(1) COGITO ECO SUM. In “Jeff VanderMeer Talks Noir, Suspense, and His New Eco-Thriller With Meg Gardiner” at CrimeReads Gardiner interviews VanderMeer about his new novel Hummingbird Salamander, which he says is a thriller set “ten minutes into the future.”
MG: You’re known as a speculative fiction writer—science fiction, fantasy, the weird. Hummingbird Salamander, though, is grounded in the present day-ish world. It doesn’t include supernatural elements. It does contain plenty of suspense and action, and draws us into mysteries that revolve around traumatic loss—of family, ecologies, maybe the world. How do you describe this book?
JV: That’s true, but at the same time the Southern Reach trilogy, for example, was set in the real world and the real challenge there was character relationships, how to unfold the mystery—all of the usual stuff in non-speculative books. So I see the “weird” element in Hummingbird Salamander as being about how dysfunctional and strange our reality has become. Sometimes I describe the novel as a thriller-mystery set ten seconds into the future, or as traveling through our present into the near future. Readers should expect a lot of the dark absurdity and environmental themes as well as the usual thing—that I tend to write “messy” protagonists who don’t easily fit into the world around them. The fact is, our reality with its conspiracy paranoia and all the rest tends to affect our fiction, too. So that the present-day is science fiction.
(2) BAFTA GOTY NOMINEES. The BAFTA EE Game of the Year Award Nominees 2021 have been released. The EE Game of the Year Award is the only category at this year’s British Academy Games Awards voted for by the public. This new award recognizes the fans’ favorite game from the past year. These are the nominees:
(3) FOUR CENTURIES OF YOLEN. “’Owl Moon’ author Jane Yolen looks back at 400 books”. The article is behind a Boston Globe paywall, but what the heck, let’s celebrate!
Her 400th publishes March 2 — and she’s got 30 more in the works
By Lauren Daley Globe Correspondent
(4) BY NO MEANS THE LAST. Peter White, in “’Avatar: The Last Airbender’ To Expand With Launch Of Avatar Studios” at Deadline, says Nickelodeon is launching Avatar Studios to produce a lot of animated content following the continuing success of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, which follows the adventures of the main protagonist Aang and his friends, who must save the world by defeating Fire Lord Ozai and ending the destructive war with the Fire Nation, aired for three seasons between 2005 and 2008.It was followed by The Legend of Korra, which launched on Nickelodeon in 2012 and ran for four seasons.
The property has subsequently been translated into a ongoing graphic novel series written by TV series co-creator DiMartino, a live-action feature film starring Dev Patel and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and Netflix is making a live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series, albeit without the involvement of Dante DiMartino and Konietzko.
“Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra have grown at least ten-fold in popularity since their original hit runs on Nickelodeon…” said Brian Robbins, President, ViacomCBS Kids & Family.
(5) MONOPOLY MONEY. The New York Times contemplates “What Happens When a Publisher Becomes a Megapublisher?”
…Perhaps the industry’s biggest concern about the merger, especially among agents and authors, is what it will mean for book deals. An agent representing a promising author or buzzworthy book often hopes to auction it to the highest bidder. If there are fewer buyers, will it be harder for agents to get an auction going for their clients, and ultimately, will it be harder for authors to get an advantageous deal?
Penguin Random House operates about 95 imprints in the United States, like Vintage Books, Crown Publishing Group and Viking, and these imprints are allowed to bid against one another, as long as another publisher is bidding as well. If the third party drops out, the bidding stops, and the author selects an imprint from within Penguin Random House in what the industry likes to call a “beauty contest.”
A spokeswoman for Penguin Random House said the practice of allowing imprints to compete would continue but that it was too early to say whether Simon & Schuster and its imprints would still count as a third party. Some publishers only offer house bids and do not allow internal competition….
Booksellers are concerned, too:
Penguin Random House has worked closely with independent booksellers during the pandemic, offering flexible or deferred payments to help them through such a challenging year. Still, some are anxious about narrowing competition in a world where their choices are already constricted. Gayle Shanks, one of the owners of Changing Hands bookstores in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., said that while Penguin Random House has been supportive of independent bookstores, she worries that with fewer big publishers to work with, she’ll have less leverage and opportunity to negotiate.
(6) ROBOCOP STATUE. Its kneecaps alone weigh 25 pounds apiece! “A decade later, Detroit’s crowdfunded RoboCop statue is finally complete — but still awaiting a final home” reports the Detroit Metro Times. “The statue, in the coming weeks, will be moved into storage, awaiting its new home — though it will no longer be the Michigan Science Center.”
…10 years ago this month, some wag tweeted at Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that Detroit needed a statue of RoboCop. The reason: Philadelphia had a statue of Rocky, and RoboCop “would kick Rocky’s butt.”
The post lit up social networking, prompting the creation of a fan page blaring “Detroit Needs a RoboCop Statue.” It gave hundreds of people something to like, to laugh about, or even to scorn.
“Within 24 hours, it went viral,” Walley says. “And I don’t remember whether I called Jerry or Jerry called me, but a light bulb went off. We were like, ‘Whoa, we could really create a big buzz and gain a lot of attention for what we’re doing. We might be able to take it to the next level!”
Their instincts hit instant pay dirt: Within three days, their crowdfunding appeal for funding a statue of RoboCop had raised more than $17,000 from more than 900 backers worldwide. Heck, soon Funny or Die released a video of RoboCop lead actor Peter Weller riffing on the project. By the time the funding drive was over six weeks later, more than 2,700 backers had pledged more than $65,000.
…On the east side of Detroit, in a small cinderblock building across the road from a major auto parts supplier, work continues on the RoboCop statue. On this chilly winter afternoon, Venus Bronze Works honcho Giorgio Gikas is busy coaching his crew through final assembly at his shop.
Gikas is the very picture of a European metalworker. Stocky and stout, and adorned with tattoos, he wears his hair short on the sides and back, long on top, pulled back into a ponytail. He speaks in an accented, raspy voice in Hemingway sentences that pull no punches. Mention a Detroit art name to him and he’ll give you his honest estimation — without the sugar on top. Gikas has a right to his opinion — he is the only outdoor sculpture conservator in Michigan who does museum-quality work.
The sixtysomething has been working on RoboCop for six or seven years, including the time he spent fighting colon cancer. The malignancy left him in bed for a year and a half, in no condition to do anything.
“I’m clean now, got everything taken care of,” he says, then looks over at the statue and adds, “and it’s still here.”…
(7) PEOPLE OF THE (FUTURISTIC) BOOK. Next Thursday, March 4 at 7:00 ET, Michael A. Burstein, Valerie Frankel, and Steven H Silver will be discussing “What it means when we say something is Jewish Science Fiction” as part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s programming in support of their Jews in Space Exhibit. More information and the registration page can be found at “People of the (Futuristic) Book”. Ticket prices are free, $5, $25, or $50.
(8) TREK + TREK = PARAMOUNT PLUS. “Paramount+ Releases Expanding Star Trek Universe Sizzle Reel” – Comicbook.com sets the frame.
When Paramount+ launches on March 4th, it will become the streaming home of every classic Star Trek series in its entirety — Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise — plus the first three seasons of Star Trek: Discovery and the first season of Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks. Each of those newer series will return for more episodes. Discovery spinoff Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is in production and Kurtzman has said that he has years of new Star Trek planned….
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born February 25, 1909 — Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years or so of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1976.) (CE)
- Born February 25, 1917 – Rex Gordon. Nine novels for us, a dozen others, some under other names. Radio operator on passenger and merchant ships during World War II; one was sunk. (Died 1998) [JH]
- Born February 25, 1917 — Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film. I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.) (CE)
- Born February 25, 1930 – Frank Denton, age 91. His fanzine Ash-Wing drew Grant Canfield, Terry Jeeves, Andy Porter, Lisa Tuttle; here is AW 14 (Jim Garrison cover). Co-founder of Slanapa. Fan Guest of Honor at MileHiCon 6, Westercon 30, MosCon II, Rustycon 7. The Great Haiku Shoot-Out with Mike Horvat. [JH]
- Born February 25, 1943 – Jean Weber, age 78. Of the twenty-year fanzine WeberWoman’s Wrevenge. GUFF delegate (Get Up and over Fan Fund when northbound, Going Under Fan Fund southbound) with Eric Lindsay, published Jean and Eric ’Avalook at the U.K. (this link might let you download a PDF). Guest of Honour at Circulation IV. [JH]
- Born February 25, 1949 – Wiktor Bukato, age 72. Author, publisher, translator of Anderson, Clarke, Ellison, Sturgeon, Weinbaum, White. Here is Science Fiction Art (sztuka is art in Polish). Three Silesian Fantasy Club Awards as Publisher of the Year. Co-ordinator of Eurocon 1991. Big Heart (our highest service award). [JH]
- Born February 25, 1957 — Tanya Huff, 64. Her now-concluded Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me though it’s probably not quite good enough to a Hugo worthy series. And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series which might be. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend. (CE)
- Born February 25, 1968 — A. M. Dellamonica, 53. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short since the Eighties. Their first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but they now have five novels published with the latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Their story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
- Born February 25, 1970 – Robert Price, age 51. Learned Cantonese as a teenager, got a Chinese Studies M.A. in Germany, wrote Space to Create in Chinese SF; here is his cover; here is a 2017 interview. [JH]
- Born February 25, 1984 – Susan Dennard, age 37. Studied marine biology around the world, but forwent a Ph.D. to write. Half a dozen novels (two of them NY Times Best-Sellers), two novellas. After marrying a Frenchman, settled in the U.S. Midwest; two dogs named Asimov and Princess Leia, two cats. Likes karate and gluten-free cookies. [JH]
- Born February 25, 1985 — Talulah Riley, 36. Miss Evangelista in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, two most excellent Tenth Doctor stories. She also portrays Angela in the Westworld series, and she shows up in Thor: The Dark World as an Asgardian nurse. And she’s Gina Gartison in Bloodshot, the Van Diesel fronted Valiant Comics superhero film. Anyone seen the latter? (CE)
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro shares advice from an Avenger.
(11) OCEAN’S ARMY. Netflix dropped a trailer for Army of the Dead, a Zack Snyder movie about zombies smashing Las Vegas.
Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.
(12) TODAY’S THING NOT TO WORRY ABOUT. Did you hear about the controversy over whether Hasbro is “cancelling” Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head and replacing them with unisex Potato Head? Hasbro says this isn’t happening and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head will continue as separate characters.
(13) BRUNNER IN PERSPECTIVE. “Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Society of Time by John Brunner” at Locus Online includes an interesting overview of Brunner’s career.
… But on the other hand, now that we have passed the 25th anniversary of his death, the personal details of his life—the mortal horrors and human mundanities—recede somewhat from the foreground of his biography, and the mountain ranges of his books remain. Thus it is with every writer, great and small, in their posthumous days. And so we can now see that Brunner’s life was, using this perspective, consequential and victorious, not an unmodified tragedy at all. He left monuments. For one brief span—from 1968’s Stand on Zanzibar to 1975’s The Shockwave Rider—Brunner was on fire, tapped into the zeitgeist and channeling his speculations into brilliant novels that remain eerily prophetic and impactful today. If you read The Sheep Look Up (1972) in 2021, you’ll think it’s a newly written post-mortem on our current sad state of affairs….
(14) IT WAS MIDNIGHT ON THE SEA. In “More Than a Hundred Years Later, the Sinking of the Titanic Still Matters” on CrimeReads, sf author Alma Katsu discusses her new novel The Deep, her take on the Titanic disaster.
…As the Titanic goes to show, it is easy for humans to cling to denial when faced with existential threats like spiraling poverty and consolidation of power by elites. How does one prepare for doomsday? Is it so unexpected that many would prefer to believe the lies and would refuse to see the iceberg until chunks of it came crashing onto the deck?
(15) BOG STANDARD. This Mental Floss post certainly lives up to its title: “11 Incredible Things Found in Bogs”.
2. FRANKENSTEIN BODIES
Archaeologists know that prehistoric people knew about bogs’ preserving properties not just because of the butter, but also because of a pair of extremely cool—and extremely weird—skeletons known as the Cladh Hallan bodies. Found beneath the floor of a house in a small village in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, these two bodies were buried sometime around the year 1000 BCE. It wasn’t unusual for ancient people to bury their ancestors beneath their homes. What was odd, however, was the fact that the bodies were hundreds of years older than the house itself. The island’s early inhabitants had mummified the corpses by stashing them in a bog for several months before burying them in their new location.
It gets even weirder. On closer examination, archaeologists discovered that each skeleton was a mishmash of bones from three different individuals, making a total of six bodies. The matching was done so well, it only turned up during a DNA test.
(16) THE NEXT GENERATION. Satirical news site The Onion offers up this gem: “NASA Welcomes Litter Of Mars Rovers After Successful Breeding Of Perseverance, Curiosity”. They write:
It will be months before these little guys can open up their image sensors and begin rolling around on their own, but once they do, their mother will teach them how to collect samples and analyze soil composition.
…Country-for-country, the cats have it. We found 91 countries with more cat posts than dog posts on Instagram, and just 76 the other way around. Cat-lover territory includes the huge territories of Canada (52.3% of cat or dog photos are cats), China (88.2% cats), and Russia (64% cats).
The dogs take more continents, though. Dog posts outweigh cat posts across North and South America, Oceania, and Africa, while the cats take just Europe and Asia. The most fervently dog-loving city is Morpeth in North East England. Morpeth has the highest number of dog posts among the 58 cities that are 100% pro-dog. Hoofddorp in the west of the Netherlands is the most emphatically pro-cat city.
(18) THROWBACK THURSDAY. In case you thought the TV show had an original story.
[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Christian Brunschen, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]