The groups say the merger between Bertelsmann’s Penguin Random House (PRH) and Simon & Schuster would create an unbalanced industry with one grossly outsized company, which, among other things, will inevitably lead to less competition for authors’ manuscripts. The takeover would, for instance, result in Bertelsmann controlling a 70% market share in the literary and general fiction market in the United States. Bertelsmann would also control 70% of the action and adventure, horror, political, legal, medical, erotica, and coming-of-age submarkets and 60% of biography.
The letter notes that Bertelsmann’s case for taking over Simon & Schuster is the various threats to its business posed by Amazon’s monopoly over book sales, and Amazon’s increasing power over book publishing, printing, warehousing and many other activities. However, while the writers groups agree that Amazon’s monopoly poses a variety of threats, they contend that the strategy of attempting to address dangerous monopolies by building countervailing monopolies has already been tried and failed.
The Department [of Justice] adopted precisely such an approach in 2013 when it approved Bertelsmann’s takeover of Penguin – even though that deal reduced the ranks of top-tier trade publishers from six to five. The fact that Bertelsmann is now proposing another giant deal clearly proves that the previous concentration of power was not sufficient to counterbalance Amazon’s monopoly and create a more level playing field.
What a Bertelsmann acquisition of Simon & Schuster would do, however, is increase the already huge pressures on the remaining larger publishers to compete with the outsized company on manuscripts, distribution, printing, and procurement. Many predict that the remaining three of the current “Big 5” will be forced to merge with each other to stay in the game, leaving the United States – a powerful and diverse nation of 330 million people – with two dominant publishers.
As was true last year when the Department blocked Quad/Graphics takeover of LSC, Bertelsmann’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster is a threat to democracy and must be stopped.
But the time has also come to recognize that simply blocking takeovers is no longer sufficient. The Department of Justice must begin today to proactively restructure the entire U.S. market for books in ways that also deal with the danger posed by Amazon. In this way alone will the Department fulfill its mission of protecting the interest of the public as a whole, and of every reader and author in the United States, from dangerous concentrations of power and control over America’s authors, editors, booksellers, and readers, and over public debate itself.
According to Publishers Weekly, “PRH execs argue that, once ViacomCBS put S&S up for sale in the spring, the odds were good that the trade publishing industry was in for another round of consolidation, and that PRH is the best positioned to implement a smooth transition.”
If regulators approve, the deal is expected to be completed this year.
Audible has deflected criticism of their returns policy by curtailing the time when a return would be charged against a writer’s royalties from a year to seven days. However, the authors who initially raised the issue question what difference that will make.
As File 770 reported in November (see “How Audible’s Returns Policy Exploits Writers”), Audible, the audiobook publisher/distributor, stands accused of attracting readers to pay its monthly membership premium by encouraging customers to exchange a book they’re done with for another they want to listen to – becoming in effect a rental library. By treating the first sale as a return, Audible deprives the author of what they should have earned on a work that was bought and enjoyed.
Amazon’s company ACX is a self-serve audiobook production platform, and Audible is its audiobook sales outlet. The adjustment to the returns policy was announced in “A Note from ACX” at the Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog (November 24):
…The intent of this program is to allow listeners to discover their favorite voice, author, or story in audio. In instances where we determine the benefit is being overused, Audible can and does limit the number of exchanges and refunds allowed by a member. But as designed, this customer benefit allows active Audible members in good standing to take a chance on new content, and suspicious activity is extremely rare.
We hope this helps convey perspective to our valued writers and ACX partners as to the impact of our current returns policies. However, in recognition of these concerns, moving forward and effective as of January 1, 2021, Audible will pay royalties for any title returned more than 7 days following purchase.
Susan May, one of the leaders in bringing these issues to public attention, told The Alliance of Independent Authors why she is not satisfied:
“In offering authors the burden of bearing the cost of a return up to seven days of purchase, and Audible then assuming that cost for the balance of the 365 days of the ‘Easy Exchange’ [membership] benefit, we still have no idea of the value of this concession. It’s our belief that most customers would return a book in the first seven days after listening, and then a smaller percentage will return thereafter. This is a reusable credit as we’ve seen, and so we may still be enduring substantial losses.
“Audible has no mechanism in place that we have found through multiple tests which prevents overuse of this ‘Easy Exchange’ program. They’ve also given no indication that they do in fact prevent someone from returning a book once a majority of it has been consumed, or limit the exchanges and refunds allowed by members.
“Therefore, this begs the question: Why won’t Audible/ACX supply authors and publishers with their returns data in a timely and open fashion?”
May also realizes that Audible will not really be out of pocket by paying two authors a royalty on the expenditure of one subscriber credit. The company will be diluting the royalties on returns beyond the seven-day widow as a function of increasing the number of sales among which Audible divides the authors’ share of monthly subscription income. May said on her own blog enty, “Audiblegate 2: The Emperor’s New Clothes Policy, Pot Theory, Unicorns & Pirates”:
…Under the new returns policy, the Emperor’s New ClothesPolicy, a subscriber can still “exchange” an audiobook in the exact same way, up to 365 days later. The only difference is that if a user exchanges a book after 7 days, both Author #1 AND Author #2 will receive the royalty for their sale.
Ooh, that seems good, and even if most of them are returned in the first seven days, that’s still something, right?
Well, no, because these returns after seven days are still potentially deducted from the exact same pot of money we all share. It’s still lost to authors and not being worn by the oh, so, magnanimous Audible, the party with the overly large share of the profit split.
…The Authors Guild appreciates that Audible has acknowledged the concerns raised by authors and has shown a willingness to make changes to its policy so that authors lose their royalties only if an audiobook is returned within seven days of purchase rather than the current 365, but their proposal does not go far enough. For high volume audiobook listeners, a seven-day period is more than enough to listen to a whole audiobook, and it is not fair to deduct the author’s royalty for books that have been or could have been listened to. This practice is unparalleled in digital media retail. We think that royalties should only be deducted in cases of accidental purchase and within a much shorter period of time, such as 48 hours, and only if the audiobook hasn’t been listened to substantially. We have communicated this to Audible. We have also asked Audible for transparency in their reporting so that authors can see the royalty deductions from their accounts; currently authors only see the net amounts – the number of books sold minus returns.
Many other author organizations have now joined the protest reports Publishing Perspectives.
The Dramatists’ Guild
The UK-based international Alliance of Independent Authors
The Writers’ Union of Canada
The Irish Writers Union
The Australian Society of Authors
The Society of Authors in the United Kingdom
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America;
The Romance Writers of America
Sisters in Crime
The Mystery Writers of America
May encourages writers to join the Facebook group she helped start where they can keep informed and work together to get Audible to treat them fairly.
Indie author John Van Stry has won his copyright infringement lawsuit against former Pirate Party of Canada leader Travis McCrea, whose Ebook.Bike platform offered free downloads of many writers’ work including a dozen novels by Van Stry.
“The lawsuit is over, and we won” Van Stry announced April 20 on his Patreon page. Judge Bryson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled that Ebook.Bike’s McCrea willfully infringed 12 of Van Stry’s copyrighted works, and awarded Van Stry $9,000 in statutory damages. McCrea was permanently enjoined from “copying, reproducing, or distributing, either directly or vicariously, plaintiff’s copyrighted works” without authorization. McCrea also was ordered to pay Van Stry $3,605 as a sanction for failing to comply with his discovery obligations, and to pay Van Stry’s costs and attorney’s fees.
John Van Stry took up the basically thankless and highly expensive fight against this scofflaw when no law enforcement or author organization would put an end to McCrea’s activities — which had been going on for years.
A Vancouver man who led the now-defunct Pirate Party of Canada is being accused by authors around the world of giving their ebooks away for free on a website that boasts everything from Michelle Obama’s bestseller to hundreds of indie books from small publishers.
…McCrea was the leader of the Pirate Party of Canada, which supported net neutrality, open government and intellectual-property reform and participated in multiple federal elections between 2010 and 2015. McCrea himself ran for MP in the riding of Vancouver Centre in 2011.
He said he currently operates the Canadian website of the Idaho-based Kopimist Church and that according to his Kopimist beliefs, “all information should be shared.” The website calls copying information a holy act.
As many of you are aware, the pirate website “Ebook.bike” is back online, hosting thousands of books for illegal download. A number of authors have sent takedown notices to the website using its DMCA form. But as far as we know, its DMCA compliance is deliberate subterfuge as its DMCA form often doesn’t work; and even when it does and the books are taken down, other users almost immediately re-upload infringing copies.
…Until Congress closes this loophole in the law that allows websites like Ebook.bike to thrive, we have to band together and take action. For a start, authors have to collectively send a message to Google to delist links to the site’s illegal downloads from search results. There’s no reason why a site that traffics in stolen books should be so easily accessible. If enough authors send Google a takedown notice, it will be compelled to take action against Ebook.bike.
The Authors Guild’s choice of tactics showed it was powerless to directly counter Travis McCrea’s activities despite his flagrant history of digital piracy.
McCrea gained notoriety as a leader of the Pirate Party of Canada which had, as a key tenet of its platform, to “decriminalize non-commercial file sharing.” TorrentFreak reported in 2011 “As part of the ‘war for digital sovereignty,’ as McCrea describes it, he has launched Tormovies, a site dedicated to providing movie torrents. A look at the site’s front page reveals that all the latest Hollywood blockbusters are showcased.” McCrea claimed that his media piracy “isn’t theft,” and stated that he would continue his piracy downloading until the media is offered to him at what he considers a fair and accessible price.
Another of McCrea’s piracy sites traded college textbooks. According to the complaint filed in Van Stry’s lawsuit:
In a May 3, 2013 interview, Mr. McCrea admitted that he ran http://librarypirate.me (“LibraryPirate”), a website that brazenly traded pirated textbooks. Mr. McCrea’s LibraryPirate instructed students on how to make digital scans of their textbooks and post the pirated scans to the site he ran for “free downloading,” boasting he made 1,700 pirated textbooks available by August 2011, and made money by advertising on his LibraryPirate website to the people drawn to his illegally available works.
January 2013, Mr. McCrea setup his tuebl.ca website. T.U.E.B.L. stands for “The Ultimate Electronic Book Library.” Mr. McCrea solicited individuals who had digital copies of books in the popular ePub format, typically used on e-readers, such as Kindles, to upload their books on tuble.ca and to tuebl.com, the latter of which would redirected to tuble.ca (collectively “tuebl”), after which he would then make copies of the books available to any and all.
Numbers posted on that site said it contained 32,000 books by 13,000 authors, and their books had been downloaded over 9.5 million times.
About December 2015, McCrea began redirecting users from his tuebl.ca website to the Ebook.Bike website.
McCrea also registered “The Kopimist Church of Idaho Inc.” as a Religious Non-Profit Corporation with the state of Idaho August 20, 2012, later adopting the title of “Chief Missionary and Outreach Officer and Director.” He referred to himself as “reverend” and was on record as having said that “giving away other people’s intellectual property” is his “religious vocation.”
LITIGATION BEGINS. McCrea dared anyone to sue him in a TorrentFreak interview in March 2019:
“While we stay committed to following all US copyright laws and ensuring we maintain our DMCA compliance, I would like to reiterate that I am a Canadian and my focus is on upholding the laws of my country. It just has always been that the DMCA provides the best framework for how to handle copyright complaints,” he said.
“I use the DMCA because it offers the best framework, not because I feel I’m obligated to. If they feel I’m liable, come sue me.”
A week later, Van Stry did.
John Van Stry had strong motives for taking up the fight: “[McCrea] was making money off of the stolen work of me and other authors, and bragging about it… He never complied with any take-down requests. Oh, I know he claimed he did, and I was told by one author that any books taken down (in the few instances he appeared to do that) were back up again in days. He was destroying the retirement of many authors, who rely on the royalties they get from their backlogs to pay their bills. This is a real thing! People were being financially hurt! This wasn’t some small pirate site that maybe a couple of dozen people go to. The site was getting over a million hits per month, by his own account. Millions of books were being downloaded. Books are not like songs where you listen to them again and again. You read a book once, that’s it. People who steal books don’t come back and buy them later. Claiming that they do is a myth.”
Van Stry also feared repercussions against his legitimate sales: “I was worried that Amazon might pull my books and punish me, for them being on his website. After all, [McCrea] was claiming he had permission for them to be there. Other authors were highly concerned with this as well.” And not only were Van Stry’s sales being hurt, “He was impacting my sales ranking and my marketing. The secondary impact of this theft is a lot harder to estimate, but it was there, and I felt it. Again, other authors felt it too.”
In anticipation of a lawsuit, McCrea started a GoFundMe appeal to finance his defense. The Digital Reader’s Nate Hoffelder fact-checked some of McCrea’s claims there in a March 28, 2019 article:
McCrea has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise a defense fund. He lies multiple times in the brief description.
“Let me be clear: At no point have I uploaded content I didn’t own to Ebook Bike,” he writes “and I have always ensured that copyrighted material wouldn’t be uploaded (using the same methods and techniques used by YouTube, Facebook, and others).”
That is an utter falsehood; I just (in the past couple minutes) downloaded A Memory Called Empire and Mike Resnick’s Soothsayer. Both books were complete (and both are in copyright, obviously).
JURISIDICTION. Van Stry hired professional lawyers to litigate his case. McCrea defended himself, pro se. McCrea blew off discovery, making the minimum responses needed to keep the case going while Van Stry’s legal bills bled him financially.
Although the defendant was in Canada, the Federal District Court in Van Stry’s home state of Texas accepted the lawyers’ arguments that it had jurisdiction:
Court has subject matter jurisdiction at least under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1338(a), the first providing for federal questions and the latter providing that “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action arising under any Act of Congress relating to . . . copyrights . . .”
Van Stry’s attorneys also argued the court had jurisdiction over McCrea and another co-defendant (the ISP) because through the internet they were offering the copyrighted works in Texas:
Mr. McCrea advertises, distributes, and imports via Mr. McCrea’s eBook.Bike website (see below for description) and allows for and does reproduce the copyrighted Works (also described below) in copies without permission or license into Texas and this district.
In addition, they pointed out an established principle about suits against non-U.S. residents:
For all venue purposes, a defendant who is not a resident of the United States may be sued in any district…
THE DECISION. Initially, Van Stry asked for statutory damages of $15,000 per book, and a permanent injunction to prevent further infringement of his copyrighted books. He also asked for an award of costs and attorney’s fees.
While McCrea sandbagged the discovery process, the judge prodded the parties to settle. But as Van Stry wrote when the decision came out this week —
…[For] all of those saying I should have settled out of court? We tried. Three times. The first time? Mr. McCrea sent US the settlement offer. One that was a hell of a lot better than what he was hit with today. He asked us to write it up for him (because of course he didn’t have a lawyer – right). So I paid my attorney’s to write it up exactly like he sent it to us.
And he never signed it.
Twice more we sent it to him, at the judge’s (subtle) urging. He didn’t respond to the first of those and was a bit rude on the last time.
As the prospect of a trial grew nearer, the judge also told the parties – who by then were willing to have him to render summary judgment on the record already before him – that the certain way to avoid the possibility of a jury trial was for Van Stry to ratchet down his request for damages.
“[I] note that the right to a jury trial on the issue of statutory damages does not apply when the plaintiff seeks an award limited to the statutorily guaranteed minimum amount…
“In light of Mr. Van Stry’s acknowledgement that damages in this case are likely to be illusory, he may wish to limit his request for statutory damages to the statutory minimum award of $750 per work —an amount that Mr. McCrea has already agreed would be appropriate. In that event, a jury trial on damages would not be necessary.
“Mr. Van Stry may, if he chooses, make the request to limit the award of statutory damages in the alternative. The request, that is, would only control in the event that Mr. McCrea does not waive his right to a jury trial.”
Van Stry took the hint and adjusted his damage claim downward. A dozen books at $750 apiece – thus in the final verdict, the court’s damage award of $9,000.
The court also sanctioned McCrea for his non-cooperation in the discovery phase, and granted Van Stry costs and attorney’s fees:
Mr. McCrea’s positions in this case have been distinctly lacking in both legal and factual support, and Mr. Van Stry has prevailed on all his claims. Moreover, Mr. McCrea’s lack of diligence in this case and his conduct during discovery have unnecessarily extended the proceedings and have driven up the costs of the litigation for Mr. Van Stry. And Mr. McCrea’s actions resulting in this lawsuit were willful, not innocent. Indeed, Mr. McCrea has said that he did “not care if the website was illegal and would do it either way.”
…Considerations of compensation and deterrence also favor an award of attorney’s fees. Mr. Van Stry has experienced significant and sometimes unnecessary litigation expenses in maintaining this lawsuit… Awarding fees in a clear-cut case such as this one does not give rise to any countervailing interests, such as the risk of discouraging others to build on an author’s work.
THE JUDGE’S REVIEW OF THE DEFENSE. The court opinion deconstructs McCrea’s defense, which rested on (1) denying anyone had downloaded copyrighted work from his site, (2) that he was entitled to the safe harbor protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and (3) he was exercising his religious freedom.
McCrea hamstrung his first two arguments by failing to answer allegations in discovery – as a result, things alleged by the plaintiff ended up being treated as admissions by the defendant — treated as fact for purposes of the case.
Mr. McCrea denied any wrongdoing because there was no evidence, according to Mr. McCrea, that there had been any downloads of copyrighted material. Id. at 3. At the same time, Mr. McCrea said that he was “practising [his] religion by helping authors connect with their readers.” Id. at 2. Mr. McCrea also claimed that his actions were protected by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And, in the event of liability, Mr. McCrea disputed Mr. Van Stry’s contention as to the appropriate amount to be awarded in damages. Id. at 1–2.
… Beyond the fact Mr. Van Stry’s prima facie case of willful copyright infringement is established as a result of the Court’s sanctions order, Mr. McCrea’s challenge to liability on the merits is not supported. He contends that summary judgment should not be granted because the plaintiff “has no evidence that any of their work was actually available on the website” and no evidence that the books were “downloaded from the site.” Dkt. No. 54, at 3. Mr. Van Stry replies that Mr. McCrea admitted (by failing to respond to requests for admission) that all twelve copyrighted books at issue in this litigation available for distribution on Mr. McCrea’s website and that they were distributed into the United States. Dkt. No. 59, at 3. Mr. Van Stry’s counsel also submitted an affidavit stating that as part of his pre-suit investigation, he downloaded all twelve books from Mr. McCrea’s website. Id.
DMCA. The DMCA grants internet service providers a safe harbor against liability for copyright infringement by works available on their websites if they adhere to several requirements. One of them is to have a designated agent to receive takedown notices, and the contact information must be on the ISP’s website, and provided to the Copyright Office.
Mr. McCrea does not dispute that he did not designate an agent with the Copyright Office. See generally Dkt. No. 54. To the contrary, Mr. McCrea previously admitted that he had no designated agent by failing to respond to a request for admission directed to that very issue.
Therefore, the court rejected McCrea’s safe harbor affirmative defense.
RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION. McCrea had told the court that his “religion should be protected by the 1993 Protecting Religious Freedom Act,” and that he is “practising my religion by helping authors connect with their readers.” Also, “[i]t is the position of the Kopimist Church that copying is a holy act, to share files is a holy act, to share knowledge is a supremely holy act.”
The court ruled that McCrea’s reliance on the RFRA was misplaced, because it does not apply when the “government,” as defined by RFRA, is not a party to the action.
Besides, said the court, copyright law was not really an obstacle to this claimed religious practice:
… Mr. McCrea certainly could have approached Mr. Van Stry to obtain a license to copy, make available, and distribute Mr. Van Stry’s copyrighted works, if that was how Mr. McCrea chose to help connect Mr. Van Stry with his readers. Mr. McCrea’s conclusory assertion that licensing would be “impractical” does not alter the analysis.
FURTHER THOUGHTS. Why did McCrea do it? What were McCrea’s motives for running Ebook.bike [Internet Archive link] and his other sites?
Van Stry told his Patreon readers, “He was stealing my work, and the work of other authors to make money, lots of money, with which he bought two airplanes and lived a pretty good life.”
Van Stry’s lawyers pointed to McCrea’s claims on his Kopimist Church site that he received enough donations to buy a private plane, and photos in which he “projects a life of luxury, including yacht trips in the English Bay of Vancouver and horse riding.” It suited their purpose to take these statements at face value.
On the other hand, there was no charge to download the books. Was there advertising on the Ebook.Bike site? — the Internet Archive snapshots I reviewed didn’t show any, although I just looked at the front page, which presumably would get the most hits. Did he get something in exchange for recommending the ebook-reading programs linked from his site? Was there user information collected at some step in this process which could be turned to commercial gain? Are there other ways to profit from a pirate site?
The inference that someone would only go to such effort for money is understandable, but users of social media have also witnessed people expend a great deal of energy in return for a sense of power, or to enjoy widespread public attention. Maybe McCrea made a lot of money. He definitely seemed to enjoy taunting the victims and critics of his filesharing sites.
LEGAL BILLS. Meanwhile, John Van Stry has shouldered heavy legal bills. Will he recover any of it through the court’s awards? That’s a good question.
At least he’s received some support from his “Bring ebook.bike to Justice” GoFundMe, where with the help of 397 donors he’s raised $31,547 of his $70,000 goal.
Mr. McCrea survived only because lawsuits are expensive. He knew this, hence his challenge ‘just sue me!’ He knew most authors can’t afford it. Well unfortunately for him, I could. I saw authors whom I’m a long time fan of complaining about the damage, I saw reflected in my own sales damage. I’ve been very successful as an author, I’m very thankful to all my fans, and all of the authors who have gone before me.
So I saw this as an opportunity to pay them back, to give something back to the writing community. To take down someone who was stealing, who was profiting from that theft. Someone who was so self-entitled that he was laughing at the rest of us and just challenging us to sue him while bragging about the money he was making.
Understand that I did NOT want to do this. But if not me, then who? If not now, then when? Sometimes, you just have to stand up for what is right. This lawsuit hurt me, considerably, and not just because of the money that came out of my pocket. Rarely did a day go by that I wasn’t thinking about it, and rarely did a week go by when I wasn’t having to deal with my attorneys. But it wasn’t just about me, it never was.
He has also made available for download three documents in which Judge Bryson explained his rulings:
These documents are all a matter of public record.
Today Sotheby announced that is will auction DC Complete: The Ian Levine Collection, a comic book collection that includes every comic book published by DC Comics from 1935 through 2016, including complete runs of Superman, Batman, Action Comics, and Detective Comics. The collection includes more than 40,000 comics that also feature Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Justice League. The collection is available to view now on the Sotheby’s website. Sotheby’s chose today to start the private sale as it marks the 81st anniversary of the release of Detective Comics #27, which included the first appearance of Batman.
It’s a private sale, which means there is no public auction, just negotiations between Sotheby’s specialists and one or more private buyers.* Bids are being taken starting today – here’s the Sotheby’s link. Download the catalog here [PDF file]. A quote about how the collection was assembled, from the auction house’s article —
For a decade, Levine purchased a new copy of every DC issue he could find, while trying to fill in earlier issues. However, in pre-internet 1987, Levine despaired of finding many Golden Age comics he lacked, and decided to sell many of his best issues in order to fund his collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who film prints. However, reviewing his stacks of comic books with the purchaser reawakened his passion for this pop art form, and Levine bought his comics back from the dealer he had sold them to—at a 50% premium. Amassing about half of the comics DC had ever published, Levine determined to form a complete collection. Sacrificing his incomparable collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who prints, along with the assistance of the nascent internet and dealer, advisor, and author of The Comic Book Paul Sassienie, he achieved this ambition, which would essentially be impossible to replicate. In 2010, Levine’s paramount, unique collection was utilized to supply the illustrations for Taschen’s monumental publication 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz, the former president and publisher of DC.
…ANNALEE NEWITZ, science-fiction and nonfiction author, podcaster
I have a couple of scenarios I’ve been batting around in my head, which both feel equally plausible at this point.
Scenario One: As more people hunker down at home, more of our most vital and personal activities will have to go online. Lots of people are learning how to have serious meetings remotely, and how to work as teams in group chat.
Then there’s the arguably more psychologically vital stuff: I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons with my gamer group using videoconferencing, and watching TV with a housebound, high-risk loved one by hitting play at the same time on a TV episode and videochatting with him at the same time.
I’m not alone. A lot of us are cut off from our loved ones right now, and online connection is all we have. Suddenly “online” doesn’t feel like a fantasy realm. It’s our social fabric. The online world is going to become a fully robust public space, and we won’t want to see garbage and detritus everywhere. We will finally start to see social media companies taking responsibility for what’s on their platforms — information will need to be accurate, or people will die.
…Scenario Two: The pandemic rips through the population, aided in part by contradictory messages from state and federal governments, as well as misinformation online. As social groups and families are torn apart by disease and unemployment, people look increasingly to social media for radical solutions: violent uprisings, internment camps for immigrants and other “suspicious” groups, and off-the-grid cults that promise sanctuary from death.
This is the second Brown featured in Rediscovery. As mentioned last month, Brown was a promising author whose career was cut short by her death in 1967. I don’t have much to add to that, except to wonder if my Young People will enjoy this story more than they did the previous one.
(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? John King Tarpinian has already ordered “Classic Monster Aloha Safety Mask”. Get yours for a mere $9.95. More styles here. And they sell matching shirts for some of them — Daniel Dern says “I’ve got the first two in that were shown in this post.”
Introducing Aloha Safety Face masks!! Hawaiian Printed Masks that are fashionable , fun, and made in the USA!!
And just like that, my shirt factory has shifted production, retooled, and is making much needed face masks for hospitals and clinics. We are all proud to be part of the effort to in the corona-virus fight and provide protective gear to Doctors, Nurses, and hospital staff, who in my eyes are the front line soldiers in this global pandemic.Due to the unprecedented demand for masks, healthcare system completely lacks the needed supplies and we are on a mission to outfit them.
While they are our priority so is the safety of my friends, neighbors, and countrymen. Many people with elderly parents, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, are at high risk, or want to protect their families have reached out. I know it’s hard to find masks of any kind anywhere.
She said border restrictions overseas would likely persist until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, believed to be one year to eighteen months away at the earliest – some vaccines take a decade to develop.
Life as it is now – with most of us confined to home, getting out only for a walk in the sunshine or a quick trip to pick up mail, prescriptions, another bottle of water, an extra loaf of bread – is something we might have read about in a science fiction novel, seen on TV or at the movies but never before experienced personally to the extent we are dealing with now.
“I feel like I’m in what (science fiction author) Brian Aldiss called a cozy catastrophe,” said Walter Jon Williams, a writer of science fiction and fantasy who lives in Belen. “We have clothing, shelter, enough food in the fridge to last a month, and everything works. But everyone is gone. We just don’t see people. I went for a walk to the park today and saw one person.”
The outcry from publisher and author groups has been swift and furious after the Internet Archive announced last week the launch of it’s National Emergency Library, which has removed access restrictions for some 1.4 million scans of mostly 20th century books in the IA’s Open Library initiative, making the scans available for unlimited borrowing during the Covid-19 Outbreak.
“We are stunned by the Internet Archive’s aggressive, unlawful, and opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” reads a March 27 statement from Association of American Publishers president and CEO Maria Pallante, adding that publishers are already “working tirelessly to support the public with numerous, innovative, and socially-aware programs that address every side of the crisis: providing free global access to research and medical journals that pertain to the virus; complementary digital education materials to schools and parents; and expanding powerful storytelling platforms for readers of all ages.”
The Authors Guild said it too was “appalled” by the program. “[The Internet Archive] is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors,” reads a March 27 statement. “It has misrepresented the nature and legality of the project through a deceptive publicity campaign. Despite giving off the impression that it is expanding access to older and public domain books, a large proportion of the books on Open Library are in fact recent in-copyright books that publishers and authors rely on for critical revenue. Acting as a piracy site—of which there already are too many—the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world.”
“So much for authors’ incomes in a time of crisis. Do librarians and archivists really want to kick authors while our incomes are down?” Hasbrouck writes. “The argument is that students need e-books while they are staying home. But that’s an argument for spending public funds to purchase or license those resources for public use — not putting the burden of providing educational materials for free on writers, illustrators, and photographers. Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis.”
The Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library project on March 24, in response to the closures of libraries during the Covid-19 crisis, building upon the Internet Archive’s “Controlled Digital Lending” program. …
(8) MANDEL OBIT. Playwright and screenwriter Loring Mandel
died March 24. His 1959 script ”Project
Immortality” for Playhouse 90 got him his first Emmy nomination: “Key
defense scientist Doner has cancer. Schramm is assigned to code Doner’s
thinking into a computer. He gets to know him as a friend, a husband and
father. The project is successful, but he now knows identity is not
was the screenwriter for Countdown,
released in 1967, the year before the first Moon landing: “Desperate to reach
the moon first, N.A.S.A. sends a man and shelter separately, one-way. He must
find it to survive. He can’t return until Apollo is ready.” The movie starred
James Caan and Robert Duvall.
March 30, 2013 — Orphan Black premiered on BBC America in the USA and Space in Canada. Starring Tatiana Maslany as the clones, it run for five seasons and fifty episodes. It would win a Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Sasquan for “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 30, 1904 — Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series that ran twenty-four volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
Born March 30, 1927 — Greta Thyssen. Labeled Queen of the B-Movies she appeared in a number of genre films such as The Beast of Budapest, Creature from Blood Island andJourney to the Seventh Planet. (Died 2018.)
Born March 30, 1928 — Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty-year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads a lot a similar Heinlein would. (Died 1993.)
Born March 30, 1933 — Anna Ruud. Dr. ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey, it is genre of a sorts. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2018.)
Born March 30, 1943 — Dennis Etchison. As editor, he received two World Fantasy Awards for Best Anthology, MetaHorror and The Museum of Horrors. As a writer, he’s best remembered as a short story writer of quite tasty horror. Talking in the Dark Is his personally selected collection of his stories. (Died 2019.)
Born March 30, 1948 — Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
Born March 30, 1958 — Maurice LaMarche, 62. Voice actor primarily for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials.
Born March 30, 1990 — Cassie Scerbo, 30. Nova Clarke in the Sharknado film series alongside Ian Ziering and Tara Reid (2013–2018). And one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Non Sequitur follows Spaceman Leonard as he tries to fuel up on a barren planet (Earth).
…At the heart of the series was the writer Kate Worley, who gave the comic its distinctive voice and helped cultivate its wide-ranging fan base.
The character Omaha, created by the writer and artist Reed Waller, made her debut in 1978 as part of a fanzine. She eventually found her way into her own comic book, beginning in 1984. But then Waller got writer’s block.
“He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue,” Worley wrote in an introduction to a 1989 collected edition of Omaha. So she offered some suggestions. “I chattered for some time about possible plot directions, new characters,” she said.
When she was finished, Waller asked, “Would you like a job?” Worley took over as the writer, while Waller continued to draw the comic.
…United Planets cruiser C-57D, under the command of Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen), was dispatched to Altair IV to find out what had happened to an expedition that had been sent out twenty years earlier. As soon as the starship arrives in orbit, C-57D receives a transmission from the surface. There is at least one survivor of the earlier mission. To Adams’ surprise, the survivor, scientist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) doesn’t want to be rescued. Indeed, he warns the craft to go away if it wants to save its crew.
NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, as the first U.S. commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.
At the Moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.
SpaceX will deliver critical pressurized and unpressurized cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface.
(15) HE AM IRON MAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]
Should the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever decide to reboot, we may have
found our new Iron Man…
It is the year 2364, and Jean-Luc Picard – the revered captain of the USS Enterprise – has just come face to face with three humans who have been frozen in time since the late 20th century. By this point in the story – the 1988 finale of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation – he has met Klingons, Romulans, a pool of black goo, but nothing is as alien as these greedy, selfish relics.
This is Star Trek, after all: the pop-culture behemoth built on the idealistic future envisioned in the 60s by its creator Gene Roddenberry. “A lot has changed in the past 300 years,” Picard tells them. “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”
Or have we? Revisiting the character 30 years later in Star Trek: Picard, Patrick Stewart’s grand return to the role at the age of 79, it seems the world has not progressed as much as we were led to believe. Set during a time in which the Federation – a union of planets with shared democratic values and interests – has turned isolationist in response to a terror attack, it has proved to be a divisively dark, gritty and morally bleak take on the Star Trek universe….
With global coronavirus cases heading toward half a million, Harvard infectious disease experts said recent modeling shows that — absent the development of a vaccine or other intervention — a staggered pattern of social distancing would save more lives than a one-and-done strategy and avoid overwhelming hospitals while allowing immunity to build in the population.
The work, conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and led by Yonatan Grad, the Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology, also shows that if strict social distancing such as that imposed in China — which cuts transmission by 60 percent — is relaxed, it results in epidemic peaks in the fall and winter similar in size and with similar impacts on the health care system as those in an uncontrolled epidemic.
“We looked at how it would affect the thing that matters most — overwhelming the critical-care unit,” Grad said.
The problem, the researchers said, is that while strict social distancing may appear to be the most effective strategy, little population-level immunity is developed to a virus that is very likely to come around again.
(18) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS. A lot of genre figures
are getting in on the act – we learned about these three from Comicbook.com:
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. (* )Thanks to Bill Burns for the assist. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Due to recent events in RWA, many in the romance community have lost faith in RWA’s ability to administer the 2020 RITA contest fairly, causing numerous judges and entrants to cancel their participation. The contest will not reflect the breadth and diversity of 2019 romance novels/novellas and thus will not be able to fulfill its purpose of recognizing excellence in the genre. For this reason, the Board has voted to cancel the contest for the current year. The plan is for next year’s contest to celebrate 2019 and 2020 romances.
While we understand this will be disappointing news for some, we also understand that other members will support taking this step. Recent RWA Boards have worked hard to make changes to the current contest, striving to make it more diverse and inclusive, relieve judging burdens, and bring in outside voices, but those changes had to be voted on and implemented in a narrow window of time each year.
By not holding a contest in 2020, we will be able to move away from making piecemeal changes. Instead, we will have the opportunity to take a proper amount of time to build an awards program and process – whether it’s a revamped RITA contest or something entirely new – that celebrates and elevates the best in our genre. We plan on engaging a consultant who specializes in awards programs and a DEI consultant, as well as soliciting member input.
Members who entered the 2020 contest will be refunded their full entry fee by January 22, 2020. We extend our deep appreciation to the judges who volunteered their time this year.
When leading a discussion, don’t be afraid to go with the flow. Sometimes the oddest questions may be the most fruitful, or those questions may lead to additions for the future, sometimes even inspiring entirely new classes. The question of how to maintain a fruitful writing practice in the face of increasingly grey times, for example, led to a class on hopepunk that has become one of my favorites to teach and one which was even referenced in a Wall Street Journal article on the subgenre.
(3) MUTATIS MUTANDI. A trailer for The New Mutants has
dropped. Film comes to theaters April 3.
20th Century Fox in association with Marvel Entertainment presents “The New Mutants,” an original horror thriller set in an isolated hospital where a group of young mutants is being held for psychiatric monitoring. When strange occurrences begin to take place, both their new mutant abilities and their friendships will be tested as they battle to try and make it out alive.
(4) PICARD TEASER. The show arrives January 23. Will this
be the bait that finally gets me to pay for CBS All-Access?
Join us when we celebrate “The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World” with our very special panel of guest Mike Avila – author and Emmy award-winning TV producer, Jason O’Mara – Star, “Wyatt Price”, Isa Dick Hackett – Executive Producer, David Scarpa – Co-Showrunner, Drew Boughton – Production Designer.
Discover the alt worlds of The Man in the High Castle with the cast and crew in this exclusive collection of art. Packed with concept art, final designs, and artist commentary plus previously unseen storyboards.
The Man in the High Castle is the hit Amazon series, inspired by Philip K. Dick’s award-winning novel, that offers a glimpse into a chilling alternate timeline in which Hitler was victorious in World War II. In a dystopian America dominated by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Juliana Crain discovers a mysterious film that may hold the key to toppling the totalitarian regimes.
This is a panel discussion and signing and will be wristbanded.
A wristband will be issued on a first come, first serve basis to customers who purchase “The Man in The High Castle: Creating The Alt World ” from Barnes & Noble in The Grove beginning January 8th • Limit 1 wristband per book • Check Back for more Details as they Become Available
For more information contact Barnes & Noble at The Grove — 189 The Grove Dr, Ste K 30, Los Angeles, California 90036
(6) FREELANCING IN CALIFORNIA. Publishers Lunch for January 2 includes the following: “Legal: California Freelance Law and
The Authors Guild has a look at California’s new law AB-5 that requires treating many freelance workers as employees. On the question of whether the law affects book authors, “We were assured by those working on the bill that trade book authors are not covered, and we do not see a basis for disagreeing since the bill clearly states that AB-5 applies only to ‘persons providing labor or services’ and authors provide neither ‘labor’ nor ‘services’ under standard book contracts—they instead grant copyright licenses or assignments. Additionally, royalties—even in the form of advance payments—are not considered wages. It is difficult to imagine how a court would conclude that a typical book contract is for labor or services.”
Some book contracts, though, such as work-made-for-hire agreements and “contracts where the author has ongoing obligations and the publisher has greater editing ability or control over the content” could be subject to the new law, though. And the AG recommends that, “Publishers and authors who want to be certain to retain a freelancer relationship should be careful to make sure the contracts are written as simple license grants and not as services agreements.”
Venkatraghavan delivers an assortment of stories by talented Indian writers. Three elements unite the stories: all are written by women, all are speculative fiction, and all are worth reading. A further element common to many (but not all) is an undercurrent of incandescent fury over the current condition of the world. Taken as a whole, the collection is not quite as upbeat as Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, but the craft of the writers is undeniable.
Please bring light refreshments to share, and note that this is an alcohol-free venue.
At this gathering we will share stories of Andi, honoring her life and fight for disabled access and political advantages for all.
(9) TODAY’S DAY.
Handsel Monday — According to Scottish custom, the
first Monday of the new year was the time to give children and servants a small
gift, or handsel. Literally something given into the hands of someone else, the
gift itself was less important than the good luck it signified. The handsel was
popular as a new year’s gift from the 14th to 19th centuries, but it also had a
broader application to mark any new situation. It continues today in the form
of a housewarming gift to someone moving into a new home.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 6, 1973 —Schoolhouse Rock! premiered
January 6, 1975 — The first episode of The Changes premiered on BBC 1. It was a ten-part series adapting Peter Dickinson’s The Changes YA trilogy (The Weathermonger, Heartsease and The Devil’s Children. (The books were written in reverse order: the events of The Devil’s Children happen first, Heartsease second, and The Weathermonger third). It starred Victoria Williams and Keith Ashton. I find no reporting on it from the time, nor is it rated over at Rotten Tomatoes but that’s typical of these BBC series from this time.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 6, 1895 — Tom Fadden. He’s on the Birthday Honors List for the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers where his character was one of the first victims to yield to the invaders. It wasn’t his first SFF role as some thirty years before that role, he would make his Broadway debut as Peter Jekyll in The Wonderful Visit based off the novel of the same name by H. G. Wells, who also co-wrote the play. The last role of his that I’ll note was that one of his first television roles was Eben Kent, the man who adopts Kal-El on the first episode of The Adventures of Superman series. (Died 1980.)
Born January 6, 1905 — Eric Frank Russell. He won the first annual Hugo Award for Best Short Story at Clevention in 1955 for “Allamagoosa” published in the May 1955 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Sinister Barrier, his first novel, appeared in Unknown in 1939, the first novel to appear there. What’s your favorite work by him? (Died 1978.)
Born January 6, 1954 — Anthony Minghella. He adapted his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller scripts into story form which were published in his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller collection. They’re quite excellent actually. (Died 2008.)
Born January 6, 1955 — Rowan Atkinson, 65. An unlikely Birthday perhaps except for that he was the lead in Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death which I know did not give him the dubious distinction of the shortest lived Doctor as that goes another actor although who I’ve not a clue. Other genre appearances were scant I think (clause inserted for the nit pickers here) though he did play Nigel Small-Fawcett in Never Say Never Again and Mr. Stringer in The Witches which I really like even if the author hates.
Born January 6, 1958 — Wayne Barlowe, 62. Artist whose Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials that came out in the late Seventies I still remember fondly. It was nominated at Noreascon 2 for a Hugo but came in third with Peter Nichol’s Science Fiction Encyclopedia garnering the Award that year. His background paintings have been used in Galaxy Quest, Babylon 5, John Carter and Pacific Rim to name but a few films.
Born January 6, 1959 — Ahrvid Engholm, 61. Swedish conrunning and fanzine fan who worked on many Nasacons as well as on Swecons. Founder of the long running Baltcon. He has many fanzines including Vheckans Avfentyr, Fanytt, Multum Est and others. He was a member of Lund Fantasy Fan Society in the University of Lund.
Born January 6, 1960 — Andrea Thompson, 60. I’ll not mention her memorable scene on Arliss as it’s not genre. Her noted genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short-lived Monsters anthology series. She had a one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series.
Born January 6, 1969 — Aron Eisenberg. Nog on Deep Space 9. Way after DS9, he’d show up in Renegades, a might be Trek series loaded with Trek alumni including Nichelle Nichols, Robert Beltran, Koenig and Terry Farrell. It lasted two episodes. (Died 2019.)
Born January 6, 1976 — Guy Adams, 44. If you’ve listened to a Big Finish audio-works, it’s likely that you are familiar with his writing as he’s written scripts for their Doctor, UNIT and Torchwood series among his many endeavors there. Not surprisingly, he’s also written novels on Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock Holmes and so forth. I’ve read some of his Torchwood novels — they’re good popcorn literature.
Born January 6, 1982 — Eddie Redmayne, 38. He portrayed Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. He was Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts film series.
Born January 6, 1984 — Kate McKinnon, 36. Dr. Jillian Holtzmann in that Ghostbusters film. I think her only other genre role to date was voicing various character on Robotomy, a Cartoon Network series. She is Grunhilda in the forthcoming The Lunch Witch film based off the YA novel by Deb Lucke.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Non Sequitur offers an alternate description of the afterlife.
Frank and Ernest find out the problems the cast of The Wizard of Oz has when looking for work.
Having just watched “Cats,” the movie version of the hit musical about something called “Jellicle cats,” it is clear that “Jellicle” must be cat-speak for “wackadoodle.”…
(14) SILENT RADIO. So far as I know, Camestros Felapton is
only on beer. But after reading “CATS!
An audio-free podcast review!” I plan to follow Abraham Lincoln’s
example and ask him to send each of us a barrel.
[Camestros] So let’s start. [in recitative] Did you find this film weird? [Timothy] Did it give us the frights? [Susan] Did it run far too long? [Camestros] Did the cast all wear tights? [Timothy] Was it bad C-G-I? [Susan] Was it moving and sad? [Camestros] Was it ineffably awful and indescribably bad? [Susan] (take it away Timothy!) [Timothy -sings] Because the movie of Cats is and the movie is not, It’s like the movie of Cats can and the movie can not, It’s not the movie of Cats is but also its not, While this movie of Cats should and really should not, And its because the movie of Cats is bad and bad it is not….
She was the first person to successfully fertilise a human egg in vitro, changing reproductive medicine forever – but few people know her name today.
…As a technician for Harvard fertility expert John Rock, Menkin’s goal was to fertilise an egg outside the human body. This was the first step in Rock’s plan to cure infertility, which remained a scientific mystery to doctors. He particularly wanted to help women who had healthy ovaries but damaged fallopian tubes – the cause of one-fifth of the infertility cases he saw in his clinic.
Usually, Menkin exposed the sperm and egg to each other for around 30 minutes. Not this time. Years later, she recalled what transpired to a reporter: “I was so exhausted and drowsy that, while watching under the microscope how the sperm were frolicking around the egg, I forgot to look at the clock until I suddenly realised that a whole hour had elapsed… In other words, I must admit that my success, after nearly six years of failure, was due – not to a stroke of genius – but simply to cat-napping on the job!”
On Friday, when she came back to the lab, she saw something miraculous: the cells had fused and were now dividing, giving her the world’s first glimpse of a human embryo fertilised in glass.
Audiobooks are having a moment. As they soar in popularity, they are becoming increasingly creative – is the book you listen to now an artform in its own right, asks Clare Thorp.
…Audiobooks are in the midst of a boom, with Deloitte predicting that the global market will grow by 25 per cent in 2020 to US$3.5 billion (£2.6 billion). Compared with physical book sales, audio is the baby of the publishing world, but it is growing up fast. Gone are the days of dusty cassette box-sets and stuffily-read versions of the classics. Now audiobooks draw A-list talent – think Elisabeth Moss reading The Handmaid’s Tale, Meryl Streep narrating Charlotte’s Web or Michelle Obama reading all 19 hours of her own memoir, Becoming. There are hugely ambitious productions using ensemble casts (the audio of George Saunders’ Booker Prize-winning Lincoln in the Bardo features 166 different narrators), specially created soundscapes and technological advances such as surround-sound 3D audio. Some authors are even skipping print and writing exclusive audio content.
…While audiobook sales are up and physical book sales down, it’s not a given that the two things are related. In fact, audio is pulling in new audiences – whether that’s listeners who don’t usually buy books, or readers listening to genres in audio format that they wouldn’t pick up in print.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Is that Emperor
Palpatine on an air guitar, or a Force guitar?
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock,
Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, James Davis
Nicoll, Michael J. Walsh, Peace Is My Middle Name, and Andrew Porter for some
of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve
International Class 016: Series of fiction works, namely, novels and books.
In International Class 016, the mark was first used by the applicant or the applicant’s related company or licensee or predecessor in interest at least as early as 11/13/1998, and first used in commerce at least as early as 03/03/1999, and is now in use in such commerce. The applicant is submitting one(or more) specimen(s) showing the mark as used in commerce on or in connection with any item in the class of listed goods/services, consisting of a(n) amazon.com website showing books in series being sold, book catalog showing series of books with mark, personal website showing series of books with mark..
The mark consists of standard characters, without claim to any particular font style, size, or color.
Will the mark be granted? What use will the author make of it?
Last year Faleena Hopkins triggered
she claimed exclusive rights to
“cocky” for romance titles. Hopkins sent notices to multiple authors telling
them to change the titles of their books and asked Amazon to take down all
other cocky-titled romance books (not just series).
The Authors Guild got involved in the litigation and Hopkins withdrew
her trademark claim. The Guild’s settlement announcement also said:
…The Trademark Office clarified that the owner of a trademark in a book series title cannot use that trademark against single book titles. Since single titles cannot serve as trademarks, they also cannot infringe series title trademarks. So, if another author or a publisher ever tries to stop you from using a single book title because of their series trademark, you can tell them to take a hike. Only series titles can infringe another series title.
(2) MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Nicholas Whyte does an epic roundup
7: the third series” at his From The Heart of Europe blog. In
addition to his commentary and links to episodes on YouTube, he also keeps
track of such trivia as appearances by actors who also had roles in Doctor
Who, and includes clips of some of the betterlines of dialog. such as –
Avon: That one’s Cally. I’ll introduce her more formally when she wakes up. This one is Vila. I should really introduce him now; he’s at his best when he’s unconscious.
(3) FIND THE BEST SHORT FANTASY. Rocket Stack Rank posted its annual roundup “Outstanding High Fantasy of 2018” with 39 stories that were that were finalists for major
SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or
recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.
are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and
pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and
High fantasy stories make up 11% of SF/F awards finalists with 11 stories out of 101 total award-nominated stories from the 2018 Best SF/F. However, the only winner was “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” for the magazine-specific Uncanny Magazine Favorite Fiction Reader Poll award.
As for RSR, we recommended 20 stories (4 award worthy), were neutral on 16 stories, and only recommended against 3 stories (view by RSR rating).
(4) ROCINANTE LIFTS OFF 12/13. Amazon has dropped the
trailer for the next season of The Expanse:
Season 4 of The Expanse, its first as a global Amazon Original, begins a new chapter for the series with the crew of the Rocinante on a mission from the U.N. to explore new worlds beyond the Ring Gate. Humanity has been given access to thousands of Earth-like planets which has created a land rush and furthered tensions between the opposing nations of Earth, Mars and the Belt. Ilus is the first of these planets, one rich with natural resources but also marked by the ruins of a long dead alien civilization. While Earthers, Martians and Belters maneuver to colonize Ilus and its natural resources, these early explorers don’t understand this new world and are unaware of the larger dangers that await them.
…On the television the genre pickings have still not been many. I am still enjoying most of Doctor Who, and Jessica’s excellent reports on that series’ progress need no further comment from me, but my latest find this month has been another popular series for children. I am quite surprised how much I have enjoyed its undemanding entertainment, as Gerry Anderson’s Stingray has been shown on ITV. Be warned though – it’s a puppet series! Nevertheless, its enthusiasm and energy, combined with great music in a wonderful title sequence has made this unexpected fun. I understand that it has been entirely filmed in colour, although like the majority of the 14 million British households with a television, we’re forced to watch it in good old black-and-white.
(6) GIVING THANKS FOR THE WEIRD.[Item by Martin Morse
Wooster.]The November 24
episode of The Simpsons was a Thanksgiving version of Treehouse of
Horror, and all three segments were sf or fantasy. The first episode
recreated the original Thanksgiving, with cast members playing the Pilgrims,
the Indians, and the turkeys. The second episode had a personal assistant
AI like Siri or Alexa, and the AI version of Marge did a better job of
preparing Thanksgiving dinner than Marge did. But the best segment was when
a space ark fled Earth because of climate change, and Bart Simpson finds a can
of cranberry sauce and decides to replicate it, skipping all the warnings about
how you shouldn’t replicate organic objects. Of course, Bart ignores the
warnings, and the cranberry sauce comes to life and becomes very hungry.
Frozen 2 raked in $350 million (nearly £272m) in its opening weekend worldwide, beating forecasts and the box office debut of the original film.
The sequel made about £15m in the UK and Ireland and $127m (£98.9m) in the US and Canada, which are not counted towards the worldwide figures.
The 2013 original took $93m (£72.28m) during its first five days in theatres, according to Reuters.
It ended up making a whopping $1.27bn in total.
Disney say the sequel has set a new record for the biggest opening weekend for an animation.
That’s owing to the fact they consider this year’s remake of the Lion King, which made $269m on its opening weekend, to be a live action film.
But some feel the digital 3D film is more of a photo-realistic animation
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
November 26, 1977 — Space Academy aired “My Favorite Marcia”. The YA series stars Commander Isaac Gampu as played by Jonathan Harris. And the Big Bad in this episode is Robby the Robot with a different head. And a black paint job.
November 26, 1986 – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered. Featuring the all still living main cast of the original series, it was financially quite successful, liked by critics and fans alike. It currently has an 81% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers. It placed second to Aliens for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at Conspiracy ‘87.
November 26, 1997 — Alien Resurrection premiered. The final instalment in the Alien film franchise, it starred Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder. It was the last Alien film for Weaver as she was not in Alien vs. Predator. It did well at the box office and holds a 39% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 26, 1897 — Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen and The Bull Calves but also new wave SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman, pure fantasy Graeme and the Dragon and an Arthurian novel in Chapel Perilous. (Died 1999.)
Born November 26, 1910 — Cyril Cusack. Fireman Captain Beatty on the classic version of Fahrenheit 451. He’s Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper in Nineteen Eighty-four, and several roles on Tales of the Unexpected round out his genre acting. (Died 1993.)
Born November 26, 1919 — Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honored for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, he won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards, and his 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him the 12th recipient of its Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. OK, setting aside Awards which are fucking impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Astonishing Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction, Worlds ofIf, andSuper Science Stories which were a companion to Astonishing Stories, plus the Star Science Fiction anthologies –and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. (Died 2013.)
Born November 26, 1939 — Tina Turner, 80. She gets noted here for being the oh-so-over-the-top Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in Tommy as well and for appearing as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero which is at least genre adjacent.
Born November 26, 1945 — Daniel Davis, 74. I’m singling him out for Birthday Honors for being his two appearances as Professor Moriarty on Next Gen. He has one-offs on MacGyver, Gotham and Elementary. He played a Judge in The Prestige film. He also voiced several characters on the animated Men in Black series.
Born November 26, 1961 — Steve Macdonald, 58. A fan and longtime pro filker ever since he first went to a filk con in 1992. In 2001, he went on a “WorlDream” tour, attending every filk con in the world held that year. He’s now resident where he moved to marry fellow filker Kerstin (Katy) Droge.
Born November 26, 1966 — Kristin Bauer van Straten, 53. Best known for being Pamela Swynford De Beaufort on True Blood, and as sorceress Maleficent on Once Upon a Time. She was also the voice of Killer Frost in the most excellent Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay film.
Born November 26, 1988 — Tamsin Egerton, 31. She was the young Morgaine, and I do mean young, in The Mists of Avalon series. She goes on to be Kate Dickens in the Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale series, Miranda Helhoughton in the Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking film and Guinevere in the Camelot series. Oh, and she’s Nancy Spungen in an episode of Psychobitches which is least genre adjacent if not genre.
Born November 26, 1988 — Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, 31. He played Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on the Game of Thrones for five seasons. That’s it for his genre acting, but he co-founded Icelandic Mountain Vodka whose primary product is a seven-time distilled Icelandic vodka. Surely something Filers can appreciate!
(10) RE-FINDING NEMO. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’m
behind in doing a Windsor McKay/Little Nemo post, but this is a close-out item
and probably going fast, so:
For you $45 plus shipping – $7.95, via USPS (you can spend more
for faster), down from the original $124.99
My point: If you are a McKay/Nemo fan, and think you might
be interested, now is the time, before they’re gone (or gone at this price). (Needless
to say, I ordered mine before sending this item to OGH.)
The book is 16″x21″ — the same size as the original
McKay strips, back when the “Sunday Funnies” were humongous… and
Nemo (and many others) got an entire of these pages. There are, as an item or
comment a few weeks/months back noted, two volumes of McKay’s Nemo that are
themselves full-sized. They ain’t cheap. (I own the first one, felt that was
enough that I didn’t follow up and get the second… I do, to be fair, have enough
smaller-sized Nemo volumes.
From the listing:
By Bill Sienkiewicz, Charles Vess, P. Craig Russell, David Mack et al. Contemporary artists pay tribute to this beloved and imaginative Sunday page. They have created 118 entirely new Little Nemo pages, all full Sunday page size! Contributors also include Paul Pope, J.H. Williams III, Carla Speed McNeil, Peter Bagge, Dean Haspiel, Farel Dalrymple, Marc Hempel, Nate Powell, Jeremy Bastian, Jim Rugg, Ron Wimberly, Scott Morse, David Petersen, J.G. Jones, Mike Allred, Dean Motter, Yuko Shimizu, Roger Langridge, Craig Thompson, and Mark Buckingham, among many others.
(11) YOUNG CREATORS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Lynda Barry. Barry, who teaches interdisciplinary creativity at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), says that she’s going to use her Macarthur Fellowship to study four-year-olds who see writing and drawing as one thing to determine when kids see writing and drawing as separate activities and then give up drawing. One result, she says, may be to find ways to teach adults who don’t think they can draw to start making art again. “How MacArthur ‘genius’ Lynda Barry is exploring brain creativity with true artists: Preschoolers”.
… “Most people stop drawing when they reach the age of 8 or so, because they couldn’t draw a nose or hands,” said Barry, 63. “The beautiful thing is that their drawing style is intact from that time. Those people, if you can get them past being freaked out, have the most interesting lines — and have a faster trajectory to making really original comics than people who have been drawing for a long, long time.”
…No discussion of authors of Pohl’s vintage would be complete without mentioning their shorter works.1972’s collection The Gold at the Starbow’s End contains five of Pohl’s finest, two of which are standouts.
The first standout is the title novella, in which a small crew of astronauts are dispatched on a slow voyage to Alpha Centauri. They have been assured that a world awaits them; this is a lie. There is no world and they have not been told of the true goals of their project. The project is a success. If only the geniuses who created the program had asked themselves what the consequences of success might be…
The other standout is 1972’s The Merchant of Venus. The discovery of alien relics on Venus has spurred colonization of that hostile world. Maintaining a human presence on Venus is fearfully expensive. It’s not subsidized by the home world; colonists must pay for their keep. This is a challenge for Audee Walthers, who is facing impending organ failure and doesn’t have the dosh to pay the doctor….
The launch of Disney+ show The Mandalorian, and the introduction of baby Yoda, has brought upon us the latest round of Star Wars obsession, with plenty of product tie-ins to aid the fandom. Last month, Le Creuset introduced a line of Star Wars-branded cookware, including a C-3P0 Dutch oven and a porg pie bird. But if you’re torn between wanting to use a Star Wars casserole dish and needing to braise ribs quickly, a new line of Star Wars Instant Pots is here….
In what has to be one of the more bizarre plagiarism stories in recent memory, Qatar Airways accused Singapore’s Changi Airport Group of plagiarizing not a paper, an idea or a proposal, but an airport.
The accusation was made by Akbar Al Baker, who is the CEO of both Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport. In a recent press conference, he claimed that Singapore’s Changi Airport was a plagiarism of a planned expansion of Hamad International Aiport in Doha, Qatar.
Will Smith and Tom Hanks have made their careers by playing likable characters. Some of these characters are hyperintelligent and some profoundly dumb. Some inspire laughter and others tears. But the characters they play are always easy to like. They have a quality about them that makes you feel like, given the chance, you’d get along with them.
So, why does this matter? It matters because people like rooting for a likable person. People want the good guy to get the girl. They want the honorable person to rise to the top. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always deal out its cards fairly. Bad guys win all the time. As a result, people want to escape into a fiction governed by poetic justice, where the bad guys run up against the shit they deserve and the good guys get to sit back and have a cold one.
no need to limit yourself, Hurtgen’s second suggestion is —
Make your characters unlikable…
(16) RED SHIFT. In “We Made Star Wars R-Rated,” YouTube’s
Corridor Crew takes some scenes from the second trilogy and adds the gore
and splatter that Lucasfilms forgot to include….
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, James
Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Eric Wong, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge,
Chip Hitchcock, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit
goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Editor’s Note: My ISP took the site down for several hours to do database
maintenance. I was notified earlier today it would happen and put the info in a
comment, however, I doubt many people saw it. We’re back now!
(1) HOW TO SUCCEED AS A PANELIST Delilah S. Dawson’s thread
“So You’re On Your First Panel As A Writer” tells participants how to sharpen their
skills. Thread starts here.
In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Chicago, the Justice Department asked for a halt to Quad/Graphics’s planned $1.4 billion purchase of LSC Communications. Lawyers in the department’s antitrust division argued that the merger would decrease competition and drive up prices.
Quad publishes every Condé Nast title, including The New Yorker and Vogue, most publications from Hearst Magazines, including O: The Oprah Magazine, and Scholastic books. LSC Communications publishes two magazines from AARP that claim to have the largest circulations in the world, Penguin Random House books and more.
…In its attempt to block the deal, the Justice Department had two allies from the community of writers: The Authors Guild and PEN America. “The lack of competition among book printers has already caused a bottleneck and increased publishing costs, and a merger between these two companies could exacerbate this situation by creating a monopoly,” the Authors Guild said in a statement in March.
That same month, the Authors Guild and PEN America joined the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank based in Washington, in sending a letter to the Justice Department recommending that the merger be blocked.
It was imperative that the government act, the letter said, because magazines and books “are fundamental to the ability of citizens to freely express and share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and works of art.”
Are Marvel fans a “Shallow” lot? They are lobbying hard for James Gunn to cast Lady Gaga as the voice of Lylla, a sentient otter from the comic books who winds up being the love interest of Rocket Raccoon, who is voiced by Bradley Cooper in the movies. This is after Film Updates posted a tease on Twitter that Gaga was under consideration, and that Lylla was “set to make an appearance” in Gunn’s upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3’.
(5) DESTROYING THE INTERNET. On reason.com,
Mike Godwin of the R Street Institute, in “What
If Widespread Disinformation Is the Solution to Fake News?” interviews Neal Stephenson about his idea,
expressed in Fall, that the solution to fake news on the Internet is to
hire people to perform “libel service,” flooding the Net with so many
slanderous articles about a subject that no one could believe anything on the
Net about a particular person.
I confess I haven’t yet finished Stephenson’s latest 800-plus-page tome, which so far might be characterized, although not necessarily captured, by the term “near-future dystopia.” But when I came across Stephenson’s depiction of how automated disinformation could actually remedy the damage that internet-based “doxxing” and fake news inflict on an innocent private individual, I paused my reading and jumped down the rabbit hole of tracing this idea to its 1990s roots.
…This whole chapter rang many bells for me, not least because it paralleled a discussion I had with a law professor at a conference last year when I pitched the idea of a “libel service.” Basically, you’d hire a “libel service” to randomly defame you on the internet, so that whenever anyone says something bad about you on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments area of some newspaper, you could just say “that’s probably my libel service.” No one would know whether the defamatory statements were true or not, and people would be predisposed to doubt anything too terrible that’s said about you.
(6) MARVEL ONE-ACT PLAYS. Samuel French and Marvel Entertainment have launched Marvel Spotlight, a collection of one-act plays “telling the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”
Developed specifically for teenagers, these one-act plays star the iconic Super Heroes Ms. Marvel, Thor, and Squirrel Girl. The scripts are now available for purchase as well as licensing within the educational theatre market at MarvelSpotlightPlays.com.
Here’s the abstract for Mirror of Most Value: A Ms. Marvel Play:
Kamala attempts to boost Ms. Marvel’s fledgling super hero profile by writing her own fan fiction. But when building a fandom becomes an obsession, Kamala’s schoolwork and relationships begin to suffer. To become the Jersey City hero of her dreams, Kamala must learn to accept herself just as she is – imperfections and all.
(7) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Camestros Felapton points
out the connections between Bradbury’s fiction and the Elton John biopic: “The
Rocket Man versus Rocketman”.
Both the song and story feature a man who pilots an interplanetary rocket as a routine job that takes him away from his family for large stretches of time. However, the song places the perspective with the pilot (the titular rocket man) but the story focuses on the feelings and experiences of the pilot’s son.
Bradbury is such a powerful writer. Even though the sci-fi trappings of the story are of the gee-whiz 1950s style shiny technology, the story itself is focused on emotional connections and that signature Bradbury sense of the past and memory.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
June 25, 1953 — Robot Monster debuted — the one where the guy in the gorilla suit wore a divers helmet with antennae.
June 25, 1965 — Dr. Who And The Daleks was released in London. The film featured Peter Cushing as Dr. Who. Cushing would do one more film, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. a year later. Cushing was the First Doctor, so Roberta Tovey was cast as his granddaughter.
June 25, 1975 — Rollerball premiered
June 25, 1982 — Blade Runner arrived in theaters.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born June 25, 1903 — George Orwell. Surprised to learn he only lived to be forty-seven years old. Author obviously of Animal Farm and 1984, both of which I read a long time ago. Best use of the 1984 image goes to Apple in their ad where a female runner smashes the image of Big Brother. (Died 1950.)
Born June 25, 1925 — June Lockhart, 93. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright.
Born June 25, 1935 — Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind,” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
Born June 25, 1956 — Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro!, (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. (Died 2018.)
Born June 25, 1960 — Ian McDonald, 59. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the Everness series are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time.
Born June 25, 1981 — Sheridan Smith, 38. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.
(10) WHAT A KINDNESS. Actor Michael Sheen answered a
request in character as Aziraphale:
Stan Lee’s posthumous creative project A Trick of Light, initially announced as the beginning of a new series for Audible, will be published as a hardcover finished book this fall, EW has learned exclusively. The book will be classified as Lee’s first-ever novel for adult readers, and marks the first foray into his new Alliances universe, which was created in partnership between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, Ryan Silbert’s Origin Story, and Luke Lieberman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is set to publish A Trick of Light, with Kat Rosenfield serving as co-author.
A Trick of Light is a superhero origin story about the unlikely friendship between Cameron, a gifted young man struggling with newfound fame after a freak accident gives him the ability to manipulate technology with his mind, and Nia, a hacker and coding genius with a mysterious past. The two must combine their powers to fight the dangerous physical and online forces threatening to wipe out the human race. Audible’s original launches June 27; it’s narrated by Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi.
The setting was really interesting and philosophically fruitful: a fleet of generation ships dating back to a time before contact with aliens who possess advanced technology that made generation ships useless. Instead of traversing the inky depths of interstellar space, the Fleet orbits a planet. Still, the people continue to live there. Why? It’s complicated. But it prompts the existential question: What are we, the readers, doing on a rock hurtling through space heading nowhere in particular, destined to die? It starts off subtle but it all gets pretty deep (we’re talking meaning-of-life type stuff, some of it – damn it – coming from the angsty teen). This really surprised me considering a lot of the novel feels pretty… light and fluffy. You could totally read this as a light and fluffy space romp and enjoy it just fine, but there are depths if you’re willing to look into the subtleties.
(13) WILLITS TRIBUTE. Alan White’s Skyliner
#7 is a wonderful collection,
even if it is “a sad one, being
dedicated to the late, great Malcolm Willits, Author, Fannish Mogul, Citizen
Kane of Mickey Mouse, and one of the early fen who actually did something
worthy of the fannish pantheon.” It includes long autobiographical pieces, such
as “Gottfredson and Me” about Willits’ appreciation for the artist who
produced Disney’s Mickey Mouse comics.
I have long loved Floyd Gottfredson, even though I did not know his name. But I knew him through his work, through his wonderful Mickey Mouse stories, and especially through his wonderful artwork. I knew it first through the Big Little Books, those miniature jewels that came out during the Depression and reprinted Mickey’s great adventures. I remember them from the ten cent store; whole counters full, all spine out and a dime apiece
A few years later all my Big Little Books disappeared, along with the comic books I had carefully protected from the wartime paper drives, thereby prolonging World War II a microsecond. My father was a YMCA Secretary, and he had given all of them to the children of Japanese-American families being relocated to internment camps. In vain was my protest that the 10¢ war stamp I purchased each week in the 2nd grade was sacrifice enough. Nor was my offer to substitute my school books even considered. I soon found myself in a staging area looking at sad-eyed Japanese-American children being held in wire cages. Dad informed me they were as American as I. It was then I began to suspect his grasp of world affairs. Didn’t he know who Captain America was fighting; had he slept through that Don Winslow serial we had seen a week or two before and neglected to notice who the villains were? But I acted properly contrite and was rewarded with some new comic books on the way home, so the world turned bright again. When my father turned 90, he was honored for his work with the Japanese-Americans during World War II. My contribution remains unheralded.
…Do artists such as Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson really need their friends? John W. Campbell, legendary editor of astounding science-fiction once said that if all the fans stop buying his magazine he would never know. He meant the fans that filled the letter columns, attended the conventions, published the fanzines, and badgered the authors. They probably compromise 1% of the readership, and 90% of the headaches. By being so vocal they could manage from orbit the general policies of the magazine that were keeping the rest of the readership contented. Yet where would Barks and Gottfredson be today if it were not for the godsend that two fans, Bruce Hamilton, and Russ Cochran, we’re born to collect and publish the works of these two artists? How difficult it would be to place a historical perspective on them without the pioneering works Tom Andrae, Donald Ault, Bill Blackbeard, Geoffrey Blum, Barbara Botner, Mark Evanier, Alan Dean Foster, Bob Foster, Frank & Dana Gabbard, Gottfreid Helnwein, Gary Kurtz, George Lucas, Leonard Maltin, John Nichols, Tor Odemark, Mark Saarinen, Horst Schroeder, David Smith, Kim Weston, myself, Mark Worden, and many others both here and abroad.
(14) THE HORROR OF IT ALL. Nick Mamatas’ affection for the
Lovecraftian storytelling style is manifest in his review of “Toy Story 4“,
a post made public to encourage readers
to sign up for his Patreon.
…The uncanny and the unworthy populate the film. Woody, ignored by his new owner, feels valueless and thus assigns himself the task of attempting to keep Forky alive. The antagonists are antique store dolls–there a Chatty Cathylike figure whose voice box was damaged at her creation, so her pull-cord “I love you!” sounds like a twisted dream calling forth from the bottom of a tar pit. She commands a quartet of ventriloquist dummies who cannot speak and who do her bidding while flopping around on their twisted limbs. She desires Woody’s innards for her own….
Of course the Germans have a wonderful word for ‘Gothic novel’. Schauerroman. Literally: “shudder-novel”. A story that makes you shiver with fear. Because Gothic is the literature of the menacing and the macabre.
It’s the stuff of nightmares.
But how does such a dark art translate in sunny Australia? How do you cause your readers to shiver when the temperature sits stubbornly above 80 degrees?
Gothic influence has been loitering creepily in Australian literature ever since European settlement. In 1788, when the British began shipping their convicts to Australia, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Ontranto had recently been published in England and so the British transported the Gothic mode along with their very worst criminals.
SIR WILLIAM GULL in From Hell, by Alan Moore (art by Eddie Campbell)
In Moore’s brilliant graphic novel, we’re asked to bend all we know about a serial killer we all know: Jack the Ripper. The details and research embedded in the conspiracy theory that unfolds are haunting, staggering, and so well done. If the infamously gruesome homicidal maniac was one and the same as a highly respected royal physician, then we must consider who we are trusting with our lives, and why.
Nasa has put a miniaturised atomic clock in orbit that it believes can revolutionise deep-space navigation.
About the size of a toaster, the device is said to have 50 times the stability of existing space clocks, such as those flown in GPS satellites.
If the technology proves itself over the next year, Nasa will install the clock in future planetary probes.
The timepiece was one of 24 separate deployments from a Falcon Heavy rocket that launched from Florida on Tuesday.
The other passengers on the flight were largely also demonstrators. They included a small spacecraft to test a new type of “green” rocket fuel, and another platform that aims to propel itself via the pressure of sunlight caught in a large membrane; what’s often called a “lightsail”.
But it is the mercury-ion atomic clock, developed at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which has had most attention.
The UK has managed to get one of its major Antarctic bases operating in an automatic mode for the first time.
Halley base, on the Brunt Ice Shelf, is remotely running experiments that include the monitoring of the ozone layer and of “space weather”.
The station would normally be crewed year-round, even through the permanent darkness of winter.
But staff have had to be withdrawn because of uncertainty over the stability of nearby ice.
A giant berg the size of Greater London is about to break away from the Brunt, and officials from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) consider it prudent to keep people away from the area, at least until the light and warmth of summer returns.
That’s prompted the UK’s polar research agency to develop an innovative set-up that can continue the station’s priority science activities in what is now the third winter shutdown on the trot.
What will remain in 100 years’ time of the city or town where you were born: which landmarks or buildings? What about in 500 years? The controversial author Nassim Nicholas Taleb offers a counter-intuitive rule-of-thumb for answering questions like this. If you want to know how long something non-perishable will endure – that is, something not subject to the limits of a natural lifespan – then the first question you should ask is how long it has already existed. The older it is, the more likely it is to go on surviving.
…The logic of Taleb’s argument is simple. Because the only judge that matters when it comes to the future is time, our only genuinely reliable technique for looking ahead is to ask what has already proved enduring: what has shown fitness and resilience in the face of time itself, surviving its shocks and assaults across decades, centuries or millennia. The Tower of London may seem modest in comparison to the Shard skyscraper – which sits across the Thames at 11 times the height – but it has also proved its staying power across 94 times as many years. The Shard may be iconic and imposing, but its place in history is far from assured. When it comes to time, the older building looms larger.
(21) MUPPET HISTORY. DefunctTV: Jim Henson is a
six-part series chronicling the life and works of the man behind the Muppet
mayhem. Here’s the first of four installments.
[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John
King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Brian Z, and
Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770
contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(1) THE BETTER BATTLE ANGELS
OF OUR NATURE. The Hollywood Reporter’s
Stephen Dalton makes it sound like the promotional beer (linked here the
other day) is better than the movie — “‘Alita:
Battle Angel’: Film Review”
…Twenty years in gestation, James Cameron’s long-cherished manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel finally reaches the big screen with help from director Robert Rodriguez and Peter Jackson’s digital effects team. With that kind of cinematic pedigree, backed by a reported $200 million budget, this kick-ass cyberpunk adventure seems to be aiming for the same blockbusting box office heights as the Hunger Games franchise. But a lumpy script, muddled plot, stock characters and tired genre tropes may dampen its commercial breakout potential beyond its core sci-fi action-fantasy demographic. While not exactly a misfire, Rodriguez and Cameron’s joint effort lacks the zing and originality of their best individual work. Fox is releasing it across much of Europe next week, with a U.S. launch to follow Feb. 14.
(2) GOFUNDME AND CHARITY
ANTHOLOGIES BENEFIT ROPES. Splatterpunk writer Christopher Ropes has a
serious health problem with his teeth, and the horror-writing community is
rallying to make the funds available. First, there’s Ropes’ GoFundMe, “Get
Christopher’s Teeth Fixed” with photos that illustrate the problem.
My name is Christopher Ropes. I was born with ameleogenesis imperfecta, a condition that has caused more pain and suffering in my life than any other source, even my fibromyalgia. Essentially, I have teeth that rot and break much more easily than normal because they lack proper enamel protection. I’ve suffered through countless infections that swell up the entirety of my face. And all of this doesn’t even begin to describe the fact that my teeth just make me feel ugly and unloveable.
I have no dental insurance because I’m on Disability and Medicare doesn’t cover any dental work, no matter how medically necessary.
My problems with my teeth have gotten so bad, I can hardly even chew anything anymore. I got an estimate from the dentist and all the work is going to come to approximately $14,000. I added a little bit to the total to cover any GoFundMe fees, as well as medications and special dietary needs while the work is being done, and the possibility that the estimate is shy of what the actual total will be.
On the same day his GoFundMe launched, two charity anthologies were released,
the profits to benefit Christopher Ropes.
Planet X Publications is proud to present this charity anthology, benefitting our friend, horror writer Christopher Ropes. It features stories & poems generously donated from members of the weird fiction & horror communities.
Tables of Contents: Introduction by Nadia Bulkin / 1) Blue Broken Mind by Farah Rose Smith / 2) An Incident on a Cold Winter’s Afternoon by Matthew A. St. Cyr / 3) Fishing Boots by Douglas Draa / 4) Chindi & Night of the Skinwalker by Frank Coffman / 5) How to Live Without Meds? by Norbert Góra / 6) Nothing Else Matters by Calvin Demmer / 7) The Denturist by Jo-Anne Russell / 8) The Tooth by Russell Smeaton / 9) To Anne by Paula Ashe / 10) I Can’t See the Bottom by James Fallweather / 11) Forbidden Knowledge by K.A. Opperman / 12) Outlaws by Bob Pastorella / 13) Project AZAZEL by Christopher Slatsky / 14) Prototype by E.O. Daniels / 15) Eton’s Last Will and Testament by Maxwell Ian Gold / 16) Last Call at the Overlook by Kathleen Kaufman / 17) Reflection in Blood by Scott J. Couturier / 18) Four Ropes by Shayne Keen / 19 Vore by Brian O’Connell / 20) “Hotel California” is the Devil by John Claude Smith / 21) Spare Parts by Jill Hand / 22) Salten by John Boden / 23) The Fever River by Matthew M. Bartlett / 24) Verdure by Brandon Barrows / 25) “INK” by Sarah Walker / 26) Twitching and Chirping by Robert S. Wilson / 27) Denizens of Mortuun by C.P. Dunphey / 28) Hungery by John Linwood Grant / 29) Chrysalises by Jeffrey Thomas / 30) I Keep It in a Little Box by S. L. Edwards / 31) Trace of Presence by Jason A. Wyckoff / 32) Thirty-Two by Donald Armfield / Wisdom Tooth ~ Insanity’s Steed by Frederick J. Mayer / Afterword by Christopher Ropes
Table of Contents: Introduction to Volume Two by Michael Wehunt / 1) “Alouette A La Blanc” by Bob Freville / 2) A Plague Of The Most Beautiful Finery by Kurt Fawver / 3) Believe Me by Ashley Dioses / 4) New Moon in November by K.A. Opperman / 5) That What Was Under The Surface by Norbert Góra / 6) My Valentine’s Day Ball by Donna Marie West / 7) The Last to Die by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy / 8) Hammer Dulcimer by T.M. Morgan / 9) The Ballad Stone by Adam Bolivar / 10) Lost on the Road to Nowhere by Pete Rawlik / 11) The City of Xees by Scott J. Couturier / 12) The View by Philip Fracassi / 13) The Figurehead by A.P Sessler / 14) The Triumph of the Skies by Eric Ruppert / 15) Growth; or, The Transubstantiation of Apartment 3C by Ross T. Byers / 16) Fertility by Brooke Warra / 17) Zugzwang by K. H. Vaughan / 18) On a Bed of Bone by Can Wiggins / 19) Yellow Voices by Luis G. Abbadie / 20) The Outsider by John Paul Fitch / 21) Mutinous Facial Abstractions by John Claude Smith / 22) Of Blood, Oil & Tin by Michael Brueggeman / 23) Cold by Sean M. Thompson / 24) Umbriel is The Darkest Moon by Marguerite Reed / 25) Humlin by Farah Rose Smith / 26) 32 White Horses by Justin Burnett / 27) Convince Me Not to Put a Bell on You by Andrew M. Reichart / 28) A Little Delta of Filth by Jon Padgett / 29) 2.0 by Aaron Besson / 30) We All Make Sacrifices by Jonathan Maberry / 31) Insect Queen by Roy K. Phelps / 32) Last Wraps by Duane Pesice / Afterword by Christopher Ropes
(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading
series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present F. Brett Cox and Peng
Shepherd on Wednesday, February 20 at the KGB Bar in New York.
F. Brett Cox
F. Brett Cox’s debut collection, The End of All Our Exploring: Stories, was published by Fairwood Press in 2018. His fiction, poetry, plays, articles, and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. With Andy Duncan, he co-edited the anthology Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic. He is a co-founder of the Shirley Jackson Awards and currently serves as Vice-President of the SJA Board of Directors. A native of North Carolina, Brett is Charles A. Dana Professor of English at Norwich University and lives in Vermont with his wife, playwright Jeanne Beckwith.
Peng Shepherd was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet, and has lived in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York. Her debut novel, The Book ofM, was chosen as an Amazon “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Year,” and has been featured on The Today Show, NPR On Point, and in The Guardian, io9, Gizmodo, SYFY Wire, andElle Canada. Find her at www.pengshepherd.com or on Twitter @pengshepherd.
Starts 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd
Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY
The Authors Guild has released their 2018 Author Income Survey. 5,067 authors participated, and the Guild says the results point to a “crisis of epic proportions for American authors, particularly literary writers.” The median income from writing was $6,080, a decline of 3% from their 2013 survey, and 42% from 2009, a drop the Guild ascribes to declining royalties, “blockbuster mentality” at publishing companies, and the sales practices of Amazon.com.
The Guild’s conclusions, and a PDF with lots of data
(and anecdata) is available at the Authors Guild website.
Phoenix Pick recently announced that, working with the Heinlein Prize Trust, they have been able to reconstruct the complete text of an unpublished novel written by Robert A. Heinlein in the early eighties.
Heinlein wrote this as an alternate text for “The Number of the Beast.” This text of approximately 185,000 words largely mirrors the first one-third of the published version, but then deviates completely with an entirely different story-line and ending.
This newly reconstructed text also pays extensive homage to two authors Heinlein himself admired: Edgar Rice Burroughs and E. E. “Doc” Smith, who became a good friend. Heinlein dedicated his book “Methuselah’s Children” to Smith, and partially dedicated “Friday” to Smith’s daughter, Verna.
The alternate text, especially the ending, is much more in line with more traditional Heinlein books, and moves away from many of the controversial aspects of the published version.
There has been speculation over the years about a possible alternate text, and the reason it was written, particularly since one version is not just a redo of the other ? these are two completely different books.
It is possible that Heinlein was having fun with the text as “The Number of the Beast” and the new book both deal with parallel universes. Given his sense of humor, it would not be surprising for Heinlein to have written two parallel texts for a book about parallel universes.
The new book was pieced together from notes and typed manuscript pages left behind by the author. It is currently under editorial review by award-winning editor, Patrick LoBrutto .
Phoenix Pick expects to publish both The Number of the Beast and the new book, tentatively titled ”Six-Six-Six,” just ahead of this year’s holiday season.
…So on the one hand, I’m overjoyed to say that Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy adaptation has all the absurdity and chaos of the source material. On the other hand, I’m bummed because it feels like some of the comic’s inherent joy was lost in the jump between the page and the screen…
…Portraying the rough parts of being a superhero has been a little bit harder, mainly because it’s so hard to believe that superhero lives could ever be that terrible.
[…] Making the rotten part of being a superhero as essential as the good parts is where Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy begins. The stylish and crackling new series — written by Steve Blackman and developed by Jeremy Slater — is based on the Eisner Award-winning comic book by Gerard Way (who is also the frontman for the band My Chemical Romance, and serves as the Netflix show’s co-executive producer) and artist Gabriel Ba (also a co-executive producer).
[…] The basic premise revolves around the parasol protégés: seven kids born to different mothers who are brought together as young children a man named Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) who becomes their adopted “dad.” He assembles them into a makeshift family, helps them hone their powers, and turns them into an efficient and successful teenage superhero squad known as the Umbrella Academy.
[…] Style and doomsday aside, it’s in these pockets of emotion that The Umbrella Academy flashes its true beauty and intent. The show may be wrapped in superheroics and action, but it’s really about a group of people who have to work through their painful pasts and realize that forgiving one another is far tougher than the bigger task (saving the world, I guess) at hand.
As we prepare to make our first pilgrimage to the fringes of Wild Space and journey to the planet of Batuu, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort later this year, there’s a galaxy of books and comics coming to shelves featuring stories that intersect with the inhabitants of the far-flung world.
Meet Dok-Ondar, the infamous Ithorian who deals in rare antiquities, find out why General Leia Organa takes an interest in Black Spire Outpost, and indulge in myths and fables from a galaxy far, far away, plus other stories set on the Outer Rim locale.
(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In
“Things Used To Be Hidden” on Vimeo, Tara Mercedes Wood looks at what
happens if people could see -everything- other people were trying to hide.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 2, 1905 – Ayn Rand. Best known for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged which is ISFDB lists as genre though I personally think they’re just pieces of badly written political shit. Her works have made into films many times starting with The Night of January 16th based on a play by her in the early Forties to an animated series based off her Anthem novella. No, I really don’t care who John Galt is. (Died 1982.)
Born February 2, 1933 – Tony Jay. Ok I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavours include, and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits, included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in “Brisco for the Defense” and Dougie Milford In Twin Peaks. (Died 2006.)
Born February 2, 1940 – Thomas Disch. Camp Concentration, The Genocides, 334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done. He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.)
Born February 2, 1949 – Brent Spiner, 70. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite moments of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise. Over the years, he’s had roles in TwilightZone, Outer Limits, Tales from the Darkside, Gargoyles, Young Justice, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Warehouse 13 and had a lead role in the thirteen-episode run of Threshold.
Born February 2, 1949 – Jack McGee, 70. Ok so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series? Six episodes all told. Not as short as The Nightmare Cafe I grant you but pretty short. I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest, to name some of his genre roles.
Born February 2, 1986 – Gemma Arterton, 33. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series.
Old-style Discovery comes roaring back with a vengeance and a bloody bat’leth. Spore drive, parasites, Klingon man-buns, Ash Tyler, black-ops Star Fleet, hallucinating Tilly, grimdark space-opera — its a week for the weird and wacky on Discovery and I love it.
It’s all story arc this week. Michael is looking for Spock and in a twist so is Spock’s mum. Meanwhile, Ash Tyler is starring in Game of Thrones: The Klingon Years as he struggles with his new reality and seeks to support L’rell as she attempts to unite the now much hairier Klingons. Meanwhile, meanwhile, Tilly is being harassed by the annoying ghost of a former school mate.
(13) COLLECTIBLES AUCTION. Prop Store (offices in London & LA) has an upcoming auction of vintage toys &
collectables. Dozens of TV series and movies/series are represented, with
the large majority of them genre. The full catalog is online as a PDF. A quick perusal of that
reveals pre-auction estimates ranging from $100 (US) to at least $20,000.
Prop Store is pleased to announce its first Toys & Collectibles auction, to be held as a live-auction on Thursday February 28, and Friday March 1, 2019. The auction will include high-quality production toys, preproduction items, international collectables, store displays & marketing materials, bootlegs, posters, press kits, cast and crew items, and more.
(14) VERSE OF THE DAY. From
Each day we scroll up every pixel. Their coruscant electronic tricks’ll Make the Filers smile. If we miss some, those five or six’ll Set off commenters, whose kicks’ll Busy us for a while; Call OGH: he in the mix’ll Let things run, unless a nix’ll Scatter a dog-pile. And never fear for Oz. Your clicks’ll Safely mispronounce “Pyrzqxgl”, Not in dangerous style.
Award-winning author Neil Gaiman has spent more than a quarter of a century crafting vivid, absorbing fiction. Now, the author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman teaches his approach to imaginative storytelling. Learn how to find your unique voice, develop original ideas, and breathe life into your characters. Discover Neil’s philosophy on what drives a story—and open new windows to the stories inside you.
At the touch of a button, these incredible homes of the future can self-deploy and build themselves in less than 10 minutes, transforming from a box into a building eight to ten times its original size. Ten Fold Engineering’s David Martyn explains the surprisingly simple design concept that makes this possible.
We already know it’s chilly on the moon. A lunar night lasts 14 Earth days, and its temperatures can dip into a cold so punishing it makes the polar vortex look like a hot tub. But yesterday, China’s space agency announced that the frigidity of the lunar night is even more intense than we’d thought: The country’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft recorded an icy low of –310 degrees Fahrenheit (–190 degrees Celsius).
Consisting of a stationary lander and a six-wheeled rover named Yutu-2, Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon earlier this [year]—a first for any spacecraft. During its first lunar night, Chang’e 4 went into hibernation, relying on internal heat sources to survive.
[…] With both the lander and rover awake, the rover should soon begin its task of exploring and analyzing the 115-mile-wide Von Kármán crater. Exploring the moon’s far side comes with many challenges: The lunar surface is exposed to more impacts from cosmic debris, so the rover will need to carefully watch the terrain (it has already beamed backed a panorama of its surroundings). […]
(18) READY FOR YOUR CLOSE-UP?
The subject line “Press Release: Former TAFF delegate found brutally
murdered (NSFW?)” was pretty scary ‘til I found out the email press release was
about Steve Green’s appearance in a horror movie:
British science fiction fan Steve Green, former editor of the newszine Critical Wave and European TAFF delegate to the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, has been found brutally murdered in the isolated English village Bell’s End… or at least, his character has, in a pastiche movie trailer currently in production from indie team Vamporama Films.
Terror at Bell’s End is an homage to the 1980s giallo slashers directed by the likes of Lucio Fulci (The Black Cat), Riccardo Freda (Iguana in a Woman’s Skin) and Luciano Ercoli (Forbidden Photos of a Woman Under Suspicion — the new Blu-ray release of which includes a 44-minute documentary from Vamporama Films among the extras). Steve, who’s producing the short, was persuaded by writer-director Chrissie Harper to make a grisly cameo as the mysterious killer’s first on-screen victim.
“It’s very tongue-in-cheek,” Steve explains, “only we’re not quite sure where the tongue came from and precisely whose cheek it’s been left in. My character gets murdered with his own pipe, which I guess underlines the health risks of smoking.”
Meanwhile, Vamporama Films is also seeking festivals and conventions interested in screening its latest horror short Monsters, described by former Giallo Pages editor John Martin as “a chilling glimpse into our future that looks like it was shot by the ghost of Mario Bava”.
Turns out training a robotic arm to play Jenga is a surprisingly complex task. There are, so to speak, a lot of moving parts. Researchers at MIT are putting a modified ABB IRB 120 to work with the familiar tabletop game, utilizing a soft gripper, force-sensing wrist joint and external camera to design a bot that can remove a block without toppling the tower.
[…] “Unlike in more purely cognitive tasks or games such as chess or Go, playing the game of Jenga also requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing and aligning pieces. It requires interactive perception and manipulation, where you have to go and touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks,” says MIT assistant professor Alberto Rodriguez. “This is very difficult to simulate, so the robot has to learn in the real world, by interacting with the real Jenga tower. The key challenge is to learn from a relatively small number of experiments by exploiting common sense about objects and physics.”
(20) SIL RETURNS. An old and much-missed Doctor Who villain is returning — but
not in the current iteration of “NuWHO”. The original creator of the
evil alien Sil, Philip Martin, and the original actor, Nabil Shaban, are
reuniting in Devil Seeds of Arodor,
which is being produced independently of the BBC. The DVD’s due out in
November. Full details here.
An original drama from the world of BBCtv’s DOCTOR WHO, featuring SIL, the ruthless alien entrepreneur from planet Thoros Beta, played by NABIL SHABAN.
SIL is worried, very worried, which doesn’t keep his reptilian skin in the best condition! Confined in a cold detention cell on the moon, awaiting a deportation hearing for trial on drugs offences on Earth, he faces a death sentence if the application is successful and he is found guilty.
And his employers at the Universal Monetary Fund aren’t pleased either. Not at all.
As time runs out and friends desert him, SIL must use all of his devious, vile, underhanded, ruthless, and amoral business acumen to survive.
Can he possibly slime his way out of this one?
(21) ANOTHER DOCTOR
WHO REFERENCE. This tweet went viral yesterday —
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew, Robert Adam Gilmour, Steve Green. Lise Andresen, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]
The Cockygate case is close to resolution: the parties have entered into a settlement agreement and author Faleena Hopkins has filed a request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to withdraw her “cocky” trademark. Other recent applications to register questionable trademarks for book series, however, do remain a matter of concern. A recent misinformed attempt to register a common book cover template (which is not a trademark under any interpretation of the law) was withdrawn after some backlash, thank goodness, but a recent application to register “Big” as a series title is still under review.
Now, another romance writer has applied to register the term “Quantum Series” in connection with her “series of fiction books.” When the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, became aware of this application, they approached the Authors Guild for assistance. We recommended counsel to SFWA, and Eleanor Lackman of the law firm Cowan, DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP is taking up the case by filing an opposition to the proposed trademark on behalf of SFWA member Douglas Phillips, who has his own “Quantum Series” of books”…
The Trademark Office clarified that the owner of a trademark in a book series title cannot use that trademark against single book titles. Since single titles cannot serve as trademarks, they also cannot infringe series title trademarks. So, if another author or a publisher ever tries to stop you from using a single book title because of their series trademark, you can tell them to take a hike. Only series titles can infringe another series title.[emphasis added]
…The form, after all, honors the genre: The novella traces its origins to fairytales and morality plays. Proto-fantasies, basically. In that sense, Tolkien’s world-building was never native to the genre. He simply blew up the balloon.
A balloon which is now about to burst. More than ever, successful world-building seems to require of creators a transmedia commitment to spin-offs and prequels and various other increasingly extraneous tie-ins like comic books and card games. Consumers are rightly overwhelmed. The joy of the sci-fi novella, by contrast, is in its one-off-ness, its collapsed space, its enforced incapaciousness. Authors can’t indulge family trees or maps; they must purify their storytelling. One or two main characters. A single three-act quest. Stark, sensible rules. (And no Starks.)
Containment need not mean compromise. In many cases, spareness heightens prose. My favorite of Tor’s wide-ranging catalog is Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey, a stunning romance that unfolds on the shores of a remote god colony. Something like math poeticized, or poetry mathematized, at novel size the book would’ve gone down way too rich. At 158 pages, though? Practically perfect. Deadlier serious but no less compelling is Laurie Penny’s Everything Belongs to the Future, in which the rich can extend their youth by centuries while the poor age and die naturally. The paltry page count lets Penny, in full author-activist fervor, get away with punking up the familiar biotech premise. Plus, you can read it in one sitting, the way the good lords of lit intended.
This novella’s contribution to that conversation is that, in order to colonize distant alien planets already full of life, change, severe change, is needed. This puts The Expert System’s Brother into dialogue with novels such as Stephen Baxter’s Flux (where humans are altered to live on a neutron star) and James Blish’s Surface Tension. All of these stories explore the idea that in the end, it is not easy to change people to survive and thrive on alien planets. There are severe costs and consequences to doing so, to the point that those who do so might lose most of their connection to who and what they are. But those costs are absolutely payable, and are worth doing. We are never so much human as we are exploring, heading out there, and changing ourselves and reinventing ourselves to do so.
Here’s the thing. I wrote urban fantasy for a long time . A dozen+ books’ time, in fact. Books set in New York, a city that I know reasonably well. And I still had to pull out the map and get on the subway, and check shit out, to make sure I had my facts straight, because trust me, if I got it wrong, someone (probably many someones) would let me know.
As an aside, did you know that the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge is painted purple-ish? Also, that if you start taking photos of the underside of a bridge, a cop may give you a very thorough side-eye? Always bring your id and your business cards with you when you Research, kids. Seriously. I shit thee not.
But that’s fact-checking, Person with Opinion says. That’s not research. It’s all still made up.
At this point I usually stop to remind myself that the agency bail fund probably won’t cover even justifiable homicide, so I only ask my interrogator if they ever wrote a research paper in their lives, and if so how they gathered the material to do it. If they say “Wikipedia,” I give up and drown my sorrows in whisky.
Michael Palin’s private archive, deposited at the British Library in London, is set to go on display to the public later this month, but The Times of London reports that its contents includes several major unseen scenes written by Palin and Terry Jones, his writing partner in the Monty Python group, whose other members included Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail famously ends abruptly when King Arthur (Chapman) is arrested by police just minutes before a final climactic battle. However, according to The Times, Palin’s draft scripts show that this decision was only made to cut costs, and that a mighty fight was due to take place between the knights of Camelot, the French and also the killer rabbit of Caerbannog (a much-loved character from a previous scene).
(7) COMPELLING CROWDFUNDING. Joe Stech has launched a Kickstarter to fund Compelling Science Fiction: The First Collection, a hardcover print collection. The table of contents with 27 fantastic short stories by 24 authors is at the link. Swag is available for heftier pledges.
(8) MEXICANX INITIATIVE ANTHOLOGY. Fireside has set up a Kickstarter for the “Mexicanx Initiative Anthology”. They’ve already surpassed their $1,500 goal with pledges totaling $2,382 as of this writing.
Contributors include: José Luis Zárate, David Bowles, Julia Rios, Felecia Caton Garcia, Iliana Vargas, Angela Lujan, Raquel Castro, Pepe Rojo, Alberto Chimal, Gabriela Damián Miravete, Andrea Chapela, Verónica Murguía, Libia Brenda, and Richard Zela.
Our goal is to raise $1,600 to cover printing and shipping costs. Any funds raised above the goal will be split evenly among all the authors and artists who graciously donated their time and words. The anthology has been edited and laid out and features a beautiful cover by Mexicanx Initiative founder John Picacio.
We plan to print 200 copies of the anthology; 80 will be held for members of the Mexicanx Initiative and contributors, and 120 signed and/or numbered will be available as backer rewards. All copies will be brought to Worldcon 76 in San José, California, where they will be signed and available for pickup. If you are not attending Worldcon we will ship your copy and any other rewards you purchase.
(9) WORLDCON DOORS OPEN THESE HOURS.
Reg/Info opens 9am every day
In general (dealers/art/fan tables): Thurs: 12pm-6pm Fri-Sun: 10am-6pm Mon: 10am-2/3pm
More than 80 million years separated the Stegosaurus from the Tyrannosaurus Rex. But the so-called Age of Mammals — which began when the non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out — has been going on for about 66 million years. This means that we are closer in time to the T-Rex than the T-Rex was from the Stegosaurus. [Source:Smithsonian Institute.]
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY
August 1, 1971 — Charlton Heston as The Omega Man premiered in theatres
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
Born August 1 – Oona Laurence, 16 Celebrity Ghost Stories, a Penny Dreadful short and the animated Pete’s Dragon series.
Born August 1 – Jack O’Connell, 28. Role in 300: Rise of An Empire, also Robot & Scarecrow, an animated short about a robot and a scarecrow (voiced by him) who fall in love at a summer music festival, and the lion in Jungleland which or may be not be based on an Asian theme park.
Born August 1 – Jason Momoa, 39. DCU as Aquaman in of course Aquaman, Justice League, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Khal Drogo in Games of Thrones, Conan in Conan the Barbarian and Ronon Dex in Stargate: Atlantis.
Born August 1 – Sam Mendes, 53. Producer of Penny Dreadful, Shrek the Musical, and Stage Director for the tv version of Cabaret (“Which allows me to note how much i really, really like Leiber’s TheBig Time novella,” says Cat Eldridge.)
Born August 1—John Carroll Lynch, 55. Considerable genre work starting with the Voice from the Grave horror series, and including The Visitor series as well as the Apollo lunar landing series From the Earth to the Moon, Star Trek: Voyager, Carnivàle, The Walking Dead and American Horror Story.
Although Palmer wrote short stories and novels, he was best known as an editor. From 1938-1949, he edited Amazing Stories and from 1939-1949 he edited Fantastic Adventures as well for Ziff-Davis, resigning when they moved production from Chicago to New York. He formed his own company, Clark Publishing, and began publishing Other Worlds Science Stories from 1949 to 1957, during which time he also edited and published Fate Magazine, Universe Science Fiction, Mystic Magazine, Science Stories, and Space World. His assistant in the early 1950s, and often times credited co-editor, was Bea Mahaffey. Palmer is perhaps best remembered for publishing the fiction of Richard Shaver and promoting Shaver’s stories as non-fiction. In 1961, comic author Gardner Fox paid tribute to Palmer by using his name for the DC character the Atom.
Twenty years ago today, I married @StevenBarnes1. We met at a speculative fiction conference at Clark Atlanta Univ @CAU, where Samuel R. Delany & Octavia Butler gossiped about sparks between us. We married a year and a half later. Blessed beyond words about this collaboration! pic.twitter.com/DVdu4rIssb
While the characters that Jacobi and Atwell are playing in this aural adaptation of The Martian Chronicles were arguably written as American, I somehow don’t think fans are going to hugely object to Captain Wilder and Spender suddenly sounding impeccably English (please don’t let me down by being petty, Internet).
(18) LEAVES HIS COMFORT ZONE. Sean Grigsby takes the challenge:
Ed. Note on North America: Although Anheuser-Busch InBev still markets Budweiser as “the King of Beers,” in the U.S. Bud Light outsells Budweiser by a wide margin. Ironically, in Canada, where the company owns iconic local brand Labatt, the company has sold more Budweiser than any other brand for nearly a decade. In 2012, the Toronto Star published the article “‘Sniff of death’ taints iconic beer brands,” which provides analysis on how Budweiser came to be the best-selling beer in Canada.
If you’ve been bargain shopping for one of the Great Houses of Westeros, get ready for the deal of a lifetime.
Gosford Castle, a 19th-century country house in Northern Ireland that was used to portray the Riverrun castle on Game of Thrones, is for sale and accepting offers over £500,000 (or $656,452), according to its online listing.
Riverrun, first depicted in season 3 of the acclaimed series, is the former seat of House Tully, and the current lawful home to House Frey. While the castle itself is not often seen on the show, its occupation has long been the subject of strategic interest for the series’ main characters.
(21) SPACE OPERA PILOT. Robert Hewitt Wolfe of DS9 and Andromeda fame is doing something interesting on Twitter. Several years ago he wrote a pilot for a space opera on SyFy that would be called “Morningstar”. It ended up not being made. But under WGA rules he retains publishing rights, so he’s publishing the script for the pilot on Twitter, one page per day for 95 days. He’s already 2/3 of the way through. The thread begins here.
So… been thinking a lot about all the beautiful scripts out there that will never seen the light of day. The stillborn and the misbegotten. They'll never be filmed. They're just paper now. How would you like to read one?
On Saturday, the shark was grabbed from an open pool by two men and a woman, then wrapped in a wet blanket and put in a bucket with a bleach solution.
The public helped track the thieves and one suspect is now in custody.
(23) NUMBER ONE.Marvel’s C.B. Cebulski introduces a new Captain Marvel comic book series.
Carol Danvers has been involved in some of the biggest adventures in the Marvel Universe…but in her new series, she’s going back to the basics with Margaret Stohl, Carlos Pacheco, and Marguerite Sauvage at the helm. Marvel is proud to present this behind-the-scenes look at THE LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARVEL #1, featuring Stohl and Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski! “This is a story about Carol Danvers. We’re taking Carol back to basics,” said Cebulski. “We hear that a lot, but this is something where we’re going to dance between the raindrops and find the secrets of Carol’s origins that are based in the roots of her family.” “It’s really a family story and it’s as much about the human instead of her as her Kree powers,” added Stohl.
Before he was elected in 2016, Donald Trump had a small cameo appearance in New Avengers #47. In that comic, Trump failed to pull over to the side to let an ambulance go past, so Luke Cage gave him a hand by picking up his limousine and moving it out of the way. An irate Trump threatened to sue Luke, but then quickly thought better of it.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Paul Weimer, Michael O’Donnell, Dann, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]
A Federal judge today dismissed the Authors Guild’s lawsuit over Google’s library book scanning project which has been in litigation for the last eight years.
Many of the books scanned by Google were under copyright, and Google did not obtain permission from the copyright holders its use of their copyrighted works, leading to the class action suit charging Google with copyright infringement.
The judge was impressed with the technology in place to allow online users to look at snippets why preventing them from acquiring a complete copy of a scanned book.
Google takes security measures to prevent users from viewing a complete copy of a snippet-view book. For example, a user cannot cause the system to return different sets of snippets for the same search query; the position of each snippet is fixed within the page and does not “slide” around the search term; only the first responsive snippet available on any given page will be returned in response to a query; one of the snippets on each page is “black-listed,” meaning it will not be shown; and at least one out of ten entire pages in each book is black-listed…
An “attacker” who tries to obtain an entire book by using a physical copy of the book to string together words appearing in successive passages would be able to obtain at best a patchwork of snippets that would be missing at least one snippet from every page and 10% of all pages…. In addition, works with text organized in short “chunks,” such as dictionaries, cookbooks, and books of haiku, are excluded from snippet view.
And the judge said that Google satisfied the “fair use” standard of the copyright law.
In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.
Similarly, Google is entitled to summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs’ claims based on the copies of scanned books made available to libraries. Even assuming plaintiffs have demonstrated a prima facie case of copyright infringement, Google’s actions constitute fair use here as well. Google provides the libraries with the technological means to make digital copies of books that they already own. The purpose of the library copies is to advance the libraries’ lawful uses of the digitized books consistent with the copyright law. The libraries then use these digital copies in transformative ways.
They create their own full-text searchable indices of books, maintain copies for purposes of preservation, and make copies available to print-disabled individuals, expanding access for them in unprecedented ways. Google’s actions in providing the libraries with the ability to engage in activities that advance the arts and sciences constitute fair use.
The Authors Guild said it plans to appeal the ruling. Its president, Paul Aiken told Publishers Weekly, “Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of the fair use defense.”