Pixel Scroll 8/13/21 The Green Hornet + MurderBot = Green Murder Hornet Bots

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour donuts with Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and K. M. Szpara — who all recently had their second novels published — in episode 151 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and K. M. Szpara

What are the joys and challenges of writing and publishing a second book? Writers can take their entire lives to get their first novels published, after which creating another novel in a year — or sometimes less — can be major pressure. After giving everything they had to the first novel — how does a writer decide what’s worth writing next? Do they fear they won’t live up to the promise of their debut, and might disappoint readers? I had a wonderful time listening to this trio of second novelists opening up about their experiences, and I hope you will too.

We chatted while nibbling on takeout from Baltimore’s Zaatar Mediterranean Cuisine, and about two-thirds of the way through, switched up to doughnuts from my favorite such spot in Baltimore — Diablo Doughnuts.

We discussed why “second books are weird,” what (if anything) they learned writing their debuts which made book two easier, why pantsing is a thing of the past, whether book two had them concerned about creating a brand, how writing acknowledgements for second novels can be strange, the way deadlines made taking time off between books impossible, the dangers of being abandoned by debut culture, the fear of fewer pre-publication eyeballs on book two, how the pandemic will affect the creation of future novels, and much more.

(2) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? You know how cranky some fans get when series remain unfinished for years. James Davis Nicoll promises he can deliver “Five Fully Completed SFF Series” to readers at Tor.com.

I stand second to none in my habit of relentless optimism. Still, I am beginning to suspect that Mr. Dickens is never going to deliver a definitive ending to his otherwise promising The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Admittedly, when one purchases a book all one can legitimately expect is the book in hand. Anticipation of further instalments, no matter how heartfelt, does not constitute a legal contract that binds the author to deliver further instalments.

That said, there are some series whose authors have managed to publish—and finish!—entire series. Here are five recent examples that I would recommend….

(3) HORROR VERSE. Stephanie M. Wytovich, editor of HWA Poetry Showcase, Vol. 8, has announced the volume’s table of contents.

…This year is particularly special for me as it will be my last year editing the showcase. After four wonderful, poetry-filled years, I am thankful to the HWA for trusting me with this project, to John Palisano for supporting and encouraging me, and to David E. Cowen for initially recommending me for this position. It has been a journey and a delight, and I’ve learned so much about the market, the genre, and our fantastic community along the way. Thank you for the scares, the nightmares, and the verses, folks. I hope to return the favor someday (insert evil laugh here).

(4) CENSORSHIP IS A PLAGUE TOO. Publishers Weekly stats show “Censorship on the Rise Worldwide”.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, there’s been a rise in instances of government censorship of books around the world. In October 2020, the International Publishers Association released a 106-page report, “Freedom to Publish: Challenges, Violations and Countries of Concern,” that outlined 847 instances of censorship in a host of countries, including France, Iran, Serbia, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. According to the report, in 55% of those instances, the censorship was undertaken by government authorities. The report is downloadable from the IPA website.

Since that report was issued, efforts to censor books have continued. In July, the Hungarian government imposed an $830 fine on the distributor of the Hungarian translation of Lawrence Schimel’s children’s book What a Family!, citing a law that bans the depiction of homosexuality and gender reassignment in material aimed at minors. The book tells the story of two families with young children—one with two fathers and the other with two mothers.

That incident follows another in Hungary, in October 2020, when a member of parliament put a copy of Meseorszag mindenkie (A Fairy Tale for Everyone), which also features LGBTQ characters, through a shredder. “So the publisher reprinted it as a board book” said Schimel, whose book had the same Hungarian editor.

Schimel, an American living in Madrid, has published dozens of LGBTQ-themed works for children and adults. “It’s important for all families, not just those who are LGBTQ, to see and read these books which show just how normal these families are,” he said. What a Family! is now sold in Hungary with a sticker, warning readers that it depicts families “outside the norm.” It was originally published as two books in Spanish, and Orca Book Publishers is releasing it as two books in the U.S. in September.

Russia led the way in overt European LGBTQ censorship with the passage of its “anti-LGBTQ propaganda” law in 2012. Today, LGBTQ books are routinely suppressed there, and those that make it to market are sold with warning stickers.

“The campaigns by the populist governments in Europe, such as in Hungary and Poland, against the LGBTQ community are in direct violation of the principles of inclusion and the celebration of diversity,” said Michiel Kolman, chair for inclusive publishing at the IPA. He noted that in Poland, several towns have declared themselves LGBTQ-free zones, forcing LGBTQ residents to move, while in Hungary the transgender community was first targeted, and after that the broader LGBTQ community….

(5) THERE’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T HEAR EVERYDAY, EDGAR. Shelf Awareness says Dune’s “Making Of” book will have its own Hans Zimmer score.

The Oscar-winning composer of Dune‘s soundtrack “was so inspired when he looked at the upcoming behind-the-scenes book from Insight Editions, he decided to write some musical accompaniment,” io9 noted. The Art and Soul of Dune by executive producer Tanya Lapointe, which “will be available both in standard and jaw-dropping limited editions,” is going to have a dedicated Zimmer score available to download and stream upon release on October 22, the same date as the film’s debut. 

(6) SWEEPING DISCOVERY REQUEST. Publishers Weekly reports “Internet Archive Seeking 10 Years of Publisher Sales Data for Its Fair Use Defense”. This relates to the lawsuit against the Internet Archive over its program to scan and lend copies of books.

In an August 9 filing, IA attorneys told the court it is seeking monthly sales data for all books in print by the four plaintiff publishers (Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Wiley) dating back to 2011. But the publishers, IA lawyers told the court, have balked at the sweeping request reportedly countering that the request is well beyond what the case calls for.

In their pre-motion filing, IA lawyers insist the sales data is crucial to its fair use defense.

“Plaintiffs claim that the Internet Archive’s digital library lending has a negative effect on the market for or value of the works. The Internet Archive disagrees, and wishes to bring forward evidence showing that lending had little or no effect on the commercial performance of the books being lent, compared to books that were not lent,” IA lawyers told the court. “Specifically, in order to show that lending had little or no effect on commercial performance, the Internet Archive wishes to compare the commercial performance of books that were available for digital lending with books that were not available for digital lending.”

IA lawyers also attempt to explain the massive, sweeping scope of their request, conceding that they do not need a decade’s worth of monthly sales data for “each and every book” but only for the 127 works included in the suit as well as “one or more” books that could be deemed “comparable” for each the 127 titles under scrutiny. But since the plaintiffs have “declined to identify books they regard as comparable,” IA attorneys claim, they should be compelled to produce data about all books so that the Internet Archive can “identify books it regards as comparable” and the parties can then “debate, on a level playing field, whether such books are or are not comparable.”…

Read the response from the publishers’ lawyers here: “Publishers Blast Internet Archive’s ‘Extraordinary’ Demand for Sales Data”.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1975 – Forty-six years ago, the first World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement goes to Robert Bloch. (He’d previously won a Hugo at Detention (1959) — where he and Isaac Asimov were toastmasters — for his “Hell-Bound Train” short story.) Nine years later at L.A.con II, He would receive a Special Committee Award for 50 years as an SF professional, and a year after that, he would be voted the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award.
Robert Bloch

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr. Best remembered and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though In the film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part were awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin, He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in. “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 13, 1965 Michael De Luca, 56. Producer, second Suicide Squad film, Childhood’s EndGhost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Dracula Untold, Lost in SpaceBlade and Blade IIPleasantville and Zathura: A Space Adventure which is not a complete listing. Also writer for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first Dredd film (oh well), the Freddy’s Nightmares series and the Dark Justice series which though not quite genre was rather fun.
  • Born August 13, 1977 Damian O’Hare, 44. Though you might know him from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and On Stranger Tides where he played Gillette, I know him as the voice of John Constantine on Justice League Action. He also showed up in Agent Carter. (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1982 Sebastian Stan, 39. Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier in the MCU film franchise; also appeared in Once Upon a Time series, The MartianThe ApparitionAres III, and Kings, a contemporary alternate-history series about a man who rises to become the King of his nation, based on the biblical story of King David.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE. Viewers who have been conditioned by all those movies to think Middle-Earth is a neighborhood of New Zealand will see one season of the Amazon’s TV adaptation shot there too – then, goodbye! The Guardian says moving day is coming: “Amazon moves production of Lord of the Rings TV series to UK”.

Amazon has made the surprise decision to move production of its $1bn-plus Lord of the Rings series from New Zealand to the UK, rejecting tens of millions of dollars in incentives to shoot the TV show in the same location as the blockbuster films.

Amazon, which four years ago paid $250m to secure the TV rights to JRR Tolkien’s works after founder Jeff Bezos demanded a Game of Thrones-style hit for its streaming service, chose to film the first series in New Zealand after competitive bids from around the world. Scotland, which narrowly missed out to New Zealand, is considered to be the frontrunner for the new shooting location, although Amazon declined to comment on its plans.

It is understood that the Tolkien estate had been keen for the series to be shot in the UK, the land that inspired JRR Tolkien’s original books, although did not have any right to determine the TV production’s location.

(11) SPECIAL DEFECTS. CinemaBlend will be happy to show you these “13 Crazy Behind-The-Scenes Secrets From Classic Horror Movies”.

…Despite being one of the most influential and successful film genres, horror does not always get the appreciation it deserves, especially when you consider the passion, patience, technical mastery, and even suffering the cast and crew endure for the sake of a good scare. You may never look at some of the best horror movies the same way again after learning these shocking behind-the-scenes facts, starting with a clever trick used in one of history’s most iconic shockers.

George Lucas Got Stuck In The Mechanical Shark From Jaws

Steven Spielberg was also not prepared for the hysteria he would face the set of his breakout horror hit Jaws, which was mostly due to the technical difficulties that their mechanical star frequently suffered. Someone who experienced these flaws first-hand, and terrifyingly so, was George Lucas, who got his head stuck in the shark as the result of a prank gone wrong while was visiting the set. Curious about it inner-workings, the future Star Wars movies creator voluntarily put his head inside the shark when Spielberg and John Milius activated the jaw clamp, only to panic when they became temporarily unable to get Lucas out.

(12) PROZINE IS STILL WITH US. The Interzone #290/291 Double Issue Ebook is now available. Fiction (see ToC at the link) plus columns by Aliya Whiteley and David Langford; guest editorial by Lavie Tidhar; book reviews by Maureen Kincaid Speller, Duncan Lawie, Val Nolan, and several others; film reviews by Nick Lowe.

(13) AM I BLUE? “The Smurfs trailer announces Nickelodeon series release date”SYFY Wire has the story.

Previously announced in 2020, the new series comes from Belgian studio Depuis Audiovisuel. All the Smurfs that folks most likely remember from their childhoods, from Papa Smurf and Brainy to Smurfette and Clumsy, are back. The new addition comes in the form of Willow, who leads a tribe of girl Smurfs. Like most of the network’s cartoons, each episode will come in a pair of 13-minute blocks: the premiere episode, “Smurf-Fu,” will be about Brainy wanting to learn “Smurf-Fu” from Smurfette so he can defend himself, and “Diaper Daddy,” which finds Handy inventing a robot to change Baby Smurf’s diapers so no one else has to. 

(14) LEAPIN’ LIZARDS! “Giant, Dragon-Like, Flying Reptile Fossil Discovered in Australia” says Smithsonian Magazine.

In addition to its school-bus-length wingspan, the creature had a three-foot-long skull with a pointed snout and around 40 sharp teeth. This pterosaur likely lived and hunted for fish near the Eromanga Inland Sea, a large inland sea that once occupied much of eastern Australia during the early Cretaceous period.

“It wasn’t built to eat broccoli,” Richards tells Royce Kurmelovs of the Guardian. “It would have been a fearsome sight.”

Though the fossil was found in northwest Queensland over a decade ago, researchers weren’t able to prove it was a new species until now. There are over 200 species of pterosaur, ranging from the 16-foot-tall Quetzalcoatlus to the sparrow-sized Anurognathus. Unlike the feathered birds they shared the sky with, pterosaurs stayed aloft on membrane wings stretched between their fingers….

(15) THEY MADE HISTORY. Mr. Sci-Fi – Marc Scott Zicree – delivers another lesson in “History of Sci-Fi Movies — The Nineties — Part One!”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “The Suicide Squad:  Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that fans of several popular character actors who appear in The Suicide Squad will be disappointed that they die almost immediately after they’re introduced and that Harley Quinn “is better at hand-to-hand combat that a whole squad of military people.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael J. Walsh, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/12/21 The Scroll Of His Pixels, The Click Of His Files

(1) OKORAFOR RECRUITED TO INTERPLANETARY INITIATIVE. Nnedi Okorafor will join the faculty at Arizona State University:

I’ve just accepted an appointment at Arizona State University as a Professor of Practice as part of the Interplanetary Initiative and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I’m a professor again! This time, on MY terms and in a way that accommodates and compliments my heavy and active life as a published author and screenwriter (I won’t be teaching classes, but I will show up in some).

A small fact that makes me smile: They based my contract on those of an astronaut and a senator who hold the same type of position at the university.

The Interplanetary Initiative webpage says it “is a leading space center, creating private-public partnerships and driving our positive human space future for exploration by finding the key needs and filling them with interdisciplinary teams.”  

(2) DINING ON ANOTHER PLANET. Esquire tells the “Planet Hollywood Origin Story – How Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and More Celebs Started Planet Hollywood”.

…This was opening night of the Planet Hollywood on Rodeo Drive. Every celebrity you could imagine was there. It was the hottest ticket in town. ABC aired a special event, Planet Hollywood Comes Home. The cops shut down the street. All this for a chain restaurant that served chicken coated in Cap’n Crunch. And not just a chain restaurant but a theme restaurant. A Rainforest Cafe with celebrities. It seems unfathomable now that stars would go along with this.

But they appeared to be having a ball. For a few years in the nineties, these stars dropped any pretense of hauteur, while everyone else succumbed to their love of celebrity by paying ten dollars to eat a burger under the Terminator’s leather jacket. Cheesy? Yes. A massive—but fleeting—success unlike anything before it? A resounding yes.

By the start of the next decade, the enterprise would collapse, falling into bankruptcy twice, and the bold-faced names who reveled there would begin to walk away. Today, there’s a tendency among the stars involved to be overcome with sudden amnesia. It seems they’d rather we all just forget about the whole thing.

…They needed an action star, someone with appeal in the U. S. and overseas, so they started with a moon shot: Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom Barish had worked with on The Running Man. It didn’t get much bigger than Schwarzenegger in the late eighties, early nineties. He was hot off The Terminator and Total Recall. On Valentine’s Day, after the actor wrapped a scene for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Barish told him about the plan for a Hollywood restaurant. He accepted immediately. Barish left the set with his first star locked in as Schwarzenegger’s family arrived with Valentine’s Day balloons for him…

…Todd went to the studios to ask for donations—some would only lend items, demanding the right to get them back whenever they wanted. And he bought items that went up for auction, bidding against private collectors. He dug around in musty attics, damp garages, secondhand shops. He found the ships from Ben-Hur in the middle of a Nebraska cornfield. The ax Jack Nicholson wielded in The Shining, still caked in fake blood, was buried in the back of the garden shed of a guy who worked on the film.

“We asked what he wanted for it,” Todd told the Los Angeles Times in 1995, “and he said, ‘Well, I’ll need another ax.’ That was an easy deal.”…

(3) STRACZYNSKI’S NEW COMICS. You can’t read his mind but you can read his comics. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers about his upcoming project:

“When are you going to tell another story about telepaths?” I’ve been asked at conventions over the years. (The second most frequent question I get asked is, “Where is the restroom?”) Having explored the subject area a fair bit in both #Babylon5 and #Sense8, it’s something I have a great interest in given all of the societal implications.

I waited until I had a story worth telling, one that would let me dive deep into the subject matter…which became TELEPATHS, a new 6 issue comic miniseries from AWA. Details and sample art by the amazing Steve Epting can be found at the link below.

SYFY Wire has some of the art: “J. Michael Straczynski shares a first look at his new comic series ‘Telepaths’”.

…“I’ve always been fascinated by questions of privacy and what defines the self,” he continues. “And the fact that so often we are defined by our secrets, by the things that we don’t tell anyone and what happens when suddenly all of that is out in the open and there’s nowhere to hide. That to me is the most interesting part. And I started thinking about this for a long, long time. I thought I have more things to say about this. I want to get it out in another story.”

This led to Telepaths, a book that is very much an ensemble that includes police officers, White House staff members, MIT professors, and even convicted murderers. Everyone has their secrets they are hiding, but once the incident happens, many of those secrets are no longer kept hidden. “That’s a larger application of this story is, maybe you’re having an affair and your partner has that power, so that person’s going to know,” he explains. “There’s no such thing as having a secret life or dreams or goals or ambitions. It’s all going to be on display.”

(4) CENSORSHIP HITS HONG KONG CINEMA. “China’s Censorship Widens to Hong Kong’s Vaunted Film Industry, With Global Implications” reports the New York Times.

…The city’s [Hong Kong’s] government on Friday said it would begin blocking the distribution of films that are deemed to undermine national security, marking the official arrival of mainland Chinese-style censorship in one of Asia’s most celebrated filmmaking hubs.

The new guidelines, which apply to both domestically produced and foreign films, come as a sharp slap to the artistic spirit of Hong Kong, where government-protected freedoms of expression and an irreverent local culture had imbued the city with a cultural vibrancy that set it apart from mainland megacities.

…The updated rules announced Friday require Hong Kong censors considering a film for distribution to look out not only for violent, sexual and vulgar content, but also for how the film portrays acts “which may amount to an offense endangering national security.”

Anything that is “objectively and reasonably capable of being perceived as endorsing, supporting, promoting, glorifying, encouraging or inciting” such acts is potential grounds for deeming a film unfit for exhibition, the rules now say.

The new rules do not limit the scope of a censor’s verdict to a film’s content alone.

“When considering the effect of the film as a whole and its likely effect on the persons likely to view the film,” the guidelines say, “the censor should have regard to the duties to prevent and suppress act or activity endangering national security.”

(5) PUBLISHER TAKES CAPTAIN JACK COMIC OFF WEBSITE. Radio Times reports more consequences of the Barrowman allegations: “Doctor Who graphic novel centred around Captain Jack Harkness on hold”.

Plans for a Doctor Who graphic novel centring around Captain Jack Harkness are on hold following allegations that John Barrowman had frequently exposed himself on the sets of Doctor Who and Torchwood.

All mentions of the graphic novel, referred to as ‘Doctor Who 2021 Event’, have been removed from the Penguin Random House website.

The now-deleted synopsis for the novel revealed that the story tied-in “directly with episode two of the hotly-anticipated series 13,” suggesting Barrowman may have filmed scenes for the upcoming 13th series….

(6) GET ACQUAINTED WITH WINNIPEG BIDDERS. The Winnipeg in ’23 Worldcon bidders got me this last night:

Join the “Winnipeg in ‘23” Worldcon bid committee movers and shakers at one of our Zoom socials, where you can hear the latest news, ask questions, and get to know our crew better. We’re dedicated to bringing you an absolutely stellar 81st World Science Fiction Convention in 2023. Winnipeg has lots of cool plans in the works, which we’d love to share with you! Sign up links and more information are here.

We will also stream our socials to our YouTube channel here.

Sign up here for June 12 at 8:00pm CDT

Sign up here for June 13 at 1:00pm CDT

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 12, 1987 — On this date in 1987, Predator premiered. The first in the franchise, it was directed by John McTiernan and written by Jim and John Thomas. It was produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and John Davis.  As you know, it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers. There would be four Predator films including one currently in production plus three Alien cross-over films as well. With the exception of Roger Ebert, critics generally hated it which didn’t stop it from being very successful at the box office. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-eight percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 12, 1856 – Georges Le Faure.  Among a dozen popular swashbuckling novels, War Under Water against Germany; The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist (with Henry de Graffigny, 4 vols.; tr. in 2 vols. 2009) with an explosive that could destroy the world, a Space-ship faster than light, visits to other planets, aliens.  Verne was first but not alone.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1921 – James Houston.  Canadian Volunteer Service Medal in World War II.  Drew and painted in the Eastern Arctic; civil administrator of western Baffin Island.  Brought Inuit carvings to Montreal, where Canadian Handicrafts Guild held autumn sales with queues stretching out the door and down the block; introduced printmaking to the Inuit with similar success.  Master designer for Steuben Glass.  Thirty books for children & adults, some ours.  Producer & director of documentaries.  Four honorary doctorates.  Inuit Kuavati Award, Metcalf Award (twice), Massey Medal.  Acrylic & aluminium – I said he was Canadian – sculpture Aurora Borealis 70 ft (20 m) high at Glenbow Museum, Calgary.  Memoirs, Confessions of an Igloo Dweller and Zigzag.  See here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1924 — Frank Kelly. All of his short fiction was written in the Thirties for Astounding Science Fiction and Wonder Stories. The stories remained uncollected until they were published as Starship Invincible: Science Fiction Stories of the 30s. He continues to be remembered in Fandom and was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996. Starship Invincible is not available in digital form. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1927 — Henry Slesar. He had but one genre novel,Twenty Million Miles to Earth, but starting in the Fifties and for nearly a half century, he would write one hundred sixty short stories of a genre nature, with his first short story, “The Brat” being published in Imaginative Tales in September 1955.  He also wrote scripts for television — CBS Radio Mystery Theater (which, yes, did SF), Tales Of The Unexpected, the revival version of the Twilight ZoneBatmanThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., and genre adjacent, lots of scripts for series Alfred Hitchcock did. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born June 12, 1930 — Jim Nabors. Fum on The Lost Saucer, a mid sixties series that lasted sixteen episodes about two friendly time-travelling androids from the year 2369 named Fi (Ruth Buzzi) and Fum (Jim Nabors) who land their UFO on Earth. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born June 12, 1940 — Mary A. Turzillo, 81. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published first in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was later released. Her first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1946 – Sue Anderson.  Fannish musicals with Mark Keller, performed at 1970s Boskones: RivetsRivets ReduxMik Ado about Nothing (i.e. alluding to both Gilbert & Sullivan, and Shakespeare), The Decomposers. George Flynn, Anne McCaffrey, Elliot Shorter are gone, but Chip Hitchcock was in some or all and may yet explain what really happened.  Three short stories (one posthumously in Dark Horizons 50); this cover with Stevan Arnold for Vertex.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1948 — Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting dealing with Alan Moore on that. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1953 — Tess Gerritsen, 68. ISFDB lists her as genre so I’ll include her even though I’m ambivalent on her being so.  They’ve got one novel from the Jane Rizzoli series, The Mephisto Club, and three stand alone novels (GravityPlaying with Fire and The Bone Garden). All save Gravity couldbe considered conventional thrillers devoid of genre elements. (CE) 
  • Born June 12, 1963 – Franz Miklis, age 58.  Austrian artist active for decades in fanart (see here and here) and otherwise (see here and here).  Edited Galacto-Celtic Newsflash.  A hundred covers, three hundred interiors for e.g. Future Magic, LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon, Jupiter JumpThe Nat’l Fantasy FanOpuntiaVisions of Paradise.  Artbooks Vance World (part 1, paintings; part 2, crystal cities & flying palaces); Behind the Event Horizon.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1964 — Dave Stone, 57. Writer of media tie-ins, including quite a few in the Doctor Who universe which contains the Professor Bernice Summerfield stories, and Judge Dredd as well. He has only the Pandora Delbane series ongoing plus the Golgotha Run novel, and a handful of short fiction. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1970 – Claudia Gray, age 51. A score of novels, a few shorter stories.  Website here (“Bianca, Tess, Nadia, Skye, Marguerite, and Noemi aren’t that much like me.  For example, they all have better hair”; also “Read as much as you can….  Read the stuff you love.  Read the stuff you never thought you’d love”).  [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1985 – Madeleine Roux, age 36. A dozen novels (some NY Times Best-Sellers), half a dozen shorter stories.  Fiction Weblogs (for some of us, blog is a drinkAllison Hewitt Is TrappedSadie Walker Is Stranded.  Has read Pride & PrejudiceFrankensteinLolitaThe Adventures of Huckleberry FinnOne Hundred Years of SolitudeSlaughterhouse-Five.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio enjoys a practical joke on Dracula.
  • Non Sequitur has a heap of dino humor.

(10) FABLES TO CONTINUE. DC Comics announced that Bill Willingham’s Fables series will resume in September with Batman vs. Bigby! A Wolf in Gotham: “Fables Returns!”

…“I’ve wanted to do this since the very first year of Fables,” says writer Bill Willingham. “Why? Because Batman is a detective, and Bigby is a detective, and I love a well-crafted story crossing over characters from two different fictional worlds. It’s automatically a fish-out-of-water story for at least one of the main characters, and that sort of story always works. Plus, I knew from the very beginning of Fables that my fictional universe would allow for many ways to get Bigby Wolf into the DCU and Gotham City. Even though those cosmic story structures wouldn’t be introduced in the Fables books for a year or more, they were baked in from the very beginning.”

Then, on sale the first week of May 2022, the main story line continues with Fables #151—just in time for the 20th anniversary of Fables #1. Fables #151 is the first installment of “The Black Forest,” a 12-issue arc that picks up where the story left off in Fables #150, and is also a perfect jumping-on point for new readers. The series also reunites the core creative team, with pencils by Mark Buckingham, inks by Steve Leialoha, colors by Lee Loughridge, and letters by Todd Klein….

(11) WANTED TO GROW UP TO BE RUMPOLE. The author of the Phryne Fisher series tells CrimeReads about her days practicing law: “Kerry Greenwood’s Life In Crime”.

…My practice was far more colorful than most. Rumpole never prosecutes, and neither did Greenwood. I worked for the Legal Aid Commission and gave free advice and legal representation to anyone who needed it. Because appearing in court seemed to me the most important thing I could do with my life, I volunteered. I didn’t want to sit in a cosy office anyway. I wanted to be doing Rumpole things, and be an advocate for those who had no voice of their own. At the height of my career I was appearing in three different courts every week. ‘Anyone for Legal Aid?’ I would ask. Oh yes. Word got around about me. As my writing career blossomed I reduced my hours. By the end I was paid for five hours a week (around $A130), and for this trifling sum I would represent my twenty-odd clients in court and out of it; and stagger home knowing that whatever I was doing this for, it certainly wasn’t for the money….

(12) SAIL, HO. The Guardian comments on prospects for another film based on the work of Patrick O’Brian: “Avast and furious: will it be a triumphant return for Master and Commander?” Not sff, but didn’t you want to know?

If the 2003 naval epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World teaches us anything about life on a 19th-century British frigate, it is that even the most prolonged period of deck-scrubbing doldrums can suddenly erupt into thrilling action. Long-standing admirers of Peter Weir’s film experienced a similar adrenaline jolt this past weekend when news broke that the long-becalmed franchise based on Patrick O’Brian’s swashbuckling novel series was preparing to sail on to the big screen again. Ship just got real.

Patrick Ness, the author and screenwriter tasked with creating this new adaptation, confirmed his involvement by posting a bookshelf on Instagram of cherished O’Brian volumes. “This is a cache of riches,” he wrote, “with so much left to be explored.”… 

(13) SHUTE IN COMICS. Clark J. Holloway has posted some installments of the On The Beach graphic adaptation on his website.

I first read Nevil Shute’s best-selling 1957 cautionary novel of nuclear holocaust when I was in my early teens. It scared the bejabbers out of me. Sometime later I saw the 1959 movie with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire on late-night TV, and whatever bejabbers that may have been left in me fled to join their departed comrades. The story had a powerful impact on my young mind. However, as the years rolled by and the Cold War wound down the fear of imminent nuclear destruction faded from my mind and On the Beach became little more than a distant memory.

…In searching the Internet for reviews of Shute’s 1957 novel and the 1959 film I found that a closed-end comic strip adaptation of the novel had run in a number of the nation’s newspapers beginning on November 4, 1957. The story has been condensed down so that it could be told in five weeks worth of daily installments, excluding Sundays, and was drawn by cartoonist Ralph Lane. Since reprints of the comic are apparently rather rare, I’ve posted copies of them found on newspapers.com. Following the story are some examples of beautifully drawn original art from the strip that I’ve been able to acquire for my collection….

 (14) WOULD YOU LIKE SOME SF IN YOUR POLITICS? [Item by Daniel Dern.] Daily Kos told how “Rep. Dan Crenshaw asks soldiers to report ‘wokeness’ in military ranks, is trolled into oblivion”.

…Continuing the Republican tradition of pretending at maximum manly toughness while thumping through life with shows of oddly weaponized gutlessness, it’s Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Arkansaw’s Sen. Tom Cotton leading a new charge against Rampant Theoretical Wokeness in our nation’s tough manly military. Crenshaw announced it on Twitter with suitable turgidity: “We won’t let our military fall to woke ideology,” he puffed. The Crenshaw-Cotton response is a new “whistleblower webpage” where you can “submit your story” of being, um, exposed to Wokeness…. 

Twitter was flooded with reports. (You’ll probably have to click on the tweet to see the full text,)

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/21 Sympathy For The Pixel

(1) STRANGE DOINGS AT EBAY. The online sales site eBay has reorganized a large number of categories and reclassified products into them. The new U.S. table is here: US_Category_Changes_May2021_NFT-update.

If you do a search for “comics” on that page, you’ll find that eBay has decided to retire the categories for “Superhero,” “Platinum Age”, “Golden Age”, “Silver Age”, etc. All listings are being moved into a general Comics & Graphic Novels category.

(2) LEVAR BURTON BOOK CLUB. “LeVar Burton launches a new book club: See first three picks” reports Entertainment Weekly.

The LeVar Burton Book Club launches Tuesday via the “social reading app” Fable, with selections handpicked by the actor. To start off, he’s chosen three books that “represent how my identity as a reader has been shaped,” he says: James Baldwin‘s semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the MountainOctavia Butler‘s modern sci-fi classic Parable of the Sower, and the essay and poetry collection The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. (Baldwin’s book will serve as the first month’s pick, with three new titles being revealed every three months.)

“For me, if I’m going to start a book club, I’m going to begin with who I am and my story as a reader,” Burton tells EW. “Obviously, there are hundreds of books that have shaped my identity as a reader, and these three are really representative of an important aspect of that journey for me.”

And while all three are by Black authors, Burton takes care to emphasize that to view his book club as an exclusively Black book club “does me and the literature that I promote a great disservice.”

“I know I have demonstrated over time that my attitude towards literature is ecumenical,” he says. “As it happens, the first three books are by people who look like me, and if one wants to pigeonhole that, then that would be, in my estimation, their shortcoming. It’s nothing more than a starting point that reflects who I am.”

(3) KENYAN BOOKTUBERS. SFF history is being made! Thread starts here.

(4) MACHADO Q&A. CBC Radio posted a transcript of their interview with Carmen Maria Machado: “Author fights to keep her queer memoir on a Texas high school reading list — dildo and all”.

A couple weeks ago, author Carmen Maria Machado got a message from a friend that a video was circulating online that involved her memoir and an angry mom wielding a pink strap-on dildo.

The clip was from a Feb. 25 school board meeting in Leander, Texas. The woman was upset that Machado’s memoir, In The Dream House, was on an approved reading list for high school students.

The book, which chronicles Machado’s experience of being in an abusive relationship with another woman, contains a sex scene involving a dildo. The protesting parent read it aloud during the meeting while waving the sex toy around, according to the Austin American Statesman

That’s how Machado learned that her book is one of several that are up for review in Leander because of parents’ complaints. They are part of a book club program that allows students to pick and read one book each semester from a list of 15 chosen by their teachers for their grade level.

The school board told KVUE ABC that it has already removed six books from the program and is devising a policy to exclude “inappropriate literature for the assigned students’ ages.”

Also on the potential chopping block are books by Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult and Jacqueline Woodson, who, along with Machado, have penned an open letter with the free expression organization PEN America demanding the books remain available to students.

Machado spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off on Wednesday. Here is part of their conversation….

After this particular meeting, there’s a spokesperson for Leander [Independent] School District who said: “Our goal is to explore what the community feels are age-appropriate materials for classroom reading.” Is there a valid argument? Do you think that In The Dream House is a book that is age-appropriate for that group?

Professional educators chose the book for their students. This all started because a bunch of teachers were like: We want this book on this list. And that is their job. That is what they’re supposed to be doing.

Certainly there are books that are appropriate for certain ages, but I think saying that students at 17 and 18 can’t read anything with sex in it, and that there’s no value in a book like that for those students when your teachers have said otherwise, the people who you pay to educate your kids, that strikes me as very odd and very disingenuous.

The community is also not a monolith. Like, there are gay teens at that school. There are gay people in Leander, Texas. There gay people in Texas…. And it feels a little, I think, strange that this very conservative religious group can sort of make the agenda for all the other students.

Because the parents who want this, their kids did not have to read the book. They could have chosen a different book. They’re trying to remove the book from the list for all the students. So I don’t think it’s really about age-appropriateness. I mean, there’s a reason they they target books with gay content.

(5) SFWA AUCTION. The “Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association Online Silent Auction!” is in progress and will continue through May 17. It has raised $5,060 so far.

In addition to autographed books and manuscripts and other collectibles, the featured items include virtual career coaching and manuscript feedback sessions like these:

  • Virtual Career Coaching from N. K. Jemisin

A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with 2020 MacArthur Fellow N. K. Jemisin, the first writer to ever to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel.

  • Virtual Career Coaching from Catherynne M. Valente

A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with Catherynne M. Valente, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction.

  • Virtual Manuscript Feedback from Mary Robinette Kowal

The winning bidder on this item will enjoy a 30 minute Zoom discussion providing feedback on a story or an excerpt of a longer work, up to 3,000 words. An amazing opportunity to receive personal feedback from Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Mary Robinette Kowal.

(6) CHAIR-ITABLE CAUSE: [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Colin Howard did much of the cover art for Doctor Who‘s VHS releases. See his covers here for “The Android Invasion” and “The Green Death”. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago which has affected his mobility. Currently, there’s a fundraiser to help him: “Fundraiser by Michelle Howard : Please help me get Colin back outside in nature”.

… Colin was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, this ridiculously talented artist, nature lover and extrovert.

Progressively as MS does it has taken away his mobility, his confidence and he has become more and more isolated. Unable to get outside with ease, making everything he does exhausting and unenjoyable.

We did buy a manual wheel chair, however it is heavy and he is now unable to use his arms to self propel and it’s so cumbersome and there is no pleasure or enthusiasm for him to use it. It’s become easier for him to stay home…. not good.

After doing tons of research I stumbled across this amazing wheel chair. For those of you who know Col, you’ll know what a huge fan of formula one he is. So you’ll know why I’ve chosen this model of wheel chair…. it has formula one technology… carbon fibre and super light….

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 13, 1994 — On this day in 1994, The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. Critics in general loved it, it did well at the box office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a ninety percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1907 – Daphne du Maurier.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories for us; a dozen other novels, three dozen other shorter stories, three plays, nonfiction e.g. The Winding Stair about Francis Bacon, memoirs.  “There are few strains more intolerable in life than waiting for the arrival of unwelcome guests,” The House on the Strand ch.13 (1969) – quoted as a reader’s favorite line on her Website.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 — Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The first half of The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is The Isle of The Dead,  Eye Of The CatHome is The HangmanTo Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. There’s to my knowledge only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born May 13, 1940 – Rachel Ingalls.  One novel, ten shorter stories for us.  British Authors’ Club Award.  British Book Marketing Council named one of those ten, the novella “Mrs. Caliban”, among the twenty greatest from America since World War II.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1945 – Maria Tatar, Ph.D., age 76.  Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures, and Chair of the Committee on Degrees in Folklore & Mythology, at Harvard.  Among her publications, The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy TalesThe Annotated Hans Christian AndersenThe Annotated African American Folktales (with Henry Gates).  “Alice [notice I don’t have to identify it any further – JH] is the world’s greatest book.  It’s one of the deepest books.”  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 — Marv Wolfman, 75. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he very temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And He worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell he even wrote a Reboot episode!) (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 — Zoë Wanamaker, 72. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ever waswhere she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories, ”The End of the World” and “New Earth”. (CE)
  • Born May 13, 1951 — Gregory Frost, 70. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and making it fresh it through modern fiction writing is amazing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard retelling is an fantastic novel though quite horrific. (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1951 – A.J. Austin, age 70.  Two novels (with Ben Bova), nine shorter stories.  Interviewed Forry Ackerman and Mike Resnick for Thrust.  Ten years hosting a midday call-in radio program in Connecticut.  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1957 — Frances Barber, 64. Madame Kovarian, a prime antagonist during the time of The Eleventh Doctor showing up in seven episodes in totality. Fittingly she played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. I’ve got her doing one-offs on Space PrecinctRed Dwarf and The IT Crowd.  (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1981 – Kieran Yanner, age 40.  A dozen covers, half a dozen interiors; games; Magic: the Gathering cards; concept art.  Here is Before They Were Giants.  Here is Demon in White.  Here is Ghen, Arcanum Weaver.  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1983 – Nate Ball, age 38.  Mechanical engineer, pole vaulter, beatboxer.  Eight Alien in My Pocket science-adventure chapter books for kids.  Here is Blast Off!  Here is Ohm vs. Amp. [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BBC VS. FANFIC? iNews says “Doctor Who fans feel ‘demonised’ by BBC crackdown on fan fiction”.

But recently a number of fanfic creators have received worrying demands from the BBC to remove their work from the public domain, arguing that they are infringing on copyright. Under the question “Can I create Doctor Who fan fiction?” on the show’s online FAQ page, the BBC advises that while anyone is “welcome to write Doctor Who fiction for your own enjoyment, but we should remind you that it is not permitted for you to publish this work either in print or online.”

The rules – which were published in 2014 – were unknown to the majority of creators but were widely shared on Twitter this week in response to the BBC’s demands. In response, 21-year-old student Jamie Cowan has started a petition calling for the BBC Studios, the production company behind Doctor Who to offer the fans a seat at the table in these decisions.

Cowan’s petition is at Change.org: “Petition of concern about BBC Studios approach to Doctor Who fan content”. His reference to video clips suggests the BBC’s issue is about more than written Who stories. The petition only has 166 signatures as of this moment.

… The current experience of BBC Studios staff contacting fanfiction and fan audioplays about the own original non-profit ventures – is concerning.

The manual targeting of those who use clips of the show for review purposes or for ‘Top 10’ videos that strongly promote the episodes that they are discussing – is concerning.

We, of the Doctor Who fandom – both creators and the viewers of said creators – call upon you to make a strong reconsideration of the actions you are taking against passionate fans who are doing no damage to the sales or marketability of the brand….

(11) DISNEY RIDES UPDATE HITS A BUMP. “Disney takes ‘woke’ steps toward inclusivity, but sparks a conservative backlash” finds Yahoo! Entertainment.

…The “wench auction” was among the first to go in the exodus of classic-but-problematic Disney scenes. In 2018, the popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride got an overhaul when a redhead who had once been sold as a bride became a pirate instead.

Two years later, the theme park giant announced it was overhauling the Splash Mountain flume ride to lose its story line inspired by “Song of the South” — an outdated Disney film that the company no longer makes available to view because of its rosy view of post-Civil War plantation life. More recently, the company announced updates to the classic Jungle Cruise ride to remove “negative depictions of ‘natives’” and add new elements, just in time for a new movie out this summer….

But these changes aren’t taking place without pushback. Fans created a petition to “save” Splash Mountain from the new theme. Disney-focused sites are full of users who decry what they see as a progressive agenda in the parks, and announcements about updates are typically greeted with threats of a boycott. People who vocally advocate for revisions are often subjected to abusive messages….

The updates in the parks follow a shift in the company’s films over the past several decades. Anne Zimmermann, a lecturer in the Rollins College English department in Winter Park, Florida, said Disney’s princesses started becoming more inclusive, assertive and even feminist over the past couple of decades.

“Today’s generation, they are kind of expecting this of Disney, and they will tell you it’s long overdue,” said Zimmermann, who uses Disney stories in her classes.

At the same time, Disney has recognized that some of its older films include outdated and racist cultural stereotypes and has added warnings on its streaming platform or removed those movies from children’s profiles.

“They’re moving not just toward not being racist, but anti-racist,” Zimmermann said. “Changing the parks continues their own narrative of change.”

Her students visit Disney parks for field research — or, more recently, explore rides online — and flag those that strike them as problematic.

For now, there’s a laundry list of other nominees for eventual updates: the Peter Pan ride for stereotypical depictions of Indigenous people; a ride in Epcot’s Mexico area that includes broad stereotypes; Dumbo, which is based on a movie that includes racist tropes. Fan sites circulate longer lists of what rides might be under the microscope next, occasionally with outraged remarks: It’s a Small World, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree.

Disney isn’t saying what is next, but the company has dedicated a team to making sure that updates are done right.

“You create experiences that will make people feel welcome, seen and heard and to let them know that their stories are just as important,” Carmen Smith, creative development and inclusion strategies executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, said in a video. “And so my responsibility is to look at what do we have now and does it resonate with our guest in making them more reflective of the world we live in.”

(12) TOXIC AVOIDER. Alan Yu interviews Amy Ratcliffe about her book A Kid’s Guide to Fandom at NPR: “How Kids Can Avoid Toxic Fandoms”.

…So how do fans navigate these communities, to find the good parts while being aware of the bad? It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.

Amy Ratcliffe, managing editor for the pop culture site Nerdist, addresses this as part of her new book, A Kid’s Guide to FandomShe says it’s the book that she wishes she could have had when she was a young fan looking for others like her. Ratcliffe remembers growing up as a fan of the Wheel of Time series, using her family’s dial-up internet to visit online forums.

She says her objective is for kids to be aware of fandom, “that other people like the same things that you like … even if it’s one other person, like you’re not alone.”

“I still hear stories about young girls being bullied because they like Star Wars; they think they’re the only kid,” she says. “It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.”

No one gets to decide who is a “real” fan

Ratcliffe explains in her book that some fans can become gatekeepers, people who want to decide who is or is not a “real fan.” Fans, she says, should never have to prove themselves.Ratcliffe herself has run into gatekeepers; once, at a Star Wars convention, a man saw her Rebel Alliance tattoo, “looked at the tattoo, looked at my then-boyfriend who was with me, and was like … completely serious by the way, no sarcasm, like, ‘oh that was really nice of you to get that tattoo for your boyfriend.'”

Her advice for younger fans who want to find communities is to start with groups or places that they know: a local library, or a game shop they go to with their family; to trust their instincts when they feel something is off; and to get an older sibling, a parent, or guardian involved….

(13) HE FINALLY GOT TO SPACE. In Heritage Auctions’ May 21 – 22 Space Exploration Signature Auction one of the items up for bid is this Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion with a lot of history behind it:

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion, Serial Number 43F, Personally Presented by Deke Slayton to and Directly from the Estate of NASA Legend Chris Kraft, with Slayton’s Signed COA and Handwritten Letter of Appreciation. This 35mm sterling silver medal is one of only ninety-three flown (of 285 minted) aboard the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first international manned space effort, July 17-19, 1975, with U.S. crewmembers Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, & Deke Slayton and Soviet crewmembers Alexei Leonov & Valery Kubasov. The obverse features the mission insignia depicting the docking maneuver above the Earth and the names of the mission and crewmembers. The reverse features the title “First Joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. Space Flight” and the engraved dates. The serial number is on the rim along with the sterling and Robbins hallmarks. This mission effectively ended the “Space Race” between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. We seldom are able to offer flown examples of this mission’s medal and this one is likely the nicest we have ever handled. A great candidate for grading and encapsulation.

If this were just a Robbins medal with astronaut or even crewmember-provenance, it would be desirable and valuable. When the history behind it is revealed, it becomes a very special item indeed. Deke Slayton was one of the original “Mercury Seven” but was the only one who never flew into space due to being grounded in 1962 with an atrial fibrillation. Ten years later, he was cleared to fly on Apollo-Soyuz with Dr. Kraft’s blessings. On December 1, 1975, Slayton met with Kraft and presented this medal to him loose in an envelope hand-addressed ” Dr. Chris Kraft/ Personal“. Additionally, inside was a December 1st-dated typed letter signed on NASA letterhead that reads: “I hereby certify that Apollo-Soyuz medallion, serial number 43F, was flown in space aboard the Apollo Command Module from July 15, 1975, through July 17, 1975, and that this medallion was presented to Dr. Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., on December 1, 1975. [signed] D. K. Slayton“. 

 [Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Ben Bird Person, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason Sanford, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2/20 Come And Listen To The Scroll Of An Earthsea Wizard Named Ged

(1) FOUR CENTURIES OF ANSIBLE. Congratulations to David Langford on publishing his four hundredth issue of Ansible. In addition to all the sff news in every issue, there’s always a grateful balance provided by departments like “Thog’s Masterclass.” One of the classic quotes from #400 is —

When Relativity Goes Bad. ‘The ship trembled, twisted, shuddered as full mass returned with the disruption of the field. Mass flooded back into the vessel, titanic mass, mass impossible to contain, it transformed into sheer energy, blasted through the nulgrav generator and poured from there into outer space.’ (Volsted Gridban, Planetoid Disposals Ltd., 1953) [BA]

(2) ZOOMING TO EURCON. Marcin Klak, Polish fan and past GUFF winner, has written up the virtual Eurocon: “Futuricon – The Future is Now”.

…There were a few interesting items to watch during Futuricon. I managed to visit some of them and  a hmissed some others… The ones I was especially happy to attend were Alison’s Virtual GUFF Trip talk treating about this year’s GUFF delegate’s (Alison Scott) virtual foray to Australia and New Zealand. I was also fascinated by the great talk by Cheryl Morgan – Worldbuilding with Sex and Gender. It was a short introduction to how sex and gender look in nature. It was so interesting that I decided to buy one of the recommended books to read more about the topic.

(3) SLF GRANT OPENING. The Speculative Literature Foundation is accepting applications for the Working Class Writers Grant through December 31.

This grant is awarded annually to assist working class, blue-collar, poor, and homeless writers who have been historically underrepresented in speculative fiction, due to financial barriers. We are currently offering one $1000 working class grant annually, to be used as the writer determines will best assist his or her work. This year, we will accept applications October 1, 2020 through December 31 2020.

(4) LONG REACH. This English-language article from the German foreign broadcast service Deutsche Welle spotlights how the Chinese government is exerting pressure on foreign publishers: “Chinese censors target German publishers”. Tagline: “As China tries to expand its influence abroad, it’s going beyond politics and business to target literature and publishing. German publishers are among those that have been targeted by censors, as DW has learned.”

…When DW contacted Phoenix Juvenile and Children’s Publishing, the publisher in Nanjing which ordered the changes to Dragonfly Eyes, the employee who spoke with Frisch said the changes had been requested by the author.

But communication between the two publishers suggests a different story. In these messages, seen by DW, the Phoenix employee told the German publisher that “relevant departments” had given negative feedback on the book and that the issue was “sensitive.” She then reminded Frisch several times that she had to state publicly that the novel was a work of fiction, that it was “made up, not real.”

In the Chinese edition however, the author clearly writes in his foreword that the story was based on the memories of somebody he had met. 

Later, the Phoenix employee told Frisch to stop all promotion of the book “in the interest of the author and the state.” She added that “because the story concerns the Cultural Revolution and because it is the anniversary year, you cannot not publish the book for the time being.”

This exchange took place at the end of October 2019, when the People’s Republic of China had just celebrated its 70th anniversary. By that point, the publisher’s tone had become slightly menacing. “Listen to our advice,” the employee said. “This will also protect the interest of your own publishing house.”

The licensing contract seen by DW does not mention any vetting of the final edition. “The deal is I get a text and I translate it,” Frisch said. “I don’t want to be used in political games.”…

(5) IMMOVABLE OBJECTIONS. Far Out explores “The reason why Stanis?aw Lem was furious about Andrei Tarkovsky’s adaptation of his novel ‘Solaris’”.

…Although Tarkovsky’s adaptation wasn’t the first (a 1968 television movie of Solaris by Boris Nuremburg), it is certainly the most famous and has been immortalised for its contribution towards a better understanding of the cinematic medium. More than the science fiction elements in the film, Tarkovsky was interested in the human problem. This fundamental difference between their respective approaches contributed to the dispute between Lem and Tarkovsky.

In October of 1969, Lem met Tarkovsky and literary expert Lazar Lazarev at the Peking Hotel in Moscow to discuss the script. Lem was not receptive to the changes that Tarkovsky had envisioned for his adaptation and could not understand why Lazarev was present. The writer maintained that his novel already had everything needed for a film, ignoring Tarkovsky’s efforts to convince Lem that he knew what he was doing as a filmmaker. When Lazarev asked if Lem would like to watch one of Tarkovsky’s films, the writer coldly answered: “I don’t have the time for that.”

However, the meeting was ultimately fruitful because Lem gave in and allowed them to go ahead with the project. The writer said that it was a matter of principle to not forbid anything but apart from that, he was openly against Tarkovsky’s vision. Insisting that he did not write the book about “people’s erotic problems in space”, Lem recalled the meeting between the two creative geniuses: “Tarkovsky and I had a healthy argument. I sat in Moscow for six weeks while we argued about how to make the movie, then I called him a ‘durak’ [‘idiot’ in Russian] and went home.”

(6) A FOOLISH CONSISTENCY IS THE HOBGOBLIN. “Little, Big: Talking with John Crowley” at Mythaxis Review.

DH: As someone who reads and watches are broad range of things, that resonates. Obviously, authors, film-makers, and other creatives have a similar freedom to experiment to see what works for them. However, the prevailing advice for achieving commercial success (at least as an author) is to pick a niche and stick to it. Do you have any advice for authors and filmmakers who want to succeed in multiple areas?

JC: I think the crux is how a writer – and his readers – define success. It certainly has long been the case in certain parts of the US literary world, and probably in that of other nations as well, that rapid production of new versions of successful books is the best way to high sales, and certainly most publishers are happy to facilitate that. But there’s a divide that ought to be noted: My most recent book was sent in MS to some twenty editors; some were entirely uninterested, but a small number thought the book was great. But because the publisher didn’t see profits from such an oddity it was refused, until at length one editor with a private label within a big house took it. If that’s the common route now, I would tell writers that they may as well write whatever they like, and make it entirely different every time, and trust that someone will take it even if it doesn’t match market expectations. (I’m quite sure that my last three or four novels, if read without my name attached, would not be recognized as by the same author.) About films I know less, though I’d guess the quandary – and the approach – would be similar.

(7) FLAME ON. From the inaugural virtual Ring of Fire Convention (ROFCON), a video of the panel on modern publishing featuring Alexi Vandenberg (M), Toni Weisskopf, Shahid Mahmud, Kevin Anderson, and Eric Flint.

(8) CONRAD OBIT. Roxanne Conrad (1962-2020), who published thriller, sff and YA under the name Rachel Caine, died of cancer on November 1 at the age of 57. More tribute from her husband and associates here.

Roxanne Conrad, aka Rachel Caine. Roxanne lost her fight with a rare and aggressive cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, on November 1, 2020.

Roxanne was known worldwide as thriller, science fiction, and young adult writer Rachel Caine. With over 56 books in print and millions of copies sold, she was a popular guest at conventions in the United States and around the world. Her popular book series include the young adult Morganville Vampires novels, the Great Library series, and the #1 bestselling Stillhouse Lake novels in adult thrillers.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 2, 1988 — The first part of Doctor Who’s “The Happiness Patrol” aired. Written by Graeme Curry, it was intended (by him and the other writers) to be a parody of Thatcherism, with Helen A representing Margaret Thatcher herself. Starring Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, Sophie Aldred as Ace and Shelia Hancock as Helen A. with David John Pope as Kandy Man. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, referred to this story in his 2011 Easter sermon, on the subject of happiness and joy. Really. Truly. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 2, 1913 Burt Lancaster. Certainly being Dr. Paul Moreau on The Island of Doctor Moreau was his most genre-ish role but I like him as General James Mattoon Scott in Seven Days in May. And, of course, he’s really great as Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1927 Steve Ditko. Illustrator who began his career working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby during which he began his long association with Charlton Comics and which led to his creating the Captain Atom character. Did I mention DC absorbed that company as it did so many others? Now he’s best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. For Charlton and also DC  itself, including a complete redesign of Blue Beetle, and creating or co-creating The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, and Hawk and Dove.  He been inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1928 – the Usual Don Fitch, 92.   So he has long signed his name and referred to himself.  But his usual is quite wonderful. Long-time helpful member of LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society), earning its Evans-Freehafer service award in 1970.  Fanzine From Sunday to Saturday in many apas, e.g. FAPASAPSTAPSThe CultN’APAANZAPAAPA-L.  Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 28.  [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1941 – Ed Gorman.  Three dozen novels, ten dozen shorter stories for us; comics; a dozen anthologies with Martin H. Greenberg; detective fiction (Life Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America), Westerns; nonfiction in NY TimesRedbook.  Interviewed A.J. Budrys in SF Review.  Fanzine Ciln.  Won a short-story contest sponsored by Scribner’s, invited by an editor to expand into a mainstream novel, quit after six months saying “I was bored out of my mind.”  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1942 – Sue Francis, 78.   Co-chaired DeepSouthCon 24 (with Ken Moore).  With husband Steve Francis, mainstays of Rivercon for twenty-five years.  Their reminiscence of NorthAmeriCon ’79 the 2nd NASFiC (N.Am. SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) here. Together Fan Guests of Honor at ConTact 6, Phoenixcon 5, MidSouthCon 10, DeepSouthCon 33, InConJunction XX, Con*Stellation XX; Rebel and Rubble Awards; DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegates, report Sue & Steve’s Excellent Adventure in Australia; Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1942 – Carol Resnick, 78.  A founder of Windycon.  Noted costumer and judge of our Masquerade costume competition.  Widow of Mike Resnick, who throughout his pro career (4 Hugos, 1 Nebula; Galaxy’s Edge magazine) remained also a fan; together Fan Guests of Honor at Rivercon VI, Pro Guests of Honor at Contraption 5.  [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1942 Stefanie Powers, 78. April Dancer, the lead in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. which lasted just one season. Did you know Ian Fleming contributed concepts to this series and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well?  She would play Shalon in the crossover that started on The Six-Million Man and concluded on The Six-Million Woman called “The Return of Bigfoot”. (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1949 Lois McMaster Bujold, 71. First, let’s note she’s won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record, not counting his Retro Hugo. Quite impressive that. Bujold’s works largely comprises three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion series, and the Sharing Knife series. She joined the Central Ohio Science Fiction Society, and co-published with Lillian Stewart Carl StarDate, a Trek fanzine in which a story of hers appeared under the byline Lois McMaster. (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1969 Lucy Hawking, 51. Daughter of Stephen Hawking. Children’s novelist and science educator. With her father, she wrote the George’s Secret Key series which may or may not be genre. Anyone here from Britain who’s actually seen them? (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1972 – Masayoshi Yasugi, 48.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Japanese SF New Face Award for The Dreaming Cat Sleeps in Space (2003); three more novels, a dozen shorter stories.  [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1983 – Ádám Gerencsér, 37.  Edits Sci Phi Journal (with Mariano Martin Rodríguez), two short stories there.  “When … I wanted to read a comprehensive guide to Hungarian alternate history and realised that it didn’t exist, I wrote one (in English, Journal Hélice vol. III no. 6).”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side visits the beach as two figures pass each other with the day’s catch.

(12) DRACULA FOR ALL THE SENSES. Print Magazine admires the work done by Beehive Press in “Designing the Ultimate Dracula Experience”. This amazing collection will be out next year. Many photos at the link.

Last year, Philadelphia-based boutique publisher Beehive Books launched a Kickstarter to bring literary lovers an interactive Dracula experience like never before: “You are not a passive observer. You are a scholar exploring this supernatural archive.” When it’s released in 2021, Dracula: The Evidence will deliver a briefcase full of letter correspondence, photographs, diaries, newspaper clippings, phonograph records and more, that make the saga of the centuries-old vampire more real than ever.

… When the finished project is delivered, readers will be able to unfold a map of London and track the characters as they move through the story. Letters and photographs will give them a chance to become “supernatural archeologists.” Blueprints and additional maps will turn them into amateur detectives.

All told, from the aged briefcase that holds all of the documents to the beautifully bound journals and framed photos, the planned design is downright dazzling.

(13) HEAR ME. STEAL ME. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Created A New Form Of Sign Language For The Tusken Raiders” – let SYFY Wire fill you in.

For many moons, Star Wars fans have written off the Tusken Raiders as savage Sand People that bray like donkeys whenever they go on the offensive. Thanks to The Mandalorian, acolytes of the galaxy far, far away can now view Tatooine’s desert nomads in a new light. In Season 1, the bounty hunter known as Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) proved that one can actually make physical contact with the Tuskens and live to tell the tale. The Season 2 premiere took that dynamic to an entirely new level as Djarin forged a shaky alliance between the Sand People and the citizens of Mos Pelgo.

But before the show could have its titular hero communicating with the indigenous folk of Tatooine, it needed a new language through which they could speak to one another. That’s where Troy Kotsur came in; the deaf actor was hired to come up with a sign-based vocabulary for the Tusken Raiders and it wasn’t just a matter of bringing American Sign Language to the Great Dune Sea.

(14) TOWERS OF BABEL. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says what NASA engineers are worried about the software in the giant Space Launch System rocket, since the rocket has parts made by Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, and the United Launch Alliance and it’s not clear if the software can integrate equipment made by these different companies: “NASA’s new rocket would be the most powerful ever. But it’s the software that has some officials worried.”

… Computing power has become as critical to rockets as the brute force that lifts them out of Earth’s atmosphere, especially rockets like the SLS, which is really an amalgamation of parts built by a variety of manufacturers: Boeing builds the rocket’s “core stage,” the main part of the vehicle. Lockheed Martin builds the Orion spacecraft. Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman are responsible for the RS-25 engines and the side boosters, respectively. And the United Launch Alliance handles the upper stage.

All of those components need to work together for a mission to be successful. But NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) recently said it was concerned about the disjointed way the complicated system was being developed and tested.

At an ASAP meeting last month, Paul Hill, a member of the panel and a former flight and mission operations director at the agency, said the “panel has great concern about the end-to-end integrated test capability and plans, especially for flight software.”

(15) KITTY LITERATURE. The Guardian interviews a philosopher about his latest study: “John Gray: ‘What can we learn from cats? Don’t live in an imagined future’.

…One impulse for this book was a conversation with a fellow philosopher, who assured Gray that he “had taught his cat to be vegan”. (Gray had only one question: “Did the cat ever go out?” It did.) When he informed another philosopher that he was writing about what we can learn from cats, that man replied: “But cats have no history.” “And,” Gray wondered, “is that necessarily a disadvantage?”

Elsewhere, Gray has written how Ludwig Wittgenstein once observed “if lions could talk we would not understand”, to which the zookeeper John Aspinall responded: “He hasn’t spent long enough with lions.” If cats could talk, I ask Gray, do you think we would understand?

“Well, the book is in some ways an experiment in that respect,” he says. “Of course, it’s not a scientific inquiry. But if you live with a cat very closely for a long time – and it takes a long time, because they’re slow to trust, slow to really enter into communication with you – then you can probably imagine how they might philosophise.”

Gray believes that humans turned to philosophy principally out of anxiety, looking for some tranquillity in a chaotic and frightening world, telling themselves stories that might provide the illusion of calm. Cats, he suggests, wouldn’t recognise that need because they naturally revert to equilibrium whenever they’re not hungry or threatened. If cats were to give advice, it would be for their own amusement.

(16) AND I SWEAR THAT IT’S ALL TRUE. A whale of a tale.

(17) WARP DEED. “Tenacious D” covers the “Time Warp.” Vocals by Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Cameo appearances by Eric Andre, Ezra Miller, George Takei, Ilana Glazer, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Heilemann, John Waters, Karen O, King Princess, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Michael Peña, Peaches, Phoebe Bridgers, Reggie Watts, Sarah Silverman, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Susan Sarandon.

It’s astounding… time is fleeting… and the 2020 election is here. Time to ROCK-Y THE VOTE! And remember: it’s just a jump to the LEFT, and not a step to the right!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Twilight Breaking Dawn Pitch Meeting” at Screen Rant, Ryan George summarizes both the fourth and fifth Twilight movies in one meeting because, unlike the last Harry Potter meeting, there really isn’t enough plot in the last Twilight novel for two movies.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Danny Sichel, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, John A Arkansawyer, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

ALA Lists the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019

During National Library Week, April 19 – 25, the American Library Association (ALA) released its 2020 State of America’s Libraries report.

The report found that the popularity of libraries in 2019 continues to soar. According to a recent Gallup poll, visiting the library is the “most common cultural activity Americans engage in by far.” In 2019, US adults reported taking an average of 10.5 trips per year to the library, a frequency that exceeded their participation in other common leisure activities like going to the movies, a museum or the zoo.

Additional report findings illustrate a 17% increase in the number of books targeted for removal or restriction fueling library staff efforts to protect the freedom to read. Hundreds of attempts from the public to remove or restrict materials, cancel programs, and dismantle displays and exhibits took place in public, school and academic libraries. The majority of library materials and services targeted for removal included or addressed LGBTQIA+ content.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Overall, 566 books were targeted.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Here are the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019,” along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

1. “George,” by Alex Gino

Reasons: to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”

2. “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out,” by Susan Kuklin

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased

3. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning

4. “Sex is a Funny Word,” by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”

5. “Prince & Knight,” by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Reasons: featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint.

6. “I Am Jazz,” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

7. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood

Reasons: profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”

8. “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”

9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Reasons: referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals

10. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole

Reason: LGBTQIA+ content

Other library trends are available in the full text of the State of America’s Libraries 2020 report, available at here.

[Based on a press release.]

AO3 Blocked in China

On March 1, 2020, Archive of Our Own was blocked in China.

AO3 tweeted:

Their Weibo message is:

[Google Translate:] In the past few hours, we have received many enquiries about users in mainland China not being able to access archiveofourown.org. Some users also said that they can access AO3 using the website ao3.org. We are troubleshooting with our volunteers. For the time being, it seems to be due to the disconnection of the supplier (China Unicom, Telecom, etc.) when connecting the local network to the overseas network. We don’t know if this is due to a brief unplanned outage of supplier services or a long-term access restriction. Since this connection problem was not caused by the AO3 server, we have no way to solve this problem. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Although, as of this writing, the Wikipedia entry about AO3 attributes the blocking “to the critics of Xiao Zhan against the website fanfic writers who wrote about him,” Aja Romano’s Vox report says the timing of that kerfuffle is just coincidental, and the real reason is the effective date of China’s new internet rules: “China has censored the Archive of Our Own, one of the internet’s largest fanfiction websites”.

…The news immediately spawned unverified rumors that one of China’s biggest recent fandoms had inspired the ban. The Untamed is an internationally popular 2019 Chinese web series based on a queer romance novel originally published online. And there are more than 14,000 fanfics related to The Untamed on AO3. The rumors, which surfaced from within the Chinese internet, involved the large adjacent fandom for The Untamed’s main actor, Xiao Zhan, and focused on unsubstantiated reports of a harassment campaign launched by critics of Xiao Zhan against AO3 fanfic writers who wrote about him.

The Untamed premiered on Netflix in October and has only grown its following since then, while Xiao Zhan has become a huge celebrity since the show’s release. So the idea that fanfiction about the actor had led to the reported censorship of AO3 within China brought widespread alarm, finger-pointing, and outcry, with fans issuing calls to “protect Xiao Zhan” from further harassment. On March 1, after a day of online outrage, Xiao’s studio reportedly issued a public apology for “occupying public resources.”

But although the rumors wreaked havoc within The Untamed’s fandom (amid simultaneous attempts to halt the spread of misinformation) it seems very likely that the timing was purely coincidental. It’s more likely that AO3 became a target of China’s ongoing attempts to suppress queer and explicit media content, as a part of its larger dedicated pattern of internet censorship.

As Variety reported in January (“China’s New Internet Censorship Rules Outline Direction For Content”) –

Chinese authorities have approved a new set of comprehensive regulations that expand the scope of online censorship, emphasize the war against “negative” content and make platforms more liable for content violations.

While China previously had numerous, separate regulations floating about for everything from live-streaming to news media to chat groups, the new “Provisions on the Governance of the Online Information Content Ecosystem” consolidate them into a more coherent system of global rules for everything that happens on the country’s Internet. The new rules were approved in mid-December and will take effect in March.

Variety has a complete overview of the rules. This is the part AO3 seems most likely to have run afoul of —

… The new regulations then go on to dictate that content producers must “employ measures to prevent and resist the making, reproduction or publication of negative information.” This includes the following: the “use of exaggerated titles,” gossip, “improper comments on natural disasters, major accidents, or other disasters,” anything with “sexual innuendo” or that is “readily associated with sex,” gore or horror, or things that would push minors towards behaviors that are unsafe or “violate social mores.” Negative content, it concludes broadly, is actually just anything at all that would have a “negative impact” on the Internet ecosystem.

Romano also told Vox readers the latest development may have been inevitable:

Then again, it’s likely that AO3 would have been censored with or without the new law taking effect, because China has in recent years been cracking down on queer and sexually explicit online content — both of which AO3 has in abundance.