(1) HEART SURGERY. Vulture grilled Kirkus’s editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith about changes made to a review in the face of a swarm of critics: “Kirkus Editor-in-Chief Explains Why They Altered That American Heart Review“.
Kirkus was well-aware from the start that American Heart was something of a lightning rod, which Smith says was not a concern. “As you know, we’re no stranger to controversy,” he says, referring to the recent outrage surrounding Kirkus’s starred review for The Black Witch. And the response to this controversy, according to Smith, stemmed from a long-standing policy of listening when readers have something to say: “We do investigate [criticisms] and consider all of those claims.”
Yet while investigating criticisms may be business as usual, Smith admits this is the first time during his tenure that a review has been pulled and altered in this way. And while the Muslim woman who wrote the original review was involved in the editing process — “the decision to retract the star was made in full collaboration with the reviewer,” he says — altering the review does not appear to have been her idea in the first place. According to Smith, Kirkus concluded internally that edits would be made before reaching out to the reviewer.
“We wanted her to consider if changing what we thought was sort of reductive word choice, and adding deeper context, is something she thought might be appropriate,” he says, though he emphasizes it was ultimately her call: “I did not dictate that to her. She made that decision on her own.” (The word choice in question likely refers to text in the original review that referred to Sadaf as “a disillusioned immigrant,” which some commenters took exception to.)
Kirkus’s critics are skeptical of that claim; among the more cynical takes on the controversy is that Kirkus used the reviewer’s identity as a shield, only to then suppress her voice when it didn’t toe the line. Smith bristles at that: “It’s like no one believes that this reviewer has a mind and can change her opinion. Is that so difficult to believe?”
The answer isn’t necessarily clear. Would Kirkus’s reviewer have changed her mind independently, even if the review hadn’t been pulled for evaluation? Or did she feel pressured to alter what had proven to be a deeply unpopular opinion when asked if she wanted to, even without explicit instructions to do so? What is clear, though, is that the choice to un-star American Heart reflects something noteworthy about Kirkus’s framework for critique — one in which a book’s value is determined not just by the quality of its storytelling, but also by its politics. The sentence added to the review indicates that writing the book from Sarah Mary’s point of view remains an admirable choice from a craft perspective (“an effective world-building device”), but wrong from a moral one (“it is problematic that Sadaf is seen only through the white protagonist’s filter”). And while Smith says the call-out of said problematic element is not meant to dissuade readers from reading the book — “If readers don’t care that this novel is only told about a Muslim character, from the perspective of a white teenager, that’s fine” — he acknowledges that Kirkus does care, and does judge books at least in part on whether they adhere to certain progressive ideals. When I ask if the book’s star was revoked explicitly and exclusively because it features a Muslim character seen from the perspective of a white teenager, Smith pauses for only a second: “Yes.”
(2) INDIA 2049. “Call for Submissions: India 2049 – Utopias and Dystopias”. Mithila Review is doing this issue as a fundraiser, and is basically paying only an honorarium. Submissions for India 2049 are open until April 30, 2018.
“The developing countries such as those in the South Asia and Africa are not sufficiently depicted in typical SF stories.”— Cixin Liu, Mithila Review
Mithila Review is seeking submissions for India 2049: Utopias and Dystopias, an anthology of short stories and comics devoted to the exploration of Indian futures, utopias and dystopias, set in India, South Asia or beyond.
Editors: Salik Shah & Ajapa Sharma
Word Limit: 4000-12,000 words
Comics: Up to 24 pages
Deadline: April 30st, 2018
Eligibility: Stories should be set in India, South Asia, or told from Indian or South Asian perspective. We want excellent, characters-driven and thoughtful stories from emerging and established voices around the world. Your citizenship or nationality, or lack of it, isn’t a bar to submission. Please free to re/define India or South Asia to make it relevant to the future/s you’re creating. If you are new to Mithila Review, please go through our existing issues to get a taste and understanding of the kind of stories that define Mithila Review.
(3) THE SCI-FI PIPELINE. From IndieWire, “The New Golden Age of Studio Science-Fiction is Upon Us”
The New Golden Age of Studio Science-Fiction is Upon Us
We’ll be seeing a lot of major studios releasing auteur-driven science-fiction over the next couple years. Here are some of the titles you need to know about:
“Downsizing,” Alexander Payne
Alexander Payne is well regarded as a humanist and a sharp observer of middle-aged existential crises, which makes the thought of him directing a science-fiction movie all the more intriguing…. “
“Annihilation,” Alex Garland
…Studios were clearly paying attention to “Ex Machina’s” success, as Paramount quickly landed Garland to direct the big budget adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel “Annihilation.” …
“Ready Player One,” Steven Spielberg
You’d have to go back to “War of the Worlds” in 2006 to find the last pure Steven Spielberg science-fiction blockbuster….
“Gemini,” Ang Lee
Ang Lee’s unpredictable career has taken him from gay romances to historical dramas, war films, literary adaptations, and period pieces, but with “Gemini” he’s finally set to bring his boundless visual scope to the science-fiction genre….
“Ad Astra,” James Gray
James Gray has been upping the stakes of his narratives and working with larger budgets with each new film, so it was only a matter of time before the director would join forces with a studio to make something truly epic. “Ad Astra” sounds like that kind of mainstream breakthrough after the indie success of “The Lost City of Z.” Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who sets out on a mission through the solar system to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared 20 years earlier on a one-way mission to Neptune….
“Alita: Battle Angel,” Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez has only ever made big-budget action films for family audiences (see the “Spy Kids” franchise and “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl”), which is part of the reason the upcoming “Alita: Battle Angel” could mark a whole new chapter in the director’s career. The idea for a film adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s acclaimed manga series was first brought to James Cameron by Guillermo del Toro, but the director’s work on “Avatar” kept the project from being properly developed….
“The Predator,” Shane Black
Normally a studio reboot of “The Predator” franchise wouldn’t inspire much anticipation (and fans clearly weren’t too interested in the 2010 installment directed by Nimród Antal), but 20th Century Fox has made the exciting decision of putting none other than Shane Black in the director’s chair….
“Avatar” Sequels, James Cameron
The second “Avatar” movie will arrive over a decade after the original became the highest grossing movie of all time (adjusted for inflation). It’s been so long since “Avatar” conquered the box office that no one is really begging for a sequel anymore, and yet you’d have to be crazy not to be at least a little excited for another opportunity for James Cameron to play on the biggest canvas imaginable….
(4) HAWAIIAN SHIRT FRIGHT. High Seas Trading Company is willing to sell you the shirt off its back in time for Halloween: Classic Horror Monsters.
(5) ZINE TRANSCRIBERS SOUGHT. Slate Magazine, in “Retyping the Future’s Past”, tells about the University of Iowa Libraries project to crowdsource transcription of some of its holdings, like the Rusty Hevelin fanzine collection. I didn’t get involved myself because as it was put to me, the zines were not out of copyright so the transcriptions would not be made publicly available, only to scholars working through the library. My fellow fanzines fans would not immediately benefit from my work.
However, the face value the offer is certainly true – you get to read the ones you work on.
If you’d like to participate, you need to do little more than set up a free account with DIY History, select an issue from the hundreds available, and dive in. It’s hard to guess what you might find within, but the possibilities are promising. As some of us still do today, the science fiction fans of decades past imagined different worlds, sometimes better ones. Retyping their words is a welcome reminder that we have yet to write our own future.
(6) YESTERDAY’S DAY
International Sloth Day
We missed this.
— Harper Voyager US (@HarperVoyagerUS) October 20, 2017
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS
- Born October 21, 1929 – Ursula K. Le Guin
- Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher
(8) TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM. Camestros Felapton has got himself a copy of Vox Day’s new book SJWs Always Double Down and penned a review titled “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To…Again: Part 1”. Though not even Camestros takes that title literally – by the time he reaches Chapter 4 he’s writing:
Skim, skim, Google, skim, Twitter again (the social media platform so terrible that Vox came crawling back to it after his tantrum at Gab), some band I haven’t heard of. The chapter was supposed to be about ‘convergence’ but it was just another list of complaints.
(That being the case, it’s lucky for Camestros that this book seems to have only one Chapter 5.)
Did I mention that this chapter is called “The Convergence Sequence”. I guess I had assumed that previous chapter would be about that. Anyway this chapter is about how convergence happens (hint: women are all conspiring against Vox to get him). The previous chapter was “Convergence” so maybe chapter 4 was the first Chapter 5*
The convergence sequence, Vox claims, is this: 1. Infiltration. This is when women, oops sorry, “SJWs” join things and do work. Now you might think that would be both a good thing and inevitable that helpful, nice people predisposed to being helpful and nice would do things. This is bad though because then they’ll expect the think they joined to also be helpful and nice.
“SJWs are particularly drawn to HR in the corporate world and community management in the open source world, because these organizational roles tend to combine the two things that SJWs seek most, power over others and an absence of personal responsibility. They can also be found in volunteer roles; SJWs tend to have a lot of time on their hands and volunteering for the jobs that no one else wants to do is one of their favorite ways to make themselves appear indispensable to those who are in charge of the organization…. But if you want to identify the initial SJW in an organization, look for a longtime volunteer, usually female, who is quiet, selfless, well-regarded by everyone, and heavily relied upon by the leadership.”
See, I wasn’t being sarcastic earlier or even exaggerating. Note the key elements he sees as symptoms of being a “SJW” – not a tendency to quote Gramsci or use the term “intersectionality” or a hard to suppress desire to punch Nazis. Nope the key symptoms of Vox’s fear are:
- Being a woman (or ‘female’ as Vox says in what I presume is a Ferengi impression)
- Well-regarded by everyone
- Relied upon by leadership
I wonder if Vox ever reads the New Testament and if he does, does he shout “obvious SJW!” every so often.
(9) E.T.IQUETTE. John C. Wright tries to reconcile his preferences with contemporary practices in “A Courteous Note about Courtesy in Names”.
People with modern hence fake standards meeting someone loyal to older hence real standards are in the same position as that younger brother.
You have no idea what a cruel practical joke has been played on you by the modern inversion of the forms of courtesy, nor how much sincerity, fellowship, and elegance has been deliberately removed from the world.
But I am not a king nor a pope, so there is no reason why someone who knows me only through my public words and works should be required to address me by my Christian name.
It would be rather presumptuous of me to assume that I can impose the burdens of intimate friendship on you.
You have done me no wrong. Please do not fret over so minor a matter.
To which I should add a general word: I am prone to wrath, as it is one of my besetting sins, and would do well to avoid a sharp tongue. I find that, for myself, speaking formally to people who give a last name, and calling him by his last name, makes it easier to resist the temptation to be shrewish and rude.
A man or woman whose Internet handle is some presumptuous yet joking phrase or nickname is much harder to take seriously, and much harder for someone like me to treat seriously. I was able to keep my temper with Dr. Andreassen for years, or nearly so, despite his studied provocations, merely because I addressed him formally.
Someone with a dippy handle like “Gharlane of Backdoor” or “4ssclown Pharting” or “Visions-from-Trippy-High” inadvertently will create in me the impression the I am addressing a pimply and nasal sophomore in teeth braces with a dull sense of humor who is most likely on mood medication.
(10) DUBBING. Myke Cole supplies a caption for the iconic image from Blade Runner 2049:
You. Yes, you there, on the bridge.
Finish your fucking novel. pic.twitter.com/50D9zl65hS
— Myke Cole (@MykeCole) October 19, 2017
(11) ALT SIGHT. Uprising Review’s unironic reference in their latest podcast to guest Jon Del Arroz as “the #1 Hispanic voice in science fiction” is more easily understood if you know that it recently devoted bandwidth to topics like “Help Fund A Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Charlottesville,” Dawn Witzke’s Dragon Con report, and a link roundup featuring JDA’s harassment of a Filer.
(12) I’M MELTING, MELTING. NPR explains why these are: “‘Impossible To Save’: Scientists Are Watching China’s Glaciers Disappear”.
Li calls out to scientists hiking nearly 1,000 feet above. In their bright parkas, they look like neon-colored ants. They call back, their voices bouncing off an ice and stone amphitheater that cradles the eastern glacier.
Scientists are the only people allowed here. The government has banned tourism on the glacier and shut down factories in the town below, laying off 7,000 workers to try to lessen the impact of pollution.
But local sources of pollution account for just 30 percent of the damage to glaciers, says Li. The other 70 percent is caused by global carbon emissions that have warmed the entire planet.
The central goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change — which the Trump administration has promised to pull the U.S. out of, but to which China is still a party — is to limit the rise in global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Tianshan is one of those rare places where the impact of climate change policy can be measured and seen.
“If every country sticks to the emissions reductions in the Paris Agreement, these two glaciers will be around for another hundred years,” says Li. “If not, then temperatures will continue to rise, and the glacier we’re walking on? It’ll be gone in 50 years.”
(13) HIS FAMILIARS. The Washington Post’s Savannah Stephens has an interview with Philip Pullman about La Belle Sauvage, including why he wanted to write prequels to “His Dark Materials” and what is his personal daemon — “Philip Pullman on what drew him back to the world of His Dark Materials”.
Q: Who were you most excited to revisit besides Lyra?
A: Hannah Relf is someone who appears near the beginning and near the end of “His Dark Materials.” She’s a woman whom I like very much and someone I respect a great deal. I was glad to give her a part that’s important in “La Belle Sauvage.” She lends Malcolm books, and she’s interested in his life, his thoughts, his education. Her character pays tribute to an old lady who had a big house in the village that I used to live in when I was a boy. She took an interest in me, and she let me borrow books from her library. She had books on every wall — bookcases all through her house. She very generously allowed me to come and borrow a couple of books every week. She didn’t tell me, “Oh no, you can’t have that, dear. That’s not for you.” She said, “Take anything you like. Read anything you like. We’ll talk about it when you bring it back.” I thought that was so nice, so I gave that part to Hannah Relf.
(14) A GOOD PLACE TO CRASH. They don’t want anybody underneath when these come down: “The place spacecraft go to die”.
The equivalent point in the ocean – the place furthest away from land – lies in the South Pacific some 2,700km (1,680 miles) south of the Pitcairn Islands – somewhere in the no-man’s land, or rather no-man’s-sea, between Australia, New Zealand and South America.
This oceanic pole of inaccessibility is not only of interest to explorers, satellite operators are interested in it as well. That’s because most of the satellites placed in orbit around the Earth will eventually come down, but where?
Smaller satellites will burn up but pieces of the larger ones will survive to reach the Earth’s surface. To avoid crashing on a populated area they are brought down near the point of oceanic inaccessibility.
Scattered over an area of approximately 1,500 sq km (580 sq miles) on the ocean floor of this region is a graveyard of satellites. At last count there were more than 260 of them, mostly Russian.
The wreckage of the Mir space station lies there. It was launched in 1986 and was visited by many teams of cosmonauts and international visitors.
With a mass of 120 tonnes it was never going to burn up in the atmosphere, so it was ditched in the region in 2001 and was seen by some fishermen as a fragmenting mass of glowing debris racing across the sky.
(15) HAMMERING. According to the BBC: “Thor out of five: Marvel’s latest has critics raving”.
Thor is a case in point. Whether toplining his own films or chipping in as part of the Avengers ensemble, this relic from Norse mythology has always seemed out of step with the rest of the extended franchise.
By recognising and embracing his core ridiculousness, though, Thor: Ragnarok may have finally found a way to integrate the character and his world into the wider MCU landscape.
Despite taking its title from a Norse word for apocalypse, the latest Marvel film is a joyously irreverent hoot in which superhero heroics are almost an afterthought.
The scenes in which Chris Hemsworth’s Thor banters and bickers with the now-talking Hulk are a delight, as are any in which Jeff Goldblum appears as the ostensibly villainous but actually rather affable Grandmaster.
(16) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND. It’s a jungle out there.
Hey I recognize a valid STET when it's waved under my nose in the shape of a fist.
— K.B. Spangler (@KBSpangler) October 20, 2017
— The Wombat Resists (@UrsulaV) October 20, 2017
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]