By Mark L. Blackman On the night of Wednesday, November 18, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors William Gibson and Cat Rambo in YouTube livestreamed readings. This was the Series’ ninth virtual event. (Its longtime venue, the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village, had shut down due to the pandemic, but the Soviet era-themed dive bar has sporadically reopened with limited capacity, and its fans are invited to help it out with donations.) The current setup, Kressel noted, offers the advantage of allowing readings from writers not living in or visiting New York; both readers were “in” from the West Coast (Rambo lives in Seattle and Gibson Vancouver). It has also enabled a larger audience than could have fit into the bar (at one point, 120 people were watching).
As the evening’s livestream began, Gibson and Rambo schmoozed with Datlow and Kressel about everything from what they were drinking (hydration is important) to the scary Michelin Man, Gene Wolfe’s role at Pringle’s (the logo character is probably based on him), Oreos, and the previous week’s tornado in New York.
The first reader, Cat Rambo, is the author of over 200 stories, among them the novelette Carpe Glitter, which received a Nebula Award earlier this year, and four novels, including the upcoming space opera, You Sexy Thing. She is a past President of SFWA, and, as it happens, was in that position when Gibson was named a Grand Master. She opened with a selection from Carpe Glitter – “seize the glitter.” A woman is cleaning out the home of her eccentric late grandmother (“Carpe glitter” is something the old lady used to say), a former stage magician and a hoarder. It is an inheritance that she chose (to her mother’s disappointment) over cash, excavating and treasure-hunting (a friend has referred to it as “urban archeology”) through rancid furs, piles of multiple copies of magazines with her old notices and her doll collection.
She then read a flash story (“one of my favorite forms”) that ran on Daily Science Fiction, “I Decline.” An old man turns down government-offered technology that can preserve – and even edit out – his memories. (The spoiler is in the title.)
A short break followed.
William Gibson is best known as the creator (or, at minimum, co-creator) of an entire subgenre of speculative fiction, Cyberpunk. He is the author of the award-winning Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Virtual Light, Idoku, Spook Country, and other novels, most recently Agency, a sequel to The Peripheral.
He offered “a blended reading,” selections from the latter two novels, both of which center around “The Jackpot,” a multicausal, slow, androgenic process over 40 years rather than a solitary apocalyptic event, described by one character as “seriously bad shit.” Climate change and too much carbon results in droughts and water shortages, and pandemics that lead ultimately to the death of 80% of everyone (in other words, as we’ve heard too often on the news this year, “a perfect storm”). There is nanotechnology and cheaper energy sources, but the world is run by hereditary oligarchs. The protagonist is reached by a posse from the 22nd century who tell her about it. From Chapter 79 of The Peripheral, “The Jackpot,” he turned to Chapter 75 of Agency, “Jackpot.” The novel is set in an alternate continuum in which Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but that, he said, “doesn’t have the effect it might have, doesn’t prevent the Jackpot from happening.” Here too the protagonist is contacted by people from the future. Gibson is currently working on Jackpot, the conclusion of the trilogy.
Datlow described both selections as “greatly depressing reads, but optimistic” somehow. The Peripheral, was published in 2014 and Agency, appeared in early 2020, effectively pre-Covid-19. Trump’s election caused him to rewrite large parts of Agency, but the Coronavirus hasn’t derailed it. Both novels refer to “the pandemics,” plural.
Datlow asked how the writers are faring during the Pandemic. Rambo is staying productive with co-writing sessions, while Gibson has been “doing domestic stuff,” and “watching and reacting, and taking the measure of the fuckedness quotient and applying some of it to Jackpot #3.”
A Q&A with the audience ensued. Asked what classic sf stands up or stands out, Rambo replied that she’d been reading a number of ’70s short stories, particularly from women writers. Gibson cited J.G. Ballard and Brunner (who “got it astonishingly right,” notably Stand on Zanzibar), and we can feel like we’re in 1984. How do they decide the genders of their protagonists? Rambo said that if she didn’t know, she would return to her “D&D roots” and roll dice. Gibson noted that he had male and female protagonists in the same book; there are maybe four female protagonists in Jackpot. When he started out, he consulted Joanna Russ’s circle about handling women characters. Females, he opined, “better comprehend their world.”
What about the current milieu do they find surprising? Rambo finds social media both “horrifying and fascinating.” The only social media Gibson does is Twitter (Rambo also is on Twitter). In a digression, he observed (to laughter) that one thing that we don’t see in zombie apocalyptic fiction in books, movies and tv is people calling zombies a hoax. Kressel likened our polarized world to China Miéville’s The City and the City, with people “literally living in two realities,” pretending the others don’t exist. What are Rambo and Gibson finding to be optimistic about? Rambo likes “the informal nature of things,” and hopes that sf conventions have “a strong virtual component going forward.”
Would Gibson ever write in anyone else’s world? No, he has “never understood the impulse to write fan fiction.” What are their research methods? Gibson “Google[s] blindly,” and Rambo also relies on Google or “a good university library.” She is currently reading Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, and Gibson recommended M. John Harrison’s latest.
After a brief and reluctant cameo by her cat Jack, Datlow concluded by announcing upcoming readers:
December 16: Priya Sharma and Justin Key
January 20, 2021: Lauren Beukes and Usman T. Malik
February 17: Kathleen Jennings and Shveta Thakrar
All dates are the third Wednesday of the month (“come rain or shine or Covid”).
…Here Young Wizards says: it’s never too late to change. Diane Duane comes back to this idea again and again throughout the series. Wizardry is always about choosing to change or not, in one way or another. Of course, change is never without a price: wizardry gives only so much as it is given. But if you are willing, if you choose, you can change more than you ever dreamed.
“This is a business for saints, not children!” Nita’s father exclaims to Tom and Carl in High Wizardry, upon learning Nita’s younger sister Dairine has also become a wizard. “Even saints have to start somewhere,” they tell him. The youngest wizards have the most power, because they aren’t yet so confined by the idea of “possible.”
I’ve known that guest, Danny Fingeroth, for more than 40 years. A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, his biography of “The Man,” has just been released in paperback. That’s but the latest of his many accomplishments since he started in comics back in the ’70s as an assistant at Marvel to previous guest Larry Lieber.
Danny went on to become group editor for all the Spider-Man titles, and writer of the Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and Lethal Foes of Spider-Man mini-series, plus long runs on Dazzler and Darkhawk. His other books in addition to that Stan Lee bio include Superman On The Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Society and Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero.
As for dinner … our multi-course meal was made up of nothing but Marvel-branded food — which clearly should be ingested for their novelty value only — about which you’ll hear us kibitz during our conversation.
We discussed his start (like mine) in the Marvel British reprint department, what was wrong with the early letters he wrote to comics as a kid, his admittedly over-generalized theory that there were only two kinds of people on staff at Marvel, our differing reactions to the same first comic book convention in 1970, our somewhat similar regrets about the old-timers we worked beside during our early days in comics, the reason working in comics was wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, why he wanted to be not only Stan Lee, but both Stan and Jack Kirby, how he was able to interview “The Man” and get him to say things he’d never said before, why comics was the perfect medium for Stan Lee, and much more.
DSW: What’s your secret to being so successful as an editor of anthologies?
ED: It depends on what one means by success. I’ve been lucky to continue to propose anthologies that are of interest to enough publishers and readers that they sell OK (usually, but not always).
But basically I only edit anthologies on themes that are broad enough that I can get the writers I solicit stories from to push the envelope of that theme. I’ll be living with the “theme” for at least two years from conception to publication so I have to love it.
I’d very much like to edit more non-themed anthologies but they’re a very hard sell.
A letter to Donna Reed from a former schoolteacher led to MGM making the first film about the development of the atomic bomb. That’s the first nugget in this scrupulously researched tale of The Beginning or the End (1947), a film that tried to keep everyone from J. Robert Oppenheimer and President Harry S. Truman happy and wound up pleasing almost no one. Author Greg Mitchell appears shocked—shocked!—that Washington exerted such power over a movie studio, but threads his story with documentation that is beyond dispute. An experienced author and researcher (whose earlier book The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics is a longtime favorite of mine) he reveals his ignorance of old movies when he badly summarizes the career of Brian Donlevy—who was chosen to play General Leslie Groves in this film—but stays on solid ground when he details the endless negotiations that won the government’s approval of the finished picture. It’s an interesting saga that has particular relevance as we reevaluate the consequences of the bombs that dropped on Japan 75 years ago.
…Or, okay, at the very least, we can all agree that hauntings are a very useful metaphor. “Whether or not ghosts are real,” writes Erica Wright, “their stories give us inspiration, a way to live more alert to possibilities.” A ghost in a story can deliver information living characters lack access to, so it’s no wonder spirits have apparated throughout Western literature, from Hamlet’s truth-telling father to the psychological spirits of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. A literary ghost can also be a neat way to link a story’s present with the past, a seductive trick for the expansively-minded novelist. The contemporary American ghost tends to be a little more complicated, however, than a Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Past rattling around in a nightgown. As Parul Sehgal writes in the New York Times, “The ghost story shape-shifts because ghosts themselves are so protean—they emanate from specific cultural fears and fantasies… They are social critiques camouflaged with cobwebs; the past clamoring for redress.” She notes that America is a haunted country, despite, or maybe because of, our “energetic amnesia.”
(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
Twenty-five years ago, Greg Bear’s Moving Mars, the thirdnovel in his Quantum Logic series, won the Nebula Award beating out works by Octavia E. Butler, Jonathan Lethem, James K. Morrow, Rachel Pollack, Kim Stanley Robinson and Roger Zelazny. It would also be nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. It would lose in the Hugo race for Best Novel at ConAdian to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars. (CE)
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born September 25, 1919 – Betty Ballantine. With husband Ian (1916-1995) established Bantam Books, then Ballantine Books which they led to a fine SF publishing history: Blish, Bradbury, Clarke, Kornbluth, Leiber, Niven, Pohl, Tolkien; a hundred covers by Richard Powers, a distinctive genius. SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) President’s Award; Special Committee Award from the 64th Worldcon; World Fantasy Award for life achievement; SF Hall of Fame (Betty & Ian jointly). (Died 2019) [JH]
Born September 25, 1930 – Shel Silverstein. Cartoonist, journalist, poet, songster. Introduced to most by the Ballantines. Here is one of his collections. Here is another. Is he jolly, or melancholy? Have you sung “The Boa Constrictor”, by golly? (Died 1999) [JH]
Born September 25, 1932 — J. Carol Holly. Her various book dedications showed she had a strong love of cats. I’ve not encountered her novels but she wrote a fair number of them including ten genre novel plus The Assassination Affair, a novel in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. franchise. Only The Flying Eyes novel by her is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.) (CE)
Born September 25, 1946 – John D. Owen, 74. Fanziner noted particularly for Crystal Ship, which you can see here, and Shipyard Blues, which you can see here (both in archived copies). [JH]
Born September 25,1951 — Mark Hamill, 69. I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy. (CE)
Born September 25, 1957 – Christine Morton-Shaw, 63. Two novels for us; a half dozen picture books for young children which have been found fun. You may already know her teen fantasy The Riddles of Epsilon. [JH]
Born September 25, 1960 – Kristin Hannah, 60. Lawyer and fictionist. Two novels for us; a score of others (historical fiction The Nightingale sold 2 million copies). “The mall? I live on an island.” Website. [JH]
Born September 25,1961 — Heather Locklear, 59. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the Unexpected, Fantasy Island, Muppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clark “Prophecy of Doom” on Batman: The Animated Series. (CE)
Born September 25,1962 — Beth Toussaint, 58. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including Berserker, Babylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe, Mann & Machine, Project Shadowchaser II, Legend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry. (CE)
Born September 25,1964 — Maria Doyle Kennedy, 56. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in the soon to be filmed The Wheel of Time series. (CE)
Born September 25, 1969 — Catherine Zeta-Jones, 51. Her first role ever was as Scheherazade in the French short 1001 Nights. The Daily Telegraph noted it’s remembered only for its “enjoyable nude scenes”. Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off of The Haunting of Hill House. And finally she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. (CE)
Born September 25, 1989 – Élodie Serrano, 31. Two novels, collection The Die Is Cast, twenty more stories (e.g. “Muse for Sale, Accepts Souls”, “The Word Thief”, “At the Heart of Plants”), in French. [JH]
If you’ve been reading my comic book reviews, you know Hawkman is one of my favorite comics out right now. Robert Venditti has written an excellent take on the character and he’s reached new heights (sorry) of what’s possible with him.
It was kind of fitting then that I saw the news about Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man) being cast as Hawkman in the Black Adam movie from Venditti’s Twitter feed….
Hodge joins Dwayne Johnson, who plays the title character Black Adam, and Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) who will be Atom Smasher. The Black Adam version of the JSA is small with only Doctor Fate and Cyclone revealed although their casting have yet to be announced.
Riverbraid prides itself on its toleration of magickers, even minor ones like Mona, whose talents are limited to baked goods. Because Mona is poor and her magic has no obvious military applications, she’s left to work in her aunt’s bakery. It’s not a bad life, really. Everything changes the morning that Mona finds a corpse sprawled on the floor of the bakery.
The victim is a another magicker. It soon becomes apparent that someone is hunting down the magically talented. Mona’s attempts to unravel the mystery involve her in a desperate resistance against high-level scheming and barbarian invasion. Only a baker can save the day.
When a group of thieves stole $3.2 million worth of rare books from a London warehouse in 2017, including seminal scientific texts by Isaac Newton and Galileo, they shocked the antiquarian book world and inspired a number of theories about what had happened. Who would target such rare titles—including a 1566 edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus, worth $268,000—that they would be essentially impossible to sell on the black market?
An anonymous source told The Guardian that the heist “must be for some one specialist. There must be a collector behind it.” One source, in Smithsonian, said that “a wealthy collector known as ‘The Astronomer’ may have hired the thieves to steal the books for him.” Other texts in the collection included those by Leonardo da Vinci and a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy from 1569.
Now, British, Romanian, and Italian investigators working together have found them: they were “in a concealed space under a house in rural Romania,” the Associated Press reports. The main suspects are members of a Romanian organized crime group, and police have already arrested 13 people in connection with this heist and a string of other high-profile burglaries.
(12) RUSSIAN VACCINE DATA SUSPICIOUS SAY RESEARCHERS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Putin is rushing out a vaccine – Sputnik V – against SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-9 but it has not had mass testing, though it has had a small trial on 76 volunteers. The immune response of this small trial has been reported in The Lancet.
This rushed approval (by Russia only – as the approval does not meet international standards) has previously been criticised. However, now, the Russian paper in The Lancet reporting the trial has also been criticised in an open letter by 40 biomedical research scientists.
The Lancet paper does not include in the on-line version the underlying data. Conversely, the Oxford University and Astra Zeneca vaccine paper previously published in The Lancet had the underlying data included. Without it, it is impossible to check the headline data in the paper.
Further, in the headline data that was included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper in The Lancet, there were seeming repetitions. While these repetitions could be purely coincidence, they are unlikely.
The journal Nature became intrigued and their news team investigated. The Russian researchers are standing by their paper and have not responded to Nature’s news team’s queries. Nor has The Lancet commented why it failed to insist that the underlying data be included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper as it was for the British vaccine.
(13) ANTARCTICA IS CLOSE TO THE POINT WHERE FURTHER WARMING WILL SEE A COMMITMENT TO ICE SHEET COLLAPSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Researchers have looked at how the Antarctic has responded in the past and compared this with an ice sheet model that includes a number of feedbacks. For example, with ice surface melt, the surface becomes less reflective and so absorbs more sunlight. So enhancing future warming. Also with surface melt, the melted ice drains away lowering the surface and low altitude surfaces are warmer. There are other feedbacks, both positive and negative.
We have already warmed the planet by 1.25°C above pre-industrial era temperatures. The researchers have found that up to 2°C above pre-industrial there is some stability in both the West and East Antarctic ice sheets. However, above 2°C warming (which we are currently on track to reach before the mid-21st century) the West Antarctic ice sheet becomes committed to partial collapse. Also, above 2°C warming sea level rise from Antarctic melt almost doubles to 2.4 metres per degree of warming. Above 6°C, melt soars to 10 metres per degree of warming up to 9°C above pre-industrial.
Worse, once each threshold level is reached, it is harder to reverse. That is to say cooling to temperatures back to the threshold point will not reverse matters: still further cooling is required.
The paper’s abstract is here. (The full paper is behind a pay wall.)
With a handful of successfully funded projects under its belt, including a towering X-Men Sentinel robot, Hasbro’s HasLab crowdfunding platform is returning to its Star Wars roots with another Vintage Collection spaceship: an incredibly detailed, 30-inch long replica of the Razor Crest from The Mandalorian. Now this is the way.
Designed to be perfectly scaled to Hasbro’s 3.75-inch action figures, the Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Razor Crest also measures in at an impressive 20-inches wide and 10.5-inches tall when perched on its functional retractable landing gear….
If you’re craving a zombie series that ditches the cynicism and has some good old-fashioned fun with the idea, then allow me to introduce you to Zomboat!, a short, six-episode British comedy with a silly title but a surprisingly clever premise.
The series follows sisters Kat and Jo (Leah Brotherhead and Crazyhead’s Cara Theobold) after they wake up one Sunday to find Birmingham under attack by zombies. As a gamer nerd who knows her zombie lore, Kat already has a plan for this scenario – steal a canal boat and escape to Eel Pie Island in London, because zombies can’t swim. And, as Kat puts it, “The Walking Dead would have been over in one season if Rick Grimes had gone to the Everglades.”
After stealing said canal boat, the sisters find two stowaways in the bathroom: misanthropic Sunny (Hamza Jeetooa) and his sensitive gym bro buddy Amar (Ryan McKen), who are stranded in the city after a stag weekend. Though they clash at first, the group decides to team up for survival, leading to plenty of bickering, bonding and snogs. As a result, the series avoids falling into the same style-over-substance trap that spoiled other recent zombie comedies (like Netflix’s Daybreak); instead, it benefits from the kind of found-family warmth that made Zombieland so charming.
…In a new peer-reviewed paper, a senior honors undergraduate says he has mathematically proven the physical feasibility of a specific kind of time travel. The paper appears in Classical and Quantum Gravity….
The math itself is complex, but it boils down to something fairly simple. Time travel discussion focuses on closed time-like curves (CTCs), something Albert Einstein first posited. And Tobar and Costa say that as long as just two pieces of an entire scenario within a CTC are still in “causal order” when you leave, the rest is subject to local free will.
“Our results show that CTCs are not only compatible with determinism and with the local ‘free choice’ of operations, but also with a rich and diverse range of scenarios and dynamical processes,” their paper concludes….
(17) ATTENTION ELEANOR CAMERON FANS. Lehman College Multimedia Music Theater and Dance department presents Wonderful Flight To The Mushroom Planet. A musical composed by Penny Prince.
[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]
Ellen Datlow has been editing horror, fantasy, and science fiction short stories and novellas for over forty years. She’s won numerous awards and accolades for her work and has edited numerous best of anthologies along with short stories for magazine and book publishers. Subterranean Press is releasing a book on some of the best stories she’s edited. I spoke to Ellen about her work as an editor, about genre fiction, and about the business in general.
0:32: Ellen talks about how she got into editing and editing anthologies….
For the last couple of years, I’ve been visiting Steve Saling in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where he lives in a residence he designed for himself and a couple dozen other people, a mix of stunning “smart home” technology and human care that he created to arrive in time for his body’s big changes. Steve got a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in his late 30s. He’s 51 now. More than a dozen years into his condition, he has said repeatedly that his life is worth living—and that technology, in the absence of medicine, is “the cure.” Maybe that sounds like one more instance of overhyped claims for Silicon Valley—I would have thought so upon first hearing—but, over time, I came to understand what he meant.
In the architecture of the life that Steve created, I saw a kind of “anticipatory design”—to repurpose a term of Buckminster Fuller’s. At Saling House, the residence that bears Steve’s name, there are impressive digital devices that act, in one sense, as treatment: a whole array of ingenious software and hardware made to maximize his independence even as his body gradually changes. The sheer novelty of the engineering is impressive. But more impressive by far are the ideas packed into all his designed gear and services for life with little mobility—ideas about help, about needfulness. About assistance itself in every life. On my afternoons with him, my perspective and my vocabulary about giving and receiving help changed. Steve taught me to think differently about the plain fact of human needfulness and its role in a desirable life….
I enjoyed Bill & Ted Face the Music quite a bit, which is utterly unsurprising as I am both Gen-X, i.e., the generation of Bill and/or Ted, and also I used to live in San Dimas, home of Bill and Ted and the town in which almost all of this film takes place (fictionally; it doesn’t look like they did a whole lot of filming in actual San Dimas this time around). Also I am the fan of the first two films, particularly Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the first film in history to successfully reference both Ingmar Bergman and the glam band Poison. What was surprising to me was that I teared up a bit at the end of this one. I know why, and I’ll tell you in a bit.
…In Dungeons & Dragons,everything pretty much goes as planned.
In the real world, the pressing themes—pandemic, climate change, state-sanctioned brutality, the government’s emphatic disinterest in functioning properly—lend themselves to a darker, more surreal plot. It is serious. We’re holed up in our homes. The absence of bars, physical workspaces, and cheap baseball tickets from our lives creates a sense of confused inertia. Are we a tenth of the way through the pandemic or halfway? Are we actually getting anywhere, or are we stuck in the last season of Lost? There is endless horizon in every direction—we’re measuring our time in hair growth, if at all.
D&D, on the other hand, is full of clear lines and brighter absurdities. I’m on my 18th session; I live in a tower on the outskirts of a village called Goosetown. Like real life, much of what goes on isn’t scripted. But, unlike reality, it’s safely self-contained. In a session of D&D, the cocktail of youth nostalgia and fantasy otherworldliness could give rise to almost anything—as long as it abides by the game’s few rules. It isn’t the leap into unbounded fantasy that appeals; it’s the lines, the structure, the finitude (with a sort of community working within them).
(5) DON’T FIRE THE RETROS. Cora Buhlert takes up the challenge of explaining “Why the Retro Hugos Have Value” – of which this excerpt is just part of the introduction.
…Now no one is obliged to care about the Retro Hugos. However, if you didn’t nominate and vote, you don’t get complain about the results. I also understand the frustration that Retro Hugo voters keep voting for familiar names like John W. Campbell and weak early stories by future stars of the genre over better works, because I share it. However, unlike many other folks, I didn’t complain, but decided to do something about it, so I started the Retro Hugo Recommendation Spreadsheet and Retro Science Fiction Reviews to help potential Retro Hugo nominators and voters make more informed choices. Because I believe that it’s better to try and fix something than destroy or abolish something that some people enjoy.
And while I understand why Worldcons are reluctant to give out Retro Hugos due to the work and expense involved, I really don’t understand the intense hatred they engender in some fans. There are a lot of things going on at Worldcons that I personally don’t care about, but that doesn’t mean I want to take those things away from the people who do enjoy them. I simply focus on the things that give me joy and ignore the rest.
However, the current campaign against the Retro Hugos is part of a larger trend to dismiss the past of our genre as racist, sexist and irrelevant. Also witness the recent debate about the SFF canon, what it is and whether it is relevant with contributions by John Scalzi (here and here), Nina Allan, Camestros Felapton (here and here), the Hugo Book Club, Font Folly, Steve Davidson,Doris V. Sutherland, Aidan Moher and others. The canon discussion is mostly civil (and the only uncivil are the usual idiots I haven’t linked here) and also makes a lot of good points, such as that there is no one fixed SFF canon, but that individual people have different works which are important to them, that canons can be abused as a form of gatekeeping, that it’s not necessary to read classic SFF works, unless you enjoy them or want to write an academic work about SFF. However, pretty much everybody who is interested in older SFF has experienced hostility about this interest, even if we don’t go around and tell people that they’re not “real fans” (TM), unless they have read the entire output of Heinlein, Asimov, Lovecraft, etc… (and in that case, I wouldn’t be a “real fan” (TM) either). Witness Jason Sanford saying that the Retro Hugo voters are “a small group of people stuck in the past giving today’s genre the middle finger”, never mind that most Retro Hugo voters are Hugo voters as well. Or the person who called me a Nazi on Twitter for tweeting about the Retro Hugo winners, until I blocked them.
As I said before, no one has to care about older SFF and no one has to read it, if they don’t want to. But attacking people for being interested in older SFF and enjoying the Retro Hugos is not okay. Nor is everybody who’s interested in older SFF a reactionary fascist, even if received wisdom claims that the SFF of the golden age was all racist and sexist stories about straight white American men in space, lorded over by the twin spectres of Campbell and Lovecraft.
… It appears that we are now entering into a new phase of celebrity signature products, one that combines the scarcity of a limited-edition booze or sneaker, with the massive scale of something everybody loves.
Welcome to celebrity ice cream.
This week two very different arbiters of cool dropped their very own frozen treat collaborations. First up was pop star Selena Gomez, who managed a double dip collaboration, first on a song called . . . yep . . . “Ice Cream” made with K-pop stars Blackpink, and spinning that into her very own flavor for specialty ice-cream brand and chain Serendipity. It’s called Cookies & Cream Remix, and it’s pink vanilla ice cream with crunchy cookie bites and fudge bits.
(7) GARCIAGATE GOFUNDME. The “GarciaGatePenguins Fire Relief” GoFundMe has raised $11,115 (the original goal was $10K) and is still taking donations. Chris Garcia, Vanessa Applegate and the boys had to evacuate from their Northern California home because of the fires. So far their house has survived, but there’s no telling when they will be able to return. Til then, they’re in hotels.
(8) BOSEMAN OBIT. Actor Chadwick Boseman died August 28 reports Yahoo! News.
Chadwick Boseman, who played Black American icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown with searing intensity before inspiring audiences worldwide as the regal Black Panther in Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise, died Friday of cancer. He was 43.
…Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis. He is survived by his wife and a parent and had no children, Fioravante said.
(9) TODAY’S DAY.
John Hertz celebrates it.
The sun’s risen on Independent Bookstores Day. May they earn still more.
August 29, 1957 — X Minus One’s “Volpla” was first broadcast. Based on a story by Wyman Guin who first gained noticed with his “Beyond Bedlam” novella in Galaxy Science Fiction in August 1951. (In 2013, he would receive the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.) His story in “Volpla” is that an individual creates small creatures and teaches them to say they are aliens. Ernest Kinoy as usual wrote the radio script. Nelson Olmstead, Adele Newton and Sarah Fussell were the cast. You can listen to it here.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born August 29, 1905 – Don Wilcox. Five novels for us, ninety shorter stories; detective and Western stories; plays; paintings. Some Captain Video for television. For a while with Amazing and Fantastic under Palmer, averaged 40,000 words a month. Best of DW vol. 1 appeared 2016; vol. 2, 2017. (Died 2000) [JH]
Born August 29, 1926 – Thomas N. Scortia. Chemist. Worked in aerospace. Six novels for us (some with Frank Robinson), fifty shorter stories. The Glass Inferno (with FR) became The Towering Inferno (I. Allen dir. 1974). With Dalton Trumbo, The Endangered Species. Collection Caution! Inflammable! has an introduction by Theodore Sturgeon. (Died 1986) [JH]
Born August 29, 1942 – Dian Crayne. Three novels, eight shorter stories (one with Larry Niven), a few interiors; The Game of Fandom. Married to Bruce Pelz 1964-1970 (their divorce party inspired LN’s “What Can You Say About Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”; a chocolate-covered manhole cover has been part of the L.A. Science Fantasy Soc, Gift Exchange every December since), to Chuck Crayne 1972-2009 (he and BP co-chaired L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon, co-founded the North America SF Con held when the Worldcon is overseas). Here she is at Pacificon II (22nd Worldcon) as Thuvia, Maid of Mars, BP at her left. (Died 2017) [JH]
August 29, 1942 — Gottfried John. He’s likely best-known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.) (CE)
Born August 29, 1946 – Robert Weinberg. A dozen novels, fifty shorter stories; five dozen anthologies; Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists; The Art of the Pulps (with D. Ellis, H. Hulse), The Collectors’ Book of Virgil Finlay (with D. Ellis, R. Garcia). Letters, essays, editorials in Collecting Fantasy, The Diversifier, ERB-dom (E.R. Burroughs), Fantasy Newsletter, Horrorstruck, The “Weird Tales” Collector, Windy City Pulp Stories. Co-chaired Chicago Comiccon 1976-1996; 9th and 16th World Fantasy Cons. Sam Moskowitz Archive Award (excellence in collecting). Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon) Special Award for service. (Died 2016). [JH]
August 29, 1951 — Janeen Webb, 69. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not. (CE)
August 29, 1953 — Nancy Holder, 67. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain. (CE)
August 29, 1954 — Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 66. A filker which gets major points in my book (filker link: “Back in Black” .) And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him. I’m getting old. (CE)
August 29, 1959 — Rebecca de Mornay, 61. May I note she made a deliciously evil Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers? She’s Clair Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Wendy Torrance in The Shining miniseries (no, I never heard of it) and Penelope Decker in several episodes of Lucifer. Oh, and she was Dorothy Walker in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series. (CE)
Born August 29, 1970 – Jenn Reese, 50. Five novels; Tales of the Chinese Zodiac, twelve shorter stories 2005 adding in 2006 a carp, a mantis, an owl; Alphabet Quartet perhaps inevitably became 26 flash-fiction stories “Arthur” – “Zoom” (with G. van Eekhout, T. Pratt, H. Shaw); two dozen other short stories; nine covers. Here is Mitigated Futures. Here is Do Better. Currently a graphic designer in Portland where she can revel in the rain. [JH]
Born August 29, 1977 – Renée Carter Hall, 43. One novel, thirty shorter stories. Limestone Circle (poetry) 1999-2002. Cóyotl Award. Co-authored a story in 8th Grade with two friends which reached Steven Spielberg and was used in Tiny Toon Adventures with all three friends as cartoon characters. Website here. [JH]
August 29, 1989 — Charlotte Ritchie, 31. Like so many British performers, she’s had a role on Doctor Who playing Lin in the Thirteenth Doctor story, “Resolution “. Her first genre role was an uncredited one in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I see she was Alison in the first season of Dead Pixels, and another Alison in Ghosts, a truly haunting series. (CE)
… Kalima Desuze, owner of Cafe con Libros in Brooklyn, New York, describes recent business as both “lucrative” and “bittersweet.”
“Many folks are buying books, but may not have a home to dialogue about it,” she says. “This work cannot be done in isolation; we all need community. I’m tired of solidarity with Black folks only coming after death when some of us have spent our lives talking about and organizing against systemic racism… So, while I definitely appreciate the support, it’s been hard to profit off the bodies of fictive kin.”
“The stories have always been there, and the experiences have always been there, but not everybody was comfortable talking about them,” says La’Nae Robinson, who co-owns Bliss Books & Wine in Kansas City with her sister, La’Nesha Frazier. “So I think now that it’s more in the spotlight, it’s creating more conversations, and people are open to having conversations—and they’re actually holding them in their hands and educating themselves on topics that they just didn’t think about.”
Joining us on the 5th of September will be those who plan and execute the marketing of legends. – Dave Farland will join us to discuss his plan with Scholastic for making Harry Potter big. – Ed Elbert will discuss the advertising of Star Wars. – Craig Miller will share the stories of fandom and community outreach for Star Wars. – Brian Meeks will bring us to 2020 with a discussion of self-publishing.
One pen to rule them all. Our tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved trilogy is made with a level of craftsmanship to rival the great Elven-smiths of Eregion. The Lord of the Rings Limited Edition is a magical creation of lostwax casting that celebrates imagination, creativity and heroic journeys at their finest.
…Armaments and regalia belonging to the Fellowship of the Ring make up the elements of the barrel. Gandalf’s staff, Aragorn’s sword and Gimli’s axe are just some of the icons contained within a structure crowned by a cubic zirconia set in the emblem of the White Tree of Gondor.
The cap’s major features are a hand-enamelled Eye of Sauron suspended in the Tower of Barad-dûr, and a clip resembling Frodo’s Elvish blade, Sting. In place of a conventional capband sits a removable replica of the One Ring, inscribed with Tengwar script and plated in gold.
A sci-fi legend is making the case for the new U.S. Space Force to use naval ranks. In an Military Times op-ed, Star Trek‘s William Shatner argues—with prodigious use of emoji—the long history of naval ranks in science fiction makes it appropriate for the burgeoning Space Force to follow suit.
Although Shatner’s argument is tongue in cheek, there’s actually a more practical reason why the Space Force might emulate the U.S. Navy—not the U.S. Air Force.
“Star Trek” has borrowed so much of its iconic rank symbols from the U.S. military and NASA. When you unveiled the Space Force logo, many immediately saw it as an homage to “Star Trek” (even though our Delta was an homage to the previous military space insignias). Why not borrow back from “Star Trek” and adopt our ranks as well? We took them from the Navy for good reason, even though Gene Roddenberry was a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps. They made better sense when talking about a (space) ship.
In a practical sense, there is some rationale for using naval ranks. Spaceships are a lot like submarines: enclosed vessels traveling through a void-like medium on long treks. Like subs, spaceships handle hull pressures, though they must deal with pressure on the inside and outside.
Naval forces have deep experience with planning and conducting voyages that could take weeks or months, while most Air Force missions last several hours at the most. When the Space Force finally operates spaceships, it might find itself more culturally aligned with the Navy than the Air Force….
…Sure, we know as well as you do that the transition to online events has been 50 shades of awkward for most organizations. But if any group should be prepared for a transition to the digital plane, it’s fans of speculative fiction, who have been immersed in synthetic lifeforms, alien worlds, next-wave tech, and cyber-realms for years. No need to be skeptical about ArmadilloCon 42’s virtual nature; these folks are hardwired for it.
More importantly, the ArmadilloCon team is still inspired by the same spirit of community and love of the genre that was shared by the 300 or so fans who gathered at the Villa Capri Hotel in May of 1979 for the first con. That means not just celebrating the futures of the past – those imagined by Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dick, and their peers – but also the futures of the future: those being conjured by writers breaking into the field. The con’s 42-year mission, to borrow a phrase, has always been to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new writers and new speculative fiction, to boldly go with them where no fan has gone before. You can count on ArmadilloCon to continue that mission online in the same way it always has IRL.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, Gadi Evron, Cat Eldridge, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Peer.]
By Cat Eldridge: In honor of Ellen Datlow sharing the cover for Best Horror of the Year, Volume Twelve, let’s note that the first volume in what would be the long-running award-winning Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthology series was published in August of 1988. It wasn’t called that but was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection. Cover art here as it was for all twenty-one volumes is by Tom Canty. It was edited by her and Terri Windling as it would be for the next sixteen years until Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link would take over for Windling for the last five volumes.
As a reviewer would note of a later volume, “…the essays at the beginning are fascinating: Summation of Fantasy 1993 by Windling; Summation of Horror 1993 by Datlow; Comics by Will Shetterly and Emma Bull; Horror and Fantasy in the Media by Edward Bryant.” I don’t remember if the first volume had the summations but I’ll ask Ellen. (Some hours later and after a long email conversation of fiction, living spaces and dark chocolate.) Yes, she says that they’ve always had the summations.
Oh, the authors you ask. Just look at the cover below. It’s a fair representation of the writers found in the series but I couldn’t summarize the diversity of those whose writings are here as Datlow and Windling over their sixteen volumes would find writers and fiction of an amazing breadth, often delving into literary publications for these works that were delightfully obscure. Harlan Ellison and Jane Yolen are here, but so are Natalie Babbit, author of Tuck Everlasting, and Kathryn Ptacek, later winner of two Stokers, who I’d never heard at that point but who turned out to be delightful writers. Did I mention there’s a Alan Moore Liavek novella here?
The first volume won a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology and the series would eventually win a total of three World Fantasy Awards and a Stoker. You won’t find them being offered up in digital form as the packager has said in an email to me when I asked if that was planned that they didn’t secure digital rights when the original author contracts were done.
A hallowed series was off to a very fine start. If you’ve not read it, the trade paper edition can be had rather reasonably.
Editor Ellen Datlow has unveiled the cover for The Best Horror of the Year volume Twelve.
With each passing year, science, technology, and the march of time shine light into the craggy corners of the universe, making the fears of an earlier generation seem quaint. But this light creates its own shadows. The Best Horror of the Year chronicles these shifting shadows. It is a catalog of terror, fear, and unpleasantness as articulated by today’s most challenging and exciting writers.
It will be released October 6. Available for preorder here.
(1) RECONVENE REPORT. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ReCONvene, the one-day virtual con of NESFA, was this afternoon, so I paid my ten dollars and attended via Zoom.
It was worth devoting much of the afternoon to it for just one conversation, the Worldbuilding in Speculative Fiction panel which had Ellen Kushner as moderator with P. Djèlí Clark, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Carlos Hernandez and, to my utter delight, Aliette de Bodard. I learned much about the writers and their worlds that I didn’t know. Like all items it allowed conversations among the fans as a text feed — I didn’t listen in too very much of that but they were getting a lot of participation.
Earlier on, Modernizing Fairy Tales and Myths with Adam Stemple as moderator had Victor Lavalle, Seanan McGuire, Catherynne Valente and Rebecca Roanhorse as panelists. Like the other Zoom groups I listened to, it was flawless in its sound and video. Lots of personal ethnic background here as basis for storytelling — most excellent.
The panels were good and they used Discord for follow up chats which I’ll admit I skipped. There was a tour of the art show which is less interesting than being there, but the writers were the reason to be there and they even did Kaffeeklatsches, solo conversations with authors, so I listened to Justina Ireland who I was hearing of for the first time and turned out to be fascinating.
All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. If Boskone is virtual next February (and I wouldn’t count against it being so), I’ll certainly pay for a virtual membership based on his trial run which was organized well and easy to use.
As soon as Toronto let customers eat on restaurant patios again, I made a beeline for Orwell’s Pub — best dang chicken wings in the city. The indoor restaurant was closed, and Chris, the guy who usually tends bar, was serving. When he came by my table, he quipped, “Seems like we’re all living in a Robert J. Sawyer novel now.”
I was surprised he knew who I was. Despite Orwell’s being a cosy “Cheers”-style “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” place, as a non-drinker, I’m usually invisible to bartenders. But Chris was right: we are living in a science-fiction novel now, and a dystopian one at that.
Since my latest novel, “The Oppenheimer Alternative,” is about the Manhattan Project, I often get asked what should be the next big-science undertaking with an all-but-unlimited budget bringing together our brightest minds.
My answer: developing a general antiviral technique, rather than an endless succession of vaccines targeting one, and only one, specific virus. The old method is why our annual flu shots are sometimes ineffective; we’d guessed wrong about which strain of flu would become prevalent. It’s also why we’ve never had a vaccine against the common cold, which is caused by a vast, ever-mutating range of coronaviruses.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Here’s the thing about being a Black nerd who loves science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories. Often, you wind up admiring work created to glorify people who are the exact opposite of you. That’s something the aptly-named bookworm Atticus Freeman tries to explain while telling a female friend about the latest novel he was reading on a long bus ride, the 1912 book “A Princess Of Mars” and its star, planet-jumping hero John Carter.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You said the hero was a Confederate officer.
JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Ex-Confederate.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) He fought for slavery. You don’t get to put a ex in front of that.
MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Stories are like people. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.
DEGGANS: That could be something of a mission statement for the “Lovecraft Country,” a series based on the recent novel of the same name. The book and series reference the work of renowned horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, known to have racist views about African Americans. The show compares the work of Lovecraftian (ph) supernatural beings which could have sprung from his books to the racism Black people faced in 1950s-era America.
Atticus Freeman, played by “Da 5 Bloods” costar Jonathan Majors, is a Korean War veteran who returns home to find his missing father. Before long, he’s enlisted help from his Uncle George, played by Courtney B. Vance, and his friend Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett. They must travel across the country from Chicago to follow a clue. And along the way, they run into a not-too-helpful police officer who informs them Black people aren’t allowed in the area after dark.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)
JAMIE HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Any of y’all know what a sundown town is?
MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Yes, sir. We do.
HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Well, this is a sundown county. If I’d have found you after dark, it would have been my sworn duty to hang every single one of you from them trees.
MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) It’s not sundown yet.
DEGGANS: But when the police officer and his buddies try to lynch the trio, everyone is attacked by huge, teethy, flesh-eating monsters who chase them into a cabin. Uncle George, who’s just as much of a bookworm as Atticus, has an idea of what they might be facing.
…At a time when the world is still reeling from seeing a Black man die with a white policeman’s knee on his neck, there is no better moment for HBO’s gripping “Lovecraft Country” to reinvent a supernatural tale.
When Cherie Dimaline was growing up near Penetanguishene, a small town on the Georgian Bay in Ontario, her grandmother and great-aunts told her stories about a werewolf-like monster called the rogarou. It wasn’t spoken of as a mythical creature but as an actual threat, the embodiment of danger in a place where Indigenous women face heightened risk of violence.
“This wasn’t like, here’s a metaphor,” she said. “They would say, ‘The rogarou’s out, and he’s really hungry.’”
Decades later, Dimaline, a member of the Métis Nation in Canada, was working on a novel about a woman whose missing husband reappears with no memory of her, seemingly under a spell. She needed a charismatic villain, and when the rogarou — a wily trickster figure in Métis oral traditions — popped into her head, she realized the creature had never been given its due in popular culture.
That flash of inspiration turned into “Empire of Wild,” a genre-bending novel whose modern Indigenous characters confront environmental degradation, discrimination and the threat of cultural erasure, all while battling a devious monster….
This episode I have breakfast while Australian writer Stephen Dedman has dinner 12 hours in my future.
Stephen has published more than 100 short stories, some of which I was privileged to publish back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine. You can find many of those stories in his collections The Lady of Situations (1999) and Never Seen by Waking Eyes (2005). His novels, which include The Art of Arrow Cutting (1997), Foreign Bodies (1999), Shadows Bite (2001), and others, have been Bram Stoker, Aurealis, William L. Crawford, and Ditmar Award nominees. He’s also written role-playing games, stageplays, erotica, and westerns. And he at one time worked as a “used dinosaur parts salesman,” a job which had me extremely curious — and as you listen to us chat and chew, you’ll find out all about it.
We discussed how the Apollo 11 moon landing introduced him to science fiction, what his father told him which changed his plan to become a cartoonist, the huge difference the Internet made in the lives of Australian writers, his creative trick for getting his first poem published, what acting taught him about being funny in the midst of tragedy, his former job as a used dinosaur parts salesman, the way page one tells him whether he’s got a short story or novel idea, how Harlan Ellison became the first American editor to buy one of his stories, and much more.
For centuries, human thinking—at least in the West—has been dominated by the notion, said to have originated with Aristotle, of the Scala Naturae, or the Ladder of Life. Also known as the Great Chain of Being, this concept establishes a hierarchy in which all life forms can be arranged in ascending degrees of perfection with humans, conveniently, at the topmost rung. Even after Darwin came along and replaced this model with his considerably less vertical Tree of Life, the idea of the human mind as the apex of biological consciousness has persisted.
Increasingly, in the face of climate catastrophe, more humans are beginning to question their hubris. In the introduction to their 2017 book Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, the editors note: “Some scientists argue that the rate of biological extinction is now several hundred times beyond its historical levels. We might lose a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.” This, the arguable point of no return, affords a chance to examine the received belief in human exceptionalism. Science writing in particular and nonfiction in general have much to say regarding the similarities between human and non-human minds, but fiction offers opportunities to explore this interconnectedness as well. After all, if fiction has the power to show us another individual’s private and interior uniqueness, then why not depict animals possessing such interiority?
(9) YOU KNOW IT IN YOUR BONES. Skeleton Hour is a new monthly horror literature webinar series presented as an Horror Writers Association event in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.
Each panel will be an hour long and bring together 3-5 authors to discuss a specific topic in horror with a moderator guiding the discussion. Panels will take place on Zoom, with the audience able to ask questions in the chat window. The series launches Friday, August 28th, with the first panel focused on 70s-90s throwback horror including authors of novellas from the Rewind or Die series published by Unnerving Press: Mackenzie Kiera, Stephen Graham Jones, Lisa Quigley, and Jessica Guess, as well as noted subject matter expert Grady Hendrix!
(10) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Be sure to consult NASA’s Guide to Near-light-speed Travel before blasting off.
So, you’ve just put the finishing touches on upgrades to your spaceship, and now it can fly at almost the speed of light. We’re not quite sure how you pulled it off, but congratulations! Before you fly off on your next vacation, however, watch this handy video to learn more about near-light-speed safety considerations, travel times, and distances between some popular destinations around the universe.
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
August 15, 1984 — The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension premiered. Directed by and produced by W.D. Richter (with co-production by Neil Canton), the screenplay was by Earl Mac Rauch who did nothing else of a genre nature. Primary cast was Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd. Initial critical response was generally negative with a few claiming the script was unintelligible. More than one said it was too hip for its good. No, it didn’t do well at the box office but has since become a cult film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent 70% rating. (CE)
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born August 15, 1771 – Sir Walter Scott, Bt. Lawyer, reviewer, antiquarian, poet, novelist; in the last three, fantastic elements recur; in the last two, by his doing; his reputation has soared, fallen, soared again. He may yet prove timeless. He wrote “Breathes there the man with soul so dead” and “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive!” Rossini, Donizetti, Schubert, Beethoven set his words to music. His baronetcy became extinct upon the death of his son. (Died 1832) [JH]
Born August 15, 1858 — E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.) (CE)
Born August 15, 1907 – Jack Snow. Wrote Who’s Who in Oz (1954), rightly praised by Anthony Boucher (“Recommended Reading”, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar 55). By then JS had written two Oz novels of his own, five darker short stories for Weird Tales. When Frank Baum, the first and arguably best Oztorian, died in 1919, JS offered to succeed him – age 12; he was turned down. Matching or at least harmonizing with Baum’s style has been elusive ever since; Who’s Who which could neither treat at length nor argue is masterly, as Boucher noted. (Died 1956) [JH]
Born August 15, 1917 — John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for Texans, Hunter Patrol, Crisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.) (CE)
Born August 15, 1932 — Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.) (CE)
Born August 15, 1933 – Bjo Trimble, 86. (There should be a circumflex over the j, an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”, but the software won’t allow it.) Omnifan preceding Bruce Pelz. Her vitality and wit sparked LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) out of a slump, authored SF con Art Shows (for which she still refuses credit), led a letter-writing campaign that saved Star Trek from being scrapped (see On the Good Ship “Enterprise”), flourished in fanart, concocted cons and costumes. Received the Big Heart (our highest service award) in 1964, possibly the youngest ever; Inkpot, 1974 (its first year); Fan Guest of Honor at Dragon*Con 1995 the 6th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). She and husband John have the Life Achievement Award from the Int’l Costumers Guild. They were early Baroness and Baron in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she has the Order of the Laurel (arts & sciences), both the Order of the Pelican (service). Together co-chaired Westercon 23; were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJosé the 60th Worldcon. [JH]
Born August 15, 1934 – Darrell K. Sweet. Three hundred fifty covers for us, seventy-five interiors; perhaps 3,000 images all told. Here is Space Cadet. Here is Beyond the Blue Event Horizon. Here is The Dictionary of SF Places. Here is The Eye of the World. Here is “The Gap Dragon and Princess Ivy”. Artbook, Beyond Fantasy. Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Tuckercon the 9th NASFiC; World Fantasy Con 2010; LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon which had to celebrate him posthumously. (Died 2011) [JH]
Born August 15, 1943 — Barbara Bouchet, 77. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”. She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
Born August 15, 1945 — Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth. He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Did 2015.) (CE)
Born August 15, 1952 – Louise Marley, 68. A score of novels (some under other names) including both a Glass Harmonica and a Mozart’s Blood, as many shorter stories. Interviewed in Fantasy, Locus, Strange Horizons, Talebones. Two Endeavour Awards (note spelling; named for Captain Cook’s ship). Before authoring, sang with the Seattle Opera. See this autobiographical note. [JH]
Born August 15, 1958 — Stephen Haffner, 62. Proprietor of Haffner Press which appears to be largely a mystery and genre reprint endeavor though he’s published such original anthologies as Edmond Hamilton & Leigh Brackett Day, October 16, 2010 and the non-fiction work Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship which he did with Patric Caldwell. (CE)
Born August 15, 1964 – Carla Sinclair, 56. Editor of Net Chick. Author of Signal to Noise. Co-founder of bOING bOING. [JH]
Born August 15, 1972 — Matthew Wood, 48. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best know role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on the 2013 Star Trek into Darkness where he was the surviving sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. (CE)
…The resulting series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” went on to have a successful seven-season run on ABC, which ended Wednesday with a complex two-hour series finale. That didn’t seem especially likely after its rough debut in 2013. Some critics wanted flashier connections to Marvel cinema — where was Iron Man? — and the show had to operate in the shadow of the movies: The existence of magic couldn’t be acknowledged until it was first revealed by the 2016 film “Doctor Strange” first; “life-model decoys,” a kind of android, weren’t permissible until an android character appeared in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
But about halfway through its run, the show began reinventing itself, with characters ping-ponging through space, time and alternative realities. Once the writers freed themselves of the timeline and narrative restraints established by the movies (and even ignored a few), the series started to soar.
“We could just make up our own stories,” said Jed Whedon. “It was liberating.”
In the final season, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hopped around different decades, with a pit stop in the 1980s that provided pure pop-geek joy. (Agent Coulson as Max Headroom? Check.)
But the show never lost its emotional core: the relationship between Agents Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), who crossed the galaxy more than once to be together, only to be repeatedly pulled apart. In the finale, they reunited, as Fitz helped the ragtag team save both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Earth from a takeover by an alien android race.
… A squabble in the sky over Lake Michigan left one bald eagle victorious and one government drone mangled and sunken.
Hunter King, a drone pilot at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, was surveying an area of the lake near the state’s Upper Peninsula last month when the drone started “twirling furiously” after it indicated that a propeller had been torn off.
A couple who regularly spends time watching eagles go after sea gulls in the area witnessed the battle but were surprised when they learned that it was a drone that had been downed in the fight, the department said….
The department speculated that the eagle could have attacked because of a territorial dispute, because it was hungry “or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled.”
It’s one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.
To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.
It was the mid-1990s and Kremer was visiting Kenya. “I mean I was on vacation. I wasn’t there for a research trip or something,” he recalls.
Kremer, who had spent a year after college teaching at a school in Kenya, decided to look up a friend from that project. And at their get-together, the friend mentioned to Kremer that he was about to start a new aid program to help elementary school children — including by giving them deworming pills.
The parasites aren’t just bad for kids’ health. They can make a child too listless to pay proper attention in school or so sick she misses many school days.
Kremer, who had recently gotten his doctorate in economics, says he was struck by an idea: “I suggested that if he chose twice as many schools and then they initially started working in half of them and then later expanded [the deworming to the other half], I could measure the impact of what they were doing.”
…The experiment, which involved about 32,000 children, also turned deworming into a popular form of aid. That’s because the first set of results, released in 2004 by Kremer and a collaborator, Edward Miguel of University of California, Berkeley, showed that giving the kids the pills reduced absenteeism and dropping out of elementary school by a fourth — from 28% to 21%.
There may be no novelty sweet more polarizing than astronaut ice cream. Those who adore it praise its light, crunchy texture, and a flavor that is still unmistakably creamy and sweet. Its detractors will say biting into it is akin to chomping down on a piece of chalk: powdery and unnatural. And for those who have never tried it, the entire concept of eating ice cream stripped of all liquid may seem downright bizarre. But even though so-called astronaut (or to be more precise, freeze-dried) ice cream isn’t the most popular of novelty treats, its longevity proves that it has found a small, but fiercely loyal fan base.
Even its creator has been a little surprised at the product’s staying power….
[Thanks to amk, Andrew “Eagle Eye” Porter, Somtow Sucharitkul, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Dan Bloch, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]
(1) IMAGINARY PAPERS. The second issue of Imaginary Papers, a quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination from the Center for Science and the Imagination, features writing from SF author Indrapramit Das and ecologist Jessie Rack. Here is a direct link. Also, you can also use this link to subscribe for future issues.
(2) MORE BRAM STOKER PLANS. The Horror Writers Association will stream the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony on HWA’s YouTube channel on April 18. Prior to the Awards, see some of the nominees read from their works.
Here’s the schedule so far (times are PST): BLOCK 1 (5 p.m.): Gemma Amor (First Novel) reading from Dear Laura Eric J. Guignard (First Novel) reading from Doorways to the Deadeye
BLOCK 2 (5:15 p.m.): Peter Adam Salomon (Young Adult Novel) reading from Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds Kate Jonez (Fiction Collection) reading from Lady Bits
BLOCK 3 (5:30 p.m.): Greg Chapman (Short Fiction) reading from “The Book of Last Words” Gwendolyn Kiste (Short Fiction) reading from “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” John Kachuba (Nonfiction) reading from Shapeshifters: A History
BLOCK 4 (5:45 p.m.): Eric J. Guignard (Anthology) reading from Pop the Clutch: Thrilling Tales of Rockabilly, Monsters, and Hot Rod Horror Colleen Doran (Graphic Novel) reading from Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples
(3) DATLOW ON YOUTUBE. Dacre Stoker interviews Ellen Datlow, Editor of Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, which made it on to the HWA Final Ballot for the 2020 Stoker Awards. Video hosted on the Horror Writers Association YouTube channel.
Other Stoker finalists interviewed on the HWA YouTube channel include Including Kaaron Warren, Greg Chapman, Caitlin Starling, John Langan, Kelly Robinson, and Tim Waggoner.
The website for StokerCon™ 2021 Denver is up and running! Click here to check it out.
(4) BUHLERT IN THE PAPER. Cora Buhlert says, “The local paper [Weser Kurier] did a profile about me, because I’m a Hugo finalist and those are thin on the ground in Germany, let alone in my area (Simone Heller and Marko Kloos are both from other parts of Germany).” It’s in German — “Wie eine Seckenhauserin den wichtigsten Science-Fiction-Preis abräumen könnte”. Here’s an excerpt rendered in English by Google Translate:
…She is also one of the authors of the international blog Galactic Journey, which has also been nominated for the Hugo Award this year.
The clocks tick a little differently on the platform, strictly speaking 55 years before our time. Galactic Journey picks up on the events of the time – also with reference to the home of the authors. Cora Buhlert mentions, for example, that Werder Bremen just became German soccer champion in 1965. Science fiction does not always have to be geared towards the future: “Time travel has always been part of it,” says Buhlert.
Cora adds, “The other local paper (I live in the overlap area of the coverage of two newspapers) is also going to do an interview.”
This elicited a comment from Rick Hellewell (a name I recognize from Jerry Pournelle’s blog) about a very interesting tool he’s put online, which is free to use. He explained:
If you want to look at the sales ranking, and see the ranking of all the Zon categories (you can have up to 10), try out my BKLNK site. This link https://www.bklnk.com/categories5.php will allow you get the info by using the ASIN or ISBN-10 numbers.
I built the BKLNK site for UBLs that can have Affiliate links for the proper Zon store automatically, then added the CATFIND (category finder) to see all the categories assigned to my books. Although the Zon allows you to have up to 10 categories (by special requires), you can’t see all 10 categories on the book’s product page. The CATFIND tool lets you see all categories (and sales rank) assigned to a book.
I’m in the middle of adding a new feature (called ‘Catalize’) that will grab the categories used by the top 25 books in a genre. I see that as a great marketing tool for indie publishers, as the authors can see the best categories they might use for their books. (You can look at any book with each tool.) The new ‘Catalize’ tool will be available by the end of the week.
Anyway, the entire site is free to use, and might be helpful to other authors. I built it for my own needs, but it has become useful for others.
Just as a test I plugged in the ID number for a Terry Pratchett novel – and that search returned all kinds of interesting information.
After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22-26, Reedpop has canceled both events. The cancellation is the latest in a string of them affecting the biggest conferences and fairs in the book business worldwide, including the London Book Fair, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (which is planning a virtual fair beginning May 4), and the ALA annual meeting and conference.
(7) AUSTRALIAN SFF AND FANHISTORY. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss have been doing the Two Chairs Talking podcast for almost a year now. In Episode 24, Perry and David, and special guests W. H. Chong and Paul Carr, talk about what it was that drew them into reading science fiction and fantasy in the first place: “Kings of Infinite Space”.
Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson builds intricate future societies in many of his books, exploring how we might emerge from the depravities of our current era to create a better future for our species. But in his upcoming novel, The Ministry for the Future, Robinson isn’t visiting a half-sunk New York City a hundred years from now (New York 2140), tracking Martian terraforming over a century (the Mars trilogy) or following artists as they build sculptures on 24th century Mercury (2312). Instead, The Ministry for the Future follows more immediate possible futures, as humanity is confronted with a global warming mass extinction event.
“In The Ministry for the Future I tried to describe the next thirty years going as well as I could believe it might happen, given where we are now,” Robinson told Newsweek. “That made it one of the blackest utopias ever written, I suppose, because it seems inevitable that we are in for an era of comprehensive and chaotic change.”
(9) PIP BAKER OBIT. Doctor Who writer Pip Baker (1928-2020) has died at the age of 91. Doctor Who News paid tribute:
Pip Baker, along with his wife and writing partner Jane, was one of the best-known writers from the mid 80’s era of Doctor Who, writing eleven episodes for the series. Together they created the Rani, a female Time Lord scientist who was brought to life so vividly by the late Kate O’Mara, as well a creating the companion Mel.
Pip and Jane Baker began writing together in the 1960s working on the films The Painted Smile, The Break, The Night of the Big Heat and Captain Nemo and the Underwater City. On Television, they worked on the children’s thriller Circus as well as episodes of Z-Cars and Space 1999….
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
April 15, 1944 — The Monster Maker (originally titled The Devil’s Apprentice) premiered. It was directed by Sam Newfield and produced from a script written by Sigmund Neufeld, Lawrence Williams, Pierre Gendron and Martin Mooney. It starred J. Carrol Naish, Talla Birell, Wanda McKay and Ralph Morgan. It was largely ignored by critics at the time and it currently holds an extremely low three percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. You can see it here.
April 15, 1960 — Teenage Zombies premiered. It was written and directed by Jerry Warren and starring Katherine Victor, Don Sullivan, Chuck Niles, and Warren’s then-wife and the film production manager Brianne Murphy. Warren wrote the screenplay under his pen name Jacques Lecoutier. It was on a double bill with The Incredible Petrified World. Interestingly enough, although the film’s credits include a 1957 copyright statement for G.B.M. Productions, the film was never registered for copyright, so it’s in the public domain. And that means you can watch it here.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 15, 1922 — Michael Ansara. Commander Kang in Trek’s “The Day of The Dove” as well as a lot of other genre work including a recurring role as Kane on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, multiple roles on I Dream of Jeannie andmyriad voicings of Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze in the Batman series. (Died 2013.)
Born April 15, 1933 — Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.)
Born April 15, 1937 — Thomas F. Sutton. Comic book artist who’s best known for his contributions to Marvel Comics and Warren Publishing’s line of black-and-white horror magazines. He’s particularly known as the first artist of the Vampirella series. He illustrated “Vampirella of Draculona”, the first story of which was written by Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2002.)
Born April 15, 1941 — Mal Dean. UK illustrator who, as Clute at EoSF notes, died tragically young of cancer. As Clute goes on, he is “best known for the work he did for New Worlds in the late 1960s and early 1970s; it was especially associated with the Jerry Cornelius stories by Michael Moorcock and others.” (Died 1974.)
Born April 15, 1949 — Sharan Newman, 71. Author of the most excellent Guinevere trilogy (Guinevere, Chessboard Queen and Guinevere Evermore), a superb reinterpretation of the Arthurian saga. They’re available at the usual digital suspects as is her superb Catherine LeVendeur medieval mystery series. Alas her SF short stories are not.
Born April 15, 1974 — Jim C. Hines, 46. [Entry by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He’s currently writing his first foray into science fiction novels, the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.
Born April 15, 1990 — Emma Watson, 30. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise which lasted an entire decade. She was Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux.
Born April 15, 1997 — Maisie Williams, 23. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants, due for release sometime this year provided the Plague doesn’t further delay it.
(13) FREE FROM AUDIBLE. Free stories for kids of all ages. Audible Stories is a free website where kids of all ages can listen to hundreds of Audible audio titles across six different languages—English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Japanese. From classics to Harry Potter and other YA.
For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Right now, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids.
All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.
Explore the collection, select a title and start listening.
A mutant bacterial enzyme that breaks down plastic bottles for recycling in hours has been created by scientists.
The enzyme, originally discovered in a compost heap of leaves, reduced the bottles to chemical building blocks that were then used to make high-quality new bottles. Existing recycling technologies usually produce plastic only good enough for clothing and carpets.
The company behind the breakthrough, Carbios, said it was aiming for industrial-scale recycling within five years. It has partnered with major companies including Pepsi and L’Oréal to accelerate development. Independent experts called the new enzyme a major advance.
Billions of tonnes of plastic waste have polluted the planet, from the Arctic to the deepest ocean trench, and pose a particular risk to sea life. Campaigners say reducing the use of plastic is key, but the company said the strong, lightweight material was very useful and that true recycling was part of the solution.
Harry Potter-branded buses normally used to take fans to film studio tours are being offered as free transport for staff working in the NHS.
The buses will take them between three sites in Hertfordshire, and will have on-board social distancing rules.
Warner Bros and coach company Golden Tours have had to cancel all trips to the Leavesden studios where much of the Harry Potter filming took place.
The NHS said the move was a “wizard idea”.
“Our workforce has been depleted due to sickness or self-isolation and so it’s really important that those staff who are well, but have transport issues, can come back,” Paul da Gama, from the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, said.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling has secretly bought her childhood home in Gloucestershire.
Renovation work is now taking place on Church Cottage in Tutshill, close to the banks of the River Severn.
The author lived there between the ages of nine and 18 and in 2011 bought the cottage through a property company in her married name.
She paid about £400,000 for the house, which is said to have inspired key elements of the young wizard’s story.
Land Registry records show in September 2011, Edinburgh-based Caernarfon Lettings Ltd, which lists the author’s husband Neil Murray as a director, bought Church Cottage.
The property was sold by BBC producer Julian Mercer, who himself had bought it off the Rowling family in 1995.
(18) ASTRAL METEOROLOGY. The BBC’s weather department reports that “The planets line up”. (“When the Moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter collides with Mars, then pieces of the planets will fly off into the stars…”)
You might get the chance to see something special in the sky in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Around pre-dawn or dawn, if you look towards the Moon from your garden or window, you may notice three other bright dots. These dots are actually Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.
Jupiter will be the brightest of the planets, as it shines 14 times brighter than Saturn or Mars. However the three planets will line up together just above the Moon and you should be able to see them all, even with the naked eye. While Jupiter will be the brightest, you may notice Mars with an orange glow and Saturn with a golden tinge. If you’ve got a telescope or even binoculars, you’ll be able to see the difference in the planets more clearly.
(19) LASHING OUT. On yesterday’s Daily Show (or as they’re calling it right now the Daily Social Distancing Show), host Trevor Noah listed a bunch of things Trump has promised to deliver, then said, “At this point Trump owes more pages than George R.R. Martin.” He continued on the Martin theme for the next several sentences. Hey, it’s not fair to build up a head of steam talking about Trump and then vent it on GRRM! (Begins around 9:25.)
[Thanks to Joey Eschrich, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(1) TURNING THE TABLE. Scott Edelman volunteers to be the next interviewee on the Eating the Fantastic podcast if you’ll think of the questions. Thread starts here.
(2) BALTICON MOVES ONLINE. Michael
Rafferty, now Chair, Virtual Balticon 54, and the
Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) have announced “a free Virtual
Balticon” over Memorial Day weekend.
We decided this was the best way to bring the Balticon Community together without contributing to the spread of the illness.
Plans for Virtual Balticon are still in development….
The virtual convention will kick off Friday night May 22nd, 2020 and run until Monday afternoon. Details on the schedule will be listed on the Balticon website (https://balticon.org).
The shift to a virtual convention this year presents a challenge to many of the artists and dealers who depend on sales made at Balticon for a substantial part of their income. If you had planned on attending Balticon 54 and making purchases, please consider purchasing directly through the links we will provide at Balticon.org.
BSFS depends on memberships from Balticon for nearly all of its yearly budget, including the seed money for the next Balticon. While the Virtual Balticon will be free of charge, donations would be greatly appreciated. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all donations to BSFS are tax-deductible (please contact your tax professionals for full details). Please visit http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm to donate.
Lastly, we have been sending emails regarding pre-paid Balticon 54 memberships and reservations for Artist Alley, Dealers Room, or Art Show. If you purchased one of these and have not yet received an email, please contact email@example.com.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is an accomplished debut novel. A group of neighborhood children orphaned simultaneously in a devastating event are taken in by a mysterious stranger who becomes their overbearing “father.” Whenever the reader thinks they know what will happen next, the story veers into another direction, perfectly controlled by the author. An excellent, very dark fantasy about the monstrousness of gods. It’s both horrifying and funny, and it hits every mark.
“Accuracy above all things. You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.”
What details are truly small? Who says they are? Ask yourself as you read The Empress of Salt and Fortune.
This book is not a happy ending book. This is a salt and fortune book: dangerous, subtle, unexpected and familiar, angry and ferocious and hopeful. Here, the truth is delicately, tenderly fished out of darkness. Ugliness is couched in exquisite poetry and the ordinary is finely-drawn; any object, however plain in purpose or silly in function, might be a relic of endurance and a witness to greatness. Nghi Vo’s story of women and intrigue at the end of one empire and beginning of another reveals in flashes that what you think you see isn’t all there is to see. It asks — and answers — the question: What is important? Who is important? Here, the old aphorism “all that glitters is not gold” is particularly apt.
Cleric Chih is on their way to the new Empress’s first Dragon Court, accompanied by their assistant Almost Brilliant (a “neixin” or talking hoopoe with mythical, generational recall of history), when word comes that all sites put under imperial lock during the previous Empress In-Yo’s reign have been declassified. Fortunately, they happen to be near Lake Scarlet, the haunted site of In-Yo’s exile from court “before the mammoth trampled the lion.”
They can’t resist the chance to be first to uncover Lake Scarlet’s secrets about this mysterious but important time in the empire’s history, and are surprised to find the residence there, though locked down, hasn’t been abandoned….
(5) XPRIZE GETS INVOLVED. The “Xprize
Pandemic Alliance” intends “to bring the innovative power of the
global crowd together with a powerful network of partners who can work together
to solve the world’s greatest challenges and enable radical breakthroughs for
the benefit of humanity.”
The Pandemic Alliance is a global coalition that combines the power of collaboration, competition, innovation, and radical thinking to accelerate solutions that can be applied to COVID-19 and future pandemics. We are focusing on dire areas such as accelerating solutions for remote care, provision of personal protective equipment to the front line, testing access, and food and medicine security for vulnerable populations.
The Clarke Center joins the Alliance alongside the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Ending Pandemics, Intel, Illumina, IEEE Standards Association, MIT Solve, C2 International, Cloudbreak Health, the Foundation Botnar, McGill University, Nvidia, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and the PPE Coalition, among others. Dr. Erik Viirre, Director of the Clarke Center, is Medical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE.
…According to the modeling, Jupiter’s inner core grew to the equivalent of about 20 times the mass of the Earth within the first million years. The Sun was still a protostar at this stage, not having become dense enough for hydrogen fusion to begin.
The growth rate then slowed down, but continued, reaching about 50 times the mass of earth three million years later.
“Thus, Jupiter is the oldest planet of the solar system, and its solid core formed well before the solar nebula gas dissipated,” the team writes.
(7) GOODMAN OBIT. Minneapolis-area fan Dan Goodman (1943-2020) passed away March 25. He discovered fandom in New York City in 1962, participating in FISTFA (the city’s “fannish insurgents” group), before moving to the Bay Area and on to Los Angeles. He joined LASFS in 1969 and remained active for several years. When I knew him he worked as a typist at the IRS producing statutory notices of deficiency (which was no trivial job for a typist in those days). We were together in several APAs, not the least of which was the weekly APA-L. Goodman, Jack Harness, perhaps John Hertz, and I don’t know who else, lived near downtown and helped each other get their contributions in, or delivered finished copies of the APA, and joked about being members of STUD – Shoving Things Under Doorways. He contributed to my early genzines, and even to an issue of File 770 — in #12 (1979) Dan’s article “Just the Facts” used his own fannish biography to satirically demonstrate how anyone bidding for a convention could simulate an impressive resume. Dan was one of several LASFSians who were attracted by Minneapolis’ very congenial fandom and moved there. He edited some issues of the Minn-stf’s newsletter, Einblatt. He was always strongly interested in fiction writing – I’m a little surprised that ISFDB reports only one published story, “The Oldest Religion” which appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated in 1988. His CaringBridge page indicates Dan’s health began a final decline early this year. In a wonderful gesture on February 8, they brought the Minn-stf meeting to him – about 10 people. It certainly sounds like he chose the right place to put down roots.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
March 28, 1959 — The Manster premiered. Shot in Japan, it was produced by George P. Breakston as directed by Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane. The screenplay was by Walter J. Sheldon. Sheldon’s script was based on Breakston’s story which he originally titled The Split, presumably because the process that created the monster gave it two heads. (It was marketed as The Split in areas.) It starred Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura and Terri Zimmern. One reviewer at the time called it “a pathetic pot-boiler” and another noted that “the second head lolled around at random”. The audience at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 30% rating. You can see it for yourself here.
March 28, 2003 — Tremors: The Series premiered on Syfy. It followed three Tremors films and starred Michael Gross, Gladise Jimenez, Marcia Strassman and Victor Brown. Created by Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson who brought us the entire Tremors franchise, it lasted but thirteen episodes. You can watch the first episode, “Feeding Frenzy” here.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 28, 1922 — A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian-tinged space opera that was the universe of John Grimes was such. A very good starting place is the Baen Books omnibus of To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. If there’s a counterpart to him, it’d be I think Dominic Flandry who appeared in Anderson’s Technic History series. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t. (Died 1984.)
Born March 28, 1932 — Ron Soble. He played Wyatt Earp in the Trek episode, “Spectre of The Gun.” During his career, he showed up on a huge number of genre series that included Mission: Impossible, The Six Million Dollar Man, Shazam, Planet of The Apes, Fantasy Island, Salvage 1 and Knight Rider. His last genre role, weirdly enough, was playing Pablo Picasso in Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills. (Died 2002.)
Born March 28, 1933 — J. R. Hammond. Looking for companionable guides to H.G. Wells? Clute at EoSF has the scholar for you. He wrote three works that he recommends as being rather good (H G Wells: A Comprehensive Bibliography, Herbert George Wells: An Annotated Bibliography of his Works and An H G Wells Companion: A Guide to the Novels, Romances and Short Stories). Clute says that his “tendency to provide sympathetic overviews, now as much as ever, is welcome.” (Died 2018.)
Born March 28, 1944 — Ellen R. Weil. Wife of Gary K. Wolfe. She wrote a number of works with him including the non-fiction study, Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. They wrote a fascinating essay, “The Annihilation of Time: Science Fiction; Consumed by Shadows: Ellison and Hollywood”, which can be found in Harlan Ellison: Critical Insights. (Died 2000.)
Born March 28, 1946 — Julia Jarman, 74. Author of a children’s book series I like a lot, of which I’ll single out Time-Travelling Cat And The Egyptian Goddess, The Time-Travelling Cat and the Tudor Treasure and The Time-Travelling cat and the Viking Terror as the ones I like the best. There’s more in that series but those are my favorites.
Born March 28, 1955 — Reba McEntire, 65. Her first film role was playing Heather Gummer in Tremors. Since then, she’s done voice work as Betsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and as Etta in The Land Before Time XIV: Journey of the Brave. She also voiced Artemis on the Disney Hercules series.
Born March 28, 1960 — Chris Barrie, 60. He’s Lara Croft’s butler Hillary in the most excellent Tomb Raider franchise films. He also shows up on Red Dwarf for twelve series as Arnold Rimmer, a series I’ve never quite grokked. He’s also one of the principal voice actors on Splitting Image which is not quite genre adjacent but oh so fun.
Born March 28, 1972 — Nick Frost, 48. Yes, he really is named Nick Frost as he was born Nicholas John Frost. Befitting that, he was cast as Santa Claus in two Twelfth Doctor stories, “Death in Heaven” and “Last Christmas”. He’s done far more genre acting that I can retell here starting with the Spaced series and Shaun of The Dead (he’s close friends with Simon Pegg) to the superb Snow White and The Huntsman. He’s currently Gus in the forthcoming Truth Seekers, a sort of low budget comic ghost hunter series
(11) A PSA YOU SHOULD FOLLOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] When the Silver Surfer tells you you
should practice #SocialDistancingNow, you should probably listen. You really don’t want
him to sic Galactus on you. “Silver
Surfer Provides a PSA for Self-Quarantining” at CBR.com.
“Hello, True Believers! This is Norrin Radd, Sentinel of the Spaceways and Herald to Galactus, Devourer of Worlds,” begins Radd. “It is important to remember that while I wield the Power Cosmic, you do not and, as such, it is your responsibility to maintain your social distance during this pandemic.”
After delivering the PSA, the Surfer goes on to play electric guitar and sing his own theme song.
(12) LEADFOOT ON THE TIME ACCELERATOR. I thought it was
interesting to read how developments from the coronavirus epidemic broke into
John Scalzi’s plan to get away from the news while he was on the JoCo cruise: “The
Last Best Time”.
Last week, the Doubleclicks streamed every day and played games, interviewed authors, recorded and even wrote songs! It was really fun, and you can watch all the videos we made up on this YouTube playlist. We’ll definitely do more streaming in the future, but we’re taking a little while to regroup and rest next week. However, we want to recommend some awesome livestreams you should check out, done by people we really enjoy and recommend!
…Speaking from his home outside of Boston, Perrotta says he was startled by some people’s scornful response to the premise of “The Leftovers.” “Two percent?” they said. “That’s nothing.”
But that would be 6.5 million Americans, and it could soon be this administration’s economic plan for the United States.
The horror of even contemplating a loss of that magnitude is staggering. “I look out my window, and it’s a beautiful day, and the water comes out of the faucet when I turn it on, and my car works,” Perrotta says. “The infrastructure of the world is intact, but there is this feeling of dread and grief that makes it feel entirely different than what it did a month ago. I wake up and as soon as I go downstairs and come in contact with any information, this heaviness just comes over me that I carry through the whole day. And I think, you know, 2 percent is a lot.”
As he suggested in “The Leftovers,” which was later adapted into an HBO series, Perrotta doubts anybody would survive such a “minor” apocalypse unscathed. “It may not be somebody in your first ring of acquaintances,” he says, “but it’ll be someone in the second and maybe someone right next to you. One of the things it does is really make you aware of just how connected we are.”
OneWeb, the high-profile London-based satellite start-up, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US.
The firm, which has been building a network to deliver broadband across the globe, blamed the Covid-19 crisis for its inability to secure new investment.
OneWeb issued a statement saying it was laying off most of its staff while it seeks a buyer for the company.
The start-up recently launched the 74th satellite in a constellation planned to total at least 648 spacecraft.
The idea is that this network will provide high-bandwidth, low-latency internet connections to any point on Earth, bar Antarctica.
Rumours of a collapse had been swirling around OneWeb this past week. It had raised £2.6bn to implement its project but experts in the space industry speculated that double this sum would probably be needed to complete the system.
The statement released by OneWeb in the early hours of Saturday, London time, said the company had been close to obtaining financing but that, “the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of Covid-19”.
Neanderthals were eating fish, mussels and seals at a site in present-day Portugal, according to a new study.
The research adds to mounting evidence that our evolutionary relatives may have relied on the sea for food just as much as ancient modern humans.
For decades, the ability to gather food from the sea and from rivers was seen as something unique to our own species.
Scientists found evidence for an intensive reliance on seafood at a Neanderthal site in southern Portugal.
Neanderthals living between 106,000 and 86,000 years ago at the cave of Figueira Brava near Setubal were eating mussels, crab, fish – including sharks, eels and sea bream – seabirds, dolphins and seals.
The research team, led by Dr João Zilhão from the University of Barcelona, Spain, found that marine food made up about 50% of the diet of the Figueira Brava Neanderthals. The other half came from terrestrial animals, such as deer, goats, horses, aurochs (ancient wild cattle) and tortoises.
Nasa says it has detected the first signs of significant melting in a swathe of glaciers in East Antarctica.
The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent.
But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up.
If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels.
There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m – if it were all to melt out.
“That’s the water equivalent to four Greenlands of ice,” said Catherine Walker from Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
[Thanks JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Ben Bird Person, Cat Eldridge, Mike
Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian
for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of
the day Jack Lint.]
Eligible for consideration are original, previously unpublished English-language stories of 10,000 words or less by persons residing in Pakistan, or of Pakistani birth/descent. The full guidelines are at the link.
Ellen Datlow: An editor of sff short fiction for almost forty years, she currently acquires short fiction and novellas for Tor.com and the new Tor horror imprint Nightfire. She’s edited more than ninety anthologies, and has won multiple awards for her work. Her most recent original anthology is Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories. She co-hosts the long-running monthly reading series, Fantastic Fiction at KGB with Matthew Kressel.
A.T. Greenblatt is a graduate of Viable Paradise XVI and Clarion West 2017. Her work has been nominated for a Nebula Award, has been in multiple Year’s Best anthologies, and has appeared in Uncanny, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Fireside, as well as other fine publications.
Sami Shah is a multi-award winning writer and comedian. Sami has been performing award-winning and highly acclaimed comedy for over a decade, and used his acerbic wit to address world affairs and social issues, in comedy clubs and even international platforms like TEDx. His autobiography, I, Migrant (Allen & Unwin) has been nominated for the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, WA Premier’s Literary Award, and the Russell Prize for Humor Writing. His first novel Fire Boy (Fantastica) was released in 2016, with its sequel Earth Boy In 2017. His latest non-fiction book is The Islamic Republic Of Australia (Harper Collins) was released in June, 2017.