(1) JOHN M. FORD RETURNING TO PRINT. Isaac Butler’s research for “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” at Slate led to an unexpected benefit: “I wanted to learn why a beloved science fiction writer fell into obscurity after his death. I didn’t expect that I would help bring his books back to life.”
It would take me 18 months to answer my questions. My quest would bring me to the vast treasure trove of Ford’s uncollected and unpublished writing. It would introduce me to friends and relatives of Ford who hadn’t spoken to each other since his death in 2006. And, in an improbable ending worthy of a John M. Ford novel, my quest would in fact set in motion the long-delayed republication of his work, starting in the fall of 2020. How did this happen? More importantly, why was he forgotten in the first place? More importantly than that: How did he write those amazing books?
…And so, after months of investigation, I found myself in an Iceberg Passage, seeing only some of the story while, lurking beneath the surface, other truths remained obscure. I do not share Ford’s horror at obviousness, but there are simply things that we will never know. We will never know why Mike and his family grew apart, or, from the family’s perspective, how far apart they were. We will never know who anonymously tried to edit the Wikipedia page to cut out Elise Matthesen. (The family denies any involvement.)
But I reconnected Ford’s family and editors at Tor, and after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish—at long last—the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.
(2) A LOOK AT CHIZINE CONTRACTS. Victoria Strauss’ roundup “Scandal Engulfs Independent Publisher ChiZine Publications “ at Writer Beware includes this analysis of CZP’s exploitative hold on royalty payments:
CZP’s contract boilerplate empowers the publisher to set a “reasonable” reserve against returns. There are no specifics, so it’s basically up to the publisher to decide what “reasonable” is.
For CZP, “reasonable” seems to mean 50%. This seemed high to me, so I did a mini-canvass of literary agents on Twitter. Most agreed that smaller is better–maybe 25-30%, though some felt that 50% was justifiable depending on the circumstances. They also pointed out that the reserve percentage should fall in subsequent reporting periods (CZP’s remains at 50%, unless boilerplate has been negotiated otherwise), and that publishers should not hold reserves beyond two or three years, or four or five accounting periods (CZP has held reserves for some authors for much longer).
(If you’re unclear on what a reserve against returns is, here’s an explanation.)
– Per CZP’s contract, royalties are paid “by the first royalty period falling one year after publication.” What this means in practice (based on the royalty statements I saw) is that if your pub date is (hypothetically) April of 2016, you are not eligible for payment until the first royalty period that follows your one-year anniversary–which, since CZP pays royalties just once a year on a January-December schedule, would be the royalty period ending December 2017. Since publishers often take months to issue royalty statements and payments following the end of a royalty period, you’d get no royalty check until sometime in 2018–close to, or possibly more than, two full years after publication.
In effect, CZP is setting a 100% reserve against returns for at least a year following publication, and often much more. This gives it the use of the author’s money for far too long, not to mention a financial cushion that lets it write smaller checks, since it doesn’t have to pay anything out until after returns have come in (most sales and most returns occur during the first year of release).
I shouldn’t need to say that this is non-standard. It’s also, in my opinion, seriously exploitative.
– And…about that annual payment. It too is non-standard–even the big houses pay twice a year, and most small publishers pay quarterly or even more often. It’s also extra-contractual–at least for the contracts I saw. According to CZP’s boilerplate, payments are supposed to be bi-annual after that initial year-or-more embargo. The switch to annual payment appears to have been a unilateral decision by CZP owners for logistical and cost reasons, actual contract language be damned (I’ve seen documentation of this).
(3) ANIMATED TREK. Tor.com has assembled a wealth of “New Details and Trailers Out for Star Trek‘s Animated ‘Short Treks’”.
Before the end of 2019, Star Trek will boldly do something it has never done in the 21st century before: Tell stand-alone stories in an animated format. It’s been known for a while that the final two Short Treks of 2019 would be animated, but we didn’t know what they’ d be about, or how they would even look…until now!
(4) TRANSCRIPTS FROM THE UNDERGROUND. Ursula V’s dungeon party reports in. Thread starts here.
(5) CAPTAIN FUTURE. Amazing Selects™ will launch with the release of Allen Steele’s Captain Future in Love, a novella originally serialized in Amazing Stories magazine that “continues the adventures of Edmond Hamilton’s pulp adventure hero Curt Newton, aka Captain Future, rebooted and updated in Allen Steele’s inimitable Neo Pulp style.”
Amazing Selects ™ is a new imprint from Experimenter Publishing Company LLC that will feature stand-alone novella-length works, in both print and electronic formats.
The new Captain Future, originally introduced in Steele’s Avengers of the Moon (Tor, 2017), “brings golden age science fiction into the modern era presenting classic space opera adventure with modern sensibilities.”
The edition features concept art by Rob Caswell, interior illustrations by Nizar Ilman and non-fiction features by Allen Steele.
(6) NOBODY’S KEEPING SCORE. The new edition of the BBC Radio 4 Film Programme “Emma Thompson” is mainly about the Last Christmas film, but includes two other segments of genre interest. Hear it online for the next four weeks.
Emma Thompson has written 6 films in which she also stars. Last Christmas is the latest. She explains why she sometimes has to bite her tongue when actors deliver her lines in ways that she hadn’t quite imagined.
Neil Brand reveals how the ground-breaking score to cult classic Forbidden Planet was a last minute replacement and why the original composer decided to destroy his rejected score.
“Apocalypse Now meets Pygmalion”. Matthew Sweet pitches a long forgotten science fiction novel to film industry experts Lizzie Francke, Rowan Woods and Clare Binns.
(7) TUNE IN AGAIN. Also on BBC Radio 4 is a production of Doris Lessing’s The Good Terrorist. Available for the next 11 days.
First-ever dramatisation of Doris Lessing’s 1985 satire of incompetent revolutionaries in a London squat. Starring Olivia Vinall and Joe Armstrong, dramatised by Sarah Daniels.
(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble naan with artist Paul Kirchner in Episode 109 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.
I’ve been attending the Maryland-based indie comics convention SPX — that is, the Small Press Expo — for 15 or so of its 36 years, and this time around took the opportunity to dine with artist Paul Kirchner, who breathed the same comic industry air I did during the ’70s.
Paul broke into comics in the early ‘70s through a fortuitous series of events which had him meeting the legendary comics artist Neal Adams, who introduced him to DC Comics editor Joe Orlando, and within the week getting a gig as assistant to Tex Blaisdell helping him out on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip and stories for DC’s mystery books. He also worked for awhile as assistant to the great EC Comics artist and Daredevil innovator Wally Wood. He moved on from mainstream comics to draw two wonderfully surrealistic strips — “Dope Rider” for High Times and “the bus” for Heavy Metal. His wide-ranging creative resume also includes a graphic novel collaboration with the great writer of detective novels Janwillem van de Wetering, designs for such toy lines as Dino-Riders and Spy-Tech, and much more.
(9) RAINBOW OVER AND UNDER. Will this Andy Weir collaboration make it to the screen? The Hollywood Reporter covers the deal: “Amblin, Michael De Luca Tackling ‘Martian’ Author’s Fantasy Graphic Novel ‘Cheshire Crossing'”.
…The fantasy mashup tells the story of Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan‘s Wendy, who meet in boarding school for troubled young ladies. They each believe they’ve traveled to a fantastical world but no one else does. When their world-hopping sees Captain Hook and the Wicked Witch of the West team up to combine their magical villainy, the trio must band together to thwart them.
The graphic novel began life as a piece of fan fiction that Weir wrote prior to finding best-selling and Hollywood success with Martian…
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- November 15, 1968 — Star Trek’s “The Tholian Web” premiered on NBC. In a two-part episode of Enterprise titled “In a Mirror, Darkly”, the Tholians will be back with a story continuing this story.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born November 15, 1877 — William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.) Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft. It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
- Born November 15, 1929 — Ed Asner, 90. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & Legends, Batman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while.
- Born November 15, 1930 — J. G. Ballard. I’ll frankly admit that I’ve not read enough of him to render a coherent opinion of him as writer. What I’ve read such as The Drowned World is more than a bit depressing. Well yes, but really depressing. (Died 2009.)
- Born November 15, 1933 — Theodore Roszak. Winner of the Tiptree Award for The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and the rather excellent Flicker which is superb. Flicker is available at Apple Books and Kindle though no other fiction by him is. Odd. (Died 2011.)
- Born November 15, 1934 — Joanna Barnes, 85. She’s Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man with Danny Miller in the title role. It’s not until she’s Carsia in the “Up Above the World So High” episode of The Planet of The Apes series that she does anything so genre again. And a one-off on classic Fantasy Island wraps up her SFF acting.
- Born November 15, 1939 — Yaphet Kotto, 80. Assuming we count the Bond films as genre and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and a horrid film, and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV.
- Born November 15, 1942 — Ruth Berman, 77. She’s a writer mostly of speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening“. She was also the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem “Knowledge Of”. She’s also written one YA fantasy novel, Bradamant’s quest. And 1973, she was a finalist for the first Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro gets laughs from the thought-life of Batman’s sidekick.
(13) PALEO POSTAGE. I think I missed the news when these T.Rex stamps were issued in August. Fortunately, they are Forever stamps….
The four distinct stamps depict the long-extinct beast in various forms of its life from a hatchling to a skeleton in a museum.
In two of the stamps, the young adult depicted in skeletal form with a young Triceratops and in the flesh emerging through a forest clearing is the “Nation’s T. Rex,” whose remains were discovered on federal land in Montana and is considered one of the most important specimens of the species ever found, it said.
The four stamps were designed by art director Greg Breeding from original artwork by scientist and paleoartist Julius T. Csotonyi.
Here’s the USPS link to T.Rex products.
(14) NYCON 3. Andrew Porter shared three photos from the 1967 Worldcon, NYCon 3, you aren’t likely to have seen before.
Ted White, Dave Van Arnam, chairs of NYCon 3, at the convention. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.
Ted White pastes up display about NYCon 3, as Robin White looks on: Photo by and © Andrew Porter.
Sam Moskowitz, Norm Metcalf (foreground), Ed Wood at NYCon 3. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.
(15) DRONING AWAY. “DJI makes app to identify drones and find pilots” – but only if the drone self-identifies…
Drone maker DJI has demonstrated a way to quickly identify a nearby drone, and pinpoint the location of its pilot, via a smartphone.
The technique makes use of a protocol called “Wi-Fi Aware”, with which the drone essentially broadcasts information about itself.
The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruption, and give members of the public peace of mind.
But experts believe sophisticated criminals would still be able to circumvent detection.
“It’s going to be very useful against rogue drones,” said Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who studies the impacts of the drone industry.
“But it’s not going to be enough to fight people with real bad intentions, because these are going to be the first people to hack this system.”
DJI told the BBC it could add the functionality to drones already on the market via a software update.
…“If Gatwick staff had a smartphone enabled with this capability in their pockets,” explained Adam Lisberg, from DJI, “they could have taken it out, seen a registration number for the drone, seen the flight path, and the location of the operator.
(16) YA TWITTER. Vulture will fill you in about a new YA Twitter kerfuffle: “Famous Authors Drag Student in Surreal YA Twitter Controversy”. They include gene authors.
Young-adult book Twitter took an especially surreal turn this week when the best-selling novelist Sarah Dessen took offense at a brief critique of her work, inciting a minor Twitter riot, with some of the most famous writers in the world jumping into the fray to defend her.
(17) HOW DID THEY KNOW? I couldn’t help laughing when I read this line in Jon Del Arroz’ blog:
(18) ANOTHER OUTBREAK. USA Today’s Don Oldenburg has kind things to say about Daniel H. Wilson’s novel: “‘The Andromeda Evolution’ an infectious sequel to Michael Crichton’s classic best-seller” – although the reviewer sounds reluctant to admit the book isn’t by Chrichton, who died in 2008.
A new team of four Project Wildfire scientists is sent to the Amazon to investigate how to stop the unexplainable anomaly. A fifth scientist is tracking the crisis from the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth. Meanwhile, a deadly, self-replicating, microparticle structure is growing exponentially, eating the jungle and killing nearby tribal habitants.
(19) NOOO! Those who fail to learn from Jedi history… “Jon Favreau Already Has a Star Picked for His ‘Star Wars’ Holiday Special”.
… “Oh I would definitely be interested in doing a holiday special,” Favreau told Variety at “The Mandalorian” fan event. “And I’m not going to say who I would be interested in. But one of the people is the member of the cast in an upcoming episode of the show. So we’ll leave it at that for now.”
When pressed to see if he was serious, the director doubled down. “I’ve been thinking about it. It’s ready, the ideas are ready. I think it could be really fun. Not as part of this, but there’s an excitement around it because it was so fun and weird, and off and not connected to what ‘Star Wars’ was in the theater. ‘The Mandalorian’ cartoon, the Boba Fett cartoon, from the holiday special was definitely a point of inspiration for what we did in the show.”
(20) WALLACE & GROMIT. The Drum finds a seasonal commercial featuring two popular characters is at the top of the charts: “A week in Christmas ads: big retailers lose out as Wallace & Gromit gives Joules a boost”.
Joules’ heavily-branded Wallce & Gromit-fronted spot from Aardman topped the rankings this week with a star score of 5.4 and a spike rating of 1.51 – indicating sales will follow.
The film shows Wallace, in his typically inventive style, bringing Christmas to West Wallaby Street all at ‘the click of a button’.
Joules’ festive products decorate the living room and there’s no escape for Wallace’s loyal side-kick, Gromit, who becomes the pièce de résistance as the fairy crowning the top of the Christmas tree.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]