Pixel Scroll 11/15/19 Looks Like The Time Machine’s Getting Stuck Between Floors. There’s Just A Blank Where The Chronograph Should Be

(1) JOHN M. FORD RETURNING TO PRINT. Isaac Butler’s research for “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” at Slate led to an unexpected benefit: “I wanted to learn why a beloved science fiction writer fell into obscurity after his death. I didn’t expect that I would help bring his books back to life.”

It would take me 18 months to answer my questions. My quest would bring me to the vast treasure trove of Ford’s uncollected and unpublished writing. It would introduce me to friends and relatives of Ford who hadn’t spoken to each other since his death in 2006. And, in an improbable ending worthy of a John M. Ford novel, my quest would in fact set in motion the long-delayed republication of his work, starting in the fall of 2020. How did this happen? More importantly, why was he forgotten in the first place? More importantly than that: How did he write those amazing books?

…And so, after months of investigation, I found myself in an Iceberg Passage, seeing only some of the story while, lurking beneath the surface, other truths remained obscure. I do not share Ford’s horror at obviousness, but there are simply things that we will never know. We will never know why Mike and his family grew apart, or, from the family’s perspective, how far apart they were. We will never know who anonymously tried to edit the Wikipedia page to cut out Elise Matthesen. (The family denies any involvement.)

But I reconnected Ford’s family and editors at Tor, and after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish—at long last—the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

(2) A LOOK AT CHIZINE CONTRACTS. Victoria Strauss’ roundup “Scandal Engulfs Independent Publisher ChiZine Publications “ at Writer Beware includes this analysis of CZP’s exploitative hold on royalty payments:

CZP’s contract boilerplate empowers the publisher to set a “reasonable” reserve against returns. There are no specifics, so it’s basically up to the publisher to decide what “reasonable” is.

For CZP, “reasonable” seems to mean 50%. This seemed high to me, so I did a mini-canvass of literary agents on Twitter. Most agreed that smaller is better–maybe 25-30%, though some felt that 50% was justifiable depending on the circumstances. They also pointed out that the reserve percentage should fall in subsequent reporting periods (CZP’s remains at 50%, unless boilerplate has been negotiated otherwise), and that publishers should not hold reserves beyond two or three years, or four or five accounting periods (CZP has held reserves for some authors for much longer).

(If you’re unclear on what a reserve against returns is, here’s an explanation.)

– Per CZP’s contract, royalties are paid “by the first royalty period falling one year after publication.” What this means in practice (based on the royalty statements I saw) is that if your pub date is (hypothetically) April of 2016, you are not eligible for payment until the first royalty period that follows your one-year anniversary–which, since CZP pays royalties just once a year on a January-December schedule, would be the royalty period ending December 2017. Since publishers often take months to issue royalty statements and payments following the end of a royalty period, you’d get no royalty check until sometime in 2018–close to, or possibly more than, two full years after publication.

In effect, CZP is setting a 100% reserve against returns for at least a year following publication, and often much more. This gives it the use of the author’s money for far too long, not to mention a financial cushion that lets it write smaller checks, since it doesn’t have to pay anything out until after returns have come in (most sales and most returns occur during the first year of release).

I shouldn’t need to say that this is non-standard. It’s also, in my opinion, seriously exploitative.

– And…about that annual payment. It too is non-standard–even the big houses pay twice a year, and most small publishers pay quarterly or even more often. It’s also extra-contractual–at least for the contracts I saw. According to CZP’s boilerplate, payments are supposed to be bi-annual after that initial year-or-more embargo. The switch to annual payment appears to have been a unilateral decision by CZP owners for logistical and cost reasons, actual contract language be damned (I’ve seen documentation of this).

(3) ANIMATED TREK. Tor.com has assembled a wealth of “New Details and Trailers Out for Star Trek‘s Animated ‘Short Treks’”.

Before the end of 2019, Star Trek will boldly do something it has never done in the 21st century before: Tell stand-alone stories in an animated format. It’s been known for a while that the final two Short Treks of 2019 would be animated, but we didn’t know what they’ d be about, or how they would even look…until now!

(4) TRANSCRIPTS FROM THE UNDERGROUND. Ursula V’s dungeon party reports in. Thread starts here.

(5) CAPTAIN FUTURE. Amazing Selects™ will launch with the release of Allen Steele’s Captain Future in Love, a novella originally serialized in Amazing Stories magazine that “continues the adventures of Edmond Hamilton’s pulp adventure hero Curt Newton, aka Captain Future, rebooted and updated in Allen Steele’s inimitable Neo Pulp style.”

Amazing Selects ™ is a new imprint from Experimenter Publishing Company LLC that will feature stand-alone novella-length works, in both print and electronic formats.

The new Captain Future, originally introduced in Steele’s Avengers of the Moon (Tor, 2017),  “brings golden age science fiction into the modern era presenting classic space opera adventure with modern sensibilities.”

The edition features concept art by Rob Caswell, interior illustrations by Nizar Ilman and non-fiction features by Allen Steele.

Captain Future in Love is available through Amazon in paperback and ebook and through the Amazing Stories store.

(6) NOBODY’S KEEPING SCORE. The new edition of the BBC Radio 4 Film Programme “Emma Thompson” is mainly about the Last Christmas film, but includes two other segments of genre interest. Hear it online for the next four weeks.

Emma Thompson has written 6 films in which she also stars. Last Christmas is the latest. She explains why she sometimes has to bite her tongue when actors deliver her lines in ways that she hadn’t quite imagined.

Neil Brand reveals how the ground-breaking score to cult classic Forbidden Planet was a last minute replacement and why the original composer decided to destroy his rejected score.

“Apocalypse Now meets Pygmalion”. Matthew Sweet pitches a long forgotten science fiction novel to film industry experts Lizzie Francke, Rowan Woods and Clare Binns.

(7) TUNE IN AGAIN. Also on BBC Radio 4 is a production of Doris Lessing’s The Good Terrorist. Available for the next 11 days.

First-ever dramatisation of Doris Lessing’s 1985 satire of incompetent revolutionaries in a London squat. Starring Olivia Vinall and Joe Armstrong, dramatised by Sarah Daniels.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble naan with artist Paul Kirchner in Episode 109 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Paul Kirchner.

I’ve been attending the Maryland-based indie comics convention SPX — that is, the Small Press Expo — for 15 or so of its 36 years, and this time around took the opportunity to dine with artist Paul Kirchner, who breathed the same comic industry air I did during the ’70s.

Paul broke into comics in the early ‘70s through a fortuitous series of events which had him meeting the legendary comics artist Neal Adams, who introduced him to DC Comics editor Joe Orlando, and within the week getting a gig as assistant to Tex Blaisdell helping him out on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip and stories for DC’s mystery books. He also worked for awhile as assistant to the great EC Comics artist and Daredevil innovator Wally Wood. He moved on from mainstream comics to draw two wonderfully surrealistic strips — “Dope Rider” for High Times and “the bus” for Heavy Metal. His wide-ranging creative resume also includes a graphic novel collaboration with the great writer of detective novels Janwillem van de Wetering, designs for such toy lines as Dino-Riders and Spy-Tech, and much more.

(9) RAINBOW OVER AND UNDER. Will this Andy Weir collaboration make it to the screen? The Hollywood Reporter covers the deal: “Amblin, Michael De Luca Tackling ‘Martian’ Author’s Fantasy Graphic Novel ‘Cheshire Crossing'”.

…The fantasy mashup tells the story of Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan‘s Wendy, who meet in boarding school for troubled young ladies. They each believe they’ve traveled to a fantastical world but no one else does. When their world-hopping sees Captain Hook and the Wicked Witch of the West team up to combine their magical villainy, the trio must band together to thwart them.

The graphic novel began life as a piece of fan fiction that Weir wrote prior to finding best-selling and Hollywood success with Martian…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 15, 1968 Star Trek’s “The Tholian Web” premiered on NBC.  In a two-part episode of Enterprise titled “In a Mirror, Darkly”, the Tholians will be back with a story continuing this story.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner, 90. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & Legends, Batman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while.
  • Born November 15, 1930 J. G. Ballard. I’ll frankly admit that I’ve not read enough of him to render a coherent opinion of him as writer. What I’ve read such as The Drowned World is more than a bit depressing. Well yes, but really depressing. (Died 2009.)
  • Born November 15, 1933 Theodore Roszak. Winner of the Tiptree Award for The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and the rather excellent Flicker which is superb. Flicker is available at Apple Books and Kindle though no other fiction by him is. Odd. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 15, 1934 Joanna Barnes, 85. She’s Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man with Danny Miller in the title role. It’s not until she’s Carsia in the “Up Above the World So High” episode of The Planet of The Apes series that she does anything so genre again. And a one-off on classic Fantasy Island wraps up her SFF acting.
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto, 80. Assuming we count the Bond films as genre and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and a horrid film, and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV.
  • Born November 15, 1942 Ruth Berman, 77. She’s a writer mostly of speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening“.  She was also the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem “Knowledge Of”.  She’s also written one YA fantasy novel, Bradamant’s quest. And 1973, she was a finalist for the first Campbell Award for Best New Writer. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro gets laughs from the thought-life of Batman’s sidekick.

(13) PALEO POSTAGE. I think I missed the news when these T.Rex stamps were issued in August. Fortunately, they are Forever stamps….

The four distinct stamps depict the long-extinct beast in various forms of its life from a hatchling to a skeleton in a museum.

In two of the stamps, the young adult depicted in skeletal form with a young Triceratops and in the flesh emerging through a forest clearing is the “Nation’s T. Rex,” whose remains were discovered on federal land in Montana and is considered one of the most important specimens of the species ever found, it said.

The four stamps were designed by art director Greg Breeding from original artwork by scientist and paleoartist Julius T. Csotonyi.

Here’s the USPS link to T.Rex products.

(14) NYCON 3. Andrew Porter shared three photos from the 1967 Worldcon, NyCon 3, you aren’t likely to have seen before.

Ted White, Dave Van Arnam, chairs of NYCon 3, at the convention. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Ted White pastes up display about NyCon 3, as Robin White looks on: Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Sam Moskowitz, Norm Metcalf (foreground), Ed Wood at NyCon 3. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

(15) DRONING AWAY. “DJI makes app to identify drones and find pilots” – but only if the drone self-identifies…

Drone maker DJI has demonstrated a way to quickly identify a nearby drone, and pinpoint the location of its pilot, via a smartphone.

The technique makes use of a protocol called “Wi-Fi Aware”, with which the drone essentially broadcasts information about itself.

The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruption, and give members of the public peace of mind.

But experts believe sophisticated criminals would still be able to circumvent detection.

“It’s going to be very useful against rogue drones,” said Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who studies the impacts of the drone industry.

“But it’s not going to be enough to fight people with real bad intentions, because these are going to be the first people to hack this system.”

DJI told the BBC it could add the functionality to drones already on the market via a software update.

…“If Gatwick staff had a smartphone enabled with this capability in their pockets,” explained Adam Lisberg, from DJI, “they could have taken it out, seen a registration number for the drone, seen the flight path, and the location of the operator.

(16) YA TWITTER. Vulture will fill you in about a new YA Twitter kerfuffle: “Famous Authors Drag Student in Surreal YA Twitter Controversy”. They include gene authors.

Young-adult book Twitter took an especially surreal turn this week when the best-selling novelist Sarah Dessen took offense at a brief critique of her work, inciting a minor Twitter riot, with some of the most famous writers in the world jumping into the fray to defend her.

(17) HOW DID THEY KNOW? I couldn’t help laughing when I read this line in Jon Del Arroz’ blog:

(18) ANOTHER OUTBREAK. USA Today’s Don Oldenburg has kind things to say about Daniel H. Wilson’s novel: “‘The Andromeda Evolution’ an infectious sequel to Michael Crichton’s classic best-seller” – although the reviewer sounds reluctant to admit the book isn’t by Chrichton, who died in 2008.

A new team of four Project Wildfire scientists is sent to the Amazon to investigate how to stop the unexplainable anomaly. A fifth scientist is tracking the crisis from the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth. Meanwhile, a deadly, self-replicating, microparticle structure is growing exponentially, eating the jungle and killing nearby tribal habitants.

(19) NOOO! Those who fail to learn from Jedi history… “Jon Favreau Already Has a Star Picked for His ‘Star Wars’ Holiday Special”.

… “Oh I would definitely be interested in doing a holiday special,” Favreau told Variety at “The Mandalorian” fan event. “And I’m not going to say who I would be interested in. But one of the people is the member of the cast in an upcoming episode of the show. So we’ll leave it at that for now.”

When pressed to see if he was serious, the director doubled down. “I’ve been thinking about it. It’s ready, the ideas are ready. I think it could be really fun. Not as part of this, but there’s an excitement around it because it was so fun and weird, and off and not connected to what ‘Star Wars’ was in the theater. ‘The Mandalorian’ cartoon, the Boba Fett cartoon, from the holiday special was definitely a point of inspiration for what we did in the show.”

(20) WALLACE & GROMIT. The Drum finds a seasonal commercial featuring two popular characters is at the top of the charts: “A week in Christmas ads: big retailers lose out as Wallace & Gromit gives Joules a boost”.

Joules’ heavily-branded Wallce & Gromit-fronted spot from Aardman topped the rankings this week with a star score of 5.4 and a spike rating of 1.51 – indicating sales will follow.

The film shows Wallace, in his typically inventive style, bringing Christmas to West Wallaby Street all at ‘the click of a button’.

Joules’ festive products decorate the living room and there’s no escape for Wallace’s loyal side-kick, Gromit, who becomes the pièce de résistance as the fairy crowning the top of the Christmas tree.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/19 We’ve Secretly Replaced The Pixels In Mike’s Scroll With (Qvqa’g Jr Whfg Gryy Lbh, Vg’f N *FRPERG*?)

(1) THE GAME OF THE NAME. John D. Berry renders his verdict about their usefulness and design in “A tale of three nametags”.

In the course of less than a month this summer, I attended three major events, each of which had a nametag that attendees were supposed to wear. The first, in Dublin, was this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, which was being held in Ireland for the first time. The second, a week later in Belfast, was the Eurocon, or European Science Fiction Convention, which moves around among European countries and was hosted by the organizers of Titancon, an annual Belfast science fiction convention; holding it in Northern Ireland the week after the worldcon made it easy for people visiting from other countries to attend both conventions on their trip. The third event was ATypI 2019, the annual conference of the Association Typographique Internationale, in Tokyo – ATypI’s second time in Asia, as it happens….

(2) WBAI STAFF STILL FIGHTING. The Brooklyn Eagle heard it from Jim Freund, host of a sff radio show at the station: “WBAI radio staffers, still barred from air, ramp up fight”.

“It ain’t over,” radio host Jim Freund told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday.

Freund, 65, hosts a science fiction and fantasy talk show called “Hour of the Wolf” on 99.5 WBAI FM — the decades-old, listener-sponsored radio station currently taking its parent nonprofit, the Pacifica Foundation, to court.

On Monday, Pacifica — which owns a slate of other independently operated radio stations — abruptly shut down local programming at WBAI and shuttered its Atlantic Avenue workspace, citing millions of dollars of debt and the desire to rebuild the station around national, syndicated content.

By Tuesday morning, the staff — which consists largely of unpaid volunteers — was granted a temporary restraining order by the Manhattan Supreme Court, barring Pacifica from terminating any WBAI employees or impeding on its local programming in any way until Oct. 18, when both parties must appear in court.

But as of Wednesday, producers said local programming was still being kept off the air.

“This isn’t the first time something like this has happened,” said Freund, who has hosted “Hour of the Wolf” on WBAI for nearly half a century. “In 1977, there was an incident so huge that Pacifica took us off the air for three months. There was static.”…

(3) DON’T CALL HIM LATE FOR DINNER. Columbia News caught up with Jeremy Dauber, the Atran Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture, to chat about his first children’s book Mayhem and Madness: Chronicles of a Teenaged Supervillain, what he read as a child and whom he would invite to a dinner party — “Releasing His Inner Teenager”

Q. You’re organizing a dinner party. Which three scholars or academics, dead or alive, do you invite?

A. The first guest would have to be Tolkien, Oxford’s Merton Professor of English Language and Literature. Then Gregory Benford, the noted science fiction writer and the University of California at Irvine’s Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy. There have always been rumors that Elena Ferrante is actually an Italian professor; if whoever it was accepted the invitation, we’d find out for sure!

(4) NEW SYSTEMS. Nature advance posts a look back nearly a quarter of a century to the detection of the “First exoplanet found around a Sun-like star”.

Anyone over the age of 35 will remember growing up in a world in which only one planetary system was known — our own. We remember proudly reciting the names of the nine planets (eight before Pluto’s discovery in 1930, and again today with its reclassification as a dwarf planet in 2006) and wondering what other planets might exist around the stars in the night sky. Contemplating life beyond the Solar System was relegated to science fiction. This all changed in 1995 when Mayor and Queloz1 reported the detection of the first exoplanet around a Sun-like star…

(5) FLOP OR ‘FLIX? Is this the new market reality? “Studio Dilemma: Risk a Box Office Flop, or Sell to Netflix?” – seek the answer along withThe Hollywood Reporter.

…Call it Tom’s Choice. Like all the major studios, Sony Pictures is questing for new franchises — and after years of development, it might have one with the He-Man movie Masters of the Universe.

But while the picture is on the calendar for release in March 2021, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that studio chairman Tom Rothman is exploring the prospect of getting risk-free cash for the pricey project by making it for Netflix instead. A studio source says talks are preliminary, but such a deal would make Sony the next studio after Paramount to start making movies belonging exclusively or almost exclusively to the streamer.

So there’s the dilemma: seek a studio or financier to partner on the project, holding on to various rights and territories, or make the safe deal with Netflix (which would not seem quite so safe if the film were a huge hit and it already was sold).

(6) LESSING CENTENNIAL. Nature looks at Doris Lessing’s science fiction in what would have been her 100th year. “Doris Lessing at 100: roving time and space”

Her lifelong interest in science and societal upheaval is embodied in fascinating ways in Canopus in Argos, a series of five books published from 1979 to 1983. (She came up with the title a few weeks after seeing, and loving, George Lucas’s film Star Wars, in 1978. The inspiration might have been the ‘crawl text’ at the film’s start.)…

 Novelist Anthony Burgess, author of the dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), complained of her “fanciful cosmic viewpoint”. Although science-fiction doyenne Ursula K. Le Guin praised some character sketches in Shikasta as “immortal diamond”, she found the whole at times “little more than a pulp-Galactic Empire with the Goodies fighting the Baddies”. Undeterred, Lessing worked her way through the series, declaring bloodymindedly that “space fiction, with science fiction, makes up the most original branch of literature now”. She had friends among sci­fi authors, including Brian Aldiss, and happily attended meetings of the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. She championed the genre as influential in mainstream literature, whose pundits nevertheless “are much to blame for patronising or ignoring it”. 

(7) THE FACTS OF SFF LIFE. Andrew Liptak, in “Two New Books Examine the Lost History of Speculative Fiction”, gives readers of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog persuasive reasons to read two works of genre history.

Science fiction, fantasy, and horror are genres with a long history behind them, and historians and writers have spilled plenty of ink covering the authors, events, franchises, and works that form their bedrock. Recently, two books have hit stores that are well worth picking up if you’re a fan of genre history: Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror & Speculative Fiction, by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson, and Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Desirina Boskovich. Both offer excellent examinations of the genres while shedding a bit of light on parts of their history that aren’t often illuminated.

(8) THE MAGIC NUMBER. Nick Kolakowski picks “5 Classics of Cyberpunk Noir” at CrimeReads.

From its inception, cyberpunk has shared quite a bit of DNA with crime fiction. Your archetypical (some might say stereotypical) cyberpunk anti-hero, hacking into the mainframe of a highly militarized mega-corporation, could easily trade some tips about life on the street with a grizzled safecracker from a Richard Stark novel or Michael Mann film. Both cyberpunk and crime fiction often focus on those who live on the edge of society, trying to scratch out a living while wrestling with some degree of existential ennui.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 10, 2008 City of Ember enjoyed its theatrical release.  The film starred Saoirse Ronan and Toby Jones, currently The Librarian in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. It’s based on the series by Jeanne DuPrau. Rotten Tomatoes gave it rating of 53%. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 10, 1924 Edward Wood Jr. Though known for Plan 9 from Outer Space, he did a lot of bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase” story. In 1976, he wrote the BBC audio drama Doctor Who and the Pescatons which I remember hearing. Quite good it was. (Died 2007.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Jack Jardine. A long-time L.A. fan who was present at many West Coast cons and who shared the dais on panels with some of the major names in SF. He attended his last convention, in a wheelchair, assisted by his daughter Sabra, after a debilitating stroke at the age of 70. His health continued to get worse until he died from heart failure. File 770 has more here. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 78. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and  the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.
  • Born October 10, 1947 Laura Brodian Freas Beraha, 72. While married to Kelly Freas, she wrote Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It with him along with quite a few essays such as “ On the Painting of Beautiful Women or Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed” and “ Some of My Best Critics are Friends – or Vice Versa“. She’s credited solely for the cover art for the 1993 Easton Press interior art for The Left Hand of Darkness according to ISFDB. 
  • Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 53. She’s Miss West in Wild West West and the Mysterious Woman in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as  Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) PRANK. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “‘Joker’: Student Banned From AMC Theaters for ‘No Singles Policy’ Prank”.  

Given the mild cultural panic surrounding the Oct. 4 release of Todd Phillips’ Joker, it’s fair to speculate that theater security and guest services departments have had a rough couple weeks and were on edge going into last weekend. A student at Cal State Long Beach decided to test their patience anyhow, and got hit with a lifetime ban for his efforts.

On the night of Oct. 3, Twitter user @jinpayn — who declined to share his first name with The Hollywood Reporter but whose last name is Payne — posted a photo of a flyer taped to a ticket kiosk outside the AMC Orange 30 cinema in Orange, California, that read, “Please note: We are enforcing a strict NO SINGLES POLICY for tonight’s showings of JOKER due to safety precautions. We will not be admitting anyone without an additional partner.” “Great, I can’t see @jokermovie because I’m here alone. Wtf @amctheaters?” he tweeted

(13) COSPLAY FINALIST OUSTED FROM COMPETTION. “Comic Con bans cosplay champion’s ‘blackface’ entry” and the organizers say they are reviewing all their terms and conditions to prevent this from happening again.

French cosplay champion Alice Livanart has been removed from the EuroCosplay finals by organisers after she was accused of “blackface.”

The EuroCosplay Championships, to be held at MCM Comic Con in London later this month, pit together the winners of individual competitions in 25 European countries.

Alice Livanart won the France Cosplay Cup in September 2019 with her cosplay of League of Legends character Pyke.

However, she has now been banned from the European finals after allegations on social media that her costume was insensitive.

(14) ACCIO, TREASURE! BBC reveals which “Harry Potter first edition sells for £46,000 at auction”.

A rare copy of the first Harry Potter book has sold for £46,000 at auction after it was kept in a briefcase for safekeeping for more than 20 years.

The Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hardback edition was given to a Lancashire family who planned to keep it as an heirloom.

They decided to sell it after hearing about another book fetching £28,500.

The 1997 edition is the “Holy Grail” for collectors, a spokesman for the auction house said.

…Only 500 copies were published in the book’s first print run, with 300 of those sent to libraries.

(15) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. You’ve heard of the comics censorship that happened in the Fifties, and after you read the examples CrimeReads offers in “A History of EC Comics in 7 Tales of Murder & Horror” you’ll know what it was about.

“Split Personality”—The Vault of Horror 29

Ed King is one of EC’s long line a smooth-talking, pencil-mustached con men. He sees dollar signs after learning of rich twin-sister agoraphobes. Both sisters fall for the oily eel, but if he marries only one of them, he’ll only get half their fortune. So the snake decides to play his own twin. It only makes sense, right? Eventually the dames catch on, and with EC’s classic I’ve-gone-mad signifiers (Little Orphan Annie eyes, frozen grins, sweat beads), the sisters split Ed down the middle so they can each enjoy half. As our host, the Vault-Keeper says, Ed made “a BIGAMISTake!” (Note: Another tale, “How Green Was My Alley” is the same story, but with the addition of bowling/golf, and the two-timer getting his head/eye used as balls.)

(16) UNEXPECTEDLY PLANNING AHEAD. “Israel cave bones: Early humans ‘conserved food to eat later'”.

Scientists in Israel say they have found evidence that early humans deliberately stored bones from animals to eat the fatty marrow later.

It is the earliest evidence that humans living between 200,000 and 420,000 years ago had the foresight to anticipate future needs, they say.

Early humans had not previously been thought capable of such dietary planning.

Researchers analysed bone specimens at Qesem cave near Tel Aviv.

They identified cut marks on most of the bone surfaces – consistent with preservation and delayed consumption.

(17) DOING WHAT A NINJA’S GOTTA DO. BBC tells why “Japan ninja student gets top marks for writing essay in invisible ink”.

A Japanese student of ninja history who handed in a blank paper was given top marks – after her professor realised the essay was written in invisible ink.

Eimi Haga followed the ninja technique of “aburidashi”, spending hours soaking and crushing soybeans to make the ink.

The words appeared when her professor heated the paper over his gas stove.

“It is something I learned through a book when I was little,” Ms Haga told the BBC. “I just hoped that no-one would come up with the same idea.”

…”When the professor said in class that he would give a high mark for creativity, I decided that I would make my essay stand out from others,” she said.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #3

nobel_prizeAn Incredibly Modest Set of Proposals to the Royal Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize for Literature

By Chris M. Barkley:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a_Changin’, January 1964.

On October 13, Bob Dylan was announced as the 113th recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Mount Everest of literary achievement. Surprised? Dylan’s accomplishment, in the official announcement from the Royal Swedish Academy was “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

The announcement itself was an anomaly for another reason; it was made a week after all of the other Nobel laureates were announced. I’m just causally speculating here, but it could have taken that long for the members of the Royal Academy to convince Dylan that this wasn’t an elaborate prank set up by his ex-Traveling Wilbury band mate, Jeff Lynne. And I admit that while I was mildly surprised but not overly shocked by his selection. Dylan had been rumored to be a nominee in some circles for several years now.

Although there has been some harsh criticism of Dylan’s selection by literary elites in America, I think that there can be no doubt that he deserves the recognition as one of America’s greatest and most influential songwriters. And as poetry, his songs have few equals in this modern era.

This year, it is also notable because Dylan is the first American to win the honor since Toni Morrison in 1993. Like a lot of other readers and writers around the world, we feel badly for those of us who are big fans of the works American mainstream authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Thomas Pynchon, Joan Didion, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Louise Erdrich and Don DiLillo.

The Swedish Academy, which administers the Literature Prize honors, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. And I must congratulate the current secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, for leading the committing to make a bold, innovative choice of Bob Dylan for this year’s Literature Prize. But I am hoping for much, much, more with the Academy’s future recipients.

Consider this; some of the finest writers of mainstream fiction who have ever walked this planet, Virginia Woolf, Jorge Luis Borges, Anton Chekov, Willa Cather, Leo Tolstoy, Zora Neale Hurston, Vladimir Nabokov, Isak Dinesen, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., C.S. Lewis and Graham Greene among others, have never won the honor. It is well-known that previous Nobel Committees have not only been notoriously political and divisive over the decades, they, just as literary critics around the world, have been scornful and dismissive of anything outside of mainstream literature.

The question must be asked: would it be better for the Royal Academy, and as a consequence, for the world of literature as well, to vastly broaden the scope of nominees with the inclusion of other so-called “genre authors” as well?

The very definition of the noun literature is, “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.” Surely writers of humor, children’s, mystery and thrillers, feminist, romance, fantasy, sf and horror, have produced such works over the past century.  But, as anyone who has done any research in this area, the selection process shows that there has been a deliberate shunning of other forms of literature.

Voting for the Nobel Prizes has been opaque since the very beginnings of the awards. All of the deliberations are done only by the members of the Nobel branches. Past nominees cannot be named until 50 years after the awards were given.

Of all of the recipients of the Literature Prize, only one, Doris Lessing in 2007, could be considered as someone who wrote works other than mainstream fiction. Her most and acclaimed works was the Canopus in Argos: Archives, an astonishing quintet of novels which used science fiction as a template to explore various interactions between aliens and humans.  In a 2011 Locus review of Lessing works, Graham Sleight wrote, “If nothing else, they display a full knowledge with the possibilities of the genre, including very visible influences from people like (Arthur C.) Clarke, (Olaf) Stapledon, and (Ursula K.) Le Guin. “

2_61_lessing320

Doris Lessing

Incidentally, Lessing was one of the professional guests of honor at Conspiracy, the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, UK, a fact that the Nobel committee must have been aware of during the period she was under consideration.

Limiting myself just to fantasy and sf, I believe that there are a number of critically acclaimed writers who, when they were alive, deserved a Nobel nomination during their lifetimes. The late Octavia Butler, J.R.R. Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones, Ray Bradbury, J.G. Ballard, Madeleine L’Engle, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Vance, Stanislaw Lem and Philip K. Dick easily come to mind.

Among the contemporary world-class authors; the aforementioned Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Brian Aldiss, Tamora Pierce, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Gene Wolfe, Jo Walton, Guy Gavriel Kay, Christopher Priest, Karen Joy Fowler, China Mieville, Kij Johnson, Tim Powers, Nalo Hopkinson and Michael Moorcock have all produced intensely personal works of high quality that I feel the Nobel Committee should give them all some serious of consideration.

Are the members of the Swedish Academy trying to tell us these people don’t write well? Or that their contributions to literature and world culture don’t amount to much? Because that’s exactly what the majority of mainstream book critics, academics and literary scholars still think.

I do have a few modest ideas that I freely offer to the members of Royal Academy:

First, announce long and short lists of nominees for the Nobel Prize; as it has been demonstrated in the past, when nominees for a major award is announced, the interest (and sales) of the nominee’s works rise exponentially. The Booker Prize, The Book Critics Circle, the National Book Awards, the Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America, Australia’s  Ditmar and the John W. Campbell, Nebula and the Hugo Awards, all widely publicize their nominees each year, to great effect.

Secondly, extend an invitation to a varied, rotating slate of writers, reviewers and critics from other countries to become voting members on the Literature Committee. Surely adding them can widen the net of nominees from just the usual set of suspects each year. (Of course, it would be just as helpful if some of those invited in would be our own John Clute or the New York Times’ crime and mystery reviewer Marilyn Stasio.)

Lastly, offer multiple winners each year. Such a thing is not unprecedented; in fact, it has occurred three times in the past; in 1917 (Karl Adolph Gjellerup and Henrik Pontoppidan of Denmark), 1966 (Schmuel Yosef Agnon of Israel and Nelly Sachs of Germany) and 1974 (Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson of Sweden). I personally feel that offering two or more winners each year will not dilute the honor and insure that more worthy living recipients are honored while they’re alive, as the Kennedy Center Honors or the Presidential Medal of Freedom do each year.

In a world that has seen a rise in the number of people who either have no interest in reading (“aliteracy”) or a diminished interest, it’s important to keep people engaged and energized, whether it is for pleasure or their own edification. A Nobel Prize, one of the most publicized and widely known of all awards, gives it recipients the possibility that their works will not fall into obscurity.

As for Mr. Dylan, he did not make the ceremony last Saturday due to “prior engagements”, but prepared some remarks that were read in Stockholm by the US ambassador to Sweden.  And legendary songstress Patti Smith was enlisted to sing one of Dylan’s most famous songs, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the ceremony that evening.

I have no doubt that Fiona Apple, the boys from U2, Pink, Jewel, Bruce Springsteen (and the E Street Band) and a lot of other musician-poets will be paying more attention to the news coming out of Stockholm in future Octobers. We can only hope that fans of all sorts of literature can look forward to a more diverse set of nominees and winners in the future as well.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Doris Lessing passed away at home November 17. She was 94. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, she was also a past Worldcon guest of honor, at Brighton in 1987.

Lessing authored more than 50 novels. Beginning with Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971), she began to write what she called “inner-space fiction.” Then, in the novel series Canopus in Argos: Archives (vol. 1–5, 1979–1984) Lessing wrote about the post-atomic war development of the human species.

“Lessing’s central sf achievement, the Canopus in Argos: Archives sequence places the crises of human self-striving – and the crises facing the planet of our birth – into a metaphysically conceived interstellar frame,” John Clute wrote in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. “Everywhere the drive – sometimes thwarted – is towards literal union with universal principles (or God). The series exudes, at times, a piety not normally associated with sf; but at others the perspectives it opens are illuminating. In Lessing’s hands, the instruments of sf become parables: lessons in finding paths that may lead us out of the sour muddle of unenlightened worlds.”

2_61_lessing320When Lessing was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature, the citation called her “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny.”

Not that she was impressed. She told the reporters who brought her the news, “Oh Christ, I couldn’t care less.” (Which may have been the very same thing Chesley Bonestell said about a Special Hugo Award he was given in 1974, before relegating it to his bathroom to sit on the lid of the toilet tank.)

Nor did that mean the literary world had finally relaxed its prejudices against the SF genre. Critic Harold Bloom belittled her selection for the Nobel Prize to a wire service reporter: “Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable … fourth-rate science fiction.”

In 1999 the Queen appointed Lessing a Companion of Honour, an exclusive order for those who have done “conspicuous national service.” She’d previously turned down the offer of becoming a Dame of the British Empire “because there is no British Empire.” Being a Companion of Honour, she explained, means “you’re not called anything – and it’s not demanding. I like that.” Being a Dame was “a bit pantomime.”

The text of her Conspiracy GoH speech is available in Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches, edited by Resnick and Siclari. She also wrote a sidebar for the 1987 Worldcon souvenir book about how watching a TV documentary about nudism led her to think about the original creation of clothing, culture – and science fiction stories. It closed with an example of one of these ur-stories.

The storyteller said, “People, listen. One night the bravest young man of the tribe summoned Heru the owl and said, ‘Take me up on your back and fly with me to that floating ghost up there, just above the trees – quick, before it crosses the sky and goes down over the mountains. I want to ask it some questions. I want to say “Who are your people who grow slowly fat and then grow slowly thin? Where do you live? Why do you send one of you every night over our valley to watch us? We want to know who you are, what you are…’

“Very well, says Heru, I’ll take you but what will you give me in exchange?

“I’ll tell you a story as I sit on your back and we fly together, will that do?

“That will do, says Heru, and the brave young man climbs on his back and….”

Potter Prequel Sold at Auction

Potter Prequel at auctionThe BBC reports an 800-word mini-prequel to the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling was sold today at auction for $49,323/ £ 25,000.

“That’s $59/ £ 30 per word,” explains David Klaus, who sent me this story. “Jack Williamson, who got 1/4 cent/word for his first story from Hugo Gernsback after threatening a lawsuit to get his money, must be a veritable whirligig in his grave.”

The auction raised money for English PEN, which promotes understanding through literature, and Dyslexia Action. Organizers asked 13 authors, including Rowling, Nick Hornby and Doris Lessing, to create work for the sale.