As More Issues Raised, RWA President Resigns, RITA Awards Postponed, and Many Publishers Withdraw Sponsorship of RWA Conference

[This is the fifth update in a series which includes “Courtney Milan Suspended by RWA, Banned from Leadership”, “Courtney Milan Controversy Decimates RWA Leadership”, “As Criticism Snowballs, RWA Keeps Trying to Justify Treatment of Courtney Milan”, and “Kathryn Davis Says RWA Encouraged Her To File Ethics Complaint Against Courtney Milan”.]

Amid the continuing social media backlash galvanized by RWA’s decision to impose penalties on Courtney Milan, Damon Suede is out as President of Romance Writers of America and staff member Carolyn Ritter has tendered her resignation, the RITA Awards have been set aside for this year, and a host of publishers have pulled their sponsorship of RWA’s annual conference.

TURNOVER. Damon Suede, then RWA President Elect, succeeded Carolyn Jewel in December when she resigned as President.

Citing its “disagreement with the malicious actions, which lacked due process that were taken against RWA member Ms. Courtney Milan,” the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Chapter of Romance Writers of America (CIMRWA) on December 26 called for the resignation of Suede and RWA staff member Executive Director Carol Ritter. And by December 31 they had gathered over 1000 signatures and submitted a petition to recall Suede from office.

Courtney Milan also listed experiences with Suede she believed showed his unfitness for office.  

Carol Ritter joined RWA in 2008, first as RWA’s professional relations manager, and then as deputy executive director. In November she moved up to Executive Director.

Today RWA announced that Suede and Ritter have resigned.

Damon has offered his resignation, effective immediately, and the Board has accepted it.  Damon, who has served on the RWA Board of Directors since 2015, as President-Elect from September 2019 through late December 2019, and then as President for the past two weeks, has been a passionate advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion issues for his entire life.  We thank Damon for his service and wish him all the best in the future.  

The Board of Directors has made a decision to not immediately fill the office of President while the Board – working transparently with its membership – determines an appropriate recruitment and selection process. 

The Board also has accepted the resignation of RWA Executive Director Carol Ritter, who has decided to step down from the role she assumed in November.  Carol, who has been a steady senior member of RWA management for well over a decade, has offered to stay on over the coming months to support a smooth transition to new staff leadership; the Board has accepted this offer.  Carol has been instrumental in keeping the operations of RWA running and we are deeply grateful to her for the commitment and leadership she has brought to our association.  The Board will appoint an interim Executive Director upon Carol’s departure and will form a search committee to identify Carol’s permanent replacement.

STUD PLANET PROBE. One of the most unexpected issues to surface before Suede resigned was the challenge to his basic eligibility for office. Did he really have the five published books he needed to be eligible to become President-Elect? One researcher said it looked like he only had four books —  

Did Stud Planet exist? Was it a qualifying book? Courtney Milan asked:

The research has suggested Suede’s qualifications were unconvincing. Courtney Milan tweeted some information here and  here, and wrote another thread here. Adrienne also dug into Dreamspinner’s publication announcements on the Wayback Machine and did not find evidence for the book at the time it supposedly came out (see here).  

Chuck Tingle was happy to get in the last word.

Speaking of Chuck Tingle, he noticed that the RWA apparently didn’t buy up the obvious alternate URLs. So he bought https://www.romancewritersofamerica.com and has created a parody site there. The test for applicants to the Board is brutally funny.

OTHER RESIGNATIONS. The RWA announced that Secretary Donna Alward and Director at Large Barbara Wallace and Director at Large Renee Ryan, all resigned from the Board effective January 8.

PUBLISHERS PULL SUPPORT FROM RWA CONFERENCE. RWA2020 is scheduled to be held in San Francisco from July 29 – August 1. However, many sponsors have been pulling out.

Publishers Weekly reported as of January 9 these publishers and imprints have announced they won’t support the conferece:

As of this morning, publishers including Avon, Berkley Romance, Entangled, HarperCollins Canada and Harlequin, Kensington, St. Martin’s, Gallery Books, and Tule Publishing have all pulled support from the RWA and the national conference, and a tweet citing an email allegedly sent by Sourcebooks says that that house will also not support the conference. The statements all cite increasing diversity and/or inclusion in publishing as a priority, as well as condemning recent events at the RWA.

Harlequin’s statement, released January 8, is representative of the reasons being given: “Letter to RWA Board of Directors”.

…As a leading global publisher of romance fiction that is committed to diversity and inclusion, we at Harlequin believe it is important that all authors feel included, respected and heard. Recently reported actions by RWA leadership have therefore led us to decide not to sponsor or attend the RWA2020 national conference. We will reevaluate our participation in 2021 as the organization works with its members to address concerns that have been raised.

Courtney Milan takes it all with a grain of salt:

The New York Times’ January 8 roundup of RWA developments notes —  

The event, held annually in the summer since the 1980s, typically attracts about 2,000 attendees. It is a major source of revenue for the R.W.A. as well as a key networking opportunity for romance writers, agents and editors looking for new talent.

…According to HelenKay Dimon, a former R.W.A. president, the departure of so many major romance publishers is a major blow to the organization. “RWA plans conferences years in advance,” she said in an email, adding that both Avon and Harlequin are major sponsors — “tens of thousands of dollars worth” — and that losing them will likely have a “cascading effect” in terms of the authors and editors who attend.

RWA CANCELS RITA AWARDS. The “Status of the 2020 RITA Contest” announces the RITA awards have also become casualties of the organization’s internecine strife. Reminiscent of how the Nobel Prize for Literature was handled, the RWA says two years’ awards will be given in 2021.

Due to recent events in RWA, many in the romance community have lost faith in RWA’s ability to administer the 2020 RITA contest fairly, causing numerous judges and entrants to cancel their participation. The contest will not reflect the breadth and diversity of 2019 romance novels/novellas and thus will not be able to fulfill its purpose of recognizing excellence in the genre. For this reason, the Board has voted to cancel the contest for the current year. The plan is for next year’s contest to celebrate 2019 and 2020 romances.

Members who entered the 2020 contest will be refunded their full entry fee by January 22, 2020. We extend our deep appreciation to the judges who volunteered their time this year.

JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS. The controversy has gained a lot of attention from mainstream news, prompting Linda Holmes to offer advice to anyone covering it. Thread starts here.

RWA FORUMS. People are recommending standards for the RWA forums, too – aimed at a different set of problems.

Beverly Jenkins

Alyssa Day and Carrie Lomax

DISSENTING VOICE. Meanwhile, in an alternate universe that nevertheless has the same zip code as our own, Sarah A. Hoyt warns about “Letting the Wokescolds Win” at Mad Genius Club.

If you take away the right of people who write to amuse other people — and as far as I can tell, Romance still has the largest audience of people wanting to be amused — without bothering to police their every word lest literature majors and mean girls throw a fit, you might as well shutter the whole enterprise.

All you’ll have at the end of the day is mean — but exceedingly privileged and well educated — young women trying to force the “natives” of the fun regions of writing and reading into their version of propriety and utility.  All the colonialist Victorian women who forced natives of tropical regions to wear pants stand arrayed behind those missionaries of woke scolding and power to truth nodding in approval. Which is fine since many of the current wokescolds are descended from these women. I just wish the current missionaries would return to their great great grandmother’s fervor. I can always wear pants — possibly on my head — but I refuse to give them an inch on what I can write, what I can read, or what I can think.

ALTERNATIVE ORGANIZATION. According to Publishers Weekly, Romance Alliance seeks members among those disenchanted with RWA.

As a result of the turmoil, a number of RWA members have joined the Romance Alliance, a group formed in an effort to create an alternative to the RWA. In a newsletter sent to members and subscribers, the group wrote: “We WANT the people who write what RWA’s practices ignored. We WANT diverse personalities and perspectives. We WELCOME the chance to succeed where RWA has systematically failed so many. And we WELCOME any input or suggestions as to how we can achieve our mission better and more meaningfully to YOU.”

The Romance Alliance is careful, however, not to imply that it hopes to replace the RWA. “From the beginning we focused on ‘can there be an alternative organization for those who feel excluded from RWA?,” author Sue London said. “Because there are a lot of us who joined and left RWA for various reasons.”

OBLIGATION OWED. Courtney Milan today described the work of black women in founding RWA and through the current controversy as creating a debt, and what she plans to do to help repay it. Thread starts here.

Kathryn Davis Says RWA Encouraged Her To File Ethics Complaint Against Courtney Milan

[This is the fourth update in a series which includes Courtney Milan Suspended by RWA, Banned from Leadership, Courtney Milan Controversy Decimates RWA Leadership and As Criticism Snowballs, RWA Keeps Trying to Justify Treatment of Courtney Milan.]

Kathryn Davis, who along with Suzan Tisdale filed the ethics complaints that triggered RWA’s penalties against Courtney Milan, has told The Guardian that she was “encouraged” by the administration of Romance Writers of America (RWA), to make a formal complaint against Milan: “White romance novelist in racism row says she was used”.

“They encouraged us. They wanted us very badly to file these complaints,” Davis said.

…Davis now says that she never wanted Milan to be punished by the RWA. She declined to say who precisely within RWA had encouraged her to file a complaint against Milan, but said it was “the administration at RWA” and that it was “not the membership” and “not the members of the board”.

“I do feel that the Romance Writers of America perhaps used Suzan Tisdale and I to accomplish something they wanted to accomplish and I was stunned when I saw the penalties. I didn’t ever expect that, and I did not want that,” Davis said.

“We were used in order to make the eventual penalties happen,” she said.

Although Davis is paraphrased by Guardian reporter Lois Beckett as having claimed that “she never wanted Milan to be punished by the RWA,” Davis’  formal ethics complaint urged in its conclusion that “She [Milan] cannot be allowed to hold a position of authority, or to use her voice to urge others to follow her lead.”

Davis’ statements to The Guardian also conflict with – and undercut – a claim in the formal complaint that “Because Ms. Milan attacked me in what can only be described as cyber-bullying, I lost a three-book contract that has been promised to me.”

On Thursday, Davis, 64, clarified her discussions with the publisher, which she has declined to name. She told the Guardian that after the allegations in her original complaint to RWA were quoted in news reports, “the publisher in question is very upset”.

Davis clarified that she did not have and lose a written book contract, but that a publisher had delayed further discussion of a potential contract in the wake of the controversy.

In the complaint, Davis also seemed to imply that the publisher told her they were afraid of being publicly linked with Milan, but in fact the publisher “never said anything” to that effect, Davis said.

Two or three days after Milan tweeted about her book, Davis said, an editor at the publishing house in question advised her that the situation would probably get worse. “I was told to apologize to Courtney [Milan] and to remove myself from the controversy, and in that way to save both my reputation and that of anyone connected to me.

“I didn’t understand what I would be apologizing for unless it were for my 24-year-old book,” she said. “I did not agree with what [Milan] was saying and to apologize for something I did not agree with didn’t make sense to me.”

The editor was “not happy” with this response, Davis said, but the end of the call was not angry. In a subsequent conversation with the same editor about a week later, “it was offhandedly mentioned that discussion of the [new book] contract would have to wait until spring”, Davis said. The editor did not explicitly state there was any link between Milan’s tweets and the delay in the discussion of the contract, Davis said.

Davis said she still believed it was fair to say that she lost a three-book contract because of Milan’s tweets. “I am certain the discussions would have progressed into a contract had this Twitter explosion not occurred,” she said.

And although Davis devoted several pages of her complaint to defending the novel Milan had derided as a “fucking racist mess,” she told The Guardian the ebook has been republished with changes —

Meanwhile, Davis said she had decided to make some changes to the novel Milan had criticized, Somewhere Lies the Moon, and that she has republished edited ebook versions.

“Some people have contacted me and have told me calmly what it was that offended them, and it was very few things, and I have corrected those things,” she said.

Alyssa Cole responded to Davis’ statements in The Guardian. Thread starts here.

Courtney Milan’s commentary thread starts here.

RWA APPOINTS NEW DIRECTORS. The RWA announced President Damon Suede has filled some of the vacancies created by resignations: “New Directors Appointed to RWA Board”, posted December 31.

In accordance with our Bylaws and policies, the President of RWA nominated, and the Board of Directors (Board) approved, the appointment of four new members to fill the vacant Board seats. 
 
Former Board Advisors Maria Powers (PRO), Mellanie Szereto (Chapter), and Barbara Wallace (PAN) will now move into vacant Director-at-Large positions. We thank them for their previous service to their constituencies and welcome them in their new roles as voting Board members. We also welcome new Board member Eliana West, filling a vacant Director-at-Large seat. All four will serve the remainder of the 2019-2020 term, which ends on August 31. Please find their bios below. 
 
We are in the process of recruiting and nominating strong, diverse candidates for the remaining five Director-at-Large positions and the three open Advisor positions. 

SUEDE DISINVITED BY CONFERENCE. RWA President Damon Suede has been ousted as a conference speaker at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference. The Greater Seattle RWA chapter tweeted a long explanation of the process followed in making that decision. Thread starts here.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS.

Courtney Milan’s decision tree, in response to allegations there is more evidence that hasn’t been made public.

Alyssa Day, who has also been vocal on Twitter, gave a status report to her Facebook followers on January 2:  

…I resigned my membership in protest at RWA’s actions against Courtney Milan but then withdrew my resignation when the time came that my voice would be important as part of a recall petition to force current leadership to step down. I am a signatory, with several past presidents and past board members, to a letter calling for a full forensic accounting and answers to the questions that must be addressed before RWA can move forward.

We can do better. We MUST do better. Love is love is love. The romance genre is about hope, and I must continue to believe and be hopeful, especially now, at the beginning of a new year and a new decade, that we can build a professional organization for romance writers that is inclusive and welcoming to all who agree with and live this belief.

Avery Flynn reports a RWA board conference call is scheduled for January 12, but there’s an issue in that the program has not been sent out even though it has to be posted ten days beforehand. Thread starts here.

RWA AUDIT. On January 1, Courtney Milan called for forensic audit. Thread starts here.

The RWA website announced on January 3: “RWA Hires Law Firm to Conduct Independent Audit”.

Damon Suede, President of  Romance Writers of America, recently asked the RWA Board of Directors to authorize a review of the Member Code of Ethics and related enforcement procedures to ensure that these RWA policies support the organization’s mission to advance and protect the interests of all romance authors.

Today, RWA announced the hiring of the Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP law firm to conduct an independent audit of the recent matter involving its code of ethics and to make recommendations on appropriate adjustments moving forward on ethics policy and procedures.

Courtney Milan responded skeptically in a thread that starts here.

MAINSTREAM MEDIA.

National Public Radio took a stab at telling the story in “Racism Scandal In The Romance Writing Industry” — January 4

BATES: Well, the membership didn’t know about it for a long time because, as I said, this happened at the end of August. RWA initiated, which people are still kind of freaking out about, a subcommittee of its ethics committee. I guess they appointed some people kind of like a grand jury – impaneled them. So this committee met in secret and decided that most of what they said about Milan wasn’t accurate but that they did think that because of the tweets, she should be sanctioned. And so they suspended her for a year. And they said she’d never again be allowed in any leadership positions. And this was a woman who had just received a service award the year before for her leadership in the organization.

Someone leaked it, and a lot of writers of color were like, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. A lot of allies who were white women said this is ridiculous. A lot of people – and publishing is like, girls, you need to get yourselves together. And within a week, because this was blowback that RWA leadership had not expected, they changed their minds and said on the 30 of December, we’ve rescinded our decision about Courtney for right now because we need to have a fuller investigation, so she can keep doing what she’s doing for the moment, to which Milan said, as you can imagine, yeah, no. Bye….

Mikki Kendall did a breakdown for NBC News: “The Romance Writers of America racism row matters because the gatekeepers are watching” — January 2

…Let’s talk about the power of romance. There’s power in the written word, even in a genre that we tend to consider — because of sexism — less intellectual than some others. And it isn’t just about hearts and flowers and candy; this is cold hard cash: Romance as a literary genre represents a quarter of all fiction sales and more than half of all paperback sales, and it brings in over a billion dollars in sales annually.

The impact of romance books on the culture is outsize because everyone is interested in romance, whether they admit it publicly or not.

…But there’s inevitably a small contingent of writers who simply can’t handle being criticized, whether directly or indirectly. Vitriolic responses to critics are hardly limited to well-known writers; those who aspire to become household names are equally prone to them. Having your work dissected, discussed and sometimes even demeaned, however, is part of putting it out into the world. All writers know this — or at least they should — and writing romance novels is no exception.

COMIC RELIEF. There is now a bingo card for this debacle:

Scott Lynch provided the Reader’s Digest version of the RWA’s explanations.

And Chuck Tingle has written a book.

Gorblin Crimble is an aspiring romance author with a brand new novel that could be his first breakthrough hit. Of course, Gorblin is going to need some help getting his work out there, and starts by seeking likeminded creatives.

After attending a local writer’s group, Gorblin makes a new friend, Amber, who points him towards Romance Wranglers Of America. It sounds like this community is exactly the helpful, loving, supportive group that Gorblin is looking for, but when him and Amber arrive at the Romance Wranglers Of America headquarters, they quickly realize something is wrong. This once loving group has been taken over by a dark and mysterious force; lead by a man named Demon and his chanting coven of board members in jet-black robes.

Something horrible from the depths of the cosmic Void has taken hold, but is it too late to prove that romance is about love, not hate?

This important no-sex tale is 4,300 words of reasonable writers looking for a kind and supportive romance community that respects its members and treats them fairly.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Rick Moen, John King Tarpinian, Kendall, johnstick, and Cliff Ramshaw for some of these items.]

Pixel Scroll 1/1/20 Old Pixel’s File Of Practical Scrolls

(1) AFTER QUARTER CENTURY, GOMOLL STEPS DOWN. The Otherwise Award announced yesterday: “Jeanne Gomoll Retires from Motherboard”.

Jeanne Gomoll, whose art, design, and organizing energy has propelled and sustained the Award for the last 25 years, is retiring from the Otherwise Motherboard at the end of 2019. The remaining members of the Motherboard are incredibly grateful for Jeanne’s tireless, brilliant work and look forward to celebrating her contributions at WisCon in 2020.

Jeanne writes:

Up until 1991 it felt to me as though the efforts of the Madison SF Group, Janus and Aurora fanzines, and WisCon, to encourage and celebrate feminist science fiction were largely restricted to a single place and to those who came to this place and attended WisCon. Indeed, by the late 1980s, it felt to me as if our efforts to foster feminist SF were increasingly being met with opposition and might possibly have been in danger of flickering out, as the backlash to feminism in general and feminist SF in specific gained strength. Pat Murphy’s 1991 announcement of the Tiptree Award thrilled me and gave me renewed strength. It was as if a small group of us, following a narrow, twisty path had merged with a much wider, well-traveled path. After the Tiptree Award began handing out annual awards and raising funds, and had sparked a massive juggernaut of community activism, I stopped worrying about the viability of the movement.

I will be forever grateful to the Tiptree Award and proud of my work on it. I chaired two Tiptree juries—one in 1993, which chose Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite as the winner; and the other in 2016, which presented the award to When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore. I served on the Motherboard for 25 years, 1994-2019, and worked behind-the-scenes on most of the auctions during those years, and as an artist creating logos, publications, and Tiptree merchandise. I will be forever grateful to the Motherboard for the work we did together and the friendships we created along the way. I am awed by and very proud of the community of writers and readers who supported and were nurtured by the award, even as they guided the award further along the path toward greater diversity and scope.

The Tiptree Award, and now the Otherwise Award will always have my heartfelt support. But it is time for me to step back and make space for a new generation of activists. I want to thank my fellow motherboard founding mothers and members, past and present—Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Jeff Smith, Alexis Lothian, Sumana Harihareswara, Gretchen Treu, Debbie Notkin, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman—for all they have done and for their friendship, which I will value forever.

(2) THIS IS HORROR. Public nominations are being accepted through January 8 for the This Is Horror Awards.

The public nominations are now open for the ninth annual This Is Horror Awards. This year we’ve retained all the categories from last year and added one more, ‘Cover Art of the year’. Here are the categories: Novel of the Year, Novella of the Year, Short Story Collection of the Year, Anthology of the Year, Fiction Magazine of the Year, Publisher of the Year, Fiction Podcast of the Year, Nonfiction Podcast of the Year, and Cover Art of the Year.

Readers can e-mail in their nominations for each category. Taking into consideration the nominations for each category This Is Horror will then draw up a shortlist.

We invite you to include one sentence as to why each nomination is award-worthy.

(3) DEEP STATE. Jason Sanford has been posting interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his fantastic report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: How much of an increase in your budget would be required to pay all editorial and publishing staff a living wage?

Scott: Estimating using a salary of $15/hour for the work our staff does, we would need a $45,000 increase in our annual budget to pay all staff a living wage.  That’s double what our annual budget is to pay for the stories we publish.  To cover that, our monthly donations through Patreon would have to increase by 7000%….

Jason: Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has said some of the problems experienced by genre magazines come about because “we’ve devalued short fiction” through reader expectations that they shouldn’t have to pay for short stories. Do you agree with this? Any thoughts on how to change this situation?

LDL: …I think the issue is one of exhaustion on the part of volunteer staff and a strained supporter base. In my observation, the people who contribute to zine crowdfunds also contribute to crowdfunds for individuals in emergency situations. There are a lot of emergencies or people in general need, just within the SFF community and funds are finite. If you’re supporting your four favorite zines every year, donating to three medical funds, two Kickstarters, a moving fund, and also taking on costs associated with at least one fandom-related convention every year, it’s not sustainable for a lot of readers, especially the marginalized ones….

Jason: In addition to paying your writers, Asimov’s also pays all of your staff, something which is not common among many of today’s newer genre magazines. Is it possible to publish a magazine like Asimov’s without the support of a larger company, in this case Penny Publications?

Sheila: An anecdotal review of the American market doesn’t really bear that out. F&SF is published by a small company. Analog and Asimov’s are published by a larger (though not huge) publishing company. Being published by a larger company does have its advantages, though. While only one and a half people are dedicated to each of the genre magazines, we do benefit from a support staff of art, production, tech, contracts, web, advertising, circulation, and subsidiary rights departments. I’m probably leaving some people out of this list. While the support of this infrastructure cannot be underestimated, Asimov’s revenue covers our editorial salaries, and our production and editorial costs. We contribute to the company’s general overhead as well.

Jason: Strange Horizons also helped pioneer the idea that a genre magazine could be run as a nonprofit with assistance from a staff of volunteers. What are the pros and cons of this publishing model?

Vanessa: With volunteer staff, the con is simple: no pay. Generally, working for no pay privileges people who can afford to volunteer time, and devalues the work we do as editors. I’d like to think that at SH, we have partially balanced the former by making our staff so large and so international that no one need put in many hours, and folks can cover for you regardless of time zone. Despite having 50+ folks, we’re a close group. Our Slack is a social space, and we bring our worst and best days there for each other. Several members (including me) have volunteered right through periods of un- and underemployment because of the love of the zine and our community….

(4) NEBULA CONFERENCE EARLYBIRD RATE. The rate has been extended another week —

(5) MORE ON MILAN. The Guardian’s coverage of the RWA/Courtney Milan controversy, “A romance novelist spoke out about racism. An uproar ensued”, starts with the now-familiar origin story, then adds dimension with background history like this:

HelenKay Dimon, a past RWA president, previously told The Guardian that she regularly received letters from white RWA members expressing concern that “now nobody wants books by white Christian women”.

There is “a group of people who are white and who are privileged, who have always had 90% of everything available, and now all of a sudden, they have 80%. Instead of saying: ‘Ooh, look, I have 80%,’ they say: ‘Oh, I lost 10! Who do I blame for losing 10?’” Dimon said.

The tweets that sparked the ethics complaints against Milan, which were posted this August, were part of a broader conversation on romance Twitter about how individual racist beliefs held by gatekeepers within the publishing world have shaped the opportunities available to authors of color.

(6) ARRAKIS AGAIN. Just before the calendar clicked over to 1965, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus forced himself to read the first installment of the Dune World sequel: “[December 31, 1964] Lost in the Desert (January 1965 Analog)”.  

The…next installment of Frank Herbert’s Dune World saga has been staring me in the face for weeks, ever since I bought the January 1965 issue of Analog. I found I really didn’t want to read more of it, having found the first installment dreary, though who am I to argue with all the Hugo voters?

And yet, as the days rolled on, I came up with every excuse not to read the magazine. I cleaned the house, stem to stern. I lost myself in this year’s Galactic Stars article. I did some deep research on 1964’s space probes.

But the bleak desert sands of Arrakis were unavoidable. So this week, I plunged headfirst into Campbell’s slick, hoping to make the trek to the end in fewer than two score years. Or at least before 1965. Join me; let’s see if we can make it.

(7) RINGS TWICE. Tor.com reprints “A Weapon With a Will of Its Own: How Tolkien Wrote the One Ring as a Character”, Megan N. Fontenot’s engrossing manuscript study about how Bilbo’s trinket became the key to the LOTR trilogy.

In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained; it was “impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Letters 326). Even had someone of unmatched power, like Gandalf, claimed the Ring, there would have been no real victory, for “the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end” (332).

It would have been the master.

From humble beginnings as a mere trinket bartered in a game of riddles (see the original Hobbit), the Ring grew in power and influence until it did indeed include all of Middle-earth in its simple band of gold. “One Ring to rule them all” wasn’t just meant to sound intimidating—it was hard truth. Even Sauron couldn’t escape the confines of its powers. It was his greatest weakness.

But how did the Ring become the thing around which the entirety of the Third Age revolved (Letters 157)?…

(8) JANUARY 2. Get ready – tomorrow is “National Science Fiction Day”. It must be legit – “National Science Fiction Day is recognized by the Hallmark Channel and the Scholastic Corporation.”

National Science Fiction Day promotes the celebration of science fiction as a genre, its creators, history, and various media, too. Recognized on January 2nd annually, millions of science fiction fans across the United States read and watch their favorites in science fiction. 

The date of the celebration commemorates the birth of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.  An American author and Boston University professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov on January 2, 1920. He was best known for his works of science fiction and his popular science books.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 1, 2007 — The Sarah Jane Adventures premiered starring Elizabeth Sladen who had been in the pilot for K-9 and Company which the Beeb didn’t take to series. The program, which as you well know was a spin-off of Doctor Who, lasted five series and fifty-four episodes. It did not make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in either 2007 or 2008. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1854 James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally.  He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1952.)
  • Born January 1, 1889 Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. (Died 1969.)
  • Born January 1, 1926 Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger Man, The Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 1, 1933 Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.” Like his other novels, it’s not available digitally.  (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 66. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meets Irish myth novel of hers and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati which I’ve not read.  With Yolen, Snyder co-authored the novel Except the Queen which I do recommend. (Yolen is one of my dark chocolate recipients.) She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1957 Christopher Moore, 63. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work which I’m planning on listening to soon. Has anyone read it? 
  • Born January 1, 1971 Navin Chowdhry, 49. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London.“ I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
  • Born January 1, 1976 Sean Wallace, 44. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark which I’ve never encountered, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav read  of mine. He has won a very, very impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy co-edited with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended by me. He’s not well represented digitally speaking which surprised me. 
  • Born January 1, 1984 Amara Karan, 36. Though she’s Tita in an Eleventh Doctor story, “The God Complex”, she’s really here for being involved in a Stan Lee project. She was DS Suri Chohan in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series which is definitely SFF. Oh, and she shows up as Princess Shaista in “Cat Among Pigeons” episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but even I would be hard put to call that even close to genre adjacent. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DODGED THE BULLET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In an alternate universe, it seems that original director Harold Ramis would’ve made a very different Galaxy Quest. From ComicBookResources.com: Galaxy Quest: Tim Allen Equates Harold Ramis’ Version to Spaceballs”.

Before Dean Parisot signed on to direct Galaxy Quest, Harold Ramis was supposed to helm the movie, which was initially titled Captain Starshine. However, according to Tim Allen, if Ramis directed the film, it wouldn’t have just been titled differently — it would have looked quite different as well.

[…] “Katzenberg pitched me the idea of the commander character and then they started talking and it became clear that Ramis didn’t see me for the part,” Allen said. “It was pretty uncomfortable.”

[…] Interestingly, Sigourney Weaver also wouldn’t have gotten her role as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest if Ramis had directed the film, despite their relationship from Ghostbusters. “I had heard that Harold was directing a sci-fi movie but he didn’t want anyone who had done sci-fi in the film,” she said. “Frankly, it’s those of us who have done science fiction movies that know what is funny about the genre.”

(13) JUST CHUCK IT. Is this April 1 or January 1? Today Tor.com posted Leah Schnelbach’s “Excellent Writing Advice from Erotica Author Chuck Tingle”.

…I’ll start with this reddit AMA from a few years back, and an interview with Tingle on Nothing in the Rulebook. His answers reveal a consistent approach to the writing life that mirrored the habits of authors who are, possibly, even more well-known than our favorite erotica author.

Asked about a typical writing day, Tingle replies:

yes average day is getting up and having two BIG PLATES of spaghetti then washing them down with some chocolate milk then i get out of bed and meditate to be a healthy man. so when i am meditating i think ‘what kind of tingler would prove love today?’. if nothing comes then i will maybe trot around the house or go to the park or maybe walk to the coffee shop with my son jon before he goes to work. if i have a good idea i will just write and write until it is all done and then I will have son jon edit it and then post it online.

OK, so to translate this a bit out of Tingle-speak, we have a recommendation that you fuel your writing with carbs (and also an unlikely alliance with Haruki Murakami’s spaghetti-loving ways) with a bit of a boost of sugar….

(14) GREASED LIGHTNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From one of the CES 2020 press releases I got today…

Subject: [CES NEWS] Experience a Roomba-Like Device that Navigates the Home Charging ALL Devices

…I want to put an innovative device on your radar: RAGU, a Roomba-like robot that navigates the home charging ALL of your devices.

GuRu is the first company to crack the code on totally untethered, over-the-air charging.

Even discounting remote mal-hackers, this sounds like a recipe for either a droll TV episode, or Things Going Horribly Wrong. (Fires, fried gear, tased/defibrilated pets and sleeping people, etc.)

(15) MIXED BAG. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] I expect everybody will find something interesting or strange in the BBC’s “Alternative end-of-the-year awards”

Animal rescue of the year

Winner

Spare a thought for the poor fat rat of Bensheim, which became stuck in a German manhole in February. She was eventually freed, but not before passers-by took embarrassing photos of her plight. “She had a lot of winter flab,” one rescuer said, compounding the humiliation.

…Runner-up (2)

In this case, the animals were the rescuers rather than the rescued (sort of).

Anticipating the threat of wildfires later in the year, staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California hired a hungry herd of 500 goats to eat flammable scrub around the building in May.

And so, when fires did strike in October, the library was saved because of the fire break the goats had created by eating the flammable scrub. Nice one, goats.

(16) MAKING TRACKS. “SpaceX satellites spotted over Derbyshire” – BBC has photo and short video.

Stargazers across Derbyshire were startled when they saw what appeared to be a new “constellation” in the night sky.

The near-perfect line was in fact formed by the Starlink, satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company earlier this year.

They were spotted across Derbyshire and the Peak District.

Tom Sparrow, an amateur photographer, said the satellites were “quite a spectacle”.

The Bradford University archaeology researcher caught the orbital pass by chance on a time-lapse video in the Peak District.

(17) BEYOND BINARY. The Hollywood Reporter’s Robyn Bahr, in “Critic’s Notebook: Baby Yoda, ‘The Dark Crystal’ and the Need for Puppetry in the Age of CGI “, cheers on non-digital effects.

As always, the existential wisdom of Werner Herzog prevails. “You are cowards,” the director castigated on set of The Mandalorian, upon realizing the producers intended to shoot some scenes without the Baby Yoda puppet in case they decided to go full CGI with the character. “Leave it.”

Herzog, who guest-starred on a few episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series, was one of Baby Yoda’s earliest champions. And indeed, Baby Yoda — a colloquial epithet referring to the mysterious alien toddler merely known as “The Child” in the script — was designed for maximum neoteny. The gigantic saucer-like dilated eyes; the tiny button nose; a head that takes up nearly half his body mass; the hilariously oversized brown coat; the peach fuzzy hairs tufted around his head; and the pièce de résistance of his custardy little green face: that minuscule line of a mouth that could curve or stiffen in an instant and erupt a thousand ancient nurturing instincts in any viewer. (He’s the only thing my normally stoic husband has ever sincerely described as “cute.”) Heck, there may very well be a micro generation of Baby Yoda babies about eight months from now, thanks to this frog-nomming, lever-pulling, bone-broth-sipping little scamp.

And all because Jon Favreau and company finally recognized that rubber-and-fabric practical effects will almost always have a greater emotional impact than plasticky digital ones.

The recent success of The Mandalorian, thanks to the adorable face that launched a thousand memes, and Netflix’s fantasy-adventure epic The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, recently nominated for a WGA Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, prove that we still need puppetry and mechanical effects in the age of CGI….

(18) PERRY MASON. My fellow geezers may enjoy this quick quiz.

[Thanks to Jo Van Ekeren, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

As Criticism Snowballs, RWA Keeps Trying to Justify Treatment of Courtney Milan

[This is the third update in a series which includes Courtney Milan Suspended by RWA, Banned from Leadership and Courtney Milan Controversy Decimates RWA Leadership.]

Romance Writers of America’s remaining leadership and staff, under heavy criticism from members, today issued another statement in an attempt to retrieve the situation.

Meanwhile, incoming RWA President Damon Suede is the subject of a recall petition.

And top romance author Nora Roberts, who dropped out of RWA several years ago, reminded people why she left, but also apologized for (as a result) not being aware of the problems now surfacing:

Nora Roberts posted “MY POV on RWA” on December 29.

… Writer, the middle word in Romance Writers of America, is a word without gender, a word without color or race, a word without sexual orientation, without creed. We’re writers, and as such must expect to be treated, must demand to be treated, fairly and equitably by our professional organization.

…Again, I regret all the years I didn’t hear, didn’t see, didn’t listen, remained unaware of all the sad and unfair things that are now coming to light.

I hope that light continues to shine, and by doing so may change RWA for the good, may remind those in leadership positions what the purpose was all those years ago. To support and advocate for romance writers. Not specific kinds of romance writers.

Let me add, as a personal note, that over the course of my life, the course of my career, the couple hundred books I’ve written, I may have–most likely have–said or done or written something that was offensive, racist, homophobic. Without intent–but intent doesn’t mean a damn to those hurt. So I’ll apologize without qualification.

I hope I’ve learned along the way. I intend to continue to learn and do better.

RESOURCES. Links to new developments are continually added at these two sites:

DISCUSSION. Lynn Spencer’s post “Has RWA Lost Its Way?” at All About Romance is followed by a wide-open comments section with opinions from all sides of the issue. Spencer says in conclusion:

It’s obvious at this point that RWA screwed up. Frankly, as more information becomes available, it appears obvious that they made more than just one mistake. Their internal procedures are clearly flawed and while Courtney Milan is an author with a high enough profile to draw attention to the problems, one can only imagine how many people who are not so well-known may have been treated equally poorly by the organization. Story after story after story of alleged irregularities and bias at RWA(some going back to the early days of the organization) have been pouring out ever since this particular story broke and I can only imagine that will continue.

So, where does RWA go from here? Over the short term, I honestly think that the organization has broken trust with too many people. This isn’t a situation where they can apologize and hope we will all forget about it. Perhaps if they:

(1) clean house and start over by electing a brand new board who would then hire a new executive director;

(2) audit what has been happening not just with the complaints against Courtney Milan but with the ethics committee in general and make those findings publicly available, including the names of everyone on the shadow ethics committee, and

(3) show by their actions that RWA is willing to listen and to really do the work of becoming more diverse, inclusive and anti-racist, then over the long term they may survive.

However, RWA has damaged its reputation with a significant portion of its membership and with the romance community at large, and one can understand those of us who will be slow to risk trusting it again. There are lots of questions to be answered here, and from what is already known, it is apparent that once those questions are answered, the organization will have to change if it is to survive.

OTHER COMMENTARIES.

Ilona Andrews charts what she thinks is the underlying cause of the conflict. Thread starts here.

Ivy Quinn assembled a thread of screencaps of comments left on RWA’s Facebook page. The thread starts here.

Diana Hicks described her experience with racism in the RWA. Thread starts here.

Former RWA President HelenKay Dimon a few days ago tweeted a series of steps that, if taken, might let the organization move forward. Thread starts here.

RWA PRESIDENT DAMON SUEDE. He got his message out to RWA Chapter Leaders, but what he’s telling them has been challenged by Courtney Milan and others. An effort to remove him from office is under way.

Alyssa Day tweeted screencaps of RWA President Damon Suede’s message to RWA Chapter Leaders.

Courtney Milan contradicted some of what Suede wrote in a thread that starts here.

CIMRWA (Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Chapter of Romance Writers of America) is ready to submit its petition to recall incoming RWA President Damon Suede.

RWA has been caught swapping out its December 26 and December 30 statements at the top of the organization’s webpage.

The distilled essence of Tessa Dare’s take is –

REACTION FROM THE SFF COMMUNITY.

N.K. Jemisin contrasted how SFWA and RWA handled the challenge of racism. Thead starts here.

Mad Genius Club’s Sarah A. Hoyt and Dave Freer posted word salads disapproving the motives and purposes they imputed to Courtney Milan.

Meanwhile, Chuck Tingle is still pissed off at RWA President Suede for saying, in effect, that he is a pen name of two collaborators.

NEW RWA STATEMENT. On December 30 RWA leadership and staff emailed a Google Docs link to this statement (and also posted it on the RWA website).

December 30, 2019

The purpose of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) is to support, advocate, and provide resources for approximately 9,000 romance writers, advocate for the genre, and provide a safe and respectful environment for writers to discuss and express their ideas. 

We do not take positions for or against specific literary criticism or authors’ points of view. We do, however, have explicit policy for our members’ professional conduct. RWA’s Member Code of Ethics is designed to induce RWA members, especially RWA’s leaders, to exhibit integrity, honesty, and other good professional practices, thereby enhancing the romance writing profession.

RWA is fully committed to the confidentiality and integrity of the ethics process at all levels. Our Code of Ethics and procedures cannot be selectively or inconsistently applied on a situational basis. All ethics complaints received must be properly reviewed and addressed according to our policy manual, and the organization must apply a single standard consistently and equitably.  

Beginning in August of 2019 and subsequently, the RWA Ethics Committee received complaints filed by two members, Suzan Tisdale and Kathryn Lynn Davis, against former Board member Courtney Milan. These complaints allege several violations of the RWA Member Code of Ethics by Ms. Milan while she was serving in an RWA leadership position and that this led to the loss of a three-book contract by Ms. Davis. 

At the time of the complaint, Ms. Milan served as Chair of the Ethics Committee and was now subject to review by the Committee for allegations by the aforementioned RWA members. Ms. Milan was asked to voluntarily step down as the Ethics Committee Chair to eliminate any conflict of interest, which she did, and the Board appointed additional Committee members and a new Chair. Those members made up a diverse Ethics panel – the standard RWA protocol in RWA Ethics cases – that had not served under Ms. Milan because of the need for confidentiality and the potential for conflicts of interest.

In accordance with RWA policy, the Ethics panel met and delivered its report to the Board, dismissing all charges against Ms. Milan except one: a violation of the association’s express purpose of creating a “safe and respectful environment” for its community of writers. 

While the Ethics panel unanimously recommended a series of sanctions against Ms. Milan, the Board chose to reduce these to a one-year suspension and a permanent ban on leadership positions in RWA. After this private information was made public on December 23, it led to an intense backlash online – including the spreading of false information, threats, and personal information. The Board then held an emergency executive session, rescinding the remaining sanctions. That is where things stand and where they will remain unless a future Board decides to revisit the issues. Several Board members have subsequently resigned for a variety of reasons.

RWA is not alone in trying to balance free speech with civil discourse and the damage – personal and financial – its absence can do. It is, however, up to us to find a pathway forward to meet the competing needs of free expression without subjecting our members to harassment, intimidation, and financial loss. 

To provide a path forward, we are taking or have taken the following actions:

  1. In an abundance of caution over confusion regarding RWA’s policies and procedures, the complaint against Courtney Milan has been closed and no action is being taken at this time. Ms. Milan remains a member of RWA.
  2. RWA affirms our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are in the process of recruiting and nominating strong, diverse candidates for the vacant Board seats to foster a Board culture rooted in transparency and accountability; all candidates are subject to Board approval.
  3. RWA will authorize a full, complete, and transparent review of the Member Code of Ethics and enforcement procedures. 
  4. RWA is hiring an independent, outside law firm to conduct an audit of the process and these events to provide a clear report of the facts.

Our members have strong opinions, which we applaud. But when expressed inappropriately, and in some cases far worse, by our organizational leadership – past and present – these can result in personal and financial harm to members. Other members have inappropriately shared personal and/or private information which has legal consequences and has resulted in members feeling threatened, exposed, and unsafe. This is unacceptable behavior. As writers we know more than most, words have consequences. 

The Board and staff remain committed to serving our members and fulfilling our mission. We can and will do better. RWA is not alone in these challenges, but as writers, we must lead the way.  

Sincerely, RWA Board and Staff

Courtney Milan tweeted two threads reacting to the statement.

Esi Sogah deconstructed the statement in a thread that starts here.   

Former RWA President HelenKay Dimon commented:

N.K. Jemisin also put up a thread about the latest RWA statement:

MAINSTREAM PRESS. The media are covering the RWA story. Some outlets are running the AP article, others have had reporters contacting the principals, or a local RWA member.

Associated Press – December 27.

“Controversy hits Romance Writers of America this holiday”  

There’s not a lot of love at the Romance Writers of America this holiday season. Lots of passion, but not too much love.

The organization, which bills itself as the voice of romance writers and cites 9,000 members, has been upended over the way it has treated one of its authors, Courtney Milan, a Chinese American writer and a former chair of its Ethics Committee.

The Texas-based trade association initially accepted the vote of its Ethics Committee that Milan had violated the group’s code with negative online comments about other writers and their work. Then, just before Christmas, it reversed course, rescinding its vote ”pending a legal opinion.” Now its entire leadership has changed….

Houston Chronicle – December 29.

“Houston-based Romance Writers of America sees board exodus after racism allegations

Nine board members of the Houston-based Romance Writers of America resigned this week in a startling exodus that took place during a holiday lull. The organization — which represents a billion-dollar industry and celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2020 — will enter the new year with decimated leadership and lingering questions about its focus and future after several romance authors questioned the association’s commitment to a diverse community.

“I knew this kind of thing could happen, but I certainly didn’t see it happening this way, over Christmas week,” said author Piper Huguley. “I knew there was a big push coming, a resistance against this. I believe we’re in a fight for the soul of this organization, which to a number of people who observe it is not unlike what’s going on in the country politically. Right now the big question is, ‘What’s going to happen?’”…

New York Times – December 30.

“Racism Dispute Roils Romance Writers Group”

…Ms. Milan, who is Chinese-American, took issue with the depiction of 19th-century Chinese women in the book, including a description of “slanted almond eyes” and a quote from a character describing them as “demure and quiet, as our mothers have trained us to be.” “The notion of the submissive Chinese woman is a racist stereotype which fuels higher rates of violence against women,” Ms. Milan wrote on Twitter.

Ms. Davis, who is an honorary R.W.A. member, disagreed with Ms. Milan’s assessment, saying her book was historically accurate and based on years of research. She filed an ethics complaint with the R.W.A., saying that Ms. Milan’s comments were “cyberbullying” and cost her a publishing contract.

…Ms. Davis, who filed one of the complaints, said she was “stunned” by the R.W.A.’s judgment against Ms. Milan and said the penalty “far exceeded the substance of the complaint.” “We asked for an apology. That was what we wanted,” she said.

HelenKay Dimon, who was president of R.W.A. until her term ended in late August, said that she thought there had been a series of breakdowns in the process and is calling for a full audit.

“People care enough to get that upset,” she said. Now, the organization needs to “step up and take responsibility and have a plan.”

“I think the organization and the membership and the people who drove this decision are not the same things,” Ms. Milan said. “The response of the membership should be heartening to anyone who cares about diversity in R.W.A. and romance.”

Courtney Milan Controversy Decimates RWA Leadership

News that Romance Writers of America suspended Courtney Milan from membership and imposed on her a lifetime ban from leadership as the result of two ethics complaints has triggered protest resignations by numerous RWA directors and local leaders, the departure of two responsible officers, and the creation of a petition to remove the incoming president-elect, Damon Suede.

Doubt has been raised that RWA officers adhered to the rules for handling ethics complaints in Milan’s case. The questions were serious enough that leadership was forced to respond, and on December 24 Carol Ritter, RWA’s Deputy Executive Director, informed Milan they had found a “gap between policy and process” and rescinded the penalties – “pending a legal opinion.”   

Saying that they were going to get a legal opinion meant this was neither a genuine reversal nor an apology — was, in fact, nothing more than an attempt to pump the brakes on a runaway car.

One surprising revelation has been that the people who issued the Ethics Committee Report weren’t the members empaneled as the RWA Ethics Committee. Milan had, until a few months ago, chaired that committee and according to (now former) Ethics Committee member Ruby Lang, “RWA did have to get new committee members who weren’t appointed to the ethics committee under Courtney in order to avoid conflict of interest, however, the way they went about this and the way they presented the findings leave a lot to be desired.”

Not only were they bypassed, the original ethics committee members were not even informed that RWA officers had created a separate panel just to handle the Milan case. The upshot is that RWA’s entire original Ethics Committee reportedly has resigned – with announcements on Twitter by former members Ruby Lang, Mia Sosa, and Dee Davis.

The result has been a widespread loss of faith and confidence in the organization, symbolized by additional resignations among the RWA’s dozen Directors-at-Large, including Chanta Rand, someone who had voted against accepting the Ethics Committee report.

Adrienne Mishel wrote about the directors’ resignation in a thread that starts here.

The identical resignation statement was posted by Seressia Glass, Tracey Livesay, Pintip Dunn, Priscilla Oliveras, Farrah Rochon, Erica Ridley, and Denny S. Bryce.     

Milan has pointed out some of the defects in the complaint process that was used. Thread starts here.

Some of the early reactions on Twitter included —

As the conversation developed there were more expansive comments, like these —

  • Felicia Grossman
  • Alexa J. Day
  • Brina Starler, in a thread that starts here.
  • Alexis Daria

The dustup attracted the attention of mainstream media. The New York Post’s article quoted extensively from Twitter

Writer Hillary Monahan summed up the debacle: “Chinese American author critiques white woman’s portrayal of Chinese Americans, white woman calls her a neo-nazi for it, RWA backs white woman and censures author, -BACKLASH-, RWA rescinds censure, everyone eats a giant holiday meal, RWA roils in own vomit. Missing anything?”

A rare voice speaking in favor of the RWA’s actions is Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green (“RWA and Courtney Milan, Pt. 2”):

Here’s the thing. She [Milan] might have done all this with the best of intentions. But she did them in the wrong way. She should have known it would blow up. She reasonably should have foreseen complaints being filed. Most of all, she should have thought long and hard before hitting the post button with accusations phrased in such a way any reasonable person would know they would bring derision on the person they were aimed at.

I applaud RWA for taking the allegations seriously and not sweeping them under the rug. That’s certainly more than SFWA did when certain members (including past and future officers) attacked members of the Sad Puppies and did their best to ruin careers….

Meanwhile, the Milan controversy has drawn attention to corollary issues about other marginalized groups. Thread starts here.

CIMRWA, the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of RWA, has condemned the Milan proceeding and called for RWA’s top leadership to resign. Thread starts here.

A letter signed by 28 RWA members, many of them officers of local organizations, also calls for top officers to resign.

…This board and the staff of RWA misused the policies and procedures of this organization to punish a woman of color who has done nothing but stand up for those that RWA has historically kept out and mistreated. The handling of this situation is shameful.

In October, for the first time, RWA had a board that was a majority of people of color that we felt represented our membership. This leadership has failed them so completely that after barely two months they have lost all faith in the organization and been forced to resign.

The president, the president-elect, and the executive director of RWA need to take responsibility for what has happened and step down. It is unfair to ask local chapter leaders to represent an organization that conducts itself in this way. All of us feel personally failed by all of you.

It appears two one of the targeted officers have vacated their positions. The RWA webpage has been updated, with Carolyn Jewel removed as the President together with Executive Director Carol Ritter. [Ritter’s information appears on the RWA Staff page.]

Also, “A Message to RWA Members” has been posted as a response to the crisis. The message concludes –

…It was never the intent of the Board to suggest that members cannot and should not discuss, call out, or criticize instances of racism or other forms of discrimination. Indeed, we have tried to provide opportunities for members to do just that, and again, we apologize that we have caused members to think otherwise. Many of you have asked about the procedure surrounding the handling of the complaints against Courtney Milan. A second statement will follow with more information. 

As it stands now, the organization is at a turning point. 

We have lost the trust of our membership and the romance community and we must find a way to rebuild that. It’s going to be a hard road, maybe one of the most difficult we’ve traveled since our inception. We know it’s a lot to ask, and that not everyone will travel this road with us–for that we are sad, and we are sorry, and we understand. We hope that you will be able to join us on this journey again one day, and for those of you who continue with us, we hope that we may prove worthy of your loyalty. 

We are also in the position of having to fill open leadership roles. President Carolyn Jewel, as well as Board Members Denny S. Bryce, Pintip Dunn, Seressia Glass, Tracey Livesay, Adrienne Mishel, Priscilla Oliveras, Erica Ridley, and Farrah Rochon have resigned their positions. To them, and to the committee leaders who have resigned, we offer our sincere gratitude for your service to the organization. President Damon Suede and the remaining board will be looking for a strong, diverse group of new leaders who have the ability to think strategically and believe in the mission of the organization. 

It’s going to be really difficult in the coming years to restore the trust we have lost, but we’re going to work hard to match our words with our actions as we focus on the mission of the organization–to promote the professional and common business interests of romance writers. We will strive to uphold the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all that we do….

However, Courtney Milan says President Damon Suede should go, too.  Thread starts here.

Examples follow.

And Alyssa Cole alleges Suede has a conflict of interest about an issue where writers have tried to enlist RWA’s help.

A petition was launched today to recall and remove President/President Elect – Damon Suede

Milan encourages eligible RWA members to participate in the recall.

Some who tweeted about quitting answered that they were going to try and stay in RWA long enough to vote for the recall.

[Update 12/27/19: Corrected to show that Carol Ritter is still listed by the RWA webpage as being on staff.]

Courtney Milan Suspended by RWA, Banned from Leadership

Romance Writers of America has disciplined author Courtney Milan in response to a pair of complaints after finding that she violated a section of its Code of Ethics by “Repeatedly or intentionally engaging in conduct injurious to RWA or its purposes.”

(If Milan’s name rings a bell, earlier in 2019 File 770 covered Milan’s work to expose the #CopyPasteCris plagiarism case, see item #1 here.)

The RWA report summarized the complaints as follows:

Suzan Tisdale outlined the allegations in a letter to the RWA Board Members and Ethics Committee, received by the Executive Director, and supported the allegations with a stream of social media posts that disparaged Ms. Tisdale, her publishing company (Glenfinnan Publishing), and several of her acquiring editors. Most particularly, Ms. Tisdale and her associates were accused of being racists in derogatory terms….

The committee received a corollary complaint filed by member Kathryn Lynn Davis against fellow member Courtney Milan, alleging several violations of the RWA Code of Ethics, and alleging the consequence of which was the loss of a three-book contract.  

The committee recommended that Milan —

a. Be censured by RWA

b. Be suspended from RWA membership for one year

c. Receive a lifetime ban on holding any position of leadership on the RWA National Board, or on an RWA Chapter Board.

Several more violations were raised by Tisdale and Davis largely having to do with social media comments by Milan, but the Board concluded it does not have jurisdiction over social media communications under the existing Code. And they expressed their frustration with that state of affairs by taking this fling at Milan: “However, the committee was also made aware that Ms. Milan served on the Board when this exception was approved, and very likely understood she would be able to act in the manner she did, without being in violation of the code.”

The documents containing the two complaints and supporting screenshots, the RWA Ethics Committee report, and the message communicating the decision to Milan, are available online:

Milan’s response on Twitter starts here.

Sarah Wendell of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog, wrote an informative post which ends —

… This decision is heinously wrong. Deeply awful, horrifying, and mind-numbingly bad on every level. It’s a slap and a 180-degree contradiction of every other effort made to make RWA more inclusive. The message seems to be, Confront your own bias. Recognize where you are wrong. But don’t call racism “racism” or point out anyone else’s bias, or you’ll be removed.

I am not so pleased about where else my dues are going, or my energy in judging and reading and supporting and even writing all these words right now.  I’m deeply, painfully upset by the decision of the Ethics Committee, and the decision to ban and suspend Courtney Milan. I keep thinking I must be missing something because this decision makes no sense. It hurts.

The comments on Wendell’s post reveal a divide between those who support the Board’s decision, and others who strongly disagree with it.

Ironically, people are reporting that one of the places no one can discuss this decision is in RWA’s own forums.

Pixel Scroll 2/26/19 Two Pixels Were Approaching, And The File Began To Scroll

(1) KELLEY OBIT. An acknowledged leader of Doctor Who fandom in the U.S., Jennifer Adams Kelley, died today. LA’s Gallifrey One con committee paid tribute on Facebook:

All of us at Gallifrey One today are mourning the loss of our dear friend, and our long-time Masquerade director, Jennifer Adams Kelley, who passed away early this morning at home after a short but fierce battle with cancer.

Jennifer was a titan of American Doctor Who fandom, both locally in the Chicago area and across the country: as former program director & stage manager of our sister events Visions and ChicagoTARDIS; her decades-long involvement in Chicago area Doctor Who fandom, including her participation in the local fan group The Federation since the 1980s (where they created many well-known fan videos such as “Doctor Who and Holy Grail” and “S-A-V-E-W-H-O”); co-author of ATB Publishing’s landmark tome “Red White and Who: The Story of Doctor Who in America”; staff member of the Outpost Gallifrey and Gallifrey Base fan forums (the latter of which she co-founded); and countless contributions to fan communities and publications across America. She was also very active in costuming fandom, participating in and running masquerades and convention events nationwide. She was unable to join us to run our Masquerade this year due to her illness, leading to a last-minute group effort she actively contributed to, to make certain the show would go on.

Our entire fan community has been enriched by Jennifer, and her loss is devastating to so many of us who have called her friend for so long. We will be dedicating next year’s Gallifrey One convention to her memory. Our thoughts and sympathies are with her husband Philip, her daughter Valerie, and their family today.

(2) AMAZONIAN CRITIQUES. Authors continue raising issues about Amazon’s business practices and those who abuse its revenue model.

  • Courtney Milan. Thread starts here.
  • Courtney Milan again. Thread starts here.
  • Tessa Dare. Some interesting data from her, and from the additions and corrections in responding tweets. Thread starts here.

(3) BOMBS AWAY. The Verge, in “Rotten Tomatoes tackles review-bombing by eliminating pre-release comments”, tells about site changes being made in response to the negative campaign against Captain Marvel.

The film-rating aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes has announced it will no longer allow users to comment on or register early anticipation for movies, following a series of coordinated attempts to sabotage the ratings on a few select upcoming films.

The Rotten Tomatoes blog details those changes:  

Starting this week, Rotten Tomatoes will launch the first of several phases of updates that will refresh and modernize our Audience Rating System. We’re doing it to more accurately and authentically represent the voice of fans, while protecting our data and public forums from bad actors.

As of February 25, we will no longer show the ‘Want to See’ percentage score for a movie during its pre-release period. Why you might ask?  We’ve found that the ‘Want to See’ percentage score is often times confused with the ‘Audience Score’ percentage number. (The ‘Audience Score’ percentage, for those who haven’t been following, is the percentage of all users who have rated the movie or TV show positively – that is, given it a star rating of 3.5 or higher – and is only shown once the movie or TV show is released.)

… What else are we doing? We are disabling the comment function prior to a movie’s release date. Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership. We have decided that turning off this feature for now is the best course of action. Don’t worry though, fans will still get to have their say: Once a movie is released, audiences can leave a user rating and comments as they always have.

(4) SAYING NO. Emma Thompson quit a movie she wanted to do with a director she loves to work with – the LA Times has the reasons: “Emma Thompson’s letter to Skydance: Why I can’t work for John Lasseter”. Skydance had hired Lasseter just months after he left Pixar and parent company Disney in the face of multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior.

In mid-February, it was reported that the two-time Oscar winner had pulled out of Skydance’s highly touted animation feature “Luck,” citing her concerns about Lasseter’s hiring. According to her representatives, from the moment the hire was announced, Thompson began conversations about extricating herself from the project; she officially withdrew Jan. 20.

In a letter she sent to Skydance management three days later, she acknowledged the complications caused by a star withdrawing from a project, including the effect her decision would have on the director, the rest of the cast and the crew. But in the end, she wrote, the questions raised by the Lasseter hire made it impossible for her to remain in the film.

The full text of the letter is at the linked article. It ends:

I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.

(5) MELON. Hong Kong’s Melon Sci-Fi event, to be held March 23, describes itself as —

An international gathering of leading science fiction writers, acclaimed scientists, media industry experts and fans to discuss what’s next in science fiction, entrepreneurship and the most compelling trends facing our future.

The program boasts a stellar list of talents from East and West, including Jo Walton, Bao Shu, Jeanette Ng, Aliette de Bodard, Rebecca Kuang, Tade Thompson, Regina Wang, Lisa (SL) Huang, and many others.

(6) NOT FAR AT ALL. C.E. Murphy, who lives in Ireland, gives a kindly warning in “A note about Irish distances”

This is especially for people coming to Dublin 2019:

If an Irish person (or website, for that matter) tells you something is a 10 minute walk, they are almost certainly lying to you.

It’s a well-intentioned lie. They reckon anybody can walk for ten minutes, I think, so if they say it’s ten minutes, well, that sounds grand and not a bother and you can manage that. But if it is actually a ten minute walk, that is a matter of sheer coincidence and should not be used as a measuring stick for other times you’re told something is a ten minute walk.

Usually a ten minute walk is really about 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s 85.

Everything in Dublin is, according to rental ads, no more than a 15 minute walk from city centre or St Stephen’s Green. Everything in Ireland is no more than a comfortable 10 minute walk from a train station.

Honestly, we’d been here for years, trying to figure this and other similar phenomenon out, when it finally dawned on us that broadly speaking, the Irish people, who love a good story, would rather lie to you than disappoint you….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. Damn, I hadn’t realised that he’d only written six novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long for fiction but it was short form where excelled with more than two hundred stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it.  (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 74. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Oh, and she’s still damn sexy. 
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 71. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile.
  • Born February 26, 1957 John Jude Palencar, 62. Illustrator whose artwork graces over a hundred covers. In my personal collection, he’s on the covers of de lint’s The Onion Girl and Forests of the Heart, Priest’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds and le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea.
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 56. Fans are fond of saying that spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current incarnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 54. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic Chinese city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read.
  • Born February 26, 1977 James Wan, 42. He’s known originally for directing the Saw horror film franchise, but more recently for Aquaman. He’s been picked to develop the Swamp Thing series on the DC Universe streaming service. He also rebooted the MacGyver franchise. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range thinks it will cost plenty to commute in outer space.
  • AI loosely defined, in Brewster Rockit.
  • Arriving aliens famously make this request. Over the Hedge offers a good example of when the right answer is “No.”
  • Please, Monty, do not use the eggplant emoji to ask for baba ghanoush.

(9) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. BBC asks “Is Japan losing its umami?” (gallery and video; not viewable on small screens.)

Soy sauce is one of the most important ingredients in Japanese cooking, but chances are you’ve never tasted the real thing.

Yasuo Yamamoto has a secret – or more precisely, 68 of them. On a recent morning on the Japanese island of Shodoshima, the fifth-generation soy sauce brewer slid open the door to his family’s wooden storehouse to reveal 68 massive cedar barrels caked in a fungus-filled crust. As he climbed up a creaky staircase into his dark, cobwebbed loft, every inch of the planked walkway, beams and ceiling was covered in centuries’ worth of black bacteria, causing the thick brown goo inside the barrels to bubble. The entire building was alive.

“This is what gives our soy sauce its unique taste,” Yamamoto said, pointing to a 150-year-old wooden barrel. “Today, less than 1% of soy sauce in Japan is still made this way.”

Until 70 years ago, all Japanese soy sauce was made this way, and it tasted completely different to what the world knows today. But despite a government ordinance to modernise production after World War Two, a few traditional brewers continue to make soy sauce the old-fashioned way, and Yamamoto is the most important of them all. Not only has he made it his mission to show the world how real soy sauce is supposed to taste, but he’s leading a nationwide effort to preserve the secret ingredient in a 750-year-old recipe before it disappears.

(10) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. Joseph Hurtgen reviews Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess” at Rapid Transmission.

Reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s metafictional The Grasshopper Lies Heavy within The Man in the High Castle, Chess’s Vikram holds his copy of Pyronauts dear. It is the one item of cultural significance that grounds him to his former identity. What are pyronauts? They are those that set fire to things, that destroy the archive. So, then, it is ironic that the item Vikram holds dear is a story about those that destroy artifacts. The immigrants from a different New York City experience a complete cultural dislocation. The entire archive, the background to their lives, is gone as if incinerated in a fire. Though their New York City appears the same as the new one they find at the other side of the trans-dimensional gate, in the new city, they have no history, and with no history, no future.

(11) ARE YOU THAT AUDIENCE? Adri Joy says this flawed book is still a good choice for the right audience: “Microreview [Book]: Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh” at Nerds of a Feather.

By opening the action around the Terra-Two mission, and the tiny complement of students who get onto it from the academic pressure cooker of Dalton academy, Oh sets up an interesting moment to start the story. By this point, all of the characters have spent years in each others’ company to some extent, and while some clearly know each other better than others – there’s a notable divide between Jesse and the crew who were originally selected – we are still reading about relationships that have a great deal of baggage behind them, and the whole that’s handled quite well. At the same time, setting the action at the start of the crew’s 23-year journey makes the distance to the planet insurmountable. I suspect it’s no accident that the title frames Terra-two as a “dream”: a planet that will somehow provide all the answers to an overcrowded, dying earth, packed with natural beauty and already habitable for humans, somehow becoming more and more unreal with every detail we learn that conforms to the way things are on Earth. The fact that this mission seems so dreamlike, and the protagonists feel so underequipped, may be frustrating for readers seeking a more Seveneves-esque tale of human ingenuity in the face of interstellar adversity, but that’s sort of the point: there’s a subtle but increasingly clear message that we are supposed to question the design and realism of this mission, even while the teenagers themselves are fixated on their own destinies and, more practically, surviving long enough to arrive with them.

(12) BRANCHING OUT. This time around Vicky Who Reads connects young readers to works aimed at adults: “If You Liked… #13: Adult Science-Fiction & Fantasy by Women!”

…I picked this specific subset because oftentimes, these books are miscategorized as YA, for numerous reasons. A lot of it is definitely misogyny in both the YA and adult SFF communities, believing that women writing SFF are YA because in these people’s minds, YA is also “lesser” and “less intense” (Which is not true. YA is very valid, and includes a different writing style.)

So anyways, I wanted to both boost some adult fiction work (that have crossover appeal, but are still not YA) by women, and also to maybe provide suggestions for readers who want to transition from YA SFF to adult, but don’t know where to start!

The first comparison is:

If you liked The Wrath and The Dawn, you’ll love Uprooted!

Uprooted honestly feels very 1001 Nights to me–women needing to be handed over to an overlord of sorts as payment, and then something interesting happens!

(13) MOONWALKERS. There’s a day left to bid on a “Rare Apollo Reunion Poster Signed by 18 Apollo Astronauts, Including 8 Moonwalkers” at the Nate D. Sanders Auctions site.

Apollo astronauts signed poster, from their 6 July 1986 reunion in Washington, DC. Poster of three children gazing upward at the moon is commemorated by the autographs of 18 Apollo astronauts including 8 moonwalkers: Charles Conrad, Ron Evans, Stu Roosa, Dick Gordon, Charlie Duke, Michael Collins, Walt Cunningham, Jim Lovell, Buzz Aldrin, Don Eisele, Bill Anders, Alan Bean, Jim Irwin, Al Worden, Rusty Schweickart, Alan Shepard, Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt.

(14) OGH WISHES HE LOOKED THIS GOOD. The Chibify site is fun, and I can hardly complain that the results aren’t too close to reality when they are as flattering as this.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Xylophone by Jennifer Levonian on Vimeo explains what happens when a pregnant woman steals a goat from a petting zoo.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/20/19 Ain’t No Sound But The Sound Of His Scroll, His Pixel Ready To Go

(1) STOLEN HEARTS. Another romance writer has been accused of plagiarism: the #CopyPasteCris row involves accusations that Cristiane Serruya lifted large sections of her romance novels from works by Courtney Milan and other writers, then blamed the mess on a ghostwriter she’d hired. One side-effect is that the Romance Writers of America is under pressure to either bar ghostwritten works from its awards or insist such works are identified as such when submitted. Will there be calls for sff and horror organizations to follow suit?

Milan said a reader alerted her to the wording issue in Serruya’s book, and tweeted, “I’m not exactly sure how to proceed from here, but I will be seeking legal counsel.”

Milan is a lawyer who used to teach intellectual property law at Seattle University.

Then the story became much larger. On Twitter, Milan and other authors and readers began posting passages from Serruya’s work that appeared to be lifted from other sources, sometimes using the hashtag #CopyPasteCris.

On Tuesday morning, Serruya initially seemed to deny the charges, tweeting at Milan, “Good morning, @courtneymilan I just woke up to this and I am astonished. I would have never, ever, done this. I am in this writing for a few years now and I am also a lawyer. Could we perhaps talk?”

Shortly after her first tweet, Serruya tweeted that her book did, indeed, contain plagiarism, which she blamed on a ghostwriter she had hired through Fiverr, a service that matches freelance creative professionals with those who want to hire them for gigs.

…Other authors and readers, per Milan’s advice, looked into the book to make sure Serruya had not stolen even more writers’ intellectual property. Boy howdy, the results…

…But wait, the plot thickens. Not only was this hodgepodge of a book submitted to the RITA contest, but Serruya was also judging some categories.

Let’s recap, shall we?

  1. “Author” Cristiane Serruya published a book, allegedly ghostwritten, full of stolen words and others’ intellectual property.
  2. She submitted this book for consideration to an award that Ms. Milan was previously not allowed to submit.
  3. She played a role in which books won in America’s most prestigious awards in the romance genre.
  4. When called out for it, she lied.
  5. When lies got her nowhere, she attempted to shift the blame.
  6. As of this writing, Serruya has taken down Royal Love. She has not, however, taken down Royal Affair, which apparently also contains stolen intellectual property from romance superstars.

(2) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. SYFY Wire wishes they had the key — “Lord of the Rings writers locked in guarded room at Amazon Studios”.

The new Lord of the Rings series from Amazon is being kept more secret from fans than the One Ring was from the Elven-kings, Dwarf-lords, and Mortal Men. Apart from very vague and mysterious teases like a map laden with Easter eggs, Tolkien fans know next to nothing about the upcoming series that hopes to somehow co-exist with Peter Jackson’s fantasy films after the latter defined Middle-earth for a generation. And that’s partially because of how Amazon’s writer’s room is protected.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the team responsible for creating the first season of LotR TV has been even more isolated than Gollum in his cave….

(3) HOW AMAZING IS THAT? Steve Davidson is adding a convention to his brand: “Announcing Amazingcon® (Very Preliminary)” .

The micron itself? A one day affair, consisting of two panels, a catered lunch break, a mini-dealers room and art show, bringing in two regionally popular guests, open to attendance of between 100 and 250 (max), designed to appeal to two distinct but related audiences: local folks familiar with the GoHs who would like a more intimate experience with them and local fans who want to experience a traditional convention for the first time, without having to commit to a full weekend, the travel and lodging requirements and etc.

This is currently a test-case, is expected to take place in Manchester, NH (or relatively close by) and is expected to happen in a 2020 time frame.  (Very local helps keep associated expenses down.)

We expect to replicate nearly everything a traditional, weekend long convention does;  there’ll be membership badges and registration, panels with Q&A, an opening and closing ceremonies and even what we’re calling A “Dead Dog Dinner Party” for our GoHs, staff and selected members of the convention….

(4) HE GETS BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS. The Yorkshire Post talked to one of Interzone’s co-founders about what he overcame to write his new book: “Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis has not stopped Leeds sci-fi and fantasy writer Simon Ounsley”

…When Simon Ounsley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease six years ago, he felt any chance to have a fiction book published had slipped from his grasp. But he has continued to write with the help of voice activation software and now has a children’s story on sale and another in the pipeline. “I have wanted to write fiction all my life,” he says. “But except for a few short stories, I was never able to secure the interest of an agent or publisher.

…“I had almost decided I should try to self-publish a children’s novel I had written, when an extraordinary stroke of luck led to me finding a publisher.”

That publishing firm is Journey Fiction, run by writer Jennifer Farey from Las Vegas, USA. Simon had been in touch with her husband Nic through science fiction fanzines and asked him to take a look at the book last September. He offered to show it to Jennifer and on December 1 The Shop on Peculiar Hill was released, available through Amazon and online bookstores.

It is in the sci-fi genre that Simon has done much of his writing, including for fanzines from 1978. He was one of eight people who launched fantasy and science fiction magazine Interzone in 1982. Still in existence today, it is the longest running British sci-fi magazine in history. Harrogate-born Simon was involved for six years.

(5) TROLLS HAMMER CAPTAIN MARVEL. Captain Marvel had a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97% rating a few weeks ago, but the trolls went to work and pushed it down to 63%. Stylist phrased the news this way — “Sexist trolls are targeting Captain Marvel with fake bad reviews”:

Over here in the Stylist.co.uk offices we know that women are strong and smart and powerful and awe-inspiring. We celebrate this on a daily basis. But there are many out there who aren’t as comfortable watching a female superhero save the world in such spectacular fashion.

And they’re all trolls lurking in the swampy backwaters of the internet.

A campaign spearheaded by sexist social media users to target Captain Marvel with negative reviews has hit Rotten Tomatoes today. The idea, according to these users, is to ensure that the movie’s audience score is impacted and reduced.

Just to be clear, the film hasn’t even been released yet. But that hasn’t stopped people leaving negative comments on the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes’ page anyway. These reviews target the film’s female-led subject matter and star Larson’s commitment to utilise inclusion riders on the press tour for the movie to ensure that female, disabled and people of colour journalists are given preference for interview time. 

(6) HORROR’S HISTORIC SOURCES. Jess Nevins, author of the forthcoming book A Chilling Age of Horror: How 20th Century Horror Fiction Changed The Genre, illuminates “A short history of 20th century African-American horror literature”:

In a very real sense horror, in the form of slavery, was a part of the African-American experience from the beginning. Unsurprisingly, horror was a part of African-American narratives from the first as well. The folklore, legends, and myths brought over from Africa during the Middle Passage and turned into oral literature by the slaves was one significant element of pre-twentieth century African-American horror literature.1 A second, which long outlasted the African folklore and legends as a source of African-American horror, was the Gothic, which in its “Afro-Gothic” form was as popular by the end of the twentieth century as it was in its more primitive form centuries earlier.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen television episodes of The Twilight Zone, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 76. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily coloured with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1945 Brion James. Without doubt best known for his portrayal of Leon Kowalski in Bladerunner. He did have a number of genre roles including playing Stubbs in Enemy Mine, Tank in Steel Dawn, Stacy in Cherry 2000, Staten Jack Rose in Wishman, Maritz in Nemesis… Well you get the idea. He appeared in myriad low budget, not terribly good genre films after Bladerunner. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 65. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1972 Nick Mamatas, 47. Writer and editor. His fiction is of a decidedly Lovecraftian bent which can be seen in Move Under Ground which also has a strong Beat influence. It is worth noting that his genre fiction often strays beyond genre walls into other genres as he sees fit. He has also been recognised for his editorial work including translating Japanese manga with a Bram Stoker Award, as well as World Fantasy Award and Hugo Award nominations. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit scores with this Marie Kondo/Star Wars gag.
  • In Frazz, they discuss how SJW credentials view food.

(10) VERTLIEB ON TV. Film historian Steve Vertlieb appeared in an episode of Counter Culture, a local PBS talk show, that aired last night. You can watch the episode at the link.

I want to thank popular comedian and radio personality Grover Silcox for inviting me share a delightful segment of his new “Counter Culture” television interview series which aired last night on WLVT TV, Channel 39 Public Television in Allentown. We sat together at the famed Daddypops Diner in Hatboro, Pennsylvania where the wonderful series is filmed, and talked about the long history of Monster Movies. For anyone who didn’t catch it last night, the program is available on line by accessing the link below. You’ll find my segment in the middle of Episode No. 3.

 (11) SHOES FOR INDUSTRY! [Item by Andrew.] Robert Sheckley is now writing our reality. Cnet reports: “Nike’s Android app doesn’t run well with its Adapt BB self-tying shoes”.

A faulty app has tripped up Nike’s $350 self-tying shoes.

Nike released the Adapt BB, its tech-infused sneaker, on Sunday during the NBA’s All-Star game, along with an app that can control the shoe’s fit and light-up colors.

You’re able to loosen and tighten the sneakers through two buttons on the sneaker’s side, but Nike executives talked up the app experience, saying that it would also help you with your fitness activities in the future.

The Adapt BB needed a firmware update in its first week, which could only be installed via an iOS or Android app, Nike executives said in January.

But for people using Android, the app for the self-tying sneakers hasn’t been a perfect fit. Multiple reviews for the Nike Adapt app on Google’s Play Store said that it hasn’t connected to the left shoe, and an update rendered the sneaker’s main feature useless.

Usually bricking tend to render devices completely useless, at least the Adapt BB just turns into a regular pair of sneakers. You’re also still able to control the fit through the buttons on the side.

(12) THE CASTLE WILL CLOSE. The Verge: “The Man in the High Castle will end with season 4, trailer reveals”. Sean Hollister writes:

I think I’ve come to a realization — most of my current favorite TV shows are only still favorites because I’m waiting for them to come to what seems like an inevitably gruesome end. I’m a deer in the headlights, hoping that in a world where death and dismay is around every corner, the Game of Thrones cast might actually find their final rest; the handmaids in The Handmaid’s Tale might permanently escape their torture and mutilation the only way that seems plausible; Westworld will see the robots triumph over humanity (yes I’m in that camp); and that Killing Eve might, well, it’s right there in the title. 

That’s why I’m delighted to say that The Man in the High Castle will end after its fourth season, as you can see by watching this new trailer. 

(13) PAYING IT FORWARD. Award-winning and best-selling paranormal romance writer Nalini Singh wants to send a New Zealand first-timer to the Romance Writers of NZ con.

(14) CROSS-GENRE ROMANCE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast interviews Jeffe Kennedy: “SFFMP 221: Whether Awards Are Worth Trying for, Marketing Fantasy Romance, and Being Active in SFWA and RWA”. Among the many questions covered: “How much ‘romance’ has to be in a story for it to be considered sci-fi or fantasy romance?”

This week, we chatted with RITA award-winning fantasy romance author Jeffe Kennedy. She started her career writing non-fiction, shifted to romance and fantasy romance with traditional publishing, and now does some self-publishing as well. We asked her about whether awards are worth trying for, her thoughts on the professional organizations SFWA and RWA, and what she’s tried and liked for marketing over the years.

(15) SKYLARK THANKS. The full text of Melinda Snodgrass’ 2019 Skylark Memorial Award acceptance speech has been posted to her blog – click the link.

(16) SWEET SCREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS: Over at Featured Futures, Jason has incorporated Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Eleven into the “Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links)”.

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, BASFF, Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, Shearman/Kelly, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals are announced, they will be combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(17) SHED A TEAR. At Quick Sip Reviews, Charles Payseur rolls out his next award: “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF”.

…I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!

(18) BUZZ. “Scientists Release Controversial Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In High-Security Lab”NPR has the story, a look at the pros and cons.

Scientists have launched a major new phase in the testing of a controversial genetically modified organism: a mosquito designed to quickly spread a genetic mutation lethal to its own species, NPR has learned.

For the first time, researchers have begun large-scale releases of the engineered insects, into a high-security laboratory in Terni, Italy.

“This will really be a breakthrough experiment,” says Ruth Mueller, an entomologist who runs the lab. “It’s a historic moment.”

The goal is to see if the mosquitoes could eventually provide a powerful new weapon to help eradicate malaria in Africa, where most cases occur.

(19) SFF AND THE ACADEMY. BBC’s “Oscars 2019: 17 quirky facts about this year’s Academy Awards” includes some genre-relevant items:

10. In 2008, The Dark Knight helped prompt an Oscars rule change, which expanded the best picture category from five nominees to as many as 10.

It was hoped this would allow for more blockbuster superhero films (i.e. movies the public actually go to see) to be acknowledged.

However, it’s taken a decade for a superhero film to actually benefit from this rule change – in the shape of this year’s nomination for Black Panther.

12. Incredibles 2 is nominated for best animated feature this year.

But sequels have rarely won in this category since the Oscars introduced it in 2001.

The last one that did was 2010’s Toy Story 3. (Despite its misleading title, 2014’s Big Hero 6 wasn’t a sequel.)

(20) BACK TO THE HANGAR. The Hollywood Reporter has more on the cancellation of Nightflyers.

Nightflyers will not fly again for Syfy. The NBCUniversal-owned cable network has opted to cancel the expensive space drama based on the George R.R. Martin novella after one season. The cancellation arrives as one of its leads just booked a series regular role in a broadcast pilot.

Nightflyers was, without question, a big swing for Syfy….

In a bid to eventize Nightflyers, Syfy set a binge model and released the entire series on Dec. 2 on its digital platforms and aired the series over 10 straight nights on its linear network. The series hit Netflix on Feb. 1 and, unlike the breakout success that became LIfetime’s You, did not break out. The Dec. 13 season finale — which now doubles as a series finale — drew just 420,000 live viewers (down from 623,000 for the premiere).

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Smash and Grab on Youtube is a Pixar film by Brian Larsen about two robots who would rather play than perform their menial jobs.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Steve Green, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Steve Davidson, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Andrew, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]