoy the foliage and visit lakes and seashores. At the behest of several of Sharon’s doctors we’ve been moving to a more plant-based diet and slowly losing weight — so hey, progress is happening on that front, but ham and cheese sandwiches are still on the occasional menu.

Elsewise, we keep our cats as happy as we can … and as with most of us, things move on despite the pandemic.

And they have a lot of books and stories upcoming. Miller says —

  • On October 27 last year’s best-selling Liaden novel Accepting the Lance will have a mass market release from Baen, to go along with the existing hardback, audio, and ebook editions. On the same day, Sharon and I will be publishing “The Wrong Lance” as part of our Splinter Universe Presents chapbook series — “The Wrong Lance” is a collection of outtakes and scenes from Accepting the Lance. This is aimed at folks already familiar with our Liaden Universe® SF series and will be in ebook (for Nook, Kindle, Kobo, and etc.) and an Amazon paper edition, on October 27. The outtakes ought to be illustrative of what can go wrong when trying to keep a series full of characters and ideas in line!
  • Around November 16, Baen.com will publish our Liaden short story “Preferred Seating” — available to read free online.
  • Next up is the publication of Trader’s Leap on December 1 — that’s from Baen Books and will be available as hardback, ebook, and audio book — this is the 23rd novel in the Liaden series.
  • Along with the book publication we’ll be doing a series of interviews (with Paul Semel, among others) and events, including a December 2nd Mysterious Galaxy virtual reading and interactive session — “Virtual Event – Sharon Lee and Steve Miller discuss Trader’s Leap”
  • Later in December our next Pinbeam Books chapbook — including our 93rd joint fiction effort. That’s Ambient Conditions:  Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number 31.  This chapbook contains a short story reprint “A Visit to the Galaxy Ballroom,” as well as an original novelette “Ambient Conditions” and an Authors’ Foreword. This chapbook is still in process, so no link yet.  Watch the skies.
  • Beyond that our AlbaCon Guest of Honor gig, originally scheduled for September of this year, is still on hold pending news on the coronavirus front.  Also, I’m at work on a short story I hope to finish this month, Sharon’s working on another short story for an anthology, and we’ve got a novel in process due for submission early next year.

[Thanks to Steve MiIler for the story.]