By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 3, 2019, the New York Review
of Science Fiction Readings Series opened its 29th Season with the
stellar line-up of Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in, of all
The event opened, as ever, with producer and executive curator Jim
Freund (and host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf) welcoming the audience
back after the summer hiatus. For a while now, the Readings have streamed on
Livestream, however, due to a difficulty, tonight’s wouldn’t be – we were on
Facebook Live! (Livestream will be back in October.) He reminded those who can to donate to the
Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away), and
reported that the home audience (to coin a phrase) may donate on its Patreon
page. He concluded by announcing future readers: on Monday, October 14th, guest
host Michael J. DeLuca will present
readers from Reckoning, including Emily Houk, Krista Hoeppner
Leahy, Marissa Lingen and Brian Francis Slattery. On Tuesday, November 5th
(Election Day and Guy Fawkes Day), the readers will be Gay Partington Terry and Robert V.S. Redick. December 3rd
will be “party time,” an evening of Glitter Spec Fic, featuring A.C. Wise and others
“reading stories and performing music to do with glitter.” (On the Series
webpage, this notice was displayed in multiple colors.)
Gregory Feeley, the
evening’s first reader, describes himself as a writer of and
about science fiction. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the
Philip K. Dick award and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the
Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine and Kentauros, “a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth.” He recently
completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician. (In addition, he is
Thomas M. Disch’s literary executor for prose, and was part of the Series’
tribute to Disch last year.) He read the first half of “Cloudborn,” which also
draws from Greek myth. (Despite my childhood reading of Greek mythology, not to
mention watching Mighty Hercules
cartoons – his sidekick, recall, was a centaur – I was unaware that “cloudborn”
was an epithet for centaurs; as their genesis involved two separate instances by
Itzion of cross-species copulation, this omission is understandable.) The story
centers on children aboard a spaceship very slowly heading toward Neptune to
terraform and settle it; there are, of course, secrets being kept from them.
The girl Asia, it should be noted, is very into Greek mythology.
the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who donated), with the prizes
being copies of
Kentauros and The Iron Dragon’s Daughter.
I was asked to draw the tickets; no surprise, and despite the small number of
raffle tickets, the winning numbers were one immediately before and one immediately
Michael Swanwick, the evening’s final reader, is the author of ten novels, including Vacuum Flowers, Stations of the Tide, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, Jack Faust, Bones of the Earth, The Dragons of Babel, Dancing With Bears, Chasing the Phoenix and the recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother; and roughly 150 stories, many of which have been reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies. Notable among his non-fiction is Being Gardner Dozois, a book-length interview. Since his first story was published in 1980, Swanwick has been honored with the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon and World Fantasy Awards, and received a Hugo Award for fiction in an unprecedented five out of six years. (He also has “the pleasant distinction of having lost more major awards than any other science fiction writer.”) The Iron Dragon’s Mother, from which he read, completes “a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.”
Caitlin, of House Sans Merci,
a dragon pilot, after a hard landing, is immediately arrested when she returns
to her base, and charged with corruption, a wide-ranging crime. It’s quickly
evident that the trial is rigged (her virginity is denied), so she escapes on a
Kawasaki and attempts to get answers from a dragon committing perjury against
her. As Swanwick’s reading selection breaks off, she discovers that she has the
mind of a dying old woman in her head.
The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a
small assortment of books. The audience of about 20 – we were mystified by the
size of the turnout (but what there was, “was cherce”) – included Alan Beck,
Amy Goldschlager, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Marianne Porter,
Hildy Silverman and Henry Wessels. The Café closed early.
(1) STAMPEDE ZONE. Fran Wilde, in one of the New York Times’
op-eds from the future, implores “Please,
Stop Printing Unicorns”. Tagline: “Bioprinters are not toys, and parents shouldn’t give them to
… Making bioprinting more accessible to the public — especially to children — will be likely to lead to even worse disasters than last Friday’s blockade of the Chicago I-899 skyways off-ramp by a herd of miniature unicorns. Sure, the unicorns (whose origins are unknown) were the size of ducklings, but their appearance caused several accidents and a moral quandary.
These bioprinted unicorns were living creatures with consciousness — as defined by the A.I. Treaty of 2047 — trying to find their way in the world…..
Gregory Feeley writes novels and stories, most in some respect science-fictional. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine, and Kentauros, a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth. He recently completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician.
Michael Swanwick writes fantasy and science fiction of all sorts, at lengths ranging from novels to flash fiction. Over the years, he’s picked up a Nebula Award, five Hugos and the World Fantasy Award–and has the pleasant distinction of having lost more of these awards than any other writer. Tor recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother, completing a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.
The event is Tuesday,
September 3 at The Brooklyn Commons Café,
388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Doors open at 6:30
p.m., event begins at 7:00 p.m.
Everybody calls Rob Kuntz last, he says. Those who want to know about the history of Dungeons & Dragons start with co-creator Gary Gygax’s kids, one of Gygax’s biographers, or D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. As they’re wrapping things up, they might get around to dialing up Kuntz, a 63-year-old game designer. And once they call him, he tells them the same thing: Everything they know about the creation of the tabletop role-playing game is, in his opinion, sorely mistaken or flat-out wrong.
“There’s a myth that’s been propagated in the industry,” Kuntz told Kotaku during an interview in February of this year. “If you keep digging into this, you’re going to come up with a story that will enrage people and expose the truth.”
(4) MIND OF THESEUS. In the August 14 Financial Times (behind a
paywall), Library of Congress fellow Susan Schneider critiques the arguments
of Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk that we should figure out how to download our
brains into the clouds to prevent really smart AI machines from taking over our
“Here is a new challenge, derived from a story by the Australian science fiction writer Greg Egan. Imagine that an AI device called ‘a jewel’ is inserted into your brain at birth. The jewel monitors your brain’s activity in order to learn how to mimic your thoughts and behaviours. By th time you are an adult, it perfectly simulates your biological brain.
At some point, like other members of society, you grow confident that your brain is just redundant meatware. So you become a ‘jewel head,’ having your brain surgically removed. The jewel is now in the driver’s seat.
Unlike in Mr Egan’s story, let us assume the jewel works perfectly, So which is you–your brain or your jewel?”
(5) CHAMBERS PRAISED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The recent Worldcon in Dublin seems to be prompting some
discussion of the literary merit of genre work. Writing in the Irish Times, John
Connolly (“The future of sci-fi never looked so bright”) holds up the work of Hugo-winner Becky
Chambers as an example of meritorious genre work, writing that:
In a world in which intolerance seems to be implacably on the rise, the fundamental decency at the heart of Chambers’s narratives, her depiction of a post-dystopian humanity attempting to construct a better version of itself while encountering new worlds and species, begins to seem quietly, gently radical.
Disney released a new poster depicting the battle, presenting it to all attendees.
Fans can now watch the pinnacle moment of the footage – a cloaked Rey pulls out what appeared to be a red, double lightsaber in battle, similar to the infamous weapon wielded by Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.”
The D23 crowd let out an immediate, overpowering cheer at the sight of the weapon’s return and proclaimed the sighting on Twitter.
It caused a disturbance in the Force which was felt well beyond the D23 walls.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 26, 1911 — Otto Oscar Binder. He’s best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of the series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
August 26, 1912 – Ted Key. Of interest to us is his screenplay for The Cat from Outer Space about an apparent alien feline who has crash-landed here (starring Ken Berry, Sandy Duncan and Harry Morgan), which he followed up with a novelization. He also conceived and created Peabody’s Improbable History for producer Jay Ward’s The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. It would become the Sherman and Peabody Show. (Died 2008.)
Born August 26, 1912 — Gerald Kersh. He wrote but one genre novel, The Secret Masters, and two genre stories in his Henry the Ghost series. So why’s he here, you ask? Because Ellison declared “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.” You can read his full letters here. (Died 1968.)
Born August 26, 1938 — Francine York. Her last genre performance was on Star Trek: Progeny. Never heard of It? Of course not, as it was yet another fan project. It’s amazing how many of these there are. Before that, she appeared in Mutiny in Outer Space, Space Probe Taurus and Astro Zombies: M3 – Cloned. (Died 2017.)
Born August 26, 1949 — Sheila E Gilbert, 70. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and received a solo 2016 Hugo award as best professional editor (long form).
Born August 26, 1950 — Annette Badland, 69. She is best known for her role as Margaret Blaine on Doctor Who where she was taken over by Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day, a Slitheen. This happened during “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” during the Era of the Ninth Doctor. Her story would conclude in “Boom Town”.
Born August 26, 1970 — Melissa McCarthy, 49. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. Fanboys across the net are still wetting their pants about that film. I’m more interested in Super Intelligence in which she is playing a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” premise. It will be released on December 20 of this year. (And we are not talking about her The Happytime Murders.)
Born August 26, 1980 — Chris Pine, 39. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series. He also plays Steve Trevor in both Wonder Woman films and Dr. Alexander Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. He’s also Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods. Finally, he voices Peter Parker / Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
If you haven’t had a chance to try this snack yet, they’re basically Cheetos puffs that are shaped into various parts of a skeleton like the head, ribcage, hands, and bones. This means that besides being as delicious as a classic Cheeto, you can also build spooky skeletons with your food if you can resist scarfing down the whole bag for a while.
Not a blade of grass longer than the rest, a red “Remove Before Flight” tag unchecked, or a single Kiwi (be it bird or engineer) out of place: Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-1 looks like an industry brochure come to life (better in fact). Located at the southern tip of the picturesque Mahia Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, LC-1 is currently the only operational Rocket Lab launch site where the Electron vehicle—Rocket Lab’s low-cost small satellite launch vehicle—takes flight.
Rocket Lab just took advantage of the latest window at LC-1 on August 19. But back in December 2018, fellow rocket launch photographer Brady Kenniston had the exclusive opportunity to photograph Rocket Lab’s first NASA mission, ElaNa-19, from this private launch site. This launch was going to be Rocket Lab’s mostimportant mission to date because, as the leader in the small satellite industry, they had an opportunity to show NASA (and the world) what they are made of. If successful, it could lead to future business from other small satellites in need of a ride to space—not to mention, the company would earn the endorsement of NASA Launch Services as an eligible vehicle to fly future NASA small-satellite science payloads.
Joe: We’re a little more than seven months into what is shaping up to be an absolute stellar year for science fiction and fantasy fiction and I wanted to check in with the two of you to see what you’ve been reading and what has stood out in a year of excellence.
Adri: Indeed! well for starters I lost my heart in the time war…
Paul: I, too, lost my heart in the Time War. Among many other places, but having recently finished that, it is strongly on my mind. I am Team Blue, Adri, how about you?
Heinlein was not fond of critics, not entirely without reason. Even in his day, a good critic could be a wonder – and a bad one a nightmare. But I think he might have liked this book – and, as Heinlein remains popular, we should ask ourselves why. You may not agree with everything in this book, but it will make you think. Mendlesohn treats Heinlein as what he was, a man. Not an angel, or a demon, but a man. An influential man, but a man nonetheless.
(13) SMILE! Guess what this scene made Kevin Standlee think of —
(Now imagine, what if somebody used X-ray film?)
(14) CHALLENGES IN PRODUCING HEINLEIN BOOK. Shahid Mahmud of Arc Manor Publishers sent out an update about Phoenix Pick’s Heinlein novel The Pursuit of the Pankera.
…As many of you are aware from my previous emails, this is the parallel text to The Number of the Beast.
It is, effectively, a parallel book about parallel universes.
We had originally attempted to release the book before Christmas, but some production issues have delayed the release to Sprint/Summer of 2020.
These include sorting out some fairly intricate details discussed in the book. For example (for those of you dying to see what it is that we publishers actually do), here are a few internal excerpts between editors working on various aspects of the book:
“The planet-numbering system may be off in certain parts of the story. At the beginning of the story (and in real life) we live on planet Earth. In the course of the story, there is time travel, and that’s where it gets confusing… the story refers to both Earth-One and Earth-Zero. There is a detailed explanation of the numbering system (see pg. 312) wherein “Earth-Zero is so designated because Dr. Jacob Burroughs was born on that planet…”
However, in other parts of the book, Earth-One is referred to as the characters’ home planet.”
“After discussion with Patrick, I’ve settled on the following conventions: x-axis (hyphenated, lowercase, no italics) but axis x (no hyphen, lowercase, italic single letter). In the manuscript, of course, the italic letter would be underlined rather than set italic. The letters tau and teh remain in the Latin alphabet (rather than Greek or Cyrillic) and are lowercase but not set italic. When used with the word “axis” (tau-axis) they are hyphenated.”
These are the little details that keep us Publishers up at night 🙂
But alas, given a book of this magnitude and size (this is a BIG book, over 185,000 words) all this takes time.
Hence the delay.
Mahmud says the ebook will be priced at $9.99 at launch, but they will run a Kickstarter beginning September 4 to help pay for production, which will allow people to buy the ebook for just $7.00. And there will be other rewards available.
(15) THE NEXT BIG THING. Best Fanzine Hugo winner Lady Business tweeted a get-acquainted thread for new followers (starts here) which closes with this appeal –
Legion creator Noah Hawley’s feature directorial debut stars the Oscar-winning actress as Lucy Cola, a loose adaptation of real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak, who, after returning to earth from a length mission to space, began an obsessive affair with a coworker….
[Thanks to Jim Freund, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin
Morse Wooster, Lise Andreasen, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Errolwi,
and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770
contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]