(1) DISCONTINUED NEXT ROCK. Matt Keely tries to diagnose the reasons for “Such Abnormal Activity: On ‘The Best of R. A. Lafferty’” in the LA Review of Books.
…Hidden powers that hold and wield esoteric knowledge recur throughout the hundreds of stories and 20 or so novels published during his lifetime, and for the last 30-odd years, the Lafferty readership has resembled nothing so much as one of the secret societies he described. His story “Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne” features eight humans and one machine who together possess the “finest minds and judgments in the world.” Lafferty’s admirers were nearly as few as that select band. His first books appeared with Ace, Berkley, DAW, and Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York publishers that still exist today. They met critical acclaim and popular indifference. Lafferty’s later books, if they appeared at all, arrived as Xeroxed chapbooks or were published with micropresses like Corroboree and United Mythologies Press. My Heart Leaps Up, the first installment of a four-part autobiographical series called In a Green Tree, only appeared in five booklets from fan Chris Drumm. The five parts of My Heart Leaps Up were never published together, and the remaining three books of In a Green Tree never left manuscript.
Last year, UK science fiction publisher Gollancz, which has recently brought out most of Lafferty in digital editions, released a print omnibus of three novels, the utopian parody Past Master, the transcendentally paranoid Fourth Mansions, and the Homeric tall tale Space Chantey. But Lafferty’s novels are notoriously difficult — Fourth Mansions in particular drives the uninitiated to despair — and his stories have drawn more readers and inspired greater praise. This April, Gollancz issued The Best of R. A. Lafferty, a collection of 22 stories that span nearly the whole of the author’s career. Neil Gaiman contributes an appreciative introduction to Lafferty; each story receives at least one introduction, all but one original to this volume, and several include afterwords to boot. Lafferty’s readership may have a reputation for being small, but it’s also illustrious. Introducers include Samuel R. Delany, Michael Dirda, Patton Oswalt, Robert Silverberg, Jeff VanderMeer, Michael Swanwick, Nancy Kress, Connie Willis, and the late Harlan Ellison….
(2) MASSIVE PIRACY. Owl Goingback warned Facebook readers about Kiss Library:
Google Alerts tipped me off about a website called Kiss Library, where my books had been uploaded and were being sold without my permission. They weren’t just offering free downloads, like many pirate sites, they were actually selling the books–and for more than what they sell for on Amazon. And since each book had a preview, I could confirm that the actual books were available. Under each book listed was a link to report the book if it had been posted in violation of copyright. Kiss Library did remove all five of my books, but only after I used the link and also sent them an email.
Oddly enough the website is a product of an actual physical store in Canada, located at 2510 Centre St. S Calgary, ABT2G SA6, Phone: 1-213-394-9806, email: email@example.com.
I spent a few hours looking up other authors who may not be aware that their books are being sold on this site. In addition to books they are also selling magazines, such as Cemetery Dance and Fantasy and Science Fiction. If I’ve tagged your name, then you have books being sold on the Kiss library. I will post the website address at the end of this post. Facebook will only allow me to tag a handful of people at the time, so please let other authors know.
Christopher Golden, Mort Castle, James A. Moore, Adam-Troy Castro, Neil Gaiman, Ellen Datlow, Alice Henderson, Tim Waggoner, Joe Haldeman, Stephen Jones-Editor, Rick Wilber, Andy Duncan, Steve Vernon, Nancy Kress, Josh Malerman, Mick Garris, Linda D Addison, Jonathan Maberry, Robert J. Sawyer, Alessandro Manzetti The website address is: http://kisslibrary.net
(3) SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. Angely Chi has tweeted allegations about a speaker at the Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) in the Phillipines, and two other persons.
One of those named, Timothy James Dimcali, posted a response on Facebook. (His name is familiar to some because he was at the Clarion Writers Workshop in July,)
To my family, friends, colleagues, and the institutions that trust in me, I am making myself available to discuss this matter in confidence. Please give me the opportunity to erase any cloud that this episode might have created over our good relations.
I vehemently deny all of the recent statements made against me, accusing me of sexually assaulting someone during an event where I was a speaker.
I acknowledge the seriousness of the allegation and I understand that any sexual misconduct should be condemned. But this incident has created so much turbulence that my personal life and my reputation have already severely suffered.
I stand ready to defend myself with legally admissible proof before the proper forum. I am confident that, when the legal process has taken its course, I will be able to vindicate my name with the truth. I am refusing to release any further information at this time not only for my own protection, but for the protection of the accuser as well.
While I wait for the opportunity to defend myself, I cannot sit idly while my reputation is being unduly tarnished. I have availed of legal advice and I will act very soon for the redress of my rights.
I would like to give my personal assurance to my family, friends, colleagues, and the institutions that have, and will repose their trust in me, that I have never, and will never take advantage of anyone.
Tiny Diapana reconstructs her experience at the Iligan workshop in “Breaking the Quiet” which begins —
I’m tired and I’m sad and I’m stressed. I’ve recently found myself in the middle of some controversy in the Philippine writing community. Not once have I ever expected that I would ever find myself in this kind of predicament.
To get to the heart of the matter: I was sexually taken advantage of by a panelist during a national writers workshop that I had attended this year.
I called and wrote to the workshop director about the incident. I also had my lawyer send a letter along with the affidavits of my witnesses to the workshop to ask for justice. I wanted the workshop to acknowledge what had happened and to condemn what this panelist had done to me. I wanted the organization to blacklist this panelist so that he could no longer do the same thing to others in future iterations of the workshop.
However, the workshop director sent my lawyer a letter dismissing my request. According to the director, this was simply an issue between me and my assaulter because “it was done behind closed doors and nobody heard anyone screaming, being dragged down the stairs, or trashing about.”…
(4) POLITICAL PARADOX. In “The Conservative Manifesto Buried in ‘Avengers: Endgame’” on Qulilette, Aaron Sibarium argues that Avengers: Endgame like most MCU films represents “a post 9/11 conservatism” where “it’s always 1938.”
For the last decade or so, American cinema has exhibited a paradox: Though Hollywood has become more and more liberal, especially on issues of race and gender, Hollywood blockbusters have become more conservative—not just by recycling old plot points, as Star Wars has done, but also, in the case of superhero movies, by indulging a politics of reaction.
What might be called “Nolan’s enigma” began in earnest with The Dark Knight, which involved a tough-on-crime WASP using torture, intimidation, and surveillance to bring down a media-savvy terrorist. The Dark Knight Rises took things one step further with Bane, a menacing mix of Robespierre and Ruthenberg, whose pseudo-Marxist coup unleashes all manner of mayhem upon Gotham: banishments and public hangings, street brawls and show trials, and—in a scene lifted straight out of the French revolution—the storming of Blackgate (Bastille) prison.
Not to be outdone, Marvel soon embraced its own brand of post-9/11 conservatism. In every Avengers film, Joshua Tait notes, “it really is 1938….The threats are real and the Avengers’ unilateral actions are necessary” to protect life, liberty, and democracy. Each hero thus functions as a kind of Cold Warrior, standing athwart would-be despots and authoritarians, while their enemies function as bland, unidimensional cannon-fodder, a convenient narrative pretext for blowing things up. (To be fair, the bad guys usually do possess weapons of mass destruction; this is fantasy, after all.)
(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 4, 1937 — David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K. Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is ‘a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.’ I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is. (Died 2011.)
- Born August 4, 1942 — Rick Norwood, 77. Editor of the Comics Revue, the longest ever running running comics reprint magazine. He’s also written a handful of SF stories.
- Born August 4, 1942 — Don S. Davis. He’s best-known for playing General Hammond on Stargate SG-1 and Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks. He had a small part in Beyond the Stars as Phil Clawson, and was in Hook as Dr. Fields. (Died 2008.)
- Born August 4, 1961 — Lauren Tom, 58. Voice actress for our purposes. She shows up on Superman: The Animated Series voicing Angela Chen. From there on, she was Dana Tan in Batman Beyond and several minor roles on Pinky and the Brain. Futurama is her biggest series to date where she voices Amy and Inez Wong.
- Born August 4, 1969 — Fenella Woolgar, 50. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Her only other genre was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
- Born August 4, 1981 — Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 38. Yes, she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the the first two episodes of the second seasons (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects”) as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City, a series you likely never heard of.
(6) FANSPOTTING. JJ says we can adapt this to be the Worldcon attendee identification guide, too.
(7) STEPHENSON INTERVIEWED. Tyler Cowen interviewed Neal Stephenson on the podcast Conversations With Tyler: “Neal Stephenson on Depictions of Reality”. It’s a wide-ranging interview, where Stephenson gives his opinions on a variety of tech topics as well as his opinions on Dickens and Heinlein. He also denies the rumor spread by Reason’s Peter Suderman that he is mysterious bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, saying that he’d need “a lot more math” to invent bitcoin and that if he was the bitcoin inventor, he’d be a lot richer than he is.
So what’s the implicit theology of a simulated world? Might we be living in one, and does it even matter? Stephenson joins Tyler to discuss the book and more, including the future of physical surveillance, how clothing will evolve, the kind of freedom you could expect on a Mars colony, whether today’s media fragmentation is trending us towards dystopia, why the Apollo moon landings were communism’s greatest triumph, whether we’re in a permanent secular innovation starvation, Leibniz as a philosopher, Dickens and Heinlein as writers, and what storytelling has to do with giving good driving directions.
(8) GOOD LOOKIN’. “This Remote Corner Of Nevada Is One Of The Darkest Places In The World” – which is a good thing.
Jen Rovanpera drives through remote and rough parts of northwestern Nevada, about 6 miles outside the Oregon border. She is an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management. Today, she isn’t looking for artifacts.
She is showing off the vast area of Massacre Rim, the country’s largest and newest Dark Sky Sanctuary.
“It’s an immense area of darkness. The sanctuary is just a small fraction of that area,” she says, pointing out across a lookout point just north of the site.
Rovanpera recently worked with the International Dark Sky Association to get this area designated. The title doesn’t come with any legal protections, but land managers do have to adopt a lighting policy that preserves the night sky.
“I think it promotes recognition of what an amazing resource it is, and also awareness that parts of the country were losing this opportunity to really enjoy the natural night sky,” Rovanpera says.
Only 10 dark sky sanctuaries exist in the world, with four of them in the U.S. At more than 100,000 acres, Massacre Rim is the largest one in the country. It is surrounded by thousands of acres of sagebrush and grass, making it perfect for cattle and for camping.
(9) PAGING TIPPER GORE. NPR investigates how “Lawmaker Aims To Curb Social Media Addiction With New Bill”.
In the latest action against major tech companies, freshman Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced a bill on Tuesday — the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology, or SMART, Act — that would ban “addictive” social media features.
Most social media platforms are known for their infinite scrolling effect, which allows users to see all of the content on their newsfeeds in one visit to the site if they continue to scroll to the bottom of the page. If the bill was passed, users would have to actively refresh their Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds after a scrolling limit is exceeded.
Similarly, instead of having YouTube videos load automatically one after the other with autoplay, users would have to find and click on the next video themselves. The “Snapstreak” on Snapchat, which requires users to send photos to each other at least once every 24 hours in order to maintain the “streak,” is another “addictive” feature that Hawley’s bill would prohibit.
The senator’s goal is to discourage users from continuously engaging with social media products. His bill also proposes new features that would be part of a “user-friendly interface,” including time limits for each app of 30 minutes per day and frequent reminders of how long a user has been browsing a certain platform. Individuals could change the time limit, but it would reset to 30 minutes every month.
“Big Tech has embraced a business model of addiction,” Hawley said when announcing the bill. “Too much of the ‘innovation’ in this space is designed not to create better products, but to capture more attention by using psychological tricks that make it difficult to look away.”
…Hawley and fellow Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas wrote to the Federal Trade Commission last month, asking the agency to open an investigation into the issue of tech censorship. In a May op-ed, in which he called Facebook, Twitter and Instagram parasitic, Hawley said that social media has done more collective harm than good, and he even went so far as to say that it would be better if these sites didn’t exist at all.
(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wise Words by Sauta Micki” on Vimeo is an Israeli animated film by Yuvaroo about wise advice from a grandmother to her grandchildren. (It has another title on Vimeo with Grandma in it but that’s the title–in English–that Yuvaroo gave it.)
[Thanks to Juan Sanmiguel, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]