The European Science Fiction Society announced the winners of the 2019 ESFS Awards on August 24 at the 41st Eurocon in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
(1) NAME THAT FAHRENHEIT TEMP. “Chinese Govt. Burns Call of Cthulhu Supplement” claims Lovecraftian news site Yog-Sothoth. The main content is in the video at the link, but the intro sums up the problem this way:
For many years, various publishers in the Americas and Europe have had their books printed in China as a cost-saving measure (including many in the RPG field). Often the primary downside of this has simply been the time taken for the books to arrive, but it appears there can also be another problem, as the publishers of The Sassoon Files (a Cthulhu-based RPG supplement) have announced that all print copies of their book have been destroyed by the Chinese Government – for unspecified reasons.
The Sassoon Files is a collection of Cthulhu Mythos scenarios and campaign resources set in 1920s Shanghai (for both Call of Cthulhu and Gumshoe systems) and was Kickstarted back in September 2018, raising some $24,000 USD from more than 500 backers. The volume was due to ship from the printers very shortly. As a result of this recent turn of events, the publishers, Sons of the Singularity, have released a video statement. …
(2) SPOILERIFFIC DISSECTION. Abigail Nussbaum analyzes Jordan Peele’s “Us” at Asking the Wrong Questions.
…If Get Out was an arrow aimed straight for the heart, Us is firing in all directions. This doesn’t make it a bad film—it is, in fact, a rich and heady stew, anchored by a stunning double performance from Lupita Nyong’o. But it does make it messy, in a way that a director who wasn’t riding high off a genre-defining success like Get Out probably wouldn’t be able to get away with. I found myself thinking that Us might have worked better as a miniseries, not only to give its various storylines and characters room to breathe, but so that it could do more work to spin out and elaborate on the various symbols and recurring images it keeps dropping into the narrative.
(3) PACKAGING ISSUE EXPLAINED. Greg Machlin gives readers a good handle on the reasons for the current tension between Hollywood writers and agents. Thread starts here.
And Machlin got a shout-out from N.K. Jemisin:
Machlin calls David Simon’s “But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.” required reading.
…If, on the other hand, you are my brother or sister in the Writers Guild of America — East or West, it matters not when we stand in solitarity — or conversely, if you are a grasping, fuckfailing greedhead with the Association of Talent Agents, then you might wanna hang around for this:
Here is the story of how as a novice to this industry, I was grifted by my agents and how I learned everything I ever needed to know about packaging. And here is why I am a solid yes-vote on anything my union puts before me that attacks the incredible ethical affront of this paradigm. Packaging is a racket. It’s corrupt. It is without any basis in either integrity or honor. This little narrative will make that clear. And because I still have a reportorial soul and a journalistic God resides in the details, I will name a name wherever I can.
… Why bother to fight for 10 percent of a few dollars more for this story editor or that co-executive producer of some actor or director when to NOT do so means less freight on the operating budgets of the projects that you yourself hope to profit from? Why serve your clients as representatives with a fiduciary responsibility and get the last possible dollar for them, when you stand to profit by splitting the proceeds of a production not with labor, but with management — the studios who are cutting you in on the back end? Why put your client’s interest in direct opposition to your own?
No reason at all.
(4) SPFBO DROPS TIVENDALE. Facebook’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off group posted a “PSA: Concerning James Tivendale & his removal”.
This post is to inform everyone about James Tivendale’s removal as a blogger from Fantasy Book Review as well as from the SPFBO judging group. James has been accused by over a dozen people of harassment in several forms. This wasn’t something that was done spur of the moment but thanks to Esme Weatherwax & Book Wol’s efforts, several folks came forward to report James’ behavior (inappropriate touching, intimidation, etc.)”
SPFBO is Mark Lawrence’s contest to pick the top indie fantasy novel from 300 entrants based on ratings given by book bloggers. Fantasy Book Review is one of the 10 blogs, and Tivendale was one of its writers. The PSA continues:
Many of these folks didn’t want their names published as they feared reprisal for their books or careers. These accusations were sent to Lee David Sibbald (the owner of Fantasy Book Review) and special thanks to Ryan Lawler for helping coordinate these efforts. Ultimately Lee took this decision keeping everyone’s safety in mind. Mark Lawrence has also been alerted about this. For the remaining part of this SPFBO edition, Fantasy Book Review will be managed by Adam & Emma. For the future, the decision will be taken by Lee and the rest of the team.
I along with Esme, Wol, Lee & a few others wanted to make this public so everyone knows what happened exactly without any confusion or rumor-mongering. If you have ever been harrased by James in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact Esme or me. I want to reiterate that while James is a gifted blogger and I considered him my friend. His behavior wasn’t excusable and neither were his health issues. We all hope that he gets the help he needs. If you have any queries or wish to clarify anything. I’m more than happy to resolve them.
Tivendale has since shut down his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
(5) SHAZAM! The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck says the movie benefits from terrific performances: “‘Shazam!’: Film Review”.
The DC Comics universe has definitely taken to heart the criticism that its movies have been too dark and foreboding. The more lighthearted approach worked beautifully with Wonder Woman and was carried to a wackier level with Aquaman. Now comes their latest effort, based on a relatively little-known comic book character, that proves so determinedly ebullient you begin to think they’re pumping laughing gas into the auditorium. The most kid-friendly DC movie so far, Shazam! is thoroughly entertaining. But much like its central character, a 14-year-old boy able to transform himself into a superhero by uttering the titular incantation, often the pic gives the impression of a kid playing in the adult leagues.
(6) HANG UP FOREVER. Charles Stross was quoted in a Washington Post piece by Avi Selk about the increasing problem of spam phone calls: “Spam has taken over our phones. Will we ever want to answer them again?”
The sci-fi author Charlie Stross once posited a future in which spam becomes so good at mimicking human interaction it becomes self-aware –the ‘Spamularity.’ Is that what awaits us if the phones don’t shut up?
(7) ANIME BUZZ. Petréa Mitchell covers 14 shows in her “Spring 2019 SF Anime Preview” at Amazing Stories:
Welcome once again to the oncoming wave that is a new season of anime barrelling in our direction. It’s smaller than usual, owing to a drop in the overall number of new shows and an unusually low percentage of them being sf. (If you’re wondering what hot trends you’re missing out on, they’re baseball shows and comedies about high school students who are bad at studying.) As always, click on the titles to go to the official sites to see promo videos and more!
(8) IMMERSIVE PLAY. It’s called Escape Hunt.
Escape Hunt noun Def: The name given to 60 minutes of pure, unadulterated excitement, during which you and your teammates lose yourselves in an incredible experience, working together to follow a series of fiendishly clever clues and escape a locked room.
The pressure’s on, the clock’s ticking, the adrenaline’s pumping. Escape Hunt isn’t something you watch, it’s something you experience from the heart of the action. After the buzz of Escape Hunt, other entertainment just feels flat.
And there’s a Doctor Who themed version at six cities in the UK:
The Doctor needs you: a tear in space and time has been detected, and the Cybermen are about to break through!
Step into the future. Enter the offices of ChronosCorp HQ, where eccentric billionaire Alastair Montague’s efforts to develop commercial time travel have caused a tear in the fabric of space and time. The Cybermen are ready to take advantage and attack Earth.
You, the Doctor’s friends, must investigate the incident. The remains of Montague, his prototype time engine and the extensive collection of time-related artefacts acquired over the course of his experiments, are all that you have to work with.
(9) PALLADINI OBIT. Artist David Palladini (1946-2019) died March 13. Jane Yolen wrote on Facebook:
I have just heard that David Palladini, that brilliant artist who illustrated my first three fairy tale collections, has died. RIP dear David. He also did many record jackets, Stephen King’s only middle grade novel, a tarot deck much prized by many who love them. RIP dear David.
The death notice in the New York Times begins:
David Palladini, widely renowned artist and illustrator, and regarded as one of the country’s most recognized astrological art illustrators, passed away on March 13, 2019 after a long illness at his home in Corona Del Mar, California at the age of 72. Some of his most widely held work includes the illustrations from Stephen King’s best-selling book, “Eyes of the Dragon”, and numerous children’s books, including the Jane Yolen series. His iconic astrological Aquarian & Palladini Tarot card art decks remain the most frequently preferred tarot card decks worldwide.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- March 25, 1989 — Quantum Leap premiered.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 25, 1916 — Jean Rogers. Rogers is best remembered for playing Dale Arden in the science fiction serials Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, both released in the Thirties. Kage Baker would’ve have loved them as she was a great fan of such cinema and wrote a series of essays for Tor.com that turned into Ancient Rockets: Treasures and Trainwrecks of the Silent Screen. (Link for review of Ancient Rockets.) (Rogers died 1991.)
- Born March 25, 1920 — Patrick Troughton. The Second Doctor of who I’ll confess I’m not the most ardent fan of. The Fourth Doctor is my Doctor. Troughton had a long genre resume starting with Hamlet and Treasure Island early on before preceding to such works as Scars of Dracula and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell later on. Tellie wise, I see him on R.U.R. Radius playing a robot, on a Fifties Robin Hood show being that character, and on The Feathered Serpent. This is children’s series set in pre-Columbian Mexico and starring Patrick Troughton as the scheming High Priest Nasca. H’h. (Died 1987.)
- Born March 25, 1939 — D. C. Fontana, 80. Though best known for her work on the first Trek series, she was a story editor and associate producer on the animated series as well. During the 70s, she was staff for such series as Six Million Dollar Man, Logan’s Run and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She later wrote for the fanfic Star Trek: New Voyages series.
- Born March 25, 1947 — Elton John, 72. He appeared in Tommy, UK version as the Pinball Wizard, a perfect role for him. I see he appeared on The Muppet Show as the guest of the week and showed in Kingsman: The Golden Circle as himself.
- Born March 25, 1950 — Robert O’Reilly, 69. Best known I’d say for his appearance in the Trek franchise for a decade in his recurring role on Next Gen and DS9 as Chancellor Gowron, the leader of the Klingon Empire. He made one further appearance in the Trek verse as Kago-Darr in the Enterprise “Bounty” episode. Other genre series he appeared in include Fantasy Island, Knight Rider, Incredible Hulk, MacGyver, Max Headroom and the first version of The Flash. I’ll let y’all tell me your favorite films with him as cast.
- Born March 25, 1964 — Kate DiCamillo, 55. She is just being one of six people to win two Newbery Medals, noting the wonderfulness of The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses. The first I’ve encountered, the tale of a swords mouse in making, the latter I’ve not. Her Mercy Watson series is about the adventures of a fictional pig, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.
(12) A LITTLE TINGLE. Chuck Tingle has expanded his repertoire to short videos.
His non-moving pictures are still funny, too:
(13) WORTH THE EFFORT. Pippa reviews “A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine” at Fantasy-Faction.
…Arkady Martine gives us an impressive sci-fi debut, with intricate worldbuilding and a compelling plot. Court intrigue and political manoeuvring play a large role and Martine writes these elements very well. You never fully know who to trust and the way Martine slowly unveils information creates a wonderfully suspenseful atmosphere. It does take a little while for the story to get going but stick with it as it does pick up after a couple of chapters. Once I was fully invested, I didn’t want to put it down.
(14) THAT CAT MUST BE SKY HIGH. Camestros Felapton presents “Tim’s Signs of the Zodiac”.
December 21 to January 21: You are Aqua-Goat! The very quickly cancelled 1980’s cartoon superhero who was a wise-cracking sea goat who solved sea-mysteries with his gang of friends who lived on a boat. Your friends were a cheap knock-off of the Scooby gang and the Archies. Your catchphrase was ‘Time to solve this sea mystery Aqua-Goat style!’ That sounds a bit sad but unlike all these other signs at least you HAVE friends even if one of them is a badly drawn version of Jughead mixed with Shaggy.
(15) TOMORROW’S NOT THAT FAR AWAY. CW released its midseason trailer for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
The Legends continue their new mission to protect the timeline from temporal aberrations – unusual changes to history that spawn potentially catastrophic consequences. When Nate, the grandson of J.S.A. member Commander Steel, unexpectedly finds himself with powers, he must overcome his own insecurities and find the hero within himself. Ultimately, the Legends will clash with foes both past and present, to save the world from a mysterious new threat.
(16) CRANIAL RETENTIVE. BBC reports research that shows “New brain cells made throughout life”.
People keep making new brain cells throughout their lives (well at least until the age of 97), according to a study on human brains.
The idea has been fiercely debated, and it used to be thought we were born with all the brain cells we will ever have.
The researchers at the University of Madrid also showed that the number of new brain cells tailed off with age.
And it falls dramatically in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – giving new ideas for treating the dementia.
Most of our neurons – brain cells that send electrical signals – are indeed in place by the time we are born.
Studies on other mammals have found new brains cells forming later in life, but the extent of “neurogenesis” in the human brain is still a source of debate.
(17) MILESTONE. “The first all-female spacewalk” — story is item #4 at the link.
Two astronauts, Christina Koch and Anne McClain, will conduct a spacewalk to replace batteries powering the International Space Station on Friday. It’s expected to last for about seven hours.
Nasa says they didn’t deliberately set out to pair Ms Koch and Ms McClain on the spacewalk, since missions are determined by scheduling issues and ability.
But of all the people who have been in space, fewer than 11% are women – so this mission is seen as a significant moment for women in space.
(18) HAVE A GUINNESS. “Harry Potter: Tonna fan bags memorabilia world record” – BBC has the story.
A Harry Potter superfan has managed to “Slytherin” to the record books after collecting thousands of pieces of memorabilia.
Victoria Maclean, of Tonna, Neath Port Talbot, has 3,686 individual JK Rowling-related items.
This earned her the Wizarding World Collection world record – which includes the Fantastic Beasts series.
YouTuber Mrs Maclean, 38, said: “I screamed a lot – it was so incredible after all these months.”
She was presented with her world record certificate by Guinness World Records on Wednesday.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Man Sitting Next To You” on Vimeo, Ali Ali tells us why going to the movies can be a nightmare.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Peer, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]
(1) MILES TO GO. In “Lessons learned: writing really long fiction” on his blog, Charles Stross discusses his Merchant Princes and Laundry Files series and gives advice to authors planning multi-book series.
The first thing to understand is the scale of the task. Each of these projects, the Laundry Files and the Merchant Princes, represents a sunk cost of many years of full time labour. At my rate of production (roughly 1.5 novels per year, long term, where a novel is on the order of 100-120,000 words) either of them would be a 7 year slog, even if I worked at them full time to the exclusion of all other work. So we’re talking a PhD level of project scale here, or larger.
In reality, I didn’t work at either series full-time. They only account for two thirds of my novel-length fiction output: in the case of both series, I’ve gone multiple years at a time without touching them. Burnout is a very real thing in most creative industries, and if you work for a duration of years to decades on a single project you will experience periods of deep existential nausea and dread at the mere thought of even looking at the thing you just spent the last five years of your life on. It will pass, eventually, but in the meantime? Try not to put all your eggs in the one ultra-maxi-giant sized basket.
(2) CLICK WITHOUT THINKING. James Davis Nicoll gives us three reasons to click through to Tor.com —
There are in every field creators whose output has been lamentably small, people from whom one wishes more material had emerged. This is as true for science fiction and fantasy as any other field. Here are five authors on my “more, please” list.
…At other times, as with the following books, one has a nearly subconscious sense that somehow these works share something…without quite being able to articulate what that something is.
Who knows? If careless time travellers had stepped on different animals 541 million years ago, the Earth’s surface might be dominated by…larger but still squishy things, rather than our marvellous selves….
(3) 2020 VISION. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two) will host the “Ray Harryhausen | 100 years” exhibit from May 23-October 25, 2020
Special effects superstar Ray Harryhausen elevated stop motion animation to an art during the 1950s to 1980s. For the first time, Ray’s collection will be showcased in its entirety, and, as such, this will be the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of his work ever seen, with newly restored and previously unseen material from his incredible archive.
Ray Harryhausen’s work included the films Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad films of the 50s and 70s, One Million Years B.C and Mighty Joe Young, and a wider portfolio including children’s fairy tales and commercials. He also inspired a generation of film-makers such as Peter Jackson, Aardman Animation, Tim Burton, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, and his influence on blockbuster cinema can be felt to this day.
This exhibition is in collaboration with the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday year. As part of a series of events and initiatives under the banner #Harryhausen100, this exhibition will be accompanied by screenings, workshops and more, bringing his creations to life once more and celebrating the legacy of a filmmaker who changed the face of modern cinema.
(4) HARRYHAUSEN TRIBUTE YOU CAN OWN TODAY. Steve Vertlieb says: “Scary Monsters Magazine presents Monster Memories, issue No. 27, is an all Ray Harryhausen issue, and features my affectionate tribute to Ray, and to our half century of friendship. This wonderful one-of-a-kind magazine is available, and on newsstands now. Get yours while copies last. You won’t want to miss this very special collector’s edition honoring the beloved special effects pioneer.”
(5) SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. This Kickstarter has funded and attained a whole series of stretch goals, but how can we resist?
(6) CRISIS MANAGEMENT. Start planning for your next social media disaster now! (Wait, that didn’t come out quite right.) Here’s Janet Falk’s article about “Advising a Client on Crisis Communications” [PDF file].
(7) A MODEST PROPOSAL.
Kind of interesting how this logic works. There’s a Hugo category for Semiprozines and Fanzines, but by design, no category for prozines (which Locus is) — it was superseded by the creation of the Best Editor (now Best Editor, Short Form) category. The rules say anything eligible in another Hugo category may not be nominated for Best Related Work, however, an editor and a magazine are by no means the same thing, and in the absence of a prozine category the rules don’t seem to prevent this result. Yet we’ve gone all these years without the Best Related category being captured by Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, etc. Someone needs to be reminded how this is supposed to work.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 12, 1925 — Harry Harrison. Best known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! Which was the genesis of Soylent Green. (Died 2012.)
- Born March 12, 1933 — Barbara Feldon, 86. [86, you say?] Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series. She didn’t have that much of an acting career.
- Born March 12, 1952 — Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what oh role it it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. (Died 2008.)
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- The Flying McCoys imagines how this superhero got his name.
(10) WINGING IT. It’s a short post so I’ll just leave The Onion’s headline here: “Butterfly Under Immense Pressure Not To Fuck Up Timeline With Misplaced Wing Flap”.
(11) FILERS ON THE RONDO BALLOT. I was honored when it was pointed out to me that File 770 is up for the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award in the Best Website category. There are lots of true horror-oriented sites that deserve the award more, but news of that genre is part of the mix here. It’s a very nice compliment.
Don Glut’s film Tales of Frankenstein is a nominee in the Best Independent Film category. It’s an anthology-style film, inspired by the old Hammer Horror films from the 1950s. Ed Green has a part in the final chapter. It’s also the last film Len Wein acted in and is dedicated to his memory. Len Wein created Wolverine, as well as several of the “New” X-Men, and had a cameo in X-Men: Days of Future Past. In this trailer, Len appears around the :45 mark, and Ed very briefly as the priest on the right at 1:33.
And nominated for Best Article is Steve Vertlieb’s “Dracula in the Seventies: Prints of Darkness,” a restored version of an original article on the Christopher Lee vampire cycle.
Rondo voting is open – get full information here. The deadline is April 20.
(12) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. During the Cold War while the U.S. Air Force was inspiring Dr. Strangelove, the Royal Air Force was discovering the hazards of “Exploding Chocolate Teacakes”.
When Tony Cunnane joined the Royal Air Force in 1953, chocolate teacakes were “all the rage.” Employees aboard strategic nuclear strike aircrafts requested the snack be added to their in-flight ration boxes. But this wasn’t just a sugary jolt to fuel their Cold War training. Chocolate-coated marshmallow teacakes had become, as Cunnane described it, “the subject of some rather unscientific in-flight experiments.”
Shortly after the foil-wrapped treats appeared in RAF ration packs, pilots began to notice that as altitude increased, the teacakes expanded….
(13) RETURN TRIP. “SpaceX: Crew Dragon’s test flight in graphics”.
On Friday the Crew Dragon capsule will detach from the International Space Station (ISS) 400km above Earth and begin a fiery journey back through the atmosphere, ending in a splashdown 450km off the coast of Florida.
If all goes according to plan, it will wrap up the first complete test mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is expected to carry its first astronauts into orbit by the middle of this year.
(14) VERBING THE VEGETABLE. Take note: “Vienna’s unpredictable vegetable orchestra”.
They’ve played 300 shows around the world – and most of their instruments don’t make it through the set.
It’s three hours before showtime and members of an orchestra are seated onstage in the garden of a 1,000-year-old Benedictine monastery outside Cologne, Germany. On cue, the neatly coiffed, black-clad musicians slowly raise their instruments, purse their lips and begin playing the opening passage of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Just then, a sound technician abruptly cuts them off. The carrot flutes were too strong and he couldn’t hear the leek violin.
“One more time,” he says. “Starting with the cucumber.”
(15) SUPERHERO WADES IN. “Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot wades into Netanyahu row over Israeli Arabs” – BBC has the story.
Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot has become embroiled in a row with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the status of the country’s Arab minority.
“Love your neighbour as yourself,” the Israeli actress said, amid wrangling over the role of Israeli Arab parties in upcoming polls.
Mr Netanyahu caused a stir when he said Israel “was not a state of all its citizens”, referring to Arabs who make up 20% of its population.
(16) GONE TO CAROLINA. Ian McDowell’s profile “Six-gun sisters and future female private eyes: The diverse pulp fiction of Nicole Givens Kurtz” for North Carolina’s Yes! Weekly delves into science fiction’s local culture wars.
…Another man with a variant of that name became the center of an online controversy involving Charlotte’s popular and long-running science fiction convention ConCarolinas last year. This was the conservative military science fiction and political action thriller writer John Ringo, whose announcement as Guest of Honor caused some other scheduled guests to boycott the convention.
Kurtz was one of those who announced she would not attend the 2018 convention, despite being previously announced as a guest. I asked her if she planned to attend this year’s ConCarolinas, which will be held May 31 through June 2 at the Hilton Charlotte University Place Motel.
“There is an entirely new board and new convention committee this year,” she wrote back, “so I am going to go and see if they’ve done anything differently. I know firsthand from speaking with board members and programming directors they are very interested in increasing diversity and fostering an open, collaborative, and safe environment. I am going to see the changes put in action. The board has stated they wanted to show fans that what was shown last year wasn’t who they are as a convention.”
John Ringo’s publisher is Baen Books, the science fiction and fantasy imprint founded in 1983 by conservative editor Jim Baen. Headquartered in Wake Forest and distributed by Simon and Shuster, Baen Books is also the publisher of several writers associated with the anti-diversity “Sad Puppies” movement formed as a reaction to what its members claim is the negative influence of “social justice warriors” on their genres. Although the Sad Puppies have repeatedly proclaimed their manifesto of restoring what they call the classic virtues of old-fashioned action-adventure storytelling to science fiction and fantasy, few of them write nearly as well as the best of the 1930s and ‘40s pulp authors they claim to admire.
Last July, Baen Books published the Weird Western anthology Straight Out of Tombstone, edited by David Boop. It included Kurtz’s story “The Wicked Wild.” I asked her how it felt appearing in a book from the same publisher as John Ringo.
Kurtz replied that she and the book’s editor David Boop had been friends for decades. “I trusted him with my story, and with the material.” She also said that Straight out of Tombstone wasn’t a typical Baen publication. “I think they were surprised by the success of it. Baen is associated with the Sad Puppies, but I am not sure they want to just be known as the publisher of Sad Puppies authors. They have diverse titles in their catalog, so I didn’t worry about it too much, because I trusted my editor.”
Why does she write horror?
…But, she explained, for a kid growing up in public housing projects, nothing on the page was as frightening as the real world, where she saw people die from violence or drugs, and in which the Atlanta child murders dominated the T.V. news cycle. Horror was an escape from that.
(17) BEWARE THE FLARE. Evidence shows they can get bigger than we’ve ever seen — “Solar storm: Evidence found of huge eruption from Sun”.
Scientists have found evidence of a huge blast of radiation from the Sun that hit Earth more than 2,000 years ago.
The result has important implications for the present, because solar storms can disrupt modern technology.
The team found evidence in Greenland ice cores that the Earth was bombarded with solar proton particles in 660BC.
The event was about 10 times more powerful than any since modern instrumental records began.
The Sun periodically releases huge blasts of charged particles and other radiation that can travel towards Earth.
The particular kind of solar emission recorded in the Greenland ice is known as a solar proton event (SPE). In the modern era, when these high-energy particles collide with Earth, they can knock out electronics in satellites we rely on for communications and services such as GPS.
…Modern instrumental monitoring data extends back about 60 years. So finding an event in 660BC that’s an order of magnitude greater than anything seen in modern times suggests we haven’t appreciated how powerful such events can be.
(18) KEEPING THE BEAT. “‘Greatest drummer ever’ Hal Blaine dies aged 90” — no, not genre — but a subtle influence on a lot of us.
Hal Blaine, one of the most prolific and influential drummers of his generation, has died at the age of 90.
Over the course of his career, he played on countless hits by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys and John Lennon, amongst others.
But his most recognisable riff was the “boom-ba-boom-crack” bar that opened The Ronnettes’ Be My Baby.
…According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2000, Blaine “certainly played on more hit records than any drummer in the rock era, including 40 number one singles and 150 that made the [US] top 10.”
Among those songs were Elvis Presley’s Return to Sender, The Byrds’ Mr Tambourine Man, the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations, Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson, The Mamas and the Papas’ California Dreamin’ and the theme song to Batman.
Blaine also played on eight songs that won a Grammy for record of the year, including Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, 5th Dimension’s Aquarius/Let The Sunshine and Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In the Night.
(19) A HOLE IN YOUR POCKET. Coin designer has a novel goal: “Prof Stephen Hawking commemorated on new 50p coin”.
Prof Stephen Hawking has been honoured on a new 50p coin inspired by his pioneering work on black holes.
The physicist died last year at the age of 76, having become one of the most renowned leaders in his field.
He joins an elite group of scientists to have appeared on coins, including Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
Designer Edwina Ellis said: “I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought.”
(20) UNHAPPY ENDING. Anastasia Hunter told Facebook readers this video was taken at San Diego Comic Fest this past weekend and the speaker will not be invited back.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, John A Arkansawyer, Martin Morse Wooster, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
(1) MARTIAN SAVINGS TIME. If you’re tempted to complain about having to reset your clock, think about these folks at JPL: “When flying to Mars is your day job”.
When the spacecraft is sleeping at night, we work. So we get all the data down, look at it and tell the spacecraft: “Hey InSight, tomorrow these are the tasks I want you to do!”
And then we uplink it, right before it wakes up in the morning. Then we go to bed and the spacecraft does its work.
But because the Mars day shifts every day, we also have to shift our schedule by an hour every day. So the first day we’ll start at 6am, and then [the next] will be 7am… 8am… 9am… and then we take a day off.
(2) THE BIG BUCKS. The Bank of England is taking nominations — “Think science for the new £50 note”.
You can nominate as many people as you like. But anyone who appears on the new £50 note must:
- have contributed to the field of science
- be real – so no fictional characters please
- not be alive – Her Majesty the Queen is the only exception
- have shaped thought, innovation, leadership or values in the UK
- inspire people, not divide them
Or write to: Think Science, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH.
You’ve got until Friday 14 December 2018. We’ll announce the chosen character in 2019.
(3) FANTASY CHOW. Atlas Obscura readers filled out their menus with “The Fictional Foods We Wish Were Real”.
What fictional foods make you as excited as a hobbit in a pantry?
Sure, you can buy a Wonka Bar at any candy store. You can drink a sugary Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction in Orlando. And you can find a recipe for Lembas Bread on about a million Lord of the Rings fan sites. But none of these initially fictional foods could ever live up to how we imagined they would taste when we first saw or read about them….
Recently, we asked Atlas Obscura readers to tell us which fictional food had sparked their imaginations more than any other….
We’ve collected our favorite responses below. Next time you encounter a mouth-watering food that doesn’t exist, try and decide for yourself what incredible, impossible flavors it might actually have….
Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
What might it taste like?
“A cataclysm of citrus with an effervescent apocalypse. Anything that would make you simultaneously evolve and devolve seems like an interesting way to not die.” — Ian Maxwell, Denver, Colorado USA
A Shmoo from the Lil’ Abner Comics
What might it taste like?
“It says it can taste like steak, chicken or oysters… They are genial playmates for children and then will jump into your frying pan and become dinner. I’ve always remembered the shmoo.” — Roseann Milano, Tucson, Arizona…
Roast Porg from The Last Jedi
What might it taste like?
“Teriyaki chicken. Chewbacca wanted to cook one in The Last Jedi. Might be succulent and savory.” — Leon Easter, Stockton, California
(4) CORDWAINER SMITH’S ALTER EGO. Paul DiFilippo has reproduced Paul M.A. Linebarger’s 1951 article for Nation’s Business, “Hotfoot for Stalin” at theinferior4.
(5) A HORSE, OF COURSE. William Shatner told a LA Times interviewer his fitness secrets: “How horses and e-bikes help William Shatner stay fit and creative at 87”
Horseback riding? How does that keep you fit?
My business manager once said: “Don’t buy anything that eats while you sleep.” Thankfully, I ignored that advice. My wife, Elizabeth, and I have horses in Kentucky and in Moorpark. I’ll ride two, three hours every morning that I’m not working — two or three days a week. People don’t realize it, but you’re not just passively sitting there on a horse. Riding is a stretching and strengthening exercise. It requires balance, expertise, finesse and strength.
(6) SWOFFORD OBIT. Actor Ken Swofford died November 1. He mostly played authority figures —
… On the big screen, Swofford had roles in Robert Wise’s The Andromeda Strain (1971), Stanley Kramer’s The Domino Killings (1977), Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. (1981), John Huston’s Annie (1982) and Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise (1991).
…Swofford provided the voice of the title character in the 2018 short film Happy the Angry Polar Bear, written and directed by his grandson.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
- November 3, 1925 – Monica Hughes, Writer from England who emigrated to Canada, and became known as known as one of Canada’s best writers for children and young adults, especially science fiction. She is best known for the Isis Trilogy, about the descendants of Earth colonists on a far-flung planet, which won the Phoenix Award from the Children’s Literature Association. Invitation to the Game, a hard science fiction dystopian novel which features robots and has been translated into numerous languages, won the Hal Clement Young Adult Award.
- November 3, 1928 – Tezuka Osamu, Artist, Animator, and Producer who is often considered the Japanese equivalent to Walt Disney, a major inspiration during his formative years. His manga series, all of which have had English language translations, include Astro Boy, Black Jack, Kimba the White Lion, and Phoenix, all of which won several awards including four Eisner Awards.
- November 3, 1933 – John Barry Prendergast, Oscar-winning Composer who wrote the scores for more than 120 films, including the genre works Moonraker (and 10 other Bond films), Starcrash, Mercury Rising, Howard the Duck, The Black Hole (for which he received a Saturn nomination), the 1976 King Kong, and the 1972 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. However, he is best known for his pièce de résistance: the haunting, emotive soundtrack for Somewhere in Time – the Saturn-winning film adaptation of SFF author Richard Matheson’s novel Bid Time Return – for which he also won a Saturn Award. Rather than taking a set fee upfront, he had presciently agreed to a percentage of sales. The soundtrack became one of the most popular movie soundtracks of all time, eventually selling more than a million copies, and continues to sell well to this day.
- November 3, 1950 – Massimo Mongai, Writer from Italy who produced Memorie di un Cuoco d’Astronave (Memories Of A Spaceship Cook), an apparent merging of space opera and cooking manual which won Italy’s Urania Award. I’m really, really hoping someone has read this in the original language as I’d love to know what it’s about!
- November 3, 1952 – Jim Cummings, 66, Voice Actor and Singer who has hundreds of voice credits in animated features and TV shows, including Aladdin, The Lion King, Shrek, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (as a bullet), The Addams Family, Batman: The Animated Series, Duck Dodgers, The Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gargoyles (one of my favorite shows), at least three of the animated Star Wars series, and dozens of videogames. He has won two Annie Awards, which are given to recognize outstanding work in the animation industry.
- November 3, 1952 – Eileen Wilks, 66, Writer whose principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and a multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels, though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing!
- November 3, 1963 – Brian Henson, 55, Actor, Puppeteer, Director, and Producer who, as the son of Jim and Jane Henson, now runs the Jim Henson Company along with his sister Lisa. He voiced the character of Hoggle in the original Hugo and Saturn Award-nominated Labyrinth, and is in the process of producing a remake of that movie. He has provided other voice and puppet characters in many films, including Little Shop of Horrors, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Muppets from Space, and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.. He was a producer for the awesome Farscape series, but the less said about his venture The Happytime Murders, the better.
- November 3, 1964 – Marjean Holden, 54, Actor who has had recurring roles in the genre TV series Crusade, the short-lived spinoff from Babylon 5, and in the Beastmaster series. She’s also appeared in Philadelphia Experiment II, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Dr. Caligari, and Nemesis, and had guest parts on episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Tales from the Crypt.
- November 3, 1964 – Brendan Fraser, 50, Actor and Producer whose genre work includes The Mummy films, which I dearly love, but also Monkeybone, based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark Town, the Bedazzled remake, Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Encino Man, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and voicing Robotman on the Titans series that airs on DC Universe.
(8) GET ON BOARD. Advertising for The Grinch movie, which opens November 9, has popped up all over LA — “Essay: The LA Grinch Billboards Are Savage And Spot-On”.
As much as we resent viral marketing schemes, we have to tip our hats when they’re this good.
I mean, are they even a joke? Or are they just extra L.A.?
Check it out y’all, your alcoholic step dad made the Grinch billboards pic.twitter.com/FeZcf6bmIu
— Chelsea Devantez (@chelseadevantez) October 26, 2018
This one’s my favorite –
(9) FRENCH DELICACIES. Snapped at Utopiales 2018 in Nantes, France (where reported attendance is 90,000.)
- Jim C. Hines, Robert J. Bennett and Kij Johnson.
— Jim C. Hines (@jimchines) November 1, 2018
- John Scalzi
I was visited by this away crew. The one in red is doomed. DOOMED pic.twitter.com/k60sQOMTiU
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) November 1, 2018
(10) STROSS. Camestros Felapton found something to praise — “Review: The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross”.
Good grief, nine books into the Laundry Files and Stross is still creating these weird, tense thrillers without really ever repeating himself. The novels have gradually shifted from clever pastiche to exploring their own premise….
(11) OUTLAWED CANDY. Let Atlas Obscura tell you about “Marabou M Peanut”.
M&M’s are known and enjoyed worldwide as movie snacks or general goodies. However, since 2016, this has not been true for Sweden, where the sweets have been banned due to a trademark dispute with a local candy company’s M Peanut.
Marabou’s M Peanut is very similar in taste and appearance to Peanut M&M’s: Both are chocolate-covered peanuts with lowercase m’s on their packaging. They’re so similar that one might think Marabou is an imitation brand. However, in Sweden, M&M’s are seen as the imitator, as Marabou’s candy had been sold in its native country for 50 years before M&M’s arrived.
(12) XENA PREBOOT SCRIPT. The 2016 attempt to reboot Xena never made it off the ground, but now a draft of the pilot script is available online for anyone to read (io9/Gizmodo: “Check Out the Script For the Pilot of the Canned Xena Reboot”). Now I’m wondering when the first dramatic reading will take place at a con.
Xena, brilliant warrior, princess, hero, and one more cancelled reboot.
But now, thanks to Xena Movie Campaign, a Facebook fan group, with the blessing of Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who wrote it, the unused script for the pilot episode of an attempted 2016 reboot of Xena is now available to read online.
(13) GOT WORMS? BBC discusses “Why some computer viruses refuse to die”.
One of the most active zombie viruses is Conficker, which first struck in November 2008. At its height, the worm is believed to have infected up to 15 million Windows PCs.
The French navy, UK warships, Greater Manchester Police and many others were all caught out by Conficker, which targeted the Windows XP operating system.
The malware caused so much trouble that Microsoft put up a bounty of $250,000 (£193,000) for any information that would lead to the capture of Conficker’s creators.
That bounty was still live and, Microsoft told the BBC, remained unclaimed to this day.
(14) WATCHING THE RADIO. They’re tuning in to the music of the spheres in 1963, and Galactic Journey is there — “[November 3, 1963] Listening To The Stars (the new Arecibo Observatory)”
But what is a radio telescope? How can we observe space through radio? Does Jupiter sing? Are the bodies of the solar system harmonising in a heavenly chorus?
Well, that’s not far off the mark. If you have the right equipment, you can even listen to Jupiter’s emissions yourself! You’ll need a shortwave radio (Jupiter radiates strongest at 22Mhz), and you’ll have to build yourself a large dipole antenna. What you’ll hear is an eerie, aggressive static, a lot like waves crashing on the beach. These are the radio emissions produced by charged particles racing through Jupiter’s magnetic field.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mr. Death” from Norwegian director Andreas J. Riiser is a short film on Vimeo that imagines what Death would be like if he was a chain-smoking Norwegian who has a buzz cut and loves Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]
(1) DOES SFF LACK IMAGINATION? Charles Stross, in “Do my Homework”, asks questions that speculative fiction writers aren’t speculating about, including futures without capitalism or the patriarchy and near-future novels about what the world will be like in 50 or 75 years. Stross’ second example is –
The social systems based on late-stage currently-existing capitalism are hideously broken, but almost all the SF I see takes some variation on the current system as a given: in the future, apparently people will have these things called “jobs” whereby an “employer” (typically a Very Slow AI controlled by a privileged caste of “executives”) acquires an exclusive right to their labour in return for vouchers which may be exchanged for food, clothing, and shinies (these vouchers are apparently called “money”). Seriously folks, can’t we imagine something better?
(2) RAMPING UP TO ST:D SEASON TWO. Starting next week — October 4 — on CBS All Access, Star Trek: Short Treks. Here’s the trailer for the first one, “Runaway”
STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS, four stand-alone short stories, will begin rolling out on Thursday, October 4, in anticipation of the early 2019 return of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. The first STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS is titled “Runaway” and stars Mary Wiseman as “Tilly.” Each short will run approximately 10-15 minutes and will be an opportunity for fans to dive deeper into key themes and characters that fit into the STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and expanding “Star Trek” universe. Each of STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS four stories will center on a key character, including familiar faces from STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: Mary Wiseman (Tilly), Doug Jones (Saru) and Rainn Wilson (Harry Mudd), in a short he will also direct, as well as a new character unfamiliar to fans, Craft, played by Aldis Hodge.
(3) PRO 101. Mark Lawrence, in “Advances”, wrote an overview of author advances/signing bonuses/etc.
…So, what is an advance exactly?
Well, it’s kinda a cash bonus, and kinda not. For authors an advance is a de-risking device, and for publishers it’s a risk. For both of them it signals a commitment to the success of the book.
The advance is, in some senses, a gift. It cannot be taken away as long as the author delivers the book/s and they are accepted. If my next trilogy only sells three copies I will still keep the advance.
In another very real sense the advance is not a gift. If my next trilogy sells a hundred thousand copies I won’t see a penny as all of the income from royalties that would otherwise by paid to me will instead go to the publisher to pay back the advance. That process continues until the publisher is paid back. At that point the book is said to have “earned out”. After that point the royalties (typically ~5 to 15% of the cover price, depending on the format) will come to me.
So whether I have to sell 1 copy or 1 million copies before I see any more money depends on the size of the advance. With no advance I will earn from the first sale. With a million dollar advance I would have to sell many hundreds of thousands of books, maybe millions if most are cheap ebooks….
Lawrence’s post set off a lot of interesting discussion on Reddit.
(4) CHRIS GARCIA. There’s a new Drink Tank out, issue 404: “Heavy Metal & Horror!” Chris Garcia is excited —
It’s the first issue working with Doug Berry as co-editor! There’s writing from me, Doug, Kirsten Berry, Kyle Harding, Jean Martin, and a great cover by Espana Sheriff!
It’s up at eFanzines – Drink Tank 404 [PDF file].
Chris adds, “We’ve got our big Musicals issue deadline coming up to on October 8th!”
(5) SHRINK RAP. Today at Book View Café Laura Anne Gilman went off: “A Meerkat Rants: Eff you, I’m not neurotic”.
But it’s out there now, this “Oh, creative people, always needing validation” meme, as though the need for validation is somehow a special snowflake thing reserved for us. Like we spend every day of our lives whimpering because we din’t get enough love and attention when we were seven, or something.
Fuck you and the Freud you rode in on.
Here’s the thing, okay? And listen up, because next time I say it it’s going to be with sharp pointy knives….
(6) GOING UP. A Japanese mission will test a space elevator concept. BGR’s Mike Wehner explains: “Japan is about to launch a mini space elevator that could be a sign of things to come”.
We’re obviously not there yet, but Japan’s small-scale test is still vitally important. The test will be conducted using a small prototype that will travel between two small satellites. The satellites will be connected via a cable, and the satellites will provide the tension needed to keep the cable straight. The tiny elevator will then move back and forth along the cable, testing the feasibility of “elevator movement” in space conditions.
(7) KNIGHTCASTING. Yahoo! Entertainment finds Mark Hamill’s new role has some similarities to his Star Wars role: “From Jedi Master to Knight Templar: First Look at Mark Hamill in ‘Knightfall’ Season 2”.
Mark Hamill laid down his lightsaber last year and is now picking up a sword, as he joins Season 2 of History’s drama series “Knightfall.” And the first look image of Hamill in character reveals that he does, in fact, get to rock a beard for this project, too. And this one is even more badass than Luke Skywalker’s facial hair.
Hamill will play Talus, a battle-hardened Knight Templar veteran of the Crusades, who survived captivity for 10 years in the Holy Land and is tasked with training the new initiates to the Order.
“Knightfall” goes inside the medieval politics and warfare of the Knights Templar, the most powerful, wealthy and mysterious military order of the Middle Ages who were entrusted with protecting Christianity’s most precious relics.
(8) ALL POINTS BULLETIN. Don’t be taken in.
A scammer by the name of Audrie Stroud is claiming to be our 'Creative Editor' and contacting authors and artists in our name. We don't know this person and they don't represent us. More info: https://t.co/ugfpnrrkN4
— Escape Artists Inc. (@EAPodcasts) September 26, 2018
(9) BREYFOGLE OBIT. Batman artist Norm Breyfogle has passed away at the age of 58.
Batman artist Norm Breyfogle passed away. Norm's Batman was pure adrenalin rush. Everything was drawn to suit what Norm wanted to express, his exuberance on the page could not be pinned down by mundane mechanics and necessities.
He will be remembered. pic.twitter.com/PBi3iapBaO
— Patch Zircher (@PatrickZircher) September 26, 2018
RIP Norm Breyfogle. The definitive Batman artist for a generation – but of course, he did so much more than that. His mastery of line, flow, storytelling and emotion – both subtle and operatic – shone through in every panel. pic.twitter.com/s0r0QY7DDa
— Al Ewing Writes Comics And Tells You About Them (@Al_Ewing) September 26, 2018
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
- Born September 27, 1933 – Roger C. Carmel, Actor who played the infamous Harry Mudd in two classic Star Trek episodes, as well as voicing characters in the Transformers movies, TV series, and videogames.
- Born September 27, 1934 – Greg Morris, Actor, known for a main role in the 1960s TV series Mission: Impossible, which he later reprised in the 1980s series remake, and for guest appearances in numerous episodes of genre shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, and The Twilight Zone.
- Born September 27, 1934 – Wilford Brimley, 84, Actor who has appeared in The Thing (the film adaptation of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella “Who Goes There?”), Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo finalist Cocoon, Cocoon: The Return, and the science fiction “classics” Ewoks: The Battle for Endor and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.
- Born September 27, 1947 – Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, 71, Actor and Musician who has had frequent cameo roles in horror TV episodes and movies, including the unusual distinction of appearing on the menu in both the cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show and an episode of the HBO series Tales from the Crypt. He’s currently appearing in the series Ghost Wars.
- Born September 27, 1947 – Denis Lawson, 71, Actor and Director from Scotland, best known to genre fans for playing rebel pilot Wedge Antilles in the original Star Wars trilogy and for being the uncle of young Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor.
- Born September 27, 1950 – Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, 68, Actor and Producer, a well-known character actor who has played roles in many genre series including The Man in the High Castle, Lost in Space, Star Wars: Rebels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Space Rangers, and Mortal Kombat, as well as voicing characters in numerous videogames.
- Born September 27, 1956 – Sheila Williams, 62, Editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine for the past thirteen years, following twelve years before that working under Isaac Asimov and Gardner Dozois at the magazine, which is a remarkable achievement. Editor, with Gardner Dozois, of the 17 “Isaac Asimov:” subject anthologies – think everything from werewolves to robots – collected from the magazine. Williams has been a finalist or winner of the Best Editor Hugo in numerous years, and this year was given the Kate Wilhem Solstice Award for significant impact on speculative fiction by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
- Born September 27, 1970 – Tamara Taylor, 48, Actor who appeared in the opening scene of the Firefly movie Serenity, currently has a role in the Altered Carbon series adapted from Richard K. Morgan’s books, and has played the voice of Wonder Woman in animated Justice League TV series and videogames.
- Born September 27, 1973 – Indira Varma, 45, Actor and Producer from England who played Ellaria Sand in Game of Thrones and was Captain Jack’s second in the TV series Torchwood, in addition to doing numerous voice acting roles for videogames including World of Warcraft, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age.
Payment in thanks for not inflicting the trailer for Ewoks: The Battle for Endor on you today can be sent to JJ’s P.O. Box in Schenectady, NY.
(11) ANCIENT WORD BALLOONS. A Smithsonian post “Ancient Comics Line This Roman-Era Tomb in Jordan” shows that speech bubbles (more or less) are not a modern invention.
When people talk about old comics, strips like Little Orphan Annie or Nancy probably come to mind. But archaeologists in Jordan recently uncovered a truly old incarnation of the form. Painted on the walls inside a 2,000-year-old Roman-era tomb, Ariel David at Haaretz reports that there are nearly 260 figures featured in narrative scenes, with many speaking via comic-style speech bubbles.
The tomb was discovered during road construction in 2016 near the town of Bayt Ras, north of Irbid, Jordan….
(12) REVIEWING THE NEW DOCTOR. BBC collated the reviews: “Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who: What do the critics think?”
Jodie Whittaker’s first episode of Doctor Who has received broadly positive reviews from critics.
Her performance, those of her co-stars, and the production values of The Woman Who Fell To Earth came in for particular praise.
But some critics felt there was still room for improvement.
In his four-star review for The Sun, Rod McPhee said Whittaker “may be the breath of fresh air needed to revive a flagging franchise”.
“She doesn’t always strike the right balance between quirky geek and masterful Time Lord. And at times she comes across as irritatingly childlike.
“But the highest praise is that you quickly forget you’re watching a female Doctor and just accept you’re watching THE Doctor.”
(13) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Lost, stolen, or strayed? “Philip Pullman loses His Dark Materials ballpoint pen”.
The Oxford-based writer has turned to Twitter in the hope that his pen case, a Montblanc ballpoint pen and a pencil can be tracked down.
“I’m particularly attached to the pen, because I wrote His Dark Materials with it,” he tweeted.
The author does not remember when he last had his lost materials.
(14) DARK PHOENIX TRAILER. The next X-Men movie, in theaters February 14, 2019.
In DARK PHOENIX, the X-MEN face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.
(15) MEXICANX SAGA CONTINUES. Hector Gonzalez reaches the deadline – for the food he’s serving: “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 6: My Love Language is Tacos”.
… John had planned something during the opening ceremony. All the Mexicanx recipients in attendance would be present for it. That caused some issues with my timing, specifically getting the food ready for the reception. “A couple of degrees more in the oven will be needed,” I mused….
(16) DEAD MEN DO TELL TALES. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett is people’s go-to consultant for more issues than you’d guess.
On a more supernatural note somebody who would prefer to remain anonymous asked me my opinion on the topic of vampiric tumescence. Surprisingly they didn’t seem to regret reading what I had to say. Hopefully none of you do either.
His answer appears in: “The Case of the Vampire Erect”.
…The initial question when framed as basically as possible is as follows. Are all vampires, some vampires, or indeed any vampires capable of achieving tumescence?…
(17) BLACK PANTHER’S QUEST. Thanks to SYFY Wire we know — “Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest – You can now watch the first episode online”.
A rogue splinter cell of Atlanteans attempt to take over the surface world in the first episode of Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest on Disney XD — and you can watch the entire episode now online.
(18) OUTRO. Kim Huett remembers: “Years ago SBS, an Australian TV channel used fr a while a very charming set of SF themed bumpers. I recently found a set of them on YouTube” —
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Chip Hitchock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Dann, Carl Slaughter, Kim Huett, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]
(1) ON THE GROUND AT WORLDCON 76. Raven Oak’s trip report about Worldcon 76 includes a fun photo of astronaut Kjell Lindgren posing with fans costumed (so I believe) as the GalaxyQuest alien crew members.
Kjell thanked me and said he was an astronaut because of science fiction authors like me. He read lots of sci-fi books as a kid, which made him dream of going into space. He signed the back of one of my coloring book pages, the one featuring Bay-zar from my sci-fi novella Class-M Exile.
Lots of good photos of hall costumes, too.
(2) RETRO HUGOS OF 1943. Chair Kevin Roche sent along a better photo of the Retro-Hugo award base he designed for Worldcon 76.
The block is solid cherry, in honor of the orchards once common in San Jose (cherries were still one of the top cash crops in the Valley of Heart’s Delight in the early 40s). The backplane is a laser-etched image I created of our SJ Galactic Tower, which is itself an homage to the historic San Jose Electric Tower, erected in 1881 and making San Jose the first electrified downtown west of the Rockies (the historic tower, alas, collapsed in 1915. I have photos from 1910 showing buses driving under the tower where it stood over the intersection of Market and Santa Clara Streets.)
(3) CHILDHOOD’S BEGINNING. James Davis Nicoll gives his opinions about “SF Books That Did Not Belong in the Kids’ Section of the Library” at Tor.com. He’s talking about his childhood, however, not whatever the current situation may be.
How Norman Spinrad’s The Men in the Jungle, which features drugs, violence, and infanticide, made it into the children’s section, I don’t know. Is there anything by Spinrad that is child-friendly? That was indeed a traumatizing book to encounter when I was prepared for something more along the lines of Blast-off at Woomera. If I think about that Spinrad book now (even though I am older and somewhat hardened) I still feel queasy.
(4) CAMPAIGN TRAIL WOES. Congressional candidate Brianna Wu was quoted in the New York Times campaign coverage: “For Female Candidates, Harassment and Threats Come Every Day”.
A different kind of normalization happens at the other end of the spectrum, where the harassment is so vicious and constant that it overwhelms the ability to react.
As an independent video game developer in 2014, Brianna Wu was the subject of abuse during GamerGate, when women involved in gaming were targeted for harassment.
Now a Democrat running for Congress in Massachusetts, Ms. Wu, 41, said death and rape threats came so routinely that she had ceased to feel much in response. Even when people threw objects through her window. Even when they vandalized her husband’s car. Even when they emailed paparazzi-like photos of her in her own home.
“I often look at it and I’m like: ‘I know I should be feeling something right now. I know I should be feeling scared or angry or stressed.’ And it’s at a point where I can’t feel anything anymore,” Ms. Wu said. “It’s almost like fear is a muscle that is so overtaxed, it can just do nothing else in my body.”
Many said it was a point of principle not to be intimidated into silence. Others said their political ideals were simply more important.
“For good reason, there’s never any shortage of telling stories about women being harassed on the campaign trail,” Ms. Wu said. “But I cannot communicate to you strongly enough: Over all, this job is fun. This job is exhausting, but this job is amazing.”
(5) ANOTHER BORDER ISSUE. Some artists on their way to a Dungeons & Dragons concept push were stopped from entering the US because their Electronic System for Travel Authorization waiver was not accepted as they expected.
This is what happened:
Please don't point fingers. It's a very complicated situation and we are figuring out what exactly went wrong and why. Mostly, we are tired, scared, glad and overwhelmed. A huge thanks to your support and love. pic.twitter.com/c9hadptU8f
— Titus 'Tired AF' Lunter (@TitusLunter) August 27, 2018
Quick update, more when I'm back on my feet. Anna Magali and me were kicked out of the US due to visa issues. We were detained overnight at an ICE facility and on our way home. Please don't spam us with questions. We're fucking exhausted. Well share more when we can. Much love <3
— Titus 'Tired AF' Lunter (@TitusLunter) August 27, 2018
According to the government website about the ESTA program –
ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Authorization via ESTA does not determine whether a traveler is admissible to the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers determine admissibility upon travelers’ arrival. The ESTA application collects biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions.
(6) VOTING WISDOM. Brandon Sanderson delivers a brief conreport and some classy advice in “Worldcon Wrap-up and Dragon Awards”.
The Hugo Awards ceremony was a delight. We didn’t win the Best Series award, but to be honest, at only three books into the Stormlight series it might have been a little preemptive to give it any awards. We’ll see how things go as the series progresses. Many congrats to Lois McMaster Bujold (the winner), who is a favorite around the Dragonsteel offices. She’s a fantastic writer, well worthy of the award.
Oathbringer still has one shot at an award, the Dragon Award, given out at Dragon Con. This is a newer award, one I’m not as familiar with, but man…the award itself is gorgeous. (Seriously, you guys should go have a look at the thing.)
…As always, however, I strongly urge you to be a thoughtful voter when it comes to awards. Don’t vote for Oathbringer just because I wrote it—only do so if you think this book, in specific, deserves the award. And there are some other excellent nominees, so if you enjoyed one of those more, then vote for it!
(7) IT’S NOT LOOKING GOOD. P.N. Elrod hopes people can help, especially those who like Elrod’s Patreon and Facebook entertainment.
Crap. Having a blubbing panic meltdown. In a month my rent goes up by 63 bucks. At this point I don’t have even half the rent for September. I’m facing the ugly reality of eviction.
The complex offered to get me into a different apartment with slightly lower rent, but that means moving. (Bureaucracy Stuff.) I can’t afford that, either, and most of all, I do not have the strength or mobility to move again. I just don’t. I am sick. I am tired.
The ONLY thing I can think of at this point to prevent that is to increase subscriptions to my Patreon page. Right now, that income isn’t enough to cover my bills, so some go unpaid until and unless I sell books from my library.
(8) VOX FEATURES JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin guested on the latest episode of Vox’s podcast The Ezra Klein Show. You can access it at “N.K. Jemisin recommends stories from fellow groundbreaking sci-fi authors” — which lists two recommendations from her:
While Jemisin finds it hard to recommend books, she does offer up two recommendations from fellow award-winning female science fiction authors.
1) The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells
Jemisin is “a giant fan” of Martha Wells’s Murderbot series, an “adorable little set of almost old-school science fiction.” The titular Murderbot is a rogue cyborg who works tirelessly to protect humans from themselves, though it would rather be watching soap operas. The latest novella in the series, Exit Strategy, will be released on October 2.
2) Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler
Groundbreaking science fiction author Octavia Butler died in 2006, but two of her stories were found posthumously and published as an e-book. One of the stories in the volume, “Childfinder,” was commissioned by writer Harlan Ellison to be included in a never-published anthology.
The podcast is available direct from Apple iTunes as well as many other sources.
(9) BALL OBIT. K.C. Ball died of a fatal heart attack on August 26 reports the SFWA Blog: “In Memoriam: K.C. Ball”.
…Ball attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2010 and Launch Pad in 2011. She served as the publisher and editor of 10Flash Quarterly, an on-line flash fiction magazine. She also won the Speculative Literature Foundation Older Writer Award….
Cat Rambo’s tribute is here.
And now she’s gone, fallen to another heart attack, and she never really got the chance to “break out” the way many writers do, which is through hard work, and soldiering on through rejection, and most of all playing the long game. If you want to read some of her kick-ass work, here’s the collection I edited, Snapshots from a Black Hole and Other Oddities.
I’m so sorry not to able to hear your voice any more, K.C. I hope your journey continues on, and that it’s as marvelous as you were.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
- Born August 27 – Frank Kelly Freas, who won many Best Professional Artist Hugos, and drew Mad Magazine covers once upon a time.
[compiled by Cat Eldridge]
- Born August 27, 1929 – Ira Levin. Author of many novels including The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby which of course became films.
- Born August 27 – Paul Reubens, 66. Genre work includes Gotham, Batman:The Brave and the Bold, Tron: Uprising Star Wars Rebels and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Is Pee-wee’s Playhouse genre?
- Born August 27 – Alex PenaVega 30. Spy Kids film franchise and apparently a Spy Kids tv series as well, also The Tomorrow People, Sin City: A Dame To Live For and The Clockwork Girl, an animated film where love conquers all differences.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
(12) COLSON WHITEHEAD HONORED. “Writers with ties to Brooklyn named NYS author and poet” – the Brooklyn Eagle has the story.
Two renowned writers with Brooklyn ties have been appointed as the state’s official author and poet by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Colson Whitehead, Brooklyn resident for more than a dozen years, has been named New York’s 12th state author.
Alicia Ostriker, born in Brooklyn, has been named New York’s 11th state poet. Cuomo said the award recognizes their work “and the impact it has had on the people of New York and beyond.”
During their two-year terms the state laureates promote and encourage fiction writing and poetry throughout New York by giving public readings and talks.
(13) GATEKEEPING. I haven’t spent much time covering its peregrinations here, but in Camestros Felapton’s view, “’Comicsgate’ is the crappiest ‘gate’”.
The main focus of the campaign has actually been crowd-funding for comics by a rightwing creator, not all of whom use the term “Comicsgate” (Vox Day, for example, has been a bit more equivocal about the term because he thinks all these people should be joining his petty empire). So we have a ‘campaign’ that is just a collaboration of outrage marketing techniques following the standard Scrappy-Doo model: be as loud and as obnoxious as possible and then when people react, claim to be being persecuted.
(14) RAH IN CONTEXT. Charles Stross has a whole rant about what RAH was actually about, versus what his emulators seem to think he was about: “Dread of Heinleinism”.
…But here’s the thing: as often as not, when you pick up a Heinlein tribute novel by a male boomer author, you’re getting a classic example of the second artist effect.
Heinlein, when he wasn’t cranking out 50K word short tie-in novels for the Boy Scouts of America, was actually trying to write about topics for which he (as a straight white male Californian who grew up from 1907-1930) had no developed vocabulary because such things simply weren’t talked about in Polite Society. Unlike most of his peers, he at least tried to look outside the box he grew up in. (A naturist and member of the Free Love movement in the 1920s, he hung out with Thelemites back when they were beyond the pale, and was considered too politically subversive to be called up for active duty in the US Navy during WW2.) But when he tried to look too far outside his zone of enculturation, Heinlein often got things horribly wrong. Writing before second-wave feminism (never mind third- or fourth-), he ended up producing Podkayne of Mars. Trying to examine the systemic racism of mid-20th century US society without being plugged into the internal dialog of the civil rights movement resulted in the execrable Farnham’s Freehold. But at least he was trying to engage, unlike many of his contemporaries (the cohort of authors fostered by John W. Campbell, SF editor extraordinaire and all-around horrible bigot). And sometimes he nailed his targets: “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” as an attack on colonialism, for example (alas, it has mostly been claimed by the libertarian right), “Starship Troopers” with its slyly embedded messages that racial integration is the future and women are allowed to be starship captains (think how subversive this was in the mid-to-late 1950s when he was writing it).
(15) ROCKET MAN. In the wake of yesterday’s report that 10% of Hugo novel winners are named Robert, and someone else’s observation that being named Robinson helped, too, Soon Lee composed this filk:
So here’s to you Robert Robinson
Hugo loves you more than you will know,
Wo wo wo
Awards you heaps Robert Robinson
Rockets coming out your ears all day
Hey hey hey, hey hey hey
Then Cath could only exorcise the earworm by finishing the verse –
Hide your rockets in the hiding place where no cat ever goes
Put them on your bookcase with your cupcakes
It’s a little secret just the Robinsons’ affair
Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the pups
Sitting in the green room on a Sunday afternoon
Feasting from the finalists’ cheese plate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When Hugo’s got to choose
There’s no way that you can lose
Where have you gone, John Picacio
A Worldcon turns its lonely eyes to you
Wu wu wu
What’s that you say, Robert Robinson?
Diversity shall never go away
(16) SUBTRACTION. Robert/Rob/Bob may be a statistically lucky name for a Hugo nominee, however, the odds won’t soon be improving in the astronaut program. Ars Technica has the info that, “For the first time in 50 years, a NASA astronaut candidate has resigned” — one of a class of 12:
A little more than a year ago, NASA introduced its newest class of 12 astronaut candidates. These talented men and women were chosen from a deep pool of 18,300 applicants, and after two years of training they were to join the space agency’s corps for possible assignment on missions to the International Space Station, lunar orbit, or possibly the surface of the Moon.
However, one of those 12 astronauts, Robb Kulin, will not be among them. On Monday, NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean confirmed to Ars that Kulin had resigned his employment at NASA, effective August 31, “for personal reasons.”
(17) NAUGHTY GOOGLE. Fingerpointing: “Google is irresponsible claims Fortnite’s chief in bug row”. “Bug row” – there’s the Queen’s English for you.
The leader of the firm behind the hit game Fortnite has accused Google of being “irresponsible” in the way it revealed a flaw affecting the Android version of the title.
On Friday, Google made public that hackers could hijack the game’s installation software to load malware.
The installer is needed because Epic Games has bypassed Google’s app store to avoid giving it a cut of sales.
Epic’s chief executive said Google should have delayed sharing the news.
(18) BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE. Beyond the Sky trailer (2018). The movie is coming to theaters this September.
Chris Norton has been hearing about alien abductions his entire life but, in his gut, he knows they are not real. Setting out to disprove the alien abduction phenomenon once and for all, he attends a UFO convention to meet alleged abductees and reveal the truth behind their experiences. It is only when he meets Emily, who claims to have been abducted every seven years on her birthday, that Chris realizes there may be more to these claims than meets the eye. With Emily’s 28th birthday only days away, Chris helps her to uncover the truth as they come face to face with the reality that we are not alone.
CAST: Ryan Carnes, Jordan Hinson, Peter Stormare, Dee Wallace, Martin Sensmeier, Don Stark
(19) AN INTERPLANETARY ROMANCE. The restored 1910 Italian silent film Matrimonio interplanetario (“Marriage on the Moon”) is now online. Its antique delights include a very strange space launch facility that looks suspiciously like a samovar or maybe an espresso machine.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Karl-Johan Norén , Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]
(1) ADVICE AND DISSENT. When Elon Musk described himself as “…a utopian anarchist of the kind best described by Iain Banks” on Twitter he got plenty of pushback. Soon Lee and Rob Thornton report that the pushers included Charles Stross, Hal Duncan, Cory Doctorow, and —
Most of Musk's projects seem a bit half-baked at times, but his plan to get us a new Culture novel by making Iain so furious that he'll come back from the dead to write it seems to have a good chance of success.
— Cheryl Morgan (@CherylMorgan) June 17, 2018
For those who need an introduction, Edward Champion’s 2013 essay “The Culture Novels of Iain M. Banks” looks promising:
When not committing his considerable energies to such intense Bildungsromans as The Wasp Factory or bleak-humored narratives like The Crow Road, Banks inserts an M into “Iain Banks” and writes science fiction novels. Most of these speculative volumes concern the Culture, a utopian-anarchist society that extends across a sizable cluster of the universe. These Culture vultures gambol across the galaxy in ships with such eccentric names as Don’t Try This at Home and Serious Callers Only. Culture citizens live for centuries, and can even change their appearances if they grow discontent with their corpora. These conditions encourage these civilized sybarites to have more fun than a flighty Dalmatian discovering a chiaroscuro sea of spotty companions. Never mind that there’s always an intergalactic war going on.
(2) DOLLAR BLAST. Just as you’d expect superheroes to do: “‘Incredibles 2’ crushes animation box office record”.
The Disney and Pixar film premiered to an estimated $180 million at the domestic box office this weekend. The sequel to the popular 2004 computer animated film soared past the record for biggest animated film opening in box office history by $45 million.
That record belonged to another Pixar film, “Finding Dory,” which opened to roughly $135 million two summers ago.
So far the film brought in $231.5 million around the world.
(3) BIG CAT. Should an owner discourage the ambitions of an SJW credential?
I’m sorry, Margarita, but it’s not going to make you a weresaber. pic.twitter.com/TezGznh23M
— Brian Switek (@Laelaps) June 17, 2018
(4) HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED LEX. Some fantastic beasts who practice law in Hollywood are sowing darkness across the land: “Warner Bros. Crackdown Puts Dark Mark Over Harry Potter Festivals”.
Warner Bros. is cracking down on local Harry Potter fan festivals around the country, saying it’s necessary to halt unauthorized commercial activity. Fans, however, liken the move to Dementors sucking the joy out of homegrown fun, while festival directors say they wll transfigure the events into generic celebrations of magic.
“It’s almost as if Warner Bros. has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town,” said Sarah Jo Tucker, a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, which hosts a Quidditch tournament that has coincided with an annual Harry Potter festival in suburban Philadelphia.
Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hill’s business district director, said Warner Bros. reached out to his group in May, letting them know new guidelines prohibit festivals’ use of any names, places or objects from the film series. That ruled out everything from meet-and-greet with Dumbledore and Harry to Defense Against the Dark Arts classes.
(5) WELL ABOVE MINIMUM WAGE. Owen King tells readers of The New Yorker about “Recording Audiobooks For My Dad, Stephen King”.
My father gave me my first job, reading audiobooks on cassette tape. He had caught on to the medium early, but, as he explained later, “There were lots of choices as long as you only wanted to hear ‘The Thorn Birds.’ ” So, one day, in 1987, he presented me with a handheld cassette recorder, a block of blank tapes, and a hardcover copy of “Watchers,” by Dean Koontz, offering nine dollars per finished sixty-minute tape of narration.
This was an optimistic plan on my father’s part. Not only was I just ten years old, but when it came to reading aloud I had an infamous track record. My parents and I still read books together each night, and I had recently begun demanding an equal turn as narrator. Along our tour through Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped,” I had tested their love with reckless attempts at a Scottish accent for the revolutionary Alan Breck Stewart, whom the novel’s protagonist, David Balfour, befriends. Even as they pleaded for me to stop, I made knee-deep haggis of passages like the following:
“Do ye see my sword? It has slashed the heads off mair whigamores than you have toes upon your feet. Call up your vermin to your back, sir, and fall on! The sooner the clash begins, the sooner ye’ll taste this steel throughout your vitals.”
Despite this, my father enlisted me to narrate “Watchers.”
(6) WHAT A RUSH. It’s not going to take long for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2018 to fill up –
250 books entered for #SPFBO 4 in the first 29 hours!
The contest is on.
47 places remain.https://t.co/0CulpGtAme
— Mark Lawrence (@Mark__Lawrence) June 17, 2018
(7) ARCHEOVIDEOLOGY. Echo Ishii returns to the history of TV sff in “SF Obscure: Ace of Wands”.
Ace of Wands is an ITV fantasy show broadcast in 1971 to 1972. It’s technically a children’s/ family show, but it’s fairly sophisticated and one that held my interest. Ace of Wands ran for three series, however, only the third series remains. At the time, ITV wiped old series due to the high cost of production materials and storage.
(8) CATCHY TITLE. Anna-Marie Abell gave her novel an irresistible name — Holy Crap! The World is Ending!: How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to Sex with an Alien and the Destruction of Earth. For the next couple of days it’s a 99-cent special on Amazon. If somebody reads it they can tell the rest of us whether it lives up to the promise of the cover.
Are you like me and love to get something for free? This week only you can download my e-book for FREE on Smashwords! Woohoo! ?#freebook #Smashwords #sciencefiction #RomanceBooks #ebooks #MustReads2018 #bookgiveaway #FreeDownload https://t.co/gMuUUpMHIi pic.twitter.com/JgIojTles8
— Anna-Marie Abell (@writtenbyanna) March 6, 2018
Anna-Marie Abell grew up in a trailer park. Well, several actually. Her trailer was on wheels so she got to experience the Pacific Northwest’s vast array of mobile home parks as her parents moved her from one to the other. Somewhere along the way, she got totally into UFOs. Probably because she was hoping extraterrestrials would come and abduct her. But they never did. Luckily for her she was smart, because her only hope of escaping trailer life was college and a full scholarship. Moving to sunny California on her almost full ride to Chapman University, she was well on her way to her new life. Two bachelor degrees later (Film and Television Production and Media Performance), and several honors and awards for her accomplishments, she managed to start working in an almost completely unrelated industry from her majors: infomercials.
It was in college that she got bit by the “ancient alien” bug after listening to Zecharia Sitchin on Coast to Coast AM. In her pursuit to uncover the truth, she has spent the last twenty years researching the ancient Sumerian culture—in particular their “gods” called the Anunnaki—and their connection to the creation of the human race. What she found changed her life, her beliefs, and her understanding of the universe and everything beyond. Her humorous science fiction trilogy, The Anunnaki Chronicles, is a culmination of all her research, her borderline obsession for all things paranormal, and approximately 2,300 bottles of wine.
(9) FRONT, PLEASE. Dorothy Grant’s “Cover caveats” at Mad Genius Club is a great introduction to the process.
So where do you find your cover art and cover designer? Well, you can search the premade options put together by artists and designers, so you know exactly what it’ll look like when you get the “Your Title” swapped out for your actual title, and “Author Name” swapped for your pen name or real name.
Or you can get one designed for you. If you have no idea what you want or need, this can involve writing up a short description of the book or sending the book to the designer. Be aware that a busy professional designer probably will not read your entire book, but is skimming for worldfeel, character descriptions, possibly an iconic scene.
Or, if you’re a little more artistically inclined, you’ll send the designer / artist basically three sets of URLs.
First, links to bestselling books in the same subgenre that have covers similar to what you want. (send 3, so they can get a feel for what’s standard to that subgenre vs. particular to that single cover.)
Second, Send them URLs from stock photo sites that say “models like this”
Third, URLs from stock photo sites saying “backgrounds like this”
Artists think in pictures, not words, so communicate in visuals as much as possible.
(10) IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. I watched the first part of Live Slush Session 2 and was intrigued to hear Baen’s publisher and a contributing editor give candid reactions to authors’ manuscripts.
Baen Books’ Publisher Toni Weisskopf and “Slushmaster General” Gray Rinehart read the openings of volunteer submissions to give writers some insight into the evaluation process.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- John King Tarpinian saw how Deadpool celebrates Father’s Day at Brevity.
- And Ben Solo’s dad featured in yesterday’s Brevity.
- Mike Kennedy sent along Pearls Before Swine’s suggestion for how to get people to read. (He didn’t say it was a good suggestion….)
(12) ALDEBURGH FESTIVAL. The Stage’s George Hall reviews the opera based on a Silverberg story: “To See the Invisible review at Britten Studio, Snape – ‘a musical patchwork’”.
New at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival, Emily Howard’s chamber opera To See The Invisible has been freely adapted by playwright Selma Dimitrijevic from a taut and distinctly Kafkaesque short story by the American sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg.
The central character has been found guilty of the crime of coldness and is sentenced to a year’s invisibility, during which he is completely ignored by (almost) everyone he meets.
In Dimitrijevic’s libretto the character’s isolation remains severe, though he now has a family consisting of a mother, father and sister. His encounters with them and other individuals – in court, in a public gardens and a brothel – ameliorate his plight while also allowing some of Silverberg’s focused purity to dissipate.
In the opera he also has a kind of shadow in the shape of what the libretto describes as The Other Invisible – Anna Dennis’ female soprano regularly in synch with Nicholas Morris’ baritonal male. The character’s dual vocality is undoubtedly one of the more successful features of Howard’s score….
(13) IT’S NOT EASY BEING MEAN. Olga Polomoshnova analyzes the villain who gave evil a bad name — “On Sauron’s motives” at Middle-Earth Reflections.
Being the chief villain of the Second and Third Ages, Sauron sparks numerous questions concerning his motives. How did he become the evil figure we know him to be? Why did he run the risk of transferring a great amount of his inherent power into the One Ring knowing that it could lead to his destruction? Let us look at his downfall and motives through Tolkien’s own stories and letters.
Having risen like the shadow of Morgoth, Sauron was nevertheless different from his former lord. His downfall arose out of good motives, nor was he the beginner of discord. Sauron belonged to the Maiar — spirits created from Ilúvatar’s thought. He came into existence before the physical world took shape. Originally Sauron, who was known as Mairon (the Admirable) at that time, was associated with the people of Aulë, so he was a very skillful smith….
(14) EATON PHOTOS ONLINE. Andrew Porter labors on, identifying people in Jay Kay Klein’s photos. At the 1967 Worldcon, NYCon 3, this shot of a panel audience showed Walt Liebscher, Ray Fisher, Arnie Katz, Lee Hoffman, and Bob Tucker:
(15) A PENNYFARTHING FOR YOUR THOUGHTS. Ninety years ago, when Frank R. Paul painted his cities of the future, he didn’t include any bicycles at all. Now the BBC is asking — “Tomorrow’s Cities: Will the bike become an urban must-have?”
Fifteen years ago there were just four bike-sharing schemes in cities around the world, but now there are close to 1,000.
Most require you to pick up and leave a bike at a designated area, but new “dockless” schemes from China are coming to cities around the world – and proving controversial.
(16) THE MUMMY DIET. There’s a blog devoted to mummies, and Michele Brittany’s Musing on Mummies is up to “Episode 11: Sokushinbutsu and the Mummification Method Not Often Discussed”.
Ii-wey! Natural or intentional is usually what comes to mind when discussing the process of mummification. Certain environments, deserts, high altitudes or arid cold for example, will naturally dry the deceased, arresting the process of decay as a result. Intentional mummification requires human intervention after a person has died and most often, the Egyptian mummies come to mind. However, there is a third process that is not as well known.
Sokushinbutsu is a Japanese term that refers to a Buddhist mummy that remained incorrupt, or without decay after death….
(17) RADIO FREE BRADBURY. Listen to Ray Bradbury’s Tales of the Bizarre on BBC Radio 4. Four episodes are available online, with three more to come.
(18) NOT THIS WAY. “Astronaut Chris Hadfield says the rockets from NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin won’t take people to Mars” — Hadfield told Business Insider why he’s skeptical.
…NASA’s Space Launch System, which is slated to debut in the 2020s, will power its engines with a combination of liquid hydrogen and solid chemical fuels. Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, is also looking to use liquid hydrogen. SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is staking its future on burning liquid methane, which the company believes it can generate on the Martian surface.
Like other experts, Hadfield doesn’t doubt that any of the vehicles could actually get to Mars; his issue is about the safety of any humans on board. Explosions, radiation, starvation, and other problems would constantly threaten a mission.
“We could send people to Mars, and decades ago. I mean, the technology that took us to the moon back when I was just a kid, that technology can take us to Mars — but it would be at significant risk,” he said. “The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn’t make it. They’d die. Because the technology is still quite primitive.”
(19) EMMY TREK. Star Trek: Discovery submitted a long list of material to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in over 20 categories. The full list is available at the linked GoldDerby story: ”’Star Trek: Discovery’ Emmy Submissions: How Many Will it Win?”.
That post also links to a separate story showing Trek Emmy winners from the past series.
The original “Star Trek” series ran from 1966-1969 and didn’t win any Emmys, but it was nominated 13 times, including twice for Best Drama Series (1967-1968). “Star Trek: The Next Generation” followed two decades later and aired for seven seasons from 1987 to 1994, during which time it won a whopping 19 Emmys, all in Creative Arts categories. “TNG” struggled in top races, however, and wasn’t nominated for Best Drama Series until 1994 for its final season.
(20) DON’T QUIXOTE. Terry Gilliam’s tragedy-plagued project is still plagued but it may not be his anymore. Io9 reports: “Terry Gilliam Has Lost the Rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”.
Well, this is a strange new chapter in one of the strangest stories in modern film. For decades, famed genre director (and former Monty Python, uh, snake) Terry Gilliam struggled to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, his own surreal take on the classic Spanish novel. He succeeded, finally, with a rendition starring Adam Driver, and the film premiered this year at Cannes Film Festival.
Except, uh, apparently Terry Gilliam just lost the rights to it. Yes, that’s correct: as reported by Screen Rant, the Paris Court of Appeal just ruled in favor of the film’s former producer, Paulo Brancho, who sued for rights to the project on the grounds that Gilliam made the film illegally.
(21) OH NOOO…. When will they make an end? Comicbook.com is spreading the alarm, er, the — “Rumor: ‘Star Wars’ Actor Claims 9 Movies in Development, Including More ‘Story’ Stand-Alones”. Voice actor Tom Kane is said to have claimed there are nine Star Wars movies in some stage of development. Kane has provided voices for Star Wars video games (starting with Shadows of the Empire in 1996), TV shows (Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels), and several of the more recent movies (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi).
Only six of the projects are known:
Disney-owned Lucasfilm also has plans for fan-favorite Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and famed bounty hunter Boba Fett, who will reportedly receive his own stand-alone from 3:10 to Yuma and Logan director James Mangold.
Lucasfilm is also said to be developing an all-new trilogy under The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson, which will be unconnected to the Skywalker saga depicted in the episodic installments and set in an unexplored corner of the galaxy.
Johnson’s producer, Ram Bergman, recently gave an update on the “completely new trilogy,” saying, “It’s all new characters. Everything is new.” The project, he added, is “just in the early stages.”
Abrams’ Episode IX, Johnson’s planned three-movie series, and two new anthologies in Obi-Wan and Boba Fett make six, leaving three supposed projects on the docket.
[Thanks to Dann, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rob Thornton, Soon Lee, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]
(1) #METOO. Pat Cadigan opened up about her #metoo experiences in a public post on Facebook.
Heard Germaine Greer on BBC Radio 4 this morning, disparaging #metoo
Germaine should also talk about welding, engineering, astrophysics, and brain surgery, because she knows as much about them as #metoo
And just for the record: #metoo
I’ve talked about the first job I ever had after I graduated from high school. I lasted a week cold-calling people, trying to sell the photographic packages for a photography company. My supervisor was a woman struggling to be a single parent after her divorce. Her supervisor, who was onsite almost all the time literally chased me around the office, trying to get his hands on me.
When I complained to my supervisor, she said, “You better keep running, because if he catches you, it will be your fault.”…
(2) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED. National Air and Space Museum will mark the 50th Anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey with an immersive art exhibit celebrating the film’s impact on culture and technology.
This spring, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will host a special temporary exhibition of the immersive art installation “The Barmecide Feast,” a fully realized, full-scale reflection of the iconic, neo-classical hotel room from the penultimate scene of Stanley Kubrick’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s landmark film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Open to the public April 8 – May 28, the installation will be the centerpiece of the Museum’s celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary. Museum visitors will be able to enter the re-created room in small groups for short periods to experience the surreal environment depicted in the film. The public will get its first chance to see the installation as part of the Museum’s Yuri’s Night celebration, a ticketed, 21-and-over evening event presented with Brightest Young Things Saturday, April 7…
National Air and Space Society members will get a special sneak peak of the exhibition on April 5. There is no charge for this members-only event, but advance reservations are required.
(3) SIAM SOUVENIRS. A Filer’s relative actually attended the Siam Sinfonetta concert!
She said, “It was a great concert – ran about 3 hours. During the various pieces they had different characters wandering through the concert hall and sometimes lightsaber fighting. They all came out at the end (except the little ones who had probably already left to go home to bed).”
(4) STEM, STEP BY STEP. BBC reports a study: “Children drawing more women in science”, from 1% in 1960’s and 70’s to 28% today.
Children in the US are drawing more women scientists than in previous decades, according to a new study.
The “Draw A Scientist” test has been administered by sociologists in various studies since the 1960s.
Researchers at Northwestern University, US, analysed five decades of the test.
When asked to draw a scientist, less than one per cent of children in the 1960s and 1970s drew a woman. This rose to 28% between the 1980s and present day.
However, children are still far more likely to draw a traditionally male figure when asked to depict a scientist.
…Yet, the study highlights, by 2013 women were 49% of biological scientists, 35% of chemists, and 11% of physicists and astronomers in the United States.
(5) IN THE MIX. Camestros Felapton gives us a “Review: Black Lightning”.
I’m up to episode 8 of a 13 episode season and I think I can pull apart what I like and don’t like about it.
I’ll start negative. I don’t think it has yet managed to find the right mix of humour, gritty crime drama, family drama, superhero-antics. That’s not a surprise, as all superhero shows and movies struggle to find that sweet spot (and the right spot is going to vary among viewers). At times the show is quite violent (or suggestive of extreme violence) but within a show that feels more like it has been written for a more general audience. Like the Marvel Netflix shows, the central character regularly beats up criminals to get information but unlike those shows, the behaviour feels at odds with Black Lightning’s non-superhero persona.
However, there is also a lot to like about this show. The central character, Jefferson Pierce, is unusual for a superhero. He is an older man with a successful career as a high school principal. He has a family and responsibilities and ‘Black Lightning’ is something from his past. By having him as a superhero who is coming out of retirement (due to gang violence initially) is a clever way of avoiding a protracted origin story, while giving viewers an introduction to the character. We have not, as yet, been given an explanation for the source of his electrical powers – although there are hints in a subplot around the death of his journalist father some years ago.
(6) SENSITIVITY. The Washington Post’s Everdeen Mason looks at how Keira Drake changed her forthcoming Harlequin Teen novel The Continent in response to sensitivity readers, which included changing the name of one clan from “Topi” to “Xoe” to remove any comparisons to the Hopi, making another clan less Asian-looking, and eliminating “savage,” “primitive,” and “native” from the text. The article includes many examples contrasting the original and revised text.
Drake and Wilson maintain that the book was never supposed to be about race. “The main theme of ‘The Continent’ is how privilege allows us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others,” Drake said in a phone interview in February.
Wilson explained that when she originally edited the novel, she was looking for potential problems with pacing, plot and dialogue. “I was simply not thinking about things like racial stereotypes,” she said. “It’s almost mortifying to say that because it was so blatantly obvious when it was pointed out.”
The Washington Post compared the old advance copy with a newly revised copy received in 2018 and spoke with Drake about changes she made.
(7) BLOCK AROUND THE CLOCK. The Paris Review quotes Ray Bradbury: “On Writer’s Block: Advice from Twelve Writers”.
“I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!” —Ray Bradbury
(8) PARTY MAVEN. The website Gastro Obscura records Stephen Hawking’s champagne-laden effort to prove whether time travel exists or not:
It was a little unusual that when he threw a party in 2009, not a single guest attended.
A film of the event depicts a dismal cocktail party. Three trays of canapes sit uneaten, and flutes filled with Krug champagne go untouched. Balloons decorate the walls, and a giant banner displays the words “Welcome, Time Travellers.”
…By publishing the party invitation in his mini-series Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking, Hawking hoped to lure futuristic time travelers. You are cordially invited to a reception for Time Travellers, the invitation read, along with the the date, time, and coordinates for the event. The theory, Hawking explained, was that only someone from the future would be able to attend.
(9) COOLEY OBIT. Texas fan Earl Cooley III died March 20, his sister announced on Facebook:
I am Earl’s sister, Dot Cooley. Earl left this world early this morning. He moved back to the San Antonio area 3 years ago when his health started getting worse and because of that Earl got to spend so much more time with me and our brother, Paul. Mom recently discovered Skype, so she got to visit with him more. We would love for you to share any thoughts or stories with us. Rock on ArmadilloCon!
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- John King Tarpinian encountered a Biblical joke in Shoe.
(11) MARVEL AT MOPOP. The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle unveiled the official poster artwork for its upcoming exhibition Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes.
Designed by Marvel artist Nick Bradshaw, the illustration depicts some of the most iconic characters created during Marvel’s nearly 80 year history including Spider-Man, Thor, Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, and others. Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes is the first and most extensive exhibition celebrating the visual and cultural impact of Marvel Entertainment. The exhibition will debut at MoPOP on April 21, 2018. Tickets are on sale now at MoPOP.org.
Organized by the Museum of Pop Culture, SC Exhibitions and Marvel Entertainment, Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes will feature more than 300 original artifacts, including some of Marvel’s most iconic and sought-after pages, costumes and props, many of which have never-before been seen by the public. The exhibition will tell the Marvel story through comics, film and other media, taking place as it celebrates 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and ahead of the 80th anniversary in 2019. The exhibition will trace the story of the company and its influence on visual culture – including how it’s responded to historical events and addressed wider issues such as gender, race and mental illness – as well as uncovering the narratives of individual characters such as Captain America, Spider-Man, Black Panther and Doctor Strange. Immersive set pieces will bring the comic book world to life, and the exhibition will be accompanied by an immersive soundscape created by acclaimed composers Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer.
(12) DO-IT-YOURSELF. Lucy A. Snyder’s satirical “Installing Linux on a Dead Badger: User’s Notes” appeared on Strange Horizons in 2004, but it’s news to me. Very funny!
Reanimation puts most creatures in a foul mood, and the test badger woke up murderously angry, requiring a hasty launch of FleshGolem to get the beast under control. It is highly recommended to have the computer close at hand during the incantation.
(13) VACUUMING UP THE BITS. Via today’s Boston Globe: “Data storage beyond the clouds: Wasabi promises a super-secure system in space”. “…Which sure sounds like the start of a ‘what where they thinking/yeah sure’ techno-heist thriller,” says Daniel Dern.
In space, no one can steal your data.
Well, that’s the theory, anyway — one that the Boston data storage company Wasabi Technologies Inc. hopes to help prove.
Wasabi is partnering with a California company to create a database from outer space. The system, called SpaceBelt, will feature orbiting data centers capable of storing thousands of terabytes of information. SpaceBelt will be marketed to businesses and corporations that need instant access to their most valuable data, but who are also desperate to keep that data from being stolen or corrupted.
(14) ALL STROSS CONSIDERED. Joe Sherry describes a mixed bag in “Microreview [book]: Dark State, by Charles Stross” at Nerds of a Feather.
My experience of reading Charles Stross is a persistent struggle between the quality of his ideas and my perception of the quality of his writing, which is to say that I seldom find that the writing lives up to the promise of the ideas.
When I wrote about Empire Games (my review), I noted “the level of Stross’s writing is actually beginning to rise to the level of his ideas” and that once Stross got the story rolling, nothing distracted from the cool ideas of the world walking between the worlds we’ve already known and the opening up of new worlds and the drama of the how the United States interacts with the world walkers from a parallel universe.
Dark State picks up almost immediately after the conclusion of Empire Games, and despite the increasingly breakneck pace of the second half of that novel, Dark State suffers from some of the same issues that Empire Games did. Stross spends at least a third of Dark State resetting the playing field and planting the seeds for where the rest of the novel and trilogy will go. That’s fine, as far as narrative conventions go, but Stross is not at his best as a writer when working with a more deliberate pace.
(15) CHARACTER IN CRISIS. Adrienne Martini reviews The Genius Plague by David Walton at Locus Online.
In Walton’s hands, what could be a straightforward “we must save humanity with science” thriller (not that there’s anything wrong with that), becomes, at times, a meditation on what makes us human and why that alone is a survival advantage. Those moments offer a chance to catch your breath before the next calamity, some of which our hero brings on himself. Walton makes Neil into a layered character, one who is frequently torn between family bonds and saving the world – and, frequently, making the situation worse because he is still working out that other people are also torn by their own layers. He’s also still learning that NSA security is never f-ing around.
(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was gazing at the tube during Jeopardy! and spotted this stfnal clue:
Answer: “Kardashians are reality TV stars; Cardassians are an alien culture in this sci-fi universe.”
No one got the question, “What is Star Trek”?
(17) YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE. You can now get to Gotham City, the Emerald City, Neverland, Middle Earth, and other places via roundabouts on the A4130 in Didcot, Oxfordshire reports the BBC.
A county council statement read, in part:
“We will investigate as soon as the weather improves. While on the surface amusing, it is vandalism and a potential distraction for drivers.”
The story also mentions:
Local resident Charlotte Westgate said she saw a hooded man in his 20s adding “Gotham City” to a sign on Friday afternoon.
She said: “He was on his own, and didn’t seem worried that anyone might be looking at him, but no one driving past did anything to stop him.”
(18) BARRAYAR BOY. Miles Vorkosigan posted the lyrics to “Dendarii’s Privateers” on Facebook. The first verse is —
Oh the year was 2978
(How I wish I’d stayed on Barrayar!)
When I flunked my military test
By breaking my legs, as I do best
(19) HOW IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN PLAYED FOR LAUGHS. From the folks at HISHE, “A Comedy Recap / Review of Pacific Rim voiced by How It Should Have Ended.”
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and MT Davis for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]
(1) THE RIGHT STUFF, WITH A NEW WRINKLE.
Taylor Richardson, a14-year-old aspiring astronaut just raised more than enough money to send 1,000 girls to see “A Wrinkle in Time.” pic.twitter.com/xwnRLGGBNZ
— Black Girl Magic ? (@BlackGirlMagix) February 13, 2018
Most of you may remember that at just 9 years old I raised funds via GoFundMe to attend my first Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama and that one day I will be an astronaut, scientist and an engineer. Since then outlets like GoFundMe not only help my STEM dreams come true but others as well. Just this year through GoFundMe I raised over $20,000 to send over a 1000 girls to see the movie Hidden Figures because it was important to me that girls know that with drive, determination, and hard work you be anything, a scientist, a mathematician, an engineer, an astronaut or maybe the President of the United States even when the odds are against you!
I am 14 now and using my voice to not only bring girls of color to STEM/STEAM but all kids all over the U.S. and abroad.
I’m so excited about the upcoming movie A Wrinkle in Time, which is scheduled to come out spring 2018.
My goal is to send a 1000 girls to see this movie.
Why? I have a lot of reasons but the main ones are:
- It shows young, black girls deserving a chance to be a part of the scifi cultural canon.
- It has a female protagonist in a science fiction film. A brown girl front and center who looks like me in the role of Meg, a girl traveling to different planets and encountering beings and situations that I’d never seen a girl of color in.
- Most impressive and importantly, it’s a fantasy film that is not about some white boys fighting evil, but about a black girl overcoming it.
Thanks to donors, including a $10,000 gift from JJ Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath, the goal has been exceeded. Richardson says that any funds raised above what is needed for the movie event will go to projects, events, and scholarships to bring diversity and gender equality to the STEM field.
(2) ELIMINATING CONFUSION. The opening weekend of Marvel’s Black Panther film has unsurprisingly been marked by attacks and trolling. No sooner had the screenings started, says Lauren Rearick at Teen Vogue, than posts began appearing on social media claiming that white people who attended showings of the movie were being attacked by black people.
The social media posts in question have used images from previous acts of violence that have absolutely nothing to do with the film. Among the photos being used include a woman who was attacked at a bar in Sweden last month, and Colbie Holderness, ex-wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter who recently opened up about alleged domestic abuse.
People on social media are fighting back against the false claims by sharing links to Teen Vogue and other articles documenting the fake photos.
Trolls have also been targeting theatres showing the film, determined to set them straight about the fictional nature of the film:
— Hollywood Palms Cinema (@HollywoodPalms) February 16, 2018
Variety reported that Black Panther’s box office take after Thursday and Friday reached almost $76 million, marking the eighth-highest opening day ever, and third largest for Marvel, according to comScore.
(3) GIVE THE SHOGGOTH A TIME HUG. Dr. Janelle Shane, whose work with neural networks turned loose on generating Harry Potter fiction, Dungeons & Dragons game scripts, and Christmas Carols has previously featured on File 770, last week set her twisted brainchild to composing Candy Heart messages, using messages taken from real candy as input. The neural network not only uses words it is fed, but it creates what it thinks are similar words to use in its results as well. Some of the stranger romantic messages it generated:
TWEET UP BAT
LOVE 2000 HOGSYEA
YOU ARE BOA
Dr. Shane adds:
There was yet another category of message, a category you might be able to predict given the prevalence of four-letter words in the original dataset. The neural network thought of some nice new four-letter words to use. Unfortunately, some of those words already had other meanings. Let’s just say that the overall effect was surprisingly suggestive. Fill out the form here and I’ll send them to you.
(4) ORIGIN STORY. Oor Wombat has revealed the possible inspiration for her Hugo Whalefall speech:
When I was about nine, my mother decided to improve my mind by reading me the classics. She got about three chapters into Moby Dick and had to stop because I was terrified the whale would get hurt. https://t.co/mUMko3bWEk
— The Wombat Resists (@UrsulaV) February 14, 2018
(5) DELIBERATELY SCUTTLED. Barnes and Noble appears to be scaling back operations, as a prelude to a complete shutdown. But the ship didn’t sink on its own, says blogger audreyii_fic in “The entirely unnecessary demise of Barnes & Noble”:
On Monday morning, every single Barnes & Noble location – that’s 781 stores – told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers (those are the people responsible for handling the money), the receiving managers (the people responsible for bringing in product and making sure it goes where it should), the digital leads (the people responsible for solving Nook problems), the newsstand leads (the people responsible for distributing the magazines), and the bargain leads (the people responsible for keeping up the massive discount sections)…
We’re not talking post-holiday culling of seasonal workers. This was the Red Wedding. Every person laid off was a full-time employee. These were people for whom Barnes & Noble was a career. Most of them had given 5, 10, 20 years to the company. In most cases it was their sole source of income.
There was no warning.
But it gets worse…
The Barnes & Noble executives do not intend to rebuild.
How do I know this? Because every decision from the upper levels is being made solely to increase cash on hand.
(6) HOPES DASHED. Benjamin C. Kinney, whose essays on neuroscience have been featured on File 770 in the past, relates a tale of woe in “The Story that Never Was”:
I hit a writer milestone yesterday, though a sad one it is. You see, about a month ago, I had another short story accepted at a professional SFF magazine! I was just waiting on the contract to make it official, and then tell you all about my delightful Fairy Gentrification story. The eldritch diner with the portal between worlds was torn down for condos years ago – but there’s one last fairy chevalier stranded in this world, seeking out the owners’ son.
But, alas, it is not to be. Because the magazine has died, with my story in its casket.
The publication in question, PerVisions, has been defending a trademark suit against their original name, Persistent Visions, by an animation production company of the same name, and according to Publisher Christophe Pettus in a story on Locus Online:
The core reason for us having to stop accepting work is that our budget for acquisitions was largely consumed by a long and unpleasant dispute over the name of the publication. Although the other party was not in the publishing industry and we had no intention of causing any confusion with their services, ultimately, it became clear that no compromise except changing the name of the journal was possible.
Sadly, working through that legal issue was very expensive, and consumed our available capital. I would not ask to publish material that I could not pay a decent rate for, and keeping authors in suspense while the future of the journal is decided is not fair to them.
The website will remain live, so that stories they previously published will be preserved.
(7) BELIEVE IT OR NOT. Deadline reports that the 80s TV series The Greatest American Hero is getting a reboot:
With New Girl coming to an end, series’ co-star Hannah Simone has been tapped for the title role in ABC’s single-camera comedy pilot The Greatest American Hero, from the Fresh Off the Boat duo of Rachna Fruchbom and Nahnatchka Khan. In the reimagining with a gender switch of Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic, the unlikely (super)hero at the center, played by William Katt in the original, is being reconceived as an Indian-American woman.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 13, 2018
(8) STANDLEE STILL, STAY SILENT. Kevin Standlee has announced that he will not be adding any Hugo recommendations to the Bay Area Science Fiction Association’s list this year:
I’m not making any Hugo Award recommendations this year. As one of the members of this year’s Hugo Awards Administration Subcommittee, I don’t want my own personal preferences being seen as trying to influence anything. But BASFA continues with its practice of meeting to discuss works/people they think are Award-worthy… if you go to BASFA’s web site, you should see a link to this year’s recommendations. Or you can just download the 2018 BASFA Hugo recommendations PDF directly.
(9) NO ROOM AT THE INN. GenCon attendees with accessibility needs report that this year’s hotel room reservation system is unable to allocate ADA accessible rooms online, and that fans have to wait up to 2 weeks to hear if they have an ADA room. Meanwhile, the hotel room blocks continue to be sold online to other members, and hotels which run out of regular rooms are apparently assigning their ADA rooms to online registrants instead of holding them back for accessibility applicants.
Maria Turner: IMPORTANT PSA:
Housing will no longer be allowed to be traded to avoid cancellation fees.
AND people requesting ADA rooms may not get confirmation they actually got an ADA room for TWO WEEKS!!! This is totally unacceptable. Totally. I am awaiting a response from Gen Con on this matter.
Todd Bunt: I am sad today. My friend a disabled veteran cannot get a room this year since there were no ADA room reserved. He has a hard time walking but the only room he can get is 10 miles away. Last years he got an ADA room in one of the hotels attached to the convention center. (t made it easy for him to go to the room to rest during the day. He was looking forward to going to GenCon this year but that was taken from him. Maybe next year they can hold some ADA rooms for those that need the help.
Daniel Lagos: Has anyone who needed an ADA room at any hotel in the Gencon block, who called and got the answering machine for the call center, actually gotten a call back yet?
I had an 8:44pm time for getting a room, and I left my information in my message. So far, I haven’t gotten a call yet. (more comments follow)
Doug Triplett: Arrrgh. I tried to call the ada line and they shut it off. Said it wasn’t working this weekend. Anyone else had an issue with that today. And in the portal the closest hotel is at least 10 miles away. This sucks!
Miriam Breslauer: NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!
Gencon set my housing request time to 10:28 pm. Because I need an ADA room I had to call them. There was no one there, because it was outside business hours! WTF! I am beyond pissed. Hopefully, they just call me back tomorrow and there are magically still some rooms left.
Not cool Gencon. Not cool at all.
Maria Turner: Does anyone know where one submits an ADA complaint re the hotel reservation process icw a major convention?…
What is wrong with the process is the way the search criteria is processed.
1) ADA requirement is not a component of the housing acquisition query screen
2) Hotels with all available rooms are returned as available
3) it is not until a person goes to a hotel returned from the initial query that one requests an ADA room with no idea if there is even one available at that hotel or not
4) No one will confirm for me if hotels are selling ADA rooms to non-ADA attendees as current law provides if there is demand that exceeds their supply of non-ADA rooms
5) ADA attendees wait up to two weeks to receive confirmation that their reservation for the room and/or hotel they requested is accepted
6) non-ADA attendees receive confirmation immediately their reservation was accepted.
7) ADA attendees may be moved to other hotels
I’ve been back and forth with Mike Boozer regarding the process, and he’s unresponsive citing supply and demand when that’s not the issue.
All the people I know who have obtained ADA rooms have had to do so out of block. I’m not paying $770/night at the JW, so we’ll likely be commuting if we don’t get a room via Authors/Artists housing block this weekend.
ADA Room checkbox needs to sit on that initial screen, the available hotels list returned should be only hotels with ADA room availability.
Thus far, there do not appear to be any posts on Gencon’s Facebook page which address the situation.
(10) ECLECTIC LADY. Janelle Monáe, who starred in the Hugo-nominated Hidden Figures as well as releasing Afrofuturist music albums The ArchAndroid, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), and The Electric Lady (which was nominated for a Tiptree Award in 2014) has announced a new SFFnal album Dirty Computer:
Janelle Monáe has confirmed early details of her follow up to 2013 album The Electric Lady. Titled Dirty Computer, the album currently has no release date but a trailer starring Monáe alongside actress Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Annihilation) can be seen below.
- Born February 17, 1912 – Andre Norton, Author (Beastmaster, Witch World)
- Born February 17, 1925 – Hal Holbrook, Actor (Capricorn One, Creepshow)
- Born February 17, 1954 – Rene Russo, Actor (The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Thor)
- Born February 17, 1981 – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Actor (Inception, Looper)
- Born February 17, 1991 – Bonnie Wright, Actor (Harry Potter)
(12) WALKAWAY GONE WALKABOUT. Cory Doctorow, author of 2017’s Walkaway, will be doing a Down Under book tour for the novel starting next week, with stops in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide in Australia, and Wellington in New Zealand. Perhaps he’ll wave to Camestros as he passes through Aberdeen.
(13) MOUNT TSUNDOKU, IN 12 PARTS. Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics features a story which may sound familiar to many Filers: My Bookshelf
(14) A NOVEL WAY TO DEAL WITH MARKETING SPAM.
I may have an actual problem.
Still, I like to think I brightened and/or darkened a spammer’s day. pic.twitter.com/a3R7ijck39
— T. R. Darling (@QuietPineTrees) February 8, 2018
(15) RE-VISITING A… ER, CLASSIC? According to SyFy, a feature film version of the TV series “V” is in the works:
Desilu Studios has announced it’s going to bring V The Movie, based on the classic 1983 miniseries, to theaters in a big-budget film version that will be written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, creator of the original show.
The two-part miniseries aired on NBC in 1983 and chronicled an invasion of Earth by vicious reptilian aliens who disguised themselves as friendly humanoids, triggering a human resistance movement. A metaphor for revolution against a fascist government, V was hugely popular with audiences, spawning a 1984 sequel, V: The Final Battle, a short-lived 1985 show called V: The Series, and a 2009 reboot that lasted for two seasons on ABC.
Casting, production details, and a release date for V The Movie are all yet to be determined.
(16) MORE YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. This time out, James Davis Nicoll has them reading Tanith Lee’s horror story “The Gorgon”, and the reactions cross the whole spectrum, from “intriguing and mysterious” to “annoying and racist”, with some bonus commentary on imprudent alcohol consumption.
(17) THE NO AWARD AWARD. In the February 2, 2018, issue of the Times Literary Supplement, J.C. says:
In early December, we stumbled on a blog at the Paris Review Daily site, written by Ursula K. Le Guin, on the subject of one of our most coveted awards, the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal. It is open to any writer who has refused a literary prize.
“I first learned about the Sartre Prize from NB”, Ms Le Guin wrote, “the last page of London’s Times Literary Supplement, signed by J.C. The fame of the award, named for the writer who refused the Nobel in 1964, is or anyhow should be growing fast.” Ms Le Guin flattered us further by quoting from a past NB: “So great is the status of the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal that writers all over Europe and America are turning down awards in the hope of being nominated for a Sartre”. As we noted at the time, and Ms Le Guin repeated it, “The Sartre Prize itself has never been refused”…
Ursula Le Guin died on January 22, aged eighty-eight. She left us with an idea, however: “I do hope you will recommend me to the Basement Labyrinth so that I can refuse to be even nominated, thus earning the Pre-Refusal of Awards Award, which has yet to be named”. It has a name now: The Ursula K. Le Guin Prize, for writers who refuse shortlisting, longlisting and any other form of nomination for literary prizes. The essay, “A Much Needed Literary Award”, is included in her final book, No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters, published in December last year.
(18) MARKET REPORT. David Steffen has compiled the “SFWA Market Report for February” for the SFWA Blog, listing those publications which are opening or closing for submissions.
(19) STROSS SHOUTS AT CLOUDS. Not every SF work needs to conform to strict worldbuilding standards, writes Cora Buhlert “In Defence of Wallpaper Science Fiction”:
A few days ago, Paul Weimer pointed me on Twitter to this post by Charles Stross in which Stross laments the current state of the science fiction genre, because a lot of SF writers these days focus more on plot, action, characters and their relationships than on worldbuilding, particularly on economics, which is the aspect of worldbuilding that is closest to Stross’ heart.
Whenever Stross posts a variation of this “other people are doing science fiction wrong” rant, it inevitably gets my hackles up…
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a kernel of truth in Stross’ post. Because all too often, things show up in science fiction, just because “that’s the way things are”, whether in genre or life, regardless if this makes sense in this particular setting. The prevalence of Galactic Empires vaguely modeled on the Roman or British Empire in science fiction is a result of tropes being imported from other genre works unexamined, as is the fact that every future military ever is either modelled on the US Marine Corps of the 20th/21st centuries or the British Royal Navy of the 18th and 19th centuries and that every starship is modelled on a modern aircraft carrier…
So if all that Stross’ post did was implore science fiction writers to interrogate their worldbuilding choices and ask themselves “Why did I choose this?” and “Does this even make sense for the world that I built and if not, how can I make it fit?”, I would probably have heartily applauded. However, that’s not all he does.
(20) THE PUNCH LINE. So an SFF writer, a zombie, and a cat walk into a bar…
And she said, "hey, yeah, if a Hugo Award winner wants to send me a Zombie Cat story, I want to see it."
— Naomi Kritzer (@NaomiKritzer) February 15, 2018
(21) THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS. A Kickstarter has gone live for Tiny Wastelands, a post-apocalyptic RPG, and it’s already blown way past its goal in the first few days, racking up $22,906 in pledges against its original goal of $6,000.
Tiny Wastelands is post-apocalyptic roleplaying in a minimalist package! Using the rules in this book, you’ll be able to play survivors of lost and destroyed civilizations, mutants rampaging the wastelands and so, so much more.
Stretch goals include additional micro-settings for the game written by various authors, including this one already achieved:
$14,000: Paul Weimer takes us to High Plains Drift!
“The High Plains of the Dakotas are wide, flat, and deadly. Between the mutant prairie dogs, what lurks in the minuteman silos, and the farmers turned bandits who have adapted farm tractors to war vehicles, survival on the plains is nasty, brutish and short.
What makes it unique? Farm Tractor war vehicles, mutant wildlife and endless horizons in a hardscrabble world.”
(22) WHICH CAME FIRST? Hampus Eckerman believes that Filers will enjoy this SFF film short from 2016:
[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, Cora Buhlert, Hampus Eckerman, lauowolf, PJ Evans, RedWombat, Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]
(1) STAR EXPLAINER. The New York Times profiles sf fan favorite Brother Guy Consolmagno in “Searching for the (Star) Light at the Vatican Observatory”.
Some 2,000 years ago, a celestial phenomenon is believed to have lit up the sky. Guiding the wise men of New Testament lore to the birthplace of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem has since become a planetarium and Christmas carol favorite.
What that star might have been — a comet, supernova, or the conjunction of planets, let alone whether it ever existed — is one of the recurring questions that Brother Guy Consolmagno is called on to answer even though, he noted dryly, “it has nothing to do with our work as scientists at the Vatican Observatory.”
“Too often people get distracted by the Star and forget to look at the Child! And yet I also have to admit I feel a certain joy in the story, and a joy that this story has been so popular for so many people over the centuries,” said Brother Consolmagno, since 2015, the director of La Specola Vaticana (which translates as Vatican Observatory). “Of course, we have no idea what Matthew was writing about. It doesn’t matter!”
The observatory is the only Vatican institution that does scientific research, and Brother Consolmagno, a former physics professor and later-in-life Jesuit, is the public face of an institution whose work “is to show the world that the church supports science.”
(2) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. And here’s what you can look forward to if you keep watching the skies – “Astronomy Calendar For 2018”
(3) TRACKING SANTA. It wasn’t an unlisted number after this happened: “NORAD’s Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport”.
This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup’s secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.
Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.
Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.
“This was the ’50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,” Rick says.
The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ”
His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.
“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.”
(4) DIAGNOSIS GRINCH. The Washington Post’s Susan Svrluga, in “The Grinch needs a good cardiologist, and other holiday stories explained by scientists”, interviews area scientists who answer scientific questions posed by fictional works, such as why Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s nose glows. (It could be because Santa’s sleigh crash-landed into the Red Sea and Rudolph got doused in glowing coral.) Among the scientists interviewed was Johns Hopkins medical school cardiologist Dr. David Kass, who argues the reason why the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes in a day after he pigs out on Whoville food is that the Grinch is a snake and snake’s hearts expand after big meals.
(5) THE PERMANENT CAMPAIGN. Charles Stross, jockeying to keep his series eligible for a future year where he thinks there will be more UK voters to back him, asks —
Please do not nominate the Laundry Files for the best series Hugo award in 2018.
(Explanation below the cut.)
The rules for the best series Hugo award stipulate:
Previous losing finalists in the Best Series category shall beeligible only upon the publication of at least two (2) additional installments consisting in total of at least 240,000 words after they qualified for their last appearance on the final ballot and by the close of the previous calendar year.
This means that if series X is shortlisted in 2018 and loses, it won’t be eligible again until two more installments amounting to 240,000 words have been published in a subsequent year.
There is a significantly better chance of either series winning the award at a British—or Irish—worldcon, such as the one in Dublin in 2019, simply because the worldcon attendees will include more of my UK readers. However, a nomination in 2018 would probably lose (there are plenty of very good series works by American authors: consider Max Gladstone or Seanan McGuire, for example) and thereby disqualify me from eligibility in 2019.
(6) NOT TOO LATE. If you didn’t already get the gift you wanted this holiday season, maybe you can fill the void with the “Star Wars R2-D2 Coffee Press”. Or not – I keep visualizing giving R2 a sinus headache every time…
(7) OBITUARY. Heather Menzies-Urich (1949-2017), best known for portraying Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 film The Sound of Music, died December 24 at the age of 68. Her main genre credit was starring as Jessica 6 in the TV series Logan’s Run (1977-78). She had an uncredited role in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969); other genre appearances include Sssssss (1973), The Six Million Dollar Man (one episode, 1977), Piranha (1978), Captain America (1979), Endangered Species (1982).
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
- December 25, 1980 — Altered States first premiered in theatres.
- December 25, 1999 – Galaxy Quest opened.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- December 25, 1924 – Rod Serling
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Cat Eldridge found a full buffet of seasonal, stfnal comics in “Sunday Comics: Naughty Or Nice”. (I especially liked Awkward Zombie.)
(11) NAUGHTY. The Guardian’s research shows Home Alone atop the pyramid — “Data sketch: the most pirated Christmas movies”. It’s A Wonderful Life is listed, too – I thought it was in public domain now?
(12) CHIANG OP-ED REBUTTED. Tech Crunch’s Jon Evans mounts a defense: “Ted Chiang is a genius, but he’s wrong about Silicon Valley”.
Ted Chiang isn’t just one of the greatest science-fiction writers alive — he’s one of the greatest writers alive full stop. Which is why I was so saddened and disappointed by his recent excoriation of Silicon Valley in BuzzFeed. As the tech industry grows ever more powerful, we need brilliant minds critiquing and dissecting its many flaws. Instead we got a trenchant takedown of a Valley that only exists in the minds of especially shallow journalists.
To be clear, his larger point is dead on: that being that the worry about an AI which maximizes for the wrong thing, most famously one which is told to make paperclips and responds by turning the entire planet into paperclips, is a worry which applies perfectly and exactly to capitalism itself.
…But the thing Chiang doesn’t get is: Silicon Valley is actually not a home of paperclip capitalism. That’s Wall Street. That’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man-style neoliberal globalization. That’s not the tech industry. The Valley is a flawed and sometimes terrible place, true, but it’s a nuanced sometimes flawed and terrible place.
(13) WATER IS COMING. I don’t know if it would melt the Wall, but it wouldn’t do any good to the rest of the world — “This is what global warming would do to the ‘Game of Thrones’ planet”.
The warring inhabitants of Westeros — one of the four known continents in the Game of Thrones world — dread the planet’s long, unforgiving winters. But a global warming event there, stoked by an influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, would likely be even more dire.
Earlier this week, University of Bristol climate scientist Dan Lunt published a study that modeled the doubling of carbon dioxide on the Game of Thrones fantasy world. His results show that if these levels doubled over the course of a century, the average temperature on the planet would warm by over 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.5 Fahrenheit. This climatic shift would make some areas nearly uninhabitable and unleash devastating natural disasters.
(14) A TOM LEHRER HOLIDAY. Mr. Sci-Fi renders the Science Fiction Christmas Song (recorded in 2014.)
Sci-Fi Ubergeek Marc Zicree sings Tom Lehrer’s Christmas song as great science fiction Christmas images from 1950s Galaxy Magazine and other sources flash by. Marc just recorded this song for Coast to Coast AM’s Christmas Album, with proceeds going to charity.
(15) THE DARTH VADER YULE LOG. A seasonal tradition (since 2015).
Gather the younglings for a centuries old family tradition the Darth Vader Yule Log. Sith Lords will be roasting on an open fire, as you sit back an enjoy some holiday classics.
[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, and Steve Green for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]