2020 Shirley Jackson Awards

The 2020 Shirley Jackson Awards winners were announced August 15 at Readercon 31. The online ceremony began with convention GoH Jeffrey Ford reading his letter to Shirley Jackson inspired by the recently published collection of her letters.

The Shirley Jackson Awards are given for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. They are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics.


  • The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Saga Press, Gallery Books)


  • Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones (Tordotcom Publishing)


  • The Attic Tragedy by J. Ashley-Smith Meerkat Press)


  •  “Not the Man I Married” by R. A. Busby (Black Petals Issue #93 Autumn, 2020)


  • Velocities: Stories by Kathe Koja (Meerkat Press)


  • Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, edited by Lee Murray & Geneve Flynn (Omnium Gatherum)

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, “The Lottery.”  Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction.

RWA Rescinds One of the Inaugural Vivian Awards

The Romance Writers of America’s announcement of the inaugural Vivian Awards on July 31 was met by an immediate backlash against one of the winners.

The “Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements” category winner, At Love’s Command by Karen Witemeyer, is a western romance whose male protagonist takes part in the Wounded Knee massacre and then is redeemed by religion and the love of a good woman. The award drew social media users’ attention to the novel’s portrayal of a genocidal event, and initiated many complaints, especially on Twitter.

“As a Taino, I’m not at all surprised that a book has romanticized genocide. However, I am VERY (disappointed) to see it won an award,” tweeted author Mimi Milan. “Membership permanently cancelled.”

“A ‘romance’ in which the ‘hero’ commits genocide against Native Americans is honored with an award named after the pioneering Black woman founder of RWA is why the organization continues to bleed membership,” tweeted Kymberlyn Reed.

Reed’s tweet refers to the new RWA board’s effort to recover from the mass resignations of officers and loss of members after their predecessors’ attempt to censure Courtney Milan. One measure taken to signal their changing vision for the problem-ridden organization was to remake RWA’s annual awards, retiring the old RITA Awards and creating a new series named after RWA’s founder Vivian Stephens, an African-American woman.

On August 2, the day after the complaints broke out, RWA President LaQuette issued a “Statement on 2021 VIVIAN Awards” that defended the awards finalists as a whole, and contended none of the 13 judges who scored the Witemeyer book had reported any “perceived objectionable or harmful content” to staff as judges had been instructed to do.  

LaQuette also asserted that “Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements, as a subgenre of romance, requires a redemptive arc as a genre convention. Essentially, the character can’t be redeemed by human means; only through their spiritual/religious awakening can they find redemption for their moral failings and or crimes against humanity” – implying that the type of character being objected to is baked into the category definition. However, the RWA’s Vivian Contest Rules only say that eligible works are those “in which spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth or relationship development, and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.”

RWA’s statement was condemned by another 2021 Vivian winner, Sara Whitney, who announced she would decline her award in protest: “My statement about returning the Vivian award”.

Saturday night, I won the inaugural Vivian award for Best Mid-length Contemporary Romance from the Romance Writers of America. In my acceptance speech, I thanked RWA for creating an award recognizing Vivian Stephens and for encouraging members to work together toward meeting the challenges we faced to become a better organization for all writers and readers.

Tonight, I am telling RWA that I am declining my Vivian award and resigning from the organization.

I had decided to remain with RWA after its actions in 2019 because I didn’t want to cede the organization to the racists without a fight. I saw new board members stepping up to make much-needed changes toward inclusivity and equity, and I wanted to be a member who would help work toward those goals.

When I entered my book in the inaugural Vivian awards, I did it in the hope that the new judging rubric and DEI training would allow for historically excluded authors to be given the same consideration I’ve always been awarded as a cis straight white woman. I also hoped the new system would root out overtly racist or otherwise problematic books.

After discovering which book had won the inspirational category, I realized that my hopes were misplaced. RWA simply hasn’t done enough.

This afternoon’s statement from the RWA Board of Directors was the last straw. Its narrow definition of inspirational romance and discussion of characters seeking redemption from “crimes against humanity” prove the organization has not listened or learned from its current or former members.

I don’t only want to be an ally. I want to be a co-conspirator. And I cannot in good conscience accept a Vivian award or remain a member of RWA under these circumstances.

The following day, August 3, the RWA Board announced that after an emergency meeting they had rescinded the Vivian awarded to At Love’s Command:

…RWA is in full support of First Amendment rights; however, as an organization that continually strives to improve our support of marginalized authors, we cannot in good conscience uphold the decision of the judges in voting to celebrate a book that depicts the inhumane treatment of indigenous people and romanticizes real world tragedies that still affect people to this day….

The media by then were already reporting the story. The Washington Post article “After award win, Christian romance novel draws criticism for ‘romanticized genocide’ of Native Americans” begins:

Christian romance novels are generally known for their more “wholesome” take on the genre.

But this year’s winner of the Romance Writers of America’s Vivian Award for best romance with religious or spiritual elements has still managed to stir controversy.

The book — “At Love’s Command” by Karen Witemeyer — opens with a depiction of the Wounded Knee Massacre that some readers and authors have criticized as romanticizing the killing of Native Americans….

BookRiot’s Sarah Nicolas, in “Romance Writers of America Awards Book with Genocidal ‘Hero’”, describes the opening of the book in some detail, and quotes a tweet complaining about this particular book at the time the finalists were announced.

And several articles, including The Mary Sue’s “Romance Writers of America Awards Book Downplaying Genocide”, say the situation reminds them of the 2014 controversy when RWA’s RITA Awards shortlisted a book in the “inspirational” category about a Jewish woman who falls in love with her Nazi Kommandant at a concentration camp and converts to Christianity.

Courtney Milan also has made extensive comments about the RWA leadership’s decision to rescind the award, and in her view, their failure to craft the new award’s rules to authorize some things they have done. Thread starts here. She asks such questions as:

The RWA, meanwhile, promises its Vivian Task Force, headed by RWA Director-at-Large Jackí Renee, will be reviewing the contest’s effectiveness and recommending ways “to improve the contest and identify and manage potentially harmful content at the earliest stages in the contest lifecycle.”

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

Self-Published Science Fiction Competition Is Filling Fast

Hugh Howey’s Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC) is now taking submissions. Are you an indie science fiction writer looking for a wider audience? Check the guidelines here – the slots are filling fast. Earlier today, Howey tweeted: “We have blown past the 300 submissions we were looking for. Once we get to 400, we will close the window and begin sorting these amazing books for the review teams.”

The contest is modeled after Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, which just named its sixth winner in May, and has his blessing.

File 770 is one of the 10 reviewing teams that will participate in the judging. Our team members are:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in Bremen, North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora has been a science fiction fan for as long as she can remember and a File 770 commenter and occasional contributor since 2015. Cora is a two-time Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer and blogs about old and new SFF at www.corabuhlert.com, at Galactic Journey and elsewhere. When Cora is not writing or blogging, she works as a translator and teacher. She also edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase blog. Twitter: @CoraBuhlert

Rogers Cadenhead is a computer book author, ServiceNow software developer, science fiction fan and popesquatter. He’s voted in the Hugo Awards for over a decade, been a member of FAPA and Capa Alpha, and contributes news to File 770. He blogs at Workbench. Twitter: @rcade

Sarah Duck-Mayr says: “I have always been a bookworm, fell into book reviews from a lucky tweet that gained traction. Been riding that high for almost 2 years. I hope to do this for as many as I can.” See Sarah’s reviews here at Goodreads. Twitter: @DedDuckie

Mike Glyer edits the fan newzine File 770, winner of eight Hugos as Best Fanzine. He also has won four Hugos as Best Fan Writer. As a book reader, he looks to sf writers for clues to the changes that are coming, other ways to look at life, and better ideas for facing the future. Twitter: @File_770

SPSFC art by Tithi Luadthong. Logos designed by Scott (@book_invasion)

Who Did You Become When The Lights Went Out?

This September, best-selling writer Tom Taylor (X-Men: Red, All-New Wolverine) will team up with Marvel’s Stormbreaker artist Iban Coello (Venom, Black Knight: Curse Of The Ebony Blade) for a new vision of the Marvel Universe in Dark Ages. A series of mysterious teasers gave fans their first glimpse at what becomes of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Miles Morales after the world descends into darkness.

Following the jump, see more of what’s in store when the lights go out forever in three new teasers that include transformations for Apocalypse and Vision as well your first look at a strange new threat… 

Continue reading

Prix Bob Morane 2021 Finalists

The 2021 Prix Bob Morane shortlist was announced on May 4.

The Prix Bob Morane is a French literary prize named for a fictional adventurer created by Belgian writer Henri Vernes in the 1950s. 

Romans francophones / French Novels

  • Jérémy Bouquin : Heureux qui comme Alyce, Éditions Évidence
  • Catherine Dufour : Au bal des absents, Seuil
  • Estelle Faye : Un reflet de lune, ActuSF
  • Dominique Lémuri : Sous la lumière d’Helios, Armada
  • Maud Mayeras : Les monstres, Anne Carrière
  • Laurent Whale : Skeleton Coast, Au Diable Vauvert

Romans étrangers / Foreign Novels

  • Andy Davidson : Dans la vallée du soleil, [In the Valley of the Sun] Gallmeister, (Translated by Laure Manceau)
  • Cory Doctorow : Le grand abandon, [Walkaway] Bragelonne (Translated by Sébastien Baert)
  • Eva Garcia Saenz de Urturi : Le silence de la ville blanche, [The Silence of the White City] Fleuve Noir (Translated by Judith Vernant)
  • N.K. Jemisin : Genèse de la cité, [The City We Became] J’ai Lu (Translated by Michelle Charrier)
  • Nancy Kress : La fontaine des âges, [Fountain of Age] Belial (Translated by Erwann Perchoc)
  • Mary Robinette Kowal : Vers les étoiles, [The Calculating Stars] Denoël (Translated by Patrick Imbert)

Nouvelles / Short Stories

  • Karine Giebel : Chambres noires, Belfond
  • Nancy Kress : Méfiez-vous du chien qui dort, ActuSF
  • Bruno Pochesci : De la chair à horloge, Malpertuis

The selections were made by a jury of French professionals — writers, journalists, critics, collection curators. The current members of the award jury are, Marc Bailly, Christophe Corthouts, Philippe Paygnard, Pascal J. Thomas, Isabelle Arnaud, Noé Gaillard, Éric Vial, L’équipe Phenixweb, Dorothée Bout, and Michael Fenris.

A Pixel Stocking Stuffer
Today’s Birthdays – December 25

Compiled by Cat Eldridge:

Born December 25, 1928 Dick Miller. He’s appeared in over a hundred films including every film directed by Dante. You’ve seen him in both Gremlins, The Little Shop of Horrors, Terminator, The Howling, Small Soldiers, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Amazon Women on the Moon, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm where he voiced the gravelly voiced Chuckie Sol, and Oberon in the excellent  “The Ties That Bind” episode of Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2019.)

Born December 25, 1939 Royce D. Applegate.  His best known role was that of Chief Petty Officer Manilow Crocker on the first season of seaQuest DSV. He’s got appearances in Quantum Leap, Twin Peaks (where he played Rev. Clarence Brocklehurst), Tales of the Unexpected and Supertrain. (Died 2003.)

Born December 25, 1945 Rick Berman, 74. Loved and loathed in equaled measures, he’s known for his work as the executive producer of Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise which he co-created with Brannon Braga. He’d be lead producer on the four Next Generation films: Generations, First Contact (which I like), Insurrection and Nemesis

Born December 25, 1952 CCH Pounder, 67. She’s had one very juicy voice role running through the DC Universe from since Justice League Unlimited in 2006. If you’ve not heard her do this role, it worth seeing the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which is far superior to the live action Suicide Squad film to hear her character. She also had a recurring role as Mrs. Irene Frederic on Warehouse 13 as well. She’s also been in X-Files, Quantum Leap, White Dwarf (horrid series), Gargoyles, Millennium, House of Frankenstein and Outer Limits,  Film wise, she shows up in Robocop 3, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and several of the forthcoming Avatar films.

Born December 25, 1984 Georgia Moffett, 35. She’s the daughter of actor Peter Davison, the man who was Fifth Doctor, and she’s married to David Tennant who was the Tenth Doctor.  She played opposite the Tenth Doctor as Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and in she voiced ‘Cassie’ in the animated Doctor Who: Dreamland which is now on iTunes and Amazon. And yes, she’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as herself.

A Show Recap

By Martin Morse Wooster: I am watching a show which in the US is called The Heart Guy but in Australia where it originated is called Doctor Doctor.  It’s about a heart surgeon who screwed up and has to spend a year as a general practitioner in the little country town of Whyhope.  I wouldn’t call it “the Australian version of Doc Martin” but the shows are very similar, except The Heart Guy is less about medicine than Doc Martin.  The show I saw tonight is from the show’s second series and was broadcast in Australia in September 2017.

One character is a sf writer who has some success with her first novel because we see her give a reading and members of the audience recite favorite lines from her book.  We see her office on the porch of a large house surrounded by beautiful Australian countryside.  She is stuck on her second novel because trolls constantly tweet her while she’s working and tell her that her first novel is full of mush.

She finds someone camping on her lawn and calls the cops.  The camper is in fact a superfan who comes from some far away town to meet her favorite writer.  She works in a bakery and has made an alien from the author’s novel out of frosting.

The author decides to invite the fan onto her porch for some tea, but the fan sneaks into the author’s office and reads a few pages from her novel in progress.  She instantly solves every plot problem which has been plaguing the author, and the author gratefully writes down the fan’s suggestions on her laptop until she is interrupted by a tweet from another troll.  She turns off her laptop and decides to write her novel on a manual typewriter.

Sf bonus:  There’s an Asian character on the show who is only credited as “Ken” but whose name, I think, is Ken Liu.

Moon Landing Oreos

Once the commemorative Moon Landing Oreos hit the markets, John King Tarpinian not only took a photo of a package in his local Target store (published here last week), he bought it and gifted it to me when we met for lunch a few days later.

They tasted lovely. The lavender-colored marshmallow filling not only differs in color from standard Oreos (which is white), the texture is slightly more of a gel than normal. (I can imagine orbiting astronauts squeezing it from a tube.) Despite the color, the flavor wasn’t floral or exotic — if not quite the same as usual, the filling didn’t taste very different. The result was a much more pleasing Oreo cookie than the peanut-candy-flavored experiment they temporarily marketed not long ago, which I also tried.

Those of a certain age, like I am, grew up watching TV commercials that demonstrated the infinite techniques for eating Oreos, of which the most important is unscrewing the cookie and eating the filling first.

But fans overthrew this indoctrination at the 1987 Worldcon in England when the Chicago in ’91 Worldcon bidders ran a party with a milk-and-cookies theme. As reported in File 770 #70:

[At the Chicago in ’91 party] those who stayed were fascinated by the Oreos; they kept asking about “the black cookies” and how to eat them. Straight-faced Chicagoans told them you must carefully unscrew the Oreo, eat the white filling, and throw the black cookies away. So they did. Others were coached to methodically time the dunking of their Oreos in milk. Two of the most enthusiastic Oreo-eaters were “the happy Slav brothers,” one fan term for the Yugoslavian Worldcon bidders, whom [Ross Pavlac] claimed decided not to run against Chicago in ’91 because they liked the Oreo party.

Like Chicago radio personality Paul Harvey used to say: “And now you know…the rest of the story.”

Stan and Ollie: A Review

By Steve Vertlieb: Stan And Ollie is truly one of the loveliest films that it has been my privilege to see in years. This sweet, gentle portrait of the screen’s indisputably greatest comedy team is often hilarious, yet heartbreaking in its unflinching portrait of two incandescent souls who lit up motion picture theaters with their impeccable artistry. John C. Reilly is astonishing as Oliver Hardy, known affectionately as “Babe” to those closest to him. His transformation and performance are deeply touching, focusing on the portly actor’s frailty, gambling addiction, and quiet dignity as the years begin to evaporate his strength and vitality. This is clearly the performance of his career. Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, the creative force behind the team’s hilarity and success, is gently brilliant in his depiction of a comedic genius struggling to keep the team alive as their gradual descent from fame and from youth has begun taking its inevitable toll.

Their respective wives are their seeming opposites. Ida Kitaeva Laurel (Nina Arianda) is a shrill, domineering woman whose physical stature and brash personality loudly overshadow her outwardly meek husband. Lucille Hardy (Shirley Henderson) is closer to Stan in demeanor, yet married to the gregarious “Babe” Hardy. Dedicated to preserving her beloved husband’s failing health and happiness, Lucille is the anchor who must rescue Ollie from his own excesses. Ida and Lucille are as different as Stan and Ollie, providing a striking, if bizarre, reflection and mirror image of their respective spouse’s personalities. Danny Huston in another of his menacing performances as Hal Roach, and Rufus Jones as the ruthless promoter who imports the boys to England in the latter years of their careers are, perhaps, symbolic of the crass tastes of a fickle public who have, in so cavalier a fashion, discarded the once beloved comedy team to the ash heap of fame and fortune.

Jeff Pope’s deeply melancholy screenplay, based upon Laurel and Hardy: The British Tours by A.J. Marriot, begins with the duo’s career high as they battle for release from their contract with Hal Roach, then effortlessly segues into their declining years as entertainers when the world and their once loyal fans have all but forgotten them. Laurel, who wrote all of the team’s classic comedy dialogue and routines, brings his ailing partner to England to revive their popularity with a proposed new film based upon the legend of Robin Hood. Sadly, the film never materialized, but a dream sequence in which Stan and Ollie re-create the first meeting of Robin and Friar Tuck is genuinely hilarious.

Rolfe Kent’s musical score brings sweet clarity to the failed dreams and quiet frustration, endured proudly by the embattled, fallen comic warriors, while Laurie Rose’s muted colors and cinematography lend historical accuracy to a bleak, heart aching descent from fame, popularity, and grace.

Directed with affection, and dignity by Jon S. Baird, this Sony Classics release is a tender, sweetly compassionate look at the greatest comedy team in motion picture history … after the adulation and parade had passed them by. Their growing sadness as the reality of age, health, and sad obscurity conspires to consume their devotion to one another ultimately masks a consummate love story that these gentle souls shared. Stan And Ollie is, at its considerable heart, a love story … a fragile take on the rigors and aftermath of fame, and the ultimate redemption of two beautiful human souls whose lasting dignity, respect, and affection for one another comprised the artistry, charm and enduring magic that was … and is … Stan And Ollie.

SFF Stamps of 2018

The US Postal Service put out a bumper crop of stamps of interest to fans in 2018. Here’s a roundup:

“Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!”

For nearly 50 years, this call has summoned the beloved animated Great Dane wherever help is needed.

Here’s Scooby-Doo!—brought to you by the U.S. Postal Service®. This Forever® stamp issuance highlights the popular canine sleuth and his new Scooby-Doo DOO GOOD Campaign. (Issued 7/14/2018.)

In 2018, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates dragons, the high-flying, fire-breathing mythological creatures that have roamed our imaginations for millennia. (Issued 8/9/2018)

The U.S. Postal Service celebrates magic, an art form that has entertained America for centuries. This sheet of 20 stamps features digital illustrations of five classic illusions: a rabbit in a top hat (production), a fortune teller using a crystal ball (prediction), a woman floating in the air (levitation), an empty bird cage (vanishing), and a bird emerging from a flower (transformation). (Issued 8/7/2018)

America’s first woman in space, Dr. Sally Ride (1951-2012), inspired the nation as a pioneering astronaut, brilliant physicist, and dedicated educator. (Stamp issued 5/23/2018)

Designed to pique the curiosity of the viewer, each stamp features a collage of face, symbols, drawings, and numbers that represent the complexity and interconnectedness of the STEM disciplines. (Issued 4/6/2018)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian and John Hertz for the story.]