(1) QUEEN’S NEW YEAR HONOURS. Over a thousand people are on the list. It is a very good New Year to be a musician with the surname “John” — both Olivia Newton-John and Elton John received honours.
As for literature and genre…
In the Queen’s New Year’s Honors list, literary agent Felicity Bryan was given an MBE for services to publishing, and novelist Rose Tremain was made a Dame.
Director Sam Mendes received a Knighthood for services to drama. He was Executive Producer of Penny Dreadful, and his two James Bond movies, the Oscar winning Skyfall and Spectre, released in 2012 and 2015 respectively, are the most successful in the history of the franchise.
(2) THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES. Jason Sanford has released “a detailed look at science fiction and fantasy magazine publishing in this day and age” — “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines”. His report is loaded with information and includes observations by a dozen magazine editors.
Back in August I tweeted congrats to the fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies for achieving their fundraising goal. Which again, excellent news! But I then foolishly used that thread to try and demonstrate why BCS’s success was proof that science fiction and fantasy magazines were doing better than ever.
Spoiler: I was wrong. As multiple editors and publishers of genre magazines quickly pointed out.
Now don’t misunderstand. In many ways we’re living through the best of times for writers and readers of science fiction and fantasy short fiction. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America lists more than 25 professional-level magazines, likely more than the genre has ever witnessed at the same time. And Locus Magazine’s most recent analysis of the genre’s magazines found “70 magazines, 14 audio sites, and nine critical magazines.”
And that’s merely English-language magazines. There are also many great magazines around the world such as XB-1, Galaxies Science-Fiction, and Fantastica. And the biggest SF/F magazine currently in existence is Science Fiction World in China, which reportedly has a circulation of over 200,000 a month.
In addition, the boon of e-publishing has lowered the traditional printing and distribution cost barriers to creating new genre magazines. This allows more people than ever, including marginalized and diverse voices, to create their own magazines without the need for a large company or trust fund to support their dreams.
But despite all this, times are still tough for many magazines. A number of high-profile and award-winning genre magazines have shut down in the last two years, including Apex Magazine, The Book Smugglers (although their review site continues), Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Shimmer.
And during this same time period Neil Clarke, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld, has been speaking publicly about the many issues faced by genre magazines and warning that the short fiction market was “oversaturated when compared to the number of paying readers.” He believed this might eventually result in a market correction and said a big part of the problem was that having so many SF/F short stories available to read for free had “devalued short fiction.”
(3) CLIMATE CHANGE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Not strictly SF but since climate fiction is arguably a sub-branch of SF —
The BBC Radio 4 morning Today programme is the most listened radio news programme in the British Isles.
In the dead period between Christmas and New Year, when Westminster and Capitol Hill are shut down, the Today programme gives over editorial control to guest editors. This morning (30th Dec) we had Greta Thunberg as the day’s editor who brought on folk from Antarctic researchers to the head of the Bank of England.
It is a three-hour programme interspersed with the general news of the day — such as the Australian wildfires. Rarely do we get such an intense, diverse burst of climate information on a news programme. You can listen to it here.
Of course, if you have been studying for an environmental science degree between 2007- 2018 then likely you might be aware of my own take on the biological and human aspects of climate change.
I have also talked about this at conventions.
10 years ago I wrote a short article based on the questions people often asked me.
Back then I was perhaps considered as depressing and even a few might have thought a little controversial alarmist. However over the subsequent decade I have bullet-point listed the key science developments since my original writing of the essay. These show how the overall science view has slowly migrated to my own perspective. In fact, today my own views might be considered by some as positively conservative…
But if you want a short (8 minute) summary as to how well we are doing addressing the issue then here’s Thunberg herself earlier this month:
(4) CLEVER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The idea/company is great (and a few years old at this point), but for some of us, the name is likely the coolest part. (Via Scott Kirner’s column in the Dec 30 Boston Globe, “Technology and planning are helping to take a bite out of food waste”, and don’t worry if you can’t get see it because paywall.)
The Boston startup Spoiler Alert runs an online trading platform that enables food producers and distributors to get rid of excess inventory by selling it or donating it.
https://www.spoileralert.com/ – I wonder if they had to buy the URL, hard to believe it hadn’t previously been taken.
(5) CARTOPHILE’S LITTLE LIVER PILLS. If you’re a mapophile (or whatever the technical term is), this site is for you: “Download Over 91,000 Maps from the World’s Largest Private Collection” at My Modern Met.
Map lovers will be thrilled by the possibility to peruse some of the world’s most unique historic maps. Over 91,000 maps from the exhaustive David Rumsey Map Collection have been placed online for the world to view and download, making it a treasure trove of information related to cartography. The collection, which was started over 30 years ago, is now housed at Stanford University.
In the 1980s, David Rumsey, president of the digital publishing company Cartography Associates, began building his collection by first focusing on maps of North and South America. With materials dating from the 16th to 21st centuries, the collection is unique in its scope of maps focusing on the United States. From 19th-century ribbon maps of the Mississippi to the world’s largest early world map, the collection is filled with special gems that show the wide variety of artistic maps produced throughout history.
(6) THAT PANTING SOUND. Brenda Clough advises “Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Listen!” at Book View Café.
If you’re a pantser you are not in sole charge of the work. The characters, the plot, the theme, all chip in and drag the book to new and exciting places. You want them to do that. This is the whole point of pantsing in the first place. The book will go to places that you, if you outlined it at the beginning, could never have imagined. You know the thing’s really alive, when it gets up and runs!
But to get this to happen, you have to listen…
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 30, 1865 — Rudyard Kipling. Yea, Kipling. I didn’t do him last year and he’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got Hump“ and “ The Cat that Walked By Himself“ being wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic in them that I should’ve of done so. Or there’s always The Jungle Books, which run to far more stories than I thought. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire-loving writer who expressed that more than once but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.)
- Born December 30, 1922 — Jane Langton. Author of the Hall Family Chronicles series which is definitely SFF in nature having both fantasy and SF elements in these charming tales for children. The eight books herein are mostly not available digitally though Kindle has the final novel but the Homer Kelly mysteries which both Fantastic Fiction and ISFDB list as genre or genre-adjacent are partially available. (Died 2018.)
- Born December 30, 1942 — Fred Ward, 77. Lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins which was pleasant but forgettable upon finishing. Co-lead with Kevin Bacon in several of the Tremors films. Plays The Captain in The Crow: Salvation and Maj. General David Reece in the Invasion Earth series. My favorite role for him? Detective H.P. Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell. Is he that Lovecraft? Maybe, maybe not.
- Born December 30, 1945 — Concetta Tomei, 74. Blank Dominique, operator along with Blank Reg (the late Morgan Shepherd) of Big Time Television, on Max Headroom. She’s had one-offs on Touched by an Angel, Numb3rs, Ghost Whisperer, and Voyager.
- Born December 30, 1950 — Lewis Shiner, 69. Damn, his Deserted Cities of the Heart novelwas frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I see is on the DC Universe app. Yea! Anyone that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on Kindle with Joe Lansdale? It looks interesting.
- Born December 30, 1951 — Avedon Carol, 68. She was the 1983 winner of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund to Albacon II in Glasgow, And she was GOH at Wiscon II along with Connie Willis and Samuel R. Delany. She has been nominated for three Hugos as Best Fan Writer. She’s been involved in thirty apas and fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3.
- Born December 30, 1959 — Douglas A. Anderson, 60. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog Tolkien and Fantasy as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there. Today he’s saying a few words about Holdstock.
- Born December 30, 1976 — Rhianna Pratchett, 43. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her father. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot. For her father, she’s overseen and being involved several years back in The Shepherd’s Crown, the last Discworld novel, to print. She was also with Simon Green the writer of The Watch, the Beeb’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch series. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They, of course, helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon.
- Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku, 39. First genre role was Faith in the Buffyverse. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One which is quite well done and definitely worth watching. She done a fair of other voicework, two of which I’ll single out as of note. One is is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies – view here. The other role is fascinating — The Lady In Glen Cook’s The Black Company series. Here’s the link to that story.
- Born December 30, 1986 — Faye Marsay, 33. Shona McCullough In a Twelfth Doctor story, “The Last Christmas”. She also was on A Game of Thrones for several seasons as The Waif. (Who that is I know not as I didn’t watch that series.) She also played Blue Colson in Black Mirror’s “Hated in the Nation” tale. Her theater creds include Hansel & Gretel, Peter Pan and Macbeth — all definitely genre.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Speed Bump – a superhero joke so obvious you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it first.
- Daily Kos artist Matt Bors finds that the new U.S. Space Force reminds him of… “Cartoon: Starship Trumpers”.
(9) AMONG THE MISSING. LA Curbed’s article “Mapping the most incredible lost mansions of Los Angeles” has Ray Bradbury’s home at #10 – with John King Tarpinian’s photo that originated on this blog.
…The most recent teardown on our list, this 1937 Cheviot Hills house was the home of author Ray Bradbury for more than 50 years. In January 2015, starchitect Thom Mayne began deconstruction of the house, much to the chagrin of Bradbury fans and local preservationists. Mayne claimed, “I could make no connection between the extraordinary nature of the writer and the incredible un-extraordinariness of the house. It was not just un-extraordinary, but unusually banal.”
(10) A STUNNER. Joe Sherry’s confidence in the Old Guard is not misplaced: “The Hugo Initiative: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2001, Best Novel)” at Nerds of a Feather.
In Retrospect: Rowling’s Hugo Award is very likely one of the most controversial in the history of the award – while beloved, the Harry Potter novels have never quite received their due as literature. They are books for children and the series is wildly popular, a combination which is great for success and less great for earning respect (such that it truly matters).
The main thing working against Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for its place in Hugo Award history, though, is that it won the award over A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin (as well as novels from Ken MacLeod, Robert Sawyer, and Nalo Hopkinson). A Storm of Swords is, notably, the third novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire sequence and widely considered the finest novel in not only that series but in Martin’s acclaimed career. To those who care about such things, Martin is considered “core genre”, writing epic fantasy and being a lifetime part of the Worldcon community. Rowling was an outsider who writes children’s books. I’m sure there is a segment of the old guard Worldcon crowd who still has not gotten over Rowling’s win and Martin’s loss….
(11) CUBIC. Cat Eldridge flagged this New York Times article as “really SFnal” — “WeWork Planned a Residential Utopia. It Hasn’t Turned Out That Way.”
After first pledging to upend the way people worked, WeWork vowed to change how they lived: WeLive, a sleek dormitory for working professionals with free beer, arcade games in the laundry room and catered Sunday dinners, would spread around the world.
It has not quite turned out that way.
WeLive has not expanded beyond its first two locations and efforts to open sites in India and Israel have collapsed. In addition to long-term rentals, WeLive offers rooms at its only locations, in New York City and Virginia, for nightly stays on hotel sites.
…Now WeLive’s chances of surviving as the We Company tries to recover from its failed initial public offering are slim, said Scott Galloway, a business analyst and professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
“I bet WeLive is wonderful for everyone except the shareholders and We,’’ Mr. Galloway said. “There was a total lack of internal controls. Where were the board’s basic questions like, ‘Why are we doing WeLive?’”
The uncertainty about WeLive comes as other co-living companies are thriving and expanding. A London-based company, The Collective, has plans to build a co-living building in Brooklyn, while another company, Common, has more than 12,000 beds under development in multiple cities, including a 600-unit building in Miami.
(12) WHEN FANDOM IS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT. Vox critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff and Constance Grady join Aja Romano to discuss “Fandom went mainstream in the 2010s — for better and worse”.
Constance: Ooh, this is tricky, and actually, Veronica Mars is a good case study here.
Veronica Mars went on as long as it did entirely because of its fandom. In the ’00s, fan mail-in campaigns got it renewed for a second and third season despite low ratings. In 2013, the fan Kickstarter campaign raised over $5 million to pay for the movie’s production budget. This year, the show’s history of intense fan engagement is an enormous part of what led to the Veronica Mars Hulu revival — and in that revival, Veronica’s love interest Logan dies, destroying the ship that large swaths of the fandom were hugely invested in and, with it, their fannish investment in the show.
My impulse when Logan died was to think, “Well, that sucks, but certainly showrunner Rob Thomas is entitled to do whatever he wants with his characters. He doesn’t owe me or his fans anything.” But a number of fans disagreed: Rob Thomas, they said, had taken advantage of their desire to see Veronica and Logan together, using their investment as shippers to leverage not just their time and attention, but the literal dollars out of their pockets. In that case, didn’t he owe them something? Wasn’t killing Logan a betrayal of the contract Thomas had made with the fandom?
To be honest, I can see the argument. When a show’s survival depends this heavily on its fans, the power dynamic between creator and fandom does change dramatically. The Veronica Mars fandom went above and beyond to keep that show coming back again and again, and the showrunner responded by destroying the piece of the show that a huge part of the fandom cared about most. Emotionally, that does feel like a betrayal.
Emily: …I think a lot about a quote from Joss Whedon that I heard when I was a teenager and decided was accurate without a ton of reflection: “Don’t give people what they want; give them what they need.” Of the many bits of storytelling wisdom Whedon has dispensed in interviews over the years, this is the one that has most taken on a life beyond his fandom, because it speaks to something that I think we’re all a little wary of in 2019: anesthetizing art against the horrors of the world so much that it becomes a sort of safe space.
(13) RENAISSANCE PLAYER. Paul Weimer appraises the next book in a series, “Microreview [book]: Priest of Lies by Peter McLean”, at Nerds of a Feather.
…That rich worldbuilding seen in the first novel is extended and expanded on here. From the nature of magic, to the political structure of the capital (including the true structure of the Queen’s Men), the novel enfolds rich details of the main character’s world. Both Ellisberg and now, Dannsburg come across as distinct, real cities that you can imagine walking down the streets of (although do mind the smell of the first, and all the guards in the second)….
(14) JEOPARDY! On tonight’s Final Jeopardy, contestants showed they can draw a blank on non-sff literary items, too. Andrew Porter took notes —
Answer: In a New Yorker profile, he said, “Where I like it is out west in Wyoming, Montana, & Idaho, & I like Cuba & Paris.”
Wrong questions: “Who is Kerouac?” and “Who is John Wayne?”
Correct question: “Who is Hemingway?”
Not skiffy, but what the hey…
(15) HOW DO YOU GET THIS THING OUT OF SECOND GEAR? Jason Kottke frames a video in “How Do You Move a Star? Stellar Engines!”
In this episode of Kurzgesagt, they’re talking about building engines powerful enough to move entire stars, dragging their solar systems along with them….
[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Bill, Alan Baumler, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]