(1) SUPPORT THE OTHERWISE AWARD. The Otherwise Award benefit auction will be online Saturday night May 29 at 7:00 p.m. Central, as part of WisCon’s online festivities: “The Otherwise Auction? In MY Visioning WisCon?” The fun for everyone will include a custom crossword puzzle with Otherwise-related clues. Register here to join them May 29 & 30 at Visioning WisCon.
The Otherwise Auction supports the Otherwise Award, and it’s always a good time — famed Otherwise auctioneer Sumana Harihareswara will be reprising her role. As Otherwise Award Motherboard member Pat Murphy says:
“Last year, Sumana’s online auction was amazing, compelling, and impossible to describe. I’m a science fiction writer; I should be able to describe just about anything. But somehow Sumana managed to auction off things that didn’t actually exist but were (despite that) real. It was one of those “you had to be there” events — even though none of us were actually there.
“This year Sumana promises that there will actually be some physical things that people can buy and possess — along with a custom crossword puzzle with Otherwise-related clues. Just a few tangible objects and a lot of intangible fun — which seems appropriate as we slowly ease back into the physical world.”
Unlike last year, we’ll be using actual money for this auction. (If you have no idea what we’re talking about, ignore this whole paragraph! You never saw us, we were never here.)
The auction will start at 7pm Central on Saturday night (5/29), and will end when Sumana says it’s over. We’re really excited to have a chance to support the Otherwise Award, even without an in-person convention this year, and to have fun doing it!
(2) FROM SOAP TO SPACE. Rich Horton calls back to his 2014 anthology by that name in “Space Opera: Then and Now” at Strange at Ecbatan.
The term space opera was coined by the late great writer/fan Wilson (Bob) Tucker in 1941, and at first was strictly pejorative. Tucker used the term, analogous to radio soap operas, for “hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn[s].” The term remained largely pejorative until at least the 1970s. Even so, much work that would now be called space opera was written and widely admired in that period . . . most obviously, perhaps, the work of writers like Edmond Hamilton and, of course, E. E. “Doc” Smith. To be sure, even as people admired Hamilton and Smith, they tended to do so with a bit of disparagement: these were perhaps fun, but they weren’t “serious.” They were classic examples of guilty pleasures. That said, stories by the likes of Poul Anderson, James Schmitz, James Blish, Jack Vance, and Cordwainer Smith, among others, also fit the parameters of space opera and yet received wide praise.
It may have been Brian Aldiss who began the rehabilitation of the term with a series of anthologies in the mid 1970s: Space Opera (1974), Space Odysseys (1974), and Galactic Empires (two volumes, 1976). Aldiss, whose literary credentials were beyond reproach, celebrated pure quill space opera as “the good old stuff,” even resurrecting all but forgotten stories like Alfred Coppel’s “The Rebel of Valkyr,” complete with barbarians transporting horses in spaceship holds.
(3) IZUMI SUZUKI. Lex Berman interviews Daniel Joseph about Terminal Boredom, the first anthology of Izumi Suzuki’s science fiction to appear in English for the Diamond Bay Radio podcast.
The author, Izumi Suzuki, who committed suicide in 1986, wrote science fiction to project her own experience of the drug-fueled Japanese counter-culture into fantastic realms and situations.
Is it nihilism? Is it true love? Is it an altered consciousness critique of the mundane world? Yeah.
“‘How long are you planning on staying on this planet?’ asks CHAIR after about half an hour has passed. ‘I want to stay here forever.’ ‘Everyone says that, dear. But you can’t, can you? You have to live your life. You have to cook, clean, look after the kids when they’re sick. You have to go out to work.’ ‘Why do I have to keep on living that life?’ ‘Well, I’m not sure why.’ Her voice strikes a gentler chord, all of a sudden. And I repeat that phrase in my head. ‘I’m not sure why.’ I fluff my pillow, turn off the lights, and chant a spell. Sleep, sleep. Make the world disappear…”
(4) NEW FANTASY TRILOGY. “Q & A with Victoria Aveyard” at Publishers Weekly.
Victoria Aveyard’s dystopian fantasy debut, Red Queen, launched a hit series and landed on bestseller lists in its first week of publication. Aveyard is hoping for a repeat performance with Realm Breaker, a YA high fantasy that marks the start of a trilogy….
Was it challenging to incorporate adult perspectives into a YA story?
The key is—and I think this is the hallmark of the YA genre—that all of your characters are figuring out who they are. While that is usually something that happens when you’re a young adult, that isn’t always the case. You have adults who discover who they are much later in life—in the case of some of these characters, hundreds and hundreds of years in. They are, compared to some people, kind of young adults themselves. So that was a fun dichotomy to play with—that trope of the all-knowing immortal who’s actually kind of a dummy when it comes to the real world…
(5) CONDUITS OF POWER. “Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’ and ‘Fledgling,’ Reviewed: She Wanted to Write a ‘Yes’ Book” explains The New Republic’s Stephanie Burt.
…“I began writing about power,” Butler once said, “because I had so little.” Hannah Arendt’s distinction between power and violence—the first a tacit cooperation or compact, the second mere force—makes no sense in the world of Kindred, nor in most of Butler’s worlds: Consent, political, legal, or sexual, is at best contingent and suspect, at worst nonsensical. We did not, could not, consent to our own existence beforehand: We are born into the country that we get—for 330 million of us, the United States—not a country we chose in advance. It is a country founded on anti-Blackness, on white supremacy, on what that very un-American thinker Michel Foucault called biopower, the use of knowledge and law and information not to create free or equal individuals but as a channel for force….
(6) DOES IT BITE? WE’LL NEVER KNOW. Here’s the New York Times’ take on Steinbeck’s unpublished werewolf book: “Yes, Steinbeck Wrote a Werewolf Novel. Don’t Expect to Read It.”
…“I was expecting a fragmented, bizarre, incomplete work,” Professor Jones said.
Instead he found a coherent, completed 233-page manuscript. “It’s a potboiler, but it’s also the caldron of central themes we see throughout Steinbeck’s later work,” he said. For this reason, he believes it’s worth sharing with the public.
His campaign prompted a firm email statement from Steinbeck’s agents this week.
“Steinbeck wrote ‘Murder at Full Moon’ under a pseudonym, and once he became an established author, he did not choose to seek publication of this work,” a representative of the New York-based agency, McIntosh & Otis, wrote. “There are several other works written by Steinbeck that have been posthumously published, with his directions and the careful consideration of the Estate. As longtime agents for Steinbeck and the Estate, we do not exploit works that the author did not wish to be published.”
The pseudonym Steinbeck chose was Peter Pym. Professor Jones said the use of the name did not mean Steinbeck had not wanted the book to see the light of day. The author did not get rid of the manuscript, something he had done with other unpublished works, the professor noted.
“He didn’t destroy ‘Murder at Full Moon,’” he said.
Steinbeck wrote the story in nine days, according to William Souder, who wrote the biography “Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck.”
The writer was 28 in 1930, living in a cottage in Pacific Grove, near Monterey, Calif., hoping for his big break. The year before, he had published his first book, “Cup of Gold,” a swashbuckling pirate adventure set in the Caribbean in the 1600s. Though it received better than expected reviews, it was already out of print, Mr. Souder said.
Steinbeck had written more serious books but had not had any luck selling them. He told a friend that all he needed was another 10 or so rejections to become convinced that he should give up on writing….
(7) HARDWARE INVENTORY. Book Riot’s Jenn Northington has compiled “A Guide To The Fantasy And Science Fiction Awards Scene”.
… These have been organized by date first awarded, from most recent on, since many of these prizes have been around for decades and I wanted to show some love to the new folks on the scene.
Before we dive in, may I also present: Jenn’s Theory Of Why To Care About Awards. Let’s start with a given: all awards, no matter their voting system, are inherently subjective and biased. Whether it’s decided by a public popularity contest, a committee, or a single judge, literary merit is in the eye of the beholder. A book that has won science fiction or fantasy awards isn’t guaranteed to be great (for you) and a book that hasn’t won an award isn’t guaranteed to be a dud (for you). To quote S.R. Ranganathan: “Every book its reader.” So why should we care?…
By the time Northington finishes all the caveats, you may be talked out of reading the list.
(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- May 27, 1996 — On this date in 1996, Doctor Who premiered on BBC. The film involving the Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann that is. Short of The War Doctor as portrayed by John Hurt, he would have the briefest tenure of any Doctor from a video representation viewpoint having just the film and a short video later on. (He has done some seventy Big Finish audio stories to date.) The film was directed by Geoffrey Sax off the screenplay by Matthew Jacobs. The remaining cast of importance was Daphne Ashbrook as the Companion to the Doctor, Dr. Grace Holloway, and Eric Roberts as The Master. Critics, American and British alike, were decidedly mixed on their reactions, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are equally divided and give it exactly a fifty percent rating.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 27, 1894 — Dashiell Hammett. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time, but ISFDB says that he was also the editor of three genre anthologies, Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills, The Red Brain and Other Creepy Thrillers and Breakdown and Other Thrillers with writers such as Frank Bellnap Long and H.P. Lovecraft, it certainly looks that way. ISFDB also says one Continental Op story, “The Farewell Murder,” is at genre adj. (Died 1962.) (CE)
- Born May 27, 1911 — Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “The House of Horrors“ sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs which you can see here. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted Hill, House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions. He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.) (CE)
- Born May 27, 1918 — Robert C. Stanley. He was one of the most two prolific paperback book cover artists used by the Dell Publishing Company for whom he worked from 1950 to 1959. Among the covers he did was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue and Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John. (Died 1996.) (CE)
- Born May 27, 1922 — Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films. His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1, From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.) (CE)
- Born May 27, 1900 – Rudolph Belarski. Virtuoso at air-combat magazine covers; five dozen covers for us; interiors too. Here is one from 1955. Here is a 2018 reprint. (Died 1983) [JH]
- Born May 27, 1915 – Herman Wouk. (Pronounced “woke”.) Gag man for Fred Allen; Pulitzer Prize; four honorary doctorates. Besides The “Caine” Mutiny, his masterpiece Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, he wrote the fine SF novel A Hole in Texas. (Died 2019) [JH]
- Born May 27, 1929 – Burnett Toskey, age 91. Among the Nameless Ones of Seattle. Edited several Cry of the Nameless issues. Made Official Editor of SAPS (Spectator Amateur Press Society) in 1968; moved to Los Angeles; OE off and on since. [JH]
- Born May 27, 1930 – John Barth, age 91. Fellow of Am. Acad. Arts & Sciences. Lannan Award for lifetime achievement. National Book Award. The Floating Opera is only strange (it won the Roozi Rozegari at Teheran for best translated novel, also strange); The Sot-Weed Factor could perhaps be called historical fiction; by Giles Goat-Boy he was doing SF. Heinlein compared Stranger in a Strange Land to it. In The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor a man jumps overboard from a reconstructed Arab ship and finds himself in the world of Sindbad. Nor was that all. [JH]
- Born May 27, 1934 — Harlan Ellison. He was a SFWA Grandmaster, member of the SF Hall of Fame, and winner of eight other life achievement awards. His short story “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” is the second-highest ranked of the 102 Top SF/F/H Short Stories listed at Science Fiction Awards Database. Ellison wrote the most famous episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, “The City on the Edge of Forever” (setting aside the backstory about Roddenberry and others who had a hand in the broadcast version). His Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions anthologies were milestones, while Last Dangerous Visions was a millstone around his neck because it never appeared. Further harming his reputation, he groped Connie Willis during the 2006 Hugos. He won 8 Hugos, 4 Nebulas, 2 World Fantasy Awards, 6 Bram Stoker Awards and 18 Locus Awards. But there were lighter moments, like this 30-second clip of Harlan as himself conversing with “H.P. Hatecraft” in the Scooby-Doo episode “Shrieking Madness.” (Died 2018.) (OGH)
- Born May 27, 1940 – Jackie Causgrove. Prominent fan in the U.S. Midwest, then Southern California. For Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck she did the Knight of Cups; each card by a leading fan or pro (or both) artist of the day, styles quite various; see the whole deck here (PDF; scroll down to Cups; you can get a deck from Elayne Pelz, or if you don’t know how to do that, write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057). With Bruce Gillespie, administered the Tucker Fund that sent Bob Tucker to Aussiecon I the 33rd Worldcon. One of her fanzines (as J. Franke) was Dilemma, illustrated by her; see here. Fan Guest of Honor at Chambanacon 5, Confusion Pi. (Died 1998) [JH]
- Born May 27, 1971 – Vilma Kadleckova, age 50. (The character after the e should have a little v over it for the sound of ch in English “church”.) A dozen SF novels and shorter stories, half a dozen local prizes. Four novels so far in her Mycelium series; the first two won Book of the Year and Original Czech/Slovak Book from the SFFH Acad. in Prague; second and third available in English. In Vector 166, contributed “The View from Olympus” with Carola Biedermann and Eva Hauser. [JH]
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Carpe Diem shows Vader doing a good deed.
- The Flying McCoys illustrates one of the seven deadly sins, which this character presumably does all of sooner or later.
(11) SEKRIT MESSAGE IN HUGO EMAIL. Andrew Porter clued me into the presence of an invisible last line in the email DisCon III sent to members today announcing the opening of Hugo voting. I found it in mine. Check it out.
(12) THE SOLUTION. What to do when there’s not enough of the stories you want to read? “The Big Idea: Christian Klaver” at Whatever.
The Big Idea: We needed more Narnia.
Shadows Over London was born out of reading to my daughter before bedtime. Katie was five or six at that time, and destined to become a voracious reader. (She’s just this month finished her Masters in Library Science.) I was just getting divorced at the time and had Katie every weekend, but not during the week, so we did chapter one of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or “The Lucy Book,” as she dubbed it, the first night. Then chapter two the second, but then she had to wait five days to get chapters three and four.
She loved the first and second installments, but this had a very short duration for two reasons: Reason #1: It was really only the first three books. Try explaining to a child that age that the “Lucy Books” didn’t have Lucy in them after book three! She wanted to know why and I had no answer that didn’t fall flat. Even the second book: Prince Caspian has a long stretch without the main characters. (Don’t even get me started about the alternate order for these! That just makes it worse, in terms of storytelling.) Reason #2: while we were still in books 1-3, of which we had copies at both her mother’s house and mine, she couldn’t resist and read by herself during the week, so we finished those first three that first month.
So, the first chapter of Shadows Over London, complete with serene, crunchy snow and a Faerie King waiting underneath moonbeams slanting through darkened trees, all came from trying to write something that felt as magical as Narnia did…
(13) YA CHALLENGES. The Rite Gud podcast discusses “Writing for Young Audiences with Celine Kiernan”.
“If someone is mad enough to publish my weird shit, I am going to do my utmost to be a little bit more complex.”
In this episode, middle grade horror/fantasy author Celine Kiernan joins us to talk about writing fiction for young people. How do you handle dark, difficult topics? How do you fight the censors? How do you bridge the generation gap between author and audience? How do you temper your language for inexperienced readers? What do writers owe young people? What does it mean to exploit your audience?
Celine Kiernan is the author of The Moorehawk Trilogy, Into the Grey, Resonance, and The Wild Magic Trilogy. She is also a freelance editor. She lives in Ireland.
(14) THE LAWS OF PHYSICS AREN’T JUST A GOOD IDEA, DARN IT. The Atlantic says “If Aliens Are Out There, They’re Way Out There”.
…This is real; the videos are real; UFOs, in the most basic sense, are real. The military has spotted objects flying in the sky, and it has not identified what they are. These objects, whatever you want to call them, are worth close examination. But there’s no reason to think they’re alien.
Why not? Jason Wright, an astronomer at Penn State University, gets this question a lot, especially recently. Wright works in the field of SETI—the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. His job is to look for signs of alien technology, so it seems logical that he might have some thoughts on UFOs and their rumored extraterrestrial origins. But ufology and SETI are two entirely different fields.
SETI operates on the principle that extraterrestrials follow the laws of physics as we know them, but what makes these UFO videos so enticing is precisely the opposite—whatever is captured in them seems to be moving in a way that appears to defy those exact laws. Guided by known physics, SETI astronomers look for aliens deep in space, rather than in the clouds overhead—because if the truth is out there, it’s way, way out there, around stars many light-years away. Even after decades of research, the SETI community has yet to find evidence of aliens, probably for the same reason that extraterrestrial beings, should they exist, would be unlikely to visit our planet—the space between stars, let alone galaxies, is unfathomably vast. And astronomers are just starting to understand the planets around other stars. “Every star could have an intelligent, technological civilization like Earth and we wouldn’t know it,” Wright told me. He sees no problem with the desire to better understand our airspace and investigate unexplained phenomena, “but why drag astronomers into it?”
Perhaps because the alternatives to aliens are much more boring.
(15) LIFTOFF. Watch video of the launch at USA Today: “SpaceX launches more broadband satellites”.
SpaceX has launched another fleet of Starlink broadband satellites into orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket with 60 satellites took off from Florida on Wednesday (May 26)
(16) ARE HUMANS BUILT FOR THIS ADVENTURE? Gloomy predictions about space travel from Future Tense at Slate: “Deep-space human travel is a lose-lose proposition”.
… Then there’s sleep. Between 2007 and 2011 the European Space Agency worked with Russia to simulate the conditions of a trip to Mars, particularly as a psychological isolation experiment. Called Mars500, the longest part of this study ran between 2010 and 2011, and revealed a significant degradation of the simulacral explorers’ sleep patterns. While on wide-body airliners, a business class cocoon seat can deliver comfort (and even luxury) during an overnight flight, such ergonomic palliatives won’t be as easy for a yearlong journey. Space travel to Mars is supposed to be a bold and daring adventure. But what if it ends up feeling more like a superlong red-eye flight?
For years, Musk has compared his rockets to airliners, using the familiar sizes and thrust capacities of Boeing 737s and 747s as reference points for his future-bound ships. These comparisons circulate on social media, by way of making SpaceX craft both more graspable and more impressive. But the analogies are telling. As much as the goal is to reduce the time of feeling trapped inside a cramped cabin, the endgame is in fact more of this time. And let’s be honest: A hab on Mars is not going to be a whole lot more spacious than the interior of the ship.
If the dream of space travel involves new horizons and feelings of unbound freedom—to explore, to discover, to spread humanity—a nightmare lurks just around the corner of consciousness. There will be no real “arrival” on this fantasy trip: It’s enclosures and pressurized chambers all the way down. When it comes to human space travel, the destination really is the journey. And the journey will be long, and claustrophobic. As far as “quarantine” goes, spacefaring may feel familiar to those who lived through the COVID pandemic—and certain survival tactics may crossover.
Musk wants to send humans to Mars (and beyond) because he believes that the species is doomed on Earth, sooner or later. This bleak assessment belies two haunting presuppositions: The miserable masses will wither on a climate-scorched and ecologically damaged planet back home; meanwhile, the spacefaring select will find themselves in a whole new purgatory of cramped isolation, en route and wherever they “land.”…
(17) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon is insidious, Alison Scott is simmering, and Liz Batty was on committees in Episode 32 of Octothorpe: “Maybe This Conversation Can Go Down a Vortex”.
We discuss letters of comment, and then the BSFA and SFF, before moving onto <checks notes> new-fangled publications called fanzines.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Watch as “Zack Snyder Directs A Dark, Gritty Reboot Of The Late Show”. The Hollywood Reporter provides the warm-up.
…For Colbert’s monologue, Snyder says he was hoping to deliver what Zack Snyder fans have been “demanding for years… Another classic Zack Snyder slow-motion shot.” To offer some action, Snyder threw a knife at the late-night host, which was filmed in slow-motion. “Directing is all about keeping talent out of their comfort zone,” Snyder said, with Colbert adding that a lot of blood was lost that day.
When considering “Zack Snyder leads,” Colbert says he was “flattered” for Snyder to help him given the director works with leading men considered to be “Gods among mortals.”
Because Colbert “fills out his clothes like lentils fill out a sandwich bag,” Snyder explains that he enlisted an “elite Hollywood personal trainer” to help Colbert in his fitness regimen but it ended with “unbelievable” results such as actually losing muscle mass….
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Joel Zakem, Mlex, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Sumana Harihareswara, R.S. Benedict, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]