Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #54

Crisis Point: The 2020 World Fantasy Convention 

By Chris M. Barkley: On the few occasions that I was privileged to head up the World Science Fiction Convention’s Press Office, I gave my staff members a great deal of latitude in their duties. However, I had only one directive that was absolutely sacred; if they spotted a member, staffer or volunteer that was in need of assistance, they were to stop whatever they were doing and render assistance.   

In my 44-plus years of congoing, volunteering and activism, I have come to believe that fandom is family; we may not all be related on a familial basis and we all may not agree on certain points or get along with each other, but more often than not, we try to be available to each other and when the offer of help is made, it is be heartfelt and genuine. 

So I felt more than a bit of discomfort when I initially heard about the travails of the 2020 World Fantasy Convention. 

The controversy surrounding the Salt Lake City based bid started when the preliminary list of convention programming items were posted online, which is chronicled here. miyuki jane pinckard, an eminent writer and game designer offered her concerns in an open letter that was published on a Google Docs page.

The most immediate reactions to the posting were swift and harsh, charging that the programming staff was elitist, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and generally tone deaf.

Well known author and editor K. Tempest Bradford has an extensive history of difficulties and criticisms of WFC which she lays out here. Bradford, and others whom she offers evidentiary links to, are spot on about how previous World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors and convention committees have repeatedly failed to address a variety of issues. Mainly of accessibility for disabled members, sexual harassment and a lack of diversity in programming and staffing at conventions among MANY other things.

Ms. Bradford did not pull any punches in her commentary; condemning the Chair, Ginny Smith and WFC’s Board of Directors for not responding sooner to her email entreaties about systemic problems they continually seem to suffer from over a long period of time. In an addendum to her blog post, dated October 10th), Ms. Bradford wrote the following:

It has now been almost 10 years of this. At this point, if you are attending and/or participating in WFC 2020 you are participating in a system that is unsafe for BIPOC and other marginalized attendees and has been for a long time.

And yes, even if they “fix” the many program items with problematic content thanks to help from panelists, I still say: don’t go. Remember, we’ve done this dance before. More than once. And they were offered help and guidance on how not to have this happen. Don’t reward them by accepting last-minute changes that had to be spearheaded by folks who have probably already done too much emotional labor around this.

It should not be on BIPOC and other marginalized folks to clean up after white people who refuse to do right unless Twitter gets mad at them.

I asked folks on Twitter not to help them with programming for these reasons and then I said:

Hey there white, able-bodied, cishet ppl of SFF who constantly claim allyship with marginalized folk: Now’s the time to prove it.

WFC depends on you to come even if BIPOC don’t. Therefore: drop your membership or, at least, rescind participation on panels. Take a stand.

I stand by this ask. Even though I’m apparently being too “extreme“. This hella long post is my testament to why.

So, it appears to me that Ms. Bradford, and many others it seems, have come to the conclusion that the World Fantasy Convention no longer has any value and must be boycotted or ended completely. Doors are to be slammed closed, roads completely destroyed and bridges are to be set alight and burn brightly.

I am going to beg to differ.

But, before I do so, I am going to point out a few things.

I have only attended one and a quarter World Fantasy Conventions in my life. I went to the 1983 convention in Chicago, which featured Gene Wolfe and Manly Wade Wellman as the author guests, Rowwena Morrrill as the Artist GoH and Robert Bloch as the Toastmaster. It was a very relaxed and rather subdued convention in comparison to the six Worldcons I had previously attended. And hey, I got to meet and chat with Fritz Leiber! I had a good time.

As I became more involved with attending and working at Worldcons, I just couldn’t fit the WFC into my schedule, either economically or timewise. I did have the opportunity to go on a day trip to the 2010 Convention in Columbus and hang out in the public areas for a few hours and chat with a few friends, but that was about all. This is the extent of my involvement with the WFC.

Reader, this past Thursday evening, I received an email from Ginny Smith, asking for my help. I got around to reading it Friday morning. 

At this point in time, I was unaware of miyuki jane pinckard’s letter nor had read Ms. Bradford’s or anyone else’s comments on Twitter.

It wouldn’t have made any difference if I had. Ms. Smith, a person who I had never heard of or met before, asked for my help. 

And I, without hesitation said yes. Why?

First, because it is my nature to help. Maybe it’s a remnant of my Catholic grade school upbringing, my Boy Scout training or my unbreakable convention rule. My first instinct is to render assistance, if possible. 

Secondly, I live by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr., whose framed picture hangs prominently on my office wall and features the following quote, “The time is always right to do what is right.”  

I Immediately sought out and found the File 770 post, pinckard’s letter and Ms. Bradford’s comments. Frankly, none of what I found looked good for Ms. Smith or the convention. She explained to me in a follow up email that she was a complete novice at con-running and was in way over her head from the start. She also told me that she had made several apologies about the snafu and that others beside myself were helping out as well.

One of those people is Christine Taylor-Butler, an African-American author who is a graduate of MIT and Art & Design. She is the creator of the The Lost Tribes young adult series and an impressive number of other fiction and non-fiction books (80!) for children whose various subjects range from a biography of Michelle Obama, to the physical sciences, geography and United States History and Civics.

The other person declined to be identified. The reason she specifically stated was that she doesn’t want others to assume that she is available to perform a similar function for dozens of other conventions. Actually, what she was quoted saying, “I’m simply taking the principle of white people helping to clean up the messes white people have created.” So, respect.

Ms. Smith specifically asked me to review a number of the program items that people found objectionable and offer some insights on how they could be revised to be more inclusive and not offensive. 

I spent a majority of my day Saturday writing up critiques of the titles and descriptions of the panels. I also gave her a few pointed comments on how the Board could have been more helpful in her endeavors. Here are two of the examples:


  • Program Item 30: Norse and Germanic Fantasy: The Northern Thing

Original Description: “Beowulf to the Niebelungenlied, Norse and Germanic myth have been one of the major notes sounded by European and Anglophone fantasy and arguably the basis of sword and sorcery as we know it. We find such echoes from the works of William Morris, J.R.R. Tolkein, Paul Anderson From to more recent works like David Drake, Diana Paxson, George R.R. Martin, and Marvel Comics Thor. Let us explore this particular magic…“

Criticism: “The disparity present in compiling the cultural traditions of the entire rest of the world into one panel while devoting an entire panel on Norse and Germanic tales is telling. This is the most highly detailed panel, with specific authors mentioned, a courtesy that was not afforded the other panels. There is also no attempt to address the problematic side of Norse mythology and its co-option by white supremacists and fascists, including the Nazis. This should absolutely be part of any panel about being inspired by Norse mythology. And yet, the panel fails to actually name any Nordic writers and focuses entirely on Anglophone writers.”

Revised Suggestion: “From Beowulf to the Niebelungenlied, Norse and Germanic myth have been one of the major notes sounded by European and Anglophone fantasy and arguably the basis of sword and sorcery as we know it. Let us explore this particular magic.”

My Commentary: It seems to me (at least) that the critics of this description doth protest TOO MUCH. (Climbs onto soapbox). I may be Black, but even I am aware of the Norse and German influences generally in Westen culture. And YES, it is both intriguing, thrilling AND problematic. Do the critics think that the panelists are unaware of those problems or wouldn’t actually discuss them? Do the racist undertones really NEED to be described in the panel description? (Climbs off soapbox). So, what the objection is REALLY about is that this is yet another panel about the subject, which they are probably tired of seeing. Point taken. So, the panelists can either have a discussion about how those writers have influenced modern fantasy or they drill down on the older regional writers of the genre. The new description could be adapted to go either way, in my opinion. By the way, it’s Poul Anderson, not Paul Anderson. You’ll get a ton of side eye from eagle eyed fantasy fans for a mistake like that and deservedly so.


  • Program Item 54: Female Tropes and Archetypes

Original Description: “Women characters for years were mostly helpmates and love interests or the reward for an adventure well done. But changes in society have brought a welcome change to this restrictive way of viewing half the populace. How are today’s authors pushing past the old, tired tropes to bring a more real and interesting take on their female characters?”

Criticism: “Female Tropes and Archetypes” feels like a topic that was covered twenty years ago.

Revised Description: None, with this note: “Again, we’re not sure how to respond to this. Yes, it’s a topic that has been covered but continues to have an impact on the genre. So… we’re inclined to leave this one alone?”

My Commentary: OK, this is an easy fix; the problem here is that the panel is gender specific and not very inclusive to other people. So,my suggestion would be: remove “Women” from the title and description and call it Tropes and Archetypes in Fantasy (Modern or Otherwise): Fantasy  characters of all ages, genders and a spectrum of sexualities populate the landscape of Modern Fantasy. Gradual political and societal changes over the past few decades have brought a welcome change to the restrictive way of viewing others who had not previously been considered in the genre. How are today’s authors pushing past the old, tired tropes to bring a more real and interesting take on their fantasy characters?”


In total, I offered my suggestions for eight other programming items that were point of contention.

After the disastrous fiasco of the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony, it would have been very easy to heed Ms. Bradford and others, and just let the WFC crash and burn on the tarmac and left as a stark warning to other con-runners. 

I, for better or worse, am not one of those people. I believe that the Hugo Awards Ceremony could have been saved with some last minute intervention. I also believe the same can be said of this year’s World Fantasy Convention. 

Ginny Smith, her convention committee and, I hope, its Board of Directors, are working night and day to try to put on a convention that is worthy of attending (albeit virtually) and not fall victim to their earlier mistakes.  

If they were truly as racist and insensitive as their critics have claimed, they could have thrown up their hands and said, ‘This is OUR convention, WE run it as we see fit and YOU  can take it or leave it.” That’s not what I have experienced over the past several days.

Earlier today, the World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors released a statement to me, via an email from Ginny Smith:

“The WFC Board is sensitive to the criticisms by members from marginalized communities within the fantasy and horror genres. We acknowledge the minimal representation of these diverse populations on the Board and are taking steps to rectify that lack of perspective. We have voted to add at least one ex officio member to our number to review future WFC programs. We are currently reaching out to proposed candidates to discuss and will release a statement when the new Board member(s) are chosen.” 

– The World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors 

2020 marks the forty-sixth year for the World Fantasy Convention. In spite of its ongoing problems, I still believe that it still is a vital part of our fannish community and should not be canceled or abandoned. 

I HOPE that the calamitous events and harsh, but justifiable criticisms leveled this year’s edition can finally be the tipping point that finally puts this convention on the right path. This will also involve a lot of introspection AND changes by the Board of Directors, which, among other things, being more transparent about the bidding process, staffing, volunteer memberships, programming, the awards and most importantly, how they operate. 

Because it’s always the right time to open the doors of inquiry, build cultural roadways and reconstruct those emotional bridges.

Right here, right now and without delay!

World Fantasy Con 2020 Apology for Program Draft Seeks to Stem Participant Attrition

After seeing the complaints voiced about the draft program for World Fantasy Convention 2020 (“Virtual WFC 2020 Program Attracts Criticism”), the WFC 2020 committee directed an apology at several writers on Twitter.

We are sorry that our program caused hurt and concern, thank you to those that commented. We are working with our team and panelists to amend this and will be revising it as an ongoing process.

And they pulled the panel descriptions, explaining on the convention’s Program webpage:

We are excited about the awesome panel discussions scheduled for the 2020 Virtual World Fantasy Convention. We have some terrific conversations planned, and our panelists are amazing.

But some of our original descriptions failed to live up to our members’ expectations. We apologize for offending the very people we hope to include in this year’s convention. We hear you, and we appreciate your feedback. We’re working to revise the descriptions – with the help of some of those amazing panelists! – and will update them here as they’re finalized.

WFC2020 Chair Ginny Smith also responded to File 770’s post in a comment here, saying in part:

We have sponsored 46 people of color to participate in the convention at no cost (so far – more to come I hope), and have worked very hard to ensure that every panel is comprised of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. The panelist list hasn’t been published yet, but when it is I hope the list demonstrates our commitment to equity and diversity.

But some authors who were going to be on the program have already seen enough to make up their minds.  

David Levine wrote on Facebook and Twitter on October 8.

Very sorry to say this, but I’m going to have to withdraw from World Fantasy Convention 2020. Despite a lot of effort on many people’s part, the recent fiasco with panel descriptions demonstrates that the convention simply doesn’t understand how to operate in a diverse world without stepping on marginalized people. I hope that the World Fantasy Convention ? board recognizes that it has a serious, ongoing problem and takes strong action to change course in 2021 and beyond.

The Writing Excuses podcast hosted by authors Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and author and web cartoonist Howard Tayler will not provide content for use by the virtual convention. (Note: Sanderson is one of WFC 2020’s Author Special Guests.)

Also, this tweet from K. Tempest Bradford was retweeted by Mary Robinette Kowal, a signal boost with extra impact because it was Kowal who led the effort to bail out the 2018 Worldcon program.

Jeff VanderMeer tweeted on October 7 that after being told what panel he was on, he was bowing out.

Yilin Wang dropped out October 6.

One writer who has not dropped out, Kate Heartfield, still has some misgivings:

There are three weeks to go before WFC 2020 begins. When the revised program descriptions and panel assignments come out, the decision of other program participants to stay or go will be revealed if they have not announced it before then.

Update: Kate Heartfield tweeted on October 9 that she has now withdrawn from WFC2020 program and membership.

Cat Rambo has also dropped out.

Pixel Scroll 7/25/20 There’s A Troublesome Gap In The Middle 11 Billion Years

(1) BRADBURY CENTENARY PODCAST. Phil Nichols’ BRADBURY 100 podcast starts today! His guest on episode 1 is author Steven Paul Leiva.

I first met Steve at Ray Bradbury’s 90th birthday party in 2010, which was held in Glendale’s Mystery & Imagination Bookshop. For many years Ray would gather friends and fans here for book signings and talks. Up the stairs of the bookshop was a wall signed by various authors and celebrities who had visited. Steve and I searched for his previous signing, and we also found the spot where Ray Bradbury had signed several years earlier.

(2) LEGACY FULFILLED. World Fantasy Con co-chair Ginny Smith shares “How Salt Lake City Won the Honor of Hosting WFC 2020 – and How We Lost It”.

… The board room doors opened. Mike Willmoth, our board mentor, walked into the hallway, stuck out his hand to me and said, “Congratulations.” Tears sprang to my eyes. And they were not tears of joy! We’d done it. And now, we had to do it!…

(3) ZOMBIE SOCIAL DISTANCING. “Zombies and Coronavirus:  Planning For The Next Big Outbreak” on YouTube is a panel from Comic-Con featuring Max Brooks, who says Americans born after World War II “don’t have the muscle memory and gut fear of germs” which left them ill-prepared for the pandemic.

(4) PURITY OF ESSENCE. Charles Stross is not prepared to trust Worldcon site selection voters, you see. They might do anything. Like vote for another Worldcon in the U.S.

(5) WORKING. ScreenRant has collected a list of “Star Trek: All Roles (& Voiceovers) Played By Majel Barrett”.

… From TOS onward, Barrett became a vital part of Star Trek, lending her voice to Star Trek: The Animated Series, appearing in the original Star Trek movies, and guest-starring in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Majel Barrett is a true example of Star Trek royalty, and the following is every live-action role she played in the franchise, as well as how ubiquitous her voice has been to nearly every incarnation of Star Trek.

(6) NIPPON INTO SPACE. The Diamond Bay Radio podcast has a new interview on the history of Japanese Rocketry and space programs with Subo Wijeyeratne (PhD in History of Science, Harvard): “Japanese Rocketry”.

They also discuss Subo’s science fiction anthology, Tales from the the Stone Lotus, and his unpublished novel, Triangulum.

(7) CLEIN OBIT. Hollywood publicist Harry Clein died June 18 at the age of 82The Hollywood Reporter has an extended profile.  

Clein … consulted for Pixar and Steve Jobs on Toy Story (1995); for Tim Burton on Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992) and Ed Wood (1994); and for other filmmakers including … Wes Craven. He also… wrote the press notes for Star Wars (1977)….

(8) GRAHAM OBIT. “Ronald L. Graham, Who Unlocked the Magic of Numbers, Dies at 84” reports the New York Times.

Ronald L. Graham, who gained renown with wide-ranging theorems in a field known as discrete mathematics that have found uses in diverse areas, ranging from making telephone and computer networks more efficient to explaining the dynamics of juggling, died on July 6 at his home in the La Jolla section of San Diego. He was 84.

The cause was bronchiectasis, a chronic lung condition, according to a statement from the University of California, San Diego, where Dr. Graham was an emeritus professor.

“He created a lot of mathematics and some really pretty cool stuff,” said Peter Winkler, a mathematician at Dartmouth College. “This occurred over many years, and so it’s only now that we get to sort of look back and see all the stuff that he did.”

One thing he did was develop methods for worst-case analysis in scheduling theory — that is, whether the order in which actions are scheduled wastes time. On another front, with his wife and frequent collaborator, Fan Chung, an emeritus mathematician at the University of California, San Diego, he developed the idea of quasi-random graphs, which applied numerical preciseness in describing the random-like structure of networks.

Dr. Graham’s research was detailed in about 400 papers, but he never fit the stereotype of a nerdy mathematician. Soft-spoken but garrulous, he leavened his talks on high-level equations with silly jokes and sight gags. He was also an expert trampoline gymnast and juggler, a side pursuit — he was elected president of the International Jugglers’ Association in 1972 — that in his hands also lent itself to mathematical analysis. At one point Dr. Graham and three other juggling mathematicians proved an equation for the number of possible ball-juggling patterns before a pattern repeats.

(9) ROËVES OBIT. Actor Maurice Roëves, who appeared in two iconic genre TV series (details below) has died aged 83 reports The Guardian.

…Handsome, with piercing eyes and a granite jawline, he played tough guys, steely villains or stalwart military figures with directness, authenticity and spiky energy.

He also had the rare distinction of appearing in both Doctor Who and the Star Trek franchise: in the former he brought genuine grit to his turn as a murderous gun runner in The Caves of Androzani (1984), frequently voted the best story in the show’s long history. His alien Romulan in Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of his many forays into American television, which also included a stint on the soap Days of Our Lives (1985-86) and parts in Baywatch (1992), Cheers (1993) and Murder, She Wrote (1994).

(10) BOOK ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 25, 2009 — Robert Holdstock’s Avilion would be published. Set in his Ryhope Wood series, it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It would be the final work from this author as he died in-hospital at the age of sixty-one  from an E. coli infection on November 29, 2009. He would be honored with The Karl Edward Wagner Award from the British Fantasy Society the following year.  And they would rename their British Fantasy Award for best novel in his honor the next year. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 25, 1870 – Maxfield Parrish.  Two dozen covers for us, as many interiors if you count uses after he died; far more beyond, maybe higher numbers if we reach: I’m willing to leave out Ecstasy (see here); the medium matters for The Lantern Bearers (see here) – you don’t get the fantastic effect without glazing, on canvas it’s just globes – yes, I know it was done for Collier’s; but what about The Pied Piper (see here)? or Humpty Dumpty (see here)? and he illustrated The Arabian Nights (see here).  He was a master of make-believe.  He weighed whimsy; he was not ridden by, but rode, reality.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born July 25, 1907 —  Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian first in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Ribos Opperation”, part one and then twice more in the two-part Fifth Doctor story, “Enlightment”.  He was also Dr. Moe in the Fifties pulp film Stranger from Venus, and also showed up in The Omega FactorA Midsummer Night’s DreamRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born July 25, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories about a Buddhist crime fighter  whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. Kindle has a really deep catalog of his genre work. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio being of a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science FictionFantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at iBooks and Kindle shows a twelve story Wildside Press collection but none of her novels. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1932 – Paul Weitz.  Naval aviator, 7,700 hrs flying time, five Air Medals.  Piloted the first crewed Skylab.  Commanded the maiden voyage of Space Shuttle Challenger; its primary payload was the first Tracking & Data Relay Satellite, revolutionizing low-Earth-orbit communications.  NASA Distinguished Service Medal.  Fellow, Amer. Astronautical Society.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 72. I am reasonably sure that I read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has been since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1971 Chloë Annett, 49. She played Holly Turner in the Crime Traveller series and Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf series. She was in the “Klingons vs. Vulcans” episode of the Space Cadets sort of game show. (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1973 Mur Lafferty, 47. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Divya Breed, her second time around. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won a Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is supposed to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, It won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast in 2018, having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel. (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1950 – Cortney Skinner, 70.  A score of covers (some with Tom Kidd) for us, seven dozen interiors; more for others.  Here is the Jul 79 Galileo.  Here is the Mar-Apr 91 Aboriginal.  Here is The Hogben Chronicles.  Here is a bookworm (sculpture, from his Website).  Here, a cover for a Sherlock Holmes book.  [JH]
  • Born July 25 – Dick Smith.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate (with wife Leah Zeldes Smith).  Active in various apas (amateur press associations) including our first and greatest, FAPA (Fantasy Am. Pr. Ass’n); earned the Vorzimer Award in The Cult.  Fanzine, STET.  Collects copying devices, e.g. letterpresses, hectographs.  To balance this he is a computer consultant; Fred Pohl dedicated All the Lives He Led to him.  [JH]
  • Born July 25, 1967 – Ann Totusek, 53.  Chaired Minicon 51-52, Duckon, DemiCon.  Served on the Super-Con-Duck-Tivity Board, i.e. giving the Golden Duck awards.  Chief of Hospitality and of Volunteers at Demicons.  Chief of Hospitality at Minicon’s Golden Anniversary; at Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon), and thus of the after-Hugos reception at Renovation (71st).  Worked in Operations, one of our most thankless and demanding tasks, at Interaction (63rd Worldcon), Anticipation (67th), Loncon 3 (72nd), some Eastercons (U.K. nat’l convention).  Has been Minn-Stf (from Hugo Gernsback’s word scientifiction) president.  Taught making sugar-cube castles at Minicon 55.  When I asked her “What else should I tell them?” she said “Tell them Ann says Wear a mask.”  She should; she’s an R.N.  Stood for TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) this year, platform “Vote for Mike [“Orange Mike” Lowrey, the other candidate],” which we did.  [JH]
  • Born July 25, 1977 – Shana Muldoon Zappa, 43.  Actress, designer; married Frank Zappa’s son Ahmet; they in the family tradition named their daughter Halo Violetta Zappa, their son Arrow d’Oro Leon Zappa.  SMZ and AZ invented Star Darlings (Disney); 14 novels about them so far, four on the Scholastic 100.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SDCC AT HOME. Comic-Con@Home 2020’s item with the cast of The New Mutants can be viewed on YouTube and comes recommended by John King Tarpinian.

Writer/Director Josh Boone and the cast of Twentieth Century Studios and Marvel Entertainment’s The New Mutants, including Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, and Henry Zaga discuss the upcoming original horror-thriller moderated by Ira Madison III.

(14) RADIOACTIVE BIOPIC. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] NPR says “Like Her ‘Radioactive’ Elements, Marie Curie Didn’t ‘Behave’ As Expected”. I saw this on a sneak preview courtesy of membership in the local science museum. It’s not perfect but is IMO worth seeing.

Like the elements that she discovered — polonium and radium — Marie Curie was “unruly,” says actor Rosamund Pike. Pike plays the famous scientist in the new biopic Radioactive.

The film, streaming on Amazon Prime, is about the power of science and how it can be harnessed in both positive and destructive ways. Curie’s discoveries led to medical breakthroughs, but they were also weaponized — into bombs and poison.

“[Director] Marjane Satrapi and I both had a vision of her as quite an ‘unruly element’ that does not behave as it should …” Pike explains. She and her fellow filmmakers were “interested in really pushing how challenging we could make her, how much we could make her not conform to traditional standards of femininity.”

Interview Highlights


On starring in a movie about science in the midst of a global pandemic


I’m very excited because I think there’s been a huge rise in people’s interest in science. And I think people are suddenly very, very curious as to who scientists really are. Who are these people who suddenly hold life in their hands?

On what she learned about Marie Curie preparing for the film


She was really little more than a name that I recognized, if I’m perfectly honest. … I started having chemistry lessons … which was exciting as a female in film. Historically, a lot of my preparation has been involved, getting myself physically fit. And it was a really refreshing change to be having to get myself mentally fit.

(15) MASK YOUR PUMPKIN. FastCompany is watching as “COVID-19 claims another victim: Halloween”.

Universal Orlando announced on Friday that it’s canceling its annual Halloween Horror Nights due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horror Nights 30 was supposed to take place from September 10 through November 1. Large gatherings aren’t a good idea at this time, and Halloween enthusiasts are bummed. There was a time—back in the spring—when people imagined that we could be emerging from this nightmare by now. Many people had hope, back then, that popular Halloween gatherings were going to unfold this year as they have in the past, but with people wearing masks for the most ironic but necessary reason ever.

However, it’s time to give in to the notion that Halloween (along with probably all large gatherings for the rest of the year) is canceled….

[Thanks to John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Mlex, and Andrew Porter for these my joints. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

2020 World Fantasy Con Awarded to Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City will host the 2020 World Fantasy Convention (WFC). The announcement was made at the conclusion of this year’s WFC in San Antonio.

When the event comes to Utah beginning October 29, 2020, it will take place at the Little America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

“We’ve been working on this bid for more than a year,” said Dee Ann Larsen, Salt Lake resident and co-chairperson of the 2020 convention. “To say we’re thrilled is an understatement.”

Larsen and co-chairperson Ginny Smith will conduct the convention under the auspices of the Utah Fandom Organization, a nonprofit committed to bringing quality science fiction and fantasy events to Utah.

It will be the first WFC to be held in the Beehive State. “We’re excited to introduce the WFC members to our state,” Smith says. “And because Utah has a huge number of fantasy lovers, we think it’s a perfect match.”

The World Fantasy Convention will be held in Baltimore, Maryland in 2018, and Los Angeles, California in 2019. Memberships in the 2020 WFC will become available at the end of the Baltimore conference, at which time a website with more information will be launched.

[Based on a press release.]