Pixel Scroll 3/26/21 Good Pixels Make For Good Scrolls

(1) SHOULD GEORGIA BILL HAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR DRAGON CON? Georgia has passed a controversial voting bill reports CNN. Some think Dragon Con should take a stance, a few say they won’t attend while the law is in effect.

The new law imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.

“It’s like the Christmas tree of goodies for voter suppression,” Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan said on the Senate floor as lawmakers prepared to vote on the nearly 100-page bill Thursday.

Republicans cast the measure, dubbed The Election Integrity Act of 2021, as necessary to boost confidence in elections after the 2020 election saw Trump make repeated, unsubstantiated claims of fraud.

By Thursday evening, a lawsuit challenging the new law had already been filed by a trio of voting rights groups: the New Georgia Project, the Black Voters Matter Fund and Rise Inc.

Editor Walt Boyes raised some possible implications for Dragon Con, held annually in Atlanta, in the following statement sent for publication. (Boyes adds: “I am speaking for myself, not for Ring of Fire Press, and I haven’t talked to anybody at Dragon Con.”)

In the last 24 hours, the Republicans of the state of Georgia passed a draconian set of voter restrictions, the like of which has not been seen since the Jim Crow laws. It is clear why they have restricted voting, even to the point of making giving water to people on line to vote illegal. They know that the Republican Party cannot win in a standup fair contest and they are trying one more thing to stack the deck against black and brown voters and progressives of all stripes.

If Dragon Con has any respect for democracy, I would hope they would use their huge footprint and buying power to suggest that the State Legislature rethink their voter restrictions, and if the Legislature doesn’t, Dragon Con should leave Georgia. This is a major, essential moral choice.

Several people have tweeted comparable thoughts:

It would be interesting to learn whether Dragon Con leadership has influence beyond the purely economic that could be brought to bear on the situation. As to their economic leverage, looking at the communications Dragon Con has been putting out, they’re still in suspense whether they can do an in-person con in 2021. If social media pressures the committee to pre-emptively threaten not told hold an event that’s already in jeopardy, then what happens next?

(2) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. N.K. Jemisin shared a joyful milestone with Twitter followers:

(3) CORY DOCTOROW ON AUDIO RIGHTS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the current issue of Locus, the premier trade journal/news magazine/site for the sf, fantasy & horror etc. book-etc. industry, this interesting article on why Cory eschewed Amazon for his audiobooking: “Cory Doctorow: Free Markets”. He “buries the news lede” ~12 paragraphs down:

…2020 was a hard year, but for me, it had a bright spot: In September, I launched and executed the most successful audiobook crowdfunding cam­paign in history. I made $267,613. In the space of a month, I went from worried about my family’s finances to completely secure about our ability to pay our mortgage and taxes and add a good chunk to our retirement ac­counts. It was an extraordinary month.

But I wish I hadn’t had to do it….

(4) ECCLESTON, THAT’S WHO. Nerdist sets the frame for the “New Trailer for Christopher Eccleston’s Return to DOCTOR WHO” – audio adventures from Big Finish.

Even though 16 years have come and gone since Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant, he doesn’t sound like he’s aged a day. Good for a Time Lord, to be honest. There’s still the excitement, the swagger, the kind of dopey optimism hiding deep trauma that was present in 2005. We only had an all-too brief 13 episodes with the Ninth Doctor, but with Big Finish’s Ninth Doctor Adventures line, he’s basically going to double that….

(5) GOLDEN AGAIN. [Item by rcade.] In “Cyborg Ghosts, Space Dragon Boats, and the Deep Roots of Chinese Sci-Fi” at Sixth Tone, the translator and writer Xueting Christine Ni argues that Chinese science fiction has entered another golden age:

During China’s first two sci-fi booms, in the 1950s and 1970s, respectively, writers tended to focus on technological utopias and issues such as international politics, scientific ethics, and extraterrestrial encounters. Currently, however, we can see a general movement in the arts, whether conscious or not, to reestablish a link with China’s cultural heritage. …

 After decades of looking primarily to Western writers for inspiration, whether Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, or William Gibson, Chinese authors’ fascination with the interaction between old customs and new technology reflects a society-wide revival of interest in Chinese traditional culture and cultural pride.

… But when kehuan authors connect their work to these traditions, they’re not simply reveling in the past — China’s bookshelves are already groaning under the weight of all the works dedicated to that particular pastime. Rather they’re acknowledging that China and its people are still intrinsically linked to its traditions and its history, and that collective experience and belief will remain important in the future. Whether this heritage is a net positive or negative depends on how it is used: Some writers see in it the potential for exploitation, while others choose to portray the past as the key to saving our shared humanity.

(6) BREAKTHROUGH IN HUNGARIAN WEIRD. [Item by Bence Pintér.] Horror small press Valancourt Books is going to publish a short story collection by the best Hungarian horror/weird author and screenwriter Attila Veres. Veres first published his dark, grotesque, and darkly humorous short stories at Lovecraftian fanzine The Black Aether. After this he debuted at professional publisher Agave Books in 2017 with the weird apocalyptic novel Odakint sötétebb, which became an overnight sensation. In 2018 he followed this up a short story collection, Éjféli iskolák, which is widely read outside usual genre circles also. His short story ‘The Time Remaining’ was included in The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories anthology in 2020. 

Horror and weird is a novelty in Hungary, especially books which are dealing with Hungarian realities. Veres started the trend with his deeply imaginative, frightening and personal stories, in which political questions are often there in the background. In these short stories Hungary is reflected in a distorted, often shattered mirror, portrayed with a touch of black humor. 

(You can read more about his books in English here: “Discover The Old Continent: Ninety Remarkable European Speculative Books From The Last Decade”.)

The collection will be published by Valancourt in 2022, and it will include ten stories: seven will be translated from Éjféli iskolák, and there will be three new ones from his next collection. This is also huge news for Hungarian speculative fiction generally, since this will be the first Hungarian speculative book (I know about) to be published in translation in the US since…ever? (I say this with a nod to Hugo winner Bogi Takács – who writes mostly in English.) I hope this will start a trend! 

The original announcement is here on Facebook.

(7) RETURN OF HARLEY QUINN. Warner Bros. Pictures dropped a restricted trailer for The Suicide Squad. View it on YouTube.

(8) THE RELEVANCE OF DOOMSDAY BOOK. The NoCo Optimist profiles a local literary lion: “Renowned science fiction author and Greeley resident, Connie Willis, sees ‘Doomsday Book’ come to life amid pandemic”.

… The funny thing is, she loves history, even more than science fiction. As a result, she’s read shelves of books. That’s why, in “Doomsday Book,” you have an assistant in modern times who worries about the college running out of orange juice as people come down with a mysterious and deadly infection, and an old woman in the 1300s who believes the plague is a punishment from God, and a group of bell ringers from America who are more worried about their rights to perform being taken away under a quarantine than keeping others safe. 

Does all this sound familiar? 

People, in other words, worry about dumb things as the world collapses around them, Willis said. There are many examples of that in “Doomsday Book,” even though she wrote the book in 1992, when people would think “pandemic” was the name of yet another grunge band inspired by Nirvana….

(9) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Bite into BBQ with Zig Zag Claybourne” in Episode 141 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

My guest this time around is Zig Zag Claybourne, the author of The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan and its sequel Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe. His other works include By All Our Violent GuidesNeon LightsIn the Quiet Spaces, and the short story collection Historical Inaccuracies. His fiction and essays have appeared in  in ApexGalaxy’s EdgeGigaNotosaurusStrange Horizons, and other venues.

We discussed how creators can self-define their success to avoid jealousy and despair, why he’s always preferred Marvel to DC, how he’d annoy his family with his love of the original Star Trek, the two professors who showed him he could be a writer, why the title is the soul of a story, the most important pointer he received after reaching out to romance writer Beverley Jenkins for advice, why he does some of his best writing in the bathtub, how dialogue reveals character, whether his wild duology will ever become a trilogy, how to survive toxic fandoms, and much more.

(10) BEVERLY CLEARY OBIT. The great children’s book author Beverly Cleary died March 25 at the age of 104 reports HarperCollins.

… By the third grade she had conquered reading and spent much of her childhood with books from the public library. A teacher suggested that she should write for boys and girls when she grew up, and the idea appealed to her. But after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley (where a dormitory is named in her honor) she specialized in librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle (which today honors her contribution to Northwest literature with the Beverly Cleary Endowed Chair for Children and Youth Services).

Her early dream of writing for children was rekindled when “a little boy faced me rather ferociously across the circulation desk and said: ‘Where are the books about kids like us?’” Henry Huggins, his dog, Ribsy, and the gang on Klickitat Street, including Beezus and her younger sister, Ramona, were an instant success with young readers. The awards came later, beginning with a Newbery Honor in 1978 for Ramona and Her Father and one in 1982 for Ramona Quimby, Age 8. She received the 1984 John Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw, which was inspired by letters she’d received from children.

Mrs. Cleary has also been honored with the American Library Association’s 1975 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Catholic Library Association’s 1980 Regina Medal, and the University of Southern Mississippi’s 1982 Silver Medallion, all presented in recognition of her lasting contribution to children’s literature. In addition, Mrs. Cleary was the 1984 United States author nominee for the prestigious international Hans Christian Andersen Award.

In 2000, to honor her invaluable contributions to children’s literature, Beverly Cleary was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress; in addition, she was awarded the 2003 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment for the Arts….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 26, 1989 — On this day in 1989, Quantum Leap premiered. Created by  Donald P. Bellisario (Tales of The Golden MonkeyAirWolf), it starred Scott Bakula as the  time-travelling Sam Beckett and Dean Stockwell as his holographic contact from the future, Admiral Al Calavicci. The series would air on NBC for five seasons gaining a large following after a mediocre start. It has a stellar 97% rating by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 26, 1850 Edward Bellamy. Looking Backward: 2000–1887 is really the only work that he’s remembered for today. It’s interesting if more than a bit stilted in its language style. He wrote two other largely forgotten works, Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process and Miss Ludington’s Sister: A Romance of Immortality. (Died 1898.) (CE) 
  • Born March 26, 1907 – Betty MacDonald.  So well known for The Egg and I that e.g. Los Angeles had an omelette-restaurant-and-art-gallery called “The Egg and the Eye”.  For us, two dozen stories about a magical Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle; as a boy I thought them jolly fun, re-reading later I saw they were about bad children who through magic got their comeuppance.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 26, 1928 – G. Harry Stine.  Two dozen novels, a score of shorter stories; two dozen “Science Fact” columns in Analog, ten dozen of “The Alternate View”; essays, letters, reviews there and in DestiniesFar FrontiersOmni.  Nonfiction e.g. Rocket Power and Space FlightHandbook of Model RocketryThe Third Industrial RevolutionHalfway to Anywhere.  Founded Nat’l Ass’n of Rocketry.  Chaired Nat’l Fire Protection Ass’n Technical Committee on Pyrotechnics.  (Died 1997)
  • Born March 26, 1929 – David Lake.  Ten novels, eight shorter stories.  Ditmar Award.  Guest of Honour at Quasarcon.  Introduction to Oxford Univ. Press ed’n of Wells’ First Men in the Moon.  Often seen in FoundationSF Commentary.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born March 26, 1931 Leonard Nimoy. I really don’t need to say who he played on Trek, do I? Did you know his first role was as a zombie in Zombies of the Stratosphere? Or that he did a a lot of Westerns ranging from Broken Arrow in which he played various Indians to The Tall Man in which at least his character had a name, Deputy Sheriff Johnny Swift. His other great genre role was on Mission: Impossible as The Great Paris, a character whose real name was never revealed, who was a retired magician. It was his first post-Trek series. He of course showed up on the usual other genre outings such as The Twilight ZoneThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer LimitsNight Gallery and Get Smart. And then there’s the matter of “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” which due to a copyright claim I can’t show you him performing. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born March 26, 1945 – Rachel Holmen, age 76.  Editor at Locus; at Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine.  “Quilter, knitter, folk musician/singer … bad gardener … girl geek … used to be part of TeamB.”  [JH]
  • Born March 26, 1950 K. W. Jeter, 71. Farewell Horizontal may or may not be punk of any manner but it’s a great read. Though I generally loathe such things, Morlock Night, his sequel to The Time Machine , is well-worth reading. I’ve heard good things about his Blade Runner sequels but haven’t read them. Opinions please. (CE) 
  • Born March 26, 1952 – Gary Mattingly, age 69.  Co-founded Kansas City SF Society.  First President of Metro Detroit SF Society, Inc., sponsor of AutoClave; co-chaired AutoClave 1.  Co-chaired Ditto 2 (Ditto, a brand of spirit duplicator).  Special Guest at Corflu 4 (corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  AutoClave, so far as I know, the first fanziners’ con; Ditto, Corflu followed.  [JH]
  • Born March 26, 1953 Christopher Fowler, 68. I started reading him when I encountered his Bryant & May series which though explicitly not genre does feature a couple of protagonists who are suspiciously old. Possibly a century or more now. The mysteries may or may not have genre aspects (some such as Seventy Seven Clocks are definitely genre) but all are wonderfully weird. Other novels by him which I’d recommend are Roofworld and Rune which really are genre, and Hell Train which is quite delicious horror. (CE) 
  • Born March 26, 1979 – A. Igoni Barrett, age 42.  One novel for us.  Outside our field, two collections of shorter stories.  Won BBC World Service short-story competition.  Charles Dickens Award.  “My best ideas come from south of my head.  So whatever a reader asserts I was doing in my stories is probably right.  Or possibly wrong.  Each day I keep discovering myself in others’ reading of my work….  The only thing I set out to do was to show my head that I could write from my gut.”  [JH]
  • Born March 26, 1985 Keira Knightley, 36. To my surprise and this definitely shows I’m not Star Wars geek, she was Sabé, The Decoy Queen., in The Phantom Menace.  Next up for her is Princess of Thieves, a loose adaptation of the Robin Hood legend. Now I didn’t see that but I did see her in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl as Elizabeth Swann. I saw her as Guinevere, an odd Guinevere indeed, in King Arthur. Her last role I must note was as The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in which she was the Sugar Plum Fairy!  (CE) 

(13) ADLER. File 770 will be the penultimate stop on Titan Comics’ Adler blog tour next week. Adler is written by Lavie Tidhar.

(14) DOORS OF PERCEPTION. Michael Dirda tells Washington Post readers: “Muriel Jaeger, a trailblazing science fiction author, deserves a new look”.

Somewhat surprisingly, London’s venerable British Library has emerged as a major player in the reissuing of early-20th-century popular fiction. After immense success with a line of Golden Age mysteries, it recently added imprints devoted to classic weird tales, women’s novels from before World War II and early science fiction. The BL’s trade paperbacks are uniformly handsome, well printed, augmented with illuminating introductions and priced around $12.50. Some titles are issued in the United States by Poisoned Pen Press, while the others can be ordered online or through your favorite bookstore. Nearly all are worth seeking out.

Consider, for example, “The Question Mark” and “The Man With Six Senses,” both by Muriel Jaeger. Originally published in 1926 and 1927 by Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press, the two novels are H.G. Wellsian works of technological, political and social extrapolation. The first depicts a socialist utopia of the 22nd century, and the second tracks the life of a flawed “superman” and the effect of his powers on himself and those closest to him. In both, action is subordinated to argument, as the characters converse about society, class, sex and marriage, religious belief and human evolution….

(15) BRUTAL HUMOR. From The Onion: “Woman Relieved She No Longer Has To Support Closed Bookstore”. (Too short to excerpt.)

(16) IT BUGS HIM. Leonard Maltin covers a nonfiction film with fannish appeal: “Curiosity Is The Key”.

Attack of the Murder Hornets sounds like the title of a cheesy 1950s science-fiction film. It is, instead, a droll documentary about a very real threat to the Pacific Northwest that could have spelled disaster for the already depleted bee population of North America. Michael Paul Stephenson, whose resume includes Girlfriend’s Day and Best Worst Movie keeps a straight face, so to speak, as he documents the discovery of these winged invaders by a working-class beekeeper and his family, who count on the revenue they derive from home-made honey to supplement their monthly budget. They join a motley band of government scientists, researchers, and do-gooders to form a posse that is determined to locate and eradicate these murderous insects from Japan. All the participants are earnest, some a bit quirky, but Stephenson allows us to judge them for ourselves as this amusing, low-key suspense yarn unfolds….

(17) JENNINGS WINS KAYMAR AWARD. The National Fantasy Fan Federation announced that Bob Jennings was unanimously voted as winner of the Kaymar Award.

Three cheers for Bob! The Kaymar Award is traditionally given in April every year, supposedly because the N3F was organized in the month of April. We’re a bit early for once. The selection is made by a committee, consisting of previous winners who are still in the club, from nominations submitted by members. The award, unlike other awards in fandom, can be awarded only once. It is not given for talent or for popularity, but for work — work for the benefit of the club and its members. The award is a memorial to K. Martin Carlson [1904-1986], who originated, maintained, and financed it for 25 years. Carlson was a long-time N3F member who held many positions in the club, including club historian. He went by the fan name of Kaymar. 

(18) BE THE GAME. The Verge’s Sam Byford shares the experience of visiting Universal Studios Japan’s new park-within-a-park: “Super Nintendo World review: sensory overload”.

… The experience of stepping through the pipe and into Super Nintendo World is honestly amazing. The architecture is so complete, and your view of it so well-directed, that it really does feel like you stepped into another world. I love that the designers went for a blocky, 2D-esque style for much of the environment — it would have been easy to go with something more conventional given that there are now a lot of 3D Mario games, but this approach is much more evocative. Rather than attempt to replicate a particular Mario game, the mashed-up style just screams “Nintendo.”

… The Mario Kart ride is the most ambitious attraction I’ve ever seen at a theme park. It’s essentially an AR action game set on a go-kart track, where you’re drifting through the virtual course and firing virtual shells at virtual opponents — as the kart moves through the track in real life.

The ride is located inside a re-creation of Bowser’s castle, with lots of well-crafted Mario Kart paraphernalia to look at as you line up. (The queue was fast-moving on my visit and took about half an hour in total, though I imagine wait times will be a lot longer when the park is at full capacity.) Inside you’re given a plastic Mario hat that fits onto your head with an adjustable disc, a little like a PlayStation VR headset….

(19) DRAGON A TRAILER. In “Honest Trailers:  Raya & The Last Dragon” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the film has nothing to do with the 1985 kung-fu cheesefest The Last Dragon, and that the film has an evil baby “who feels like an exchange student from the Boss Baby franchise” and a waterfall that seems so real “it looks like a water deepfake.  If I were real water, I’d be worried!”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A 2016 post from Petapixel about a video on Vimeo: “This Animation Was Created Using Old Photos from the Early 1900s”. I may have run this remarkable short at the time, but it’s making the rounds again and will be new to some of you.

Here’s an amazing short film titled “The Old New World” by photographer and animator Alexey Zakharov of Moscow, Russia. Zakharov found old photos of US cities from the early 1900s and brought them to life.

The photos show New York, Boston, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore between 1900 and 1940, and were obtained from the website Shorpy.

It’s a “photo-based animation project” that offers a “travel back in time with a little steampunk time machine,” Zakharov says. “The main part of this video was made with camera projection based on photos.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, rcade, Bence Pintér, Walt Boyes, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, PJ Evans, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

2021 Zsoldos Péter Award Finalists

By Bence Pintér: The shortlist for this year’s Zsoldos Péter Award was published this week. (Last year’s shortlist was also announced few weeks ago). The Zsoldos Award is Hungary’s oldest sci-fi award, which went through a major reform last year. Formerly it was organized by fans at the Avana Association, but from 2020 the Zsoldos Estate appointed other organizers, there is a new jury (including Hugo Award-winner Bogi Takács!) and new rules – from now on it awards other speculative works also, not just science fiction.

This award has a history, it was established in 1997 to preserve the memory of Péter Zsoldos, the most prominent Hungarian science fiction writer of the last century, but it was always riddled with controversy, e.g. awarding books that were seen not worthy by the fandom as a whole, or the time when prominent contemporary Hungarian authors withdrew their nominations, but the organizers ignored this and declared one of said authors the winner. 

Now everyone hopes that it is on course to become a serious award at last. The ceremony for the two years’ winners will be on 20th April – online or in person, depending on the COVID situation. (The former organizer Avana Association also started its own award this year, the Monolith Award.)

Regények / Novels

  • Juhász Roland (R. J. Hendon): Gyomláló (Fonix Astra)
  • Markovics Botond (Brandon Hackett): Eldobható testek (Agave Könyvek)
  • Waldman Szabolcs (Michael Walden): Csillagikrek (Metropolis Media)

Novellák / Short Stories

  • Kiss Gabriella: Egy férfi belépett a bárba (Az év magyar science fiction és fantasynovellái 2020 GABO)
  • Körmendi Ágnes: A konzul nyolcadik lelke (Az év magyar science fiction és fantasynovellái 2020, GABO)
  • László Zoltán: Kimen?oldal (Az év magyar science fiction és fantasynovellái 2020, GABO)
  • Nagy Roxána: Kicevice (Az év magyar science fiction és fantasynovellái 2020, GABO)
  • Radics Roland: A másik (Az év magyar science fiction és fantasynovellái 2020, GABO)
  • Veres Attila: A világ helyreállítása (Az év magyar science fiction és fantasynovellái 2020, GABO)

Fordítások / Translations

  • Lily Brooks-Dalton: Az éjféli égbolt (Good Morning Midnight, Translated by Farkas Veronika; Agave Könyvek)
  • Susanna Clarke: Piranesi (Piranesi, Translated by Molnár Berta Eleonóra; Agave Könyvek)
  • R. F. Kuang: Sárkányköztársaság (The Dragon Republic, Translated by Ballai Mária; Agave Könyvek)

[Editor’s note: WordPress does not support the Hungarian letter o with a double acute accent above itself, therefore, in the two instances where it should appear above, the character has been replaced with a Latin o.]  

Pixel Scroll 8/7/20 I Saw The Thing Comin’ Out Of The Sky, It Had The One Long File, One Big Eye

(1) WISH YOU WERE HERE. NASA unveiled “8 Martian Postcards to Celebrate Curiosity’s Landing Anniversary”.

Two sizes of wind-sculpted ripples are evident in this view of the top surface of a Martian sand dune. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth. The larger ripples — roughly 10 feet (3 meters) apart — are a type not seen on Earth nor previously recognized as a distinct type on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has seen a lot since Aug. 5, 2012, when it first set its wheels inside the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) basin of Gale Crater. Its mission: to study whether Mars had the water, chemical building blocks, and energy sources that may have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

Curiosity has since journeyed more than 14 miles (23 kilometers), drilling 26 rock samples and scooping six soil samples along the way as it revealed that ancient Mars was indeed suitable for life. Studying the textures and compositions of ancient rock strata is helping scientists piece together how the Martian climate changed over time, losing its lakes and streams until it became the cold desert it is today.

(2) MEET R.F. KUANG. Andrea Johnson notes she did this Nerds of a Feather  Q&A, “Interview: R.F. Kuang, author of The Burning God”, before Kuang won the 2020 Astounding Award. Still plenty to interest readers here.

NOAF: When you first started outlining and writing The Poppy War, did you know how the trilogy would end?

R.F. Kuang: Yes, I knew the ending before I knew the beginning. I always come up with the ending first. I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, but I can’t get started on a story unless I know where it’s all going; I need to give some direction to the story engine. I’ve been picturing the final scene in my mind for years and years, so it’s a relief to finally get it down on paper. So yes, I actually always conceived of The Poppy War as just the prequel material to the stuff I really wanted to write.

(3) WFC POC. World Fantasy Con, which will take place online October 29-November 1, is taking applications as well as donations for People of Color sponsored memberships.

In early June, WFC 2020 launched an initiative to help ensure that our convention is inclusive and that our program encompasses the diverse cultures and peoples that enrich the literature and art of fantasy and horror. Thanks to donations from many of our members and our sponsors, we have been able to sponsor attending memberships for twenty-eight people of color – so far. This initiative will continue until registration closes in late October. To donate to this fund, or to apply for a sponsored membership, visit this page on our website.
 
WFC 2020 operates under the auspices of Utah Fandom Organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Your donation may be tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.

(4) EDITS4BLACKSFF. “Diana M. Pho Announces the #Edits4BlackSFF Project, Which Offers Free Editorial Services to Black Speculative Writers”Tor.com has the story. Application details at the the project link.

Three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor Diana M. Pho has announced a new project dedicated to helping Black speculative fiction novelists get traditionally published. Entitled #Edits4BlackSFF, the project will select nine finalists for a free query letter review and 10-page line edit of their manuscript(s), with the winner receiving both a free developmental edit and consideration for representation from a pool of 8 literary agents.

(5) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM. John Scalzi’s “Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again” actually has no theological content at all.

Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers who are, shall we say, not necessarily speaking to the moment.

I’ve essayed this before, because I’m me, but here’s my newest set of thoughts on the matter, also because I’m me. Ready? Here we go:

As a practical matter, the science fiction “canon” is already dead….

(6) CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Camestros Felapton offered his take on things in “Canon and Campbell”. I looked at this excerpt and asked myself, “What more needs be said?” And yet, Camestros thought of something.

…On the first point I’d cite Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion, which has canonical qualities to it but which is also a shining example of something that is not required reading….

(7) STAMPS AFOOT. The Royal Mail will issue new Sherlock stamps on August 16 with secret messages embedded. What those messages are is displayed at the top of this Design Week article: “Royal Mail’s Sherlock Holmes stamps contain ‘secret messages’”.

…So founder Steve Haskin tells Design Week that designing the stamps was a “labour of love”. The stamps are based on fans’ most popular episodes, from the series premiere A Study in Pink to the series two cliff-hanger The Reichenbach Fall. Taking into account the global Sherlock Holmes fanbase, and its attention to detail, the studio pored over episodes to extract the “minutest moments” from Sherlock episodes.

Characters were taken from those episodes and placed in the foreground of the stamps, such as Irene Adler from the second series premiere A Scandal in Belgravia. These portraits had to be “strong” and “poignant” as they are focal point. “Special moments” were then illustrated using screengrabs and composed onto each stamp.

(8) KÜNSKEN STYX WITH IT. At the Hugo Book Club Blog, “Interview with Derek Künsken – Author of The House Of Styx”.

What was the main theme that you wanted to tackle in The House of Styx?

I was flying to the Nebulas conference, I think it was in 2013. I had already created all of the biology in the clouds of Venus, but I didn’t really have a story to tell with this. I had a sort of survival story, but something was missing. This was going on at the same time as some of the ‘reasonable accommodation’ debates were happening in Quebec — and I’m half-Quebecois myself.

So I was following the news and basically it was appalling to see some of the discourse around “how should Arab people integrate into Quebec.” It quite obviously came from a place of intolerance. Then I realized that the caustic intolerance that I was observing in society was a perfect metaphor for the sort of acidic environment of the clouds of Venus. And so I wrote that story, but there was so much more to it that — as soon as I had sold it to Analog — I realized I had another novel or two in me dealing with those kinds of characters, that kind of political setting and that kind of metaphorical environment.

(9) IN COUNTRY. Paste Magazine says Lovecraft Country’s Pulpy Call Is One Even Cthulhu Couldn’t Resist”.

Ranging from Chicago’s South Side (the show was partially shot in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood) to the eerie East Coast where Lovecraft’s tales haunted their hapless sailors and professors, Lovecraft Country tracks the cruel magicks of legacy while pointing out at every turn that its genre’s legacy is steeped in racism. Just because Lovecraft was a racist dickhead on a cosmic scale doesn’t mean Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) doesn’t love his brand of fiction. Tic and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) kick off the series on a Jim Crow-defying quest to find Atticus’ missing father (Michael K. Williams)—who’s off in search of their family’s secretive and spooky “birthright”—accompanied by Tic’s childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollet).

….[It] could be a magical universe that exists just under the surface of his own, but it’s certainly not an exciting call to adventure. It’s trouble. Why? Because he’s Black, and Blackness doesn’t mix well with America’s entrenched systems—even if they’re magical ones.

This simple twist works to deconstruct the more conventional aspects of the series. That doesn’t mean the show lacks convention: there’s always water rising or bridges collapsing or demons seducing or heroes smooching. If a magazine from the ‘50s featured it on the cover, you can bet it’ll be bolder and Blacker in Lovecraft Country.

(10) HOT ON THE TRAIL. Alexis Soloski’s not-uncritical but interesting piece on Lovecraft in today’s New York Times is made timely by the imminent premier of Lovecraft Country. “Gods, Monsters and H.P. Lovecraft’s Uncanny Legacy”.

…Broadly — and with plenty of exceptions — Lovecraft’s stories suggest huge and unfathomable horrors lurking just beneath the surface of the mundane world. Filled with miscegenation, tentacles and unspeakable dread, his works often begin with ordinary or ordinary-seeming men drawn into extraordinary and otherworldly situations. Almost no one gets out alive or sane. His brand of weird is gooey and misanthropic, with an insistence that the universe is at best indifferent to human life and at worst antagonistic.

To adapt a Lovecraft work is to reckon with a troubled and troubling legacy — blatant racism and sexual phobias blight much of his work. Still, he remains influential, with his sinister, squishy qualities still felt across media — television, film, fiction, comics, video games, role-playing games, visual art, plushies — and multiple genres. The stomach monster from “Alien”? Extremely Lovecraft. That giant squid from “Watchmen”? Lovecraft again. The devouring Shoggoths from the “Lovecraft Country” pilot? A squelching tip of the hat.

If you don’t know your Yog-Sothoth from your Shub-Niggarath — good! Run while you can! But if you hold your sanity lightly, here is a brief guide to the man, the monsters and the popular culture slime trail his works have left behind.

(11) SINCE TOLKIEN. “From Tolkien to Hungarian folklore: a brief history of Hungarian fantasy literature” in Daily News Hungary is an English-language article by Barbara Simon.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 7, 1940 — The Adventures Of Superman radio program aired “Taos: Pillar Of Fire At Graves End”. It starred Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander but the former was kept a secret from the audience for another six years. Based on the comic created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, Superman, it was thought that it would be better if the actor was more mysterious, so he was kept anonymous. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 7, 1871 – Abanindranth Tagore.  Writer, painter, bridger of Euro-American and Asian artwork.  Literary fame for Bengali stories as told to children.  Nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, helped clear RT’s road to the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Fantasy elements integral.  Brought Chinese and Japanese elements into his own graphics.  See hereherehereherehere.  On his Khirer Putul Wikipedia says “sugar doll”, the French translation has “cheese doll”, which both miss the metaphor of khir.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1903 Rudolf Ising. He was an early staffer to Walt Disney who left to create the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons at Warner.  He produced Hanna and Barbera’s first cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot, a cartoon featuring characters later known as Tom and Jerry. He was the first independent cartoon producer to win an Academy Award. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1928 – Milton Lesser.  For us eight novels, a hundred sixty stories, see hereherehere; letters in AmazingAstonishingFantasticPlanet.  Fictional memoirs of Cervantes, Columbus (won Prix Gutenberg du Livre), Goya, Poe.  Life Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1933 – Jerry Pournelle, Ph.D.  Thirty novels, a dozen shorter stories, three dozen anthologies, many with co-authors; two hundred essays, letters, in AlgolThe Alien CriticDestiniesGalaxyOmniThe Patchin ReviewSF AgeSF ChronicleSF ReviewStarshipTrumpet; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish.  Lucifer’s Hammer and Footfall (with Larry Niven) on NY Times Best-Sellers list.  Seventh SFWA President (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Lifetime Achievement Award.  Aerospace.  Computer journalist.  Founding President of Pepperdine Research Institute.  We met for lunch and disagreed.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1936 Richard L. Tierney, 84. A Lovecraftian scholar. Coauthored with David C. Smith, a series of Red Sonja novels which have Boris Vallejo cover art. Some of his standalone novels riff off the Cthulhu Mythos. Unless you read German, he’s not available digitally on either iBooks or Kindle. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 63. First, he’s largely responsible for the existence of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated SeriesThe New Batman/Superman AdventuresBatman Beyond, and yes, Duck Dodgers and Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 – Lis Carey, 63.  Active Boston fan, faithful Filer.  Chair of Boskone 46.  Here she is at BucConeer (56th Worldcon) helping with the Bostando (Boston for Orlando) 2001 Worldcon bid (L to R. Suford Lewis, LC, Tim Roberge).  A few fiction and non-fiction books she’s read, her ranking higher to lower: Omar Bradley (by S. Ossad), Children of Blood & Bone (T. Adeyemi), Queens of Animation (N. Holt), The Last Emperox (J. Scalzi), The Once & Future King (T. White), The History of Bourbon (K. Albala; the drink, not France).  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 60. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 60. Obviously Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now has he done any other genre? Well, he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first-person shooter video game. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1970 – Yû Godai, 50.  The Story of the Beginning of Bone written while she was still a college student, 4th annual Fujimi Shobo (publisher) Fantasy Novel Prize; five more novels, three shorter stories.  Here is a cover from Avatar Tuner. [JH] 
  • Born August 7, 1980 – Lindsey Leavitt, 40.  A dozen young-adult and children’s novels, some for us (five are fantasies about mice in a series Commander in Cheese).  YALSA (Young Adult Lib’y Services Ass’n) Best Fiction Award, Amazon Book of the Year Award.  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1975 Charlize Theron, 45. She surprised me by being in a number of genre films including Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (which are both quite superb), PrometheusMad Max: Fury RoadThe Addams Family as Morticia Adams, The Devil’s Advocate, Æon Flux in  Æon Flux, the narrator of Astro Boy and her first film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a horror film I suspect she’d prefer everyone forget. She played Pria Lavesque on The Orville in the episode called, errr, “Pria”.  (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics. Where does “Funny once” go in this model?

(15) UNDER THE DOME. SciFiNow.uk points the way to DC’s virtual event: “DC Fandome: Immense Line-Up Announced”

…DC FanDome is the first-ever global celebration of the DC Multiverse covering the brand’s biggest films, live-action series, animated TV series, games and comics.

Available in nine languages (Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish (LAS)), DC FanDome will feature over 100+ hours of programming celebrating the past, present and future DC content through panels, behind the scenes access, user generated experiences, big reveals and exclusives from DC.

DC FanDome is made up of the Hall of Heroes and five islands…

(16) THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. Andrew Liptak surveys how “The U.S. Military Is Turning to Science Fiction to Shape the Future of War” for One Zero at Medium.

…It may sound like it could be the plot of a new Netflix series, but it’s actually one of the U.S. Army’s “science fiction prototypes,” a teaching tool designed to imagine what the near future of warfare might look like and to prompt military personnel to think creatively about conflicts they might end up fighting. This one takes the form of a 71-page graphic novel called Invisible Force: Information Warfare and the Future of Conflict, produced by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point and Arizona State University’s Threatcasting Lab.

As digital technologies and robotics have opened up the kinds of futures once imagined by pulp science fiction writers, a loose network of national security professionals, military officers, and training organizations are working to try to predict the future of war — by generating science fiction stories of their own….

(17) UP ABOVE THE WORLD. Paul Weimer tells what he enjoyed about a new sff novel: “Microreview [book]: In Evil Times by Melinda Snodgrass” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The world that Snodgrass creates continues to fascinate from the first novel, especially since we expand from the pressure cooker of the High Ground space station to see the Empire, on the ground, as it were, as well as in the depths of space. We get slices of society all around, from Mercedes’ center of Imperial power, to the very humble existence that Tracy’s father as a tailor has, to the life of military officers. We get a painted portrait of what this stratified, socially conscious world is like and how people fit into that system, resist that system and find themselves in trouble for opposing that system. We also get a better sense of how aliens, an oppressed stratum of society, fit and struggle in a human dominated Solar League. Aliens are very much third class citizens, and the consequences of that are explored in the book both from Tracy and Mercedes’ perspectives….

(18) HELP WANTED. Writing all those Tor.com five-things posts has burned out James Davis Nicoll’s laptop, and he’d be thrilled if people want to help him buy the replacement: “Alas, Poor Jenkins”.

My faithful laptop has subtly hinted that I need to prioritize replacing it, first by closing every Word File within a few minutes of opening them…

(19) SAVING THROW. Wizards: Tales of Arcadia premiered on Netflix today.

After discovering a secret underworld of trolls and teaming up with aliens to save the planet, the teenagers of Arcadia Oaks are back for one final journey: time traveling to the world of King Arthur’s Camelot to defeat villains and preserve the future. Major characters like Jim (Emile Hirsch), Toby (Charlie Saxton) and Claire (Lexi Medrano) have returned from the previous sagas of “Trollhunters” and “3Below,” joined this time by the legendary Merlin (David Bradley). 

The series is written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, whose 2017 film “The Shape of Water” took home four Oscars, including best picture and director.

(20) GRAND FINALE. Meanwhile, IndieWire reports “Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans’ Animated Film to Premiere on Netflix in 2021”.

…Del Toro has billed the film as the conclusion to his “Tales of Arcadia” television trilogy which includes the “Trollhunters,” “3Below,” and “Wizards,” shows. “Wizards” premiered on Netflix today.

Here’s Netflix’s synopsis for the upcoming film: Arcadia may look like an ordinary town, but it lies at the center of magical and mystical lines that makes it a nexus for many battles among otherworldly creatures, including trolls, aliens and wizards. Now, the heroes from the hit series “Trollhunters,” “3Below” and “Wizards,” team-up in their most epic adventure yet where they must fight the Arcane Order for control over the magic that binds them all.

(21) OVER A BARREL. NPR’s Linda Holmes sees that “Seth Rogen Finds Himself (Twice) In ‘An American Pickle'”

When you think about a Seth Rogen movie, he’s almost always got pals around. He’s made comedies with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Adam Sandler and — if you count Steve Jobs — even Michael Fassbender. It only makes sense he would eventually make a buddy movie with himself.

An American Pickle, streaming on HBO Max on Aug. 6, is adapted from a four-part Simon Rich story that appeared in The New Yorker in 2013. Called “Sell Out,” it’s about a Polish immigrant named Herschel (whose wife is pregnant) who falls into a pickle barrel in 1920 and wakes up, perfectly preserved, 100 years later. This premise, neatly told in the first six short paragraphs, is both absurd and (no pun intended) narratively rich. In the film, which Rich adapted for the screen himself, both the preserved Herschel and his great-grandson Ben — who are the same age — are played by Seth Rogen. What follows is part wacky opposites-attract picture, part family story, part silly caper and, most interestingly, part funny (but also thoughtful) examination of what our ancestors would think of us, especially if they made great sacrifices to give us what we now have.

In the original story, Herschel’s descendant is Simon Rich himself, a script doctor in Hollywood. Here, he’s Ben, an app developer who’s spent five years of his life trying to get an app off the ground that scans bar codes to tell you how ethically made a particular product is. For a whole variety of reasons — from “what’s an app?” to “who cares?” — this confounds Herschel. He quickly discovers, too, that the small cemetery where his wife is buried has been dishonored by the presence of a giant billboard for vanilla vodka (chosen perhaps because Rogen has enormous fun pronouncing “vanilla vodka” in his version of Herschel’s accent). This cannot stand. So Herschel sets out to do what he knows best: make pickles and sell them to Brooklyn, so he can reclaim the cemetery. This does lead to some familiar material about hipsters who love artisanal foods, but it’s executed pretty well, and Rich’s script keeps it moving.

…Let’s focus on this much: It’s a clever idea, it has some good jokes, and it approaches the idea of immigration to the United States in a way I haven’t seen. That’s not to even mention the fact that being preserved in a pickle barrel and waking up in 100 years has never been more appealing.

(22) HOW DID THEY KNOW? Mental Floss dishes up “9 Books That Predicted the Future”. This first one is pretty surprising.

1. FUTILITY

In this book written by Morgan Robertson, a massive ocean liner described as “the largest craft afloat” is steaming at full speed through the North Atlantic when a watchman cries out “Iceberg.” But the ship hits the ice and begins to sink. With too few lifeboats, many of the passengers drown when the ship goes down.

The story sounds familiar, but this ship wasn’t the TitanicFutility‘s ship was the Titan. Robertson penned his novel 14 years before the Titanic took its doomed maiden voyage—and those aren’t the only similarities between Robertson’s Titan and the Titanic, either. Such was the predictive power of the text that just a week after the sinking of the Titanic the story—now called The Wreck of the Titan; or, Futility—was being serialized in newspapers as “an amazing prophecy.”

(23) AND AWAY THEY GO. “Facebook removes QAnon conspiracy group with 200,000 members”.

Facebook has deleted a large group dedicated to sharing and discussing QAnon conspiracy theories.

QAnon is a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that a “deep state” network of powerful government, business and media figures are waging a secret war against Donald Trump.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the group was removed for “repeatedly posting content that violated our policies”.

Last month both Twitter and TikTok also cracked down on QAnon content.

Twitter banned thousands of accounts and said it would block QAnon urls, while TikTok deleted hashtags that signposted QAnon videos.

The deleted Facebook group, called Official Q/Qanon, had nearly 200,000 members.

There are, however, many other QAnon groups that are currently still active on the platform.

(24) CORMORANT ALOFT AGAIN. Adri Joy says readers will find a long-awaited payoff in terms of character healing and growth in the third book of this series: “Microreview [Book]: The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Baru Cormorant is back for round three! In The Tyrant Baru Cormorant (which, in-keeping with the rest of this series’ inexplicable name shortenings, is being published as “The Tyrant” in the UK) everyone’s favourite provincial savant returns for another round of high-stakes political drama against the empire of Falcrest: the empire which colonised her island, killed one of her fathers and tried to cut her off from her own culture as a child, and also the empire which now counts her as among its most elite operatives. The first book in the series captured my heart and then broke it into a million pieces, and while I don’t think I’m the same reader as I was five years ago, I still consider new releases in this series to be a significant event, and I’m especially glad we haven’t had to wait too long between the previous book and this one.

(25) SHADES OF MEANING. PEN America’s weekly interview series delivers “The Pen Ten: An Interview With Laura Van Den Berg”.

9. The stories in this collection are haunting, and this also includes the stunning cover art. Whether it’s a woman who works as grief freelancer playing the roles of widowers’ dead wives or a woman pretending to be her missing sister, the stories speak to each other in unearthly ways. Can you speak about the subversive nature of ghosts that permeate the collection—when you realized this was a connective tissue while writing the stories and how it operates in the book, as well as our lives?
The cover was designed by Na Kim, who is a genius. I think it captures the spirit of the collection beautifully. In terms of the thematic through lines, I thought a lot about the supernatural as a means to explore the material that cannot be contained by corporal life: the unsayable secrets, the unexamined truths, the incomprehensible realities. In an NPR interview, Toni Morrison once said that “if you are really alert, then you can see the life that exists beyond the life that exists on top.” What does this “life beyond” have to say about our world that cannot be conveyed through other channels? What does it mean to haunt? What does it mean to be haunted? All these questions were important guides, though it took some time to recognize the supernatural as a thematic link. For a while, I had a lot of stories—maybe 350 pages worth—but I was struggling to find the book. Once I started letting the spectral guide me, a shape began to emerge.

(26) A BACON REFERENCE WITHOUT SCALZI. Lise Andreasen shares a fraught moment from the German quiz show Gefragt Gejagt today. 

Who wrote Nova Atlantis?

Wrong answer: Hemingway. 

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, PhilRM, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Bence Pintér, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

jan howard finder: Prophet of Tolkien In Budapest?

By Bence Pintér: As a historian and journalist, I always found pleasure in flipping through old newspapers. In these times of lockdown, I happened to be fooling around in Arcanum Digitheca, Hungary’s “largest and continuously expanding” digital periodical database, looking for traces of old Hungarian fandom in the papers.

This is how I found my way to an article from 1973 in Magyar Ifjúság (Hungarian Youth – the official magazine of the Hungarian Young Communist League), about jan howard finder giving a lecture on Tolkien to Hungarian fans. An American fan giving lecture on Tolkien in Budapest long before the fall of communism and long before Tolkien was even published in Hungary?

That is an interesting story, I thought, then googled “jan howard finder file770”, since I never heard about him before, but was sure that I would find something here, and boy, was I right! So I gathered that maybe some of the readers of File770 could be interested in what jan howard finder told to the budding Hungarian fandom about Tolkien. But first let me present you some context with a little the help from Pálma Erdei’s fine dissertation about Hungarian sci-fi and fandom.

In Communist Hungary fannish activities seemingly preceded the official recognition of science fiction: the first Hungarian fanzine was created in 1968 at Berzsenyi Dániel High School, while the first state-approved science fiction collection, Cosmos Fantastic Books started publishing in 1969 at Móra, which was a publisher mainly of children’s fiction. (Of course there were some science fiction books published before this collection in the country, but few.)

The science fiction clubs also preceded Cosmos Fantastic Books: apart from the fanzine-making guys at Berzsenyi High, the first was founded in 1968 mostly by scientists, members of the Society for Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge (TIT is the Hungarian acronym for that one). At the end of 1973, TIT got 600 members, a network of clubs in major cities in Hungary, and a rather good fanzine named Pozitron.

The title of the article is ‘A fantázia új útjai’ (The New Ways of Fantasy), but you should know  that in Hungarian with ‘fantázia’ does not mean the genre, because we call that simply ‘fantasy’. Besides that, science fiction is also called ‘tudományos fantasztikum’, in which the first part means scientific, and ‘fantasztikum’ is a broader term which means sci-fi, fantasy and horror.

The journalist describes jan howard finder (an American chemistry teacher from West Germany, we are told) a ‘sci-fi specialist’ and a Tolkien-expert, then goes on to wonder about why The Lord of the Rings is science fiction. The answer to this question (drawn from finder’s lecture) is a bit confusing, since it do not try to sell LotR as sci-fi, but goes on detailing the plot. I assume that the translation was not really accurate, and/or the journalist was confused by these terms. Fantasy was not a thing in Hungary then, and rather similar ‘fantasztikum’ meant sci-fi as well.

I would not bore you with the plot summary, but it is funny: it’s like if I want to summarize LotR to my four-year-old. “…in the story there is a ring, which has various magical powers, and which was lost by the leading evil magician. The good side find the ring, but if somewone wears it, he is corrupted…” And so on and so forth. Later the journalist quotes finder to say: LotR is the reason why Western universities started to research science fiction, and also LotR is responsible for the rise in quality in science fiction.

In the next part Finder reflects on new wave: “Science fiction, like every genre, is in constant change. Science fiction concerning technology is only written in East Germany nowadays, because there this became the most notable subgenre. The latest development is ‘speculative fiction’. You should be prepared not just to write ‘speculative fiction’, but also to read it. Honestly, first I was really bored by the ‘new wave’, but soon I found that this is just a perfect ‘brain exercise’ Nowadays I am amused by ‘speculative fiction’.”

The he goes on to describe Arrive at Easterwine: The Autobiography of a Ktistec Machine by R. A. Lafferty, The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, and Zone Null by the Austrian Herbert W. Franke, which is wrongly attributed in the article to the German Wolfgang Jeschke. (There is a reason for that: the novel was in one volume with Jeschke’s short story collection.)

The journalist ends the article in this fashion: “One thing is sure: true SF does not mean space mysteries and space pulp anymore. The fans of SF only read sci-fi books sophisticated in style and message nowadays.”

While The Lord of the Rings was already a bestseller in 1973 for years, this is the first article in the Hungarian database which even mentions the massively successful book and its author. The Hobbit was published in 1975 in Hungarian, but until the publication of LotR in 1981, there were a total of six articles mentioning the book briefly. (One bears the title “Who is the Most Boring Writer?”, and is a translation of an article about which author is the most boring according to some students.) So it is no exaggeration to say that jan howard finder was like an evangelist prophesizing about a book that will be massively popular in Hungary also – twenty or thirty years later.

There is a quote from translator of the lecture in the article, who told the journalist that she wants to translate LotR, but it will be hard. In fact she will not be the one to translate the epic: most of the geographical and other names, and the first eleven chapters was translated by noted translator Ádám Réz, while the rest of the book was translated by future president Árpád Göncz (prose) and famous poet Dezso Tandori (poetry).


[Editor’s note: WordPress does not support one of the characters in Tandori’s first name, therefore a Latin character has been used instead. Apologies for the incorrect spelling. Also, finder spelled his name using lower case letters, thus the headline.]

Discover The Old Continent: Ninety Remarkable European Speculative Books From The Last Decade

By Bence Pintér: There will be lists about the best science fiction, fantasy and horror books published this decade, but there won’t be any list like this one: you will read about books which you probably won’t be able to read, because they were mostly written in languages most people in the US never even heard about.

The last decade in Anglo-Saxon speculative publishing was a decade when everyone discovered stories different from the usual: stories about marginalized groups, LGBTQ people, people of colour or stories from China, to name just a few.

Now me and my fellow European fans, publishing professionals, and writers will present another set of unknown speculative stories: European stories from countries outside the Anglosphere. These stories are not just unknown to the English-speaking world, though. In Hungary, for example – but as I hear from the contributors, this is also the case elsewhere – the speculative fiction market is dominated by American and English writers in translation.

This spring I wondered: is there even any speculative fiction dealing with the future of Europe? The people of European countries? The European Union? I surveyed the English and American books and was unsatisfied. Apart from Dave Hutchinson’s superb Fractured Europe Sequence, I did not find much. Then I thought: maybe in other languages… Then I decided that it would be even better to showcase not just stories about the future of Europe, but to show the world that European speculative fiction is a thing.

So, on the one hand, this list can help American publishers and agencies to find talented authors and interesting new voices from Europe, while, on the other hand, European SFFH publishers from each country can also find valuable work to publish in their respective markets – the EU even has a fund to support literary translations. Crazy!

To create this list, I contacted fans throughout Europe. I can’t state that these were the best European speculative books in this decade, i.e. published between 2010 and 2019. I can only state that people I contacted found them remarkable. Special thanks goes to Mihaela Marija Perkovic from Croatia, who helped me to get in contact with a lot of other people who contributed to this list. I also have to thank Mike Glyer for publishing this article and providing me with contact information to contributors.

While here you will read about a lot of European countries, I could not find contributors from every country. I’m still looking for the most remarkable speculative books from this decade from Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Iceland, Kosovo, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. Originally, I did not wanted to include books which were written in English, but now I’m willing to expand this list with books from the UK and Ireland.

[Editor’s note: WordPress will not display some special characters, therefore, with apologies, the most similar Latin character has been substituted.]

[The recommendations start after the jump.]

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 4/29/19 The Task Of Filling Up This Scroll I’d Rather Leave To You

(1) EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. Ian Sales’ “Top five science fiction films” is a good post made even more interesting by the choice of John Carter (2012) as one of the five – not a movie many viewers would pick.

I saw someone recently tweet for requests for people’s top five science fiction films and I thought, I can do that. Then it occurred to me I’ve watched around 3000 movies in the past few years, and many of them were science fiction. So those films I think of as my favourites… well, surely I’d seen something that might lead to a new top five? Even if nothing sprung immediately to mind… True, I’m not that big a fan of science fiction cinema, and most of my favourite movies are dramas. And most of the sf films I have seen were commercial tentpole US movies, a genre I like even less…

I went back over my records, and pulled together a rough list of about fifteen films – it seems most of the sf films I’ve seen didn’t impress me very much – and then whittled that down to five. And they were pretty much old favourites. Which sort of rendered the whole exercise a bit pointless.

Or was it?…

(2) FILER SCORES SCALZI Q&A. While John Scalzi was in Hungary for the Budapest International Book Festival, he gave an interview to blogger Bence Pintér:

I will present an English version for my blog in a few days, but until then there is a short video interview at the end of the article, which is in English: “John Scalzi: A szélsojobbos trollok csak jót tettek a science fictionnel”.

(3) HELP ED NAHA. Lots of fans know Ed Naha as the creator and screenwriter for Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and a writer for Starlog, Fangoria and Heavy Metal. He also wrote scripts for the movies Doll, Trolls, and other horror/sf movies.

Paul Sanchez says, “Ed is facing an upcoming major life-threatening surgery. The great American health care system being what it is, it is not nearly enough (Shocking, right?)” So he’s launches a GoFundMe appeal —“Honey, I Shrunk Naha’s Medical Bills!”

In the first two days people have contributed $1,605 toward its $19,998 goal.

(4) ZHAO RETURNS. The author who pulled her book in response to a Twitter uproar now is ready for it to go to press.

The New York Times elaborates: “She Pulled Her Debut Book When Critics Found It Racist. Now She Plans to Publish.”

(5) WHY WAIT? “‘The Twilight Zone’ Renewed for Season 2 at CBS All Access” says The Hollywood Reporter.

CBS All Access and Jordan Peele will spend some more time in another dimension.

The streamer has renewed Peele and Simon Kinberg’s Twilight Zone revival for a second season. The pickup comes five episodes into the anthology’s run; new installments are released each Thursday.

(6) HORROR AT GETTYSBURG. Dann writes: “Via episode 216 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, I learned about a new Con.”

The inaugural Creature Feature Weekend is scheduled to take place Labor Day weekend of 2019. (August 30 to September 1) In Gettysburg, PA. The con will feature the usual vendor’s room, autograph opportunities, nightly ghost/film location tours, and host an independent film festival.

Scheduled guests include Corey Feldman, Patty Mullen, Joe Bob Briggs, Geretta Geretta, Jason Brooks, Brandon Novak, Chalet Lizette Branna, Billy Bryan, David Eisenhauer John Russo, Glenn Ennis, and others.

Thought this might be of interest to fans of the horror corner of the genre pool.

(7) ANTHOLOGY ARCHITECTURE. In “Time Capsule: SF – The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1956)”, Nerds of a Feather contributors Adri Joy, Joe Sherry and Paul Weimer use a single work to focus their discussion of editor Judith Merril.

… Today we’re talking about Judith Merril’s first Year’s Best anthology: SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, originally published in 1956….

Paul: I am reminded that rights make it difficult to get many of these older anthologies except in falling-apart paperbacks. I do think there is something lost when these things fall out of print, because the notes make this more, in my view, than just the sum of the stories. There is value in reading this collection above and beyond the individual stories themselves.

On that note, one thing I did like in this anthology that you don’t get in a lot of modern anthologies is the “Sewing together” that Merrill does in providing explicit direction as to what she was thinking in placement of stories on subject and theme. I don’t think that gets enough play these days, and too often, anthologies seem to have stories in any old order without a sense of how they reflect and refract on each other. Merrill WANTS you to know what she is thinking. It’s a more “present” place for an anthologist than what you get these days.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Game are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way, several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; also did editing of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, and is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1955 Kate Mulgrew, 64. Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Other genre roles include voicing Red Claw on Batman: The Animated Series, Jane Lattimer on Warehouse 13 and Clytemnestra in Iphigenia at the Signature Theatre Company. 
  • Born April 29, 1968 Michelle Pfeiffer, 61. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. I saw it once which was quite enough. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?h in The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 49. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film, and Irene in Gattaca.

(9) GAME OF ROT-13. BEWARE SPOILERS for last night’s Game of Thrones episode.The Mary Sue asks “Ubj va gur Jbeyq Pna Nalbar Fnl Neln Fgnex Vf n Znel Fhr?”.

Gvzr sbe zr gb erne zl htyl urnq va guvf pbairefngvba naq fgneg fpernzvat ng crbcyr, orpnhfr gur tebff pbafrafhf nsgre gur yngrfg rcvfbqr bs UOB’f Tnzr bs Guebarf vf gung Neln Fgnex, n jbzna jub qrqvpngrq ure yvsr gb pbzong genvavat, vf abj n Znel Fhr. Nsgre fur raqrq hc qrsrngvat gur Avtug Xvat ol fgnoovat uvz jvgu qentbatynff, zra ner znq gung n jbzna qvq vg vafgrnq bs gurve cerpvbhf Wba Fabj.

(10) QUICK, WATSON. Paul Weimer reviews a Holmes-inspired novel in “Microreview [book]: The Hound of Justice, by Claire O’Dell” at Nerds of a Feather.

By the end of A Study in Honor, the first in Claire O’Dell’s Janet Watson Chronicles, the writer had established the parameters of her world, introduced our two main characters in full, Dr. Janet Watson and Sara Holmes. These two queer women of color as posited are indeed this world’s versions of the classic detective duo, in a near future 21st century Washington D.C, where America, after the divisiveness of a Trump administration is wracked by something even worse: A new Civil War. The two meet, and a first step toward Watson engaging with the war-torn past that cost her an arm is the central mystery at the heart of that novel.

In The Hound of Justice (yet a second novel title in homage to Doyle)., Dr. Watson’s story continues…

(11) XENON. “Scientists witness the rarest event in the Universe yet seen” — at SYFY Wire, Phil Plait tells what made it possible.

Over a kilometer below the surface of Italy, deep beneath the Gran Sasso mountain, lies a cylindrical tank. It’s roughly a meter high, a bit less than that wide, and it’s filled with an extraordinary substance: three and a half tons of ultra-pure xenon, kept liquid at a temperature of almost a hundred degrees Celsius below zero.

The tank is part of an experiment called XENON1T, and scientist built it in the hopes of detecting an incredibly rare event: an interaction of a dark matter particle with a xenon nucleus, predicted to occur if dark matter is a very specific kind of particle itself. Should they see such an event, it will nail down what dark matter is, and change the course of astronomy.

Unfortunately, they haven’t seen that yet. But instead, what they have seen is something far, far more rare: the decay of xenon-124 into tellurium-124. The conditions need to be so perfect for this to happen inside the nucleus of a xenon-124 atom that the half-life* for this event is staggeringly rare: It’s 1.8 x 1022 years.

(12) SOURCE OF OLD EARWORMS. NPR’s “From Betty Boop To Popeye, Franz Von Suppé Survives In Cartoons” includes the cartoons mentioned in the headline.

On April 18, 2019, Franz von Suppé was born on 200 years ago in what is now Croatia, but he went to Vienna as a young man and built a successful career as a conductor and composer. And while you may never have heard of von Suppé, if you like movies, cartoons, or video games, odds are you’ve heard his music.

(13) BEFORE THE BREAKTHROUGH. BBC delves into “‘The Wandering Earth’ and China’s sci-fi heritage”.

The Wandering Earth has been billed as a breakthrough for Chinese sci-fi.

The film tells the story of our planet, doomed by the expanding Sun, being moved across space to a safer place. The Chinese heroes have to save the mission – and humanity – when Earth gets caught in Jupiter’s gravitational pull.

Based on Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin’s short story of the same name, Wandering Earth has already grossed $600m (£464m) at the Chinese box office and was called China’s “giant leap into science fiction” by the Financial Times. It’s been bought by Netflix and will debut there on 30 April.

But while this may be the first time many in the West have heard of “kehuan” – Chinese science fiction – Chinese cinema has a long sci-fi history, which has given support to scientific endeavour, offered escapism from harsh times and inspired generations of film-goers.

So for Western audiences eager to plot the rise of the Chinese sci-fi movie, here are five films I think are worth renewed attention….

(14) PLEASE TO RETURN TO SENDER. “Norway finds ‘Russian spy whale’ off Arctic coast”: BBC has the story.

A beluga whale found off Norway’s coast wearing a special Russian harness was probably trained by the Russian navy, a Norwegian expert says.

Marine biologist Prof Audun Rikardsen said the harness had a GoPro camera holder and a label sourcing it to St Petersburg. A Norwegian fisherman managed to remove it from the whale.

He said a Russian fellow scientist had told him that it was not the sort of kit that Russian scientists would use.

Russia has a naval base in the region.

The tame beluga repeatedly approached Norwegian boats off Ingoya, an Arctic island about 415km (258 miles) from Murmansk, where Russia’s Northern Fleet is based. Belugas are native to Arctic waters.

…A Russian reserve colonel, who has written previously about the military use of marine mammals, shrugged off Norway’s concern about the beluga. But he did not deny that it could have escaped from the Russian navy.

Interviewed by Russian broadcaster Govorit Moskva, Col Viktor Baranets said “if we were using this animal for spying do you really think we’d attach a mobile phone number with the message ‘please call this number’?”

(15) WHAT TO WANT. I learned something about Murderbot, and something about the reviewer, Andrea, in “Exit Strategy by Martha Wells” at Little Red Reviewer.

…When I first started reading Exit Strategy, I thought the plot was thin and weak. I felt like I wasn’t connecting with this book as much as I had with earlier entries, and that annoyed me. Call it user-error.  More on that later, I promise….

(16) WHERE’S OSHA DURING ALL THIS? It’s James Davis Nicoll’s turn to deconstruct a classic: “On Needless Cruelty in SF: Tom Godwin’s ‘The Cold Equations’”.

Science fiction celebrates all manner of things; one of them is what some people might call “making hard decisions” and other people call “needless cruelty driven by contrived and arbitrary worldbuilding chosen to facilitate facile philosophical positions.” Tomato, tomato.

Few works exemplify this as perfectly as Tom Godwin’s classic tale “The Cold Equations.”…

James has a good time, and doubtless some of you will, too. Teenaged me, on the other hand, considers his feelings mocked….

(17) TURNING UP THE LOST VOLUME. “Christopher Columbus’ son’s universal library is newly rediscovered in this lost tome”.

Hernando Colón, the illegitimate son of Italian colonizer Christopher Columbus, had an obsession with books. Colón traveled the world to attempt an ambitious dream: to collect and store all of the world’s books in one library. Summaries of the volumes he gathered were distilled in the “Libro de los Epítomes,” or “The Book of Epitomes” — that repository had been lost to history for centuries.

…This was right at the dawn of the era of print, so the number of books was rising exponentially. He realized that the idea of this library was a wonderful one, but of course, it might become unmanageable if he was just collecting the books and not finding a way to organize and distill them. So he paid an army of readers to read every book in the library and to distill it down to a short summary so that all of this knowledge could be put at the disposal of a single person.

It’s this book, the “Libro de los Epítomes,” that is described by his last librarian in a document at the end of Hernando’s life, but then disappears and isn’t really heard of for basically 500 years because it’s been sitting for at least 350 of those years in Scandinavia, where it was unrecognized….

Somehow this reminds me of Forry Ackerman’s answer to the question of whether he’d read all the books in his collection – “Every last word.” By which he meant he’d looked at the last word on the last page of all of them.

[Thanks to rcade, Rich Lynch,, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Tom Mason, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Editor of Hungarian Prozine Galaktika Steps Down, But Denies Piracy

By Bence Pintér: As you may remember, a few years ago I uncovered the blatant copyright infringement case of Hungarian SF magazine Galaktika. Now, three years later the editor-in-chief has stepped down, but not because of that case: he wrote in a letter in the January issue that he is a feminist, so he is stepping down to give place for a female editor, who is in fact his wife. (It is also funny, because in the last decade he and publishing house he owns published the anti-feminist book A helyes asszonytartás, which roughly translates as “The Good Way of Female Husbandry”.)

Anyways, he gave an interview, which can be interesting for authors who followed the case. I translated the relevant section quickly:

SFportal: There was a copyright infringement scandal few years ago. Did you manage to sort out things? Did you considered this problem when you decided to step down?

Burger István: There was no scandal, it was fake news. A malicious blogger tried to smear Galaktika. I think it was because we did not publish something he wrote, or he thought that he can gain some readership with these sensationalist articles.

For a start, it was pathetic lie to state that Galaktika had stolen from writers deliberately. We paid 400,000$ for rights to authors and agencies, while this whole debate was about 4000$. That’s just 1 percent of the whole sum. I don’t think that anyone with good intentions think that for that 1 percent we would steal from authors. That makes no sense. We made a mistake, but our error was only that we thought that we can reprint short stories by authors whose books we published. That was a mistake, but you should know that agencies do not like to deal with the 10-20 $ sum of short story rights. Since then we learned that we have to contact the authors directly. Anyways, we are over this. My persecution was a factor in the decision to step down. I would rather take the responsibility for this issue, so they can’t blame Galaktika further.”

He is a genius, this guy. So he said that they paid 400,000 for rights, but that all was for book rights. They simply didn’t pay for almost all of the short stories. He also wants everyone to think that they published short stories just by authors whose books they published, but that’s not the case. They published short stories by 348 authors in this period, while they published books by a fraction of that number.

[For more background information see “Authors Guild and SFWA Reach Agreement with Galaktika Magazine on Infringement Claims”.]

Pixel Scroll 1/11/18 Agent 770, With A License To Scroll

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll asked the crew at Young People Read Old SFF their response to Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”. Two of the four readers said it was their first experience with the author. (The others didn’t say one way or the other.)

Octavia E. Butler was one of a small handful of African American SF authors back in the 1970s, an era when SF was often whiter than a crowd of naked albinos holding loaves of Wonder Bread in a snowstorm. Butler’s stories often focused on people doing their best from a position of profound weakness, striving despite slavery, apocalypse or worse. This example of her work won the 1984 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Locus Award for Best Novelette and the 1985 Science Fiction Chronicle Award for Best Novelette.

Young People Read Old SFF also recently tackled “The Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw. Some liked it, but Mikayla did not disappoint….

Bob Shaw was born in Northern Ireland. Over the course of the three decades of his career, he won three BSFA awards and was nominated for the Hugo, the Locus, the Campbell, and the Clarke.

The Light of Other Days is an atypical Shaw. It is a classic idea story, a story in which an author tries to show unexpected implications of some new development. Slow glass, a material in which the speed of light is so slow it takes decades for light to pass from one side to the other of a thin sheet, was one of the rare examples of an idea veteran editor John W. Campbell considered actually original at the time of publication. It was shortlisted for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Of course, just because professionals and fans liked a story half a century ago is no guarantee modern readers will. Let’s see what they thought….

(2) HUNGARIAN BLOGGER. Bence Pintér recommends the new English-language blog of Balázs Farkas, a Hungarian author; especially his post on Black Mirror.

Black Mirror needs to reinvent itself. The sooner, the better.

Don’t get me wrong. The fourth season has cleverly written, beautifully directed episodes throughout, as usual. It’s still the prime science-fiction anthology, and one of the most relevant TV series, even if contemporary science-fiction writers and futurologists already explored most of its ideas. The problem is, the new season didn’t have any new ideas, at all…

Also recommended, his thoughts on the comedy in Get Out

Last year Get Out was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Many consider Get Out one of the best horror films of 2017. I was intrigued for months, but I rarely watch movies nowadays, but I decided to see Get Out for myself and see whether it’s a comedy or a horror. Well, I found out it’s neither, but can be interpreted as both, and it’s really fascinating to see why.

And on the short fiction of Aleister Crowley.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

The interesting thing about Aleister Crowley is that he really believed this. We don’t consider him a fiction writer (at least not primarily), but he went and did it for a while, because he could do whatever and whenever. So he wrote fiction, but only between 1908 and 1922, that’s merely fifteen years from his prolific and incredibly versatile mind. This was an era when he approached the literary world as a critic and writer, although at first quite reluctantly (“I had an instinctive feeling against prose; I had not appreciated its possibilities,”  he wrote, later admitting that“the short story is one of the most delicate and powerful forms of expression”). He wasn’t only a writer, but he still made sure that his legacy includes a large collection of miscellaneous prose, now presented in a prestigious (and affordable) Wordsworth edition, titled The Drug and Other Stories.

(3) INSIDE THE SHELL. In The New Yorker, Teddy Wayne tells why “A Storm Trooper Reconsiders His Support for Snoke”.

…Except things started changing when Snoke passed that big tax bill. The very next day, we’re told our pensions are getting cut—which hardly matters, because Storm Troopers have a seventy-five-per-cent fatal occupational-injury rate. (Some from combat, but mostly guys falling into chasms off narrow ship walkways that for some reason don’t have guardrails.)

Sure, the galaxy’s health insurance wasn’t perfect, but at least I got a little subsidy from Vadercare. Snoke repeals the individual mandate and all these Storm Troopers, fresh out of the academy, thinking they’re invincible, go, “Awesome—I’m young and healthy, Han Solo’s dead, screw it.” My premiums suddenly shoot through the roof, so I’m going without it this year and hoping I don’t run into a freaking Jedi Knight. But how am I gonna pay for the infirmary visit when a trespassing Resistance fighter conks me on the head to steal my uniform and gain access to a ship’s inner sanctum, which now seems to happen every other year? And if my arm’s sliced off with a lightsabre, you think my Storm Trooper’s comp will cover the robotic prosthetic?

(4) A FAITHFUL 451. The Hollywood Reporter interviews co-writer, exec producer and director Ramin Bahrani, who assures them “HBO’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Will Stay True to Ray Bradbury’s Central Themes”.

Bahrani, who co-wrote the telepic alongside Amir Naderi and reteams with Shannon after he starred in their feature 99 Homes, confessed that he told his agent at one point that he should call HBO and refund the network’s money because he felt that he couldn’t finish the script. He spoke at length about the parallels between Bradbury’s 1953 work and what’s happening in the world today.

“I don’t want to focus so much on [Trump] because I don’t want to excuse the 30 to 40 years prior to that; he’s just an exaggeration of it now,” he said. “I don’t want us to forget what Bradbury said — that we asked for this. We elected [politicians] over many decades, we’re electing this thing in my pocket [pulls out his cellphone]. Between the technological advancements in the last 20 years and politics, Bradbury’s biggest concern about the erosion of culture is now.”

Bahrani said he never had the opportunity to meet with Bradbury before his death but did an extensive amount of research, watching and reading multiple interviews and more. “Bradbury’s novel was set in the future where he was predicting having screens on the wall that you could interact with. Social media and supercomputers like my phone are real now. [The film] is not set in the distant future like Bradbury’s novel but an alternate tomorrow where technology is here right now — like Amazon’s Alexa,” he said. “One of the things in the film is storing knowledge, books in DNA. This exists now. All your drives could be stored 100-fold in DNA. There was no reason to put it in the future; it’s just [set in] a strange tomorrow.”

(5) THE TOLL. Kameron Hurley, who I admire for her unflinchingly transparent posts about her life as a writer, tells a heartbreaking story about her experiences in 2017 — “The Year I Drowned My Emotions”.

Depression is a complex state of being. I know we want to try and pretend it’s easy. Just pop a pill, increase your meds, try new meds, find something that works! But there’s also depression caused by external forces, and that’s the sort of depression that you can paint over with pills, sure, but the root of it is still there, like painting over a crack in your wall.

I was already feeling overwhelmed and deflated in the months leading up to the election. I was struggling with the reality that I’d produced three books in a year but still had to function at a day job, and the relentless treadmill of publishing was still going, without the sort of reward I needed in order to maintain my sanity. I’ve talked before about how writing all those books and then promoting books and having a weird dude-bro day job (at the time) conspired to murder me. What we don’t acknowledge is that when you experience that kind of breakdown followed by grief and disappointment, you can’t just… get back up like nothing happened.

(6) HADLEY OBIT. At ComicMix, Glen Hauman reports “Cinamon Hadley, The Girl Who Was Death, Has Died”.

Cinamon Hadley, whose appearance inspired the look of Death in the Sandman comic series, passed away today according to Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman.

The body-piercer and goth icon whose portrait was immortalized as the second eldest in a family of anthropomorphized forces called the Endless, Hadley was described as extremely tall, extraordinarily thin, with bone-white skin, impeccable make-up and thin, black hair.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 11, 1937 — Felix Anthony Silla, known for his role as the costumed character of “Cousin Itt” on television’s The Addams Family.

(8) ADVENTURE OR COOKBOOK? Having seen the movie, this one has me a little worried – Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Chewie and the Porgs:

From Emmy award-winning writer Kevin Shinick comes a lovable tale of Chewbacca the Wookiee and the pesky porgs of Ahch-To Island. Featuring adorable illustrations by artist Fiona Hsieh.

(9) WATCHWORTHY. In “Consumption: 2017”, John Harden makes “a list of everything I watched in 2017 plus my very excellent and totally correct opinions on same.”

I make this list every year, for fun and as a reference. As always, it only reflects things seen for the first time. “POLTERGEIST on TV, 14th viewing” doesn’t make the list. Nor do films not viewed in their entirety, for example, Guy Ritchie’s THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, which got ejected from the Blu-Ray player after 15 minutes. I’d never seen Henry Cavill in anything before but he seems to emit some kind of anti-charisma particle.

I didn’t bother making a numbered best-of list this year. But if I had, LOGAN would be at the top. It’s perfect. Damn you James Mangold, for making me cry at your Wolverine movie.

(10) SLOW DOWN, YOU MOVE TOO FAST. How fast is the universe expanding? “‘Serious gap’ in cosmic expansion rate hints at new physics”.

To calculate the Hubble Constant, Prof Riess and others use the “cosmic ladder” approach, which relies on known quantities – so-called “standard candles” – such as the brightness of certain types of supernova to calibrate distances across space.

However, a different approach uses a combination of the afterglow of the Big Bang, known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), as measured by the Planck spacecraft and a cosmological model known as Lambda-CDM.

The Hubble Constant obtained using these data is 66.9 kilometres per second per megaparsec. (A megaparsec is 3.26 million light-years, so it follows that cosmic expansion increases by 66.9km/second for every 3.26 million light-years we look further out into space).

The gap between the two is now at a confidence level of about 3.4 sigma. The sigma level describes the probability that a particular finding is not down to chance. For example, three sigma is often described as the equivalent of repeatedly tossing a coin and getting nine heads in a row.

A level of five sigma is usually considered the threshold for claiming a discovery.

However, Prof Riess said that at the three sigma level “this starts to get pretty serious I would say”.

(11) EYES IN THE SKY. “Finnish start-up ICEYE’s radical space radar solution” — swarms of small cheap satellites for continuous coverage.

Big things sometimes come in small packages. That’s the hope of Finnish start-up ICEYE, who are about to see their first satellite go into orbit.

The young company are making waves because they’re attempting what no-one has dared try before; indeed, what many people had previously said was impossible.

ICEYE aim to launch a constellation of sub-100kg radar micro-satellites that will circle the Earth, returning multiple pictures daily of any spot on the globe, whether it’s dark or light, good weather or bad.

The special capability of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellites to sense the planet’s surface whatever the conditions is loved by government and the military, obviously – and they make sure they always have access to this kind of imagery.

But here’s the rub: the spacecraft that gather this sort of data have traditionally been big, power-hungry beasts.

(12) ANCIENT WINGS. BBC invites you to “Meet the butterflies from 200 million years ago”. They evolved nectar-suckers before there were flowers.

Newly discovered fossils show that moths and butterflies have been on the planet for at least 200 million years.

Scientists found fossilised butterfly scales the size of a speck of dust inside ancient rock from Germany.

The find pushes back the date for the origins of the Lepidoptera, one of the most prized and studied insect groups.

… “These finds push back the evolution of this group with proboscises – with a tongue – by about 70 million years,” said Dr van de Schootbrugge.

“Our finds show that the group that was supposed to co-evolve with flowers is actually much older.”

(13) REEL STINKERS. ComicMix’s Arthur Martinez-Tebbel looks back on the worst of the year in “Box Office Democracy: Bottom 6 Movies of 2017”. At the very bottom is —

  1. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

If this was just about wasted potential, Valerian would easily be on the top of this list.  There are five worse movies this year but none of them have a fraction of the visual artistry displayed here by Luc Besson.  Valerian has some of the best design I’ve seen in a movie all year and two of the most inventive chase sequences maybe ever.  It also features a terrible script that meanders forever over trivial nothing and merrily skips past dense plot without a moment for inspection.  I loved watching the action but I never really understood why any of it was going on.  Toss on top some of the worst chemistry I’ve ever seen between an on-screen couple (and honestly maybe Dane DeHaan isn’t ready to be a leading man) and this is an unpleasant movie to watch at any volume above mute.

(14) BURROWER DOWN UNDER. Introducing Vulcanops jennyworthyae – “Giant bat: Remains of extinct burrowing bat found in New Zealand”

The fossilised remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived in New Zealand millions of years ago have been found on the country’s South Island.

The teeth and bones of the extinct bat were found to be three times the size of an average modern bat.

The bat, which weighed around 40g (1.41oz), not only flew but also scurried about on all fours looking for food.

The remains were recovered from ancient sediments near the town of St Bathans.

(15) ALTERED CARBON. Netflix has released Altered Carbon Official Trailer # 3.

In the distant future, human consciousness can be digitized and downloaded into different bodies. Brought back to life after 250 years by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) the richest man on Earth, ex-Envoy soldier Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman / Will Yun Lee) must solve Bancroft’s attempted murder for the chance to live again in a world he doesn’t recognize. Altered Carbon debuts exclusively on Netflix February 2nd, 2018.

 

(16) SCORCHED EARTH. The Official Trailer –

The planet has suffered an environmental collapse; the air became dangerous to breathe, the water became toxic, and billions of people died. Generations later, mankind has finally re-established a rudimentary society, in an attempt to pick up the pieces that continue to blister in the sun. Attica Gage (Gina Carano) is a bounty hunter with a chance at the bounty of a lifetime: to bring down the ruthless outlaw, Elijah Jackson. Gage infiltrates Jackson’s gang, and everything is going to plan until she meets a slave girl who reminds her of her dead sister. With her loyalty to only herself now tested, Gage learns that there might be more to life than just survival.

 

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

SFF in Hungary: A Year in Review

By Bence Pintér: How was your year, fellow American speculative fiction readers, the first year in the reign of Donald Trump? Was it tough? As a journalist living in a self-declared illiberal democracy in the middle of the European Union, I can tell you it can be worse. Post-truth and corruption in the land of Viktor Orban is standard, Russian influence is a fact for sure, blatant xenophobic populism is rampant since 2015 and alt-right is not just an underlying theory, but a proudly declared practice. I encourage you to hold to the truth and fight for your institutions before it’s too late.

But I’m not here to tell you about the sad realities of politics. (I did that a few years ago here. Things got worse since.) I want to tell a brighter story, a story about the state of speculative fiction fandom of Hungary. 2017 was a distinct year for Hungarian genre fans: we had the opportunity to read an unusually large number of engaging books by domestic and foreign authors, established a new convention and held a survey to learn about the Hungarian SFF readers and their reading habits.

ViTa 2017

I always feel a bit of envy when I read about all the conventions where English-speaking people can come together and talk about our beloved genres. It seems like there are conventions in every city, minor or major, dealing with every genres and subgenres from every imaginable perspective. Hell, I know, because I asked them last year, that even in Poland fans have a speculative literature convention in every major town. Can’t we do that? – I asked a lot of times. As 2017 proved, we can.

Organized by Próza Nostra, a blog established seven years ago in Szeged, we held the first of a planned annual con focusing solely on speculative literature. (For the record, we had HungaroCon and some number of anime and player cons before in Hungary, but these are organized with a broader approach.) It got the name ViTa, meaning ‘debate’ and also short for “Világok talákozása”, which means “Meeting of Worlds”. It was held on 25th November in Bem Movie Theater, Budapest. (I do not write for Próza Nostra, but I was in the organizing comitee.)

I participated in the first panel, in which we talked about reviewing SFF books and the academic side of the discussion about popular culture. As other participants pointed out, Hungarian universities are not really strong in discussions on popular culture, but there is a growing number of academic theses with such topics. The philosopher and critic Tibor Bárány blames this on a supposed generational gap: elderly and even middle-aged Hungarian professors did not grow up on the products of popular culture like their peers on the Western side of the Iron Curtain. I moderated the second panel: my guests talked about the prospects of being a novice genre writer in Hungary.

After a brief lunch break we came back for the main attractions. These were the topics in the next three panels: new ways in fantasy literature, the crisis of ideas in modern science fiction and the emergence of horror and weird literature as a novelty in Hungary. All three were good, solid discussions of these topics with some of the best experts (writers, publishing professionals and bloggers) of the fields in Hungary. It was a good day, I really enjoyed it and met a lot of people whom I just knew online. Altogether 150-200 people attended, which was as much as we planned – it was full house in the Bem Movie Theater almost until the end.

The organizing committee also established an award to honor people – writers, translators, publishing professionals, bloggers and fans – who do a lot for promoting speculative literature in Hungary. All the participants and moderators of the panels could nominate and then vote in a final round. First year the annual Hexa Award was given to Csilla Kleinheincz, who brought us a lot of wonderful books in the last couple of years not only as an editor of multiple publishing houses (Delta Vision, Ad Astra, Gabo SFF) and as a translator of a whole bunch of beloved works of fiction but an author herself. (You can read her short story ‘Rabbits’ next year in the Sunspot Jungle: The Ever-Expanding Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology.)

Apart from ViTa, there were other exciting events in this year. I want to talk about one more. Organizing ViTa, we had a plan to held a panel on the importance of awards, but we shelved that idea in the end. Luckily, the SF Work Committee of the Hungarian Writers Association held another discussion few days earlier about exactly the same topic. Anikó Sohár summarized all the major English and American awards, then publishing professionals discussed their experiences about the effect of the awards on sales. As it came out, foreign or even domestic awards have no great effect on sales in Hungary.

This year also saw the creation of SFF Figyelo (SFF Watcher), a blog to keep track all the events of the speculative fiction field in Hungary.

Great Fantastic Survey 2017

As it came out on ViTa, no one really knows hard facts about Hungarian readership of science fiction, fantasy and horror literature. How many fans are out there? Do they like only one genre, or two or three at the same time? Do they read in print or on Kindle? Is there a generation gap? We had a lot of questions, so I created a survey and got answers from 1,476 readers of SFF. I give you a short summary. Please excuse me – I can’t talk in the language of statistics even in Hungarian

All respondents by gender:

  • male 53%,
  • female 46%,
  • non-binary 1%.

Respondents by age:

  • 13-18 4,9%,
  • 19-24 12,7%,
  • 25-30 25,5%,
  • 31-40 33,9%;
  • 41-50 18,6%,
  • 51-60, 3,2%,
  • 61-70 1%.

The exciting part is that under 30 there is female majority in every age group: women were the 62% of the respondents under 30. Between thirty and sixty there is male majority: men gave the 66% of respondents in those age groups. 45% of the respondents have a university degree, while 19% attended college. (For comparison: 7% of the Hungarian populace held a university, 12% a college degree.)

Women read more books in a year than men, but men are more loyal SFF-readers: most of them read mostly SFF while women are tend to read in other genres. Almost a half of the respondents read only in Hungarian, while another 31% read mostly in Hungarian. Only a quarter of the respondents told that they read only in print; while 31% told that they read mostly in print. Two-thirds of the respondents likes more than one speculative genre equally, while 31% have a favorite but read in other genres also. From all the respondents, 82% like sci-fi, 78% fantasy, 41% alternate history, 28% horror/weird, 25% YA. Going into details: men are more likely to like science fiction, while women more likely to like fantasy. People under thirty more likely to like fantasy, while people over thirty are more likely to like sci-fi. (I have charts here! Numbers! Mathematics is a universal language, I was told.)

Notable books

We have an excellent choice of fiction in translation: this mostly means English and American novels. Just some examples: in 2017 Hungarian readers had the chance to read the second, Hugo-winning installment of N. K. Jemisin’s wonderful Broken Earth-trilogy; the horror anthology Darkness edited by Ellen Datlow; the first book of Ian McDonald’s Luna-trilogy; the new books by John Scalzi, Jeff Vandermeer, Andy Weir, Kim Stanley Robinson and Neil Gaiman; the annual SFF anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan; and The Unreal and the Real, the excellent collection of selected short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin.

This year also saw the birth of several non-fiction books affiliated with speculative fiction. Last year liberal political scientist Csaba Tóth published a book about politics of science fiction worlds (‘A sci-fi politológiája’, Athenaeum, 2016), and this year he edited a collection of essays (‘Fantasztikus világok’, Athenaeum, 2017) about even more fictional universes from the viewpoint of social sciences – from the legal questions in Game of Thrones to politics of zombies in Walking Dead. (I contributed to this volume with an analytical essay of the posthuman societies in the Jean le Flambeur-trilogy by Hannu Rajaniemi.) At the end of the year HVG Könyvek published Holnap történt (‘It happened tomorrow’), a long-awaited book by András Kánai, founder-editor of the best-known speculative fiction blog SFmag. Kánai explored five topics which were once the tropes of science fiction, but nowadays they are the present or the near-future: from the 3D printing to the colonization of Mars.

We also have a handful of talented writers to entertain, enchant, surprise and horrify us with their fiction. Here is a selection of books I found the most important in the last year by Hungarian authors. Remember the first paragraph, where I mentioned xenophobic populism in our dear country? As you will see, the main topic in science fiction this year was xenophobia as well: there were three novels with the premise ‘weird alien creatures appeared here from nowhere, and a lot of people hate them’.

Attila Veres: Odakint sötétebb (Darker on the Outside)

In this engaging piece of weird fiction we follow Gábor, a typical Millennial as he flees the city to work on a farm in the countryside. But the animals he will attend to are no ordinary ones: on a cold winter night 30 years ago this little part of Hungary became a really weird place. All the owls disappeared in the forest, people killed themselves and there was an earthquake in a span of few hours. In the morning there were these uncanny creatures in the woods, the cellofoids: they are part sloth, part cat, part octopus and their milk supposedly cures cancer. That’s why Hungarians started to hunt them, and why they live in reserves nowadays. After Gábor arrives, there are more and more weird occurrences around the creatures, and it becomes clear that some really evil thing is lurking in the woods and the little village, waiting for Gábor. Then, surprisingly, the apocalypse begins.

If you ask me, this book was simply the best read this year in all of Hungarian genre fiction. See, we did not really have horror or weird authors and novels at all. I wrote about this book four or five articles, arguing that Veres proved: weird is the best genre to talk about Hungarian realities. At least this is the case with this exceptional book. (Agave Könyvek, 2017)

Brandon Hackett (Botond Markovics): Xeno

Few decades into the future an armada of alien spacecraft appears in the Solar System. The aliens (called ‘migrators’ by earthlings) conquered the planet and opened portals to three different planets populated by civilizations really different from humanity. The never-seen migrators force a million members of each race to move to the other planets. That is the order of the world for decades now. Olga Ballard, the daughter of the famous xenologist Ben Ballard is destined to become a brainwashed Speaker of the migrators, but with help of the resistance movement she flees. She and a selected team of soldiers and academics then try to find the answer for the final question: who are the migrators and what is their purpose?

Hackett’s take on the topics of migration and xenophobia in this far-reaching space opera is chilling, entertaining and gripping: once the action starts, you cannot take it down for hours, until the surprising twists at the end. (Agave Könyvek, 2017)

Zoltán László: Távolvíz (Farwater)

100 million intelligent alien aquatic creature appear on a starship/submarine in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and they want to serve humanity. Where did the creatures called crea came from? Who created them? It seems sure that they were tailor-made by mysterious masters to serve. Maybe the Dänikanists have the truth and humans from the future sent back these little guys to help us through the hard years of climate shift? Nevertheless, humanity is changed, nation states were dissolved as everyone moved to the coasts to work with creas, and utopia came in the wake of their appearance and with their advanced technology of the “slow time machines”. But not everyone thinks that they have ultimately good intentions, and not everyone accepted them as pals. Goda Gellard accidentally grew up in a slow time machine, cut off from the world with her mother. That means that while they were inside for twenty years, outside just few hours passed. It is up to them to find out the truth about the creatures.

Zoltán László was the first Hungarian science-fiction writer who managed to fascinate me in 2009 with his novel ‘Keringés’ after years of reading the American masters of the genre. Since then he wrote an urban fantasy novel and now he is back with this thoughtful and imaginative story with an amazing mystery at its heart.

Olivér Csepella: Nyugat + Zombik (Nyugat + Zombies)

In 2013, details of a comic book circulated on the Hungarian part of internet. Depicted on them were the most famous writers and poets of Hungary, the first generation of the Nyugat literary journal (published from 1908 to 1941) – with axes, shotguns and swords, dealing with a zombie outbreak, painted in a vibrant art deco style. Everyone immediately fell in love with this snippet of a planned seven-part comic book series, and when on year later the author, Olivér Csepella asked for some spending money to create the comic, people donated twice the amount he asked.

Still, we had to wait three years for Csepella to finish his work, well over the deadline he set. Nevertheless, the 264 pages long comic book published this December is a joy to behold, an incredibly funny, thoughtful adventure in which our most famous literary luminaries killing countless zombies to save the soul of the Hungarian people.


Follow Bence Pinter’s SFF blog Spekulatív Zóna. (Link takes you to his English-language posts).

Pixel Scroll 12/21/17 Look! It’s The Pixel Scroll Repair Man!

(1) FRACTURED EUROPE. Bence Pintér interviewed Dave Hutchinson (in English) for his Hungarian zine Spekulatív Zóna.

The first installment of Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Sequence, Europe in Autumn will be published soon in Hungary. Years ago I read that one and the two sequels, and now I wanted to know what Mr. Hutchinson think about the future of Europe, and how he came to create a spy, who is in fact a chef.

Europe in Autumn was published only three years ago, but the near-future you imagined with a fractured Europe could be the present soon. Independence movements are booming, Brexit in talks… Do you think the world you created for the books can become reality?

It’s been kind of horrifying to watch world events over the past few years – I started writing Autumn sometime in the very late 1990s and back then the idea of a fractured Europe really was a thing of fiction, although independence movements and micronations are nothing new. Now, it seems a lot more plausible. I’d like to say that I hope the world of the books doesn’t come about; I’m a big fan of the EU ideal and of Schengen. On the other hand, Rudi’s world has always seemed to me to be vibrant and full of possibility. I’ve heard it described as a dystopia, but I don’t think it is – certainly it wasn’t intended that way. I think it would be a very interesting place to live. Whether it will actually happen, I don’t think anyone can predict that. We seem to have gone from the old black-and-white certainties of the Cold War to something a lot more uncertain and fluid, with only a very brief period of hope between them.

(2) THE GOOD STUFF. Ann Leckie returns to tell us about “Some things I’ve read lately”.

Yes, it’s time again for Some Stuff I Have Read and Liked Recently. As always–I am not a reviewer or any sort of critic, and I’m not going to try to be one.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Ever since I heard that Nisi was not only working on a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo, but that she had gone and sold that novel to Tor, I’ve been eager to read this. I finally got around to it, and I highly recommend it. It’s pretty epic, really, it covers a couple decades in time, from the POVs of a wide variety of characters. Seriously, check this out if you haven’t already….

(3) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Anika Dane of Women At Warp cheers Star Trek: Discovery “I’m an Age-Appropriate Woman In Command: Hear Me Roar!”

It’s no secret Hollywood has a problem with women aging. There are fewer leading roles for women over the age of 40, and the supporting ones tend to be underdeveloped and fall into the category of mother, wife, woman sad because she’s old, or villain (sad because she’s old). …

[Discovery’s Admiral Cornwell] is experienced and she’s accomplished, and she’s Lorca’s peer, and also his superior. She couldn’t be that at twenty-seven, or thirty-six. Moreover, she’s a woman over fifty, whose eye crinkles and grey hairs have not been erased, who is presented on screen as attractive and desirable. Admiral Cornwell is not beautiful despite her age, she’s beautiful and powerful because of it.

(4) CROWDFUNDING SUCCESS. The James Tiptree Jr. Award made their Giving Thursday goal

We made it! The donations raised through our Facebook fundraiser plus the donations through the Tiptree website total more than $2400! The Tiptree Award will receive all the matching funds available to us! With the help of all who have donated and shared our fundraising message and matched the donations, we’ve raised more than $4800, half of our annual budget. Thank you all for your help. This award wouldn’t be possible without you!

Of course, it’s never too late to add your support to this successful effort. With your donations, you make possible our efforts to encourage the creation of speculative fiction that explores and expands our understanding of gender. And since the Tiptree Award is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations are tax-deductible. https://tiptree.org/support-us/donate

(5) TIPTREE SYMPOSIUM TRANSCRIPTS. The expanded talks from the 2016 Tiptree Symposium have been published in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology Issue #12.

(6) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP. Applications are being taken for the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship, sponsored by the University of Oregon Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS). The deadline to apply is January 5, 2018. Full guidelines here.

Purpose: The intention of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is to encourage research within collections in the area of feminist science fiction. The UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson, along with Damon Knight. SCUA is also in the process of acquiring the papers of other key feminist science fiction authors.

Fellowship description: This award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in SCUA. These short-term research fellowships are open to undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, college and university faculty at every rank, and independent scholars working in feminist science fiction. In 2018, $2,000 will be awarded to conduct research within these collections. The fellowship selection committee will include representatives from the UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS).

Past Le Guin Fellows — 2013: Kathryn Allan; 2014: Andrew Ferguson; 2014: Jennifer Rea; 2015: adrienne maree brown; 2016: Roxanne Samer; 2017: Theodora Goss.

(7) NAME THAT TUNE. By George, I think he’s got it.

(8) FEAT IN SEARCH OF AN AWARD. Not sure what category this deserves to win. Since he got it right the first time does that rule out editing?

(9) LAST JEDI. If reading articles about The Last Jedi now leaves me feeling jaded, then you probably started feeling that way two days ago (or fill in your own number). However, a critic for The Hollywood Reporter hooked me with the pop culture insights in “New ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy Is Failing Galactic Politics 101”.  YMMV. Also, BEWARE SPOILERS.

And that’s where we left off before the start of this new trilogy of Star Wars films. After decades of theorizing, fan fiction and “Legacy” stories, The Force Awakens had the exciting task of updating fans of the series about what happened in the decades since we last saw our favorite characters and rooted for the Rebellion. Would we see a New Republic and what would it be like? Who would be the enemy of that Republic and what would our character’s places be in it? The opportunities were endless, with the possibility of giving audiences a brand-new vision for the series, but would also require a deft touch. Yes, the series would have to build on viewers’ knowledge of Star Wars history, but it could also do what A New Hope did: thrust us into a new scenario and slowly give us more information about what transpired to get us here.

As a huge fan of the series, looking back on the new films after the opening weekend of The Last Jedi, I have to admit an incredible frustration and disappointment in the result. While walking through my local Target, I could not help but feel like The Force Awakens had failed what I’m now dubbing the “toy test”: I couldn’t pick up a Star Wars toy and tell you who each character was and their political standings in the newest round of wars, as depicted in the films.

(10) FAUX SHOW. And hey, this is sweet! The absolutely fake Disney/Pixar’s X-Wings Movie Trailer.

(11) ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES. The BBC asks “Is The Last Jedi the most divisive film ever?”

Its audience score of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes (that’s the proportion of users who have rated it 3.5/5 or higher) is the lowest of any Star Wars film, including the much-maligned prequels (The Phantom Menace has 59%).

But something else is going on too – while fans are divided, film critics were largely in agreement.

The LA Times called it the “first flat-out terrific” Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. Time Out said it “dazzles like the sci-fi saga hasn’t in decades”. The Daily Telegraph said it is “Star Wars as you’ve never felt it”.

The Last Jedi has a critics’ score of 93% – that’s the proportion of writers who gave it a positive review – putting it level with A New Hope and The Force Awakens, and just 1% behind The Empire Strikes Back.

That puts The Last Jedi at number 49 on Rotten Tomatoes’ all-time list. And of the all-time top 100 films, The Last Jedi has by far the biggest gap between the critics’ score and the audience score.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California
  • December 21, 1968 — Apollo 8, the first manned mission to visit the moon, is launched from Cape Canaveral.
  • December 21, 1979 C.H.O.M.P.S. and The Black Hole both premiered on this day.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY JEDI

  • Born December 21, 1948 — Jedi Master Samuel L. Jackson

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) DREAM STREAM. Nerds of a Feather contributor “English Scribbler” can say it out loud: “Television review of 2017 – the year it beat cinema”.

…Sure, I went to see The Last Jedi  this week like everyone else with the inclination and ability to do so, and it was wonderful. But it felt like, well, a box of popcorn in nutritional terms compared to the hearty vegetable stew of series below. So in no particular order, here is a very personal, haphazard list of series I have been amazed by. Whilst they don’t all quite fit into the classic Nerds Of A Feather, Flock Together genre areas, all share a spirit and flavour with the incredible works highlighted on these pages…

(1) Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Originally feeling like a compelling yet shallow computer nerd version of Mad Men (all mysterious arrogant male protagonist dipped in retro nostalgia), this series became, long before this astonishing forth and final season, one of the most accomplished and daring dramas of this decade, and culminated in the best conclusion to a series I’ve seen since possibly Six Feet Under (a work to which this owes much debt). Nothing else this year matched the emotional impact of seeing these five colleagues and friends arrive at a finish line that for once was allowed to be set with purpose and patience by the creators. The setting and subject became less and less relevant (though no less enjoyable) as the masterplan of the writers emerged – that this, like all the greatest tales, was about emotional connections and the rewards that they bring, and the tolls they take. The last three episodes made my smile and cry more than any film, book or other show this year. Exemplary acting, music, sound, cinematography, dialogue to wallow in… superb.

(16) HEERE’S RAY. A wise friend of mine hinted that there hasn’t been enough Bradbury in these pages lately. Let’s drop in Ray’s appearance with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on March 1, 1978:

(17) TWO RAYS. And Episode 17 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast “Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury”.

A very special episode of the Ray Harryhausen podcast, as we explore the Ray’s lifelong friendship with legendary author Ray Bradbury.

Phil Nichols from The Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies joins us for an in depth discussion on a relationship which was to span 8 decades. After meeting in the mid-1930s, the two became best friends, and would speak on at least a monthly basis for the rest of their lives. We explore the circumstances that would lead both men to become legends within their own fields of interest, and the early influences which inspired them both to greatness. Both Rays left an incredible archive of their own, and so we examine the parallels between the collection of the Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies, and the Foundation’s own archive.

The show also contains a never-heard-before interview with Ray Bradbury’s daughter Susan, recorded at Ray Harryhausen’s memorial in 2013, where she shares her memories of ‘Uncle Ray’ and their enduring friendship.

(18) HORTON ON SHORT SFF. One of the field’s grandmasters has added a prime story to his resume: “Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction’ at Locus Online. (Covers F&SF 9-10/17, Analog 9-10/17, Beneath Ceaseless Skies 8/17/17, Lightspeed 10/17, Tor.com 9/6/17.)

The most exciting short fiction news this month is surely the appearance in the September/October F&SF of a new story by Samuel R. Delany. Even better, “The Hermit of Houston” is exceptional work! It’s set some time in a strange future and is hard to get a grip on (the best kind). From one angle it seems a sort of pastoral utopia, from other angles utterly horrifying. It’s mostly about the narrator’s long-time lover, an older man named Cellibrex (sometimes), and about the hints he lets drop of some of the true nature of this future. There is extremely interesting treatment of gender, politics, law, custom, and memory – and I don’t get everything that’s going on in the story, in a good way. One of the stories of the year, I think.

(19) DEVELOPING FIELD. The Washington Posts’s Rachel Rackza, in “In young-adult novels, queer love stories have begun to feel mainstream”, discusses how teenage LGBT readers have read novels by Cassandra Clare, Audrey Coulthurst, and Anna-Marie McLemore and found comfort in reading YA fantasy with gay characters.

For Mackenzi Lee’s whip-smart “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue,” the author wanted to showcase an authentically positive representation of queer identity in centuries past. “I wanted so badly with this book to say to queer teenagers: ‘You have always existed even before there were words or vocabulary or acceptance,’ ” she said. “I wanted them to know they have not only existed, but they thrived and had fulfilled romantic and sexual lives with people they love.”

(20) SUN-DAY DRIVERS. See: “What Happens When 2 Neutron Stars Collide” — text, and very short video.

An international team of astronomers has concluded that when it comes to theories about colliding neutron stars, Einstein got it right. Everybody else, not so much.

A neutron star is what’s left when a star burns out and collapses in on itself, leaving a small, incredibly dense ball.

Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted that when two neutron stars collide, they would generate a gravitational wave, a ripple in space time.

That’s exactly what physicists saw for the first time last summer with LIGO, the new gravitational wave observatory.

(21) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. You could send wild game (dead) or people (living) once upon a time — “The strangest things sent in the UK post”

“There was nothing in the rules to say you couldn’t send people”, Mr Taft said.

In 1909 two suffragettes, Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan, used the Royal Mail’s same-day courier service to post themselves to 10 Downing Street so they could deliver their message personally to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.

But a Downing Street official refused to sign for them and the delivery boy had to return the women and explain to his bosses why he had failed to make the delivery.

Yet Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan were not the UK’s first “human letters”.

W Reginald Bray, an accountant from Forest Hill in south-east London, claimed to hold that honour having posted himself successfully in 1900, then again in 1903 and for a last time in 1932

(22) THE NEXT GENERATION. Funny but not exactly sensitive — Robert Jackson Bennett’s post at Tor.com: “My Terrible Children Are Both Fake Geeks”.

This is way different than when I grew up, when we kept renting a wobbly VHS of A New Hope from the library, and then my dad brought home The Empire Strikes Back and suddenly we realized that they had made more of these movies, oh my God.

So the Large Son is absolutely drowning in genre exposure. He lives in an age of abundance that I was utterly denied. But does he take advantage of it? Does he religiously memorize all of the various planets, as well as the types of ships?

No. He does not. For a whole damned year he called Darth Vader “Star Vader,” and he still calls Boba Fett “Bobo Fett,” and he calls every kind of land transport an “AT-AT,” which is just abysmally fucking wrong in every kind of way. I created a spreadsheet for him but I am fairly sure he only gave it a cursory glance. Perhaps the most galling thing about it all is that, incredibly, despite having never actually watched a Star Wars movie in the six years of his life (he says they are “too loud,” which, okay, sure), he somehow already knows that Vader is Luke’s father, and he’s just utterly fucking blasé about it, too.

(23) GHOST NOUN. An annual tradition continues — Larry Correa’s “CHRISTMAS NOUN X: THE GHOSTS OF DIE HARDS PAST”. (Thoughtfully linked here to a Wayback Machine page.)

Santa gestured for one of his elves to start the PowerPoint slide show.

“As you can see, this reality is much like ours, but their timeline diverged in the 1980s. Because of the misguided actions of their less militant Christmas Ghosts, they were deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made.”

“The Firefly Christmas Special?” asked the elf running the computer.

“Oh no, very few lucky universes got that.” Santa chuckled, as he thought about the heartwarming scene where Jayne’s mom had knitted him a Santa hat, which he’d later used to strangle a reaver. “Besides, that was a two hour TV special that aired during Firefly’s fifth season. I’m talking about how this world was deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made… Die Hard.

There were gasps around the conference table. That was inconceivable. And only boring losers and communists didn’t think of Die Hard as a Christmas movie.

“I know, right? Christmas there is dull and lame now. So we’re going to use the Christmas Noun to send Tim back to 1988, so he can make sure Die Hard actually happens like it’s supposed to.”

“I don’t know, Santa… Since this crosses into another alternate universe’s jurisdiction, isn’t this a job for Tom Stranger?”

Santa shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, since Larry Correia first started writing the Christmas Noun stories, Audible.com came along and offered him large sums of money to write Tom Stranger stories exclusively for them, so I doubt Tom will show up here. This is up to us and Tim and any other characters who we still own the rights for!”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Bence Pinter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]