Blade Runner Blog Tour
Visits File 770

Today File 770 presents an extract from Titan Comics’ graphic novel Blade Runner 2019 Vol. 1: Welcome to Los Angeles, the first original comic series set in the iconic neo-noir world of Blade Runner.

Detective Ash is a veteran Blade Runner, set on the trail of a kidnapped child in the streets of Los Angeles, 2019 – but as the bodies mount and Replicants crawl from the shadows, Ash’s own secrets come under fire!

From writer Michael Green (screenwriter for Blade Runner 2049) and Mike Johnson (Star Trek), and illustrated by Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America).

Peter Pan and Wendy

By Martin Morse Wooster: Perhaps the most interesting play I saw in 2018 was a revision of Macbeth done in 1664 by Sir William Davenant, which was performed at the Folger Theatre.  Davenant wrote his revisions after theaters had been closed for 20 years, and the audiences of the 1660s wanted something different than when Shakespeare wrote 60 years before.  They liked songs more than Shakespeare’s audience, so the witches had three arias, with the Folger Consort as musical accompaniment.  Davenant also used his blue quill to change words he didn’t like, so the witches became “unhappy sisters” instead of “weird sisters” and when Macbeth says “out, out brief candle,” Davenant had him say “out, out, short candle.”[1]

Peter Pan and Wendy is a revision of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan by Lauren Gunderson.  Gunderson is credited as adapting Barrie’s play, but a better credit would be that Peter Pan and Wendy is a play by Lauren Gunderson based on characters created by J.M. Barrie. Peter Pan and Wendy is to Peter Pan as the Star Trek:  Kelvin universe is to Star Trek; the male characters are mostly Barrie’s, the female characters are Gunderson’s, and nearly everything that happens in Neverland is radically different than what Barrie had in mind.

Lauren Gunderson (whose website is here) is credited by American Theatre as being the most produced playwright in America in 2018.  She’s 37 but has already written about 15 plays, as well as at least one kids’ book about science.  Her plays are noted for having strong women characters and having something about science, so the audience gets fun facts along with good theater.  The only play of hers I’ve seen is Emilie, about an 18th-century aristocrat who makes important discoveries in physics.  Friends of mine saw her play The Book of Will, about the creation of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and thought they learned things about how the book was created.

And because Gunderson was sitting four rows in front of me in the dress rehearsal I attended, she told me that, even though she writes about women and science, she doesn’t consider herself an sf writer.

Much of what Barrie wrote in Peter Pan remains in Peter Pan and Wendy.  Peter Pan is a blond guy who wears the traditional green outfit.  Lots of members of the cast fly around the stage in harnesses.[2]   There’s still a giant crocodile with a clock inside who likes eating people.  There is still a dog on stage; Bailey, in fact, was the understudy for the dog that appeared in Finding Neverland.  Most surprisingly, Gunderson figured out a way to get the audience to clap for Tinkerbell, although the reasons why they are clapping are quite different.

Where Gunderson differs from Barrie is in how the women in the play are depicted.  We begin in the Darling’s bedroom, where Wendy and her brothers are getting ready for bed.  Then they see a light.  But Wendy decides she will report the new star to the Royal Astronomical Society.  Then she discusses her love for Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize a year before Barrie’s play was first produced.  Then there is a magnifying glass Wendy uses, which will play a key role in the second act.

So we’re off to Neverland!  And yes, the Lost Boys are there, and Captain Hook, and Smee.  But then we have Tiger Lily, whose role is now problematic.  Changing her role changed the backstory of how Neverland came to be.

Tiger Lily

“The most important part of this project was rewriting Tiger Lily to counteract the colonialism, racism and harmful stereotype of the original,” Gunderson writes in an essay in the program.  “I’m deeply grateful to the indigenous consultants that helped me begin to understand the Native American perspective.”  She adds that her characters become “activists ready to work together to make the world—even the dream world of Neverland—a better place for all.”

This might lead people to think that Peter Pan and Wendy offers the audience an unwanted dose of double-strength vinegar, so that it would only appeal to the small number of families who think a fun day with the kids is a hearty discussion about the evils of colonial oppression.

It is to Gunderson’s great credit that she refrains from lecturing the audience.  We learn that Tiger Lily is part of the indigenous peoples who existed in Neverland and that the world changed when Peter Pan and the Lost Boys showed up.  In the end battle, tomboy Tiger Lily, scientist Wendy, and girly Tinkerbell all join Peter Pan and the Lost Boys to fight Hook and his gang.  Moreover, Tiger Lily says she’s joining the fight for her own reasons and not because Peter Pan told her to.

But Gunderson’s love for Barrie’s male characters makes for effective drama.  Peter Pan and Wendy is not a play where the women win when the men lose.  Peter Pan could easily have been presented as a jerk.  Gunderson’s Peter Pan is initially clueless, but he grows, learns, and improves.

Finally, it should be noted that Peter Pan and Wendy has many jokes, including a couple of groaners.  There’s an inscription on a redshirt’s sword that is really funny.

Finding Neverland struck me as a musical that had been rewritten too many times by too many hands.  Peter Pan and Wendy strikes me as being Lauren Gunderson’s vision. It should not be the last word in how Peter Pan is portrayed in this century, but as long as audiences realize they are entering Lauren Gunderson’s world and not J.M. Barrie’s, they will find Peter Pan and Wendy is enjoyable, effective, and provocative theatre.


[1] The “Restoration Shakespeare” Macbeth was very well done, with excellent performances by Ian Merrill Peakes as Macbeth and Kate Eastwood Smith as Lady Macbeth.  But the Folger made a mistake by presenting the play as a benefit performance by the Bedlam asylum, where some of the swords were real swords that actually killed actors.  They should have presented Davenant’s play straight so that the audience could experience it, since the likelihood it will be performed again is vanishingly small.

[2] Shakespeare Theatre dramturg Drew Lichtenberg told us in an essay in the program that harnesses were cutting-edge technology in 1904 and that all the flying in a dress rehearsal led to a set collapse, a delay for a week, and Barrie frantically rewriting the conclusion.

Pixel Scroll 12/4/19 A Thousand Naked Scroll Files Screaming And Throwing Little Pixels At You

(1) LEST MARKNESS FALL. Christine Feehan tweeted a justification of her application to trademark book series with the word “Dark” in the title. Penny Reid is one of many who still hopes someone will put a stop to the idea. [UPDATE: Feehan has removed the tweet to which Reid is responding. I have not located a screencap to replace it.]

(2) INDIGENOUS FUTURES. Abaki Beck’s article “An Old New World: When One People’s Sci-Fi Is Another People’s Past” for Bitch Media discusses Indigenous SF, with quotes from Rebecca Roanhorse.

As Portland State University Indigenous Nations Studies professor Grace L. Dillon wrote in the introduction to 2012’s Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, “It is almost commonplace to think that the Native Apocalypse, if contemplated seriously, has already taken place.” Indigenous authors are thus in a unique position to reclaim sci-fi narratives as a form of resistance against settler colonialism. Indigenous science fiction or speculative fiction—which Dillion encapsulates with the term “Indigenous futurisms,” inspired by the Afrofuturism movement—offers a space for Indigenous writers, filmmakers, and artists to explore possible futures. From cowboy films to government-assimilation policies, Native American communities and cultures are often portrayed as a “vanishing race” with no place in the present, let alone the future. Indigenous futurism is a contemplation of what our futures look like as Indigenous people, one that recognizes the significance and strength of Indigenous knowledge systems.

Such possible futures are prevalent themes in Cherie Dimaline’s 2017 novel The Marrow Thieves and Rebecca Roanhorse’s 2018 novel Trail of Lightning. Both books create new worlds that center and celebrate Indigenous people, knowledge, and land. “You don’t see a lot of Native Americans in science fiction and fantasy, and when you do they are usually not situated in a world that is specifically Native, like the Navajo reservation,” Roanhorse told Barnes & Noble in 2018. “I wanted to read a science fiction and fantasy story where Native characters held front and center, where the landscape was filled with the places and the people that I knew from living on the rez, where the gods and heroes were of North American Indigenous origin.”

…As each world is destroyed, a new one begins. The Diné believe that we are now in the fifth world, and in Trail of Lightning, Roanhorse creates the beginning of the sixth—one that takes shape in the aftermath of global destruction brought about by climate change and human hubris. In effect, Roanhorse is modernizing Diné stories and history without translating it for readers. She expects those who read her books to already know about these traditions and beliefs, making the Sixth World series uniquely accessible to Diné and other Native peoples in a way that other sci-fi and fantasy series are not.

(3) DEAD ASTRONAUTS MUSIC. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Jeff VanderMeer has posted “The Operatic, Post-Punk Sounds of Dead Astronauts”, a selected list of 23 songs that were on the playlist that he listened to while writing Dead Astronauts, his latest science fiction book for the Farrar, Straus & Giroux imprint MCD Books. The playlist includes songs by Midnight Oil, The Church, Spoon, Mercury Rev, Three Mile Pilot, Tropical Fuck Storm, and the Chills:

The Dead Astronauts “mix tape” consists of 900 songs, played on shuffle unless I needed to summon a certain emotion for a particular scene. The 23 songs here are either favorites or representative of albums I love. But loving an album isn’t enough—I write very much by feel and music is essential to that. I have to be in the right headspace to stay within the style and voice of the novel. In the case of Dead Astronauts, there are ten sections and ten different perspectives and styles.

Yet pervading everything in Dead Astronauts is a dual sense of anger and defiance mixed acceptance and loss. These are big, almost operatic emotions that manifest in the novel in both bold, over-the-top ways and in a minor key, with intricate little eddies and shifts in perspective.

(4) YOU SAY GOODBYE, I SAY HELLO. According to The Ringer, “2019 Marked the End of a Television Era—and the Beginning of a New One”. Includes discussion of shows such as Game of Thrones and brief mentions of shows like Watchmen, The Mandalorian and Russian Doll.

Leading up to its widely watched, less widely admired culmination in May, much was made of Thrones’ status as the last of its kind, a great unifier whose most fantastical flourish of all was reviving the monoculture for an hour at a time on Sunday nights. Nearly seven months later, those eulogies for Thrones still echo, though they take on a different tone when held up against the context of all this year’s other finales. In truth, television as communal mass consumption is a model that was de facto extinct long before Game of Thrones artificially expanded its lifespan, White Walker–style—and may in fact be better represented by The Big Bang Theory, another monster hit that wound down within days of its flashier peer. However warranted, the noise around Thrones may have obscured the passing of a different kind of cultural moment.

The Ringer also produced a list of “The Best TV Shows of 2019”.  

3. Los Espookys

There’s so much else unusual about Los Espookys that it’s easy to forget the novelty, and significance, of its being the first-ever Spanish-language series to air on HBO. Conceived of by SNL’s Fred Armisen and cowritten by Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega, all of whom serve in the ensemble cast, Los Espookys seems to set and defy its own rules at will. In this unnamed Latin American country, there’s ample demand for “horror groups” to stage elaborate, quasi-mystical pranks, some of them involving aliens. Also, valet parking is a high art; news anchors are beautiful, brainwashed abductees; and the U.S. ambassador is a live-action Barbie doll who gets trapped in an enchanted mirror. At once deadpan and fantastical, Los Espookys flair for the dramatic resembles nothing else on television, except for Torres’s distinctive sketch work over in Studio 8H. The show achieves a similar effect, immersing the viewer in an alternate reality mercifully low on stakes and high on cursed amulets. Only when the spell is broken do you notice the quietly forceful statement of subtitling the English dialogue along with the Spanish.

(5) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Robot Walk Into a Bar,” by Andrew Dana Hudson, a new short story that looks at how artificial intelligence could support, and distort, faith.

It was published along with a response essay by Ruth Graham, a staff writer at Slate who covers religion: “A.I. Could Bring a Sea Change in How People Experience Religious Faith”.

(6) BABY YODA. Funko Pop’s The Child comes in two sizes, 10 and 3.75 inches. Speculation is that the former is intended to be life-sized. Available for pre-order now with delivery in Spring 2020, so don’t expect to see it in your Christmas stocking.

(7) BOLD BUNDLE. Nick Mamatas has curated “The Outspoken Authors Bundle” for StoryBundle.  

The Outspoken Author series is unique: it covers the gamut of genres, from hard SF to crime and literary fiction, and it collects the underappreciated and hard-to-find work of legendary figures in an accessible format. Not only is there fiction, the authors offer up essays, transcripts of talks and speeches, and ruminations about the writing life. Each volume concludes with an in-depth interview conducted by series editor Terry Bisson, and these go deep: you’ll learn about everything from revelations about drag personas to dissections of Trotskyism in the United Kingdom.

Never has a single StoryBundle offered work by so many of speculative literature’s most important figures: Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, Michael Moorcock, and many others. We’re offering twenty-three volumes in DRM-free digital formats that are yours to keep till freedom reigns over the world.

You decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of six books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Thoreau’s Microscope by Michael Blumlein
  • A City Made of Words by Paul Park
  • The Beatrix Gates by Rachel Pollack
  • Totalitopia by John Crowley
  • Raising Hell by Norman Spinrad
  • Modem Times 2.0 by Michael Moorcock

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all six of the regular books, plus SEVENTEEN more books!

  • The Atheist in the Attic by Samuel R. Delany
  • Fire. by Elizabeth Hand
  • Miracles Ain’t What They Used to Be by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Gypsy by Carter Scholz
  • My Life, My Body by Marge Piercy
  • Patty Hearst & The Twinkie Murders by Paul Krassner
  • The Science of Herself by Karen Joy Fowler
  • New Taboos by John Shirley
  • The Human Front by Ken Macleod
  • Report From Planet Midnight by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Surfing the Gnarl by Rudy Rucker
  • The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow
  • The Wild Girls by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor Arnason
  • The Underbelly by Gary Phillips
  • The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • The Left Left Behind by Terry Bisson

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 4, 1970 Latitude Zero premiered in New York City. It was directed by Ishir? Honda and scripted by Ted Sherdeman as based on his Latitude Zero radio show. The film stars both American and Japanese actors including Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero, Akira Takarada, Masumi Okada, Richard Jaeckel and Patricia Medina. Critics found the plot weak but the special effects rather fun. It currently has a rating of 50% at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 4, 1937 David Bailie, 82. He played Dask in “The Robots of Death”, a Fourth Doctor story, and also appeared in Blake’s 7 as Chevner in the “Project Avalon” story. Also, he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Intriguingly he shows up in The Creeping Flesh which starredChristopher Lee and Peter Cushing. 
  • Born December 4, 1939 Jimmy Hunt, 80. He plays Dave MacLean in Invaders from Mars. Some three decades later, he’ll appear in the remake as the Police Chief. He’s an uncredited appearance early in his career in My Brother Talks to Horses which is definitely genre. And he’s in Close Encounters of the 4th Kind: Infestation from Mars though I know nothing of this film. Have any of you seen it? 
  • Born December 4, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by Howard.  He is quite likely best known for his invention of the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman who I think is in as many as thirty works by Wagner. Anyone here read them? Rhetorical question I know. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of stories by authors of the Golden Age pulp magazines. Anything I left off that folks should know about him? (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 4, 1949 Jeff Bridges, 70. I’d say his best genre role was as Starman / Scott Hayden in the film of that name. Other genre work includes King Kong, the voice of Prince Lir in Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, Jack Lucas in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man and Kevin Flynn/CLU 2 in Tron: Legacy. He appeared also in a film called R.I.P.D. as Roycephus “Roy” Pulsipher which was either really bad or really, really bad. 
  • Born December 4, 1954 Sally Kobee, 65. Fan, Bookseller, filker. She has served on the committees for myriad conventions, and chaired both Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 and OVFF 10, and WFC 2010 and 2016. She was honored as a Fellow of NESFA and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon XXVII. She and her now late husband purchased a bookstore in the 90s. She continues to the day to sell books at conventions.
  • Born December 4, 1954 Tony Todd, 65. Let’s see… He was a memorable Kurn in  Next Gen and Deep Space Nine, he plays Ben in Night of the Living Dead, he’s of course the lead character in the Candyman horror trilogy, William Bludworth in the Final Destination film franchise, Cecrops in Xena: Warrion Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Those are just selected highlights. 
  • Born December 4, 1957 Lucy Sussex, 62. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia… she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carry led workshop. And she’s edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. She’s won three Ditmar Awards, A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed!  I’ve not heard of her before now, so I’ve not read her, so who has read her? 
  • Born December 4, 1964 Marisa Tomei, 55. May Parker in Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also to my delight has an uncredited role as a Health Club Girl in The Toxic Avenger. She also shows up as Mrs. O’Conner in the “Unwomen”, an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • Born December 4, 1989 Nafessa Williams, 30. She had only two genre roles but with the first being the revival series of Twin Peaks where she was Jade. The other is what gets her Birthday Honors — She’s Anissa Pierce who is the superhero Thunder on the Black Lightning series. Superb series, great character! 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SCALZI’S DOPEST BREAD CONNECTION. John Scalzi tells why he received a baked good by a very roundabout route: “The Case of the Felonious Bread”.

…Seamus Blackley …sent me a loaf via Fed Ex this weekend, and yesterday I got a notice through email that the package had been delivered. I went down from my office to retrieve it —

— and it wasn’t there….

….Then I looked to see who it was who signed for my package:

“POLICE.”….

(12) WELL… Artist James Artimus Owens told his Facebook readers about the time a therapist gave him some unexpected advice – and it worked! But the story is funny, too.

(13) THIS FRUIT’S NOT FORBIDDEN JUST FORGOTTEN. “Some Other Trees in the Garden of Eden’ – humor in The New Yorker:

(14) RIDE THE RISE. “Inside the innovative Disney ride that’s key to its Star Wars strategy”CNN posted an exclusive about the “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” attraction about to open at Galaxy’s Edge. Beware ride spoilers! (None in this excerpt, though.)

Now Disney is finally pulling the curtains off “Rise,” opening on Thursday at Walt Disney World and on January 17 at Disneyland. The stakes are high for this expensive gamble to succeed: Attendance at Disney’s domestic theme parks was down 3% in its latest quarter. The company also recently announced the departure of Catherine Powell, the president of Disney Parks who oversaw Anaheim and Orlando.

Disney is betting it can turn things around with the power of high-tech experiences. The attraction packs dozens of audio-animatronics — and a couple of giant AT-ATs — holograms, lasers, and the most complex ride system Disney’s Imagineers had ever designed: a trackless vehicle that moves laterally, vertically, and at all times unpredictably. At its annual shareholders meeting, Disney CEO Bob Iger called the ride “the most technologically advanced and immersive attraction that we have ever imagined.”

(15) LINEAR Z. “‘Zork’ Source Code, Presumed Lost Forever, Has Been Uploaded to GitHub”Krypton Radio reported this in the spring, but it’s still news to me!

It’s written in a language called ZIL, which stands for Zork Implementation Language. The games have been rewritten for various platforms and have been circulating for years, but knowledge of the actual scripting language used to create the game was lost to the annals of history.

Until now. Somebody called themselves ‘historicalsource’ has uploaded the original source ZIL code to a bunch of Infocom games to GitHub. That someone is computer historian Jason Scott.

(16) CLIMB EVERY MOUNT TBR. James Davis Nicoll believes he knows the cure: “How to Recover From Reader’s Block”.

Recently a well-regarded essayist expressed dissatisfaction with the current state of the SF novel. He went so far as to confidently assert, “I stopped reading novels last year. I think you did too.” Sweeping assertions are often wrong. This one is definitely wrong, at least where I am concerned.

…What may have sparked his comment is burnout, of the form that might be called “reader’s block.” You want to read something, but can find nothing specific you want to read. I think most of us who read extensively have been there.

The best method I know of for mitigating reader’s block is to cast one’s net wider….

(17) DEALER DOWNER. Bookseller Patrick Darby, who hucksters at many Maryland-area conventions, may have to shut down: “An independent bookstore owner is facing the last chapter of his beloved business” in the Washington Post.

On Black Friday, as shoppers packed an outlet mall just up the road, Patrick Darby sat behind the counter at Novel Books, his charmingly cramped bookstore in suburban Maryland, narrating the last chapter of his business.

“I’ll be gone by next week if something doesn’t happen,” Darby said, his hands trembling.For Darby, 60, this bookstore tucked inside an old yellow house with a wraparound porch in Clarksburg was his opportunity to finally sell books the old-fashioned way. He had spent decades working for big chains, including Crown Books, once a staple of Washington.

“I’d been thinking about a store like this the whole time,” Darby said.

(18) WEIGHT FOR IT. Looper claims “Fans are slamming Marvel after that Black Widow trailer”.

…The response from some fans online was highly reminiscent of the “Fat Thor” controversy after the release of Avengers: Endgame. Many were incredulous that Marvel appeared not to have learned anything from said controversy, including Twitter user @The_GothDaddy, who wrote, “The Black Widow trailer looks pretty good I’d like it more if Marvel learned their lesson with Thor and maybe considered leaving out yet… A n o t h e r… Dig at fat people.”

User @Artists_Ali agreed, writing, “So I watched the Black Widow trailer. Is Marvel just gonna do wall to wall fatphobic jokes in all their movies now or….? Yeah that’s gonna be a no from me.”

There were a wealth of similar tweets to be found in the trailer’s immediate wake, and while everybody is obviously entitled to their opinion, ours is that — as with the Endgame controversy — the approach to Harbour’s character is being wildly misinterpreted. User @MediocreJedi (great name) contributed another critical tweet that touched on our reasoning: “Imma watch the hell out of #BlackWidow,” they wrote, “but did Marvel learn ANYTHING from their Endgame Thor fat joke backlash? Most women I know find David Harbour hot. So, another fat joke? Signed, guy who can barely fit into his 21-year-old dress uniform but can still kick ass.”

(19) SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED. New trailer for the next James Bond movie No Time To Die.

In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, N., Jennifer Hawthorne, Darrah Chavey, Rob Thornton, Joey Eschrich, Chip Hitchcock, StephenfromOttawa, Mike Kennedy, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing collaborative editors of the day cmm and Jayn.]

Magical Mystery Tour: NYRSF Readings Spotlight the Beatles Across Space and Time

By Mark L. Blackman: The Beatles entered my consciousness not through the bathroom window but with my brother telling me about a new singing group with “haircuts like Moe” of the Three Stooges. (Decades later, he watched Sir Paul perform in Tel Aviv.) Soon after I saw their landmark first appearance on Ed Sullivan. By then Beatlemania had erupted – the moptops were the Fab Four – everyone had to get them into their lives. We followed their long and winding road from sweet love songs to India and Sergeant Pepper and The End.

When friends visited from England, they made a pilgrimage to Strawberry Fields – a place to go – then across the street to the Dakota.

This time of year is a sad one for Beatles fans. Last month saw the anniversary of George’s death, next week will be that of John’s murder. A celebration of their music, fame and legacy, what they meant, something to say that it’s O.K. and make us feel good in a special way, is most welcome. We saw a reminder of their status as The ’60s Icons last summer as fans gathered on the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road on, where else?, London’s Abbey Road.

Yesterday, on the evening of Tuesday, December 3rd – Giving Tuesday – at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn, the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series hosted a launch party (we’re going to a party party) for Across the Universe, an anthology of 25 freaky and twisted (and shouted) speculative fiction stories about the Beatles and alternative variations of the still-Fab Four. Edited by Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn, the ticket to ride features what-ifs by Spider Robinson, Jody Lynn Nye, David Gerrold, Cat Rambo, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Pat Cadigan, Gregory Frost, Gregory Benford, Matthew Amati, Ken Schneyer, Bev Vincent, Patrick Barb, Gail Z. Martin, Barbara Clough, Eric Avedissian, Alan Goldsher, R. Jean Mathieu, Beth Patterson, and Christian Smith, coming together, plus the, um, Fab Five readers of the evening: Charles Barouch, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Carol Gyzander, Gordon Linzner, and Sally Wiener Grotta.

All together now.

As we gathered, Beatles tunes played to get us into the spirit of things. The event opened, as usual, with producer and executive curator Jim Freund, host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf (with WBAI-FM back on the air, he’s no longer sitting in a nowhere land) welcoming the audience to the last reading of 2019. He began by noting that tonight’s readings would be on Facebook Live, rather than streamed on Livestream, plugging that the Café’s kitchen would be open through most of the evening, and announcing that next month’s readers (January 7th) would be Hildy Silverman and A.C. Wise (though without glitter). He reminded those who can to donate to the Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away due to lack of funds), and reported that the home audience may donate on its Patreon page, Jim Freund.

Randee Dawn

Bringing up guest host and the book’s co-editor Randee Dawn, he reported that Across the Universe is actually the second such anthology, the first being All Together Now, edited by James Ryan. Dawn is a Brooklyn-based author and entertainment journalist who focuses on speculative fiction, but is co-author of The Law & Order:  SVU Unofficial Companion. After recounting how she and Ventrella pretty much simultaneously came up with the idea, presented it to Ian Randal Strock of Fantastic Books and launched a Kickstarter campaign to realize it, she introduced the evening’s first reader.

Sally Wiener Grotta is the author of The Winter Boy and Jo Joe, a journalist and the co-curator of the Galactic Philadelphia author reading series. She read from her story “The Truth Within,” in which George goes to Key Biscayne and tries to get Nixon interested in (“hooked on”) transcendental meditation: “Imagine a chilled Nixon at peace with himself. … And poof! No more carpet bombing and napalm.”

Carol Gyzander, writer of various crossgenre ’punk stories and the second reader, read from “Deal with the Devil”, which is one answer to “how did the Beatles get so good?” Set in Liverpool after their return from playing clubs in Hamburg (Pete Best is still their drummer), two kids, fans of Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne, using black magic to connect with their idols, instead reach – through their old black and white “telly” – the Beatles.

Next up was Gordon Linzner, founder and former editor of Space & Time Magazine, author of The Spy Who Drank Blood, and who, as lead singer of the Saboteur Tiger Blues Band, has covered a fair share of Beatles songs. His story alludes to a tv show with four protagonists, “The Hey! Team.” With John as leader and wacko Richard “Ringo” Starkey in the Murdoch role, they try to prevent the abduction of Chuck Berry’s guitar Maybellene, while being pursued by Colonel Pepper (he was promoted).

Charles Barouch

“The Perfect Bridge,” Charles Barouch’s quickie was another time travel story. A computer programmer in 1978, using a “Yellow Subroutine,” reaches across to 1967 to plant an Appleseed.

During the intermission, a raffle was held for those who donated, with three prizes: from Carol Gyzander’s What We’ve Unlearned;  Sally Wiener Grotta’s Jo Joe; and Gordon Linzner’s The Spy Who Drank Blood. Freund reported that the Brooklyn Commons was starting a series or festival of short subject films and invited us to sign up electronically at a terminal up front.

Keith R.A. DeCandido

Opening the second half of the show was Keith R.A. DeCandido, who is perhaps best known for his media tie-in work across “33 different universes, from Alien to Zorro.” In “Used to Be,” which is set sort of in his “Precinct” fantasy police procedural series, the Beatles are recast as Jahn, Gyorg, Paol and Starki, D&D tropes (Jahn is a bard, Starki a barbarian).

Filling in for the scheduled final reader, Dawn read Matthew Amati’s “Apocalypse Rock.” Set in an alternate history where the U.S. lost JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis gamble, four musicians wander a postapocalyptic landscape of gangs and cannibal mutants to a battle of the bands at the titular site.

Ian Randall Strock

Then, in a bonus, the book’s publisher (“the guy who writes the checks”), Ian Randal Strock, read “Rubber Soul” by Spider Robinson. In the 1985 story, John is resurrected 24 years after his death at 40, making him…

Finally, it being a party party and all the world is birthday cake, Dawn brought out a huge cake (though not honey pie or marshmallow pie) decorated with a copy of the cover art by Dave Alvarez. (I took a piece but not too much.)

The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a small assortment of books. The audience of close to 80, counting Freund and the readers, included Karen Heuler, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, James Ryan and Susan Bratisher Ryan.

It was a hard day’s night. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

The Cat That Walked by Himself

By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 39)  John Paul Stevens (1920-2019) was the 101st Justice (as we call judges there) appointed to the United States Supreme Court (served 1975-2010), taking the seat vacated by the retirement of William O. Douglas (1898-1980; served 1939-1975).  Justice Stevens was appointed by President Ford; Justice Douglas had been appointed by President F.D. Roosevelt.

Upon retiring, Justice Stevens wrote Five Chiefs (2011), a memoir of the Chief Justices he had served under.  A fuller memoir The Making of a Justice (2019) appeared two months before his death.  Only Douglas and Justice Stephen J. Field (1816-1899; served 1863-1897, appointed by President Lincoln) were longer on the Court.

Justice Stevens and I both went to the University of Chicago Laboratory School and Northwestern U. law school.  He was and I am a Chicago Cubs baseball fan.  At Northwestern, he and I had the same professor for Antitrust law, James A. Rahl (1917-1994).

It’s been said that a man who wears a bow tie is a joker.  On the strength of my grandfather, of one of my brilliant first-year law school professors, and of Justice Stevens, it may be true.  The Making of a Justice is full of jokes, many dry, some wry.

I was a few feet from him at a law-school reception when he muttered to another of my brilliant professors – who didn’t wear bow ties, but always wore a gray three-piece suit, white shirt, black knitted four-in-hand; not until watching him closely in a second class I carefully took with him did I see from slightly differing lapels, or buttons, or tie weave, that he had several – “I never had the Latin for the judgin’”.

The only time The Making shocked me was a manifest set-up.  The title itself is a joke; how can it cover Stevens’ entire life and not merely the years 1920-1975? but he was famous for saying learning on the job was essential to judging (e.g. his 2006 article “Learning on the Job” [based on a 2005 speech], Fordham U. Law Review, vol. 74, beginning at p. 1561).

The consummation devoutly to be wished is that judges, most of all – supremely – on the Supreme Court, will study the law, study the facts of the case before them, and decide how the law applies to the case and with what result.  In the words of Gelett Burgess’ poet (“The Protest of the Illiterate”, 1897), that’s hard as the deuce; we can have panels of three judges, or seven, and on the U.S. Supreme Court are nine.

What can happen, what we hope will not happen, and what the mass news media and, it seems, many politicians insist always does happen, is that judges unconsciously or otherwise bend toward their existing opinions – alas, their prejudices – and reach results accordingly.  A Spanish proverb says Every man pushes his own sardine closer to the fire.  So we worry about liberal and conservative judges, if wisely then unfortunately.

To the extent that is real and not false wisdom I think the Supreme Court should have two thoughtful articulate liberals, two thoughtful articulate conservatives, and the rest moderates.  Thus various views will be expressed, and if I may quote Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. (1906-1997; served 1956-1990, appointed by President Eisenhower), praised, when he is (literary present tense), as a thoughtful articulate liberal, It takes five votes to get anything done around here.

Law and politics are neighbors.  Supreme Court justices, who are not elected, are nominated by a President and confirmed by a Senate who are.  It is tempting, and some would say rightful, for the President and the Senate (where the President may not have a sympathetic majority) to try moving the Court in a favored direction.  Even so that does not always eventuate.

Justice Stevens, nominated by a President who was a moderate Republican, appeared to be a moderate Republican.  By his retirement liberals were boasting of him.  But he always said he was a conservative, and as time went on, he said the Court, not he, had shifted.

He had sometimes been called “even Stevens” for delivering both opinions conservatives liked and opinions liberals liked.  At his death both Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. (born 1955; serving since 2005, appointed by President G.W. Bush), a conservative, and Justice Elena Kagan (b. 1960; appointed by President Obama to succeed Justice Stevens), a liberal, praised him for kindness, humility, and independence; Justice Kagan said he was fiercely independent.

She also called him a model of collegiality (which another of my brilliant law professors always deliberately pronounced “colleague-iality”).  That shows in both Five Chiefs and The Making of a Justice.

He many times wrote the opinion of the Court, many times a concurring opinion to record why he could not wholly agree, many times an opinion in dissent.  I’ll record one dissent of mine; to keep this note from being technical, not on a legal point – and I concur in his result.

Judging a moot-court competition which argued whether the actor Shakespeare (1564-1616) had actually written the plays under that name, he held that the challenger had not brought evidence enough to overturn the prevailing view in favor of the actor, but “confessed to having some doubt….  the striking difference between the spelling … of his … actual signatures and the name ‘Shakespeare’”, adding in his memoir that, when visiting the Shakespeare home in Stratford-upon-Avon later in the year, he “found no evidence whatsoever that the house ever contained a library.  The man who wrote those plays must have owned some books,” Making pp. 235-36.

In his legal opinions Justice Stevens insisted on understanding the facts.  Here in my own view he was alas ill-informed of contemporary spelling in written English, of what actors like Shakespeare had in ready memory, of the notorious errors indicating the playwright had not consulted books, and of the cost and availability of books then.

But in 2005 Gerald Ford said “I am prepared to allow history’s judgment of my term in office to rest (if necessary, exclusively) on my nomination thirty years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court….  He has served with dignity, intellect, and without partisan political concerns,” Making pp. 527-28.  R.I.P.


Laboratory schools: some universities and other institutions engaged in teacher education maintain these to train teachers, further educational research and experimentation, and like that.  Antitrust law: so called in the U.S. because at the turn of the 20th Century businesses perceived to exercise oppressive economic power acted by using, or abusing, the form of legal entity known as a trust, one person (which need not be a natural person, could be a corporation) holding property for others’ benefit; thus e.g. the 1914 Sherman Antitrust Act.  “Never had the Latin for the judgin’”: P. Cook as E.L. Wisty (1960), see his Tragically I Was an Only Twin pp. 43-45 (2002).  Moot court: a mock trial or arbitration examining a hypothetical case as an academic exercise.

Crisis of Infinite Cameos: DC’s 2019 TV Cross-Over Event

By Daniel Dern: Starting December 9, 2019: The WB TV network’s annual “Arrowverse” cross-over event — this year, spanning five episodes across five WB shows — (“Crisis on Infinite Earths” at Arrowverse Wiki):

  • Part 1 Supergirl: “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One” (December 8, 2019)
  • Part 2 Batwoman: “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” (December 9, 2019)
  • Part 3The Flash: “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three” (December 10, 2019)
  • Part 4 Arrow: “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Four” (January 14, 2020)
  • Part 5 DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Five” (January 14, 2020)

…Not to mention a fair amount of preliminary/build-up over the current season, in Flash and Arrow and presumably (I haven’t been watching it or Arrow), Supergirl.

One particularly cool thing that the showrunners have done is that the events start in the shows in “real time” — that is, the Flash episode premiering on December 9, 2019 is taking place on “show calendar time” of December 9, 2019.

2017’s included the musical episode in Flash (“In Case You Didn’t Watch The Flash Musical Episode…”) which includes at least two songs I periodically rewatch, in particular “Super Friend.”

2018’s was “Elseworlds,” which, among other things, introduced Batwoman in advance of the eponymous show (i.e., Batwoman) that started up this fall.)

This year, as we’ve known pretty much since the show finales of last year, is “Crisis on Infinite Earths” — the CWTV page includes links to the trailers.

Here’s TV Guide’s summary: “Everything We Know About the Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse Crossover”.

And Fandom.com’s Arroverse Wiki has a full guide to “Arrowverse” crossovers: “List of crossover episodes”.

CROSS-OVERS AND EVENTS: THEY’RE ESTABLISHED THINGS. “Cross-over events” combine two of comic books — and, somewhat more recently (I think) fan-usually-pleasing things:

Cross-overs, where characters from one title/”universe”/publisher visit another’s — sometimes within the same publishing company, sometimes cross-publisher, like when Marvel’s Punisher came to Riverdale in 1994, or DC/Marvel’s AMALGAM series.

Sometimes these are within an existing title, sometimes a separate title, e.g. Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles miniseries.

There’s some overlap with the notion of team-ups (and “Vs”s), like Superman and Batman, Flash and Green Lantern, JLA/Avengers, etc., and also with “cameos” — guest appearances, like Don Rickles in two issues of Jimmy Olsen during the 1970’s (part of Jack Kirby’s great Fourth World/New Gods run). See “15 Unlikely Comic Book Crossovers (That Actually Happened)” at Newsarama.

(Note: Dynamite Comics has lots of great cross-over comics. ‘Nuff said!)

And for more crossover listings and info, feel free — after you are done with this scroll — hop over to

“Event” typically refers to a big plot with lots of action, sub-plot, interaction, reveals, and whatnot. Some events are strictly within a title or (main) character, e.g., “Death of Superman,” Spider-Man Clone Conspiracy. Others span lots of titles, characters, and even times and universes/realities, e.g. Marvel’s Civil War and House of M, and, well, DC’s various “CRISES.”

TV DOES CROSS-OVERS AND EVENTS, TOO. TV, increasingly, is doing this. Back in 1967, the Batman and Green Hornet TV shows had a cross-over episode (“A Piece of the Action”). A decade before that, I Love Lucy had a “Lucy and Superman” “Lucy and Superman” episode.

From Flavorwire (“10 Great TV Crossover Episodes”) I just learned the St, Elsewhere cross-overs included a visit to Cheers (“…Turns out that Norm is Dr. Auschlander’s former accountant and Carla gave birth to her last child in the St. Elsewhere hospital…”). Homicide: Life on the Streets crossed over with Law & Order.

DC DOES CRISES. For DC Comics, “Crises” and other events often do “housecleaning” — condensing multiple “universes,” in particular, multiple versions of characters. That’s what DC did in their first Crisis, Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, in the mid-1980’s. (I believe I still have all my original copies of the mini-series and the tie-in issues.)

Marvel did this, too, in one of their (over)big events.) This doesn’t, IMHO, always work well; it feels to me like we go from clear, well-delineated parallel realities with the opportunity for world-hopping visits to one world with often-arbitrary who’s left’s and/or multiples, e.g., ya got both Peter Parker AND Miles Morales. (Yes, I know, that’s Marvel, not DC.)

The problem is, the simplification never lasts long. But that’s another article/rant.

INFINITE CAMEOS? NOT A CRISIS. DC-on-WB began to give us an inkling/sowed the seeds early on in this Flash series, with the Gideon computer room periodically showing Early Edition-class “future headlines” of Flash dying in the Crisis.

And then, warming my fan heart, a season or so later IIRC, an episode opening with the simple caption, “Earth-2” (or something like that).

And we’ve been teased with multi-verse cross-overs and changing Gideon headlines and Monitor pop-up appearances for well over a year now.

While, per this year’s Arrowverse cross-over event is battling the Anti-Monitor and (hopefully) preventing the collapse/death/whatever of the multiverse (the “infinite Earths”), the really fun part is the lengths the showrunners and network have gone to bring in/back characters from past episodes and other shows, and the actors who have played them, or had other roles.

Here’s a comprehensive list from the Arrowverse Wiki: “Crisis on Infinite Earths”.

For example, Black Lightning, whose eponymous WB series was not necessarily part of “the Arrowverse” (although, given we’ve got a multiverse, that’s easily finessed, I assume).

And, as with last year’s intro of Batwoman, we are getting an, ahem, harbinger of upcoming shows, with Stargirl. (Harbinger is an established Crisis character, hence my “ahem.”)

Most notably, Kevin Conroy, best known as the voice of Batman in the animated Batman Beyond (and other animated shows), showing up as Bruce Wayne. Lots of people are excited about this.

Brandon Routh will have two roles: as Legend’s Ray Palmer/The Atom, and also as (one of the) Clark Kent/Superman’s (men).

The other CK/S is being played by one of the Smallville alums: Tom Welling.

And Burt Ward, who played Robin to Adam West’s Batman, playing… “Burt Ward from Earth-66.”

MY CROSS-OVER/CAMEO SUGGESTIONS AND HOPES THAT I DOUBT WILL BE FULFILLED. That’s already an impressive list and effort.

But, y’know, particularly given the multiverse aspects of this event, why stop there? Here’s my suggestions, which, granted, it’s likely too late to be done, for a few more, perhaps done as a quick-cut montage or two (using the same logic that let the pirates in the Pirates of Penzance movie overflow into a production of HMS Pinafore):

o The Batman Legoverse. I consider the Batman LEGO movie the best Batman movie to date, and tied with Into the Spider-Verse for best superhero/comic movie.

o Riverdale. Not provably connected to the DC multiverse, but it’s on the same TV network, which should be equivalent in terms of connectivity.

o Charmed, Supernatural, etc.

o Penn & Teller’s Fool Us: Masters of Illusion. The first because it would be great to see P&T do some super magic, the second because it’s hosted by Dean Cain (who was Superman in The Adventures of Lois and Clark, and Supergirl’s dad in the current Supergirl show).

o Burden of Truth. Since the protagonist is played by Kristen Kreuk, who was Lana Lang on Smallville.

o Nancy Drew (for detecting) and Katy Keene (can work with Black Lightning’s spy/tailor/costumer Gambi)

o And if they could shim in from DC’s own streamingverse, the Titans (Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing, Donna Troy/Wonder Girl, Garth/Aqualad, Gar Logan/Beast Boy, Kory/Starfire, Hawk’n’Dove, Jason Todd/Robin, Conner/Superboy, Rachel/Raven, Rose & Jericho, Krypto), and The Doom Patrol.

o Lorelei and Rory Gilmore

o The Buffy and Scooby-Doo gangs.

o And oh yeah, that’s right — the good guys from Gotham.

I’d watch a full season of this.

And here’s Alex Cranz’s list “12 People Not Yet Cast in CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, But Who Absolutely Should Be” from io9.com.)

WANT TO KNOW MORE BEFORE (OR AFTER) THE FUN STARTS? There is, unsurprisingly, no shortage of (other) articles and videos for this fast-approaching TV cross-over event, ranging from “helpful stuff to know from comics history and these shows” to character and plot analyses of the trailers and other publicity. Here’s a few:

  • The Only Video You Need To Watch Before Crisis On Infinite Earths Airs. (Good recap that includes going back to DC’s comic introduction of “Earth-2” that lead to Crisis – DPD)
  • Everything You Should Know About Crisis On Infinite Earths. (Another good recap – you should watch both this and the one above – DPD)
  • Crisis On Infinite Earths: Every Confirmed Character

Pixel Scroll 12/3/19 The Three Things Fans Collected Most, The Pixel, File And Holy Scroll

(1) NAVIGATING THE MAZES. Clarkesworld’s Arley Sorg interviews Juliette Wade — “Caste in Blood”.

The Mazes of Power copy calls it “sociological science fiction.” What does this mean exactly, and how does this term apply to Mazes? What are a few of your favorite sociological science fiction novels and how are they similar or different from Mazes?

Sociological science fiction, sometimes also called social science fiction, is science fiction that sets its major focus on society and its impact rather than on other elements like gadgets, technologies, or frontiers. This is not to say that those other things are not involved! The term definitely applies to Mazes of Power, which features a complex caste system with seven different levels, each of which has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture. Members of the castes struggle to cope with the expectations of their caste identities just as people in our world struggle with the identities that are placed on them. My favorite past work of sociological science fiction is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which was one of the works that inspired me to explore characters’ culturally grounded judgments and flout readers’ underlying expectations. (The other major work that had the same effect was not science fiction, but the diary of Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book.) I also consider Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series an example of sociological science fiction, though it’s more typically categorized as space opera. I love how Leckie keeps her focus tight and examines characters’ social and cultural expectations even as she works with the larger politics of the Radchaai Empire.

(2) UNCOMMON SENSES. Ad Age made me want to see it – perhaps you will too: “This adorable Star Wars-themed ad has an ending we didn’t see coming”.

The spot, created by Wunderman Thompson Philippines, depicts a pair of kids working on a mysterious building project. We see them going around town collecting items such as a tire, cardboard, plastic toys and tinsel, as well as a whole bunch of mobile phones, but it isn’t clear exactly what they are doing. (One thing is for sure — these kids are more creative and enterprising than the pair in the Apple holiday ad and their parents, rather than trying to keep them quiet with an iPad, are quite happy for them to wander on railway lines by themselves.) 

Finally, they invite a friend into their home to watch “Star Wars” in the special 4D viewing experience they’ve rigged up — and there’s an even more heartwarming twist that we definitely weren’t expecting. The final reveal is that the friend is actually deaf and they’ve created the whole thing just for her to be able to experience the movie without sound.

(3) GETTING SQUEEZED. In a guest post for According to Hoyt, Leigh Kimmel says dealer’s think it doesn’t look that good from ground level — “The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel”.

…Overall, the figures show a troubling picture that squares with reports I’m hearing from a number of other convention dealers. Some of the decline in sales and profitability can be ascribed to a saturation of the convention market as more and more promoters, especially for-profit companies who have the financial reach to rent large venues and sign large numbers of high-ticket media guests, move into the business. Whereas a decade ago there might be only one or two conventions each year in a region, now there are often a dozen or more. Furthermore, very few of these conventions are old-school fan-run science fiction conventions where the membership can hang out with the guests of honor at the con suite. Instead, more and more of them are focused primarily on media celebrities and formal encounters with them, to the point that attendees (a significant difference in terminology) spend as much or more time and money on getting autographs and photo-ops with the celebrities as they do on buying things from the dealers and artists in the vendor hall.

Because these extremely celebrity-focused shows (often referred to as “autograph mills”) draw such large crowds, they can sound like great possibilities to a dealer accustomed to lower-key shows. However, they often prove to be a double whammy to the unsuspecting dealer’s bottom line: not only are the large crowds not spending on the dealers’ wares, but the large crowds are also used to justify much higher booth costs to vendors, leaving the vendor with a much higher break-even point….

(4) GOING TO THE WELLS AGAIN. Steve J. Wright reviews The War of the Worlds, the three-part TV adaptation recently shown on the BBC in “Martians Go Home”.

…Harness takes that time to create and expand on the characters, who are mostly just names in the novel – in fact, the narrator and his wife aren’t even named.  The domestic situation of George (Rafe Spall) and Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) is drawn from H.G. Wells’s own turbulent personal life; the adaptation also codes astronomer Ogilvy (barely more than a name in the book) as gay, which attracted some criticism from the usual suspects…. One twerp apparently complained that the story was being made “too political”, which, since the book was written as a massive up-yours to colonial imperialism by one of the twentieth century’s foremost socialist pundits, makes me wonder what he was expecting.  (Again, because contemporary Victorian-Edwardian political references aren’t necessarily accessible to the modern audience, the adaptation takes the time to make the anti-colonial message explicit.)

(5) MCU LIVES ON. Marvel dropped the Black Widow teaser trailer yesterday.

(6) IN MEDIA RES. The BBC says origins are just short flashbacks in “Black Widow: Seven talking points from the new trailer”.

The character first appeared in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and has since then been a significant figure in the Marvel cinematic universe.

The new film, starring Scarlett Johansson, isn’t an origin story, but it does come before the events of the last two Avengers movies, Infinity War and Endgame.

It may not be out until May, but while we wait here’s seven talking points from Tuesday’s new trailer.

1) Just like Budapest!

The opening shot of the Hungarian capital Budapest teases that we’ll finally uncover more about an event briefly mentioned in the first Avengers movie back in 2012.

In that film, during the intensity of the battle of New York, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow – firing off gun shots – casually says to Hawkeye: “Just like Budapest, all over again.”

Hawkeye responds: “You and I remember Budapest very differently!”

It’s a reference that has intrigued and excited fans ever since. But there is a complicating factor. This movie is set after, not before The Avengers. It actually follows the events of Captain America: Civil War. So is Budapest here a flashback, or is Black Widow revisiting it after traumatic events in the past?

(6) DEVISING LANGUAGE. Juliette Wade’s Dive into Worldbuilding recently featured “S. Qiouyi Lu and As Dark as Hunger”. View the video or read the synopsis – or both! Toward the end they also discuss whether there should be a Hugo award for translations.

… In “As Dark as Hunger,” the main character lives a simple humble life fishing, but then her former lover comes to the village. Her lover wants to hunt mermaids, because people pay handsomely for them, but to find a humane way of doing it that won’t kill them. S. told us that part of this conflict came from the conflicted feelings they have about shark fin soup. It’s a celebratory dish, but cruel because it kills sharks.

S. told us that they struggle with xenophobia in the US, where there is an anti-China climate. They want to be able to defend their personhood without feeling obligated to defend Chinese politics they don’t approve of.

In the story, there is a contrast between the village and the city. The village is downstream from the city, which pollutes its water. Talented people seek opportunity in the city, and children and the elderly are left behind. The city drains away the village’s people. The main character has an ethical objection to hunting mermaids, but she does want a better life than the stinking river.

One of the major themes of the story is diaspora, of being removed from the motherland. While, in this story world, foxes can shapeshift back and forth many times, mermaids can only shapeshift from tail to legs once, and then can’t change back. Their children are human. This is a metaphor for immigration and assimilation. One of the main character’s ancestors made this change in order to keep her descendants from being hunted, but in so doing, closed a door that could not be re-opened.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 3, 2000Frank Herbert’s Dune three-part series premiered on the SciFi Channel. Directed by John Harrison, its cast starred Alec Newman as Paul Atreides, William Hurt as Duke Leto, and Saskia Reeves as Jessica. The first Dune miniseries and this sequel are two of the three highest-rated programs ever to be broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel. Weirdly, it has no viewer rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but has a very healthy 71% rating among critics there. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 3, 1918 Polly Freas. Fan and wife of SFF artist Frank Kelly Freas with whom she had 3 children. She was much loved in fandom. She and Kelly co-edited Wonderworks: Science Fiction and Fantasy Art by Michael Whalen, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Nonfiction Book. She was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was given a Special Award by Southern Fandom. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 3, 1922 Donald Tuck. Australian fan and writer of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968 which he revised twice. SFE in the form of a lure says “among the most extensive produced since the pioneering work of Everett F. Bleiler.” It earned him A Special Hugo at Chicon III. Back in time, he found other fans in Hobart where he lived and they produced the first Tasmanian fanzine, Profan which had just three issues between April and September 1941. Bertram Chandler who visited the couple frequently honored Hobart by naming one of the spaceship bases in his novels after it. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 3, 1937 Morgan Llewelyn, 82. Ok, so what have I read by her… The Horse Goddess is wonderful as is Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas and Lion of Ireland which I read a long time ago because the now closed Brian Born Pub had just opened here and I was interested in his story. I later booked uilleann piper Paddy Keenan there…
  • Born December 3, 1948 Ozzy Osbourne, 71. Yes, he has a history in SFF films — most of it is in voicing characters though he did show up as himself in the recent Ghostbusters film. His first appearance in our genre was as himself (“Famous Rock Star“) along with Simmons in Trick or Treat (also known as Ragman and Death at 33 RPM. He’s the voice of The Vicar in Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters Of The Herd Kind, and Fawn in Gnomeo & Juliet and Sherlock Gnomes
  • Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 61. Author of The Wood Wife, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year, she has deservedly won has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Bram Stoker Award, and The Armless Maiden collection was on the short-list for the then named James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Along with Ellen Datlow, Windling edited sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror  from 1986–2003. (Yes, the first volume is actually called Year’s Best Fantasy. I do have a full set here so I know that.) She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early Eighties through her work as an  editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines, and they also edited a number of anthologies such as the superb Snow White, Blood Red series which collected the very best in contemporary fantasy. I’m very fond of her work with Illustrator Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, on the Old Oak Wood series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood.  She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man here.
  • Born December 3, 1960 Daryl Hannah, 59. She made her genre debut in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, though she’s better known as Pris in Blade Runner. And she was the mermaid Madison in Splash. In a decidedly unfashionable role, she was Ayala in The Clan of The Cave Bear which by being Mary Plunkett Brogan in High Spirits where she was nominated  for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Was she that bad in it? Last latest genre role I think was in the Sense8 series as Angelica Turing. 
  • Born December 3, 1968 Brendan Fraser, 51. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are enough to get him Birthday Honors. Though he’s been in Monkeybone based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark TownSinbad: Beyond the Veil of MistsLooney Tunes: Back in ActionJourney to the Center of the EarthG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and being Robotman on the Doom Patrol  series that that airs on DC Universe.
  • Born December 3, 1969 John Kenneth Muir, 50. I really adore niche non-fiction writers with genre focus. He did write a novel, Space: 1999: The Forsaken, but horror is his passion as he’s written Horror Films of the 1970s, Horror Films of the 1980s and Horror Films of the 1990s, all on Macfarland. He’s also authored A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television which covers the classic Who and yet more horror in Horror Films of the 1990s.
  • Born December 3, 1980 Jenna Lee Dewan, 39. She portrayed Freya Beauchamp on the Witches of East End and played Lucy Lane in The CW version of Supergirl. She’s Tamara, complete with bloody axe, in the horror film Tamara. She’s Sophia Loomis in the unsold Dark Shadows pilot. It was commissioned by The WB and produced in 2004, but not picked up for a series. You can see that pilot here.
  • Born December 3, 1985 Amanda Seyfried, 34. She plays Zoe, the lead Megan’s best friend in Solstice, a horror film. Another horror film, Jennifer’s Body, shortly thereafter, finds here playing Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. Red Riding Hood, yes, another horror film, had her cast has as Valerie. She plays Sylvia Weis in In Time in a dystopian SF film next and voices Mary Katherine, Professor Bomba’s 17-year-old daughter in Epic which is at genre adjacent. She’s living Mary in an animated Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan which sounds delightful. Lastly, she has a recurring role as Becky Burnett on Twin Peaks. And did we decide Veronica Mars was at least genre adjacent? If so, she has a recurring role as Mary on it. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd helps you figure out if it’s Christmas yet.

(10) MORE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. NPR’s Book Concierge filters the year’s titles into many categories, such as the Best Geek Books of the Year and Best Genre Books of the Year. Chip Hitchcock tried out the links and forwarded them with a note on his experience: “Thanks to recommendations from Filers and others, I’ve read 13/63 of the genre books, including 1 I’d disrecommend and 2 I’d recommend only with serious caveats. I’ve read only 1 of the 15 geek books not on the genre list — I know I should read more nonfiction….”

(11) CHINESE SF. Alexandra Alter tells New York Times Magazine readers “Why Is Chinese Sci-Fi Everywhere Now? Ken Liu Knows”. The profile extensively covers Liu’s work as a translator and curator as well as his own fiction, and repeatedly probes the constraints on Chinese sff at home.

…“The political climate inside China has shifted drastically from when I first started doing this,” Liu says. “It’s gotten much harder for me to talk about the work of Chinese authors without putting them in an awkward position or causing them trouble.” Liu usually travels to China at least once a year to network and meet new writers, and has attended the Chinese Nebula and Galaxy Awards, the country’s most well known science-fiction prizes. But this year he was denied a long-term visa, without explanation, prompting him to cancel his planned trip.

In another alarming setback, when his American publisher tried to send copies of his recent translations to writers in China, the shipments failed to arrive. It was unclear whether the books were seized or simply disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole. Liu finally managed to get copies distributed through visiting Chinese friends, each of whom carried a few copies back in their suitcases. In April, when I met Liu at the Museum of Chinese in America, he seemed irritated by the cumbersome workaround, which he called “preposterous.”

But later, when I asked if he felt he was being blacklisted by the Chinese government because of his translation work, Liu deflected and declined to speculate. “I don’t want to magnify the problem,” Liu told me, as we sat in a cafe a few blocks from the museum. “If the authors want to say something daring, then I will honor that, but I’m not going to impose my own politics on them. There’s a lot of room to say what you want to say if you leave things ambiguous.”

 (12) HELP THE PKD AWARD. Gordon Van Gelder says to raise money for the award there is an annual Philip K. Dick Award auction at World Fantasy Convention. This year, they had too many books to put all of them up for bids at the con, so the’re holding a score of auctions on eBay. Many signed books.

(13) UNKISSED TOADS ASSEMBLE. Amanda S. Green, who also writes under the name Sam Schall, says her friend Sarah A. Hoyt used her larger platform to recommend one of Schall’s works – an imprimatur which still didn’t deter some negative comments left by people who hadn’t even read the book: “A Cyber-Monday Promo and a Few Thoughts”.

…No matter how hard you try to write the best book possible, find the best cover you can and present your work in the best shape, someone is always going to hate. I learned long ago from a dear friend the dangers of reading reviews on Amazon, etc. All too often the person writing it never read the book or only read far enough to be offended. I was reminded of that this morning.

That same friend shared a link to the book. I made the mistake of checking the comments. Let’s say my first response was to beat my head against the desk. One person said not to read it because it was a book about a woman written by a male. Yep. I suddenly have a penis. You see, this person never bothered to look beyond the cover. They didn’t follow the link to Amazon and see not only the pen name listed but my real name as well. But, because they read the blurb on the page where the link was listed and saw “Sam Schall”, they just knew it had to be bad — and probably written by a white male deep into the patriarchy (okay, they didn’t quite say that last part but it was pretty clear).

Others hated the cover. That’s fine. That’s their right. The thing is, it does cue the genre and that is the important thing.

Then there was the one (or maybe two) who had a few words to say about how it is basically stupid to think there will be women in the military in fighting roles. Yep, they went there.

And here’s the thing. Each and every one of them were condemning the book without reading it. They were making judgments based solely on what they saw in the blurb and on the cover. Again, that’s their right. But it is also my right to point and laugh (or beat my head against the table).

(14) GENRE AND GENDER FLUID. The Lily’s Lena Felton says we should not be surprised: “A ‘Star Wars’ actor came out as ‘gender fluid.’ Women have been using sci-fi to explore gender and sexuality for centuries.”

Lisa Yaszek, a professor of science fiction studies at Georgia Tech, describes the feminist appeal of science fiction like this: “We can imagine spaces that radically break from our own world and from what we know or at least believe to be scientifically or socially true about sex and gender.”

The conversation around science fiction and gender recently broke out on the national stage, when Esquire published an interview with 82-year-old Billy Dee Williams, who’s best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980). He’ll be reprising the role for the first time since 1983 in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which comes out Dec. 20.

In his Esquire interview, Williams said he uses both “him” and “her” pronouns. “I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine,” he said. “I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”

The moment was seized on by fans, with many applauding Williams’s “gender fluid” approach. But the discussion of gender in the context of “Star Wars” isn’t new; last year, Donald Glover, who played the same character in 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” said he had a non-binary approach to his Lando, too.

(15) PICKING UP THE PIECES. Pixel-sized pieces at that — “Chandrayaan-2: Indian helps Nasa find Moon probe debris”.

Nasa says one of its satellites has found the debris of India’s Moon rover which crashed on the lunar surface in September.

The space agency released a picture showing the site of the rover’s impact and the “associated debris field”.

Nasa has credited an Indian engineer, Shanmuga Subramanian, with helping locate the site of the debris.

Mr Subramanian examined a Nasa picture and located the first debris about 750m north-west of the crash site.

…”We had the images from Nasa [of] the lander’s last location. We knew approximately where it crashed. So I searched pixel-by-pixel around that impact area,” the 33-year-old Chennai-based engineer told BBC Tamil.

Mr Subramanian said he had always “been interested in space” and had watched the July launch of the rocket.

(16) CRAWL OF THE WILD. “Raiders Of The Lost Crops: Scientists Race Against Time To Save Genetic Diversity”NPR has the story.

Call it a tale of science and derring-do. An international team of researchers has spent six years fanning across the globe, gathering thousands of samples of wild relatives of crops. Their goal: to preserve genetic diversity that could help key crops survive in the face of climate change. At times, the work put these scientists in some pretty extreme situations.

Just ask Hannes Dempewolf. Two years ago, the plant geneticist found himself in a rainforest in Nepal, at the foot of the Himalayas. He was riding on the back of an elephant to avoid snakes on the ground — and to scare away any tigers that might be lurking about. Then all of a sudden came an attack from above.

“There were leeches dropping on us from all directions,” Dempewolf recalls — “bloodsucking leeches.”

Now, this is far from where he thought he’d be when he got his Ph.D. But as a senior scientist and head of global initiatives at the Crop Trust, Dempewolf has been overseeing an ambitious international collaboration. More than 100 scientists in 25 countries have been venturing out to collect wild relatives of domesticated crops — like lentils, potatoes, chickpeas and rice — that people rely on around the world. The Crop Trust has just released a report detailing the results of this massive effort, which secured more than 4,600 seed samples of 371 wild relatives of key domesticated crops that the world relies on.

(17) THE TOK ISN’T CLICKING. More trouble for the PRC-based service: “TikTok suppressed disabled users’ videos”.

Videos made by disabled users were deliberately prevented from going viral on TikTok by the firm’s moderators, the app has acknowledged.

The social network said the policy was introduced to reduce the amount of cyber-bullying on its platform, but added that it now recognised the approach had been flawed.

The measure was exposed by the German digital rights news site Netzpolitik.

Disability rights campaigners said the strategy had been “bizarre”.

And the BBC adds: “TikTok sent US user data to China, lawsuit claims”.

Video-sharing app TikTok has been hit with a class action lawsuit in the US that claims it transferred “vast quantities” of user data to China.

The lawsuit accuses the company of “surreptitiously” taking content without user consent.

Owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok has built up a keen US fan base.

TikTok, which is thought to have about half a billion active users worldwide, has previously said it does not store US data on Chinese servers.

However, the platform is facing mounting pressure in North America over data collection and censorship concerns.

(18) TUNING IN. DJ Baby Yoda?

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Steve Davidson, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Vicki Rosenzweig.]

2019 Prix ActuSF de l’Uchronie Winners

The 2019 Prix Actusf de l’Uchronie were presented at the Rencontres de l’imaginaire 2019 on November 30.

French publisher ActuSF gives the award in three categories:

  • The Literary Prize, rewarding essays and novels.
  • The Prix Graphisme, rewarding comics, covers and other pictorial initiatives.
  • The Special Prize, rewarding an original uchronic work, be it a game, an exhibition, etc.

PRIX LITTÉRAIRE

  • Frankenstein 1918 de Johan Heliot, L’Atalante

PRIX GRAPHIQUE

  • Le Dernier Atlas T1/3 de Fred Blanchard (dessin), Gwen De Bonneval (scénario), Hervé Tanquerelle (dessin) et Fabien Vehlmann (scénario), Dupuis

PRIX SPÉCIAL

  • Effluvium de Didier Graffet et Xavier Mauméjean, Bragelonne

It is an award for work in a specialized segment of sff field, described in the Wikipedia:

Uchronia refers to a hypothetical or fictional time-period of our world, in contrast to altogether fictional lands or worlds. A concept similar to alternate history but different in the manner that uchronic times are not easily defined.

Middle-Earth and the Hyborean Age are examples of uchronic settings.

The 2019 jury was composed of Étienne Barillier, Bertrand Campeis, Karine Gobled, Hermine Hémon, Jean Rebillat and Jean-Luc Rivera.

D. C. Fontana (1939-2019)

D.C. Fontana in 2016.

Famed Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana has died at the age of 80. The American Film Institute announced today the news of Fontana’s passing. 

She gained fame for her work on the original Star Trek series and the 1970s animated series, which she also associate produced. In later years she wrote Trek-themed games and comics.

According to IMDB, she was advised by Gene Roddenberry to use her initials (D.C.) on her initial scripts for the original Star Trek series because at the time, networks were often biased against female writers. That may have been sound advice, although in her first several TV writing credits for The Tall Man series in 1960 she was identified by her full name, as “Dorothy C. Fontana.”

On Star Trek, she received credits in 11 episodes — her Wikipedia bio has a discussion of her specific contributions to various episodes, and how in some cases credit was apportioned by the Writers Guild of America. A few of her works on Star Trek were credited to the pseudonym Michael Richards.

Fontana and Gene Roddenberry shared writing credit on “Encounter at Farpoint,” the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

She later contributed to several Star Trek spin-off series and quite a few other genre TV shows, among them The Fantastic Journey, Logan’s Run, The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Automan, and Babylon 5.

Throughout her career she also wrote episodes of non-sff shows like Ben Casey, Bonanza, The Streets of San Francisco, Kung Fu, The Waltons, and Dallas, In 1969 she was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for an episode of Then Came Bronson entitled “Two Percent of Nothing”.

Dorothy Catherine Fontana was born in Sussex, New Jersey in 1939. She was most recently employed as a senior lecturer at the American Film Institute.

Fontana is survived by her husband, Oscar-winning visual effects cinematographer, Dennis Skotak. Both of them have generously shared their experience on many convention panels in Los Angeles over the years.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

Writing The Other’s Financial Aid Program Renamed the “Vonda N. McIntyre Sentient Squid Scholarship”

 Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford, administrators of Writing the Other online classes, have announced that their scholarship program, initiated in 2016, is being retitled the Vonda N. McIntyre Sentient Squid Scholarship. The name change, in honor of the award-winning and beloved science fiction and fantasy novelist who passed away in April 2019, comes about not only because Vonda was a friend and mentor to both Shawl and Bradford, but also because without her there would be no scholarship fund.

In 2016 Vonda offered to pay for a registration in an upcoming Writing the Other class so writers who couldn’t afford to take it could benefit. When announced, her donation–which she insisted should be anonymous to the public–inspired others to donate as well, covering all or part of the enrollment fees for two additional students. Enough donations came in afterwards that Writing the Other was able to establish a small scholarship fund. Though Vonda didn’t want public credit, Nisi suggested naming the scholarship “Sentient Squid” in secret honor of a character in her Starfarer book series, the “squidmoth” Nemo.

“Donating anonymously was very Vonda-like,” Nisi Shawl said. “I’ve called her a ‘behind-the-scenes powerhouse’ because those who knew her mainly as the author of five Star Trek novels aren’t automatically aware that she founded the Clarion West Writers Workshop as well as Book View Café. She was generous with her funds and donated money in support of many feminist and other social-justice causes: the James Tiptree Jr. literary awards; the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship Fund; the ACLU; Planned Parenthood.”

“When she offered to pay for a registration in our classes, she did so unprompted,” K. Tempest Bradford said. “She was part of a conversation on Facebook where I talked about balancing the affordability of our classes with our need to make a living. I had never considered asking others to help out with this, and then Vonda just did it. In doing so she opened up the possibility to me that other people would be willing to contribute as well.”

Over the years Vonda gave to the scholarship fund on multiple occasions, always without wanting credit, and promoted the program whenever there was a fundraising drive. Because of her support and example, Writing the Other has been able to offer scholarship spots in every course and make classes more financially accessible. To date, the Sentient Squid Scholarship has provided over $15,000 in financial aid to a wide range of deserving applicants. Approximately 20% of alumni have benefited directly from scholarship funds. Because of how vital she was to making all this happen, Shawl and Bradford decided that renaming the scholarship was one of the best ways they could honor her memory.

Currently, the Vonda N. McIntyre Sentient Squid Scholarship provides both full and partial scholarships for students in all Writing the Other online courses, including Core Classes, Master Classes, and Workshops. For 2020 offerings, Shawl and Bradford hope to reach $10,000 in direct donations or $1,200 a month in support via Patreon so that they can set aside at least a quarter of spots in their classes for writers who need financial aid. Donors can visit http://writingtheother.com/donate-scholarship/ to contribute, learn more, or to contact Writing the Other for more information.

Student Testimonials:

Receiving the Sentient Squid Scholarship both instilled further confidence in me as a writer and enabled me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have been able to without taking the Description Deep Dive class. Receiving the scholarship has had long-term effects on my writing that I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.

— James Henry Feeman

The Sentient Squid scholarship allowed me to take my first ever writing workshop. I’m an older working mom who’s managing various health challenges–both my own & my kids. Until I won this scholarship, I thought writing workshops were just a dream for me. A “one day” thing. Now I’m aware of accessible options available.

—Dianne McNeill

As a financially struggling trans man, I don’t have the means to attend classes for professional development, despite how much I want to and how much I know it would improve my work. I was lucky enough to receive a Sentient Squid Scholarship which removed that financial burden. The course changed the way I look at world building and the scholarship gave me the space I needed to expand my knowledge and grow as a writer.

— Luke Tolvaj

The Sentient Squid Scholarship was a unique opportunity for me, and I’m thankful for it. I’m from Brazil, and we don’t have many creative writing classes here and classes about “writing the other” are nonexistent. It gave me the chance to learn how to write better and to rethink the way I write, while it also taught me how to tell my own experience better. 

— Jordana

About Writing the Other: Writing the Other offers online and in-person classes that draw on the work of Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, authors of the acclaimed reference Writing the Other: A Practical Approach. Through live courses and on-demand webinars, Shawl and co-administrator author K. Tempest Bradford, along with a deep bench of guest instructors, hope to help writers and creators from all backgrounds develop the skill and sensitivity to portray difference in fiction, games, and other media as well as allay anxieties about getting it wrong.

The impetus for the original book came during Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s attendance at the 1992 Clarion West writing workshop, when one of their classmates announced that it is a mistake to write about people of backgrounds different from your own because you might get it wrong, and so it is better to not even try. This opinion, commonplace among published as well as aspiring writers, struck Nisi as taking the easy way out and spurred her to write an essay addressing the problem of how to write about characters marked by racial and ethnic differences. She then collaborated with Ward to develop a workshop to address these problems, which became the basis for the book.

[Based on a press release.]