(1) YOU CONTROL THE HORIZONTAL, YOU CONTROL THE VERTICAL. Adam Whitehead has commentary on the newly announced 2021 Best Video Game Hugo in “Hugo Awards add a video game category for 2021” at The Wertzone. Includes a list of eligible prospects.
…Many, if not most, video games fall into the science fiction or fantasy. Seven years ago, I made a post about video games that engage with their SFF themes in a bit more detail (it’s probably about time I did a follow-up). With video games having been commercially available for forty-five years, and having been more popular than either the film or music mediums for more than twenty years, it is probably past time this move was made. I suspect far more people voting in the Hugos have played an eligible video game in any given year than have read a semiprozine or read a novelette, for example.
Assuming normal rules of eligibility, the following video games would be among those eligible for the award in 2021…
For the announcement, see File 770’s post “Ready Nominator One: Best Video Game Special Hugo Award Category Announced for 2021”.
(2) UNDERAPPRECIATED ARTWORK. Doug Ellis has launched a new series on the art of the Science Fiction Book Club’s bulletin Things to Comeat Black Gate: “The Art of Things to Come, Part 1: 1953-1957”.
… Like tens of thousands of science fiction fans before and after me, I was at one time a member of the Science Fiction Book Club (or SFBC for short). I joined just as I entered my teen years, in the fall of 1976, shortly after I discovered the wonder of science fiction digests.
I remember the bulletin of the SFBC, Things to Come, arriving in our mailbox every month, and eagerly perusing the offerings to see if I wanted grab any of the featured selections or alternates, or something from the backlist. The SFBC purchase I most vividly recall reading was the Isaac Asimov edited anthology, Before the Golden Age, which was filled with great stories as well as fascinating biographical material by Asimov on his early days as a fan. Other favorite volumes include Leigh Brackett’s The Book of Skaith, Damon Knight’s Science Fiction of the Thirties and The Futurians, Frederik Pohl’s The Early Pohl, Frank Herbert’s Duneseries and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books, among many others. I remained a member through college before finally letting my membership lapse.
One of the benefits of being a member of the SFBC was receiving their bulletin, Things to Come. While the art inside sometimes just reproduced the dust jacket art, in many cases the art was created solely for the bulletin, and was not used in the book or anywhere else. Because one can never collect enough things, I gradually started collecting back issues of Things to Come for the art, particularly for the art of Virgil Finlay which began appearing in the bulletin in 1959. In 2005, I gathered those Finlay illos from the bulletins that I’d collected and published a small press booklet, Virgil Finlay: The Art of Things to Come.
(3) CONSENSUS 2019 HIGH FANTASY. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank has posted its annual Outstanding High Fantasy of 2019, with 35 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.
Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.
- 26 are free online (highlighted in default view), 14 have podcasts.
- Among publications, it should be no surprise that Beneath Ceaseless Skies has the most high fantasy stories here with 14 stories (40%). Analog, Clarkesworld and Interzone had none.
- Among ?authors, 2 stories are by Sarah Gailey.
- High fantasy stories make up 6% of SF/F awards finalists with 6 stories out of 99 total award-nominated stories from the 2019 Best SF/F. The only major winner was “Silver in the Wood” for the World Fantasy Award.
- High fantasy did worse (3%) among “year’s best” anthologies with 4 stories out of 122 total included stories from the 2019 Best SF/F. Rich Horton’s anthology has 3 stories listed here.
- They did best (11%) among prolific reviewers with 12 stories out of 105 total award-worthy stories from the 2019 Best SF/F. A.C. Wise thought 5 of the 12 were award-worthy.
As for RSR, we recommended 13 stories (2 award worthy), were neutral on 17 stories, and only recommended against 5 stories (view by RSR rating).
(4) STATE OF THE ART. “Sci-fi’s Elizabeth Bear on Diversity, Mental Health, and Queers in Space” in a wide-ranging PopMatters interview.
…Bear is attentive to gender diversity in her work, incorporating not only female-identified protagonists but also gender fluid and non-binary characters. Given the fuss that contemporary politicians still make against efforts to render public discourse more inclusive in that respect, Bear’s efforts are especially useful in revealing how easy and natural the incorporation of non-binary pronouns and ideas can be. (See “Can a Bill Have a Gender? Feminine Wording Exposes a Rift”, by Christopher F. Schuetze, The New York Times, 15 October 2020.)
“The first author who I ever consciously was aware of putting a non-gendered character into their books was Vonda McIntyre in Dreamsnake . Vonda did it by just never using pronouns for that character. I didn’t realize it until the third or fourth time I reread the book! I went like, ‘Wait a minute. Oh!’
“And then I started thinking about that. I have friends who identify as non-binary, I have trans friends, and it’s just common politeness. It’s like using somebody’s preferred form of their name. I mean obviously everybody makes mistakes, sometimes you don’t know what a person’s pronouns are. I’ve been trying to default to neutral pronouns until I know what the preferred ones are, which also offends some people, but you got to pick a hill to die on, I guess. Again, it’s a thing that just reflects the world as it is, rather than reflecting the world through a series of stereotypes that we’ve been told to expect as normal.
“I grew up in a queer family, steeped in the queer culture of the 1980s which was very gendered and not particularly trans-friendly, so I guess I started interrogating a lot of that at an earlier age than a lot of my peers. The first time I was consciously aware of having a friend who was trans was in my mid-twenties, I had a friend who transitioned. The thing happened that I think happens to everyone when a friend comes out to them–they realize that it’s not a big deal. I mean you can be a horrible bigot and make it a big deal, but that person is still your friend, or your relative, or your child, or your parent, or whatever it is that they are.
“What I realized at that point was that we as a culture were incredibly hung up on gender and enforcing gender stereotypes on people. This would have been in the mid-’90s, when everything was frickin’ pink and blue. In the ’70s and ’80s, when I was a kid, stuff was much less gendered. Everybody played with the same Legos and the same Lincoln Logs. There were some girl toys and some boy toys, but mostly there were just toys. By the time my friends were having kids, it was all either girl toys or boy toys. So that extreme gendering of things–it’s a natural reaction to push back against that.
“The real strength of my generation of science fiction writers, and the current generation of science fiction writers…is that we are much more diverse. And much more global. A lot of that is technology, obviously. I can text a friend in Paris, France and have an hour-long conversation with them for free and only pay for it by putting up with advertising, you know? So those connections are much stronger. That diversity of voices is incredibly, incredibly useful and is creating a much broader and more heterogeneous field than we previously had.”
(5) ALSO SPRACH UTAH. “Helicopter pilot finds ‘strange’ monolith in remote part of Utah” – Yahoo! News has the story.
A mysterious monolith has been discovered in a remote part of Utah, after being spotted by state employees counting sheep from a helicopter.
The structure, estimated at between 10ft and 12ft high (about 3 metres), appeared to be planted in the ground. It was made from some sort of metal, its shine in sharp contrast to the enormous red rocks which surrounded it.
…Hutchings said the object looked manmade and appeared to have been firmly planted in the ground, not dropped from the sky.
“I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” Hutchings said.
(6) AI AI OH! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the November 14 Financial Times, Tom Faber profiles multimedia artist Lawrence Lek, whose work includes sf tropes.
The first film in the (Sinofuturism) series was showing that night (in 2017) at Corsica Studios. Made in 2016, Sinofuturism (1839-2046 AD) draws parallels between western stereotypes of Chinese culture (such as computing, copying, and cheap labour) and our anxieties about the rise of artificial intelligence. Its 2017 follow-up, Geomancer, uses game-like digital simulation to spin a wilder narrative about a sentient weather satellite about a sentient weather satellite which longs to be an artist.
With his newest work AIDOL (a play on “AI” and “Idol”) which debuted at Gallery Sadie Coles HQ last year, Lek sets his sights on the music industry. The year is 2065, and in Malaysia waning pop star Diva enlists an AI ghostwriter to help her mount a comeback show at the eSports video game Olympics.
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- November 23, 1963 — Doctor Who premiered with “An Unearthly Child”. Starring William Hartnell as the First Doctor plus His Companions played by Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright and William Russell as Ian Chesterton. It was directed by Waris Hussein, with Verity Lambert and Mervyn Pinfield as producers. The story was written by Anthony Coburn and C. E. Webber. Most contemporary critics were pleased by “An Unearthly Child” but Variety oddly thought it had to be more realistic. It has a respectable seventy percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born November 23, 1863 – Katharine Pyle. Author, illustrator, poet. A dozen books for us; at least fifty in all, some children’s. Collected and retold fairy tales. Poems and drawings for The Wonder Clock by her brother Howard. Local history for children, Once Upon a Time in Delaware. Here is The Counterpane Fairy. This is for Granny’s Wonderful Chair. This is for As the Goose Flies. For Tales from Norse Mythology see here. (Died 1938) [JH]
- Born November 23, 1908 – Nelson Bond. Four novels, a hundred fifty shorter stories – at which he was masterly: not least Lancelot Biggs, Spaceman; Meg, the priestess who rebelled; Pat Pending, who – yes. Also radio & television. Philatelist. Rare-book dealer. Correspondent of James Branch Cabell(“Tell the rabble my name is Cabell”). Nebula Author Emeritus. (Died 2006) [JH]
- Born November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker. Mostly Wilson to the world – two dozen novels, as many shorter stories – mostly Bob to us. Among our great fanwriters. Le Zombie (so named after several Tucker Death Hoaxes) and then e-Zombie ran fifty years. Fan Guest of Honor at Torcon I the 6th Worldcon and NyCon 3 the 25th. A Hugo and a Retrospective Hugo as Best Fanwriter. Often a toastmaster. Coined “space opera”. Tuckerization, putting into fiction the names (or nearly, like “Mike Glider”) or descriptions of people the author knows, or who won the privilege in some fannish fund-raiser, is named for him. You can see four editions of his Neo-Fan’s Guide here, including one Our Gracious Host helped produce. SF Commentary 43 (PDF) is the Tucker Issue; No. 79 (PDF) is the Tucker Issue, Second Edition; No. 80 (PDF) has many appreciations including mine. (Died 2006) [JH]
- Born November 23, 1916 — Michael Gough. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifties and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. In Doctor Who, Gough appeared as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councilor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Tim Burton again in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. He would mostly retire that year from performing though he would voice later that Corpse Bride role and the Dodo in Burton’s Alice in Winderland. (Died 2011.) (CE)
- Born November 23, 1927 – Guy Davenport, Ph.D. His being given the Introduction to Davidson’s unparalleled “Or All the Seas With Oysters” in The Avram Davidson Treasury will give you a clue. His dissertation, on Ezra Pound – there’s a complicated man – was published as Cities on Hills. While a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, studied Old English under Tolkien. Translated Heraclitus, Diogenes, Sappho, Anacreon. About his collection Tatlin! (which he illustrated; no, not gossip, this one) see here. (Died 2005) [JH]
- Born November 23, 1951 — David Rappaport. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing he’ll be remembered for of a genre nature having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them such as The Bride, a low budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits. (Died 1990.) (CE)
- Born November 23, 1955 — Steven Brust, 65. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. All are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing scathing reviewing of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille and he told us at Green Man that he might be the only person who liked the novel. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, “A Rose For Ecclesiastes,” which you should read if you haven’t yet. Quoting him again, “’Songs From The Gypsy’ is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing! (CE)
- Born November 23, 1960 – John Bunnell, 60. Nine short stories. Book reviews in three incarnations of Amazing; also Dragon. When the English translation of The Name of the Rose came out, he told role-playing gamers “For all its erudite trappings and intimidating size… a tension-filled tale of precisely the sort that referees are so fond of weaving into gaming campaigns.” True. [JH]
- Born November 23, 1966 — Michelle Gomez, 54. Best known genre role is as playing Missy, a female version of The Master on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master so later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used to but she made a fine one. She is also Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and she plays Talia Bauerin in Highlander: The Raven which apparently is a very short-live spinoff from the Highlander series. Finally, she shows up in the Gotham series for two episodes simply as The Lady. (CE)
- Born November 23, 1967 — Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 53. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which apparently in syndication is now called A Town Called Eureka. H’h? I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but charmingly voiced Eliza Mazda, the main human character, on the Gargoyles series! She’s shows up as character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She’s was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would. (CE)
- Born November 23, 1970 — Oded Fehr, 50. Actor from Israel whose most well-known genre roles are as the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and as Carlos Oliveira (or his clone) in three of the Resident Evil films: Apocalypse, Extinction, and Retribution. (His Mummy roles no doubt led to his casting in voice roles in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? and as The Living Mummy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) On Charmed, he played the demon Zankou, the main villain of the show’s seventh season. He’s had an impressively long list of appearances on TV series, including recurring roles on Once Upon A Time, Stitchers, V, and The First, a series about the first mission to Mars. He has also voiced characters on numerous other animated features and series. (CE)
- Born November 23, 1979 – Rachel Hawkins, 41. Nine novels, two shorter stories. “Taught high school English for three years, and … still capable of teaching you The Canterbury Tales if you’re into that kind of thing.” Married to a geologist. [JH]
(9) SOME FREE READS. Marvel is ramping up to a December release — encouraging some pre-reading by making it free reading.
Starting today, Marvel Unlimited, Marvel’s award-winning digital comics subscription service, is preparing for the King In Black! To celebrate the highly anticipated arrival of Marvel’s next epic comic event in December, Marvel Unlimited is unlocking access to the first five issues of Venom and the first two issues of Absolute Carnage – all FREE for fans everywhere, no subscription required.
To read these free issues, fans only need to download the Marvel Unlimited app, available on iPhone®, iPad® and select Android™ devices, and dive right in. Venom #1-5 (2018) and Absolute Carnage #1-2 (2019) will be available today through December 14. Download the app and enjoy these issues today!
… A threat years in the making, Knull’s death march across the galaxy finally hits Earth in KING IN BLACK—with an army of thousands of symbiote dragons at his beck and call. Eddie Brock, AKA Venom, has seen firsthand the chaos that even one of Knull’s symbiotic monsters can wreak—will he survive an encounter with the God of the Abyss himself?
(10) FOSTER, A FURRY INSPIRATION. Patch O’Furr looks into a special corner of the big story — furry fan ties with Alan Dean Foster’s loved original series Spellsinger, and how it was optioned for a movie: “#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster — A fight with furry fandom influence” at Dogpatch Press.
First published in 1983-1987, Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger fantasy series struck a chord for a burgeoning fandom. It features a law student, Jon-Tom, with janitor work and rock and roll dreams. He wakes up in a strange land after smoking something weird to escape mundanity, where he meets a rabble-rousing otter (Mudge) and turtle wizard (Clothahump). His new talking-animal world sets a stage for learning to channel magic with music… but only once per song. Playing Pink Floyd’s Money on his “Duar” guitar can solve a problem once… if he even gets it right.
Loaded with epic fantasy, humor, cartoonish characters, and even moments to make an imaginative reader read extra hard (hot tiger-women and gay unicorns!) — It was the right kind of story that reached the right fans at the right time. The animals weren’t just for kids; they drank, stabbed, screwed, and swore! It made me a 90’s furry before I knew there was a fandom for it.
Foster’s writing was pure fun, spiked with a threat of apocalyptic invasion and a race to defeat it in classic quest mode. I’d assume this was mid-list bookstore fare; not bestselling but solid original work for a productive author. Bigger pay would come with franchise adaptations — his novels for Star Wars, the Aliens movies, and Star Trek.
Making canon work for such big properties should earn secure income for a challenging career of genre writing. That is, if Disney would honor what Lucasfilm agreed to owe, after they acquired the company in 2012 for several billion dollars….
(11) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. “Bruce” the fiberglass shark from Jaws is now a museum exhibit – although floating on air he looks more like a tribute to Sharknado.
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures completed installation of one of the most iconic objects from its permanent collection, the only surviving full scale shark model from the 1975 Oscar®-winning film Jaws. This moment signals exciting momentum toward the Academy Museum’s much-anticipated opening on April 30,2021, where the 25-foot model (nicknamed “Bruce the Shark”) will be on view, free to the public. Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, won Oscars® for Film Editing, Sound and Original Score, and was nominated for Best Picture at the 48th Academy Awards® in 1976.
… The monumental model is the fourth, final, and only surviving version of the shark model derived from the original Jaws mold. The creation of the infamous mechanical shark—which Spielberg is rumored to have named “Bruce” after his lawyer—was tasked to art director Joe Alves, whose original schematics depict the 25-foot long body, 400-pound head, and jaws nearly five feet wide. The three screen-used production molds cast in latex and rubber rotted and were destroyed. The Academy Museum’s version, cast in fiberglass for photo opportunities at Universal Studios Hollywood surrounding the film’s 1975 release, survived at Universal until 1990 when it found its way to Nathan Adlen’s family’s junkyard business in Sun Valley, California. In 2010, it was authenticated by Roy Arbogast, a member of the original Jaws film’s special effects crew, and in 2016, the Academy Museum acquired the shark model through a contribution by Nathan Adlen. The museum worked with special effects and make-up artist Greg Nicotero, co-founder of KNB EFX, to meticulously restore the fiberglass shark which had deteriorated from being outdoors for 25 years.
(12) BUT LEADING UP TO WHAT? “Trader Joe’s Is Selling an Advent Calendar for Cats This Year” — Taste of Home is sure this product will give your cat a religious experience.
…You will find 25 soft treats for your feline friend. The snacks are made of antibiotic-free Atlantic salmon and dried seaweed, according to the packaging. You can rest assured knowing that your cat will be enjoying high-quality ingredients. Plus, the drawings on the front of the calendar are just too cute.
(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Back To The Future Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says this is a special episode because his whole idea for pitch meetings happened because of a sketch by John Mulaney about how wild a pitch meeting for Back To The Future would be.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Doug Ellis, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Patch O’Furr, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]