(1) ONE NEBULA VOTER’S PICKS. Sue Burke, author of 2019 Campbell Award finalist Semiosis, evaluates the Nebula short fiction nominees in two categories and tells what she voted for:
(2) FEARBUSTERS. Jasmin Gelick’s “PenPower Project” is a series of posts with input from well-known sff authors “designed to debunk the myths of writer’s block and all kinds of other writerly fears.” She’s releasing one a week. As part of the introductory post she commissioned artist Oscar Celestini to depict all the participants as superheroes — Sue Burke, Caitlin Starling, Tim Pratt, Yoon Ha Lee, Thoraiya Dyer, Anna Stephens, Eowyn Ivey, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kat Rocha, Martha Wells, John Langan, and Richard S. Ford. See them all here.
There’s also a post devoted to ”the Villain”, whatever writers worry about when starting a new story, or even when they’re in the middle and things aren’t coming together – the Villain gets a caricature, too.
These are the topics Gelick’s panelists have addressed so far:
- #PenPower Myth Debunk #1: Write Every Day – Gelick starts each post by defining the topic.
In order to answer the question ‘Do you need to write every day?’ and the perhaps even more poignant: ‘If you don’t write every day can you call yourself a writer at all?’ we’ll take a close look at each of the twelve writing superheroes’ writing process below.
- #PenPower Myth Debunk #2: I have to write FAST!
- #PenPower #3: Rules and Fear (How to beat your writerly worries)
- #PenPower Myth Debunk #4: I MUST outline
- #PenPower Myth Debunk #5: I must know everything before I start
- #PenPower Myth Debunk #6: Editing is scary!
- #PenPower Myth Debunk #7: The editing process is difficult!
- #PenPower Myth Debunk #8: Writing has to be scary and difficult!
About the last one, Yoon Ha Lee says –
YOON: Honestly, the planning is the most fun. Actually writing is kind of a chore because it goes on foreeeeeeever, and then revisions become fun again. Kind of like a sandwich? I like twisty chess plots, which are hard to pull off, so that aspect of Raven Stratagem was particularly satisfying.
(3) CATCHING UP TO SCIENCE FICTION. In the Washington Post, Gene Park looks at efforts by Epic Games (creator of Fortnite) and other video game developers to create the Metaverse, predicted by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash. Park thinks Roblox and Minecraft are on course “to create a shared, virtual space that’s persistently online and active, even without people logging in” and notes that it’s significant that Reporters Without Borders asked Minecraft to host a database of 12 million publicly censored documents. “Silicon Valley is racing to build the next version of the Internet. Fortnite might get there first.”
Conversation around a more tangible, actualized Internet seems only more pointed in light of our current shelter-in-place reality in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the past month, office culture has coalesced around video chat platforms like Zoom, while personal cultural milestones like weddings and graduations are being conducted in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The Metaverse not only seems realistic — it would probably be pretty useful right about now.
(4) STEEL PALMETTOS. NPR’s Petra Mayer asks about The Southern Club for Vampires in “Getting Some Blood On The Page: Questions For Grady Hendrix”.
Grady Hendrix’s new novel stars a group of determined women who confront a supernatural threat in their community — and while vampires aren’t real (as far as we know), Hendrix says The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires has its roots in his own real life.
“Getting some blood on the page is the only way I know how to write, so all my books are really personal,” he tells me in an email interview. “This one’s set in the neighborhood where I grew up, around the time I graduated from high school, and it’s the first time I’ve had to run a book past my family before publication because so many of our stories wound up in it. Fortunately I’ve fictionalized everything pretty heavily so no one had too many problems.”
…The way you depict the women at the center of the book is clearly affectionate, but in places I felt like it was edging a little into mockery … was that your intent? Tell me how you approached building these characters and their world.
I feel bad it seemed to edge into mockery — I take these ladies very seriously. They’re the women I grew up around, and I wanted to write about how I went from knowing them as a kid, when they seemed like a bunch of lightweight nobodies, to how I got to know them as adults, when I learned that they had dealt with all the ugly, difficult stuff so the rest of us wouldn’t have to. The choices these women had to make were hard, and they were never offered the easy option. Southern ladies are not cute and cuddly. They are tough, strong women who will mess you up. On the other hand, I grew up in Charleston and that world can sometimes seem over-the-top, where the condition of your yard or whether you served your guests on paper or china plates were referendums on the state of your soul. It seems silly in retrospect, but at the time it felt deadly serious. But, you know, in 30 years a lot of the things that feel like life or death to me now are going to feel like punchlines. Time tends to turn almost everything into comedy.
(5) UP ALL NIGHT. New York Times reviewer Ruth Franklin, in “Can’t Sleep? Let Stephen King Keep You Company”, touts the virtues of his new collection If It Bleeds.
…King has previously used the novella — that stepchild of literary forms, somehow at once both too much and not enough — for stories that skirt the edge of horror without sinking into it, such as “The Body,” the inspiration for the classic 1980s film “Stand by Me,” in which a group of boys on a camping trip are transformed less by their discovery of a corpse in the woods than by their first taste of autonomy. “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” the first story in the new collection, is a prime specimen in this category. It’s 2007, and Craig, on the cusp of adolescence, has a part-time job helping out wealthy, elderly Mr. Harrigan, a formal but kindly man who introduces him to “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and treats him to a scratch-off lottery ticket for his birthday and holidays. When one of those tickets wins a $3,000 jackpot, Craig shows his appreciation by buying Mr. Harrigan a first-model iPhone, the same one he just got for Christmas.
Initially skeptical, Mr. Harrigan is speedily seduced, just like the rest of us. “Are these numbers in real time?” he asks in wonder as Craig demonstrates the Stocks app. (In a line that perfectly characterizes the attachment, King writes that he caresses the phone “the way you might pat a small sleeping animal.”) But even as he grows dependent on the device, he recognizes its dangers: “It’s like a broken water main, one spewing information instead of water.” At Mr. Harrigan’s funeral, only a few months later, Craig tucks the man’s phone into the pocket of his suit jacket, a totem to accompany him into the afterlife. The uncanny events that ensue could be explained — possibly — by a technological glitch. But they are triggered by a human longing that anyone who has lost a loved one can understand: the desire to hear the departed person’s voice again, one of the many dubious consolations that technology now offers.
(6) THE DOMINOS ARE FALLING. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a lot to say about how bad the immediate future looks for the traditional publishing industry in “Business Musings: The Trainwreck”.
I’m sure you’ve all gotten the question lately: How are you going to survive as a writer with the crisis in the publishing industry? Every news outlet —well, at least every news outlet that reports news other than the latest virus statistics—has done at least one story on the decimation of the publishing industry.
And let me be honest here: The traditional publishing industry is in grave danger. Not of the kind of disruption it saw in 2009 with the Kindle and ebook reading, but of actual mergers, closures, consolidations, and complete lack of payment to all of its suppliers.
Brick-and-mortar bookstores are shut down, deemed non-essential. Just like libraries, also non-essential. Unlike libraries, which have pivoted to ebooks in a startling and amazing way, many bookstores have no online capability at all.
…There’s a shortage of paper, because it comes from China. The two largest printers of magazines and books in the U.S., Quad/Graphics and LSC Communications were going to merge last summer, but something got in the way. Now, LSC Communications has filed for bankruptcy. The second largest printer, Quad, has shut its book printing facilities entirely.
In some regions, major distributors have shut down or disappeared, while although others, like Ingram, are still operating, although with reduced staff.
Not that it matters, since most bookstores are closed, and not shipping books to their customers. To make matters worse, the books that are being delivered will remain in their boxes, only to be returned for full price credit when this crisis is over. That was a policy established to help bookstores in the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the policy never got changed afterwards.
When bookstores do reopen, they’ll need to send the books back, because they will have the same gap in their cash flow that the rest of us will have—or maybe worse. Many independent bookstores will not survive this crisis, because bookselling has always been a marginal business.
Audiobooks—the brightest light in the traditional publishing firmament—stopped selling when we all sheltered in place. According to Beth Meacham, an editor at Tor who gave an amazing report from the front lines at the beginning of April, commuters account for damn near 100% of audiobook sales, and since no one is driving, no one is listening to audiobooks. The sales didn’t just dry up. They stopped….
The excerpt stops here, however, Rusch is only just getting started on her list of all the industry’s troubles!
(7) DYNARSKI OBIT. Actor Gene Dynarski has died at the age of 86. The Hollywood Reporter’s review of his career mentions many genre roles.
Gene Dynarski, a character actor who appeared in Steven Spielberg’s Duel and Close Encounters of the Third Kind … has died. He was 86.
Dynarski died Feb. 27 in a rehabilitation center in Studio City, playwright Ernest Kearney announced.
The Brooklyn native also worked twice on the original Star Trek, as the miner Ben Childress on the 1966 episode “Mudd’s Women” and as Krodak, who represents a city up for Federation membership, on the 1969 installment “The Mark of Gideon.”
Dynarski was seen as Benedict, one of Egghead’s (Vincent Price) henchmen, on Batman in 1966, and on a 2000 episode of The X-Files, his character fell victim to a monstrous bat creature.
His résumé also included Earthquake (1974)…, among other TV series.
In the 1971 telefilm Duel, Dynarski was a trucker confronted in a roadside café by Dennis Weaver, who thinks he’s the murderous big-rig driver on his tail, and in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), he played the supervisor who sends out Richard Dreyfuss to investigate those mysterious blackouts.
Dynarski also portrayed Josef Stalin in the 1996 videogame Command & Conquer: Red Alert...
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Baptized April 26, 1564 — William Shakespeare.World’s greatest playwright and perhaps one of our earliest fantasy writers was baptized today. (Died 1616.)
- Born April 26, 1914 — H. L. Gold. Best known for launching Galaxy Science Fiction in 1950, soon followed by its companion fantasy magazine, Beyond Fantasy Fiction which lasted but a few years. He was not a prolific writer having but two novels, None but Lucifer with L. Sprague de Camp and A Matter of Form, plus a generous number of short stories. None but Lucifer didn’t see printing in novel form until 2002. H. L. Gold Resurrected: Selected Science Fiction Stories of H. L. Gold appears to be his only collection avail from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1996.)
- Born April 26, 1916 — Vic Perrin. Best remembered for being the Control Voice in the original version of The Outer Limits. He also, genre wise, was the Adventures of Superman, Mission: Impossible, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Twilight Zone, Buck Rogers in Twenty-Fifth Century and in three episodes of Star Trek including being the voice of Nomad. (Died 1989.)
- Born April 26, 1922 — A. E. van Vogt. Ok, I admit it’s been so long since I read him that I don’t clearly remember what I liked by him though I know I read Slan and The Weapon Makers. I am fascinated by the wiki page that noted Damon Knight took a strong dislike to his writing whereas Philip K. Dick and Paul Di Filippo defended him strongly. What do y’all think of him? (Died 2000.)
- Born April 26, 1943 — Bill Warren. American film historian, critic, and one of the leading authorities on science fiction, horror, and fantasy films. He co-wrote the murder mystery Fandom is a Way of Death set at 42nd World Science Fiction Convention which was hosted by many members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and which he and his wife were very much involved in. His 1968 short story “Death Is a Lonely Place” would be printed in the first issue of the magazine Worlds of Fantasy. During the Seventies, he also wrote scripts for Warren Publishing’s black-and-white comic books Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella. His film reference guide Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties would be revised and expanded several times. (Died 2016.)
- Born April 26, 1955 — Brad W. Foster, 65. A prolific cartoonist and fanzine cover artist, he won an amazing eight Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist! From 1987 to 1991. He was a regular contributing illustrator to the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. In 2008 he began producing illustrations for the newsletter Ansible, creating a full color version for the on-line edition, and a different black-and-white version for the print edition.
- Born April 26, 1961 — Joan Chen, 59. You’ll remember her from Twin Peaks universeas Jocelyn ‘Josie’ Packard, and probably less so as Ilsa Hayden in the first Judge Dredd film. I certainly don’t and I’ve watched that film multiple times She was Madame Ong in Avatar. No, not that film, this is a Singaporean sf film from twenty years back. And she was the very first customer on the quite short-lived Nightmare Cafe series.
(9) PICK UP YOUR PEN. San Diego Comic-Con’s Toucan encourages fans: “You Can Draw With Katie Cook 071: How to Draw How We’re All Feeling Right Now”.
(10) RADICAL READING ORDER. In the midst of her series of reviews about Kage Baker’s Company series, “Start with the Empress of Mars!” advises the Little Red Reviewer’s Andrea Johnson.
If you’ve been seeing my posts and thinking to yourself “jeez, when is she gonna shut up about this Company series, I don’t even know where to freakin’ start with these damn books”, you can start with The Empress of Mars!
ok, so I KNOW all the suggested reading orders put Empress of Mars near the end of the series, but you should read it near the beginning!!!
– It functions perfectly as a stand alone. Never read a Kage Baker before? start with Empress of Mars!
– omg it is HILARIOUS, like Anvil of the World hilarious. the bad translator scene? I was laughing so hard I drooled on myself.
– If you recognize some characters from elsewhere in the series, that’s ok, and if you don’t, that’s ok too. the book isn’t about those people anyway.
(11) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman and Sarah Pinsker appertained their own chow when they met virtually to record the Eating the Fantastic podcast’s one hundred twentieth episode.
Since restaurants began closing down and social distancing became the sensible thing to do for my health, the health of potential podcast guests, and the health of the herd, listeners have been suggesting I consider recording episodes of Eating the Fantastic remotely … and I’ve resisted. Because my purpose here is to share the magical, intimate, relaxed conversations which occur best when people are chatting face-to-face over a table filled with food. That’s why last episode, I ended up letting you ask me the questions.
But then it occurred to me — there’s one person on the planet — and only one — with whom I was willing to record remotely. And that person is Sarah Pinsker, my guest on Episode 1 of this podcast four years and two months ago. I intended to catch up with her in meatspace anyway all these years later, but suddenly it felt right for us to chat in cyberspace.
The reason I felt that way is due to her wonderful debut novel, A Song for A New Day, which was published in September 2019. It’s set in a near future where due to a terrorist attack and an accompanying pandemic, all mass gatherings are banned — no concerts, no sporting events, no ways for people to come together the way people have done since the beginning of time — and we’re instead only allowed to meet in VR. So meeting up with Sarah remotely made artistic and poetic sense — because it would almost be as if we were living in the world of her novel.
Since that first episode, Sarah’s short story collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea was published in March of last year by Small Beer Press. It includes many award-nominated and award-winning stories, including her Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” and her Nebula Award winner “Our Lady of the Open Road.” The collection as a whole was recently awarded the Philip K. Dick Award.
Her novel A Song for a New Day is currently a finalist for this year’s Nebula Award. She’s also a Hugo Award finalist for Best Novelette for “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye,” published last year in Uncanny Magazine.
We discussed how relieved she was her pandemic novel A Song for a New Day was published in 2019 rather than 2020, why she originally wrote that book in a song format (and why that had to change), how she loves being surprised by her own characters, why neither of us can bear listening to music while we write, the extremely scientific, color-coded process she came up with for organizing her first short story collection, how one of her favorite fictional tropes led to the creation of the original story she wrote specifically for that collection, why the thing that most interests her is the way people cope with what’s put in front of them rather than why those things happen, the reason she prefers leaving interpretations to readers rather than providing answers, her terrible habit when reading collections and anthologies, how she’s coping with the surreal feeling of living in the world of her novel, and much more.
(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. [Item by David Doering.] Do cosplays and comic cons violate the law in New York State? I was reading a piece on protests, which led me to see this obscure New York State law forbidding wearing masks:
4.?Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; ?except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities;
I wonder how may concoms read up on whether their city has has “promulgated regulations” regarding “a masquerade party”? Or think to ask permission of the police? And what does this law mean if there are no “promulgated regulations”? Does that make it illegal to “congregate in a public place” at all?
BTW: The history of this provision extends all the way back to 1845 (!!) when it was enacted to prevent protesters from using masks to hide their identities.
(13) BRAND O’LANDO. [Item by rcade.] Twitter is aflutter over Land O Lakes removing the Indian maiden from the packaging. The chatter wouldn’t be skiffy fodder but for a rebranding suggestion that keeps churning up:
(14) CONVINCING CRAFT. Catching up with this 2017 Popular Mechanics post, “The Art and Science of Making a Believable Sci-Fi Spaceship”. Tagline: “How the spaceships of Mass Effect: Andromeda were designed with physics and processing power in mind.”
…It’s an outgrowth of the desire to make a space epic with sci-fi elements based in scientific truth. “Mass Effect has always been grounded by a basis in reality,” says the Mass Effect: Andromeda Creative Director Mac Walters, and nothing in Andromeda exemplifies this more than its spaceship design.
Take the Nexus, for example, a kilometers-long space station engineered to serve as civilization’s base of operation among the unexplored planets. In the game’s lore, the monstrous ship’s kilometers-long design is inspired by “the Citadel,” and ancient alien relic of mysterious origin around which the series’ initial trilogy pivots. But despite its extraordinary inspiration, the ship itself has some surprisingly practical details. Designed to travel half-built, the Nexus is constructed over the course of the game, during which its carefully designed and realistic framework is exposed.
(15) HOBBITVILLE SOLD TO SALT LAKE CITY. Despite the dateline of April 1st, this is not an April Fools joke. “Salt Lake City buys historic ‘Hobbitville’ for $7.5M, sets it aside to become public park”.
… Allen Park, which was facing the possibility of being purchased and turned into new development, will soon be a public park.
…Dr. George Allen and Ruth Larsen Allen purchased the property in 1931 and used a good chunk of the space for their exotic bird collection. Allen Park received the nickname “Hobbitville” because the small houses and log cabins found on the land looked like homes for hobbits.
In addition, it’s filled with signs featuring strange sayings painted on them. It’s considered one of the more unique places in the city. It had come under threat in recent years, though. At least one developer was seeking to purchase the land for future development….
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, rcade, David Doering, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]