“Ursula once said she wanted to see science fiction step over the old walls of convention and hit right into the next wall — and start to break it down, too,” said Joseph Corbett, U.S. Postal Service chief financial officer and executive vice president, who served as the stamp ceremony’s dedicating official. “She felt the ideas represented in her fiction could help people become more aware of other ways to do things, other ways to be and to help people wake up.”
… The ceremony was attended by Le Guin’s husband Charles, her son Theodore and his wife Nancy, and her granddaughter. Speakers included Linda Long, curator and archivist at the University of Oregon library, where all of Le Guin’s papers and letters are housed. Amy Wong, a book editor at the Portland Oregonian, spoke of Le Guin’s many letters to the newspaper, covering topics that ranged from protesting the cancellation of Star Trek to the nation’s democratic process. And granddaughter India Downs Le Guin spoke of living with her grandmother after graduate school….
The outdoor ceremony was held in the Evan H. Roberts Sculpture Mall of the Portland Art Museum.
The 33rd stamp in the Literary Arts series honors Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018), who “expanded the scope of literature through novels and short stories that increased critical and popular appreciation of science fiction and fantasy.” The stamp features a portrait of Le Guin based on a 2006 photograph. The background shows a scene from her landmark 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, in which an envoy from Earth named Genly Ai escapes from a prison camp across the wintry planet of Gethen with Estraven, a disgraced Gethenian politician.
The artist for the stamp is Donato Giancola, a three-time Hugo winner who also was named a Spectrum Awards Grandmaster in 2019.
Information about how to order first day covers is here.
(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…
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
(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.
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.
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
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.
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.
…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.”
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….
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.
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.
…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
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?”
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.]
… Across the room, the quest for new materials continues, with a wafting terylene dress from 1941, and a screening of the exuberant 1951 Ealing comedy The Man in the White Suit, with Alec Guinness as the naïve inventor of an indestructible textile fleeing from angry industrialists and workers, saved only when his magic material disintegrates around him. There’s a lot of fun, as well as science, in this show—and some joyous artistic accidents, like David Hockney’s encounter with a polaroid camera, which he used for the dazzling grid of Sun on the Pool, Los Angeles (1982). “Drawing with a camera,” he called it.
In the next section, “Human Machines,” the note of fear enters fully with the trauma of mechanized carnage in World War I. A case holds pioneering artificial limbs from the 1920s, and in Otto Dix’s Card Players (1920), three disfigured soldiers sit round a table, their torn limbs and missing jaws replaced by fantastical prosthetics. The destructive technology of warfare and the constructive skill of limb-makers have turned Dix’s men into monsters. Have they, perhaps, become machines themselves?…
(3) TOOLBOX 2020. Applications for Taos Toolbox will be
taken beginning December 1. The two-week Master Class in
Science Fiction and Fantasy will be taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy
Kress, with special guest George R.R. Martin and special lecturer E.M. Tippetts.
The class runs June 7-20, 2020.
The Terran Award full attending Scholarship is available again
this year, sponsored by George R.R. Martin, to bring an aspiring SF writer from
a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox. The award covers all
tuition and fees to the Toolbox (but not meals or travel). Applicants
will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where
English is not the primary language. WJW and the Toolbox staff will
select the winner.
Seven years ago, my house had 20 floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and about the same number of half-sized bookcases — about 5000 books, excluding the comics. The house was essentially full of books and comic books. Today I have ten tall bookcases, and a couple short ones. What follows is the road map from here to there — halving the number of books in my life. I have been hearing of many friends having to smallify their space, and maybe this will help!…
(5) ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT. It’s The Joker vs Pennywise in
the latest round of Epic Rap Battles Of History.
The Joker and Pennywise clown around in the eighth battle of ERB Season 6! Who won? Who’s next? You decide!
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
November 24, 1958 — Devil Girl From Mars premiered in Swedish theaters. It starred Patricia Laffan and Hazel Court, reviewers called this UK film delightfully bad. It however is considered just bad at Rotten Tomatoes with a 23% rating.
November 24, 1985 — Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premieredon ABC. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the critics found it mostly harmless. It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 24, 1882 — E. R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his much lesser known later Zimiamvian Trilogy. I’m reasonably that sure I’ve read The Worm Ouroboros but way too long ago to remember anything about it. Silverberg in the Millenium Fantasy Masterworks Series edition of this novel said he considered it to be “the greatest high fantasy of them all”. (Died 1945.)
Born November 24, 1907 — Evangeline Walton. Her best-known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected. She has won a number of Awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award, World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
Born November 24, 1916 — Forrest J. Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a a Hugo forfor #1 Fan Personality in 1953 and equally telling that when he was handed the trophy at Philcon II (by Asimov), he physically declined saying it should go to Ken Slater to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. You want more? As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. Hell. he represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp which she assuredly is, He appeared in several hundred films which I’ll not list here and even wrote lesbian erotica. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His non-fiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science Fiction, A Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well he did. Just one location of his collection contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame who now have possession of many items of his collection. (Died 2008.)
Born November 24, 1948 — Spider Robinson, 71. His first story, “The Guy with the Eyes,” was published in Analog (February 1973). It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction. His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife Jeanne Robinson. In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than can be comfortably listed here.
Born November 24, 1957 — Denise Crosby, 62. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. In other genre work, she was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s done what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages.
Born November 24, 1957 — John Zakour, 62. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books?
Born November 24, 1957 — Jeff Noon, 62. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works.
Born November 24, 1965 — Shirley Henderson, 54. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “ Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s if because of the metanarrative aspect.
(8) GAHAN WILSON IN HIS PRIME. Andrew Porter shared three photos
of cartoonist Gahan Wilson from the Eighties and Nineties.
If you’re hip to fanziner jokes – maybe I should’ve said hep, many of them started in the 1940s and 1950s – and the Cosmic Joker just now led me to mistype started with a v instead of the second t – you know we send poctsarcds. If you don’t, you can look it up here. Or it’s a good occasion to consult A Wealth of Fable (H. Warner, Jr., rev. 1992; see here).
Once in my fanzine Vanamonde I sleepily let stand the mistyping – or mis-mistyping – “poctsacrd”. Jack Speer promptly sent a letter of comment “Nothing is sacrd.”
(10) WISHLIST DESTINATIONS. Paul Weimer got a huge response
to his tweet – here are two examples.
Since I have more space (and fewer limitations on things like spoilers) on my own blog, I’d like to elaborate a little on the review, and particularly the sense I got that the Wormwood trilogy changed as it expanded from a standalone to a series. When I first read Rosewater (and even more so when I reread it last month, in preparation for writing this review) I was struck by how clearly it belonged to the subgenre of “zone” science fiction. Originating with the Strugatsky brothers’ 1972 novel Roadside Picnic (and the 1979 Tarkovsky film, Stalker, inspired by it), “zone” novels imagine that some segment of normal space has erupted into strangeness, a zone where the normal rules of physics, biology, and causality no longer apply, and whose residents–or anyone who wanders in–are irretrievably altered in some fundamental way. The zone also represents a disruption to existing power structures, and the plots of zone novels often revolve around characters who have been dispatched by the state to infiltrate the zone in an attempt to control or at least understand it–an effort that is doomed to failure. Recent examples of zone novels include Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X trilogy and M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy (and particularly the middle volume, Nova Swing). I’ve even seen a persuasive argument that the HBO miniseries Chernobyl can be read as zone science fiction, because of its unreal, heightened depiction of the region around the exploded reactor, and because the effects that the unseen radiation it spews have on people, animals, and plant life in the surrounding areas track so closely with the subgenre’s central trope of cellular-level change.
I saw Frozen II last night. It’s an OK movie – I didn’t love the first one very much, but I do appreciate the attempt to expand the story into a broader fantasy epic (even if it seems to borrow shamelessly from Avatar: The Last Airbender with barely even a fraction of that show’s skill at constructing plot and themes). But I’ve been thinking about the film’s handling of the theme of ancestral wrongs and making reparations for them, and the more I do the angrier I get, so here are some spoilery observations.
The issue, Marvel Comics No. 1 — published in October 1939 by Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel in the 1960s — sold for $1.26 million, the highest price ever at public auction for a comic made by the company, according to a Heritage Auctions press release.
The comic was given a 9.4 rating out of 10 by Certified Guaranty Company, and is the highest-rated copy of the issue in existence.
(16) RAINBOW CONNECTION. “Cinema Classics: The Wizard of Oz” on Saturday
Night Live provides an alternate ending to the 1938 film.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Michael
Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Ellen Datlow, and
Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]
(1) FAREWELL. Martin Hoare’s funeral was
held today. Pete Young shared a photo of the casket (posted here with permission.)
Yes, it was used for Martin. He was inside, then Martin + Tardis were cremated. I could not get any closer but I believe the Tardis was painted on it; I think it was Hazel Langford who told me it was Martin’s girlfriend’s idea. Needless to say the coffin was bigger on the inside…
(2) SURVIVABILITY OF SHORT SFF. Neil Clarke speaks again
about the problems with the current economic model of short fiction in the sff
field. Thread starts here.
…I hadn’t realised how apparently old-school I was until I discovered that one panel at WorldCon was entitled Continuing Relevance of older SF, which questioned whether 20th-century writing was still relevant in the 21st (answer: yes). Among the writers it listed as older and of a past era were Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood – yikes, really?
The discussion was lively and intense and intelligent – and this was the real joy, for me, of this entire colossal event, alongside the surprising (and vast) range of the hundreds upon hundreds of sessions over five days.
My assumptions were immediately and happily demolished. I’d looked forward to learning about some new writers and had thought there might also be some intriguing overlap with technology. But the science element was just as high-profile as the fiction….
Mike and Carol Rensick are at a loss for words about how successful this GoFundMe campaign has become. (Which says a lot, since as a storyteller Mike is well known for his words.) They cannot thank everyone enough–there are not the words to say how much all of you have changed a very bad year for the better.
Many people have asked them why, with so many weeks in ICU and bills much surpassing any modest number, we had only set the fundraiser goal to $15;000. But in Mike’s mind, $100 is a lot to ask for, let alone $15,000. He had not realised how beloved in the field he is, and how much we all love the opportunity to “pay it back” for all he has given to the science fiction and fantasy community.
Mike is composing and thank you message as we speak–once he can pick up his jaw up from the ground and find the words–but in the meantime we have been encouraged to increase the GoFundMe goal, and so we have! We have doubled the number to $30,000.
(6) LIBRARIES AND
DIGITAL BOOKS. Tom
Mercer, Senior Vice President of cloudLibrary, has written an email about the
many changes impacting libraries and their ability to offer high-quality
digital lending services to library users. He discusses why these shifts are
happening, how libraries can respond, and what bibliotheca is doing to support
libraries — “bibliotheca
leadership responds to publisher model changes”.
…Now, fast-forward to the digital library lending market today, where we’re seeing a shift from several of the major publishing companies. Blackstone Audio is embargoing audiobook titles for 90 days, Hachette has changed from perpetual access to two-year expirations (also implemented by Penguin Random House last October), and Macmillan will limit the quantity of frontlist titles effective November 1. It’s unlikely that all of these publishers would be changing their terms without external pressures. So, where is the pressure coming from? ?There is evidence to suggest that in recent years, authors and agents have come to feel that the library market is eroding their revenue. I think it’s telling that Macmillan CEO John Sargent addressed his letter about the library model change to “Macmillan Authors, Macmillan Illustrators and Agents.”
This begs the next question: if authors and agents are voicing concerns about library lending, where are they getting their data from? I doubt it’s publishers, since a report on library lending is not part of an author’s royalty statement. There is only one company that has access to readers’ digital retail purchases as well as users’ digital library borrowing habits, and that is Amazon.
In 2009, Amazon created a publishing division, Amazon Publishing, which doesn’t sell any of its eBooks or audiobooks to libraries. They have teams of people talking with authors and agents trying to secure rights and make them as exclusive as possible to the Amazon ecosystem. It’s highly probable that they use the data provided by library users to argue that library lending is undercutting retail sales. This is a major concern that we need to understand and to face together as an industry.
…Captain America reflects on the symbolism of his costume in a newly published essay by Mark Waid, which was changed from an earlier version in which he called his country “deeply flawed.”Marvel Entertainment
The page, written by Mark Waid and drawn by John Cassady, is narrated by Captain America. In earlier versions of the page that comic-book retailers received in July, the star-spangled hero opened with: “I’m asked how it is possible to love a country that’s deeply flawed. It’s hard sometimes. The system isn’t just. We’ve treated some of our own abominably.”
He went on to say that fixing America’s system is “hard and bloody work” but that it could be done when enough people take to the streets, call for revolution and say, “Injustice will not stand.”
Captain America concludes: “That’s what you can love about America.”
The version that arrived in stores and online, however, has new text, also written by Waid, in which Captain America ruminates on his own image, not the United States: “Captain America isn’t a man. It’s an idea. It’s a commitment to fight every day for justice, for acceptance and equality, for the rights of everyone in this nation.” The hero says that those qualities — “not hatred, not bigotry, not exclusion” — are the values of true patriotism.
Marvel and Waid declined to say why the page was changed. But in an email message, Waid expressed frustration at how his original text was being presented. “I’m disappointed that the cherry-picked quotes circulated by the media severely mischaracterize what was actually written,” he wrote. While the essay was critical, he added, “As written, Cap is supportive of America as a whole.”
(8) A WORD FROM OUR WILDLIFE. The Red Panda Fraction asks
that I remind everyone there is only a little more than 24 hours remaining to
vote in the Dragon
Awards. Request a ballot at the link.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 29, 1854 — Joseph Jacobs. Australian folklorist, translator, literary critic and historian who became a notable collector and publisher of English folklore. Many of our genre writers have use of his material. “Jack the Giant Killer” becomes Charles de Lint’s Jack Of Kinrowan series! Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon to give an example. (Lecture mode off.) Excellent books by the way. (Died 1916.)
Born August 29, 1904 — Leslyn M. Heinlein. She was born Leslyn MacDonald. She was married to Robert A. Heinlein between 1932 and 1947. Her only genre writing on ISFDB is “Rocket’s Red Glare“ which was published in The Nonfiction of Robert Heinlein: Volume I. There’s an interesting article on her and Heinlein here. (Died 1981.)
Born August 29, 1939 — Joel Schumacher, 80. Director of The Lost Boys and Flatliners, not mention Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Ok, so those might not be the highlights of his career… However his Blood Creek vampirefilm starring Michael Fassbender is said to be very good. Oh, and his The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a very funny riff the original The Incredible Shrinking Man.
Born August 29, 1942 — Dian Crayne. A member of LASFS, when she and Bruce Pelz divorced the party they threw inspired Larry Niven’s “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?” She published mystery novels under the name J.D. Crayne. A full rememberence post is here. (Died 2017.)
Born August 29, 1942 — Gottfried John. He’s likely best known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written as collected by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
Born August 29, 1945 — Robert Weinberg. Author, editor, publisher, and collector of science fiction. At Chicon 7, he received a Special Committee Award for his service to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. During the Seventies, he was the genius behind Pulp which featured interviews with pulp writers such as Walter B. Gibson and Frederick C. Davis. (Died 2016.)
Born August 29, 1951 — Janeen Webb, 68. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction, winner of a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her isa wonderful novel that I do also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle.
Born August 29, 1953 — Nancy Holder, 66. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you, but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
Today’s pop culture figure, tomorrow’s museum exhibit — Bizarro.
…[Jeannette] Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”
(12) ABOUT THOSE EDITORIALS. A tweet highlights one
problematic view – the Wikipedia
article covers this one and many more.
A year after Rotten Tomatoes announced plans to boost diversity among its approved critics, the review aggregation site revealed it has added 600 new film commentators.
In an effort to increase representation and inclusion across the industry, the company also renewed $100,000 in grants for 2020 to assist critics from underrepresented groups to attend film festivals and industry events. In 2018 and 2019, Rotten Tomatoes has helped over 160 journalists attend film festivals by donating grant money to festivals like Toronto, Sundance and SXSW.
Last August, Rotten Tomatoes refurbished its criteria to look at an individual’s qualifications, rather than just their employer when it comes to verifying critics. The initiative also expanded its pool to newer media platforms like digital videos or podcasts. Of the new critics added this year, 55% are women, 60% are freelancers and 10% publish reviews on more modern platforms like YouTube.
Engineers attached a helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover ahead of its launch next summer. And if it flies successfully, it’ll be the first aircraft to fly on another planet, NASA said.
The solar-powered Mars Helicopter will be safely stowed underneath the rover until it lands at the Jezero Crater, where scientists believe water once flowed. The craft will detach from the rover and explore Mars from the air while the rover collects samples on the ground, NASA said.
If the helicopter flies, it can provide a unique vantage point for scientists to observe Mars.
If all goes well, the autonomous aircraft will snapshot aerial views of Martian cliffs, caves and craters that the land-bound rover can’t explore. And even if it doesn’t take flight, the rover can still gather important data from the surface.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “I Wrote A Song Using Only Hate Comments” on YouTube,
Madilyn Bailey provides a song where all the lyrics come from comments made by
[Thanks to Standback, John King Tarpinain, JJ, Lis Carey, James Bacon,
mlex, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, StephenfromOttawa,
Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes
to File 770 contributing editor of the day Trey.]
(1) WORLD FANTASY CON. After Silvia Moreno-Garcia criticized WFC 2019 for announcing an all-white guest slate, the concom’s answer did not allay complaints. And the World Fantasy Convention Board’s answer to a letter she sent them has only fanned the flames. Moreno-Garcia’s screencap of their reply is part of a reaction thread which starts here.
and decades of experience in all cases. The length of experience has varied with ppl that have been quite 'new' to the field. Why can't 'newer' POC faces be appearing? 2) We cannot wait 10 years for a problem to solve itself.
But also — I am one of the people who turned down a Special Guest invite (for 2020). This is why: a) because as one of this select group that WFC finds desirable, I am BUSY. Cons eat guests alive and I don't have time or energy for them anymore.
And to be clear–the board sets the tone. The board often constricts what the con people on the ground can and cannot do. The board has the power to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen. Or to change the rules.
…it was not great. These are already difficult places for newcomers to penetrate (I won't even get into the scowls I got for having a kid there). and there's a lot of cons. People are going to go where they feel welcome and tell their friends to do the same.
So basically when your con/org/event etc acts in ways that aren’t welcoming or showing an inclination to learn & do better you’re not just losing access to the ppl you’ve deemed “acceptable” you’re losing access to EVERYONE they could recommend in their place.
I realize this a) might seem silly, b) be exactly what certain assholes in the world want everyone to believe and c) that privileged writers have been selling books and winning awards for a long time w/o that fear b/c systemic advantages BUT Writer Anxiety feelings, y'know
If they've historically had poor representation, they have a bad rep. They might seek more diverse guests, who side-eye the invite and don't attend because of said rep. No one wants to be invited/recognized grudgingly b/c the host was forced to do it. Vicious cycle ensues.
Earth is a rare and special place in the universe. Astrophysicist Jackie Faherty joins forces with Broken Earth series author N.K. Jemisin to examine what makes our planet unique compared to others in our solar system and beyond. Find out where artists and scientist alike look for life beyond Earth, from Io to Enceladus and beyond.
In Ralph Breaks the Internet, a hyperconnected sequel to the animated hit Wreck-It Ralph, the possibilities of a Disney/Star Wars/Marvel crossover are breathlessly celebrated while fragile masculinity threatens to destroy the world. Cultural anthologists of the future will require no carbon dating to recognize this film as extremely 2018. In fact, as a screen grab of online and entertainment culture, Ralph Breaks the Internet seizes so shrewdly on the times that the prospect of watching it 10, 20 or 100 years from now is more exciting than seeing it in a theater today, when it feels too much like an animated extension of everyday stresses and distractions. Clickability isn’t always a virtue.
(4) CRITICS AT THE FBI. The Harper’s Magazine post “Literary Agents” has excerpts from Writers Under Surveillance in which they reprint the FBI’s description of writers they were watching.
The FBI said Ray Bradbury was “a freelance science fiction writer whose work dealt with the development and exploitation of Mars, its effect on mankind, and its home world.”
By contrast, they said Gore Vidal was “A writer who is intolerable, masquerading as smart-aleck entertainment.”
That he is not better known elsewhere is perhaps due to the unclassifiable nature of his work – yet his influence can be seen everywhere, from the films of Tim Burton to the novels of Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket.
Gorey himself was a complicated, reclusive individual whose mission in life was “to make everybody as uneasy as possible”. He collected daguerreotypes of dead babies and lived alone with 20,000 books and six cats in his New York apartment. Sporting an Edwardian beard, he would frequently traipse around the city in a full-length fur coat accessorised with trainers and jangling bracelets.
This week, we’re joined by fantasy and science fiction author Nicholas Erik, who also writes and experiments under the pen name D.N. Erikson. He’s an analytical guy who’s always observing what’s working and what’s not, both for his own work and for others.
Reasons for launching a pen name and whether it should be secret or not.
Trying a new series and new genre when you’re not getting the results you hoped for from your first effort.
Nick’s “trifecta of indie success” — marketing, craft, and productivity….
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
November 21, 1924 – Christopher J. R. Tolkien, 94, Writer and Editor who is the son of J. R. R. Tolkien, and editor of so much of his father’s posthumously-published material. He drew the original maps for the Lord of the Rings, and provided much of the feedback on both The Hobbit and LoTR; his father invited him to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. He published The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise: Translated from the Icelandic with Introduction, Notes and Appendices. The list of his father’s unfinished works which he has edited and brought to published form is a long one; I’ll leave it to the august group here to discuss their merit, as I have mixed feelings on them.
November 21, 1937 – Ingrid Pitt, Actor from Poland who emigrated to the UK who is best known as Hammer Films’ most sexy female vampire of the early Seventies. Would I kid you? Her first genre roles were in the Spanish movie Sound of Horror and the science-fictional The Omegans, followed by the Hammer productions The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and The House That Dripped Blood. She appeared in the original version of The Wicker Man and had parts in Octopussy, Clive Barker’s Underworld, Dominator, and Minotaur. She had two different roles in Doctor Who – somewhat of a rarity – as Dr. Solow in the “Warriors of the Deep” episode and as Galleia in “The Time Monster” episode. (Died 2010.)
November 21, 1941 – Ellen Asher, 77, Editor who introduced many fans to their favorites, as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award and an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. In 2009, she was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Worldcon in 2011.
November 21, 1942 – Al Matthews, Actor, Singer, and former Marine with two Purple Hearts, who is best known for his appearance as Gunnery Sergeant Apone in Aliens – a performance so memorable that his character was the inspiration for Sgt. Avery Johnson in the Halo franchise. He reprised his role 27 years later in the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines. Other genre films include The Fifth Element, Superman III, Riders of the Storm (aka The American Way), Omen III, The Sender, and Tomorrow Never Dies. (Died 2018.)
November 21, 1944 – Harold Ramis, Actor, Writer, and Producer, best-known to genre fans for his role as Egon Spengler in the Saturn-winning, Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Ghostbusters and its lesser sibling Ghostbusters II (the scripts for both of which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd). He had voice roles in Heavy Metal and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and a cameo in Groundhog Day, for which he received Saturn nominations for writing and directing. He was also director and producer of Multiplicity. (Died 2014.)
November 21, 1945 – Vincent Di Fate, 73, Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at the 1992 Worldcon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
November 21, 1950 – Evelyn C. Leeper, 68, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978; it is currently at Issue #2,041. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon.
November 21, 1953 – Lisa Goldstein, 65, Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
Rabbits Against Magic has a wonderful “Cartoon Lexiconville” showing English words and phrases that were originated in or popularized by comic strips.
(10) FLAME ON! “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fry!” – is not a quote from “’Eat, Fry, Love’ a Turkey Fryer Fire Cautionary Tale presented by William Shatner & State Farm.” (Released in 2011 but it’s news to me!)
It is a turkey fryer cautionary tale with excellent video of the dangers associated with using turkey fryers. It shows how fire can rapidly intensify, spread, destroy and cause serious injury. Enjoy this video, learn from it and stay safe.
But a lot of it is thanks to artificial intelligence. With AI, computers analyze reams of data, making decisions and performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI is key to Amazon’s retail forecasting on steroids and its push to shave off minutes and seconds in the rush to prepare, pack and deliver.
“It goes beyond just being able to forecast we need a hundred blouses,” Freshwater says. “We need to be able to determine how many do we expect our customers to buy across the sizes, and the colors. And then … where do we actually put the product so that our customers can get it when they click ‘buy.’ ”
That’s a key element to how Amazon speeds up deliveries: The team predicts exactly where those blouses should be stocked so that they are as close as possible to the people who will buy them.
(Note: Amazon is one of NPR’s financial supporters.)
This process is even more essential now that the race is on for same-day and even same-hour delivery. Few other retailers have ventured into these speeds, because they’re very expensive. And few rely quite so much on AI to control costs while expanding.
A milestone oil development project in Alaska’s Arctic waters is having to extend its construction timeline to accommodate the warming climate. The recently approved Liberty Project — poised to become the first oil production facility in federal Arctic waters — has altered its plans due to the shrinking sea ice season.
The challenge comes as the Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era policy and proposed re-opening the majority of Alaska’s federal waters to drilling. It’s pushing to hold a lease sale in the Beaufort Sea next year. The lease for the Liberty Project pre-dates the Obama-era ban on oil development in Arctic waters.
Get ready to get nostalgic — or rather, listen to me get nostalgic — on an episode of Eating the Fantastic which features a guest I believe I’ve known longer than any other — comics legend Paul Levitz.
Paul and I go way back, all the way to Phil Seuling’s 1971 Comic Art Convention, when I would have been 16 and him 15, both fans and fanzine publishers, long before either of us had entered the comics industry as professionals. We later, along with a couple of other friends, roomed together at the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention in Washington D.C. As you listen, think of us as we were in the old days — that’s us in 1974 compared to us now —
In 1976, he became the editor of Adventure Comics before he’d even turned 20. He ended up working at DC Comics for more than 35 years, where he was president from 2002–2009. He’s probably best known for writing the Legion of Super-Heroes for a decade, scripting the Justice Society of America, and co-creating the character Stalker with Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko. He was given an Inkpot Award at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2002 and the Dick Giordano Hero Initiative Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2013 at the Baltimore Comic-Con. And if you try to lift his massive and essential history 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, you’re going to need to see a chiropractor.
We discussed why even though in a 1973 fanzine he wrote he had “no desire to make a career for myself in this industry” he’s spent his life there, how wild it was the suits let kids like us run the show in the ’70s, the time Marv Wolfman offered him a job over at Marvel (and why he turned it down), what he learned from editor Joe Orlando about how to get the best work out of creative people, the bizarre reason Gerry Conway’s first DC Comics script took several years to get published, how he made the Legion of Super-Heroes his own, which bad writerly habits Denny O’Neil knocked out of him, the first thing you should ask an artist when you start working with them, why team books (of which he wrote so many) are easier to write, our shared love for “Mirthful” Marie Severin, how glad we are there was no such thing as social media when we got started in comics, why Roger Zelazny is his favorite science fiction writer, and much, much more.
[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]
As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Problematic Speculative Fiction Works chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field 1 and in this case, the likelihood of encountering their avid fans. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should consider or the only twenty books whose fans may some day corner you so they can expound at length on the virtues of these books.
Here are the first three on his list of 20 —
The Heritage of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey
(2) YOUNG PERSON WATCHES OLD SF. Echo Ishii’s next excursion into old sf TV series has a William Shatner connection – “SF Obscure: TekWar”.
Tek War is based on William Shatner’s TekWar books, ghostwritten by Ron Goulart. There are about nine books in the series. The show started as a series of two-hour TV movies and then a proper second season, from what I can figure out. Open to corrections.
A relentless barrage of white noise that was the result of a life or death struggle between sonic terrorist Malcolm Clarke and the Radiophonic Workshop’s massive EMS Synthi 100, otherwise known as the ‘Delaware’. Anticipates, at various points, Throbbing Gristle, Metal Machine Music, Frank Zappa’s Jazz From Hell and – in its calmer moments – Eno & Fripp’s No Pussyfooting. A BDSM specialist’s shag tape.
Katherine Mangu-Ward: Do you think that the underlying conditions of free speech as it is associated with dubious technologies, are they getting better or worse?
Cory Doctorow: There is the—there is a pure free speech argument and there’s a scientific argument that just says you know it’s not science if it’s not published. You have to let people who disagree with you—and who dislike you—read your work and find the dumb mistakes you’ve made and call you an idiot for having made them otherwise you just end up hitting yourself and then you know your h-bomb blows up in your face, right?
And atomic knowledge was the first category of knowledge that scientists weren’t allowed to freely talk about—as opposed to like trade secrets—but, like, scientific knowledge. That knowing it was a crime. And so it’s the kind of original sin of science. But there’s a difference between an atomic secret and a framework for keeping that a secret and a secret about a vulnerability in a computer system. And they’re often lumped together….
(5) DID YOU KNOW? Complaints Choirs took their inspiration from a conversation in Helsinki.
It all got started during a winter day walk of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen in Helsinki. Perhaps it was due to the coldness of the day that they ended up discussing the possibility of transforming the huge energy people put into complaining into something else. Perhaps not directly into heat – but into something powerful anyway.
In the Finnish vocabulary there is an expression “Valituskuoro”. It means “Complaints Choir” and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen thought: “Wouldn´t it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real choir in which people sing about their complaints?”
As complaining is a universal phenomenon the project could be organised in any city around the world. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen offered the concept to different events where they were invited as artists – but it was only after Springhill Institute in Birmingham got excited about the idea that the First Complaints Choir became a reality.
STEP 1 – Invite People to Complain
Invite people from your city to join the complaints choir. Distribute flyers, spread posters and write a press release. Everybody can join, no singing skills required! The more diverse the participants the better. From pensioner to teenager, everybody has something to complain about. The people that sign up for the choir send in their complain before the first meeting….
(6) RECOMMENDED. Professional filker Miracle of Sound has a released a Wonder Woman song.
I walk a wild new world
The strangest sights surround me
I grow into
This sense of wonder that I’ve found
There is pain
There is joy
There is so much they destroy
Every soul here is a two way battleground
June 22, 1960 — The House of Usher starred Vincent Price, screenplay by I Am Legend author Richard Matheson, and directed by Roger Corman. The film was the first of eight Edgar Allen Poe based feature films that Corman directed.
“I’m beyond grateful to add my voice to the Star Wars Universe after being a fan since 5/25/77,” Howardtweeted Thursday afternoon. “I hope to honor the great work already done & help deliver on the promise of a Han Solo film.”
Howard, who directed 1995’s Apollo 13 and won an Oscar for helming 2002’s A Beautiful Mind, comes to the Han Solo film with several connections to George Lucas and the worlds of Lucasfilm. He appeared in Lucas’ 1973 breakout film American Graffiti and helmed Lucas’ 1988 pet fantasy project Willow. Howard also revealed on a podcast in 2015 that Lucas had approached him to direct the 1999 Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace.
Renay: Yeah, I remember telling everybody, “Hey, Bridget’s doing great work, why don’t we nominate her, ” and apparently everybody was already planning to because here she is. I was super excited. And then next category is Best Semiprozine which has you in it! Yay!
Renay: It’s Ana! I’m so excited, The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James. Look at you guys. Look at you on the ballot. so cute!
Ana: I’m very pleased about that. There is a lot of work that goes into the Book Smugglers as you know. I’m happy to be here. There are other amazing nominees in this category and I am like, “Oh fuck.” [laughter]
Renay: Would you have your feelings hurt if I voted for Strange Horizons first and then you second?
Ana: I would, but I would also understand.
Renay: Well I’m gonna put you first, and Strange Horizon second. I was just feeling it out.
Ana: I was very conflicted, because I love Strange Horizons and I think Niall Harrison has done such amazing work for the past few years. And he announced that he’s stepping down from being editor in chief of Strange Horizons and I’m like FUCK so this means that this is the last year that he’s eligible for the Hugos. And I’m like, I think he deserves one? But I also want one!
Our language is a treasure house. Some of its glories are well-used and well-polished, taken out and set on the table every day. But up in the attic we’ve got some thrilling long-lost terms. This is a series devoted to dragging some of the quainter antiquities out, and dusting them off for you to see.
And today’s fun word is fistiana. Oh, you have a dirty mind. I can see what you’re thinking. No, no — it had nothing whatever to do with X-rated matters. We have pure minds around here, at least at this moment. Maybe later in this series we’ll get some really colorful words. This word’s close relative is boxiana, and both words refer to boxing — pummeling people with your fists.
As Nerdist‘s resident sci-fientist (TM), there are never enough collisions between science and pop culture. I truly believe that exploring our nerdy passions with science helps appreciate both even more. I’ve tried my best to do this for the last few years with Because Science, but something was missing…oh, right, I wasn’t in sppppppaaaaacccccceeeee!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Aaron Pound, Chip Hitchcock, Jay Byrd, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]
As we’ve seen, past popularity means nothing to the young people of today, who insist on judging stories on their merits and not the warm feeling their grandparents may have had reading a now-venerable story. What did the Young People think of this classic story?
Mikayla definitely does not have a warm feeling.
I found the narrator’s reaction to communism ridiculous. As far as I can tell, the narrator is more upset by the idea of communism than by the Nazis actively bombing the city. The idea that someone so removed from these events would have such a personal hatred of communism, despite coming from the far future, makes this story feel very American and very dated.
(2) THE (BRAIN) IMITATION GAME. IEEE Spectrum has a special issue this month on the topic of current attempts to model the human brain: “Special Report: Can We Copy the Brain?” About half the articles are free to nonsubscribers.
Gregory N. Hullender says the key takeaways are:
Artificial Neural Network software does have useful applications, but it has little in common with real brain tissue.
Special hardware meant to model the brain has been developed but does not yet have any useful applications.
Current brain simulations only simulate a fraction of a brain, and they run thousands of times slower than real brains do.
Modelling 1 mm^3 of a rat’s brain is considered an ambitious undertaking.
There is considerable debate as to whether we understand how the brain works at all.
I liked this quote from “Neuromorphic Chips Are Destined for Deep Learning — or Obscurity”
“It has often been noted that progress in aviation was made only after inventors stopped trying to copy the flapping wings of birds and instead discovered — and then harnessed — basic forces, such as thrust and lift. The knock against neuromorphic computing is that it’s stuck at the level of mimicking flapping wings, an accusation the neuromorphics side obviously rejects. Depending on who is right, the field will either take flight and soar over the chasm, or drop into obscurity.”
The article “Can We Quantify Machine Consciousness” makes some exciting claims about “Integrated Information Theory” (IIT). It’s less exciting when you realize that the authors are the inventors of the IIT concept and not everyone agrees with them.
Almost every category started out as heavily male-dominated, and many have stayed that way. These categories align with stereotypes about male interests: fantasy and science fiction, spy and political fiction, suspense fiction, and adventure fiction, have all been consistently male-dominated since their introduction to the list. A best-selling female fantasy/sci-fi author today is just as rare as a best-selling female literary author in the 1950s.
Then, there are the genres that have flipped. The horror/paranormal genre is now almost at gender parity, owing no small thanks to paranormal romance novels. Mystery is the most balanced genre over time, which shouldn’t be surprising given the genre’s history. The 1920s and 30s are known as the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction,” and were dominated by a quartet of female authors known as the Queens of Crime: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham.
Best-selling romance novels were mostly written by men in the 1950s, but in the 1960s women took over. By the 1980s, female authors solidly dominated the genre, probably because female writers had a natural advantage writing for mostly female readers about mostly female experiences of love and sex.
Carrie Fisher’s life size “Princess Leia” with blaster statue in a vintage wooden phone booth. This is the figure that was featured by Fisher in her in her HBO special WishfulDrinking and the documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Pictured left.
Debbie Reynolds’ screen used “Kathy Seldon” lavender silk chiffon dress from the “You Were Meant For Me” musical sequence in Singin’ in the Rain. Pictured right.
Carrie Fisher’s on-set chair with personalized chair back that is embroidered “Star Wars: The Saga Continues” used on Return of the Jedi. Pictured at bottom.
Debbie Reynolds’ screen used “Annie” two piece stage costume from Annie Get Your Gun.
Carrie Fisher’s life size C-3PO with electronic lighting elements. Pictured below.
Carrie Fisher’s life sized bronze, limited edition Yoda statue by Lawrence A. Noble.
Carrie Fisher’s vintage original 1978 Kenner Star Wars Princess Leia action figure, still in it’s original packaging.
Debbie Reynolds’ personal, rare, vintage original half sheet movie poster for Singin’ in the Rain signed by Debbie and inscribed to her by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor
I’m proud to present another five compelling stories by some amazing authors! The issue begins with the lengthily-titled “What’s a Few Years When You Get Money and Friends in High Places?” by R R Angell, a story about a bodybuilder who is offered a large sum of money to swap his body with a wealthy man (via head transplant). I was pleasantly surprised at the positive vibe the story manages to convey despite the trials of the protagonist (8400 words). The second story in our line-up, Michèle Laframboise’s “Thinking Inside the Box,” is an outlandish story about an alien race that requires constant environmental change in order to maintain psychological health (6400 words). Our third story, “Cogito Ergo Sum” by Mike Adamson, focuses on a conversation with an android about what it means to be human. It’s a well-known theme in science fiction, but I thought this story was executed particularly well (6950 words). Next we have “Integration” by John Eckelkamp, a very short story about a nascent AI getting its first taste of elementary school (1800 words). Our final story is an underwater tale, “Fathom the Ocean, Deep and Still” by David Bruns. The story is about a living bio-engineered city (6020 words).
Thomas: I’ve always loved to read, but I didn’t grow up reading much science fiction. I read mostly classics and some romance until I branched out more during college. My husband avidly read sci-fi and fantasy for years, though. Now I curate a science fiction and fantasy collection as one of 42 special collections at NIU. I need to know what’s happening in the field, so it’s crucial to know what is getting attention, and when to purchase books and add to the collection. … One of my favorite books has always been “A Wrinkle in Time.” I didn’t really think of it as science fiction at the time, but I re-read the book more or less annually. Meg Murry has always been a character I’ve really connected with. Being intelligent and kind were marked as more important than makeup and being pretty in that book, which was a powerful message to an awkward 11-year-old version of me.
2. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle The story of a young black Lovecraftian con man in 1920s New York. This is actually a retelling of “The Horror at Red Hook” and, in the spirit of “Shoggoths in Bloom,” is kind of a reinterpretation or even reclaiming of Lovecraft for those groups of humans (which seemed to include anyone not a male WASP) that Lovecraft despised. I found it absorbing and fun. It is interesting how many writers just can’t stop themselves from writing Cthulhu Mythos stories, despite the myriad reasons to dislike Lovecraft. (I was obsessed with him in high school, myself.) I suppose it’s because there’s a lot of breadth and depth there, and also the opportunity for a critical dialogue. Writing Lovecraft fan fiction seems respectable, even, and I certainly seem to enjoy reading it. Speaking of which…
1. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson When one of her students leaves with a man from the waking world, a professor in Ulthar sets out after her. Well, this has a lot going for it that immediately makes me favorably inclined: (1) I’ve always adored this corner of the Mythos and thought it criminally underappreciated; (2) I’m a sucker for quest stories involving travel to varied and strange locales; and (3) I adore Kij Johnson. You never know what you’re going to get when you start in to one of her stories, but you do know you’re in sure hands. And this is no exception. If the LaValle piece is a reclamation of the Mythos for non-whites, this reclaims it for women. I enjoyed every word (and it’s littered with so many lovely ones, like gems in a magic cave). It also has a great ending, which is frequently the difference between a good story and a great one. The best of “escapist” literature gives you something to take back with you to the “real” world, a fresh view as if you’re questing through it yourself . This is the best of escapist literature. Give it awards!
(9) TOUTED FOR NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. The Hugo Award Book Club observes that Gregory Benford has never been shortlisted for the award’s Best Novel category (despite his Timescape having been so well-regarded it won the 1981 Nebula). They think “The Berlin Project (2017) Gregory Benford” might earn him a place on next year’s ballot.
There are reasons to believe his latest novel may be his best shot yet at finally adding that Best Novel Hugo to his list of accolades.
This book is Benford’s first novel as sole author in more than a decade, and it’s a departure for him. But in many ways, the Berlin Project feels like the novel that Benford was born to write.
His knowledge of the people he’s writing about shines through, and they feel like fully rounded human beings, in a way that some of the protagonists in his previous novels have not. These are people that Benford knows, and he writes about them with evident affection. While the science is front and centre (not unusual in a Benford novel), the characters do not take a backseat. The first 350 pages are a taught, meticulously researched alternate history that delves into the nitty-gritty technical details of the race to build an atomic bomb. It’s a believable departure from the real history. One small decision made differently that makes sense, and everything flows from that departure point….
For Jenkins, fortunately, there was no wavering. She was determined to bring to the big screen the fierce-but-compassionate type of Wonder Woman she first saw on the ‘70s small screen.
“All these years, there’s been talk about Wonder Woman, and the thing I was very firm and steadfast about was: I only wanted to be involved in this if I can have a chance to bring back the Wonder Woman that I love,” Jenkins tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “I’m not interested in an alt-Wonder Woman; I’m not interested a new Wonder Woman. I’m interested in the Wonder Woman that I grew up with.
What Jenkins saw in TV’s bicentennial Wonder Woman was something close to the initial ideal of creator William Moulton Marston.
“It’s been interesting that she was created as such an idealized woman who is incredibly powerful who yet has everything about being a woman at her side,” Jenkins continues. “And it’s been funny: Lynda [Carter] was so that in the ‘70s with her Wonder Woman.”
I signed up to be a mentor, and was assigned not one but two mentees (the evolution of language here is especially notable; not only did I have mentees but we discussed our menting, as in “How did your menting go, did you ever catch up with your mentee?”). I got together with first one and then the other, and essentially tried to cram in tons of professional advice and answer all their questions. I also brought some pussyhats, because Grandmaster Jane Yolen demanded one, and we were photographed, hopefully for Locus.
(12) LOOSED A FATEFUL LIGHTNING. Abigail Nussbaum has eight books to cover in “Recent Reading Roundup 43”, among them a Civil War ghost story and this Hugo nominee —
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer – It’s interesting that in the space of a single year, Tor published two debut novels about non-dystopian, non-corporatist future societies in which the boundaries of national and ethnic identity have been replaced by global affinity groups, to which people assign themselves according to their interests and philosophy. For all my reservations about its technothriller plot, I have to say that I prefer Malka Older’s Infomocracy to Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, largely because I find the world in that book more interesting, and more believable as a place where people like me might possibly live.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has shown off the “Stratolaunch”, a colossal aircraft he hopes can soon help to hoist satellites into low earth orbit.
Allen’s company of the same name has been working on the craft since 2011, with the help of Scaled Composites.
The result of their efforts is 238 feet long, 50 feet tall and has a wingspan of 385 feet [Allen likes Imperial measurements — Ed]. The wingspan is the largest ever built, topping even Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose” aka the “Hughes H-4 Hercules.”
The Stratolaunch needs that colossal wing, and six engines typically used for the Boeing 747, because Allen wants it to carry up to 550,000 pounds of payload. His plan calls for the plane to “take off from a runway and fly to the approximate cruising altitude of a commercial airliner before releasing a satellite-bearing launch vehicle.”
In Wonder Woman’s reimagining of the princess myth, Diana, Princess of the Amazons, leaps through the air deflecting bullets with her bracelets. She enters a formal reception with a sword tucked into the back of her evening dress. But she differs from conventional princesses and superheroes in an even more pointed way — one that speaks to today’s fraught global politics. While Batman is motivated by vengeance for his parents’deaths and Superman is dedicated to saving those in peril, Wonder Woman wants nothing less than world peace. All this in a crisply executed action movie with an engaging narrative, and, in Diana (Gal Gadot), as swift and strong a heroine as anyone could have wished for.
When I first realized I had to deal with starship layouts in the hexarchate, I had two choices. I could either sit down (probably with my long-suffering husband) and make a loving diagram of a ship and its layout, and refer to it assiduously every time I had someone go from point A to point B. Or I could say, “Screw it,” and not deal with the problem.
Dear reader, as you have no doubt figured out already, I went with the second option.
(18) EVEN DEEPER INSIDE BASEBALL. Hmmm…
Sometimes it's a horrible mistake to let ten-year-olds name their own baseball team. Then again, sometimes they crush it. pic.twitter.com/I1jgDqrPfp
(19) THE CURE. Cream by David Firth is a short animated film on YouTube about what happens when a miraculous product that solves all medical problems is introduced and the violent reaction against it.
[Thanks to Stephen Burridge, James Davis Nicoll, Gregory N. Hullender, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Aaron Pound, Dann, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]
Smith-Ready, author of 10 fantasy novels, previewed the topic, saying:
Until very recently, in sci-fi and fantasy genres, a “strong heroine” meant a woman who acted like a man: showing little vulnerability, and fighting evil with violence. But as society’s perceptions of masculinity and femininity become more fluid, heroines can show strength in more nuanced and complex ways.
There is no charge to attend the event, scheduled for Saturday, October 27 at 8 p.m. at the BSFS clubhouse, 3310 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21224.
The series begins August 25 at BSFS headquarters at 10 a.m., Brenda Clough instructing. Clough, a widely-published author, received Hugo and Nebula nominations for her 2002 novella “May Be Some Time.” She is currently an instructor at the Writers Center in Bethesda, MD.
The second workshop will be on Saturday, January 26, taught by Jonathan Maberry. The New York Times bestselling novelist and Bram Stoker Award winner has written sf, mystery, and horror fiction and worked on Marvel Comics including Black Panther, Captain America, and Wolverine.
The workshop’s cost for each participant is $25, lunch included. Attendance is limited to 15 people. Contact BSFSEvents@BSFS.Org for more information.
The Baltimore Science Fiction Society is a 501(c)(3) literary organization focusing on science fiction, fantasy, and related genres.