(1) AN EXPERIMENT. Samuel R. Delany has written a novel called Shoat Rumblin, His Sensations and Ideas. Not sff, but it is Delany.
…At one point, Vladimir Nabakov said that Madame Bovary was really just an extremely well-written fairytale. There’s one sense in which, unlike other of my books, that was what I was hoping to accomplish with Shoat Rumblin. The book was never finished to my satisfaction, although I wrote an ending for it. Through looking over it again, I’m at least contented with what I’ve done—if still uncertain how believable it is. As I’ve said on Twitter, it’s an experiment in gay pornography and realistic storytelling. Parts of it are funny and parts of it, I confess, I think are pretty grim. Overall, I’d call it a comedy rather than a tragedy, if only because it does have a happy ending, however believable or unbelievable you find it. I’m also hoping that this makes it intriguing enough for some of you to take a chance on it.
(2) TOR FOR TWO. “John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal Chat About Sci-Fi, Writing Processes, and More!” at Tor.com. There’s both a video and a transcript at the link.
… MRK: One of my favorite things is when I introduce a reader to an author who is, by any metric except to this reader, more famous than I am. And they have never heard of them. And they’re like, “oh, this new author Ursula K. Le Guin, I love her books!” (laughs)
JS: You’re like; I don’t know how to break this one to you, but… But, that actually brings up a really interesting point which is that because science fiction and fantasy is, as a literature, as opposed to every other aspect of media, because it is still sort of niche where you come into the genre matters. Because, if they come in with you, then a lot of your antecedents or people who influenced you will be new to them. And to them, those classics will seem almost derivative or not up to date. I’ve had that happen sometimes where people will read me first, especially people who are under the age of 35. They’ll read me first and then they’ll go backwards into someone like Heinlein and then they’re like—“hmm, I don’t know—his stuff’s OK, but I kind of like yours better.” And I’m like, well—one, thank you, and two, it’s definitely because this is the path that you took into this genre. And, it’s still something that is very possible to do in this genre that I don’t know if in mainstream it will happen as much.
(3) RUSSIAN AROUND. “‘Sputnik’ Trailer: A Cosmonaut Brings an E.T. Invasion Back to Earth in Gory ‘Alien’ Homage” – IndieWire sets the frame:
While a space traveler’s greatest fear is typically what’s waiting out there in the great unknown, what they bring back to Earth could be much, much worse. That’s the premise of Russian filmmaker Egor Abramenko’s feature debut “Sputnik,” a sci-fi chiller with the stately echoes of Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien.” Set in the 1980s, “Sputnik” blends creature-feature effects with heady extraterrestrial thrills. An official selection of the canceled 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, the movie debuts from IFC Midnight in select theaters and on VOD August 14. Watch the trailer for the film below….
Here’s the YouTube intro:
Due to her controversial methods, young doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina) is on the precipice of losing her medical license. Her career may not be over, though. After she’s recruited by the military, Tatiana is brought to a secure science research facility to assess a very special case, that of Konstantin Sergeyevich (Pyotr Fyodorov), a cosmonaut who survived a mysterious space accident and has returned to Earth with a unique condition: there’s something living inside of him that only shows itself late at night. The military has nefarious plans for it. Tatiana wants to stop it from killing Konstantin. And the creature itself thrives on destruction.
(4) FLAME ON. Entertainment Weekly reports “Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon begins casting”.
There are no official casting breakdowns yet available, but many are speculating about the potential lead characters based on Martin’s book. Fire & Blood covers 150 years and includes the rise and fall of many leaders in Westeros so it’s not clear which characters and time period will be the focus of the series. But sources tell EW that the famed Dance of Dragons – the Targaryen Civil War that occasionally referenced in GoT that ripped apart Westeros – will be tackled at some point in the series. What would make sense is if the first season (or two) led up to those events. Some fans have suggested the show could also be an American Horror Story-style anthology series, covering a vastly different time period in each season.
(5) RELATIONSHIPS FOR THE LONG HAUL. In “The Big Idea: Michael R. Underwood” at Whatever, the author argues there’s a sorely neglected big idea.
“Happily Ever After.”
A famous phrase that signals the end of many stories, from faerie tales to action movies to romance novels. Growing up, so many of the tv, film, comics, books, and more that I experienced said – implicitly, if not explicitly – that once a couple overcame whatever big trial happened in act three, the relationship itself was smooth sailing.
And depending on how you read those stories, it says something worse. It says that long-term, committed relationships are boring, or that they’re only interesting when they’re falling apart. “Happily Ever After” doesn’t prepare anyone for the lived reality of making a long-term relationship work. Sometimes the best romance works will illustrate those challenges and joys on the way, because romance writers are grand masters of characterization. But getting into my first romantic relationships, I had few fictional models for what it was like to negotiate the higher-level challenges and opportunities posed by a committed partnership. And being a storyteller by trade, that lack of narrative models became especially frustrating.
With Annihilation Aria, I set out to add to the count of works that unpack “Happily Ever After” and show that a committed couple can be exciting protagonists as well….
(6) VANDERMEERS’ FANTASY COLLECTION. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer preview The Big Book of Modern Fantasy at LitHub, including the Table of Contents: “On the Biggest Collection of Fantasy Tales Since WWII”. Plenty of names you know here.
…The truth is, a book of modern fantasy is a treasure trove of marvels, a cabinet of curiosities, and, perhaps more importantly, a strong, strong testimony to the importance of imaginative literature, of non-realist literature, and of traditions other than the Anglo Saxon. We, personally, have been enriched by these stories and lifted up by them. We hope readers will find their own favorites and fond memories from reading herein.
(7) CAPCLAVE CHANGES PLANS. Bill Lawhorn, Capclave 2020 Chair, says they’re going virtual. The event will be over the same weekend, but won’t start until Saturday.
Due to the novel coronavirus, the Capclave team has made the decision to be virtual this year. We will be holding Capclave October 17-18. Yes, this is two days, but we will run longer on Sunday than is typical. We will be focused on presentations, panels, and small group activities such as author readings or discussions.
Going virtual does present the opportunity to include people who would likely not be able to participate in a normal year. Keep an eye on our website and social media for news regarding new participants.
We plan to use Zoom for most activities, but we are looking at adding a text chat area via Discord as well. We will be updating our Code of Conduct to reflect the online nature of the convention. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born July 21, 1929 — John Woodvine, 91. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”. He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man. He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr J. S. Hirsch, but shortly thereafter he’s Master West 468 in The Tripods and Prior Mordrin in the Knights of God children’s SF serial. Finally, he’s Justice Dimkind in A Perfect State which is at least genre adjacent. (CE)
- Born July 21, 1933 — John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales); A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death in a motorcycle accident, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.) (CE)
- Born July 21, 1944 – David Feintuch. Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer. Nine novels, of which seven portray Space navy officer Nick Seafort, translated into Czech, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish. Said he’d completed an eighth, of which no more has emerged. (Died 2006) [JH]
- Born July 21, 1950 — Asenath Hammond. She was was a fan who was a member of NESFA, New York City and LASFS fandoms. She was married for a time to Rick Sternbach. Mike has a write-up on her here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
- Born July 21, 1950 – Bill Kunkel. Cartoons (sometimes as “Potshot”) in Algol, Checkpoint, The Frozen Frog, Trap Door; Chunga seemed to energize him, he gave it much (for the end, see here and here; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, loc = letter of comment). Comics: DC, Marvel, Harvey; primary scripter for Richie Rich. Pro wrestling: photographed for, edited, published Main Event magazine, hosted The Main Event radio show, energized Pro Wrestling Torch, cartoons and columns for Wrestling Perspective. Video games: Electronic Games, Tips & Tricks magazines; designed a dozen games; memoir, Confessions of the Game Doctor. (Died 2011) [JH]
- Born July 21, 1951 — Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and George Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. No, not even genre adjacent but damn brilliant. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook which I adore, The Fisher King, Bicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.) (CE)
- Born July 21,1952 – Kathy Tyers, 68. Ten novels, half a dozen shorter stories translated into Dutch and German. A Star Wars novel was a NY Times Best Seller. Two CDs of folk music (she plays flute, Irish harp). Worked with Christopher Parkening on his memoir Grace Like a River. Lives in Montana. [JH]
- Born July 21, 1956 – Todd Dashoff, 64. Chaired Philcon 1988 and the Millennium Philcon – what else should we name a Worldcon at Philadelphia in 2001? Knows Harry Warner upheld the rule that the local con there is Phillycon and only a Worldcon there is Philcon. Knows this rule has not been followed since 1947 and meanwhile (after HW’s death) a comics con has been calling itself Phillycon. Has been PSFS’ (Phil. SF Soc.) President and Treasurer. Stalwart helper from locals to Worldcons. Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Joni, another shining star) at Lunacon 46. [JH]
- Born July 21, 1960 – John Wardale, 60. Balloon sculptor, hair braider, costumer, photographer, patiently giving balloon and braid workshops for beginners too. A pleasure, if that word may be used, to judge “Angels Take Motown” at Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) by Janine & John Wardale, Sharon & Hall Bass, which we awarded Best Motown Entry (Journeyman Class). Has also taught Science: Energy + Time = Change. [JH]
- Born July 21, 1976 – Stephanie Law, 44. Two dozen covers including books in German and Polish, also cards and other games. Featured in Spectrum (six times) and Locus. Best in Art Show, DragonCon 2015. Art Guest of Honor at BayCon 2015, JordanCon 10, Philcon 2019; was scheduled for the 13th NASFiC this year. Artbook, Descants and Cadences. Website here. [JH]
- Born July 21, 1976 — Jaime Murray, 44. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in the Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. Film wise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood. (CE)
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro reports it was a hard day at the Frankenstein factory.
- Garfield shows what would be – for these aliens – a fate worse than death.
- Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider calls this “Contemplation.”
(10) CHEATERS EVER PROSPER. “An author bought his own book to get higher on bestseller lists. Is that fair?” The Guardian says it doesn’t break the rules of the Sunday Times.
For any author, being able to describe yourself as a bona fide bestseller is key to conferring your career with a certain gravitas – and will often bring you even more sales. In the UK, while most book charts are tallied by Nielsen BookScan, the Sunday Times bestseller list – like the New York Times chart in the US – has become the gold standard. But making the bestseller list isn’t necessarily as straightforward as tallying sales. Not all is fair in romance and war (and other genres) when it comes to getting to the top of the charts.
Take the case of Mark Dawson, a British writer who just over a week ago hit No 8 on the Sunday Times hardback list with his thriller The Cleaner, released by the independent publisher Welbeck at the end of June. This is a great achievement for any author or small publishing house, but Dawson had done something remarkable: he bought 400 copies of his own book, at a cost of £3,600, to push his sales high enough to make the top 10….
(11) LOOKING FOR CHANGE. “More Resignations, but No Sign Yet of a Change in Gaming Culture” – the New York Times surveys the field.
First, a popular esports tournament was canceled. Next, top gaming studio executives stepped down. Then, a prominent talent management agency for video game streamers laid off its employees and closed.
The stream of reports of sexual harassment and assault in the gaming industry that began in June has continued unabated, as more women — and some men — have come forward with accusations of mistreatment.
Despite the actions that companies have taken in response to individual incidents, gaming experts say they are hesitant to call the moment an inflection point for an industry with a long and difficult history of sexist behavior and abuse. This is not the first time women have spoken up. In 2014, in what is known as Gamergate, women faced death threats for criticizing the gaming industry and its culture. Last year, women again came forward with stories of abuse in what was seen as gaming’s #MeToo moment.
So few expect the resignations this time to quickly change a culture that for decades has often been hostile to women.
“You can fire people all day long,” said Kenzie Gordon, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta who studies how games can be used to prevent sexual and domestic violence. But “if only the individual people are held accountable, that doesn’t have any impact on the culture of the organization as a whole, necessarily.”…
(12) THE MARTIAN YAWNICLES. “One Challenge for Future Mars Explorers? Boredom.” So says Kate Greene at LitHub.
… It’s conditions such as these—monotony, idleness, tedium, sensory deprivation, loneliness—that concern NASA psychologists who want to send a crew to Mars. Using existing technologies, a trip to the red planet will take 200 to 300 days of travel. Most of the time will be spent inside a cramped capsule. There will be a communication delay with Earth of up to 24 minutes due to a span of hundreds of millions of miles. Real-time chatting or video calls with friends and family and mission support will be an impossibility—the limitation is the speed of light—that no new technology would be able to overcome.
Mars crews would likely need to operate with a high level of autonomy because of this communication delay. Many people believe autonomy, which implies freedom of choice, can stave off boredom. Indeed, work imbued with personal meaning can be a potential solution, but it can’t fix everything.
In addition to the isolation and sensory deprivation, there will still be repetition of meals and routines and clothing and conversations between crewmembers. The workloads will still likely be full of tedium, with narrow margins for error. In short, a mission to Mars has the perfect ingredient list for boredom and disaster borne of boredom.
(13) WHAT WILL YOU MAKE FROM THIS? “A New Artificial Material Effectively Cannot Be Cut” — which they’ve dubbed Proteus, rather than ‘nocuttium’ or whatever; Slashdot has the story.
Researchers from the University of Stirling, UK, have embedded ceramic spheres in aluminum foam to create a material that couldn’t be cut with angle grinders, power drills or water jet cutters. “They dubbed it Proteus after the shape-shifting Greek god, for the way the material metamorphosed in different ways to defend against attacks,” reports New Scientists
(14) THE SWARM. Could “swarm 3-D printing” become an endless opportunity for unanticipated results?
…What they appear to have developed is a kind of mobile robotic 3D printing concept. As you can see in the video, dual independent 3D printers are temporarily fixed to specific locations on a grid. From these locations the devices will print within a controlled zone (which AMBOTS calls a “Chunk”).
After completing a layer of a chunk, a mobile robot picks up each 3D printer and moves them to another spot on the grid where they can then access another chunk. By moving the 3D printers repeatedly through a series of access points they are able to build the entire structure — without interfering with each other.
(15) IMPERFECT CREATION. Now wait a minute. It was his own show! Yet ScreenRant says there were “10 Things Rod Serling Disliked About The Original Twilight Zone”. Well, here’s one we all disliked for sure.
9. Those Damn Commercials
One beast Serling struggled with during the run of The Twilight Zone continues to be an irritant today. That has to do with lightweight commercials that tended to deflate the intensity of a suspenseful Twilight episode.
“However moving and however probing and incisive the drama,” mused Serling at a UCLA speaking engagement in 1971, “it cannot retain any thread of legitimacy when after 12 or 13 minutes, out comes 12 dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Cowboy Bebop” on YouTube, Screen Junkies takes on the classic anime series, where everyone chain smokes and the gloomy atmosphere is heightened by introspective sax solos.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]