RWA Rescinds One of the Inaugural Vivian Awards

The Romance Writers of America’s announcement of the inaugural Vivian Awards on July 31 was met by an immediate backlash against one of the winners.

The “Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements” category winner, At Love’s Command by Karen Witemeyer, is a western romance whose male protagonist takes part in the Wounded Knee massacre and then is redeemed by religion and the love of a good woman. The award drew social media users’ attention to the novel’s portrayal of a genocidal event, and initiated many complaints, especially on Twitter.

“As a Taino, I’m not at all surprised that a book has romanticized genocide. However, I am VERY (disappointed) to see it won an award,” tweeted author Mimi Milan. “Membership permanently cancelled.”

“A ‘romance’ in which the ‘hero’ commits genocide against Native Americans is honored with an award named after the pioneering Black woman founder of RWA is why the organization continues to bleed membership,” tweeted Kymberlyn Reed.

Reed’s tweet refers to the new RWA board’s effort to recover from the mass resignations of officers and loss of members after their predecessors’ attempt to censure Courtney Milan. One measure taken to signal their changing vision for the problem-ridden organization was to remake RWA’s annual awards, retiring the old RITA Awards and creating a new series named after RWA’s founder Vivian Stephens, an African-American woman.

On August 2, the day after the complaints broke out, RWA President LaQuette issued a “Statement on 2021 VIVIAN Awards” that defended the awards finalists as a whole, and contended none of the 13 judges who scored the Witemeyer book had reported any “perceived objectionable or harmful content” to staff as judges had been instructed to do.  

LaQuette also asserted that “Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements, as a subgenre of romance, requires a redemptive arc as a genre convention. Essentially, the character can’t be redeemed by human means; only through their spiritual/religious awakening can they find redemption for their moral failings and or crimes against humanity” – implying that the type of character being objected to is baked into the category definition. However, the RWA’s Vivian Contest Rules only say that eligible works are those “in which spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth or relationship development, and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.”

RWA’s statement was condemned by another 2021 Vivian winner, Sara Whitney, who announced she would decline her award in protest: “My statement about returning the Vivian award”.

Saturday night, I won the inaugural Vivian award for Best Mid-length Contemporary Romance from the Romance Writers of America. In my acceptance speech, I thanked RWA for creating an award recognizing Vivian Stephens and for encouraging members to work together toward meeting the challenges we faced to become a better organization for all writers and readers.

Tonight, I am telling RWA that I am declining my Vivian award and resigning from the organization.

I had decided to remain with RWA after its actions in 2019 because I didn’t want to cede the organization to the racists without a fight. I saw new board members stepping up to make much-needed changes toward inclusivity and equity, and I wanted to be a member who would help work toward those goals.

When I entered my book in the inaugural Vivian awards, I did it in the hope that the new judging rubric and DEI training would allow for historically excluded authors to be given the same consideration I’ve always been awarded as a cis straight white woman. I also hoped the new system would root out overtly racist or otherwise problematic books.

After discovering which book had won the inspirational category, I realized that my hopes were misplaced. RWA simply hasn’t done enough.

This afternoon’s statement from the RWA Board of Directors was the last straw. Its narrow definition of inspirational romance and discussion of characters seeking redemption from “crimes against humanity” prove the organization has not listened or learned from its current or former members.

I don’t only want to be an ally. I want to be a co-conspirator. And I cannot in good conscience accept a Vivian award or remain a member of RWA under these circumstances.

The following day, August 3, the RWA Board announced that after an emergency meeting they had rescinded the Vivian awarded to At Love’s Command:

…RWA is in full support of First Amendment rights; however, as an organization that continually strives to improve our support of marginalized authors, we cannot in good conscience uphold the decision of the judges in voting to celebrate a book that depicts the inhumane treatment of indigenous people and romanticizes real world tragedies that still affect people to this day….

The media by then were already reporting the story. The Washington Post article “After award win, Christian romance novel draws criticism for ‘romanticized genocide’ of Native Americans” begins:

Christian romance novels are generally known for their more “wholesome” take on the genre.

But this year’s winner of the Romance Writers of America’s Vivian Award for best romance with religious or spiritual elements has still managed to stir controversy.

The book — “At Love’s Command” by Karen Witemeyer — opens with a depiction of the Wounded Knee Massacre that some readers and authors have criticized as romanticizing the killing of Native Americans….

BookRiot’s Sarah Nicolas, in “Romance Writers of America Awards Book with Genocidal ‘Hero’”, describes the opening of the book in some detail, and quotes a tweet complaining about this particular book at the time the finalists were announced.

And several articles, including The Mary Sue’s “Romance Writers of America Awards Book Downplaying Genocide”, say the situation reminds them of the 2014 controversy when RWA’s RITA Awards shortlisted a book in the “inspirational” category about a Jewish woman who falls in love with her Nazi Kommandant at a concentration camp and converts to Christianity.

Courtney Milan also has made extensive comments about the RWA leadership’s decision to rescind the award, and in her view, their failure to craft the new award’s rules to authorize some things they have done. Thread starts here. She asks such questions as:

The RWA, meanwhile, promises its Vivian Task Force, headed by RWA Director-at-Large Jackí Renee, will be reviewing the contest’s effectiveness and recommending ways “to improve the contest and identify and manage potentially harmful content at the earliest stages in the contest lifecycle.”

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 3/5/21 Mr. Pixel, Can Scroll! How Droll!

(1) BUTLER HONORED. GeekWire, a site with roots in Seattle, took a strong interest in today’s news of a “Mars rover landing site named after Octavia E. Butler” because Butler spent her last years living in the Seattle area.

Alan Boyle, who wrote the story, is a long-time science fiction fan as well and hosts a relatively new science fiction podcast, Fiction Science, which looks at the intersection of science/technology and science fiction. His co-host is writer and Clarion West graduate Dominica Phetteplace. Alan’s also written about Butler before.

Fifteen years after her death, Seattle science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler has joined an exclusive pantheon of space luminaries memorialized on Mars.

Today NASA announced that the Red Planet locale where its Perseverance rover touched down last month is called Octavia E. Butler Landing, in honor of a Black author who emphasized diversity in tales of alternate realities and far-out futures.

“Butler’s protagonists embody determination and inventiveness, making her a perfect fit for the Perseverance rover mission and its theme of overcoming challenges,” Kathryn Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance, said in a news release. “Butler inspired and influenced the planetary science community and many beyond, including those typically under-represented in STEM fields.”

Butler died unexpectedly in 2006 at the age of 58, after sustaining a head injury in a fall on a walkway outside her home in Lake Forest Park, Wash. She had moved to the Seattle area in 1999 from her native Southern California….

(2) BUTLER’S OLD NEIGHBORHOOD. “Octavia Butler’s Pasadena: The City That Inspired Her To Create New Worlds” on “Here and Now” at WBUR.

…One of host Tonya Mosley’s neighbors makes it a point to walk clear across Los Angeles every once in a while to free his mind and find inspiration in his surroundings. Mosley isn’t quite there, but she does enjoy a daily stroll along the majestic, tree-lined streets of Pasadena, California. Walking the same route every day is an exercise in staying present.

Pasadena is the kind of place where kids ride their bikes in the middle of the street and the manicured lawns and shrubs rival those of the Midwest. For Octavia Butler, one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of our time, Pasadena was the spark that lit her flame.

“There is something about this mix of urban and wild,” journalist Lynell George says. “[Butler] was constantly looking at these interactions of how we use, you know, wilderness in space and nature.”

The title of George’s book “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler” comes from Butler’s description when asked what it takes to write science and speculative fiction. The book explains that early on in Butler’s life, she used the limited world around her — only where she could get by on foot or by bus — to create new worlds and possibilities.

An “avid walker,” Butler journeyed around Pasadena and wrote down what she called “walk thoughts” in a notebook, George says. Butler examined the climate and noted small changes over time.

(3) JOHN VARLEY UPDATE. Now that John Varley is out of the hospital his partner, Lee Emmett, has added a several paragraph long update to “Sending Prayers to the Cosmos”.

John was discharged from the hospital February 28 with many instructions… Also included in his discharge package was a booklet, Heart Surgery Care Guide, with all the no no’s: No lifting more than 5 pounds; No using arms to push or pull; No lifting elbows above shoulder height; No reaching behind your back, above waist level; No driving.

He has a red heart-shaped pillow that he hugs to his chest when he coughs, sneezes, burps, laughs, hiccups, gets in and out of bed, stands up, or rides in a car in the backseat behind the front passenger….

Varley added a note of his own:

This will be brief as it is still hard for me to sit in a typing position, and my left arm doesn’t work very well. Since I’m a lefty this is a bigger problem for me than it probably is for you. They say it will get better.

I just wanted to add my thanks to the excellent report and appreciation Lee wrote, above. I thank you for the good vibes and wishes and karma sent my way during my recent travails. Yes, and your prayers as well, though I’m an atheist and don’t know quite what to do with them. Is anyone really listening? Maybe so. Can’t hurt to pray, anyhow.

I also need to send a special thank you to those who sent small donations along with the wishes. As you know, in the USA we have easily the best health care in the world … if you can afford it. I got wonderful care every moment I was at PeaceHealth hospital. Now the bills will start coming in. We pay for insurance (more than we can afford) but the co-pays can sometimes be deadlier than COVID. (For which we still haven’t been able to find a vaccination appointment.)

That’s all I can do now. I will have some observations and such a little later, when my arm stops trembling.

(4) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org’s FanHistory Project Zoom Session for March 27 will bring you face-to-face with “The Benford Twins, Fandom and the Larger Universe with Greg and Jim Benford.”

Jim and Greg Benford became fans in the 1950s, and throughout a lifetime of science, professional writing, and extensive accomplishments, they have remained fans. 

In this Zoom session, they’ll talk about their introduction into fandom, their fandom over the years, and tell stories about the important and interesting people they’ve met. What influence has fandom had on them? Did relocation change their interactions with fandom? How have their professional lives influenced their fandom? Join us and find out (and expect a few surprises)!

To receive a Zoom link, please RSVP to fanac@fanac.org . 

(5) ADVICE FROM COURTNEY MILAN. Clarion West will host a free online workshop — “When and How To Quit Your Day Job with Courtney Milan” – on March 9. However, it’s probably too late to get in on it — when I checked the registration page there was a “sold out” message.

Quitting your day job is one of the biggest decisions you can make as a writer. How do you know if you’re ready? What if you make a mistake and you don’t have enough money? How stable do you need to be? What if you’re fired and don’t have a choice? What do you need to know beyond finances? This workshop addresses these questions (and brings up points you may not have considered) as well as common issues that arise when you transition from a day job that provides structure into freelance work where you’re the only boss.

(6) BRAND X. Peter Suciu lays out the reasons why “Scott Baio And Patton Oswalt Feuding On Social Media Should Serve As Warning Of How Not To Act” at Forbes.

…”Celebrity flare-ups on Twitter typically follow a couple of courses,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “Some are personal brand-building efforts, which aim to draw attention to someone who believes the spotlight is passing them over by theatrically taking on someone with a far higher profile. Others seem more ethically-aimed, like historian Kevin M. Kruse’s takedowns of historical falsehoods that various public figures claim are true. Over time, such exchanges mostly follow highly predictable courses though the verbal slap-downs seem to keep people coming back. If it worked for Don Rickles, maybe Scott Baio can make a go of it.”

King references Scalzi in this article, which naturally caught John’s eye:

(7) ADKISSON OBIT. Michael George Adkisson (1955-2021) died February 7. The family obituary is here. He was editor/publisher of New Pathways magazine from 1986-1992. 

…Mike as everyone calls him, has a brilliant mind, loves art, writing, movies and science fiction. He was the founder, owner, editor and publisher of the science fiction magazine, New Pathways. The magazine got published from March 1986 to Winter of 1992. Being an artist himself, he provided much of the magazine’s artwork in the early issues…. 

About the impact of New Pathways the Science Fiction Encyclopedia says:

…The last issue appeared a year after the previous one and the magazine ceased at the height of its influence. It held a crucial place in the 1980s in providing a market for the alternate view of sf and Speculative Fiction. It was part of an evolution flowing from Scott Edelman’s Last Wave and on to David Memmott’s Ice River, C J Cypret’s Nonstop Magazine and Steve Brown’s Science Fiction Eye.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 5, 1938 — On this day in 1938, RKO first aired “The Bride of Death” with Orson Welles as  The Shadow. Welles prior to his War of The Worlds broadcast would play the role for thirty three episodes in 1937 and 1938 with Blue Coal being the sponsor. You can download it here. (CE)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 5, 1853 – Howard Pyle.  Five novels touchng the Matter of Arthur (here’s one), another about Robin Hood; some folks groan HP toned fables down to make them suitable for children, others applaud his artistry as a retelling fabulist (in the original sense, not the later meaning a liar). Twenty-four tales in The Wonder Clock, one for each hour, with poems by sister Katherine Pyle.  Illustrator, of his own books and e.g. two by Woodrow Wilson while WW was a history professor; here is a Story of Siegfried – no, not by that James Baldwin.  Here is a mermaid.  (Died 1911) [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1936 Dean Stockwell, 85. You’ll do doubt best remember him as Al the hologram on Quantum Leap.   He had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleThe Night GalleryA Twist in The TaleOrson Welles’ Great Mysteries and The Twilght Zone. Anything I’ve overlooked? (CE) 
  • Born March 5, 1942 Mike Resnick. Damn, it still losing him hurts. It’s worth noting that he’s has been nominated for thirty-seven Hugo Awards, which is a record for writers, and won five times. Somewhat ironically nothing I’ve really enjoyed by him has won those Hugos. The novels making my list are his John Justin Mallory detective novels, The Red Tape War (with Jack L. Chalker & George Alec Effinger), and, yes it’s not really genre, Cat on a Cold Tin Roof. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born March 5, 1952 Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, 69. She’s  better known by her pen names of Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm.  I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read and enjoyed by her was Wizard of the Pigeons, but The Gypsy with Steven Brust was equally enjoyable and had the added bonus of a Boiled in Lead soundtrack.  What’s she done recently that I should think of reading? (CE) 
  • Born March 5, 1946 – Phil Jennings, age 75.   Seven novels, seventy shorter stories.  His work has been called “pyrotechnical … [his] exuberance is intermittently chaotic.”  [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1955 Penn Jillette, 66. Performed on Babylon 5 in the episode scripted by Neil Gaiman titled “Day of The Dead” as part of Penn & Teller who portrayed comedians Rebo and Zooty. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. Also he had a recurring role on Sabrina the Teenage Witch as Drell, the head of the Witches’ Council. He’s been in Fantasia 2000Toy StoryFuturama: Into the Wild Green YonderSharknado 3: Oh Hell No!Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanVR.5Space Ghost Coast to Coast and most recently Black Mirror. (CE) 
  • Born March 5, 1955 – Hejja Attila.  (Personal name last, Hungarian style.)  Twoscore covers, a few interiors.  Here is The Hugo Winners, vol. 1.  Here is The Web Between the Worlds.  Here is Stepsons of Terra. Here is The Wrong End of Time.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1959 – Howard Hendrix, Ph.D., age 62.  Six novels, twoscore shorter stories, half a dozen poems (one had a Dwarf Star Award from SF Poetry Ass’n); three anthologies; book reviews in NY Review of SF.  Professor of English at Cal. State Univ., Fresno. [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1974 Matt Lucas, 47. He played Nardole, a cyborg,  who was a companion to the Twelfth Doctor.  He is the only regular companion introduced under Steven Moffat to have never died on screen. He provided the voice of Sparx on Astro Boy, and was Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice through the Looking Glass. (CE) 
  • Born March 5, 1976 – Katy Stauber, age 45.  Three novels, two shorter stories; two anthologies with Chester Hoster (Futuristica vols I & II).  Has read IvanhoeThe Jungle BookDon Quixote, Lucifer’s HammerMetamorphoses, The Aeneid, four Shakespeare plays, three books by Dickens, two by Stevenson, five by Vonnegut, eighteen by Wodehouse (that’s not too many), The Stranger.  [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1984 – Ashley Hope Pérez, Ph.D., age 37.  Professor of world literatures at Ohio State Univ.  One novel for us, two others (Out of Darkness School Lib’y Journal and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year; Printz Honor, Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award) .  She says “I believe in writing that reflects the uniqueness and diversity of lives lived in any given community, regardless of the background of the author.”  [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1986 Sarah J. Maas, 35. Author of the Throne of Glass series wherein Cinderella is stone cold assassin, and one I‘ve not sampled yet. If you’re so inclined, there’s A Court of Thorns and Roses Coloring Book. Really. Truly.  (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) KICKSTARTER IS IMMINENT. Edward Willett is launching a Kickstarter March 9 to fund Shapers of Worlds: Volume II, an anthology featuring top talents in the industry including Kelley Armstrong, Marie Brennan, Garth Nix among others who were guests during the second year of Edward Willett’s podcast, The Worldshapers. The appeal launches March 9 at 12 noon CST – interested fans can go to the pre-launch page (which will become the project page) to sign up to be notified when it opens.

If it funds, Shapers of Worlds Volume II will feature new fiction from Kelley Armstrong, Marie Brennan, Helen Dale, Candas Jane Dorsey, Lisa Foiles, Susan Forest, James Alan Gardner, Matthew Hughes, Heli Kennedy, Lisa Kessler, Adria Laycraft, Ira Nayman, Garth Nix, Tim Pratt, Edward Savio, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Jeremy Szal, and Edward Willett, plus stories by Jeffrey A. Carver, Barbara Hambly, Nancy Kress, David D. Levine, S.M. Stirling, and Carrie Vaughn. Among those authors are winners and nominees for every major science fiction and fantasy literary award, plus several international bestsellers.

Backers’ rewards offered by the authors include some 100 signed books (including limited editions), Tuckerizations (a backer’s name used as a character name), ready-to-hang photographs, audiobooks, bookplates, and more.

Shapers of Worlds Volume II is a follow-up to Shapers of Worlds, successfully Kickstarted one year ago.

(12) THE CAPITAL OF THE INSUBORDINATION. Denver author team O.E. Tearmann’s work includes the queer cyberpunk Aces High, Jokers Wild series which to date includes five novels and two short story collections. The fifth novel, Draw Dead, was released March 3.

Their books include strong themes of diversity and found family, providing a surprisingly hopeful take on a dystopian future. Bringing their own experiences as a marginalized author together with flawed but genuine characters, Tearmann’s work has been described as “Firefly for the dystopian genre.”

“Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That’s fine with the Democratic State Force base he’s been assigned to command: they don’t like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned. Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in. Life’s a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you’re given.

(13) ON A ROLL. Sff art collector Doug Ellis recalls for Facebook readers details of a delightful six-week run acquiring multiple works by Virgil Finlay.  

In last week’s Finlay Friday, I told the tale of how, back in the last week of March 2005, I’d acquired 15 Virgil Finlay originals from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was an incredible purchase, but within six weeks it led to my acquisition of five more Finlay originals. Needless to say, that six week period was the greatest Finlay run of my collecting career….

(14) CHARGE! BBC Future discusses “The battery invented 120 years before its time” and why it is an idea whose time has come.

…It was the early 1900s, and the driver of this particular car was Thomas Edison. While electric cars weren’t a novelty in the neighborhood, most of them relied on heavy and cumbersome lead-acid batteries. Edison had outfitted his car with a new type of battery that he hoped would soon be powering vehicles throughout the country: a nickel-iron battery. Building on the work of the Swedish inventor Ernst Waldemar Jungner, who first patented a nickel-iron battery in 1899, Edison sought to refine the battery for use in automobiles….

…But more than a century later, engineers would rediscover the nickel-iron battery as something of a diamond in the rough. Now it is being investigated as an answer to an enduring challenge for renewable energy: smoothing out the intermittent nature of clean energy sources like wind and solar. And hydrogen, once considered a worrisome byproduct, could turn out to be one of the most useful things about these batteries….

Conventional batteries, such as those based on lithium, can store energy in the short-term, but when they’re fully charged they have to release any excess or they could overheat and degrade. The nickel-iron battolyser, on the other hand remains stable when fully charged, at which point it can transition to making hydrogen instead.

“[Nickel-iron batteries] are resilient, being able to withstand undercharging and overcharging better than other batteries,” says John Barton, a research associate at the School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University in the UK, who also researches battolysers. “With hydrogen production, the battolyser adds multi-day and even inter-seasonal energy storage.”

Besides creating hydrogen, nickel-iron batteries have other useful traits, first and foremost that they are unusually low-maintenance. They are extremely durable, as Edison proved in his early electric car, and some have been known to last upwards of 40 years. The metals needed to make the battery – nickel and iron – are also more common than, say, cobalt which is used to make conventional batteries….

(15) HUSH-A-BOOM. BBC Reel hosts a video about“The mystery of Siberia’s exploding craters”.

On a remote peninsular in the Arctic circle, enormous wounds are appearing in the permafrost and have started to worry scientists. Research teams from Russia and the United States are racing to find out what this means for Siberia, and potentially the rest of the world. Based on the BBC Future article ‘The mystery of Siberia’s exploding craters‘.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fanac.org has posted video of last month’s Fan History Zoom panel “An Anecdotal History of Southern Fandom” with Janice Gelb, Guy Lillian III, Bill Plott, and Toni Weiskopf.

This Fan History Zoom (February 2021) explores the last 50-60 years of Southern US Fandom, through anecdotes and personal experiences. From Bill Plott with over 60 years of experience to Toni Weisskopf with a mere 40, the speakers share cherished memories and their thoughts on the nature of Southern Fandom. They speak about conventions, both regional and Worldcons, awards and traditions, bigger than life personalities, and fanzines. At the heart of it all, lies the hospitality and inclusiveness of Southern Fandom. There’s also a brief appearance by Jim Benford on the topic of his early fanzines, and an interesting Q&A session with the audience.

Here’s a sample anecdote, about Joe Celko, a Southern fan who shaved his head and wore a goatee one before that was a popular look: “At one party Kelly Freas actually drew on the back of his head his face while he was asleep…”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Rich Lynch, Daniel Dern, Paul Riddell, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Frank Catalano, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/9/20 Green Scroll The Pixels O!

(1) A REAL STEMWINDER. BBC America’s Pratchett-inspired series The Watch was teased during today’s virtual New York Comic Con.

Welcome to Ankh-Morpork. Expect dragon sightings. ‘The Watch’, an all-new series inspired by characters created by Sir Terry Pratchett and starring Richard Dormer as Vimes and Lara Rossi as Lady Sybil Ramkin, premieres January 2021 on BBC America.

(2) DOOMED TO REPEAT. K. Tempest Bradford lists year-by-year the harassment, accessibility, and programming diversity issues that have stalked World Fantasy Con since 2011. She then comments at length about her interactions with the 2020 committee in “World Fantasy, the Convention That Keeps On Failing”. In winding up a detailed 6000-word post Bradford says:

I want people to realize how serious, deep-seated, and currently intractable WFC’s problems are, both with this convention and with the organization as a whole. I want people to understand that this org has been given chance after chance, great piece of advice after great piece of advice, and example after example of how to do well, and this still happened. It is time to stop giving benefits of the doubt, or worrying over the social consequences of speaking up, speaking out, removing yourself from programming, or tossing your membership altogether.

What has kept WFC going all these years is the continued attendance of all those vaunted professionals [2020 chair] Ginny [Smith] mentioned. Luminaries that include writers and editors and agents and publishers. Even as con-goers (mostly women) were harassed without consequence, and people with disabilities were made to feel unwanted or as if they were a burden to accommodate, and as an environment of oppression and bigotry against BIPOC flourished, many people still paid several hundred dollars to attend and be on panels and give readings and network.

But they were gonna change it from the inside, doncha know!

(3) IN COMMUNITY. Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko, a Slovenian-born writer and translator currently living in Maine, guests on Sarah Gailey’s Pesonal Canons series with “Personal Canons: Dinotopia”.

…Dinotopia is one of the few books I have read in both Slovenian and English, a fact which speaks to the level of popularity it enjoyed at the peak of the dinosaur renaissance in the early nineties. Like so many other beloved children’s books, Dinotopia is essentially a portal fantasy, in disguise as the journal of Arthur Denison, a scientist from Boston, who is shipwrecked with his twelve-year-old son William in 1862. Rescued by dolphins and delivered to the uncharted continent of Dinotopia, the two are gradually integrated into a society in which dinosaurs live side-by-side with humans.

Classic portal fantasies—Narnia foremost among them—often take the form of white saviour narratives. Dinotopia averts this trope from the start. Gurney’s lavish illustrations spend as much time on minor details of Dinotopian society as they do on the Denisons. Nor are our protagonists especially privileged by virtue of their status as “dolphinbacks”: when Will declares he wants to become a Skybax (pterosaur) rider, his newcomer status is neither boon nor hinderance. He’s warned that no dolphinback has ever been one; then he’s given a course of study, a route by which he might achieve his dream. There are no shortcuts here. It takes a few timeskips to get him to his goal, and when he gets there, when he and his Dinotopian friend Sylvia ask the instructor Oolu for permission to fly as full-fledged Skybax riders, Oolu replies, referring to their pterosaur partners: ‘You don’t need my permission: you have theirs.’

(4) CONGRATULATIONS. [Item by Dann.] Rebecca F. Kuang is graduating from Oxford with distinction.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to cross the pond for pappardelle with Priya Sharma in Episode 129 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Priya Sharma

Priya Sharma has published fiction in InterzoneBlack StaticNightmareThe Dark, and other venues. “Fabulous Beasts” was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist and won a British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. “Ormeshadow,” her first novella, won a Shirley Jackson Award. All the Fabulous Beasts, a collection of some of her work, won both the Shirley Jackson Award and British Fantasy Award. She’s also a Grand Judge for the Aeon Award, an annual writing competition run by Albedo One, Ireland’s magazine of the Fantastic.

We discussed the best decision she made about her debut short story collection All the Fabulous Beasts, how the cover to that book conveys a different message in our COVID-19 world, why we each destroyed much of our early writing, a surprising revelation about the changed ending to one of her stories, who told her as a child “your soul is cracked,” the two of us being both longhand writers and defenders of ambiguity, what it’s like writing (and not writing) for theme anthologies, the most difficult story for her to write, how the pandemic has affected our writing, and much more.

(6) ALAN MOORE SPEAKS. A rare Garbo-like sighting. Tom Grater, in the Deadline story “Alan Moore Gives Rare Interview: ‘Watchmen’ Creator Talks New Project ‘The Show’, How Superhero Movies Have ‘Blighted Culture’ & Why He Wants Nothing To Do With Comics”, says that Moore, promoting his new film The Show, says that he doesn’t care about comics anymore, and the last superhero movie he saw was Tim Burton’s Batman, but he is enjoying calling his grandchildren and reading stories to them.

DEADLINE: You said you feel responsible for how comics have changed, why?

MOORE: It was largely my work that attracted an adult audience, it was the way that was commercialized by the comics industry, there were tons of headlines saying that comics had ‘grown up’. But other than a couple of particular individual comics they really hadn’t.

This thing happened with graphic novels in the 1980s. People wanted to carry on reading comics as they always had, and they could now do it in public and still feel sophisticated because they weren’t reading a children’s comic, it wasn’t seen as subnormal. You didn’t get the huge advances in adult comic books that I was thinking we might have. As witnessed by the endless superhero films…

(7) CHOPPED. The seven-foot-tall bronze sculpture of “Medusa With The Head of Perseus” being installed across the street from 100 Centre St., Manhattan’s criminal courthouse this weekend has been called a commentary on the #MeToo movement (see image here).

Many have tweeted support for the idea. Courtney Milan, however, has voiced a strong dissent. Thread starts here.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1975 — Forty-five years ago, the first World Fantasy Award for Best Novel went to Patricia A. McKillip for The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. It was published by Atheneum Books in 1974 with the cover art by Peter Schaumann. It was her second novel after The House on Parchment Street and was nominated also for a Mythopoeic Society Award but it went to A Midsummer Tempest by Poul Anderson.  Thirty-three years later, she would garner a much deserved World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 9, 1863 – Elaine Eastman.  Superintendent of Indian Education for the Two Dakotas.  Married Dr. Charles Eastman, a Santee Sioux, first American Indian to graduate from medical school and become a physician; with him Wigwam Evenings, Sioux folktales; eight other books by him, a dozen by her.  Her collected poems, The Voice at Eve.  Her memoir Sister to the Sioux published posthumously.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1900 – Harry Bates.  First editor of Astounding.  Under a different name, with D.W. Hall, a novel and five shorter stories of adventurer Hawk Carse; eight more stories with DWH; ten more under HB’s name and others.  Not one but two stories in the great Healy-McComas Adventures in Time & Space.  “Farewell to the Master” unsurpassed.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1935 – Celia Correas de Zapata, 85.  Directed the 1976 Conference of Inter-American Women Writers, one of the earliest.  Edited Short Stories by Latin American Women: the Magic and the Real (2003), also pioneering.  Professor of literature at San Jose State U.  [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1937 – Margo Herr.  Fifty covers for us.  Here is Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?  Here is Analog 9.  Here is Down Here in the Dream Quarter.  Here is Shadows of Doom.  Much more outside our field; Website here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1948 Ciaran Carson. Northern Ireland-born poet and novelist who is here, genre-wise at least, for his translation of the early Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, which he called simply The Táin. I’m also going to single him out for penning the finest book ever written on Irish traditional music, Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music. It’s every bit as interesting as Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram is. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born October 9, 1952 – Steven Popkes, 68.  Four novels, forty-five shorter stories.  In Caliban Landing humans arrive on a planet, start mapping, told from the viewpoint of a female alien there.  [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1953 Tony Shalhoub, 67. Two great genre roles, the first being Jack Jeebs in Men In Black, the second being I think much more nuanced one, Fred Kwan in Galaxy Quest. Actually, he’s done three great genre roles as he voiced Master Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. (CE)
  • Born October 9, 1956 Robert Reed, 64. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well, such as the superb Marrow series. I see a won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 for his “A Billion Eves” novella. And he was nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer as well. (CE) 
  • Born October 9, 1961 Matt Wagner, 59. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel Are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too. Oh, and I’d suggest both issues of House of Mystery Halloween Annual thathe did for some appropriate Halloween reading. (CE) 
  • Born October 9, 1964 Jacqueline Carey, 56. Author of the long-running mildly BDSM-centered Kushiel’s Legacy Universe which also includes the Moirin Trilogy. (Multiple Green Man reviewers used this phraseology in their approving reviews.) Locus in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”.  She did several stand-alone novels including the intriguingly entitled Miranda and Caliban. (CE)
  • Born October 9, 1964 Guillermo del Toro, 56. Best films? HellboyHellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Nippon 2007. Hellboy II is watchable over and over just for the Goblin’s Market sequence.  Worst films? The Hobbit films. (CE)
  • Born October 9, 1976 – William Alexander, 44.  Six novels, sixteen shorter stories.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  He calls this in Strange Horizons about Le Guin’s Earthsea a revisionist history.  [JH]

(10) SHH! IT’S A SECRET! Let 13th Dimension tell you about “The Goofy Charm of 1950’s ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN”.

Atom Man vs. Superman opens with a series of robberies that are plaguing Metropolis. It is, of course, the work of Lex Luthor, who threatens to destroy a nearby bridge if he and his gang don’t receive all the money from the Metropolis Trust Company. He turns a destruction ray on the bridge, but luckily Superman arrives to keep it in place while police rescue some stranded motorists. The Man of Steel then finds Luthor, arrests him, and the arch-criminal is sent off to jail. A year later, everyone is perplexed by a second crime wave, since Luthor is in solitary confinement!

What they don’t know is, Luthor has created a machine that can teleport people short distances, activated by small coins pressed by the user (which sound like the Looney Tunes music starting up). He has been “beaming” in and out of his jail cell, back to his hideout, where he has been masterminding his gang and their numerous robberies.

(11) AND IN THE DARKNESS. Admittedly this story’s from The Sun, but anyway:  “Lord of the Rings TV series slammed for ‘trying to rip off Game of Thrones’ with nudity and sex scenes”. (Incidentally, Stephen Colbert also devoted a couple minutes of his show to the item.)

THE Lord of the Rings TV series has been slammed by fans for ‘trying to rip off Game of Thrones’ with nudity and sex scenes.

Amazon’s new version of the fantasy saga is set to tell the story of Middle Earth before the events of the three Lord of the Rings films.

And according to TheOneRing.net a casting call has been put out for New Zealand-based actors who are “comfortable with nudity.”

The news followers earlier reports that an intimacy coordinator had been brought onto the production team.

Fans of JRR Tolkien’s stories have been quick to express their dismay at the prospect of nudity in the much-loved fantasy stories.

Twitter user Autumn Fox wrote: “Something I’ve always loved about Tolkien is that he portrayed love as containing infinite permutations, none of which depended on sex to be compelling and interesting.”

(12) MINI LTUE. The Life, The Universe, and Everything crew will run a free virtual mini-event on October 10 from 6-9 p.m. MDT. Full information here.

Life, The Universe, and Just a Few Things features all the things you love about LTUE in a mini one-night event. There will be 3 streams running side-by-side for 3 hours, giving you 9 great events to choose from, including panels, presentations, and more! Simply head to our website on the 10th and click the stream you want to join. We will also soon have a Discord for further discussions with attendees. We look forward to having you with us!

(13) BRADBURY’S MARS. Phil Nichols will present “Artsfest Online: Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles at Seventy” on November 10.

…In this illustrated lecture, Phil Nichols recounts the history of The Martian Chronicles, and shows how this short-story collection masquerading as a novel has constantly evolved with our changing times. He considers the long shadow the book has cast over television, radio and film science fiction, and shows how Bradbury’s unscientific book has nevertheless inspired several generations of real-life scientists and astronauts.

(14) FLAME ON. Some Jeopardy! contestants obviously need to sign up for Phil Nichols’ classes. Andrew Porter watched tonight’s panel stumble over the last, Bradbury-themed hurdle. Only the returning champion got it right.

Final Jeopardy: Books of the 1950s.

Answer: A special edition of this 1953 novel came with an asbestos binding.

Wrong questions: What is “Invisible Man?” “What is Brave New World?”

Correct question: “What is Fahrenheit 451?”

(15) SHARP CLAUS. Fatman is coming December 4. Maybe you’ll be lucky and theaters will still be closed when this movie gets released. (Although it looks like Walton Goggins is playing another character of the type he did on Justified, so that could be interesting.)

To save his declining business, Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson), also known as Santa Claus, is forced into a partnership with the U.S. military. Making matters worse, Chris gets locked into a deadly battle of wits against a highly skilled assassin (Walton Goggins), hired by a precocious 12-year-old after receiving a lump of coal in his stocking. ‘Tis the season for Fatman to get even, in the action-comedy that keeps on giving.

(16) KNOT JUST A MODERN PHENOMENON. “The grim reality behind sea-serpents of old”. Nature relates these research highlights – 

‘Sea serpents’ spotted around Great Britain and Ireland in the nineteenth century were probably whales and other marine animals ensnared in fishing gear — long before the advent of the plastic equipment usually blamed for such entanglements.

The snaring of sea creatures in fishing equipment is often considered a modern phenomenon, because the hemp and cotton ropes used in the past degraded more quickly than their plastic counterparts. But Robert France at Dalhousie University in Truro, Canada, identified 51 probable entanglements near Great Britain and Ireland dating as far back as 1809.

France analysed 214 accounts of ‘unidentified marine objects’ from the early nineteenth century to 2000, looking for observations of a monster that had impressive length, a series of humps protruding above the sea surface and a fast, undulating movement through the water. France says that such accounts describe not sea serpents but whales, basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) or other marine animals trailing fishing gear such as buoys or other floats.

Such first-hand accounts could help researchers to construct a better picture of historical populations of marine species and the pressures they faced, France says.

(17) NOT THE LAND OF 10,000 LAKES, BUT A FEW AT LEAST. Will The Martian Chronicles be followed by the Martian barnacles? All that water must mean something. Nature is keeping tally: “Three buried lakes detected on Mars.”.

Two years ago, planetary scientists reported the discovery of a large saltwater lake under the ice at Mars’s south pole, a finding that was met with excitement and some scepticism. Now, researchers have confirmed the presence of that lake — and found three more.

This adds to the possible detection of a polar subsurface  lake in 2018, covered at the time by SF2 Concatenation.

(18) INDUCTOR PROGRESS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature tells how “Inductors enter the world of quantum magnets” [PDF file]. This may seem a little esoteric for Filers but actually it is quite important.

Inductors are coils of wire that impede changes in current and they are key components of electrical circuits. The problem is that their effectiveness is proportional to their cross-sectional area (size) and this is a pain if the goal is to miniaturise.

Researchers have now managed to create inductance using magnetic moments (spins) in a magnet to create a quantum mechanical inductor or an emergent inductor. In addition to reducing their size – which has obvious integrated circuit benefits – this new inductor can quickly switch between positive and negative which normal inductors cannot.

However, there is one big problem.  These new inductors need to be super cool. Yet if this can be solved then there will be a revolution in electronics.

(19) DUST TO DUST. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature reports the latest ideas about “Early onset of planetary formation” [PDF file].

Several very young stars (only around a million years old) that still have their surrounding dust cloud, have been seen to have planetary formation as the protoplanets sweep out a circular path in the dust about the young star.

It is thought that planets from by dust, clumping into pebbles, then into boulders and so build their way up into planets.

However modelling this process and it seems to take too long.

This problem may have been solved by astronomers who have now seen patterns in a condensing dust cloud that is in the process of becoming a star.  These patterns are rings that could indicate the presence of an orbiting protoplanet.  The key thing is that this star is so young that it has not yet even properly got going.  This means that planet formation may begin even before the star properly ignites (starts fusion).

(20) EARTHSHOT PRIZE. Vanity Fair shares a glimpse as “Prince William Previews His TED Talk: ‘The Shared Goals For Our Generation Are Clear’”.

Prince William has recorded his first TED talk, an 18-minute speech—recorded at Windsor Castle— discussing climate change and his vision of the Earthshot Prize, the ambitious initiative he announced yesterday. The TED Talk will air on Saturday as part of the Countdown Global Launch, the first-ever free TED conference that will be available on YouTube.

The Duke joins a number of high profile people for the event devoted to climate change, including Pope Francis, Al Gore, Chris Hemsworth, Jaden Smith, Jane Fonda, Christiana Figueres, and Don Cheadle.. In the preview clip William says, “The shared goals for our generation are clear — together we must protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate. And we must strive to do all of this in a decade. If we achieve these goals, by 2030 our lives won’t be worse and we won’t have to sacrifice everything we enjoy. Instead, the way we live will be healthier, cleaner, smarter and better for all of us.”

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. John King Tarpinian says, “If nothing else the closing credits are worth it.” Ray Bradbury’s The Homecoming” Ben Wickey’s 2016 CalArts Film.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Dann, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Courtney Milan Comments About Mixon Report on Sriduangkaew

THE UNEXPECTED. Not counting the times she was nominated for literary awards, Benjanun Sriduangkaew hasn’t been in the news here since 2017. It’s not clear she’s done anything newsworthy even now, but the fact that she’s been mentioned so often on Twitter in the past week has made people wonder why.

In 2014, Laura Mixon published a report identifying Sriduangkaew as the abusive blogger Requires Hate (among other handles), a piece which earned Mixon the 2015 Best Fan Writer Hugo.

D Franklin tweeted in this thread that the increased discussion of Sriduangkaew in the past week was specifically in response to another thread, however, yesterday there was a kind of “crossing the streams” when Elizabeth Bear tweeted, “Just so you all know, an unknown actor who is possibly Requires Hate is just about to launch a really fucking big disinformation campaign about @scottlynch78 and me. If a whole bunch of accounts you’ve never heard of start launching really wild accusations, don’t be surprised.”

Alexandra Erin tweeted a skeptical response: “Last night I blocked Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch, who both had followed me for some time after she did the equivalent of detonating a tactical nuke as a flash bomb to distract the audience, blaming all emerging accusations against her on someone her community will accept.”

While paging through the allegations, defenses, and comments from the parties’ friends and critics, something else emerged that did warrant a story.

COURTNEY MILAN. A Google search shows people have known for several years Sriduangkaew and Courtney Milan are acquainted, but this past winter Milan’s profile grew more visible after her unjust treatment by Romance Writers of America triggered member protests that led to a complete turnover in RWA leadership and a great deal of media coverage. And last week when Milan started to speak out on behalf of Sriduangkaew, and criticized the Mixon report, the connection became more interesting to people active in sff.

Milan made a general comment:

Then, responding to the last of several non-public tweets from Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s protected Twitter account, Courtney Milan threw shade on the Mixon report:

D Franklin responded:

Milan added more commentary about the Mixon report. Thread starts here.

Courtney Milan signed off the exchange with this apology:

RWA Retires RITA Award, Announces Replacement,
“The Vivian”

The new board of Romance Writers of America, still trying to recover from the backlash of mass resignations of officers and loss of members following their predecessors’ attempt to censure Courtney Milan, hopes to signal their changing vision for the problem-ridden organization by remaking RWA’s annual awards and naming them after founder Vivian Stephens, an African-American woman.

Their statement “Introducing The Vivian, a New Award for a New Era” begins —

The RWA Board of Directors is thrilled to announce the introduction of a brand-new award, The Vivian, named after RWA founder Vivian Stephens, whose trailblazing efforts created a more inclusive publishing landscape and helped bring romance novels to the masses.

…In support of The Vivian, and guided by the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, the contest task force has been hard at work developing a contest that aligns with the Board’s vision for RWA 2.0 and that is designed to fulfill the following mission:

The Vivian recognizes excellence in romance writing and showcases author talent and creativity. We celebrate the power of the romance genre with its central message of hope–because happily ever afters are for everyone.

They also acknowledged the former award’s namesake: “We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Rita Clay Estrada, RWA’s first president, for honoring us the past 30 years as the award’s namesake, and for her service to RWA and romance authors everywhere.”

Precisely how winners of The Vivian will be chosen under the new award’s judging scheme has yet to be revealed. RWA director Avery Flynn responded to concerns: “I don’t think I can go into any detail yet because it will be officially presented to the board and members at the May meeting. I’m sorry. I don’t want to break task force/board confidentiality at this point. I know that’s frustrating. Believe me, I’d love to spill everything now.”

The RWA’s says highlights of the proposed format include:

  • A clear rubric to enhance and streamline scoring guidelines in addition to judge training that will allow for more standardized judging,
  • A sophisticated matching process so that entrants can be sure their books go to judges versed in their subgenre, and
  • A category devoted to recognizing unpublished authors.

Their proposals will be shared with members at the May 30-31 Board meeting. The Board’s goal is for the rules and format to be finalized and voted on in time for a fall launch, with the first year of the contest to recognize books published in both 2019 and 2020. (The 2019 eligibility year is included to cover the gap left by the cancellation of this year’s RITAs).

RWA Executive Director Leslie Scantlebury and RWA President Alyssa Day spoke with Vivian Stephens to request the honor of naming this award after her.

In their conversations, she was gracious, kind, and hopeful for the future of RWA. They asked if she would share her thoughts with our members, and we’re pleased to relay them to you here:

“I once heard an astrophysicist explain how heavy elements of the Periodic Table forged into the center of stars, later explode, showering the universe and everything in it with its spoils, Stardust. Since we all live in the universe it is well worth remembering that underneath the outer dressing of ethnicity, color, and gender, we are all the same. Showered with the gift of stars.

“Today, as we move forward into a new world order, Romance Writers of America must be one group, united by the purity of craft that identifies the organization. Guided by their star shine, moving quietly with confidence in the direction of their purpose, writing wonderful stories. Members must step up and deliver their best. Romance novels are read by people of Every Background throughout the World! They read these novels for entertainment, general information, life-style ideas, encouragement, rules of behavior, fun, a good laugh, hope, and a reminder of how life could be…if only.

“It is the duty of every Romance writer to give every Romance reader that experience. The writer must elevate themselves to be worthy of the craft and bring to it all of the nuances and magic of good storytelling. The reader deserves and expects nothing less.”

BGSU’s Browne Popular Culture Library profiled Stephens on Twitter today. Thread starts here.

Some of the initial reaction on Twitter:

[Via Locus Online.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/20 Hey, Scrollers! Watch Me Pull a Pixel Out of My Hat!

(1) NEXT TREK. CBS All Access dropped a trailer for Star Trek:  Strange New Worlds, a spinoff from Star Trek; Discovery that stars Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.

Fans spoke, Star Trek listened, and a new series aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise is on the horizon! Watch stars Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn excitedly break the big news. Stay tuned for more information on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, coming soon to CBS All Access. In the meantime, stream full episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, exclusively in the U.S. on CBS All Access.

(2) NOT ENTIRELY A BAD THING. The Romance Writers of America have cancelled the annual gathering planned for San Francisco in August, another consequence of the pandemic. Attendance levels were already in doubt due to the upheaval and disaffection in the group this year, which led to this reaction from Courtney Milan —

(3) DEALING WITH A FAMILIAR MEDIA WEAPON. On Saturday, May 16, professionals in the field of influence operations (“Fake News”) will join Gadi Evron, Sounil Yu, Malka Older, and special guest David Weber to discuss how disinformation can be countered from an operational standpoint, as well as its effects on society and policy. “Countering ‘Fake News’: Professionals Speak” at Essence of Wonder. Registration required

Panel one will cover the effects of “Fake News” on society, and the shaping of policy around the topic. Panel two will dive deeply into methodologies, operational tools, and techniques, for countering “Fake News” attacks.

(4) THINKING ABOUT ADAPTATIONS. The World Fantasy Con 2020 blog featured one of their GoH’s in an “Interview with Charlaine Harris”.

WFC2020: The Sookie Stackhouse books were made into the series True Blood, which ran seven years. In the books Lafayette (the fry cook) doesn’t last long, but the actor, Nelsan Harris, was so popular his role was expanded in the series. What other changes were made to the books’ characters?

CH: I thought the character of Jessica (Deborah Wohl) was a fabulous addition to the storyline. Wished I had thought of her. The fae on screen turned out to be not at all what was in my head, but it worked for the purposes of the show. I loved the sets, which I saw several times: Sookie’s house, Jason’s house, Merlotte’s. And all the actors were amazing. Alan Ball is a genius at casting. Nelsan was wonderful!

(5) HEAR MORE FROM HARRIS. And on May 23, Essence of Wonder will present “Masters of Urban Fantasy: Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Dana Cameron, and Toni L.P. Kelner”. (Registration required.)

Dana Cameron, Toni L.P. Kelner (a.k.a. Leigh Perry), Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris will join us on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron for geeky shenanigans in a panel discussion about Worldbuilding (and maybe pets). Before the panel, Charlaine will interview Patricia on her new Mercy Thompson book, “Smoke Bitten. Join us for this special show with The Leading Ladies of Urban Fantasy on Saturday (23 May).

(6) DON’T MISS OUT. Another WFC 2020 guest of honor, Steve Rasnic Tem, telling about “My First WFC”, includes this wisdom:

…My late friend Ed Bryant and I would sometimes read the glowing tributes to authors who had passed and Ed would say, “Well, I hope they told them these nice things while they were still alive.” Attending a World Fantasy Convention gives you a great opportunity to practice Ed’s advice. The sad fact is you may not have another chance.

(7) IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING. Tor.com is serializing “Never Say You Can’t Survive: How To Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories”:

Charlie Jane Anders is writing a nonfiction book—and Tor.com is publishing it as she does so. Never Say You Can’t Survive is a how-to book about the storytelling craft, but it’s also full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish in the present emergency.

Below is the Introduction, followed by the first chapter, “How To Make Your Own Imaginary Friends”

New installments will appear every Tuesday at noon EST.

Here’s an excerpt –

….So I’m writing a series of essays called Never Say You Can’t Survive, all about how writing and making up stories can help you to survive a terrifying moment in history. (These essays came out of a talk that I gave at the Willamette Writers Conference and elsewhere. And their title is borrowed from the 1977 album of the same name by Curtis Mayfield, which is a piece of music that has given me so much strength and inspiration over the years.)

Stories of Darkness and Escapism

When I wrote “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue,” I was going to the darkest possible place I could go in a story, and putting my protagonist through the most dehumanizing treatment I could imagine. I needed to face up to the absolute worst that could happen, so I felt like I understood it a little better. I also needed to write about someone facing up to the most nightmarish scenario and still emerging in one piece, surviving, even though it’s a dark ending.

Writing a horrifying story on your own terms means that you can show how someone can survive, or even triumph. And meanwhile, you can cast a light on the injustice of oppressive systems. You can also choose the frame and eliminate some of the ambiguity in some situations, to make things more stark and more clear, or to make juxtapositions that illuminate how the problem started, and how it’ll be in the future.

When you’re telling the story, you get to draw all the lines….

(8) 1990’S GAME MAGAZINE. The Digital Antiquarian presents a bit of video game history in “The Shareware Scene, Part 3: The id Boys”.

…Thus he was receptive on the day in early 1990 when one of his most productive if headstrong programmers, a strapping young metalhead named John Romero, suggested that Softdisk start a new MS-DOS disk magazine, dedicated solely to games — the one place where, what with Apogee’s success being still in its early stages, shareware had not yet clearly cut into Softdisk’s business model. After some back-and-forth, the two agreed to a bi-monthly publication known as Gamer’s Edge, featuring at least one — preferably two — original games in each issue. To make it happen, Romero would be allowed to gather together a few others who were willing to work a staggering number of hours cranking out games at an insane pace with no resources beyond themselves for very little money at all. Who could possibly refuse an offer like that?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 15, 1955X Minus One’s “Universe” first aired. It’s based off Heinlein’s Universe which was first published in Astounding Science Fiction’s May 1941 issue, and George Lefferts wrote the script. The cast includes Donald P. Buka, Peter Kapell, Bill Griffis, Abby Lewis, Edgar Stehli, Jason Seymour and Ian Martin. Untold generations of people traveling in a giant’s spaceship have lost track of who they are and what they set out to do. They think that their ship is the Universe. You can listen to it here.                    

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum. His Wizard of Oz has been translated into 50 languages, selling 3 million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956, applauded by the Library of Congress in 2000; 13 more Ozbooks, 28 others, 83 shorter stories, 200 poems, at least 42 scripts, under his own and half a dozen pen names.  While living in the Dakota Territory, he was Secretary of the Aberdeen Woman’s Suffrage Club, and hosted Susan B. Anthony (Aberdeen is now a city in the State of South Dakota).  He knew French, German, Italian. He said at the start that Wizardaspired to fantasy “in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out,” at which he succeeded. Last words, to his wife, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1848 – Viktor Vasnetsov.  Co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic-nationalist panting, key figure in Russian Revivalist movement.  Designed churches, mosaics, a revenue stamp, the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery.  Worked on stage designs and costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden.  V’s fantasy and epics irritated radicals, who said he undermined realist principles.  Here is a flying carpet.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov.  Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us; an elaborate strange masterpiece; Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; in fact not published until decades after his death, too dangerous.  Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Try this Website.  See also DiaboliadThe Fatal EggsHeart of a Dog.  Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born May 15. 1906 – Ellen MacGregor.  Librarian, cataloguer, researcher, editrix of the Illinois Women’s Press Ass’n monthly bulletin Pen Points; also worked in Florida and Hawaii.  For children’s fantasy with accurate science she wrote Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars and Goes UnderseaGoes to the Arctic published after her death; then 13 more, 16 shorter stories, by Dora Pantell.  Lavinia Pickerell, prim, angular, and devoted to her pet cow, is an inadvertent stowaway on a rocket to Mars in her first adventure, but she is unflappable.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1932Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana and is quite horrid. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 72. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling  to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of  The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the forthcoming Culture series? (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 55. Her book The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In California or the Pacific Northwest. (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 – Takayuki Tatsumi.  Professor at Keiô University, chair of K.U. SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; 21st Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan.  President, American Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Society of Japan 2009-  ; editorial boards of ParadoxaMark Twain StudiesJournal of Transnat’l American Studies.  In English, for SF ChronicleSF EyeN.Y. Review of SFSF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF Film (2014); The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature (2016).  [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa.  Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank.  Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME. Polygon’s Alan Kistler asserts “Superheroes are scrapping their secret identities, and it’s for the best”. This might sound a little counterintuitive at a time when we’re all supposed to be wearing masks.

In the beginning, nearly every superhero had a secret identity. It protected them from villainous revenge, and created a delicious dramatic tension while interacting with loved ones who had no inkling of their other life. But the strict secret identity is fast becoming an anachronism.

Most heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe operate in the open, while other caped cinema stars, like Supergirl, are perfectly willing to trust close allies with their name. In comics, the X-Men no longer hide who they are or where they live. Even Superman’s identity has been revealed to the entire world twice in the last decade.

And all of this is for the better, delivering not only greater dramatic possibilities, but also a healthier idea of heroism….

(13) FANTASTIC FOUR COMICS. Marvel’s tells fans that Fantastic Four: Antithesis is coming in August, the first full-length Fantastic Four story ever illustrated by industry legend Neal Adams.

Adams is joined by Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, Captain America, Fantastic Four), who jam-packs this tale with a fan-favorite roster of Fantastic Four heroes and villains! Together, this celebrated creative team create a new nemesis for the Fantastic Four guaranteed to send shockwaves throughout all of fandom.  

 …Adams shares [Waid’s] enthusiasm about the project. “I have always had the sense of missing the chance to draw the Fantastic Four. It was a quiet sense, since I’ve had every opportunity to do my favorites. More, I felt Kirby and Buscema had done it all, hadn’t they…?” he begins. “When Marvel’s Tom Brevoort asked if I’d like to do the Fantastic Four, I knew I had to ask for Galactus and the Silver Surfer as well. I am humbled and thankful to Tom for the opportunity.”

Who or what is the Antithesis, and will the combined might of the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, and Galactus himself be enough to defeat it?

(14) DC COMICS ARE BIG HITS TOO. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “DC Universe Readership Jumps 35 Percent During Shutdown”.

Two ‘Batman’ titles were atop the most-read list.

With comic book stores closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an open question just what fans would do to get their fix. New figures released from digital service DC Universe suggest that the answer was, simply, “go online.”

(15) ON THE WILDSIDE. John Betancourt has launched a Kickstarter appeal to produce “Staying In Place”, an “anthology of stories to pass the time.” Various support levels also bring additional rewards in the form of reading material.

With so many people staying at home right now, we at Wildside Press and the Black Cat Mystery & Science Fiction Ebook Club are putting together a mammoth anthology of amazing stories for you to read and enjoy. The anthology will feature 20 novels and short stories by iconic authors such as John Gregory Betancourt,  Paul di Filippo, John W. Campbell Jr., Robert E. Howard, G.D. Falksen, and many more to be announced.  But we need your help to make this happen. We are coming to Kickstarter to fund the anthology. In return for your support, you get the anthology itself, some of our fantastic ebooks, and even a subscription to the Black Cat which gives subscribers 7+ free ebooks every week, including new releases of all of the great Wildside Press magazines (WeirdbookBlack Cat Mystery MagazineSherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and even the upcoming revival of Startling Stories, the famous pulp magazine).

(16) BORN TO BE DUMPED. “‘Men of Middle-earth as Bad Ex-Boyfriends’ Thread Is Absolutely Perfect” – so says The Mary Sue.

Every now and then, a Twitter act of creation reminds us that good things can still emerge from our hellish Internet stomping grounds. Such is the case with a viral thread from writer Alex Arrelia, in which Arrelia painstakingly—and hilariously—takes on J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters under the heading of “Men of Middle Earth as bad ex boyfriends who ruined your life.”

Thread starts here. Some examples —

(17) THIS CLOSE! And don’t forget Tolkien’s ultimate Bad Boy — “The Lord Of The Rings: 10 Ways Sauron Could Have Won” at ScreenRant.

10. He Could Have Set A Guard On Mount Doom

Most obviously, Sauron could have prevented the destruction of the One Ring–and thus the unraveling of his power–if he’d only done a little more to make sure that Mount Doom was protected from approach and infiltration. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that it is so unguarded–because Sauron couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to destroy the Ring rather than use it – that allows Frodo and Sam to sneak up on it. Sauron is defeated by his own inability to think outside of himself. 

(18) SHE-RA ARRIVES. NPR’s Victoria Whitley-Berry reviews a reboot: “In She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power, True Strength Is In Being Yourself”.

Showrunner Noelle Stevenson has always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. As a kid, she loved it all: the epic space battles, the magic, the quests that seemed larger than life.

But there was a problem with her favorite childhood stories, like Star Wars and The Lord of The Rings series. “I never quite saw myself reflected in them” Stevenson says, “certainly not at the heart of the story.”

There weren’t a lot of women.

Of course, there’s interstellar rebel Princess Leia and Nazgûl-slaying Éowyn. But Stevenson wanted a female version of Luke Skywalker and a terror-inducing femme Lord Sauron.

So when she started writing stories of her own, she made sure kids like her felt seen, in more ways than one.

…When Netflix and DreamWorks wanted to reboot She-Ra: Princess of Power — an epic showdown between magical princesses and an evil alien invader — Stevenson was all in.

She kept much of the original show’s action and adventure — like the original, the rebooted show takes place on the planet Etheria, and one of the princesses who is trying to stop the evil Horde army from taking over is named Adora.

…Stevenson did make one small but important change to the show: Its name. The Netflix and DreamWorks version is She-Ra and the PRINCESSES of Power. All the princesses are important.

She also gathered an all-female writing staff to update this team of powerful women. In the original show, the princesses are white, skinny and presumably straight. The new rebellion includes women of color. They’re women in all different shapes and sizes. And there are women who love other women.

Princess Weekes is an assistant editor at The Mary Sue, a website that covers the intersection of women and fandom. She’s been writing about the She-Ra reboot since the beginning.

Weekes says that because the team behind She-Ra is made up of LGBTQ people, the stories on the show give genuine representation of queer life for kids.

“You allow queerness for young kids to be just normalized in general,” Weekes says. “What I think Noelle Stevenson and the entire She-Ra team has done is create a society and place where characters can exist, but their biggest problem isn’t that they’re gay.”

(19) THAWED. “Disney Closes ‘Frozen’ on Broadway, Citing Pandemic” – the New York Times has the story.

Even Queen Elsa’s magic is no match for the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney Theatrical Productions said Thursday that its stage adaptation of “Frozen” will not reopen on Broadway once the pandemic eases, making the musical the first to be felled by the current crisis.

“Frozen” had been the weakest of the three Disney musicals that had been running on Broadway — the others were “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” — and the company made it clear that it does not believe audiences will return in substantial enough numbers to sustain all of those shows.

“This difficult decision was made for several reasons but primarily because we believe that three Disney productions will be one too many titles to run successfully in Broadway’s new landscape,” Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a letter to his staff….

(20) LET THE SUN SHINE IN. WIRED found something the military would let them talk about for “A Secret Space Plane is Carrying a Solar Experiment to Orbit”, and it has a connection to the Golden Age of SF.

On Saturday, the US Air Force is expected to launch its secret space plane, X-37B, for a long-duration mission in low Earth orbit. The robotic orbiter looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle and has spent nearly eight of the past 10 years in space conducting classified experiments for the military. Almost nothing is known about what X-37B does up there, but ahead of its sixth launch the Air Force gave some rare details about its cargo.

…[The] real star of the show is a small solar panel developed by the physicists at the Naval Research Lab that will be used to conduct the first orbital experiment with space-based solar power.

“This is a major step forward,” says Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer at the Naval Research Lab and lead researcher on the project. “This is the first time that any component geared towards a solar-powered satellite system has ever been tested in orbit.”

Space-based solar power is all about getting solar power to Earth no matter the weather or the time of day. The basic idea is to convert the sun’s energy into microwaves and beam it down. Unlike terrestrial solar panels, satellites in a sufficiently high orbit might only experience darkness for a few minutes per day. If this energy could be captured, it could provide an inexhaustible source of power no matter where you are on the planet.

It’s an idea that was cooked up by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in the 1940s; since then, beamed power experiments have been successfully tested several times on Earth. But the experiment on X-37B will be the first time the core technologies behind microwave solar power will be tested in orbit.

(21) TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS. Not genre, but one stunning upside to the pandemic: “The Most Beautiful Flower Garden In The World Has No Visitors For The First Time In 71 Years And I Got To Capture It (31 Pics)” at Bored Panda.

Most of you probably know the world-famous Keukenhof, the most beautiful tulip garden in the world. Every year millions of tourists visit this garden. That’s a huge lot considering the garden is only open in spring! Every year, a hard-working crew makes sure the garden looks as good as ever, including this year!

This year is ‘special’. Keukenhof is closed, for the first time in 71 years. But that doesn’t mean there are no flowers. On the contrary; the flowers look incredible and get as much attention and care as always. All the passionate gardeners do their work as they’re used to. Because even without people, nature and the show of the garden goes on….

(22) UPDATE. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’s separation was reported in a recent Pixel Scroll. Gaiman has now made a blog entry about it, which includes an open letter to the world that the couple collaborated on: “Where I Am, What I’m Doing, How I’m Doing And How I Got Here”. Gaiman’s intro says in part —

…Once the world opens up and travel gets easier Amanda and Ash and I are looking forward to being together again in Woodstock. (Yes, I’ve seen the newsfeed headlines saying I’ve moved to the UK, and even that we’re divorcing. No, I haven’t moved the UK, and yes, Amanda and I are still very much together, even with half a world between us.) 

Thank you to everyone who’s been kind and nice and helpful, while Amanda and my problems got rather more public than either of us is comfortable with. We love each other, and we love Ash, and we will sort ourselves out, in private, which is much the best place for things like this….

And the couple’s joint letter follows.

(23) NOT THAT SUBTLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kyle Mizokami, in “The Space Force Receives Its ‘Kobayashi Maru’ Space-Tracking System” in Popular Mechanics says it’s no coincidence that Space Force’s warning system is a Star Trek reference; the Space Force also has a Kessel Run, and Mizokami thinks it’s no coincidence that the acronym for the force’s Space Operations Center is SPOC.

The U.S. Space Force announced the development of a brand new software package designed to track and monitor objects in space. Dubbed “Kobayashi Maru,” the cloud-based program was designed to modernize the way the U.S. Air Force—and now the U.S. Space Force—interoperates in space but with its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cliff Ramshaw, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, David Goldfarb, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/19/20 It’s Just A Scroll To The Left, A Little Click To The Right

(1) ANTI-TROLL SPRAY. Mary Robinette Kowal, President, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, issued a “SFWA Statement from the President on Goodreads” at the SFWA Blog.

…As some of you may be aware, over the course of several weeks, trolls created dozens of false accounts as part of a harassment campaign against some writers. We reached out to Goodreads to ask for assistance in stopping those attacks and they were, thankfully, responsive. Goodreads was as committed to solving this as SFWA was. If readers lose their faith with the site because of false reviews, that’s a problem for all of us.

During the course of the conversation, we shared with them some ideas that they might use to block this form of targetting. They are working on implementing some of those, although I hope you’ll understand that we won’t be able to share the details of those particular efforts….

There are also some existing tools on Goodreads that were not immediately apparent. We offered to highlight those to our members while Goodreads puts the other measures into place.

Flagging reviews – Goodreads does not allow Ad Hominem reviews or attacks on an author. They made it clear to us that when reviews become about the author, not about the book, authors are able to flag uses of harmful language or when the intent is to harm the person, not to review the book. If an author is receiving an avalanche of those, they may send a link to support@goodreads.com or send a link via Goodreads’ contact form.

Reporting entire accounts – Sometimes, a single actor will create negative reviews of an author’s entire body of work. In those cases, any author may send a link to support@goodreads.com.

(2) RIPPED BODICE. Since Courtney Milan is one of them, the Scroll will report all the winners of the inaugural Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in Romantic Fiction. The award was launched last year by Leah and Bea Koch, co-owners of the Ripped Bodice bookstore in Culver City, Calif., and is sponsored by Sony Pictures Television. Chosen by a panel of industry experts, each honoree receives $1,000 plus a $100 donation to the charity of their choice.

The winning titles are:

  • Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
  • Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
  • A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
  • One Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
  • An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole
  • American Love Story by Adriana Herrera
  • Trashed by Mia Hopkins
  • The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

(3) PRACTICE OR MALPRACTICE? The Guardian ponders “The diehards of doom! Why Doctor Who is the show fans love to hate “  

If Doctor Who seems like a show that has been disappointing its devotees for 56 years and counting, perhaps that is to be expected. After all, no other TV series in history has shown such a wilful disregard for anything approaching a house style, happily pressing the re-set button every week and leaping between planets and time zones, comedy and tragedy, psychodrama and space opera.

(4) FREE READ. Tor.com has published one of the stories that will be included in Ken Liu’s upcoming collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories: “Read Ken Liu’s ‘Staying Behind’ From the New Collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories”. It’s not a new story, but it may not have been freely available before.

(5) BOOT TO THE FUTURE. BBC discovers Back To The Future is being rebooted – on stage, not on screen”.

More people want a new Back to the Future film than want a new instalment in any other franchise. But one of its creators says doing another movie would be like “selling your kids into prostitution” – so it’s been rebooted as a stage musical instead.

Walking though the Manchester Opera House foyer a week before the first performance of Back to the Future: The Musical means picking your way through piles of props and kit that are waiting to be slotted into place before opening night.

A skateboard and some of the Doc’s scientific equipment are lying around, and a crew member walks past carrying what look like dancers’ 1950s dresses. The components of the Doc’s nuclear-powered flux capacitor are probably spread around somewhere.

…Thursday’s first performance will mark the end of a 12-year journey to bring one of the best-loved films to the stage. Another journey will start – the show is set to go to the West End after Manchester, and then perhaps Broadway.

“It’s the same story of the movie,” says Bob Gale, who has scripted the stage show and co-wrote the movies. “But there are things that you can do and can’t do on stage that differ from cinema.”

So in the show, Marty plays more music, and new songs take us deeper into the characters’ emotions and back stories. But some of the action (like the skateboard chase and the gun-toting Libyan terrorists) has been changed. And, sadly, there’s no Einstein the dog.

“Lots of people were clamouring, ‘Why don’t you guys do Back to the Future part 4? Why don’t you do a reboot of Back to the Future?'” Gale says.

‘The wrong thing to do’

But he and Robert Zemeckis, director and co-writer of the three films, had it written into their contracts with Universal that no new film could be made without their say so. Studio bosses have tried their best to persuade them.

…”We don’t want to ruin anybody’s childhood, and doing a musical was the perfect way to give the public more Back to the Future without messing up what has gone before.”

(6) DUNCANN OBIT. Geraldine Duncann died February 2 at the age of 82, her daughter Leilehua reported on Facebook. Duncann announced to FB readers in January that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  Astrid Bear described Duncann in these terms:

As Mistress Geraldine of Toad Hall, she was a major force in the Society for Creative Anachronism from its very early days, excelling in all she tried, whether cooking, sewing, embroidery, pottery, singing, writing, or anything else. Her generosity, wit, intelligence, and zest for life were wonderful.

Her memorial/celebration of life will be on her birthdate, May 9, at the Golden Gate Bridge and include a Bridge Walk. Details will be posted on her FaceBook page and her Questing Feast Patreon blog.

(7) SHRAPNEL OBIT. [Item by Steve Green.] John Shrapnel (1942-2020): British actor, died February 14, aged 77. Genre appearances include Space: 1999 (one episode, 1975), Fatherland (1994), Invasion: Earth (three episodes, 1998), Spine Chillers (one episode, 2003), Alien Autopsy (2006), Apparitions (five episodes, 2008), Mirrors (2008), The Awakening (2011), Merlin (one episode, 2012), Macbeth (2013), Hamlet (2015).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 15, 1955  — Captain Midnight aired “Saboteurs Of The Sky”. Captain Midnight began September 9, 1954, on CBS, continuing for thirty-nine episodes until January 21, 1956. This was the twenty-fifth episode of the program’s first season. Captain Midnight itself started as a serial film, became this show, and later was both a syndicated newspaper strip and a radio show. The series starred Richard Webb who was not the actor of the Captain Midnight role , Robert O’Brien, from the film serial. (Two actors, Sid Melton and Olan Soule, were retained from the serial.) When the TV series went into syndication in 1958 via Telescreen Advertising, several changes happened. First a change in advertisers happened as Ovaltine was no longer involved. More importantly Wander Company owned all rights to use of Captain Midnight which meant that Screen Gems had to change Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, and all references in the episodes to Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, both text and sound wise. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 19, 1978 — The Project U.F.O. pilot: “Sighting 4001: The Washington D.C. Incident” first aired on NBC.  It was created. by that Jack Webb Harold Jack Bloom, was based rather loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book. It starred William Jordan, Caskey Swaim and Edward Winter. Most of the UFOs were by Brick Price Movie Miniatures that were cobbled together from the usual model kits. You can see the pilot here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 19, 1893 Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke. His first SFF role was a plum one — in 1937‘s Solomon’s Mines as Allan Quatermain. He’s been in a lot of genre films: On Borrowed Time, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Invisible Man Returns, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Invisible Agent, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The War of the Worlds (the voice doing providing commentary). (Died 1964.)
  • Born February 19, 1912 Walter Gillings. UK fan. He edited Scientifiction, a short lived but historic fanzine. Shortly thereafter he edited Tales of Wonder, regarded as the first UK SF zine. Clarke made his pro debut here. He’d edited a number of other genre zines later on, and ISFDB lists him as having two genre stories to his credit whereas Wiki claims he has three. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 19, 1930 John Frankenheimer. Depending on how widely you stretch the definition of genre, you can consider his first SFF film as director to be Seven Days in May. Certainly, The Island of Dr. Moreau is genre as is Prophecy and Seconds. He also directed an episode of Tales from The Crypt, “Maniac at Large”, and directed Startime’s “Turn of The Screw” with Ingrid Bergman in the lead role off the Henry James ghost story of that name. (Died 2002.)
  • Born February 19, 1937 Lee Harding, 83. He was among the founding members of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club along with Bertram Chandler. He won Ditmar Awards for Dancing Gerontius and Fallen Spaceman. In the Oughts, the Australian Science Fiction Foundation would give him the Chandler Award in gratitude for his life’s work. It does not appear that any of his work is available fir the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 19, 1937 Terry Carr. Well-known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressed so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death with all proceeds to his widow. (Died 1987.)
  • Born February 19, 1944 Donald F. Glut, 76. He’s best known for writing the novelization of the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. I’m more fascinated that from the early Fifties to the late Sixties, he made a total of forty-one amateur films including a number of unauthorized adaptations of such characters as Superman, The Spirit and Spider-Man. Epoch Cinema released a two-DVD set of all of his amateur films titled I Was A Teenage Moviemaker. 
  • Born February 19, 1963 Laurell K. Hamilton, 57. She is best known as the author of two series of stories. One is the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter of which I’ll confess I’ve read but one or two novels, the other is the Merry Gentry series which held my interest longer but which I lost in somewhere around the sixth or seventh novel when the sex became really repetitive. 
  • Born February 19, 1964 Jonathan Lethem 56. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a weird mix of SF and detective fiction, is fantastic in more ways that I can detail briefly here. I confess that I lost track of him after that novel, so I’d be interested in hearing what y’all think of his later genre work particularly his latest, The Feral Detective. 
  • Born February 19, 1966 Claude Lalumière, 54. I met him once here in Portland at a used bookstore in the SFF section. Author, book reviewer and editor who has edited numerous anthologies.  Amazing writer of short dark fantasy stories collected in three volumes so far, Objects of WorshipThe Door to Lost Pages and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes. Tachyon published his latest anthology, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains

(10) FIRST NEWBERY WON BY A GRAPHIC NOVEL. Publishers Weekly opines, “Jerry Craft’s Newbery Win Was an Unforeseeable Dream” – but it came true.

…But his reverie was broken by the phone 12 minutes later. “I picked it up and thought, ‘Please don’t let this be a credit card offer.’ Can you imagine? I would have just burst into tears.”

On the other end of the line, Newbery committee chair Krishna Grady told Craft that his graphic novel New Kid (HarperCollins) had been chosen as winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal. “Then the people in the background started screaming and then I started screaming, then I screamed more and they screamed more,” Craft said. “It was pretty amazing.” It is also historic, as New Kid is the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal.

New Kid introduces African-American seventh grader Jordan Banks, an aspiring artist who leaves his home in Washington Heights each morning and takes the bus to his new, private, mostly white school in the Bronx. In his sketchbook, he chronicles what it’s like for him to navigate his two different worlds, the ups and downs of middle school, and the various micro-aggressions he faces each day. The book was inspired by Craft’s own school experiences, as well as those of his two sons, and has been a hit since its release last February. Prior to ALA Midwinter, New Kid had already earned starred reviews in the major review journals, landed on numerous best-of lists for 2019, became a New York Times bestseller, and won the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature.

Craft was still riding high from the Newbery call when his phone rang again at 7:07 a.m. “I thought, ‘OK, that’s weird,’” Craft said. “I saw area code 215, which is Philadelphia [where ALA Midwinter was being held], and I thought, if they’re calling me up to say, ‘Hi, we thought you were Jerry Pinkney when we called earlier. Sorry about that—we hope you didn’t tell anyone,’ that would have made me cry even more.” But, of course, there was no such mix-up. The second call alerted Craft to the fact that he had also won the Coretta Scott King Author Award. “I was stunned,” he recalled, noting that he hadn’t heard any buzz, or seen anything like a mock Coretta Scott King Award poll.

(11) WHEN I’M ‘65. AGalactic Journey understandably covers a lot of space — “[February 18, 1965] OSO Exciting!  (February 1965 Space Roundup)”.

Requiem for a Vanguard

Hands over hearts, folks.  On February 12, NASA announced that Vanguard 1 had gone silent, and the agency was finally turning off its 108 Mhz ground transceivers, set up during the International Geophysical Year.  The grapefruit-sized satellite, launched March 17, 1958, was the fourth satellite to be orbited.  It had been designed as a minimum space probe and, had its rocket worked in December 1957, would have been America’s first satellite rather than its second.  Nevertheless, rugged little Vanguard 1 beat all of its successors for lifespan.  Sputniks and Explorers came and went.  Vanguards 2 and 3 shut off long ago.  Yet the grapefruit that the Naval Research Laboratory made kept going beep-beep, helping scientists on the ground measure the shape of the Earth from the wiggle and decay of Vanguard’s orbit.

(12) THE TINGLE WAY. Now that you’ve explained it, I understand!

(13) POUNDED BY YOUR CREDIT CARD. But wait! There’s all kinds of Chuck Tingle merchandise available. Like this hoodie, or this towel.

(14) FADING SCREAM. “‘The Scream’ Is Fading. New Research Reveals Why.” – the New York Times squints harder.

“The Scream” is fading. And tiny samples of paint from the 1910 version of Edvard Munch’s famous image of angst have been under the X-ray, the laser beam and even a high-powered electron microscope, as scientists have used cutting-edge technology to try to figure out why portions of the canvas that were a brilliant orangeish-yellow are now an ivory white.

Since 2012, scientists based in New York and experts at the Munch Museum in Oslo have been working on this canvas — which was stolen in 2004 and recovered two years later — to tell a story of color. But the research also provides insight into Munch and how he worked, laying out a map for conservators to prevent further change, and helping viewers and art historians understand how one of the world’s most widely recognized paintings might have originally looked….

(15) SPORTS GEEK. Expanding a writer’s horizons: “Taking on Celtics rookie Grant Williams at his favorite board game” in the Boston Globe.

If you’ve never heard of the board game Settlers of Catan, you aren’t alone.

Marcus Smart hadn’t. Neither had Kemba Walker. Nor Brad Stevens.

If you have heard of it, you’re in good company, too.

The game is a favorite of Celtics rookie Grant Williams.

Williams was introduced to Settlers of Catan — Catan, for short — when he was a sophomore on the basketball team at Tennessee. He walked in on Riley Davis, the team’s video coordinator, playing the classic strategy game with players Lucas Campbell, Brad Woodson, and Yves Pons. A self-proclaimed nerd, Williams wanted to learn.

“They’re like, ‘Oh dear, we have to teach Grant now,’ ” Williams recalled. “Next thing you know, we played and I won my first game.”

Williams was hooked. The group kept a board at the training facility, where they would play at least twice a week, as well as one in each of their dorm rooms. There also was a “road-trip board” that would travel with the team.

…The objective of the game sounds simple: Collect resources to build roads, settlements, and cities on the island of Catan. The implementation is a bit more complicated.

Bear with me as I try to explain.

(16) PUCKER UP. SYFY Wire oozes enthusiasm about “Krispy Kreme’s Rick and Morty sweets”.

Krispy Kreme and Adult Swim have teamed up for a limited line of sweet R &M-inspired products, including a donut modeled after Pickle Rick. Don’t worry, though, the green pastry isn’t salty and sour like a brined cucumber. That would be nasty. Instead, it’s filled with “mouth-watering lemon crème, dipped in white choc truffle, with a white choc ‘Pickle Rick.'”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Nina Shepardson, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer, plus a crowdsourced aspostrophe.]

Romance Writers of America Board Resigns, Calls Special Election

[This is the seventh 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”, “Kathryn Davis Says RWA Encouraged Her To File Ethics Complaint Against Courtney Milan”, “As More Issues Raised, RWA President Resigns, RITA Awards Postponed, and Many Publishers Withdraw Sponsorship of RWA Conference”, and “RWA Las Vegas Chapter Disbands in Aftermath of Courtney Milan Censure, RWA Appoints Interim Executive Director”.]

The remaining members of the Romance Writers of America Board of Directors resigned from office today, February 12. Prior to their resignations, the Board set a special election for the RWA membership to elect a newly constituted Board of Directors to serve out their current terms (through August 31, 2020). The special election will begin on Friday, March 13, and will end on Friday, March 20, at 11:59 p.m. CDT. Details about the election process are here.

The complete Board resignation announcement is here — “RWA Board Members Set Special Election, Announce Resignations”.

“We believe that stepping down to allow for new leadership chosen by the membership is in the best interests of the association. The Board has always wanted what is best for Romance Writers of America, and we still do. This desire has been the driving force behind every decision we have made to try to navigate RWA during this difficult time. We have tried hard to keep the best interests of RWA front and center as we have confronted the challenges of the last eight weeks.

“We believe that the Board must have the trust of the membership and that this is the best way forward to achieve that. We believe RWA can and will be a place of inclusion and respect. We tender our resignations in support of the organization and its mission.

“Under RWA’s Bylaws and the Texas nonprofit corporation law, RWA must be governed by a Board of Directors. In order to ensure continuity of governance and based on legal counsel’s advice, we voted to set special elections for all board positions beginning on March 13, 2020 (30 days from today) and ending one week later (on March 20, 2020). This will provide RWA’s General members with the opportunity to elect an entirely new Board of Directors. The new Board members will be elected to fulfill the remaining Board terms that end on August 31, 2020, and no individual elected will automatically accede to any other office following their term. This special election will not replace the normal 4th quarter election cycle as required by RWA’s Bylaws, which will occur in August 2020.      

“Our decision to resign will not affect the ongoing independent audit being conducted by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP, or the Board’s commitment to share the audit report with the membership in unedited, non-redacted form.” –Nan Dixon (Treasurer), Hanna Rhys Barnes, Kate McMurray, Maria Powers, Mellanie Szereto, Eliana West (Directors-at-Large)

PAST RWA PRESIDENTS RESIGN. Before the Board’s action today, another pair of past RWA Presidents Leslie Kelly and Dee Davis had proposed a way forward, which the Board did not accept. Now Leslie Kelly has resigned.

PAST PRESIDENT HELENKAY DIMON QUITS. Dimon, who served as President of the Romance Writers of America in 2018-2019, also announced she was leaving the organization after rejection of the Kelly/Davis plan.

FOLLOWING THE BOARD OUT THE DOOR. Immediately after today’s announcement, this member tweeted a resignation:

Ellie Finch

In the past few weeks many other members tweeted that they had resigned, are intending to let their membership lapse, or are resigning from a chapter position. Claire Ryan’s “Implosion of the RWA” lists over two dozen names in the entry for February 11.

CIMWRA HOLDING DISSOLUTION VOTE. CIMRWA, the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Chapter of Romance Writers of America, a chapter dedicated to advocating diversity and inclusion within RWA and publishing as a whole wrote, is voting on whether to dissolve. Thread starts here.

MEDIA COVERAGE. Quill & Quire interviewed Farah Heron about her resignation as Toronto RWA chapter president: “Farah Heron on stepping down as Toronto Romance Writers president and a future outside the RWA”.

…Until about six weeks ago, Toronto Romance Writers – an official chapter of the RWA – had been a thriving group, serving more than 100 local members. But the fallout of the group’s association with the U.S.–based parent organization has been severe. Many authors are choosing not to renew their memberships, and now Farah Heron, author of the bestselling novel The Chai Factor, is stepping down from her position as chapter president….

How has what happened with RWA affected the Toronto membership? 

Since Jan. 31, we are down 20 members, and by the end of February, we will lose another 15. These are all members whose membership was expiring, and they chose not to renew due to the issues in the national organization. And as rolling expiry dates continue, we expect to lose more members each month. Also, we have lost speakers for both our annual conference and our monthly workshops, and we have had agents and editors tell us they cannot support and attend our conference unless we disaffiliate with the national organization.

But more than anything else, our members are angry. They feel betrayed by RWA leadership, and are frustrated by the lack of communication, and poor decisions board and staff have made. Many of our members feel they can no longer support an organization that is so resistant to taking an anti-racist stance, and has long allowed ableism, anti-Semitism, and intolerance towards LGBTQ+ members to continue.

EXTENDED COMMENTS BY COURTNEY MILAN. Well before today’s developments, Sarah Wendell interviewed Courtney Milan on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast: “391. RWA One Month Later, Part IV: A Conversation with Courtney Milan”. It was released February 3. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

Sarah: So one of the questions that I’ve had from people in my community, people on my, my podcast Patreon, are, what can, what can readers do? What, what do we do to move this community forward?

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: And I, I don’t have an easy answer for that! And I was wondering if that’s a question you’ve also received.

Courtney: I have. I, I’ve received this question often, and I don’t have an easy answer either, because it’s not an easy thing.

Sarah: Nope! Sure isn’t.

Courtney: It is a, it’s truly shitty thing, in fact, and if we had easy answers to any of this, we would know what was going on. And I think, I think that the, to the extent that there is an answer, and I’m not sure that there is one, I think the answer is, like, work to be less racist and to reduce the amount of racism in your community. That’s literally the only thing. Like, because what we’re butting up against here is this hard problem that I mentioned earlier that was in, like, the last part of the diversity report, like, bunches of people are racist! What do we do about it? Like, I don’t know! Like, one of the things that I think this has really underscored for me is that you cannot actually make someone less racist. And this is, this is one of those things like, I am such a process person in so many ways, it’s like, oh, don’t like this? Here’s a process for you!

Sarah: [Laughs]

Courtney: I’m going to fix it with a process! And, like, there is no process!

Sarah: There’s no manual.

Courtney: And – it’s not just that there’s no manual. There is a manual! But you can hand it to people and they’re like, okay, I read it; I hate it. Ugh.

Sarah: Yep.

Courtney: Nothing! Nothing you can do about somebody who determinedly does not want to change, right? Nothing. There is no process. And so, like, I think your choices at this point are, you know, what do you do with RWA – question mark. I think there are a lot of people in RWA who mean well? I think there are a lot of people in RWA who are committed to diversity. And I think there are a lot of people in RWA who have not examined what it means to be in an anti-racist community and what it means to be in one that is supporting white supremacy.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: And the, the group of people that exists there is vastly overlapping. So I think one of the issues with RWA is this: I think a lot of people of color are going to leave, because it’s just not a safe place to be. Right?

Sarah: Yeah.

Courtney: And I think a lot of white people – not, not all white people – I think a lot of white people, including some very well-meaning white people, are going to see all the people of color leaving, and they’re going to say, well, we have to prove that this place is safe, so I’m going to stay here and make it better. And I’m going to tell you that what you are doing at this point is reinforcing white supremacy when that happens. And you don’t want to hear that, and it’s going to make you mad to hear that a group of all-white people staying in RWA and continuing to give money to an organization that is white by design at this point, you know – like, they specifically did a thing knowing the effect that this would have on the community of color.

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

N.K. Jemisin

PRESERVING THE HISTORY. Meanwhile, my alma mater (BGSU, MA Popular Culture, 1975) made this appeal —

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

RWA Las Vegas Chapter Disbands in Aftermath of Courtney Milan Censure, RWA Appoints Interim Executive Director

[This is the sixth 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”, “Kathryn Davis Says RWA Encouraged Her To File Ethics Complaint Against Courtney Milan”, and “As More Issues Raised, RWA President Resigns, RITA Awards Postponed, and Many Publishers Withdraw Sponsorship of RWA Conference”.]

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. Romance Writers of America, currently operating without a President, says they will determine a process for appointing an interim President to serve until the next election. Meantime, they have identified a replacement for Executive Director Carol Ritter. RWA announced on January 21: “Leslie Scantlebury Appointed Interim Executive Director”.

…As of February 1, Leslie Scantlebury will assume the role of Interim Executive Director of RWA. As announced earlier this month, the Board accepted the resignation of Executive Director Carol Ritter, and she will remain on staff until January 31 to ensure a smooth transition. In the meantime, she has recused herself from all duties pertaining to the audit, and Leslie is serving as RWA staff liaison to the independent law firm conducting the audit.

Leslie has nearly 20 years of association management experience. During her career, she has worked with volunteer leadership at both the national and local levels. Her background includes governance, member retention, education, and volunteer management for large nonprofit membership associations. Leslie also has served on the board of directors of several local organizations, including the Houston Society of Association Executives. Leslie holds an undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.

Leslie has been an integral part of the RWA team cumulatively for more than a decade, serving most recently as Chapter and Professional Relations Manager. The Board is grateful to have Leslie’s leadership at this important moment for RWA.  

Leslie will be working with the Board and a DEI consultant to determine a process for appointing an interim President that will allow our members to have input in the decision. We understand the importance of this decision, and we know it’s a priority for our members. 

In August, every Board seat and officer position – including the office of President – will be up for election by the membership. Once the newly elected Board is installed, it will then form a search committee to identify and select a new, permanent Executive Director, in consultation with a DEI consultant….

RWA CHAPTER DISBANDS. The Las Vegas Romance Writers will disband. The chapter president explained why in a public letter to RWA:

It is with a profound sense of regret that, as the President of Las Vegas Romance Writers, I write to inform you that the Las Vegas chapter has voted to disband. The circumstances leading up to the closure of our chapter can be directly attributed to the censure of Courtney Milan and the chaos that ensued.

In the wake of her censure, a member of the chapter board resigned immediately. Other chapter board members expressed their unwillingness to support an organization that was so clearly in violation of its stated purpose and its own bylaws. They indicated that they would be letting their membership in National lapse, leaving the board without the officers necessary, by law, to run the chapter.

As a result of the positions of the individual board members, a meeting was called of the general membership to discuss the circumstances with national and see if there was a way forward for our chapter. We had no volunteers to serve on the board, to replace the members who were letting their national membership lapse. In addition, over half of the members of our chapter have expressed that they will not be continuing their membership with RWA.

Given these circumstances, the board voted to disband the chapter. Subsequently, a majority of the general members also voted to disband.…

CHAPTER PRESIDENTS’ LETTER. Other chapters have not yet given up trying to reform RWA.  Adriana Herrera tweeted the text of a letter from 29 RWA chapter presidents demanding that the organization take a list of specified actions. Thread starts here.

Some of their demands are:

Give serious consideration and respond to Courtney Milan’s settlement offer dated 01/14/2020. Remove Carol Ritter immediately and with cause. Begin the process of hiring an independent firm to conduct a full forensic audit.

Expand the current independent audit to incorporate a review of all ethics cases handled (or not) by RWA since 2017. In addition, we request: A review of how Damon Suede’s eligibility to run for President-elect was determined and qualified.

A review of the Executive Director’s duties and apparent overreaching control of the running of RWA as opposed to the RWA Board of Directors. A review of the retirement of the previous Executive Director and her temporary (and possible continued) reappearance as Controller.

A review of the current Board of Director’s questionable execution of their fiduciary duty. A review of Damon Suede and Carolyn Jewel’s questionable execution of their fiduciary duty in the matter of the complaint against Courtney Milan.

COURTNEY MILAN’S SETTLEMENT PROPOSAL. Courtney Milan, on January 14, tweeted a copy of her letter to the RWA proposing a basis for both sides to dispose of some – but not all – of the potential grounds for litigation between them. For one thing, it sheds light on just how many there are. Thread begins here.

PROGRESS ON RWA INTERNAL AUDIT. Courtney Milan shared more of her communications with the RWA leadership. Thread starts here.

CAN RWA SURVIVE? Courtney Milan lists a few key questions. Thread starts here.

RESOURCES. Shari Heinrich steamed into MLK Day with a list of reading she’s doing, and a list of questions she’ll be posing to future conference organizers about diversity and antiharassment policies, Thread starts here.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE. Sarah at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books tells why it’s hard to answer the question “Where Does RWA Go From Here?” (January 10)

…Setting aside the question of leadership for a moment (and again, the current RWA board should be removed and re-elected in its entirety) it’s important to ask over and over: whom does this organization serve?

Who is the priority?

Because it cannot be both.

If RWA serves the current membership of RWA, well, that membership contains a substantial number of people who:

  • openly embrace and promote racist ideologies
  • post on RWA Facebook pages and in internal message boards about their homophobia and racist views on people of color
  • write transphobic and racist articles for and letters to the Romance Writers Report
  • …and I could keep going but it’s depressing.

A substantial part of the current membership of RWA is a substantial part of the problem with RWA.

If the organization wants to serve any marginalized writers, it can’t also serve that portion of the current membership. It’s impossible. One side has demonstrated in PAN forums, email messages, and social media posts that it refuses to recognize the humanity of the other, and refuses to recognize their culpability in maintaining a White supremacist, classist, heteronormative, racist culture inside RWA. Nor can it commit to changing that culture.

The organization also can’t serve marginalized writers if the leadership has a documented history of not acknowledging ethics complaints from marginalized individuals, and of publishing and allowing screeds against those individuals in print and online. RWA can’t serve anyone if the organization doesn’t fully reveal what happened in the specific case of the ethics complaint and process against Courtney Milan, and what happened to the complaints from every writer who has reported a problem.

RWA can’t maintain its current membership nor its leadership and at the same time say it’s going to rebuild. Rebuilding requires people in leadership positions who are trusted by current and prospective members. And it requires trust in fellow members of the community.

IMPACT ON OTHER ORGANIZATIONS. Alyssa Day has resigned as President of Novelists, Inc: The International Organization of Multi-Published Novelists, which she says suffers the same failures of diversity a RWA. Thread starts here.

SKEPTICAL APPROACH.

In “RWA the Sequel,” YouTuber KirkpattieCake spends an hour challenging the criteria used to assert racism, looks forward to the results of RWA’s independent audit, and also takes a moment to scorn the cancel culture that fell on Vince Vaughn for shaking President Trump’s hand. (January 20)

And Sarah A. Hoyt scoffs at the issues in her blog post “De-Worse It Gets” (January 15.)

So, what was the last writer of color you read?

Hint, the answer is “whatever writer you read last, since I’ve still to find a single transparent writer.” Which is good, since it would be disturbing. And I hope one of the last you read is this chick Sarah A. Hoyt and her novel Deep Pink(which is profoundly weird, yes, but come on you guys, if you didn’t like weird, you wouldn’t hang out around here, would you?)

Anyvay….. I swear there are people who never read a book trying to dictate not just what the rest of us MUST write, but also what the rest of us must read.

I thought the “challenge to read writers of color” was stupid enough when I first heard of it 10 years ago, but it’s only gotten stupider. Now entire writers’ organizations (puts hat to chest and holds a minute of silence for RWA. I’d do it for SFWA but RWA was once far more useful including teaching and mentoring stuff SFWA never had. Besides SFWA is long dead and rotting, so I’m going to edge away from the coffin.) are falling into this insanity.  We’re hearing that BLIND-JUDGED-CONTESTS, where you can’t even guess at the name of the writer (and these days, honestly, it won’t help. I swear my kids, now mid to late twenties are the last properly spelled names in their generation.) are “racist.”…

MAINSTREAM MEDIA COVERAGE. These are some of the articles that have appeared since the previous roundup.

CNN – “A romance novelist accused another writer of racism. The scandal is tearing the billion-dollar industry apart” by AJ Willingham (January 13)

…The RWA also needs to fill several vacant seats and choose a new leader, a Herculean task made even more difficult by the erosion of trust and conflicts of interest the scandal has created. The RWA declined to comment when contacted, but directed CNN to the statement mentioning Suede’s resignation. In the statement, the RWA says the association has hired an external firm to conduct an audit of the events leading to the controversy and has brought on a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant to “assist RWA with diversifying Board and staff recruitment” as well as future programming and events….

Jezebel – “Inside the Spectacular Implosion at the Romance Writers of America” by Kelly Faircloth (January 15)

…RWA, an organization founded almost 40 years ago by a black woman, has frequently been an unfriendly place for marginalized writers, and attempts to change that have been met with pushback that now threatens to destroy the institution itself. Romance novels, at their most fundamental level, are about protagonists being seen clearly and loved—and this is a story about who gets to be seen and valued in the romance genre, and whose pain matters.

As an author of historical romances who served four years on the RWA’s elected board of directors, Milan has been one of the most prominent voices in the struggle to make RWA a more equitable environment. (In fact, she just won a service award.) She’s also known for her vocal Twitter presence, where she doesn’t shy from calling out injustice in very blunt terms, whether it’s around racism in romance or the strange plagiarism saga of #CopyPasteKris. The efforts of Milan and many others had put the RWA on a path to helping create a more inclusive organization, genre, and publishing industry more broadly. As 2019 drew to a close, it looked like years of dedicated effort and activism by many people, particularly by women of color, to build a more inclusive genre and an RWA equipped to fight on behalf of its marginalized members, were bearing fruit.

But that hope is collapsing. After Milan’s censure, board members resigned en masse; two presidents left under a cloud of controversy. Major publishers, including Harlequin, have pulled out of RWA’s annual national conference. Members are furious, and the work it will take to restore their trust in the organization is so enormous it’s potentially insurmountable.

…But since its inception, there has always been a certain amount of tension over RWA’s priorities. Was it a social club? A professional networking group? What constituted “professional,” anyway? (See: the great swan hat controversy of 2007.) Was it for published authors, or unpublished authors? Was it a conduit between writers and publishers? Or was it potentially a body for collective action, including against publishers? Equally important but less tangible was the question of the right way for a woman to act, even in an organization composed largely of women, and just how important it was to be nice and conciliatory, not to raise a big, disruptive fuss—even, or perhaps especially, over issues of racial and queer representation.

…The internet, too, has challenged RWA’s position within the romance ecosystem. RWA conferences are full of panels on various aspects of self-publishing, but nobody needs RWA to put their book on Amazon. They’re not a collective bargaining agent; they can’t, say, negotiate better self-publishing terms with Amazon. But romance authors need a fierce advocate more than ever, because they’re increasingly at the mercy of powerful tech platforms, as major channels for mass-market paperbacks like B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, and Borders have vanished. RWA’s presence at least means there’s somebody authors can call if they need an institutional voice to advocate for them. “If you are the member who calls in, who says, ‘Facebook for some reason shut down my author site, and I had 40,000 followers,’ we have contacts at Facebook and at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble that we can get in touch with at a micro level to help our members immediately,” former president HelenKay Dimon told me.

But in recent years, perhaps the central dispute within the industry has been about inclusion and intersectionality. While there’s always been a feminist thread in romance, the genre has also been dominated by straight white women for much of its history. Despite Stephens’s central role in shaping the modern romance, she was frustrated by bosses’ foot-dragging, even as she acquired diversely. Plantations abounded in historical romance well into the 1990s, as did books featuring appalling depictions of Native Americans with the word “savage” thrown around. Black authors have frequently been relegated to “ethnic” imprints and even shelved elsewhere in bookstores. And often, that “be nice” culture has suppressed attempts to fight any of it.

The article concludes:

…In the midst of the tumult, Bowling Green State University’s Popular Culture Library, which has an impressive collection of archival material related to the history of romance, tweeted out a picture of the first board of RWA. That board included two black women (Vivian Stephens and her sister) as well as a Latina author, Celina Rios Mullan. “The issue in RWA is not, per se, that we didn’t have diversity. Because we have diversity. Our issue was inclusion and access,” C. Chilove told me. That has been the case for a very, very long time. The photo testifies to a long history of missed opportunities to do better, in RWA and in the genre more broadly. For a while, it looked like the organization was finally getting it right, after years of chances that were thrown away. Then they blew it all up.

Kirkus – “Is Romance Writers of America a Sinking Ship?” by Jennifer Prokop (January 15.)

RWA’s handling of these complaints has brought the entire organization to the brink of collapse: Citing a gap between policy and process, the board voted to rescind the penalty against Milan; eight women of color on the board collectively resigned, saying they lacked faith in RWA’s leadership; the 2020 RITA awards were cancelled after hundreds of authors and judges resigned from the contest; and publishers, including giants Harlequin and Avon, announced they would not attend the national conference. Many predict that RWA will have no choice but to cancel the national conference entirely—a staggering financial blow to an already crippled organization.

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.