(1) HOW TO AVOID MUSHROOM-SHAPED CLOUDS. Charlie Jane Anders argues in the Washington Post that, with the likelihood of “devastating nuclear conflict” starting to rise, popular culture creators should deal with the possibility of atomic attack in the tradition of Wargames, The Terminator, and Dr. Strangelove: “Pop culture is no longer full of apocalyptic nuclear visions. That’s too bad.”
Let’s hope pop culture starts to warn us once again. Pfeiffer says the challenge of talking about the risk of nuclear holocaust is to raise enough awareness to galvanize people to take small, constructive steps — but not so much that people become paralyzed with anxiety over the enormity of the threat.
The good news is, fictional portrayals of nuclear conflagration don’t have to rehash the same old story lines; it’s no longer just a matter of the United States and the Soviet Union staring each other down. And it’s not merely rogue states that pose a risk, either. There are many ways a possible misunderstanding, including one induced by a rogue hacker, could lead to a nuclear strike.
(2) FLASH CROWD DEPARTS. Books Beyond Binaries chronicles the sudden meltdown of a Book Riot paid subscription group in “Book Riot Breakup/down”.
… The forum was a Slack (see how Slack works), hosted on the free version of the platform, and capped at 275 Epic subscribers, plus the Book Riot staff, and some contributors. Separate Slacks exist that are exclusively for Book Riot contributors, and for staff only. The Slack was active, and many Epic subscribers joined specifically for access to that exclusive community…
On February 12, 2019, a new platform-wide Book Riot policy was announced by a moderator in the General channel of the BRI Slack. At the time that the announcement was made, there were 397 members in the channel, which had the description, “mayhem and anarchy”. One section of the new policy was specifically highlighted by the mod: going forward, no generalizations made about any group of people would be tolerated in the “public” channels on the Slack – that is those spaces open to all paid Epic subscribers. The examples of “groups of people” that were given were specifically “men”, and “Republicans”. As soon as the announcement was made, the moderators began to delete custom emoji that users had created in the forum, including one that read, “WHY ARE MEN”.
…On February 20th, at 2:30 PM, an Email went out to Insiders, the subject line of which read, “An Epic Announcement.” The same message was posted to the General channel of the BRI Slack. The full message can be read here. The announcement was that the Epic Insiders Slack – the only interactive element of the “exclusive digital hangout for the Book Riot community” – was being shut down on Friday, February 22nd, 2019, at 5 PM. Ten days after the announcement of a violent and oppressive policy, the company doubled down again. Rather than learning from the feedback of their financial supporters and engaged community members, they chose to delete the space they had created for them, and any record of what they had chosen to do….
(3) SCHAUDENFREUDE? Reason says that Kosoko Jackson participated in the Twitter takedown of Amélie Zhao, but now YA Twitter has found his own book fatally lacking: “He Was Part of a Twitter Mob That Attacked Young Adult Novelists. Then It Turned on Him. Now His Book Is Cancelled.”
Until recently, Kosoko Jackson’s website described him as “a vocal champion of diversity in YA [young adult] literature, the author of YA novels featuring African American queer protagonists, and a sensitivity reader for Big Five Publishers.” Jackson is black and gay—this matters here, a lot—and was preparing for the release of his debut young adult novel, A Place for Wolves, an adventure-romance between two young men set against the backdrop of the Kosovo War. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Code Name Verity in this heartbreaking and poignant story of survival,” read the publicity materials. The book [was] slated for release on March 26.
… “Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons—sometimes before anybody’s even read them,” Vulture‘s Kat Rosenfield wrote in the definitive must-read piece on this strange and angry internet community. The call-outs, draggings, and pile-ons almost always involve claims that books are insensitive with regard to their treatment of some marginalized group, and the specific charges, as Rosenfield showed convincingly, often don’t seem to warrant the blowups they spark—when they make any sense at all.
But surely Jackson, an enforcer of social justice norms and a gay black man writing about gay black protagonist should have been safe, right?
Instead, it all came crashing down quite quickly. As with any internet outrage, it’s hard to know exactly what sparked it, but a major turning point came in the form of a quote-retweet. “HEY HOW ABOUT WE DONT PROMOTE OR SUPPORT BOOKS ABOUT A ROMANCE BETWEEN AND THE VICTIMIZATION OF 2 AMERICANS, SET DURING A REAL LIFE HISTORICAL GENOCIDE WHERE THE VILLAIN IS PART OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC THAT WAS ETHNICALLY CLEANSED,” read the tweet, which was published on February 25 and which, as of when I screencapped it, had 164 retweets—a sizable number for YA Twitter, which generally consists of relatively low-follower accounts.
… Part of what makes this story so interesting is that Kosoko himself has been on the other side of these online attacks on authors.
He was outspoken during a particularly intense recent example, when a campaign based on misunderstanding and exaggeration led the author Amélie Zhao to take the unusual step of agreeing to cancel the publication of Blood Heir, her hotly anticipated debut novel, which was set to be the first in a trilogy….
(4) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. Delish advises “This Game of Thrones Beer Is The Only Thing You Should Be Drinking At Your Premiere Party”.
Season after season, Brewery Ommegang has dropped their Game of Thrones-themed beer, because how else would we have survived the emotional turmoil of Khal Drogo’s death? (Personally coping with the Cersei-inspired Sour Blonde, how ’bout you?) Now the brewing co. that brought us Hand of the Queen Ale and Mother of Dragons Porter is releasing For The Throne—and it’s coming just in time for your premiere party.
(5) SO YOU WANT A NEBULA? Jim C. Hines guides writers through the rocks and shoals of sff’s top two awards in “How to Get Nominated For a Nebula or Hugo”. Here’s an extract –
“Psst. Hey, buddy — I’ll nominate your book for the Nebula if you nominate mine!”
It happens. I don’t think it happens as much as it used to, though I don’t have hard data one way or the other.
It’s also, in my opinion, pretty dickish. This approach may get you some extra nominations. It will also quickly get you a reputation as That Author, the one who doesn’t give a damn about whether or not a book is any good, and just wants to cheat their way onto the ballot.
Technically, it may not be cheating — but while this approach might not violate the letter of the rules, it’s pretty blatantly cheating the spirit of the thing. And it’s unlikely to win you an award.
(6) ANOTHER PROTIP. J.A. Sutherland tells how making book recommendations fits into his overall publicity strategy. Thread starts here.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 28, 1913 – John Coleman Burroughs. An illustrator known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of his fathers books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations. He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
- Born February 28, 1934 – H. Bruce Franklin, 75. Academic, editor of the Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century anthology, Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction and the sixth chapter of Nancy R. Reagin’s Star Trek and History anthology.
- Born February 28, 1928 – Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yes, that novel. It obviously served as the basis for the 1976 film by Nicolas Roeg, The Man Who Fell to Earth, with Bowie as star, as well as a later television adaptation which I’d never heard of. He also wrote Mockingbird which was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel. James Sallis reviewed both novels in F&SF. (Died 1984.)
- Born February 28, 1948 – Bernadette Peters, 71. Performer, stage, film and television, so this is selected look at her. She was A Witch in Into the Woods on Broadway and reprised the role in a tv film. It is a Stephen Sondheim musical based on the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. She’s in The Martian Chronicles as Genevieve Seltzer. She does a lot of voice acting, to wit in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, Wakko’s Wish, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, Rita, a recurring role on the Animaniacs and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The most recent genre role I see her doing is Circe on The Odyssey series several back.
- Born February 28, 1966 – Philip Reeve,53. He is primarily known for the Mortal Engines and its sequels. Look the film is proof that an author can’t be held responsible for a shitty film. I read Mortal Engines, Predator’s Gold and Infernal Devices before deciding that was enough of that series, it’s a fine series, it just wasn’t developing enough to warrant me reading any more of it.
- Born February 28, 1957 – John Barnes, 62. I read and like the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like?
- Born February 28, 1969 – Murray Gold, 50. English composer who is best known as the musical director and composer for Doctor Who from 2005 until he stepped down after the tenth series aired. He also composed the music for The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood as well.
- Born February 28, 1970 – Lemony Snicket, 49. He’s the author of several children’s books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though I’ve read the books, they’re very popular I’m told at my local bookstore. It has been turned into a film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and into a Netflix series as well which is named, oh you guess.
- Born February 28, 1977 – Chris Wooding, 42. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exist and does a damn fine job of doing so.
(9) SON OF STARMAN. You may recall that, when SpaceX launched Elon Musk’s personal Tesla automobile into stellar orbit, they had a spacesuit-wearing dummy—dubbed Starman—aboard. In a sort of repeat of that, SpaceX plans to put another spacesuit wearing dummy into the test capsule for Crew Dragon they are launching to the ISS this weekend. (Assuming the schedule holds this time.) Space.com has the story—”SpaceX Is Launching a Spacesuit-Clad Dummy on 1st Crew Dragon.”
Starman is about to get some off-Earth company.
When SpaceX launches its first Crew Dragon capsule on an uncrewed test mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this Saturday (March 2), the vehicle will be carrying a passenger of sorts: a humanoid dummy wearing the company’s sleek black-and-white spacesuit.
Such a suit also graces the inert body of Starman, the mannequin driver of the red Tesla Roadster that SpaceX launched into orbit around the sun last year on the maiden flight of the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket.
(10) OPEN IN QUESO EMERGENCY. An Israeli company’s mission to the Moon is taking a backup of Earth’s knowledge. SpaceX added a cheesy addendum to that package. (Fast Company: “Why SpaceX is helping Austin, Texas, send a queso recipe to the moon”.)
The offer was made by Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, who wrote a letter to potential queso-loving extraterrestrials inviting them to visit (or move to) Austin, writing: “Y’all are most definitely welcome here in Austin, Texas.”
However, if a visit to the Lone Star State wasn’t in the cards, Adler also sent along a recipe from Austin’s Kerbey Lane café to make their own cheese-and-chile queso, presumably from the blue cheese that the moon is made out of. “Have you heard of queso?” Adler asks in the letter. “Have you tried it? Do it. Do it now.” If the aliens happen to prefer a plant-based diet, Kerbey Lane does offer a vegan queso option.
(11) PRACTICALLY MAGIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The BBC Click channel on YouTube has a story of how many of the special effects in First Man were produced (“First Man (2018) | Behind the Scenes of Neil Armstrong Biopic Movie”). They used a clever mixture of in-camera “practical” effects and now-traditional post-production digital effects. The in-camera effects were produced using a frickin’ enormous curved video wall to provide backdrops for flying scenes. Benefits of that included not having to digitally add reflections post-production and giving actors something other than a blue screen to react to doing filming. Digital effects included expanding square-formatted archival footage on each side to provide modern wide aspect-ratio film while preserving the real thing in the middle.
(12) BRITBOX. The BBC, home to Doctor Who, Blakes 7, Sherlock, The Survivors, etc, are in the “concluding phase of talks” to create a rival to Netflix: “BBC and ITV set to launch Netflix rival”.
BBC director general Tony Hall said the aim was to launch “BritBox” in the UK the second half of 2019.
The price was not announced but Lord Hall said it would be “competitive”.
ITV’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall said it would be home for the “best of British creativity”.
There are reports it could cost £5 a month. BBC I-Player is already the second most popular streaming service in the British Isles after Netflix.
(13) MEJIA’S FIRST NOVEL. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “‘We Set The Dark On Fire’ Burns Bright”.
Tehlor Kay Mejia’s debut novel We Set the Dark on Fire aims to burn it all down.
Daniela is graduating at the top of her class at the Medio School for Girls, an elite institution that trains girls to be wives. Divided into two groups — Primeras and Segundas, Dani and her classmates know that they will be offered in pairs to the rich young men whose families can afford to pay their dowries. Primeras like Dani are preparing to be skilled life-partners and social managers, while Segundas, like her nemesis Carmen, are destined to be objects of beauty and desire and bear children.
When Dani is chosen as Primera for the son of Medio’s chief military strategist — who is rumored to be next in line for the presidency — she is fulfilling the destiny that she and her family have sacrificed so much to obtain. But instead of being elated, Dani is filled with dread. Two days before graduation, her deepest secret almost comes out: She was born on the wrong side of the wall that protects Medio from society’s poor and disenfranchised, and was smuggled across illegally as a child. A resistance group saves her from discovery, but in exchange, they want her to spy on her new husband….
(14) THE PULPS. Episode 28 of Colin Reid’s Words To That Effect is “Pulp Fiction (Amazing Stories of the Sisters of Tomorrow)”. There’s a transcript on the site, too. Reid knows how to get people’s attention. Don’t start throwing things before you get to the end…
If you want to understand how we ended up with anything from Star Wars to Star Trek, Superman to Batman, intergalactic travel to microscopic worlds, profound meditations on the nature of being human to thrilling tales about Martian princesses, you have to look at pulp fiction magazines.
Argosy, Blue Book, Adventure, Black Mask, Horror Stories, Flying Aces…there was a lot of it. The 1920s and 30s was the age of pulp fiction magazines, the time when genres truly became genres. Science fiction, detective stories, war stories, horror, westerns, fantasy. Everything. All those categories that we use to divide up fiction and film and TV came together in the pulps at this time.
But what I want to do in this episode in particular is to look at some of the commonly held ideas about pulp fiction magazines, and about science fiction more particularly. So here are a few things that we all know:
1: Science fiction was, and continues to be, mostly consumed by men
2: Science fiction is, for the most part, aimed at 12-year-old boys
3: There were very few women writers of science fiction between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the new feminist sf of the 60s and 70s
4: Those few women who did write SF were forced to write under male or androgynous pseudonyms in order to make it in an utterly male-dominated industry
So you can probably guess where I’m going with. Yes, all of these are myths. They’re ideas that are completely, demonstrably false. This week Professor Lisa Yaszek joins me to discuss the history of the pulp fiction magazines and the many myths around early women’s science fiction….
(15) I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC. A new concept in hi-fi, and SYFY Wire has the news: “Mummy parts found inside speaker at Egyptian airport, heads still missing”.
Mummy smugglers of the most audacious variety were caught cloth-handed via security X-rays while trying to smuggle mummified human limbs out of Egypt and into Belgium. Wrapped up in the hollowed-out speaker were “six preserved body parts belonging to two different mummies: two sets of feet and lower legs; two sets of hands and forearms; an upper arm; and part of an upper torso,” according to The New York Times, which spoke to Egyptian archaeological official Iman Abdel-Raouf about the incident. No word on where the heads are, though.
(16) MADE TO ORDER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Herewith 2 Disney park/Star Wars stories. They are from different publications, but are effectively a pair since they discuss different aspects of the same upcoming park attraction(s).
- Travel and Leisure: “Disney Is Making a New Star Wars Ride — and It’s Unlike Anything You’ve Ever Seen Before”.
For Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which will open with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort in summer 2019 and Walt Disney World Resort in fall 2019, Disney has reconsidered the entire concept of a ride. The old conceit of waiting in line, boarding a vehicle, and having a few minutes of high-octane fun are long gone, as this new experience, which will be one of Disney’s longest ever, puts riders in Rey, Luke, and Leia’s shoes as they face the greatest challenge of all: the First Order.
- Popular Mechanics: “Meet the A1000, the Advanced Animatronic Bringing Disney’s Star Wars Theme Park To Life”.
Glendale, California isn’t exactly in a galaxy far, far away, but it’s here inside a beige building where Star Wars characters are brought to life.
Within its nondescript walls, safe from the unseasonably chilly February day swirling outside, all eyes are on Hondo Ohnaka, a scheming pirate from Star Wars: Rebels. His head bobs up and down, shaking his long green alien braids. His foot appears to step forward, rattling his bronze belt. His mouth curls into a wide smile before devolving into a deep belly laugh.
For a split second, it seems that this colorful, horns-for-a-beard alien is flesh and blood. But Hondo is actually a Disney audio-animatronic, one of the most advanced ever built, and he’s getting ready for his debut at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. He’s performing what’s known as “cycling,” going through its predetermined movements for 120 hours before installation at one of Disney’s theme parks.
(17) X MARKS THE SPOT. Dark Phoenix comes to theaters June 7.
In DARK PHOENIX, the X-MEN face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Dann, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lexica.]