China’s most prestigious science fiction novelist revealed that a lot of his work was written during work hours at a state-owned power plant, sparking debate about the level of slack in the nation’s vast state sector.
The comments from Liu Cixin, seen as China’s equivalent to Arthur C. Clarke, come from a 2015 interview that began circulating widely on social media recently after the film Wandering Earth, which is based on one of his novellas, took in 2 billion yuan ($300 million) in just a week.
“Everyone was sitting in front of a computer, and nobody knew what anyone else was doing,” Liu said in the interview. “You have to be in the office. But when you’re there, you are free to write.”
Liu worked as a software engineer at a power plant in Shanxi
province from the 1980s and identified himself a worker there in interviews until as late
But on Tuesday, the writer told the state-run Global Times that there’s “no time to write while on duty,” while also admitting that on rare occasions he would write on his office computer. “As an engineer at a grassroots power station, there’s constant work. Where is the time to write?” he said.
And officials also
jumped in to do damage control, crediting themselves for making changes that are
already taking effect:
On Monday, China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission also stepped in to address Liu’s comments on company culture at state-owned enterprises. Liu worked at the power station in Shanxi until 2014, two years after the company’s reforms.
“Mr. Liu, this phenomenon you mentioned — more workers than available work — is exactly why we are deepening reforms,” the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission said via Weibo. “The reforms are good, so the enterprises can focus on their business, and you can focus on writing novels.”
Fans long ago discovered that one worker sitting in front of a computer typing looks like any other, as long as you’re not reading over his shoulder. But they also discovered a second truth which seems to have escaped the Hugo-winning author — that if you brag about what you’re really doing, then you get in big trouble.
THORNTON: Would you like to introduce yourself to our audience?
JASON HELLER: I’m
a writer, editor, and musician from Denver. I do lots of writing about music
and books, including reviews and essay for The
New Yorker, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and NPR. I’m also the former nonfiction
editor for Clarkesworld, and I won a
Hugo as part of that editing team in 2013.
Since then, I’ve edited a couple of fiction anthologies,
most recently Mechanical Animals with
Selena Chambers. I’ve been playing in bands for many years, and my current band
is called Weathered Statues. We just toured Europe last fall, and it was pretty
amazing to get up from behind the writing desk and hit the road with my guitar!
What inspired you to write a book about the relationship between SF/F and
JASON HELLER: My
first concert was seeing David Bowie in 1987, and at that point, I was already
a huge fan of science fiction. I devoured books and music as a kid, and the
deeper I got into Bowie, the more I began to pick up on these hints and
fragments of futurism and science fiction in the music I heard on the radio,
including bands like Rush, Devo, and Parliament.
Years later, after becoming a professional music journalist,
I began writing lots of essays about the crossover between my two biggest
loves, and in 2015 I started shopping around a book proposal for a history of
this crossover. When Bowie died in 2016, I was already in the midst of writing Strange Stars. He was always going to be
the central figure in the book, so that heartbreaking loss lit an extra fire
Basically, I’ve always thought that music has never been
given due credit for being one of the most fertile and inventive vessels for
science fiction concepts and storytelling. In a nutshell, I wanted to set the
record straight and show how so many works of popular music should be
considered part of the science fiction canon.
What kind of audience do you envision for the book?
JASON HELLER: I
hope that anyone remotely interested in the realms of science fiction or
popular music would find something to float their boat in Strange Stars. I tried to walk the pathway between the two as
sensitively as I could; I didn’t want to assume that all science fiction lovers
are huge music nerds or vice versa (although, of course, many are, myself
Of course, I hoped my fellow Bowie fans would be
particularly intrigued, but the book is not about Bowie only. Everything from
obscure disco to underground punk is covered in Strange Stars, along with the huge artists you might automatically
expect, such as Pink Floyd and Rush. I made every attempt to tease out to the
bigger picture, the overall narrative arc, that connects everything from
Heinlein to Kraftwerk to Star Wars,
so there’s a story to be absorbed, not just a guide to great music for people
THORNTON: How did you decide to use David Bowie’s career as a recurring
theme in Strange Stars?
JASON HELLER: If
all the musicians who were influenced by science fiction in the ’70s, David
Bowie was the most visible, not to mention the most visibly science-fictional.
But more than that, his very influential contributions to science-fiction music
bookended that decade perfectly; he released his first science-fiction hit
single, “Space Oddity,” in 1969, and he released “Ashes to
Ashes,” the sequel to “Space Oddity,” in 1980. The ’70s fit
perfectly between those songs, and as it turns out, Bowie’s on-off fascination
and engagement with science fiction that decade perfectly paralleled so many
larger events and trends that were happening in both science and science
fiction, as well as in popular music. To use him as the barometer of science
fiction rock in the ’70s just felt like the most natural thing I could do.
Almost all roads in science fiction music lead either to or from Bowie in the
THORNTON: What was it like to work with editors on a book about the
intersection of two minutiae-oriented pop cultures?
JASON HELLER: I
loved working with my editor at Melville House, Ryan Harrington, who is not
only brilliant but also very good at pointing out how my crazy, sprawling idea
for a book could be focused into something tighter and more accessible. He
helped me immensely when it came to making Strange
Stars a book that both music fans and science fiction fans could relate to.
ROB THORNTON: Who was your favorite interview for Strange Stars and why?
JASON HELLER: I
actually didn’t interview anyone for Strange
Stars! It was all meticulous and exhausting research, including lots of
quotes from past interviews with the musicians I covered in the book. Since
Bowie died while I was in the process of writing Strange Stars, the possibility of interviewing him was sadly off
the table. I figured if I couldn’t interview the main person in this book, it
would feel imbalanced if I interviewed many of the lesser figures in my
narrative, as important as they each are in their own right.
And it turned out there was simply no shortage of research
material out there! As it is, I had to leave out tons of great quotes and
anecdotes that weren’t entirely necessary to the story I was telling. If I’d
had another few tens of thousands of words of original interview material to
incorporate into Strange Stars, it
would have vastly exceeded the wordcount my publisher gave me to work with! But
I think everything worked out for the best.
What was the most rewarding audio discovery you made while you were writing the
JASON HELLER: I
made so, so many discoveries while working on Strange Stars. I went into this project thinking I had a pretty
deep knowledge of science-fiction-influenced music, but as it turned out, I
knew maybe half the story. Of all the musical rabbitholes I went down while
researching for the book, the one that delighted me the most was science
fiction funk. I’d always known that funk (and disco) were important parts of my
story, and I collect funk and disco records from the ’70s, but none of that
prepared me for the wealth of groups and artists of the era who contributed to
the canon of science-fiction funk, besides the big names we all probably know
If I had to pick a favorite discovery, it would be the 1979
song “Dark Vader” by Instant Funk. In it, the story of Darth Vader is
retold from a sympathetic perspective — remember, this was before the
revelations about his character seen a year later in The Empire Strikes Back! — that folds Star Wars fanfic and blaxploitation swagger into Afrofuturism. As I
point out in Strange Stars, the song
does for Darth Vader what Wicked did
for The Wicked Witch of the West decades later.
THORNTON: What surprised you the most during the research for Strange Stars? I was amazed to learn
that Ian Curtis wanted to work with Michael Moorcock!
JASON HELLER: That
was definitely one of the biggest surprises to me too! It’s hard to imagine
what a collaboration between Joy Division and Michael Moorcock would have
sounded like, but it’s amazing just to know they actually conversed about the
prospect prior to Curtis’ death in 1980. Joy Division are so deeply associated
with the bleak futurism (no-futurism?) of the post-punk movement, and Moorcock
resides at the other end of the ’70s science-fiction-music spectrum thanks to
his close ties to Hawkwind.
The kinship between Curtis and Moorcock is one of those
startling little anecdotes I dug up that really tied so much of Strange Stars together for me. Likewise,
so did the discovery that Paul McCartney asked Gene Roddenberry to help him
write a science fiction musical for Wings in 1975! It never came about, of
course, but wow, if only.
THORNTON: How would you describe the relationship between popular music and
JASON HELLER: It’s
an interesting relationship. Neither popular music nor science fiction/fantasy
acknowledge each other that openly. Crossovers pop up all the time — and as I
detail in Strange Stars, they were
especially rife in the ’70s — but there’s almost an introvert/extrovert
dichotomy the two. That’s a massive oversimplification, but I think it does get
to the heart of it, in a way.
Music is an openly joyous and collective thing; SF/F, and literature in general, is more intimately and personally experienced. But when the two feed off each other, the results can bring out the best in both. I’ve always wished the SF/F world in particular would pay more attention to the many musicians who struggle to find an audience with their science-fiction music, but I’m just happy people still make such music and pay attention to its rich history at all. Which is why writing Strange Stars was such an honor for me.
(1) FANTASY LIST. ReedsyDiscovery offers its list of “The 100 Best Fantasy Series Ever”. It’s in alphabetical order by title – I was briefly worried, because if somebody wanted to put A Song of Ice and Fire in first place for some reason that could make sense, but it took me a moment to understand why Lord of the Rings was down around number 60.
I’ve read a dozen of these – you’re bound to do better!
The other day, Victor LaValle, a Queens-born author who employs the form of the fairy tale as a barbed hook to lure readers into serious treatments of race, parenting, and the internet, ordered dim sum with Marlon James, a Jamaican author of sweeping social epics that delight in challenging all the conventions of narrative. Both have book projects out this week. Black Leopard, Red Wolfis James’s highly anticipated follow-up to the Man Booker Prize–winning A Brief History of Seven Killings. LaValle has co-edited a new speculative anthology, A People’s Future of the United States, prompting 25 of today’s biggest SFF writers to contemplate the future — and dark present — of the country….
MJ: I gotta say, that’s maybe the first time anybody’s ever mentioned that I write about sex. I actually kinda screamed.
VL: Did you feel all right with me talking about that aspect of it?
MJ: Absolutely! I don’t mind people writing about the violence, but it tends to be all they write about.
VL: For a black writer writing about gangsters, violence is almost the go-to. But sex is absolutely a part of your work in such a big and vital way, as another form of — not just violence but as communion, communication. I was talking about this with my wife, and she pointed out that none of the reviews of your last book mentioned sex at all. So as I was reading this one, I was like, It’s here, too. I just need to say, people should talk about sex.
MJ: Literary realism has this sort of indie-film attitude toward sex. Violence is violent, but sex isn’t sexy. It’s compulsive; nobody’s happy; they enjoy the cigarette way more than the sex. Sometimes I read these novels, none of which I’ll name, and I go, It’s not that hard to enjoy sex, people.
(3) KLAGES INTERVIEW. Juliette
Wade and her team take another Dive Into
Worldbuilding with “Ellen
Klages and Passing Strange”. See the interview in video (below) or
read the synopsis at the link.
I asked Ellen what had been the initial seed of this novella. As it turns out, the novella has a very long history! Ellen told us that she started writing a novel or a short story or something in 1977 when she was 22 or 23, and had just moved to San Francisco, and just figured out that she was queer. She ended up wandering around a lot, learning about Mona’s and many of the other locations that appear in the novella. She did a lot of research and did what she described as cosplaying Haskel and Netterfield with her love of the time. She told us she thought it would be a novel. She had four scenes typed, and would read the scenes every few years and say to herself, “Damn, I should do something with that.”
Then, years later, Jonathan Strand asked her for a novella for Tor.com. By that point, Ellen says, she had four or five folders full of notes and photographs put together from all her years of research. At that point she did 3 1/2 more months of research before writing. She read about a dozen books on Chinatown. She said she started there because it was “the thing I knew I had to get right.” She filled eighty pages with notes, most of which didn’t get used. One page, which she showed us on video, was filled with Haskel’s signature. She explored the gay and lesbian historical archives about Mona’s.
Three of the characters in the story, Babs, Polly, and Franny, have appeared in other works of Ellen’s fiction. In “Out of Left Field,” Babs and Franny appear as relatives of the main characters. Polly appears in “Hey, Presto!” and Franny in “Caligo Lane.”
A chance discovery, hidden away in a series of 16th-century books deep in the archive of Bristol Central Library, has revealed original manuscript fragments from the Middle Ages which tell part of the story of Merlin the magician, one of the most famous characters from Arthurian legend.
Academics from the Universities of Bristol and Durham are now analysing the seven parchment fragments which are thought to come from the Old French sequence of texts known as the Vulgate Cycle or Lancelot-Grail Cycle, dating back to the 13th century.
Parts of the Vulgate Cycle were probably used by Sir Thomas Malory (1415-1471) as a source for his Le Morte D’Arthur (published in 1485 by William Caxton) which is itself the main source text for many modern retellings of the Arthurian legend in English, but no one version known so far has proven to be exactly alike with what he appears to have used.
(5) ONE FOR THE FILES. Colette
H. Fozard, Co-Chair
of the DC in 2021 Worldcon bid, writes:
I wanted to let you know that we made our bid filing with Dublin 2019 Site Selection and it has been accepted as complete by the Site Selection Administrator.
(6) ANNIE BELLET 10 YEARS IN SFF.
Celebratory thread starts here.
(7) EMSHWILLER OBIT. Author
Carol Emshwiller (1921-2019), winner of World
Fantasy Con’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2005) has died. The SFWA Blog has an
Author Carol Emshwiller (b.Carol Fries, April 12, 1921) died on February 2nd, 2019. Ms. Emshwiller began publishing science fiction in 1954, with the story “Built for Pleasure.” Emshwiller built a reputation as a short fiction author and Ursula Le Guin said that she had “one of the strongest, most complex, most consistently feminist voices in fiction.”
…SFWA President Cat Rambo remembers,
Carol Emshwiller was one of the greats of short story writing, right up there with Grace Paley, James Tiptree Jr., Ursula K. Le Guin, and R.A. Lafferty, and she pushed its edges in order to do amazing, delightful, and illuminating things–just as she did with her longer work. As a short story lover, I am gutted by this loss to the writing community and plan to spend part of today re-reading Report to the Men’s Club and Other Stories, with its beautifully incisive and unflinching stories.
from Melissa C. Beckman shows the author in front of a portrait of her painted
by her late husband Ed Emshwiller.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 5, 1904 – William S. Burroughs. I’m going to confess that I’ve read nothing by him so everything I know about I’ve absorbed by reading about him and seeing his fiction turned into films. So though ISFDB lists a number of his works as SF, I’ve not a clue what they’re like. So educate me please. (Died 1997.)
Born February 5, 1922 – Peter Leslie. Writer in a number of media franchises including The Avengers, The New Avengers (and yes they are different franchises), The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. ISFDB also lists has writing in the Father Hayes series but I don’t recognize that series. (Died 2007.)
Born February 5, 1934 – Malcolm Willits, 95. Author of The Wonderful Edison Time Machine: A Celebration of Life and Shakespeare’s Cat: A Play in Three Acts which he filmed as Shakespeare’s Cat. He also co-edited Destiny, an early Fifties fanzine with Jim Bradley.
Born February 5, 1940 – H.R. Giger. Conceptual designer in whole or part for Aliens, Alien³, Species and Alien: Resurrection to name a few films he’s been involved in. Did you know there are two Giger Bars designed by him, both in Switzerland? And yes they’re really weird. (Died 2014.)
Born February 5, 1964 – Laura Linney, 55. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
(9) LEAPING V. LOOKING BEFORE.
Jason Heller tells other dreamers not to wait. His thread starts here.
A bunch of sff authors begged to differ.
(10) ON THE RADIO. Genre
was shut out at the BBC
Audio Drama Awards 2019 but there’s the link in case you want to see
the results. However, the winner in the Best Actress category is known to fans
from her work on Torchwood.
WINNER: Eve Myles, 19 Weeks, director Helen Perry, BBC Cymru Wales, BBC Radio 4
(11) KLINGON CUTLERY. Police in Northwest England raided the home of a teenager
and seized a cache of weapons including one that was … more esoteric. The BBC
reports “A replica of a weapon wielded by a race of alien warriors in the
sci-fi TV show Star Trek has been seized by police from a 17-year-old boy’s
bedroom.” They did not, however find a ChonnaQ or D’k
tahg. “Star Trek Klingon blade seized from Widnes teen’s
When she found her way into science fiction and fantasy, those genres turned out to be well suited to her imagination, her curiosity, and her subversive suspicion that man was not the measure of all things. From the very beginning, in interviews and essays, Le Guin championed science fiction’s literary value. She did it most memorably in a 2014 speech when she accepted the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (or what writer China Miéville in the documentary calls “the welcome-to-the-canon award”). In that speech, she described herself and her colleagues as “realists of a larger reality.”
STX Entertainment has unveiled the second trailer for its animated UglyDolls movie via The Ellen Show, and the message of what looks to be a Trolls redo is actually very resonant for us all: Don’t shy away from what makes you different; embrace it.
The new trailer also explains where the singing UglyDolls come from — they’re factory rejects compared to the “normal” dolls of our world, and are left discarded in a town all their own. They’re all pretty much happy until a renegade by the name of Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson) wants to explore the wider world and find the kid who will love her. Along with her friends, Moxy will travel to the Institute of Perfection, which pairs dolls with humans.
JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Juliette Wade, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, John King
Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, rcade, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl
Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to
File 770 contributing editor of the day microtherion.]
(1) SPECTRUM 24 CALL FOR ENTRIES. John Fleskes, Spectrum Director, has issued an invitation for professional and student artists, art directors, publishers and artists’ representatives to submit entries to the 24th Annual Spectrum International Competition for Fantastic Art.
All artworks in all media embracing the themes of science fiction, fantasy, horror and the surreal are eligible for this show. Fantastic art can be subtle or obvious, traditional or off-the-wall, painted, sculpted, done digitally or photographed: There is no unacceptable way to create art, and there are no set rules that say one piece qualifies while another does not. Imagination and skill are what matters. Work chosen by the jury will be printed in full color in the Spectrum annual, the peer-selected “best of the year” collection for the fantastic arts.
The Spectrum 24 jury is a five member panel of exceptional artists working in the industry today, Christian Alzmann, Laurie Lee Brom, Mark Newman, John Picacio and Victo Ngai.
“Spectrum represents such a rich visual history and standard of excellence for what we collectively dream in the fantastic art field,” states John Picacio. “I’ve always been grateful any time my work was selected for inclusion in the annual, and it’s a profound honor and responsibility to give back to the book this year as a juror.”
I’ll have more to report by the end of the month, when all the tests and biopsy results finally come in. But here’s what definite:
I do have a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, although they still don’t know exactly what type. (That’s what’s taking so long for the biopsy to be finished.) Once they know what kind it is, they’ll start me on a chemotherapy program.
Sadly, my hopes in the hospital that since the surgery had gone so well maybe the cancer was completely gone turned out to be childish delusions. (Which I suspected myself, but…) Lymphoma is what they call a systemic cancer, which means that surgery by itself can’t do anything but arrest the malignancy for a while and provide the material needed for a thorough biopsy. But to really fight lymphoma, you need chemotherapy.
The good news is that lymphoma generally responds well to chemo, and it’s not uncommon for people to be cured of the disease altogether. We’ll see what happens in my case, but even in the worst case scenario it looks as if I’ll have quite a few years to fend the cancer off.
However, he says frankly that after chemo he may live for years to come —
if you look at it the right way. I’ll be 70 in a month. I don’t have to fight off lymphona indefinitely. I just have to fight it off long enough for something else to bump me off.
(4) EYES WIDE WHAT? Myke Cole’s next tweet will explain how his stories are like radio except with no sound.
(5) HOMAGE. The late Gordon Archer did a lot of commercial art for Weetabix cereal involving Doctor Who, Star Trek, Asterix and other pop culture subjects which his son now has on display on a website. [Corrected, because Archer is still with us, as his son states in a comment below.]
Winnie the Pooh creator’s letter reflects moral dilemma of pacifists faced with rise of Hitler in interwar period
…The Milne letter has been retrieved from its vast collection of documents and reflects the conflict felt by many pacifists who had experienced the horrors of the first world war and earnestly hoped “never again”.
“It encapsulates the moral dilemma that a lot of pacifists had in the interwar period,” said curator Matt Brosnan. “Milne opposed war but increasingly saw Hitler and the Nazis as an evil that had to be met by force.”
In his letter, Milne declared himself a “practical pacifist”, writing: “I believe that war is a lesser evil than Hitlerism, I believe that Hitlerism must be killed before war can be killed.”
(7) KOWAL INTERVIEW IN LOCUS. An excerpt of Locus’ interview with Mary Robinette Kowal has been posted at Locus Online.
The moment I knew I was setting something during the First World War, I knew that darkness was going to be part of it, and that I would have to work really hard to keep the darkness from completely overwhelming Ghost Talkers. When you do any reading at all about the First World War, it becomes very clear why it made such a huge, permanent mark on Europe – and the US less so, because we were not directly touched by it. It wasn’t even the death tolls, because in England a lot of men actually came home, but everyone came home wounded in some way, either physically or emotionally. I read interview after interview of survivors saying, ‘I went over the top of the trench, and everyone in my platoon died. I don’t know why I lived.’ I knew going in that dealing with someone who deals with ghosts as her job, during WWI, would mean a darker book than people are used to from me. On the other hand, the last book in the Glamourist series, I jokingly refer to as ‘Regency Grimdark.’
But here’s where those voices have a point: if you wait till after you’ve put out your call for submissions to run around trying to fill in diversity slots for your anthology — you know, the “one of each so long as there aren’t too many of them” approach — you will more likely than not end up with a dog’s breakfast of a volume in which it’s clear that you selected writers for their optics, not their writing. That’s tokenism, not sound editorial practice. The time to be trying to make your anthology a diverse one is before submissions come in, not during or after.
On the other hand, if you just put your call for fiction out there and cross your fingers, you’ll end up with mostly the usual suspects. It’s not enough to simply open the door. Why? Because after centuries of exclusion and telling us we’re not good enough, an unlocked door is doing jack shit to let us know that anything’s changed. Most of us will continue to duck around it and keep moving, thank you very much. We’ll go where we know there are more people like us, or where there are editors who get what we’re doing.
So make up your mind that you’re going to have to do a bit of work, some outreach. It’s fun work, and the results are rewarding….
(9) RARA AVIS. Definitely not on my bucket list.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only Hugo Award winner to have once shoplifted an L. Ron Hubbard book.
Christensen saw himself not as the “fantasy artist” label given him, but rather as an artist who paints the fantastic.
“I paint things that are not real,” he told the Deseret News in 2008. “But fantasy often ventures into the dark and scary stuff. I made a decision long ago that I would not go to dark places. There’s a lot of negativity in the world. I try not to be part of it.”
His honors and awards include being named a Utah Art Treasure as well as one of Utah’s Top 100 Artists by the Springville Museum of Art and receiving the Governor’s Award for Art from the Utah Arts Council. He had won all the professional art honors given by the World Science Fiction Convention as well as multiple Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
Christensen had served as president of the National Academy of Fantastic Art, and he co-chaired the Mormon Arts Foundation with his wife, Carole.
Dave Doering paid tribute: “I loved this man. For various years he was our Artist GoH at LTUE but also quite well known in all fantasy art circles.”
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY
January 9, 1493 — On this date, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.”
(12) WORLDBUILDERS. At Tor.com, David Weber discusses five authors who he says are “great world-builders.” All five of the authors are women: Anne McCaffrey, Katherine Kurtz, Mercedes Lackey, Barbara Hambly, and Patricia McKillip:
“[McKillip] is, without a doubt, one of my two or three all-time favorite authors. When I first read The Riddle-Master of Hed in 1978, I immediately went out and found Heir of Sea and Fire and then waited impatiently for Harpist in the Wind. In many ways, the Riddle-Master’s world is less fully articulated than Pern or Gwynedd, but I think that’s because so much of the detail is cooking quietly away in the background behind the land rulers. There’s a sense of an entire consistent, coherent foundation and history/backstory behind all of it, but the struggles of Morgon, Raerdale, and Deth take front stage with an intensity that reaches out and grabs the reader by the shirt collar and shakes him or her to the bone. Patricia’s prose is absolutely gorgeous and evocative and her stories fully satisfy the deep love for the language my parents taught me as a very young reader. I literally don’t think it’s possible to over-recommend this series … and the rest of her stuff is pretty darn good, too.”
Saint Anthony of Padua’s the patron saint of Brazil, Portugal, pregnant women, and the elderly. He wears brown robes, and he usually holds baby Jesus and lilies. And – as one Brazilian woman discovered – a miniature figure of Santo Antônio also vaguely looks like Elrond, the elf lord of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings. Brazilian makeup artist Gabriela Brandao made the hilarious discovery last week and posted about it on Facebook for all to see. Brandao explained that her daughter’s great-grandmother prayed to the Elrond figurine daily, erroneously believing it was Santo Antônio.
(14) IMAGINARY HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. There is no such work, except in your mind:
(15) BRIANNA WU’S CAMPAIGN. She’s already gaining media attention in Boston.
Brianna Wu was at the center of “Gamer-Gate” and received some horrific threats over social media. But instead of keeping a low profile, she tells Jim why she’s now planning on running for Congress.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, Arnie Fenner, and Dave Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]
(1) SPEAKING OF FREE SCROLLS. R. Graeme Cameron will start a “SciFi Fiction Magazine” for Canadian writers if his GoFundMe appeal generates $1,500. Issues will be a free read.
When I was a teenager I decided I wanted to be a Science Fiction Writer. Fifty years later I’m a curmudgeonly pensioner who never sold a darn thing, not one novel, not one story. Del Rey books rejected one of my novels with the comment “We don’t like your main character and we don’t think anyone else will either.”
As a life-long beginning writer I know your pain. Always dreaming of that first sale. That’s why I’m starting up POLAR BOREAL, a Canadian SF&F fiction magazine actively encouraging beginning Canadian writers to submit short stories (3,000 words or less) and/or poems. The magazine will be free to anyone who wants to download it, yet all contributors will be paid on acceptance (if I can get the money) at one cent a word for short stories and $10 per poem.
(2) THE CLASSICS. Alexander Dane makes it sound like every day is Black Friday…
Our President, Philip Pullman, has resigned as a Patron of Oxford Literary Festival because they do not pay authors.
He explained his decision:
My position as President of the Society of Authors, which has been campaigning for fair payment for speakers at literary festivals, sat rather awkwardly with my position as Patron of the Oxford Literary Festival, because (despite urging from me and others over the years) it does not pay speakers. So I thought it was time I resigned as a Patron of the OLF.
The principle is very simple: a festival pays the people who supply the marquees, it pays the printers who print the brochure, it pays the rent for the lecture-halls and other places, it pays the people who run the administration and the publicity, it pays for the electricity it uses, it pays for the drinks and dinners it lays on: why is it that the authors, the very people at the centre of the whole thing, the only reason customers come along and buy their tickets in the first place, are the only ones who are expected to work for nothing?
(6) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. Y-3 creates spacesuits for Virgin Galactic pilots on world’s first commercial space flights
Not far from the Grand Canyon, near a landmark called Vulcan’s Throne, the ground is dotted with strange, barren circles, visible from orbit.
Evidence of an alien encounter? Nope. The likely culprit is actually ants — a lot of them. So many that the scientists who discovered them are referring to the area as “the Las Vegas of ants.”
Physicist Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a specialist in image processing and satellite imagery analysis at the Polytechnic University of Turin in Italy, noticed the bizarre polka- dot features while studying the dimensions of the Grand Canyon rim in Google Earth.
While they, apparently, are occupied with making Lego figures of us. It seems that is what they do when they are not obsessing over what they think we are thinking. Even in light of how poorly they anticipated me last time, it’s mildly amusing to see that they still don’t understand my perspective at all.
The Dread Ilk commenters, however, were more concerned that Vox get a “Hugo” trading card of his own, so Felapton reassured them in “Vox links to the Larry pic” —
Vox appeared in an earlier post and has a new figure in a couple of days – with a flaming sword no less!
So it looks like we won’t get to riff off Lucy’s “Was Beethoven ever on a bubblegum card?” after all.
(9) GRABTHAR’S HAMMER OF LOVING CORRECTION. Steve Davidson’s self-imposed moratorium on writing about Sad Puppies at Amazing Stories has ended in the only way it could. Here are a few salient paragraphs.
In moving forward, I believe it is important that the message sent last year be reinforced this year. We’ve already seen at least one author declaring that begging for votes is no longer a problem. If we do not want that mindset to take hold, we will continue to repudiate slate voting this year.
Fans who discover a loophole in the voting rules don’t seek personal advantage – they bring it to the attention of other fans and make proposals at the business meeting and generally use their new found knowledge for the benefit of the whole. (Or, if unhappy with the process, they go off and do their own thing, which is then rewarded or ignored based on the merit of the accomplishment, not a tally of internet one upsmanship points.) Hugo voting actions this year should send that message. Therefore –
I will be nominating and voting for the Hugo Awards this year in the same way I voted last year: I’ll read and watch and listen to everything I can on the final ballot, will vote my conscience and will make sure that any work that appears on a slate (a voting list with a political agenda behind it) will be below No Award and off the ballot.
(10) RATINGS TIME. Gregory N. Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank says:
We construct several different lists, using different assumptions, and urge fans to use our data to make their own lists, so I don’t think this amounts to a slate.
This should be fun reading for anyone who’s really into short fiction, since I don’t believe anyone has ever done this kind of analysis before.
If anyone feels to the contrary — there are any slate-like tendencies in play here — please share your analysis.
(11) WE ALL DREAM IN GOLD. Since we always try to cover Guillermo del Toro’s doings on File 770 whenever we can, John King Tarpinian was disgustipated (I think that’s the technical term) that I overlooked this golden opportunity in my post about the 2016 Oscar nominations.
Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Guillermo del Toro, John Krasinski and Ang Lee will announce the 88th Academy Awards® nominations in all 24 Oscar® categories at a special two-part live news conference on Thursday…
Why does misinformation spread so quickly on the social media? Why doesn’t it get corrected? When the truth is so easy to find, why do people accept falsehoods?
A new study focusing on Facebook users provides strong evidence that the explanation is confirmation bias: people’s tendency to seek out information that confirms their beliefs, and to ignore contrary information.
I thought so. Or is it just confirmation bias at work if I agree that Facebook lowers my IQ?
(13) FOREVER DIFFERENT. Tobias Carroll checked with “28 Authors on the Books That Changed Their Lives”. The New York Magazine article has contributions from SF authors Elizabeth Hand, Ken Liu, Cathrynne M. Valente, Kelly Link, Jeff VanderMeer, and Jo Walton, among others.
Maria Dahvana Headley, author of Magonia and The Year of Yes “This question is both easy and difficult! I grew up a very rural and very gluttonous reader, in Idaho, about ten miles outside a town of 500 people. Essentially, I spent my reading childhood playing with other people’s imaginary friends, and I’ve grown into the kind of writer who does the same thing. So, in that regard, everything I’ve ever read has been life-changing. The first massive Rock My World book, though, was Toni Morrison’sBeloved, which I read when I was 17. Not only was I clueless about race in America at that point, coming from where I came from, I was also clueless about living female genius writers. I didn’t know there were any. Up to that point, I’d read almost entirely white men. KA-BAM. I got blasted out of the universe of dead white boys, and into something much more magnificent. Morrison’s way of flawlessly entwining her haunting with her history left me dazzled, sobbing, and bewildered. Morrison is obviously a genre-leaping master of style, and reading her not only made me aware of what was possible as a writer, it led me to all of the poets, songwriters, playwrights, and librettists who continue to influence my work today.”
In its celebration of androgyny, glam also lined up with Ursula K. Le Guin’s visionary 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which takes place on an alien planet where transitions between genders are as routine as any other biological process—a concept that certainly resonates with Bowie’s aesthetic. “Androgynous sexuality and extraterrestrial origin seemed to have provided two different points of identification for Bowie fans,” notes Philip Auslander in Performing Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular Music. “Whereas some were taken with his womanliness, others were struck by his spaciness.”
As I walk through the valley with the sand so red
I take a look at my suit and realize that I’m not dead
’Cause I’ve been science-ing this shit for so long that
Even Houston thinks that my ass is gone…
[Thanks to Bret Grandrath, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Will R., and Nick Mamatas for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]