Pixel Scroll 1/6/20 Forever Let Us Hold Our Appertainments High

(1) RWA CANCELS RITA AWARDS. The “Status of the 2020 RITA Contest” announces the RITA awards are the latest casualties of the internecine strife that began when Romance Writers of America tried to impose penalties on Courtney Milan.

Due to recent events in RWA, many in the romance community have lost faith in RWA’s ability to administer the 2020 RITA contest fairly, causing numerous judges and entrants to cancel their participation. The contest will not reflect the breadth and diversity of 2019 romance novels/novellas and thus will not be able to fulfill its purpose of recognizing excellence in the genre. For this reason, the Board has voted to cancel the contest for the current year. The plan is for next year’s contest to celebrate 2019 and 2020 romances. 

While we understand this will be disappointing news for some, we also understand that other members will support taking this step. Recent RWA Boards have worked hard to make changes to the current contest, striving to make it more diverse and inclusive, relieve judging burdens, and bring in outside voices, but those changes had to be voted on and implemented in a narrow window of time each year. 

By not holding a contest in 2020, we will be able to move away from making piecemeal changes. Instead, we will have the opportunity to take a proper amount of time to build an awards program and process – whether it’s a revamped RITA contest or something entirely new – that celebrates and elevates the best in our genre. We plan on engaging a consultant who specializes in awards programs and a DEI consultant, as well as soliciting member input. 

Members who entered the 2020 contest will be refunded their full entry fee by January 22, 2020. We extend our deep appreciation to the judges who volunteered their time this year.

(2) LEADING WORKSHOPS. Cat Rambo’s “Nink Knowledge: How to Grow Voices ~ The Subtle Art of Facilitating Workshops” is the featured article for January at Novelists, Inc.

When leading a discussion, don’t be afraid to go with the flow. Sometimes the oddest questions may be the most fruitful, or those questions may lead to additions for the future, sometimes even inspiring entirely new classes. The question of how to maintain a fruitful writing practice in the face of increasingly grey times, for example, led to a class on hopepunk that has become one of my favorites to teach and one which was even referenced in a Wall Street Journal article on the subgenre.

(3) MUTATIS MUTANDI. A trailer for The New Mutants has dropped. Film comes to theaters April 3.

20th Century Fox in association with Marvel Entertainment presents “The New Mutants,” an original horror thriller set in an isolated hospital where a group of young mutants is being held for psychiatric monitoring. When strange occurrences begin to take place, both their new mutant abilities and their friendships will be tested as they battle to try and make it out alive.

(4) PICARD TEASER. The show arrives January 23. Will this be the bait that finally gets me to pay for CBS All-Access?

(5) ALT WORLD PANEL IN LA. The Barnes & Noble story at The Grove in Los Angeles will host “The Man in The High Castle: Creating The Alt World Special Event” on January 8.

Join us when we celebrate “The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World” with our very special panel of guest Mike Avila – author and Emmy award-winning TV producer, Jason O’Mara – Star, “Wyatt Price”, Isa Dick Hackett – Executive Producer, David Scarpa – Co-Showrunner, Drew Boughton – Production Designer.

Discover the alt worlds of The Man in the High Castle with the cast and crew in this exclusive collection of art. Packed with concept art, final designs, and artist commentary plus previously unseen storyboards.

The Man in the High Castle is the hit Amazon series, inspired by Philip K. Dick’s award-winning novel, that offers a glimpse into a chilling alternate timeline in which Hitler was victorious in World War II. In a dystopian America dominated by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Juliana Crain discovers a mysterious film that may hold the key to toppling the totalitarian regimes.

This is a panel discussion and signing and will be wristbanded.

A wristband will be issued on a first come, first serve basis to customers who purchase “The Man in The High Castle: Creating The Alt World ” from Barnes & Noble in The Grove beginning January 8th
• Limit 1 wristband per book
• Check Back for more Details as they Become Available

For more information contact Barnes & Noble at The Grove — 189 The Grove Dr, Ste K 30, Los Angeles, California 90036

(6) FREELANCING IN CALIFORNIA. Publishers Lunch for January 2 includes the following: “Legal: California Freelance Law and Authors.”

The Authors Guild has a look at California’s new law AB-5 that requires treating many freelance workers as employees. On the question of whether the law affects book authors, “We were assured by those working on the bill that trade book authors are not covered, and we do not see a basis for disagreeing since the bill clearly states that AB-5 applies only to ‘persons providing labor or services’ and authors provide neither ‘labor’ nor ‘services’ under standard book contracts—they instead grant copyright licenses or assignments. Additionally, royalties—even in the form of advance payments—are not considered wages. It is difficult to imagine how a court would conclude that a typical book contract is for labor or services.”

Some book contracts, though, such as work-made-for-hire agreements and “contracts where the author has ongoing obligations and the publisher has greater editing ability or control over the content” could be subject to the new law, though. And the AG recommends that, “Publishers and authors who want to be certain to retain a freelancer relationship should be careful to make sure the contracts are written as simple license grants and not as services agreements.”

(7) NOT QUITE MAGGIE’S DRAWERS. James Davis Nicoll pointed Tor.com readers at “12 Excellent SFF Books You Might Have Missed in 2019”. Not to brag, but I actually read one of these! The list includes —

Magical Women, edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

Venkatraghavan delivers an assortment of stories by talented Indian writers. Three elements unite the stories: all are written by women, all are speculative fiction, and all are worth reading. A further element common to many (but not all) is an undercurrent of incandescent fury over the current condition of the world. Taken as a whole, the collection is not quite as upbeat as Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, but the craft of the writers is undeniable.

(8) ANDI SHECHTER. The Andi Shechter Memorial is scheduled for January 11, 2020 in Seattle.

Her friends will be gathering to remember her and share those memories. The memorial will be held in Seattle, at the Magnolia Public Library.

Date: Saturday 11th January, 2020
Noon – 3pm (set-up at 11am, teardown until 4pm)

Magnolia Meeting Room in Magnolia Library
Address: 2801 34th Ave W, Seattle, WA 98199

Please bring light refreshments to share, and note that this is an alcohol-free venue.

At this gathering we will share stories of Andi,  honoring her life and fight for disabled access and political advantages for all.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

Handsel Monday — According to Scottish custom, the first Monday of the new year was the time to give children and servants a small gift, or handsel. Literally something given into the hands of someone else, the gift itself was less important than the good luck it signified. The handsel was popular as a new year’s gift from the 14th to 19th centuries, but it also had a broader application to mark any new situation. It continues today in the form of a housewarming gift to someone moving into a new home.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 6, 1973 Schoolhouse Rock! premiered
  • January 6, 1975 — The first episode of The Changes premiered on BBC 1. It was a ten-part series adapting Peter Dickinson’s The Changes YA trilogy (The Weathermonger, Heartsease and The Devil’s Children. (The books were written in reverse order: the events of The Devil’s Children happen first, Heartsease second, and The Weathermonger third). It starred Victoria Williams and Keith Ashton. I find no reporting on it from the time, nor is it rated over at Rotten Tomatoes but that’s typical of these BBC series from this time. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 6, 1895 Tom Fadden. He’s on the Birthday Honors List for the original  Invasion of the Body Snatchers where his character was one of the first victims to yield to the invaders. It wasn’t his first SFF role as some thirty years before that role, he would make his Broadway debut as Peter Jekyll in The Wonderful Visit based off the novel of the same name by H. G. Wells, who also co-wrote the play. The last role of his that I’ll note was that one of his first television roles was Eben Kent, the man who adopts Kal-El on the first episode of The Adventures of Superman series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. He won the first annual Hugo Award for Best Short Story at Clevention in 1955 for “Allamagoosa” published in the May 1955 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Sinister Barrier, his first novel, appeared in Unknown in 1939, the first novel to appear there. What’s your favorite work by him? (Died 1978.)
  • Born January 6, 1954 Anthony Minghella. He adapted his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller scripts into story form which were published in his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller collection. They’re quite excellent actually. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 6, 1955 Rowan Atkinson, 65. An unlikely Birthday perhaps except for that he was the lead in Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death which I know did not give him the dubious distinction of the shortest lived Doctor as that goes another actor although who I’ve not a clue.  Other genre appearances were scant I think (clause inserted for the nit pickers here) though he did play Nigel Small-Fawcett in Never Say Never Again and Mr. Stringer in The Witches which I really like even if the author hates. 
  • Born January 6, 1958 Wayne Barlowe, 62. Artist whose Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials that came out in the late Seventies I still remember fondly. It was nominated at Noreascon 2 for a Hugo but came in third with Peter Nichol’s Science Fiction Encyclopedia garnering the Award that year.  His background paintings have been used in Galaxy Quest, Babylon 5, John Carter and Pacific Rim to name but a few films. 
  • Born January 6, 1959 Ahrvid Engholm, 61. Swedish conrunning and fanzine fan who worked on many Nasacons as well as on Swecons. Founder of the long running Baltcon. He has many fanzines including Vheckans Avfentyr, Fanytt, Multum Est and others. He was a member of Lund Fantasy Fan Society in the University of Lund.
  • Born January 6, 1960 Andrea Thompson, 60. I’ll not mention her memorable scene on Arliss as it’s not genre.  Her noted genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short-lived Monsters anthology series. She had a one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series.
  • Born January 6, 1969 Aron Eisenberg. Nog on Deep Space 9. Way after DS9, he’d show up in Renegades, a might be Trek series loaded with Trek alumni including Nichelle Nichols, Robert Beltran, Koenig and Terry Farrell. It lasted two episodes. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 6, 1976 Guy Adams, 44. If you’ve listened to a Big Finish audio-works, it’s likely that you are familiar with his writing as he’s written scripts for their Doctor, UNIT and Torchwood series among his many endeavors there. Not surprisingly, he’s also written novels on Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock Holmes and so forth. I’ve read some of his Torchwood novels — they’re good popcorn literature.
  • Born January 6, 1982 Eddie Redmayne, 38. He portrayed Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. He was Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts film series.
  • Born January 6, 1984 Kate McKinnon, 36. Dr. Jillian Holtzmann in that Ghostbusters film.   I think her only other genre role to date was voicing various character on Robotomy, a Cartoon Network series. She is Grunhilda in the forthcoming The Lunch Witch film based off the YA novel by Deb Lucke.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur offers an alternate description of the afterlife.
  • Frank and Ernest find out the problems the cast of The Wizard of Oz has when looking for work.

(13) FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS WATCH ‘CATS’ ON DRUGS. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan helps readers decide if they’re the audience for this movie: “‘Cats’ the movie is pretty crazy. But you already know that, and you don’t care.”

Having just watched “Cats,” the movie version of the hit musical about something called “Jellicle cats,” it is clear that “Jellicle” must be cat-speak for “wackadoodle.”…

(14) SILENT RADIO. So far as I know, Camestros Felapton is only on beer. But after reading “CATS! An audio-free podcast review!” I plan to follow Abraham Lincoln’s example and ask him to send each of us a barrel.

[Camestros] So let’s start. [in recitative] Did you find this film weird?
[Timothy] Did it give us the frights?
[Susan] Did it run far too long?
[Camestros] Did the cast all wear tights?
[Timothy] Was it bad C-G-I?
[Susan] Was it moving and sad?
[Camestros] Was it ineffably awful and indescribably bad?
[Susan] (take it away Timothy!)
[Timothy -sings] Because the movie of Cats is and the movie is not,
It’s like the movie of Cats can and the movie can not,
It’s not the movie of Cats is but also its not,
While this movie of Cats should and really should not,
And its because the movie of Cats is bad and bad it is not….

(15) FERTILITY PIONEER. BBC makes sure you’ll remember the name of “The female scientist who changed human fertility forever”.

She was the first person to successfully fertilise a human egg in vitro, changing reproductive medicine forever – but few people know her name today.

…As a technician for Harvard fertility expert John Rock, Menkin’s goal was to fertilise an egg outside the human body. This was the first step in Rock’s plan to cure infertility, which remained a scientific mystery to doctors. He particularly wanted to help women who had healthy ovaries but damaged fallopian tubes – the cause of one-fifth of the infertility cases he saw in his clinic.

Usually, Menkin exposed the sperm and egg to each other for around 30 minutes. Not this time. Years later, she recalled what transpired to a reporter: “I was so exhausted and drowsy that, while watching under the microscope how the sperm were frolicking around the egg, I forgot to look at the clock until I suddenly realised that a whole hour had elapsed… In other words, I must admit that my success, after nearly six years of failure, was due – not to a stroke of genius – but simply to cat-napping on the job!”

On Friday, when she came back to the lab, she saw something miraculous: the cells had fused and were now dividing, giving her the world’s first glimpse of a human embryo fertilised in glass.

(16) THE FUTURE IS REDISTRIBUTED. “Wheel.me robot wheels move furniture via voice commands” – a BBC video.

A Norwegian start-up wants to make it possible to rearrange a home’s furniture solely via a voice command or the touch of an app’s button.

To achieve this, Wheel.me has developed the Genius robotic wheels, which attach to the base of tables, chairs and other furnishings.

It is showing off a prototype at the CES tech expo in Las Vegas, where founder Atle Timenes arranged a demo for BBC Click’s Lara Lewington.

(17) HELPFUL SJWC? “CES 2020: Restaurant cat robot meows at dining customers” – let the BBC introduce you.

A robot cat designed to ferry plates of food to restaurant customers has been unveiled at the CES tech expo in Las Vegas.

BellaBot, built by the Chinese firm PuduTech, is one of a number of wacky robotic inventions being shown off at the event this year.

There is also UBTech’s Walker, which can pull yoga poses.

And Charmin’s RollBot. It speeds a roll of toilet paper on demand to bathrooms that have run out of the stuff.

One expert said it was likely that robots exhibited at CES would only continue to get more bizarre in the future.

BellaBot, the table-waiting robot cat, is a service bot with personality.

It updates a previous model that had a more utilitarian design. BellaBot, in contrast, features a screen showing cat-face animations.

It mews when it arrives at tables to encourage customers to pick up their food.

(18) SOUND INVESTMENT. “Audiobooks: the rise and rise of the books you don’t read”.

Audiobooks are having a moment. As they soar in popularity, they are becoming increasingly creative – is the book you listen to now an artform in its own right, asks Clare Thorp.

…Audiobooks are in the midst of a boom, with Deloitte predicting that the global market will grow by 25 per cent in 2020 to US$3.5 billion (£2.6 billion). Compared with physical book sales, audio is the baby of the publishing world, but it is growing up fast. Gone are the days of dusty cassette box-sets and stuffily-read versions of the classics. Now audiobooks draw A-list talent – think Elisabeth Moss reading The Handmaid’s Tale, Meryl Streep narrating Charlotte’s Web or Michelle Obama reading all 19 hours of her own memoir, Becoming. There are hugely ambitious productions using ensemble casts (the audio of George Saunders’ Booker Prize-winning Lincoln in the Bardo features 166 different narrators), specially created soundscapes and technological advances such as surround-sound 3D audio. Some authors are even skipping print and writing exclusive audio content.

…While audiobook sales are up and physical book sales down, it’s not a given that the two things are related. In fact, audio is pulling in new audiences – whether that’s listeners who don’t usually buy books, or readers listening to genres in audio format that they wouldn’t pick up in print.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Is that Emperor Palpatine on an air guitar, or a Force guitar?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, James Davis Nicoll, Michael J. Walsh, Peace Is My Middle Name, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

43 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/6/20 Forever Let Us Hold Our Appertainments High

  1. (11) Rowan Atkinson starred in Blackadder: Back and Forth which, as it includes time travel, alternate history and space war, is comfortably genre.

  2. (10) I would love to see The Changes again. I suspect the suck fairy may have hit it very hard (particularly its attempt at looking at ethnic prejudice) but I have vivid and yet vague memories of it being terrifyingly brilliant and exciting.

    (14) Sadly doing parody lyrics of Cats songs is doomed as the original lyrics don’t really scan either — which is a compliment to the songwriting I guess because it’s not noticeable that they don’t. We were attempting this:

  3. (11) My favorite Eric Frank Russell is the novella “…And Then There Were None,” a remarkable combination of very sprightly storytelling and a very serious theme. (I’ve only lately learned that it’s the final section of what I suppose is a fix-up novel, The Great Explosion; anyone here know it?)

  4. @11 (Russell): “…And Then There Were None” (even though I don’t believe it) and Wasp.

    @gottacook: I’ve read the novel; from what ISFDB says, it’s not exactly a fix-up, because the famous novella was the only part published separately (as @JDN notes in the review he links) — although Russell gets weird-points because most authors build a novel by going forward from a shorter work rather than back. (cf Childhood’s End or The Deep Range.) My recollection is that the other parts weren’t up to the quality of the original piece, but some of that may have been from reading the original (and retaining warm memories, since I probably read it when I was in a stupidly limiting boarding school) when I was too young to notice some flaws. (Wasp, reconsidered, is a mild version of the dumb-alien story that Anvil so beat into the ground for Campbell — but Russell also did several.)

  5. (7) NOT QUITE MAGGIE’S DRAWERS. James Davis Nicoll pointed Tor.com readers at “12 Excellent SFF Books You Might Have Missed in 2019”. Not to brag, but I actually read one of these!

    Me too, me too! And I’ve got a second one on Mt. TBR — let’s see if I get to it before nominations close!

    (18) SOUND INVESTMENT. “Audiobooks: the rise and rise of the books you don’t read”.

    Yay, audiobooks!

  6. James & Chip – Thanks for the information and links to The Great Explosion; from reading the review and skimming through the earlier parts, I probably will just stick with the novella. (I also have Wasp, in a relatively recent Gollancz edition that somehow ended up remaindered in Maryland, but I find Russell’s choice of the term “Kaitempi” annoying – all too obviously a variation of Kempeitai.)

  7. 11) Adding my own love for Jupiter Ascending. And Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (one of my top three favorite adaptations) also veered into SF territory at one point or another.

  8. I actually read two of James’ list: Oor Wombat’s one, and Catfishing on CatNet (which was very enjoyable).

  9. Soon Lee, I loved Jupiter Ascending too. It was the most beautiful movie that I’ve ever seen. I really wanted to know how they ended the evil in the next two movies.

  10. I concur with Chip, the rest of The Great Explosion just couldn’t live up to the part published as “And Then There Were None…”.

  11. @gottacook: It should be understood that not only was ‘Kaitempi’ (allegedly short for Kaimina Tempiti, in the book) just the Kaitempi with the serial numbers filed off, but Russell didn’t even try very hard to make the Sirian Empire differ from Imperial Japan — for the simple reason that he was reusing (while presumably applying just enough fictional gloss to avoid violating the Official Secrets Act) a wealth of real knowledge he had from working in the RAF in close coordination with the SOE in planning WII psy-ops for the British.

    I found Wasp to be engrossing from cover to cover, not to mention the slight frisson of cheering for a saboteur and terrorist.

  12. David Goldfarb: Thanks. My SJW credential (the sly one with the very loud purr) jostled me at the wrong moment when I was selecting text to copy and paste.

  13. 11) “…And Then There Were None” was my introduction to anarchism at the age of eleven or twelve and made a deep impression on me at the time. I’m fond of “Next of Kin” too, even though it’s both an archetypal dumb alien story and heavily padded to get it up to novel length.

    It occurs to me that there’s a whole mostly-forgotten subgenre of man-vs-military-bureaucracy stories from the 1950s, written by people who’d been in the army. I wonder if it still exists in countries that have compulsory military service?

  14. 11) Eric Frank Russell. WASP must have been one of the first adult SF books I ever read.

  15. McKinnon’s recurring SNL character Colleen Rafferty (she of the close encounters with aliens/ghosts/santa) is genre, basically. Or at least a personal favourite regardless.

  16. Someone here recommended a short story a while back, which I loved and want to put on my Hugo nominations list even though it’s a comedy and probably won’t win. But I didn’t jot down the name and author, so, um… help? It was a short epistolary story which was a series of increasingly exasperated letters from a teacher at a Magical Boarding School to the parents of a child that they apparently thought would be a Chosen Hero. I haven’t read a lot of short fiction this year, and that tale stuck with me. Just.. not the title or author. <rueful>

  17. @Cassy B: Unfortunately, I don’t remember the story – but from your description, I want to read it.

  18. @ Cassy B. “Dear Parents, Your Child Is Not the Chosen One” by P.G. Galalis. Published in Diabolical Plots. It’s on my long list as well.

  19. @bookworm1398, THANK you! And thank you, Andrew, for posting the link; others might well find it as amusing and charming as I did.

    I’ve never read anything else by Galalis; obviously I have to rectify that lack.

  20. 11) Eric Frank Russell. Definitely WASP, also THREE TO CONQUER. “Dear Devil” is a short story I have fond memories of. Unfortunately I have no time today to go through my half shelf of his books and collected works.

  21. There will still be romance awards this year: the Ripped Bodice Awards. Note that their judging committee includes Austin Chant, author of the really fine fantasy novel (and romance) Peter Darling.

  22. (11) It seems I read somewhere, or maybe heard on the DVD commentary, that Rowan Atkinson’s character in “Love Actually” was originally meant to be some sort of mystical Love Fairy, who used supernatural help to get couples-who-are-destined -to-be headed in that direction. That facet of his character ended up being cut from the final product, but his appearance near the end, when Liam Neeson’s son is chasing through the airport to get to the juvenile Mariah Carey classmate, is an artifact of that.

  23. http://legendsrevealed.com/entertainment/2017/12/22/which-love-actually-character-was-originally-going-to-be-an-angel/#more-8775
    Has it as per Richard Curtis’ statement saying that an earlier draft had Rowan Atkinson as an angel. I hvnt watched this movie so I can’t tell whether the idea of Atkinson as an angel is retained/plausible in the final cut, sans any deleted scenes or commentary-which there seemed to be no filmed scenes of Atkinson as an angel, since the final script seemed to hv elided that fact. Viewers might still agree to the interpretation that Atkinson is an angel, just tat I don’t know it myself.

    Also, in the link is a quote from Curtis, “Rowan is at the airport scene as actually, in an earlier draft, he was sort of a Christmas Angel, like Clarence [in “It’s a Wonderful Life” – BC] but most of that was cut out, but he is helpful at the airport and that’s why he’s there.” I’d love to know where this quote came from, maybe it’s in the DVD commentary? (It’s also pretty ambiguous to me whether viewers could interpret his intent in the final cut whether Atkinson is an angel or he just leaves it out there as a possibility/Easter egg to “it’s a wonderful life”.

  24. España Sheriff notes McKinnon’s recurring SNL character Colleen Rafferty (she of the close encounters with aliens/ghosts/santa) is genre, basically. Or at least a personal favourite regardless.

    Good catch. I’ve not watch SNL in decades. Indeed I gave my TV away this past Autumn when I realised I hadn’t turned it since my resurrection. Anything I watch now is done so on the iPad. And I still have to careful for strobing effects as I react very badly to them.

  25. @7: 1 read (following IIRC raves both here and in Locus), 1 just picked up from the library; several I want to think about. (With Boskone and two major concerts in the next 10 weeks, this is not the time to be building up Mt. Tsundoku….)

    @gottacook: I find Russell’s choice of the term “Kaitempi” annoying – all too obviously a variation of Kempeitai Well, yes — there’s a lot of SF from that period with transparent Imperial Japanese (and Nazis) as not-necessarily-realistic villains; considering he served in WWII, and that we’re given that the wasp is not dealing with a just society, I don’t have a problem with snarking on an imperialist security service. (Think about how many authors cartoonify an easy villain today.)

    @Rick Moen: what’s the evidence for and against Russell working in psyops? That was what I recalled also, but Wikipedia says that’s Chalker’s unsupported story, specifically contradicted by “Russell’s biographer”, Ingham; unfortunately the NESFA collections were among my “deaccessions”, so I can’t see who said what in their prefaces. I doubt Chalker outright confused Russell with Cordwainer Smith (who actually wrote a book on psyops under his real name), but I don’t consider him the most reliable source.

    @Sophie Jane: I would wonder whether military-stupidity fiction is more characteristic of people with wartime service, when the steep ramping-up of organization size leaves lots of room for next-year quarterbacking. I note that Dan Gallery, writing during the Vietnam era, did 2 collections and a novel about people twisting the handle farther, with only occasional assistance from outright idiots.

  26. @Rick Moen: “I found Wasp to be engrossing from cover to cover, not to mention the slight frisson of cheering for a saboteur and terrorist.”

    I loved the book a lot, partly because the hero wasn’t flattening cities with a great big bomb like a proper soldier. He was causing trouble to an oppressive empire and most of it fell on either culpable parties or amoral criminals. Considerably more ethical than most warfare of the last century.

  27. Am I the only one in the world that thinks Love Actually is highly overrated? I only liked the parts with Liam Neeson and his son, and the porn stand-ins, personally. And if Rowan Atkinson is an angel, does that mean that we’re supposed to be happy that Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman’s marriage is falling apart? Is he supposed to be with the other woman? Is that a Christmas miracle? I’m confused by this.

    I saw the musical Cats for the first time this year and thought it was dull. I could understand why audiences were wild for it when it first debuted, as it was something totally different with really great dancing and catchy songs. But the T.S. Eliot estate would not allow them to add dialogue as a condition of getting rights to use the poems, which led to pretty much no story at all. I find myself singing “oh, no, never ever was there, a cat so clever as magical Mr. Mestopheles” all the time just the same. I might watch the movie when it comes to TV to see the differences. It just doesn’t look very good, though.

  28. World Weary: Am I the only one in the world that thinks Love Actually is highly overrated?

    No. I have always found parts of it deeply disturbing and creepy, including the secretary who deliberately seduces her married boss and his deceit of his wife, the best man who creeps on his best friend’s fiancé/wife, the encouragement by adults of the little boy to press his affections on a little girl, the guy who marries a woman he doesn’t actually know (since they speak different languages and are mostly unable to communicate with each other), and the guy who goes to the U.S. with the goal of shagging women. The only parts I liked were the PM developing the relationship with the woman who works at Number 10, the porn stand-ins, and the relationship between Liam Neeson and his son.

  29. @John A Arkansawyer (re Wasp): one can always argue with the author’s assumption of which side is right (although this is pretty futile with a typical Astounding story). However, it’s notable that this agent kills only a brutal Gestapoid, rather than random civilians in small or large groups like most terrorists or armies respectively; it’s possible he’s given one working limpet mine (my recollections are weak), but the vast bulk of his tools are designed to spread FUD rather than kill people.

  30. @Chip Hitchcock: I want to say I got that from editorial material in the hardcover NESFA volume I picked up at Noreeascon 4, but I have no idea where in this house that book is, so I’m not able to check.

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