(1) HE IS THE CHAMPION. LeVar Burton is the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion. [H/t to Locus Online.]
We are excited to announce that LeVar Burton, award-winning actor and longtime host of Reading Rainbow, has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion. Launched in conjunction with the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s 40th Anniversary, this annual commendation will recognize devoted literary advocacy and a commitment to inspiring new generations of readers and writers.
…PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion LeVar Burton will be honored, along with this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction winner and finalists, in a virtual celebration to be held on May 10, 2021.
(2) INTERZONE REVERSES COURSE. Today Andy Cox announced “Interzone Does Not Have A New Publisher…” Plans to turn the magazine over to PS Publishing have been revoked.
Following concerns expressed by subscribers and the increasing confusion about what the new publisher intended to do with the magazine, we sought some clarity. The deal we had was a very simple one and they had to commit to just one thing, but as soon as it became obvious they weren’t going to honour it we had no choice but to withdraw the magazine, along with the various parts of it we’d already handed over. In other words, we are still the publisher of Interzone.
Admittedly this does throw a spanner into the TTA works. We’d already made plans for Black Static and other things – including my own “retirement” – based on Interzone being given to a new publisher. So I’d like to ask for some time to get things back into place, and to make any changes that have to be made in order to fulfil our commitments to you. We will do everything we can to fill subscriptions, but stuff like format and schedule may have to change. We might even have to stop taking new subscriptions and follow the winding-down Black Static route. Meanwhile we will continue to try to find a trustworthy publisher who is right for Interzone.
Your input on all of this and more is always welcome so please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I’d like to finish this update by thanking everybody for the heartwarming messages received over the past few weeks. I’ve tried to reply to everybody but if I missed you please don’t think for an instant that I’m ungrateful. Like I said before, it really has been an honour.
(3) BUTLER AS VISIONARY. [Item by Joel Zakem.] In honor of Black History Month, the NPR podcast radio show Throughline is looking at the lives and legacies of three Black visionaries including Octavia Butler, whom they describe as follows:
Octavia Butler was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. She described herself as a pessimist, “if I’m not careful.” As an award winning science fiction writer and ‘mother of Afrofuturism,’ her visionary works of alternate realities reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. Butler was fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warnings is her message of hope – a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perished in her books, came a story of rebuilding, of repair. These are themes Butler was intimately familiar with in her life. She broke on to the science fiction scene at a time when she knew of no other Black woman in the field, saying she simply had to “write herself in.”
While the show is scheduled to debut on February 18, 2021, you should, as they say, check your local listings. My local NPR news station (WFPL in Louisville) is running the show on Saturday, February 27 at noon.
(4) PLAYABLE DOOMS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 27 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at why gamers love apocalypses.
You know how it looks. Even though the original cataclysmic text, The Book Of Revelation, is extraordinarily vivid, with the sun turning black, stars falling to earth, and a pregnant woman fighting a seven-headed dragon across the sky, gaming apocalypses are drab affairs. You trudge past areas of grey and brown wreckage, shattered cities and crumbling landmarks. You wear tattered, colourless clothes, eat out of cans and sleep in bunkers and dirty mattresses. The Whore of Babylon never swoops down on unbelievers the way she does in the Bible, drunk on the blood of slain martyrs. Clearly the apocalypse just isn’t what it used to be.”
…While the aesthetics of the gaming apocalypse are mostly tired, there are a few exceptions. Horizon Zero Dawn and Zelda: Breath Of The Wild argue that the end might look colourful and lush, Meanwhile, The Last Of Us series offers evocative dioramas of lives lived in abandoned American homes following a zombie outbreak. There are the crops on a deserted farm left to wither on the vine, and the diary entries of a girl who cannot understand why her father never comes home.
(5) THE WINTER OF OUR CONTENT – MUCH CONTENT. George R.R. Martin’s “Reflections on a Bad Year” at Not A Blog talks about the pandemic, isolation, and loss. On the other hand —
What was good about 2020? Besides the election?
Well… for me… there was work.
I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of THE WINDS OF WINTER in 2020. The best year I’ve had on WOW since I began it. Why? I don’t know. Maybe the isolation. Or maybe I just got on a roll. Sometimes I do get on a roll.
I need to keep rolling, though. I still have hundreds of more pages to write to bring the novel to a satisfactory conclusion.
That’s what 2021 is for, I hope.
I will make no predictions on when I will finish. Every time I do, assholes on the internet take that as a “promise,” and then wait eagerly to crucify me when I miss the deadline. All I will say is that I am hopeful.
(6) THE NEXT MIDDLE AGES. You won’t have to go back in time to get to the Middle Ages. Tribes of Europa premieres on Netflix on February 19.
2074. In the wake of a mysterious global disaster, war rages between the Tribes that have emerged from the wreckage of Europe. Three siblings from the peaceful Origines tribe – Kiano (Emilio Sakraya), Liv (Henriette Confurius) and Elja (David Ali Rashed) – are separated and forced to forge their own paths in an action-packed fight for the future of this new Europa.
(7) RAISED BY WOLVES. South African reviewer Elene Botha is enthusiastic about the series; not everybody is. “Hard core sci-fi fans rejoice: Raised by Wolves is live on Showmax” at 9Lives.
…If you do not enjoy sci-fi, turn around now. Raised by Wolves is modern sci-fi at its best. The production value is very high and the scenes are beautifully shot and executed. The actors they have chosen have extremely interesting features that kind of picks up on the modernity of the entire series.
Despite being quite modern in both look and feel, it is definitely reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s earlier interests (like the first Bladerunner or Alien) which actually gives it a very retro-modern feel. We had a sneak-peek of the first two episodes, and the use of the barren landscapes and hostile environments are contrasted against the technological advances that Scott, who produced the first two episodes, fully leans into.
(8) THE NARRATIVE. “Interview with Kurt Vonnegut” at Robert Caro’s website is a terrific roundtable interview LBJ biographer Caro, Barbara Stone and Daniel Stern conducted with Kurt Vonnegut in 2012.
Let’s just use a simple word here: truth. In Slaughterhouse Five I wanted a person who dies of carbon monoxide poisoning to be a beautiful blue, and then you know I wanted a sort of swooning with the beauty of this corpse. Well, that was a mistake and I got a letter from a doctor who said a person who is a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning is rosey and it’s often commented on how well the person looks. I got letter after letter about that for about two or three years.
To my mind, the prose in a non-fiction work that’s going to endure has to be of the same quality as the prose in a work of fiction that endures. And I actually tested this out for myself. I read one hunk of Gibbon ‘s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, then I read a part of War and Peace which is a grand historical novel, right, so I figured that’s the closest to Gibbon. So I would read a part of one then apart of the other. I did this all summer. And the writing in Gibbon is at the same level, you know, they don’t read at the same cadences but it’s at the same intensity and level as in War and Peace. I’ve always felt that no one understands why some books of non-fiction endure and some don’t, because there’s not much understanding among many non-fiction writers that the narrative is terribly important. I would say what we both do that is the same is the narrative. I mean history is narrative, just like your books are narrative.
Or the reader will stop reading….
(9) JRRT. Shelf Awareness’ feature “Reading with… John Hart” – a multiple Edgar Award winner – includes these fond memories of Tolkien.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was a birthday gift when I turned 15, and I read the entirety of it in two days, mostly sprawled out on the living room floor, or in bed until the wee small hours. This was before the movies, of course, so the experience was one of raw imagination and total immersion. Few people build worlds the way Tolkien did. I still see it my way, and not as Peter Jackson brought it to the screen….
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Is it sad that I keep coming back to The Lord of the Rings? As an adult, I read very little fantasy. As a child, though, I was transported by the remarkable depth of this imaginary world, the complex interweaving of multiple geographies, religions, histories, cultures and interests, the peoples and places, and how they’d evolved, fought and co-existed for thousands of years. Tolkien created a foreign, remarkable, unforgettable world, yet made it entirely real to me. Total conviction. I read those stories with childlike wonder, and would pay dearly to have the experience again. I’m too old and jaded, I’m sure, but if anyone could make it happen, Tolkien would be the one to do it.
(10) WILLIAMS OBIT. Film publicist Karl Williams died January 31. Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro has an extended profile of this genre expert: “Karl Williams Dead: Longtime Paramount Film Publicist Was 52”.
…Karl worked for Paramount for roughly 15 years, … an integral part of the campaigns for the first two Transformers movies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Star Trek, Paramount’s early Marvel movies Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Thor and the Shia LaBeouf pics Disturbia and Eagle Eye.
Post-Paramount, Karl served as the Head of Publicity for Digital Domain as well as serving various PR stints with 20th Century Fox, CBS Films and most recently Amazon…
Paramount’s Waldman told me today: “Karl was the original fanboy digital publicist. He was friendly with all the fanboy-site guys and could talk the talk. He was an integral part of Paramount’s most successful movies like the Transformers launch in 2007, Iron Man in 2008 and so many more. When we had Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, he knew Lucasfilm left, right and center. When it came to that incredible Comic-Con when we assembled The Avengers in 2010, Karl was there.”
(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- 2016 — Fifteen years ago, the Sidewise Award went to Charles Stross to Merchant Princes series for the Best Long Form Alternate History for the first three novels, The Family Trade, The Hidden Family, and The Clan Corporate. (Stross on his blog tells the story of reediting the early books in this series for republication on Tor in substantially different form. It’s well worth reading.) Invisible Sun, the next novel in the series, is due out in September of this year after being delayed several times.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born February 3, 1870 – Beatrice Grimshaw. Journalist with three decades in the South Pacific. Two novels and thirty shorter stories for us; a dozen novels all told, essays, a memoir. You might be able to read The Sorcerer’s Stone here. (Died 1953) [JH]
- Born February 3, 1907 – James Michener. Pulitzer Prize. Tales of the South Pacific became a Broadway musical and two feature films. From best-selling novels and nonfiction (75 million copies sold during his life, e.g. Hawaii, Caravans, Centennial; nonfiction Iberia, The Floating World on Japanese prints; A Century of Sonnets, his; memoirs) a major philanthropist. Space (1982) starting with the Space program as it then existed becomes SF and is worth attention. (Died 1997) [JH]
- Born February 3, 1925 — John Fiedler. He’s solely here as he played the ever so bland bureaucrat who gets possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper on the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. I’m less interested in him than who wrote that screenplay. It was written by Robert Bloch, a master of horror who would write two other Trek episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”. (Died 2005.) (CE)
- Born February 3, 1938 — Victor Buono. I remember him best in his recurring role of Count Manzeppi in The Wild Wild West. In his very short life, he showed up in a number of other genre roles as well including as a scientist bent on world domination in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in an episode titled “The Cyborg”, as Adiposo / Fat man in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Colonel Hubris in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Professor William McElroy / King Tut in Batman, Sir Cecil Seabrook in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Mr. Schubert on Man from Atlantis. (Died 1982.) (CE)
- Born February 3, 1946 – Eclare Hannifen, age 75. (Personal name pronounced “ee-klar-ee”.) As Hilda Hoffman, grew interested in SF and fandom, married Owen Hannifen; active awhile as Hilda Hannifen; changed her name. Learned Dungeons & Dragons, introduced it to many West Coast fans; she and O conducted Lee Gold’s first session. Part of Sampo Productions with O and the late great Jerry Jacks. [JH]
- Born February 3, 1954 – Shawna McCarthy, age 67. One story with Charles Platt. Edited SF Digest. Followed Kathleen Moloney at Asimov’s, promptly won a Hugo as Best Pro Editor; four anthologies, Isaac Asimov’s Wonders of the World, IA’s Aliens & Outworlders, IA’s Space of Her Own, IA’s Fantasy; succeeded by Gardner Dozois. SF editor at Bantam. Co-edited two Full Spectrum anthologies. Fiction editor at Realms of Fantasy. Then a career as an agent. Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 21, WindyCon XXIX, World Fantasy Convention 2011. [JH]
- Born February 3, 1963 — Alex Bledsoe, 57. I highly recommend his Tales of The Tufa which can sort of be described as Appalachian Fae though that’s stretching it. His Eddie LaCrosse novels remind me of Cook’s Garrett PI series and that’s a high compliment as that’s one of my favorite fantasy PI series. Anyone read his Firefly Witch series? (CE)
- Born February 3, 1964 – Rita Murphy, age 57. Five novels. Taught awhile at Monteverde Friends School in Costa Rica. Delacorte Press Prize, starting with two pages in mid-September and turning in her book by December 31. “I sometimes feel that I have very little to do with the setting of the story or the characters that emerge.” For Harmony, “I contacted the Cherokee Heritage Center in Oklahoma, spoke with a man there of Cherokee descent, and used their online Cherokee dictionary.” [JH]
- Born February 3, 1970 — Warwick Davis, 51. Nearly fifty live and voice appearances since first appearing in the Return of the Jedi in place of Kenny Baker who was going to be an Ewok before he fell ill. Did you know he’s in Labyrinth as a member of the Goblin Corps? I certainly didn’t. Or that he did a series of humorous horror films centered around him as an evil Leprechaun? They did well enough that there was six of them. Hell he even shows up in Doctor Who in the “Nightmare in Silver” episode. (CE)
- Born February 3, 1979 — Ransom Riggs, 42. He’s best known for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I’ll confess I know absolutely nothing about, so educate me. I know it was turned into a film by Tim Burton which could a Very Good Thing. His first book btw was The Sherlock Holmes Handbook: The Methods and Mysteries of the World’s Greatest Detective. (CE)
- Born February 3, 1984 – Rodrigo Adolfo, age 37. Ten covers for us. Here is Trial by Fire. Here is Sunker’s Deep. Two DeviantArt sites, one pro, one for his hobbyist photography. [JH]
(13) BOOK WILL BENEFIT DWAYNE MCDUFFIE FOUNDATION. Publishers Weekly previews “A New Guide to the Black Comic Book Community”.
Three comics industry veterans have joined together to produce The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community 2020-2021. The title is the first in a series of reference works that will introduce creators of color who released books in 2020 as well as industry institutions and events that spotlight their works.
The reference work will be released on February 17 and all proceeds will be donated to the Dwayne McDuffie Foundation to be used to subsidize academic scholarships for diverse students. The foundation is named after the late McDuffie, an Eisner-award winning comics writer, animator and a cofounder of Milestone Media, a celebrated Black superhero publishing venture that focused on minority representation in comics….
(14) TBR ASAP. So says Book Riot about “8 of the Best Queer Science Fiction Books”, a list that includes:
CHILLING EFFECT BY VALERIE VALDES
In this adult and humorous space opera, Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.
But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family….
(15) TODAY’S WILD-ASS THEORY. Film Theory, to be specific: “Titanic is about Time Travel… No REALLY!”
Titanic is a movie that has stood the test of time… and has one of the BIGGEST unanswered questions of any movie. No, I don’t mean could they both fit on the door if Rose had just moved over a little. I mean the question is Jack a time traveler sent to make sure the Titanic sinks? Yes, that age old question. Well Theorists, today we are going to answer that once and for all!
(16) HOT OFF THE PRESS. Peeps are not genre, or even genre adjacent. Why do I feel compelled to write about them? These new flavors must spark a connection between “exotic” and “alien” in my imagination. “Holiday Peeps Are Back in Time for Easter”.
In addition to returning fan-favorite flavors, Peeps-lovers can look forward to two “delectable new flavors” — Hot Tamales Fierce Cinnamon Flavored Marshmallow Chicks and the Froot Loops Flavored Pop — which will be available nationwide….
(17) AFROFUTURISTIC SERIES ON THE WAY. “Idris and Sabrina Elba Working on Afrofuturistic Sci-Fi Series for Crunchyroll” – Slanted has the story.
… The Afro-futuristic science fiction series, which is currently in development, will be set in a city where the rise of biotechnology has created an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Two rising stars from either side of this divide are pitted against each other in a story that will ultimately explore equality and kinship within a corrupt society.
“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Idris and Sabrina to develop this anime-inspired sci-fi epic,” said Sarah Victor, Head of Development, Crunchyroll. “It is a privilege to work with such talented, creative partners and we look forward to bringing this exciting project to life.”
(18) IMMATERIAL PLANET. “Fans petition NASA to name planet TOI-1338 b in SOPHIE’s memory” reports The Fader.
As the world continues to mourn the tremendous loss of SOPHIE, who passed away this weekend following an accident in Athens, fans are asking for the Scottish producer’s otherworldly legacy to be honored in space. A new petition created by Christian Arroyo asks for NASA to consider naming the recently discovered planet TOI 1339 b after SOPHIE, due to the aesthetic similarities between the planet and SOPHIE’s visual lexicon….
Here’s the link to the petition at Change.org – ”NASA, name TOI-1338 b in honor of SOPHIE”.
…When artist renditions of TOI 1338 b (a circumbinary exoplanet discovered by Wolf Cukier and fellow scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) were featured in the press following the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu, many fans noticed the similarities between the interpretations and the aesthetic sense of SOPHIE’s visual work, specifically the cover for her 2018 album Oil of Every Pearl’s UnInsides.
I am requesting, at the discretion of the incredible scientists who discovered the planet, that TOI 1338 b be named in honor of the great LGBT+ influence, SOPHIE. Her fans would love to pay homage by having her name be remembered in this way and for her influence to continue to flourish for years to come.
(19) ROLLING MORE THAN THE DICE. “Dungeons and Diversity brings phenomenal wheelchair minis to D&D” – All Gamers has the story.
Dungeons and Dragons sells itself on the principle of creativity, allowing you the freedom to imagine someone entirely different to play, or design a fantastical version of yourself. Yet for all the innovation encouraged in its play, the game’s core rules have proven somewhat restrictive, or non inclusive for many.
Dungeons and Diversity is hoping to change that, starting with the creation of some seriously impressive combat wheelchair miniatures. Created by Strata Miniatures, the models include a Human Druid, Elf Rogue, Tiefling Cleric and Dwarf Barbarian. Each is intricately detailed, with equipment loaded across the sides and back…
(20) FANTASTIC FOUR AT 60. Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and now the company will present their saga in a radical new way in Fantastic Four: Life Story.
Written by acclaimed writer Mark Russell (Second Coming, Wonder Twins) and drawn by Sean Izaakse (Fantastic Four, Avengers No Road Home) , Fantastic Four: Life Story …will tell the entire history of the Fantastic Four from beginning to end, set against the key events of the decades through which their stories were published.
Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 will take place in the “Swinging Sixties” when Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny took that fateful journey to space that changed the face of comic book storytelling forever. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and the Space Race, a terrible accident occurs that gives them great powers and a terrible secret, entangling them in Earth’s history forever as they transform into the world’s premiere super hero team.
“What I’ve always loved about the Fantastic Four is how it reduces the cosmic struggle of human survival to the scale of a family squabble while treating personal relationships as a matter of truly galactic importance,” Russell said. “Weaving their story and their world into our story and what’s happened in our world over the last sixty years was an important reminder to me of how smart it is to approach life like that.”
Click to view larger images:
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Joel Zakem, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, N., and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]