(1) STRACZYNSKI MEMOIR COMING. Harper Voyager US has acquired the imprint’s first memoir, written by J. Michael Straczynski. The book will be published in 2019.
Straczynski is one of the most successful writers of comics, TV, graphic novels, and movies in modern pop culture, and has emerged as one of the most respected voices in science fiction today, selling millions of comics, winning dozens of awards and working with such luminaries as Clint Eastwood, Angelina Jolie and Kenneth Branagh. He is famed for his work on the recent Netflix hit Sense8, his work on Babylon 5, Changeling, World War Z, Thor, and a seven-year stint on The Amazing Spider-Man. But despite forty years of twelve-hour writing days, there’s one story Straczynski could never tell: his own. This memoir chronicles the author’s struggle growing up surrounded by poverty, violence, alcoholism and domestic abuse. The result is an inspiring account of how he wrote his way out of some of the most harrowing conditions.
(2) COINCIDENTAL PROPHET. Henry Farrell takes the measure of the author and this age in “Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans” at Boston Review.
Standard utopias and standard dystopias are each perfect after their own particular fashion. We live somewhere queasier—a world in which technology is developing in ways that make it increasingly hard to distinguish human beings from artificial things. The world that the Internet and social media have created is less a system than an ecology, a proliferation of unexpected niches, and entities created and adapted to exploit them in deceptive ways. Vast commercial architectures are being colonized by quasi-autonomous parasites. Scammers have built algorithms to write fake books from scratch to sell on Amazon, compiling and modifying text from other books and online sources such as Wikipedia, to fool buyers or to take advantage of loopholes in Amazon’s compensation structure. Much of the world’s financial system is made out of bots—automated systems designed to continually probe markets for fleeting arbitrage opportunities. Less sophisticated programs plague online commerce systems such as eBay and Amazon, occasionally with extraordinary consequences, as when two warring bots bid the price of a biology book up to $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping).
In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s. Dick was no better a prophet of technology than any science fiction writer, and was arguably worse than most. His imagined worlds jam together odd bits of fifties’ and sixties’ California with rocket ships, drugs, and social speculation. Dick usually wrote in a hurry and for money, and sometimes under the influence of drugs or a recent and urgent personal religious revelation.
Still, what he captured with genius was the ontological unease of a world in which the human and the abhuman, the real and the fake, blur together.
(3) BLACK LIGHTNING. The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Flenberg praised the new series: “‘Black Lightning’: TV Review”.
It could be argued that what The CW needs least is another superhero show, much less another murky superhero show.
The pleasant surprise, then, is that Black Lightning, based on yet another DC Comics property, is smart and relevant and full of an attitude that’s all its own. It takes its characters and their world seriously, but thus far doesn’t take itself too seriously. And, best of all, it’s ostensibly entirely separate from Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl, so the risk of time-consuming crossovers or key plot points delivered on a different show is currently nil.
(4) NINE IS TEN. This month io9 is celebrating its 10th anniversary, too. io9 and the File 770 blog started the same month and it’s easy to see which got the most mileage out of that decade. Congratulations io9! Here’s a video made by the founding alumni —
For our 10 year anniversary, we sit down with the co-founders of io9, Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, to see how the site all got started. pic.twitter.com/TVk86DGAlP
— io9 (@io9) January 15, 2018
(5) STARVING IN THE CITY OF THE FUTURE. Slate has published Charlie Jane Anders’ story of future hunger: “The Minnesota Diet”. The future isn’t that far away.
This short story was commissioned and edited jointly by Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and CSI about how technology and science will change our lives—will publish a story on a new theme. The theme for January–March 2018: Home.
North American Transit Route No. 7 carves a path between tree silhouettes like wraiths, through blanched fields that yawn with the furrows of long-ago crops. Weaving in and out of the ancient routes of Interstates 29 and 35, this new highway has no need for rest stops or attempts to beautify the roadside, because none of the vehicles have a driver or any passengers. The trucks race from north to south, at speeds that would cause any human driver to fly off the road at the first curve. The sun goes down and they keep racing, with only a few thin beams to watch for obstacles. They don’t need to see the road to stay on the road. The trucks seem to hum to one another, tiny variations in their engine sounds making a kind of atonal music. Seen from above, they might look like the herds of mustangs that used to run across this same land, long ago….
(6) POLL. Uncanny Magazine has opened voting for readers to pick their three favorite original short stories from the works they published last year — “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2017”.
We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2017. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)
The poll will be open from January 17 to February 7, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!
A snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of the poll!
So please spread the word! And don’t forget, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!
(7) GENRE DESTRUCTION. Also, Uncanny is taking submissions to a special issue through February 15 — “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Guidelines”
We welcome submission from writers who identify themselves as disabled. Identity is what matters for this issue. What kinds of disabilities? All of them. Invisible and visible. Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental health disabilities, and neurodiversity.
Yes, even if your disability is a recently acquired one.
Yes, even if your disability is static, or if it isn’t.
Yes, even if you’ve had your disability since birth.
Yes, even if you use adaptive devices only SOME of the time.
Reading Elsa’s essay “Disabled Enough” from our Kickstarter may help if you have any doubts.
So, if you identify as disabled across any of these definitions or others, we want to hear from you!
(8) LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE WORDSMITH. L. Ron Hubbard couldn’t do it. andrew j. offutt couldn’t do it. So it’s up to Matthew Plunkett to tell you “How to Write 100,000 Words Per Day, Every Day” (from McSweeney’s.)
My first blog post appeared online in 2008 when I explained how I attained my top ranking on a popular worldwide online game. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing. If you’re wondering whether this level of output will hinder your relationships with friends and lovers, let me set you straight. Life is about decisions. Either you write 100,000 words a day or you meet people and develop ties of affection. You can’t do both.
(9) GENTLER PACE. Concatenation has posted its “Newscast for the Spring 2018” – an aggregation of sff and pop cuture news issued at a not-quite-quarterly rate.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY
- January 17, 1982 – The Ray Bradbury-penned The Electric Grandmother premiered on television.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DARTH
- Born January 17, 1931 – James Earl Jones
(12) BIAS AT WORK. Sarah Hollowell, who calls her blog “Sarah Hollowell, Fat Writer Girl and Her Fat Words”, was not added to the Midwest Writers Workshop’s organizational committee after her appearance was made an issue.
A week ago The Guardian covered the initial stages of the story in “Roxane Gay calls out writing group for ‘fatphobic’ treatment of Sarah Hollowell”.
An American writers’ workshop that has counted Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Deaver and Clive Cussler among its faculty has been called out by Roxane Gay for “fatphobia”, after a writer’s appearance was criticised during a vote to give her a public-facing role.
Gay, who has herself been on the faculty for the Midwest Writers Workshop (MWW), turned to Twitter on Tuesday to lay out how the workshop’s organisers treated the writer Sarah Hollowell. According to Gay, Hollowell has worked for MWW for five years, and was voted to be on its organisational committee. But when her appointment was being discussed, “someone said ‘do we really want someone like her representing us?’ That person elaborated ‘someone so fat. It’s disgusting’,” claimed Gay.
Gay, the author of essay collection Bad Feminist and the memoir Hunger, said that only two people in the room defended Hollowell, and that the author was not then brought on to the committee. “This is unacceptable. And cruel. And cowardly, Midwest Writers Workshop. And you thought you could get away with it. You very nearly did,” wrote Gay, calling on the workshop to issue a “public and genuine” apology to Hollowell, and forbidding it to use her name as a past faculty member in its promotional materials again. “I’m too fat and disgusting to be associated with you,” she wrote.
Hollowell herself said that “there are a lot of good people” at the MWW, but that “I have been hurt in a very real way and I don’t think it should be hidden”.
The workshop subsequently issued an apology to Hollowell on Wednesday, in which its director Jama Kehoe Bigger said: “We screwed up.”
The apology and offers to attempt to “make it right” have not panned out. Instead, here’s what’s happening —
Well, folks. I’ve been fired from the Midwest Writers Board of Directors for a “betrayal of trust” for telling @sarahhollowell that she’d been referred to as “fat” “huge” and “disgusting” and denied her earned and unanimously voted slot on said Board of Directors.
— Summer Heacock (@Fizzygrrl) January 17, 2018
They did. The people who revoked Sarah’s position on the board after the comment did NOT.
— Summer Heacock (@Fizzygrrl) January 18, 2018
Hollowell responded with a full thread, which includes these tweets —
I don't think MWW understands what they've lost and what they've thrown away and that makes me sad.
Summer gave them everything and all she did wrong was tell the truth, and now she's fired, because they don't care about making real change. They care about fixing the image.
— Sarah Hollowell (@sarahhollowell) January 17, 2018
like you keep doing you, believe Summer's a liar because it's easier for you than thinking mmmmAAAYBE MWW has some issues that needs fixing and then maybe you have to believe YOU have issues that need fixing
but don't think you're clever or super smart or special
— Sarah Hollowell (@sarahhollowell) January 17, 2018
(13) NOW YOU SEE IT. Nothing magical about this disappearing act — “Rare first edition Harry Potter worth £40,000 stolen”.
A hardback first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone worth about £40,000 was one of a number of rare books stolen during a burglary.
The book, J.K Rowling’s maiden novel of the globally successful series, was stolen from SN Books in Thetford, Norfolk, between 8 and 9 January….
The Harry Potter book was made even more “unique” by being in a custom red box, the force added.
(14) TRAIN TRICKS. The BBC reports a “Japanese train barks like a dog to prevent accidents” — it scares away deer who lick the tracks to get iron.
Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports that the combination of sounds is designed to scare deer away from the tracks in a bid to reduce the number of animal deaths on the railway.
Officials from the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) say that a three-second blast of the sound of a deer snorting attracts the animals’ attention, and 20 seconds of dog barking is enough to make them take flight.
(15) EVEN IF YOU DO EVERYTHING RIGHT. An interesting thread by Alex Acks who argues that maybe it’s not a conspiracy….
But basically, with the previous caveat in mind, if you're not getting published, the answer is most likely that either your craft needs more work or you haven't been in the right place at the right time.
Resist conspiracy thinking. It is not going to help you write better.
— Alex BAN THE NAZIS Acks/Wells (@katsudonburi) January 17, 2018
(16) WHAT DOESN’T PAY. And Shaun Duke has his own argument against the conspiracy theory.
There's a segment of sf/f fandom hell bent on convincing us that there is a vast conspiracy against conservatives rather than a very public effort to call assholes out for their asshole behavior.
— Grand Moff Duke?? (@shaunduke) January 16, 2018
(17) FILL ‘ER UP. This sounds like the beginning of a nice 1950s sf story — “UK firm contracts to service satellites”.
Effective Space says its two servicing “Space Drones” will be built using manufacturing expertise in the UK and from across the rest of Europe.
The pair, which will each be sized about the same as a washing machine and weigh less than 400kg, are expected to launch on the same rocket sometime in 2020.
Once in orbit, they will separate and attach themselves to the two different geostationary telecommunications satellites that are almost out of fuel.
(18) HIRSUTE. Chip Hitchcock says, “As the proud possessor of a handle bar mustache, I’m pleased to see ’Moustached monkey is separate species’.”
A monkey from Ethiopia and Sudan with a “handlebar moustache” has been identified as a distinct species.
Scientists took a fresh look at the distribution and physical appearance of patas monkeys in Ethiopia, confirming there were two species rather than one.
It was originally described as a separate species in 1862, but was later folded in – incorrectly – with other patas monkeys to form a single species.
(19) WHEN THE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN. Brenton Dickieson has published an epic tool for scholars – “My Cheat Sheet of C.S. Lewis’ Writing Schedule” — at A Pilgrim in Narnia.
For those who study authors of the past, you will soon discover that the publication lists and bibliography of an author are not always terribly helpful. After all, writing, editing, and publishing a book are stages that can each take years. Knowing something is published in 1822 or 1946 tells us little about the writing process. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien each had books that took nearly two decades to write….
Over the last five years, then, I have developed a habit of speaking about when C.S. Lewis or one of the Inklings wrote a book, rather than when they published it. I haven’t been perfectly consistent with this on the blog, but have generally put the writing period in brackets rather than the publication date.
To do this, I discovered that I was slowly building myself a cheat sheet to help me remember when Lewis was writing a book so that I can connect it with what was going on at the time. The cheat sheet includes completed books and incomplete fragments of what would have been a book. I’ve decided to share this cheat sheet with those of you who are interested. This might save you time or inspire you to make connections between Lewis’ work and his life patterns. And, perversely, I’m hoping to draw more people into the project of reading Lewis chronologically, and have provided resources here, here, and here.
(20) HYPERBOREAN AGE. Black Gate’s Doug Ellis says it’s “Time to Revise Your Lin Carter Biography”, though “bibliography” may be the intended word. Either way — Ellis tells about a 1967 fanzine, The Brythunian Prints, published by some Toledo fans.
The most interesting content is two pages of poetry by Lin Carter, under the general heading “War Songs and Battle Cries,” apparently reprinted with Carter’s permission from The Wizard of Lemuria and Thongor of Lemuria. The remaining content is taken up with editorials, limericks by John Boardman (four of which were reprinted from Amra) and a book review of The Fantastic Swordsmen edited by de Camp. The back cover is Tolkien related, as it pictures “Baggins and Trinket” (the Ring).
(21) MORE PAST FUTURES. Let MovieWeb tell you “10 Back to the Future Facts You Never Knew”.
THE POTENTIAL DOC BROWNS
Christopher Lloyd, part of the ensemble of the TV series Taxi which ran from 1978 till 1983, seems irreplaceable as Doctor Emmett Brown in the minds and hearts of fans around the world. But before he landed the role, some other big names were considered for the part, including John Lithgow, Dudley Moore, and Jeff Goldblum. Imagine those memes!
[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]