(1) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX — ACROSS. Robert Sawyer discovered his book is the first clue in today’s Sunday Mirror (UK) “Quizword and Crossword” puzzle.
(2) GENE WOLFE. Thomas Mirus’The Catholic Culture Podcast devoted a recent episode to “Gene Wolfe, Catholic Sci-Fi Legend”. Sandra Miesel (a three-time Hugo nominated fanwriter in the Seventies) and Fr, Brendon Laroche weigh in.
After much popular demand, Thomas pays tribute to legendary Catholic sci-fi writer Gene Wolfe, who passed away last year. Though not known to the general public, Wolfe is a sci-fi author’s sci-fi author—a number of his contemporaries considered him not only the best in the genre, but in American fiction at the time (Ursula Le Guin said “Wolfe is our Melville”). Among today’s writers, one of his biggest fans is Neil Gaiman.
One critic described Wolfe’s magnum opus, The Book of the New Sun, as “a Star Wars–style space opera penned by G. K. Chesterton in the throes of a religious conversion.”
Wolfe also held the patent on the machine that makes Pringles. That’s his face on the can.
In this episode, Fr. Brendon Laroche comments on Wolfe’s works, while Wolfe’s friend, Catholic historian and sci-fi expert Sandra Miesel, shares personal reminiscences.
(3) THE HALL NINE YARDS. Paul Fraser deconstructs the story choices of “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame volume 1, 1970, edited by Robert Silverberg, part one” It’s a long post filled with fascinatingly salty opinions.
… Already we can see the wheels beginning to come off. Are these stories by Sturgeon, Heinlein, Leiber, and Clarke really the best these writers wrote in the pre-1965 period? Do A Martian Odyssey and Twilight really belong in the same list as Flowers for Algernon or Nightfall?
The selection procedure becomes even more muddled as editor Silverberg bodges his way through the rest of the list: Arthur Clarke’s The Star is in the top fifteen but is bumped by The Nine Billion Names of God; one writer (Bradbury, I assume) has four stories on the original ballot but none in the top twenty, so Silverberg includes Mars is Heaven, “the story that the writer himself wished to see included in the book” (this, rather than the more obvious There Will Come Soft Rains or The Sound of Thunder)3; another writer’s stories “made the second fifteen, one vote apart; but the story with the higher number of votes was not the story that the writer himself wished to see included in the book” (presumably that is why the middling Huddling Place is here rather than the slam-dunk Desertion).
Definitive? I think not, and this will become even more apparent when we look at the stories themselves….
This footnote is a masterpiece of subversion:
2. The SFWA has, at various times in its history, been as dodgy an electorate as any other—as one can see from the high correlation of peculiar winners to individuals holding office in the organisation (who conveniently had access to the mailing list of members)—and that’s before you factor in the tendency for a group of professionals to engage in “Buggins’ Turn” (see the Wikipedia article).
Let us also not forget that roughly the same set of voters made sure that the 1971 Nebula Award short story result was “No Award” so that none of the “New Wave” nominees would win, a partisan act that led to the mortifying scene where Isaac Asimov announced Gene Wolfe’s The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories as the winner at the Nebula Awards before having to correct himself.
(4) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- June 21, 1985 — Cocoon premiered. Directed by Ron Howard, it was produced by David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck. The screenplay was written by Tom Benedek off a story by David Saperstein. It starred Don Ameche, Wilford Brimle, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Brian Dennehy, Jack Gilford, Steve Guttenberg, Maureen Stapleton, Gwen Verdon, Herta Ware and Tahnee Welch. Music was by James Horner who did the same for The Wrath of Khan and Avatar. The film was overwhelmingly positively received, did very well at the box office and currently holds a rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of 67%.
(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born June 21, 1839 – Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. Called the greatest writer of Latin America; the greatest black literary figure. Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas – i.e. written after the grave – has been translated into Catalan, Czech, Dutch, English, Esperanto, French. Two dozen shorter stories; recent English collections in 2018, 2019. (Died 1908) [JH]
- Born June 21, 1882 – Rockwell Kent. “I don’t want petty self-expression,” he said; “I want to paint the rhythm of eternity.” Illustrated Moby-Dick. Here is Peace Oath. Here is a bookplate. His jazz-age-humorist side was signed “Hogarth, Jr.” in the original Vanity Fair and Life magazines. Memoirs, This Is My Own and It’s Me, O Lord. (Died 1971) [JH]
- Born June 21, 1938 — Mary Wickizer Burgess, 81. I noticed sometime back when searching iBooks for genre fiction that there was something called Megapacks showing up more and more such as The 25th Golden Age of Science Fiction Megapack, The Randall Garrett Megapack and The Occult Detective Megapack. They were big, generally around five hundred pages in length, and cheap, mostly around five dollars, but occasionally as little as ninety cents, in digital form! Starting in 1976, Mary and her husband, the now late Robert Reginald founded Borgo Press which has published hundreds in the past forty years. By the turn of the century, they’d already published three hundred Megapacks. I bought them for the purpose of getting as little as one story I wanted to read. (CE)
- Born June 21, 1938 — Ron Ely, 82. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters… other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record. (CE)
- Born June 21, 1944 – Hori Akira. His Solar Wind Node won the 1980 Nihon SF Taisho Award; Babylonian Wave won the 1989 Seiun. A dozen shorter stories, translated into English, German, Hungarian; “Open Up” is in Speculative Japan 2 (i.e. in English). Non-fiction, Two People’s Trip on the SF Road (with Musashi Kanbe). [JH]
- Born June 21, 1947 — Michael Gross, 73. Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well-armed graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (wasn’t that a Niven story?) and voicing a few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters. (CE)
- Born June 21, 1948 – Sally Syrjala. Active particularly in the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; edited Tightbeam, Kaymar Award, President 2008-2009. Elsewhere in fanzines e.g. Lan’s Lantern, LASFAPA (L.A. Scientifiction Fans’ Amateur Press Ass’n), indeed a regular correspondent of Vanamonde. High school valedictorian. Chaired the Friends of Cape Cod Museum of Art, trustee of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society. Her File 770 appreciation is here. (Died 2010) [JH]
- Born June 21, 1955 – Sue Burke. Translator (four books so far of Amadís de Gaula), fan, pro. Recent novels Semiosis, Interference; two dozen shorter stories, poems, in Abyss & Apex, Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Broad Spectrum, Clarkesworld, Interzone, Slate. Alicia Gordon Award. Milwaukee, Austin, Madrid, Chicago. Her Website is here.
- Born June 21, 1957 — Berkeley Breathed, 63. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is genre as they are fantastic creatures. And he contributed three cartoons to the ConFederation Program Book. (CE)
- Born June 21, 1964 — David Morrissey, 56. His most well known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest of seeing as I don’t do zombies) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m very ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve listened the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. (CE)
- Born June 21, 1965 — Steve Niles, 55. Writer best-known for works such as 30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film. (CE)
- Born June 21, 1984 – Theresa Hannig. Steffan Lübbe Prize. Seraph Prize for The Optimizers; next novel The Imperfect. Just now a panelist at First Virtual Book Fair of the Saar (19-21 June). Has been a project manager for solar-power plants. [JH]
(6) DOUBLE HEADER. Galactic Journey reviews a pair of (1965) Ace Doubles. “[June 20, 1965] Ace Quadruple (June Galactoscope #1)”
[Kris Vyas-Myall and Cora Buhlert team up to cover two of the better Ace Doubles to have come out in a while. Enjoy!]
The Ballad of Beta-2, by Samuel R. Delany, and Alpha, Yes! Terra, no!, by Emil Petaja (Ace Double M-121)
I have generally been disappointed by the Ace Doubles so far this year. Those I have read have seemed to me to be quite old fashioned and I had been wondering if they were going to be heading into a more conservative route with them this year. Thankfully, this new Double I have found has been one of their best…
(7) THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week” is Ambrose Bierce’s “Working for an Empress”. The explanation of how this story came to be is rather involved. Part of it is —
…Captured during the Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon III was deposed in September 1870 and lived in exile with the Empress and their entourage at Camden Place, a palatial country house in Kent, until his death in January 1873. James Mortimer, an American who served in France as an imperial private secretary, followed Louis-Napoleon and Eugénie to England and, with their financial support, established the London Figaro, the weekly that hired Bierce to write a column. In the spring of 1874, when Bierce had been in England for two years, Mortimer wrote him with a strange proposal: to edit and write a new publication called The Lantern, which was to be modeled after the seditious French journal published years earlier by Rochefort. Because Mortimer’s patron and friend, the Empress Eugénie, regarded the just-escaped Rochefort as “a menace and a terror,” Bierce was puzzled and discomfited by the offer. But his qualms were mostly overcome when was also told that the new magazine, like its predecessor, should be “irritatingly disrespectful of existing institutions and exalted personages”—a prospect that “delighted” Bierce. Still, the purpose of the new enterprise mystified him.
(8) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. In The Guardian: “Yeast of our worries: Marmite supplies hit by Covid-19 beer brewing slowdown”.
…When asked by a customer why larger 400g squeezy jars were hard to get hold of at the moment, the firm replied: “Due to brewers yeast being in short supply (one of the main ingredients in Marmite) Supplies of Marmite have been affected. As a temporary measure we have stopped production of all sizes apart from our 250g size jar which is available in most major retailers.”
Brewers slowed and stalled production when pubs were forced to shut in an attempt to slow the Covid-19 pandemic.
[Thanks to John Hertz, Thomas Mirus, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]